Saturday, January 10, 2015

Poppy's Story

I'll begin this post with a confession. I am a very poor blogger. I have neglected this blog to the point that I stopped even feeling guilty for not posting to it. This past year, I have thought many times about posting here: times of desperation, times of great fear and sadness, times of great joy....I just have not done it. When Patrick has his heart surgery last February, I turned to Facebook to give immediate updates on our son's condition. Over the months I've cultured relationships through Facebook with people that I now consider true friends, even if I've never had the opportunity to actually meet them face to face. But now, I must return to the blog to tell Poppy's story. It is a testimony that bears repeating and I want to keep it here, on this blog, to remind myself and my children of the miracles that have been poured out upon us from the hand of an ever-loving and gracious God. This is Poppy's story.

Patrick began his campaign to bring home another sibling from China while he was still in the hospital. He had spent three weeks in the hospital after heart surgery only to be readmitted less than a week after returning home. I will be completely transparent in admitting that Patrick's hospitalization wore me down. I was as emotionally raw as he was physically. Although I would have readily admitted that, even then, I believed we'd bring another child home, I could not find it in myself to even consider the mountain of paperwork and plain old angst that accompanies the adoption journey. We went home from the hospital on March 8th, 20 days later I saw her picture.

On March 28, 2014, I was scrolling through my "Favorites" and thought I clicked on a link I use every day. But I hadn't clicked on that link at all. Instead, I'd clicked on a link I last used in 2012. As soon as the advocacy blog opened, I saw her. She was so tiny, huge dark eyes and a nevus much like my Moxie's. It was love at first sight. I felt myself saying "I can do it. I can do it one.more.time. I sent her picture to Ben. I interpreted his "Wow, she is cute!" to mean, "You bet! I'm in!" I e-mailed the blog administrator and the agency that had the baby's file. She had been matched. Honestly, I wasn't surprised. She was so young and so beautiful. Who wouldn't want to parent such a treasure. There was some sadness, but really, more of a realization that God had another child for us and He was cultivating the soil of our hearts already. We decided to wait for Him. Little did we know how very painful that necessary cultivation would be.

I determined not to look for our next child. I knew, in my heart of hearts, that God would bring that child into my path in way that was undeniably his. Although I frequently get in His way, and in the process make things more difficult for myself, I was determined to wait. At the end of May, I watched a video of a little girl running outside. Her special need seemed "easy" to me. I sent Ben her picture. His response, "That's her." Let's bring her home. She had just turned 4 in February. We were so excited to begin the process to bring her home. I called our agency and they attempted to get her file. I won't go into the history of the out and out battle it took to get her file because that is not what this blog is about. I will say that although the agency who had our daughter's file acted most unethically and with a spirit of nothing but hatefulness to Ben and I, God is still on His throne and they've got nothing on Him.

Eventually, we were able to get our daughter's file in June. It had been an emotional and bitter fight but we'd won. We decided to name her Eleanor Christin-Grace and call her Nori. Eleanor means "light" and she was full of it. She truly glowed. The agency that had Nori's medical update had withheld it for several weeks. When we finally read it in June......there just are no words to convey... . I just can't. We were informed that Nori had metastasized brain cancer. I went into defense mode and contacted every expert I could. I read articles written by doctors from the US and abroad. I read and reread studies out of Johns Hopkins, Sloan Kettering and St. Judes. I contacted our beloved Dr. Hildebrand at Dean McGee Eye Institute and through him an expert, at Dean McGee, in Nori's condition. Dr. Firestone, with all the kindness and love he could, explained that Nori's condition was very likely fatal. At the time, she was still going through chemotherapy and getting the best possible treatment in China. Her last treatment was in July and we asked to retain her file until after another MRI was performed. We prayed and begged for a miracle. The last MRI, which was done in mid-July, showed the tumor was still in Nori's brain. Though I never held her, smelled her hair, or dried her tears, My Dear and Holy God, how my heart broke.

While some may disagree, Ben and I believed it more loving to Nori to allow her to remain in China with the people she knew and who knew her. On July 27, 2014, we relinquished our baby girl's file to China. We had never filed a Letter of Intent but, God knows, she was ours. Our agency appealed to Nori's orphanage and to our great joy, they allowed us to send her gifts and a letter. The afternoon we spent deciding upon which outfit to buy at Target, which blanket was the softest and which doll the best was one of happiest times. Ultimately we sent Nori a snuggly outfit with pants, a top, jacket and tights. The little jacket had a fox face on the hood with little fox ears sticking up on the top. Ben found her a stuffed animal, just like he has all of our children and we sent a huge bag of candy. It had been my plan to give Nori a gold bracelet that I received as a high school graduation gift over 20 years ago. It was going to be hers when she "came home". I tucked it inside an embroidered Chinese bag along with some little beaded bracelets Maisy wanted her sister to have. That letter was the most difficult I have ever written. How do you say good-bye when you've never had the chance to say hello? How do you convey a mama's love when you cannot identify yourself as such? I did my best. I hope she understood.

We waited and waited for pictures of Nori and her gifts. We received confirmation that she had received them, but no pictures or video were forthcoming. Ben and I looked at the files of a couple of children, but God made it very clear that those sweet ones simply were not ours. And that was okay. We continued to pray that God would heal Nori and that some day she could come home. Sometimes, I just put my face on my Bible and wept. She was God's before she was mine.

I continued to contact our agency on a regular basis asking for pictures of Nori and life here went on. On October 31st, Patrick had surgery on his throat. We were on the floor and he had gone to sleep. I'd been online and in and out of my e-mail. Late that night I got an e-mail from an address that was only vaguely familiar. The author asked whether I had been the person to make an inquiry about a little one in March? I said "yes" but I knew that little one had been matched and was most likely in the US by now. The author was the blog administrator and she assured me that the little girl with the nevus was now free for adoption. Her matched family was, unfortunately, unable to continue with the adoption. Truthfully, I thought that the entire scenario kind of unlikely. What were the odds that someone who did not know me AT ALL would deliberately look through 8 months worth of e-mails just to contact me about a baby that was probably matched by now! Weird.

Patrick went home the next day and returned to school on Monday. I mentioned the e-mail to Ben and went back to work. On Thursday, I got a conference call from our agency's China program director. They had news about Nori. I think, somewhere in my soul, I knew what she would say before she said it. Maybe, if I said it first, she'd correct me????? Maybe it wouldn't be the news I feared. But it was. Our Nori had passed away. Still, when I hear the words in my head, they wrap around my throat and threaten to squeeze me into an impenetrable darkness. Even now, I find it hard to breathe. I asked questions that couldn't be answered. I cried until I couldn't cry any more but somehow I managed to do just that. I called Ben to come to the office. I told him. We told the kids. I tried to console myself with th words I gave the kids. "Nori is healed. She is with Jesus. She is whole." But, all I could think was thoughts that I won't share here. I can't share them because they are so hard, so primal, so mind piercingly hard for me to manage. I just cannot do it.

The next day, my friend, the China program director, called from our agency and told me that she had answers to the questions I had asked the day before. She and I both cried as she told me that Nori had received our gifts and had worn the clothes and jewelry often and "shown them off to her friends". She had passed away wearing our gifts and she knew that she was loved. My daughter died, and went on to an eternal glory, on October 31st.

Were I not a Christian, I might be able to say it was a coincidence that the little girl who will become my daughter Poppy was brought into our lives on the day our Nori went to Heaven, but I am a Christian. Because of that, Ben and I saw God's grace and mercy poured out like a waterfall. Psalm 30 tells us that "Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning". In the darkness that followed our news of Nori's death, a friend told me, "Amy, rejoicing can come in the morning and in the mourning, too, if you will let it." After much prayer, we contacted the agency holding that tiny girl's file and on our 19th wedding anniversary we filed our letter of intent to bring home our daughter, Penelope Hope Root.

Truly, His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts higher than our thoughts. I believe that God had us love and pray for Nori because she was ours and I believe that He has, in His divine Grace and Mercy given us the gift of Poppy. In September, before the tragedy or the blessing occurred, I had a dream---one of those that makes a huge impression----the kind one knows she should remember. In the dream, Ben and I had just returned from China. We were walking through our home and I was carrying a small girl. She did not open her eyes, hold up her head or move. We loved her intensely. There was a knock at the door and our China guide, Jane, was standing there smiling at me. Jane explained that she had come to tell us that we left our daughter in China. I was emphatic in my insistence that we had brought our daughter home. Jane insisted that we had not. As the dream continued Jane showed me a picture of a child I recognized but insisted was not mine. I recall saying, "She's been matched. We haven't filed an LOI. We don't have the money. What am I supposed to do? When I asked that last question, Jane pulled out a book---folded in upon itself---and told me to "follow the directions". As she opened the book, I knew, even in my sleep, that the gilded and embossed pages were depictions of spiritual battles. I can see them in my mind's eye now.

When I woke up, I told Ben about my dream. He was certain that it "meant something", but he wasn't certain exactly what it meant. I don't think God wastes His words or his time. I believe I know, now, exactly what God was preparing us for with that dream.

So, we are following The Directions to bring our Poppy home. And some day, I will tell her of her sister Nori and the part she played in the miracles that took them both home.

May God Bless You and Keep You. May His Face Shine Upon You and Bring You Peace.

Monday, November 11, 2013

"I was Ai Guo, then"

I was fortunate to receive several of Patrick's drawings on his Gotcha Day. I know what a rare gift I've been given and put every drawing in a plastic sleeve after it spent several weeks on the fridge. In fact, one of the first things I had Patrick do when he and I came home was to put his drawings on the fridge with those of his sisters. So, I had all of his artwork lying on the bed the other day and he found it. He seemed surprised that his artwork was so important to me. I explained that his drawings were treasures and I wanted to keep them forever. He said, "But, Mama, I was Ai Guo, then. See, I put my name there." I was a little taken aback and just did not know what to say. I asked him whether he still wanted to be called by his former name and he said, quite emphatically, "no". I asked him whether it was "good" to be Patrick and he said "yes". But, the question remained in my heart whether Patrick felt like his former identity had no connection, no relevance, to who he is right now. I didn't have to wait long to have him elaborate.

Now, Patrick is ordinarily a chatterbox deluxe. I cannot understand all of what he says, but I get a lot of it. His sisters seem to understand most of what he says. It's a hoot when Moxie interprets for Patrick. At that point, they both might as well be speaking Klingon. Anyway, Ben and the kids picked me up from work and Patrick had my ear since the girls were napping. He began by telling me about a child at school who had acted poorly and likened it to how an older child had treated him in the orphanage. Then he began to tell me about his "little brother". Now, I know that Patrick does not have a biological younger brother, but he was, according to what he told me, very attached to the little boy he slept with right before I came to get him. The child he slept with before this particular child is home with his sweet mama, who is my dear friend. Patrick told me that this child was much smaller than he and drank a bottle that Patrick would hold for him at night. He told me the "little brother" needed to come home. And then, he told me about saying good-bye to his friend. I haven't written about our trip to the orphanage, and I won't. Those memories are only for Patrick and I have recorded them in his adoption journal that I kept while we were in China. But, I do remember Patrick going to the top of a short flight of stairs and shooing a small fellow backward through the doorway. That little fellow was pulling on Patrick and trying to go with him. Patrick gave me all of those details and then said, "Little Brother say, stay with me, Ai Guo. Stay here. Don't go." I was crying of course, but Patrick continued to talk in his precious broken English. "I say, Ai Guo all gone. Go back." And then he left with me. I asked his friend's name and age, but Patrick is sketchy on the details. I may never know the name of the little brother we left behind.

Just typing that story twists my heart over and over. But, there are some truths that I have pulled out that I will keep forever. Firstly, Patrick exhibited the faith that Jesus asks of us all. That childlike, blind, faith. Patrick had no idea where I was taking him, how he would communicate, whether he'd be safe or anything else. He looked for the fulfillment of something he simply BELIEVED IN. That is the very definition of faith. Second, while his first seven years will always belong to Patrick, he is a new person now. He is a son, and brother---new identities that he recognizes are not who he has always been but are who he wants to be now. And finally, my son is one of the single most courageous people I have ever met and that is Jesus's gift to Patrick. I had nothing to do with it. In fact, I am guilty of letting fear overwhelm me if I don't constantly keep my eyes on Jesus. Patrick's courage and faith gave me courage and faith. Jesus is like that. Christ's adoption of me begat Patrick's adoption and Maisy's adoption and Moxie's adoption. Adoption begets adoption.

If you follow me on Facebook, you will know that Patrick's heart surgery was cancelled in October because a virus was discovered in the pre-op appt. It has been reset for February. We are going into the holiday season with great joy and anticipation. We are incredibly blessed.

Happy Adoption Awareness Month!!!!
In Him Who Does All Things Well,