One year home.

ONE YEAR HOME.

Jeff: 

This has been the hardest year of my life. I’m not sure how comfortable I am with admitting this, but it’s true. We’ve had more challenges in the past year than I ever anticipated, but it’s also been hugely rewarding. God has taught us so much… where we are selfish, where we are short-tempered, where we lack in faith and trust. He has stretched us… He has shown us that He is always faithful. He truly does make all things new. Lauren and I have shed many tears; we’ve also had our fair share of arguments, but we’re stronger today than we were 365 days ago. We love each other more, we bear one other’s burdens better, we’re more on the same page. Y’all, adoption is hard. And messy. So very messy. But this is God’s story. If this is what you’re called to (we still firmly believe we are), He will see you through. He will strengthen you, refresh you and provide for you. It won’t be easy (insert clever cliché about how nothing worth doing is ever easy). But it’s worth it. And SHE is worth it.

Progress is hard and slow and certainly not linear. Sometimes it’s one step forward and two steps back. But it’s there. It happens. It might be hard to see it sometimes. Maybe it’s a meltdown that lasts 5 minutes less, maybe it’s a couple days that you don’t have to deal with your child screaming in their native tongue at you (always super pleasant things I’m sure). When Tessa came home, we had the classic honeymoon phase. It lasted a few weeks and then we got cracks in the façade. Then we moved onto meltdowns. Then the meltdowns got more intense. Then came the threats. It was HARD. Without our relationship with the Lord and without our amazing community, we’d be toast. We have so many people that have stood in the gap with us, talked with us, watched our kids, brought us dinner (and wine). You all know who you are… and we are ever grateful for you. We love you deeply and you’ll always be our tribe. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Over time, things have improved. In fact, the last few weeks have been really good for us. Not perfect, mind you. But better… and good. She’s started to break down some of the walls that she put up. She is able to verbalize more when she is hurting and we’ve been able to better respond to her needs. So much credit goes to Lauren for handling things well when so much of the difficult reactions and negative words have been directed at her.  She has WORKED so hard this year…extended herself, made herself vulnerable and loved even when any normal person’s reaction would have been to run away as fast as possible.  We are putting in the effort and we know that He will see us through. This journey isn’t anywhere near finished, but we love our girl. And love wins.

Lauren:

One year! The hardest year. But we made it! I have to admit, there were some moments it seemed impossible and I didn’t know if I could do it. As it turns out, I couldn’t—not in my own strength. Not in our own strength. But we serve a mighty God, who knows us intimately and sustains us – every day, every hour, every minute. He gives beauty from ashes and he REDEEMS!

As many of you know, this was outside of my “comfort zone” in the first place. I’m the baby person. I wasn’t “old enough” to have an 11 year old. I “could never adopt an older child.” (I also said I would never date Jeff and I never wanted twins – and I’ve been wrong every time. God’s plans are far better! And I’ve quit saying never 🙂 ). But God calls us out upon the waters and HE makes us brave. If he is calling you, He. Will. Be. Faithful. I have always been pretty self-sufficient. Until this year—it’s shown me just how much I need Jesus in a way I don’t think anything else could have. Having Tessa in our family is softening me. She is teaching me patience, unconditional love, sensitivity, humility, selflessness…and a whole host of other qualities I have always listed on my “weakness” tally. 

I appreciate my husband in a new way. I knew I had a great man, but now I really understand how and why God put us together as a TEAM and gave us similar passions. He is strong when I am weak. His best qualities are exactly what we needed as we learned how to help our sweet girl. I’ve always counted his sense of humor as one of my favorite things – but when a man can make you bust out laughing while your child is in the middle of hours of raging? KEEPER. I am constantly in awe and learning from him. The way he serves me and the way loves his girl so tenderly, patiently, in the unique manner she needs to be loved—he’s an amazing daddy to her and an incredible partner to me-my rock.

Please don’t think we’ve got it all figured out—trust me, we don’t.  This is a big milestone and we are CELEBRATING the progress she has made and we have made as a family (because of GOD – in spite of us!)… but we still have a long way to go. The good news is we have a lifetime together to figure it all out (as her sweet brothers say often, “we’ll always be family and family always loves!”). I still fail every day and struggle with loving her the way she needs and deserves. Tessa has so much to overcome. But I’m realizing there can’t be a timeline for this – forget “well, around 6-9 months things start getting better” (when they actually got worse), forget that pressure. This is forever-there’s grace, mercy, and freedom; one day at a time. Oh, and her Ethiopian name? It means “one who endures or overcomes.” HELLO.  How fitting-she didn’t ask for any of this to happen to her but she’s a fighter. She’s enduring and overcoming. We’re so proud of her!

The past year felt like triage in many ways. I’m praying this new season is full of growing our relationships and learning how to love each other deeply. This is still really hard and I’m still a little raw. I’m not where I thought I’d be by now. But I’m down on my knees, thankful. Thankful for a God who loves us even when we’re a mess and finds us even when we don’t want to be found; for a husband and sons whose unconditional love make life sweet; for our family & our village who got us through—my precious friends near and far who let me be real and encourage me when things aren’t all rainbows and butterflies; and especially for this girl whose fierce love, nurturing spirit, hilarious humor, and tender heart have changed me forever. We are all better people for knowing her. We love you, Sweet T. Love always wins!

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” Lamentations 3:22-24

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. Romans 15:13

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