The hat is yellow, with thin red bands of color and a thick blue bottom. I can imagine her mother sliding it over her head the last morning she held her; bundling her warmly before setting her down for the last time. The orphanage staff kept the hat, putting it in a thin plastic bag with a small sticker with her name, birthdate, and inventory number. It sat in waiting... a small link to her past; a well-worn tobaggan. Tucked away in a storage cabinet waiting for the day she'd leave this place. Today they passed it on to me. The only link our daughter has to her biological family.
Who would imagine a small hat would hold such meaning. There are probably thousands just like it in China today. But this one was held by her first mama, saved by the institution that cared for her -- for no other reason than to help preserve some small piece of her history -- and given to her new family today. I wept when I held that hat. I told our coordinator I wished it didn't have to be this way. I'm so thankful that this smiling, spunky little girl is my daughter, but I wish this story hadn't started in a tragedy. I wish there was no need for adoption. I wish her first mama had pulled that hat on her head a 100 times more. I know some people believe God's perfect plan was for their child to be placed in their family... but I can't say that myself. I've said it before and will say it again: Adoption in my opinion is a redemptive response to a tragedy. It is a necessary response and one that I stronly believe in... but it is a response to a tragedy. I don't believe God orchestrated Alea's story to have such dark beginnings just so she would join our family. I believe that was a tragedy that broke the Father's heart. I do believe that as He called us to adoption, He was working to bring our two stories together... to use our response to be a part of her healing, and I have no doubt that He will use her to work untold things in our lives. We are family forever, and I'm so thankful for that. But I can never think about the beginning of her life and the story that brought her into our family as anything but the result of a broken, fallen world.
Visiting Alea's orphanage was hard but good. We've been in lots of orphanages, and as far as orphanages go, hers is a nice one. We've been in many orphanages, but this is the first time I've been in an orphanage that cared for my daughter. And I can't fully explain the way it felt to see her bed. To see her nannies. To see her little friends still waiting. I need more time to let it all sink in. One week ago, this was Alea's daily routine. Sleep in one room. Play in another. Go back to the first room to sleep and eat some more. Repeat tomorrow. And the next day. And the next. And today I was in her room with 30 kids and babies who needed their mamas and daddies to come yesterday. Babies who will wait for who knows how long... maybe months maybe forever... for someone to come for them. Alea's crib was still empty, and my heart soared, but it won't be empty for long. I want to see all the cribs empty. None of them full. I want to see mamas pulling yellow hats over their babies' heads on a cold winter day. I want children to never enter such a place -- where even the most well-intentioned and loving caregivers can not possibly meet all the needs of the babies because there are just. so. many. -- and for those who are there, I want them out. I want to see people step up and say YES to adoption... to all the fears, and terror, and uncertainty. I want more people to recognize that life isn't about being safe and certain, but it is about loving others well. And these little ones have so much worth -- so much intrinsic God-given value. They don't know it yet, because they've never had their mamas and daddies sing it over them; or its been far too long since they heard it. But it doesn't take long for the song to shape their souls and heal their hearts. Not even 3 days after joining our family, we are already seeing joy crinkle the corners of Alea's eyes and hearing her cry out her needs -- two signs she is learning that she is precious to us and to this world.
Going back was harder on Alea than I imagined. And I'm not sure if taking her with us was the right or wrong thing to do. On the one hand, I'm so thankful to have the pictures and knowledge of her home for the first year and a half of her life. We were able to ask questions and meet the people who cared for her. Her primary nanny was there today and wanted to hold Alea. She did for a few moments -- Alea went to her willingly -- but then she started to look more and more nervous and scared, and we all agreed she needed to be back in our arms. It was encouraging to see that there are some baby steps of connection forming in her heart, but I do wonder if taking her back was the best thing for her. After a short afternoon nap and a bunch of food (the girl can EAT!), she perked right up and has been laughing, cooing, babbling, and playing more than we've seen all week. So I don't think any serious harm was done... I just feel badly for putting her in ANOTHER stressful situation, when everything about this week is like something out of a nightmare for any child.
This is a little random and all over the place, but I've got TWO beautiful daughters to put to bed, so I'm going to wrap it up for now. We are doing well. It is great to be back in China. Cora is an amazing big sister. We are seeing more and more of Alea's sweet personality. And we are learning how to be a family of four. God is soo good to us, and we are so thankful for your love and prayers.
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While our blog seems to suggest that ST guarantees your baking will improve by merely wearing our apron... we merely suggest that baking frequency may increase and point to anecdotal reports that practice makes perfect.*