Monday, June 30, 2008

Change of plans!

Well, we were supposed to explore Hanoi a little today but our plans changed and we did something even better!!















Surprise!! Anna Grace came home today!! I will post more details tomorrow. We are all exhausted after a long and wonderful day.



Sunday, June 29, 2008

More Details To Share

What a crazy few days we have had! Over all, our trip here went pretty smoothly. The flight from LA to Hong Kong was very long and we were so ready to get out of that plane!! We had a short flight from Hong Kong to Hanoi and here we are.


(Allie's "breakfast" on the plane. It was some sort of chicken and rice porridge.)




The hotel sent a van to pick us up and we had a 30 min drive to the hotel. What an experience!! There are basically no traffic laws so people just honk and keep going. We saw all kinds of new sights. The city is old but full of culture. I am looking forward to exploring tomorrow.






Our hotel is very nice. We have two bedrooms, two baths, a living room, and kitchen. Not at all what I expected for the price. You definitely get more for your money here!! Food will definitely be an issue for Allie and I. Even the "American foods" have a totally different taste. There is a shopping center in the hotel so we bought some bread and PB so we won't starve. This may be the diet I have been meaning to start for the past, I don't know, 15 years.






We didn't want to sleep this afternoon but we were all getting grumpy so we decided to take a short nap before finding some dinner. Five hours later, we made our way to the hotel restaurant, which was pretty reasonably priced. We didn't explore outdoors today but we are all heading to bed to get some sleep and hope to see some things tomorrow. Our biggest obstacle will be making it across the street alive!






Tomorrow is a free day and then we have our giving and receiving ceremony on Tuesday!! I want to say thanks to all of you who helped us get ready so quickly this past week and helped us get all of the basic things we will need for Anna. We really couldn't have done it without you and we love and appreciate you all.

We're Here!!

I just wanted to post a message to let you know we are here in vietnam. I will post a more detailed one with pictures soon. It took us a while to get what we needed to plug in the computer but we finally got it. Check again soon to see pictures!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Even the Sparrow...

We are back in Jax now. It has been a long, long couple of days and the next three or four will be even longer. The journey is worth it to find Anna Grace. I am so full of gratitude to have the uncertainty and the waiting behind us.



I know this will sound strange to most of you but although I am feeling such joy and anticipation at meeting Anna, I am also so aware that someone is missing. It doesn't seem right to be doing this without Emma. How I wish she were here to meet her little sister. Some think that a new baby will fill the void left by Emma. How wrong you are. I am feeling the void all the more.



Such a strange mixture of emotions but I know that Emma is here with us. She is a part of all of this and she sees so much more than we do. I know that she is where she needs to be and she is complete. I envy her. I long to feel complete. I don't have any false belief that my children will complete me or my husband will complete me or things will complete me. I even know that Emma coming back would not complete me. The only way I will be complete is when I join her in the place of completeness. It brings me comfort to know she is there but it still hurts.



I have been feeling all of these things over the last couple of days and I ran across a blog that had Psalm 84 posted. The writer of that blog had it posted for different reasons but I believe God lead me to it tonight for my own reason.



How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord Almighty!

My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord;

my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.

Even the sparrow has found a home,

and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young--

a place near your altar, O Lord Almighty, my King and my God.

Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you.

Selah

Even the sparrow has found a home. Those of you who know our story know that the sparrow has a special meaning for us. Emma was our sparrow. Sparrows are not looked at as being very valuable to the world but they are very valuable to God. Emma was not considered valuable by the world's terms but to us and to Him she is a treasure. She has found her home and now she is waiting for us.

This verse was another blessing from God for me today. He always knows just the right way to bring me comfort. I know that He is telling me that Emma has found her home and it is alright to feel the joy of bringing Anna Grace into our home. Until we all find our way HOME.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Day 29

Day 29 has been a whirlwind of a day for us. We are out of town right now visiting our family and attending our church convention in Indiana. I (Stacey) am the one who usually checks our email every morning for our approval notice but this morning Dean was awake first and he was the one to open our inbox and find the email that we have been waiting for...

WE GOT OUR I600 APPROVAL TODAY!!!!!!!!!


Dean woke me up and we read it together and started discussing the next couple of weeks and what all we need to do to get ready to go to Vietnam. We got in touch with our agency and were very shocked to receive an email telling us we can schedule our flight to arrive in VN this Sunday!! We are leaving on Friday to go to pick up our daughter!!

We are so happy and overwhelmed. We thought we would have a little more time to prepare. And did I mention we are out of town?! We are leaving tomorrow to drive back to FL so we can pack and head to VN on Friday.

Our heads are spinning with all of the details and lists but our hearts are filled with gratitude that God has blessed us so much. I have said before that I don't know how you could go through this process without faith and I still believe it. We have seen the hand of God working in our lives through every step of this journey and though I am nervous and anxious about the details to be worked out, I know that He is going before us.

I don't know how much time I will have in the next few days so my next post may be written from VN! Stay tuned...

Sunday, June 22, 2008

33...

33 has been on my mind today. Not because we are on day 33 of our wait. We are on day 28 for that. The reason the number 33 kept going through my mind all day today is because it is 33 months since my Emma left this earth.



33 doesn't seem such a big number. It doesn't seem like a small number either. It is just a number. When I was in my teens 33 sounded like so many years and now that I am almost 40, 33 seems so young. It is just a number, I know.




But, somehow, the number of months since Emma left us does seem significant. 33 is not just a number when you use it to mark such a significant event.




In the first few months after Emma died I just tried to make it one day at a time and the thought of months was overwhelming. I could only deal in minutes or hours. To think of 33 months would have been impossible. Now I can look back and see that I made it one minute at a time, one hour at a time, one day at a time.


I heard someone use this quote recently and it made me think about those first dark days and how I just tried to make it through the day one minute at a time. I didn't think of myself as being very courageous at the time but now that I look back, I see the courage that it took to just get out of bed in the morning and start a new day. I see that I am stronger than I ever thought I could be.




The thing is, I see that the reason I am strong or courageous is that I have a Savior who loves me. I had the wonderful privelage of meeting the author of "The Shack" today and he said, "God doesn't heal us so that He can use us because God is not a user. He heals us because He loves us." On this day when I was so preoccupied with the number 33, I needed to be reminded that my God loves me and He wants to be my strength. Not so I can go out and be used but because He just loves me so much.




33...another number to be written down in my calender of days passed without my Emma, but also a reminder that I am strong and courageous and I can face more numbers that mark the time passing. And a reminder that I am loved beyond measure.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Piano recitals and goodbyes...

Allison's piano recital was last Thursday and she did great. Her teacher is the sweetest lady. She is a true southern lady and she is like a grandma to Allie. She loves her students so much and she makes a really big deal out of the recital. It is held in a real concert hall and it is very, very LONG. But it is worth the sore back to hear YOUR child play.














We have had company with us for a couple of weeks and we had to say goodbye yesterday. Our friend, Carly, stayed with us before she and Dean's cousin (her husband), Ben, moved to Tallahassee. Carly has been a part of our lives for almost three years and we are sad to see her and Ben move. They are family, though, so that means we will always be connected. Tallahassee is not that far so we will see them often.


Still, it was hard to see them go. I was talking to Dean about how they say when you go through a loss you never get back to normal. You just find a new normal. I told him I can't seem to find that new normal and he pointed out that Carly and Ben were our new normal. I had never thought of that before but it is probably true. They filled the empty time and space and now that they are gone I feel restless and lost again. Weird, huh?


Anyway, this wasn't written to make them feel guilty or anything. I am happy for them and we will truly miss having them be such a big part of our lives. I always told Carly that she met me at my absolute worst and if she still loved me, then she must be a true friend.

I'm so thankful for relatives who are also our friends!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Path, My Path

**Update** I have been working on a new blog for a while now and decided to open it up for people to look at. It is in honor of Emma and it is called Butterfly Kisses. www.rememberingemma.blogspot.com Please check it out and help me remember her.

Today Anna Grace turned five months old. Five months without a mommy and a daddy and a big sister. Five months living in an orphanage. Five months.


I was going to post a blurb about what a five month old should be doing now but I just can't even make myself look in "the book" to see what she might be doing. I just want her here. I want to see for myself, not in a book.


Anna Grace, I pray that you are safe and healthy. I pray that you have someone to hold you close and love you. I pray that you are a happy baby. I pray that you are held in the arms of Jesus.



I remember when Emma was born and she spent such a long time in the NICU and we had to leave her there each night. I had such a hard time leaving her but I would mentally picture myself placing her in the arms of Jesus to rest. I find myself doing the same thing with Anna Grace. I cannot be there to hold her but there is someone who is always there.








I got a call yesterday from a very good friend. My friend, Brenda, had a daughter with the same condition as Emma. Hailey passed away almost nine years ago. She was seven years old. Brenda was my mentor in the early days with Emma. She had already been walking this path for four years when Emma was born. Brenda would listen to me, counsel me, and coach me through the rough times. I remember the first time I met her, I was so full of apprehension. I wanted to meet her yet I really did not. Emma was still a baby and I knew seeing Hailey would be hard because it would make everything seem more real. I would see my own future when I saw Brenda. I did meet her and it was emotional, but it was good.



Three years later, Hailey passed away and once again I knew I would be facing my own future when I walked into that funeral home. I wanted to go for Brenda but I was so scared to face that reality of death. I did go and it was hard, but I was glad I went.


Six years later, it was Emma's turn to go to Heaven and Brenda called to tell me that she was out of the state and couldn't be at the funeral. Imagine my surprise when I saw her walk through the doors of the funeral home. She had come home early to be there. I remember just holding each other for the longest time. She had always walked the path ahead of me and seeing her was such a healing balm to my soul. To see someone who truly understood was a gift that night.


And talking to her yesterday was just what I needed. There is something about talking to someone who knows your pain, who shares your story, who won't minimize your hurt because it makes them uncomfortable. Talking to Brenda reminded me for just a while of who I am and who I was and who I want to become. Thank you, Brenda. I love you.


One of the things we talked about was the overwhelming feeling that our girls are still with us. At times when we need to have them closer, it seems God provides us with visual and spiritual reminders that they are fully alive in Him, and it comforts us and gives us the motivation to keep walking the path before us. Even though it is hard and it feels like we are all alone, it is our path to walk and the destination is worth the journey.





Tuesday, June 10, 2008

DAY TWENTY

Today is day 20 so that means we are one third of the way to the 60 days!! Hopefully, it won't be sixty days anyway. I saw several people got their approvals last week so maybe it will be soon!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Nesting

I have been having a hard time working up that nesting instinct that I had with Allie and Emma so I just told myself I had to do it today. Dean and I worked on Anna Grace's room most of the day today and we got a good start on it. As we worked, I started to feel more and more excited and it felt very real. I think the reason I was having such a hard time getting motivated was because I was afraid to let my guard down and feel too attached. Well, it is really too late to worry about that anyway so I might as well stop trying.




Here are a few pics of her room so far:

(We are going to cover that outlet by her bed so don't worry about it)

The blanket on the rocker was made by Dean's dad. The rocker is 40 years old. It is the one my dad bought for my mom when she had me.

This is the blanket I am working on for her. I am going to hang it on the wall behind the rocker. I need to get to work!

Here's what it will look like:

I will post more when the room is finally completed!!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Great Sadness


I am reading a book right now called, The Shack. I'll try not to share too much with you in case you read it yourself but it is really opening my eyes to a new way of thinking about pain and suffering in this world. The main character, Mackenzie, has suffered a tragedy involving his daughter and the book is about his questions and an encounter with God.


He refers to his pain as "The Great Sadness"and this is how he describes it: "The Great Sadness had draped itself around Mack's shoulders like some invisible but almost tangibly heavy quilt. The weight of its presence dulled his eyes and stooped his shoulders. Even his efforts to shake it off were exhausting, as if his arms were sewn into its bleak folds of despair and he had somehow become part of it. He ate, worked, loved, dreamed, and played as if he were wearing a leaden bathrobe- trudging daily through the murky despondency that sucked the color out of everything."


Reading that description made me cry because that is how I have felt for so much of my adult life. I know I talk about Emma's death so much here but it goes much deeper than that. I made some bad choices early on that brought pain, but I understood that because I knew why I was suffering. I got myself back on track and married Dean and I believed I had redeemed myself and now life was going to get better, easier even. I was following God so why wouldn't He protect me from suffering? I had no idea the pain I would face just because we were following God. The suffering we faced at the hands of church people was more than our fair share I believed. And when Emma was born I came to know The Great Sadness. I felt as if God had abandoned me and I felt so angry and confused. Don't think I didn't love her. I loved her with my whole being but I was so hurt that God would not heal her. I knew He could, but He didn't. And it wasn't just her illness but also the loss of my dream to have more children. And then I adjusted to my life and He chose to take her. Why?


I am not foolish enough to think that I am the only one to suffer. So many of you deal with your own disappointments, broken hearts, lost dreams, unmet expectations, losses. Why does God seem to allow some of us to be such close companions with pain?


In the book, Mack has an encounter with God that is unusual but powerful. When he finally gets to question God about his suffering God gives him this answer: "You really don't understand yet. You try to make sense of the world in which you live based on a very small and incomplete picture of reality. It is like looking at a parade through the tiny knothole of hurt, pain, self-centeredness, and power, and believing you are on your own and insignificant. All of these contain powerful lies. You see pain and death as ultimate evils and God as the ultimate betrayer, or perhaps, at best, as fundamentally untrustworthy. You dictate the terms and judge my actions and find me guilty. The real underlying flaw in your life is that you don't think that I am good. If you knew I was good and that everything- the means, the ends, and all the processes of individual lives- is all covered by my goodness, then while you might not always understand what I am doing, you would trust me. But you don't."


This really hit home for me because I believe that it is finally where I am at in my life. I have worn the heavy cloak of The Great Sadness for so long, but I am finally realizing that this life is such a small part of who I am, of who God is. I know that God is good. I believe that with my whole heart. And if He is good, then I trust Him. I trust Him with my life. Even when it doesn't make sense to my human mind, I trust in His goodness.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Morning Sickness

Well, I'm still here. Still waiting. I saw another Vietnam PAP refer to the feeling you have when you wake up at 4:30 am to check your email and find nothing from HCMC as "morning sickness". Well, I have morning sickness this morning. It is only Day 15 so I know I shouldn't complain but I still wake up with hope that maybe this will be the day and it is so disappointing that it isn't. I will keep hoping though. I would like to at least get another picture soon. It has been several weeks.

Things are moving along in our preparations. We have our paperwork renewed and certified and authenticated. We have our Visas. I am working on the shots and packing lists. We are thinking of ways we can get that last bit of money needed for the trip itself. We have been fortunate so far that we have not had to go into debt doing this and we want to keep it that way. We have the money for our plane tickets but there are several fees to be paid there and hotel and food of course. I would like to have money to buy some things made in Vietnam for Anna to have as she grows up. I saw one person had bought a small gift to give her daughter on each birthday until she was 18 and a gift for her wedding day. I thought that was a neat idea. I would like to sell my bracelets but I am not very business minded so if any of you have any ideas of how I could go about that, your help would be greatly appreciated!!

I know I am not keeping up with the posting every day thing but that is a little more depressing than I thought it would be. Sorry.