Sunday, May 13, 2018

Yuán Fèn

Yuán Fèn: fate

When Derek was in country this last time adopting Judah, one of his guides explained the circumstances of his own birth, and how it was determined to be yuán fèn for him to be born. He explained that's why he loves what he does as a guide helping adoptive families, and that many people view the adoption of these children as yuán fèn/fate--or for a more accurate translation predestined by a supernatural power.

Now, I've asked a of couple people in order to fact check if yuán fèn is ever associated with adoption, and I've received mixed reviews. However, I can at least confirm that culturally, it's incredibly important. Fate is not a word we as Christians necessarily believe in, but predestined? That's a word we're familiar with. While the culture in our sons' country of birth does not acknowledge the Biblical meaning of the word predestination, it's an easy jump for us to accept that our sons were predestined to be ours by God, orchestrated before we could even begin to imagine.

We know a time is coming soon when we'll have to explain in a way for Jet and Jude to understand why they don't live with their China moms, also called their first families, meaning the families they were born to. Jet is already starting to make assumptions based on what he knows so far: he and Jude were born in China; therefore, babies come from China. We know the grieving and mourning and confusion that may, or most likely will, occur when they realize what adoption means. And we will never, ever take for granted the gift, the honor, of raising these two boys, and any more that come after, for however long God ordains.

When the time comes that they want or need to know their full stories, we will be ready to explain it to them. We do realize it's a bit of a stretch, using a word, a concept, that's culturally associated with fate and luck to explain they're exactly where God wants them to be; but what an amazing tool we have been given, to not only use this to explain their own adoptions, but also to use is to explain the mystery of the Gospel!

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. --Romans 8:29-30

We don't know why we were chosen to be, or why these boys were chosen to call us Mom and Dad...but they were. We don't know why God chose us while we were yet sinners (Rom. 5: 6-8) to be justified, to be sanctified, and to be one day glorified as children of God. It's one of the greatest mysteries and, dare I say, most contested parts of the Bible, but it's something we believe with every fiber of our beings and are thankful for everyday--and praying for the days that Jet and Jude understand that they too can become children of God.

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. --John 1:12-13

Years before we even discussed adoption, I knew in my heart it was something I wanted to do-and thankfully Derek did too. For whatever reason, we never really pictured our own biological children or pursued it in depth. In my naivety, I may not have understood fully the concept of adoption until I read into these verses. We've done nothing for God to have chosen us as his sons and daughters, but praise God, we can call him Father because of His sacrificial love for us.

These boys are not biologically mine or Derek's, but through yuán fèn, fate, predestination...they are our children.

And they call me Mom.

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

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

First Birthday

Today we celebrated Judah's 3rd birthday, and his first birthday with us. I'd love to hear some of your birthday traditions, because every family is different and I know some families have some pretty cool ones. In our house, we get birthday breakfast cookies from Trefzger's (or birthday cake pops from Starbucks if that's what's requested instead), and try to spend the day doing things the birthday person would like. No one here lasts long enough to wait until after dinner for birthday cake, so after Derek gets home from work we open gifts and eat dinner sized portions of said cake. That probably isn't the smartest idea for our now officially two three year old boys, but they weren't complaining.

But as many adoptive parents know, birthdays can have hard parts mixed in with the fun. A conglomeration of emotions that as parents have us swinging from high to low all day long, leaving us knowing that someday all the questions circling in our minds now our kids will ask as they come to understand what "adopted" means. Since we're all about keeping things even here, I know I wrote a letter to Jordan on his second birthday and first with us, and I'll also share what I wrote for Judah, too. 

Dear Judah, 

Today was your very first birthday with us. You've been an official member of our family for only 58 days, home for less, and yet in that short time you've come so far. When you first got home, you clung like an octopus to us any time we took you out of the house, and, while those moments still occur when you're in an unfamiliar space, you now are comfortable enough to push our hand away and run ahead sometimes, trusting that we will follow you, and we will. The glimpses of personality you showed on your Family Day are now completely you. We love your righteous sense of justice and strong will. You may just be the silliest one in the family, but your compassion and affection for others is the most special thing about you. (Personally, I also appreciate your incredible neatness, and how you keep us all in check if we leave something out of place. Our house has never been cleaner.) You continually surprise us with your accomplishments; you don't let your difference stand in your way. 

We watched you today as you carefully opened each present, and they weren't much: a board book, a picture book, a puzzle, and a shapes game, but to you? They were precious. Each scrap of wrapping paper was carefully handed to me before you moved on to the next, and you were in awe of each and every gift. Amazed at the things that are now only yours, just Judah's. It's hard right now, because there are probably so many things you want to tell us and we don't understand, but I think, or hope, that we got your special day right for you. 

When I went to post pictures, I used a hashtag #wecouldhavemissedthis. (If you read this someday and don't know what a hashtag is, you can make fun of us for our archaic social media skills. Obviously your mom still blogs like it's 2007.) It's a somewhat overused and cliche saying by adoptive parents that means we could have missed out on days like today, eating cake pops and picking dandelions and birthday celebrations, if we hadn't adopted you. Except, it's so very true. We could have missed this. We could have missed you. 

But it makes us remember that there are still things missed, or people missing them. We missed most of the first three years of your life. Were you a happy baby, or a stubborn one? Big or little? When did you take your first steps? Did anyone hold you when you cried? What was your favorite toy? Who was your favorite person? Have you had a birthday party before? Is this your actual birth date? We can fill in some of the blanks thanks to pictures, some of the other parents who adopted your friends that were like brothers, and the updates we got periodically...but nothing is definite, and some things we will never know. These are the questions we expect you'll ask us as you get older, and we'll all have to understand that "we don't know" is the answer. You don't have to be okay with not knowing, because sometimes we aren't either. 

The biggest question though isn't really a question. Your dad and I can say "we could have missed this", which is very true, but there are two people who really are missing this. Missing every silly dance and cheesy grin, your little strut when you know you're right about something, your scraped knees (you've got some good ones on) and elbows and somehow your foot too, sicky snuggles, and all your extra hugs and kisses every night. Yesterday, when I went to leave your room before nap and close the door, you softly called out "love you" before I could, shocking me silent for a moment. After I shut the door I was so torn, wishing to share that moment with your China mom, yet selfishly thankful I got to experience it, but overall sad for all you've lost. 

Adoption comes from brokenness, and it leaves so many holes and questions and scars and wounds. We don't have the answers; we'll do our very best to fill in all the missing pieces and support you in every way if and when you want to find more. We'll love your scars, and as new sore spots or wounds open up we'll do our best to heal those too. 

The most important thing though we want you to know is that yes, we could have missed you...but we didn't. You, Judah Lev, are living proof of God's plan even if sometimes you don't feel like it. Sometimes, when I don't understand why something happened, or why things have to be a certain way, I repeat over and over to myself "God is God, and I am not" until I know in my head and my heart that God is in control, He has the answers, and I don't and/or won't, but I can go to Him for comfort. Maybe to some people that's not enough, but we hope and pray that will be enough for you when you have those moments too. You are so very capable, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. 

Happy 3rd, Judah. We love you. 

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Hints of Spring

This really has been the never ending winter, hasn't it? I'm not a winter girl (I ask Derek to look for warmer climate jobs every December); and sorry, I can take or leave a PSL and apple picking in the fall isn't my thing either. I do love a long summer, but by far, spring is my favorite season. Everything is fresh and new and clean and smells pretty and green and alive. I start bugging Derek about seeing buds on trees, "Did you see?? I think the tree across the street has buds on it." And he humors me, because one 40 degree day in February does not a budding tree make, "yeah, I'm sure it won't be long now." I need those hints of spring to remind myself that yes, winter does end.

I noticed yesterday our little flowering bush that we planted seven or eight years ago has leaves and buds on it, even though it's been snowed on more times than we thought it would survive, and for sure I didn't think it would survive this long winter. Our neighbor has the same one, and every year, hers blooms much sooner and longer than ours does. Here it is though, the little shrub that could. It's finally getting ready to show us its pretty purple flowers.

After what seemed like the longest winter possible, both of our boys are home napping and I'm sitting on the couch with the windows open and listening to the birds and enjoying the peace and the quiet and the fresh air before reality sets in again. I'm soaking in the hints of our actual, physical spring to remind myself that our family's spring is coming. 

Because how we're feeling right now? It's like we're in some never ending winter season. 

Hi. It's been awhile. We're still here. We're still in the thick of it.

Sometimes, we feel like we've been in the thick of it for almost two years. After all, it's been almost two years since we brought Jet home, and how quickly we forget how unprepared and inexperienced and scared we were during those first months that seem like just one long blur until his discharge after his heart surgery. It wasn't what we expected, and of course it wasn't what we wanted, but God had other plans.

Feeling pretty confident, we barely waited a day after Jet was cleared after his surgery before we full speed ahead hopped right back into our adoption plan again...expecting a longer wait before being matched again...but God had other plans. 

I know it seems like an exaggeration, and that you've heard it before, but I have paper (or I guess electronic) evidence that one day we were told it would be a 12-24 month wait for the special needs I inquired about and the very next day we got the call that there was a little boy available that fit our profile, with a special need we hadn't even considered because the likelihood of a match seemed low, but God had other plans. 

Judah has been home for almost a month, and for us adults, the adjustment period is a bit easier. Our minds are capable of understanding these changes. Sometimes, we don't like them, or are frustrated with them, but we can understand them. But for our two three year olds? They could use some time yet, both of them. Adoption is not natural, so how can we expect an easy transition for something that comes from brokenness? We can't. 

So when we're low on patience and sleep, when our older son is so overstimulated he's up until midnight or is so frustrated he loses the ability to communicate, when our younger son is refusing a hug or when he stands in the corner because he doesn't understand the meaning of "no" and refuses to join the family, we have to look for our hints of Spring. 
  • Two years ago, neither of our boys were home. 
  • One year ago, Jordan was still sedated more than a week after his open heart surgery with no immediate plan to extubate. 
  • Six months ago, we got to go on a family vacation and received the news we would *not* have to wait to adopt Judah due to policy changes. 
  • Six weeks ago, we were still a family of three. 
  • Two weeks ago, we were awake at night longer than we were sleeping.
  • One week ago we started to actively put a plan in place to help both of them deal with their feelings.
  • Three days ago, Judah chose to sit next to me with his books instead of in a chair by himself for over an hour. 
  • Yesterday, both boys played basketball and sung along to The Song of the Cebu (it's very catchy; they get their taste from their mom). Athletic and artistic, we keep them well-rounded.  
  • This morning, they both ate their breakfast, and second and third breakfasts...Jet didn't choke on a single thing, and Judah was picky--milestones for both of their respective developmental progress. 
And we don't forget the meals, the encouragement, the prayers, and the affirmations of friendship over the past years and months and weeks, especially this past. It would be and sometimes is very easy as adoptive parents to feel misunderstood, isolated, and lonely, but these brief interactions have showed us that we are not any of those things to our friends (and family) who love us. 

Every year my poor little shrub has stubbornly held off, long enough that I start to think that this was the winter that finally ended it,yet it still surprises me every year. Last year, at a brief glance it held not even a hint of flowering the morning Jordan went in for his heart surgery, and yet the day of his discharge was the first day it started to bloom. Even though sometimes we don't feel like we're making progress as a family, we know we just need to look a little harder. We have full confidence that with time, both of our boys will blossom into their full potential as individuals, as sons, and as brothers. 

We have no idea what the future holds for us. Derek and I are looking forward to a our kind of normal year with no expectations except the anticipated (and let's be honest, maybe a few unanticipated) doctor appointments, spring soccer, maybe a baseball game, a family vacation, some yard work, some house work...normal things that we've put off for going on two years. 

But God might have other plans.