December 24, 2012
Blink. That’s what I did and 2012 is already coming to a close. How does that happen? As fast as each year continues to fly by…. this year by far is the fastest. 2012 started out with the best news ever at the end of January as we finally got the LONG awaited phone call that we had received approval to bring Bella HOME! I knew what that meant. It was time to whirl around and start getting my head and heart ready to travel to a far away land. So much to do! In February the Indian Courts granted us custody of Bella. We then just had to wait on her passport to be processed in India and we could travel to pick her up in just a few short weeks. Time was just whipping by as I was grappling at the clock arms to slow them a bit to get everything in order. And sadly they did. March came and went and still, no passport. Hearts sinking we wondered if we’d be in a similar situation as last summer with more long and unexpected waiting.
But finally on April 12th we got word that the passport had arrived and it was time to travel and that painful 4-year wait would finally come to an end. So, on April 22nd of this year, Jeff, Jonah and myself all boarded a plane and traveled across the world into a foreign land. After 2 full days and 5 flights, ending with a tiny prop plane that finally landed us on a small airstrip in the middle of mountains, jungles and rivers (a scene you only see on National Geographic), followed by a 2-hour car trip, winding up a mountain on a narrow one lane road through breathtaking jungles, waterfalls, and bamboo huts, we arrived. Normally, this kind of trip would have had me heaving my insides. But I was just too excited to be carsick. Our eyes just could not believe what we were beholding. We were on the other side of the world gazing at a little town mixed with both beauty and poverty on terrain that seemed totally surreal. And this….this was the place our daughter awaited us.
Full of adrenaline at this point and with only about 2 hours of sleep, we could not wait to lay eyes on the one that the LORD had chosen for us to call our own. Walking down a steep flight of stairs on the side of a mountain we turned the corner into a little orphanage and there as we stepped foot in, peeked a little beautiful big brown-eyed girl with just as much anticipation to meet us. There are no words to describe that moment. Locking eyes, arms and hearts for the very first time with our daughter all the way around the world. It was one of the happiest and most beautiful days of our lives. We spent two weeks in the birth country of our daughter, sightseeing, learning her culture, and also getting the necessary legalities in place to get Bella’s visa to finally come home. It was truly the trip of our lives. The things we saw, experienced, and felt will forever be etched in our hearts.
And then, just like that, it was all over. We were back on familiar turf, yet we found ourselves in unfamiliar, “new” family territory. We were home at last, but no longer as a family of 4. We were now a family of 5, with a new daughter/sister. Immediately the trials and challenges came, some expected, and some very unexpected. Though Bella is a phenomenal little girl and has done so well since coming home, the struggles we faced with adjustments as a family were extremely difficult. In addition, we endured hardships this summer like none we have experienced thus far. Bella struggled with a number of medical issues as her little body tried to assimilate to a new environment and climate. We also dealt with broken bones, injuries, casts, braces, physical therapy, surgeries, and stitches to name a few. Not to mention a mound of medical bills that took a natural toll on our finances. We were “all” out of sorts in every way with our new little family and the anguish seemed unbearable at times.
I kept thinking to myself, this was supposed to be a year of JOY!!! In January of this year, I was convinced this WAS going to be the year of Joy. After all, we would finally have our daughter home. Not to mention, as a church, our 2012 sermon series was focusing on JOY! The verses I was studying and the bible studies I had chosen also spoke so much about joy that I was confident this was the year for it! Wallowing in my pity and sorrow when most of the year was almost gone I wondered where all this joy was because I wasn’t feeling it. Then the verse came to my mind from James 1:2-3, “Consider it great joy my brothers whenever you experience various trials knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” Joy and trials together? I was reminded of our pastor’s definition this year that joy is the supernatural delight and deep satisfaction in God for the sheer beauty and worth of who He is.
There it is. Joy is not based on our circumstances but in who God is! And according to James, anguish and joy can coexist because God’s glory and the testing of our faith, to bring forth what is ahead, is of much more value. Jesus understood this truth as stated in Hebrews 12:2, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Jesus endured the sufferings of the cross because He knew of the joy set before Him. What was that JOY? That we His children would be home with Him forever. That our adoption would be complete. Ephesians 1:4-5 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.
This is what it’s all about. Adoption. The Gospel. That Christ came and died for us so that we might be called the children of God. Adoption will cost suffering. But just last week, as we stood before the judge here in the States, as she officially declared Bella ours, and her adoption complete, I could look back at our year of trials and consider it all JOY.... because of who God is and what Christ has done. This Christmas may you experience God’s Adoption Joy.
The Wilbanks (Family of 5)