Sunday, February 28, 2016

Beauty From Ashes

I have been on a journey, a journey which started almost a year ago. In April 2015 I received the monthly newsletter from our agency in email. The email was titled “THE BABIES ARE COMING.”  One little face stood out to me. A baby with red hair! If you know me personally you know I have a special place in my heart for red heads. My husband has auburn hair. So when I saw this sweet face I emailed my agency at once to find out more about this beautiful child. I fell in love instantly when my case worker emailed back with the words “it’s a boy” and “he has albinism and is delayed like your son.”
My heart was beating fast and I knew it would be difficult convincing my husband to get on board with another adoption. We were waiting to travel to adopt a three year old girl with albinism to join our already large family of six! I composed a letter to him which you can read below.

My letter to Chris in April:



To my beloved,
I decided to write everything in my head down because for the last week it has been all I could focus on. I imagine it is somewhat like how you felt when you first felt called to adopt. It was all you could think about but didn’t know where to take it.
Boy, we have sure taken your calling and run with it! I cannot wait for our adventure back to China and our adventure to adopt sweet Sophie. I think she is going to be amazing, but even if our trip is crazy and Sophie hates our guts, God is good all the time.

So back to my heart. Ever since I saw the red haired baby’s picture I couldn’t stop thinking about him/her. When Diana wrote me and said he was a “he” and he was possibly delayed like Isaac I felt more in my heart than if she had told me he was on target.

I know it would be scary financially, but everything else I feel very confident about. We know this baby doesn’t have a chance being a boy, delayed, and in China. Not very many families are moving forward to adopt a boy or a visually impaired, delayed child.

I believe in my heart he is our son. I believe his name is Patrick Louis (for your mom).
I know we can make a difference and can indeed save “one more.”

We don’t have to decide anything now. His file is NOT prepared yet, so we would be able to see how life is with Sophie. We could do an update to our home study when Sara comes at 6 weeks post placement. We could reuse Sophie’s dossier up to a year after her Gotcha date.  

He could stay in the crib in Summer’s room until he was old enough to room with Isaac. We wouldn’t have to repaint because I picked the colors for that room to grow with a boy theme. We’re already going to be at the therapy place a ton because Isaac ages out of EI. and we could just use our insurance for all the therapies at Trish’s clinic. Trish has looked at his video for me and believes he is actually a little better off than Isaac was at that age. He has no flat head, and can lift his head on his stomach and can rotate his trunk. He just needs US!

I believe we were blessed with your job because God has great things planned for us. People already look to what we are doing and God gets the glory In a million years I never thought I could do this but I feel in my heart I can. I feel God transforming me in a way I hadn’t felt before.

I read this last week and I thought it applied here…

The Door God Opens Will Require You to Depend on Him
God is not going to give us something that will alienate us from him or make us believe we no longer need him. He is a God of relationship, and a God who insists upon being first in our lives (Matthew 6:33). Therefore, if you find yourself saying “I can’t do this unless God goes before me,” or “I can do this, but only with God’s help and leading” I would say, in my personal experience, it’s likely something God is calling you to do. Hebrews 11:6says: “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for he who comes to God must believe that he is and that he is a rewarder of those who seek him.” Many times an “open door” from God is one that allows our faith to be stretched and strengthened. That, after all, is God’s objective for us: to grow in faith and Christ-likeness.



You can…
·         Still go hunting as much as before
·         Still ride your motorcycle
I feel confident
·         I could travel alone or with Summer or Leann
·         We could hire someone to help with all the kids for while I am gone
·         I can take care of all these kids!
·         God HAS called us to this.



We do not have to decide about him now. We have time. We can talk to Richard in person about him more. I just want you to pray about him.
I love you with all my heart.

Julie



In June we brought Sophie Grace home from China. She was a hot beautiful mess of energy, temper and genius. She immediately bonded with all of us and learned English in a matter of months. We began moving forward to adopt Patrick, the name I had given our child waiting for us. In July a visiting mission team reported he not only had albinism but mild cerebral palsy. They sent videos and photos and my heartbeat grew even stronger for him. Despite hearing the diagnosis of cerebral palsy we did not waiver in our commitment to him. I learned of the amazing team who had held my child, loved my child and prayed over my child. You can read more about this amazing team below.
TEAM CHENZHOU



On of the Team Chenzhou members with Patrick

By the fall, our agency had not received his paperwork and I began to worry. I knew God had placed this child so strongly on my heart but my mother’s intuition was starting to kick in. I knew something was wrong. In September our agency learned he had been hospitalized for seizures. It took two weeks to learn he had been released and was back in the orphanage. We committed to bringing him home no matter what, but by now we knew our son might be severely delayed or handicapped.

 November brought devastating news. Patrick’s brain had been so severely damaged from the seizures he would not be made available for adoption. We were able to view several videos of him and the changes which had taken place in this sweet boy’s brain. I wanted to hop on a plane and cradle him in my arms. My heart broke in a million pieces. Part of me was angry at myself for being relieved I did not have to care for a severely impaired child.  The only comfort I had was our agency had been promised Patrick would be moved to a better care facility.


At first I wanted to keep going with our adoption process. My heart was empty and we had nearly completed a dossier.  Then everything started to fall apart. We had three little ones less than five years of age, and my husband and I didn’t agree on moving forward. I began dragging him through the paperwork process something which I had never done before with our first three adoptions. Our marriage suffered. One day I was angry and hurt about everything which had happened to my son and I took the crib down which had been in our bedroom. Little by little I started accepting we would not be adopting again.

As the holidays wound down, I began to think of my son again and wondered if he had been moved to a better facility. I also knew his birthday had been estimated to be in January but I had not been told the exact date. It was something I needed to know so I emailed our agency’s representative in China. During our first three adoptions we had built a personal relationship with him and I felt comfortable asking him to inquire about the baby. My heart sank when I received the email Patrick hadn’t been moved and they didn’t know where to send him.  Not wanting to step on any toes I asked our representative how I should proceed. He assured me the orphanage would be very grateful for my help. At first I had no idea what I should do. Then I reached out to a friend I had made during our daughter’s adoption in June. She was a Love without Boundaries volunteer and was able to facilitate his transfer to a care facility.
The plan suddenly became clear. He WAS my son. God used me in His great plan. While it wasn’t MY plan it was HIS, finding out we were able to find a care facility was huge.
My broken heart began to heal. I waited to find out when he would be moved.
Then I got a date, he would be moved on February 29. But…that wasn’t the biggest news. My son would be moving to one of the BEST care facilities in all of China.
Maria’s Big House of Hope.
You can read all about Maria’s Big House of Hope here.


It has all come full circle. I read Mary Beth’s book on the plane during my first trip to China. It haunted me the whole trip. I grieved for Mary Beth and her loss. I rejoiced in what she and Steven were able to accomplish in Maria’s honor. NEVER did I imagine one of MY children would live out their life there.

I hope to travel next summer to visit Beijing and Maria’s Big House of Hope. I don’t know if Patrick will live long enough for me to hold him this side of heaven but I know my mamma’s will did everything I could to help him. The scar is there, but my heart has healed and I praise God for this experience.



The last photo I have of my boy

Thursday, February 25, 2016

She overcame a rough beginning of abandonment to start again SOPHIE UPDATE

Her life began as a 2 day old infant found at the orphanage gate. She was immediately taken into care and for ten months the orphanage was her home. She was one of the lucky ones chosen by Love Without Boundaries to be part of their foster program. Along with another little girl close to her age, a loving grandmother cared for the girls as if they were her own. As Sophie waited for her adoption paperwork to be prepared she grew from an infant to stubborn toddler full of determination and independent will.
When we met Sophie on Family Day she came in confident and full of smiles, calling us Mama and Baba, the Chinese word for Daddy. Very quickly her excitement turned to fear and she began crying.
Later in the evening, while at the hotel she still seemed fearful but began to smile and play. She was fearful of bath time, even throwing up the noodles from dinnertime but she broke out into a huge smile when I produced brand new pajamas from the suitcase.
While in province she behaved like a royal princess. She smiled and went willingly with us. She loved to shop and each day would be excited about new clothes.




Life as an orphan newborn. Her bottle was propped for feeding

Rooms at the orphanage. The door to each room led to the outside. I could only stand and look at the children in the rooms for a brief moment before emotion over took me.

Washing



The first three months home began an interesting adjustment. Coming home after the first two adoptions we battled mostly jet lag and settling into a routine with a baby. This time it was getting to know a feisty three year old girl who spoke little English. I am not sure how we got through the first few months. I will be transparent here and say attachment for me was much more difficult than the first two adoptions. Sophie bonded with me almost immediately after coming home however in my gut it has taken longer to get to a place where I feel like her mother and not just a caregiver or teacher. Perhaps it was her independent will or perhaps it was because she was older? I now have a new appreciation of how much harder older child adoption actually is. They bring their own will to the table!



There were many meltdowns daily

With the help of her siblings and love of her family she over came her fear of furry friends!

Ellie had some jealousy issues in the very beginning but for the most part loved having a new best friend and playmate. While learning English Sophie would mimic anything Ellie would say. It was like a maddening "Ellie echo". I knew how helpful this was for Sophie's language development but at times I wanted to climb the walls!
Slowly, little by little we learned what allowed Sophie to feel secure and what caused her to meltdown.  Along the way we made many mistakes. We began physical and occupational therapy with Sophie at a fantastic clinic thirty minutes away. Along with her therapists we educated ourselves on  how to bests help Sophie regulate her emotions and maximize her high intelligence.


PATIENCE.PATIENCE.PATIENCE



Bath times started as a struggle but now she loves them!
The two of them are constant companions!

In October we celebrated her fourth birthday. I managed to blog a bit about the party and my obsession over making it special for her. I was thrilled when she became interested in Hello Kitty. She seemed to understand all my preparations were leading up to "her party." When party day came she was over the moon over the decorations. A very special reunion took place at her party.
Her foster sister had been adopted just an hour away and the family was able to attend. At first Sophie seemed confused but as the night wore on she took to her familiar role of bossing her "mei mei." The miracle of the two girls remaining close is a very special blessing indeed.

Six months home Sophie began attending Early Childhood Special Education four days a week, and occupational therapy one day a week. After just a few months Sophie "graduated" from physical therapy and we were very pleased with her progress. We plan to push very hard next year for her to be placed in a regular preschool classroom. Sophie is the princess of her class this year and while it is exciting for her to have structure going to school, we feel she will thrive by having more opportunities to share and follow directions in a bigger class.

Christmas was a very exciting time! Sophie was not afraid of Santa Claus one bit. We had a great time with family and friends.


Her personality is still developing as she grows in our family. She is stubborn and strong!

At the point, you are probably wondering why I haven't mentioned her vision. Sophie adapts so wonderfully to her surroundings using the vision she has we don't notice in her day to day life she is impaired. She has great depth perception and can navigate stairs and new environments like a champ!
Despite being legally blind, she can do just about anything a four year old can do. We are amazed by her progress everyday. It will be very important to me for Sophie to learn to read Braille. While she can use her vision well, she still has some nystagmus (eye movement) and needs print made extremely large. In order to reduce eye strain being proficient in Braille will be beneficial. We hope to start her with pre-Braille learning soon.

Watch out if she doesn't get her way! 
We've been a family of seven for eight months. We learn every day about Sophie's personality and what makes her anxious.  Her Chinese language has disappeared and she no longer speaks or understands it. I feel guilty our children do not speak their native language however I try to focus on what we can provide them by ways of their heritage.











As we head into the end of our first year together it has been a crazy, wild ride! I am looking forward to a "normal" summer, free from worry about adoption travels or planning. Sophie still has a lot to teach us!