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Last week marked the sixth year of our forever family for our daughters. Walking in the front door for the first time as a family of five, I think I was the most awe struck of us all. I didn’t expect to be there – standing in our entry way with two new daughters and a two year old on my hip. I imagine my eyes to be a bit wild, my curls not quite contained, and the family I always imagined seemed like a foggy memory.
And we had only been a family of five for a few hours.
When we received the call for a sibling group of two, there were many reasons I thought we should decline. Unfortunately, all of the reasons started with “I.”
Andy suggested, “Let’s just walk through this door. As long as there isn’t a “no” from God, I think we should take the next step.”
“Fine,” I conceded. But I knew, I just knew, God would shut the door.
Several open doors and ten days later we were standing in our entry way as a family of five. I blinked, and then blinked again. Two daughters remained.
Andy beamed a proud father smile.
Chaos ensued. Sometimes there’s talk of a honeymoon period when an older child is adopted. Stephanie’s honeymoon period lasted less than two minutes. We asked her to take off her shoes and showed her where they belonged and she threw a fit. Little did we know this would be the response anytime we asked her to do something.
By bed time, I wasn’t sure why Andy was smiling. I was exhausted.In a daze, I sat on the couch. Andy sat beside me and patted my leg. “It’s going to be good.”
I cut my eyes to him. “Maybe when we’re 60? She threw 8 fits tonight and it took almost 3 hours to get them in bed.”
He laughed. “It’s okay, Ruth. Really, it’s okay.”
Perhaps that was the beginning of my mantra. It’s okay.
I felt completely inadequate. Motherhood went from a joy to a hardship. I counted the minutes until rest time. I looked forward to bedtime. I snuck Sam out of his room each night just to have a few moments of remembering what it was like to enjoy being a mom.
It happened just over a month as a family of five. I asked her to wash her hands before dinner and instead of throwing herself on the floor and screaming, she went to the bathroom sink. She stomped the whole way there and screamed at the top of her lungs, “I. WILL. NOT.WASH. MY. HANDS! I. WILL. NOT. WASH. MY. HANDS!” The water turned on. The soap squirted into her hands. The screaming continued. “YOU. CAN’T. MAKE. ME. WASH. MY. HANDS! I . WON’T DO. IT!” She stomped to the table and sat down in her chair.
I felt like I just won a gold medal. She did what I asked her to do the first time I asked it! This victory made it seem like perhaps I wasn’t a total failure as a mother. Maybe I did have something to offer. Maybe there was hope for a happy family life.
God doesn’t expect perfection. He expects obedience. Andy kept smiling because he knew the girls were made just for us and we were made to be their parents. He was sustained by faith.
I wish my heart was as beautiful. It wasn’t. I only did it because God said to do it. It was blind obedience. There wasn’t a single rational reason to adopt the girls. There wasn’t a desire in my heart. It wasn’t a dream come true.
Six years ago, in the first few weeks after the girls came home, Hebrews 11 sustained me. I looked at the collection of people in the “Faith Hall of Fame,” I realized they were all crazy, according to the world’s standard. I wondered if any of them really wanted to do the thing God told them to do.
Did Noah want to build an ark when there had never, not ever, been rain? But he did it, by faith.
I’m sure Abraham didn’t want to take his son as a sacrifice. But he did it, by faith.
Moses’ parents didn’t want to hide their three month old son. But they did it, by faith.
It had to have been hard for Moses to give up being known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter and to be mistreated along with the people of God. But he did it, by faith.
The risk to walk through the center of the Red Sea was great. But they did it, by faith.
Their stories inspired me. Not only did they do something crazy by faith, but it turned out okay. It’s okay. I write my story because I hope it does the same for others. I hope it helps you know your hard will be okay.
Life is not easy. Your hard probably doesn’t look like mine – it shouldn’t look like mine. We each have our own stories, but they don’t belong to us. They belong to the Lord, and he wants to use them to inspire and strengthen and encourage and make the world a better place. This is why they aren’t always easy. If they were, we wouldn’t see Him. He weaves our stories together, like he weaves today’s stories with those of Hebrews 11, for it is written:
Not one of these people, even though their lives of faith were exemplary, got their hands on what was promised. God had a better plan for us: that their faith and our faith would come together to make one completed whole, their lives of faith not complete apart from ours. (Hebrews 11:39-40, MSG)
By faith, we brought home our daughters, ages 4 and 6. Today they are 10 and 12. Not only does the little girl who threw a fit the moment we asked her to do something come to the dinner table when she’s asked, but she does it with a happy heart. She also helps set the table. She doesn’t dominate dinner conversation. She is compassionate when someone has a tough day and she laughs at the funny moments. She refills water glasses and helps wipe up any spills. She’s an asset in the kitchen and makes clean-up fun with her playful attitude.
I sit between my daughters at the dinner table and I realize how much more than okay God is. When we operate by faith, it is always better than okay. They are healing and I’m the one who feels like she just won another gold medal. I can’t believe how close we were to missing the blessing. I’m thankful for blind obedience, for by faith we were given precious gifts.