Part of me wanted to wait to write this post until we had photos back from the photographer we hired to take our pictures after Clara's sealing, but another part of me figured that I could just use the photos my sister took for us with our camera and either do a separate post or add the photos later so that I can at least get my thoughts down about this wonderful day before I get back home from our Christmas vacation and get bogged down in work again.
For those who are not of our faith, a little explanation might be in order: When any couple gets married, there is both a legal aspect (obtaining a marriage license) and a religious aspect (for many or most couples) where they make vows to each other, usually under the authority of a religious leader. With adoption, there is also a legal aspect where a family is created on the day of finalization in court, but in our faith, we are also able to go to the temple and have the religious aspect called a "temple sealing" completed where Clara is sealed to me and Paul for eternity.
In many ways, it felt like a continuation of our wedding day, which might seem strange to some people but it didn't seem that way at all to me. Most of the same people who were there on our wedding day were there on Tuesday. We dressed in white (which is how everyone dresses in the temple and how Paul and I were dressed when we got married - Paul only changed into his tuxedo for the reception afterwards on our wedding day) and received blessings of eternal consequence as Clara was sealed to us as our daughter as though she had been born to us. There was so much joy and peace and comfort in the knowledge that we have a Heavenly Father who has a plan for His children and that he wants only our happiness. I am grateful for the knowledge that families can be together forever. We celebrated afterwards with cherished friends and family.
Paul and I woke up early on Tuesday morning, December 27th, and got dressed so that when Clara woke up, we didn't have to rush getting all three of us ready and out the door. By 7:45, Paul, Clara, my mom and I were dressed in our Sunday best and we headed to the Salt Lake Temple in the 20 degree Utah weather. My mom stayed with Clara in the temple nursery and fed her a bottle and got her dressed in her white dress while Paul and I were changing into our temple clothes and taking care of the business end of things with the temple records office. When my mom brought Clara in a little white stroller into the temple sealing room where everyone was waiting for them, Clara's eyes lit up and her mouth formed a round little "O" and she said "oooohh!" and then smiled her brilliant smile. Every heart melted and it was perfection.
We were so glad that Kayli, her mom, and all four of Kayli's grandparents were able to be in the temple with us - this is a very rare thing for an adoptive couple to have their birthmom present in the temple at the sealing. In fact, I have never heard of it before. Kayli is truly just a remarkable person and our love for her just grows more and more each day.
Clara was radiant in her white temple dress with white embroidered details and small pearl beads with a soft, white cardigan with white bows on it that my mom found for her after much searching. After the temple ceremony was finished, Paul and I were allowed to go outside in our "temple whites" with Clara to take pictures. First we did a big group shot with everybody who came to the temple with us (except for Kayli's mom and grandparents who had already left), and then our photographer showed up and took photos of Paul, Clara and I alone, while my mom, my sister Jessica, and Kayli followed us around carrying blankets to keep Clara warm and getting her attention so that she would look at the camera.
Once we were all done with photos, Paul, Clara, my mom, Jessica, Kayli and I piled into the suburban and drove back home to my parents' house where Paul gave Clara a baby blessing and then we had a very nice lunch of lasagna, ceasar's salad, garlic bread, and some delicious desserts, which I need to post recipes for soon since I had a number of people ask for my cherry cheesecake tart recipe. Paul did a great job with Clara's blessing even though he had worried beforehand that he would be too emotional to get through it without blubbering to the point of incoherency. Over baked lasanga and bread, conversation flowed, relationships were strengthened, and everyone seemed to have a great time.
Some of our very best friends who also happened to be two of the couples who wrote recommendation letters for us at the outset of our process to adopt Clara were able to be there with us in the temple and at the luncheon afterwards. We so wish that they lived close by so we could see them all the time like we used to be able to!
It was a wonderful day and we are so happy to have completed this last and most important of adoption milestones. I will post the professional photos when our photographer gets them to me.