Monday, April 18, 2016

Lulu Jane

Along the way, we've decided we would keep our daughter's Chinese name "Lu Lu" as her first name and call her Lulu. Although we don't yet know the meaning of the Chinese characters, which we hope to get in China, the meaning of her name from the baby-naming sources is "Precious Pearl" which is also, interestingly, her birthstone for June. She's used to it, and we love it. So why change? But choosing her middle name seemed a bit more difficult...

On New Year's Eve (yes, we've been unintentionally withholding for a while, lol), we'd gone to bed early, and I had a dream that night about her middle name. I woke up the next morning and remembered it distinctly...Jane.

Out of curiosity, I powered up my laptop and began searching all the popular name sites. And I found this...

"The name Jane is an American baby name. In American the meaning of the name Jane is: Gift from God."

Wow. I mean, who doesn't love that?  Lulu certainly is a gift from God.

Then I went on to seek interpretations from other sites. And I found this Hebrew meaning:

"Yehweh (God) is gracious, Yehweh (God) is merciful."

Oh yes, He is.

I signed off the computer to shower and get dressed for Mass on that first day of the new year--Madi was altar serving that morning. Jimmy had decided to stay back with the boys, so I was able to really pay close attention (those of you with young ones understand that the struggle is real).

And when Father Jay delivered the homily that morning, I heard these words flow from his mouth... 

"God is gracious and merciful."

My ears perked up like a new puppy. Did he just say that? Yep, he did. And I knew it was a sign.

So thank you, oh gracious and merciful Father, for Lulu Jane - our gift from God, our precious pearl. She is your gift, and we will surely treasure her in our family.

Friday, April 15, 2016

New Pathways

If this isn't a testament to how God provides, I don't know what is.

Two days ago, I was feeling the stress of our financial situation and the fundraising crunch. With travel dates confirmed, things were a bit tight, and I sensed the distress in my husband. 

I posted in a China Adoption Group on Facebook asking for any last-minute suggestions for fundraising or acquiring funds in general. I received some great advice, and three different people suggested that I contact an organization I'd never heard of called Pathways for Little Feet. Turns out they give interest-free adoption loans to families in need, and through them, $1.7 million in funding has been given out in over 200 adoption loans resulting in over 300 children who've come home to forever families. Wow.

When I completed my errands that morning, I took a look at the online application and realized that the application was huge. I've applied for eleven grants this time around, so I know what we're dealing with, and I knew that I'd best find out more information before investing much of our precious and dwindling time.

I picked up the phone and called the number. A man named Heath answered--the same Heath who was listed on the website, I presumed. I introduced myself  and from his voice alone, I felt a certain peace. Before I knew it, I was spilling out everything about our last-minute situation and was getting emotional to someone I'd never spoken to before.

This man was amazing, though. He wasn't rattled, and I could immediately detect that he wanted to help. He gently walked me through their criteria (financial requirements, credit scores, and application must be pre-travel), and thankfully we passed the initial test. He told me this, "If you can get me all of your paperwork, scanned and emailed, by tomorrow afternoon, I promise you that we'll put it at the top of the heap, and we'll review it by Thursday. Our time is short, and there are no guarantees, but we'll do our best."

That's all I needed to hear.

I put the pedal to the medal and worked on it diligently all day. And by the end of that night, in three separate emails, I'd finally sent every piece of backup documentation they needed. We'd beaten our deadline by almost a full day.

The next morning, I received an email from Heath confirming that they'd received my emails and asked if we could connect via Facetime that day. I talked to Jimmy and we set up a 1 p.m. Facetime call, which was actually such a blessing because we were forced to test our systems for next week.

When we connected, Heath took time to introduce the team at Pathways for Little Feet and made mention of our record-breaking application turnaround. They asked us about our family and about Lulu. Then he said, "Let's just cut to the chase. We're giving you an interest-free loan today." And I'll bet you can guess what happened next, can't you? We cried. Yes, we cried big old tears of relief that we do not have to worry about funds for the moment. And that is huge. We can pay this loan back on a reasonable payment schedule. It can be used for any adoption-related expenses (even for Lulu's medical needs which are yet to be determined) and they don't even want us to think about making our first payment until July.

Pinch me.

But the best part? The best part was when we all dried our tears, and Heath asked if we could pray together. He led us in prayer for safe travels, for continued financial provision, for Lulu's health and healing, for our children at home, for those who are caring for them in our absence, and for our whole family's transition when we return. It was simply awesome...

This morning, at some point, we will have a check in our hands which will allow us to make our final agency payment just in time. I'm not kidding...we needed to send these funds to our agency prior to travel, which happens to be bright and early Wednesday morning. God surely pulled off a last-minute miracle in the way of provision. And wouldn't you know it was almost exactly the amount we needed. His timing is always perfect, and we're so amazed by his pathways...

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Full Circle

A long time ago, Jimmy and I were childless. We were content, but our lives were focused on many of the wrong things, and we now realize how much we lived in a materialistic bubble.

We were approaching our forties when the Holy Spirit laid out a path of events to a family, to plant seeds within our hearts for children. One of those seeds came by way of my ob-gyn, and after a series of questions about our desire to be parents, she handed me a packet for an adoption agency. It would end up being our first agency that brought us our gem named Madolyn.

Another encounter was with friends of ours. These friends were slightly younger than us, and they had children already. They invited us for dinner, and over casual conversation and after-dinner shots of Limoncello, Jeff asked, "So what's going on with you guys...don't you want to have kids???"  His wife, Julia, gave him a swift kick under the table. But it was okay. We were up to the questions, and we listened to their case about what good parents we'd be. And you know what? We knew they were right. We were beginning to feel like there was more to life than our selfish tendencies and expensive useless possessions. We left the Kadel's house that night feeling even more pulled in the direction of a family.

This same couple, Jeff and Julia, had also been the ones to introduce us to new forms of charity that opened our hearts to children in general. Each Christmas, they gave a small group of us clown costumes to wear, and we visited a children's shelter together to shower these children with love and give them some cheer. Jimmy and I always managed to ruin our clown makeup with tears streaming down our faces.

Time went on and we started adding to our family one by one through adoption. Jeff and Julia had three home-grown boys and started a baseball team for children with disabilities called The Miracle League of Palm Beach County. We remained friends and saw each other as time would allow with our busy lives and schedules.

So, why is any of this relevant? When Jimmy and I started on this most recent adoption journey for Lulu, we were aware that some concessions might have to be made, and we honestly weren't sure if both of us would be able to travel. In fact, I was committed to traveling with a friend, if necessary. During that time, Julia and I had a conversation, and she offered herself up as a travel companion. She felt called by the Holy Spirit to take the journey, and we agreed to pray about it. But as the months passed, I knew I really didn't want to do this journey without Jimmy. He's Daddy, and he needs to be there too. At the same time, we certainly didn't want to deny Julia of the experience if she were willing to come along. And then Jimmy had a brainstorm and suggested that Jeff should come along, too. Afterall, they helped get this beautiful ball rolling twelve years ago. 

We all prayed about it, knowing how important this trip will be and that it's not your typical adventure. It's one that comes with a rollercoaster of emotions and many scheduled appointments. Jeff and Julia attended the travel conference call at our house. They applied for visas, and they had a family meeting with their brave-hearted boys, who all said--unanimously--yes, take the trip. And so they are. Jeff and Julia are literally leaping for Lulu with us.

We are so amazed by God's hand in this. It's come so beautifully full circle, and we pray that they are immeasurably blessed by the experience. We can't wait to see how God opens their already ginormous hearts on the other side of the world.