Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Forever Grateful

I have become Internet friends with a wonderful Christian momma named Shelly. Shelly and her hubby are adopting a precious little boy, George Mason. George Mason and Hannah are at the same orphanage in Chengdu. In late July Shelly found out that they would be traveling to get George Mason in August and offered to take a care package for Hannah with them. She also said she would ask to meet Hannah if the staff would allow it. We were thrilled! We knew that it was a long shot that Shelly would get to meet Hannah, but we loved the opportunity to get to send her something from us. We sent Shelly our package a few weeks ago. We sent another photo book filled with pictures of Travis, Chase and Hailey holding a photo collage of Hannah. We wanted Hannah to know that we have received her beautiful pictures! We sent bows for her hair, a disposable camera, a letter in Chinese, pictures that her brothers drew and a soft snuggly pink bear. Here are some pictures of what we sent.

These are the pictures that were in her photo album

Shelly and her husband David left for China last Friday. They got their adorable son, George Mason, a few days ago and while they were at the orphanage they GOT TO MEET HANNAH!!! I'll be forever grateful for the priceless gift this family has given us! There is nothing like knowing another momma has seen your baby! Shelly and David were so selfless to be worried about meeting our Hannah on such an important day in their own lives.

Here is what she wrote on her blog about meeting George Mason and Hannah.

George Mason Day!
The Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes!
Psalm 118:23

George Mason, Shelly and David

We drove to the orphanage on the northwest side of Chengdu and along the way had a wonderful conversation with Susie about Chengdu, China, children, and life in general. She is such a wonderful guide and shares so much from her heart with us. I woke up very early this morning and couldn't go back to sleep. Thoughts and prayers being lifted up for my son. Praising God for His miracles that allowed us to travel back to China to adopt our newest Bao Bei (treasured baby). So overwhelmed by God's faithfulness and His deep and everlasting love for His children. Asking the Father to open the door of Mason's heart to love us and be loved in return. Praising Him for all the doors He has opened along this journey, and giving every fear, every worry, every longing in my heart over to Him to comfort. On the road to the orphanage, my heart was so calm, so joyful, so looking forward to seeing our little one's adorable face. What better place is there to meet your new child than to be centered in God's goodness and so full of His love for me. :) As we pulled up to the orphanage gate, David was a bundle of nerves. Excited and scared, my smiles and lightness calming him. We walked into the beautiful lobby painted with colorful murals for the children, and walked up to the 2nd floor. The children where napping so it was very quiet and we were able to just rest and fill out some paperwork for about 20 minutes so that Mason could finish taking his nap. :) The orphanage staff were very happy to meet us. They were smiling and kind and the young lady in charge of the adoption paperwork even spoke English, which was a major shock having adopted in a province where no English was spoken at all. She told us that Yang Yang was very cute and a very naughty boy. lol! Which Susie assured us was the Chinese translation for saying he was "all boy" and "very active". :) As the children were sleeping, we were unable to take a proper tour of the orphanage (CWI), but just walking up to the room where we would meet Mason, we could see play rooms and rooms with cribs too. The hallways were decorated with wonderful murals painting on every wall and cute die-cuts hung up on windows and from the ceilings. The rooms were darkened for nap time and all the toys were perfectly lined up against the wall and put back in there bins. It was very, very clean and felt like being in a well-run preschool so colorful and welcoming. There was a sign posted that said "no photos" and so we didn't take any; however, it was too dark to have gotten any good photos anyway. The orphanage worker assured us that in Mason's report there would be lots of photos of the classrooms where he plays, and she was right! Before we met him, she handed us a baby photo album full of photos of him from infant to now and also a treasured keepsake - baby Memory Book. Because he is in a Half-The-Sky orphanage, he was assigned a specific caregiver from the time he entered the CWI. The nanny or ayi that nurtured and loved him for 2 years, prepared a report on him as he grew and took photos of him and most precious, she stamped his handprint and footprint as he grew - seeing his newborn handprint and footprint made my heart instantly melt. Oh how tiny! We looked over the photos in the report also and Dave laughed and beamed to see his son actually smiling and giggling too. :) All of the photos we have received from the updates, he wasn't too happy in them. So it was so great to see him full on laughing and having a great time! It is such a beautiful keepsake for him and of course my heart hurts for my sweet Jessa not to have something like this to share with her, but again I am reminded of the Father's protection over each of my children through their baby years in China. One completely loved and cared for in a Christian foster home and the other nurtured and loved by one ayi who took the time to share her stories and insight about our son in this wonderful book recording his early months for us to cherish.

We chatted so more and then I pulled out the wonderful care package gift that I had brought from a friend who is adopting a beautiful baby girl also from Mason's CWI. I didn't even have to explain what it was or who it was for! lol! The ayis in the room with us immediately saw her photo and KNEW her! Oh she is soooo loved! They smiled and quickly said they would bring her in the room too so that we could give it to her and take photos for her family. :) Thanking God for another open door! So as the ayis left to prepare the children, I reached in the bag we brought and took out the best toys and candy I could find. :) Smarties candy, and Frosted Cheerios, a toy cell phone and a little toy that lights up and spins, and 2 little cars. All lined up on the coffee table in front of us waiting for Mason's arrival. David and I sat next to each other on a black couch facing the door and through the door window we could see the ayis coming bringing with them both children!

This next part is for my friend Amy:

Adorable Hannah came in the room first and she was too precious for words! Wearing a little dress and sandals. Such a tiny peanut maybe wearing 12 months clothing, so petite, yet so brave! I got up and kneeled down on the ground with the children. Slowly giving them the treats we had brought. Hannah was the first to come to me and she LOVED the Smarties! :) She also loved the light up toy too. As I handed her the pink bear, I told her "From your Mama with love for you." She was very timid because the ayis immediately began smiling and nodding their heads in approval, interpreting to her what I had just said, and trying to make her say "Mama, Mama" over and over again. To be honest I was a little overwhelmed by that too. ahahaha! They took the photo album and poured over it oooing and ahhhing at the pictures of her siblings waiting for her to come home. So very cute how interested they were and how adorable they thought all the photos were. I could tell she was their FAVORITE! And to be honest, she immediately stole our hearts as well. So precious! Even the orphanage adoption staff our in love with Hannah - all the office workers came out from behind their desks to see her receive the gifts you sent. We took photos and video and I will send them to you when we get back to the States - they told us not to post on the internet so I don't want to ruin it for other families who might want to send something to their sweet kiddos by way of another adopting family, since I know there are several waiting families. :) It was such a gift to meet your daughter and I'm praying you get to travel soon and when you do bring Smarties! hee hee! :)

And so, you may be wondering what was George Mason doing this whole time? Well, he was just relaxing. lol! He sat on an ayi's lap (not his ayi though, they told us that would have been too hard on her and him for her to bring Mason to us - so she didn't come to meet us - I was sad, but she had said her "goodbyes" to him and was crying so it was better for him to come with the other ayis) Anyway, he took a few Smarties from me and went back to the ayi and was captured by the oscillating fan whirring overhead. lol! He just kept staring at it and then came back for some more candy. :) The ayis tried to get him to come to me, but I wanted our first meeting to go slowly and calmy so I shook my head when they were pushing too hard. Eventually, on his own he came over to me to investigate the light up/spin toy. Then my heart spilled over and I couldn't contain the JOY as my arms wrapped around our little boy and for the very first time I held him! My smile so big, my heart so full! David taking lots of video and our guide taking lots of photos for us. Have I mentioned how much I love our guide, Susie? :) Then, it was David's turn to "work his magic" as he said. He knelt down and showed Mason how to work the toy. It is just small enough that he can hold it in his hand and use his little thumb to push the button. His eyes got so big when it would light up. :) We could tell he was scared, but he was also very, very brave. His heart racing a hundred miles per hour. Choking back his cries of terror - for a such a little baby boy, he was trying so very hard to be grown up. Which broke both of his new parents hearts, we wanted him to cry if he felt scared and saw how much he tried not too, maybe they teach them that in the orphanage? I don't know, but it was hard. As we left the CWI to head back to the hotel, we went through the back door which leads out to the playground and we were sooo blessed to see lots of children we watched we were glad to see so many smiling faces. The older children practicing their English with us, "Hello! Hello! Hello!" and waving enthusiastically! ADORABLE! Mason squirmed around in my arms so that he could see the little children that were all lined up like a little train and walking back inside. David video taped a litttle bit of that moment as well. It was very cute and we could see that the children really love being outside. Their playground is awesome with lots of things to climb on and play on and even a little carousel that has animals for them to sit on that spins them 'round. :) So now it was time for us to get in the van, after one last photo of our family in front of the orphanage. As we climbed in Mason's heart finally could take no more changes, he screamed and cried and was feeling so out of control. But again, Susie to the rescue. She immediately comforted him and told him he was safe, that we love him, will feed him, and make him very happy. She told him not to be scared. I gave the little comfort I had in Chinese "boo coo, boo coo" and she told me how to saw "good boy" also in Chinese which sounds like "gui gui". He responded immediately. He snuggled into my arms and although he was scared and his eyes full of tears - he has not screamed like that since. He has cried when he is afraid of new places and new faces, but no screaming tantrums. So thankful for God's merices! We rode back to the hotel and once we were in the room we introduced him to more toys and more treats. lol! David has the room set at sub-polar temps, so I knew he would be freezing. The only long pants and shirts I brought were his pj's - so we put those on him with some socks. Susie told me, "Yes, that's better." :) Oh, he is brave! He is cuddly! and more than anything HE IS OURS! :)

Isn't that AWESOME!!! It sounds like our Hannah is a special little one and so so LOVED! Oh, how I long to meet her! Shelly has pictures and VIDEO - are you kidding me!!!! I can't wait!

Please join me in praying for George Mason and his precious family. My God give George Mason comfort and peace and may he give Shelly and David patience and comfort during this adjustment phase. If you want to follow their China journey, you can at:

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Have I Mentioned...

Have I mentioned that I’ve become a runner? To be honest, it just seems strange to call myself a runner because I’m just not the running type. I’ve been known to say, “If you see me running down the street, STOP and help me, because someone must be chasing me!!” But, with more than 250 miles under my belt, I guess it's safe to say that I am a runner.

I’ve attempted to become a runner twice before. About 12 years ago Chris and I were stationed in Korea. He was running a lot of miles each day, and I thought it would be good idea to have him help me become a runner too. We went on one run together – just one. We felt it was in the best interest of our marriage that Chris NOT be my running coach. As he yelled, “DON’T STOP” at me, I considered smacking him (but I couldn’t catch him)! I’m sure if he was the author of this post he would say it all ended because I was the whiniest wannabe runner he had ever seen, and he would be right. My second attempt was in the fall of 2008. I decided I wanted to run a 5k, so, I started a run program and was doing pretty good. About 4 weeks into the plan, I found out I was pregnant with Miss Hailey. Very soon after, horrible nausea set in and I was DONE.

So what was different this time? I guess it wasn’t just one thing that changed, but more like a few things came together. In January we filed our application and kicked off our adoption journey. I wanted to lose weight with this “pregnancy” as opposed to the other 3 where I ate WHATEVER I wanted! Then, in February, one of my besties, April, heard about the Chosen Marathon for Adoption. This marathon (and half marathon) was created to help adopting families raise some of the necessary funds for thier adoption costs. The inaugural Marathon for Adoption took place in New Braunfels in Oct 2010. April thought the October 29th 2011 race would be a fabulous fundraiser for our adoption and offered to take the lead on creating a team for us. So, the desire to make a change and the need to raise money to bring our daughter home collided and I became a runner!

Team "Halvorson Family" was created and we have been blessed to have 58 people sign up on our team. The entry fees paid by the members of our team ($65 for the half marathon and $85 for the full) will go directly to our adoption expenses! A few team members are running the full marathon with Chris (including his college roommate, Paul), many are walking or running the half marathon with me, and many opted for the sleep in option! These supporters have signed up on our team so we are blessed with their entry fee, but and have decided they are more interested in sleeping in on race day than lacing up their running shoes. In late June the marathon had a contest. The team that had the most people sign up during the 2 week period would win an additional $1,000 bonus! Family members, coworkers, friends, and friends of friends rallied and grew our team from 6 to 58 people during the contest period. WE WON and we were blown away by the support of so many!!!!

If you want to visit the marathon website click on this link:

If you want to watch a short video about how the marathon came to be, you will enjoy this:

I you are interested in joining our team (to run, walk or sleep in) it isn’t too late! The more the better!!! Contact me or click here to register. Select team Halvorson Family. We can pick up your race packet in New Braunfels if you need us to.

A financial (tax deductible) gift can also be made to our team through this link.

So how did I actually become a runner, you may be asking? Well, it didn’t happen overnight. It hasn’t been without loads of determination and sweat, but it has been an amazing journey. Chris ran for many years during his A&M Corps and Army days. It had been awhile since he had run regularly, so we both needed to jump in slowly. We started with the couch to 5k program – a running program that starts with running just one minute at a time and gradually builds until you are conquering a 5k (3.1 miles). We ran our graduation 5k on May 1st. After that we worked on increasing our mileage. In July we ran a 15k (9.3 miles). Now we are growing our mileage so that I can complete the half marathon and Chris can run the full marathon on October 29th. To date our longest runs have been 11 miles for me and 12.5 miles for Chris. We are on our way.

I couldn’t have predicted the blessing running would be in my life. Before all of this, I never really understood people who “love” running. I don’t know if I “love” running, but I enjoy it quite a bit now! Physically it has helped me drop 30 pounds, and who wouldn’t love that?!?!!! Many nights my run has been my time to get away and pray. My time to hash out my feeling or fears with God. It has been a time to beg for his guidance and a time to thank him for his provisions! I remember the run where I prayed God would give us clarity about little Hannah. God confirmed that she was “the one” on that memorable run and did the same for Chris when he went for his run later that night. I remember my first run after matching with Hannah. It was such a nice time to thank God for her and to thank him for calling us to this entire journey! During my runs, I pray for God's timing to reign in this process, for his protection to be with my baby and for his name to be glorified through it all! With all of the unexpected blessing that come with the adoption process, who knew that running would be one of them???

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us RUN with endurance the race God has set before us. Hebrews 12:1

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


Our agency received our LOA today and the trusty FedEx man should be delivering it to my house tomorrow! After 57 days of waiting - it is here!!!! There is such a nice relief knowing that China has reviewed our dossier and has approved us to adopt Hannah!

We have more steps to go. We actually have a bunch of little steps that add up to about 2 more months until China issues our TA (Travel Approval). Once we get our TA, we can arrange or travel. After TA we could travel in as little as 3 or 4 days, but more likely a few weeks. It looks like we could be China bound in Oct, but most likely we will travel in November.

We celebrated our LOA tonight by stuffing ourselves at PF Changs! It's my favorite and it just seemed to fit the occasion! It was beyond yummy and I couldn't wipe the smile off my face! The kids are all very excited! They don't really understand what each steps means, but they know China said YES and that we are one giant step closer to going to get their sister!

We are beyond blessed, beyond excited and beyond thankful for the Lord's provisions!!!

Monday, August 1, 2011

50 Days

Today we have been waiting for our LOA for 50 days.

Quick refresher - our LOA is China's official permission to adopt Hannah. We received our PA (Provisional Approval) to adopt her on 5/26. The PA means they know we want to adopt her and they intend to review our dossier for that purpose. The LOA is the biggie! It means they HAVE translated our dossier, reviewed it and approved us to adopt her! So, it is a huge milestone on this adoption road and it means we could travel to get her in 2-3 months!

Okay, so as I was saying, we have been waiting 50 days for our precious LOA. The average wait for LOA for families that are matched prior to their dossier being sent to China (us) is about 54 days, so this really could be our week! LOA wait times are so variable. Recently, some have gotten their LOAs in 25 days, 34 days, 42 days, 47 days, 49 days, so I've been thinking it could be our week for awhile now. *SIGH* Some have waited much longer than 54 days, and really there is no way to tell WHEN it is coming. This has led me to wake up everyday and wonder if TODAY will be THE day. This can wear you out after awhile. It's like when you are 39 weeks pregnant and you wake up everyday excited that you might go into labor that day. You think about it all day. No matter what you have going on, it's never far from your mind. As you head to bed, you can't help being ticked off that another day has come and gone without any action. I've tried to not be too obsessive about this, although it is totally my nature to obsess about things like this. I'm trying hard to not drive my friends and dear sweet husband nuts with comments like "A family got their LOA today and they were on day 49 of their wait. We are just 4 days behind them, so maybe ours is coming!!!" So, I'm trying, but I think if our LOA doesn't come soon, all bets are off and I will be in total "drive you crazy" and "overly analytical crazy girl obsessive mode". Beware - you have been warned!!! Pray for Chris!!!

Earlier when I was putting Hailey down for her nap, I missed a call from CA #. My agency is in CA and other than them, I'm not expecting ANY calls from CA! I anxiously listen to the voicemail, pretty convinced that this is THE CALL. The nice guy says, "This message is for Amy Halvorson..." YES YES YES...THAT'S ME!!! Then he starts babbling on and on about something related to one of my clients. UGH.... Not it. My heart was beating a mile a minute. What a let down!

I'm trying to stay calm by reminding myself that our LOA WILL actually come one day even if it sometimes seems like it will never happen. Ultimately, I want God's timing on this whole process, even it means that our fast moving train comes to a complete stop. I trust that God's plans are better than mine. He has proven it to me over and over again.

When our LOA DOES come, we will immediately mail off our I800 with US Customs and Immigration. This is our petition to allow us to bring Hannah home and for her to become a citizen upon arriving in the US. Then we will celebrate at P.F. Changs!!! Seems appropriate, right!

Until then, I'll be her counting the days, praying often and W A I T I N G....