Monday, February 29, 2016

February 29. The day the Lord has made.

I woke this morning singing.  I quickly realized where I was and what today was and then laid back on my pillow smiling.

I really truly woke singing "This is the day that the Lord has made" and well...that was worth smiling about.

God is so gentle and gracious and gives just the confirmation you need right when you need it.

We did breakfast then we came up and got ready for our day.  Once showered and dressed we went outside and started to walk.  We walked in a store that seemed like a school store.  Backpacks galore, pencils, crayons, notebooks. It was perfect. For $5 USD, we bought 3 notebooks, a pack of markers, pencil crayons, a ruler, eraser rings and a pen.  We put it all into ZhenAi's backpack and headed to a store to buy "orange juice" :)

We came back to the hotel, exchanged our huge wad of money for the fees necessary to pay in China (yes we travelled with over $7000 cash in order to save $150 in wiring fees).  We met up with another adoptive family and loaded in the bus.

"selfie" leaving the hotel.

Waiting for the bus.

Miss Nazara Journey. Hard to believe this beautiful little girl was the one who I was violently ill with (newly pregnant) last time we were in China! Only fitting she should return with us :)

It's times like these that simply stand still.  The before and after of this moment that was about to occur is like being in labor...the child not yet born...about to change your world forever.  That...that is what that bus ride is like.  Just like in's not the time to wonder if you are ready to be a's happening. Ready or not.  And you are trying to take in the sights but you can't.  Instead your mind is racing...what is she thinking? Where is she? Is she scared?  Does she know?

We walked into this strange building in the middle of a residential area.  The moment we walked in I had a feeling it was going to be awkward so we pulled into a 'bathroom' and got the kids situated.  I asked Dean to come in too and told him I had a feeling she was just sitting there and we didn't want to walk in on an amazing moment 'not ready'.  Once we pulled out of the was the most awkward arrangement. The room was tiny.  Three families were there meeting their children.  A jack hammer (yes...a jack hammer) was going like crazy in what sounded like the very next room. Children were screaming in the trauma of the moment. My eyes were darting like crazy. No one was leading us we were just standing there.

 Then I saw this girl just sitting on the couch right in front of me.  In a bright yellow puffy winter jacket.  Just holding her hands. I whipped around and said to Dean "I think that's her". I can see the wonder on his face as we are  both in shock at how this moment is going to happen. Not as we pictured. Not as we wanted.  Equivalent to realizing you are going to give birth in the car on the way to the hospital.  No I haven't had that experience, but I've envisioned it.  Not what you dream of.  I immediately bend down and sit beside her. She pulls away.

The lady beside her says "MAMA" pointing to me and ZhenAi quickly puts her hand up and shakes her head rapidly back and forth.  The lady pulls out the photo album and shows the picture of me.  ZhenAi sweetly smiles and keeps shaking her head and pulling away.

I fill up with tears.  It's so hard to fathom what's going on inside her mind.  I just sit there showing her the photo album and she is keeping a safe distance.

It's hard to get photos...everyone is on top of each other. The jack hammer has not slowed down and in fact is going non stop at this point. Children are screaming as they are meeting their new parents for the first time.  ZhenAi is staring at me like "not a chance" and clutching her little gift bag I had my friend deliver to her just Thursday.

Dean is being called to sign documents.  I'm doing my best to have her warm up to me.  Izrael and Nazara are wide eyed taking it all in.

I hand her her new back pack with her name embroidered on it. She doesn't even look at it. Just quickly puts it on and sits back.  She has a bag of apples in her hand and the orphanage director instructed her to open them.  She struggled to open the bag and gave an apple to Ray and Nazara. They love apples and smiled as they took it thanking her.

She put the bag back in her backpack. I showed her the orange juice and opened it. She took one sip and hurriedly put it in her back pack.  She had no interest in opening it.

The moments there were long.  There was a magical moment when she had to fingerprint the forms and her hand was covered in ink.  I took her to the bathroom to wash her hand.  She put soap on her hand but then starting yelling and grunting that the water didn't work. It didn't.  There was a bowl with some water in it so I showed her and she smiled and put her hand in.  I put my hands in and started scrubbing her hands. She smiled and let me. At the end she let me dry her hands.  Dean was there to snap photos and they are my favorite.

As we got ready to leave she stiffened.  She saw the bus and kept saying no and shaking her head. She finally yelled "mama" in a bit of a panic.  When our guide pointed to me and said Mama she was saying no over and over.  We called for the orphanage director and she came and said something to her that made ZhenAi almost run to the bus.  That concerned me.  I asked for an interpretation and was told she said "go play for one day and come back tomorrow".  Ahhhh!!

She did great on the bus and at one point had her leg resting on mine.  There were a few amazing moments with speech. I gave her a candy and she totally said "thank you".  Later we walked by a shoe store and she said "More shoes". Nazara fell to sleep and she kept telling us "SHHHH".  She saw gum in Walmart and said "GUM" and put it in the cart.  The guide said she does NOT speak english but...

Later she copied everything I said. Everything.  Cognitively she seems really really smart.  The guide said she doesn't say much in Chinese and says it very poorly.

She is wearing layers and layers of clothing and it appears as if she will be sleeping in it.  She will not let me touch her shoes or coat and when I gave her pajamas she quickly put them in her back pack :)

I cannot promise that this post makes sense. Everyone except ZhenAi and I are sleeping.  It's been an incredible day.  Tears. Joy. Pain. Grief. Loss. Hope.  Above all...? love.

At the end of the day she has her dinner stuffed in her backpack but she's laying beside me in bed. She is watching everything I do. She's fully clothed and has her shoes on as she lays here in bed with me.  Right before this she knelt on the floor beside the bed, holding her back pack in a fetal position. I just stayed beside her rubbing her back. Every time she looked up she smiled but quickly put her head back down. I was sure she was crying but she wasn't.

So much pain. So much loss. So much fear.  There is beauty here.  So much beauty.

ZhenAi Pei  Qin Poppy...has a family.  And we...have a new daughter.

The magic is in the surrender.

XOX from Kunming.  Signing off as a mama of 11.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Day 3 Feb 28.

Nazara and Izrael woke at 5am and I slept til 7.  It was lovely.

I feel 100% on track. No jet lag at all. the the strangest thing but I'll take it.  Dean and the girls seem to need the mid afternoon nap and it's working out great.

We got up and went for breakfast.  Unlike the rest of the hotels we are staying at...this breakfast is NOT free but since our hotel was free in HK it makes it easier to pay the $27USD per morning for breakfast.

The servers quickly became our favorite. This little lady is tiny and full of spunk. She adored the kids.  When we went to get our food at the buffet she told us to leave lambie and Piggy there and the kids were delighted when we returned :)

They were each propped up with their plates, spoons, etc :)

We got talking to the servers quite a bit and showed them our family. They both thought it was amazing.  We went from the status quo family in their minds with 2 little kids to being "CRAZY' but she insisted "CRAZY" wasn't her thought, instead it was "amazing" :)

We just have a real love for these people. They love to work. They love their families. 

We had already left and she found us and asked for one more picture :)

We went back to our room, it was 10am. I suggested the kids and Dean lay down and nap. I packed everything up as they all fell to sleep instantly.  We had to be out of our room at 1pm and I woke Dean at 12:56 to tell him he needed to stand up and pull the suitcases out :)  So that was awesome they all got a great rest and the girls woke their best yet. It was like they were finally 100%. Not grouchy, not weepy...happy.

We went downstairs and held our luggage at the desk.  We enjoyed a free drink...the best cappuccino I've had since Zambia!  Used to love those mornings in Lusaka with Tanis drinking our cappuccinos for breakfast while the kids played.

I forget when we decided it was time to take the shuttle to the airport in prep for our 5:05 flight to Kunming.  

The airport in HK was a mirror image of the one in Nanjing when we left Taizi's city! That was crazy.    We checked in only to find we had paid for Izrael to fly business class. Ha! If I was fine with Dean leaving me ... he could have taken the seat. But alas...I was not :)  So we got our seats together and settled that with the desk.

As many of you know "big Piggy" is a special possession in our house. Izrael has been very attached to him since she was 2.  Well Nazara realizes there's something special about him and as much as she loves Lambie, she is always asking Izrael if she can "babysit Piggy" :) It's way too funny and has been working well. The craziest part is that Ray says yes!!  Then she will finally tear up and try to express how she needs him back.  As you can see in this pic, Nazara is 'babysitting'.

Ok.  So this may sound strange but bear with me.  We are in the HK airport checking in and this lady is in line ahead of us with this girl. The girl is 9-11.  She has long braids and bangs. She is dressed in the most adorable funky leggings, frock style dress and little hat (think Anne of Green Gables entire outfit when she arrived on the train to meet Matthew, only in cute colors! IDENTICAL).  She...looked...identical to ZhenAi. I mean...I think my mouth was hanging open.  I couldn't even process what I was seeing. She looked over at us and had that same little shy smirk.  We had seen hundreds of Chinese children...not one even looked similar to this girl.  I felt like I was looking at ZhenAi's sister. I was spell bound. I tried so very hard to get a photo...and I did but not front on.  I was hoping and actually...quite convinced she was going to be on our flight to Kunming.  I mean...I don't even know what to say.  

Here's what happened though. My heart melted. I mean...melted.  I had tears. I had a lump in my throat.  And whatever the purpose of this whole thing was and whatever it means, I have no idea but it was the first time this trip that total excitement came.  Nervousness left. All the questions left.  And I was in awe. 

We boarded our flight to Kunming.  It was hazy in HK. I was terrified. We were flying China Eastern. There's so many mixed reviews on in country flights in China. I had seen wonderful and horrid things about China Eastern. 

The plane was brand new. It was beautiful. 3 seats on each side. Nazara and I sat with an elderly gentleman and Dean and Ray sat in front of us with another man.  The moment we sat, Nazara, very loudly exclaims "we are sitting with PAPA?!?!?!?!" I die.  Seriously. She was 100% convinced this was Papa!! He was a thin elderly Chinese so cute. But looking nothing like Papa.  I kept laughing thinking she must be thinking Mommy is so rude b/c I wasn't exactly interacting with him. Every few minutes she would lean over and dramatically nod saying 'Sitting with Papa, right?" Oh my heck.  So there you go.  Papa was with us on that flight!

As we taxied down the runway the panic hit.  I mean...panic. If you cannot relate with a deep, deep, almost irrational fear of anything in your life..reading this must be difficult for you.  I cannot explain it  better than I am.  I feel like my chest is caving in. I am examining every person on that plane. It's a mix of claustrophobia and fear of being suspended in the air.  The fact that I do this...and frequently...lessens it NONE.  It almost seems to grow.

I started to cry. Dean turned around and told me how sorry he was and that we can do this. He cautioned me not to let this get so big that I fail to see the beautiful new plane and how safe we are.  

Over and over and over I heard "Janice...have not I commanded you? Be STRONG and COURAGEOUS (being terrified and doing it anyway!!).. do NOT be NOT be discouraged...the Lord your God is with you WHEREVER (even here. ) you go. "

I got it together. We lifted off. The day was beautiful. The first 15 minutes were pretty bouncy and I was glued to the window. 

However, as Dean noted, every time there was a bump the pilot changed altitude searching for a smoother path. It was pretty impressive.  After that it was divine. The sky was amazing. Clear. The sun was setting. The orange and pink strung across the sky.  It was a gift.  Meanwhile I was teaching Nazara her letters.  We played with Usborne sticker books and soft hand sewn letters (thanks Corrine).  For each letter I gave a word. I was shocked when we went back through them and she only missed 4!!! Pretty crazy.

Upon descent there was a big bump, immediately there was an announcement that ended with this:

"there are rough air currents. Please do not worry. We will land soon." and I smiled thanking God for this pilot who GETS ME! :)

We landed in Kunming with fireworks. Literally. It was so cool and Nazara and Ray were loving it.  

I suddenly felt like we were on holy ground.  This place...this place on the other side of the world. That God had so clearly called us to.  If you don't believe that then our story must seem so strange.  But that is the missing piece.  He called us here. So clearly that we couldn't have missed it. No...we did not say YES jumping up and down. It was another huge surrender in our story.  Not our plans. Not our .... His.  It was His.  And one of the greatest realizations I've ever had was to understand that our life is God's story. His story and we are just the characters He chooses to use.  His will. His plan. His...story.

We are not crazy. We are not going for the largest family record. We are not any of the things that may cross your mind. We simply...have followed His story.

And flying into the place He called us to March 1 when he had me sobbing in church as He had just told me this next step will take Ridiculous Faith....sent a shiver down my spine. 

Here.  This is where I called you Janice.  Here. This is where she is.  The girl I told you to come for.  Here.

Fireworks were the perfect display for the emotions I had no words for.

It is not lost on me that February as I write the day we meet this beautiful girl.  It is also exactly one day shy of the day we sat in church and God said "this next step will take Ridiculous Faith". We didn't know who or what but we knew He was calling us again.  

Surrender.  As many of you know...I haven't made this blog about adoption.  This blog is about surrender.  That is what each of us will be called to in our lives. And that comes in many forms.  Could be surrendering to your broken marriage and letting God step in and heal.  Could be surrendering to the family drama and taking the low place. Apologize even though it wasn't you.  Surrender.  It could be God is calling you to walk away from that job that owns you. Yes you live a good big life but there's more He's calling you to. Perhaps there's more in the simplicity of a 'small life'.  Surrender.   Maybe He's calling you to go and serve. Full time. Leave all and serve Him. Where He wants you to go.  Letting Him lead. Surrender. And yes...perhaps He's calling you to adopt.  Not your plans. Not your goals. Heart break. Financial strain.  Leap....leap knowing He won't let you fall. Surrender.

That is our story.  And here we are..a few hours before meeting this girl that God has broken my heart for over the last year.  I don't have the words for that.  I don't have the way to express my heart.  Except to say...when you know that you know that you are right where God has called you to be...that trumps every question, every what-if, every naysayer (even the ones you love) along the way.  This...? This is for Him.  And here we are...right before meeting ZhenAi. So many unknowns. So very many.  Will she consent? We don't focus on the questions. We focus on the facts. We know for sure...100%...that God told us to come. Here. For her.  

We have chosen to follow Him here. Not knowing where that will lead us.

Thank you for following our journey. To Kunming. To ZhenAi.

(We meet her around 3pm today. I can only update when we get back to our hotel and get wifi)

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Day 2 ~ February 27

We slept all night and woke at 6am.  It was wonderful.

We got ready and went down for breakfast.  These people are lovely. They are to the point, quick, smiley and professional. I could totally make it here :)

Breakfast was amazing.  They let the kids be included on Dean's buffet breakfast and they were totally stuffed.

We spent quite a bit of time talking about our options. Hong Kong Disney is 5 miles from our hotel.  While that wouldn't normally be an option and yes, we are conscious of how much money we raised for this was pretty inexpensive because of the girls' ages.  It would have cost us less than $200.  We discussed and dismissed that. Then we considered a local theme park but the train would have taken 1.5 hour each way just to get to it and we were out of time.  Finally we settled on just heading into the city.  We had marked spots that showed us the "real Hong Kong" and the touristy part.  We are so glad we saw both!!  

This. The longest escalators known to man and us maneuvering them with strollers and children :)

This market was so crowded it was crazy. We had 2 strollers (thankful Dean insisted on bringing a stroller for Izrael which I wouldn't normally do but she slept for HOURS!)

We then got back on the subway and went to the next spot recommended to us.

Trying to get Sally Sue to smile for a selfie! ;)

We have no idea how far we walked but it was hours and hours.  Hours.  We left the hotel at 10am ish and returned at almost 11pm!  Everything on our list to see or do we did or saw.  We "did" Hong Kong in this one day.  So tomorrow...we rest :)

Double Decker buses for days!


Totally found my style in HK!

The one place strongly recommended to us by my brother was "The Peak".  A tram that goes up a mountain and gives you an incredible view. We got to it and there had to be well over a few thousand people waiting in line.  All the way up the hill, across the street and in the next building. And...then we saw the price.  It was the same price as Disney which we had nixed earlier. sweet brother...we passed. The girls would not have made it in the line for hours and the cost was way too high. But..we saw it. :) 

From there we headed to the ferry to cross over to the island and go see the festival of lights. Ok.
 This boat.  

It was docked and people were loaded and Dean looks back at me to see if I'm going to have the courage to get on! I've seen and been on a lot of seriously rocking boats in my life (having grown up in Newfoundland, Canada) but this? heck.  Dean yells back to pull Izrael backwards ( both girls were sleeping in their strollers). The good news is I got on without overthinking it. And made it on. Yes. Seriously.

That's Dean wiping the sweat from his forehead.  For real.

There were 2 amazing couples before and after the ferry. That saw us lifting strollers with sleeping children down flights of stairs and just jumped in and grabbed an end of the stroller.  So thankful.

The festival of lights was the skyline with lights all synchronized to music.  It was pretty cool and we are glad we went.  

We ended the day getting our sleeping girls Crocs sandals (they both have blisters and we've gone through so many bandaids just in day 1).  Trying desperately to stay awake on the train ride home. That was scary. We were both done. I think we did awesome with this jet lag and way better than 3 years ago. We just owned it and jumped right in. That might sound easy but 16 hours hurts!  We didn't nap and we didn't get home til 11pm! The girls had been sleeping since around 6pm and didn't wake all the way home. Rough ferry ride, carrying them up and down stairs, transporting them to the shuttle and folding up their strollers, and bringing them right in and putting them in bed! They woke at 5am this morning but they slept HOURS yesterday!

So here we are. It's Sunday morning here.  We fly out at 5-6pm today to Kunming. It's a quick flight only around 2 hours and I have to say my stomach is in knots about this flight.  Our in country flight last time was terrifying.  It was extremely rough.  We were left out in the rain before boarding. And an all out fight broke out above our seats. I desperately wanted to take the train this time but the bullet train is under construction in Kunming (we are told) and it would take like 45 hours!! So it wasn't an option. Not for lack of trying. 

I don't yet have a time that we meet ZhenAi.  

As tired as we were, I'm glad we both agreed to just go for Hong Kong yesterday. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity and we didn't miss out!

Please pray us safely to Kunming.  Our children are doing amazing back home and I'm so so so thankful we decided to take Izrael and Nazara.  They are entertaining each other and having so much fun but Izrael is about the most tender hearted, sensitive child on the planet.  Extreme.  We've been working hard on expressing yourself with words and not tears this trip. She did really well yesterday. She feels something and just cannot even get words out she just bursts into tears.  This was 100% little Janice Procopio.  Dean said yesterday "Do you think there's a little Janice Walker in there that we just have to help cultivate?" :) 

Thanks for following our story.  XO