It's an odd feeling, preparing to meet someone, preparing to stay with someone, that you've talked to/emailed/etc with for over four years but whose face you've never seen.
This morning we sadly left Calgary (we had such a good time there) and as we hit the highway again, my thoughts began to turn more towards this friend I was about to meet. Sharla is a woman I first 'met' on a yahoo forum for Canadians adopting kids from Ethiopia. She was on the wait list for a sibling referral right before us...that prompted our first interaction, as I recall. We then discovered many other things in common, such as h/schooling and our faith. Sharla and her husband got their referral of siblings from Ethiopia just before our agency went bankrupt in mid 2009 and they raced to Ethiopia to take their children into their care when everything fell apart. She has since written a fantastic book about that experience - it sells on amazon here, in case you want to check out the link (I'm even mentioned in her book a few times!). When, finally, in 2010 we finally got our referral, Sharla was one of the first friends I called.
So we have some history already, despite having never gone for coffee, shared a dinner, or stayed up late talking. And I admit it: I was nervous as anything today at the prospect of finally meeting her. Totally insecure. A bundle of nerves, really. About an hour from arriving at their home, the kids needed a stretch break and so I pulled over into a rest stop; I procrastinated there for a while, just getting my nerves under control.
I needn't have worried. As we finally pulled up to Sharla's lovely country home, our van was greeted by three of her kids running out the door, yelling hello and telling us that they'd been waiting for a long time for us to come. I learned later that one of them had been standing by the road for a good chunk of the afternoon, just waiting for our arrival. As I brought the van to a stop, one more child ran out of the house and before I knew it I was out of the van and greeting some of the children whose faces I'd been seeing for years in pictures. It was amazing. My kids piled out of the van, introductions were made, and within seconds, a bunch of the group was blasting across the yard towards the trampoline...they were screaming with laughter within seconds. One boy stayed back with me and asked if he could carry my luggage in...how sweet was that??
I heard a noise behind me and when I turned I saw Sharla walking towards me from the house. My first thought? She's tinier than I thought she would be; I don't know if she reaches my chin. My next thought? This is Sharla...this is unbelievable...she's beautiful...it's going to be ok...she looks so nice. And of course I already know that she's nice. Then she was there and we hugged, and it just seemed as if it was high time that we were going to spend some time together!
A few minutes later I made my way to the front door, and at the doorway, my heart did a little flip flop. Because there stood the girl that I knew was waiting inside to greet me, a girl that I have spent a lot of time praying for over the past few years, a girl who has brought tears to my eyes many times with her big heart and precious spirit. I had to swallow a lump in my throat as I went to her and introduced myself. I wanted to hug her, but will wait on that until she knows me a little better...I hope I get that chance.
The rest of the afternoon and evening passed by in a flash. The kids were an instant hit with each other, and the noise inside with my three and the five of Sharla's who were home was at a pretty high decibel. But you know me well enough by now to know that I have a very high tolerance for happy noise, and this was happy! I loved it!! They dressed up in costumes (the kids actually convinced Seth to dress up as a princess, right down to the high heels; the giggles and belly laughs coming from that boy were a lovely thing) and even ate dinner in costume. I dubbed Matthew "Sir Matthew" with the sword that was a part of his knight's costume and he thought that was funny.
After a delicious dinner (Sharla appears to be a pretty amazing cook, which I've suspected before!), the kids raced outside again and played on the trampoline, climbed onto the tree fort, swung on swings, hung from trees, and ran themselves tired in the huge field that backs into the surrounding trees. It was a lovely, happy evening and Sharla and I had a chance for our first visit sitting outside on the deck while the kids raced around. It was a stellar time.
It always feels somewhat risky to meet someone new. What if she doesn't like me? What if she can't see past my weight? What if the next few days are super awkward? What if the kids don't get along? What if....you can surely think of the other hundred things that have undoubtedly passed through my mind many times in the past week+ as I've been getting ready to meet a new friend who's really an old friend. But you know what? Life is too short to let those kinds of thoughts stop us from doing the things that are really important in life. I can't wait to get to know her better, to memorize the face that accompanies the woman I've come to respect and love over the past several years. I can't wait.