Wednesday, December 26, 2012


There's only ONE good reason for two blog posts in one day!!!!!


That's right. It's finally here. On it's way to our home right now. To be signed (tearfully and joyfully!) and returned POSTHASTE to move us on to the next step. WITHOUT the clout or advocacy we anticipated that we'd need. When I contacted the agency earlier this morning to see where we were going to start with an intervention, the receptionist said our SW would call back as soon as she could get free. The whole two hours we waited, I really felt the tug of war going on in my spirit that I posted about earlier today. It was so exciting to hear her say, "I have a Christmas present for you guys."  It seems that a package of documents had arrived after my initial call and our Letter of Approval was FINALLY included in the delivery. We're all very relieved that it's here and that we didn't have to "pull out" the big guns 

And wanna hear some really cool "extra" news we discovered? We're already more than a week into our "wait" for the next step (for those who are counting) because our LOA was actually issued - on December 19th!!!!!

We may never know "where" it was, or why it was not showing up our agency tried multiple times to track it, but we are really glad it's here. The Boss has all the next-step-paperwork ready to go in tomorrow's mail. And I'm busy finishing up a care package to "introduce" our gang to our girl. I know. I know. You don't care about any of those "next step" details just now. Really. I don't either. I'm too darned excited to FINALLY be able to share her sweet-ness with you all.

Without further ado,
The Gang is pleased to present to you
Miss Brynna Rose RuiJuan.
Currently residing somewhere
in the huge city of Beijing.
Soon to be firmly entrenched in her loving home
in the good old U.S.of A!!!!!!! 

This is her royal cute-ness, likely when she was
about 6 months old or so.
This is THE picture that The Boss fell headlong over.
He said, "I think this is our daughter" with tears in his eyes.
And a smile on his face. 

This is the picture on her "official referral" form
in the original Chinese.

I really wish we had dates attached to the pictures. But we don't. Only guesses. In fact, this whole file represents a ton of guess-work and really, was such a leap of faith. Especially once The Boss decided she was "The One." But really, it's okay - we're trusting HIM together to give us the answers we need, when we need them. And now we are even in the "knowing" that a file given to us represented "The One." I was certain when we were researching about Li'l Empress's needs that she was "The One" in that journey. And look how great that has turned out for us!

Here she is, doing "tummy time" on the mats.
Again, I wish I had a firm grasp on her age here.
We think she's about 6 months old here, too.
You can see, she's a tiny peanut, regardless of her age.

Here she is, "cruising"  according to the updates
from mid-October.
She's 16 months old in these two pictures.

The file says she's "extroverted" and pleasant.
I think she might even look a little mischievous here.
Like, "hmmmmm, what will it take to totally wrap
this Daddy whom I am hearing about all around my fingers?"
Heh. Not much, sister. NOT. MUCH. AT. ALL.

And then today's email exchanges between us and our agency got even sweeter. I inquired about the next steps from signing and mailing out the I800 paperwork. An email came back with surprise attachments!

Can you believe those cheeks?
She's still a very tiny peanut.
She'll be 18 months old this weekend
and only weighs 18 lbs. and 11 oz.
She's only about 28" tall.
Really. A teeny little thing.
But she's gained some weight since
the last update and that's a good thing.

So, there you have it. Our little mei-mei in living color.

We ask for your continued prayers. We will not be disclosing the nature of her need publicly on the blog. But we do need you to know that it is VERY important for this little one to stay strong and healthy throughout the cold Beijing winters. (The Boss checked Beijing weather this weekend and it got down to 7 degrees. SEVEN DEGREES! Oh, my heart!) She will be facing quite a few medical interventions in the months upon coming home to join our gang and it is vital that she continue to put on weight and have a strong immune system to face it all.

Aren't you glad you came by The Gang's place today?! Doesn't that little face just make you want to smile all day long?! Or is that just me? I'm thinking I'm already a little wrapped.  Mmmmm, yeah. just a little.

For those who are not "fluent in China adoption-ese"
this site is an EXCELLENT resource for understanding
the steps of the process from LOA to traveling to our girl!

For the more visual among us, 
there's always this post to help you understand
what we are working through.

Stand Firm

We had really hoped to have
significant news of movement in our journey to Mei Mei
to share with you all by Christmas Day.

To have an official
Letter Of Approval
of our intent to adopt our Mei Mei
in hand, "signed, sealed and delivered"
as our very best Christmas gift this year.

To finally be able to show her sweet face to you all,
to captivate you as she's captivated us.

But that wasn't how it all played out.
After weeks of glitches and delays,
after weeks of watching the trends
and seeing the "ranges of normal expectations" 
quickly come and then just as quickly go,
we still have "no new news."

Being "outside" the ranges of normal trending
is an uncomfortable place to be
when you know where your girl is
and what her daily life,
what her daily struggle to thrive in the midst of her environment
is likely to be like.

So last Friday, our Social Worker and I agreed
that a stronger intervention was required.
Inquiries coming from someone with bigger clout are in order.
But the office closures for Christmas created yet another delay
in even getting that influential advocacy for our process to happen.

So I am trying to wait patiently.
To trust quietly and steadfastly.

It's not easy.
My heart is raw.
My spirit feels weak and weary.
My momma's heart is working overtime
praying for my girl:
for health, for protection over her spirit and her mind.
For God's plans for her life to be accomplished
regardless of what the enemy might do to thwart those plans.

All while praying for and missing Shaggy.
Praying for my boy:
for health, for protection over his spirit and his mind.
For God's plans to be accomplished in him and through him
while he is off on his God Adventure.
This first Christmas season apart
has not been easy on any of us.

Lamentations 3:21-27
has been a refrain on my heart for many days now.

"Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord’s great love
we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”
The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.
It is good for a man to bear the yoke
while he is young."

As my sister shared as an encouragement
with me on Christmas Eve,
I've been holding on to this:

Proverbs 13:12
"Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life."

and standing, albeit on wobbly legs on this:

I Corinthians 15:58
"Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm.
Let nothing move you.
Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord,
because you know that your labor
in the Lord is not in vain."

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas...

From Our Home
To Yours.....

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death's dark shadows put to flight!

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

In Which I Try To Balance Brutal Honesty With Holiday Cheer

Tuesday morning's update about our anticipated LOA dispersal was basically a "no new news update." Which I know is as frustrating to my agency as it is to us.

I'm trying to be okay with that for now. It's not easy. With the crazy pace of school concerts, parties, shopping, wrapping, and baking we've been keeping, I'm trying to keep my heart and mind occupied. On the one hand, it feels like a giant holding pattern hovering over the days. On the other, I find myself creating a tightly planned schedule of events during the days and then crashing at night to wonder what I accomplished and where the day went. The contrast of it all is exhausting.

I know I'm not alone in feeling this but last week's tragic events are weighing so very heavy on my heart, in addition to what seems like an already hard holiday season for our gang. I'm confident in saying that I do NOT recommend that your first holiday for one of your kiddoes spreading his wings away from home is the best holiday season to also be waiting for another of your kiddoes to find her way home after two years of longing and waiting. Not that we could have managed it or planned it otherwise. But maybe it'll help you as your little ones grow. Sigh. (Sorry, my snark slipped out there a bit.)

When I slow down to think about it all, I am overwhelmed by the enormity of it all: the tremendous losses our nation has suffered, the anguish of parents and families all over the country, the unknown and even danger that Shaggy is facing, the remoteness and the intensity of his mission, the cold hard winter of Beijing, the fragility of Mei Mei's heart and mind... Oh my... I have to throw out a great big STOP sign and make myself change course. Change focus. Immediately.

I know you'll understand when I say that no new news" was not the message I wanted to hear from my agency yesterday. I'm grateful that they understand that, too. On top of all of the other "stuff" these last two weeks have brought, now this delay represents now weeks "lost" as we approach closures for the holidays here in the States. Which will be  followed by closures in China for their upcoming holidays. Waiting through the resolution of this "clerical error" has forced a conscious choice to keep trusting, to keep confessing that HE is sovereign and HE has not forgotten us. Any of us. HE has not. And on that I am standing.

Each time we sit down to the dinner table together in these last five days, I've found myself almost at a loss for words. Choking up at the privilege of having my kids around my table. Praying for my two that aren't home with us and begging God to grant them safety and health while we are apart. Thanking HIM for the honor of even getting to do a dinner together. I've been amazed at the gratitude I am feeling, even in the midst of the frustration and pain. May I be so humble and thankful moving forward when "normal" returns.

And so I pray. I cry, like I'm sure so many of you are doing this week. I sing Christmas hymns and replay over and over my iPod rotation of silly Christmas songs for Li'l Empress to sing along to. And now I'm off to cook and wrap and shop some more. The good news is that in my need to keep busy and NOT focus on Shaggy's absence, the delays to our process, and now the horrific sadness of the Sandy Hook tragedy, I am almost done our holiday preparations. Here's hoping that my Christmas Eve day can be spent relaxing and hanging out with my gang. We could all use the down time of jammies, cheesey Christmas movies, and free-flowing popcorn.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Don't Squash That Little Nudge

For the last two days, I've really struggled with the wait for our Letter Of Approval.

I mean, I've been bothered by the length of our wait for a while now but I haven't really paid it much mind until last week. Last week, somehow, I had fully convinced myself that our LOA was coming. I knew our agency had a "package on the way" and that we were "due." Over-due if one looks at the current trends on the charts. Which, I was doing. More than I really wanted to and certainly more than I had during waits between milestones previous to this wait for LOA. The last update we had gotten was that we were "in review" and that the next step would be the dispersal of our LOA. PLUS, last week, I was processing the imminent departure of Shaggy to Thailand. And the thoughts of celebrating Christmas without our boy were really hitting home. I think my melt-downs into puddles every couple hours on Thursday and Friday were some kind of internal release valve letting off the steam of it all.

But this struggle, these last two days, has been very different. It was more of a niggling doubt that everything was proceeding normally. An occasional twinge of "something isn't quite right" and not really knowing what to do with it. Frankly, I didn't do well with it. FRANKLY, I've been a bit like a bear with a thorn in her paw for the last two days. (I've made reparations to my family already. They love me and graciously forgive me. I'm so blessed!)

The gals in my DTC group (DTc means "Dossier to China:" this group is a bunch of comrades-in-arms who all sent their dossiers to China in the same season that we did, banded together for information and support) have been looking at our charts, too. A couple of us who are waiting had a chat or two over the last two days about the trends and it seemed apparent to us all that something indeed was not quite right. But I have tried so hard NOT to be a "day counter" or a "chart obsessor" and to trust the process. In doing so, I completely squashed that little nudge I thought I might be sensing. I pushed aside my niggling doubts and occasional twinges. Thus the "release" valve I mentioned. Sigh. One of these days, I will learn. I will!

Last night, I went to bed and fell asleep praying for Shaggy. Early this morning (as in 3:22 a.m. which would have been 4:22 p.m. Beijing time, IF I've calculated correctly. That's regular work-day hours there.) I woke again, praying for Shaggy. As I prayed, I had a sense that I needed to be praying for our LOA. For our dossier. And of course, for Brynna. So I did. I slept quite fitfully for the next couple hours until I finally just got up and started my day.

After I made a cup of coffee and got Li'l Empress settled with her cereal, I jotted off the following note to our sweet Social Worker:
"So, we are on day 75 of our wait from PA (157 from LID).... it's now inching up to the "longer" end of the wait from the DTC group I'm a part of. And when considering that our LOI went in with the request for expedite, we're wondering what's going on. Is there any chance, if you don't get a package today, that you can investigate this for us? I've just seen too many fellow-DTC'ers moving on from LOA even tho their numbers were trending like ours. When it starts to get too "out of the trend" is when these gals start seeing problems or delays with their files. We want to be sure it's not the case with ours."
To which I got an immediate response. This is how I summarized it to our families and some friends this morning, in a request for prayer:

Seems that our trusty SW was already feeling some concern. She had contacted her "on the ground" gal in Beijing on our behalf yesterday. (She was further tipped off when LHAA got a pkg yesterday of documents including one LOA for a family on the EXACT SAME TIMELINE as us.)  Here's what they think is happening: After the Eligibility Review #1 (also called Dept. 1 - which was our last up-date), it looks as  if our dossier was MIS-FILED  into the "Standard Program" (The Non-special needs program... which is currently running on a 6 year wait. Ummm, yeah. RUH ROH!).

If this had NOT been caught this week, we'd likely be waiting indefinitely. When our "on the ground" gal inquired, she was told that the only employee who can rectify that mis-filing is the one who is assigned to our file and that employee is out for the day. So she is going back tonight (our time) to follow up and get it moving.
Our sweet SW is NOTHING if not "ON IT" for our family. When she emailed me back, she had JUST finished getting the scoop from her Beijing gal. JUST! I have spent most of today feeling so humbled and blessed. Really. I mean, I could be feeling totally disgruntled and stressed or even angry at the glitch in the process. Indeed, I was ALL of that last week. And again for the previous two days. But now that we know what we're facing, I am instead feeling so awed that God gave us such a gift in this lovely Social Worker. I'm amazed that He was trying to speak to me all along, nudging me to listen to my gut and trust my instinct that something wasn't right. By the fact that He has given me this fierce momma's heart for my girl before I even know her. And finally by how I know He is going to work on our behalf.

We are expecting an answer of some kind tomorrow. Of course, the best possible answer would be our LOA is in the mail WITH the medical expedite being honored forthwith. But I have to be honest, I'm feeling pretty good about whatever answer we get tomorrow. He is always faithful to move on our behalf, in all the seasons and events of our lives. He's even faithful when I'm trying to squash that little nudge!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Next Big Step

Well, the day has arrived. Today, Shaggy boards a plane with the other members of the team they have dubbed "Team Thaibodia" for the "Outreach" portion of their YWAM experience.  We F@cetimed with him last night, to chat, say good-bye and pray together as a family for his team and for him. NEVER in all of my life have I been so incredibly grateful for the technology that allows interactions such as this to occur. While I greatly dislike the inability to hug his neck and kiss him as he journeys off, I am so thankful that he got to hear our prayers over him. From Li'l Empress's prayer for safe travels all the way up to Dr. D's prayer for them to be used by God to The Boss's prayer for anointing and power in sharing The Gospel, the time together was sweet and one I will cherish in the many days ahead while we are missing his physical presence here in our home.

If you could, please pray with us for his team. There are 13 young people from YWAM Arvada heading out today to spend a month in Thailand and a month in Cambodia. They are being led by a young gal named Molly. Please pray with us for the following things:
  • safe travels in each leg of their journey
  • unity, health and physical protection for their team
  • spiritual wisdom and discernment in light of all the new experiences they will have
  • great opportunities to show the love of Jesus to the teams they are supporting and the work they will be doing themselves
  • deepened intimacy and strengthening of their own personal faith journey as they follow the path God has set them each upon

Please also pray for the teams that Shaggy's team is partnering with while in-country. The work these teams are doing include things like campus ministry, ministry to victims of human trafficking and caring for orphaned children. There is much opposition to a lot of what the teams do each day, it's truly a supernatural spiritual battle they must face daily. Pray for strength and clarity in the face of the evil and opposition they face in their mission.

I have an update letter written by Shaggy that I would be happy to email to you if you are interested in what he has experienced and learned thus far. And the team leader will be sending weekly updates that I'd be happy to share with you and your family. Please just email me at the gmail address connected to this blog.

Thanks for praying with us for our boy. We are so proud of him and his passion to follow Jesus' calling on his life. My momma's heart would ask that you also pray for us who are left behind. There were quite a few tears here last night, as it sunk in to the littler kids that their big brother would be flying across the world today. It's a lot to take in and they are doing a great job of supporting him and praying for him. But we all miss him terribly. And all our holiday activities have that little tinge of missing him kind of lingering in the background. Thanks for that, too.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Sweet Give-Away Winner!!!

Good Morning all!  I'm excited to announce that Nicole from Living Out His Love is our randomly-selected winner of the Sweet Moon Baby book give-away. Her family's favorite adoption book is The Red Thread, by Grace Lin. That is a new title for me and one I'm sure I'll be checking out soon. Thanks, in fact, to everyone who shared their faves. I've got a whole list of recommendations to work with now as I build our family's library.

While I'm at it, if you haven't ever peeked over to my friend Nicole's blog, I highly recommend that you do so. She's a very gifted photographer and each time I visit her site, I'm amazed at the beautiful pictures she shares. She is also an adoptive momma who is home-schooling her three cutie pies, all while actively advocating for orphan care and supporting adoptive families in her network. I think you'll really enjoy cruisin' around her blog a little bit. Like she says, "grab a cup of coffee (or tea or whatever takes you to your happy place)...." and check it all out. For you readers who are local, you will especially want to look at her photography business. Tell her The Gang's Momma sent you to check things out!

Congratulations, Nicole!!!
I know you and your sweet little ones
will enjoy reading this tale together
for many years to come.
Love ya, girl!


If you are interested in purchasing your own copy of Sweet Moon Baby, may I suggest  that you enter Amazon through my friend Robin's Amazon link. (Please click on that link to be taken there directly.) She's a fellow Living Hope momma and is sewing her way fast and furious to a darling little girl named Gabi Grace. Her partnership with Amazon benefits their adoption to this sweetie pie.

If you would like to connect with the author of Sweet Moon Baby and keep up on the success of this charming little book, you can "Like" their F@cebook page. Consider letting the author know what you think of the book once you've purchased it.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Li'l Empress Makes An Observation

I very much needed to get out and about yesterday to take my mind off a "pending package" due to arrive at our adoption agency's offices. For a lunch break, we stopped at the (Very UPscale) Costco cafe. I know, you're all jealous of the decadent life we lead.  Anyhoo.... Li'l Empress and I shared a long picnic table with a Chinese mother and her sweet 6 year old daughter (who looked REMARKABLY like my Li'l Empress. It was uncanny, really!). With a five-year old as extroverted as Li'l Empress, there's no chance for an intimate, quiet lunch in a wide-open picnic table corral cafe like that. So as moms do, once the girls broke the ice, we chatted about age, size, etc. It became quickly apparent that she was gently and politely trying to get an idea of our story. Finally, I cut the sweet gal some slack and opened the door with a "when we brought her home from China" kind of comment. It was all she needed to jump right in and ask about adoption. It was a pleasant conversation and I regret that we both were so occupied with watching over our respective daughters that we neglected to get each other's names and phone numbers. But what happened next was one of those brief moments that I just had to capture while I remembered it.

After the pair left our table, Li'l Empress looked at me and said, "Mommy, that little girl looked a lot like I do." Ooooh, I could tell this was gonna be a good one. She looked so pensive when she said it.

"Yes, Li'l Empress, she does. Do you know why she looks so much like you?"

"Noooo...." she looked at me with puzzlement.

"Well, you look so similar because they are Chinese."

"HEY! I am from Chinese, too!"  Ummmm, yeah, we're working on that. I'm loathe to correct her often, as it's so stinkin' cute....

"Yes, Li'l E, you are from China and so is that Mommy and her daughter,"  I purposely separated them as Mommy and daughter to probe a little....

"Like you, Mommy? You are from Chinese, too?" she asked with cutely furrowed brow.

"Well, no, I'm not Chinese. Do I look like that Mommy? Do I look like you?" I poked a little bit more.

"YES!" She grinned mischievously and tilted her little chin up at me, daring me to elaborate. So I did.

"Well, let's see. What color hair did that Chinese mommy and her Chinese daughter have?"

"Mmmmm, black. Like mine. See? But mine is really longer, like Shayne's. Right, Mommy?"

"Yes, their hair was black. Like yours. What color hair do I have, Li'l Empress?"

"You have golden hair. It's short and pokey. And golden." She waved her hands all around her head to indicated said pokey-ness. Seriously? Short and pokey? I didn't ask for a style consultation. Harumph.

"Yup. And what color eyes did that mommy and that daughter have? What color does your Momma have?"

"Mmmmmm, brown. Like me. And you have green." As she pointed to my eyes, she just about bounced off her seat, much to the amusement of the older Indian couple sitting behind her. I think they were listening in!

"Yup. And Li'l Empress, what color skin do you have? What color do I have?"

"I have brown. You have white. Well, pink. Umm, white. Pink. White?"  (Yeah, umm, I'm kinda confused about that too, my dear daughter!)

"What color did that Mommy and her daughter have?"

"They have brown, too," she sighed. She was getting bored, I knew I had to wrap this up quickly and lead her to the point.

"That mommy and her daughter look a lot like you, Li'l Empress, because they are Chinese. Remember the momma said she lived in China for a long time when she was little? She was born in China, and so were you. Remember the name of the town where you were born in China?"

"YES! I was borned in Baoji! And Mei Mei is borned in Beijing!"  (We had discussed "home towns" earlier with the mother and her daughter, so the towns were fresh in her mind. I promise, she's not ordinarily that "on the ball" with those details!)

"So, that's a big part of the reason that you look a lot like that Chinese mommy and her daughter. You were born in China. You are Chinese too."

"OH! Thanks, Mommy. Can I have some french fries? Some different drink?"  And she was done. Just like that.

For which I am ridiculously grateful.  I don't know what I would have done if she'd thought deeper and probed more about the birds and the bees of Chinese mommies having Chinese daughters and Pink mommies having Chinese daughters. Costco's cafe is just NOT upscale and intimate enough for THAT talk.

But it didn't stop there.... Nooooo, she had one more observation up her sleeve. One kicker of an observation that burst out of her at the check-out counter. Apparently she'd been thinking still about the conversation at our table. As the lovely Hispanic clerk was checking us out and chatting with me about holiday plans and my cute little shopping helper, Li'l Empress tugged on my coat.

In a really loud voice, she asked me, "Mommy, WHY are there SO! MANY! Spanish and Chinese mommies and kids here today?" 

With her hands flailing and the dramatics in her query, you'd think the girl was straight-up Sicilian!  (The expressive talking with her hands thing? Perfect argument for the nature v. nurture debate!)

The clerk and I just looked at each other and grinned. Gaped, really. This kid does NOT miss a trick. In addition to her astute observations of the faces around her, apparently, she is already attuned to the many accents she heard while we shopped. It was indeed another melting pot experience with my fellow shoppers at that hour of the day.

I just answered her simply, "Well, Li'l Empress, all kinds of mommies all over town need to shop for their families and this seems like a nice sunny day to do it. They must all have had the same idea as YOUR mommy did."

And then she was done. And again, I was grateful... The clerks on each side of our check-out line grinned at me and one of them said, "Wow. You've got some tough questions coming out of that little one, don't you?"

Heh. He has no idea. No idea at all.