Monday, December 31, 2012

The End Is Just Another Beginning.

And so it goes... something is coming to an end. Funny... as I thought about this blog post the end of 2012 didn't even enter my mind and yet, as I write about the end of Operation Elli it happens to be the last day of 2012... a year that will live, at least in my mind, in infamy.

The phrase Operation Elli was
first coined by my dear
friend Jessica Blanco. 
I have learned a lot in 2012, more than I ever expected but since I lean on my Lord for guidance and wisdom and direction, I'm not surprised that when I just let go and allow Him to run things He has let me in on far more than I could have ever imagined. That's just how He works. I'm so thankful that He is so much bigger than me or anyone or anything else around me. It's impossible to fully trust in someone or something that's just as big as you are.

Which brings me to the end of "Op Elli" as it's affectionately called around here. It's the end because we leave in almost exactly 72 hours from this writing for the airport here in Jackson, MS. We will then fly to Atlanta to wait for 4 hours to board a flight to Seoul, Korea. Fourteen and a half hours later we will deplane only to wait another 4 hours to board a plane to Guangzhou, China which is I think about a 6 hour flight. Once there, we will wait another 5 hours to fly the less than one hour trip to Haikou, China, the home of Elli's orphanage. All in all, I think the Gman estimated 22 hours flying and 13 hours or so waiting. Every bit of it totally and completely worth it because Elli is worth everything.

My reason for writing is to thank you  - all of you - who did any thing to help bring Elli home. It was an operation that lasted for a year and that included hundreds of people and the result will be an itty bitty 5 yr old girl who knows no one, doesn't have a clue what love is (they do not tell each other they love each other there), and who really is mostly excited about her dog that she is coming to America to see. But to all of us, it doesn't matter because we know what she will discover once here... a forever immediate family and a forever church family. I also believe she will discover a loving and sacrificial heavenly Father who sent His son to not just raise $35,000.00 and take an incredibly long plane flight to rescue her from a hopeless situation but a son who gave up a royal life for a time to come to earth and give his life sacrificially, enduring agony and pain... all for her. THAT is why her middle name is Hope... more than anything, we want her to know the hope that she has in Jesus Christ.

write your name and a verse address
for Elli's adoption box.
So many of you committed to wearing the red "Elli" bracelets we had made up months ago. You have been praying for her consistently and she has stayed on your mind for months. Now, as we begin the process of boarding a plane to bring her home, I have one last request for your bracelet. If you would, after January 7th, 2013 (our Gotcha Day), take off your bracelets, write your name inside and a verse or message to her for her "box". I've made a box for her, a box full of letters and notes, and all kinds of goodies that have been given to us this year as we waited for her. I want her to know exactly what her presence in our lives means and that it's not just us but US... our family in Christ... that have loved her so dearly. If you want to write more, a letter or card just for her for when she's old enough to read it and understand it, then by all means, please do. She spent more than 5 years not understanding or hearing the words "I LOVE YOU" that is not all made up in one or two days, weeks, or even years. How much love will she see when she opens that box and realizes all the days of prayers and sacrifice and love that went into the year we all waited for her?

My posts will have to be small. I'm having a hard time keeping my composure lately. I have waited a long time to hold her in my arms, to promise my love and devotion forever, to see Kate become a big sister... and I have a hard time looking at all of this without seeing God's great "giving" to me (as He did to Job) after his "taking" from me in 1996. The parallels are just too great not to see His hand in it all and I do have such a difficult time not falling apart when I see Him work his redemptive power not just in the lives of people but in the situations that occur in every day life. This past year was such a year of redemption in so many ways. 2011 was very disappointing and sad for me. He is gracious - always - to do a work that we just cannot comprehend if we are willing to wait on Him for it all.

Please keep up with us here - hopefully our VPN will work in China and typing on an Ipad won't be more than I can manage. It may cut down on my long posts which will probably make most of you happy since it's the pictures that we all care about anyway! :)

We will return on the 17th and will most likely be sequestered for several weeks as we seek to build the security and trust with Elli that she needs. We hope to see you all in February.

I came across these pictures which reminded me of all the new things I learned about and new experiences I had in 2012. I have to say, 2012 was an amazing wonderful year personally in the lives of our family. I'm thankful that our lives personally don't have to reflect what we see around us. God is on His Throne regardless of who is in power in any country, state, or city of the world. I am thankful that History is really His Story and we know the end of the story already. May your 2013 be one of seeing HIS handiwork in your lives. Keep your eyes open lest you miss something big. It's the end of 2012 but the beginning of something new, 2013. What's He got in store for you?

This was the day we got our notice that
we were accepted by China to be Elli's
forever family. We officially went from
being a family of 6 to a family of 7. 
After 29 years of marriage we finally had our
marriage license.
We had no idea we never had one. 

Our fundraiser at Sweet
Tree Yogurt for H of C was
 such a success it even shocked
the owner.

One of my favorite ministries
is the youth ministry at our
church. Solid Ground is made
up of a bunch of awesome kids.
They wanted to help bring Elli
home so they designed and sold
these t-shirts and made enough
money to pay for our China Visas.

Our church chose to begin
a new ministry in 2012. Hearts
of Compassion was born from
a desire to help bring children
home to their forever families
regardless of where they come from.

One thing every adoptive family
needs to do is raise money. Very
few families have the money to
pay outright for their adoption.
I decided to make a little business
Many of you were gracious enough to
help bring Elli home through
Kate 'n Elli's
Thank you.

Haikou City, Hainan Province
is where Elli is from. We had never
heard of this city until Elli was
referred to us.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

A REAL reality show...

It's all too real to me now.

This is the ribbon we, as a group
chose to identify ourselves
The site where every and all my good
info comes from. Lots of BTDT moms
some going back for the 4th and 5th times.
I've begun to tie the requisite ribbon onto our suitcase handles. This ribbon is what our DTC (dossier to China) group decided we'd use to identify ourselves to each other once we landed in Guangzhou (GZ) so that if any of us were blessed enough to end up there at the same time we'd recognize each other and be able to give real hugs instead of virtual ones. I joined the DTC Spring-Summer group back in May feeling like I'd never be at this point but knowing it would happen in a blink of an eye.

A little "happy" for Asa, a 2 1//2 yr old
son of a new friend who will come home from
Elli's orphanage in February.
Add to her clothes, gift bags for all the gifts
that we give to all the people that have
in any way aided in our adoption process
I had, weeks ago, with Kate, laid out the clothing I was going to take for Elli. Then I changed my mind, and changed is again. I have decided that it's time to just pack it up and be happy with what I've chosen. There are only so many hours in a day to obsess over clothing and especially over clothing of a 5 year old who probably wore many of the same outfits over and over again and none of which were ever hers to possess to begin with. She will be delighted with any of it and all of it. There are only a few toys in the suitcase because they have Walmart and other stores there where we will take her to pick out a few things on her own. After all, she may never have had a chance to pick out anything for herself... EVER!
Of course she has a "Bama" shirt... the National Championships
will be played while we are over there... at 8:30 in the morning! :)

Rx and OTC... now to break them all down
into suitcase ready samples.
I have to gather together a list of medicines we need to take as well. The most important being Ambien and Melatonin. We would appreciate as much sleep as is pharmacologically possible. There are other important meds to take and thankfully we have a wonderful doctor committed to making sure we have everything we need.

There's also the trip to the bank to get the money we need in brand new crisp bills. Yes, they need to be new and crisp without writing or creases...  this is a big deal. We want to make sure they take our money.

One of many that will be taken to
alleviate the pain and boredom
of hours and hours and hours on a
plane or in an airport.
Then there is the corralling of the electronic devices. They are being summoned from near and far. When the speculation becomes fact - that we will fly out of Jackson, MS at 5pm on the 3rd and arrive in Haikou City (Elli's province city) at 5pm on the 5th even a cheapskate like the Gman will begin to consider what other electronic devices might need to be purchased to ease the hours of sitting on and off airplanes. Our flight from Atlanta, GA to Seoul, Korea alone will be 14.5 hours. I figured we'd spend between 12 and 15 hours just in layovers... hmmmm maybe adding a bit more to our debt load doesn't sound so bad. Or, better yet, promising that whatever else we get can be birthday, valentines, mother's day, anniversary... for the next 2 years...

The little blue present is Elli's
from Aunt Sandy. Can't wait
til she opens it.
We have to have this little guy
taken care of for two weeks.
Of course there are a lot of other aspects to planning for this trip. Like taking down all the Christmas decor. Sure, with us leaving on the third of January we could get away with leaving it all up but I really don't want to return, exhausted, on the 17th and face the reality of having to put it all away. So, my usual December 26th and 27th pack up will commence shortly. Something I'm not looking forward to. My mom is usually here to help me pack up. She and my stepdad Don usually fly in on Christmas day and fly out on New Year's day or the day after. This year, they chose to stay in Ohio with my brother. His wife is dying of ovarian cancer, she's only 43. She's on Hospice care right now and in a lot of pain. She's virtually bed-ridden and I know her well enough to know that besides the great amount of pain she is in, she is absolutely HATING being stuck in the bed. I love them and I hate that I am so many miles away. I cannot stop in whenever to say hi, to help out, to read to her to talk to her, to take my nephew and niece someplace fun just to get away. I cannot do anything for them, but pray. Praying is big. We have been praying for years. It's been hard for the kids to see God choose not to answer their prayers but this world being what it is, sin being sin, and the fall being the fall... we all have to realize that things are not always going to work out the way we would like. Trusting Him is still what we need to do, no matter what things may look like to us - His lens is a whole lot bigger than ours.

So, I will push on toward a goal that I am completely unfamiliar with; except for one thing, there is a little girl who needs a mama to love her unconditionally and forever and THAT is something I am very familiar with. Please pray for us as we venture forth into unknown wilderness excited to see what God has for us but hesitant in a way because of the unknowns. Trust and Obey, there is no other way... so, so true...

Amazing Love, Amazing Grace... He's all we need and He will give us all that we need to be the mama and papa  and sister and brothers that Elli Hope needs. Here we come sweetheart... it won't be long now.

Here are some fun things that Elli will see when she gets home:

Kate made Elli her own
mosaic "E" hanging above
her lightswitch.

I thought she was too cute
to pass up.

He knew the plans he had for her and for us
long before we had any idea. 

"Hope" in Chinese.
This is something she
never had.

Drew took this picture when Kate was
3, she is in the bottom corner, It's hanging
just above her bed.

I have a feeling she will
put her jewelry hanger to
I made this for her bows.
It appears she will have
quite a lot to choose from
There cannot be too much of this
in our home. I hope to hear a lot
of it.

Kate is graciously sharing EVERYTHING.
Her favorites are Sock Monkeys. 
A gift from a dear friend.
This sweet picture was taken
by a friend from college
when I was pregnant with Drew
over 20 years ago. I have put it
in every child's room ever since.

Waiting patiently for
a playmate.
She has no idea...


We are hoping for a lot of these for precious Elli Hope.
We'll be home on January 17th for her first
night in her forever home with her forever family.