Sunday, December 30, 2012


I am happy to report that we are all sleeping through the night these days (for the most part).  But now that my body is getting rest, I just feel more tired.  My brain is hopping whimsically from thought to thought without a single....

See I forgot where I was going with that.

Anyways, as you can tell I can't get a coherent thought out of my head right now, so I'm just going to post some pictures.

Church Project is our church, and it is AWESOME.  They have been so supportive of us not just through this journey, but ever since we've been going there.  It's truly a group of people with hearts rooted in Christ and branching out to those around them.  They have been praying for us and encouraging us so much over the last few months as we've ventured out to bring Zoe home.  Today Pastor Jason prayed over Zoe and our whole family.  What an awesome blessing.

Now that everyone is sleeping better and healthy, we've had a lot more fun!  There is of course still the occasional stealing of toys, pulling of hair, some pushing and one instance of biting, but Eriek and I are trying to behave so we can go out in public more often. 

Right now the girls are pretty much doing everything together.

From pushing each other on the scooter...
 To pantless jumping in the cribs...
 To clothes shopping in the closet...
 To reading a book to my sister...
 And waiting for her to read to me...
 To falling asleep in the grocery cart....
 To playing in tutus...
 To learning peek-a-boo at dinner...

 They are doing everything together. 
They definitely cry together, but they also laugh and play together.
Oh sweet sisters....

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

So This Is Christmas...

So Christmas at our house this year wasn't ideal in any way, shape, or form.  But I didn't want ideal.  I didn't want picture perfect. I just wanted my family of four all together under one roof, and God was gracious to bless us with that most precious gift!

We had beautiful moments, followed by ugly moments, that turned into adorable moments, that then gave way to I'm-going-to-pull-my-hair-out moments.  But the sweetest, most precious moments always seem to follow the tears- both with my babies and me.

It's hard when God allows you to be in a place or a position where you will be totally broken.  But I'm learning to recognize these times.  And as hard as it is to be right smack dab in the middle of the broken place, I'm learning to thank Him for allowing me to walk through it.  I know this is where He does His very best work in me, where He grows me and changes me.  These are the places where I fall to my knees in surrender, recognizing my need for Him, reestablishing my dependence on Him.

This Christmas we received the most amazing gifts, and they didn't show up via reindeer express.  Eriek and I got another daughter, Arella got a sister, and Zoe got a family.  Even though it was a stressful Christmas day, God ended it with a little cherry on top.  The girls slept in the same room last night for the first time and did great!  And that last sweet picture above is both of them leaning in for a kiss.

Christmas was filled with many more tears than in years past, but thankfully I don't need just one special designated day to celebrate my Jesus.  He is, was and will always be my King, my Rock, my Deliverer, my Comforter, my All in All.  Jesus, help me to celebrate You every day of the year.

Although lightsabers and tutus can always help celebrate Jesus....

Friday, December 21, 2012


First off, I must apologize for my lack of blog posts over the last couple of days.  A month ago that was normal, even frequent for me to get a monthly post out, but Zoe has changed my blogging life.  I'm thankful for that because now we'll be able to look back and see how far we've come and remember the trials we went through and triumphed over.

Now onto the task at hand.

How does a person possibly express the kind of humbling gratitude that drops you to your knees, fills your eyes to overflowing with tears, and makes your heart so full it hurts? 

There is something different about Zoe.  It is so stinking obvious to me that God is using her and doing crazy, wild, awesome things through her already.  You reading this right now is big fat proof of that.  He has drawn people to her and to our story.  The story that He has already written but that we are just starting to live out.

God is not a genie in a bottle, here to grant our every wish, request and whimsy.  But when we petition for things according to His word and His will, He loves to say "yes" and sometimes in dramatic, this-could-only-be-God fashion.  Like how we asked Him to speed up the timeline, to bring us to her quickly.  From the day we were matched with Zoe, we were supposed to travel to get her in 6-9 months and even that depended on both China and US governments getting things done on time.  But we had her in our arms in 3 months.

We asked people to join us in praying in so many different ways during this crazy process because it is SO out of our control.  Most things really are out of our control, we just have that lovely illusion that we have a grip on things, but there was truly nothing in this process that we could have personally changed or done anything about... besides praying.  So we asked for prayer and boy did you all say YES!

I have never received so many emails, texts, and messages!  You all PRAYED your gigantic hearts out!  And God heard and listened to EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. of you! 

Of course, that didn't mean the path would be clear and smooth.  It didn't mean everything would be so perfect and neat with not a hair out of place.  It still meant a path filled with fear, night terrors, screaming, crying, fatigue, exhaustion, hunger, pain and brokenness.  But all of these obstacles on the path bring us back to our knees in prayer, drawing us closer to God, deeper and more intimate in the relationship with Him, trusting Him, depending on Him.

God has called us to be like Himself (Matthew 5:48).  Jesus was, after all, adopted.  (I'll talk more about that in the next couple of days.)  Jesus says He will not leave us as orphans (John 14:18).  Jesus offers us adoption into His family, through His very own blood (Ephesians 1:5, 7).  And He calls looking after orphans in their distress (James 1:27), religion that is pure and faultless.

When we come together to pray for and do the very things God Himself has done and calls pure and faultless, we are definitely walking and praying according to His will.  So of course we will see Him do amazing things!  My biggest prayer is that I don't get in His way by trying to take my own control of the situation, no matter how scary.

The gratitude I was talking about in the beginning is obviously towards God and His amazing graciousness in bringing our family together.  But that gratitude is also for the amazing people who God used along our journey.  I'm especially blown away by our homecoming.  We only had a short time at our house last Saturday before we ended up at the clinic and hospital, so I really didn't fully digest what people did until the following days as I was coming out of my sleepless haze.

Our House Church stocked our pantry and fridge, loaded us up on diapers, made welcome home signs and left sweet gifts.  Awesome friends started just dropping off food on our doorstep.  But what truly makes me fall to my knees, is not what they left at our house.  It's what they prayed for our hearts.

They didn't just pray for Zoe or our journey to get Zoe.  What they focused on was Arella, my sweet 19-month-old that spent two weeks without Mommy and Daddy and was about to see them again but with another child in their arms.  This doesn't just tell me that my friends love Arella; it tells me God heard my cries for her, and He did not forget her either.  And He said "yes" again.

That sweet toddler didn't miss a beat.  Arella is loving being a big sister, having a friend to play with and showing her how to do things.  I'll be honest, I did not pose any of this, it's just their little hearts.  They do steal toys and tease each other on occasion, but mostly I see this...



Yes, Arella is showing Zoe how a camel dives off a palm tree...

Leading the way...

And I couldn't leave out some of the fun surprises left at our house...

Monday, December 17, 2012

Bittersweet Homecoming

 That last night in China was a L....O....N.....G.... one.  I ended up holding an uncomfortable, exhausted, having-trouble-breathing Zoe for about 7 hours.  We slept for about 45 minutes before we had to get up to head to the airport.

On the way to the airport, she threw up all over me again after choking.  After checking in, I had to dig out cleanish clothes from our bags and put throw up covered ones back in.

We were getting very worried.  She had gotten a fever the night before as well and combined with little sleep and throwing up everything she'd eaten that morning, well, we weren't off to a stellar start of a 20 or so hour journey home.

Fortunately she was so exhausted that she slept most of the first 4 hour flight to Tokyo.  She fell asleep on Daddy, which was awesome because she hadn't been comfortable around him when she was tired up until that point.  And it gave my aching back some rest. I have to tell you, even when not feeling well, this little Peanut is a joy to be around.

We just had quick layover in Tokyo, but enough to stretch our legs and let Zoe cruise around.  She seemed to feel better at this point.  And we hopped on our on-time flight to Houston, which sat at the gate for an hour.  But we had saved up frequent flier miles for 4 years and had gotten ourselves business/first seats on this 11 hour leg of the trip which made it easy and was so WORTH it!

Since Zoe was now happy to be with Daddy some of the time, too, we traded off and each got to lay down (I'm talking fully lay down here!) and sleep a bit on the way back.  Zoe slept some too and her fever seemed to break early on in the flight.

Finally, we landed and headed straight for customs.  Apparently so did everyone else.  After about an hour of waiting to get to the front of the line, we were shipped to another room where we waited yet another hour.  But we finally got the okay with our new little American citizen and family member!

Then we pretty much went running to go see Arella!  Here's our very first family of four picture, plane grime and all!

I can't tell you how many emotions were going on here...

My girls.

Arella is taking this Big Sister role seriously.  Without anyone asking, she gave Zoe a big welcome-to-the-family hug.

And then after smooching Mommy and Daddy, Arella laid a big wet one on Zoe.

Arella was so sweet with Zoe right from the start at the airport.  They bonded over shoes and snacks and Zoe just wanted to follow around this busy big sister person.  When we got home they were playing and then toward bed time, we brought out milk for both of them and Arella had a melt down.  I thought she was jealous of Eriek because he was feeding Zoe, but lo and behold, she just wanted to help feed the baby her bottle!

And keep feeding the baby her bottle.  Zoe didn't mind at all, in fact, I think she thought it was fun.

Did I mention Arella wanted to feed Zoe her bottle?

 Zoe had a permanent happy face on.

It's like she knew all was right in the world.

Then we ran to the local clinic to see if they could help us with Zoe's random sickness because we were scared to lay her down to sleep.  Next thing I know, I'm holding oxygen for her and we're being transferred to Texas Children's Hospital downtown.

Poor thing had an IV port put in just in case. That was brutal.

And off we went.

We thought she was going to have to have a scope done or something similar, but fortunately when the doctor checked her out there, she thought Zoe was in good shape.  She said indeed she may have a syndrome other than microtia (her ear), but that wasn't what was causing her to choke.  The doctor gave us a list of specialists to call to start discussing Zoe's condition, and then they did a deep suction of her nose.  Spicy Peanut was all out of spice at this point.

Or so we thought!  I guess being up at 2am after a couple days with little to no sleep is nothing for a spicy Peanut!  Did I mention Zoe had a first when we got home from the airport?  She started walking!  Boom, she has a family and a home and a big sister to chase after, so she starts walking!  So that's all we did while waiting at the hospital.

We finally got home at 3:30am.  I think Eriek said it was close to 60 hours we'd been up with maybe 3 total hours of sleep.  Then of course, Zoe didn't go to sleep until 5:20am.  And Arella woke up at 6:20am.

So, it was a very L....O....N.....G.... trip home, but absolutely worth every difficult and scary second.  If I'm actually able to get some sleep tonight, I'll try and post some pictures and updates from our first couple days home as they have been a treat!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Just Breathe

I'm sitting in the dark on the hotel bed, my shirt covered in vomit, a towel slung over it, my baby passed out on top of me. It's here, in this stinky, weak, trembling moment that I see God answering my prayers.

The night terrors seem to be at bay because of her cough constantly stirring her. I was getting scared to go to bed because it kept sounding like she was choking. God kept me awake frustrated by the Internet connection, and I heard the small gargle that sent me running across the room. I realized she was choking and picked her up and patted her back, relieved as she threw up on me because she was breathing.

Now fast asleep in my arms, propped up and breathing easier, I feel I can breathe again. We're not out of the woods. But I see God's hand and it gives me peace and confidence for the battle ahead.

"Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:8-10

The Bumpy Road

It's easy to post when things are great, fun and exciting. People don't always want to read, or write, about the rough, scary or difficult things.

Well, what kind of fantastic voyage has no obstacle to overcome? What kind of hero has no evil to fight? Life is not a plateau of happily ever after. How lame would that be?! We wouldn't appreciate it. We wouldn't even recognize what happy is without sad. Life is a journey along a sometimes bumpy road. Occasionally we run into forks in that road or we skid off course completely. I'm just thankful I have a Driver that knows where He is going. So as scary as the ride sometimes feels because I'm not familiar with this road less traveled, I'm trusting God with the route. And the destination.

We leave in 13 hours for home... FINALLY! Traveling doesn't usually rattle me because no matter how tough, it comes to an end and you're home, no problem. But today I'm going to be honest. I. Am. Rattled.

Our spicy little Peanut is feeling pretty sour. She has a cough that scares us because it often sounds like she's choking, but no fever and her breathing sounds fine. Her night terrors stepped up a notch today. She had one as she was falling asleep at her nap today. I didn't know what was going on. I put her on the bed and she calmed down after a few minutes and was fast asleep. Then it started again. She got so worked up and started coughing, then choking. I rolled her to her side as she threw up, She woke up as I was picking her up and didn't seem to have any idea what happened. She couldn't sleep the rest off the day, but we laid low and had some quiet play time, and she started feeling back to her normal self.

I was nervous to put her down tonight, afraid it would start again. But after our many desperate prayers this afternoon, God gave us some relief and she went down fairly easily. She's had a few bumps with her cough getting rough, but is otherwise sleeping soundly so far.

We're praying that she gets the rest she needs tonight for the 20 hour trip home. Exhaustion and stress can lead to more night terrors, and she's sure to go through that tomorrow. We're praying for God to give her rest on this trip, to take her fear away. We're asking that He take away the night terrors on the journey and that He heal her from the sickness.

This whole process is so tough on these lil guys. Taken away from what they know and handed over to strangers who look strange and speak strange that have no idea of the routine they are used to. They don't know that this tough journey will give them a chance at life. They don't know they can trust us. They don't know that we're taking them to a wonderful home full of love. The process is hard and scary enough if you know what's happening. Then to add sickness and restless sleep leading to exhaustion which just keeps turning into sickness and exhaustion...

I'm getting tired just thinking about it! Please join us in prayer for lil Zoe on this trip, and please pray for her sweet big sister's adjustment. And pray that God gives Eriek and I wisdom and discernment on how to handle and navigate the bumps. Thank you friends.

"Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:8-10

Since this my first blog post from my iPhone app, I'm not sure how the pictures will post. But apparently window shopping is a good way help Peanut feel better. Hopefully just the window shopping will always do the trick! And I loved this Starbucks sign. It's like they wrote it just for Zoe- Christmas Blend, spicy & sweet!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

One Less

163 million children around the world are orphans.  Today there is one less.  Welcome to the family Zoe Xiu! 

As of today she is legally a member of our family.  When she touches US soil on Saturday, she will be an American citizen.  And she already likes waving the stars and stripes!

We weren't allowed to take many pictures at the Consulate building, so I had to snag some back at the hotel because she just looked so darn cute in her special dress.

Unfortunately last night our spicy Peanut starting getting a bit of a chest cold so she didn't sleep well.  After a fussy morning post-consulate appointment, she had a lot of trouble taking a nap.  I finally got her to fall asleep on me, and after about 30 minutes she had a night terror.  A scary one.  She's only had a couple, and they are terrifying.  Her eyes are open like she's awake and she reaches for me but then freaks out, kicks, shakes her fist, flings her head wildly and wails.  We made the rookie mistake of trying to console her, but I guess it just confuses them more because they are still asleep and it can make it last longer.  It's weird, and scary.  I shed plenty of my own tears as I had to just sit and watch the poor thing go through it.

Breaks. My. Heart.

She woke up after about a 30 minute episode that felt like 3 hours.  She was happy to see us and seemed to feel well rested.  So bizarre.  I really hope these subside soon.

Since Zoe seemed to feel better, we thought we should celebrate her Americanness (come on, you know I make up words only when totally appropriate).  So we walked next door to hang out with none other than Ronald McDonald.  Zoe just stared.  She's probably wondering if she'll have to dress like that in America.  Hope that's not a deal breaker for her.

We then read an American classic- Nighty Night by Sesame Street.  She's loving Big Bird, and she even kissed Bert.  Not sure how I feel about that last one.

She was feeling good this afternoon, but as bed time approached, so did the runny nose and cough.  We're a little worried because sometimes her cough sound like she's choking.  She's been hospitalized for pneumonia twice already, so I'm praying God keeps this from escalating so we can get her home safe and get her to the doctor soon.  Getting her to fall asleep tonight was challenging.  It may be a long night again, but even if she sleeps, I have a feeling I'll be sleeping with one ear constantly listening to her cough to make sure she's alright.  Please join us in praying for endurance and rest for all of us.

We're almost there.  Tomorrow we'll be packing and getting ready to come home Saturday to see this sweet little face that I've missed so VERY much!