I have inherited Your testimonies forever,
For they are the joy of my heart.
I have inclined my heart to perform Your statutes
Forever, even to the end.
Psalm 119: 111, 112

Friday, January 24, 2014

Every single THAT is so worth all of THIS

Simon saw an automatic ice dispenser in the Dulles airport on our way home from Ethiopia. There may have been an invisible shove from his inner core that made his little body fly backwards in stupor when his new daddy placed that cup under the dispenser and pushed that lever. Then he slowly crept close and looked up the shoot in wonder. "What - in this little world I have known - was THAT!?"

I watched this event unravel as I was still reeling from our trans-Atlantic flight. My mind was already getting a preview of what our family would experience over the next few months as we would transition to a family of 6. A family God was already very aware of and familiar with. A family we had all been praying for and one in which God would teach me through experience about sacrifice, humility, service, unconditional love, and trust. He would teach me more about Him.

I watched my baby who was still merely 4 years old cry from fear and stress until his nose bled. Bless the dear man who gave up his seat on our tiny commuter flight from DC to Charlotte so I could sit in front of Eli and Paul in an attempt to offer warmth and help to my little boy who still wanted nothing to do with me. All he could relate to was the need for a father who wouldn't abandon him, and his trust in that at the time was nil. I watched my sweet and amazing 15 year old daughter sit with her new 7 year old brother stepping in as a pseudo-second mama, yet desperately trying to keep her weary eyes pried open for the last two legs of our trip home.

The first leg was from Addis through Rome and over the deep, wide ocean to America. On that day of our lives, my new sons stared in awe as the flight attendants placed trays of food in front of their hungry little faces. Simon ate his food as if it would sprout wings and fly off his tray. I finally realized I needed to slow him down. After I recovered from another moment of "this is reality" shock.

The mood certainly took a turn for the different as we set off on our last legs home. The final flight from Charlotte to Phoenix was the roughest. By this time, not a one of us could give a darn about food. We had to race from one gate to the next and barely made it on the tail end of the boarding line. Our seats were all over the place. Again, we were blessed by a kind woman who allowed  me to sit across the aisle from Rhyan and Simon and in front of Paul and Eli. It was all Paul and I could do to keep our baby in his seat and remain buckled. Mere exhaustion was our right hand man. Each one of my family members passed out. Finally.

I had quiet. I had "me time". I was numb. Though there were a small handful of smiles and kind words nearby, I had already noticed the cold shoulders and the critical stares. I am choosing to believe that I remember it as worse than it really was. After all, I was saying to myself, "What have you done?" I can't help but wonder, though, what some of the cartoon bubbles over the other passengers' heads read... "Control your kid, woman." "Don't bring foreigners to our country." ??  Part of me was sad. I felt an icy, self-centered climate that I hadn't noticed on our flight in Africa. The people on Ethiopian Airlines smiled, talked, played with the children, listened to music. The Americans... read their iPads and pulled out their laptops. They disengaged all they could from anything other than self. Yes, I'm generalizing, but I can't help but remember feeling a peculiar sadness as I contemplated what our society has become in America. We live in a nation of ME, MYSELF, and I. So counter-gospel. So scary.

Our boys have now been home for 19 weeks. Yes, I still count. :) It's like the birth of a new baby! You state their ages in months until after their second birthday! Yesterday, I sat with all three of my sons at the Social Security office in downtown Phoenix for nearly two and a half hours. It was one of the many administrative chores that come with adoption, that make one feel like their children are merely numbers in a country where there are so many different views on parenting, family, faith, morals, religion... A middle-aged man and a woman sat in the aisle across from us. They must have known that I have learned to tune things out. You mommies know what I mean! They must have thought I would tune them out as I heard the man say, "I love children, but geez. How and why would anyone want to do that." My little guys were watching Learning with Leapfrog on my cell phone. Quietly. My twelve year old was keeping guard. Basically, being the big brother on-call. I looked straight at the man who turned his gaze my direction. I smiled. He didn't smile back, but instead chose to avert his gaze elsewhere. He had absolutely no clue about anything. He had no idea about the hours and tears poured out as we parented our children; teaching each of them what it means to live godly lives - and for Simon and Eli - what it looks like to live in America and with a family. Then I smiled to myself thinking that I knew exactly "how and why". GOD. If you don't get the gospel, you truly don't get "how and why". My heart broke for that man.

uHear, O Lord, when I cry aloud;
be gracious to me and answer me!
You have said, v“Seek4 my face.”
My heart says to you,
“Your face, Lord, do I seek.”5
wHide not your face from me.
Turn not your servant away in anger,
O you who have been my help.
Cast me not off; forsake me not,
xO God of my salvation!
10 For ymy father and my mother have forsaken me,
but the Lord will ztake me in.

Psalm 27:7-10

That is exactly why adoptive families can walk through the "how and why" each day. We all know, this is no walk in the park. Though the boys have bonded beautifully, and my baby who wanted nothing from me for the first month home is now my kissy face, mama's boy, we still have rough patches of learning to trust each other and giving in to what God is teaching us about trusting Him.

See, my boys have experienced being forsaken by their father and mother. It wasn't something they asked for, and I don't believe for a moment that it was something their biological parents asked for or wanted. It just is what this world dealt them. All of them. But, the good news is that Jesus would never forsake them.

Whose voice and face do we SEEK; long for when we are mere infants? Mom. I wanted so badly for my sons to have that immediate desire for me as Mom from the moment we brought them home. I thought that if the attachment and love was immediate, it would make life in transition so much easier. Of course it may have. But even a birth mom who holds her newborn in her arms from day 1, finds life with her new little human hard. Why is that? Because as humans, we fail. Every. Single. Time. We are not perfect, and inevitably, human will fail human. Hence, our need for Jesus. Exactly why we need to SEEK His face. His grace is the only sufficiency we need for life, and He is the mother and father who will NEVER forsake us.

As I learn each day to let go of the need to be the perfect and only mom to my boys, I grow closer to them each day. I know in my heart of hearts that God is the parent who has and will save them. The awesome thing is, this reality is true for ALL my children; not just my two youngest. God wants my kids... and ME, to desire His arms. To look to Him for everything. To know that He will never forsake us. To remember that this life and this world is temporary and the eternal is close at hand. This is the truth, and when I remember that serving His kingdom and making disciples for Him should always be number one on my radar, the pressure to be the perfect mom fades. After all, it's a pressure that comes from this world, not God's.

From our coming-home day through now, there have been beautiful breakthroughs of God's love and faithfulness. Watching Ty greet his new brothers with gifts and hugs and huge smiles was priceless. Seeing the tears in my mom's eyes as she embraced her new grandsons and the pride in my dad's smile when he met them for the first time made my heart skip a beat. Listening to Eli ask for "Sitoo" (Sister) when she isn't with us is...well, so stinkin' sweet.

We've gone from THAT to THIS!

"That" was touching, grabbing, and pushing absolutely everything every button, every switch and lever, every dial and knob within reach; impulsively. OH the frustration and exhaustion! "This" is both boys knowing that light switches are simply for lights to be on or off, and knowing that water refills at the frig are by permission only.

"That" was not being in public for fear we may be dragged to the nearest prison cell as we attempted to train our youngest children. "This" was sitting in a crowded restaurant and the woman in the next booth leaning over to tell us how well-behaved our children are.

"That" was 5:30 a.m. wake up calls complete with busting through closed doors and opening shutters before Mom and Dad's eyes are opened. "This" is knocks on doors for permission to enter and staying in bedrooms until 8:00 a.m.

"That" was gated off entrances to our kitchen since little boys didn't know how to keep hands off and stood at the gates chanting for "dapo" (bread), "moos" (banana) and "chai" (tea). "This" is needing to be called to wash up for meal time. AND communicating in complete English sentences!

"That" was "embee" (no) with accompanied shoulder shrugs and screaming, kicking tantrums. "This" is "Okay Mom" and smiles and "I love you"s galore.

We had to experience THAT to get to THIS. It has and still is leading us into a new life. A better life! Jesus knows exactly how it feels. He gives us the privilege of a new and better life through Him. If our family's contribution to spreading the gospel in this lifetime is through our adoption journey, Amen and Alleluia! Every single THAT is so worth all of THIS!