This Thanksgiving we decided to take advantage of the girls being out of school all week by taking a family vacation. I started researching and comparing several cruise lines months ago. We found a 7 night Western Caribbean Cruise with Royal Caribbean at the best deal and started making our plans. The day before we were scheduled to leave, I learned some tragic news about 2 other children who had the same diagnosis as Faith. Even though I told myself that each person has his own story, and that this wasn’t our current reality, it shook me to the core. The next day I woke up more physically sick than I have been in the past 5 years.
Somehow I was able to get our bags packed in time to pick the girls up from school. Because of the pressure in Faith’s lungs, we have decided to avoid flying with her if at all possible. So Daniel drove us all night toward Ft. Lauderdale while I slept off my illness in the passenger seat.
The next day we boarded the ship feeling back to normal. I had been telling Faith that we were going on a cruise, and she had absolutely no clue what that meant. As the time drew nearer, she began getting excited about our “field trip!”
Our first stop was in Key West. We had signed up to go parasailing there. I guess because we were technically still in Florida, I had been looking least forward to this destination. What a mistake! If you have never been there, it is fabulous! It is absolutely beautiful with all the palm trees, aqua water and quaint little shops and houses. There were a handful of other couples on our parasailing tour. When it was our turn, the person driving the boat said that both girls could go twice–once with Daniel and again with me! As they went up into the air, they were shrieking with delight and felt on top of the world!
The next stop was Roatan, Honduras. This turned out to be one of my most favorite excursions ever. I had signed us up to do horseback riding along the beach. The tour description mentioned that we would even ride the horses in the water a little bit. I pictured the bottom ¼ of the horses’ legs getting wet for just a minute as we rode along the coast. Boy was I wrong! We each got our own horse and rode all over the land. When we came to the ocean, the horses were on autopilot. They had taken this path a few hundred times before, I suspect. They continued out onto a sandbar and circled a large area for—I don’t know—another 20 minutes or so. It was absolutely amazing!
Our next stop was Costa Maya, Mexico. None of us had ever been there. This is the day that we swam with dolphins. We had taken Jian to do this before, but it was all new for Faith. She absolutely beamed and squealed with delight the entire time!
Our final port was Cozumel, Mexico. We went out on a catamaran, stopped for some swimming in the ocean (some people snorkeled, but Faith’s pulmonologist doesn’t want her to snorkel.) Then we went to the beach and enjoyed some inflatables in the water. I caught myself several times during this trip just being still and watching the girls. They were so in-the-moment, making the most of it, being resourceful with whatever they could find to play with on the beach (like using their shoes as a water bucket.) I remember thinking—I don’t know what the future is going to hold, but no one can ever take this moment away from us.
There were definitely some moments I would have loved for someone to take away from us, though. Faith has adjusted so well and easily that I forget that she has only been with us less than a year. Even though this was a fun and exciting experience, it was also new, unknown and out of our routine. For kiddos like ours, that equals one thing: Fear. And as a result, huge, irrational melt downs. Day after day after day we went through this. It makes me so frustrated when it happens. But then I remember that I’m really not that much different.
One day we remained on the ship all day as we sailed toward Mexico. We decided to do the rock climbing wall onboard. I was going to show everyone how this was done. After all, I do CrossFit every day. I wanted to challenge myself to climb to the top for time, taking for granted that I would definitely get to the top. I was so shocked at how anxious I became half way up the wall. It was much higher than it looked. I felt all alone up there. I couldn’t see where I was going. My hands started to sweat, my muscles were literally shaking, and my breath became very rapid and shallow. After taking some time, I finally willed myself to the top, but was very humbled by the experience.
I started thinking about how this compared to the times we were deciding to adopt the girls. We knew deep down it was what we needed to do. But when it came time to commit, fear tried to take over. Doubts crept in. We questioned if we were being crazy. We tried to rationalize why it would be easier just to keep our comfortable and routine life. We didn’t know very many people who had adopted before and felt alone. We certainly couldn’t see into the future and where this path would take us, and once we got into it, it was even more difficult than we had expected.
The Bible is full of people who were asked to do really scary things. I often think about Abraham who was told in Genesis 12:1–
“Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.”
The very next verses promise great blessings as a result, and we know the rest of the story. But I can’t imagine how scary this must have been. Leaving everything he knew without even being told where he was going. And then I put myself in our girls’ shoes and realize how similar this is to what they have done and how very, very brave they are at such young ages.
We have learned a lot of lessons along our journey, some that I hope the girls are learning as well. One of the greatest has been learning to depend on God to guide us and provide for our every need along the way. We are, in fact, never alone. And there are definitely some unexpected and wonderful blessings that have awaited us. I am so thankful that we mustered up the courage to take that first step!