On Sunday morning, February 28, we headed to the airport in Beijing for an early morning flight to Nanchang. From there, we headed straight from the airport to the Shangri-La Hotel to get checked in, and then we waited.
We sat in our room anxiously waiting for the phone to ring to call us down to the lobby to meet our daughter for the first time. As we sat there and waited, there was a knock at the door that changed our world forever.
We opened the door to see one of the workers from the orphanage holding our daughter. She was bundled up in three layers, looking like the kid in the Christmas Story.
In each hand she held a package of rice crackers. Through our guide we were able to ask a few questions before they left.
As we stood in the room holding our daughter for the first time she seemed to shut down. Her face was expressionless, her body was limp, and she barely made a noise. But she held onto those two packages of rice crackers.
For those first few hours she would not let them go. She held them through her bath; she held them through her nap. It was as if she was holding on to the one thing she knew. In a moment, her life had changed. And she was holding on to the one thing that was constant.
Little did she know (little did we know), just how much things were about to change.
Hannah has been home with us for eight months now, and so much has changed in such a short time.
When we first got Hannah her gums were so swollen you could barely see her teeth. You could tell she was in pain every time she would try to eat and every time we would try to brush her teeth her gums would begin to bleed. Now, she has the prettiest smile. In fact, when we took Hannah to the dentist just a couple of weeks ago the dentist was surprised at how good her teeth looked. He said he had never seen a child who had lived in an orphanage setting with such good teeth.
Those first couple of days in China Hannah barely moved. She had such low muscle tone she could hardly hold herself up.
Now, nothing will slow her down.
Our living room is her jungle gym. We recently enrolled her in gymnastics and she loves to do her forward rolls, swing on the bars, and walk the balance beam.
At first Hannah barely made a sound. She didn’t laugh, she didn’t cry, she didn’t babble.
Now, she has a way of making herself heard.
When we drive in the car you cannot even hear yourself think with Hannah and her two sisters talking overtop of one another. Hannah and Harper (who share a room) will lie in their beds at night and talk until they fall asleep.
During the day Hannah goes to the home of a lady from England who watches three to four other kids, and she has taught Hannah words like biscuit for cookie and cheerio for bye. I am pretty sure we have the only Chinese daughter who speaks proper English with a Kentucky accent.
When we first brought Hannah home she didn’t like it when other people came around. When we stepped off the plane in Kentucky, and she saw her welcome committee she cried and shook and clung to me. If other people approached her she would run to me or her mom and bury her face in us.
Now she can’t wait to go to church on Sundays or to Nanny’s during the week while we are at work. She loves to play with other kids and gets excited when Ms. Melanie (her therapist) comes over for Developmental Intervention.
At first we didn’t know how much she could really see.
Now, we know her vision is very limited, but no one else would know it just to watch her. If you were to just watch her play with her sisters for the first time, you would have no idea she is visually impaired. She has learned to adapt so well. The doctors and specialists continue to be amazed at how well she is doing with such limited vision.
They say a picture is worth 1000 words.
If that’s true, this picture says it all:
She has modeled for us true bravery. She has handled all the change in her life with such strength. She has faced doctor visit after doctor visit as we’ve tried to figure out what’s going on with her vision, and she has done it all with great courage.
This little girl is so resilient. Nothing will slow her down.
She has opened up the hearts of her sisters. It has been amazing to watch the three of them bond. Never, not even one time, have they been jealous of her. They have been jealous for her.
When Hannah first came home they would both sit with her every night trying to get her to say their names. When Hannah said Harper’s name first, Hadley was so upset. They both longed for their new sister to love them and watching their relationship grow has been a blessing for our family.
She has opened our eyes even more to the amazing love we have in Christ.
Long before we adopted Hannah, I loved her.
Before I even knew her I loved her.
Before Hannah was even born in China, we were working to adopt her.
While she was lying in an orphanage at night she had a mom and a dad who were working and planning to adopt her.
She may never know all that went into getting to that moment when we could hold her in our arms and call her our daughter. If we who are far from perfect can love like this, how much more does our perfect, heavenly Father – who went to such great lengths to adopt us as his children and call us his own – love us.
She has changed the landscape of our church.
Though others in our church have adopted and fostered long before us, for whatever reason our journey to bring Hannah home has brought adoption to the forefront in our church. Our entire church came around us to support us in our journey. For the first time, this year our church is participating in Orphan Care Sunday. We currently have another family who is in process to adopt a child from China.
Hannah may never know the full impact she has already had on my life, on the life of our family, on the ministry of our church, on the world around her.
She may have changed a lot in these eight months, but more than that she has been an agent of change in the world around her.
I cannot wait to see how God continues to use this little girl to change the world around her as He continues to mold her and shape her into the woman He created her to be.