Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Ugly Side of Trials

I apologize for the silence. Things have been crazy busy, though I'm sure people are getting tired of me using that excuse for everything I've overlooked lately. Several people have told me that they follow our family blog to hear news about the adoption and have asked for an update. We received our 1800A last Friday, which is the immigration approval for our little girl to come home. This is a big milestone, one that many adoptive families look forward to. Our dossier should be sent off to China soon, and from there we will have another long waiting period.

Our fundraising is also coming along- slowly, but painfully surely. It's hard not to get discouraged at how hard we've worked, and how far we still have yet to go. But when I think of what more we could have done, or could be doing, I know there is absolutely nothing more that we could be doing- physically or emotionally. We have exhausted ourselves in every way. This little girl will have been brought home- literally- with blood, sweat, and tears.

This past weekend, Dennis and I went up to the Owyhee mountains to harvest juniper firewood to sell as one of our many fundraisers. Juniper wood is on high demand and sells at a higher price because it burns hotter and longer, but also because of the difficulty of the harvest. The trees have to be cut down several months in advance to give them time to dry out over the summer. The branches are prickly and close together, and limbing the trees is grueling work. Dennis always come home with several bruises and gashes all over his body after limbing. The trees must then be hauled out, stacked, cut, delivered, and re-stacked at the customer's home. All in all, it is exhausting labor- probably the most difficult physical labor I've ever done. Dennis loves it though, and this was the third load of lumber that he has harvested for the adoption. Every time I work with him, I'm amazed at his stamina and strength. I have never met, and doubt will ever meet, anyone who can work as hard or as long as he does without needing rest. It's like watching Speedy Gonzalez, the Hulk, Spiderman, and MacGyver all working simultaneously within the same body.

If someone asked me a year ago, when was the hardest time in my life, the answer would have been simple. It was ten years ago, and I was 13 weeks pregnant. The doctor confirmed my suspicions that something wasn't right. There was no heartbeat, and my own heart seemed to break as I heard the silence. That night in the middle of the night, I miscarried the baby. It was painful, awful, and heart-wrenching. By 9am the next morning, I was boarding a plane to Chile where I had previously planned to rendezvous with my sisters and mom, feeling exhausted and weak. Camden was a 18 months old, and clingy; crying and fussing most of the flight. During the overnight flight from Dallas to Santiago, as I listened to my baby screaming in the darkened plane, wiggling and writhing on my cramping, exhausted body- I watched the irritated passengers shaking their heads and muttering as they tried to sleep. Tears of anguish slipped down my cheeks and I clearly remember thinking to myself, "Hell itself can't be worse than this."

But now if someone asked me what the hardest time in my life has been, I don't know if my answer would be so quick. This has been the most difficult thing I've ever done in my life... bar none. I've heard adoptive families talk about the challenges of adoption, and I knew to expect trials, but I never expected the stretching to be so uncomfortable and ugly. The ugliness, unfortunately, has come from how I've handled a lot of the challenges. It has magnified my flaws and highlighted every corner of my selfish, impatient, and short-sighted personality. The other day, our bishop mentioned how we could overcome any hurdle with the Lord's help. I told him, that when you think of hurdlers, you think of a person gracefully sailing over each hurdle, one right after another. But in my case, any hurdle jumping as been more like clawing over the top, falling onto my face on the other side, and then having the hurdle whack me on the head on its way down. And then I crawl, bruised and cussing under my breath, to the next one.

I long to be that graceful hurdler, who hikes up her petticoats and does whatever the Lord asks of her with a smile on her face and unwavering faith. But my faith has wavered, and most nights I go to bed despairing how I can possibly get through another day of this insanity.

Ironically though, no matter the level of discouragement or doubt, I can honestly say that I have never second-guessed whether or not this is what we should be doing. The clarity of feelings and events that led up to us committing to an adoption have been an anchor in getting me through the hardest of days.

The other day, a friend encouraged me to pray for my daily manna. She reminded me that manna was not given to the Israelites for the month, year, or even for the week- but for the day. And when manna wasn't enough, he sent them quail.

If anything, I have gained a testimony of the enabling power of the Atonement. The Lord has strengthened me to do things that I never thought possible. Here are a few:

  • After fasting and pleading prayer to help me find the hours in the day to take care of myself physically and spiritually, He helped me gain the strength to wake up at 4:45 every morning to exercise, pray, and read my scriptures. I had tried this several times in years past, but had never been successful. With the Lord's help, I have been given the stamina to wake up, usually before my alarm, and have the energy to make it through the day.

  • My back, which had given me unrelenting grief for the past two years, has miraculously healed, allowing me to get through each day without pain, and even allowed me to help Dennis harvest the juniper wood- something that even just 3 months ago, I would have never thought possible. Leading up to this point, I had tried physical therapy, chiropractors, and everything else I could think of up to that point, with no success.

  • People, who I never would have expected, have come out of the wood work, expressing and showing their love and support for us. This has helped counter-balance some of the negativity we've encountered, and has been a source of much comfort and encouragement.

  • I was led to find a part-time job that seems to be a match made in heaven for me and my growing adoptive family. More on that later.

  • My children and husband have been blessed with a triple dose of patience and forgiveness with me. Not a day goes by when I don't have to apologize to someone for a thoughtless word or action, and yet they still shower me with love, hugs, and forgiveness that I certainly don't deserve.

I'm sure that even as I write this, Heavenly Father is shaking His head, saying, "If she only knew all the other unseen ways in which she's been strengthened- the people that I've sent her way from both sides of the veil."

Yes, we have been strengthened on a daily, hourly and even minute-by-minute basis. God has been good to us.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Crazy Cat Lady

I'm not sure why I'm so touched watching our kitty become a mother, but it's one of the most beautiful things I've seen. She was found last winter as a kitten herself, with her eyes frozen shut, stumbling around in sub freezing temperatures. When we brought her home, she was frightened, sick, and untrusting of everyone around her. As we nursed her back to health and taught her to love and trust, my thoughts went to motherless children who are also frightened and alone. And I wondered, for the first time, if adoption was something we needed to consider. As crazy-cat-lady as it sounds, this mama kitty was the first step towards softening my heart for adoption, and I love her for it.

Thursday, July 30, 2015


This blog post is way overdue. Embarrassingly so. Not because of my lack of gratitude, but because I've struggled to put into words what the past few months have been like, and what the kindness of others has meant to me because of it.

I wanted to wait until I got out of the darkest part of it before I sat down to write about it. I knew I needed to write from a clearer perspective, instead of from the muddled one I knew I was in.

A few weeks ago I wrote about having left the light and navigating in darkness. But, oh, how dark that darkness can be. I had completely over-extended myself with photography work, adoption paperwork, but most of all, guilt over what my children were missing out on because of a busy mother, and I simply didn’t know what to do about it. I didn’t want my children and my sanity to be the sacrificial lambs, but I felt powerless against what I thought the Lord expected of me. I didn’t know where else to pull the hours out of the day to accomplish the things I needed to do. They were some of the darkest days of my life with overwhelming feelings of failure, and it wasn't until a couple of weeks ago, after I hit rock bottom, that the darkness began to lift and flecks of light started to appear.
Painting by Brian Kershisnik

I once heard it said that an angel is someone who does something for another person that they can't do for themselves. As I look back on the past few months, I see how our family has been shored up by angels, both seen and unseen, both living and passed on. God is not only aware of us the way a distant king is aware of his subjects, but in the way a caring Father weeps, prays for, and listens to His children. Even during the darkest of days, not a day went by when God, or one His angels, didn't intervene on my behalf.

When my friend, Becky, approached me several weeks ago, saying that some wonderful people had come together to plan a yard sale for our adoption, part of me cried tears of joy, and the other part of me cried tears of frustration that I didn't have the capacity to do it myself- not physically or emotionally. It was bittersweet.

...And to see how it all came together was phenomenal. The donations kept pouring in, and so many of them amazing donations. At 6am, a large group of people were already assembled, unpacking and sorting. By 7am, items for the bake sale were out, and people were shopping. One of my dear friends even brought her machine and sold fresh cotton candy. I had thought that the helpers would come and stay for only a few hours, and go back home to enjoy the day with their families. It was a scorcher of a day, and surely they had a hundred other things to do. And so many of them stayed ALL day long! As I watched these wonderful women work under the hot sun, who are more liked sisters than friends to me, my heart swelled with love for them. I found out afterwards that one of the ladies helping was just days away from watching her son undergo surgery to remove a brain tumor... and there she was helping me. These were living angels in every sense of the word. By the end of the day, I was completely spent, and I can only imagine how exhausted they must have been. As I counted the money up that afternoon, I was in tears again. Over $2,000 had been raised to bring our little girl home. 

A few weeks later, my sister, Cristina, called me and asked me if she could also do a yard sale for us when we would be in Utah for a family reunion. Again, the feeling of despair that I simply didn't have the ability to do it welled up. She told me she would take care of everything, and her and her husband worked hours upon hours spreading the word and gathering donations. The morning of the yard sale, again, I was amazed at the donations. So many people had donated for someone they didn't even know! My cousin and his wife set up a table and spent the entire morning selling delicious authentic Belgian waffles. A woman from my sister's neighborhood, who I had never met and who my sister hadn't known for long, came with her husband and spent most of the morning helping. As I talked to shoppers, many of them shared stories from their own families of adoption and offered words of encouragement. The yard sale earned a wonderful $700! And my heart was full.

Another dear friend, Leena, also organized a farm day at her house, complete with pony rides, crafts, games, face painting, lunch, snacks, and a petting zoo. It was AMAZING! And what was even more amazing was that at least a dozen teenagers, many who I had also never met, spent their entire day helping out. It was a phenomenal event and my girls said it was one the highlights of their summer. As she handed me the $400 that it raised, I again felt overcome with humility and gratitude for her sacrifice. 

These angels have also been there during my darkest of times, when money wasn't what I needed. One afternoon, when I had hit rock bottom, I stayed home from church. I used my cold as an excuse, but really, I just couldn't do it. I felt so depleted, and the thought of mustering up a fake smile was more than I could bear. I ended up taking three separate naps that day from sheer exhaustion. Leena noticed I wasn't at church and texted me, asking if she could come and see me that night. For the first time in our many years of friendship, I declined her invitation, and told her I didn’t feel up to seeing anyone. Being the wise friend that she is, she insisted, and we went on a long walk that night. I cried and told her every way in which I felt like I was failing. After listening for a while, she quietly suggested that maybe I wasn’t putting as much trust in the Lord as I needed to- that I was thinking I had to do it all on my own, forgetting Who is really in control. It’s a good friend who will put you in your place while making you feel loved. But she was absolutely right. Our beautiful little girl waiting for us across the ocean is not our child. She is God’s, and He is the one who directs the course of her life… not me.

I would be a wretch if I didn't mention one of the angels who has been by my side throughout this entire process. Aside from my husband, Becky Preece has been my biggest cheerleader and encourager. She recently adopted a darling little boy from Russia with Down's Syndrome and has been there from the day I first started tossing the idea of an adoption around in my head. She was the first one that I confided in that I was having crazy thoughts about adoption. She has listened, given me wise counsel, and endured reading my novel-long texts. I can honestly say, I don't know what I would have done without her. I doubt I would have had the courage to push forward with this adoption if I hadn't been for her. Where would I be without these amazing women I am so blessed to have in my life?

Another day, a friend messaged me with these words of encouragement:

"...Alas, my master! how shall we do?

"And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.

 "And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha."

The other night I read in the book of Matthew, what was surely one of the darkest hours of the Savior’s life as He cried out, “…my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

On a small scale, I could relate to that feeling of despair. When I feel the most alone, He knows exactly how I feel, better than anyone else ever could. And I believe we are surrounded by loved ones, many who are unseen, as we stumble through the darkness and feel the most alone.

Dennis gave me a blessing a few months ago which told me that the veil had been made thin for me, as I was coming to understand the love God has for His children. He also helped me to understand some of the promises I had made with my Heavenly Father, and how this process was fulfilling those promises. One of those promises made me realize that my link to my grandma Bonnie is closer than I thought. We are bound by more than a shared bloodline, but by similar covenants made with our Heavenly Father. My heart is full when I think of the angels, both seen and unseen, who surround me and bless my life.  

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Letter to my children about gay marriage

Dear kids,

There are a few times in life when you'll always remember where you were and what you were doing when you heard the news. I was sitting in a parking lot at Les Schwab's, waiting for the tire on our van to be fixed when I read about the Supreme Court decision to legalize gay marriage. Immediately, I thought of my brother, Percy... and I thought of you.

You know Percy well. He's the one who teases you and makes you laugh. He's eloquent, thoughtful, a good listener, physically fit, quirky in his fashion sense, and passionate about life in all its forms. His partner, Casey, you also love. He is gentle, optimistic, also a good listener, well-cultured, a wonderful cook, and genuinely kind. He is one of the loveliest people I know.

As I sat in the parking lot, so many thoughts went through my head. I thought back on the day that I realized that my brother is attracted to men. I remember it like it was yesterday, though it was more than 10 years ago. Camden was just a few months old and I was laying on our couch  reading from the Ensign, when somehow the thought came into my heart, and I knew. Percy wouldn't officially "come out" for a few more years, but I knew then. An immense feeling of peace washed over me. This was my brother, the same brother I had always known and loved. It didn't change who he was. Now, I just knew. And with equal certainty, I knew that my Heavenly Father loves him.

I thought back on the pool party that Percy and I happened upon in his apartment complex several years ago.  About half a dozen men who were gay had gathered together to swim and listen to music. They were kind and welcoming as we walked by with my boys, and encouraged us to join them. We accepted their invitation and changed into our swimming suits. As I asked questions about where they were from, they began sharing their stories about "coming out." Many had been disowned by family and friends, and were far from home in search of acceptance.

I'll never forget the man who had sat silently in the corner of the pool, sun glasses shading his eyes, holding a beer bottle. I thought that perhaps he didn't appreciate my many questions, but when the conversation quieted, he said in a low voice, "Do you know what pisses me off? It's when people tell me that I've chosen this. Why the hell would I choose to be disowned by my family and friends? This isn't the easy way out. If there was a straight pill, I'd take it."  I sat stunned and my heart hurt for him. Pain and loneliness was behind so many of their friendly smiles. I watched my two young boys playfully splashing and jumping in the pool with some of the men, completely unaware of the pool-side conversation. I never told my brother, but that day changed me forever.

This world would be a better place if the rest of us took our cues from children on how to treat each other. That day at the pool, you boys didn't see labels. You only saw men who were kind and friendly- nothing else. We've talked to you about Percy and Casey, and you understand their relationship. And yet, to you, it's a non-issue in deciding how to treat and act around them. How I pray you'll never outgrow that child-like love for all of God's children.

If I narrowed down the most transformative things of my life, it would come down to these: the gospel of Jesus Christ, becoming a mother, and having a brother who is gay. My brother has truly changed me, and I will forever be grateful that my Heavenly Father gifted him into my life.

Statistically speaking, there is a high likelihood that one of you, or one of my grandchildren, might be gay. If that's the case, there are a few things I want you to know. I hope none of these come as a surprise.

My love for you is because of who you are, not what you are. What you are may change with time. Your personality might change. Your strengths might fade and some of your weaknesses might grow. But you are my child, and that can never change. Not ever. Whether you are straight, gay, or tatooed in polka dots, you are the ones who gave me that explosion of love that transformed the very core of who I am. I could never go back to who I was before I became a mother, nor would I ever want to.

I've heard some question whether a family can still be called a family if it doesn't fall under the traditional definition. I want you to know my definition of family. It's a gift- a group of people, given to us by God. Sometimes we come into each other's lives biologically, and sometimes God places us into each other's lives. We circle our wagons around each other and love unconditionally. It is the soft place to fall when the world surrounds us with thorns. It's not just the people you share a roof with until you leave the nest or have a difference of opinion, it's the people that love and defend you fiercely when the wolves are at your door.

And this, I want you to know. Whether you choose a man or a woman to be your companion, I will cry at your wedding and hang your pictures on my wall. I will rejoice that you've found your soulmate, and pray that your life brings you as much happiness as life with your father has brought to me.

I'll love you forever- no matter the what, because of the who that you are.


Thursday, June 11, 2015

Stepping into the darkness

She wouldn't even look at me, and without her having to say it, I knew. She resented me for having taken her away from her friends, China, everything that was familiar to her- and my heart sank. The girl that was described as cheerful, optimistic, and kind was gone, leaving an empty shell in her place. We had worked so hard to bring her home, and all she could think of was going back to her home.

I woke up from my dream with the same feeling of heaviness I'm becoming used to. The difficulty of what we're doing is beginning to set in- of raising a substantial amount of money, filling out piles of adoption paperwork, with five children under the age of eleven who are home for the summer. Juggling three monumental tasks that are each a full-time job in and of themselves.

Harold B. Lee said, "You must learn to walk to the edge of the light, and then a few steps into the darkness."

The comfortable security of the light is far behind us, and we are now navigating in what at times feels like overwhelming darkness of uncertainty. Uncertainty of how we'll secure the needed funds, and how we will bring home one child, without neglecting the others. And sometimes that uncertainty dances back and forth between the line of discouragment and despair.

But then come the flashes of light that remind us that God hasn't forsaken us- that the darkness we feel is only a temporary veil to test our faith.

It came  the other day in the form of a dear friend who stopped by with a handwritten note with words of encouragement and her favorite scripture. A $50 bill was folded inside, and she apologized that it was only a drop in the bucket of what we needed. I struggled to hold back the tears as I later wrote her that the impact of a drop in the bucket is relative to how empty the bucket is, not only financially, but emotionally as well.

It came as I was working on adoption paperwork, and came out of my room to find that my boys had cleaned the kitchen and tidied the house to surprise me.

And then it came again when another dear friend stopped by to give me the surprise that more than 70 friends and acquaintances had come together, without my knowledge, to organize a yard sale, a bake sale, a farm day, a haircutting day, and a jewlery sale. She told me I wasn't to worry about the details, that they were being taken care of. She had been on the receiving end of similar blessings several years before, and said how much she enjoyed being on the giving end this time. That night as I lay in bed, tears of gratitude flowed. If they could only know how much their kindness meant to me.

In my despair I had forgotten the other half of Harold B. Lee's famous words, "...then the light will appear and show the way before you."

In Sunday School a few weeks ago, I told my class that as we study the scriptures, that it is equally important to study the Lord's promises as it is to study the commandments. The promises are the safety line that we cling to when obedience seems out of reach.

Somehow this will all come together. I know it will. I don't believe in a God who leads His children towards paths doomed for failure. I may not see the finish line, or even a clear path to get me there, but somehow we'll get there.

"I would show unto the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith." (Ether 12:5-6.)

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Something to prove

I came across one again today- one of those stumbling blocks that I'm becoming all too familiar with. I've heard that this happens to families after they commit to an adoption- this barrage of opposition. Every time it rears its ugly head, its a little different from the last. A master of disguise, it morphs itself into so many forms: self-doubt, financial set-backs, time restraints, outside criticism. The list is endless.

The first time I felt it was when I told someone that I would be starting to do photography again for clients as a way of earning money for the adoption, and a stinging comment was made about my work. I despaired the rest of the day, wondering if I was being delusional in thinking that anyone would ever pay for my work.

And then there was the time when adoption costs were beginning to mount and Dennis had borrowed a trailer from a friend to pick up a piece of equipment he needed for one of our fundraisers. And wouldn't you know it, he blew not one, but two tires on the trailer. And just like that, a painfully large amount of money we had set aside for our home study costs, went sailing out the window.

Then came the time we were on a tight deadline to have our passport pictures submitted to secure our commitment paperwork for our daughter. Costco was going to be closing soon, and we were trying desperately to get out of the house to arrive in time. Just as we were walking out the door, Dennis looked out the front window, and saw that a man driving by in a pick-up had tipped the trailer he was pulling, scattering its contents all across the road. "I just can't leave him there like that. He needs help," he said simply. I truly love how helping someone in need never involves a decision for my husband. Two hours later, Dennis walked back through the door, dusty and tired, but the job had been done.... and we had missed our window of time.

Today it came in the form of a person who, over the course of many years, we have come to trust and respect.

"If she's almost eleven, and has remained un-adopted all these years, it makes you wonder what's wrong with her that they're not telling you."

"You'll see, her medical issues will be only the tip of the iceberg."

"The Chinese culture is a matriarchal society, and she will over-run your children."

"Her file is probably completely fabricated by the orphanage in an attempt to cast her in a positive light so that they can get pawn her off onto someone else."

As I listened for almost 30 minutes, with blood pressure rising, I sensed something happening within me that hadn't happened before. I wasn't hurt by his words or doubtful about our decision, I felt furious. Not for me, but for her. My mama bear instinct was raging under the surface.

How dare you talk about my daughter that way? Say what you will about me, but I'll be damned if I'm going to let you tear her down! She may not be perfect, and when she gets home we will have to stitch back together the broken pieces of her life, but she's MY DAUGHTER, and I will go to hell and back for her!

...But being the coward I am, I simply listened and calmly asked that when she gets home, that he treat her just the way he would treat any of my other children. Gah! SO.MANY.THINGS.TO.SAY! Why am I such a coward?!?

In my last blog post, I said I had nothing to prove in our decision to adopt. But today, I completely and unequivocally take that back. As a matter of fact, I DO have something to prove now.

I want to prove to him that while adoption may be a cobblestone road of broken hearts, it can still be a beautiful journey- one that changes and blesses lives forever. I want to prove to him that God is in control and in the details of our lives- and in the life of a young orphan girl in China. I want to prove to him that these unrelenting stumbling blocks that keep coming our way will someday create a staircase of stepping stones, if we push past them with faith and hard work.

This is the beautiful little girl that we are working so hard towards making our daughter. I love her with the same affection I felt towards my unborn children when I carried them in the womb for those many difficult months. Thank you, sweet girl, for giving me something to prove.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Changing family

My blog has been quiet lately, but I have been documenting more than I ever have before over the last few months, but in a private journal. We've had experiences too sacred and close to the heart to share publicly. It has been an amazing journey with feelings of faith and doubt, trust and fear, but ultimately love. I think a lot of my close friends and family had already caught wind that this was in the works, but now that things are more official, we thought it was time we make the announcement. This is an email I sent to my family a few days ago. It's probably more information than you wanted, but hopefully this will answer some of the questions you may (or may not) have.

Dear family,

I've spoken to a few people about this, but because of so many mixed reactions, have decided to keep it mostly to ourselves. I know we'll still get some negative reactions, though I hope by sending this, it will help answer some questions. Dennis and I are in the process of adopting a 10 year old girl from China. We received our pre-approval from China this morning to move forward with the adoption.

We've talked casually about adoption for the past several years, but over the past six months we've received some undeniable promptings that have made us realize that we needed to look into it seriously. I imagine some of you might have some of the same questions and concerns that people have expressed to us. I believe that most of the misgivings come from love and concern for our family. The unknown is always frightening, and there is a wide spectrum of feelings regarding adoption. I get how bizarre it seems, especially at this point in our lives. Had I not had some of the experiences I've had over the past 6 months, I would have likely doubted it as well. I'll try to address some of the concerns people have expressed to us as best as I can. I apologize if it's seems like we're going on the defensive right off the bat. That's certainly not our intent, but we learned quickly that people have lots of questions and some skepticism about what brought us to this point.

You don't know what you're getting into. You're absolutely right. We don't. But I can't think of a single major decision when we've really known what we were getting into. We've spent hours upon hours studying the adoption process, her medical condition, and what to expect in terms of bonding with an adopted child.  We've consulted with many other adoptive parents, participated in webinars, and done online classes. And we will continue to do so even long after she's home; and yet, I don't think we will ever be fully prepared. But I can say that out of all the decisions I've made in my life (even combined), this is the one decision I have studied, prayed, and fasted about the most. I have spent more hours on my knees praying for clarity and insight than I ever have in my life.

It's going to be hard. Like, really hard. Again, you're probably right. I'd be shocked if it wasn't. Children who have suffered this level of abandonment and neglect have endured more heartache in their few years of life than most of us do in a lifetime. This is bound to affect their relationships with others, especially those who are closest to them. But I know, without a doubt, that just because something is hard- sometimes painfully so- that it doesn't mean it shouldn't be done. The scriptures are full of stories of God commanding people to do hard things. Sometimes it's hard all along the way, and this might not be any different. But I learned long ago, that Heavenly Father never asks us to do something that we aren't capable of doing, or that He won't qualify us to do.

You're going to regret it and want to send her back. There might be times when we wonder, "What are we doing?!" I've already thought plenty of times.  I look at my little family that in so many ways seems so ideal, and worry about how this will all play out. Will she like us? Will she like me? Will she resent us for taking her away from her friends, culture, and everything she knows? Attachment and bonding with an older adopt children can span over many difficult years. These worries never leave me. Believe me, we are under no delusions. It is said that with adoption you should hope for the best, but prepare for the worst- and that is what we are trying to do, to the best of our ability.

Why are you adopting a Chinese child? There are plenty of American children who need good homes. Yes, there are a heart-breaking number of American children who also need homes, and adopting an older American child is virtually free. Our first choice was to adopt domestically. We've looked extensively into adopting out of the U.S. foster system, but were told, in no uncertain terms, that because we aren't looking to adopt a newborn baby, with our family size and the ages of our children, we would not be considered as candidates for many, many years. While a domestic adoption might be something we consider later on down the road, it simply isn't an option for us right now, and we feel like the prompting is for us to act now. We studied the Chinese adoption program, their orphanage and fostering culture, people's past experiences with adopting from China, and decided it was the best fit for us.

Why don't you just become foster parents? We've explored this option extensively as well. There is certainly a desperate need for them. We've attended informational meetings, spoken to parents who have fostered, researched it; and somehow it has never felt right to either of us.

You can't afford this. You're absolutely right. We don't have the money to bring her home. Adopting internationally is very expensive. But we do have the financial means to raise another child, albeit on a stretched budget. Even after doing extensive fund-raising, we will probably have to drain the little savings we have remaining after building our house. It makes me dizzy just thinking about it. But when I think of my children, there is nothing I wouldn't do, or a price I wouldn't  pay to bring them home- biological or adopted.

If you want to grow your family, why don't you just have more of your own? Growing our family is not, nor has it ever been, our intent with this adoption. With five children, our quiver is full, believe me. In fact, it's 2 more than I ever thought we'd have. I passed the "crazy lady with all the kids" threshold long ago, but there's not a luxury in the world that I would trade for any of my children.

Your kids are going to think that they aren't good enough for you, and so you had to go to China to find someone better. No kidding... someone actually said this. All of our children have been involved in the process since day one. I've told them all along that their opinions matter very much, and that if at any point they decide they don't want to do this, that we simply won't.  This is as much their decision as it is mine or Dennis'. They have sat next to me reading profiles and discussed how this child or that child might fit into our family. We've asked them to pray about the decision individually, and as far as I know, they have. They are all fully in agreement, though to be fair, I'm not sure how much they understand the full impact or longevity of this decision.

Why don't you just wait a few years? We are well aware that it would be easier if we waited until Mila is 5 or 6 years old, and then adopted younger than her. Adopting, so as not to disrupt birth order, is typically the ideal. But I've learned that the Lord's timing rarely seems logical or convenient to us. I've spoken to many, many people who have successfully adopted older children and/or disrupted birth order, and have even gone on to do it many times over.

What are you trying to prove? This one was the hardest to hear. Absolutely nothing. If this process proves anything, it will be to prove how reliant I am on the Lord to be a decent human being. I've never been more aware of my short-comings as I have been over the past few months.  Soon after we made our decision to move forward with the adoption, I was overcome with feelings of doubt about my inadequacies. But something from the scriptures came to my  mind as clearly as a thought ever had. "I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it." And I can't deny the series of events and feelings that have led us to this point.

I realize that this letter might not change some of your minds, and that's okay. We hope for your support in our decision, but respect that you still may have your reservations and doubts, and that certainly is your prerogative. We ask, however, that any lingering feelings of negativity be taken up with us, and not passed on to her. In the end, she is just a child who needs a family, and we are willing to be that family for her. Please feel free to give us a call if you want to talk it over with us.