Friday, January 9, 2015

Joy and Sorrow

As mentioned in my previous post, there are many things I wish I had the time to write about about our family life now and the life lessons, spiritual lessons, I am learning, but there is one thing that I have wanted to share for a little while now. One worth the time it will take to type it.  And that is the joy and the sorrow felt because of the journey we are on.

A child born to another woman calls me mommy.  The magnitude of that tragedy & the depth of that privilege are not lost on me” ~Jody Landers

Just a few weeks after we came home from China, I was in our bedroom, rocking Felicity to sleep.  I was holding her, staring into her beautiful brown eyes, and I was overcome with JOY.  Amazing joy.  I was so thankful that she was a part of our family, that she was here.  In that moment, I uttered a prayer of thanksgiving.  Thank you Lord, for my arms being full.  That prayer was no sooner whispered, than a deep sadness came over me. My heart was filled with joy and my arms were filled with a beautiful little girl, because, 7,000 miles away, in that same moment, there was another mom whose arms were empty.  My joy was born of another mother's pain and sorrow.  There are moments when that reality is hard and beautiful, and bring-me-to-my knees inspiring.

I think about her often.  Felicity's mom.  I shed tears for her pain.  I pray for her daily. I wonder how she felt the day of our daughter's (hers and mine) birth.  Was she filled with joy?  Expectant wonder?  Was she worried when she saw that her daughter's face was not the perfect face she had hoped it would be?  How did she feel those three dreaded days before she made the decision to leave her daughter at the gate of the orphanage.  Most of us reading this are mothers  . . . we have an idea of the agony she felt in those days.  My heart aches for her.

Now, I bet she and I wonder the same things.  Does she have her mother's nose?  Is that cute, side wards glance from her mom?  Does she look more like her mom?  Does she have her father's personality? 

And as the holidays come, we experience them all anew with Felicity by our side.  Watching her at Christmas brought so much thanksgiving for the gift that she is.  Over the years there will be many Christmases, birthday parties, etc, etc that will be marked with the presence of a special little girl.  And as each one comes, I only hope that I remember that those days bring pain for another family that is separated from that same daughter.

You see, I cannot separate my joy from her sadness.  And I do not  think I should try.  They are meant to be intertwined.  It makes this whole journey a little more beautiful. 

Someone once told Pete and I we were heroes because we are giving an orphan a home.  Us? Heroes?  No.  There are heroes in this story (our daughter being one of them), but we do not hold the privilege of being heroes.  No, Felicity's mom is the true hero.  She gave until it hurt.  She sacrificially chose do to what she felt was best for her daughter, even though it would only bring her great sorrow and loss.  Her sacrificial love gave us one of our greatest gifts.  I will forever be grateful to her.

Many nights as I hold Felicity, I pray that I can love her well.  Not just for Felicity, but to honor her birth mother. May my love honor her sacrifice and be worthy of it.

I pray, God willing, that I may meet her in heaven one day.  I want to thank her for our beautiful daughter and share with her all the memories that she is missing now.  Until that day, I pray that God give her peace.  That she may know, in her heart that her daughter is well loved and cared for.  That she is an orphan no more.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Update Post

It's January.  But, I think you all already knew that. Months have slipped by without so much as a word, in this, my corner of the Internet.  Much like animals that hibernate in the winter, I have felt very sheltered over the past few months.  We have been "cocooning" as adoption circles call it.  We were at mass this past Sunday (we do go every week, in case you doubt) and I still was amazed by the number of people who came up to me and remarked that they had not seen Felicity before.

We have been home two months.  It seems like a long time, yet it seems so little.  We are still attempting to find a new normal, and are just not quite there yet.  After three weeks off from tutorial, all of the boys started back to homeschooling this week.  Homeschooling is not quite as easy with our "toddler tornado" around, but we are making it work the best we can.

Felicity continues to do well.  She is attaching to us, bonding with her brothers and is happiest when everyone is home together. The process of her melding into our family is much like dancing.  Some days are two steps forward, one step back.  Other days it is a step forward and two steps back.  I have never been good at dancing, but I am letting God and Felcity lead.  The dance is beautiful and we are moving forward. 

Each day we get to see more of her personality.  And it is a BIG, STRONG personality.  I look at the pictures of her from her first day with us . . .

Gotcha Day - October 2014
with her cold, dark eyes and a blank scare.  She was afraid.  I barely recognize that little girl anymore.  There is a light in her eyes now (and she has gained inches and pounds!!)  Even though there are moments when that scared little girl is clearly still present, the days and hours of her presence are rare. Felicity does well out and about too.  We are getting better at recognizing when a situation is a bit overwhelming for her and we just keep her close and work to get home faster. 
January 2015

The hardest moments come at night.  She still does not sleep well, preferring to always be touching me, even if it is with just her foot.  Night time is clearly the time when she grieves and releases stress from the day.  Our poor little girl will often cry at night in a way none of my boys have done.  The first few times it happened, we figured it was something she ate. But now, after two months home, we can tell there is something deeper than indigestion going on.  We just hold her and love her through it the best we can.

I love our little girl fiercely.  While I know it is not always the case with adopted children, my love and bond for her was strong from the moment she was placed in my arms.  She is my daughter and I love her no differently than my sons that I gave birth to.  Just the other week, Caleb, even said, "Mom, is it strange that I think Felicity looks like us?"  I chuckled.  She looks nothing like us, but Caleb's sentiment was felt.  She is a part of us, no matter where she started from, she has been knitted into our family and something would be missing if she were not here.

These two months with her have been profound in many ways. God has used this time to teach me so much about His love, grace and redemption.  There are moments I just want to pour those words out over the keyboard and hit publish, but more often than not, my hands are filled with the little girl that has been the avenue through which God is growing and molding me. 

I am off to enjoy the giggles of my daughter, who should be sleeping, but is not.  Please continue to pray for us!  Pray, too, for Felicity, especially.  She will be having surgery next week to repair her palate.  Pray for a quick and speedy recovery.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014


8 1/2 days ago we headed to the airport in China for almost 30 hours of travel.

7 days ago we landed in the DC area and our daughter was declared a US citizen.

We came HOME and Felicity met her brothers.   They have loved her for months and she instantly fell in love with them.  It was beautiful to see all of my children together, under the same roof, for the first time.

Our home is all sorts of crazy right now.  Dishes overflow in the sink.  There is more laundry than I thought could be possible begging to be folded in my living room.  Toddler toys can be found on the floor in every room in the house.  I am realizing that we did not toddler proof enough.  The boys start back to their homeschooling tutorial tomorrow and I have spent the last few days attempting to get them back on track with their work, and failing miserably. I try to remember we have only been home for 7 days. and I work to extend myself grace.

And then there is Felicity.

She is a sweet, adorable little thing and she has my heart.  She is doing amazingly well; better than we expected.  We were educated in all of the ways this time could be, and we have been so amazed by her courage and her vulnerability.

The smiles. The beautiful, sweet eye contact.  The hugs.  The kisses that have gone from her just giving us her cheek when we asked for a kiss, to full, grab-you-by-the-head-and-draw-you-in-for-a-lip-kiss.  And in these moments things seem,




But there is another side to this.

There is a girl who screams and acts out at bedtime or nap time.  A girl who rarely sleeps.  There are the normal behaviors of a toddler who is testing boundaries and learning about her environment.  And then there are the behaviors you learn about in your adoption education classes under: What to Expect.  There is a little girl, who I call my daughter, that has experienced a great deal of loss and suffering in her short life.  Loss caused by the brokenness of the world we live in.

And as I hold her, kicking and screaming, fighting me and sleep, I am reminded that redemption always comes at a cost.  It comes with pain too.  I only have to look at the cross and my own redemption to know that.  But I also know, that it comes with an unspeakable joy.

So, please continue to pray for our family.  For Felicity.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Gotcha Day and the aftermath

           We have been in China now for one week.  I have deliberately refrained from sharing about each day and each excursion because there have been so many emotions and feelings about it, most of which are really for our family, especially our daughter to know and share and experience and not meant for sharing on the world wide web.
      Monday was our Gotcha Day of Xiang Ling (Felicity Grace) and this is a day that I do want to share. It was a full, busy day and there were so many emotions that enveloped the day. 
       Due to jet lag, Pete and I have been waking up 3 AM most mornings and Monday morning was no different.  But, what was different was that neither of us could fall asleep again.  We talked and prayed about the upcoming day until about 5AM and then got ready to be at breakfast by 6:30.  We met our guide at 8:30 AM and then headed to the orphanage. The orphanage was only 20 minutes from our hotel, and during that time, I had to keep on reminding myself to take deep breaths and just relax.  As we pulled past the gates of the orphanage, tears started to fill my eyes.  We were really here.  At this moment. Gotcha day. A day I dreamed about for quite a while. In less than an hour, our daughter would be placed in our arms.  She would no longer be an orphan.

        We came into the orphanage and were led to a nice room on the second floor.  Staff started to come in and out of the room, talking with our guide.  We were given paperwork to double, and triple check to make sure the information was accurate, and to sign, followed by placing our fingerprint over our signature.  As the end of the paperwork drew near, we, along with the other family, knew it would be soon. 
Our guide, Helen, disappeared from the room without a word.  I am not sure how much time passed, I was too anxiously waiting for someone to tell me when our daughter would be coming, that I did not hear the steps coming down the hall (although Pete did).  Our guide entered the room and was carrying Felicity Grace!!  To see her, in the same room, knowing the moment had come for her to be united with us was overwhelming.  I stood up and went to her.  She was happily sucking on a baby bottle full of water.   Helen handed her to me.  When I had pictured this moment in my mind and all of the emotions that I thought I would feel, I was positive I would cry. I had shed tears just thinking about Gotcha day.  Yet, I did not cry.  In that moment, as I held her in my arms for the first time, I was filled with so much joy that I started to laugh.  Not a silly, uncontrollable laugh, but a joyful laugh. 

          Felicity did not cry, at all.  Which surprised me. As I held her, she continued to drink her bottle, and she seemed rather sedate.  She started falling asleep within minutes of entering the room.  And, truthfully, it all made me nervous.  If you have been around the adoption community at all, you know there are stories of families getting to Gotcha day and their child has more, severe needs than were ever listed in the file or their child was extremely ill.  I began to feel Felicity’s forehead.  She was sweating, but in no way had a fever. As she drifted off to sleep, I tried to remind myself that I had seen video of her and there was no way that her current state could be due to a significant special need that was unshared. I tried to tell myself to relax, everything would be fine.  Even though there were lingering fears, I was just so happy to finally have her in my arms.  Felicity remained asleep for the rest of the time at the orphanage.
        After the other family was united with their son, the orphanage director came in and we were able to meet him.  He was a really nice, very friendly man, who smiled a lot (although you would not know that from the pictures).  He presented us with a small photobook with pictures of Felicity from her time at the orphanage and a gift made by some of the older, permanent residents of the SWI.  This was followed by photos, and then we left.

    The rest of the day was filled with stopping at several different governmental agencies to get our pictures taken (more than once) and to finalize the adoption. Felicity had to be woken up at our first stop.  She was content, but the poor thing seemed a bit in shock.  At one point in the afternoon, our guide Helen (whom the children at the orphanage know) walked by us and Felicity wanted to go to her.  Helen said something to her in Chinese and then said in English “stay with your mama.”  Felicity was making very little eye contact with us, and even while we played games in the hallway, she would turn away from me so as not to face me. I would hold her and she would lunge back in an attempt to get away from me.   I knew that most of these behaviors were normal, but I would not be being honest if I did not say that it did make me sad a little.  But, I had come to this moment with full knowledge of all that could happen and I just whispered in little Xiang Ling’s ear that I was not going anywhere and I would be patient with her as she grieved the loss of her life at the orphanage and adjusted to life with us.

      Now, it is two days later.  We have had more stops at more offices.  More signatures.  More pictures.  Xiang Ling is officially ours!! We have taken a tour of the city our daughter has come from. But, mostly, we have spent a lot of time at the hotel, allowing Felicity to get to know us, play with us, and for us to love on her.  Each day she has blossomed more before us.  Smiles come more readily.  She was even singing today and saying mama. She has only been with us two days, and her personality comes out in many moments.  Each smile, each laugh, each time she is in my arms and just stares into my eyes, is such a gift.  These are things I have taken for granted with my boys, but I cherish each moment with Felicity when her guard is down and she allows herself to feel comfortable enough to share herself with us.  I am happy to say that she is a mama’s girl, but still will go to Pete without a fuss.  And, even though she wanted to go tour guide on Gotcha day, there have been several times since then that our guide has motioned for Felicity to come to her, or she has wanted to pick Felicity up and Felicity has run to me, or, if, in my arms, she will turn away from my guide.  As our guide joked about it yesterday, I told her that I was glad that Felicity no longer wanted to go to her and preferred me.  Little by little she is feeling more comfortable with us and I have no doubt that all of your prayers have made this transition the joy that it is.  Xiang Ling is a precious soul and I am honored that God chose us to be a part of her story.  I am humbled by this gift that He has given us and overwhelmed by His love for us and for our daughter that is an orphan no more.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Getting ready to bring our daughter home!!

We first saw her face at the end of April.   Her pictures fill our home.  Our hearts have been with her these long months.  And now, we are just days away from boarding a plane, seeing her country, experiencing her culture, and most importantly, holding her in our arms for the first time.  That day will be the last day she will be an orphan.  

"God sets the lonely in families" - Psalm 68:8

We have longed for this day to come and it is almost here!  We are thrilled, and excited and a little nervous too!

Our Gotcha day is exactly 6 months from the day we first saw her precious face!

Please pray for us.  For our travels and for our daughter!

I will attempt to update my blog as we travel.  
But, my time may just be taken up with this smiling face!