Oh, but it get's better!!!

...Recently another adoptive mom was in Shanghai to adopt her 4 year old daughter.  Her little girl also has CHD, so I had "met" her online.  She is a sister in the Lord, and God really used her blog to encourage me along my journey to Rachel.  I've not even met her in person, but while she was in Shanghai visiting the orphanage with her new daughter, she gave me one of the sweetest gifts I've ever received...  She told the orphanage staff that she wanted to meet Rachel and take some photos of her for her new Mommy back home. The director pulled Rachel out of her classroom and my sweet "friend" got to love on her, snap some photos of her, and tell her that her mommy and daddy were coming for her very soon!  Before she left, Rachel sang a song especially for us and she captured it all on film!  What a gift to see our precious little girl again!  Next time, I will be there in person to finally wrap her in my arms and welcome her into her forever family!  Hang on Rachel... we're coming!!!

And finally... Rachel performing a special song for her new Mommy and Daddy!

Oh...and lest I forget!  Before they left the room, they noticed Rachel looking at herself in front of the mirror!  Be still my beating heart!  Where's my epidural??

All thanks to Elaine Horton for making this post possible... and for making this Mommy VERY happy!

...Pregnancy of the "super-natural" kind!

I've had three "natural" pregnancies... and now working on my third "super-natural" kind.  As a mom who's BTDT in both ways... I'd be hard pressed to pick my favorite way to become a mommy.  I remember the months of wondering if I could possibly love a child from my heart as much as the ones from my "flesh"... until they put Kate into my arms and all wondering turned to wonder!  It all seems so much the same and yet wonderfully different at the same time!  

I remember when I was pregnant for Russ...  I must have read and then re-read each chapter of "What To Expect When You're Expecting"  a million times!  It was all pretty "cut and dried" and you needed only refer back to the book for each trimester of your pregnancy.  How to deal with morning sickness (I should have written that chapter!), how much weight you should gain and when you should gain it (at NO OTHER TIME in a woman's life would this be remotely acceptable!), when you should feel the baby move, and how to relieve the heartburn as it grows.  Every month you get to visit your doctor to check your progress and plan for your due date... which is an ACTUAL date!!  :-)  The doctor assures you that if your body decides to surpass that date... he will actually have to do something about it and force it to happen!  (Wouldn't it be wonderful if doctors could "induce" TA's???)  This, if you haven't figured it out, is the most significant difference in being biologically pregnant and being "paper-pregnant".  This very significant difference more than levels the playing field in terms of the process of "labor".  And take it from me... you "birth" moms 'aint got NOTHIN' on adoptive moms!  In the pregnancy of an adoption there is NO due date, NO expectation or acceptance of weight gain, NO book on how to deal with the stress and "heartburn" of dossier prep, NO doctor to promise to "induce" you should this take longer than expected, and most importantly... there are NO epidurals!!!  

There is one similarity though, and it's one that I love!  Sonograms!... especially the new 3D kind of sonograms where you can actually make out some of the features of your child... Is she sucking her thumb?... Is she really a she?... Is she active or quiet?... Is she big or small?  In the adoption world sonograms are better known as.... VIDEOS!!!  Health insurance policies won't cover the cost of them... but you'd willingly pay BIG bucks out of your own pocket for them!

All that to say... I received a "sonogram" recently!!!  I could see all of Rachel's beautiful features!... Yes, she's a she!... she wasn't sucking her thumb, but she sure liked the lollipop they gave her!... She seemed kind of quiet, but extra SWEET!... and I got a video copy of it all!  Want to see???...

Happy Birthday Rachel!

June 28, 2011-  Rachel is 7 years old today!  This is the LAST birthday that she will spend alone without a family to celebrate her precious life!  But it is also the FIRST birthday for her to learn that she has a mommy and daddy (and brothers and sisters too!) that are coming to take her home!  A package arrived at the orphanage with Rachel's name on it today... complete with a new dress, barbies, a pillow pal, lip glosses, jewelry, and most important ~ a photo album filled with pictures of her new home and FOREVER FAMILY!  Someone was kind enough to snap some pictures of this occasion for us a half a world away!  You'd have thought it was my birthday when I discovered them in my inbox a few days later!  Hope you enjoy them as much as I did!
This is your new family!

Oh, my beautiful daughter ~  We'll be there soon and we'll celebrate together!

A miracle in motion!

Anyone familiar with the world of Chinese adoptions these days, knows that it has become a S...L...O...W process!  Doug and I were incredibly spoiled when we began the adoption journey with Kate in 2004.  We jumped into the process at the precise time that adoptions of non-special needs children took less time than at any other time before or since!  From the first piece of adoption paper work until walking through our front door with our new daughter was only 10 months!!!  Yes... we broke all records getting our dossier together in only 6 weeks, but only waited 5 months for the referral of a healthy baby girl!  Unbelievable! (just ask my friend Stacy!)  Then, when we joined the special needs process with Ellie in January 2006, we sped through at incredible speed again and had her home exactly 5 months after we began...  This is so unbelievable that I am almost embarrassed to admit it here!

Then... we found our precious Rachel... and, quite honestly, I'd rather stand in line with everyone else and expect to bring her home late this year or early next...  But she's waited so long... and her heart can't wait much longer!  That means that this is not a race against any adoption timeline, but against time itself!  Our agency (GWCA) has been beyond incredible and done everything humanly possible to get Rachel home quickly!  This is no easy task these days, as the American "red tape" has complicated matters so much... In the end, all glory goes to our God, who loves Rachel more than we can imagine and has once again made what seemed impossible-  POSSIBLE!  This has been a miracle in motion~  Look and see!...

April 18 ~ Found Rachel... said YES!
April 20 ~ Applied with GWCA
April 22 ~ LOI sent to China (what a "Good Friday"!)
April 26 ~ PA for Rachel
April 27 ~ Began Home Study
May 11 ~ Home Study draft complete (waiting for 7 state background checks!  urg!!!)
May 25 ~ Home Study complete!
May 26 ~ submitted I800A
June 11 ~  Fingerprint appointment letter!
June 13 ~ Fingerprints
June 14 ~ I797!!!
June 24 ~ DTC
July 5 ~ LID
August 11 ~ LOA
August 12 ~ I800 Approval!
August 19 ~ NVC letter to Guangzhou
August 25 ~ Article 5 to CCCWA
Sept 6 ~ TA!! 
Sept 8 ~ Bound for China! (What a special day... Kate's 8th birthday and Referral Day - 7 yrs ago!)
Sept 13 ~ Gotcha Day!
Sept 20 ~ CA
Sept 21 ~ Rachel's coming HOME!

During our "paper chase" I found this video of Rachel, taken by an adoption agency doing a "camp" at her orphanage... What a treasure!... and motivation to HURRY!  :-)

Let the chase begin!

We submitted our LOI (Letter of Intent) to adopt Rachel on April 22, 2011.  I've rarely felt more sure that I was in the very center of God's will!  Probably because Rachel's adoption is one of the "craziest" things we've ever done.  Our family, as a whole, is filled with "risk takers", but this just might take the cake!  We've agreed to bring home a child and make her our own when we have no idea how long she will be with us, whether surgery will even be possible, or if medications and prayers may be the very best we can give Rachel...  This is downright crazy!  I always thought that people far stronger than I do things like this...  not people like me!!!  I'm not strong enough...brave enough.  These are scary unknowns...and, yes, I am scared!  And yet at the same time, I feel complete peace!  Only God could give such a gift to these "regular" parents in a very "irregular" situation!  It has been a difficult year already, but I am learning in the difficulties that God's grace is sufficient for every need.... when you need it!  I can't use yesterday's grace, nor borrow from tomorrow's supply.  TODAY~ His grace is sufficient for me!  And so... I will rest there.

June 28, 2004 ~

(Rachel's story as my imagination would tell it...)

In late June, 2004, a most precious baby girl was born hidden from the busy streets of Shanghai, China.  But as "fate" would have it, this little one had more than gender against her.  She likely turned more blue with every passing moment... enough to strike fear into the heart of any mother!  How in the world could they afford the medical care that this little one would obviously need?  Regardless... they rushed her to the hospital and endured hours of waiting, while doctors worked well into the night to save their little girls' life through open heart surgery.  She made it!  But their money was gone...  They could hang on until she became ill and needed help again.  At that point they would be out of choices!  Months went by... the baby's chest scar faded... but it served as a constant reminder that should their be a "next time"... all hope would be lost!  For 8 months they'd been holding back the virus, the cold, the infection that would prove more than their baby could take.  This time, though, what began with the sniffles and a stuffy nose, progressed to a cough that would cause any mom to lose sleep... but for this mom... her baby's cough could mean the difference between life and death...  I imagine that she tried every possible remedy known to man to keep the cold at bay, but nothing worked... and as the cough worsened and the fever spiked, the moment that mom had dreaded was before her.  She knew that for her little girl to have any chance at life, she'd have to leave her and pray that someone would come and do what she and her husband could not possibly do themselves.  

Their child was so sick... there was no hiding it now...  They must have bundled her extremely tight that March morning and tried to hide her in a corner, safe from the cold wind blasts of early March.  And as she scurried away from her treasured "package" to avoid being discovered, I wonder how many times that mama turned back for one final glimpse of the baby she loved so much. God heard the cry of her heart and must have sent some special guardian angels that cold morning... It would only take one long wail from her crackling lungs to alert a passerby to her great need.  Thankfully, her burning fever and terrible cough, brought on by the cries for her mama, were all the villigers needed to see to know that this child didn't need an orphanage, but a hospital.  She was delivered directly there...

It didn't take long for the doctors to see what a desperate situation had been placed within their hands.  The little girl was deathly ill with pneumonia.  They decided that she was probably 9 months old.  She was frail and fragile and they agreed that she probably wouldn't make it through the night.  But when they returned to the hospital the next morning, she was still there!... and very much alive!  And then again the next morning, and the next.  They affectionately called her the "miracle baby"... if they only knew!  Despite all of the odds against her, she improved more and more each day, until the day came to decide her fate.  They diagnosed her with a very severe heart defect.  She would need surgery to give her any chance at a normal life-expectancy, but without a mom and dad to give her the personal care she needed and without a tender touch to be there for the many months following such a risky surgery, it might well prove to be a great waste of money.  A consensus was reached, that she should be sent to the local orphanage and allowed to die.  She was too risky, too expensive... an orphan without a name.  She was helpless and hopeless...

Immeasurable amounts of begging...

I wouldn't really call it "begging"... well... maybe.  I'd rather call it "hinting"!  Let's just say I've done A LOT of "hinting" over the past several years.  About WHAT?  you might ask... Well... adopting another child (or two!) ... that's all!  My sweet hubby who is so obviously crazy about his two princesses from China just wouldn't "bite off" on all those hints!  I think he thought that if he ignored me long enough, I might give up.  I didn't!  And as our older children grew and eventually started leaving their empty beds behind, I sensed that he might just be "softening".  He made a fatal error during tax season, upon realizing that all of our adoption tax credits had been expended, by saying that we might have to adopt again to lengthen those credits.  The words had barely tumbled out of his mouth when I literally tackled him!  Had my ears deceived me???  The smile on his face said that they had not.  I became more and more bold in my internet surfing of waiting children.  Doug knew what was happening... I assured him that I was just looking for my "friends".  Well...that was "partly" true!... (right Stacy?)  Checking RainbowKids became a daily highlight for me.  Even when I traveled to NC to care for my parents in April, I was sure to check out the new kids on the site every night!  Late, late one night an email arrived that a child of "interest" had been posted.  As was my habit, I clicked it open, typed in my password,... and there she was!  A beautiful 9 year old girl that made my heart skip a beat!  How is it possible for a photo the size of a postage stamp to take your breath away... and make sleep impossible... and invade your every prayer?  If there is such a thing as "love at first sight", then this would be IT!  I wanted her to be mine!  Now... what to do about that hubby of mine???  I decided to contact the agency holding her files and get a little more info in my arsenal before tackling hubby again!  Well... I didn't know that they would want Doug's signature on the application before they'd let me see her files.  What to do???  Forge his signature... of course!  Surely he wouldn't mind!  :-)  Seeing that sweet 9 year old's files sealed the deal for me.  After all, I was already "in love" with the postage stamp of her.  There was no turning back of this mama's heart.  More lost sleep... many, many more prayers were spoken...  A committee was to meet three days later to consider any families that had shown interest in her adoption.  I had a lot of work to do in one short weekend!  

Now...THIS is where the immeasurable begging begins!  And if I did that kind of begging in person, I might have become a blubbering idiot.  Plus, I didn't want to give Doug the opportunity to say "no" right away that we he had so many times before.  So I did the only thing I knew to do... I wrote the most convincing Email I could muster and pushed "send" right before I got in the car for the 7 hour trip home from NC to Ponte Vedra.  "Ryan's bed is about to be empty", I pleaded, "and isn't there always room at our table for one more?"  I begged him to pray and pray hard.  No hurry or anything... I just needed to know something before Monday morning!  :-)  

I knew Doug's answer to my pleading Email the moment I walked in the door late that night...  He was smiling!  Grinning from ear to ear!  He was saying "YES" with his eyes and I knew it!!!   OK... I admit it... I was giddy with delight!  I had little doubt that the precious 9 year old girl that had my heart would actually be MINE!  Doug and I sat together on Sunday night and completed the application and wrote statements on why we thought that WE should be selected to be her parents.  What a thrill to read Doug's very convincing argument that we were the perfect choice for this little girl.  Is it any wonder I love this man so much???  The committee would meet on Monday and notify the families before 5 pm regarding their choice.  There were apparently two other families that applied.  Still I was confident!  I was smitten and refused to believe that it could be possible that we might not be chosen to be her family.  

My cell phone was literally attached to my body all afternoon...  This would be a phone call I would NOT miss!  5 pm came... no call.  I knew that the agency closed at 5:30... what was taking so long?  I was pacing the floors... heart pounding... palms sweating...  It occurred to me that no news was probably NOT good news...  I began bracing myself for the disappointment...  An Email arrived.  I could hardly bring myself to read it.  If it contained "happy" news, I simply couldn't understand why they would want to wait until 5:28 pm to send it.  As feared, it didn't contain the happy news I had hoped for.  They had chosen another family for "my" 9 year old.  My heart dropped directly into my stomach like a bomb...  How could this be?  I just knew that we were the perfect family for this girl!  How could they have possibly gotten this wrong???  Doug grabbed my hand and took me for a walk on the beach.  He knew how deeply disappointed I was and to my surprise, he seemed almost as disappointed himself!  "God loves us... He has something better for us... we can trust Him"  Doug verbalized everything I knew to be true, but was not yet ready to embrace!  I had a good cry, asked the Lord for enough faith to release my desires for this little girl to Him,... and then tried to move on.  

Oh... but I prayed!  I prayed like I'd never prayed before, that something...anything... would happen and the family that had been chosen would change their minds!  Every time the phone rang I would jump, in hopes that it would be "the call" I'd been praying for...  But with each passing day, my hope was dampened more and more.  Doug encouraged me to continue to look at other children available for adoption and see where God might lead us. I did... but my heart wasn't really in it!  I was still waiting for that phone to ring with happy news!  I'd been through the special needs sites so many times, I felt like I nearly had them memorized.  

There was one little girl in particular that I was continually drawn back to, but the information regarding her health condition scared me, and I'd quickly move on.  Finally, after 10 days of waiting for a phone call that never came, I felt a strong tugging from the Lord to call the agency holding the little girl with a severe heart defect.  This seemed like a crazy idea...  I'd have rather sat in my recliner and wait for that phone call a little longer... God wouldn't "hear" of it... He forced me out of my chair and in front of my computer screen.  I called an agency that was advocating for the little girl with CHD.  The lady on the other end of the phone stunned me by her comment!  "You know," she said, "This little girl is terminal!  Are you prepared for that?"  I responded with the first thing that came to my mind.... "Last time I checked, we were ALL terminal!"  "No... I don't know if I'm prepared for that, but a dying child needs a mommy and daddy more than a living one!"  What was I saying???  Here I was... ready to fight... ready to bring home a child with no guarantees of a full life... this was crazy!  But I KNEW that it was the Lord!  

I discovered that this 7 year old girl's files were actually being held by GWCA!  We used them for Kate's adoption and LOVED them!  I called GWCA, and while having what felt like an "out of body" experience, I told Stephanie Crouch to lock her files for us so that we could pray about making her ours...  Her files arrived just a few moments later.  I took them to Doug immediately... told him her story... explained that she was "terminal".  We both KNEW what God was asking of us and since neither Doug nor I can EVER say "no" to the Lord, we said "YES!"  We simply refuse to leave a precious little girl alone to die in China without the love of a Mommy and Daddy... without ever hearing of the love of Jesus!  The decision had been made!  SHE was our new daughter!

What we DIDN'T KNOW at that moment was that while I was on the phone with Stephanie locking our new daughter's files... my cell phone was ringing in the bottom of my purse.  I discovered it hours later... the call I'd been waiting and hoping for for 10 days had come!  "My" 9 year old was available for adoption again!  Were we still interested?   Are we still interested????  Are you kidding?  We are absolutely still interested!  Doug knew immediately what this meant!  We were not only adopting a 7 year old with a severe heart defect, but a healthy 9 year old too!  Someone pinch me.... surely I've died and gone to heaven!  

Not so fast there, Dreamer!  No...you have not died! and No...you have not gone to heaven yet!  We have two orphans files locked with two different agencies and this would be impossible unless one of those agencies would release the files to the other so that both girls could be adopted together.  It didn't take long to figure out that the agency holding my 9 year old's files wasn't too happy about our "plans".  They had no intention of releasing her files, as they don't allow the adoption of two at once.  We had the weekend to decide WHICH of the two girls we would bring home.  Such decisions should NEVER have to be made.  My heart said one - the Spirit of God seemed to pull me in the opposite direction.  We prayed, we prayed, and we prayed some more...  By Monday morning the answer to those prayers was obvious and Doug and I were in complete agreement!  We were to let the 9 year old go once again and pursue the adoption of a little girl who needed a miracle.  We were at complete peace.  I knew that if God had returned our 9 year old once, He could do it again, should she be meant to be ours!  So once again...we let her go!  GWCA fought valiantly to try to get the 9 year old's files for us, even petitioning the CCCWA to get involved on our behalf.  Within 24 hours another family was "miraculously" found for the 9 year old I had grown to love so much.  The door has been closed!  Many, many tears have been shed.  It was a heart wrenching roller coaster ride and one I was most happy to get off of.  Sadly it did not produce the daughter I so wanted to be the mommy of... but I am resting in the arms of my God who loves me and knows what is best for me and for the little girl who will forever hold a special place in my heart! 

God's journey for us is now leading to places I'd have never dreamed of going.  Only He knows what lies ahead for our 7 year old daughter (Rachel) and for our family.  But we feel privileged that He would consider us worthy for such a "high" calling and we are content to stay in this difficult place as long as we know He's here with us!  His immeasurable grace will be sufficient!

Sisters and Best Friends!

I admit it... I was worried!  For the first few months that Ellie was home, she and Kate were anything BUT best friends.  Simply put... Kate didn't like the competition!  She obviously enjoyed being the center of attention in our home for a year and a half and who would blame her?  But the companionship and friendship that I'd hoped for the two of them, didn't look too promising at first!  Thankfully, it didn't take long before Kate figured out that there was enough love to go around and she gave up the "fight".  Now they are almost literally connected at the hip ~ inseparable ~ twins in every way except the 10 months that separate them.  And if you don't look twice you will think they ARE twins!  We are asked several times every day if they are twins... It didn't take long before they'd answer the questions themselves - "NO!  Ten months apart!" (in perfect unison, I might add!)  God knew when He created these precious that they were indeed sisters and even better... BEST FRIENDS!


Joy - Joy - Joy!

I can't let this opportunity pass without sharing some of my favorite photos of our precious Ellie's first year home... The caption for every snapshot of our lives since bringing her home could be "Joy - Joy - Joy"!  It overflows from her and is contagious!  She is a tender, tender soul and so eager to please.  What a precious gift she is to our family!

Go Woodlands!!

"Uncle" Larry and "Aunt" Leigh

Getting to know Mamaw!

Christmas Tree Farm - Ellie's 1st Christmas!

We found one!