So, we have daughters now. Two wonderful little girls who once upon a time were not part of our family, but now enjoy all the rights and privileges that come with our last name (such as they are – if they understood more, the girls might want to back out of this deal).
We have spent two and a half years aiming toward this goal, not knowing if it would ever come about, wondering if we would ever feel like they were our kids. Because in a lot of ways, we’ve just been babysitting. Yes, they were part of our family. Yes, we loved them. But the reality is they weren’t our kids.
Now they are. And while we haven’t switched out of foster mode overnight, things are starting to feel different. How could it not, when you stand in front of a judge, raise your right hand and swear to tell the truth and then, after a few basic questions, the lawyer hits you with: “Do you understand that this adoption means that these girls will have your last name? Do you understand they will have all the rights and privileges of your natural-born children? Do you understand that under the law, there is no difference in any of your children? Are you ready to claim them as your own? Are you willing and able to take care of them? Are you ready for them to be part of your family?”
With tears in our eyes and hope in our hearts, yes.
Because it’s a little surreal that this actually happened (adoption is something OTHER people do, right?), I think we’re seeing the whole experience through the eyes of others. The eyes of 50 of our family and friends who sacrificed time and money and convenience and vacations to join us in a courtroom on October 1 to witness the final adoption ceremony. The eyes of the court workers which got bigger every time the elevator doors revealed another crowd of supporters. The eyes of the social workers who cried their way through the ceremony because not all cases end up like this.
A huge shout out to our family and friends who supported us for so long. Fostering is hard. You can’t do it on your own. You need people to give you breaks, to make you meals, to help you talk things out, to ride the roller coaster with you, to host a fantastic open house so everyone can come celebrate. You did all of that and more for us – thank you.
Because we’ve already had the girls in our home for two and a half years, our day-to-day lives won’t change. We’re already used to wrangling five kids every day (and yes, wrangling is the correct technical term). Legally, though, everything has changed. Their last name is now our last name. They are considered natural born children to us. The state is not taking them out of our home. Their biological parents are not coming to get them. Our boys have sisters. Our girls have brothers.
So this, the final adoption, is both the end of nothing and the beginning of everything.
There’s talk in Christian circles about how extraordinary our lives should be. We need to move to Africa to make our lives count. We need to start an orphanage. We need to live in the inner city. We need to leave a legacy that ordinary people can’t match. We need to accomplish great things. We’re failures if we just go to work, know our neighbors, take our kids to school, go to church.
My theory: many extraordinary things happen simply through the accumulated weight of ordinary details. Uncountable loads of laundry. Thousands of meals. Bedtimes every night. Car rides every morning. One diaper at a time, one day at a time, one girl at a time. The story of our lives does not play out mostly in the big moments – our legacies are written in the millions of small decisions that reveal our character each day. How we speak to our kids. How we prioritize our time. Our faithfulness to our church. The phone calls with our parents. The texts to our friends. Our consistency in loving our neighbors.
Some of us are truly called to “big” things. But get the mundane, ordinary things right first – that’s extraordinary in itself. C.S. Lewis once wrote, “Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back everything has?” Fostering and adopting has been like that for us. In some ways it felt like a big thing (try taking five little kids to a restaurant), but much of the time, it was dealing with the unending details that make up our lives. Add in the issues of fostering – emotional, physical, social, mental – multiply it all by five kids and it feels more crazy and exhausting than extraordinary. Months went by with no daily difference. But add up 30 of those months and everything changed.
Many people tell us how amazing we are, what a wonderful thing we’re doing, how lucky the girls are to have us, how extraordinary this is. And I get it. In a general sense, they’re right and they’re just expressing their joy. But we’re not amazing. This isn’t extraordinary, not for those to whom Adoption already means so much. All we’re really doing is living each day in light of the glorious gospel of grace. It’s only possible because Jesus was adopted so long ago by two young people who weren’t quite sure what was happening, but took it a day at a time until the stone rolled away.
We have daughters. Our world has changed. We can’t wait to see what happens next.