Beauty in the day to day ...

by Kristi Van Dyk

China was so incredibly exciting. There were big moments each day! Every first ... Every step ... and of it felt newsworthy. Home isn't like that. There's not much to say about the 6 loads of laundry we did on Tuesday, or the three fairly successful dinners I cooked the family. No one really needs to know that even though we were late every day to school, each child managed to have clean clothes and pants and shoes and socks upon their little bodies (we won't mention the frequency of Mom's showers ... we all need a little grace) :)


So, I apologize for the lack of news. We've heard from several of you that miss our daily updates! What a flattering report! Neither of us has ever written anything that people looked forward to reading, so we consider it a blessing to be that for some of you. It's much more difficult now, to sort through the events of daily life, to analyze what is significant and what is mundane. Nevertheless, we feel a responsibility to continue to tell our story. Adoptions aren't only about international travel and embracing a new child. They are about the fusing of a family - the growth of love and trust and acceptance - the mutual meeting in the middle where cultures and lifestyles combine. This journey has only just begun for us. So, we hope you continue to follow along (subscribe if you like, I'll include the form below so you can have posts emailed directly to your inbox) - and continue to interact with us. We want to dialogue with you, not for our own notoriety, but for God's glory. This has been HIS call, and HIS provision; we are so thankful that He allowed us to play this role in His greater story. 


All of that being said, when I consider the past 7 days, I find myself observing Joshua with such wonder and awe. There is so much that seems mundane, but for him - its all miraculous. Don't get me wrong - he tries my patience, tests my capacity for forgiveness, presses my buttons (how DID he figure out what they were so rapidly), and forces me to grow my mommy skills in ways I never expected. But in all seriousness, we are talking about a little boy who, without the foundations that come from being securely attached in a family, flew across the world and jumped head long into a new life.

In the past 7 days Joshua has: 

  • flown on three airplanes (he slept 7 of the 13 hours on the long haul home from China)
  • met two sisters and two sets of grandparents
  • gone swimming
  • attended two services at Central Wesleyan (he even made it through all of today's sermon)
  • played with Legos
  • survived pick up and drop off several times at Zeeland Christian (and LOVED our after school play time with the Mandarin families)
  • met his future teachers
  • worked on riding a tricycle
  • walked around the neighborhood
  • ate macaroni and cheese, pancakes, hamburgers, Cheerios, Lucky Charms, and fettuccini alfredo, 
  • took two jogs with Mommy and one with Daddy
  • visited a dentist
  • lost a tooth *** (we found he had an infected tooth upon arrival at home. Our dear dentist friend saw him, gave him x-rays and told us he'd likely lose it on its own at some point ... two days later it was gone. We don't even know when or how!)
  • saw the pediatrician (and got many referrals for MRI's and ultrasounds to come)
  • jumped on a trampoline
  • had an outdoor picnic
  • watched (part) of an at-home movie 
  • took a long hike on the trails

With each new activity, Josh has jumped in with both feet. It's not uncommon to see me trailing along behind this little guy as he pulls me to move faster - go further - explore more. He has a thirst to learn and do and be. He wants to take it all in. At lunch one afternoon he told his brother, "Brother, I'm an American now. I am from America." We all laughed. He is embracing his new life with more vigor than we could have imagined. 

At nighttime, though, as things begin to slow down, we see the beginnings of grief creep in. His new bed is not a place of comfort. His new room is great for fun, but it isn't a place of solace for him. He craves our company each night - and whenever he wakes. We must be next to him until he falls asleep. We are free to leave when he is asleep, but he cries and cries until our company returns each and every time he wakes. Some nights are better and we only have to return once or maybe twice. Other nights we return every 40 minutes to help console his tender heart.

It's exhausting ...

but we are reminded why we did this .. why we were called to this ... and we return each wake up with renewed resolve. It's our job to teach him (with God's help) that people can be trusted. 

And bless God - we keep seeing him grow in his understanding of all of it...

Twice while we were in China Joshua took a tumble ... tumbles that would have sent any of my other children screaming to my arms (for many many hugs). It was with deep pain that I watched Joshua pick himself up, rub the pain out, and never utter a cry ... I tried to scoop him up and rub at the spot, cover it with kisses, tell him I was so sorry it hurt .... but in country he would never move. Never acknowledge my attention ... Tonight, however, he slammed is head into our dining room table (yup ... he's so short he can nearly pass under the table without ducking), and he began to rub the pain away himself ... but as he saw me looking, his lip went sideways, his face cringed, and the sobs began to come .... he flung himself into my arms and cried for a minute before hopping down and returning to chasing the cat's tail (the activity that caused the knock in the first place) ... I knew that head bump was far less painful than the tumbles he'd taken in China. But his cries weren't about the pain. His cries were proof that he was learning, learning we were there. Learning that a Mommy's job is to hold your pain, to ease your fears, and to be your shoulder to cry on. 


I cling to those little moments when we once again sit down, for about the 1,000th time, and fully envelope him in a safe hold, repeating, "hands are for hugs, and hands are for helps. Hands aren't for hitting ..." We demonstrate good uses for hands and have him repeat those actions. We praise the times when he uses his hands for great things (he was the only child who successfully put away his shoes AND his coat after church, without being asked!!!) and we diligently keep teaching, teaching the norms of his new life. 

I am sure we will blog plenty of hard (I hope you've come to trust that about me as a blogger - honesty and openness is how I prefer it), but one of my most treasured moments happened today. I desperately needed a break - a moment without those tiny hands wrapped around me. So, my loving husband offered to take Joshua for a run in the jogger. Benjamin was across the street playing basketball and Madeleine was with the neighbor girl in the side yard. Kayleigh was going to bike along with Joshua - so I was anticipating a few moments to "do nothing." As we explained the plan to Joshua and I said, "Bye bye." He ran around the couch, reached for my face and planted a giant kiss on my cheek. He turned my face and matched a kiss along the other side (the way I have done to him since we met) ... and I melted at the returned affection. He scampered away in that crazy toddler running way that he has ... and before he hit the door he was running back to me ... He repeated the kisses and leaving process many times before Steve finally spirited him out the door ... 


I love that despite all of the newness, despite the fact that this child can't understand most of the words that come out of my mouth ... I love that despite our cultural differences, despite the fact he still doesn't like my fried rice (I'm on my 3rd recipe), despite the fact that I'm probably making about 1,000 mistakes a day ... He is still getting it. He still knows that I love him - and he maybe, just maybe, loves me back. What an amazing feeling that is.

I pray that, when he snuggles in to bed at night, with one of us next to him, he feels that love too ... and that security ... That despite everything, we're there - and we love him.