Friday, December 23, 2011

4.6 million reasons (orphans) to go to Ethiopia

My heart has always been there.

In fact, I just knew we would adopt from Africa. Matthew was in China though- and when I saw his little face, I knew he was mine.

What I also know is this: I personally have not earned my position in this comfortable way I live at all! I could just as easily have been born in Ethiopia (or anywhere), orphaned from birth, parents living or dying with HIV, no access to medicine or education. 

God wants me to represent him here on Earth. So when I go to Ethiopia to love on these orphans and show them that they matter, that they are treasured, that they are wonderfully made... really I am just representing Jesus.  Jesus shows me love, and so I show him love back by spending my money, my time and my emotion on these children and widows whom he loves. I show my love to the Lord by showing love to his people.

Look at THIS place... we will be there!  I've known about Korah for about 2 years and have always dreamed of stepping foot there.

“Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”  – Matthew 25:40

So.... I've got some yummy yummy sourdough rolls ready for pick up or delivery NOW!!  The starter and recipe was from my cousin, Tracy, who invited me to go to Ethiopia in the first place. I have pans of 9 rolls for $8 and the money will go directly to our trip!

The starter, after a good feeding!

Mixing up the ingredients for the rolls

Letting her rise
Ready!!!
Order by e-mail :sarahdennisscott@yahoo.com or text 615-589-3902!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Daddy is home from work! I know how much he loves it when I run and jump on him!

Daddy just loves it when I jump on him.

I like to jump on Daddy too!

This is even better... the bathroom stool. 

Catherine gives Matthew a "talkin to" ... " There is no time to sit. We can't give Daddy a break just yet.

Free fallin'.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Christmas Tree

Measuring poles, saws and prices

Kids loved this one!

So mama wants a picture in front of it....

Daddy starts to saw her down.

Thomas gets to help.

Timber!
http://www.countrycovetrees.com/

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

What adoption ALSO does....

Dear Dr. & Mrs. Scott, 

I feel led to share with you on the insight I had through your adoption of little Matthew. Sigh, I am all ready to release tears again ! I want to start out by saying I thank God for people like you two. I was quickly drawn to look through the window [ your blog]  of your sweet precious & humble family special moments through an awesome & exciting season in life. My heart has been blessed so much that my cup has been overflowing ! I asked my self several times " What is so different about this adoption ? " I was eager to read each & every blog you posted . I must share with you that there has been many things that stood out but the main one was when Joe posted that the residents of China was looking upon little Matthew and appeared to yall that they were saying "He is very handsome..too bad his arm is missing . " That right there angered me & made me very sad !!  Before arriving to the airport I had a hard time containing my emotions . Or should I say through this whole adoption from day one til now lol.Make a long story short, when I left the airport I had to call one of the ladies from church & told her as I cried lol that how God was working through y'all  and my heart was so blessed that my cup was over flowing ! At church on Sunday I updated them  on the adoption and how God has really moved through all of this . I also shared a little bit about them judging  people like little Matthew and that I knew God has made us all to be useful to him in different ways no matter what you looked like ! It sadden me very much the way they & other countries believe ! Like I told the church,there is only one God ! Ok, I am trying to preach lol  I recently had asked God to make me more sensitive for the Lost and wow,has he ??  All I could think was  how many people  were gonna die and go to Hell for worshiping something empty ,instead of GOD & for many other reasons such as hurting precious children ! After church I sat down beside the lady I had called on Saturday night to talk with her more the way I was feeling .She asked me " Are you ok Barbara  ? " Of course I told her no & that I needed her to pray with me."She asked me " Are you still having that high from yesterday ? " I told her yes but it was something more going on & I didn't understand what it was .She told me she thought that God is preparing me for something. Ok, fast forward to the conclusion.. As a child I was not given up for adoption but wished I was due to all of the physically & mentally torture I went through ! I dreamed of people adopting me like you two.Well I will get to the point lol I was told that I was ugly, stupid & would not be a good mother & would never find a man that would have me .Well as you can imagine,I dint know what love was ; even though I knew I didnt have a normal family. I was never told the words " I love you " Well I became saved while I was pregnant with my oldest/ son and thats when I then started to know what LOVE was. I was even ashamed to say I love you to my own son  in front of others ! Well Glory to be given to God he has helped me through so much  baggage over the 21 yrs of serving him.I still feel ugly at times but the Lord will help me the rest of the way ! But will tell you that I am no longer ashamed to say I LOVE YOU to anyone in public ! Well as you [ Sarah ] already know that God has given me 3 amazing kids & a amazing Godly husband & for that I am so greatfull! Anyways, I am just saying that I can relate to what forgotten , abused kids that are made in front of are feeling  ! Thanks for sharing your special moments with all of us .Please pray that God will give me his eyes again to see what he is preparing me for. May God continue blessing your sweet family of five :)

                                                                 Love,
                                                                Barbara

I went straight to my knees after reading this. Thank you Lord for what YOU are doing in the hearts of your children. Thank you for using my little broken self for kingdom purposes.  ~Sarah

Monday, November 21, 2011

A Plea.

We can hardly believe we really have the enormous privilege of caring for this remarkable child. Matthew is amazing and fitting in so beautifully! Oh, he is treasured and loved!!!

All the months of hard work, the piles and loads of documents, the extra financial expenses, the pain of being misjudged, the excruciating waiting times, the unnumbered intense spiritual battles with the accuser of the brethren, the heart-stopping drama that God decided to heap on thickly…

…the cost.

Adoption should be hard. We are glad it is hard. And no matter how hard, how painful, how steep the cost…

It doesn’t come close to the value of the life of one precious human being.

My church friend, Kellye McDowell and her family are finally at the end of the long process to bring home their 5-year-old son from Lithuania. He has PKU- also known as Phenylketonuria. God led them to this little boy by giving them a biological child with the same rare disorder. This is NOT something than an average family would be able to handle lightly. The McDowells are already so well versed and well trained in this disorder that their son, Matthew Paul, will have the best care you can imagine! In Lithuania, there is no chance of him growing up healthy.

Kellye has gone back to work to raise money for this adoption. She is saving every penny and has done countless fundraisers. The expense are just soooo high with Eastern European adoptions. They are already over $24,000 out of pocket.

However, within the next month, they will need to come up with another $6,000.

Could you please pray fervently that God will preserve his life so that she may come into this special family that has abundant love to lavish on him?

That God will show His mighty strength through his little life, sweeping aside every obstacle like the nothings they are to Him?

When you pray according to the known will of God, you can always pray boldly, with full hope and confidence.

Your love compels me, Lord,
To give as You would give,
To speak as You would speak,
To live as You would live.
Your love compels me, Lord,
To see as You would see,
To serve as You would serve,
To be what You would be.
~Doug Holck 


Do we consider ourselves to be Christ’s people?

Have we enjoyed the benefits of the love of Christ?

Do we understand that the love of Christ is a compelling love?

Do we understand what it compels us to do?

Well, what did Christ’s love compel Him to do?

It compelled Him to give His life for ours.

Why did Jesus give up His life for us?
To give us life? Yes!

So, now we have life.

But what is it for?

Did Jesus really die to give us life so that we could tell Him thank you, and then…

…spend it trying to make self feel good in whatever way works for us?  Protecting, preserving, preferring, pleasing, pleasuring self?

Could we not expect Christ’s love in us to compel us to give our life for others?

For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.


 “For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.”


The McDowell Family

Matthew Paul
There is a need so great right now for the fatherless. He is the Father to the fatherless, but He does it THROUGH US, His people! Would you please consider making a sacrifice for the McDowell family?

If you are able, you may donate through PayPal via the link on her blog.
http://mcdowellfamilyjourney.blogspot.com/
  

At Last!

Thursday night we and the Reickards went out to The Paddy Field, an Irish pub a block or so from our hotel, and enjoyed some good food. We then braved the treacherous streets (a couple of us almost got hit by a huge bus careening around a curve) and meandered through the walkways of a huge indoor mall replete with the really snobby kind of stores – the ones where they have about 15 items for sale, each with their own 5 foot shelf – and made it to a Haagen Dazs ice cream store that Chad Reickard (the dad) had discovered a few days ago and had made a mental note to return to on the last night in Guangzhou. We stopped to look at the ice cream flavors and were about to order when a lady from the store gestured for us to be seated in the back of the restaurant. Apparently you don't just order ice cream in China and then sit down – you sit down first, look at a menu (which of course has all the flavors available on a page, complete with pictures of a scoop of ice cream of each flavor), order your ice cream, and the waitress brings it to you. Somehow it reminded me a of a Denny's, though they had a much more limited menu. (Okay, so it was nothing like a Denny's, it just reminded me of one in my homesickness). The ice cream was mighty refreshing, given the subjectively high temperatures that we have been experiencing during our entire visit. On our way back I briefly examined a Bentley taking up valuable space sitting near one of the doors of the snobby indoor mall. We arrived back at our hotel with no further mishaps and, other than a few minutes of complaining by Matthew, we went straight to sleep.

Friday was an extremely long day. We anxiously waited around in the hotel until check-out, around 2 PM. We headed on a hotel van with Elvin, our guide, to Guangzhou East train station, and he headed back to the U.S. Consulate for us and returned with Matthew's visa and the famous brown envelope – which may not be opened (upon pain of much weeping and wailing) until he reaches customs and immigration in the States. After waiting an interminable amount of time in one extremely hot waiting area, we hustled through a checkpoint (where a lady didn't bother to see the second train ticket I showed her for Sarah, then asked Sarah for her ticket) where we lugged our heavy baggage down a corridor and... into another extremely hot waiting room. Here we sat and waited... and sweated... and I tried to buy a bottle of orange GatorAde but found it to be slippery because of my hands being so sweaty and it fell and busted on the floor because of the cheap plastic making up the bottle (I ended up paying double, for the busted one and for an intact bottle, to keep the peace under the glares of many Chinese). Our train ended up being an hour late. We finally climbed on board and hoisted our heavy bags into the luggage racks above us, and sat for 2 hours as the train headed to Hong Kong. Once in Hong Kong we lugged our baggage through the train station and up an elevator into a large eating area at a McDonalds, where we obtained some food for our hungry families. Chad Reickard and I then headed outside the station to determine the best means of transporting all of us to our hotel, the SkyCity Marriott, about 23 miles away. We figured the best way to do it would be to get a couple of taxis, so we both obtained some money (in the form of Hong Kong Dollars) and informed our families. We then struggled once again to get our baggage downstairs and outside, and just as we were about to get in line to get a taxi a man came running up to us – Yu Chun Wah – and offered to take all of us together in his van. The cost was just a little over the price of two taxis but seemed well worth it, given that it allowed all of us to be together, so we took his offer and away we went. It was fun to see Hong Kong at night – as we sped through the city we caught glimpses of streets lit with neon and LED lights from every business and restaurant, the stereotypical image all of us have of Hong Kong. We also viewed the silhouettes of a series of huge cranes along the enormous Hong Kong harbor and enjoyed riding over a gigantic suspension bridge connecting the rest of Hong Kong to the island where the airport is located. We finally arrived at our hotel an hour later than we had planned. We checked in quickly and hurried to our rooms, almost delirious with fatigue and dehydration, the dim atmosphere and green checkered d├ęcor of the hotel hallways making us almost dizzy. I tried to gain access to the internet for one final blog post but, finding I would be charged for its usage, decided against it and instead collapsed with my family for a few hours of rest.

We awoke to our requested wake-up call at 7 AM. We headed downstairs to an expensive (but excellent) breakfast buffet, then gathered our belongings and took the hotel shuttle to the airport (it was so close we could see airplanes taking off through our hotel window). After an extended process of checking in at the airline counter and going through security and Hong Kong immigration, we hurried through the huge Hong Kong airport, down escalators, down long hallways, onto a train, and back up escalators again to find our gate, where we barely made it in time... to wait, again. We were singled out to have our carry-on bags inspected and one of the officials (maybe it was his first day on the job?) had the audacity to insist that we could not carry some bottles of water on board that we had JUST BOUGHT AT A STORE RIGHT NEXT TO OUR GATE. Given that both Sarah and myself were completely soaked from head to toe with sweat in the sweltering heat of the airport (and everywhere else we have been for the past two and a half weeks), we quickly insisted that there was no reason for us to give up the precious liquids, and thankfully the man's supervisor agreed with us. So we boarded our plane (a Boeing 747, the first either of us have ever flown in) and sat down to prepare for takeoff. And we waited... again.

We waited. And waited. And waited some more. There was some sort of glitch, the pilot told us, in the fuel gauge device and he wanted to make sure it was not malfunctioning. Two hours later we were finally off the ground and headed to Chicago.

The flight from Hong Kong to Chicago itself was rather uneventful, with only a minor amount of turbulence and minimal complaints from Matthew, who sat in his chair and slept, laughed and played most of the way – with an occasional cry here and there. However, the experience at the Chicago airport was a different matter entirely. Our connecting flight to Nashville in Chicago was scheduled for three hours after our arrival; however, since we had the two-hour delay in Hong Kong we had only one hour before our flight took off. This hour was quickly consumed by us going through the confusing maze of immigration and customs in the busy Chicago airport. The next flight out of Chicago with United was not for another 6 hours, so we had the teller book us tickets with American Airlines instead. Exhausted as we were, we went through security again and grabbed a yogurt and an apple juice, thinking we had a bit of time before our connecting flight. We barely heard a voice in the air stating “last call” for what – we thought – was our new connecting flight, and when we checked, sure enough, our plane had already boarded and was ready to take off! We hurled ourselves on board and sat in the last row of seats – our ticketed seats were not all together, but there were three seats, two on one side and one on the other, that were available to us to sit as a family and... enjoy our last ride together to FINALLY... BRING MATTHEW HOME.

In Nashville we were greeted with a loud cheer as we approached the security entrance, Matthew in Sarah's arms. Many of our family and friends had come to share in the moment of his arrival. Thomas ran headlong into my arms as soon as he saw me, and I hugged him for a long tine, tears of joy coursing down my cheeks as I embraced my older son. We greeted the people who had come and let them enjoy Matthew with us, then obtained our luggage (I waited for it to arrive on a different flight from United since we had re-checked our luggage with that airline even though we ourselves traveled on American) and headed home. We enjoyed the presence of extended family on Saturday night with an amazing meal Sarah's parents prepared for us, and Sunday we enjoyed breakfast with them as well. During the day Sunday we had our first glimpse of Matthew's interactions with his new family members and knew without a doubt that God had prepared his little heart for our family. Our tired hearts thank the Lord for this experience and thank Him also for bringing us... HOME.

Joe

Thursday, November 17, 2011

U.S. Consulate Day...

Yesterday was pretty uneventful... we returned to the medical clinic to get Matthew's TB skin test read  and the lady there made a pretense of measuring something on his arm but correctly called it negative  (the area around the injected site was red, so I was all ready to argue with her if she had called it positive... I wasn't about to subject Matthew to an unnecessary chest Xray when he's already had so much exposure to the smoggy, poisonous air in Wuhan for first two years of his life).  We then hung out on Shamian Island for a while doing some shopping (and ate at Subway!), and took an (unpleasant) taxi ride back to the hotel, where we took a nap, ate dinner, and went to bed.

This morning I felt incredibly nervous, pacing back and forth like an agitated cat.  I think it's because my mind sees the end in sight – just a few more steps to take to be done with our trip – and I've been so homesick for the past week and a half I can hardly stand it.  We headed this morning at 9 AM on our final step in the adoption process here in China – the United States Consulate.  Our guide, Elvin, with his typical excellent organization, had collected all our paperwork from us a few days ago and all we had to do was show up with our passports, go through a couple of checkpoints, sit for a while, raise our right hands and repeat a few words spoken to us, hand some papers to a clerk and we were done.

Tomorrow afternoon we get Matthew's visa allowing him to travel to the United States as well as all of his adoption papers that must remain sealed until he sets foot in the United States.  Then we head on a train to Hong Kong.  We will be traveling to Hong Kong with the Reickards, another family who has been adopting a child here with us, and we've spent a few minutes this afternoon trying to figure out the least expensive way to take our families from the train station in Hong Kong to our hotel, about a 23 mile journey.

Matthew has been a wild man today!  He is truly showing his nature as a rambunctious 2-year-old boy.  We love this little guy so very much and we can hardly wait until we have him with us in the States!  We spend 2 more nights in China, then we head home!!

Joe

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The end... it's so close...

Last night we had dinner in our room at the hotel. We ordered food from the hotel restaurant (the only one we have used) and found the chicken I ordered to be tough and tasteless and the hamburger Sarah requested to be – seriously – raw. We sent it back, and a new one was sent up to us – also raw. After this the chef told Sarah he didn't think he could cook her a hamburger to suit her, took it off our bill and gave us a bag of fruit as an apology. I had bought a small ball earlier in the day and spent the rest of the evening before bed playing toss-and-catch (mostly toss) with Matthew, who thoroughly enjoyed it... and said his first English word... “ball”.
Today was a very interesting day. Our group was scheduled to go to the Liuhua Park here in Guangzhou and we almost didn't go, as we were concerned about our ability to chase after Matthew among the crowds of people and the fact that we wanted to go to the pedestrian street here in town (where we were supposed to go last night) instead to buy a stroller. (Besides, a park is a park, right?) Well, our questions were answered when our housekeeper brought us a stroller from the hotel at – literally – the last minute, so off we went with our group to the park.

This was NO ordinary park. Besides being quite beautiful and well-manicured (the Chinese do NOT mince words... check out the sign:)

the place was a study in human behavior... Chinese style. Evidently the geriatric population of the city loves to hang out here and do all sorts of activities ranging from badminton to a hacky-sack-like game using a large badminton-looking feathery shuttlecock to loud boisterous singing (usually led by someone pointing with a stick to enlarged characters on what looked like a long hanging tapestry) to dancing and tai-chi-like maneuvers using fans or... swords.

We again noticed the Chinese to be rather obvious in their behavior towards us, and towards Matthew in particular. When she saw Matthew, one lady actually made a cutting maneuver with her hand over her opposing forearm and said something loudly to her friend, who turned and stared at Matthew, mouth agape. Another lady was a bit nicer – she crowded around Matthew with her friends and after looking at him for a moment, turned to them and spoke in Chinese while waving her hand over her face as if to say, “He's very handsome... too bad his arm is missing”. On the bus ride back Matthew said his second word in English... “Daddy”. Guess who beamed with pride??

We went to lunch at Pizza Hut here in Guangzhou with one of the families we're here with, the Reickards. We all just got up from a nap and plan to take it easy the rest of the evening. We plan to look at some stores on Shamian Island here in town tomorrow after Matthew has his TB skin test read.

Several times last night and today I have felt something in my heart that I want to share. I am thanking God for Matthew's missing forearm. Sure, it will cause some hardship for him as he gets older. But what it will cause in difficulty it will more than make up for in reward. It will teach him, and us, to rely on God more fully and more completely for things than we could ever have done otherwise. And, it's given us something else we never would have had... it's given us our precious child Matthew who will be joining the rest of our family in a very short time.

 And, lastly, I leave you with the following words of wisdom:


(Don't ask me what that means.)

Joe

Monday, November 14, 2011

We're getting closer to the end...

Today was a productive day. After another amazing breakfast at the hotel, we met our group and headed to a public medical clinic here in Guangzhou. The busy, crowded clinic actually had a set of back rooms set aside for adopted children, and three of the families (including us) sat on metal benches and took turns with our children having their height, weight and temperature taken, their mouths examined and a rudimentary physical exam performed. Then the children took turns getting a tuberculosis skin test, which involved putting a substance under the skin with a small needle. We tempted Matthew with a piece of candy while his was being done, and he cried, not because of the needle stick but because he wasn't sure if we were going to give him his candy!

We headed back towards the hotel after this was done, but Sarah and I asked to be taken to a store similar to a Wal-Mart to purchase a stroller for Matthew (since our hotel has not had one available for us since our arrival). We spent the better part of an hour looking for a stroller in this store (we were told by our guide that they had them) and asked three people before one of the workers finally tried to help us, unsuccessfully. We then went to a large department store close to our hotel where we knew we would find a stroller, and we did in fact find a large selection, on the top of seven floors... ranging in price from $80 USD to over $500 USD. We opted to continue to carry Matthew – tiring, but much less expensive – and by the time we returned to the hotel we were sweaty and exhausted. After a pricey but delicious lunch buffet we headed to our room and took a nap, opting to skip the outing planned for our group this afternoon.

Tomorrow we are scheduled to visit Liuhua Park here in Guangzhou in the morning, which is reportedly quite pretty. We are counting down the days remaining for us in China... we return to the clinic on Wednesday to get Matthew's tuberculosis skin test read, then we apply for a visa on Thursday to allow him to travel to the USA. We get the visa on Friday and head out that same day to Hong Kong by train and spend the night in that city. Then we catch a plane on Saturday headed for Chicago... and then home.

Joe

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Guangzhou- first full day


Daddy's snuggles

We are loving our days here at the Garden Hotel in Guangzhou. Only now do I realize how awful Wuhan was... broken up sidewalks, poor air quality ( Joe had a nosebleed on day 1 there), extremely limited food options, sub par hotel, etc.

Guangzhou is tropical and wonderful! We are one of six adoptive families here from the U.S. With the same adoption Agency, Bay Area Adoption Services. 

We had the most incredible breakfast this morning at the hotel and went on a tour of the Temple of Six Banyan Trees.

There were many Buddhist visitors leaving offerings and lighting incense. Apparently, Buddha statues are quite fond of small oranges, water bottles and candies. My heart felt so sad for China as a whole, so lost with an empty religion. The government pays the Buddhist monks a monthly salary of around $167 USD. They also make a small amount from the donation boxes at the temple. Their largest portion of income comes directly from families who will essentially hire them for the purpose of of praying over them.

We went shopping at a local store and purchased a few really sweet Chinese outfits for the kids. We also bought a stamp that was hand-carved with Matthew's American and Chinese name on it.

Our hotel in Guangzhou

At the Buddhist Temple

Buddha offerings


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Matthew, Day Six

I feel tired but thankful for so many things.

We left our hotel at 12 noon and went to the Wuhan domestic airport and took a flight to Guangzhou. Matthew had his first experience on an airplane and actually did really well considering his ears were hurting him (he kept pointing to them) during takeoff and landing and he was exhausted from not taking a nap.

Our mouths dropped open at the sight of the hotel we're staying in... the Garden Hotel. It's enormous, it's professional, it's beautiful... easily the nicest place either Sarah or myself have ever stayed in. We had dinner at one of the five (five!) hotel restaurants in the main lobby (there are other ones on other floors), with ham and cheese sandwiches, french fries and the freshest fruit either of us have ever enjoyed. All in all, we like Guangzhou so far significantly more than Wuhan.

We're tying up a few loose ends and then going to bed. More tomorrow. G'nite!

Joe

Friday, November 11, 2011

Matthew, Day Five

Today was a great day. It is our last day here in Wuhan and one step closer to being home as a whole family with Thomas and Catherine. We have been SKYPEing in the mornings here from China. Catherine told us proudly this morning that she did not miss us. I am so happy to hear that since she was having a hard time only a few days ago. Her little blond hair is so darling after my eyes have grown accustomed to only black hair here in China. Thomas is hilarious, asking us so many questions that seem too mature for his young age. He asks us about China and about Matthew in the most caring way. I love his little heart. Amy was over there at my parents house during this last SKYPE session and had brought them chewing gum. Their little lips were smacking all over the place and we enjoyed just watching them be happy little children up at the kitchen island of my parent's home.

We were allowed to retrieve the final documents for Matthew, including his little Chinese passport, this afternoon. Matthew was so sweet during the process.

Tracy, our guide, along with our driver, took us to a very nice restaurant (the Hu Jin Restaurant) for lunch afterwards. We ordered a large fish that tasted like sweet and sour fish. Each morsel of the fish meat stood erect on its body like a porcupine. Stuck into the eyeballs were large grape tomatoes which were held in with toothpicks. The mouth of the fish was open as if the fish were screaming as it had been cooked. I am so glad the the head of the fish faced our driver, it tasted much more delicious with us not having to look into its face while consuming it. We also enjoyed fried lotus root that Joe chose. It was my favorite dish on the table. We had two bowls of meat with peppers in them – one chicken and the other beef (though both meats looked and tasted the same – curly, brown, and chewy). We ate both dishes (the chicken one was much hotter!) and our noses ran from the intense heat of the peppers. We also had plain white rice and a plate of what tasted like pork ribs with a tiny bit of meat clinging to each one.

We came back to the hotel and were ready to rest. Matthew started crying as we laid him down. I took him in my arms and sat in the floor leaning my back against the bed and rocked him. I sang to him until he fell asleep in my arms.

I wish I could crash like the waves and turn like the autumn breeze
In effort to praise You
I wish I could smell like the forest, the fragrance lifting a mighty chorus
In effort to praise You
In effort to praise You
But I'm such a limited creature
And my words can only paint so many pictures
But somewhere I think I read that I am treasured over all creation
So I know that I must try
I wish I could roll like the thunder, to leave the earth below in wonder
In effort to praise You
I wish I could fall like the summer rain and every drop would sing Your name
In effort to praise You
In effort to praise You
But I'm such a limited creature
And my words can only paint so many pictures
But somewhere I'm sure I read that I am treasured over all creation
So I know that I must try
Gloria, glory in the highest
Forever I will hide myself in Thee
Oh, Gloria
Glory in the highest
Forever I will hide myself in Thee
Every breath that I breathe, every moment in my history
Is an effort to praise You
An effort to praise You
Glory in the highest
Forever I will hide myself in Thee
Oh, Gloria
Glory in excelsis Deo
Gloria, Gloria, Gloria
Gloria, Gloria, Gloria


~Watermark, "Gloria"

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Thoughts about God and Matthew

I think I might have a little more insight into what God feels when he brings those who become His own into His family.

Yesterday, after showing his personality a lot more in the morning, Matthew made it clear to us for the rest of the afternoon and late into the evening that he was not ready yet to completely accept us as his parents. This is a normal process that Sarah and I find difficult to experience but realize that it is necessary for a new bond to occur. Matthew must sever emotional ties with his foster family and cling to us as his new one.

Romans 11:17-18 uses a metaphor of grafting a branch into a tree to depict becoming a disciple of Jesus. Grafting takes cutting – you cut a branch off a tree, you cut the new tree to expose a viable area and you fix the two together. Cutting (not so much for trees, I suppose) is painful. The branch has to be removed forcibly from its old location. Matthew cried tears of pain and anger yesterday as he felt his tie to his old family being cut. He pushed on me with his hand, trying to push me away, desperately trying to escape.

Being in a new family means doing things differently. No longer are you to do things in the old way you've been accustomed to. Yet we often yearn for the old ways in how we live our lives and often find ourselves falling into old habits. Paul talks about this passionately in Romans 7:15-23 – he calls himself “wretched” for following his old habits. Matthew can't tell us everything he's thinking, due to both the language barrier (he did speak some straight-up Chinese to us at one point, and we have no idea what he was saying) as well as his age, but if he could speak plainly he would probably be saying “You're not bundling me up in multiple layers of clothes like I'm used to, these aren't the foods my old mom gave me, you look funny and are making me crazy with your bizarre words!” He did speak the clear Chinese words for mother, father, and his big sister (a 20 year old biological daughter apparently still living with his foster family) in earnest through his tears.

Even though the transition to a new family can be hard, though, Jesus promises that in His family we'll be safe. “I will never leave you nor forsake you,” God says in Deuteronomy 31:6. Yesterday as Matthew pushed against me and cried, I held him close and whispered in his ear, “We love you. We're not letting you go.” His little body, tense from the strain of fighting, eventually relaxed, and as he continued to cry I could feel his little heart easing in its anguish just a little. I know he'll get there eventually, where he accepts us as his own. I know I often have a tougher time myself accepting the same promise Jesus makes to me.

Any big change, if it is has meaning and substance, requires pain. Anything new, if it is for the better, requires pain – not so much a new car or house (though I suppose the financial pain is pain enough) but a new family, a new life, a new existence. Matthew 24:4-8 describes the harsh realities leading to the end times as “birth pains”. We will all acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord over the heavens and the earth (Phillippians 2:10-11). We can either embrace that reality now, just as Matthew is struggling now to embrace us as his parents, or we can wait if we choose – but choosing to wait will be that much harder, just as it would have been even harder to adopt our son if we had to wait any longer. And the reality of sin in general will make it impossible to choose any longer if we wait too long.

Joe

Matthew, Day Four

Matthew sure came out of his shell today!

After the usual breakfast this morning – where Sarah and I both branched out and tried a “Chinese dessert” as one of our meal items, which tasted exactly like raw bread dough – we SKYPEd again with Sarah's parents and our kids who were about to take baths (it sure was good to talk with them again – we miss them so!) and headed off in the van. Our guide had arranged for us to see the orphanage that Matthew was associated with – not many people are allowed to see the orphanage, so we felt privileged to do so – and we were able to see firsthand where Matthew lived (which we learned only today) the first six months of his life. The orphanage itself was well-kept with good facilities for the children and the children we saw seemed well cared for, but it was hard to see some of the kids lying in beds with IVs attached hardly moving at all. We did meet a lady who was there with one of her foster children receiving medical care who happened to be friends with Matthew's foster mother, and the lady shared that Matthew's foster mother had come to the orphanage hoping to see him every day for the past week – except for today. The director asked the lady to share with Matthew's foster mother the fact that he was being well-loved by us and we hope that will assuage some of the pain she must feel with giving up such a precious jewel of a boy.

Matthew definitely opened up at the orphanage, climbing on a basketball goal outside and wandering around, in and and through various rooms and corridors as if he knew the place (and we in fact learned he probably did know it well, as he had been taken there weekly by his foster mother for checkups and vaccines). It was when we got back in the van and were met by our guide's mother and daughter for a trip to the Yellow Crane Tower in Wuhan where Matthew's personality really opened up. He squirmed to be let down whenever we would hold him and take off running, his shortened arm hindering his balance as he would hurl himself pell-mell towards a staircase here or a short fence there around a pond full of exciting (to him) multicolored koi. When we climbed the tower itself he became obsessed with a bridge crossing the Yangtze river in the distance and said the Chinese word for “bridge, bridge, bridge” repeatedly as he struggled to reach for the structure despite our best efforts to explain the futility of such an attempt. He declared our guide's daughter to be his big sister and followed her everywhere, holding her hand as much as possible in a profoundly cute gesture. And he ate everything he could get his hand on.

After saying good-bye to our guide and her family we decided to eat lunch at our hotel in a “Western Restaurant”. At first glance the restaurant appeared closed, but we soon found ourselves the only patrons in quite a large room with at least four people standing around doing nothing in the middle of the lunch hour. We waited what seemed an eternity for our food which consisted of a plate of two small ham and cheese sandwiches (not bad), an extremely spicy-hot “Sicilian Pizza” and a plate of vegetables swimming in butter. After eating as much as could stomach we returned to our room and struggled to help Matthew fall asleep, as he cried for at least thirty minutes before his nap. He woke up earlier than usual, after only about an hour and a half, and has been crying for his foster mother for the past two hours. We love the fact that we're seeing his personality come out more, we're a little concerned about how we'll be able to handle his energy when we get home, and we really, really hope we can get to sleep tonight.

Joe

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Some more thoughts...

I wish I could say something nice right now about Wuhan but we had such a sad experience yesterday.... There are two other families adopting right now in Wuhan and we met them briefly twice at the Child Welfare Institute. Other than that, I have not seen a single American or English-speaking person in or out of the hotel. We are stared down anytime we leave our hotel room. Some people completely stop on the side of the road and stare at us until we are out of sight. The discrimination feels tremendously heavy.

But this is not about us. It's about our son.

We tried to purchase Matthew a new pair of shoes yesterday and the store owner shoo'ed us out of the store refusing to serve us at all. We may have had three or four (I am counting generously) kind gestures or smiles out of thousands of Chinese faces we have encountered over the past several days here in Wuhan.

No, it's not even all about our son. It's about the many helpless young lives who may have a handicap of some kind and have to live out their lives here. Alone.

God has placed on my heart a girl listed as “Blossom” on several China waiting-child lists. She is 13 years old with Spina Bifida. She had one leg amputated and was finally granted a wheelchair at the “better orphanage” she is living in now. She is not from Wuhan that I know of. However, given the conditions of the sidewalks I've seen around China in general, there is no place for her to get around. My stroller is constantly dodging huge potholes and there are, on most of the streets, spans of 20 foot areas that are just open, broken, cement and dirt messes. To enter any business along the street, there are at least 2 steep steps to go inside and sometimes dozens, with no ramps or other handicapped access available at all. Joe literally picks up the stroller to carry it over bad areas or up thresholds of steps into stores. To cross a busy street you either have to run fast and pray that nobody hits you (the cars don't obey the walk signals at all!) or you must walk up steps to cross a rickety bridge and walk down steps on the other side. A person in a wheelchair has no chance of being mobile around the city here.

Even if a handicapped person was able to maneuver the treacherous streets, they seemingly have no value here in Chinese society. We were told by our guide here in Wuhan that if a child is born with a physical handicap, like Matthew or Blossom, the father will not accept the child and will divorce the mother if she chooses to keep them. Furthermore, if somehow the father chose to keep the child, his mother will go out of her way to not acknowledge the child and will never accept it. For this reason, among many others, children are left on the side of streets, in parks and sometimes placed at the gate of the police station (as Matthew was) by the mothers of these children who very well may love the children dearly but feel they have no recourse.

But it's not even about these precious handicapped children. Jesus said we would always have the poor with us (Matthew 26:11). It's about what Jesus says to us.

Our guides here in Wuhan and in Beijing both said that Buddhism is practiced in China, but most people have no religion. Realizing that, it's no wonder that people here behave the way they do. They're not the enemy (Ephesians 6:12) – they're only doing what is natural in a Godless society. But those of us who profess to know Christ don't have that option. No, we don't leave our kids on the sides of roads or treat them as inferior because of physical conditions (much). But we watch as others treat their children this way. We fail to use the abundant resources God gives us to love the helpless in a way that meets not only their physical needs but their mental, emotional, and – hopefully – spiritual needs as well.

2 Timothy 3:1-5 reminds us that there are those who have a “form of godliness but [deny] its power” – that is, on the surface we may do things that look or say things that sound Christian, but are we really following Jesus?

James 1:22 compels us to not merely listen to the Word, as Christians in American culture are wont to do, but to “do what it says.”

James 4:17 calls it sin when we don't do the things we know Christ is calling us to do.

I'm not saying everyone should adopt. I'm not saying I'm perfect at following Jesus – far from it. I'm saying I want to gently remind you that Jesus wants us all to do something to further His kingdom – and to do it out of love for Him and love for our neighbors, those around us (Matthew 22:36-39). (but especially the precious little ones (Matthew 19:14), as I'm prejudiced!)

So will you, whoever reads this, please pray for Blossom? She ages out of the system here with all of the other children who do not find families by the age of 14. She will be on her own, trying to provide for herself in a cold world. Lord, please send her a mommy and daddy who will spend their life loving her and showing her the value God has placed on her life. How will she ever know Your love, Father, without a family?

I miss my sweet babies at home. The days are longer and longer here now that we have Matthew. He is such a joy and we are dying to get back home with him. I am homesick beyond words right now.

How long until You defend Your name and set the record right?
And how far will You allow the human race to run and hide?
And how much can You tolerate our weaknesses?
Before You step into our sky blue and say "That's quite enough!"

Am I naive to want a remedy for every bitter heart?
Can I believe You hold an exclamation point for every question mark?
And can I leave the timing of this universe in bigger hands?
And may I be so bold to ask You to please hurry?

I hear that a God who's good would never let the evil run so long.
But I say its because You're good, You're giving us more time, yeah.
Cause I believe that You love to show us mercy.
But when will You step into our sky blue
And say "That's quite enough, and your time is up!"

Am I naive to want a remedy for every bitter heart?
Can I believe You hold an exclamation point for every question mark?
And can I leave the timing of this universe in bigger hands?
And may I be so bold to ask You to please hurry?

Am I naive...
Can I believe...
And can I leave...in bigger hands
And may I be so bold to ask You, to ask You, to ask You

How long?


~ Chris Rice, “Naive”

Matthew, Day Three

Today has been another wonderful day with Matthew. We had no official visits, no papers to sign, no documents to complete... we just got up with him, went to breakfast at the hotel (where he again ate everything we gave him, including a fried egg, watermelon, congee, yogurt, pears, broccoli, and corn), then came back to our room and SKYPEd with both sets of our parents as well as Thomas and Catherine (my parents had just brought our kids back to Murfreesboro) and then a family Sarah met online whose daughter was a foster sister to Matthew one year ago.

We took the van to visit the Hubei Provincial Museum here in Wuhan, where we had an opportunity to see relics from a tomb which dates to around 430 B.C. The tomb was of Marquis Yi, who evidently was a powerful and wealthy individual who decided to have himself buried in a 4-room tomb that was sealed and remained perfectly preserved, even though underwater, until discovered in 1978. Some amazing bronze, jade, and gold artifacts could be found among the items in the tomb, in addition to several preserved coffins for the Marquis, his servants and his many concubines.

After visiting the tomb portion of the museum we went downstairs to a theater area and were treated to one of the most wonderful things (besides Matthew, of course) we have experienced so far in China. In the tomb of the Marquis Yi was found, among the other artifacts, a perfectly preserved set of 65 bronze bells and other musical instruments. The original find is preserved in the museum, but an exact replica had been made and was now in use in the theater for frequent performances by Chinese musicians dressed in traditional clothing. We sat back and enjoyed some beautiful traditional Chinese music played before us, with one musical piece featuring a dancer doing a beautiful routine. We purchased without hesitation a CD of songs made by these musicians and intend to share them with anyone who would also like to enjoy them.


We asked the van driver (through the translation of our guide) to stop by the Kentucky Fried Chicken on the way back to the hotel. The food was flavorful, which I liked, but the chicken used to make the sandwiches we ate (all sandwiches, no matter what their ingredients, are called “hamburgers” in China) had a lot of gristle. Matthew had a hard time going to sleep, crying again for his foster family, but at last he fell asleep as did Sarah and myself. This afternoon we're going to get some shoes for Matthew at a small store close to our hotel as well as check out a local candy store. Tomorrow we will visit the orphanage that Matthew was associated with (even though he actually lived with a foster family) as well as visiting the Yellow Crane Tower, a famous tower here in the city.

Matthew is such a joy. We know he's not completely himself yet, as he's still living in his country of birth and he's not used to us yet, but already we see his personality in what he does. He is so easygoing and laid back, even though he gets upset occasionally when he thinks about his foster family. He is learning to use his shortened arm to good effect, balancing items like a yogurt drink or cup on it to allow better control of these items as well as using it to wipe his little nose. He said a few words today in Chinese and looked at us like we were nuts for not replying back to him in his native tongue. He is a pleasure to be around and we feel so honored and privileged to be chosen by the Lord to be parents to this wonderful boy.

Joe

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

new pics!!







Matthew, Day Two

There's a lot of paperwork involved with all of this.

After SKYPEing this morning with my parents, who are currently keeping our other kids, Thomas and Catherine, I feel homesick and ready to head home with our new child, Matthew. The problem lies in finishing all the documentation here in China to the satisfaction of all the involved government officials.

Matthew slept unbelievably well. After crying for the better part of 5 hours yesterday, hurting so badly from the necessary separation from his foster family, he slept soundly from around 8:00 PM to 6:30 AM. He cried just a little this morning, but at breakfast at the hotel he sat in his highchair and ate everything we fed him: congee, watermelon, fried egg, yogurt (2 of them!), and cereal. We rode the van, with Matthew in tow, back to the WuHan Children Welfare Institute to sit down with Dr. Chen Gang and his assistant one more time for what seemed like a final exit interview, where the same questions we had been asked numerous times on paper were asked again in person. We passed the interview, apparently, and we signed several identical documents in the exact same places and used red ink to make fingerprints next to our names as a sort of seal. Matthew's feet were inked and placed on a paper, too, much to his dislike. We received our own copy of the document, which seems to be evidence of Matthew's official adopted status:


From there we headed back to the hotel. Sarah and I craved a taste of home, so we braved the muddy, busy streets and walked a ways to a Chinese Pizza Hut. We sat down and were greeted by a friendly waitress who provided us with an extensive menu covering everything from unidentified Chinese dishes to steaks to spaghetti. A Supreme pizza was on the official menu which contained pepperoni as one of its ingredients, but when we tried to order a pizza with only pepperoni the waitress turned confused and possibly offended by the fact that we wanted a pizza without vegetables. We settled for the Supreme pizza – which was quite good – along with a dish of rice, ham, green peppers, corn and raisins for Matthew (which he ate, as he does everything) and drinks, consisting of Pepsi and 7-Up for us and a hot chocolate for Matthew (which was prominently displayed on the children's menu and which our waitress assured us was normal for a child to have for lunch).

We're back at the hotel, having completed a long nap for us and we're waiting for Matthew to wake up, as he has slept the better part of four hours. We know he needs it; he cried again after he returned with us to the hotel and his emotions have taken a beating over these past couple of days. Now Sarah tells me he's stirring... gotta get back to my family.

Joe

Monday, November 7, 2011

GOTCHA DAY!

We've got him!!

What an experience!!

We awoke early this morning thinking about our little guy and what it will be like to hold him, to love him, to wipe away the tears of fear and pain of leaving the only family he's ever known.

We had breakfast at the hotel... not as amazing as the previous hotel and some of the food was still foreign to us, but we branched out a little and Sarah tried some noodles which were quite good. Then we waited in our room, nervously pacing, readying ourselves for the moment we could get back on the van and go to meet our son. Sarah and I looked at each other and smiled, our hearts swelling with anticipation and chuckling as the van's stereo played the soundtrack from Mama Mia.

Our guide, who calls herself Tracy, went with us into the government building, the WuHan Children Welfare Institute, where we arrived at a lobby area with an attached playroom. It was here where we saw our precious son Matthew for the first time! We immediately noticed him to be very active an inquisitive, moving from person to person and toy to toy with purpose and seeming knowledge of his surroundings. We sense he has a lot of confidence in himself – we saw an older girl push him, and he turned towards her, not crying at all, and gave her a glare that said all it needed to. His smile is electrifying. We met the vice-director of the institute, Chen Gang, who gave us many things for Matthew including a book of his baby pictures, several photographs of various places around the area, a small backpack from his foster mother containing snacks that he enjoys, and a beautiful medallion for Matthew to remind him of the place where he came from. We signed some papers, one of which was an agreement for us to have custody of Matthew for 24 hours and return the next day and decide for sure if we wanted him or not (we almost asked if we could just skip that one, as there is no way we're giving him up!). He cried a couple of times for his “ma-ma”, then climbed into the van with us and contentedly sat in Sarah's lap as we rode through the city with the song “Lay All Your Love On Me” fittingly playing on the van's stereo. Later he sat contentedly in a grocery buggy as we hurried through a Chinese version of Wal-Mart, gathering groceries and a small toy truck for him to play with.


Reality set in for our son when we arrived at our hotel and took him upstairs to our room. For the next two hours the precious guy cried loudly for his mommy and daddy. He took first Sarah's hand, then later my own and pulled us to the doorway, wailing for us to return him to his beloved foster family. At last, after crying himself into exhaustion, he allowed Sarah to lay him on the bed and sing sweet songs to him, putting him to rest. We're sitting here now in our room, a bag of McDonalds food serving as lunch, enjoying watching our son sleep peacefully and thanking God for His amazing gift to us.

Joe

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Ready to Meet Matthew...

We only have an agenda of showering and eating breakfast before we are off to get Matthew. He is so close by, we leave the hotel at 9:30am to meet him at 10am.

I spent the night praying for him and his other mommies. The one who gave birth to him- does she have any motherly sense of over Matthew's well-being? The foster mother who has raised him for two years and three months, rocked him to sleep, cared for him when he has been sick, fed him,nurtured him- has she too been up all night wondering how to let go of him. From the first time I laid eyes on Matthew, I felt an instant connection to him. He was so vulnerable here in China- I knew that for sure. I wanted to protect him from unkind, staring eyes just as I would want to protect Thomas and Catherine.

God is reassuring me now of His plan for our family and His unwavering faithfulness. The success or failure of this meeting today and the many to come is not resting on my shoulders. There is nothing for me to worry about. I can be confident that the One who called us is faithful. How grateful I am that He is right down here in the hundreds of details. He is here with His grace, power and might. He is the Father to the Fatherless, through us. Today.


Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
And whose hope is the LORD.
For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters,
Which spreads out its roots by the river,
And will not fear when heat comes;
But its leaf will be green,
And will not be anxious in the year of drought,
Nor will cease from yielding fruit.

Father God, thank you for Matthew's life that you made wonderfully and fearfully. Thank You for the provisions you have made so that he can be part of our family! Lord, You are too good to us! We are totally unworthy and yet You choose to be in such a deep relationship with us... close enough to feel Your love for Matthew that our hearts are changed in a way that sends us on a wild and an adventure half way around the world to make him ours. A love so deep can only be from you... and it is so deeply part of who we are- the Scott family, with Matthew, that I can't imagine loving him any more or I would burst. Thank you Lord for choosing me to be his mommy. On this day that he is placed in my arms and in my care, I give him to You Lord. May he know you and feel the love you have over his young life.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

China, Day Three

Today we did a lot less sightseeing than yesterday. The travel agency we used to schedule everything, China Women's Travel Service, are good at making sure we have plenty of downtime during our trip while still giving us very informative tours of the most important historical landmarks. After another outstanding breakfast at our hotel we got on our van at 9 AM again and headed to The Forbidden City – essentially a walled area with massive courtyards and surrounding buildings where the emperor and his family resided and performed ceremonies in ancient times. We again saw the importance of numbers in Chinese culture – all the royal structures had openings, doors and designs usually in 9s or multiples of 9s, symbolizing royal power. We saw how at certain times the emperor would enter The Forbidden City through a gate leading down the middle of a series of connected courtyards riding on a litter carried by men with poles along a set path marked out on the ground with flagstones. Stairs led up to and down from each of the buildings along the way, and massive square stones carved with dragons lay beneath the area that the emperor's litter would pass over as the men carrying him struggled up those stairs. Through the City we saw various buildings that served as places of ritual, places for the emperor to practice before performing the rituals (!), places for the emperor to change clothes before doing the rituals, places for the royal family to eat meals together, and the like. We saw the gates where the emperor's wife, the empress, and the rest of the royal family were allowed to enter the City separate from the emperor, who entered alone through the central gate – and how the empress was allowed to enter through the central gate on one day only – her wedding day. We saw how the emperor's concubines were expected to enter the City through a wholly separate entrance when they were joined with the emperor, and in a much less formal ceremony than with the wedding to the empress herself. We saw another section of the City where during the Ching Dynasty, examinations took place where common people interested in becoming one of the emperor's advisors would go through rigorous examination proceedings and a few people would eventually be chosen to become part of the royal court; apparently some people spent their entire lives trying to accomplish this feat. Interestingly, we were not allowed to actually view or tour inside any of the buildings, and the emperor's actual bedroom was not specifically known, as he would apparently spend each night in a different section of the City known only to his closest advisors.

After The Forbidden City we toured another large area close by called the Temple of Heaven. Essentially this was an area privately owned by the royal family where three times per year the emperor would be carried to pray and offer sacrifices to the Sun god for a good harvest and for blessings on the nation. For his prayers, the emperor was expected to climb on foot to the top of a platform and kneel to pray in a prescribed way. On the way into and out of the Temple the doorways and openings were designated for certain individuals, but this time the central opening was used only by the Sun god himself... so on days of ceremony the emperor would enter through a gate beside the main one, and the main gate would be opened with no human being allowed to walk through it.

Within the grounds of the Temple were a series of beautifully-manicured paths lined with cypress trees. There were also some covered areas with openings along the sides where elderly people from the Beijing area are allowed to come and mingle, play games together, and exercise. We were treated to some lively singing on our walk through this area – the song we heard apparently was one used to lift the spirits of the Chinese during the Japanese occupation of World War II, and the passion was evident in the voices of the people familiar with the song from their childhood: [we have a video taken of this song bit it is far too large to transfer effectively from China... we'll try to get it on here later]

After we returned to our hotel, Sarah and I tried a restaurant close by for lunch. We sat down and perused the menu, hoping to find something that looked appealing. We immediately realized that little on the menu sounded – or looked – good, as both the description of the food and the accompanying pictures did little to whet our appetites. We struggled to make a choice from such items as chicken gizzards on a stick, chicken tendons, chicken gristle, vegetable and bone soup, lotus root salad (which I thought almost looked edible but Sarah felt the picture showed some sort of unidentified slimy item), mutton (sheep meat) in various forms, fish dishes either with the bones and head cooked in an obtrusive way or found in a cloudy, unappetizing broth, tofu (which I cannot stand) in many forms, and pork and beef in various slimy-appearing dishes. We decided that veering from anything but fried rice with scrambled egg would give us something either soupy, slimy or gristly, so we chose the rice along with what we thought would be another safe side dish, roasted corn on a stick. The rice was quite good, but when the corn finally arrived we found it had somehow been cooked in a way that gave it no flavor whatsoever and a chewy, gelatinous texture that allowed us to eat only part of it before we found our taste buds begging for relief. On our way home we noticed – for not the first time – a McDonalds with music blaring from the entrance sounding like a weird Chinese lullaby and were accosted by a man trying to sell us some sort of document whom we have rebuffed enough times to where his only words now to us are “Maybe later?”.

Tonight as Sarah and I rest together I am reminded of what we saw today on our tour. Three things stick out to me: one, the way the emperor was carried through a gate into his City with nobody else allowed to come with him; two, the struggles that ancient people made to be acceptable to the emperor to enter the royal retinue at some point in their lives; and three, how the Sun god was expected to pass through the central gate into the Temple, again alone with nobody else. I see the stark contrast between this and the God we serve... a God who loves us so dearly that He made a way for us to enter into His presence with Him, no matter what our station in this life. He wants us to follow Him... not in a distant way, but up close and personal, passing through each gate in our lives with Him by our side, guiding us. He doesn't make us stand up to heavy scrutiny and enter into a relationship with Him only after passing certain tests – if we choose to draw near to Him, He loves us just the way we are and covers our blemishes with His blood. Our guide told us that the vast majority of Chinese have “no religion”, so as much as we love learning about Matthew's cultural heritage, we are excited to be used by our Lord to bring him into our family where we can share the love of Jesus with him, something he might not otherwise learn about.

Tomorrow we head out in the early afternoon on a plane to Wuhan City, where we will meet... Matthew!... for the first time. We are so excited and so thankful to the Lord for this opportunity.

Joe

Friday, November 4, 2011

China, Day Two

What a day! Sarah and I had a really good night's rest, despite the hour or so I had of wakefulness around midnight. We had a fantastic breakfast – our hotel caters to people from many nations, so we had a wide variety of foods to choose from including eggs (fried, boiled, or custom-made in an omelet), bacon, ham, cheese, bread, yogurt, and cereals – as well as the obligatory Asian cuisine of sushi (we chose not to take the chance), fried rice, and congee (the bland overcooked rice normally fed to young children in China). We met our wonderful guide Li Gun (who calls herself Reagan) at 9 AM and headed in our van out of Beijing through heavy traffic to make a short stop at a Jade Factory. We were told by our guide that jade has been used in various ways in China for many centuries, and a lady working there gave us a quick tour showing some of the techniques of cutting a polishing the jade (we saw a man polishing a piece of jade get something in his eye!), followed by an opportunity to pay a small fortune to buy some finished pieces. We chose a relatively inexpensive piece which consisted of a round-shaped hollow piece with twelve holes in it contained inside a second similar piece larger than the first, all cut from a single piece of green jade. The piece-within-a-piece structure of the sculpture symbolizes the unity of family, which we felt reflected our reason for being here in China in the first place.

From the jade factory we made our way to a nearby section of the Great Wall of China. In the photo, the inscription on the stone to the left of us is a quotation from Chairman Mao which says something about how a Hero is not a hero unless he climbs the Great Wall. Sarah and I climbed a bit of the wall to a wider area, and naturally, since I wanted to be considered heroic, I headed on up the staircase to the next tower. I hike with my dad every year in the Smoky Mountain National Park for several miles up Mount LeConte, so I figured this walk up the steps on the Great Wall would be a breeze. Boy was I wrong! There were so many stairs I lost count of them, many were more than twice as tall as stairs on a standard staircase in the States, and they were well-worn and slick as glass. There was a very slight drizzle in the air also, making the climb even more treacherous. By the time I made it to the base of the next guard tower my legs trembled and felt like rubber, and I felt compelled to turn around and gingerly make my way back down.


Our next stop on the tour was the royal Summer Palace of the Chinese emperor. This largely consisted of viewing beautiful scenery while riding a boat shaped like a dragon along one side of a huge lake. On this boat ride we learned from our guide the significance of numbers in the Chinese culture: Number 9 is the royal number, the number of power. 8 signifies good fortune, and 6 is for good luck. 4 is the number for death. As we rode back to the hotel we discovered that many Chinese pay extra money to have the numbers 6 and 8 on their license plates in an effort to improve or preserve their own fortunes, and we jokingly observed the many vehicles on the road and examined their license plates for such numbers.

We said good-bye to our driver and guide and headed to a set of shops near our hotel to grab a pizza (excellent!), some fried rice, and bananas, apples and oranges from an outdoor fruit vendor. We saw a sad scene on the side of one of the streets – a lady lying on a short gurney covered in blankets, with a urinary catheter bag hanging off and her deformed feet exposed and a container nearby for donations, presumably for her medical care. We ate our dinner together in our hotel room. Sarah fell fast asleep around 4:30 PM soon after we finished our dinner, and as I lie here on the bed, I'm thinking of how privileged we are to learn a little about Matthew's cultural heritage a few days before we get him. Tomorrow we'll get a chance to see the Forbidden City, then we will head out of Beijing to start the real reason we're here: to complete the process of getting our precious boy and bring him home!

Joe

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Day one of many....

Our days and nights are mixed up. I probably would have kept sleeping, but Joe has been stirring for a while. It's just a little past midnight here in Beijing. Our Hotel is lovely, very fancy. It is the Jianguo Hotel. I have tried several times to replicate our guide in pronouncing it, but it is a wild word. Beijing is a big city so it feels modern. Everything is in Chinese characters and English so we are not feeling lost at all.
Apparently, there were all kinds of wrecks yesterday morning when we left for the airport. Our flight was around 9:30 and we arrived at the airport at 9, following a 2 hour drive to the airport which should have taken around 40 minutes. The plane had already pulled from the ramp. We walked outside and up the plane steps to find our seats among the waiting passengers to Chicago. I offered my most humble smile as we made our way to the very last seats against the back wall of the plane. This was when we first felt YOUR prayers and God's hands holding us so carefully. One flight attendant sought us out to offer us waters. No one else was served before the flight left, but she was so kind to us- even though we held the flight up. She sat next to us and we shared with her where we were going, China, to adopt our son. She listened and asked questions. I pulled out Matthew's little picture to brag on him like a new mother. I soon realized that I don't even know him. With Thomas, I show his photo and proceed with comments on how he looks and acts just like his daddy. He is shy, but so hilarious. Catherine is a darling little girl, so tender and delicate physically, but feisty and spirited internally. Matthew, he is my son. I read that he likes to tear paper by slipping a sheet of paper under his foot and tearing it with his one hand God gave him. How ingenious. I've read that he is a good eater. All I know of my baby is what has been shared with me.
On the flight to Beijing, it took aroun12.5 hours to get here. Around 7 hours in, I felt so relaxed, comfortable and thankful to the great God I serve- who had listened and answered to the many prayers being prayed over our flights. I knew we were being covered.
Everything looks amazing from the sky... clouds above and below. Patchwork fields and little pencil lined roads among homes and apartment buildings. We were treated to a treasure of a display though as we flew over Siberia.... long sheets of ice with cracks that stretched for miles. Then, the tallest mountain ranges covered in snow, looking like peaks of Cool Whip that stretch as far as you can see for hours at a time. Mesmerizing.
We slept quite a bit on the plane and I was blessed with dreams of Matthew, his face seeing us and us seeing him. My mind kept going through the meeting day- and feeling so overwhelmed with the greatness of my God who, in all of His plans, cared enough for Matthew and us, to connect us together in such an intimate way, family. The same God who created the heavens and earth knew that one day, in China, a mother would feel desperate enough to abandon her precious newborn son. He knew that He would give Joe and I the gift of being Matthew's parents.

From the book, “Kisses From Katie” by Katie Davis (page 57)

“Mommy.” She said it and I knew. She was mine. I was captivated because Mommy is forever. It is such a powerful name. Mommy means “I trust you.” Mommy means “You will protect me.” Mommy is for shouting when you need someone dependable and for laughing with when you are excited. Mommy is for crying on and cuddling with when you are sad or giggling and hiding behind when you are embarrassed. Mommy is the fixer of boo-boos and the mender of broken hearts. Mommy is a comfort place, a safe place. Mommy means you are mine and I am yours and we are family.

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