This blog is a chance for us to tell our story and shine the light on the God who wrote it.

It is also a place for me to bring into the spotlight the millions of orphans around the world who are waiting for the Body of Christ to fulfill God's command to "care for orphans and widows in their distress" (James 1:27)

Soli deo Gloria... (All Glory to God Alone).

12.31.2011

Shufflin'



Check it out, y'all! Miss MeiMei is walking! Scott took this video after Mei was home only a few days. Everytime I watch it, I crack up. She was so dadgum proud of herself. Since then, she continues to practice her walking and goes further and further by herself every day. What a gift that we got to see her first steps.

Really we have been so amazed at how quickly Mei is learning new things. She had never heard English before and we were told she only said "Mama" and "Baba" before. In the past week, she has picked up a number of English words and a few signs to help her express her needs (like "more" and "please"). She is saying "No" and one of her siblings names as well as a few grandparents' names and "OK".

I am really thankful for how the older children have embraced Mei. They dote on her and take great pleasure in helping her learn how to walk. It is not an easy transition for our youngest, Beniam, as he was definitely 'the baby' in the family. But he is doing so well, and I am really proud of him.

This first week home has been filled with memorable moments. But there have been tough days, too. We had to take Mei into the ER a few days ago as she was having some complications. But, frankly, alot of good came out of this as we were able to connect quickly with the Peds Surgery folks. On Friday, Mei went under anesthesia so they could explore more what is going on with her. It turned out to be hugely helpful to give us a better picture of what we can do to help Mei. It does appear, at this point, that she will need to go to Cincinnati for surgery, which is what we have expected all along. We *think* it could wait a couple of months or so and we will now be working with gastroenterology to figure out how to best keep her healthy until her surgery.

For those out there who are on the adoption journey, I feel compelled to share a 'real' picture of our first week home. So I must add that the most challenging part for me has been recovering from jet lag. I know that may sound silly, but most nights I can only sleep four hours (it was 2 hours the night we went to the ER). After eight days of this, one becomes quite weary and everything else is affected when Momma is falling-over tired! Tough to make medical decisions when you can barely stay awake!

Thankfully, I could also (and will one day) write an entire post about our "Village"- all of the friends and family who have surrounded us with love, prayers, encouragement, and very tangible help as we bring Mei into our home. Because of them, our older kids have thought this whole thing is one big party as they get last minute sleepovers with friends (ER night), early-morning playdates (surgery center day), and a movie date with grandparents... along with nearly daily visits from friends bringing by meals for us. I truly do not know the words to say how grateful we are for those who have chosen to come alongside of us and lift us up in this season.

"Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. " (Ecc. 4:10- New Living Translation)

12.25.2011

Home! And some Reece's induced thoughts...












We're home!! We made it safely home Friday and oh, what a joy it was to introduce Mei Chara to her brothers and sister and other family and friends waiting for us at the airport.

I had a lovely post written in my head to share what it's been like to be home with Mei now. I wrote it around 2 am yesterday (or was it the night before?). It was all so lucid at that time, but my head hurt too much to write it down.

So right now all I can think of is that perhaps I ate too many Reece's pieces along with that great jambalya that Bobby made for us and that- mixed with the Benadryl and the four hours of sleep I've gotten the past two nights- has made me a little delirious. Which means I probably should not be posting anything on my blog right now. But many of you don't get to see this side of me, and I always say that I want to be 'real'.

We are so happy to be home. And the only word I can think of to explain how we feel right now is - "overwhelmed". Overwhelmed by God's graces... and all the people who prayed for us and supported us and gave us gift cards and food and took pictures at the airport. And here's a really cool grace that Scott and I calculated when we left Atlanta for our final flight home. We were thanking God for the presence of our cousin, Dell, at the airport the night before when we landed after our 14 hour flight (no, make that 15, since we 'circled' Atlanta for an hour due to storms. I'm telling you- that should be illegal. That whole 'circling' thing. I was personally willing to take the risk to land in the storm. But I digress...) So there was Dell with a huge smile, ready hug, and 2 cans of ginger ale and snacks for the weary travellers! (Apparently someone told her that I may or may not be throwing up so much I'd need a wheelchair.) Anyway, since she is a flight attendant she was able to meet us shortly after we deplaned and stayed with us the entire time going through customs and immigration and all that jazz (which is not a short process when you're bringing an adopted child into the country!)

Oh, and our calculations... we realized that out of 11 airport stops on this trip, we were only 'on our own' for 2 of them! I know that seems like a small thing, but for us it was just a glimpse of how God cared for even the details of our trip. Knowing how much we would be encouraged by seeing friends and family, especially when we were so travel weary.

And for the record- some of those airport experiences where we were not 'on our own' were when we were with a guide in China. I wanted to bring our last guide in Guangzhou home with us. I am telling you- this woman was on the ball. She checked us in at the airport, filled out our departure card (which we were supposed to have already done), and basically held our hands through the whole previous week in Guangzhou.

So back to being overwhelmed. Yes, we are primarily overwhelmed with joy and thankfulness.

Then there's also a sense of being overwhelmed by jet-lag-slash-apparently-i-have-FOUR-children-now. I did have this strange sense when we left the Gainesville airport as a family of six that someone should be coming with us... like a nanny or someone to help us. I thought, "Are they just going to let us walk away with all these kids? Do they really think we can handle this?" And apparently they did, because I tell you that every one of those people got in their cars and just drove away! I mean, originally, we'd said that it is best for bonding purposes for it to be just the six of us for a little while. But I didn't know what I was talking about.

Oh, and speaking of being overwhelmed-- I just have to tell you how very thankful we are for all our family (and friends!) who stepped in to take care of our other kids while we were gone. First there was my stepdad and my mom who took the kids to their house the first few days... well, it was supposed to be a few days except one of my children might or might not have caused an accident that resulted in my mother fracturing her kneecap and ending up with a big brace and on crutches.

Once that grandparent was down, the children were shipped on over to Scott's parents who jumped in to finish off that first weekend. Fortunately, they have no visible injuries from what I can see- although I know there are stories we have not heard.

And then there is "SuperMa", my stepmom-and-dear-friend, whom the kids call "Ma", who came from North Carolina to keep the kids for nearly two weeks here at our house. Not only did she feed, clothe, and bathe (as far as I know) our three children while we were gone, but I think she actually had a great time. They had many fun adventures, and in her spare time she managed to -

-figure out how to fix our comforter whose inner stuffing had gotten all screwed up in my attempt to wash it. As in, there were *large* balls of stuffing in several areas and no stuffing in most areas.

- cleaned the grime out of my sketchy refrigerator.

- accomplish several other housekeeping feats which I will not share because it would make me look bad.

That is all I have to share for now. Except this- did you know it was Christmas today?! Wow, that one hit me like a Mac truck. While this entire Advent and Christmas season will probably be my most memorable yet, I have to tell you that today- Christmas Day- will not be my most memorable. Simply because I do not know how much I will remember- being so sleep deprived and well, kinda overwhelmed. I probably won't even remember writing this post. And when I do discover it is here, I will probably delete it.

*Finally added some pics... I'll have some more soon of Mei's homecoming but for now I added pics of some of our 'airport angels'. God's little graces along the journey that were such a huge blessing to us! Scott is pictured with Lucas in Atlanta and then with Kristi in Seoul. A very, very tired mom and Mei pictured with cousin Dell in Atlanta. And, finally, Mei pictured with our fantastic guide in Guangzhou.*

12.18.2011

New Day South






Yesterday was an eventful day! First, we toured Yuntai Botanical Gardens with two other families and our guide. The gardens were absolutely gorgeous and it was wonderful to be outside in this warm Guangzhou weather. It was evident that Mei enjoyed being outdoors as well, and especially liked it when we'd take her out of her stroller and let her walk around. She is still needing to hold onto our hands while she walks but she loves to try walking and moves along quite quickly.

In the afternoon, we drove with our guide and the Cobb family to the New Day Foster Home in Zhongshan, about an hour and a half from our hotel. It was so very worth the trip to meet Doug, Janice and their daughter Sarah Grace as well as the ayis and children at New Day South. New Day South began only a year ago when Doug and Janice moved from Beijing to work on creating a similar model as what they'd been a part of in Beijing- the original New Day Foster Home. The one in Beijing has been so successful- it includes a foster home that cares for about 60 children at a time, until they are adopted, as well as running a manufacturing business and an English language school.

Right now, New Day South provides a home, love and medical care to seven children. It was such a joy to meet each of these children and get to play with them! The home will continue to grow as finances allow. I cannot wait to show you more pictures and introduce you to each of these precious children! In the meantime, I've included in this post one group shot that features a few of the children and their ayis... more to come!

Also, I've included pictures

12.17.2011

Guangzhou!





We arrived in Guangzhou safely Friday night. While we enjoyed our time in Shanghai, we are really grateful to be here. The final day in Shanghai Scott and I both were really struggling with homesickness, and while we still miss our other children immensely, coming here to Guangzhou has put the wind back in our sails.

First, we were delighted to reunite with Philip and Chrissy, our dear friends from back home. And of course, we were thrilled to get to meet their new daughter, Li Rose! She is absolutely precious.

Since all American families must spend the final week of their adoption trip in Guangzhou, where the American consulate is located, we have been refreshed to be around many other Americans, meeting their children and hearing their stories. We also really like the city of Guangzhou itself, and today will be touring some gardens with the Cobbs and one other family.

We will also have an opportunity today to visit the New Day Foster Home later today. The Cobb family has connected with the couple that runs this home designed to care for orphans with a need for immediate surgery or other severe special needs. Our two families planned this trip before we left, and God opened the door for us to be able to bring some medical supplies to donate as well. We are looking forward to meeting these precious children today and learning more about how we can support the work of New Day from back home in the states. Thanks to Dr. Massias and all those from the Orphan Care Ministry who jumped on board so enthusiastically to help donate the items we are bringing today! We look forward to reporting back on our trip soon.

I've attached a few pictures so you can see what we've been up to. The first photo is of Mei enjoying the new toys (apples) she found at our hotel in Guangzhou. The second is a view of the first gardens we visited in Shanghai. The 'gardens' are actually many little buildings and landscape- rocks, water, trees- making up the home of a very wealthy man. Now it is not a home but open for tourists to see how the wealthy used to live. Then there is a picture of the Jade Buddha temple we visited in Shanghai, and finally a photo of the three of us standing in the People's Square with a great view of part of the city behind us.

We are so thankful for each and every one of you who are continuing to pray for us. We continue to be in awe of how well Mei is doing. She is blossoming more and more everyday and is so comfortable with us. Oh, and I haven't told you the best part!! She is saying "Mama" and "Dada"... and pointing to us! She knows who we are for sure. I just wish you could hear her say it. I thought my heart was going to stop the first time she said it. Then later the same day she said it in a crowd and pointed to me across the room- oh my goodness! What a gift...

Advent


“Advent is about awakening again to the inner miracle: God with us. “
(Ann Voskamp)




So thankful that Mei is with us. Just with us. And my heart dances with wonder and joy as I recognize His grace that she would come now. Right now in this season of Advent with our hearts all slowed down and waiting and remembering the Gift. “Emmanuel”- God with us. Mei has always been a gift- that gift of 'chara' joy she's brought to our family as we've learned to trust Jesus to bring this all to fruition.

And here as we walk out this miracle of adoption, we are awakened again to the nearness of God. Somehow... now two adoptions later it is still a mystery to me... Somehow God takes what was broken and bereft of hope and breathes new life into it. He takes a child- alone and sick and scared- and a family on the other side of the planet who knows that they are not yet complete... and makes a new family. He redeems that which seems lost. Because that is what He does. And it is all just grace that we get to be a part.


Jesus, awaken my heart to see you this season. Amidst all the things that we have made Christmas to be- all the “magic” we must create to bring "joy" to the season... As if you were not enough.
O Lord, let me not be blind to the miracle... Love come down.
You came. You came into our mess, our brokenness. You came!
Jesus, I just want you to know that is enough for me. You are enough. Always enough.




All the longing
All the waiting
And now- here she is
The gift... the child


In all our longing
And all our waiting
May we never miss
The Gift... the Child

12.15.2011

Just Amazed




We've been gone one week now, and tomorrow we leave Shanghai and fly to Guangzhou. The last couple of days we have spent touring the city with our guide in the mornings and just hanging out with little Mei in the hotel room in the afternoons and evenings. Scott and I are both constantly saying how amazed and thankful we are with how well she is doing. Today even our guide could not believe she was the same girl he first met two days ago. A few days ago, she would just sit limply, silently and stare. Now she is playing happily with blocks and reaching out to us to get us to play with her and tickle her. She is cruising along the furniture and smiling constantly. It's like her little personality is just coming alive. It is beautiful to watch.




Mei is also quite the eater. I have honestly never seen a child eat this much! She is a tiny 17 lbs right now, but I imagine by the time we are home, we'll find she's already gained some weight.




We are doing well. Sometimes I feel like I am in sensory overload trying to take all of this in and process all we are learning and seeing while also bonding with our new daughter. So I am trying to release it all to the One who orchestrated all of this. I am just in awe that we are here... that Mei is with us now... that God has seen fit to make us family. Oh, how he loves us...




With Hearts Overflowing,

Haley, Scott and Mei Chara

12.14.2011

Pictures of Mei Chara









Hi Everyone, it's a special guest blogger today. Haley emailed photos and I had to get them up here for all of you to see. Mei Chara is an amazing, gorgeous little girl!

The note that Haley sent with the photos included "the pic of mei crying is of course, on 'gotcha day' right after we met her. well, right after scott showed her the rabbit :-) she screamed for a few minutes. then the orphanage director talked to her and told her we were her 'mama' and 'baba' (daddy). then she calmed down. the two pics of her smiling with scott were shortly after that. i think i was kinda scared and thought of her as so fragile but scott went right to work tickling her and trying to make her laugh. so now she is in love with him."

I love this family! Can't wait to have you all home!

12.12.2011

Mei Day!

(Guys, I am so sorry... Everyone has been asking for pics, but we are having trouble getting them on here. I will try and email some soon and try to post them again later.)


Mei is officially ours!! We met her for the first time yesterday morning. They brought her to a room at the orphanage where we were waiting with one other couple. She let her nanny (ayi) hand her over to me. Then Scott showed her this little lovie thing we got her with a rabbit on top. Turns out that Mei does not like stuffed animals. She burst into tears. At first we thought it was Scott, but upon trial and error, we found that it is indeed those darned stuffed animals that she abhors. (There was a big red bunny at the offices at Adoption Day today and she freaked out!) I'm planning to have the kids hide all the stuffed animals at our house before we get back home! It's a darn good thing we don't have any live ones , cause I don't think she would like that at all!

In fact, Mei is terribly fond of Scott. As I type this, she is sleeping on top of him, as this is the only place she likes to take a nap so far. I think he's in heaven.

I'm quite sure that little Mei loves her Baba (Daddy) so much because he makes her laugh. Her personality is very, very shy and quiet. She looks around, taking everything in. And no doubt, she is scared! So it was a big deal when Daddy got her to laugh. It is really cute- she just does this chuckle thing. Like she's entertained but still holding some inside. She is very reserved, and so super duper sweet. Really, she is amazing!

She is learning to trust us, beginning to cling to us more and more in new situations. She definitely prefers her Baba, but is now warming up to me as well, thankfully.

Mei Chara is really a joy, and we are so thankful to have this time here to get to know her better. I feel like we discover something new about her every few minutes. Mostly, we've been spending a lot of time at the hotel, but tomorrow and the next day we will do some more touring of Shanghai before we head out for Guangzhou on Friday.

The kids back home seem to be doing really well. We got to skype with them the past two nights. (Thanks, Berry, for helping get 'Ma' all set up!!) They were so thrilled to meet Mei today and just loved the fact that she blew them kisses.

I have been having migraines and some issues getting good sleep. But this afternoon has been much better. We are so grateful for all those who are praying for us. Please keep our dear friends Philip and Chrissy in your prayers as well as they met their daughter, Li Rose, yesterday and she is just having a tough time adjusting and may be a little sick as well.

12.11.2011

Shanghai!

We arrived in Shanghai last night! We had a bit of delay when we reached Seoul as we realized I was too sick to catch our next flight. For those who remember Scott carting me off in a wheelchair when we brought Beniam home... well, this was worse. Good times.

So we are super grateful for those who got Scott's facebook message and prayed for us. You will be happy to know that your prayers were answered! Primarily, in the form of Ms. Kristi Reinig. Kristi is a friend from home who has been living in Korea for the past few years and had arranged to meet us at the airport for what was supposed to be only a three hour layover. Once Scott was able to arrange for us to stay longer, Kristi jumped in and set us up in a hotel that she was familiar with. She was truly a godsend yesterday. She helped us contact our family back home as well as the guide who was to meet us in Shanghai. I have no idea how we would have done all that without Kristi!

So we have made it to Shanghai now. I have recovered nearly all the way, and we both slept very well last night. We met our guide, Stephanie, again this morning and she took us to some popular tourist sites here in Shanghai. Scott was so pleased because he was able to eat this dish that he had been wanting to try- it's like a dumpling with sweet pork inside. We both agreed it was fantastic!

We feel very comfortable here and are really enjoying Shanghai. The funniest and most unexpected thing that we have experienced so far was people wanting to take a picture of us while we were out touring. I wasn't expecting this, I suppose, since we are in the city. But our guide told us that the people that wanted pictures were visitors from other areas who had never seen young, white people. I felt like Mickey Mouse at Disney World at first when we posed with a little Chinese girl so her dad could take a photo!! Scott joked that we should smile alot when we were walking around because people kept covertly pulling out their cell phones and grabbing a 'secret' shot. I am not quite sure yet if this attention is because we are looked at like celebrities, being from America, or just plain weird, although Stephanie assures us it is the former!

Tomorrow is the day that we meet Mei Chara. I cannot believe the day is finally here! Please pray for us that we will have wisdom and love to know how to care for her if she is scared. We will share pictures as soon as we can!