First and Last

I took her next door wrapped in a blanket her grandma bought her. It says “I love hugs.” I wanted to check her weight, and the healing home next door had a baby scale. Two friends were visiting when we decided to weigh her, so the three of us traipsed across the hall with Cora wrapped tightly. The two night nannies were excited to meet the new arrival, so as we prepared to weigh Cora in the back bedroom, there were 5 adults fawning over one tiny baby. I stepped back and saw her out of the corner of my eye.

Joy. One of our newest arrivals… she’s not quite 5 months old, and she was snuggled into bed for the night, tightly wrapped in cozy blankets. But her eyes were wide open and alert, straining to watch the hustle and bustle happening just mere steps away. As the adults chattered over the new baby, Joy quietly watched… and I watched her.

My heart ached. It isn’t fair. These two beautiful little girls in the same room but with such very different lives. Joy turned her head away from the noise, and as she did I noticed the tell-tale sign of orphanage life. A misshapen head from too long lying on one side. I glanced at my own daughter’s round head… already knowing the curve of it under my finger… the places her hair is thicker and the places it is thin. Even when she’s in the nanny’s arms, I can feel the shape of her head in my hands. It isn’t fair.

Joy loves hugs, too.

It was hard while I was pregnant, but it is harder now… to conceive of these differences. Fate, fallenness, fortune – people have different ways to describe these violations of fairness, but I don’t try to label it. I just grieve and wonder how to have a whole heart in the midst of such brokenness.


It struck me the other morning, as I spent an hour memorizing the shape of Cora’s toes, that my first month with her is my last month in China. The days are ticking down… only a couple of weeks before we say goodbye to many of our friends, who will be returning to their hometowns for Chinese New Year. Thinking about it makes me cry. And while I’m enjoying “nesting” with sweet Cora in our apartment, I realized that each day I spend in the four walls of this apartment is a day I’m not spending with my co-workers at the foster home, going to see/do something for the “last time” in Beijing, playing with the toddlers in preschool, or eating hot pot with friends. I don’t know that I’m strong enough for the month ahead.


God is good and gracious and faithful. I repeat it like a mantra. Sometimes I know it to be true; sometimes I say it hoping eventually I will also believe it. Joy lies alone in her crib; Cora nestles her head into my chest. God is good and gracious and faithful to both little girls. I am learning to be a mother and often feeling inept. God is good and gracious and faithful to me. I am grieving the change in life and fearful about what is ahead. God is good and gracious and faithful in the journey ahead.

He’s sending me reminders of this… often from you. Yesterday I read an email from a blog reader who had never introduced herself before, someone who also lived in China for a season of her life… Her closing paragraph said this:

China changed me in ways that most people do not understand.  Coming home was hard but necessary…. oh how I empathize with the plethora of emotions swirling around inside of you. What I do know that is that you must be gracious to yourself in the transition…. be kind to yourself as you grieve what you have lost by coming home… hold the grief in one hand and the joy in the other and know that your Father is, above all things, faithful and good.

I sobbed when I read it. Oh how I need to learn to be gracious with myself… why is that always the hardest of all?


These unrelated and rambling thoughts are brought to you by the sleeplessness of new motherhood. Can I really do this? I’m not sure… they say it goes quickly. In some ways I’m already looking forward to an 8-hours-of-sleep kind of night, but in other ways, I already miss her little fingers and toes.

13 thoughts on “First and Last

  1. Sweet sweet Carrie. you ask “can I do this?”
    You ARE doing it honey! Each and every day, moment by moment….you are doing it! The most wonderful, tiring, honorable, tiring, fun, tiring, and privileged (and tiring) job in the world! MOTHER.
    I read this in my Jesus Calling book yesterday:
    “The future is a phantom, seeking to spook you. Laugh at the future! Stay close to Me.”
    Thank you for sharing the email about being gracious to yourself. I really needed to hear that too!
    When we come home from China each time with a new child, I am always the hardest on myself. “Must get this done, must attend to this, must be joyful about this, must work harder to attach to this one…”
    Your feelings after seeing little Joy in her crib are some I felt after the first time in an orphanage. Oh the bitter tears and heartbreak. Yet you are right! The same God that gave our children to us, is the same God over every single orphan…and yes, He is good and gracious and faithful! And we are HIS, thank you Jesus!
    Praying for you everyday!


  2. Carrie,
    You write beautifully for a new mommy. It is exhausting, scary, confusing, and the most wonderful thing all rolled into one.
    I can only imagine all of the emotions you're experiencing now with two huge life changes occurring in tandem and the mixed emotions of loving Cora with all your heart while surrounded by children without that kind of love. Trust in your faith, and your family to get through this…


  3. I have typed and deleted words several times in this comment box. Not sure what to say–I'm imagining the scene you are describe here and seeing the babies in the same room, so different in their situations. It's hard to comprehend.

    May God reveal Himself to you in such a way that you will be assured that He is good and gracious and faithful and present and active.


  4. Carrie, as I read over the “bittersweetness” of this post, I couldn't help but think “God planned it this way.” He planned for your first month with Cora to be your last month in China. He planned for your tiny, healthy, beloved baby to cross paths with orphan babies. And He's NOT going to waste it. I think this month will be a defining month in shaping you into the woman…and mother…that He destined you to be. Motherhood has been my biggest teacher, and I'm sure you will find it the same for you!


  5. You have such a gift with words Carrie. Most of the time your posts leave me in tears. I feel your angst. I don't want you to leave because I simply don't know anyone in China who can pull me in the way you do. I have lived through your words, felt China in new ways since finding your blog.
    Come what may, God is sovereign. He is faithful and He is at work for good. Oh sweet baby Joy. I wish you could bring her with you. I wish so many things. The only balm for what ails the world is Jesus. That's really the bottom line.
    I love the advice to hold your grief in one hand and your joy in the other.
    You have been changed. No going back. But God will use it all for His glory. Wait and see.
    Blessings to you and your hubby and sweet and precious Cora.
    Holly from Purpose Driven Family


  6. Carrie, I will be praying for you. I ran across this quote in my new prayer journal and it has been encouraging and thought provoking to me. “Faith is deliberate confidence in the character of God whose ways you may not understand at the time.” Oswald Chambers.
    Looking forward to the day He makes all things new and hanging onto His character in the meantime!


  7. You can totally do it! I will be praying for you. You have such a beautiful heart Carrie! God is using you in mighty ways, and will continue to use you while in the US.


  8. Heartbreaking. I say those same words to myself over and over again. You have is like reminding yourself out loud as if God was saying those words to me.

    I know leaving behind all those that you love is going to be so so terrible hard. I am bathing your little family in prayer. You have touched so many lives there Carrie…not just children but the people! They will never forget you…I truly feel that in my heart. I for one have been moved and touched and changed by your experience there…most times you express feelings I am having living abroad even though I don't have the words to express myself.

    Love you girl….I am praying!


  9. There should be a tear emoticon on here. Because I'm crying too.

    I am just so sad adn so thankful that you see these things. And tha you feel so deeply. A day doesn't go by that I don't grieve for half (over half now!) of my kids. Half knew the love of a Mommy from the beginning and half knew heartache much too soon.


  10. Hi Carrie, I followed you and the New Day Foster Home for quite a while now but have never posted. I wanted to say congratulations on your new gift! How precious! And to say that I totally relate to your emotions thinking about Cora and then the other children you work with that have such different lives. I have a little one from China, 4 years old and has been home a little over 3. She was 16 months old at Gotcha. By a miracle and gift from God, we also have a 16 month little angel now. How many times have I said to myself all through these 16 months look at all that our sweet Charlotte missed out on. My heart aches everythime I think about it. We have so much to “make” up for, and it is challenging at times. But that is just the her journey and we will be there every step of the way. Praying for you as you begin to make this transition. I can't even begin to imagine the emotions. And thank you for all you have done for those sweet ones in China!


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