It's hard to believe that we have only been a large family for a year. Okay, we did have six biological children before we adopted four more so technically, we have always had a larger than normal family. But I have always had a large family mentality.
We knew in our hearts that our family would grow although I had no idea that it would require me to travel across the world to add to our tribe. Life is funny like that. I have found that sometimes the greatest gifts in life are not planned.
I am learning that some of life's journeys take us far from home while leading us to our destiny. It feels like so long ago that we got the call that we were approved for our Ukrainian adoption. It was a long 18-month process, but very worth it. I spent 12 weeks in the Ukraine, some of that time with family but most of that time alone in the city of Kiev while I waited for our children.
I can still remember picking them up, watching them say goodbye to their friends, and trying to communicate with four strangers who spoke little English. I had the opportunity to spend 3 weeks with our four new children in Kiev while we waited for their paperwork to leave the country. I missed home and my family so much that it made my heart hurt. But God knew what my four new blessings needed...time to get to know their new mom.
Then, after weeks of waiting, we boarded a plane for the United States to become one very large family.
Someone once said that there are hidden blessings in every struggle. Becoming a family, learning a new language and a new culture, learning to communicate in love, and learning to mold together and become a team has had its struggles. But oh the blessings!
I have watched as Artur, Vlad and Caleb have become best friends. I'll admit, it was Caleb who we worried about the most. It was would be his life that would be most affected by the adoption.
Throughout the process, we had many open conversations with him, making it clear that we would stop the process if he had concerns.
We made sure that he had the opportunity to spend time in the Ukraine with us and the children. He never wavered. His only request? He wanted more brothers... so we gave him two.
We have stood in amazement in the change we have seen transform in the heart of Artur, our adopted 18 year old son. It was he who had doubts about coming to America. But he admitted that he wanted his little sister to have a mother.
So he walked away from his friends and girlfriend and the only life he ever knew. We agreed together that we would be a family for a few months. After that, if he chose, he could go back to the Ukraine. But it didn't take long for his heart to soften and his attitude to change towards his new family. He is the sweetest, most hard-working, and responsible 18 year that I know. I can't imagine our family without him.
I'll admit that we are still in shock at how easy we have jelled as a unit. We heard horror stories from other adoptive families and friends. But we knew what God had spoken to our hearts and we trusted in Him and continue to trust in Him daily.
But we have learned a few things this past year
The biggest lesson I've learned is to give myself grace
Grace to survive, to relieve some stress and to enjoy life. There is no such thing as perfect parents...so take a deep breath and just give it your best shot.
Prioritize your marriage
The best gift you can give your children are two parents who are madly in love...they need to see you hold hands, working side by side, and kissing...lots of kissing!
We have learned to say no to some good things so we have time for the best things.
That means family time is more important than a dinner date with friends and that we can't attend every event.
We have learned that we don't need fancy.
Kids are happy with taco night and yes, even a cereal day for lunch. They do, however, care that we sit down as a family and enjoy each others company.
We have learned that sharing is a good thing.
That it's okay to turn off electronics and enjoy some old fashion playtime....checkers, cards, puzzles or a good book.
We have learned to make our own prayer time, not just family prayer, a top priority.
Remember, you cannot pour from an empty cup!
Life in a big family requires some sacrifice.
I can't claim to have had my nails done this year and I can't remember that last time I took a long hot bubble bath. But I wouldn't change my crazy life.
I've learned so many lessons in life this past year since becoming a mom of a large family. Sometimes life is not what you expect, it can be so much better! So moms, stop waiting for the chaos to subside, for the house to be spotless, or the children to "finally" learn to behave. Just go and enjoy your children!
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