Two weeks ago the preschool room was all aflutter (as it is each Midweek at Central). Steve was reading to about 7 preschoolers in one section of the room. Janeen was serving snacks and Benjamin was playing Legos with a few other kids who simply didn't want to stay in their assigned station. Meanwhile, I was attempting, furiously, to get small groups of 3-5 year olds to reflect on things they were thankful for. Some of them were primed and ready, "My toys, my kitty, my mommy," etc. All of these were very popular phrases. Another little boy (who I secretly could NOT wait to poll for this activity because he has the BEST little thoughts) told me he was thankful for "All of his bones." I was furiously scribbling their thoughts on a wheel for their parents to read later that night ... when, after a few rounds, my youngest son, who had been listening, deposited himself in my lap. He held his marker at the ready.
"I try... I do this ... Joshua try it."
I sighed ... I was sure he wasn't ready but I said, "Okay, buddy, what are you thankful for."
He grinned (as though he planned the bomb he was about to drop), "Momma. I thank YOU, Momma."
Stinkin' tears ... No tears. Not on the job ...
I wrote my own name on paper and said, "Who else di di?" (As if I needed to ask)
"Daddy!!!!" (And then, the floodgates opened. He raced, in a fury, through all of his people ... he spoke so quickly I couldn't keep up) "Momma, Daddy, Kayee, Guh guh, Mayee, KITTY!! nannda, pa, yea yea, nye nye!!!!"
And from then on I was a wreck ... no other little thanksgiving wheels would capture my heart that night. No other little kiddos and their super sweet thoughts would hold me captive. I had evidence, for that little moment, that my son was thankful to be where he was. He understood, (as much as he can right now), and he was willing to said it aloud.
We didn't go into our adoption story hoping for a thankful little boy. Please don't read that in this blogpost. My heart swells and bursts and the tears overwhelm me because despite all that happened to our little son this year, despite the trauma, despite the change, despite the perpetual upheaval ... He can, for that moment, express his thankfulness for a FAMILY.
On Thursday, during our Thanksgiving service, Pastor Steve Norman challenged us to share our story. God does more than give us things; He gives us a story and we have a responsibility to tell it.
Our story overwhelms me.
When I think of the smaller subplots, the intricacies of each piece woven throughout our epic novel, I am truly breathless.
So, this post has been plaguing me ... I'm not a good enough writer to do it justice.
Nevertheless, I feel so called.
14 years ago I was an aspiring teacher. I loved kids of all ages. I loved writing. I loved curriculum. My curriculum design professor had a daughter, a sweet little girl who needed a babysitter. I offered to help. She agreed to give me the privilege and from that moment on a fast friendship was born. I babysat for this precious little girl, an only child brought into her family by adoption. Jojo soon became my Friday night date - and I'd often (with permission) bring along my fiance to enjoy her company ... we knew then that adoption could someday be our future ...
A short 13 months after our wedding I met a mom in our Kalamazoo community. She had been a mom of one of my homeroom students and she loved tennis. Together we agreed to co-coach the varsity tennis team at Kalamazoo Christian. For the next 8 years our lives would overlap. We'd learn their family story, how God called them to adoption. Without knowing it then, our powerful God was shaping us, preparing us for our own story. He gave us experiences, tools, knowledge to recognize His movement, in His time.
As our first daughter approached school age, Steve and I crossed paths with an organization that later became a company that taught us about language immersion. They hired me for many significant years and provided our family with the chance to explore both Spanish and Mandarin languages. Through God's direction we moved homes, jobs, and cities (along with close friends by our side), to land our children directly in the path of Mandarin Chinese immersion.
Not coincidentally in just 3 short years of Zeeland living we had come to know more than 5 families with children in Mandarin immersion who had adopted from China. We had been lead to a church where we met a base of foster/adoptive families - and even some who had adopted from ... China.
When we retrace the last 14 years of our life, its impossible to miss each macro decision and some influential relationships, and how each pointed the way to the story God was crafting in our lives.
- They each led to the call to reorient our lives.
- They each led to the provision of over $30,000 in funding that we didn't have.
- They each led to a little boy without a family finding a messed up, crazy, imperfect group of people who were willing to be his forever.
- And they led us to lives forever changed. We have a new perspective; we have shifted priorities. Our goals are new ... and, as we look at the faces of our amazing littles, we dream about how God will use this, how God craft their lives, their experiences, and shape their perspectives.
We understand, clearly, that this is just the beginning...
So this season as I reflect on our year and our story, I'm thankful that this precious song gives words where I fall short ...
There won't be a day when you're not by my side.
There won't be a day that you left me fall.
All of my life your love will be true.
All of my life I'll worship you.