Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Monday, January 23, 2017

Let the Little Children Come

One of the things that I love about my church, Christ Church Nashville, is how they love on our children. The pastors all know and care about my children, and although Marella is a bit too young to grasp all of it, Reagan excitedly shouts their name when he sees any of them. He knows he is loved at church. He feels safe and secure at church. He thinks all the pastors and the church staff, from our Senior Pastor and on down, are his friends, and he's right.

A few weeks ago, one of our church members, a man who works with our youth, lost his wife. He showed up at church the next day, and I'm so glad he did. But while adults, myself included, may sometimes get lost in finding the right words to say, or worse, saying nothing out of fear of saying the wrong thing, our children in our church service, gathered around him and prayed for him.

I was standing in line with my husband to receive Communion, and I saw children -- maybe eight or ten of them -- laying their hands on this man and praying for him in his grief, and I lost it. I'm teary just thinking about it.

The faith of a child. Jesus Himself said,  "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." (Matt. 19:14)

I've heard that verse a lot, but it's only recently that I really understood it. I stumbled upon another verse, right before that verse, which I'm sure I've read time and time again, but I never really got it until recently.

Matthew 18:10: "See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven."

Did you read that? Did you get that?

"See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven."

Since I've grabbed hold of that verse, almost everything has changed in how I relate to my children. Because, maybe, just maybe, the veil between here and there, between Earth and Heaven, is thinnest when we are with children. If their angels are with my children, and also seeing the Father, then we are in a very real sense touching the face of God when we deal with children.

Isn't that AMAZING?

If the angels that surround my children always see the face of God, then that changes not only the big picture -- how I parent, how I relate to them, how I talk to them -- but it also changes the mundane. That third game of Chutes and Ladders, or that sixth story, or that time at the park when I want to be working suddenly seems like a spiritual act, maybe even an act of worship.

 (photo courtesy of Moments by Moser)

I wish I had Reagan's faith. This morning in Sunday School, when his teacher asked for prayer requests, he prayed that my little toe, which I injured Friday night, would get better. When I'm in a situation where we are giving prayer requests, I'm thinking about friends with illness, friends in grief, orphans all over the world. I'm not thinking about my toe. But to Reagan, it's a simple prayer request (and for the record, it feels much, much better today).

A couple years ago, when Reagan was two or maybe just turned three, a friend was having some vision problems. I told Reagan about it, and he wanted to pray for her, so we did. A couple days later, I told him that her vision problems went away. I was so excited, and he looked at me like he was confused, and said, "But Mommy, of course they did. We prayed for her, remember?"


I'll never, ever know the full story behind my brain tumor scare a couple years ago. I'll never know why two separate doctors told me it was behind my right eye, and why I had excruciating migraines, and then, suddenly, when a third doctor looked at the same scan the first two doctors looked at,  it was at the base of my skull and not behind my eye. 

I'll never know what really happened. It is entirely possible that two doctors read the scan wrong. It is. I don't question that.

But it's also possible that God heard the simple prayers of a two-year-old, who didn't know fancy words to use or the right combination of phrases to try and convince God to listen to him. All he knew was that he was home a lot with his Mommy who had to shut her eyes every night before Daddy got home, because the headaches were so bad, and he wanted the headaches to go away, so he prayed for God to take the tumor away.

I learn so much from my little boy. He has taught me more about grace and trust and faith than I have learned in a lifetime of sermons.

I want to be like Reagan. I want to have faith like him. I want to believe like him. And I want to be with him, and others like him, because maybe it's then that I fully understand the Father heart of God.

"See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven."

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Politics, Facebook, and the Presidential Election

I've wrestled and wrestled and wrestled with whether to write this or not. I have tried very hard not to get into the political fray. When I see someone post something about politics, especially something divisive or argumentative, I want to yell, figuratively and literally, "Can't we all just get along?"

I have tried to stay silent, bite my tongue, and ignore the hate-filled speech, the accusatory comments from both sides, the "If you are voting for ____ , go ahead and unfriend me now" statements that show up in my newsfeed every. single. day. From both political sides.

But I can't. I can't stay quiet, because I feel like this election, more than any other, at least since I've been alive, has brought out the worst in all of us. We've taken our stand, drawn our lines in the sand, and dared anyone to disagree with us. We've started arguments and canceled friendships, all in the name of trying to make other people think like us, believe like us, vote like us. We've used party lines to divide us.

Perhaps, in that sense then, both parties have already won. Or lost.

What is it about politics that makes it such an us-or-them mentality? Of course, we want our nation to do well, and of course we vote for people who most align with our beliefs. But what are we solving by highlighting our differences, instead of focusing on our common ground?

My friend Linda is a vegetarian. This week I've had beef and broccoli, a chicken burrito and a meatball.

I have friends who are anti-gun. My husband has a carry permit.

My friend Richard doesn't go to church. I'm there almost every Sunday.

My friend Beth is a stay-at-home Mom (and rocks at it, by the way). I bring in half of our family's income.

I could go on and on, but you get the point.

Why are we so focused on the things that divide us, instead of the things that unite us? What is that helping?

I am all for polite and civil discussion, even -- or maybe especially -- among people who tend to vote differently than I do. I genuinely enjoy hearing other people's point of view, but whether we have similar or different political views doesn't change how I feel about them as a person.

A funny thing happened during the last Presidential election. I happened to have lunch with a friend the day we both voted, so of course we discussed it. I asked her who she voted for, and she told me, and then she asked me, and I told her I voted for the other party.

Then you know what we did?

We laughed, and talked about something else. I would no more cease to be her friend because she had different political views, than I would because she spent her money differently, or liked different books than I did.

Also during the last election, I watched one of the debates between the Vice-President hopefuls, so between Joe Biden and Paul Ryan. As I was watching, I completely disagreed with almost everything one of the men said. I shook my head a lot, and frankly thought he was spewing a lot of garbage.

As I was watching, I was also scrolling through Facebook (because I can't ever just sit and watch TV), and a very, very, very dear friend of mine posted how proud she was of the man who I disagreed with.

If I had emailed her, or called her, or texted her, and said, "I can't believe you are supporting _____. If you keep supporting him, just stop being my friend now," I would have lost four years of a beautiful friendship that has blessed me, enriched my life, supported me and been priceless to me. I don't think any less of her because we are on opposite sides of the political spectrum. She is a selfless human being who gives of herself over and over again. Her political beliefs are just one tiny fraction of who she really is as a person.

It is my (very personal) opinion that social media would be a better place, a safer place, without any political comments. With that said, I do understand that people are passionate about their views, and want to share their thoughts, and perhaps social media is an appropriate place to do that.

But what if we stopped inciting while we shared our views? What if, instead of starting comments with "You conservatives all ..." or "All you liberals ..." we allowed for honest dialogue, and a safe place to disagree?

I'm not right on a lot of things, and I hope I'm always open to listening to opinions that are different than mine. But I can guarantee that when anyone says "You anything," I'm going to stop reading. It's inciting, it's accusatory, and it always -- ALWAYS -- feeds the problem instead of finding a solution.

Every Democrat, Republican, liberal, and conservative believes they are right. Shouting loudly that we are right and someone else is wrong only exacerbates the problem. I'll never listen to someone who is yelling. But, if someone can kindly and gently, without anger or malice, share their views on a topic -- any topic -- I'll gladly listen to whatever they have to say. Respect goes a long way in opening communication.

What if we tried kindness? What if we dared to see someone else's point of view? What if we stopped spewing insults at people who believed differently than we did? What if we stopped being angry?

If, for example, my friend Linda started out any comment by saying, "All you meat eaters should ...", I would immediately stop reading. But if she posted an honest comment about why she chose to stop eating meat, without claiming all meat-eaters were bad, or threatening to stop being friends with anyone who eats meat, I'm sure I would read it. And I'm sure I would consider her thoughts, whether or not it prompted any change in me.

We are solving nothing by fueling division, by constantly claiming one side is right and the other side is wrong.

How much better would life be if we focused on common ground instead of things that divide us?

Maybe we should try that.

I'm passionate about adoption. I am, and will always be, a fierce advocate for orphans, and I will continue to encourage others to adopt, and to fight for the children who need someone in their corner. I think far too few people consider adoption, which is why our orphan problem has spiraled out of control, with millions of children suffering as a result.

But who would listen to me if I started every Facebook post by saying, "All you selfish people who refuse to help the orphans ...?"

No one. Not one person would listen to what I had to say, nor should they. If I can't speak respectfully to them, I haven't earned the right to be heard.

We forget that what we post on social media is having a conversation with others. So unless I would go to my friends and colleagues, especially those who are of the opposite political party, and say right to their face, "You're being stupid if you vote ___," or "Can't you see how dumb ____ is?" or any other comments that fill my newsfeed, then I have no right to post it on Facebook.

Just because the Presidential race has gotten messy and ugly and barbaric, doesn't mean we have to join them. We can rise above it. We can be better. We can do better.

Regardless of what we say between now and Nov. 8, one party will be the winner, and one party will be the loser. And on Nov. 9, and for every day after that, for at least the next four years, we have to live with that choice. Whether the person I vote for wins the Presidency or not, I still want my friends.

That's what matter the most.

"If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." ~Romans 12:18.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Happy Birthday To My Sweet Daughter

Happy 2nd birthday, Marella Hope Grace Thompson!!

Last year, we celebrated your birthday even though you weren't with us. But we ate cake and prayed for you, and dreamed that by your next birthday, you would be home.

And here you are. It's the best birthday present ever, for both of us. For all of us.

A few things about you: you LOVE LOVE LOVE your big brother, Reagan. You try to do what he does, play with his toys, and follow him wherever he goes. One of my favorite things is watching you when he comes with me to get you up in the morning. You giggle and smile and say your version of his name, which comes out more like "NA-nan," and open your arms wide for a big hug, always from him first. As big brothers go, you have the best.

You are also such a girly-girl. Having only had a boy so far, this has been fun for me. You like to watch me when I get ready, and by the time I'm done, you are wearing my lotion, my perfume, and my lipstick, and have played with all of my make-up brushes. Sometimes I catch you opening my purse and reaching into my make-up bag to get out my lip gloss. And often, especially after I've done your hair, you look in the mirror and say,"Pretty!"

Yes you are, sweet girl.

You like bubbles and playing outside. You like to eat. OK, that's an understatement. You love to eat, and you'll eat just about anything, but you have a particular fondness for bananas, noodles, bread, animal crackers, yogurt, and Miss Denise's peanut butter bars.

You have the BEST giggle. I wish I could bottle it up. You love having your belly tickled, playing peek-a-boo, and being held a lot. Although, you are also a fast runner (especially when Mommy is trying to catch you), and have adapted really well to a foot that's formed slightly different than the other one.

You also really love your Daddy. I'll be honest; I was a bit worried in India when you wouldn't let him even hold you, only because you hadn't really been around men before. You still cry when I leave you, but you start laughing again soon. Just the other day, we went for a walk and ran into Daddy driving home, and the rest of the walk you kept yelling, "Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!" He adores you, he always will, and he won't let you date until you're 30. Don't argue with him about it -- he won't change his mind.

You make us laugh sometimes at how quickly you can go from happy to sad. You hate the word "no," and will burst into tears if we say it, only to (usually) start laughing again a few seconds later.

I look at you often and marvel at how brave you are. You are so, so, so incredibly brave. Adults with a lifetime of living behind them could learn from you. The way you went from saying "No! No! No!" to us, this strange family to you at the time who came to take you from the only life you ever knew, to completely acclimating to us, is beyond my comprehension. You have a resilience and a tenacity that will take you far in this life.

I'll let you in on a little secret: all the books and the experts and the people who know more than us have said your adjustment is supposed to be a lot harder, on you and on us. But apparently no one told you that, because you just settled right in and became a part of our family, like you were always supposed to be here.

Because you were.

While you were halfway around the world, I like to believe -- I have to believe -- that our hearts were being knit together. My prayer, every day from the day we saw your face and knew your name, was this: "God, place a Thompson-sized hole in her, and a Marella-sized hole in us."

That prayer was answered 1000 times better than I hoped.

You are a gift to us. You have awakened in us a passion to help others in your situation find families who can save their lives, and change their destiny. Although, if I'm honest, I think you saved us as much as we saved you.

I'll tell you something I'm a bit embarrassed to admit: Reagan is at a really easy age, and I was worried that, when you came home, I would be frustrated by how much of my time you take, and work events and social events I would miss out on because of you.

I'm not proud to admit that, but it's true. But what I didn't count on, and perhaps what I couldn't know until I saw you, was how much of my heart you would completely take over. I thought perhaps it would take me a little longer to form the mother-daughter bond, and in the interim I would struggle a lot.

Princess (what we often call you), that's not how it is, at all. At least once a day (OK, usually more), I wipe away a couple tears at how fortunate I am to be able to raise you, to watch you grow. I feel like I've been given this beautiful gift, and I want to nurture it and protect it and guard it.

There are a lot of heroes in your story, too many to mention. Your daddy and I are not even on that list, and I'm being honest. The heroes are the people, some who are close to us, and some who know us from afar, who helped us bring you home. You have so, so many people who loved you before they knew you, and did everything they could to make sure we could get you as soon as possible. In many ways, your daddy and I have the easy job -- we get to watch you grow and spend our days with you. We get to live out the fruits of their labor. So many people love you, Marella. I hope you always know that, and feel that.

Being a mommy to you and to Reagan has been the best thing that has ever happened to me. I'd give up friends, I'd give up my job, I'd give up everything for both of you, and I wouldn't regret it, not even for a second.

I love you, Marella Hope Grace Thompson. I will spend every day of my life trying to show you. I will stumble. I will fall. I will make so many mistakes. But know this: I will always, always, always, always, always love you.

I'm so proud of you. You are brave and smart and mischievous and feisty and wonderful. I am learning from you. You are so deeply cherished.

Happy birthday, Princess.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Leaving India, Coming Home

Sept. 8, Day 12

Today was our last full day in India, and a free day for us, since all of our paperwork was completed. One of the waiters we got to know at our hotel, the Hilton Garden Inn (BEST HOTEL STAFF EVER), offered to take us all shopping, so we had the chance to visit a local market, where I stocked up on scarves. I was so impressed with the care everyone gave us, especially Reagan.

Thursday night we planned on celebrating our last night by eating at the buffet in the restaurant, but it didn't open until 7:00, so we ordered off the menu. The food was amazing, as usual. Every morning of our stay at the hotel, we ate their epic breakfast, which included plenty of American and Indian food. On our last night, the staff offered to pack a dinner the next night for Marella, since our plane didn't leave until close to midnight.

Sept. 9 and 10, Day 13 and 14 -- HEADING HOME!

I woke up Friday morning with a slightly irritated and swollen left eye, and not feeling super great. Not terrible, just not great. Not really hungry. Went to breakfast, ate a little, chatted with some of the staff, and went back to our room to pack all our clothes. The Hilton graciously gave us a 5:00 checkout, which allowed us to relax, take a nap (in theory anyway), and not feel so rushed.

Also, two of the waiters came to our room with a going-away cake for Marella. PRECIOUS.

By the time we checked out, I was feeling pretty lousy. At the risk of oversharing, I had to sip Coke, and at one point eat a couple crackers, to keep the little food I ate earlier in the day inside my stomach.

We got to the airport early, which was fine since we didn't know how long it would take to get through security with our new daughter. Although there were many steps, it felt pretty seamless, and everyone was exceedingly kind (and I managed to not get sick all over the airport, although there was a time while we were checking our bags that I wasn't so sure ...)

I had hot tea for dinner, and felt a bit better by the time we got on the plane for our 14-hour flight to Newark. Ambitious with two children under the age of 4, one who doesn't really know who you are? Perhaps. But all things considered, it went well. Reagan slept at the beginning and the end, and watched movies in the middle. Marella slept for four hours, woke up to eat a bit and snuggle, and fell back asleep for another four to five hours, and then slept again for another hour right before we landed.

I didn't sleep, more than 30 minutes or so. Sometime during the flight, my nausea was replaced by the feeling that there was a tiny person with a big hammer pounding right behind my eyes, and my right eye started to sting like crazy. Soon after we landed at Newark, a little after 4 in the morning, it swelled almost completely shut (I was so, so pretty ...).

But besides that, I have to say, getting through customs and immigration was ten times easier than I expected. We had her passport and our exit permits, and the whole process took maybe ten minutes. Found our bags, rechecked them, went through security, and we were done.

It hit me right after we were cleared at immigration, while waiting for our bags, that WE DID IT, and I burst into tears (that happened a lot on this trip). This little girl who we prayed for and believed for and hoped for for four long years, was home. With us. In the United States. All the paperwork and loopholes and money spent and tears shed felt completely worth it in that moment.

We had (sigh) almost 12 hours in Newark before our plane to Nashville. I'm not entirely sure what all we did in that 12 hours, but we survived. We talked. We walked. We ate lunch -- which was really frustrating because, after two weeks of not being able to eat fresh vegetables, all I wanted was a salad, but based on the price of salads in the Newark airport, I'm guessing the vegetables are dusted in gold.

But we did survive, even with my one working eye. Reagan did great. Marella did great. I just wanted to sleep.

We were in the air, close to the Nashville airport, when we found out we had to divert to Atlanta to get more fuel, thanks to a thunderstorm in Nashville. By this point, I had been awake for over 48 hours, and had taken three Benadryl within about six hours to try to make my eye stop hurting/itching. I was sitting between Reagan and Marella, with my husband one row up, and allllll I wanted was to be home.

Finally, about two hours after we were originally scheduled to land, we made it! I knew some people would be waiting for us, but honestly, after our epic travel day (which spanned more than 36 hours), I thought I was too tired to have any kind of reaction.

I was so wrong.

That feeling of seeing so many people who have walked this long journey with us, waiting for us, was one of the best feelings I've ever had. I will never forget it. We have been so blessed by so many people who walked with us, prayed with us, supported us, and it felt like it all culminated in that moment.

We did finally make it home and in our own beds. We are now adjusting to life as a family of four. Four!! Reagan is a champ. I'm not sure his little mind really grasped that his sister was going to be here permanently, but he's adjusting well.

Marella loves to eat! So far it's been Denise Palma's yeast rolls, pasta and peanut butter bars, along with bananas. She is fantastic as long as I am in the room, and screams as soon as I leave. She has a fiery personality and I love her so much, my heart actually aches sometimes.

Thank you to everyone who has emailed us, called us, texted us, sent us Facebook love, stood in the gap for us, and believed with us. We did it. One less orphan. She is home.

"I don't want a flame, I want a fire. I wanna be the one who stands up and says, 'I'm gonna do something.'" ~Matthew West, 'Do Something'

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Journey in India, Part 2

Sept. 4, Day 8

It would be fitting with this entire adoption journey if the week continued with everyone seamlessly getting along, Reagan becoming the perfect child, adapting well while halfway around the world, while Mommy and Daddy take care of his new baby sister, who is delighted to be freed from the stagnant orphanage.

Unfortunately, adoption isn't all rainbows and lollipops.

Sunday, Sept. 4, was hard. So, so hard. Hard on everyone. Hard on me. Hard on my husband. Hard on Reagan. Hard on Marella. So hard.

Marella, or Princess as we have dubbed her, wanted to be held. Allll day. By me. And only me. JUST me. All day. She did not want to sit. She did not want to lay down. She did not want to walk more than three steps. She just wanted me to hold her, on my left hip. All day.

Sweet little Reagan, realizing someone else had Mommy's attention, wanted Mommy to hold him. By the end of the day, we were all near our breaking point. My left arm was so tired it felt like it was going to fall off. Reagan had an epic meltdown. Johnny and I were both SPENT. Exhausted. Marella cried at bedtime. Reagan screamed. I thought I was going to lose my mind.

It was not a great day. Just keeping it real. It was, aside from the chocolate waffle at breakfast, a pretty terrible day.

Marella did smile some at dinner, at TGIFriday's. Full disclosure: It goes against everything I believe in to go to a foreign country and eat American food. But we have realized that even their American food is spicy, at least by a four-year-old's standards, and after all we have put him through, if we have the opportunity to give him food from a kid's menu in an American restaurant, then so be it. He's a fantastic eater at home. I might have gotten him pizza and french fries Sunday night at dinner. Desperate times ....

But, dinner was one small bright spot in a very difficult day. Marella and Reagan each received a wind-up toy, and little Princess decided Miss Joyce was her personal winder-upper. She giggled and laughed and babbled in a language we didn't understand.

Sept. 5, Day 9

Thankfully, Monday was MUCH better. Normally, we would have continued our exit process today to be able to legally leave the country with Marella, but since it was a holiday in India, we had another day off. Reagan did school work with Miss Joyce for a bit, and then we hung out in the lobby, the six of us, for much of the morning. Marella still only wanted me, but she did chatter a lot more and smiled.

During nap time, as soon as Reagan woke up -- as in, the second he opened his eyes -- I put my finger to my mouth to tell him to be quiet, picked him up, grabbed his shoes, and we escaped. We put his shoes on in the hall, and went to the mall next door to get him cotton candy. Again, desperate times. It was the BEST time. My heart was so full, holding his hand walking through the mall, I might have wiped a tear or two away. I will never, ever, ever be able to articulate how proud I am of him, throughout this entire process.

I told him we couldn't stay long, but we sat on a bench for a bit and just had Mommy and Reagan time. I'm not sure who needed it more.

When he got his cotton candy, it came out as this big flower, and my first thought was that I wished I had my phone to capture the moment. But I have to say, I think the demise of my phone might be a really great thing for this trip. I'm not capturing moments; I'm living in them. The world will not end if a few hundred people miss the picture of a wide-eyed four-year-old with a stick of pink cotton candy as big as his head. I was in the moment, and it was awesome.

We went back to Chili's for dinner, and once again, Marella chattered away. We didn't see children eating at a table in the orphanage, but for some reason, she comes alive at the table. And, Princess made it very clear that she did not want the broken up bits of my food I put on a plate for her. She wanted my food, from my plate, and her water from a glass, not a plastic cup, please and thank you.

Funny story: We are all sleeping in the same bed. The two littlest ones take up the most space, by far. So, after they were both asleep, and we were clinging to the edge of the bed, my husband decided to scoot Marella over a bit, to the middle.

WELL, Princess woke up and did not want to be moved, and started rattling off in a language we did not understand, but BOY WAS SHE MAD.

At least we know she is feisty.

Sept. 6, Day 10

Today Reagan stayed back with Mr. Steve and Miss Joyce while we had our embassy appointment. Our visa interview lasted about three minutes, and then we went to the FRRO (Foreigner Regional Registration Offices) to secure a place in line, then BACK to the embassy to pick up our visa, and then back to the FRRO, where we waited about 20 minutes for our number to be called. The good news is that we got a lot more done in one day than we planned, but I will admit, it definitely wasn't my favorite day. There was a lot of waiting, and a bit of anxiety, because the interview at the embassy just sounded a bit intimidating -- but in reality, it was really easy. But the entire day was a lot of time in the car, a lot of heat, a lot of waiting, and a bit of fussing from a little girl who did not understand what we were doing.

Reagan did well with the Samples, though, and was rewarded with pool time. You guys, this pool was EPIC. It looked like it belonged in a hotel at a 5-star resort. It was Marella's first time in the pool, and I'm not sure what she thought of it. No tears, just lots of clinging.

After several days of eating at the mall, we decided we needed something different, so we ordered room service pizza and naan, followed by a banana split and raspberry chocolate souffle, which we all shared. We went to bed completely exhausted, but thrilled with all we got done.

Sept. 7, Day 11

Early this morning, Marella must have had a bad dream, because we woke up to her screaming, 'Ma-MEEE!! Ma-MEEE!' I scooped her up and she fell right back asleep on top of me, which is how she likes to sleep. Surprisingly, thanks to melatonin, a sleeping pill and a benadryl, I actually slept all night, still waking up about once an hour to make sure no one was sleeping on top of her.

Sweet Marella discovered the joy of chocolate waffles with whipped cream this morning. She also loves bananas, mango yogurt and banana bread.

My sweet friend Ruth, who lives in New Delhi, came to see me today. Her visit was a breath of fresh air in the middle of a very intense experience. Johnny went back to the FRRO and to CARA  (Central Adoption Resource Authority), and then we should be done with all of our paperwork. We leave Friday night (Sept. 9) at 11:35 PM, and land on Saturday (Sept. 10) around 5:30.

Marella is starting to warm up to other people, but she still wants me with/near her all the time. It's making us realize how important it is to let her bond with US first, and to follow all of the experts advice. Once she has formed a very close bond with us, we will start letting others hold her, but it will be a few months. Ideally, by Christmas we can hopefully let the grandparents and immediate family start holding her, but we really need to let her take the lead. Of course, our ultimate goal is to make her feel as safe and secure as possible. She's had almost two years of instability and insecurity.

But if anyone really wants to show love to someone, I know of a really, really, really cute four-year-old who could use some extra attention....

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Journey in India, Part One

I've been trying to post daily updates regarding our adoption, but it's hard to sum it all up in short sound bites, so I'm going to condense it here to keep our family and friends informed. It has been a JOURNEY, but I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world.

Aug. 28 and 29, Day 1 and 2

We left our house a little after 8:00 AM on Sunday morning, checked our (very) heavy bag, and met Russell and Janice Mauldin for a time of prayer and a send-off. After all the waiting, all the preparations, all of the last minute details, I was in a bit of shock that, almost four years after we started talking about adopting, we were actually getting on a plane to go get her. Well, actually four planes, but more on that in a minute.

We flew Nashville to Chicago to Newark to New Delhi. The first two flights were only about two hours, and the last one was about 14 hours. We left Newark around 10 at night, and landed in New Delhi about 9:30 PM, thanks to the time change. And wow, was United Airlines disappointing. I've flown a lot. I've flown internationally a lot. I've never, ever had such a terrible experience. From the flight attendant who insisted the shade stay down for the entire 14-hour flight, to the non-working TV screen, and not being offered anything but water in a 12-hour period, (which was only offered twice), it was pretty awful. Reagan was such a trooper though. He slept twice, watched movies, played with the Kindle his Aunt Tracy loaned us, and continued his role as Best Traveler Ever.

After we landed, as late as it was, I tried to soak it all in. India is just so, so different from the United States in so many ways. The traffic, the cars, the people, the poverty -- it was a bit of a shock to my system, even though I had been to New Delhi previously. I wish I could have known what Reagan was thinking. He seemed to be in awe of it -- plus, he was pretty excited he didn't have to sit in a car seat, since they don't really exist in India.

Aug. 30, Day 3

We stayed at a Four Points the first two nights. By the time we checked in, got our stuff organized, and took showers, it was close to midnight. Thankfully everyone slept well, until about 8:30. We ate at the breakfast buffet in our hotel, and then just lounged around all day. Reagan had more screen time in one day than he has probably had all month. We relaxed, trying to savor our last couple of days as a family of three.

Aug. 31, Day 4

We flew from Delhi to Pune, about a two-hour flight, on Jet Airways. Unlike United staff, who seemed completely bothered by our existence, the Jet Airways staff were AMAZING. We were served a hot meal both times. Too bad they aren't based in the United States. We were driven to our hotel, ordered room service (which is ridiculously cheap here) and savored our last night as a family of three.

Sept. 1, Day 5

I  have to admit, I barely slept at all the night before we left to pick up Marella. My mind was swirling, wondering how Reagan would be, wondering how she would be, wondering how we would be. I had second thoughts. I wondered if it was a mistake. I wondered how quickly we could get to her. I wondered if she would love us or hate us.

We left our hotel at 6:00 AM and drove to Solapur with a guide and a driver. The drive took just under four hours, and was actually quite picturesque. We pulled up to ramshackle building, tucked away on a side street. The sense of cleanliness in India is different than what we are accustomed to, but it was still a bit shocking to me. However, once we got inside the orphanage, away from the street, it was a bit better.

We sat and talked with the director for a few minutes, and then they brought her out. I thought maybe I'd burst into tears, or maybe I'd laugh. Or, something. Instead, I just stared at her. Reagan, on the other hand, walked right over to her and started playing with her. She seemed to sense something was going on, and she also showed that she has some serious spunk. After a few minutes, I tried to pick her up, and she waved her hand at me to say, "No!" and then marched off, hands behind her back.

We were given a tour of the orphanage. Three rooms housing about 25 children, each room not much bigger than a large closet. With the exception of Marella, all of the children were in bed. At noon. There were some that I desperately wanted to scoop up and run out of the orphanage with.

I believe the director and the workers are doing the best they can. But I counted five toys. Five toys for all those children, who were all in bed in the middle of the day. It was heart-breaking, for sure.

They had a giving away ceremony for us, and then we left with her in our arms. Poor little girl screamed and screamed and screamed, as we carried her away from the only home she ever knew. I so badly wished I could tell her we were actually helping her -- that she was only going to be able to stay at the orphanage until she was six, and then she would go to a sterile institution until she was 14, and then be on the streets. I wanted her to know that this was for her good, even if she didn't see it yet. I wanted her to know how desperately she was wanted and cared for and loved, by her family and so many friends, but I couldn't tell her any of that. Instead, I held her while she cried, and I cried too -- for her, and for all the children who may never have a family of their own. Their future is bleak.

After sobbing for several minutes, she fell into a deep sleep, and when she awoke, apparently decided I'm her person. Since then, I haven't been able to put her down for even a second without her crying her heart out. It's been hard for Reagan to understand.

Sept. 2, Day 6

Marella slept all night long, and even smiled at me a bit when she woke up. We ate breakfast at the hotel (which she promptly threw back up), and then flew back to New Delhi from Pune. She made it very clear that she hated the lap belt she had to wear, and also disliked flying in general. Reagan, God bless him, was also starting to show the strain, not that we blame him. It was his fifth plane in six days, not to mention the eight-hour car ride. But, we returned to seeing Mr. Steve and Miss Joyce, which made it so much better.

Sept. 3, Day 7

We ate breakfast at the hotel, and took Marella to get our exit permits, and also for her medical evaluation. While waiting for our permits, I spoke to our guide, Gloria, about Marella. Gloria said often times children are abandoned, especially disabled girls, because they are considered a burden to their family. They will be difficult to marry off, because they are flawed, and so it's easier for the parents to dispose of them than to keep them. My heart shattered a little more.

Later, at the medical evaluation, my husband read her medical file. We got one at the orphanage, which we didn't take time to read until we were at the doctor's office.

Lord, have mercy.

This girl. This sweet, beautiful, precious little girl, with eyes like big brown saucers and the CUTEST little pout, was found abandoned in a pile of trash, outside of a bathroom.

Someone put her out with the trash.

I can't, I can't, I can't, I can't.

This little girl, who is one of the two best gifts I have ever been given, was considered trash, most likely because of a deformed foot.

You can be certain I will delete this post before she is old enough to read. because that will never be part of her new story. Ever. Nope.

I haven't been able to shake that - that this little girl who sleeps only while resting on me, was considered as worthless as a piece of trash.

And then I think of all those other babies, abandoned for whatever reason, and I want to take them all. I know we can't, but I desperately want to.

But for today, I will love on her, and I will love on Reagan, who has struggled today. He didn't want to share, he didn't want me to hold her, and he ran away from me at the elevator.

It's OK. He's four. He'll get it. The compassion and tenderness he has shown her will continue. We've asked a lot of him this week. I trust his big brother heart. It's normal for him to act out. He woke up again with his arm around her, and then got upset when she didn't want to be that close to him.

We will be OK. We are family.

"I don't want a flame, I want a fire. I wanna be the one who stands up and says, 'I'm gonna do something.'" ~Matthew West, 'Do Something'