Reflecting on our Advent journey 5 years ago: Flying to China

You might think that because John and I have traveled twice to China, we are great travelers.

It’s not true.

Five years ago today when John and I boarded the plane to travel to Beijing, we had been married for more than five years, and we had never flown together. Only the desire to become parents—and the knowledge that our son was in China—could have compelled us to board that marathon flight to a part of the world we had never considered visiting. Yet we went.

We knew that our son was on the other side of the world. Burning with love for a little boy we had never met, we climbed aboard that plane.

After we had flown forever, I looked at my watch. We weren’t even halfway through the trip.

We kept flying.

And flying.

And flying.

On the way, we talked about our little boy. We wondered what he was doing. We wondered how he would deal with the return trip. We wondered what it would be like to spend two weeks in China.

I can’t honestly tell you that we were looking forward to experiencing China. We were so, so excited to become parents. But seeing China? We were determined to make the most of the trip, and we were curious to learn more about China because it was our son’s homeland, but we didn’t expect to fall in love with the country, the people, and the culture.

We also didn’t expect to meet people who would become such dear, forever friends.

The next two weeks would be full of surprises.

For many people, climbing aboard that plane might have seemed easy. For some, it might even have seemed fun.

For us, it felt like a critical step on the path to parenthood. It was the final leg of a long journey to welcoming a child into our family. Our son awaited us. So we went.

Finally, after hours and hours. we landed. A guide holding a sign was waiting for us.

Then we met another couple. They had been on our flight, but we hadn’t seen them on the plane. We discovered that we were headed to the same province to adopt our children. We fell easily into conversation and, as can happen when you are on the other side of the world about to become parents, we instantly became friends. Suddenly the trip didn’t seem so daunting.

The days ahead were full of unknowns, but we were not alone. We had known that God would be with us every step of the journey. What we hadn’t expected was that He would help us connect with so many warm, positive, caring people along the way. Yet they were there at every turn—especially our new friends, friends who are like family to us today.

I wonder whether St. Joseph and the Blessed Mother felt the same way when they encountered the innkeeper who offered them space in his stable. Or maybe, far from home and family, they were overjoyed to be able to share their new baby with the shepherds the night he was born.

As we travel through this Advent, we are looking for ways that God—Emmanuel—is with us, coming into our lives. Perhaps this is also a time to pause and appreciate the people we are encountering, those who lift us up, walk at our side, and share our journey.

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