Yesterday we drove into the Virginia countryside, all six of us buckled into the car within multiple layers of cotton and fleece. A friend from our old neighborhood has family in the country, and every year extends an invitation for us to join her at the point-to-point races put on by the local steeped-in-tradition hunt club. In an hour, we can leave our concrete jungle to enter a world of old money, tweed, horses, and tailgating.
To be totally honest, I didn’t want to go. It was going to be a beautiful day, and, I don’t know, I just wanted to stay home. We had nothing to do, exactly, but I just wanted to keep things simple. I didn’t want to spend an hour in the car, visit with people we see every one or two years, make small-talk, and supervise four kids. (We have four kids now, and I still cannot get over this fact.)
It just seemed like too much—too much work, too much effort. But Chris, who surprises me sometimes with an It’ll Be Good, We’ll Be Okay attitude, let me make the final decision even though he was pretty much done packing up the van by the time I said, “Yes, let’s go.”
It had been two years since we last went to the races: our youngest was 2 ½, I was a month away from speaking at Listen To Your Mother, I’d just started this blog, adoption was on our hearts, and I hated my job.
I can mark time by this event.
Years ago, at one of the first races we came to, I asked the origins of Point-to-Point horse racing. My neighbor’s father said it basically started after a fox hunt in the United Kingdom somewhere in the late 1800s, when one guy on a horse looked at another guy on a horse, motioned with his head to the steeple of a church far in the distance. They both nodded, stuck their heels into their horses’ sides, and took off — racing from where they were, jumping over streams or bushes or trees, to be the first one to get to the church. It became tradition, as old English things tend to do, and usually involves a friendly wager. Point-to-point races are the Steeple Chase’s more casual, but still pretty formal, cousin. (They are probably more like brothers.)
Naturally, yesterday’s event ended up being lovely. The weather, the people, the leave-the-city fresh air and sky and mountains and stone walls for miles that reminded Chris of the English countryside.
I ate deviled eggs and chatted with our former neighbor’s family, and kept thinking “How is it, that seven days ago, I was across the country?” A week ago, I was in California for the launch of a book by the group I write for, Coffee+Crumbs. I watched zero kids, laughed and cried with women I’d come to know and love through our writing, and celebrated this book (which kind of felt like a baby coming into the world) — a tangible result of moving forward, in faith, letting God direct the words and steps and hopes. A dream realized.
It reminded me of how I felt a week after coming home from China. How could we have been on the entire other side of the world just a week ago? How is it that this child is ours? Before she wasn’t, now she is. We were overwhelmed and grateful. Tired. Excited. Fearful but also confident.
Yesterday, the matriarch of the family talked with Chris while I peeled oranges and handed out sandwiches to our four kids laying on a striped picnic blanket on the other side of the pickup truck parked in the grass. “You know, I’m adopted,” she told him, “and I’d like to know how you came to the decision to adopt your daughter.” In the middle of a bite of food, Chris nodded, and then an old family friend walked by, interrupting them to say hello.
Not long after, we gathered water bottles, abandoned fleeces, layers of clothing, kids. We folded up blankets and chairs, stuffed orange peels and the edges of peanut butter sandwiches into empty sandwich bags and started to say our goodbyes and make our exit. (It’s a rather lengthy process and I’d like to report we did end up making it to our son’s soccer game on time, even though it seemed improbable upon our departure.)
“Best of luck to you with everything, Viv is a doll, I’m so glad to have met her,” one of the very zen and present relatives in the younger generation said to me as she rubbed Viv’s arm gently. “Wait, weren’t you doing some speaking event the last time we saw each other?”
I smiled. “Yes.”
“How’d it go?”
“Good–Actually, I wanted to tell you how much I appreciated what you said to me about it.”
She laughed— she had only a vague memory of our interaction two years ago, and I know this feeling well. So I told her what I remember: we stood on this same hill full over overgrown grass and clover, ignoring the horse race. I told her how nervous I was to speak, make this story public, yet also how grateful I was for the opportunity. I told her I didn’t know what to do with it or what would come of it. And that she looked me in the eye, smiled with just one side of her mouth, and said she wasn’t sure why, but felt she should tell me something that just came to her heart:
This is bigger than you.
Little by little that first year, writing became a symbol, or a tangible by-product, of trusting God with what He has put on my heart to do. Each little step: His. Each time I hit publish, or send, even if it wasn’t overtly about my faith, it was still His. Through this process, I felt brave enough to move forward with adoption — to say “Yes, let’s go” even though Chris, with his It’ll Be Good, We’ll Be Okay self, was already packed and ready.
“It was, and still is, bigger than me,” I told her yesterday. “It seems funny to say, but Viv is here because I started writing. And if she is the sole reason, it will have been totally worth it.”
We hugged and I turned to leave. Just before we walked away, the older lady touched Chris’ arm and invited us to come visit them at the farm this summer. “Someday soon, I want to hear the answer to my question—about why you adopted.” He said we’d love to come visit, and that we’d love to tell her our story.
We drove down a gravel path and turned left onto a paved road to take us home.
Horses raced in the distance, jumping over hurdles, running with purpose, from point to point.
Thank you for reading! If you’re interested in learning more about the book I mentioned, The Magic of Motherhood, (a perfect gift for Mother’s Day or a baby shower — or simply to offer as encouragement to a young mom in your life) pick up a copy anywhere books are sold. (Or click here and scroll down for links of where to buy!)
**Just to be clear — I am not in this book! (It was a done deal before they asked me to be a part of the writing team…) but it hardly matters — the book is a gem and I’m so proud to be a part of this group.