Saturday, January 3, 2009

The Miracle of Adoption: Our Story

If you followed my first blog, way back when we were not even matched with AnnaClaire and you have followed this blog since the beginning, than you probably know our story. However, I know that only a select few of you that read my blog now read my first blog. And besides... I want our story all in one place to refer back to. So here it goes, the story of our MIRACLES of adoption.

My mom was an only child, so when my parents first got married, she had said she wanted six kids. (And no, this isn't hinting to anything. I really, truly think five is the perfect number for us. And unless God smacks my parents on the head, and practically drops a child in our lap, I think it's safe to say our family is complete.) My dad worked a lot and was gone for business often (in fact, for 2 years, he worked in Toronto and would fly out on Mondays and home on Fridays!) so by the time Drew, Will, and I were here, they were thinking three kids was plenty. My dad eventually got a new job and he only has to travel around once a month- for a night. Obviously, that made everything much easier and took a lot of stress off my mom. A few years later, at the end of October, 2005 to be exact, God laid international adoption on my mom's heart. Note that AnnaClaire was born on October 27, 2005. So right around the time that Mom had dreams of adopting two babies (yes, she had dreams of adopting two all along!) from China, another mommy chose life and had a beautiful daughter, whom she left to be found.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
Jeremiah 29:11

Mom called Dad at work and told him, and he calmly agreed. Adoption had never really been brought up before this point. Over the next 2 months, Mom and Dad prayed about adoption and made the decision to adopt over their 22nd anniversary dinner in December. I will never forget the night that we all sat around the kitchen table in December 2005 and they asked what we thought about adopting a baby girl from China. We were all excited from that point on... and so began our journey to AnnaClaire. We started the infamous "paperchase" in January. We started telling friends and family of our plan to adopt a baby girl from China. We were all so excited. I was 12 at the time and was absolutely delighted that I was going to have a baby sister.

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."
James 1:27

We went step by step through the paperchase, and finally on July 5, 2006, we took our documents to Washington DC to get everything notarized and to AWAA. It was a Wednesday, but because of the 4th of July holiday, it was the earliest we could go. AWAA only sends dossiers out on Fridays and they have to be received on Wednesday before 2:00pm in order for them to go out on Friday. We were certain we would not make that cutoff... there was simply too much to do... and a 7.5 hour car ride. For some reason, our sweet Maggie (our dog who died last year) woke Mom and Dad up. They decided we might as well leave. Mom, Dad, and I set off for Washington DC very early and arrived just as one of the notarization offices we had to bring stuff to opened. We actually got that done, our dossier notarized by the Chinese embassasy, and whatever else we had to do in record time. We drove to the AWAA office and dropped our dossier off, just minutes before 2:00pm. It was truly miraculous. We were able to spend a few nights at our cousins and do some touring. On the 7th, we were looking at the White House when our SW called and told us that our dossier had been sent to China! (DTC) (Oh and as a side note, our LID for AnnaClaire was 7/22/06. Yes, we would still be waiting for years more...)

"For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father."
Romans 8:15

So you're probably wondering how that story pertains to anything. In full honesty, I'm not sure we would have our precious, amazing AnnaClaire if our dossier had been sent on July 14 instead of July 7 (I'll get to that*). You see... earlier in our adoption process, I had found the blog of a beautiful little girl with cleft lip and palate. She was waiting in China for her family to come. That night, I read about special needs (SN) adoption from China and went into Mom's room, telling her that we should consider adopting a SN baby. Being new into the process, and not really knowing much about SN, she kind of nodded her head. That was the end of that- for then. About a week after we were DTC, a packet came from our agency. One of the brochures in the packet was about SN adoption. I had been praying about going SN for awhile now, and I guess Mom and Dad had been, too, because when that brochure came, we knew that God was calling us to go on the SN list. On July 16, we filled out the application and were accepted on the 18th. Three days later, AWAA posted on their weekly updates that they had received four surprise referrals. I remember reading that and yelling down to Mom that they had gotten four referrals, wondering if we would get a call. I don't even know why I so excitedly reported this news to her. Obviously, we were not expecting it. Although not nearly as many people were going SN then than there are now, we had only been on the list for three days. Now for the truly amazing part. You had to have your application turned in my the 18th to be considered for matching in that batch... ours was turned in on the 16th. If we were DTC on the 14th, there is no way we would have gotten that brochure in time to be on the list by the 18th.* When we came home to a message from AWAA on the 24th, we thought they were calling to answer some SN questions we had... how wrong we were. Imagine our shock and surprise when on July 25, they did get a hold of us... they were calling with the referral of a beautiful, 8 month old girl named Chen Xun Hui. (as a side note, out of the batch of four surprise referrals, three were baby girls. AnnaClaire and two other girls, who are part of our "chatty girls" group and we talk to daily, have reunions with, and have the most incredible bond with!)

"For this child I prayed and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him."
1 Samuel 1:27

We were shocked. Surprised, excited, and faced with a decision. She was beautiful, she was perfect, she was a part of our family already. And when we came upon that realization, we knew that no matter what her "SN" was, she was our girl. My heart experienced something it had never experienced before. I was in love with a baby girl on the other side of the world. A baby girl who I had never met, never seen in person, and only had 2 pictures of. Yet I was SO in love with this baby, my sister. Our doctor happened to be on vacation and thank goodness there was no 48 hour rule then, because the soonest we could take her file to the dr. was in early August! However, our LOI was finally sent on August 11. We waited 102 painful days, celebrated our girl's 1st birthday without her, and finally headed to China on December 7, 2006.

"See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared." Exodus 23:20

It was a trip that will forever be engraved in my memory, one I will never forget. AnnaClaire Chenhui was placed in our arms on December 11, 2006, at the Hunan Civil Affairs Office. She screamed her way to us, and didn't stop for a couple of hours. However, it was love from the first minute and we knew that her grieving was a good thing. She was absolutely perfect and we loved her more than I ever thought possible. Not every moment was easy, as AC was a huge daddy's girl and SCREAMED when in any one the arms of anyone else. That, obviously, has changed.

"you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will bestow. You will be a crown of splendor in the LORD's hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God."
Isaiah 62:2b-3

We arrived home on December 20, 2 days prior to my parent's 23rd anniversary... 2 days prior to the year anniversary of the day we decided that we were going to start the adoption process.
It was on that trip that we KNEW that would not be the only time we'd be in China. We were confident we would be back... back to bring home another precious girl.

"The Lord has done great things for us and we are filled with joy."
Psalms 126:3

The next 6 months were so fun. AnnaClaire grew and changed all too fast. She became comfortable with everyone in our family, and everyone else (she has always been such a people person!) She is the most smiley, joyful child I have ever met. I loved her (and still love her) more than I ever thought possible to love one child. And as each day went on, that love only grew.

"Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!"
2 Corinthians 9:15

Soon enough, it was June 2007. We had our 6 month post placement, which meant we could start the process for "Mei Mei 2." Once again, we paperchased. Things seemed to go much faster that time around, as we were so busy with our beautiful AnnaClaire. We knew, without a doubt, that we would once again adopt through the SN program, so we went on the interested families list. Our 1 year post placement took place in December 2007, and we were able to send our dossier to China for "Mei Mei 2", whom we had come to know as Kate. Our dossier went to China on December 14 and was logged in on the 19th. Being on the SN list, we had no idea, no time frame for when our call would come. It could be days, months, weeks... a year. We just waited and prayed for the little girl we knew of as Kate. We were honestly in no rush for that call... we were busy with Miss AnnaClaire and enjoying every moment with her. I remember my heart truly began to ache for my second sister at the end of my freshmen year (May 08).

"May your unfailing love rest upon us, O LORD, even as we put our hope in you." Psalms 33:22

On June 11, Drew (my 21 year old brother) came home from a trip to China. AWAA also posted that a new shared list had been posted and they would be making calls. Something in my heart stirred and I felt like our sweet Kate might be on that list. However, once again, we were not expecting anything. On the 12th, we were Father's Day shopping in Hallmark when a VA area code showed up on Mom's cell phone. It was AWAA. They were calling with the referral of a 15 month old. Her name was Ling Xu Liu. We had a huge storm the night before and had no internet at home. To see her pictures/info, we would have to drive to Dad's office, 30 minutes away. being on the shared list, Xuliu's referral was open for anyone to see. If we really felt like this was Kate, we had to act quickly. We called Dad and he told us to lock her file. With AnnaClaire, we knew it was her by her pictures. However, we knew we were going to have to make a decision without seeing Xuliu's pictures. We quickly called AWAA and told them to lock Xuliu's file. At that point, we had 48 hours to "officially" decide it was her (we already knew it was), take her file to the dr, write our LOI, and send it to AWAA. We ran out of Hallmark and drove to Dad's office. I called him on the way and he had just received the email. He had already looked at her pictures and tried explaining our beautiful girl to us. Her picture was pulled up on Dad's computer screen when we got to the office. She was beautiful, she was perfect, she was Kate. And once again, we knew that no matter what her "SN" was, she was our girl. My heart once again grew. I fell in love with a beautiful girl on the other side of the planet, a baby who I had never met, never seen in real life, and only had 3 pictures of. We took her file to the dr., and Mom and Dad wrote the LOI that night. It was sent to AWAA and China the next day. We waited for our LOA and TA and while waiting, discovered our precious girl was at the Philip Hayden Foundation, a foster foster village which houses special needs kids from orphanages in China. We received priceless info, and about a hundred pictures of our girl... from age four months until the day before we got her. Finally, on October 23, 2008, we left for China. Another unforgettable trip, one that will never escape my memory.

"O Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done marvelous things, things planned long ago."
Isaiah 25:1

We took a car to the Philip Hayden Foundation on October 25 and met our beatiful girl. The baby girl who had been in our prayers, hearts and dreams for 3 years. She was ours. Like AnnaClaire, Kate also screamed her way to us. She cried so hard, obviously grieving for her beloved ayi. She didn't stop crying until the minute we got on the bus. She screamed once, and then fell asleep... exhausted, overwhelmed, and probably terrified. Once again, our time in China was not all perfect... there were hard moments. Kate had a strong preference for me. She was also a Mommy's girl, but definitely perferred me. Kate has definitely bonded more and more to Mom since, and is a Mama's girl (who still loves her sissy!), although she still doesn't really go to Dad, which I know is hard for him.

"I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you."
John 14:18

Kate has come a far way in the past 2 months that she has been home. There are hard days and she has not had as easy of a transition as AnnaClaire. However, she is doing great and we fall more and more in love with her each day. She is a joy and we are so thankful that God has perfectly picked her and made her a part of our family, just as he did with AnnaClaire.

"Every good and perfect gift is from above"
James 1:17a

I have been so immensely blessed. When I tell people that I have 21 and 17 year old brothers and 3 and 1 year old sisters, I get some very odd looks. I mean... how many 15 years olds do you know that have a 21 year old brother and a 21 month old sister? How many 15 year olds do you know of that have 3 and 1 year old sisters period? I love that. I love having little sisters... what would I do all day without them? Sure, at times it gets tiring playing and chasing them around... and some days I do want to just shut my door and do my own thing. But I wouldn't trade my "job" for the world. I'm beyond blessed. My life has been changed and I will never be the same... all because of these two beautiful, Chinese princesses that have become SUCH a part of my life... my sweet sisters.

"I thank my God every time I remember you."
Philipians 1:3

So yes, I spend more time watching Dora, Barney, and Calliou than I spend watching other shows. I look forward to getting my license so that I can take AnnaClaire and Kate out to breakfast, not so I can drive to a show. I dream about working in orphanages in China, rather than whatever most 15 year old girls dream about. I care far more about Chinese orphans than about the latest fashion. Yet none of that would be true if our family had not started the China adoption process 3 years ago. My life has changed. My heart has grown. And it is all because of the journey that God called us to 3 years ago. The journey of the MIRACLE of adoption. Because he had 2 precious girls who needed families, and he knew that our hearts had the capacity to love those two girls. He planned all along for our story to happen. He knew all along that AnnaClaire Chenhui and Katherine MeiLing would be born in the womb of one mommy and the heart of our mommy. He knew all along. Out of the billion people in China, he handpicked these two girls to be in our family. Miracle of adoption? I think so.

"Your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be."
Psalm 139:16

When people tell us how blessed AnnaClaire and Kate are and how they needed us, I shake my head. I am the one that has been blessed. And it wasn't them that needed us... I needed them.

"And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."
1 Corinthians 13:13


Monica said...

If it makes you feel any better, I have a brother who is roughly 38, a sister who is roughly 34, a sister who is 30, I think, a 24 year old brother, and a 4 year old sister. And I'm 18.

So I can relate.


Gretchen said...

Thank you so much for this post. I am waiting for God to bless us with our first little China princess off the SN list. Your story helps to remind me how perfect our God is, and how His plan never fails. Thank you!

Holly said...

Great post Emily! You are absolutely right...there is nothing that compares to the miracle of adoption. Can't imagine what life would be like right now without Grace! And I know you feel the same way about AnnaClaire and Kate.

Jen Barbee said...

Beautifully written Emily! You are an inspiriation to my 10 year old daughter. She too loves being a big sister to a Chinese princess!!

Judi said...

Thank you for sharing your story of adoption. I found your site from Threads of Faithfulness. We are an AWAA waiting family (LID 11-22-06)and enjoyed following your journey to Kate. Your little sisters are adorable. I can't wait until we have our Haleigh home! She has three sisters, a brother, and a sister-in-law all waiting for her, all in their 20's.

Anonymous said...

Very, very nice Emily - I enjoyed reading your synopsis of your story. Adoption is a miracle, I agree. Give those sweet girls a hug for me, as well as one for your Mom!
Liesl in IL, Mama to Cali

Wife of the Pres. said...

OK, well I had to reach for the Klenex! JUST PRECIOUS! You are a beautiful young LADY Emily and your parents and mei meis are BLESSED to have you too!

Emily said...

I was one of those that fiest found your family before you got your referral for AC. We are friends with the Footes and followed them, who went with Keara, who you know! Long story, but as we sit here just 4 days from leaving for China, I am in awe of God's amazing design to bring these orphans home to their families. Your family and others like you, were one of the tools that God used to get us to AWAA and eventually to our Ashley Mei!

Laurie said...

I LOVED reading your story from the start! I wrote you a bit while you were in China and just now popped onto your blog again. We adopted in Feb. of '06 and Dec. of '08, with AWAA, so very similar time frames. Your story telling is just wonderful and will be a treasure for your entire family for years to come! God bless!


Jana said...

WOW!! What a beautiful and heartfelt post. Thanks so much for sharing your story again. I followed both of your journeys to China and you expressed so eloquently the miracle of adoption. It's a bond like no other! Happy New Year to you and yours!!

Catherine said...

Emily, what a beautiful telling of your story! I have followed your story for a long time but to read all the details tht God put into place is just amazing! God is so good and He planned your family long ago just as He is preparing to bring Hannah and I together later this year.
Thank you for sharing your story with us....and for giving the Glory to God for all He has done and is doing in your precious family.

What an exciting day it will be when you get your license and take your presious mei meis out to celebrate with you!!

Lexie said...

What an absolute amazing story!! I got chills as I read this beautiful post. Now that my sweet girl is home...I now understand fully the miracle of adoption.
Whenever I first heard that y'all had been referred sweet Kate I have to say that it was a bitter sweet feeling for me. I was SO excited for y'all...but at the same time incredibly jealous! Jealous that y'all had a referral before us, jealous over how stinken sweet she looked :)...angry over waiting! Obviously all of these emotions were not from God!! God had a plan for y'all...a plan for us!!! And wow didn't God blow BOTH of us away with our sweet girls!!! Now I couldn't imagine another little girl for our family, and I am sure you feel the same way!!! It is amazing how God works! He truly knows the desires of our hearts. How awesome!
Oh, and I am right there with you---lets go work in an orphanage together!! I'll meet you in China! ;)
Ok, i am sure you didn't want a whole page from me...but there you have it!!
Talk soon!

Lori said...

Thanks for sharing your wonderful journey. I read it with a smile on my face knowing that God is indeed good.

Many Blessings,

Staci said...

Beautiful! The miracles of adoption never cease to absolutely amaze me!! Every time I think of it, I am completely overwhelmed at God's amazing grace!!

JEsser said...

Jason -
Emily read your post on our adoption website; Sweet Seren,, and finally had an opportunity to follow your links. I enjoyed reading about your family's journey, we are so anxious to take ours to the next stage. Still haven't received any TA info. The link you provided with photos of the orphanage no longer works.

Denise said...

Thank you for sharing this wonderful story. I am praying for my hubby to get on board for another China girl, but I think that 5 kids may be it for us...with God all things are possible, right?

Your parents must be very proud of the beautiful, gracious young woman you are becoming~

Anonymous said...

What an amazing story Emily. My husband and I just applied for the waiting children program and were accepted last Friday. We too believe God has the perfect little one selected for us and that we'll know her when we see her. You are such an inspiration to so many teenagers out there, your faith, your heart and your maturity are remarkable. I will follow your blog, as I am fastinated to follow your journey in life, with your sisters and to whatever calling God lays upon your heart after high school. It's clear, he has big plans for you Emily. And that you are truly up to the task.

I too wanted to adopt at 13, but wanted to find the right father for my child first, which took me until I was 39. I am now 49 and we're hopefully very close to starting and most likely completing our family with a daughter from China...that is definately very special and has a need do we, that she will fill, and we feel oh so very blessed to have the honor of her in our lives. We can't wait to meet her...

Thanks for sharing...such an amazing story, I really can't wait to see what God unfolds next.

Amanda said...

you are a very sweet girl! Keep following Him in faith!