“By The Brook”// Brooke’s Story, Part II.

If you are just starting here, click over here for Part 1 of the story first.
About a week before I left China, one of my dear friends at the foster home approached me about writing a blog post about Brooke’s transformation over the summer through our one-on-one sessions. It was nearing Brooke’s one year “anniversary” at New Day, and she wanted to know if I would be willing to show a little bit of Brooke’s personality through the ND blog, and how the two of us had grown together over the course of the summer. Of course, I agreed, and that blog post I wrote about her is now so treasured. I asked my sweet friend, just for kicks and giggles (and so I could find out how much time I had to convince SOME family I knew that I had found them their new daughter), when Brooke’s file might be ready…and was told that they had no idea, but that it probably wouldn’t be for awhile, because she still needed a pretty complex heart surgery. I remember thinking to myself…”I can work with that! Give me time to keep talking about her to these families, let them pray about it…fundraise…start paperwork…yeah, God! This will be GREAT!!”. Oh my. If I could have only known what was to come 🙂
The day to leave China came much too soon- and I was devastated. Absolutely heartbroken. My last day in the foster home was filled with many tears, hugs, and promises to keep in touch. I hugged and kissed my precious kids one last time- telling them “see you later”, while inwardly wondering if that would ever be the case. I never wanted to forget these children that had made such a profound impact on my life- who taught me to love until it hurts, to find joy, to be brave. I was- in no uncertain terms- frustrated to be leaving China when it seemed I had just broken through Brooke’s wall; just earned her trust. I had found life-long best friends in the girls I lived with all summer and the long-term volunteers, and I couldn’t fathom moving back to America where people didn’t “get” what I had experienced all summer. I realized that I had only been in China for a few short months, but in that time- China became home. My home. I didn’t know how I would transition to “real life” back in America…and to be honest, it was extremely difficult.
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The flights going to America usually leave at unholy hours in the morning…and rather than spend our last evening in China packing and preparing to go, we decided to eat in the village and spend the evening experiencing every last bit of China that we could. Unfortunately for Priscilla and I, that meant getting drenched (absolutely DRENCHED) in a Chinese monsoon, and wandering through the “back alley shortcut” through the village in water up to our mid-calf to get back to our apartment complex a good 15-20 minutes away. There couldn’t have been a better story to leave China on- and Pris, Linds and I ended up staying up the rest of the night- packing, reminiscing, reminding each other of funny stories about the kids and the summer as a whole. At some point in the midst of the packing frenzy, someone brought up Brooke. “Mere…it’s still just amazing. Look how far you and Brooke came this summer. I mean. She reallyloves you. And knows that you love her.” I know. Oh I know. And I was heartbroken to be leaving her.The ride to the airport was extremely quiet- partly because of the hour (3:45 AM)…but mostly because of situation. (Little did I know it would take me a good 60+ hours later to finally make it home from the first time I left for that Beijing airport, but that’s a whole ‘nother story for a whole ‘nother day.) (Apparently God really REALLY did not want me to leave China!)

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After landing in America, despite multiple “I’m not in China anymore” breakdowns for the silliest things, I was THRILLED to see that I had an inbox full of emails from my friends back in China- full of pictures, stories, tidbits of life there that I was already missing so dearly. It was like a little taste of home. The most precious, however, was from a volunteer from Canada who had come to New Day for a week sometime in the middle of the summer. She and I had become friends during her time there, and I had given her my email address though I hadn’t heard from her since! I opened her email to find 5 of the most precious photos that she had taken of Brooke and I during one of our daily walks with the nannies.
I.Was.A.Wreck.
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The realization that I was now halfway around the world from this sweet girl who held my heart hit me like a ton of bricks and I just sobbed. I sat down that day and wrote the blogpost, Brooke’s blogpost, about her beautiful transformation and the way she changed my heart as well. My sweet friend published it that week, and I sent it to my parents and friends- who all fell in love with her chubby cheeks and short little legs just as I had. There was something about sweet little Brooke- she drew people in from just a simple picture.
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RA training began…and then classes started…and gradually my life began to get back into its routine. However, there was something that was different from any years before. Something that pulled my heart in a new way. I had a picture of Brooke that I kept in my Bible and on my wall. Okay…I had (and still have) MULTIPLE pictures of her on my walls at school. Every morning when I would wake up, her little face would be on my mind, and I would start my daily quiet time with a mug of coffee, my journal, and prayers for Brooke. For her health. For her heart. For her yet-to-be-determined adoptive family. I knew that some family was going to be SO blessed by her, and I prayed every day that her paperwork would be made ready and that it would be SOON, so that Brooke would know the love of a mom, dad, sisters and brothers.
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My mom sends my sister and I a devotional email from Focus on the Family every morning. She usually picks a catchy little “title” for them in the subject line. On August 23rd, 2011, my mom sent me an email she titled “Brook-Bound”…and the first sentence blows me away going back to look at it now.
God’s direction includes God’s provision. God says, “Go to the brook. I will provide.”
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“I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love”- Mother Teresa
Part 3 coming soon…. 

In Every Season// Brooke’s Story, Part I.

We have received our travel approval from China, and we are OFFICIALLY headed on a plane to bring Brooke home in just a few short weeks. Before we go, we wanted to document her story- for her sake and for ours. We want her to know exactly how incredible our journey to her has been…and how God showed us over and over again HIS will in bringing Brooke into our family. The title of this post is from the song “Desert Song” by Hillsong. It was constantly on my mind and in my heart all summer.

This story is going to have to be broken up into several separate blog posts- It is too incredible to short-change on the details 🙂 Meredith here for the first installment…Grab yourself a nice hot cup of coffee and settle in for the story. Let’s back way up to June 30, 2011- and so begins my season of excitement.

I had just arrived in China- jet-lagged, slightly overwhelmed, and excited as all get-out. I remember frantically trying to remember the name of each person I met, and gleefully soaking up every glimpse I had of the land that would become my home for the summer. I had flown over a few days early, so I was offered an “unofficial tour” of the foster home and a chance to just play with the kids for the day. I was ALL over that…I had been counting down the hours until I could meet the precious kiddos I would be spending the majority of my time with!! I’ll never forget the excitement and nervousness that filled my first walk into the foster home- I knew that this summer would change my life.

As I walked through the door, I smelled the mix of China summer time – rice, dumplings, and little children- a smell that would become extremely familiar as the weeks went on. I peered into the playroom…and immediately saw the most beautiful little girl in a purple striped dress, sitting on the floor playing with a little farmhouse box. I lost my heart right then and there. I’m telling ya, folks. It was THAT fast. I asked her name, and was told she was called Brooke. I thought it fit her perfectly. I snapped a picture of her through the window, my FIRST official “Summer- China 2011” picture- thinking how I couldn’t wait to send it to my parents- so they could see for themselves the precious little ones I would be spending my days with. I met SO many beautiful children that day, and had the chance to play with them outside while they splashed in the rain puddles- and I knew in that moment that leaving China at the end of the summer would break my heart.

My first “China picture”- sweet Brooke Cai Wei

 

My first day at the Foster Home- splashing in the puddles with these sweeties!!!

 

All summer long, the other interns and I would have weekly meetings- checking up on how we were doing, what we were learning, cultural things we were experiencing…etc. Our very first meeting, however, we were given our job assignments. I desperately wanted to be with the toddlers- where Brooke, the sweet little girl who stole my heart, was. The four of us who would be working in the foster home went around and said where we would prefer to work…and I miraculously was given the toddlers in the morning, and the pre-K class in the afternoon. I was ecstatic. With the toddlers, I was assigned two “one-on-one” sessions each morning. Basically, I would be working with two children for 30 minutes each, every day. The two I was assigned were Josiah, my favorite roly-poly little guy…..and Brooke, soon to be affectionately known as my little diva.

 

See why she got the nickname?

I’ll never forget how Brian, the volunteer coordinator, pulled me out in the hallway afterwards to talk about my one-on-one assignments. His very first words were “Well Meredith, I just want to give you a little bit of a warning about Brooke….she ummm….doesn’t do so well with strangers. At all, actually.” Oh boy. I heard what he was saying, but I don’t think I really believed it until I attempted to take her out of the playroom for the first day of our one-on-one sessions. She screamed. She fought. She kicked. She wanted NOTHING to do with me. While I had fallen in love with her from the moment I saw her, this was most definitely NOT the case for her. There was actually a joke that went around with the interns….who was going to be the first person to befriend Brooke! We didn’t think it could be done!! Ha! And it wasn’t JUST me that Brooke wouldn’t give the time of day…this little diva loved her nanny and Wayne (a sweet Chinese staff member at the foster home who would play with Brooke during her outside time). Other than that, Brooke’s affections towards “outsiders” were pretty much non-existent .

Cai Wei with her precious nanny this winter- outside on the swing. Her beautiful friend Wendy is on the left!
I hate to say it…but this was the beginning of my “season of frustration”- I LOVED Brooke. I wanted her to love me back. I couldn’t understand why she would reject my care and love I so willingly desired to give to her. God taught me so much through this season- I realized that in my stubbornness and independence, I do the same thing to God. I reject His love, His help, His Word so often and fall into sin. It is freely given to me and always there, but yet I resist. Even then, He loves us. Not with a conditional “well if she doesn’t want it, then it’s not even worth it” love that I was tempted with through working with Brooke…but with a STEADFAST, unconditional love. He used Brooke to open my eyes- to learn what unconditional love truly looks like.
Once I was brought to this realization, my determination to love Brooke grew and grew. I become more stubborn…just about as stubborn as Brooke. 🙂 I was bound and determined that before this summer was over, Brooke and I would become BEST FRIENDS and I had faith that my little Cai Wei would open her heart and learn to trust. It’s so funny to look back now, because the captions I would add to facebook photos and emails I sent detailed our process to “best friend-ship”…and my inching progress with Brooke during our one-on-one sessions was always a major topic of conversation at lunch break. This was the beginning of our season of trust.
Slowly but surely, Brooke began to trust me. It started with me sitting on the floor beside her in the playroom, not daring to touch her, but playing with the toys I knew she liked RIGHT next to her. It was hard…and my prayer every day before one-on-one sessions was that God would work in her little heart. Help her to trust and to love. Gradually, we began to transition to playing together…but still NO touching!! I don’t know when it happened….but one day, out of the blue, Brooke saw me come into the playroom and came over and SAT in my LAP! Voluntarily! And we played….oh we played. And oh how full my heart was. Everyone who passed the playroom was pulling out their cameras to take pictures of Brooke and I…they all understood what a MONUMENTOUS occurrence this was. From that day on, Brooke and I were well on our way to becoming best friends. She would come to me immediately when I entered the room and would ask to go to “shang ke” (class time). We would leave together and have 30 minutes of amazing “becoming best friends” time. I soaked up every single moment…even the frustrating ones when she would yell “BU YAO” (I don’t want to!!) when I would try to get her to do something she didn’t want to do!
The very first time Brooke Cai Wei voluntarily let me hold her- I was SO EXCITED

 

Beginning the process of becoming best friends- slowly but surely…it was happening 🙂

 

Pictures during class time- love love love this sweet girl!

 

Our one-on-one sessions quickly became the highlight of my day

The turning point really occurred about halfway through the summer. I was on a walk with the nannies and the toddlers to the Lunar Market. As we were walking, Brooke insisted on holding my hand the entire way there- and cried for me to pick her up and hold her while we were waiting for the nannies to purchase their vegetables. This had NEVER happened… and I was absolutely thrilled. As I held her close, singing “Xiao Shou Pai Pai” over and over again, I promised myself that I would find this precious, precious girl a family of her very own, no matter what.

Lunar Market with the nannies.

 

When my amazing friend Priscilla took this picture, she said something along the lines of OH MY GOSH this has to be your best friends picture of LIFEEEEE!!!!!!!! So true, wo de peng you. So true. 🙂

 

That very night, I emailed multiple families that I knew had been thinking about adoption…and told them I had found them a baby. I didn’t know how, when, or where her file would be ready…but I promised myself I would do everything in my power to find this precious girl a home. I loved her so very much and the thought of leaving her in just a few short weeks just broke my heart. I knew she needed heart surgery- and soon- and prayed every day that God would prepare the perfect family for her…that her adoption file would be prepared, and that she would be matched quickly. She had changed my heart and my life- teaching me what it meant to truly love. I had seen and loved the orphan for myself- she was no longer a picture on a website or sponsorship card taped to my desk. She was a living, breathing child of the King looking me in the eye and calling me “Ayi”. Now that I have seen, I am responsible- Proverbs 24:12. And so began the season of love.

 

 “Orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names. They are easier to ignore before you see their faces. It is easier to pretend they’re not real before you hold them in your arms. But once you do, everything changes…” –David Platt
Stay tuned for Part 2…. 🙂