I'm sorry there are no pictures to go along with this. Actually, there are, but Jeff is still sleeping and there's a mix up about the card reader. I promise there will be more later.
Sunday night, after our celebration with the church, I was invited to the hot springs with Deana for a ladies night. I fully prepared myself for a quiet night of reflection, assuming the ladies there would only speak Chinese. I was right about them speaking Chinese, but they also spoke English as they were Americans! I learned this was Deana's birthday celebration with two other Americans living in Taiwan, S and S. Deana, Jessica (a Canadian girl living with the Pans right now), and I headed to the springs. Deana drove, and drove, and drove. I wondered if we would ever get there! The plus side was Deana is always a very busy person, and I enjoyed a whole car ride when her phone didn't ring once! I think that's a record. We talked about a lot of things. I was able to ask questions about our birthmother, trying to understand her better. I asked more about the ministries Deana is involved in, as well as more background on birthmothers in Taiwan in general.
We arrived at the hot springs, and I had to laugh when I saw girls nights in Taiwan consists of things very similar to those in America - Pizza Hut, birthday cake, and peanut butter cookies! I laughed when I saw that S had a frequent flier card for the hot springs and used it to get us all discounted tickets in! We set all our stuff down and headed to the showers to change. I've never experienced hot springs before, so this was all new to me. I put my suit on, and Deana handed me a shower cap to wear. Everyone has to wear one, but your hair doesn't have to be tucked in it. I still don't get that one. I imagine we were quite a spectacle as a group. One of the ladies had brought her daughter along to enjoy the fun. so here was a group of 6 white ladies in bathing suits amongst a sea of Taiwanese people. I loved being there with people who understood what the others were saying, and they didn't realize the ladies spoke Chinese. They had a little fun with that one. Several younger boys hung around for a while, apparently bragging (in Chinese) that they could understand what we were saying.
I sat with them in the really hot water (around 40 degrees Celsius) for a while, then we had dinner by the springs. S being a frequent flier recognized and spoke to at least one person that was there. After dinner, S invited me to visit the Spa area. This consisted of a large pool with jets and buttons you push. One you held onto the rails and let the water hit your stomach or back. Another one she warned me might tickle my feet. Oh my goodness! I already have a large, loud laugh, and you can imagine what it was like while trying to stand on a gushing geyser of water!
While S and I were experiencing the spa, I got the delight of getting to know her better. I learned about her ministry in Taiwan, and that she has 3 children. One is currently in the states finishing his senior year to prepare him better for "university" as they call it. I call it college! He only comes back once a year in the summer. S and her family work with children's homes that take in children who need a place to stay. Even more amazing is they have gone a step further to work with "Graduates" of the program. They've moved outside the home to be accessible to kids who have aged out of the home. They provide support and counseling for them to make it in life. They have made Taiwan their home.
We talked about family, and the gift of life. We both have experienced struggles with fertility and loss of life early on in pregnancy. That experience in life takes your relationship with a new person to a different level, one with understanding of burdens you've bared. We marveled at the gift of children and how differently life is viewed in Taiwan. The conversation was rich, meaningful, and one I'll reflect on and treasure in the future.
S and I moved on to one of the calmer pools. They had 3 to choose from, and we started in the beauty one, I think? The girls said it was mainly tinted water! The other S and Deana joined us there. I learned S had three boys, like I used to have. All 3 ladies homeschool, and I thought it was hilarious that I was in Taiwan hearing some of the same comments from homeschool moms that I would in America! If I could pretend we weren't surrounded by Asian people in speedos and little children that reminded me of my own, I would never have believed I was halfway around the world.
The ladies were kind to humor me in talking about my boys as they discussed dental appointments and what they were doing that week. It sounded just like I would be talking with Michelle. Again, I was reminded how a different location didn't necessarily mean a different life. I shared many common bonds with these ladies, and the more time we spent together, the more apparent that became. We switched to a different pool that contained Chinese medicine and enjoyed that for a while. Then Deana and I got this idea to go to the "regular" pool which translates to not heated! We debated if the coolness was worth it for quite a while, and Deana schooled me on some words I had heard in the sermon that morning. I noticed several words that sounded like American words, and we finally figured out what they mean. I did get at least one Chinese word to take away with me besides Ni Hao and the word for thank you! Now I have 3 words I can say!
I got to hear Deana talk about the future of the ministries she is involved in, and I got to hear her heart. Plus it was another conversation without her phone ringing. That lady is busy! Things in Taiwan are changing, and we continue to pray for the Pan family and what all the changes mean to the ministries they serve in.
After several hours at the hot springs, it was time to leave. I left feelings blessed by the unique experience I had, and grateful I was able to join in celebrating the life of Deana. She is an amazing woman with many talents and a passion for life.
Monday morning we packed up our things and headed to Household of Registry. This is where we have to go to change the address of our children to our new address. At least this is how I understand it! After that, we headed to the church and I got the joy and honor of meeting several beautiful babies waiting on their parents to bring them home. I loved on them, told them their parents loved them so much, and took a gazillion pictures. I've been where those parents are right now. I understand how every little thing that connects you to your baby matters and encourages you that you will be with them soon. The babies are amazing, and I can't wait to see pictures of them with their parents holding them. I wish we could post pictures of them on here, but we can't. I'm sure if you know these parents, they would be willing to share them with you through email, though!
We got to visit several places that Deana and Luke are working on to expand their ministry. They have a huge vision, and I can't wait to see it all come together! By the time all is up and running, they will be reaching many moms in many ways. They are funded by private donations that are tax deductible. I can tell you how to help if you feel led. It's easy, every amount helps, and I promise you that I have seen firsthand the way God is using them to save lives and teach others to value life that God gives.
As the day wore on, it was time to go back to the airport. We had to say good bye to our friends Deana and Luke. I was sad to leave the city that 3 of our boys are from. I hope one day they are satisfied with the information I can share with them. As adoptive parents, it's impossible not to wonder "what if". I look at people there and wonder how different our sons' lives would be. I have to be content knowing God is in control, and He has great things planned for them no matter where they live.
The flight back to Taipei was quick, and Tuck did an amazing job. That guy! We call him Happiness and I've added little Elvis to the mix. He does this little thing with his lip just like Elvis. I find that hilarious since we are living in Tennessee, hours from Graceland. He really is a joy. He is only unhappy when he is hungry or tired. The boy sleeps great, and he seems to love life already. My heart is full.
This morning when I woke up, I was overcome with emotion. I miss the boys so much it hurts. I can't help but wonder how on earth birthmothers make the choices they do. I walked away from a birthmother on Saturday night with the child she birthed, and more than likely she will never see again in person. I have been away from my boys for 48 hours and feel like I can barely breathe without them. As our friend and traveling partner said yesterday, without birthmothers, I wouldn't be a parent. I'm indebted and grateful, but I have no understanding or concept how on earth they make the decisions they do. I guess as cheesy as it sounds, it reminds me of a VBS song, "It All Comes Back to Jesus" (or something like that, the song, not the message). He gave His Son for us. He watched him suffer and die, a sacrifice beyond comprehension. Parental instinct tells me to step in and take the place of my child and his suffering. I can't imagine how God didn't use His power to stop Jesus's death, but I'm so grateful He loved us enough to make the sacrifice. We have the opportunity of the joy of spending eternity with God because of that sacrifice.
I'm grateful for the sacrifices of birthmothers, too. For the joy my family has in the midst of the sorrow of others, I am thankful for the beautiful journey God has brought me on. No doubt there have been tears, frustration, and anger along the way, but all pales in comparison to the opportunity that lies before me to raise Godly children that give Him the glory for all He has done. May God receive the glory for my family and the life we live.