Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Truth be Told



Spirit houses are found on just about every property here in Thailand: public, private, or business.  These little shrines are meant to house any spirits that might be misplaced and wandering about, a combination of Buddhism and animism.


Every morning or sometime during the day they will burn incense and give offerings to the spirits, praying specifically to two of the most important:  the Guardian of the House and the Guardian of the Land.  Here is a picture of some offerings:


Offerings could be anything, usually including: trinkets, drinks, snacks, candles, flower garlands.  The gaudier the better! This one apparently is appeased by strawberry Fanta.

Taxi drivers turn their dashes into miniature shrines like this...
 
In every taxi or bus we have ridden in we have been accompanied by a miniture Buddha figurine watching out the windshield from the dashboard and flower garlands draped over the rearview mirror.  Some have had painted symbols on the ceiling...for good luck?
 
A beautiful country with beautiful people!  We have been struck by their friendliness, kindness, and gentle demeanors.  I love Thailand--it has stolen a piece of my heart! But this dark shroud of lies makes me ache for a nation that is far from the truth. 
 
Can I say that?  I must. 
If I believe that Jesus is the Way and the Truth, all others who claim the same are lies. 
 
I must proclaim this loudly because of our daughter.  This is her heritage but this is not her heritage. Here orphans and disabled are seen as less, ostrisized by community because they are a result of someone's bad karma. 
 
Lies.
 
The truth is that Pip was on God's heart before she was conceived.  And though because of sin, she was left orphaned, God has redeemed, restored, and ransomed her life through Jesus' blood.  She is a result of God's handiwork, crafted by the master, and highly valued by her maker.
 
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. 1 Peter 1:3-4
 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Can We Go Home Yet? And other helter-skelter updates

Thailand has been great but...we are sooo ready to blow this banana stand!  Or go home you might say.  Skype has helped a lot but we are a little heart sick for our kids and just ready to settle into our new normal.

This last week has been busy but also a lot of boring.  We travelled (I should say Micah travelled) to the doctor again on Tuesday to get Pip's TB test, for real this time.  On Wednesday we had the big deal that we came for meeting, getting the last go-ahead on the adoption.  Thursday we had the TB test read--PTL, it was negative (I guess TB is a real problem here and we certainly wouldn't be able to leave the country if the test had shown exposure). Yesterday, we made our way to the U.S. Embassy for our visa interview.  We waited for what seemed forever, had a crying fit in the waiting room, but overall had an easy interview and should be able to pick up Pip's visa right in time for our flight home next Tuesday night.  

**BTW, taxi rides have gotten much better!  Our first two were a very bad sampling of what is really a safe and cheap way of transportation.  It turns out they don't all take unknowing tourists around extra blocks to rack up meter miles, have extremely dilated eyes, try to pick up women for your husband, and make loud noises at your newly adopted daughter.

Other than our obligations, we have ventured out only a little to get groceries.  The walls of our hotel room are closing in a bit.  I have finished three books this week and read plenty of social media--however, my FB is pretty dead at 3:30 in the afternoon while you all sleep.

Attachment so far has really been great, she is showing all of the signs of a healthy transfer. She certainly is grieving but that is healthy too.  This is so different from our last adoption in so many ways.  She understands the concept of family, has been attached to one, and knew who we were far ahead of our first meeting.

My parenting of a 4 year old is; however, a little rusty. It is a difficult thing to become someone's mom all of a sudden --starting from ground zero with someone who has an established personality and will.  Sizing one another up, recognizing expectations, all while emphasizing unconditional love is a delicate process. What I have clearly figured out, is that she is a strong-willed little girlfriend!  I know that this will serve her well in the life challenges she will face; but it does cause some "Lord, help me!" moments in this season of our relationship.

Thank you for petitioning heaven on our behalf.  We daily see the fruit of your prayers.  We will be going to worship at the international church again tomorrow morning--a little taste of heaven!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

And I am Amazed

Can I share something amazing with you?

Last Sunday afternoon, in Chiang Mai, I told Micah, "I couldn't hardly close my fingers this morning.  They're really stiff and painful again."  It has been a year since my surgery. 

The next day after meeting Pip for the first time, we were relaxing back in our hotel room.  Micah says, "Did you read Sue's comment [on Facebook]? " 

I log on and read this question from my dear friend, "Do your hands hurt little Sarah?"

Micah says, "Do you remember what you told me yesterday?"

How could I not?  

Here is the post I wrote last year when God revealed this mystery to me:  The Story of My Hands


Thank you, Father, that you weave all things together.  May my faith and compassion be increased!


23 Yet I am always with you;
    you hold me by my right hand.  Psalm 73:23
I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
    With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Psalm 16:8



Friday, March 15, 2013

Something Unexpected

Today we expected to go have Pip get a TB skin test, easy enough...right?  What we actually got was a case of shock.  When we arrived at the hospital, we were told that they only do skin tests on Tuesdays now, so we need to come back next week.  No problem.

However, we were also told that the US embassy now requires an MMR inoculation in-country 2 weeks after the TB test for Hague Convention adoptions......Excuse me, did I hear you right? We need to come next Tuesday for the skin test and then have to stay 2 weeks more in Thailand to receive a vaccination?

We exchanged looks with the other adoptive family with us--looks that said, "This can't be happening."  I could see Micah putting on his contending boxing gloves and preparing to speed dial our congressman.

We spent four hours in the hospital waiting room while our social worker made phone calls.  She came over later and said, "Goot news. Will waive."  Praise God it turned out that the Embassy will let us waive this requirement with an affidavit that says we will do the vaccination in the U.S.

Thank you for going into battle with us with your prayer...God has gone before us to level the mountains!  Isaiah 45:2

Thursday, March 14, 2013

City Life

After my last post we had a short night sleep and were up at 5 am to head to the airport. Our short, one hour, flight to Bangkok with our new little Pip Squeak was a cinch.  She is so good-natured and sweet spirited!  We gave her a lollipop for the ascent and never heard a complaint.
  At our arrival airport I ordered a mocha at a coffee bar while we waited to meet another family from the US who is also adopting.  I quickly learned that their idea of a mocha at this cafe was coffee with a teaspoon of unsweetened cocoa powder...blegh! Desperate times call for desperate measures and I drank it down.
   We met our colleagues and headed to apply for our children's passports and pictures for their visas. Pip fell asleep twice in my arms as we jaunted around the city.

Speaking of the city....getting around here is absolute madness!!  There are basically no sidewalks, so walking anywhere with our baby girl is out of the question and getting a taxi can send your life flashing before your eyes.  After last night's trip to the grocery store Micah and I both said we were never leaving the hotel again...a hasty statement but we have a little post traumatic stress.  We are missing the quiet peacefulness and safety of Chiang Mai.

Pip is doing so well!  We had a small discipline issue last night but we are picking our battles very carefully, gaining trust, and putting some mom and dad are the parents here boundaries.  She is delighted just to play and will stay endlessly busy.  This morning she has enjoyed stacking cups while scribbling crayon notes (presumably observations concerning her cup work), playing hide-and-seek with dad (her giggling is a terrible give-away), blowing bubbles on the balcony, and taking flash pictures.

Tomorrow we visit a pediatrician and get a ppd skin test done.  Also tomorrow, Pip turns 4!  We will be finding some cake!!!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Gotcha!

We'de like to announce our new baby girl....Elia P* Gitlin!  Born to us March 12, 2013.  30 lbs. and 36" long. What a labor this has been!

As of this morning we now have full custody of Pips!  Exciting? Absolutely! Is it terrifying  to be actually walking out on the water? Yes, but the voice of Jesus keeps our eyes focused on him and not the waves crashing around our feet.

As soon we drove up to the house we noticed that Pip was a little different today.  She completely understood what was about to go down.  She was willing to play with us but was reserved and kept a close eye on her foster mom, Nan, whom she adores.  We enjoyed some strong, Thai coffee with Nan and Pa, took some pictures and Nan shared some last-minute details about Pip's care.  She looked at me and said,"You are what we've been praying for.". How amazing it is to be invited into God's plan.

The Spirit's presence was so tangible as we gathered into a huddle and Pa prayed over us before Pip left their home for the last time.  Nan carried her to the van, Micah and I got in first.  Pip began to cry as Nan kissed her good-bye and handed her to the social worker, so did I.

The social worker held Pip as we drove away so that she would not associate the pain she was feeling with us.  She cried loudly for about ten minutes before she settled down and came to sit on our laps.  Tears came again this afternoon at nap time but she let's herself  receive comfort from us, and that is paramount in this attachment process.  We expect more grief tonight but accept this as part of the healing and bonding we will walk through together.  Becoming a family this way is never easy, it is born of pain and loss-- but these things are good soil for God to demonstrate redemption, restoration, and for him to make beautiful things grow again.

Monday, March 11, 2013

This is the Day He Has Prepared

Yesterday was an adventure like I had never experienced before; full of elephant rides, beautiful northern Thailand culture and scenery...but NOTHING compares to today.  This morning after breakfast we met our Thai social worker who accompanied us to the children's home where some one hundred orphaned children,age 0-18, are cared for---where Peach was brought during her first days of life.  We smiled and cooed at the babies and toddlers who are needing homes and have a good chance at finding one.  We mourned in our hearts for the girls living there who are over 12, some rescued from trafficking, who will most likely reach 18 at this facility and be forced to face the real world with no family to care for or support them.  We saw a beautifully kept, stimulating facility with caring staff.  We also saw incense being burned and Buddhist prayers being prayed to release inner strength and compassion....and our hearts hurt for a people who are lacking truth.
   AND THEN......we were taken to P's foster home, where our hearts begin to sing loudly.  Her foster mom and dad from Australia have a small program for orphaned special needs children called Kingdom Kids.  Can I just pause here to tell you that, as a general rule, orphaned special needs children in Thailand are kept in institutions...our miracle begins.
   We parked on the street outside of a small gated home and unload.  As soon as we come around the van someone opens the gate holding a most precious little girl donning a shirt that reads "Daddy's Sweety."  She, who is lovingly nicknamed Pip by the people who have cared for her, points and says, "Maaaa,  Daaaaa." She was ready to be held by me and quickly gave kisses to Maaa (me!).
  We are taken across the street where the 11 children being cared for in this small program have a little pre-school building staffedby volunteers.  There everyone is so excited for Pip and her new mom and dad.  We take pictures and eat cake, Pip is smiley and loves the attention.  We are in a 99%  Buddhist nation, but in this small building we are led in prayer--- in Jesus' name.  My eyes fill with tears and my heart with gratefulness to these servants of Christ who have left a life of comfort behind to give all they have to the least of these.
  We took a small tour of the little farm this family owns, helping the locals do sustainable, organic farming.  We had a very short visit back at the house where we gave some gifts.  We gave Pip a stuffed lamb with which she squeeled and began running around the room! We then took Pip with us along with the Thai social worker for the afternoon. We ate some lunch where Pip chose French fries instead of rice and showed her very proficient ketchup dipping skills.
  Back at the hotel the social worker came with us to our room to help us get adjusted.  She is accompanying us to make the transition easier but since Pip understands English so well and has been  so well prepared for us (Maaa and Daaaa) it is just a relief to be left alone with her.
  Presently, Pip is napping in our bed.  We might try the pool later this afternoon and then Pip's Na (foster mom) will come eat supper with us and take her back for her last night.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

We're Almost There

We have arrived in Thailand!  We are sitting in a small airport in Bangkok waiting for our flight to Chiang Mai, the last leg of our 30+ hour excursion to where our girl is!
Here are some not so put together updates and thoughts:
The immigration line at BKK airport was long but we made it through with no problems and found all of our checked bags waiting for us.  Flying the Etihad airline was something to remember!  They stuffed us with food and the movies on demand were great for passing the time.
   Bangkok is around 90 degrees today and feels very much like a steamy, steamy sauna. The Thai people have been so gracious and friendly, are incredibly light-hearted and, for the most part, proficient in English (a big advantage for us).

 We are going to check into our hotel and maybe check out the markets this evening.  Tomorrow has an open schedule  (meeting Peach on Monday!!) so we have booked an adventure that I will write about later!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Something's Happening!

We have some things going on over here!

Some things like...
cooking for a month.

Some things like...
 gathering little friends to give to new little friends....


making an extra bed ready for someone special,











fitting all of THIS into a suitcase,



AND booking plane tickets to Thailand for next week!