You know the type, right? Open the box. The smell so goooood! MMMMMmmmm I love the smell of new leather shoes. The only possible rival smell is an old leather bound book. Inhale. Breathe. Sigh of Satisfaction. Even cuter than they looked online. And they're a perfect fit! Wear them around the house first to break them in. Oh, they feel good! Wear them out to the store the first time... hm, they do pinch a bit. But don't worry, shoes, it's not you, it's me. If I wear them enough, in little bits at a time, my feet will get used to them and they will be my FaVoRiTe shoes ever!
T- 3 days to lift off. Ok, It's not me, it's you. I tried. I broke you in. I grew a new callous. But you just don't have the arch support I need. My knees ache. My feet ache. My back aches. But at least you don't pinch any more. Mom to the rescue, as always. She suggests orthotics. 2 days till launch and I gutted your soles and added in that arch support I needed. Now we're BFF's.
Except now I've changed the way they fit. The callous I got gently breaking them in needs to be in a different spot now that the insole is thicker and the arch support greater. But now we're in China. Me and my only pair of shoes. Day 1, touch down and taxi to airport. I got this. Day 2, hiking the Great Wall. I survived the morning, then found out our guide had plans to march us around a park where we could CLIMB some more and get a great view of the forbidden city from above. Sigh. Brave face. Made it through. Day 3 dawns and my first thought is "please, not the shoes!" No other choice. Toured the Forbidden City on our own (pinch, ache, climb, walk, pinch, ache...) It was AMAZING, but I was seriously reconsidering this whole concept of packing light. In the afternoon I gladly slipped them off in the taxi on the way to the train station and then had 2 hours of shoeless bliss on the bullet train. Day 4. I'm not gonna lie. This one was tough. I woke up with hope that it wouldn't be that bad. And it wasn't. At first. This was our last day of sight-seeing before our focus shifted entirely to our purpose for our journey - our son. We scheduled a day trip. Hear that ? DAY trip. Train in the morning to Xi'an, visit the Terracotta Warrior Museum, train back to Zhengzhou in the evening. I booked tickets in advance and they were delivered to our hotel. We had been assured this was a great itinerary for a day trip. Eric and I vowed, as best friends do, never to share all the details of our misadventures in Xi'an. Suffice it to say for the purpose of this blog post that by the end of the "day" we had walked over 10 miles... TEN MILES... and never made it on that train back to Zhengzhou. Well, we did hop on to A train to Zhengzhou, but by God's mercy we hopped right back off just as it was about to pull away. Tip to future travelers... if you miss the last bullet train out in the evening, do not settle for the regular train thinking "how bad can it be?" unless you are ready to sit on the filthy floor of the box car (yep, they give out "standing room only" seats in the economy class cars with no A/C and smoking is allowed) for nearly seven hours through the night to arrive at your destination at 3am. Just before midnight the day of our "day trip" we managed to get in to a swanky international hotel where we were greeted with utmost confusion ("what do you mean, 'no bags'?") and got a message to our guide who would be expecting us in our hotel lobby the next morning 300 miles away! I washed my swollen, bleeding feet and fell into bed. We woke up early on day 5 to get the first bullet train back to our son's home province and my very first thought was "NO! NOT THE SHOES!!!!!" I think I cried silent tears that morning walking to the subway, and again enjoyed a shoeless ride on the bullet train. Please, no one tell me if it is a huge cultural fauxpax to go shoeless on a train in China.
Morning dawned day 6, one of my best days ever, and anticipation flooded my senses. We ate breakfast, spent time in prayer, packed a tiny blue backpack with the name "Titus" embroidered on it. We loaded up in a van with our guide and driver and drove to the office of Civil Affairs where our son would eventually come into our arms. You know what? I don't even remember putting on the shoes. Not that day, not the next day, or the day after that. (but I wasn't barefoot) I don't even remember thinking about the shoes again until the end of that week when we were at the zoo and I realized my feet didn't hurt at all after walking all around it while carrying an extra 25lbs in the Ergo. Finally my shoes and my feet found equilibrium.
Today, these are truly my favorite shoes. Not only because of how wonderful they feel on my feet, but also because all we've been through together.
But I said it's not about the shoes... It's about my boys. We brought Titus home at 3 1/2 years old to our other children who were 7, 5, and 2. In all reality, due to his special needs and expected institutional delays, we have done what is called "artificially twinning", or adopting a child who is the same age (chronologically or developmentally) as another child in the family. This is typically seen as more challenging than adoption of a child younger than your youngest. Not only did our 2 year old miss us and not fully understand why we had left for so long, but when we returned we brought home another little boy. A needy little boy. We had spent all year preparing our family. We talked about and prayed for Titus daily. We prepared our two year old as best we knew how. Zane sweetly called him "ty-tee".
But I was not prepared for Zane's grief. Once the initial joy over having us home wore off, Zane grieved bitterly. He grieved my loss of attention. He grieved that the space of my arms was occupied. We tried to find as many ways as possible to spend one-on-one time with him, like we used to. But he had lost a bit of me and my time to another little boy. A boy who was himself grieving too, and expressing it in the only ways he knew how - kicking, hitting, scratching, biting, screaming. Mostly directed at Zane. When Zane woke up every morning or from every nap time the first thing he did was howl the deepest, most painful cry I have ever heard. It was as if his inflamed, bleeding soul was saying "NO! NOT THE SHOES!!!" The days have slowly gotten better. He is learning to accomodate. I am learning to accomodate. They're even becoming buddies. But the first weeks home were dark, scary, lonely. There was no option but to press on, and I knew deep in my heart that all of this was right. A good friend spoke a beautiful and difficult truth to me, that this is also part of Zane's character development and growth just hurts. But OH, I hated seeing my baby hurt.
If you are part of our prayer team, would you please join us in praying for our boys? They have both become so much more comfortable over the past few weeks and we are still praying with anticipation for the day they both wake up and realize it doesn't hurt anymore, and just maybe they can be each other's favorite.
If you are in an uncomfortable season, be it adoption, a new job, family dynamics, etc., let me encourage you to keep on. Persevere. Take the moments you can to slip off your shoes and breathe for a bit, but put them back on with courage. My prayer for you is that you will know this truth, and hold on to hope:
"We know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint because God's love has been poured out into our hearts..." Romans 5:4-5