Thursday, October 23, 2014

hurry up and wait

It really was one of those “you might as well laugh as cry” moments.  Because the car service really did show up 35 minutes early.  And we really did forget the stroller and a dozen other items.  Including the video camera, by the way.  Despite our maniacal departure, we arrived at the airport right on schedule. The excitement kicked in, and I was ready to shove all the stress out the window and jump into the moment. 


We checked in and checked our luggage.  Two suitcases were expectedly just a smidge overweight, so we quickly rearranged things into our back-up carry-on.  And then our seven bags were on their way.  Make a note.  That statement will become prophetic.

We stopped at the restrooms and I even treated myself to a book from the bookstore, and he headed to our gate.  Cue the sound of screeching tires.  Delayed.  Indefinitely.  Apparently, someone forgot to replace the oxygen canister on our plane.  Which grounded the plane.  Which meant our tight connection in Atlanta was out the window.  Which meant our fairly tight connection in Seattle was out the window.  Which meant we lost our economy comfort seats for the international flight.  Which meant all those hours of pouring over flight schedules and seat reservations were a complete and total waste of time.  Which meant Mindy and I each had a couple of tear-filled sleep-deprived moments. 

Afraid that we’d miss our international connection all together and REALLY mess up our plans in Hong Kong and Beijing, we begrudgingly re-booked our flights through Detroit and Tokyo.  Just after doing so, our original flight went back up on the board, but by then there was no way for us to make the Atlanta connection.  Our fate was sealed.  Which meant we sat in the Indianapolis airport for nearly SEVEN HOURS.  Except for Caroline, none of us had even made it to bed.  Our pick-up had been scheduled for 4:30 am, and we’d all had a truckload of things to do to prepare for being gone from work and school.  While a nap at home in our beds would have been a lot more cozy, we had no choice but to make the best of it. Mick and Caroline were out cold in a matter of minutes.  I first consoled myself with a breakfast of Nutter Butters and Coke.  

Alex showed off his secret compartment of snacks in his carry-on, which I found in amusing contrast to the pink elephant that had made its way into his bag.  It's been a theme in this journey, and it was continuing to play out that way.

"How do you eat an elephant?"
"One bite at a time."

Finally, we were on our way to Detroit.  I think we all laughed out loud when it was announced that our flight was so short they wouldn’t be serving drinks.  Of course not.  And our last-minute re-booking put us in the back row of the plane.  You know, the noisy seats that don’t recline?  Yeah, those.  I was really in need  of a little caffeine at this point, and I admit that by the time we landed I was more than a little cranky. 

Caroline instantly charmed the pilot, who offered his hat for a photo and gave her a set of wings!

We made a quick expensive McDonald’s run between flights and then settled in for the long haul.  We’d only managed two of six economy comfort seats on this flight, so the kids insisted that Jon and I take them since Jon was spending the majority of his birthday on a plane.  After much convincing, we complied.  Poor kids were crammed in the sardine section, trapped by that breed of people who pick the aisle seats on planes and then never get up.  I hated that the kids were all the way on the other side of the plane, too.  Jon and I checked on them during bathroom breaks and leg stretches. Mick and Caroline made a visit to our seats at one point, and Mick asked to trade.  Is it wrong that I said no?

Even though the shades were drawn for most of the flight, it was light outside until just outside of Tokyo.  It’s so hard to wrap your mind around time jumping ahead a complete twelve hours.  We were served dinner shortly after take-off, then a mid-flight turkey sandwich, followed by breakfast about an hour or so before landing.  At 5:25 pm.  In pitch darkness.  HUH?? 

Narita International, Tokyo, Japan

For real.  I don’t even know what day it is, let alone what time it is.

We paid homage to Japan - too bad we didn’t get a passport stamp – and went through security again to board our flight to Hong Kong.  Their security team was delightfully pleasant.  Because of the delay, Delta gave us six primo seats for this five-hour flight, and we were all happy campers.  I will say the in-flight entertainment is about as good as it gets.  Found a new sit com I liked – which is hard to do these days – and I’m sure I raised a few Japanese eyebrows with my belly laughs.  After twelve hours in the cheap seats, the kids were in heaven. And I was happy because we were all together. 

The Coke has turned out to be surprisingly good!

That five-hour flight really turned our mood around.  Good thing, because we’d already hit the 24-hour mark in our travels.  And, also, because when we giddily made our way to the baggage carousel, we found a luggage bin with our names on it telling us we needed to contact a Delta representative.  Turns out that four of our suitcases didn’t make the transfer in Detroit.

Mindy and I secretly high-fived that our suitcases were not among the missing.  We were assured they would be arriving the next day, just in time to make our flight to Beijing that evening.  Make a note of that, as well.

One of our disappointments in being re-booked was that our arrival time in Hong Kong was three hours later than we’d planned.  It was around midnight by the time we made it to the SkyCity Marriott.  We looked a little rough around the edges to be checking in to such a swanky hotel. That’s the great thing about traveling in Asia.  Most we’d consider staying in are far superior to their American equivalents.  The night manager was good to us.  Gave the boys room 1023 on October 23rd in celebration of Jon’s birthday.  Our adjacent room had an equally magnificent oceanview room.  We were sad to uave to check out the next morning.

We walked into our hotel room at 11: 58 pm, Hong Kong Time, approximately 31.5 hours after leaving our house, and collapsed gratefully, sleeping prone for the first time in over 48 hours.

exit, stage left

Like a script I've been writing in my head for months, years, really, the stage was set in my mind.  The script has gotten a couple of tears and holes and stains on it as it's become familiar and well used.  And in the course of the last 48 hours, it's looked a lot more like recycling material.  Our departure scene? I have to say, my script did not include the car service ringing our doorbell 35 minutes before our scheduled time and with me just stepping out of the shower.  It did not include half a dozen crucial last minute items left behind.  It did not include cancelled flights, late arrivals and missing luggage.  It did not include the crib in pieces with missing parts, the mattress not ordered, and the dust ruffle and quilt still in storage.  It did not include the high chair still in the box or the car seat uninstalled.  

And don’t even get me started on the house.  While not at its complete worst, it definitely is not the shiny picture of a neat house so many post in their pre-trip blog posts.  And there shall be no photo evidence as such.

DUDE. I tried.

We ALL tried.  We really, really tried.  And when it came to “GO” time, the wheels of this venture came flying off and rolling down the street. Look, talk amongst yourselves, if you must.   I’ve said it all before myself, anyway. I can self-deprecate with the best of them.   I am a BIG PICTURE person.  I actually CAN manage the small details and have an eye for them, but if I’m running too many directions at once, I’m a lost cause.  And my left eye has a twitch that won’t stop these days. 
Whilst hurtling across the world in a metal tube, I’ve had the time to put thought into what in the world God is teaching me through all of this.  He must have His reasons for all of this insanity, right?  I mean, overall, we’ve held it together fairly well, but we’ve had a few crash and burn moments that have left me wondering why God has us on this mission – because, clearly, we are not crash qualified.  We aren’t doing this right.  We don’t have it all together yet.  WAIT.  This isn’t how it’s supposed to be! It was supposed to be just right!  Blog worthy!  Scrapbook worthy!  Perfectly planned and executed!

[insert whining and stomping and tears and gnashing of teeth]

Let me share with you how God uses flight delays and long plane rides for His glory.  In this particular instance, in the time it took to travel from one side of the world to the other, He spoke this love letter to my soul.

Dear Cindy,

I love you.  I love your heart.  I love your obedience.  I love your chutzpah when things aren't going quite the way you planned them.  I even love every mistake you’ve ever made and every failure you think is yours. But, dear daughter, here’s the thing.


It’s not about you.

It’s all about Me. 

Stop worrying about the details because I don’t care if you and your family are a well-oiled machine or not. I don’t care if your house is clean.  I don’t care if you put meals in the freezer before you left.  I don’t care if you have matching shirts for Gotcha Day.  I don’t care if you got to sit in your carefully reserved seats on the plane.  I don't care if you had to charge some of the money for your trip.  You can even tell Dave Ramsey I said so.

I don’t care if you left your stroller at home or you didn’t have a book to read on the plane or if you left your Bible at home.  My Word is with you no matter where you go.  And all I really care is that you went.  You threw caution to the wind and followed your heart.  Where I led, you followed.

So now the reward is yours.  You’re here.  Delight in these moments.  Enjoy this time with your family.  Soak up every second of this journey.  Laugh off the things that didn’t go quite right.  And just wait.  Because you know it’s coming in just a few short days. That moment when that sweet baby girl becomes part of your crazy just-as-I-designed-it-to-be family.  That moment when there’s one less.

That moment you know without a doubt you’d do it all again. 

Every struggle.

Every second of the last seven years.


This is absolutely all that matters to Me. 

Say it with Me.  Who cares what everyone else thinks.  Be you.  I have my reasons for why you are the way you are.  Why all of you are who you are.

Trust me.  MY crazy goes WAY back. 

You can’t out-crazy ME.

Now go change a little piece of the world in the name of Jesus.  

Fill in the colors of that big picture you've had.  And don't worry about staying in the lines.
I love you.  Always.


*Peace overflows in my heart and mind as I rest my head tonight.  I'll be back at it tomorrow night with photos and more about our trip here.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

tough mudder

I don’t run.  I don’t like to be dirty.  I really hate to sweat.  I deplore camping.  And I would be the first person on “Survivor”, begging to go home because I cannot live without brushing my teeth. 

Does it surprise you to know I was an Army officer?

Me, too, some days.

I was a 105-pound scared-of-my-own-shadow wimp when I enlisted.  I was an excellent student, but, even with scholarships and financial aid, I was running out of ways to pay for college. A couple of months into my enlistment, I applied for an ROTC scholarship, and the rest is history.  I won't belabor the struggle of becoming much tougher than I was when I started.  The physical strength it took was one thing. 

The mental strength? 

Let's suffice it to say I learned a lot about myself.   

And my faith.

My drill sergeants were straight from Fort Jackson and had never trained females.  My ruck sack literally weighed 38% of my body weight and nearly took me down the first time I put it on.  And let’s not talk about lobbing the grenade, okay?  It was like a scene from Private Benjamin, only not quite as funny. 

Insert photo I must dig for but share at a later date.

By the time it was over, though, I gained ten pounds of muscle and could do more than 40 men’s push-ups in two minutes.   I got that scholarship and paid for my last two years of college.  And I had a shiny bar on my shoulder, to boot.  Pardon the pun.

Would I do it again? Yes.

Would I want to do it again?  NO NO NO NO NO NO NO.

But if I hadn't joined the Army and applied for that scholarship, I wouldn't have met my husband.  And I wouldn't have lived the life I’m living now.  So for that reason, yes, I would do it again.

Now that you know of my physical mettle, it shouldn't surprise you to find out that I have not even an ounce of desire to run a marathon or a 5k or even a half-mile. 

Tough Mudder?  Pass.

But let me tell you something.  This adoption road? 

It’s as muddy as it gets. 

A year ago, I was in Florida, celebrating my 25th anniversary by submitting an application to adopt. The sun was shining.  My heart was soaring.  I had waited over six years to re-apply.  I had persevered through some pretty discouraging days.  Surely, the hardest part of this journey was behind us, right? My plan was to take it easy and enjoy the rest of the race.

Let’s all take a moment for a few chuckles, belly laughs, or just a shake of the head and a little pity over my naïveté.  It’s completely appropriate.

No sooner than the ink was dry on the application check did the already bumpy road begin to deteriorate.  Oh, that evil one uses it all…our financial weaknesses, our relational weaknesses, our spiritual weaknesses.  If I have any witness to bear, it is that the everyday battles wage strong against His plans.

Remember my plan for a smooth little speed walk to the finish line? 

But this story isn't about all the things that went wrong.  It’s about how to keep slogging through the mud, even after a solid face plant.

Taking a leap when can’t see where we’re going to land.

Keeping our eyes on the prize when we’re hanging by our fingernails. 

Reaching for a helping hand when we feel like we can’t make it on our own.

Reminding each other that His ways are better than ours, that His timing is perfect.

You see where I’m going with all of this, right?

Exactly one year later, I fully expected we would be booking plane tickets to China in celebration of our anniversary. 

Actually, I had fully expected we’d be leaving for China on our anniversary this year. 

Honestly?  My plan was to be celebrating our little one HOME on our anniversary.

I mean, really.  We’d busted a move in the last few months.  We’d flashed baby pictures whenever possible.  We'd shown up for an early walk-in for our fingerprints. We’d submitted letters for a medical expedite.  We’d been on the phone and emailing any and every time possible, trying to shave off a few days here and there. 

We had a plan.

But that muddy road. 

And now we’re close to the finish line.  So very close. 

We found out late Tuesday night that our most recent plan to travel next week has been, once again, delayed.  Which means all the arrangements we’ve made to be gone from work and school must be re-arranged. 


Like a big ol’ pot hole full of muddy water we didn’t see coming.  We’ve broken a leg, lost a shoe and landed face first in a puddle. 

It was quoted in the New York Times that a Tough Mudder isn't about winning.  It’s about having a story to tell when it’s over.  

Ah, but it is. 

Oh, we’ll have a story to tell. 

But it’s Jesus for the win. 

Finishing is winning.

Because the orphan is near and dear to the heart of the Father, He will pick us up each and every time, wipe the mud from our eyes and set us back on the trail.  He’ll even carry us to the finish line. 

By His power alone, we will finish this race.  Mary-Kate will come home.  Her heart will be healed in more ways than one.  She will be loved by her family.  And she will know the love of her heavenly Father. 

And by the time it’s over I may even like being a little muddy.

"But these things I plan won't happen right away.

Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches
when the vision will be fulfilled.

If it seems slow, do not despair,
for these things will surely come to pass.

Just be patient! 

They will not be overdue by a single day."

Habakkuk 2:3

*photos are hyper-linked to their original sources
**stay tuned for price tag - part 2

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

price tag - part one

In just a couple of weeks, we should be China bound.  As exhilarating as that sounds after more than seven years of waiting, it also terrifies me.  So many changes headed our way.  Changes I want.  But I’m one of those people that doesn’t really groove change.  So change scares me.  As much as I can’t wait to wrap my arms around this tiny baby girl, I can’t quite wrap my mind around being up close and personal with her heart disease.  If I love her anything like I love Caroline – which I know I will – it scares the daylights out of me to think about all that comes with loving such a sick little baby girl. 

We also STILL have about a bazillion projects that need to be finished before we travel.  Closets.  Deep cleaning.  Painting.  Shopping.  Organizing.  Packing.  Along the lines of giving a mouse a cookie.  Stupid mouse.  Stupid cookie.  And I just want to be D.O.N.E.  Then there’s marching band. We’re hot and heavy into competition season now.  And I am one of those proverbial band moms.  Don’t bother telling me how busy I am, how crazy I am or how I shouldn’t take on so much.  It would be a waste of your time, breath and energy, all precious resources.  I can’t not.  I’ve always tried to be involved in some way in my kids’ lives, to “be there” for their moments.  And marching band is a lifestyle ‘round these parts.  Can I get an amen, village? Those memories are priceless. 

Amidst all of the stuff of life, we’re still working through the process of this adoption.  Dude.  This post-Hague process makes Caroline’s adoption look like a game of Candyland.  Let me teach you a nine-letter word. P-A-P-E-R-W-O-R-K. Like killing forests kinds of paperwork.  And training.  Two rounds.  And fundraising.  For the last five years.  And, as so many like to point out, we’re old, people.  We. are. tired.

Is it worth it?  Is it worth the stress and the heartache and the waiting and the sacrifices and the time and the energy and the money? 

Have you ever had a conversation with Caroline?

Then you already know the answer to that question.

It’s not about any of those things.  It’s not about me. It’s not about Jon.  It’s not even really about our sweet baby, Mary-Kate.  And it’s definitely not about the price tag.

It’s about living this life for the next one.

It’s about being a light in a dark world.

It’s about stepping out on nothing but faith.

And, mostly, it’s about love.

Sure, yes, it's about loving the ones who need families.  Of course, it is. It's the need that requires our action.  But in the end, it becomes about the love we receive in return.  Because when we open our hearts to loving others in ways that require our sacrifice, we are blessed with a love that can only be compared to the love of our Father. 

There’s just nothing like it. 

Nothing on this earth.

No price tag.

And the secret? You don’t even have to adopt to experience it.  You just have to be open to loving others more than you love yourself. You have to be willing to listen to the deepest echoes of your heart and soul.  Because that’s where He speaks to us.

So, yes, we’re older than what the world deems acceptable ages for having a baby.  We already have grown children.  Most people our age are celebrating their emptying nests.  Going on trips.  Buying new furniture.  Adding that deck.

We ARE tired.

We ARE a little stiff in the knees.  And neck.  And back.

We KNOW how old we’ll be when she graduates.

We KNOW adoption is expensive.

And here’s where I’ll share with you that we don’t have this adoption fully paid for.  We have thousands of dollars yet to come up with.  

We’re still walking on faith.

Even with just a couple of weeks till travel.

We may very well go into debt paying for the rest of this adoption. And that’s not even taking into account what medical expenses are down the road.  We’re trusting that He has a plan to pay every penny of that debt. 

We’ve sold tutus and hair bows and children’s clothing and necklaces and t-shirts.  We’ve schlepped our wares to crafts shows in howling cold weather. We’ve had garage sale after garage sale.  We’ve applied for several grants and received a very generous one.  And we still have funds to raise. 

Why is it, after all these years, that we still haven’t fully funded this adoption?  Why is it that others have been able to fully fund their adoptions more quickly and with, seemingly, less effort?

We can’t do this.

Money was a major obstacle to this adoption. And money is just that.  It’s an obstacle we humans let stand in the way of things.  Sometimes, woefully, we let it stand in the way of doing the work of our God.  I’m guilty. I’ve been the one convicted to the depths of my soul to adopt another child, and yet I’ve had many, many moments when I wanted to quit.  To give up. To doubt that He is able.


ONLY God. 

And we cannot do it without Him.

This whole transparency thing, by the way, is not so easy, either.  It’s tough enough to be open about our feelings and emotions.  And then there’s money.  But there’s a purpose.  We are compelled to share our story, and we are grateful to give glory to the One who writes it. 

And we invite you to be part of it.  When you stop to hear or read about Mary-Kate, when you offer up a prayer on her behalf, when you buy something as silly as a tutu or a t-shirt, you become part of her story.  It stops being about the money, and it starts being about your heart.  Our hearts.  Her heart. It starts being about love and living it out for the One who gave us His best gift. 

Get ready.  He’s wrapping up this chapter of the story.  He’s going to move in a big way.  I know it. 

"Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, 
to Him be the glory..."

Ephesians 3:20-21

*In the interest of being transparent, I do want to share what we’ve raised, what we’ve spent and what we have left.  But it doesn’t feel right to put a price tag, so to speak, on this post. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

love makes the world go 'round

And that love is about to catapult us, once again, to the other side of this world!

As I type, we are waiting on the FedEx man to deliver our LOA!!!!

Just one day after being match reviewed, it arrived in Birmingham!

If you're one of those out there bewildered by all the acronyms adoption people like me throw around, just know this.  The LOA (Letter of Acceptance) is THE ONE.  Quite simply, it's the paper that says China has reviewed our mound of paperwork and reviewed our little MK's file and has agreed that, yep, we're a good match.  She's all ours.  WOOHOO!!!

So now we get on a plane and go get her, right?

If only.

Because you know what the world needs more of?  


Now things flip to the US immigration side of things.  We're down to a half dozen hoops to jump through, I think.  But we are very, very close to bringing our baby girl HOME in just a matter of weeks!

Coincidentally, today is the day we were going to launch our t-shirt fundraiser, believe it or not.  We weren't expecting the LOA until next week, so I guess God wanted us to have something to celebrate!  We have two designs to choose from!   The first was designed by none other than Mindy!  And it's so fitting.

ladies slim fit jersey knit v-neck
order one size up for a more relaxed fit
deep heather gray

mens/unisex/kids lightweight slightly fitted tee
asphalt gray for mens; slate gray for kids

Love really does make the world go 'round. 

Love makes the world a little smaller.

And love definitely makes it a whole lot better.

But you know what changes the world?  

Ask my eight-year-old.  

She called a family meeting last weekend.

It's crazy around this home of ours these days.  Early morning wake-ups with school starting and ruining my summer.  Closets have puked everywhere. Laundry is behind because the washer and dryer periodically decide to freak me out by not working properly and make me lose my mind. Projects are in progress and not anywhere close to being finished.  And it's marching band season. Apparently, we'd all been a little too grumpy to each other to suit her liking.  So, in true Caroline form, she set us all straight.  And we all sat there and blinked our eyes at her with conviction.  

Miss Caroline opened up her "Jesus Calling" devotional, read it to us and made her statement.

And hence a shirt was born.

Because she's right.  

She sure changed ours.

mens/unisex lightweight slightly fitted v-neck - black only

ladies slim fit jersey knit v-neck
order one size up for more relaxed fit
choose from red or black

kids lightweight slightly fitted tee
choose from red or black

Visit our shop page on 2000 tutus! to order yours!  
And thanks for being part of our story and helping us bring Mary-Kate home!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

where the heart is - part two

It’s really quite something when we find ourselves in the middle of a God-sized story.  I think sometimes my procrastination in writing stems from my fear of not being able to do the story justice.  So many layers to our experiences and our emotions and our circumstances and how they are artfully woven into His plans.  At any rate, that combined with a burst of crazy in the old schedule and a to-do list long enough to cause adult onset of attention deficit disorder is enough for me to struggle with finding time to properly put this story into words.  Please forgive my delay. 

I left off at the moment I had received an email containing “Daphne’s” file.  I experienced a teensy bit of guilt before clicking to open the PDF.
The thought crossed my mind that perhaps I should wait until Jon got home from his day of meetings in Miami.  Maybe we should look at it together.

I’d bet this is the point where most adoptive moms would be shaking their heads and saying, “OPEN IT, ALREADY.”  So I clicked.  And scanned like a mad woman through detail after detail about this tiny baby girl.

Born early February.  Just a little thing. 

Jilin Province.  Never heard of it.

Right heart enlargement.  Treatment.  Medication. 

More acronyms and abbreviations than the Army uses.

PHOTOS. Sweet. She’s adorable!!

And then there it was. 

As I scanned back over the pages, it caught my eye.

And I knew she was ours.

“…and on February 5, 2013, she was abandoned…”

What might seem like a coincidence to others was nothing less than a neon sign for me.  This baby had been abandoned on the very day of the year that God chose for our sweet Caroline’s beginning in our family.  I know that there are many who have different views of the day they met their adopted children, but so far I know only of my one experience.  For me, for our family and for the families of ten other beloved baby girls, it was such a special beautiful day…one of endings and beginnings and redemption and crying and laughing and sweating and grieving and bonding.  In a way it was like we all linked arms, and it was understood that we were in it together from that moment on.  We were one big family, and we were forever changed.  Because of everything it means to all of us, good and otherwise, it is a day celebrated. 

The paradox of what that day means to us and the realization of what that day meant for this new little one was not lost on me.   Yet I knew it was what tied her to us.  And then the reality of her illness and the “what ifs” started creeping into my mind.

The phone rang, and it was my oldest daughter, checking in before heading home from college for the weekend.

“Hey, Mom.  Whatcha doing?”


“Well, what?  Are you okay?”

“Um.  I’m looking at a photo of the sweetest little baby girl.”

“Yeah.  And?”

By the tone of her voice, she wasn’t impressed.  She knows of my soft spot.  She knew that on occasion a photo on social media would capture my attention and make me wonder if it was “the one”.

“I’m actually looking over a file our agency sent us.”

“YOU’RE WHAT??!!  You got a referral??!!”

“Well, I’m not sure.  I mean…”


So I sent a quick screen shot.   And I told her a bit more about this baby.  She listened intently and then asked me what my hold up was, told me I was crazy for thinking twice and couldn’t wait to hear what her dad said.  Who, by the way, didn’t bat much of an eye before saying yes.  I imagine I looked like the proverbial cat that had swallowed the canary when he walked in the door from the airport.   Not to mention I was absolutely certain his analytical mind would trigger a lengthy discussion, numerous questions and a hefty amount of research before a commitment.  He was, after all, the one most reticent about another adoption.  Instead I got a hug and a “let’s do it.”

And here’s where I admit that I started to lose my mind just a little.  What on earth was wrong with me?   I’d been praying, asking, pleading, pouting, grouching, begging, waiting for this moment for years. 


A vision of what I imagined God had in store for us, the unlikely vision of a tiny baby girl with a broken heart, had been embedded deeply in my heart and soul for years. .  

I was well aware of waiting lists and the reality of the years it can take to receive such a specific request for referral. 


Right in front of me was exactly what God had prepared my heart for, and I was scared silly.  Scared that her heart defect was a little more than our family could handle.  Scared that I would say yes for my own selfish reasons.  Scared that this baby’s file would evaporate into thin air and another family would snatch it up.  

I must have looked at her photo a million times over the next few days.  I started allowing myself to believe she was real.  I fell in love with her eyes and her tiny delicate features.   I realized her heart, broken as it was, was precisely what grafted her into my own.  And I started to embrace my doubts and fears because I knew that was exactly where God would meet me and make this a story worth telling.

From there it was a matter of going through the motions.  Through a dear friend, we were able to share her file with a pediatric cardiologist who answered our questions.  A pediatric cardiologist from Riley, our local yet nationally renowned children’s hospital, who emailed us privately almost immediately. 

I began writing our Letter of Intent and gathering documents to submit. 

In the midst of my writing and gathering, I opened my “Jesus Calling” devotional.  I was a few days behind, so I went back and read from the day we got the call.  I was more than a little blown away by what I read.  Here are some excerpts.

December 5…the day I didn’t know we’d received “the call”.

”Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.”

December 6…the day we received her file.

”Stay ever close to Me, and you will not deviate from the path I have prepared for you.”

December 7…the day I wandered around in a stupor, trying to ignore my fear of wondering if we were doing the right thing.

”I am with you in all that you do. “

December 8…the day I’d read a little too much on the internet about her heart defect.

“Your needs and my riches are a perfect fit.  I designed you to need Me not only for your daily bread but also for fulfillment of deep yearnings.”

December 9…the day we received our initial response from the pediatric cardiologist.

“Be willing to go out on a limb with Me.  If that is where I am leading you, it is the safest place to be.”

As if that weren't enough affirmation, God added a little extra flourish.

I was curled up on my bed, sharing these devotional “coincidences” with my daughter.  She was flipping through my Jesus Calling book as we were chatting.  All of a sudden she stopped. 

“MOM.  Get this.”

She’d looked up the devotions written for “Daphne’s” birthday and Caroline’s birthday.  The first line of each?

“I am with you and for you.”

Another coincidence?  A quick flip through all 365 days revealed that those were the only two entries that began with those exact words.  Not a coincidence in my book.

I wrote our social worker to tell her we were all in.  

Because in that moment I knew without a doubt where my heart was.  It was following the One who called me.  And it was waiting in China.

Monday, May 19, 2014

where the heart is - part one

So here’s where I write about how I had a baby in Wal-Mart and I didn’t even know it.  I mean, I know it wasn’t nearly as dramatic as Natalie Portman’s portrayal, but, for real.  Not only was I not expecting “the call” any time soon, I certainly didn’t anticipate it coming while I was on my first bread and milk run of the winter.  It was December 5th, a Thursday afternoon, and I was, after all, standing in a pre-snowstorm line at Wal-Mart, praying for a speedy exit in order to meet the school bus.  The first snowstorm of the season was upon us, and the frenzy was tangible.  "The call" was pretty much the last thing on my mind.  Little did we all know we’d be bored with the threat of an impending snowpocalypse by the end of this crazy winter.  I was scanning the items in my cart to make sure I hadn’t forgotten anything when I felt my phone vibrate in my pocket.  I glanced to see my Lifeline social worker’s name on the screen.  Considering my circumstances, it took a split second to make the decision to send the call to voice mail. 

“I’ll call her back later.”

If I’m honest, there was a little more to my avoidance of the call than just the ice and snow heading our way.  After years of impatiently waiting to officially start the adoption process again, I was a little dumbfounded by my own lack of initiative.  Maybe it was the time of year. Maybe it was my innate gift of procrastination.  For whatever reason, I’d been sitting on a blank pile of papers since we submitted our application to Lifeline back in October.

That evening I went about my business.  Ran my groceries home, scooped my second grader off the bus and into the car, carpooled kids from after school activities and even took advantage of a lull in the storm to cram in a planned post-season dinner with some of my beloved marching band moms.  Jon was out of town on business, and by the time I got home and tucked kids into bed, that phone call was far beyond my scope of consciousness.  I was all about my flannel pjs and curling up in bed with the pups and my electric blanket.  Despite a two-hour weather delay the next morning, though, the dogs had me up before the crack of dawn.  I swear our labradoodle smelled the flakes falling and woke me up.  Which meant the whole darned bunch of them had to go out, too.   Delilah (the doodle) was having a grand old time romping around the others in the fresh snow and ignored my pleas to come in so I could go back to bed and enjoy a rare day of sleeping in.  As I waited rather impatiently, I clicked the button on the answering machine, mostly to stifle its annoying beep.  I heard the familiar voice of our Lifeline caseworker, and I thought, “Here it comes.  She’s going to politely tell me we need to get it in gear and get going on this adoption thing before we’re ancient.” 

Obviously my head started spinning when that is not at all what she had to say.  I only managed to retain a few words the first time around.

 “I have a file for you…”

“…the sweetest eight month old baby girl…”

“…repaired heart defect…”

“…If I don’t hear from you by the end of the day…”


I’d already blown it??!!  Full panic seized me as I played the message again.  I chased the dogs down in the snow in my slippers and managed to get them into the house.  Now they were excited and raced with me up the stairs to my computer so that I could rip out an excessively apologetic letter to Elyse at Lifeline, with a teeny tiny hope that we still might have a chance to view that file! 

Something to the effect of “TRUST ME.  I will answer your next phone call if it's in the middle of a surgery!!!”

Do I really need to say that going back to sleep was completely out of the question?

Did I mention the fact that my email was sent at 4:11 am, Eastern Standard Time? 

Or that Elyse is on PACIFIC STANDARD TIME?? 

Three HOURS behind our time??

I’m not sure how exactly I passed the next few hours.  With the exception of knowing that I clicked the refresh button on my email at least 7,432 times. 

FINALLY. Exactly six hours and twenty minutes later. What must have been an early morning email check on her end provided sweet relief for the holes being worn in my carpet.  Sweet as in the file was attached. 

My heart went from pounding to stopped.  This was new ground for me.  I’d never had the opportunity to view a file in this circumstance.  Our non-special needs adoption of Caroline was such a starkly different experience.  The match was made in China, and the referral call was the highly anticipated part of the process.  We knew it was coming.  I never doubted for a second Caroline was chosen, not by China, but by God specifically for our family.  When the call came, it was a formality by which we discovered her name, her age, and all the details that came in her file surrounding her existence.  All those details, along with her photos, would be sent by FedEx the following day.  Old school.

"This is your baby, cool?"


"We'll send you a picture. "

Not exactly as simple as all that, but you get the drift.  Admittedly, I was a nervous wreck the first time around.  This time?  How would I possibly know if this was my kid?  I mean, what were the odds that the first file we looked at would be her? What if we made a mistake? What if I didn't know when I looked at her photo? Why would we already get a call to even look at a file when I hadn't made the first effort to start the home study or anything? Should I even be doing this without Jon?

But here it was right in front of me.  And all I had to do was click a button. be continued.

Monday, March 17, 2014

He knows her name.

For the better part of seven years, I carried in my heart the dream of another daughter.  Somewhere in the deepest part of my being, I was convicted of this need to mother another little soul.  There were days this dream of mine seemed just that.  And a few times I nearly gave up on the whole thing.

But God.  Each time I fell on my face, He lifted me up. He reminded me to trust Him.  Along the way, He whispered a name for her.  He broke my heart for hers. He encouraged me to persevere.  Over and over, He asked me to wait.  For years, she existed in my imagination. Occasionally, I doubted if she really existed.  But He knew.

And in His perfect timing, when I least expected it, He revealed the most beautiful reflection of His plan.   All of sudden, this past December, I was clicking a button on my computer to open her file, and there she was.  A little face staring back at me.  I quickly scoured the details of her file, and there it was.  Amidst my doubts that this could finally be happening, God blessed me with the knowledge she was our Mary-Kate, almost instantly.

Those details are an important part of the story, yes, but they can wait.  What I am compelled to marvel in this announcement of her addition to our family is so much the bigger picture, both literally and figuratively.

A few years ago, I shared my thoughts after coming across this photo taken by Mary Beth Chapman during an orphanage visit in the summer of 2007.   I was so captivated by this sweet baby’s face and Mary Beth’s words.  She wrote,

“This little girl sat quietly in her bed.  
The number beside her is 055.  She is a number.”

But He knows her name.  God knows the name of every orphan. And He’s known the name of our delicate little Mary-Kate since before time began.  He formed her heart to be perfectly imperfect, knowing it would be what brought her to us. On February 3, 2013, this baby girl who would be ours was born on the other side of the world.  Abandoned just two days later, she was given a name by an orphanage worker.  More significantly, she became a number, one of millions of orphans.  

I have no explanation for the timing of God’s plans for her or for any other orphan.  I can only trust that what He says is true, that He has a purpose.  He works all things together for that purpose.  For the good of those who love Him.  This little one’s story has been always been a part of ours, and He lovingly chose the day He would share it with us, to finally put a name and a face with the dream I've contemplated for years.  Soon, she will no longer be a number.  She will be given our name as a part of hers and will forever be a part of our family.  And I am forever grateful He’s known all along.

"...rejoice that your names are written in heaven." 

Luke 10:20