Prayer time for Olivia and our family

We just got notice that Olivia has left her foster home “The House of Love” to go back to her orphanage in Fuyang.  Her transition to her forever family has begun.  She is leaving the only home and family that she knows, being taken by a stranger on a train to an orphanage she doesn’t remember, and left there on her own with more people she doesn’t know.  In about 10 days, some other person she doesn’t know is going to take her on a train or in a car to the city of Hefei.  Then she’ll be handed to her new family.  But as a two-year old who has never had a mom or dad, can she even understand what that means?  We pray that she’ll remember what her caretakers at The House of Love told her when they showed her our pictures.  We pray that Jesus will fill her heart with peace and let her know she’s in a safe place and that she is loved.

We ask for your prayers for the transition that will come once she is with us.  We hear on occasion that we’ve got it easy since we’ve already made it past the newborn stage.  But adoption is not a painless process.  Some children transition extremely well, like Julia did.  Others deal with a great amount of grief and confusion, like Rion did.  Still others are very traumatized by the losses they’ve experienced and by the neglect and maybe abuse they’ve suffered.  They are never able to attach and bond with their families without years of therapy. Even then, they may not ever relate the way most people do.

We have every reason to believe that Olivia has been cared for so that she will attach to us well and that she will accept love from her family and give it in return.  At The House of Love they not only take care of the children’s physical needs, but also provide as much of a family environment as they can. Still it can be a hard road.  We pray for a smooth transition, but know that it may not be easy.  Yes, Olivia’s two and might sleep through the night, or she might cry out in fear and sadness and suffer from night terrors.  I read a post the other day from a family who adopted one of Olivia’s little friends a few weeks ago.  She seems to be doing well, but spent at least one of her nights in China sleeping on the floor right next to the hotel room door, trying to get as far away from her new parents as she could.

We have to ensure Olivia feels secure and loved.  At the same time, we have to provide structure and discipline appropriate for a 2-year-old.  With Rion that was often a tough balance to strike.  Especially as a rambunctious 3-year-old, we had to respond to some of his inappropriate behaviors, but that didn’t always seem to create an environment that helped his attachment.  In an established family, the structure is part of the loving environment, but in the case of a child that has been raised by different people, in a different culture, and is perhaps acting out due to grief and sadness as opposed to general “terrible twos or threes” behavior, it’s not always easy for parents to know how to respond.

Newborns come with a natural inability to move about (and they sleep quite a bit), whereas toddlers may spend the majority of their days in full destruction mode.  Newborns might occasionally seem “boring” to their siblings, but toddlers come ready to fight for their toys (yelling in Chinese by the way).  We’ll need (and want) to spend a lot of time holding Olivia, who is weighing in at impressive 28 lbs, so our back muscles will be challenged.

The blessings of adopting a toddler are numerous though!  We get to go through about a thousand “firsts” in just the first few days, weeks and months.  First smiles, first giggles, first hugs, first kisses, first games with her siblings, first English words, first “I love you”, and so many more.  It’s like a fire hose sometimes, but then it’s also the most amazing, rewarding experience you can possibly imagine!

News from China!

Rhodes family-Yang Yu Zhen photos2 Rhodes family-Yang Yu Zhen photos3

It was so fun to receive an update on our little cutie yesterday!  She looks like she’s growing every day!  Here are a few things we now know about Olivia.  She’s 89 cm tall – I’ll make you do your own math!  🙂  I compared that to Julia’s marks on the wall and she’s about as tall as Julia was when she turned 3.  (Olivia turned 2 in March).  She’s 28 lbs, so I’ll be working on those biceps for the next month!

She’s a healthy eater and sleeper (ha, my new baby sleeps through the night!) and naps for 2 hours during the day.  She seems to be able to do almost anything with her hands and doesn’t need any special help.  She’s walking well and won’t need special shoes.

Phil may finally have a mini-me personality-wise.  Julia and Rion are showing strong tendencies of my personality.  (I’m sure the stubborn part of Rion is all Phil though).  Julia’s competitive spirit is alive and well just like mine.  And just to prove that he’s MY son Rion started organizing my very-well-organized pantry yesterday!  🙂  Olivia is apparently much more reserved.  She likes to watch and observe before she gets involved.  They said “she needs time to adapt and understand the stranger” and “she will be very quiet in a strange environment”.  I liked how they described what makes her happy (because it shows how they loved her in the foster home): “Combing her beautiful hair and praise her.  Putting on new clothes sent by her parents will also make her happy and proud.”  I think God knows we needed another quiet person around here.  Of course, I know that won’t always be the case, and we can’t wait to hear three sets of giggles and shouts in our house!

 

The Hardest Decision

JuliaJulia asked me to read her a story Saturday afternoon.  She picked The Prince of Egypt, which is based on the Disney movie about the life of Moses.  We sat down on the couch and started to read.  I got to the beginning of the second page, “Yocheved (Moses’ mother) made the hardest decision of all:  to save her child, she must send him away.”  BAM, just like that the truth of it hit me HARD.  I fought back the tears that were welling in my eyes, and it was several minutes before I could go on.

One consequence of adopting from China is that you usually don’t get any information about your child except where someone found them—police station, hospital, community park, or other public visible place.  Sometimes there’s a note with the exact birth date, but often Chinese officials just guess and assign a date.  With Julia, however, we know a little more.  Her mother gave birth to her in this subway station in Guangzhou, China.  DSC_0481She was taken to a nearby hospital so they could cut the umbilical cord.  When doctors cut the cord, she ran.

Our guide on Julia’s adoption trip speculated that Julia’s birth mother was probably a young single woman.  Under Chinese population control laws, she was not permitted to have a child.  If she did, the child wouldn’t have access to the government health care or public schooling.  Simon, our guide, also speculated that Julia’s birth mother gave birth in a public place just so that Julia would be found.

Yocheved, Moses’ mother, knew that the Egyptians would kill Moses if they discovered him.  Pharoah had decreed that all Hebrew baby boys should be killed because he feared an uprising from their growing numbers.  So, she set him adrift on the Nile River where he was adopted into Pharoah’s household.

From our perspective, it’s hard to accept a mother’s abandonment of her child.  But, Chinese society is far different.  So, as Julia grows up and wrestles with her abandonment by her birth mother, we’ll try to help her understand.  Her birth mother probably made this most difficult choice:  to save her child, she ran away.  Julia will probably wrestle with this a lot as she grows up, and she’ll feel the loss deeply.  But, I know we’ll be there to listen and seek to understand what she feels.

Xinran’s book, Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother:  Stories of Loss and Love describes the difficult choices made by many mothers.  Xinran, a former radio personality in Nanjing, China, interviewed midwives, students, businesswomen, peasants and adoption workers about relinquishing their daughters.  They talk about the combination of feudal traditions, government policy and abject poverty that causes women to relinquish their daughters.  It’s a heartbreaking read, but if you want to learn the real circumstances behind the stories of these mothers, I highly recommend it.  Written to the “lost daughters,” Xinran tells the story of how much their mothers loved them and how, as one put it, “they paid for that love with an endless stream of bitter tears.”  Ultimately, we hope Julia realizes how much her mother must have loved her, and how much she cared.

Redeemed

DSC_0065“I’m ready”, Julia said last night when I asked what she wanted to pray for,  “To ask God to come into my heart”.  What an amazing Easter gift!

We already knew our little girl believed.  Her favorite stories of the Bible are the ones surrounding the death and resurrection of Jesus.  She has been able to explain clearly for quite some time now how God planned these events to save us from our sins.  And it is personal for her.  She knows just how much Jesus loves her and that she can always count on him.  She has such a mature understanding that we thought Easter week would be a great time for us to specifically ask her if she’d like to pray to invite Jesus into her heart.  Friday was the big night.  We were a little surprised to hear her simply say, “No, thank you”.  Hmmm.  We just told her that was fine, and that if she felt ready at some time we would be happy to pray with her.  We never wanted her to do it for us, but only once she was ready to make her own decision.  We figured it might be months or years, but we were confident the time would come, because God has been clearly working in her for so long.  I was happily surprised when she said she had been thinking about it yesterday and had decided she was ready.

Watching a little one grow in their faith is such an amazing experience.  Sometimes their faith seems to outpace our teaching and what we could even imagine they could understand.  Just the other night I asked Rion what makes him happy.  His first answer was “Jesus”!  After that came Mama, Julia, Olivia, and Baba (Daddy).  The fact that Jesus could come first tells me that Jesus is actively doing great things in his heart.  This little boy is only just learning to formulate sentences that don’t contain Chinese words.  The hugs, kisses, comforting, games and everything else he gets every day come from those of us he can SEE.  Yet Jesus is already so real to him that He gets first ranking.  Oh please, let Jesus keep that position in Rion’s heart!

We’ve prayed for each of our children before they came into our family.  But God has loved each of them long before we even knew about them.  The Bible tells us that caring for the fatherless is at the very heart of God, that he is a father to the fatherless and that he sets the lonely in families.  Adoption allows us to understand him and know him in a whole new way.  God pursued each of us when we were destitute and alone and he himself adopts those of us as his children who turn to him and trust in his son, Jesus.  Despite the pain and loss that goes along with adoption, I pray that their adoption experience will help our children understand God in a profound way.

Now we get to see that God is already taking care of Olivia.  She is in the care of wonderful Christians who are hopefully already giving her a glimpse of a loving God.  Now we just need to get her home to her forever family!

Happy Easter everyone!

We Celebrated Olivia Jade’s Second Birthday!

Olivia birthday gift

Monday night we went to our favorite little hole in the wall neighborhood Chinese restaurant to celebrate Olivia’s second birthday.  We’ve actually had a birthday for each of our kids before we adopted them.  Olivia should have received the package of gifts above by her birthday.  Hopefully, pictures of her opening the presents will show up soon.

It was so cute to see how excited Julia and Rion were for Olivia’s birthday!  It probably didn’t hurt that we gave them each a present instead.  Julia’s got a big grin on her face because she got an “Olivia dress,” which makes her look like Olivia’s cartoon pig alter ego.  Rion got his very own mini camp chair.

The kids are so excited they’re getting a little sister and can’t wait to go to China and get her.  They’d leave tomorrow if they could.

Julia Olivia dressOlivia birthday poster

 

 

Our First Adoption

2009-10-12-DSC_0104

October 12, 2009.  We sat in a room, decorated in red and black and white.  We were surrounded by couples and families.  We, like the other couples, looked around anxiously, hardly able to contain our emotions.  It was probably not the maternity ward most of you experienced.  No labor pains.  Those had taken place in the months and even years leading up to that day.  But tears and smiles from moms and dads.  And yes, crying, very loud crying from babies, toddlers, and pre-schoolers.  Most of the parents were Americans.  All of the little girls and boys were Chinese, and their lives were suddenly changing in a huge way!

Our guide Simon, walked up to us and said “she’s here”.  We stood up and walked to the middle of the room.  A lady came out of a side door with a tiny little girl walking beside her.  She had a cute little pixie haircut, yellow bunny shoes, black Mickey Mouse pants, and a red and white striped top.  Tears were in her eyes and she looked so scared and sad.  She had no idea that the two people in the world who loved her more than anything were about to hold her for the first time.  That first day, our hearts were full to exploding with love for our sweet little girl, but Julia was sad and scared.  She had already experienced way too many upheavals in her little life and had no idea what this one meant.

But the next morning we got our first shy smiles.  And the morning after that we heard her laugh at us and she burst out of her shell.  This silly little bundle of joy was the child we’d always dreamed of, full of energy, laughter, and love!  Over the past 3 years we’ve watched her blossom into a sweet, smart little girl, who fills our house with her creative and fun energy.  She is kind and compassionate and already shows an amazing understanding about the world around her and the God who loves her.  We couldn’t ever imagine not being her parents.