My Facebook page is flooding me with memories of four years ago when we were in China getting our girls. Each picture brings back a sea of feelings that unnerve me.
I feel the trauma our daughters felt more vividly than I did before because now they are my own, and I know the depth of emotion they carried in their hearts that day and all that they left behind. I know of the many friends and care givers they walked away from forever with a bravery that staggers me.
As we had looked forward to traveling, I’d felt as though I’d been carried along on a current of God’s grace and guidance for our lives and the lives of our family, and I struggled mightily once I arrived in China and saw exactly where that current of God’s grace had led us. It had led us straight into the painful reality of all that our precious daughters had borne alone, straight into the depth of abandonment and loss. I felt the gravity of adoption, and perhaps I saw too a glimpse of the cost of redemption.
The faces of the children waiting had haunted us for years, faces with sad longing eyes and empty looks, faces of babies and toddlers and children and teenagers, faces that all shared one thing, a vacant lonely desperation in their eyes, a need that being parentless in a world where children are meant for families gave them. We’d prayed over each face.
We’d given our yes to God, and when after months of preparation and waiting, our girls were handed over to our care, we’d found ourselves in the midst of the work God had called us to and had found ourselves wanting. We had come to the end of ourselves, and were realizing that all that we had learned about relying on God for His provision to bring the girls home was only just a fraction of the faith that we would need in order to face the years that still lay ahead for us then.
I may not have expressed it on this blog, but the summation of my feelings while we were in China can unabashedly be best expressed as a fear that hit me in the pit of my stomach and clenched at my throat and remained for the two years that followed bringing our daughters home. If ever I had felt that God had called me to something I could not do, it was those early days and months with our new daughters, and as I see the photos of those far away days, I feel the pain and fear today as I felt it then.
Yet today, juxtaposed against all of those feelings of fear and inadequacy, are feelings of peace and acceptance and pure joy at the amazing miracle God allowed us to be a part of. All of the angst is gone, and in its place is the peace and love and fulfillment that loving children brings. Today, I have thirteen children of my very own. I have nine biological children who are all in varying stages of developing, two who went to heaven before I ever had the chance to hold them in my arms, and two who came to me through adoption. Each journey has been vastly different for every one of our children, and I have learned that being a mother is more about getting to know each child and encouraging each one to move forward in the gifts and abilities that are uniquely theirs than about meeting all of their needs in our own strength.
Far too often, we believe our role as parents is to give our children the most perfect childhoods we can. We want to protect them from pain and even from their own mistakes, and yet it’s the times they’ve fallen hard and grieved and realized their need for God that have built character in their hearts far more than the hours we have spent amusing them.
Before we travelled to get our girls, I had to come to a point where I knew, in the deepest part of my soul, that I could trust our biological children to God, and that whatever challenges we faced as a family as we struggled to find our new normal would be within the boundaries of what God allowed for us, and would be tempered by His immeasurable grace. I’d be lying if I implied that there were never times as we travelled through these past four years when I didn’t question God’s plan for our family or question our choice to follow God’s will against the advice and concerns of so many who loved us. To say that the years we’ve spent merging our lives with the girls have been easy would be an injustice to all that we were called to and to all that each member of our family experienced as we moved forward into God’s will for our lives.
We were called to rescue the fatherless, and that is what we did for two of the millions of orphans that still wait. Was it hard? Yes. Did our biological children struggle in the process? Yes. Did Mark and I falter as we endeavored to meet the needs and move forward with our large family? Absolutely.
Yet, I can’t help but see the growth that our choice to follow God has brought about in our children’s hearts.
Eliza and Evangeline will likely always require our care. We will spend our lives caring for and protecting them. They are safe and loved, something they waited for for far too long, and we are forever blessed to have the priviledge of parenting them. The safety and security that we have given them fades away when compared to the joy we know at having chosen to love them. They have enriched our family more than we could have possibly enriched their lives.
As I write this, one thing stands out in my mind. I am aware, perhaps for the first time with such lucid clarity, that our part in all of this was to merely walk through the stages of loss and grief, of healing and attachment, to walk forward in faith knowing that the One who called us is faithful to finish the great work He has begun in our hearts. It was God who knitted our family together. It was He who brought healing to hurting and wounded hearts.
If you are in the midst of a dark place and see no way through, may I encourage you to just keep walking forward into all that God has for you. He is faithful to bring you through.