Monday, November 30, 2009

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Many have asked for a summary of our trip and some recent updates so I’ll do my best to bring you up to speed.

We’ve been home nearly a week and have hit the ground running full steam. Our three oldest children are in school, (Jordan now returning after a three-week absence), and continuing with their normal activities; sports, friends, youth group at church, cheerleading etc. Sheila is taking off work until the first part of December to help with Eden’s adjustment into our family. Much work was waiting for me upon my return. We are so glad to be home and to at least function together as a family. A new sense of what normal looks like for our family should occur soon.

Good, sound sleep has remained most allusive. Eden has done much better with her sleeping the last few nights, but did have some challenges early on, with days and nights being reversed. Last night was the first night I slept more than a few hours. I’m hopeful that we’ll all be on some solid sleep patterns beginning this week.

I guess I should include some statements regarding the conclusion of our trip to China.

The travels back home were arduous, to say the least. There is no easy way to travel across the world in a 30-hour time span with a small child, but we managed as best we could. It ended up that Eden was too big for a bassinet so Sheila made a pallet for her to sleep on the floor. It did the trick. Eden was able to rest some on the plane. There wasn’t much sleep for the rest of us. Our seats on the flight from Shanghai to Chicago were split into two pairs. Jordan was able to eventually worm her way in and sit with Sheila and Eden. It was a long, long flight.

We landed in Chicago an hour early so we had hoped to call my parents to meet us at the airport so that they could see Eden. It was not to be. We proceeded to wait in lines for immigration and customs for nearly three hours. It was a nightmare.

We finally finished our proceedings with customs at around 5:40 pm. Our flight was to leave for St. Louis at 6:00 pm. You had to be there, but it looked like the scene in Home Alone when the family is charging through the airport trying to catch their flight to France. Jordan was in charge of zooming ahead with Eden in a stroller. Sheila and I had as many bags as we could carry. We went through another security check and then ran past an area with some United Airlines employees. We told them that we had only 15 minutes to catch our flight back to St. Louis and still had to take a train to another terminal, go through more security, and then run like the wind to our gate to make the flight. They told us to drop our bags and then would make sure they got to St. Louis. I can’t even tell you why, but I trusted them and dropped our bags. We ran outside, boarded an escalator, ran to a train platform, and waited and waited for a train. That train took across the airport to a domestic terminal. We then dashed through more security as much as one could dash having to place one’s belts, shoes, computer, carry on items, fold a stroller, toothbrush and toothpaste through the security screen; show passports, boarding passes, get screened with the wand, and then have to dump out Eden’s water in her sippy cup, forgetting that it was in there. It was then another mad dash to the gate.

We arrived at the gate at exactly 5:59 pm. Sweat pouring. Heart racing. Completely frazzled. The plane was delayed by 10 minutes. We made it. We wanted to cry. You have no idea just how bad we wanted to get home. God once again made a way.

Sheila, Jordan and I took turns taking mini-showers inside the plane’s mini-bathroom; putting on a fresh change of clothes, washing up and brushing our teeth. It felt wonderful. Within 40 minutes we landed in St. Louis.

As we made our way through St. Louis’ Lambert International Airport, we were greeted by a sea of loving family and friends from church. “Welcome Home” signs were everywhere. Christopher and Micah never looked so good. We hugged and kissed all. Eden was a bit overwhelmed but she did well considering the tidal wave of emotions from everyone.

Our bags never made the plane. Big surprise. No big deal, though. They were on my front porch when I woke the next morning.

Being home was sheer bliss. I can’t describe the flood of emotions we felt over the last many weeks. Somehow being home with Eden and all our children made everything right.

This week things should return to somewhat of a normal routine.

Eden is doing extremely well. Although a bit guarded when meeting people for the first time, she warms up to them very quickly. Eden’s two big brothers, Christopher and Micah have fallen in love with their little sister. Both of the boys have been warm, affectionate and playful with Eden.

Sheila’s sister, Wendee and her three children are still with us. They all flew in from Alaska so that Wendee could care for our boys while we were in China. That, by the way, was a huge, huge help to us, and gave Sheila tremendous peace of mind. One of Sheila’s prayers was that her sister would be able to be near when we got our little girl. When Tom and Wendee and the kids moved to Alaska last year to be missionaries, we thought that they returning home for the adoption were not possible. But God made a way, and through some loving friends and many prayers, Wendee and the kids came to Illinois and have continued to be a source of great help and support.

Eden seems to be right at home with our family. It’s rained buckets since we came home so our outdoor activities have been somewhat limited. However, my wife being the trooper that she is has still made some time for some shopping with Eden. All the girls were able to get their nails done through the kindness of a very dear, friend. Eden loved it. She seems to be quite comfortable with our family and what are now becoming her normal routines.

Eden is slowly picking up a few English words. She is still, based on her spunky spirit, able to get you to do what she wants. I told someone this week that I think we’ll soon enter into a “Chinglish” language, with the hopes of moving more and more toward English in the coming months.

We’re also very thankful to God for Eden’s health. Our pediatrician was pleased with her overall stature and spunkiness. In fact, she was unable to hear any heart murmur whatsoever. So it continues to appear that Eden’s surgery in China was successful. Eden’s height is in middle range. Her weight, however, is quite low on the growth chart. The doctor’s prescription of whole milk and allowing her to eat anything she wants and as much as she wants should do the trick of putting some meat on her bones.

In the coming weeks we’ll take Eden to a pediatric cardiologist and a pediatric dermatologist to double-check things with her heart and to look at the spots and scarring on Eden’s legs, arms and back. We think they may be from mosquitoes or other bugs; not sure, though.

To be continued …

November 13, 2009

I am terribly sorry for what is now a two-week delay to finishing our blog post. I got busy doing something else, came down with a major case of ADD and literally having been running non-stop since we got home.

Again, I’ll do my best to finalize some thoughts.

Family life is wonderful. Although our days and nights seem to be ever so busy, we are thoroughly enjoying life together. Eden continues to thrive. She remains the best eater and sleeper in the family. I realize that all of life has its challenges, and many of those come from the Lord to strengthen and mature us in our faith, but as of now things are quite smooth with our newest daughter and her adjustment into our family. Sheila will remain off work until after Thanksgiving. Until then, she is able to care for Eden throughout each day and enjoying every minute of it.

Normal days include all that involves moving the three older kids through life including school, cheerleading, church activities, friends, ball practice, cooking meals, running errands, caring for the house, and lots of play time with Eden including some lovely walks around our city park.

One most pleasant surprise is just how much Eden has begun to enjoy other people and doing things with our family. She is still a bit hesitant when meeting new people but usually quickly warms up and becomes playful and affectionate with them as well. In fact, once Eden has found a circle of loving friends she’ll usually play musical chairs with them going from one to the other wanting to be hugged and played with. There have been lots of games of peek-a-boo, play times in the backyard, and musical concerts with the help of some spoons, pots and pans. We’ve enjoyed many visits with family members, neighbors, and friends from church over these last many weeks.

Jordan’s cheerleading schedule has kept us all hopping. Eden has been a real trooper. She loves jumping up and down, cheering along with the fans and clapping each down she does something that puts a huge smile on our faces. Plus, she is a lover of all things salty and sweet. Popcorn is her favorite snack at the ballgames.

We’re looking forward to being in Chicago for Thanksgiving to spend time with family and lifelong friends.

We’d like to once again thank all of you who have been such a special part of our adoption journey. We have been blessed through your friendship, prayers, many acts of kindness and love to our family. These last two years have been like a roller coaster, lots of ups and downs. It has, however, been more than worth it. I can say that choosing to adopt this precious little girl has become the best thing that has happened to our family.

Some of asked us if it was difficult to love a child from a different race and culture, to love a child that is not naturally our own. Believe me, those are non-issues. The choice to love is simply that – a choice to love. We’ve loved Eden from the very moment we sensed God’s call to adopt.

Let me close with some thoughts from the beginning of this journey. Some of you may not fully know how the call to adopt entered into my life. Sheila was already fully on board with the idea, as were the children. I was never against adoption. In fact, the opposite is true. I just wasn’t certain that adoption was right for our already “full” family. Sheila asked me to pray about the matter. I did.

One day, while reading the Bible I came across these words spoken at Jesus’ baptism. “At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. As Jesus was coming up out of the water, He saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on Him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased’” (Mark 1:9-11).

As I began to think about the significance of the words spoken by God the Father to Jesus at His baptism these thoughts penetrated my heart: “These are words of identity. These are words of belonging and acceptance. These are words that are shared in families. These are words of unconditional love. These are words of noble pride and solid affirmation.”

Of all the things the Father could have said to Jesus as His Son was thrust into public ministry that would culminate with Him sacrificially giving His life on the cross to forgive the sins of the world the Father reminded Jesus of exactly who He was, who He belonged to, how very much He was loved, and just how proud His Dad was of Him.

God spoke clear to my heart that there was a little girl in the world who at that time didn’t know who she really was in God’s eyes. I was broken over the possibility that a little girl growing up in an orphanage may never discover her true identity in life. I was broken over her not yet knowing a family’s true and unconditional love. I wept at the need for a little girl to hear her daddy say to her, “I love you so much and I’m so proud of you.”

At the most clear moment I’ve had with God’s Spirit speaking into my heart I heard God’s call for me to adopt a little girl. With tears streaming down my cheeks for over an hour I rested in God’s love for me and stated my obedience to adopt a little girl so that she too could know who she is and just how much she is loved by God and her family.

That was it. From that moment on the call to adopt was clear. Sure there have been more challenges than I could count. But the call was clear. Adoption was no longer an option. God had spoken clearly that we were to commit to adopt in choosing to forever love a little girl. That single call has held us firm in this journey despite encountering many obstacles.

I weep now writing these words. I have no concept of picturing our lives without Eden. God has done more for our family than I could ever ask or imagine. Eden has touched our lives with the very hand and blessing of God. And now we have the joy to do what God had spoken to me two years earlier. We tell Eden all the time that she is our little girl. We tell her all of the time just how much she is part of our family. We tell her that we love her over and over again, dozens and dozens of times each day. And we smile and clap with joyful pride as we watch her develop in life.

I am forever grateful to Jesus for blessing our lives with Eden. The journey to bring her home is finally over. The journey to love her and care for her continues each day.

May God bless your lives, and my prayer for many is that God will call you to adopt so that a child can discover the love of God and his/her true identity in Christ. May your lives be forever enriched with God’s love.

We count you all as dear friends and gifts to our family. Thanks again for encouraging us along the way.