Thursday, September 29, 2011

Happy Birthday Jian!

Today we celebrate Jian's 15th birthday!  He woke up so excited this morning and was thrilled to have the table decorated, Dad making him noodles for breakfast, and a couple of gifts to open!  This is his first American birthday and his second birthday with our family.  Last year we celebrated at an Indian restaurant with some friends in China and this year we are celebrating him with friends and family.  Many children adopted from China do not know their actual birth date, but, because of a note left with Jian, we do know that September 29, 1996 is really his birthday!  He loves knowing that bit of information and we're grateful for God's kindness and provision for Jian with that note.What an exciting time, to celebrate his birthday, and at the same time be able to celebrate the amazing gift we have received in our son!

Jian has been talking about this day for a while now, how this will be his first birthday celebration ever, that in China, he was rarely, if ever, told Happy Birthday.  This is such a fun day for all of us!  I can't help but look back and wonder about all of his past birthdays and what he looked like and what he did.  I think back to 15 years ago today, and wonder what that little baby looked like, wonder how big he was, what time he was born, how much hair he had,  how long he was, how much he cried.  I also think about the fact that if he wasn't born deaf we would never have known him, never have been able to be celebrating him, never have seen God's sovereignty played out so clearly in front of our eyes.  What a bittersweet day, it's wonderful to celebrate him and and yet I'm sad for all of the celebrations he's missed with a family.  We're thankful that, Lord willing, there will be many more celebrations to come!  

What a blessing to have this boy brought to us 14 years after his birth, to become a part of our family and be able to praise God for his life!

Happy Birthday Jian Feng Lee Bergeron!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Jian's 1st Adoption Day!

Today we celebrated Jian's adoption day! One year ago today we completed the official paperwork in China for his adoption.  We've been looking at pictures and videos over the last few days of those days one year ago.  
Meeting & chatting with Jian 9/25/2010
Jian has watched the videos many times over the last year and laughed at himself and talked about not understanding a lot of what we were signing.  The last few days have been a little hard for him, probably anticipating the anniversary of his adoption and a lot of feelings being stirred up.  Tonight we had a great time eating dinner with friends at a Chinese restaurant and he was so excited and happier than we've seen him for a while!
Opening adoption gift 9/26/2011
What a year it's been!  We've had many ups and downs, but, overall, many more ups than downs and we've seen amazing changes over the last year!  Jian's ASL is amazing, now we just try to remember some Chinese signs and only use our translator app for school!  His English is improving and mostly, his behavior has improved!  He's a joy to have around, he makes lots of jokes and is mostly comfortable being a part of our family!  He's in school full time, playing football, participating often in class, and making friends.

Though we often have hard times, hard days, hard moments, it's a joy to remember this is where God purposed Jian to be long ago and it's a great reminder of His sovereignty!  What a wonderful day to celebrate, and a fun time to look back and see all of the changes that have happened in one short year!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

One year ago....

One year ago, we were in a hotel room in Nanjing, China, anticipating meeting our new son in the morning.  I remember being nervous, anxious, excited and stressed. I look back and vaguely remember thinking: How does one suddenly parent a 14-year-old from another country that uses another language that has never had a family before?  How does one teach and love and nurture someone who's been raised in an institution?  How does one choose to do this?

With a mighty and sovereign God guiding them, that's how.

It's exciting for us looking back and remembering, it was still nerve-wracking, but, clearly, God ordained, and so much easier to follow knowing it was His plan!  But, for Jian, how difficult and unnerving to realize he was going to go with a family to a new country, a new culture, a new language, and a new life.  Yes, it was exciting for him, but, absolutely out of his realm of knowledge and comprehension, and leaving behind everything he knew, both good and bad.

It's hard to believe that one year ago right now, we were anticipating meeting our son in less than 12 hours.  One year ago right now, all we knew about the boy who was to be our son we'd only read about in e-mails and seen in short videos.  One year ago right now, we were a family of three.  One year ago right now, God was preparing our hearts to learn how to become parents to this boy that we'd never met and didn't know, that we would learn to love.

One year ago right now, we were preparing to meet a boy that had a name given from an orphanage, no future and no hope, and within 24 hours, thanks to God's amazing provision and plan, he was given a new name, a future and a hope.  What a blessing that God could show us a perfect picture of His gospel through giving us a son.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Summer is on its way out

So, since it's almost fall (though it doesn't feel like it here in Texas), I figured I should finally write an update on our summer.  I'll put some pictures below of some of our fun summer activities.  We didn't take any big trips this summer to try to keep things a little more on an even keel for Jian and help him continue to settle in.  We took a few weekend trips, but mostly stayed around home.  Jian and Tanner both attended swimming lessons, (Jian looked like he'd been swimming for years even though these were his first lessons), Jian attended basketball camp, a football camp, and strength and conditioning camp.  We tried to keep him busy with activities!

The boys have started school and are doing great!  Tanner is loving being in 4th grade at his new elementary school (the deaf ed program moved from one school in the district to another), and Jian is doing great in the 8th grade.  He's thrilled to be playing football and he's extremely motivated to do well in school so that he can continue playing sports!  We're so thankful that he's motivated on his own and wants to do well in class to continue playing football.

We're looking forward to celebrating Jian's 1 year adoption and his 15th birthday next week!!  More on that soon!

Swimming lessons and looking cool!

Having fun at a lake in Denton with the Livingston family

Cooling off in Denton

After our caterpillars became butterflies, we let them go

Jian's first time skiing at Lake Whitney

Tubing on Lake Whitney by Grandma and Grandpa Bergeron's house

Helping Grandpa Bergeron drive the boat

Jian ready to do some skiing with the cousins

Tanner loved riding in the boat and watching everyone tube and ski

Having fun fishing at our neighborhood lake.  This is Jian's new favorite activity.

1st day of school 2011!

Having fun when Grandpa and Grandma Lenger came to visit!

Enjoying his fans

Going in for the tackle
Jian's first football game

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

We were made for more than this....

It's been a busy summer, we've been having fun doing a lot of activities (I'll post some pictures one of these days - maybe after school starts :)), trying to stay cool (we've had very little rain and many 100+ degree days), and trying to continue to learn how to live with each other.

We have had Jian for 10 months. WOW!  10 months!  A year ago right now we were still very unsure whether we would even have a new son!  Some days it feels like he's always been with us, and some days it feels like we're living with a stranger.  I'm sure he thinks the same thing :).  Maybe this is what all parents of teenagers think, but, wow, God has sure called us to learn to be more dependent on Him!  Some days, I feel like we have a 10 month-old son, some days a 5 year-old and other days, a 14 year-old going on 20.

Jian truly is a delight and makes us laugh a lot!  He's great with humor and sarcasm, he loves to be active and play sports, but, he's not very good at entertaining himself!  He's now able to do something on his own for about 20-30 minutes!  He also still has so many things to learn/unlearn!  Some days it's so overwhelming to think about all the things to teach/re-teach in the short time we have with him, but I try to remember it's not our responsibility to make sure what he learns for the future, it's our responsibility to parent him today, to teach him what we can for today, to show him love, discipline, and patience, and to point him to his Creator, just for today!

I've heard it said that to teach a child something new they need to see/hear it @8,000 times.  I've wondered, when you're re-teaching something, how many more times do you have to show them, 10,000 more?

I'm reminded daily of my limits as a human and as a parent.  I sometimes think about how hypocritical I seem trying to teach him how to live when I don't always do the same!  God has definitely humbled me and helped me to see how much I need Him because this is not something we could do without His guidance!

So, as if you couldn't tell, we've had some rough days lately, but, those rough days are becoming easier and Jian handles them better than he did 6 and 8 months ago.  Some days it helps a lot to talk about China.   We talk about the orphanage, his past, his history, and how difficult it is growing up for 14 years without a family, without someone teaching you, without boundaries, and then, having all of that along with a new culture, new home, new language and more.

We're all improving again and feeling better, but, some of us are really ready for school to start again (20 days if we were counting)!  Some days a constant shadow gets a little tiring, but, I'm also thankful he wants to be nearby.  It's great to have his perspective and see the things he's teaching us.

Last night, after a very poignant conversation with Jian at the dinner table, I said to Jon, I don't know how I can be so irritated and frustrated with him at times like this, when I look back and realize he's only been here 10 months and says things like this!  (The conversation was about wanting to go back to China and tell his friends about God - and how God is the REAL and only God, that their idols will not help them, and that God  loves them no matter what they do (this is a brief summary of the discussion)).

So, despite the frustrations and irritations, and wanting to get away and have some alone time around 5:30pm every day (well, maybe starting around 4 or so :)), we recognize and remember that we are truly blessed, and also that this is real life.  It's not easy and there's no way around it to make it any easier, except digging in and going through the hard times.  I often try to find answers in books (there are definitely helpful ones out there), articles, other parents, but forget so easily that there's not 1 answer and there are no easy answers, it would definitely be convenient, but, then it would make me think I'm doing something great instead of relying on The Answer and the One who can get us through!  The hard days remind me that we were made for more than this - that this world is not our home!  And on the good days, I'm thankful that our future home is one where we'll all be together again praising the One who created our family and created THE family!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A Big God in a Small World!

A few weeks ago our family went to Austin to Family Weekend Retreat at Texas School for the Deaf.  This is an annual event for families in Texas with children who are deaf.  We've gone for the last 5 or 6 years and this was Jian's first year to attend.  When we arrived, we ran into a lady that we've seen every year and who used to work with Tanner when he was about 2-3 years old before we ever had him.  She always loves to see him and how much he's grown and how different he is!  It's great to see her and several other teachers that remember him from his life before he lived with us.  So, this teacher met Jian for the first time and told us about another boy that lived in the area and was adopted from China and is deaf.  She contacted his family to see if they were interested in coming to TSD to meet Jian.

We all had a great time on Friday - Jian did great with the teenage group (though he was nervous at first, he did great and found a couple of friends that he hung around with for the rest of the weekend), Tanner had fun with his group and we enjoyed the meetings.  Friday evening was family game night and the teacher came over and told us the boy she had told us about would be coming.  He came in with his dad and the boys were chatting and we talked about his adoption 10 years ago.  After a few minutes, we were all shaking our heads as we realized these boys were from the same orphanage and must have lived together 10 years ago, prior to the young man's adoption at the age of 4.  They realized that they might have pictures of Jian from that time and their trip to the orphanage in December of 2000.  We were all so excited and shocked at the seemingly unbelievable news that these 2 boys in Austin, Texas actually lived together at an orphanage in Nanjing, China 10 years before.  The boys enjoyed chatting, and we kept trying to wrap our minds around this news.  Jian was so excited and couldn't wait to see if there were pictures of him.  This is something that he's talked about before, his disappointment at not having any pictures of himself as a baby or as a boy.  The earliest picture we have of him was at about age 9 or 10.  He loves looking at other people's family pictures and I always feel sad for him knowing we will never have the same for him.

Saturday morning, I checked my e-mail again, and lo and behold, there were TWO pictures of Jian at age 4!!!  He was beyond thrilled and wanted to show them to everyone.  It's so clear that the pictures are of Jian!

We're so thankful for such an amazing God that we serve.  He gave Jian these 2 pictures of him as a boy.  In the grand scheme of things, these are not a big deal, but, to this boy who lived 14 years without a family and has a history that only he and God knows, they are a precious gift.  What a beautiful gift from a loving Father!

Here are the pictures!

Jian - age 4 - on the far left in the blue coat

Jian - December, 2000 - age 4 (on the right)
Isn't he so precious??

Sunday, June 12, 2011

A Beautiful Goodbye

grandma dekorne

A little over two weeks ago, I flew to Michigan in anticipation of the death of my Grandma DeKorne.  I arrived at the hospital on Wednesday afternoon and Grandma opened her eyes and knew I was there.  This was a beautiful answer to prayer, as I was hoping to see her again before she passed away.  For the next day and a half her family sat around her bedside and reminisced, laughed, enjoyed being together, and waited.  On Friday morning, May 27, 2011, it looked like her time on earth was nearing an end.  We stood around her bed preparing to sing one of her favorite songs “Blessed Assurance” when she peacefully took her last breath and entered eternity with her Savior.  One moment I was touching my grandmother, and the next, I wasn’t, as she was now only the body of my grandmother.  What a beautiful experience, to be with her as she went from her earthly home, after 92 years, to her heavenly home.  She was home with my grandfather, her husband of 68 years, and with her Creator, Savior and Lord of her life. 

Though I will miss this beautiful woman, who loved deeply and shared her life with many, what a joy it is to know she’s worshiping in Heaven and that I will see her again one day. 

What an amazing example she has been to me.  She volunteered for many years in many capacities.  She helped pregnant women who called looking for alternatives to abortion.  She was a chaplain at area hospitals, praying for and serving others.  She led Bible studies, and loved and helped people from foreign countries that came to Grand Rapids.  Grandma (and grandpa) also faithfully prayed for me throughout my life.  She always asked about and prayed for both Jian and Tanner.  She loved hearing about our son from China – a country that my grandpa dearly loved since he grew up there. 

I have many wonderful memories of her.  Going to the circus, playing “office” at their house, her bran muffins with sliced cheddar cheese, and her smile.  She was a lovely person both inside and out and I’m so very thankful for her and her investment in my life.   And now, I’m so thankful knowing that she’s spending all of her time, fulfilling the chorus of one of her favorite songs:

“This is my story, this is my song, praising my Savior, all the day long.”

Friday, May 6, 2011

Jian’s Journey Part II

So, our dossier (our file of important papers) was sent to China on August 11, 2010!! The order things were done was very different due to the urgency of this adoption. Once our dossier was accepted by China (meaning they approved that we could adopt Jian), looking at the list of the steps left to complete was very daunting! Then, August 20, we received our letter and picture that we had to sign agreeing to adopt Jian Feng, I hurried to Jon’s office so we could sign, and then we could send in the form to US immigration for Jian to become our son. At this point, we & our agency were more concerned that things would not be completed on time, but were continuing to trust in God’s timing. There were still multiple steps to be completed with each one having a processing time ranging between 2 weeks to 2 months!

Also on August 20, our agency received a package that we had sent to be delivered to Jian Feng! Some of them were going to Jian’s orphanage and delivered this to him. This was the first he heard of us! Since we still did not know if the adoption would take place, we wrote a short letter (that was translated into Chinese) that indicated we were hoping to meet him soon. We also sent family pictures and some signs in ASL (Mom, Dad, brother, deaf, family). He received this a few weeks before we were there. They sent us a video and pictures of the day he received this package. We love reminiscing with him about this, what he remembers and watching the video of him practicing the ASL signs! Here are a few of the pictures from that day!

jian august 2010 Jian August 2010 family pics Jian signing family

September 1 we received approval from USCIS (US Immigration) that we were approved to bring Jian in as our son into the US. Our agency sent us an e-mail that this was the biggest hurdle and it may be a record how fast this came through (We loved seeing God’s hand all over this)! On September 3, we put a hold on 3 tickets to China! We also called the NVC (National Visa Center) to see when Jian’s visa could be processed (this must be done before they could do other required processing). We were told it would be a few weeks! My heart sank. After explaining the situation, we received a supervisor’s name and e-mail and I immediately sent a message there. It is now 26 days until Jian’s birthday, and the 6th is Labor day, so everything will be closed. We also were aware that the Visa process can take weeks to months to process.

September 7 we received an e-mail that the visa was approved and was on it’s way to the US consulate in China! After hanging up the phone, we called the travel agent and purchased 4 tickets – 3 to go to China and 4 to return. At this point we thought everything was complete, until we talked to our agency. We realized there was one more hurdle. We needed to wait for our article 5, official approval to adopt. This comes after our paperwork is delivered to the US Consulate in Guangzhou. This paperwork can only be delivered on a Monday or Thursday and can be picked up exactly 2 weeks after it’s dropped off. We discussed again that we might be taking a family vacation to China, and returning with our family of 3. Thankfully, God’s overwhelming peace continued to cover us and help us remember that He was in complete control!

September 9 we received a call that our Article 5 was completed in one day!!! Another miracle! Now it was official, as long as all flights and everything else went as scheduled, we would be bringing home Jian Feng Lee Bergeron! At this point, we did not have our official travel notice, so, we would possibly need to stay a little longer in China since this was needed to complete his visa, but, that was not a problem since the adoption would be completed.

By September 20, all of the rest of our remaining official paperwork was received. We heard on this day, that we would be meeting Jian on Saturday, September 25th and his adoption would be complete on September 26th – 3 days before his 14th birthday!

We learned from our agency that from the time our dossier was sent to the time we received travel notice was a new record for them.

What a mighty God, who cares about even the smallest details and is able to accomplish His work using many people, agencies and governments! We praise God for all of the people and organizations He used to accomplish the task of bringing a boy from China home to his family in America!

hotel lobby

Thursday, May 5, 2011

What a difference a year makes!

A year ago today, May 5, 2010, a friend had forwarded me an e-mail.  It had been forwarded to her, and 4 other people forwarded it before that.  This is the e-mail we received:

Subject: Urgent---family needed to adopt deaf 13yo boy---please pass along

JF is a handsome, well-behaved 13 year old boy that is deaf and he uses sign language to communicate. He goes to a special school for the deaf. He is known to be very smart even though his grades are not the highest. He is described as being a very energetic child who loves sports and is good at basketball and skateboarding. He is also very good at the computer and participating in online chat groups. He is a tall boy who is responsible, independent and confident, taking the bus or riding his bike by himself to school. He helps the younger children and enjoys helping with chores. We were told his behavior is very good. He lives in a foster home with foster parents and five other children from the orphanage. When the foster father goes to work, he is one who is responsible for watching the other children and enjoys doing so. He is very envious of others who have been adopted. He needs a family to love and enable him to reach his full potential before he is 14 years old – when he becomes ineligible for international adoption. He has waited too many years already, and has been passed over so many times for adoption. He desperately needs a family who can recognize his many qualities before it is too late.
This was the first we heard about the young man who would become our son.  We had been discussing on and off whether we would adopt or foster again.  The biggest concern was always Tanner’s health.  Would we be able to take care of his needs along with another child, and would both children get what they needed while dealing with Tanner’s issues?  We had always assumed it would be a younger child in which those issues would be more of a concern, we hadn’t really considered an older child.  We also hadn’t really considered international adoption either.  In fact, on the day we received the above e-mail, I had decided (on my own) that we would never adopt internationally, it was too much paperwork and too expensive – but, clearly God had other plans.  Another interesting (actually, providential) memory was from March, 2010.  Jon and his sister were discussing investments one evening and a little bit later, I clearly felt God saying “why not invest in the life of a child?” Hmmmm, I hadn’t really considered that, and really didn’t think about that again until much later!

So, I forwarded the e-mail to Jon and he responded that we should pray about it.  I didn’t think twice about it since I had already decided we wouldn’t adopt internationally.  A few days later, Jon asked what I thought about it – I replied “nothing.”   We decided to contact the agency that was listed in the e-mail to see if this was even something that was real (we had considered that it was several years old or that maybe not even true), and found out it was true.  They asked us several questions right away to make sure we were pre-pre qualified (yes, that’s correct – pre-pre) for China to consider us as adoptive parents.  There are a lot of other little details, but, basically, we started praying that God would make it very clear if we were to adopt this boy or not.  We asked for Him to open and close doors if this adoption was to take place.  We also knew, from day one, that if this was to happen, it would truly be a miracle since we had found out that Jian’s birthday was September 29th and he needed to be adopted prior to that day (his 14th birthday).  WACAP (our adoption agency) reminded us many times that they would do everything they could to keep things moving, but, that if things did not happen in the right time, the adoption wouldn’t go through.  All along, we were ok with this because we could feel and see God’s hand guiding this process.   Up until the Thursday before we left for China, we knew that it was still a possibility that the adoption would not happen. 

On May 11, 2010 we received some information from our agency, along with this, our first picture of Qin, Jian Feng.

Qin, Jian Feng 11/1/09
AAAHHHH, what a great smile, what a handsome boy!  Could this possibly be our son??

So, we began our seemingly endless paperwork (I wish I’d counted how many pieces of paper we filled out J) including requesting an urgent homestudy.  This included our pre-pre-approval paperwork, our pre-approval paperwork and then lots of papers for the US immigration and Chinese government as well.  Thankfully we had a homestudy done several years before for Tanner’s adoption and prior to that to become foster parents, so, we only needed an international homestudy update.  We were interviewed for the homestudy on May 22, 2010, and four months later we were on a plane to China! 

There were many steps to complete in the meantime.  We gathered the required documents and had to have them authenticated by the state and by the Chinese consulate.  This entailed several trips to Austin, Houston and the Fed Ex office. 

On July 15, 2010, we finally received our appointment for fingerprinting, scheduled for August 6, 2010.  After calling WACAP, we found out that this would be too late for everything else to be completed on time and that unless we could get in earlier, there was no point in continuing the process.  We were disappointed, but, were confident in God’s plans.  Well, our friends, Paul and Robin Pennington who started Hope for Orphans, are very familiar with the adoption process and informed us that our congressman could help us to get our fingerprints done quickly.  We called our congressman, Chet Edward’s office, even though our agency thought it wasn’t a good idea.  I left a message and didn’t expect a call back until it was too late.  Two hours later we received a call, asking for information.  Before I had even finished scanning our papers to send her, she called back letting us know we could go to Houston that afternoon before 3pm.  Jon had been able to rearrange his schedule and we were on our way.  We also found out later, that at the same time I was talking with the congressman’s office, a friend of Jon’s parents was praying for us and the fingerprinting (we had let our families know the night before about the situation).  We walked into the office in Houston and were greeted warmly and told they had been waiting for us.  WOW!!!  God was showing us how He can accomplish anything that He wants to, no boundaries are too great.

There were several more steps that went through very quickly, but, we had many more to go at this point, and it often seemed overwhelming and unmanageable.  Amazingly, God continued to give us an overwhelming peace about whatever happened, either way!  We were often reminded that God knew before the world began who this boy’s family was, and if it wasn’t us, He had a better plan!

Since this has become so long, I thought it would be best to post it in several parts - I will post part 2 of Jian's Journey tomorrow!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Ten years ago….

Ten years ago, Friday, May 4, 2001 at 7:41am at a hospital in Smithville, Texas, a little boy was born.   Around this time, Jon was probably working on his dissertation and I was at the office for the doctor I worked for (or possibly stuck in Dallas traffic).  We knew nothing of this birth, or how it would forever change our lives 3 1/2 years later! 
Today, we celebrate Tanner's 10th birthday, and 3 days ago, we celebrated his adoption day that occurred 4 years ago.   We love May, and all the celebrations that it brings.  What a gift God has given us and what joy Tanner has brought to our lives. 
This last year has brought about many changes; Tanner has grown several inches and is getting so tall!  He still loves to play with his cars and airplanes, loves playing Challenger baseball and this year, enjoys trying to be like his new big brother!  This last year Tanner has become slower in his communication, and weaker than he used to be, but continues to have an attitude of cheerfulness and joy.
Tanner's choice for dinner tonight is Atami, a Japanese Hibachi restaurant (they cook in front of you on a grill - it's very entertaining), so we're all looking forward to that.  He was excited to get a new hamster this morning (since the other one disappeared, no really, it actually disappeared!) and to celebrate more tonight. 
On the health front, Tanner has had a migraine for more than a week now.  He's been tired and feeling out of sorts, and we're hoping that he'll get back to feeling better again sometime soon! 
We're praying for a good next year for Tanner.  A year that is filled with joy, love, learning, and growth and many more memories.
Happy 10th Birthday Tanner!!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Anniversaries and Activities

On March 26 we celebrated Jian’s 6 month adoption anniversary.  We had fun eating Chinese food (his request) and talking about what happened 6 months before.  We laughed looking at pictures and Jian’s description of his feelings (nervous because he couldn’t understand us, excited about his future).  We talked about all the changes we’ve seen in the last 6 months (his physical growth, more mature, language (ASL and English)), and are so proud and amazed at all of the things he’s learned in this short time.  He wants to learn, he wants to be good, he wants to please.  We’re truly so blessed with an amazing son (well, two amazing sons :)).  Some days are tiring, hard, frustrating and difficult, but, knowing only a few of the things he’s experienced and habits that have been developed, cultural differences, and basically raising himself for 14 years, help us to get through those rough days and remind us that 6 months truly is such a short time to make so many changes!  jian 6 month adoption celebration

We’ve had a busy spring so far, so, here are a few pictures and details of what we’ve been up to lately.

Tanner’s Challenger baseball season started a couple of weeks ago.  They were able to go on A&M’s Olson Field joining in the Little League Opening Ceremonies.   opening ceremonies

One of his favorite activities is sliding into home plate! sliding into home plate

We recently went to Isaiah’s Place for a deaf retreat.  It was Jian’s first time there and he loved the open space, the animals, his first horse ride, and we loved seeing him around many deaf people (children, adults, families) that helped him see that deaf people really can do anything!  Tanner loved showing Jian around,  and playing with old and new friends. 

Jian and a baby chickTanner at IP 

Jian started tennis at school and played in his first tennis tournament yesterday.  He won his first game and lost the 2nd.  God has truly gifted him athetlically!  He did great (though he was disappointed that he lost) especially since he has never played tennis before coming to America! Here are a few pictures from the tournament.

jian serving first tennis tournament

A couple of weeks ago we went to our first A&M baseball game with some friends and our kids were able to run out on the field with the players!  Here they are joining in the Aggie War Hymn before the game started.

aggie war hymn

We’re also anxiously awaiting for our baby ducklings to hatch (Jian was concerned we were taking them away from their parents, but, we explained that after hatching at the pond, the ducklings often die, and he was happy that the would raise them and then will release them at the lake). 

pre-hatched ducklings

Last week I brought Jian with me to a meeting with our local animal assisted therapy organization.  There were a couple of juvenile detention officers speaking about helping the children there with animals.  Jian asked a lot of questions, and upon leaving he told me “When I grow up, maybe I’ll work there, they would be surprised to find out that before I didn’t have a mom and dad, and I could help the children.”  This brought tears to my eyes!

Tanner is doing well lately.  The headache specialist at the Cleveland Clinic has added in a new medication and it seems to be making a difference on his daily chronic headaches.  He’s been perkier and has more energy than he’s had in quite a while.  We’re so thankful for the wisdom of the doctor and for medications that are helping at this time.

We’re looking forward to celebrating Easter this week. What a blessing  to be able to teach Jian about the reasons we celebrate.  What an honor and privilege to teach Jian about the death of Jesus on a cross, His resurrection 3 days later, and that it was done for each and every one of us so that we could live eternally with Him!  He is risen, He is risen Indeed!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Two Mothers

We have two sons through the gift of adoption.  Adoption is an amazing gift, but, can also be a painful one at times.

We have met and spent time with the woman who gave birth to Tanner.  She is a lady who loves her son but was unable to care for him.  We are thankful to be given the opportunity to be his parents and thankful to her for giving birth to him.   We are thankful to tell him about her and remind him how special he is because he's adopted.

Jian also has 2 mothers.  One of them is a woman who gave birth to him and spent about 3 months of his life with him before leaving him at a train station.  This woman gave him a name, but, one we will never know.  This woman bore him through labor and pain, for how long, we'll never know.  This woman fed him, wiped his tears, clothed him, had dreams for him, loved him, and..... abandoned him.  We will never know why she chose to do this, but, the fact that she left a note with him tells me she cared for him, that because he was deaf, she was unable to keep him.  I like to think she watched and waited (like Moses' sister Miriam did when he was put in a basket on the Nile River (see Exodus 2)), through tears until the police came to bring him to the social welfare institute.  I believe that her love for him and her knowledge of her country's beliefs about those with disabilities caused her fear for his future and led her to believe she had no choice.  Though she may have felt she had no choice, it has had, and will always have, long-lasting effects on our son.  Not only did he miss out on having his mother, but, she missed out on an amazing son.  She probably never saw him smile.  She never saw his first tooth, or heard his laugh.  She never watched him start to crawl or take his first steps, or kiss his scraped knees.  She never worried over a fever or soothed him after a nightmare.  She never saw the scared and nervous boy who's now a teenager and desperately trying to be a man.   I wonder, does she think of this boy, our son?  Does she wonder where he is now and what he's doing?  Does she realize that his life has been a difficult one because of the choices she's made?

These choices made by this woman whom we will never know, has forever changed our lives.  Because of these choices, Jian has had to grow up for 14 years without a mother.  He's had to grow up without security, without a gentle touch and without his mother's arms to sooth him.  He's had to learn to rely on himself because no one else was going to take care of him.  He's had to teach himself how to ride a bike, with no daddy holding on to the seat cheering him on.

Because of these choices, our son struggles with learning that rules mean something, that we're teaching him because we love him and want what's best for him.  He's learning he doesn't have to fight with everyone for everything, and that the things he has are truly his, no one will take them from him.  Because of these choices, his emotional development is significantly behind his physical development and we often have to remind ourselves that this 14-year-old boy is really a scared, fearful 3-year-old boy who doesn't know how to trust.

Because of these choices, our family needs to rearrange schedules and leave places and miss out on planned events, because he hasn't learned how to control his emotions or even what those emotions are or mean.

Because of these choices, we sometimes sit in his room, while I talk to these birth parents, and tell them how much he's hurting because they left him.  I tell them that he thinks they're mean for "throwing him away" and that he's had to grow up for 14 years not being taught how to act, and now it's so hard!  He is unable to talk to them, but, seems relieved that I do.  I tell them that something very good came from them leaving him there, and I'm thankful, but, so sorry for all the years he was without. Sometimes, we sit in his room and he asks me to "talk to baby Jian" and I pretend I knew him 14 years ago, and try to show him the love and care he missed out on, while he looks on longingly.

I know that our Heavenly Father had always planned for this young man to be a part of our family, and that this was part of his plan and part of his story, but, the pain that goes with it, for everyone involved, can be hard.  Thankfully, I'm reminded of Psalm 30:5b "weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning."

Sometimes I stay awake and wonder, does his other mother still cry for him too?

What a survivor he is.  Jian is so fearful and yet so brave.  He's so torn and yet and so strong.  He has such a story to tell, and we're excited to see what God has planned.  I pray that his Heavenly Father, who will never let him down, will start replacing that emptiness and sadness with love and trust.  And that he comforts Jian Feng to the depths of his soul.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

A Son and a Brother

Before we ever went to China, we discussed what it might be like to raise a teenager that had never lived in our home (or in any home).  We had many hopes and dreams, many fears and uncertainties.  We hoped for him to assimilate well into our family.  We hoped he would learn quickly.  We hoped he would be happy in America.  We hoped he would like having us as his family.  We hoped he would be happy to be adopted.  We hoped for many, many things.  But, we often said, the one and only thing we could really hope for and that would be the most important, above all else, is that we hoped he would come to know his Maker as his personal Lord and Savior.

Well, friends, our greatest dream has come true.  Who would have ever thought it would happen so soon, less than 5 months after being adopted.  While still learning a new language, learning to adjust to a new home, new family, new food, new country, our God has become His God.  Our Father has become his Father.  We not only have a new son, we also have a new brother in Christ.

Jian has told us that on his own, a while back, after reading "the blue book" (a Chinese Bible given to us by a friend), he asked Jesus into his heart while in bed one night.  Because he's used to being independent and not having people care about him, he didn't realize this was a big deal and something we would want to know!  We're so thrilled that God has answered our prayers.  In a much bigger way, and much sooner than we could have ever imagined.

At least weekly (and often more), Jian tells us, "I didn't know about God before, when I was in China, no one taught me about God, but, now I know He is real."  And, today, he took communion for the first time, and was able to explain what it meant and what it symbolizes.  What a special day.  What a mighty God we serve.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Our weeks in review

So, as I was sitting in the hospital Saturday, I was thinking about our past couple of weeks and all that has transpired. 

It began on Monday, January 31st.  Jon left for Hawaii to go to a conference and visit his sister and brother-in-law in Honolulu.  

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Before his plane ever left I heard from school that Jian was having a rough day.  Before Jon arrived, Jian had to be picked up from school early and Tanner’s school called to let me know he had a probable ear infection.  (Nope, this wasn’t the reason we were at the hospital :)).  Jian had a rough afternoon as well and settled down after seeing Dad on Skype, safely in Hawaii.  It was rough for him not experiencing someone leave and come back, , so it was a hard time for him.  Thankfully, the rest of the week was better!

Tuesday morning I awoke at 4:30am to what sounded like the house falling down.  There was a terrible thunderstorm with winds up to 70mph!  Our neighbors had a tree uprooted in their backyard!  We had lots of branches in the yard and trash all over, but, no real damage.  My mom was supposed to come from Michigan Tuesday night, and the kids were so excited, but, there was a blizzard in Michigan and high winds in Houston, so, her flight was cancelled.

Wednesday morning, I awoke to no water.  The weather had become frigid (just in time for mom to come from up north), and despite making sure the pipes were wrapped and the water dripping, the pipes froze!  I decided to deal with it later as the boys had eye doctor appointments in Temple that morning.  They dealt with the lack of water without any problems and tolerated the four hours in the car back and forth to Temple very well!  Before leaving, I contacted our neighbor to see if they had water, they did (confirming it was our pipes).  She kindly offered to help thaw them while I was gone, so I left her my hairdryer and a small space heater that she connected to a couple of extension cords to get to the pipe in the front yard.  This was so incredibly generous of her since it was about 18 degrees outside!  We had good reports in Temple and enjoyed a nice Chinese lunch with our friend Lisa to celebrate Chinese New Year.  Upon arriving home, I heard the details that our neighbor had to endure to get our water running again!  My hairdryer overheated starting a fire in our very dry front yard covered with leaves from last fall and… running water.  With the help of another neighbor walking by, they put out the fire and got the water running again!  (Still, not the reason we were at the hospital).  After calling the plumber and determining what was the best option for keeping the pipes from freezing, I re-wrapped the outside pipes and kept the water running (not just dripping!) all night long.

My mom’s flight had been rescheduled for Wednesday evening & she finally arrived in College Station about 12:30am Thursday – yippee!!

Thursday was a great day!  Mom and I rested at home, enjoyed running water and heat and the boys loved having Grandma in town.  The weather was predicted to be bad on Friday, so school was scheduled for a 2 hour delay on Thursday evening, the boys were excited about this, except….Jon was supposed to be flying into Houston Friday morning. 

Friday….we woke up to beautiful snow!  There was a layer of ice underneath it so school was cancelled for the day!  This seemed like a great idea in the morning, but, by afternoon, I was wishing school was back on!  We did lots of crafts and games, but, the boys didn’t love the “sitting in front of the fire all day” idea. 

Jian's first snow daySo, Jon arrived safely into Houston, but, was stuck there.  The shuttle he was to ride home was cancelled for the morning.  The roads were too bad to try to venture to Houston to pick him up.  The temperature was not supposed to get above freezing, so, we were trying to come up other solutions.  The afternoon shuttle was cancelled, and the roads had not improved, so, he decided to take a flight from Houston to College Station.  Around 12 hours after he flew into Houston, Jon finally arrived home.  The boys were thrilled to see their dad again!

Saturday we had a nice, warm, day.  We were able to drive to Dallas to surprise our friends’ Mike and Cathy at their 40th anniversary party!  While there Jon’s back became worse (it’s been bothering him for a while and was not great in Hawaii either), and he had a hard time riding home.  From then on, he was in bed unable to walk, sit, or stand for the next 5 days.  On Thursday, he started developing weakness and increased numbness, so, Friday afternoon he saw a neurosurgeon and Saturday morning he had surgery on a herniated disc to relieve the pressure on the nerves.  THAT was why we were in the hospital.  He was home by 1pm and was so relieved that the pain was gone.  He still has weakness and numbness (could remain for several months), so we’re praying that it will dissipate, and that it will happen soon. 

SO, hopefully we’ll be back to our regular programming soon, regular, more boring updates that do not include freezing weather, no water, fires or hospitals!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Some Days are Hard!

Well, as you can see by the sparse updates, I'm not on the computer much anymore these days!  Our lives continue to be full, mostly with family time! 

We enjoyed our Christmas break, but, we also enjoyed being back home and getting into a routine again! 

We've had some hard days over the last few weeks.  Thankfully they're spread out and are not one after the other.  We knew these days would come (and why wouldn't they?).  Jian has had so much to adjust to, a new country, new home, new food, new routines, new rules, new holidays, and on and on.  Some days we wonder why he seems to only focus on himself and can't see other things going on around him, then, we laugh and wonder, why would he?  He's grown up in an orphanage for 14 years and had to learn how to survive on his own!  Our friend Charity made me laugh when I was telling her about some our rough days, she joked, "well, it's his own fault, if he hadn't been so good the first 3 months....."

So, our bad days are not horrible, but, just hard.  They have involved tears, tension, anger, frustration and more.  Thankfully, Jian has always been pretty good at being able to communicate his feelings after things have settled down and is able to learn and apologize!  He really is an amazing boy!  Some days we're exhausted and tired thinking of all of the things to teach him, so many things that need to be re-learned, or taught, after growing up without a family, but, at the end of the day, I'm reminded of the great privilege it is that God has chosen us to be the family to teach him! 

These days often remind me of my behavior towards God!  I am just as much (or more) rebellious, defiant and unkind as Jian is to my Heavenly Father - and I'm so very grateful to continually be forgiven and loved!  Truthfully, Jian's hard days are much more few and far between than mine are!  There is a lot of laughter and joy that permeates our home as well.  We love to watch the boys enjoy each other and communicate so well together, it gives us special, fun memories.

Tanner has had a couple of hard weeks as well, but his have been physically.  He's had a couple of migraines, one requiring an ER visit for medication to stop the vomiting.  He used to really perk up after these visits, but, that doesn't seem to be the case anymore.  He's not felt well for quite a while, but, continues to live life with a smile on his face and joy in his heart.  He really loves his brother, and he continues to be a wonderful example to us of how to live with suffering!

So, thankfully, the last several days have been good ones, and we know there will be more hard ones to come, but, we're grateful for a gracious heavenly Father who helps us get through them, and gives us a brand new start each and every day, to try all over again!