1 Year Home: An Open Letter
Judah, my son,
I want to write these words down for you. Someday you can read the whole story to gain a better understanding of how our journey together began. I pray that you’ll always know how much we love you. I pray that you’ll always understand, deep down, how grateful we are to cheer you on and celebrate you every step of the way. I hope that you always remember that you are strong, you are an overcomer, and that you can do hard things. I pray that you will always believe that you are valuable and that God has a purpose and a plan uniquely for you, just as He does for all of us.
I want to begin by reflecting on our time together in India. I know that this 7-minute video does not do our time in India justice. Your birth city and birth country are breathtakingly beautiful. They will always be a part of our hearts and a part of your story. Our first days and weeks together were sacred and cannot be fully described. It’s impossible to summarize a 24-day journey into dozens of photos and a few videos. There is so much more, but I’m grateful that I wrote most of it down for you to read someday. I needed to remember every detail for you, baby boy, so you can have as much information as you desire. I called your story Journey to Judah, but it was really a journey WITH you and a journey with Jesus. Someday, we will go back to India and experience it all again.
I can’t believe we came home one year ago. It seems like yesterday, and simultaneously, it seems like you’ve always been with us. I will never forget that moment: stepping off the plane in Kansas City, Missouri, carrying you in my arms. It was surreal. It was 5 years, 2 months, and 25 days in the making. We had traveled to India as two, and we had returned as three. We were just moments away from officially becoming FIVE. You met your sisters for the first time, and after months (and years) of dreaming about it, I finally had all three of my precious children held in the same embrace.
We walked through the exit to great fanfare. We will always be thankful for the blessings and encouragement we received from others. So many people were anxiously awaiting your arrival. Cheers and smiles and posters and balloons and tears and so many of your rallied supporters greeted us at the airport. You were an answered prayer for so many, even if they don’t understand what you went through to get there. It was a marathon finish line celebration...and yet, it was the start of new beginning as well.
You were overwhelmed and clung to me as laughter and sobs erupted around us. It’s hard to fathom that it was a year ago when all of those emotions collided in a single space. I look back at those photos, and I barely recognize that tiny baby in my arms. You were 13 months old, 15 pounds, and 25 inches tall. Now, you are 25 months old, 22 pounds, and 32 inches tall. You could not walk, but now you are running, climbing, walking up and down stairs, turning summersaults, and giving me heart attacks as you jump off of all the things. I’ll be forever grateful that we were able to witness your first wobbly steps and every milestone that came after them.
We watched you grow and learn this year. You are so smart! Judah Mahesh, you are an overcomer. You started your journey a bit behind in every single area on developmental screenings. Now, you are completely caught up or surpassing expectations in almost every area. You understand and can follow multiple step directions, and you attempt to communicate your wants and needs to us. You can say about 15 words, and you can sign 10 more words. Sign language comes easy for you. You work so hard to get those sounds out, and I know many more words are coming very soon.
You handled all the changes of the past year the best you could. Your grief was big, but you, my boy, are so brave. You saw new faces, heard a new language, ate new foods, and said goodbye to everything and everyone you’d ever known. We also went to (what felt like) hundreds of medical appointments, and we watched God perform miracles of health and healing for you. In the past year, you have learned about family and trust and dependence and forever. There are so many signs that show your growth in those areas:
-leaving food on your plate instead of gorging yourself
-sharing food with us instead of hoarding it
-looking around to see where we are instead of fleeing toward freedom or chasing after the first stranger who smiles at you
-crying when you’re hurt or upset instead of keeping those emotions inside
-calling out for us in the night or when you wake up in the morning instead of waiting in silence
-giving us spontaneous hugs and kisses instead of evading our grasps
-playing with toys and developing attachment to favorite items instead of ignoring playthings
-asking to be rocked instead of fighting us like a WWE wrestler
We are thankful for these signs of attachment and trust, and we will continue working to show you that family is forever.
We watched you bloom this year. Your caretakers let us know that you were a happy, sweet baby from the very beginning, but it has been a joy to watch your personality flourish. You are silly and love to make people laugh. You are sweet and know how to keep your mama wrapped around your finger. You are a copycat and - for better or worse - mimic everything your sisters do. You are caring and love to help. You are mischievous and enjoy making your sisters squeal and chase you around the room. You are joy personified, and you make everyone around you - family, friends, strangers - smile. We are blessed to know you.
You are a beloved son. My heart melts when I look at you, and I praise God every time I think about this story that He has written for all of us. I know your story is complicated, though. It’s unfair. It’s hard to understand and comprehend. It is filled with loss, grief, redemption, and so much love. I know that there will be days and seasons where you struggle to figure out why and how and where you belong. I promise that we will face those challenges together. I promise that we will do our best to hold on to your roots while simultaneously embracing the present. We will always be here for you, no matter what questions you have or what challenges you face.
I also want to say thank you to you. Judah Mahesh, you have radically changed our lives in all the best ways. You deepened my relationship with my Heavenly Father. You taught me more about the Gospel. You grew my heart another full size. Seeing all your “firsts” through the eyes of a toddler has been a reminder to find joy in even the simplest things. You burdened my heart for India, poverty, medical needs, first family preservation, unreached people groups, racism, birth mothers, and the orphan crisis. You continue to inspire us and give us new dreams and purposes in life.
We love you so much Judah Mahesh, and we are so glad that you are home.
Love forever and always,