A few months back a friend called me “Yoda” She is new to homeschooling and we had been exchanging texts about what to use for this or that subject, how to organize the day, where to store the ridiculous number of books that start arriving on your door step in July. Last week, the UPS guy said “Getting ready for your school year?” as he delivered the 3rd box that week. “Yep. See you tomorrow.” I digress….back to the topic at hand…. I AM NO HOMESCHOOLING YODA (even if I am beginning to resemble him a bit…time to hit the gym!!!) So let’s dispel that myth…. I didn’t dream of homeschooling. I didn’t see myself doing this. I am not some special form of wonder woman in a homeschooling jumper. I don’t love every minute of it. I don’t wake up with rainbows flowing out of my ears and candy colored sprinkles flowing out of my life giving mouth as I say every word with kindness and grace. Most mornings I look a bit more like a mac truck sideswiped me as I stumble to the kitchen for coffee, while the children scatter like roaches getting out of mom’s way until the second cup has worked it’s magic. Homeschooling is what I need to do. For our kids. For our family. For me. (Not saying everyone should) Some seasons I find great joy and satisfaction in it. Some seasons it takes every bit I have to give and I fake it until we barely make it. I have learned a lot over the years. Most of that is about me. How selfish I can be. How harsh I can be. How controlling I can be. How hard on myself I can be. How hard on my kids and husband I can be. How I love to start new things and stink at finishing them. How I love to create systems and structure and struggle to keep it up. How I long for easy solutions and quick fixes. I have learned to NEVER say NEVER. I have learned to listen to my gut and the whispers of the Holy Spirit as I make decisions concerning our kids (among other things). I am learning to stop comparing (notice I said learning….man I struggle with this one) US to THEM or ME to HER or HIM to HIM or HER to HER. Because that lands me in some dark and yucky places. I am learning to keep my eyes focused on the ONE who entrusted us with them. Knowing I would stumble and struggle and not have all I needed on my own….then I would seek HIM. He KNOWS. He SEES. He is full of grace and hope and compassion and truth and provision. I am learning GRACE. How to give it and how to receive it. I have spent way to much money trying to sift my way through the sea of decisions on curriculum. Far too many times, I bought into the hope that this one book or method or way will solve all our problems and finally get Jimmy (BTW – that is the name I give all my kids) to learning those (insert a long BLEEP) multiplication facts or get Billy (BTW – that is also the name I give all my kids) to read. Some things work better for one kid than another. I have learned to be a student of my kids. Asking the Lord to help me see THEM. What do they need? How do their brains (and bodies) learn best? What is going on in their heart? And I can’t figure that one out on my own. I NEED the one who SEES and KNOWS to help a momma out. And guess what….I don’t always like the answers….or the solutions…..because they often require more of me….learning a new way to teach a struggling learner…having to give extra time and energy and money….pouring out more of myself. In the past 11 yrs of doing this thing, some years I have knocked in out of the park. Some years I have knocked my head up against a wall repeatedly. But here is the thing….I don’t regret either year. And I can’t really remember which was which. Because guess what?? We survived them all. The kids are still alive. And I think they still like me and have a desire to learn. And I grew in the process. That is winning over here. So maybe I am Yoda. And maybe you are too. You GOT THIS. He has YOU. He has THEM. And WE have COFFEE. Tona
We have been together for 64 days.
64 night times. 64 good mornings. 64 baths. 300+ doses of medication. 300+ meals. A bazillion snacks. 20+ “iwuzyoo”s (AKA I love you) spoken from their sweet voices. 50+ English words learned. 390+ diaper changes. Lots of cuddles. Lots of tears. A gazillion giggles that make my momma’s heart soar.
We are nothing but floored that they are Ottingers.
I have been so teary eyed this week. I think the stress of the process is waning and I am finally able to reflect on all that has happened. I am able to step outside of the moment and breathe it in. We knew the first few months would be hard. Adding two new people to our family would take some time and adjustment for all of us. It has. Each one of us has gone through our own process. Each child has responded uniquely and in line with who they are and how God wired them. Even in the difficulty, we are so proud of each of them. So proud of the way they have processed honestly and openly. So thankful for the ways we have seen them grow and open their hearts, in their own time, to two new siblings.
Fin and Mae are just delightful. Even in the exhaustion of the transition I am over the moon. So deeply grateful I get to be their mom. Humbled beyond words.
This adoption process has been different from our others, in that we fell in love with them BEFORE we started the process to adopt. With the other kids we felt a desire to add to our family. Started the process and then we found or were presented with them. Neither way is better or worse…just different processes.
With Fin and Mae, we saw them in blog posts as “prayer focus” kids in late 2012. Our hearts were so deeply drawn to them. We started praying and advocating for them. Inquiring about their adoptablity and asking God to bring families for them. I blogged and told my friends and strangers about them.
But with every prayer for God to bring them a family, I gave them each a little more of my heart. I cried out to the Lord on their behalf. I quietly longed for them to be ours. BUT the way was TOO treacherous. The obstacles TOO high. The mountains TOO big. I grieved before the Lord resigning to being “done” growing our family and asked to be content with our four blessings. From my perspective there seemed no way we could add to our family again. We live on a pastor’s salary. We have several special needs medically fragile kids, who require a lot of me, and I homeschool so there is no time for me to work and make any extra money for our family. To add more children would be crazy. To add more with medical expenses would be crazier. The mountains loomed over me and I sunk deeper into sadness and grief. I cried out to my “heart friends” and asked for prayer. I deeply desired to be a Mommy again. And not just to anyone. I have given my heart fully to a few precious Little Ones in China with liver disease. My heart longed for them.
Almost 7 years to the day after stepping off the airplane from Hong Kong with Mallie, we got the miraculous call that Mae’s file was available to our family if we desired to adopt her. (Followed by Fin a few months later)
7 years of pondering in my heart.
7 years of wondering if God would make a way.
7 years of longing.
7 years haunted by fear that there was no way.
7 years of giving myself to the fabulous 4 God had blessed us with but silently begging God for more.
7 years of some hard long lonely wilderness days.
7 years of serious trauma and connecting parenting and healing work in our kids.
7 years of strengthening of our marriage.
7 years of growing and changing and healing in ourselves.
7 years of planting and sowing in our family.
7 years of ache.
7 years of hope w/out promise.
7 years of waiting.
Then God made a way in the wilderness. He spoke. He led. He said YES. He said IT IS TIME.
He provided beyond our wildest needs.
He flattened massive mountains.
He parted seas.
He showered us with everything we needed and I am in awe.
I can not believe it. I get overwhelmed and undone when I drink it all in.
Fin and Mae are Ottingers. The babies I loved with every part of me for over a year and saw no humanly way they could be ours. The Lover of my Soul made a way. I am still in shock. There are moments when I wonder if I dreamed it all up (then they wake up from nap time =) )
Dear ones, if you are in a season of waiting. A season of wilderness. Of longing. I beg you don’t close your heart off. Don’t wall yourself up. Hope beyond hope that Jehovah Jirah will provide for you. That El Roi sees you. That He will satisfy your soul. Call out to Him. Let Him be your portion and your strength. Give Him your heart and desires. He is trust worthy. He is able.
On my face in thanksgiving,
Memphis area pastors, ministry leaders, and anyone who is passionate about how the church can serve local foster care you are invited to attend a lunch September 22nd for “BOLD CHURCH: How the local church can engage Foster Care & Adoption”
- Less then 3% of foster children will ever graduate from college
- Foster children are 7x more likely to be convicted of a crime then the general population (vast majority of men & women incarcerated in Memphis have spent time in foster care)
- 40% of foster children are homeless within 12 months of aging out of the system
When: Monday, September 22nd, 2014 – 11:30am-1pm
Where: Service Over Self (2505 Poplar Ave.)
RSVP: By Thursday, Sept. 18th (No cost, lunch provided)
We are officially a family of 8!!!! We stand in awe of God’s continued blessings in our life.
The day started out w/a bit of concern. Fin woke up after 12 hours w/out any urine in his diaper :(. We we immediately worried that he was holding fluid and his ascites (fluid in the free space of the abdomen that happens to people w/liver disease) was worsening. We called and chatted w/the American doctor that serves here in China and overseas the care of all the Show Hope kiddos. We decided that if he continued on that path through the day that in the afternoon, we would head to the orphanage to have the nurse examine him.
But by the time we got to the registration office to finalize the adoption he had a full diaper!!!! Needless to say we all did a happy diaper dance (not the first in our family and probably not the last) :)
After a few more adoption appointments w/the group and our guide, we ventured out to Walmart and Burger King on our own. Crazy how good a little comfort food can taste after a week!
We saw more and more of their personalities shine through today.
Fin is reserved and observant but when he laughs oh my stars you have never seen anything like it. Adorable!!!!!! He gets giddy at night when he is tired. He is slow to get moving when he wakes up. He feels 100% free to shake his head no when he does not want something. And today boy was he ever a head shaker :). From an attachment perspective, I am so happy about that. It means he feels free to express himself. He was a much pickier eater today and we skipped bath tonight. If he shook his head then momma and daddy listened :). We are all about building trust and connection. Lots and lots of yeses as we start getting to know one another. He wanted Mia to scratch his back at bedtime again tonight. Love the relationship they are building. Today we discovered he loves putting things in bags and carrying them around. He likes to drink water over juice. He loves yogurt and banana. He points at buses that pass by (his brothers will be so proud). He takes medicine like a champ. I am concerned about how jaundice he is and praying he stays stable until we get home. He is an absolute doll and we are in love.
Little Miss Mae is a firecracker. Oh my goodness she is such a tiny adorable stinker. She holds on to her paci w/an iron clad fist. I am guessing the nannies had already taken it from her, so when I handed it to her I won mother of the year award. We gave it back to her for attachment and comfort and she LOVES it. No regrets (remind me of that if she still has it at 5). She will eat ANYTHING and ALOT of it. Today she ate noodles w/veggies, watermelon, bread, rice crackers, yogurt, congee, rice cereal, banana, cantaloupe, snack crackers, and grapes. And she is tiny. She is 2yrs old and wears 12-18 month and the only shoes I brought that fit her are a size 4 sandal I can tighten. She was free with her giggles today. She was also free w/her grunts and finger pointing to make her wishes known. Once again from an attachment perspective,I am so happy about that. She loves things w/lids, books, her photo album we sent, bath time, stacking cups, and of course her paci. She loves handing me things and waiting for me to thank her…so cute. She and Mallie are developing a sweet connection which thrills Mallie to pieces. She had a runny nose when we got her yesterday and went ahead and started her on antibiotics last night. She has a nasty bark like cough that got worse through the night. Our guide got us some natural Chinese medicine today. Please pray it helps her. She is beyond adorable and I think we have our hands full :). We are smitten.
In exactly 12 hours we will be on a bus heading to meet our precious babes!!!!!!!
Please pray for their hearts as they sleep for the last time in the comfort and security of all they have known.
Please pray for the nannies that have cared for them as they say good bye.
Tomorrow is a new day not only for Fin and Mae but for our whole family!!!
Tomorrow the Ottingers become something new. We will change and transform as we make space for two new little people with unique personalities, gifts, strengths and weaknesses. They will change us. They will take us to new and good places. And for that I am beyond excited!!!
Praying I can get a good nights sleep tonight. It might be my last for awhile :).
If you have been following our journey, there is a piece of our story it is time to share…
God writes beautiful beautiful stories. They are not without loss and pain but they are beautiful none the less.
Some have asked us if we have known about Fin since fall 2012 (as long as we have Mae) why didn’t we start his adoption at the same time as we did hers? IE. Why did her adoption start in Nov 2013 and his March 2014?
The answer? He had a family pursing him, the Johnson’s. We knew them via social media and common friends. We were cheering them on from Memphis. They are a lovely lovely family that love him w/all their heart. They began their pursuit of him from the moment they saw his picture in the same Show Hope newsletter we did in the fall of 2012. They were one week from getting on a plane to fly to bring him home and God told them to stop. He told them no. As we can only imagine how painful that would be. They grieved, prayed, cried, and sought council. It was a “no”. We were among a few to get the email they wrote to close friends and family sharing their heart break. We cried and prayed.
B/c God writes stories we could never script we received their news just hours after learning the other little boy we were pursuing in China had been matched w/another family.
After processing through our heart break for our friends loss, we began to wonder if Quentin (Griffin) was in fact OUR son. We loved him deeply and had prayed, cried, and sought The Lord on his behalf. I must admit I had mixed emotions when we initially learned he had a family pursuing him. There was a twinge of loss in the news. I swept it away and began to celebrate the fact that he had a future and a hope with an amazing family. But unknown to us and them, God wasn’t done with the story.
Our desire is to both honor the Johnsons and their journey, as well as Griffin’s story. We can’t understand God’s ways but we know He is God. I have a love and deep respect for them. I hold their loss and decision w/the utmost respect.
They own a company called Vintage Franklin that designs and sells t shirts and posters.
They are giving 100% of the profits from August 1st- 30th to our adoption and medical expenses!!!!!
They designed a Memphis t shirt just for us. I love it!!!!!!!
They also have Nashville, Franklin, Boston, and Chicago t shirts and posters that I love!!!! Click on one of the links above to make a purchase that will financially support our journey and get you some crazy cool product in return :)!
We know God knit our families together. We are continuing to pray for the Johnson’s as God reveals His plan to them. We deeply appreciate them supporting us on our journey w/Fin (Griffin Quentin) and Mae.
This story is in fact a “glorious unfolding”
(And yes it is 4:30am here and I am wide awake. In a few short hours we will be face to face with our babies!!!!!)
We are…. in. the. same. city. as. Fin. and. Mae. Eeeeekkkkkk!!!!!
We landed in Zhengzhou around 2:30. Got to our hotel around 4. Settled in then went on our first solo adventure- Chinese food for dinner followed by a visit to a local convenient store.
We had to order by pointing to pictures. We are not in Hong Kong anymore folks.
A Few thoughts:
1.Of over 300 people on our plane we were the only Caucasians.
In a city of 7 million we have seen 1 other Caucasian so far. Loving that. But boy o boy are we being stared at. To be totally honest, if I had a bottle of black hair dye I might apply it. I have never wanted to blend in more in my life. I am glad to experience a moment of being a minority and truly think everyone should feel this at some point in their life.
2. After Mallie and I went through immigrations the immigrations worker asked Mia if Mallie was her sister. Yikes. So glad Mia answered firmly and quickly. My heart was racing. I could tell he was not used to seeing the likes of us. I have heard of too many horror stories. I was sooooo happy when we were all together on the other side of that.
3. The city is crazy fast moving. There are scooters zipping down the sidewalks where people are walking. It is nutso. Mallie almost got hit :(
4. The part of the city we are in is cleaner and nicer than I imagined.
5. Chinese people are SOOO kind. They are so accommodating and helpful. Just lovely.
More to come soon.
Tomorrow the rest of our travel group gets here. We will travel to the bank and Walmart. Yep. Asian Walmart.
Only 2 more sleeps!!!
Just got this news from Friday!!!!!!
Zheng Xiao Qun has been discharged from Tianjin Hospital and should arrive at our Zhengzhou Special Care Unit this evening. We will do our best to keep him well until his family meets him, and we plan on sending him with enough medicine to last until after he gets home. Thank you!
Oh happy happy day!!!!!!
I am wide awake at 2:45am in Hong Kong. Gotta love jet lag.
Perfect time for an update.
We’ve had an amazing time in Hong Kong. It has been short but ohh so so so sweet.
Yesterday we went shopping at Stanley market and stopped by one of my favorite places on earth – Sheck O beach. A beautiful beach, tucked in the midst of mountains, nestled on the South China Sea. It takes my breath away.
As we hopped back in the car…what was on the radio? Hillsong’s Oceans. (If you don’t know… it google it. Amazing) It has been “my song” on this adoption journey. A sweet friend even gave me a necklace w/part of the chorus on it last week. So I promptly asked our sweet friends and kids just to give me a “moment” with the song turned up to breathe it all in. To remember. To be still. Just a moment.
A moment I deeply needed before stepping into this next phase of parenting. To remember WHO is with us on this journey. Whose sovereign hand will be our guide.
In just a few short hours we hop on another plane to Zhengzhou Henan.
We have not gotten any more updates on Fin so we are assuming he has made or is making the journey back to Zhengzhou too. Please pray that is the case. Pray for a stable little dude who can manage the next few weeks of travel.
Monday 8/4 is the day (Sunday night in the states). The day we have been praying for since the fall of 2012. And while we are soooooo crazy excited we are also grieving for Fin and Mae. They are about to have their whole world turned upside down and all they know taken away. It is a necessary part of their journey. But it is another loss and more trauma for them.
Please join us in praying for their hearts and minds. Please pray for us as we walk with them through this transition. We have no idea how they will respond but my gut is sweet Mae is going to struggle deeply. She is shy, reserved, and leery of strangers. She may struggle more in the beginning but attach faster to one of us once she warms up . Fin has had more transition and hospitalizations so he might be accustomed to more caregivers and not be attached to any one particular nanny. So in the beginning, he might appear like he is doing fine, but struggle later to attach to us as primary caregivers. Of course this is just speculation at this point. But what we know for sure is we have emotional work to do with them. In the world of attachment, both scenarios are hard. Both come out of loss and pain.
Please pray for their hearts to feel safe and secure. For the minds to be free from anxiety. For their bodies to not shut down in fear and regress in their health. For their sensory systems to not be over loaded. For peace to reign over them and us.
Only T.W.O. more days!!
The moment you experience and touch your child’s culture for the first time with them when they are old enough to understand and take it all in, is overwhelming in the most amazing and beautiful way.
I have been a teary mess all morning. Sure it could be…….exhaustion, jet lag, the anticipation of seeing Fin and Mae in a few short days, the unknowns with Fin’s health, but more than anything today my tears belong to Mallie.
They are all hers.
As we planned our trip to China we were given an option of coming through Beijing (what most adoptive parents do) or coming through Hong Kong. For us there was no question – Hong Kong. Mallie’s city. While I wish we were experiencing the Great Wall and Tiananmen Square I would NOT TRADE these day in Hong Kong with Mallie for anything in the world.
Seeing her feel, taste, hear, smell, and experience Hong Kong is AMAZING. It is touching, something beautiful and deep and real in her heart, in a way nothing else ever could. Being the majority. Being with her people. Walking the same streets her birth mom walked. Eating her “happy” food. JUST BEING HERE. It is such a gift. One I knew I would treasure…but never could have imagined it would be this fantastic. Her love tank is so so full.
Happy Homecoming Mallie.
Mommy and Daddy are storing this time up with you in your city sweet girl. We love you like crazy!!!