Thursday, February 14, 2013

A True Gift of Love "Valentines day"

With today being "Valentines day" for most of us I wanted to write about LOVE. You see I am not one that typically writes elegant blogs or articles online, that is usually done by my wonderful wife Joy. But since my body and mind haven't been able to adjust back to this time zone yet I find myself up at these odd hours of the early early mornings and while doing so have I have been making use of the time to study God's word and reflect on the days past and ahead but felt this morning I needed writ something. So with all the hype of valentines day I have of course been thinking about the Loves of my life, most notably my amazing wife Joy. I truly believe with all my heart that she was brought into my life as a true gift from God and is a blessing I am totally unworthy of for so many reasons. But that is how true love works, as true love is God breathed. You see I have seen God's love so often lately through the kindness of our friends and family supporting us in following his call to adopt again to strangers that I have never met supporting us and praying for us. My Love for my wife is something that I cannot put into words that would even come come close to describing the amazing gift she is to me (so I won't). Instead I would like to talk about what true love is in her heart and how I know that she has the true love that so many people are searching for day in and day out. The true love she has is that of Christ's love who made the ultimate sacrifice and selfless act in coming to this earth and dieing for each and everyone of us so that we would not have to perish. Even though I can say I would jump in front of a bus for my wife and die (which I wouldn't hesitate to do) the sacrifice Christ made was so much more than can expressed with words. Love is best understood by seeing it happen and the actions to give true love. My wife is so full of love that anyone who spends anytime with her will easily see the true love of Christ through her choices and actions. Joy is one of the most intelligent women I know she was a straight "A" student in school and graduated with honors from the University of Florida (this is no small task either in the college of nursing) and has worked in some of the most intense and exciting hospitals. But in 1999 she put that all aside when she became pregnant with our first child and due to a complicated pregnancy and many many month of bed rest gave up that path of her life for her children and family. She put her family and her love for us before herself that is true love. Then we fast forward many years and so much I wont go into and about eight years ago and we come to a women that goes to an adoption seminar and feels called to adopt. Unfortunately for her and this new passion when she comes home to share her husband (myself) is not on the same page. Instead of arguing and pushing this desire she again shows true love in that she waits and prays for his direction not putting her wishes before ours. For this act alone I am so thankful as this could have been a very stressful time for our marriage had she just pushed and pushed, but rather she prayed for us and my heart. Well as you all know that day did come and my heart did change and has forever been changed by this women and here patience and though Christ's love we have been blessed again beyond words. Her patience and willingness to not give up and this calling is something that I admire and love about her and is such a special part of our lives that we will never forget and as difficult as time as that was for us both it was a true test of love to get through it together. We now move to time of our first adoption "Vivian". Again way to much information than I can include here but skimming to the point. We come to an calling to bring this child into our lives and most of the care and daily responsibility will fall heavily of Joy's shoulders from the unknown of the this child's true medical needs to the interaction of bring this child into the other five children's lives and with homeschooling (yes just another one of her many talents). But she never really hesitated (a little apprehension as we all do of course) but she just moved forward head first and because of that selfless act of loving a child she had never even met and putting her needs before ours I know my wife has true love. The outcome of this love and sacrifice is a beautiful four year old girl who is thriving and blossoming into such an amazing individual because of one women's love to follow Christ and his path for her life at any cost. For this and so many more actions I love my wife deeper than the day we first said I do. "True Love" is not something that is earned but freely given by someone. The next and last example of Love for today brings us two where we are now, home with two children from China whom we have only seen in person for the first time just three short weeks ago and whose medical needs we are still waiting to find out and how they will fit into this family unit. The stress and joys of traveling and waiting to get the children is finally over, but now the true journey begins. I can assure you that in the short time we have been home this week I have already seen so much love expressed from this amazing women and how much again she puts others before herself from the lack of sleep to the changing of more diapers (we were finally out of diapers for everyone before Calvin came home) to the stresses of just everyday life. I have seen more of God's true love through my wife in the last five years that it has truly inspired and motivated me to be a better person in so many ways that I am growing now in ways that never occurred to me before and for this I am truly blessed and loved. To end this post I just want to thank personally everyone who is and has been praying and supporting our family for without this we would not have been to bring these children home. I also want to publicly express my wholehearted love for my wife who without my life would have been so much less as she has always supported and lifted me up in ways that no one else on this earth ever could and for so many other reason I say I LOVE YOU!______ John 11:34-35 "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

We're home.

We made it home last Friday night. The long flight wasn't pretty. Maybe one day I will feel like elaborating, lol. We are tired. Jet lag has been harsh coming back. Getting better each day. The kids are doing really well considering. Still the transition period right now is hard, for everyone. I still owe a last day post from China. Some pictures at the Garden hotel, our adventure getting to Hong Kong etc.... I will post eventually. Right now all energy and functional thought is going into the family :) Stick around though. There will be posts to come. Thanks for following our family!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Lions, Tigers and Pandas, oh my!

Calvin has started to laugh. Big belly laughs. Michael says it's like he's been waiting his whole life to laugh.

These are porcupines. There were a bunch of them in their little house. The picture doesn't do them justice.

She was tired at this point, and pouting a bit, but we still had to get her picute in her zebra dress with the zebras!

When you gotta go, you gotta go. She will just drop and go on the sidewalk.

Showing Mama the flowers

We were looking at big horned rams.

Lunch after the zoo. Tons of food all good, on the big lazy susan, with another adoptive family.

View from our room at night.

Ready for their American Consulate appointment. Yay, for the red, white and blue!

I'm not sure where I left off, and where to begin. I know I didn't update yesterday, but it all sort of runs together, and blurs, and with the time change it's hard to remember, what day is it?

Yesterday, we visited the zoo. We did that last time here, and we had planned to skip it, and try the safari that is not to far away on our own. However, we reconsidered, because that is a longer day trip, and cost quite a bit more, and the zoo was a short ride from the hotel, and included. So, to the zoo we went. It's been fun having the other families this time. We were alone the last time, and in both provinces this time, so its new for us. They are all really amazing people, and adorable children. Adoptive families pretty much are awesome folks. We took a little ride around on a..... I can't think of the word right now, lol but an oversized golf cart. It gave a brief tour of the large zoo. Then we were free to wander for a couple of hours. Calvin hung out with Daddy, and he carried him the whole time, which was a nice change, and great progress. Georgia walked with me. She did great, but by the end was really tired and complaining a little about her one leg. We saw monkeys, tigers, a white tiger, giraffes, and zebras, alligators, and all sort of cats, like lynx and leopards. We also saw the panda bear! They just don't even look real to me, like giant stuffed toys that move, lol. One funny thing, was they had a really big raccoon habitat. With lots of raccoons. We have lots of those just loose at home. Always trying to get into the trash or dog food etc... not so exciting for us, lol.  After the zoo, we all went to eat lunch together, at a real Chinese restaurant. One with the big lazy susan in the middle.  We actually had two tables for all the families. We sat with another family who adopted two 13 year old girls this trip. Super family! The food was delicious, the guides ordered for us, and the food just kept coming. We had sweet and sour pork, veggie and noodle dish, some type of green been sprouts, that tasted both like green beans, but sprouty (I know that isn't a real word, lol) and had hundred year old eggs on top. Hundred year old eggs, look like hard boiled eggs, but are black,lol. I didn't try the egg, as I don't egg at all, but Michael said it tasted like regular egg?  You could google it to see what it looks like.  We had fried rice, and two kinds of dumplings, and some kind of beef dish, and two kinds of pancakes. One savory, one with black sesame seed that was very sweet. great meal. Then the kids were overdue for a nap so we came back to the room. Rested. When they woke up we watched the happy goat for awhile (google it, lol) and then just walked down the street for some take out. Michael and I were able to stream some netflix and then, we all went to bed early because we had to be in the lobby today by 9am to leave for the American consulate. I was up by 6 today, neither of us slept great. Part in anticipation of today, part of being ready to go home. We headed to down to breakfast a little before 8, and then met the other family and our guide for the short ride to the consulate.  The American consulate is on the fifth floor of this huge office building. It's kind of dark and dirty and not what you (or what I,lol) imagine when I think of the American consulate. I have these ideas of a beautiful compound with the big gate out front that you could run up to, yelling I'm an American! and they'd help you, lol. I may have watched the Saint to many times though.

US consulate Guangzhou

Anyway, it doesn't look anything like that. You go into this nondescript office building take the elevator to the 4th floor. Where you get in line and they check your passport against the appointment list. Or for the locals, who are here hoping to get a visa to the US, they line up outside and get a number that they have to present to the guards, they let a few go up at a time. Once you get through that line, you take an escalator up to the next floor, and go through a security check much like the airport, xray, put your bag through the machine, walk through the scanner etc... then down the hall to a room marked adoptions. We all take a seat, their are 10 families allowed at each appointment time, and two appointments each day M-TH. There is only one other family left in our group of 7. The other's all had their appt. M or Tue. 4 families will leave. All will leave today, except us and 2 other. We all head to Hong Kong tomorrow.  So we sit and wait for 30 minutes, and then a American comes and speaks, explains a few things, and then asks us all to stand and raise our right hands on behalf of our children and we swear an oath for them.  It is simple and fast, and it still made me teary for a moment. Then, we all sit back down, and wait for our names to be called. We are second to last. They start with Calvin's file, and everything looks right, passes. And she gives us back some forms and tells us we can have his visa picked up tomorrow afternoon. Then, she starts looking at Georgia's. On the way to the consulate, our guide Rebecca tells us that when they reviewed the paperwork on Sunday, they realized their was a problem. You see in the child's province when the adoption is finalized, you go to the notary, and you get three notarized documents. The adoption certificate, their birth certificate (which is really just a form saying this is their birth date, but the place, time and parents are unknown), and an abandonment certificate, that says this child was left xxxx place, and time, and circumstances, that they searched and haven't found any relatives and is truly an orphan and available for adoption (they are trying to prevent child trafficking), Well, on Georgia's abandonment certificate, it was signed and notarized but not dated! They didn't tell us until today, because they didn't want us worried, when we couldn't do anything about it, but they had call our guide in Jinan, and he got another dated set on Monday and overnighted them here. He also faxed a copy of the new ones. Well, on the way to the consulate, Rebecca explains all this to us, and that they had NOT arrived yet, and that they had promised they would be here today, and that hopefully the consulate would issue her visa with the ones we had. Our guide isn't allowed up into the room with us, so when the lady started reviewing Georgia's paperwork, I held my breath a little. She mentioned the date not being there, she knew and had spoken to our guide already. She went to talk to the consulate officer to see if she could stamp it (accept it) as it was, and she was gone a long time. Our friend, the other family waited for us, so nice :) Finally, she came back and asked if we were sure the originals would come today and I said, Yes. (Hoping!) And she ok, make sure it gets here because without the dated original they wouldn't issue Georgia's immigration visa. Which means she can't leave the country, which would be a huge problem, because the consulate closes on Friday for Chinese New Year for 10! days! So she said we could leave, and have the guide bring the papers when they get here.  On the way back to the hotel, the guide tells me she's talked with the transport company, and they have the papers and they will be at the hotel by 11, well that was like 5 mins. away, and when we got here they still weren't here, but she promised to call us in the room when they arrived. They arrived about 30 mins later PRAISE GOD! and she is taking them to the consulate this afternoon at 3, when she picks up the family's from yesterdays appointments visas.  So everything is fine, and whew. Tommorrow, we will get both kid's immigration visas, and when they touch US soil they immediately become citizens! We really had wished we had an appointment yesterday, both our family and the other one today, our guides had tried to get Tue. appt's but they were full. It meant that we had to stay here one extra day, which is why we've had free days the last two days. However, if we had had that earlier appointment and a flight out this am, we would have never had the new papers in time, and would have missed our flights out of Hong Kong. God knows every bit of this journey, every stop, and bump, and he is watching over us. We again are so so thankful for your prayers. We need every one of them. Tommorow, is packing, and waiting and at 4:30 pm, that will be 3:30 am Thurs morning for ya'll we will board a van for Hong Kong, our first step home!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Guangzhou day 3

Last night, we ended wandering into a mall down the street and found a Malaysian restaurant. I thought it was really really similar to the Vietnamese we had the night before. Either way, it was good. We had spring rolls with rice vermicelli noodles, green beans with minced pork and sweet and sour chicken. The sweet and sour here is so good. Not the red goopy sauce at home, all though we eat that sometimes too, lol.  But a real sweet and sour with lots of bell peppers,onions, and fresh ginger and pineapple. We slept in this morning as we didn't have to meet the group until noon. The kid's tb tests came back clear, so that's good. We all met in the lobby at noon, and headed over to Shamian Island, where we went to church yesterday, to shop. There are still lots of little shops there that have traditional items, like silk clothes for kids,  and squeeky shoes, and touristy stuff. We didn't buy much. Not a lot that we felt like we had to have. There was so cool artwork but we bought some of those things last time. We did buy each child a new Chinese outfit, and a few other little things. We didn't get back to the hotel until almost 4, Georgia fell asleep on the bus, but woke up when we got here, so didn't get much of a nap. Calvin went down right away. I made some noodles in the room, and Michael, Georgia and I all ate, and then I woke Calvin up, and he ate as well. Finally, around 6 we walked down to the supermarket. We bought a few more snacks for the room, some banana chips, and these buns that Michael and the kids really like. They are like a sweet roll kinda, some with red beans, and some with bean paste inside, with cheese on the top. I also found some Coke flavored mentos. Don't worry, Olivia, I'm bringing them home for you guys :)  I didn't take any more pictures, because we noticed a sign on the door today that said no pictures, and I didn't want to get thrown out, lol. Since we ate in the room kinda late, we decided to just have a snack tonight. Last time we were here, we didn't eat at any western places at all. We really love the authentic Chinese food, but we've been here almost 3 weeks, and I don't eat the same kind of food all the time at home either. We Asian, German, Italian, Southern, etc.... So, it's just getting monotonous. Anyway, we decided to try the McDonalds on the way back to the hotel. I wondered if it tasted the same as home? We see lots of pizza huts, and KFC's around too. And I've heard pizza hut doesn't taste the same. We walked into a KFC in Zhengzhou, but the pictures looked pretty different, and I didn't see any mashed potatoes, so we left. Anyway, we shared a double cheeseburger combo, and got the kids chicken nuggets, and I had an ice cream cone. It all tasted just like home, and while McDonalds isn't our favorite, it was yummy tonight, lol. Calvin loved the nuggest and fries. Georgia was a little cautious, but ate two nuggets. They still think ice cream is weird. They just aren't used to cold stuff. Won't last too long I'm sure, once we get home. The both are doing really well. Everyday we see progress. Slow but sure. Tomorrow, we go to the zoo..... and I'm not sure what else. 

Some pictures of the hotel lobby.  Beautiful!

green tea and chocolate cake, and green tea and raspberry. both for just over $1.

Georgia had to go today, while we were on Shamian Island. No bathroom around. No problem, lol. We are going to have to break this habit at home!

lots of Starbucks here, for my coffee loving friends.

This bike had three seats, plus was pulling the stroller.

pretty Shamian island

Hanging out with Daddy

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Day 2 in Guangzhou

Last night, after the kids naps they played for a bit, and then we went in search of dinner, since we only had a light lunch in the room, everyone was pretty hungry. We arent' familiar with the area around this hotel, but I had a little map and we headed out. One wrong turn, and we had to backtrack a bit, but then I found the restaurant I was looking for.... then we went in and they told us they didn't have a picture menu. We can't read most menus, so we need pictures, so places have English and Chinese labels. Ended up finding a Vietnamese place with pictures, and English, which is good because the picture of the green beans looked good, until I read they were sauteed with duck liver. Yeah, we eat alot of stuff, but not liver, of any kind. We had a grilled pork bun, with rice noodles. Very good. Stirfried mixed veggies, and lemongrass chicken. All good. The meat here though is rarely boneless, so you have to be careful eating it, and spit out the little pieces of bone. We Americans are so spoiled, lol.  Came back the kids were tired, bath and bed for them. They both sleep excellently, which is such a gift,because many newly adopted kids don't, and sleep is my kryptonite, so it's a total answer to prayer.  We stayed up, reading and waiting for the kids at home to wake up to skype them. When I almost couldn't keep my eyes open they finally got online, lol. Talked for a little bit and then to bed. 

Today, we had a little bit longer sleep, and then headed to down to breakfast. We sat outside by the fish pond full of huge, beautiful koi fish, and waterfall. We didn't have time to take nice pictures but we will have to go out and take some nice pictures of the hotel later. Finished up breakfast  and met our group in the lobby at 10am. The schedule was to take the group shopping at a local shopping pedestrian street near the hotel we stayed out last time we were here. We loved that area, and it is familiar to us. We knew that we could walk to Shamian Island from there and that is where we could go to church. So we went with the group to the shopping area, and then we headed off by ourselves, with instructions from our guide to be back at 1:30pm. We walked through the shopping area, to the pet market. I didn't take pictures of the pet market. They have everything you can imagine, cages, of hamsters, guinea pigs, kittens, puppies, fish, turtles and on and on..... then after that you walk through the spice market. Smells interesting, lol, and bags and bags of all kinds of stuff. Dried seahorses, and unmentionable animal parts, and herbs, and flowers, scorpions etc..... then finally to Shamian island. Shamian Island was where the western ships were allowed to dock and trade way back when, and so the island which is small, like 4-5 blocks across? Has western architecture, and reminds me very much of Savannah. It is quiet, comparatively and easier to not get run over, lol. It used to be where all the adoptive families stayed, and so many little shops catering to adoptive families, selling chinese clothes, and souvenirs and squeeky shoes etc were there. The American Consulate, and the medical exam clinic used to be there, but they've moved to the newer part of the city now, and not nearly as many families stay there anymore. Anyhoo, the Christ Church is there and we knew they had a Mandarin/English service so that was our destination. We got there just before 11 and picked an end pew, close to the back, in case we needed to make a hasty exit. It was moving to be there. It was packed, and they opened singing with English and Mandaring verses, then the Pastor gave a message, and it was based out of 2nd Corinthians 4:16-18
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

The Pastor would speak and then it would be translated. After the sermon, we sang another song, first verse in Mandarin, and it was so moving to hear all these voices singing praises to God, then the next verse in English.  After that they had communion, and again I was moved. There were maybe 4 western couples in the church, the rest Chinese, and they were kind. They gave me a English/Mandarin New Testament to keep. English on the left page, Mandarin on the right.  Feels so blessed to have worshiped here today.  After a potty stop,  we walked back to the shopping area. We only had about 45 minutes till we had to meet the group, so not enough time for a sit down lunch. The area was packed, and I do mean packed. We went to a little store I remembered and bought some undies for Georgia and Vivian. 3 pairs for $1.50. Dora, lol. I will probably regret not buying more. Then were thirsty, so went to the 7-11 and got some water, and a coke, and some juice for the kids. Ended up buying some squid on a stick, chicken and meatballs at a local fast food street vendor. Michael loves the squid. He had it last time too. Kids are napping now, and we will go out exploring later, and try to find some dinner. Laundry gets returned tonight too! Yay ;) 
Getting ready to head out to dinner.

Spice market, the bag with the yellow label in the middle has dried seahorses. Not entirely sure what the other stuff is.

Rooster guy, he's always out on this shopping street. A mainstay :)

Shopping street, BEFORE it gets busy.

more spice market

waiting for church

Outside market.

Food on a stick :) You pick, and they cook it. We had chicken, squid and meatballs.


Saturday, February 2, 2013

Jinan to Guangzhou

Yesterday, we had a relaxed morning, breakfast, and packed up. Skyped with the kids, and Georgia and Calvin napped. We checked out at 2 pm, and our guide picked us up and we headed to the police station to pick up Georgia's passport. Traffic was horrible again. It took a long time, and then we continued on to the airport. Our flight wasn't until 4:55pm,  so we should have had plenty of time. However, the traffic slowed us down, and then our driver made a mistake and took the wrong exit. There is no just going back here, so we had to take a different route, and we realized that we were going to be cutting it very close. We finally peeled into the airport at 4:20! We had to get checked in, and then through security. By the time we were in line for security it was already 4:40, thankfully the flight was delayed 1 hr. And we ended up having time to spare. The other problem was that they assigned us four separate seats all over the plane. We kept trying to talk to someone and get the seats together, but they just kept nodding at us, lol. Finally, when we got on the plane we showed a flight attendant the seats, and then she told us to sit in a row together, then when the people assigned those seats would show up, she'd just take them to another seat. We didn't land here until around 9 pm, and then it was almost 45 minutes to the hotel. Well after 10 by the time we were checked in. So thrilled to be here though. The weather is like home. I am so so glad to get rid of the layers on the kids, and jackets, and gloves, and boots for all of us. Broke out my flip flops today, and did a little happy dance, lol.
Georgia's first flight.

breakfast, thats a banana leaf that had a type of rice dumpling inside that she loves.

A display of different sausages for sale at the supermarket.

Packages already with meal ingredients. Thats some kind of special black skinned chicken!
Today, was a good day. Our hotel is beautiful, and Guangzhou is much more western so pretty easy to navigate, compared to Zhengzhou and Jinan.  We had breakfast, and then met the group in the lobby to go to the kids's medical exams. There are 7 families here. All kind, cool people. At the medical exam, we had the kid's visa photos taken, and then filled out some paperwork. Then a general exam, where they strip the kids down, and check them out. They particularly focus on their special need, whatever it is....., then an ENT exam, then weight and height. Then a blood draw to check for TB. This is new. It used to be a skin test, but now it's a blood draw, not a finger prick, and they take your child into an exam room, WITHOUT you and draw the blood. You can't see or really hear them. The kids, all of them were terrified. That part was awful. The whole thing was loud, and crazy. There were 60 families there with their kids, from all over, all different agencies. We all loaded back up on the bus, and went to a local supermarket to buy snacks, water, milk, diapers, etc... then back to the hotel. We had a simple lunch of some buns and fruit. They kid's went down for a nap. At 3pm, I had to meet our guides, and the other families to work on the paperwork for the visa applications. Michael stayed in the room with Georgia and Calvin.  The paperwork took about 1.5 hrs. Back to the room, where we just played, read, watched Lord of the Rings in Mandarin. Tonight, we ventured out to find supper, and tried one restaurant but it didn't have any picture menu or english, and then we found a Vietnamese place with English. Had a grilled pork noodle bun, some stirfried veggies, and lemongrass chicken. Very good. Walked back to the hotel, and the kids were ready for bed. Bath, lotion, pj's, milk, bed :) Hanging out with Michael now in the sitting room area of our room, waiting for the kids back home to wake up and skype. Not many pictures from yesterday and today. Will take some of the hotel soon, it's beautiful. Tomorrow, we hope to go to the Christ Church on Shamian Island for worship, and then we are free the rest of the day. Looking forward to it!