We've held her in our arms for 357 days. She's shared our last name for 356.
What can I say about those days? The last 357 days? The best I can say is we are not the same. None of us are. Yes, we've all done the usual things of a passing year: grown (if you're Jacob it is a few inches), gained a few pounds, added a new gray hair , noticed a new wrinkle, learned new things, gotten a little smarter, perhaps a little wiser, but those aren't the sort of changes I referring to when I say that we aren't the same.
There is this saying and it goes something like this: "It is easy to ignore the orphan until you know one." I'm sure I didn't get that quite right and feel free to correct me, but that is the gist of it. 357 days ago we came face to face with an orphan. We shared our hotel room with an orphan for 24 hours until the next day she took our name and became our daughter. And because of it we are not the same. The journey she took us on changed us all. In big ways.
Our children think about adoption as part of their life plans. China is a day to day discussion in our home. Adopting again is something our eldest child frequently inquires about (and longs for). We have conversations that we couldn't have, wouldn't have if it were not for knowing the life of an orphan and with the help of the Lord, making her ours.
We aren't the same. It hasn't been easy. Pruning hurts. Sometimes more than others. Molding, shaping....sanctifying...it is hard, painful work. Growing pains aren't just a made up term. They are real. It hurts to come face to face with pain, trauma, and brokenness. Confronting sin (ugly, ugly sin) isn't easy and doesn't come without feeling stretched and broken a bit.
There has been pain. There have been dark days. But what does pruning accomplish? It hurts, but what is the purpose? It cleans off all the extra, all the unneeded, all that is sapping the plant from producing its best fruit. Yes, the plant will still produce if it isn't pruned, but the fruit won't be the best, the sweetest, the richest, the most beautiful. Pruning, while painful, allows the plant to reach its full potential as it bears fruit and make the harvest all the better.
We've been pruned these last 357 days. It has caused pain to each member of our home. But we haven't been without fruit. And the fruit is what makes the pain of the pruning worth it. Trust is born, attachments form, relationships deepen, understanding is greater, and perhaps we all embody the qualities of Christ just a little more than we did this time last year.
We are in some tender days...these days leading up to our one year anniversary with Hannah. Don't ask me how, but ask around the adoption community and you will hear from person after person....no matter the age of the child at the time of their adoption, they somehow know when important milestones are about to be reached. Somehow that internal clock just.....knows. It knows that this time last year something BIG happened and that something BIG was HARD and HURT and you'll do all you can to crawl inside the shell of yourself to protect yourself from experiencing it again. Forever starts to sink it a little more. I know Hannah has no clue what date is on the calendar, but I know her actions are telling me she needs just a little more reassurance, just a little longer of a snuggle, one more nap with mama's arms tight around her rather than alone, one more reminder that she will always be home here. She's a little more vigilant and concerned about coming and going or being separated from family members outside our normal routine. She needs a little more touch. A little more kissing. Extra hugging. More tickles. Frequent "I love you's." And it is okay. We are here to walk this road with her and we know these days may always be just a little more difficult for her. The questions of why will come back, the longing to know more than we can tell her may stir a bit more, the trauma may bubble over the top. We are thankful we can walk the road with her. We are humbled she lets us in to provide her with comfort.
So we are 357 days into this thing called being an adoptive family. What can I say about that? I have much to say, but the most concise way to say it is that we are not the same and never will be. And that is a perfectly wonderful thing.
"Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit."