In the morning Maddox smells like folded laundry; the sweet scent tucked in the creases- neck, armpit, elbow, knee. He and I are always first to wake and I sit with him, in the big chair behind the window, looking at trees and breathing him in. Later he smells older, a mixture of sweat and apples and the soured milk from breakfast clinging. He smells of dirt and trees and over-turned rocks, of fresh air and birch bark. At some point in the course of day he cries, chubby arms lifted in question. I kneel beside him and he curls, like a small animal into my neck and I smell the warmed breath of his mouth.
The first thing I will do when they place you in my arms is smell you- your hair, your forehead and eyelids and neck. I will wonder if I am smelling your clothes or Rwanda, or if it’s really you, the likeness of you filling the air like a thumbprint. I can’t wait to bury my face in your neck, little girl, daughter of my heart.
When your dad was falling in love with me he asked so many questions. He wanted to know the shape of every crook and crevice of my soul. My dreams, my songs, my poems, my routines. He wanted to know what I liked for breakfast and why, if I liked the windows rolled down with the wind whipping my hair or up with the air-conditioning on, every place I had gone, every place I wanted to go. He couldn’t get enough information. He craved every detail that made me me.
That’s how I feel about you right now. I want to know who you are. I want to know how you are and what you are. I want to know the sound of your voice- your giggle, your hum, your cry. I want to look into your eyes and see the person, the single soul God fashioned. I want to watch you unfold your personality and wear it. Are you bold and inquisitive, daring, rogue? Are you soft and pliable, sensitive, introspective? Will you climb trees and run wildly? Will you whisper to bugs and butterflies, sing small songs? I want to know you, feel the weight of you in my arms, touch you. I want to wake up and not feel like I am still caught in a dream that doesn’t seem to have an end. I want you to be a real set of ten fingers and ten small toes.
I love you, Jubilee and I don’t really even understand it. You are an intricate part of me, perhaps you always were. Maybe you were sleeping, lying dormant in some small corner of my heart. And now my heart has woken. And now I love you, even if it doesn’t make sense. We belong to the Maker of miracles.
As most of you already know, we did not receive our referral on Friday. God heard the prayers and loved the prayers but it still wasn't the day for news. As I told many of my new adoption friends, I am truly very disappointed but am also feeling confident that in the end its going to all work out whether I travel with this next group or not. Maybe there is some big spiritual reason or maybe its just one of those dumb things that happen in life that don't seem to have rhyme nor reason. Either way, God will work it out for the good!
The hardest part in waiting is thinking about Jubilee and wishing I could take care of her. I have medicine, good food, open arms. All of which she is getting sparing amounts of now. If nothing else, God is requiring me to trust Him. He is, after all, the ultimate parent.
Despite no word yet, there is still a chance I can still travel in May if everything comes through quickly from here on. I don't know if this will happen, but hope is hard to squash and so I'm not going to even try. I am taking a leap of faith and doing what I can to prepare for travel in May with the next group! Last week my traveling partners and I made our way to the doctors office for our Yellow fever shot. It was our lucky day because the State of Alaska happened to be offering FREE Hepatitis A, B and Tetnus shots! We were planning on just going with the required Yellow Fever shot and Malaria pills, but we are bargain hunters and how could we refuse ANYTHING free, even if it came with serum and a long pointed spear? Four shots and four prescriptions later, we are rearing to go!
I haven't had shots in a LONG time! Actually feeling a little nervous here!
Mom being dramatic.
Heidi (Sister) looking fairly tropical already.
Proudly displaying our Yellow Fever Serum!
Mommy, Auntie and Granna are coming for you, baby! Sit tight!
"I know that all of you are eagerly waiting to hear that Hanna and Wayne have their referral. She has been so patient to endure one travel group leaving without her and now she faces the unimaginable possibility of yet another group leaving without her.
Let's show her our love by covering the next Rwandan business day in prayer. That means that we are going to need to team up and set our alarms. If you would like to participate, just pick a time in Rwanda that you will pray and respond back to the group. I'll take 9 am, that is 2am my time.
God is not a puppet. And we know that our prayers do not guarantee any outcome. But he is pleased when, by our prayers, we acknowledge that we are completely dependent upon him for each step of the way. Oh Father, if it would please you, let the Salmans see little Jubilee tomorrow!
We love you Hanna!"
This morning a dear friend who is also adopting from Rwanda sent this email out to all the America World Rwanda bloggers. Imagine my delight as I read her message and then immediately started seeing responses. This evening when I got home I counted 20 couples that committed to pray for our referral to come tomorrow. TWENTY. That's 40 people. I am so humbled and honored.
Today marks ten months since our dossier has been in Rwanda. It's a long time and the wait has gotten so much longer since I knew for certain that we had been matched. I don't know why our referral hasn't been emailed. I don't have the answers. What I do know is that without a doubt I am one of the most blessed adoptive moms on earth. I cannot believe how much love and support surrounds me from people I don't even know. I get stopped by strangers in town sometimes that want to know how my adoption is going! They heard through so and so who heard from so and so that we have a little girl in Rwanda. Everyday I receive multiple emails from people who are waiting with me to hear our news. It's amazing! Whenever this referral does get here, and I truly hope its tomorrow before the weekend, there is going to be such an uproar.
I am thinking that God loves all this prayin' as well! He must be basking in all the extra attention. Maybe, just maybe, He will move that referral through tomorrow. He is, as most of us know, quite a glory hound.
This letter was written the day after Russia closed its doors for adoption with the US due to a mother 'giving' her troubled child back to Russia when she no longer wished to care for him.
We aren’t perfect. Not even close. You aren’t coming into a perfect home with a perfect family. I wish I could promise you that there will never be discord or strife, that our house will always be happy and loving. The truth is, it won’t. Sometimes there is pain in the pleasure. Sometimes there is heartache and grief. Sometimes we are selfish and stubborn, thoughtless, rude.
Jubilee, I can’t promise that I will be the best mom in the world, but I promise to try with everything in me. I can’t promise that I will always understand you or relate with you, but I promise you are not alone. I can't promise that your transition into our family will be painless, but I promise to never leave you or give up. I can’t give you all the happiness in the world, but I can teach you that the joy of the Lord is your strength. I can’t protect you from every hard thing that may come your way but I can to teach you to be brave.
I don’t have all the answers for you, but I can give you what I do know. I know that even when tears are stinging your eyes sometimes it helps to blast music and dance. I know that if you just wait, if you hold on a just a little bit longer than you thought you could, that it will get better. I know that sometimes nothing feels as good as a loud scream, a soul-stirring shout, the kind that rises up from your belly, a battle cry. I know that God can take your honesty and wants your honesty, even if it doesn’t sound anything like trust and faith and honor, even if it sounds angry and bitter and full of rage. I know that God’s arms are strong around you, even when you feel like you are free-falling. I know that sometimes you can think you are running away from God and then you run right into Him. I know that God is good, even when you feel empty. I know that He is faithful even when you feel alone. I know that God is down-to-earth and relative to you no matter what, no matter where, no matter when. I know that sometimes He speaks clearly and sometimes He doesn’t and you just have to walk forward in your life and trust. I know that life has heartache and pain and sometimes it just plain sucks. I know that sometimes its hard to handle and seems impossible. I know about being fatherless. I know about rejection. And I know that forgiveness is the sweetest tonic on earth.
I know other things too. Like what it feels like to conquer and overcome. I know about climbing a mountain and standing on the edge of it and looking out into a never ending expanse. I know what it’s like in those moments, like you have found a way to wrap your arms around the sky. I know that if you work hard and you stay positive and you ask God to help you that you can be strong and you are capable of more than you ever thought was possible. I know that life is full of moments, even ones that come out of pain, that are sweet and valuable and should be held onto. I know that its ok to screw up. Honestly, you can really wreck havoc in your life, you can make big mistakes, dig yourself into a giant pit, feel like there’s no hope. But there is. And there’s mercy. And God can re-write anybody’s future. I know that being thankful trumps being miserable. I know that simple things are the best, like flying kites, digging your toes in sand, squinting in the sun, chewing on a blade of grass. I know that sometimes we look for God so intently that we miss His in those simple things. I know that materials aren’t eternal, but I also know that buying something pretty does wonders for a downcast heart. I know that a piece of chocolate is needed after a good meal or even after a bad one. I know that rain is worth walking in, running in, crying in, playing in. I know that if we saw life as a gift it would be more fun living.
I know you are a miracle, a child of the heart. I know you are part of me and part of my family. I know that I love you, Jubilee. I always will. And I give you what I have.
Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words and never stops at all. -Emily Dickinson
Hope is the most important thing, isn't it? The thrilling knowledge that there is always a chance. Hope is the upward look, the heart that skips a beat, the open door. Hope grows like wildflowers in a heart that can't ever be plucked fast enough to extinguish. It's resilient. It's tough. It's jubilant.
And I have it - the hope that it will be a great, big, bright day tomorrow, that I will see her little face when I wake.
What about the families that were adopting from Russia? What about the ones that had tickets in their hands and were days away from holding their children? What about the children who were so close to having a mother, a father, a sister, a brother?
What about my friend that went to wake her seven week son up one morning last week and he never would wake? What about his two year old sister?
What about real pain. Raw, open, empty pain that some people carry around everyday. Pain that they wish they could drown in because they are so. completely. tired.
What about the orphans that will never be adopted? What about the rejection? What about love and belonging? What about being fought for and fighting for? What about forgiveness? What about hope?
I have been matched with a child. And for whatever reason my referral has been sitting on a desk only needing be scanned and emailed for well over a month. I feel a lot of things.
But I also remember that it could be a whole lot worse right now and it IS a whole lot worse for so many people. I have it pretty good, all in all. So, I'm going to be thankful for what I do have.
At 10 AM I shut my laptop. Since no caves were handy to crawl in and since my children had already wrecked havok in my house while I sat like a crazed woman, punching the 'inbox' tab every two seconds, I knew I needed to make a decision. I could feel frustrated and depressed and frantic all morning or I could go outside and let the wind rustle my hair.
Spring is therapeutic to a wintered soul. The Alaskans who read this will understand that statement in a deeper way than most. Outsiders think AK must be horrible in the winter because of the cold. And it is cold, but that's really not the hard part. It’s the dark. The long black days.
But spring. It's amazing. You go grocery shopping and the whole store is buzzing. Everything feels electric and invigorating. The snow is melting, the sun is shining and every day is getting longer. Soon it will feel like 'The land of the midnight sun' again. We will bask in the summer light and have enough energy to light a country. We will climb mountains and raft rivers. We will remember why we live in this crazy, hardcore state.
I've been in winter in more ways than one. I crave holding my daughter in my arms in the same way I crave light in dark months. It’s been dark and full of shadows with no definite end in sight. At times disappointing and so frustrating.
This morning I rode bikes with my boys. We laughed and played and let the sun sing. I thought about the referral that was given this morning and the more I thought, the more it felt like spring. There is a buzz. Something is happening. And it’s coming soon.
I heard about referrals coming from Rwanda around 5 AM. My good friend and waiting buddy received one of two referrals she was expecting and called me immediately so I could check my own email. My hands were shaking as I waiting for the computer to boot up. I pulled up my in-box and sat there a long time, staring at nothing.
I am an emotional roller-coaster today. I waver between feeling ok and that it gets here when it gets here, and then 5 minutes later tears spring from my eyes and I want to find an empty hole and crawl in. Sometimes I feel like this will never end.
My caseworker wrote this morning to say that I could expect to see the referral very soon. She thought it would be today. I must have pressed my send/receive button 200 times. It's almost 8 PM in Rwanda now. I have to accept that its not coming today.
I am in knots. I can hardly stand this. I am going insane.
It's 10:45 PM. I need to get some sleep. Last night I barely made two hours. I couldn't get our impending referral out of my mind. I've never had trouble sleeping through the course of this adoption until now. At 3 AM I finally got up to check my email. Not yet.
I hate bedtime. It makes me feel nervous. Somehow in the busyness of my day I am able to keep my thoughts and feelings about this whole thing at arms length. It's not that I don't think about it. I do, Jubilee is only a few moments away from any given thought. It's just that I can find distraction in my children, tasks and routines. At night though, when everyone is tucked away and the house is quiet, when darkness falls and everything is still, I can hardly stand it. I dread going to bed, for fear that the referral still won't be there, another day, another week, another month. I fight feelings of frustration, impatience and many other negative tones. I don't know why at night it is so much harder to focus and trust in God's sovereignty over the situation. But it is. I have to intentionally remind myself that God is God and everything that happens in my life (seeming good, bad or otherwise) will work together for good, because I love Him and am called according to His purpose.
I am not an awesome trusting Christian. I'm not really even a little good at it. But I want to be that girl. The one who knows who she is and who her Father is, the one who locks her knees and stands straight up against any gust of wind that tries to knock her down. The one who doesn't have her fingers gripped around her life, because it's not really hers anyway.
Jubilee's nursery is almost ready for her! I love her room. My boys love her room. It's so peaceful and sweet feeling. We regularly just sit in there, talking about her, dreaming about her. I can't wait for her to fill the empty space.
someday you will look at your arms
and see that they are not my arms
you will follow the trail of skin down
past brown wrists and pale palms
you will see your fingers
digging the open air like roots
and I will wonder
when you pick up a spade
and begin to turn the earth
what to speak of soil
that is bruised and black with blood,
the loose limbs of your sisters
folded in unanswered prayer
someday you will look at your eyes
and see that they are not my eyes
but are the eyes of the dead
you will dig into the iris,
salt springing from dry ducts
you will wonder
as your vision blurs
who the brown belongs to
who among you lives
Tomb, you cannot hold Him longer;
Death is strong, but Life is stronger;
Stronger than the dark, the light;
Stronger than the wrong, the right...
Sixteen years ago, in the place known as the land of a thousand hills, 6,000 people were literally hacked to pieces every day. At the end of three months more than 800,000 men, women and children laid dead in the streets. Families were completely wiped out, people were burned alive, raped, shot, stabbed and brutalized while the world stood and watched.
The first week in April stands apart from every other week for the people of Rwanda. It is set as a memorial for the mass genocide that devastated the country just 16 years ago. I can’t seem to pull my thoughts away from this all. Rwanda has gripped me. My feet have yet to tread her ground, but I am irrevocably linked to her. She is the beginning of my daughter.
I think about Jubilee and how this all will affect her. I think of the sorrow, shame, anger, the confusion that I feel when I reflect on the genocide and I wonder how much more it will affect her than I. I think about the questions I would ask: Am I Tutsi? Am I Hutu? Was my family killed or were they killers? Who did I come from? What of my grandparents? Aunts? Uncles? How could this happen? Why didn’t America, my home, do anything? Why didn’t God, the most powerful force in the world, just speak a word to stop it?
Tomorrow is Easter. I think of Jesus, who was brutally tortured by people like you and I. He was stripped naked and beat to a pulp. He was stabbed, nailed, stretched and suspended in the air to die in front of everything He loved. In the morning we will worship Him because no amount of hatred or horror or death could hold Him down. He lives. And because of Him our past as murderous, evil, sinful, hate-filled people can’t hold us down. Our history no longer defines us.
In my own life, with my own questions I have often not understood why God lets things happen. When horror happens I have wanted to see Him kick His foot through mountains so I could watch them crumble under the chain of command. Jubilee will have questions. She will have heartache and grief and pain that I can’t explain away or heal. But one thing is certain. Her Jesus lives. And He sets the captives free.