Tuesday, March 31, 2015

One year!

I'll warn you right from the start that this post may (read: will) be heavy with photos and most of the photos will be doing the talking.  Today, marks one year with our precious Stella Claire! What an amazing milestone to finally be reaching.  I woke up though, wondering why I wasn't filled with joy.  Believe me, I'm so happy, very happy, that Stella has been with us a year.  As I got to thinking about these mixed emotions this morning over my tea, it really hit me how bittersweet this anniversary is for all of us.  Gotcha Day or Family Day, is a wonderful day, but it is also filled with heartache, confusion and just plain grief over leaving all that you have known.  As parents, we go into the day with anticipation of finally holding the child we have longed for in our arms.  That moment comes and then we are switched from the joyous moment, to the comforters of the child who has come to us with nothing - except the memories of everything that just was.  We are strangers.  Can you imagine being comforted by a stranger? The time that trauma takes to heal, through lots of prayer, lots of creative parenting, and lots of love is for us close to a year.  A year.  I can now say that our little girl loves us.  We've always loved her (from that first photo of a 6 month old baby with the biggest brown eyes), but there have been times this year when it's been hard to pour out that love.  Loving someone, opening your heart to them - just takes lots of time.  We have arrived.  Praise!

Last year - this was shortly after we met Stella and her nanny in the hotel lobby.

 Oh my - just look at that sweetness! Mama had a new cup to give her and food was the way to her heart (kind of still is!).  Our meeting came with smiles, no forceful placements into my arms.  We took our time and got to know each other until it was time to take her up to our room.  Then the tears came... Thankfully she was easily comforted and went into full on play mode.

This window - I'll always remember as a place of comfort for the both of us.

Wiped out finally from all the day brought to her.  She was so heavy, but it was the best feeling holding her sleeping in my arms.

And NOW! Just look at this thriving little girl! We missed her second birthday by just a week so this year we celebrated big (like the 1st, 2nd and 3rd birthdays combined big!!!).  Stella Claire is so loved and a cherished daughter.  I took these pictures of her today - 3 years old now - she's grown so much this past year.  We are so very thankful to New Day for her care before God brought us together.  Because she knew love, she has opened her heart to love again.

Presenting - the many faces of our beautiful girl:

Happy one year together!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Yummy Chinese Beef Noodle Soup

Yummy - yes! Now that the weather is finally turning slightly cooler here in South Texas, it's time to break out the simple soup recipes that warm our bellies so.  And with Melissa finally home from China, she's been hungry for the foods she found comfort in while working there.  Stella LOVES this soup and I've finally gotten the seasoning just right to make it feel like Chinese comfort food.  We had a version of this soup in Guangzhou while adopting Stella Claire, and it really is just so, so good. You've got to try it, especially if you have China babies at home! We have tried to incorporate more traditional foods into our meals as they really do bring our little girl comfort.

This feeds our family of 9, so adjust accordingly for your family size - or freeze extra! This is a two part recipe and part one needs to be done at least one day ahead (putting this in here for planning purposes!). 

Ingredients for Chinese Beef Noodle Soup: 
4 beef shanks with bone, 1/2 cup soy sauce (or liquid aminos - my preference), 1/2 cup rice wine, 2 cups water, four whole green onions (ends removed), 4 slices fresh ginger (about 1/2 inch each piece), 2 Tablespoons chinese szechuan pepper seasoning (I found mine at Whole Foods - but you could use 8-10 whole sichuan peppercorns too -  I just can't find those in my area).

Part 1 - Braise the beef shank.  Place beef shanks in a large pot with remaining ingredients listed above. Bring to a boil, cover tightly, turn heat to low and simmer for approx. 2 hours.  
Remove beef from broth to a plate and let cool.  Reserve broth/sauce and beef in the refrigerator for noodle soup. Refrigerating the beef overnight will make it easier for cutting later.

Part 2:  Noodle soup ingredients: 

Chinese noodles (do not use egg noodles, specifically look for traditional wheat noodles), chicken broth (about 8 oz for every two servings, in which I use 1 box), 6 cups water, salt and pepper, soy sauce, reserved beef and broth (which should look like a gelatin - just remove the bones, onions and ginger pieces), two bunches of greens (we like baby bok choy, but spinach and napa cabbage work too), and slivered scallions for garnishing. 

In a large pot, combine the chicken broth, water, and all the reserved broth/sauce from cooking the beef shank. Bring to a boil and add in your greens to blanch them. Adjust seasoning if needed (add salt, pepper, or a touch of soy sauce).  Set aside once your broth is steaming hot and greens are wilted.

At the same time, bring a separate pot of water to boil to cook your noodles.  Cook noodles according to the package directions.  Be careful not to overcook. Drain noodles.

Thinly slice the reserved beef shank meat.

Now it's finally time to assemble the soup! Place noodles into large soup bowls (the Chinese like generous portions!).  Add some beef slices, some greens, and ladle in hot soup broth.  Garnish with slivered green onions and serve steaming hot!

My sweet husband makes these yummy chinese crackers to go with our soup sometimes.
They are so, so good!  Tastes just like the pita bread we had in Guangzhou.

 Yep - you can tip your bowl and drink the soup broth little Stella! 

More please?!  Of course! She can eat 4 bowls of this! :-)

Enjoy y'all!


Sunday, November 2, 2014

The morning light

Today is Orphan Sunday, a day that some churches across the nation will use to bring awareness to foster care and adoption.  Our local church will probably not be doing anything special, that I know of, and I'm kind of not okay with that.  But it is what it is right now and I'll keep praying for our church.  And if they do something - I'll be praising for that!

So today, I bring you my little blog post as a reminder that today in churches all around the nation, there are families hearing about other families involved in adoption and foster care, the orphan crisis around the world and children who need families.  As I sit here writing, I'm watching God's glorious sunrise and it seems so very fitting.  You see, God is the only one who can awaken our hearts just like the sun brings light to overcome the darkness of the night.  First, there's just a little glow and the darkness turns from pitch black to gray.  Are you listening? Could God be talking to you right now?

Our answer is usually something like this...."Oh God, I'm happy to help others, but caring for orphans is just not for me.  I do not have the gifts or talents for this.  I'll let someone else do that work".

Then the darkness gives way to more light as God calls even more to the heart.  There's a red sky of love beaming up over the horizon and it's a holy beauty that draws us speechless.  God says "yes, you my child".  "You were put here to care for the least of these.  You." Us. What if He is calling to you right now? Will you say "Yes"?

I know it's scary.  I know there is fear.  When we first thought God was asking us to do more and to adopt, we thought it was crazy! We already had been given six children biologically to care for and raise.  But we gave it to God.  Give it all to God and He will see this through! It's as simple as that! And there will be beauty and joy like the sunrise peeking over the horizon.  His promises renewing each and every morning.

We said yes - and here she is today home seven months! She is no longer a child without a family - an orphan.  But a beloved daughter, sister, granddaughter and friend.  Her reality and beginning could have been lost to statistics if God hadn't called to our hearts, changed us, and made her ours.  She was always His, but now she can flourish and thrive with a family by her side.

 The very first picture we saw of Stella Claire when she arrived at New Day.

Home 7 months - she's so loved.  

Please don't wait.  Don't wait for "the time to be right". There are so many children waiting.  They need you.  Now.

So today, on Orphan Sunday, while it may be all around you or it may not be mentioned at all, take a moment to ask God what he wants from you.  Does he want you to support a family in the adoption process, take a meal to the ones who just became first time foster parents, pray for those children who are waiting, or adopt one into your family? It's not something that most people think about on a daily basis, so that's why there is today.  My prayer today is that God will ask "why aren't you doing something?". Let's all answer Him with a "Yes!". And - then GO do it!

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.  John 1:5

Go be the light.  Bring the light to those who are waiting for it.  And - experience the LOVE and JOY that is waiting for you!