I can't believe I'm typing that. In 4 days, I will be somewhere over the Pacific... daughter (hopefully) sleeping in my arms.
We are going back to China.
I'm excited and terrified all at the same time. The terror has everything to do with taking my almost 2-year-old daughter to the other side of the world, and dealing with jetlag and all that loveliness, not to mention the travel time itself with an almost-two-year-old on my lap.
But I'm so excited...
Excited to see friends.
To hold babies.
To play ring-around-the-rosie with a ragtag group of toddlers.
To chat with the nannies and listen to them tell me I'm too skinny.
To see my daughter sitting at the preschool table with all her little brothers and sisters of the heart... a dream I've had in my mind's eye since before I ever knew my daughter's face.
To see her blonde hair in a sea of black. (Prayers for patience and grace, please, on our behalf as we deal with countless people wanting to touch her hair.)
To sit around a steaming plate of jiaozi at the restaurant just across the bridge.
To just eat, really.
To see our ayi and see her face when she sees how big Cora is.
To hug Alison and Wendong and Jerry and Jessica.
To travel with my sister-in-law and get to know her even better.
To eat bags of fresh mandarin oranges, the little tiny ones... the kind you can only get in a can here.
To walk the aisles of the fabric market.
To stay up late talking with my best friend from high school, who is coming with her little girls from Indonesia.
To walk into the village with Ricky.
To hold my friend Grace's new baby - or to rub her pregnant belly... whichever the case may be.
To hear Chinese all around me.
To work on new products with Deng Jia and meet her granddaughter.
It's all too much for me, almost... my anticipation, my fear... to be honest, I've been so preoccupied with the ever-present question How Will Cora Do? that I've failed to really think about the trip. It's like all I can picture is 10 days with a disoriented and exhausted daughter. Fun stuff. But every now and then I stop and really think about it.
Back in my pre-living-in-China days, I anticipated my "foreign mission trips" with such utter excitement that I could hardly see straight. I would wonder how the trip would "change me" for weeks before I left, and to be honest it was rarely in ways that I could anticipate. But this is different. (Now my whole opinion on "mission trips" has substantially changed... but that's a whole 'nother post.)
But this feels more like going home. And I'm glad for that. I'm glad there isn't a big agenda or some impact I plan to have while there. (And that's partially because I know now that the impact we have is usually quite paltry in comparison to the impact made on us, but mostly just because it feels like going home... and you don't think about "your impact" when you're going home to see your family.) So all that to say, this trip feels very different than trips I've made in the past.
Which leaves me really wondering what it will actually be like. What's it going to feel like snuggling a little orphan baby now that I'm a mama? (I don't count my one month with them after Cora was born and before we came home; I was too disoriented and confused to know what I felt about anything at that time.) What's it going to feel like having my little girl in a land where there are no car seats and you can't drink the water? (Stuff like that never bothered me before, but now I'm a mama and we mamas, well, we like to worry.) Now that I have a cozy and comfortable little life here in America, what's it going to feel like to be back in the raw and gritty world of rural China? Will the heat be on when we get there?
Sometimes when people hear I'm taking Cora back with me, eyes widen and jaws drop. And believe me, I've thought about all the ways this could be a bad idea. It's what I dwell on 90% of the time. So why do it? The surface reason is that I can't be away from her for that long yet... period. End of discussion. (And that if my friends couldn't see her again, they might not consider me a friend anymore.)
But the deeper reason is that I want her to grow up never remembering a time that she didn't know what it was like to have a heart stretched by the things that really matter. Not that she's gotta be my mini me and share all the same passions... but I want playing on the playground with a little girl who doesn't have a mama to be something she's known from her earliest day. I want her to feel comfortable diving into a plate of food she can't name even if the surroundings would raise some eyebrows at the health department. I want being in a sea of people who don't look or sound like her to feel natural to her. I want her to know that just because we are separated by an ocean, and a million smaller things, these people are no less her brothers and sisters... that they deserve her respect, her honor, her compassion, her friendship, her love.
Even though it is unspeakably hard sometimes, I want her to always know what it is like to love two worlds.
(Please note: This is my idealistic pre-trip post. Please pray that this is exactly what it turns out to be. But be prepared for a post-trip "I will never do that again/what was I thinking" post.)