You are turning 5 and I can’t help but think that you are 1 in a million, actually 132 million to be exact. There are an estimated 132 million orphans in the world and you were one. A grain of sand in a mountain, a drop of water in a bucket, a blade of grass in the back yard. And the whole orphan crisis seems overwhelmingly hopeless, but I look at you and my heart melts. You, my son were meant to be ours. From the moment you were formed in your mother’s womb, God knew that I would be your mother. You would belong to an imperfect family that tries their best each day. And through this, you would teach us what brave and strong truly looks like. I look back and I’m ashamed at the fears I had and the worries that overwhelmed my thoughts. You are a daily reminder of how God is faithful. My sweet Israel, aren’t we the lucky ones, we picked 1 in a million.
Today, I sent out an email to local adoptive families and caseworkers asking for tips for people interested in foster care and adoption. I received a lot of answers, but there was one underlying message I received. Adoption is never about us, it’s a choice to love a child. When we adopt, we are choosing to assign dignity and value because it is inherent, not performative. If you go into adoption for a “healthy, perfect” child, you will falter. You will be disappointed and you will disappoint. Love cannot fix everything and you go into this knowing that adoption hurts. A child that is hurting is going to be as unlovable as they can make themselves. Your family will be stretched in ways you can never imagine because you must fit your family around the child. A child you adopt or foster should not be expected to adapt into an already existing family unit.
A child needs a home and it doesn’t need to be perfect. Israel needed a mommy and daddy, and we are far from the perfect choice. Let me help dispel the myth of our family’s perfection-
1. I wear yoga pants and t-shirts almost everyday. People ask if I’ve worked out and I nod “yes”. And inside I answer of course I just worked out, I loaded 6 kids into the suburban to go grocery shopping. So, this workout included 30 squats when I cleaned up the spilled cereal on aisle 5, one minute sprints happened when I chased a 4 year old in a wheelchair down aisle 7 and aisle 12, I dead-lifted a 7 year old who was defiant in the checkout line, and 10 eyebrow lifts for moments that I had to engage my “mommy means death” look.
2. My children play outside and most of the time I’m not watching. They play with dangerous objects like hammers, trampolines, and zip-lines. And I am inside with my Diet Coke thinking how nice the quiet is.
3. Sometimes I don’t bathe my children on a regular basis. I implement the sniff test. Do they need a bath? They swam in a pool two days ago, does that count as bathing? Can these shorts be worn one more time?
4. There are times we lose our cool. My children often have selective hearing, especially my hearing impaired child. I have also used WebMD symptom checker and diagnosed my 12 year old son with Alzheimer and ADHD. We are outnumbered and they know this. We are just trying to keep the illusion of control.
5. My cooking sucks, and I would live on cereal if my husband let me. I purposely keep granola bars and cheez-its low on the shelf so that my children can forage when daddy is not home.
The point I want to share is this, Israel did not need a perfect family. He didn’t even need a super awesome family. He needed a willing family, and we were lucky enough to step forward. When he came home, he had no idea that he had stepped into an imperfect home. He has never once thought my cooking needed assistance, or that my floors weren’t clean enough. And he gets dirty and likes that I don’t make him bathe everyday. He is just happy that I have extra room on my lap to hold one last baby, kisses enough for everyone and an extra place at the table.
Israel has been home four months and this weekend as I watch him blow out his birthday candles, I’ll probably get a little teary-eyed. I know that I will be struck with the fact he’s never had a birthday cake, a party or a family to sing Happy Birthday. He has gone from being a boy no one wanted, to a child that is loved by thousands. So many have followed his journey, cheered his accomplishments and come alongside him with adaptive equipment. A little boy that has captured our hearts and had we let the fear and the nay-sayers win, we would have missed out on this opportunity. Your support and love has given this little one 5 candles to blow out and subtracted one orphan from the millions. So when we look at the overwhelming numbers of orphans and think we can’t make a difference, I boldly say, we’ve made a difference for this ONE!