Nine months ago

Hard to believe that its been nine months since ‘Gotcha Day’. Here’s a little video.

Wedding Pics!

Christian and Kaylynn were married Saturday! Attached are a couple of pics.

Christian's first glimpse of his bride walking down the aisle

Christian’s first glimpse of his bride walking down the aisle

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All the kids! :)

All the kids! 🙂

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My Adoption Hero

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There is a biblical narrative in Genesis 32 where Jacob is engaged for a night in a divine wrestling match.

24 Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day.  25 Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him.  26 And He said, “Let Me go, for the day breaks. But he said, “I will not let You go unless You bless me!” 27   So He said to him, “What is your name?” He said, “Jacob.” 28 And He said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked, saying, “Tell me Your name, I pray.” And He said, “Why is it that you ask about My name?” And He blessed him there. 30 So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: “For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.”

The text suggests that the Angel initiated the engagement and Jacob fought valiantly all through the night. But lest we think that Divinity could not handle a mere man, the Angel touches the socket of Jacob’s hip to show how easily He could defeat him. Jacob again struggles and labors and seeks a blessing from the Divine Being. The Angel condescends and blesses Jacob and gives him a new name – Israel. Israel because he struggled with God and with men, and prevailed.

There is much to bring out in the text, the One who wrestles with Jacob is the preincarnate Christ, the name change, etc. But one of the things that stands out to me is Jacob’s tenaciousness in laying hold of the Angel and not letting go until the blessing comes. Jacob’s wrestling with God is a picture. Wrestling is a terribly difficult and physically exhausting sport, perhaps like no other. I wrestled my freshman year of high school and I hated it. It was too demanding.

Prayer is to the spiritual realm what wrestling is to the physical realm – at least it can be. Matthew Henry writes, “A great while before day, Jacob being alone, more fully spread his fears before God in prayer. While thus employed, One in the likeness of a man wrestled with him. When the spirit helps our infirmities, and our earnest and vast desires can scarcely find words to utter them, and we still mean more than we can express, then prayer is indeed wrestling with God. However tried or discouraged, we shall prevail; and prevailing with Him in prayer, we shall prevail against all enemies that strive with us. Nothing requires more vigour and unceasing exertion than wrestling. It is an emblem of the true spirit of faith and prayer. Jacob kept his ground; though the struggle continued long, this did not shake his faith, nor silence his prayer. He will have a blessing, and had rather have all his bone put out of joint than go away without one. Those who would have the blessing of Christ, must resolve to take no denial. The fervent prayer is the effectual prayer.”

Okay, okay – what does all this have to do with my adoption hero? Well, everything. I have never met someone so doggedly determined to lay hold of a blessing from God like my wife. I can remember her dragging me to adoption fairs in our early 20s. You can read more about our adoption journey here: 

https://megafamily.wordpress.com/2013/01/02/as-cold-water-to-a-weary-soul

She was relentless. She would read Scriptures to me that she came across in her daily Bible reading. She would remind me often of God’s heart for the orphan, our own adoption by the Father through Christ and most importantly, she would pray. I’m not talking perfunctory prayers spoken to a god who may or may not be there. My wife’s prayers were bathed in Scripture promises, offered humbly to the ear of the Almighty through the meritorious death of Christ on the cross. She would wrestle, she would lay hold at times in tears, and it was as if she would not let go until she received her blessing.

Her wrestling didn’t last a night though. She wrestled for nearly two decades through major disappointments and heartbreaks. The Lord would seem to open a door and then close a door. Not because He is cruel and wanted to string April along, but because it was best for her and us at the time. Because God is good and does good, we had every confidence that He would bless if and when He saw fit. April coined a phrase that began to stick – ‘adoption infertility’. That’s what she had.

But she was patient. She never questioned or blamed God. She simply trusted that He would, if and when He saw fit, give her this tremendous desire of her heart. She was also exceedingly patient with her at times dull, cold-hearted husband. I would come up with excuses like “But we’ve already had 3 or 4 or 5 or 6 or 7 children, it seems like enough to me. We’re in a good spot right now. We’re in a bad spot right now. There is no way we can afford it. Our youngest or 3 or 4 or 5 or 6 – isn’t it nice to not have toddlers or teethers or change diapers, etc?” April would meet my objections with reasonableness, love, tenderness and Scripture. That four-fold strand cannot be easily broken! 🙂

April continued to patiently knock on the door. When there was no door, she would look for a window. When there was no window, she would take an axe and seek to cut a new door that she could knock on! Again, she was fervent. She wrestled. She prayed. And she did not lose heart.

The Lord was pleased to give her this great desire of her heart.

And I get to look back as the beneficiary of her wrestlings and see that God not only blessed her, but in His wonderfully mangificent way –  blessed me and all of our children and who knows who else. I am, in the best way, proud of her. Proud of her perseverance by grace. Proud of her vibrant faith and vital attachment to her Savior. Proud of her wrestling. Proud of her patience. Proud of her love. Proud of how she has mothered and raised our other children. Proud.

She has proven well this quote, “What matters is not that we do all we might have done or all we dreamed of doing, but that, while we live, we live by faith in future grace and walk in the path of love. The times are in God’s hands, not ours.”

Proverbs 31:29 “Many daughters have done well, but you excel them all.”

Everybody Say, “Hao La!”

Hao La. This phrase was used much in our time while in China – it means, “It’s ok.” April and I were wanting to learn some Chinese phrases that would be a particular comfort to our children and we were told that ‘hao la’ is equivalent to our ‘it’s ok’. When the girls would cry through the night, “Hao la.” When Faith would not calm down on the ride to her home city to apply for her passport, “Hao la.” When the girls had their TB tests a couple of days before we left, the nurses would draw blood and machine gun the phrase at the girls, “Hao la, hao la, hao la, hao la.” It’s ok, it’s ok, it’s ok, it’s ok. I wound up adapting the phrase and would use it when we would get harried, “Everybody say, ‘Hao la!'” April would echo the ‘hao la’ portion and we have the kids doing it now that we’re home.

The phrase that we’ve often used for the girls is one that we’ve needed to be reminded of the past couple of days. Hao la – it’s ok. It has been quite difficult since we’ve been home. Faith has been having terrible trouble sleeping. She is having mini night terrors. This causes her to wake up every 20 minutes, scream for a minute or two and then lay down and go back to sleep. As you can imagine, this has left April and I quite weary. Having seven children before Hope and Faith, we know the weariness that comes from newborns, toddlers, teethers, high fevers, vomity nights, stinky Rota virus blowouts, trips to the ER, walking the floor to comfort whines and sighs and everything in between. You can usually find a little bit of time to catch some rest in the midst all of that.

But night terrors. Whew – there’s no rest found. You just ride the wave, waiting for the next scream – the ‘terror’. We’re hoping that this is a quick phase, perhaps an adjustment to a new time zone, a new home, new faces or all of the above. Yesterday was really tough. April was up with Faith from 11-2 a.m., I heard Faith’s cries and relieved her for the rest of the middle of the night shift. When Hope woke up at 6 a.m., I was ready for April to take over for me so that I could get some much needed rest but April came upstairs exhausted having listened to Faith cry all night.

This was the first time in quite awhile we were having the ESP mind wrestling match. I shot April a look that conveyed, “I’ve been up with Faith all night and if you think that you’re going to be the one that’s going to bed, you’ve got another thing coming.” April fired a look back that said, “I’m tired. You’re going to need to ‘man up’ and take one for the team so that I can keep my sanity and get some rest.” Again no words were spoken but having been married for over 20 years, we know what the other is thinking (at least what we perceive that they’re thinking) by a look.

April went downstairs to our room to consult a book about night terrors. She had been gone for 30 minutes so I went down to check on her and sure enough, she was fast asleep in the bed with the book right beside her. Everything was ‘HAO LA’ for April! I dutifully but crabbily took care of the girls and boys for the next six hours while April slept but I was impatient with the boys, sinfully impatient. I was able to seek their forgiveness for my sinful heart. I’m thankful to be able to point my boys to the cross when their papa sins, the same cross they need to look to to be forgiven for their sins.

April came upstairs around 1:30 p.m., well-rested and relieved me to get some sleep. I was finally able to doze off around 2:30 p.m. and slept until 6:30 p.m. We were both so thankful to the Lord for granting much needed rest. We had a decent evening at home and game-planned on how we would tackle Faith during the night. It was decided that I would sleep with Faith in Graceann’s room. Her room is in the far corner of the upstairs. Our hope was that if Faith cried, it would not disturb April, Hope and Grace (now sleeping in the basement).

The girls fell asleep around 8 p.m. which was a good start. We put Faith in the pack-n-play around 9 and she slept quietly until midnight. I went to bed around 11 but I was still awake from my long nap in the afternoon. I was able to nod off around 11:30 but Faith woke up with a whimper 30 minutes later. I put her in bed with me and she did much better throughout the night. She only woke up a dozen or so times (much better than the 25 or so times the night before) and I was able to get decent rest. She didn’t wake up screaming either. She would sit up in the twin bed, look at me, smile and lay back down. It’s as if she was checking that I was still there and when she saw that I was, everything was okay and she would go back to sleep.

April and Hope slept great. Faith was up at 4:50 a.m., Hope joined her at 6. We gave them their first morning bath. It is so sweet to see them playing together in the water. They share toys with each other and Hope is very much loving her little (big – Faith is nearly a head taller but six months younger) sister. Faith is not nearly as interested in Hope though.

Tonight we are praying that they sleep even better. There is a sense in which this has to get under control as I need to go back to work on Monday. But the Lord gives grace, He knows our frame – He remembers that we are dust. We trust that whatever He gives us, He will also provide the strength to bear up under it. Thank you for your notes of encouragement, love, meals and prayers. We have been so well cared for particularly by our brothers and sisters in Christ. We are going to have meals for at least the next couple of weeks. Your help has been much needed and we thank God upon every remembrance of you.

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Having fun with Jake.

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Fun with Sissy.

Last night in China!

April writes:

It’s our last night in China!  And today was such a great day.  We woke up this morning to gorgeous weather…sunny skies and fair temperatures.  The weather was so beautiful that we decided to venture out to Shamian Island.  Many adoptive families remember this place fondly as it is where they stayed in years past while their adoptions were in the final phases.  It is home to the famous White Swan Hotel, which has been undergoing reconstruction for a couple of years now.  Our guide told us that it is set to reopen in a year or so, but that when it does, it will be very expensive and primarily for businessmen.

We have to agree that the island is a lovely place…very quaint and full of whimsy and charm.  A few shops are still open there, so we travelled by taxi to see if we couldn’t find a couple of souvenirs to bring back to our kiddos.  We were successful and also found a few “squeaky shoes” for the girls to wear.  They were still sporting their “orphanage sneakers”.  🙂  We very much enjoyed our day and we often quipped, “We *finally* like something about China…AND, we’re leaving tomorrow.”

Tomorrow….it is full of so much promise, excitement, and misery.  We leave at 4 p.m. EST to begin the long trek back to America.  We will be traveling for 30 hours with two toddlers in tow.  I’m sure you understand why our most pressing need is for prayer.  I have been both looking forward to and dreading this day ever since our plane took off from Louisville.  Please pray for patience, sanity, and peace for us…we cannot wait to be home, see everyone that we love….and especially our children.  And do please pray for Graceann as she faces another anxiety-filled plane ride.  Anxiety is a cruel taskmaster…it is not partial and it takes many captive, but we trust and know that our God can calm even the worst of fears.  We’re hoping the Tylenol P.M. will help for the 14 hour flight too.  😉

Much love to all back home.  Our plane is scheduled to land in Louisville on Friday at 9:22 p.m.  So, Lord willing, we will see you SOON!!  😀

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How we’re hoping the kids sleep on the airplane tomorrow.

Two nights to go!

The U.S. Consulate appointment went well this morning. Faith fussed a bit on the ride over but all-in-all, we were thankful to get through the process in relative short order. The girls will not become U.S. citizens until the plane touches down in Detroit on Friday evening. It was good to see the American flag at the U.S. Consulate. There were hundreds of people outside the building, many of whom were seeking to immigrate from China. One of the many things the Lord has shown us during our trip is how blessed we are to live in the United States.

We have group pictures this evening that I hope to post later but we’re excited about dressing the girls in native Chinese garb. Stay tuned for that! Tomorrow there is an optional trip to the zoo but between the cool weather and funds getting close, we’ve opted to spend the day in the hotel packing. Friday morning is going to come early. We need to be up at 5 a.m., luggage outside the door at 6:15 a.m. and heading to the airport at 7:00 a.m. for our 9:00 a.m. flight. We will be getting up at 4:00 p.m. Thursday afternoon (Eastern Standard Time) and arriving, Lord willing, in Louisville around 9:30 p.m. on Friday evening. As you can imagine, the prospect of such a day with two toddlers in tow is daunting but we’re trusting the Lord for mercy and grace. We would appreciate any prayers for our travel as well!

The past two weeks have flown by. As many of you know, we had to leave Louisville a day early. We were scheduled to leave on Wednesday (2/5) morning at 8:00 a.m. but April received an automated phone call from Delta saying that our flight was cancelled because of poor weather conditions that were coming into the Kentucky area that evening. I checked Delta.com around 11:30 a.m. and our flight had been rebooked for 1:00 p.m. that Tuesday. I had some loose ends to tie up at work but was thankfully encouraged to leave so that I could run to the airport to see if we could be booked on a later flight that afternoon. There was no way we could’ve made the 1:00 p.m. flight as we weren’t completely packed and Graceann was still in school.

I went by the airport on my way home and was able to get the last three seats on a flight leaving at 5:15 p.m. I rushed home and what we had hoped to be a slow evening of packing and spending time with the boys turned into a tornado of activity as I had laundry that needed to be washed and dried, bags still needed to be packed, gifts for China still needed to be bought, and a host of other smaller things that needed to be done. On top of all that, April’s grandfather had fallen the night before and had spent a couple of hours outside on the ground until he could finally muster the strength to pull himself into the house. We had all of that weighing on us but we were, by God’s grace, able to make it to the airport and catch what must have been the last passenger flight out of Louisville for the evening.

When we got to Detroit, I realized that I had forgotten my two pair of jeans in the dryer. But looking back on our crazy day, I’m thankful that was all that we left behind. My uncle who lives in Detroit was willing to pick me up at the hotel and run me over to Target to grab a couple of pairs of jeans. So sweet to have those people in your life that are willing to pitch in when they know there’s a need, no criticism just a heart open to you and wanting to help. Thanks Uncle Larry!

We are down to our final two nights. It has felt like the name of a local Guangzhou restaurant, A Thousand and One Nights! 🙂 We are so weary. Our stomachs have been fussing at us for most of the time we’ve been here. We miss our boys and church family. Lord’s Days have been rough. But, of course, the trip has been well worth it. Hope and Faith are a true delight and we’re looking forward to getting them home, on a schedule and beginning to gently move them toward more disciplined dispositions. We’ve started to gently correct them, giving more stern ‘No’s’ or ‘Bu Yao’s’ with a disapproving look. Please pray for us as we slowly begin the lifetime molding process! 🙂

UPDATE:

The group pictures went well but the girls HATED their traditional Chinese dresses that we purchased for them. Hope freaked out when we tried to put hers on, we have never seen her behave like that. Faith was unsettled when we tried to put her ‘silk dress’ on so we wound up abandoning that plan and letting them wear something that didn’t bring about such a fight. Below are our group pictures.

Finally, please pray for Elijah. Today is his 11th birthday and we miss him (and all the kids) greatly. We hope to call later and get to spend some time on the phone.

Miss you all and look forward to seeing many of you Friday!

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IMG_051111 families adopted 13 children – these are some pretty amazing folks!

Guess who's hamming it up for the kid pic

Guess who’s hamming it up for the kid pic

Where'd the fried rice go?!?!?

Where’d the fried rice go?!?!?

Teeth brushing time!

Teeth brushing time!

Total sweetness!

Tuesday evening has come, just three more nights until we leave for home! Tomorrow we go to the U.S. Consulate here in Guangzhou to take ‘the oath’ whereby we swear to love and care for our new daughters. The little ones have been such a wonderful joy and I believe that they have adjusted more quickly to us than we have adjusted to them. I love their personalities, opposites in many ways but it is sweet see them already attaching to us and to each other. They are quickly and loudly letting their needs be known, which is a good thing. Graceann is already trying to get the girls to play the ‘silent game’. 🙂 April and I are overwhelmed by the Lord’s tender mercies to us!

My wife’s Facebook status this evening said, “Tomorrow is our U.S. Consulate appointment for the girls. I’m excited to take the oath promising never to abandon or mistreat them. Yet another beautiful picture of the Gospel.”

Below are a few pictures from the day. We are really looking forward to getting home. We miss our boys terribly and can’t wait to see them. Much love to all.

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My girls :)

My girls 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

A rough day at the clinic

We had the medical checkup yesterday (Monday) for the girls. The children were taken to four different stations to check vitals, be examined, weighed, etc. For children over two years old, the final station is where their blood is drawn to test for TB. The clinic does not allow the parents back when the blood is drawn so all you can hear is their screams as they are trying to find a vein. Hope was easy, Faith was not. It took them several minutes to find a vein and when the were finished she cried herself to sleep from the traumatic experience. Poor thing. 😦

We also had McDonalds for lunch. I would like to say that it was delicious to have a taste from home but not being a McDonalds fan to begin with, the food was just as bad here as it is in the States. We closed the night down by going on a dinner cruise on the Pearl River. Apart from the haze, it was quite beautiful. The bridges all have neon lights which make for a fun show for the kids. We were able to see one of the largest buildings in the world, the Guangzhou International Finance Centre. The children did well and were quite entertained with the juggling act and other children on the boat.

April and I have been struggling with stomach issues for the past several days. Nothing overwhelming but we have that constant feeling of sickness. We have just three nights left and then we’ll begin our long trek home. Please pray that the TB tests for the girls would come back negative. We get the results back this afternoon between 3:00 and 4:00. If the either girl has a positive test, our trip home can be delayed as the US will not allow an active case of TB into the country. Also, please begin to pray for our trek home. We will provide more details later but we will wake up at 5 p.m. Thursday (EST) and will not get home until Friday at 9:30 p.m. (EST).

Much love to all.

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Pictures!

I was unable to add pictures to the post yesterday. Here are a few we’ve taken in the past 48 hours.

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Hope is very much a drama queen. A hungry drama queen – she has food in most of her pictures!

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Final Week in China

We have made it to the final week. We arrived safely in Guangzhou yesterday. April and I have been exhausted – we were still trying to get adjusted time wise, the girls have have taken a little getting used to and the busyness of toddling ‘twins’ has made for a combination that has really thrown us for a loop. Graceann has been a champ, she has really stepped up. She has held babies, changed diapers, fed and wiped mouths, been an errand runner, hand holder, etc. It is not an overstatement to say that we don’t know what we would have done without her. There are two families of the 11 with our group that are adopting two children on this trip. The other family is persevering with their two little ones but they don’t have an additional travel companion – that is where Grace has been such a blessing.

The girls did well on the plane ride from Zhengzhou to Guangzhou. It was about a two hour plane ride. Hope was lively and active in April’s lap and Faith slept most of the way. Hope thought the turbulence was quite funny. Most everyone else on the plane, not so much.

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Plane rides are fun!

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ZZZzzzz

Once we got to Guangzhou, we were totally exhausted from the early morning, bus ride to the airport, carting luggage, plane ride, bus ride to the hotel (I dozed) and getting unpacked. They have Papa Johns here so we ordered two large pizzas. $45 later, April and Grace thought it was the best money we’ve spent so far on the trip and I was still smarting for dropping that much money on lukewarm PJ without a 2 for $20 deal. 🙂 Nonetheless, we had the leftovers for lunch today. After the pizza, I took my new travel buddy, Faith, with me to the 7-11 to get a couple of liters of water (the water is not safe for drinking). We got back to the hotel room around 8 pm, gave the littles bottles and put them to bed. We were all asleep by 9:00 pm and didn’t get up until 6:30 am this morning. It was wonderful to get that much sleep, we all feel so much better! The Lord gives His beloved sleep (Psalm 127:2) and we were certainly thankful for a good night’s rest.

Today there was an optional tour given to a Buddhist monastery among a couple of other things. I probably wouldn’t tour any kind of monastery for conscience sake on any day but particularly not on the Day that Christ rose from the dead. One of the hardest things apart from being away from our children is being away from the flock that we love so much. To all of our brothers and sisters who are getting ready to begin their Lord’s Day in the states, be thankful for the church of Jesus Christ. We tried to find a place to worship in Guangzhou and the nearest International Fellowship was not within walking distance. If you’re interested, you can read about the restrictions of mainland Chinese to worship with them.

We were able to video Skype Christian, Gabe and Micah earlier today. It was a balm to our souls to see their sweet faces and chat with them over the internet. The boys got to see their little sisters for the first time. Christian wrote on Facebook after getting to see them, “Got to talk with one of my new little sisters over Skype. I am not given to an overabundance of emotion, but I must say that I already love these little girls to death. Guess that makes 8 children now under my protection and watch.  I don’t say it enough but to GabeJakeGrace, Elijah, Ryle, and Micah, I love all of you so very much. And to my dear little sisters Hope and Faith, welcome to the family.” These are those things that you treasure in your heart as a parent.

Tomorrow we go to the medical clinic where the girls will have a quick exam and blood drawn to test for TB. After that we have a little free time until the evening where we’ll be taking a cruise on the Pearl River.

We are in the home stretch now. The Lord has been gracious and we have certainly known His help every step of the way. I am so thankful this evening. I have found myself on numerous occasions on this trip having that David moment of wonder in 2 Samuel 7:18, “Who am I, O Lord God? And what is my house that You have brought me this far?” God is good and does good.

As I close this evening, my heart is full – yet burdened because the land we’re in is full of idol worship. Buddhas are everywhere, we’ve seen Muslims peddling their wares on the street and yet the only hope for China is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Isaac Watts wrote: “Pity the nations, O our God! Constrain the earth to come; Send Thy victorious word abroad, And bring the strangers home.”

Much love to all. We particularly miss you RBC knowing that you are getting ready to gather together.

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

Just a few pictures from today. We travel tomorrow morning (Friday evening for those in the U.S) and would very much appreciate your prayers. This will be Faith and Hope’s first plane ride. We fly from Zhengzhou to Guangzhou – the flight is approximately two hours long.

We are having trouble getting to sleep tonight. This is the last night of Chinese New Year and there has been a five hour firework show outside our hotel room with at least ten grand finales. We’ve been told that it will stop around midnight. The girls are sweetly playing together on the floor but we have a feeling that we’re going to have trouble when that 6:00 am wake up call comes. We must leave the hotel by 8:00 am to catch our flight. Thanks so much for your interest and prayers. Much love to all.

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