(so this was written on December 12, and yes, it has taken me this long to get around to finishing it and hitting 'post'! )
One year ago today we held our sweet Mei in our arms for the first time.
We met her in an office at her orphanage. They brought us to her and less than an hour later she left the only life she could remember.
We wondered- "Would she be scared? Would she cry inconsolably? Would she learn to love us (for we already loved her)?"
But she wasn't inconsolable. She was quiet at first. Just taking it all in... tentative... yet open to our love and affection.
In the past year, we have had the honor of watching Mei learn so much- she took her first steps when home just three days (link), and she learned to talk (she was not speaking yet in Ch*na)**. She is now speaking in full sentences (at a consistently elevated volume to be sure that she is heard!) Not only is she talking, but this child is one smart cookie! I am always amazed by the connections she makes and her comprehension of things for her age (and considering she's only heard our language for a year!) For instance, the other day, I was watching her pretend to make some cookies out of sand, and I said "Mei, you are such a good cook!" She looked right at me and said, "I am not cooking; I am baking!"
We've seen wonderful things on the medical front, too. Our little peanut has gained a pound for every month she has been home- no longer can she be labeled 'failure to thrive'! In Cincinnati this summer, she was able to receive the surgery that will give her the best chance at 'normal' function of all of her systems. And perhaps even more importantly, the testing prior to her surgery in Cincinnati revealed another condition that, left undiagnosed and untreated, would have led to kidney failure. (We sure stood in awe of God that He had orchestrated all of this - her crossing the ocean and then us all heading states away- to get her to the right doctor who would find this condition.)
Please if you hear anything in this post, please hear this. We share all of this for one reason and one reason alone- to give glory to our Lord. If you think for a second, what an amazing family... see what they've done for her... she is so lucky! ... you have totally and completely missed the point. Oh, how my heart hurts inside when someone says this! I know it is meant for good, and we do receive it as such- as a gift of encouragement. But all I can think is- Oh, how I wish they knew the truth.
If there is one thing that I have learned this year, it is, ironically, exactly what Satan tried to convince me of to keep me from adopting Mei in the first place (link).
Because the truth is- we are not enough.
We are not strong enough, loving enough, or faithful enough. We do not have what it takes to save or redeem or heal the broken heart and body of an orphan child- (or, coincidentally, ourselves or our birth children).
Now I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is true... It is just not the whole story.
That day when we met Mei, we met a child in desperate need. And she met two parents in desperate need. And all we have done is carried her, sometimes crawling ourselves, to the altar of God. Where all those who know they have nothing to offer meet a God who delights in offering Himself to fulfill our every need.
So I have shared with you how Mei has changed in the past year. How we have seen a life renewed... redeemed. But what I cannot share with you is how. Because so much of it is mystery. This is all I remember, and quite frankly, much of these memories are foggy (smile). I remember ...
prayers, tons of prayers
That's what I remember. That was my part, pretty much. So you can see I am pretty much un-awesome. Pretty much just like you. Doing the things you would do. Many of which were thoroughly enjoyable.
But what is awesome is how all of those things, offered into the hands of our Loving Father, have been shaped and molded to bring about miracles right under our roof- in both my life and MeiMei's.
It is a mystery. A beautiful, marvelous, redemptive mystery. I have not the slightest idea how to explain it, but I know it is not new. It is, in fact, the Story we celebrate this Advent season, is it not?
Like Mary, I want to say- "I am your servant. Let it be to me as you have said."
And yet, so very often, the best I feel I can offer Him is .. well, not much. I am a mess. I want to offer Him more, but at the end of the day, the truth is my greatest efforts often fail... I am a mess.
But then I remember... that's where He first came. Into a messy, dirty, humble stable. That's where our God chose to enter the world.
And (can I get a Halleluiah here?) HE STILL DOES!
This Christmas we celebrate Emmanuel, "GOD WITH US". And that, my friends, is the key to the mystery. The mystery of my redemption.. of Mei's redemption.. of all these mundane, commonplace things transformed by God into marvelous miracles.
He still comes! He is still Emmanuel!
I'm not talking about how he comes when I get a warm feeling while singing Silent Night by candlelight on Christmas Eve. (Because for eighteen years this is as close as I thought He got to me).
I am talking about how He comes in the everyday-- even in... no, especially in... my stables, my messy places I set aside for Him with a hope-filled prayer that He would make His home here. Right here in my heart, in my home, in my arms as they reached for that no-longer-orphan child... Praying Oh, come Emmanuel. Just be with us. And help me to trust that is Enough.
My prayer for us this Christmas... That we may slow. Slow the searching for the "magic" of Christmas- in all the lights, and gifts, and parties, and food. That we might look deeper. Look for the miracle. Celebrate the God who came. The God who still comes. Emmanuel.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel has come to you...
** I would be remiss if I did not pause here to stress that Mei was in a very good institution. We believe that she was truly loved and cared for. We do not believe that she was mistreated in any way. To the contrary, we believe that she was given the best care that was available to her at that time. We are incredibly grateful for her birth country and specifically for the orphanage and caregivers who loved and cared for our daughter for those two years.