Tuesday, April 12, 2005

I thought that it might be a good idea to post Hope's story first, for those of you who haven't heard or read it yet. It will give you a good background as to how the idea of adoption first came into our lives! The original piece, titled "Our Most Precious Gift", was published in our church newsletter while we were in China. The final two paragraphs were added after we returned home.

~*~

I've heard it said that you never know what God may have in store for you. If I didn't believe it then, I certainly believe it now. This story begins over two years ago, in the summer of 2001...

One bright, sunshiny, summer morning I awoke after having what I considered to be an odd dream. Not odd bizarre, just odd like, “well that was odd”. In this dream, I was a mother to a little Asian girl. Maybe I considered it odd because Garry and I were in our late 30's and about as WASP-ish as you can get! In any case, I couldn't seem to stop thinking about it.

Shortly after having the dream it seemed I was being bombarded daily with images of beautiful little Asian girls. There were articles in the paper about couples adopting from China; a Cleveland weather forecaster adopted a baby girl from China and Channel 5 did a story on her journey; Garry and I would be sitting in the restaurant at Buehler’s when a Caucasian couple would arrive with two little Asian daughters. You get the idea!

I’m sure you all realize that we had never been blessed with children and we had come to a point in our lives where we were truly OK with that. We figured if God wanted us to have kids, He'd find a way...did He ever!

We talked about different ways to bring a child into our lives that summer and fall. When all was said and done, we decided that international adoption was the way to go. We both decided that the end result would be well worth the cost and less risky than going through a million and one hormone treatments with no guarantee of a pregnancy. Unfortunately, adoption within the United States is just about impossible for folks of our age. We could wait from five to nine years for a healthy infant only to lose the child if the child’s birth parents or a member of either of their families decide they want the baby back. And of course there was the Asian thing and the two of us being as far from Asian as we can get! Well, I just kept praying, asking for signs. You know, I wanted to be sure this wasn't something that only I wanted but that God wanted Garry and I to undertake. After all, international adoption isn't exactly easy or cheap.

The last week of November 2001, I was sitting on our living room floor finishing up some last minute items for the E.J. Thomas craft show I was scheduled to do that weekend. Garry had just left for our veterinarians' office to pick up some supplies for our two cats, Garth and Humphrey. While I was sitting there, and I will never forget this as long as I live, I looked towards Heaven and said, “Lord, if this is really what you want me to do you're just going to have to drop it in my lap. I don't even know where to begin.”

A few moments later the phone rang and it was Garry. He was on his way back from the vets' office and he had something special to share with me. He refused to tell me anything about it on the phone so as you can imagine my curiosity had the better of me by the time he walked through the door. The first words out of my mouth were, “Well? What?!”

It seems that our vets, who are a husband and wife team, were happy to see Garry because they had wanted to talk to us. They were leaving for China in a few weeks to pick up their new daughter and they wanted to know if I would help them take care of her. I got chills...I got BIG chills. When I told Garry what I had just prayed for, he got BIG chills.

Long story short, I took care of little Lillian for several months and fell in love with her. We also were able to get information about the agency that facilitated Lillian's adoption. The same month I stopped taking care of Lillian, Garry and I started our paperwork to adopt a daughter of our own from China. I won't kid you, there is a TREMENDOUS amount of paperwork involved and many, many hours spent taking classes, having a home study, having your home inspected, having your background checked, getting fingerprinted etc. China also has one of the longest, if not the longest waiting period...you can pretty much count on waiting at least a year after you finish your paperwork before you have any news of your daughter.

We have waited so long for our precious Hope. Some days I feel as if I can't stand to wait another second...but then God grants me some more patience and reminds me that He started all of this; He knows the perfect moment to place her in our arms. Our “official” date was to be March 2004. During the summer I spoke with the director of the China program at our agency and she told us that they were actually working two months ahead of schedule! Can you believe it?! So our official notification date became January 2004. We, of course, kept praying things would speed up even sooner, (which they did!) but again, all in God's perfect timing!

God has sent many wonderful people and circumstances to encourage us along the way; like the Caucasian family we ran into at The Golden Corral restaurant with two Chinese daughters. The girls were darling in their matching cheerleading uniforms and their mother was more than gracious and very supportive when I told her our story. Or how about when we decided to sell our condo and move into a larger, more child-friendly home? When we went back for a second look at the house we were interested in, the price had just been lowered that day...and the real estate company selling the home bought our condo outright so we didn't have to worry about going through the hassle of selling it.

One of the most startling incidents came from one of our new neighbors. One day last summer she came over to introduce herself and shoved a picture into my hand. In that picture was one of the most adorable little Chinese girls I've ever seen. Yes, they were adopting from China also. They brought their daughter home just before school started this fall. She is a three year old bundle of energy and joy! How awesome God is! Our daughters will be so blessed to be right across the street from each other.

And last, but certainly not least, there is Jennifer. I met this wonderful girl online more years ago than I care to think about. She is one of the most intelligent, creative, and beautiful individuals I have ever had the honor of calling my friend. Jennifer and I don't share similar backgrounds, skin colors, or political views...yet I love her as if she were my sister. I know deep within my heart that God sent her into my life to prove to me that I could love someone who "didn't look like me".

Just when we thought we couldn’t stand to wait a minute longer, on October 30th, two days before our 17th wedding anniversary, we got a call from the agency telling us that our dossier was in referral, which meant we were finally being matched to our daughter! We weren’t supposed to be this far along if you remember, until January of 2004!

The next call came on my 41st birthday; Thursday, November 13th. The good news this time was that our daughter's picture was on its way from China and we would actually be looking at it on Monday. The next three days seemed to drag on endlessly. Early Monday afternoon Chris (our angel at the agency) called and told me that she was looking at our daughter's picture and she was beautiful. She told me her name was Han Tao, her birthday was February 20, 2003, and that she had roly-poly legs. I called Garry as soon as I hung up with Chris. He left work, went directly to the agency, picked up Han Tao's picture and information and came straight home.

So many adoptive parents have told us that they knew the moment they saw their referral picture that that was their child. I'd like to say I had that same feeling but I pretty much went straight into shock! However, within two hours I couldn't look at her beautiful face without crying. She is my baby. She is definitely the one God has chosen to be Garry's and my daughter.

Our Christmas present for 2003 came two days early. Chris called again, this time to tell us that our most treasured daughter would be placed into our arms on January 29, 2004. As you can imagine, life has been a flurry of activity ever since.

As if we hadn't already had enough signs from God that this is exactly what we were supposed to be doing, we received several more:

All of our flights are with United Airlines where my dear father worked for most of his adult life. Dad left us when I was nineteen. I have no doubt he will be watching over us as we are in the air.
Our appointment at the U.S. Embassy in China to secure our daughter's visa and passport is scheduled on my precious grandmother's birthday. Grandma left us when I was only twelve. I can't think of a better guardian angel.

And finally, I was looking at the calendar the other day and Hope was born just two days after we turned in all of our paperwork. Han Tao will now be known as Hope An-Li; An meaning “tranquility” and Li meaning “strength”.

So now, our dear church family, twenty months after we started, we are finally going to hold our most precious gift. I know without a doubt, that moment is going to be well worth the wait.

Peace and joy to you in 2004!

~*~

Two more things that can’t be left out…she never made a single sound when they handed her to me…she just grabbed my finger and looked up at me as if to say, “Well, it sure took you long enough!”

Secondly, three days after she joined our family we were given the opportunity to visit her orphanage. We were presented with several gifts from her orphanage including the clothes her birth mother had placed her in and the note that was left with her. We were also given the blanket she used while she was at the orphanage. Later that night at the hotel while I was showering, Garry was inspecting everything. When I got out of the shower, he was sitting on the bed crying. I asked him what was wrong and he told me to take a look at Hope’s blanket. Before I continue, I have to tell you I was extremely worried about how our two cats were going to take this huge change in their lives. I truly wasn’t worried about her adjusting…just them! He moved out of the way, and there, woven into my most treasured daughter’s blanket, were two kitties; one of them with grey tiger stripes like my Garth, and the other all black, like my Humphrey. Garry said, “Now, no more worrying. Your daughter has been sleeping under this blanket for the last eleven months. I think everything is going to be O.K. once we get home.” He was right. It was.

5 comments:

Ali said...

When I read the part about Hope's blanket and the two cats, I got chills! Talk to you soon. Send us pictures. Much love, Ali

jlp said...

You are so sweet! I love you too, Sister Mama. And I just know you're the best mom ever. Hope and her sister are in for a lifetime of happiness.

Are you able to post pictures on this?

Mel ") said...

Jennifer, my angel! Your sweet words made your Sister Mama cry! I love you tons and bunches.

As far as I know, I can post pictures here. I have to get a new one up of the family as Hope has grown quite a bit and I got all of my hair chopped off.

By the way...I used the code from your blog to figure out some stuff in mine. Don't tell anyone.

Mel ") said...

Hey Ali! How's it going in the new house?

I sent pictures to Jessie...you should have them by now. If not, talk to your sister!

Love ya! ")

Carrie said...

I've got shivers going up and down my back as I read this! How amazing and wonderful! Excuse me, I have to go cry now!! Being adopted myself...it's beautiful to read the other side of the story!

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