Friday, October 28, 2011

I-800a Received!

After a three week delay, we received our I-800a!  Although things are not moving as fast as we would like them to, things ARE moving!! Yeah! Thank you for all of your prayers in behalf of our Michael.  We are grateful for the emotional support that we have received from friends and family as well as the financial support that we have also received.  Thank you! 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Meeting Our Son

Michael on PlaygroundAdoption is not new to our family. Two beautiful children have come to our family through the special gift of adoption. With both of our previous adoptions we have worked and waited for over a year each time to finally be able to travel and meet our children for the first time. Michael’s adoption is different however. We have already met him. I have already looked deep into his eyes and I have touched my sweet son’s hand. The interesting thing is that at that time I did not know that it was the beginning of our eternity together.

When we traveled to China, in February of this year, to bring our Jacob home we were given the very rare and wonderful opportunity to visit his orphanage. While there, we asked if we could meet a precious little boy that we were made aware of during Jacob’s adoption. Michael and MomDue to the communication barrier and a series of unusual events, a different little boy was brought to meet us. We were told that this little boy had “taken care of Jacob” while they were in the orphanage together and the orphanage staff described him, “like Jacob’s big brother.” We had immense gratitude for this loving little boy. I got down on my knees to talk to him and for a long while we stared straight into each other’s eyes. As he stared deep into my eyes it seemed like he was trying to communicate something to me. I wasn’t sure what it was, but if I had to describe it, it was “confusion.” I know that is the emotion that I felt as I looked deep into his brown eyes. Michael and Mom (Michael leaving)I have met many children in different orphanages and loved them all. However, something was very different with this little boy and I was “confused.” Our unspoken communication was interrupted by Jacob who came and grabbed his “big brother’s” hand and pulled him to the playground slide. After a few minutes of the boys playing together it was time for us to go our separate ways. As this beautiful boy walked away, he turned to wave us goodbye. My eyes filled with tears and I couldn’t speak. I wanted to tell him something, but I didn’t know what to say. I just knew that I would never forget how he looked as he waved us goodbye and walked away.

Michael LeavingOur processing time in China continued and three weeks later we returned home with Jacob. Life was busy with the addition of Jacob but I found myself thinking of the sweet little boy that had cared for our son often. One of the things that bothered me the most was that I was still unsure of this little boy’s name. A month later, we were showing our children the videos that we took while we were in China. When the video of Jacob’s “big brother” was viewed, I said to my husband, “I think about him constantly” to which my husband began asking questions like, “how often?” and “what do you think when you think about him?” Our ensuing conversation quickly revealed that I was not the only one who thought often of this special boy.

We decided to send photos to the orphanage and to our adoption agency and see if we could find out exactly who this little boy was. We were quickly sent his information and file and were so relieved to finally know who Jacob’s “big brother” was. During this time we had talked with several parents of adult children with Down Syndrome and found a common thought. Our other children will all grow up and leave our home to start their own lives and families. Jacob, however, will always live with James and me. He will most likely not progress past the mental age of eight years old. He will want to play with his toy trains into his old age…and he will need a brother to do so with.

As with all life impacting decisions, James and I went to the Lord to ask what His will was for us. Our answer came and the adoption process to bring Michael home began. We are trying to be patient as we wait for all of the necessary paperwork to process but I constantly think of the day when I will be able to once again touch my sweet son’s hand and look into his beautiful brown eyes. This time I will understand my thoughts and feelings. As it will take a while for the two of us to communicate verbally, I hope that my eyes will convey my thoughts and feelings, “You are home my sweet son. You selflessly cared for your little brother and now it is your turn to be loved and cared for by your family. We have waited so long to be with you again. This time you will not be left. You are with your forever family and we love you with all our hearts.”

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Lesson on Sacrifice

Donation from childrenThe other night our door bell rang and there stood a beautiful couple from our church and their two adorable children. The sweet couple told me about a Family Home Evening lesson that their family had just had where they read our blog to their children and discussed sacrifice. Each of these two precious children then proceeded to hand me a Ziploc bag with all of their savings money in it. The bag from the little boy also contained strawberry fruit leather. Apparently, as he was loading his financial gift into the bag he commented that I also needed fruit leather…and he was absolutely correct. I tried very hard to control my emotions but I was completely overcome with their enormous sacrifice and service. I am quite certain that they had been saving their money for a very long time and have probably worked hard to earn much of it.

Words were inadequate at the time and they still are, in attempting to express my enormous gratitude to these beautiful children and their parents. How completely selfless of these children to sacrifice their hard earned money to help bring another little child home to his forever family. I am so grateful for these amazing parents who not only serve and sacrifice themselves, but have taught their children to do the same.

I am grateful that the young boy thought to not only provide for our needs but also our wants. I love those fruit leathers from Costco. As I sit here enjoying it, it represents all of the “extras” that we have had to take out of our budget in order to try and bring Michael home. Not only did this sweet young boy sacrifice to meet our needs, but also thought to care for our wants.

My own children have sacrificed much to bring their siblings to our family. They have had to endure the emotional stress of adoption. Much of my time, and that of my husband, goes to filling out paperwork and meeting all of the adoption requirements. During these times they give up “family time” and attention from their parents. Donation from Grover childStill, although they have sacrificed very much (including the tightening of the family budget) they have never themselves given financially to the adoption process. However, our children watched carefully as the little children from our church handed me their savings and an interesting thing happened later that night. As I went to bed, I found a little plastic bag of money with a note that said, “for milkl din” (translation: “for Michael Ding”) waiting for me on my pillow. I was again overcome with emotion. This time I was so grateful for the example that these little children from church had set for my own children. I didn’t need to sit down with my children and read them scripture or teach a planned lesson on the importance of serving and sacrificing. They learned it from watching these children give selflessly and it was a far more impacting lesson than I could ever teach them.

I want these precious children to know that their sacrifice gave us the finances needed to get our final dossier paperwork authenticated by our Secretary of State and mailed overnight to our agency who will send it to Beijing. They made a huge impact on helping to bring our Michael home and they made a bigger impact on our family and on teaching our children how to serve and sacrifice. Thank you sweet children. You are very loved and appreciated!


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Courageous Men

James and I went to see the movie “Courageous” this past weekend. This movie is made by the same people who made “Fireproof” and “Facing the Giants.” “Courageous” is a movie about a group of men who have two things in common…they are policemen and they are fathers. Throughout the movie the men commit to working with the Lord to become better fathers, fathers who are completely devoted to serving their families and their God. In my opinion, this movie was fantastically done and I highly recommend it. What was especially interesting to me was the reaction of the men in the audience. When the movie ended, no one moved. Everyone sat through the credits and even remained for a while after the screen went black. I saw men sit there quietly with tears running down their faces. Many men were leaning forward on their hands just staring at the black screen. Without any words being said, you could see these men reviewing their responsibilities as fathers and evaluating their level of commitment. My husband was no exception to this response.

In our confused world, a “real man” is often described as someone who is hormonally driven and ready to fist fight at any opportune moment. He works out as many hours a day as needed to produce python sized biceps, has an endless supply of money to spend on himself and drives a muscle car.

I completely disagree with this definition of a “real man” and so do the makers of the movie “Courageous.” I believe that a true man is one who puts everyone’s needs, especially those of his family, above his own. A real man will work diligently to earn enough money to provide for the needs of his wife and family. A real man will stay up until midnight talking (listening) to his teenage daughter and then wake up a few hours later to clean up after a sick child. A real man will play trains with his son for hours, clean the kitchen, and allow his daughters to paint his fingernails. A real man loves the Lord above all else.

As I watched “Courageous” I was so grateful for the “real man” who sat beside me holding my hand. My husband is a “real man.” He gives his life, one day at a time, to me and to our children. He works tirelessly to provide for our financial needs and then rushes home to attend football games, orchestra recitals, and school performances. My husband drives an 18 year old car with broken air conditioning in order to avoid unnecessary family debt. He dresses like “Prince Charming” and attends the elementary school Royal Ball with our princess daughters. He has cried each time we miscarried and likewise has cried each time he held our newborns. He has traveled around the world to bring home our adopted children at enormous sacrifices. One of those times included a plane ride across the ocean with our extremely sick daughter who cried the entire time while he tried to clean up her constant “sick mess.”

My husband puts the Lord and his family first in every decision that he makes. I will never be able to adequately express my gratitude and appreciation for the real man that he is.

Likewise, I am grateful for the real man that my own father is. He is an incredibly accomplished man who has every worldly reason to be overly confident and consumed in his own abilities and accomplishments. However, if you ask him, his greatest success in life is his family. Although his career in the military was extremely demanding, he was a constant in his children’s life. He always had time to play with us in the backyard upon returning home and is a champion at making up ridiculously fun children’s activities…just ask his grandkids! His commitment to his family did not end as his children grew up and moved away. One example of this took place several years ago when I contracted a life threatening infection following surgery that put me in the hospital for over a month. At that time we had five children under the age of seven. My busy father left his business to come tend our children while I was in the hospital, allowing my husband to continue working and visiting me at the hospital in the evenings. I know the enormous sacrifice that this was for my dad…but my father is a real man.

I am so grateful for the real men in my life – my husband, my father, my brothers, and brother-in-laws. I am grateful for the real men in my church and community. I smile every time I see a father leave a church service with a crying child, every time I see a father attending parent-teacher conferences at the elementary school, and every time I see a father coach a little league team. I hope that these men know how much their children and their families need them and their commitment to fatherhood. I hope that they know that their efforts make an incalculable difference in helping their children to make wise decisions. I hope that they know that their endless efforts are noticed and appreciated not only by their families and communities but more importantly by their Heavenly Father.