Friday, July 30, 2010

for this child i prayed...

"as surely as you live, my lord, i am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the Lord.  i prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what i asked of Him.  so now i give him to the Lord.  for his whole life he will be given over to the Lord.  and he worshipped the Lord there."  
 ~ 1 samuel 1:26-28

perhaps it isn't a perfect comparison.  i wasn't barren and longing for one son like hannah.  our quiver was actually kind of full.  but, nonetheless, her words strike a tender place in me. she longed for something so much it caused her to fall to her knees.  it caused her to beg.  it caused her to even bargain.  her husband, elkanah, asked her why he wasn't enough.  "don't i mean more to you than ten sons?" (eye roll).  her priest, eli, observed her praying and wondered if she might be drunk. "get rid of your wine!" he callously told her.  hannah hadn't been drinking, she had been praying. i suppose sometimes those two things can seem similar. let's face it men don't always understand the great emotions of a woman.  hannah is clearly a case in point.   she prayed and she wept and she poured out her heart to her God.  this was a woman who was ready to pull out all the stops whether the menfolk were on board or not. 
for me,  it was strange to have four children already in my home and yet to feel moved to pray for a fifth.  some would call it indulgent.  some cultures would even find it offensive - at the very least globally  irresponsible.  anyone watching our family knows we have enough on our plates.  but if you've been journeying with us for any length of time, you also know this was something layed on our hearts. it wasn't something we ever tried to make much sense wasn't something we attempted to graph or analyze or chart.  sure, we did a little of that early on...i remember sitting at a pool last summer and making a list of all the reasons why we should say YES to bella.  i never got to the NO portion...never wrote down the "cons" ...i knew there were many practical reasons why we shouldn't adopt.  some people even attempted to bring them to our attention.  but, i never wrote them down.  the YES list was all we needed.   one thing we said early on, was that we didn't know how this story would end.  we didn't know if God would really lead us all the way to china...all the way to this little girl.  we hoped.  but we know sometimes He brings things into our lives for other reasons.  last summer as we began to pursue bella we found out she was admitted into the hospital here in china for emergency open heart surgery.  the very week she was placed on our hearts was the week she was undergoing an operation on her own heart.  the very week.  isn't that mind-blowing? we had shared her story with our friends and family.  we knew at that point hundreds of people were praying for this little girl.  this little girl who was virtually alone in a hospital for an entire month.  i remember thinking that this could be the very reason God introduced bella into our lives.  just for the prayers of so many. i knew that it could have very well been about the prayers for her and not necessarily the adoption for us.   i remember bargaining with Him a little.  telling God, yes, i understood this could be how He worked...but promising, a bit like hannah did,  to give her to Him, if He would just bring her to us.  "then i will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor  will ever be used on his head."  bella's haircut tells me the razor thing is already a done deal...but it wasn't of my doing.  can we modify that just a about a razor will never, AGAIN, be used on her head?  anyway, i recall the many deals i attempted to strike up with God.  silly woman.  we don't need to make deals with God.  this isn't how He works.  i know that now and i knew that then.  but sometimes, we mamas get desperate.  rick and i agreed to just take one step at a time and do our best to listen to the Lord's leading.  that was all we could do.  it is amazing to sit here this morning on our last day in china.  we leave later today and we have the exceeding and abundant gift of bringing home a little girl we call bella. we weren't sure last summer how this story would end.  we hoped desperately to be at this point some day.  and now we are here.  the truth is, we still don't know the ending.  in many ways we feel like we are back at the beginning.  we are about to enter another new chapter with bella.  a new bella.  a new life. the very thought brings tears.  i thought i'd cried it all out already and yet i sit here in my hotel room and think about bringing her home and i am overwhelmed with the goodness of it.  the absolute goodness of my God.  how can i want anything else but to offer her to Him.  this has always been about His glory and though we don't know how He will use her life, we do know it will continue to be about His glory. 
i think back over this year and remember the tears, the prayers, the pains of adoption paperwork.  they are like the pains of childbirth...soon forgotten in the aftermath of joy.   i look into bella's eyes and i can hardly remember the 5000 forms required to get us to her.  they are nothing.  they are nothing in comparsion to the little girl in our arms.   we will most certainly dedicate this child to the Lord.  just like we've done with our other children, we know she belongs to Jesus.  we might not enter the temple as hannah did, with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour and a skin of wine, but we dedicate her nonetheless.  she is His.  she has always been His. and to God be the glory.

"i prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what i asked of Him,
 so now i giver her to the Lord..."

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

operating instructions

you've heard the expression babies don't always come with operating instructions, right? every new parent secretly wishes the stork would have dropped off a special manual when he made his bouncing baby delivery. i know. i was that new parent once. actually, i would have eagerly accepted a directional booklet for any of my children at any age.  there is always so much to find much to figure out. adopting a 2 and 1/2 year old is no different. we have used the past week to decipher the meaning of each look, sound and mood.  we've figured out little things like bella loves ice cream.  and we've figured out some bigger things like bella sometimes prefers not to be touched. she probably didn't always have an eager mommy or daddy's hands on her and we can see that. she wakes from her nap and wants us to sit near her, but not hug her tight or stroke her arm. at other times she wants very much for us to hold her closely and rub her back. it has been a terrific exercise in reading her body language.  we have figured out how she can be seemingly helpless, asking us to feed her or do something simple and the next thing i know she insists on running ahead or doing it her way. i can almost hear her adamant voice demand, "I DO IT!" we are just weeks, maybe days, away from hearing that expression come squealing out of her determined little mouth. she has this feisty little side that kind of takes people by surprise. she is tiny and delicate and sweet, but completely unannounced bossy betty moves in. she begins pointing and chattering and positioning herself. it is really something to watch. i am a little intimidated, but please don't tell her that...or at least wait until she is 18 or so. no, let's make that 30. in the meantime, i am doing my best to put on my seasoned mommy face, as i tell her, "yeah, been there...done that. you don't scare me, little miss." i find it so interesting that God has chosen for me three daughters who all have this brilliantly strong streak in them. my parents would quickly tell you it is paybacks. at the very least, it is evidence we serve a God with a great sense of humor.   anyway, she is most definitely doing all of the wonderful and terrible things two year olds do. i have a feeling this will be humbling year for me. a blessed year, no doubt, but also humbling. if you happen to see me giving in or bribing her or choosing that lovely path of least resistance parenting, would you kindly look away...or at least smile kindly? i am making her sound like a terror. she is not. she is absolutely delicious. but she is two. enough said.

bella did not come with operating instructions, but she did have a few odds and ends with her when we met:

her outfit - bright green shorts and a yellow top and garfield sandals.
a throw pillow - with which she likes to sleep. actually with which she needs to sleep. we haven't attempted to experiment otherwise.
a strange sculpture of a rat - a gift from the orphanage - umm...not sure about the rat thing.
a bag of medicine for her cold - all of which was in chinese and most of which we were clueless on how to use.   we went to see the american/canadian doctor quickly.
a baby blanket and photo album -  last year we had sent her a care package.  these were two of the items in the package. we had never been able to find out if she received them. so we were floored to see them show up with her.  the album had pictures of our family, her home, our pets and our life...perhaps someone did take the time to thumb through it with her on occasion. 
a milk container - she had in her hands a little container of milk when she walked up to us. perhaps it was supposed to be a hint about what she might drink.  when we we first layed eyes on her, we weren't thinkng about the milk container.  the only reason i know she had it, is from the pictures.  we should have paid more attention.

there is one other thing bella brought which i think is worth sharing.  we didn't recognize this gift right away, but we have grown very much to appreciate it.  we can tell bella was well cared for in her orphanage. this is not such a tangible item as those listed above, but i have had so much pleasure in seeing evidence of this gift. let me explain.  bella pays special attention to her grooming needs. she is careful to wash and wipe her hands and face. i know this seems really small, but it isn't. it tells me someone took the time to keep her clean and even to teach her good habits. last night after wiping her hands on a towel in the bathroom, it fell off the rack. she worked very hard to get it back up to where it belonged. she didn't just drop it on the floor or ignore it.  perhaps she can work with her 12 year old brother when we return. anyway, i have noticed this in how she cares for her toys and things as well. she is careful to put things back in their place.  i can tell she likes order.  in addition, if there are crumbs on the table, or a spot of something spills she insists on wiping it up.  what a bonus in a soon to be household of seven!  now you may think i am reading too much into this, but i assure you, it is a good sign. bella lived two full years in this orphanage, during a time where she was developing important building blocks for her future. i will glory in every little glimpse i discover. when the nanny handed her to us she told us (via our interpreter) that she was a favorite at the orphanage with all the nannies. they all loved her and referred to her as the "angel of the orphanage"...that was the first thing we were told about our daughter as she was placed into our arms. i couldn't agree more. when we returned a few days later and watched some of the children and nannies with her, it was clear, she had been well loved.  above and beyond all things, i am most grateful for this.  it was my specific and even desperate prayer the entire year we pursued her.  "please, Lord, let there be people around her to offer comfort, attention,  love, and a soft touch. please, Lord, allow someone to provide a soft touch for our child."
none of these items on the above list are incredibly special.  but i will never forget them.  they are all bella carried from her old life to her new life.  a typical two year old could usually fill a wagon with all their special and favorite items.  our other kids at two were well versed in the expression, "mine!" they had heaping piles of treasures by 30 months. bella held in her hand a small milk container.  is it any wonder rick and i have fallen over one another this week as we've given her toys, touches, clothes, baths, books, hugs, smiles,  puzzles, experiences, food, laughter, memories, drinks, shoes, time, boundaries, naps, medicine, ice cream cones....our love.  is it any wonder?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

a sweet spot with bella

dearest bella ~ it is monday morning in china.  i woke early today.  very early.  there is rain on my 15th story window, but i don't really see it.  this past week we have walked in pure sunshine.  i don't really have the words to describe how we've felt since first meeting you, but pure sunshine is as close as i can come.  today we celebrate one week together.  only one week?  can it be possible?  perhaps it was the journey toward you that began this tremendous burst of  love for you. there is no logical explanation.  but it seems you've always been woven into our family.  into our hearts.  we know you so well already.  it might have something to do with the hours of staring we do.  you sleep.  we stare.  you eat.  we stare.  you laugh. we laugh.  oh how we've laughed at you and with you in these seven days.  there is so much to enjoy.  it is like a spring overflowing and we just can't keep up with the rush of water.  consumed and happily drowning.  now, sweet girl, we will board a plane in just a matter of days.  i have no doubt you'll be just as delightful on american soil, but life is about to change.   i keep whispering into your tiny ear, "bella, you are the youngest of five.  repeat after mama, 'youngest of five.'"  it is a place of honor.  a place of privilege. a place of occasional indulgence.  but it is, indeed,  a different place then where we have resided this week.   we have grown accustomed to waking up and enjoying a leisurely breakfast buffet in a beautiful hotel.  people pour our coffee and bring us silverware and stand nearby ready to assist with our smallest want.  oh, my darling, not so in the mcnatt morning kitchen.  it is a place where you get your own silverware (and wash it if there is none clean to be found---always a possibility).  it is a place where the waffles come out of boxes and the breakfast isn't always a warm one.  if you're not especially quick the last cinnamon roll will be snatched right off the plate in front of you and somedays the milk container runs empty.  right now i cannot imagine not making you a special bowl of congee each morning.  i cannot fathom not sitting and spoon feeding you bite sized morsels each meal.  but bite-size-morsel-feeding just isn't on the  menu when you are the youngest of five.  especially when you are a 2 and 1/2 year old who is quite capable of feeding herself.  you have been so funny bella.  i know you have spent two years in an orphanage and have finely tuned survival skills.  we have seen evidence of those most amazing skills.  but you are also so willing to let us coddle and cuddle and comfort you.  you figured out quickly you didn't have to fight for your food and protect your plate at meals.  and quickly you began asking us to feed you.  even raisins and cheerios.  you love to point at each piece of food, asking us with your eyes to spoon it into your open mouth. like a baby bird.  i know by some standards this is ridiculous.  but it is like you have this instinct which knows you need to go backwards a bit.  i imagine your spoon feeding days at the orphanage were short lived.  i imagine you've never sat a table as center of attention.  every child needs least for a little while.  no doubt when we arrive home there will be plenty of people who will continue to promote and protect your queen-bee status.   there will be no shortage of spoon feeders and hand holders. i know of at least four children ready and waiting to gobble you right up.  i am already imagining my job refereeing.    but, life will have to, at some point, resume again in our household of seven.   you were made for our family.  God hand chose you to be our baby.  our youngest.  He knew what He was doing and i have no doubt, somehow, He goes before us in this time of transition.  what we want you to know is how much we adore you after only seven days.  we cannot imagine it had we missed this opportunity to find you.   i lay in bed at night and think how easily it would have been to logically and practically and even responsibly have said, "no."   i am almost paralyzed with the thought of it.  you, bella-b, are a great big YES child.  you are as much a wonderful decision as your four older brothers and sisters.  i praise God even right this very moment that somehow He kept tapping on the door of our hearts.  He didn't allow us to stop.  He pushed us forward in our fear and He knocked down the walls of our logical thinking.  most of all,  He promised us along the way He would be with us.  i cannot tell you that i have always felt at the center of His will.  i wish i could say i live there daily.  but, i am afraid that might not be fully true.  but with you...we have very much experienced the sweet spot of knowing we were exactly where Jesus asked us to be.  and whether at a table covered in fine linen or a counter sticky with eggo is a sweet spot indeed.

shopping, drinking and hoping in guangzhou city china

so in the past couple of days we've had some time to do a little shopping.  we've strolled in and out of  stores and around the markets. i am fascinated by it all.  i could easily stand and watch a duck being de-feathered or listen to a wizened old woman share with me (in rapid chinese) the details of her jade.  no matter, i am delighted. i love just shaking my head and making affirming noises.  i think we understand each other in some small way.   i am, however, driving my husband crazy.  i enjoy weaving from stall to stall, taking pictures and having funny conversations.  he follows me with bella in the stroller doing his best to act as body guard to us both.   he is 6'4...picture him in "the stance"... arms crossed,  shades on and shoulders back.  he is so not messing around.  he knows we are somewhat of a spectacle.  people are fascinated with the fact that,  A. we are americans, and B. we have a chinese daughter...oh, and C.  she sucks her fingers.  apparently sucking your fingers in china is a terrible offense.  we've had countless people try to tell us to make her stop.  several people have gotten down at her level and harshly said, NO!  or something like NO in chinese.   really, we have NO idea what they are telling her.  yesterday one woman kept following us around. she made a sour face and smacked her ear (not bella's ear - that would have been "go time" for body guard daddy).  she kept following us and smacking her own ear.  i had no idea what the ear had to do with it, but  i finally had to tell her in my sweetest american voice to get lost.  bella's lived two years in an orphanage. she's had no one to offer consistent comfort, nothing but her two fingers...if she wants to suck on them, she sure as heck can.  we'll deal with the ortho bills later. and besides, we find it kind of cute.   anyway, going out on the streets is always an adventure.  we are staying in this great hotel, but once you exit off its premesis, it truly is every man, woman and child for themselves.  i have never seen anything like it.  bangkok was busy and crazy, but the crowd seemed more respectful of one another.  new york city is congested and chaotic, but i am telling you the streets in guangzhou make nyc seem almost idyllic.  if you are not paying attention you could easily be plowed down by a pedestrian, a bicycle or vehicle - i use the term loosely.   it is wall to wall people and bumper to bumper cars.   yesterday we had to take a taxi to the medical clinic.  we could not go with our group because i had woken up with "travelers flu" (a whole other story, one that i'm NOT about to tell) and was just not able to get on the bus at 9:30 am with everyone else.   so we were on our own.  it was imperative that we get to the clinic before noon and have bella's TB test read.   our guide had written down on a piece of paper the address of the clinic and when it came time to go we handed it to the taxi driver.  what should have taken 20 minutes and cost 20 yen turned into a 50 minute and 50 yen trip.  it was the ride of a lifetime.  i already had a sick stomach, there was no air conditioning,  some loud clanging music was playing repeatedly, and the driver was weaving around cars and turning sharply in front of oncoming was the craziest thing ever. about 10  minutes into the trip  i realized the only way i was getting through this experience was to close my eyes.  of course there also are no car seats in china, i held bella on my lap and we were both a sweaty mess by the time we arrived at the clinic, 50 yen and 50 minutes later.  we were all pretty much  in need of the clinic by the time we arrived.
drink shopping at trust-mart
okay, i have to tell you also about the issues we've had getting bella to drink.  you know from the posts and the pictures (and the crazy dinner video) this girl never stops eating.  this is true.  we are amazed at her appetite.  but drinking has been entirely a different matter.   with her cough and cold the liquids are quite important.  we are in a climate with heat so intense it is easily to get zapped just sitting still.   however, bella has been quite resistant about what she will drink.  the nanny who handed her to us last monday said she liked a bottle first thing in the morning and last thing at night.  that worked for about one day...then she was done with her bottle (not entirely a bad thing at age 2).  but since then we've been working on every type of drink,  drinking device and drinking methodology known to man.  i mean it, barring alcohol, there is no liquid in all of guangzhou city which we haven't offered bella.  rick is the most adamant about getting her to drink. when he was offering her a milk yesterday i got up and left the room, i told him i couldn't stand to see him rejected one more time.   now, before any of you get too worried, she is getting enough.  we are monitoring all the signs...and have no reason for real alarm.  and yesterday we finally had a breakthrough.  i allowed miss independent pants the chance to pour her own water bottle into the cap of the bottle (looks like a little cup)...ooh she was delighted!  reminder for jody:  two year olds like everything to be a game. even their hydration needs.   uuugggh.....i knew that...but it has been a few years and i have to get back on my toddler game.   rick would probably also like me to tell you how he scoured the city and came up with a drink called gigi.  it is in a pouch and is sort of a jello-like substance...i like to refer to it as gelatinous gunk...but he is certain it is full of vitamins and minerals.   nonetheless, it has a picture of a young chinese rockstar on it...sort of a justin beiber looking young man.  i don't know if it is the rockstar influence or what, but bella seems to really like her gelatinous gunk.  our guides did assure us it was pretty much only fruit juice.    but between heading off to buy specialty drinks for bella and gatorade for me, rick has been earning his keep.  i wish you could see where he has been shopping as well, the local, "trust-mart."  it is a giant kind of wal-mart.  but think a little more rustic and lot more smelly.  next to the diaper aisle you are sure to find pickled duck feet and fish heads.  it is quite an adventure.  i try to send him at least once a day...he'll never again mind being asked to run in for milk at the publix back home.  seriously, it is fabulous.  i wish i could capture all the wonderful and terrible things that are a part of our experience.  even the stuff that is uncomfortable and is all good.  different, yes...but good.
one of the things we have been doing while we shop is collecting gifts which we will give bella each year at her gotcha day celebration.  we'd like to present her with something every year until she is 18 (i so stole this idea from my friend, anna)... today i picked out a pearl ring for her 16th birthday.   before you get really impressed with our shopping ahead for 18 years, please know we are only doing this because we are in china.  i can't shop ahead for anything anymore.  i tried to do that for a sounded so organized and well planned...but at 41 years of age, i can readily admit, i am too impetuous.  i find entirely too much pleasure in the heat of the moment type shopping - a character flaw, to be sure.  anyway, back to the pearl ring.  i looked at this ring and thought about her fingers at that age...i thought about her at that age.  we have possibly a long road ahead as we figure out bella's medical needs. but i can't wait to get home and tuck away this ring and the other precious items for our girl. it is a little bit like her hope chest.  and we do have great hope for our girl...great hope for her future.  it is exactly what our God promises.  "I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."  ~ jeremiah 29:11  it doesn't get any better than that.

Friday, July 23, 2010

bella's little body...

so many of you have been asking about how bella is doing physically. she looks darling, can sure pull off the purple tutu thing and has a smile which lights up the room...but we know there is more to this picture. i thought i'd write a short note to fill you in on what we know right now.

a little history...
when we first found out about bella last july we knew from her referral she had been diagnosed with congenital heart defect. bella has pulmonary stenosis with transposition of the great arteries. in addition, she has a vascular septal defect (VSD) or a hole in her heart.

while we were going through the initial adoption process last year, we found out she was rushed in for an emergency heart surgery. she spent the entire month of july in a hospital here in guangzhou city. it made us only want to pursue her that much more.

this was a hard time though. we started to talk with more and more doctors and specialists...some of which were very discouraging. we had more than one doctor tell us she was not a good candidate for adoption. one very sweet doctor cried on the phone with me...she said she could not encourage us to pursue this child...she might only live to see age 5 or 6. we had a couple of doctors warn us that her oxygen levels could have been compromised during her illness. therefore her cognitive aiblities could have been affected. the numbers and readings and figures weren't adding up to a positive result. i didn't know what 95% of any of it meant. i really believe that was a blessing. we seriously didn't know enough to be scared off. we just kept agreeing to take one more step. that is how all this happened friends. one little step at a time. that was all God was asking of us. just the next step.

so...after her one month stay in the hospital we finally received some scant information about her surgery. i mean like a few sentences...that was it. we found some doctors to translate the information about the surgery and discovered what had been done had been excellent work and very sophisticated. we had no idea who performed the surgery or where it was done. her pulmonary stenosis wasn't treated, but the hole in her heart was repaired.

from that point forward we have only received a couple of reports and all they really have stated was, "she is doing well." so here we were with our little girl on the other side of the world and we really didn't know much about her present medical condition. this is when you fall at the feet of Jesus and just ask for His protection and His provision. we could do nothing. we asked to visit her last fall...and were denied. we asked question after question...the answers were pitiful. but we were sticking to the one step at a time theory.

that is all we knew heading to china. so....
now that we have her in our arms we know she looks like she is doing great. clearly all her cognitive abilities are just fine. she is incredibly sharp. definitely not at a 2 1/2 year old level yet, but she will be. we have no doubt. they told us to expect an institutionalized child to be about 12 months behind developmentally. she is teeny tiny physically, only weighing 22 pounds, but she isn't that far behind developmentally. she'll catch up quickly. her little arms and legs are quite thin, and she has absolutely zero junk in the trunk. but...she eats nonstop. i mean it is quite impressive what she can eat at one sitting. i know this is quite normal for children in orphanages, they are not familiar with the feeling of "full." when we met her on monday she had a cold and cough. that worried me because the upper respiratory thing is connected to her heart issues. when she was given to us the nanny also handed over a bag of medicines. all of it in chinese. i will never take for granted my publix pharmacy again. our guide helped us figure out the instructions, but it was quite involved and she was resistant to taking any of it. so, we chose to see an american/canadian doctor on wednesday to figure out more about what was going on with her "cold." i wasn't sure what to expect when we walked her into the clinic. this was a child that had been through two years of treatment and intense medical care. keep in mind she spent an entire month alone in a hospital at age 18 months. keep in mind she has been through surgery in a country where pain medication isn't readily used. i was a bit anxious walking into this clinic. but... bella was delightful. she smiled brightly at the nurses and seemed comfortable with the doctor. we had a glimpse into bella's past though when the doctor pulled out his stethoscope. as he pulled it out of his pocket, bella, on her own, pulled up her shirt. she knew the drill. we all stood there speechless. the doctor, rick, our guide and the nurse...we all just kind of stared at her. she did this two different times in two different clinics yesterday. it kind of made us proud and it kind of broke our heart.

so sitting there in this first clinic we were able to figure out what we needed to do to get rid of this cough/cold thing she has. the doctor prescribed new medications for which we were so thankful. we also were told by the doctor that he didn't hear a murmur. this means that the surgery from last july had been successful. they had patched the hole in her heart and it seemed to be doing well. we knew they only addressed one of the three issues. but we were glad for that info.

leaving that clinic yesterday we had to meet our group and head out to the u.s. consulate medical clinic where they would also evaluate bella and give her the necessary vaccinations for her to enter the u.s. a visa could not be issued until she was cleared of infectious diseases and vaccinated. we went. this clinic was crazy. much more a public healthcare kind of thing....cold, sterile, jammed with people. she did excellent here as well, but i was really struck by the doctor evaluating her. he listened to her heart and kept making awful faces. he said there was no murmur but "she did not sound like other children." that's because she has transposition of the arteries doctor! i wanted to yell at him...of course she doesn't sound like other children. he kept looking at me, clicking his tongue and shaking his head...i am telling you he was one broken english sentence away from asking us if we were sure we wanted her. i could not get her out of that room fast enough. he told us she would need to get the TB test and 6 additional shots. oh poor thing. it was a pitiful moment. we'll head back to the clinic on saturday and have her TB test read.

on another note, we have noticed bella's little left foot goes out to the side when she walks. she is walking and running pretty well. but this little foot kind of turns out. not a big deal at all in our minds. we'll get it addressed when the time comes. we didn't know anything about it before meeting her...but we've been finding out all kinds of treasures since monday. she also has dimple on her left cheek (like her mom) and she is left handed (like her mom)...oh, and she likes to shop (like her mom)! each day another little treasure is unveiled. it is sort of like that little advent calendar where each day you pop open a new door and find a surprise or a treat...we love it!

when we get home there will be plenty of time to get more answers. bella will have a full work up at our pedicatrician's office the first week home. on august 6th she will see a cardiologist at sibley heart center. we have prayed for this appointment. we know it will be a long day and it will be the first time we will really have a sense of what to expect for bella's future. but here's the deal...the doctors and all their reports are good. we are grateful to live in a city and a country where we have such excellent medical care...BUT none of it compares to the work we know God can do in her life. her heart is in HIS hands. we have trusted that from the beginning. He designed her this way...she is His creation and somehow all of this will bring Him glory.

when we heard about her sick little heart we were overwhelmed. but we quickly held on to the verse from psalm 147:3..."He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds." we really don't know exactly what is ahead of us. we don't know what the future holds, but we do know Who Holds her future and for now that is enough.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

lost and found

"suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them.  does he not leave the
 ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 
and when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. 
then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says,
 'rejoice with me; i have found my lost sheep.'"  ~ luke 15:4-6

i know for most of my writing over this past year i have kind of been connected to the bird thing.  perhaps even over-connected.  but today it was sheep.  today i looked at my little girl and thought of this precious little lamb.  this little lamb who was once lost.  as we drove to her orphanage this morning the story of  the lost sheep kept coming to mind.  i couldn't recall exactly how the verse went...but i remembered the part about the shepherd carrying this little lamb on his shoulders back home.  you've probably all seen that famous painting of Jesus carrying home the lost sheep....that was the image which was in my head as we traveled across guangzhou city this morning. 
 we were traveling to the place and to the people who had cared for bella for two years.  i have seen every picture of this place i could find on google.  i have dreamed strange and curious dreams about it.  i have prayed for the people. and though i hate to admit it, i have felt intense anger toward the orphanage director.  he withheld much information from us this entire year...and today i wasn't sure what my reaction might be if we should cross paths.  you've heard about the mama bear...well, she doesn't come out all that often...but if she was to rear her awful head, today could very well have been the day.
we stood outside the gate waiting our turn to go in.  the air was ripe with rain...the humidity oppressive.  we were melting just standing still and my stomach was tied up in nervous knots.   our guide, simon, was so cool and together and just kept talking and joking and attempting to ease our anxious minds.  he walked us around the courtyard as we waited.  we played on the playground with bella.  she held on tightly to her daddy.  the entire time at the orphanage she kept her two favorite fingers tucked securely in her mouth.  we weren't sure about bringing her, but were encouraged to do so.  the advice we were given was that it would be good for bella to see her orphanage and then walk back out the door with her parents.  i had my doubts, but we went forward with the plan. 
when finally it was time to go in, we were immediately struck with how clean and well run everything seemed.  we had been told of the orphanage's excellent reputation, but it was wonderful to see it with our own eyes.  we met several nannies and children who knew bella.  a few of the older children came over to see her and stare at us.  the nannies smiled and doted over bella.  she continued to bury her head against rick.  we had the chance to peek into classrooms and see children well attended.  oh, how i could have taken room-fulls of these precious children home.  in everything we saw, it was bella's dorm room that was most wrenching.  the nanny pointed out the very bed in which she had slept.  i stood over this metal crib with the straw mat and small pillow and could feel the deep, deep tears.  i had prayed so many prayers about this very bed...i had pictured her little body alone in its steel frame.  the beds were lined up in rows, one after another.  i couldn't imagine.  now i was standing in the very place she had been set down night after night.  in the past few nights we've had her with us, she has adored our rocking her, snuggling with her...has even ended up in bed between us the past two nights.  how in the world did this snuggly little thing we call bella, ever sleep in this sterile environment?  i was baffled.    as we left the room, simon pointed out a small chart outside the door.  there were many chinese names written on it...he showed us the place where bella's name had was waiting a new name.  simon said, "it will have another child's name soon...there is no shortage of children here."  i looked at those other names, not being able to read even one, but considered for a moment, what if each of these children were claimed by a family soon? what if. 
it was time to leave.  i was last out of the building.  in front of me i watched rick carrying bella in his arms out into the sunshine.  i believe i had written in several earlier posts how i longed for the moment i'd carry her out of this orphanage and into the china sunshine.  well, with the rain coming, there was little sunshine and i wasn't the one carrying her...but as i watched her snuggled deep in her father's arms i knew it was perfect.
while waiting for our driver the rain began.  i stood in the door of the orphanage and looked out into the heavy storm.  i felt the anger for this director and the anxiousness for this place completely leave my body.  i will never fully understand why we were denied so much information.  i have a better idea about it all now...but i will never completely get it. we prepared to leave, i realized it was time to let go of this place.  we were taking bella away.  her new life was about to begin and it was time to set down the baggage.  our arms were full of bella...we had no room to carry anything extra.

from the orphanage we drove back into the heart of the city toward the hospital in which bella was found two years ago.  for both of us, this was the more emotional part of our trip.   it felt a bit like a pilgrimmage as we traveled.    i knew with hearing that note read just a few nights earlier, this would be a hard place to see.  simon directed us around the 2nd floor of this hospital until we found the correct hallway/stairwell.    we pushed open a heavy metal door and found a small landing.  the walls were grimy with age.  i immediately noticed a cigarette in the corner.  it was the cigarette that started the tears flowing.  simon left us alone for a bit.  we kind of just sat there in the quiet of this place and held bella.  i thought of the parents who left her.  after now knowing their reasons, i could only grieve for them...pray for them.  i sat in this nondescript place and thanked God for His mighty work in bringing us to bella.  for an abandoned child to go from this stairwell to our arms is nothing short of a miracle.  this is God and only God.  we feel small in all of this. tiny.  minute.  i prayed for bella's future...we know with certainty her biological parents left her with great hope for a better future.  i prayed also for others who are broken hearted and abandoned.  abandonment isn't always about dirty stairwells and orphans...we know this.  but mostly as i sat there, i praised God.  praised Him for caring about the one lost little sheep. i praised Him because He is a God who cares for the least and lost. He cares for the one.  bella had so much against her.  born in poverty.  born a girl.  born with a heart defect. all of these are reasons enough in china for a hopeless future. we all walk around with a long list of reasons declaring our hopelessness.  even those of us lucky enough to be born in wealth, warmth and good health.   this might have been the place of bella's abandonment....but we will always think of it as the place she was found. "...and when he finds it, he joyfully puts the lost sheep on his shoulders and goes home."

"in the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that
 any of these little ones should be lost."  ~ matthew 18:14

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

bella of the ball

it has taken us less than 24 hours to realize we have a party girl on our hands.  oh yes, our bella is indeed the belle of the ball.  there's this sparkle.  we can't hardly describe the sparkle.  it is in her eyes...across her lips...within her laughter.  it makes everyone around her want to party and laugh and sparkle too.  

i wrote a note earlier today on facebook about how we know she is a princess...listed ten reasons.  i'll have to copy that into this post eventually.  let's just suffice it to say: she is.  what is amazing to me is i knew this before meeting her.  last december 22nd i posted a piece about a princess on the other side of the world.  well, we are now on her side of the world, and i can tell you my instincts were right on.  she is captivating.  wait until you meet'll have to agree.  

in my december 22nd post i claimed psalm 45 for our bella.  it is the psalm i have claimed for all three of my daughters.  this psalm tells them exactly who they are:  daughters of the King.  now rick can sometimes be sort of kingly, and if i was being honest, i, personally, adore the idea of being queen...but this has really nothing to do with us.  this is entirely about our Heavenly Father, The King.    psalm 45 says,

"listen, o daughter, consider and give ear...the King is enthralled by your beauty, honor him for he is your Lord....all glorious is the princess within her chamber."
girls, isn't that wonderful?  whether we are born into wealth and security or left alone in a corridor, the King is enthralled with our beauty.  why do we have such a hard time believing that?  doesn't every little (and big girl) desire to be "all glorious within her chamber?"  

tomorrow we will travel to the orphanage which has raised bella for two years.  it is an orphanage with 3000 children - most of which are special needs kids.  this will not be easy.  i will see the room in which our darling daughter has slept. i assure you there won't be much about it which will seem glorioius.  i will see thousands of am i to believe that they are all daughters of the King?  this is hard.  my faith is small. i see what is going on here in china and it is heartbreaking.  most of the kids today in orphanages are special needs babies.   these children are not considered worth much.  an orphan, especially a special needs orphan, is considered bad luck.  the lowest level in society.   there has been some change in china in regard to baby girls.   with much education, they are no longer dubbed worthless, but special needs cases are different.  often family members insist that a child born with any type of birth defect must be abandoned for the good of the family.  it is believed to be the worst sign of bad luck and the child simply cannot stay within the family.    it has become epidemic in china.  the government is doing its best to educate its people...but in a country that does not have the light of Jesus, it is so steeped in this archaic and  superstitious way of thinking.  

tomorrow we will also visit what is called the "finding place."  it is the place where bella was left two years ago.  we were told today it is only about 10 minutes away from our hotel.  since learning that piece of information i cannot stop thinking about the fact that as we walk around town we could very well be passing bella's birth parents or her birth home. after getting bella on monday, our travel guide called a meeting with all the adoptive families in our group.  he wanted to go through each child's file which was given to him that day and finalize some paperwork.  as he was thumbing through bella's file he gasped as he came across the original note left by her parents.  (we had no idea there was anything but a birthdate given).  but her biological parents had written this note and explained what desperate circumstances they were in.   (i will try to embed the video of simon reading the note in my blog at some point - it is on facebook though). these parents had no money and no means of providing medical care for bella. they realized after she was born how very sick she was and how much treatment she would need.  they explain that neither they, nor their family, has the ability to pay for what is needed.   they were abandoning her with hopes that someone "with loving arms" would be able to care for her medical needs.  what a treasure to have this note.  someday we will be able to share it with bella.  i have always felt that this was the case, but now we have confirmation.  when bella's 2nd birthday came this past year, i could not help but think of her birth mother.  throughout that day i continued to pray for this young woman ...i just knew she was remembering her little girl...i just knew she had to be carrying enormous grief.   i wish so desperately i could talk with this woman tonight.  she could very well be within walking distance to where i sit and type.   i wish i could somehow let her know that exactly two years after she abandoned her child out of love,  two scared americans boarded a plane and were headed to pick up where she left off.  i wish i could tell her this evening after spending only two days with this little girl how sparkly and precious and lovely she is.  oh, how i wish it.  

discovering this note will only spur me on to continue to pray for this mother and her pain.  after this incredible one year journey to bella, it would not surprise me if God somehow connected more dots in this story. i am convinced, He takes great pleasure in doing that for us.   needless to say,  tomorrow will be a day full of emotion.  i will sit and pray in the same stairwell this young mother left her baby girl in two years ago.  i will consider that out of her pain,  God already had a plan.  bella's life, even then, had a direction and a purpose...even as she was layed and left in this corridor, she was glorious in her Father's eyes.  and i will rejoice that this little girl is indeed a daughter of the King and He is most enthralled with her beauty.  and it goes without saying, we are too...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


at some point the words will catch up with me.  but right now, i am just racing out ahead.  it is like being caught in a thunderstorm...the good kind.  i am drenched to the skin.  completely saturated in the blessings of the past 24 hours.  rick and i decided this morning at breakfast we wouldn't be even able to describe how wonderful the past day has been.  we met our daughter.  enough said.  we have prayed for this child...longed for this child...and here she finally is, in our arms.   we fell head over heels in love with is completely miraculous how God can draw up this kind of love for a child we have only just met.  she was immediately ours.  she fit into the crook of my lap...nestled in like she had always been there.  she rides in her daddy's arms like she has been at this command post her entire life.  her smile is sweet....her giggle infectious...her personality joyful.  we are simply amazed.  we just keep staring and staring and staring.  rick had to prompt me to eat at breakfast this morning...i only wanted to sit and watch her.  it was our first meal together.  
my only regret is that our four other children cannot be here too.  we should have taken another mortgage out on the house...sold all that we would have been worth it.   i cannot wait for the day when we walk off that airplane and they meet their new sister.  they will adore her...and she them. i am sure of it.  leaving the civil affairs office yesterday i was overcome with the desire to just grab our bags and head for the airport.  we wouldn't have gotten very far...i realize that.  but i simply cannot wait for our family of 7 to be all on one continent...all under one roof...all in one place.   we were able to skype with the children last night.  as we dialed them and waited for the video connection bella fell asleep in rick's arms.  they met their sister through the computer line...their first glimpse was bella fast asleep.  she'd better rest up...the mcnatt household is not for the weary! 
i know some of you would like me to chronicle step by step what our gotcha day was like yesterday and what our adoption day was like this morning...but i just cannot do it quite yet.  my words seem entirely inadequate.  i will post some pictures and am hoping these tell enough of the story for the time being.  i am sure at some point the words will catch up...just not quite yet. 

Monday, July 19, 2010

going to get bella

"sing to God, sing praise to His name,
extol Him who rides on the clouds --
His name is the Lord --
and rejoice before Him.
a father to the fatherless,
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

we woke this morning to the china sunshine streaming through our windows.  our first waking thought: this is the day.  this is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it....this is the day ordained by God long ago.  this is the day bella grace will be set in our family.  this is the day.  we sing, we extol, we rejoice.  and we thank you, our faithful, faithful friends for joining in our complete and incredible  joy. this is, indeed, the day.

*** less than four hours.  we will leave for the meeting place at 2pm our time. 

Sunday, July 18, 2010

sparrows and airplanes

it is sunday night, china time, and i am staring at a pillow.  i'm having this strange little conversation with it.   it looks so good.  but is also a bit intimidating to my travel-tired mind.  after journeying -door to door- almost 30 hours and spending last night somewhere above the pacific ocean ...this pillow and this bed in this hotel look awfully good.  but i just know i am going to climb in and not sleep a wink. with so much simply won't be possible.  so, i think i'll write a bit more and then stare a bit longer.  we arrived in guangzhou early sunday morning (saturday night your time).  as the plane descended through the clouds i was glued to the window.  glued.  i saw green mountains and large rivers and fields covered in the morning mist.  and then, out of nowhere, this massive city sprawled out before me.  yep, more tears.  kind of ridiculous at this point, but what can i say?  we were about to set foot in the country of our daughter's birth.  she was here. i looked at rick and whispered, "she lives here."  this is where bella lives.  come on, you know you would be welling up too, if you were along for the ride.  anyway, we finally landed and were met by our guide, nikko.  she couldn't be more precious.  on the ride from the airport to the hotel, she filled us in on all the details of our schedule. my head was beginning to spin.  as we pulled up to the hotel there was a young woman standing on the curb.  nikko told us it was rebecca.  rebecca was the guide who helped early on in gathering information about bella.  last summer, it was rebecca who persistently knocked on the door to the orphanage attempting to get updates for us.  rebecca was just leaving to catch a plane to the U.S. for a month.  but there she was, waiting at our hotel on the curb.  when we got out and were introduced to her she said to me, "your little girl is doing wonderful!  i want you to know she is in very good health. she's beautiful!"  she smiled and we hugged.  no... we embraced.  i embraced this woman who just welcomed me to china with the most amazing gift.  we walked away from that (seemingly) happenstance meeting and walked into the fabulous lobby of the garden hotel.  it was stunning.  we had no idea we'd be staying in such swell accomodations.   wow.  i joked with rick, "815 buttercup trace isn't going to look quite so snazzy after bella spends two weeks in this place!" lately, sarah elizabeth's new favorite movie has been "eloise at the plaza" (sarah really relates with eloise, or so she says) kind of reminded me of that set up. "bella grace at the garden hotel." anyway, needless to say we are pleased.  so far everything has gone so well.  God has been abundantly good in His provision and in His attention to even the smallest of details.  we are just amazed.   of course we have had these little moments of uncertainty and fear..of course we've had some anxious thoughts about ...well...everything... but then He just shows up with something like a rebecca at our curbside!   flying through the night sky yesterday, i was thinking about how this enormous plane was traveling across the ocean.  how this great plane was somehow suspended up in this sky with an incredible amount of people, baggage and equipment.  i am always in awe of things like this.  it probably has something to do with the fact that if i was told to float something in a small bathtub, i would fail miserably.  that whole physics thing escapes me completely.  but there i was thinking about this remarkable airplane and how it held us up in the sky.  i know that would have caused some of you to have a full blown anxiety attack.  i really do try not to dwell on all that while flying...especially when crossing oceans for 13 some hours.  it's like i can sort of get the city to city thing...but i kind of think we have to be pushing it a bit when we ask machines to travel to the other side of the world.  it just seems a bit risky.  instead of anxiety though, God brought this verse to mind:
"are not two sparrow sold for a penny?
yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart
from the will of the Father...
so don't be afraid."  ~ matthew 10:29 and 31

yeah, pretty cool, huh?  i guess THAT verse fits perfectly. He cares for big airplanes and small sparrows.  He cares incredibly about big dreams and tiny details.   and tonight as we prepare to meet our daughter ... i am just so glad to know that.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

getting there

it is almost time. we are getting closer. i officially lost count of the hours somewhere between the 8th and 9th hour of this flight. for a while i kept grabbing rick’s arm to check out the time. i am sure he wished he would have remembered to pack a watch for me. it hasn’t much mattered though. every time we even mention The Time we have to clarify whether we are talking atlanta, west coast or china time. but as we soar high above the blackness of the pacific ocean, for the moment, Time seems to have stood still.  somehow we left atlanta at 7pm on friday night and will arrive in guangzhou city early sunday morning. i’ll say nothing more on the matter except…it is, indeed, time.
the butterflies have only grown stronger since leaving atlanta. the airplane’s regular lurching hasn’t helped much. i can’t complain though, this aircraft is amazing. we really are quite comfortable and ridiculously well attended. we are flying china southern airlines and it is top notch. we were greeted with orange juice and warm towels. no, we are not in our hotel, but on a plane. everyone has been lovely. as a mother and constant care-taker, i just eat up these kinds of little niceties. oh, thank you, yes, i’d love a steaming towel for my travel-weary finger tips. can y’all just come home with me in a couple of weeks? trip taking has taken on a whole new level these days. i certainly never experienced anything close to this as a child. many of you know the story of my family’s most memorable and prolific road trip to the grand canyon one christmas in the early 1980s. we piled all four kids into the van and if that wasn’t enough, decided to bring along grandma and grandpa for the scenic drive from ohio to arizona. there weren’t enough seats to accommodate all 8 of us, so dad, in his resourceful way, simply strapped down a couple of aluminum lawn chairs. i think i was given a book, a pencil, some paper and maybe a sleeve of ritz crackers and was told to keep myself busy for the next few days. it was surely on that trip when i fell in love with nancy drew and read the entire series from cleveland to phoenix while rolling around in the back of that seatless grey van.

tonight, rick and i are sitting in comfy seats with footstools and armrests. we have between us no shortage of technology: two laptops, two ipods, a blackberry, an iphone and two tvs attached to our seats. funny thing though, all i can seem to do is sit and stare out the window. i could very well be in the back of that grey van heading to arizona. i could close my eyes as easily there as i can on this 24 hour trek to china. the amenities wouldn’t matter much. i would still see the same sweet little face of a girl in china. i would still be picturing the moment when she is brought into the room where we sit waiting. i would still be dreaming of the day when we walk out into the sunshine and know she is ours. finally ours. almost ours. we are almost there.

** oh and that watch? …by the end of the flight rick had removed it from his wrist and fastened it to my own.

flying across the world and singing hallelujah

tonight we are flying halfway across the world in pursuit of our daughter. we are hot on the trail of a little girl in a big orphanage in even a bigger country, foreign and far. and we are officially on our way - right now we seem to be somewhere between georgia and california. we fly into the sunset…i am watching it from my tiny window. it is pink and it is golden and it is promising. i cannot keep the tears from my eyes as i drink in the beautiful magnificence outside this sliver of an opening. we are flying into the night and there is so much promise. though this year has not always been washed in a golden pink haze, we have clung to the promise we claimed last summer. some days we marched strongly to the beat of great hope. and some days all we could do was cling. tonight we sit here amazed that all those some days have added up to This Day. to the day we fly full speed into the sunset and full throttle toward our tiny girl. rick and i are more confident than ever that we are headed in the right direction. we have sensed God’s hand on this from the beginning…but tonight, we feel His hand holding ours like never before. it is the only reason we can do this. and i would be lying if i didn’t tell you our hearts are pounding, our minds are racing and we have butterflies in every inch of our bodies. we don’t know what these next two weeks will hold…but isn’t that the beauty of living? can the unknown be both terrifying and wonderful? absolutely! if we’ve learned nothing else from this year, we have learned this. last week on the way home from the beach i had a chance to speak with the kids about what all this could look like as we bring home bella. we tackled some pretty tough stuff…i didn’t want to scare the kids, but i wanted to prepare them for some of the things that might be challenging in the next few months. in that conversation our oldest, emily, said she just felt bad for people who didn’t have the chance to do something like this. in her 14 year old way she said she couldn’t imagine not having something in life which “you had to trust God greatly for.” it was a really cool comment coming from her. we don’t mean that in a self righteous or prideful way…but it is true…we are meant for big things. we are all designed to take chances …to take risks…to fly into sunsets in pursuit of something. not all of us are called to adopt, but all of us are called to something. if there is one thing i hope my writing has encouraged It is that. pursue something. pursue it hard. pursue it faithfully. pursue it tenaciously. pursue it crazily. pursue it passionately. pursue something. go ahead and let God lead you into the sunset. i promise you it won’t always be golden and pink…and it won’t always be easy…but if our Great God is in it, it will always be good. if i had to pick a favorite song…like my very favorite song ever…it would be amazing grace. and if in that song i had to pick a favorite line…like my very favorite line ever…it would be, “the Lord has promised good to me.” He has! i don’t mean He has promised ease or comfort or everlasting sweetness…no, He has promised Good. His good. not my good. His good. His wonderful, beautiful, extraordinary good.

after approximately 24 hours of traveling we will land in china. we will have crossed a continent and an ocean. we have packed up suitcases and dreams and much hope in order to get here. we bid our four other children goodbye in the driveway of our safe and comfortable home for two weeks. oh, that was hard - bittersweet beyond belief. i didn’t want to let them go. how we treasure those four kids. i tried to be strong for them. i failed miserably. but we know they are in an amazing community of care. we are blown away by the number of people caring for our brood and loving them well. i am so humbled even thinking about it all. but in 24 hours we will step foot into china. we will meet this little girl for whom we have prayed, for whom we have longed. we will meet this little girl who was literally laid on our hearts last summer. we don’t know what it will look like. writing just now, i was listening to my ipod and bethany dillion’s song “hallelujah” just played. another one of my very favorites. if you get a chance listen to it. (bethany dillon’s “hallelujah” acoustic session). i would add it to my playlist, but for some crazy reason the playlist service for blog doesn’t recognize it. anyway, here are some of the lyrics:

hallelujah, hallelujah
whatever’s in front of me,
help me to sing hallelujah.
the same sun rises over castles and welcomes that day
spills over buildings to the streets where orphans play
and only you can see the good in broken things
you took my heart of stone and made it whole
set this prisoner free.
whatever’s in front of me
help me to sing hallelujah.

we really don’t know what is in front of us. we really don’t. but, we know Who Goes Before Us…and in that knowledge we fly into a golden sunset (actually in the time I’ve been writing the sun has completely set). so, no matter, we fly into a dark sky and we sing hallelujah.