2013 – In Review

A year of prayers.

A year of lots of paperwork.

A year of lots of waiting and then hurry up and then waiting some more.

A year of wondering when we would see our child’s face.  A year of wondering if we would see her face this year.

The year we saw her face–in a picture–but we saw her face.

A year where we walked by faith – a new business, special needs adoption (questions about “Why would you ever adopt a child with ______?”.) Walking by faith.  Just walking.  Hard questions, valid questions…but we are walking.

A year of challenges.

A year of seeing God move mountains in our lives.  Wow, just wow.  Mountains moved.

A year of seeing the goodness of people – yes, you.  The ones who encourage, validate feelings, listen, and give so freely of your time, talent, and resources.  A year where we realized the amazing family we have in our community – love makes a family, and we just love you.  You have showed us love too.

A year of back ground checks and finger prints.  Lots.

A year of asking you to write a reference letter to vouch that we will be good parents.

A year of making new friendships.  A year of rekindling friendships too.  A year of seeing the strength in friendships.

A year of the Lord breaking our heart for the orphan.  Learning so much about suffering–the type of stuff that kids should be sheltered from, not experience first hand.  The kind of stuff I would want to shelter her from, but couldn’t.

A year of trusting–trusting in Him.

A year of feeling the Lord’s discernment.

A year of recognizing that Bryson and I really do make a good team.

A year of convictions.

A year of re-evaluating once held values and beliefs. A year of redefining some things.

A year of hope.  A year of expectancy.  A year of longing.

A year of seeing the Lord multiply our efforts in our work – watching students win an Effie and shine – seeing Verge take off.

A year of learning that there is not a single part of this that we can control.

What a year.  What a year to come.  2014, we are looking forward to you – the year we get to hold her for the first time.  A year of many firsts for our family of three.

Thanks for loving us in 2013.

 

 

 

“So now what?” And Other Common Questions

I realized I haven’t posted in awhile.  Both of us have been extremely busy at work and time just keeps moving.  Before we know it, it will be time to board a plane and meet Lydia Grace Qi for the first time.

I thought this would be a good time to post the most frequently asked questions that Bryson and I hear.  Thank you for your care and your interest.

“Do you know Lydia Grace’s birth parents? What do you know about her birth family?”

No, the nature of placing a child for adoption from this country doesn’t really allow us to know this.  The system there is not like the one here.  Children who are placed for adoption are often found (or abandoned) outside of orphanages, hospitals, parks, etc. sometimes with a note and sometimes not.  The place the child is found is known as the child’s finding spot.  Before a child is eligible for adoption, the child’s photograph will appear in a newspaper asking for the child’s birth family to come forward.

“Where was Lydia Grace found?  How old was she when she was abandoned?”

Bryson and I are very comfortable sharing details about our own lives, but we want to treat Lydia Grace’s history and life with respect.  This is her story to share and not ours.  We want her to hear details of her story from the two of us, and not from others.  This is something that will be shared on a need to know basis–and right now, we are the only ones who need to know.  Bryson and I have talked a lot with international adoption social workers about this, and they also encourage us to not share these details out of respect to Lydia Grace’s privacy.

“Whenever I ask you about her abandonment, I hear you rephrase the statement to ‘placed.’ Why?”

Before we started this journey, I said ‘give a child up for adoption’ instead of ‘placed a child for adoption.’ I think most birth families would agree that ‘placing a child for adoption’ is what they did.  We think a more respectful way to talk about adoption is ‘placing a child for adoption.’  This is what I know–I know Lydia Grace’s birth family chose life for her.  I respect them deeply for that and am so grateful they did. In the best way they could, they placed her for adoption.

“Do you all have to travel to Ch!n@?” 

Yes, that is part of the requirements (and we are so thankful it is).  Even if it was not required, we would desperately want to go see where Lydia Grace Qi is from.  Part of the reason we decided to adopt from Ch!n@ is because we like the culture and we want to embrace her heritage.  Bryson and I often talk about how Lydia Grace’s life won’t begin when we adopt her.  We want to know her — and a big part of that is embracing her heritage.  Bryson and I have attempted, as best we know how, to celebrate Chinese holidays this past year.

“So, when do you leave to go adopt her?”

Excellent question! The earliest would be late February, but probably early to mid-March.  Yep, that’ll be here before we know it!  It has been so hard to be patient.

It is harder for us to know when approximately we will travel because our paperwork is hitting all of the major holidays in the USA (Christmas and New Year) and Ch!n@ (Ch!n3se New Year).

“So, if I hear you correctly, you cannot buy your plane tickets in advance?”

We will have just a few days notice to buy our plane tickets and then we will board our flight.  Some people have a couple of days notice, others have 10 days notice.  Not much time!  So we will try to pack our bags in advance.

“Are they teaching Lydia Grace English right now?”

No, we will teach her English.  The needs at an orphanage are so overwhelming. And, no one speaks English at her orphanage.

“Do you speak Mandarin?”

I have been trying to learn, but it is very difficult.  I often mess up the tones.  I am trying to learn important phrases such as–

  • I am your mommy
  • He is your daddy
  • You are safe
  • We love you
  • Are you thirsty
  • Are you hungry
  • We are getting on an airplane
  • time to go night night

Realistically, I will probably only master half of these.  Lydia Grace is from an area that has a different dialect.  We will have a guide with us in China.  Once home, we have several friends who speak Mandarin that we can ask for help in emergency situations.

“So now what are you waiting on?”

We are waiting for our I800 to be approved by the US government – then this will go to another government agency in the US and then to Ch!n@.  All of these final steps are really confusing to me, so that is the level of detail I can share.

Blessings and peace,

Mandy

 

Our Heart

 

“Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. ” -Elizabeth Stone

One of my dearest friends, Kim, would always relay this quote to me when she would talk about what it is like when you become a mother.  I now understand this quote.

photo (47)

Some say for parents who adopt, the child grows in your heart.  I do know that Lydia Grace has captured my heart and I feel as though it is on the other side of the planet.  Bryson feels the same way.  I can tell that she is growing in a lot of other people’s hearts too.

We recognize that we do not know her (other than what is written on her seven-page referral and what we have been told by the family who adopted her dearest friend).  But, we cannot wait to.  We cannot wait to know what she likes and dislikes, what makes her giggle, what soothes her, and what makes her throw a tantrum.  We know that she has nearly two years of life that we weren’t a part of.  We cannot wait to discover who she is.  And more than anything, I cannot wait to hear her voice and see her smile.  I’ve never heard her voice, and I have never seen her smile.

I think the gift of infertility and the long adoption process is that you find preciousness in things others might take for granted–that struggle makes us profoundly grateful.  The pain reveals unexpected gifts of joy and hope.  Even though I did not give birth to Lydia Grace, there is such a profound gratitude for her life, and that I get to be the second mother who has held her.  That’s a privilege that means more than any other title in my life.

Last night at dinner, I asked Bryson, “So what are you thinking?”  He said, “Since we received her referral, I feel as though a part of our family is missing.”  Yes.

Since we cannot love her in person, we have been looking for ways to love her from a distance during this difficult wait.  We are so grateful for the way that so many of you want to be a part of this too, and in all the ways you show that you care.  Sometimes, I really worry that people might get tired of my posts about the adoption.  But recently, so many people have stopped us to tell us how much they are encouraged by the posts and updates.  Your kind words and notes and prayers help us in this wait.  Just a few weeks ago, one colleague noted how she felt so compelled to pray for Lydia Grace while walking across campus.  I love that others feel compelled to care for her too.

Several of you reached out to us saying you wanted to help when I commented on the needs of Lydia Grace’s orphanage.  We are so thankful that Lydia Grace is in an orphanage where we truly believe she is loved, adored, and cared for.  This is an answer to prayer.  However, there is a need for basic items like diapers, socks, bibs, etc.  And together, we helped meet a real need.  Because it is way too expensive to ship items to Ch!n@, we have an approved courier who bought and sent the items to the orphanage.  They should arrive any day.

Because of your generosity, each child will receive —

Socks

9

 

A coat – in the exact size they need (not an estimate!)

4

 

5

 

6

 

A sweater

8

 

Diapers

2 (1)

 

Bibs

3

Our courier shopped for two days to find the perfect items — can’t you tell?  The colors and characters are so happy and cheerful.  She also learned that there are two more kids who have joined the orphanage, so she also donated two coats and sweaters.  I love how people all across the world are joining together to express love and care in a tangible way for the least of these.  We couldn’t have afforded this without your generosity.

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In addition, Bryson and I donated additional funds to throw the children a party.  There will be a birthday cake for the One we celebrate each holiday season.

I am so grateful for the way He compelled you all to give.  Thank you so much for being so generous in expressing kind words, prayers, and financially supporting care packages for orphans.

And even though we know Lydia Grace is well cared for and loved and that Ch!n@ is her home for now, we cannot wait to make a home for her here with a mom and dad.  This song sums up so much of our thoughts this holiday season.

http://youtu.be/dy8RW6aHXWQ

 

Waiting Expectantly

Note: This is a homily I wrote last year and delivered at my university’s Candlelight service.  As we celebrate Advent, and as Bryson and I find ourselves in a season of waiting, I still cling to the hope of my Savior.  Lord Jesus, come quickly.

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Waiting…I hate to wait.  Ask my husband.  Most of us hate to wait.  We hate to wait to be seated at a busy restaurant, we hate to wait for an answer to an important email, and students hate waiting for professors to get back to them.  We hate the wait.

 

I first learned about waiting expectantly when I was a child waiting for Santa.

 

When I was little, my sister and I would eagerly await Santa’s arrival.  My mom would shoo us up to bed, change us into our matching pajamas, and tell us that we must go to sleep.  Cuddled up together, my sister and I would wonder “What will he bring us?” She would giggle, “Maybe a Barbie dream house?” and I would respond, “Ohhhhh…yeah…or a four wheeler.”  In the morning, Lynnie and I would peek over the stairs to eye the toys from Santa.

 

But then, life happens, we grow up, and it seems that the Christmas season can be associated with awkward Christmas parties, Black Friday, and busyness instead of that joyful anticipation.  I’ve heard plenty of adults say, “Ugh, I am not ready for Christmas.” Is it just me, or does that childlike anticipation for Christmas seem to fade overtime?

 

Two years ago, I experienced that same childlike feeling—except it was not Christmastime, rather it was June.  My sister was expecting her first child and the next morning she was due to deliver. The night before her delivery, I asked my husband, “Do you think I am getting a new niece or a nephew?”  I giggled in sheer delight at the anticipation of a little one.  That morning at the hospital, I told my very pregnant sister, “I could not sleep last night! This is more exciting than CHRISTMAS!”  Oh what hope a new baby brings.

 

Dietrich Bonhoffer wrote, “Celebrating advent means learning how to wait. Waiting is an art which our impatient age has forgotten…The blessedness of waiting is lost on those who cannot wait, and the fulfillment of promise is never theirs.  They want quick answers to the deepest questions of life and miss the value of those times of anxious waiting, seeking, with patient uncertainties until the answers come.”

 

Bonhoffer adds, “The greatest, the deepest, the most tender experiences in all of the world DEMAND patient waiting. This waiting is not in emotional turmoil, but gently growing, like the emergence of spring, like God’s law, like the germinating of the seed.” And I would add, like an expectant mother, waiting for the birth or the arrival of her child.

 

Lately, I have thought a lot about walking by faith and waiting in relation to Mary and the anticipation of the birth of Jesus.  I mean, can you imagine riding on a donkey while pregnant?  If I were on that donkey, I would incessantly ask my husband, “Are we there yet?”  Can you imagine, arriving at the inn and being told, “Sorry, there is no room here!”  Traveling all of that way, and waiting.  Then, giving birth in a stable–not at home, not in the inn, but in a stable with animals.  I think that most of us, in Mary’s situation would say, “God, I thought I was giving birth to Your Son.  Help me.”  And God does come, in the form of a baby—Jesus, the very Son of God. He brings hope.  Even when the circumstances around us are not ideal, He brings hope. Oh what hope a new baby brings.

 

This year in particular, the Christmas story has been quite moving.  You see, my husband and I have been waiting a long time to have a baby.  When we were told that we have a 0% chance of having a biological child, we were crushed. Lord, this is not fair for me?

 

As we worked through the stages of grief, and started to research more about adoption and the estimated 150 million orphans in this world, our thoughts quickly changed from, “Lord, this is not fair for me” to a deep conviction to act and to do something to reduce this enormous number of orphans by one child.  In many orphanages, babies do not get enough protein to grow and before they are even teenagers, some kids suffer from osteoporosis because of severe malnutrition.  One night, as I lay shivering in bed, I thought of my child in an orphanage—an orphanage without heat.  Suffering and pain that most of us in this room cannot fathom.

 

However, each Christmas, we take time to pause and celebrate this carol of joy, that in this broken world, our Savior is born.  For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.  You see, the Bible is clear that we are all orphans who have been adopted into God’s family.

 

This is a time to anticipate, to wait expectantly like a pregnant mother for the birth of her child—waiting for Jesus.  In Matthew 25: 35-40, Jesus tells us where we can find him.

For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink?  Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’

 

This week, students in one of my classes presented the results of their project.  My students had to identify a need in the community, and persuade others to help them respond to it.  One student in my class, Luke, mentors a 13 year old boy.  When Luke went to this little boys house, he was deeply concerned.  This young boy lives with his single mom.  The bathtub was a Rubbermaid container that they would pour hot water in to bathe.  The toilet, plopped down on rotted wood leaked sewage every time you flushed it.  When I saw the photos, I could not believe that this was in our community.  Five of my freshmen students built this family a new bathroom.  In addition, they involved the little boy.  My student, Jonathan, proclaimed, “Because the little boy doesn’t have a father at home, I thought it was important to let him wear my tool belt and show him how to do projects he could help with.”  That is the spirit of Christmas.

 

Even in this sad, broken world that does not make sense—Jesus is our hope, He brings joy to the world.  “Will he bring us a Barbie dream house?” No, the gift of Christmas is not a Barbie dream house, or a new four wheeler–it is the joyful anticipation of the birth of Jesus, the one who died for us and welcomed us into His family when we were orphans. Especially in the darkness, His light shines bright.  Even in the darkness, Jesus is there.  My prayer this Christmas is that instead of focusing on the presents from loved ones, I will celebrate and wait for the birth of my Jesus.  May we spread his light into the world, one by one sharing our joy and hope even in the darkness because unto us a child is born, to us a child is given. Oh what hope Jesus brings.