(Written April 6th 2019, finished January 12th 2020)
Today is grey. The fog is so dense I can’t even see to my neighbors house across the street. I can’t remember the last time we had fog like this in Chicagoland. But, I’m immediately transported in my memory to a cab ride through Xinyang China. Lydia had been in our arms for only two days and we had to travel from the capital city of Zhengzhou back to Xinyang to collect Lydia’s passport. We also had opportunity to visit her orphanage. Xingyang Children’s Welfare Institute. We took care of Lydia’s passport and then we began the ride to the orphanage. The fog was dense. The air quality, not good. And I was overwhelmed as we drove that I had never heard of this city. In my mind it was a ‘town’ in China. But no, it was a bustling city, complete with highrise buildings and restaurants and people on their way to and from work. My mind began to swirl as I longed to know more of Lydia’s story. And suddenly, every face I saw could somehow be a relative, an aunt or uncle, maybe even her birth mother.
We drove through the grey foggy streets and Lydia was nestled in Lars’ arms. She was tired, and honestly not feeling well. We doubt if she had been in a cab more than a few times in her life and she was not a fan. We pulled up to the orphanage, a five story building, and there it was, the gate. This was Lydia’s finding place. This orphanage gate was the place where she had been placed, likely on a foggy evening or early morning when it was ‘safe’ to leave her there, in hopes of an orphanage worker taking her in. Writing these words, entirely overwhelms me.
A few days ago at bedtime Lydia asked, “Why couldn’t the lady in China take care of me?” These questions never come in context. They never come because we have been talking about China, or adoption, or anything related. They just come. One little thought at a time Lydia’s heart summons the courage to ask. And then I respond as only I can, with the most frustrating answer. “We don’t know sweetheart.” And then because that answer is entirely unsatisfactory, Lydia attempts to answer herself. She fills in the grey, blank space sitting between us. “Maybe she had too many other babies?” “Maybe she was sick.” “Maybe she didn’t have money to buy food for me.” And my heart breaks, because these are all good answers and any one of them could have been true. I reply, “Maybe. We don’t know and it’s hard not knowing. But we do know that your birth mother in China wanted you to be safe and cared for. Because you were brought to the orphanage where the nannies would take care of you.” She nodded. Then she went on, “Mommy, what if my China mommy had a sister, but she couldn’t take care of me, and then it was just her and she was alone? And what if I was her only baby and it was just her and me and I didn’t have any brothers?”
There was so much happening in her mind and heart. And it occurred to me she was now grieving in reverse. She was imagining what her life would have been like had she stayed in China with her birth mother. She was imagining not having the brothers she loves so dearly. The people that make up her little world.
(I stopped writing here, life was moving too quickly and I never finished my post.)
And now I sit on the eve of Lydia’s Gotcha Day Anniversary, January 13, the day we met in a government office in Zhengzhou China. And I’m pondering. Pondering has been a theme these last few weeks as we have read the Christmas narrative about Mary and how she treasured so many things and pondered them in her heart. (Luke 2:19) She held them dear, she wondered at things, she treasured things, she thought about many things as she beheld her son Jesus, and what his life would be.
I find myself pondering a lot lately. I ponder how a precious little girl born on the other side of the world is sleeping soundly upstairs right now.
I ponder the miracle that she is my daughter. I ponder her nature, so loving and kind. I ponder what her birth parents are like to have gifted her with that nature. I ponder what their lives are like, what they look like, what jobs they might have? I ponder the courage of her birth mother to choose to carry her pregnancy with Lydia, whatever the circumstances. I ponder the courage and grief of secretly placing Lydia by the orphanage gate in early April 2012. I ponder all of it and some days it overwhelms me with grief. While other days it overwhelms me with joy. What a funny thing it is to ponder.
But out of respect for the grief and joy, the loss and gain that adoption is, I will continue to ponder. I want to remember. I want to remember the foggy day we visited Xinyang. I want to remember pulling up to the gate of the orphanage and feeling my chest heave with anxiety for the heaviness I was feeling in that moment. I want to ponder what could have been for my precious daughter, the good and the bad. I want to ponder the joy of braiding her hair today, before dropping her off at a birthday party, wearing her new sparkly leotard. I want to ponder so I can appreciate every day with my daughter, who is only our daughter by a miracle of God. He was in every inch of the adoption process and he continues to be in every inch of Lydia’s life. I want to ponder, so I don’t miss a thing. And particularly so I can give God the glory. This was his plan from the beginning. A plan for Lydia’s good, to give her hope and a future. He knew Lydia as she was being knit together in her mothers womb, he grieved with that precious mother in her loss and he knew that a woman on the other side of the world would be the one to have the privilege of knowing and raising this child. Grief and joy, mess and hope, yearning and gratefulness.
So much to ponder.
This morning at church the parents were invited to participate in our Sunday Kids Camp, kids program. We began the morning with conversations starters to share with our kids. I sat with Lydia and went through question after question. Until we landed on, “What is your favorite memory?” This could be a difficult question, but not for me. With no hesitation, I said, “meeting you in China, is my favorite memory.”
Our journey to China and our time in China continues to be the great adventure of my life. But my favorite memory is the day Lydia walked into my arms, six years ago. And I will ponder the miracle of that day, the miracle of our bond and the miracle of God’s incredible goodness to us, every day for the rest of my life.
And to tie this back to my earlier unfinished writing from April 2019, I know that Lydia’s pondering has only begun. I also know I will not have sufficient answers for her pondering. And she will grieve and we will grieve with her. But I also know she will find immense joy along the way as she grows because of how deeply she is loved and treasured. I know she knows this love deep in her soul, because she reflects it back to us daily. So on this Gotcha Day as we celebrate we will remember and we will give thanks for the treasure that is this child and for the miracle of adoption. And we will trust God to walk with us as we continue to ponder it all.
Watch our Gotcha Day video here.