When a family welcomes a child from a hard place into their hearts and home, they have to “go back to the beginning” as The Connected Parent says. This doesn’t mean that this child or even teenager is actually “baby-ish” (sometimes these children actually have higher IQs than their peers because they need to use their wits to survive), but that issues of sleep, food, sensory processing, behavior, attachment, etc. might need to start at ground zero.
“It’s THE golden ticket. Never turn it down!”
We had just moved to Wuhan, China and our new expat community was welcoming us greenhorns with lots of advice...everything from “always bring toilet paper” to “say ‘bu la’ (not spicy) when ordering” (we learned quickly that these two tips were lifesavers since there’s no toilet paper in public restrooms and saying “not spicy” takes the heat down from blazin’ to just plain HOT!). But after more than a few newly-found foreign friends told us to never turn down an invitation from a local friend to visit their village, we got the point.
Our first Chinese New Year approached a few months later and we were giddy with excitement that a sweet Chinese teacher at our school asked us if we’d like to travel out to her village, only about one-hour outside of Wuhan. We probably scared her with our eagerness, however she diligently wrote down all the directions from our home to hers...and in Chinese AND English. We were a little nervous about the taxi to a bus and then another bus route, but thrilled to get out of the bustle of this metropolis and experience life in the countryside.
One of the great benefits of being an elementary teacher is actually remembering all that helpful, but slightly forget-able knowledge you learned back in your early days...
Husband: "How many cups are in a gallon?"
Husband: "Are you sure?"
Me, emphatically: "I made the Gallon Man seven years in a row. Believe me, it's sixteen."
Yes, I am your personal measurement Google in the kitchen. And since I'm a bit of a language nerd, I can also tell you the difference between two slightly confusing linguistic terms: simile and metaphor.
Two years ago today, our hearts stopped as a little bundle of yellow in the arms of a nanny proceeded down a dark tunnel into a stuffy government office in Zhengzhou, China. Two years goes by in a blink and it feels like this not-so-little-anymore bundle of joy has been a part of our family forever.
Some days cannot be described in words, only emotions. And Titus's "Family Day" (what we refer to as the day we first held him in our arms) had all the emotions, from him, from new big sister, and especially from us parents. If I had to wrap a word about this momentous day, it would be...bittersweet.
Not sure how to start...especially when we're in the middle of a pandemic? Here's a few ideas!
Maybe you're like our family, who's been taking this time to figure out our priorities, looking hard at our life, and wondering if we're really using our time, money, and talents for God's kingdom and to the best of our abilities. Maybe God is pressing on your heart that you've got room for a child who every day feels unsure of the future and longs for the very thing that most of us are complaining about...being home with our family.
So, what can you do if you're ready to take that first step of faith? Well, here's a few ideas, especially if you've got some extra time on your hands these days...
There are some things you read and they wreck you. Forever. Sometime before we were matched with our first son, Titus, I read this story about a baby girl found abandoned at a park and the lengthy note left by her heart-wrenched parents. And it cut to the very core of my mama's heart. We had lived in China and knew in theory why children with special needs were abandoned. (See my post here for more information.) But for the first time, as I bawled through these heart-broken parents' letter, I caught a glimmer of the other side of abandonment. The thousands of tears, the cripplingly guilt, the agonizing pain. And, for the first time, a horrific question took root in my mind that to this day I cannot honestly answer: "If I were in this same situation, could I selflessly give up my precious child, knowing it was the only way to maybe save her life?"
I've thought about these grief-stricken parents so much these past two years, just as I think about our sons' birth parents. My mind cannot help but add flesh to these bare facts and my heart cannot help but to grieve for their profound loss. I've replayed their story a thousand times in my head, imagining the months, days, and moments leading up to them placing their precious daughter in a garden to be found.
Please understand, I am not trying in any way to embellish an orphan's story or create a romanticized account of what happened to this precious girl or any other children abandoned. We strive to only tell our sons the facts we know about their stories. Period. Also, I am in no what saying I know what happened or understand these or any other parents' heartache. I just think that if we can pull back the curtain and put ourselves in their story, our hearts will break with compassion and empathy.
Now, let me ask you one question as you read this fictional account based on a real note left: "How will you make sure that these and thousand of other heart-broken parents' sacrifice does not go in vain?" May your compassion turn into courage: to adopt. To support others who adopt. To give to organizations that help preserve family units. And above all, to pray, that families will be able to stay together, that children in orphanage will have forever families, and that hearts who have been broken by inexplicable loss will somehow be healed.
"It must be tonight," my husband softly whispered to me.
"Why tonight?" My eyes and heart pleaded.
"It's the warmest night of the week. We've talked about this. We've waited. The medicine is running low. It has to be tonight." I could see tears form in his eyes too.
I wanted to be angry with him. I wanted to yell at him, "No!" But I knew he was right. I knew he wanted to do what was best for our baby girl. Just like me.
"Let's let her sleep a little longer. We can have dinner, give her a bottle, and then..." I couldn't finish the sentence. I couldn't even let my mind finish the sentence, think about what tonight would hold for us all.
Thoughts from a Bible teacher on COVID-19...
I have heard or read numerous stories, post, or articles of people trying to explain this new normal. How did we get here? Let's go backwards to when we first heard about the virus in China. A lot of people, including myself, thought it would never come here. I have friends in Wuhan where it supposedly started. As I read their posts, I started to believe maybe it can come here. So what did I do? To be honest, which I am ashamed to admit, is that I brought masks. I wanted to be safer than sorry. Now fast forward to April and COVID-19 has really taken off in America.
My dark-haired, dark-eyed son sticks out in our otherwise light-haired, blue-eyed family. So, we can attract a little attention and just a few questions in the grocery store checkout line or our neighborhood park. Usually the questions range from “Where is your son from?” to “Is he adopted?” or something along those lines.
As long as the question is asked politely, I don’t mind sharing that yes, he is adopted from China. The follow up question to this is most likely, “Why did you adopt from China?” A good question and the usual answer of “Because we used to live there” was enough to satisfy many people’s curiosity of our mismatched and beautifully-created family.
Some will prod further and asked where in China we lived, to which until last month I would say, “A big city most people have never heard of, somewhere close to Shanghai.” (Which is like saying North Carolina is close to Florida!) Now, however, I just open my mouth and say,
You’d think I just said “Mars” the way most people have looked at me this month as I uttered that once heart-warming word. Because, for me, “Wuhan” is home, my China home. We lived there for two years and have gone back to visit whenever we can. But most people don’t know “my” Wuhan. They only know the HazMat suits and masked-faced crowds Wuhan. The hospitals-built-in-ten-days-and-teeming-with-people Wuhan. The “dirty”-wet-market Wuhan. And whatever-else-is-floating-around-on-social-media Wuhan.
Sometimes, I think advocating for adoption feels like trying to get your friends to climb Mt. Everest with you. You've summited the peak once before and you know it's worth it. But try telling that to your friends who can't see past the miles and miles of white-ness, freezing temperatures, and physical and mental exhaustion. You tell them, "Trust me, it's worth it. You don't want to miss this." But all you see is fear, fear, fear in there eyes. And understandable so, as you remember being paralyzingly scared yourself not too long ago. But each step was worth it. Each step, though painful and draining, brought you one step closer to something bigger and more beautiful than you could ever imagine.
So, how do you "get past" the big, bad Boogie Man, Mr. Fear. When I picture "fear," I somehow think of "Marshmallow" in the movie Frozen. (Let's blame that on the fact that I have a Frozen obsessed daughter who loves to sing "Let it goooooo!" as loudly and persistently as possible!) He's massive, volatile, and wants to keep you away from the very place you want to be. And, no matter what you throw at him, it seems like you can't demolish or shake him sometimes!
Happy Chinese New Year! Xin Nian Kuai Le!
Today is recognized as the "new year" in the lunar calendar and celebrated in many Asian countries, making it also known as "Lunar New Year." Although its origin is debated, this holiday has been celebrated for 3,000+ years and has many intricate traditions and festivities attached to it. It is a two week long celebration that ends with the Lantern Festival fourteen days later. Families sweep out the old year by cleaning the house and bring in the new year by purchasing new clothes and decorating with "fu" signs (see previous blog here). They come together and celebrate by eating round dumplings, signifying wealth and happiness, as well as light (or watch!) firecrackers and enjoy lion and dragon dances! There are endless ways to bring in the new year with fun and festivities!
As an adoptive parent to a child who's birth country is China, it can feel a little daunting to celebrate this special day in a way that honors our children's heritage. However, thanks to the internet and a little creativity, you can easy create a memorable celebration for your whole family!
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