30 Days of Thanks - Day 30

Today, I'm thankful for my salvation.

As I reflect over these last 30 days (holy cow, where did the time go?!), I think about all the posts and things I am thankful for.  I will admit, 30 days was kind of a long time to go trying to think of new things every day to be thankful for.  But the challenge exercised my brain to think of things I would not normally remember to be thankful for.

And really all of it comes down to my salvation and having a God that pursues.  Did you read that?  A GOD THAT PURSUES.  In other words, not a God who is nice enough not to strike me dead when I mess up.  Or not a God that sits on his high and mighty throne hoping I will do just the right combination of "good" things to get to be in his presence.

No, this is a God who can't just sit still while I stray.  He comes after me.  Just like any other parent.  Not just hollers to me "Hey, come back here!", but literally moves heaven and earth to be there for me when I call.  I always imagined God running down a path to catch up to me. 

THE GOD OF THE UNIVERSE RUNS AFTER ME.  Because he loves me THAT much.

Holy cow.

I am blessed.

I am thankful.


30 Days of Thanks - Day 29

Today I'm thankful for a sense of humor.

I'm not the funniest person, but I do feel like I have a sense of humor.  And let's be honest...to get through this life, you pretty much have to have a sense of humor or you might just land yourself in the loony bin.

So many times, I have been faced with a decision to either laugh or cry...literally.  And thankfully, even if I cry first, I can find humor in the situation later.

And you know, I'm thankful for other people's sense of humor.  I'm a little sarcastic by nature...and so I have to hang with people with a sense of humor who can dish it as well as take it.  And I love people who make me laugh.  I like to laugh more than just about anything else.  Honestly, it's probably been a little too long since I really laughed.  But I'm glad I have friends that surround me that can make me laugh until I pee my pants (which granted, doesn't take much these days.)

So, today, I'm thankful.


30 Days of Thanks - Day 28

Today I'm thankful for my co-workers.

This is a pretty broad category because I have about 2,000 co-workers if you want to get right down to it.  Obviously, several in my department are closer to me than others, but I am thankful for them all.  There are some who I am closer to and that I like better or have more in common with or just simply work better with.  But by and large, I have not encountered anyone who I just can't stand to work with.  And with that big of a company, that's unusual.

It's just my company has an uncanny ability to hire GOOD people.  Most of the ones I work intimately with have the same work ethic as I do.  They don't skip out of work for no reason and they go above and beyond.

And there are a precious few that I just love to pieces.  I love being around them and working with them and would miss them like crazy if they left.  And these folks range from the security guards, maintenance folks, custodial staff (remember sweet Brenda?) all the way to senior executives in the company.

It's a rare occasion where someone can say they love their job, their company, their boss and pretty much everyone they work with. 

But I can.

And so today, I'm thankful.


30 Days of Thanks - Day 27

Today, I am thankful for God's Word.

At 38 years old, I have finally realized that I CAN study and understand the Bible.  I obviously have always known that, but thankfully, recently I have figured out the best way for me to study so that I understand and learn.

And now that I can do that, I am SO grateful that God has given us His Word.  He pulls back the curtain on all his glory and shows us what we need to know. 

I'm constantly amazed at how He speaks to us.

Today, I'm thankful.


30 Days of Thanks - Day 26

Today I'm thankful for pastors.  There are several in my life that have led me through some of the best and worst times I've ever experienced.

My home church pastor, who has now gone on to heaven, was there when I was born, there when my mom died (literally), there when I got married, there when I had Jenna and I was actually at my home church the weekend before he had a stroke in the pulpit (he passed a week later).  This man was literally like a second father to me and I have missed him many, many days since his passing.

Then there is my current church pastor who rocks my socks off every Sunday, is an adoptive parent and was integral to our own adoption process.  He was there when we arrived with Kylie and has been our biggest supporter and cheerleader throughout the whole process.  We just finished up a sermon series on the book of Revelation and OH. MY. WORD.  I'm telling you what, I could do an entire blog SERIES on what I've learned.  If you are interested, you can go here and listen to the podcasts.  They are just SO good.

I'm just so thankful there are other pastors and ministers that God has made instrumental in my life.

Today, I am thankful.


30 Days of Thanks - Day 25

Today, I am thankful for the gift of adoption.

Without it, I would not be a mother to this precious face.  I have wanted to adopt from China for so many years that some days I can't believe I actually have a beautiful, sweet baby girl from there.  And if it weren't for all of those that went before me, we would have never taken that leap.

Today, I am thankful.

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas...

This was the first year in a while that I didn't do some Black Friday shopping.  Normally, I'll go out about 3-4pm on Black Friday after all those crazy, early morning shoppers are at home passed out.  But this year, I just didn't have it in me.  Instead, I sat at my kitchen table and basically finished my shopping.  I had done quite a bit already and I still have a little to go...but it is nothing I'm worried about.  Now I need to start wrapping!

I did go out earlier to visit with some old friends.  My dear, high school friend, Stacey, was in town and it has become a Black Friday tradition to meet her at some kids play place and let the kids run wild while we catch up.  She invites all her hometown friends and so I've grown to love meeting up with these families.  It's normally the only time I get to see them (except on Facebook) and so I always enjoy it. This year was extra special because it was the first time any of them had met Kylie.  I unfortunately never even thought to take a photo, but my friend, Beth, did bring Kylie a little something...lo and behold, it was the Little People barn and I already had that on our Amazon Wish List to get for her this Christmas!  The child was CRAZY with joy (after her 2 1/2 hour nap)...
She and Jenna played and played in the floor with it.  Then, they started playing in my Thanksgiving Day newspaper.  You know, the one with ALLLLL the ads???

Oh, did she have fun.  While she was occupied, we decided to get the tree up.  That was fine, but it wasn't long after I started decorating that she decided she wanted to "help".
Steve was stuck on the ladder because Kylie did not want to get off!  Finally, she saw I was decorating the tree and decided she wanted to do that too.
Man, Christmas is going to be so much fun with my fixed lens for my Canon!

The only problem was Kylie didn't understand that when you put the ornament on the tree, you LEAVE it on the tree!  She kept trying to take it off!!  She got her hand smacked once which she certainly didn't like, but after that,s he acted like she got it.
I just love these photos.  Such a special day for us.  As we were wrapping up the decorating, our neighbor Ping came to visit.  It was her day off and she tries to get over to see Kylie when she can.  You can see her to the left of our tree...
I can't wait to start getting presents wrapped and under the tree.  I'm going to have to start early this year because I'll only be able to wrap a few at a time with Kylie home...


30 Days of Thanks - Day 24

Today I'm thankful for Facebook.

Yeah, I said Facebook.  I know it is the bane of some people's existence and quite honestly, sometimes I feel that way about it too.  But by and large, it has connected and RE connected me to people I would not have ever known their whereabouts before.

People who I can't see as often as I'd like due to life or distance....the ones I'd like to see more often, I can still keep up with their lives.

So today, I'm thankful for Facebook.

Kylie's First Thanksgiving

I would have to say that Kylie's first Thanksgiving was a resounding success.  I cooked a mini-Thanksgiving lunch for us.  By "mini", I mean, I didn't cook enough food for 15 people.  Our menu consisted of a small ham, turkey (because Steve prefers ham, but I thought turkey had to be included since it was Kylie's first ever Thanksgiving), macaroni and cheese, sweet potato casserole, cornbread, dressing, hashbrown casserole and fruit salad.

Interestingly, our good friend and neighbor, Ping, is Chinese and her sister is here visiting her all the way from China.  We have grown very close to Ping for obvious reasons and she attends LifeGroup with us on Sunday evenings.  Ping had to work Thanksgiving Day, but her sister was at home with Ping's son, Aaron.  We invited them over to join us, and they came!  Ping's sister's name is something similar to Ping, but I'll butcher it if I try to type it, but suffice it to say, lunch was interesting because she doesn't speak or understand English.  Aaron is in Chinese school, but he doesn't speak enough to help.  Thank God for Google Translate!!!

Kylie thought it was good.  :)

After lunch, we took some time to rest and then headed down to Deanne's house for Thanksgiving dinner.  It was extra special for us there because Deanne was so close to our adoption, so celebrating Kylie's first Thanksgiving at her house was pretty neat.
And even though she's new to the scene, Kylie always enjoys hanging out with her aunts, uncles and cousins.  It was another yummy meal and the company was wonderful too.  I can't wait for Christmas!

Speaking of, we are nearly all decorated for Christmas here.  We usually start the day after Thanksgiving because we never know what our weekends between now and the holidays are going to look like.  Typically, by the time Thanksgiving gets here, I'm nowhere near ready for Christmas.  I'm not in the mood and not "feelin' it".

This year, I am SO ready!  I'm excited for Kylie.  Not many people get to celebrate the first Christmas of their child at an age that they can actually ENJOY it.  Jenna was only 6 months old her first Christmas and then 18 months old her second so she really didn't get it either year.  Kylie will be just a month shy of being 2 years old at her first Christmas.  I'm not sure she'll understand about unwrapping gifts, but I bet she'll catch on pretty quickly...she sure does enjoy the tree...more on that tomorrow...


30 Days of Thanks - Day 23

Today I'm thankful for my neighbors.

For 30+ years of my life, I lived in the same house in the same neighborhood and in the same city.  We had good neighbors for the most part, but we would not call them close.

In 2005, we moved to the town we currently live in.  The day we closed on this house, we drove out here to look around and just let it soak in that it was OURS.

We'd not even been here for 5 minutes when there was a knock on the door.  It was our neighbor Aimee welcoming us to the neighborhood!

Since that time, Aimee and her husband have become dear friends to us.  She always treats our girls special at Halloween and she was the first house Kylie trick or treated at!
Not only them, but Jenna has grown to be dear friends with the sweet girl who lives across the street.  At this current time, I have literally 100s of photos of them together that she has taken.  The sweetie is one of the most kind, respectful child I have ever been around.  The girls spend a LOT of time together which makes me happy because Grey is a good influence on Jenna and because I NEVER had that in my neighborhood growing up.  I don't even have to think about it when Jenna asks if she can come over.  She is ALWAYS welcome and trust me, in this day and age, that isn't normally the case. For real, this is going to be one of those friendships where if either of us move away, life is going to be heartbreaking for a while.

Directly next door to us is our Chinese neighbor, Ping, who has become a very integral part of our lives since she is familiar with Chinese culture.  I wish I had a photo of her, but I don't.  However, she is the ONLY Chinese person Kylie will have anything to do with. We've enjoyed having Ping around...she translates some of our Chinese documents and has even treated us to dinner (OH. MY. WORD.  Authentic Chinese food...yes please!)

Another neighbor couple has recently joined our church.  They show up at our door randomly with a gift for Kylie or sweets.  They watch our house when we travel and we return the favor.

We are so blessed with good neighbors.  Our favorite times are the days where it seems everyone is in their yards hanging out.  July 4 finds most everyone in the streets shooting fireworks.  Spring finds them grilling out.  Fall finds them around fire pits.  Winter finds them sledding and building snowmen.

I never thought I'd live in an area like this.

So, today, I'm thankful.


30 Days of Thanks - Day 22

Today, on this ultimate day of Thanksgiving, I am thankful for Jesus Christ.

My Savior.

My Friend.

My Beginning.

My Daddy.


Today, I'm thankful.

Something Else to Be Thankful For

I couldn't let this day get past without sharing something that happened recently for which I'm thankful...

As you know, Kylie had cleft palate repair surgery back at the end of August.  In January, when I was choosing my medical benefit options at work, I knew we would have vastly increased medical expenses this year and so I chose accordingly.  We knew we would owe at least $2500 out of pocket (that would exceed our FSA contributions).

Sure enough, when the hospital bill came, our amount owed, after insurance, was about $2300.  I put off calling the hospital to make payment arrangements because I just hated that we even had to do it.  But it was expected, so about a month ago, I prepared to make the phone call (talk about humbling...).

My friend, Jennifer, had mentioned to me prior that her children's hospital (in another state) had financial aid that you could apply for and I should ask about that.  Lo and behold, as I'm dialing the number, I notice a line on the bill that says, "To make payment arrangements or request financial aid, call..."  REQUEST FINANCIAL AID??? 

So, I get the gentleman on the line and tell him I want to make payment arrangements.  He takes my first payment and I inquire about financial aid.  He says all he can tell me is that there's a form and he will request it be sent to me.  He verified my address, I thanked him for his time and with $200 less in my account, I disconnected.

That was the last I thought about it until late last week when I realized I'd never gotten those blasted forms in the mail.  I even picked up the phone to call them back and request it again, but got sidetracked and then figured I'd just wait until the first of December when I called to make my next installment payment.

Yesterday afternoon when I got home from work, the first thing I did (as always) was go for the mail.  In the stack, was an envelope from the hospital.  I was excited because I automatically assumed it was the financial aid paperwork I'd requested weeks ago.  Instead, it was a letter.  And it read....

"We have received and processed your request for financial assistance with your medical bills.  We are happy to let you know that you qualify for 100% assistance...For the account listed above, your balance has been adjusted to zero."


I owe nothing.

I had no words.  I never got that paperwork in the mail and I certainly never filled it out.  How do you explain that?  It's like a $2000 Christmas present!

And I couldn't help but think how it parallels the greatest gift mankind has ever received...

I had a huge debt I couldn't pay.

I needed financial aid.  Something that would help me pay the debt.  But there was nothing that I could do to repay.

And without my asking...without my even knowing it was done, Christ paid that debt for me on the cross.  Just like somehow, some way, my bill at the hospital was PAID. IN. FULL.

I am just as unworthy of the blessing many years ago on the cross as I am today of this blessing.  And I'm equally amazed at the goodness and provision of God.

I deserved to pay that bill.  I incurred the charges.  The money should have come from my account to put me in right standing with the hospital. 

Instead, someone else paid what I owed.  And now...I am debt free.  My account is zero.

And so, on this day of ultimate Thanksgiving...I give thanks again for the ways that he has blessed me.  I am the most undeserving of all.

Happy Thanksgiving.


30 Days of Thanks - Day 21

Today I'm thankful for friends.

I was going to add pictures.  I was going to name names.  But there's no way to do it.  I have been blessed with MANY friends.

I have "old" friends...my high school friends...you know who you are.  The ones that even though you go years between actually seeing each other, you know you could call them up anytime and they'd be right there with whatever you need.  The ones who when you DO finally see them, it's like you were never apart. The ones you talk to every day on the phone to keep you sane on the LONG commute.  The ones you text funny things you hear or see because it takes you back to the "good ole days".  For me, these aren't just friends from school, but friends from my home church too.  Some of that overlapped and some didn't.  I'm thankful for you.

I have "new" friends.  The ones who have blasted into my life, unexpected in the last few years.  The ones I would see at church or at work who I would have NEVER believed we'd be friends, but then God blessed me by making them some of the dearest friends EVER.  The ones you laugh with.  The ones you cry with (and who cry FOR you).  The ones you hang out with on Friday night.  The ones who have seen your house a mess and you theirs and IT. DOESN'T. MATTER.

Then there are the ones who came and went.  For whatever reason they were in your life for only a short period of time.  The ones who made you laugh during the darkest days of your life.  The ones who  taught you more about yourself in the short period if time they were in your life.  The ones that even though you might not ever care about seeing them again because the hole their departure left in your life, they helped form you into the person you are today.

I used to desire a BEST friend.  You know, the one who I could tell everything.  The one consistent who would love me as much as I loved her.  The one who was consistent when nothing else was.  I think this desire came from losing my mother at such a young age.  

I realized recently that no woman, relative or friend could replace my mother and the relationship that could have been.  Instead, God has blessed me with MANY people to fill that void.

So today, I am thankful.


30 Days of Thanks - Day 20

Today I'm thankful for 2 vehicles that run.

Yes.  Vehicles that run.  My van is going to be 10 years old next year and Steve's truck is going to be 8 years old.  Both have over 150,000 miles on them.  I know cars are built to last longer now than some number of years ago, but there are many, MANY that don't.

These vehicles are both paid for which is good because quite frankly, we can't afford a car payment.  We have been without one for a long time and God willing, it'll be a while longer.

And yes, I'm fully aware that I've probably just jinxed myself and they'll both die next week, but until then...

Today I'm thankful.


30 Days of Thanks - Day 19

Today I'm thankful for my grandson.  Yes, I'm 38 and a "Mimi" to this little fella...
I know.  He's the cutest thing ever.  He has the most darling southern drawl when he talks and he looks JUST. LIKE. HIS. MAMA. See???
As I mentioned in my posts about Micah and Chase, I never thought I could love a child not biologically connected to me but holy cow, I sure do love him.  I regret that I don't get to see him as much as I would like (they live about an hour east of us) and of course, seeing them is another reason I love the holidays.

I'm so blessed.  I have four kids and 1 grandson that I love to the moon and back.

Today, I am thankful.


30 Days of Thanks - Day 18

Today I'm thankful for Steve's family.  I know some folks have serious issues with their in laws from mothers in law to sisters in law, but not me.  I have the absolute best in law family there is.

As you remember, Deanne, my SIL, went with me to China to pick up Kylie.
The rest of the family gathered around their computers every night or two to see Kylie, Deanne, Jenna and myself.  (my family did too) I know some dread these upcoming holidays because of family drama and of course, the Taylors have some of that too, but I LOVE this time of year because I get to spend time with them and it really IS fun.  I love it.  I love them.  All of 'em.
Today, I'm thankful.


30 Day of Thanks - Day 17

Today I'm thankful for my home.

I was born and raised in the same house my whole life. I was in my 30s before I moved from it into the home we are currently in.  For an adult who'd never bought a house before, we lucked up with this house.  While I'd love to have something a bit bigger, it really is perfect for us.

I'm also thankful to live in a neighborhood and town where most are friendly and crime is low.  I'm simply glad to have a roof over my head.  Now that winter is here, I'm reminded of all those who do not have that luxury.

Today, I'm thankful.


30 Days of Thanks - Day 16

Today I'm thankful for my boss.

Yes, I know that is likely a strange thing to be thankful for, but the woman I've reported to for much of the last 15 years of employment is one of a kind. 

First of all, I am fortunately enough to call her a friend, as well as a mentor.  She is a Christian and over the past years, we have found we have lots in common (some good, some not so good.  :))  After my last job, where I really enjoyed my male boss, I swore I would never report to a woman again.   

There is something to be said for liking your boss.  I don't recall ever dreading going into work (as a general rule...though some Mondays are tough) and much of that is due to her constant challenge to me.

She truly does try and look out for my best interest and sees the potential in me, many time long before I would see it in myself AND sometimes when no one else saw it. 

So today, I'm thankful.


30 Days of Thanks - Day 15

Halfway through 30 Days of Thanks!!

Today I'm thankful for Christian education.

I was a product of Christian education.  For 13 years, my parents sacrificed their wants (and probably sometimes needs) to send me to a Christian school.  I grew up, kindergarten to 12th grade never knowing not praying before meals, not having chapel once a week and not having Bible class and learning scripture daily.

The things I learned from good ole EHCS helped transform me into the woman I am today.  Some of the teachers I encountered there challenged me to learn to defend my beliefs and not just believe the way my parents did and because they did, I respected them greatly.

When Steve and I met and started getting serious, I shared my heart for Christian education and turns out, though he wasn't fortunate enough to attend Christian school, we agreed on the importance of it for our children.  And today, we are seeing much of the same benefits from Christian education for Jenna.  I pray that she will grow up never knowing not praying before meals, not having chapel service once a week and not having Bible class and learning scripture daily.  I also pray Kylie is able to benefit from the same Christian education.

Today I'm thankful.

Finding....The Rest of the Story

OK, apparently I've left you hanging long enough.  This wasn't meant to be a cliff hanger, but it was merely a byproduct of me not having enough time to get all the way through the story.

Oh, and you can click here for prior posts:   Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3

In part 3, here's where I left you...
Kylie was found on January 31, 2011 right near the electric pole directly in the middle of the photo above.  To the right is a gas station.

We know this because our friend who was there to take pictures of the spot, FOUND Kylie's finder.  Not only did she find him, but she spoke with him.

Let me stop here and say, I have struggled with whether to make this part of her story public.  It IS her story to tell for sure and so perhaps I am doing her a disservice by telling it before she's old enough to understand.  And if you think I am, don't bother telling me in the comments.  I'm not asking for public opinion. I am tellling the story to share with you how my glorious and loving God watched out for this precious life thousands of miles away through the kindness of strangers.

Here is Mr. Jiao.
Mr. Jiao works at the gas station to the right of the pole in the above picture.  Here is what the email from our investigator said:

"We located your daughter finder, Mr. Jiao, (he is one on the paper work). He first saw your daughter at 4:00am at his working place, and he informed his friend Mr. Yan (who he is clean street man) to take care of it, because it is too cold. Mr. Jiao gave Mr. Yan to take care of your daughter. So, Yan took your daughter to the spot where he found some straw to keep her warm. Mr. Yan settle down your daughter and he think this is not right, he went back to Mr. Jiao, they think need to call the police station to hand over. so, they phoned the police station.

The finding day is very cold, your daughter first was found under the electric pole near the gas station where Jiao works. Jiao wants her in better place, and he asked Mr. Yan to take care of her.

We found this two kind men, they still remember that finding date is near Chinese new year time."
I received this information early one Sunday morning before church.  I wept when I read it.  It was 4:00am on January 31.  The wee hours of the morning.  And since you can find anything on Google, I found that the month of the coldest temps in Jiangsu province is in January, with the average being about 31 degrees.  That's the average. That means at 4am, the temps are probably well below that.
Mr. Yan is pictured here.
These two men are Kylie's angels.  As you read above, Mr. Yan took Kylie to a place with straw to try and keep her warm.  Straw.  Know anyone else who was put in straw right after they were born?  Not that I'm comparing Kylie to the baby Jesus, but this news was like God's nod to me that He was right there with her all along.  She was never really alone.
This place is near the place (a hotel) listed as her finding spot in the referral papers.  I guess it's a lot like when a crime or accident takes place, they just list the nearest cross street.

Here are Mr. Jiao and Mr. Yan pointing to the exact spot where Kylie was.

We will be sending some gifts to these two men to thank them for taking care of our girl until she could be moved to safety.  Clearly, they weren't sure what to do with her but they knew that leaving her wasn't right.  I picked up winter hats, scarves and gloves to send as thanks.  But how exactly do you thank someone for saving your child's life?
There is more to come once our investigator arrives back to her home.  She took more photos and videos of the city and village where Kylie is likely from.  I'll get those in a few weeks.  But now I know the whole story.  Kylie' China Mommy left her right in the middle of the street near a gas station where she knew Kylie would be found.  We know she was wrapped in a "brightly colored" quilt (we asked for this, but it was destroyed after she was brought to the orphanage.  It is possible the quilt is pictured below.
So, now you know the whole story.  And not only that, but Kylie will know more of her story too and the part these two men played in bringing her to us.


30 Days of Thanks - Day 14

Today I am thankful for our adoption agency, Lifeline.  They have some of the best social workers in the adoptive world.  I have never worked with anyone like the China program director, Karla, who personally took on our case when we were waiting forever for LOA.

And their in China rep was the one who made the miracle happen of transferring our dossier from our former agency to theirs and then literally within hours finding us Kylie.  If you don't remember the story, you can read more about it here and here, but children are usually not listed on the shared list until they are 6 months old and usually only released once a month.  Kylie was 6 months and 3 days and found smack dab in the middle of 2 months worth of shared lists.  It literally is a miracle that we were matched with her when we were.

So, for the infamous Lily, Karla, Amy and all the other staff at Lifeline that change families' lives every day...

Today I'm thankful.


30 Days of Thanks - Day 13

Today I am thankful for my freedom.

Yes, I know I should have posted this one last week on election day, but I was quite tired of the election by the time the day came, weren't you?  GAH.

But yes, I voted and took Kylie with me.  And I got to thinking how thankful I am that I live in a country where I not only have the freedom to vote for the elected officials I wish, but also can freely disagree with others political stance without getting thrown into jail.

I can worship as I wish.  Worship WHO I wish.  There are people in other countries who do not have that freedom.

I am thankful.

Finding...Part 3

*If you haven't read parts 1 and 2, you can do that now.

Imagine our surprise to find out the police report had much of anything of substance in it.  As we continued to speak with our China investigator, we had to decide how much work she would do for us when she traveled.

We did not desire to do what I would consider a full birth parent search which includes putting up posters and interviewing people.  But we did very much want pictures of the finding area and the village where Kylie was found since we wanted to show Kylie where she likely came from.

Before long, it came time for our investigator to travel.  We decided to have her see if she could locate the finder using the information in the police report and get a little bit of the story of Kylie's finding just so we could clarify where she was found (some translations said a hotel, some said a restaurant).  Also, this Mama's heart's desire was for someone to know that Kylie was here in America, happy and healthy.  I can only imagine how often Kylie's China Mama thinks of her and wonders where and how she is.

Last Sunday, I woke up to an email from our investigator.  She had traveled to Jiangsu and been to Kylie's finding spot.  And the information that came out of that trip...well...more to come on that.  For now, see where my baby girl was found.
See that electric pole right in the center of the photo?  That is exactly where she was found in the wee hours of the morning on January 31, 2011.

Our investigator managed to locate the finder.  And we now have a pretty full story of how she was found...more to come...


30 Days of Thanks - Day 12

Today I am thankful for my sweet Asian blessing, Kylie.

I could say so much more.

But today...

I am thankful.


30 Days of Thanks - Day 11

Today I am thankful for my family.  Over the past several years, I've lost several members of my family, but the ones that I have left I love dearly.

Jenna is fortunate to get along so well with her cousin, Garrett and my sister Teresa acts more like a grandmother to Jenna than an aunt!

We don't get together all that often, but when we do, I always leave with my heart full.  And this is the season where we will see them a little more often than usual and I can't wait.

I am thankful.


30 Days of Thanks - Day 10

Today I am thankful for my Lifegroup.

At our church, we don't have traditional Sunday School.  When we launched our regional campus, we called it serve one, worship one.  Launch members would serve one hour (teach a children's class, greet, usher, help park etc) and then the next hour we'd worship one.

In place of the standard Sunday School class, Lifegroups were created.  Most of them, including the one we are in, meet Sunday nights.  And that buzz phrase that has become so popular is oh-so-true with these folks...we really do "DO LIFE TOGETHER".

Now this is only the ladies in our Lifegroup and there are some honorary members missing too, but lemme tell you....THIS is my family (well, a small portion of them).  I left for China on Wednesday and made Steve Skype me into Lifegroup meeting both Sundays I was in China.  OH YES I DID.  And I'll tell you what, seeing these faces from thousands of miles away was like a fresh drink of water.  I literally teared up seeing them.

I have every one of their cell numbers and know I could text, call or email any of them at any time for any need and they'd come running.  You just don't find that everywhere.  It seems like there's just not enough words to say how thankful I am for this group of Believers.

I am thankful.


30 Days of Thanks - Day 9

Today I am thankful for my son Chase.
Like with Micah, I met Chase when he was a wee one.  Around 6 years old, I think.  For years, I thought Chase could take me or leave me.  As in, he was cool that I was around, but I always thought he'd be cool if I wasn't.  What I have learned is that he is just that kind of laid back.  When Jenna was born, Micah was enamoured and in love, Chase was like "Meh.  Does she do anything other than eat, sleep and cry??"  (Let it be said that Jenna loves both of them like nuts now!)

Chase was very good at arguing and I'm a little surprised he didn't end up as a lawyer.  He'd certainly make a good one!!

Anyway, several years ago, Chase was working a job near me and we were having lunch one day when he said, "I don't want to work a $10/hr job the rest of my life."  My advice to him was, "Then you need to do what you have to do NOW, while you have few responsibilities, to ensure you don't HAVE to work a $10/hr job for the rest of your life."

A few weeks later he joined the Marine reserves and went off to boot camp.  I was terrified for him, but he blew through boot camp like a champ.  After training, he came home and got a job as a mechanic.  Fast forward a few years and he now runs his own tire/battery store here in the area.  And yes, I'm proud to report the boy probably makes 12454 times what I do for a salary.  I'm hoping for a real nice Christmas present this year.  :)
At any rate, I love this boy more than I thought possible.  And I love talking to him.  I'm so proud of him.

I am thankful.

Finding...Part 2

*If you haven't read part one, you can do that here.

At the end of part 1 of the story, we ended with deciding to hire this woman to see if she could locate Kylie's actual finding spot.

We had seen other families who would visit the finding spot and photograph everything looking out from that spot as if to show their child later the view they would have had and I just wanted a little something like that.

On a fluke, and I'm not sure really why I even bothered to do it, I emailed Kylie's orphanage and asked if they could send a copy of the police report to me with another family who was traveling soon.  I had the good fortune of photographing this family's child when I picked up Kylie and so I asked them if they could deliver the report back to me if I emailed the orphanage and they were more than happy to oblige.

Anyway, I never got a response from the orphanage and quite frankly, I forgot the family had even traveled.  Then, one day I received an email stating they not only had visited the orphanage, but the orphanage staff had indeed received my request and provided them our police report!

I was so excited and when it arrived in the mail, asked my Chinese neighbor to tell me what it said.  I was, admittedly, slightly disappointed when she relayed basically what was in the referral papers. 

So, a few more months pass and then I realize if I want this lady to get going on my trip, I'd better forward her all the paperwork she needed.  I emailed her everything she asked for and then also included the police report in case it would further identify Kylie's exact finding spot.

It was after she received the paperwork when she emailed me back and told me the news...

The police report listed the name and address of the gentleman who found Kylie.

More to come...


30 Days of Thanks - Day 8

Today I am thankful for my parents.  Both of my biological parents have now passed away.
My mother died when I was 18 at the age of 55.  Daddy was around much longer...until he was 81 and died just a few years ago.

My dad worked hard so Mama could stay home.  We were not rich, but they provided everything I needed and much of what I wanted.

And they raised me in church.  They were faithful to that calling and in turn, I grew to love God, the church and learning to be more Christlike.

I'm so thankful that my parents loved me enough to discipline me.  Push me to be the best I could be.  And encouraged me to make good decisions.

So today I'm thankful for my God-fearing, though not perfect, parents.


30 Days of Thanks - Day 7

Today I'm thankful for our good health.

Considering Steve's 45+ year affair with Juvenile Diabetes, I'd say he's in pretty good shape!  He just went for his annual physical and his doctor agrees.

Jenna is perfectly healthy.  Perfectly average in her height and weight.  Very little problems other than seasonal allergies.

Even though we know very little of Kylie's health history, so far, she has been extraordinarily healthy.  Her surgeries (tubes and palate) have been near perfect.

With so many others fighting (or having fought) things way worse, today, I'm thankful for the health of my family.


At first, I wasn't going to share this information here.  But it is so important to us that I feel like I need to document some of it for Kylie later.  It's heavy stuff, at least for me, so I might take it in pieces...

When families travel to China to pick up their adopted children, many of the have the privilege of going to the "finding spot".  This is the very place their child was found abandoned.  Most times the referral paperwork will tell you generally where your child was found and many children are left at the doors of hospitals, orphanages or police stations in the night or wee hours of the morning.

We knew from Kylie's paperwork that she was found near a restaurant in a nearby village (likely the one her birth mom/parents live in).  Unfortunately, the village was another 90 minutes away from the orphanage which we visited and that was already a 4 hour drive ONE WAY.  So we were just unable to visit the finding place, which was very disappointing for me.  I really wanted to see this place, take video, pictures in order to piece together as much of Kylie's first days for her as I could.

After arriving home, a few months passed and I posed the question to the adoptive community I was part of and was told, by several families, of a young woman in China, who used to work for an adoption agency and who now does birth parents searches.  The same name came up over and over again.

Now, for those of you are are not China adoptive parents, let me tell you a little background...abandoning your child in China is illegal and carries with it stiff penalties regardless of reason.  There is no "safe place" to drop your child for it to be cared for.  So finding birth parents rarely happens and it is a HOT TOPIC among adoptive families and even some adoptees.  We were very undecided on this point and so we have elected not to do an exhaustive search for Kylie's birth parents.  However, the woman will also travel to the finding place and take photos and video for us for a reasonable fee (at least *I* thought it was reasonable...cheaper than traveling back there myself!)

And so, because I felt like it was very important we have this information for Kylie when she gets older, we hired the lady who said she would likely not travel until fall or winter.  So we had plenty of time to wait...

More to come...


30 Days of Thanks-Day 6

Today I am thankful for my daughter Micah.  I met Micah during a rather difficult time in her life.  At 10 years old, she and I became close fast.

I would have never imagined I could love a child as deeply and fiercely as I loved Micah and her brother.  I wasn't a perfect stepparent, but I hope she would agree that I tried my best and everything I did was out of love (she might get that more now that she's a mom herself!)

Micah was (and will forever be) my brown-eyed girl. 

I am thankful.


30 Days of Thanks-Day 5

Today I'm thankful for my church.
Many of my best friends in the world go to my church.  We have a huge adoptive family presence and when you are on that journey, having folks who understand is invaluable.

The above photo was taken the night we arrived back in Nashville from China.  I wish I had video of that night.  I'm sure other passengers and families wondered what celebrity was getting off the plane! 

The people are my lifeline. 

I am thankful.


30 Days of Thanks-Day 4

Today I am thankful for my daughter Jenna.
This child has had her world completely turned upside down this year and has handled it with grace and maturity beyond what I could have ever imagined.

She went from being 11 years an only child where the world revolved around her to being a big sister and giving unconditional love and acceptance of this little Asian usurping her only child role.  In those early days where Steve and I were coming apart at the seams, she saw us at our very worst and not one time did she wish for things to go back to the way it was before or wish we'd never adopted.  She's 11 y'all.  Any of us would understand if she had.  But she didn't.  And there's no way to adequately tell you what kind of sister she is to Kylie.  I mean, people talk about it all the time.  It is one of the reasons I'm grateful we did wait as long as we did.  She is just...an amazing child of God.

I am thankful.

It's Orphan Sunday

Today is Orphan Sunday.  I thought about writing a super long post about what adoption means to me and all the ways you can get involved.  Instead, I've deferred to David Platt and his book "Radical" which incidentally was a catalyst in us beginning this journey ourselves...he says...

"...orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names.
They are easier to ignore before you see their faces.
It is easier to pretend they're not real
before you hold them in your arms.
But once you do, everything changes."
How true.
Anyone who has gone on a mission journey and worked with orphans will tell you.
And I can tell you.
From personal experience...
This face changed everything for us.
And continues to change us every day.
What is God telling YOU to do?


30 Days of Thanks-Day 3

Today I am thankful for...

Our financial blessings.  We are by no means rich in terms of how much money we have.  But I was just telling Steve the other night how overwhelming it is to think of how God has cared for us financially.

Steve has been out of a job for 3 years.  We went from living on two very good incomes to living on one income.  Probably a 40% cut in funds.  Miraculously, we have minimal debt and have paid for a mission journey to South Africa and completed an international adoption on one income.  Not only that, but we have not missed one mortgage payment or any other payment for that matter.

When we needed the money, it has been provided.

I am thankful.


30 Days of Thanks-Day 2

Today I am thankful for...

My husband, Steve.
Steve is 15 years older than me and in many ways raised me as a wife since I was so young when we married (21 years old).  He is so patient with me and I can say there has NEVER been what I'd call a "knock down drag out" fight between us.  There have been very few nights where we go to bed angry.  And our marriage is quite nearly a 10 out of 10, though it definitely hasn't come easy and it's not anything I can take credit for.

I would venture a guess that a lot of people (family and friends included) wondered if we'd make it.  Well, nearly 17 years later and we are still going strong.

I am thankful.

Family Photos!!!

A few weeks ago, we met my good friend Samantha at Samantha Byers Photography, for some long overdue family photos.

The best thing about these photos is that they had my BIGS in them!!!  I love my big kids like nuts.  They were 10 and 6 (almost 7) when I met Steve and so I've been privileged to be part of their lives for a very long time.  5ish years ago, Micah gave birth to a son, Gage, and made me a "Mimi" at 33.

Now that they are grown, we don't see Micah and Chase as much and I miss them.  This is the first time Micah had even met Kylie and as I suspected, she took right to her.  So without further ado...the photos that will soon be hanging in my foyer...

 My handsome big boy, Chase.  He's gonna be a catch for the right girl.  He's motivated and a super hard worker.  And yeah, likely already makes 3x the salary I do.  I hope he remembers me when it's time to pick out my nursing home.  :)
Kylie is at the age where it's a big difficult to photography her because her attention span is about 2.534 seconds.  She really liked this chair though and was showing us how to say her prayers...and then saying "cheeeessseeee" at the same time.
Micah and Gage.  I know, right?  She can't deny him for sure.  And she is so pretty...always has been. I love this girl.  She is the best mom EVER.  She never ceases to amaze me.  And lemme tell you, both my bigs love Jenna to bits and pieces.  And Jenna is crazy about them both too.  To her, and now to Kylie, they are Sissy and Chasey.
Gage and Jenna.  I think he might like her a little.  This girl is the BEST with children.  She's gonna make a heck of a Mama some day.
She looks 15 here.  I don't wanna talk about it.  At first I was really frustrated with her hair and how it looked unkempt and not all smooth like how it looks best.  But you know, I decided I wanted to remember her just as she was at this age (which is ELEVEN, not 15!) and so I just let her be her.  I think she does a pretty good job of it.
There just aren't words to say how much I adore this photo.  LOVE LOVE LOVE.  I have been blessed with some dang good lookin kids...only one of which I can take biological credit for!
So if you are local and you want to capture your family like I did, click away on Samantha's link above and tell her I sent you.  Also, remember these?

Yep, that was Samantha too.  She has a special for adoptive families, so if you are local and adopting, click on because these homecoming photos are more valuable than almost anything I have for Kylie.


Happy Halloween Part II

Somehow we managed to stretch our Halloween celebrations for several days.  And this is a good thing because Halloween is one of Steve's favorite holidays.

Last Sunday night, our church Life group had our annual Halloween party.  I didn't have time to put an outfit together.  Well, I had the TIME, I just didn't have the creative thought to figure out what to do, so I donned my authentic Chinese dress and went as a China girl/Geisha/whatever.  Steve literally threw his outfit together a few hours before the party and got tons of compliments.  He was a zombie (shout out to TWD fans!) and apparently does a pretty good job on makeup. 
The girls got to wear their costumes and I almost died over the extreme cuteness.
I'm not sure Kylie knew what to make of Jenna at first...but she got used to her pretty quickly.  We also had her watch Steve putting his makeup on in the bathroom so she would know it was him.

And then this is our Life group.  We are a huge bunch of goofballs...kids at heart.  And yes, that's our Children's minister and his family dressed up as the good folk from Duck Dynasty. 
We roasted hot dogs and made s'mores.  Yum yum.  It was a great way to start our fall!!!