A woman who loved our family like no other.
John Paul's foster mama.
She wasn't calling because it was Valentine's Day. (Hallmark holidays, though making considerable progress in this culture, have not yet penetrated the depths of rural Henan countryside living.)
She was calling because she hadn't been able to get in touch with us and wanted to wish us a Happy Chinese New Year. And get an update on one of her favorite toddlers, of course! [Note: I will never again leave the country without telling her first! Oh I felt so terrible that she worried she had lost contact with us!]
Such gift to get to "share" this little boy with her. We told her about his surgery, that he is making a bit (minimal, but still....) of progress in language expression. Matt told her that John Paul loved the ocean and she was not surprised. In her words: 他什么都不怕. ("He's not afraid of anything.")
Yep, same little boy we're talking about here :)
Oh, and the pictures we sent her in the fall? She looks at them every night. I'll be sending more next week. And maybe some video or something? She and her husband live in a very small village (less than forty homes, y'all - we found it on google earth and counted rooftops), so I'm thinking she doesn't have a lot of technology, but surely there is something....
And the news that made my heart soar? She is fostering again. A 7 month old baby girl. Another orphan rescued from an orphanage and planted in a family. A temporary family, yes, but a family nonetheless.
A piece of me wants to go get that little girl too. I feel like she is John Paul's foster-sister (even though they never met, they do share a China mama, which is significant). Adopting again isn't an option for us (right now) so I'll spend my time praying. Praying that God would move and a family would step up and someone will bring that baby girl home forever.
How appropriate that she would call on the day we talk about LOVE. (Although, honestly, other than her phone call the holiday passed us by with no hoopla this year... two days back from a month long trip and I was busy folding laundry and re-stocking the fridge and freezer. The local store isn't selling conversation hearts or pink greeting cards and the craft-y side of me is still buried under piles of dirty dishes.)
But this lady, John Paul's foster mama, she knows love. 19 months of love and then to hand him to us for the rest of his life. That's sacrificial. She knew when she took his little 3-day-old body into her arms that he would only be hers for a while. And she loved him with her whole heart anyways.
Six months in to this wild ride of bringing John Paul home and I can still say that every single day I see the benefits of his foster mom's love. We spent one month on the road, one month of transition, and John Paul thrived. We got out of the van at the elephant camp and John Paul literally ran towards the nearest elephant (I caught him before he bear-hugged the elephant's leg, which is what I'm sure he was planning on doing!). He walks into the ocean, slides down the pool-slide, greets a neighbor.... with a confidence that love instills.
John Paul's story is full of so much pain. Abandonment. Grief. But in the midst of the pain there is love. Love of a foster mama. Love of an adoptive family. And the perfect love of the Lord, who is writing his story.
John Paul's foster mama is my newest Valentine.
Other quick updates about our John Paul: He is totally off his restricted diet except for a few random things (ribs, chicken wings or legs, anything bone-y which could possibly injure his newly repaired palate). His palate is amazing! He is starting to make some new sounds, but not many. Even more encouraging is that he is (occasionally) trying to say new words - like cracker, Lydia, elephant. They don't sound like much, but they are distinctly different from the few words he does say and I'm so glad he is trying to use his mouth to produce sound to communicate! He is using a straw well (blowing and sucking) and bouncing around with enough energy to power a small country.
We do see things that reveal just how deep some of his heart-wounds are. John Paul still gets nervous during transitions. All my children tend to get a little loopy when we pull out suitcases and prepare to hit the road, but there's a different edge, a different feel to John Paul's nervousness. The perfect remedy seems to be to tuck him into the ergo (backpack carrier). It's a short term phenomenon. Nervous while we pack, content once we all get settled in the van, then nervous again as we unload at the airport, content once we're through check-in/immigration/etc and all settled in the boarding lounge. One of the guards at security gave him a winning smile, he returned with a death-stare that clearly said "don't you dare try to take me away from my family".
Six months in and there is a routine, a settled-ness to having him in our home. Not always easy, but it's incredible to think about how far we've come since August 6th.