We've been home now for five months. The longer we are home, the more complex some things seem to become, while others are easier or gone entirely. It is so hard to explain. We've been home five months. People hear that and think, "that is almost half a year, surely everything is back to normal in their house." And while a lot of things are back to normal or settling in at a "new" normal, the truth of the matter is, there is still so much new. So much to learn. So much catching up to do.
The other night I was out with a friend to get ice cream with the kids and Hannah was with us. We got a cherry on top of the sundae she and I were going to share and one of the kids asked me, "Does Hannah like cherries Miss Katrina?" Truth? I don't know. As I answered her I realized that while I feel like I know her (and I certainly know her a lot more than I did five months ago!), I truly don't know her yet. I don't know all the foods she likes or doesn't like. I don't know if she's even ever eaten a cherry. With each day that passes we know her more and more fully, yet the holes remain. When we first met we knew nothing about her and so the holes were so many, they felt more like tiny gaps we could easily fill in. As we know her more, we realize some of those holes will just always remain and they will be giant cavernous holes. Each time we face a new medical appointment or surgical procedure I am boldly reminded that I will never know if cancer runs in her family or if there is a history of heart conditions. I will never know when she sat up, when she first crawled, or when she took her first steps. I won't know what her first word was. I can study and study and study her and learn all that I possibly can, but I can't ever get the answers to those questions. I missed knowing those things when we met five months ago. I long to know those things now.
Our summer has been busy and filled to the brim with activity. Having Hannah home for five months now it is very easy for me to forget that there is still so much newness in all of this for her. Her first summer with us, her first rounds of company in and out of our home, her first trip to the pool, her first trip to the fountains, her first leap through the sprinkler. New is wonderful and I am so thankful to store my memory bank up with so many new and wonderful things with her, but I forget, new is also overwhelming and unsettling. We had guests come spend two days with us, then we had a four day break, and then we had guests with us for a full week. Hannah loved having company, but it was also incredibly overwhelming to her sense of security. The stimulation put her systems into overdrive and left her hyper alert and on edge. She was easily set off to tantrums and intense anger in the days following those visits. It was just a reminder to me, "Hey! I'm still new to all of this and I don't understand what to expect. I'm still scared you might leave me or someone might take me from you. Help me feel secure!" We just needed to slow things down a touch after those visits and keep it close to home and as much back to our routine as possible.
Hannah has come so far. There is still a long way to go. God has been working in and through me during this last month. Hannah has stretched me to many a breaking point. She has pushed and pushed and I've wanted so hard to push back. God is using her to show me my weaknesses, my personal struggles with sin, and He's using her to mold me, break me, and help me be more like Him. So many times she has thrown a tantrum that lasted five minutes too long or screamed thirty seconds longer than I can physically tolerate. So many times I've wanted to break, to cry, to scream right along with her (and sometimes, truth be told, I do). Yet this month He has firmly planted two things into my heart and when things get difficult His spirit breathes them into me like life being breathed into the dead. Image Bearer. As God's created child and adopted daughter through His son Jesus Christ, I am His image bearer. I can choose to do that justice and use that to draw others unto Him or I can choose to let my ugly sin cloud the glory of His image as I interact with my children, especially Hannah. There are days I have to take a step back and breathe deeply and just chant to myself, "image bearer, image bearer, image bearer." Be who you want your children to see when they seek to know Him more fully. Be His hands and feet. Be fully submitted to Him, allowing all your thoughts and actions to be captive to Jesus Christ. This is so hard and this past month has been especially trying. Hannah and I are a lot more comfortable together and I feel more relaxed in my approach to things with her--it is easy to allow sinful anger to creep in and attempt to break attachments. So I close my eyes and breathe deep when all my attempts to calm her out of a tantrum have failed, I pace back and forth and repeat, "image bearer, image bearer, image bearer." The second thing He has hidden in my heart this month is a passage from Ephesians chapter 5 verse 20. It says, "giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." Always and for everything. Giving thanks always and for everything. It doesn't say give thanks only when the going is good and life is great. It doesn't say give thanks when your children obey and you aren't annoyed by the slamming door or the toys that should have been picked up 10 minutes ago. No. It says always. At all times, forever, no matter what--that kind of always. It also says for everything. Hannah's tantrums are hard. Teaching her about life in a family of four children is not easy. Figuring out how to navigate over stimulating experiences is complex and worrisome. But God's word says that I give thanks for everything. I am thankful for Hannah's tantrums. I am thankful I have to navigate difficult situations. I am so thankful we get to deal with all of that because it means she is here, with us, in our home, and ours forever. I will not lie. Getting through many of these trials is hard, but the hard cannot cloud our ability to be thankful for everything, the hard stuff included. So there may be days you hear me chanting to myself, "Image bearer, image bearer, image bearer." and "always and for everything, always and for everything, always and for everything." No, I haven't lost my mind. I'm just reminding myself of the lessons He is teaching me and trying to keep my heart, mind, and being in check and aligned to His purposes for me. Many of these lessons would have been missed if Hannah weren't a part of our family. I am so grateful He gave her to us, along with these opportunities to learn more about Him.
So, home five months and the dust is beginning to settle. We have days and moments that feel very much like we are in China and we have days and moments that we feel very much like we have conquered so many battles. In all of it, God is so good. Hannah is an amazing girl and seeing her come into her own two year old understanding of her life in our family has been the greatest blessing I have experienced. She is so brave, so forgiving, so loving, and so expressive. I simply cannot imagine our lives now without this gift. Complex and hard, difficult and stretching, but with it comes joy immeasurable and blessings upon blessings. She is delight and joy. She, too, is an image bearer and daily she teaches me more and more about always and for everything.
Hannah, we adore you, we can't wait to see you grow more and more to be like Him and we will give thanks for your addition to our family always and for everything.