(From December 7th)
I am on a plane headed to meet my son for the first time.
I packed some clothes and other essentials for me, some clothes for him, and a very special painting. Although I didn’t really pack the painting—it was too large to fit in any suitcase I had—so I wrapped it in bubble wrap, reinforced the corners with extra wrap, and added a customized duct-taped handle to the top (I was rather proud of this design achievement) hoping all the while that there was some hidden rule that an airline attendant would recognize how important this oversized cargo was and would happily stash it in some special closet on board.
Anyways, I was just thinking about how neat it is that this happy reunion is happening between myself and Mandie after 25 years of knowing each other. We moved in to that sweet green house at the top of the cul de sac, and Mandie walked over with her mom to deliver a delicious cake with icing writing on the top (something akin to “welcome” I believe).
Mandie epitomizes the word “welcome.”
She has spent her adult years pursuing a nursing degree, living overseas and doing missions work with children, both abroad and in her every day life here in America. She gives, selflessly, to children in all types of situations that come to her home and find refuge. She gives her heart to each and every one of them, trusting God to show her how best to nurture, protect, and grow them. She has adopted two sweet girls of her own and is committed to fostering countless numbers of children that need a home (but I would say she could count every single one of them, because they uniquely matter to her).
She is my hero, this childhood friend of mine. Did I mention she is an artist and gifted writer as well? She beautifies the atmosphere around her—through her art, her words, and her love. (Her Etsy Shop–Echoes of Mercy–has so many neat pieces…most are available for download. ie instant encouraging/inspirational art in your home.)
I must think that when God saw our little girl selves shyly saying hello for the first time at that tender preschool age, he must have smiled a big, full smile, knowing that our stories would take weaves and turns and ultimately join once again as Mandie said yes to welcoming a little 7 year old Chinese boy into her home while he received medical care at a nearby hospital, and I first laid eyes on him through her stylishly snapped Instagram photo.
At first glance I saw a cute little boy with a cute little hipster hat. But then I was drawn to look again, and I studied his face. Something stirred in my spirit and I felt as if I was looking into the face of my son.
And now, six months later, I am on a plane, headed to meet him for the first time, and bring him home.
That painting is the best “thank you” I could think of, but still falls far short. How can I adequately thank the woman who said yes to the little boy who was confused and scared with vision impairment and no english, and gave her heart to helping him learn and grow in his body, mind, and soul? Through thick and thin she has persevered, following a strict post-op care regimen, taking him to all sorts of appointments and sitting for hours in waiting rooms, answering a barrage of non-stop questions daily, and most of all, teaching him what love looks like. When she lets him go this week, and says good bye for now, she is giving us the gift of a little boy that knows he is loved.
I said that painting was special, not because of any great skill in the production of it, but because of what happened in my heart while creating it. It is the first landscape painting I have ever attempted—I was just too nervous before. But I painted it for Mandie because that is exactly the kind of person she is—she gives people the courage to do hard things; the things that are intimidating but totally doable when we live in grace.
Thank you, Mandie. I am forever grateful for you.