And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these, my brethren, ye have done it unto me. (Matthew 25:40)
Let me introduce myself. I'm the least of these.
If you knew my whole story, if you could somehow see my thoughts and feelings and even some of my actions along the way, you would agree. I'm pretty much least.
When my older-child adoption journey began and Hannah first came, she was an angry nine-year-old. She was hard to like. Really hard to like. Impossibly hard to like.
Very quickly I spiraled into anger with her. Everything she did made me mad. Everything she said made me mad. Everything.
The whole time I knew I should be different. I had planned to be compassionate, and gentle and patient. But when reality set in, those qualities took a hike. A long hike. An 18 month hike.
During those 18 months, I struggled every single day with just keeping her. How in the world was I supposed to keep her and teach her or keep her and guide her or keep her and love her?
Keeping her was all I could do. I held onto her for dear life, with everything in me. Even on the days I didn't want to.
I kept her. It was the least I could do. The absolute, horrible least.
I'm not sure what took so long. I wish I had come around sooner. I wish that when I finally did come around it had been an immediate change. It wasn't.
I drug it out for another six months or so.
During those two years some people made some pretty hurtful remarks. I was crushed under the weight of them more than a time or two.
I wanted to scream. I wanted to drop Hannah off at their door and see how long it took for them to return her. I wanted them to feel the way I was feeling for just a minute.
Their words seemed so easy, almost flippant, as if I could just turn my feelings on and off like a switch.
Let's fast forward to the present. Eight years later Hannah has moved completely, 100% into my world. My heart overflows at the sight of her. I hang on her every word as we talk about life and faith and the future. I can't remember life without her. And I never want to.
Ashley has joined us too. Five years and I feel the same about her. She's witty and kind and loves to talk. All the time. And the two of them together make my heart explode.
I've said before that the emotional part of adoption has never gotten easier for me. I've never been able to immediately turn on the feelings. I'd love to start right out of the gate with compassion and gentleness and patience, but each time I spiral right back down to just focusing on keeping her.
It happened with Hannah.
It happened with Ashley.
It happened with Amy.
This is when I identify the most with the least of these. This is when I look the least. This is when I need those around me to hang in there too. Focus on keeping me through these rough patches just as I'm focusing on keeping her.
It didn't look pretty. I have some scars from each journey.
But I kept Hannah. And Ashley. And Amy.
For those of you out there who have walked in my shoes, you know that many don't.
I pass no judgement. I know the hopelessness. I know the isolation. I know.
But I also know it passes. Not as quickly as I would have liked, but it does.
One day you turn around and find your emotions have caught up with you. They may be exhausted and out of breath for a while, but they're there. Then they grow strong and flourish and you can't even remember what it was like when they weren't there because it seems like they've always been.
For those of you who are spending the day focusing on keeping her, I pray for strength.
For those of you watching someone walk the road of older-child adoption, I pray for compassion, gentleness and patience.
In the thick of the hard season I didn't need anyone to tell me I was doing it all wrong, I already knew that.
Could someone else have done it better? Absolutely.
Could someone else have had a better handle on their emotions? Certainly.
But when I look back and think about all I could have done better and could still do better, I find myself stopping here...
By the grace of God, I kept her.
And I'm certainly thankful everyday that I did.