Monday, April 18, 2016

Lulu Jane

Along the way, we've decided we would keep our daughter's Chinese name "Lu Lu" as her first name and call her Lulu. Although we don't yet know the meaning of the Chinese characters, which we hope to get in China, the meaning of her name from the baby-naming sources is "Precious Pearl" which is also, interestingly, her birthstone for June. She's used to it, and we love it. So why change? But choosing her middle name seemed a bit more difficult...

On New Year's Eve (yes, we've been unintentionally withholding for a while, lol), we'd gone to bed early, and I had a dream that night about her middle name. I woke up the next morning and remembered it distinctly...Jane.

Out of curiosity, I powered up my laptop and began searching all the popular name sites. And I found this...

"The name Jane is an American baby name. In American the meaning of the name Jane is: Gift from God."

Wow. I mean, who doesn't love that?  Lulu certainly is a gift from God.

Then I went on to seek interpretations from other sites. And I found this Hebrew meaning:

"Yehweh (God) is gracious, Yehweh (God) is merciful."

Oh yes, He is.

I signed off the computer to shower and get dressed for Mass on that first day of the new year--Madi was altar serving that morning. Jimmy had decided to stay back with the boys, so I was able to really pay close attention (those of you with young ones understand that the struggle is real).

And when Father Jay delivered the homily that morning, I heard these words flow from his mouth... 

"God is gracious and merciful."

My ears perked up like a new puppy. Did he just say that? Yep, he did. And I knew it was a sign.

So thank you, oh gracious and merciful Father, for Lulu Jane - our gift from God, our precious pearl. She is your gift, and we will surely treasure her in our family.

Friday, April 15, 2016

New Pathways

If this isn't a testament to how God provides, I don't know what is.

Two days ago, I was feeling the stress of our financial situation and the fundraising crunch. With travel dates confirmed, things were a bit tight, and I sensed the distress in my husband. 

I posted in a China Adoption Group on Facebook asking for any last-minute suggestions for fundraising or acquiring funds in general. I received some great advice, and three different people suggested that I contact an organization I'd never heard of called Pathways for Little Feet. Turns out they give interest-free adoption loans to families in need, and through them, $1.7 million in funding has been given out in over 200 adoption loans resulting in over 300 children who've come home to forever families. Wow.

When I completed my errands that morning, I took a look at the online application and realized that the application was huge. I've applied for eleven grants this time around, so I know what we're dealing with, and I knew that I'd best find out more information before investing much of our precious and dwindling time.

I picked up the phone and called the number. A man named Heath answered--the same Heath who was listed on the website, I presumed. I introduced myself  and from his voice alone, I felt a certain peace. Before I knew it, I was spilling out everything about our last-minute situation and was getting emotional to someone I'd never spoken to before.

This man was amazing, though. He wasn't rattled, and I could immediately detect that he wanted to help. He gently walked me through their criteria (financial requirements, credit scores, and application must be pre-travel), and thankfully we passed the initial test. He told me this, "If you can get me all of your paperwork, scanned and emailed, by tomorrow afternoon, I promise you that we'll put it at the top of the heap, and we'll review it by Thursday. Our time is short, and there are no guarantees, but we'll do our best."

That's all I needed to hear.

I put the pedal to the medal and worked on it diligently all day. And by the end of that night, in three separate emails, I'd finally sent every piece of backup documentation they needed. We'd beaten our deadline by almost a full day.

The next morning, I received an email from Heath confirming that they'd received my emails and asked if we could connect via Facetime that day. I talked to Jimmy and we set up a 1 p.m. Facetime call, which was actually such a blessing because we were forced to test our systems for next week.

When we connected, Heath took time to introduce the team at Pathways for Little Feet and made mention of our record-breaking application turnaround. They asked us about our family and about Lulu. Then he said, "Let's just cut to the chase. We're giving you an interest-free loan today." And I'll bet you can guess what happened next, can't you? We cried. Yes, we cried big old tears of relief that we do not have to worry about funds for the moment. And that is huge. We can pay this loan back on a reasonable payment schedule. It can be used for any adoption-related expenses (even for Lulu's medical needs which are yet to be determined) and they don't even want us to think about making our first payment until July.

Pinch me.

But the best part? The best part was when we all dried our tears, and Heath asked if we could pray together. He led us in prayer for safe travels, for continued financial provision, for Lulu's health and healing, for our children at home, for those who are caring for them in our absence, and for our whole family's transition when we return. It was simply awesome...

This morning, at some point, we will have a check in our hands which will allow us to make our final agency payment just in time. I'm not kidding...we needed to send these funds to our agency prior to travel, which happens to be bright and early Wednesday morning. God surely pulled off a last-minute miracle in the way of provision. And wouldn't you know it was almost exactly the amount we needed. His timing is always perfect, and we're so amazed by his pathways...

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Full Circle

A long time ago, Jimmy and I were childless. We were content, but our lives were focused on many of the wrong things, and we now realize how much we lived in a materialistic bubble.

We were approaching our forties when the Holy Spirit laid out a path of events to a family, to plant seeds within our hearts for children. One of those seeds came by way of my ob-gyn, and after a series of questions about our desire to be parents, she handed me a packet for an adoption agency. It would end up being our first agency that brought us our gem named Madolyn.

Another encounter was with friends of ours. These friends were slightly younger than us, and they had children already. They invited us for dinner, and over casual conversation and after-dinner shots of Limoncello, Jeff asked, "So what's going on with you guys...don't you want to have kids???"  His wife, Julia, gave him a swift kick under the table. But it was okay. We were up to the questions, and we listened to their case about what good parents we'd be. And you know what? We knew they were right. We were beginning to feel like there was more to life than our selfish tendencies and expensive useless possessions. We left the Kadel's house that night feeling even more pulled in the direction of a family.

This same couple, Jeff and Julia, had also been the ones to introduce us to new forms of charity that opened our hearts to children in general. Each Christmas, they gave a small group of us clown costumes to wear, and we visited a children's shelter together to shower these children with love and give them some cheer. Jimmy and I always managed to ruin our clown makeup with tears streaming down our faces.

Time went on and we started adding to our family one by one through adoption. Jeff and Julia had three home-grown boys and started a baseball team for children with disabilities called The Miracle League of Palm Beach County. We remained friends and saw each other as time would allow with our busy lives and schedules.

So, why is any of this relevant? When Jimmy and I started on this most recent adoption journey for Lulu, we were aware that some concessions might have to be made, and we honestly weren't sure if both of us would be able to travel. In fact, I was committed to traveling with a friend, if necessary. During that time, Julia and I had a conversation, and she offered herself up as a travel companion. She felt called by the Holy Spirit to take the journey, and we agreed to pray about it. But as the months passed, I knew I really didn't want to do this journey without Jimmy. He's Daddy, and he needs to be there too. At the same time, we certainly didn't want to deny Julia of the experience if she were willing to come along. And then Jimmy had a brainstorm and suggested that Jeff should come along, too. Afterall, they helped get this beautiful ball rolling twelve years ago. 

We all prayed about it, knowing how important this trip will be and that it's not your typical adventure. It's one that comes with a rollercoaster of emotions and many scheduled appointments. Jeff and Julia attended the travel conference call at our house. They applied for visas, and they had a family meeting with their brave-hearted boys, who all said--unanimously--yes, take the trip. And so they are. Jeff and Julia are literally leaping for Lulu with us.

We are so amazed by God's hand in this. It's come so beautifully full circle, and we pray that they are immeasurably blessed by the experience. We can't wait to see how God opens their already ginormous hearts on the other side of the world.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

A Letter for Lulu

With the lack of updates and photos of Lulu in this process, Jimmy and I made the decision to do something that we haven't done for any of our other adoptions, mostly because we just didn't know about it. Through With an Open Heart, I've connected with a lovely friend who runs an organization called Ladybugs N Love that provides various services for your child(ren) in their orphanage for a very reasonable cost.

On March 16, we sent our request to have a large "adoption celebration" cake sent to Lulu and all of her friends in her orphanage! It's difficult to think about all the children who are left behind, but I hope it brought them joy to celebrate with Lulu. As part of the fee, they always attempt to get photos of your child with the cake, and they include a (translated) letter, too! I was tearing up just thinking about the letter, nevermind writing it, and I wanted to share it here:

(For Dang Lu Lu)
Dear Lu Lu,
We are so excited to adopt you into our family! We have been looking at your pictures and watching you grow for months! I am your new Mama and you have a Daddy and a big sister and two brothers! We all love you, and we promise to protect you and make you feel safe, and we will have so much fun together! We will be there as soon as we can to bring you home. Enjoy your celebration cake with your friends. We love you so much!

(For the Caretakers)
We are very excited to welcome Dang Lu Lu as a member of our family. We hope to be there soon to adopt her.  Lu Lu will have a big sister (10 years old), two big brothers (7 and 6 ½) who are from China, too!  She will be surrounded by many family and friends who love her very much. We look forward to traveling to your beautiful country again to experience the culture which we hope to keep as an important part of Lu Lu’s life. Lu Lu looks like such a happy little girl, and it is obvious that she has been very well loved by all of those who take care of her at the orphanage. The love and affection that you give stays with these children for their entire lives. We will be sure that she knows how fortunate she was to have such wonderful care in her early years. We hope that Lu Lu and her friends enjoy this “Adoption Celebration” cake, and we can’t wait to meet her soon! We will be looking at her pictures every day until we can see her sweet smile in person! Please let us know if there is anything that you need for the orphanage that we can bring while we are there to adopt Dang Lu Lu.

Well, today we received a very nice and welcome AND video! Travel approval is right around the corner, and we can hardly wait to get our hands on our little Lulu!! 

Thursday, March 17, 2016

An update!

Waiting for updates during the adoption process is hard! Many months have gone by without any information about our Lulu. The saving grace is that, in due time, she will be in our arms forever.

I reached out to our agency once again last week asking for them to try again, fully expecting nothing from Lulu's orphanage who hasn't been forthcoming with details. Last week, we finally received a couple of sweet pictures, one of which you can see below. When I showed the picture to Charlie, he said, "I thought Lulu was a girl!" The boys also thought she resembled a Power Ranger. I love their funny minds, and we'll transform her into a little Princess soon enough!

Then, this week, we were nicely surprised with the following update about our daughter: 

"Now she is almost 6 years old. She is suffering from left body hemiplegia and left strephenopodia.  She has receiving rehabilitation training since 2015. After one year's rehabilitation training, her grasping capability has improved very much. Now her balance capacity is not good when she is walking. She is a lovely, optimistic girl. Now she is healthy and seldom get sick. She is receiving cognitive training during recently and she knows many colors and animals. Each time when she is receiving rehabilitative training, she always participates actively. She is an excellent child."

Most of these updates fill our hearts with joy...Lulu's receiving therapy! That is huge, and until last year it wasn't happening. We are thankful to know she's getting help and that it's working for her! We also loved reading that she "actively participates" in the process. Sweet. And she's healthy! Our little lady seldom gets sick. Blessing.

The other obvious *LOVES* of this update--they've described our daughter with words of "lovely," and "optimistic" and referred to her as an excellent child. As a friend said--of course she is...she's a Murphy!

I have to be totally transparent here. There is a bit of fear involved with an unknown medical condition we've never parented before. I am so thankful for the Facebook groups in our adoption community which provide so much support and encouragement, as well as friends who've walked this path before us. We know, from early videos, that Lulu's walked with a bit of a gait as a result of her hemiplegia (we suspect this is actually contracture but is recorded as clubbed foot on her medical record) but this update left us wondering if maybe it's gotten worse. We can only pray that her condition can be improved with medical intervention and therapy once we get her home. Will you please pray with us? It's so hard to wonder, but our God is bigger, and He somehow takes that fear and replaces it with fresh HOPE each day--hope for her healing, and hope for a future of love and joy.

So today we celebrate the wonderful gift of this update, and we rest in trusting our Heavenly Father with Lulu's life. That is all we need. We'll be there soon, beautiful girl!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Soccer time!

Last fall, Charlie signed up to play soccer. He was all in. But his brother?  Not so much.  You see, Joseph has an internal need to be an observer for a while in most situations. He was perfectly content to sit on the sidelines and try to figure it all out. For a child whose short life has been out of control in many ways, he desires to do things in his time once he's had a chance to digest it all.

Throughout the season, we prompted Joseph to play, too, but his answer was consistently--and resoundingly--"No."  And we were fine with that. But we still nudged him from time to time.

At the last game of the season, I had a conversation with the team organizer and asked if I could sign the boys up on the same team for the spring season, and he gave us the green light. When I informed the boys that they could play soccer together, Joey's whole demeanor changed. We saw a smile on his face for the first time that "soccer" and "Joey" were used in the same sentence. 

Finding shoes for his special little feet was a feat in itself. I ended up finding some wide cleats online and allowed him to choose the color, in hopes that his enthusiasm would stick around. When the shoes arrived, he excitedly tried them on and insisted that he loved them and that he would wear them. Check.

We continued to build up the excitement for him, until it was finally time for their first practice. Out came the shin guards, the socks, the cleats--and out came the meltdown. And I mean meltdown. He kicked. He screamed. He went rigid as a board, and he wailed that he didn't want to play soccer. Our son was totally consumed by panic. It was brutal--the shoes were suddenly "too tight" and I was accused of "forcing him to play soccer." I knew what was behind all of his irrational behavior--it was fear. Fear of something new, fear of major change--the deepest, most traumatic experiences in his life were surfacing, all in the name of soccer.

Thankfully, I'd been praying for extra grace that week, so instead of reacting with anger at the situation, I managed to pause, breathe, and find my grace place.  I told him it was okay to take the shoes off and that we'd bring everything to the field. It worked. We packed everything in a bag and raced out the door. He was still crying in the car but managed to calm down as we neared the field. I was still sweating, of course.

I approached the coach and asked if it would be okay for Joey to wear his sneakers for the first practice. Thank God, he said yes. And then this happened...

He was amazing! The boys had so much fun. Joey--in typical stride--paid such close attention and followed every instruction. Yes, this mom was in tears as I soaked in those special moments, especially given the rough start of the evening. Joseph had come so far, and he was so proud of himself!

So, one might think it would be smooth sailing after that, right? Nope. Practice night two brought the ugly trauma right back into place. Another meltdown ensued, and this time Joseph screamed a few not-so-nice words at his mama. I knew it was stress talking, and not him, so I let it go. We finally convinced him (and might have bribed him with a sucker) to wear the cleats to the field, which he did. And once he got out there to play, he was golden. Phew.

Fast forward to today. It was the boys' first game. I worried a bit, but we'd sufficiently prepped them through the week, and Joey actually seemed excited for his first game. When time came to get dressed, he still complained about his tight shoes, but we were able to get them on his feet and keep them on with some coaxing and promises that they would loosen up. We got to the field and he was happy to choose jersey number 7. Charlie picked number 5.

Their first soccer game was awesome! Joey came really close to scoring a couple of goals and learned a few things about goal-tending. He was a bit tentative in the offensive position but that will change in time once he's more comfortable and realizes it's okay to kick the ball more than once. 

The important part is that he LOVED it, and I think we're over the hump (fingers crossed...)  And Charlie? He's just the best, as usual. We are so proud of our boys. They rock!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

A Piece of the Journey

We can't thank everyone enough for the outpouring of support we have received to bring Lulu home. 

As travel draws near, in mid-April, we are facing the final fees to both our agency and the government. One fee that we would love to get help with is the donation for Lulu's orphanage. This donation will help the children that she's grown up with to get the care and supplies they need to grow while they remain in the orphanage. Things like blankets and toys--things ALL children should have. Some of these children may never, sadly, know the love of a family. They will spend their entire childhood in this orphanage. And at the age of 13, they will be sent out on the streets.

Could you please help us raise the money for that $5,800 orphanage donation? This money will go directly to Lulu's orphanage. We are selling puzzle pieces for $10 each. If your family would like to purchase a piece (or more!) we will write your name on the back of the piece. Once the puzzle is put together we will frame it for Lulu as a keepsake to know how our community at large rallied to bring her home. We want her to know everyone who loved her, and left a lasting mark on her orphanage in China.

Please make your donations on our YouCaring page or please contact me if you wish to donate in a different way. Thank you for being a piece of our journey to Lulu. You'll never know how much it means to us.