Monday, December 29, 2014

Merry Christmas! {Love, The Murphree's}

{thankful for}
the miraculous birth
a FOURever family
three smiling boys
all the broken ornaments
an enormous tree
candlelight services
Christmas communion
promises fulfilled
JOY on Christmas morn

Monday, December 15, 2014

My Baby's Birth City {Chuncheon City}

So, we pretty much think Jack Cruz rocks, and his birth city is certainly no exception.  I can't wait to take him back here one day!  He was born in Chuncheon (pronounced Choon-Chyon, very quickly) City, South Korea.  One of the city's most famous landmarks/attractions is Namiseom Island which is actually a beautifully little island.  Emphasis on little.  Tiny more like it.  But amazing.  There were ostriches, squirrels, gorgeous trees, captivating folk art.  Quaint and fabulous.  

(Random trivia:  His birth city is in the same province as the upcoming 2018 Winter Olympics)

*Don't forget that I've already blogged more info about all these sites previously... this is just a quick recap with 'real camera' photos*

An enormous statue that represents two rivers 'feeding' her people.  I found the statue both thought-provoking and cleaver, to say the least.  Of course, I have an art-minded brain and appreciate the oddities in life.  

One thing that was very interesting to me about Nami Island was all the 'randoms' around the serene nature, like the giant stuffed teddy bears just hanging out in the trees.  

The famous first kiss statue where we cheesily tried to recreate the scene.  The sweet couple who took our photo couldn't stop giggling.

The gorgeous flowers of Namiseom.  They were enourmous and very magical!  7-8 inches diameter each.  I love the way this one looks like it was glowing!

Gorgeous walkways all over the island.  I can only imagine how beautiful this is in fall.  We actually traveled (according to Google) for custody on the most vibrant leaf day in Autumn, but there was no way we could make the 3 hour (one way) journey to Nami Island with both boys during our custody trip.  Hopefully we can bring them back in a few years.  

The tracks that would lead me to where he was born.

The fields all along the train ride were a glowing neon green.  

Off in the distance is the Soyang Dam which is the largest dam in Asia.  There are so many lakes and rivers in Chuncheon which make it a very foggy place to live in winter.  And to me, its also just another small reminder that God is in the details.  We are a water LOVING family through and through, so its very fitting that Jack Cruz was born in a land known for all its water activities.  He also happens to L-O-V-E water and swimming!

The most amazing, fun, romantic, nostalgic meal I've ever eaten with my husband.  Chuncheon is world famous for its spicy Dak Galbi!  YUM.  I can't wait to go back to this family restaurant.  

The beautiful little family garden that supplied the produce for the restaurant.  This is also where I picked the flowers I dried and brought home for Jack Cruz.  I wanted him to have a tangible piece of his birth place in his new home.  

The beautiful Soyanggang Maid on the lake.  There was something about her that really resounded in me.  I don't know her story, but her position, with the wind blowing through her... a peaceful surrender maybe.  That's a lot of how I have felt about our adoption of Jack Cruz.  I love him to pieces.  I'm thankful for him beyond reason.  He is my child through and through... but he should not be mine.  The magnitude of the blessing I have been given in my child will never be lost on me.  I do not believe that in God's perfect will for our lives he included adoption, because He would never want children separated from their parents or women to have fertility issues, etc.  We believe adoption is an answer to brokeness.  A beautiful way to redeem and build families.  Please understand I'm FOREVER GRATEFUL that he is mine.  I don't know how I lived life before him.  If he had never entered my life, there would be a piece of my heart never made whole.  And yet, it's hard for me to overcome a certain amount of guilt and sadness in knowing he won't grow up in his birth land.  A land so beautiful and magical.  The realities are he needed a loving family and our loving hearts needed him and we are thankful for the knitting together of our hearts that was done long before the dawn of time.  But, we respect and acknowledge that there's still much that's lost in adoption, for all three parties of the triad.  So, it's here that we will peacefully surrender our story to our God that can weave all ashes into beauty and all glory to Him.  He can bless us with joys that far outweigh the sorrows.  We are eternally thankful for the gift of our son and his birthmom/family.  

A little cafe with love letters left all around the walls.

I'm honestly not sure what this little shop was.  I pretend its a story time place where a sweet librarian with glasses comes to read to little child and then they choose a book to take home with them.  
...It's probably just an info booth or something much less exciting.  

And Chuncheon is not without the Korean staple: STAIRS.

**I have read many blog and Facebook comments (on other families' posts) lately that have left me quite timid to share what's on my heart in regards to our own adoption story.  So much so, that I've actually considered just turning our blog into a book and being done with the whole shabam.  Please understand that I, like so many, share our stories quite openly and in a manner that we believe is both respectful and honorable to our children.  Because although they are our stories as parents, so much more is their (our children's) story.  Our motives to adopt and build our family might be different than yours and the way I/we view adoption (pre and post) may also not completely parallel.  And that's ok.  As long as we both are doing what we feel is in the best interest of our children.  Justin and I are continuously educating ourselves on adoption and follow our hearts with what we share and how we parent both our sweet kiddos.  We certainly don't do it perfectly (can I get an AMEN?!), but we do it to the very best of our abilities and in the manner and ways that we feel led.  I have the best readers who have never offered anything but the kindest of words and I certainly pray that's always the case.   Thank you for sharing in our moments and always building us up in love, prayers, and encouragement.  Most sincerely-us**

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Land of My {Heart}

I have so much I need to blog.  So many details I need to immortalize.  It's all swirling around in my head.  Goodness knows I have enough time to do it.  Jetlag is still so prevalent for me and the Jibber Jabber.  We've become completely nocturnal.  Truth be told, I'm kind of just selfishly hoarding our story.  You know when you're terrified and someone asks you what you're scared of but you don't dare tell them because if the fear is physically breathed from your lips it becomes real?  I almost feel as though if I speak our story, then it means I'm really home living this dream I've dreamt for years and years and years and that I'm no longer waking up in the Land of the Morning Calm.  

Because you see, there are some of us kindred spirits that travel to a distant land and our soul literally finds it's belonging.  I can't explain it.  I LOVE my sweet home Alabama.  I wouldn't dig up roots from here to save my life.  But the physical ache for my dear Korea too...It's there.  In the pit of my stomach.  In the faintness of my legs.  In the skipped beats of my heart.  

I cannot thank this beautiful land enough for sharing one of its most valued treasures.  This beautiful son of mine-ours.  I'm forever grateful that Korea allowed my beautiful boy to cross oceans into my heart, forever.  I promise I will bring him back to fall in love with you just as I have.  Your beautiful people, the rich vibrant culture, the valued tradition and history, the distinguished tastes of the street food and delicacies alike.  

So, soon, I will write our story, just as one says goodbye to a first love.  I am thankful for it, it has made me a better person, and I can love better because of her and the story she has entrusted me with.

{thankful for}
His will for our lives
deep brown eyes that transcend into another world
wonders of a distant land
soft, midnight popos

Friday, October 17, 2014

Airport and Homecoming!!!

Dear Family and Friends,
We are so eager to be home and to celebrate with so many of you! We have had some friends and family ask about meeting us at the airport, and we would genuinely love for each of you to be there as we arrive home with the newest member of our little family! We were able to get his visa easily, so we will be coming home Saturday! We will leave Seoul at 10:30 am on Saturday and we will arrive home early evening (we think around 5:30 maybe?...will keep you all posted...) at the Birmingham Airport. You have all been a vital part of Jack Cruz's homecoming - through your prayers and support. And we would be honored to have you all there waiting to welcome him home!

While we are excited to head home with the boys and everything that is familiar, sweet Jack Cruz has no idea what is about to happen. He is leaving behind everything he has ever known by coming home with us on Saturday. All of the sights, smells, sounds, language, and people in his new home will be foreign to him. And he will have lost so much. Justin and I want to do our best to make Jack Cruz feel secure, safe, and attached to us during this scary time of transition for him, which goes well beyond our arrival at the airport. 

We are beyond excited for so many of you to meet Jack Cruz. He is an amazing little guy. But there are a few things we want to mention. Jack Cruz is not fully aware that we are his forever family. We have to be very intentional in our bonding and attachment so that he learns that Justin and I are his mommy and daddy, and that he will stay with us forever. In our short time with him, we have learned that he is a very outgoing, energetic little boy, (his nickname from the Holt ladies is PowerMan!! Ha!)  but his whole world has recently been turned upside down, and he is very confused, nervous, and has epic grieving episodes each day and night. Justin and I want to make sure he learns that WE are his parents and we are his safe people. We are the ones he should come to to have ALL his needs/wants met. Therefore, as we arrive home, we really just want to be mindful of this, especially in these initial days of him learning his new life with us. Just know that he will need some time to learn who his parents are and our role in his life before we start introducing other family members and friends. You can see how he could become easily confused, as just a few weeks ago, we were also just some fun people who played with and hugged him. We would like to ask that he not be touched, picked up or carried away from us. But lots of smiles, waves, and high fives are certainly welcome! :) We don’t say these things to sound harsh or dramatic, but more as a way to prepare everyone for what we think will be best for our little guy and his transition into his new family. 

Once we leave the airport and take him home, we will be staying pretty low key for several weeks as we introduce Jack Cruz to his new home and learn more about each other. He has a lot to figure out (as do we all!), and we just want to keep things as simple as possible for him. We will slowly start to venture out and invite family and friends to visit as we feel he is ready.  

Everything we've read and researched has stressed this over and over for a healthy attachment. We need him to learn that we are his parents. He will still be looking for his foster mommy and daddy that he lost, and he could become overwhelmed very easily, despite his outgoing personality. We need him to learn that we are mommy and daddy, and that we will be the one to meet his needs. So, when the first visits happen, please remember that signs of affection need to just be from us.  We need to be the only ones to hug and kiss him, feed him, change him, comfort him, put him to sleep, etc. Again, this is just to help him learn that we are mom and dad. And remember, these things are only temporary.  Hugs and love will come when Justin and I feel he is ready. 

Thank you in advance for your understanding and respect of how important these next few weeks/months are for our family. We want to start off doing what is best for Jack Cruz even though parts may be difficult or seem unnatural. We look forward to continuing to share life with all of you! There are no words to sufficiently thank you all for joining us on this journey and covering us in prayer, and we would love to see many of you there to welcome him home at the airport! FinallyFOURever!!!!

Praise God!

Love, The Murphree's 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Dear Ji Hwan

My dearest Ji Hwan,

I have searched for you my whole life.  I have loved you, prayed for you, longed for you, ached for you.  You have been a part of my heart since the beginning of time.  There has never been a me that didn’t also have you. 

And as I’m here in this moment in time, this frozen moment in the span of eternity, my heart bursts.  In joy.  In happiness.  In love.  And in sadness. 

Because as you lie in bed, snuggled in your Omma’s arms for the last time, your world is about to break.  You will leave all of your comfort and security to be placed in my arms.  You have no idea the change that faces you tomorrow.  Dear one, the magnitude of all you must lose to join in forever with me, will never be lost on me.  Please know I will always be here. 

I will always be here.

As I stroke your big brother’s sleeping head, tears flood my eyes and pour down my cheeks.  I love him so much its indescribable.  I love you the very same. 

The very same. 

You are my child and my heart breaks that yours will.  It isn’t fair.  I would give anything to bear all the weight for you. 

I want to be so much for you.  I want to be the Mommy that cheers for you when you tie your first shoe lace, the Mommy that holds you up as you are sick, the Mommy that serves you that extra ice cream cone, the Mommy that cleans up your spilled sippy cup, and the Mommy that makes shadow puppets on your walls.  I want to be the Mommy you scream and yell at when you don’t know how else to process this world, and I want to be the Mommy whose arms you collapse into when you don’t know where else to turn.  I want to be the Mommy that always has a camera ready to capture your milestones and achievements, and I want to be the Mommy that sings you Christmas lullabies as I’m rocking you to sleep in the middle of May.  I want to be the Mommy that teaches you about our Saviour, Redeemer, and The One who always knits a tapestry of beauty from ashes.  

I want to be your Mommy and I cross my heart to always give it my all. 

My baby boy.  We have so many miles to journey together.  But that journey must begin with a baby step.  I promise to look toward you for guidance, as you trust me to lead the way.  We will do this together, side-by-side and step-by-step.  You will never have to walk alone. 


I love you forever and always, from the East to the West, to the Korea moon and back, and every tiny inch in between.

My love.  My JiHwan. 

Welcome to forever.


{thankful for}

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

A Few {Landmarks} of Seoul

We enjoyed a fun evening on the Han River when we went to view the Banpo Rainbow Bridge Watershow.  But we were pleasantly surprised and were first greeted with a magical firework display.  I have no idea what the occasion was, but everyone knew about it and was waiting on the banks with their cameras and tripods set up.  This was the best I could do with the lens and not so steady hands that I had to work with.  

Then, after the fireworks, the light show began.  We sat almost directly beside the bridge and loved the way we could see so far under the lights.  I'm sure it was gorgeous from above too, but I really don't know where you would go to get a skyview. 

Per the norm, we got *so* lost.  This was probably the longest walk for us to find something... or maybe I should just say the adventure tied with finding the North Seoul Tower.  Oiy.  

Ultimately, if we did it again, we'd go Donjack Line 4 Exit 2 and then follow the street signs to Hangang Park.  If you go this way, you'll wind up walking along side the road with a gorgeous ivy covered wall on your right side.  

This little gem is the Cheonggyecheon stream, which runs through the heart of the city.  If you go to the main Gwanhwamum square, stand with your back to the palace.  Look across the big intersection and to your left.  You will see a GIGANTIC pink, swirly looking cone.  Walk to it.  (You can barely see it lit up in the top right of my photograph.)  Right behind it is the fountains and then the waterfall.  You can walk for miles down this peaceful stream.

HERE is a great write up about the history and details of the stream.  

Gwanhwamum square fountains.  I believe the Gwanhwamun station, exit 2 will put you directly up by the famous statues and fountains.  If it isn't 2, exit 1 gets you VERY close to the main palace... just a block away by the arts center.  

Seoul's first post office... near Insadong.  

Hanok- this one was actually inside the main palace.  We didn't tour Hanok Village which is just down the street from the main palace.  If you are looking at the palace, go to the edge on the right and take that road.  It shouldn't be too far from there.  

Onnuri English Ministries.  Amazing worship experience!  We blindly followed C and DJ here and it ended up being about an hour away on the subway.  Its very much so worth finding.  

The North Seoul Tower.  

{Insert evil WA HA HA laugh here.}  

This was the one time in all our thirteen days in Seoul that tears may or may not have fallen over the stress of constantly getting lost (and being tired, jet lagged, and emotional due to the nature of the trip, etc).  It took us three or four hours (I'll have to go back in my original post to remember for sure which) to find this famous landmark.  And I was getting SOOOOOOOOO frustrated because you can see if from EVERYWHERE.  It was like it was taunting us!

You can see me, but you can't touch me!

But thankfully, my fabulous hubster got us there and we prevailed!  The next time we go, we will travel Line 4 Myeon Dong Exit 3.  Look for and then face the Pacific Hotel.  Walk to the entrance and then there is an alleyway/road to the right of the hotel building.  It is about a 10/15 minute walk... uphill... and then you will get to the cable car station.  Pay to ride to the tower.  Don't whine about the cost.  Otherwise you'll most likely be wandering around for four more hours and walking farther than Heaven-only-knows-up-a-gigantic-mountain to get to the top.  And then, you'll probably have a bad attitude.  Or, I'm pretty sure I would, at least.  

Ride to the tower and then walk up all those stairs (what did you expect?) and then pay to go up to the top.  It's worth it.  

Even when its foggy and rainy.  

We promise.

{thankful for}
firework surprises
light shows to Josh Groban, in Korean no less
peaceful streams
promises of love
patient and loving hubbies
cab drivers who leave lasting memories
the glow of my son's birth country

Saturday, October 4, 2014

The {Wonder} of the Palaces and Temples

On my first trip to Korea, we weren't able to visit the Jogyesa Temple, and I was bummed that I had missed out on this landmark.

So, I was thrilled to visit not once, but twice with Justin this go around.  

I was amazed with the beauty and detail of the temple.  The history.  The reverence.  

The symbolism.  

And the extreme decoration.

But as amazed as I was with this beautiful, no-gorgeous, temple, as I walked around snapping photos, my heart was so heavy.  I think this is a lot of why I wanted to return for a second visit.  (Along with the fact that the first time we came upon it we were lost and I didn't have my Nikon with me.)  As a Christian, I believe that the only way to Heaven is through The Son of The Most High, Jesus.  To see hundreds...and yes I was tiptoeing around hundreds of worshipers...praying to these three golden statues, chanting, lighting candles, reciting, bowing, and clutching their intricate prayer beads, I was so so sorrowful.  All I could think of was Moses coming down from the mountain and seeing the people that God had just rescued out of slavery worshiping the golden calf.  I prayed for these people.  My son's people.  That their eyes and hearts would be open to The One True God, who hears their cries of prayer and longs for their worship.  

(If you are looking at Gyeongbokgung Palace, turn right on the main road.  Walk all the way to Insadong, but don't go down the mail street where the big paintbrush is.  Keep the paintbrush on your left and walk down that road.  The temple will be on your right.  Around that same area is also the first post office in Seoul.  As a side note for fellow visitors, I tried to be as respectful as possible while photographing the temple.  I really didn't think much about having my camera in the temple, as I have photographed several cathedrals on various other trips with no issue.  However, when I went back outside to slip my shoes on, I saw there was a sign with a 'no photos' picture.  Oops.)

We ended up seeing the changing of the guards at both the main palace, Gyeongbokgung, and the palace down the road, Deoksugung.

This hand painted dragon scene absolutely amazed me.  The craftsmanship in these palaces in truly breathtaking. 

Above the kings throne, there is always a dragon sculpture, both a symbol of status and protection.

The detail of the palaces is simply exquisite.  These little metal flowers were under many of the palace windows and on the doors as well.

At Deoksugung palace, I was able to get a quick snapshot with this guy during the changing of the guards.  He had on traditional guard dress with the most awesome black leather lace up 'combat' boots.  Seriously, this guy was SO COOL.  His long hair just added to the swooning.  Justin and I both agreed that there are many guards that probably just look the part, but this dude was most certainly a taekwondo master!

My handsome guide.  Seriously though, he was pretty awesome with navigating us through the palace grounds and educating me on what all was what.  

The Haechi statues are mythical creatures, part lion, part dragon, that were believed to protect the city and palace from evil, danger, and more specifically, fire.   

At Deoksugung Palace, I kinda hopped in the parade of the Changing of the Guards!! I got a few side-eye glances from a few of the guards, but didn't get fussed at.  Justin was to the side of me just a chuckling.  (What can I say?!  I wanted the full experience! Besides, I was helping bring in the band!  All the drummers were right behind me and that was awesomely cool.)  

This is the most modern palace, right beside the old Deoksugung palace.  Its amazing to see the old and new side by side.  

The palace heating system is really interesting.  The palace itself is built upon a labyrinth of rock.  As needed, fires are built underneath and the smoke is furnaced up through these chimneys that are well behind the palace in the forefront of the woods.  Our guide one day told us that many Korean buildings and apartments still use this heating system today.  

This was actually a little pergula at the bottom of the North Seoul Tower.  

Most of the palaces were rebuilt or restored approximately 300 years ago, but the ceiling above was from the 1500's, I believe, if I'm remembering correctly.  

More of the new, built right around the old.  I think this is a perfect example of why I fell so in love with Korea two years ago.  It's amazing to me that the history of the country wasn't lost in the feat to modernize it.  

These are two of my favorite places in Gyeongbokgung palace.  I REALLY can't wait to go back and get photographs of them with the beautiful fall foliage as the backdrop!

The outside palace wall.  

Justin was a wee bit disappointed to find out that he was born in the year of the rat.  Hehe!

Year of the Tiger for me!  (Ox for Mr. P and Dragon for Jack Cruz)

And this, my friends, is a statue right outside of the main palace of a popular Korean Children's game.  I tried my best to convince Justin to join in at the end for a photo op, but he would have no part of it.  

Party pooper.

{thankful for}
handsome guides
rich history
metal flowers
beautiful weather
Korean education
parades with ancient drums
the One True God

Our Adoption Timeline

  • June 19, 2011- We are officially "Paper Pregnant!" We have submitted our Waiting Child Application to Holt!
  • July 5, 2011- Submitted our formal Home Study Application to Villa Hope
  • September 6, 2011- Submitted all of our paperwork for our Home Study
  • October 8, 2011- Completed our First Home Visit
  • October 17, 2011- Completed our Second Home Visit
  • November 14, 2011- Home Study Approved
  • December 1, 2011- Filed our I600a
  • February 1, 2012- I600a Approval Letter
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