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Archive for the ‘Adoption’ Category

It has been a long time since I have posted anything about adoption, but it is a subject that still is, and always will be, dear to my heart.  Our lives wouldn’t be complete without the miracle and beauty of adoption, and I think about that every day.

Anyway, I was recently contacted by one of my former American Heritage Girls Trailblazer families who are  no longer Trailblazers because they have started a troop with AHG.  The reason they emailed me, though, wasn’t necessarily about AHG.  They wanted to let me know that they have recently committed to adopting two beautiful girls from Eastern Europe.  The mother is putting together an adoption handprint quilt for a giveaway in February that the family is using to benefit the girls waiting for them.  She remembered our sweet Kara and wondered if we would want to participate in this giveaway.  How cool is that?! Of course, I was quick to say yes!

So, she gave us instructions on how to prepare a handprint block for her quilt, and we got it all ready and mailed off to her.  Fortunately, we had a practice block before we did the real one because our first trial did not work out very well!  The second one came out much better, so that’s the one that we sent.  I always think Kara’s special hands make cute prints and art projects–don’t you agree?! 🙂

Kara enjoyed being a part of this project, and it was a good reminder for us all what a blessing adoption is.  It is worth every penny and every struggle that is part of the process.  I once read a statement that might sound strange to someone who has not adopted internationally, but I can certainly relate to:  people who think that money can’t buy happiness have never paid adoption fees!  I love this girl–forever!

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I love this song! It brings back that magical moment when I first met my dear daughter Kara. It was truly life-changing!

 

 

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So, the answer to the question in my last entry is this:  no, that is not Kara on TV, but it sure is a close resemblance!  And there is a story…..

Five years ago, we were getting ready to go to China to adopt a little girl.  We had planned and dreamed about this for quite awhile, and the time was getting very close.  Brock was in A Beka Academy 2nd grade at that time, and this cute little Asian girl was in his video class.  I couldn’t help but to think that someday, I would have a beautiful little girl like that.  Well, in late September, I did bring home our precious Asian princess, a cute three-year-old. I still noticed the girl on the video, though, thinking that someday Kara would be big like her.

Two years later, Kara was, of course, growing up a little, and Cosette was in A Beka Academy 2nd Grade.  This was the same video series that Brock had used, so this little girl was again in the class.  By this time, Kara’s hair had grown out a little, and I noticed that she looked a little like this girl in the class–same eyes, same smile, etc.  It made me smile inside thinking about how much that little girl had encouraged me while we were waiting to bring Kara home.

Another year passed, and Luke was in 2nd grade.  By this time, the resemblance was unmistakable!  I commented several times throughout that year that it would be interesting to see how Kara compared to this girl when she reached second grade.

Now, Kara is in 2nd grade, and this same little girl is in her own class.  Kara commented the very first day of school, “There is a girl in my class that looks just like me!”  Sure enough, she was talking about this same girl.  So, I told her that I would take a picture of her standing by the TV with this girl if she could catch her in a close-up.  It took until this week, but I think the picture came out very good, and I think the resemblance is striking!

Kara is definitely a dream-come-true for our family.  She is all I ever hoped for, and more.  God definitely has blessed us beyond all expectation, and we are so, so thankful!

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100% Pure Joy!

100% Pure Joy!

If God has ever brought adoption to your mind, don’t hesitate to follow Him!  Our sweet Kara has indeed brought us 100% pure joy!  She is such a blessing, and our lives would not be complete without her!

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Back in 2008, I wrote an entry about Kara’s desire to learn to play the piano. She is a very determined girl, and I knew that if she wanted to play the piano, she would figure out a way to do so with her special hands. Unfortunately, some people have been skeptical about that and have even been so unkind as to say so to her, but I can tell you that Kara has never had any problems doing anything that any other kid her age can do.  In that post, I embedded a video of a young lady who is a concert pianist who not only has more issues with her hands than does Kara, but who also has mental challenges that Kara does not face.

Well, I must be honest in saying that we were not able to continue the piano lessons after a few months in 2008, but it had absolutely nothing to do with Kara’s hands, or ability to play, for that matter.  She was just too little to learn to read musical notation at that point in her life.  It was such a struggle for her that I decided it would be best to put the lessons aside until she was older. This past Christmas, Kara again asked me if she could try piano again, and since she has made so much progress in learning to read the printed word, I thought that she very possibly could be ready to read musical notation as well. So, she did start back up, and it has been soooo much easier this time!  She is doing extremely well and has not had any issues yet with her hands.  I know that the day will come when she will have to figure out her “own way” as the left hand chords get more involved, but I know that she can do it.

Anyway, today my sister-in-law shared another video with me that proves that with determination, playing the piano is achievable regardless of the obstacles that must be overcome.  This video is of a Chinese girl who plays beautifully despite the fact that she has no fingers on her right hand.  By the way, for those who don’t play the piano, the right hand usually plays the more technically difficult melody–so this girl is absolutely amazing!

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Four Years

Four years ago today this beautiful girl became part of the Prairie Family, and she has enriched our lives so much!  We are truly blessed to have her!  For those who may not know the amazing story of how God brought Kara to us, this clickable link tells of His Almighty Hand that brought her home.

I have been thinking today about how neat Kara is, and I want to share just a few key points about her.

1. When people meet Kara, the comment is “She is really adorable!”  I don’t know how many times we’ve heard this, but we agree:  she is really adorable!

2. Kara is a happy, loving girl.  The picture for this entry is just who she is–all smiles and joy. Compare that to the serious, sober faces in the baby pictures that she is holding.  Quite a transformation!  Praise be to Jesus!

3. Kara puts her whole heart into whatever she is doing.  That is an admirable trait.

4. Kara LOVES to be a helper.  Whenever there is a job to do, there she is, ready and willing to do whatever we will let her do!  And–she’ll stick with it until it’s done.  Even if that means all day!

5. Kara loves Jesus.  She gave her heart to Him when she was four, and always speaks of Him in such a loving and real way.

6. Kara loves American Heritage Girls.  We have just started this program, but like so many things, she is going at it whole-heartedly.

7. Kara loves her siblings, and her siblings all love her.  No doubt about it, she was meant to be part of the Prairie Family.

8. One thing Kara hates:  anesthesia masks.  😦  She has had way too many surgeries during her short little life.  Lord willing, we are getting close to the end of those!

From time to time, I have people ask me how her hands are doing.  My answer to that is that her hands are fine.  She can do everything she sets her mind to, and most people don’t even notice that she has special issues with her hands until they are around her awhile because she adapts and functions so well. This picture of her handwriting paper from school today says it all:

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So, the last four years have been precious and amazing, and I look forward to seeing God’s plans for Kara unfold in the years to come. I am certainly blessed to be able to call this beautiful girl my daughter.

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“We are in China.”  Those were the words that my sister-in-law Kyleen whispered to me as our plane landed in Shanghai.  I can’t begin to explain the feelings I had at that time.  Excitement, nervousness, fear all mixed together.   We were on the doorstep of an adventure of a lifetime, and I had the perfect travel partner.  Dan had decided to stay home with our other children, so Kyleen volunteered to help me through the process.  God knew she was the one that I needed for those days.

We met up with our travel group the next day in Hefei, which is the capital city of Anhui Province where we were to meet Shayanne and complete her adoption.  There were several families in our travel group, all of whom became very dear to us in a very short time.  Our guide’s name was Rui (pronounced Ray).  She also proved to be just the person at just the right time and place for the days to come.

We had a day to spend in Hefei getting all of the paperwork, money, etc. organized before meeting Shayanne.  We knew that it would be a very emotional experience, so Kyleen wisely suggested that we should write down a list of questions for the nannies so we could get as much information about her as possible.  One of these questions was “is there anything else about Shayanne that we need to know?”

You can imagine the anticipation that filled the bus as we traveled to the Civil Affairs office to meet our children.  Shayanne was the only child being adopted from her orphanage that day, and her city was several hours away from Hefei.  So, she was the last child to arrive.  The people who accompanied her were in quite a hurry to begin the trip back to their city, so they wanted to get through the process as quickly as possible.

When I saw Shayanne, I was completely unprepared for what I would experience.  She was so very tiny–nothing  like the other toddlers in our group.  She was very much an infant even though she was the oldest child there that day.  Kyleen and I both immediately felt uneasy, and to be honest, I knew right away that this was not my child.  Things just didn’t seem right, that’s the only way I can explain it.  We were rushed around into a room to sign temporary custody papers–we had to request that they at least wait for our guide to come explain what we were signing before they would leave.  Kyleen had the presence of mind to get out our list of questions, and they said they would only answer three.  She immediately pointed to the question, “is there anything else about Shayanne that we need to know?”  Quick, awkward glances were exchanged among the people in the room, and our guide talked with them back and forth in Chinese.  She informed us that there was something else, but that she did not know exactly how to translate it.  She said that she would work on it and let us know later in the day.

We took Shayanne back to the hotel, and began the process of trying to figure out what her exact issues were.  Her hearing loss did not explain the child left in our care.  For the sake of Shayanne’s privacy, I will not go into what our experiences were, but let’s just suffice it to say that she was in extremely poor physical condition.  When Rui returned to our room with the translation of what the nannies had told her, it all began to make sense.  This child had severe neurological issues that had never been explained to us.

My heart was torn in two!  I did not know what we were going to do!  I had never dreamed that our journey would lead us to this.  I did know that there were no resources available to help a child in Shayanne’s condition anywhere near our home that is “on the prairie.”  Dan was back in the USA, but I had to contact him with the details.  He wanted us to send pictures and information to our local doctor while we had her examined in China to try to determine what decisions we should make.  All of the advice pointed in the same direction:  that this child was not in strong enough condition to be adopted or to travel back to the United States.  All parties involved were in agreement, although we were told to expect to travel home with no child if we did not continue Shayanne’s adoption.

This was such a difficult moment.  It seemed hard to understand why God would have brought us to this point only to go home with no child.  But, God…  BUT GOD!  He spoke in my heart to trust Him.  Even if we were to go home with no child, I was to trust Him, and show nothing but praise for His goodness, sovereignty, and power.  Kyleen agreed that even if it never made any sense, we were in China at that time in that situation as part of God’s perfect plan.

So, dear, dear Rui guided us step-by-step of interrupting the adoption process.  She was a tower of strength as she spent hours communicating with our adoption agency’s office in Beijing.  She truly took up our situation as her own.  She explained our complex situation to the Chinese officials, and helped them to understand that this child was simply not adoptable at this time.  She pled for their mercy, while we pled with God for guidance, and that mercy was granted.  We were told not to get our hopes up, but that we should begin thinking about what special needs we would be open to if another child could be found for us.  We had a only a few days to work with because a week-long holiday was quickly approaching in China during which no offices would be open for business.

So, a light began to emerge out of the darkness, but we still had the difficult task of letting go of Shayanne.  The people from her orphanage came to pick her up, but only after I had time to say good-bye.  I’m telling you, it was like a death.  It was a death in many ways–death of the child that had never been.  The Shayanne that we had held in our hearts during those months of waiting and preparation simply did not exist, and that was heart-wrenching to say the least.  We dressed her up in the one pretty outfit that we had that fit her–the one 12-month outfit that I had packed, fixed up her hair, and gave her back with many, many tears.  It’s difficult to explain that there was peace amidst the tears.  We knew that God had led to this decision and that this was part of His perfect plan whether we would ever understand it or not.

Our travel group gave us nothing but support during those days of uncertainty.  They shared their hearts, their beautiful new children, and their love.

After Shayanne left, we had to turn our attention to the paperwork involved with requesting a new referral.  Rui told us to write a description of what had happen with Shayanne and to respectfully ask for another child.  She said to include the age range, sex, and special needs we would accept.  I wrote that we would prefer a child of either gender, any age (preferably younger than our youngest son, but not required), with any special need related to orthopedic issues, hearing loss, blindness, etc.  Kyleen and I really felt that this was a holy time–a time that God was truly at work to bring us the child He had planned.  It was exciting to see.

We were originally told to expect a wait of several days while the officials searched for a child.  We were surprised when our guide came to our room a few hours later with not one, but two children that had been identified as possible candidates.  There were no pictures, or even names.  All we had was gender, age, and general description of the special needs.  Both were girls.  One was approximately 12 months old, and the other was almost three.  The younger girl was described as having one leg fatter than the other, and the older was described as being “pigeon-toed” with a possibility of some problem with her fingers on one hand.  Exciting telephone calls back to the United States were made to confer with Dan, and he, Kyleen, and I all felt led by God that the older of the two girls was the one.  We had nothing concrete to base that decision on, but God had led us all to that child, so we proceeded with faith.

So, we informed our guide of our decision, and she called the adoption officials with our decision to adopt Huang Min Cui from Huangshan.  She wondered if we wanted to wait until we could get more information about the girl, but we said no.  I told Rui that I knew God’s hand was at work, and that I knew I could trust Him.  Our time frame was very tight because of the impending Chinese holiday and our already scheduled Consulate appointment in Guangzhou.  Rui said she’d need an English name to begin the paperwork, and after more phone calls and discussions, Kara Joy was chosen.  “Kara” means pure, so her name means “pure joy.”  We knew that God was turning our sorrow into unbelievable joy.

So, our course had taken a serious turn from our original plan.  God kept impressing upon me that this was not a surprise to Him, and that I needed to show complete confidence in His loving care.  Rui was concerned that we might not have appropriate clothing for this child who was older than we had been planning for.  She recommended that we should shop for bigger clothes, but I told her how God had given me peace about the clothing as I packed, and that I felt certain that He knew all about what Kara’s needs would be.  Rui thought I was crazy, but I told her that I fully expected the clothes that we had to fit this child.

Rui also wanted to prepare us that this child would very likely be extremely frightened.  She had come from an orphanage that did not participate in international adoption, so she had not been prepared.  Again, God gave me the words to say to Rui.  I told her that I had complete confidence that God had prepared this child and that she would know that I was her momma.

A few days passed while Kara’s paperwork was hurriedly processed, and finally we were ready to meet the child that God had hand-picked for us–the child that had been in His mind all along.  I could not wait!  Her orphanage was very far from Hefei although it was still in Anhui province.  So, Kara was accompanied by two nannies on her first airplane ride to Hefei.  She arrived in the middle of the night, and was soundly asleep when they got to our hotel.

She was absolutely stunning sleeping on the nanny’s lap.  My heart overflowed with love knowing that this was my child.  I knew right away that she was not “pigeon-toed.”  Her foot was clearly clubbed.  In fact, she had just had a cast removed that morning from her most recent surgery, and her foot was still swollen (and still crooked).  I saw her hands.  Several fingers missing, the rest all deformed. But none of that mattered.  Huang Min Cui was my girl, and I knew all would be well.

The nannies could not get little Cui Cui to wake up that evening, but they had a story they really wanted to share with us.  They told us through our interpreter Rui that she had been a favorite in their facility and that they had all been really stirred to learn that she was going home to a family.  They said it was with mixed emotions that they would give her to us.  They said that everyone was crying when Cui Cui was ready to leave, but that that sweet little child had reached up with her stubby thumb to wipe away the tears and had said, “Don’t cry.  I am just going to find my Momma.”  That came from a girl who “had not been prepared for adoption.”  Rui looked at me with astonishment.  Yes, this girl knew she was going to her Momma just like I had said.  Truly, God was at work.

The next day we completed all of the final adoption papers, and Huang Min Cui officially became Kara Joy Mincui O’Brien.  She was naturally a little shy at first, but it did not take long for that “shy, introverted” child to transform into a happy, loving, beautiful Kara Joy.  The clothes?  Guess what–every item I packed fit Kara Joy perfectly except for the shoes.  But she didn’t need the shoes because she had just had surgery and was instructed not to walk on her foot anyway.  Yes, God had provided for her needs before I ever knew that she existed.

We spent the rest of our time in China getting acquainted with the special girl that God had given us.  We spent a lot of time taking her on walks in the stroller so she could be out in God’s beautiful sunshine.  We shopped, we played, and worked on being able to understand each other (which was no easy task since she spoke fluent Chinese!!)  We kept all of our original appointments in Guangzhou before flying home on the same flight that had been originally planned.

To make a long story short, Kara fit into our family right away.  The other kids all loved her, and she loved them.  There were challenges, of course, adjusting to life with a family after knowing only life in an orphanage, and it took time for Kara to learn how to accept unconditional love.  There were many challenges ahead, but we knew God was faithful, and that He placed Kara in our home and would guide us all through each step of the way.

We had a crash course in clubbed foot treatment because Kara’s surgical incision became infected shortly after we arrived home, but even that proved to be our Lord’s guiding hand.  He used that to lead us to the orthopedic surgeon who would ultimately be used to bring God’s healing touch to Kara’s foot.  He truly healed Huang Min Cui through and through.  He took that shy, broken child and transformed her into the confident, happy girl that she is today.  Her heart as well as her body are whole.

What a picture of what God did for me!  He took a broken, miserably lost soul and paid the eternal price to adopt me when I was completely unaware of His presence.  He took me in, cleaned me up, washed my heart and is in the on-going process of transforming my life.  My story, as well as Kara’s, are all for His glory.  He is the one to be praised for His mighty goodness and power.

In the final installment of My Story, I plan to explain where God has me today.  It is not nearly as dramatic as where I have been, but it is just as important in His purposes.

I will put three slideshows onto this entry.  The first will be pictures from the day that Huang Min Cui became Kara Joy.  The second will be more pictures from my trip to China for those who may be interested.  The last slideshow shows the dramatic healing that God gave to Kara’s foot.  My He be praised!

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow: Meeting Kara Joy Mincui
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Click to play this Smilebox slideshow: More Pictures from China
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Click to play Kara's Miracle
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