Eva Loves Mommy

Mar
2014
16

posted by on Adoption

2 comments

A couple of nights ago we were all sitting around the table after dinner; Josh and I enjoying a few minutes of peace and quiet before the crazed bedtime routine that would follow. OK, it was neither peaceful nor quiet but at least we were sitting. And the children were (sort of) sitting. Reagan said something about how God made everything and that started us on this conversation, common to Christian families with small children…

Dad: Who made _____?

Children: GOD DID!!!

But of course Josh is a wonderful, perceptive father, and he is always determined to go beyond that simple truth and get to the hearts of our children. He talked to them about what is said in the Gospel of John, that “a person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven” (3:27). So he changed the conversation to…

Dad: What do you LOVE?

Children: juice/school/playing/friends/stuffed animals, etc.

Dad: And who made that thing you love?

Children: GOD DID!

Because knowing that God made all things is different from knowing that we are to love the creator rather than the created thing.

He had been making the rounds, asking this question, when he got to Eva, who had climbed in my lap at that point, and asked, “Eva, what do you love?”

She pondered this for a moment, putting her finger on her chin and going, “Hmmmm,” a gesture that makes me laugh because it’s so clearly an imitation of something she’s seen adults do.

Then she smiled and said, “I love my Mommy.”

Aaaand, Josh and I burst into tears. I’m not exaggerating when I say that. We were full on crying and you could tell the kids were like, ‘Uhhhh. Can we go take a bath now? This is really uncomfortable and weird.” And normally one of the kids saying they love us would not be the catalyst for such a dramatic outpouring of emotion. But this was Eva. And she didn’t say she loved Daddy. She said she loved Mommy.

See, Eva took to Josh immediately, but has only recently begun to allow me to enter in in the same way. There are many reasons for this. Primarily I think it was because she craved the authoritative and protective love of a father, but was threatened by the nurturing and instructive love of a mother. Josh brought the safety and affection she craved. I brought competition. She had been running the show with herself and with Titus for a long time and she didn’t know that she could trust me to take over.

This led to many frustrating moments for us. Seemingly simple moments, such as me asking her to eat the oatmeal squares I’d put in front of her, were met with tears and hiding. Not because she didn’t want the food (the girl is obsessed with oatmeal squares), but because she wanted to be in charge. And as much as I wish I were always sweet and patient I have often had to repent to Eva for how I’ve responded to such moments, with ill-masked irritation and sharp words.

By God’s grace – seriously, His unbelievable, transformational grace – the last few months have seen immense improvement for Eva and me. She’s beginning to loosen her hard grip  and let me take care of her. I’m learning to see the signs of a meltdown with her and to stop and breathe and ask God to be with me right then in the moment. Where there used to be a look of distrust and suspicion there’s now a look of pleasure and ease. She’s even learning to trust me with Titus, not jumping in to defend when she sees the discipline coming after he’s disobeyed. Giving me time to respond to his needs instead of always trying to attend to them herself. She is learning how to be a child. And not just that, she’s learning to be my child.

It is a weighty thing, knowing that I am re-defining her entire concept of what a mother is. But anytime I feel the weightiness of something it is an opportunity to put into practice those precious words of scripture, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” This not only takes the burden off of my shoulders, the burden of taking the 5 year old orphan and making her a daughter, but it also gives credit where credit is due when she does begin to understand that she is an orphan no longer. It is Jesus, whose yoke is upon me, who has orchestrated it.

So when those words come out of smiling lips, “I love my mommy,” there are many tears indeed. We see that God is doing what we could not do. He is able to begin to undo the damage of years of neglect, and give little Eva a heart full of love. And in that sweet moment, once the tears begin to subside, Josh is able to say to Eva, “Yes Eva, you love Mommy, and God made Mommy. He gave her to you to be your mommy. Isn’t he such a good God?”

image

 

 

 

 

 

March Reading

Mar
2014
05

posted by on Uncategorized

1 comment

I like this reading update thing I’m doing if only because it forces me to read things all the way through instead letting my inattentiveness do me in. I have read half of at least 50 books. It feels good to actually finish these last few I’ve read!

This month I finished up Mere Christianity and that led very nicely into Timothy Keller’s The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness. In the chapter on pride (The Great Sin), Lewis says, that the truly humble person “will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all” (128). In his book, Keller basically expounds on this idea. Only he does so by expounding 1 Corinthians 3:21-4:7, where Paul says “I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself.” Paul has learned, because of the gospel, not to think less of himself or more of himself, but to forget himself.

Keller says that “the truly gospel-humble person is a self-forgetful person whose ego is just like his or her toes. It just works. It does not draw attention to itself. The toes just work; the ego just works. Neither draws attention to itself.” He goes on to talk about how, for the christian, the verdict is in. We are declared righteous because of the work of Jesus. And to focus once again on our own actions, as though they will save or condemn us, is like “being sucked back into the courtroom…we should not be there. The court is adjourned.”

I commend this book to you. Everyone should not just read this, but own it. It’s like 50 pages, you can read it in an hour. But it’s something I know I will go back to again and again, a great reminder of the need for the gospel in every moment of every day.

I also read Nancy Wilson’s book, True Companion: Thoughts on being a Pastor’s Wife. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this book to everyone, because it is pretty specifically for the wife of a man in ministry. But it was a great encouragement to me. One of the challenges of this season in the Hughes house has been that I just have to be all-home all the time. When I need to decline other opportunities for the sake of my home I can feel restless and impotent. And if I’m not careful I can forget that the most important thing I do is care for my husband and my children. This book was a great reminder of the holiness inherent to loving and managing one’s household.

So now it’s March. Am I the only person who kind of freaks out about March? For some reason January and February feel like practice months, and then in March I think, wait, it really is 2014 isn’t it? Agh! Only 3 months left of school! How did 2 months of this year already slip away?! What am I doing with my life?!

Ah, but March is also Spring Break month. Hurrah! Spring Break doesn’t mean quite what it did before marriage and children, but it is a nice respite from the hectic every day routine. We can take things a little more slowly. And this year our family is so blessed to be able to go to the mountains for a week. We can. not. wait. This mom needs to chill. And her husband definitely needs to chill. So we’re pretty stoked. Also Charlie’s birthday falls that week and our kids are all still young enough to think that Charlie’s birthday concurring with our trip to the mountains is the most amazing thing that ever happened. Who needs friends and a party when you get to have your birthday in the mountains with your family?!!!

With that trip in mind, I have decided to tackle ONE book this month. Which might sound rather lacking in ambition except I’m planning on reading Eric Metaxas’ biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. And it’s huge. I’ve been meaning to read this book for ages. I’ve had it on my kindle for like 2 years. But every time I think to start it seems such an undertaking. I’ve been itching to read a biography, though, and this seems like a good time to start. I’m hoping that a week in the mountains will provide lots of reading time. We shall see.

It is a vacation so no judging if I just end up reading Better Homes and Gardens and Vanity Fair all week.

posted by on Uncategorized

No comments

Since Josh and I decided to adopt independently, meaning that we didn’t use an agency, we kind of bypassed the usual required classes and meetings of the adoptive process.  Now, obviously, since I didn’t experience the process through an agency, I don’t know much about it, but I do know that most offer, and some require, classes that will prepare parents for the process as well as for life with an adopted child. I imagine it being somewhat like teaching someone to swim before letting them get in the pool, or at least offering them a flotation device. Whereas we basically just fell into the deep end and it was sink or swim.

With regard to all of the legal steps required to bring a child home from another country, I think we could have used a flotation device. If only because completing all of those legal steps was basically like taking on a second job for Josh. And while we had a family who had gone before us guiding us, it was still a lot of work on our part that would have otherwise been delegated to an agency.

But with regard to all that preparation that’s offered…well, I just don’t know if I regret missing out on that. We didn’t attend any classes. I never went to any support group for moms with adopted children. Or for moms with children of a different ethnicity than their own. I didn’t attend any seminar on doing a black girls hair. We didn’t do a lot of research about helping kids adapt to a new culture. And while we may have missed out on some helpful information, we also didn’t develop unrealistic or narrow expectations. We just kind of dove in.

None of those things are wrong. And for some I think it can all be very helpful. And for some, especially those who may be adopting children with special needs or a history of abuse, they are necessary. But I think, if I may say so, that our culture is obsessed with having it all together. We are obsessed with our plans. We love to make sure we’ve got it all figured out ahead of time. It makes us comfortable. And that incessant need to have everything perfectly mapped out can sometimes hinder our willingness to step out in faith. And even if we are stepping out, we may be doing so with no faith at all, but simply a reliance on our own ability to anticipate, prepare, plan and execute.

Let me tell you, we spent a month in Uganda, never knowing what the next day would bring, completely immersed in a culture that doesn’t make plans (because it would be pointless to do so). At the time I hated it. It stressed us out. We would ask our Ugandan friends over and over, “So when are we going to get the judge’s order? So how long does it take to get a passport? So how long should we expect to be here?” We were like broken records. And they would just smile and tell us to relax and repeat that they have no idea because there is no certainty regarding these things. It was infuriating.

But it was perfect. It’s what we needed. We needed to be put in our place. We needed to see how deeply we had fallen into the American illusion of control without even realizing it. Because our entire lives are based on our plans. We have schedules and routines and planners and it all makes us feel like we’re in control. But only One can have control. And we’d better let Him have it.

And because every child is different, and no two adoptions are alike, I think it is probably wise to not prepare too much. It would be much better to pray. A lot. (Or maybe what I’m trying to say is that when and if you prepare for anything God is calling you to, you should do so praying hard). And ask God to make you ready for what you are about to do. Only He knew Eva and Titus, and how they would fit into our family. We couldn’t have prepared for that no matter how much we tried (and we didn’t try much!).

In this sense it is a lot like having a baby. Before we had Reagan, I read at least 3 books on pregnancy, birth, and the first year. I asked every single one of my friends with kids a million questions. I freaked out about everything that could go wrong. I grasped at control. And in the end, I had Reagan and felt like I’d been hit by a bus and said what every first time mom says. Nothing could have prepared me for this.

Of course we should plan and prepare. You know I’m not saying we shouldn’t. As much as I learned from our experience, I don’t live in Uganda. I live here. And if we just stopped planning altogether we wouldn’t function in our society. But let’s not rely too much on our plans. Let’s not be owned by them or driven by them. There is nothing sweeter than turning to our Savior, Jesus, and admitting our full dependence upon Him. He delights in this. This is what faith does. And it allows us to see His hand in all things, to thank Him when it does go according to plan, and to trust His goodness when it doesn’t.

 

 

Real Love

Feb
2014
15

posted by on Uncategorized

No comments

Our Pastor’s wives meet monthly to share what’s going on in our lives, strategize about how we can better serve/pray, and to pray for one another (And, of course, to eat something that’s high in carbohydrates and drink a ton of coffee).

Last month when we met I shared that Josh and I have never been closer than we are right now. I laughed and said “I know it doesn’t make sense! But it’s true!” Why doesn’t it make sense? Because this year has been insaaaaaane, of course. If there were any year that should have been hard on our marriage, should have left us distant and frustrated, it was this one.

Our church hired two new pastors and we adopted an entirely new ministry model.  It was also Josh’s busiest year in ministry yet.  So that alone would have made this a more challenging year.

But add in the fact that we decided to adopt 2 kids from Uganda last February, went to get them in June, came back with them in July, and went from 2 to 4 children just like that, and that way madness lies. Like I said, if any year should have broken us, it was this one.

And it did. But not in the way you think.

Last night at dinner, Josh and I exchanged our cards for Valentines Day, our tenth Valentines Day together (don’t know how that happened). We got each other gifts, too, but since my husband cannot wait more than 5 minutes to give a gift once its in his possession, we exchanged gifts in January. So last night it was just the cards. Well, mine was just a card, and his was a BEAUTIFUL FIVE STANZA POEM THAT HE WROTE HIMSELF. I don’t deserve him. My card was cheesy, but what I wrote in the card…well, it was cheesy, too. But the point of what I said was this: This has been our best year. I’ve never loved or respected Josh more. He’s never loved or served me better. And this only makes sense because of Jesus.

When it comes right down to it, it is the world’s definition of love and marriage that doesn’t make sense. Because the world says love is a feeling. It says that romance is driven by feelings. It says that as long as we can keep that feeling going, we are okay.

Look, I like lovey feelings just as much as the next person, but can we all be honest and admit they aren’t LOVE. They may or may not last. They may come and go with good seasons and hard seasons. But either way they cannot sustain a marriage. They are not pillars of a house. They are the nice decorations on the inside. I love having a beautiful home, but nice home decor is kind of pointless if the pillars of the house are weak and everything comes crashing down. Obviously this analogy breaks down at a certain point, but I think you catch my drift.

Feelings shift and change. Especially when the going gets tough. When Josh and I were engaged we had this huge fight one night in the car (mostly because we were sick of being engaged, I think), and once we had cooled down a bit he kind of jokingly asked, “Do you still love me?” And I sighed and said through my teeth, “I’m choosing to love you right now.” He burst out laughing and so did I. But he almost always tells that story in premarital counseling because he wants people to know that there comes a moment in every relationship when you do NOT have loving feelings toward a person, but you choose to love them.

This love, the love that is a choice, can only really come from knowing and loving and imitating Jesus. And from Him living in and working through you. You might not like that, you may want to try and find a way to do it on your own, but it’s true. We are told in Scripture, “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” True love is a complete laying down of self. And I love myself way too much to lay my self down. Unless I’ve got the Spirit of God Himself making it possible for me to do what His son did. Which is exactly what happens for those who have called on Jesus as their savior.

So when I say this year has been our best, what I really mean is that it has brought us to our knees. It has brought us to the end of ourselves. I can remember sitting in our room in Uganda, the kids asleep in the bed next to us, admitting to each other how much less spiritual we are than we thought we were. We’d emptied our savings, we’d been in a completely foreign country for three weeks, we were struggling to know these two new kids of ours, we were desperately missing our girls back home, we had no idea how much longer we’d be there, and we had to admit that we couldn’t do any of it. We were totally dependent upon Jesus.
Of course we are always that dependent. It’s just that the comforts of this life dull our awareness of it. Our dependence came into sharp focus on this adoption journey. Real love would be required of us, for each other, for our children. And we’d only find it in Jesus.

 

imageimageimage

 

That month in Uganda was amazing for us. We wouldn’t trade a moment of it. We learned more about each other, more about our weaknesses and our strengths (though it mostly felt like weaknesses). And aside from all that we learned spiritually, we got to do some totally new and exciting things together. Like attend a traditional introduction ceremony, stand on the shores of Lake Victoria, and lead worship together at a village church (and you should know, Four Oaks, that that will never happen here. And you should be thankful).

I have to admit, I kind of hope this next year is easier than the last one. That maybe a little bit less will be required of us. That maybe we can sacrifice a little bit less. But I pray the opposite. Because I know the truth, that there’s joy in learning real, sacrificial love. More of this kind of love, please.

I want to SLEEP

Feb
2014
07

posted by on Uncategorized

No comments

This morning when my alarm went off at 5:30, one of my first thoughts was, “Oh my gosh. Charlie didn’t wake up in the middle of the night.” And then I smiled, seriously SMILED, at 5:30 in the morning because I had been allowed to sleep all the way through the night without interruption. This is how much I love sleep.

It’s funny how mad I get about just one middle of the night sleep interruption these days. After all, didn’t I survive having a newborn twice? So you’d think I’d be totally patient about it, because it’s not as if she’s waking me up every 3 hours and then making me sit with my eyes propped open for 20 minutes so she can have a snack. But, honestly, the DAY that newborn phase is over, I go back to being shocked, SHOCKED, when I am woken up in the middle of the night. “What are you doing?!” I want to cry out. “We had an agreement, you and I! I sustain your life for the first 6 months and then you let me SLEEP.” I have a tiny bit more patience when they’re sick. Tiny bit. But that’s it.

So right now, Charlie is in one of those phases where she wakes up in the middle of the night most nights. And I tell myself not to let it drive me crazy but then I’m woken from my deepest REM cycle by the cries of a 3 year old whose blanket doesn’t feel right or book fell off the bed and all my rationality goes out the window. “Charlie. Move the blanket. Reach down two feet and PICK THE BOOK UP. I do not need to be in here for this nonsense.” If she’s going to the bathroom, she can’t just go to the bathroom and get back in bed. She has to stop by my bed, wake me up to tell me she has to go potty, use MY bathroom, cry about how bright the bathroom light is, and then cry when her pants are back on crooked. And then she needs me to carry her back to bed after all of this emotional exhaustion. And then when we get back to the bed we discover that a book has fallen on the floor and we’re back to square one.

IMG_6093

The thing is, this really only lasts about 10 minutes, at most, so why does it irritate me so?? Because sleep is one of my many, many idols that I’ve got to put to death. It’s the idol I’ve had to put to death in order to FINALLY start getting up early to read the Word of God and talk to Jesus. And it’s not that sleep is BAD. Obviously sleep is good. God created it for our good. But, of course, we create idols in our hearts when we look at something good God’s created and love it more than we ought to.

From everything I had read and heard, I expected that parenting would be a sanctifying adventure. But that sleep deprivation that came when Reagan was a newborn was the first of many moments that made me go, “Ooooohhhh. I see.” Because I just couldn’t do it. I became an emotional mess. I cried every day, multiple times a day.

I recently heard a woman on NPR describing the three ways people respond to newborn sleep deprivation. She said there are people who handle it really well. Who don’t need as much sleep anyway and aren’t too phased by having a newborn. And then there are people who are somewhat affected. They get really cranky and snippy, but they push through it and are able to function. And then there are people who completely fall apart. I’m in the last camp.

DSC02607

(I don’t even remember this. Or which baby that is. That’s how badly I handle the sleep-deprivation.)

So the reason this is (or has the potential to be) so very sanctifying, is that holiness comes when we admit, “I cannot do this. I’m desperate for your help, Jesus.” And he does it for us. In that sense, that season was a miracle for me. Because I felt like falling apart but I didn’t. I cried all the time but then I had joy. I had to face the fact that I felt like I couldn’t be happy and functional without 8 hours of sleep a night and then learn that sleep is not better than Jesus. Depending on Jesus is actually better than sleep. Well, my body didn’t think that, but my mind learned it. And continues to learn it, obviously.

Of course, that crazy newborn phase subsides and I have to learn how to continue to not love sleep more than Jesus when I’m getting the sleep I need. Isn’t that how our idols work? They come crashing down in the moment of stress, when we see how little they can satisfy. But the moment normal life begins again we start to rebuild those broken idols, piecing them back together. But there are all of these cracks in that idol now, so it’s easily broken again. And again, and again. And eventually I pray I just won’t even be able to piece it back together anymore.

I know this all sounds like a lot of thought about something as small as sleep. But I’ve learned, I continue to learn, that these small idols are the real battlegrounds. Sometimes there are huge idols exposed, but generally we all struggle with many little ones like this one. And we need Jesus in the seemingly small struggles as desperately as in the big ones.

So I thank God for the wonderful, restorative full-nights sleep. But I think I must thank Him, too (when I’m over being so irritated. Or perhaps to GET me over being so irritated) when my 3 year old wakes me up every night. Because it’s keeping that sleep idol smashed on the ground. And there is more to thank Him for in that than in getting a good night’s sleep.

 

February Reading

Feb
2014
06

posted by on Uncategorized

No comments

Is it February already? Good grief. Well, in January I planned to read A Praying Life and Mere Christianity. It was a super busy month for us ministry-wise, but I managed to finish the former and am about 2/3 through the latter.

You guys, I said it before, but I’m saying it again. If you have not read A Praying Life, read it. Like, go buy it today and start reading it. Now, I’m not typically one to advocate a book that strongly, especially Christian books because Christians gravitate toward the next best-selling spiritual book over going to the Bible. So I will typically say, eh, read the Bible instead. And yes, read your Bible people.

BUT, read this book, too, if you can. Most of us live busy, distracted lives. And we need to go to Jesus. We just want to do do do, but we need to go to Jesus. And be like Mary who sat at his feet. And be like the tax-collector who said, “Have mercy on me, a sinner!” And cry out, as Paul instructed us, “Abba, Father!” And just continually receive the grace that sustains. We’re meant to be constantly repenting, conversing, pleading, praising. Instead we avoid Him, trying to do it all without Him. This is just the tip of the iceberg that is this book. It’s intensely personal, very Biblical, and wonderfully practical. So read it; I promise you won’t regret it.

“What do I lose when I have a praying life? Control. Independence. What do I gain? Friendship with God. A quiet heart. The living work of God in the hearts of those I love. The ability to roll back the tide of evil. Essentially, I lose my kingdom and get his. I move from being an independent player to a dependent lover. I move from being an orphan to a child of God.” (A Praying Life, 126)

I haven’t finished Mere Christianity but I will in the next week or so. C.S. Lewis is so witty and winsome and enjoyable to read. Anytime I read anything by him, I want to read everything by him. It’s reminding me of what a delight it is to be constantly going deeper into knowing Christ. It’s an endless, wonderful journey.

“God made us: invented us as a man invents an engine. A car is made to run on petrol, and it would not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.”  (Mere Christianity, 50)

So, I’ll finish that, and I’ve got a couple more books on my list for February.

First, a dear friend gave me True Companion: Thoughts on Being a Pastor’s Wife for Christmas. This is by Nancy Wilson, who spoke at that conference we went to. Aside from her blog posts, I’ve read one other book by her, The Fruit of Her Hands, and I loved it. I read that one early in our marriage and it was one of the most impacting books I read during that season. I commend it to you, but fair warning, it is very Complimentarian (as am I!). If you’re not quite so Complimentarian you might not love it quite so much as I did.

So I’m excited to read this one as well, which speaks specifically to my calling as a pastor’s wife. Plus, look at this cover! The fact that there isn’t a tea cup or woman standing on the beach with her arms flung wide is incentive enough to read it. (Oh hush. I kid, I kid. I love those books, too). But this is a great cover.

51RYXOgqtNL

I’ll also be reading The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness by Timothy Keller. This was given to all of our pastor’s and elder’s wives last night at our quarterly meeting, and after hearing about it’s content from our darling guest speaker, I have no doubt it will be wonderful.

Both of those books I just mentioned are fairly short, so chances are, I will actually finish them both this month! Oh, and I’m also re-reading Pride and Prejudice right now, and planning to read all of Jane Austen’s books again this year. Because, duh, you can never have too much Jane Austen.

The Age Conundrum

Feb
2014
02

posted by on Uncategorized

No comments

So, if you’ve asked us in the last 7 months how old our adopted kids are, you may have received varying answers depending on what week or month it was. In August we would have just looked confused and begun the long tale for you. In September we might have simply told you they were 4 and 2. And in October, 5 and 3. Now we typically we say they are 5 and 2. But I guess eventually we’ll be back to 5 and 3, because that’s technically how old they are. Only probably not.

Confused yet? Join the club.

See, back in February after we had decided to adopt the kids, we had only my brief time with them to go on, and I based their ages on their sizes and thought them to be about 4 and 2. But in April we received an email that included their birthdates, both April, 2008 and 2010 respectively. This would make Eva 3 months older than Reagan and Titus 1 month younger than Charlotte. Weird, I thought, they didn’t seem to be quite that old. But there was nothing we could do about that, and we began to adjust to the thought of having two 5 year olds and two 3 year olds. We went ahead with school plans accordingly, enrolling Eva in Kindergarten and Titus in a 3 year old preschool class.

Now let’s talk about the BIG BIRTH-ORDER NO-NO we were committing. If you don’t know anything about adoption, you don’t know what I’m talking about, but believe me, it’s in all-caps for a reason. People are freaked out about birth-order. I was freaked out about birth order. According to the experts, the ones who have written the books, you should NOT adopt out of birth order. We were already going against the rules by adopting Eva, who would be older than Charlie, but now we find out that she would be older than the oldest and that is simply not done.

We weren’t changing our minds about the adoption or anything, but this news definitely freaked me out a little. Were we going to completely wreck Reagan by adopting a little girl who would take her place as oldest? Would there be constant tension between these two, fighting for that position? In the end I supposed we’d just have to deal with the fall out. But I was definitely nervous about it.

Can I be real with you for a minute? I think, in retrospect, that this birth-order obsession is dangerous, selfish and harmful to the cause of adoption.

Please hear me out. I think that the whole “kids have certain tendencies based on their birth order” concept is valid. Firstborns tend to be a certain way, depending on their gender, and middle children, and youngest, and so on and so forth. Just listen in on a conversation between moms about their children and you’ll hear things like “Mine does that TOO! Do you think it’s because they’re both oldest?”

BUT, when we let such modern, secular concepts dictate our care for those in need, we should wake up and take notice. The call is to care for the orphan and widow, not to care for the one who most conveniently fits into my specific plans. We ought not to fear such things as “messing up birth order.” I believe that the God we serve is quite a bit bigger than such issues. And is able to handle them easily. And, I might add, it is yet one more thing that drives me to my knees in prayer. Lord, help Reagan and Eva. They are both the oldest. Help them to co-exist. Give me wisdom when it’s challenging.

Please don’t hear what I’m NOT saying. I don’t think birth order is irrelevant or unimportant. I think it’s legitimate to consider it, especially with large age gaps. And there are other factors, too, such as where a child has been and what they’ve experienced. This may make it unsafe to adopt an older child. All I’m saying is that it is good to ask, “What am I holding tightly too? Am I placing my preferences or my comfort above God’s calling and His power to care for our family?”

So, back to our particular issue. We went into our trip to Uganda with the assumption that we’d be bringing back this 5 and 3 year old. But in no time at all we were really questioning this. For one thing, they were both so very small. But this could be explained, we supposed, by malnutrition, and ethnicity. After all, most of the people we met there were not overly tall or big, so that could have something to do with it. But, more than that, they seemed to be developmentally behind. It was especially clear that Titus could not possibly be 3. He was barely 2 in my estimation. And in the end his age, at least, was confirmed by his birth mother, who told us he was definitely 2. But to try to change it in the Ugandan system would either extend our stay indefinitely or force us to go home without the kids and come back for them when it had all been sorted out. I know that sounds crazy to your American ears but if you had been through their court system you would not be surprised by that. So, of course, we didn’t even consider this as an option.

Why on earth were their ages so off? This was my question and it is probably yours after reading all of this. But again, it is just so hard for us to imagine because all we know is the way we do things. And we live in the most developed society in the world. And we are given birth certificates THE DAY WE ARE BORN. And it’s virtually impossible for your age to just slip through the cracks.

Most children there are born without the aide of a doctor. There is no record-keeping involved in this. I’m sure many of the mothers know the birthdays of their own children, but it’s not entered into a computer or a system or anything. In the case of our own children, we think (we do not know, this is definitely conjecture) that when their grandmother brought them to the orphanage, she gave them birth dates that were incorrect because she didn’t know the dates herself.

Well, without the option of getting things fixed there in Kampala, Josh and I began to talk about changing their ages when we got back. I had heard of this being done, and we decided that, if possible, we would simply move their birthdays forward a year each, making them 4 and 2. We also went ahead and emailed the schools and reserved spots for them in younger classes. So we came home fairly confident that we were back to the 5,4,3,2 game plan we had started with.

Wrong. Guess what? We couldn’t change their ages. I won’t go into the very long legal reason for this but it just simply isn’t done much anymore. It has to do with immigration and homeland security and all sorts of other things. SO. We were back to 5 and 3. But thinking this was probably wrong for Eva and knowing for certain it was wrong for Titus, we had unexpected decisions to make.

This actually turned out to be really good for me. Already this adoption had exposed my attachment to my plans for the future, and once again my expectations for how the future would go were shaken. I found myself worrying a lot about what we would do. We knew Eva wasn’t ready for kindergarten and yet waiting another year meant she’d be behind a grade for her age, a year behind Reagan. So she’d be older than Reagan but behind her in school. Then we discovered that VPK would not be covered because Eva is 5 and kids must be 4 to qualify. We tried, in vain, to find some loop-hole or exception to this. There wasn’t one. So now we either had to pay for it out of pocket or keep her home. And then in a couple years face the same issue with Titus all over again.

The reason this was so good for me is it forced me back to that question I’d been asking since we’d felt called to this adoption. What’s really important here?! I can tell you right now, the answer is NOT that my kids be exactly the right age for the grade they’re in. And yet we become obsessed with these sorts of things as parents, especially here in the states. I was forced to remember where my kids had come from and just calm down. It was ok that Reagan and Eva would have issues as joint-eldest in the family. It was ok that Eva and Titus would be older than everyone in their grade. It was ok that things weren’t perfect. There were, there are, more important things at stake than everything being smooth and seamless with my kids.

And once I began to let that go I embraced all the good that can come from this. It was a conversation starter ever time someone asked, “How old are the kids?” Because I could tell their incredible story. The story of how these 2 came from having no certainty at all, even about their own birth, to being a part of a family. I cannot wait to celebrate these kids birthdays, regardless of how accurate or inaccurate they are. Because, in the end, the age isn’t really so important. They are here in our family now, and that’s what really matters.