It’s been 8 months since we returned from China with our two new teenage daughters.  Overnight, our family size burgeoned to 13.  The anticipation and eagerness that we felt before embarking on our mission to China has been replaced with the reality of “managing” a family of 13, a family that now contains six teenagers, with the ages ranging from 18 all the way down to 3 years old.  We added two 14 year old girls to our original lineup, girls who had very little understanding of life outside of an orphanage, girls who could not speak English, and girls who had their own wants, needs and desires.  Girls who longed to be a part of a family, girls who had spent the last few years wondering if they would ever get that opportunity, or whether they would forever be unwanted and left to their own devices in a life that all too often is filled with unspeakable horrors for children who age out of the adoption system (go to the Pearl Ministry website to find out more and how you can help).  Call me naive, but it’s been harder than I thought it would be.

Those of you who follow my wife’s blog – MyLifeInGodsGarden.com – know about the severe medical needs of Evangeline, with the surgeries and the weeks in the hospital, and the additional surgeries that will be needed, and our early struggles to understand Eliza, and that she has been diagnosed with autistism.  Diane does a wonderful job of chronicling all of these events, so if you are not familiar, I encourage you to head over to her blog.

To be sure, there has been joy in this journey, but there has also been hardship.  Sometimes the hardships seem poised to swallow up and overshadow the joys that should be evident.  Especially these past few months.  Especially as I struggle to understand how to meet the needs of all of our biological children along with our newest daughters.  Especially when I’ve spent 2 hours in traffic trying to get home to my family, only to get there shortly before it’s time to put half of them to bed.  I often feel like I am failing my children miserably.  But, to be sure, there has been joy in this journey, but there has also been hardship.

“We didn’t do this to make our lives easier, we did this to give these girls a chance to have a life, to be loved by a family.”

Not long ago, after Diane and I were physically and emotionally wiped out, I looked at her and muttered, “We certainly didn’t make our lives any easier.”  Yes, I said that.  I’m not proud of it, not happy that I allowed the circumstances to steal my joy, but it’s how I felt at the moment.  Diane looked at me and said, “We didn’t do this to make our lives easier, we did this to give these girls a chance to have a life, to be loved by a family.  We did this to obey God’s calling.”  She always know how to keep things in perspective, to look at the big picture, to stop me dead in my tracks.  Really, how do you respond to that, other than to say, “You’re right”?  Any protestations or complaints on my part were immediately exposed as being invalid grumblings.  Sometimes I forget . . .

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Sometimes I forget the undeniable calling I felt deep within me that we were to do anything and everything we could to get our girls before they aged out and became victims of the system.  Sometimes I forget about how I felt when I first saw Eliza’s picture.  Sometimes I forget the overwhelming emotions I felt watching Evangeline talk about how much she wanted a baba and mama.  Sometimes I forget the tears I shed at the thought of what their lives had been up until that point.  Sometimes I forget that, despite it being IMPOSSIBLE in the natural that we could ever come up with the money to adopt two children from China, God made a way for us to have all of the money needed to make the trip.  Sometimes I forget that God is in control.  I forget things that I should remember, and remember things I should forget.

 

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Is life hard because we say it is, or because it actually is?  Perspective is everything.

“I press on toward the goal to win the prize to which God in Christ Jesus is calling us upward.” (Philippians 3:14)

So, at 48, I still have much to learn.  I have much to remember, like the fact that we are not home yet, that all of this will fade away and all that will matter is our relationship with Jesus Christ and what we’ve done for His kingdom.  There is a joy in the journey, if we will only allow ourselves to see this fact.

“Our attitudes control our lives. Attitudes are a secret power working twenty-four hours a day, for good or bad. It is of paramount importance that we know how to harness and control this great force. ” – Irving Berlin

“Your living is determined not so much by what life brings to you as by the attitude you bring to life; not so much by what happens to you as by the way your mind looks at what happens.” – Kahlil Gibran

So, yes, life can be difficult at times, but we choose how we respond, we choose our attitude, we choose whether we allow circumstances to dictate our feelings, and we choose whether or not we will rely on God for those things that are out of our control.  My life is richer because my two newest daughters are finally home with us, with their family, right where they belong, right where God had ordained them to be before the beginning of time.  And I wouldn’t change a thing.

“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” (Philippians 4:8)

I have a lot to remember.

– Mark