Apr 19, 2014

Like Rain in the Desert

It seems fitting to me that it’s raining in the desert the night before Easter.

I can’t remember the last time it rained, and I’ve opened the windows wide in our house. Propped the back door open. I’m inhaling the scent of the air washed clean of all the dust it usually carries; listening to the quiet rumble of thunder. My babies are both asleep for now. It’s been a hard day, and I’m glad for the few minutes of stillness with this soundtrack of peace falling in heavy drops right outside the window. It is grace-for-the-moment, exactly what my heart needed to close out this day.

Alea doesn’t feel well… 17 months is a brutal age for anyone, I think. Caught between babyhood and toddler, your desire for independence far outstrips your communication skills or physical mobility. Throw in some teething (Seriously… the poor child seems to be cutting almost all of her teeth at the same time. She has gone from about 4-5 teeth to about 9 in the 3 weeks we have had her… with more on the way), an ear infection and fever, a total change in diet and schedule, and completely new routines, caregivers, and OhAbsolutelyEverything, and you have a recipe for disaster.

I’m amazed she smiles at all. As my sister-in-law said tonight, “If a grown-up went through what Alea has just gone through, they’d probably be thrown into a depression.” And for the most part, Alea is happy… or at least amused and distracted. But today she has really not felt well, and I’ve discovered in those moments when she is most distraught, most inconsolable, and most undone, that I am not the one she wants.

I’m not sure if she even knows the one she wants. She wasn’t held much when she cried in China, her nanny told me as much. (Who has time to hold crying babies when there are 30 cribs in a room?) But maybe she is mourning the loss of her nanny. Maybe it is her arms that she wants. Or maybe she just doesn’t know what to do with the intimacy of another person holding her when she is in pain. Sometimes as she’s crying and I cradle her, she arches away from me – pushing her body and her face… every bit of her being – to face in the other direction. So I set her down, thinking maybe she needs just a bit of space. But then her cry turns to a heartbreaking wail, as if she is saying “I know I said I don’t want you to hold me, but I can’t bear for you to walk away.”

And in those moments, I’ve come to realize I am in a fight for her heart. I need to woo her. To win her. To become her safe place in time of trouble. I need to teach her that she doesn’t have to be big and strong anymore. She can come snuggle in mama’s arms when her whole body aches. She doesn’t have to twist her head from side to side or pull on her hair to find peace. She can find shelter in my arms.

I know this is my purpose, my calling in this season of motherhood with Alea. Much like the endless nights I spent feeding and rocking Cora in the early weeks of life with her, this is the season of motherhood with Alea where I’m laying a foundation of trust, love, and responsiveness. It’s where the hard work of tilling the soil of her heart takes place… We knew coming into this journey that parenting a child who spent the first part of her life in an institution would look different – it is intense, it is therapeutic, and it is all-consuming. If Cora fussed a bit at 17 months, I knew we had the foundation of trust she needed for me to make a decision sometimes to just get dinner on the table, or to finish the project I was working on. But with Alea right now, she doesn’t have that foundation, so I am always on call. Part of wooing her and winning her heart is proving to her that when she needs something, we will be there to respond, and right now for Alea that mostly looks like being held for almost every waking hour of the day.

I don’t have it in me.

I’ll be honest, I don’t think of myself as an amazingly-gifted, well-equipped mama. (Does anyone? Don't answer that if you do.) I find myself saying a joyful Hallelujah most days at bedtime. I am distracted, easily bored with child’s play, and far too connected to the blasted-iPhone-in-my-hand-at-all-times. In my own estimation, I feel so far from the mama I believe my girls need, and yet I’m the one they have. Especially when it comes to Alea, I’m shocked that she is mine. I know the paperwork process of an adoption is overwhelming for some more than others, but to me it isn’t that bad, and I can’t tell you the number of times I pause and shake my head in wonder that with so little effort on our part, the Chinese authorities entrusted her to us… forever!

It’s a miracle like rain in the desert the night before Easter.

When we got our Travel Approval to pick up Alea, I made a little video to announce our big news. I’ve not been able to get the chorus of the background track out of my head for months, and tonight one line from it continues to echo in my head… “Let the rain wash away all the pain of yesterday.”

I’m so glad I don’t have to have it in me.

I’m so glad he comes in like a rainstorm in the desert… flashes of lightning and rolling thunder. Desert rain is slow and steady at times and torrential and powerful at others, just like his love for us. His love fills the cracks in the driest places and seemingly overnight something blooms in what seemed like dead ground. Sometimes it is just enough to pull the dust out of the air and everyone is thankful for the relief, but sometimes it is extravagantly, ridiculously, absurdly more than we could ask or imagine. Sometimes we have boats rowing down the main streets in our town and children splashing in puddles as deep as their knees. And sometimes his love overtakes us like that; it swallows us up and fills our dry cracks and gives us a reason to stand in the backyard staring straight up into the downpour with our arms stretched wide and our mouths open… dizzy from the kaleidoscope of heavy drops falling down on us, mixing with our tears of joy and sorrow and washing away all of the pain of yesterday.

I don’t even need to have it in me.

It’s been hard these last few weeks, and I have a feeling it is going to get even harder before it gets better. But I know that the God who sends a desert rain the night before we celebrate his resurrection is in the business of bringing life after death, and I am trusting him with this journey. He is going to do something new in Alea’s heart, and He is doing something new in mine too. He is breaking off the dead, tearing out the sorrow, finding the deepest hurts and wounds and putting his finger right on the place that feels the most raw… and though it hurts, he is pushing us together and we will heal as one. Our hearts are being stitched together. She is mine and I am hers and He is our Father who stitches together beautiful things out of our broken pieces.

I’m only thankful He is in me.

This Easter has found me doing more of the liturgy of the ordinary than anything focused on Holy Week. Laundry, rocking babies, snuggling with my big girl, calling doctors, washing dishes, making bottles. I’ve missed all the services our church offered in celebration of Easter – things I would have liked to have attended, as I’m someone who loves the ritual and celebration. If Alea isn’t feeling better in the morning, we probably won’t even make it to Easter services. But despite my lack of formal observance this year, I’ve found myself more thankful than ever for what this season means. It’s a dark week. The crowds roar “Hosanna” on Sunday and “Crucify Him” on Friday. It doesn’t seem possible that it could end well, and in the middle of the darkness and death and destruction it feels foolish to hope for new life. But as I hold my broken-hearted little girl, sensing more and more the depth of her woundings, I find myself emboldened by the unlikely promise of the Easter story. My Jesus is in the business of redemption and restoration. And he will not leave her like this. She may not wear the legal label of orphan anymore, but he isn’t going to leave her with an orphan spirit either. Those angry and snarled roots of darkness and death and destruction will be removed by the one who makes dead things alive, and they will not hold her back from the LIFE he wants her to have. I don’t know how we will get to that place of healing – it may be quite the journey – but I have the utmost confidence and peace that we will get there together.

He rains in the desert and in the desert of our hearts. He fills the broken places and the cracks in the ground and our cups to overflowing. He will give me all that I need to be a mama to my girls, and He gives me every reason to foolishly believe in his plan for redemption of each of our stories. Easter is a promise of new life, so it is fitting that it is raining in the desert the night before Easter. I can hardly wait to see all that grows.

Photo Credit -- The incredible duo of Sandy Puc and her son Nic photographed our group of families the day we met our children.  These pictures were taken in the first few minutes after we met Alea.

Apr 11, 2014

Lean In

Lean in baby girl.  Snuggle close.  Here let me help you find your fingers in the dark; I know they comfort you in a way I cannot yet.  It’s ok.  We’re on this journey together, and we’ll get there together.  I’m learning you, and as I see my reflection in your dark eyes – studying me with the same intensity I saw in the very first photo I ever glimpsed of you – I know you’re learning me too.    

It’s hard to believe three weeks ago, we hadn’t met.  You’ve been a part of my heart for so long, it just feels right to finally have you in my arms.  You feel familiar, even in the all the newness.  And it’s surprising me how quickly you’ve become mine.  I think I’d know the sound of your sleeping breath in the dark now.  As I write this, I can picture the tiny little dimple that magically appears on your left cheek when you smile wide.  I know your smell and the way your forehead feels when you press it against my lips for a kiss.  I’m starting to know the difference between your “I’m fussy” cry and the “I’m hurt/scared cry,” and I’m starting to know what might make you happy if you need a pick-me-up (outside, bath, bottle, rice crackers, other food, or graham crackers.  Did I mention crackers?)  We’re learning each other.  It will take time for both of us, but you’re mine and I’m yours, and I’m thankful baby girl.
These early days haven’t been easy.  I’m not going to sugar-coat anything because someday you may want to know as many details of our journey to each other as I can remember.  (And since this is a blog, other people considering the same journey and reading this may need honesty rather than frivolity.)  But as I have kept saying to your daddy, it could be so much harder.  You’ve taken to us so well already… the first few days, you seemed so “flat.”  We didn’t hear you cry for at least 3 days.  But then the fussiness started.  I think perhaps you realized you finally had a voice, and you’ve been practicing using it.  We’ve done our best to respond – to show you that you’re precious and that your voice matters.  But mama’s tired, sweet girl, and I find myself looking forward to the days when your smiles outweigh your whimpers.  I know they’re ahead.  I see glimmers of joy in you already.  It’s there… it just needs more time to take root.  And that’s OK.  Take your time, sweet girl.  We have all the time we need. 
But the rapid swing from flat to fussy means only good things to me… it means you’re learning we’re your people and that we care about you.  I see evidence of that even in your moments of joy.  You reach to be held by us if someone else has picked you up.  You smile wide when your daddy walks in the door after work.  You reach out in the dark while you’re sleeping, and if you feel me there, you settle back into dreamland.   So while the fussiness might be taxing, I know it means your heart is being knitted to ours. 

The trip home was brutal… but again, it could have been so much harder.  You and Cora slept on and off for much of the long flight home.  We had a pretty long layover in Houston where we saw some friends and family… and then after too much drama and thanks to an angel-in-disguise ticket agent (and probably a few of mama’s tears), we snagged the last seats on the last flight home after ours was canceled.  We got home at midnight and promptly bathed everyone and crashed for a solid 7-8 hours.  The first night home always makes weary travelers think jetlag won’t be a problem.  The next 4-5 days laugh at them.  We’re still in jetlag fog, but even in that, we’ve managed to get out of the house for ice cream, the park, Target, and a Bible Study, where you sat on my lap while I had grown-up conversation with my tribe.  I had big plans to never leave the house with you, but you seem happiest when you are on the go.  The world is so BIG, and you seem to know there’s much to be seen.   Evening is the hardest… you fuss and whine from about 4pm till we put you to bed, and the last two nights you’ve woken every 30-45 minutes until midnight or 2:00 am, and then you finally and solidly crash for the rest of the night till about 7. 

I’ve decided the best way to get through this is to accept the fact that I have a newborn.  You may be 17 months, but you’ve been in our family for less than 3 weeks.  So emotionally, I have a 3 week old.  When I treat you like I would a 3 week old, and set my expectations accordingly, we all have a lot of peace.  And the thing about newborns is they don’t stay that way forever… so I know this will only get easier with time.  And like I said, baby girl, we have all the time we need.

Our social worker visited today for our first post-placement visit.  She offered nothing but encouragement and said she sees only good signs in your adjustment, attachment, and physical condition.  We have your first pediatrician appointment next week.  I know they’ll say you are a petite little bug, so I’m probably going to have you wear your “Though she be but little, she is fierce” t-shirt.  Shakespeare had you in mind when he wrote that.   We know you have some catching-up to do, but so far we see nothing but determination and feistiness, so we’re excited to see who you will become in the next six months.

So lean in baby girl… I’m your mama and you’re my girl.  You aren’t alone anymore.  You aren’t fighting by yourself.  You have a daddy who knows just how you like to play, a sister who can make you smile, and a whole family and community who loves you like crazy.  Snuggle close and take a deep breath.  You can rest now. 

Mar 14, 2014

Last Day

The house is quiet.  LeLe is sprawled on the guest bed behind me, sighing as she stretches and wakes up, pleased that she has the entire bed to herself.  I hear Cora's sound machine, but her room is quiet and dark otherwise... we've been keeping her up later and later each night to help with the jetlag, so she may not wake for another hour or more.  Our bags are mostly packed.  A few more things in, a few things out, and they will be ready for the final zip. And just like that, here we are: Our last day home.

The day before we leave for China.  My last day in our own home as a stay-at-home mama of my feisty and sweet little girl. 

Read the rest at the Scarlet Threads blog...

(I hope/plan to blog while we are in China on our journey to adopt Alea, and those posts will be on the Scarlet Threads blog.  So if you want to follow-along with us on this journey, please check in there!)

Feb 16, 2014

Crystal-Clear Mystery

The wait feels a bit like it might never end right now… sort of how I felt when I was 9 months pregnant with Cora and I thought maybe… just maybe… I was doomed to be the first woman in the history of the world who was permanently pregnant. (She came two weeks late.)

Pregnancy wasn’t my friend, but at least Cora was snuggled up safely inside of me.

This is so very different. In some ways I feel very detached; like this all might be a dream and I will wake up and find out that we don’t have another daughter waiting on the other side of the world. It’s all so intangible at this point. We haven’t yet installed her car seat, and we haven’t yet set up her co-sleeper. I have begun buying clothing for her, but it’s hard when we aren’t sure exactly what size she is. And then there’s the part of my heart that doesn’t want to accept the fact that the measurements they’ve given me could possibly be true. Our sweet 15 month old daughter weighs what Cora did at 6 months old. I don’t even want to look at a growth chart…

If all continues to go as planned, we might find ourselves on an airplane in about a month... but with no firm dates, it's still very much up in the air. There's so much I could be doing to prepare, but tonight when my little family went to bed early and I was left to my thoughts, they turned towards her. I want to know everything I possibly can about Alea, and I thought about what I had not yet explored. My eyes perused her paperwork once again and settled on the sentence that describes where she was found. With the help of a friend in China (via an amazing little app called WeChat that allows me to text my Chinese friends), we clarified the confusing translation and I located the place on Google Earth within about 20 minutes.

And just like that, I see the place she was found in grainy clarity.

Technology is a strange thing.  So close and yet so far away...  As I look at that photograph, I know that somewhere in this little section of earth, my darling little girl was left to be found.  A crystal-clear mystery.  Her heart-breaking reality.

It didn’t take much more effort to discover actual pictures of the location. I saved those to share with Alea someday in case we aren’t able to visit the spot.

I don’t have much to say about this. Mostly just questions… why this place? Does her family live in the area? Could we someday find them? Where exactly was she placed? How long did she wait before she was discovered? Did someone who loves her watch from a safe distance to make sure she was discovered? Do they still wonder what became of her?

I don't have much to say… Mostly just an aching sadness and growing sense that I need to get my little girl home.


Please pray with us that our paperwork is processed as expected and we can be on that airplane next month.  Just think, this might be Alea's last month as an orphan.

Jan 30, 2014

Soon, Darling, Soon

Darling Alea,

It was a quiet and simple day at home… it won’t be long until you are here, too. Soon, darling, soon.

Your sister is singing herself to sleep in the room right next door. We’ve had a busy day of enjoying tea parties with her ‘lemon-lem’ (lemon flavored seltzer water) and sharing fruit snacks… we’ve also watched a few too many episodes of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, but when you’re recovering from a stomach virus, sometimes you need to veg on the couch. That’s a life lesson your mama will teach you.

We’ve had a rough few weeks of colds, stomach viruses, and I-can’t-wait-till-Spring ailments. You’re never far from my mind when your sister is sick. I know what it’s like in an orphanage when sickness is spreading and there aren’t enough arms to hold and hands to comfort… I ache to be there for you, and I pray you haven’t been sick very often this winter… it hurts my heart to think of you not getting a mama’s arms wrapped around you when your forehead is clammy with fever or your stomach is heaving. Soon, darling, soon.

It’s Chinese New Year’s Eve over here tonight… I had messages from Chinese friends wishing me Xin Nian Kuai Le in the early afternoon, just as the party was at its height on your side of the ocean. We’re planning to make jiaozi and baozi this weekend. I’m sure you fell asleep to the sound of firecrackers last night... we won’t have any of those here this time of year, but I can’t wait to take you to see the fireworks after the summertime baseball games at the stadium down the road! Chinese New Year is such an important holiday in your homeland… it’s all about family, but it sank in today that even though this is your second New Year, you’ve likely never experienced it for what it should be. Because as a child growing up in an orphanage, it’s as if you are part of a separate culture… orphan culture. One where every day looks the same and nothing extraordinary marks the changing of the seasons. It’s a holiday all about family, and this is the last time you’ll celebrate it without one. Soon, darling, soon.

We had lunch with some friends yesterday. Between bites of her salad, my friend looked me straight in the eyes and cut straight to my heart. “I have a word for you, Carrie,” she said. “Don’t let your fear steal your joy.” I confess that I have been guilty of succumbing to joy-stealing-fear for the last few months.. really since I've known who you were.  (Please know it has nothing to do with YOU... it's just before I had a face, it was easy to not think too much about these sorts of things.)  Whether it’s about how you and your sister will get along or how you will sleep or if you’ll be able to find any comfort in me or… I could go on and on, but it doesn’t matter. The truth is, I’ve let myself wander too deeply into those fearful waters on more than one occasion. But the answer to it lies in your very name, Alea Hope. Rising Hope. HOPE.

A few weeks ago at church, we said a corporate prayer of confession, and the lines rang truer than my soul could bear. “Oh Holy One… Sometimes fear makes us small, and we miss the chance to speak from your strength. Sometimes doubt invades our hopefulness, and we degrade your wisdom… Help us to see you in the moment-by-moment possibilities to live honestly, to act courageously, and to speak from your wisdom.” I have pondered those words these last two weeks, and I’m reminded that HOPE is a powerful thing. It’s a thing with feathers, as Dickenson said. And when we hold onto hope, our souls take flight. Hope can’t help but rise. And so now when doubt and fear sink into my heart, I turn my face towards Him. I am weak, but He is strong. His strength is made perfect in my weakness. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. He will bring this good work to completion. The words come easy when my face is turned up towards Him, and the Truth in each one is like a helium balloon to my heart. It lifts and inspires and encourages and lets joy and anticipation take its rightful place. Hope Rises.

Soon, darling, soon, I will be your mama and we will begin a journey that will take us both places we cannot imagine. You will be terrified and so will I. We both bring our woundings and our stories and our histories in our baggage as we start out on this new path together, but the beauty in this journey is that we aren’t responsible for carrying all of that. We have a Father who does that for us, and as He shoulders our burdens, every single day He is faithful to give us the wisdom and the grace and the tender mercy to get through the trials of that day. He is manna. (That's another life lesson your mama will teach you.)  None among us are untouched by evil, and though it breaks my heart that tragedy rocked your world at the tender age of 10 days old, I have no doubt that His hand is already working for redemption and restoration and fulfillment of destiny in your life, and I know somehow He will use me in that plan.  And while I can’t imagine what it might look like yet, I have no doubt that He will use you as an instrument of redemption and restoration and fulfillment of destiny in my own life, just as he is using your big sister. He is the one who makes our paths straight; we need only keep our eyes on Him. “Holy God, in the daily round from sunrise to sunset, remind us again of your holy presence hovering near us and in us.”

Soon, darling, soon, our journey together begins.  And when it does, His presence will be thick and hovering and covering each of us and all of our fears and inadequacies.

Soon, darling, soon, our journey together begins. And my heart soars at the very thought of it.

Love, Mama

O Holy One, we call to you and name you as eternal, ever-present, and boundless in love. Yet there are times, O God, when we fail to recognize you in the dailyness of our lives. Sometimes shame clenches tightly around our hearts, and we hide our true feelings. Sometimes fear makes us small, and we miss the chance to speak from your strength. Sometimes doubt invades our hopefulness, and we degrade your wisdom.  
Holy God, in the daily round from sunrise to sunset, remind us again of your holy presence hovering near us and in us. Free us from shame and self-doubt. Help us to see you in the moment-by-moment possibilities to live honestly, to act courageously, and to speak from your wisdom.

Jan 7, 2014

Here We Go

You are my firecracker and my sweet-as-cotton-candy love. I’m crazy about you. You are my favorite three year old, though I can hardly believe that it’s true. Your birthday was Sunday.  Where did three years go? You are brave and strong and you love fiercely. When you hug, it is never half-hearted. It is teeth-clenched, arms tight, hard-as-you-can-possibly-squeeze intense, as if the best way to show someone you love them is to really make them feel it. I think you’re probably right.

You love to cuddle and snuggle and wear your “comfy cozy jammies.” You’re smart as a whip and regularly surprise us with your ability to creatively solve your problems… recently you (the girl who loves to do everything herself) began asking us to come to the bathroom with you so that you can “hold onto our legs.” When we asked you why, you matter-of-factly announced it was so you wouldn’t have to touch the toilet and therefore not have to wash your hands. (You don’t want to slow down long enough to wash your hands, and I’ve told you in the past that you must do so after using the bathroom and touching the germy toilet.) We laughed at your problem-solving. You love your puppy, LeLe, and regularly tell her that she’s a good dog. Except when she isn’t, and then you like to point out her foibles. It won’t be long till you take the same approach to us. Your descriptor-of-choice for people lucky enough to be in your good favor is “girl.” Those who aren’t are all “boys.” Regardless of a person’s actual gender, I might add. The other day after your daddy did something that particularly pleased you, you happily sighed and told me, “I love my daddy, mama. He’s not a boy anymore.” It’s nice to know you have a concept of grace.

You sing with joy, and your favorite song – on repeat in the car for weeks now – is Ten Thousand Reasons by Matt Redman. You know all the words, and when the tempo picks up in preparation for the chorus you grin and shout, “Here we go mama!” I can’t help but shout the same thing in my heart. Yes, sweetheart, here we go.

It seems like yesterday we were driving down the bumpy back roads late at night from Qingyundian into Beijing. I was so worried we’d get caught in traffic on the way to the hospital… I could see the spectacle in my mind: American women in full-blown labor on a crowded Beijing subway. Some adventures don’t seem worth having. But you told us you were coming in the evening, and we made it to the hospital in about an hour. Our doctor, Amber Chen, was waiting as I came off the elevator. The evening passed in a blur… fitful bits of sleep and worried doctors and talk of dropping heart rates and meconium and the “baby must come now or we will do an emergency c-section.” I was fretful and tired and unsure how it would all work out, and just like that, there you were. “It’s a girl!” Dr. Chen announced. “Are you sure?” I asked. She was. And so I became a mama right there – laying on a hard bed one cold winter morning in downtown Beijing. Here we go.

And we’ve been on a journey, ever since, sweet girl. In some ways, you saved me from myself as we moved back to America. You kept me grounded as I processed the magnitude of leaving China and coming home… a far harder transition than moving there ever was. In those days of uncertainty, you gave me purpose. I found a quiet joy in watching you thrive, after years of being around little ones who weren’t. Parenting is such a challenging journey – partially because just as soon as you get used to one phase, it’s time for something new. But I’ve loved the journey with you, and while I’m particularly enjoying this season where I can have actual conversations with you and hear what you are thinking or feeling, what I wouldn’t give for just one more middle-of-the-night feeding. Our journey is changing sweet girl. You don’t understand, but it’s another one of those seasons where my heart hears the change in the music. Here we go, sweet girl!

You are about to be a big sister. I’m terrified you will hate it but convinced that you’ll love it. I have no doubt you’ll be good at the big sister gig, as long as your little allows you a bit of that “big sister” bossing privilege. But I know it is going to be hard for you. Sharing your toys, your room, your mama, and your daddy. Sharing your puppy and your whole little world. In my heart-of-hearts, I think you will be huge part of showing Alea the way of being in a family. You’ll take her by the hand and wrap her up in your love. You’ll take all that brave, strong, fierce love and you’ll learn what it means to love a sister. Sometimes it might feel like iron sharpening iron, but I believe the two of you will call out all that is best in each other.

Even if you don’t fully understand, I think you know in the deepest part of your heart something is happening. You look at the painting on our wall and tell me you want to ride an airplane to China. You point at the little black-haired-beauty holding your hand in the painting and tell me, “Let’s go get my friend.” My heart swells because you don’t even know what you’re saying, but it is true. We’re going to China again... the land where I first became a mama and you became a daughter. Our feet will hit that soil in just a few months, and our family will go through yet another massive transition. You will become a sister on the same ground where we became a family. Just like your birth, it might hurt and take our breath away sometimes, sweet girl. It’s OK to be scared and uncertain and wondering what the future will hold and how it will all turn out. I am, too. But one thing I know, we are on this journey together.

The music is changing; a new song is coming, and it’s almost time… Here we go, darling.

Here. We. Go.

Jan 2, 2014

Third Trimester

It’s the third trimester, and she’s taking up more space in my heart.

Like any mama-to-be, I’ve started cleaning out closets… clearing the clutter and half-broken toys and when-did-I-ever-think-I-would-use-that-again stuff of life. I’m making room, clearing schedules, excusing myself from commitments, slowing down. I want her to come home to a peaceful nest. We’re preparing as best as we can… watching hours of Dr. Karyn Purvis and talking to insurance companies and looking at car seats. There are signs of Alea everywhere; maybe not in my swelling body, but in our home. Breakables are being moved up a few shelves and her photo greets guests in our entryway. She’s quite literally painted into our family.

Our agency has started sending e-mails about travel. I can’t believe we are already here. We started this adoption 8 months ago. We thought it would take 2 years. Everything seems to be in fast-forward, and I haven’t even begun to catch my breath. They say we could travel as early as March. I might be in China getting my girl for my birthday. What a gift.

Just like the third trimester, I spend part of each night awake. It’s as if the thoughts catch up with me in the nighttime. I’m going to have two daughters! How wonderful. How terrifying. Can I be who they both need me to be? Is there room in my heart for more love? Is there enough of me to go around? I’m thankful for my community of mamas… women who I watch mothering their little flocks with amazing grace and unending love. I see the way before me even if I don’t yet know the feel of the path under my feet. When I stop to think about the fact that in just a few more weeks we will have another child, I’m amazed. And I’m finding that the fear I feel is slowly being replaced with a deep trust that He is walking this path before us and will meet our every need.

These last couple of weeks, our little family has been passing around a nasty head/chest cold. We’ve all had it, and I spent at least two nights sleeping with Cora as she coughed her way through the night. As I held her, I thought of Alea… I know what winters in orphanages are like. Sickness abounds and no one is immune. But there are no mamas to cuddle; not enough hands to go around. It was a quiet little ache that settled deep in my heart—I couldn’t be there to comfort her. I didn’t say anything to anyone about it, but I couldn’t shake the sadness and I prayed for her to be well and be comforted if she felt ill. Two days ago I got a letter from a friend who had recently visited her orphanage and was able to see Alea for a few minutes and talk to her caregivers. His e-mail was only a few sentences long, but one line said all I needed to know. “Good news is she was good in this month. Lots of kids had a cold, but she is fine.”

God is so kind. He heard the prayers of my heart and answered them in an e-mail from a friend. Deep peace settled in my heart, and I was reminded that this journey we’re on is in His able hands and that all the things we might face in 2014 will be encountered under the umbrella of His grace and mercy and provision and love. We may feel woefully inadequate for the road ahead, but He is our strength when we are weak. He is in us and He is sufficient, and therefore so are we.



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