As is my long-standing New Year’s Eve tradition, I’m sitting in my quiet house in the front of my fireplace thinking back on the past 12 months. In prior years, I’ve actually been able to think through each month and remember all the adventures—but there’s something about the past year we’ve just lived that makes all the little details impossible to separate one from another. Perhaps it’s because there have just been too many.
In our Christmas card, I tried to give a quick summary: we’ve been to China and back, grown from four family members to five, settled into our new house, and survived three surgeries at Children’s Hospital. It’s been quite a year for us.
I remember last December, at this very moment, looking both back and ahead—as I knew that 2012 would be the year that Matthew would come home to us. It isn’t hard to remember the whole host of emotions I felt last December 31. I remember watching the clock in the morning, counting down the minutes until it was midnight in Guangdong Province, where Matthew’s orphanage was. I remember knowing that 2012 was going to be an important year—but I couldn’t have imagined exactly how it would be.
This afternoon I had a phone conversation with a new friend who, along with her husband, is about to leave for China in a couple days to pick up their daughter who is 14 months and was also born with a cleft lip and palate. She’s feeling a nervousness that I remember well—so many unknowns, questions, wonderings. Leaving her older daughter at home with a grandparent and traveling so far away. Our time of travel seems just like yesterday in some ways, while also it seems like such a long time ago. I don’t know how much of my advice will actually be useful to her, but it felt so nice to tell someone else, “it’s hard and wonderful and amazing and scary all at the same time. You’re not alone.”
Mostly what I realize about adoption is that while the travel seems like such a big deal at the time, it’s just the very beginning of a very long story. Most of what matters and what’s really important is the time that’s spent with your child once you are home living normal life—a “new” normal, truly, because life will never feel like the “old” normal again. But that’s just as it should be.
I feel a deep sense of gratitude today for all the friends and family who share life’s journey with us. As I talked on the phone today about our trip to China, I remembered vividly my own conversation with a China-cleft lip and palate-adoption mama (Thank you, Meegan!) a few days before we traveled. She shared so many things with me that were helpful while we were away . . . but mostly it was an incredible gift for me to know I wasn’t alone—that others had walked the path we were about to walk—and that we’d have a whole host of friends and family who would be with us in spirit while we were away.
Your prayers, thoughts, notes, visits, meals, hugs, and kinship have wrapped around our family in 2012. When I think back to this year, even if I don’t remember much of anything else, I won’t ever forget how incredibly blessed we are to live amidst the most amazing people I could imagine. I wrote this in a Facebook post a few days ago, but I’m quite sure that I’d give up everything else in my life if I could just keep my deep faith and the love of our family and friends.
We are rich beyond measure, for which I have inexpressible gratitude. And as I look ahead to 2013, I am quite sure that both challenges and joys will cross our path, and we will continue to forge ahead in this life as a family—buoyed by your love and care, digging deeply into this life that is ours, doing whatever small good we can for our world.
Happy 2013, everyone.
|Matthew in his orphanage in XuCheng Town, December 2011|
|Matthew, December 2011|
|Matthew, December 2011|
|Matthew playing in Marmie and Bapa's living room, December 2012|
|Our boy in the tub, December 2012|
|Playing at Grandma and Grandpa Russell's house, December 2012|