From Wilson to Thomas

This whole “relationship” thing with God would go a lot better if I could just see Him.  I mean how many friendships do you have where the “other” is invisible and unable to meet for some burritos at Chipotle? Maybe God prefers Outback…but unless I can see, hear, interact meaningfully with Him then I’ll never know. Keeping up with such a one-sided relationship is a lot to ask (in my opinion) and hopefully by writing about it, I can figure out how to make it work.

But before I get into that, I’ll share a bright note:

Just yesterday my wife received the awesome news that our LOA is complete.  For those keeping track, this means there are approximately 16 weeks left until we meet Olivia.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B6I1SlddUtGEOGtWRm5jbG95dzA/view?usp=sharing

As you can see by the document, there’s still a lot of hoops to jump through but the LOA is the last major hurdle so we are pumped!

In a way, my aforementioned conundrum about God relates to Olivia’s adoption.

In both cases, there’s a relationship forged beyond the physical.  The difference (of course) is that Olivia is more than an idea or experience, she is flesh and bone and even though she’s half-way around the world…I can see/experience her through videos and pictures.  I love her already and she is my daughter but until we meet, it’s difficult to have a strong emotional connection. Until I wipe off her nose or cradle her in my arms…until I interact with her and spend time in her presence, our bond is based on information and ideas NOT experience.  Soon, I will meet Little P and a mutual bond will form through our interactions. I cannot wait for that!

But what can I say about God? Can I have a relationship with something so abstract? You could take the skeptic view that says we create meaning out of chaos.

I don’t see God this way but it makes me wonder…what if my imagination is filling in the gaps just as Hanks did with Wilson?

Some days I want to give up trying to know God.  My perspective clouds everything and I want to know who God really is…not an idea from my making but an absolute truth from reality.  I can take this life, (my blessings, the beauty of all things created, etc.) and see it as the “stuff” of my creator.  I can also relive those moments of deep “knowing” that I see as God’s presence, but these things are not tangible and I’ve always wondered: Why is God like this?  Why can’t I just see God…pat Him on the back….play a game of catch with Him?

For my money, God created us for a reason, but if you believe this then you have to wonder: “Why can’t we see Him?” If there’s no reason for our life on earth then the question is moot….but if God has a purpose for us…one that is meaningful, then there has to be a reason we can’t see Him…right?

What would that be?

The easy answer is that love doesn’t work that way and God doesn’t want slaves, he wants genuine love.  If He reveals His greatness then what choice do we have but to worship Him? This is the free-will answer and I don’t agree with it because no matter how perfect God is, there will always be those who reject Him. Also, even if we have free will to choose (or not to choose) God’s love, how are we supposed to know what to choose if God is a mystery?

or

Maybe we can’t fathom God and like the Old Testament says, “no man can see the glory of God and live…?”  Just like the sparrows who hid from the farmer rather than join him in the barn…God became man (in Jesus) to bridge that insurmountable gap between He and His creation.

But why create something if you can’t interact with it? Was it (as Genesis says) our choice to turn away from God? Did we cause Him to disappear from our sight?

I want to know God.  I want to meet him at Chipotle and talk His omniscient head off.  Not that I need Him to be human, but I want to interact with Him and actually hear what He has to say without guesswork. I can relate to doubting Thomas having to touch Jesus’s wounds.  Blessed are those who haven’t seen yet believe? Jesus, I love you but that is a lot to ask.

The only way I can fathom God’s ways is to see this life as a testing ground…an intense place where our spirits are forged through extreme experiences.  Without these meat suits, how could our limitless spirits know patience and sacrifice? This idea doesn’t answer my original question…but it gets me thinking.

I think about how God gains my attention…personal ways that cannot be explained by studies, imagination or painted volleyballs…and I know that God is here. His ways may be mysterious, but something in my soul knows that God is with us always.  I may never know why He chose to be invisible, so like Thomas I will continue to search His wounds for meaning…and in those wounds I will find Him.

Mitchell

While seeking a name for our son, Theresa and I came across several we liked: Austin, Jude, Harrison, Hayden…but nothing really hit us.  Then Reece brought up the name Mitchell and we gave it a go.  The name didn’t hit me at first.  It seemed too serious and formal, but once I looked up its meaning, I was hooked:

Mitchell (Michael) is ultimately derived from a Hebrew name, meaning “Who is like God?”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mitchell_(surname)

Of all questions ever contemplated, this is my favorite because everything is God, therefore to know God is to know the meaning of life.

My search for God began in college.

I was raised Catholic and attended Catholic schools all the way up until my junior year of college.  Up to that point, Catholicism provided a solid foundation of faith to build on my understanding of who God was.  But like all religions, my Catholic roots only provided a snapshot…part of the whole. I attended mass, but God’s personal spirit was far from me, held at arms length by man-made traditions. I knew about God through what priests told me, but as far as having a living, breathing relationship with my Creator, I was at a loss.

Then during my senior year at Ball State University something strange happened.  You could say crazy, weird or awesome depending on your view, but I became “saved.”  Up to this point, “saved” was something only snake charming Christians professed and far from my religious beliefs. But something did happen that strange night in the Bracken Library…something identical to my first adoption experience.  It had that same feel…the brokeness, love, depth of being, the crushing sorrow and awareness of need…it was all there and suddenly, God truly mattered in my life.  He became more than a concept, He became a living breathing entity that wanted to know me. After that one moment of beautiful misery I was in love, because I had tasted the divine.

After college I followed a fundamentalist path for a while, reading the bible (several times) and trying to gain knowledge from its words. It was a complex time for me, because one stage of my life was ending as I searched for meaning on several fronts.  First of all, I had graduated from college and didn’t know what direction to take.  Secondly, I was discovering God and attempting to navigate uncharted waters of spirituality. The tried and true recipe of going to mass on Sunday no longer satisfied me and I began seeking a living/breathing/personal God. I began my search by volunteered at a Baptist youth group in Northside, Cincinnati. Through this Baptist influence, I saw God as a loving friend who was there for me…a God of action.  Through the lives of those awesome kids I was able to experience God first hand, but I still wasn’t satisfied.  I was “saved” and touched the face of God, yet something was missing.  What did it all mean?

I asked all “God” experts (preachers, pastors, priests, speakers, teachers) the questions “Who is God and what does being saved through Christ mean?”  Here were some of the answers:

“The cross is a paradox.  It is something meant for death and pain, but God turned that around to symbolize love.” Episcopalian priest

“God is love.” Passionate priest

“Study and seek and you will find the answers.” contemporary Christian author

“Read the Ragamuffin Gospel.” Public Christian speaker

https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/863196-the-ragamuffin-gospel-good-news-for-the-bedraggled-beat-up-and-burnt

“You will outgrow your current views.  Faith is an ever-changing, evolving process.” Franciscan brother

Those who impressed me most, answered my questions through a spirit of humility.  One such person was Dave Workman, pastor for Vineyard church in Cincinnati.

https://www.blogger.com/profile/13068663095945094946

One day, Dave took time out of his busy life to meet Reece and I at Chipotle. There was nothing groundbreaking about our lunch conversation, but I will never forget his simplicity and humility.  Here was a man who led thousands of Christians, yet he listened to my views on Jesus and God.  His answers to my questions were simple: join a group, get involved and engage in basic service.

Dave’s messages at Vineyard regularly involved paradigm shifts or ways of changing your spiritual perspective. While my first major spiritual shift occurred in college, the next happened when our daughter was born. When Ellie came into our life, I was experiencing heightened stress.  I can’t speak for all men, but nurture is not my middle name. So to help cope with new responsibilities, I turned to meditation and took interest in energy medicine…specifically Healing Touch.

http://www.healingtouchprogram.com/resources/faq

My first instructor was a wonderful gal named Vicki Slater.

http://www.conscioustribe.com/event_detail.aspx?iEventID%3D2092

Vicki taught me how to conduct universal energy for healing purposes. She also introduced me to the concept of spirit guides, angels, overlapping dimensions and a lot of stuff that my legalistic/religious views found disturbing. In fact some see the New Age belief system to be of the devil. While I never found myself on that road, Healing Touch stretched my evolving views to their limits.  As a result, something shifted and I began changing my beliefs of who God really was.

About this time I was part of a ninjitsu class in which my sensei (teacher) spoke of realities similar to Healing Touch.  Greg Heeg was my instructor and his spiritualism was based on eastern and native american belief systems.

http://www.wcpo.com/news/local-news/hamilton-county/cincinnati/madisonville/madisonville-ninja-warrior-battles-for-his-life

https://www.facebook.com/SketchForACureHelpGregoryHeegEliminateCancer

Through Greg’s teachings, I took part in sweat lodges, learned about face dancing, vision questing and practiced Za Zen meditation.  It was a scary, fascinating journey…one in which my spiritual beliefs were further influenced.

I recall feeling lost because there was no system that reconciled all of my beliefs into one neat little package.  On one hand I was entrenched in Christianity, the belief that Jesus died for me and the realization that God was real for those who believed in Christ.  On the other, I believed in energy medicine and danced with New Age principles.  In essence…I was a mess. But since that period in the desert (or wilderness or whatever metaphor you want to put in here) I found that spiritual contradiction is a facade.  We all carry truths forged through our unique life experiences therefore if I buy the notion that following Jesus and New Age is heretical then I’m putting trust in someone else’s take on life. God cannot be put into a “neat little package.”

Henry Rollins put it best when he said:

Too damn bad if at the end of the day the only thoughts
In your brain are all the things that they say, 

What a waste

Too damn bad if at the end of the line you got no idea
What’s on your own mind,

You got no one to blame but yourself

Too much to know, too much to see
It might mean something to you but it’s nothing to me

Its just another ad for someone’s version of how they think it should be

http://www.metrolyrics.com/disconnect-lyrics-henry-rollins.html

Since my ninjitsu days, I have gone through several paradigm shifts, all painful and scary but less intense.  In fact I expect these changes because although God is forever and eternal, I believe He is evolving and changing…not static as some claim.

My latest shift occurred while exploring Zen Buddhism.  Zen is not a religion or philosophy, instead it is a way of life that can merge with any belief system.  The problem I have with Buddhism is the attachment piece.  One of the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism is “life is suffering.”

“Hundreds of stupid flies gather
On a piece of rotten meat,
Enjoying, they think, a delicious feast.
This image fits with the song
Of the myriads of foolish living beings
Who seek happiness in superficial pleasures;
In countless ways they try,
Yet I have never seen them satisfied.” 

http://viewonbuddhism.org/4_noble_truths.html

I see where attachment to this world causes strife. This world is transient and destined to pass away.  But to completely detach is to deny our humanness and to throw this beautiful, awful, loving and terrifying experience away. Yes there is pain with attachment. Had I not grown attached to Bastete (my cat), then her death would not have rocked me so hard.  Yet my attachment to this animal, provided years of tenderness, compassion and happiness.  Without these attachments I would have lost the experience of loving her.  Buddhism does provide a practical way (meditation/mindfulness) to bring balance to ones life, therefore I would say my current views on spirituality toe the line between Christianity and Buddhism…but I’m sure that will change.

So who is God?

He…She…It moves through us and is sparked by our faith, creativity, belief, love, passion and action.  God has blessed each of us with the tools for creation and provides everything we need for a fulfilled life. Despite this, there are times when I can’t see God, when I don’t find meaning or purpose through my experiences.  When this happens I am drawn into the void of doubt and despair.  Just before we decided to adopt Olivia, I saw God as impersonal…as an engineer or conductor who looked at me as though I were an insect, but this adoption shifted that viewpoint.

What created this shift?  I have no idea.

Who is like God?

Good question.

An Ocean of Need

While awaiting our Letter of Seeking Confirmation (LOA), Theresa has been trying to gather as much info as possible about Little P.

It hasn’t been easy, but that doesn’t surprise us.  Many families going through Chinese adoptions have commented how difficult it is to acquire concrete information from the orphanages.  I live halfway around the world from Panda, so it’s impossible to understand all the reasons for such difficulty (limited funding, crazy busy working conditions, the language barrier, etc.).  I would guess it all boils down to logistics and proxemics.

The liaison for our adoption agency (we’ll call him Mike) is our main contact.  Mike lives in China and manages all communications with the orphanages.  He’ll be our guide when we travel to China, so staying on Mike’s “good side” is paramount.  Ever since our match, Theresa has reached out to Mike in hopes of making contact with Little P and it has been a challenge. Her first intention was sending a care package to our daughter. Here’s a sample of Theresa’s correspondence with Mike:

T: Hello!  We were hoping to be able to send a care package soon and were told to contact you to get the information to do this.  Could you please let me know the best way to do this? 

M: I will contact the orphanage. If they are all right, I can send a care package including a cake, a stuffed animal and a family photo album to the child and ask them to send some photos of her eating the cake. The fee will be about $80 or $90,depending on the cost in various regions. You do not pay me the fee until when you travel to adopt the child, along with other traveling costs.

T: Thanks!  Yes please let me know if we can indeed send the care package.  Are those items the ones we are limited to?  Do we send a cake or do you  get a cake?  We have a book that we wanted to see if her nannies could fill out with questions.  Is that ok to send?  
M: Please send me the photos. I will take care of the cake and other stuff. As to the book, I’m not sure if the nannies will have time to do it.
T: What address do I send the package to?  
M: I will buy those things. You just send the pictures to me by email.
T: Ok-I understand!   Can we still try to have the nannies fill out the book we bought?   Can we mail that directly to the orphanage? We would really like to try to find out as much about our daughter as we can if possible!    
M: I can give you the address but I am not sure if they can do it for you. You have to understand that all of them are very busy, with the amount of work they need to do.
T: I understand-I work with small children myself.   It is very busy work.  I would like to try so if we can get the address that would be great.   
M: They have held the party for her already. There was some problem with the file so I could not download it. Could you send me the photos so I can send it to them along with the money?

T: I have not sent the photos to you yet.  We made a photo album as a family and was debating whether to just send that directly to the orphanage.   We pay you for sending the cake when we get there right?  Did they take pictures of the party? Did you send a stuffed animal also? 

M: You send me the pictures and I will send it along with the toy. You pay me when you travel. The cake was eaten but I have difficulty opening photos.
 ipp
Eventually, Mike sent Theresa 16 pictures of Panda.  We hadn’t seen any new pics since viewing her medical chart so both Reece and I were chomping at the bit to see these photos.  It was bittersweet and not for the reasons I would expect.  The wonderful sweetness was seeing our daughter with a wry smile, face covered in cake and holding court with a room full of kids. But even though seeing her enjoying her cake warmed my heart, there was an undercurrent of sadness.

One year ago, while browsing adoption websites, something hit me…”Why are there orphans?  Why don’t these kids have homes?”

To review: my most powerful encounter with God came when we decided to pursue adoption.

In my minds eye, God flashed a small Chinese boy in a striped t-shirt and shorts standing alone.  That’s all…just a little boy and then, as Reece said, God opened our eyes and there was no going back.

As I looked through our daughter’s pictures, the same feeling hit me.  We are doing something great…something God has put in our hearts and for that I am proud…but it’s a drop in an ocean of need.

The kids that I saw in these new pictures haunted me.  Sitting beside little P. was a boy.  Each time I looked at her picture, my eyes wandered over to him.

Displaying IMG_20141008_153426.jpg

His face….too sad for a child. Where were his parents? Why was he in an orphanage? It disturbed me on many levels.  Here was a perfect time for celebration, yet my mind couldn’t get over this scene.

I’ve heard it said, you’re never the same after visiting an orphanage. After viewing Panda’s party, I saw a glimpse into this reality.

Part of me wants to learn about these children sitting around Panda.  Part of me wants to grab them and bring them all home with us.

Is God telling me to do that?  Maybe.

Or perhaps, God is allowing me to peer inside His heart…showing me the meek…the broken….the lost…revealing the ocean of need that’s all around us.  I don’t know….I really don’t, but this feels the same as before.  This feels as though I need to act, yet there’s a calmness whispering in my ear that whatever we decide…it will be okay.

 

Chinese Restaraunt Banter

We want to communicate with our Little Panda once she makes the trek from China to Kentucky, but China has many dialects so learning Mandarin is a crapshoot since your child may come from places where Cantonese or other languages are used.

What to do?

After consulting the almighty I-net, we learned that locals in Hubei mainly use Mandarin dialects so we’re taking the plunge and learning some basic Mandarin.  I’ve never been great at languages. In three years of Spanish I learned how to sing De Colores and cuss like a Tolucan bar tender.  However, desire is a powerful thing.  Armed with the promise of communicating with Little P. I decided to amp up my effort.

My first step was going to the library and checking out a ton of stuff on Mandarin.  My first choice?  Mandarin for Dummies of course. But as soon as I hit play on my car CD changer, I knew something was off…

“Our hero is taking a trip to China.  First he must find his luggage…”

What followed was oceans of Mandarin phrases, pertaining to everything from airports to magazine purchases.  There was no repetitions…no simple words…just Mandarin barrages followed by quick translations to English. What the heck am I going to do with that?  Unless I’m hyperthymesic…nothing.

https://www.wisconsinmedicalsociety.org/professional/savant-syndrome/resources/articles/hyperthymestic-syndrome-extraordinary-memory-for-daily-life-events/

I reached back into my mountain of resources and found Chinese Mandarin (the short course) by Pimsleur.  It’s seven levels of basic Mandarin packed into one tiny box.

20141016_081316Since I drive a lot, I’ve already blown through four levels of this course and learned a few phrases.  I say learn, but in reality I’ve only been exposed to Mandarinsorta like taking a multivitamin and waiting for your health to change. We’re talking simple language here…stuff like:

Do you speak english?

I speak a little mandarin

I don’t speak well

Hello

Goodbye

How are You?

Like I said…basic.  But Mandarin is trickier than I thought it would be (which is scary).   For starters, the pronunciation is wacked. If you’ve ever tried reading Mandarin, you’ll see what I mean.

Here’s a few examples from:

http://pages.ucsd.edu/~dkjordan/chin/pinyin1.html#intro

q = English ch

r = something between American r and French j

x = English sh

z = English ds (as in “fads”)

zh = English j

Pinyin makes things a lot easier, because it spells words out phonetically…

http://www.ctcfl.ox.ac.uk/pinyin_notes.htm

…but there’s another little wrinkle called intonation.  In Mandarin, saying the same word with unique tones leads to totally different meanings. One famous example of this is that “ma” in different Mandarin tones means, “Did mother scold the horse?”

ma ma ma ma?
(mā mà mă ma?)

http://www.chinese-outpost.com/language/pronunciation/tones-of-mandarin-chinese.asp

Okay, so it’s looking grim right? Learning basic Mandarin is tough…and that’s why I decided to lean on technology.  Enter the app Talk Translate.

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=soo.trans.tour&hl=en

As blokes like to say, “It’s brilliant!”  You speak into your phone and this FREE app translates your English words into Mandarin.  Pretty sweet if you ask me. The only trouble is, Talk Translate doesn’t translate phrases into pinyin, so you must imitate the speaker exactly…which could lead to your mom yelling at a farm animal.

Armed with my phone and recent learnings, I felt it was time to try this Mandarin stuff out, so I checked my pride at the door and entered the Firebowl Grill (sorry no website available).  This Chinese buffet, in Florence, Kentucky has been one of my favorite restaurants for a while because it combines two things that I love…unlimited portions and Chinese food. I’ve frequented the Grill (as I call it) for years and know most of the staff, so I figured it would be a great launching pad for Mandarin learning….I was wrong.

For starters, the regular cashier was MIA.  In her place was a manager who greeted me with,  “How are you?  Just one for tonight?”

The guy spoke better English than I did, so replying in Mandarin just felt wrong. (Strike One!)

Next, I waited for a waitress to escort me to my table.  When I saw her walking towards me, my heart jumped.

I know her and she doesn’t speak English!  This is my chance!  

She turned quickly and headed towards the dining hall.  I had to wait for my opportunity.  You don’t just blurt out “hello!” to a fleeing waitress. By the time we reached my table I was practically having a conniption.

“Xièxie!” I croaked.

"Bié kèqì," she replied with a smile.

I never thought to look up "your welcome" in Mandarin, so her comment threw off my game. 
I just smiled and nodded likea prize idiot while she walked away. (Strike Two!)
Things didn't get better during our second exchange, when I decided to let Google translate do the talking.

https://translate.google.com/

I typed in “I’m traveling to China,”  and kept a pic of Panda ready on my phone.  When my waitress returned, I mumbled a half-hearted “xièxie” and thrust my phone into her face. I hit the button for translate, but the voice on my phone was too low.

“What she say?” the waitress asked.

I hit the button again, but my Samsung Galaxy 5 wasn’t cooperating, so I changed tactics and showed her the Chinese characters for “I’m traveling to China.”

“No read, too small.”

Damn

I fumbled with the phone and managed to get Panda’s pic on the screen.  My friend’s eyes lit up as she began speaking in Mandarin.  I won’t pretend to know what she said…but she seemed excited.

I was able to spit our, “nǚ’ér” which means “daughter” in Mandarin but the waitress looked puzzled.  She pointed at the picture and then to me with an “ahhhhhhhh.”  Her smile was so sweet that I almost cried.

“You go alone?” she asked.

“Wife,” I managed.

“Ahhhhhhh,” she said again and clapped.

I tried spitting out Hubei but she was off again, busing tables, leaving me with a warm heart.  I never imagined communication would be that hard!

Across the room sat an older white couple with two Chinese teenagers.  It was the first time I noticed such a scene at the Firebowl. One of the teens peered at me sheepishly and I thought how awesome it would be to bring Panda here.

Someday that will be our family.

In the end, I was eager to practice “sai jen” or “goodbye.”  This was my last chance and I wanted to do it right so after polishing off three plates of fried rice, I decided to stalk my waitress.  I waited patiently and followed her out to the front door, repeating “sai jen,” “sai jen,” over and over until we both reached the entrance.  But before I could say a word, she turned to me and said, “Thanks for coming, have a great weekend!”

(Strike Three!  I was out!)

 

Trust

If you read my last post, you know that Reece and I had an appointment with Dr. Mary Staat at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital International Adoption Center.

http://www.cincinnatichildrens.org/service/i/adoption/default/

Even though we felt great about Olivia’s information (including the pictures and videos), Theresa and I felt having a doc look over her medical chart was a good idea. We already knew we had a special little girl, but it was nice to have some reinforcement from a professional who deals with international adoptions everyday.

“A wonderful referral,” Staat said via conference call.  “She looks like a child who’s been well cared for.”

Staat explained how challenging cases are the norm, therefore Olivia’s medical status was encouraging. There were only a few things that concerned her.  One was Olivia’s measurements (height, weight, head circumference) which had remained the same since she was two years old.

“It looks as though someone just transferred the old measures over without updating them,” Dr. Staat said. “And her chart said she was quiet and shy but I didn’t get that impression from the videos.”

She was right.  Although the videos were only a few seconds long, they showed Little Panda smiling, sliding, climbing….nothing that would seem timid.  But we were only provided a glimpse into her world, so who knows? Sooner or later the true Panda will reveal herself. Right now we’re just putting pieces of her puzzle together the best we can.

Our meeting with Dr. Staat was awesome. She has adopted three children internationally and can relate to our many concerns. One such concern is the transition. In a perfect world, Reece or I would stay home with Olivia until we felt she was acclimated to her new life in America, but with our financial situation, that’ s not possible. When I brought this up to Staat, she put my mind at ease.

“You won’t do everything right….you’ll make mistakes.  With our first child I wasn’t able to stay at home…so she was in daycare. It was tough but we got through it.  You just do the best you can.”

It reminded me of our friend Martha’s response.  “Your daughter will show you what she needs and you will provide that for her.  Your love will be enough.”

Each child is unique and although we will provide and nurture Little P as much as possible, this isn’t going to be “canned” parenting where we do everything by the expert’s book. There will be mistakes (hopefully not many) but God has entrusted us with this little life.

Trust

My family went zip lining the other day. It was $6 a pop through American Heritage Girls http://www.ahgonline.org/ so my wife signed us all up.  I really didn’t think much about it until we arrived and I saw how high the line was.

You gotta be freakin kidding me.

As I watched men, women and children of all ages swinging like monkeys in a diaper (as my son called it) I felt a twinge of nerves.  But that was nothing compared to watching my five-year old son standing high atop the wooden platform.

What am I doing?  He’s only five!  Why am I letting him do this?

Just seeing my boy suspended up in the air was enough to make me break out in cold sweats, but if Mitch was nervous, he didn’t show it.

5 years old and not afraid?

I’ll admit…I was afraid.  In fact when it was my turn, the guy running the show tried his best to calm me down by explaining how safe it all was, but I wasn’t hearing him.

Reece said later, that ziplining was a lot like the adoption. You’re standing high above with nothing but a small piece of metal between you and death, yet the hardest part is the first step cause you’ve never done this sort of thing and your body is not used to jumping off a ledge. You just have to trust that everything will be fine.

Trust

“Just go ahead and run,” the guy in charge said to me, but my body was cold and shaking.

“Can I hold onto this line?” I asked, tugging on a makeshift handle I had fashioned out of straps hanging from my adult diaper.

“Nawww, that cord is gonna be five feet above you.”

“Then what do I hold onto?”

“You could hold this,” he said motioning towards a cord fastened to my harness.  My hands were sweating so I knew if things went south, my hands would slip right out of the darn line. I looked down again at the crowd of kids.  I was one of the last ones so if I crapped out now, I would look like a ninny.

“Just run,” the man repeated.

I ran…sort of.  It was more a lunge, really…a mad lunge where I let go and braced myself for whatever was to come.

“It was an act of faith.  Just letting go and trusting…not having anything to hold onto but still believing it was going to be okay,” Reece said.

That’s what this whole journey with little P has been about….Trust…

…and I’m still learning how.

Meet Little Panda

I could say that I didn’t see this coming, but that would be a lie.  There are no words to describe my feelings as I write this.

Last week, my lovely wife Theresa was getting antsy.  As I relayed in my last post, CCAI (our adoption agency) said the typical wait for a child meeting our medical needs was seven months. Over half a year before we could be matched and meet our daughter. Just words to me, really—but Theresa felt differently.

“I want to make sure I’m doing everything in my power to find our little girl,” she told me.

I agreed to a point.  “Everything in my power” can mean a lot of things.  The way I saw it, we were doing everything and now was time to let go and let God.

Reece felt otherwise.  Her heart was determined to keep searching…which is where this story takes a cool turn. While looking on Facebook, Reece ran across an interesting post. Seems some lady had found an agency in need of adopting parents.

What?  That didn’t make sense.  From the beginning, we were told that every agency had a long waiting list. yet here was someone claiming to have found the proverbial needle in a haystack. When Reece relayed her findings, I was skeptical.  My thinking was, “CCAI is a great organization, why not be content and allow God to take care of it?”  I wanted to support my wife, yet I felt this other agency business was a wild goose chase.  (Could I come up with any more cliches?)

That evening, we went to a Harvest Moon Festival and had a great time.  Just seeing all of those Chinese children made my heart swell and intensified the yearning for Little Panda. Even though I didn’t want to admit it, my heart was softening to the idea of leaving CCAI.  Then on our drive home, something happened.  While turning into our subdivision, I spied a glowing object hovering over our car.  It was a Chinese lantern…actually three Chinese lanterns.  For the next several minutes, our family marveled at these beautiful lanterns floating across the night sky in silent unison.

“It’s a sign,” Reece said.  “Three lanterns for our three little dumplings.”

I had to admit, the odds of such a display were slim.  It was Moon Cake day, but to see lanterns at 10:30 pm as we arrived home?

“I feel like I should keep searching for her.”  Reece said.  “What should I do?” There was urgency in her tone.

I looked at those glowing lanterns and shook my head in amazement. I thought standing still was what God wanted, but who knows the mind of God?  We asked for a sign, for direction in this uncertain time and here was a clear sign from our maker.

“Go for it.  Do whatever you have to do to find our little girl.”

Reece contacted the Facebook lady and learned about Madison Adoption Agency (MAA). http://www.madisonadoption.com/

Monday, September 8, 2014 at 10 am, one year to the day when Reece and I decided to begin our journey into adoption, Reece called Madison agency to inquire about any children on the waiting list.

“We have this one little sweetie pie we’ve been trying hard to get matched,” the lady from MAA said.  “She’s four years old and if we don’t match her soon, we’ll have to give her file back to China…”

Reece accepted the file and called me immediately. I knew something was up when she blurted out, “When can you get home?”

How can this be possible?

But it was possible and by 5 pm, Reece and I were pouring over an adoption file of some 4 year old darling from the Hubei province of China.  The report contained 3 short videos, 8 pictures and a basic medical/developmental checklist.  Not much, but a lot could be inferred from the information. For starters, this was one adorable little gal. But there was more. The videos revealed a typically developing kiddo, climbing up slides, smiling and reacting to her caregivers voice.

Beautiful to behold!

To make sure we hadn’t missed anything, we made an appointment with Dr. Staat at Cincinnati Childrens Hospital Adoption clinic to have a look at the file.  A conference call with the doctor was set for that Thursday at 4:30 pm.

http://www.cincinnatichildrens.org/service/i/adoption/default/

Both Reece and I were pretty anxious about the whole situation. You read blogs, talk to people and think you have it all figured out….so when you’re instantly matched with a child, it throws you for a looptdy loop. That old adage “if things seem too good to be true…they probably are,” ran through my head for three days like an ominous skipping record. Finally, Thursday rolled around and it was time to find out what the good doc thought of our Chinese dumpling.

5 minutes before our appointment, Theresa’s cell phone rang. Not just any ring.  My wife had specifically set up a special ring tone for CCAI in the event they called her with a match. At 4:25 pm Thursday, CCAI was calling her phone.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Reece thought as the phone continued to ring.  This was the call she had been waiting for. The call that 11 months of prayers, tears and paperwork had brought her.

“I just wanted to call to let you know that we have a file of a girl you might be interested in.  Would you like to look at her file?”

It was funny. For months we prayed for a match, now suddenly we had TWO!

But did we really?

Instead of throwing us off, this crazy coincidence reinforced what we already knew. Theresa and I decided not to look into the matched file from CCAI, knowing that this little one was destined for another family and that our Little Panda had already been found.

Funny how God works.

Something Special in the Mix

You’ve probably noticed that I haven’t been writing much about our adoption and there’s a good reason for that.

There’s not much going on.

While the wait is difficult, I’ve had a relatively easy time with it. My lack of attentiveness is a gift in situations like this. It also makes for an interesting life since I can talk with you for twenty minutes then walk away without a clue as to the conversation. Such a brain makes this wait for Little P. easier since most of the time….I live in the clouds and don’t think about it.

My wife is not so lucky. She has a brain that sees everything in HD so this business about “forgetting” our adoption has been a struggle for her. In fact, Reece called our agency (CCAI if you don’t already know) this week to re-inquire about the wait.  When we first submitted our medical checklist, the time period from submission to match was about 12-18 months.  Currently, we’re at 11 months so you’d think we’d be pretty close to being matched.  Not necessarily.  When asked about the wait, Reece was told the Chinese adoption process is becoming as slow as major league baseball, therefore 18 months is the most likely scenario.

That’s quite a blow.

Instead of being on the cusp, we’re staring at 7 more months until being matched. Reece likened this to an expectant mother being told her baby wouldn’t arrive for another 7 months.  Maddening to say the least.  The upside is that our letter of acceptance (from China) goes by our log in date, so we shouldn’t have to wait long once we’re matched. Lookin at the bright side. :)smileys_by_musty14-d3hfwjw.jpg (675×647)

Although the wait continues, we’ve done a few things to remain plugged in.  For example, last weekend we visited a China exhibit at the Indianapolis Children’s Museum.

http://www.childrensmuseum.org/exhibits/terra-cotta-warriors

It was a cool way to introduce Chinese culture to our kiddos.  It’s one thing to talk about China and read books, but quite another to look at Terra Cotta warriors thousands of years old.  Another part of the exhibit was set up with various examples/experiences of Chinese culture. This was great because you boarded a fake plane which streaked to China in about 5 minutes.  Don’t I wish the actual 13 hour plane ride was that freakin easy!

We’ve also been involved with other China adoption groups.  Just last weekend we attended a Harvest Moon Festival celebration.  (Hey free meat and moon cakes—I’m there!) It was awesome talking with families who had gone the distance and seeing Ellie and Mitch playing amidst mobs of Chinese kids made my heart sing.  I was a little confused on the moon cake thing though.  I guess what I envisioned was more of a moon pie…the gooey marshmallowy thing my friend Rick Powers used to scarf down every lunch period in high school.

4665597302_57b546c85a_b.jpg (1024×577)

But moon cakes are different.  Honestly, most Chinese deserts are god-awful (at least the ones I’ve tried) so I proceeded with trepidation, nibbling at the cake, hoping my lips hit Godiva chocolate rather than sugary bean paste. Imagine sinking your teeth into a bland fig newton and you get the gist of a moon cake.  Not terrible…just bland. It’s a helluva lot prettier than a moon pie though…which is nice.

Mooncake.jpg (1200×949)

Even though we’re still waiting, I feel something on the horizon.  Why?  Because my mom, wife, daughter, mother-in-law and I have all dreamed about Little Panda in one form or another.  Mine was a lucid dream that occurred the other night.  For those who don’t know, lucid dreams are when the dreamer is aware they are dreaming.  I used to have lucid dreams often, but it’s been over two years since my last one.

http://www.world-of-lucid-dreaming.com/what-is-lucid-dreaming.html

In my dream, I followed the screams of a little girl up the front steps of our home.  When I reached the second floor hallway, I found a distinguished blonde lady standing outside Little P’s room.  She looked like a wary librarian…arms crossed, staring at me with a serious yet peaceful smile.  I passed her without a word, racing into Panda’s room. A large white bed stood before me. There, laying face down, was a little girl with long black hair.  I wish I could say I went to the girl…checked to see if she was okay… but I was so freaked out that I jumped through Panda’s mirror and woke up.

Who knows what this dream meant.  I mean why would a librarian be part of the mix?  But the fact is, I feel as though something is about to happen.

Something special.

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