Monday, May 31, 2010

Early Morning Labor Has Begun

I just woke up about 20 minutes ago.....labor my neck! Now, I am VERY awake. Oh, it is 2:20am on Monday and I am READY TO GO!!!!! It seems totally impossible that the day has finally arrived. Of course, we do have to catch a plane from here in Beijing to Nanchang, Jiangxi but I am just believing that all the details of that flight will be seamless.

We thoroughly enjoyed our time yesterday at the Jade factory and the Great Wall, but for me, the best part of the day was getting to know 2 particular families in our travel group. One couple is from Texas and they have a 4 and 3 year old at home, waiting on the arrival of their little sister. Hearing how God has been busy orchestrating all the details of their adoption was so encouraging; God has been up to a lot of good, I'll tell you that! The other family is from Virginia and actually, the wife's dad lives in FLORENCE!!!! Coincidence? I think not! They are accompanied on this trip by their daughters, Melanie (7 yrs.) and Kristen (3 1/2 yrs.), both of which they adopted from China. Kendal wrote last night about how Jordan and Melanie were instant buddies! I have been trying to soak up all their experience and knowledge; I really appreciate their willingness to answer my questions, share their stories and just been a huge encouragement. Even though the play dates that Melanie and Jordan are planning may be difficult to pull off on a regular basis, I am totally pumped about the future opportunities we will have to spend time with them.....thanks to the Florence connection!

When I woke a little while ago, my mind immediately went to the Pray family; that is their last name. They were on the same original flight itinerary as us but somehow have not yet made it to Beijing yet!!! Our entire group hurts for them and has been praying that they arrive ASAP. The Pray family is supposed to go to Nanchang with us and the Wheelus family so, although I can't begin to imagine the frustration, pain, and anger they may be feeling right now, I look forward to seeing God work something huge in their lives; the Danford family will get to be front row spectators on that one! Please join us in praying for this family!!! I will say that in all the mess we went thru with flights ourselves, it was a comfort to me to remember that God has gone before us. He has done the same for the Pray family so maybe you can pray that they remember this and find encouragement from that.

OH MY WORD!!! In 18 hours or less, we will finally be holding Anna!!!! Right now she is sleeping for the very last time in her bed at the Suichan orphanage. I pray, as we have for a couple of years, that God is allowing her to see our faces and hear our voices as she dreams right now. She is laying there, with God watching her sleep. I can imagine His excitement for her, much like me and Kendal, awake so early, eager to for this big day! Soon, she will wake up, maybe with the help of her nanny, and be given breakfast. I imagine that the nanny will have tears of joy for Anna, and tears of pain over her "loss" of this precious child....knowing that she is about to meet her forever family. Her nanny will dress her in clothes that she will have for years to come; clothes that will serve as a reminder of her beginning in China, God's hand of grace plucking her from a family-less existance, and gently placing her in our arms. Arms that have anticipated her warmth for 10 years, since the time God first impressed on my heart that we would one day adopt from China. She will take a long car ride to a brand new place, seeing new sights all along the way. Her nanny will carry her into a building; I can imagine her wonderment at the surroundings she has never seen. She will soon hear her name, be carried by her nanny, and approached by 2 sobbing parents and a big sister that is seeing her prayers of 4 1/2 years answered in a very tangible way.

I know that some of you who are reading this have been wondering for a while, maybe for years, if God actually hears you. Yes, He does hear you. I also know that He loves each one of us and longs to open His hand of blessing over our lives. We often run to Him, as if He were a genie in a bottle, obligated to grant us our wishes. I know that our family has learned through this entire process that He is not at our beck and call. Don't misunderstand what I'm saying. He loves us, wants what is best for us and hears our prayers. But, His view of our lives is much broader than our own. Even though we can't see how all the pieces are fitting together, as long as we put our faith in Him (and that means we aren't totally stressed out trying to do things on our own) and seek His strength and His glory (not our selfish desires, no matter how noble they may be), it's all good.

"Joy comes in the morning" and sometimes it is early! Room 1022 at the Radisson in Beijing is about to burst forth with joy!!! And Jordan hasn't even woken up yet.......which means there is a lot more to come!!!! I sit here smiling at the fact that today, TODAY, May 31, 2010, Ai Cui Long will NO LONGER BE! God is giving her a new name, a new beginning, one He planned long before her birth!! Anna Len-Ai Danford is almost here!!!!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Gotcha Day Tomorrow!

Just so you know, we are having some trouble getting pics up. Don't know what the deal is, but we are working on it.

So we are on the eve of Gotcha day. It's been a long 4 years and we have been through a bunch to get to this point. I think we are feeling a mix of excitement, concern, thanksgiving, relief and anticipation. We have prayed for a long time that God would allow Anna to hear our voices in her dreams, so that the day we meet her she won't be scared and worried. We want her to know that we are her family.

We sat around dinner tonight with two families who have adopted from China before. The Gotcha day experience was very different for each situation. Some are smooth, some are difficult, and some are suprising. Each one is special and unique. We look forward to watching God work in our lives in ways that will blow our minds.

We leave Bejing tomorrow morning early and fly to Nanchang, Jiangxi. Anna will have a long ride from the orpange tomorrow too. It's about a 4 hour drive from where she is to Nanchang. It may be overwhelming for her, because she may have never even riden in a car before. Keep us in your prayers and we will update you tomorrow, if the internet allows. Talk to you on the other side of Gotcha day.

Church and The Great Wall

Got a chance to go Bejing International Christian Fellowship church this morning. The church is only for people with passports outside of China. It was an awesome experience and great to see people from all over the world praising Jesus. They sang a song with the lyrics "to the ends of the earth" in it. I thought that was interesting because I was feeling like we were at the ends of the earth already.

After that we headed to the Jade Factory - pretty cool place. We got to see how the hand carve each piece and how they grade the quality of each piece.

Then we ate a massive lunch, then headed to the Great Wall of China. We all noticed that there didn't seem to be many people there for a Sunday afternoon. We soon found out why. The was a pretty good storm rolling in and we got caught in it. Let's just say we spent some quality bonding time in a tower of the wall with a bunch of our new chinese friends and few other families in our group. But after awhile the rain faded and the sun came back out. It was time to keep climbing. I have no idea exactly how many steps we took - but it was a mother load! The legs were trembling by the time we got back to the bus. How awesome to climb up something that was being built before Jesus was on earth. Wow!

Jordan was a celebrity and had a bunch of people wanting to take their pictures with her. She loved it, but was a little embarrassed. Jordan also made some new friends with 2 little girls named Melanie and Kristen. They had both been adopted from China in previous years and their parents were coming back for one more child. It was great to hear them laughing, playing, and singing at the great wall and in the bus. One of my favorite moments of the day was when they were all three siting together on the bus singing "America."

We Are HERE!

Hey guys, it's 4:40 in the morning and I finally found a way to get on our blog. Turns out China is not a big fan of blogspot. Anyway, we arrived in Bejing last night but was too late to do any of the cultural stuff. Our plane sat on the runway for about 2 hrs yesterday before leaving. So far, every plane we have been on has been late (except for the 1st one from Columbia).

Today we are going to church and then to the Great Wall of China. We will do our best to put some pics up later (depending on the internet situation). Thanks for all your prayers in getting us this far. It's been an interesting adventure so far.

Tomorrow we fly out of Bejing and go get Anna. More later, it's just too early in the morning to be writing much.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Seafood for Breakfast anyone?

Well, Kendal and I got a good night's sleep. Jordan woke at 2:10am, asking me questions that required the use of brain cells; who knows what I told her?!?!

Long story short, we are flying to Shanghai, despite our efforts to get it switched to a direct flight to Beijing! Kendal is convinced that we will be missing ALL the cultural stuff in Beijing today. He may be right but I am leaning on the positive side of things. We are supposed to arrive in Shanghai at 12pm. Pray that we get a flight to Beijing soon after. From what we understand, our contact in Shanghai will have that info. Hopefully they can work their angle and get us on a flight.

Jordan made the comment a little while ago at how we had met some really nice people. She is right. I love World War II history so I can't help but wonder what the older Japanese folks think when they look at us. Of course, they may be thinking the same thing!!!

Continue praying for my mom and Lydia. Thank you friends for giving my mom a break.

Nicholas Gray, thank you for loaning your DS to Jordan. She has really enjoyed it. Right now she is writing in her journal....against her own will. I'm sure we will see the DS back out soon!!!

I thank God for the baby's voice last night in the hotel lobby......I am telling you, it sounded JUST LIKE LYDIA!!! That was a blessing. I also thank God for the sweet couple and their daughter that we met this morning from Minnesota. He even let me talk on his computer phone thingy with the Delta person, trying to help us get a direct flight. I would have loved having time to get to know them better. They were awesome. It was very obvious that they are Jesus followers!

Well, I guess I will wrap it up for now. Some of you may be eager for pics but seriously, we have nothing that would be of any interest. Know that we are doing well and are anxious to be on the same continent as Anna. Just 2 more days before we finally meet!!! Pray for her and the transition that lies ahead for her. Blessings to you all.

**Oh, I forgot to explain the title! Breakfast at the hotel was interesting, to say the least. I did find brown rice cereal which was great and I ate 2 bowls. The eggs were a little runnier than I prefer. Jordan, who is pretty picky, actually ate hers and mine and got another helping! And yes, there was some kind of fish on the buffet; I had to pass. I LOVE seafood but I will pass on squid for breakfast!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Bamboo Night

As many of you are just beginning your work day, Kendal is standing in line at a hotel here in Tokyo, Japan, getting us a room for the night. Because our flight from Detroit to Tokyo was 3 1/2 hours late leaving, we missed our connection from here to Shanghai. So, we have a new reservation for a flight to Shanghai tomorrow (Saturday) morning and then hopefully on to Beijing where we will meet the rest of our America World Adoption Association (AWAA) travel group.

The flight over was good and we were all able to sleep....thanks to Benadryl!

Continue to pray for us and all the little details; and the big ones too!!!

Until later, good night; Kendal just got our room key!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

On Our Way!

We made it!!!! From our house to the airport in Columbia, SC!!!! Hehehe! Our friend, Amy T., picked us up this morning and brought us here. So far, Jordan has gotten to experience taking her shoes off while going thru security; she said, "This is a little bit embarassing." It is fun to experience it with she notices things that we would normally overlook.

Sweet Lydia cried when we left. My mom had to pull her off of me and that hurt my heart. We miss her already and wish that she were here to experience this with us but at the same time, we know that it would be difficult for her. Plus, she wouldn't remember it when she's older.

We are limited to 44 lbs. per suitcase....China's in-country weight limit. Jordan's was 24, Jennifer's was 41 and Kendal's was 43! Whew! We should be good to go for the trip home because Anna will get to claim a bag too. The majority of what is in Jordan's suitcase is stuff we are giving the orphanage so we are good.

Please pray that the flights are on time. Pray also for my sister, Amy, as she goes through some medical tests today. Pray for my mom, Jeanne, as she cares for Lydia until next Thursday. A HUGE THANK YOU to Caroline P., Heather Grace G., and Stephanie M. for providing my mom with some breaks during her week with Lydia.

Well, enough rambling for now. Next stop, Detroit.

Our New Home

Last family pic before we welcome our new addition. This one is actually from the day we moved in, so we were pretty worn out. Looks like there is plenty of room for one more.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Travel Plans

Today is the day for packing and preparing to head off to China. Jordan is finishing her last day of school and Lydia is getting ready for some quality time with grandparents. If you were wondering, here are our travel plans:

- Columbia to Detroit (Thurs around 12:30)
- Detroit to Tokyo
- Tokyo to Shanghai (spend Friday night there)
- Shanghai to Bejing (Sat, Sun, part of Monday sightseeing)

- Bejing to Jiangxi (Gotcha day on Monday) (Mon-Thur in Jiangxi)
- Jiangxi to Guangzhou (Frid - Wed)
- Depart for Hong Kong via bus on Wed. night
- Hong Kong to Atlanta, Georgia USA!
- Atlanta to Columbia (arriving at 9:30pm)

Please pray for us that the flights will be on time and relatively uneventful. Pray for Jordan to enjoy her first flying experience since she was a baby. Pray for Jennifer to prepare her heart for the days ahead. Pray for me (Kendal) that I don't get stressed out.

Lots of new and wonderful experiences are right around the corner. Get ready China, the Danford family is on the way!

Monday, May 24, 2010

What's the "Next Step"?

So, today at church, Perry preached the second sermon in the Esther series. Today was entitled, "Next!" This was very timely....'cause I've been wondering, "what next?" When God first layed adoption from China on my heart (back in 2000), we were living in Tennessee and I knew that although adoption would be part of our lives, it would not be happening immediately. In January 2006, when Kendal and I were in agreement that the time had finally come, we took that step! At that time, the biggest step of faith in the whole deal had to do with the money. It was then estimated that the cost would be somewhere between $19,000 to $24,000. We hadn't even been able to establish a savings account that was of any significance. Little did we know, each day of this process was a "next step"!

As I sat in church this morning, I felt completely numb! It is great to see the excitement of so many people who are eager for us to go get Anna. I was totally frustrated by my apathy! As Perry kept talking about Esther and the difficult steps she made, knowing only that God's hand would guide her, I couldn't help but wonder, "What is my 'next step'?" Then Perry said, "The next step God wants you to take is not one of comfort." As exciting as our trip to China will be, it is so uncomfortable! I don't mind flying but the thought of being stuck in a plane for a long time just makes me start to squirm!!! I love being outdoors so flying is not my idea of a great time! Going to a communist country that persecutes and executes Christians on a regular basis is a little un-nerving, to say the least. But, let me say that I am not at all afraid or discouraged to press on. Holding my sweet baby Anna while she is totally unaware of what is happening to her breaks my heart!

Am I excited? Yes. Is it going to be a trip of a lifetime? For sure. Is it going to be luxurious and comfortable? Definitely not! So, I guess to answer the question of "What next, Jennifer?" is "Today". Each day towards the "end" of this adoption process is a deliberate, intentional step into uncertainty and discomfort. I honestly can't see past today so I will just take each day as it comes and as God leads. We have seen God financially provide for this journey, even as the cost has grown by an additional $10,000 to $12,000. He has encouraged us along the way, particularly through words and prayers of so many people. He has blessed us with opportunities to encourage others to pursue adoption. So, we will stick with Him and follow His lead.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Anna Pic #2

Her Name

Some of you may wonder how we picked Anna's name. Well, one day while I was working at BCM, I was reading in Matthew 2:36 and following. Anna was a prophetess in the Temple when Jesus was born. Scripture says that she worshipped night and day and never left the Temple. She gave thanks to God after meeting Jesus and told everyone about Him. As I read those verses, I believe that God revealed to me that our daughter's name should be Anna. I went home balling my eyes out and told Jennifer the story. We both agreed that she would be named after a woman who modeled worship and told others about the Savior.
Anna's middle name has a story too. Jordan had always said that she wanted to name her little sister "Love." While we thought that was cute, we weren't sure if that would make the final cut. So, when we finally received our referral Anna's Chinese name was Long, Ai Cui. We soon found out that the "Ai" literally means "Love" in Chinese. We didn't think that was a coincidence, so we decided that would be part of her name.
The other part of her middle name will be Len. This is my middle name and my Dad and Granddad's first names. Her full name will be a combination of a character from the Bible, her Chinese name and her American family. So, we will be welcoming Anna Len-Ai Danford to our family very soon.

Here We Go

Four years ago God impressed on our hearts to specifically adopt a little girl from China. The paperwork was hard, the wait was long, and the expense was enormous but, God led us every step of the way. As we look back over the past few years, we see the fingerprints of God all over our lives. He blessed us with another wonderful biological child (Lydia) six years after our first daughter, Jordan, He gave us encouragent through trials, and provided for our financial need through family, friends, co-workers, our church and even strangers.

Many of you have been part of this journey through your prayers, financial help, babysitting our girls, yard sales, long conversations, and on and on. We want to say 'THANK YOU' from the bottom of our hearts. By God's grace and through your help we will be leaving for China in less than a week to bring our sweet little girl home. For the first time in her life, Anna will have a family to love her and guide her steps. You will forever be a major part of Anna's journey home.