The Fingerprints of God// Brooke’s Story, Part III.

Brooke’s Story… Part 1 and Part 2. Read these first. : )

From my journal:
September 4, 2011:
“…in my head I know there is purpose in me being at Samford and that my time spent here is not a “waste”…but Lord, I need you to make that clear to my heart. Because my heart wants to be in China- loving on my kids. I want to scream every time someone says ‘Oh, I bet that was fun’..because I want them to understand how so much more than ‘fun’ it was. How do I adequately communicate how China wrecked my life in such a good way; opened my eyes to my culture’s (and my own) materialism and greed; grew my heart to passionately love 40 of the most precious children in all the world? How can I ever go back to “normal”? Lord, I miss my little Brooke. I know she is being loved and cared for in the foster home but God she needs a family of her own. Please help her little heart to continue to learn to trust and love- prepare her heart for the family that is going to be SO blessed by her. Lord, I selfishly want to see her again, if I get the chance to go back to New Day next summer…but I know she NEEDS a family. I pray she will be matched to the most perfect family who will love her even more than I do…and maybe let me find their blog so I can follow her journey home. :)…”
Who could have EVER thought that we would be the family writing her story on the blog for her journey home?
Only God.
God is so funny- I can just picture Him laughing as I would write/pray/think these things. The amazing way that Brooke came to be a part of our family is nothing short of miraculous- and every.single.thing was God’s confirmation over and over again that she was indeed my parents’ daughter; my precious sister.
Now, I’ve probably been begging asking my parents to adopt another baby since the day we stepped of the plane from China following Erica’s adoption. I watched waiting child lists like nobody’s business, nonchalantly asking my parents which special needs they would consider, emailing pictures of the little precious darlings I would find (always to dad…he’s the softie), and pointing out EVERY adoption blog I could find to them…you know, just to keep it fresh on their mind. I even had an account on RainbowKids, an online advocacy site for special needs children. This is dangerous, my friends. Very dangerous. Especially when you still have 10+ years until you can adopt for yourself… After five (FIVE) years of keeping this up, I was pretty convinced it would never really happen. God was really calling me to China, and opened doors all over the place for me to spend my summer at New Day Foster Home. My parents were, of course, thrilled for me and they knew that this would be a life-changing summer for me. However…my mom did have one “prayer request” that she would say as a joke- “Pray that Meredith doesn’t come home with a baby for us to adopt!! We are done!”.
Ha. That’s funny.
Brooke thinks its funny too.
On September 7, 2011, my wonderful friend Faith sent me a precious picture of little Cai Wei. It was the most precious picture I had EVER seen of her…and I, obviously, forwarded it to my parents. The weekend before happened to be Labor Day, so I was home and spent the weekend showing them every.single.video I had taken of Brooke all summer, because I missed my girl so much. That’s a lot of videos, ya’ll.) They knew good and well who little Cai Wei was, and I knew they loved her and prayed for her. However, I was SHOCKED by the response I got back from my dad literally 10 minutes after sending the picture.
“Tell them we want her!”
The picture from Faith that was immediately forwarded to my dad.
WHAT. Well. Being my ever logical self, I immediately called my parents (dad) and informed them that Brooke probably wouldn’t be paper ready for awhile…and that it’s basically “impossible to ‘find’ a file”. Dad responded with “Well, we’ll call the adoption agency and talk about starting a homestudy. Just in case we do ever start another adoption”. Wow.
Email from my dad: Tell them we want her!! (yes, of course I saved it!)
The next day, my sweet friend Allie had asked me to go get coffee with her. She asked to hear about China- “real” China. Not the cliché “Oh, it was so great and I had such a wonderful time!” that I was used to
quickly sharing…she sat me down and just said “TALK”. It was wonderful. I told her all about China- the good, the bad, the ugly. I told her about the struggles I had coming back to America and the re-adjustment. And finally, I told her about Brooke. How I missed her, how HARD it was to win her over..but how special our relationship was once she finally trusted me. And then Allie asked to see a picture. More than happy to oblige, I pulled out my computer, and as iPhoto was opening, my email dinged with 1 unread mail message. Just one. I opened it real quick just to see if it was anything important…and it was an email from RainbowKids, an online advocacy site for thousands of children available for adoption. Ya’ll, I had got to the point where I would literally just delete those emails without even opening them. It would kill me to see those sweet faces and not be able to bring them home! It had been months since I had opened one of those emails. For some reason, I felt a gentle nudging to open that email- an announcement that a little girl named “Caroline” had been added to the list. As I entered my username and password into the the RK site, waiting for my iPhoto to load, I was in the middle of telling Allie “…This is Brooke…isn’t she such a chubby little diva?!?!”- when all of a sudden, the page loaded. I swear all the blood drained from my brain because I immediately developed a stutter and was incoherently screaming/crying/blubbering to Allie.
“Caroline”…aka BROOKE
It. Was. Brooke. My Brooke. I knew it immediately.
The picture I saw of Brooke on the RK site- absolutely beautiful.

 

Poor Allie. What a friend. It took a good 5 minutes for me to make coherent sense of what exactly was going on….and our calm, collected coffee date immediately turned into a mad dash of rushed explanations and tears. I was on the phone with my dad about .05 seconds later, and China about 2 minutes after that. I wish someone could have recorded that call. I was a basket case. I don’t even think I gave him a word in edge-wise. “It’s Brooke. You need to call. Adoption agency. Adopt her. Phone number. Keep calling!!! IT’S BROOKE.” I don’t even think I explained how or where I had seen her file. Poor Allie (and the rest of the Samford food court) just sat there and stared as I was having a nervous breakdown over the phone.
One problem. It was 8 PM and the adoption agency she was listed with was closed. CLOSED. There were hundreds of scenarios running through my mind. I just knew her file had already been locked- with a face that cute who WOULDN’T have scooped her up right away? I contacted everyone I knew that was related to the adoption world in the smallest way- trying to see if there was any secret phone number that gets to this adoption agency no matter what time (FYI…There is not.)
Once again…poor Allie. The girl was a God-send. I was a basket case, but she, while still utterly confused as to what in the WORLD was wrong with me, started praying- prayed that we would be able to get in contact with the agency that had Brooke’s file. That we would be first to be able to review it. That I would trust God in His perfect plan no matter what the outcome. Whew. Needless to say…I was on pins and needles. Mom and Dad assured me that they were doing all they could to contact her agency, and would let me know the moment they heard something. Oh man.
MIRACULOUSLY, at 11 PM, our agency had someone there working late who got our (multiple) phone messages and (multiple) emails and responded to us. She was available. Did we want to review her file. Did we have some special connection to this child, because usually families don’t go this crazy over one specific child ….uhhhh ya think.  God’s fingerprints are ALL over this. After turning in some necessary forms, we were sent Brooke’s file at 8 AM the next morning. My parents told me to “DO NOT TELL ANYONE” (yeah right) because we hadn’t had her file reviewed yet. And boy oh boy, was there some reviewing that was done. Finally…after 3 of the most excruciatingly nerve-wracking weeks of my life…my parents called me on skype. They knew that God had put this precious girl in our lives to join our family, and we had received Pre-Approval for little Cai Wei- our precious Brooke.
One of the precious pictures we were sent in Brooke’s file.
God’s fingerprints were so clearly over the entire story. From putting me in her orphanage for the summer, becoming her one-on-one teacher, praying specifically for her and her future family, sending her file to my email, causing me to open her file on RainbowKids among the thousands of other equally precious children on the list, being able to get in touch with her agency despite the late hour. Oh. My. Goodness. His confirmation came over and over, again and again. My mom will have to write a Part 4 explaining the confirmation that she felt that Brooke was indeed her daughter.
Brooke does have a tough road ahead. Her heart condition is extremely complex, and there will be many trials through the days ahead. She only has half a heart, and many other conditions that come alongside that. We can’t know the future and we don’t know what is to come with sweet Brooke and her heart. What we DO know is that she has been CHOSEN for our family, and is the most beautiful gift and incredible testament to God’s faithfulness. We have so much hope for her, and cannot wait to see the incredible joy that she will bring to our family. God has incredible plans for this little one- we are SO excited to journey with her. I can tell it’s going to be an exciting ride.
Brooke Cai Wei, we can’t wait to bring you home!!
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”- Jeremiah 29:11

She Danced.

You need to know, I am not a “frilly-froo-froo-girly-girl” person. I never have been, and I daresay, I will never become one.

So when my mother decided to head on out of town for a night, a night that conveniently happened to be the same night of Brooke’s dress rehearsal for her much anticipated big dance recital, she ran through the schedule of the evening with me…and then dropped the bomb. “So, you’ll be the ‘Stage Mom’. You know, make sure she’s dressed, has her makeup on, hang out backstage with all the little girls and make sure they get on stage when they’re supposed to. No big deal.”

Stage Mom. Right. Me, a dressing room full of half-naked, tutu-ed, twirling children, and more hairspray and tulle than I’ve ever seen in my life.

Lord help us all.

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She was obviously more thrilled about this dance mom thing than I was. High hopes, low expectations, people.

Thanks to Erica and a Barbie makeup kit she found shoved under a seat in the car, we successfully navigated our first crisis, and arrived three minutes late for her call time. (I missed the “Full Hair And Makeup Required Upon Arrival” memo, obviously.)

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To be clear, Erica was put in charge of applying Brooke’s hair and makeup as we screamed down the highway. Dinner was a bag of Lays. Mothers everywhere, I respect you.

The evening was everything I imagined it would be, and more. It was full of lights, sequins, over-dramatic children and even more dramatic mothers. I put Brooke’s tights on backwards and her hair just.wouldn’t.stay in the nice neat little bun I tried to create. I dropped her hair bow in the toilet of the way-too-small restroom stall while finagling costumes with 800 layers of who-knows-what, and then PUT THE DANG HAIRBOW BACK ON HER HEAD because what else am I supposed to do, okay?

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Sorry mom, your daughter went on stage with a still dripping, toilet water soaked hairbow for her first dance recital. It is what it is, people.

Everything I expected. But the more? Everything I expected and more? The “more” is what floored me. I expected the crisis. I expected drama.

I did not expect to be standing on the side of that stage, holding back tears. I didn’t expect to be taught a lesson about how to live my life as I watched Brooke click-clack-tap onto that stage.

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Brooke didn’t know the dance step for step. None of the girls did. Their dance wasn’t glamorous, it wasn’t full of impressive steps, beautiful choreography, or perfect synchronization. But as I watched Brooke dance, I saw strength in her sassy sa-shay walk with her “click-clack” shoes and still dripping hairbow as she strutted onto the stage with her hand on her hip. I saw joy in the mega-watt smile she couldn’t keep off her face. I saw hope in the way she was able to jump, tap, and kick with her classmates; her brave heart scar peeking out of her leotard to tell of the journey she’s been on to make it to this point.

She danced with confidence. She messed up. A lot. She made wrong steps, turned around when the other kids were facing forward. She jumped up when they sat down. And yes, she even tripped over her own two feet and landed smack on her booty. Twice. But she didn’t care. She danced on, oblivious to the “imperfections”, unaware of any hesitation. All in. 100%. No turning back.

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How often do we dance like this? In our dance of life, the fear of imperfection, of a misstep, a “jump up” when others “jump down”, dreading a moment when we might fall. How often do these fears hold us back from taking that leap, that first step into uncharted waters? How often do they prevent us from even trying at all, willing to stay in the comfort of the known and safe of our lives?

I hope I choose courage.

I hope I live each day learning to risk; willing to fall. Because without risking, without falling, without ever learning to pick ourselves back up again to try yet another time, we can’t grow. We can’t change. We can’t reach what might be just in front of us if we had been willing to risk that one scary step, when you just can’t remember if the next step is supposed to be “right foot tap or left foot tap”.

Brooke chose to dance. And as I stood there watching her flit around that stage, I realized that in the waltz of my life, I hope I choose to dance too.