Friday, August 10, 2012

Feelin the Love

We celebrated Lily's birthday today. Of course, with most abandoned babies, it's hard to really know the exact date they were born unless the biological mom leaves it with a note. The orphanage gave Lily the birthdate of August 12. So we will go with that.

Husband's parents came in from Louisiana today so we decided to party today. Lily chose Chuck E. Cheese's as the party place and we invited all the family to join us.

Lily has only had a couple other parties in her life. The first one she had was at the orphanage almost two years ago when we send her a big cake to share with her friends once we accepted her referral. I have since talked to her about that day, and she definitely had no idea why she was getting that cake. Even if the nannies there had told her that she was going to get a family, she had no clue what a family was. In fact, you might remember me telling you that when we got Lily she didn't even know the difference between male and female.

The second party Lily has had was last year on her birthday when we had her huge birthday party and I made hundreds of cupcakes (which she didn't even eat because she didn't like cupcakes, and still barely does...ironic since we raised a lot of money selling cupcakes)! But last year Lily was still learning about birthdays. Since then, she's had a good year to watch and learn from other kids at parties and this day was different...SHE KNEW WHAT THIS DAY MEANT! AND SHE WAS SO EXCITED!

I have to tell her that moms and dads show they love their kids in lots of different ways. I explain to her that we show little baby Po we love her by kissing her constantly and squeezing her and baby talking and what not. I told her that while we show her love a little bit in that same way, once a kid gets older we can also show love in more ways. Like sending them to a good school, making food for them, telling them what a great job they did. So this morning I told her that another way we were going to show her how much we love her is by making the day really special for her and getting all the family together in honor of her. She got it. Boy did she ever.

"Mom, today I am star? Mom, today I get presents and nobody else? Mom, today I get lots special?"


When I watched this video at home I kept replaying it and replaying it. I watched her every little move, her eyes wander around to make sure she is doing everything right and getting the most out of every moment.

I can remember when I got married. My oldest sister told me that I needed to enjoy every moment and soak it in and quit being an emotional bride to be! I needed a wake up call as I was getting a bit stressed and whiny the night before! The next day I got up and realized the moment I was in and enjoyed every moment. I wasn't all a blur. I was taking in every moment of my wedding day.

That was Lily today. And today I reeeeeally felt like she was my daughter today. Somedays I feel more like she is than others. Although I love her unconditionally everyday, some days are tough and we are both working through things that children who live in an institution for 9 years need to work out.

But tonight as I watch the video and grab photos from it on my iPhone, I really feel a lot of love and compassion and joy and happiness for my Lily Love.

She's doing so good. It's hard. Can you imagine? But she tries endlessly to be like us, her new family. She's learning what families do and what they don't do. She is learning all about this new life in America with a family, even still as she has been with us about a year and a half.

And she's really doing so good.

Because we have so far to go to get Lily to be a healthy whole person, we can sometimes not look at her progress enough. But tonight I am just glowing thinking about all her progress. The girl is a fighter, tough as nails. But deep down, she's beginning to open up her heart and all the institutional Lily is starting to break away to get down to the real Lily who feels and knows love!

The other day Po had to get blood drawn. I didn't want to take Lily with me because I knew she would enjoy it too much, but I had no choice. So as Po is starting the scary process of realizing something not fun is about to happen at the lab, Lily cannot hide her excitement anymore. She has always LOVED to see others in painful situations, and she finds great joy when others hurt themselves. Yes, I know. Not right. But she's learning!

So I used the situation (as I do almost every single situation!) to teach Lily. I asked her if she was getting a spanking from Daddy, and I was in the room laughing at her when she cried, how would she feel. She of course shook her head and I knew she wouldn't like it. So in my therapist/mother kind of way I began to ask more about how she felt, making her absolutely use words to describe it and me not giving her any to agree it.

She finally said, "My heart would be sad."

We have worked a lot on this. It's really hard to teach someone compassion. Go ahead. Try it! And let me know how it worked out for you!!! And because Lily is smarter than a baby, but not as smart as her age, it's a unique situation to try to explain to her what she SHOULD be feeling when she doesn't.

Well, today, Lily's heart was glad. In fact, it may have swelled bigger than ever before in her life today. And yes, it was just a big furry rat and some pizza. But to Lily it was more. To Lily is was the GOOD FEELING OF BEING LOVED!!!!!!!!!

Every day a little better and a little further than before. Life with Lily is never dull or easy. But I've never been more proud to call her mine than I was today. In the video I see a precious little girl. Almost like a normal little girl who is reveling in the moment of being the star, and she's not begging for attention or acting out or breaking boundaries or invading personal space to demand it. She's receiving it knowing fully what it is and that there is always more to come and enough to go around in our family and that she will never lack.

in this moment, she was looking to me, as her mother (sniff sniff) like kids do (sniff sniff) when they look at their mothers for affirmation that they are doing the right thing and likewise, that their mother is watching this moment in their lives with them!

So happy we got Lily!!!!!! Worth it all. Every day. Every moment. To know and feel loved. Powerful!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Morning of surgery! Shriner's is so giving!

Lily's hip marked for surgery! Yes we will take a new hip!

Lily and her Child life Specialist and my dear friend , Ashley

Lily learning how to use her bionic hip

Day 2 Lily feeling better!

Lily's second surgery: old friends, fezzes, and addictions

Lily had her surgery yesterday here in Shreveport LA on her hip. She was born with a condition called coxa vara of her hip. We didn't even know Lily had this condtion until we got her in China. Daniel noticed one of her hips was higher than the other. She also fell down quite often. And her balance has always been poor.

Last year a nice older gentleman approached me while I was waiting to get Lily and Hope's blood drawn for labwork. He asked about our adoption and asked about Hope's mouth. She hadn't yet gotten her cleft lip and palate fixed. I told him we had selected a surgeon in Dallas when he asked about surgery. Then he looked at Lily and asked me if Lily needed a surgery for anything. I explained that she needed two surgeries and one of them we already had scheduled but we were still looking for a surgeon to fix her hip.

Kenneth Seney then proceeded to tell me that Shriner's Hospital could fix her hip and that they have the finest surgeons. I told him that although I was familiar with Shriner's I didn't think we qualified for acceptance. I can still remember when he told me that no one is ever turned away who they can help medically.

For the next year we have be in awe at the fact of getting such great medical care without a cost to us. Such a rare thing. We have good insurance and my husband works really hard, but last year out of pocket expenses for the three surgeries and Lily's dental work was great. Coming to Shriner's and being so well taken care of is a huge relief and blessing!

Lily's Child Life Specialist is my childhood friend Ashley McMillan. I grew up with Ashley and she was one of my best friends in school. Today when I saw her loving on Lily and checking on her I thought how incredible it was that my dear friend was helping me take care of this little girl we got from thousands of miles away. Ashley is one of the few people I know who are actually working in the profession they got their degree in, and who have a passion for it. She has always been filled to the brim with gentlness, goodness, and compassion. She is perfect for her job and she blesses so many people everyday here at Shriner's.

The surgery was done by Dr. Reinhart who is brand new to Shriners. And guess what her specialty and passion is? Hips! Fun! I told Lily that God picked two people who performed her surgeries who both are the best at what they do and love helping kids! God sure loves Lily Love.

I have always noticed Lily's leg was quite shapely for her age. Now I realize it was because of her hip deformity. It poked out further on her right side. One of the femoral neck bones in her hips didn't form correctly in the womb. Dr. Reinhard inserted a plate and pins into her hip to fix the condition. Today Lily had to begin rehab on her hip and had to do exercises and try to hobble around using a walker. She is going home with a Lily-sized walker and a wheelchair. Johnny is gonna love them!!! We may have to take our annual family photo with them as props. Fun!

It looks like we will go home tomorrow! But in the morning I am going to be interviewed by a local news reporter about Lily's story. I share about Lily and adoption every chance I get, especially if someone specifically asks for more information. Daniel and I have always hoped that our story to adopt Lily and Hope would encourage others to as well. Once you are a part of changing someone's eternal destiny and present day circumstances it's addictive!!! You feel the power of changing someone's life through your obedience to God! And that's why you see so many people go back to get another child. And another. Hey there are WORSE addictions, right??? Like eating toilet paper or drinking monster energy drinks or collecting frog figurines.

My priority tomorrow is to track down some Shriner's for a photo op with Lily! Hat's on to Shriners everywhere!!

Friday, June 22, 2012


Lily update

Lily loves to eat. She thinks about food all day long. If I'm cooking she wants to know if I'm cooking breakfast, lunch or dinner. She asks what I'm cooking next. And tomorrow. When she has a full plate at the table she gets nervous if someone gets a second helping. Her eyes frantically move to every plate on the table trying to sum up who has eaten what. She can't stand it! She asks for more. I say Lily we don't ask for more when we have food on our plate. Lily has eaten so much this first year with us I don't know how she fits it in her body! She is still small but her hips and thighs and belly have filled out. She is proud of this! After a year I've finally started cutting her off and now she realizes when she's full and I think she's no longer afraid she will not get fed. I think!

Her superior doctor Alberto Pena, the most famous and best pediatruc anorectal surgeon in the world, asked me a question a when I was there for her follow up. He said, "Do you want me to tell you how to make it easiest for you and her and for her to have the best results with this surgery?" Duh! No, I didn't say that! I said of course but wondered why he would have to ask that question. He went on to tell me that Lily should eat three meals a day from here on, and no snacks. And that she should eat the same foods each time. That we should get her on such a tight schedule that her bowel movements are on time and predictable.

Now that we've been home for almost half a year from the surgery I realize why he asked me this question. Because its extremely hard to do and probably no one does it and then we all call him telling him all the problems we have had with our children because of what and how much they ate.

When I stick to this rule I feel like the mean old stepmom. And Lily thinks of me that way. And others who hear me refuse her a snack or fruit juice probably feel the same way. So when it's gets bad Husband and I always realize we need to go back to the rule! But think about this rule on weekends, while on vacations, while her friends are eating snack at's hard.

All in all I think Lily has recoverd great from her surgery. Her elimination system is not perfect or normal. She does have accidents and it usually happens after eating certain foods although we have not pinpointed them yet. And most certainly it will happen at Silver Dollar City in the middle of the park when I don't have any extra clothes for her! While we were on vacation I had all my kids eating extra fruit and juice to avoid the dreaded vacation constipation of your kids that can ruin your day! I had Lily eating bread, rice, pasta, and bananas! She was not happy about it but the days I took her off that we spent countless trips back and forth to the bathroom on our beach day.

In the beginning of me and Lily I was always worried about what she thought of me. I was often hurt and offended by her actions to me. It consumed my thoughts! It upset me greatly. Husband would always say, "Honey, don't take it personally. Who cares what she thinks! Just blow it off." And now I tell him that he was right about that. He had such a positive and balanced perspective of our adoption of Lily. From the start. And still does. He loved her wholly from day one and loves her more each day. But he realized that the way she was acting and still even does cannot be taken to heart, as she was just trying to survive and figure out her new life and still is.

Now I parent her just like my other kids. When she begs for juice I say, "Tough. Mommy said no." Just like I'd say to my other kids! And when she pouts and glares at me I let it roll off my back and move on. And you know what? It works. She shakes it off and doesn't take it personal either!

I am extremely independent. I raise my kids to do things for themselves. I don't baby them. So with Lily, even though I know she missed out on the babying when she younger, I just feel like it will create a baby out of her. She is strong and fierce. She will be such a go getter in life. So when she scrapes herself, in the beginning she wouldn't even cry or tell us. Now she will tell me every single little things that happens to her even if I cannot even see the scratch! She doesn't whine or cry but she will come up to me and say with a stoic face, "I hurt myself." I acknowledge it and then play it down.

So it's a constant balance and such of giving her extra loving but not creating a spoiled whiny baby out of her. Which she was neither when we got her so it would be a shame for her to become that.

But every day I realize Lily and I have come so far. And we have a good relationship now. I think it will deepen as she is able to comprehend more deep things such as love and feelings.

The greatest dislike/feels-like-torture to Lily in her new life is bedtime. Every day she tells me outloud what day it is (which is always wrong the first three attempts) and asks me if she has to go to bed early. We have the bedtime schedule written on the wall which I always refer to. Bedtime shifts her into a sulken state when everything bad in her life comes to mind....which currently could only be bedtime! On weekends when her bedtime is later she twirls around the house peering out the window realizing the sun has indeed gone down and she is still free! Then she starts her weekend bedtime negotiations/begging to get Phoebe or Johnny to let them sleep with her. Which is directly correspondent with the numbers of times Lily annoyed them or told on them that day.

The first few months after we got her she would wake up three times a night to look around the house to see if anyone was up. I knew she wasn't sleeping well and every time she would open her door I would wake up. So I told her she was no longer allowed to get out of her bed until she saw the hall light on every morning. She complained of how she would need to go to the bathroom which I told her she would just have to hold it. Now she sleeps so soundly (and has never once needed to use the bathroom in the night) that it's like waking up JOHNNY or PHOEBE in the mornings....which is misery.

She just completed K-4. We chose to start her in K-4 instead of K-5 so she could have a particular teacher as her first teacher. And Lily did great! She started with only having about 5 months of hearing English under her belt. And she was able to comprehend everything the other 4 year olds did. She is their size and at their brain capacity. And she loved it!!! So we are not rushing her. It seems like this is the perfect place for Lily. She lost 9 years of her life in China so by starting her in K-4 and letting her grow up slowly it will allow her to relive those years. She deserves it and it will help her adjust and hopefully have a healthier childhood.

She doesn't talk about China. Ever. When I mention it you can tell it makes her uncomfortable. I want her to remember China because it was her life until God stepped in and rescued her. I want her to learn gratefulness for what God and others have done for her. I want her to be able to share her story with others one day for God's glory and the healing of others. But I'm afraid her mind has done its best to eat up all those years and never return to them. Which I know is a survival mechanism.

So she will start K-5 as an 11 year old! And possibly could have braces this school year! Lily is special. She doesn't fit into any box. She is unique. I realize this more and more as I see Po grow and relate "normally" and can possibly even understand situations better than Lily at times. We can't treat her normally because Lily's needs are different than the other kids. We can't treat her too different or she will feel like an outcast. We depend on the Holy Spirit to show us what is right for her in every season. And we know that He has given us the best discernment for her life so it helps us not feel insecure about others' opinions of our parenting her.

We are going to Shreveport to have her second surgery next week at Shriners Hospital. She has a condition called coax Vera in her hip and it will need a special plate and pin inserted in it to fix it. Then we are going to have her tested for human growth hormone deficiency since she is still so short. She's almost 11 and if we can do anything to help her grow before puberty then we want to. Although Lily just might be little. And that's ok too.

I'll post more updates when we get to Shriners next week.

Monday, June 11, 2012

snapshots of Lily's life

Lily's earliest photo in the paper of her hometown. All lost or abandoned children must have their photo posted by law for their parents to claim.

my guess: 4

my guess: 6

My guess: 7

8 and a half, Summer 2010

9, February 2011, the night Lily became ours

9, First night home in America!

9, scared to step on the grass, she didn't know what it was :(

9, Summer 2011

10, First ever school photo, September 2011

10, Lily's first ever teacher, Mrs. Lutherbeck

10, Lily's surgery, October 2011

10, Lily meets Pooh at Disney World

10, Spring 2012

10, Lily meets the ocean for the first time ever! Summer 2012

Artificial Twins: our 10 year old children

June 2011

June 2012

picture time

Mexican Po

Cute Lily

Summer Po

Two of Po's favorites: RaRa (as she calls Robert) and Daddy

Po in her ever versatile sleep sack! We have to put it on her inside out with a shirt over it or she gets out of it and throws it out of the crib and takes off her diaper and wakes up at 3 am covered in pee. Yes, i know...gross!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


When I was little I can remember asking my mom why people say to never talk about religion or politics. As I got older I realized that my personality is such to want to go to those topics first and avoid small talk. I've always wanted to talk about deep things and to get to the heart of matters. Added to religion and politics, I have realized money is another thing people don't want to talk about.

When it comes to adoption, money has to be talked about. After we started the adoption process I started reading adoption blogs, all day every day. First, I was intrigued by how many adoption blogs there were! Second I noticed how many people who adopt fundraise. At first this was an odd thing for me. I can remember one of my sisters asking about this too. In my mind I thought, when I got pregnant I didn't ask anyone for money. So why is this different? As we started the paper pregnancy I quickly realized that the amount of money you need upfront for adoption can be enough to make anyone change their mind about fundraising.

If you wanted to adopt from China right now, the estimated cost is anywhere from $27,000 to $39,000, depending on if one or both parents travel and other factors. In our case, we added Lily to that cost, and we decided to take our entire family plus Adri (to help us with our five kids in a foreign country) to China with us. We wanted the kids to be a part of the entire process, and give them the experience to know where Hope and Lily came from so that they would have more compassion on them to aid in the bonding process. Our adoption of Hope and Lily cost around $60,000. You can go here and see the breakdown of why it costs so much. We didn't have that much money outside of our normal expenses that we already had for a family of five. So we sent out support letters and made cupcakes! The support we got from people was so precious and overwhelming. We had someone prophesy over us that the money would come from unexpected places. And we continually saw people giving us large amounts of money, some people we barely knew, others that we knew it was a huge step of faith to give away so much money. We never got more money than we needed....we always got just enough. God ALWAYS provided. I think in the end, towards that $60,000 we ended up receiving about $25,000 from people supporting us. INCREDIBLE!! Where would we have gotten that money???? I don't know. God provided! And Husband worked crazy hours, many times 18 hours a day, so that we could meet payment deadlines and such.

When we switched to special needs we never thought about escalating costs. Never. God protected our minds from being burdened by the natural and kept us thinking about Hope and Lily's destinies. Our first year home with them included many extra expenses. Last year Hope had 2 surgeries and Lily had 1. Of course we have insurance (about $900 a month for our family) but even still, the costs were great. Many times we were paying for traveling, hotels, meals, and extra x-rays, blood tests, sonograms, and such not covered. We must've made about 10 trips to Dallas for Hope's appointments and a couple to Cincinnati for Lily's surgery. And we spent about $3000 on Lily's teeth last year (we don't have dental insurance because we've always thought it wasn't worth it so if you think otherwise let me know a good plan). But God always provided. And we are grateful for family members who helped us last year with medical costs.

When we were going through the adoption it's hard to talk about finances. You don't want people to think that you are complaining or begging for money or for people to think why did you get yourself into this mess if you couldn't afford it! But since we are out of the process, I wanted to be very vocal about it. For others' sake. One of my passions now for the rest of my life now is orphan care. It's in my being deep!! And one of the greatest lacks I see is financial support for people who are adopting.

In our case, we did not lack support. We had SO many people give and give and give! We feel so grateful and so blessed. But I have heard from countless people who HAVE THE HEART to adopt, that they just cannot afford it. To me, the heart and calling to adopt is the hardest to come by! Money should be easy!

I realize that people already give to the church, to charities, and such. Many people have a child from Compassion International they support monthly. You may give to people like Joyce Meyer whose orphan care is outstanding. You may pay your neighbor's house note every month. But I am suggesting that you consider supporting adoption fundraising monthly. In the church I go to it seems like every few months there is a new family announcing their decision to adopt. Some of you may know Troy and Julie Stafford. They are in the beginning stages of adopting from Ethiopia. They are paying thousands of dollars every time you turn around just to meet deadlines. Others may know Rob and Christy Snellar, who've just announced they are adopting a little American girl next month! Such short notice because God provided this amazing opportunity for them out of the blue. And yet, in the midst of everyone's joy and excitement for them, each night they think about and pray for God to provide over $10,000 that is needed within 2 months!
Some other friends of ours, Caleb and Becca David have adopted two children from Africa. There second adoption mounted to over $50,000 because often times your journey to Ethiopia can be extended due to waiting on court dates and approvals. I know that they couldn't both stay in Ethiopia for that many months so Becca had to buy another flight home and such. Lots of expenses come up that are unplanned. And another friend of ours got to Russia and instead of adopting ONE child, the Lord directed them to TWINS! They were needing thousands of dollars by the next day, and they were in RUSSIA! Adoption is many things. It is life-changing, it is supernatural, it is precious and perfect! Adoption is also very very expensive.

My heart is that the Body of Christ would clear out the foster systems and orphanages of the world. It's possible you know. We heard that if 7% of professing Christians in the world would adopt then there would be NO MORE CHILDREN without moms and dads! No more orphans! SEVEN PERCENT! I don't believe everyone is called to adopt. But I do believe we are all called to orphan care. And a huge and effective way we can be involved is to give. $5.00 or $500.00! Anything!

So many of you reading my blog gave to us. We are so grateful. We could not have done it without you. I can remember coming home from China. A slew of friends were waiting at the airport to meet us!! A bunch of people had given our home an extreme home makeover!!! I know that I've heard it many times before from the pulpit and it sounds like such a cliche I know.....but WHEN YOU GIVE TO HELP CHANGE AN ORPHAN'S LIFE, YOU ARE PART OF THEIR ETERNAL DESTINY!. The people that gave us money and support and prayers for Hope and Lily have a part in their precious story of redemption!!!

So that's my bit about money. Anyone wanna talk politics or religion??

Sunday, April 29, 2012

One small year for mankind. One giant leap for Lily!

Tonight I was trying on Lily's swimsuits from last year. I was amazed at how much she has filled out. We think she was hollow! When we got her last year she was 9 and a half years old and 43 and a half inches tall and I think she weighed about 35 pounds. So she was about the size of a 4 year old. All the clothes I brought to China for her to wear were size 6 and 7. She was much smaller than I remembered. Much. Daniel said the first time he saw her he was in shock how little his 9 year old daughter was! She also seemed out of it that night. We both thought immediately that she was smaller and not as strong in mind that we had hoped and thought.

Now today, as Lily stood there in her size 6-7 bathing suit that she filled out, I squeezed her thighs and thought how much she has grown! She loves to push out her tummy and grab her thighs and show off her "healthyness" because last year we would tell her she had to drink her protein shakes so she would grow and she feels proud of them! So now Lily weighs about 46 pounds and she has grown about 2 inches!

Here's a glimpse of Lily then and now:

Last year she never spoke! I don't think she said two words in the orphanage. And now she is fluent in English and is speaking so well that I am now starting to get picky with her speech to help her advance. I cannot believe how well she has done with her speech!

Last year she HATED cheese, milk, yogurt, etc., so much so that she would sulk and refuse to eat if her taco accidentially had 7 shreds of cheese on it. Now SHE EATS EVERYTHING YOU PUT IN FRONT OF HER EXCEPT RED CABBAGE!

Last year she would sulk and give me mean eyes and act like she didn't like my food but she would say she loved other people's food! Now she helps me cook and at every meal says, "Ma, I looooove you cook!" (Praise GOD!!)

Last year she felt competition with Rob for Daddy's attention and they didn't get along. Today is much better and their relationship is stronger and growing.

Last year she couldn't stand Phoebe even though Phoebe had waited for the day she met her with huge expecations of how much they would love each other! Today is better, and we now realize that the gap is too wide (only 2 years in age but much more in intellect) and that she is much closer to Johnny in mind-age and behavior. Johnny and Lily are close. Johnny is fun and Lily really likes him! She asks to sleep with him on the weekends. Sometimes he says yes and sometimes he makes her sleep on the floor! She doesn't care.

Last year she hated me to blow dry her hair. Now she is able to appreciate she has a mommy fixing her hair in a darling bob with a roll brush every morning or in pony tails to make daddy smile.

Last year she always wanted to go be or live with anyone else who walked through the door who looked fun and gave her attention. Now she is happy here....we think!

Last year she would go up to every grown man or adolescent boy she saw and would outstretch her arms for them to pick her up (and they would) and she would get as close as she could to them and totally invade their personal space! Now she knows she only has one daddy and that is the only man she is supposed to do that too unless Poppa Sol or uncles extend their arms to her first. (This was a biggie. But I have really been working on this one because I want her to learn how to act with males so she doesn't grow up and seek attention from every male she meets. Husband is the perfect father for her too. He really loves her and gives her attention.)

Last year she hoarded strawberries in odd drawers around the house. Now she knows she will get fed every day!

Last year she slept in socks, flannel pajamas, and three blankets in the heat of summer. SHE STILL DOES!

Last year she acted like a Chinese princess and like she had been raised in royalty and had certain preferences and didn't feel like she should have to sit in the back of the car or go to bed earlier than Phoebe. She still does! But getting better. The other day she was complaining about laying down in the grass to take a photo but I don't think she had but a couple of baths a month in her life before us!

Last year she didn't want to share anything she had because she never had anything before. Now she shares with everyone.

Lily has come a long way. She is precious. Every single day I thank God that He gave us Lily and gave Lily to us. I am still so heartbroken that she had to spend 9 and a half years in an orphanage. Although I feel they kept her alive and free from disease, I am not sure of anything else. Her feelings were buried so far down deep without her that we are still working on getting them going.

Last year she would cheer and smile and laugh with joy when strangers or family members hurt themselves. Now she understands that that is not the correct response and she should act like she has compassion.

Compassion is a big one. I guess when no one around you your whole life cares about you or shows you love or nurturing then how on earth are you supposed to care about anyone else? Protective measures kicked in and they kept her alive, but they are so deep and thick that we are just starting to see them weaken. But thanks to our continual love and to her incredible teachers at school (who she probably likes way more than me, but that's ok for now) Lily is seeing and feeling love and she is starting to show love. She has friends now that she cares about and she has started caring about her belongings. One day one of her school papers that is important to her teacher got crumpled by Po and Lily got tears in her eyes. Do you know how many times Lily has cried in the past year???? Maybe 5. And that was when she got seriously in trouble for something and Daddy had to spank her and I believe she cried because it hurt and then because he wraps her up in his arms and the love just oozes out of him and she cannot handle what she is feeling! In fact, after she has gotten a spanking and Daniel loves on her is about the only times in the past year that we can see the walls come down and her eyes change.

Her eyes. They are not black or dark like most Chinese. In fact, she has brown hair too. Not black like most Chinese. I've concluded she is Mongolian. I can call her whatever I like! She's my kid and no one can disprove me! But her eyes are the one thing to me that makes me the saddest. Her body is gaining weight. Her bones are growing and hopefully she will grow to a better height than if we had not gotten her. Her body has muscle now. Before she couldn't walk more than about 10 steps and she would just stop, hold up her arms to Daniel and look at him like, "I'm not going another step so you have no choice but to carry me," which he did...all around China. At first we thought she couldn't walk due to pain from her hip dysplasia. It's like she was AFRAID to walk. She just wouldn't. Now I realize that she probably walked about 5 steps per day her whole life. And that was maybe around her room.

But her eyes, her eyes to me keep all the pain of her life in them. Windows to the soul....and her soul is hurt and injured and sad. Even after a year of wonderful imporovements beyond measure physically, educationally, and emotionally, she still tunes out when you try to talk to her about something of importance. She cannot hold her eyes fixed on you if you are trying to speak deep with her or correct her. She HATES when I correct her behavior or speech. HATES it. I can see in her drifting eyes and gasps. I don't blame her! Never getting her choice or the opportunity to try her whole life. I make her look at me. A lot. It's very uncomfortable to her. I tell her sweet things that are true and deep and eternal. You can tell by her blank eyes that her mind is searching every part of itself trying to find a place where deep meaningful things belong. There was never a place for those things before. That's too risky and painful to open that part of your mind up. And yet, that is the part we will not relent on until we feel that connection has been made.

My love for Lily has always been constant. From the day I met her at her orphanage the year before we adopted her, God made a Lily-shaped place in my heart for her. I have so much compassion and love for her. I still think of that little sad girl in those photos from her past and it tears me up. It makes me mad honestly. Mad that so many children are in orphanages without anyone to touch and love them and meet those needs SO VITAL when they are in those first few years that they may never recover from the neglect. I am thankful for her orphanage for doing all they knew to do. I won't go into all my feelings about that because bottom line is, they kept her alive until we got her. Children are so important because they are HELPLESS. Lily couldn't help the situation she ended up in and she was jsut at the mercy of her care givers. So many children are. And I love Lily as my own. I always have. I would give my life for her. I will give my life's love and energy to raise her and stay close with her forever. And now, Lily is learning to like me. Her teacher says she talks and responds about me as if she really likes me. And I know that the only reason she didn't like me in the beginning was because I was a female and that's all she had ever known in her life and those before me had not showed love and affection to her.

I still need to work on my affection with Lily. I am just not a very affectionate person to begin with. And I've always found it easier to be more affectionate with my boys than Phoebe. I am praying that God will help me in this way because I know Lily needs me to be more affectionate. In the beginning because she was so mean to me then I didn't want to cuddle with her (not that she wanted me to). So now that she is responding to me, I have got to make up for lost time. Honestly for the first 9 months I was trying to figure her out. I thought she was cunning and manipulative and mean. But she was only acitng that way to ME (and Phoebe). But now I don't think she was really that way. Because although I do think she is smart, I don't think she was smart enough to play games with me like I thought she was. I just think we got off to such a dreadful start, and I just needed to be the bigger person and respond as if she was nice to me and like me, but I didn't do that. I took offense and was so hurt by her actions towards me.

Now I don't. I truly, openly, humbly have asked God to help me parent her right, not take offense, and love her regardless since the day we got her in China and she snubbed me. And I do believe He has changed me and helped me. It has not been easy, but it's worth it. And now, Lily and I are in a fantastic place right now. Things are better every single day. I am feeling more and more like she is my daughter forever and I think she really likes having a mother.

I will apologize to her as she reads my blog when she's older that I took offense. And hopefully she will apologize for giving me evil eyes over Husband's back all the time!!! Just kidding. I forgive! I do!!

Im excited about Lily's life. She has done so well in K-4. Her teacher has pushed her and she has even started READING. She will be 11 years old in K-5 next school year but since she looks 5, it shouldn't be a problem. Actually there is nothing about her that is 10 years old right now. Well, maybe her teeth. She might be a Kindergartener with braces! Fun! But Lily is Lily. And the great thing about her NOT CARING about what others think, or really, not even being aware that others DO think about things, is that she doesn't care that she is 10 and in K-4. She's not embarassed of ANYTHING!!!! We try to embarass her sometimes.... "Lily, if you don't brush good your breath will smell bad when you get right in people' faces like you do!" Nothing. It doesn't phase the girl! She's quite the self-confident gal!!

I REALLY REALLY believe in my mind that she was a little hurt, neglected girl who stared at the wall in one room her whole life, never walking, never running (she couldn't), never jumping (she didn't know how, we taught her!), and never going outside (she was AFRAID to walk on the grass in our backyard. REALLY afraid, almost kicking and screaming. And I think that the day we got off that bus at 10 pm that night in Lanzhou and walked into that hotel and I took her in my arms and her face in my hands, that she was reborn. In only the way that God can do. Kinda like a new creation. He makes all things new! And Lily is new. She's learning things quickly, but she had to start from scratch. And so many things Po does to me, I realize Lily is on the same level in many ways. And she needs me to respond to her the same way I respond to Po. She doesn't need to advance quickly in school and grow up fast. She needs to be LITTLE as long as she can. She needs to have everything that loved infants and toddlers get. It's not fair to her that all tha gets skipped. I joked with her after her surgery on her bottom last year when I had to change her diapers that God gave me that opportunity to change her diapers since I missed the first go round! Ok, been there, done that. Moving on.

So I just wanted to try to express for mine and Lily's future remembrance how this year has been and where we are now. I am so thankful for Lily. My little wild, stubborn, independent, self-confident Chinese daughter. Not too unlike her momma and her sisters! God knew I could handle her. And I think I am finally starting to. In the right way!

I wish that everyone would adopt. Adopting Hope (at 14 months) has been so easy and rewarding and fun. Adopting Lily at 9 has been hard, but it is so eternally impacting that it overwhelms me so much I can hardly think about it without seeing spiritual parallels. Because Lily was chosen by us and now her life is full of love and provision. And I cannot get over how God did that for me!!! And I feel like He has showed me so much about His and my relationship through Lily. I really feel like it has helped me love and appreciate God more. He has blessed me and Daniel greatly through Lily. And I wish I could tell everyone to adopt older children but knowing how hard it is, I am not sure many people would knowingly go into that. Many people do, but I would not want to "convince them." But to "take a chance" on little one of the greatest risks anyone could take!

I know there are so many more Lilys that need someone. Where are all the risk takers? Maybe God is calling you to be one?

Friday, April 13, 2012

A letter to a friend...

  The truth is, you could get a baby that has trouble. There is no guarantee that your baby will be "healthy" besides the cleft. However, when u adopt from the non special needs children there is really no guarantee. Also, when u give birth to a child there is no guarantee. 

When we said yes to Lily we thought she was mentally retarded. Her medical records were extremely vague, outdated and terrifying! They said she was deaf and mentally challenged and obstinate. We spoke out loud every possible scenario. I said
-what if she doesn't grow
-what if she doesn't learn
-what if she can't potty by herself
-what if she lives with us forever 
And we had to be able to say yes to all those things. Because there is no guarantee. 

When u deliver a child u would never think of giving it back or leaving it at the hospital if something was wrong with it. It's YOUR baby. Forever. You have to be prepared when u say yes to the referral that that is the moment of delivery. Yours. Forever. No turning back. No matter what. 

The devil woke me up in the middle of the night one night after we accepted Lily and Hope's referrals. He said to me very clearly, "What are you doing adopting them?! They will ruin your life!" I felt a heaviness in the room. It was the spirit of fear. I had to bind it and say I will not listen! I had to remind myself that no matter what they were MINE!!!

When I went to China and saw the children from the orphanage I was overcome with compassion. I no longer secretly hoped I would get a "cute" baby. I forgot how I used to hope for an "easy" special need. I saw about 60 children that needed families!! And I knew that my home, 2800 square feet 4 bedroom home might as well have been a palace! I started calculating if we put bunk beds in every room, 2 sets, then we could fit 12 kids in my kids' bedrooms! I started thinking about how we could forego private schooling and I could homeschool them to afford it. We could move out of the city to some land and have chickens with eggs! My mind was working overtime to rearrange mine and my dear husband's live to rescue these kids!!!

I texted these things to my husband who was thousands of miles away. I can remember hearing about the new iPhone coming out and Husband asking me if I wanted one. I was distraught in my hotel room in China grieving the futures of the unrescued children left when I leave, but it was true, the newest iPhone coming out was THE BIGGEST NEWS IN AMERICA at that moment. Sad. 

It took me going over there myself to have this radical change of mind. But Husband did indeed have this same transformation just from me talking, crying, gasping, and texting a $400 phone bill those 10 days in China. So I know that God can give us that type of heart even if we cannot go over to see them firsthand. 

Pray for that heart. For you. For your husband. That it would overtake you. No longer would you care about your needs. But theirs. 

That is the only way you can guarantee that when you say yes to your referral that you will not look back. You will not doubt. You will choose to lay down your life no matter how easy or hard for this child. No matter what. Forever. 

I hope this helps. Adoption is scary looking at it through human eyes. But when we see it through God's, we see the joy of redemption ahead and it compels us forward!

These children need someone who will step out in faith and say, no matter what, you are mine!

I love you and will pray for you!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Lily likes me.

It's been a wild year since adding Lily and Hope to our family. Hope has required all the usual baby care with additional care due to surgeries. It's been time consuming but easy and fulfilling. She's grown in mind and body and shows no signs of institutionalism that we can see.

Lily has grown so much as well. Though her stature hasn't changed much, her mind has grown immensely. She has done so well in school (is on the k4 level and doing well), is learning to read (thanks to an incredible teacher), and knows the ropes of living in a family in America.

Lily likes me now. I can tell. When I think about last February (2011) and how much she didn't like me, I remember how far she's come. She couldn't stand for me to brush her teeth, wash her hair, and she never smiled at me. She would glare at me meanly while attached to Husband's hip. She would barely eat what I fed her and she certainly wouldn't admit to liking it. I remember one day I made lasagna. She scarfed it up and I could tell she wanted more. Finally she reluctantly asked for more. When I asked her if she liked it she looked at the floor and shook her head no.

Now Lily skips through the kitchen chanting things like, "Mmmm! Mommy cooking!" "Mommy I like-a your food!" "Ma I loooove you cookin!"

Lily doesn't remember when she was mean to me. Her memory seems to be weak. I think her mind has trained itself to forget bad stuff! The mean, carnal side of me wants to say, "oh Lily remember when you were so mean to me?! You should feel really bad about that!!!" And don't think that I don't have to work extremely hard to suppress that side which does show it face sometimes! But I realize that's wrong and it wouldn't do any good because she doesn't remember things in her past well.

I am still not sure Lily loves me or anyone for that matter. How does one learn how to love? Everyday I see Hope treating me like my three biological children did at that age. They know I'm their momma. Thy prefer me because I feed them and rock them and nurture them. I never had to say LOVE ME. They grew in love for me.

I believe Lily is growing in her ability to love. I think abstract things are hard for her. Husband agrees. I have struggled immensely this past year. I have fought to keep my mind sane and pure. I have struggled with laundry and cooking and cleaning. I have forgotten appointments and neglected involvement in my kids' schoolwork. I have felt like a bad friend to my friends. All because my mind is consumed with loving and mothering Lily the way I should. It doesn't come easy like I'm sure I might for other mothers. I have analyzed and read and prayed about it. It's hard to bring a 9 year old child into your family and expect it to be easy. While I feel God's grace on me and while the transition as a whole (and for our kids) has been almost effortless, it's been me who has been hit the hardest and had to work the most. Lily has always liked Husband and Husband has better qualities than me. He is gentle and sensitive and loving. He has been my example and rock through this year.

So this past year has been hard, BUT it's only been ONE year. And I can say that in JUST ONE YEAR look at far Lily and I have come! I don't want to be half a mom or just a nanny to her. I want she and I to connect and love each other deeply and richly. It's what I do in my relationships. Surface doesn't cut it. And I can see that when she looks at me now she likes me. And I like her. A lot. I love her. But I loved her from the start. But now I'm loving her as MY OWN CHILD. That takes time and time is ticking and every tick goes in our favor.

Adoption of an older child isn't easy. But it affects your deepest parts of you! And if you let God rule it (the way I'm trying) then He can make you more like HIM in the process (the way I'm asking and feeling). More of Him, less of me. More supernatural, less natural.

Lily is a precious perfect little girl whose life was miserable and sad and meaningless (in some eyes) before we came along to love her and introduce her to God. Isn't that my story as well? Isn't that all our stories in Christ? Loving Lily is a way I can return my love and gratefulness to God for what's He's done for me. And to see her come around and begin to let me into her heart as it becomes alive is something I
know comes straight from God. I bet God has been smiling down upon me the whole year, even when I was reacting wrongly and crying to Him. Because He knows what's ahead. He knows the ending. And (hopefully) He knows that I'm gonna get it together and be the Amy Renee He created me to be. I want nothing less. For my family, for me, for God.

By the way, I realize my posts on Lily can be not all butterflies and roses, but I have to express my feelings. I don't want to portray an inaccurate story of our adoption, even if it's hard. And I feel like its kind of like when you have a baby... When people see you they can tell that life is good. That your baby is precious and that you love them. But while that is true, you usually don't talk about the fact that you are battling post-pardum depression, haven't slept in months, have wrong feelings towards your dear husband just because he goes to work everyday, and cry because you feel fat. Right girls? So while what everyone sees at school and church is TRUE, adoption has it unspoken challenges. So if you have a friend who's going through adoption remember to be extra forgiving and loving to them!

March Hope