We've been home for a little over 2 weeks now, and life is pretty much back to normal. Other than the forced purchase of a minivan to fit our family of 6, having 4 kids hasn't felt much different than 3. But I'm about to get really honest here, so give me grace...pretty please.
Today has been one of those days that I feel utterly overwhelmed. It hasn't been this way every day, and I've felt this way before, so I know 'this, too, shall pass'. It's the way I felt after each new child, but this situation comes packaged a little differently. I can't speak for every adoptive family, or even for those who have a mixture of biological children and adopted children. But as for myself, I've been faced with the reality that I feel differently about Emi than I do my others. When Jenna came into my life, I had spent several months feeling her grow and move inside of me, and then she was handed to me swaddled to perfection, oozing with adorableness and innocence. Pretty much the same story for Caleb and Luke. They did nothing to earn my love or prove their worth. If someone had asked me how I could love someone so much that I'd only known for a few minutes, I would have replied, "Because she's....mine." That's it. I loved each of them simply because I felt they belonged to me.
Now I've inherited a 2-year-old with a strong will, opinions, and attitude (yes, she is ADORABLE and tiny, but don't be fooled. She still has a sin nature and she is SO stubborn!). She swats at me when she doesn't want to eat and drink. She has a full set of teeth that clamp down on ANYTHING that passes those lips of hers. She steals toys from Luke. She wants what she wants when she wants it...she's 2! All of these things are 'normal', but not the normal I'm used to. Usually, I get the cute, cuddly, innocent version at least a year before things get ugly. By then, we've developed a bond that is unbreakable, even with the most dramatic of temper tantrums. I haven't had that with Emi. Our story starts here. At the terrible twos.
I've had to reevaluate what love is. I've had to dig deeper for the reason why I love. Because honestly, I don't feel like she's mine yet. She's bonded to Chris, but keeps her distance from me. So when someone asks me how I can love this child I've just met, my 'because she's mine' answer isn't truthful. The first few days with her ended with me curled up on the bed crying - grieving that those 'feelings' didn't come when we took her into our family. Then I started to sift through those emotions (thanks to my very logical husband :) ). I don't love her because she's mine, and I shouldn't love any of my children because they are mine. I love them all because they are His. They are lovely because He loves them (one of my favorite quotes from the Jesus Storybook Bible :) ). They are mine to raise up in the admonition of Christ, but they belong to Him.
We've all heard 'adoption is redemption', but we all too often skip to the redemption. As if it happens the moment you scoop them up in your arms and 'rescue' them. But why do these kids need to be redeemed?? Why do WE need to be redeemed by Christ?? Because of brokenness, pain, sin, and wickedness. I am not her savior. We are just the hands and feet of Christ, and He does the saving and the healing. It will take time for the brokenness to be healed and for trust to be restored. And not just for her...but for us as well. This year-long process has been chipping away at everything we (unknowingly) clung to for confidence and self-assurance. We thought we had this parenting thing in the bag...until Emi. A child that refuses food and drink?? Didn't DREAM that would be an issue in our house. Have you ever experienced syringe-feeding a 2-year-old? It's awful. Just awful. The label 'failure to thrive'? Never thought it would describe one of my children. Lately I've been thinking maybe it's not her He's redeeming as much as it is me.
The danger to this Christian walk is the temptation to think you've got it all under control...that you're tipping the 'goodness' scale in your favor. When the truth is, I will never be good enough on my own. Without Christ - without redemption - my good works mean nothing. God wants my HEART. And I feel Him peeling away the layers of callousness and pride that I wasn't even aware existed. As painful as it is sometimes, like it was today, I am thankful that God loves me enough to remind me of my humanness. Because it's in my weakness that I'm aware of my need for a Savior.
"Lead me to the cross, where your love poured out. Bring me to my knees. Lord, I lay me down. Rid me of myself. I belong to You. Lead me...lead me to cross."