THE DAY ... the biggest day of the entire trip was finally here. Our most meaningful pictures have already been released so there isn't too much too add to those, but I'll leave them embedded here anyway.
Breakfast began as normally as possible (but with Benj BOUNCING off the walls). His little body simply could NOT contain the levels of energy that were coursing through him. He enjoyed the breakfast at the hotel, and we came back to the room to pack our "Joshua" bag. Upon heading downstairs to meet our guide, we saw another family with the same anxious expressions. They were going, too, to meet their son. They had already met him once, and so the situation was a bit different. On top of that, this was their second time adopting. BUT they were so friendly, and we were thankful for another couple to walk alongside us that morning.
Upon arriving at Civil Affairs, we all went to the meeting room together to await the arrival of the children. I can't describe the feelings at that moment. It was every bit a mixture of nerves and hope and unpredictability that settled like a hum over the room. We chatted lightly with the other couple and then, their son arrived. And it was just us. The other family came, took their photos and left before our son even found the building. Their driver had run into traffic on the way. But finally, he did arrive. He walked into the room, as tiny as we had envisioned, and he cautiously approached us. His orphanage workers helped us to begin the conversation, and he took the sucker immediately and the plane right away. As Ben approached, and got out our family book, though, he started to look interested. Ben went through the album - page by page - with each family member ... he spoke in a stream of information and with such love. JinHua didn't move much, but he was listening. His eyes never left his brother except to glance at Steve or me. After 10 or so minutes of processing all of this information with his caregivers (and his caregivers falling more and more in love with BEN each minute), Jinhua came to me. I scooped him up and repeated what little Mandarin I did know to him. He relaxed a little in my arms, and I knew we'd made our first steps towards each other.
Due to the amount of extra time we had before Jinhua's arrival, we were able to sign the release papers before he got there. This let us take photos with the caregivers, finish our conversations, promise to see each other tomorrow, and leave. Before we did leave, the Civil Affairs office said, "Please have your family come back. We will give your son a job here. We want him to work here." Ben was ready to agree that moment.
We left the Civil Affairs and went to take a photo of our new family at a local photo shop. We also had to purchase additional passport photos for Steve and I (awesome). And then we made the short drive back home and the rest of the days adventures began.
We navigated lunch, naptime, playtime, bathroom time with relative ease (everything seemed easier than the anticipation of that first meeting!). Jinhua has expressed no preferences yet. But we will not push that. He is obedient and quiet. He does whatever we ask and shows very little emotion. We hope, as we get to know him better, that we can push beyond that and build trust. BUT, we realize this takes time. We truly had no expectations, not of him, not of ourselves, and we were able (as we had requested) to hold all of this loosely as we just begin to learn about each other. We were able to recognize the incredible trauma that all of this is for him, and how much change and disruption we caused to his life. Again, we realize that this will eventually provide him with opportunities he never could have had before. BUT we recognize that every opportunity has a cost. We are all feeling the cost of this one this week. Steve puts the emotion and feeling of it all so beautifully in his post about the day (and shocker, church, and words from God through our pastor are always interwoven into the hare places in our lives).
As we were readying ourselves for bedtime, after dinner, (this boy will pack away anything we give him. He loves his noodles, and we have given him as much Chinese as we can find, but when we give him American snacks he eats those with great enjoyment too. His favorites so far are honey roasted peanuts and peanut butter sandwiches) Ben began to re-read the family album - the same one we had used to introduce ourselves at the Civil Affairs office. And as he did, Jinhua began to speak. Everyone was so excited (I was in the bathroom doing laundry, but I heard it all happen) that I thought he'd maybe stop, but he didn't. And he let Daddy catch it all on his phone ...
The next few days will move at a much slower pace. We will let our attachment with Jinhua be the priority. We will let his needs and schedule rule the day. While balancing them with our Benjamin's needs to MOVE AND RUN and DO STUFF :). BUT we begin first, today, with the signing of all of the adoption paperwork. In China, the first 24 hours are the bonding period. A family could (I can't imagine doing this, but I'm sure there are reasons), claim that this doesn't work for them and return the child to the orphanage at the conclusion of these 24 hours. If they don't choose to do that, then today is the day it is made official.
Today is the day we will make it official.
Today we go back to Civil Affairs and sign the papers that say, we are in this for the long haul. We have, in fact, already signed them. We just need to seal them with our fingerprints in front of the officials. This happens at 8:30 a.m. So, we have an early morning and an early breakfast.
Pray that we continue to have patience with each other. That our family connections deepen, that Steve and I know (by the power of Holy Spirit) what is best for both of our sons. That we know when to give and when to make requests. That we know when to pull close and when to give space. We are so thankful for your prayers and your support on this journey. We know that Joshua doesn't just have us, he has a community of many - and some day, we pray, he sees that that community is really just an imperfect reflection of the incomparable love of the Father in heaven. And his adoption story really beats them all!