Two teens and two pre-teens. One learning to drive, one learning English, two learning to read and write. Three schools with their associated paperwork, schedules, and service hours. Two with assisted and accommodated homework requiring parental translation and transcription EVERY DAY. One with a full honors course load requiring extra math and chemistry help, always late at night when we are gasping our way towards bed time. One not caring too much about grades for the first time ever, winging his way through his final year and requiring ongoing talks, ongoing support – let’s do this. We can do this. We see you. You matter too. One with a job but no license to get herself there yet. The other working hard at volunteering to raise money for a class missions trip. Yet another selling Girl Scout cookies every weekend to raise money for camp.
We swore off sports for this spring – we just Can. Not. Do. It.
And then the multiple abscessed teeth, pneumonia, the carpal tunnel, the surprise cardio issues, the lice, the scabies, the intestinal upsets, a rough flu season. We add in boundary testing and the first six months of crossing culture; always the hardest. We get used to constant, vigilant supervision. On top of that we pile language: every. single. thing. we say, translated and re-translated, explained and re-explained for a child/children that are not only culturally Chinese but post-institutional. We work hard on learning to make friends – a skill never needed before and very slow to come.
We add a special education process – absolutely essential, absolutely wonderful, and with a steep learning curve and lots of extra meetings and decisions. We add in a full time aide and follow up meetings to ensure safety and well being. We juggle therapy sessions and doctor visits and catch up immunizations and dental care long neglected.
And we feed them. Feed and feed and feed. One has grown about three inches so far this year. Another has put on ten pounds in six months, a full fifth of his body weight. Three in some stage of puberty. One eats everything in sight but prefers high protein and high fat – most filling. Two wish for Chinese everything; noodles, seaweed, rice and more rice, steamed buns, and all kinds of dishes requiring special trips to Asian food markets and new cooking skills. The other longs for fresh fruits, vegetables and carbs.
I wring my hands.
“Calm and Kind”, I tell myself. “Calm and Kind.” We order a lot of take out. We don’t worry too much about the instant noodles that bring joy. We pray for extra grace
David puts in long sixty hour weeks for a few months as we chase a couple of dreams. We somehow fit in two home groups meeting at our place.
These are the crazy days that wrap themselves around us right now. This season full to the brim with simply holding together four rapidly evolving young human beings. With simply hugging them tight, feeding them well, helping them learn and watching them grow.
We find our way, day by day, through new rituals and new routines. The very essence of what has always made us family must shift and evolve in new ways; ways harder than even moves overseas required. For now, the nations come to us and call us to be different people than we ever expected.
We breath deep. We write. We kiss and hold each other. We eat too much chocolate and drink wine as a habit and start reading the same fiction books and talking about them at bedtime. We spend time in the darkness just breathing next to each other.
We birth family together. And when people ask us how it’s going we just glance into their eyes and nod. There are no words right now for this sacred painful beauty. It just is.
And I’ll tell you what makes these crazy days a little brighter, a little surer, a little smoother. It’s the magic of kindness. The flowers dropped by the front door, the surprise gifts and words given with such great love, the meals, delivered and the phone calls made. It’s the people who love us when we don’t have the words to say how much we need to be held; when we can’t seem to tell them how hard it’s really been.
And when I hear people talk about “orphan care” I want to tell them these are not orphans they are people. And it’s not enough to be the called. We must be committed. Stick-to-it-ive-ness is a virtue. We stand strong, we hug and hold again, we forgive the little one who will never ask us to. We embrace their complaint and breathe through their dissatisfaction and the sometimes revisionistic history and the compulsive lying that trauma brings.
This is the love of the Divinity – a love that perseveres.
A love that is stronger than the greatest fear. And let me tell you that the last two years have brought us fears we never knew before.
We manage it poorly, at times. Falteringly. Hesitatingly. We release this love, sometimes, through clenched fists and with stiff arms.
For we too are the orphans. Complainers. Fighting for what we most want and need. Unsure, sometimes, if the love of the Father will be enough.
But love wins. Through these crazy days, we find time for walks in the woods and we gather armfuls of spring buds and blossoms. The grays, silvers and greens blend on our wooden dining table – gesturing hope with their outstretched arms.
And we receive.