Thursday, May 29, 2014

For Such a Time - A Book Review

Next up on my stack of review books is For Such a Time by the new author Kate Breslin. This story is a loose WWII retelling of the story of Esther. By "loose," it is the story of a people who are threatened by a man who hates the Jewish race and a girl who hides her Jewishness and tries to save her people from annihilation.

This novel differs from the Esther story in several key ways. The novel includes a rather unbelievable romance between Hadassah and the man who is overseeing the local concentration camp. At first, Hadassah hates Aric simply because she is Jewish and he is a Nazi. However, she quickly discovers that he is human with strengths and flaws like the rest of the human race. She wavers in her hatred, trying to determine if he is worth loving despite being a Nazi. "Do I love him? Do I not love him? Do I love him...?"

At the beginning of each chapter was a verse from the book of Esther. That verse summed up the events in the upcoming chapter. I wish that the verses had not been left in the manuscript. It jerked me out of the narrative each time. Being told what events from Esther are coming up in the story left little room for surprises.

My favorite aspect of this novel was the actual writing itself. Breslin has a great command of English and uses words to describe the setting in such a way that you feel like you are sitting in the room, watching the action.

Overall, it was a well-written book with a modern day take on Esther. It didn't quite meet my expectations, but most people seemed to really it. If you like the story of Esther and WWII novels, I would borrow it from the library and then buy it if you will read it more than once.

Thank you to Bethany House for providing a free copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinions.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Zhi Zhi's bunk bed!

It only took four hours, but my husband and I were able to set up the bunk bed.

I am hoping that we'll be able to visit Seattle in the next couple of weeks to order the mattresses. Over the holiday weekend, we shopped around the mall and online and finally found a good deal on two beautiful bedding sets. The quilts will be here in about a week but the sheets are on backorder and won't be here until the beginning of July. It's a good thing we don't need them immediately!

I am so incredibly excited to be decorating Zhi Zhi's room. I can't wait for her to see it!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Heaven - A Book Review

Being out of town and then flooded with adoption progress and trying to catch up with housework made me fall behind with my book reviews. I have been reading! I just haven't had time to write and post reviews. This week I hope to catch up on my book reviews.

One of my recent reads was a book titled Heaven, by Stephen Elkins. This is classified as First Steps, one written to help introduce a Bible topic to a young child. I requested it for review because I hoped that it would be a good one to teach an adopted child about Christian topics. Being a First Steps book, I hoped that the idea of Heaven would be explained simply - both in simple English and simple concepts.

The book tackles the topic of heaven in two parts - what is heaven like? And how do we get there? It presents a beautiful picture of heaven, making it very appealing. The book goes way beyond the idea that heaven is a place to sit on a harp and sing and for that I am grateful! It also presents the idea of salvation in a factual but not overly detailed way, talking about how Adam sinned by disobeying God, that Jesus came to earth and lived a perfect life, and then died on the cross. The book does not talk about why death is required to redeem us from sin, only that it was.

My first requirement for this book was fulfilled, that the idea of God, sin, salvation, and heaven are presented in simple, broken-down concepts.

However, Heaven does not use the simplest of English. I have a feeling my daughter will struggle for awhile with the words in this book.

"Joy is a blessing Jesus can give,
A blessing the Savior imparts.
It comes from knowing Jesus is Lord
And living inside of your heart!"

"In heaven we're safe forever,
With peace that does astound us.
For God is there to keep us safe
His love is all around us."

Impart. Astound. Not words you teach an English learner for awhile!

Still, it's a beautiful book and I'm glad I requested it. I look forward to reading it with my daughter and talking about God and heaven. Thank you to Tyndale House for a free copy in exchange for my honest thoughts!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Z's room - almost empty!

One of my huge projects last week was to prepare for Z's bed delivery. We had been using her room as storage, unpacking boxes and leaving the contents all over the floor to be used as needed. Obviously that wasn't going to work on a long term basis!

It's rather embarrassing, but I decided to share pictures of what the bedroom looked like before I started cleaning.

a mess

another mess

yet another mess

I got rid of a lot of the stuff, thinking if we haven't used it in over a year, we probably don't need it. A friend is moving tomorrow and needed some packing boxes so I gave her the extra boxes we had stored in the closet. We purchased a bookshelf at Target, set it up in our bedroom, and filled all three shelves. The remainder of the stuff was stacked into our closet.

shiny floors!

empty closet!

open space!

On Friday, Z's bed was delivered. We ordered a beautiful bunk bed and I'm hoping to set it up tomorrow.

I can't wait to decorate my daughter's room! I can't wait for her to come home!!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Dossier to Taiwan

We have made a lot of adoption progress over the past month! If I'd been in town, I would have blogged about it. Instead, here's the quick rundown.

On the Wednesday before I flew to Michigan, we signed the adoption agreement. The following day, we drove down to Olympia to visit the Secretary of State's office. There we completed the first round of authentication. We went through a big hoopla trying to get a notary to sign our paperwork. If you are wanting to adopt from Taiwan, email me so I can offer some advice about notarizing "certificate of original" paperwork...

While I was still in Michigan, our agency emailed and said that she was ready to file our I600 and needed us to sign it. Awesome! Hubby filled out the application, signed it, and then overnighted it to me. I signed it and then overnighted the application to our agency so that they could submit it. Two weeks ago, we received a receipt from USCIS saying that our application has been logged into their system. The website says it takes 4-6 weeks to receive I600 preapproval.

In the midst of all of that, we found out that the social worker in Taiwan told our girl that we are trying to adopt her! We were shocked! All along, the agency has been telling us that they will not tell Z about us until we have submitted our dossier to the Taiwan court, which won't happen for at least another month or two. But the Taiwan agency said that since she's an older child, they want to begin preparing her now. The social worker sat down with her and told her that a family in America wants to adopt her. Apparently Z expressed some dislike toward that idea. Then the social worker showed her the photo album we sent over last summer. That caused Z to open up a bit and share some stories about when she visited the US with a hosting program two years ago. The social worker said that she is more open to the idea of America but less open to the idea of a family. Z stated that she planned to stay at the orphanage until she is of age and then move out on her own.

The social worker contacted our agency and ask that we please prepare a care package so that Z will become more open to the idea of adoption. No pressure! Usually a care package would be sent just out of love, but we're sending one because we love her and because we are trying to convince her that a family is good for her. Because I was in Michigan while all of this was going on, there was no way for us to take more pictures or film a video. I wrote Z a letter and told her about us, that we love her, and why having a family is good. Hopefully she's already received that and has been told that more will come shortly!

Last week and this weekend, we took a ton of new photos. All in all, we printed 32 photos to assemble into a photo album. Then I wrote up little captions for most of the photos and printed them on labels. We also bought Z a stuffed animal, a disposable camera to take pictures with her friends, and a small bag of candy. Yesterday I had the brilliant idea of also buying a cute bag for Z to store the gifts we're sending her.

This morning we filmed a short video. I wrote out a couple things I wanted to share in Chinese, to show that I am learning Chinese to be able to communicate with her more easily. In the video, hubby also showed off all of the things we're sending in the care package. The video is roughly a minute 45 seconds. There is so much I want to say to Z but wanted to avoid overwhelming her.

On Monday, we received an email from our agency that said that Taiwan has requested we send over the dossier now without waiting for the USCIS approval. That way they can start the translation process and cut a few weeks off our timeline! That is always good news!

Last summer, I quickly learned that the adoption process is a flurry of activity and then very long stretches of waiting. We just experienced our flurry. I wonder if that will continue or if we should brace ourselves for a long wait. I have a feeling we'll be waiting awhile for any news on our dossier and we still have three weeks or so to wait before receiving our USCIS approval.

I am so glad that we are able to mail the care package today! I pray that Z's heart will be softened toward the idea of adoption and that she will be even a tiny bit more accepting of the idea of having parents. All I can do is pray!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Even in the face of death, God never fails.

"For he knows how we were made;
he remembers that we are dust"
Psalm 103:14.

On Friday evening, April 25, my MIL called and said, "The doctors say Dad isn't going to make it. Can you come?" Four hours later I was on a red-eye flight to Michigan and arrived at the hospital on Sabbath morning. Less than an hour later, they turned off life support. Two hours later, he was gone.

I'm glad I was able to say goodbye. He was in a coma, but the nurses said he could hear us. I told him that I would miss him and that I would tell his granddaughters what a wonderful grandpa they had. I'm only sad that we were not able to share that we had just signed our adoption agreement two days prior to his death.

That evening, Pastor Dwight came over and talked to us about the hope that we can have in God, even in the face of death. He shared more of Psalm 103.

"But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting
on those who fear him,
and his righteousness to children’s children,
to those who keep his covenant
and remember to do his commandments"
Psalm 103:17-18.

I hold tight to that promise. My father-in-law was a wonderful man, a righteous man. God's love will be faithful to his children's children.

I knew I'd cry too much if I tried to speak at the memorial service, but I did read Psalm 103. I broke down when I reached this verse...

"As a father has compassion for his children,
so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him"
Psalm 103:13

More than anyone else in my life, my father-in-law accepted me, flaws and all. He welcomed me into his family with open arms. He patiently answered all of my questions about childrearing, the Bible, literature. We shared recipes back and forth through email and talked on the phone almost every Sabbath. His death leaves a gaping hole in my life.

However, I know we will meet again. I have faith that God will bring us all together again as a family.

"who redeems your life from the Pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,"
Psalm 103:4.

God promised! I believe it. Dad, I miss you and can't wait to see you again.