Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Joy in the Mourning

It was 3:12 when I first looked at the clock this morning.  
I laid Samsel back in bed shortly after 1 and it felt like I had just fallen back to sleep. 
 I awoke with a start and not for the usual reason of little boy voices calling "mommy."

I woke up sad.  
And I'm not just talking a melancholy heart type of sad.
I woke up with a grieving heart and at first my mind couldn't figure out why I was so overcome with sadness. As the grogginess faded, I became more aware of the source of my grief.  

My sweet children.  
Each so precious, so loved, 
so unbelievably grafted into my heart and soul.

I continued laying in bed; not wanting to get up but unable to quell my heart. 
I said a few prayers for my little loves and tried to go back to sleep.
Sleep was elusive. 

I looked at the clock again,  it read 3:48 and I climbed out of bed;
exhausted but with an aching heart.  
I tiptoed into Sammy's room and sat in my rocker.
His fingers peeked out of the side of his crib and his breaths were so steady.
And I started to cry.  And pray.

It is the most beautiful yet ugliest thing that is of the utmost necessity in this world.
It is hard, 
heart breaking, 
stems from the greatest losses my kids will ever know...

And tonight, this morning, I grieve for that. 
I grieve for their losses; the ones they know and the ones they may never recognize. 
For their first families that they don't know, can't remember or maybe worse, have forgotten.

For their questions; the questions that I have no answers to and the questions that we can answer but where the answers may cause my children even more pain. 

"For the Lord will not cast off forever, but though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love" Lamentations 3:31-32

I prayed over Samsel one last time; begging God to give Matt and I the proper words to soothe his heart when the time comes for him to ask these hard questions and moved on to the big boys room. 

Thomas and Gabriel.  
Their stories are vastly different but end in the same way; 
the need for adoption and them finding their way into our family.  
I am so thankful that adoption made that brought these two boys together.
Brothers from two different mothers but also with the same mother.
It's complex, deep and a lot for little hearts to understand. 

As I sat on the rug between their beds I could hear both Thomas' steady breaths and Gabe's deep sighs. I read once that a way to connect with your newly adopted older child is to check on them when they're sleeping; that even though they're asleep their subconscious is aware that someone is near them; adjusting their covers, touching their cheek, quietly loving them.  So I do that every night; before I go to bed I tiptoe into their rooms and tuck them in one last time.  
Perhaps their heart will know.  Perhaps not.  It is however, good for my heart. 

I prayed for Thomas and Gabe; 
that they will always know the love we have for them and the love that God has for them. And that the love their first families had for them; that it will live in their hearts forever.  
I prayed that they will always seem themselves as we see them; beautiful and perfectly made in His image.  
I pray they don't define themselves by their adoption, their skin color or their abilities but in all knowing peace that they are loved beyond measure. 

I missed so much with each of my children but the most with Thomas.  
I will never know what his first word was, when he took his first step or what his baby giggles sounded like.  
And I grieve that; 
for me because I missed it and for him, because I can't tell him about it. 
But I will be here for many more firsts.  
I watched him ride his bike for the first time without training wheels.
I heard him read his first book.
I'll get to watch him learn to drive, graduate high school, get married and have kids. 
I'll get to see that with all of my children.  
As I rejoiced in that and sat beside their beds, my heart reminded me once again of loss. 
And this time my heart grieved for my babies first families; because they who loved them first, will miss these big moments.  
And all the little ones.

The boys will be up soon.  
First Gabe, then Samsel, then Thomas.
That's how it goes most mornings.  
They wake up one at a time but each one wakes up with so much joy. 

And as grieved as my heart is right now, I know my joy will match theirs.  
Seeing their smiles, their well rested eyes.
Hearing "good morning, Mommy" from Thomas and Gabe or "Mommy, I wake up" from Samsel; it will fill my heart with joy.

Joy always follows mourning.
And this morning, like most mornings, joy will settle on our household.  

King David wasn't kidding when he sang 
"weeping may tarry for the night, 
but joy comes with the morning" 
Psalm 30:5

As my heart begins to give me a reprieve this morning and the grief begins to abate; I sit here and remind myself that yes, adoption comes from loss; a huge loss.  
But that huge loss does not have to define my children.  
Adoption, dear ones, is hard and ugly. 
There is a daily battle in our house to continue to win the hearts and trust of our children;
to teach them that no matter what we will always love them.

But it is breathtakingly beautiful.  
To see a smile, feel an outstretched hand reach for yours, hear that first belly laugh...
It is worth every hard moment, tear and misstep.  
Adoption is about redemption; 
redeeming a lost heart, 
proving that no matter how hard, how long or how fierce the battle...
love will find a way and it will win. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015


Sweet Gabe,

You are six! Like the year before, five was an amazing year for you!  You continued to defy the odds, amaze everyone who met you and spread insatiable joy.

You're fifth year brought better language skills, running and jumping, you're first soccer practice, second baseball season, many visits to museums and zoos, sleep overs at Nonnie and Papo's, your first extended time away from Mommy and Daddy AND it brought you your brothers.

My love, this was a BIG year for you and I loved watching you navigate your way through it.  You made good friends (like Keira and Allie) said good bye to your beloved Miss Danielle and Miss Shannon, learned to trust (and love)  new people, became a brother and literally, every day grew up before our eyes.  See?

Sweet Gabe, you were my first baby and you taught me how to be a mommy.  You unknowingly prepared me and Daddy on how to be the best parents we could; not just for you but your brothers as well.  You have taught us to see beyond what is there and experience life in a way that doesn't allow us to stand on the sidelines.  

Antoine de Saint-Exupery wrote in The Little Prince "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."   

Gabe, you always use your heart.  You see with your heart, you listen with your heart and you love deeply with your whole heart.  I pray you never lose that, Gabriel and that Mommy and Daddy can help you cultivate that amazing gift.  

We love you, sweet boy.  The world; this crazy, mixed up place is a much better place because of you.  

Thursday, August 13, 2015

9 months of brothers

Brothers.  My three sons have now been brothers for 9 months.  Meeting at the airport; the excitement, exhaustion and feeling all of those intense emotions put down the glue that would, through the next few months begin to fully them as brothers.

Adoption, like life is filled with unknowns.  When our adoption agency agreed to allow us to disrupt our birth order, the list of unknowns grew.  Inevitably adding another child to our family would change Gabe's life but I had to wonder how much more would disrupting the birth order change his life.

We were thrilled when our agency approved our home study for a child aged 0-10.  We assumed we'd be adding a big brother or sister to Gabe's future.  February 14, 2014 when we heard the words "two boys, ages 6 and 8 months" we were thrilled.  Sandwiching Gabe between two brothers was totally unexpected; a complete delight but added to the list of unknowns.  These boys, this brotherhood, it was one of the major unknowns as we waited for Thomas and Samsel to come home.

"Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God" 

As I was sharing my fears with a friend she shared the above sentiment from Corrie ten Boom.  So we trusted.  Honestly, I trusted then worried then trusted some more.  And my worry, well it was fruitless.  Like we read a few nights ago with the big boys at bedtime; "Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they?"  Matthew 6:26.  We are more valuable to The Lord than the birds and surely He took care of our family.

Gabe truly became a big brother and a little brother in the  middle of an airport on November 13, 2014.  He took his brothers home and began sharing his toys, his bedroom and his parents.  My worries about the boys and the brotherhood they would form proved needless.  While it hasn't been perfect, it's been beautiful; full of love, learning and redemption.

In Samsel The Lord provided a sweet boy nearly the same age as our July baby that would heal small parts of Gabe's hearts that were still reeling from that loss.  While Gabe had to learn (and at times needs a refresher course) to be gentle to his younger brother, he also was given the opportunity to be a big brother; to be a leader and a protector, to teach Samsel and to care for him.  Samsel learned quickly that Gabe loved him unconditionally and is always quick to sidle up beside Gabe to look at a book or play cars together.

Samsel needed a brother to respond to all of his cries, to readily give him the toy he wanted and to help fill his quota of daily hugs.  Both Gabe and Samsel find comfort in one another when someone is sad or hurt.  Samsel doesn't yet see any of Gabe's limitations but all of his potential.  Their relationship is beautiful.  Exhausting and tests all of my parenting patience when they tease each other for hours on end but also one of the most beautiful relationships two brother could have.

Then there's these two.

 I'm not really sure what to even say about them.  Some days I just sit back and marvel at the fact that they have only been brothers for "X" amount of time because it seems like their relationship is so established.  Thomas has taken to being the "big brother" of the house with great pride.  He encourages Gabe, praises him for using lefty and helps him when he needs it.  Gabe needed Thomas. He needed a brother to play super hero with him, race cars around the living room and belly laugh with as they 'fall' off the couch.  Gabe needed someone to believe in him, someone for nightly wrestling matches against daddy and someone to whisper funny stories to after being tucked into bed.  
As for Thomas; he desperately needed the sweet, happy spirit of Gabe in his life.  Gabe showed Thomas that laughter really is the best medicine; for a carsick stomach, a lonely day or a hard moment.  Through Gabe, Thomas learned exactly what Daddy and Mommy are for; to care for you, love you, fill you with good food and hopeful words.  Thomas learned quickly from Gabe how to create new tracks on the train table and now they spend hours playing trains, designing new tracks and causing train wrecks.  Together they've learned to read; spurred on by a little brotherly competition (for Thomas) and the desire to not be left behind (for Gabe). Soon, they will begin 1st grade together.  I can only imagine the laughter, learning and fun that will be had around that table.

It hasn't been perfect.  Both boys have had a lot to learn; how to share, how to respect one another's wishes when the other wants time to themselves, to take turns.  All things brothers begin learning from day one; their day one just began when they were 5 and 6 years old.

9 months.  9 months of love. 9 months of laughter.  9 months of bedtime stories and songs.  It has been such a joy and a privilege to watch them go from brothers by name only to brothers bonded by love and an equal amound of need and admiration for one another.

No one could have ever known these three little boys born thousands of miles and a world a
part would be such a wonderful match for a trio of brothers.  Thomas and Samsel had one another but unknown to them, and to us, someone was missing for everyone.  Gabe fits perfectly in the middle; Thomas in the lead and Sam coming along as the baby.  Clandestine moments fill our house when I hear giggles turn to belly laughs, stumble upon them reading together in the playroom or check in on them sleeping at night and I have to remind myself that this isn't how it's always been.  While we couldn't have imagined how well these three boys would become brothers, He did.  And as I pull their blankets back over them each night before I go to bed, I thank Him for His unfailing wisdom to give us the gift of these three brothers.

 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father 
of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.  James 1:17

Friday, August 7, 2015

On Going Slow

Some days seem to go by so slow but the weeks and months seem to go by in the blink of an eye. Even moments at time seem like they need to be stolen because I blink and they've passed us by.  Life with three [very active] boys keeps me on my toes.  I've learned that in order to keep up and to be able to meet everyone's individual needs, there's little time to sit down.  At night I glance at the computer and have so many things in my mind and on my heart that beckon to be shared but I tend to curl up on the couch, spend time with Matt and fall asleep; physically exhausted but with a very full and very thankful heart.

Nine months ago Matt and I boarded a plane in DC bound for Ethiopia with no idea what the future would hold.  We knew it would be beautiful and we assumed it would be hard but we were ready to bring home two little boys who needed a family.  And as much as they needed a family, we needed them.

Step by step, moment by moment our sweet sons learned that we were their family.  It was, and in many ways still is, a slow process.  How do you explain to a child that you will always be there for them when all the adults they've known have left them?  You can't use words, you have to prove it to them.

And that proof comes in the form of being there each and every day, every single second they need you.  For the first few months home Samsel woke up constantly; he wasn't hungry or wet, he just needed to know we were there.  So we went to him, held him close and whispered sweet, soft truth into his ears.  Thomas?  He didn't need us at night but during the day time he asked (still does some days) so many questions I wouldn't even be able to keep count. Sweet questions, serious questions, nonsensical questions.  He didn't need the answers so much as to know we cared enough to answer.  So we did.  And we do.

Day by day, week by week and as the seasons change their attachment to us grows as does ours to them.  Attaching in adoption can be a slow process and we're okay with that.  And a slow, steady but strong attachment has shown us how in this fast pace world, slow can be a good thing.  A beautiful thing.  As the days have been slow and the weeks have flown by we've been enjoying life the same way: fast and slow.  Appointments and bonding at home used to take up our days but now appointments and play dates are filling our time.  In November the boys came home to a brand new world, each and every thing was virtually brand new.  We slowly acclimated to all that newness with just our family.
 As the spring began to thaw out the cold ground of Ohio, we were able to slowly open our lives to our family and friends.  The same family and friends that stood by us as we waited audaciously for the boys to come home, stood in the wings waiting to meet them, get to know them and live life together once again.  I still feel like there are so many people they need to meet (did I seriously and naively think we'd have a welcome home party for them?! Ha!) and little by little they are meeting all the people in our lives.

Nine months ago I could have never told you how important it is to go slow in life.  While I'm not truly part of the rat race I was accustomed to the idea that faster is always better.  Alas, not for the first nor last time will I be wrong.  Going slow with the boys has shown me the importance of going slow in other things.  Like on walks.  I'd burn more calories and get home faster if the boys rode or walked quickly but then we'd miss out on so many things.  Following ants down the side walk, watching squirrels, waving hello to the cars that drive by.  It seems unnecessary but enjoying the small things, the slower pace of life is peaceful.

Getting out the door on time with these three proves to be a challenge at times.  Rushing is nothing but stressful for all four of us so now, we start earlier, move slower and there is so much more peace in our house. This going slow... it really works for our family.

Pre-family of 5 I moved slowly in the morning; I had plenty of time to do what ever needed to be done and meet the needs of Gabe.  The first few months home, while we were cocooned at home most of the time we were still moving at a very fast pace.  Life was crazy and hard, yet beautiful.  But in the busyness I was missing the beauty.  The beauty that my three sweet sons marveled at; big clouds, beautiful snow flakes, sun beams on the playroom floor barely caught my attention because I thought I had so much to do and was moving to quickly.  One day though, the dust sparkling in the sunshine that had the boys laughing and dancing, garnered my attention as well.  And I took a moment to slow down.  The dishes sat, the books were a mess but those moments were so enjoyable.  After that day in May, I made the intentional decision to slow down.  Life was speeding by, there was so much to do but it felt so good to slow down.

Slowing down didn't mean life stopped.  We still schooled, played, took adventures and made it to our appointments but we enjoyed life a little bit more.  And as we slowed I found I had more time, more energy and began to be refreshed.  When we were flitting from thing to thing with no time for my mind or body to refresh itself, slowing down gave us more time.  More time to enjoy one another; slowly we added more routine to our life; scheduled school, more activities outside the house, morning devotions for the boys and back in the routine were morning devotions for me.

You're my place of quiet retreat; I will wait for Your Word to renew me. Psalm 119:114

Renewal, slowness.  It's so unnatural but it feels so good.  While it didn't make sense to others to slowly introduce the boys to the outside world, our friends and family, play dates it made sense to us.  And while initially it was hard to purposefully slow down; to truly stop and smell the roses, it turned into something wonderful.  Slow and steady: it doesn't just work for turtles [smile].

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Baby No More (said no mama ever)

He wasn't quite 8 months old the first time we saw his face.  The next 10 months we watched him grow in pictures.  June 19, 2014, he turned one.  In an orphanage, There was no one to sing him "Happy Birthday," decorate his room with balloons or pray over him as he fell asleep that night.  My heart ached as we celebrated his birthday nearly 8,000 miles away.

But not this year.  

When Samsel woke up in his own turquoise bed he was surrounded by our family tradition of birthday balloons.  He was pretty excited.  What two year old doesn't love balloons! 

 He missed out on a smash cake for his first birthday, so we added that to the menu!  Smash cake and train decorations. Family and pizza.  Just a few of Samsel's favorite things.

 Sweet boy new exactly what to do with his first birthday presents.

And cake!  He doesn't have quite the sweet tooth of his mama and oldest brother but he still seemed to enjoy his cake.  Especially after we gave him his fork. He wasn't to keen on using his hands.   

Samsel was flooded with fun presents; stuffed animals, side walk chalk, play chairs and a balance bike.  He's on the balance bike every time the garage is open!
Definitely a perfect first birthday party for our sweet two year old baby.  And you can tell me all you want that he's not a baby any more but to his mama, he most certainly is still a baby.  We have a lot of baby moments we missed that we need to make up.

Sweet boy,
Today you are two.  And today, like every day I marvel at the fact that you are ours.  You, dear Samsel, are a treasure.  A gift.  You're mischievous and smart, sweet and full of love.  Sam, you have the most tender heart when someone else is hurting and the silliest smile when you're doing something naughty.  You're full of life and start each day with a smile and the exact same question, "Daddy work?"  You love your daddy, brothers, cars and cheese.  And me.  Joining a family when you're 18 months old and have no idea what is truly going on must be impossibly hard.  I can only imagine how confused you were.  But we did it, you did it, darling boy.  Each and every day you give me and Daddy the chance to show you we love you and always will; that we'll never leave you.  And we won't.  And I'm thankful for every day that we have to prove it to you.

From the first picture we saw of you, you owned a piece of our heart.  That smile, those eyes.  You are ours.  And we sweet boy, are yours.  Forever.  Happy 2nd birthday, little one.  I can't wait to celebrate each and every one with you!