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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

WOW!


Hailey swam 100 backstroke at the state meet and got a 1:01.28!!!
I am so proud of my baby girl!
Last year she qualified but was DQ-ed—this year she placed 8th!
Her medley team also walked away with 5th place!!!
And she got her personal BEST time ever.
I saw a quote today: The will to win is important. The will to train is imperative.
Hailey trained about 450,000 yards this season! That is about 256 miles! Here’s to a great swim, Hai!

All my best,
Amy

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Strength in the Start and the Finish (and somewhere in between!)


There are many times we are called upon to be strong. Sometimes physical strength is required; other times it is emotional or mental. Often, it is a combination of all three.

Hailey has been in the water since the beginning of summer, practicing for the swim team. Her first meet’s times were the best of her season as they happened after a three week “break” between the age group and high school teams. Even though she has been pushing herself both before and after school, she hasn’t been able to break through her 1:04 “threshold” for backstroke. About a month ago she donned her Fastskin and competed at MISCA—and broke into the 1:03’s.  A week and a half ago Hailey was at conference—and got a 1:02.8!!! Then she got bronchitis…and her times tanked. In two days she will be competing at state. She is extremely nervous, as she doesn’t know how her performance will be post-sickness. An accumulation of five months of training, hundreds of MILES in the pool, and hours of extra-curricular weight lifting; all for just over a minute of performance.  Physically—she has completed her training. Mentally—it is still up in the air! We will be cheering loudly from the stands! Whether or not she gets her PR, she still is a winner in my book. Taking home the hardware will be icing on the cake, though!

Hope has attended swim meets since her first week home. She has gone from NEVER entering a body of water, even for bathing purposes, to allowing herself to stand in a pool with me by her side, to swimming solo. The transition was not smooth—I had to enter the water on numerous occasions to rescue her as she hovered just below the surface, not even knowing to reach out for assistance. This year, however, she decided that she wanted to go out for the middle school swim team! I had hoped that she would, but very much expected her to come home after the first day and say that she was done. Hope even admitted that she had wanted to tell me before the second day that she didn’t want to go back, but after she attended that practice, she was glad that she went back. Before her first meet Hope was very concerned that she wouldn’t know what to do, when to start her races, that she didn’t know how to do a flip turn, etc. For as nervous as she was, I was PROUD! She was not a contender for first place, but she was there, swimming her heart out, next to girls who had been swimming for over a decade. Only 5 months after her first experience of putting on a swim suit, Hope was a member of the swim team, clad in a team suit, swim cap and goggles!  She recalls being so scared to try and to continue trying after she saw how fast most of her team was.  However, Hailey just told me that Hope is no longer the slowest in her lane! Another miraculous accomplishment by my tenacious teen!

Austin has closed another chapter of his high school career. Last weekend he performed in and closed the high school performance of Our Town. He loves being in theatre—I guess when the theatre bug bit me decades ago it was passed on to my son! Anyway, he is not an emotional child normally, but he admitted breaking down between performances on the last day. It was difficult for him to regain composure to start the next performance; his voice was shaky and his makeup smeared. It is hard closing a chapter of something that was fun and dear to him, especially since he doesn’t see an opportunity to continue it in the future. One thing that can be said about Austin—he did act well his part, and there all the honor lies.
I hope you have an opportunity for an encore performance, Austin!

So, for my swimmers and my master thespian, allow me to say “Well Done!” I am so proud!

All my best,
Amy

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Veiled Blessing


As Solomon said long ago: “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest-“ doesn’t happen often at our house! In fact, it seems that we get busier and busier as time goes on. Not that the things we are involved in are necessarily bad, but the harried pace and lack of sleep sometimes puts us behind the eight-ball. Our eldest son, Austin, has learned this the hard way. While trying to squeeze in a little more homework before going to play rehearsals seemed like a good idea to him, when he realized the time he flew out of the house and took off in his car. Or, more accurately, he tried to.

Back up a little over a year when the tragic accident happened with Stephen Curtis Chapman’s family. The horrific death of their adopted daughter caused by their teenage son in their own driveway struck a tremendous chord of fear in my heart. I used their tragedy as a teaching moment MANY times since then, especially since I had a teenage driving son and now adoptive daughters as well. Add an element of senior-itis that has been settling into Austin’s heart and mind for months—which led to a few discussions about his driving habits and my promises of taking away his keys if he didn’t improve. Fast forward to the present: I had reminded Austin twice that it was late and that he needed to leave. He chose to stay. When he did get up to go, he also chose to ignore my repeated warning about backing out and driving too fast, especially in our driveway since we have young children at play. Austin saw the car of a friend that was parked in the middle of the driveway and knew to steer around it, but cranked the wheel and gunned it in reverse. What he failed to remember was how the front of the car arcs out farther than the tires, and when the speed was added to the equation, it resulted in the fender being bent, the front bumper being ripped out, and the front left headlight being pulled away. The garage also sustained damage, but cracked siding and splintered wood were the smaller part of the problem. David thought it would be about 1k in damage, but his friend said it would be closer to 2k. Austin’s entire summer’s wages were on the line in a rash moment.

Why do I call this a veiled blessing? It goes against everything in me to welcome a financial burden! If you know me, I use coupons, shop sales, and pinch every penny that I can. From the moment this happened I have been overflowing with praise and gratitude to God!  I believe to the bottom of my soul that God allowed a wake-up call for Austin, one that cost him his time and money but not his sister’s life. Hannah and Mandy were playing at the neighbor’s that afternoon, running back and forth between houses and across driveways. It cost him dollars, but our family is intact. Praise the LORD!  Austin seems to have sobered through this ordeal. I don’t think I will hear his tires squealing in the cul-de-sac any time soon!

As it turns out, by doing the work ourselves and buying aftermarket products, the financial won’t be as steep. It will take several hours of work and learning. It will cost him a school’s month of wages, not his entire summer’s wages. He has gained an appreciation of his parents’ warnings. He also has changed his perspective on the cost of every day things, blessings he takes for granted, because they can be lost so rapidly.

In the midst of it all, when everything was up in the air and he thought his savings were drained, Austin made a hefty financial contribution to support a local Christian radio station. When the world would advise him to hold on to whatever wealth he had left, he in faith gave what he had to God. I asked him about it and he shrugged it off, saying it was what he needed to do. I am amazed at the strength of character my son is gaining. His faith has blessed me.God has blessed me, over and over.

All my best,
Amy

Whether Think You Can or You Can’t, You’re Right


This weekend was homecoming for our schools. (Go HAWKEYES!) The bands were required to march in the parade, which was “normal” for both Andrew and Hailey, but terrifying for Hope. She refused to perform in last year’s concert because of the fear of failure; this year she was making her playing debut not only publically but also while marching.  The worry and stress that was invested into this event!  Friday came; the weather was perfect, the crowd was massive, and Hope marched alongside her classmates, playing like the rest of them.  After the parade, Hope was smiling from ear to ear, almost glowing with pride. Her first comment? “I can’t wait to play in the next concert!”

Austin also overcame an obstacle that had been a thorn in his side for his high school career: the pep assembly. It seems that the former “pep” assemblies were just a time for the school to be gathered together in a orderly manner and to be lectured about how to have “spirit”, as long as it wasn’t too loud or rowdy. As a senior, Austin was eligible to organize the pep assembly this year, and he took the bull by the horns. After a month of planning, gathering footage of the football highlights, and organizing, the pep assembly was a hit. There was music, cheering, games, and the football players actually jogged onto the main floor—they didn’t walk on in an orderly fashion! I am so proud of my son: he didn’t just complain about his grievance; he did what it took to make it better not just for him, but for his entire student body. He didn’t say it was too hard, or out of his comfort zone, or he was too busy: all of which were true. He just did what it took to be the change.

All my best,

Amy

It’s Ok…We’re Family!


We have three large dogs. When we had one, he was allowed to be an inside dog. When we had #2 come along, they were inside/outside dogs. The third one cemented their living conditions--outside dogs 24/7.
Boomer, our eldest dog, is definitely showing his age and slowing down. Having the experience of losing our cat this past December, we all are more aware about appreciating what we have while we have it. That said, Boomer was given a night inside, including a lot of petting by many hands.
He loved every minute of the attention, eyes rolling and tongue lolling. He was drooling profusely, making his legs, the couch, and Hannah’s and Mandy’s hands quite wet. Hannah wrinkled her face and said “EEEeeeewww!” but Mandy kept petting, saying, “It’s ok; we’re family.”
Well said, Mandy!
All my best,
Amy

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Reaching Out


Hope loves to talk about her day upon reaching the front door after school. She tells me about her class work, her friends, her teachers, and her inevitable struggle with her locker. J  Last week her demeanor darkened when she shared about another girl, one who was not being friendly. I inquired about what was happening, and Hope said that this girl was staring at her with a not-so-nice expression. This is not the first time Hope has experienced judgment by her peers; she lived it daily in China for being an orphan. Sadly, she saw that ostracism knows no boundaries.

I tried to explain that some people feel threatened by new things and people and that people will either run away or fight whatever scares them.  Hope was amazed that anyone could be scared of her! I also talked about how people often act in ways that do not reflect the truth. I didn’t know how much Hope truly understood, but she seemed more relaxed when we finished our conversation.

Our church’s youth group has been getting ready for their big evangelistic event of the year.  The kids have been putting up posters, making U-Tube videos, posting invites on Facebook and handing out postcards to their friends.  Hope also has been inviting her friends for weeks so she always keeps a stack of the postcards with her. The day after she told me about her unfriendly classmate she came home from school, ready to download her day as usual. The first thing she shared? She saw this particular girl scowling at her but instead of turning away, Hope approached her, handed her a card for the youth group event, and invited her to come. Hope said that the girl didn’t look so angry afterwards! What a victory for Hope!

Although Hope still struggles with English comprehension, fear of marching in band, and being able to follow along with all of her classes, she has demonstrated poise and character beyond her years. She no longer wears the scarlet letters: O for Orphan, U for Unwanted, W for Worthless.  Instead, she wears a mantle of love and acceptance and value and worth. She knows that she is our child, she is learning that she is God’s child, and she is acting on what she believes.

All my best,
Amy

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Joke Without a Punchline


Finally, we have completed the oath ceremony for Hope. She was being denied her certificate of citizenship because, although she became a US citizen upon getting her Chinese passport stamped at the airport customs back in February, AND she took an oath back in Guangzhou at the American Embassy, AND she has received her American passport (which is evidence of her citizenship, not proof) she needed to jump through yet another hoop. So, after months of waiting, dozens of phone calls, a 7 hour round trip, 20 minutes of waiting before the appointment, 20 minutes of waiting for the late start at Detroit US CIS, and repeating a ridiculous oath, Hope is finally official!
Hope was concerned that she didn’t understand almost all of the oath she was supposed to repeat. Take a moment and read what she promised today:
“OATH OF ALLEGIANCE”
I HEREBY DECLARE, ON OATH, THAT I ABSOLUTELY AND ENTIRELY RENOUNCE AND ABJURE ALL ALLEGIANCE AND FIDELITY TO ANY FOREIGN PRINCE, POTENTATE, STATE OR SOVEREIGNTY, OF WHOM OR WHICH I HAVE HERETOFORE BEEN A SUBJECT OR CITIZEN; THAT I WILL SUPPORT AND DEFEND THE CONSTITUTION AND LAWS OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA AGAINST ALL ENEMIES, FOREIGN AND DOMESTIC; THAT I WILL BEAR TRUE FAITH AND ALLEGIANCE TO THE SAME; THAT I WILL BEAR ARMS ON BEHALF OF THE UNITED STATES WHEN REQUIRED BY THE LAW: THAT I WILL PERFORM NONCOMBATANT SERVICE IN THE ARMED FORCES OF THE UNITED STATES WHEN REQUIRED BY LAW; THAT I WILL PERFORM WORK OF NATIONAL IMPORTANCE UNDER CIVILIAN DIRECTION WHEN REQUIRED BY THE LAW; AND THAT I TAKE THIS OBLIGATION FREELY WITHOUT ANY MENTAL RESERVATION OR PURPOSE OF EVASION; SO HELP ME GOD.

(WHAT???!?!?!!!) Can you believe that the United States congress required me to drive 7 hours and put my 14 year old child through THAT??? For what earthly purpose??? Ahh, tax dollars at work. What a farce!

Speaking of tax dollars well spent, check out what a printed sign said inside the vending machine there:
"Please do not use Canadian money in vendoring machine.Canadian money can render vendoring machine inoperable. Use U.S.A. money currency only with exception of 1/2 a dollars."

Welcome to America, eh?


Now that THAT is behind us, I can truly say:
All my best,
Amy

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Survivor Guilt



Hope talked to her China family this morning. She didn’t really expound about much until dinner when she shared that her older sister (who was brought into the home to replace her) told her that all of her friends in China are angry with her because she doesn’t talk to them. She also told Hope that her younger sister was doing so much and that Hope was missing it all. Finally she asked Hope “Why you?” She said that she turned 14 and no one wanted her and no one adopted her at the last minute (like what happened to Hope) so why Hope?
It seemed that those questions were reverberating in Hope’s mind all day. At dinner she asked us over and over “Why me?” and asked us to retell the path we took to her. She asked us how we could love her before we even met her and what if she was naughty? What then?  She asked why we couldn’t adopt her sisters and her friends too.
All of our answers felt vague in concept, kind of like asking her to hold onto a cloud. We kept on telling her that God brought her to us, first to our eyes, then to our hearts, and finally to our family. We told her that we could love her before we met her because that is what parents to for all their children. We explained that we were able to love her because God first loved us; that even when she didn’t know us or was rejecting us and thinking we were the enemy our hearts were overflowing with love for her and we pursued her until she decided to turn two us, just like God loved us before we knew him and even when we were his enemy. We sadly told her that we were not able to adopt all of her foster siblings and friends, just because it was not possible.
Which got me thinking…
What if we did adopt again?
(David doesn’t like this line of thinking.)
So I have petitioned God to change our hearts to be like HIS, to turn around our mindsets and to have the desires HE wants us to have.
All the kids know my heart. David knows my heart. Most importantly, God knows my heart. And I will learn to be satisfied with what HE has planned for me. For us.
It seems that I too am experiencing survivor guilt. I have been blessed with so much. There is SO MUCH need out there! How can I say that I have done enough? When will we have the family God planned for us?  Six kids? Seven? Ten?
Although I don’t know the answers, I do know that before Hope went to bed she hugged me and told me that she was so glad that I was her mom. I am too.
And that is enough thinking for one night.
All my best, Amy

Friday, July 16, 2010

Fading…and Growing…

Hope realized that she is forgetting her Chinese. She has forgotten mainly the written characters, but the verbal is also slowly ebbing. This scares her, and me too. I promised her that she could take Chinese as a second language in high school, but she has another year to wait. Dave has jumped on this and has promised to get her an on-line subscription to a Chinese newspaper. I do NOT want this to be lost…there is too much of her in her language. She even has said that she is afraid to call her China mom b/c she may not know how to answer, and Minnie isn’t here to help anymore. I knew this would happen, but I didn’t want it to happen so quickly!
Both Mandy and Hope have learned SO MUCH English in the past 5 months! I know by the cock of their heads and the flat look in their eyes when they don’t understand, but we rarely use Google translate anymore. Hope gets lost when other people talk because they are either talking too fast or not taking “comprehension breaks”, but usually if I repeat what was just said or rephrase it, they understand. Mandy often plays the “HUH?” card even when she understands. I think it is either a game or a control tactic…but usually she can answer appropriately when asked about what is being discussed. I swear, Mandy’s middle name should have been “Me Too!” as she mirrors whatever her sister Hannah does.
Austin and Hailey have been busy swimming this summer for swim teams. They both are instrumental in Hope’s and Mandy’s desire to achieve in the pool…both girls are intent on learning to swim the butterfly!!! I told them to ask their swim teachers next week. I am sure it will come after freestyle, backstroke, and breaststroke! Bless them for having such high aspirations, only a few months after entering the water for the first time. They were amazed that we had Austin, Hailey, Andrew and Hannah in swim lessons while they were still in diapers. J
Hope mentioned that she never went shopping alone with her China mom. She had an older brother who was a bio son, and he always chose to go with his mom to the market. She also said that she would say “hi” to her mom when she would see her and some small talk, but never anything beyond that. She said she felt shy by her China mom. How different it is now!!! She is always being engaged in conversation!!!  I am so thankful that she is my daughter!
One last thing…Hope keeps on saying that if Dave was in China, he would be put into a (mental) hospital for the crazy! Dave loves to dance crazy-like, embarrassing his daughters beyond belief! Just wait until Hope’s first dance at school…J
I am a happy and blessed momma!
All my best,
Amy

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

My Fish


It is so hard to believe that only a little over 4 months ago both Hope and Amanda had never been swimming. To look at them today…WOW! Amanda has officially graduated off of the arm bands and is swimming both on top of the water and under water. She dives for toys on the bottom of the pool, does somersaults in the water, jumps in going frontwards, backwards, and doing “twisties”, and goes down our pool slide dozens of times a day. She is quite a fish! Both she and Hannah are going for swim lessons next month to learn the strokes properly so they can join the swim team this fall.
Hope is not as advanced as Mandy but she has come such a long way! Only 1 month ago she wouldn’t enter the pool without me. Just 2 weeks ago I had to jump in to save her because she didn’t know enough to reach out for a reaching assist. Now she swims regularly with a life vest on but will also take it off (with permission, of course) and attempt swimming in the shallow part of the pool by herself. She has tried to dive for the toys at the bottom of the pool but hasn’t succeeded yet, but she TRIES! Just 2 weeks ago she couldn’t stand up without help—now she goes down the slide, jumps in, and uses a snorkel and goggles to swim around. She has even kicked across the pool while holding her breath without ANY floatation devise…WHO would have thought it possible? She also is signed up for swim lessons next month. Hopey definitely won’t tell you that she is excited about it, but if you look closely, she gets a glimmer in her eyes when she talks about it!
My eldest two are in swim practice every day and lifting in a swim-specific weight program 2-3 days a week. Hailey is determined to place at state this year and Austin has been uncomfortable since getting a 2nd in state last year in his 100 free. He is determined to take first in both the 50 and 100 this winter as well as entice any scholarship offers from universities.
Andrew is not swimming but is in a diving camp. He has been known to have a knack for dancing and has been invited to be on a traveling competitive team before. Our trip to Shanghai derailed that endeavor but he is finally finding a way to use his God-given talents. For someone who decided last year to give diving a try, he is holding his own against high schoolers! He likes to go to practice early and stay late which speaks volumes about his heart. It makes me nervous to watch him dive because he gets closer and closer to the board the better he performs.
Between the school’s pool and the one in our backyard, ALL of my kids have a very healthy diet of chlorinated water. It seems to be a wonder-drug for acne but is hard on the hair, causing it to either break off or turn green! It can be said that the aroma of “Ode de Chlorine” permeates our house at any given time.
The joys of summer!
All my best,
Amy

Monday, June 7, 2010

Today’s Friends, Yesterday’s Family

Saturday night was a long one for us! Our dear friends who are missionaries in Bangkok came home for summer furlough. They arrived at the airport at 11:38 pm, family complete and bags accounted for! The sheer enormity of this task is remarkable: two and a half years ago they “rescued” a girl being sold to the slave market and started proceedings to adopt her. Being that they bought her (which is illegal) put huge barriers in their path, especially with the Hague in place now. They had planned on returning to the states last summer but their child wasn’t granted a travel visa at the last minute. Even this year they climbed sizable mountains, completing her adoption and obtaining her visa only days before travel. (sounds vaguely familiar…) Three of my kids went to the airport with me to greet and deliver our friends to their house for the summer and everyone got to meet them Sunday night in an impromptu dinner party. Hope and Amanda were very uncertain about the new people and clung to each other and to me for a long time. By the end of the night, however, Mandy was hugging Liz’s neck, not wanting to let her go! Hope asked when they were coming back before they left the driveway and started to dance a jig when I mentioned an impending sleepover later this week. I am glad that everyone meshed so well since I plan on having this other family be a part of our daily lives for the next 2 months!
WELCOME Dave, Sonja, Liz, Elliot, Grace, Elliana, and Ammie!

Saturday night Hope decided she wanted to call her teacher from China. It took several attempts but we found out that her teacher’s cell phone number was no longer in service for her. Determined to make contact with someone from China, Hope then called her foster family. Her father answered, but Hope locked up and wouldn’t talk. She started to cry, not wanting to answer his questions of how she was, etc. How could she answer “fine, good, I am doing well,” etc without hurting his feelings?  He then became frustrated with her for not talking and started yelling at her. At this point she hung up and really cried. HARD. Dave was there and comforted her by hugging her, stroking her hair, rubbing her back, just repeating over and over that he loved her. I also hugged and loved on her until the tears subsided and encouraged her to talk to Minnie. Through Minnie we found out about Hope’s conflicting feelings and frustrations. We encouraged Hope to call her foster parents again, but she definitely wasn’t ready.

Sunday night, soon after our friends left, Hope decided she wanted to call again. After coaching her on what she could say and talk about, we got her on the phone, this time with her China mom. It looked like there was going to be a repeat performance as she immediately started to cry and refused to talk when I grabbed an extension and gave it to Minnie, saying “Talk!” Min got on the line and started talking to Hope’s foster mom in Mandarin and continued to do so for quite a few minutes. Min explained Hope’s feelings and told her foster mom about us, Hope’s accomplishments, etc. Soon Hope was able to supply an answer to a question and then picked up the conversation. Min stayed on the phone, trying to let me know what was being said and trying to officiate, making sure that what was being said was appropriate. I say “trying” because Hope and her China mom were talking in a dialect of their region in Kunming and Min could only make out bits and pieces. Hope also asked her foster mom for a recipe for some kind of rice dumpling that is eaten for the up-coming Dragon Boat Festival next week. Hope’s foster mom first said that we wouldn’t be able to get the ingredients here but Hope proudly told her that we already bought the sweet rice (a 50-pound bag!) for it, so her other mom told her the directions. Hope finished the conversation SO happy and SO eager to make contact again! She had worried about making contact with her foster family for the past 2 months…she even wrote and ripped up letters to them. She was certain that they forgot about her! Her foster mom is going to ask her uncle for his e-mail address so Hope can make more frequent direct contact and send photos online. She found out that the letter she sent to her classmates over a month ago DID get delivered, even if they didn’t write back. Hope is now beaming, eager to write, eager to call, eager to e-mail her foster family, her friends in China, as well as her friend here in NY who was adopted before her. It seems that she has the internal strength to do ANYTHING right now!!!

When the noise of the day faded away with the last child going to bed Dave asked me if I had mixed emotions about Hope being so happy to talk to her China mom.   I must admit that although the question was a valid one, it had never crossed my mind or heart. I am SO HAPPY that this family loved and supported Hope for so long! They surrounded her with extended family: grandparents, uncles, cousins, as well as numerous foster siblings. They taught her the value of hard work, the importance of family, and the worth of education. I certainly don’t feel threatened by her—at the end of the day, Hope is HERE, learning that her significance to me is not dependent on her usefulness but based upon my love for her which stems from God’s love for me. Hope is who she is today largely because of her China mom; for that I am very grateful.

Xie xie, Zhong gua ma ma!

All my best,
Amy

Saturday, May 22, 2010

A Glance Back, A Glimpse Ahead


It has been so long since I sat down to write. There have been many times that I thought “I need to blog about this!” but then I would lose that thought by the time I sat down in front of the computer. Goodness, I often lose my train of thought walking from one room to the next!  No wonder I didn’t become an engineer…always losing my train (of thought)…hee hee…ok, lame joke. Sorry. J

Dave is finally over his jet lag from a 2 week stay in China. It was hard on everyone to have him gone! Hope and Mandy daily lamented that Dad wasn’t home. They did jump right in the family tradition of “sharing nights in mom’s bed”. I didn’t even have one free night the whole time Dave was away. I also found out that Mandy is a touchy-feely person in her sleep.  She often “touched” with her feet as she tap-danced on my back, laying perpendicular in the bed. It didn’t matter how many times I righted her position and how many pillows I placed in between us…those monkey toes would burrow their way underneath like heat-seeking missiles. I also found out that she needed her toe nails cut, evidenced by the scratches I received. What a night!

It actually worked out well that there were not enough days for everyone to go twice. Of the seven kids that slept with me, only Hannah made my bed the next morning. Because of this, she was rewarded with an additional night. Of all the kids, only Andrew stayed and helped me with dinner dishes on Mothers’ Day. He was rewarded with an additional night, too. When the other kids saw that they could earn another night in the “BIG” bed, they started helping out around the house more! Not everyone, but some, and every little bit of help counts!

I was blessed with several unique, thoughtful Mothers’ Day gifts from my kiddos. My FAVORITE one, however, is a book made out of my blog entries, people’s comments, and photos of our adoption/family life. I had mentioned that I wanted that in the past but never took any steps to make it happen. Now I have it to cherish forever.

School is winding down, sports are wrapping up, and summer is upon us. Whoo-hoo! I am looking forward to having my kids around more! Austin and Hailey will be swimming through the summer, Andrew will be training for CC as well as spending time in the pool in diving camps, and Hope, Hannah and Amanda will participate in a summer art class. Austin has a job that will increase his hours in the summer as well as be involved in a weight lifting program, so his time will be filled, but since he drives himself it doesn’t affect the rest of us too much. Everyone else will have *something* to do to break up the 3 months of summer break but not enough to be too busy. Everyone will have the chance to get bored and then figure out how to entertain (him) herself WITHOUT a computer screen. That is a skill that will be difficult for Hope to learn (but very important as well). It will be a great time to just be a family!

How blessed we are! I don’t deserve even a moment of this happiness, but I cherish every one.
Thank you, God:
for entrusting each and every child to my care;
to hold on tight for a while and then release as they grow;
to love forever!

All my best,
Amy

PS. I have to give a shout-out to my son Andrew! He ran the mile in his track conference last night. He trained all season for the 400 and 800, but those events were filled so he was placed in the mile run. His PR from one practice run at the beginning of the season was just over 6:30 so he was hoping to break 6:30. Instead, he wrapped up the season with 6:07!!! Like he said, “Imagine what I could do if I actually train for it!!!” Great job, Boo!

Monday, May 3, 2010

No Concert, New Permit, & Future Fun!


After agonizing all weekend about the impending band concert, I sent Hope off to school on Monday with a promise to talk to her teacher. She was so fearful of performing on stage! I did talk to her teacher and he gave her the option of not attending, which would have been great solution to her problem. However, Hope decided to take things into her own hands and cut class later that day. Hmmm…I know it was rooted in the trust issue (or lack thereof) but since it was a repeat performance on her part she experienced the loss of computer privileges for the week as consequences. I think she was madder at herself than at me, but she simmered in her scowls all Monday evening and even through school on Tuesday. I had written her a note in her lunch explaining that although I didn’t like her behavior, I did like her, and that she needed to say she was sorry and seek forgiveness from her band instructor. I asked her about it when she came home from school and she said she did it and then apologized to me as well. It was a long 24 hours of hard feelings but it seems now that they were productive in helping her learn both to trust and to be trustworthy.

Hailey went for her drivers’ permit Wednesday afternoon. She opted to ask Dave to take her and then drove with him for the first time afterwards. Neither she nor Dave had a good report about that event! Weeping, wailing, gnashing of teeth, white knuckles, and high tensions filled the evening. Thankfully they both can laugh about it now, but Hailey still vows that she will NEVER drive with dad again! They both agree that she won’t drive in Holland until AFTER Tulip Time—it will be safer for her AND the pedestrians!!! Hope STILL talks about wanting to drive. THAT scares ME!

Speaking of Tulip Time, we have two parades to attend this week! Austin, Hailey and Andrew will be marching; Hannah, Hope and Amanda will be watching with me. We also will introduce Hope and Amanda to elephant ears, cotton candy, and (endless) Klompen Dancers. We also will be going out after the parades on Wednesday for a Cinco de Mayo celebration—both Hope and Amanda love Mexican food! I wonder if they will like the live Mariachi bands…

Having a blast with my new family,

Amy

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Our Adoption Story

We stood before you almost exactly two years ago and shared the hard times, the sifting that God had taken us through individually, as a couple and even as a family.  God had definitely broken up the ground of our lives. He reworked our marriage, our family our hearts and even our home as he moved us to China for a time.  It was at once the most terrible and the most beautiful time in our lives.
We knew God was up to something, but so much easier now to see that God was waking us up and teaching us to rely on him….he had more for us.  More for us than coasting through life on maintenance mode...he had a mission for us.  I thought we were all set.  Yes, we felt a calling to do more and were ready, so we thought…we still had our savings, our plans, our home, our family, our retirement…..all under control.  Right!
A quote by A. W. Tozer sums it up well:
" God is looking for people through whom He can do the impossible. What a pity we plan only the things we can do by ourselves."

Two  years later our savings are gone, our plans have changed, our family will never be the same, retirement…well, not likely.  We could not be more thankful!

Our pastor asked us to share our testimony about our adoption process.  As we tried to prepare our “adoption testimony” two things became abundantly clear:    
 It is impossible to separate our adoption testimony from the testimony of our walk with Christ
Finding analogies, parallels and clear callings in scripture between our salvation and caring for orphans is NOT like being served a softball pitch to hit out of the park it is like being served 1000 softball pitches all at once and deciding which one to swing at.   You just have to swing your bat and you are going to hit one.
For those of you who know us know one of the clearest passions or burdens that God placed on our hearts through our sifting process was one of pointing the lost to Christ in both word and deed, especially to those who have very little chance of hearing God’s word.  One of the very first quotes I remember reading was what John Piper frequently says: “there are three types of people;  goers, senders or the disobedient”.  We were sure two years ago and are still as sure today that we will be “goers”.  However, with all due respect, I think Piper’s quote is inadequate.  God showed us there is another action verb that should be added, “bringers”.  “Goers, senders, bringers or disobedient”. We are not yet prepared to go, but certainly God has prepared us to “bring”… the lost to us…today. 
We ultimately heard a clear calling for us to adopt from overseas.  This was our calling for today.
Please hear us when we say that we did not adopt only because we wanted to rescue someone, but it would also be untrue to say that it was not a part of it.  We also adopted because we believed there was still more room in our hearts and home.  Both are true plus dozens of other reasons that only God could explain.  It is true, however, that there are hundreds of thousands of children across this world that short of being adopted will likely NEVER hear the gospel.  Amy coined a phrase while in China that speaks to this truth: “Dead child walking”.  Harsh?  Probably.  True? Absolutely.
Amy had always wanted to adopt. As a child she had a Chinese doll that she pretended was her baby.  For decades she talked of Chinese children even  before I started traveling there or we lived there.  Although Amy told me of her desire to adopt, she rarely mentioned it and certainly never pressured me.  As far as I was concerned our quiver was full, adoption was dangerous, too expensive and certainly out my control.
One day in November 2008 the Holy Spirit moved in my heart. I told Amy before breakfast one morning that I thought we should adopt.  Amy was shocked (bruised her jaw on the floor when it dropped!) and overjoyed. Our adoption journey began for one little girl, a sister for our youngest child, Hannah.  
"God is looking for people through whom He can do the impossible. What a pity we plan only the things we can do by ourselves."  Thanks, Tozer!

We prayed as a family, talked as a family and agreed that we were on this path together.
We did not know in which country to look.
We did not know how to look at scores of photos and “choose a child.”
We did not even know how to choose an agency.
Much less did we know how to pay for the adoption
For months, Amy agonized and pleaded with God along with many ladies from her Bible studies. 
Although Amy wanted to adopt from China, there were several mountains in our path.  We ended up looking to several other countries including Ethiopia and Thailand and signed on with two different adoption agencies. 
Proverbs 16:9 – The heart of a man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.
In ways that only He could do, God either MOVED those mountains, showed us a path around them, or called us to climb them.
God providentially took us back to China, with still no idea how we were going to pay for it. This was the part for which we were going to have to get our climbing boots!
After months of agonizing “how to choose”, in early June God showed us our little Mandy from Wuzhou City, China.  God brought us each to love her in due time with only a short bio and a couple of aged pictures.  We had hopes of having her home by Christmas.  Just paperwork to complete now!  (Yeah, right!)
In July another Calvary adoptive family stepped in and started praying with us and helping us figure out how to pay for this.
The next 3-4 months were times of learning to trust God and remember he was in control.  The paperwork always took longer than it should, things got delayed, and expenses started to mount faster than savings accounts and fund raisers could handle.  Even with these minor frustrations we were extremely blessed and amazed at the generosity of our friends, family, Hamilton businesses and even some local Hamilton churches. We saw God at work in His people at grocery stores, at an optometrist office, at car washes, at prayer meetings, and even blog sites.  We were greatly humbled.
It was hard enough to raise money, but soon it became necessary to just be gut level honest with people and ask for help.  This was not easy.  There was a lot of pride that had to go and it HURT. 
We soon learned to understand that God’s resources are not limited to what we see, what we think is reasonable or practical.  God uses generous people. 
“One man gives freely, yet gains even more…”  Proverbs 11:24a
We truly saw God’s hand extended in mercy and generosity. 

AND THEN God decided there was more…. The Friday before Thanksgiving, Amy received an e-mail.  Amy prayed and prayed before I got home for direction on what was presented to her.  When I got home she did not yet sense a clear direction, but shared with me what she was presented and that was that there was another little girl just outside of Kunming, China who would turn 14 on Jan. 20th and as a result become “unadoptable”, she would age out of the system.  We had until Monday to decide if we would be the ones to try and adopt her.  With only 8-9weeks until her “age out date” it was a long shot to even try.  Our own adoption agency said it could not be done, apparently they did not know our God.
We prayed all weekend.  By Saturday Amy already knew, but did nothing to pressure me.  After a long night of wrestling with God, by Sunday I knew that I could not say no.  My flesh, my logic, my selfishness screamed “NO WAY”, but how could I???  How could I possibly let finances, bedrooms, college tuitions, weddings, savings, or retirement stand in the way of giving a little girl a family. 
We stepped out in faith the first time to get a daughter we wanted for our family. We stepped out with our other foot in faith to get a daughter GOD wanted for our family.
The race was on!!!
Amy started praying and Amy starting pushing (a dangerous duo). 
Literally hundreds if not thousands of people praying for us and Hope from adoption blog sites across the nation.
An unnamed angel put up a $5,000  matching grant. 
The grant was matched, mainly from other adoptive families we have never met face to face.
The US and China moved paperwork (or, should I say, God did).
Against our agency’s best advise we bought airline tickets over Christmas for January to arrive in Kunming two days before Hope’s birthday.  Technically, we were traveling illegally as the documentation to allow us to adopt, which doubles as our reason for getting a visa to China, would have to meet us there.  There was no time to wait.
We hugged Hope on Jan. 18th at about 9:45 am, less than 1 day and 7 hours before she would be without a forever family forever. 
Approximately 28 hours later we were in Nanning hugging Amanda for the very first time. 
To compare this with how God first loved us, before we even knew he existed, or how we resisted Him even when He got our attention seems so obvious.  We loved these girls before we ever held them. We were never going to let them go.  To lose them in the process would have been kindred to a miscarriage, as we know all too well.  To expect the girls to feel the same would be na├»ve, and they certainly did not.  Pastor Paul could preach a couple dozen sermons on the spiritual salvation parallelisms that started then and continue until today. Trust, love, & transparency all take time and are things that they know little of.  Sometimes all we can do is hug them, even when they resist. Especially when they resist!
Isaiah 43:5-7
Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west.
Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth – everyone who is called by my name whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.
Our earnest prayer is that both will be sharing their own testimonies in the coming years like their “sister”, Minnie.  Their understanding of our faith to date is ironically off to a perfect start.  Hope shared with us that in China she was taught that only the weak believe in God. May we always be weak so He can be STRONG!
All our best,
Dave (writing for Amy)
PS. Minnie was baptized this past weekend! She made a public confession of faith before she took “the plunge”.  We are so thankful and honored that God blessed us with the opportunity to walk this path with Minnie! Hope and Amanda don’t quite understand what went on. They think it was cool that Minnie was able to go swimming in church! I pray that we will soon be a family of “swimmers”!
A.M.B.,
Amy