Carl has been here in the US with us for just over a week now, so I thought I would stop just a moment to think about all that has happened. I remember when Jeff and Carl flew into town, and how emotional I was as the kids and I waited for them to appear in the hallway after they got off the plane. We brought balloons and a sign welcoming them home, and we were surrounded by a group of people who Carl already knew and loved. When Jeff and Carl finally came down the hall, I thought my heart would burst with joy!
Now, a week later, I am still bubbling over with joy whenever I see our new son trying to figure out what it means to live in a family. He is strong and courageous, inquisitive and attentive, energetic and funny, compassionate and gentle. He has always had a confidence that I would not have expected of him considering the life he just left. But on a few unexpected moments, he has also shown that he is very sensitive to correction. So I find myself constantly asking God for wisdom on how to help Carl learn and grow and heal. Yesterday, in the midst of an episode, I called Lorie, a friend who has also adopted recently from Ukraine, and she advised me to hug him, and to keep letting him know how very much we love him. I want all of you who are adopting to know that Lorie's advice was excellent. Yes, we need to lovingly correct and guide our children, but we also need to help them understand that no matter what happens, no matter what choices they make, no matter how many times they mess up, we will always, ALWAYS love them, and that we will never reject them. We are now family, and family is a gift that lasts forever. They need to know that.
I have to admit that before the adoption happened, I was slightly worried that I would love my four biological children more, or differently, than I would love my adopted child. But now I can honestly say that the love I have for Carl is exactly the same love I have for my other children. But that only makes sense, for God is the One who gives us children. It doesn't matter if He gives them to us from our own bodies, or through adoption...the point is that when He gives us the gift of children, He also gives us the love that goes with them. It's a love that comes from Him...a love that is amazing...a love that will never end. A love that reflects that love that our Heavenly Father has for us (even though our love is imperfect next to His perfect love).
Now that Christmas is over, I realize that Carl is no longer acting like he is simply a polite guest in our home. I can tell that he is feeling more at home here. He is interacting wonderfully with all his siblings, is learning the rules, and is starting to open up to me about some personal issues. This morning he showed me two scars that he has. The one on his leg came from falling on something sharp while playing basketball with his friends, and the other one on his side came from a surgery he had a couple of years ago. That conversation lead to another conversation in which he told me that a boy at the orphanage was mean to him once he realized that Carl was going to be adopted. But Carl did not hold any bad feelings against that boy. Rather, he told me that having parents was a very special gift, that he understood why the other boy was mean to him, and that Carl wanted that boy to be given the gift of parents, too. I have been teaching the children 1 Peter 3:9 which says, "Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing." I thought that Carl's reaction to this other boy was a wonderful example to bring this verse to life.
I know that there will be many issues that we will need to help Carl work through, but I am very thankful that God has surrounded us with family members who love and accept Carl, with a church who prays for Carl on a regular basis, with a neighborhood full of friends who are befriending Carl, and with a Ukrainian Adoption support group who can help with the hands-on advice. But most of all, I am thankful that God has graciously blessed our family with this handsome, loving child, and that God has already proven that He has not left us alone to raise him. Rather, God is very present, and will continue to gently mature us to be the parents He wants us to be.