Gazing Upward
  • Adoption
  • December28th

    5 Comments

    Yesterday marked a seemingly unbelievable milestone in our family…. six months since the day Caroline LiYun became our daughter!  And the date was marked with a sweet gift and moving gesture from our 13-year-old.   Santa had given her, among other presents, a bracelet-making kit with beads.   She asked me which example on the box I liked and then proceeded to measure my wrist with a piece of ribbon, skipping off to her room to weave beads onto the loom.  Her excitement impressed me because I figured the first bracelet she’d make would be for herself. (After all, she’s a typical teenager.)

    Last night, as I lay in bed, Caroline came into my room with a smile of pride and accomplishment as she presented me with a beautiful blue and purple masterpiece to adorn my wrist.  Her eyes sparkled, and my heart quickened at the realization that this was her first gift to me.  Had she given me a present six months ago on Gotcha Day, I would have treasured it. But to receive a gift, one crafted with such effort and care, after months of

    transition,

    adjustment to family expectations and rules,

    difficult discussions regarding responsibility, obedience, and hard work,

    discipline,

    and realization that her forever family isn’t perfect…

    I felt touched to the core. I felt like all of our love and hard work were being reciprocated. And I felt accepted by my daughter as her mother.

    In the last six months, we’ve seen incredible growth and progress!  Without being conscious of it, we’ve transitioned to communicating daily without the assistance of Google Translate. For detailed and important conversations, we do use the program. But for general conversation, we are now able to talk and converse with ease. And I can look back and see this growth as a huge contributing factor in Caroline’s sudden happiness and comfort.

    She has some sweet friends at school who look after her.  And several of the girls have commented that she seems even more content and joyful now than ever before.  I truly  believe that her birthday and Thanksgiving holidays were a turning point for her and that she gained a true sense of family (immediate and extended) and community during that time.   She has a wonderful sense of humor and loves to play with the littles.  She has also shown some new signs of responsibility with them, particularly when she can tell that I’m not feeling well.

    She has developed a sense of gratitude and is much better about thanking us for purchases, gifts, and acts of service for her.  We still have battles of the wills and typical teen issues to deal with, but I am thrilled at the degree of progress, warmth, and engagement she’s now showing. She even played a game with me a few weeks ago (something she would not do six months ago when we got home), we had a blast.

    Food continues to be a challenge for Caroline, but she’s been discovering more American foods she enjoys.  And she still steels herself when upset, throwing up a wall that I can’t break down. We have yet to see her cry or share concerns or fears. I long to be there for her through these moments, but it will take more time for her to trust me and feel comfortable enough to share.   I have been told that the entire first year of older child adoption is difficult and ever-changing in  its accomplishments and setbacks.   So we know to be patient.

    While Caroline continues to be curious about Jesus Christ and is discipled weekly by an older Chinese woman, she resents church (understandably since she can’t understand enough of what is being said and thinks it’s long). And gospel terms and Christian lingo haven’t found their way into her English vocabulary yet, so it’s difficult for me to discuss my faith with her. I still point her to passages in her Chinese/English Bible, and I hope she is learning by our examples of worship and study.  But I long for the day when she truly grasps the gospel message and accepts Jesus as her Lord and Savior.  There is work and healing to be done in her heart that only the Lord can accomplish!

    Over the months, your emails and comments (particularly in the giveaway post) have touched us with your love, prayers, and encouragement for our family, for Caroline, and for me as a mother.  Thank you for sharing in this whole experience with us! Without you, I am sure I would feel utterly alone in this journey at times.  Know you are loved and appreciated.

  • July8th

    10 Comments
    After 28 hours of traveling, we finally arrived at the Birmingham airport at 11:20 pm. It was a challenging journey given that I only slept one hour total during our travel, and we were so frustrated when we got skipped over in customs at the Chicago airport which led us to miss our connecting flight home. Then our re-booked flight was over an hour delayed in departure. Thankfully, the kids did pretty well. But I could tell that Caroline wasn’t sure about this whole America thing. This is how the kids looked on our last flight home…
    Carter would tell everyone he saw that we were going home to Alabama. When we were just 30 minutes into our van ride from Guangzhou to Hong Kong, he asked, “Are we on the other side of the world yet?”
    The long flight went pretty well. Grace and Caroline had a few clashes along the way, mainly because Grace is very hot and cold with her big sister. And Caroline finally told me on the translator, “I don’t like her right now.” I told her that I understood and was so glad she was honest with me. I also let her know that I appreciated how patient and persistent she had been in playing with Grace despite the little princess’ diva attitude.
    Carter, on the other hand, absolutely adores his big sister. When we got through customs and then reached the luggage recheck point and were told we didn’t have time to make our flight, I was practically begging the airline employees to let us on whether our bags made it or not. Carter burst into tears, and we didn’t know the reason until later when he explained that he thought the “police officers” weren’t letting Caroline through. The poor boy thought his sister wouldn’t be allowed to fly to Birmingham with us, and he said, “I want her to live with us!!” For ten minutes afterward, she carried him and he kept hugging her neck, looking at her face, and hugging her tightly some more. So sweet!
    The moment finally arrived to greet family and friends who had headed to the airport very late to welcome home our new daughter!

    Meeting her cousins, Tate, Alex, and Mary Katherine (my cousins’ kids).
    Mary Katherine has been so excited to meet Caroline! They will be in the same grade together.
    Caroline and Scott’s mom
    Caroline and Scott’s dad
    Caroline immediately recognized my sister, Courtney (who goes by Aunt Coco)
    With my family (minus Court’s husband, Ivan)
    With Scott’s parents. Julie was there but I don’t have any pictures with her in them…sneaky Aunt JuJu! 🙂
    So thankful to be home with out any meltdowns from the kids! They were troopers.
    Caroline and Aunt Coco
    I will post more pics that other people are sending me. Thanks for all your prayers for our journey home. More updated info to come tomorrow when I’ve had enough sleep to create coherent sentences. 🙂

  • June24th

    19 Comments

    It’s 1:35 am on Saturday morning here in Nanning, China. After 27+ hours of traveling, we are thankful to be settling into our hotel room.

    The kids did very well for such a long journey. We even sat on the ground in Chicago for two hours before we actually took off on the 14 hour flight. But they slept a good bit and only fussed between Hong Kong and Nanning because they were so tired.

    Our guide, David, met us at the airport and took us to our hotel which was an hour away. He gave us a lot of information on the way, and we were able to ask many questions. First of all, we learned that LiYun did not find out we were coming this weekend until LAST night!! She has known since October that we were adopting her, but I thought she would have more notice of the exact dates we would be coming. David said he had planned to arrange for us to meet her sooner (like on Sunday), but when he talked to her and heard how nervous she sounded, he decided it was best to let her spend the whole weekend with her foster family. I agree with that decision whole-heartedly, as anxious as we are to meet her.

    David said LiYun is most nervous about her English not being good (he confirmed that she does indeed know some!) and also anxious about not knowing what she should do or not do. He reassured her that we will be patient and do not mind her asking us questions. But my heart ached a little to know that her sweet mind is worrying about these things. We also learned that LiYun was adopted domestically by a Nanning family about 6 years ago! This was recent news to our guide too. Anyway, LiYun missed her foster family so much that she ended going back to them after just 2 weeks.

    So I won’t lie…I am a bit nervous that she could change her mind on Monday. But David says he doesn’t see that happening. Apparently, she has been talking about her new family quite a bit. She is excited to come to America. And she even asked David if he could bring us to her school to meet her friends so she could show them her forever family! He said after this statement, “She is a sweet girl.” Oh, how that warms my heart that she wants us to meet her friends!

    She also asked if she can call her foster parents from the hotel this next week. And of course, we are fine with this. They have been her family for 7 years. We learned that she is the youngest one in the foster home. Nanning SWI only allows one foster child per family (which is not the norm in other provinces), and the couple’s biological child is 23 or 24 years olds. (He thought they might even have two older children).

    Gotcha Day will be Monday as planned, but we won’t meet her until the afternoon. The civil affairs office is processing the adoptions of all the younger kids and babies during the morning. So Monday morning will be a slow one for sure. And that also means that you won’t get a blog update until Monday morning instead of Sunday night. Boo…I know. 🙂

    I have more pics and details to post, but I need to get in bed. It’s now 2:08 am. The internet is just really really slow!! So more to come. But please be praying for LiYun, that God would replace her anxiety with peace. And that even in the midst of grieving the loss of her foster family and all the changes coming up, she will immediately feel comfortable in our family. Oh yes! I forgot…she said she wants to be a big helper with Carter and Grace. 🙂

    If LiYun were to ultimately decide to stay in China, we would be heartbroken. Mostly because we know much more than she does that her future here is not bright for orphans. But we would understand. If the foster familiy were suddenly able to adopt her, I would see that as a great option for her. But from what the foster mom has said, that situation is not likely. Please pray that God’s will would be done, no matter how difficult it is for her or for us. He has a great plan for this child’s life….I know it. And I pray with an earnest heart that we are a part of it.

    Sweet dreams, and more tomorrow.

    Love,
    Kelley

  • June10th

    27 Comments

    WE HAVE TRAVEL APPROVAL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! After only 2 days!!! This is unheard of. Thank you so much for your prayers. We won’t get our court date confirmed until Monday, but that’s usually not a problem. So we’re leaving June 23rd…less than 2 weeks!! YIPPEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I can’t praise our social worker, Karla, and our agency (Lifeline) enough. Our China facilitator truly worked some magic, and we are beyond thrilled. Most of all, glory to God!!!
  • June8th

    14 Comments

    Just got notice that our Article 5 was picked up from the US Embassy in China yesterday and dropped off to the CCAA. Now we’re just waiting on the final step….our travel approval!!

    I’m giddy with excitement. Celebrating with a cheeseburger happy meal and Rolo McFlurry! 😉