I love this picture from my daughter’s surgery today. I’ve been staring at it since we put the kids to bed. When I see it, I see a simple picture of her sleeping to recover from anesthesia, but there’s also so much more. That pink blanket, tucked securely around her, has been to China and back. I vividly remember standing in the store agonizing over what to send in the care package, and finally choosing this blanket. We have pictures of it on her crib in China, and then we got it back when we met her. Her Chinese name is written on the tag. It isn’t her consistent favorite at home, but it was the first thing that she allowed to bring her comfort after surgery today. Those sweet casts so clearly show the incredible amount of love that the medical professionals at Scottish Rite Hospital put into caring for the children there. That someone would take the time to cut out a heart for not only my daughter’s cast, but also her doll’s, moves me to tears. I cannot communicate how much Scottish Rite means to us. The beautiful shade of her skin against the white sheets takes my breath away. Her complexion hints at the story of her birth family’s journey across Asia, a story we will likely never fully know. The Beanie Boo, her favorite “kitty cat” stuffed animal, makes me smile, because in some ways she’s already just an American kid. The overall picture shows her as exactly what she is – someone’s cherished and dearly loved daughter.
Long time readers of my blog know that for a year, we dreamed of an African daughter. God had other plans, but Africa will always have a special place in our hearts. I have followed Kristen Welch’s blog for years, pre-ordered and then devoured her book, Rhinestone Jesus, and have closely followed the story of Mercy House‘s ministry in Kenya.
The staff and young women at Mercy House have had to spend an outrageous amount of time, money, and other resources to bring in water for drinking, cooking, washing, etc. I am so excited and honored to be a part of this project, The Mom Quilt, to raise money to build a well in the Mercy House property. It will be a blessing to the entire community.
My own story is included in the e-book, plus a story from one of my very best friends. It has been so fun to work on this project with her and all of the other amazing women! You can CLICK HERE to read more about the project, or click the image below to order your own copy. You’ll laugh, cry, and ultimately feel encouraged by the shared journeys in the book.
Today is our eleventh wedding anniversary. I try to remember the people that we were eleven years ago, and I can’t. From here, we look like babies who had no idea what we were getting into. I know that we thought we had things pretty well figured out. I know we had a lot of big plans and dreams. I know that we were crazy about each other.
We had some hard years at the beginning, but I can say, without question, that this bittersweet eleventh year has been the hardest. It has been a different kind of hard than those early years. Those we spent battling each other, while this year, we’ve usually been on the same team. The uncertainty, stress, and grief of this year further put into perspective the things we thought were worth fighting about a decade ago.
I’m so thankful to be married to this imperfect, rough-around-the-edges man, who loves me at my most unlovable, thinks I’m beautiful no matter how much I weigh, can always make me laugh, and quickly forgives me no matter how much I don’t deserve it.
The request I present to God most often is, “please let me grow old with him,” and I am more aware than ever that we aren’t guaranteed eleven more years or eleven more minutes. He and I have recommitted in the last few months to make the most of the time we’re given to be together – to love each other like crazy, always point our kids to Jesus, be open and eager to hear God’s direction for our lives, and seek out friendships with people who encourage us to do those things. Marriage is probably my favorite of God’s gifts, after salvation. I feel such a sense of urgency not to waste it or take it for granted. Eleven years from now, if it is God’s will, we’ll be turning 45 and will have adult and teenage children. I’m sure I’ll look back at our eleventh anniversary and think we were babies who thought we had things figured out.
That’s okay with me.
I was chatting with my boys, ages 5 and 9, about how we can respond when someone asks us about FuMei’s hand differences. My older son had obviously thought about it some already and had several good ideas for when someone is just curious, for when someone is being rude on accident, and plans to call people on it when they’re rude on purpose, by saying, “That was rude.” (I reminded him to be respectful to adults, but I think it’s fine if he’s fairly sure that a child is being deliberately rude to respond that way.)
My 5 year old is just smitten with her, but hadn’t contributed to the conversation at all, so I prompted him to answer. He was very thoughtful, and replied seriously, “I think I would tell them that I want to kick them in the balls.” Oh my word, that boy! My husband and I don’t talk that way and don’t condone violence or inappropriate language, of course, but oh my goodness, I had to try so hard not to laugh and/or give him a high five. We talked about some alternative ideas, but I love that he wants to defend her so strongly! She is going to be one protected little girl with these two big brothers around!
It’s such a hard day for so many women, a hassle for others, and a disappointment for some. For me, this year, it was all about a petite, dark-haired woman who lives thousands of miles away. I will never meet her. I will never know why she did not raise the daughter that we share. I will never stop wondering about her thoughts, her motives, her dreams, her prayers. I can’t say something sentimental about how I know she’s wondering if that baby with the perfect lips and sweet, round face is happily growing up with another mother, because I can’t know that, and we’re trying to be honest about the few facts we have. We never want our daughter to feel like we lied to her. But, we do know that someone carried her for 9 or so months, felt her kicks, and gave birth to her. We do know our precious one wakes up crying for people we have never met. Does her first mother grieve at night, too? We do know that she is fearful of being left behind every time we so much as get out of the car. What were her first mother’s fears? We do know that she loves to look at books, is interested in animals, and thinks tangerines are the most delicious thing in the world. Maybe her first mother likes some of those things, as well? I don’t know. There’s so much I don’t know. It physically hurts to think about telling my spunky, tenacious little girl, bit by bit, how much we don’t know. Her heart will be broken, and this mother’s love will not be enough to make it okay.
One week ago, we honored the several other women who have loved and mothered our daughter. I don’t know if they are thinking of us, but I do know we will never stop thinking of them.
Two months ago, my dad died. 9 days later, we left for China. A few days after that, we met the little person whose picture we had been obsessing over for the previous 6 months.
It has been a lot. So much BIG all at once. Really, I’m just now starting to get a little less numb. My brain just clicked into survival mode and stayed there a while. Honestly, it already felt like I was in survival mode even before my dad died. All of 2015 has been one big, intense, season of total insanity for us.
These have been the hardest two months of my life. I can’t remember the last time I got a decent night’s sleep. We saw my dad almost every week. My boys were so close to him that they’re really grieving. My older daughter probably won’t remember him, and my younger daughter never got to meet him. I can’t put into words how heartsick I am about that. Plus I just miss him – how many people do you have in your life who are always on the sidelines cheering for you no matter what? Not that many. The adjustment to being home has also been more of a challenge than I anticipated.
But, of course, in the midst of the hardest time of my life, God has been faithful, and there has been joy. Our Both Hands project brought in the exact amount of money that we had prayed that it would, almost to the penny. The two weeks in China were a sweet connecting time for my husband and I, just like we had prayed. Meeting and getting to know our daughter has been incredible, and we’re so thankful to have her in our arms. Even though it’s been 6 weeks, I still look at her sometimes in wonder that she’s actually here in my arms in the United States. Seeing her start to blossom as a dearly loved daughter and sister can’t be described. Our community has continued to rally around us for this entire crazy season, and I am so thankful.
I’ll share a few pictures now, and I’ll try to get caught up with travel, attachment, and all of that as soon as I can.
*Airport pictures were taken by the amazing Beyond the Blue Studios
We were so blessed to be able to participate in a Both Hands fundraising project! We are within a few thousand dollars of being fully funded! One month ago, I sat with my sweet MOPS group, nearly in tears, telling them we were probably traveling in March, but still had almost $20K to come up with. We all prayed together for miracle, and God has provided! So many of our family and friends have rallied around us, my husband got a raise and a bonus, and we’re going to be able to use our tax return to help. We’re very close! We are so, so thankful.
Here are most of the members of our amazing Both Hands team. Love them!
A friend emailed me Sunday to tell me a person was trying to get hold of me with an update about our daughter. I friended this person on Facebook, and she runs the foster home where my daughter is now. Yay internet!!
I spent Sunday evening in a glorious fog. She’s smiling! She’s growing! She’s healthy! She has gorgeous hair! She has so many teeth! She’s using her hands and fingers more dexterously than we thought! She’s eating solids! I have beautiful updated pictures! I have video! She’s receiving treatment for her clubfoot that we didn’t think she’d get for months! I can get pictures and updates regularly until we go to get her! It was a wonderful, emotional day. Then we got in bed. My brain starting spinning and wouldn’t stop. I realized she had been an additional two places (with two or more additional sets of parental figures) than I already knew about. She has been moved around so much. Every time she’s let herself love someone, then they were gone. She had two surgeries without a mommy or daddy or even a stable nanny to care for her. She must have been so scared to wake up in a hospital alone. In less than two years, she’s had more grief and loss than most of us experience in our entire lives. I am heartbroken for her. I am very, very worried for her. It was a long, emotional night.
The two people I shared my concerns with encouraged me with the Truth:
God can redeem this.
He loves her, too.
She hasn’t had a mommy, but she’s had the perfect Father.
He has a heart for orphans, too.
We have a God of restoration.
They are right. I know they are right. I’m so thankful to have people to whisper Truth to my scared mommy heart. This is so hard! So complex! So much joy mixed with so much grief – and this is just the beginning.
I’m totally overwhelmed! We’re keeping it real here, right? I was already pretty emotional and overwhelmed about adoption/travel details, and now we’ve added a big project (which is amazing, but a lot of details very fast), and my dad is very ill and in the hospital. Every time someone asks me how I am or tells me they’ve been praying for me, I start crying. I gave my sweet husband a, “I’m hanging on by a thread,” warning the other day. He’s been such a rock – I fall more in love with him every day.
Today was such a good day, though. I had lunch with a great friend and we had such good just talking time while the kids played. I love chatting with this friend because we dig deep and talk about real stuff. I left feeling refreshed and more ready to face everything that’s going on. Then, we had a park playdate this afternoon with a wonderful friend who recently adopted. She’s my only in-person friend who gets the complexities of how I’m feeling right now in relation to the adoption. There’s a wonderfully supportive online adoption network, but it was so good to get to talk to this particular friend in person today. Two playdates in one day is more social that I would normally choose to be, but God obviously orchestrated exactly what I needed today with these two specific people. I’m so thankful for our community right now. We had several years without community, which forced us to really lean into each other. We needed that at that time, and it strengthened our marriage considerably, but I’m thankful to have community again after a pretty lonely season.
More details on the project very soon. Thank you for your continued prayers. In the meantime, if you see me, just talk about the weather or tell me what’s going on with you. 🙂
Today has been a wonderful day. I had the sweetest encouragement from my friends at MOPS this morning, we got approval to start planning for an amazing fundraising opportunity, and we received some awesome books about China and beautiful Chinese home decor/antiques from friends. Such a needed reminder that God is in this, even when I get too self-focused to see Him.
We are coming, sweet girl. It’s double digits of days until we get to meet you.