Two months ago this week, we sat in a room filled with uncomfortable wood furniture all the way across the world in Changsha, China. We anxiously waited for the little girl to be brought in that we had loved, waited for, and traveled across the world to meet.
In some ways, it feels like the last two months have flown by. In many other ways, it feels hard to believe that it has only been two months that we have had our youngest daughter in our family.
I have missed writing over these past few weeks, but I have also struggled. So much of what I have shared up to this point has been our story, has felt like mine to share. So much of what we live right now feels like HER story. And yet we live it with her and want all of it to be for the glory of God. I question often as I consider writing about our current experiences – how would it feel for Elliott to read this at ten years old? At fifteen? At thirty? I have never desired to live in secrecy – I believe strongly that God gives us our experiences often for the benefit of other people, however I am so cognizant of her part in telling her own story in her own timing. I am praying God helps me get this right.
Over the past two months, we have seen this girl come alive. When I think about the first day, the first week, the first month with her, I can’t believe the overall change in her demeanor. This girl is FUN. She laughs, she smiles, she dances constantly. She’s trying to sing. It feels like in many ways she is alive in ways she wasn’t before.
She’s grown a ton. Every day she gets more hair. She has become more and more comfortable and then more and more enamored with her brother and sister. She’s learned SO much. She communicates her needs with us much of the time, she follows instructions, and she makes us laugh constantly. The more we know her, the more we learn that she is funny, sweet, SO smart, silly, and all around adorable. And definitely spirited.
She has begun to try and talk. Just today she said “uh oh” for the first time. One of the difficult parts that I think many people experience in the adoption process is meeting with doctors to review files at the time you are matched. It is a necessary evil. We learned good information in some cases, but we also heard some negative, pessimistic things along the way about her development. It feels like beautiful redemption to see how love and attention can spur her on to do the things that God created her to do. Every time she tries a new word or remembers how to use some sign language, I hold back tears. She amazes me. Getting to witness her life amazes me.
And we have seen our own feelings change and evolve over the past two months. When Campbell and Bennett were born, I felt like I knew them. I had carried them with me for so long that it was instant love. With Elliott, I loved her, but falling in love with her like a parent has taken time. She has been pretty sick over the past two weeks. We were at the pediatrician last week and as she laid against me while the pediatrician talked to me, I felt that familiar surge in my heart. Fierce love and protectiveness. She just fit against me. I didn’t even care that she was getting snot all over my shirt. My baby.
But not all parts of the last two months or even these current days are good. To be honest, we have lived some of the hardest, most confusing moments of our lives inside the walls of our home over the past few months.
Adoption is messy. It begins because of and is only necessary because of loss. For Elliott, she lost everything once, when she went into the orphanage. And although we believe coming home with us is the right thing for her, she again lost all that she knows in the world for a second time when we took her out of the orphanage.
And although she daily becomes more comfortable – comfortable with this house, comfortable with us as mom and dad, comfortable with these siblings, comfortable with these new foods – all of this does not come without fear. Fear that we will leave her. Fear that the next meal won’t come. Fear that THIS time, we won’t pick her up again. Fear that when she wakes we won’t be there. Fears we don’t even know or understand yet.
Some days we see no evidence of any of this. And some days, these fears and insecurities characterize our days. We are learning how to stay patient and ask ourselves and the Lord the right questions – where is this coming from? How do we help her through this?
Last week I hit my limit. The truth is, I can’t understand any of this as it is happening, I’m having to learn quickly not to be so selfish, and sometimes the enemy whispers to me – you aren’t doing any of this right.
In the midst of a few very hard days last week, the Lord reminded me that right now He has called Russ and I to perhaps the most important work of our lives. We get to partner with Him as He adds back things that have been lost in Elliott’s life. And while things like speech and gross motor skills are important, that’s not what I mean. We get to, as painstaking as it sometimes feels, be a part of the process as He adds back what should have always been there – the security that comes with family. The value of knowing you are unconditionally loved. The assurance that you belong.
And I was reminded that this journey is not just about Russ and I.
On Saturday, she was having a particularly hard time. Bennett, who is just over five, asked me why she had cried so much that day. I told him I didn’t really know. That sometimes I think she is scared that she won’t be with us forever and feels sad about how much she has already lost in her life.
My sweet Bennie came and sat with us. He cried with her. He stroked her hair and got right in her face and told her “you will never be alone again, sweet girl. I will always be here with you.”
Maybe in a perfect world, we would have come home and all the old wounds would have been healed. Maybe part of me expected that. Maybe I expected that God wasn’t going to use this part of the process to change me, to make me need Him. I was reminded this week, though, that I don’t get to choose what redemption looks like.
Wow is it ever beautiful when it comes though.