Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Weather Report

Recently I've been checking the weather for the 3 cities we will be staying in while we're in China. You know how weather reports usually look: 50 and sunny, 62 and partly cloudy, etc. You know the drill. Tell me, have you ever seen this on your local weather report? 43 and smoke. That's Wednesday's weather in Beijing.

Monday, November 28, 2005


Tonight I am packing. Our travel itinerary arrived today, listing hotels and inside China flight numbers and times. I guess now that I've seen these details, the reality of the trip is really sinking in. I had forced myself to wait to get a suitcase out until after this past weekend and its events were over. So now the weekend is over, and then today this itinerary arrives... surely now I must begin the packing process.

Oh, I'd definitely begun the process before now. How many times have I opened the drawers of Gwen's little dresser and tucked in an acquired item? How many times have I taken her little clothes out of the drawers and arranged them in piles around me on the floor, putting outfits together and deciding which ones should come on The Trip with us? Many times, I assure you.

But now the packing is real. The suitcase is open on the floor by my dresser. I have chosen all of Gwen's clothes and already have them sealed airtight in my "space saver" luggage bags, designed to suck all the air out of their contents and thus create more room in the suitcase. I have emptied her dresser drawers of the various and sundry other items I've been gathering~ medications for Gwen and for us, snacks for Gwen and for us, bottles, sippy cups, diapers, disposable bibs, toys and books for Gwen, books for us, electrical current converters, etc. Now these things are in heaps on the floor... how will I possibly fit them all into the suitcase and my backpack and still have room for clothes? I admit, I have made a substantial pile of things over in another corner of our bedroom, on Scott's side. He must take his fair share of these items in his luggage, too! He has sworn to take a very minimal amount of clothing, planning on buying things in China if he finds he needs more. I am doing my best to pack light... not an easy task for me.

And then there's the thought of wanting to bring some treasures home with us... we hear the shopping is amazing, the exchange rate fabulous. And really, when will we be getting back to China to shop again? The Thing To Do, we've heard, is plan on buying an extra suitcase while in the country to bring the treasures home in. There certainly won't be extra room in the ones we take with us.

My suitcase is Not Large. It is a business traveler's rolling bag, the kind that can be put in the overhead compartment on the airplane. I am really hoping that between the large backpack I will be able to wear, and this rolling bag, that I can get everything in. Scott has similar pieces of luggage, although his backpack is made to accomadate a laptop, and of course we really want to have that along. I'm hoping that with his minimalistic packing, he will be able to fit the video camera in his suitcase...

And now it is 11:40 p.m. Time to stop packing, time to finish this post. Time to go to bed and dream about the reason I'm finally packing... she's waiting for us on the other side of the world, and I pray she's dreaming about us, too.

Saturday, November 26, 2005


Last night as a dusting of snow began to cover our now quite cold and frozen yard we had some new friends from our neigborhood over for dinner. Their names are Jonathon and Mary Jo and they have a son named Thomas who is 6 and a daughter named Maya who is 2-1/2. It was a very fun and enjoyable evening. We have a unique affinity for this wonderful family. You see, it was just this past January when they experienced what we are about to experience. Their "gotcha day" was January 10, 2005, when they traveled to China and first held Su-su in their arms and welcomed her into their family.

We actually met this family at an adoption seminar last November. It was one of those strange converstions where you introduce yourself to someone and eventually ask where they live and three or four exchanges later you realize that you live around the corner from each other. Well, they were obviously much further along in the process than we were, and so we have the good fortune of asking them lots of questions and gleaning as much knowledge and information as possible about our upcoming trip to China. It was a neat time of sharing and listening. That was the main purpose of the evening last night. However, what received was much more than that. We were blessed to get a small glimpse of what it is going to be like around our house very soon. We got to see little Maya (Su-su... she still prefers this nickname from her orphanage) run around our house with her brother, Thomas. We watched her smile, and laugh, and play with our kids. We were able to see Madelyn (soon to be big sister) sit sweetly in a chair as Maya combed her hair and played beautician. And I watched my boys, who I am so pround of, play with her and include her and watch out for her. This scene provided all the warmth we needed on a cold winter night in Chicago.

The countdown continues. In less than two weeks another beginning will occur for us on this journey. We will leave this frozen ground for a far off place where we know winter is beginning to set in as well. Your Momma and I, and your brothers and sister have so much we want to offer you, Gwen... but the greatest thing that we have for you is the warmth of God's love that we promise to give you every day. We are coming for you... and we know that we are the fortunate ones. We could see it but for a moment last night right in our own home.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Two Weeks From Today...

...we will be on our way to China! After 15 months in process, I can't believe we are this close to meeting Gwen.

Thank you to all of you who have prayed for Gwen and supported us in this amazing adventure. We love you!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 21, 2005

Pagodas and Pine Trees

Last week a Large Envelope arrived in the mail from Children's Hope. Mail from Children's Hope is generally either something Very Important or Very Exciting. This particular envelope contained several things. The first was a letter stating what the contents of the envelope were. Of course! Next there was a stapled packet of papers with a bright orange cover page that said FINAL CHECKLIST in bold letters. The inside pages listed all the documents that we need to bring with us to China. Fortunately we had been given a copy of this list earlier and I had already gathered the items on the list. Set that aside. Third was a copy of the official letter we had had to sign and return by FedEx the day we got Gwen's referral packet. It is the "Letter of Seeking Confirmation from Adopter." Funny enough, Scott and I had both signed the letter but failed to check the box stating that we "accept the child mentioned above". We realized it later and called Children's Hope in a panic, but they said the form was included in a packet with a cover letter stating that all the referrals were accepted. Whew! Big sigh of relief. So here again was a copy of this letter, signed, but still with no box checked. Silly us! The fourth item in the envelope was a list of all the Children's Hope families who we will be traveling with, 33 in all. It included their names and contact information, and also their new daughters' names (both their Chinese name and their new name) and birthdates. Our whole group is divided into smaller groups based on what province we will travel to to receive our daughters. The smaller group Scott and I are in has a total of four families.

The last thing in the envelope was a very official looking document on a parchment type paper with a watermark and raised seal. It is the Notice of Coming to China for Adoption. It has a small scanned picture of Gwen on the bottom, a close-up of the posed referral photo. The title of the document was written in both English and Chinese, and our names, Mr. Scott Thomas Liptak & Mrs. Lynne Ellen Liptak were in English. Within the text of the document I could make out 2004 3 14, which is Gwen's birthdate.

The rest of what it says, we can only guess. As Scott said, all he could make out of that foreign type is little pagodas and pine trees.

The First Night

Last night as Scott and I were falling asleep we talked about the First Night With Gwen. Three weeks from yesterday we will meet Gwen for the first time... what will the first night with her be like? Scott decided that we will all be tired after such a monumental day, and that we will all sleep. Will it be that simple? I try to go there in my mind, but having never experienced anything like this before, I can't quite make the leap.

Although the days until our departure are flying by, in a way it still seems so far away. Perhaps this is because it is such an other worldly experience. I have talked to many people who have adopted daughters from China. Even the families who were very sick on the trip or who had some other unforseen trouble befall them have said that it is absolutely the trip of a lifetime, an experience like none other.

There has been a song in my head literally for weeks, since we sang it at Scott's parents' church when we visited them at the end of October. The phrase that keeps rolling through my brain is,

Every blessing You pour out, I'll turn back to praise .

Having not even made this trip yet, I cannot stop thinking what an absolute gift this child and this experience of adoption already is to our family. I praise the Lord for His indescribable gift... not just of bringing Gwen to our family, but for choosing us for His family.

The first night is coming soon... until then, we have every blessing You've poured out that we want to praise You for.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Look What God Can Do!

This afternoon I was at my friend Laura's house. Their Korean daughter arrived into their arms at O'Hare airport just last month. She is a precious little thing, so bright and pretty, and just seven months old. Laura showed me the video today of Lily's homecoming... what a miracle it was. I was so encouraged to see how God worked in their family, because they had prayed for months for Lily to recognize them and feel at home with them, just like we have been for Gwen.

Laura had told me how miraculous their first meeting of Lily had been, how peaceful and loving Lily had acted. But until I saw it today I didn't realize what an amazing work God had done.

This baby had been on a long international flight with an escort whom she did not know and was placed into the arms of people she had never met. But it was so obvious from the video that God had put her family in her heart long before she ever saw them.

She came happily and willingly into Laura's arms. She looked peacefully around and was just generally pleasant and calm, with all the comotion of an airport gate and lots of people talking all around her. She snuggled onto Laura's shoulder and went easily to her daddy. She reached out to her grandpa and was snuggled against his cheek. It was truly miraculous.

At the end of the video, which was about thirty minutes after she was carried off the plane to meet her new family, Lily started to fuss a little. Laura sat down in one of those airport chairs and fed her a bottle. Lily laid back in Laura's arms, looked right into her eyes and peacefully drank her milk. And the last shot of her I saw was her little hand reaching up to play with her new mama's long curly hair. She was finally home, right where she belonged.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Happy Birthday, Gwen!

Another month birthday passed for Gwen today. She is now 20 months old.

I am so happy to be able to say that we are coming to get you, Big Girl, and we will be with you in 27 days! By your 21 month birthday, we will have been together for 3 days.

I can only imagine it! Sigh... amazing.

Did I mention that we leave for China in 24 days?

Saturday, November 12, 2005

The One Place I Want To Go

Our flights to China are booked! Scott was all over that task. He found an awesome deal (God extended the Fall China Travel Sale that United was running for us!) and we even have our seat assignments. We will leave Chicago in the morning on December 8th, flying first to San Franciso. We have a short stop there, then go on to Beijing, a twelve and a half hour flight boasting "multiple meals." I thought that was funny! We arrive in Beijing on Friday, December 9 in the early evening, which means we are essentially skipping over 13 hours of time as we cross the Pacific. Caleb thought this concept of traveling into the future was so cool! Our return flight is December 22, direct from Beijing to Chicago... 13 hours straight.

I spoke with Kim this morning, a girl from the Chicago area that is in our Children's Hope travel group. She and her husband Steve are not traveling to the same province to get their daughter as we will be for Gwen, but we will be with them at the beginning of our trip, in Beijing, and also at the end in Guaungzhou. This morning I found out that we will also be on the airplane together! It turns out we booked the exact same flights. On the first leg of the trip, Steve and Kim have the two seats directly behind Scott and I. What fun it will be to share our excitement! And of course we will have company on the way home, too... that patience testing 13 hours of flying with a toddler on our laps in economy seating!

Over the last day and a half as we've reveled in the joy of knowing the day we will meet our daughter, I can't help but think that I wouldn't want to be doing anything else. I've told Scott several times already today that I don't think there is another place on earth I'd rather go, another vacation I'd like to take, or another experience I can imagine wanting more than this one... this trip to the other side of the world where we will meet our girl.

Thank you, Jesus, for this amazing gift!

Friday, November 11, 2005

The Final Countdown

Well, not only did we get the travel dates this morning, but half an hour after the first email, I got a second one from the Children's Hope China travel coordinator. This email contained an itinerary... which means we now know the day that Gwen will be placed in our arms, and it is ONE MONTH FROM TODAY!! On the itinerary it says,

Sun, Dec 11- Fly to your child's province as a group, receive your child in the afternoon.

Receive your child!! Those are the words we've been waiting to hear, to know when we would actually be holding Gwen. She's certainly been received into hearts for a long, long while, but this final step it going to be so amazing!! I can only imagine the joy of that moment.

So, we're counting down... 30 days from today, we will receive our child.

Travel Plans!!!!

Well, we actually don't have plans yet, but we do have dates! The email I just received says the following:

"Arrival date in Beijing will be December 9, Friday. Departure date from Guangzhou will be late in evening after 8 pm on Wed. December 21st or next day Thurs, Dec. 22."

So that's something! The dates are the latest possible dates we were expecting... of course we would have rather gone sooner, but because we aren't we will be in town for Seth's orchestra Christmas concert and the dress rehearsal for the church Christmas musical, where he has a solo and 25 or so lines. We'll miss all of the five performances, but I am so thankful to get to see the dress rehearsal.

I know God's timing is perfect! We're coming, Gwen... we'll be together before your 21 month birthday!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Travel Approval and Trust

Children's Hope received our travel approval yesterday! It was immediately faxed to the American consulate in Guangzhou to request our appointment date there. Hopefully we will know that date tomorrow or Friday, and thus our travel dates as well! Then it will be time to book our international flights! Wow... this is getting close. Last night I spent some time copying passport pages and visas, something we need to take along. That was one item checked off of a long list of documents we need to take with us. Fortunatly most of the documents we need to take are things we already have from the dossier, although I have one new document that I need to have notarized today. It feels good to be getting things ready to go!

Please continue to pray with us for Gwen and the situation in the world regarding the avian flu. I am not listening to any news about it... I gave the whole thing to the Lord yesterday morning and am endeavoring to leave it with Him. I know our times are in His hands. Please lift us up as we trust Him for Gwen's home coming!

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Joy in the Journey

All last week we were expecting our travel approval to come. I had started to get that slighly crazy feeling I had when we were waiting for Gwen's referral... not quite that intense, but getting there. I was not well last week, had a cough and cold... the "seasonal crud", the doctor called it. That kind of added to my unrest.

But Thursday afternoon we went to the woods. Lake Patterson, a smallish manmade lake and wooded area, is just down the road from our house. After lunch I suggested to the kids that we go over there for half an hour to collect some leaves. Well, we got not a hundred yards into the woods, and we were entranced. There was no way we were getting out of there in thirty minutes. It was SO lovely. First of all, the weather was absolutely ideal that day. Right around 70 degrees, with a light breeze and clear blue sky. And the woods... well, the ground was covered in yellow leaves in every shade and shape. And the sticks... well, let me just say that all manner of things were created and pretended with the sticks and fallen logs that we found. At one point when the kids were so happily playing, I just laid flat on my back in the leaves and looked up at the branches and sky and thought how I wouldn't want to be anywhere else at that moment, than revelling in what God made on that golden day and listening to the happy sounds of my children's voices. My one sadness was that Scott was not with us, but instead diligently working downtown, INSIDE, on that perfect day, so that we could be where we were, OUTSIDE. I began to pray for him, that God would give him joy in what he was doing.

The JOY part of my prayer reminded me of a song that Michael Card sings, a song that Scott and I sang a long time ago at our dear friends Bill & Rebecca's wedding, back when we were all Very Young. Perhaps you know it...

There is a joy in the journey
There's a Light we can love on the way.
There is a wonder and wildness to life.
And freedom for those who obey.

There's more to it, of course, and it is a lovely, thoughtful song that applies to our lives in so many ways. But for that moment, it reminded me that the joy will not just be in Getting Gwen. The joy is here and now, in the journey that is our life. Not just in waiting for her, in anticipating all that her coming will mean to our family, but in the Now. It's in what I already have been given, like the golden day in the woods and a husband who finds joy in working so that I can have the freedom to take my children to the woods. It's joy in Madelyn's loose tooth. Joy in the Waltmires new little girl, Julia. Joy in my sweet friend Rebecca's weekend visit. It's joy in serving others in our small group.

But mostly, it's joy in knowing Him.

Other Big News

We can't believe it... Madelyn has lost a tooth! The reason it's so amazing is that she only discovered that it was loose on Thursday. It was able to be wiggled a little, but wasn't really loose. Somehow she bit on it funny later in the day and it loosened substantially more. She was So Very Excited, but she was also sort of troubled by the loose tooth in a way that I don't remember the boys being. She commented often about it hurting. She ate very gingerly. She couldn't sleep because of it. On Friday she commented that she hadn't known that having a loose tooth would be so hard. Low and behold, it came out on Saturday. Just by itself. All of the sudden. The tooth fairy Mommy came last night. Actually, it was at 7:30 this morning, hoping she was still sleeping... she told me later that she saw me but pretended to be asleep!

And now, all of the sudden, we have a Big Girl.

Maybe it's time for another little one... one is who is coming soon. :-)

Friday, November 04, 2005


Progress... our passports with visas came back to us yesterday... we're official now! Now we're just waiting for travel approval and arrangements to be made! Maybe that travel approval will come today...

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

God Will Do It

I just got off the phone with Sharon from Children's Hope. I asked her if the orphanage staff does anything to prepare the little girls that their lives are about to change. I wondered if maybe they talked with them about it for a few weeks ahead of time, to get them used to the idea that they will be leaving the only home they've ever known and given to strangers who will be their new parents.

She doesn't think they tell them anything.

Sharon told me about another Children's Hope employee, Mary, who adopted two school age children from China 5-6 years ago. Mary was the first person I ever spoke to at CHI. Sharon said that Mary's children, even at their age of obvious understanding, were not told anything. They had kind of figured it out because they had observed that when children were sent for shots they were often adopted soon after. But as far as talking about it ahead of time... nothing.

So, I guess it's all up to God. I've asked Him for months to prepare Gwen to be a part of our family. Can He do this? Is He big enough?

My prayer this morning was that once she is with us, she'll know she's finally home. Please continue to pray with us for this. I know that we will witness a miracle... can't wait to share it with you!