There we sat in Timbercreek High School's auditorium...awaiting the entrance of our fifth graders. We felt old to be attending our daughter's fifth grade awards ceremony. And Dennis...well, since he has ten years on me, he felt really old. Compared to the thirty somethings who surrounded us, we were. But four-and-one-half years ago we responded to our God who commanded us to "go" and we "went." And 14 months later we brought home Mez and Kamise.
For the past three years we have labored hard to meld into one family. It's the hardest work I think we will ever do. It doesn't just happen in adoption. It's even harder when the children we bring into our fold have lived a lifetime in their eight and ten years of breath in a land foreign to us. We don't know all the abuses which might have been done to them. We only know of a handful of their losses. Our experience with our daughters over the past three years whispers at times and screams at others. Whispers of loss. Screams of something taken from them which they did not offer. Mystery enfolds it all. Enfolds us. Self-protection was their life-line.
Most days, all that I know is that I feel like I fail miserably at loving the way the Father designed me to love. I ache for greater connectivity which I am powerless to create. It seems there is a force greater than us all not wanting us to connect, to bond. A force which seeks to prevent anyone from seeing the heart of our adoptive God/Father woven through our family's tapestry in some beautiful way that might cause another to glimpse His heart for them. I feel like the picture we've been painting consists of paint smeared across canvas by tired hands, smearing, slapping on color, smudging, hoping. Many days hoping that hope will just come.
As I wait for hope, I have fought hard for the resting. Warred against self-contempt. Against all the forces which hunger to divide us. The forces inside of us. And the forces outside of us. I don't feel successful most days.
Right now you might feel compelled to fix this momma and tell me you could never adopt older children and do what I'm doing.
Or...how I'm doing an amazing job.
Or...how we've saved them.
Or...there's a whole list of responses well-meaning people have shared hoping for something. I'm not sure what. I really do think they're well-meaning and want me to feel good. But...
When you're in our shoes as adoptive parents, those words seem to move in slow motion across space and fall into earth before ever penetrating our souls. For we know the battle which wages within us, and we sense the battle waging within Mez and Kamise.
And we encounter that battle all day long every day. All of us doing our best (and not our best) to become some sort of "one" as we travel and are carried down this mysterious path. The hard reality is that bonding is elusive so much of the time. We "play" family hoping that one day the God of the universe will "knit our hearts together in love" in a way that we are utterly powerless to make happen.
Grace. All is grace. All will be grace.
Pomp and Circumstance (the graduation march) blared through the speakers in the auditorium as our fifth graders paraded through the doors onto the stage, taking their seats. Mez began her year at the end of second grade according to her benchmark tests. Our beloved Mrs. Snow (Mez's God-blessed teacher) saw Meseret's potential and determined to bring her to grade level by this day when she would parade across the stage with these others.
Mrs. Snow may as well have hung the moon in my eyes. She has taught and fought for Mez and cheered her as few are gifted to do.
Mrs. Snow was victorious. Meseret was victorious. She labored hard all year. Studied for hours beyond what her school day required. Determination was her banner.
Quarter by quarter, she conquered the next grade until this day, when she walked onto that TCHS stage, she could delight in her fifth grade reality. Few have to work so diligently to graduate from fifth grade.
She must have heard her name called to walk across that wide stage and receive yet another certificate of participation about five times. Art club, Chorus club, Battle of the Books club, Kiwanis club, Patrol. That was all outside of school hours. Sunrise Elementary providing outlets for her hunger to learn, grow, experience life, and lead.
Each teacher of the five fifth-grade classes selected one of their students as the "Leader of Tomorrow." Only five students of the 100 were bestowed with this honor...and Meseret was one of them. Our daughter, who just over three years ago, spoke only Gumuz and Amharic, was uneducated, could not read...represented her fifth grade class as "Leader of Tomorrow."
Ninety minutes after we began, the students paraded off the stage to Pomp and Circumstance. I stood beside Dennis, my mom, and my sister Ashley, both of whom happened to be in town vacationing from Utah, and applauded. As we did so, my mom began to weep. Overcome by all that had been invested so this day could occur in our lives. She spoke life-giving words into us. And I believed her, which was grace. Given the path we've walked, it's hard to believe.
As we exited the auditorium, she was there awaiting us. All aglow. A fistful of certificates and medals draped around her neck. I went to her with open arms and we hugged. Then my sister and my mom. Dennis was outside staking out a picture spot so I began to walk in his direction.
Then I think time stopped. It did in my world. My daughter ran back to me, grabbed me tight, enfolded me as much as her 5'1" frame could, and wept. As she gripped my body, tears wet her face as her body released.
"What are you feeling, Mez?" I asked as I held her, tears streaming down my cheeks, too.
"I'm just so happy," she wept. And hung onto me as if claiming me as her own. Choosing to share her tears of joy with me.
She. Chose. Me.
I was stunned. For reasons not yet revealed, Mez and Kamise lavish our friends and family with affection and warm greetings, while we remain seemingly invisible to them. Mez is a contained young woman, softening more each year with us. But still emotionally contained.
"The Gumuz people are the most stoic people I've ever encountered on the face of the earth. It's their way of coping with losses so great," said our adoption agent as we approached our court date.
There I stood in the lobby of the performing arts center, wrapped by the one who walks by me without acknowledgment morning and evening.
She chose me. To share in that moment of glory with her...she chose me. It's as if the Father rent the curtain of Heaven and poured His hope into me. Hope that our lack of attachment isn't all my fault. Hope that He can and desires to open her to me in His perfect time. It's as if His hands lifted the shame off my shoulders, shame threatening to consume me for three and one- half long years. Priceless and evasive hope filling caverns within.
Hope which took her hand and mine, dipped them into paint, and together touched the paint-smeared canvas...creating beauty. An image of hope gifted from our Hope God. All three of us wrapped together--hope of becoming one.
How we must ravish God's heart when we choose Him.