A Special Visit {From a Special Friend}

While in Changsha, we had a visit from my life long friend! Melodie was my first best friend growing up. I think we date back to toddler years. She has one of the biggest hearts I know, speaks Chinese and cares for orphans here in China. And we were lucky enough to have her here with us for a few days!!

So grateful God afforded us the opportunity to be able to catch up and hear what is going on in her amazingly crazy world! And so blessed that she can communicate with my child. She explained to Anli, “This is your new mommy and daddy and you are going to live with them.” Anli replied with her hands on her hips, “I know!” Can’t get anything past this one!


Thank you, Melodie, for the sacrifice you made this week– traveling to see us, being away from your THIRTY-TWO kiddos (that’s right, I said 32!), assuring Anli we are good people and she can trust us (though we know this will take months/years for her to believe), showing us where the good Chinese food is, taking us to get cough medicine, and all the insight you have on the Chinese culture, Anli’s first years, and orphan care. Your knowledge and friendship through this tough time is immeasurable. Thank you for asking daily, “How’s it going? How can I help? or How can I pray?” Lord knows the questions or responses from asking might sound absurd but that’s life right now. Thank you for your advise and support! We truly hope to visit again one day when we can be of more help to you!

Here are a few photos from dinner last night. Mel and her guy took us to have traditional Chinese hot pot. Oh, so yummy! We enjoy the food here and loved learning more about their traditions and culture!!



This girl can down some noodles!

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If you, readers, would like to hear more about what Melodie does on a daily basis visit, www.journeyofajoyfullife.org. If nothing else, lift her and the children in her care up in prayer. This is an amazing woman doing humble work for His glory!

“But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted; you consider their grief and take it in hand. The victims commit themselves to you; you are the helper of the fatherless.”  –Psalms 10:14


What a Day! {2 FEB 2015}

Good morning from Changsha!! We met Anli yesterday at about 11am. It was a whirlwind of a day! There are five families here from our agency and we all met our kids at the same time in the small play room the hotel has on the “non-smoking” floor. They arrived a little late because the children were taken to have their passport photos done before bringing them to our hotel. 10978531_924683787541754_6068400870671647248_n When they came off the elevator and she saw me, she waved smiling with excitement! We didn’t even have to introduce ourselves. She was calling me mama, Will baba, and Ollin dede (sp?) meaning little brother. Her caretakers did an fantastic job at preparing her. We are so grateful to them! 1782061_924682667541866_8125417347496488441_n 1512408_924683064208493_6915117146545205770_n 10252098_924683477541785_3587390796543303294_n 10313521_924683867541746_8036880373528605281_n There weren’t hardly any tears just a whole lot of smiles and giggles, though we know the tears will come eventuality. Her and Ollin chased each other around, played hide-and-seek, and are getting along wonderfully. 

We had two days itinerary combined into one so there wasn’t hardly any one-on-one time. After the families were united in the hotel’s play room, we dispersed for lunch. Then met back up to go to the Changsha Civil Affairs Office to complete our part of the adoption paperwork. It was quite a process given there was such a large group. Both of our kids held up like champs. Ollin went his first day ever without a nap and did amazingly well- considering! 10959497_924970567513076_5522165703521308011_n 10978589_924970660846400_6734449044510968116_n All the meetings and official adoption paperwork are being prepared/finalized this week by notaries and officials. We also had the official interview yesterday and I guess we passed because in the end she was declared our daughter!! She’s a firecracker- full of energy and smiles! We can’t wait to see her personality unfold. 10348619_924683907541742_8682571026585292522_n She’s taken to both, me and Will. She is okay if one of us leaves for a bit but after a while she will start calling for her mama or baba, whichever is gone. 10411398_924683887541744_3778540053334810399_nAt bedtime she does prefer mommy over daddy. (Not surprising given the amount of men in her life over the last 3 years must’ve been minimal). Ollin passed out right away and Anli took a while to settle. I rocked her and sang Jesus Loves Me. There seemed to be some fear in her eyes– understandably, considering we are strangers speaking a foreign language. So I got out Chinese for Adoptive Families, (great book). Then assured her, “You are my precious child. Don’t be afraid. It’s okay. We love you very much.” Not sure I got it all the tones right. Maybe she was just comforted to hear her language. But she quickly had peace and dozed off.

Will and I had dinner at about 11pm last night after we got the adrenalin stricken littles to bed– Pizza Hut that our awesome guide brought to our door. It was an exhausting day but we feel amazingly blessed. We are so grateful for your love and prayers! We can certainly feel them.


A quick nap while waiting for the bus. So happy to have her in my arms!


The whole group at the Changsha Civil Affairs Office– right after 5 children became sons & daughters!!

Letter to Our Anli Joy {On Family Day}

I woke up before 5 this morning just listening and praying. Today is a big day! It’s a big day for me as a mother, Will as a father, Ollin as a brother and the multitude of extended family and friends who anxiously await for a smiling family photo from half way around the world.

But today is a gigantic day for our Anli Joy. Yes, she’s gaining a mommy, daddy, brother, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins who already adore her. But I can’t help but think about all she is losing. In her finite world, she’s losing everything!

Here are some thoughts I wrote to Anli as I braced myself for this pivotal day…


It’s 5:30 in the morning. I’ve been awake for a while now thinking about you. A bazillion emotions are running through my veins.

First, I’m so THRILLED to finally meet you! There is no one word that describes the excitement I’m exuding right now– elated, excited, thrilled, overjoyed, overwhelming happiness, to name just a few. To finally touch you and tell you I’m you’re mama, to call you daughter and say how much I love you seems like a dream still. We have prayed, fought blood, sweat and tears not ever really knowing IF this day would ever come. Really, no words. Just tears of joy streaming down my face.

IMG_9268Second, LOVE. I feel an overwhelming, unconditional love for you. One that comes from the gut of my soul. One that says you are mine and there is nothing that could ever, ever make it stop. Our love started to grow for you a short while ago– July, to be exact. Even though it’s only been a while since we knew you existed and knew you were ours, God knew you before the world even began, He knew you as He formed me inside of your Mimi. He knew you would eventually be ours. He knew you when he formed you inside of your birth mother. And He knew you would have many “mamas” in your first few years. He knew this day would come when I would be your mama. And He knows days will come when you question my love, His love, your birth mother’s love. Not one single moment of your life has happened by accident. Though I grieve the moments with you that I’ve lost, He, your Heavenly Father, was with you. He saw them all. His love for you surpasses any love I could fathom on my best day. You probably won’t understand this deep rooted love I feel until you have children of your own. But it’s also a never ending, unstoppable, fight to the death kind of love.
IMG_9322Third, I WORRY about you. Will you know what is going on today? Will you know what this means for your future? Were you told what is going to happen? Are you scared? Will I be able to comfort you? I also have silly questions running through my mind. Where did you sleep last night? Did you sleep last night? Who are these people who brought you to us? Do they really know you well enough to honestly answer all my questions? I feel desperate to gather information for you. This is my only chance to get as much as possible and remember everything I can about you and your life here; your past 3 years and 3 months, your birth city, to know your people and your home. The pressure to know and find out these things for you is so overwhelming at times I can’t breathe.


Will I be able to communicate to your tiered, fragile heart that everything is going to be okay? I know me and your dad can see the big picture or at least portions of the grand scheme God is orchestrating, called your life. But you cannot. This is a glorious transformation called redemption and we are honored to be in it with you.

You are gaining a family today! Do you even know what that means? In order for that to happen you have to loose everything in your world that you’ve ever known. This breaks my heart. Tears of deep, deep sadness stream down my face as I cannot take your mourning away. I cannot magically make everything better though I sincerely wish with all my heart that I could wipe away the loss and suffering you are about to experience today and the loss you will go through as you grow and discover yourself.
IMG_9301You are gaining a family today! Not a temporary one. One that will fight tooth and nail for you. One that will never leave you. One that will love you and direct you to your Creator. I promise, my child, NOTHING will ever stop my love. Even after we pass from this hard world into eternity, nothing will stop my love. We are family. We are real. We are far from perfect. And we love unconditionally. This is permanent.

Your are gaining a family today! Not just a mommy, daddy, and brother who are head over hills for you but you’re gaining aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, great aunts, a great grandma & friends who can’t wait to scoop you up and say how they also have prayed and longed for this moment.

You are loved my beloved child.


Hong Kong to Changsha {the adventure is just beginning}

We made it to Anli’s home Provence!

10968548_923917067618426_6205521484478399190_nThe day started early with a fellow adoptive family from our agency, leaving our hotel via taxi headed toward the border. Each family was in two separate taxi’s. We lost them during the cab ride and got dropped off at different border crossings. Will, Ollin and I went through customs and immigration wondering where our friends were and if they were going to make it to the sold out train station for the most important train ride of our lives (since we both are meeting our daughters in the morning).

As we crossed the river on a bus and made it into Shenzhen, China, the English signs disappeared and so did the people who could speak our language. We are in their country so we tried to be patient with our crying toddler, going up and down flights of stairs with all of our luggage trying to find the taxi ‘pick-up’ location. We had to catch a cab to the Shenzhen North Station to get on the high speed train to Changsha. There was no one in sight who spoke a lick of English. We finally found a cab driver who would read our train tickets and nodded yes. So we jumped in the cab nervously wondering where he was really taking us. Gratefully, before we knew it we were at the correct train station with 10,000 other people. We went up and down the crowed, I mean crowed (no personal space here), elevator a few times before a kind person pointed us in the right direction. We finally arrived at our gate in plenty of time and were relived to find our friends had just arrived too! 


Since we are traveling China during the biggest traveling season, with the New Year right around the corner, most transportation outlets to inner country China are sold out. We managed to snag the only seats left on a high speed train which happened to be first class. Not too bad for Ollin’s first train ride! It was super nice and the 3 1/2 hour ride went by quickly. Probably because we were able to see China’s magnificent country side.

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10411027_923917220951744_5150224108964839743_nOllin is quite the spectacle here. He and I attract an ample amount of attention, and people want to touch him. He seems to be okay with it but doesn’t want to talk to them. China is not as diverse as our country. And they think we are ‘beautiful’– so I’ve been told. We think the same, they are just stunningly beautiful people.

We are exhausted. Ollin is having plenty of meltdowns. The air quality isn’t much better here and the cigarette smoke is never ending. Prayers are appreciated for patience, grace, rest and wellness!

On a positive note, we are overly giddy to be in our daughters home city! And even more elated that it’s 6pm and we meet her at 10am tomorrow morning!! We were unsure if this day would ever come and to know we are no longer months, weeks or days away, but only hours away is so amazing!! Words cannot express our greatfullness to God for bringing our family together this way! It’s a huge answer to prayer!

With amazed, praising, and thankful hearts,

-ashley and will

View from our hotel room in Changsha.

View from our hotel room in Changsha.

Hong Kong {Day Two}


We were planning on visiting Tian Tan and seeing the big Buddhas today, (pictured below but not seen by this family on this trip). Because of Ollin’s allergies to the pollution, we skipped it and tried to stay inside as much as possible. Also, he’s still waking up for the day at 3:30am each morning so we wanted to stay close to the hotel for his nap time.


We decided on Hong Kong Science Museum instead and had fun at the many exhibits!




We leave here early tomorrow morning to catch a high speed train to Anli’s Provence! There’s another adoptive family here with us who we will be traveling with tomorrow to cross the border to mainland China in Shenzhen, which should be an adventure! It’s crazy to think we are less than 48 hours away from meeting our Anli Joy!!!
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Hong Kong {Day One}


First morning in Hong Kong! We woke up at 3:30 this morning. (Hong Kong and China are a 14 hour time difference from CST). Needless to say, we were ready to get out and explore Hong Kong by 7 this morning. However, this city does not wake up as early and us Texans.


We are staying at the Harbour Plaza Metropolis. It’s connected to a mall and a metro station. This is why we selected it. Hong Kong seems pretty easy to get around and most everyone speaks a little English which is so nice for us since we speak no Mandarine. The people here are very nice and that makes it convent too. This seems to be good preparation for us as we get into China mainland– which I’m told is very different than Hong Kong. Given Hong Kong was once governed by the British, it’s more ‘Westernized’ than central China.

These next three photos are the views from our hotel– truly breathtaking!




We had a great half of the day at Victoria Peak! Just look at this beautiful city….

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Ollin had his first ferry ride, bus ride, and trolley ride! He’s such a trouper!! He did better than Will and me on the plane yesterday.


I should add that the forecast is sunny with no clouds. That’s not fog! That is pollution! It’s much worse than what we ever imagined. Just going outside we get a tickle in our throat and start coughing. It seems to be harder on Ollin than me and Will. It seems to be causing a croup cough and a low grade fever for our buddy. Poor little guy. He’s handling it like a champ though!


Good Night from Hong Kong.

Anli Here We Come! {leaving as a family of 3}

We are home now as a family of four! And Anli is adjusting to life here in the states, family life, and just life in general outside the orphanage. Talk about culture shock! Yet with all the changes, we are starting to see some real signs of normalcy after being home a month. But I will talk about that more later.

Right now I’d like to catch you up on what our adventure was like as we traveled across the world with 2 two year olds. Two words could really sum it up, UNFORGETTABLE (in a good way) and STRESSFUL (in an extremely difficult way). However, we will use more than those two words as we take you back and tell you about our time as we journeyed to get our little girl!


We left Austin on January 28 and traveled via DFW to Hong Kong. Ollin did amazing on the 17 hour flight! Much better than either one of us expected. God answers prayers– and many prayers were being answered this week as we finally landed in “China”! Here is our update from Hong Kong….


We feel so incredibly blessed to FINALLY be at this point of the journey!! We are only a few days away from meeting Anli and being able to officially call her daughter; Though she has been loved as our daughter for many months now and was our daughter before we even knew it!! (Gods plan was bigger than we could’ve imagined). We feel honored He chose us to be her parents!


We’ve made it through nearly 24 hours or traveling and have arrived at our hotel in Hong Kong! Hallelujah!! We will spend a few days here to adjust to the time difference and will do some site seeing. We are excited to have the opportunity to soak in this ancient culture that is a part of Anli and now a part of or family! 

We will depart Hong Kong on Sunday, headed north to Anli’s home town of Changsha, Hunan province. On Monday, Feb 2, 2015 we will finally be united with the one we’ve been fighting so hard for over the past 15 months!! Praise God!!! This will forever be a day celebrated in our family! In the adoption world it’s called “Gotcha Day” but I think we might refer to it as “Family Day.”

We will then spend about a week in Changsha to complete the adoption process. Thankfully we will have guides contracted by our adoption agency to assist with all the adoption related appointments and paperwork. They will also help with translation, tours of interest, and any shopping & food recommendations.


On Friday, Feb. 6 we will travel south to Guangzhou, Guangdong province. This is where the US Consulate is located and where all adoptive families must travel to complete the immigration part of the process. While in Guangzhou, Anli will undergo a medical exam and be issued her visa to travel back to the United States. Upon returning to the states she will then become a US citizen!

Our baby girl has a BIG few weeks ahead of her!! And then months adjusting to a new culture, routine, cuisine, language, and family life. Please say a prayer for her when you think about it.

We truly appreciate the continued prayer, endless encouragement, extreme generosity, and unconditional love you all have shown!!