Saturday, May 21, 2011

oh, my heart...

As you may've gathered through this blog, we miraculously love James and haven't even met him. It's an amazing thing that God does in people's hearts -- stretching us to love beyond what we think we're capable of (creating in us His 'perfect love', 1 John 4:1). When we started this process, I definitely wondered if I can possibly love an adoptive child like I love our biological children. This wonder is gone.

This is how I know...

God did an amazing thing last week. Sometimes He has to break our hearts and then we learn that that brokenness actually has a purpose. Let's just say that, through a series of events, He exposed the immense love that we already have in our hearts for James.

I tried for so long the other night to upload this precious video of James. I just could not get it off the email that it was sent to me in. So the other day, I emailed James' original social worker (the one who gave him the name James) and asked if she could possibly send me the video in another format. She said she doesn't have it, but I could contact the person who sent it to her. In fact, she encouraged me to contact that adoption advocacy group because they would love to know that James has found his forever family. I happily sent an email to the contact person she gave me. This is her reply:

Hi Heather!

Oh my goodness – what a joy your email was today! I can’t even begin to tell you how much I love little James. He has been on my heart since we first started helping him with good formula, and I have his photo as one of my screensavers. This is just WONDERFUL news!

Unfortunately, about two weeks ago my work laptop crashed, and some of my files haven’t been retrieved yet. I’ll see if his video was one already transferred over, but if not – I can get it again from our staff in China. We run several programs in that city, and we have a manager who visits there all the time. She is the one who took the video for me and I am sure she can send it again.

What a joy. There is another charity that we work with closely and they spent a week there last summer and absolutely fell in love with your son as well. I know they are going to SCREAM with joy when they hear he has a home. We have all been praying that a family would see him for the beautiful and wonderful little boy he is and want to bring him home. Please know he has been absolutely covered in prayer since we first learned about him. Do you mind if I share your email with them? They run [a ministry that serves orphans in China] and we have had many conversations about how much we love little [James]. :)

When do you think you will travel?

I can't tell you what it's like to get these kinds of emails. To know that people have been covering our James in prayer. Our mighty God has been working for years in this beautiful web that He's spinning that's bringing us across the globe to a boy in a faraway land that we never even knew existed. Unbelievable.

But there's more.

I reply to her sweet email and tell her to share, share, share with whomever she'd like that James' family has found him. Not long after, I get this email from the ministry she mentioned that visited James' orphanage:

Hello Heather and family,
[So-and-so] so blessed our day today by sharing the awesome news of an answered prayer almost exactly a year in the making. She directed us to your blog..and there before our eyes was [James]...and the news of his matching into your family. We rejoice with you and are full of gratitude that the Lord would see fit to place this sweet little boy in your family.
If you would like to connect more with us, we'd be happy to share our experience with him last May [2010] when we spent a week at the orphanage. As it happens, the first two pictures of him on your blog [Tuesday] are from our camera.

I reply saying we would love any and all information that they can give us about our boy. I feel like I've been parched and thirsty to know James and I've just come upon a well and want to ravenously drink from it. 'Tell me, tell me, tell me!' I think. What I didn't anticipate was a reply like this one:

So good to hear from you! We have enjoyed reading your blog. A few months ago we were asked to write a short story about James to use as a means of adoption advocacy. It never was publicized. Apparently God had His own way of connecting this little baby with his parents.

The article [below] summarizes our experience with him at his orphanage and the beauty of his little personality. He is such a sweet little guy and we can only imagine how he has grown in the last year. We are so, so thrilled for this opportunity for him to come home.

We will send some photos in a separate email.

We will be tied up in meetings/commitments this morning and afternoon. Feel free to call this weekend.
In May 2010, I was preparing to lead a team to spend a week in a Chinese orphanage working alongside the nannies to care for the children. I knew it was a 'special needs’ orphanage, a broad term that can encompass many different conditions. In talking with another American who had previously visited the orphanage, she told us the special needs at this orphanage included Cerebral Palsy, cleft lip and palate, and children with missing limbs. I remember thinking, "Missing don't know if I would be able to handle seeing that." But I didn't know James at that time.

Fast forward a few weeks to the end of May. We were going from room to room, assisting the nannies, holding the babies, giving them stuffed animals and sensory-rich toys to hold, talking to them. And then it happened, I walked into one of the baby rooms and saw the most precious little face, the most beautiful and alert eyes. He was sitting up in a Bumbo seat that was in his crib. I later found out that he was 9 months old. I felt immediately drawn to his bright face and as I walked toward him and started talking to him, his face lit up even more and he gave me the biggest smile. Such a sweet, joyful smile! And then I saw that he was one of the children with missing limbs...a missing right arm and a very short left arm with just two or three fingers. It was the most natural thing to pick him up and hold him, because now he was [James]....not an abstract child with missing limbs. He was a delightful, happy baby. He paid such intent attention as I talked with him in a language he didn't understand. He smiled and savored the attention. After a few minutes I knew I had to set him back in his seat as there were many other children to see and to hold. I set him down and started walking off to another child. Big crocodile tears formed in his eyes and he began to cry....he wanted to be held and talked to. He loved the interaction and thrived on the individualized attention - something far too rare in the orphanage setting. This same scene repeated itself multiple times throughout the week. His joy when myself or one of the other team members would walk in, his longing to be held and cuddled, his smiling face, his enormous tears when the interaction ended far too soon.

It has been nearly a year since our visit to James' orphanage. I think of him often. I wonder if he is getting even a portion of the attention that he so desperately desires. James is waiting for a forever family. He needs the care and attention that they can provide to him and to his special needs. On paper he is a child with missing limbs, but in person James' vibrant little personality outshines his limitations. I feel privileged that James so easily taught me the lesson of looking beyond the special need and to the beauty of a child's heart.

The wonder is gone. The reason I don't wonder anymore about whether I can love another child is because I wept and wept and wept when I read this story. When I hear of tragic situations that involve children, I often weep because I imagine Payton, Avery, Jackson or Brooks in those dire situations. To be as sensitive as possible, I try not to imagine another person's child, but my own. But I didn't do that in this case, I wept because I imagined James in that situation. My own. His little heart breaking in those moments of neglect. Let's just say it as it is. Neglect. I could picture him in my mind yearning for arms around him, yearning for a love that knows no boundaries, yearning for a family that loves him just the way he is.

Y'all, my heart ached last week. I kinda wandered around in a daze for an hour or so and then I became a mom on a mission! All of the sudden, it's like every single day matters in this process!

I came home from taking our boys to a play date and found our I-797 (Notice of Action), the response from our filing the I-800A, waiting in our mailbox. This was great to get it and be able to turn around and send in our replacement copy of the home study (remember those revisions that were made?). So, I swiftly typed up a cover letter, printed it off, told our boys we were headed to the post office and off we went. So on Friday, I sent off what is necessary for our I-800 to be reviewed. Hopefully we'll get our approval very soon to bring James home.

Many people, understandably, ask about a timeline. That is the bottom line, isn't it? When will this child be here? After speaking with our 'dossier specialist' with our agency, Wide Horizons, last week and updating her on where we are in our document collection for our dossier, she said she thinks we'll be traveling in the next six months! Of course, I believe in a mighty God (who didn't just cause mountains to tremble, but he actually created them), so I believe it could be even sooner than that! Still hoping and praying that it'll be sooner rather than later. Just need to get this durn dossier submitted.

We covet your prayers for no hiccups in getting our final documents together, a smooth process of getting everything certified and authenticated, and then that China would swiftly review the dossier and respond with a travel date.

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