I have a dream, more like a goal, of purpose. I’ve heard in movies the axiom that all men desire power, but I think for me it’s purpose-that I mean something to someone or something, that I can ‘leave my mark’. The past couple of years have been marked by me learning what does and doesn’t give me purpose.
I sat with our daughter tonight who is dealing with grief and who acts out by acting uncontrollably. She’s a beautiful gem of a girl who, like Neo in the Matrix, knows something is wrong and she can’t quite put her finger on it and so she is frightened almost daily. She grieves her difference. She grieves her story and she longs to be something other than what she is, so we sit.
We sit and wait.
For most kids they misbehave in a public place and we adults shake our head and either smile at the parent out of understanding or grimace out of the need to deal with a screaming kid while they search out which laptop to buy, and the kid either gets spanked, hit, yelled at or ‘controlled’ in some way, shape, or form.
For us, it’s different.
That, simply doesn’t work. The core lie is not ‘mom and dad don’t love me because I’m jacked up on sugar, want a toy, want to go to McDonalds or I just want to be a putz’. The core lie is one of firm and unyielding distrust. One that is ‘I’m different and I can’t trust adults’ that feeds into ‘I must be ugly because I’m different’ and that, dear friends, just simply can’t be spanked out of you.
So we wait.
The goal here is to physically combat that lie with comfort and with love and with a very imperfect, often faulty, patience. We do the exact opposite our children’s ‘Dark Rider’ wants (thanks Ryan McRae for the analogy). We hug and we sit and we comfort and wait – and so we hold our daughter gently, but firmly without letting her get out of our lap until she is calm.
Do you know what we get for this? Kicks. Spitting. Screams in our ears. And, generally, our batteries drain to zero and our own ‘Dark Riders’ emerge when we look at our other kids who have waited for our time or for our house that is a mess.
And then, there are nights like tonight.
My daughter and I sat playing iPad dress up games and because tastes change more often than gas prices the rule is no paid games, but free only. So, for her, it’s all dress up games. But, for my little brown princess, there are no dress up games with a brown Cinderella, there are 100 white Cinderella games, but no brown ones (unless you’re willing to pay). She cherishes Brandy’s performance of Cinderella on DVD that we watch far too frequently. So, the beautiful brown princess is ‘locked’ unless you’re willing to pay. So, she got upset and started to believe that she was ugly again and got scared and distrusting. A lot of my friends will understand what that means, but it’s time to drain our batteries while we. Wait. It. Out. And, kids, don’t wait up for us because we’ll be in her room, for a while.
So I sat in there.
“You’re a good girl”
“NO, I’M NOT”
“You’re a good girl and you’re beautiful”
“NO, I’M A BAD GIRL AND I’M UGLY!’
And then something happened. I saw myself sitting there. I explained to her about a God who pursues her, who brought her into a family and who loves her far more than she can imagine. I told her of how God even sings over her and that nothing she can do can change that. That God, himself, bled for her and has provided a home and a family who loved her and pursued her and that she was special.
But I saw myself there, did I say that? How many times I’ve seen myself this week and lately as unworthy or ugly or useless and I scream thinking truth can’t punch through my yells, or I spit in my distrust of the process and of my days that lately always seem to go bad. Or my core lie that I somehow don’t have purpose, that I’m, in fact, useless.
I push, and I complain and I get sad and yet I’m held by arms that are stronger than mine and that don’t relent and don’t sleep and are unwilling to let me go to my dark night by myself.
As I sat there and whispered truth in my daughter’s ears, I listened to it being whispered in mine.
“We pursued you”
“No matter how much you scream, no matter how much you kick or spit or hit, I’m not letting you go. You are mine. We chose you.”
“I’ve got all night. I’ll outlast your strength and meet it with my hug.”
So. If it’s my lot in life, my grand pursuit, my purpose, to sit in that room or with my kids and whisper truth in their ears nightly, I’m ok with that. I’ll wait.
So, I’m sure tomorrow I have moments where I’ll want to bounce someone’s head off the wall or I’ll yell because I’m tired or angry or even weep like we have so many nights this week after spending an hour putting people to bed. There will be moments were Melissa and I will extend common grace to each other to let us get out to be renewed.
But, nights like tonight I get a glimpse of my daughter graduating from college. I get a glimpse of my boys being men and I smile and I wait and we wipe the spit off our faces and nurse our bruises and we fight in the trenches with each other and each and every parent beating back the darkness in their back corners of their children’s hearts.
To preface my post, let me say that I really, really dislike preachy posts on blogs; most of the time they are not well written and they come from a point of the person saying “I understand and you need to as well. Be enlightened like I am”. I’m not that way, but if I get preachy, I’m sorry. It’s self referential for me so, well, you’re more than welcome to go to more entertaining posts or blogs .
The past couple of weeks have been weird for me, simply because things have been good so far. We’ve had our moments, we’re still struggling with family dynamics and getting used to being 5 and figuring out people getting upset at others getting preference. Everyone’s experienced it and it’s not uncommon. Last night was a night I felt like I slept and woke up rested versus just tired. I skipped running this morning (part heat, part knowing an extra hour of sleep would be beneficial). The last couple of days I’ve hit 4 p.m. feeling like I was able to sleep if I sit for any long period of time. We have been reminding ourselves that 2 weeks ago we were 8,000+ miles away and we went through an emotionally exhausting experience on gotcha day.
Gotcha day. Wow. That’s going to be one I’m going to remember from this trip for a while. I grabbed my point and shoot Nikon for gotcha day because it always feels weird observing it with a large, cumbersome SLR. In our case, in China, around a dozen other families were in the room with us when we were filling out paperwork.
I have an will always feel a reverence for seeing and being in that space because there were a dozen families that were changed forever – new families were being created before my eyes with paper, pen, gifts, and lots of tears. A dozen other stories (some in Europe, some in the US, some Australia and other places) were beginning that day and it felt like holy ground to walk on. Here I am sitting with my camera and trying to convince my new 5 year old son that we’re not that scary. Poor Melissa was strapped to a desk doing paperwork that would make Kafka blush. “Sign here. Write the number here. Print your name here”. At one point, I remember signing above Melissa’s name and it was enough at that point to make the overstressed manager of the room blow up at our guide.
Brendan, who was not one for crowds, and I went outside to just sit and I remember, borrowing from Russell Moore, talking to him saying in words he’ll one day read here that this wasn’t the end that even though this was familiar something better waited. It really helped me too because I remember lamenting taking him from the familiar even though he had a family and community ready to love him.
I also appreciated fighting through that day with Melissa. I’m not sure I can quite put adequate words to screen of how much I appreciate the opportunity to fight through that day together. It’s easy here in the day to day grind to neglect that aspect of our relationship. She’s beautiful and tenacious and being able to play to our strengths and fight together was valuable time. Even praying that night together and how much she cared for me to go get me water when we got back to the hotel and I was not feeling well and put herself in yet another uncomfortable situation was amazing to watch. I’m so thankful I married her.
There’s our community as well. It’s easy for me to idolize relationships and to idolize and depend on them for self worth, but at one point we asked on our blog to email us to let us know that there was still a world out there and we are thankful for those that prayed (because of all that we saw that night) and those that emailed us and we treasured those encouraging words that night as we sat in the hotel. Because of those prayers we saw we had a God who did not abandon us and we saw that we had a community that hadn’t forgotten we were there either.
In the end, I’m appreciative of the day. I think I’m completely sold out on orphan work for the opportunity to see new happen – new lives, new families, new…everything.
Now if I could only work through my feeling of inadequacy…well, that would be wonderful.
It’s thursday night here and we’re getting lucid; jet lag is brutal. Brendan is doing ok so far, but I’d bet it’s helpful that he had an afternoon nap that we just lengthened out to become his bedtime and his bedtime became his afternoon nap; in other words, he had two sleep periods during the day.
We’re also working through relational strife, but nothing so different than anyone that’s ever had a new kid in the family. We’re dealing with great relationships and awful ones where people are feeling left out because they aren’t the center of attention. The nice thing about much of the long hours of training we spent getting into the Hague adoption track is that nothing really catches us off guard, and at that, we feel like there is a great support system amongst our community when we deal with stuff.
Moving backwards, the ride home was long…real long. We left Guangzhou (forgive me if you’ve heard this story), with Tony our “D”river. He was awesome. Black driving gloves and everything. Tony took us out from the China Marriott and 2 hours south to Hong Kong. It’s a fun drive, albeit a bit lawless. People on the highway just drove – no rules – and it reflected in Tony. He was alert, on top of his game and apologized at one point when he had to break hard and sudden. Brendan wasn’t quite used to the ride in the car so he was all over the front seat and we were trying to get him to stay.
Shenzhen is kind of an economic DMZ between Hong Kong and the mainland. We drove through the Shenzhen special economic zone and eventually got to the boarder. I’ve never been to a tighter boarder before. We got met by military, shot with cool laser thermometers and waited in the space between boarders – about a 1 block long parking lot where cars from one gate waited to go through the Hong Kong entry point. We wondered as we sat there who took care of the black line in between areas. Once we got into Hong Kong on went the seat belts, and the speed went significantly down. I really liked Tony – he took his business seriously and was amazing to watch navigate traffic in Guangzhou and into Hong Kong; it was something to see.
Hong Kong? Amazing. Pretty. A crazy long flight from anywhere (14 hours to Detroit). It reminded me of all the photos we’d seen of Hawaii. Mountains ring the airport with very picturesque clouds surrounding them. Logistics prohibited us from making our way into downtown Hong Kong which is a shame because I really was looking forward to seeing Victoria Harbor up close. Still, the airport is amazing to walk around; a large scale mall mixed with a hotel and and a large, International airport. I tried really hard to catch the vibe of the airport with photos, but it reminded me a bit of Dubai. Walking down the aisles in any airport in the US and you see ‘Deluth’, ‘LA’, ‘Chicago’ and the like. Hong Kong offered ‘Vietnam’, ‘Seoul’, ‘Beijing’, ‘Sydney’ and weird places like ‘Detroit’.
It was a really long flight – 14 hours. We spent the time with some Athletes for University games in Shenzhen. Never heard of it, but apparently it’s big.
The thing that’s sticking out to me from the whole trip was gotcha day. It’s going to be one of those defining moments of my faith. I’m appreciative of trial and suffering when they are over and oddly I miss them and this is the case here. Seriously, in the dark night after we felt God’s presence tangibly. It’s hard to describe, but things turned after we reached out and you reached out to God in prayer. It seems too that all of Melissa and I’s watershed moments in our marriage happen in hotel rooms too and in that hotel, it was sacred space as we determined to endure and in that respect, it was lovely.
So. We’re a week into this thing and it’s got its challenges but I’m appreciative of the love we’ve been given and the opportunity to build our family this way.
Ok…it’s been a busy past couple of days. Wednesday, after breakfast, we made our way back Shamian Island to pick up a few other gifts for people that we needed. One of them was stamps for the three kids; specifically one for Brendan, but also for Aidan and Iona. In the culture they were used in lieu of official signatures: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seal_%28East_Asia%29 – typically with red ink and were made out of a hard material (like Jade).
Ok, so it was nap, packing, pool (one last time) and then off to dinner.
Today has been fun too. We were driven down from Guangzhou, through Shenzhen to Hong Kong. It’s a ride and we were driven by a Driver (and this guy was amazing to watch…he navigated traffic like nothing). In China, there aren’t any rules per say on the freeway according to our driver so it was a little more wild but once we crossed into Hong Kong, he started to drive like you would anywhere else. The crossing between mainland China and Hong Kong is interesting. It’s a large office like structure with ports for cars. Because we were in a private vehicle, the crossing went much quicker than it would in a bus; we just stayed in, they searched our car, took our temperatures and then off we went.
Hong Kong is really pretty; I feel like a broken record saying, but hey…it’s really pretty; pictures don’t quite do it justice. Large bridges span the gaps between the islands here and everything is pretty well built up.
If everything goes well, we’re going to make our way downtown just to have a look when everyone is done with naps – then tomorrow morning…early…we start our long flight back home.
Brendan is beginning to feel grief; the manager of the restaurant we were at spoke to him in Mandarin and he cried. We’re hoping that in the midst of our tiredness we can care for the needs of all three of our children and be warmly present with them.
When I have run half marathons, it’s always mile 11 that really gets me. Mile 6 requires patience, Mile 9 requires stamina but those last couple tend to be all mental. It’s keeping the finish line in sight and being encouraged by it, but also keeping your pace and making sure you’ve got the basics covered like remembering you’ve still got two more miles left….18 or so minutes…I’ve ran for 98 minutes so far…must run farther. It’s getting encouraged by the thoughts and smells of the finish line.
Our finish line will be at 8:40 p.m. CST (roughly) on Friday. We’re hoping you’re there. It would be great to see everyone at BMI within reason. A warning – Brendan is incredibly shy and will most likely not want to speak when we are there…but he may want to see his big brother and little sister who he has been chatting about constantly…(phonetically) ba ba…ma ma….guh guh…mei mei….mao….mao…
Today was big. Our final hurdles were crossed. It’s an amazing view of the US from the outside when you walk into a consulate or embassy overseas…it gives you perspective on what is important and what isn’t. After an early breakfast, we made our way with our guide to the consulate which was a floor in a very guarded building. It worked the same as last time…cross a few security checkpoints…get ushered into a room with a bank of teller windows and exchange documents. In this case, because we were under the Hague convention, we took an oath saying everything was above board. It was similar, but different to Ethiopia. After a few families walked up, we went up, answered a few questions and off we went.
Guangzhou is a stunningly beautiful city. There are thousands of apartment buildings here that just are everywhere. There’s a highly efficient use of space, it seems, in driving. I feel like in some cases, some apartments could just look out their back window onto a road on a bridge. It’s something to behold structurally – it’s like a tetris game only with city pieces and everything is aesthetically done. The weather here is BRUTAL, btw. Get out past 11 and it’s the 7th ring of hell, with humidity. There is no dry heat.
After the appointment, I ran an errand to a local photo place to finish getting Brendan’s film he came with developed. I’m appreciative of people who don’t have english in their grasp but can communicate quite well what they need to and the guy who ran the photo place did just that. We exchanged money for goods and neither of us spoke each other’s language; it was magical.
My favorite point of the day was something I’d looked forward to all last week in Zhengzhou when we were struggling with the mid point of our race. Many (maybe not all) of the travel groups we’d seen from AWAA took a group picture in this ubiquitous staircase in the lobby of the China Marriott. I’d seen it *countless* times and recognized it when we came in the door. Today was our turn and it was a great first finish line and a time to reflect on God’s goodness to us through this time. We’d gotten a chance to take the photo with people we’d come to be quite fond of.
There’s also a Lamborghini dealership across the street and the Evans family and I walked over to take some photos. Surprisingly it was locked though a guy was in there (Dan said it best: “You need to come into the place with a briefcase full of cash”). We did get some fun photos though.
Afternoons with a five year old are incredibly quiet. Lunch, sleep, play. That’s how it rolled today too. Play doh is the weapon of choice here. Brendan has been fanatic about the Play doh. Pre Dinner we made it to another park, though it was INSANELY crowded. It didn’t quite work out, especially getting cased by some people trying to figure out if we had a wallet to pick. *sigh*.
Most of the group was able to get together for one final meal at food street – a chinese place in the hotel. I’ve come to appreciate just how diverse China is for cultures, traditions and food – food street had something from every region and there were about 300 things on the menu.
So…here we are. Tomorrow we pick up our Visa and Thursday we drive to Hong Kong. Be in prayer for traffic; we’re leaving post-rush hour so we have a feeling we should do well, but you never know.
3 more US sleeps (3.5 China sleeps) until we are home. See you all soon.