Cameron Lelai Murray

Cameron Lelai Murray

Friday, April 15, 2016

Post Traumatic Growth

John 14:27(NIV)

27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

I first heard the term post traumatic growth at a training last November and that word resonated in my soul.  That phrase contains what I feel on a daily basis since the bombing at the Boston Marathon on April 15, trauma AND growth.  During those moments and every day since, I have viewed my family and my life through a different lens.  The struggle is there.  It is real.  It continues.   
There are several things I remember about that day.  That perfect Boston day. Those who live in New England and endure this crazy weather understand what it means when someone says "it was a perfect spring day."  Blue skies. Warm weather.  Flowers in bloom.  The whole city seemed to be smiling as we made our way to meet our group of families who had runners from Boston Children's Hospital.  We were the finish line group.  We were the blessed ones who had the front row seat to the most famous race in the world.  
After spending hours tracking our runners, we would run out of the Fire House and meet them with hugs, tears, screams and love.  Our child and a parent would join our runner for the final stretch and cross that finish line together. Our runner, Sue Sonia, had trained really hard for this marathon.  And so had 4 year old Cameron.  Sue had a goal to have a sub-4 hour marathon.  It was going to be close!  Cameron trained every day by running circles around our house.  He knew he had to run as fast as his little legs could carry him down Boylston Street.

I can still hear the cowbells and see Sue's emotional face as she greeted us. Cameron grabbed her hand with one of his and held onto his daddy's hand with the other, and off they went towards that finish line. Cameron flew, literally, as he ran to cross that line. His sisters and I watched them until we couldn't see them anymore and headed back to the fire station at Hereford and Boylston Streets to gather our things to meet them.
Lauren was only 8 months old, and it had been a long day.  I gave an iPad and a snack to my other two preschoolers as I spoon fed Lauren something before our long walk back to the van.  And that's when it happened.  The first explosion.  It sounded like a cannon or fireworks.  It was unfamiliar and unexpected.   Instinct kicked in, and I just started packing up my babies.  That's when the second explosion happened and the view that I had was what I later processed again and again and again in a trauma therapist's office.
Boston's Finest were leading everyone away from the finish line.  One half of my heart was in front of me with three little girls who I needed to keep safe in a scene of chaos.  However, the other half of my heart was on the other side of that finish line and that's where I was headed.  I was not panicked.  Quite the contrary.  I was focused and insistent and calm.  I was not even going to waste time breathing until my family was all together again.
Terror is meant to kill and destroy lives.  That's their mission.  It's one fueled with hatred.  I am here to tell you that evil does not have the final word.  Each one of us has the ability to fight it, and God can and will give you the strength to overcome.  Even in the chaos, people were helping each other.  This was not a stampede or a "everyone out for themselves" state of the city.  April 15th to me was and always will remain a time when I witnessed strangers helping strangers.  
In the three years since that day, I have learned a few things about myself and our world.  
1. It's ok to need help.
In fact, I have finally realized that we are actually supposed to need help.  Even when we love Jesus and know that He loves us.  Even when we spend our time helping others.  Even if that means therapy or counseling or help from clergy or medication.  Yes, I said it.  Medication.  You can actually be a prayer warrior and love God and still need medicine to help you.  Don't be ashamed.  We are all in this together.
2. Despite what our media seems to emphasize daily, the majority of those who wear a uniform are there to protect, help and serve.  They do so with honor and love of their fellow man.
3. The sight of my husband walking towards me is the best feeling that I will ever experience.
When life is exploding in chaos all around us, he is the one I want to be with. When he is grumpy or stressed and I am feeling less than charitable, I try to remember what I felt like that day.  He is not my enemy.  He is the one God has given me to search for in times of trouble.  I need to be willing to ignore what the world says and walk towards him through the trouble.  Running away from him will only cause more confusion.
4. Home is a feeling in your heart when you and all whom you love dear are together.  It is not the apartment you rent or the house you now own.  It is not the place that you decorated like a Pottery Barn catalog.  It is not the mess that you need to clean up or the place where you entertain others. It is you and your people.  Together.
5. Terrorism will win some battles BUT they will not win the war.  Love is stronger than hate.  It really does come down to that.
The growth process is not complete.  Nor will it ever be until I am called home. However, it has begun and the truth is I would have never truly seen the best of humanity without experiencing the horrors of it either.  

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Adoption is a Marathon

"Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:13b-14)

Adoption is not a sprint.  Quite the contrary- it is a marathon.

When I saw that it is has actually been 7 months since my last blog entry, I was struck even more about our own Boston Marathon of adoption that Geoff and I signed up for many years ago. That last blog entry was done on the day of Cameron's surgery- the first of 5 surgeries in the past 9 months. 

3 years ago, Cameron was days, and perhaps even hours, away from dying.  He was neglected, starved, malnourished, disabled, and abandoned.  He was alone.  It was decided that there was no hope for him.  And a world without hope is death. 

I would like to think that Cameron's story is unique.  But unfortunately, it is not.  There are millions of orphans with similar stories all around the world.  For Cameron, however, that was not the end of his story.  It was just the beginning.  God used two special women, Amanda and Chrissy, and many others who support them to save his life.  God literally reached down from Heaven and scooped Cameron up out of the crib he was dying in and placed him in The Starfish Foster Home.  Cameron was no longer alone.  He was no longer neglected.  And after several months, Cameron was no longer malnourished.  Cameron was loved.

The last 9 months have not been easy.  Running a marathon never is.  Following God's will for your life may be exhilarating, but no one said it would be easy.  In the first 5 months of Cameron being home, we were at Children's Hospital Boston every week, often more than once a week.  He had a medical team of heavy hitters organized by his mama.  Despite medical insurance, Cameron's list of medical bills became higher than I could count and resulted in 4 jobs between Geoff and I (Geoff's full-time job plus additional overtime job and two part-time jobs for me) to take on this part of our adoption marathon.  At one point, Cameron's daddy was on call for 24 hrs/day, 7 days a week for 14 weeks in a row.  That's a lot of missed sleep.

During this phase of our family's life, a friend asked us to be a part of the Credit Union Kids at Heart division of Miles for Miracles for Children's Hospital Boston.  This is a massive endeavor to raise funds for Children's Hospital and includes patients at the hospital being paired with a marathon runner.  This person runs in honor of the patient.  We agreed for a couple of reasons.  First, we had been under so much stress and Children's Hospital Boston was the place that was trying to help us with Cameron.  Second, not only do we love Boston, but Geoff has a life goal of running in the Boston Marathon some day.  The Boston Marathon seemed a perfect metaphor for what we were in the midst of- a very long journey that included a Heartbreak Hill as well as a finish line.

We were more than thrilled when Cameron was matched with David Binette.  He was not just another marathon runner trying to get into the marathon using a charity spot because it is so difficult to qualify.  David and Cameron share something in common- the same surgeon.  David was born with Amniotic Band Syndrome which included several congenital anomalies, including cleft lip and palate. Many years ago, Dr. Mulliken repaired David's cleft lip and palate just like he did for Cameron last September.

David's heart was in the right place when he joined the marathon runners of the Credit Union Kids at Heart team.  Unfortunately, his body was not cooperating with his heart's desire.  David did run cross country when he was in high school and had done some races over the years.  But not a marathon.  He injured his ankle in the Fall and struggled with it throughout his training.  He was never able to do more than 9 miles for his long runs during his training this year due to the aggravation of the injury.

Anyone who knows a bit about marathon training knows that you need to build up to at least 20 miles in your long runs to successfully complete a marathon.  Yesterday became more than a marathon fundraiser for Children's Hospital Boston for me.  It was an example of life.  It doesn't always go how we plan it or desire it.  There are bumps and bruises and failed attempts.  I didn't care that David was not going to be able to finish the race.  I felt it was similar to Cameron and his story and the challenges that he has had to face.  I liked that David was willing to be in the race for Cameron in the first place.  It was so clear to me that we all must keep going because sooner or later, we will cross that finish line.  And so will Cameron.

Yesterday's conditions were brutal.  The heat reached close to 90 degrees and the news of the horrible marathon conditions was broadcasted all over the world.  Amateur runners were asked to not participate.  The winner of last year's Boston Marathon set the world winning record for marathon times last year in 2011.  This year, he dropped out at mile 19.  Elite runners began walking at mile 5.  MILE 5!  This is unheard of in any marathon. 

We were busy entertaining 3 Murray Monkeys in the Firehouse designated for our group yesterday.  It is really fun- firefighters giving tours of their trucks to the kids, food everywhere, bubbles, games, and marathon updates.  The firehouse is on the marathon course and we can watch the race from the windows of the firehouse.

Our team of marathon runners' times are updated and everyone cheers throughout the day.  We got David's 5K update and were excited that he made it that far and decided to start the race despite the official warnings to the runners.  Then we got David's 10K update and were getting a little surprised at his time.  A couple runners had to drop out due to the heat and injuries.  We were all concerned about the race conditions and the safety of our team.  By the time we got David's half marathon time, the energy in the Firehouse began to change.  It was no longer about race conditions, running ability, and the reality of marathons.  It became something bigger- what can happen when you let your heart take over and simply make the decision that you are not going to give up.  No matter what.  You will finish the race that you started no matter what the world says.

With each mile that David reached, my heart rate began to increase.  By the time he got to mile 20, I knew he was going to do it.  Despite every obstacle, David was going to make it and he was going to take Cameron right along with him.  When I saw David's smiling face turn the corner on Hereford and Boylston Street and make his way to the Credit Union Kids at Heart Miles for Miracle group, I couldn't stop the tears from flowing.  Geoff and Cameron ran out to meet David on the course.  They each held one of Cameron's hands and lifted him high into the air as they ran towards the finish line.  It's a little under half a mile at that point and eventually David picked Cameron up and ran across the finish line with Cameron held tight in his arms.  The announcer screamed "here comes David Binette and Cameron!" and the crowd went wild.

Three years ago, it was not expected that Cameron would live. He was not expected to be on this earth on April 16, 2012. Cameron crossing the finish line of the most famous marathon in the world would not even have entered the minds of anyone who met him. But, we serve a big God-  A BIG, BIG GOD who specializes in changing lives.

Cameron wore his marathon shirt to bed last night.  Cameron also insisted that he wear it today.  He is currently running around the house with his Miles for Miracles t-shirt on as well as his patient partner marathon medal.  His sisters are chasing him and all three kids are laughing so hard, they can hardly stand up.  With help, Cameron has crossed the most famous finish line in marathon history.  With God's help, we can all run the race that He has set before us and claim the prize that He has promised to all of us.

Photo 1 is Team Murray with David and if you look closely at Photo 2, you can see David holding Cameron's left hand and Geoff holding his right hand as they run towards the finish line on Boylston Street.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

No Food or Drink Allowed

I think I can understand David a little better today. As much as I can relate to being a sinner who loves God with my whole heart, there are so many passages in Scripture that I struggle to deeply understand on a personal, life-defining level.

One of those is a song King David wrote, Psalm 119. Christian author and teacher Beth Moore has a beautiful Sunday school lecture about it. But even with her love of Scripture and her energy when she speaks, I never really felt like doing cartwheels over things like "I reach out for your commands, which I love, that I may meditate on your decrees." v. 48. Or how about verse 97, which says "Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long."

Hmmm, I do many things all day long. Change diapers, pick up toys off the floor, feed several people, wash clothes, wash mouths, wash get the picture. I don't think that I have ever meditated on God's law all day long. At least, not on purpose. Or not because I loved it so much.

On the surface, God's law seems to frustrate a large part of the earth's population. I often hear complaints like "He is such a God of do nots" or "Following God is not very fun." It's a challenge to understand that His law is really best. Even when we think we know better than Him. Becoming a mama has helped soften this side of my stubborn nature a bit. Telling my children "no" or "not yet" because I understand the bigger picture that they do not see has helped me to understand more personally that God is always looking out for me. He sees things that I do not. He understands parts of the way that our world works that I never will. His ways are always the best.

Monday was Cameron's pre-operative appointment. I was quite annoyed when I arrived and the walls and doors and chairs and everywhere I looked were plastered with signs that said "No Food or Drink Allowed." I was like "what are these people thinking?!" Surely they do not understand that I will be entertaining a very active 2 1/2 year old for the next 3 hours while we meet with many different teams of nurses and doctors to prepare for Cameron's upcoming surgery! And Cameron isn't just any toddler; he is one with severe feeding issues. He was well taken care of and had plenty to eat while at Starfish Foster Home. However, his early months of life were not that way and you all saw a couple photos of Cameron as a malnourished infant. He never experienced having enough to eat, and it stays with him to this day. This kid is obsessed with food. Right now, it's the most comforting thing he can find and the fact that this blonde lady who keeps calling herself "mama" keeps giving it to him is working out just fine for him in his new little life that he is trying to decipher.

I am embarrassed to say that I didn't accept this hospital law with much grace. I actually made a comment about it to the desk administrator. And the nurse. And the person sitting next to me in the waiting room of pre-op/admitting. I was relieved when we would be taken into consultation rooms so I could start shoving food into Cameron during our long morning. It's the trick that always works for him when he's about to have a meltdown. Or when I am about to have a meltdown!

Today was not going to be like Monday. Today is _actually_ surgery day. Cameron would need to fast for 8 hours prior to surgery. When I learned that Cameron might not have the first surgery slot, I actually started to cry. I begged the pre-op nurse to make it happen and prayed and had others pray and contacted a friend who is a nurse at Children's Hospital Boston so she could send emails and work her magic to try to make sure this happened.

I knew this would be a problem for my sweet boy. He was not going to understand. It's not that I thought I would be depriving him of food and that he would be hungry and crying. It's because food is synonymous with love for him right now. When I tell Cameron "no" to food, he gets a look of despair and melts down. It is no ordinary toddler meltdown. It is a broken-hearted wail and face so sad that no one in their right mind could go about their business like everything is fine. He cries when I don't give him food first at the table. He cries when someone gets a second helping and asks for more even if his plate is still full. Cameron gets so stressed out by the presence of large quantities of food that he is not consuming that I actually got two tables for us in China when we ate. One table was for the serving dishes of food and the other table is where we sat.

I did my best to distract him this morning. When I took him out of the carseat in the parking garage, he spotted a lone Cheerio on the floor of the car. He immediately pointed to it and asked me for it. I pretended that I did not notice. He looked at me funny and pointed back to the car when I cheerfully walked away from the source of food whistling as if nothing was happening. The pre-op room didn't open until 6 am so we had a few minutes for me to change him and get him dressed this morning. As I pulled the diaper out of the bag, he spotted a ziploc bag and assumed there must be food in it for him. He started to whine and point and sign and yell and do anything he could to tell me that he wanted me to give him some food. At first I pretended like I didn't hear him, but when he threw his "Polar Bear, Polar Bear" book at me and yelled and signed "eat" and gave me a look like, "you are acting like a complete idiot. I know you know what I am saying!!" I started to tear up. I was trying to be brave before surgery but my heart was breaking because I knew for Cameron, food means more to him right now than some activity to keep from being hungry.

I walked out of the bathroom a bit frazzled and looked at Geoff and said "if I see one person even take a sip of water to take their medication, I am going to totally lose it. I am serious. I will go off. I cannot bear to see him suffer and he will lose it if he sees food or drink anywhere." I was just about finished with my little tirade as we approached the office and do you know what the first thing I saw was? A big orange sign that said "NO FOOD OR DRINK ALLOWED." I let out a small sigh of relief and felt like I was in a safe place temporarily. Cameron would not see any water bottles or Cheerios or apples or anything.

As I checked in with the desk administrator, I got a little lump in my throat as I realized that this same person that I complained to on Monday about why wasn't _I_ allowed to have snacks for my child was actually a person who was looking out for him. The rule that I hated on Monday was now offering me peace and comfort on Thursday.

David had a relationship with God that was so special that he was literally called "a man after God's own heart." David said that he loved God's law and would meditate on it day and night. It wasn't the rules, per say, as much as it was that Scripture was a way for him to experience God's presence. Today in the pre-op room, I actually saw a law that really did make me want to do a cartwheel right then and there. Because this same law was not well-received a mere 3 days prior to my celebratory dance, it made me think about God's law. Maybe, just maybe, God knows more than me. And because of this, He wants to protect me. He loves me and wants the best for me. He understands the bigger picture. What seemed painful a few days ago ended up being so much better for Cameron in the long run. My prayer is that I remember this the next time I get flustered with God and list off my complaints to Him. "No Food or Drink Allowed" for anyone just might be the best way after all.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Now I am ready for summer to begin!

Many have been asking for an update on Cameron or simply how things are going. My answer this week is "Now I am ready for summer to begin!" I have always loved September, the real "new year" where resolutions are easy to come by and crossing off to-do lists with brand new colored markers is always the most fun. But since becoming a mama, summer has moved to the top of my list of favorite seasons. Somewhere between hand-picked bouquets of dandylions by chubby toddler hands and sand in every crevice of bodies from head to toe, I have fallen in love with this season. Last year, Gretchen, Madelyn and I were beach bums. I was starting to get pretty darn good at packing us up and heading to the beach most days.

The beginning of this summer was FRANTIC. Adoption paperwork, arguing with my bank over crisp, new bills to take to China, 16 days away from my daughters in order to pick up my son- their brother. Stress. Cameron came home 2 months ago. Seems like yesterday and seems like a lifetime ago simultaneously.

Coming home is hard. Really hard. And the issues that you deal with while being jetlagged and sleep deprived are much more complicated than dealing with a newborn coming home from the hospital. Instead of nursing my newborn in a rocking chair, I am trying to get my toddler to not rock his head violently when he is trying to fall asleep. Instead of trying to figure out if my one month old will accept breastmilk from a bottle, I am trying to get my toddler who was home for a month to stop using a bottle to prepare him for his cleft palate surgery. Instead of trying to get big sister toddler to give more gentle hugs and kisses to the baby, I am trying to get all toddlers to stop hitting each other and use words. Except he doesn't have any. And won't. For a LONG time.

Last year, the memory-making moments flowed from one day to the next. This summer has been memorable for sure, but the photo opportunities of fun in the summer sun had to be thoughtfully planned out and acted upon. Cameron has been home for 8 weeks and has been to see 11 different specialists at Children's Hospital Boston. The administrators at the front desk who graciously stamp my parking tickets every visit recognize me and recognize Cameron.

In between trying to get a handle on everything that is going on with Cameron medically and prepping things for his upcoming palate repair and ear surgery, we managed to squeeze in some playground time, a few visits to the beach, and lots of time on the mechanical carousel at Market Basket which is my new favorite activity and only costs a quarter!

This week Facebook posts have been filled with adorable cherubs in backpacks waiting for school buses and first days of school. I love seeing the toothless grins proudly displaying their new outfits. But, I am really not ready for Fall yet and it's here nonetheless. Before I lament too long about my not enough beach time summer, I have to keep focused on one thing and one thing only- God's plan for our lives. His word says in Eccelesiastes 3 that "there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens."

After many years of waiting for our adoption, the final months were filled with prayers that went something like "make this happen in your perfect timing, Lord." God knew the day that Cameron would meet his forever family and He knew that the best time for that to happen for the Murrays would be the summer.

So now it's time for me to do what I have been working so hard to teach my children- make good choices. I can choose to be grumpy that I schlepped into Boston all summer to go to doctor appointments or I can be thankful that I have a son now and that I live in the country (and city) that has the best doctors in the world. I can choose to be sad that we never went to the wading pool once during the month of July because we had to wait for giardia stool tests to be negative 3 times, or I can be thankful that it is cleared up and we went a couple times in August. I can choose to have my prayers be "please God, let there be a parking space on the first or second floor of the garage so I don't have to wait for the annoyingly long elevator" or they can be "please God, heal the child whose Dad is weeping in the elevator and carrying a duffle bag with his clothes for another week while his son is in treatment at CHB."

Our blow-up kiddie pool is looking pretty dingy and sadly deflated leaning against the carport wall. I keep hoping that after this cold and rainy weather ends, it will be replaced with 80 degree days that will give me a reason to fill it back up again. If not, I think I will take a hayride and pick some apples or pumpkins with an adorable little boy who will finally have the holes in his palate fixed and won't have to cough and sneeze and have food dripping out of his nose when he eats because "there is a season for every activity under the heavens."

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

God Knows Our Story

There is a very special passage in Scripture in the book of Psalms, chapter 139. In this song, David is talking to God about how no one could know David better than God. In verse 16, he writes "Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be."

There have been many times that I have meditated upon this chapter and specifically this verse. God has a very specific purpose for all of our lives. He made a blueprint, even before we began to develop in our mother's womb. He also has ordained every single day that we will be on the earth. There is no greater pain suffered on earth than the loss of a child. It is helpful to understand that God already knew every day that they would be on this earth, even if we don't understand why.

He knows the day that we begin forming. He knows the day that we will be born. He knows the day that we will die. And God knows everything in between.

This past Spring, Geoff and I lost a baby. Many families around the world have endured this pain since the beginning of time. When a baby dies before 20 weeks gestation, the death is called a miscarriage. When a baby dies after 20 weeks gestation, the medical world calls the death a stillborn. Let me be clear in stating that this was not a "failed pregnancy." This was a baby that we planned for and deeply desired. We named him Jason Paul and still mourn his absence from our family and that he and Cameron will not be sharing a bedroom on earth.

I thought a lot about this verse during the inital stages of grief. It makes me sad that I never got to hold him in my arms or raise him with his siblings, but I do know exactly where he is- safe in the arms of Jesus. I know that God does not make mistakes and that He knew exactly how long Jason would be in my womb. So many times in which I have thought about the words in King David's song to God have really been about death and that God knows exactly when because all of our days are written in His book.

In Cameron's life story, however, these verses make me think about life and when we are born. The first obvious notion is because Cameron did not grow in my womb. He grew in another woman's. And even then as God helped form him, He knew in his omnipotence that she would not be the one to raise Cameron. There are many events that surround Cameron's beginning that are unclear. But God knows his story.

According to the orphanage records and medical reports, Cameron was abandoned on March 13, 2009 at a very large and prominent hospital in Xi'an, China. The interesting piece of information about this location is that it is a military hospital and actually considered the best hospital in this very large city with the same population size as New York City. The doctors did an estimate of his age and determined his birthdate to be February 29, 2009.

For those of you who do not have the leap years memorized, you can get out a calendar and see that that day does not exist in time. There is no February 29, 2009. This had a deep impact on me while I was in China. Not only was a little boy abandoned by his family and no one but God knows why, but the next caregivers that he would have assigned a birthday to him that does not exist in our world. I grieved for Cameron. I cried for that little baby who no one really knew.

The mistake was realized eventually as his birthdate was then changed to February 28, 2009 in later paperwork. Abandonment is illegal in China so when a baby is found, the first call is to the police. They do a thorough search for birth parents. Once the investigation is over, they call the orphanage and deliver the baby to them (unless they need hospitalization first). The orphanage is responsible for putting an ad in the paper with the details that they have to see if the family or any extended family members know any information on the baby or claim the baby. This is called a finding ad.

Part of the paperwork process during the adoption in China is giving each family their child's finding ad. This day was another interesting moment in China. I actually have a copy of Cameron's original finding ad. In it, the birthdate that was originally assigned to him was February 29, 2009. In the copy of a copy of a copy that I received from the orphanage on adoption day, the date said February 28, 2009. Same paper. Same day of printing of that paper. Different days. I understand a bit about the Chinese notion of saving face, so I am choosing to not pursue this journey any further. The point is, no one really knows when Cameron was born. No one that is, except his birth mother and God.

When I first received the photos of the day that Cameron came to live at Starfish, the level of his malnourishment was shocking. I felt then that he was not 2 weeks old when he went to the orphanage. I thought he was probably older but was so small and frail and sick, they guessed at 2 weeks. I don't think the doctors that evaluated him knew what to think of a baby like Cameron. He was days, perhaps hours from death on the day he went to live at Starfish. Cameron was so malnourished that his limbs were no longer able to move. Out of respect for my son, the photos that I included in this blog are not the full body shots or the ones where you can really see how close to death he was.

The day I met Cameron in China 3 weeks ago, I felt the same thing- that he was older. There is no particular reason when you first meet him to assume that he is older. It was a knowing in my gut. He is actually quite short. Madelyn is a peanut, and they are supposed to be the exact same age and she is a little taller than Cameron. Yesterday was the first of many doctor appointments at Boston Children's Hospital. When the cleft lip and palate nurse began Cameron's examination, she said "you know that Cameron is older than his birthdate, right?" "Yes," I said "I had a feeling that he was." They recommended a bone scan for a better estimate of his age for medical purposes only.

Adoption is very much like a treasure hunt. You get some clues here and there. Some of them are real clues, some of them almost seem like they were set out to confuse the other pirates looking for the treasure. You piece it together to try to form a story of your child. You want to tell them their story. The reality is that I don't know all of Cameron's story and neither does the foster home who lovingly nursed him to health and neither does the orphanage who had him for the first 2 months after he was abandoned.

Not only do I know that God knows Cameron's story, but I also know that Cameron is a treasure. A treasure that was worthy to be sought after and found. His special needs do not make him less worthy of a treasure. They are part of his blueprint, part of his story and therefore, part of what makes him a treasure.

Jesus told a parable in which he compared the kingdom of heaven to a treasure. “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field." Matthew 13:44.

We currently very much feel like that man who sold everything he had to buy the field where the treasure was. Adoption is expensive. Very expensive. But the focus of this verse for me are two phrases "in joy" and "hidden treasure." How appropriate that Lelai means "joy is coming." His Chinese caregivers called him "LeLe" as a nicname which would mean double happiness or overwhelming joy. And just like we needed to give up so much to be able to experience the joy and find this special hidden treasure of Cameron, Jesus tells us that that is what the kingdom of heaven is like. It is a treasure so special that you will want to give up everything in your life to obtain that treasure- to be in Heaven with God.

King David was right in his thoughts about God and no wonder so many of his songs are about how God knows us- deeply, intimately and like no one else ever can. God knows our story. And He thinks we are a treasure. As Cameron grows and we tell him his story, that is what we want him to know and understand.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Look! Team Murray is all together!

About 30 hours after leaving our hotel in Guangzhou, Gretchen was jumping up and down in the airport parking lot and says "Look! Team Murray is finally all together!" Indeed.

The trip home was brutal, but Cameron handled it like a champ. It was only by the grace of God that I was not puking on the flight heading into Newark. The two things that make me lose it are 1. severe motion sickness and 2. hearing other people throwing up. The last hour of the flight was so bad that the airline attendants were passing out barf bags with the customs forms. Upon arrival, Immigration officials state "we all looked at each other and couldn't believe the pilots had decided to land in this weather." Great. Not exactly the "welcome home" that I was anticipating.

I had Officer Grumpy Grumpington process us through customs and immigration. All of the paperwork is done in China with their government as well as the U.S. Consulate so they send me into the US with a sealed package to give to the immigration officer upon entry. Cameron became our son in China on June 27th and then became a US citizen the moment we stepped foot in the country Friday night. I decided to stop respecting the fact that we were in Yankees territory since everyone was so gloomy and ruining my mood and started exclaiming to all of them "Well, the US has its newest Red Sox fan!" I made sure they saw me change Cameron into his "My Mommy and Daddy think I am a great catch!" Red Sox shirt and his new baseball cap.

Flights were cancelled and delayed all evening Friday, but we eventually made it home. It's hard to really know how these things will go. There is so much preparation and so much prayer, and I tried to not place any expectations on the whole thing. Is Cameron going to be scared? Excited? How will the girls react when they see me? I worked to push the questions aside and see what would happen. Cameron was exhausted and so was I. I was overjoyed to see my baby girls again. As much of a nightmare as the travel was, it was behind us and I will remember the moment when my daughters met their brother for the rest of my life.

They were excited to see me, but their welcome for their brother was so touching and so deeply genuine, that the rest of the tired travelers all had to stop what they were doing to watch it all. It was very late, like seriously hours past their bedtime. They were so happy that they could not contain their joy. It literally spilled out of them in loud squeals and giggles. They kept running around in circles around him and Gretchen could not stop hugging him and saying "You are here! You are here, Cameron! It's very nice to meet you. You are my little brother!"

He wasn't quite sure what to make of them but was carefully taking it all in. They were showering him with their stuffed animals and kissing him and hugging him over and over again. Their complete joy and total acceptance of Cameron was mind-boggling to me. It really made me think about how God wants us to respond to the people He has placed in our lives. There were no questions in their hearts. They saw him as their gift of a brother and could think of no other way to respond but by jumping up and down in excitement, running around in circles and squealing with glee at his mere presence.

Madelyn then spotted a sheep cellphone hanging around Cameron's neck. This sheep is called "Pleasant Goat" "Happy Goat" or "Happy Sheep" in China. It's some popular Chinese cartoon character that Cameron would point to whenever he saw it in China. I eventually bought him this obnoxious piece of plastic junk molded to look like a cellphone that plays this ear-piercing annoying song over and over again. It's the theme song from the show.

Madelyn seeing this new toy that she wants, then says matter of factly "Look, Cameron, we share. Here is my horsie, passing him her stuffed animal. Now you give me the sheep!" He might not understand a lot of English yet, but he sure understood what Madelyn was preparing for him, so he took off running. Madelyn then started chasing him to get the toy and then Gretchen started chasing them because it seemed like the right thing to do at the time.

I was in line at the claims department trying to get Continental to pay for my new stroller that they broke in half. I don't know how that is even possible. That thing made its way all through China and back to the US and somehow the fine folks at Continental break it in half from Newark to Boston. I am half talking to an uninterested employee in the claims department and half watching my 3 children chase each other around the baggage claim area over a piece of junky plastic that I so wanted to "accidentally" leave in the hotel room in China.

Then I notice that the scenario began to change on its own. Cameron started laughing hysterically at all the running. Madelyn seemed to forget why she was chasing him in the first place. And Gretchen was only in it for the thrill of running around in circles anyway. The three of them just ran and laughed and ran and laughed and you couldn't help but be energized by all of their giggles. The weariness seemed to lift from every traveler in the entire airport, even after midnight. We all just sat and watched these three run and run and run.

Joy. Pure joy.

The lack of sleep was followed by another airport run in the morning to drop off my mom who was flying to Pittsburgh for a week before heading back to Texas after helping Geoff for the past week. The three Murray Monkeys could not stay awake on the car ride. So, with joy in our hearts and laughter on our lips, our new life together officially begins.

Friday, July 8, 2011

It's Official!

Cameron Lelai Murray is now a citizen of the United States of America, having landed in Newark, New Jersey and gone through Customs & Immigration!

Unfortunately, due to bad weather, they're having a hard time finding a flight to Boston.

Please pray they don't have to stay overnight in New Jersey (not that I have anything against New Jersey, other than that they're Yankees/Giants/Devils fans - I just want Christy & Cameron home!)