Way Back Wednesday

*Adoption blog, star date September 2010
What's Way Back Wednesday?

After 30 hours of travel across 8 time zones, we finally arrived in Africa last night! Sassafras was magnificent along the journey, and we had the opportunity to see just how long our little sleep-hater can go without rest. The answer? 24 hours, folks. That was 24 hours of pure family togetherness.

Before we left I was dreading the extended travel, but I loved having all that time for us to pour into Sassafras. It was a very, very special time, and we are so thankful that we had that opportunity before bringing home her baby sister! She was definitely focused on the mission of our journey, however, and asked no less than 15 times where Pearl was. Our two bigger planes had TV monitors installed in front of each seat back, which (among many other things) played a GPS screen shot of our progress across the Atlantic and then down over Europe into Africa. The moment that we saw our little place icon coming into the capital city, I was already choking back the tears. Granted, the weariness of all that traveling may have been taking its toll on me, but all I could think was that after so long of staring at my child's birth home on maps and Google Earth, and having studied so many aspects of the country, it was just overwhelming that after all the paperwork, all the waiting, all the heartache, we are finally, truly, really, completely, HERE!

We could barely hold our eyes open long enough to get our bags in and settled to our temporary home, and it took surprisingly little explanation for Sassafras to accept the fact that we are sleeping under mosquito nets while we are here. All our sweet little insect-fearing girl had to hear was "they keep the bugs out" to be totally fine with the whole net thing. Actually, I suspect she will demand a net of her very own when we get home! :)

After being awake half the night (because our bodies thought it was mid-day!), we dragged our bleary-eyed selves into a van to go to Pearl's orphanage. As soon as our van left the main road to turn up a side alley, I began thinking back over all that we have gone through the get to this point. We passed a sign with her orphanage's name, and my heart started pounding. Then we passed another sign, and pulled up at a big gate and waited a few minutes for someone from the orphanage to come open it.The van door opened, and there were two of the women who have poured all their energy for the last year into keeping our child (and so many others) healthy and safe. We hugged and cried a few moments, and then we made our way up the steps to the front door.

I recognized the door from some update pics we had received (and I of course have studied to the most minute detail!), and then we saw more workers coming out with literally a small sea of toddlers pouring out onto the steps. We dropped our bags and began scanning the crowd for OUR little familiar face...And suddenly, there she was. Wearing a denim dress that was so big it reached her ankles and a blue knit sweater. Toddling along with her little BFFs wondering what was up at the front of the line.

It took my breath away, seeing her standing there. In the flesh. This child who we have prayed for since the time she was in the womb. This precious little girl whose face we have stared at and kissed pictures of for months. This perfect treasure for whom God chose US, (for some reason we will never understand), to be her parents. Our daughter. Standing RIGHT IN FRONT OF US. It was almost too much. I bent over and looked at her and smiled at her, and she smiled right back. I held out my hands, and she lifted up her arms and walked to me. I picked her up, kissed her face, and held her close for a few moments taking in the hugeness of the moment. And crying/snotting all over her, of course.

Eventually, The Captain reached for her and held her, then we gathered Sassafras over and knelt down so they could get a good look at each other. It was sweet, even though neither of them really knew what to think.

Over the next few hours, we had the pleasure of being able to feed her lunch, bathe her, put her in a dress of her very own, share some gifts and donations for the children, play with her and the other children (each of whom would get a hug and a kiss and some love from their Mama, if I know you!), and spend a little time just with our little family. A few times we would be interacting with Pearl and then look around to check on Sassafras. Before I could even begin to worry that she might feel left out, we would see her in a corner, giving a bear to a crying little boy. Or handing a toy to someone who wanted to play. Or organizing a game of ball with some of the older toddler boys. It made me so proud of her that I almost couldn't (and can't right now) stop the tears. To see her little 3 year old self sharing love with these children, and to know that she was making it her personal mission to brighten the lives of these babies, makes me so unbelievably proud. God has a huge plan for both our girls, and I saw today that Africa has a lot to do with that plan.

It's all so overwhelming. And I am just so very thankful.

After lunch and bath time, it was nap time. We went to a separate room for some quiet time alone with Pearl, and Sassafras "read" her a book. At one point, she laid her head down on my shoulder and drifted off to dreamland. Oh, it was so amazing holding her in my arms and praising the Lord for bringing her into our lives! We laid her in her crib and ate a yummy lunch made of peas/squash/avocado/rice with the orphanage workers. The Captain especially enjoyed the moment when I was asking one of the workers if there was a name for this dish and she (sweetly) responded, "Um, just Peas and Rice." ;)

Meeting and talking with all of these orphanage workers was a huge blessing today. I have never taken lightly the fact that they have been working their tails off for the past year caring for so many little children, including my own! It is a testament to their love for her that she is so strong, healthy, and sweet. I had a few candid chats with some of them, hearing them talk of how much they loved her and how much they thank us for our love for Pearl. I asked a few of them if they were going to be sad when she left to go home with us. I told them we have been praying for them to not be sad when that time comes, and that they will know that we will love her and take very good care of her.

One of the mamas responded that yes, she would be sad, but that she viewed her work with these babies as the way one would in planting a garden. It is good and important work, and others would benefit from the fruits of her labor. She is a very wise woman, indeed. Another worker told me that he had prayed hard for Pearl to have good parents, and only two weeks later he found out she had been matched with someone. He says he will continue to pray for her. What a blessing these people were to us today!

What a day filled with so many blessings! It has been truly one of the most profound days of our lives. I think Sassafras has summed it up best. When we ask her what she thought about Pearl, or what she thought about today, just trying to help her process it, she responded with one word: "Beautiful." Well said, baby girl. It was a beautiful day indeed.