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We're bringing our little girl home!!!!! Got news this morning of our Travel Approval, so now we're just waiting on our Consulate Date to be confirmed. (This is when the US finalizes the adoption and processes Grace's visa.) Should know by tomorrow morning but wanted to share the news! Hoping to leave next Wednesday and have Grace in our arms by Monday, April 12th!!!!! We're over the moon!

THANK YOU for all your prayers!!! I fell asleep last night praying for Grace and for our TA to come....today I can't stop thanking God for His faithfulness and love.

I guess pray our CA date will be confirmed...they could always delay it a week which would mean not leaving for 2 more weeks or longer. I don't think that happens often though. More details to come soon!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


An Update

Many of you have told me how you've anxiously been waiting for an update with news of our Travel Approval. Well, sadly we don't have TA today (even though we were supposed to.) But I didn't want to leave ya'll hanging. So here's the latest...

I talked with our agency rep this morning. She said our liason in China was told that TAs are going out this week. That means they could arrive in the mail on Wednesday. Or...they may not be sent out until Friday, which means we wouldn't get them until next Tuesday. The good news is that at least some are going out this week, as the CC@@ has only issued TAs 2 out of the last 7 weeks. And no one knows why. I am discouraged, to say the least.

So what does this mean? Well, our best hope is leaving next Wednesday, April 7th. However, since that schedule will put us in Guangzhou during the most expensive phase of the trade shows, we're not yet sure we'll be able to go then, even if our TA comes in time. We might have to wait until the rates go back down. And that will break my heart. You see, based on everything back in October, we should have been to China and back by now. But we've since had to deal with new US Hague rules put into effect, Chinese New Year, a few paperwork delays at the USCIS, the recent CC@@ slowdown, and the trade shows.

It's also frustrating that, while many families receive frequent updates and pictures of their waiting child, we have nothing new since November. If we'd just had one glitch to deal with, I think I'd be handling all this much better. But instead, I am exasperated, angry, emotional, and stressed. It's been good to vent with other mamas on the China Adopt Talk board, as we all have had moments of craziness and meltdowns together. ;) We're ALL about to lose our marbles.

I know God has perfect timing. I know receiving TA will still be joyous. But this wait is about to do me in. And with the change in travel scheduling, I may now miss some very important events in the lives of close friends. (i.e. the birth of a best friend's baby and her departure days later to the new state they'll be living in.) I have no idea if Grace will still fit in to all the 12 month clothes I have for her. By the time we get home, there's a good chance we won't be able to travel with her to celebrate my grandmother's 92nd birthday. All of these important dates loom before me, and I have to say that it's hard to fight back tears and not question God's plan here.

To top all this off, we learned this past weekend that there is a severe draught in Grace's province. Soldiers have been delivering bottled water because her foster village is in a rural area where they have to draw water from wells. I fear that she could be getting dehydrated, as many foster families will care for their own before the orphans. Will you please join me in praying for her protection? And that our TA would come in enough time for us to leave next week? And one more thing...that we'll somehow be able to find fares and rates that we can afford so we can FINALLY bring our little girl home? (and tears just hit the keyboard)

I am sorry this post is so negative. But ya'll learned long ago that I am transparent and honest on here. Any encouragement, Scripture, prayers, etc. are welcomed. I am trying to focus on the time I have left with Carter while it's just the two of us. And I am fighting to keep my eyes on Christ as we approach Good Friday and Easter Sunday, reminding myself that it isn't about me. It's not even about Grace. It's about Him.

Clinging to the cross,


And They Call This Babyproofing???

Have been meaning to post this for over a month. Our little "engineer" figured out the door locks after just FOUR days.  When Carter first opened the door, all we could do was laugh in shock. We're not sure when he figured it out, but he made it look like it was no big deal. Is it sad that we felt like proud parents? Ha!  On to other babyproofing options...


16 Months Old but Still Thousands of Miles from Our Arms

Sweet Grace,
Today you're 16 months old! It's so hard to believe. Our last update and pictures of you are from 11 months, so I imagine that you're taller now with longer hair. You probably have more teeth. You may be walking steadily by now. I'm sure you've add a few new words to your vocabulary.   

It's also hard to imagine that you don't even know we exist.  Right now, your foster parents are family as you know it.  Though we've been waiting for you to come home for over 5 months, you aren't waiting for anyone. In your mind, you are home.  Pretty soon, your world is going to be shaken upside down, and I know that will be very difficult and emotional. So I want you to know that your daddy, brother and I pray daily for your transition.  And while you don't even know us yet, we love you more than we imagined possible without ever laying eyes on you in person.  Your momma is driving everyone crazy as she anxiously waits for that special notice to jump on a plane to China.  Our bags and suitcases are packed, and we are ready to come pick you up and welcome you into our arms and family.

We initially believed we would be with you by now. I even made you an Easter dress. But some matters are out of our control. Just know that I am fighting every way I can to get to you as soon as possible.  In the meantime, God is with you every second. And the idea that He can look down on you and on us, all in one glance, brings comfort that we are united in ways we can't see.  And our amazing Lord is going to draw us together at just the right moment.  (And sweet child, you'll learn that Mommy writes these things down because she has to remind herself!) 

We love you and pray that we'll reach you before you turn 17 months.  In the meantime, we celebrate your life and look forward to holding you in our arms. 



Some Good Old-Fashioned (Cheap!) Fun

Does anyone remember those little capsules that dissolve in warm water to produce a foam figure? Well I found some farm animal ones for $2 at W@lM@rt the other day. And this is how we spent our afternoon yesterday.  After watching the rooster and horse emerge in form from the capsules, Carter proceeded to spend 30 minutes or so just holding the glass in his lap and staring at them as if he were caring for some baby chicks that had just hatched.  After a while, he just carried the glass with him around the deck.  Who knew such simple tricks could create such long-lasting entertainment value???

Keen on Shoes

I bought  Carter some shoes for the summer yesterday, and he is so excited about his Keens that he HAD to wear them today.  But I made him wear socks since it was so cold this morning. Aren't the color of these so cute? I got some khaki ones too.  He's so funny now that he's developing opinions on what he wears.  He is definitely proud of his new shoes. (So of course I have to document this for his blog book because I know in 15 years he'll care....insert sarcastic tone.)

Oh, and these lyrics have been running through my head all day. So I'm going to put them in yours. :)

Hey, I put some new shoes on,
And suddenly everything is right,
I said, hey, I put some new shoes on and everybody's smiling,
It's so inviting,
Oh, short on money,
But long on time,
Slowly strolling in the sweet sunshine,
And I'm running late,
And I don't need an excuse,
'cause I'm wearing my brand new shoes.


Two Girls, One Journey

Back in October, I fell in love with a 12-year-old girl who was listed with an adoption agency's individual list from China.  By the time I inquired, she was already matched with a family.  But I still think about adopting an older child at some point.  

Several families currently have the opportunity to bring home two kids at once!  If the same circumstances arose as they did for this family, I think we'd have made the same decision in a heartbeat.  Read their post...amazing story! It breaks your heart and warms your heart at the same time.  You might also feel led to help them raise money to bring both girls home.  

P.S. Grab a tissue before you click and read. :)

Baby Sprinkle

On March 7th, my dear friends hosted a Baby Sprinkle to celebrate Grace's adoption, and to help prepare us for her arrival home. We were spoiled with everything from dolls, books, toys, and darling clothes to a gorgeous hand-knit blanket made by my sister-in-law and a precious banner with Grace's name painted by one of my college roommates, Christi. The generosity has been so appreciated, as adoption and travel expenses are taking up most of our budget these days. We really feel like we're ready now!

Brooke designed these precious invitations for the Baby Sprinkle. (You can order all kinds of custom cards, invitations, stationary from her Etsy site. There's a link on her blog.)
Mouth-watering punch...
Strawberry cake....
A wreath complete with stuffed animals and a laughing pig. (who's been hijacked from Grace's room by a curly-headed 2-year-old).
Friends to celebrate with...College roommates to reminisce with...
And family (my mom and sister... I didn't catch a picture with my mother-in-law or sister-in-law) to rejoice with...

I couldn't think of a more fun way to prepare for Virginia Grace's soon-to-be homecoming and to record the celebration to one day show our daughter.

Now, if that Travel Approval would just make its way into our hands this week!!


Just Because...

....he's cute.  But of course, I'm biased. 

Funny how just the smell of play dough can take you back to your childhood. Oh the sweet days of innocence. 


A Beautiful Mess

Sitting at the kitchen table, I hid behind the Rice Chex box so my 13-month-old son would not see the tears streaming down my face. Occasionally, I would poke my head around, singing "Peek a boo!" while he munched away at his cereal on his high chair tray. But the tears welled up too quickly, the sobs became more audible, and the grief within me became so physically crushing that I had to run to the hall bathroom to avoid startling my child.

That was March 18th, 2009. A year ago today (the 16th), I miscarried our twins at 8 weeks. On one hand, I wasn't shell-shocked because it was our fourth miscarriage. I knew all along it was a possibility. On the other hand, I was absolutely devastated. I had wanted twins since I was a child, and being that my husband is a twin, we were both pretty excited. What made our loss so difficult was coming to grips with the unlikelihood of us ever conceiving twins again.

Over the next few months, I prayed. I poured over Scripture. I read and reread emails, cards, and notes from family, friends, and even strangers. But I often pushed back the tears. In fact, after March 18th, I didn't cry much at all. And I thought I was coping. I thought I was allowing God to heal my heart and my womb. I acted strong. Because after all, that's what Christian women do. We have hope. We have redemption. We have a Counselor. We have a Healer. But do you know what I didn't have? Conviction.

In July, I decided I wanted to talk with a Christian counselor. Even though I wasn't preoccupied with our loss, I somehow felt like I hadn't grieved well. The wound still felt fresh. Julie carefully and lovingly revealed my altered view of God. I had good theology, but I didn't believe it. Somewhere along the line, viewing the difficulties I had experienced through my self-created filter, I had changed my beliefs about God.
If God really loved me, He would have performed a miracle and saved the babies. If God was really good, He wouldn't allow me to be faced daily with my shattered dream when a close friend conceived twins. If God was really sovereign, ...
At first, I felt defensive. Of course I believe God is good! I certainly believe God loves me. I never doubt his plans for me. But as I prayed and allowed the Holy Spirit to stir in me, I realized Julie was correct. I asked for eyes to see beyond the grid I had placed before me. And the Lord and I began a months-long journey of rediscovering His unfailing love. For me.

Looking back, the false beliefs just crept in, and I didn't even realize it. But I'll tell you how.

I didn't want to appear as a mess before the the Lord. Much less other people. Especially Christians. I didn't want to acknowledge that I had questions. I believed in His faithfulness and unfailing love because I knew with my head that His word is true. But the belief never traveled to my heart. I didn't engage God. I never asked Him to show me and teach me and work out His truths in my innermost being. Having been a Christian for over 13 years, I thought it would appear weak to wrestle with God. And so I pushed forward with His words on my lips but a soul hurting and unsatisfied.

A local teacher and national author, Fran Sciacca, calls this paradox "godless godliness" and defines it as the appearance of godliness without its power. According to Fran, godless godliness most often rears its ugly head when we're faced with obstacles in life. My experience - case in point.

Here's a more day-to-day illustration of how godless godliness can play out. One of the most agreed upon challenges among stay-at-home moms is achieving a balance of spending time with the kids while also keeping a clean house. On the days when my house is swiffed, organized, and crumb-free, I feel good about myself. But my son receives less of my attention and time. My house looks good. But my relationship with my child has not grown.

We can function similarly in our relationship with the Lord. We can read our Bibles, attend church or bible study, and quote Scripture in conversation, emails, or blog posts. From an outside view, our walks with Christ might look pretty darn good. Like we have it all together. But if we spend too much time on the framework of faith without putting our heart into it, we can go through a whole day "looking good" but completely missing intimacy with God. We pretend all is well but miss out on walking in His power, strength, and joy.

And can I be frank? I believe our Christian culture has put this pressure on us. We only share our struggles when they're in the past. When we can say we've already dealt with them and we're back in a good place. We shrink back in horror when someone confesses a current doubt or shares an ongoing weakness. As I've written before, authentic Christianity isn't covering up our wounds with proverbial band-aids but rather allowing a hurting and unbelieving world to witness the rawness of our pain and the restorative power of a compassionate, loving God. Yes, it's uncomfortable to see someone struggle. But instead of simply feeding them Scripture (which is still helpful and appropriate at the right time), we should encourage one another to take our issues to the Lord and dialogue with Him. Engage Him. There is freedom to wrestle. There is hope that grows from presenting your concerns to God. There is healing in laying your heart bare before the Lord. He sees it all anyway. There is beauty in the mess of digging deep to know the God you love. You don't have to have all the answers. And it's okay to admit you're struggling. Faith is messy.

Jacob wrestled. David questioned. Martha had her priorities wrong. The disciples didn't get it. Even Jesus asked for a reprieve.

Our relationships with the Lord aren't always spotless and perfect. The danger in simply pressing on during trials without engaging the Lord is that unbelief sneaks in. Lies can take root. And the changes are so subtle that you may not even be conscious of them. Take comfort in the fact that you can be totally known, understood, and loved by the Creator of the universe. And He delights so much more in your efforts to hash it out with Him and reach a new level of intimacy than He does in your ability to maintain godly living without His presence and power in your life.

I have been burdened for months to share what I have learned because I don't want others to make the same mistake. Don't convince yourself that going through the motions is the same as being a strong Christian woman. Tackle those fears and doubts head on and allow convictions to take hold. If you feel like your faith is messy, remember that in God's eyes, it's a beautiful mess.

As I stared at our ultrasound pictures earlier, I smiled. Only because I finally fought with the Lord and worked out my unbeliefs do I once again BELIEVE that He is faithful and loving. He has carried me and Scott through the pain and loss, and my renewed convictions have cultivated gratitude and joy in my heart. I finally sorrowed well, with the grace and guidance of an amazing Father. And because of that, I can look back on my pain and feel blessed for it. Sweet friends, embrace faith's messes and know they're worth it.


Breakthrough - Update to Breaking Point post

I've been meaning to write this update to Breaking Point for several weeks, but life has kept us in a whirlwind. Over the last few weeks....
  • We traveled to Kentucky for the funeral of Scott's aunt (Her death was not completely unexpected as she had been sick for a while, but losses are never easy to handle.)
  • Julie (Scott's sister) finally got a GOOD report after 8 surgeries related to her breast cancer. YAY! She was finally cleared to begin chemo and had her 1st treatment this past Wednesday. Three more to go....she is a fighter.
  • Carter had another anaphylactic attack and an emergency trip to the doctor (and this time he vomited 3x in the car...ahh!).
  • I had a catscan and an endoscopy all in one week. Catscan was to check my sinuses after several months of problems. All of the congestion and pressure had been on the right side only, so they were checking for polyps. They're finally looking clear after 3 weeks of antibiotics and steroids...yay! Endoscopy was to check whether I have celiac disease (an auto-immune disease that's been linked to multiple miscarriages). Our fertility specialist had recommended that I be tested months ago, so I decided to get it done before heading to China. The blood test, which is supposed to be 99% accurate, showed me testing positive for 1 out of the 4 antibodies. So instead of a simple "yes" or "no," I got a maybe. This is rare, but I wasn't surprised. I seem to always have ambiguous medical diagnosis. Should find out something tomorrow. If I do indeed have it, I have to cut out all grains, glutens, flour, etc. out of my diet. FOREVER. And yes, I've already made a mental checklist of all the restaurants I'd hit before making the change.
  • My dear friends threw a baby "sprinkle" to honor me and Grace. (This is a new saying...shower the first baby, sprinkle the second. "Squirt" the 3rd? That's my guess.) :)
  • As already posted, we received Article 5!!! Waiting anxiously for the Travel Approval to come.
  • And one of the most important updates, Carter has had a huge breakthrough in his behavior AND his parental preference phase!! (Or so I call it.)
I have seen some major changes in him over the last few weeks. To start, I really believe your prayers made a difference. Immediately following the Breaking Point post, Carter lost some of his aggression and extreme moodiness, and even began showing me attention when Scott was around.

As many of you reminded me, toddlers go through phases. And while I knew Carter's rejection of me was indeed a phase, I wasn't really convinced it would ever end. Over the last few weeks, Carter has wanted me to sit and play more, to bathe him, to read him his bedtime story...even when his daddy has been home. He has been very loving and has been more like his normal self from pre-October 2009. Have I mentioned that he gives the BEST hugs?

Interestingly, Carter also went through a brief attachment phase recently. He began bawling when I dropped him off at Mother's Day Out. He would cling to me and cry hysterically when his beloved babysitter came on bible study night. And even at play group where I wasn't going to leave, he stayed by my side and kept requesting "home." When picking him up from MDO two weeks ago, it melted my heart when he looked at me in the eyes with a big grin and said, "mommy come back!!" I replied as I've told him many times, "Mommy always comes back!" He has stopped crying when I drop him off now, but he continues to happily tell me upon return, "mommy come back."

The sad realization was that, at some point, he must have thought I might not come back to get him. The most common question we get now from people is "when are you leaving for China?" I would bet that Carter has overheard these conversations enough to think that his mom and dad might be leaving, and he never knew when. To a toddler, days, weeks or months have no meaning. They live from mealtime to naptime to playtime without any concept of time. So any occasion when one of us would drop him off, he could have been wondering if that was the last time he'd see us, or at least for awhile. I'm thankful that he believes once again that we always come back to him. Yesterday he said out of the blue, "Mommy got to leave. Mommy al-vays come back."

Another big breakthrough over the last few weeks is that we began seeing a pediatric chiropractor/nutritionist who was recommended by several friends. This doctor is so knowledgeable...I could devote a whole post to what I've learned from her! But for the sake of brevity, I'll just share that she recommended a few changes to Carter's diet. Due to his limited food options resulting from his allergies, he had been eating a lot of Ritz crackers, Rice Krispies cereal, chicken fingers, etc. All these foods have an extremely large amount of high fructose corn syrup in them. This ingredient is often made up partly of mercury and is 5x the daily allowance. So basically Carter could have been taking in 20x the daily allowance, thus causing bursts of energy that transformed into irritation/anxiety/rage etc. (Think about how fidgety, highstrung, and agitated you can become when you've had too much coffee.) She also advised us to take him off as many processed and fortified foods as possible. Fortified foods often involve grains that have been stripped of all nutritional value and then "fortified" with various forms of "fake" vitamin B. Did you know that the base of these vitamin B ingredients is COAL???

I spent a fortune at Whole Foods buying new foods that could work with the doctor's recommendations. And I can say that Carter's behavior has improved tremendously since we began our weekly visits. He still has toddler tantrums and such, but the extreme aggression, rage, scratching/biting, mood swings have pretty much subsided.The doctor even said that Carter's food allergies may get better with the recommendations. (I'll have to explain more in a separate post.) She felt strongly that much of his behavior was due to his body reacting poorly to food, thus causing Carter to feel sick, hyper, etc., depending on what he had eaten.

I've taken so many more of your suggestions and implemented them...journaling Carter's day to find trends, getting amazing wisdom and advice from a child and family therapist, praying over him while he's asleep, the list goes on. I'll probably do another post with some basic findings and tips I've gathered through this process. I know there are many mommies who would love the info!

And finally, I've been reading two books to renew my perspective and encourage me in my role as a mother: A Mother's Heart by Jean Fleming (thank you Joy for reminding me with your post that I had this book on my shelf!), and Parenting by the Book by John Rosemond. There are tons of helpful books out there... some I've read and some are on my shelf waiting to be studied. But God has also been gently reminding me to day by day ask Him for help. I can glean words of wisdom and parenting strategies from books and fellow moms, but He has equipped me to mother Carter, and He knows both me and my son more intricately than any resource possibly could. This revelation has been refreshing as I steadily push forward to grow in the most significant role I will ever have. And while we are very anxious to bring Grace home, I am cherishing the moments when it's just me and my little man. I know I'll look back on these days tenderly.