One year. One year? It can't be. I can't believe it has been only a year since we landed on US soil. Since we left a country I will have an eternal connection to that I cannot explain. Since our lives were changed forever.
It is hard to wrap my mind around what life was like before adding Maran and Levi to our family and yet it feels like its been a blink since we boarded that flight from Congo and I watched Maran's heart transform. There sadly are only a handful of people who got to witness the supernatural change that happened in Maran. You now, have only seen her this side of Congo. God did something when we boarded that plane. He mended broken pieces, he stitched permanency in a heart, he whispered in her mind more than I could shout to her heart that we are going home, forever home. Before that plane ride one year ago today, she was a different child. And expectedly so, the hurt, the trauma, the confusion, she let it all out on me. Imagine you have never seen a white face before. Your whole world is black. Then you somehow lose your family, get put with a bunch of kids and with temporary "mamas", and then one day get taken to a different place and put in a white woman's arms. Adoption is nothing less than traumatic, scary, confusing in her eyes at that point. Someone told her in Lingala, this is your mama now. How crazy. Now she had to let this white woman wash her, feed her, bathe her. It is the depth of vulnerable we do not know. So for 4 weeks her confusion, manipulation, and survival kicked in. She tested my love, she pushed to see what a boundary was, she tried to make herself unlovable so she wouldn't have to deal with rejection again. And it pushed me to my breaking point, right to the arms of the only one who could handle all of it: Jesus. The statement "God won't give you more than you can handle" couldn't be farther from truth. I believe that is right where God wants us.
Past the point of what we can handle and only at a spot where the miraculous has the meet up with reality. It did this day. Somehow Maran's heart changed as she silently boarded that plane. These are the last pictures I took in Congo. She was silent as we walked along a path and it was like she knew what was happening. We were leaving her country.
Some people say "isn't it cruel to take a child from their culture", I guess in a small way it is. She will not grow up like a Congolese child. She has ties yes, stories yes, but not life experience after the age of 4. Levi will remember nothing from Congo. But if you were given a choice of growing up in a home with 30 kids and 4 rotating workers sprinkled with a little cultural rituals vs. a family that where you were cared for, known and loved and pointed to Jesus, I think I go with the latter. I mourned for her this day though. This is not as it should be. Congo one day, I pray will have structures to support families to raise their kids. I pray businesses grow where people can make an honest living and feed their kids. I pray kids aren't hiding from gunfire, forced into sex slavery, sleeping on the streets, dying of a disease that costs 2$ to treat. The world is not as it should be. And come Jesus quickly because he sees his children suffering. He is the father to the fatherless. He sets the lonely in families. (Psalm 68:6)
We will go back one day. We pray for Congo and talk about it. We sometimes eat Congolese foods and sing Lingala songs. But it is no longer their home. Some of her memories from Congo are hard. Hunger, neglect, hurt, sadness, fear, guns, orphanage life, confusion. But many of her memories are there are good. Somehow God has shielded her heart and allowed her to mention and reflect on the hard memories and still have a love for her home country. What a gift he has given us in that. She asks to go to Africa regularly. And Africa will always have a piece of all of us that calls us back ever so often.
One year ago today, we landed and walked down the corridor of the airport to friends and family. I have never wanted to explode with emotion like that day. Sheer exhaustion, the deep pain of missing my other kids finally relieved, the excitement to see a support group of believers who had prayed this into being, the reality that we are now a family of 6. It was a glorious day. It was the end of one journey and the beginning of the next.
Thank you to you all who have supported us, prayed for us, counseled us, sacrificed for us, brought meals, watched children, laughed and cried with us over the last year. It hasn't been easy, but it has been good. I thank God for entrusting me these two treasures that I did not deserve. They are not lucky, they are not the "blessed ones". We are. I am. I am the changed one. I was the orphan. Now I see my home ahead of me and I have hope beyond hope. I will trade this world any day for heaven. Thank you Jesus for this indescribable gift.