40. Home - There is such a sweet, sweet mercy in that little word! We made it home, and that is what matters, but it was, by far, the longest, hardest, most emotional, most draining day of my life! As we marked the halfway point of our flight over the ocean (this is where I left off from the last post), I could tell that S was going to have nothing to do with napping on the plane. Six hours later, we landed in Atlanta. She did not sleep a wink the entire day! By this point, I was exhausted! I had spent the final few hours holding S on the back of the plane. When I wasn't bouncing her and singing to her, I was feeding her...anything I could find! Once we got off the plane (without the stroller that my tired arms and sore back desperately wanted), we had to wait in line at customs for a LONG time! Did I mention that S got sick as soon as we landed? Fortunately, I saw it coming. Bless her little heart...she had eaten for 11 hours straight and at that point had been awake for almost 20 hours. I tried to convince the USCIS officers to let us through more quickly, but they were not terribly compassionate...something about a problem with their computers. There were a lot of unhappy people standing in line around us, and S had no reservations about expressing how she felt too! I can only imagine what must have been going through her little mind...
By this point, I was about to go crazy to get out of that airport and get home!!! When we finally made it out and saw the familiar faces of my dad, sisters, and grandmother, I lost it...and the tears did not stop the rest of the day! Finally, after dealing with our lost luggage (it never left Rome) and getting turned around in Atlanta traffic, we were on our way HOME!
The homecoming was not exactly as I imagined. As I collapsed on the grass with a pile of boys talking a million words a minute, Will was getting S out of the car and she got sick again! Honestly, I cannot even remember how the next few minutes played out. I just remember seeing my mother-in-law holding my little Evie and desperately wanting to get my hands on her. I remember seeing Barrett and couldn't imagine that his hair could get any blonder! I looked at Hank and couldn't believe he was about to turn 5! Palmer didn't let go of me, and his dimples must have grown over the week we were gone! He had the biggest smile on his face! And Web, with those bright blue eyes, never stopped talking! I couldn't take it all in. My head was spinning. I felt like the ground was moving underneath me, but that time had stopped moving! I just remember feeling frozen there on the grass in our front yard with boys all around me and a pale, little girl in my lap. I was so thankful to be home, so thankful to see my family, and so thankful to finally have S at home, but it was almost too much for my heart to take in! My arms couldn't hold everyone. My ears couldn't listen to every sweet voice and, my heart, I thought it was going to split in two!
I was physically and emotionally exhausted, and I can honestly say that I was almost entirely useless for the next few hours! Thankfully, my mom stepped in and helped get S cleaned up...sweet girl must have been overwhelmed beyond anything I can imagine! The boys were dying to show her around! They couldn't wait to take her to the trampoline...my sweet boys had no clue how her little world had been turned upside down! I remember finally holding Evie and just weeping...tears of joy, gratitude, exhaustion, fear, completely helpless and overwhelmed with the reality of finally being home and finally having all of these little ones together!
Home is such a mercy...there's nothing like it! Oh, I was so grateful for traveling mercies and for finally being home! I was equally terrified of being home. I could already feel that self-sufficient, "I can do it myself" determined, independent, and controlling spirit bucking against the absolute reality that this was beyond anything I was able to do on my own strength and power! There was mercy in being home, and there was also mercy in coming home to something that I knew I couldn't do...it was all too much, too hard. I was too tired...too overwhelmed. Were there too many? Was she too hopeless? Were we too crazy to think that this would be a good thing for our family? Of course, I should have known the Enemy would attack hard and fierce. He hates adoption, hates that a little one had been plucked from a horrible situation and placed in a home, a home where the name of Jesus would be lifted up! But there was mercy in all of this, the buckets of tears I cried that day, the spiritual battle raging all around us, there was mercy for my weary heart! The mercy was that Jesus was with us, here with us, here in our crazy, little home! He had been with us every step of the way, all the way to a little town on the edge of Bulgaria and back (twice!!!), and His Spirit would fill our home and our hearts with all we needed to transition and adjust to being a family of 8!!! He had been faithful. He would be faithful still!
41. Family - I cannot imagine many things that I am more thankful for than our family! Our merciful Father has blessed us with the most amazing and supporting family, and I cannot even begin to express how grateful I am for how they have stepped in and filled in the gaps over the past few weeks! On top of keeping all 5 of the kids while we were gone, my mom had my house spotless, my refrigerator and pantry stocked, flowers in vases, and supper waiting for us! Over the past few weeks, she has slipped in to bring groceries and meals, washed dishes, folded clothes, made bottles, rocked the baby, and given the boys a few pep talks about "listening and obeying" to Mom and Dad! I am more thankful than ever that we live so close to family and for all the years of learning how to have healthy boundaries and honest communication! They have all been so willing to step in and help when we need it, but also willing to step aside when we need space!
That first night we were home, my sister and sister-in-law were there the whole time, encouraging me, loving on the boys, helping out in ways I probably didn't even see! It makes me cry even now to think how merciful the Lord was to me that night as He surrounded me with family...Seriously, I am crying now as I remember Will's mom holding Evie...my dad scooping up Barrett, my sister-in-law squeezing my hand, telling me she understood how overwhelmed and terrified I felt, reminding me that this was a good thing and that even when it didn't feel like a good thing, I had to choose to believe it was a good thing...my grandmother making the trip to Atlanta to meet us...my grandfather coming by the next morning, speaking words of hope, that God would give us the patience we needed for the hard days ahead...Will's dad and step-mom sending me an e-mail that I read at the perfect time, in the middle of that first night home when I was feeding Evie... words of life and love and hope and promise! I could go on and on about the blessing that they all have been to me and Will and the kids!
Speaking of the kids, they have done amazingly well with all of the adjustments our family has gone through this summer! They definitely have their moments, but overall they have done fabulous! One of my biggest fears has been how the boys would respond to S, especially when she's pitching fits and requiring lots of attention. Would they resent her? Would they be jealous? Would they wish things were the way they used to be? I have wrestled with these fears, but my dad said one thing that I keep remembering, and I know he's right! Our kids will become more compassionate people because they have S for their sister! And I already see it! I see the way they hold her hands and jump on the trampoline together! I see how they are learning to turn the other cheek when she pulls their hair in anger and frustration! I see Barrett learning to share, and I see the big boys taking Barrett under their wing when "Mom needs a helper!!!!" I'm thankful for these glimpses of how the Lord has prepared and softened their hearts toward S! Ultimately, I am reminded that these children all belong to our Heavenly Father! He is the One who sent them to us at exactly the right time and in just the right order! It was not an accident or a surprise! Each of these precious children are gifts from a Father who knows how to give good gifts! He knows what is best for each of them, for S, for each of us! He, alone, is the One who can hold this family together!
And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. Col. 2:17
P.S. My sister-in-law captured S's homecoming with over a hundred pictures! I'm sorting through them and picking out my favorites to share in the next post!