The big picture is that everything is going beautifully. When it comes to being a family of five, I feel like we are adjusting quite well. We parents need to learn to be more patient and not to nit-picky about everything the children do that isn't perfect, and the kids still need to learn to share better and not be so bossy. I feel like these struggles are normal struggles every family has, and we try to learn from day-to-day.
Not everything is rainbows and unicorns though. Adoption isn't always easy, just like having a newborn isn't easy, and life isn't easy. Does the Bible ever says it is going to be easy? Nope! Can we still remain joyful even when it isn't easy. Yep! (Easier said than done, by the way.) We aren't dealing with an infant that wakes up 27 times at night, or a young toddler who bites, or a teenager who is rebelling against everything Mom and Dad say. In that respect, adopting a 4 year old is one of the best ages to adopt! I do think every age is the "best age to adopt", but for us in this situation, 4 is great.
Four years also comes along with its own issues. We are dealing with a child that has four years, nearly five, of never being told no, experiencing very little discipline or boundaries, not being required to share, and being babied. He was also awakened several times throughout the night and taken to the bathroom, so his little body never learned to wake himself up when he needed to go. These issues are improving vastly in our six weeks here, but they are a constant struggle. At first we would tell him that only babies do such and such, and that only egged him on. He loves being a baby, so he would keep doing whatever we had asked him not to do. Parenting certainly requires creativity, so we are coming up with new ways to convince him to act like a big boy. Despite his baby-like tendencies, he is a phenomenal big brother. He likes to make sure his sisters are in close proximity, not getting into trouble, and are okay in general. He may be tiny, but his compassion is very large!
Another huge struggle I have had is why God allows some children to be born sick. Why are there children with cancer, genetic disorders, learning disabilities, and physical ailments? Clearly the Lord's plan is way bigger than anything we can perceive, but it breaks my heart that our Samuel's heart is not the way it is "supposed" to be. Why will he not be allowed to play soccer in high school, or ride roller coasters, or go a few days without taking his pills? Why must he have a scar down his chest that'll make kids always ask him, "What happened to you?" These questions have plagued me, and I don't pretend to know all the answers, but I have come to realize something very important.
If Samuel was born "normal," his birth family probably would have kept him. He would have been raised in a dire situation to say the least, one that I cannot even fathom. What would be the most sad is that he may never have been exposed to the gospel or have the opportunity to ask Jesus into his heart. Brent and I mess up in some form or fashion as parents every day, some days worse than others. However, we strive to ensure that our children know Jesus, love Jesus, and pray that one day they accept Him as their Lord and Savior. We cannot change Samuel's heart physically, but we certainly can influence his heart spiritually.
In dealing with struggles and sickness, Brent and I are struggling because we are sick of being here. It is a gorgeous city with delightful people, but it isn't home. It is so hard for Brent to get all of his work done, especially as elections are getting closer. Even with the door closed, the kids can be loud. The internet doesn't always work great, and he is 2,000 miles away from his office and clients! I have to hand it to him, he has done a fantastic job working remotely. I only wish his clients knew how much time and energy, and how many late nights he spends making sure everything is done perfectly.
We miss being able to hop in our car and go where we please without hailing a taxi. We miss our home and especially our bed. The bed here isn't horrible, but isn't comfortable. All of the comforters look like they would be in a motel rented by the hour. We miss our furniture. The living room here consists of one couch that has broken springs and is horrible. I miss having Walmart a couple minutes away. (Oh gracious, I just said I miss Walmart. I am almost ashamed). We miss our sweet, spoiled, six pound Lucy. We miss American food! Brent and I were sort-of-but-not-really joking that we would love for someone to surprise us with a big, greasy, cheesy Papa John's pizza when he landed in the Montgomery airport. We miss Frazer school, where the kids go in the mornings for preschool. We miss our friends. We miss First Baptist and especially our Sunday School class, which contains some of the wisest, God-fearing, scripture-knowing people we have ever met. Above all we miss our families. We FaceTime occassionally, but there is nothing like being with family. Speaking of family, my mother mentioned Thanksgiving the other day. The thought of her Thanksgiving food makes me salivate like Pavlov's dogs. Best. Cook. Ever!!
Since we began the adoption process two years ago, we have learned a lot about "hurry up and wait." We prayed for patience, and the Lord really tried to teach us patience. If we were told the average time for a certain step was three weeks, it would be five weeks. When we were about to start packing to get ready for our trip to Colombia in April, we ended up having to wait until late August. We are trying so hard to be patient, and it is a constant battle. This is all in the Lord's hands, but our hearts and our minds are so weak sometimes. This should be our last big time of waiting, which reminds me of the part of the the Dr. Seuss book, "Oh! The Places You'll Go!" when he talks about "the waiting place." We all go through times in the "waiting place" for sure, but eventually "Somehow you'll escape all the waiting and staying/ You'll find the bright places where boom bands are playing."
We are currently waiting for the judge to sign the sentencia, which will be the official adoption decree. Whereas right now we are Samuel's legal guardians, once this is signed we will be his legal and official parents! He will officially be a part of his forever family, although we feel as though he already is. This will be a great day of celebration, and maybe some Dr. Seuss boom bands will even play! This could occur any day from now until next Thursday. We pray we get the news early this week, but it is nice to know that at the very most it'll be a week and a half away.
After that is signed, within a day or two the five of us will board a plane for Bogota. Here we mainly deal with the US Embassy, and should be in Bogota for only five business days if all goes according to plan. Then, we hop on a plane headed for the precious, amazing, wonderful USA! As soon as Samuel steps foot on American soil/ Atlanta airport carpet, he is a US Citizen! We are praying that moment is just around the corner, our time here goes quickly, and we don't crave too much American food in the mean-time.
Before I close, let me end on a positive note and share some of the great parts of the past several days.
1) We walked to the park yesterday, and the kids played for a solid hour. Then we walked nearly a mile to a restaurant. The kids were awesome the entire weekend, no matter what we did!
2) Samuel prayed last night before bed, "Thank you for Daddy, Mama, Alex, Lilly, and Jesus. The End."
3) The kids have had a lot of practice coloring and drawing while we have been here. Samuel drew his entire family today. It is always evident who is who, because he makes sure the males are anatomically correct. The three kids are still young enough where being naked doesn't matter. Their hineys and other parts are no different than an ear or an elbow. The drawings, nonetheless, make Brent and me laugh.
4) We went to the mall Saturday. The big kids got haircuts, and look absolutely adorable. All three kids got to ride cars at a small race track at the mall. Samuel drives like a Colombian taxi driver. He hits the gas then brake, gas then brake. Alex is terrifying. She only hits the gas, and would fling herself into the side of the race track and into her siblings. Lilly Grace is an exceptional driver. She will not worry us to death when she turns 16. The verdict is out on her siblings.
5) Lilly Grace and Samuel refuse to get on escalators unless they are together and holding hands. At the end they count and jump off together.