I looked at highlights of our life in the photo albums from each year and compared that with the lessons and experiences I shared in the handful of posts I wrote in the past 4 years and the contrast is striking.
Yet my feelings from both are the same. My feelings of what it was like when I wrote Wrecked and Homecoming Anniversary--feelings of being overwhelmed and inside out with a touch of faith are the same feelings I have when I look at the smiles, firsts, and memories in the album. I remember what surrounded those pictures and yes, the feelings of being overwhelmed and inside out with a smidgen of faith were very present behind those snapshots.
What prompted the beginnings of our bigger family were compassion and love. I loved my kids before I knew them. When I met them, and they were in the foundation in Colombia, I wanted to go through our process as fast as we could because I needed to get MY kids out of the foundation and into my home where they belonged.
Questions like "How do you think adopting 4 kids into your family will affect your own kids?" disturbed.me.hugely because in my mind, four out of my seven kids were in a foundation in Colombia and how was growing up in a foundation going to affect my kids??
We did consider our three kids that already called us mom and dad and we tried to prepare them as much as we could. Really as much as we could.
But you just don't know what you don't know.
What compelled us to act on that compassion and love was obedience. During our adoption process we had an opportunity to share how we felt our Father ask "Will you join Me?" in this short video. And I wrote more about it here.
Compassion, love, obedience started this journey. God's provision, the blessing of others along side us, and training got us through the beginning. But we have said it many times that after getting all our kids home we felt like we were running a marathon but trained for a 5K.
One of the things that was mentioned in our training was to know yourself and your own issues.
Know what makes you tick
and what gets you ticked off.
And how are you going to deal?
I slightly remember that part of the training
but I clearly remember thinking, "I'm good."
I thought I knew myself well. I thought I knew how to deal. But the peculiar thing about adoption is that my kids who are adopted have a way of revealing things about myself that my bios never had. Adoption brings out the best and the worst in me. And that's a good thing.
For example.....I learned that my love was conditional. It was all along. But I never noticed before because the people I loved loved me back. They were affectionate and said "I love you." We had not yet had teenagers when we adopted so pretty much when I said to do something, it was done, although sometimes with a little added motivation. :)
When we adopted (and as our kids were entering teen years at the same time), I gave love but it wasn't given back. I tried showing love on my own for a while but then I couldn't. Some of the behaviors got in the way and it was really hard loving someone with unlovely behaviors. I thought it was just a problem with me and the ones adopted, but what I realized is that I loved Jeremy conditionally and all my kids--bio and adopted--with conditions.
How did I deal? I got it wrong for a while and still sometimes do,
but mostly I lean back into my Savior.
He loves me when my behaviors are unlovely.
And forgives again.
He loves even when we don't love back.
I ask for that love to fill me and pour out.
I can't do it on my own.
Another thing I have seen over and over again, especially as I have looked back at old posts and flipped through the photo albums, is that He is enough. His grace sufficient. I can't meet all the needs and I don't know how we have made it other than HE IS SUFFICIENT. Remember I said a second ago that we adopted 4 kids and started parenting TEENAGERS at the same time?
When we spent 5 weeks in Colombia cramming our family on the second floor of a seminary/church,
He is enough.
When we put 3 teenage girls in one room, He is enough.
When I "homeschooled" all seven kids for a VERY short period of time, He is enough.
When we had to say everything in Spanish and English and then say it again about 10 times,
He is enough.
When we came home to meals provided by supportive friends, He is enough.
When we attempted family photos, He is enough.
When I took too long to dry my hair just to drown out whatever was going on outside my door,
He is enough.
When we say "I love you" and it's met with silence, He is enough.
If you have read my blog much you may have seen that last Fall I started naming gifts. I am on number 870 now. Eight hundred seventy different blessings named since October 26, 2015. What has surprised me by that little exercise is how much joy and love and peace I have in the midst of circumstances that have not changed much. And it is not only transforming me but my people around me too.
I can say "I love you" and mean it and still have joy when the words are not returned. Because it's not my own love--my own love is shallow and ends at some point.
But His love never fails.
His love endures forever.
So 4 years into our new bigger family and I have much much to be thankful for. I usually say, "Overall we are doing well." But now I can see beautiful gifts in each one of the people I love the most. And I am so so grateful.