Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Forever

      Forever.  навсегда.  Always.  бесконечный.  Infinitely.  No matter what.  Now.....when you're big......if you're nice....when you're not so nice.....when you listen, when you don't listen..... when you're happy, when you're sad....when you have your own family....if you go to college, if you don't......  We will always love you....you will always be our daughter....you will always be part of this family.

      Sometimes our conversations are the same as many we've had before.  How do you convey forever to one who has never had that certainty.  The concept is understood, but the application to real life is hard to grasp...hard to fully believe.  And while it seems to stick, it comes easily unglued at the slightest bump in the road.

      But this is not my house, she says.  "I not buy."  We try again to explain that this is our families home......she is part of our family, always will be.  "Really? Forever? I have room here forever?"  Yes sweet girl...forever.  "But.....what if you have no money and can't pay for house.....we live outside?  What if you had more kids and decided it was too much work....I go back to Ukraine?  What if".....and then stopping herself...."okay sorry, you say forever."  

      The longer she is home, the more memories we have together as a family of five.  The more pictures and videos of holidays and special events, that she sees herself in.  "Now there are Easter pictures with me in them......" she beams.  It's only been months, so forever is still hard to grasp....but each new milestone brings us all a little closer.....

      She lights up when she talks about her baby sister......the sister that will always know her......that she will be a part of her life from day one just like everyone else, is not something that has escaped her thoughts.....and it means a great deal to her.  Someone that will have lived their life with her presence....forever.....truly forever.  But not Caleb and Levi she reminds herself......and I try to help her understand that they will not remember life without their big sister.....but either way, forever more, she will be there sister.....

     Some nights are harder than others.....the memories flood in without warning.  Why don't they write me back.....why don't they care?  Missing those she loves and has left behind......grieving that there was not the forever she longed for.  And the questions come again, as the doubts pry at her still uncertain acceptance of the forever we insist is true.  All I can do is to tell her how sorry I am.....I grieve for her, but try to keep it together.  And remind her again and again how special she is....and how much we love her....how much God loves her.....always.  And through her tears she whispers..."mama, you little bit like Jesus."  I choke back tears and wait until I am in my room to let them free.  The mix of emotions overwhelms me.....humility as I heard her words echo in my head... undeserving and inadequate in so many ways of this gift, this child who loves us so easily and deeply, who trusts us and soaks in our love, and pours it back in return.....I am so far from being anything like Jesus....but oh how I want her to know His love, and I am so glad that she feels loved....that she knows we care.  And I hope and pray that the seeds planted about forever and always, have rooted a little deeper tonight.

   There's a song....from a movie maybe, I can't really remember when we heard it, but she pointed it out, relating it to us....."you and me together forever".... it goes....and I hear her happily singing these words often.....

    Life before was so different......most of what we teach is so contradictory to her former life, yet she soaks it in.  Memories usually include behaviors that we may teach aren't quite so appropriate, and she'll often share and then sheepishly apologize.  Some were beyond her control, and I try to help her see this....and others, sure they were choices, but in a place where you are so fearful and focused on survival, what can you expect?  I remind her these things were not her fault, and tell her how sorry I am.  She reminds me it is not my fault either.....smart kid.  And asks whose fault it is.  Oh the hard questions..... In the end, more reminders of our love.....no matter what has happened in the past, or will happen in the future....always always always, forever love.  This is always what she needs to hear.  

    With her entire world having changed, it's hard to believe how well this sweet girl has adjusted, attached, and acclimated to our way of life.  She questions things, yes.....but she always believes fully what we teach her.  As she's started school, been developing friendships with others, and we've been out and about more, she's noticed that everyone does not adhere to the same lifestyle...rules....guidelines...whatever you want to call them.  I found myself surprised that she believed that what we taught just must apply to everyone.  And also that she has no problem "teaching" others what is "correct!"  It's great when she reminds Caleb and Levi to thank me for something, or to apologize.....but a little more surprising when she's telling her friends to use their manners. : )  I love the innocence.  It's added a whole new dimension to teaching and training, however, as she looks at me in shock, or whispers her concerns to me, when others do not follow our same principles.  She's slowly realizing that yes, we do have high standards, and yes there are guidelines that we expect our children to follow....but not everyone around you will do the same.  And more importantly, there is a reason why, and that we will love her always regardless of any mistakes or misbehaviors.....and she is starting to see in a few areas of her life now, the importance and value to what we are teaching.  And also that in family, there is forgiveness and grace....we remind frequently that she is not perfect and neither are we..."only Jesus" she'll remember.  We are able to look back and laugh at her first time out and the silliness of some earlier behaviors....because she finally has a foundational understanding of forever...and love that was missing in the early days.....she understands that each time we correct and teach that we are not trying to belittle her nor does it mean we do not love her.....but rather that we are teaching because we love her.  And we care about what kind of forever she will have.    

     We had an incident the other day....it wasn't major in the grand scheme of things, but it was a first for her, and something we knew we had to take seriously the first time so as to avoid it in the future.  We could tell she was so disappointed in herself....like she messed everything up.  It was evident that we were disappointed and we made sure to express the seriousness of the situation, but maybe even more important and a greater opportunity in this situation, was being able to remind her that we loved her regardless.  I took her hands in mine and leaned down to look in her eyes, just as I do with the boys.  She didn't want to look at me.  I made sure to remind her first and foremost that we loved her....so much.  She shook her head, but it was nothing compared to the protests she would have given early on.  We talked about the importance of things like truth, trust and believing one another, and that there would be consequences, but that we loved her so very much.  Always. 

     That night she crawled into bed with a small folded piece of paper tucked in her stuffed animal.  She pretended to hide it, but I know she wanted me to see.  "What is it?" I asked.  I already knew.....  The tiny scrap of paper I'd written "we love you, see you soon" on when we left her in Kiev.  She clung to it as if it was the last bit of our love for her....some hope....I reminded her again and again that we love her so much.  That she would continue to make mistakes....and so would we.  That we would continue to teach her, and there may be consequences, but that we would love her forever.  I reminded her what a sweet girl she is and what a big heart she has and she scrunched her face and shook her head violently.  One mistake and everything can go down the drain.  We talked about trust and how important it is.  We talked about mommy and daddy having to teach these lessons, even when it's hard.  And as we often do, we ended up back at that morning.....the morning we left her in Kiev while she was still sleeping, to catch our flight home.  The morning after a week of constant fun and attention....her first real glimpse of family and having a mom and dad devote time, attention, affection....love...to her.  We'd said goodnight and goodbye (for now) the night before, and she knew we would be gone in the morning.....but she often retells the story of that morning and I know how much it affected her.  Waking up to find our room empty.....finding the note we wrote along with the candy she had wanted the day prior at the store....and sobbing....so broken that we had left her behind.  She wanted forever to begin right then.  The day we met her and she instantly called us mama and papa and said yes, she wanted to come with us.....why couldn't forever have started then.  I know some of the heartache and trials she went through during the waited periods without us there....I know that it took great courage to stand up for what she so desired.....  Again I tell her how sorry I am, and answer her questions about why it has to be this way....that we did not want to leave her, and we too cried as we left and waited in great anticipation for when we could return to bring her home....for forever.

    And here we are, eight months into our forever....it's taking time, as we knew it would....but I know she is starting to grasp it....to believe it....  I know we'll have these conversations time and again, and the reminders will continue to be needed frequently.  I can't imagine the despair of living without unconditional, unending love.....the pressure of having to earn it and fear that it would be taken away at my slightest mistake.  I am so thankful for the love of my family, that I've certainly taken for granted.  And most of all for the unconditional, unending, sacrificial love of my heavenly father....a love that promises forever in a way that no human ever could.  Though it may take time, my prayer is that this sweet girl will truly understand and grasp our always and forever love....but most of all, that she will accept and find her worth in the always and forever love of God.
     



Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His love endures forever. Psalm 136:1

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