Tuesday, December 29, 2009


we spent this morning tangling ourselves in yet another piece of sticky red tape.  there is nothing quite like the central immigration office in downtown atlanta at 9am.   if you've ever been to the DMV, then you know of what i write.

at the door, we were greeted by a security officer and told to leave all phones, purses, bags and any items of a personal nature in the car.  thus began the de-personalization of my person.  i stood in a line with roping to each side and nothing but arrows to direct my feet.  it was a clear assurance that everyone move in the same direction and  a warning that no one dare step out of line.  this experience was very much about moving forward. mechanically.  methodically.  uneventfully.  rick joked with me about cavity searches.  after 5 minutes of standing in line, i wasn't thinking he was all that funny.  standing there, i concluded there must be a special paint strip for wall color choices in governmental agencies. in my entire 5000 sample sherwin williams color wheel, there is nothing that comes close to this dismal selection. i am quite sure that if i explored the back workroom i would most certainly uncover a paint can entitled "sterile." but remember, i have arrows on the floor and roping to my side - there were to be no backroom expeditions for me this day. 

after filling out the correct paperwork and signing on the appropriate lines, we were shuffled - via more arrows - into a waiting area, i.e, a holding pen.  every sign was large and white with bold, black lettering.  clear. precise. direct.  my aesthetic wiring is motivated by clean lines and simple spaces, but this was ridiculous.  i've seen operating rooms with more personality.   so there we sat: all colors, ethnicities, languages and purposes blended blandly together.  people waited in these dreary, plastic seats for reasons from international adoption to green card status.  all of us lumped, impersonally and unexceptionally, together.  the morning's goal seemed almost to strip away all distinctive features from its visitors. to pare us down to nothing but a number.  i was number 24.  

places like this make me nervous.  not really nervous about what might happen to me.  but nervous about what i might do.  i suppose it has something to do with my struggle in rule following.  there was this gigantic sign stating no smoking or cell phone usage.  considering we weren't able to bring in our phones or our cigarettes, i was curious about the sign's necessity.  extra emphasis, i suppose.  just in case.  anyway, there is just enough rebelliousness in my character, that when i am treated as number 24 and told to sit quietly and nondescriptly, i have this strange sensation and thinly veiled intrigue in the "what if."  what if i chose to walk up to the counter when they called number 21...using my forbidden phone ...boldly flaunting a cigarette.  thankfully, i don't smoke, and thankfully, i had my husband there to keep me in line with the number and phone thing.

finally, a screen flashed number 24.  it was my turn to head back into the cubicle with the shuffling, mumbling woman in charge. she didn't smile.  she barely responded to my "good morning."  she never once looked into my eyes.  but i followed her obediently to the correct desk.  after confirming my information on the monitor, she, in perfect monotone, directed me to the scanning machine.  within seconds my fingerprints flashed in front of me.  my fingerprints.  mine.  no one else in this entire dull place could claim these prints.  no one in the city of atlanta.  no one in the world.  they are mine.  the irony struck me:  here we were in this most non-personal, most anti-individual experience, capturing the very thing that defines us and separates us from each other. someone else owns my same jeans, my same jacket...someone else has a dirty blond ponytail and wears silver hoop earrings just like mine.  someone else brushed their teeth this morning with colgate and washed their hair with pantene.  there are lots of jody's out there...and probably even another jody mcnatt or two.  but no one, not one other human, has my fingerprint.  i can stand here in this greyest of grey rooms and know that i was created uniquely.

"i praise you because i am fearfully and wonderfully made; 
your works are wonderful, i know that full well.    
my frame was not hidden from you when i was made in the secret place. 
 when i was woven together in the depth of the earth,
 your eyes saw my unformed body."  ~ psalm 139: 14-16.

           "for you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb."  ~psalm 139:13

before zuzu was knit together in her mother's womb her ten tiny fingerprints were delicately drawn....her story was thoughtfully written.  God carried close to His heart the blueprint of this child.  she was designed fearfully and wonderfully.  perfectly.  even with her imperfect heart, even with her transposed arteries and narrow valves, she was known by her Creator. He knit her. He knit even her inmost being. her fingerprint.  

if our God can give us the unique stamp of our fingerprint, the unique compostion of our DNA, the unique chemistry of our personality, can we deny that He, indeed, has a specific plan and design for our lives.  can we atempt to question or ignore that He has a unique purpose already etched into our future? this tiny toddler is as far from me as the east is from the west, and yet she is known completely by the same God that completely knows me.  

bella's adoption has been a continual reminder of the planner, designer, creator, knitter God. recently i heard the statistic that out of all adoptions which begin, only 2% ever reach completion.  is this not staggering?  after journeying this far, we understand that number. obstacles and anxieties seem to travel this same road.  i can see why defeat and surrender are commonplace.  there are items on the list which prove daunting and the list is long.  and yet, we belong to a God who knows not only the length of our list, but who knows the very curves of our fingerprint.  He has it perfectly imprinted in His memory.  and what's best,  He doesn't require a scanner or a photo or sterile colored room to identify us.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

a princess on the other side of the world

this morning i woke with sweet thoughts.  tonight we will attend a party for a daughter we have not yet met.  several friends were hosting an event this evening in honor of our soon to be child.   this little girl's face was not only on the invitation, but is also on the party favors.  a great, big, wonderful party is being thrown tonight for an orphan.  a party is being thrown tonight for a little girl on the other side of the world.  a party is being thrown this evening for a child who most likely has never had anything given or done or thrown in her honor. 

she doesn't even know.  she can't know.  our friends will gather and her story will be told.  her name will be mentioned countless times and people will leave this gathering and they will take with them a small part of her.  her picture may end up on the busy doors of their refrigerators or stuck between the precious pages of their bibles.  this little girl on the other side of the world will be talked about, gazed upon, prayed over.  this little girl who doesn't have slightest idea about any of this.

i emailed these thoughts to my friend, kelly, party planner extraodinaire and hostess with the most-ess.  and i asked her, "is this not something like the heavenly party Jesus is planning for us?"  we are told He is preparing a feast, He is readying the mansion with many rooms, He is even paving the celestial streets with gold.  He is waiting to welcome us home.  and yet, there are some who do not even know.   some who could never imagine that they have been invited to a banquet in their honor.  some who have never heard that they are heirs to a king. some who can't imagine themselves worthy of a feast, let alone streets of gold.  some who couldn't believe it possible.  

and yet, our God has royal invitations on which those very names have been carefully written. and it has nothing to do with what we have done or can do. He has issued invitations simply because He loves us.  we are like those children sitting in orphanages around the world with nothing to bring to the banquet. for nothing is required.  but it will, indeed, be a grand event.

"In my Father's house are many rooms... I am going there to 
prepare a place for you.  And if I go
 and prepare a place for you,I will come back 
and take you to be with me..." ~ John 14:2

"He has taken me to the banquet hall,
and His banner over me is love."  ~ Song of Solomon 2:4

in the six months we have been pursuing bella grace xue, we probably have spoken the word adoption as often as the common words milk, paper, goodnight, apple...it is just a part of our daily vocabulary. we talk and think about it a lot.  as a follower of Christ, i can't help but draw the connection to my own adoption in and through Him.  in romans it says, "we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies." 

Christ rescued me out of despair, brokenness and hopelessness.  He chose me. He chose me and He made me His daughter.  the daughter of a  King.  like any little girl, i always wanted to be a princess.  not just one of those delicate-natured, pedestal-sitting, pretty princesses, but a strong, regal and purposeful princess.  a princess kind of like mia thermopolis  in the princess diaries. i have thoroughly admired and even adored mia since first seeing the movie.  she is a meat and potatoes kind of princess - my kind of girl.  heiress, yes, but so much more going on behind all those cute princessy clothes.  psalm 45 says,

"Listen, O daughter, consider and give ear:...the King 
is enthralled with your beauty...All glorious is the princess within her chamber."   

it doesn't get any more fairytalish than that, does it?  my King, my heavenly Father is enthralled with my beauty?  wow. tell me more.  i love how this passage even addresses the all important issue of clothes.  are we women not completely thankful that our Father, the King, get's that?  He understands full well, we girls want to know what in the world we will be wearing come banquet time.  "her gown is interwoven with gold. in embroidered garments she is led to the king."  though i am most comfortable in my jeans and cowboy boots, i think i could get excited about a dress like that. afterall, i am a daughter of the King.

someday, there will come a morning when i will wake with another sweet thought. someday, i will attend a party for my daughter.  a little girl who i will have met.  a little girl who will be on this side of the world and who will be in attendance at the party thrown in her honor. i will plan her party with great joy. i will prepare her a feast and i will clean the many rooms of my (not-so-mansion-like) home.  i might even attempt to pave my driveway in gold... for it will surely be the party of a princess. someday.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

grey things

it hung there, dangling by mere thread.  well, not exactly a thread, maybe a root.  i don't know for  sure, i am not a dentist, i am a mother.  i am the mother of a six year old who has a tooth so loose it literally flaps in the breeze of his voice.  it is so loose it is now (officially) grey. it is so loose that the picker/fiddler/tweeker in me feels somewhat shaky in its presence.  
for weeks now, i have been determined to extract this unsightly item from his mouth.  i have staged a pillow fight (seriously, that worked with our oldest years ago).  i have attempted to bribe him with outlandish and extravagant gifts.  i have even snuck into his room late at night with furtive plans to remove it while he innocently slept unaware.  nothing has worked.  all efforts have been in vain.  all attempts completely thrawted.  so, we head into this week of christmas festivities with an unsightly, grey, flapping tooth.
thankfully, the christmas card photo was taken prior to the loosening and greying of this front bicuspid.   
my son and his tooth hold on for dear life.  this tooth is not only disturbing to look at -especially for his sisters at the dinner table- but is causing other issues as well.  eating has taken on a whole new level of complexity.  there have been several meals where connor has requested to eat off the special item menu -mind you, we don't have a special item menu in my kitchen.  it is a distraction to all of us. countless times this week i have found connor perched on the sink in front of the mirror intently studying it from every angle.  in his little boy way, he finds it downright fascinating. clearly a badge of honor. he proudly shares daily updates on the gymnastic abilities of this prized possession. recently, while in conversation with connor, i caught my own self feeling slightly mesmerized by its pendulum-like swing.
makes me wonder what kind of grey, flapping teeth are attached to my own life.  what is that thing that hangs on by one tenacious root?  what is that thing which distracts me, detours me, even hypnotizes me?  what is that thing desperately in need of extraction, but which i won't release?  you know what i am talking about.  we all have them.  they are the unattractive and unecessary items to which we continue to cling, believing them to have some kind of value.  we study them.  we work around them.  we baby them. we hold tightly to them, because we are simply afraid that it could hurt too much to let go.  i have grey teeth in my life that i didn't even realize were present.   
walking through this adoption has uncovered more grey teeth than i care to admit. i know that God is patiently waiting for me, ready to remove them.  i know that if i let go, it might hurt for a minute, but there would surely come great relief. i know this, but i continue to hold  a protective hand over my mouth and say, "not yet."  when i asked connor why he wouldn't let me just yank that tooth out of his mouth, his answer was simply, "i don't trust you."  (something to do with an unfortunate nail trimming incident a few weeks earlier).  this boy is nothing if not honest.  perhaps it would help if i chose a verb other than "yank", but the bottom line, he knows there will be a moment of hurt.  a moment of pain.  he is willing to give up fresh, crunchy apples and sweet, corn on the cobb, in order to prevent that moment.  he is willing to suffer inconvenience while eating and endure ridicule from siblings, with the hope of postponing that moment.  what good things am i giving up while holding on to the grey things? it makes me wonder.

in psalm 30, david writes that God, " removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy."  He removed. He didn't just cover up or gloss over or sweep under.  He removed. the old had to come off (or out) for the new to come on (in).  it is that simple, but it isn't always easy.  sackcloth. ashes. grey teeth.  somedays we just need to be reminded that God has joyful and strong and healthy gifts waiting to replace the grey items in our lives. 

now, off to find that pair of pliers...

...note:  i wrote this piece yesterday.  guess what connor proudly placed in my hand this afternoon?

Thursday, December 10, 2009


after reading the blog post below, my friend, priscilla, directed me to this song.  i had never before heard it. such an uncanny thing considering connor's suggestion last week about our "hanging a stocking for zuzu."  oh, how we love God orchestration of these little surprises...these little gifts which are given, unexpectedly, and yet, encourage so deeply. we can't help but connect to this song, minus "the wonderland of white" and the "angels in the snow."  it reminds us that there are plenty of others out there waiting to bring home children. there is nothing exceptional about our waiting.  we are certainly not alone in our adoption.  i can't figure out exactly how to include the link to the song...but, it is on itunes if you are interested in locating it.

Merry Christmas ~ Third Day

There's a little girl trembling on a cold December morn
Crying for her momma's arms
At an orphanage just outside a little China town
There the forgotten are
But half a world away I hang the stockings by the fire
And dream about the day when I can finally call you mine
It's Christmas time again but you're not home
Your family is here and yet you're somewhere else alone
And so tonight I pray that God will come and hold you in his arms
And tell you from my heart I wish you Merry Christmas

As I hang the tinsel on the tree and watch the twinkling lights
I'm warmed by the fire's glow
Outside the children tumble in a wonderland of white,
Make angels in the snow
But half a world away you try your best to fight the tears
And hope that heaven's angels come to carry you here
It's Christmas time again but you're not home
Your family is here and yet you're somewhere else alone
And so tonight I pray that God will come and hold you in his arms
And tell you from my heart I wish you Merry Christmas
Christmas is a time to celebrate the holy child
And we celebrate his perfect gift of love
He came to earth to give his life
And prepare a place for us
So we could have a home with him above
It's Christmas time again and now you're home
Your family is here so you will never be alone
So tonight before you go to sleep, I'll hold you in my arms
And I'll tell you from my heart, and I'll you from my heart
I wish you Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

a stocking hung with great care...

my little guy is quickly earning the title, "mr. christmas" in our home. he is All About It. i, however, was attempting this year to pace myself. last Christmas our house was on the neighborhood holiday home tour (not nearly as glamorous as that sounds, mind you). by this point last december, i had pretty much anything standing still covered with greenery and bedecked with a bow. this year i had plans to take it easy. plans to keep it simple. i had plans to embrace the meaning and not the must-do list. i had plans. "yeah, right, jody," 

some of you laugh. i admit to having a slight issue with that whole taking it easy thing. apparently, last year's decorating deluge had quite the effect on my youngest. now, i am not going so far as to say i see him making a career choice here.  but, from the moment we arrived home from thanksgiving-at-grandma's-house he has been leading The Great Christmas Cause. connor has continued to bring boxes from the basement storage room commanding me to "use this, mom." he has pulled out an assortment of holiday hoop-a-la and is happily attempting to arrange garland and gold ribbon. (he did play in a basketball game this morning for those of you that might be concerned about his new hobby). right off the bat, he dubbed himself Chief Checker of the Light Strings. he does it extremely well, i must add: the perfect job for a 6 year old. 

one day after school last week while upstairs folding laundry, the walls began to vibrate with sounds from "the polar express." he had figured out how to put the cd in the sound system and had it blaring at a level loud enough to be appreciated even in the north pole. he walked into my room and announced that he was hoping the music would help me "get into the spirit of things." hmmm....i thought, so much for simple. he is also the same child who, while walking through home depot this week, begged me to invest in a sizable, blow up snowman for our front yard. it is not that i am inherently opposed to snowmen. but i do cringe slightly at the idea of a manufactured snowman in my georgia-green-grass-front yard. there is just something about this that feels slightly invalid - just not quite bona fide Christmas. for that matter, the fact that there IS green grass in our front yard come Christmas morning is not quite bona fide for this northern born and raised girl. i apologize, friend, if you have a plastic snowman adorning your own yard. i intend no snobbish criticism whatsoever. it is simply a matter of preference. i am sure there will come a day with my children at the height of their apathetic teenage years, when i will regret not having given in to this heart's desire of my young boy. i might even blame their apathy on my own refusal to succumb to the gigantic plastic snowman. i might even put one in our yard by the time the last kid heads off to college. but for now, i am determined to remain unwavering in my resistance of this persistent and most passionate request.

"mom, we really need to get baby zuzu a stocking this Christmas, so that she'll have it for next year." yep, that was the phrase. that was the suggestion that did me in. he had no idea in that moment how close i came to rushing right out the door to get that Christmas stocking for baby zuzu AND that plastic snowman for connor. he had no idea. oh, the words of a child. the eyes of a child. the heart of a child, who with such a simple consideration for a sibling he hasn't yet met could encourage his mom. there is such blessing to hear my family speak of bella grace xue as if she is already a part of us. 

as beautiful and wonder-filled as Christmas is, it is also a season that can bring great sadness when things aren't in place. i don't know about you, but i happen to believe that for most of us there is usually something slightly out of place. most of us have come to understand that our tables will often have someone missing at the holiday meal. most of us have family members who will receive their Christmas gifts, not from our own hands, but from those of the mailman. most of us have lost someone or live somewhere which prevents the large gathering of those most dear. as our own family stays scattered across 6 states, i understand this well. this Christmas we add to the distance equation another country, another continent. we are growing closer to her, but won't, in fact, have her with us this Christmas. after raising four toddlers i know the joy we miss this year. i know what it looks like to see the wonder of Christmas through the eyes of a an almost two year old. i long to see the twinkle of our tree lights in her dark eyes and i can just imagine the sweet stickiness of her hand clutching a peppermint stick. i know this. i know, also, that because i believe in a God of Perfect Timing, it is somehow alright. if this child is to be ours, we will someday hear the pitter patter of her feet running to wake us on Christmas morning.

and so we think of next year: the anticipation makes my heart beat a rump-a-tump-tum. there is just nothing like expecting a child. i can remember with each pregnancy my great excitement for the baby i carried. those are the precious thoughts so sacred to mothers. those are our dreams...hopes... wishes. those are the things which begin to weave the child into our arms. adoption is so similar. though we've seen the curve of her nose and know the color of her eyes, we still carry dreams and hopes and wishes for her already. even when, especially when, there is an empty place at our table.

today, there are seven stockings hung by our chimney with great care. baby zuzu's stocking hangs in the middle with three on each side. her stocking has a place in the midst of us. she has a place already in our home. she is already in our hearts.

as for that snowman...well, he remains securely in the display case at our neighborhood home depot...at least for now.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

roadtrip to texas

i sat in the car hiccupping. my hands clutched the steering wheel. translucent knuckles evidence of my anxiety. i had just left the fed ex office. i had just left another pile of important papers with a young man who looked no older than my 8th grader and no more responsible than my 1st grader. sorry, that reads very judgmental. i think it was the fact that he wouldn't make eye contact and was more serious about the gum he was snapping than my questions about delivery method. okay. that really has nothing to do with this posting. i wasn't sitting in the car hiccupping because of the juvenile fed ex employee, but because i had just smacked into, yet again, my own control issues.

half-crazed woman at counter clutching immigration paperwork.  me. skeptical and determined. it needed to be sent to texas and the plan was to fed ex it - no matter the amount. he quoted me prices and all i could think was what would rick say if i called him from the car and told him i was already half way across alabama and planning to hand deliver it myself. just wanting to be sure and all. i figured it would be okay. he could easily handle the kids for the weekend. sure we had multiple soccer games, events to attend and projects to complete. but perhaps i could enlist the help of a neighbor or something. i mean, i saw lots of positives to my hand delivering these precious documents. maybe i could show up with a starbucks for this man sitting in the immigration offices of lewisville texas. i could bring some pictures of zuzu. i could tell him her story. i could read him a few blog entries. i would even promise to take his picture and add it to her blog....use his name...send him a christmas card. whatever.

whatever it would take to ensure these papers...this story... would be handled quickly, efficiently, and with the utmost of care. i was drowning in my great need to control and manage this situation. silly woman. where was my trust? why don't my actions match my words. i say all the time we are trusting God with this story, with this child, with her life, with her health, with the finances, with the decisions, with the details....i say that and yet i stand in an atlanta fed ex office and consider a road trip to texas.

"Is not God in the heights of heaven? and see how lofty are the highest stars! 
Yet you say, 'What does God know?'... 
Yet it was He who filled their houses with good things."
 ~ Job 22: 12, 13 and 18

God in heaven. me in atlanta. yep, that about sums up the utter ridiculousness of my worry, my control, my meddling.  shameful, i know.  it seems i can't help myself.  the thing about adoption is there is always something else to do, but in between these doings, there is a lot we can't do.  a lot we have to just let alone. let be. the translucent knuckles of the hiccuping woman in the car have a hard time unwrapping themselves from the process and paperwork and plan.

further on in this same chapter it reads:

"Submit to God and be at peace with Him; in this way prosperity will come to you.
Accept instruction from His mouth and lay up His words in your heart....
the Almighty will be your gold, the choicest silver for you." ~ Job 22: 21 and 25

so, for today, i will trade in my translucent knuckles, my anxious thoughts, my controlling ways. i will trade in my hiccups and my desperate plans. i will trade in my insecurities and my weakness, and i will replace it, at least for today, with His good things. with His gold and with the very choicest of silver. and i will pay the $26 to the fed ex boy and i will not drive to texas...i will drive home.

Friday, November 20, 2009

twenty answers

a tiny glimpse...
below are the questions we submitted to "a source" inside the orphanage. it took almost a month, but we have 20 answers to our questions. not quite elaborate answers, mind you, but at least it is something. we really do not know who provided the information or exactly how accurate it is. however, considering we have heard nothing since early august, we are very thankful for even this tiny glimpse.

1. medically, how is she doing?
Since her surgery, her recovery has been well. But still can hear the murmur of 2/62. has she had any complications since the surgery?
No3. any illness or irregularities?
4. is xue zhu active?
Yes, she is very active now5. is she still with the same nanny?
Yes6. did she and the nanny ever receive our care package?
Yes7. is there anything else we can send? will she get it?
We don’t need anything so far and we will let you know if she needs anything we can’t get from here.8. is there any way we could visit her this fall/winter?
If you can get approval from both local civil affair and CCAA, you can.
9. how often is she evaluated (medically/developmentally)?
The doctor advised us only to take her to do the check if she has anything wrong. Otherwise, we don’t need to do it.10. what are her favorite activities? favorite things?
She likes rattle the most. Any toy with sound.
11. does she show an interest in something specific?
She likes to be held all the time.
12. we were told she would need another surgery before her 2nd birthday (in february), is there any plan for that?
So far we don’t think so.
13. is she crawling or walking?
She can crawl and stand by holding
14. how is her language development?
She can say one character words15. does she seem peaceful or stressed?
She looks very peaceful16. does she seem to be developing on track, physically and cognitively? has anyone observed this? evaluated? noticed anything?
She does. We just evaluate everything by her daily behavior17. is there anything we can do or provide from our end?
So far, no18. is "half the sky" involved with her? i heard they are known to be in this orphanage in particular.
Yes, she is in the program19. can we please receive more pictures or video?
We only can provide pics20. is there a way to get a current prognosis of her medical state? we were told they would give us this after she could be observed for a while after her surgery...is this possible?
Sorry, we can’t give this to you now.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

finally ~ "an update & two pictures" from china

her eyes. i look at this most recent picture and i see only her eyes - large and luminous. ebony windows. soul-filled eyes.  21 months of life reflected in this sweet countenance. i am not sure these dark pools provide even a trace of smile. oh, how i long to see laughter there.  is wish for the sparkle of delight.  i want, even, to see the twinkle of mischief.

okay, so i lied. i see more than her eyes. i see much chubbier cheeks than i did in the post-surgery pictures from august. today she is absolutely round. oh, how i love that. she is almost unrecognizable from the pictures this summer. oh, how i love that too. perhaps it is the naive american side of me that believes with chubby cheeks comes gerber-baby-good-health. i don't know...but it pleases the mother in me. she is fed. she is eating. those very basic things bring comfort. i also see an unbelievable buzz cut. her head has been shaved. why? we don't know...perhaps lice? well, if that is the case, it is only another reason why she will fit right into the mcnatt family - 2008: the year of the louse. our family was struck that year with at 5 episodes.

in the second picture sent i could see more. she is inside, but incredibly bundled up in a too-big sweater and vest. there is a cold, cement floor beneath her with a few puddles of water behind her. why? after receiving the picture i immediately shot back an email to our agent: "please tell me why there is water on the floor of her room? i need to know." he didn't know. "is it cold there?" he didn't know. i checked the weather report in guangzhou city for today...50 degrees this morning.

it is her mouth that is most familiar: those rosebud lips resting just above what looks like an impressive double chin. oh, that the time would pass quickly until we receive a kiss from those very lips...until her mouth moves to form the treasured word, "mama."

please, Lord, make these months swift. 

there is so much still awaiting a stamp of approval. we want only to bring her home before this baby face alters any further.  but for today, we are just so very thankful to finally see her again. since august, we've had absolutely no update, no pictures, no news....nothing. when i opened the email from our agent yesterday it was like striking gold. the attachment read, "update and two pictures." the download bar has never crept more slowly across the screen. but there she finally was; large eyes, chubby cheeks and a terrible haircut. it was all so wonderful....well, maybe not the haircut. those eyes seemed to penetrate right through my computer screen from china to georgia.

remember that list of questions we were supposed to come up with last month? well, after our initial 500, we had finally narrowed it down to a scant twenty. we whisked those questions off via our nashville agent, somewhat skeptical, but hoping desperately for a response. weeks passed. we heard nothing. but yesterday the original document we sent came back with neatly typed answers to each of those questions. we still don't know who provided the information. we don't know their name, their credentials or their qualifications. but we are deeply thankful for even this glimpse into bella grace xue's world. it is nothing monumental or dramatic. it is only a whisp of information...barely a start. but it is something. and in this elusive world of international adoption, it is gold. pure gold.

so, friends, add it up: large eyes, chubby cheeks, a terrible, wonderful haircut and twenty answers. this is what we have in our hands today. this is our treasure for the moment. this is what allows us to feel wealthy in our hope and wild in our love for this little girl living in a land across oceans.

Friday, October 30, 2009

stolen moments

"mom....Mom....MOm....MOM!" the voice of my six year old grew louder and more demanding with each impatient utterance of my name. i had just stepped into the shower. connor sat with his lips pushed against the crack in the door and proceeded to unveil a muffled anecdote of injustice which had occurred with his older brother only moments before. he knew he had my undivided attention. i was trapped. i was going to hear all the dreadful details whether i wanted to or not.

why is it when we just step into the shower or just sit down with a coffee or just pick up the phone that we are needed so desperately? after parenting for almost 14 years...i know this is how it works. how it goes down. i could stand in the kitchen ready and waiting for The Beck and Call and there would be....nothing. but given the chance for a stolen moment, and a frantic summons is a sure thing. there are times right now where i could certainly do without this madness.

but as i stood in that non-relaxing shower, it occurred to me, i will someday miss this. i may someday glory in a silent shower or a hot cup of coffee, but there will come a day when i will, undoubtedly, wish someone was calling me mom. calling me loudly. calling me often. i know they will not always need me and, perhaps, not even always want me. that time feels quite distant, especially as we consider adding to the tail end of our family. that time seems impossibly far-flung this morning as i carefully avoid the stack of breakfast dishes, step around the dirty laundry, and contemplate the items on the grocery list.

earlier this week, after tucking all four children in for the night...i climbed into my bed with a book and a cup of earl grey. "ahhh..." was my only thought as i snuggled deep into the sheets. within minutes i felt a set of eyes staring at me.  sarah elizabeth. she stood quietly in my doorway.

"honey, what's wrong?" i asked.
"mom, are you sure you don't mind being alone tonight?" she replied.
i thought of my book and my cup of tea and my comfy sheets and my quiet...
"i feel bad that daddy is traveling and you have to be all alone. you must be so lonely. i am sad for you," she tenderly continued.
now any of you mothers of multiple children reading this are completely aware of what was passing through my mind at that moment: "um...no, i'm good...not lonely ...good...fine...happy...hot tea...good book...quiet. alone. good. really."

you know how after a day of being available to everyone for everything...we are practically giddy with the thought of crawling into our alone time. however, this looked quite different from my child's perspective. after assuring her that mommy was not in anyway lonely, but really quite content, i persuaded her down the hall into her own room. five minutes later, i settled, once again, back into my own bed. my cup of tea was a little cooler, but my thoughts ran a little deeper. i couldn't help but consider the perspective behind her words. i was embarrassed with how for granted i take my life. lonely is not a word on which i regularly reflect. but lonely is a very real thing - especially to children.

our adoption continues to change me - my perspective - maybe even change my heart. i may delight in the stolen moments of alone-ness, but that is only because they are indeed a rarity. loneliness must look very different for xue zhu, our bella. this little girl ...millions of little girls have no one to come to...no one to trap in the shower...no one to share in their injustices or listen to their stories. psalm 68:6 tells us how, "God sets the lonely in families."

i wait eagerly for the day when bella grace will push her lips to the crack in the door and complain about her older brother. i will know then that she is truly a mcnatt. if someday i can tuck her safely into her bed and happily retreat to my own room...if someday i am held captive in the shower by her complaint, i hope i will realize the great gift, the great blessing, even in this. as a mother, i never long for a grievance or a squabble or an outcry of injustice, but am sure i will have a moment of rejoicing when life has become that normal....someday.

"as father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families, he leads forth the prisoners with singing..." ~ psalm 68:6

Monday, October 12, 2009

a list of questions...

though we have been plenty busy filling out forms and providing information these past couple of months, we haven't really been able to get anything new on xue zhu. the last update we received was a post surgery report and 3 pictures from the first week in august. our agency explained that the orphanage director basically "shut down" all forms of communication regarding matched children in his orphanage. in late july there was some kind of major snafu with an american family adopting a child from this xue zhu's orphanage. something was botched. the government got involved. fingers were pointed. blame was cast. tempers flared. and because the director isn't obligated to provide information, he has chosen to halt all communication. believe it or not, he can do this. our agent spent 3 weeks in china during august...though he petitioned many times to visit with the children in this orphanage that were matched with families in his agency, he was never granted permission. he left china without ever seeing xue zhu.

i had considered trying to go this fall and see her, but was told that the same would most likely happen to me. i could get all the way to guanzhou city, china and would get no further than the orphanage gate. how can this be? we have a pre-approval document from the government of china. they told us our name "is upon her." how could they possibly deny us information? a visit? an update? a picture? a tiny glimpse?

 just this week we received an email from our agent saying, "we have found a line of communicaton inside the orphanage. our source tells us that xue zhu is doing quite well since the surgery." our agent suggested we should make a list of questions we might have and he would forward them to this new source.

a list of questions? really? no guidelines? no number? no word limit? no boundaries? just an open ended list? yes, i suppose i could come up with just a few...i want to know Everything and when i am through knowing Everything, i want to know More. i want to know about her health, and her spirits, and her care...but i also want to know the sound of her laugh, the shape of toes, the feel of her hair. i am greedy in my wanting...in my knowing.
i am just a mother who wants to know her child. so i will ask..

is she happy?
is she held?
is she safe?
is she cared for?
is she comforted?

does she smile?
does she sing?
does she laugh?
does she cry?
does she call out?

is she crawling?

what did she wear today?

has anyone read her a book?
tucked her in?
played a game with her?
rocked her gently?
tickled her tummy?
laughed with her?
smiled at her?
soothed her?
sung to her?
stroked her hair?
praised her?
corrected her?
noticed her?

what fills her days?
her hours?
her minutes?

has she felt the warmth of the sun?
the cool of the breeze?
the drops of gentle rain?
has she ever sat in the grass?
been pushed on a swing?
strolled through a park?
twirled around?
stepped in a puddle?

is she warm enough?
is she full enough?
is she clean enough?
is she held enough?

does she like balls?
or books?
or dolls?
or trucks?
or animals?
or bubbles?

is there someone to call her by name?
whisper in her ear?
listen to her cry?
comfort her with touch?
wipe her face?
brush her hair?
wash her hands?

is she talking?
what does she say?
is there someone to listen?
is there someone to answer?

how soft is her skin?
her hair?
her voice?
her heart?

what does she wonder?

. . . just to mention a few.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


and so we wait.  i have to confess, this is something i am not particularly good at. i mean i am really not good at it - at all.  i could tattoo the verse,"WAIT upon the Lord" across my forehead and am certain it would make little difference.  not to mention, my children would be ridiculously embarrassed if their mom showed up with a tattoo across her forehead, or in any other place, for that matter. 

september 9th we turned in our home study paperwork. was that only two weeks ago? we are waiting to have it reviewed so that we can begin the next step of applying to CIS for immigration. we are still very much at the beginning of this journey. perhaps that is the thing making me feel so restless this wednesday morning.  i know how much further we have to go. and no amount of my typical running or rushing will make much a difference. 

friends, i also know, that this is only one of the many lessons this adoption will be teaching us (okay...me). is it possible that God is using even this time of waiting to refine, polish and prepare our family for this next step? we have friends from college who are in china right now bringing home their 4th child. they have just wrapped their arms around their gracie. i woke this morning to find a facebook post and blog about their journey. i was so thankful for the reminder that at the end of all this paperwork and at the end of all this waiting is a little girl in china also waiting.  waiting for her family.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

xue zhu's orphange...

this is xue zhu's home.  right now, that is.  we are fixing to change all that just as soon as we can. but for now she is living in the guangzhou city social welfare institute (orphanage) with 3000 other children.  this has been her home since july 2008.
 guangzhou city is in the province of guangdong in southeastern china.  it is also where the consulate offices are located. all china adoptions must go through this city.  when the day comes for us to bring our daughter home, we will spend approximately two weeks in this area.  someday we will walk through this gate.  we will walk into this building.  we will walk into a room where our daughter waits.  someday we walk out with her in our arms.   it seems impossible and incredible as i sit looking at these photos.  these pictures are not home, they are foreign and far.  but i am reminded...again and again...
"even the sparrow has found a home..."   and somehow, i know we will get there.   

Friday, September 11, 2009

to stand beside an ocean

we spent this past labor day weekend at the beach. there is  nothing quite like standing next to the ocean. it has always given me immediate and unequivocal perspective on my size. i remember so well the awe i felt as a child when first discovering it. i quickly became nothing more than a speck. one of the trillions of sand grains underneath my feet.  

as an adult, everything in my world seems to have shrunk dramatically. but not the ocean. it still seems as majestic to me today as it did when i was six. i find great beauty in that constancy. i find it to even provide great comfort. there is reassurance in the knowledge that something is so big, so grand, so awesome it could in no way be diminished by my pseudo-sense of maturity and age.  the line, "i hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean," from the song I Hope You Dance, is well written. how can i not? no one can escape their smallness when confronted with its grandness.  and this is not only important, but it is great blessing.

perspective was exactly what i was in need of this weekend. as we battle through the tremendous check list of our adoption, we have, again, come face to face with our speck-hood. but even this frustrating fact has, in a strange way, brought a sense of comfort. again, we have encountered something so much larger than ourselves. 

i have learned in life that most things seem to have some kind of hidden crack - a minute opening waiting to be unearthed. if i keep prying, keep pushing, keep asking i can, willfully (sometimes), make advancements. i can chisel my way in. i can claw my way through. oh, not so in the daunting world of adoption. as the entire process has unfolded more and more clearly, it only makes the tiny-ness of my will and my size that much more obvious. there is no amount of prodding that will move this great beast along.  it is a great wall. it is a mountain. it is even an ocean. my parents, and especially my husband, would tell you that i have never responded particularly well to the word, "no." there is nothing like it to make me want something that much more desperately. i am certain this is not one of my better character traits....but, nonetheless, i must confess it sort of comes with my territory. i don't really remember the great battles of will my parents had with me as a child, but i have heard stories. they are not pretty stories. i cannot say that this gift of battle, is necessarily from God, but because He uses all things and wastes nothing, i do know He has used even this ugly nature for His good. it is part of what makes me want to push through this challenging mess.  

 rick and i have often felt hopeless, helpless and powerless in this pursuit of our little china girl. our size, even together, is stuck definitively in the realm of microscopic. again, it is just another way in which we are reminded that we can do nothing apart from Him. "...for apart from me you can do nothing." ~ john 15:5. this lesson doesn't come easily to my stubborn nature. i am forty years old and still want to stamp my foot and demand my way. i want to beat my fists on the table and plead my case. i want to assert my rights and present my wishes.  but then i walk down to the water's edge and i stand beside the ocean. as a believer in Christ i cannot even begin to look at His righteousness ....at His glory. even a glimpse of it exposes me in my diminished state. even the mere hint of God's awesomeness reveals my utter wretchedness. i can tell you i don't like it - not one little bit. but i trust God is using even this formidable (at times) adoption to reveal my rebelliousness as i attempt things without Him. 

i can go ahead and jump in the ocean and swim with all my might. i can store up all my energy. i can plan and prepare all i want. i can even use floaties and goggles, but i will be completely and utterly lost at sea if i think that i can in any way attempt this on my own. sure, i find that sometimes discouraging. but, i am learning to find it encouraging. i am learning to see myself as small and my God as big.  sometimes we just need to stand beside an ocean.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


everything about xue zhu's situation screams, "hurry!" everything. her heart condition. her institutionalization. her age. her distance. her loneliness. our impatience. everything. 

so last week i did what seemed obvious: i began to push the agency on the timing. i asked questions like, "is there no way to move this along?" and "can't her medical needs be reason enough to expedite the adoption?"  they were reasonable questions and we asked them with great hope.   maybe no one had actually thought about going faster.  the answer we received, however, was not one of agreement and hope. we, instead, actually landed with our feet pointing in the opposite direction. it became clear that the timeline we were working from was not the same as the agency. this wasn't about faster, this was about slower.   all along we thought the process would take about 6 months from the time we started pursuing xue zhu in july. in our minds, that was clearly december...maybe january.  this is important considering we were told she needed another surgery before her 2nd birthday (february).  what became clear through all my pushing and questioning, however, was that we had 4-6 months once our dossier was "logged in" in china.  friends, our dossier won't be in china until (maybe) november . four to six months from november? are you kidding me? is this possible? how was this miscommunicated? why? why? why? where is God's perfect timing in that? 

how could we ask these expectant questions only to end up traveling further away from this child. nothing about this makes sense to our desire to rush in and rescue...to make right...to solve...to soothe...to comfort... to control. we found out this information 8 days ago. i haven't been able to write one word about it until now.  somehow even typing it into this silly blog makes it real.  as i type this morning, i can feel the discouragement in my very fingertips. the pounding of each key seems to mock my plan, my way, my wishes. and yet as i write even these words, i can see before me, in black and white, the wrong way my heart is bent. "my plan? my way? my wishes?" all week long it has been a struggle surrendering to the fact that this is not my story. this is HIS story and HE is writing the next chapter.

i can attempt in my emotional and human and very shortsighted ways to believe i know what needs to happen when...i can formulate an outline and i can type up a timeline...but i cannot write the next chapter. this is for Your Glory O Lord. even this little, lonely, abandoned china baby is about Your Glory, Lord. i know that in my head. but my heart asks fearfully, 
"how far must i go to be stripped of myself in this process?  can we not just agree and accept our control issues and sign on a dotted line? can we not just work this out quickly and then head into china with all engines firing? O Jesus, we know time is in Your hands. You, are the Alpha and the Omega.You hold all things and all time in Your hands. You have even promised to 'make all things beautiful' in Your time. why is that so hard to trust?

"but i trust you, O Lord; i say, 'You are my God.' 
my times are in your hands."  ~ psalm 31:14-15

my times are in His hands. xue zhu's time is in His hands. the timing of our adoption is in His hands.  will we, tightlyscheduled-timedriven-clockoriented-impatientpersons-clockwatchers-calendarcontrolledhumans, will we ever really get it? can we get that he holds all time? that our God is not only the Keeper of Time, but the Creator and Author of Time?

"when i was woven together in the depths of the earth,
your eyes saw my unformed body.
all the days ordained for me were
written in your book before one of them came to be."
~ psalm 139:16

yes, His story... told in His time...written in His book.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

pApErWoRk PaNdEmOnIuM!

home study and dossier headquarters: our guest room this week....i guess no overnight visitors until this is all cleared up!

Friday, August 21, 2009

A Patient Nurse

"can you please spell for me your daughter's name?" the scheduling nurse asked.
"name?" i hesitated. "you want me to give you her name?"
"ah...yes," she efficiently responded. "her name and her birthdate, please."
all that raced through my mind was: but we don't have her yet. we've never seen her. i've never held her. she doesn't even know we exist. how can i assume the right to give anyone her name? my eyes welled up with tears. i just wasn't prepared for her to ask me my daughter's name. i wanted to explain all of this to her but i choked on my words.
"it is okay," she calmly answered. "we just need to start a chart on her in order to schedule her appointment with the cardiologist."
"oh, okay, " i stammered. "but you know we don't have her yet? she is still in china. nothing is official. you know that right?"
i had really only called to begin the process of interviewing local cardiologists that we will need when she gets home.
"yes, dear. it's really okay. i just need a name," continued this very patient nurse.
for just a moment i began to consider how best to describe all the different names of this child. i imagined what it might sound like if i started to list all of the chinese names by which we've called her...AND all their meanings... AND all their pronunciations - correct and incorrect - AND all of her nicknames... AND all of the names we've considered for her. oh my. thankfully, for once, I showed some restraint.  
"bella grace.  that will be her name.  bella grace xue mcnatt.  that is her name." my voice cracked at the end. i had never given anyone her name over the phone.  it felt big.  huge and amazing.  it felt right.  somehow, i think this kind nurse understood.

it was a strangely defining moment for me.  reality and and wishing all wrapped up in one question.  "her name, please?" i suppose it isn't a hard question when your child is in her high chair in the kitchen, or in her crib up the back staircase, or asleep in her car seat just behind yours.  but, when you haven't yet laid eyes on your child...when you don't know the timber of her voice or her favorite food or her special toy. when you have no idea what her cry sounds like....well, then, i suppose it is only normal for even basic questions like these to be hard.
we did get through the rest of the phone call. an appointment was made. i am sure there were a few times when she considered transferring me to the pysch ward of the hospital. but, all in all, another step was taken in this new process of adopting. we set the appointment for january 6th. she began to tell me about what bella grace could eat prior to the appointment and how i should refrain from any type of lotions or powders on her chest area. oh boy. i knew it was time to end the call before i literally burst into tears. she was just doing her job....how was she to know she was speaking to a woman who couldn't wrap her mind around lotions and powders when she had yet to wrap her arms around child?

as emotional as this exchange was though, the phone call and scheduling actually provided a bit of hope. i am quite hopeful just to have a date.  will she really be home by january 6th?  will she really be in the backseat of my suv on her way to a cardiologist appointment. i know i won't, for one minute, remember anything about the lotion or powder...so, i would appreciate a friendly reminder from any of my detail oriented friends. i won't remember the instructions...but I most certainly will remember the phone call where i was first asked, "her name, please?"

Monday, August 17, 2009

reality check in the kitchen

this morning i had a reality check. 

it was the kids' first day back to school and it was that blessed time for all school age children: morning.  

kids, husband and woman were all scrambling around the kitchen....getting breakfast, packing lunchboxes, checking backpacks, arguing over socks, feeding animals -- yes, a typcial, blissful morning in the mcnatt home. 

as i stood there hovering over the assembly line of turkey and cheese sandwiches...i froze with the thought, "where in the world would an 18 month old child from china fit into all of this?" i pictured myself, for a moment, with a toddler on my hip in the midst of our morning mess. i wish i would have kept my panic to myself. instead, however, i voiced it out loud to rick. it was like that tube of toothpaste illustration. once it's out, it's out.  there's no taking it back. he looked at me, i looked at him.  he looked at me, again. 

umm....yeah, we could only imagine. 

okay. alright. i get it. that was a scary, but necessary, step in our process. i know for certain God gave me that image to keep my idealism in check, my head out of the clouds and my feet planted firmly on my (dirty) kitchen floor. just in case i was getting too far ahead with the "idea" of adopting, He, in His perfect timing, brought me face to face with what the "reality" of adopting just might look like. i don't necessarily want to see it like that. i'd prefer to doodle her name in my journal and imagine her hand in rick's hand...i want to wander through the toddler section at baby gap and pick out a pair of mary jane shoes for her tiny feet. BUT, the reality is we will most often have a chaotic kitchen, a hurried morning, a frantic exit... and in this mess, we will have a toddler. a little sister. a daughter. a child for whom we will never be enough. we will not be calm enough, capable enough or prepared enough. THAT is why we depend on Him. He is more than enough. "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." (~ 2 Corinthians 12:9) in the confusion of my morning madness i hear my Father's voice assuring me of His presence even in all this. especially in all this. 

and then i see her on my hip.

Monday, August 10, 2009

pictures from china!

pictures today!
18 months old...she is all eyes. so thankful to just see her sweet face.