Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Sterling Mei: (35) Frozen in a Third Country

"Hey listen guys... (she pauses to make sure that absolutely everyone in the room is looking at her) ...do you like Frozen?"

The air is cool tonight as it blows through our open windows. It's a clear 59 degrees fahrenheit here in Guatemala and the temperature continues to drop inside our home. I'd never call it cold, it's just a slight chill that lingers on your fingertips and calls out for a hoody.

Meanwhile there's a storm brewing in Ohio. A winter storm watch covers our old hometown. While my Ohio friend's won't understand it, I find myself a little jealous. With memories of winter's past in my mind, I close my eyes in the darkness and listen to the sound of the wind sweep through the trees... 

I smile as I remember snow blowing against frosted windows. The cool Guatemalan air swirls around my head and I imagine it as an arctic blast creeping through memories of insulated walls and carpeted floors.

I am drawn back to the present as I listen to Remus our schnauzer softly snoring out a soothing rhythm. Kellie is sleeping next to me after a day of battling traffic and navigating Guatemalan and international law. She delivered a stack of precious papers to Mr. Morales, our immigration attorney. We were nervous... were the documents in order?

We are at the end of our window to get the paperwork submitted. Our fingerprints from the U.S. that we completed in July expire at the end of this month. So too does our tourist visa. If our application for residency isn't accepted, we'll have to fly back to the U.S., and begin the process again. Plane tickets are expensive. So are the procedures we follow. A lot of money is riding on this moment. 

Take a breath now, have faith, and wait. The answer came...today was a great day for our family. All appears in order. We can submit our packet. This is a time to celebrate! 

The documents that are being translated by our attorney for submission to Guatemalan Immigration have travelled thousands of miles: Caleb's from Ohio, Aleksandra's from Russia, and Sterling's from China. As we carried Sterling's packet to the attorney, we were aware that the contents represented eight years of sacrifice: six for the adoption process, and two to convert the documents from Chinese to English to Spanish.

Life is very much a convergence of many things. Last week while obtaining authentication of our Passports at the U.S. Embassy (and giving $255 to Uncle Sam) we had to wait for 4 hours while they processed our documents... and we found a Frozen themed ball-house and slide. It was closed, but we slipped under the velvet ropes and let that child play! After all, the Guatemalan mother's were doing it... when in Rome...

And so today was a beautiful tapestry woven from the hand of God. We saw aspects of our life all represented in paper form: our marriage, our children, all in a manilla envelop heading to an overworked official in a government building, whose signatures will grant the Shepherd family legal standing for our work here in Guatemala.

As I held those documents these past few days, I could hear whispers of the struggles and smiles of the years that have led to this moment. I remember the delays, the impossible odds, the relentless pushing ahead, the desperate prayers to God, and the celebrations as He shattered barriers every step of the way. Today another barrier has fallen.

And so... I find myself again reflecting on little Sterling. She has become the Chinese Lily that represents it all. She brings joy to every room she enters. The first room we encountered her in was a Chinese adoption unit... she was described by the nurse as "crazy and dangerous" and we laughed as she reached for Kellie.

This past summer she delighted a judge as she sang and danced for him as he brought his gavel down to finalize a new U.S. Certificate of Live Birth. We all laughed with the relieved pressure of that accomplishment as the judge let her repeatedly slam his gavel down on the hardwood.

And now we anticipate a day where together our whole family celebrates as the final stamp and signature is embossed on our residency here. Unlike all the international paperwork up to this point... this one we all move through together. We're an American family, serving our God in Guatemala.

We have more hurdles to cross. Once our packet is approved, we'll need to complete the interview. It will be our little family crammed into a room with one man or woman who will either grant us residency, or deny our claim. At this point we have faith that God is in control. He has not brought us this far to abandon us now. We'll complete that interview, walking in faith no matter what.

And then I'm sure we'll return to our sweatshirt required house, cuddle up on the couch, and again (for another countless time) we will watch Frozen, 
in Sterlings third country.

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