It's hard to believe that one year ago, we were in China, waiting in our hotel room for the long-awaited knock on our door. At 9:37 a.m. our little girl walked into our lives, and things have never been the same again. There are days when I wish we had never opened that door.
And yet, at the same time, I realized that even though there are days I want to send Anah back, I also know too much now to do that. It is so tempting to look backward, but honestly, it really doesn't do any good to pine for the past. I can't say that we are 100% back to normal (assuming that we ever were in the first place!), or even that we have figured out a new normal for our family. Some days, I feel like we haven't gotten anywhere this year.
But I know that's only discouragement speaking. It's not true. I can say that things have settled down into a routine, and we have made progress. We have figured out a toilet schedule. She is up to date on her health care. She understands what we say and is starting to communicate with us...in English! She has lost her fear of the stairs and curbs and can go up and down so much easier. She goes to Sunday school and sits through and worships in church services with us. She gives hugs and kisses generously. She is starting to play with Jonathan. And today, when visiting our friends' lemonade stand, she initiated saying hello...with no prompting or reminders at all!
But it has been a hard year. The very hardest one in my life. This afternoon, to commemorate this day, I sat down to read Jen Hatmaker's one-year post of her adoption story to compare notes. As I was reading, I thought, "Yeah, that's pretty much it." But one thing she said also stood out to me, she writes:
"So in those first few stages, you might feel like you are raising someone else’s hysterical kid. You might be chockfull of resentment, anger, disappointment, and regret. Love may feel elusive, even impossible for awhile. You might wonder if God called you to something then left you.
"Normal, dear ones. So very normal. You are not a terrible person, nor is your new son or daughter a lemon. There is so much hope for everyone."
I needed to hear that. Normal.
I have experienced every one of those feelings. And I'm not even sure I am through it yet. I feel like I have failed because I do not feel love for her. Giving her a kiss every night is still hard, but I do it. It's so hard to admit these things when we have been waiting for her for so long. It makes me feel like a terrible person, like I had failed all those who had such excitement for our adoption. Most of all, I feel like I have failed God. I often think: He picked the wrong person to do this job.
And yet, I am also learning that love is not about feelings. At this time, love is about being faithful to be there, even if I don't feel like it. It's about being the mom she never had---watching out for her, dreaming for her future, providing her with opportunities, stretching her and challenging her limits. It's about doing the same things over and over. It's about believing that God really does have something good for her life...and helping her to walk into that future, even if it doesn't seem like much. It's about running the race, fighting the fight...and not giving up even when I feel like I am doomed to this life forever.
"Anything worth fighting for is worth fighting through, and adoption is one of them." These words from the post remind me that adoption is not my idea. It is God's. He doesn't ask me to do this alone. All He wants me to do is be available, "to be the ordinary disciple who says yes." Will I say "yes" to fighting through this good thing?
And so, as I look back over this year, I am realizing that even though I have many moments that I'm not proud of, He still extends me grace. He has given me strength to keep doing the next thing. He has given me glimpses of joy and hope, usually in the times when I feel like there is none. When I think I can't stand it any longer, He brings along a word, a thought, a snippet from a lesson I'm going through with my kids, a friend who understands.
And so, as we look ahead to the second year, I know that I need to keep saying yes to Him. Again and again and again. And as I do, I am trusting that I will see Him do the work He has always wanted to do.