Sunday at church God confirmed that this is what I was to write.
If you've read my inaugural post on this blog, you know that when the Lord called us to Lily, He called us to wait for Lily. He was doing so much during that time, but one of the things that the Lord was doing was that He was allowing me to long for someone...for a long time...like I had never longed before. There is a question that has so often been the one of my heart, that is truly more of a statement, that I have wondered and marveled at all these days, weeks, months and years. How can I miss someone I've never met? Oh, but I do...with a missing that is a deep, deep ache.
I couldn't possibly number the times I've tumbled over in my mind meeting her for the first time. What will it be like to see her, smell her, touch her, hold her, rub my hand over her hair and back, cuddle her, to finally know what her voice and cry sound like? Will I sob uncontrollably? Will I be so excited I laugh? Will I simply be so in awe that the time is here that I have no words? Will I jump right into mom role with her or stare at her with tears streaming? What will my heart do? Will it burst or leap? Will it sing praise or shout praise to God? I've imagined the room and the people, the clothes she will be wearing, what I'll be wearing, what I'll give her, seeing my strong Kevin holding her for the very first time. I imagine the chatter of the other waiting families and officials drowning out and a kind of hush coming over my heart as my little girl enters the room and I see the pictures that I've been staring at for months come to life.
So many scenarios have played through my mind, but I know God has written the real one long ago and it will soon be revealed. And so I wait and I wonder and I anticipate and I long for the day of our meeting...and every day after that.
And each time I do, I am challenged. I am challenged because the closest thing to which I can equate this longing and ache I feel for Lily, is my ache for the coming of my Lord and King. How many times my Father has challenged me: Mandy, do you long for My coming as deeply, intensely, persistently as you long for Lily's?
Each time I check the email for word of her, He nudges me to look to the sky...is He coming in clouds yet?
When I prepare something for her soon homecoming, He calls me to ask Him to search my heart & see if there is any unclean way in me...to be one whose oil has not run out when her Bridegroom comes.
Each time I imagine seeing and holding Lily...my mind's eye turns to the day when I will see my Savior face to face. He challenges me to dream of the day when my forever with Him will begin. To dream of what it will be like to be held by His nail-pierced hands and to gaze at the place where He has engraved me. My mind is turned to the moment when He will announce my new name...and to wonder at the sound of His voice. Will it be so totally familiar, yet at the same time brand new and finally complete? Will a deep, quiet hush of peace settle in as I look at Him with my own eyes and finally hear the audible voice of my Prince or will I weep uncontrollably like Mary at His feet longing only to be near Him and to serve Him?
Each time I picture the setting in which my baby girl will be handed to me, my finite mind tries to imagine what it will look like in the very presence of God. I ache for the day when I will finally know as I am known, the day when my faith becomes sight, and the descriptions become experience.
As I consider that Lily has no idea what is in store for her when she becomes part of our family, I am blown away at the knowledge that the best that I could possibly envision of Heaven and eternity with my Beloved can't even come close to the reality. No eye has see, no ear has hear, no mind can conceive of what God has prepared for those who love Him!
And I am ashamed and humbled that I don't long for Him Who is My Everything more that I do. Praise Him for His tender grace that teaches me to long for Him...more that watchmen long for the morning (Psalm 130)!
A verse in 1 Peter has come to mind over and over when I am drawn to these dreams. Chapter 1 verse 8 says: "Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though You do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy..."
Lord God, continue to stir up in me a deep and abiding longing for Your appearing. Thank you for the wait for it teaches me to long for You.
2 Timothy 4:7-9 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award me on that day--and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing.
We are all so smitten and in love with her! Her cheeks are just so adorable as are those sweet lips and deep brown eyes! I absolutely can't wait to hold her myself and kiss those cheeks and rub that fuzzy, thick hair!
Oh, isn't she just beautiful!!!
And then today, as if the Lord were giving us a 2 month anniversary gift...we got 9 (yes, 9!!) more pictures of our sweet Lily Rose!
Oh my goodness! Kevin and I have been teary all afternoon!
Now, we've suspected this was coming this week. As I mentioned before, the volunteers at Love Without Boundaries have been incalculably instrumental in our knowledge and understanding of Lily's care. In the wonderful world of the internet, not long after being matched to Lily, I discovered a Yahoo board for parents who either have adopted or are in the process of adopting a child from the Shantou City orphanage. Very shortly after joining the board, the Executive Director for LWB contacted me and let me know she would be at Lily's orphanage in June and she would love to check on her for us. Last week, she was there. As you can imagine we have been very excited for her stateside return. A few days ago, I got word she was back and that she would send pictures to our agency when she was somewhat recovered from the trip. Today was the day!
As only the Lord does things, Kevin decided after a long morning of driving around No. Va. for work, he would get the rest of his work done more efficiently time-wise by coming straight home. He got home around 3pm, checked our personal email and called me at the pool. We had an email saying pictures of Lily were being sent to our agency from Love Without Boundaries today. By the time I got home, the pictures were in our inbox!
Drumroll please...here is our sweet 8-month old!
Happy Father's Day to my Dad and Kevin's! We love you and are so grateful for your love and support of us throughout the years. You are not only wonderful fathers, but superb Grandpas and PapPaps. Your grandchildren are blessed to have you and you are adored by them.
Happy Father's Day!
His middle name, Edward, is also completely fitting…especially for Father’s Day. It means “protector of the inheritance” and this is the heart of my sweet, strong husband. He is a protector by nature (he is a police officer, of course, called to serve and protect!). And he certainly wants to protect his inheritance (his family!). The inheritance he seeks to pass on to his children, however, is not one that will tarnish or fade away, but one of eternal value…it is salvation in Jesus and an abiding love for God.
I praise God for him! He is hard-working and deep-loving. He is strong and tender at the same time. He is such a fun daddy and is totally in love with his girls!
I love the age Anna Grace & Ally are at because they love to bless. They’ve made cards, sung songs to Kevin, given kisses, wished “Happy Father’s Day,” and begged to help me make Kevin Blueberry Pie. It is a treat for this mom to watch her husband love being a daddy and being loved in return.
Happy Father’s Day, Kevin!
Here are some pics from our day...note the honorary Father's Day nap!
In case you're really curious or need something to put you to sleep at night...the I-800 Provisional Approval says that USCIS "has provisionally approved your Form I-800, Petition to Classify Convention Adoptee as an Immediate Relative, that you filed on behalf of Ji Han Li, child habitually resident in The People's Republic of China, whom you intend to adopt under the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Hague Adoption Convention)."
It goes on from there for several paragraphs, but I'm sure sleep has taken over already! I hear some of you yawning...really it is exciting for us...I promise! I'm doing a happy dance right now!
My heart’s response to the statement “You are doing a great thing” is “Amen! But not for the reason you think!” You see, I think that when people say this they are expressing that they believe the adoptive parent is committing some benevolent, philanthropic, self-sacrificing feat that is somewhat extraordinary and worthy of praise--one they feel somewhat incapable of committing themselves. And in many ways the principle of adoption is extraordinary (more about this in a minute). But, it seems that many mean it in much the same way that one would respond to someone who rescued a puppy from a well or ran into a burning building to save another. Or perhaps like one who donates some large sum of money to a “worthy” cause. There is so much to this, but when I strip it down to the heart of this adoptive mommy, our adopting Lily is so different than this.
You see Lily is my daughter. Long before she or I were created, the One Who created us, planned all our days. He created me to be the child of Linda & George and the sister of Amy. Through my mother’s womb He placed me in their arms. He knit me together, knowing my future completely. Lily is no different. Long before she or I were created, the One Who created us, planned all our days. Through the womb of another woman, He has placed her in our arms. He created her to be the daughter of Mandy & Kevin and the sister of Aaron, Emma, Anna Grace, and Ally. He knit her together, knowing her future completely.
Several years ago, when Aaron was helicoptered to a hospital some distance from our home due to a life-threatening condition, we got in our car to follow him and be with him. When Aaron flew home from Peru, we went to the airport to pick him up. On the late nights when he closes at Chick-fil-a, we drive to the restaurant and wait for him to take him home. Why? Why do we do this? He is our son.
If one of my children was lost, I would search and search and search ceaselessly to find them. I would leave no stone unturned and would pursue them until they were found.
When my children have been in performances or games, I purchase the clothes they need to participate, I drive them there early and stay late to bring them home. I’ve sat through awful weather and endured various other discomforts (have you ever been to a children’s music recital?).
And you know what? Not once has anyone told me “You’re doing a good thing.” Not once has anyone ever indicated that what I am doing is benevolent, philanthropic, or extraordinary. No. And I know why. It is because this is what is expected of a mom. This is what moms and dads do. That is what it means to be a mom or dad.
So when someone says to me, “You are doing a great thing,” I tend to think, “No, I’m not. I’m doing what any mom would do. I’m going to pick up my child.”
She is my baby. She is my daughter.
She’s always been planned for us, her story is just a little different. But the story of how we picked her up will bring glory to my God. Just like the story of Aaron’s hospitalization brought glory to God.
So, in that respect…it IS a great thing. But not (I believe) because of what we are doing…we are doing what a mom and dad do…but because of how awesome God is and how wonderfully He told us where to find her and how to get her and when we would see her little face and how He is this very minute getting glory from it. Every time I open my mouth or pick up my pen or type on my keyboard about Lily, God gets the glory.
And that is the great thing that I do.
1 Chronicles 16:34-36
34 O give thanks to the LORD, for He is good;
For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
35 Then say, "Save us, O God of our salvation,
And gather us and deliver us from the nations,
To give thanks to Your holy name,
And glory in Your praise."
36 Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel,
From everlasting even to everlasting
Then all the people said, "Amen," and praised the LORD.
Last Wednesday evening, I had been watching a PowerPoint on travel from our adoption agency. It discussed all of this at length. After watching it, I prayed for Kevin. I was praying that the Lord would grant him peace about carrying the cash and to not allow it to rob him of any joy on the travel to China.
God is SOOOOO good (no duh!)! The next day, I had an email from our agency in my inbox saying:
Great News! Your child’s orphanage has agreed to allow us to wire the orphanage child-rearing fee…
Is that not awesome! We did not ask any officials or agencies to do anything, and, honestly, I did not specifically ask the Lord to move mountains so we would be able to wire the fee. I only asked for peace...and God changed the hearts of a government bureaucracy in time for us to wire the fee (and not have to carry as much cash on our persons to China) and to grant my husband some peace.
Once again, exceedingly, abundantly above all I ask or imagine…He is my God!
Dossier…French-sounding word for “mountain of paperwork!” Okay, so that’s not totally true, but take a look at this picture of our dossier and see if you don’t agree! The dossier is, well, a mountain of paperwork that adopting families must compile to prove their ability to adopt and parent a child. It includes things like: birth certificates, marriage certificates, home study (social worker’s several page assessment of your family), financial statements, physical exams, police clearances, pictures, passport copies and a few other papers. All of these things then have to be notarized, certified by the US Secretary of State, and authenticated by the Chinese Embassy or Consulate.
LID (Log in Date)…very important date in China adoption world. It is the date on which your dossier is officially logged into the Chinese adoption system in China. Your paper work is now in line behind everyone else’s paperwork who got there first.
NSN (non-special needs)…term for requesting a child who is known to have no pre-existing health conditions.
SN (Special Needs)…term for requesting a child who is either known to have a diagnosed medical condition or is older. Much of what is considered a “special need” in China, is either not considered to be so in the US or is treatable or surgically correctable.
Waiting Child…same as SN. Lily was a Waiting Child. Her special need is a congenital missing lower left leg.
Referral…a child that one’s agency has requested you consider. Most often this is your child.
Match…sometimes synonymous with referral, however this is your child. Once you accept a referral, you have a Match.
Match Day…the day you accept your child’s file and say she is your child.
LOI (Letter of Intent)…Letter adoptive parents compose promising to care for and love their specific child. For children on the SN list, this letter includes a brief description of your plan to medically care for them.
PA (Pre-approval)… the CCAA’s acknowledgement or confirmation that your Letter of Intent has been received
LOA (Letter of Acceptance)…Letter from China Center for Adoption Affairs (CCAA) responding to the adoptive parents’ LOI that you must sign and overnight back.
I-800…paperwork that “determines the child's eligibility for classification as a Hague Convention adoptee. The petition is filed by the U.S. Citizen prospective adoptive parent to finalize the immigration process of a child who habitually resides in a Convention country.”
Cabled…Immigration info cabled to China.
Article 5…don’t know, but is apparently quite important!
TA (Travel Approval)…This is another BIG one. Issued about 2 weeks prior to travel, it is China’s permission to come during a specified time and pick up your child!
Gotcha Day!...The day you lay hands on your precious child! It is approximately 3-5 days after arriving in China.
So, those are the most important terms in a nutshell. You’ll see over on the side our important dates. Still several to come! But we are getting closer and we know for whom we wait!
First of all, I have always prayed that Lily would be found quickly after she was abandoned (she was left on the doorstep of the orphanage...can't be found much quicker than that!) and that she would be well-fed and well-cared for...that she wouldn't be left languishing in a crib along with several other babies all waiting for one caretaker to get to them.
God (of course!) not only heard and answered these prayers, but He did so abundantly above all I asked or imagined. Below is a link to a newsletter put out by an organization called Love Without Boundaries that operates in China with orphans and orphanages. They do so much work there I couldn't begin to tell it all to you (check out their website: www.lovewithoutboundaries.com). Shortly after receiving our referral (adoption talk for: this is our baby!), I came across a Yahoo group for parents with children either in or formally in the orphanage Lily is in. From that group I learned that the orphanage Lily is in (Shantou City, Guangdong Province) is one with which Love Without Boundaries is highly involved. The more I learn about what LWB is providing the Shantou orphanage, the more blown away by how thoroughly God answered this mom's prayers for her daughter. The link is below. Go to p.2 of the newsletter and read "MinMin's story." This little girl was in the same orphanage Lily is in now receiving the same care! I am so blessed!
So, since arrival at the Shantou Social Welfare Institute, Lily has been provided with quality formula and now cereal through Love Without Boundaries' Nutrition Program! Our little one's chubby cheeks and rolls are an answer to prayer and He used Love Without Boundaries to answer them! What a humbling and amazing answer!
On another day, I will get to tell you more about how LWB and the wonderful volunteers have impacted our family, but for today I will end here.
One last note, LWB maintains a blog that is wonderful for learning more about the special needs orphans in China. Check it out!
Psalm 73:1 Surely God is good...