With us

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The fall art projects have transitioned into a month worth of Christmas.  Not really sure where the weeks have gone, but I must say I am proud of my little artists who have turned out some fun projects and learned about Christmas as we went.  Evergreen trees, ornaments, Santa and stockings then by the end of the month we got to the heart of Christmas. They took it all in asking great questions.

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I was so blessed by our Christmas classes I didn’t think it could get any better. But it did.

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After talking about our Christmas tree and making cookies I had the idea of bringing a class to our home to experience Christmas at another level. So on a whim, I asked permission to bring my class home with me. I wasn’t really expecting to be allowed so when the permission was granted I was surprised and thrilled.

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My Thursday class got to know me on a whole new level and I them. There is something about a home visit that brings you closer. Each of the kids took photos in front of our Christmas tree, they frosted sugar cookies and exclaimed over their sweetness. I made pizza for them and we played games. But my favorite part was having them sitting around the living room watching Tom and Jerry with my four kids. For a few hours we were one big happy family.

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It was the first time Little Monkey and Little Man had met my students. I wasn’t expecting their surprise over the wheel chairs filling our living room. Little Man asked, “Why do they have legs that don’t work?” His question shouldn’t have caught me off guard. Makes sense in his four year old brain. He is missing a leg so of course he needs help to walk, but all legs should work!

I explained people are all different and some people are born with working legs, some with legs that don’t work and some are born without legs.

I expected a follow-up conversation about special needs, but as always he was many steps ahead of me.

“Mom,” he said, “those boys need to be adopted. You know. You and Dad adopted me and then got me a leg so I could walk. A mom and dad is what they need.”

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The idea of taking my students back to the Children’s home was hard at first. We handed them a small gift at the end of our time. They were thrilled but I felt that it was a cruel consolation prize. The words of my sweet four year old were resounding in my heart.

I love my son for having such confidence in his parents, but as I processed the afternoon I was drawn to the fact that parents wouldn’t meet all the needs of these kiddos just as I can’t meet all of Little Man’s needs.  Although all children need and deserve parents, the answer is in the heart of Christmas.  Immanuel.  G- with us.  He heals.  He provides.  He is.

Once again my sweet kiddos and students teach me, taking me deeper into the heart of Christmas.  As I took the kids back to the Children’s Home I did it with peace knowing Immanuel is with them.

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Four whole years

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I have been feeling like tomorrow is a big day for us, but I was hesitant to say anything to our girl.  Maybe it is just me.

But my doubts were put to rest as Little Monkey slipped her hand in mine while walking back from the market.  “It’s been four years, right?”  she asked me abruptly.   It took me a beat to catch on to what she was referring to, but then I realized. She had been watching the calendar and processing along with me.  As I nodded she said, “You know for four whole years you have stuck with me.  Now we have been together longer than we have been a part.”

It took my breath away to hear her say those words out loud.

It is a big deal.

 

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Crazy how life can change so much in four years.  Healing has taken place, love has grown, and now it is hard to remember life without our Little Monkey.  Maybe that is why four years seems like a big deal.  We now remember more togetherness than we remember apartness.  There are more memories as a family and pre-family memories (for good or bad) have dimmed.

I will never forget meeting our daughter for the first time.  She was scared to death of us; we were the first white people she had ever seen and she later told us she thought we glowed!  Such a brave almost four year old who was led into her new life that day.  I don’t remember her tears, but I will never forget how she stared straight forward with a determined look on her grim little face.  She looked so much older than her years.

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I thought again today how she seems older than her years.  I promised her brownies to celebrate the day we became a family.  She smiled and said, “Family is the best present of all.”

This marks four years from a birth….the birth of our family as it is now.  That is the gift we are celebrating tomorrow.  Without her, without adoption, we wouldn’t know the depths of love and what family really can be.

 

 

Fallen off the edge of the earth?

Since I haven’t posted in weeks, I am sure you assume I have fallen off of the edge of the earth.  Nope.  Just traveled around it and we are now heading back again!

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At the beginning of July we flew to the States with the main goal of getting Little Man a new prosthetic leg made.  (Totally need to blog about that process, but we will save that for another time.)   He now is proudly cruising on new toes!  Mission accomplished, but that isn’t the whole story.  The side benefits of needing to come stateside for medical reasons – well they were numerous, to numerous to list, but I might give you a few of the highlights.

  1. Little Monkey got to see the Great Wall for the first time on our way out of the country.  She had mentioned the grievance that the Chinese members of our family had not seen the Great Wall.  A day hiking the wall was our remedy and it was all she had hoped for and then some.

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2. Hang’n with the grandparents was a highlight for all of us.  Being spoiled with favorite foods, riding four-wheelers, tagging along “helping” and chattering non-stop makes for some great summer memories!

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3. The beach.  Nothing else needs to be said.  No photo needed since I was in a bathing suit! 😉

4. Connecting with friends.  I can’t tell you how many times I was in tears this summer over the joy of friendship.  You can’t beat good friends who support you, love you and pray over you.  We are blessed.  Here are two examples – great friends I was in Bible study with 10 years ago!  The sweet fellowship continues.

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5.Simpson Park Camp meeting was a time of peace and renewal for me.  The few days we camped there were filled with such sweet times.  Love that place.  Every furlough should include some time soaking in the goodness of a campmeeting!

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6. I met my new niece!  The one weekend we were around and this sweet, obedient, little one arrived as if on cue! Okay, her mom might not say that, but her Aunt was thrilled by her delay!   Thank you for coming into the world just in time for us to welcome you, precious!

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7. Making it to the Hurley family reunion.  It was so fun to see cousins that I hadn’t seen in years and years and then to watch as our children became friends.  Priceless.

8. Worm guts, blue gill and gnats usually wouldn’t make any highlights list, but enjoying the great outdoors in the country – well I needed that!  I am ready now to go back to our city life after soaking in some country.

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Thinking I should make this a good top ten list, but then who can stop at ten?  It has been a great summer, but we are now ready to return.  Looking forward to a new season.

Going out

Butterflies in my stomach…I have had them ever since I was called in for a meeting at the orphanage.  Children’s Day (like Mother’s Day or Father’s Day in the States) was quickly approaching and they asked me to help make it special for the kids.  It was the first time they asked me for help.  Usually it is the other way around….I offer help and see if they approve it or even want it.  This was a huge deal for them to approach me and I was excited, but really nervous wanting to do well.

We planned two events for kids this past week with the help of some international students who are visiting Hubby’s university.  Couldn’t have done it without these students who served and loved well!  They blessed my socks off!

 

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On Children’s Day – when the park was filled to the max with families taking their children to the park – we also loaded up 12 taxis filled with volunteers and children.  Each volunteer was matched with a child for the afternoon to be their buddy.  The orphanage staff choose the 20 children we could take to the park and I was thrilled to see that the list consisted mainly of kiddos who don’t get a chance to get out often – kids with severe autism, kids that are blind and kids who were unable to walk.  It all made this momma sweat a bit thinking of being responsible for them.  Any doubts I had flew from my mind as we wheeled them out of the orphanage.  One boy, who I often feed dinner to on Monday and Fridays, called out “Kai Xin” (happy) over and and over as we placed a hat on his head and took him out into the sunshine.  In that moment I would have signed over every Sunday afternoon for orphanage outings if they had asked me!

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The afternoon wouldn’t have been listed as the best ever Children’s Day in the book of most children.  The group wheeled the kids around the park, we played with bubbles and finished the afternoon with a special yogurt treat and a Hersey’s kiss.  The kids were content to watch people walk by and to have one on one attention for the day.  They were not content with only one Hersey’s kiss!  Note to self to sneak in chocolate treats more often!

 

The second outing came about after another meeting.  Word had gotten around that I had some friends helping with an outing for Children’s Day.  The foster care department then asked me to help them with an outing for the foster families.  If I was nervous about the first request….well this one gave me a heart attack.  They asked us to plan interactive games and to train foster families how to play with children to promote physical and mental stimulation.  “We know Americans parent differently and are very accepting of disabilities…show us what you do.”  Ummm, yeah.  No pressure.  Heehehe.

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The second outing was even better than the first….for me at least.  We had planned games using a parachute, exercises based on the Eric Carle book “Head to Toe” and sidewalk chalk art (of course!) – but it wasn’t the planned activities going well that made the day a huge hit for me.  In the midst of the party we were having at the park, I looked around at the 30ish foster families and their children and was overwhelmed.

 

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These families are caring for children – day in and day out – with needs like spinal bifida, limb differences, and blindness….just to name a few.  They are going against the cultural norm and loving children who have been set aside.  One foster mother told me about the 17 children she has cared for till their adoptions to the United States and then introduced me to the sweet one she is caring for now.  With love she told me how this two year old girl still can’t walk, “but I have hope for her!”  Wow.  What love.  What sacrifice.

 

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Over the afternoon I felt such a deep connection with these families who look different from the average Chinese family.  As I gave them a book and a bubble wand at the end of the afternoon I was wishing it was so much more.  I wanted to hug them tight and whisper in their ears – “well done!”

Because they gave me a gift.  I don’t feel as alone anymore.

I often look around the orphanage and see a need that is oppressive.  This week I realized that some times the need can be met with something as simple as an outing to the park.  I also have met a whole new set of friends who are battling the needs right along with me.

So glad I ignored the butterflies and pushed through.

Blessed.

 

Not Earth Shattering, but Huge

We confirmed every stereo type of fat Americans as we pushed a cart to the check out line of the grocery store filled with 30 bags of snickers, 30 bags of peanuts, watermelon seeds, sweet rice cakes, and instant coffee.  You should have heard the comments!  And they didn’t even see how many oranges hubby bought at the market!

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We confused and mystified the other shoppers and we also confused the nannies and workers at the orphanage who weren’t sure just what to make of us when we arrived gift bags in hand.    As we passed out the treat bags today, the comments were of a vastly different nature.  We often had to repeat ourselves explaining that we were giving them a gift….just to wish them a happy new year…just to make working today feel a bit better….just to give us a chance to love them and share with them a greater love.  (OK granted, I might have had to repeat myself a few times due to faulty Chinese.  Full disclosure!)

 

I would love nothing more then to have an earth shattering story to share with you as a result of today.

Not earth shattering, but as the nannies looked me in the eyes smiled and asked me to make sure I didn’t miss giving a bag to the worker at the end of the hall.  That felt huge.

When I walked into the kitchen and our kids gave bags to the cooks and they made a big deal over meeting my family – that felt huge.

When we were invited into the room of one of my students to share snacks and tea with his roommates, it was a moment that took me beyond being a teacher – that felt huge.

I wave at the gate guard every time I come and go from the orphanage.  After giving him his bag today, he waved back.  Huge.

I am not sure how to explain the door that has been flung open.  For reasons beyond myself, I have been given permission not only to teach art classes, but also to have full access to the orphanage (well, except for the infant room.  More on that in a different post.)  Full access just doesn’t happen.  I am able to come and go, play with the children, pop into different rooms, and  give attention to whatever child I feel led to love on that day.  I then help feed dinner to the older disabled children to finish off my time.  It is weird to have a foreigner walking around helping and loving kids.  The other workers don’t know what to do with me.  Today I hope they can understand me a bit more.

A smile from a nanny, a question about my family, and a wave from the guard….they all feel like huge steps toward the goal of deeper relationships and built trust.

One step at a time.

I love knowing it will make a difference  – in me and hopefully to those around me.

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On a family note:

I didn’t take one picture today.  Can you believe that?  Little Man handed out bags that were almost the size of him….it was adorable, but you will have to just pretend you can picture it!  I am sure the memories we made today as a family will stick with us with or without photos.

Had a friend question me last week about taking all four of our kids to help.  Surely taking two adopted children back to an orphanage would be painful and might cause some meltdowns.  We considered that and in the end decided to pr@y hard and take the risk.

Loving others and reaching out isn’t always safe, easy and without pain.  If my time at the orphanage hasn’t taught me anything else, it has taught me that.  To be honest, I could say that about adoption too.

All four kids did great.

Actually the introvert of our crew, Soccer Dude, was the one I thought would have a “moment” when a child latched on to him.  He turned and wrapped the child in a big bear hug and smiled.  Serving today took him out of his comfort zone, but I would say that loving the kids at the orphanage will make a difference in Soccer Dude’s life and then in turn make a difference in the lives of others as well.

So maybe not earth shattering, but today was huge…in many ways.

 

Chinese New Year Gifts -过年的礼物

IMG_7312The only way for me to describe Chinese New Year (CNY) is to equate it with Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the Fourth of July all rolled into one.  Everyone travels and visits family….every night for at least a week thus the country comes to a grinding halt for one big party.  Gifts of fruit, new clothes, and money in red envelopes are given.  Special foods are made like dumplings and long life noodles.  Kinda sounds like Christmas and Thanksgiving on steroids, right?

The Fourth of July part….well, that’s the fireworks.  Lots of them.  Every night.  It is amazing the first night….one of my most vivid memories from our first CNY was our neighbors hanging a broom handle from their 6th floor apartment window with lit firecrackers dangling from it.  Unbelievable.  Bryan was amazed at the people standing in their living rooms and shooting Roman Candles out the window.    Seriously, for a week it sounds like we live in the middle of a war zone.

On a side note, I also had to do some creative shopping this week to make sure we were stocked for food and other essentials. Restaurants, the market and most stores close for about the next week.

So how are we celebrating?

We are ready with oranges, red envelopes and the fixings for dumplings, but we decided to take our celebration up a notch this year.

As you can imagine having to work on Chinese New Year would be a huge bummer.  But for the staff at the orphanage, there are still children who need to be fed and taken care of.  You can’t close down a children’s home for a week of celebrations.

We have been given permission to bless the 30 nannies who have to work CNY by passing out gift bags.  Nothing has been done like this before and we are thrilled to have the opportunity.  We have prepared bags with favorite Chinese snacks, some American candy, instant coffee, oranges, and hand lotion.   Our family is going to go from room to room handing out the bags during the children’s nap time.  We are hoping it brings a bit of joy to the workers and lets them know they are appreciated for their hard work.

But more than that…..

Would you think about us on Friday?  Well, actually it will be Thursday evening in the States!  We are trusting that our gifts will be understood from the heart from which they are being given (gift giving in China is actually a tricky business).  We want trust and relationships to be built through this gesture, but more importantly we would be seen as his hands and feet.

We will let you know how it turns out!

Till then, Happy New Year .  过年快乐!