Every once in awhile I am reminded of all that has transpired this past year. A distant relative reaches out because they have always wanted to adopt, friends and acquaintances deliver Christmas presents and congratulations because they have been touched by a tiny little girl who is now residing in our home. The new Christmas cards from adoptive families displayed on our shelf- once only names and profile pictures, now dear friends and kindred spirits. A comment here and there that maybe adoption isn't out of the question... I am so overwhelmed by the thought of how many little hearts could have a home if even half of these interactions were acted upon. The connections, the lives touched, the reworking of my heart into something better- all only God. And yes he used an adorable, tiny, little girl as His instrument and in some cases our clumsy lives too. And I am so awestruck that He would choose us- by no means the perfect family (just ask our neighbors). But at the same time, isn't that how God loves to work? This Christmas season reminded me of this truth. That The Greatest Gift to mankind was heralded to earth by the poor and unlikely- smelly shepherds and foreign magi. Not kings, priests, or upstanding members of society. But unconventional and unexpected average men who simply heard God's voice, saw His star, and sought Him.
I'll say it again, our family is nothing special. I love each member of it fiercely but honestly, we're all mostly average and a little weird. By saying yes to adoption, we didn't use supernatural strength or abilities, but it was a moment of surrendering our plans, our finances, and our family to God. We know He cares for the fatherless and desires these little ones to be placed in families- we simply said, "yes Lord- use us." This was and continues to be something beyond our capabilities. And the Lord has shown up big time. We had a remarkably quick and smooth paper chase- documents sailed through authentications and reviews and we had only minor waits in the grand scheme of things. Our friends and family came along side of us, helping with garage sales and giving generously to off set the costs. The weeks leading up to travel, we felt the Lord's presence closer than ever- preparing our hearts and the hearts of our boys who would be staying at home. In China we received our little daughter and her very confused and hurting heart. As her grief was manifested in deliberate acts of rejection towards me, still we felt God's hand in the hard times. Austin received strength to step in as the main care giver and though there were many nights that I sobbed into my pillow- longing to take some of my little girl's pain away but realizing that there was nothing I could do- God was close by. Again through the wise words of friends, encouragement from other adoptive moms, and a whole lot of prayers, we made it through with determination and hope.
We have been home almost two weeks now. Mila has made leaps and bounds of progress. She no longer rejects me but delights in having someone who will cuddle, comfort, and provide for her. She is learning what family is and adjusting to having two brothers. She even likes the dog! Each day there are new steps being made, new connections formed in her brain, and tiny pieces of her heart that are slowly healing.
And yet, it is so easy for me to feel swallowed up in this day to day. In adoption talk, they call it 'in the trenches.' Prior to arriving here, I expected the trenches to be a little more glamorous- all this super intentional parenting sounded exciting with new milestones being achieved each day and again, the awareness of God's presence in our lives. I was feeling distant from God, worn down by just the challenge of adjusting to three kids, and the mountains of laundry that magically appear each morning. And underneath it all an enormous pressure that if this is all there is at the end of this long road, what will others think? Will those who were moved by our adoption be swayed in their own plans? Do I sacrifice authenticity in order to paint a happy adoption picture?
Life in the trenches is monotonous. The laundry is real and the dishes in the sink pile up quickly. The kids all eat- three meals a day!- and then we run out of groceries and the prospect of facing the store with my three is enough to send shudders down my spine. Gone are the days of independent play- one child has never learned it and needs as much mom- face time as possible and the other two are struggling with their new roles in our family. There are rivalries to break up, discipline to be learned, messes to be cleaned up. And loneliness. The reality of being surrounded by little people all day (like seriously, no bathroom break) and to still feel so alone in this self-inflicted mad house we've created. God, are you there?
But then, like a ray of sun shining through a break in the clouds, I know that He is here. I mentioned those tiny pieces of Mila's heart that are being healed but what I so easily overlook are the pieces of my heart also being made new. A softening where there used to be anger. Patience instead of frustration. Appreciation for things that were once overlooked. And a letting go of stuff that just doesn't matter. God is here in the monotony just as He was in the adventure. The trenches are a hard place to be- I know from others' experiences that we are just only beginning our journey through them- but as I've learned this year, hard things can be good things.
So if you see us out- maybe my kids don't have jackets and I'm wearing the same leggings and boots combo you've seen on me for the last few times. Someone might be whining or crying - or both! And I might have a crazed but determined look in my eye. You're catching one of my brave moments. One of my real life, this is how we do hard things moments. Know that God uses the average and little bit weird for great things and we feel privileged to be trudging along in the trenches, even on the hard days. Adoption is hard- it is exciting and adventurous but it is also day to day, deliberate, and intentional. But adoption is absolutely redemption and the clearest picture I've experienced of God's love for us.