Wednesday, October 30, 2013

When It Doesn’t Feel Exciting

I want to be transparent and honest here. I haven’t been able to process this until now. Because it’s been too close to home. With not enough distance in my struggling heart.

But after having posted our boys’ homecoming and official adoption pictures, I feel the need to confess my deep heart struggle (behind the smiling face) before I record anything else about our adoption.

I wrote a family update earlier this week in an overall thankful tone for all the blessings God has provided for us this month of our adoption, through His abundant care. We are thankful. Because God is good. But I wondered from some people’s responses if maybe I had been too positive in that update. Did I make it sound too much like everything was positive and progress and praise?

Because honestly it really hasn’t felt exciting to me.

When people have communicated how excited they are for us that our adoption is finally happening, what an exciting day it must have been when our boys came home, and how exciting it is that Daniel is making progress, all those exciting words have rung hollow in my heart. I told Charly that I felt like our adoption stopped being exciting to me when we heard that Daniel had been in a coma 6 days with a serious brain infection. And when the reality of the severity of his brain damage settled in, as we were able to visit him over four successive days in the hospital. His recovery was definitely slow—no miraculous healing before our eyes—and we knew that we might not see much more progress.

When Charly and I visited Daniel in the orphanage the week before we brought the boys home, we first witnessed his athetosis, one of the results of his brain infection that hadn’t manifested itself right away. And unfortunately, our doctor friend in Lanzhou told us, these constant uncontrollable snake-like movements are not curable; we could expect him to have this movement disorder for his whole life. “God, can I really love this boy?” I questioned as we stood by his orphanage bed, and he didn’t seem to know we were there..

One week later, as I stood by his bed in our home, in the middle of the night, after his first full day with us, I helplessly watched his flailing body and had no idea if he was in distress or if this activity was normal for him. I tried giving him some water, which he didn’t take. I worried about his only having had one wet diaper the day before.

We’re not getting enough liquid into him. What if something is wrong with his kidneys too?We don’t know how to care for him. He can’t communicate with us. What if he never can? What if I am standing here looking at every night for the next 5, 10, 20 years? This is too hard. This doesn’t feel like a good plan. I really don’t think I can do this.

And I whispered in the darkness, “God, I don’t understand what you’re doing.”

So, when people have written about being so excited for us, my heart response has been, “This doesn’t feel exciting. It just feels hard.” Yes, I want to be excited with those who are excited for us. I want to remember the mountains God moved for us in our adoption journey. That He worked against all odds and brought these two boys into our home, when we had been told that it wasn’t possible.

I have appreciated people reminding me of these truths, as I have appreciated all of our adoption encouragement along the way. Reminding me that God is good, His plans are good, and He has higher purposes that we don’t always (don’t often) understand. The truth is that He ordained every single day of Daniel’s life. He allowed him to get sick when he did, and He has been completely sovereign over the type of recovery he has had and will continue to have.

In addition to these reminders of God’s goodness and sovereignty, I have also appreciated the grace and space people have given me to grieve the “loss” of the little boy we met at the orphanage in July, and to cry over what it would have been like to bring him home as he was then. People who have prayed with me and for me when I have doubted whether I can truly handle this, especially when I’m having a bad stretch of migraines. I texted some friends an hour before we went to pick the boys up from the orphanage and asked for prayer that my headache would go away, as I was in a “migraine survival mode” and wanted my heart to be in it. I so appreciate having friends who faithfully lift up my need for God’s grace and strength in my life.

Because it is so clear that I can’t handle this without Him. And I know that He knows that this doesn’t feel exciting to me right now. It’s okay to Him. We’re doing this together. One day at a time. We can take on the “hard” together.

I typed most of this one-handed this afternoon, with my other arm around my sweet little guy, cuddled and flailing next to me on the couch. We shared a couple of smiles together. And I felt grateful for the way that God has been growing my Mother’s love for him these two plus weeks. Grateful as well that God gave him his precious smile back.

The first time he laughed out loud while sitting in my lap, I cried. One of my concerns had been that if he didn’t smile, how would we know what he liked? We could meet his needs (hopefully) but could we have a relationship with him if he wasn’t responsive? Not only did God bring his smile back, He also brought his laugh. One of the sweetest sounds in the world.

Thanks be to God who made us Mother and Son. His good plan before time began. It doesn’t have to feel exciting to be good.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Now the Pine Seven

David Jonathan Pine

Daniel Joseph Pine

cleaning little brother's hand

signing papers

With another adoptive family: a 4 year old from the same orphanage

after all the paperwork

walking to the bus stop

Joshua got back from Tianjin and joined us for a noodle lunch
flying with big brother's cape

first attempt at a family photo

family photo (with CJ's picture)

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


Here are some pictures of our boys' homecoming yesterday:


Could we ever be really ready for what lies before us? As our family has spent time discussing, planning, and praying together, we know that there is no way to fully grasp how our lives are about to completely change. What daily life will actually look like for the soon to be 6 of us in the Pine home. Or what it will be like for CJ to get two new brothers while he is adjusting to college on the other side of the ocean from us.

Today we are plunging into a “new normal,” as a few hours from now we will be bringing our two boys home from the orphanage. And it feels strange to think that soon the life we’ve been living will be our “old lives,” as God begins to write a new and very different chapter on the blank pages we see in front of us.

Last week we worked on preparing our home as well as preparing our hearts, to “make room” for Ding Yi Fan and Hua Ming An.

Jordan finished her latch hook teddy bear for her new brothers
Some of our "old" kids' books got returned and friends gave us new ones
hand-me-down clothes from friends in Tianjin
games cupboard
Jordan set up a crafts table in the living room
On Tuesday afternoon, Charly and I had the opportunity to visit Hua Ming An at the orphanage and to observe his 1 1/2 hour physical therapy session. We got home 30 minutes after our guests that evening had arrived. The J and J Cooking Team had worked together to prepare dinner and to entertain our guests, and it gave me such peace to walk into our apartment knowing that Joshua and Jordan had everything under control.

On Thursday, Charly and I spent most of the day shopping for bunk beds, and arrived home an hour before our dinner guest. The four of us got as much done as we could putting the beds together before he arrived, and then the J and J Cooking Team again made dinner while Charly and I visited with our doctor friend, talking through practical issues of caring for Hua Ming An and his post-encephalitis brain damage.

new bunk beds
Teamwork is so important. And especially for our family right now as we make this huge transition. I marveled on Thursday as the four of us moved pieces of CJ’s old bed out of the boys’ room and brought the bunk bed pieces in. We were stepping over obstacles on the floor, handing bed pieces to each other, passing the pliers and nuts and bolts, taking turns supporting the frame…

It wasn’t perfect. There were brief moments of frustration with each other. But it was a dance, and there was an unspoken rhythm. There were times when someone intuitively knew what another one needed and silent help was given at just the right time. And I prayed, “God, help our transition to these two new boys in our family be like this. Let us continue to work as a strong team together. Give us unbroken unity and an ongoing awareness of each other’s needs.” I remembered the way a friend had recently prayed for our family when we were in Tianjin during China’s October First National Holiday, “God, protect their oneness.” Yes. We so need that.

juggling in the living room
We set up CJ's bed (in the background) for Hua Ming An
On Saturday morning, as I watched Charly, Joshua, and Jordan juggle with each other in the living room, I thought about the juggling act of our lives. How we will continue to try to keep all of our family’s balls in the air. But there will inevitably be times when we drop the balls and will need to pick them up again. We aren’t striving for, or evaluating ourselves by “just how well can we do this.” We are hoping for laughter, joy, and peace to fill our home, but we know there will also be times of tears and frustration and moments of feeling overwhelmed.

But above all, I believe, that with broad brushstrokes over the canvas of our lives, there will be Grace. From God. For each of us, which we can extend to each other. Grace. Which we so desperately need. For us to fall back on and rest in. His mercies— new every morning. Immanuel. God is with us.

As we live one day at a time, we can trust that He will prepare us for each step that we take, together with Him. In faith.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Encouragement from Isaiah

These passages from the Book of Isaiah in the New Living Translation greatly encouraged my heart this morning.

“Fill the valleys and level the hills. Straighten out the curves and smooth out the rough spots. Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together. The Lord has spoken!” (40:4-5)

“Don’t you know that the Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth? He never grows faint or weary. No one can measure the depth of his understanding. He gives power to those who are tired and worn out; he offers strength to the weak.” (40:28b-29)

“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. I will help you. I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.” (41:10)

“You will open the eyes of the blind and free the captives from prison. You will release those who sit in dark dungeons.” (42:7)

“I will lead blind Israel down a new path, guiding them along an unfamiliar way. I will make the darkness bright before them and smooth out the road ahead of them.” (42:16)

“When you go through deep waters and great trouble I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown! When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. (43:2-3a)

“From eternity to eternity I am God. No one can oppose what I do. No one can reverse my actions.” (43:13)

“Truly, O God of Israel, our Savior, you work in strange and mysterious ways.” (45:15)

“I created you and have cared for you since before you were born. I will be your God throughout your lifetime—until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you.” (46:3b-4)

 “Our Redeemer, whose name is the Lord Almighty, is the Holy One of Israel.” (47:4)

“Through you I am saying to the prisoners of darkness, ‘Come out! I am giving you your freedom!’ They will be my sheep, grazing in green pastures and on hills that were previously bare. They will neither hunger nor thirst. The searing sun and scorching desert winds will not reach them anymore. For the Lord in his mercy will lead them beside cool waters. And I will make my mountains into level paths for them. The highways will be raised above the valleys.” (49:9-11, 4/2/08 adoption)

“All the world will know that I, the Lord, am your Savior and Redeemer, the Mighty One of Israel.” (49:26b)


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