Our Adoption Stories

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. *I wrote this post in January of 2009... I am cracking up at how God works... considering where we are now!*) 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.  She has grown in tremendous ways since her adoption... on being she is a complete DADDY'S girl now! That was something we never imagined back on October 25, 2008!

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

Kate has come a far way in the 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 1:17

After bringing Kate home from China, we were sure that our family was complete. Absolutely positive. Everyone in our travel group will tell you that on that bus, Mom said over and over that we were done. However, we all know God. And sometimes, (okay, many times) His plans are not our plans. In the summer of 2009, there were some discussions of adopting again in our family. Mom was especially drawn to the boys and started really feeling like we might have a little guy in China. On July 2, God confirmed this. Mom came upon an agency we had never heard of and saw a little boy on their list named Charlie. Charlie has always been the "if we have another boy" name in our family. In fact, if I was a boy, I would've been Charlie. So, this name jumped off the page. He was 3 at the time and we were very comfortable with his special needs. Before she even saw his picture, Mom knew he was ours. I later figured out how to view his pictures, and it was just a confirmation. We looked into his eyes and there was no doubt that he was our Charlie. Our little guy. We later found out that he had sat on lists since February, and although his file was view a few times, he waited from February until July with no family. Why? I know it is because he was meant to be ours. It took us longer to find him, but God knew all along. He placed people in Charlie's path who prayed for him and loved him... yet they all knew he was meant for another family... us!

Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. Isaiah 43:1

We were sure after bringing Charlie home that our family was done. No doubts about it. Yet... by now, I'm sure you see that we have a strong record going. ;) So it really should be no surprise that we found a sweet girl that just tugged on all of our hearts. What made this surprise interesting was that we saw "Norah" on November 25, 2009. We were DTC for Charlie on November 24, 2009. Not the most perfect time to be looking at lists. However, Mom and I were just taking a peek at our agency's newest list of "camp kids" when we saw a smile that made us stop. I noticed that she was turning 10 that day. We were almost in tears when we read about her... "She wants a big family with lots of siblings. She has no fear of coming to American and being adopted." She made her way into our hearts and neither Mom or I could stop thinking about her. The next day was Thanksgiving and we told Dad about sweet "Norah" and he said, "well email Madison!" It took a bit of convincing Mom to actually send the email, but we did. And Dad basically said that if our agency said yes, we would know she was ours, because the whole situation was just too crazy that we were just DTC for Charlie. Due to the Thanksgiving holiday, it took some time to hear back from our agency... it was the longest weekend ever. However, we did get an email on the following Tuesday and our agency had a meeting to discuss us doing back to back adoptions and had decided we could pursue the adoption of "Norah" who we have named Grace! We hurried through with her paperchase and as our dossier arrived in China, her LOA arrived at our agency... Surprise! We found out we'd be taking one trip to China for both Charlie and Grace... and that our just finished dossier would be "just waiting for the next adoption," in the words of our agency director :)

But even before I was born, God chose me and called me by his marvelous grace. Galations 1:15
On June 10, 2010, we left our city and took a long flight to Hong Kong. We spent a couple of days touring there, and flew on to Chongqing. The Dragon Boat Festivals were going on and no adoption processes were being handled Mon-Wed, so we had to wait until Thursday to meet our sweet boy. That day, June 17, 2010, our guide drove us to the Chongqing CWI. We took an elevator up and the instant we got off, our precious boy was standing there. As we climbed out of the elevator, he started pointing each member of our family out... "Mama, Baba, Jie Jie, Jie Jie, Mei Mei..." It was adorable. We were all completely in love with this precious boy after the first instant. We spent some more time getting to know him at the orphanage before going down to the van. He smiled, sang, and sat on Mom's lap the whole 45 minute ride back to our hotel... and he hasn't looked back since. He loves everything about having a family, and we are loving our PRECIOUS little guy! There is hardly ever a moment when a huge smile isn't spread across his face... because literally, his whole face smiles with him. He is an amazing little guy and a perfect addition to our family.

Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare. Psalm 40:5

 Just 2 days after meeting our precious little man, we flew to Nanjing, Jiangsu. On Monday, June 21, 2010, we met our beautiful and amazing Gracie! She walked into the civil affairs office with the BIGGEST smile on her face. We were able to video chat with her twice before meeting her, and I truly believe it made a difference. I'm sure there was still fear and anxiety, but I really do think being able to talk with her before calmed a lot of the worries she had. Meeting her was amazing, although hectic with the other three littles ones, especially Charlie who we had only had for 4 days. She was the only one who didn't cry :) She just smiled through it all and  waved goodbye to her orphanage director and teacher as we climbed on the van. She is so incredibly happy. She is adjusting so well and is an amazing addition to our family.

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart;
Jeremiah 1:5

I have been so immensely blessed. When I tell people the number of siblings I have and the ages of them all, I get some very odd looks. I mean... how many 17 years olds do you know that at one point had a 21 year old brother and a 21 month old sister? How many 17 year olds do you know of that have toddler siblings period? I love that. I love having little siblings... 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 three beautiful Chinese princesses, and my one little man that have become SUCH a part of my life... my sweet siblings.

"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 dream about working in orphanages in China, rather than whatever most 17 year old girls dream about. I care far more about orphans than about the latest fashion. Yet none of that would be true if our family had not started the China adoption process in January 2006. My life has changed. My heart has grown. And it is all because of the journey that God called us to. The journey of the MIRACLE of adoption. Because he had 4 precious kiddos 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, Katherine MeiLing, Charles Dashan, and Grace Tong Jiao 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 four 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 Grace, AnnaClaire, Charlie, 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