Day 12 – We’re Coming Home

I can’t believe it. This is it. We’re coming home! Six of us! Tomorrow morning we’ll leave Guangzhou early and head to Hong Kong to fly home.

I really want you guys to see this.

On Monday we were told that the result of her test would probably mean that we would have to stay an extra week in Guangzhou, most of those days without a guide or agency rep.

On Tuesday we were told that the results weren’t back yet but once they came back it typically takes eight hours or so to send the medical report to the consulate and after that another 24-36 hours to process her visa. Apparently you can’t just walk in to a US Embassy and walk out with your visa. Anyway, all of this would put our earliest window for departure at Friday afternoon but none of that was certain until we got the all-clear from medical.

This morning, Kelley, Aila, and our guide went back to the clinic. They were there all of about 30 min and the doctors had given her clearance. They walked across the street to the consulate and within about an hour Kelley walked out with Aila’s visa. (You can’t have your phone in the Consulate so I didn’t know all this was going down.) All the while, I’m on the phone with American Airlines pleading our case to get the cost down. The first price quoted was $2700 to change our flights to Friday. A little while later and some wicked negotiations behind the scenes of AA’s International Service Reps and the price had been reduced to around $450. Then Kelley got back and said that she had the visa — today. We can fly out tomorrow! I called AA back to see if we could adjust our itinerary from Friday to Thursday. She placed me on hold and a few minutes later, our itinerary had been updated and the total cost to change all six flights to Thursday?… $150.00.

Now, how’d all this happen? I’ve written about this a few times before, but it’s prayer. Specifically, it’s the Spirit of God moving through prayer. Prayer connects us like a major network of communications. We pray. God’s Spirit moves in others to act and out of response to that promoting, things that seemed impossible move out of the way. Walls that seemed too high to climb now seem like only a step. Prayer mobilizes His people — knowingly sometimes and maybe sometimes unknowingly — and things get done. Bold prayers and big, gutsy asks… You never know what can happen. All I know is two days ago it looked like we were stuck in a foreign country on the other side of the world and it was gonna cost nearly $5000 more in airfare, lodging, and food to get us home. God’s people began to cry out to him and out of that, our family is coming home TOMORROW!!!

I spent about an hour today on the pool deck overlooking the city here and reflected on this trip. No doubt, the last five days have been trying. Not at all what I imagined it to be. Frustrating, yes. Disheartening at times, for sure. Even moments feeling utterly defeated, helpless, beaten down. I’m excited to be home. To have doctors who speak English and who do things the way I’m accustomed. To eat American food. To drive my car. To breathe clean air. To sleep in my own bed again. To enjoy my new baby in my new house. But God had us here for a purpose. A purpose bigger than even bringing our baby girl home.

Sometimes I get too caught up in the urgency of the immediate to see God working. I’m too furious to recognize him.

But my wife is a champ at slowing down and listening for God’s quiet little whispers. She and Aila have been to that clinic five times over the last five days. The doctors are absolutely in love with this little two year old bundle of pure joy.

Today, I believe I may have seen at least one reason God had us stay. While they were at the clinic Kelley got to talk with a Chinese lady (who spoke English). The lady had lots of questions about adoption. As you know, we’re pretty big advocates for orphan care. The lady told Kelley that they’d considered adoption before, but it’s not very common here. Kelley took the time with this lady to encourage her. She told her that God can help you do anything, especially care for children. By the end of their conversation, this lady, with tears welling up in her eyes, said to Kelley, “Meeting you today has given me the motivation I needed to do this.”

One of my favorite songs right now is this song from Elevation called “Open Up Our Eyes.” There’s a powerful declaration, “Our God is fighting for us always/ Our God is fighting for us all/ Our God is fighting for us always/ We are not alone/ We are not alone!” That’s been a good reminder for us every night as we go to bed. This week has been hard, but God has been faithful. Our friend Kari reminded us tonight that sometimes it’s hard to see what God is up to but sometimes it’s enough to know he’s up to something and just trust him. It’s always good for those who love him.

We’re a few hours from checking out of the hotel and heading on our way. The room is asleep finally. As I look over my beautiful family at peace, I want to extend our deepest thanks and our humblest gratitude for every dollar given, every item donated, every encouragement, every favor called in, and every single late night prayer and petition. You have helped us do what we set out to do fourteen months ago…

#bringherhome

We’d love to see you at the airport!!!

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What A Week

Sunrise-and-Clouds

Last Friday night we took a ginormous leap for our family and submitted our preliminary application for a baby girl that Kelley found out about through an organization that helps match parents with waiting children who have Down syndrome. You can read a little more about that here. Saturday morning we woke up with plans to go to Busch Gardens with some friends, excited to share the news of this baby girl. I looked out the second-floor window as I was getting some clothes for the kids and realized that our car was missing. I ran downstairs thinking maybe I’d parked it down the street and just forgot. I got outside to realize that indeed our family car had been stolen. We had both sets of keys in the house and our car was gone. Kelley and I both looked at each other because we had no words. I called the police. I called the insurance company. I called the bank. We texted some friends. And then I sent a message to a couple of friends of our who are police officers in our city.

I’ve really had to fight back being angry at this thief. I haven’t done a great job at it. What really got to me was what he took from our kids; their security and safety in our home. They felt fearful.  “Why would somebody do this,” they’d ask. We don’t know. But, what we can say is that when we let these things distract us — fear, worry, anger — specifically anger over replaceable, temporary things, those things begin to control the conversation. We knew we couldn’t let the gloomy story of our car getting stolen overshadow the beautiful, bright story unfolding with baby Adina.

All weekend we wanted to point the conversation to this little girl. Stay focused on praying for her. The police and others involved will take care of the car. We need to focus on Adina. We prayed for her all weekend that God’s presence would be tangible wherever Adina was. That she would feel God’s loving presence. That He would guide her caregivers, the nurses and doctors, and that this little girl would know she is loved and wanted, and we prayed that we’d hear from the agency on Monday.

Monday came and went with several automated responses from the agency. We were granted log in authorization and were able to view more pictures of this beautiful baby girl as well as her limited medical records. But, we never spoke with a live person and waited eagerly to hear specific news of Adina. We received several phone calls Tuesday. The first from our local agency office, calling to invite us to meet with them next week and they gave us an overview of the process. We were also given more forms to fill out. Later in the day Kelley received a call from someone on the ‘China 180’ team. She (enthusiastically) reviewed the information we already had and promised to be in touch with additional documents we needed to sign and return to her ASAP. Kelley and the kids were in the middle of a tea party when she was copied on an email sent to the ‘China 180′ team. In the email our intake coordinator shared that she’ d spoken with Kelley and that Adina was still available!

So what now? We passed the preliminary application and were invited to fill out the formal application (which will be completed in the next hour and submitted to the agency). There’s still lots to do and we’ll do our best to keep you updated here and on Twitter and Facebook. But what we want you to know is that the most important thing we ask of you is to pray, because prayer connects us to each other in ways that we can’t always know or perceive. Specifically, we are praying that her medical issues are stable until she can receive specialized care and that we can move through this process quickly, because if Adina is in fact the baby God has for us, we want to bring her home NOW. It’s painfully difficult to think that our baby is in another country and we can’t see her, talk to her, hold her, care for her…  So please pray!

We believe that the family is a picture of what it’s like to live with God – to be nurtured and cared for, provided for and protected by God. Our prayer is that every child has this. We are grateful for good families that loved us, loved each other and loved God. We don’t take that for granted. God has called us to define family as more than just biology and to open our arms and hearts, just as He did for us.

So That Just Happened

Hilton Pier

Here’s what is heartbreaking to me. Hundreds of thousands of children – 128 million in fact – going to bed tonight without knowing the love of a forever family. Without a mom to tuck them in and re-tuck them in and then one more time, just in case the blanket shifted and just to steal one more kiss and to breathe in their scent and to push their hair out of their eyes and thank God for the gift, for the privilege of being their mom.

We’ve felt for some time now that God was calling us to adopt a baby with special needs. In the last few months He has started opening our eyes to the possibility of adopting a baby with down syndrome. Our initial plan was to pursue a domestic open adoption; someone local and someone we could maintain a relationship with, to grow our families together – birth mom, baby and forever family.

Over the course of the last few months, as we’ve been putting the puzzle pieces together, we’ve been connected with a network that coordinates adoptions of babies with Down Syndrome. They deal primarily with placing children in domestic adoptions. They just partnered with a big, well-known agency in an attempt to help find forever families for hundreds of waiting children in China. Over the last few months, this network has posted pictures of countless faces of babies that have grabbed my attention, faces that have frequented my prayers. But today, one face grabbed my heart in a way I can’t describe. My breath caught in my throat. We were in the car while Randall ran into the store. He returned and found me crying over this year-old baby girl, Adina. And I don’t cry often. And I certainly don’t like to admit that I’ve been crying my eyes out in the parking lot of a Food Lion grocery store while my husband is buying pita bread. I’ve pretty much been crying on and off all evening.

Throughout this process we’ve taken notes from other adoptive moms who have said you will have tough days, days where your heart breaks for your future child. They suggest that you record those days, write about them, remember those tears, because your child needs you. So pray now and then look back at these moments and you’ll probably find that God was leading your heart to care for your baby before you ever got to hold her.

So what does all this mean? So far, this adoption process has been God presenting us with opportunities and us following His lead on faith. The outcome isn’t always what we hope, but we continue to be obedient. We couldn’t ignore this opportunity. We needed to act. And I couldn’t go to sleep tonight without at least sending an email the Network. Which led to sending an official inquiry to the Agency. Which led to filling out a preliminary application. I hit ‘send’ and looked at Randall and said, “So that just happened.” He was busy learning Mandarin (so, when we hopefully go to China, he can now count to ten and recite the months of the year).

For now we wait. And pray. And we’re asking you to pray with us. Specifically, pray for Adina. I want to ask you to pray for her because I hope she becomes ours. But, even if we’re not approved, even if she already has a family trying to adopt her, pray for her anyway. Because tonight she goes to bed without knowing the love of a forever family. Pray for the Chinese government because so much of the approval process lies in their hands. Pray for Adina’s caregivers in the orphanage. Pray for her doctors and nurses. Pray for the agency handling her details. Pray for anybody and everybody connected to this little girl and the unfolding story being written by God’s heart.

-Kelley

It’s Difficult to Breathe

It’s been a very tough weekend for us. We appreciate the extensions of love and care. But it is painful to tell the story over and over again so we thought we’d share it here and invite you to read it.

While Randall was in Guatemala, Kelley made an exciting discovery. Something to the tune of six pregnancy tests confirmed that we were having a baby. I came home from Guatemala and found a wrapped gift waiting for me that contained a tiny baby onesie that read, “3 is for quitters!”. We were thrilled. Shocked, but thrilled. And, after a few days of secret keeping, we decided we were just too excited to keep quiet and shared the news with the kids (who were ecstatic) and our families.

The week went on. We immersed ourselves in baby prep – apps, websites, magazines, etc. – started talking about names, discussing where we’d deliver. Weird cravings, nausea, newly-pregnant-mommy stuff… The kids would kiss the baby goodnight and tell everybody how they weren’t supposed to tell anybody about the baby yet. Rosie’s famous line was, “I can’t tell you that my mommy’s gonna have a baby.” She’s not great at keeping secrets, but then again… no female in this family is.

The last couple of pregnancies have started with scares. Spotting. Emergency room visits fearful of tragedy. Both Grady and Rosie are here despite those moments. They were able to fight through to become healthy babies. Eli too. His life was in peril before he came into this world, as most of you know. We are so grateful for the health of all of them.

Midway through the week this week, the spotting started. We kind of expected this. But it continued to get heavier. And on Thursday it became concerning. We had friends coming in town. As soon as they arrived, we left our kids with them and met the doctor at the hospital to see if we could get some insight into what was happening. The ultrasound showed a little blood in places there shouldn’t be blood. But really, it didn’t show what we were looking for. Which was a tiny little baby. Kelley had some bloodwork to check her levels of pregnancy hormones. The doctor called us later and said her level was 33, which was low. Very low. We knew we were losing the baby.

Our amazing friends stayed the weekend. They cooked dinner. They played with our kids. We sat around a fire, listened to music, drank beer and soaked up the time spent with our dear friends. Kelley was sick all weekend. Friday night was the worst of it. She had intense labor like pains (I guess it was labor). But we held out hope that the follow up bloodwork would show a miracle.

We went to church this morning, which was difficult to say the least. Not many people knew what was going on but it was obvious that we were sad about something. We weren’t ready to say anything until we had gotten the results from the follow up labs. But Kelley knew this morning when she woke up that things had changed. She recalled not feeling pregnant anymore. And this afternoon, the test results confirmed it… we’d lost the baby.

We told the kids that sometimes babies are sick. So very sick that it’s better for them to go on to Heaven. And even though it’s sad for us now, because we wanted to meet this baby and to hold this baby, we get eternity together in Heaven, reunited with our Father.

Eli took it the hardest. We wondered if we should’ve told them about the baby. But, here’s the thing. This baby is a part of our family story. We can’t ignore it. Life is joy and sorrow. Today our family was reminded that our Father is the great comforter. That he is able to reach into our darkness and pull us from the depths.

I’m not real sure where we go from here. We don’t know how to feel. Overwhelmed, for sure. Feels a bit like drowning. Like in ‘How He Loves’… if grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking. It’s difficult to keep breathing some moments. Partly due to the pain and mostly under the influence of the love of our Father.

Over the next few days we’ll be taking some time as a family to begin healing. If you find yourself in a moment where God brings us to your mind, take a second to pray for peace and that Kelley’s body heals without the need for surgery.

We love you very much. We are thankful for your concern and care for us and for your sacrificial love for us, especially to Jeff, Jodi, Beth, the Grove Elders, Dr. and Mindy Castor, Kari and Mitch, the band and our families. You are special to us and we are grateful.

But Sandwich

We’re home now, which is better than being stuck in a hospital. We get to shower and put on clean clothes, cook a meal and sleep in our own beds. We’re able to enjoy the lights on our Christmas tree and the garland stretched across the mantle over the crackling fireplace. We’ve watched holiday movies with our kids and kissed the grimy-faced little boys we’ve been apart from for more than a week.

But we’re not healthy still. Grady’s got a version of what Rosie has. Fortunately, it only affects toddlers mildly. Eli’s appetite is low and he has been a little sniffly. Not a big deal under normal circumstances but considering what we’ve been though lately, we don’t take anything lightly.

Kelley and I have both come down with probably the same thing. For us, it’s a head cold but with Rosie’s RSV in its history. We’re both getting better but it makes it a challenge to care for a baby with nasty chest congestion and breathing impairment, a toddler and a six year old with a cold and try to make Christmas memorable for them.

What you will not hear from us is complaining. No matter how challenging these days, we are glad to be at home walking though this together.

As most of you know, our family is the center of our lives. And for us, when we are apart we feel it. So to be together, regardless of what’s going on within and around us, is more fulfilling than any other option. Especially during the holiday season.

I know we still have a week or so to go before Rosie is actually cleared. She has to sleep elevated for awhile until we are certain her O2 levels stay in the safe zone while she sleeps. To do this she is strapped into a specially designed wedge that helps her breathe and keeps her oxygen where it needs to be. The problem is – she hates it. It scares her. And her voice is gone from all that she’s been through, so when she cries we don’t hear her. It’s heartbreaking, really. She wakes up alone in a contraption she can’t escape from and can’t tell us she needs us.

Best I can relate, it’s like the dreams I have where I’m being chased and can’t produce the sound from my voice to scream for help.

Last night, we put the wedge between us in our queen-size bed so that if she woke up, we’d be there with her and maybe she wouldn’t be so scared. But due to its size, Kelley and I each have less than two feet of space in the bed for our adult bodies. Which only allows for one sleeping position; I call it the coffin pose. Toes up. Hands crossed across the chest. No movement allowed. Some people may like this. It’s a bit restrictive for us.

We’ll work it out somehow.

We have become more aware recently how connected we all are to each other.

You and I.
We and them.
All of us.

Your prayers over the past ten days have been enriching, empowering and enlightening. We have begun to discover more of the richness of how our prayers connect us not only to our Creator but to the spirits of each one of you. Please know that we are deeply grateful for all the ways you have given to us. Not just the last week and a half but in ways that we are very likely unaware.

We are thankful. There is more good news these days than bad.

Call and Response

The thing about friends is they get things done when you need them the most.

This morning we initiated the call for prayer that we’d be able to get Rosie in a room today.

We told you we were blocked due to what they call a High Census Alert.

Strike One.

We have a friend who coordinates all the room assignments but she’s on vacation until after Christmas.

Strike Two.

All the staff here was telling us that it usually takes a couple of days to get a room once you’re placed on the waiting list; and remember — High Census.

Foul Ball down the Right Field Line.

I heard from many of you how sincerely you were petitioning, begging God to provide.

I’m happy to tell you that at 3 PM today as we were playing a stickless game of pool with the boys, a nurse from SCU called to tell us that at 5 PM today we will be transferred to a private room.

Kelley and I almost dropped to our knees in relief when we heard the news.

Ah. Energy. Renewed.

A Little Bit of Good News

She did better last night.

Still not checking out of Hotel Children’s any time soon but this sickness is getting further and further behind us.

Doctor came by this morning and felt like the reasons we moved her to SCU have all been relieved and believes she could safely be moved back to a private room. However, as of 9 AM today there are no vacancies anywhere in the hospital.

So, for all of you who are offering prayers, here is our immediate request.

We need to get Rosie out of SCU and into a private room where we can provide for her more readily.

She is not comfortable here and neither are we. The visiting schedule is so fragmented that sleep hasn’t come easily for any of us. Kelley and I did trade off a bit of sleep last night and this morning. But it would be so beneficial to get us all back on a more regular schedule.

So, if you’d like to pray for something specific, we want to move into a private room today. To do that, someone(s) will have to be discharged; add them to your prayers as well.

We love you all so much. Thank you again and again for the letters, emails, comments, re-tweets, texts, gifts, food, coffee, hotel room, clothes, prayers, visits and conversations.

There is no unit of measure to quantify the love and appreciation we feel toward each of you.

Your support is our strength.