We've been home for a year. The memories of that flight home are still fresh. Very fresh. I haven't been on a plane since that trip. I still don't know if I want to ever get back on one. Thirty plus hours of travel with a child you've known for all of 10 days is beyond grueling. I can still remember the sheer panic I felt in the airport in Guangzhou and see the terminal where I shed probably at least three or four rounds of tears as Hannah threw a fit on the floor and people stared at her and me. I remember running her around Shanghai and refusing to let her sleep and singing, "No sleeping in airports! We sleep on planes NOT in airports!" to her like a crazed Caucasian maniac. I remember the speed my heart was racing as we sat on that plane, just praying we'd have that row of four seats to ourselves. I remember looking at Chris as the plane filled and filled and eventually the steady stream of passengers slowed and tears just ran down my face. I was so grateful to God for providing those seats. I may still be curled up in a ball somewhere on a Delta flight trembling and rocking if it weren't for those amazing seats (we were in a bulkhead row, four seats to ourselves--we had purchased two adult seats and one lap ticket for Hannah. There is no way we could have survived that flight with her in my lap the entire time). I was shaking and crying and totally overwhelmed with those seats. That was pure answered prayer and I know we had people at home praying us through those flights.
We didn't recognize Hannah that day. Totally....different....child. Yes, we had a bit of wild tantrums and screaming in the Guangzhou airport and I know we graced Shanghai and Detroit with at least a short burst of twitching and dancing and some crying, but it was nothing (NOTHING) compared to what we had experienced over the course of our stay in China. She slept. On every flight. Almost entire flights. Including the flight that lasted FOURTEEN hours. She slept for the entire trip from Guangzhou to Shanghai (after a HUGE fight and massive meltdown on the tarmac) and then easily slept on the short trip from Detroit to Lexington. We...were....stunned. And in awe of God.
I remember watching the ground slip away in Shanghai and realizing we were leaving China. Forever. And all that Hannah had known there was now gone. And I felt sadness, but truth be told, my panic over the flights ahead overshadowed a large amount of my sentimentality that day. I remember seeing the lights of Lexington. I sobbed. Like for real. Cried like a baby sobbed. Nose running, eyes dripping. We....were....home. My arms ached from holding Hannah through all those flights, I was exhausted, I had no idea what time it was or even what day it was for the matter, but I knew those lights of Lexington and I cried like a little girl as we touched down. I remember waiting for our gate checked bag and being the....very....last people off our flight. And then came the escalator.
I remember wanting to sprint and hug the big kids so bad. I had missed them so much and I needed the sense of security and normalcy that being with them brought. I hugged my eldest and he broke down and sobbed on my shoulder, which of course opened my jet lagged, travel weary, adoption battle worn flood gates of tears and I sobbed too. We....were....home.
Our journey was complete. Right? We'd traveled the globe. We'd brought her home. Mission accomplished.
Wrong. While so many thought our journey was finished, what they didn't realize was that on that day, as we came down the escalator, our journey was far from complete. It was just merely beginning. The paper chasing was complete, the adoption was complete, the fundraising was done, but the journey? The journey hadn't even really started until we walked through our front door that cold February night. And the journey continues.
We may be one year home. We may have one year under our belts (and a lot was accomplished in that year). But our journey is far from over.
When we said yes to Hannah we signed up for what is the longest, most grueling, most trying, most sanctifying, most personally gratifying marathon you could ever run. Only we didn't get the super cool t shirt and medal to go with it. We knew we were signing up for the marathon, we really did. But do you ever fully understand just how FAR a marathon is until you try to run it? Wow. It requires everything you've got. Physical stamina, mental toughness, training, preparation.
So we are one year home and while we are far from those early days, there are still moments that creep in and our home smells strongly of jet fuel. We refer to those hard moments as "fresh off the plane" moments. They are far less than they ever were, but given the right set of circumstances, they can easily slip back in.
We....have....come....so....far. We have yet to arrive. We have accomplished so much. She has accomplished so much. We have asked so much of her. SO much of her. And she takes it all in stride. We are so proud of her. We are deeply in love with her. Our lives are so much richer, so much louder, so much funnier, and so much fuller because of her. Our family is profoundly changed because of her and we would never want to go back to life before she was in it.
Our journey didn't end when we stepped off that escalator. Our journey doesn't end now, as we celebrate one year of stepping off that escalator. We praise God for the endurance and grace He has afforded all of us as we have blundered our way through this first year together as a family of six. We look forward full of great anticipation and eagerness to see what the next year holds. Praise God from whom all blessings flow.
The journey is far from over. God's work is not yet complete. We thank Him for choosing us. For using us. We praise Him for leading us to say, "yes."