This morning, her alarm went off like the ghost of her was still whispering through the walls.
My phone alerts me every time her game apps need attention. Little Man has taken over their care with excitement, determined to keep her virtual pets alive until she returns.
I keep waiting for her to come down the stairs and around the corner.
Her last days here were filled with honesty and raw emotion. There were no grand revelations, but there were truths held out toward one another. I am mother-not-mother and that is sometimes hard. Sometimes I remind her of pain, and sometimes I don’t speak with the grace that I wish I had.
But other times, she speaks of the need of me. It took until the night before she left to admit that she wasn’t as excited about going back as she made it out to seem. That our time went too fast. That two months seemed so long before it started and now doesn’t seem like enough.
She doesn’t tell me she loves me. But I know she does. She colors my hair. She tells me her thoughts on my relationships. She asks me about work. She sits for hours in my office with me when she could be elsewhere. She micromanages our time, checking and rechecking and then checking again the tasks that she wants me to do. She trusts me but is nervous and needs to hear it again and again. I love her by continually answering her and teasing her. I try to do it with patience. She gets mad and moody and then happy. I know this is all part of the process. The pain of letting go and holding on and working to stretch that connection so very far.
And I know that this is what family does. And I know she knows it, too. She gave me her first real hug at the airport. She did not cry. Neither did I. Our eyes filled up, and we looked at each other and shook our heads and took a selfie instead. And then she hugged me. Both arms. Whole soul. It was the first time she has ever leaned into me like that.
And I knew that she wasn’t ever going to let me go, even as she walked away from me into the security line.
It is hard not knowing what this will look like in the future. So many of my friends are considering adoptions and student visas and praying over decisions that will bring their dear children home to them forever. Others know that this hosting was a one-time treasure and are advocating for their host children or planning to love long-distance.
People often ask me what our plans are. We don’t have any. Sunshine turns 18 in December. It is her senior year of high school and she will not have a long enough break to participate in Christmas hosting. Studying in America is possible in the future, but not her desire at this time. She is in a transitional program that helps older teens learn life skills—her orphanage runs similarly to a college dorm, but with a lot more rules. Once the school year ends, because of her age, she has the option to leave and get her own place, or she can stay in the home a few more years while she continues schooling. This is a big decision and both choices have pros and cons. Her final choice will likely affect her ability to return to America and the length of her stay.
All I know is that she wants to come. She said all her goodbyes with a “see you next summer.” I know where her heart is. And that will have to be enough for now.
I am learning so much about trusting my desires and my plans to the One who is sovereign over it all. I am a planner by nature, and I like the security of knowing what will come next. So many things in my life are in limbo and transition: Sunshine’s return, my relationships with friends and family, my employment, my finances. It is overwhelming. It is enough to drive me to distraction.
Only I’m not.
I am at peace. I know that love can stretch across an ocean. I know that relationships will grow as they need to. I know that the work will come, and somehow the money will be there when I need it.
This is not a safe place to live. It’s not really even a comfortable place to live. But it’s a good place, a faith-filled place, a place where I am not the star of my own life and I’m okay with it.
And somehow, in the next three days, I am going to pack up and make my first transatlantic flight to Latvia, the land of my heart. I will see with my own eyes the world that has been made real through Sunshine’s words.
This is crazy.
I don’t have anything packed. I don’t have any plans or schedule. I won’t know until I touch down where I am going. I don’t know how much I will see Sunshine. I don’t even know how I will pay for the funding of this trip (if you would like to contribute to help cover my expenses, please click on the Paypal link on the right side of this page).
All I know is that Sunshine will be at the airport to greet me. I will have three or four precious hours with her. Maybe I will get a little more time later in the trip, but maybe not. There is no way to know right now.
And truthfully, no amount of time will be enough. It will always be too short. So I will take what is given to me. I will be able to see her world with her for a few dear hours. I will be able to kiss those round cheeks and look into those sparkling eyes one last time before the drought of her truly begins.
But I go because of her. I go because of Soccer Boy. I go because of Sprite. I go because of all the children who have found families—whether traditional or nontraditional—through New Horizons for Children.
I go because there are other children to meet. Children waiting to be given the opportunity to find someone in America. Children longing to feel the love that comes from being in a family. Children ready to change their own world because a family in America decides to give up their plans for a comfortable life.
I go because I am loved by the One who loves those children. They are not statistics or a faceless social problem. They are precious, counted, and seen. I go because I get to be His eyes and his arms and His smile.
I go because this pain and this sadness of letting Sunshine go is a result of finding a daughter, of creating a family together.
I go because giving up my own plans and control of my life was the best thing I ever did.