Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Six Months and Counting...

But now, thus says the Lord...,

"Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; 
I have called you by name; you are Mine! 
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; 
and through the rivers, they will not overflow you. 
When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched,
nor will the flame burn you."
Isaiah 43:1-2

We have recently celebrated our six-month home milestone.  WOW!  Time is flying by.  It is hard to believe we have be together as a family of 8 for half a year, and yet, China seems like such a distant memory at the same time.  Some days, I think the dust is settling a little bit, and other days, we still seem to be in the whirlwind, but through it all, God is with us. We see Him working in us and in our children in ways we never could have imagined. 

Life is hard and it is good.  God is refining me by the "fire" of life with 6 kids. Lots of stuff, yucky stuff, has come to the surface in the day-to-day busyness of it all, and  I am constantly reminded of my weaknesses, but also of His grace and strength and mercy. 

As I think back over this journey, I am reminded of God's promise in Isaiah 43:1-2.  I think of the times when following Him meant stepping out into unsure waters and how, many times, the difficulties and uncertainty of adoption seemed like they would sweep us away, but God was there, just as He promised.  He kept reminding us of His sovereignty and His perfect timing and His complete provision.  He did miracle after miracle after miracle to bring us all together. 

And as we have been home, many days, we have walked through His refining  fire of adjusting and learning how to love and care for our children.  These last six months have been challenging in so many ways, physically, emotionally, spiritually.  We have put life on hold to focus on attachment and bonding, and this has been hard for some to understand.  But we are so thankful that we have made so much progress in these areas and that we are now able to slowly regain some sense of normalcy, although we are certain that our lives will never be normal!  And that is quite alright with us!

We are loving getting to know our babies and discovering their amazing personalities, their likes and dislikes, and watching them interact and bond with their awesome big brothers. 

Aaron Li (affectionately known as "Yao-Yao") is a joy.  He has such a compassionate heart and loves people.  He has an amazing grasp of the English language and is very very aware of everything that goes on around him.  He doesn't miss a thing!  He loves to laugh and play, loves to ride bikes, and loves to be Daddy's helper.  The thing he loves most, though, is to ride the 4-wheeler!  He can hear it crank up, even in his sleep, and he moves at lightning speed to make sure he has a seat for the ride!

Meili is a wild and wonderful mess!  She loves to discover new things and is curious about everything, especailly the things that she's not supposed to touch!  She has the unique ability to get into mischief the very instant I turn my head!  Her laugh is infectious and quite often has her giggle box turned over. She adores her brothers and always welcomes them with great big hugs. And when Daddy gets home, watch out, 'cause she will run right over you to be first to get to him, hollering "Daddy" at the top of her lungs the whole way there. 

Both babies are amazingly healthy.  Meili has no health issues that we know of at this point, and Aaron Li goes every 2-3 months to have his platelets check.  Right now, his platelets are maintaining a safe level, even though they are still a little low.  His doctors are content to simply watch him for now and think that it is possible that he will outgrow his ITP without any medical intervention.

We are so proud of our older boys and how they have loved and cared for their babies.  They have learned what it means to not only look out for their own needs, but also for the needs of others.  They have learned so much about who God is and how He keeps His promises.  They have seen first-hand how He leads and provides and how really good His plans are for us. 

As we have celebrated Thanksgiving and are looking forward to Christmas, it is hard to put into words how wonderfully content and thankful we are.  For the last three holidays seasons, we have longed for our babies and have been torn because they were so far away.  Our hearts were heavy because we could not hold them and love on them.  And, now, here they are, in our arms and in our home, and there is no greater feeling.  Our hearts overflow with thankfulness at the wonderful things He has done to make this all possible.  He is Jehovah-jireh, the Lord who Provides, and we are living proof.

We are so grateful for where we are in our adoption journey and so excited about where He is leading us next.  For us, this journey has changed us so completely that we will never be the same.  Our eyes have been opened to the great need right in front of us to care for orphans and to the amazing opportunity to experience our great God and Savior as we follow Him into the fields of the needy.  Our heart's cry has been for Him to continue to use us to care for these precious babies that so desperately need love, and He has opened a door for us to do that.  We are anxious to share more details as we know them and can't wait to begin this next chapter in following Him.  There is NOTHING better than being right where He wants us to be, serving Him with our lives.  He is the only one who can satisfy the longings of our hearts.

Through this journey, we have passed through the waters, and He has been with us.  We have walked through the fire, but have been refined and not scorched.  We have learned that the more we die to ourselves, the more we get of Him.  David Platt says in his book, Follow Me

"As we die to ourselves, we live for others, and everything Christ does in us begins to affect everyone Christ puts around us."  

This is the reason we share our journey, to bring glory and honor to His name, and as a way to invite others to follow Him wherever He leads.  He is an amazing, trust-worthy, wonderful Savior and Lord, and in following Him, we get to experience His presence in amazing ways.

If you would like to hear the 7 minute testimony we shared with our church, click here.

Here are some pictures from the last few months!



Wednesday, August 21, 2013

How Are You?

"But He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me."
2 Corinthians 12:9

In these days of craziness, of a life full and zooming by, in the midst of adjusting to life with six kids and meeting the needs of each one, inevitably I get the question, "So, how are you?".  And I am so thankful to be asked!  But it isn't an easy question to answer on the fly.  The quick (and I guess the easiest) answer is to say that we are doing surprisingly, amazingly well... considering!

Considering we have six kids, five of them boys and the oldest only 10,

Considering that two of those children have only recently joined our family and have a history in a place that makes me want to cry when I think of them there.

Considering that the enemy is roaring lion, seeking to devour those who seek to serve the King of Kings.

Considering that there is ALWAYS tons of laundry to fold, bathrooms to clean, floors to mop, lunches to pack, suppers to cook, dishes to wash, homework to do, etc., etc....

Considering that is there is always SO MUCH more that needs to be done than there is time or energy.

BUT, regardless of our sometimes-difficult circumstances, we can say with joy and humility that we are standing firm because we know the One who makes it all possible.  We know the One who turns impossible situations around.  We know the One who is always enough, who hears us when we cry out to Him and answers EVERY time we call.  The One who allows us to be weak at His feet so that He can be strong for us and through us.  The One who can turn ashes into beauty, mourning into dancing, and who binds up the broken-hearted.  He is El Elyon, sovereign over the details of our lives and has given us exactly what we need to enable us to cling to Him.  He is Jehovah-jireh, the Lord who provides for our every need when we ask Him.

So, forgive me if I give the easy answer to the question, "How are you?".  It is certainly not because I have it all together. I am weak and frail in my own strength.  I fail so many times and have to confess my attitudes of self-pity, grumpiness, impatience and selfishness more times than I care to admit.  I get overwhelmed at this life that is humanly impossible so much of the time.  I am brought to tears often over needs I can't seem to meet.  

But God is good and faithful.  He is carrying me.  He has given me the exact circumstances that I need to cause me to cling desperately to Him.  I have joy because He promises never to leave me or forsake me.  I am full of thankfulness because I am experiencing His grace and mercy, His provision and HIS power moment by moment.  He is teaching me about meekness and how to be thankful in every circumstance because I know that whatever He allows in my life has been filtered through His loving hands for my good and for His glory.  I am growing closer to Him and there is nothing I want more.

So am I okay?  Are we okay?  Despite every crazy reason that we shouldn't be okay, because of Him, YES, we really are doing surprisingly, amazingly well!!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Blessed Beyond Measure

"For the Lord God is a sun and shield;  the Lord gives grace and glory.
No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.
O Lord of hosts (Jehovah-sabaoth), 
how blessed is the man who trusts in You."
Ps 84:11-12

It is hard to believe that we have been home from China for two months. Our lives have been a complete whirlwind as we adjust to being a family of eight.  From doctors' appointments to trips to the beach and Carowinds to Daddy going back to work, we have been on the move.   Our life is not easy right now, and some days are really, really hard, but we see God's hand of mercy and provision for us at every turn.  He is teaching me to cling to Him moment by moment.  He is revealing how far I have to go in His command to die to myself daily.  I struggle with patience and some days just want to head for the hills!!  

And yet, I would not change ONE thing about my life.  I feel so blessed that I can hardly hold back the tears at God's goodness and His precious gifts.  

In the last few weeks, I have seen such a huge shift in how I view my "big" boys.  I have seen them grow up right before my eyes.  I have come to depend on them so very much and my love for them has deepen in ways I could not have imagined.

I am so proud of the way my oldest son Gabriel (10) has stepped up since his daddy is now back at work.  He does so many of the things that Tollie would do if he were here.  I think I was most proud of him the day we went to Carowinds for the first time without Daddy.  Gabriel carried Aaron Li around in Snoopyland, taking him to ride after ride, saying he didn't care if he rode any rides or not, he just wanted his little brother to have a good time.

I am amazed, humbled, and many times convicted when I see how patient and kind my Carter (8) is, especially with Aaron Li.  He never gets ruffled when tantrums are thrown, but just patiently tries to help everyone to be happy.  He is quick to sacrifice his own things in order to bless others.

I can't help but laugh at Cason's (almost 7) crazy antics as he tries to make Aaron Li and Meili laugh!  He loves to play with them and can keep them entertained so Mommy can actually go to the bathroom!  He is a joy and helps me to laugh when the stress of the day is almost too much.

I have watched my sweet Hudson make the transition from baby of the family to big brother with much grace.  It was a little bit of a struggle for him to find his place at first, but now he loves to help out with his younger brother and sister, asking to feed Meili her bottle and playing with Aaron Li.  He has such a sweet spirit and is such an encouragement to me throughout the day.

I see over and over again how God prepared our family for our new babies, how He has gifted each of my boys with what we would need to love and care for our precious new additions.  The Lord is good and faithful.  He can be trusted to do more than we could ever imagine.  I am so thankful for how He has put me in a place that I have NO CHOICE but to cling to Him.  He knows that as soon as I feel my life is under control and I get comfortable, I stop depending on Him.  I pray that He never lets me do that again. (With six kids, I don't think I have to worry!)

And these precious babies, oh how I love them (even when I am ready to pull my hair out!).  

Aaron Li, who we are still calling Yao-Yao (YOW-YOW), is simply an amazing child.  He is SO smart.  He has picked up English at an amazing rate.  He LOVES to laugh and play.  He is FEARLESS (which really isn't a great combination with his low blood platelets!).  He adores his BaBa (daddy) and asks constantly for his brothers when they are not here.  His favorite food is hard boiled eggs and he always reminds me to put salt and pepper on them.  He loves to sing and some of his favorite songs are "Jesus Loves Me,"  "Deep and Wide" and "You Are My Sunshine."  He is very very aware of everything that is going on around him and it is impossible to sneak anything by him!  He is VERY strong-willed and when he says NO, he is very very sure about it.  He loves to be loved and it breaks his heart if we are displeased with him.  He is my sweet (most of the time) little boy, and I love him with all of my heart.

My baby girl, Meili, is my joy.  She lifts my heart.  She is a Mama's girl and won't go willing from my arms very often.  I can't stand to be away from her any more than she can stand to be away from me.  She melts me with her smile, and I adore the way her eyes look like little crescent moons when she laughs.  She has come so far in the time we have had her.  She has gained SIX pounds and gone from only sitting up to now walking (video) across the room.  She has also picked up many English words.  She is terrified of our dog and says, when she sees him,  "Bolt, GET" with her little finger pointing him away.  She loves music, and her favorite song right now is "Deep and Wide."  As soon as we start singing it, she starts waving her arms around, doing the deep and wide motion and chimes in "IIIIDE" when we get to the word "wide."  She is very very smart and imitates everything she sees (for better or worse!).  She is the sweet gift I have had in my heart for so many years and is everything I prayed for and more.

So, I am thankful.  For the good days and the bad days, the happy and the sad days (isn't that a song?), I am so very thankful.  I am thankful to my Lord for blessing me beyond all I could have hoped for.  I am thankful that as unworthy as I am, He still blesses me.  I am thankful for the amazing husband I have, who has such a gift of love and patience, who rarely gets ruffled, and who is always willing to stop what he is doing to care for others.  

Although I pretty sure when I was younger, I probably never imagined my family looking exactly like it does, I am SO glad that God didn't let my small dreams get in the way of His amazing plans.  He is worthy of our praise.  He is worthy of all honor.  He is worthy of our very lives.  Praise His wonderful name for He has done great things!


This song, "Sovereign" by Chris Tomlin, speaks what is in my heart so perfectly.  The Lord God Most High (El Elyon) is sovereign over every detail of our lives, and He is teaching me to trust Him, no matter the circumstances.  (Click here to listen.)

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

For I Know That the Lord is Great

For I know that the Lord is great, and that our Lord is above all gods.
Whatever the Lord pleases, he does,
in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.
Psalm 135:5-6

Our God is amazing.  He is El Elyon, the Most High God, sovereign over every detail of our lives.  He has precious plans for us, and we can trust Him with our lives.

For the last two weeks, we have finally been able to experience this wonderful plan that He has been working out in our lives.  We finally have our babies all under one roof, and it has been simply amazing to see how perfectly we all fit together. Is it always easy?  No, rarely ever.  Are we exhausted? Completely.  But are we grateful and humbled at the mighty work of our Lord?  Absolutely!

All we can do is stand in awe of these two amazing babies that God had for us on the other side of the world and how He moved heaven and earth, did miracle after miracle, answered prayer after prayer, and provided every single thing we needed to make them our own.  

Oh how wonderful they are!  And, when think of how close we came to missing them, it shakes me to the core.  If we had given into our doubts and fears, if we would have continued to look at the mountain in our way, instead of the Mountain-mover, we would have missed this great treasure He had for us.  

There was a time when, as we were wrestling with God about adopting two babies, that we were ready to say no.  We were ready to say, "God, it is too hard.  It's impossible."  And at that very moment, He answered with these words:

What priceless treasure are you in danger of throwing out, simply because of the way it is packaged?  Could it be the treasure of seeing Him?   Sometimes God wraps His glory in hard circumstances or ugly obstacles or painful difficulties, and it just never occurs to us that within those life-shaking events is a fresh revelation of Him...Are you so focused on the outer wrappings that you are in danger of missing or even throwing away the fresh, personal revelation of Himself that He wants to give you?...Change your mind about things - about yourself - about others - about Him. Relax in total trust. He knows what He is doing. Unwrap the package! Let go and look up! Let Him open the eyes of your heart. OPEN YOUR EYES. Open your eyes to the vision of His glory. Prayerfully, expectantly, sincerely, open your eyes to Him."

There was a time when we were so focused on the outer wrappings, the labels, the hard circumstances, that we almost missed this.  These two precious babies.  This opportunity for God to make Himself known to us, to give us a fresh revelation of HIM.  And it brings me to tears.  

What a gift He has given, wrapped up in our sweet Aaron Li and Meili.  To experience Him the way we have is more precious than anything else.  To experience the process of adoption, to get a glimpse of the great price He paid for our adoption and understand better the great love that motivated Him, is completely and totally overwhelming.  To see our family grow from six to eight is better than we could have ever imagined.

But, that is not to say our life is easy!  Having six children is certainly an adjustment.  Having a determined little crawler who wants to explore every minute of the day is challenging.  Mealtimes are almost comical (so thankful that dear friends are still bring meals)!  There are days when everyone is in a funk (sorry for those who endured our funk Sunday morning at church).  


To see Aaron Li's little arms circled around Gabriel's neck as Gabriel hauls him around everywhere.  To watch Cason feeding Meili macaroni and cheese or to hear Carter make her laugh.  To have Hudson race to us if one of the babies is crying so we can help them.  To hear Gabriel beg to rock the babies to sleep again tonight.  To hear Aaron Li say, "BaBa, lub (love)you.  Mama, lub you," as we tuck him in at night or see Meili blow kisses to anyone who will look her way!  These joys make the hard times worth.  They make all the tears and heartache of the last two and a half years worth it.  They make trusting Him instead of giving in to fear worth it.  

So we say thank you to our Heavenly Father and to the countless number of dear friends who have help us get to this place and who continue to help us in this adjustment period.  We pray God's richest blessings on each of you for what you have done and for the sacrifices you have made to allow us to be a family for Aaron Li and Meili.  Our hearts are forever grateful.

 For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work;
    at the works of your hands I sing for joy.
 Psalm 92:4

Saturday, May 25, 2013

My Ways Are Higher Than Your Ways

"'For My thoughts are not your thoughts, 
nor are your ways My ways,' declares the Lord.
'For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.'"
Isaiah 55:8-9

For the last two and a half years, God has been teaching me that His ways are higher than my ways, His plans better than mine.  Usually that cause me grief in the beginning.  This time was no different. 

Early last Wednesday morning (Tuesday afternoon in SC), we began our journey home from China.  There was nothing I wanted more than to be HOME, with my boys, to have all of my babies together at last.  It was going to be a very long journey, over 30 hours travel time, to finally have my arms around my boys.  We had to fly from Guangzhou to Beijing, Beijing to Detroit, and our last leg was from Detroit to Greenville, AKA, HOME.  The lay-over in Detroit was less than two hours, and we knew the timing was going to have to be perfect to get through immigration and customs, claiming luggage and re-checking luggage, to make it on that flight. 

But our idea of perfect timing and God's perfect timing were different.  Our flight did not arrive on time.  It was 30 minutes late.  Then, we waited another 15 minutes because the door of the airplane was stuck and they couldn't get it open.  Needless to say, even after the heroic effort of a wonderful immigration officer who whisked us through immigration and customs, who asked a Delta representative to call the boarding gate to ask them to hold the plane, and who ran ahead to the gate to be sure they didn't close it before we got there, God's plan was different, and we did not make our flight.  I was close to hysterics, begging the Delta people to get us home.  They found a flight leaving for Charlotte within minutes and whisked us away to that gate, with us arriving just as the last passenger boarded the plane.

I made a quick call to my mom to let her know that we had missed our flight, and much to my surprise, she already knew and knew we were headed to Charlotte. (That's my wonderful mom.) And then she said the sweetest words I could imagine, "We are on our way to Charlotte with the boys and will meet you when you get off the plane."  It was going to be okay.  My boys were going to be waiting. 

My seat was a middle seat, right between the two sweetest ladies I could have imagined.  I was still a wreck and apologized to them for being so emotional.  They were very kind, helping me with Meili while I changed her diaper and got her bottle ready.  And then God gave me the most incredible opportunity to share our amazing story with the lady on my right, named Kim.  She listened as I shared about all the miracles God had done to bring us to that moment.  She listened as I shared how much my eyes had been opened to God's love for me as His adopted daughter through my love for my new babies.  She listened as I shared how hard this journey had been but how it had made me realize how much more Jesus had sacrificed to adopt me.  She listened as I poured out my heart to her.  Toward the end of the flight, I wrote down my blog address for her on a napkin and gave it to her. 
Then she began to share with me.  She shared with me how she was going through a rough time in her life and how much she needed to hear this amazing story of our amazing God.  She said she knew that God had put me beside her and that us being on that flight was not a coincident.  I was able to share with her that our God is Jehovah-jireh, our Provider and how He had provided every single thing we needed for this adoption.  How He had made a way when there seemed to be no way.  How His plans were different than ours, but SO much better.  How we can trust Him with every detail of our lives because He is good and faithful.  How I knew He had good plans for her, to prosper her and not to harm her, to give her a hope and a future.

By the time we landed, I knew that I was right where I was supposed to be.  I knew God was at work, and I was truly thankful that His ways were higher than mine.  

And when I laid my eyes on my boys, there were no words to describe the joy in my heart. Oh, how I had missed them.  

God's plans are sometimes different than ours, and many times not what we ourselves would choose, but they are so much better.  I am thankful that He keeps teaching me that I can trust Him and His plan for me.  Praise His name!

And, btw, we are all doing great and very glad to be home! 

First Glimpse of Mom, Dad, Meili & Aaron Li