Friday, May 6, 2016

It all comes down to this...

9 months
Endless donations
Millions of prayers
112 Built Together shirts
278 MudLOVE bracelets
27 copies of my book
500 puzzle pieces
3 grants
 An interest-free loan
Fundraisers from friends
Mountains of hand-me-downs
ONE Forever Family
Lulu is coming HOME.
Thank you, Jesus.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

The Consulate

It always makes for an interesting experience going to the U. S. Consulate here in Guangzhou. While we walk through masses of people who yearn for their chance to come to the United States, we, as adoptive families, stroll right by them and march to the entrance for our children's visas. It makes you realize how many people just wish they could get that ticket to the land of the free. It's something we shouldn't take for granted.

The Murphy family was number one today, and Lulu's interview was the first to be given. We were sworn in as a group of eleven families all with varying agencies, and then we waited for them to complete her case. Tomorrow at 3:00 our guide will pick up Lulu's passport with visa and the brown envelope that holds the keys to her citizenship. When that plane touches down in Houston on Saturday, our daughter will become a U.S. Citizen. We have one last day to spend here in China and then we're on our way HOME bright and early Saturday morning. Just typing that feels good! Though it will be an excruciating day of travel, we can hardly wait to be home with our family. We miss everyone so much!!!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The Medical Exam

Yesterday we took Miss Lulu for an important step in the process--her medical exam. This is necessary in order to receive your child's visa for HOME. Our guide obviously has experience in shuffling families in and out pretty quickly and in an orderly fashion. Our first stop was ENT. They found some wax in her ears (I asked them to check closely because little one is LOUD). And they did not see any evidence of overly-enlarged tonsils, which was great news since that was something listed on her medical file. Perhaps moving away from coal country is helping her tender tissues already. 

The next step was the general exam. Lulu was examined carefully and it was determined that one leg and one arm (on her weak side) are shorter than the others. We'd already figured that out. She received an official diagnosis here in China of Cerebral Palsy...two words that years ago would've scared us. But not now. Those words don't define our daughter. She's just Lulu, and she needs some physical and occupational therapy...

Our next step was vision. They used a primitive hand chart initially and quickly concluded that Lulu needed further testing. There we discovered that Lulu's eyes are JUST like her Mama's! Go figure. She is near-sighted and she has an astigmatism in one eye.  She'll look darling in glasses, won't she?

Lastly, Lulu had her TB test. This is the one station all adoptive families dread, because they won't allow you in the room to console your children while they draw blood. Truly grueling. Lulu was gone for about five minutes, and I became alarmed when I heard a child crying. Thankfully it wasn't her, and when she tears (which isn't necessarily something to celebrate) but we consoled her anyways. She is such a tough little cookie.

And on that note, we JUST received the text from our guide saying that she passed her TB test! Next stop...U.S. Consulate tomorrow morning for our visa appointment. And we are in the final stretches to the finish line. Praise the Lord! 

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

This Girl...

She's sweet.

She's saucy.

She's silly.


 She's bossy.

 This girl is BUBBLING OVER with personality.

Look out, world. Here comes Lulu.

Gotcha Day

Jimmy and I are quite familiar with the wide array of emotions involved with the adoption process and the days leading up to that "Gotcha Day." But even on this fifth adoption, the same explosion of feelings prevailed--nervousness blended with pure joy, mixed together with fear and a burst of excitement. But when I woke up that morning, I definitely felt differently. I was a more peaceful person on the inside and more calm on the outside than I had been in weeks. It could only have been the power of the Holy Spirit and the grace of God to calm me so. We ate our breakfast that morning with Jeff and Julia, and then we headed back to our room to gather our things. It was time.

We met Maggie, our guide, in the lobby and loaded into the van to drive over to the Civil Affairs office. We took in the sights around us, and Jimmy and I joined hands as we reflected on the fact that we were about to meet the little girl who'd been in our hearts since last summer. Our little girl.

When we pulled up to Civil Affairs, we barely had time to think, because Maggie said, "There's your girl!" And there she was. Lulu was standing on the stairs of the Civil Affairs Office with the Orphanage Director. Jimmy and I barreled out of the van and ran to her. We know better than to overcrowd...we sat next to her and gently introduced ourselves as Mama and Baba. Her innocent facial expressions bounced between uncertainty and fear, but only temporarily. We sat on those stairs for about five minutes and reassured her that we love her and that it will be okay. With that, she accepted us and took our hands to head upstairs to the Civil Affairs Office.

It didn't take very long for Miss Lulu to begin smiling and coming ever-so-slightly out of her shell. We'd brought a Twinkle Toes backpack full of peace offerings and took time to show her each item inside as we waited for paperwork to begin the "harmonious period" of 24 hours. Jimmy and I both knew that it was simply a formality. She was already our daughter.



When we were done, we walked to a nearby photo shop to take a family picture for her Chinese passport and her adoption paperwork. This beautiful child who'd seemed only a dream for so long was finally in our arms. We could feel her skin and hear her voice. 

Lulu was obviously very loved and well-prepared for a family, and for that we are eternally grateful. With the clothes she was wearing and a small backpack of keepsakes, she bravely took our hands and walked away from everything she'd ever known with complete trust.  And with child-like faith, she never looked back. 

Monday, May 2, 2016

God is in the Details - arriving in Taiyuan

Sometimes God is overwhelmingly in the details. And if we don't open our hearts, it prevents us from seeing all the beauty of those signs around us.  One of the first things we spotted driving into the center of Taiyuan last Sunday, where we would meet our daughter the next day, was a statue of the famous WuWei horse, the very city--in all of China--in which our beautiful daughter, Madi, was born. It felt like the warmest welcome sign.

How do you explain that our guide in Taiyuan, China has a nice Irish name like Maggie, and that the first person who would greet us at our hotel was a young Chinese man named Murphy?  Yes...all the way in China.


Or that after beginning last Sunday at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Beijing for Mass and then taking a scenic 2.5 hour bullet train ride into Lulu's province, we would be swept away for dinner in the finest Shanxi restaurant by a Grandma and Grandpa who we've known all the way from sunny Florida? It almost sounds like a movie, doesn't it?  But these were the real God-laced events of our Sunday arriving in province to meet Lulu.  That evening was the most amazing part, and there is only one word to describe our experience...surreal. 

Last fall at school pick up each day, my friend Margaret (who speaks Mandarin) would converse with a sweet elderly couple who spoke no English. Their granddaughter goes to Banyan Creek, the very same school as our kids. Well one day, Margaret discovered that they were headed back to China for several years. I overheard the conversation and happened to ask which province they live in. Her answer stunned me..."Shanxi." We quickly pulled up a map on our phones to verify it was the same province...the same one where our daughter was living. I told her which city we'd be staying in and it was--in all of China--the exact city we'd be staying in to adopt Lulu--Taiyuan. I promised to stay in touch with their daughter and son-in-law (who have kindly translated videos of Lulu for us during our wait) and told them that we wanted to see them while in China.

A couple of weeks ago, I reached out to their son-in-law to see if there was anything we could deliver to his in-laws, and we made arrangements. He gave me their phone number and asked me to call them right away to plan their visit to the hotel. Once we were settled on Sunday and had completed some necessary adoption paperwork with our guide, Maggie, I asked her to call them for us. And they asked if they could come meet us right then and there. As the Lord would have it--always in the details-- Maggie was available to stay and translate for us so we would be able to communicate with them.

We met in the lobby, and it seriously made me a puddle to see them across the world from where we'd first met. We marveled at the mere chances of our union, and it was only an event that God could weave together. They quickly became known as Lao Lao and Lao Ye (Grandma and Grandpa). We gave them their items, and Lao Lao handed me a most beautiful set of hand-crocheted coasters to keep as a gift. 

Then they graciously insisted on taking all of us to dinner. Their son-in-law drove us to a restaurant that's known as the best in the area and serves local Shanxi delicacies. In fact, the chef is well known and has restaurants in the U.S. too. We sat together in a private room and even though there was a language barrier, it didn't matter. You could feel the love in that room. These kind and generous people treated us to at least fifteen local delicacies--the dishes kept coming and coming. 


After our meal, we said our goodbyes and promised to see each other back on U.S. soil where we can treat them to a backyard barbecue at our home and with our daughter from their homeland province.  We marveled, again, at our union.  Something like this could only happen once in a lifetime, and we completed our reunion celebration with selfies and hugs.

I'd say God sure rolled out quite the welcome mat for us to meet Lulu the next day...such beautiful details to praise the Lord for.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Holy Ground.

Oh friends, I've got so much backtracking to do on this blog, but I'm going to start with today. Because it was about perfect inside the Home of Jesus at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Chapel on Shamian Island.

Our little one remained calm for the entire hour-and-a-half Mass as if she felt the Holy Spirit within that church. She flipped through the pages of the missal and tried to sing the songs with the choir in an English service. She clasped her cute little hands together and blinked her eyes tightly to mimic our actions, and she kneeled down with the rest of us in prayer. 

It was blessed.


And then the homily. The Priest spoke of true Love and Obedience, and my heart was filled with peace and calmness as we journey into new territory for our family. My eyes filled with tears as I stared up at that ceiling and remembered being on this same holy ground with each of our children, including our precious angel, Daniel.

It was sacred.

And though I've felt consumed from the sin of worry more than I'd like to admit this week, today the Holy Spirit gave me sweet signs and whispered to my heart saying, "You are loved. It will be okay. Trust me." God is good. All the time.

It was a peace that transcends understanding. 

After we shared in the Eucharist with brothers and sisters from all over the world inside this tiny chapel restored back in 1892, the Lecture asked new guests to please rise and introduce themselves. I nearly jumped up out of the pew to introduce this child...our precious and beloved daughter who spent her first five years in the confines of an orphanage and was now--miraculously--attending her first Mass with a mother and a father. I'm sure mine weren't the only tears shed in that moment.

And it was about perfect. It was the Grace of God.