Tuesday, December 1, 2015

December 1, 2015

Today we signed the official papers to make Mila our daughter. It was official in an office sort of way- we had our photo taken as a family, we spoke with a registrar and signed a few papers, and we were interviewed by a notary.  Then we waited while fees were accounted for and that was it. At breakfast, prior to us signing papers, Mila made some great progress with warming up to me.  I was able to feed her and play with her and she readily smilies and giggled. Sadly, as soon as we stepped foot in the adoption office, it was like a switch had been flipped. Mila only would go to austin and if I looked at her too long she would start to whimper. It was rough. 

We muscled through the day though, enjoying an authentic Cantonese celebratory lunch in honor of Mila's adoption.

Tomorrow we will start working in her passport which requires an office visit in the afternoon so we last. To do a bit of exploring in the morning depending on how Mila is feeling (still battling a cold). More tomorrow- hoping for some, steps forward. 

Monday, November 30, 2015


Well, we have her! I know that's what most of you wanted to hear-  how the rest of the day unfolded is a little less interesting but I'll share anyway.  When we decided to adopt, we wanted to be as open about the process and as real about adoption as we could be. There are some hard things ahead and we got a taste of that today. I also acknowledge that some parts of our adoption are not our story to tell- so with as much respect to Mila's privacy, here's how it all went.

I guess the day started when I woke up at 4 am with my heart and mind racing. I managed to fall back asleep an hour later but Austin and I were both up and out the door around 8. We headed down for our first Chinese breakfast and it did not disappoint! Noodles, buns, multiple flavors of congee, dragon fruit- and coffee and donuts for my adventurous travel buddy. We set out to explore the neighborhood for a couple hours.  The streets are busy with tiny shops, motor bikes, and people walking/shopping. It really wasn't that unlike some cities in Romania that we've spent time in. We found our way to Shamain Island- a little strip of land that was occupied by the British some time ago but has retained its  European atmosphere years later.  It is super popular with elderly Chinese practicing all manner of group exercise along the water front and the latest fashion models and photographers using the historic looking buildings as a backdrop for their photo shoots. Shamain Island also has a history among adoptive families- it once housed the U.S. Consulate and all families would stay at the luxurious White Swan hotel. The hotel has since been renovated and is more geared toward the business crowd but it is an interesting place to walk around and look in the shops. 

We took photos, shopped a little, spotted a few adoptive families with their newest little ones tucked into carriers and strollers.  After we had seen it all, we walked back to our hotel through the Qing Ping market-where all manner of dried creature and plant is available in wholesale quantities for cooking and herbal remedies. We played 'name that dried sea creature' as we walked. The end of this market is the pet market- goldfish, turtles, kittens, bunnies, you name it- are available in little bins and cages.  I'm sure Americans are generally repulsed by some of the sites we saw but it was fascinating! 

We still had time to kill so we headed to the pedestrian street that is basically an outdoor shopping mall surrounding our hotel. We wandered in both directions, occasionally finding seemingly hidden escalators to higher levels of stores and restaurants above the market. We both had no appetite but I stopped for some passion fruit juice with basil seeds (yum but I was a little afraid that I would regret my drink choice later) and Austin grabbed an ice cream cone from McDonalds (there's something for everyone here!)

It was almost 'time' so we went back to the hotel, changed clothes, re packed backpacks a few more times, and went to meet Cordelia in the lobby.  

Mr. Thomas our driver was waiting for us so we piled into the van and off we went.  About half an hour later we pulled into a not very impressive office building where our lives would change forever. 

We rode an elevator up a few floors to the Adoptions Affairs office and waited in a large room with two other families about to meet their children. We watched as new families were formed and tears dropped down little faces. 

As Cordelia was taking care of business, suddenly, I saw her-  our tiny daughter- held in the arms of a Chinese woman. I waved and we were nodded over but Cordelia decided we needed to wait for something official so we retreated to our corner. Finally, whatever was supposed to happen, happened and we were allowed to go to her. 

The orphanage director - Mrs. Zhong- immediately whipped out the photo book we had sent to her and pointed at Austin and my pictures.  Our sweet little girl looked on apprehensively until she was suddenly thrust into my arms.  Cue the waterworks. We rocked and bounced and I patted her back and she actually settled down into my arms. Austin came and sat close to us Mila was very interested in his gopro. Since it's basically impossible to break, he handed it to her and she quickly mastered turning it on and off and scrolling through the videos on her own. 

The director was randomly telling us about how smart our daughter was.  At one point they made Cordelia translate that it must be fate that we were together- Mila is super afraid of strangers and never goes to someone she doesn't know without melting down. Austin decided to tempt those fates and took Mila in his arms- and she eagerly clung to him. We passed her back and forth a few times while we took turns completing paperwork. I was sitting with her when the director came over and said something to Mila.  She hopped out of my lap and walked to the director.  When the director told her to come back to me,she began to wail.  I scooped her up to calm her down and the director and her assistant disappeared. That didn't seem to help the situation though I know that was their intention. They spent the rest of the meeting hiding around a pillar while Mila searched frantically for them. It was heart breaking. Austin took her again and she finally began to relax. But if I walked near her, she would begin searching and crying once again.  We finished up the meeting and returned to the van.  Mila was wedged between austin and I and quickly fell asleep. 

When we got to the hotel, I carried her in while Austin ran to find diapers and formula. Mila woke up and though she didn't cry, she certainly wasn't too happy to see me. We got to our room and I rocked her for a bit. She was so exhausted that she began to doze off. I laid her on her bed and she woke up immediately.  Without moving a muscle, tears began to flow down her cheeks and she cried and cried.  I stayed next to her and let her grieve. The tears stopped and she began to scratch at her neck.  She was very bundled up due to catching a cold and was quite miserable.  I carefully unbuttoned her padded overalls and helped her remove a thick, itchy sweater. When she understood what I was doing, she helped pull her hands through the sleeves and allowed me to slide it over her head. Taking off the sweater seemed to help her relax a bit more.  Austin came back and she seemed to relax further. He was able to get her to take her shoes off and pulled out a backpack of little toys we had brought. She peered inside and was immediately drawn to a plastic princess toy our friend Danielle had given us. She clung to the princess and a rattle ball and cautiously began to play with them. I fixed her bottle based on my best guess of what the orphanage usually did but she was not interested in it at all. We dumped the formula and offered plain water and as long as Baba (dad) was holding the bottle, she eagerly drank. She made sure to give a good stink eye if I ventured too close. 

We spent a few hours playing, Mila mostly staying close to Austin and alternating between ignoring me or purposefully kicking away whatever toy or snack I offered her. She's got spunk for sure!  She is curious and loves the little toys we brought- intentionally playing with them and exploring. But she has kept a very concerned, sad look on her face since we met her. We checked the schedule the director gave us of mila's routine and saw that she has a nightly bath. We decided to get it over with since we were both sure it was probably the last thing Mila would want to do. I said the mandarin word for bath and she looked at me without the usual hint of distrust. I started the bath and Austin brought her in. She let us peel off her layers of clothing and set her in the tub- and she eagerly started to splash and play with toys! She even giggled and accidentally smiled at me! I rubbed her hair with baby shampoo and poured water over her head and she continued to be happy for the first time since we had met her. I wa worried about her getting too cold so we let her play a little whip longer and then grabbed a towel and held my hands out to her. She stood up and reached for me!  I wrapped her up- she's absolutely tiny by the way!- and we dried her off and got her dressed in the snuggling Jammie's we had brought. They were fleece footie pjs,size 18 months- and she's swimming in them!

After we had her bundled,we decided to try to grab some food at the lounge upstairs. We grabbed w bottle and some rice cereal and headed up. I mixed her bottle and this time she hungrily drank it after watching me put it together. I grabbed a little bowl of congee for Mila and remembered that they had told us that she liked soup so I strained out the broth of some veggie soup too. Austin held her and I carefully scooped some soup to her mouth- and she gobbled it up!  

She ate a whole bowl and was happy enough about it that she willingly came to my lap.  We pretended to feed her princess soup too and I heard another tiny giggle escape. We switched off feeding Mila soup and eating a bit ourselves.  As long as there were NO CHUNKS she was happy. Any tiny bit of texture though and out it came. We'll work on that someday :). Other people started to come into the lounge and we could tell Mila was tensing up a bit so we grabbed a couple extra bottles of water and headed back to the room.

Mila continued to want to stay close to Austin so he scooped her up and she fell asleep on his chest. She's sleeping- and snoring she's so congested poor thing!- in her little bed next to us now. I exot her to wake up hungry and afraid again but we'll be here and eventually she'll learn that I'm not so bad (and actually the fun one) and it will be alright. 

Tomorrow we go back to the adoption office and sign the official papers making her our daughter forever. 

One less orphan in this world.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

No ember 29, 2025

Today was the kind of long day that feels like it should really be two days... But it was only one. We set out early in Hong Kong in search of coffee.  We came up short, not realizing that most of HK sleeps in on Sundays so we hopped on the metro and headed back to Mong Kok- which we've just recently learned is the most densely populated place on earth!  Today didn't feel as populated as the night before, so that was kind of a nice break. We walked through the streets and passed fruit stands and flower markets.

 We reached the Yuon Po Bird Garden- an elevated block in the middle of Mong Kok filled with landscaped planters, benches, and birds!  A common hobby among the retired men of HK is to keep song birds in small cages. These birds rarely leave their cages but early in the morning, the men carry the caged birds through the city and to the bird garden for a little exercise. They find a place at the garden to hang the cages and let their birds sing to each other while the men catch up with their fellow bird keepers. You can also buy birds and bird stuff at the garden.  

We wandered out of the garden and eventually got back to our hotel. We packed up, chatted with the boys in FaceTime, and then caught a cab to the Hong Hom train station. We boarded an intercity train to Guangzhou at 1 pm!

We rolled through Kowloon and a bit of lush jungle and then all at once we crossed into mainland China. The city there- Shenzhen- appears to be in a constant state of development. Towering apartment buildings are half finished with cranes perched precariously 30 stories up.  Next door are small earthen homes surrounded by rice paddies and meticulously cared for gardens. Mamas rode through cleanly swept streets on bicycles with children perched on the handle bars while  sturdy looking blue dump trucks piled high with lumber rumbled next to them. Shenzhen turned into Guangzhou and our train ride was complete. We lugged suitcases off the train and up a opulent flights of stairs, passed through a quarantine area where our temperatures were read remotely, waited through immigration and then customs, finally one more security check, because, well, China, and then faced the Guangzhou train station arrival platform to find our driver, whom we had never met. Thankfully, we kind of stick out.  Unfortunately, every taxi driver, money exchanger, and hostel hustler also was able to quickly identify the two white people searching for 'something' at the train station and offer their wares to us. Mr. Thomas, our driver, found us quickly and we were bustled into his van and off to our hotel. Which seemed like a long distance away from the train station but it was hard to tell for sure with traffic.  We checked in, got to our rooms and started to unpack when one of our guides, Cordlia, knocked in our door.  She took one look at the room and asked if we wanted to switch to a king sized bed (Austin was looking relieved since the beds were on the small side). She phoned the front desk and within minutes, we were lugging our suitcases down the hall to another room. Cordelia got down to business, going over details for tomorrow and helping us prepare our paperwork. While she was there, the hotel sent in a crib for Mila to sleep in. I didn't have a chance to think about the reality that by this time tomorrow there would be a little girl to actually sleep in that bed (or refuse to sleep in that bed!) as we were headed down to the crazy streets surrounding our hotel for a quick tour. Our hotel is located on one of two pedestrian streets in GZ. And being Sunday night, everyone was out walking!  We checked out a few stores,found a place to buy snacks and baby gear, and got directions to a few other notable sites.

Cordelia brought us back to the hotel where we were lt with 'homework' of getting ready for Mila tomorrow!  The plan is to leave at 2 pm tomorrow to head to the civil affairs building where the orphanage director will bring Mila. I have no idea how we will pass the eternity of tomorrow morning!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

November 28, 2015

Hong Kong!

We arrived in HK last night a little before 10 pm. We were able to get through customs and collect our luggage quickly and then headed out of the airport to catch a city bus.  HK is comprised of several islands- connected by bridges and underwater metro lines. We had decided to stay in Kowloon, across the harbor from Hong Kong Island- but about 25 minutes and an island away from the airport. We figured out the bus ticket system, got the right bus, and enjoyed a quick ride into Kowloon and to our hotel. Experiencing HK for the first time, in the dark was actually pretty disorientating. It was nearly midnight and the streets were packed with people of all ages!  Neon lit signs, taxis and buses roaring down the streets, restaurants opening onto the sidewalks- it all looked fantastic but we were pretty determined to get to bed after over 24 hours of traveling!

We both slept decently well and our hotel is very nice. This morning, we wandered across the hotel to a large shopping mall in search of coffee.  Starbucks did not disappoint and we able to enjoy our coffe from several stories above the street and take in the busy views. We headed back to our hotel concierge desk and ordered our train tickets for tomorrow to Guangzhou.  Then we headed out for the day.  First stop was the waterfront and the Star Ferry landing.  These beat up, glorified tug boats have been shuttling passengers across Hong Kong harbor for decades- and for mere pennies a ticket.  It was a great way to see the harbor, enjoy some fresh air, and feel a little local. 

From the ferry landing on Hong Kong island, we caught another bus through the city.  Traffic was thick and slow but we enjoyed the looking up at the enormous sky scrapers.  HK is an extremely hilly city- the roads have been carved into the hillside with towered office buildings and apartments clinging to the cliffs. Our destination was the Peak Tram- an ancient cable car that rapidly ascends Victoria Peak- the tallest point in the city. Unfortunately, the rest of HK also decided to take the Peak Tram today and the line for tickets was several hours long.  We asked a few cab drivers but were denied a ride due to bad traffic so we decided to walk to the Peak.  We found an old trail of carved out steps that follow the cable car up the mountain, criss-crossing city streets and apartment alleyways.  We were about half way up when I declared that I was done and possibly dying.  Thankfully a passing cab was willing to pick us up for the remainder of the trek to the top. 

And the views from the top were possibly worth nearly perishing on the hilly streets of Hong Kong from exhaustion. 

After a little exploring, we found lunch at a pho place- yum!

We decide to take the tram down from the peak- also a fun adventure. The tram is the world's steepest cable car in the world and has been in operation since 1888.  It was unbelievable steep (actually- it was very believeably steep- I walled UP that steep part)- at times you had to fight to sit upright in the tram because of the incline. And we rode down backwards.  

Once at the bottom, we retraced our steps back to the hotel.  We changed clothes, found drinks at a nearby 7-11, and headed to the nearest metro station to explore another part of HK- the famous Ladies Market.  This is where all manner of knocked off purses, watches, and clothing is sold, swap- meet style. They say this is the place to go for the latest trends- shop space is at such a premium and store owners keep a very limited amount of inventory so only the latest styles are available. The streets were packed with everything from shoppers and store owners to street musicians to costumed mascots selling broad band Internet. It was wild. 

We connected with friends of friends for dinner at a traditional family- style Chinese restaurant. A massive circular table with fine,white china dishes awaited us.  Crystal chandeliers hung from the ceilings and a glass lazy Susan dominated the center of the table.  Our friends arrived with their six children and another friends and began ordering the entire menu and pouring jasmine tea.  Everything was delicious! From the elaborate mango breaded prawns to the fried peanuts, I was in Chinese food heaven!

Austin and I were starting to feel the effects of jet lag but it was still a special time of sharing with this family and hearing their heart for orphaned children.

After dinner, we took a violet different metro lines to get back to our hotel- and amazingly enough, we ended up exactly where we wanted to be!  

Tomorrow we will leave HK for GZ- mainland China.  We will be taking a bullet train.  We're looking forward to the next part of our journey but sure have enjoyed our time here in HK.  Definitely will need to come back for more exploring!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Dear Friends and Family...

If you've been following along on Facebook or Instagram, you know the countdown to departure is on and our minds may already be in China!  I wanted to take a few moments of your time and share a little about our trip, some of the things we are anticipating, and also our plan for arriving home.  It seems most appropriate, especially this Thanksgiving week, to say again how thankful we are for each of you who played a role in bringing Mila home.  There are so many of you who sacrificially gave, offered support and help, prayed for us, celebrated with us, followed along in your own ways.  You are all so precious to us and we wouldn't be here if not for the overwhelming support we received from 'our people.'  Thank you!  

We depart San Diego early Thanksgiving morning!  Austin is THRILLED to be missing Thanksgiving dinner (too many foods touching each other, savory foods that are sweet, sweet foods for dinner, etc, etc... weirdo.)  We hop up to LA- our favorite airport (not) for a couple hours before we head to... Tokyo!  We then fly from Tokyo to Hong Kong.  We will be staying in HK for two nights in an attempt to quickly reset our bodies to a new time zone and appear slightly less-zombie-esque when it comes time to meet Mila.  On Sunday, we will take a bullet train to Guangzhou, China (GZ).  Mila is from Guangdong Province so we will be in GZ our entire trip.  

Monday, November 30 in the afternoon will be when we finally meet our daughter.

All countries have different practices for international adoptions.  In China, it is an abrupt hand-off.  Mila will meet us at a civil affairs office, accompanied by orphanage personal.  We may have a few moments to speak with the orphanage staff and ask questions, but for the most part, they will bring her to us and leave.  And she will be under our custody.  We don't know how Mila will handle this- she may be terrified and fight us or she may completely shut down.  Or something completely different.  We have been praying for this moment for over a year and as far as we know, she has no idea we exist and are coming for her.  I have zero expectations for how she should or shouldn't act, just that she will undoubtedly be very confused and possibly very frightened.  And we will get through it.  So friends, please pray for Mila's heart on Monday afternoon (Sunday evening your time).  

The following day we return to the civil affairs office and officially make her a Nielsen!  The following days will hold various appointments, medical exams, etc to enable Mila to come to the US.  While these appointments are necessary, our main focus will be winning over our daughter's heart and building trust with her during this time.  We will do whatever needs to be done and take our cues from her.  This could possibly be the most boring trip across the world if we determine that Mila really just needs to stay in the hotel room and bond with us while we are in China.  And that's OK!  

Now is probably a good time to remind you of Mila's life up until now- really the life of any orphan living in an institution.  She has lived at the same orphanage her entire life.  Her entire world has been the same four walls and a small play yard inside the gates.  Each day she wakes at the same time as other children- the same children she has seen every single day- is met by one of several care givers, given simple, bland meals that just meet the nutritional requirements of growing children. She has been taught to potty on a schedule, nap on a schedule, play, and go to sleep each night, all on a schedule.  There is very little room for individuality in an orphanage setting.  Caring for many children at once requires time management and efficiency.  Not necessarily nurture.  I've written before about institutionalized children and the eerie silence that results from them not having their cries heard and their needs met.  As a defense mechanism, Mila will likely exhibit various behaviors that are not desirable or healthy in a family setting.  But more on that in a bit...

We will be in GZ for about two weeks.  Our final adoption related task is our consulate appointment where the final paperwork is submitted to receive Mila's visa to come to the US.  As soon as Mila touches US soil, she will become a US citizen.  After we receive Mila's visa, we will depart for Hong Kong and fly home on December 11, 2015.  

We are arriving in San Diego at 1:14 PM on December 11.  If you would like to catch a glimpse of the newest Nielsen, we would love to see you there!  

This process has been a long journey, and though we will finally be home as a family of five, we recognize the season of adjustment that God has planned for our family.  Because we know your care for Mila and our family, we want to share some information that we hope will best equip everyone around her to assist in laying the strongest and healthiest foundation- emotionally, physically, and spiritually.
In many ways, Mila 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 mama) 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. Mila has experienced the loss of familiar and comforting caretakers as well as the sights, smells, and language of her birth country. When Mila comes home, she will very likely be overwhelmed. Everything around her will be new and she will need to learn not just about her new environment, but also about love and family. She has not experienced God’s design for a family having lived in an orphanage setting. Her world is turned upside down. She may struggle with feeling safe and secure and she may lack the ability to trust that we will meet her needs. The good news is that we can now, as Mila’s parents and forever family, rebuild attachment and help her 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 her. As this repeats between us, she will be able to learn that Mom and Dad are safe to trust and to love deeply. We are, essentially, recreating the newborn/parent connection. Once Mila starts to establish this important bond, she will then be able to branch out to other, healthy relationships. Mila will have, what may seem like, a lot of structure, boundaries and close proximity to us. Although it may appear that we are spoiling her at times, we have been advised that it is best that we meet every need quickly and consistently. She may show her grief and confusion in many ways, and we are prepared to help her 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 educators and mentors. We will be doing what we believe is best to help her 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 Mila 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. We cannot WAIT to see some of you at the airport when we arrive home!!! Keep in mind... It is imperative adults limit what is typically considered normal, physical contact with Mila. This will (for a while) include things like holding, hugging and kissing. Children from orphanage and foster care 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 very welcomed! Mila should know that the people with whom she interacts are our trusted family and friends. She is going to love each and every one of you!
Another area is redirecting Mila’s desire to have her physical and emotional needs met by anyone (including strangers) to having Mom and Dad meet those needs. 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 Mila hugged, cuddled and cherished by ALL of you. But until she has a firm understanding of family and primary attachments, we would be so grateful if you direct her to us if you see that she is seeking out food, affection or comfort.
How does this look for Christmas and life with Corbin and Leo?  Honestly, we don't know yet.  It is our hope in writing this that you will extend us grace as we learn was Mila's needs are and seek to balance them with the needs of the other members of her family.  We know there will be some element of holiday craziness - actually, at our house, its all the time craziness, not just holiday!  We will be doing the best that we can to help our little girl settle into her family and will be praying like crazy that God's grace will cover over our mistakes!
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 Mila 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 and circle of friends for our precious Mila Christine. Thank you so much for your love and support through this process so far. We are so truly blessed!

Austin and Anna

Friday, November 13, 2015


If I told you my story
You would hear Hope that wouldn't let go
And if I told you my story
You would hear Love that never gave up
And if I told you my story
You would hear Life, but it wasn't mine

Introducing Mila Christine Nielsen*

It is our deepest desire that our sweet daughter will come to know a hope that won't let go, a love that never gives up, and a life lived in Christ. The story of her coming to our family is one that has forever changed us, bringing us closer to the heart of God than we could have ever dreamed. Our love for her- despite the physical distance between us- serves of a reminder of our Heavenly Father's deep love for us.  Irregardless of what we do or don't do, what we can physically or mentally handle, we are loved because we are His. His mercy extends through the darkness of our lostness, and triumphs.  We will forever be grateful for the beautiful picture of God's great mercy to us that our daughter has illuminated in our journey to her. Mila means mercy in Romanian- a language that will always hold a special place in our hearts for the precious faces that led us to say yes to adoption.  As Mila grows, we will tell her this part of her story- of the countless children who impacted Austin and I, of the friends, family, and strangers who prayed for her safe homecoming, and most importantly of the triumphant mercy of God.

If I should speak then let it be
Of the grace that is greater than all my sin
Of when justice was served and where mercy wins
Of the kindness of Jesus that draws me in
Oh to tell you my story is to tell of Him

* Mila is pronounced "mee-lah." Christine is a name given to nearly all the women in my side of the family, after my great- grandmother.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Grateful Hearts...

Our travel approval has been issued- we are so close to booking airline tickets and traveling to bring our sweet girl home!  As I take a moment to reflect on this past year, there are certain words that have a special meaning to our family now.  Words like faith, trust, miracle, surrender, hope, peace- and one word that is so easy to overlook-gratitude.

This is the season of thanksgiving and I thought it appropriate to list some reasons for gratitude from our adoption journey.  I am filled with gratitude...

...for the immediate outpouring of support when we announced our plans to adopt.
...for the Foundation Sunday school class who rallied to pray and lift our family up throughout the various adoption milestones
...for family members far and wide who expressed their support and excitement for our growing family
...for new friends- online and in real life- who have walked the adoption journey before us and 'get it'
...for sweet friends who call to pray for us or plan a 'non traditional' baby shower to love on our family
...for two little boys who's hearts have grown for a sister they have not yet met
...for my crockpot! And the ability to save lots of money by meal planning and cooking at home
...for photography clients and necklace buyers who shop with a purpose and support meaningful things
...for an agency that has guided us through the various steps of this process
...for China and their willingness to allow children a second chance at family through adoption
...for random text messages, garage sale donations, gifted starbucks cards, and unexpected checks in the mail- all evidences of God's heart for the plight of the orphan and His work through His people
...and for the amazing ways God has been working in our family- there are so many lessons and testimonies that it deserves more than a mere mention in a list!

I have created these 'Grateful Hearts' necklaces and bracelets as a final adoption fundraiser.  They are limited quantity and the funds will go towards our in country expenses.  They are available for ANY donation (please add $5 for shipping) and are available on a first come basis.  I hope they will serve as a reminder for all the things we have to be thankful for and also as a little thank you from our family.  If you would like to order, please message or contact me.  We will accept payment via paypal (austin@h2hint.org) and I will ship as quickly as possible- guaranteed shipping before we leave for China and plenty of time before Thanksgiving!

With hearts overflowing with gratitude,

The Nielsen Family