One year and 7 months later, WHERE DO I EVEN START?
Let me just say that it’s SO GOOD right now (keep that in mind as you read the update), but it wasn’t always that way.
As we were in process of adopting 6-year-old Joseph and 4-year-old Bella (born deaf and could not communicate), I asked Vonda, “We can do this…right?”
I couldn’t help wondering if I was too old. We probably should have adopted sooner, when we were younger.
But when we visited them at the orphanage, I knew they would rather have an “older” dad than no dad. We knew that having a family would change the course of their lives, and ours, forever.
Imagine for a minute you’re in the process of adopting 2 cutie patooties. Imagine you’re falling in love and you can’t wait to bring them home!
And then imagine getting a text from the director of the orphanage, “We found 2 younger brothers at another orphanage. They’re getting transferred here. Would you consider adopting all four?”
I read the message to Vonda and we just stared at each other. We knew what this meant. It’s law in Guatemala that you can’t separate siblings. It’s a good law. Even so, everything had changed.
What that short text said was, “You can adopt all four or none of them.” Those were the options.
Maybe we should have prayed about it, but we didn’t. God had already led us to Joseph and Bella so I guess we didn’t feel we had to pray. We just texted a single word.
We didn’t know it at the time but 2+2 doesn’t ACTUALLY equal 4. When you’re adopting, 2+2 ACTUALLY equals 10.
I remember the adoption day and the 2 1/2-hour car ride to pick the kids up. It was quiet. Everyone was lost in their own thoughts. As I look back, it was the quiet before the storm. Cliché but true.
With the paperwork signed, we loaded everyone into the van and began the long drive home. Our lives would never be the same.
The drive was exciting, scary and LOUD. Everyone was happy. Of course the 4 littles had no idea what was happening. But neither did Vonda and I. Not really.
We could read the paperwork. We could see them in the rearview mirror. We could show them around the house and show them their new rooms. BUT WE HAD ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA THE TRUTH BOMB THAT WAS ABOUT TO BE DROPPED ALL OVER OUR LIVES.
At 5am the next morning, my eyes squinting, maybe even bleeding a little, Joseph, Timothy and Israel were quietly standing at the side of our bed, just staring. A little creepy, like a low budget scary movie. I thought, “&%!* just got real!”
Joseph asked, “What are we doing today???”
It was a fair question, but it was the WAY he asked. It was the way you might ask a tour guide or a cruise ship director.
My only thought was, “There is NO WAY I’m going to survive this.” I ACTUALLY thought I might die. You think I’m kidding or I’m trying to be funny. I’m not.
We were so used to our teens taking care of themselves, we forgot what it was like to change diapers, make snacks, and tend to their every need.
Have you ever seen the tv show The Deadliest Catch? The show follows crab fisherman aboard ships on the Bering Sea during the Alaskan king crab fishing season.
They’re out in the middle of the ocean with giant waves crashing all around! You just knew someone was going die, ON EVERY EPISODE! It was a stressful tv show to watch.
THAT’S how we felt the first week after the adoption. Like we were tossed out in the middle of the Bering sea. It wasn’t a matter of, IF we would die, it was more a matter of, WHEN we would die (Don’t judge, I’m just being honest).
When you’re raising one kid at a time, you grow into challenges, slowly, and you deal with them, one-at-a-time. But with four, there’s no rest. Z-E-R-O. You don’t grow into anything. We were trying to establish routines and rules but also recognizing they were starving for love and attention.
I’ll never forget Isabella on day two. She was determined to show us SHE was in charge and she was gonna SCREAM until we agreed. I sat with her for FOUR HOURS as she screamed at the top of her lungs. The whole time I imagined her saying, “Do you love me NOW??? How about NOW??? Do you STILL love me?”
“Yes Bella. I still love you.”
She eventually gave up and we sat at the table and ate lunch together, in complete silence. Day two was in the books.
ALL day, every day, for the first 30 days, Timothy asked, “You’re mine…right dad?”
“Yes Timothy, I’m yours.”
Over and over and over again. One hundred times a day.
For the first 30 days we were out on the Bering Sea, tossed overboard. Every day the sea would calm at around 7:30 as we put them to bed. Every day I would thank God for giving us the strength to last, ONE, MORE, DAY.
The second 30 days felt like…we were out on the Bering Sea. Every day the sea would calm at around 7:30 as we put them to bed. Every day we would thank God for the strength to last, one-more-day.
Week by week we added routines and loved and hugged them. We changed Israel’s diapers, we kept them alive then we hugged and loved them with all our might. It was tantrum after tantrum after tantrum.
Every morning we wrote out another tour itinerary and we poured buckets of love into seemingly empty hearts. We were trying to put out 4 forest fires with 2 plastic water guns.
And then, after about 31/2 months, after 100 days, the waves settled. Mostly. Jesus calmed the storm. We could breathe and tread water. There were big rolling waves but at least they weren’t CRASHING down on us. It was still scary, but we could breathe.
We could HEAR the crashing waves and if we squinted just right we could still see them in the distance, but for the most part, we just floated. “Thank You God for another day. Thank You for the rest and the strength for ONE more day.”
There are mornings when we wake up and we’re out in the middle of the ocean again and the ship is going down. “THIS TIME, THE SHIP IS GOING DOWN.” But the storms don’t last, and the ship never goes down.
Today we’re on dry land. It’s funny. I don’t remember when it happened. We just woke up one day and noticed the sun.
A year and 7 months later, we’re firmly planted on dry ground. It’s seems like the Little’s have been here forever. IT’S STILL A LOT OF WORK but there are very few storms. We still pour buckets of love, but they pour buckets of love right back.
Joseph is bilingual and is reading and writing in both languages. Bella wakes up, comes out and snuggles up on the couch, every morning. She is communicating SO WELL! It’s been a long road, but she’ll get there. SHE IS SO SMART. Timothy doesn’t ask if we’ll be his mom and dad forever anymore. He knows we’re not going anywhere. Tiny Israel is growing! He has the brightest eyes and the biggest smile.
I now realize, I wasn’t too old to adopt. The four Little’s have given me more life, more purpose, more love. Would I recommend adopting four at once? Mmmmmm, probably not. Would I recommend adopting? 100%. Pray about it. Pursue it. Is God asking you to adopt? Is He asking you NOT to adopt? Are you too old? Too young? Too busy?
“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” James 1:27
“For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition that I made to him.” 1 Samuel 1:27
And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ Matthew 25:40
“Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.” Psalm 82:3
[If you know someone who has recently adopted, call them up and ask them when you can take pizza over. Offer to give them a night out. Take them a dozen donuts and a pound of coffee. Make that two pounds of coffee. If they’ve adopted 2 or more, commit to praying for them. Trust me, every prayer counts!]
All our love,
George and Vonda