Sunday, August 30, 2015

Choosing Joy

3 years ago, August 31, 2012, was one of the happiest moments of our lives as we officially got home with Eyob and Mikiyas. Much like the birth of each of our biological kids, this day was filled with joy, excitement and a bit of bewilderment. Our hearts were so full of joy and excitement to finally be able to bring Mikiyas and Eyob home, yet we also had a bit of doubt or bewilderment wondering “what did we just do?! Can we really go from 2 to 4 overnight?” We had been preparing for this moment for two and a half years, yet it’s scary once that dream becomes a reality!

We had taken all sorts of parenting classes and read adoption blogs and books and watched multiple adoption parenting videos. We were ready for our future and were so excited as we began our lives as a family of 6! We dreamt of our 4 kids growing up together and pursuing their dreams as they became adults. I felt on top of the world and felt closer to the Lord than ever before.

Nothing prepared me for the decision we would have to make 2 ½ years later. I never in my wildest dreams imagined that as we celebrate 3 years home, one of our children would not be here to celebrate with us. I never imagined that throughout those two years, my faith and relationship with God would diminish and that I would find myself lost in a deep dark valley with my emotions, thoughts, and feelings spinning out of control. I never imagined that 6 months after being home, this beautiful boy would one day start to change and that his brain would begin to tell him to hate the very person who loved him most.

This month has been a huge struggle for me as I grieved. I grieved the loss of a son, but even more so, the loss of our dream for him. 3 years ago, I rejoiced as I dreamt of how we’d celebrate every August 31 as our Family Day!  I dreamt of celebrating this Family Day with two Ethiopian boys whose last name would forever be the same as mine. I didn’t know that God’s plan wasn’t for him to be a Nuñez forever.  That was hard. Harder than anything Michael and I had endured in our entire life.
While going through those dark times, I felt like God had left me. I felt so alone. I can say now looking back, God never once left me. In fact, He was holding me during the nights where I cried myself to sleep wanting nothing more to do than to just die. He was holding my arms and covering me in patience as I would hold (usually for hours) a tantruming toddler who wanted nothing more than to hurt himself or me.  He was helping me to continually tell that toddler “I love you. I care for you. You’re okay. You’re safe. Mommy is here.”  When often times I would be so frustrated and exhausted that I wanted to say nothing.  He was there every single moment of every single day.  That day, 6 months ago, when - for the very last time - I wrapped my arms around the 3 year old little boy that I had fallen in love with years ago… God was there. He was there in the days and weeks after, whispering truth in my ear when Satan was whispering the opposite. He was there through texts, calls, messages, and emails of encouragement that we got from hundreds of friends and family. God has been there each step of the way.

I recall, just over 3 years ago, sitting on a small couch on a chilly August morning in Ethiopia. My body shaking. Not from the cold, but from the excitement and heartache. I held a sweet 14 month old little boy in my arms. A little boy who would learn to call me mommy. I stared at a window anxiously awaiting. We heard a horn honk and watched as a guard opened the gate to the transition home allowing the blue van to enter. We stood nervously as we watched a young woman step out of the bus and walk to the house. A beautiful Ethiopian woman who looked no older than ourselves. We watched her as she removed her shoes before entering. As she entered I couldn’t help but reach out and hug her. She returned the hug and after a moment, we released the embrace and she smiled as she looked at Eyob. She reached out her arms and for the first time in a year, she was able to embrace the very son she gave birth to. For the next hour, we talked and asked various questions and answered her questions, as they were translated back and forth.

As I thought back on that moment, I began to sob. Feeling as if everything we told her was a lie. We promised we would take good care of him. We promised that we would always love him. We promised that we would teach him to know Jesus. We never knew that in a couple years, we’d be faced with the dreadful decision of not being able to be his parents any longer. I began to pour out my heart to God. Asking him why. Why did this happen? Why couldn’t Eyob have stayed in our family? Why couldn’t all that we had done helped him? Why was it His plan for Eyob to be in another family? Why wasn’t loving him enough? I had poured just about all that I was into him and loved him with all that I was. Why was that not enough?? God, just WHY?

And then Job 1:21 immediately entered my head:

“The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

While preparing to celebrate our first Family Day without Eyob has sort of turned me into an emotional wreck, God revealed to me that I need to choose joy. I need to choose joy in every circumstance that God presents us with. Throughout Michael’s and my entire marriage, we have been faced with various hardships. Joy is a choice. I can choose to focus on the hardships, or I can choose to seek joy despite the adversity. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances;  for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
Today, I choose joy.

God gave us Eyob. Even though it was only for two and a half years. Even so – blessed is the name of the Lord. Through all those times, I was blessed. Yes - I was blessed! For 2 ½ years, Eyob called ME Mommy. For 906 days, Eyob was mine to love and to cherish. I know there were days where I didn’t cherish that blessing as much as I should have. But even in the midst of the hardest of days, I loved that boy. God gave him to me. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

God revealed to me that we didn’t lie to Eyob’s mom.

We DID take good care of him. I cared for him like any great mom would do. I spent countless hours at doctors appointments, therapy appointments, hospitals, and evaluations. I spent hours in the evenings after he was in bed, night after night, perusing the internet and books, researching ways to help him with the reactive attachment disorder.  I cared so much for him that I was willing to try anything in order to help him. I cared for him so much because I loved him with all my heart! I loved him so very much that I was willing to give up my parental rights in order for him to have the best life possible. God had revealed to us that Eyob was not to be in our family forever. God revealed to me that he had another family in mind. Accepting that was the hardest decision of my entire life. I loved Eyob so much and wanted so much for him to be able to love a mother and have a wonderful mother and son relationship that he SO much deserved.  I had to accept that in order for that to happen, that mother was not to be me. My promise was not broken to his birth mom. I promised to her that I would always love him. Even though his last name is no longer Nunez, that does not end my love for him. I will always love him. We never lied to his mom. He did grow to know Jesus. And that is continuing in his new family. The family that is lead by a strong spiritual leader, a pastor, and a father who loves his children so much!  God is SO good. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Today, I choose joy.

I have an incredible 9 year old Ethiopian son. This boy seems to inspire just about anyone he meets. This boy, despite great loss in his young life, loves like no one I’ve ever met. His heart just explodes with Jesus’ love. He will do anything for anyone and I am so very blessed to be his mother. I get to celebrate 3 years HOME with him. And it’s amazing to see just how far we’ve come in the last 3 years. I choose JOY!!

I have 3 other absolutely remarkable children who bless me every day. They are thrilled to be able to celebrate having their brother here for 3 years! I choose joy!

I have a husband who is the spiritual rock of our family. I know it’s cliché, but I honestly don’t know what I’d do without him. Every day with him is one of the greatest gifts the Lord has ever given me. I choose joy!

While we are celebrating this family day without Eyob in our home, I am choosing joy that we can celebrate the memory of bringing him home and spending each of those 906 days with him. I am choosing joy that he is in another family who loves him so abundantly. I am choosing joy that Eyob is now able to show love and affection and that God has restored him and that he is finally having that relationship that every child should be able to have with their mother.  Eyob hugs his new mother. Eyob kisses his new mother. Willingly. He adores his new mother. This is most definitely something to choose joy over.

So yes, while my heart aches and feels a bit empty, I still continue to choose joy. Happy Family Day, Mikiyas and Eyob. We will always love both of you and we are so unbelievably joyful the gift your lives have  given our family.

Here is our Coming Home video from 3 years ago for those who have never seen it before...

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