a new familiar

My sense of time is so confused, I'm not sure which day to call "yesterday morning." After a quick night's sleep, we woke at 4:00 AM to fly out of Charlotte to Chicago. It was one of those three-seat-wide planes where you can feel every single pocket of air. Clara giggled as the plane dropped and lurched, saying it was better than a roller coaster. So much for me comforting her!

We arrived in Chicago at about 9:00 AM. Our layover was twelve hours, so we hopped the public train to downtown. Spent a couple of hours talking to strangers, and letting the kids soak in the whirl of urban.

Met some people I don't want to forget, so I'll jot them down quickly here.

-Beautiful girl on the Charlotte flight who has been considering adoption.

-Disilllusioned dad on the train, who has recently learned the joys of fighting the school system.

-Mom from Alabama stuck riding the rails with her seven-year-old son who had to tell the workers he was six because they were out of money. Hoping they found the Western union.

-Food stylist from California who attends a progressive Presbyterian church. They have a labyrinth and visit prisons on Father's Day. She offered me a spatula.

-Family from Belgium with a daughter born three days apart from Clara. Watching the girls make a bead ring without speaking the same language. The dad gave me a box of chocolate, an we swapped email addresses! Score!

When our flight left Chicago, I had no idea what thirteen hours on a plane would feel like. I'm glad to have been innocent, or I might not have had the courage to step inside. The plane was a 777, so I wasn't expecting to feel much turbulence, but the first two hours were insane. I asked the flight attendant if what we were feeling was normal in a large plane, and she said it was unusually rough. Even Clara was nauseated. I couldn't do anything but pray. Thankfully, we eventually hit what I remembered normal flying feeling like, but my stomach was such a mess, I just glazed over into a cramped, icky sleep. I seriously don't know how people do that with new babies. Please pray Moses LOVES the flight home, and that it is a gentle one. Now I understand why families who have done this before see that as the Mount Everest of adoption.

Our flight was mostly occupied by folks from China, but another adoptive family from Kingsport was on there, too! What are the odds we would wind up there at the same time? That was definitely neat.

I don't know if I can describe the feeling I had while waiting for the plane with an overwhelmingly Asian crowd. They were speaking a language I didn't understand. They didn't look like me. But I felt strangely at home. The best way I can describe it is that their facial expressions, body language, and humor made sense to me. The interpersonal culture didn't feel as foreign to me as Chicago had, even.

That sensation continued as we landed in Beijing. Not just airport employees, but the travelers were gorgeous. Trendy young girls with large dark eyes and perfect poise. Dashing young men radiating intelligence. Older men with laughing wrinkles, and a twinkle in their eyes. Grandmothers pumping warmth out into the world. I was enchanted. And I was humbled.

By the time we caught a taxi it was one in the morning. I was so dizzy from fatigue, it felt like the earth was moving. Bobby bargained with the only taxi-driver with a van for too long. He's been to China before and knows the ropes, but I just about kicked him in the seat when he walked away, threatening to take two cars instead. From the moment Clara stepped off the plane, men were staring at her hair. I wasn't about to take separate cars, I don't care if the van guy charged us a hundred dollars. But he eventually dropped his price, and we found ourselves at the hotel.

Everything smells strange here. It's almost like that fishy smell you find at the beach, but it's more like Eastman smell + fishy smell. That is the single most foreign thing so far, and it makes me feel a little ill. But so did Eastman at first. And thankfully, I brought some air freshener for our room and a lavender sachet for the road.

It's harder than I expected to keep our mouths closed in the shower and brush our teeth from bottles of water. The hotel wants to charge us seven dollars for a large Evian. I suppose we will need a grocery today.

Four more days until we reach Moses. Before landing yesterday, I tried to describe why were were visiting to the sweet Chinese girl sitting next to us. I pulled his picture up on my itouch to show her, looked up the words for "orphan" and "son," and a light went on behind her eyes. She "got it."

What I wanted to say was, "NOTHING could make me ever get on a plane like this, and do something this utterly terrifying, except for the overwhelming love I have for this child." But I couldn't find those words, so I just pulled the itouch to my chest and rocked it like a baby while tears ran down my face. I don't know if it was travel fatigue or what, but I couldn't stop them. And every time I tried to flip to a new picture, more tears fell.

From what I've read, saving face through emotional restraint is a big part of Chinese culture, and there I sat, openly crying on a public plane. My new friend was a bit shocked, but clearly moved. She thanked me sincerely for what we were doing, because she said it was good. I told her that I was the one who was grateful. A child is so unspeakably much to be given.

Well, I'm going to open the curtains to a grey sky and see if I can rouse the family for breakfast. I really hope what I'm smelling isn't what is cooking downstairs.

Love to all. Thanks for praying!

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About This Blog

Welcome to our family’s adoption journey. As you read, you will see us stumble and take wrong paths. You will see our hopes surge and fall. You will see the gaps in our humanity, and how our God realigns us to His purposes over and again. We think the messiness of this process is important. Sometimes walking with God isn’t a neat, linear package that can be summarized in bullet points. More often, life ebbs and flows around our plans, while God works His sovereign wonders from it all. We are learning so much through this journey. And we are super excited about our new son. If you’d like to join us, we’d love to have you along for the ride.

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