Saturday, October 23, 2010

She Gave Everything To Me

It's funny how easily I have forgotten that I didn't give birth to Ren.  We are just living life with our daughter like she has always been with us.  But the truth is, she hasn't.  There were almost 22 months of her life that I missed.  I wasn't there when she was born, or when she was abandoned on a cold day in December.  But there was one person who was there, her birth mom.  How she loved her enough to leave her, I will never know.  I haven't taken a lot of time to think about her lately. But in the last few days I have had some special alone time with Ren.  She has been waking up early from her nap.  So we have rocked and snuggled.  And I have stared into her big brown eyes, and it hit me that there was someone else who looked into those eyes, her birth mom. When Ren gets old enough to ask about her birth mom, I am going to assure her that she was loved.  Her "mother" loved her so much that she gave her life.  There is a song by Christian artist, Mark Schultz, (who is adopted), called, "Everything To Me".  It's a song he wrote to his birth mom.  The song says, "when you gave me up, you gave everything to me". That's exactly how I feel.  I get to look into those big, brown, eyes for the rest of my life.  I get to hear her call me "mama!" about 100 times a day.  I get to wipe her tears and hear her laugh.  I get to watch her sleep while she makes that sweet little sucking sound.  For forever, I get to be her mom.  One thing is for sure, when Ren's birth mom gave her up, she gave everything to me! 

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Our "New" Normal

Jammie Time!
Ren is wearing her mommy's jammies from when she was a little girl.
It is hard to believe that we have been home from China for four weeks now.  It seems like our trip to China was so long ago and that Ren has always been with us.  Everyone is always asking us how we are doing.  I am glad to say that we are doing well.  Though I have to admit the  first weeks home were pretty rough.  Everyone seemed to be adjusting fine; except for me!  Laughter, tears, fits, sleep deprivation, complete exhaustion....I felt just like I did each time I brought home a new baby.  I think what made it worse was that I thought I would come home and life would be "life as usual", which is hilarious to me, now.  Why I thought I would bring a new child home, from the other side of the world, and introduce her to her new crazy family, without any difficulty, I will never know.  And you know what?  Life never has returned to "life as usual".  As my dear friend Shari said, it will take some time to adjust to your "new" normal.  And she was right.  We are not only adjusting to our "new" normal, we are celebrating it!

I thought I would share some pics from the last few weeks.  Little Miss Ren is ruling the Griffin house!!

Cousin Milli, Henry, & Ren


Ty is an awesome big brother!

Big brother Henry tickling Ren!

Checking out Pawpaw Dino's phone.

Kisses from Grammy!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Painfully Patriotic

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
-- The Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776

Most people would probably not know this about me, but I am "painfully" patriotic.  I still cry every year when we watch the fireworks on the 4th of July, I tear up every time I hear Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA", I even get choked up at the National Anthem at the Bruins games.  And trust me, you don't want to be anywhere near me when I watch Mel Gibson's "The Patriot".  I am a wreck after watching that movie and getting some glimpse of what men and women went through for the freedoms we now have and often now abuse.  I am not sure why I am so emotional when it comes to thinking about our country.  It may be that I actually am an "ARMY brat".  I was born in Columbus, GA on the ARMY base at Ft. Benning.  My Daddy and Grandfathers served in the military.  I have uncles and cousins that also served.  Unknown to my parents, one of my favorite childhood memories forever burned in my heart, pride and love for my country.  I think I was in middle school, when my family went to stand on Tibbs Bridge that goes over Interstate 75.  We were there with many other people who were holding signs and waving the American flag.  What were we doing?  We were cheering and showing support for the troops that were being deployed to serve our country in Operation Desert Storm.  And yes, even as a kid, I cried. 

What does any of this have to do with Ren?  Well, the most emotional day for me in China, was not the day I met her.  It was the day Tyson and I took an oath on her behalf  for her to become an American citizen.  I could barely utter the words.  Even though we took the oath a few days before coming home, she wasn't technically a US citizen until she landed on US soil.  Though I was a little sad that she "officailly" became a citzen above the mason-dixon line, (just kidding), it was very emotional to see her waving her American flag through immigration in the Detroit airport. It wasn't just that she was becoming an American, but all that it meant for her.  Her life would never ever be the same.  Though she will always be a "Chinese American", she will never have to worry about being abandoned again.  She will grow up where public education is a right for all children.  She will grow up with the freedom to Praise our Lord openly and unapologetically.  She is free to be who God created her to be.  Our prayer is one of thanksgiving that Ren's physical citizenship has changed, but we also pray that she will fall in love with Jesus, and become a citizen of Heaven.

Ren entering the US Consulate as a citizen of The People's Republic of China
Ren leaving the US consulate as a citizen of The United States, "Almost"

America's newest citizens!  Watch out!

She's a citizen!

Home in Georgia!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Our Last Day in China

It seems like only yesterday when Tyson and I were living in Chicago.  He was a student at Moody Bible Institute; I was teaching.  It was a great time in our life.  That was  four kids and almost 10 years ago.  While at Moody, we met wonderful people and formed life long friendships.  The thing about so many of our friends from Moody is that we can go years without seeing each other, but still continue to have a special bond.  Mark and Alice Lam are friends of ours from Moody.  They are a couple from Hong Kong.  Mark was a student at Moody with Tyson.  We met Alice only once when she came to visit Mark in the states.  Though our time in Chicago was brief, they have always had a special place in our hearts.  We have always said if we ever made it to China, we would visit Mark and Alice.  Tyson contacted Alice through Facebook and the rest is history.  We were hoping for at least a brief visit with them.  We had no idea what they had in store for us. Mark toured us all over Hong Kong.  He took us to "The Peak" where we could see the magnificent views of Hong Kong.  We strolled along "Star Avenue".  They treated us to a delicious dinner and an unbelievable light show over looking Victoria Harbor. They also took Ren to Toys R Us and bought her a Hello Kitty toy.  It was her first trip to Toys R Us and she was amazed.

We, too, were amazed.  It wasn't the toys, the dinner, or even the breath-taking views.  We were amazed, once again, by the goodness of our Lord.  Who would have know that ten years later, we would be in Hong Kong, China, with the Lams and introducing them to our Chinese daughter?

To Mark and Alice, you will never know what today meant to us.  The love and hospitality you showed to us was unbelievable.  WE could not think of a better way to spend our daughter's last day in her native land.  We love you both and can't wait for our paths to cross again!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

guest blogger

Hi, I'm Tyson Griffin.  You will know me in the virtual world as "a guest blogger".  I was politely asked by my internet savvy wife, Renee, to be "a guest blogger".  I feel privileged. I feel important. I thought I’d start out similar to Renee’s polished blogging style using scripture to eloquently hone my point of truth.  2 Samuel 15:11b says: "They were invited as guests knowing nothing of the matter."  Taking this verse strangely out of context and stretching it's meaning to mean exactly nothing pertaining to the original...I, having been invited as a guest, know nothing of the matter of blogging.  I do however know that God has blessed this guest blogger with a beautiful, intelligent, godly, and thorough wife who has been planning this trip for four almost five years now.  I signed my name a few times, but Renee has been compiling, filing, reading, praying, dreaming, re-filing, re-reading, and organizing the mounds of paperwork needed for this trip.  A trip that has brought me to realize how blessed I am to have a wife, partner, co-minister and friend like Renee.  I guess the weird reality is that while I was here to fall in love with a daughter I had never met, I fell in love with a spouse I already knew all over again in a fresh realization of just how wonderful she is.  …By the way Ren-boo is also stealing my heart at a record pace. 
The paperwork says that Ren is officially a Griffin now.  How do you tell that to a Chinese speaking, crooked nosed, 21 month old who knows nothing about legal documentation, notary seals, Consulate appointments, i-600 forms or even a real family?  “Officially a Griffin” to Ren means practically separated from everything familiar and comfortable.  So…It’s fun to watch as every day she gets a bit more comfortable, a bit more real, a bit more founded, a bit more “official” in our family.   You can tell by watching her react to life.  At first her smiles were absent.  She didn’t laugh or cry.  She didn’t really do much of anything other than hold tightly to Renee and her orphanage sheep toy called “Shi-yang yang.”  Her heart melting smiles and laughs are more frequent now. The “I’m a princess fits” are also becoming noticeable.  She cries when mom is busy and can’t hold her.  She whines when she drops her toys or wants out of her stroller.  She stomps her feet (in her squeaky shoes) and shakes her head when she reaches the peak of her fits now (like real fits should be).  She reaches for my hand now as we walk down the street when I offer her my finger. 
We can do the two parent arm swing thing and she laughs and smiles.  She brings me toys to fix with a confident smile.  She laughs spontaneously at nothing apparently funny.  She even leans in when her daddy bends over and says “kiss kiss.” Her cute head movements (twisting like a puppy when she admires something she’s holding) are beginning to be the norm. She says “momma” quite often and I’m fairly certain she said “dadda” the other day while in a good mood.  She is letting us see much more of her personality as she feels more “officially” part of our family.  My prayer is that the fits, stomps, laughs and smiles keep coming as she continues to learn that she’s a Griffin like it or not. One day I hope she realizes that she is loved with a father’s love that will always be there for her, always seek to protect her, always help her, and always seek her highest good.  And as she grows, I hope she never feels…well…like a guest. 
Ephesians 1:3-5
3Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 


Proverbs 31:28  Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her.

Most of us girls know all about the "Proverbs 31" woman.  And most of us wonder how in the world did she do all that, (don't forget she did have servant girls, vs. 15), and get her children to rise up and call her blessed?  If you are like me, my children have never rose up and called me blessed.  It's usually, "I want juice!  I want to watch cartoons!  Hold me!"  But preceding all of those demands is usually the word, "Mommy."  Well, sweet little Ren hasn't called me blessed either, but she does call me "mama"!  Out of no where, she just started saying mama.  It is so unbelievable.  She will go in the bathroom, poke her head out and call, "mama?"  Of course I run to her, clap, and smother her with kisses.

I may never hear my children call me "blessed", but they call me something even better.  
They call me their "mama!'

By His Mercy

Church in Guangzhou, China

Psalm 5:7 But I, by Your great mercy, will come into Your house; in reverence will I bow down toward your Holy temple!

We attended church in Guangzhou.  How amazing it was to worship the Lord with our Chinese brothers and sisters.  It truly is by the mercy of the Lord that we "get" to go to church.  It is also by His mercy that I get to be the mother of Ren Griffin! 

Ren's first church service!

A Day with Daddy

Psalm 92:5 says "How great are your works, O Lord!  Your plans are very intricate."
The adoption agency that we are using has a great blog and forum available to its adoptive families.  It is a great way to get connected with families who know what you are going through.  In January, when we were matched with Ren, I met a dear friend through the Bethany Forum.  Her name is Shari Bentzel.  She is from Maryland.  We have been emailing and talking for months now.  We finally met on Ren's forever family day.  We both know the Lord has put our hearts together in a very unique way.  But I had no idea our friendship would take us to the Beijing International Hospital.  It all began around 10pm Wednesday night.  I have had a stomach virus a couple of a times a year, but this was no typical virus.  The next morning I had to go to the hospital.  There was no way I could take Ren and I did not want to leave her with anyone besides Tyson.  So my precious friend, Shari, went with me.  We spent most of the day in the hospital.   After several bags of IV medications, blood tests, etc, the doctor said he would treat me for a bacterial infection, possible strand of ecoli.   I asked Shari if she would have ever guessed back in January that she would end  up in the hospital in Beijing with me.  We both laughed!  But the wonderful thing is that in January the Lord already knew all about it.

My precious friend Shari!
While I was at the hospital, I was worried about Tyson and Ren.  She had been warming up to her daddy, but he still hadn't been able to hold her much.  Turns out all my worrying was in vane!  Little Ren had a great date with her daddy.  She laughed and played.  She held daddy's hand and took a walk around town. Who knew that a terrible day in the hospital for mama, would end up as such a blessing.  Again the Lord knew.  How are great are His works!  How intricate are His plans!
Day with Daddy

Monday, September 6, 2010

My Karate Kid & The Temple of Heaven

Back in the day, sometime in the 80's, I knew I was destined to marry Daniel Larusso, "The Karate Kid".  Well, as you already know things didn't work out for us.  But little did I know, I would meet my very own karate kid.  Yes, that's my man, doing the "crane" in front of lots of laughing Chinese people at the famous "Temple of Heaven" in Beijing!!!!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Good Name

Proverbs 22:1 says "A good name is more desirable than great riches".  Many people have asked us about Ren's name so I thought I would let everyone know how she got her name.

This week we received a copy of the birth note that was left with Ren when she was abandoned.  She was abandoned when she was three weeks old.  She was found outside an outpatient building in Beijing.  The note that was left by her birth mother did not give her a name.  When she was taken to the orphanage, they gave her the name, Baojuan Ren.  Baojuan was her first name and Ren was her last name.   She was not given a middle name.

When we were matched with her, we decided to name her Sarah Ren Griffin.  We wanted to name her Sarah because that is Grandma Josie Griffin's first name.  We both love Grandma so much and know that our relationship with the Lord has a lot to do with her Godly heritage.  We loved the name Ren, so we decided to keep it.

So why Phillips?  This is one of my favorite "adoption moments" to share, (prior to getting Ren, of course).  A few days after we received the paperwork and pictures of Ren, my Daddy made a suggestion.  He said that he had been thinking and that Sarah Ren needed to have "our" name too.  At first I wasn't sure what he meant.  Then he said, "You know, like Henry.  He is Henry Phillips Griffin."  My Daddy has no idea how much that meant to me.  If you are a parent of biological and adopted children it is a huge blessing to know that all your children are accepted as part of the family.

After that conversation, I never thought about it twice.  She would definitely be Sarah Ren Phillips Griffin.  Phillips is a bittersweet name. It is sweet because I am very proud of my family and have always been proud "to be a Phillips".  But it is also a little bitter because I so wish my Mimi and PawPaw Phillips could have met Ren on this earth.  My Pawpaw always called me "Little Girl".  I know he would call Ren the same.  Or he may have called her "Burr Head", (another one of his pet names).

To Grandma Josie, to Mimi and Pawpaw, and most of all, to my Daddy, Thank you for the "Good names".
Sarah Ren Phillips Griffin

Giving Kisses

Today was a wonderful day with Ren.  She woke up smiling!  We toured Tiananman Square, The Forbidden City, and took a rickshaw ride through a Hutong neighborhood.  We ended the night at our hotel with pizza and ping pong.  Ren has laughed and been silly all day.  She is responding to her name and giving kisses.  Daddy even stole a few kisses today.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Ren's Firsts

It is hard to believe that we have had Ren less than a week.  It seems like she has always been with us and I guess in many ways she has.  The last few days have been many "firsts" for Ren; her first ride in a taxi, her first tub bath, her first trip to an aquarium, her first diet Coke, and best of all, her first time being smothered with kisses from her parents!
Yesterday we went shopping/bartering at a clothing market, we went to an acrobatic show.  Ren was not too impressed.  We spent the show in the lobby eating cheerios.
Today we went to the Cloisonne Factory and the Great Wall.  The Cloisonne Factory was very interesting.  You would definitely recognize the vases from any Chinese buffet in America.  The amount of work that goes in to each piece is unbelievable.  Since Ren was born in 2008, she is Rat, according to the Chinese Zodiac calendar.  Of course her daddy had to buy her a "Cloisonne Rat"!
The Great Wall was unbelievable!  I would so like to say I climbed some part of it, but after several steps, we were done.  There is some good footage of "our hike" that I hope to post on Facebook.  We went in a few temples.  One temple was the Horse God temple.  On one side it was very funny.  There were a group of Europeans doing some kind of something in front of the temple.  When you stepped inside, there was an altar.  People still go in to pray and leave offerings.  It was a very eerie feeling.  I could not help but praise the Lord that our sweet Ren would now grow up being taught to worship God our Creator, instead of worshiping creation.
We ended our day at an International Hospital.  I noticed yesterday that Ren had a coating on her tongue that I was sure was Thrush.  Yep!  It is and she also has a mild infection in both ears.  She is now bathed, fed, medicated, and sleeping, like my baby.
Yes! That's Tyson and Flat Stanley!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

A Great Ride!

The first few days with Ren were mostly spent in the hotel room or in government offices.  For the most part she has remained very quiet and seemed very introverted.  Well, that was until yesterday.
Our first stop of the day was the Blue Zoo, which is an aquarium in Beijing.  The aquarium was mostly like the ones in the US, with the exception of the live mermaids!  The family that went with us to the aquarium adopted Zach.  We are almost sure he and Ren know each other.  They are from the same orphanage and they have the same special needs, (cleft lip/cleft palate).  When Ren sees Zach she immediately smiles and laughs. Plans for an arranged marriage are in the works! HA!
Later that evening we went to an unbelievable outdoor mall.  It was so creatively named, "The Place".  Little Miss Ren went wild.  She laughed and danced.  She walked everywhere.  She even made silly faces!  She was also the center of attention.  Lots of Chinese people came up and asked, "Take picture?"  They all wanted a picture of her.  They also kept saying, "She so beautiful!"  I asked our tour guide about all that and apparently Ren has the most desired skin tone by the Chinese, the fairer the skin, the more beautiful.  So not only is she a wild woman, she is also a little princess.
Before we came to China we were told that we may be approached by Chinese young adults who were just wanting to practice their english.  Well, we met a guy at the mall, who wanted to practice his english.  He told Tyson over and over again, "You are handsome!"  Hilarious!  He also wanted to know if Tyson liked beer!  Too funny.

Our great adventure!

At the end of the evening we had a slight communication error.  We asked a guy that drove one of the bikes with the carriage on the back to take us to KFC.  KFC was the only thing in Beijing that we did NOT see.  He asked us for our card, (hotel card).  After stopping for directions five times, an hour and a half and thirty dollars later, we arrived at our hotel!  We went all over Beijing.  He took that bike on the interstate, through the ghetto, and anywhere else you could think of.  Ren laughed, pointed, and clapped through the whole adventure!  Since we lived through it, it was a great ride!