Stretch Marks on my Hips and Heart

It’s the question we’ve been asked probably about one hundred times since coming home nearly four weeks ago: “How is everyone doing?” The short answer is “great, and please keep praying for us!” And the long answer is this blog post.

The most recent “Happy Sunday” picture!

Bringing home Celine is what we’ve been dreaming of for over 2 years now. But, as a veteran of the adoption process, I knew the challenges up front this time around, or at least, had an idea of the potential challenges coming our way. Even that knowledge didn’t lessen my desire to bring Celine home, but it did bring a more realistic expectation. So, as we took her from the only home she has ever known in Hong Kong, and said goodbye to the only family she has ever known and loved her well, we began the actual hard work of loving her and teaching her we could be trusted. And that work is ongoing.

Our “little bug” on a lady bug!

Parenting a child with trauma is hard. It isn’t anywhere as hard as being a child affected by trauma, and in the hard moments we’ve experienced, remembering that truth is one of the ways God shapes our hearts to be the parents Celine needs. So, while the pictures we take are of the “good” moments (because who honestly wants to photograph the hard??), we are still being shaped as a new family. What is seen on social media is not our reality all day long, but we are thankful that the good moments far outnumber the hard.

Our first family fun outing was to the zoo (with a Mimi and Anna, because we weren’t ready to solo with the triplets yet!)

Not long after coming home with Ruth, I posted a raw and deeply open look into my heart, and it wasn’t pretty. Here it is . As beautiful as adoption is, it stems from the broken and sinful world we live in. Adoption is God’s provision, His answer for our many shortcomings. But that answer isn’t an immediate, miracle fix.

After adding Celine to our family, I am again reminded of how selfish and depraved I am. Adoption is not about bringing a child into a family (expecting her to assimilate), it’s about a family shaping themselves to be what the child needs. With that in mind, we have to expect that our lives will look drastically different when that child comes home. It means the ease and comfort of life’s routine will be no more. The familiarity of schedules, the usual independence, and even- to a degree- the commonplace relaxing and mundane slow pace we take for granted are also gone. Life as we knew it no longer exists, but life as Celine knew it doesn’t exist anymore, either.

Our first grocery store trip- quick and painless!

As difficult as this all is to me, an adult with a healthy psyche and a firm foundation in Christ and His promises to me, how incomprehensibly difficult this must be for Celine. And there are moments when we can physically see her struggle through the effects of trauma. Oftentimes, those are the same moments that we struggle as her parents. And it’s in those moments where we need God’s strength to be all that she needs us to be- pointing her to Him, even before she can understand. Refinement, growth, maturity… those are hard. And as Celine’s parents, we’re experiencing those things at the same time as she is adjusting to her new life. So, all around, the Haff-house is is a bona fide construction zone. (And looks like it, too- but that’s another post about another flaw I have!)

Playing with *gulp* Play-Doh!

But, just as always, we are not alone. (None of us ever are, the enemy just likes for us to think that way- it gives him more room to work) I am incredibly thankful for the messages and check-ins from my community. As a veteran to the process, I still forget the work and toll adoption takes. Much like a second-time mother mostly forgetting the intensity of the birth pains but then it all comes rushing back when the second child is on the way, like, right this second: that’s how I feel with our second adoption.

Mimi reading to her oldest 3 (of soon to be 5!) grandkids.

I am so close with my oldest, Ruth. I know her well- and she knows me. We enjoy each other, grow each other (even if she doesn’t realize how much she helps grow her own mother!) and love each other. But that didn’t happen overnight, as you can very well see from the blog post I mentioned earlier. It was HARD. It took A LOT of time. And it was the work of God in BOTH of our lives. I shared with a friend how much I want that caliber of relationship with Celine, and how exhausting it is to not have it with her right now.

I called Ruth in while writing to get a picture with her. She is so beautiful, inside and out!

But that same struggle is also God’s encouragement to me. It reminds me of his faithfulness and goodness. Remembering the low, ugly place I found myself right after Ruth’s adoption and seeing the state of our relationship today is a TESTIMONY! One that literally brings tears of joy to my eyes as it comes to mind. I even went through a difficult time in my pregnancy, not really wanting to be a mother yet and struggling to connect with my yet-to-be-born son. It happens to a degree with ANY parent/child relationship, regardless of it’s origin. My stretch marks, both physical and figurative, are the reminders He has blessed me with for times such as these.

These are the kinds of pictures Allen and I take. I enjoy a equally deep relationship with both of my “longest” children, but they are very different relationships in their own respects, haha!

I have every hope and promise that Celine and I will grow together just as deeply as I have with my other children, but I can’t expect the same results without the same work. God’s work. And so, here I sit, currently dreading any future interaction with Celine without the buffer of my other children (those are the hardest moments for me, personally: interacting with her alone) and yet I can simultaneously rest in God’s promise that it will not always feel like this. He is providing for us both by building this relationship: Celine does not need me to be perfect, thankfully, of which I am incapable. Sidenote, just because I have “been here before” doesn’t mean that I should not be struggling- it just means I should be all the more confident that God will carry me through. Celine just needs me to show her Christ- of which I am capable because God has enabled me to do just that.

Family zoo trip obligatory picture

So, while we are struggling through these current hard parts, similar to those we have forgotten about, we are also living through some sweet moments. Something I had actually forgotten I was anticipating was seeing the relationships between the kids develop. And, another unexpected blessing, experiencing and seeing first hand the kindness and work in Allen and Ruth’s hearts as a result of welcoming a new sister. I knew what they were capable of because they have been siblings to each other for years- but seeing them be a loving brother and sister to a new sibling has been hilarious, frustrating, heart-warming and even breath-taking. Just another testament to how God has knit our family together in such a redemptive way. I love that adding a child to our family has only increased my affection for my “longest” two children: seeing the little people God is shaping them to be is humbling and awesome.

Halloween costume preview!

While I could continue on for quite a long time on the struggles and blessings that our new family is experiencing, I feel like I need to wrap things up. Especially since it took almost 2 full weeks to write this post- I feel the work of Satan in my life these days, as as much as I like to ignore the topic of evil, I know that spiritual warfare is real, and if I have even been involved in it, right now is a time I am certain it’s occurring. I want the words you’re reading to be an encouragement regardless of your situation. We are all facing hard times- 2020 is one for the history books, no doubts about that. It doesn’t matter if your hardships are rooted in adoption or family, or none of those things, because God has gone before us and is here with us through it all.

Our first Sunday at our church together!

If you have moments in your past where you can look back and recognize God’s faithfulness to you, those aren’t coincidence: they are His provision. If you cannot see any moments where you recognize God’s faithfulness, because you don’t yet belong to Him, please read my heart in the simplest of sentences: He knows you more intimately than you know yourself, and still wants you. He knows all about your ugly heart, your terrible depravity, and knew about it all even before He formed you. But you know what? He still made you, He still loved you, and He still sent His only Son to die for you- so that, not only would you have unshakeable security for your eternity, but also so that you could have every hope needed to thrive in our fallen world. God’s redemption is for you now, not just after death. Freedom, true freedom, is found in Him!

So, as I navigate our new life- I’ll look to my past for the hope God has given me, rely on Him for all I need now, in the moment, and rest in the promise of a future beautiful, in spite of my ugly, and eventually completely perfect in Heaven.

And with that, I must go to fix a toy one kid broke that belongs to another who is upset, all while the third is VERY OBVIOUSLY doing something against the rules. God has made my life beautiful, even when it doesn’t seem it.

Sigh, smile, closes laptop as children’s’ shrill screams fill the house