Friday, August 16, 2013

Three Month Update

 Well...It has officially been three months since our Gotcha Day in May! It is SO HARD to believe Shepard has been with our family for three whole months!!! We can't remember what life was like without him!!! He is SO adorable and such a sweetie!!! We actually celebrate our Family Day in July....and we always take a Family Day photo each year.  This was our first year as a family of six!!! The picture at the top is the "official" family day photo!!

This photo below is one of our "silly" pics!! :) We always do one of those as well. Shep added a little more challenge this year in getting our photos. He smiles constantly....EXCEPT when you want him to take a picture and smile!!! Thus...the silly picture below!! LOL!! He's like "WHAT?!!? It's not my fault!! " :)

How Is He Doing?
Shep is doing wonderful!! He is learning more and more  English. His speech is still difficult to understand...but we get it.  He understands a LOT though!! He can sing his ABC's and 123's.  LOVES to do that.  He also likes to color and cut things in his workbooks.  He LOVES puzzles, and trains, and stickers, and SPONGE BOB!!! He loves his Chic-Fil-A kids meal watches too!! HA....he wants to wear it every day!!!

In the time that we have been home...we may have had 1 or 2 nights where he has cried some.  It hasn't been very much at all.  And that was in his sleep.  He woke up that way.  Because of the communication barrier...he can't tell us very much of whats bothering him.  We just hold him and love on him.  It seems to work fine for him!!

He had to have a minor surgery last week and it went well.  He had a hard time coming out of anesthesia. He cried a LOT!! But after that, he was his sweet self again! He is recovering well and is pretty much back to normal!! So grateful to have that done!!

Brothers & Sisters:
Things are getting more comfortable now...and we're seeing just the normal brother/sister interactions.  Shep likes to correct A LOT!! He's pretty particular. So are the girls.  Poor Silas...He is our only one that isn't particular...so he gets told on A LOT!!! We pray for extra grace for him!! He's a good sport though and most of the time...lets things roll off his back!! But they all get along wonderfully!! Honestly...we couldn't have asked for a better fit!!! We praise God for that and thank Lifeline Staff for praying over those matches!! They matched us perfectly!!

Church:
Shepard went to his class at church Wednesday night by himself and did AMAZING!! He LOVED the music and they sent us pics of class with him dancing!! It was so sweet!! He was a little apprehensive...but when I told him we'd be in our class...he was fine!  He went in and had a blast!! That's a huge milestone!! He loved it...but he was glad to come back to us when we came and got him!!! We're so happy about beginning to get back to a more normal schedule with church!! :) We WANT him to love it as much as we all do!!

That's It!
That's all I can think of for now.  Our life is pretty much normal again.  We started homeschooling again two weeks ago. It's been going well.  Everyone is enjoying it!! Shep is even doing a few things!! I do need to get him some sensory boxes to play with as some additional work while the others are working.  But overall...it's great!!

I'm not sure who is still reading and keeping up with us...but I just wanted to let everyone know how it's going!! We are blessed...and so honored that God would ask us to bring this precious little boy to be a part of our family!! Yes...he's blessed to have a forever family...but WE are blessed forever because of it!!

Until next time!!! Praying you all have a wonderful weekend!
Mark & Buffi

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Baby Steps

It's been awesome to watch Shepard become more and more comfortable with his family and new home.  He is a fairly agreeable little boy...not much correction has to take place at all!! He is SUCH a sweetie!! 

There have been a few neat things we have watched take place that has shown a lot of growth and attachment to his new family and home.  

SHOES:
One of the very first things we noticed were important to Shep were his shoes and ALWAYS keeping them on.  He was very diligent to make sure if he got on the bed or furniture...he neatly took them off while he was on the bed...but as soon as he got down...He IMMEDIATELY put his shoes back on and did not want to walk around without them.  This continued as we got home.  He did not want to go outside with out his tennis shoes or Crocks.  He wouldn't even walk around the house without shoes.  Well...over the last week or so...we have noticed him walking around the house completely barefooted...and not caring!! He doesn't even notice it!!! He even will go without his house-shoes once he has had a bath.  

For us...this just shows he is much more comfortable and feeling more at home.  We love that!!! I love it that he will take off running in the back yard to play with his "Gu Gu" (Big Brother).  He's even loosing a little bit of that obsessive need to make sure they are neatly lined up and in place.  Which...I really liked that quality!! LOL!!! Sharing a room with his brother will loosen his neat streak up really quickly!! HA!! This is a wonderful baby step though!!

RESTING HIS HEAD:
Mark has noticed that when Shepard sits in his lap...he will now relax and rest his head on him.  Before, while we were in China, Shep would sit with him...but he would not rest and just completely relax.  Now he does that. It is another small baby step of feeling comfortable and trusting.  :)

SIBLINGS:
He is slowly making wonderful connections with Silas!! YAY!! Silas has been working very hard on relationship building and it is the most precious thing!!! Shep wants to spend more time with Silas and even ask for Silas to help him some!! This is good!!! Silas has introduced him to Xbox 360 Kinect and he LOVES the golf game.  He thinks it is so fun!!! And just tonight...I caught this cute photo of them sitting together like buddies watching his favorite kids worship music!!! Definitely a baby step in the right direction!! 

CHURCH:
We've made it to church three weeks in a row.  Shepard is NOT open to going into the childrens ministry area right now.  We are ok with that.  We have been taking him in with us to the sanctuary.  Today..he actually made it through the service a little longer than normal.  He cannot wait to go and pick up his big sisters and big brother so we can go home!!! He LOVES to leave and go home.  But he wants us ALL to be together.  He doesn't understand if we aren't all together.  Very sweet!!! But he does great when Mark has to go to work or one of us have to be apart from the rest.  He just likes it when we are all together!!! This is definitely great steps in the right direction!!

Over all...Shepard has made this transition very beautifully.  Our thanks definitely goes to our Heavenly Father for this...but also to his foster parents in China.  I know it must have been very hard for them to let this sweet precious boy go.  But the years they poured into him...are not wasted!! Those years have laid a wonderful foundation in his sweet little spirit to attach and bond to his forever family.  It's difficult not knowing his whole story.  But we are blessed that the rest of his story will be lived out so we can see all the mighty things he will do for our Lord!!! We know he will truly "shepherd" many people into the Kingdom of God!!!

DOC APPOINTMENTS:
We visited our pediatrician here...and he was amazed at how healthy and wonderful Shep is doing.  We do have to visit a specialist early in July for a minor surgery.  The doctor couldn't believe that was all we were looking at!!! He was very impressed not only with Shepards health but his intelligence.  He even noted it was God that placed him in our family so he can fulfill all that has been destined for him.  Such a blessing to have doctors like this!!!

That is basically all the info we have for now.  We are beginning to find our new norm...and it's busy...but I wouldn't trade it for anything!!! God is so faithful and we are thrilled we stepped out in faith and said YES.  God is good and we look forward to all He has in store for our future!!! 

Until next time...Hope you all have a wonderful week.
Blessings,
Mark & Buffi

Thursday, June 13, 2013

One Month Ago Today!!

At the pool and this is what Shep wants to play with!! He LOVES music!
I can hardly believe that this precious little face has been with our family for a whole month!!! My how the time flies!! He truly is the most precious little boy and the perfect fit for our family.  God SO knows what he is doing!! ;)

FINDING A NEW NORMAL
As a family we are finding a new normal!!! We are all learning to adjust things back to the pre-school level.  Short bursts of activity instead of long...mid day naps where the whole house stops...and lots of ABC's and 123's.  Our oldest three are doing so amazing!! They are terrific older siblings.

We are learning so much about Shep!! He loves music (like his Mom!!! maybe a future worship leader?!?), puzzles, riding his bike that his Grand dad got him, swimming at Cha Cha's (our aunt's house), he is even starting to like our dog Pretzel!! He is a very smart, agreeable and sweet little boy.

He is very attached to his Big Sister Sophie.  He absolutely adores her.  Our social worker was surprised he wasn't more attached to Sadie with her being Chinese.  I told her...oh...he likes Sadie all right...he wants to kiss her all the time!! LOL!! He must think she is pretty!! ;)  We have to tell him Sadie is his SISTER, not a girl friend!! HA!!! Too funny!!

Shepard does like Silas....but you can tell he feels some what of a competition toward a boy.  This must  be something he picked up from being in an orphanage.  We have explained it to Silas and are working on helping him learn to bond with Shep on Shep's terms...and helping Shepard learn that he is not in competition with Silas for attention.  It's a process and we will find it with the Lords help, wisdom and direction.  They will be big buddies before you know it!!

FIRST CHURCH VISIT
Last Sunday we took Shepard to church for the first time...and he did wonderful!! He clung to us with his dear life...and when people wanted to see him...he was very shy...and wanted mom and dad.  For an adopted child...this is VERY good to see...especially with strangers!! It means he KNOWS who his mom and dad are and feels safe with them!! Bonding is taking place and it is a very good thing!!! He made it through most of the church service.  He LOVED the music...and after shouting out loud during the sermon....restlessness set in and Mark took him out to look around.  We have taught Shepard some sign language...and he kept giving Mark the "all done" sign...and saying Bye Bye to everyone.  LOL!! He was done!! It was a success though and we will slowly ease back into things.  We will be sensitive to his needs for sure before we just jump back in and serve.  Our ministry is our family right now...and in due season...we will know when and where to proceed!!!

INTEREST IN ADOPTION
One of the biggest blessings is we have had so many people contact us with interest in adoption and adopting.  What a blessing it is to us to be able to share, encourage, mentor, and support others as they pursue walking down this road.  Mark and I truly have a desire to see an organized effort in mentoring others through the process of adoption, helping families raise funds, and providing support after the adoption.  We are praying about ways to make this happen.  If YOU are someone interested in adoption...let us know and we'll be glad to help you get pointed in the right direction!!

PRAYER REQUEST
That's it for now!!! I don't want to bore everyone with all the normalcy of life...but I do want to keep you all posted!!! I do have one prayer request....we have had several people ask us if we can do photos for them. Since we had to borrow $11,000 for the final portion of our adoption expenses...we do not want to say no...we want to say yes because we do NOT want to be in debt.  Pray that we would find the best way to do these photos without being separated from Shep...and to where we can raise the rest of the money we owe for the adoption.  We sure appreciate those prayers!!! We know God will give us wisdom.  We just want to be sure we move in the right way and at the right time!!

Also...Mark has a "product" he has been working on since December and we are waiting on the first prototype to come in.  Once it comes in...we will be submitting it to some companies praying that it will be picked up for their stores.  Please pray for favor regarding this.  Maybe this would be a way God would choose to help provide as well!! :)

Thanks a ton!! We love and appreciate you all!! We will keep you posted as we have more new and interesting news!!
Blessings,
Mark & Buffi




Sunday, June 2, 2013

Home One Week


We have officially been home from China one week! What a great week it has been.  We have been so glad to be home and try to work on finding our new normal with four children.  We've had several questions about the transition...so I thought I'd try to answer.

How is Shepard doing? What about the language barrier?
Shep is doing great!! He is a trooper and fits perfect in the family.  He does well with change, praise God, and has a pretty agreeable personality.  He likes to keep his shoes on all the time...although...we have caught him running around barefooted without realizing it! That's great and means he is getting more comfortable!!

DEVELOPMENTAL DELAY:
His "special need" was considered developmental delay and while we didn't see it a whole lot in China...we can see it here at home now that we are watching him run and play.  He is developmentally much more like a 4 year old than a 5 year old.  While he WANTS to do all the things a 5 year old would do...he can't always do it without getting hurt.  He has fallen several times while running in the yard. He has quite a few "owies" on his elbows and knees!! ;)  His gross motor skills just need a little work.  He is totally capable and there is not an inability to do things...just a delay!! We will definitely be working on that this summer!!

LANGUAGE BARRIER:
Language is definitely more difficult with him than it was with  Sadie. Sadie was only 3 and didnt speak very much.  Shepard speaks a LOT and just goes to town telling us something in his most urgent voice and we stare intently trying to understand.  But we don't.  All of us are using lots of body language!! :) Thanks to Google Translate we are able to communicate to him what we are trying to say and help him understand what is going on.  It's been a wonderful tool!!

FOOD:
We have found out several things he does not like to eat that has surprised us.  Things like chicken nuggets, scrambled eggs, bread, ground beef as well as a list of other things.  We are slowly figuring him out.  When all else fails...we get out the noodles and dumplings.  Those are winners EVERY time!! :)

SLEEP:
Overall...he is doing wonderful!! He sleeps well.  He has slept with us in our room most nights.  He slept in his room two nights, which was great!! He woke up between 3am and 4am to come into our room...which is totally ok!!! He also takes naps in his bedroom. As long as we tell him through Google translate what is happening...he is great!! God knows what we as a family can and cannot handle!! We are very blessed and we look forward to every day getting more and more familiar with each other!!

HOW ARE THE OTHER KIDS DOING?
I cannot praise our other three enough.  They have just all grown up over night it seems.  They have been a tremendous help with Shep.  He loves them and they love him!! They all three jump to help him and will make accommodations for him through this transition.  We are SO PROUD of them!!! Sophie has become like a second mom to Shep.  He loves her a ton and she is SO MUCH FUN for him!!! I don't know what I'd do without her!!!

Sadie and Silas have done great too!!! Silas has even taken on the huge responsibility of watching Shep outside in the yard for brief moments in our absence.  This is huge growth for Silas.  Prior to our trip...we were asking Sadie to watch Silas in our absence!! LOL!!! It is amazing the fact that you get what you expect! Really!! Before our trip to China...we expected Silas to need to be watched.  Now...we expect he is capable and responsible enough to help us...and HE IS!!! it has been such a blessing for him in this way!! Really beneficial in helping in grow up!! :)

A NEW NORM:
Mark went back to work on Friday.  We all went in with him to show Shep where he would be when he was gone...and also to meet all of Mark's wonderful co-workers! (Mark is SO blessed to work where he does and with the people he works with!! They are such blessings!) Anyway...we wanted Shep to know what was happening and he did GREAT!!

After he has had moments around a lot of people...he seems ready to say bye bye.  He definitely lets us know.  But he has had no trouble wanting to go with Mark and me at all!! Such a blessing in this transition!!

We've had a few days off together and tomorrow starts our "official" back to normal schedule!! Praying we can find lots of things to do each day that will keep everyone entertained and  happy!!! :)

Here are a few pics of our day at the park this week!!! Again...thank you all for continuing to pray for us and encourage us through this journey!!! You all are such blessings to us!! We love and appreciate you!! Have a great week! Blessings!!
Cute little curious look!!!! 

Walk at the park

Here we are...without me! :) I'm taking the pic!

Swimming with JieJie (Big Sister)

Hair cut with Mama 

Help Nana walk with her walker

Wake up and play with Jie Jie and Gu Gu

Writing ABC's - I think?







Monday, May 27, 2013

We're Home!!

As 5am approaches this Memorial Day morning...I'm reflecting on the last few days that we have been home.  I haven't been able to blog since we've gotten home, so I thought I'd share with you our journey home.

Hind Sight...I am so relieved to be sitting here in the comfort of my own home.  The air conditioning keeping things just comfortable enough!! It's the simple things we missed while in China.  Easy Communication, Comfort Foods, fresh fruits and veggies, ice in our drinks, drinking water from a faucet, brushing your teeth with water from a faucet, Air Conditioning, Fresh Air, Good Smelling clean laundry, a yard to play in, Running room, our family and friends.

We have been so blessed to have spent the last three weeks on our journey in China...but it is SO good to be home.  Thank you so much to all our family and friends for your love and support while we were gone.  Words do not communicate effectively just how much you mean to us.  Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for all your prayers and encouraging emails while we were gone!! And after coming home...so many of you have been gracious to help us get settled.  You will never know what a blessing it is!!

OUR TRIP HOME:
We left Guangzhou China, Friday morning (5:30am) May 24th to head back to Alabama. Of course, this was Thursday afternoon our time.  It was crazy early to leave and hindsight...we would have rather left Thursday evening because it made for a VERY long trip home!

Our Flight from GZ to Beijing was about 4.5 hours, From Beijing to Seattle - it was about 10.5 hours. We had a 10 hour - Yes TEN HOUR - layover in Seattle, and it was brutal.  We were exhausted.  It gave a whole new meaning to the phrase "Sleepless in Seattle!"  Although...it was SO GREAT to be back in America where the airport was air conditioned, and we could eat chips and salsa and drink coke with LOTS OF ICE!!! :) (again...the simple things!)

After that long layover...our flight with Alaska Air to Atlanta was a Red Eye flight.  From 10pm to 5:30am Atlanta time.  This was a pretty good flight.  Only about 4.5 hours (time zones make it look longer).  This airline was SO WONDERFUL after using Hainan Air.  Whew.... it was NOT our favorite!! :)

We left Atlanta at 8:15am and arrived home in Huntsville at 8:09am.  (time zone difference).  It was SO GOOD to land home!!! We were all so relieved to know that we made it safely through all 8 flights and while there were some close calls while we were gone...God was SO FAITHFUL to protect us!!

That made for a total of about 41 hours of travel time.  Need less to say...we were all exhausted.  Considering how tough it was...our kids did AMAZING!!! I was so blessed to watch them.  They were troopers and not one time did they complain about the travel...other than the basic...ready to get this over with! It could have been a night mare...but they did so wonderful and Mark and I were so proud of them!!

THE KIDS:
SOPHIE:
We saw first hand just how Sophie is truly growing into a wonderful young woman!! She is strong, independent, conviction oriented, loyal, and very thoughtful and sweet hearted!! We saw so many strong qualities in her on this trip!! It's amazing how she has grown since our last trip in 2007.  We are so proud of her!!

SILAS:
Silas was such a joy to have on this trip. While his carefree ways sometimes had us on the edge of our seats....seeing him enjoy the adventure and step up to the plate in certain ways was such a blessing.  Being a boy...maturity comes slower than with girls...but we really saw great strides in him on this trip!! He is SUCH a joy and we are so blessed to have had the opportunity to bring him with us this time around!!! We know that seeds were planted in his heart by the Holy Spirit that would have never been planted had he not gone with us!! He is going to do mighty things for the Lord - We just know it!!! We are so proud of him!! :)

SADIE:
Sadie got to visit her "homeland" as our guide, Michael, from Beijing described it.  How many children adopted from another country get to visit their homeland? Very few do...and we got to witness first hand God stirring things in Sadie's heart that we know will last a lifetime!! This little girl is SO STRONG...and such a trooper! She is very helpful and selfless!! She is tough and can handle so much!! Sadie provided so much help as well on this trip and we are blessed to have been able to see her experience it.

While in Chongqing...she did have a brief moment of sensory overload and broke down crying.  We feel it was a good moment and I got to love on her and just talk things out with her in the hotel room. It would have to be overwhelming experience all the sights, sounds, and smells of another country...especially...a country where you are from.   Overall...it was so good for her!! We are glad to provide her with the opportunity to go!! We look forward to revisiting our trip over the next few days to talk about all that left an impact on us!!

SHEPARD:
Shep...well...what can I say about  Shepard? This little boy is SO PERFECT for our family.  God truly has a plan and it is a blessing to stand back and just let HIM work it out!! Shepard is a total joy!!! He is very agreeable....light hearted...fun...and my guess would be to say he is a Sanguine personality.  You can tell he has been given his way a lot. But he is pretty quick to obey and is just a delight to be around.  He makes us all laugh with his contagious laugh!! (Much like Mark's laugh is so contagious!)

Since being home...we have found out he is TERRIFIED of our dog, a Miniature Schnauzer, and our dog is afraid of him. (We will be working on that!) But he has adjusted to his new home and family pretty good.  There are definitely hurdles we will have to overcome in finding our new normal...but we  know God has a very special plan for this little one and we are blessed to be able to help direct and raise him in the direction and ways of the Lord!!

Overview:
I know this has been a long post.  But I have been so "informational" in most our posts while gone.  I just wanted to share some of my thoughts and feelings!! We are so full with all that God has done and we are excited about the future and what He has planned for our whole family.  Our hearts are open and we have no  plans other than to follow HIS leading and direction.  Our prayer is that somehow God would use us to further His Kingdom on this earth.

If there is anything we'd like our family and friends to take away from following our journey...it is that God is a good God.  He really does have a plan for our lives and He is so very faithful to lead and guide you.  We pray that you would listen to your heart and the things that the Lord places in your heart.  Don't be afraid to say YES to things you know He is calling you to do!! Step out in obedience and don't worry about the details.  Just follow his leading through the passion in your heart!! There will be ups and downs...and you may not know how it's all going to play out....but this I know...you will find more fullfillment in following HIS will and plan for your life than doing anything else on your own!! 

It has been our JOY and honor to share our journey with you!! We look forward to watching God work to help close out the rest of this particular chapter.  Thanks for your continued prayers!!! We would never want to do this without our family and friends!! Thanks guys for everything!! We love you all!!!
Blessings,
Mark & Buffi

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A Note To Our Family & Friends As We Arrive Home


Dear Family & Friends, 

After a year and a half of waiting, praying, longing, hoping--- little Shepard is on his way home! We are overjoyed at God's grace, but we also realize this will be a season of adjustment for our family. We know that each of you receiving this letter has-- in some way-- supported, loved and prayed for us. Because we know your care for Shepard and our family, we want to share with you some information that we hope will best equip everyone around him to assist us in laying the strongest and healthiest foundation – emotionally, physically and spiritually.


In many ways, Shepard will be like the children who entered our family through birth; we will seek to bring all of them up in the instruction and discipline of the Lord. But there will be a few, initial differences in the way we have parented in the past. 

We are confident of this: God’s design is PERFECT! His plan for parents and children is a beautiful and meaningful picture of His love for us. Attachment between a parent and child occurs over time when a baby has a physical or emotional need and communicates that need. The primary caretaker (usually mommy) meets the need and soothes the child. This repeats between a parent and child over and over to create trust within the child for that parent; the baby is hungry, cries in distress, mom nurses & calms the baby – which teaches her that this person is safe and can be trusted. By God’s very design, an emotional foundation is laid in the tiniest of babies, which will affect their learning, conscience, growth and future relationships. The security provided by parents will, ultimately, give children a trust for and empathy towards others.


Children who come home through adoption have experienced interruptions in this typical attachment process. The loss of a biological mother and father at an early age can be a major trauma on their little hearts. Shepard has experienced the loss of familiar and comforting caretakers as well as the sights, smells, and language of his birth country. When Shep comes home, he will be overwhelmed. Everything around him will be new and he will need to learn not just about his new environment, but also about love and family. He has not experienced God’s design for a family in an orphanage setting. His world is turned upside down. He may struggle with feeling safe and secure and he may lack the ability to trust that we will meet his needs. The good news is that we can now, as Shepard’s parents and forever family, rebuild attachment and help him heal from these emotional wounds.

The best way for us to form a parent/child bond is to be the ones to hold, snuggle, instruct, soothe and feed him. As this repeats between us, he will be able to learn that parents are safe to trust and to love deeply. We are, essentially, recreating the newborn/parent connection. Once Shepard starts to establish this important bond, he will then be able to branch out to other, healthy relationships.
 Shepard will have, what may seem like, a lot of structure, boundaries and close proximity to us. Although it may appear that we are spoiling him at times, we have been advised that it is best that we meet every need quickly and consistently. He may show his grief and confusion in many ways, and we are prepared to help him through it and prove that we are a forever family. You may also notice us tighten our circle a bit, stay close to home, and we may seem a little less available socially, for a while. Please know that these decisions are prayerfully and thoughtfully made choices based on our personal research and instruction from trusted adoption mentors. We will be doing what we believe is best to help him heal from those interruptions in attachment as effectively as possible. 

Why are we telling you all of this? Because you will actually play an awesome and vital role in helping our Shepard settle in, heal, and lay a foundation for the future. There are a few areas in which you can help us:
 

The first is to set physical boundaries. It will help us immensely if adults limit what is typically considered normal, physical contact with Shepard. This will (for a while) include things like holding, excessive hugging and kissing. Children from orphanage settings are prone to attach too easily to anyone and everyone – which hinders the important, primary relationship with parents. Waving, blowing kisses or high fives are perfectly appropriate and welcomed! Shepard should know that the people with whom he interacts are our trusted family and friends.
 

Another area is redirecting Shep's desire to have his physical and emotional needs met by anyone (including strangers) to having us meet them. Orphans often have so many caretakers that they, as a survival mechanism, become overly charming toward all adults. A child struggling to learn to attach may exhibit indiscriminate affection with people outside of their family unit. It may appear harmless and as if they are “very friendly” but this is actually something that isn’t good for the child. To share this is difficult for us because you have openly loved on our other children and we have loved on yours as well, and treasure that connection. Please understand that we want nothing more than to have Shepard hugged, cuddled and cherished by ALL of you. But until he has a firm understanding of family and primary attachments, we would be so grateful if you direct him to us if you see that he is seeking out food, affection or comfort.


Also, please feel free to ask us any questions at any time. We are learning, too, and are grateful that you are seeking with us to help Shepard feel loved, safe, and secure. We are incredibly blessed to have so many loved ones around us. We couldn’t ask for a better extended family & circle of friends for our precious Shepard. Thank you so much for your love and support over the past year. We are truly blessed!!!
We look forward to seeing you all once we arrive home!!!
Blessings,
Mark & Buffi

Final Days in China

We had our Consulate Appointment today, Wednesday the 22nd.  The pic above is Gotcha Day.  They would not allow cameras at the Consulate.  We are SO glad to get that portion of our trip completed. After the CA...we went to Shamain Island...which we LOVE!! It is so beautiful there.  Unfortunately...I don't have photos cause it rained! :-/ Sorry!!  Tomorrow...we get Shepard's Visa to come to America!! WHOOHOO!!! Then we will leave EARLY Friday morning to fly back toward home!!!

What an amazing time this has been!!! First...we'd like to say THANK YOU to Tonya Bohlinger and her AMAZING family for sacrificing time and money to go along on this trip with us!! It has been a tremendous help and we could never let you know enough just how much of a blessing it has been!!! (For all those behind us...it is a HUGE blessing to have someone with you to help....especially if you are taking your whole family!! Thanks Tonya, Frank, Luke, Mary & Maddie!!! We love you guys so much and thank you with ALL our hearts!!

We'd also like to thank all our friends and family for your prayers and support of us through this journey!!! We could not have done it without you all!! Thank you so much for many words of encouragement and prayers for us.  There have been several moments we have really needed those prayers here. So thank you tremendously! Please continue to pray for our flights as we have a 38 hour trip to make it home!  Whew...we are all gonna need lots of prayers to make that one!!

Here are a few special photos of our trip!! I FINALLY have a little time to load them on blogger!!
Special moment Outside of Shep's orphanage
Loved being able to see Tienanmen Square
Loved being able to share Sadies "homeland" with her!!
Loved this special moment between brothers on Gotcha Day!

Fun Gotcha Day Moment going to the bus!!


I would add a TON more photos...but for some reason...blogger will not let me!! All these have been posted on FB. There are so many more if you haven't seen them!! It has been such a wonderful week and we cannot wait to post once we get home to let everyone know what life is like in the "real world" outside of hotel living! :) What a blessing it was to have all our children with us this time!! Lots of bonding has taken place and we cannot wait for more!!

Speaking of bonding...it's obvious from photos that Shep has really bonded with Mark.  He has not bonded with me.  We believe that he had a VERY strong bond with his foster mother that is causing him to not want me (Buffi).  I'm walking a fine line...trying not to push myself on him...but also trying to still be available.  It's challenging at times...and it puts a lot on Mark. (It was the opposite with Sadie...she only wanted me and not Mark.)  Anyway...we know it will change once we get home.  It will just take time!! Thanks for continuing to pray for the merging of the new life into our family unit.  It will happen!! Lots of love and time spent together and things will fall into place.

Again...thank you all for following this journey.  I will post again once we have made it home and let you know how wonderful our trip home was!! Thanks for your prayers of safety and protection!!! Love you all!
Blessings,
Mark & Buffi


Sunday, May 19, 2013

An AMAZING DAY at New Day South!!!

We had a WONDERFUL day today with Doug and Janice Bush of New Day South Foster Home. Aside from our Gotcha Day and getting Shepard...this has been the MOST SPECIAL day!!! Not only was it wonderful to see Doug and Janice (They are from our church at home - The Rock)...but we got to play with and love on these precious little ones that live at the New Day South Foster Home!!

After seeing several orphanage environments...I cannot tell you what a HUGE ministry and outreach this Foster Home is.  It is AMAZING! They provide these children with so much and give them lots of love and care!! We were SO impressed.  If you are looking for an international orphan ministry to support or to connect with to arrange mission work or internships ..  PLEASE keep Doug & Janice and New Day in mind. You can email them here: doug.janice@gmail.com or you can check out their blog here: http://newdayfosterhome.blogspot.com/  We are so grateful for the work they do to care and love on these children and to help prepare them for their new adoptive families when they are blessed with their forever family!

We all agree...this has been the best day!! I tried to load several photos here...but was unsuccessful!! Such a bummer.  It was such a precious day!!  I'm going to load several up on FB. Again...if you are friends with us on FB...please feel free to see the photos there!!!

Tomorrow we go to the Guangzhou Zoo and we will have free time after that!! Thank you all for continued prayers as we finish out this week.  We begin our trip home on Friday morning here.  It will be Thursday evening there in the US.  It will take us 38 hours total to get home! :( PRAY for us!! LOL!! We have a 10 hour layover in Seattle. Our plan is to eat at Chili's for lunch and for dinner during our wait and eat as much chips and salsa and drinks with ice as we can handle!! ;)  It's the little things that you miss...for sure!!! :) Thanks to everyone for continued prayers!!! We love and miss you all!! Can't wait to see you soon. Blessings,
Mark & Buffi

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Catching Up!

Our last few days have been a little crazy trying to transition from Chongqing to Guangzhou.  So I have missed blogging and sharing details! Sorry guys!!! I've got some time now while Mark is at the pool with the kiddos! :)

While Chongqing was nice and our hotel Le Meredian was nice...we were SO READY to leave!! Not much happened after Shep had his allergic reaction in the hotel restaurant to seafood. We spent a LOT OF TIME wandering around trying to help the kiddos exert some energy.  All we could do was walk around the hotel and mall outside the hotel and look for ways to waste time as we got ready to leave.

Shepard is QUICKLY becoming a Daddy's boy...which is great!! He just wants Mark to hold him all the time and he is a chunk to hold!! But its sweet and things will get more regulated once we get home!! Here is a cute pic of the boys at lunch today!

When we left our hotel in Chongqing to head to the airport...we left so we would have about 3 hours to get checked in and wait.  WELL....our plane boarded 45 minutes late and we sat in it without being able to take off for another 45 min to 1hour.  We were all frustrated and whew...Shep was NOT wanting to sit still!

After we made it to Guangzhou (2.5 hours late) we heard there was a bomb threat at Chongqing airport and they shut the whole airport down and evacuated it.  We are SO THANKFUL that we got out in time.  We wouldn't want our appointments to get behind this week!!

COMING HOME:
WHICH...makes me think, Praise God...they got all the families from last week caught up and we will be having our Consulate appointment on time and we will be coming home on time!! YAY!!!

We should be landing in Huntsville on Saturday, May 25th at 8:09 AM.  We cannot WAIT to get home!!! We are all very ready.

THE KIDS:
Everyone is doing good...we are just ready to be home now that we have Shep! The kiddos are troopers!!! Silas has been a huge help with the luggage since Mark is carrying Shep.  So has Sadie and Sophie too!! They've jumped in and filled in the gaps where needed.  It's a little harder for Silas to understand that things have to be about Shep right now.  It will change...but so much is focused around him.  Silas struggles some with that!! But they all LOVE their little brother and he makes us all laugh SO MUCH!!

TOMORROW:
Tomorrow (Sunday) we are renting a van and going an hour and a half south of here to see Doug and Janice Bush at New Day South.  Doug and Janice are from our church The Rock and they are now the house parents at New Day South.  We can't wait to spend some time with them and with the kiddos at their foster home!!! We are excited for the opportunity but also for Tonya to spend some time with the kids there too.  We are praying her and Frank get matched with their little one soon!! Wouldn't it be SO NEAT if she could meet her little one tomorrow?!?! Sigh...you just never know what God is going to do!!

Well...that's it for now!! Gotta get the kiddos baths and ready for bed!!! We have a fun day tomorrow!!! I'll post again tomorrow night and hopefully with some sweet pics!!!

Thank you all so much for your prayers and encouragement!!! Love and miss everyone greatly and cannot wait to get home!!! Night!!
Buffi
ONE MORE THING....I have posted another album of photos on FB if you'd like to see them!!! There are a ton on there!! If someone following the blog isn't on FB and would like to see pics...let me know and I'll try and find a quicker way to get them on blogger! :)

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Very Interesting Days

You know...you never think about the simple things, such as the ability to communicate, being such a blessing.  We have spent a great deal of time the last couple of days wondering around with some free time.  It has been quite hilarious and frustrating as well.  We could probably beat you in a game of charades after this trip though.  It has been HUGE in our communication.

We were looking for a gift bag a day or so ago...and wow!!! Who would think trying to ask for a gift bag would be so difficult.  I bet we spent 30 minutes talking to workers...or I should say...gesturing between us and workers to try and find one.  We got close...but didn't quite make it! :-/  It was quite frustrating in the moment...but we can laugh at it now!!

Also...regarding ordering food...who would think ordering a cheese pizza at Papa Johns would cause so much confusion!! We have gotten so many laughs out of it!! Even so...tonight...we just decided to get a ton of junk food and eat in the room.  It was easier and cheaper!! LOL!! Great memories thought!

Today was a VERY interesting day.  On Gotcha Day...we found out that Shepard is allergic to seafood. (We will probably try to find out exactly which ones when we get home).  But we have been very cautious to keep him away from it while we are here.  At lunch today, we ordered he and Sadie Wonton soup. They both really enjoy it.  After Shep had eaten two Wonton's already....Sadie mentions she thinks they have seafood in them.  The waitress said it was only pork.  But after talking with the chef...he confirmed that they had seafood in them. OH MY...we got SO NERVOUS!!! Shepard all of a sudden began to zone out and stare toward the ground...leaning forward some.  He wouldn't respond to us when we tried to see if he was ok.  Tonya ran to get Benedryl...and I ran to call Dr. Record who is also traveling with us.

After Shep took Benedryl he seemed to get a little better. Dr. Record gave us some steriods just in case.  We tried to get Shep to take those pills...but he spit it out twice. :( (Covered in ice cream and all)  We prayed over him and declared the healing of the Lord over him! It was very scary...but definitely eye opening to things we will need to keep an eye on in the future!!!

Tomorrow we leave for Guangzhou.  It will not be until 6pm China time...so at 5am Central USA time...we will be flying to GZ. It's a short flight...about an hour and a half.  Not too bad!! We just found out today that the US Consulate has opened back up...PRAISE THE LORD!!! Hoping that our CA will stay on schedule. We will keep you all posted!!

Thank you all for continued prayers.  We are SO READY to come home!! We miss everyone so much!! We are ready for some FRESH FOODS and some ICE!!! I will keep you all posted to let you know if we will expect any delays! Thanks so much for everything.  If all goes well...we will be leaving one week from today to start our trek home!!! CANNOT WAIT!!!

I'll post again soon!! If you would like to see our photos from today....please see our FB page!!! If you cannot access it...let me know! Thanks! Talk soon!
Blessings,
Buffi

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Orphanage Visit and Day off!

Sorry for my delay in posting a blog.  Yesterday it was a little tough to get around to blogging.  We were able to visit Shep's orphanage.  We only got to see a small portion of it. We were able to play with some children while there but they did not allow us to take pictures while we were up there. We SO wanted to take photos.  It was a good visit...but it would have been nice to have seen more.  I posted photos on FB yesterday of our visit.

One thing that was very interesting while we were there...as we were leaving the orphanage Shep's foster dad met us outside the gate.  It was uncomfortable for everyone.  He kept motioning for Shep to let him hold him, and Shep kept shaking his head no and pushing away with his hand.  (there is supposed to be no contact between the foster parents and adoptive families...even our guide was uncomfortable).  The foster dad told Shep that the foster mom was waiting on his phone call.  That would explain his constant fight to get to the phone in the hotel room. :( Especially at night.  We finally put all the phones in the closet. It just makes it harder on Shep.

Last night was tough...but not as tough as the first night.  He cried just a little bit...then Mark got him to sit and watch some of "Daddy Day Care" on the ipod with him.  It has to be hard not knowing the language...but he sat and watched it and fell asleep.  So glad!!

One thing we do know...he LOVES technology. He know's all about an iPad and LOVES to play fruit Ninja!! LOL...He's good at it!! He also loves Thomas the Tank and Sponge Bob...and also likes the Chinese cartoon The Pleasant Goats.  He loves noodles too!!!

Today we spend most of the day wandering from the hotel to the attached mall.  It was a free day and whoa...it was a tough day.  All of us in a hotel room with not much to do but wonder around a mall...was a little boring and exhausting for all of us!!

Tomorrow we go to a Panda Zoo.  It should be fun and interesting for all of us!! :) I'll have more photos on FB for it!!

OH...before I forget...please keep the US Consulate and all the Consulate appointments in your prayers. We want God's will and HIS Divine plan and appointment ultimately...but we SO can't wait to get home!!

I'll leave the blog tonight with a short video of Shep counting to 10 in Chinese. It is SO CUTE! Our guide in Beijing showed us how to count to 10 using only one hand instead of both.  It has been a great thing...cause Shep loves to count to 10 for us!!!

Here is a little sneak of this precious little boy God has blessed us with!! Enjoy! I'll post again tomorrow! Love and appreciate you all!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Gotcha Day

What an unbelievable Day!! We woke up with much excitement and anticipation to meet our little man. We had to sign papers first and didn't go until around 1:30pm to get him.

When we walked into the room the minute he saw us he hollered "Mama, Baba!!!" And then he ran to us. He was very well prepared!! Thanks to all the wonderful caregivers here in Chongqing.

From that moment, he ran from me, to Mark to Sophie, to Silas and to Sadie calling them by their Chinese name of big sister and big brother! He was very excited.

We pulled out some toys we had brought for him and by FAR his favorite was the little Fisher Price digital camera. He play with us with that the whole time we were in there!! He ran the batteries down and filled up the camera. He took over 300 photos!!!

He did great and has such a sweet spirit and such a happy heart. He is precious. Last night at bedtime...I felt so bad for him. He began to holler for his foster mom. He was visibly uncomfortable. He wouldn't take his clothes off to out on Jammie's. we just let him keep his clothes on.

I stayed up all I could and eventually had to lay down. Mark and Silas played with him some. But it got so late. He was avoiding sleep at all costs. But when it was time, he got up in the bed with me and sat up. He stared across the room and put his little head in his hands. Then he started to bawl!! I felt so sorry for him. I know he had to be extremely uncomfortable in a strange place with strange people. We just let him cry and held him until he eventually laid down and went to sleep.

I was so glad he fell asleep. It's good that he grieved...but it's so pitiful to sit there while he is screaming and crying and all we can do is love him and pray for him. I know night times are always the hardest and it will get better thru the rest of this week and next week.

Having Sophie, Silas and Sadie was huge!!! It not only helped Shep feel comfortable and have someone to play with...it was priceless for them to experience this as well. We are so glad they are with us!!! It is such a blessing!!!

And what an incredible help Tonya has been. You can thank her for all those amazing photos she took. She captured the moment perfectly!!! Thanks to The Bohlingers for sharing her with us these couple of weeks!!!

Well...it's 2am here and I need to try and get a little sleep. Ill post again tomorrow night!! We go and see the orphanage today. After his sadness last night it makes me nervous. But I know it will be good for him and all of us!!! Ill do all I can to take good pics. Love you all!! Thanks so much for the prayers!!
Blessings,
Mark and Buffi

Sunday, May 12, 2013

We Made It To Chongqing!

We had a wonderful couple of days in Beijing.  Not only was it wonderful to see all the amazing historical sites...but it did us good to try and overcome some of this jetlag.  Although...I've been awake every morning between 2am and 4am no matter what! :-/ Praying I can sleep all night tonight!

Our morning was pretty good. We were SO relieved that Mark found his iPhone! That was such a blessing!!! We left around 10:30 for the airport to head out to Chongqing. Chongqing is Shepard's home town.  It is a very beautiful town and is seems very well taken care of.  It is HUGE!! Our guide said about 32 million people!! Whew!! Cannot believe that!!

Tonight as we were shopping for a few things for the week...Sadie got a little overwhelmed.  There are SO MANY people here. I know it must seem overwhelming to her for everyone to look like her.  She said it was.  We had  a good chat and cry time tonight, just the two of us.  It was good for her I believe!!  It is an experience I believe that will leave a lasting impression on her and she will never forget it!! Continue to keep her in your prayers as we go to the orphanage to visit on Tuesday.  I know every little thing we do will stir lots of emotions for her!

We will be uniting with Shepard around Midnight on Mother's Day night (Central Time) there in the US.  So it is less than 24 hours before we meet him.  We have been praying for him and praying for all of us as well!!!

The kids are excited and Silas talks non stop about him and cannot wait to finally have a brother!! I am praying that they have a good connection and that the transition goes smooth!!

It is late...and I do need to get to bed.  Thank you all for praying over the next 24 hours.  These will be very important times.  I promise I will update with all the details of Gotcha Day and photos and all!!! Can't wait!

Love you all and appreciate you all!! Hope you have a wonderful Mother's Day!
Blessings,
Mark & Buffi

Saturday, May 11, 2013

China Trip - Day 2 (Beijing)


We had another awesome day today!! Aside from the fact that Mark lost his iPhone for about 24 hours, and then found it JUST NOW - PRAISE THE LORD - Everything else has been awesome and adventurous! Mark actually crossed the CRAZY street as a pedestrian and made it back ALIVE!! WHOHOO!! That in itself was a huge feat! LOL!!  We also did some other worth while things!!

The Great Wall is just the most amazing thing to experience.  Not only is it visually majestic...the history behind it is just overwhelming.  Our guide, Michael, has done an excellent job at giving us a tremendous amount of history this time.  We have learned so much more about the culture and history this time than we did last time!!!

Today we not only did The Great Wall, but we also were able to go to The Jade Factory, The Silk Factory, a real Tea room (and learned SO MUCH about tea and its health for us).  We had a wonderful lunch!!! Michael our guide said it was considered a country style/village style cooking.  We absolutely loved it!!!

Overall it was just an amazing day.  It is very hard to communicate the sights and sounds of all we see and do.  Pictures do not do it justice.  If any of you get a chance to visit...you MUST!!! Just amazing!!

We are getting our bags packed again tonight before we head off to bed.  We leave for Shepards home town!! AHHH!! We are very excited.  So two more sleeps until we are able to meet our little Shepard boy!! We look so forward to it!!

Just like last post...it took too long to post too many photos. We have uploaded a few onto FB.  Most of them are the sights we saw today.  It was just awesome!! Thank you all for continuing to pray for us as we end this "touring" portion of our trip, and we move into the whole purpose of the trip...do bring our precious boy home!!! We will keep you all posted and will try to blog tomorrow night from Chongqing!!
Blessings,
Mark & Buffi

Friday, May 10, 2013

China Trip - Day 1 (Beijing Tour)

Whew...we finally got things worked out where we can access these sites in our room.  Wifi isn't very easy to use in our hotel room here in Beijing.  We eventually just hooked up the laptop through the cord and it is much easier to access things.  Sorry for delays in posting.  We were extremely tired last night when we finally got in.  We were just too tired to get anything done!!

Today we had a great day!! We thought we'd sleep in a little since we didn't need to meet our guide until 9:30am.  We woke up between 4:00 and 4:30am and could not go back to sleep.  Gotta love jet lag!! It is definitely good in the adoption process...to do a couple days touring like this...just to get your body clock adjusted to China time.  Otherwise...when we would get our little one...we'd be SO EXHAUSTED!! So...by the time we leave here on Sunday...we should be adjusted and rested up from that trip!! So glad!!

We did a few things around Beijing today.  We saw The Forbidden City, Tienanmen Square, The Summer Palace and The Hutong.  It was so great for the kids to see these things.  Silas was a "movie star". All kinds of people would come up to him and want their picture made with him. If they didn't ask...they sure stared a lot!!! It was so funny!!! I'm sure it was his blonde hair!! He loved it!!

Between touring our guide, Michael talked a lot about Chinese culture.  He couldn't believe we already have three children and are adopting another one.  He said in China...children are looked at as a burden. :( That is so sad.  Really broke our heart. It was an interesting look into the way the culture is around here!

Michael is a great guide!! We did some fun things today.  We would LOVE to share a few photos with you. Unfortunately...blogger is moving very slowly and we aren't able to load photos very fast at all.  If you are FB friends with us...we have a ton of them that went onto FB.  If our internet access gets better once we move on to Chongqing, we will post photos on our blog!!

Tomorrow we get to go to The Great Wall and maybe the Jade or Silk factory.  We're remaining flexible. It is all just very cool!! We promise to keep you all updated as much as possible!!

Just three sleeps until we finally get to meet Shepard!!! We cannot wait and we are so thankful for all of your prayers and support!! Please continue to pray for the day we connect!!! It is hard to believe that it is already here!!!

Thats all for now!!! We will post again as soon as we have the opportunity! Hopefully we can have photos for you on here soon!! Until then..feel free to check them out of Facebook!!

Love and appreciate you all!! We will connect soon!!
Blessings,
Mark & Buffi

Thursday, May 9, 2013

We're Here!!

After 24 hours of traveling, a security pat down, a lost wheel on our brand new luggage and Chinese customs... We made it into Beijing!! The travel went pretty smooth and we are all safe. But I must admit, there is nothing better than walking out in a foreign country and seeing a guy standing outside the customs area with a sign that says "Young." Our guide's name is Michael and he has been very helpful.

Right now it's 4:45am Beijing time and Silas and I (Mark) are downstairs in the lobby because there is wi-fi. We had a few hiccups last night with the Internet, but we will hopefully have it all worked out today. We will be going to Tiennamen Square, the Forbidden City and a Hutong tour today, so I am quite sure Buffi will be posting with more details and pictures tonight.

We love you all!
Mark

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

On our way!!

We are on our first leg to China!! Our flights will leave in the morning headed that way!! We should arrive in Beijing on Thursday the 9th!! We promise to keep everyone posted of our trip!! Thank you for your continued prayers!! We love and appreciate you all!!! Until next post..hope you all have a wonderful day!!
Blessings,
Mark and Buffi


Monday, April 29, 2013

We Are Headed To China!!!!

After a LONG weekend wait and SEVERAL HOURS on the phone trying to work out flight plans for our trip to China.  I am thrilled to say,  we have our tickets booked and two weeks from today...we will get to take our first photos of our family of 6 all together!!!

We cannot BELIEVE it's so close.  The last 15 months all come down to these last two weeks.  We are filled with so many different emotions. So many highs and so many lows, but this little boy is worth every high, every low, every penny, and every sacrifice.  God has a special plan for him and we get to share with him just how special he is.  We get the opportunity to let him know just how much God loves him and has a special plan for his life!! This is PRICELESS!!  And each and every one of you are a part of this! Thank you all so much!!!

So...here is our Itinerary!! We'd still appreciate all your prayers for all the details of things to work out.  We still have a few kinks to work out. Thank you for continue to cover us in prayer concerning these things!!!

Wednesday, May 8th - Flight leaves from Atlanta
Thursday, May 9th - Arrive in Beijing, China
Sunday, May 12th (MOTHER'S DAY) - Arrive in Shepards province - Chongqing, China
Monday, May 13th - Gotcha Day!! This is the day we will get Shepard!! 

We will stay in Chongqing a week and then we will travel to Guangzhou.  Our CA (consulate appointment) is  the 22nd.  

We will arrive back home in the US on afternoon of Saturday, May 25th.  We are still waiting on the exact time. We are HOPING we can fly back into Huntsville, instead of Atlanta.  We will keep you posted on this as we get info!!

We promise to keep you all posted!! This week will be filled with lots and lots of preparing for travel. Again, there have been SO MANY of you that have given to help bring Shepard home.  We WANT you to follow this journey and know that you are helping to change the life of a very special little boy!! Love you all!!! We will post again soon!!
Blessings,
Mark & Buffi


Friday, April 26, 2013

WE HAVE OUR TA!!!!

YES...we do!! We were THRILLED to get the news from our social worker this afternoon. This means that we will hopefully solidify our CA (Consulate Appointment) early next week and book our flights!!!

I'm not going to lie.  While we are so excited...for the first time this whole process I was all of a sudden overwhelmed with emotion.  I hope I'm not a basket case the whole trip there!! I vividly remember having an emotional break down in Carrefours last time we went.  I've been wondering when those emotions would show up! Well...guess today is the day!! Ya'll pray for me...and pray for the whole family as we are all experiencing lots of emotions as we prepare to become a family of 6!

PRAYER REQUESTS:
We do have some specific requests.
1. Travel Prices. Skymiles are not going to help us... :( We THOUGHT we had a good bit...but it has turned out to not be very much that would help...and we don't have time to get any transferred to us.  SO....please pray that financial provision and good ticket prices will show up for us ASAP.  We will have to book our flights early next week!

2.  Pray for our family as we travel.
Yes...our family that is going with us...but I'm specifically thinking about our family staying.  Mark's parents live on our property with us...so his brother and sister in law will be staying at our house while we are gone to help with them, and to help watch our house and take care of our little dog Pretzel!! - We pray for health for Mark's parents while we are gone.

Pray for my mother and her husband as he has to have open heart surgery soon...possibly while we are gone. Please pray for his health, healing and peace for my mom.

Pray for my dad as he also is helping to take care of our property while we are gone.  He has been dealing with kidney stones for several weeks...and we thank you so much for keeping him in your prayers.

We want all our family to be kept safe and remain healthy and full of peace while we are gone! It's easy to get worried when your family is on the other side of the world.  We just pray that the Lord keeps us all safe and in HIS hands!!

3. Our Travel Companion.
We are SO blessed that our dear friend Tonya Bohlinger is going to be traveling with us to help us with our kiddos while we are gone. (They are adopting as well...and hopes to get their little one later this year).  We cannot tell you what a blessing it will be to have Tonya with us...but we KNOW her family will miss her greatly. Please keep her family in your prayers as well.  Health and Peace over them all is what we desire!!! Pray a special blessing for Tonya for taking two weeks out of her busy schedule to go with us!! We know God has a great plan in this process...and we know He has something good for her too!!!

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The next time we post...it will be to give you our schedule of our trip!! We are overwhelmed with joy and thankfulness at God's hand, and how far He has brought us on this journey.  The last 15 months have been an immense time of growth for us.  We are so grateful for God's leading and for His provision!!

I REALLY DO need to go now. It's lightening really bad and my laptop is plugged in!! LOL!! I'll be in touch soon! We are SO grateful for you all!!! Have a wonderful weekend.
Blessings,
Buffi

Monday, April 22, 2013

A Brief Update

Hey guys!! We are still some what in the waiting game...but we did have a little movement this morning.  We received the info that our TA (travel approval) is on it's way from the CCCWA to our agency. This is great news!! Once we get it...it is only a couple of days until we get our CA (Consulate Appointment) solidified.

Our social worker told us today that she anticipates us needing to be in Shepard's province the weekend of May 11th.(Mother's Day Weekend) This is of course as long as everything goes as expected with no delays.  Since we'd LIKE to take a couple of days in Beijing before we go to Shepard's provincial city...this would have us leave around May 8.  HOPING this stays solid.  We can't book flights though until it is solidified.

TICKET PRICES:
We were however able to begin checking on airline prices having this info.  With this in mind...we need prayer.  The ticket prices are MUCH MORE than we were anticipating. (see the fundraising progress to the right side of post) God knows and He provides. But we would appreciate prayers for God to work out all the details and provide the rest of the money.

WHY NO MORE FUNDRAISERS?
It is VERY HARD for me, Buffi, to refrain from doing more fundraisers.  When we finished the family photo fundraiser...the Lord placed it on our hearts to not do any more fundraisers after that. We did 1 or 2 and they failed miserably.  He wanted us to trust HIM to take care of the rest of it.  As a Type A..."control" type of person...this has been SO HARD for me. I want to take care of everything myself.  We have had a long list of fundraisers that would have been a great to do.  But yet we never felt the Lord release us to do any of them.  Struggling to obey....we have though...and have done all we could to not do any other type of fundraisers.

I wanted to share this with you all to let you know WHY we have not been doing more to raise additional money. To us...it is just an issue of obeying what God has placed on our hearts.  Obeying in this way has placed us totally at HIS mercy to provide where He guides.  And we trust Him that He is going to take care of it.

We SO appreciate the prayers for provision for these airline tickets.  God knows exactly the way things should work out.  Pray that we would be led to the right travel agent to book the flights and we go When and How He has planned for us!!

JOURNEY OF OBEDIENCE:
Didn't mean for this to get long...but just knowing you know where our hearts are helps us feel better!! This whole adoption journey is a journey of obedience for us...from beginning to end.  More than anything...we want to please the Heart of our Lord. Sometimes obedience places us in situations where we feel the pressure....but God is strengthening us to learn more deeply that HE is our provider and to trust HIM in crunch time and not to sweat the details ourselves!!!

Thank you all SO MUCH for your friendship and your prayers.  It will be less than a month that we will be able to give Shepard a big hug and welcome him into our family.  We daily pray for him and talk to our three kiddos about praying for him.  God is preparing us all. We have ALL been experiencing personal stretching in this preparation.  We anticipate daily the new things that God is going to do.  We will keep you posted.  We love and appreciate you all so much!!!
Blessings,
Mark & Buffi

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

When Faith & Fear Collide

Well...it's almost time!! We have officially finished all the necessary adoption paperwork to adopt our precious little boy from China! All we are waiting on is our TA-Travel Approval now!

 Where has this year gone?!? At times...it has seemed like it would never pass. But today, as we stare about 3-4 weeks in the future...we will be a family of SIX! Our minds cannot fathom the greatness of God.  How HE got us here..and where HE is leading us! We are just so grateful that we said YES...and didn't let the negative "What ifs?" deter us from stepping out in faith.

This last week has been an incredible challenge for me (Buffi) personally.  I have felt pressure all around me. Mainly mental pressure.  The enemy sure knows where to come at you...doesn't he? What is it with women and fear or worry?!? GEESH!

For real, my husband has banned me from watching the news.  I'm TRYING not to read it either.  But information slips out there.  As we begin this amazing journey of faith to China in a very few weeks...my mind has been bombarded with thoughts of worry and fear.  Aside from the thoughts of how adding another child to our family will change our family dynamic...the thoughts of how this world seems to be FULL of instability and uncertainty come to the forefront of my mind.

But you know...I can choose worry and fear and look at the instability of foreign relations, the flu epidemic in China, the airplane safety over and back, or the potential for terrorism or natural disasters. If I did that...it would stress myself completely out. Instead, I can choose FAITH and know that the spirit of fear does NOT come from God (Timothy 1:7 NLT).  That there is no need to be afraid...that  he is with us to guard us and protect us. (Jeremiah 1:8 ).

In the Scriptures Christ told us, "I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid." John 14:27 NLT - HIS gift to us is peace of mind and heart, I shouldn't be troubled or afraid!

I don't have to fear bad news, I can confidently trust in the Lord to care and protect us! (Psalm 112:7 NLT)
And I know these things...not only because His Word tells me...but because as our daughter reminds me daily...God has a special plan for us and for Shepard and they are GOOD plans, not to harm us but to give us hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11)

So these next 2-3 weeks as we prepare to travel...I'm not going to be asking myself  fearfully - "What if this happens....or what if that happens" .... but I will be saying "what if I say YES and step out in faith...what amazing things is God going to do?!?"

So at this part of our journey...where our faith collides with fear...I choose Faith! 

Thank you all SO MUCH for continued support and prayers. They mean the world to us all!!  Please continue to pray for good ticket prices and provision for those tickets!! We will keep you posted on when we leave and all the details!! Have a wonderful week!
Blessings,
Buffi

Friday, April 5, 2013

The Amazing Hand of God

Having to wait until tonight to post and share with you guys the amazing things that have happened the last few days has been so challenging.  We could not wait to tell you what our Amazing God has done!!! Why do we even doubt or worry?!?! He NEVER ceases to amaze us!!

GOD'S AMAZING PROVISION!!
First...this week we had some donations come in for several thousands of dollars.  What a blessing that was to receive and for the people that so sacrificially gave to us...thank you so much!! REALLY...every single person who has given toward our adoption expenses has just blessed us more than you will ever know!!! You truly are carrying God's heart out by caring for the orphan!! Your sacrifice has been such a blessing.  Thank you so much!! 

Second...just this evening we got the most wonderful email from the JSC Foundation.  Instead of me telling you myself...let me share with you a portion of the email we received!!
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Dear Mark and Buffi,

Congratulations! You have received a grant from JSC Foundation for your upcoming adoption. The check has been sent to Lifeline and should arrive shortly. It has been a pleasure to learn about your heart for adoption. We would love to have a picture of your family after you bring Shephard home. God Bless!

JSC FOUNDATION
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AHHHHHH!! Isn't that AMAZING!!! We haven't listed the amount of the grant from the foundation at their request. But it was such a blessing!!! With all that has come in this week, we are SO THRILLED to share that we have officially reached the $16,000 goal we needed to wire to China in the next couple of weeks! AWESOME!!! God is so good!!! Is that the most amazing news or what?!?! I mean...look at that fundraising thermometer to the right!! Isn't that awesome?!?

Now all we have to do is focus on airline tickets.  We have a couple of things we are praying that God works out right now for good prices.  Please pray that God some how provides us with really great deals on those airline tickets!!! We will keep you posted!!! This is just SO AWESOME to share!! Isn't it GREAT?!?!

PRAYER REQUESTS:
Please keep the North Korea/US Conflict in your prayers.  We are praying that things will calm down and and blow over.  I have to admit...I've been trying not to watch the news. Ignorance is bliss...really...it is! I know I, (Buffi), have really struggled this afternoon with worrying about it.  I can't though.  God has taken care of things so far, and we know He has a plan to take care of us all the way there and all the way back.  We would just really like to see all these heated foreign relations simmer down!! :) 

I have asked our social worker if it will affect families traveling to China for adoption.  She said she is monitoring the situation and they plan to keep all of us informed.  I will keep you all informed on what we find out!! We are praying things calm down and stay calm until we can go and get our little Shepard boy!!

TRAVEL:
Our article 5 will be picked up this week in China. We will receive our Travel Approval in two to three weeks after Article 5 pick up!! YAY!! It's getting so close!! We will keep you posted. 
 
That's all the info we have now!!! We just couldn't wait to share that amazing news with you!!! Please don't ever doubt God's provision and don't let worry or "what if's" stand in your way of stepping out into whatever it is that HE is calling you to! He is faithful and where HE guides...HE PROVIDES!!! Be encouraged and step out into what God is calling YOU to do!! Let HIM work out the details!! 

We will be in touch soon!! Thank you all again for your prayers and encouragement. It means a TON!!! 
Blessings,
Buffi

Thursday, March 28, 2013

NEW INFO ON SHEPARD!!!!

We are SO EXCITED to have just received two new photos from our little Shepard!!!! He is SO PRECIOUS!!!! It is late but we couldn't wait to share with you all these precious photos!! Thank you Lord for blessing us with new pics.  We feel so blessed for this precious little one to be a part of our family! We are ALL very excited!!! Here are the two photos we received!! (Looks like he bruised his head!!! He's a boy for sure!!) Look at those cool jeans!!!

We also got his size!! Praise the Lord!! We needed it to get prepared for meeting him when we are in China.  Only thing is...the sizes came in centimeters and Kilograms.  So I converted them.  But I've got to figure out what size this would make him.

He is 40 inches tall
His chest is 22 inches
His feet are 6.29 inches long
He weighs 39.68 pounds


So...any guesses what size clothing and shoes we should get for him?!?! He almost weighs as much as Silas. Thats not saying much. Silas is TINY....and doesn't eat!! I bet Shep is a good eater!!

You know what else?!?! We think he looks SO MUCH LIKE SADIE!!! What a special blessing for both of them!!! :)

God is good and we could not WAIT to share these new photos and info!!! Thank you all for praying, encouraging and supporting us. It is such a blessing!!! We'll post again soon!!! Have a WONDERFUL Resurrection Sunday with your family!!
Blessings,
Mark & Buffi

Friday, March 22, 2013

Provision & Progress

We have had some more GREAT things happen this week!!! We are so excited to share it with you!!

GRANT UPDATES:
We are so blessed to be able to share that Bridge of Hope Adoption Ministry has blessed us with a $2000 grant to help us with our adoption expenses. God is SO GOOD!!! Thank you Lord!!  This is an organization we were not aware of until February...but they are based out of Athens, AL...and they have a desire to help give local families grants for their adoption expenses.  We are SO thankful for them considering our family for one of their grants.  Thank you Bridge of Hope!  Please support this ministry if you can!!

They will be having a Chic-Fil-A 5K Fundraiser in April.  Our family will be there to help with the 5k.  We're grateful to support organizations who have the heart to help families raise money toward adoption expenses. If you're not doing anything on April 6th...you should come on out and participate!!!

We are also waiting to hear from The JSC Foundation to see if we receive a grant from them.  We know that so many people apply for these grants.  Would you please pray that God would give us favor and help provide us with another grant through JSC to help us meet the $16,000 we need to wire to China in about 4 weeks? We have about $8500 so far to go toward that $16,000. Praise God!! That means we still need about $7500 in the next 4 weeks.  Thank you for your prayers concerning this. We know God is faithful and He will provide!! :)

PROCESS UPDATE:
In the last week...our paperwork has been cabled from the NVC (National Visa Center) and has gotten our Article 5 to the CCAA in China.  Our social worker told us today that we will have our Article 5 pick up on April 9. So...estimated...we will receive our Travel Approval 2-3 weeks after April 9th.  Then we will travel around 10-14 days after that. So it is still looking like early May for us to go!! We will keep you posted.  Please keep in your prayers God's perfect plan regarding the time we travel.

We've been looking at plane tickets.  If we leave the first week of May the tickets are around $1200 PER ticket. If we go a week later...they jump to $1500 PER ticket.  Then they jump even more the closer we get to summer.  With us purchasing tickets for 5 of us...this adds up quickly. So pray that the Lord works it out that we can get the lower price tickets...and that He provides for us every dime we need toward these plane tickets!! Your prayers and encouragement mean so much to us!!

NO NEW SHEPARD NEWS:
We are still hanging on for an update on Shepard. We have had no new news. It's hard waiting.  We wish we had new information every day. But we know that is not possible.  We do want to find out soon what size he is so we can get prepared for him to come home!! :) As soon as we get new info...we promise to share it with you all!!

That's it for now!!! OOPS....ALMOST FORGOT!! We got our Chinese Visa's back this week!!! Isn't that awesome!?!? YAY!! It has been a WONDERFUL week of news!! Things seem to be happening quickly!! It is such a blessing to share this journey with you all. We love and appreciate you much!
Blessings,
Mark & Buffi