One year waiting

One year ago on this night I first saw his face.
The very first picture.
It was one of those moments where the whole world goes silent.  I saw his sweet, precious, little face and whispered to my God, "Is this my son?"

365 days I've been chasing him. It seems impossible that a year has passed on this journey.  Impossible that I'm praying the same prayers as I again watch a thousand tree canopies catch fire in hues of orange and red.  Impossible that I've crunched both leaves and snow underfoot while waiting.  Impossible that my impassioned pleas which bloomed with the spring flowers are still open in expectation while the daffodils and the blossoms have long, long since faded away.  It seems impossible that the heat of the summer is behind us, but my son's homecoming still lies too far ahead.

Just I whispered 365 days ago, I hear a voice whispering back to me.  It whispers faith.  It whispers Let not the passing of time, the falling of the leaves, the setting of the sun, the freezing winter air, the thawing of the ground, the green buds long open, long lived, now dying- let not these thing stand as a reminder of your long-suffered prayer.  Let them stand as a reminder of my faithfulness.  See how I have sustained you. 

Tonight as I pray the same prayers I have prayed for 365 days and as I navigate the praise and the petitions in my heart, I turn to an old, familiar song. I first heard this song in a high school assembly.  Surrounded by peers, sitting on the bleachers of my high school gym I remember watching three friends put on while gloves and sign the lyrics to this poignant song.  Meaningful at the time, it has become even more so as years go by and so many seasons change. 

See how I have sustained you. 



Adoption shower

I'll start at the end:

As everyone was leaving my adoption shower, a friend stepped close toward me and said gently, "You are welcoming your son into an amazing community."


Not too long after we announced our decision to adopt, my friend Jessica told me that she would love to throw me a shower.  I think it took me a negative second to say, "Yes!" I was hoping someone would want to, but trying not to get my hopes up because I didn't know if a person got a shower who wasn't expecting or adopting a baby.  But Jessica took on the task with excitement and generosity. She even handmade every beautiful invitation because it seems "toddler adoption shower" is not a category in the invitation card aisle at Hallmark.  She asked me all about what I loved at showers and how I hoped things would go.  She planned every beautiful detail and wrapped it in joyful tenderness. 

My family drove six hours from their homes to mine to attend the shower.  My dad, mom, sister, brother, and sister-in-law all squished (or took turns squishing) in a five-seater car to join in on the celebration. Though only the women attended the shower, my dad and brother stopped in briefly to meet the hostess and then carried on to spend the afternoon with John.

I pulled up to Jessica's house in time to watch my family members unfolding themselves from the people-and-luggage-stuffed-car. After hugs all around we made our way inside where we were welcomed lovingly inside.  We helped bring the last few plates of food out to the dining room as Jessica joked about making a mystery punch that might or might not turn out well (it did).  Then the doorbell started ringing and I had the pleasure of welcoming guests into my joy. 

When everyone had arrived we made our way to the living room and sat down together. As Jessica opened with prayer she remarked beautifully about how all these women had gathered because they love me and they love John, but mostly- mostly- they had gathered because they love our son. I took a moment to scan the room as she spoke and saw on the faces of my friends and family the most beautiful gesture make its way around the room: they were nodding.  This is beautiful: that they love him before they know they know him.  He does not need to do anything for this community.  He does not need to be cute and little or well-behaved or funny or smart.  He needs only to be and he is loved.  The women who sat in that room wearing tender smiles and nodding- they know Christ.  They know themselves what it means to be loved just for being and they pass that gift on to my son with a grace that makes me cry.

We love because he first loved us. 

I could say amen right here but there is so much more to tell.

We ate food. Four different kinds of cheese all matched with the perfect meat or cracker or sauce.  Little baked treats from a new bakery because "local first" makes my heart beat a little faster.  And fruit, and chocolate, and mint m&m's that got the most remarks of all.  We played games, guessing the endings to nursery rhymes (Little Miss Muffet say on a tuffet, but does anyone know what a tuffet is, exactly?) and groaning as we learned that a baby elephant is just called a "calf." We really should have known that one.

And then I got to open the gifts.

Were there ever gifts.

Where the Sidewalk Ends
A sock monkey
A fire truck made from recycled plastic (be still my eco-loving heart!)
Bath crayons
A white wool sweater that almost made my heart stop beating from adorableness
A Mother for ChoCho 
Knit Hats
Burt's Bees and California Baby lotions and soaps (I made everyone smell them)

And more.  Much, much more.  I saved all the bags and filled a 25 gallon recycling bag up just from the tissue paper involved.

My friend Emily is another adoptive mom and she included a pair of pink pajama pants in my gift.  I looked at her with curiosity as I pulled them out.  She smiled and said, "Pregnant moms always get cute new pajamas; I didn't want you to miss out!" Emily, I love you.

 Reading the cards was one of the best gifts. These women put their pens to paper and put a little bit of their heart out there for me to keep.  They shared their happiness and excitement. My friend Julia made her own card with a pennant banner strung across the top just like I had at the top of this blog when I first started out.  She stamped a verse from 2 Corinthians inside:

"For we walk by faith and not by sight."

We do.

As John and I prepare to leave for our big court date in two short weeks I find myself leaning on the strength of my friends. I'm borrowing their faith when mine starts to waver.  When I get tired of praying the same prayers over and over again, I rest in the knowledge that they are praying me through.

This is the community we're bringing out little man into- one that knows love without condition.  One that knows faith.  One that knows joy.

We closed the shower as we opened it- in prayer.  The women around me all closed their eyes and bowed their heads as they offered up words of thanksgiving and presented their requests to God.  Julia rested her hand on my shoulder and though my eyes were closed, I could feel all those women nodding again as the prayer ended with the most important request for now:

Lord, grant them that "yes" in October.

I can't wait to hear that yes- that "da!" in October and know that we are so much closer to welcoming our son into this blessed community of love.

And now I'll say- amen.



Learning to hate my life

photo via flickr user Cherie Perrie aka iLuv
When I was in high school I remember a teacher of mine saying that she knew as Christians we were supposed to long for Christ's return, but she rather enjoyed her life and honestly wouldn't mind if he waited a while to come back.  She had things she wanted to do, places to see, and people she wanted to meet before Christ's return. 

My teacher offered these words as a humble confession, not an example of faith.  I remember being dumbfounded by her confession because at that time I was not that happy about my busy, complicated, stressed out existence and the idea of Jesus coming back to set all things right and make all things new- well, that sounded amazing to me. 

In the 8 years since I sat in that high school class, I have remembered this teacher's words again and again.  Mostly because my life has gotten pretty good and I've found myself relating to her confession.   

I've found myself loving my life.  

Loving life is the goal of many, but it is not a goal the scriptures set before us.  This is a hard truth, but one that will rapture our faith with conviction and purpose if we seek to understand it: 

Jesus wants us to hate our lives. 

In Luke 14 he speaks these impossible words: 

If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. (Verses 25,26) 

Bible translators have aptly titled this section of Jesus' teaching, "The Cost of Being a Disciple." 

This is a high cost.  I love my parents, my siblings. I adore my husband.  I am fiercely in love with my son.  Jesus wants me to hate even my own life?  The cost seems too high.

Yes, the cost does seem too high... until.  Until we read it with a certain perspective.  Until we read it in light of our love for God.  

I believe that when Jesus calls us to hate our lives he is not calling us to a state of anger, resentment, bitterness, complaint or even apathy.  I believe he is calling us to love him so much, that we are ready for his return.  That we desire the end of our lives as we know it. That the lure of the new earth is far greater than our desire to live on this broken one.  

Hating our lives means not that we reject enjoyment or contentment but that the satisfaction we find in earthly things is nothing in comparison to the hope we have for abundant life with God.  It means that we put ourselves in the face of brokenness enough to know this world is not enough.  It means that though our own lives might be pretty nice and comfortable, we still carry the burden of knowing millions of people around the world are suffering.

It means that every evening meal set before us is laced with prayers for the hungry.

It means that behind each moment of awe enjoyed near the top of a waterfall or the base of an autumn tree is a petition for the end of disaster, drought, and decay.  

It means that the love and laughter we find in our families calls us to bend our knees in supplication for the brokenhearted.

The cost of discipleship is a constant inward groaning for the pure and universal presence of the Kingdom of God. And it is action spurred by the groaning.

We know that we desire the kingdom when we want it more than anything else.  Do I want Christ to return more than I want our little man to come home?  Do I desire life on the new earth more than motherhood?  Can I truly say in heart that I would give up anything and everything to fully participate in the Kingdom? 

Some days are better than others, but I'm not there yet. I pray that Christ convicts us all and teaches us how to hate our lives for the kingdom.  May we truly, purely, and absolutely mean what we say when we pray, "Come Lord Jesus. Come." 



Saying yes to a blessing

Photo via flickr user katclay
 Children are a blessing, an inheritance from the Lord. 
Psalm 127:3

So says the Bible.  So I believe.

Parents sometimes like to joke and put quotation marks around "blessing" when their little ones are throwing a tantrum or up screaming at 2am.  And even bigger quotations around the word when their child grows up and gives them attitude or sneaks out late at night.  It's sometimes easy to see the blessing of a child, but sometimes- it's just not.

The rich thing about this verse is that it puts the "children are a blessing" truth in the realm of always.  This verse is not just pointing out a cliche for us to spout over warm, sleepy newborns. It's grounding us in the truth that children are a blessing, always.  On the good days: they are a blessing. In the tough times: they are a blessing. 

I've had a lot of time to settle this truth deep into the base of my heart over the last few months.  When we first saw the picture of our little man, I knew he was a blessing and it was about the easiest truth I've ever had to believe.  I needed no convincing.  I saw his picture and I knew he was a blessing.  I hoped he would become my blessing.

Through the months long process of our home study we learned all about the... I'm having a hard time figuring out what to call it.... I guess the "downfall" of international adoptions.  We learned all about the hundreds of things that could go wrong for our little man.  Emotionally, physically, developmentally.  The home study process is designed to equip parents to handle any issues that may come their way, but when you spend 20 hours reading about the "dark sides," it can feel a little overwhelming.

You can feel a little bit like this "blessing" is going to ruin your life.

That's why this verse is so important.  In adoption we're not just opening our lives up to the possibility of attachment disorders, birth defects, fetal alcohol syndrome, autism, grief, or anger.  We're opening our lives up to a blessing.

I've been thinking a lot lately about the blessings we saw walking around at our son's orphanage.  Every day when we met our little man to play outside, he came out of the building with his class of about 6 other children.  They left the building through a single, metal door like you'd find on the side of a school.  They came out onto a stoop and were helped down 4 or 5 cement steps by their nannies.  Honestly, I didn't spent too much time considering the other children.  I just scanned their faces to see which one was our little guy and then went right to him.  One morning, however, I remember another little boy catching my eye, giving me a big grin and then taking off toward me.  His nanny caught him and turned him around right away, but the image of his smile is burned in my memory.  His eyes lit up with that smile and I can't help but wish I had more time to play with him too.

Since returning home I've wondered about that little boy and wondered whose blessing he's supposed to be.  Theological questions about fate and destiny and free will aside, I wonder if God has an adoptive family chosen for him.  I wonder if they know about their calling.  And I wonder if they're going to say yes

All those children walking around are little blessings.  I wonder who is going to say yes to a blessing. 

Shortly after John and I began our adoption journey I read a story about a waiting child in Eastern Europe.  His name was Jack and though I first heard about him months ago, the fresh emotion that hit me then still hits me with the same gravity today.

Jack is almost 12 years old. Not too long ago he was transferred from one orphanage to another- to one for older kids.  Before his transfer he asked these questions to an orphanage visitor: 

Do you know anyone who would like to take a boy like me?  I would really like for a visitor, at least, because I am all alone and I have no one. 

And later,

What do I need to do for a mom to come? Do you know where she is?  Is she looking for me?

Thank God, the answer to Jack's question is yes- there is someone who wants a boy like you.  Your mom is coming.  Jack's mom is named Tania and she and her husband have begun a remarkable adventure to bring Jack home.  I encourage you to check out their blog here.

Jack's parents no doubt face all the possibilities of "downfalls" in their adoption of Jack.  He's lived a long time without a family and will certainly bear scars from that emptiness.

But Jack is still a blessing.  His parents know the truth of this scripture: Children are a blessing from the Lord

My dear friend- if you are thinking about adoption but worried about the pitfalls of it- worried that adding a child with unknown history to your family might ruin your life- then take heart.  You are not just adopting a child who could have "issues," you are opening yourself up to a blessing from the Lord.  A blessing that will remain unshaken through good times and bad.

I've wondered myself what kind of pitfalls or baggage our adoption might bring into our lives. But I remain grounded in the truth that children are a blessing from the Lord.  And so what if this adoption ruins my life?  At the end of the day, the worst that could happen is that my life will be ruined by a blessing.  If you ask me, that's a pretty good way to spend my one wild and precious life.



Rituals of today and tomorrow

Our park.
 Every day, except when it's raining, I take my daycare kids out for a walk.  We live near a waterfront park and typically, the park is our destination.  Once and a while we'll go see the miniature turtle and fish tank at the public library, but usually- we go to the park.

There are two major attractions at the park: the ducks and a water fountain.  Both are equally memorizing to little eyes.  At the sight of the ducks even the youngest baby stretches out his pointer finger and throws his little body as far out the side of the stroller as he can.  Get me over there!  This past spring I bet I spent half my daily vocabulary reminding the walkers to stick by me and not anger the mama goose by getting to close to her babies.  I save the fountain for last because it's the only attraction for which the children will agree to leave the ducks. 

The fountain is best seen through the baby's eyes.  As soon as the sound of running water reaches us, his eyes search the park to find it.  The fountain is tall.  I have to climb up three steps to peer over the top of the concrete retaining wall surrounding it.  From the middle of the walled-in pool emerges the actual fountain and water pours out from all sides.  On a breezy day you have to be careful what side you stand on, or you'll end up getting sprayed and a little bit that tasty recycled chlorine water will get in your mouth.  The baby doesn't care which side you stand on though, as long as you take him out of the stroller and lift him up to see the fountain in all its glory.  For a few moments he is mesmerized; his eyes glaze over as he studies what must be a miracle of nature.  Then he twists his body and tries to wriggle out of my arms and go for a swim in the fountain.  I am not fooled, though.  I know he cannot really swim, so I hold on with both hands and repeat words like water! and fountain! as he squeals in delight. 

Everyone is upset with me when it's time to go back home for lunch.  They would stay and watch the ducks and the fountain until their tummies screamed with hunger if they could.  I, however, know that once they get hungry I only have 90 seconds to get home and it's a 10 minute walk.  So we leave before they think they're ready and everyone is in their high chair and eating lunch by noon. 

This is my daily ritual.  A ritual whose purpose is enjoyment and wonder.  A small celebration of life in the middle of a typical morning.  A ritual that gives us something to remark about on an otherwise unremarkable day. 

John and I spend a lot of time dreaming about the rituals we will create with our son and, Lord willing, future children.  Some rituals we already have and will incorporate into our new family life.  Worship on Sundays.  Farmer's market on Saturdays (when we get up on time).  Summer berry picking and savoring apple pie in the fall.  Slow car drives to see all the Christmas lights and taking the camera out for a long walk after the first snowstorm in January.

I want to light a candle on the table for family dinner during the dark winter months.  John wants to make pancakes for everyone on Saturday mornings.  I can't wait to eat those pancakes and then put our sticky little man in the bathtub to get ready for the day.  We both dream about what it will be like to pull up to our parents' houses for all the major holidays with a little one in tow.   Thanksgiving.  Christmas. Easter.  Summer holidays.

Through the last five years of my life I have learned this truth like never before: life is sacred.  I have lived without. I have lived without a mother as she lay in a coma.  I have lived without a husband as we navigated the endless paperwork of my immigration.  Now I live without a child whose name is already son in my heart.  Living without has been the lens through which I have learned to see what I am living with.  As I have longed for my mom's healing, my husband's presence, the weight of my baby boy in my arms, I have wondered what others are longing for. 

Are they hungry and longing for food?
Are they sick and longing for life?
Are they busy and longing for a day off?
Are they grieving and longing to go back in time?
Are they longing for a child whose someday reuninion is in eternity and not in a month like mine?
Are they longing for a mother not because she's sick but just because they would like a mother at all?

What are they living without? And do I know how blessed I am to be living with?

Life is sacred.  Morning walks, weekend pancakes, tobogganing down snowy February hills- these are the typical, the ordinary, the cyclical events of life or they are the repetition of ritual.  They are life, consecrated.  Acts of grateful devotion to the Giver of all good things.  They are the deep sweet breaths of living with, even in the middle of living without.  

Tell me, what are your rituals of today?  Of tomorrow?



Court date in hand!

We got our court date!  It came a few days earlier than expected with the subject line, "Surprise news!" I don't think I read anything in the email except the date; I just scanned and scanned, searching for the name of a month and a number or two.  We'll be flying back to Russia the second week of October.

The court date is two weeks later than what we were hoping for, but we are thrilled nonetheless. Having that concrete date in front of us feels amazing.  If our court date goes well we should be bringing out little man home right around (American) Thanksgiving.  Actually we'll be traveling for our court date on Canadian Thanksgiving weekend.  Couldn't really think of better holidays to mark these momentous occasions in our lives.  Grateful for every step forward in this journey.

I don't know if the "nesting" instinct pregnant women experience is hormone related or what, but somehow it has kicked in for me.  I've been buying little boy clothes, prepping our diapers, evening cleaning our basement!  John and I spend yesterday turning this disaster into a neatly boxed and shelved dream.
Denim cut-offs.  Is there any more appropriate choice for basement cleaning?

After.  So much tidy loveliness.
There's also a whole list of to-dos that I'm making in my brain.  Decide on a pediatrician.  Buy shoes to go with the outfit I bought for our court session.  Plan freezer meals.  Make freezer meals.  Start putting our little man's "life book" together.  Buy a book shelf for his room.  Decide on the best way to hang the floating shelf I bought for his room.  The list goes on.

I like this nesting instinct though; it's an experience I didn't expect to have, but I like it.  It's not even that I like it because it makes me feel like a typical first time mom (which it does), but that it is a sign to me that the end is near.  The end of the anticipation and the fulfillment of our preparation.  Our get ready season is moving into a be ready season and soon the ready part will lop off and we'll finally be.

We'll be ready.
We'll be done the waiting.
We'll be a family. 

Thirty-five days until we travel.  One week in Russia.  Thirty-five days of waiting after that.  And then, at last...

we'll be.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...