Wednesday, December 26, 2012

It's a Wonderful Life

    One of our favorite movies is "It's a Wonderful Life", a classic, iconic Christmas movie that is enjoyed by many year after year. The 1946 Frank Capra classic starring Jimmy Stewart has a timeless message of the importance and worth of every life, and the connections that we have to the people we touch in our lives. In 66 years, that message is not old or worn-out, it is not outdated or irrelevant. It is a message that we 'get' year after year when we watch the Christmas favorite.

    In the past few weeks, the message of "It's a Wonderful Life" has come home to me again and again. As we prepare for the fourth international adoption in less than five years, we have often felt as though we were walking uphill on rough terrain. Like George Bailey, just as we would 'get ahead' and be ready to move on, something would happen, and God would point us toward another child, our child, who was waiting for us. After adopting Shane in October 2009, Matt and I were sure we would never adopt again. We were weary, we were sad. Shane had needs that we had not anticipated, and we were coming to grips with his significant delays. We 'mourned' the child we thought we were adopting, as many families mourn the loss of a child. We grieved that he had been so neglected in China, that he had been abandoned, that we had not gotten him sooner to help to prevent some of the loss he suffered. We were sad and heart-broken, and sure God had asked enough of us. We had our work cut out for us. We were finished adopting. Our family was complete.

   In October of 2010, I called Diana at Madison as I had a question for her about Shane's upcoming 12 month post-placement. Before we hung up the phone, I asked about a little girl who had been on Madison's list, and had been one of the children in Madison's fist camp. While we were adjusting to life with Shane, I had been keeping up with all the families who were bringing their children home, and I rejoiced with each child who came home to his or her family. And so I was surprised when I saw the picture of 'Carrie' reappear on the list. When I asked Diana about her, she explained that she was unexpectedly available again, and that time was running out for her to be adopted. I was so sorry to hear that as it always made my heart heavy at the thought of the children who would live out their lives in institutional type places, especially when she came so close to being adopted. I remember Diana saying "MaryAnne, do you think you might want to adopt her?" I laughed out loud and assured her that that was completely impossible. There was no way, no way, absolutely no way. She told me we might be able to re-use Shane's dossier...I told her no way.

  For the next few weeks I would wake up with 'Carrie's' face on my mind. Throughout the day I would argue with myself, and with God, about how ridiculous, insane, and certainly financially impossible it would be to adopt again. Every night I was sure we could not do it, every morning, her face would be on my mind. If we were her last hope for a family and we said no, how could I live with myself?

    It is now December of 2012, and 'Carrie' just celebrated her first Christmas in her own home. Maeleigh WuShuang, formerly 'Carrie' is walking with crutches, is a star at her school, and is learning English faster than you can imagine.She rolls her eyes, breaks the rules, and is learning to find her way in a busy, hectic home. She loves nail polish and new clothes, and is becoming independent in everything she does. Her future  life in a nursing home is a distant memory: instead she asks where she can go to college. So for all my doubts, for all my plans to the contrary, we were meant to bring 'Carrie' into our hearts and into our home. God made it possible, by opening the hearts of so many friends and strangers who saw the need, and gave of themselves and blessed us to be able to afford the expenses of an adoption.
Christmas 2012 

   As we began the process for Maeleigh, we saw a video of our Vincent. My heart broke, and I knew, without even a doubt, that we would be his parents, but we had absolutely no way to do two adoptions. So, with the encouragement of everyone at Madison, we proceeded with two adoptions, knowing we would have to wait to get Vincent. Born with vision, Vincent was abandoned when he was diagnosed with Retinoblastoma, a cancer of the eyes which almost always causes the loss of the eyes. Within a year or two of arriving at the orphanage Vincent  was totally blind. Smart and feisty, Vincent has not missed a beat, and talked non-stop when I met him in February when I went to get Maeleigh. Had I not been so worried about Maeleigh and her adjustment to us, my heart would have broken when Vincent hugged me and said good-bye. "Hurry back to get me Mama," he urged. When we flew home from China, a piece of my heart was left there with Vincent Xian.
Vincent Xian as he said good-bye to me.

   For those of us in the adoption world, there is no such thing as 'hurrying'. Paperwork, homestudy updates, fingerprints, travel fees, all make it very hard to hurry. We are more than financially challenged these days with 7 children, 2 in college, one in high school and 3 with special needs. Life is busy and full. But while we are challenged, we are also so greatly blessed.

   When we said yes to adopting, God pointed the way for us, time and again. It is a leap of faith to add a child to your family, and it is a bigger leap to take that step with fees attached! (literally!). We could never have brought 3, and soon to be 4 children home in less that 5 years if not for the help and generosity of so many people. It still amazes me at the outpouring of money that we have received. Some people we have never seen, and most likely will never meet in this life. Other people have been touched by our story, still others know us well. In each of our adoptions, we received money that should not have been ours: tuition grants were awarded, airplane costs were mysteriously lowered, fees were waived when they are never waived.

  And so, as we are less than two weeks from traveling to get Vincent, we are in awe, as George Bailey was, standing is his living room, watching the people whose lives he had touched, pour out their own 'gifts' to him. As each life touches the other, we are humbled at the outpouring of generosity from so many people. We are struck by the true meaning of Christmas: that 'unto us this day...a child is born." Unto our family, four children are ours to love, to raise, to bring home.

  Thank you to everyone who has been there for us. We ask your continued prayers and support as we take the last steps to pull together the travel fees. We ask your prayers for Matt and Meghan as they travel to get Vincent, and for Vincent as he makes the transition home. And I ask especially for the children who wait in countries all over the world, including here in our own country, for a family of their own.

 As we look forward to a New Year with a new son, we know that with all of it's challenges and craziness, it's a wonderful life.