The Juxtaposition

I was in bed last night reflecting on the present and the past. I remember a year ago thinking to myself and sharing with others that I believed grief and hope can coexist. I still believe that. But now, those two things have faces attached to them. Recently, I have been reminded of the small, mundane moments of everyday life that now cause a twinge of grief in my heart. I was working on our taxes and had to indicate that Eisley had passed away last year. For whatever reason, physically typing in her date of death into our tax preparation software was hard. It was another reminder of the finality of her passing. There was another moment from last week that caused the grief and the hope to surface at the same time. I was opening a tub of clothing in preparation for pulling out some clothes that might fit our new little one. I rifled through onesies that I had purchased for Eisley that she never had the chance to grow into. I sorted through outfits that swallowed our tiny, 13-lb, 18-month-old in their 6 month and 9 month sizes. I sadly realized that our newest addition will have outgrown these tiny clothes. What do I do with them? For now, I put them away and decided to finish our taxes. But there it is – that moment of grief and hope now paired with two faces – our daughter who passed away and the one we hope to bring home very soon. And here was the realization I had last night. If Eisley had not passed away, more than likely we would not be adopting this specific child. We weren’t planning to adopt again when Eisley was home with us. We thought our family was complete. I will not go as far as saying “we won’t adopt again” or “we can’t”. I’ve learned that when I say things like “I can’t adopt a child with a complex heart condition”, I later find myself falling in love with the most beautiful brown eyes belonging to a little one with a complex heart condition. I won’t speak in absolutes, but I will say adopting again wasn’t on my radar. If you’ve been following along, you know how that story is being written. As I grappled with the reality of losing Eisley, a thought planted itself in my heart – if we lost her, I hoped we would adopt again.  And here we are a little over a year later and we should be meeting our newest daughter in less than two months.

Because of Eisley’s death, we have the privilege to know a new life – that of a new daughter joining our family. The love does not end with the life that was lost; it continues. I came across this quote tonight,

“God pours life into death and death into life without a drop being spilled.”                           -Anonymous

At the same time, I am reminded of another life and death juxtaposition. As we enter into Holy Week, I will pause in remembrance of His death and how I may have new life through Him. May my daughters continue to point me to the cross, to the sacrifice of the Lamb, and the great love that was poured out there.

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We Accept!

We Accept!

We’ve been keeping a secret, but we had to work out some details before we could share anything further.

The first full week of March was a crazy and emotional week for us for so many different reasons. We had workers in and out of the house disrupting our normal routine. Our big girl had a stiff neck that was diagnosed as torticollis and then we later learned at the end of that week that it was actually strep throat. I was volunteering to work at a consignment sale for the last 3 days of the week. We were deep into planning an online fundraiser auction that was set to launch that coming weekend. Oh, and we had some pretty big, emotional anniversaries – Eisley’s birthday, our big girl’s family day, and the 1 year anniversary since Eisley had passed away. It was a full week and I didn’t plan to add anything more to that week.

Until we got THE CALL.

I was 2 minutes away from pulling into the parking lot where the consignment sale was being held and where I would be working for the next 4-5 hours. My phone rang and I noticed the phone number was our adoption agency. Initially, I didn’t think much about it because our caseworker was on vacation. I had pushed the thought of us getting a referral to the back corners of my mind. It seemed like the files of children available had slowed and I was trying to convince myself (and failing miserably) that I was okay with waiting for a while longer.

Shortly after answering the call, the caseworker said they had a file of a little girl and wondered if we would like to review the file. My fingers were shaking and tears began streaming down my face. When they told me more about the little girl, I had this peace about it and knew deep in my heart she was my daughter. For you see, I had “known” this little one for a few months. I had seen her photo months before on our agency’s social media page and had inquired about her. Our caseworker said she didn’t know anything about the file other than she was with one of their partnership orphanages. But she also clarified she had no idea when or even if that little girl’s file would come through and even if it did, our family may not be next in line to review the file. It would all depend on the order of families waiting. I asked a few other times, stared at her picture often, and prayed for her in the meantime, but then put it out of my mind for a while as we had a lot going on.

We sent her file to several doctors and asked them to review the file and follow-up with us. We requested an update from her orphanage. And last Thursday night, after receiving an encouraging report from the orphanage, we said YES. We said YES to this little girl, our soon-to-be daughter. We filed our paperwork the very next day. And yesterday we received word that China had approved us to adopt this precious, little girl! We have found our daughter!

Here is what we are able to tell you for now. First, a little detail that causes me to marvel every time I reflect on it. In early February of 2016, Eisley was going down to the operating room for a procedure. She was not stable. I was very, very concerned for her and wasn’t convinced that she would make it through that surgery. As I sat there in the waiting room, while grappling with the reality that I could lose my child that day, I had a stirring in my heart that if Eisley didn’t make it, I hoped we would one day adopt again. Looking back, it seems that our newest daughter was born within a week or two of that very day. When I think upon the timing of those things, tears spring to my eyes.

Second, for almost a year now I have prayed and asked God to bring a baby to my arms again. I didn’t have enough time with Eisley. My empty arms long to hold a little one again. In China, it isn’t common to get a referral for a child under the age of 12-18 months. This doesn’t happen very often these days. You do see some stories, but I would guess they aren’t the norm. Typically, you see children from 24 months – 13 years. I knew that and yet I hoped we might find a child as young as possible to fill those empty arms again. And guess what? She’s 13 months old. We got to see a video yesterday of her scooting across the floor. I’m an absolute puddle every time I watch that video.

We are beyond excited to make plans to go to China and bring home our daughter. I’d leave tomorrow if they allowed it. And that auction we were planning? I got lovingly kicked out by my sister so that I could focus on being with my family through the hard anniversary. But our amazing village was so generous and we were humbled by the generosity of everyone involved. Because we accepted that referral, we had a large payment due to our agency TODAY that I was able to send a check for without a deep inhale. That auction covered the needs of this payment so that we could accept that referral with no delay. To say that we are forever grateful doesn’t feel like enough, but truly we are.

 

 

 

Catching Up

It’s been a few weeks since I posted last and I wanted to catch you up on several things that have happened over the last several weeks and months.

The Housing Situation – If you have read one of the more recent posts, you know that we put a contract on a house shortly after Labor Day and listed our house for sale. We decluttered and cleaned, organized and got our house in the best shape that we could to make it market ready in a week’s time. We had a lot of showings. I loved having the house so clean and tidy, but at the same time grew tired of always having to maintain that look. We began to feel like we were living in a museum rather than a home. We had a lot of interest in the house, but no offers. Then around election time, we seemed to hit radio silence. Oddly enough, interest peaked around Thanksgiving with 6 showings in 6 days. We had 2 very interested parties, but neither of those resulted in a workable offer. The contract on the new house expired on Nov. 30th, we had a showing two days after and an offer came in the next day. We looked at all of our options and walked through several houses before finally deciding to reject the offer, take the house off the market, and stay put for a while. While we were hopeful that we would find a new place that would allow us to grow as a family, we also didn’t want to increase our mortgage at a time when we were taking a step into the uncertain world of freelance work. We do love our home, our street, our neighbors, and our neighborhood. And we’ll make it work for the immediate future. As difficult as the decision was, I’m proud of us for sticking to our original intention of not increasing our mortgage.

The Adoption Status – The Saturday after Thanksgiving we received our fingerprint approval from US Immigration Services. I took the last of our paperwork for certification through County Clerk and Secretary of State and then shipped the rest of our adoption paperwork to our agency. Hopefully in the next week, the last of our paperwork will be sent from DC to our agency. They will review and translate our paperwork and then hopefully we will reach the milestone of being DTC (or Dossier to China). Our dossier is a fancy word for a big stack of paperwork that represents months of appointments, running around to various offices, multiple meetings with our social worker, a CPA, 2 doctors, 3 letters of reference, police clearances, and more. Once our paperwork is logged into the system in China, they can officially begin to search for our child.  I’m hopeful that we’ll be logged in by the end of the year.

The Love Tree Fundraiser – Oh mercy. Where do I begin? I am humbled by the outpouring of support for our first fundraiser. In a month’s time, we have sold almost 150 ornaments! Many thanks to each one of you who have purchased ornaments. I love seeing pictures of them hanging on Christmas trees.

The Newest Addition(s) – Our oldest daughter has been asking for a kitten for some time now. We decided we couldn’t entertain that thought while our house was on the market. (But that didn’t stop me from looking!) I had been in touch with a girl I had met through Instagram who was looking for a home for some kittens. This past weekend, we drove out into the country, down a gravel drive, and further down an even smaller gravel drive and ended up in front of the most charming home. I went with the intention “just to look” at a kitten. When we found two kittens curled up together and they instantly started purring as we approached, I knew then I wasn’t coming home with just one. Truth be told, I may have wanted a kitten just as much as my daughter did. We came home with two grey tabbies who are the most loving, snuggly, funny creatures. And here’s the small world part to the story. The lovely people we got the kittens from? It turns out they are longtime friends of my brother. I was apprehensive about going through the holidays without our Eisley girl. I think our newest additions will help lighten the mood when things feel heavy. They have already brought many laughs and lots of smiles. My new favorite ritual is to curl up in bed and get some kitten snuggles before falling asleep. As my 5-year-old said, “All my dreams have come true, well, except for being a ballerina.” Without further ado, here are our kittens Gidget Fluffelpuff and Gizmodgery “Gizmo” Squigglefizz.

kittens

AdoptTogether – If you would like to further support our adoption and make a tax-deductible donation, you can do so HERE at our AdoptTogether profile. In only 5 years, this wonderful organization has helped over 2,300 families raise funds for their adoption expenses.

The LOVE TREE – A Crafty Fundraiser

The LOVE TREE – A Crafty Fundraiser

First, a quick update for those following our journey. We were fingerprinted in early November and found out yesterday that our fingerprints have been approved. We are currently waiting on a hardcopy of this approval. Once received, we will have it notarized and state certified and then send it along with several other documents to DC to be certified at the US Secretary of State level and authenticated by the Chinese Embassy. After we get these documents back, we can FINALLY send months of paperwork to our adoption agency. And then the unknown wait really begins to be matched with our child.

In the meantime, we are entering the phase where the adoption fees start rolling in. This is the part of adoption that is hard for me to discuss – the financial aspect. How do you put a price on the life of a child? Each one is priceless and absolutely worth it. But someone (or many people) did determine there was a price involved. The fees for adoption through China include fees paid to our social worker’s agency, fees paid to our adoption agency, fees paid to the US government for paperwork, and fees paid to the Chinese government as well as a required orphanage donation. If you have been wondering about the cost to adopt from China, it averages around $30-35,000. Woah. That number can be staggering if you look at it in its entirety. But when you look at the face of your child, that number melts away so quickly and you realize you would go to the ends of the earth and do whatever it takes to bring that child home. So you break that number down and you approach it in small hurdles. What is the saying about how you eat an elephant? (Side note – who would really want to eat an elephant?) You do as much as you can to whittle down that number. For us, we have been selling anything and everything we can find that isn’t necessary to daily function in our house. If there’s something you’ve been looking for, let me know as we more than likely are trying to sell it. Both of us have been working extra hours. We will be applying for grants in the coming months. And we more than likely will do some other fundraisers as well.

And here is where we introduce our first fundraiser. I’m calling it the Love Tree.

emsie-and-ornaments

Do you see that Christmas tree filled with ornaments? Or were you distracted by the beautiful girl beside it? I borrowed that tree from her and have decorated it with 100 different ornaments. And we need your help to UNDECORATE it in the coming weeks. I have spent the last several months working most evenings on handcrafting 10 different varieties of ornaments. Some of them have a connection to China and others have a connection to hearts – 2 themes that have been prominent in our lives the last few years. A lot of love and care has gone into making each ornament. We kindly ask that you consider purchasing an ornament (or several!) to adorn your Christmas tree or to give as gifts to friends and family.

You can purchase ornaments via my Etsy site HERE.

I’ll be posting pictures over the coming days and weeks of the progress we are making in emptying this tree of its ornaments.

And here’s a first look at all of the ornaments:

Thanks in advance for your support in our first fundraiser. We fully believe that it takes a village and we are so very grateful to those of you who have chosen to come alongside us in this adoption journey, walked with us through the last year of heartache and joys, and for those that have been with us long before adoption was even on our radar. Our wish for you this season is tremendous love – may you receive and give this love just as it has been given to us.

What Does Adoption Mean to Me?

Note: I recently had the opportunity to submit a one-page essay in response to the question in the title. Here are my thoughts on that.

family-photo

 

When I read the question, “What does adoption mean to you?” I initially assumed that it would be easy to pound out a one-page response. Later, I sat down in front of my computer to type, but the words seemed to come out in a jumbled mess. How do you succinctly describe the complexity of adoption? That word encapsulates so many thoughts, feelings, and experiences.

Adoption involves hours, days, weeks, months and sometimes years of endless paperwork. You have entities scrutinizing every aspect of your life from your finances, health, the safety of your home, and even the intimacy of your relationship with your spouse. Just when you think you have finished, another round of paperwork shows up. Sometimes you have a picture of a precious child that motivates you to work harder and move faster. Other times, it is the thought of seeing that face, that mystery yet to be revealed that keeps you going.  And yet, you do all of it. Because of LOVE – love for a child that you have never met. Love for this precious one that will someday become part of your family. Love that keeps you going when the task seems impossible, the costs daunting, and the unknown overwhelming.

After all of this paperwork, you are granted permission to adopt and are able to travel. For us, it meant flying to the other side of the world – to a new land and culture, to unfamiliar sites, smells, and language. And yet, when your child enters the room as you stand there breathlessly waiting, all of those moments required to reach this point fade away. Because of a CHILD. A beautiful, deserving soul that stands bravely before you and is walking away from everything he or she has ever known to become part of your family. This moment represents a dichotomy between a past that involved disruption, loss, and heartache; and a future that promises love, redemption, and forever.

This isn’t to say that the story that unfolds will always be rosy and the path smooth. There are long nights, challenging days, endless doctors appointments, surgeries, and many unknowns. This story has a thread of brokenness that has been woven through it from early on and this thread continues to intertwine through the story of adoption. But along with this brokenness, there is a thread of love that is strong. It is a love that is deep-rooted with fierce determination, redemption, and hope for brighter days. Another thread that weaves through this story – one that was previously severed and now has the opportunity to be forever connected is FAMILY.

So what does adoption mean to me? It is a story that is interwoven with the elements of brokenness, loss, and heartache, but at the same time a story that is redeemed through family, a child, and love. I am thankful for a God who orchestrates all of this, gave us the first picture of adoption, and for the children that so richly blessed my life through adoption.

Eisley’s Birthday

Eisley’s Birthday

While we were in the hospital, I was fortunate to be put in touch with a kind and generous photographer, Suha Dabit. Suha understood the hardship of the PCICU first-hand: Her daughter was born with a congenital heart defect (CHD) and had several open-heart surgeries before she received a heart transplant.

Suha’s empathy has compelled this beautiful soul to donate a portion of her time to take photos of heart children and give families beautiful memories in the midst of hard times. The way she draws your focus to the child and not all of the wires, tubes and machines is a gift. Her work is breathtaking.

I was thrilled when Suha took photos of Eisley on her second birthday. I will be forever grateful for the wonderful images she shared with us because they are tangible way for me to remember Eisley’s special day and the way we chose to celebrate her. Suha even compiled a video of all of the photos, and the lyrics of the song she chose to go with the video so accurately describe my feelings for Eisley. Here’s a portion from Matt Hammitt’s song “All of Me”:

“I won’t let sadness steal you from my arms
I won’t let pain keep you from my heart
I’ll trade the fear of all that I could lose
For every moment I’ll share with you

You’re gonna have all of me
You’re gonna have all of me
‘Cause you’re worth every falling tear
You’re worth facing any fear

You’re gonna know all my love
Even if it’s not enough
Enough to mend our broken hearts
But giving you all of me is where I’ll start.”

Here is the video collection of photos from Eisley’s birthday.

You can read more about Suha’s story HERE. And check out her Facebook page HERE. Follow her on Instagram at WOBHEARTS.

Thanks Suha for giving me these glimpses of Eisley that I will treasure forever.

Special Times in the PCICU with Eisley

Special Times in the PCICU with Eisley

“Sometimes you will not know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.”
—Dr. Seuss

 There were many small, joyful moments from our time in the PCICU with Eisley that I’ll hold on to as long as I can. For example, I won’t forget the few glimpses of her eyes that we were fortunate to see, the shaky finger she offered me one day as she attempted to swipe left and right on my phone to look at pictures, and the times when her heart rate would return to a somewhat normal level as I sang her lullabies. I also wanted to share a few big moments that I’m grateful for and will remember forever:

 Chinese New Year & Baptism – In early February, Eisley’s condition rapidly declined, and we thought we would lose her. True to her fighting ways, she pulled through. A few days after one especially scary time, I decided I wanted to have her baptized. If she didn’t make it out of the hospital, I didn’t want to have any regrets, and our priest graciously honored my last-minute request. As this event also fell during the Chinese New Year, I took the opportunity to dress Eisley in her China silks to honor a tradition that we maintain with our older daughter. I had been debating for weeks whether or not I should bring silks to the hospital and go through the formality of dressing her. It certainly wasn’t the easiest task with all of the tubes and wires connected to her! Thankfully, our wonderful primary nurse didn’t balk at my request and even went so far as to make Eisley’s bed with special blankets and dress her in her finest silks. My darling girl looked so beautiful!

 Valentine’s Day – After 40 days without holding her, on Valentine’s Day, I FINALLY got to hold Eisley. 40 days. No mother should ever have to wait that long to hold her child. I was on cloud 9 for the entire hour and a half that I held her and for the rest of the evening as well. Considering that we almost lost her the week before that, this time with her was especially poignant. Despite the tubes, lines, ventilator and everything else she was connected to that could have made holding her awkward, I didn’t hardly notice them. I concentrated on her face. She snuggled into my arms and it was if time stood still and the problems of the world melted away. Every now and then she would open her eyes, glance at me as if she was thinking, “Oh good, you are still here with me,” and then close her eyes again. I half-jokingly instructed a nurse to hook me up to a catheter and a feeding tube and I would just hold her for the rest of our time together.

 Eisley’s second birthday – As we approached March 8th, I wasn’t sure what to do about her birthday. She certainly wouldn’t even realize the significance of that day as she had probably never celebrated her first birthday. Plus, under such heavy sedation, she wouldn’t know we were celebrating anyway. However, I decided it was still a milestone that required a proper celebration; not to mention, it was an outlet for me to channel all of my energy in a positive way rather than focus on gravity of her deteriorating health condition. I made a special birthday outfit for her, as I wasn’t able to slip a onesie on her. That day, both she and her sister had matching Cinderella tutus and headbands! I crafted decorations for her door and room, and my mom and brother helped me bring in food for both the day shift and night shift nurses. Our family gathered to sing “Happy Birthday” to her. We even had photo booth props on hand and captured some fun photos with the medical professionals who cared for Eisley that day. For an entire day I didn’t once dwell on any of the ups and downs of her vitals, x-rays, new diagnoses, etc. I simply focused on honoring her. I even got some birthday snuggles! I’m forever thankful for everyone who helped make my crazy ideas reality, as it made that day so special and an enduringly happy memory for my family.

 It would be easy to dwell on all of the difficult, scary, and overwhelming times during our hospital stay. We certainly had a lot of those moments. However, perhaps these dark moments were necessary to reveal the value of those special, bright moments and bring an appreciation to those moments that may not have existed otherwise.

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 “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”
—Desmond Tutu