Saturday, November 15, 2008

"my real mommy"

After giving Sara a bath and helping her put on her new snuggly, red, polka-dotted, footed pj's, I cozied up next to her inside her nice, clean Dora sheets and read her this book:


It's a beautifully written and illustrated story about a Chinese girl and her two mothers. The one who gave her life and the one who is raising her. We often talk to Sara about the months she lived in China. We also talk about her Chinese parents.

It's hard to say, at the young age of 3 1/2, how much she really understands. However, both Geoff and I feel that it is important to start planting the seeds of future conversations now. By doing so, we believe it will help prepare her for the inevitable questions that will come when her comprehension becomes more mature; especially when she begins to compare herself with her sister and brother.

It's difficult to anticipate the questions and even harder to imagine how she'll feel about all of the decisions that were made without her input or approval. I can't even begin to imagine what she's been through or what the future will bring. But I am trusting God to be with us throughout the entire journey. It's been an amazing one so far.

The other day Sara sat next to me on my bed while I was trying to recover from a nasty throat infection. Listening to her chatter on, I realized that her English has developed so well, that for all intents and purposes she is definitely American. And yet, she's also Chinese. Even as her mother, I honestly have a hard time putting those two thoughts together and making sense of them. It's a wonderfully crazy thing.

This week I have been following the blog of my sweet friend, Sarah, whose family just received their newest (and absolutely ADORABLE) son, Hudson. We traveled to China together in 2006 when we brought home Sara and Esther. (Both of our girls share a special bond in that they are both cleft-affected.)

I have thoroughly enjoyed watching Esther blossom during her trip back to her homeland. Seeing the photos and reading about the Strand's experience has not only brought up a lot of memories for me, it's also made me a bit more reflective about Sara and her sweet life.

I tried to imagine how different this little girl would be if she were still living in China. English would not be her first language. She would know far more Chinese that the few phrases I've been successful in teaching her. She may not have been given the opportunity to truly experience the love and gift of Jesus. If she had, she may not have been able to enjoy and express her faith as fully as she does here in the United States. So much of her little personality would be vastly different.

Had I not been given the honor of being her mother, I would not be the person I am today. Not perfect, but most definitely blessed, challenged and changed for the better in so many ways.

That said, without a doubt I know that her little heart and soul would be in far better shape had she been able to stay with her birth mother. Adoption is a tricky thing; there's no other way around it. One family's loss is our gain, and yet Sara is both wounded and blessed by the unfortunate reality that brought her here to be a part of our lives and family.

As I try to wrap words around all of my thoughts and emotions, I admit that I am thankful that Sara is not yet able to understand more than the basic fact that she has two mommies and two daddies. It's something I hope to have a better grip on before the real questions start coming.

Whenever I have read Sara this book, she will talk about her "real mommy," and honestly, my first reaction is to assume she is talking about her "China mommy." You can imagine how my heart leapt as my sweet girl further clarified by pointing to the photos in the book and said, "My mommy in China (the woman with the black hair and olive complexion) and my real mommy (the mother in the photo who looks nothing like her daughter.)" When I asked Sara who her "real mommy" is, she pointed to me and said, "My real mommy. And I have a real daddy, and a real Chelsea, a real Liam." Can't get much clearer than that. :-)

The words on the page below say: "The first gave you the need for love; the second was there to give it."
"One gave you a body; the other taught you games." (Oh, did I mention this book is sure to bring tears, even if you aren't an adoptive mother???)

My prayer for my beautiful Sara KangXia is that one day she will meet her birth family. I also pray that one day I will as well. It would give me the utmost pleasure to share this precious little soul with the couple who chose to protect and cherish her life until she was safely born. I am humbled by their courage to bring her into the world, as well as to find the safest place possible for her to be found and cared for.

Tonight I am humbled by the miracle that God has entrusted our family with; a beautiful, loving and courageous little girl. I am also humbled by the miracle of adoption that allows this precious child to call me three of the sweetest words I have ever heard, "My Real Mommy."

Truly, tonight, this Real Mommy is LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!!!

I hope and pray you are as well. :-)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

i refuse to give up. really.

So my life's been a bit derailed lately in ways I never would have expected. My goal to become a long-distance runner has been pushed out a bit; as have my awesome early morning workouts. But you know what? I'm NOT giving up.

After three awesome months of sticking with my routine, my body finally decided to tell me that I was overdoing it. Or rather my new friend, Stacy, the Physical Therapist, told me I was overdoing it.

She actually laughed at me (on more than one occasion), when I told her I was working out for an hour six days a week. Seriously, she did. I think I'm still in shock that she wants me to cut back to 30 minutes only 3 days a week. She doesn't quite get that I heart my workouts. Guess my body doesn't get that either. (That sound you just heard was me huffing indignantly.)

So, she diagnosed me with tendinitis in my left arm and an injury to my IT-band in my left thigh and invited me to come back twice a week for some intense massage therapy...thank you very much. Throw in there a case of strep throat and I have to say, I've definitely felt better.

All that to say, making changes and getting healthy (or staying healthy) can be a bit tricky, BUT...I'M NOT GIVING UP! Really.

I'm having far too much fun shopping for new (a.k.a. smaller!) clothes and having my kiddos calling me thin. ;-)

Which brings me to the beautiful photo at the top of my post. I love sunny weather with blue skies. But if you think about it, as beautiful as those days are, how often are we inspired to take a photo of just a plain, old blue sky? The pics are actually quite boring. A few scattered clouds, on the other hand, definitely result in some gorgeous pics.

And so it is with life. If it were always a "bowl full of cherries," I don't think we would have quite the appreciation for the blessings that come our way each day.

If life isn't going exactly the way you had hoped or would prefer it to, and you're facing some cloudy weather, I pray that God will give you the courage to keep pressing on. May He give you the strength and perseverance you need each and every moment during those rough days.

Don't be afraid to lift your face up towards the sky and enjoy the beauty (and growth) that rainy days can bring.

Whatever you do, please don't give up. Even on the worst of days, we can keep praising God and enjoy LIVING A BLESSED LIFE! Really.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

love or hatred?

Last night I watched yet another phenomenal documentary on Netflix. I have a heart for those who suffer and a deep desire to better understand them. While I'm a big fan of reality TV, I have firsthand experience in seeing one actually filmed and produced. Unfortunately, much of the "reality" we enjoy so much is actually the result of scripted acting.

That said, the documentaries I've been watching were made not for the purpose of entertaining us from our cozy couches or beds. Rather, they were filmed with purpose of transporting us out of our comfortable realities and into the lives and hearts of people around the world who are in the midst of terrors, tragedies and war.

I was indeed transported last night while I cried my way through Beyond Belief. Here's the synopsis of the movie found on Principle Picture's website:

"Susan Retik and Patti Quigley are two ordinary moms living their American Dream until both husbands are killed by terrorists. Rather than turning inwards, grief compels them to travel to Afghanistan and help empower Afghan widows whose lives have been ravaged by decades of war, poverty and oppression – factors they consider to be root causes of terrorism.

As Susan and Patti make the courageous journey from their comfortable suburban neighborhoods to the most desperate Afghan villages, they discover a powerful bond with each other, an unlikely kinship with widows halfway around the world, and a profound way to move beyond tragedy.

Premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. Available now on Netflix. Coming soon to the Sundance Channel. Click here to visit the official "Beyond Belief" website."

The above photo was taken of Susan while she was in Afghanistan listening to other widows share their grief. As she sat in their tiny one room home crying with them, they asked her about her life in America. The Afghan widows shared their surprise that women in the United States actually suffered from the same pain because "life is so good in America." They were under the assumption that because we live a life of plenty, that we are above grief and suffering. It was incredibly moving to watch two seemingly different worlds come together and find common ground.

It was an experience that resonated within my own heart because of a similar experience I had when I was in Tianjin, China. Our guide, Maria, and myself became surprisingly close and shared deeply from our hearts. While on the outside we looked very different and lived very diverse lifestyles, we both understood each other's hearts which allowed us to bonded very deeply.

The same was true for Susan and Patti. While they may have expected to be very different from the widows of Afghan, the walls of misconceptions quickly fell away and a beautiful bridge was built in its place.

I was inspired by their desire to reach outside of themselves. Not only did they seek to learn about the suffering of the widows in Afghan, they also worked hard to financially and emotionally assist the women in providing for their children. While they had the option to simply send money from the safety and comfort of their homes, they chose instead to take face their fears. They risked their emotional and physical well-being in order to experience life firsthand in the very country where their husbands' murderers were trained.

There is much more I could share, however, I hope that you will be inspired to cry through this movie, just as I did. :-) There is always so much that we can learn through other people's unique experiences, if not simply developing a heart of true compassion.

The film ended with a gentleman reflection upon the courage of Susan and Patti. While I am unsure of where their faith lies, without a doubt both of their choices reflect the command that Jesus gave us to love our enemies. Through their actions, they chose life over death and love over hatred.

Not one of us is immune to pain and suffering. We have all been hurt by other's actions again us. We are all left to make a very difficult choice. The first option is to hold on to bitterness, rage and pain. The second option is to deny our flesh and choose to do something which may seem quite impossible. We are called to not only forgive those who hurt us, but to also love and bless them. If that choice is before you today, which do you choose?

May God give you His grace to make the less popular and incredibly difficult choice, for it is in choosing life and love that allows us to be LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!