Sunday, June 11, 2017

The house hunt

Life on this side of the world is always a new adventure and part of the "fun" in finding out how things work. Getting a lease on a house here is different than the other places we have lived so it took some time to get everything set so we were able to look at houses and rent one. One of the things I LOVE about my husband is that it is a GO-getter! If he can get it done, he will. This also means that he makes decisions at lightning speed, so most of the time I just try to keep up. With the choice of the house, I knew I needed to think through what I felt our family needed and be able to express it to Ryan so that we did not regret our house selection. We started by looking on an app that has houses for rent. So convenient to look online and put up filters for the neighborhoods and amenities you want. I found a long list of possibilities and one Friday (which is like Sunday here) we started calling, not thinking that anyone would really answer or show us houses. The first few did not answer, but then one guy answered. He said it would meet us at the house in half an hour. We have planned on having a friend watch the kids while we house hunted, but with such short notice we just decided to take them with us. The first house was amazing and just what I had pictured from the pictures on the app. The pool out the window sold the kids on it, but Ryan had a few reservations. The real estate guy said, "I will show you one more" and we said sure and packed up the kids in the car. After the next house, he said again, "I will show you one more." We kept going to houses and stopped believing him that he would show us "one more." Ryan found one that he loved, but I had reservations about it. I just felt like when it was the right one we would both know. At the 7th house of the day, we found it. By this time we were not even getting the kids out the car, but leaving them in the AC and taking turns going in and checking out the house. At this house, we fell for the open space in the living room and big kitchen, but most of all, the GRASS in the backyard. Its a shared yard with a pool behind a fence and a mini gym we can use. The boys will love having friends that share the yard with us. They make friends fast. It is also in a great neighborhood where several people from our new church live near and we have found great grocery stores and South Asian stores near by as well. There is a big park nearby with a great playground and walking track. Planes also pass right overhead while playing at the park and all three of my boys get excited to see big planes so close. We already tried out the pool one evening and we are so excited to get the power turned on so we can move in! We also had a couple that was moving countries so we bought their stuff... so instead of having to shop for everything and then put it together... (we love IKEA, but it takes effort) we have a group of movers that sets it up for us! We actually get the stuff Tuesday afternoon, and then leave on Thursday for Thailand, so I am so grateful that we get IN to the house before we go. Originally we had no idea how long the process of the visa and then house hunting would be and we were afraid that we would leave for Thailand and have to wait til we came back to finalize a place. We will  post pictures of the house when we get moved in!

Josiah with the pile of suitcases.
Outside view of our villa and pool.
The walking track with a plane passing.
The parks play area. 

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

One year Post Surgery

Exactly one year ago, we kissed our sweet baby girl and told her see her soon and watched the doctors push her into the operating room. It was hard, but it made me so grateful to know that the one who guided the surgeons hands had held my baby girl's heart since before she was born. We sat in the waiting room not sure about what to do with ourselves. My amazing coworkers from India had written me cards that were to be read on Abby Grace's surgery day. I knew the surgery should take 5-8 hours so I planned out how many cards I could open per hour so I scheduled them for encouragement throughout the day. We had several people stop by to pray with us and help us not worry. It really was a day that I can look back and see how truly God is in control and in our moments of greatest need, He gives us more. As I opened the note from my sweet friend, the first tears of that day streamed down my face, I was amazed at how her words, written over a month before, thousands of miles away could touch my heart in such a deep way. It was a reminder that we are not in this life alone, but as believers, we are family. We support each other in joys and in trials. I love that sometimes, ignorance is bliss... A surgical nurse would come give an update every few hours and when they came back and said, "She is off bypass and doing great. She will coming to ICU soon" we figured that the worst was over and we thanked the Lord for his work in her heart. We waited and waited. We had no idea how long of a time frame it would be from closing up to wheeling her in to where we could see her. Finally, the nurse came back again and said that after the surgeon took her off bypass, he thought he should put a bigger patch on the VSD and so he put her back on bypass and put a bigger patch on it. When the surgeon was finally done, he came to see us and tell us how it went. He said it was the biggest hole he had ever patched. He said something had just made him want to go back in and add a bigger patch even though it was not easy. I told him that we had so many people that had been praying that he would be guided and would know just what to do and that God had used his hands to go back in and patch up that hole and Abby Grace's life would forever be better because of his wisdom and use of skill.
Our God is so great, and so amazing to give us such good gifts, and even on what could have been one of the worst days, we found hope and joy and did not need to dwell in fear or sadness. Then I thought about how life was going to change for this little girl. I am so humbled to be THIS special girl's momma. All of a sudden the closets were full of dresses, pink bows, baby dolls, as well as medical supplies. The first weeks of carrying her around with an oxygen tank were hard but it became normal. I joked that since I already had carried around twins for years, it was no big deal to have a baby on one arm and a oxygen tank hanging on the other. And she got better so quickly. Before, when we were in the hospital, all the dr.'s and medical students would come listen to her heart to hear such a unique heart beat. It was called the "absence of silence" because so much blood was going the wrong way, whooshing through the large hole in her heart into the lungs with every heartbeat. Now she has a normal heartbeat. Its just amazing. Pretty much anything that has happened with this girl is nothing short of a miracle. When I see her running, jumping, swimming, laughing, and even screaming, I think about where she was before, unable to walk or cry for very long because it took so much out of her to get upset. Our first weeks in China, she would point to her bed and imply she wanted a nap or to go to bed because living life was extra exhausting for her. Now she is like a energizer bunny that keeps going and going and would be fine skipping naps and gets sad when its bedtime.
I am so grateful for the lessons learned in this last year, and for the life altering choice to bring Abby Grace in our family. I would not have it any other way! One look at her little smile and I melt, even more in love with her and the one who saw fit to create her, and who has made her heart whole again. God deserves all the praise for His work in her life, and also in mine. He has made me realize my own dependence on Him and my smallness in light of all He is. He is sovereign over us, giving us strength within our sorrow and brings beauty from our tears. I am so thankful for the lessons learned in the valley, and I would not wish them away for a million mountain top experiences.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

one week in the desert!

Its been one week since we arrive at the beautiful urban desert. We have been blessed to have a nice two bedroom furnished apartment to sort of settle into as we wait for a permanent visa. The kids were amazing flyers and we had no issues coming over. We arrived at 11:30 at night and took a taxi to our place and slept until morning. Black out curtains are amazing and have helped the kids sleep until 8 most mornings. To help avoid jet lag, I keep the kids busy, lots of sunshine and playing, and no nap for the most part. It has really worked and our nights are full of sleep, but now I am afraid Abby Grace thinks this no nap in the day thing is great... one step at a time.

We have a small kitchen in our place so I have been learning where to get the things I need to cook. Thankfully, there are several grocery stores within walking distance and even one so close I can run down get the one thing I need and back up in 5 minutes. Fruits and vegetables are pretty cheap here so we have lots of fresh items for snacks and I love giving them real fruit instead of fruit snacks! We have a stove but not an oven, which is not a big deal, until I start cooking and realize my recipe calls for 350 for 30 minutes... but its amazing what you can improvise on the stove top! We have taken the metro, gone to the highest tower in the world, and explored several malls. There is so much more of this city to discover. Ryan figured out how to rent a car, (taxi's were so expensive, and we will learn the city quicker driving ourselves) so we have a cute little sedan. Traffic here is so different than what I am used to (its a far cry from small town Arkansas and lots more rules than the Indian roads) but we are learning our way around. I even drove us to IKEA which is only about 15 minutes, but I felt so accomplished.

One thing that really excited me was seeing people from all over the world living here. The neighborhood we are staying in has mostly South Asians, and as I pass people, I understand the conversations (and they have no idea I know Hindi) and the grocery stores sell the familiar brands from India. There are also people from Africa, other parts of Asia and lots from Europe and Australia as well. We have visited a church that has people from all over the world. I realized as I was talking with a sweet family from China that as we live and work here, my children that have come from different parts of the globe will have the unique opportunity to have mirrors of people that look like them. I love them deeply and can teach them about living right, following the Lord, all the things they need academically... but I have never been an African man, or a Chinese woman... And here are people worshiping the lord alongside us that could be a mirror for our kids. This is a huge gift and I thank the Lord for giving us this opportunity to live here in this season and to pour into the lives of the people we come in contact with. There were three African men who high fived the children, and their class seemed to have light skinned kids as the minority. The Chinese family we met home schools and has a son my boys age and she really wants to meet up and talk through how to help the kids learn well even with short attention spans. I told her I am in the same boat, but we can learn to paddle together and find ways to learn through play and let the kindergarten year be a year we teach them to love to learn.

We hope to find a more permanent place hopefully by July, but for now, we will enjoy this cute little space. We head to India in a few weeks to get out stuff from there and see our friends again! So excited to see them!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

It's just a year-

The last year has been a bit odd. Last year at this time we were planning the boys birthday party, buying flights to China, gathering up girl clothes and toys, and preparing our house to leave for a few months. We really had no idea what the next months held for us. We figured we would come to America, get her surgery done and go back to India in 2 months or so. That was not exactly what the Lord had for us. We knew when there was a swallow issue, that it was not going to be as quick as a surgery recovery. We ended up in Benton (45 min from my parents house, where we were staying) because that's where they did the therapy she needed. The same week her therapy started a house opened up 5 min from therapy, so we moved there. I wanted to go back to Arkadelphia to my parents church every weekend. It was the church I grew up in and I wanted stability. We did it for a while, but one weekend we decided to try a church here. That's when things started to look up.

We knew we were here just for a short time, so why did we get involved in a church? Why did we make friends and allow the relationships to get deep? I know how hard goodbyes are, and the more intimate you befriend people, the more you do life with them, the harder it is for you to go- and for your friends who are staying. But we did. We dove in headfirst. We sang in the choir, we went to church every time the door was open, we visited home bound, we ate in homes, drank coffee together, we had play dates with our kids. We soul searched and laughed together. We held each other accountable and talked about fears and struggles. We loved deeply. And now its going to be hard to leave. So why did we make it harder on ourselves? Because we love community. We know the importance of being not just a follower of Christ, but a disciple maker and that takes time and energy and investment. It involves laughing and crying together, being there in joys and fears, and loving people in the midst of their muck. (which also means YOU are loved just for who you are, warts and all) I love community in that whenever someone comes to a community they not only bring something new, but they change the atmosphere of the original community. And the person that choose to open up and invest not only changes the community they were involved in, but they never leave the same. We touch each other in so many ways, and if we had chosen to stay just in the relationships of people that we knew and kept new people at arms length- knowing the pain of goodbyes all to keenly- what joys we would have missed out on. I said the other day that my new friends ruined me. I realized that even my sense of style and color theme I am designing for our new house in our new city in my head has changed to use colors I did not like before! That is what can happen on the inside spiritually too. We can see the spirit moving in new ways as we see people using their different gifts for Him and it challenges us to want to use our talents and gifts for Him too. I can't even imagine how I would have gotten through the past months without my friends and community here. They validated my feelings of discontent and frustrations of not knowing where we would live next or how long we would be here... but they did not let me stay in the place of discouragement or frustration. They gave me hope that God had not forgotten us and that in His time we would see His plan and until then, we walk by faith with what we know to do.

I challenge you to seek out the people who are going to be around even for a season and love on them. It made all the difference in our lives as we have been in transition. Open up and let them feel invited even though you know it will be harder when they leave if you do. If you are a transitional person, let yourself be vulnerable and go ahead and make friends and do more than just get by until life is "normal" again. The quality of your time in a waiting season or transition can be determined by your relationships- with God and with His people, and those who He wants to be His people. So get our there and put your investment in the things with eternal value!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

prayers for a birth mother

This is the week of Abby Grace's 2nd birthday! I am so proud of how she is catching on to so many things, and how her language, all kinds of motor skills and eating has been improving, and it's exciting to celebrate her. But as I plan how to decorate a Hello Kitty cake and cute birthday banners, I can't help but think about her birth mom in China. We know nothing about her, except that she loved her enough to put her in a place where she would be cared for and could find a forever family. The only thing that was left on her other than clothes was a note that had her birthday written on it. Unlike our boys whose birthdays are a guess, we know for certain that her birthday is August 16. Which also leads me to believe that her birth mom will remember this date. I cannot even fathom the emotions that might be associated with this date for her. The loss and sacrifice that she experienced is nothing I have a frame of reference for... But I have a love that is deep for the baby that she carried for those months. She did something so brave and loving by birthing her and caring for her for a few months before she had to make what I believe would be the hardest choice- to bring her to an orphanage. She may not even know if her precious baby survived since she obviously had some physical issues (like a need for heart surgery) and she may have just not been able to provide the care that she needed or had to money for medical procedures. I wish I could let her know that Abby Grace is doing amazing, and her smiles can bring joy to anyone who cares to look at her. I wish she could know that she made it to 2 years old... and because of the surgery, and the way that God is healing her from the inside out, she can live a long life. I wish she knew about how she has a lovely set of brothers who adore her and a daddy who thinks she hung the moon, and a momma who would do anything to protect her. I wish she could know how her choice of life for Abby Grace changed our lives in SO many ways. Having a daughter is amazing and as much as I love my boys, this girl has my heart in a different way. Going through all the struggles of surgery and hospitals has been stretching and challenging, but we see God's hand in all of it. And I get to be the one who celebrates her birthdays, development milestones and enjoy her smiles everyday. Her laugh is crazy cute and she snuggles up on my shoulder when she hugs me. She loves to give kisses and plays ring around the rosy like a pro (thanks to her brothers!) This girl with the sparkly black eyes, hands that long to hold yours, who loves purses, shoes and hairbows, and a smile that lights up a room- she calls me Momma.  I look into the precious eyes of all my three littles and I seriously cannot believe that I get to be their Mom- that they run to me with joy when I pick them up from church, and who snuggle with me first thing every morning. They cry for me when they are sad, sick or scared and sometimes, a Momma hug is all that they need. I seriously LOVE adoption and the beautiful picture of God's grace that it can show to the world. Adoption is about a family that is grafted together that might never had existed, but God uses to strengthen all those in the family. As much as it is about togetherness and love, it is about loss and heartache. Tears come to my eyes as I held Abby Grace before bed and prayed out loud for her birth mother who might be about to get up on the day that she most likely will remember as one of the hardest of her life. I pray that she would not only find peace that she did what she could for Abby Grace and that she is well cared for now, but that even more important she would know about the God who created her and who loves her enough to give His son on her behalf.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Abby Grace~

There is so much to tell from the picking up of Abby Grace (in March) to the now (July...). I am just going to try to write a bit to catch up with the present!

We got our boys sent to America via my mom, and Ryan and I got house clean, not knowing when we would come back to it, and headed on a plane to China! There is really no other feeling like the anticipation and joy and a little bit of freaking out when you get off that plane in the homeland of your future child. China is full of people and cars and noise, but Ryan and I felt like it was quiet compared to India! We were in a city in central China, Hefei, and we stayed at a nice Holiday Inn. We found the nearest Walmart and walked up the streets, enjoying the amazing surroundings. We bought a stroller and some strange looking snacks to get the full Chinese cultral experience, and then we ate dinner at a Cafe on the side of the road. They had a picture menu and I had an app with translation, but even with that, I have no idea what we ordered! It was tasty and we could see that our limited Chinese would not get us very far! We found ourselves looking around at all the people and wondering if our baby girl would grow up to look like the beautiful people we saw.

The next day we got up early and had a breakfast with butterflies in our stomachs knowing as we ate, our girl was being brought to the meeting place from her orphanage. We got to the meeting place first and filled out a few more papers and checked the info and name spellings on documents. Finally, SHE ARRIVED! She was dressed in layers and layers of clothes... and a pink coat with bunny ears on the hoodie. She was holding tightly to the nanny that brought her and a few other ladies had come and were encouraging her to let go and come to me. I did not want to force her. I cannot even imagine what could be going through your mind at 20 months to have everything you had known before change and you cannot even communicate! One of the ladies gave me a strawberry cookie and said she would like me if I gave it to her. She did. Came right to me! She was so light and it seemed like she could blow away if the wind blew right. She cried on and off but we tried to make her feel comfortable with us. We walked the halls while they did more paper work and some official signings. I absolutely fell SO in love from that first glance at her. Even as she was pushing me away and crying, I was just completely overwhelmed to be this girl's mom!! Once we made it back to the hotel, things got better for her as she started to warm up to us. We took off her four layers of clothes, and really were shocked to see how tiny she was. And the way that her breathing was labored and seemed to take a lot of energy. I just tried to not worry and just figured it was all part of her heart issue and would be fixed with surgery. I was encouraged by a friend who said, "she does not know any different." Its true. Everyday before her surgery was full of retractions and labored breaths. She loved to take a bath and started smiling with us. She could not walk on her own, but would take a few steps if you held her hands. She would not cry for more than a minute at a time (maybe because of the labored breathing) and she would point to her bed and put herself to sleep when she was tired. We explored around the city and even took a day trip to see the orphanage she was from. That day turned out better than I could have planned. She had started to bond with us and I was scared that she would be confused and want to go back to the nannies and her life there again, but she seemed to cling to me even more and did not have a desire to go into the places that had been all she had known before. She did give her favorite nanny a few hugs and smiles and the nanny seemed so sad to say goodby, but i think she was thankful that Abby Grace was now in a loving family who could get her the medical care she needed.

Then we headed to Guangzhou to get her US visa processed. We also met up with lots of other adoptive families and it was so amazing to hear their stories and see their newly joined family members and how they were like Abby Grace and attaching to new parents. We went shopping and sightseeing and would take our new little ones out to eat. It was so amazing! We felt like our lives were in slow motion compared to the action packed life with the tornado twins and overseas living. Several things made us a bit worried about Abby Grace's health but nothing seemed too out of the ordinary and we did not feel we needed to find a Dr in China. Until the middle of night, right before we caught a plane to America the next morning; she could hardly breathe. I have never seen a kid work so hard to do something so simple as take a breath and it was overwhelming. Here it is the middle of the night in China, where we don't speak the language or know much of how to get around and I am gripped with fear to where I cannot hardly breathe either. I have never felt fear like that. I may have lived overseas too long, but I am pretty sure it was spiritual warfare! I fell on my knees and for the first time I cried. I cried full of fears with her health being out of my control. I cried for the many months that she had lived with a huge hole in her heart without people around her who could give her life saving surgery. I cried grieving the many other nights I had not been able to care for her. I cried for the struggle I could see ahead on this girls road to a normal life. Most of all I cried out to God to save my baby girls life. I know our kids are not ours, they are God's- but adoption and then a kid with2 special health needs just make it even more obvious that our kids are NOT ours. They are a loan from God and he gives and he could take away, and in all things deserves the praise. As I stayed with my face in carpet still sobbing and praying, I listened for her every breath, and I kept adding more oils which seemed to help her breathing some. When it was finally time to get up (even though I had not slept ANY. Not exactly how you want to start a 30 hour flight with a one year old who met you only two weeks prior) Ryan gets an email that they have postponed one of our flights and it messed up our whole itinerary. We grab some breakfast and load up hoping to get our flight fixed so we can get home and get the baby to the Dr. It took some work, but we made it on another flight that left us in Houston for the overnight, but since Ryan's mom lives there she could pick us up and let us sleep at her house and then take us back in the morning for the puddle jump up to Little Rock. The whole long plane route from China to DC, Abby Grace was struggling to breathe. We could keep her happy with snacks, but pretty much the whole ride is a blur to me. The fear grabbed my heart again and I seriously was not sure if she was going to make it to the US alive. Sounds so extreme now, but it was so real then. I know now that she needed Oxygen and there should have been some on the plane and a Dr. would have been available to look at her if I had just asked. But we made it. We were united with our boys who we missed tremendously and we were so excited to have them meet their Mei Mei (little sister in Chinese) She started calling them Ga Ga, which I thought was baby talk until my Chinese friend said it was Big Brother in Chinese. I was shocked that she not only knew how to say it, but associated it with the fast moving brown boys who were kissing all over her.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Whats in a name?

I love a good name story, and I always knew I wanted my kids to be given names that not only sound cool, but have a deeper meaning. And that it would be something that could point others to Christ. When we got our little girls pic, Ryan was totally the one who was head over heels immediately. We had thought through several names, with meanings about Grace, Joy, and Holy. I felt like when we saw her, we would know what to call her. After we sent in the email that we were ready to be her family, I got excited to name her, but none of the names screamed "THATS IT" so we thought through several more options. We finally settled on Abigail Grace Rainbolt. We will call her Abby Grace. I love the thought of calling her both names, but seriously the sweetest thing about it is when her brothers talk about her. They love her so much! They saw a cute baby at the park yesterday and Josiah told me, "That is a cute girl, and maybe her name is Abby Grace too. Abby Grace means she is really cute." HAHA! I love three year olds. Abigail actually means, "My Father's Joy" and for many years, Ryan and I have dreamed about raising a girl some day and when he talks about her he gets this far off look of peace and joy in his eyes and I know she already has him wrapped around her tiny finger. That baby girl is going to be so loved by him and all of us and she will bring joy to those she meets. Already they remarked that she smiles alot and seems to be happy in all her pictures. Not only is the apple of her Daddy's eye, but she is so deeply lover by her Father in heaven who has not for a moment left her alone. I find that I miss her, and imagine what she is doing. I unintentionally have been waking up early, and its about the time that she would be waking up in her place in China. I pray that she finds love today as she starts a new day, and that somehow she will be at little prepared for the change that is coming. I see another 1-2 year old girl and I wonder if she is that same size or see clothes and picture them on her. I hear a song about how God heals our hearts and I pray for her. I cleaned out a spot in the boys closet for her clothes.

We found out that the orphanage will not be able to do her surgery, but they said they will expedite her file so instead of June, we may go to china in April! Exciting and scary! We really are going into uncharted waters. We don't know what kind of heart surgery will be needed exactly... but with the fact that she seems to be doing better than many kids with open holes in their heart, we are very hopeful. She is still small, and even though this kind would usually have been fixed at 6 months, and she is 17 months, its not uncommon to see the kids jump drastically in size and catch up in development quickly after this kind of surgery. I have been researching and learning all I can, but its so hard to find answers to our questions since most of them cannot be answered by a doctor until they actually see the girl themselves. So we wait. Try to do it patiently. Seriously knowing that it will be sooner than expected is amazing. But we know that our baby girl is held safely in the hands of the one who created her. He has taken care of her since before her heart had its first beat. She is meant to be a Rainbolt, but more than that, she is meant to be known as a child of the King.

Abby Grace means she is really cute!