silks, umbrellas and sister love

I'm a little late posting these, but Chinese New Year ends this Thursday with the
lantern festival so technically I'm even a little early :)  

This is the year of the goat (or sheep).
The Chinese lunar calendar is associated with the Chinese zodiac which has 12 animal signs.  
Michael is the sheep in our family..."shy" and "creative".
I'll let those of you who know him decide if you think this fits his personality :)
Last week I went to Lily's school to read a story and talk about Chinese New Year.
Mary Katherine came along and wanted to do everything just like the "big kids".  
We have been home a little over two months with our sweet girl.  
You can see from these pictures that she watches everything her big sister does and tries to imitate it.  
She is very curious and loves to explore (mostly with things she knows she isn't supposed to have...cell phones, guitar picks, pens...you get the idea)
She will have it in her hand and then put both hands behind her back and bring out one empty hand 
as if to say, "what? not me?" 
It makes us laugh every time and her eyes and expressions are really hard to resist :))
She is a sticker girl...she loves to put stickers on her nose, tummy, clothes, furniture, floors, etc.  
You name it and she will find a place to put it.  
Stickers saved us on the flight home from China...she has loved them since day one:)
She adores her Jie Jie and most of the time wants her right by her side
but she definitely isn't shy about letting her know when she doesn't want Lily in her space.  
I love to step back and listen to the giggles and laughter as they play in their room together.  
The bond of sisterhood is already forming and it makes my heart full.  
In this picture Lily and Mary Katherine were singing our verse for the month and doing the motions for "love the Lord your God with all your heart".
It brings me great joy to see Lily wanting to teach her little sister how to hide God's word in her heart.  
Our little miracle girl continues to amaze us in every way. 
Michael calls her our "kissing bandit" because she loves to pucker up her little lips and 
give kisses that will melt your heart.    
And those eyes...oh my.
They get me every time.  
Even when they have a hint of mischief or spunk behind them :)
My prayer is that their love for each other continues to grow
not only as sisters but as best friends.  

"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind."
Matthew 22:37  


fearfully and wonderfully made {heart cath update}

We continue to stand in awe of God's provision for our sweet girl with every new detail we learn about her heart.

Last Tuesday she had her heart cath for surgery mapping. Her team of doctors and nurses were so thorough in explaining every detail prior to her procedure and answering all of our questions. She was a rockstar and really hasn't skipped a beat other than the few moments (that seemed like forever) in recovery when she stopped breathing and they had to give her oxygen. Once we were back home and the sedation wore off, her spunky little personality began to surface again which was a welcome sight.
Her cardiologist met with us when he was finished to review all of the pictures he captured and a team of 20 doctors met last week to discuss her case and give us a map for her future heart care.
The morning of her heart cath my dad shared Psalm 139 with us.
She is no doubt fearfully and wonderfully made.

God has perfectly made her heart "imperfect" from the beginning.

I'm still trying to absorb all of the new terminology and fully understand everything he shared with us but in summary, everything that is imperfect is working together at this time perfectly to protect her lungs and keep her well balanced.
We know this won't last forever and she will have open heart surgery in the next year or two, but for now we are so very grateful for the gift of time we have been given to bond with our girl and continue to allow her to transition to our family before undergoing major surgery.
Soon after we received her file I began praying specifically that she could be a bi-ventricular repair instead of needing a Fontan. I knew it would be a remote possibility given what we knew about her heart condition but chose to lay my request before our God that is the God of the impossible.

The team of doctors that met last week agreed that she will be able to have a bi-ventricular repair.
The challenging part will be all of the "plumbing" they have to re-route since everything in her heart is flipped and not where it should be.

We recently received her medical files and also learned that God protected her from having
Fontan surgery in China which would have prevented her from receiving the bi-ventricular repair.

Yet another way we continue to see God's hand at work answering our specific prayers.
Fearfully and wonderfully made.

Our brave little heart warrior...strong and mighty, determined to conquer any obstacle in her way.2015-02-17_0007
Her story continues to unfold before us and we trust in our sovereign God who has written
every chapter and knows every detail that lies ahead.
I love every inch of this sweet girl even down to her cute little toes.
And this is but a glimpse of His great love for her.

Nothing can thwart the heart and plan of God.

"I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them."
Psalm 139: 14, 16


ruffles, glitter and feathers

Last week I decided to attempt my first "real" photos of the girls.  
Two moving targets are definitely more challenging than one.  
As you will see I have missed being behind my camera just a little.  

Mary Katherine had plenty of plastic tea set toys to choose from but decided that
her favorite would be the one breakable glass with a straw :)
Thankfully even after throwing it a few times we didn't have any shattered glass.  

Even Lily's lasso of love couldn't stop our little girl on the go for long.  
I had fun stepping back and watching them interact with each other.  
Lily, the nurturer always trying to take care of MK and teach her something new.  
Mary Katherine, full of zest for life and curious about everything around her.  
These give you a small glimpse into her personality.  
She has a smile that lights up the room and a little laugh that is contagious.  
She doesn't like hair clips or bows in her hair.
I love her little feet and the way the pad on her fourth little left toe is bigger than the rest making it 
stick down lower :)
She is fearless and will try most anything.  
She is our little heart warrior.  
After the tea party they found the bucket of feathers which led to lots of giggles and laughter.  

We ended with some hershey kisses love.  
Lily was very patient to get her share of the shiny silver treats.  
I laughed when I saw this last picture in camera.  
It is a perfect reflection of their personalities.  
Lily is our rule keeper, "You already have your stash.  You can't have mine" and Mary Katherine,
our little mischievous one hiding her stash of kisses asking for more :)

We are truly blessed beyond measure with our two China angels.  
I find myself looking at Mary Katherine and continue to stand in awe 
of how God orchestrated every detail to bring her into our family.  

Mary Katherine has her heart cath this Tuesday.  
Please be praying for our sweet angel.  
We will have a better road map for her future after this procedure.  
We know that God is in control and surrender to His perfect plan for our daughter.  


Home with our girl {one month + a few days}

One month ago (+ a few days) our 30+ hour day of travel came to an end as we were greeted by family and friends who welcomed us home with our little girl.  
There really are no words to describe the feeling of being home.  

I look at this picture and stand in awe of the One who orchestrated every detail of our journey to place this little girl in our forever family.  Not only is she our daughter she is THE little one who captured our hearts and whose picture was on our refrigerator for over a year.  The little one we prayed for daily always hoping but never imagining that she would be ours.  What an amazing God we serve who can move mountains to accomplish what in our minds and hearts may seem impossible.  
We came home just in time for Christmas...another answer to prayer and a glimpse of the miracles we see God working in this little one's life. Mary Katherine was in awe of the lights and ornaments, Lily loved wrapping gifts with her Gaga, some sister love on Christmas Eve, MK in her high chair...one of her favorite places to be...this girl loves any and all foods and the first of many more "lap love" moments with her Papaw.   
Our Christmas was small but perfect in every way.  I would have been just as thrilled with no gifts under the tree.
God, His word and people are what matter most and outside of the gift of Jesus, our newest blessing is the gift that makes our family complete.  The way her eyes disappear when she smiles like little crescent moons melt my heart every time.  
I love the look of wonder and awe as she looks up to my mom and learns how roll the play dough in her hands. 
We spent Christmas afternoon with Michael's family.  She did great meeting everyone and warmed up especially to her uncle Tim.   That night we saw the effects of being overwhelmed and decided to lay low the next several weeks.
We had her first cardiologist appointment on December 31st uncertain of what news we would hear based on the severity of her heart condition.
On November 26th 2014 I wrote these words in my journal "You are doing so many miracles right before our eyes.  We stand in wide amazement.  There is nothing too great for you.  You have the power to allow all her heart conditions to be designed in such a way that she could have a bi-ventricular repair.  If that is your will reveal that in the days ahead.  If not, let us accept whatever journey you take us on regarding her heart and the steps needed for paliative care."
The first words we heard from her doctor was that he was hopeful that she would be a candidate for a bi-ventricular repair.
I wept as I heard these words.  Another way we see God's great hand at work in her life.
We will know more for certain after her heart cath on February 10th but we are so grateful for this hopeful news.
We also got the go ahead from her doctor to "train away" for night time.  We had been hesitant to let her get too worked up not knowing the extent of her heart condition so night time was a balance of staying by her crib until she went to sleep hoping we could tip toe out of the room without waking her up!
Since then we have had some hard nights but 3 week later she is sleeping through the night and going down in her own bed without any tears.  The girls share a room and MK especially loves it when her big sister goes to bed at the same time.
A week later she saw her pediatrician.  I love the way he put the crayons in between her toes to calm her during the exam.
She braved 4 shots and being poked twice for a blood draw.  We ended the day with her first trip to Publix and a stop at the bakery for her first chocolate chip cookie :))

The night after her cardiologist appointment she started saying "Eee yuv oo"  (aka "I love you").  What a gift to hear these words from our sweet girl so early on in her transition to our family. 

Lily loves to calm her little sister if she wakes up crying, Mary Katherine has had a "few" Target runs in the past month :), she loves to help me unload the dishwasher, she loves to raid my closet while I get ready in the morning, she wants to be front and center when I am cooking in the kitchen, she loves her jie jie (big sister) and wagon rides, Lily loves to help feed her at breakfast, and the girls love their special time with their daddy at night reading books and playing together.  

Mary Katherine is learning new words daily and Lily loves teaching her our verse for the month. (love her little belly that sticks out of most her shirts :))  

Sunshine was our best friend helping us re-adjust our clocks post China even if it was cold!
We have taken many a wagon ride the past month...it is a welcome treat for all when the walls begin closing in on us :))
Mary Katherine...you amaze us daily at your zest for life and ability to learn.  
You are full of life and such a determined little one who will overcome any obstacle you are given.  
We stand in awe of God's faithfulness and we are so blessed to call you our daughter.  

"Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift"
2 Corinthians 9:15


our journey to Mary Katherine {final days in Guangzhou}

Our time in China is coming to an end. Our bags are packed and we leave this morning at 5:45 am to being our long journey back home. At dinner last night we were reflecting on our trip and sharing highlights from each city. What a blessing it has been to share this experience together as a family.

Here are few snapshots from our time in Guangzhou the past few days.

We have had plenty of down time relaxing in our hotel room getting to know more about Mary Katherine. She gets memorized with stickers and loves to color. Spencer likes to pass the time by photo bombing, being glued to his phone or being beat by me in a card game of spit :))



We caved one afternoon and had McDonalds for lunch.


On Monday we had the medical check for Mary Katherine and her visa picture. She screamed while they were examining her but happily said "bye bye" when it was all over.

Tuesday night we did the pearl river cruse and it was a perfect night for seeing the city lights.

Wednesday we took photos of our travel group. No longer with the infamous red couch but the "red stairs". I love learning more about how God draws each family to adoption and how He perfectly sets each of these children into their forever family.


After group pictures we headed over to Shamin Island for lunch and a little shopping.


Mary Katherine has her first taste of french fries at Lucys...I think her double fists says it all :))


Later that day we had a visit our new friend Jona, one of the nurses at Marira's, who we have come to love. One the flight over we spilled some of Mary Katherine's medicine and she came by to replenish our supply and check on her eye. Jona is an angel. Her heart for these children shines bright and her smile will light up any room. We said our goodbyes to her tonight which was bittersweet. We will miss you Jona!


You can also see where Mary Katherine decided to try out some new card tricks of her own...stuffing them down her shirt.

Thursday was our consulate appointment where applied for her visa needed to travel home. Unfortunately I missed the oath while I was in the bathroom but we have her visa in hand so all is good.



Michael stayed with the girls while they napped. Spencer and I went out shopping with Ann from read threads. She was great and even gave him some tips on how to make some money back in the US so he invested in a few pearls in hopes to try his hand at being an entrepreneur to save up for a car that he has his eye on.


We ended our last day the same way we did with Lily three years ago at the Safari park. It was cold and rainy but the kids still enjoyed seeing all of the animals and feeding the giraffes. Sweet Lily had another bad experience and shed a few tears trying to navigate the eastern toilets but thankfully this time I had a change of clothes for her :) Through her tears she said "I'm just ready to be back home".

I couldn't agree more.

It has been amazing but we are all ready to be home.
As we laid in bed last night Michael reminded me that a year ago we would lie in bed praying for baby Marleigh (now Mary Katherine), her heart and the family God had for her.
Today we are bringing her home.
I stand in awe of the power of God and faithfulness of our God.

"Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine,
according to His power that is at work within us."
Ephesians 3:20

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