After Many Years…

Since Elisabeth was tiny, she has asked for a dog. The answer was always, “not yet.” Either we were adopting or moving or traveling across the world or adopting or moving across the country or starting a big project… Excuses excuses. Finally we decided – on the occasion of her 13th birthday! – that she could get a dog.

That was October. The family was planning to spend some time in the US for the holidays, and then in Thailand for Chinese New Year, so we had to postpone bringing our little pup home until March. Last week Elisabeth, Naomi and I biked to a pet store and met one special little puppy.

5 months old, a miniature poodle, with a seemingly quiet and gentle demeanor. This is important because Lily is terrified of dogs. And yet we’re getting one. Sooo….

Saturday morning, after the week’s schoolwork was finished (of course!) we all biked over to bring doggy home. She took a liking to Ben.


We drew quite a crowd, as usual.


And what’s the best way to carry a little puppy home? Why, in the front basket of your moped, of course!


Welcome home, April! (Her new name).


It’s only been two days, but she already knows her mama! The little thing seems terrified of me (??) but hunts for Elisabeth when she cannot find her. It’s so sweet.




Now, if she would just sleep through the night without yipping….


A Bittersweet Ending |Ru’s Story Part 3|

It ended too soon. Ru’s story was building with glorious intensity – we couldn’t keep up with the amazing things that God was writing into her story. She was deemed a candidate for surgery. She had surgery. She survived. She showed signs of recovery. But then, all too suddenly, she was gone.

Just like that.

Ru met her Forever Daddy in heaven last night.

Arms are empty tonight. Hearts are breaking.

Ru was about to turn four months old.

We were the hopeful ones, you and I. And tonight we cry for her birthparents who will never see their daughter again. We cry for her adoptive parents, who never got a chance to hold her. We cry for the hope we had, and the dangerous love we gave.

But we do not regret. We are not ashamed. He was Mighty in her meaningful life. The love was not in vain and the hope was not forfeit.

“For I will hope in You, O Lord; You will answer, O Lord my God.” Ps. 38:15

“…and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts…” Romans 5:5


Rest in sweet, sweet heavenly peace, little Ru. Rest in your Heavenly Daddy’s arms… you will always be in our hearts.

Back to Normal

I almost laughed out loud as I typed that title. “Normal” *giggles* what is that? But life is feeling a little bit more usual these days– in that crazy, spontaneous and extensively scheduled sort of way. On Wednesday, Ben came home! He spent a refreshing week in Taiwan to get over jetlag (yes, I used “refreshing” and “jetlag” in the same sentence) and is ready to jump back into the swing of things.


We started him off with guests for lunch the next day. Mommy made a very American meal for Dennis and Susan. Tuna turnovers and tomato soup. Does it get more American than that?


Dennis and Susan are both teachers, and Dennis plays in a band in the evenings. They are very precious brothers and sisters to us. I didn’t get a picture of them… so this one of Elisabeth will have to do.


By the way, it can get polluted up here too! When we cannot see a mountain out of our kitchen window we know that the air is not healthy. The winds last night cleared everything up, though, and the ranges are surrounding us once again.


Oh yeah, and I made a cake for Ben’s Homecoming which I did not photograph until it was half-eaten. This does not bother me.


When Dennis and Susan arrived, Ben was still out meeting his buddy, Lao He, for breakfast. They both came back after lunch, and I got to meet the “J” in B. J. Jam for the first time! He and Lily are friends, it appears.


Finally! Loud music is back in the house! Thank you Ben!


As the story goes, Laohe ate six servings of Thanksgiving dinner. On this occasion he consumed three slices of cake? At least that’s what my sisters told me. Oh, and Lily was the bold one and asked if “that your only shirt?” and he said yes. So there’s a mystery solved…


That evening, before our afternoon guests had all left, in fact, we had the Gao family over for fellowship and dinner. They lived a few floors above us and are our coworkers. We are so thankful to have a team up here. It makes all the difference.


And that was one day. It felt really normal.

When taking a break is good

Last night, nearing midnight, we decided that my mom would go to the orphanage instead of my. My sneezes were gaining in intensity, and although I thought that I would be fine after a good night’s sleep… that itself was becoming less and less of a possibility as the list of things to do before Hannah and I left at 6:15 the next morning grew and grew.

Vision. Wisdom. Capability. Inspiration.

We’re working with all of the above right now. In the attempt to help our nannies do their best, so that the children can do their best, we’re doing our best to put together resources, schedules and trainings that will actually make a long-lasting impact. We don’t want to hand out paper and papers that they probably won’t read. We don’t want to make a schedule that will be ignored because it’s not clear enough, eye-catching enough, or effective enough.

But it’s not about us being “enough” anyways, is it?


If this is His plan – for us to schedule the days, introduce positions for the special needs children, and equip the nannies… then He will make it happen. Our job is just to be available, surrender our agenda’s, and work ridiculously hard.

Last night we decided that my mom and Hannah would go, and that I would stay. I think that I needed this break. I needed to step back and do the little, not-as-obviously-important things for a day; like reading Shakespeare with Lily and laundry.

It’s good to take a break. He works through that too.

Sometimes you just say “yes”

It’s been a crazy few weeks, hence the lack of posts. Within the last month, we’ve had our share of crazy weeks, amazing weeks, wild weeks, surprising weeks, and where-did-this-week-go weeks. In case you’re counting, yes, that’s five weeks in one month… because that’s how we seem to roll these days.

We’ve been talking a lot about the “next step” in our work up here. If you’re following New Day North on facebook, then you have probably seen just how well the little ones in our care are doing. Everything seems rather stable (although we’re heading out next week for a major schedule revamp and three-day intense training), which seems to mean, for my wonderfully calm and thoughtful parents, that it’s time to do something wild and adventurous. We have two big things on our radar right now. One of them I shouldn’t tell you about until Saturday (hint: it might bark).

The other thing? Well. Check this out.


My dad is now a genuine Chinese man. He owns an empty apartment. Why? Well, let me start from the beginning…

Once upon a time Chinese New Year had passed and so the time for beginning new things had begun. New clothes, haircuts, goals and aspirations and projects… it was time. John, our co-worker, began stalking Chinese real estate websites, looking for apartments in our complex that were for rent. You see, our “next step” up here is starting a local foster home/training center where we can care for special needs orphans and train local staff to go out into the other Inner Mongolian orphanages and train them.  An apartment is a good first step.

Daddy and I were at the orphanage all day long. We had left the house a little after 6am and it was lunchtime when we got the call from my mom that John had found an apartment – ground floor! (our dream), and had seen it and scheduled for us to see it when we got back home around 8pm. It would either be a good fit for our foster home, or maybe even for our family. Raising a family on the 15th floor in a city is a hard thing, just ask my mama.

Our train ended up running 40 minutes late, and then it was hard to find a taxi, so we weren’t home until nearly 8:30. The real estate agent and landlord were there waiting for us, and we got a tour.

The place looked beautiful, and the location was perfect. My mom then mentioned that she had asked about a dog, and they had said “no.” She also asked about a foster home. “No” again. But what’s a “no” to stop us? I don’t know… it was quite amusing watching them walk around the apartment, dreaming how we could set up a foster home inside, when the powers that be had already decreed “no.”

Well then.

We went home, watched a movie and went to bed. We had told the landlord that we would call them back the next day (Saturday.) Saturday morning dawned and my parents began a day of discussions. They talked and talked, planned and dreamed. They figured it all out and had it all arranged. Only one problem: the landlord had said “no.” Oh, and in my family, we don’t make decisions in hours… even days. We take weeks and/or months. Soo…

Saturday night, March 7th 2015, we called the real estate agent and asked again about a dog. “No.” Okay then, what about a foster home, “No.” Well, could we at least come and talk about it, and if we make a decision we can put down a deposit tonight? “Sure.”

Is this situation not weird? I was boggled.

We went to the apartment. Sitting on the coffee table was a lease, ready to be signed. We showed the landlord pictures of our current room of kids in the other government orphanage, mats on the floor and smiles on the faces. We said “we’re not starting a preschool with many kids, only a few children will live here. And our hope is that they’ll all be adopted before they’re old enough to tear a house apart!”

“Okay, that’s fine!” she said.

And then we signed the lease. We paid a deposit. We scheduled to meet with them the next week and choose which pieces of furniture we wanted and which we didn’t want.

We rented an apartment. Aiya.

We’re starting a foster home. Aiya.

Now we have a million more things to do. Aiya.

And that’s the story! Sometimes you just need to do the crazy thing, take a leap (or belly-flop?) of faith and say “yes, we’ll take it.” We’re thankful, so very thankful. God is good and faithful and even though we most often have no idea what we’re doing, He’s gently leading us through this process of surrender and big-steps. It’s going to be good.

Love is mighty


“Are we discouraged because we do not see our signs, and the solid rocks seems to be sinking under shifting sands? It is not so. Love is mighty and must prevail. Terrible in judgments, marvelous in loving-kindness, Love will find a way.” -Amy Carmichael (Mimosa)

Samuels Take Thailand

We started our adventure to Thailand with an 8pm subway ride.


Lily’s reaction to our midnight flight? “Let’s do this crazy adventure!”


We flew South, straggled out of that plane and across a street to the airport hotel and crashed, crumbled, and crawled into bed. The next morning, mid-morning was more like it, we got up and had an early lunch at the roadside restaurant.


Thai food is yummy. Lots of rice noodles, seafood, and textures. Our meal on the street was cheap cheap cheap.


That afternoon we took a van ride to the coast. Our trip was for a number of reasons, some restful, most not. After so much traveling within the last few months, some/most of us didn’t actually want to go to Thailand. We’re homebodies, we just wanted to stay home and rest. But for some reason we felt as if we needed to just be led… surrender our comfort for whatever He had in store for us. And wow – we are all so glad that we did!


The lessons we learned, the people we met and got to talk with – even the songs we sang! – were a sweet encouragement, and so much inspiration. I personally felt like my personal vision was clarified, and I’m so thankful to our good, good Father, who made a way for me to join my parents in this hot land.


February 23rd (wow, I’m quite behind here on the blog!) was Lily’s birthday, and even though we had already celebrated at home the week before, we threw another little celebration for her at a local restaurant.


Long noodles (spaghetti) for long life…


…and then an ice-cream sunday! Lily requested ice cream with candy on top, so we stopped by a little store and stocked up on candies to put on the ice cream. Lily got the pretty sunday cup, because she’s the birthday girl!


We had a bunch of little and not-so-little friends joining us. What a treat!


There were so many people there eating, not just with our little party, and everyone joined us for the “Happy Birthday” song. I cannot believe that Lily is already eight…


Pool time was a hit during the trip. The girls came back a few shades darker.



All in all, our trip was wonderful. We didn’t leave it rested, but we left filled.




Until next time, Thailand!


(note: between the airport and our hotel there are approximately 256 framed photos of the King and Queen. We counted.)