Saturday, May 24, 2014

His first report card

What is it about that very first school evaluation that's so incredibly special? I opened the envelope from Charlie's teacher on Thursday and studied those few pages for what seemed like hours, smiling at his straight "A" progress report.

It's in that moment when I soaked in just how far he's come. I couldn't help but well up, as I digested his progress in this past year.

And then my mind drifted to his teacher...his very special teacher who shared beautifully written comments about how much she's enjoyed watching him grow and become so independent in her class.

She was our daughter's teacher when Daniel died.

She was there at our fundraiser--celebrating with us--on our journey to bring Charlie home.

She was there when he was a face on a photo and just a dream in our hearts. And now, he graduates from her class, and he's taken a place in her heart.

Throughout the year, she celebrated his milestones with us. She chuckled in his feisty times when he exhibited emerging confidence and spice.

She tells me, repeatedly, what a sweet child he is, and how sometimes she just has to give him hugs. I see the look in her eyes when she speaks about Charlie...she loves him, too.

She tells me, on numerous occasions, how she had tears in her eyes listening to Charlie say the Pledge of Allegiance.  She knows how far he came to say that Pledge. And it brought tears to her eyes. Charlie doesn't know what that Pledge even means yet. But he will. Someday, he will, and I hope he remembers who taught him those precious words.

Thank you, Kendra Bivins, for being you, and for loving our little monkey so much. Our family will always remember you. And Mr. Charlie, please keep those grades up, young man.


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Answered prayer.

When I first corresponded with Agape Adoptions in this post, I expressed a sincere interest in connecting with any adoptive families who are traveling to Joseph's city and orphanage.

I was stunned to read this reply, which certainly piqued my interest, to say the least:

"I will pass your name and email onto our families that are preparing to travel there. His friend is being adopted by one of our families- and I am sure she will contact you."

A day later, she did. I received an email from the new mom of our son's best friend.


Carrie's email gave me chills...seems like I constantly have "God-bumps" throughout the adoption process.

"Not only were we hoping he (your son) was adopted, but we also hoped that we would be able to be in touch with the person who adopted him - so our son could stay in touch with him."

I quickly wrote back to her, feeling an instant sense of "family" here. Along with my message, I attached our family photo. Carrie replied that my email had brought her to tears. You see, they've never adopted before, this family, and a friend told her to "find a friend who has recently been there, done that, or is in the process...a friend who you can call in your craziness and they will understand." When she saw our children, she knew I was that friend.

She calls me an answer to her prayers. And I call her an answer to mine.

Several days later, we spoke on the phone. We both marveled at this glorious unfolding, and she shared something big that I hadn't known....our boys had their surgeries together last year! I've often looked into Joseph's eyes and thought about our son going through surgery all by himself and dealing with the pain of healing. I've wondered if anyone was there to comfort him. Knowing these children shared this experience--and perhaps were able to comfort each other--gives me some peace.

These are Carrie's beautiful words that she posted. I can't love them enough.

"God has a way of knitting hearts together and cares about the littlest needs of the orphan. This is how much God loves the orphan, adores us, and cares about every need... through His divine and miraculous orchestration, I met (via email, FB, and then a phone call), my now new sweet friend and sister in Jesus, who is adopting our son's best friend - our son in China! They have been best buddies for the past 14 months, in the same orphanage, and now we have the privilege of knowing the family he will be joined in. And to top it off, I get to hug on her son when we go get our kids, and tell him how much they love him and are waiting for him - and maybe even bring a gift to him from them! Seriously! What a miracle!"

That brings tears to my eyes every time I read it. The fact that she is already thinking about loving Joseph on our behalf?

She calls me an answer to her prayers. And I call her an answer to mine.

The Holy Spirit's presence is just beyond words sometimes...

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Care package

Remember the woman from Agape Adoptions that I posted about recently?

She emailed me two days ago and asked if we would like her to deliver a gift to Joseph next week.

Can you imagine?  Her kindness still blows me away.

We had to act fast, but there's a package on it's way to China via Washington State today...

Immediately, I thought to send the "Quiet Book" that's been sitting in one of Charlie's drawers for a couple of years. Yes, it is for young children, but it is full of sensory activities like buttoning, snapping, buckling, zipping...things that Joseph may or may not currently get a chance to practice.  I asked our friend at the agency, and she thought it would be a totally appropriate item to send.

My friend, Jennifer, had this wonderful suggestion to send one of Charlie's shirts and a stuffed animal of Madi's. Then we thought to take a picture of them wearing and holding these items so Joseph would understand that they belonged to his brother and sister. Charlie chose his "Awesome just like my Dad" shirt, and Madi chose Pooh. I could not find a soft picture frame, so I used what little creativity is left in my brain and cut the front of a greeting card at home to frame the picture. I love the way it came out.

I ran to Target this morning to add a few items:  some stickers and Hot Wheels cars that he can share with his friends, some socks for his cute little feet--also enough to share, and a beach ball that perhaps all the kids can enjoying playing with together.

We've had the opportunity to send care packages to our kids before, but this feels different--I suppose because of our son's age and the circumstances. I am so grateful for this chance to connect with Xiao Xiao in advance. I hope he loves our gifts, and that they don't overwhelm him.

My agency friend did request that all of the items fit into a gallon-size ziplock bag. It was a tight squeeze, but I somehow managed to get it all in! I stuffed the bag so full I fear it might explode. Poor little Pooh might just arrive in China as flat as a dumpling...

Daddy is en route to the post office now!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Madi's First Communion

There is so much to say about Madi's first Holy Communion.  First of all, we were so blessed to be joined for the week by Jimmy's sister, Kathy, and our niece (and Godchild), Kelsey. We were able to spend some quality time with them last week, and it was long overdue.

Months ago, our Aunt April Murphy called me and had me in tears. She said that since she won't be around to see Madi's wedding day, she had it in her heart to supply all of Madi's clothing for her first communion. She couldn't wait to see Madi's beautiful skin in her white dress. She dressed Madi from head to toe in a gorgeous new dress, veil, and shoes.

The night before, we joined the family and Grandpa Murphy (a.k.a. Papa) and Suzanne's house to celebrate Papa's birthday. While we were gone, our friend's father came and installed a beautiful custom-made prayer kneeler in Madi's bedroom. It was our gift to Madi, and the bench was covered in special dragonfly fabric that was chosen by her beloved Grandma Pauline in 2008 to make her headboard. The leftover piece that I'd saved all these years was exactly the size we needed! It was a surprise to her that night, and you can see--from the look on her face--that she loves it and she was indeed surprised.

Her cake was made by her first best friend, Julianna Debonis, who is only twelve years old. Look at this cake! It was the most beautiful cake and one of the most delicious I've ever tasted. What a special gift.

Madi's hair was done by her second grade teacher, Miss Marissa Tata. A couple of weeks ago, I spied on Facebook that she had done some prom hairdos, and I was compelled to ask if she would consider this special project. Madi loves her so much, and she feels the same about Madi. They are very close. Of course, little brother insisted on having his locks curled too...


The finished product was pure beauty, as if there were any doubt. 
It was such a special day for all of us.

We kept the food really simple...Madi style. She requested a buffet of her favorite potato chips, a variety of bagels and cream cheese, deviled eggs, a few appetizers, and a chocolate fountain (thanks to Aunt Sheila).

We celebrated with family and friends. Sadly, I didn't take many pictures, but here is one that a friend snapped of Madi with a couple of her best friends since forever, Carmelina and Sophia.

I sat in church two nights before and watched the kids rehearse for Saturday. As I stared at our beautiful daughter sitting amongst a sea of kids, my mind wandered to somewhere that I hadn't expected, and it left me wondering.

If Madi were still in China, would she be given the opportunity to know Jesus right now? Would she have the chance to openly receive His body and blood? Would she, as a female in Communist China, be chosen to stand on the church altar and read the Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary to the congregation?  We'll never know, but I would imagine it's not likely.

All of a sudden, I felt blessed to a whole new level. It's fulfilling enough to love your children and to be bonded together as a family. But to bring those children into the light of Jesus?  It makes motherhood even more special. I'm so thankful to the Holy Spirit for giving me the eyes with which to see His truth.

What an incredible gift this child is, and we are so grateful for the spiritual blessing of her first communion.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Our Gem.

As you might imagine, I was beyond thrilled to receive the news that we'd finally found someone who might know more about our son! 

This kind woman with whom I corresponded verified that they have just started doing adoptions from this orphanage, and she doesn't believe any kids have even come home yet!  It made perfect sense and came as such a relief.

I emailed back to thank her for the information. I also gave her our son's Chinese name to see if she knew of him. Click, click, nails anxiously tapped on the keyboard as I awaited her response. And then, this:

"I saw him last June when I was in China. He is a sweet boy and had just had his surgery when I saw him. The care is great- the orphanage is awesome- there are not a lot of kids there. I really enjoyed my time there and they are really a great group!"

Did you get that?  She MET him. The care is GREAT. The orphanage is AWESOME!

I couldn't help but ask for more, since I knew that I had found a caring person who was willing to share! I shot back a few questions about the environment he's in...keeping my fingers crossed in hopes of additional clues about Joseph's life in the orphanage.

Her reply provided even more peace...
"He sleeps in a toddler bed. They eat family style (they have really good food at this orphanage!) and he is just in a really good place. I really can't say enough god things about it. I think you will be very happy to see it when you are there. There are several kids there that are about his same age. I am sad we were not able to place him, but so happy to know he has a family. He's a gem :))"

She described our son as a GEM!! (they're all gems, by the way) And I love how she inadvertently typed "God" instead of "Good" in her third sentence. Did you catch that? I sure caught it, and I believe her typo was the doing of the Holy Spirit.

Just like that, my worries were swept away. Gone like the wind. Bye bye.

I can hardly believe we've found someone who's met our Joseph. To me, the most beautiful part is the fact that this woman could have chosen not to respond to me at all. I mean, we are with a completely different adoption agency. Remember that agape love I mentioned?

She just so happens to be traveling back to the orphanage this month and has graciously offered to take pictures for us. We've connected with her just in time, and we are feeling oh-so-blessed by her love for the children, our son included. No coincidences, I'm sure.

Thank you, Jesus.

Monday, May 5, 2014


This word has recently been brought to the forefront of my consciousness. I think I've seen it many times before in my life, but never really knew what it meant, nevermind how to pronounce it.

a·ga·pe2 [ah-gah-pey, ah-guh-pey, ag-uh-] 
noun, plural a·ga·pae [ah-gah-pahy, ah-guh-pahy, -pee], a·ga·pai [ah-gah-pahy, ah-guh-pahy] 
1. the love of God or Christ for humankind.
2. the love of Christians for other persons, corresponding to the love of God for humankind.
3. unselfish love of one person for another; brotherly love.

When we discovered, through Joseph's file, that he was found on Valentine's Day at one month old, I found myself wanting to know more about St. Valentine and the true meaning of the holiday that was such an important day in our child's life. And what I discovered is that Valentine's Day celebrates the heroic and sacrificial actions of St. Valentine, who was imprisoned for his faith and responded by miraculously healing the daughter of his captor. Such displays of forgiveness and love are nowhere to be found in the modern celebration. Instead of celebrating Christian agape love, the world has replaced it with eros. 


Our son was given up on a day that represents the love of God or Christ for humankind. What irony to think that, while millions of people were celebrating their love for each other, this child's birth mother was placing her son at the gate of the public security bureau. Never to be seen by her again, and she would only carry him in her heart for all her years because she probably couldn't give him the medical attention he needed.

The agony of her sacrifice is purely unfathomable.

What a sad, yet beautiful act of agape love. Did she know? Did she know, as she laid him down and turned away with a shattered heart, that it was the feast day of Agape love?  Perhaps not, but God knew.

Remember in my last post, how desperately I searched for information about Joseph?  Well, the next day that Heaven-sent friend of mine sent me a message that read, 

"Contact Agape Adoptions."

I had goosebumps! I quickly sent an email from the "Contact Us" page on their website and realized that I might've sounded like a complete nut, but I don't give up easily.  

The next day, I received the email that was answered prayer. My instinct was right on. Thank you, Holy Spirit. I have found the agency that has a One to One partnership with this orphanage.

And it gets better, my friends.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Seek and you shall find

My head has been swirling with anxiety in the past weeks. I have been waking in the night--almost every night--with worry about Joseph. I felt compelled to pray for him in the middle of the night.

You adoptive parents know the feeling well. Who's caring for him? Is he being fed enough? Is he being loved by anyone?

The questions that we ponder, that we dwell on constantly about our children, in the months we wait to meet them.

Reflection upon Matthew 6:34 has helped me quite a bit recently.

"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

I've been on a mission for information. Joseph is in an orphanage that I'd never heard of. And, oddly, I couldn't find anyone else who'd heard of it either. That left me so curious.

Our adoption agency knew nothing about this orphanage. I had posted on quite a few Facebook groups in my quest...advocacy groups, families with children from China, even a group of the families who've adopted from the province that Joseph is from.  Yet nothing. I even reached out to the Founder of Love Without Boundaries, and she, too, had no answers to fill in the pieces of the puzzle.

Two theories had developed in my mind...either they just recently opened their doors to adoption and have recently been preparing the children's files, or this orphanage has a partnership with a European agency.

Then, in a message from a wonderful sister-in-Christ (Amy--the same kind friend who visited Olivia in the orphanage), she said she was going to reach out to someone in particular on my behalf.

And she did just that. 

I cannot even begin to tell you what's transpired since then...but I will.  In another post.

Suffice it to say that we've scored, and we feel so much peace it's beyond words.

God is in these details.