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


our journey to Mary Katherine {what we are learning about our girl}

A week ago yesterday we became forever family to our sweet girl. She is the missing piece that will keep us young with her zest for life.


She is full of personality and makes us laugh daily.

She is our little heart warrior…so strong and mighty for being such a little peanut.

Our first night in Guangzhou we were eating dinner and Lily said, “Mommy, I saw God in heaven last night”. I asked her what he said and she told me “God said he was healing Mary Katherine’s heart.” Just what I needed to hear after a long day.  I will cling to this promise and continue to believe in a miracle for our girl.


She is quick to learn new things and doesn’t miss a trick. She already knows the signs for more, shoes, help, and please. She loves to say “bye bye” “hi” and “uh oh” "jie jie" (big sister), "ge ge" (big brother), "mama" and "baba" (daddy).

She has the sweetest smile and a wheezy little laugh.

She is strong willed and independent.

When I’m blowing my hair dry in the morning she loves for me to take it and blow the warm air on her face.

She loves shoes of any kind and size.


She and our dog Sunset will be a perfect pair…both love to dig in the trash and pull toilet paper off the roll.

She loves to play with empty water bottles (usually found in the trashcan)


She rubs her hair and pulls on her ear when she is tired or unsure about something.

She is a girly girl. She likes to take her purse and walk around with it up on her shoulder. 
 Michael keeps saying he is in trouble :))

She does a happy dance when I start running the bath water. 
 I just need to wear a raincoat because she splashes in the water with pure delight.

She feels complete peace and safety in the arms of her baba.  
I can do everything for her except calm her fears.  
To say this doesn't break my heart would be lying, but I know that in time she will learn to trust me just as she has her daddy.  Michael reminded me today that we are already way ahead of the game compared to our journey with Lily and the difficult transition she had.  

All in the fullness of time.  

She had her first shiner today.  She hit her eyelid on the corner of the table. Fortunately it didn't need stitches and the sweet nurse Jona, who is here with our group from Maria's, came down to check on her.  She screamed while we iced it down but was ready to keep moving after we got her all doctored up :)

As I thought about all the little things we have learned about Mary Katherine in such a short time, it reminded me God's great love for me. My love for her will never compare to the love He has for me. He knows me better than I know myself and still pursues me through my brokenness and failures.
And we will continue to pursue her through the joys and challenges that lie ahead knowing that God chose her for our family from the beginning of time.   

"Fear not for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. "  
Isaiah 43:1


our journey to Mary Katherine {reflections from Zhengzhou}

Since I'm usually wiped out by the end of the day and crash soon after putting the girls down for bed, I'm trying to play catch up while I have a few minutes of solitude during nap time :))


After our long two day passport adventure we decided to lay low and take some much needed rest days to relax together as a family. We ventured out to the local park by our hotel for Spencer to throw football with Michael and try to find a playground for the girls. No luck with a playground, only some carnival rides that weren't open, but the girls had fun chasing pigeons.


Zhengzhou is the capital of Henan with a population of about 10 million. This is the same hotel where we stayed when we adopted Lily. Michael and I were amazed at the growth and how much it has changed since 2011. High rise apartment buildings are under construction on almost every corner and scooters abound on every sidewalk which makes walking quite interesting.

We walked single file dodging mopeds to the Starbucks one morning for a special treat. Lily devoured a chocolate chip muffin and Spencer was thrilled to have a caramel latte even though he was hoping for a peppermint mocha.  And considering that all drinks in China are served luke warm or hot we were thrilled to find some cold milk...happy day for Mommy and Lily!

Mary Katherine loves to sleep with her legs or feet hanging out of the crib and she is a little wiggle worm.  We decided to ask Michael's parents to switch out the toddler bed we had ready for her and put up the crib :)) Thinking this might make life a lot easier on everyone for at least the first few months home.


Spencer loving on his girls who both adore him.


Unfortunately I didn't get any pictures of this but we took Mary Katherine and Lily swimming and she LOVED it! She is a little water bug no doubt which is a perfect fit for our family since we spend a lot of time at the lake and beach.

Spencer challenged me to some rounds of ping pong and much to his dismay I beat him. He asked for a rematch the following night, determined to beat me as did with Michael, but no luck.   He said it was because I had no strategy....maybe he should try using that :))

When we adopted Lily they brought her to the hotel on our forever family day. This is the same elevator where we first saw our little angel in the arms of the orphanage caregiver. She was holding an apple in one hand a lollipop in the other. I remember thinking how small she was and how I couldn't believe that moment was actually coming true. Three and a half years later she still loves holding something in her hands. This trip it has been some Chinese coins and a small Chinese paper bill Michael gave her.


After almost a week in our hotel the walls began closing in on us so getting some fresh air felt great. We bundled up our little peanut and she seemed to love feeling the wind on her face as much as we did.



We went to a local Chinese restaurant for an early dinner one night and asked for a private dining room to avoid the smoke. The tablecloth was filthy but knew our options were limited and little one was getting hungry. Surprisingly the food wasn't bad...I just had to try and ignore the lack of cleanliness. Ahh...the adoption experience takes us out of our comfort zone in so many ways and reminds us daily of things we often take for granted.

On Saturday, we packed up our luggage and prepared to make the journey to Guangzhou. Lily and Mary Katherine enjoying spinning in the chair to pass the time before boarding the bus.


Lily loves her mei mei. There have been a few adjustments sharing my time with Mary Katherine but overall she has done amazing.  My prayer is that God will continue to knit their hearts together with a unique bond to share a lifetime of sisterhood.  


Michael and his girls who also both adore him. Mary Katherine finds great comfort in the arms of her daddy which is such a pleasant change from our adoption journey with Lily.


I had forgotten when a long hard day of travel this was. An hour bus ride to the airport, Sherpas (aka Michael and Spencer) gathering up luggage, checking in, hungry overtired kids, loading the plane like a herd of cattle, trying to entertain a 19 month old for 2 hours, Sherpas gathering up luggage again, 10 min walk to the bus, and an hour ride to the hotel, waiting to check in, arriving in a room that wasn't clean, moving rooms, trying to find dinner for hungry overtired kids, entertaining kids that now have their second wind...you get the picture. We were exhausted but grateful for our safe journey and that Mary Katherine did great on the plane without any oxygen.


It was bittersweet leaving the girl's provence. Excited that this is one step closer to being home but also reminded that we are leaving part of their heritage behind.



our journey to Mary Katherine {hidden providence in opposition}

On Tuesday we went back to the registration office to receive our adoption certificate. Our travel group gathered together and the officials spoke briefly before giving us our adoption certificate, which marks the day our adoption is finalized in China. Of course, in our eyes, the first moment we held Mary Katherine will always be our forever family day.


We returned to the hotel briefly for a quick lunch and then prepared for our travel day to Luoyang with another family. In Henan, they now require that each family travel to their child’s provincial city to apply for their passport. Fortunately we did not have to make this trip when we adopted Lily. Her city, Nanyang, is a 4 hour one way trip which would have been extremely difficult considering how much she was grieving.

Our trip to Luoyang would be 2.5-3 hours each way. As we were about to get off the Luoyang city exit, our guide told us that the passport office called to say they were closing for the day due to no power. We debated staying in a hotel for the night but we were not prepared with extra clothes, diapers, formula, etc. so we turned around and headed back to Guangzhou. A long day for everyone to say the least.

We would soon be reminded of God’s hidden providence in our opposition and set backs.

We woke up early the next morning ready for round two. We prayed over our trip and enjoyed a nice time of fellowship in the van with the other family we have enjoyed getting to know.

As God’s timing would have it, we arrived just as the office was preparing to close and quickly ran in for the passport picture….mission accomplished.

We had requested if there was time to be able to visit the Luoyang orphanage, Maria’s Big House of Hope and see Mary Katherine’s finding place.

Clearly God knew our trip needed to be delayed so that we would have the gift of time to make these visits.

After lunch we made a brief stop to see Mary Katherine’s finding place. I may share more another time, but for now I am very grateful to have a few photos that mark this part of her adoption story.

We traveled from there to the Luoyang city orphanage, which is located across from Mariah’s Big House of Hope.

We were not allowed to take any pictures in the orphanage, which houses over 600 children. It is a new building and much nicer than most; however, there is still a cold, institutional feel as you walk down the halls. The nannies are doing the best they can given their circumstances but the reality is that every face we saw is the face of a child without a forever family. A child in need of hope and love. As we were leaving I looked over at Michael and saw him welling up with tears overwhelmed by the reality of what we saw. This would have been the home for Mary Katherine and given her medical condition she may not have survived. By God's grace He allowed her to be the recipient of such excellent love and care from New Hope and Maria's Big House of Hope. There are no words to express our gratitude for this life giving gift.

The other family traveling with us was able to meet their son's caregivers and see the room where he played during his time there. And as God would have it, with over 600 babies, their other son they will be bringing home in the spring shared the playroom next to his and they were able to see him briefly before we left. Such a gift from the Lord.

We walked across the yard to Maria's Big House of Hope where joy and love abound.


Every person we met shines a bright light of hope and it is evident how much they adore the children in their care. We were able to take a tour and see the rooms where Mary Katherine stayed. She went right to one of the nannies who cared for her most recently but was hesitant and a bit reserved during the remaining part our visit snuggling up close to Michael for security.


To Lily's dismay we did not have time to play with the babies like we did at New Hope. When the girls are older my desire is to return for a trip to serve and give back. New Hope and Maria's exceeded my expectations. They are a beacon of light for children in need of hope. A glimpse of the great love God has for the fatherless. The more we learn about the ministry of Show Hope the more we stand in awe of how God continues to do the impossible and open doors of opportunity for them to care for the orphans of this world.

On our way home we also experienced another unexpected gift as our guide prayed to receive Christ. What a gift to witness God's great love story as another one of His children was adopted into His kingdom.  

Looking back we are grateful for our day of opposition that revealed God's hidden providence. 

To God be the glory.


our journey to Mary Katherine {forever family day}

I woke up at 4 am and couldn’t go back to sleep so I went out in the hallway to write in Mary Katherine’s journal, pray and reflect on all God has done to bring us to this day. Michael joined me in the hall a few hours later and we had a sweet time of prayer before getting ready for our day.

As we were waiting for the bus to take us to the registration office we took one last “waiting for you” picture of our family of four.   
In just a few hours there would be no more waiting… just a lifetime of forever with our sweet girl.


We have a large travel group with 8 families (compared to only 4 when we adopted Lily). Three of the families are returning to adopt again from Henan. We have enjoyed getting to know the other families and love hearing their stories. I never cease to be amazed at how God perfectly sets the lonely in families.

The waiting began and we eagerly watched each van drive up wondering if it would be the one holding our daughter.

Lily could barely contain her excitement. She kept standing at the door watching and asking when her baby sister would be coming. She prepared the dolls in their blankets and all the toys she wanted to give Mary Katherine when she arrived.


As God’s timing would have it, just as with Lily, we were last family to receive our daughter. We saw the van pull in and watched from inside. I could see that she had fallen asleep and they were waking her up to bring her to us.

Her big brown eyes took my breath away. I waited to hold her as they began telling us about her medication. We also wanted to give her some time to warm up to us. The weight of her in my arms is a feeling I will always remember. I love the last picture in this series with Lily’s little hand popping into the frame holding the rattle she wanted to give her baby sister. Her first of many acts of love.


We took our adoption certificate photo and met nurse Jonah from Maria’s Big House of Hope who was so very kind. It is evident that she loves the children in her care.  
We are so grateful for the level of love and care she has received from both Maria's and New Hope.  There are no words that can express our gratitude for this amazing gift.  



The emotions in the room are full. Some babies still screaming they say goodbye to their nannies, others with blank faces withdrawn and grieving silently, and a few with smiles on their faces adjusting well to their new family.

My heart breaks yet is full knowing every child in this room will know the gift of a forever family.



Adoption… so beautiful yet marked with such brokenness….a reflection of our adoption as sons and daughters of the King.


My prayer is that Mary Katherine will feel the depth of our love for her soon and trust us as we do our best to meet her every need.


We arrived back to the hotel and went back to our room taking is slow and letting her lead the way.

Michael left to complete some paperwork and we sat on the floor to play.

Slowly some smiles came our way as she began to giggle each time Spencer knocked down the tower of blocks.


She is curious and full of expression. She is quick to learn and likes to imitate what we do. At times she looks at us with a little furrowed brow and will pucker her little lips together in the sweetest way.

She is pure delight and already has captured our hearts.
 Lily said “she is the sweetest baby I have ever seen”.

After playing a bit she popped up out of nowhere and stared walking around the room .
She is a girl on the go eager to explore. We took a few laps up and down the hall which she loved.


Michael returned after a couple of hours and I went back with him to sign some papers and put her handprint on our official documents. On the way back to the hotel she fell fast asleep on his shoulder.

At dinner she discovered the steps and loves to go up and down them holding our hands.

We ended the night with a bath which she loved.

We tucked the girls in bed, read some books and prayed together thanking God for this beautiful miracle of one.



Mary Katherine, forever and always we will be your family.

Forever and always you will be our child.



our journey to Mary Katherine {the great wall}

On Saturday we climbed the great wall. We have a great book at home that we read to Lily called Isabella Girl on the Go and in it she visits different places around the world, one of which is the great wall of China. Lily was very excited about seeing and experiencing in person what we have read and talked about at home. This is the beginning our our trek up the wall. It was a cold day and my toes were numb by the top but at least the sun helped keep us warm.


As you begin the journey up the wall the stairs are lined with locks of love.

Spencer was determined to surpass the highest point Michael and I climbed when we visited 3 years ago so he asked if he could venture on solo since our little one was holding him back :)
As soon as he had the go-ahead from Michael he was off to complete his mission.

Lily completely surprised us. We thought she would be up for a few steps and maybe make it to the first tower but she proved us wrong. She conquered all the uneven steps like a pro and with a great attitude of excitement and joy. She kept saying “this is a lot of hard work”. We made it to the first tower and looked back at where we started.


After taking a short water break to catch our breath we walked up to the second tower. Lily loved the little stone tunnels inside. We decided not to press our luck going any further and started the decent back down the wall. Climbing up the wall definitely gets your heart rate up but claiming down is equally as hard on your legs…mine are still feeling it two days later :))


As we reached the bottom of the wall Spencer came running up behind us quite proud that he surpassed our goal 3 years ago!

It was a perfect day and a wonderful experience to have together as a family.

We warmed up with some hot chocolate and coffee before heading out to the jade factory. Michael bought me a jade bracelet when we were here to adopt Lily and I was happy to learn that it has almost doubled in value :))

We ended the day with an amazing acrobatic show that the kids loved complete with popcorn and some coke.

Unfortunately no pictures were allowed so just imagine people contorting their bodies in ways you never imagined possible, eight motorcycles in a large round metal cage doing tricks at the same time, and people balancing layers of cups on their head, feet and hands while doing the former rubber band like movements and you will have a good mental picture of what we saw.

Lily was wiped out by the end of the day. Michael brought us some take out pizza for diner and Spencer tried to get me hooked up with a VPN so I could blog. I’m still having spotty service which is why I am late in posting these pictures. Thankfully I have a sweet friend who is helping me post this so you can follow our journey.

Today is Mary Katherine day and I cannot wait to have our sweet girl in our arms and become a family of five.

The real adventure is about to begin.
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