Unfinished Business

A little more than two and a half *decades* ago, I began my college career at the University of Louisville. I was a young single mother of a two month old; also working a full-time, early-morning shift at a local bakery, attending school full-time in the afternoons and evenings, and relying heavily on the availability and generosity of my aged grandparents (and sometimes parents-both mine and Rick’s) as my only babysitters. It was a heavy, heavy load and I failed miserably under the weight of it all. I continued in that failing misery for a couple of semesters, until I finally came to the realization I just didn’t want a college degree badly enough; and to compound that lack of desire, there were other more pressing matters that required my complete attention, like my now recovering marriage and striving to sustain the healthy balance between working and parenting. So I dropped out of school.

The next couple of years were important years of growth for me personally. I got married, almost divorced a year later, was saved by Jesus’s grace, gave birth to another little boy, and became a Stay at Home Mom….in exactly that order. Going back to school had flitted in and out of my mind from time to time, but I needed to be sure I was ready to commit. In the Fall of 1997, I knew the timing was right. My life was stable-and more importantly, *I* was stable. I was desirous of my degree and felt I had acquired the maturity needed to make an honest go of it. I spent the next five years taking part-time classes at UL and acquiring 67 credit hours in the process. One story I often (and proudly) tell my children is of having my third child, Jake, on a Wednesday afternoon, discharging from the hospital that Friday, and showing up for my 8 a.m. Final Exam the following Monday. I got a B on that Math Final, but I was immensely proud of every bit of that B, given the extenuating circumstances!

In the Spring of 2003, having just had my fifth child, I knew the time had come for me to conclude my schooling. I wrestled and wrestled with that decision, because it felt so much like quitting and leaving something unfinished. But in the end, I recognized my kids and husband needed to come first. I wanted to continue homeschooling, but that school choice was not going to be conducive to nursing clinicals, which required my full-time work presence. There was no way homeschooling, along with being mom to another newborn, fit into that picture. I was heavy-hearted, but lightened by the freedom that only true obedience and right prioritization brings.

The last sixteen years have been filled with the births of two more precious children and the adoption of four medically-needy little ones from China. I was privileged to be my Grandpa’s caregiver, until his health declined beyond my capacity. We’ve travelled with Rick on many of his work trips and cheered the kids on in their vast extracurricular endeavors. When two of my children were walking devastating, destructive pathways that required my complete and undivided attention, I was able to enter into their distinctly unique but equally painful despair in a way that I would not have been able to had my attention been drawn away elsewhere. I’m so thankful for those seasons of great joy and unspeakable sorrow, always intermingled, yet ever and always making us look more and more like our Savior! We will never *want* these things, but we absolutely NEED them in our lives!

Today marks the introduction of a new season and the start of, what I hope, is a redemptive chapter in my life. I am beyond excited to tell you all that I have made the decision to go back to UL to complete my degree! I went to Student Advising this morning and made the initial contact with the Financial Aid Office. As usual, my ever-present and faithful hubby was right by my side. I’m so thankful for his unwavering support!! I am declaring my major in Criminal Justice, since I am/have already been employed for many years now in the positions of teacher, elder companion, nurse, social worker, social justice advocate (specifically as it relates to orphan care), caregiver, dietician, etc. Simply being a mother has provided a myriad of real life learning opportunities that a single collegiate degree could never offer. This journey is not so much about a well-earned piece of paper as it is the restoration of the years the locusts have eaten.

This pursuit is extremely personal to me. To answer a few obvious questions. NO, I am not interested in entering the job market upon graduation. Yes, I still LOVE being a SAHM to my children. I very much enjoy partnering with CEC in the collaborative education of three of my middle kiddos. I fully intend to bring the Quad Squad home during their middle and high school years and either work with CEC or, for the first time in Kelley kid-dom history, teach them solely at home. The jury’s still out on that one. ūüôā I recognize Benji’s health needs (or something else providentially hindering) may cause this desire to, once again, end in ‘unfinished business’. And that’s okay. But I have a strong sense that *now* is the time and space to pursue this. So I’m going with my gut on this one and praying God’s continued blessing and sustaining providence over Benji. Besides, I fully trust God in His sovereign plans for my life. His Will *will* be accomplished one way or the other. I’m just an instrument in the hands of my Redeemer. But I also know God loves to give good gifts to His children. And how I’m hoping this desire of mine-to make an end of this ‘unfinished business’-is one He’ll grant to me! May He not only grant it, but give the strength to see it through infinitely well and for HIS glory. Amen!

Expectant Hope

Last week, Benji and I made our way downtown to see his kidney doc. It had been a blissful couple of months since we’d seen him last, with only the monthly blood draws to remind us of the seriousness of our dear boy’s condition.

Snaggle Tooth waiting for his doctor’s appointment

He “looks” so healthy on the outside; it’s natural for us to excuse away the little things that begin to creep in and evolve to become his new normal. He fatigues more easily nowadays, the schooldays becoming more taxing. Still, he bounds down the sidewalk at the end of each weekday, a tremendous grin spread across his face-his joy visible for all to see. There’s a rather stern carpool line helper that frequently admonishes him for running. It takes everything in me not to chide HER. If she only knew what a gift it is that he can still make it through all six hours of a regular day, and have the ability to RUN and SMILE at the end of it! But because I hope she is only trying to keep him from hurting himself, I hold my tongue, all the while treasuring these unusual and unexpected blessings up in my heart.

Benji’s nephrologist confirmed what we already knew to be true. His kidney disease is progressing. His kidney function has declined to 24%. It is difficult to fathom that we are almost at the place to list for transplant, though we’ve known of that inevitability from the moment we said ‘yes’ to the precious boy in the Facebook post. His doc feels we’ll be listing in the next couple of months, if Benji’s labs continue to trend downward at the same moderate pace. Oh, how I long to rewrite the trajectory of this narrative! It just simply cannot be that we have arrived at this destination…not with how much we’ve fought and begged on our knees for a different end-result. Oh Jehovah-Rapha, if only…

But surely, Your ways are higher than our ways and Your thoughts than our thoughts.

“O Father, use my ransomed life in any way you choose. And let my song forever be, my only boast is You.”

Our prayers stem from a heart that acknowledges three different levels of outcome: praying with realistic expectations, praying with buoyant hope, and praying for the absolute miraculous. We’ve tried to keep our expectations realistic, with acknowledgment of the presence of fervent hope (that surely every parent possesses). Yet daring to earnestly appeal for a miracle that God would simply heal our boy of his kidney disease-that his life might shine as a brilliant testimony to the saving power of our great God. I am striving daily to align my attitude with this quote…”Don’t cry because it’s ending, smile because it happened.” I never want to lose sight of the sheer miracle that Benji simply being a part of our family is. Expectations are important. So is hope.

There is one final thing we are praying for: Benji’s potential donor. Benji will be a candidate for donation from a deceased donor, but we are told his outcome can be significantly better if received from a living donor. Please be praying whether the Lord is leading you to consider organ donation. Most of us are born with two kidneys, yet only one is needed to live a full and healthy life. How amazing is our God, our Elohim, to create within our bodies the ability to ‘love our neighbor’ by saving their very life!

Several in our family have expressed their desire to be considered, and how we hope and pray ONE OF US can be his donor. But because we are not biologically related to Benji, it’s quite possible we will need to look farther outside of ourselves to find a match. It’s surely a #bigaskbiggive.

Big Ask Big Give

But we know God is in control of all things…causing the hearts of those whom He may be preparing for this arduous but incredible journey to beat in harmoniously holy tandem with ours.

A few pictures since the last blog.

Welcome Back!

Welcome back to our family‚Äôs blog!  

Snow Tubing at Perfect North in Indiana

I‚Äôll admit it.  I‚Äôm an avid Facebook user.  Don‚Äôt judge me!  It is the place I most conveniently store my thoughts, surface emotions and memories.  Over the years, it has become a digital scrapbook of sorts.  Until now, that‚Äôs also been where I‚Äôve kept my updates on two things very near and dear to my heart: all things adoption and updates on my CKD warrior, Benji.  Some of you will know that Benji is our Chinese-born son, adopted at the age of 3 1/2 with Chronic Kidney Disease.  If you‚Äôd like to learn more about how he became a part of our family, then please go here.  His journey to becoming a Kelley is nothing short of miraculous, and I‚Äôd be delighted for you to read all about it!  

The cutest Grinches ever!

Since coming home from China, Benji has undergone several surgeries, treatments, med changes, etc to stave off his need for a kidney transplant.  The Lord has granted us a few additional years with our boy and his original ‚Äúbeans‚ÄĚ, but we realize we are coming to the end of that extra time.  Recent labs show Benji‚Äôs kidney function at 24%.  Though the early days felt like we were ‚Äúcrawling‚ÄĚ toward transplant, these past few months however, have felt more like ‚Äúfreefalling‚ÄĚ.  It‚Äôs a scary place, in those moments where we lose sight of the One that created Benji and holds him and his future in His hands.  We are comforted by the thought of Benji‚Äôs life story so far and how much our great God‚Äôs fingerprints are all over it.  It‚Äôs obvious that He loves Benji very much and so do we!  

Due to Benji‚Äôs decline in kidney function, we have decided to move all further updates regarding his care here to our family blog.   I anticipate there will be thoughts and emotions, stories even, that will necessitate utilizing this space, as opposed to the limited capacity of FB or Instagram.  I pray, in the days ahead, to fill the pages of this blog with news of all the unsettling and wonderful events that are happening in Benji‚Äôs life and to give God all the glory for His marvelous work through them.  

Benji dressed as his favorite Pokemon trainer – Alain

Benji will more than likely begin the process of being listed for kidney transplant in the next couple of months.  Just typing those words makes my heart heavy for my sweet boy.  And if I‚Äôm being totally transparent, it can sometimes feel as though we ‚Äúlost‚ÄĚ our battle to prevent him from needing a transplant.  Thankfully, the Lord is faithful to remind me that the battle is not mine, but His and His alone.  He will be faithful to complete the good work He has already begun.  

The Quad Squad on one of our many medical trips – this one to Charleston, SC

Thank you for following along and praying with us as we continue to navigate this uncertain territory.  Many years ago, the Lord impressed upon me the name for a blog that I felt He wanted me to write someday‚Ķ‚ÄĚSojourning HIS path‚ÄĚ.  It didn‚Äôt make much sense all those years ago.  But it sure does now.  This journey is simply our family obediently following HIS path He has set before us.  And I wouldn‚Äôt have it any other way.  

To read more about the adoption of Faith, Hope, Silas and Benji Рclick their name.

Adoption Update (We’re home!)

Dear Friends,

I wasn’t able to keep the blog updated while in China. As you read, you’ll understand why. I am going to copy the Facebook posts that April and I posted while in China along with the dates. I’ll add very little commentary from this side, I believe the posts will clearly communicate all that we went through to bring these boys home. If you didn’t read the previous post, my 17 year old son, Jake, was involved in a head-on collision the day before we left. He was to go with me and be my helper – everything from managing the luggage to managing the children when I needed to attend paperwork meetings that last several hours. There are also times where supplies need to be picked up from the Walmart and it’s best to have someone stay with the children while the other adult goes and get necessities or lunch etc.

He broke his collarbone in the accident, we’re very thankful to the Lord nothing more. Both airbags deployed and the paramedic on scene and doctor in the hospital both said he was fortunate to be alive and that his seat belt saved his life. He is healing up, still unable to bear any weight¬†with his left (and dominant) hand. He is to be X-rayed soon to make sure the bones are healing correctly.

Having an adult (the obvious preference is your spouse) with you is vital, particularly if you’re adopting two children. April and I learned that lesson well when we adopted the girls. We had our 14 year old (at the time) daughter with us and we were exhausted for most of the trip. But we had each other and Grace was instrumental in the bonding and attachment process.

I spent most of Monday, December 15th in the ER at U of L hospital. Jake was released in the late afternoon (the person he hit was released a day later and is doing fine). We spent the final couple hours rushing to pack, changing travel arrangements, etc. We had our Christmas with the children that evening and then Ryle and I were off to the airport at 6 a.m. Tuesday, December 16th.

This blog picks up on 12/18 as 12/16-12/17 are in a previous blog post.

IMG_0287

December 18th

Tiananmen Square / Forbidden City / Hutong Tour on rickshaw with lunch / International Market in Beijing for ‘delicacies’ in the evening. Ryle, with his blonde hair, was quite the star. Numerous people had their picture made with him and there was much staring and pointing at him while we were in China.

IMG_0328IMG_0336IMG_0350IMG_0331IMG_0347IMG_0354IMG_0366IMG_0385IMG_0383IMG_0384IMG_0380IMG_0386

December 19th

We had a good day at the Great Wall, a nice lunch with a tour of a jade factory (still can’t bring myself to purchase it due to price) and a lot of fun at the Acrobatics Show. Ryle really enjoyed it.

We are up at 6 a.m. tomorrow morning and need to leave the hotel at 7:45 to catch our flight to Zhengzhou – the city where the boys live.

We are all packed up. The airlines in China only allow 44 lbs per person (something I had forgotten) and we are over – way over. Hopefully the excess baggage fees are affordable. I miss April¬†quite a bit but particularly when doing something she usually takes care of like getting all the packing squared away, or dressing kids, or bathing kids, etc. I prefer the pack mule, errand boy role – mostly because it’s less work!¬†Much love to all back home.

IMG_0397

Entrance to Great Wall

IMG_0400IMG_0402IMG_0405IMG_0407IMG_0408

December 20th

Ryle and I arrived safely in Zhengzhou with no problems. We received the final updates on the boys answering questions that April and I sent to China over a month ago.

It is encouraging that the boys get along well with others. Their lack of fear of strangers is not really a good thing – it just means they aren’t attached to anyone and will go to everyone. I’m not too excited about that 2 am cath schedule! Hoping to adjust¬†his schedule to something better suited to our home schedule. Either way, he needs to cathed every six hours – no matter what.¬†

Ryle and I had lunch at a delicious noodle restaurant across from the hotel. The little boy in the picture is eight and wanted to have his photo with Ryle and practice his English. Very sweet.

We have made our trip to Walmart and purchased supplies for the days ahead. Of course, I forgot to buy wipes. April¬†would not have made such a rookie mistake. It’s like I’ve never had little ones before!

Excited and nervous about tomorrow. I have a great sense of my own frailty and am trying to be more intentional about praying continually and leaning more heavily upon the Lord. He has been so kind in so many tangible ways to this point. Thankful for His many mercies.

I miss my wife terribly. I miss her companionship, steadiness, gentleness, smile, touch, willingness to laugh at my silly jokes and on and on the list could go. Technology has helped immensely but for her not to be here for Gotcha Day is exceedingly difficult…more so on her because of her great love for these boys and her desire to be with them.

We are winding down and getting ready to turn into bed. Thinking of many of you as begin your Lord’s Day. Of course, the RBC is singing many of my favorite hymns in our absence.¬†Trusting that the Lord will meet with them as they worship.

We should be getting the boys around 9:30pm EST on Sunday night. Pray that the live feed will work through FaceTime so that April and the children can see in real time. Pray for Ryle’s camera recording skills…¬†Pray that the boys will come to me willingly, attach quickly, sleep soundly and cath easily. Pray for my sweet wife – her missing this is very tough. Pray for me.

Much love to you all.

IMG_0428

December 21st

Leaving to get the boys!

IMG_0430

(We were able to livestream the moment we got the boys through Facebook messenger. My oldest son piped the feed into his computer and then projected it onto his flat screen TV at his house. All of the family was gathered around to be a part of Gotcha Day. Below are two pictures that my son Jake took of the boys from the screen. Technology is amazing and made the distance more bearable at times. There were countless times where seeing my wife’s face and hearing her voice were such an encouragement!)

His post:

The two newest additions to the Kelley family. Say hello to Silas and Benjamin!

10354882_933496353404056_6648230608469826680_n1914934_933496413404050_2287622958438859568_n

Pictures from Gotcha Day in China.

IMG_1425

My first view as I walked in the door.

IMG_1427

The boys were at the SWI before we arrived.

IMG_1435

Benji wasn’t happy to come to his new baba!

IMG_1436IMG_1446IMG_1452

IMG_1464

Bribing with a sucker

IMG_1470IMG_1473IMG_1474IMG_0436

IMG_0446

Bus ride back to the hotel

IMG_0447

Bus ride back to the hotel

December 21st Afternoon

April writes:¬†My poor hubby. Silas is already grieving, but Rick can’t “make it all better with food” like we did with the girls because of some gastrointestinal issues.¬†Benjamin is a quiet delight, and for now, I’m grateful. It seems that Rick will have to focus quite a bit of attention on Silas.¬†Please continue praying for Rick and Ryle. That incessant crying can wear one down quickly. And I feel acutely the inability to be of any help at all.

12373314_10206897482547321_1771720102083492353_n

December 21st Evening

I was unable to cath Benji during the evening. I spoke with the head doctor of the Show Hope unit (an American) by phone. He walked me through what I supposed to be doing. It was quite nerve racking. I had to have two people hold Benji down as I tried to do cath. I couldn’t make it work. He was screaming, I was sweating profusely, my Chinese guide was helping but after all that – I still couldn’t make it work. So we had to hire a vehicle and travel back to the orphanage at 10:30 p.m. The orphanage is 40 minutes away. The driver got lost. We arrived back at the hotel well after midnight. We spent over an hour at the orphanage. The nurse trained me on how to cath (there was very little training earlier in the day when I got the boys). I was also quite sick to my stomach as I hadn’t eaten since breakfast. The orphanage gave me a glass of water and a banana and I felt much better after that. It was a rough first day.

April wrote the following post the next day:

Update from China:

Last night was a rough night for Rick. After four attempts, he was still unable to cath Benji. Thankfully, a fellow travel group member was willing to come stay in Rick’s room with the other sleeping kiddos, Ryle and Silas.
So, at 10:30 at night, with a traumatized child that he’d only met a few hours before, Rick and his guide Vivian traveled the 40 minutes back to the orphanage. Once there, an American doctor with Show Hope was able to spend some time giving Rick some extra pointers on cathing. He was also able to gain some additional insight into Benji and his temperament.
They returned back to the hotel some time after midnight. All were exhausted, but thankfully, Benji went right to sleep and slept the rest of the night.


Today has been a bit of a better start to the day. Rick WAS able to successfully cath Benji, and the boys seemed happy and content when we Facetimed earlier. Praising the Lord for His new mercies.

Immediate Prayer Requests:

1. That all would get some much needed rest and sleep.
2. That Rick would continue to know success in cathing Benjamin.
3. That Ryle would take social cues better and be able to be a bigger help to Rick.
4. That they would continue to know the Lord’s help as they “gut out” the rest of their time in China.
5. For Silas and Benjamin’s grieving, and for their attachment to begin to Rick.

December 22nd morning

Orphans no more. Adoption finalized this morning. Pray for a single lady in our Travel Group that is really struggling and considering disruption. I have been able to speak with her quite a bit and encourage her that it gets better. She delayed her decision until tomorrow which gives me hope.

IMG_0467

December 22nd Afternoon

Dear friends,

Thank you for praying. I don’t know that I could have envisioned this being more difficult than it is. The boys are sweet but busy. Faith (sort of) and Hope would obey a stern voice or look. These guys – whew!¬†My Chinese vocabulary for the girls was basic. Hello / No / Stop it / I love you / thank you. Check out my new vocabulary!

I am struggling terribly from a sleep standpoint. Pray I sleep tonight (your Tuesday morning/afternoon).

I have successfully cathed Benji twice for which I praise God. Last night I tried four times with help from a NICU nurse in our travel group and we couldn’t get it.

Had to travel by van at 1030pm back to the orphanage, the driver got lost and got back to the hotel at 1215am. It was so tough but the Lord was kind in sustaining us. Thankful for my little travel group. They have been so incredibly gracious and helpful. My sense is that I could not do this without them.

So thankful for the Lord’s new mercies each morning. I have been singing to myself the line in the hymn “strength for today, bright hope for tomorrow great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me.” When I consider the length of the trip (11 days), it really does seem unbearable. But – by God’s grace I can manage and press through an hour at a time. It helps me to think of it in those terms.

My pastor has said that the difficulty in trial is often not the intensity but the unknown duration. My duration is only 11 more days and my trust is that He will carry me each day. Thankful for the Rock that is higher than I.

Psalms 61:1-2
Hear my cry, O God;
Attend to my prayer.
From the end of the earth I will cry to You,
When my heart is overwhelmed;
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

I miss my wife. I miss my children. Please continue to pray, I know the Lord hears and is answering.

Much love to you all.

IMG_0470

December 23rd 

April writes:

“With the Lord’s help, we can do hard things.” That just might be the over-arching theme of this adoption. Rick put both boys to bed at 8:15 tonight. He was, in his words, “bone-weary”, and yet the boys screamed for 30 minutes before finally going to sleep. I remember how difficult nighttime in China can be.

Cathing continues to be a dreaded and trying process. Benji thrashes, screams, and crosses his legs to prevent access…all while poor Ryle holds¬†him down. I.Can.Not.Imagine. Sometimes distractions work (apple juice, suckers, etc.), sometimes not. He even fights taking his medicine. This little peanut is such a fighter! And though difficult to navigate now, we know that these kids from unimaginable circumstances develop this resiliency, in large part, out of survival. These are all trying things that we pray will get better after we get him home, and he begins to know the love and security of a family.¬†

And now, some much-needed GOOD news. The lady in Rick’s travel group decided to NOT disrupt her adoption! YAY!! That situation had weighed heavily on both of our hearts, and I know many of your all’s as well. I’m so thankful the Lord answered our cries in such a powerful way.

Tomorrow, which is our evening tonight, Rick is planning to go back to the orphanage to visit. He has wrestled much as to whether this is a positive thing or not. On the one hand, so much more insight can be gleaned about the boys’ pasts, temperaments, likes/dislikes, friends, medical histories, routines, etc. On the other hand, Benji will see his nanny and friends; Silas will be taken back to a place that, because of the abrupt removal from his foster family, only recently was a source of much grief for him. This trip will likely reignite the grieving process all over again. But at this point, Rick believes the positive outweighs the negative, so back to the orphanage they plan to go. Please pray for them in that regard.

Immediate Prayer Requests:

1. That the Lord will continue to uphold Rick and Ryle, and supply strength, sustenance, and SLEEP in full measure.
2. For a positive outcome to the orphanage visit.
3. That Silas and Benji will feel safe and loved. Also pray for them as they work through their grief. These little guys truly have and continue to endure so much in their short lives.
4. Be in prayer for Rick today at 11 a.m. as he again caths Benji. Pray for success.

Thank you, friends, for helping us shoulder the load. We have been so grateful for your prayers, your positive thoughts, and your words of affirmation and love. It’s been a great blessing to me personally to have so many reach out and help with things that have made this process so much easier on this side of the pond. You guys are the oft overlooked and unsung heroes in the big picture of adoption.
We thank you and love you, each and every one.

Some pics of the boys…nothing too great because I have to snap them on my computer while I’m talking to them. Poor Rick doesn’t even have the energy or time to take pictures.

10576981_10206921593750086_45609865111844182_n

12373422_10206921608590457_5727126828330740916_n

Silas is blocking Benji’s way and waiting for him to notice…

12376528_10206921617270674_4617001837732384243_n

He noticed…LOL

12376431_10206921624670859_5997613276081926267_n

Silas giving Baba a kiss.

December 24th Morning

Heading to the orphanage. A few pictures from this morning.

IMG_0472IMG_0473IMG_0474IMG_0475IMG_0478IMG_0506

December 24th Evening

Merry Christmas Eve U.S. Friends! Ours is winding down as you wake up. We went to the orphanage where Lian Min (Benji) was cared for by Show Hope’s Medical Unit. They care for approximately 50-100 orphans at the orphanage. Pictures will follow after I’m able to upload and sort through them.

Silas is running a fever this evening and coughing a lot. Ryle has vomited numerous times and struggling with some constipation. He is currently on the bathroom floor. We would appreciate your prayers as we move into our evening. 

Benji is proving to be a tough little one, for which I am thankful. He has had three difficult surgeries in his short three years and more to come. He is going to need that fight in the days and months ahead.

Silas is something else!¬†I believe that Faith is going to be butting heads with him quite a bit. He is quite a bully. We ran into his nanny’s daughter-in-law at the orphanage today. She said that Silas was quite dominant over her five year old son. He’s only two! He has already needed some loving, um, correction – something we didn’t have to do much of with girls while we were in China.

Visiting the orphanage was one of those life changing experiences. My heart is so grieved for how many orphans there are – 800 at that orphanage alone. By mistake, we exited out where the aged out boys live. These are boys who are over 14 years old and can never be adopted because China won’t allow it.

Our Chinese guide hurried through the atrium as the 10-20 boys came swarming to her. They spooked her a bit I think. I lagged behind with Ryle and stood there for 2-3 minutes and told Ryle to take it all in. I told him, “Look around. Look at their faces. Smell. Look at the boys drinking from a pipe outside. This is it for them. Apart from Jesus, they have no hope in the world.” That realization hit me very hard – I wept. Right there in the open in that place.

Very sobering day. I need to move toward bed – I may be in for a long night with sick little and big ones.

Merry Christmas from the Far East.

Love to all.

December 25th Morning

Christmas breakfast with these two. I told Silas to make a monkey face and that’s what he did.¬†ūüźĶ¬†Ryle is not feeling well and stayed in the room. Hoping he feels better by lunch. We’re going with our Travel Group to the Little Chinese Restaurant at 12:30.

The boys slept well. Had a successful cath at 3:30am but the little one stirred shortly thereafter. We watched cartoons on TV (just to buy me some time) and were the first to the breakfast buffet at 6:30.

Last full day in Zhengzhou. We all fly tomorrow to Guangzhou. The logistics of that should be interesting. 

Missing my family right now knowing they are all celebrating together at this hour.

Love to all. Hope to post more later.

IMG_0535IMG_0536

December 25th Evening

Pillowing our heads Christmas night as you begin your day. The boys went down quite easily this evening. I made sure to make a big deal of them helping me turn off the lights, gave drinks, meds, etc and put them in their beds with very little resistance. SiJam is coughing quite a bit so we’ll see how that goes.

Behold the Lamb album is quietly playing while Ryle reads by a dim light. My family is half a world away and I’m missing them terribly. I’ll miss our 2nd annual tradition of the Chinese food feast for dinner. I’ll miss seeing the kids open presents. I’ll miss the slowness of the day. I’ll miss reading Luke 2 and a host of other things we do on the day.

All of that is helped knowing that I’m right where God would have me. I know that I’m here to adopt the boys but I believe God also had me here to in some small part encourage a single lady who was strongly considering disruption (where you send the child back and cancel the adoption). So much to be thankful for…

So thankful that the Word became flesh. So thankful for redemption. So thankful to be adopted. So thankful that one Day the word orphan will no longer be a present reality-it will be a distant memory of what we once were before Christ. So thankful that the Day is coming when the Son returns, rights every wrong and brings all Father’s children to Him.

And thankful for so many of you who have prayed and encouraged. My heart is full. This has been hard but Lord willing, it will be a distant memory. In two months, no one will want to hear how hard it was-they just want to see the boys. Like childbirth, I don’t want to hear how hard the labor was…just show me the baby! In the meantime, please continue to pray. We still need it!

Love you all. Good night.

IMG_0544

December 25th Midnight
April writes:
Friends,
I know it’s Christmas morning, but I have a somewhat urgent prayer request. Silas is very sick. It is nighttime there in Zhengzhou, China, and Rick is supposed to fly to Guangzhou in the morning. I’ve heard that if your child is running a temperature, and Silas is, they won’t be permitted to fly! Please pray for healing for his little body and wisdom for Rick in how best to proceed. It complicates matters that Silas is allergic to Penicillen. Thanks all!
December 26th Morning
April writes:
Friends and family,
Thank you so much for your prayers for our family. Rick was able to call while riding the bus to the airport. He was happy to report that Silas is feeling some better this morning….Praising God for this answer to prayer!
They will fly now to Guangzhou where the boys will have a medical checkup. This is also where the American Consulate is located. This is the last leg of the journey. I’m so excited to tell you that Rick is feeling strong and is optimistically looking forward to this final part of the adoption process. The Lord is sustaining and we are so grateful! He says both Silas and Benjamin are very sweet and quite a delight. I can’t wait to get my hands on them!
December 26th Evening

April writes:

Adoption is such an emotional roller coaster. Though the girls have been home almost two years now, we still deal with issues that seemingly come out of nowhere. And we deal, and deal, and deal. Patience and long-suffering are endless requirements…Oh to possess those fruits in greater measure! It is a constant, prayerful request to be sure.

I spoke briefly with Rick a bit ago, and he was wearily pillowing his head after a long day of travel. They arrived safely in Guangzhou, for which we’re very grateful. But it was not without its own struggles with delays, lugging boys and baggage, and long fits with Benjamin.¬†

Rick’s most pressing prayer requests are these:

1. That he would get some much-needed sleep now.
2. That his back would not go out. He’s been feeling like it’s on the verge, and that would definitely be a catastrophe.
3. That he would be given wisdom from above on how best to handle Benji’s fits. Apparently, they are something else…and can last as much as 30 minutes! We’ve not had much experience in the area of tantrums. But looks like plenty of soul-sanctifying “practice” is heading our way! Definitely need prayer for that.

I apologize for the bipolar-ness of my posts. But that, my friends, is the roller coaster ride of adoption. Blessing and trial all bound into one expansive representation of our own adoption into the family of God.

Thank you for your continued prayers for our family. We are upheld! Much love to you all.

 

December 27th Morning

Dear Friends,

Thank you for your prayers but we need still more.

We had a rough night. Ryle was up most of the night vomiting and struggling with diarrhea. He still hasn’t been able to keep anything down this morning (7-UP, apple juice, water and Pepsi). I have messaged an ER doc friend in the U.S. – he said that if he’s not able to keep anything down in the next few hours, we’ll need to take him to the hospital. (There is a western hospital/clinic 20-30 minutes from the hotel.)

I have given him meds to stop the vomiting (he couldn’t keep them down last night). PRAY that he’s able to keep the pill down so that we can slowly begin rehydrating him.

I am tired but otherwise holding up (or being help up) with the Lord’s help.

Love you all.

 

Here are some pictures from bath time and feeding time.

IMG_0573IMG_0578IMG_0580IMG_0582IMG_0585IMG_0591IMG_0592

April writes regarding the same issue:

Back on that roller coaster again. Please pray for my sweet boy. When I was Facetiming with Rick earlier tonight, Ryle looked so pale. He was weepy and obviously miserable. To think of adding a hospitalization onto this trip is so heavy, I can’t carry it. Thankful for One Who can. And is.

December 27th Evening

Dear Friends,

I am very thankful to the Lord that Ryle stopped vomiting shortly after I posted earlier and you all began to pray. He started feeling better a couple of hours ago and has taken in a good amount of liquids in the past three hours and is eating crackers right now. Please pray for his sleep tonight.

We have the clinic tomorrow where the little ones will go through a medical check up. That was a long process last time. Please pray that Silas and Benji will check out okay, that Si’s fever will not crop up as this can cause some issues in getting out the country.¬†

I am so indebted to you all for your prayers. They have meant the world to me and April. I have debated on whether to continue to burden you all with prayer requests – I feel so unbelievably ridiculously needy. Sometimes I think, it can’t get worse. And maybe that’s one of the many lessons that the Lord is teaching me.

Finally, I would really appreciate your prayers for my sleep tonight.

December 28th Morning

Great night of sleep for all. Heading to the medical clinic.

IMG_0601IMG_0602

December 29th Morning

Thank you so much for your prayers. We have had a good couple of days. The clinic went fine yesterday. There was some fussing after having their blood drawn but they were both so brave. We have been able to wrestle and tickle quite a bit. It is a delight to feel well enough to start to facilitate the bonding and attachment process. For so long, it was just survive and limp through the next item on the list. So thankful the Lord has given rest and strength.

The boys are a lot¬†of fun! Typical toddlers in many ways. Benji throws several fits a day lasting 15-30 minutes. After awhile, I engage him with loving but firm redirection and correction. Praying that the Lord gives grace in dealing with those times. The most difficult is when he does it during cath time. Speaking of which, the Lord has given much help in that area. By God’s grace, I am more confident going into the process and have a better sense of his anatomy and where to push the cath a little harder to get it into the bladder. He fights me two of the four times per day.¬†

We played at the playground in the afternoon and went on the Pearl River Cruise in the evening. It was only yesterday morning that I finally felt somewhat decent after 7.5 hours of sleep (with a cath in between).

Right now, we are waiting in the room for the TB test results. It’s not often that the test comes back positive but if it does, there will be additional steps for us to leave China. Please pray that we get the all clear.

Tonight we have the Maccao dinner as a travel group.

Tomorrow at 7:30 a.m. we go to the US Consulate to take the oath swearing to be good parents, to not abuse or abandon our new additions – may God give grace to do so.

On the horizon we have our trip home. That is a looming reality Рwe will wake up on 3:00 PM EST Thursday and arrive back in Louisville at 9:00 PM EST Friday. It makes my heart sing that April is going to be able to join us in Detroit for the six hour layover. It will be wonderful for her to be able to spend some time with the boys before we get home.

It is very sweet when they hear April’s voice when we FaceTime, they both holler for “Mama!” whenever we connect.

Again – thank you for your many prayers. The Lord has used them and answered them to carry us through. I certainly feel like we’re in the home stretch. Looking forward to being home with my family.

Love to all.

IMG_0611IMG_0615IMG_0618

IMG_0619

Our guide from Guangzhou had this shirt on yesterday. Unbelievable. She said that she has a U of L shirt but that it is short sleeved and only wears it in the summer.

IMG_0620

Where Ryle and I ate lunch yesterday. They cook the food outside and flush the water from the dumplings (which were delicious) down a drain. I can assure, this wouldn’t pass the health department inspection in the US.

IMG_0622IMG_0623IMG_0629

IMG_0638

Boys – look at the camera… boys? Boys?

IMG_0662

3rd largest building in the world in the background.

IMG_0663IMG_0675IMG_0677

IMG_0694

Bath time fun! They both like the water but is there any harder than bathing toddlers? Thank you April for being the primary bather of our children all these years. You’re amazing!

IMG_0695IMG_0708IMG_0716IMG_0720

December 30th Morning

April writes:

The roller coaster saga continues.

Just got through Facetiming my dear loves in China. My poor Rick is very ill. Today was the Consulate Appointment and he couldn’t even stand up for it. He couldn’t push his own kids in their strollers or carry his own bags. The only thing in his hands? A throw-up bag.

This trip has been viciously relentless. It reminds me…remember the one that stowed away on the plane? The one who specializes in all manner of hijinx and tomfoolery? He’s still there wreaking havoc and trying desperately to stop a process, over which, he ultimately has no control. Our God is Sovereign and mighty…He reigns forever and ever. And He loves these kids so very much. I know because His Word tells me so.¬†

Therefore, we have set our face as flint, myopically focused on getting these two precious boys home. Will you once again pray with me? Rick has to board a plane in 48 hours. The hours prior will be filled with meetings, a group picture, managing the needs of small children, and packing, packing, packing. And all while he is very sick.

Please pray for healing, endurance, and strength for this last leg of the journey. Also for supernatural patience…illness often breeds impatience. And everyone’s nerves will be raw by the time they cross the finish line. It’s just one unfortunate-but-true aspect of this exhausting race.

We have seen the Lord’s good hand. We’ve been upheld in the midst of great trial. We believe him to be faithful and true. We’ve read of his love for the fatherless and for us too when we were but mere prodigal wretches ourselves. He will bring us through.

Friends, keep your eyes on the ashes….He’s making something beautiful in His time.

December 31st Morning

April writes:

Finally got a few minutes to chat with my loves tonight. Silas was calling for his Mama and I was all too happy to oblige him with my oohs and aahs, funny faces, and loud exclamations of “Ni hao!”. Benji had his face stuffed in a bowl of noodles, so he didn’t have much interest in the crazy lady carrying on on the screen. They both are already such a delight to my heart.

There were lots of happy children here at home who were excited to speak to their big brother Ryle.¬†¬†Our previous phone calls have taken place so late into the night, that the children were typically asleep. They’ve missed their big brother! Ryle is looking forward to being home. He assures me he has a big hug waiting for me. I can’t wait.¬†ūüíó

The best news is that Rick is feeling quite a bit better and the Lord was pleased to bless him with 8.5 hours of sleep last night! Wow! Thank you, Lord! Things often look better in the morning, and today’s morning seems to be no exception. Once again, His mercies were new.

(On that note of mercy, please do pray for sweet Benji to have a BM. It’s been almost 24 hours since his last, and for his special needs, that’s troubling news. So please pray for poo!¬†¬†ūüėú)

Rick was intending to spend some time on Shamian Island today. We were both hoping to get some Bibles for the Quads that are written in both English and Chinese, as well as, a few souvenir-type gifts for the other kids and Zade. But he’s wisely decided to not overdo anything and allow his body to rest, heal, and conserve energy stores for tomorrow’s long journey back home. Instead, he will use this time to get the boys bathed and ready and attend to the tremendous job of packing up. After taking down and setting up in three different cities, I’m quite sure he has competently earned his certificate and title of Packing Pro.

Rick and the boys start the long journey back tomorrow at 3 p.m. EST. They are scheduled to arrive in Louisville on Friday evening at 9:08 p.m. Some have asked about the airport. YES!! ALL are invited and PLEASE do come. I remember well my excitement of seeing all the familiar and loved faces once we stepped off that plane. Our mission was accomplished and it made our hearts all the more full to see so many from our Village there to greet us at the finish line. No doubt Rick and Ryle will feel the same way, so please do come out and join me in welcoming them HOME.

Thank you for your prayers for our family these last couple of weeks. Not much longer now! Much love to you all.

December 31st Evening

Thank you for your prayers for us! Silas is already asleep in his bed and I’ll be putting Benji down after his 9:30p cath. My day will begin at 3:30 a.m. (2:30 PM EST 12/31) when I get up to cath Benji. Lord willing, I’ll be able to put him back to bed until we leave at 5 a.m. I’ll stay up and finish getting everything together, put the bags out for the bellhop at 4:30a so that we can be in the lobby at 5:00a.

We fly Guangzhou to Shanghai (Flight DL 6712 7:30a-9:50a [6:30p-8:50p EST]). Then we fly Shanghai to Detroit (Flight DL 582 12:30p-1:30p [11:30p EST]). April will meet us in Detroit and then we’ll fly Detroit to Louisville (Flight DL 5762 7:40p-9:08p).¬†

Thomas Watson once said, “The angel fetched Peter out of prison but it was prayer that fetched the angel.” Dear Friends, if I could put my own personal spin on that statement – The Lord sent relief to us in China but it was the many prayers of His people that moved His heart to do so. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. Your prayers to our Great High Priest, who sympathizes with us in our weakness, has heard and answered at every turn. I don’t have the time now to list the many ways in which He heard your prayers, but there were numerous times where relief would come when I knew that one or more of you was praying for us at that very moment.

As difficult as this has been, I have never felt abandoned or alone. I have certainly never thought we shouldn’t have done this. In fact, the case could be made that the difficulty that we have experienced justifies the necessity of taking this road. To keep things in perspective, it’s only been 11 days since we’ve had the boys. 11 days – that’s it. There are many more people that I love who are walking a far more difficult road and their trial has lasted much longer than 11 days.

Good night and Happy New Year from China.

January 1st Morning

Surprise! There’s trouble in China. LOL.

Rick just called to ask that we all please pray for his flight situation. Apparently, he only has 2 1/2 hours between flights and they wouldn’t allow him to check his luggage all the way through. So first, there can’t be any delays from Guangzhou to Shanghai.¬†¬†ūüėĀ¬†Once they land, they have to get off the plane with both boys and no strollers. Rick would be okay, but that will be a difficult task for Ryle, to carry¬†one of the boys a pretty far distance. Then, they have to go to the luggage area, wait for it to come out, gather it up, and check it back in again. From there, they go back through security. All of that has to be accomplished in 2 1/2 hours, or they don’t make it back on time to meet me in Detroit. Please pray for the Lord to work all these things out. Thank you, friends!¬†

January 1st Midday

Our January 1st began at 2:30 pm EST Thursday.¬†The picture below is how the boys slept some of the time on the plane. They took all three seats and I had to stand. The flight from Shanghai to Detroit was 13 hours, they slept for 5-6 hours of that. The rest of the time they ate and whined. ūüôā

IMG_0765

January 1st Midday (still)

We landed in Detroit, waited for customs and made it to the gate before April arrived to help during the six hour layover. These boys have no idea of the love that is in store for them – from all of their siblings but especially their wonderful Mama!

IMG_0772

First pictures as US citizens! These were taken moments after touching down in DTW.

IMG_0777

Waiting for Mama’s plane.

IMG_0779IMG_0781IMG_0786IMG_0785

January 1st Evening

We’re home!

1913740_10207624901168049_708064533379518402_n

My crew from L-R back: Elijah, Silas (in stroller), Kaylynn (daughter-in-law), Christian, me, April (holding Benji), Jake, Gabe, Rachel (daughter-in-law to be 5/14/16). In front of me is Ryle (my awesome traveling partner) holding Hope, Micah, in the foreground is Graceann holding Faith

First Full Day in Beijing

 

Please note – Facebook will have more updates and pictures so if you’re interested, feel free to friend me and April. I’m not sure how much I’ll be able to update the blog once we get the boys. The process on the blog is a pain and time consuming – especially adding pictures. Thanks.

Ryle and I had a good day. After breakfast, we went to the pool. The pool attendant kept a close watch on Ryle and several times looked concerned that he was drowning. He likes to hold his breath for as long as he can and float in the water (like every other kid).

IMG_0316

After swimming, we went to the mall a block away and walked around for several hours. Ryle gave me one of his many ‘Ryleisms’ from the trip. “How come so many Asians have black hair?” To which I quickly found this guy in front of a candy kiosk:

IMG_0321

We had lunch at an okay place and they had this on the menu: IMG_0322

Who doesn’t love bone marrow on their toast.

Facebook Post from Thursday morning:

Dawn in Beijing. What do you know – new mercies this morning! Ryle is sleeping like a champ (as usual). He’s probably had 12 hours of sleep in the last 24.

We arrived at the hotel last night around 5 p.m., unloaded, and went to check out the pool. We ate at the restaurant in the hotel for dinner (thanks mom and dad!). It was a great dinner buffet with all kinds of western and Asian foods. At one point, the buffet attendant speaking some form of Chinglish told me something and I agreed to what he said. Nodding politely and smiling always seems like the right thing to do. 

Apparently, I agreed to have a whole ‘lobb-a-stur’ steamed for me. When Ryle and I went to leave, he rushed over and asked about my ‘lobb-a-stur’ over and over again. It dawned on me. He wants me to take a lobster WITH ME. He kept saying “It’s free, it’s free.” LOL. I had to decline as I had already eaten too many chicken skewers and wasn’t about to fight the smell of a lobb-a-stur in my hotel room.

Today is a much needed rest day. April and I learned last time that it’s hard to hit the ground running the first day with all the touring on Friday so I built an extra day in so that we can hopefully get on ‘China time’ much more quickly (last time it took until day 14 of 17).

 

 

Adoption Update

Ryle and I are inflight. Here a couple of Facebook posts from April yesterday and today. It will quickly bring you up-to-speed.

Posted 12/14/15 evening

IMG_0287

Many of you know that our Son, Jake, was involved in a head-on collision this morning. First responders said that his seat belt saved his life. The ER doc added that he’s lucky to be alive. We are so grateful for the gift of what feels like added years for our Son. We’re also thankful that the young woman he collided with is a Christian…her example to us in the midst of great trial, has been exemplary and most beautifully, God-glorifying. Though we would have never picked these circumstances, we are better for having met her.

Most of you will also know that Jake was scheduled to fly out tomorrow morning with Rick and Ryle to head for China. He was to fill the roles of luggage handler, brother, and companion to a man who has sometimes been known to miss his wife and family something fierce when he’s far away from them. My heart hurts for my dear hubby, who now has to handle the logistics and specialized care of two traumatized toddlers, one of which, is medically fragile. Please pray for them. This trip is so very, very hard…and though we’d not dreamed it possible just a few short hours ago, it just became infinitely harder.

We’re so thankful for all the calls, texts, and offers of help. Our “village” (the body of Christ) is very dear to our hearts. We thank you for supporting us with your love. An extra-special shout of gratitude to my Mom, Debbie Dowers Leonard, who left work right away and came to stay all day with our kids so that we could be at the hospital. And to Marlene R. Kelley and Rick Kelley, for watching our kids for the evening so that we could attend to the rest of the packing, uninterrupted by the ever-pressing needs of little children. And to our beloved Pastor Jim, for coming to pray with us and make us laugh. Laughter truly is the best medicine. And finally, to our kids…Christian Kelley, Gabe Kelley, and Grace Kelley…for rushing to their brother’s side once they learned of the accident. I’m proud of them for looking for ways to pitch in and help. They make my world go ’round and I love them all very much.

Please pray for us in the coming weeks. Pray for Jake as he struggles with pain and feelings of having let his Dad down. Pray for the young lady also involved in the accident, who remains hospitalized tonight. But most of all, pray that God alone would receive much glory in our weakness.

Posted 12/15/15 morning:

It happened on the final leg of our journey to our daughters in early 2014. Our warm, gooey thoughts of spending precious time with family evaporated in the frantic, hurried efforts to race out ahead of an ice storm that was bearing down on our city. We just made it on the last plane out of Louisville.

It happened again yesterday with the early-morning news that our Son had been in a terrible car crash. A day planned for last-minute packing, a tea party, and an early Christmas with our kids, was suddenly reduced to a day of waiting and gut-wrenching decision-making in a hospital room. The spirit of Christmas however, came anyway, with the gift of our Son’s life and that of the young woman involved in the wreck.

One of our children questioned whether we believe these dark providences to be omens or signs that we should not go. But we have learned that, with adoption, the efforts of the Evil One are real. They are pointed. They are relentless. He doesn’t care who he hurts, and he certainly has no intention of giving up what he believes to be his…these precious, vulnerable children. But he is wrong. These children are God’s…they are made in His image…and it seems, He would have these two to be our beloved Sons. Satan’s schemes are no match for the providential Will of our Father.

It is with this mindset that Rick and Ryle embarked this morning on the journey of a lifetime. But a road wrought with dangers, toils, and snares, to be sure. Satan didn’t stand on the Tarmac and stamp his feet in frustration that all his attempts had failed. He simply stowed away on the plane. And his incessant escapades of hijinx and tomfoolery will no doubt continue once again in China. But our God is here when they taxi out; He is not just on the plane, but holds it firmly up in the skies with the palm of His hand. And He will go before them there in China. I believe that with all my heart, and I hope you do too.

Please join us in prayer for the next 18 days. I know personally how difficult this trip is. Rick and Ryle will experience bone-deep weariness, a sense of isolation, feelings of doubt and fear, and they will miss their village fiercely. FB and email will become a greater mode of encouragement than ever before. Inundate these methods with Scripture proofs and words of affirmation and love. They will need it much more than you could ever believe. God is faithful. He will be their strength and their Guide.

Let the adventure begin.

Meet Benjamin!

April writes:

We are pleased and excited for you all to meet our newest addition…our miracle boy.

Meet Benjamin!

(Marcus was Benjamin's advocacy name.)

¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†(Marcus was Benjamin’s advocacy name.)

Benjamin was born on April 15, 2012, in Zhengzhou City, China.  He and his new little brother, Silas, will share a birthday!  How wonderful is that?!!

He was abandoned the same day in the lobby of the hospital of his birth. ¬†We have expressed in the past that we will never know for sure why some of our children were abandoned. ¬†Faith’s and Silas’s stories are especially perplexing. ¬†Faith was kept by her birth family for two months before being left at the emergency room of the local hospital. ¬†Silas seems to have been born with fairly mild special needs…most likely, prematurity and an umbilical hernia. ¬†We are fairly confident though that Hope’s birth family had to give her up due to her being born with Spina bifida. ¬†That defect would have been very obvious at the moment of birth, and the surgery quite expensive. ¬†We are certain that it was a most loving choice that her birth family made for her.

We have chosen, for now, to keep most of Benjamin’s special needs private. ¬†The reason is that our mindset has changed since we first entered the world of adoption. ¬†We now feel quite strongly that his special needs pertain to his personal medical history. ¬†And that history should be *his* to share…not ours. ¬†We can say that he has six special medical needs…any one of which would be difficult, even if it were the only one he had. ¬†But our little boy has six special needs. ¬†The most critical of which, is that he was born with a single kidney. ¬†And that kidney is failing. ¬†He has been diagnosed with Stage 3 kidney disease, and it is slowly killing him. ¬†We have been advised that he has a 1 1/2 to 2 years at most to live, if allowed to continue to reside in the country of his birth. ¬†For that reason alone, we are trying desperately to medically expedite his adoption. ¬†We are praying that all of Benjamin’s paperwork will catch up to Silas’s and that Rick can still travel to China by the end of this calendar year. ¬†We covet your prayers for our precious boys!

Benjamin’s caregivers report that he likes to play with other children, but that he does not like to talk. ¬†(We’re positive Faith will be more than willing to do his share of the talking!) ¬†He can say “ma ma”, “jie jie” (sister), and “ayi” (nanny). ¬†He can understand what the nannies say to him and can communicate with them. ¬†He can wave goodbye and clap his hands. ¬†He can grab toys and pass them from one hand to the other and grasp pens. ¬†They say that he is a very intelligent child. ¬†His diet consists of three cups of rice a day, with two supplemental “meals” of bread and cookies. ¬†He has a good appetite and is not picky. ¬†(Which I guess is a good thing, since he only gets rice, bread, and cookies! ¬†Poor kid!!)

His developmental report ends with this final statement. ¬†“Zheng Lian Min is a great child and we all really like him. ¬†We hope that he can quickly find a loving home and a father and mother that will give him a happy childhood and a beautiful future. ¬†We are confident that he will bring bundles of joy and good fortune to your home.” ¬†Oh precious boy. ¬†Though we did not find you very “quickly”, we found you in God’s perfect timing. ¬†And how we long to be your father and mother! ¬†But we want Benjamin to know this…there is a Father that will give you an even better hope and future than we can provide. ¬†We can’t wait to tell you all about Him. ¬†And how obvious it is, just through the story of us being permitted to adopt you, how very much He loves you already. ¬†He has given us a most wonderful gift…a precious bundle of joy that blesses us immensely just by being OURS!

image1

Taking the Long Way HOME

April writes: It has been a while since we have updated our blog.  And so much has changed.

Come along with me as I tell you one of the greatest stories that God has allowed our family to be a part of in a long, long time.

Our intention throughout this adoption had been to bring one child home from China. ¬†We found that child, Silas James, in November 2014, and began the process to bring him home. ¬†His adoption had been moving along at a steady pace and we had even submitted our dossier and received our Log In Date. ¬†We were simply awaiting our Letter of Acceptance…the rest of the process would move along fairly quickly from that point and then Rick would be in China bringing him home. ¬†We were so close to our boy. ¬†But then something happened…something that God has been orchestrating since the early part of this year.

In March, the face of a little three year old boy appeared in my FB feed.  This face, in fact.

IMG_5317

He was a precious love with big, haunting eyes…there was an instant connection on my part. ¬†But I knew that because we were reusing our dossier from the girls’ adoption, we were only allowed to adopt one child. ¬†Over a period of a few weeks though, I slowly learned how very, very sick this little boy was. ¬†And how desperately he needed a family to come for him. ¬†So I began to seriously advocate for him. ¬†I posted his picture on every site I could think of…mentioned him to those that had expressed an interest in adopting *someday*…shouted from the rooftops for someone, ANYONE, to please make this boy their Son, the apple of their eye. ¬†But no one came forward. ¬†And I understood why. ¬†His needs were/are profound. ¬†They are so outside the comfort zone of most families, even experienced adoptive families. ¬†So I continued to pray for this little boy’s family to find him quickly, knowing that God alone can do all things, even those things that seem impossible.

A month or so after first laying eyes on this little guy, with the knowledge that no one was coming forward for him even after much advocacy, I approached Rick with the idea of bringing him home ourselves. ¬†He was attentive, but resistant. ¬†Our plate was already so incredibly full. ¬†He couldn’t imagine how a medically fragile child could fit into our cram-packed life. ¬†Frankly, neither could I. ¬†But I also couldn’t stomach the thought of watching this child die, alone and helpless in China, knowing God had given me the ability to DO SOMETHING. ¬†I leaned heavily into the arms of the One that I knew held this little boy’s life in His hands.

The talks continued, but the comfort level did not increase.  And then, in April, my beloved 91 year old Grandpa had a stroke.  Life was flipped upside down as we all struggled to adjust to a new equilibrium.

But after a couple of months, all was much more stable. ¬†And my thoughts again returned to the little boy that had stolen my heart. ¬†The talks resumed, but Rick was not just resistant as before, he was now firmly closed to the idea. ¬†My conscience screamed, and I found that I could not shout it down. ¬†My soul was in anguish over the plight of this child..I felt so helpless. ¬†How were we any different from those that passed by the wounded man in the parable of the good Samaritan told by Jesus? ¬†I began to pray to God this verse in the Psalms, on behalf of this dear boy…

¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†“Help me, O Lord my God! ¬†

                                            Oh, save me according to Your mercy,

                                       That they may know that this is YOUR hand-

¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†That YOU, Lord, have done it!” (emphasis mine)

Then suddenly, God moved, and began to do something absolutely wonderful. ¬†Out of the blue, Rick asked to “reopen the discussions” about this precious little one. ¬†We had the hard talks about what the implications of this little boy’s special needs meant for us and our children…how we would manage doctor’s visits, hospitalizations, and surgeries. ¬†We reached out to medical experts, seeking their experienced counsel. ¬†We spoke at length of what it might look like to bring him home, only to watch him die. ¬†Could we do it? ¬†Were we willing to walk a path that potentially held so much struggle and pain?

The answer, over a period of weeks, became “yes”, we were willing. ¬†And that willingness evolved into a desire to make this little boy a treasured part of our family. ¬†We contacted our adoption agency and requested that they see if China would be willing to let us add him. ¬†They were encouraging, but they also let us know that we had a very short window left to be able to add him, even if China would allow it. ¬†We were getting close to receiving our Letter of Acceptance, and they felt that at the point of receiving that, we would not be permitted to add him. ¬†They petitioned the CCCWA (the governing authority on adoption in China) and asked that an exception be made in our case, because of this little boy’s significant health issues. ¬†China unofficially said “no”. ¬†It was their position that we don’t make enough money, that we have too many children, and that the official rules of a reusing a previously used dossier are that only one child is permitted to be adopted. ¬†We were stunted, but undaunted.

Our agency responded by obtaining a letter from a physician at this little boy’s current care facility, testifying to the fact that he is very ill, dying even, ¬†and desperately needs a family that can get him the medical help that he needs. ¬†And that our family was willing. ¬†In the meantime, our Letter of Acceptance arrived. ¬†And what is normally an occasion for much celebration, was to us yet another nail in this little boy’s coffin. ¬†We waited with baited breath for a response from China. ¬†And we waited and waited and waited some more. ¬†We waited for WEEKS, with no word. ¬†We began to realize that we were going to have to make a decision to move forward with Silas’s adoption and potentially leave this other little boy behind to die. ¬†It wasn’t fair to keep stalling Silas’s adoption, on the hope that the CCCWA would eventually say yes. ¬†And by their silence and first response, it wasn’t looking like they were going to permit it anyway. ¬†We conference-called our agency and spoke with the staff liaison regarding how best to proceed. ¬†She felt like it was reasonable that we might know something in a week’s time. ¬†Rick set a deadline of a week. ¬†If we hadn’t heard back by then, we had to move forward. ¬†The days passed excruciatingly slow, with no word.

As the deadline approached, we sent out an SOS email to a few trusted friends, begging for fervent prayer that we hoped would be “effectual and avail much”. ¬†We felt like this boy’s very life hung in the balance. ¬†We wanted as many people as possible pleading to God on his behalf. ¬†The day prior to the deadline, we received a disheartening email from our adoption agency. ¬†They had heard back from China. ¬†They felt that this was a decision that would have to be made by the Director of the CCCWA. ¬†And with a lengthy Chinese holiday rapidly approaching, the decision was going to “take much time” to be made. ¬†Despite my pleas, Rick held firm with his deadline. ¬†He felt that if this boy was meant to be ours, God could still make it happen…”He knows all these things.” ¬†I felt like who were we to put a deadline on God? ¬†The battle waged, but ultimately Rick held firm, and I truly had to give it all over to the Lord. ¬†It was just too much for me to carry.

The next morning dawned and I received the email that I’ll never forget as long as I live. ¬†It was from our trusted adoption liaison, and she had entitled it, “YOU’RE NOT GOING TO BELIEVE THIS…”. ¬†Even though the CCCWA had just said the day before that the decision would take much time, even though our agency felt that it didn’t look good for hearing back before our self-imposed deadline, even though China was going to have to grant an exception to a rule that they don’t typically waive, God had worked a MIRACLE, and the Director of the governing authority in China had RELENTED and CONCEDED to ¬†our petition to add this sweet boy onto our current adoption! ¬†This precious boy will finally know what it is to have a family!!!

We want to celebrate each birthday like it’s his last. ¬†We want to dance and spin the days away, laughing and loving. ¬†We want to get him the medical attention that he needs and would not have gotten in the country of his birth. ¬†But most of all, we long to have the absolute privilege of teaching him about Jesus, that he “may gain Christ and be found in Him”. ¬†For it is this same Jesus that we praise for gifting this little life to us.

Please join us in thanking our great God for moving on behalf of this little boy and our family. ¬†He answered our many prayers. ¬†He has helped, saved, shown mercy…it happened all according to His good will and purpose. ¬†He has proven once again, that He is able to do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine. ¬†Bless the Lord, Oh my soul, Worship His holy name!

Exciting News From China!

~Psalm 86:12~

‚ÄúI give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever.‚ÄĚ

fulin

Dear Ones,

It is with great excitement that we announce the receipt of our log-in-date (LID)!!  That is our official notice that China has logged our dossier in with the CCCWA, China’s governing authority for adoptions.  It is another crucial milestone completed in the long process of adopting our boy.  We are a huge step closer to bringing Silas James home!!  Yay!!

We are now approximately 4-5 months from traveling to China.  The Lord has been so gracious to us in His financial provision of this adoption.  To our surprise, we have received most of our funding through the yard sale we held in the Spring and adoption grants.  We give all the thanks and praise to our mighty God that does indeed go before us!

We still need to raise $8,500 to complete Silas’s adoption.  We covet your prayers for the Lord’s continuing provision in this regard.  If you would like to help us bring Silas home by giving through a tax deductible account, please see below.

We also ask for your prayers for Silas’s physical and emotional development, his upcoming transition into our home, and our ability to address and meet his medical needs.  Please do remember Rick and Ryle as they begin to make preparations for traveling to China.  Due to the ongoing emotional needs of the girls and Grandpa coming to live with us, I am unable to travel this time.  My heart longs to be where my new Son is, but I’m more needed here.  Do pray for contentment for me.

Much love to you all!

To give to our adoption:

1. Please make the check payable to: Lifesong for Orphans

2. In the memo portion of the check, write ‚ÄúKelley – 5326‚ÄĚ.

3. Mail to:
Lifesong for Orphans
P.O. Box 40
Gridley, IL 61744

Meet Silas James

While we waited the many months to bring the girls home, I wrote a couple of blog posts introducing our girls. ¬†Rick and I realized today that we had not yet done that for Silas. ¬†So, it is with great delight that we introduce you to our Son. ¬†ūüôā

Meet Silas James!

Zheng Fu Lin

Silas was born on April 15th, 2013, in Zhengzhou City, China, in the Henan province. ¬†He was abandoned in a local park, found by the police, and brought to the orphanage on the same day. ¬†He was preliminarily diagnosed with brain damage, and has since been found to have a heart murmur. ¬†He was in the orphanage for approximately seven months before being transferred to a loving, foster family, where he remains to this day. ¬†His birth name, Zheng Fu Lin, means “blessing” and “forest or woods”. ¬†He is indeed, our little “blessing in the woods”!

His hand movements are nimble. ¬†He can play with toys on his own, look through books, and will hit building blocks together. ¬†My favorite thing that the nannies seem to often report is that he can, “tear paper”. ¬†That’s not exactly something that I’m desirous of him doing once home, but it seems to be a big developmental milestone to meet in China! ¬†ūüôā

He is said to be an active and energetic child, who loves to smile and is quite charming.  He gets along well with others and likes to play with other children.  He loves to play with toys and is especially interested in sounds.  He initiates hugs.  He likes to listen to music, and my particular favorite (not really), watch TV.  When he wants to watch TV, he goes to get the remote and hands it to the foster mom or dad, so that they can turn it on for him.

We’ve been most encouraged with how loved he is in his foster family. ¬†I can’t help but think he will grieve much, but adapt quickly, once we meet him in China. ¬†How I would love to maintain contact with these beautiful families that cared so well for our children before we could get to them! ¬†But, although some are granted this unique privilege, it is not a practice that our agency generally encourages. ¬†And though, at times, we are tempted to seek out our childrens’ beginnings, we resist giving in to that temptation. ¬†We would never want to do anything that would endanger other families being able to bring their children home through international adoption.

A U.S. medical team visited many of the kids at the Zhengzhou orphanage in July 2014 and our Silas was one of the lucky ones to be evaluated. ¬†The doctor that looked him over, himself an adoptive father, had this to say about Silas: “Our impression is that he is very small, but happy and interactive. ¬†The neurological exam is normal, and developmentally, he falls within the normal range. ¬†He still has the heart murmur upon exam. ¬†In general, he looks good with the exception of being small. ¬†And he will need an opthalmology evaluation for his estropia.” ¬†Wow!! ¬†That is really wonderful news!

We will never know why Silas was abandoned. ¬†Because the birth of sons is so highly valued in China, we must believe that it was something that seemed insurmountable to his birth parents. ¬†Perhaps it was his umbilical hernia and the high medical cost of correcting it. ¬†Maybe it was the economic status of his family…if they were poor, it could have been that they struggled to provide for his needs of nourishment and sustenance. ¬†It hurts this Momma’s heart to think of Silas’s birth Mom, who I’m sure loved him very much, having to leave him somewhere where he would be found, so that he could receive the basic necessities and medical care that he needed. ¬†I think too of the orphanage, who saved his life, when he was critically ill in the Winter of 2013, due to severe malnutrition. ¬†His file states that “the child was critically ill and the medical expense very high”. ¬†It also states that “the guarantee showed understanding” and consented to the medical intervention needed. ¬†How heavy are those words! ¬†But I’m grateful that God placed the right people in Silas’s life…dear ones that cared for him and loved him back to health, until such a time that we could lay claim to him and bring him home.

That, friends, is a snap shot of our precious boy. ¬†He is fearfully and wonderfully made. ¬†He is loved by us, and more importantly by the One that made him. ¬†We can’t wait for this precious gift who will, Lord willing, arrive Winter 2015. ¬†We thank God that once again, we get to experience the miracle and wonder of Adoption. We praise God for this indescribable gift! ¬†ūüôā

“The Lord has done great things for us, and we are glad!”

Last December, when we received Preapproval to adopt Silas James from China, we immediately began to consider how we would come up with the funds needed to pay all the adoption expenses.  Our first expense was our homestudy update, and it was going to cost $800.  I remembered that in the past my parents would have yard sales from time to time.  And that $800 was doable.  So I began to consider having a yard sale to help us pay Silas’s homestudy update.

My collecting began with a drive to Middletown to pick up a lone baby rocker.¬† Over the next few months, we made ‚Äúyard sale runs‚ÄĚ to Shelbyville, Oldham County, Bernheim Forest, Prospect, Taylorsvillle‚Ķall with our eye on the prize of getting a little bit closer to bringing our boy home.

What began as a desire to hold an average-sized yard sale at our home, grew over time, into something much larger than we could have ever imagined in the beginning.  This past weekend, we held our long-anticipated sale.  And boy, did God ever multiply our fish and loaves!!  We sold $4,200 worth of stuff in just two days!!  Many of you will remember too, that we also made $2,000 prior to the sale, by selling many of the donated items on Ebay or Craigslist.  And then, the Lord blessed by giving us $1,000 through a private donor Рamazing! $7,200 from a YARD SALE….WOW!!!

HE has done immeasurably more than we could have asked or imagined and we give Him ALL the glory!

‚ÄúThe Lord has done great things for us, and we are glad.‚ÄĚ

~Psalm 126:3

Below are a few pictures from the sale.

IMG_4799

IMG_4801

These two played a major role in drawing attention to the sale with their dance moves! :)

These two Bear boys played a major role in drawing attention to the sale. Over 50 people made comments about how they had to stop because they saw these two guys dancing and waving the sign! 

Our sweet friend, Megan Kuhl, ran the pay table on Friday. She did a great job!

Our sweet friend, Megan Kuhl, ran the pay table on Friday. She did a great job!

IMG_9345

Attachment-1

“Taste and see that the Lord is good.”

We have an Orphan Care jar that sits atop our microwave.

IMG_4610

We deposit our leftover change in it all year long, and in years past, we have donated that money to the designated orphan initiative at Ninth and O Baptist’s VBS. ¬†Our kids are always super excited to see how much we’ve accumulated over the year, and are so proud to carry that jar in all together to give. ¬†This year though, they approached us with a different initiative in mind. ¬†They wanted to give it to us for our adoption of their brother, Silas James. ¬†At first we said, “No way! ¬†You guys always give that money to Ninth and O!” ¬†But they were adamant that they wanted it to go toward Silas, and we quickly realized that we were stealing their joy in being able to give it to what they wanted it to go toward.

Just yesterday, I put a $20 bill in the jar.  It was the first of many monies to be paid for some sold items that were donated to us to sell for our adoption.  I looked at the $20 bill and pondered how that small $20 was going to have to somehow multiply into thousands upon thousands of dollars.  Doubt filled my heart.  But the Lord began to impress upon my remembrance the story of the fishes and loaves.  And I, like Andrew, questioned the Lord.

“Lord, there is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?” ¬†

“Lord, there is a family here who has a meager bit of change and a $20 bill, but what is that among so much still needed?”

In the story, the Lord goes on to have the people sit, He breaks the bread, gives thanks to the Father, and the amazed (and surely humbled) disciples attest that, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world”.

The rest of *our* story spills over into today. ¬†We have for several weeks now planned to attend an adoption conference in Elizabethtown. ¬†We knew they were intending to award ten adoption grants to pre-adoptive families and we had applied with the hope that we would somehow be one of those chosen families. ¬†Upon arriving at the conference, we quickly realized that much of the topics being touched on pertained to families that had not yet experienced adoption, and we began to wonder if we had made the right choice in coming. ¬†But we set our hearts aright in believing that perhaps the Lord had some other purpose in mind for us at this conference. ¬†Maybe we weren’t supposed to be there to be educated as much as we were to be encouragers and supporters of others’ journeys. ¬†Right before the lunch break, the lady that was officiating the conference saw me sitting alone (Rick had headed to the restroom) and struck up a conversation with me. ¬†She asked if I was enjoying the conference. ¬†I thanked her for all the time and effort she had put into orchestrating something of that magnitude. ¬†She asked if I was an adoptive parent, and I said yes, and told her about the girls’ adoption last year and the hope of bringing Silas home by the end of this year. ¬†A look of recognition came over her face and she asked, “Wait…aren’t you one of our grant applicants?” ¬†I got a little bit excited and said, “YES!” ¬†She asked me my name and when I told her, she began to explain how the process of whittling down the ¬†candidates from 50 families to 10 was excruciating…how each family was so deserving, and they wished they had enough money to award to all the worthy families. ¬†I realized in my heart…”Oh no! ¬†She’s trying to let me down easy! ¬†She’s explaining why she wanted to give us a grant, but couldn’t.” ¬†I was so deflated. ¬†It was almost mine and Rick’s sole topic over lunch…processing the let-down of a hoped-for grant that was not to be.

After lunch, we mailed off some items that we’d sold for Silas’s adoption, and then headed back to the church building for the remainder of the conference. ¬†We sat through two more sessions, both of which were excellent and well worth the drive and time spent listening. ¬†Then it was time for the grant presentations. ¬†They called up the first of the ten families, then the second. ¬†I was busy filling out my survey…things I thought they’d done well, and things that I felt could be improved for next year’s Adoption Summit. ¬†Then suddenly…I HEARD MINE AND RICK’S NAMES! ¬†And I couldn’t believe it! ¬†Rick and I both looked at each other incredulously….we had been CHOSEN!!! ¬†We walked up in a fog of disbelief and tears. ¬†She handed me the microphone and I remember having the quick, panicked thought of, “No! ¬†I don’t speak publicly!’ ¬†But when I tried to hand the microphone to Rick, he had tears running down his face and was waving off the microphone mouthing, “I can’t speak!” ¬†I put the microphone up to my lips and the words began to gush out…unrehearsed words, but words that were easy to form. ¬†Words of gratitude to that church for choosing us…words of shock, awe, and thankfulness to God for what He had done. ¬†I had doubted Him just the day before…and the very next day, He dropped a $2,000 grant into our unbelieving and undeserving laps.

He multiplied our meager fish and loaves.  

The decision to say yes to adoption always begins one on a journey so full of faith and dependence, that we can scarcely look at the whole picture without being consumed with doubt. ¬†We must take it a piece at a time, lest we take our eyes off the One that was able to turn five loaves and two small fish into enough to feed thousands of hungry people with plenty of baskets left over. ¬†He’s also the One that has multiplied that $20 bill and some superfluous change into $2,000 in a single day!

IMG_4619

I will bless¬†the Lord at all times; HIs praise shall continually be in my mouth. ¬†My¬†soul shall make its boast in the Lord; The humble shall hear of it and be glad. ¬†Oh magnify the Lord with me, And let us exalt His name together. ¬†I sought¬†the Lord and He heard me, And delivered me from all my fears. ¬†They looked to Him and were radiant, And their faces were not ashamed. ¬†This poor man cried out, and the Lord¬†heard him, And saved him out of all his troubles. ¬†The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, And delivers them. ¬†Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; ¬†Blessed is the man who trusts in Him! ¬†Oh, fear the Lord, you His saints! ¬†There is no want to those who fear Him. ¬†The young¬†lions lack and suffer hunger; ¬†But¬†those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing.”

Psalm 34:1-10