Sunrise

IMG_2218

We woke at 4 o’clock this morning for a mountain hike. After rising at four twice already for flights this week, some of us weren’t so sure. But it was Felipe’s wish, and he was determined. Later wouldn’t do. And now we know why.

We climbed in the dark along a lit trail, the lights of Yopal twinkling below. It was dawn when we reached an amphitheater at the top of mountain, just before the sun came up. The seven of us and a few others sat in the still of the morning and waited. We waited for God to do his work.

As the sun broke through horizon and cloud, I looked at Felipe and said, “This was a good idea.” The smile on his face was priceless as the view.

The hike back was well lit. Felipe quietly pointed out birds and insects along the way. He was in his element. We said – Felipe will like Pop, and Pop will like Felipe. They’ll share their small wonders with few words required.

Now back at the hotel all is quiet. Dad and boys are back in bed. The next two days are holidays, and we’ll be laying low. Playing games by the pool, and watching American football on TV. Quiet is okay, and simple is good. It’s giving us time to become.

Yesterday was amazing. Only our second day, and to be honest I expected it to be hard. But it was good beyond imagining. So good I could hardly sleep last night, even knowing 4 o’clock would come early. All night long I remembered the good, savored the details, and prayed my thanks.

I’m glad we’re here.

Muy Bien

IMG_0805

We are a family at last. Twelve months of waiting for us, and seven months of waiting for them and finally we are together. We were united yesterday afternoon and all of us were smiles and hugs, and we were truly glad. But also truly overwhelmed. All of us. Felipe and Jimmy most of all.

Yesterday our Presentation was at two in the afternoon. We found out later the boys never knew the time. At nine o’clock in the morning they were ready and waiting. They waited for five eternal hours, not knowing. Worrying. Wondering if we’d really come.

But we did. We did come and we’re a family, and it’s good. Very good.

And hard. The language is the hardest. We knew it would be. During the presentation I hugged the boys and looked into their eyes and “I wish I knew more Spanish!” I said it out loud in English.

“Bien. Muy bien.” It’s good. Very good.

It’s very good that Jimmy speaks with his eyes. His expressions tell a lot, and all evening I watched to see what he was saying. There’s a pool on the roof of the hotel and the boys swam and later we all sat around a table and played games. Uno and Farkle. I watched Jimmy’s eyes fill with tears and I tried to decide if it was joy or pain. I decided it was both.

All of us are feeling a hundred things at once, and why wouldn’t we. Love, fear, joy, loss. We’re giving up a lot of normal to embrace this new good. Life will never be the same.

This morning all the guys headed to the basketball court next door to the hotel. Here is place they can all find a sense of normal together. I watch from the window and I smile. There are a lot of boys to love out there. And it’s very good.

Nothing missing. Nothing broken.

IMG_0704

Nothing missing. Nothing broken. The meaning of shalom.

Last Christmas these words changed the course of our Anderson family life. This Christmas Grant stamped the phrase on wood and gave it as a gift. And all year we’ve been learning what it means.

Tomorrow our Shalom journey moves to Colombia, and this morning I pray for peace. I pray for peace for two boys whose lives are about to be turned upside down. Tuesday over Skype I asked, “Are you afraid?” Felipe said – no excited. But how could they not be both? Eager and scared combined. I am. And I pray for my peace, too.

After we talked to the boys on Tuesday, Kyle and I did some shopping. A few last items of clothes to bring to our new sons. We’re guessing at sizes, using Facebook photos to determine pants and shoes. Jimmy is growing like a weed, almost as tall as his brother, and both look to be about the same as Nils. So we buy what we’d buy for Nils and hope for the best.

That night while we were shopping my joy was overflowing. I said to Kyle – I can hardly wait. I’m so ready for them to be ours.

The next morning I woke up afraid. Intense fear, and there was no reason for it. It made no sense, how joy in the evening turned to terror by morning, my stomach tangled in knots. I stayed in that dark place for maybe an hour before it hit me. It’s a lie. It’s the Liar. And NO. I won’t stay here.

Perfect love casts out fear. I learned that a year ago when we first said Yes. My first response to the adoption was sheer terror. The day we said yes my insides shook all day long. It was then I discovered the power of love.

Shalom is God’s love. Nothing missing, nothing broken – life the way it was designed. Twelve months I’ve been learning and returning to his love for my peace.

So this morning I pray again for shalom for a family of seven. Seven. The number of completion. The number of perfection.

The number of our Shalom.

Prayers and Hiccups

IMG_0695

I spent all day yesterday preparing for Colombia. Making lists, running errands, sorting clothes and personal items. Filling Ziploc bags with card games and crafts, jigsaw puzzles and Spanish pocket dictionaries. A hand pump for inflating an assortment of balls. Christmas gifts, unwrapped for customs.

I stood in line at Target and overheard a woman saying, “The Christmas shopping is never really done until Target is closed for the holidays. It would be helpful if you would close tomorrow.” I laughed. My trip to the store was Christmas and Colombia both. Not the last – I started a new list as soon as I got home.

Mid-day Kyle received a phone call from Patti. Not good news. Apparently adoption lists, like Christmas lists are never really finished. One more important document is still needed, and someone dropped the ball. Bogota blames Minnesota, and Minnesota blames Bogota, and whichever it is there are workers in both places who won’t get a Christmas break until everything is done. Patti will see to that. We’ve been saying all along – with God and Patti working for us, we have nothing to fear.

Last Sunday after church a group of high school and college friends organized a prayer gathering for our family. They prayed “Reynosa style” – our family in the middle, the Pray-ers circled round us, lifting intercession. Our friend Zach suggested a prayer for no hiccups. Zach was one of the students who started praying for us last year at this time, and he’s been following our hiccup-journey ever since.

We’ll talk to Felipe and Jimmy on Skype later today. One last time. The internet conversations have been nice, but we’re more than eager to be done with them. We’re more than ready for face-to-face.

Today over Skype we’ll wish Felipe a late Happy Birthday. Yesterday he turned sixteen. We’ll wish the boys an early Merry Christmas. We’ll show them their stockings hanging from the mantel. Stockings we plan to deliver in person in less than a week.

And this morning I pray for no hiccups.

Later in the day on Sunday we gathered with friends and family for Christmas parties. One at my sister’s, and one with small group friends, just down the street. We ended the day with a sing-a-long. Thirty-plus teens and adults sitting knee-to-knee lifting voices in carol and praise. We sang all the favorites – O Come All Ye Faithful, Joy to the World, and Silent Night. After a while we ran out of carols, but wanted to keep singing, and someone suggested Revelation Song.

It was one of those moments. A recalibrating moment. A remembering and refocusing moment. Singing with friends and family here on earth, but souls transported to heaven. Holy is the Lamb who was slain. Holy, holy is He… 

Christmas lists, and packing lists, and worries about documents faded away. Hiccups were forgotten. And only one thing remained.

With all creation I sing praise to the King of kings… You are my everything and I will adore You.

Peace

IMG_0010_2

It’s a miracle. Peace. Hard to explain. Just last night Luke’s friend stopped by and he said to me, “I’m sure you’re stressed.” I said – No, not really. Surprisingly not. Nervous from time to time, but not stressed.

I should be. It’s in my nature, and there are plenty of very good reasons right now. We leave in eight days, and those eight days include Christmas. Some years Christmas is reason enough for stress.

Maybe I’ve lost touch with reality. This is something I seriously pondered earlier this week. Maybe the gray sky is making my brain numb. How else do you explain all this peace during such a week?

I watched a movie last night, with Grant and Kiana. Just sat on the couch for two straight hours wasting time on a silly Christmas movie – with zero stress. No guilt. How can this be?

I need to be careful how I say this. I am well aware of hundreds of people desperate for miracles, still waiting. Is it right for me to call peace a miracle while others suffer? Yet, I ask this, too. Is it right from me to call peace good luck, and fail to see the miracle?

It’s God’s gift, and I have to give credit where credit is due. Thank you for the peace.

Later today we’ll light the forth candle in our Advent wreath. Normally we’d wait until Sunday (today is Saturday), but tomorrow is church and back-to-back parties. So we’ll light the candle today. This week’s candle is JOY. Hope, peace, love, joy. The four weeks leading to Christmas.

Ask my boys and they’ll tell you – Mom is crazy about Advent. We’ve been lighting these candles since they were little, and it never grows old. Circling the table, reading the scripture, singing together.

This has been an Advent like no other. Advent, the season of anticipation, and this whole year has been a season of anticipation for us. We’re almost there. Almost. Eight days until we fly, nine until the BIG DAY. The day we’ve been waiting for all year. The day we bring Felipe and Jimmy into our family.

And yes, it makes me a little nervous. But not stressed.

Twenty-five Years

photo (4)

Twenty-five years ago today we were married. The day was cold and wintry, wind-chill well below zero – but our hearts were hot. We were in love. Still are.

Our love has been a miracle. Every day of our roughly 9,131 (my mathematician husband will correct me if I’m wrong) we have known – this was the right choice. We’re a great fit.

We celebrated our special occasion two weekends ago in Chicago. Spoiled ourselves with hotel and food and gifts. We had a day to ourselves, and that was gift in itself. Today we’ll grab a quick breakfast, just the two of us, before heading for work, an office Christmas party, and basketball games later. That tends to be the way of things in December. Most years we take the day off and linger at home, lighting Christmas lights and candles, and a fire in the fireplace. But his year our days are numbered. Twelve and counting before we leave, so breakfast will have to suffice.

There’s a bouquet of white roses on my counter. Twenty-five years ago they were red. My husband knows this, but chose the white for a reason. He’s been paying attention. White are my favorite.

But my heart is just a little heavy this December 16. Last night we received sad news. A dear friend from college lost her husband in a car accident two weekends ago, and we just found out. I try to remember when they were married – before us or after. It had to be close to twenty-five for them, too. And it’s so not fair. Why one family grieves while another celebrates.

I can’t imagine life without him. Really can’t imagine. Especially right now. To say we’re life partners underestimates. We are two sides of the same coin. Welded together. That’s been Kyle’s word lately. Welding. He tells everyone about Grant and Kiana and how there will be a welding next summer. Two becoming one. It’s a good metaphor.

We’ve been welded, that’s for sure. Two personalities (not at all the same) but one life. One path. We’ve been heading in the same direction for a lot of years, and the journey’s not over yet. Our twenty-sixth year promises to be exciting. And one thing I know for sure, we’ll be needing more welding than ever.

I’d do it again in an instant. Say yes. I do. I do a hundred times over. I do love you. I do choose you. I do life with you. Every day, for as long as we have.

Thanks for asking.

Seven

IMG_0682

Earlier today I enjoyed my morning quiet time in the living room, near a twinkling Christmas tree and stockings hanging over the fireplace. Partway through Bible and prayer I took a short detour to snap a picture of seven stockings for a blog.

A bit later I logged onto Facebook to check for messages, and I couldn’t believe what I saw. First post on the page. A photo from my friend, Rachel, and a link to her very first blog post. Seven Stockings. Right there, seven stockings hanging from the railing, and Rachel telling her own adoption story. I’m still grinning.

Two moms, both hanging seven stockings for growing families. Rachel’s adding three to four, and I’m adding two to five – and both of us are gearing up for a brand new life. Her three will be here for Christmas, but only for a visit. It will be several months before the adoption is done. Our two won’t arrive quite in time for Christmas, but close. We’re buying our tickets today, and plan to travel before the first of the year.

This morning in my living room I was praying for our family of seven. Praying specifically about our trip to Colombia and asking God – who should go? All of us, or only some of us? Airfare is crazy expensive. It’s holiday rates if we want to travel during Christmas break, the only time the boys can go. All week we’ve been trying to decide what’s best. How many tickets should we buy?

There was a Christmas concert at school last night, and as I sat in the audience listening to the band, I was praying about our decision. God, what should we do? And there it was. The answer. This opportunity will never come again. This is your only chance at a family vacation with seven.

The next vacation for Grant will likely be a honeymoon. We won’t be invited. And when Christmas rolls around again, his stocking will be hanging from his own mantel (so to speak).

So this is it. One chance for the five of us to travel. One chance for five to become seven. And suddenly it’s a no-brainer.

We’ve been saying all along, an adoption is like a wedding. Proposal, courtship, ceremony, and commitment. Soon the big day will be here, and when we officially tie the knot we’ll want all the best men to be present.