I missed Gracie's gotcha anniversary, as I was in Orlando last week with my friend and her family. (Disney World in June... hot, crowded, long lines... but SO MUCH FUN!) so I'm about 8 days late on this, but of course can't forget about the year that has passed since we met Miss Grace!
June 21, 2010. It was a Monday. We were sitting at a restaurant with the other 2 families in our travel group when all of a sudden, someone says, "Oh my gosh! It's already 1:30!" We quickly left, went back up to our rooms to grab some stuff, and met back to leave for the civil affairs office.
One word to describe the bus ride. Anticipation. We had no idea what to expect. We were driving all over Nanchang, taking in the sites, pinching ourselves to remind ourselves that this was all real. That we would be meeting our sweet Grace within minutes.
The past 7 months of staring at her pictures and praising God for the MANY miracles he provided all along the way... and it was all coming down to this.
We walked in and I scanned all around for OUR Grace. She wasn't there yet. Babies were screaming as miracles were taking place all around the room. There truly is no way to describe the miracle of adoption. It's a beautiful thing.
Whereas our other gotcha moments have been less hectic, this one was incredibly crazy. The tiny room was packed full of people. 2 of our 3 were in tears, there was a leak in the room, kids were crying, parents were crying... it was HECTIC.
And then she walked in and everything stopped for a moment. All I could focus on was MY sister walking toward us. The precious 10 year old girl we had prayed for throughout the past months... with the biggest smile I've ever seen.
She walked over and just looked at us, slowly approaching each person in our family. And over the next hour, we stayed in that room, getting to know each other.
Adopting an older child is so different. It's awkward, but it's amazing. In her, we saw this DESIRE to be adopted and to have a family. She wanted to be helpful. She would always stay close to us-- holding onto the stroller everywhere we went without even being asked to. She loved to hold hands as she would walk around. She had grown up knowing how it is to be in a family, and as a result, she has adjusted beautifully to being in one. There was an absolute love of life that was so obvious then and continues to be incredibly obvious.
From the moment we met her, she has always been our amazing Grace. She is strong and brave. She is beautiful on the inside and out. She is helpful and obedient. She is HILARIOUS and always cracking us-- and herself-- up. She is such a tom boy and getting her to wear skirts and dresses is no easy task. She loves having a family, loves her siblings, and has an especially close bond with AC. They are a bit competitive with each other and have their moments of arguing, but since the day we met her, they have been best friends.
Her English has come so far. I remember Mom and I would wonder if she would EVER speak English, because the first couple of months it was just not there and she didn't even really try. Yet now, if it weren't for her strong accent, you would never guess she has only been home from China for 1 year and only knew the most basic English words prior to coming home. And although she admits sometimes that she has forgotten a couple of her Chinese words, she has still retained much of her Mandarin. She has a few friends that were also adopted from China that she talks to every once in awhile and I just love to hear her talking away in Mandarin, the beautiful language that is so much a part of her.
She has come so far in this past year. She is SO much a part of our family and it is shocking to me that it has only been a year. I am so thankful that God called us to her family on that day back in November of 2009. She was an unexpected surprise, but an amazing little girl that fits so perfectly into our growing family. And speaking of growing... she is absolutely overjoyed at the fact that we are returning to China to adopt again. She has asked for months now to return to China for another sister. Of course, she was hoping for a sister her age, but she is just as excited for a baby! :)
I love you, Gracie and am so thankful that God has placed you in my life. You are amazing and beautiful and don't ever forget that! Your strength and courage amazes me each and every day. The love of life and love of other that you have is truly something beautiful. The obvious growth you have had this past year-- both literally and physically-- is something I am so proud of. I love you so much!!