The one I planned is, in fact, unrecognizable from the one I am now living! As I look back over the journey of these past several years, I am struck by how difficult they have been; how laced with pain they have been; and yet they are overwhelmingly filled with blessings I could not have known any other way... That makes them "blessings in disguise", because each and every one have come as a result of the painful road chosen for me, in spite of my own best laid plans!
I'm pretty convinced that if we were allowed to plan our lives from start to finish, there simply would be no days of difficulty or heartache written in, nor would we have added any days, months, or years of waiting… Nope! I’d like my life, as planned, right on time…. Sooner, rather than later! I wouldn’t have chosen sickness of any kind. Certainly not the kind that could take the life of one of my children! None of the stuff that means multiple trips to the doctor or the hospital and days and weeks separated from my family would have been included either! Let that be for someone else… I hate hospitals! For that matter, I hate waiting! I hate lonely and isolated. My life would have none of that! I hate broken relationships and disappointment. Erase both please!
Forbidden from my plans would be pain- period! Pain is to be avoided at all costs! Protect yourself, and put up large shields against anything that looks remotely like pain. Take no risks with your heart. That is the only sure way to guard it…
But in surveying my life I suddenly realized that if I could erase all those things which I had not personally planned, many of the people I treasure the most would not be a part of it!
Look at our precious Rachel~ If God was as committed to a pain-free life for me as I have always been, she wouldn't be here. I'm so glad she is!
For that matter--- neither would Ellie! She became a part of our family with much pain and tears... hers and mine! Our house is filled to overflowing with JOY because she's here!!!
Or my goof-ball friend, Sonia, who has made this difficult journey so much fun, I forgot it was difficult!
Or Emily~ my "little sister" who's taught me more than any young sister could and has inspired me to dig in deeper when pain rushes in. Now we're digging in deeper together!!!
|Here's Emily with her Shanghai Princess- Mighty Mac and her heart girl- Lily
And if I weren't convinced by now that God's plans are far better than my own-- even if they do, in fact, include pain--I certainly wouldn’t be hopping on a plane in a little over a month to bring little Abby home!
I'm finally figuring out that life isn’t really lived except through the unintended pain and its' beautiful rewards! Yes… real living includes the pain; the hardships; the waiting; the broken; the loneliness; and the disappointing! And it seems the month of Sept. serves as the perfect reminder of these things...
The past month has been filled with milestones that make me more aware than ever that this is not the life I planned. Sept, 8, 2004 was Kate’s 1st birthday, spent alone in an orphanage without a mommy and daddy. But it was also the day we received her referral and the very last birthday she would ever spend alone. So it’s a day we love to celebrate as our Kate's Birthday and the very first day we ever saw her precious face and knew that she was the child God had chosen to be OURS! But it was only possible because of the heartache and loss that preceded it. On Sept. 8th every year, I am reminded of that.
|This is the first picture we ever saw of Kate on Referral Day- Sept 8, 2004
Sept 8th held even greater significance this year, because that day marked 18 months of Rachel’s wait on the heart transplant list. It is hard to celebrate on a day that marks so many days of waiting and wondering what lies ahead. But we would have to be blind to not see that this day marks a miracle too! Rachel’s health is still critical, BUT she is considered “stable”! And for every moment, of every hour, of every day, of every month, and now every year…. we are struck by the way she lives life so fully!!!
It would not be honest of me to lead you to believe that this has been anything but the most difficult wait of my life-time! Reminders of the wait are everywhere… from the cell phone I have begun to loathe, because I’m so sick of it’s hold over me and it’s refusal to ring with the call I’m waiting for; to that stupid suitcase, made ready to leave for the hospital the moment that cell phone does finally ring with good news, that has been packed and repacked so many times, I honestly don’t know what’s in there anymore!!! But I wouldn’t be honest either if I failed to mention how those 18 months have blessed us with a new perspective on living that I’m certain we would have gained no other way!
And what would this journey be, if not the most incredible opportunity to build relationships with some of God’s most humble servants, most of whom we would not have met were it not for the life we did NOT plan! Rachel’s cardiologist is one of those incredible servants! Dr Fricker may be a doctor to many, but he is family to us!!!! The other day Rachel walked into the family room and I could hear the voice of Dr Fricker coming from the ITouch in her hand! They were having a Facetime conversation and she brought her ITouch over so that we could say “Hi"! OK… that’s a first! We told Rachel that she couldn’t just Facetime with Dr Fricker during the day like that… he had very important things to do and very sick patients to attend to. She hurried to say goodbye and whispered “I love you” into the ITouch before she hung up! Make no mistake! Dr Fricker is Rachel’s grandfather in every single way that matters!!! How else could we have known such a blessing? Only a broken heart, and our need for a great cardiologist, made this lifetime relationship we treasure possible!
At our most recent appointment in Gainesville, Dr Fricker took us to our favorite restaurant for lunch… Afterward, when it was time to say goodbye, he picked Rachel up for a hug and to tell her that he would call her if he found the perfect heart we’ve all been waiting for! I could hear him as he instructed her to look at him and listen… she must eat more, he told her!!! I was frozen in place as I witnessed this beautiful exchange between a little girl and her Cardiologist/Grandfather. My etiquette (what little I have anyway!) said to tell her to immediately stop running her fingers through his beard, but I couldn’t make the words come out of my mouth, in light of the beautiful moment they were sharing! Have I told you how grateful we are for this dear man of God, whose had a "Hope for Rachel" bracelet on his wrist for over a year now? You can't imagine!
Most beautifully, the wait has meant time for Rachel to get to know Jesus. It was a name she had never even heard before 2 years ago when we found a Chinese Christian to share the Gospel with her before even leaving China. Now, it seems, she has a deeper understanding of God’s ways than most adults I know. She has the most beautiful eternal perspective I’ve ever seen, and makes me desire to live that way too! She taught us that the very things we’ve always avoided are the avenues through which God reveals Himself most clearly!
On Sept. 13th , we celebrated Rachel’s 2nd 'Gotcha Day' Anniversary. I couldn’t help but take a trip down memory lane, the way I always do when celebrating life’s most treasured moments! She was 7 years old then… but so much more like a 4-5 year old in every way. She had never been outside the walls of that orphanage in her memory, and she had so much to learn about the world she had only dreamed of being a part of! And learn she has!!!! Her English is near perfect. And after only 6 weeks in kindergarten, 5 months in 2nd grade, and 9 months in 3rd grade, she is literally almost on level with her English-speaking peers! And the child whom had never even had a bath in the first 7 years of her life, now has a ‘Make A Wish’ Swim Spa as her personal bathtub; can cross the deep end of the pool like a seasoned swimmer; and has even mastered the ocean waves on a boogie board! She’s ridden tubes down waterslides and even tried a kid’s rollercoaster. We walked past the signs that said people with heart conditions shouldn’t ride, and we ignored them! ...Because Rachel is trying to live life to it’s very fullest while she waits… and if she’s taught us anything, it’s that you don’t WAIT to live!!!!
|Yes, she did!!! And she LOVED it!!!
Celebrating a "Gotcha Day" with a child you met at the age of 7- who longed for family and home with every fiber of her being- is a lot different than commemorating the day with a child who can’t remember it! Now that Rachel can communicate all of her thoughts and feelings of that day, I see the celebration with fresh eyes. But it was made possible only because of the deep pain and loss that proceeded it… In fact, it is the very pain that makes us acutely aware of the blessings brought through family and home and the precious heart of gratefulness that indwells our precious girl for so much of what we take for granted! The unexpected blessings overwhelm me on those days!!!!
The journey with all of our adopted treasures has brought with it so many such blessings… But each one, blessings disguised in pain! And ones I would likely have missed since this is NOT the life I planned....
This September brought with it many of our final adoption approvals. That means that in about 6 weeks, I will board a plane for China to bring Abby home. I don’t have a clue what God has in mind through adding her and that extra-special chromosome to our family. If I were gut level honest, I’d willingly admit that I am afraid… This journey was NEVER a part of my plan! It is fraught with far too many unknowns and hardships to have been included from the beginning. But I know now… that it has been a part of God’s plans all along! I don’t know why that strikes Doug and I “funny”, but it does! Sometimes we look at each other, as we consider what lies ahead, and simply laugh at the “absurdity” of it all! We know little about the imminent future, or the long-term one! What we DO know is that we are bringing home a child with a huge set of medical and cognitive challenges that are unfamiliar. We DO know that God is calling us to adjust our plans to make room for His. We DO know that this decision is likely a “life-time” one, and sometimes the gravity of that feels overwhelming! But we also know much about God’s ways, because we’ve had a front row seat on more than a few journeys we never intended to take and we’re convinced that whatever hardships the days ahead hold, the blessings that come along with them will make it worth it all!!!
|I know it's blurry... but priceless anyway! This is the first time we met Abby "in person" via Skype!
The past several years have held more pain than I ever imagined one life could hold. Every fiber of my being pushed against the pain, trying to hold it at bay. But, as God designed it, my flesh finally gave way and the doors of my heart were opened for Him to come in; pick up the pieces; and fill in the gaps the pain left behind with more of Himself. The pain remained and does to this day… but His presence is stronger than I’ve ever known it before and joy has bubbled to the top, in spite of the pain below. At times I am tempted to envy the lives of others that do not know this pain that God’s providence allowed for me… but then I am reminded of the immeasurable blessings that came with the pain and I wonder at how much they should envy ME!
I’ve been thinking a lot about heaven lately… longing for it actually! And as I write tonight, I realize that even that longing would not exist without the pain of this world. When our lives lead us down roads we never planned to travel on… very difficult ones… it causes us to yearn for something more. Something better. Far better! That something is Heaven itself! The perfect life God’s had planned for me all along… where He promises there will be no more crying, and no more of the pain I’ve worked so hard to avoid!
This is NOT the life I planned… Thank you, Lord, that the one You planned is so much better!!!!