Friday, March 10, 2017

Those who lost

The one-year anniversary of Hengxin joining our family came and left quietly. Not because it went unnoticed. In fact, every day leading up to it, I replayed in my mind the preparations, the nerves, the emotions that came before taking the biggest leap of faith any of us had ever taken- forever seared into my memory and in the deepest pit of my stomach. Most adoptive families commemorate Family Day with a celebration but I couldn’t do. I couldn’t bring myself to celebrate the beginning of what felt like some of the darkest days of our family’s life. Our little world felt like it was falling apart in so many ways. Satan was once again attacking from almost every angle possible. I quickly came to realize that the grueling process of bringing her home, which I thought was the pinnacle of our trials was, in fact, only preparation for bigger things to come. They were only the beginning. I wanted to look forward, not back.

Just as adoption is about gaining, it is also about loss. So much loss. And the most wounded often sit in the shadows, unnoticed and overlooked. My biological children suffered a tremendous loss for so long- something that is rarely talked about in adoption stories. While they watched their new sister gain parents, they felt like they were losing theirs, their mother and father consumed with this new family member. Almost daily medical appointments taking me away for hours at a time. Every conversation, every meal, every activity, seemed to be centered around this new person who at times seemed to only push us away. Strangers in their own home and lost in a new and disheartening reality, their world had been completely turned upside down.

There was grief disguised as anger. Some more than others and it felt like life would never feel normal again. At times, some of the children who had initially been the most supportive of the adoption, felt the deepest wounds and the greatest resentment. This was as much a trial of their faith as it was ours, and my heart ached as I watched them struggle.

And yet a celebration is in order. Not for where we were, but where we are today. On the one-year mark, in a serendipitous series of events that I couldn't have planned if I tried, I was able to sit back and reflect in gratitude for where we are today, not where we were a year ago. At times I am guilty of allowing the difficulties overshadow the triumphs.

A few nights ago Hengxin handed me a paper that she had written in school. It was a letter she had written to me about heroes. And her hero, she said, was me. For helping her. For comforting her when she was sad. For loving her. And the date she had written it? March 1st- the one year anniversary of her joining our family- the very day I had wanted to slip by unnoticed.

It was on the very day I had wanted to skim over that she also delivered several boxes of food for a food drive she had organized and carried out for my student's in need at my school. It was a labor of love, one that involved overcoming deep-seeded insecurities and fears, as she stood in front of large groups of people to solicit food donations. And the outpouring of support for her efforts was huge.

She had no idea how the timing of any of it coincided, so I was able to reflect quietly on its impact.
It was God gently nudging me to not focus on the difficulties we had experienced, but on the beauty of where those challenges led us. To remind me that it was all worth it. Every single bit of it.

But most of all, to see those wounded little ones who had once sat in the shadows, learn to embrace their new life, for me that is the greatest reward. They play together, laugh together, and yes... fight together- just like real siblings do. They gained a new sister, a friend, a playmate. They gained a mother who became more present than she used to be. They gained faith through experience that when God commands something, He sees it through till the end. That miracles happen daily, big and small. They learned the power of a changed heart, and that more often than not, it's our own heart that need to be changed. They learned that good health is one of our biggest blessings, and the power that comes when families work together through hard things.

So often people tell us that they are amazed by me and Dennis, that they could never do what we've done, but it isn't us who are the true warriors. It is the children, each of them, who didn't choose any of this. None of them did. They followed along with what God told their parents to do, and then opened their hearts in the best ways they knew how. They've each lost, but they've gained so much too. These little warriors are my heroes.