We had an amazing summer this year. Last year, we had just gotten home from China and were busy adjusting, not sleeping, and taking Selah to many, many doctors’ appointments. This summer, we decided that we were going to have some family adventures. We’ve always loved traveling, but never got to do much of it before due to our strict budget before having kids so we could pay off our student loans. Now that we have three little kids, we assumed that traveling (at least international travel) was off the table. We’ve always wanted to visit Europe and Israel, especially. But then we realized how much there is to see in America that we’ve never seen. God has blessed America with some INCREDIBLE beauty! So, we made two goals for our family. First, before the kids are all out of the house after finishing college, we want to visit all 50 states with them. Second, we want to attempt to see each of the 59 national parks in the U.S. The U.S. National Parks are absolutely amazing! They’re gorgeous, clean, and the staff are so helpful and educational. We think it’s a perfect way to travel the U.S. over the next few years. We’re also going to try to see as many of the 417 national park sites that we can. These include more than just “National Parks,” but also National Historical Sites, National Seashores, National Military Parks, and many others. They are all amazing, but 417 is quite a lofty goal for us, so we’ll just try to see as many as we can. To help reach our goal within our budget, we started renovating a small pop-up camper to take with us on our travels. We loved working on this project, and we are so excited to camp at the national parks we visit. Just don’t laugh at us when you see us pulling a camper with a minivan.
We had lots of stops on our big family road trip this summer. First, we drove through Michigan, with a stop in Ann Arbor to visit Dan’s cousin. We continued all the way up to Traverse City, Michigan, where we fell in love with the town, the food, Lake Michigan, the ice cream, and the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
On our first full day in Traverse City, we drove to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. It was gorgeous, and the kids had so much fun climbing up the dunes and playing in the sand. It was amazing to see the three of them start to develop a sense of adventure. There were beautiful views at the top of Lake Michigan. After spending a few hours there playing in the sand and driving along the scenic loop, we drove to a little town called Empire, where we heard there was a nice beach on Lake Michigan. We had a picnic on the beach, and then we spent the rest of the day there. This beach was quite honestly one of the nicest beaches I have ever been to. The water was clean and clear, the sand was beautiful, and there was even a playground on the beach for the kids! We all had fun searching for petoskey stones, which are an amazing kind of fossilized stone that is only found in the area. We found a few and they are now treasured possessions. We had an amazing dinner in downtown Traverse City and what we still consider the best ice cream of our lives at a little place called Milk and Honey. We were sad to leave Traverse City after a few days, and it’s one of those places where we know we’ll be back! We had quite a few more adventures on our first annual epic road trip, but I’ll share those in another post. I hope you got to experience some of God’s beautiful creation this summer, too!
It’s been one year today that we met Selah for the first time. It was such an emotional day for everyone involved. We spent months and months praying for her, and we were over the moon to finally meet her and hold her in our arms. The days following "Gotcha Day" were so emotional that it was hard to really share everything. I remember everything about that day and all of the emotions that went with it. There was the tearful, probably not culturally-appropriate hug I gave to Selah's foster mom. I knew she loved her, and I know it was an impossibly hard day for her. The language barrier didn't allow me to tell her how thankful I was to her for taking care of Selah for a whole year of her life, a year that I desperately wish I could have spent with her. And I will never forget the emotional van ride from the government building where we picked up our children to our hotel. The kids were heart-breakingly crying with such raw emotion that it can never be forgotten. They were driving away from a life, the only life that they ever knew, to a different life; one with different people and a different language and very new experiences.
One year ago we met a scared, tiny little peanut (dressed in many layers of clothing), and when I look at Selah now, I don’t even see that same girl anymore. I see a daughter that is cherished, a sister that plays and fights with her brothers, and a funny, talkative little girl. Selah was constantly in fear when we first met her. She was sick, scared, and barely slept. She was terrified of going to sleep for fear that no one would be there when she woke up. She would scream if anyone even sat on a bed. She tearfully begged to leave in toddler-Chinese wherever we were at. She was afraid when she didn’t have food in her hand that she would go hungry. She had no idea how to play with toys, and the feeling of grass on her feet was completely foreign to her. I am thrilled to say that last night, this little girl who was so scared to fall asleep went to bed in her own bed in her own room last night. This little girl who a year ago never stepped in grass helped me plant our garden today in bare feet; she couldn’t be happier about getting dirt all over her. She understands that we have meal times and snack times, and she trusts that she’ll always have enough food. She’s gained 5 pounds and grown 4 inches. She wants to be a doctor like Doc McStuffins when she grows up. She is smart and extroverted and funny. I only occasionally see the scared face of that little girl we met a year ago, and when I do, I try my best to reassure her and comfort her.
This past year has brought so many changes for Selah. She has blossomed and developed like I couldn’t have ever imagined. This year also changed the rest of the family, too. It’s been year of crazy transitions. Being Selah’s mom has taught me so much about myself; it has revealed all of my weaknesses as a mother and has continually brought me back to Jesus. My control-freak self has finally realized that I cannot possibly do this all on my own. Selah has also taught me to stop focusing on ME. Knowing my daughter was once an orphan had made the orphan crisis and poverty so much more real to me. They aren’t just faceless people on the other side of the world anymore. These people are loved dearly by God, just like Selah. Levi and Ezra are also changed. They are still little, but their worlds are so much bigger than they were before. Levi has become a sweet, thoughtful boy who thinks about others. He talks about how some kids don’t have the things that we do, and he wants to help. Ezra had a difficult transition giving up his youngest child position in the family. A year ago, he was digging a hole to China in the backyard to take Selah back. And today, when we were celebrating Selah’s Gotcha Day, he said, “I love Selah as much as God loves the world.”
As crazy as this past year has been, transitioning to a family of five, doctors and social worker visits, potty training TWO toddlers, job changes, getting SO little sleep, and finishing an EdD degree, when I look at Selah today, happily playing with her dolls, singing the songs from Moana all while wearing a glittery princess dress, I can only think about how truly blessed we are. Happy one year family day, Selah! We will thank God every day for you!
It's hard to believe it's been a year since we were anxiously awaiting our trip to China to pick up Selah. She is SUCH a Lunde, and I can't imagine our family without her. It's been a hard year, to be honest. Our whole worldview has been turned completely upside down, and we are not the same people we used to be. Our eyes were opened in China to the brokenness of this world. We were so safe in our little American bubble, and then we see travel halfway across the world and see so much suffering. It's like we were blindly skipping through life like little children, and our China trip opened our eyes to the brokenness and wreckage of the world. The things we were pursuing in life were hollow. These were not faceless children that we heard about or saw pictures of on a charity's website, but faces of real people, including the face of our daughter. The trauma and pain that she has been through in her short little life causes nightmares and difficulty trusting. It's heartbreaking. This has made my shortcomings as a mother become so evident, and it has become so clear that I cannot possibly do this on my own. The good news is, however, that I am NOT the head of my family and neither is Dan. Jesus is NOT crazy and He IS perfect (so unlike me). He loves us and ALL of these suffering children so intimately. His love is not controlling, or impatient, and without Him, I am useless.
This year our family has experienced job loss, anxiety, and trauma. The one thing we have learned is that God has a plan that is better than ours. In 1 Peter 5:7, it says to "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." Our God is a loving God, and He cares for us so much that He will take on our anxiety and fear. So, that's what we're doing. We're trusting God to lead us and to make us the best parents we can be to our sweet kiddos to help us teach them not to pursue a hollow "American" dream, but to love like Jesus.
Even with our difficulties and struggles, our kids bring us so much joy, and we thank God for the blessings they are every single day. In the past few weeks we celebrated Easter, went on our first road trip as a family of five to visit friends in Virginia and family in North Carolina, and we celebrated Selah's first birthday home with us. To make up for the first two birthdays we missed, we had a "1, 2, 3" birthday party to celebrate all three of her birthdays. She had a great time and was inviting people to her party personally for weeks, saying, "will you come to my party?" She loved blowing out the candles and of course, opening presents. And, the sun is finally shining after the winter, and we are excited about what God has in store for our family.
It’s been six months since we got home from China with our sweet Selah. To be quite honest, Selah is amazing. She is smart, sweet, and we truly can’t imagine our lives without her. Every single day, Selah surprises us. She’ll say something, and Dan and I will look at each other and say, “how does she know that?” We both agree that she is going to change the world.
This doesn’t mean that we don’t still have hard days, because we do. Sleeping is still hard, and naps are especially tough. But she’s so worth it. She gets along with Levi and Ezra so well (of course there is always some fights, too), and she’s really excited to celebrate her first Christmas. We bought her a “my first Christmas home” ornament, and she was thrilled to put it on the tree. She keeps telling me, “Mommy, I want a doll for Chris-a-mas.” It’s so sweet. About a week ago, when we were decorating the Christmas tree together, Selah said, “Mommy, I happy.” And I can see that in her; she really is a happy girl, which is amazing considering all that she has been through in her life. She’s still growing like a weed; she knows all of her colors and can count to ten. She loves Hello Kitty, Peppa Pig, and Disney movies. She loves dressing up and running down to “show Daddy.” She gets excited to see our friends and extended family, and she knows she belongs.
Last year, we really felt that someone was missing when we were celebrating Christmas. This year, we are all together, and we are so thankful. We can’t wait to see Selah’s face this year for her first Christmas morning and throughout all of our family Christmas traditions. Last year, Selah didn’t have a family. This year, she’s a daughter, a sister, a granddaughter, a niece, and a friend. She is cherished, but we know that we are the blessed ones, because WE have HER. It’s been a hard year, but God has given us many things to be thankful for.
And yes, she’ll be getting the doll she asked for (or two or three).
It’s hard to believe we have been home one month with our sweet little girl. It really feels that she has always been with us. She fits in so well with our family!
It’s amazing to see Selah’s transformation since we’ve been home. She went from a girl afraid to step on grass (she’d never seen it before) to running out the door in bare feet to the water table. She went from spitting out and refusing most of the food we gave her to eating just about anything and gaining almost two pounds. She went from having to have a snack in her hand at all times because she was afraid of not having enough food to trusting us to give her meals. She went from not knowing how to play on a slide to climbing up and going down all by herself. She went from being scared out of her mind at bedtime to looking forward to reading books and brushing her teeth with the boys. It really is incredible.
Selah loves macaroni and cheese, animal crackers, waffles, ice cream, showing off her painted toenails, sunglasses, her baby dolls, singing, laughing at her brothers, baths, the water table, swinging on the swing set, Calliou (ugh), and brushing her teeth. She knows A LOT of English words (too many to list now, really), and learns lots more every single day. She is so incredibly smart! We've spent time at multiple doctor's appointments this month. Thankfully, Selah's cardiology appointment went well (although it wasn't without tears); her heart is healthy, which is a huge answer to prayer! She is currently on medicine for an intestinal issue, but we're hoping she'll be cleared of that soon. We have another appointment in a couple of weeks with an allergist, because she has shown signs of a couple of food allergies we want to get check out and understand.
Selah has really done amazing things since she’s been home, but that doesn’t mean this transition hasn’t been hard on all of us. The honeymoon stage is officially over, and we are working on adjusting to being a family of five and as parents, outnumbered by toddlers/preschoolers. Our kids are amazing, but we are truly exhausted, and some days are a struggle. It’s all worth it, but the days can be long! But our kids are all full of smiles (most of the time), and when we see them hug each other and say “Wo ai ni” (I love you in Chinese), it just makes it all worthwhile.
We were happy to celebrate Selah’s first 4th of July as a US citizen yesterday. I am more thankful than ever before to live in America. I don’t ever want to take for granted the freedoms and opportunities that we have here. As Peter Marshall said, “May we think of freedom not as the right to do as we please, but as the opportunity to do what is right." As hard as some of the days are, we are thankful that we have the freedom to be able to bring Selah home to be with us forever. God meant for her to be a part of our family as a daughter and sister. We are so blessed to have this precious little girl in our family.
I wanted to give everyone an update about how things are going now that we’re adjusting to live as a family of five. Truthfully, there are good days and hard days, but I know things will keep getting better.
Selah is sleeping better (she even slept through the night once), but most of the time she still wakes up scared a few times during the night and we have to walk her to get her back to sleep. So, we’re still pretty tired most of the time. Selah had her doctor’s appointment at the Akron Children’s adoption clinic to see the international adoption specialist and the developmental specialist. So far, things are looking good! Selah was nervous at the appointment, but she was very brave when they took blood to test for lots of different things. Hopefully we’ll have the results soon. Both the doctor and developmental specialist were impressed with her language so far. We need to work on her gaining weight, however, because our little peanut’s weight isn’t even on the charts (she’s below the 1st percentile). This is hard because she’s VERY picky in what she will eat. Right now, she’ll eat Cheerios, goldfish, some Chinese snacks we brought home, and crackers. Recently, she at two bites of lasagna and some mac and cheese, though, so we’re hoping that’s progress! In the next few weeks, we need to take Selah to a pediatric cardiologist to get checked out and an allergist due to some food allergies we're a little concerned about.
Selah LOVES Levi, and she smiles huge when he walks into a room. Selah and Ezra (who are just 11 months apart) have some bonding to do, though. Ezra isn’t quite ready to give up his baby of the family status, and Selah sees him as someone trying to take her toys. Yesterday, Ezra started “digging a hole to China so we can take Selah back” in the backyard. Thankfully, today he’s changed his mind.
Selah went from never stepping on grass before and being scared to walk on it less than a week ago to LOVING to be outside. She’s a huge fan of the water table and sandbox. She's also saying a few English words already, like Mommy, Daddy, Levi, Ezra, milk, Cheerios, coffee, bye-bye, thank you, and pretty. She is already a bit of a girly-girl; she shows everyone her painted toe nails and says "pretty".
For this whole week, we’ve had people from church bring us meals. This has been such a blessing, because we’re tired and are adjusting to taking care of a 2, 3, and 4 year old, but also because God has used this to remind us that we are not alone in this. Every time we start getting discouraged or overwhelmed, God has sent someone to us with a meal, or gifts, or one of our parents will call, or we get a message that someone is praying for us. From the bottom of our hearts, THANK YOU. It truly means the world to us.
So, in short, we’re tired, our house is a mess, and laundry is piled up, but we’re doing good! Thank you, Jesus!
I know a lot of people were waiting for an update post when we got home, but we were so exhausted that I wasn’t able to update. I’m just warning you, there may be errors here since I’m still so tired and my brain isn’t quite working right.
Since we were able to update our flights, we woke up early on Friday morning (China time) in Hong Kong, packed up, and walked over to the airport. We went through TSA, had breakfast at Starbucks in the airport, and walked to our gate after getting a little lost in the maze of an airport. We only spent about 12 hours in Hong Kong, but the scenery we saw was beautiful!
We boarded our 15 hour flight and it took off on time. Selah did much better than I could have expected on the flight. We had upgraded to economy plus, which was amazing. Selah had a little space to even play on the floor in front of her seat. It made a huge difference. We had lots of different toys ready to pull out like Play Dough, magnets, stacking cups, and a DVD player with Kai Lan and a few Disney movies. There were a few times she cried, and I walked up and down the plane a little with her, but overall she did great! She slept for about four hours near the end of her flight. To her little body, we landed at 1:30 am in Newark, which was actually 1:30 pm. We figured we would be forever at customs and immigration there, but it only took about 30 minutes. We gave them all of Selah’s citizenship paperwork, and Selah was officially a US citizen as soon as we landed. I have never been more appreciative of the freedoms and opportunities we have as Americans as after this trip.
Since our new flights had us connecting in Newark, Dan’s dad, stepmom, and two brothers were able to meet us at the airport. Dan’s brothers even left school early to meet us there! Selah loved meeting her family, and it was so great to see them all.
After visiting for awhile, we rechecked our bags, went through the LAST round of TSA, and ate in the United lounge because of our United credit card. At that point we were pretty exhausted and cranky after being up for 24 hours, but we made it to our next flight from Newark to Cleveland. Selah and I slept during the hour and a half flight, and we walked from our gate to baggage claim. We spotted Levi and Ezra first, and they started sprinting towards us. It was the moment we had been waiting over two weeks for, and the four of us were tearing up as we hugged. Then we looked up and saw our friends and family in our adoption t-shirts with amazing signs waiting for us and welcoming Selah home. It was truly one of the most beautiful sights we’ve ever seen. We are so thankful that Kate Oren was able to document this moment with her photos! We hugged everyone and introduced them to Selah. She was a little shy but warmed up quickly and started smiling at everyone. As exhausted as we were, it was one of the best moments of our lives. To see the people we love after what felt like such a long trip away was amazing, but what was even better was what this meant for Selah. Just a very short time ago, this precious little girl was without a family at all. Now, she is a daughter, a sister, a granddaughter, a niece, and a friend. She is loved and cherished, and the display at the airport represented this drastic change in her life.
We all drove home and Selah used a car seat for the first time in her life. In China, they do not use car seats, so while we were there, she sat on my lap in the vans we used. She was fine in the car seat at first, but about halfway home she was pretty over it. She screamed and cried for a while until we got home. When we got home, Levi and Ezra eagerly showed her around the house, and she ADORES them. They make her laugh and she was so comfortable playing with them. It was absolutely amazing to see them interact. Selah even tried to imitate some of the words Levi said to her. She is going to learn English so quickly!
We took Selah outside, and she obviously had never walked in grass before. It was hilarious to see her discover it. She was so tentative and lifted her knees high when she was walking, and then she wanted to be picked up. The boys started picking flowers for her and giving them to her, and she was thrilled. Levi and Ezra are both amazing big brothers. They brought Selah toys and stuffed animals to play with, read books with her, brought her a juice box and snacks, and were so attentive.
Bedtime was pretty difficult, especially since Selah is used to sleeping on a different schedule. We finally were able to put her to sleep after a lot of tears at 11. Unfortunately, she was back up at 1:30, and I walked her to sleep for an hour. Then she was back up at 4:00, and Dan took a turn and then we switched around 6 when I got up with her for the day. We are so exhausted; we’re hoping to be able to have a normal sleeping schedule soon!
Most exciting news first: We got Selah’s visa! The computer glitch was fixed, and we are on our way out of here! Thank you all for your prayers! Now Selah will become a US citizen as soon as we touch down in the US. After the last few weeks, we really understand how much of a blessing this is.
All National Parks: Our Travel Bucket list
X Acadia National Park