This one’s for you Ryan…you asked for it.
I think I may have a slightly unhealthy attachment to this house.  If you know me, you know that the structure itself and it’s contents are not precious.  But that mailbox has held four bunches of balloons, colors heralding the arrival of a boy or a girl to our neighbors.  This front door has welcomed four babies home.  It opens hundreds of times a day, ushering the Smalls off to school and then welcoming them back in again.  Opens to admit neighbors and family and people looking for a good read.  Dan built these bookshelves himself.  Drywalled the boys bedroom, crafted shelves for my crafts, hammered every nail into this deck.  The Smalls have left their mark too.  Grubby spots on the wall heading upstairs speak of hurried trips up to play legos, pretend to be a princess, go to bed.  The boys live up there.  It smells like a locker room in Lithuania (no offense meant to my Lithuanian readers).  They almost never flush the toilet.  I got weepy this morning when took care of that for them.  I think I may have an unhealthy attachment to this house.
The view from my bedroom window has soothed souls on hurting days, given me reason to break my eyes away from sleeping newborns on my chest, reminded me to pray for my neighbors.  This home has been our refuge, our street corner, our safe zone.  It has seen times of brokenness so dark I thought we wouldn’t survive it.  It has seen times of joy so deep I thought we couldn’t contain it.  This house, it’s bones and it’s stuff, mean nothing to me.  But this home, it is precious.
Which is why we are pouring enough money into it to ensure we’ll never be able to sell it for anything but a loss.  Because unless Father tells us different, we are never leaving.  I want to spend the next fifty years looking out at the picket fence sections Dan built when we were newlyweds that now line the path to my dear Cheryl’s house.  The next fifty summers wondering where the kids have disappeared to and then following the sounds of quarreling and hammering to find them.  The next fifty springs watching neighbors emerge from driveways and head down the bike path, dish to pass in hand, knowing it’s potluck time again.   The next fifty falls wishing we had more sugar maples, but then shrugging and heading just down the street to Seidman to get my fill.  The next fifty winters watching the snow fall silently into the creek.
But first a bit of reno and then we’ll be back.  Back to raise Cain with boys armed to the teeth and loaded for bear.  Back to leave new grubby prints on freshly painted walls and to roller skate around the kitchen island, because that’s how we roll.  Back to living a bike ride away from cousins and a whole slew of other people we love.  Back.
Until then there is a condo that smells of mothballs and lapsed time waiting for us.  It is decorated with monkeys and palm trees.  It’s going to be our adventure.  It’ll be like staying at a hotel for 4 months I’ve told the Smalls.  Only without a pool and room service. Ok, it’ll be nothing like staying at a hotel, but it will be an adventure.  And when it’s over our neighbors and bus 31 and this home we love so much will be waiting for us.  And we’ll be that much closer to our China baby and to summer and to long, lazy days in the sun.  So the sooner we pack, the sooner we leave, the sooner we can return.
And the leaving won’t be nearly as painful as trying to explain to the boys why they can’t bring their guns.  Or to the girls why their new room won’t be big enough to share with a horse.  Not even a pony. But until then there is me filling boxes and assembling shelves for the condo while a Small in a paper pilgrim hat moves things from the donate pile to the secret stash behind her mattress, all while reciting  the Pledge of Allegiance to distract me.  And a dear sister packing up all my food and making the time go faster with her company.  And the rest of the Smalls will get off the sweet yellow savior in a few and I’ll prolly cry to think of the friends who will continue to ride without us for the next four months.  And then there will be a pj and movie night as we call a moratorium on packing so we can just be here, in this home, together.  I am so thankful.
This is me being real.  Praying my heart out that when next I write from this home there is a plan on the near horizon to collect the Small who hasn’t seen it yet.  Pink balloons, our fifth set.  I’m yearning for that day.



I wanted it to be sooner, this real cyber unveiling of our girl.  But I was unsure of wether I was allowed to post pics of her at all.  Am unsure still, but am going ahead.  Was planning on that anyway, until I received an email this afternoon that rocked me.  Photos of our girl with her lip fixed.  Maybe the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.  And I put my head down on my desk and cried.  Out of relief-four weeks have gone by since her surgery.  Four weeks of looking with increasing fear for proof that she was ok.  Out of thanks-for Father who has had her in his hand since before she breathed life and who ordained this all in his perfect plan and timing.  Out of joy-that she looks so good, so happy.  For that smile that reaches her eyes in a way it didn’t, couldn’t, before.  And, I’ll admit, out of sadness.  When I played out meeting my girl for the first time I pictured what it would be like to hold her teeny body in my arms and kiss that sweet mouth.  I imagined I would feel her teeth against my lip, would taste her gums, would have to get used to the sensation of kissing a mouth like hers.  And I knew it would prolly take me about three seconds to do so.  I have seen movies of her.  When she moves her mouth her little teeth peek out of her cleft and it makes my heart melt.  When I dreamed of meeting her, I dreamed of these things.  And I dreamed of holding her in our hospital while she drifted off and then having her put back in my waiting arms while she woke up from her surgery.  Pictured us being the first to see her new mouth, but only after we’d fallen more deeply in love with the original one. And even though I realize how very weird it is to mourn these things, I do.
Because Father ordained that her story would be written this way: without a mama to hold her as she goes through surgery, but that I would be subbed out by a wonderful staff worker from the Peace House.  That we would fall for her regardless of what she looks like, our family too.  That she would be a fighter.  The name we’ve chosen for her means mighty in battle.  This teeny fighter; she is something fierce.
But the overriding emotion I feel is just deep, deep joy.  Because on top of a successful surgery, I skipped right down to scan for numbers and there it was: in a month and a half at the Peace House, she gained five pounds.  Five.  Pounds.  That’s a quarter of her weight, y’all.  It’s huge.  And I can see it in those cheeks that I’m now longing more than ever to nibble on.  When I charted her new weight and cheered upon seeing she’s actually on it: 5th percentile, peter pumped his fist and whispered, “Yes!”. Man, this can’t go fast enough.  Father, make us patient.  Help us to really, really believe that your timing is perfect.
I wish now I’d posted pictures of her weeks ago.  Had swallowed past my fear that China would see and think we were encroaching and punish us somehow.  Because I wish the first glimpses of her you were seeing weren’t of her post-surgery, but pre.  When you could fall for her like we did with those wonky teef and sweet, yummy lip.  And if I could figure out how to post these darn things you’d be skipping all my words and just soaking her in.  Our warrior.  Thank you Father.
This is me being real.  Waiting for my IT guy to get home from work so he can figure out how to get these darn pics on here before I bust.


My entire house looks like what you find when you move your fridge.  There is a dumpster and a porta-pooper in the driveway and boxes all over the house.  Lucy is on her fourth show while I’ve been canceling trash service and scheduling a donation pick up for all the things we aren’t taking.  I have to decide on a couple things.  Today.  And I can. not. find our birth certificates.
But none of that seems precious today because amidst the chaos that is our life right now, there is a man in a hospital room in Holland who is headed Home.  He delights in the small things, will drive around with a dandelion in the trunk of his car so he can show you how big it is.  He wears a black hat with the word “forgiven” on it to the farmer’s market so you can ask him why and he can tell you about his sweet Jesus.  He loved my grandma so well, and us too, even though we aren’t his biological family.  His heart is beautiful, his hands are strong, covered in liver spots and showing signs of a lifetime of hard work.  His bow-legged gait is so distinctive that if you didn’t spot his trademark fisherman’s cap first, you’d still know it was him from how he moves.  He tickles with a “skeetle beetle beetle” and grows the most beautiful tomatoes.  My grandpa, Andy Rodenhouse, is headed Home.  Will you join us in praying him there?  That his transition would be sweet and peaceful.  That Jesus would ease him into eternity as servant whose work has been done and done well.  And for peace for his wife, Maxine and his children, who adore him, as all who know him do.
And while you’re on your knees, I just got an email from Justin Amash’s office (more on that later) that they have submitted a request to expedite YuChennie’s papers through immigration.  Because Grandpa isn’t the only one who needs to get home.  So would you say a quick prayer that our expedite request falls into the right hands and that it is honored?  And quickly?  We’d be so grateful for any help we can get storming heaven’s gates.
Bless you on this sunny, cold day when some are headed Home and others are just being born and Jesus is over all of it.  Bless Father for his hand in every minute detail.
This is me being real.  And about to blast you with an online garage sale later this week once I get Dan off to deer camp so I can stop worrying about what he’s tearing down with the loader.  Stay tuned.


An email confirmed this week that our girl had her surgery.  In Beijing.  A billion miles away and without her family there to hold her and whisper in her ear that it’ll be ok, that mama’s here.  And while it all came out ok, with Father standing in as He does so well and The Peace House being the next best thing to the Vos house, I suppose, it was only cosmetic surgery.  Not the life saving palate surgery she needs to be able to eat.  So disappointing and yet, the email came minutes before the news that our home study has been approved and so the pit in my stomach on learning they’d only done plastic surgery and not the reconstructive she desperately needs got shelved in the interest of madly filling out our I800a forms and writing checks and making sure I’d filled in all the boxes so that we can send our home study off and get one step closer to China.  To her.  And that frenzy died a bit on learning that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services office is taking longer than usual to process these forms.  That our dossier might not be sent off for four months.  And so we swallowed that bitter pill and got caught up in the frenzy of helping Jase and Willie and the Veterinarian and the Cowgirl have a rollicking fun Halloween kicked off by our best neighbors gathered around our kitchen noshing on pizza and cider and then heading out to the most amazing, fully enclosed greenhouse on wheels for a wagon ride around the neighborhood to collect cavities and memories.  It was, in a word, great.  Kids climbing up boxes of books to perch on our bookshelves like gaudily dressed owls.  Little ones and old alike scampering in and out of the wagon boasting of candy bars!  The big ones!  Great.

And so today finds us with lazy time on our hands, eating smoothie pampcakes and watching old episodes of Phineas and Ferb (I love those guys) and waiting for the phone call that our home study is ready to we can fly over to pick it up and hand deliver it to Fed Ex.  And we will pray over it on the drive, you bet we will.  Pray that Father supernaturally speeds it through offices and back to us so we can put it with our dossier and send it off.  Pray that we get there.  Soon.  So that we can get her home.  Soon.  So that she can have her palate fixed and be able to eat.  Soon.  But until then we will praise.  Not soon, but now.  Not when we have answers and confirmation and security, but now when everything is all mixed up and sideways and totally scary.  When we see Father’s loving hand moving in and around us and, yes, through us, thank Him.  Not only during the flow, but during the ebb as well, because we are in an ebb season, I think.  But ebb is nothing without flow, so we wait in anxious wonder to see what He will do.  How He will show up.  And we praise him for the email I read yesterday while dancing around the kitchen readying it for a pizza party.  The one that said, “Yes, please rest assured, since your LOI has been uploaded to the CCCWA website your match (with Xia YuChen) is secure.”  Which is adoption mumbo jumbo for this: she is ours and we are hers and nothing can change that now.  So we are running to our girl, via Fed Ex and a thousand whispered prayers and a blessing given each morning when we know she’s being readied for bed, the same one our kids here get each night at bedtime:
May the Lord bless you and protect you.
May the Lord’s face radiate with joy because of you (and I know it does).
May his gracious favor be upon you and
his blessed peace be all around you (as you sleep tonight).
Everything in parenthesis is mine.  The rest is all Father.
This is me being real.  And wondering if you’re in the ebb or flow and how you’re doing there?