Thursday, October 23, 2014

hurry up and wait

It really was one of those “you might as well laugh as cry” moments.  Because the car service really did show up 35 minutes early.  And we really did forget the stroller and a dozen other items.  Including the video camera, by the way.  Despite our maniacal departure, we arrived at the airport right on schedule. The excitement kicked in, and I was ready to shove all the stress out the window and jump into the moment. 


We checked in and checked our luggage.  Two suitcases were expectedly just a smidge overweight, so we quickly rearranged things into our back-up carry-on.  And then our seven bags were on their way.  Make a note.  That statement will become prophetic.

We stopped at the restrooms and I even treated myself to a book from the bookstore, and he headed to our gate.  Cue the sound of screeching tires.  Delayed.  Indefinitely.  Apparently, someone forgot to replace the oxygen canister on our plane.  Which grounded the plane.  Which meant our tight connection in Atlanta was out the window.  Which meant our fairly tight connection in Seattle was out the window.  Which meant we lost our economy comfort seats for the international flight.  Which meant all those hours of pouring over flight schedules and seat reservations were a complete and total waste of time.  Which meant Mindy and I each had a couple of tear-filled sleep-deprived moments. 

Afraid that we’d miss our international connection all together and REALLY mess up our plans in Hong Kong and Beijing, we begrudgingly re-booked our flights through Detroit and Tokyo.  Just after doing so, our original flight went back up on the board, but by then there was no way for us to make the Atlanta connection.  Our fate was sealed.  Which meant we sat in the Indianapolis airport for nearly SEVEN HOURS.  Except for Caroline, none of us had even made it to bed.  Our pick-up had been scheduled for 4:30 am, and we’d all had a truckload of things to do to prepare for being gone from work and school.  While a nap at home in our beds would have been a lot more cozy, we had no choice but to make the best of it. Mick and Caroline were out cold in a matter of minutes.  I first consoled myself with a breakfast of Nutter Butters and Coke.  

Alex showed off his secret compartment of snacks in his carry-on, which I found in amusing contrast to the pink elephant that had made its way into his bag.  It's been a theme in this journey, and it was continuing to play out that way.

"How do you eat an elephant?"
"One bite at a time."

Finally, we were on our way to Detroit.  I think we all laughed out loud when it was announced that our flight was so short they wouldn’t be serving drinks.  Of course not.  And our last-minute re-booking put us in the back row of the plane.  You know, the noisy seats that don’t recline?  Yeah, those.  I was really in need  of a little caffeine at this point, and I admit that by the time we landed I was more than a little cranky. 

Caroline instantly charmed the pilot, who offered his hat for a photo and gave her a set of wings!

We made a quick expensive McDonald’s run between flights and then settled in for the long haul.  We’d only managed two of six economy comfort seats on this flight, so the kids insisted that Jon and I take them since Jon was spending the majority of his birthday on a plane.  After much convincing, we complied.  Poor kids were crammed in the sardine section, trapped by that breed of people who pick the aisle seats on planes and then never get up.  I hated that the kids were all the way on the other side of the plane, too.  Jon and I checked on them during bathroom breaks and leg stretches. Mick and Caroline made a visit to our seats at one point, and Mick asked to trade.  Is it wrong that I said no?

Even though the shades were drawn for most of the flight, it was light outside until just outside of Tokyo.  It’s so hard to wrap your mind around time jumping ahead a complete twelve hours.  We were served dinner shortly after take-off, then a mid-flight turkey sandwich, followed by breakfast about an hour or so before landing.  At 5:25 pm.  In pitch darkness.  HUH?? 

Narita International, Tokyo, Japan

For real.  I don’t even know what day it is, let alone what time it is.

We paid homage to Japan - too bad we didn’t get a passport stamp – and went through security again to board our flight to Hong Kong.  Their security team was delightfully pleasant.  Because of the delay, Delta gave us six primo seats for this five-hour flight, and we were all happy campers.  I will say the in-flight entertainment is about as good as it gets.  Found a new sit com I liked – which is hard to do these days – and I’m sure I raised a few Japanese eyebrows with my belly laughs.  After twelve hours in the cheap seats, the kids were in heaven. And I was happy because we were all together. 

The Coke has turned out to be surprisingly good!

That five-hour flight really turned our mood around.  Good thing, because we’d already hit the 24-hour mark in our travels.  And, also, because when we giddily made our way to the baggage carousel, we found a luggage bin with our names on it telling us we needed to contact a Delta representative.  Turns out that four of our suitcases didn’t make the transfer in Detroit.

Mindy and I secretly high-fived that our suitcases were not among the missing.  We were assured they would be arriving the next day, just in time to make our flight to Beijing that evening.  Make a note of that, as well.

One of our disappointments in being re-booked was that our arrival time in Hong Kong was three hours later than we’d planned.  It was around midnight by the time we made it to the SkyCity Marriott.  We looked a little rough around the edges to be checking in to such a swanky hotel. That’s the great thing about traveling in Asia.  Most we’d consider staying in are far superior to their American equivalents.  The night manager was good to us.  Gave the boys room 1023 on October 23rd in celebration of Jon’s birthday.  Our adjacent room had an equally magnificent oceanview room.  We were sad to uave to check out the next morning.

We walked into our hotel room at 11: 58 pm, Hong Kong Time, approximately 31.5 hours after leaving our house, and collapsed gratefully, sleeping prone for the first time in over 48 hours.

exit, stage left

Like a script I've been writing in my head for months, years, really, the stage was set in my mind.  The script has gotten a couple of tears and holes and stains on it as it's become familiar and well used.  And in the course of the last 48 hours, it's looked a lot more like recycling material.  Our departure scene? I have to say, my script did not include the car service ringing our doorbell 35 minutes before our scheduled time and with me just stepping out of the shower.  It did not include half a dozen crucial last minute items left behind.  It did not include cancelled flights, late arrivals and missing luggage.  It did not include the crib in pieces with missing parts, the mattress not ordered, and the dust ruffle and quilt still in storage.  It did not include the high chair still in the box or the car seat uninstalled.  

And don’t even get me started on the house.  While not at its complete worst, it definitely is not the shiny picture of a neat house so many post in their pre-trip blog posts.  And there shall be no photo evidence as such.

DUDE. I tried.

We ALL tried.  We really, really tried.  And when it came to “GO” time, the wheels of this venture came flying off and rolling down the street. Look, talk amongst yourselves, if you must.   I’ve said it all before myself, anyway. I can self-deprecate with the best of them.   I am a BIG PICTURE person.  I actually CAN manage the small details and have an eye for them, but if I’m running too many directions at once, I’m a lost cause.  And my left eye has a twitch that won’t stop these days. 
Whilst hurtling across the world in a metal tube, I’ve had the time to put thought into what in the world God is teaching me through all of this.  He must have His reasons for all of this insanity, right?  I mean, overall, we’ve held it together fairly well, but we’ve had a few crash and burn moments that have left me wondering why God has us on this mission – because, clearly, we are not crash qualified.  We aren’t doing this right.  We don’t have it all together yet.  WAIT.  This isn’t how it’s supposed to be! It was supposed to be just right!  Blog worthy!  Scrapbook worthy!  Perfectly planned and executed!

[insert whining and stomping and tears and gnashing of teeth]

Let me share with you how God uses flight delays and long plane rides for His glory.  In this particular instance, in the time it took to travel from one side of the world to the other, He spoke this love letter to my soul.

Dear Cindy,

I love you.  I love your heart.  I love your obedience.  I love your chutzpah when things aren't going quite the way you planned them.  I even love every mistake you’ve ever made and every failure you think is yours. But, dear daughter, here’s the thing.


It’s not about you.

It’s all about Me. 

Stop worrying about the details because I don’t care if you and your family are a well-oiled machine or not. I don’t care if your house is clean.  I don’t care if you put meals in the freezer before you left.  I don’t care if you have matching shirts for Gotcha Day.  I don’t care if you got to sit in your carefully reserved seats on the plane.  I don't care if you had to charge some of the money for your trip.  You can even tell Dave Ramsey I said so.

I don’t care if you left your stroller at home or you didn’t have a book to read on the plane or if you left your Bible at home.  My Word is with you no matter where you go.  And all I really care is that you went.  You threw caution to the wind and followed your heart.  Where I led, you followed.

So now the reward is yours.  You’re here.  Delight in these moments.  Enjoy this time with your family.  Soak up every second of this journey.  Laugh off the things that didn’t go quite right.  And just wait.  Because you know it’s coming in just a few short days. That moment when that sweet baby girl becomes part of your crazy just-as-I-designed-it-to-be family.  That moment when there’s one less.

That moment you know without a doubt you’d do it all again. 

Every struggle.

Every second of the last seven years.


This is absolutely all that matters to Me. 

Say it with Me.  Who cares what everyone else thinks.  Be you.  I have my reasons for why you are the way you are.  Why all of you are who you are.

Trust me.  MY crazy goes WAY back. 

You can’t out-crazy ME.

Now go change a little piece of the world in the name of Jesus.  

Fill in the colors of that big picture you've had.  And don't worry about staying in the lines.
I love you.  Always.


*Peace overflows in my heart and mind as I rest my head tonight.  I'll be back at it tomorrow night with photos and more about our trip here.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

tough mudder

I don’t run.  I don’t like to be dirty.  I really hate to sweat.  I deplore camping.  And I would be the first person on “Survivor”, begging to go home because I cannot live without brushing my teeth. 

Does it surprise you to know I was an Army officer?

Me, too, some days.

I was a 105-pound scared-of-my-own-shadow wimp when I enlisted.  I was an excellent student, but, even with scholarships and financial aid, I was running out of ways to pay for college. A couple of months into my enlistment, I applied for an ROTC scholarship, and the rest is history.  I won't belabor the struggle of becoming much tougher than I was when I started.  The physical strength it took was one thing. 

The mental strength? 

Let's suffice it to say I learned a lot about myself.   

And my faith.

My drill sergeants were straight from Fort Jackson and had never trained females.  My ruck sack literally weighed 38% of my body weight and nearly took me down the first time I put it on.  And let’s not talk about lobbing the grenade, okay?  It was like a scene from Private Benjamin, only not quite as funny. 

Insert photo I must dig for but share at a later date.

By the time it was over, though, I gained ten pounds of muscle and could do more than 40 men’s push-ups in two minutes.   I got that scholarship and paid for my last two years of college.  And I had a shiny bar on my shoulder, to boot.  Pardon the pun.

Would I do it again? Yes.

Would I want to do it again?  NO NO NO NO NO NO NO.

But if I hadn't joined the Army and applied for that scholarship, I wouldn't have met my husband.  And I wouldn't have lived the life I’m living now.  So for that reason, yes, I would do it again.

Now that you know of my physical mettle, it shouldn't surprise you to find out that I have not even an ounce of desire to run a marathon or a 5k or even a half-mile. 

Tough Mudder?  Pass.

But let me tell you something.  This adoption road? 

It’s as muddy as it gets. 

A year ago, I was in Florida, celebrating my 25th anniversary by submitting an application to adopt. The sun was shining.  My heart was soaring.  I had waited over six years to re-apply.  I had persevered through some pretty discouraging days.  Surely, the hardest part of this journey was behind us, right? My plan was to take it easy and enjoy the rest of the race.

Let’s all take a moment for a few chuckles, belly laughs, or just a shake of the head and a little pity over my naïveté.  It’s completely appropriate.

No sooner than the ink was dry on the application check did the already bumpy road begin to deteriorate.  Oh, that evil one uses it all…our financial weaknesses, our relational weaknesses, our spiritual weaknesses.  If I have any witness to bear, it is that the everyday battles wage strong against His plans.

Remember my plan for a smooth little speed walk to the finish line? 

But this story isn't about all the things that went wrong.  It’s about how to keep slogging through the mud, even after a solid face plant.

Taking a leap when can’t see where we’re going to land.

Keeping our eyes on the prize when we’re hanging by our fingernails. 

Reaching for a helping hand when we feel like we can’t make it on our own.

Reminding each other that His ways are better than ours, that His timing is perfect.

You see where I’m going with all of this, right?

Exactly one year later, I fully expected we would be booking plane tickets to China in celebration of our anniversary. 

Actually, I had fully expected we’d be leaving for China on our anniversary this year. 

Honestly?  My plan was to be celebrating our little one HOME on our anniversary.

I mean, really.  We’d busted a move in the last few months.  We’d flashed baby pictures whenever possible.  We'd shown up for an early walk-in for our fingerprints. We’d submitted letters for a medical expedite.  We’d been on the phone and emailing any and every time possible, trying to shave off a few days here and there. 

We had a plan.

But that muddy road. 

And now we’re close to the finish line.  So very close. 

We found out late Tuesday night that our most recent plan to travel next week has been, once again, delayed.  Which means all the arrangements we’ve made to be gone from work and school must be re-arranged. 


Like a big ol’ pot hole full of muddy water we didn’t see coming.  We’ve broken a leg, lost a shoe and landed face first in a puddle. 

It was quoted in the New York Times that a Tough Mudder isn't about winning.  It’s about having a story to tell when it’s over.  

Ah, but it is. 

Oh, we’ll have a story to tell. 

But it’s Jesus for the win. 

Finishing is winning.

Because the orphan is near and dear to the heart of the Father, He will pick us up each and every time, wipe the mud from our eyes and set us back on the trail.  He’ll even carry us to the finish line. 

By His power alone, we will finish this race.  Mary-Kate will come home.  Her heart will be healed in more ways than one.  She will be loved by her family.  And she will know the love of her heavenly Father. 

And by the time it’s over I may even like being a little muddy.

"But these things I plan won't happen right away.

Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches
when the vision will be fulfilled.

If it seems slow, do not despair,
for these things will surely come to pass.

Just be patient! 

They will not be overdue by a single day."

Habakkuk 2:3

*photos are hyper-linked to their original sources
**stay tuned for price tag - part 2