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).

12.30.2012

On Mei and Mysteries

(so this was written on December 12, and yes, it has taken me this long to get around to finishing it and hitting 'post'! )

One year ago today we held our sweet Mei in our arms for the first time.



We met her in an office at her orphanage.  They brought us to her and less than an hour later she left the only life she could remember.

We wondered- "Would she be scared?  Would she cry inconsolably?  Would she learn to love us (for we already loved her)?"

But she wasn't inconsolable.  She was quiet at first.  Just taking it all in... tentative... yet open to our love and affection.

In the past year, we have had the honor of watching Mei learn so much- she took her first steps when home just three days (link), and she learned to talk (she was not speaking yet in Ch*na)**.  She is now speaking in full sentences (at a consistently elevated volume to be sure that she is heard!)  Not only is she talking, but this child is one smart cookie!  I am always amazed by the connections she makes and her comprehension of things for her age (and considering she's only heard our language for a year!)   For instance, the other day, I was watching her pretend to make some cookies out of sand, and I said "Mei, you are such a good cook!"  She looked right at me and said, "I am not cooking; I am baking!"



We've seen wonderful things on the medical front, too.  Our little peanut has gained a pound for every month she has been home- no longer can she be labeled 'failure to thrive'!  In Cincinnati this summer, she was able to receive the surgery that will give her the best chance at 'normal' function of all of her systems.  And perhaps even more importantly, the testing prior to her surgery in Cincinnati revealed another condition that, left undiagnosed and untreated, would have led to kidney failure.  (We sure stood in awe of God that He had orchestrated all of this - her crossing the ocean and then us all heading states away- to get her to the right doctor who would find this condition.)




Please if you hear anything in this post, please hear this.  We share all of this for one reason and one reason alone- to give glory to our Lord.  If you think for a second, what an amazing family... see what they've done for her... she is so lucky!  ... you have totally and completely missed the point.  Oh, how my heart hurts inside when someone says this!  I know it is meant for good, and we do receive it as such- as a gift of encouragement.  But all I can think is- Oh, how I wish they knew the truth.

If there is one thing that I have learned this year, it is, ironically, exactly what Satan tried to convince me of to keep me from adopting Mei in the first place (link).


Because the truth is- we are not enough.  

We are not strong enough, loving enough, or faithful enough.  We do not have what it takes to save or redeem or heal the broken heart and body of an orphan child-  (or, coincidentally, ourselves or our birth children).

 Now I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is true... It is just not the whole story.

That day when we met Mei, we met a child in desperate need.  And she met two parents in desperate need. And all we have done is carried her, sometimes crawling ourselves, to the altar of God.   Where all those who know they have nothing to offer meet a God who delights in offering Himself to fulfill our every need.

So I have shared with you how Mei has changed in the past year.  How we have seen a life renewed... redeemed.  But what I cannot share with you is how.  Because so much of it is mystery.  This is all I remember, and quite frankly, much of these memories are foggy (smile).  I remember ...

hugs
kisses
pigtails
dirty diapers
doctor's visits
laughter
tickling
laundry
reading together
playing
cleaning
hospital visits
prayers, tons of prayers
tears
awe
gratitude

That's what I remember.  That was my part, pretty much.  So you can see I am pretty much un-awesome.  Pretty much just like you.  Doing the things you would do.  Many of which were thoroughly enjoyable.

But what is awesome is how all of those things, offered into the hands of our Loving Father, have been shaped and molded to bring about miracles right under our roof- in both my life and MeiMei's.

It is a mystery.  A beautiful, marvelous, redemptive mystery.  I have not the slightest idea how to explain it,  but I know it is not new.  It is, in fact, the Story we celebrate this Advent season, is it not?

Like Mary, I want to say- "I am your servant.  Let it be to me as you have said."

And yet, so very often, the best I feel I can offer Him is .. well, not much.  I am a mess.  I want to offer Him more, but at the end of the day, the truth is my greatest efforts often fail... I am a mess.

But then I remember... that's where He first came.  Into a messy, dirty, humble stable.  That's where our God chose to enter the world.

And (can I get a Halleluiah here?)  HE STILL DOES!

This Christmas we celebrate Emmanuel, "GOD WITH US".  And that, my friends, is the key to the mystery.  The mystery of my redemption.. of Mei's redemption.. of all these mundane, commonplace things transformed by God into marvelous miracles.

He still comes!  He is still Emmanuel!

I'm not talking about how he comes when I get a warm feeling while singing Silent Night by candlelight on Christmas Eve.  (Because for eighteen years this is as close as I thought He got to me).

 I am talking about how He comes in the everyday-- even in... no, especially in... my stables, my messy places I set aside for Him with a hope-filled prayer that He would make His home here.  Right here in my heart, in my home, in my arms as they reached for that no-longer-orphan child... Praying Oh, come Emmanuel.  Just be with us.  And help me to trust that is Enough.

My prayer for us this Christmas...  That we may slow.  Slow the searching for the "magic" of Christmas- in all the lights, and gifts, and parties, and food.  That we might look deeper.  Look for the miracle.  Celebrate the God who came.  The God who still comes.  Emmanuel.

Rejoice!  Rejoice!  Emmanuel has come to you...




** I would be remiss if I did not pause here to stress that Mei was in a very good institution.  We believe that she was truly loved and cared for.  We do not believe that she was mistreated in any way.  To the contrary, we believe that she was given the best care that was available to her at that time.  We are incredibly grateful for her birth country and specifically for the orphanage and caregivers who loved and cared for our daughter for those two years.

10.08.2012

Don't Stop the Madness

You know how sometimes a song just says it all?

This one Scott played for me a few months ago.  It was one night after I had begun to feel weary under the weight of some things that were just breaking my heart.  And this song... well, it made me remember.

Remember that I had asked for God to break my heart.

Remember that I don't want go back to the way I was before.  When I thought that my life was "more than I could handle" (and it wasn't fair), and I was so busy "helping myself" (because who else would?).

When I was overwhelmed by my own weaknesses and clinging to control...

Before sweet surrender ... and a broken heart... and a joy that only comes from knowing you are held.  Right here.. in the madness... in the brokenness.  And yet you are not broken.  No strangely, you are whole.  More complete and whole than you have ever been...


So, please, Lord even when I seek my solace in a bowl of ice cream and say I just want to run away from it all... Please, Lord, don't stop the madness.  For here I have found You to be everything you said you would be.
Amen.



(click on image below to hear "Don't Stop the Madness")



10.07.2012

A Holy Cry for Help (Part 2- read yesterday's post first)


Back to the book of Baloney, Chapter 18.  And that verse we’ve all heard even if we haven’t ever cracked the pages of a Bible…
And this one is called- “God-helps-those-who-help-themselves.”  I know people who think this is honest-to-goodness gospel truth.  I did for far too many years.  No, my friends, this one is hogwash, too. 

Verse after verse of the bible cry out this gospel truth- “God helps those who cry out to Him for help”.     

“For he will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help.
Psalm 72:12 

You have been a refuge for the poor,
    a refuge for the needy in their distress,
a shelter from the storm
    and a shade from the heat.  (Isaiah 25:4)

     

If you need wisdom, ask!  For He gives it to all without finding fault  (James 1:5).  If you need strength, ask (Isaiah 40:29)…  If  you need provision, ask (Mt. 7:7)…

God does not applaud independence.   A go-get-‘em, “just believe in yourself” mentality does not honor Him. 

Yes, God will allow us to undergo “more than we can handle”, so that we will cry out to Him for help.  So that He can do what He has been doing for all time- reveal Himself to be God.  A personal God who wants to be known- who is good and loving and merciful and powerful.

Isn’t this the first step to knowing Him… admitting we need a Savior?  And yet, when I’ve been walking this walk so many years, am I any less in need of that Savior who died for me?  Is it now up to me after grace got me this far?

What I fear is that so many of us have bought into this idea that “God helps those who help themselves” that we are so busy “helping ourselves” we miss the abundant life of sacrifice and service that He has really called us to.  (Yes, that really is the abundant life!  Where you decrease and He increases.  It is the secret to true joy.)

We feel the nudging of His Spirit calling us out into something scary, something that might require more of us than we feel we have to give… and we shrink back, afraid that we might not be “enough” or we might put ourselves or our family in a situation where we desperately need God.  And we miss out.  We miss out on seeing Him for who He really is.  We miss out on seeing that all those things He said about Himself in the bible… they’re all really true. 

Our adoption journeys have been this for us.  (We’ve shared about that quite a bit on the blog, so I won’t elaborate now.)  But there are so many other examples.

 For several dear friends, it has been a broken marriage that seemed beyond repair.  They stayed in and did the hard work when it was only ‘hard’, and most would have found just reason to give up.  But at the end of the day, they knew they were beyond their own capacity to love and forgive- it was “more than they could handle” it hurt so much.

 So they cried out in desperation and with a flickering hope that God would come and bring the healing that all their work and efforts could never bring.  And He did.  Now they know their marriage is a miracle… When they could not “help themselves”, God came and did the impossible.   (I smile inside to think how these will dance a little closer, laugh a little longer because they know it might not have been.)


Friends, we are the redeemed… He is the redeemer.  We are sheep… He is the shepherd.  We are the clay... He is the potter.   We are children… He is our Father.   Notice a theme here?! 

Oh, what wonderful things He has in store for us when we submit… surrender…  allow ourselves to be redeemed… to be sheep, clay, children… to be brought to a place where we need Him.  Where much of our lives can only be explained by the presence of Christ… where our lives are full of “more than we can handle” because who can handle so much grace… so much love and mercy and adventure?

And I wonder, do I really want a life I can “handle” without His help, moment by moment, day by day?  And who will see Him if I spend my whole life “helping myself”?

10.06.2012

More Than I Can Handle


             “God will not give you more than you can handle.”   You’ve heard this bible quote before, right?  I believe it’s found in 2 Hogwash 3:43.

                For the longest time I believed that this principle was true.  (It’s really a verse about temptation taken way out of context.)  So whenever I felt overwhelmed with life or that it was becoming more than I could handle, I spiraled downward into a place of anger and shame.   One moment I would be angry with God because I felt He had given me more than I could handle and it wasn’t fair… because He had promised never to give me more than I could handle- right?  I felt abandoned by God.

The next moment I would remember how faithful God had been to me over the years and I would be filled with shame.  Surely, I reasoned, he had been faithful to not give me more than I could handle, but I was simply so weak and sinful that I buckled even under pressures that I should have been able to handle.

Shortly after our son Beniam came home and I became a mother of three, my migraines kicked into high gear.  They were frequent and would last for several days each time.  They were often debilitating, and there was nothing at all that worked to treat them.  My newly adopted son needed much attention and again I felt angry, abandoned, and shame-filled.   I cried out to God- “Why would you give me these children and not give me the ability to care for them?”

                Looking back now I can see that my cries to God were accusations, not pleas for help.  And I am learning now, when God gives me more than I can handle (because He does), it is because what He wants from me is more than a servant who will fulfill His purposes… more than a good mom who can ‘buck up’ and make it through the hard days with a smile.  He wants me to need Him (because He knows that's where I'll find my greatest joy).  He longs for me to surrender to Him in my weakest moments and let Him show me that is really is who He's always said He was-- my Strength, my Joy, "a very present help in trouble", my Shepherd, my Comforter, my Friend.

                Let me be clear- God has never given me anything that I could not handle with his help.  And by ‘help’, I don’t mean a cheer from the sidelines or a little push here or there.  I mean the kind of help He really likes to give- where I surrender completely and His strength is made perfect right there smack dab in the middle of my weakness.

So what kept me from really receiving His help all this time?  I believed another lie from the book of Baloney, Chapter 18.   I hope you will come back and read tomorrow about this often-used phrase that propelled me so far away from the grace that God was offering me.  And how the truth opened the door to hope and joy—more than I can handle, really…

9.21.2012

Summing Up Summer


About a half a dozen times now I've sat down to write a blog post about this summer.  Every time I hit 'delete' at the end.  How on earth to sum up the past few months?  Truly, it has been a summer unlike any other!  And yet I keep coming back... feeling compelled to write it out somehow.  I couldn't figure out why until I heard this quote in an interview this evening:

"I don't know what I think until I write it."
Marvin Olasky 

So true for me, except I might add... "or say it".  Which is why God gave me the gift of marrying the most patient and encouraging listener I have ever met.


This summer there's been all this living, all this change... Four thousand miles traveled in the air and that trusty  minivan.



And so many more miles of life traversed...


Walking with Mei through surgery and pain and recovery, and learning to manage her care at home.

Mei and my dad in Boone before our second trip to
Cincinnati Children's Hospital.



God coming close and speaking of our future and us all trembling and hopeful.


Hearing Him whisper to us about our oldest son's heart, and saying "yes" to the one thing Isaac's asked for since Kindergarten.  (We are homeschooling him this year.)

See how happy he is?!  Kidding--
This is the kids enjoying the fountains in Knoxville, TN
after Mei's second trip to Cincinnati.


Sitting by the bedside of one of my dearest friends, who happens to also be my grandmother, and watching her life here fade into the next.

Four Generations
(this is before MeiMei came home... and can I just note that
that gorgeous blonde next to me just turned 60?!  Just
celebrating in my heart this past week after her
surprise party how beautiful my mom is both inside and out :-) )


We celebrated Zoe's seventh birthday...

This girl brings laughter and love
wherever she goes.


 thirteen years of marriage... my thirty-fifth birthday...


 and the birth of our new niece ...

Our sister-in-law, Megan, with baby Hannah.



and nephew.

Our step sister-in-law Leigh Anne with little Caleb.


Now fall is well underway and we are finding new rhythms.   Isaac is at home this year for school (fourth grade), while Zoe began second grade at "regular school" and *loves* it.  Beniam is in 4- year preschool three mornings a week, and Mei so very much wanted to join him... So last week she began in the 3- year old class.  This little lady thinks she is *big stuff*!

 I miss my grandmother intensely, although I really don't think it's fully sunk in that she is gone.  She's always been such a big part of my life.  Yet I am incredibly grateful for the precious moments I could be near her in her final days, and I have so many wonderful memories of all our time together.


Thanks again, friends, for all who prayed for our family this summer as we traveled for Mei's surgery and follow up.  She is doing so well, and we are so grateful for all our family and friends who helped and encouraged us all through this season.  My prayer is that when you see that sweet girl laughing and playing, you will have great joy knowing you got to be a part of her journey toward a healthy future!

Mei with "Ma" (my stepmom, Mary,
A,K.A- "the crazy grandma")









8.30.2012

Finding Peace

      Apparently St. Augustine once said this: "Order brings peace."  And I know he was a saint and all but I just don't believe that is totally true.  Or at least, I want to believe it's not true.

     The truth is that too often I function on a daily basis like it is true.  I want there to be "order" around here.  I really do.  Because I want peace inside.  So I strive and work toward this end, always landing in a place of utter frustration when my efforts fail.  And they are going to fail.  I have four children.  (Four precious children who want to be free to dance in the rain, and pour/spill their own milk.  Four souls who need my engagement and my grace more than they need to live in an "ordered" home.)

     God has been speaking so gently to me through His word saying it is time for me to let go even more.  My efforts and focus on maintaining order around here leave me ungrateful for all the crazy-beauty that surrounds me every day.  And quite frankly, I become freaky-control-girl.  And nobody wants to live with her.

     This is what I feel like He's saying to me: "Jesus brings peace, Haley".
   
     In the midst of chaos and even turmoil... Jesus- He brings peace.   Remember how he slept on the boat during that raging storm?  I want that.  That ability to rest and trust when life blows hard all around.

Instead of desperately trying to maintain order and control in your little world, relax and remember that circumstances cannot touch my peace.                                                              
                                       Sarah Young (Jesus Calling)

     It is a gift from God, really, that I cannot maintain the kind of order I'd like.  You know, I actually got angry when I read that quote from St. Augustine.  It's written in the very front of this brand new planner I got, and I took me a sharpie marker and marked right through that word "order" and wrote "Jesus".


     Now I am not saying that it is not healthy and good and godly for me to seek a certain sense of order for myself and my family.  I am not giving myself permission to boycott order.  There is a certain amount of order that creates space to see and glorify God in our lives.  But this can be no longer where I seek my peace.  The peace that comes from a clean house and orderly life is temporary and certainly not soul-deep.


     Because I feel like this is exactly what the enemy has been trying to convince me of in recent months... That if only I could get x-y-z in order around here, then there would be more peace.  In this subtle way I've come to believe that God is most pleased when my life is "in order".  (And I am quite concerned that many women in the church feel this way.)

     But the gut-honest truth is that that desire for order is to make myself look good.  I want people to think that even though I "have a lot on my plate", I have it all under control.  And yet, in His gracious way, God gives me a multitude of chances every day to burst that big fat bubble.

     I'm the one sporting the minivan with peanuts and goldfish stuck to the door jams and a two-week-old sippy cup of milk just discovered under the back seat.   I'm "that mom" in the grocery store with two kids who aren't wearing shoes, one who is rearranging the canned goods, and another with all his clothes on backwards (yes, underwear, too).

     People, I do not have this under control here.  There, I said it.  I am not saying that all this is doing me in or that it is controlling me.  Not at all.  What I am saying is that I gave up control a long time ago.  God is in control here, and apparently it is not His plan for me to look perfect.

     This question comes softly to my heart one morning before dawn as I sit with my bible open.... "Haley, who are you trying to present as perfect- Me or you?  Because it cannot be both."

     Day by day (I am a slow study), I am becoming more and more convinced that Jesus brings peace.  Peace for the "disordered" and imperfect.  Because if "order brings peace", then what about girls like me?  For this is what I signed up for when I said "yes" to four children and a small, simple home.   All this activity and a fair amount of disorder.  Am I beyond the reach of the God of peace?

     Maybe order does bring "peace" in our limited understanding.  But I want the "peace that passes all understanding" (Phil 4:6-7)  So I pray that God would guard my mind in Christ Jesus.  That I will seek Jesus fully and live for His kingdom even when it looks messy, trusting that "all these things will be added unto me."  And praying that I will never be seen as "perfect" so that He might.



May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13 
 

7.10.2012

When I Became Your Mom


The other day you were crying, and I ran to you and held you in my arms.  And this strange happiness flooded my whole body.  It was because you were crying.  And I was holding you.  And I was exactly where I wanted to be.  And I realized how far we’d come, you and I.

When you first came home, sweet Beniam, you cried a lot… at night, especially.  Crying babies had always made me feel powerless.  What should I do?  I would try to feed or rock or change you, but sometimes the crying persisted regardless of what I did.  We rocked in that old rocking chair endless hours, you and I…  and I wondered if you would ever sleep through the night.  Or if I would ever have what it took to comfort you just right.

Slowly, and I do mean slowly, you began to cry less and sleep more.  And I was grateful for the sleep.  And I was happy that you were content and more peaceful.


Then there was this day.  It had been some time since our wild nights. You had had a minor toddler-type-accident.  I forget now what it was.  And you were there crying and calling out, “Mooommmmy!”  And I scooped you up.  And that flood of happiness.  What was that?

I was holding you close to me and I was actually glad that you were crying. ( Oh, and by the way, when you cry- you cry really loud.)  But I didn’t care.  I just sat there and held you, and thought this:

                It was here that I became your mother.  Not a ‘mother’ on a paper, signed by some court. 

                But your mommy.  The one you would call for when you fell.

                It wasn’t earned, but it was lived… just lived out night after night.

                Through the tears (yours and mine) and the snot and the rocking back and forth of that chair.

                There I became your mommy and you became my son.

So, my Beniam, if you notice a huge smile creep across my face next time you skin your knee and call out for me, please don’t be alarmed.  I’m just really, really happy to be your mom.

-          (This incident actually occurred about a year ago, but I was inspired to write about it tonight after listening to this song.   Definitely worth a listen…)

7.09.2012

What Really Makes Mei Smile


Thanking God for awesome nurses, like Julie...




                                               ... for our 'home away from home' at the Ronald McDonald
                                          House Cincinnati. (Oh, how we were blessed here!)

                                         I was just thinking how it would be literally impossible for me to even begin
                                        counting the number of volunteers that served us at the hospital and the House.
                                        From countless meals to all kinds of entertainment to keep our little ones
                                       enjoying childhood fun while in the hospital...

                                       Honestly, I was overwhelmed by all of the strangers who took time to
                                       bless us...

                               
                                      ... like the professional event planning company that came in and threw
                                      an 'Un-Birthday Party" for all the kids at RMHC.  Such a gift as so many of these
                                      kids are here for months on end and are surely missing parties back at home.

                                       
                                               Plus, it just so happens that birthday parties are truly one of Mei's
                                                favorite things ever... and the party just happened to be the first
                                               night she was out of the hospital and staying at the House.



Thanking God for all the notes and cards from family and friends back home.  It sure brightened Mei's day (and her Mommy's, too!)













But as grateful as we were for all of that, nothing could match the gratitude and delight in my heart the first morning we were home.  Scott had let me sleep in, and I awoke to a sound I hadn't heard in three solid weeks- Mei's loud, uncontrollable, squealing laughter!   She came lurching into my room chased by her adoring sister, and she had that smile back.  That full-of-life, "I am just so darn happy to be home playing with my siblings again", face-splitting smile.



While you do see Mei smiling in some of the pictures at the hospital, I must say that her smiles were rather rare there and only momentary.  One of the hardest parts of our time there was realizing that she was struggling a bit with depression.  And the real source of it was the intense longing she had for her siblings.  (Evidenced by the fact that we had to talk about them every 14.5 seconds...):

"Where Ben?"
"Ben's at Ms. Karen's house today."

5 seconds later-
"Where I-yak"
"Isaac is also at Ms. Karen's house today."

...then she asks about Zoe....

then we play with play-do for about four minutes ...  then she says:
"Where's Ben?"... and we start all over.



And, yes, that picture right up there is one of my favorite pictures in the whole world and it says it all so beautifully.

6.23.2012

Look

So this the rest of yesterday's post.  Less pictures, more of just what God has been teaching me in recent weeks...






We have a journey ahead.  Mei's diagnosis is more complex than we originally thought.  Sometimes fear creeps in and I wonder if I will be able to do the things necessary to care for her well.  

But God has been whispering to me one simple word - look.  

He's teaching me to look up.... When I wonder about my abilities, He reminds me where my help comes from:

I lift up my eyes to the hills— where does my help come from?My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.  Psalm 121: 1-2







He's urging me to open my eyes look around... When I worry about tomorrow, He reminds me He has it all taken care of: 

"Look at the birds of the air, they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?" (Matt. 6:26)

I've been studying this verse as a part of the Sermon on the Mount.  And that word - look- stuck out to me. Oh, how much wonder and good I miss simply because I do not look.  So I decided to start looking more... at the birds of the air.  Only problem is that I am inside mostly, here at the hospital.  But can I just tell you that every single opportunity I've had to get outside, one of the first things I have seen is... you guessed it, birds.  (Oh, how He loves me...)  In fact, as soon as I stepped out of the hospital on the first day of my bird hunt, I rounded the corner and looked over in the grass and there was this beautiful bird.  Then the funniest thing happened.  He looked right up at me and we just sat there staring at each other for a minute.  It made me laugh and gave me a moment to stop and look and remember how God cares for me.


Writer Ann Voskamp says worry is "practical atheism".  I remember this and pray that I will not just say I am a believer in things unseen, in hope unending ... but that I will live like what I believe is really true. 











And ultimately, He's compelling me to simply look at Jesus... When I am wrapped up in all that is going on around me, He reminds me that what I focus on is what I come to believe.  When I focus on all the trials around me, life seems burdensome.  When I focus instead on the abundant blessings I enjoy each day, life is gift. 

 And when I look at Jesus?   … Really, how do I put it into words?
 Have you ever done this?  Just sat for a long time and focused on Jesus... on who He is... what He has done?
I sing this hymn around the house a lot, and maybe it says it well...

Turn your eyes upon Jesus.  Look full in His wonderful face.And the things of Earth will grow strangely dim.In the light of His glory and grace. 





So this is what I am looking for here.  Here in the hospital where my baby cries out in pain.  Here at the Ronald McDonald House where I almost drop my lunch tray when she tells me she’s been here for two years with her son.  Here where we're surrounded by children who are sick... and some are dying.  I hear their stories, and honestly, my first thought is that I want to run.  Far away from all this suffering.  

But when I want to run, Jesus says to me: "Look".  Look for me here.  Where hurt and healing collide.  So I turn and I don't run, and I look for Jesus... for God's glory to be revealed... And I am not disappointed.

"Jesus come and break my fear Awake my heart and take my tears Find Your glory even here When the hurt and the healer collide" (Mercy Me)

 "I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you..." (Ephesians 1:18a)

6.22.2012

Mei's Surgery Update

This may be my last update from Cincinnati as Scott leaves tomorrow.  Since Mei calls for me even when I attempt to use the bathroom, I am thinking I probably won't get much computer time!  So I wanted to update really quick.  (Actually, it didn't end up being quick, so I broke this into two posts!)

Mei's surgery was this past Tuesday and it went really well.  The first 24 hours following surgery were really tough.  Tuesday night as I held her down for the *third* long and grueling attempt to get her on a catheter, I just broke down and cried.  It is so hard to watch this precious child suffer.  Especially when I consider how much of her life has already been marked by suffering.  After a week of all this testing and then the surgery, I was watching her withdraw a bit.  She would turn her face away from my affection and just stare like I saw her do in those pictures from the orphanage.  So I cried.  And, honestly, it felt good to cry with her.

Thankfully, the next day, she began to turn a corner.  And now, she is well on the road to recovery.  We are seeing her smile again, and yesterday we even got her up and walking.


Mei was excited to get an e-card from Evie.

 Thrilled about the huge Dora balloon Daddy bought for her!

 This special shower cap washes her hair with shampoo, and we don't even have to rinse.  I want one of these for home!  Heck, with this I could wash my hair while driving.  Talk about multi-tasking!

Mei is back to wearing her signature glasses and bow.  We also brought "Baby Serenity" (that's what she named both of her dolls- after our neighbor's baby).  Here she is telling Serenity to "look at the camera"!

Many have asked how the other children are doing.  They are staying with my dad and Mary, my step-mom, who refers to herself as "the crazy grandmother".  I believe she has fully earned this title the past two weeks. Seriously y'all, I was getting worried.  The first time I called to check in, I got a wild and enthusiastic (insert serious Southern accent): "HEY!  Can't talk right now... we're about to get on the Tilt-A-Whirl!!  Ohmygoodness, what am I doing?!  We're all gonna puke!  Don't worry, Isaac's holding our stuff!!  Gotta go!!"

Mind you, I am calling her while Mei is sedated for her MRI, hoping for a nice little chat about how they are painting doilies in the playroom or something.  Instead, I am left wondering if I should worry about Mei or about Beniam, who is only four, and is apparently getting on the dad-gum Tilt-A-Whirl and there isn't a thing in the world I can do about it!  (Everything turned out fine).

The next time I called, this is what I got.  "HEY!  We are out riding scooters on the Greenway!  And guess what, I rode one, too!  OH NO... OH NO...!!"  (enter crackling, rustling noises, and her voice fading out) "Somebody come get the phone!! Quick!!  Come get the phone quick!!"  Phone drops.

Of course, I am thinking that one of the kids took a nasty spill and broke their arm.  Instead, Mary was apparently riding her scooter while we were on the phone.  And she fell.  And did you catch that?  Her scooter.  When she told me she was riding one, I assumed she borrowed one for a few minutes from one of the kids.  Oh no... not Mary.  She bought herself a kids' scooter, which she proudly reported was purple and had princesses on it.

Now I know that you are all thinking I must be loony to leave my children with this woman, but it turns out they had a great time. In all seriousness, Mary, along with the five other grandparents my kids have (not to mention great-grands!)... is an incredible gift from God.  She has jumped in with enthusiasm to help with both of our adoption trips as well as this trip.  She is wild and fun, but always protective and caring with her grandkids.





6.18.2012

Mei Takes On Cincinnati

I'm sitting here by Mei's bedside. She's up on her big hospital bed playing with a toy... propped on her daddy's lap while he enjoys watching a soccer game. Her PICC line and NG tube are in and she's doing so well with them. She was admitted this morning and is scheduled for surgery tomorrow. We've been in Cincinnati a week now. Last week was filled with lots of tests and procedures followed by a weekend full of fun. Some days were hard. Especially Friday when we reviewed the tests with the various doctors and found Mei's medical condition to be more complex than we thought. We hate that our baby girl has to go through so much, and yet, we know that God has a good plan and purpose for *everything* He allows in her life. We continue to have a tremendous peace through all of this, and I truly believe Mei does, too. I hope that one day soon I can sit and share a little here on the blog about what God is showing us and how He has blessed us in the last few days. But that would take a good bit more brain power than I currently possess, so I thought I'd share a few pictures, instead!
MeiMei is ready for take-off!

Nurse Mei checks out her patient while she waits for her MRI.

Mei loved being outside on Saturday! We enjoyed walking over the Ohio River on the "Purple People Bridge". We started in Kentucky and walked to Ohio!
   
 All loaded up on the surrey ready for a ride along the river! Mei was so happy to get to wear a helmet. 
   
 Enjoying the Butterfly Conservatory in Eden Park.
   
Highlight of the weekend- seeing my friend Preethi, her husband Chriswin and beautiful son Jai. They drove from Columbus for a day visit... Preethi's smile and laughter can light up any day!
Mei loved "Baby Jai" and was so proud of herself as she "helped" feed him! 
       
MeiMei played hard at the Cincinnati Museum Center's Children's Museum! 

Can you tell she loved the water tables best of all?


MeiMei loves to make dinner for Daddy!

5.13.2012

What I've Learned From My Mother




Dear Mom,

I just want you to know how grateful I am that God chose you to be my mother.  So many things I took for granted growing up… and I didn’t know you were teaching me then.  You probably didn’t either.  You were just living it.


Love-love that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things”…   this kind of love I first learned from my mother…
I lived under the protection and freedom that kind of love brings.   I can see now how much of my security and confidence as a teen stemmed from the respect and support I received at home.  I rarely felt like I needed to conform to the pressures of other teens, because I genuinely felt valued and that I did not need to prove myself.  Wow.  When I look back on that I think… what a gift!
And you still live this today.  When it hurts and when it seems to bear no fruit and when the pain seems to be overwhelming.  You chose… you still choose… to love.  And “the greatest of these is love”…


Sacrifice-  Mom, I want you to know that I saw all your sacrifices.  And they have made me much of who I am today. 
I can see now how you laid it all down for John and I… and you did it gladly.  You are the strongest woman I have ever known.


Forgiveness...   I don’t even want to imagine the bitterness and wounds I would carry around to this day… that would weigh me down and stifle the joy in me… if I had not learned from your example that the hard work of forgiveness is worth the freedom it produces.


   Mom, for all the things you taught me… for how you have lived… for who you are…  For all these things, I want to thank you today.   I have always been proud to call you my mom.  This year you enter a new decade of life… still the gorgeous, loving, giving woman I have always known you to be.   




Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.

1000 Moms Project

5.08.2012

122 Days

122.

That's how many days MeiMei spent in the hospital in the first 18 months of her life. 122 days. That we know of.

I remember the first time I read her medical file and counted up all the days from all the hospital stays. And I felt this heavy sadness as I thought of her all alone in her suffering.  I just sat there and cried.  I cried for all the days my baby girl was suffering and I was not there to hold her and comfort her.

 But the truth is, Mei was never alone. Never Once.

 It is hard to wrap my mind around the idea that our sweet daughter lie in a hospital bed and went through painful procedures, surgery and illnesses without anyone there to hold her close and comfort her. But she made it through. And I often wonder about it all. Did God send extra angels to keep vigil by her bedside? Did He offer His very presence and comfort in a way that her little one-year-old heart could understand?

 I don't know the answers to these questions for sure. But I do know that He's given little Mei a strength and adaptability and resilience far beyond what most kids I know possess. We've certainly seen that over the past five months.
These things I recall as we prepare for Mei's upcoming surgery in Cincinnati next month. As we have begun to make the plans more solid, I sometimes find myself worrying about it all. Three weeks away from the other children. Away from all the incredible support we would have here. One week alone just Mei and me. Ten days post-surgery where Mei cannot eat. Pre-surgery testing that could reveal more problems. Not to mention our little lovie being in pain, being scared...

 I'd be lying if I said that these things don't frighten me a bit. But the truth is that, most of the time, I have an incredible peace about it all. I'm grateful that we can provide this surgery for Mei. I am grateful that I can be there with her... that this time God chose me to be there to hold Mei and remind her she is not alone.

 And yet I know she never has been alone really. Yes, Mei had a life before we even knew her name. And it was a difficult... very difficult life. But there is One who has always known her name... who formed her in her mother's womb. Long before Mei was ours, she was HIS. And she still is. The same God who was her only consistent source of comfort during those 122 days in the hospital in her early life will be with us in Ohio. When I look at the child that Mei is now, there can be no doubt that there is a God who has walked with her, comforted her, healed her and redeemed her in the midst of all her suffering.
Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. Isaiah 42: 1b-2
As I thought about these verses this weekend, I was reminded of a song that I love that says all of this so beautifully. It is called "Never Once".   I love it when a song says so perfectly what I long to say to God.  (You can go here to hear it yourself...)

Scars and struggles on the way 
But with joy our hearts can say 
Never once did we ever walk alone  
Carried by Your constant grace 
Held within Your perfect peace 
Never once, no, we never walk alone
Never once did we ever walk alone 
Never once did You leave us on our own 
You are faithful, God, You are faithful

 I can see that this experience, away from all of our support here, will be yet another chance to rely completely on God... another chance for Him to reveal to us that He really is all we need. Will you pray for us? Will you pray for sweet Mei? We would be so grateful...

4.26.2012

Son of Laughter

The boy who made me a mom ... he turned nine this month. I kept thinking- "That's halfway to eighteen! How can that be?" But here he is, nine years old. He is all gift and I am so grateful for our "son of laughter". I giggle to remember how we joked after naming Isaac and Zoe and marvelling at how they 'fit' their names. (Isaac means "filled with laughter" or "son of laughter", and no one is better at laughing at my silliness than sweet Isaac.) We began to wonder if there was something prophetic to this naming thing after the first two fulfilled their names so well... So we joked that the next would be named "Obedience". Hey, a parent's got to try...
It has been a joy watching this boy grow more and more into the person God's created him to be. Isaac is smart, kind, introspective, full of questions, and fun. He enjoys riding his bike, video games, being outdoors, reading, and all things military.
Thanking God for you this month, Isaac!

4.09.2012

Happy Birthday, Mei Mei!



Mei turned three!

It is hard to believe that our tiny little peanut is actually three (she wears size 18 months clothes!), but it's true. We celebrated with family at our home on her dedication day and also with a little ice cream (her favorite) during playgroup that week.

I thought this might be a good time for some updates on our little girl...

She is one spunky little lady! This girl has come out of her shell and she is hilariious. She loves attention now and likes to be in charge of things. She just struts her little 21 pound self around the house bringing laughter wherever she goes. She's independent, usually very compliant, adaptable, and s-m-a-r-t. This child, who knew two words in Chinese a few months ago now speaks in full sentences in English. I kid you not- nearly every day one of us will come to another and say "Did you just hear what Mei said?" Really, y'all- we are astounded at her progress, as is pretty much everyone who meets her.

"Mei Mei", as we all usually call her, is full of kisses and hugs, too. She is sweet and loving and is adored by her sister and brothers. She is pretty much over her fear of stuffed animals (or anything fuzzy) and water, as you can see! Her favorite foods are french fries, eggs, yogurt and ice cream.






And, as you can see, Mei Mei now has glasses! I called and told Scott, "Guess what? Just when you thought she couldn't get any cuter... Wait till you see this!" Of course, he was confused about why I was excited that our daughter has astigmatism, but c'mon those little "baby" glasses are stinkin' adorable, aren't they?!

Mei's Dedication




All through our journey to bring Mei home, I looked forward to the day when I would be able to bring our daughter before our church and dedicate her to the God who brought her to us. She has always been His, of course, as have all my other children. But for me, this day was like an offering... a chance to stand before others and proclaim the goodness of our God. Truly, this day was an act of worship- my heart was filled to overflowing with praise and thanksgiving... not just because of the gift of now having Mei in our family, but also because of all the other gifts that have come along this journey. The gift of seeing God work, hearing Him speak to our hearts, knowing that He chose us to parent this precious child of His, and then watching His miracles of transformation in her every day...




Really, to put it simply the greatest gift we've been given in this past year or so is this: Christ. Just to know Him a little more than we did a year ago. That is a gift indescribable. I wrote this quote from Oswald Chambers in my Bible years ago and I think it sums up why my heart was so filled with worship as we celebrated Mei's dedication at church.

"My goal is God Himself. Not joy nor peace nor even blessing, but Himself, my God."




Before Mei even came home, we knew the verses that we would share for her on her day of dedication.

"You will be called by a new name
that the mouth of the LORD will bestow
You will be a crown of splendor in the LORD's hand,
a royal diadem in the hand of your God,
No longer will they call you Deserted...
But you will be called Hephizbah (my delight is in her)...
for the LORD will take delight in you...
(You) will be called the Redeemed of the LORD;
and you will be called Sought After,...
No Longer Deserted."
(Isaiah 62: 2b-4a, 12)



And it is our prayer now that our sweet Mei Chara would know the true depths of the love her Father has for her... The One who sought after her, redeemed her, and delights in her.