When God gives us gifts, He often wraps them up as people.
I had a keen sense of this after arriving home from Eastern Europe with our daughters newly added to our family through adoption in June 2015.
Though there were challenges in the very beginning, quite honestly I was just so relieved to have all four kids under one roof that I felt God had blessed us beyond measure.
As I looked at our beautiful children, each a gift from God, I thought our family was finished growing and we could move to the next stage.
As the months pressed on and the trials became more challenging and our entire family of six grieved the losses and pains that brought us to this point within the safety of our four walls, as we fought hard to come together in love and with grace and in truth, I thought certainly our family was complete: simply put, I was spent and could not shoulder any more responsibility. And parenting at that point was plain and simple laced with difficulty so great I thought I might completely come undone.
And I did. I came undone.
We all did.
It hurt, a lot.
We all grieved and wept and processed in our various ways the ways our lives had changed, the ways our world had changed and the losses we felt keenly in our hearts as we we made our way down a new path of life together as a family of six.
The beautiful thing about coming undone in the presence of God is that He doesn't leave us undone; He gently and lovingly and faithfully begins to grow new from the old ... and when the little seed of our hearts cracks wide open and we're pretty sure we might be at the point where we are dying, something new and beautiful begins to grow. And instead of death there is life.
Dr. Karyn Purvis said that in order for a person to heal, he or she first has to walk through the pain; the hurt that happens in the context of relationship also has to heal within the context of relationship.
Our first year and some home was all about going deep, the seed being buried underground, cracking wide up and struggling its way up toward the light again, sprouting as something new, healthier, more beautiful but yet still also itself.
When we first invited our girls' sister to spend time with our family this past summer, a year after we came home as a family of six, we were still brushing off some of the dirt from that first painful year we spent growing individual and as a family. We had no plans to enter into a season of growth like that again with our family. Our girls' sister also had no desire for her life to change or to be part of our family. She simply came to spend time with her sisters.
Oh, we of little faith.
Something happened this summer, and God began to change all of our hearts and call us closer to his heart. And as we each drew closer to his heart and truth, we grew closer to each other.
Along the way, we realized that we didn't even know that we were missing something and that something was each other.
John and I both had reservations and so did our girl about coming together in a permanent way simply because each of us was trying to understand the how -- how do we make this work when there's so much ... unknown. Uncertainty. So much still left ... undone inside of our hearts and our minds?
Sometimes fear does that. Sometimes fear tries to keep us from the very things we didn't know we actually need most to grow in love and truth. Sometimes fear whispers sneaky lies into our ears and our hearts believe it. Sometimes fear tells us it's not worth it, the risk of being hurt, so bury our hearts away and stay hidden.
As we each have prayed and considered permanency, we continue to realize that adoption is the way love wants to go in this specific circumstance in our specific life in this specific time and place.
We have learned that love walks the hard road and is better because of it.
Love walks together, even when it's hard.
Love lays down ones life, even if it "just" means laying our will to be right always.
Love persists even when we don't feel loving at all.
Love recognizes people as gifts, and love says people are worth it.
We're all at various stages of understanding love, and we're all walking toward the Father's heart as best as we can, trying our best to understand the magnitude of the gifts wrapped in skin that have come before each of us.
It's fitting, too, in this mental space during advent as we ponder the gift of Jesus.
When God sent us Jesus he gave us a gift unlike any other -- a gift we didn't have to accept, but one that would make our lives complete, one that would bridge the gap between us and our Father's heart, a gift of love.
And here we are again, with a gift of love before each of us. And I think this is us, each of us in this family, saying yes we accept this gift. Yes, we want to unwrap this gift. Yes, people are gifts, and may we live as though we believe it by the way we love one another.