Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Pregnancy Update and "My Story"

This is an exciting week for our family, as at the end of the week, we will discover how the tie between estrogen and testosterone will be broken!! After much prayer, Zack and I decided to have the first trimester blood work performed (an added bonus, of course, is getting to find out the sex of the baby sooner!). Because of my age and medical history, my doctor also suggested it. Zack and I knew that the results wouldn't change anything, but would help us be more prepared, if necessary. So we look forward to revealing our results this weekend with our parents who are coming to visit for this exciting time!

11 Weeks and Growing!! 

12 Weeks and I am not quite as far along as Caleb...hahaha!

I am thankfully feeling so much better. The nausea has subsided greatly, and I beginning to get some of my energy back as well. The smells still get to me, but I am tolerating them better. And as you can see, I am growing! 

Pregnancy certainly is a miraculous thing. I have always marveled at how God created life out of nothing, how he forms us in the womb, and all the amazing intricacies of his creation. There is no doubt there is a creator, God, when you view His handiwork.  Being pregnant has brought a new perspective to all this for sure! Each day I enjoy learning new facts about all that's going on in this little miracle living inside me...and so do my kids!

Speaking of miracles, I recently have been reading a book given to me by my amazing mother in law. It's written by Karen Kingsbury and titled, "A Treasury of Adoption Miracles: True Stories of God's Presence".

It has some amazing, miraculous stories of adoption. As I was reading it this week, I began to think about how, really, each and every adoption is a miracle, just as is each and every life God creates. My own adoption is a miracle. The adoption of my four children are all miracles. My life has been a story of adoption miracles.  And truly, it has. So, I decided to spend some time on this blog post telling "my story".

Many of you are familiar, at least somewhat, with my adoption story. Many of you, however, might not even know that I was adopted as an infant, and what entailed over the next several years of my life. From the outside, it might have looked more like a nightmare than a miracle, and at times, I am sure my parents felt like they were living through a nightmare.

It really is an amazing story and quite interesting to hear. I wish my parents could tell it to you, the reader. A book could literally be written about it, not only because it's an interesting, unusual and emotional story, but because the legal battle with my birth father spanned the course of about 13 years. Yes, 13 years.

It all began when I was born on August 21, 1982 in a hospital in Louisville, KY, to a very young lady, my birth mother. She felt that she didn't have the support system or means to provide the life that she would want her child to have, so she had chosen my parents to adopt me. A co-worker of a cousin to my mother knew of the situation through a friend of a friend. I am not sure about all the details and how they got it all worked out, but I just know I am thankful they did! From what I have read in newspaper articles and from his own statements, my birth father was supposedly not on board with me being placed for adoption. He attempted to not allow me to go with my mom and dad from the hospital, but a judge denied his request.

When I was 4 days old, I was brought home to the small town of London, Kentucky by two beautiful people, my mom and dad, Glenn and Linda Toney. Here are those beautiful people....

They had tried to conceive a child biologically but had not been successful due to my mom's medical issues. They had also attempted to adopt through the state of Kentucky, but had grown weary of the long wait. Many people in our small community of "Swiss Colony" knew of my parents longing to have a child, and, well, that's how they ended up with me!

I was received with open arms from everyone in my community, the way I understand it. My parents had a wonderful support system, and my adoption was finalized on March 11, 1983 in my hometown of London, KY.

I always thought I looked like a little boy....and that hair!!! 

 To my parents knowledge, their attorney had performed everything legally needed to terminate my birth father's parental rights, and had done so in the proper way.  Unfortunately, there was some room for debate in this area, and thus ensued what would be a 14 year long custody battle. Again, it would be impossible in one blog post to document what occurred in those 14 years,  but in doing some research (it is strange doing research about your own life), I found this timeline published in the Courier Journal. For those of you not from the Kentucky area, the Courier Journal originates in Louisville, KY and is the most widely circulated newspaper in the state of Kentucky.

Because of the back and forth nature of the court battle, and the decision in 1986 that restored my birth father's parental rights, there was a time when my birth father legally could have taken custody of me. Actually, an entire year passed from the time his rights were restored, until the time the ruling was appealed in my parents favor. During this time, he would call my mom at night and threaten to come get me. My mom would beg him to please not do that. My dad worked the night shift at UPS during that time, making these nights even more terrifying for my mom.

I knew I was adopted from a very young age. It was a fact that my family celebrated, and that I felt very special because of.  However, I knew nothing of the threatening my mom had to endure, or anything about any of the court proceedings.  I knew nothing at all, other than I had wonderful parents, an amazing extended family, and a pretty awesome life, overall. It was a happy childhood.

One story that has always amazed me occurred when I was around 7 or 8 years old.  My birth parents made a surprise visit to our home that evening. Somehow, they had found our home, and though not visiting as a "couple" they supposedly were visiting for the purpose of securing a picture of me to give to my birth mother's father, who was dying of cancer. My birth father, we would later learn, had ulterior motives.

I was in my room playing my Nintendo that night. My dad has told me this story several times, and he always notes that I never closed my door when I played Nintendo. But for some reason on that night, I decided to close my door. When my birth parents arrived, my mom immediately called her parents and sister. My grandpa came over with a shotgun (gotta love Kentucky) and my uncle came over and stayed with me in my room while I played Nintendo. I had no idea anything was going on, I was just concerned with advancing on to the next level in Mario.   My parents called their attorney and were advised by him to not give my birth mother the picture, but my parents tender hearts made the decision, and they gave her the picture anyway. My parents  learned  shortly after the visit that the father of my birth mother did pass away.

The photo my parents gave to my birth mother 
and that subsequently appeared  in the Courier Journal on various occasions

Curiously enough, the very picture they gave my birth mother appeared in the Courier Journal (the newspaper I mentioned earlier) along with a front page story, written from the viewpoint of my birth father.  It  did include the "facts" of the case, but certainly appealed to sympathizers for my birth father.   In doing my "research", I found that my adoption case/story appeared in the Courier Journal at least 4 times, with three of those times featuring a front page story. My parents never commented about the court proceedings, and did so per the advice of their attorney. Therefore, almost every story that was published in the Courier Journal was heavily weighted from the viewpoint of my birth father. Here are some examples of the headlines and a few excerpts from some of the stories:

In 1996, when I was 14 years old, my adoption case was settled, legally, once and for all.  Throughout the 14 year long battle, our case had reached the Kentucky Supreme Court twice, and had been sent to the United States Supreme Court of Appeals, but was never heard. The financial costs associated with the 14 year long battle literally cost my parents everything they owned, including our house. The emotional costs were high as well. Because of the stress of the case, my dad began having seizures and actually passed out while driving his UPS truck, which further complicated our financial situation. My mom has dealt with heart issues for as long as I can remember, no doubt at least partially because of the stress and anxiety of the custody battle.  This case definitely took a toll on them in many ways. But through it all, my parents provided the most loving and stable home that I could have imagined. My childhood was full of happiness, and I believed we were blessed. I will never know how they did it, aside from eventually having an amazing attorney who knew adoption law inside and out, the support, prayers, and generosity of family and friends, and of course and most importantly,  their faith and trust in God.

As with every story in life, will never know it all, at least not from the side of my birth father, and especially, I think, my birth mother. There are many questions left unanswered as to my birth father's choice of timing, his motives, etc. There are certainly "off the record" situations that occurred that will never be published in the Courier Journal or any other newspaper, such as the time he visited my home unexpectedly. There are numerous more. Thus, at the very least, I will always believe that his motives were very suspect. I think it is very important for you, the reader, to know that I came to these conclusions on my own, as my mom and dad never spoke an ill word of either of my birth parents. In fact, they always let me know they would support me and my efforts if I ever chose to seek out either of them. And they have kept that commitment. Shortly after Zack and I were married, at my request, my parents helped me contact my birth mother, and I, along with Zack and my parents, met her for the first time and had dinner together. I may blog at some point about that meeting.

I began this blog post speaking about miracles. Maybe after reading this, you aren't quite sure what the connection is, or how any of my adoption story could be considered a miracle (it was quite a mess!)

Well, I find it quite miraculous that I was adopted by two of the most loving, kind, selfless people that I have ever met. That out of all the people who could have adopted me, I was given these two parents. That I have my mom's eyes and love for hospitality, and my dad's love for music and sometimes his temper. That I grew up with the kind of relationship with my parents that I would just as soon as hung out with them on a Friday night than to have gone out with my friends. That I could approach them at any time, with any problem, and I knew they would listen. We have always been the closest of close. I don't know what I would do without them.

I find it miraculous that God can take what was intended for bad and what seemed like a desperate situation at so many points in time, and use it for good.  That He could use the trials my family faced throughout my adoption to build perseverance, character, faithfulness, and a deep, deep love for one another. That, because of my adoption and the impact it has had in, and on my life, God opened my heart to adoption, and we now have four beautiful, precious children from all over the world (more on this in the next blog). Not only this, but God has used my parents, and now Zack and I, countless times to minister to families who have had difficulties in the adoption process, or whom are considering adoption, etc. He, the one true and Sovereign God, has brought beauty from ashes in many ways. And that truly is the picture and beauty of adoption, in my opinion.

Please don't hear me say that adoption is a cake walk. Adoption isn't always easy. Being part of the adoption community, I know of many families who struggle daily with adoption related issues. Not every adopted child feels favorably towards adoption, as some children have been placed in very negative circumstances due to adoption.  In my case, the adoptive process was difficult, but the relationships I have with my mom and dad are priceless to me. Adoption has been a tremendous, unspeakable blessing to me.

We live in a flawed, sinful world, and that sin taints everything.  We are all born into the world as sinners, and we take this sin with us into our relationships, whether those are biological, or are formed through adoption, etc. None of us, or our relationships, are exempt.

The most miraculous news of all is that there is an adoption that we all can be a part of, one that only brings life, light, and love, and that is secure for all eternity.  We can be adopted into the family of God, through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Ephesians 1:5 tell us that God chose us, before the creation of the world, to be holy and blameless in his sight, and that in love, he chose us to be adopted as His children, through his son Jesus Christ. This means we have the opportunity to have an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, not only now, but forever. This is the very best adoption of all.

Thank you for taking the time to read "my story". It really isn't just my story, as God clearly knit the story together using various people, circumstances, etc, as He does with every story. What an amazing God we serve. I don't ever want to miss a part of the story He has for my about you?

Friday, March 23, 2018


The Caldwell family is "moving on up"….in size and location!!

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Surprise!!! In a super shocker to everyone, and I do mean everyone, we are excited, blessed, humbled and to be totally honest, somewhat terrified, to be expecting a new little Caldwell this October. That's right, Caldwell child #5 is scheduled to make his or her appearance late October 2018!

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"How did this happen??!!" to quote my mother in law 😊 All we can say is Proverbs 16:9, "We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps".  We felt very content and our lives were very full with our 4 kiddos….so I can only imagine having a 5th will only sweeten this family God has given to us.

To be honest, having children biologically was never something really in our plans. I plan to write an entire blog post on this later, but Zack and I felt called to adoption from the very beginning of our marriage.  Through different experiences God allowed us to have both independently, and as a couple, adoption is how we felt called to grow our family. And once we adopted, God fulfilled any desire to grow our family and parent children. So, having a child biologically just really wasn't on our radar….but it certainly is now!

I began to suspect something was up when we were staying a few days in a hotel in Winston Salem before we closed on our house. I noticed the usual pregnancy symptoms…but honestly, I just figured the stress of being separated from Zack for 6l weeks due to his job, selling and buying a house, and moving were just throwing things off. On the day we closed on our home here in NC, I decided that I better check, just to make sure. So, while I was at the grocery, I decided to pick up a pregnancy test. Self checkout, please!!

I was shaking as I carried in the groceries, but I tried to carry on as normal, as I was surrounded by my mom, our kids, and the painters and other workers doing a few fixes in our home. I ran into the bathroom downstairs and read the directions as fast I could. I struggle with even peeing in a cup (sorry if that's too much info ) so I wanted to make sure I got this right. I did the deed then laid the test on the vanity with shaking hands, and waited, but I didn't have to wait long. As soon as the urine passed the little window, both lines appeared and my heart was beating a million miles a minute. Could this really be happening!? I double checked what I was seeing and compared it with the little instruction pamphlet. Yep, two pink lines meant….pregnant!! I shoved the test inside the box and stashed it under the vanity. I walked out like no big deal and realized that our world had just changed! In an amazing, blessed way of course, but still changed dramatically! A thousand thoughts were going through my mind until I heard little Eden's voice, "Mom, what's this?" You guessed it, she had found my secret box under the vanity. I quickly stole it away and put it in my pocket, and mumbled, "Oh nothing".

The next few minutes I thought about how to tell Zack, then my mom and dad. Zack was at work, though I was supposed to be meeting him soon to secure a U-HAUL so we could finish unloading our storage unit. I was supposed to drive the van with the trailer hitch, but my mind was so blown that I drove the wrong van all the way there, lol. I told Zack I had a good reason for my mistake, then I pulled the test out of my pocket. I can assure you, he was in shock as well! He was thrilled, though overwhelmed. He wanted to tell everyone immediately, but I assured him we needed to think through some things first . I also wanted to take another test, just to be sure. So, the next day, I went back to the grocery store, only the self checkout lane was closed, so the poor teenage boy that was my cashier and I had an awkward conversation, to say the least.

The second test confirmed the results of the first, so we were pretty sure we had a 5th child on our hands! The next day I told my mom before church, she and I together Facetimed my dad, and later that day Zack and I called his parents after church. All grandparents were shocked, thrilled, and excited. Now they are just totally elated!

I am thankful that so far I haven't had anything more than nausea off and on everyday (not just in the morning….Morning Sickness is inappropriately named, in my opinion ), and have just been flat out exhausted. One of the most interesting things is that I have had an extreme aversion to certain smells, unfortunately those smells happen to be the smells of our home. So, I just wear a mask in most rooms. I can stand to be in the kitchen and most of the time our den, and my bedroom and bathroom are okay. Walking into the living room, foyer, hallway, basement, and any of the kids room results in some serious gags. I actually have a box of surgical masks I have been wearing, and that seems to keep the nausea at bay, though I do get some weird looks from the neighbors if I forget to take the mask off when I go outside.

Yesterday was my first ultrasound, and we are thankful that everything seems normal and that the heartbeat of the baby is strong. My mom and Eden were able to be there, and Eden couldn't help herself when she first saw the baby- she let out the longest "Awe!" followed by, "The baby is adorable!". Zack unfortunately was out of town due to work, but with the wonders of technology, I was able to send him the photos and video, to which he responded, "Wow, wow wow!".  As this is our first ever pregnancy, and as I am early in the pregnancy (9 weeks), we know that there are still many unknowns. We also realize we are totally clueless about anything to do with being pregnant, and all that having a newborn entails. We trust God is in control of every aspect, and we look to Him for our joy and peace throughout this process.

Switching gears….We have also moved on up North in location, to North Carolina. The weekend of February 18th, we said goodbye to our home for the past 3.5 years in Charleston, SC, and began a new adventure in the other Carolina state.  

First, just to catch you up on the family (I realize that almost two years have gone by since my last blog post. That is rather shameful, and though my mind had lots of ideas and topics I wanted to blog about, I guess other priorities just won out…not saying that those priorities were better, or more important).

Noah is now a middle school student! So hard to believe as I can remember meeting him for the first time (now almost 8 years ago!) and seeing his sad eyes looking up at Zack and I…then that first smile…then the first time he experienced Ketchup. He has made a great transition from elementary school to middle school. He is in the band and plays the trombone. He is playing soccer this spring and beginning Tae Kwon Do. He is a strong, independent young man and we are very proud of him.

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Caleb is in 4th grade and keeps us on our toes! He is full of life and laughter, and has had no problem making friends here. He (like his mom and dad) loves this time of year because March Madness is in full swing-he is my basketball watching buddy.  He is also playing soccer and beginning Tae Kwon Do.

Emmie is in 2nd grade and has really grown to be a fabulous big sister to Eden. She is a huge help to me around the house and God continues to grow her sensitive, servant heart in beautiful ways. She is also playing soccer this spring and looking forward to beginning Tae Kwon Do soon.

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Eden is 4 years old now and though tiny for her age, has a huge heart and is a little firecracker! She made the most seamless transition into our family in almost every way. She has acquired English amazingly and is very articulate….just ask her brothers! She won't start Kindergarten until 2019 and that is just fine with her. She is looking forward to beginning gymnastics soon!

So, how did we get from one Carolina to another? For some time, Zack and I had been praying about a job opportunity that would allow us to be closer to home, (Kentucky will always be home) as the trip for us and our parents was starting to get old, yet we all desired to be a part of each others lives as much as possible. We also missed the Kentucky like seasons, hills and mountains, etc. God certainly was gracious to us during our time in South Carolina, and to be honest, we struggled to know if it was selfish to pray for God to open an opportunity for us to closer to family, as everything was going just fine in Charleston.

During the early spring and summer of 2017, we had three different possibilities that seemed "sure things", not work out. The first would have put us in Nashville, TN., the second outside of Atlanta, and the third in Greenville, SC. Each time the door seemed open, but then would eventually close. The first opportunity in Nashville was offered to us, but we just didn't feel like it was right for various reasons. The second and third seemed so sure that we even put our home on the market, but then at the last second, the opportunities were removed. As 2017 began to come to an end, we began to think that maybe it just wasn't God's will for us to leave Charleston at this time. Then Zack got two phone calls from two different companies around the same week, and things got kicked into high gear, to say the least. Both opportunities would have taken us North- one way North, to Cincinnati, the other to North Carolina. In the end, it was a pretty easy decision. Zack accepted his current position in North Carolina around Thanksgiving and was to report the first of the year.

We knew this meant we would be separated for some time- until our house sold. Zack would commute early Monday morning and stay through the week, then come home on Friday evening. I would be with the kids during the week and get our home ready to sell. It certainly wasn't the ideal situation, but we also knew the commute and separation wouldn't be forever. We listed our home around Thanksgiving, and we had it under contract the early part of January. We were thankful it didn't linger on the market too long. Getting a house "show ready" with 4 kids can be a little maddening, and we had some interesting prospective buyers….some wouldn't come in our home because the driveway wasn't long enough, some became upset because we asked all potential buyers to remove their shoes or wear the provided shoe covers- in our minds we were preserving the floors for someone who would buy our home…not everyone shared our perspective however! Others would cancel just a few minutes before a showing was scheduled. Needless to say, we prayed fervently for a buyer for our home! Wouldn't you know it, the family that ended up buying our home came the weekend I came down with a stomach bug and literally couldn't get out of bed… we had four showings scheduled! Thankfully my in-laws happened to be in town and helped get the house ready. Zack also knew the drill and directed traffic. A few minutes before the scheduled showings, he carried me out to the car, robe and all, and I just laid in the backseat until the showing were over, while he perused the neighborhood. 

We already had a home picked out here in Winston-Salem from our house hunting trips, so once our house was under contract, we were able to make an offer on the home here in Winston. We were hoping to find a home with a basement, a larger yard than our home in Charleston, and in a neighborhood where there would hopefully be lots of other kiddos for our kids to play with, as they had grown accustomed to that in Charleston.  Graciously, God answered those prayers. Our street is full of kids, we have a small basement that is a great little hangout spot, and a bigger yard with beautiful trees and privacy. More than we deserve!

The kids seem to be adjusting well to school. I am always amazed at their resilience. Eden is here with me, and will be for another year, as she can't begin Kindergarten until August 2019. I am working on getting my school counseling certification for North Carolina, so that when it is time for me to return to work, I will be ready (still determining when that time will be, especially with our new addition coming). My job may always be inside our home, which would be fine with me!

We knew when we moved, the most difficult aspect would be finding a church home. Not because there aren't wonderful churches here in Winston-Salem, but because we so dearly loved our little church family in Charleston.  I say[RC1]  "little" because we were members of a church plant when we left Charleston, and though our congregation was small in number, we were full of love for one another and for the Gospel. I can't say that I was excited about the church plant in the beginning (this should also be a blog post because God has done an amazing work in my heart in this area), but I can now say that I truly, truly, miss this fellowship, as does our entire family.

A quick rundown: a few weeks before we left for China in 2016 to bring home Eden, our current church at the time had a division that resulted in the current Pastor resigning and many members leaving. Our family was one of the families that decided to leave during this time (once we returned from China).   Our hearts were broken over the events, but we felt we had no choice but to leave the church. We weren't prepared to bring home Eden to an unknown situation in terms of our faith community, but that is what happened. In the beginning, I was very, very unsure of becoming part of the church plant, not because of the events that led to its formation, the leadership, the theology, or anything like that, but because there wasn't very much structure in terms of kids church, Sunday School, youth group, etc. Of course, when any church is in its infancy, none of those things just automatically happen, and that is okay. This was our first experience being part of a church plant, and there were many things I just didn't get and struggled with. Didn't I say I needed to write an entire blog devoted to this? I better just do that.  Let's just say that I am so thankful that God is so gracious and patient with our hearts, and I am forever grateful that He allowed our family to be part of such a sweet fellowship.

We have visited a couple different churches here, but have yet to feel fully called to a church home. There is definitely a huge hole in the life of our family as we miss the community that results when Christians fellowship, worship, and serve with one another. We pray that God will lead us to a church home very soon.  


So, there you have it, the quickest run-down I can give you of our lives over the last almost-two years. It has been an adventure in so many ways. The one thing that has remained the same- the steadfast, faithful love of God.  Scripture says in Hebrews 13:8 that "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever." So many things in this world can change- our location, our profession, our health, our church, our families. But praise be to God that He is unchanging, as is His love for us

Adoption is a GOoD thing :)

Friday, July 8, 2016

All things new...One month home with Eden

It seems somewhat shallow to be posting this on a day like today in our country- a day in which our country seems so divided and so broken. But my prayer in sharing this is that the power of God to work in hearts will be seen. God still changes hearts and changes people. He can still bring beauty from ashes and make all things new. I know this because I have seen it in my life, and the life of my children. I have seen the grief and pain that loss can bring, and the power of God to transform that pain and grief into love and joy. It appears from all that is taking place currently in our country that God's healing power and the power of His love living in and through us is what is so desperately needed in this country. God help us.

On July 3 we had been home for one month home with our Eden. One of the meanings of the name "Eden" is delight,  and what a delight she is to our family! We have seen her personality blossom so much in the last month. As I mentioned in my previous post, after giving God the praise for the work He has done in the lives and hearts of Eden and our family, we give a tremendous amount of credit to our three "big kids". Whether it is buckling Eden in her car seat, or helping her wash her hands, or entertaining her while I cook, all of our children have helped out in big and small ways and we are so thankful and proud of them. It has been a beautiful thing to watch them learn more about servant hood and selflessness through serving their sister.


Eden is doing great with her new routine in America. She is sleeping well- not perfect, but much better than we expected. Lately she has been getting up multiple times when we first put her to bed, so it is making bed time take quite a while, but once she is asleep, she usually sleeps all night long, which is nice :) She usually always wakes up with a smile on her face, and loves to come into Baba and Mommy's room to tell us "Ooh - yah (using phonetics here :) pee-pee". So we take her to the bathroom, then she will hop in our bed and snuggle for a few minutes. She has a very playful disposition and can be a little ornery sometimes as well- she fits in great! She has not been displaying many signs of grief, though she does like for our entire family to always be together. If either Zack or I are gone for more than a couple hours, she begins to fret a little, but nothing too major. She also loves to go, go, go. She will sometimes begin to seem anxious to go somewhere, anywhere, and will repeat, "mommy's car, mommy's car". This may be some type of grief or transition issue- not quite sure. Her English skills are progressing, and she is beginning to repeat many words and phrases now. We all love to listen to her jabber :)

Eden loves the water- she is a huge fan of the pool, and as we have recently discovered, the ocean as well! She was a little hesitant at first, but after she got used to the feeling of the sand on her feet, she was ready to hit the ground running! She wasn't intimidated at all by the waves, and even wanted to ride the boogie board! Now she just needs to conquer the lake...that will happen soon enough when we visit Kentucky :)

The most amazing thing about Eden is just her sweet heart. Now that she is home, I think she is feeling more and more free to love. She is quick to give a kiss and hug, and just grab your face in the sweetest way. She also says "I love you" in a way that will melt your heart.

It's all very humbling and overwhelming to take in- my family, that is. I am in awe that God would give this family to me. Sometimes at night I worry about something happening to them. An accident, or an illness, or some sort of tragedy. I am sure that part of it this angst can be related to the craziness and uncertainty of the world we live in, But I also recognize (thanks in part to my Godly and wise husband) that I must be careful to not idolize my children, or to place these gifts above the most amazing Giver of all, God. We know from his Word that every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father (James 1:17).

This is our first adoption to be so far away from our family, and honestly, after the adjustments to having four kids and a two year old, this has been the hardest part. It is hard to not be able to share these amazing days and experiences God has given us with our parents. We have been so blessed to have had our parents involved in the lives of our other three kids- they are such awesome grandparents! Our parents thankfully were both able to spend some great quality time with our kids and us this past week, celebrating Independence Day with us. It was just the best thing ever to have our entire family together! I am so thankful that they are having the chance to get to know Eden, even if it isn't quite as often as we would like. Eden seems to already love them and had a great visit with them. I think there were some tears when they left....and it wasn't just the grandkids!

I end this post with much more on my mind than adoption and our family, as wonderful as those two things are. My heart is breaking for our Nation, and I wonder how God wants to move in our hearts to care for the hurting and make right the wrongs that have been done. I wonder about, and fear the America that my children may grow up in. I worry that it will be an America full of hate, division, and discord. We must pray, love, and act, to make sure that we overcome evil with good, through the power and love of Jesus.

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
2 Corinthians 3:17

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Romans 12:21

Friday, June 10, 2016

At Home....Our First Week With Eden

I want to apologize for the belated update- so many of you have emailed or messaged us to check in and see how things are going, and we so appreciate that! I promise that we haven’t been ignoring you, it has just been a whirlwind week since we got home last Friday night.

First, just a few words about our trip home. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your prayers. We were really worried about how traveling home was going to go, given how our last day in China went with Eden. The trip home started out a little rough. There was a discrepancy with the spelling of Eden’s Chinese name on her passport/Visa and her airplane tickets. Believe it or not, one space in the wrong place in her name almost caused us to be unable to fly home! Thankfully Delta went to work and corrected the issue and we made our first flight. There were some nervous moments in the Guangzhou airport! The first flight was a little rough for Eden. She cried about half the time. It was about a 3.5 hour flight to Beijing. Once we landed we had about a 4.5 hour layover in Beijing, and Eden did awesome the entire time! We were on the same flight with another family adopting with our agency, so it was great to be able to hang out with them. We had a wonderful surprise waiting for us once we boarded for Detroit….the plane was half empty! That meant the three of us ended up with 6 seats- that gave us room to spread out and made the 13 hour flight so much more comfortable! And Eden did amazing! She didn’t cry once. She slept for about 8 of the 12 hours. We felt your prayers and trust me, we were praising God! After we landed in Detroit, Eden continued to do well. She was definitely ready to be done with airports and airplanes, but after 8 flights in two weeks, so were Zack and I! She cried some on our last little flight, but it was only about 1.5 hours, so we could handle that J It was a wonderful feeling to have our feet back on the ground in South Carolina!

Eden has been in her new home for one week now. To say that we are amazed at how wonderful she is doing is an understatement. Her comfort and ease in her new home is truly miraculous! Other than some sleep issues, which are to be expected after traveling through 12 time zones in two weeks and adjusting to an upside down schedule, she has had a seemingly smooth transition.
We know without a shadow of a doubt that having our 3 “big kids” at home has helped her transition tremendously. We can’t say enough about what an awesome job Noah, Caleb, and Emmie have done with helping their little sister feel right at home. They have been kind, gentle, playful, helpful- whatever the circumstance has called for, they have been up to the task. We have seen them be selfless in ways that have brought tears to our eyes. We are so proud of them.  The evidence of their kindness can be seen in the way Eden looks at them, calls for them (it is so cute to hear her pronounce their names), and lift her little arms up to them in hopes they will pick her up- and they do! 

My mom also was here this week to help out with the household chores and daily tasks so that we could concentrate on spending time with Eden and our kids. This was a huge blessing and it was so hard to see her go. We are truly so blessed with amazing parents. We couldn’t do it without them!
She is warming up to everyone, including me- I even get kisses and hugs now! Zack went back to work Monday, and so she was “stuck” with me, for better or worse, and thankfully, she chose to see it for the better. The time together has been great for us, and I think we both feel much more secure and at ease with one another. Again, I am not saying we have arrived, but the progress is incredible. We just can’t believe it and we are so thankful.

Eden’s first few nights in the USA were tough for her and us. Though she went to bed without protest, she also wanted to go to bed very early (jet lag and time zone change).  She would wake around midnight and then about every two hours after. It was a tiring few days.  Thankfully the last two nights she slept through the night- she went to bed around 7:45 and then woke around 6:30, which is a huge improvement! She had been waking at 5am…and staying up! And that made for one tired mom and dad! We are praying that she is adjusting to her new schedule and this pattern of sleeping through the night will continue ;)

Eden’s personality has really started to shine here in America. So many times the grief that a child is experiencing overshadows everything else, and that makes it hard to see the “real” child through all the grief. This is what we experienced in China with both of our girls. Though we realize that Eden still most likely has moments of grief and will for some time, this girl has been nothing but smiles for the most part.  It brings a smile to my face just to think about it! She loves playing with her siblings- whatever they are doing, she is more than happy to be involved. She loves playing outside, she loves going to the pool….she seems happy to be here! She is still very protective of her backpacks, though she has begun to remove some of the things she placed in them while in China. She often will take some snacks out and share them with her siblings. She has a very kind heart and loves to share. She also has allowed the backpacks to stay behind a few times when we have gone to the store. They are definitely still her security, however, and this is evident at bedtime. She wants them either in the bed with her, or on the floor where she can see them. We feel like her backpacks are very much something that she uses to maintain control and a sense of stability, and as she releases control of her backpacks, she is also releasing control of her life, and allowing us to be a part of it. That might sound a little kooky, but from what have seen, it makes perfect sense.

So, as you can tell, we are just blown away with her progress. It’s hard to explain unless you could see the “before” Eden. It’s almost like a house renovation or a makeover- Sometimes the after is so different than the before, it’s hard to believe they were ever the same!  I remember thinking the same thing once Emmie had been home for several weeks, amazed at the difference in her personality, her attitude, and just being in awe of how God truly can bring beauty from ashes. We just never expected so much to occur with Eden in the first week! I guess this could be some sort of “honeymoon” phase that we are experiencing right now, but it certainly feels like the real deal.
In terms of what it has been like to be a family of 6- it has been awesome! Yes, it is a lot of work, and  there are times when I feel overwhelmed with the reality of having 4 kids. I doubt if I have the energy and stamina for it all- the laundry, the cleaning, the cooking, the bedtimes, etc.. I am not as young as I used to be, and I admit, I am exhausted at the end of each day. But then I look at these four precious children and I think to myself, what better task could I be giving myself to then being their mom? I have not been able to come up with an answer that even comes close…and I doubt I ever well. Being a family of 6 rocks!

After every adoption, even  our first, we have always said we are done- no more children…the first few weeks home can kind of make you feel that way J This time, however, I feel as though I can respond to future possibilities of another child in a different way. I truly feel that I can say our family is complete. Once we were home Friday night and all of our children were sleeping, an overwhelming feeling of peace and completeness from the Lord washed over me, and I fell on my knees and I felt God’s Spirit tell me- this is the family that I want you to have. It was such an amazing, full, and content feeling. We will always be advocates for adoption and orphan care, but I feel as though God has brought a child to our family through adoption for the final time this time.  I know that He will call our family to orphan care through other avenues- He already has, and I already have dreams of taking all of our children back to their native countries on vision trips, short term mission trips, etc. I never want to stop sharing the story of all God has done in our lives through adoption with interested couples and families. Adoption is something that has forever changed our family’s life, and we are so thankful for it. Now, if in a few years we are adopting again, you all don’t rub these words in my face too much, okay? :)  

 I hope to update once every couple of weeks.  I know this sounds like a broken record, but we can’t think you all enough for your prayers, messages of encouragement, and every kind email, post, etc. You will never know how much they have meant. Words truly do have the power to give life, and you all gave us much life, and we are forever grateful. 

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Last day in Guangzhou...Could use some prayers!

Today is our last day before leaving bright and early tomorrow morning! We are more than ready to come home, but after this evening we are a little concerned about how the trip home might be....

The day started off great. We enjoyed one last breakfast in our hotel, then we led some of the families in our group to the toy market we visited the day before. They hadn't been able to visit it because yesterday three families had their consulate appointments. They were excited to pick up some souvenirs! Eden seemed to be doing well all morning and she ate s good breakfast and was ready for the day after sleeping great last night.

After leading the families to the toy store, Zack and I took Eden to the local zoo. This is the same zoo we visited during our last trip with Emmie, and for the price and proximity to our hotel, you can't beat it! We hopped on the subway and in about 15 minutes and a line change we were there! It was again another hot day- the heat index was around 110! Eden was able to make it through about half of the exhibits before she fell asleep.

The heat was getting to all of us- we were just one big wet mess! We drank plenty of water and thankfully made it back to the hotel in time to tell the Lunde family goodbye. We are so thankful to have met them and had a great time with them in our daughters province and Guangzhou. It's bittersweet to see them go, but we are happy for them as they are one step closer to being home! Another family that was in a different province but that we met while in Guangzhou also left today as well. We wish them the best and pray for safe travels.

While we were telling the Lunde's goodbye, Eden's disposition seemed a little off- I hadn't seen her this way in a couple days. I thought it was because she had just woken up from her nap a few minutes before, and maybe that was part of it. Then she did something she hasn't done the entire trip- she just stood and peed in the floor! We were told she was potty trained by her nannies, but I brought diapers and pullups because she is only 2.5, and we were told the same thing about Emmie who was 3.5 when we adopted her, and it turned out to not be true at all! She was definitely not potty trained :) However, from the first day we met her, Eden hasn't had one accident and sleeps through the night without peeing. It's pretty amazing. That why today's incident was so curious.

After that we went upstairs and gave Eden a bath. She had a great time playing in the tub and everything seemed fine. At the same time I was packing things up, Zack was helping, we were just working away and taking turns playing with Eden. I could tell when she got out of the bathtub that she seemed sad, and that's when the grieving started again. She grieved hard, crying and shouting for about 30 minutes. She let us hold her, but could not be consoled. And she was again calling out for her foster mother and friends. It is so sad and makes me feel helpless. None of the things that had made her happy the last few days seemed to make her happy this evening.

When she calmed down we walked across the street to McDonalds and got her a Happy Meal. She ate part of it but again was very sad. We walked around our hotel a bit to see if she wanted to play outside or even swim, but nothing seems to make her happy or catch her attention.

Once back in the room she seemed like she might cry again, but she pointed to her bed and let me know she was ready for bed. I was getting her pajamas when she again peed in the floor. I had just taken her to the potty but she said she didn't need to go. I really think this is part of her grieving- it's almost like she is regressing as she realizes that more change is coming? She got back in the bathtub after that and seemed happy as she could be- singing snd playing. After a while I heard her hollering and peeped my head in- she pointed in the bathtub to some poop! Again something she has never done! Three accidents in the course of about 4 hours. I just pray this doesn't continue tomorrow at the airport!

Thankfully she was happy at bedtime and we went through our normal routine, and she allowed us to read to her and we were silly and giggled and had fun :)

She fell asleep fairly fast which is a blessing as we still have some packing to do and would like to go to bed early tonight.

We know so many of you have prayed for us during our time in China, but would you please continue to pray, especially tomorrow? If you count our flight times and layovers, we have around 25 hours of traveling ahead of us- a flight from Guangzhou to Beijing, a flight from Beijing to Detroit, and then a flight from Detroit to Charleston. We should be home by 10:30 Friday night....
It's going to be a long day, and then I have a feeling it may be a long night too.

Could you pray specifically for:

-safety in every part of our trip

-peace and calm for Eden and for us

- if and when Eden becomes upset we will know how to comfort her and that others will allow us to do so

- for all flights and connections to be on time

- for Eden to be able to rest on the flights

-for Eden to resume her normal bathroom habits :)

- for our kiddos back home- for them to understand that as much as we will want to hold them and hug them for the longest time, we might have to deal with Eden once we arrive home.

Thank you so much for your prayers and support. We know we still have a long way to go, but we also know we serve a God who has the whole world in His hands, and He has promised to never leave us.

With that, I will bid you one final goodnight from China. Not sure when the next post will be, but it should be interesting :)

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Favorite night part 2 :)

Eden stayed awake until we got back to our hotel. She was in good spirits and even a little playful tonight at bedtime. She also allowed me to hold her several times tonight and even reached for me a few times- my heart was delighted! Still a daddy's girl, but we are making progress, I think- a good test will be to see how things go at the airport!!

Every smile, every laugh and positive interaction gives us so much hope, and we praise God from whom all blessings flow for the subtle, yet beautiful changes we are seeing in our sweet girl. Adoption is truly one of the most challenging, yet rewarding blessings we have ever experienced!

Goodnight from China! One more full day here and then we will be coming home!

Sent from my iPhone

One of my favorite nights ;)

Today was a beautiful and once again hot and humid day in Guangzhou. We were able to really take it easy today as we didn't have a scheduled tour until this evening- and it's one of my favorites :)

After breakfast a few of the other families and our family went to the giant wholesale toy store. It's pretty much exactly like the jewelry wholesale market I posted about except it consists of floor after floor of toys, jewelry, home goods, clothing, shoes, more toys, it's like a flea market on crack- I think it is at least 5 stories? It's pretty amazing and it's just a few subway stops past our hotel, so it is easy to find and convenient. Eden did very well on the subway today and at the toy market, which is pretty impressive because both of them were very busy, crowded and hot :)

We arrived back at our hotel a little after lunch. I followed the lead of another couple in our travel group and this morning at breakfast made some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and saved them for lunch. Talk about a welcomed treat! It was so good and Zack and I were thankful to have a break from ramen noodles for lunch....there is only so much your belly can take and both of ours are to their limits :) Eden was not too impressed by the pb&j but hopefully it will grow on her.

We rested and stayed around our hotel until this evening. Our guide met us and gave us Eden's passport compete with her Visa! This is a huge praise as there was some talk about a delay in the Visa processing/approval. If we hadn't gotten it by tomorrow that would have meant we wouldn't have been coming home Friday....and that would have been bad news! Please pray for the remaining three families in our travel group to get their Visas tomorrow as scheduled.

After we got our Visas half of the families loaded up and went to the river cruise this evening. This is my favorite night in Guangzhou because it is such a beautiful and relaxing time floating down the river and seeing the sunset and then the beautiful lights of the city. Eden seemed to really enjoy it and be intrigued by the sights as well. We opted to not eat the traditional Chinese buffet like we did during our last trip and instead ordered Papa Johns and carried it on...yum!