Looking Forward and Looking Back



I pinned and planned for weeks. Made multiples lists and had the kids packed for days. I printed maps of our drive and maps of possible hikes. I’d watched a Netflix show about a chef who cooked only outdoors that month, so I, inspired, bought food and snacks to cook over an open fire. I made the reservation of a site on which we’d pitch a tent and spend less than 24 hours. It was my husband’s birthday weekend and we were going camping.


A year ago…


I remember wanting to be outdoorsy and relaxed but how I was actually frustrated and on edge most of the time. My annoyance started with all the preparations. (There is so much to think about when you go camping!) It continued as we set up camp and then compounded with each meal. No one seemed to care how much time it took me to plan or how this food that was cooked over a fire tasted.



(Really, Sonya? Broccoli?)


Maybe it was the kids’ ages? Or my inexperience? My natural personality? Or simply the fact that it was a time in my life where I felt chronically tired and easily angered, regardless of what was happening around me?


The kids were so noisy, laughing mostly, and you know you have a problem when you’re annoyed with your kids for laughing too much. I kept trying to tell myself, You’re supposed to be enjoying this. But I couldn’t. And despite a few funny moments (the woman with the British accent across the way complaining about marshmallow in her hair), on the whole, I didn’t.




Near the end of our trip while we were hiking, maybe a half hour or so before finished, the sun beams trickled through the fall leaves and a yellow warmth quieted my heart. Tired from the miles of hills and valleys, Chris and I walked the incline in stride while the big kids were behind us a bit (the little one was snoozing in the pack on Chris’ back). Like a warm breeze kissing my skin, I became calm, relaxed, content. It was as if my mind and body needed 24 solid hours of mountain air and some good physical work before I was really able to breathe and appreciate these moments of our life.


A year ago, our camping trip coincided with me preparing to quit my job. A job that was taking much more from me than what it was giving. 

A year ago, we signed papers and wrote a check committing us to this path of adoption.

A year ago, our short camping trip marked the beginning of a year of simplicity.




“You really want to go?”


This year, even though we’d talked about it, even though I bought groceries, I asked just in case he changed his mind. Just in case it was going to be as cold as we thought and he wanted to bail out and it wouldn’t be me saying No.





I pulled out the bin I made last year labeled “Camping” and started a pile of sleeping bags and pillows and blankets. I threw clothes into duffel bags and grabbed everything I could think of in one hour that we might need. From matches to mittens. The next afternoon, we packed an entire minivan full of camping gear for one night under the stars.


This year, the preparations didn’t bother me. This year, I kept things simple. Hot dogs to roast. A can of beans to warm. Applesauce. S’mores. The next day would be an easy breakfast followed by an even easier lunch. As it happens, we all had plenty to eat and no one cared that I made life easier on myself.





This year, I couldn’t make a reservation at the site, so we went with no expectations. If the campground was full, we’d hike and then come back home. We would not be disappointed. We’d enjoy what we could.



This year, we gave the kids jobs to do when we got to the campsite and I was able to appreciate the work my husband did in setting up camp. Was I seeing differently? Was it just because we had done this before that made it seem better? Or had a year really changed me this much? Sure, I kept things decidedly simple (and that must have helped) but there was a marked contrast in my mindset from last year.



(Good Freezing Morning! We wore every bit of clothing we brought.)




(Another year, another nap in the carrier.)



Next year, I hope to remember how ridiculously cold it was, how Chris made a fire from kindling and wet wood, how I bought the “Jumbo” marshmallows which no one should ever be allowed to serve to children, how loud 30 mph wind can be at 2am, and how every few minutes I looked at my kids and thought about our daughter who is half a world away, who will be with us next year.  


Do you think we can camp with her?

Do you think she’ll like camping?

Do you think we’ll be OKAY enough by next year to do this? 


In this coming year, we have a lot of unknowns. 


In this coming year, our entire world will continue to operate from a point of simplicity and realistic expectations. In this coming year, we will celebrate small victories and concentrate on quality time with our little family. We will take what we’ve been practicing, out of necessity this past year, and use it as our guide for this coming one. 


What a difference a year can make.




An Adoption Update:

We are in another paperwork phase (the obscurely named government paperwork now: I-8whatevers and DS-Idon’tremembers) at the tail end of the adoption process. We are still amazed our referral came so fast and each of our hearts are catching up and already loving the little girl in the pictures we’ve put up around the house.

We still don’t have travel dates, but anticipate it will be well before the end of the year. (If you haven’t noticed, that’s about 2 seconds away.) My head is reeling from all the normal-life things and all the need-to-do-before-and-for-China things.

The remainder of our expenses are split into two groups: one is to our adoption agency for program/travel fees and the other is what we pay out-of-pocket for “on the ground” fees in China. Because the referral came months (6-12!) before we expected, we’ve been fundraising in less than 2 months(!!) what many people do in a year.

Friends of ours came up with an idea where every $8 buys a puzzle piece (for an actual puzzle we’ll have in our home to show our daughter!) for our fees in China, through a GoFundMe account. If you’re interested in supporting us in this way, there is more info on the site and regardless of any donation, we’d love it if you’d consider sharing it. It’s been a really cool experience to meet (and get reacquainted) with people who have a heart for adoption!

I don’t really have the right words to say Thank You to so many who have supported us (in so many ways) in the past year with our adoption process. My prayer is that God would grow in all of us a love for supporting adoption — in whatever way that looks. 

Already, I  anticipate looking back on this coming year and being amazed. 

Sonya Spillmann

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