Monday, December 31, 2012

Year End Reflections

Dec. 31, 2012
So, today ends another year.  It is a year I will look back on with very mixed emotions.  There are definitely two halves to this year with the dividing line being 5:30 pm on June 8th. 
2012 began with the anticipation of Brooke’s arrival.  We had completed most of the paperwork and were hoping to get a travel approval before the Chinese government shut down for Chinese New Year but we missed it by just a few days.  Every day counts in this long drawn out process and some count more than others.  Thankfully we can trust the loving hand of our heavenly ather to have details worked out that are never too early and never too late.  Our travel approval arrived and we were able to plan our trip to finally bring Brooke home.  Wow, it seems like yesterday and at the same time, it seems like a lifetime ago.  We boarded a plane for China on February 29th.  After a brief stop in Beijing, we finally arrived in Shanghai.  In a room at an orphanage, Brooke walked into our lives.  Although we planned for her arrival, we could never have imagined what an incredible gift from God she would be in our lives. 
We were as ready for her arrival as any new parents can be.  We had completed several days of intense training on the needs of older adopted children, we had read books, we had talked with other parents… All of these resources were great, but frankly, Brooke is one of those rare exceptions to older child adoption.  She bonded with us quickly, adapted to her new life in our family and in general has made this whole process seem incredibly simple.   
Those first couple of months flew by.  Brooke learned English rapidly, loved her school, loved our dogs, made friends both at church and school…life as a family of three was just starting to settle into a new normal until -----
June 8th at about 5:30pm
I had just gotten home from work and the phone rang.  It was our family doctor.  Almost immediately my heart broke.  The MRI Dennis had earlier in the day showed a mass in his brain.  Every speck of normal was shattered.  We were being told to head to the ER of a large hospital in our area.  They would be expecting us.  Pack a bag and head there as soon as possible.  I remember calling a friend to see if we could drop Brooke off for the night.  I had to tell her three times that Dennis had something in his brain before she could grasp what I was saying.  I think we all felt that way.  I’m still thankful for these wonderful friends who helped us through that night and helped Brooke be ok too.  Since you all know the “rest of the story”, we were plunged into the world of cancer that night.  Brain surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and trial drug programs became our new normal.  We went from the joy of a new child to the fear, stress, anxiety of a very serious health situation with one phone call.
Our “normal” had shifted and will never be the same again.  We no longer take time for granted.  Each and every day is precious.  We don’t put off for tomorrow anything that we can possibly do today.  We cherish the big and small things that make life precious.  We grab a camera to record a moment far more frequently.  We live far more conscious of just how quickly life can change. 
We have grown this year.  Not just from a family of two to a family of three, but in far more important ways.  I’ve seen Dennis grow as his intense desire he had before his illness to live out his faith in day-to-day, has taken deeper meaning and focus.  God has been teaching me to wait on Him and trust Him.  We have seen God at work in our lives through the hands of those around us who have helped us in too many ways to even count. We have watched Brooke gasp that Jesus loves her and has always been watching over her even before she ever heard His name.  Overall, we can say, “God is faithful.”  He is faithful in the joyful and good times and He is faithful in the hard times. 
2012 was not what we expected.  Our plans would have looked much different but even though it has at times been extremely painful it has been good.  What is ahead for us in 2013 is yet to be seen but we know we can trust in the One who knows the future.    

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

First Christmas

This was Brooke's first Christmas.  Christmas is not celebrated in most Chinese homes so this was all new to her.  We wanted her to understand that Christmas is not about what you get but rather it is about the birth of Jesus.  She really seemed to understand the concept.

Recently in school, she had learned the definition for J-O-Y.
Jesus - Others - You
She has really taken this definition to heart.  So often over the last few days she has acted in accordance with the principle of putting Christ first, then others and last herself.  It is exciting to see the reality of Scripture growing in her heart.  Even when it was time to open presents, she did not want to keep opening her things.  She was always saying someone else should open a package.

We spent Christmas Eve Day with Ellen's family, Christmas morning at home and Christmas Day with the Dennis' family.

Christmas Morning at home.

Happy Birthday Jesus cake.

Play bride dress.
Brooke and Daddy
We also had a major snow storm just before Christmas.  We got over 15 inches of snow in 24 hours.  Brooke loves the snow and has enjoyed playing in it.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

I Believe There Should Be No Orphans

Since we started the process to adopt, many people have asked us why we chose to do this.  The simple answer is God called us to it.  As believers, He made it clear that we have a responsibility to care for orphans.  Never did we imagine the joy this would bring into our lives.  

I want to share with you an essay from a Civics homework assignment, recently written by a 14 year old girl who was adopted from China 3 years ago. I know prior to getting into the adoption process, we had no idea of what being an orphan meant, not only during the person's childhood, but also after they age out of orphanages.  

Could God be calling you to come to the aid of orphans around the world?

I Believe There Should Be No Orphans

By Agnes Tucker
Once upon a time, three years ago before I was adopted, I lived 11 y
ears as an orphan. That life wasn’t as pretty as the life I have now. Although I miss my country and the other children I grew up with, I prefer this life. I lived with 600 other orphans who are still hoping to have the life I have now. People here have more than they need I have noticed, but yet they still cry that they are poor. To be considered that they are poor, it should be that they don’t have water; they should be starving, have no clothes, no car or any means of communications.

In civics and economics, I learned about scarcity were people have unlimited wants and limited resources. Well this is the definitely the case when you are an orphan. But whether you believe it or not, none of you, not even the beggars on the street in America, have faced the real life of an orphan. Because you have parents and do not have any of the things mentioned in the first paragraph. Being an orphan means you don’t get to see the outside world. The only thing you do is look outside through the same window everyday expecting someone to come for you. And when they don’t, sometimes you break into tears or accept what just happened as if you are tough.

I had been looking through my window for 11 years. And finally my time came. But before it came, I wondered if it did come, what will happen to the other orphans who are my family, friends and everything to me? Tears rolled down on my cheeks anytime I thought about the time they will age out of the orphanage. They only have one year left now for them to age out. They will be thrown into those dark, dirty streets. What will happen to them out there? Many things can happen to them.

Those streets are scary, I have seen them before. They are dirty because diseases travel through that air like blood travels through our bodies. People are raped and hurt on those streets. They have to hunt for food and they will be lucky if they find a piece of bread. Children die out there because of the dirty environment they are in. Imagine being on the streets, you wear the same clothes until they tear apart but still you wear them. Imagine sleeping outside on concrete, no blanket and no showers and no shoes. All these things make me cry and the sad thing is it’s true, real and happening right now.

That’s why I believe that there should be no orphans, because we’ve all got what it takes to save the life of an orphan. We got more than what we need, and it won’t hurt us to share what we’ve got. If we do this all together, I promise they will be no orphans left."


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Nine Months

Just a quick stop here to mark the nine moth anniversary of Brooke becoming our daughter. Nine months ago today we signed the papers in China to legally make her our daughter but she had been our child in our hearts long before that day. These months have been a roller coaster for sure but we are so happy she is there with us.

Today we had the joy of celebrating her first St. Nick's Day with her.  It was a blast. She was so excited about the things in her stocking but also the things she had helped us shop for in our stockings.  If the weather man is right, she might get to see her first accumulating snow on Sunday.  So many first in nine months.  She is counting down the days to Christmas by taking a link out of a paper chain each day. 

School continues to go well.  We spend a lot of our commute time each day doing reading or math.  It is time well spent.  I think the car will be very quiet and my commute very lonely while she is on Christmas break and staying home with Daddy.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

A Date with Daddy

Dennis and Brooke had a date today.  Dennis came up with the idea to take her to the matinee at a local dinner theater.  Since he is unable to drive right now due to his health issues, this was a way for them to do a little shopping in the shops at the theater, have brunch and see a play.  The production was a musical version of A Christmas Carol.  I dropped them off, went Christmas shopping and then picked them up.  Dennis was tired when they were done but they really had a good time.  Brooke loved getting all dressed up for the occasion.

Brooke and Dennis in one of the shops.

Dennis and Brooke having brunch.