November 23rd marked the one year anniversary of Zach’s “Gotcha” Day. And December 2nd was the anniversary of his homecoming. The past year has flown by in so many ways, but in other ways it has taken FOREVER to get through. Isn’t that the way it usually works? The first few months home went REALLY slowly. But once July hit, the rest of the year was gone in a blink.
As I reflect on the first few months of Zach being a part of our family, I realize how FAR we’ve come. “What a difference a year makes” holds so true in this story. Not just for Zach, but for our whole family; especially me.
I intended on writing a blog post to commemorate the one year anniversary of his coming home, but I’m a little late! Better late than never, right?
In all honesty, it took me a while to narrow down what I would even write about. Do I write about ALL the things he’s done this year, all of the things he’s accomplished? All of the obstacles we’ve overcome? There’s plenty there to write about for sure. But, I just wasn’t feeling that.
Then, one day, as I was reading a devotional, the words seemed oddly familiar. I was certain I had read those words before and they were speaking to me so personally. Shortly after that, when looking back through my journal, I realized that I had indeed read that devotional before, back in May, in fact, and I had actually worked through the exercise at the end of the devotional in my journal. I thought, “THIS!” This is what I will write about in my blog post.” I will write about all that God has taught me over the past year through this adoption. So I did. And then I realized that it was WAY too long and nobody would ever read that whole thing. So I decided to split it up into two posts. Here is part one...
The truth is, this year has been HARD. Pride, fear, and grasping for control has reared its ugly head time and time again in our house. And I don’t mean Zach. I am the guilty one here. I have had a very difficult time learning to love him as my son, forming that mother-child attachment. Which I know takes time, especially when adopting and older child. And so many factors have played into my struggles (read part 2 for more on that), but the bottom line is that I have found myself falling into the trap of focusing on the negatives, on the worse-case scenarios, on the “what-ifs”.
So, when that devotional crossed my path a second time, I knew the Holy Spirit was speaking directly to my heart. The gist of the devotional was that when you find yourselves in circumstances that are unexpected, instead of asking God “Why?” ask “Now that this is my reality, what am I supposed to do with it?”
The answer is found in Philippians 4:8.
“Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
So instead of focusing on the “what-ifs”, I worked through each of the “whatevers” from that verse. Here’s what I wrote in my journal back in May and eight months later, these things are still true. And they reflect all that is GOOD about Zach.
Whatever is “true”:
God called us to this. God loves Zach and has called us to love him, too. Fully and completely. God has a plan for our lives—individually and as a family. And he has a plan for Zach’s life. And he promises that those plans are GOOD!
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a good future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
Whatever is noble:
Despite all of his challenges—his past, trauma, abandonment—he is kind, loving, helpful. He doesn’t get frustrated in his circumstances. He has been content and trusting from the beginning and full of joy. He wants to be good and to please us.
“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” (Philippians 4:12)
Whatever is right:
Zach deserves Love. God created him and loves him. To love him is the right thing to do.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35)
Whatever is pure:
While he is big in size, he still has the innocence of a small child. While he may have been exposed to horrible things in his past, he remains trusting. He is very impressionable—we can press God’s truth into his heart. It’s amazing to see how much he’s already absorbed and how much he LOVES Jesus!
“Trust in the Lord will all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5)
Whatever is lovely:
The relationship between Natalie and Zach is lovely. The way they adore each other. The way he helps and defends her. She is blind to the fact that he is different and thinks he hung the moon. The way they get so excited to see each other after school. Natalie runs out to the school bus to greet him and he runs to her with that smile of his arms open wide. They excitedly shout each other’s names and embrace in a hug. Then they walk to the house hand in hand. It is truly lovely.
“And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.” (1 John 4:21)
Whatever is admirable:
Zach’s strength and resiliency. He grieves the loss of his former life, but has bounced back so quickly. His willingness to please us and do what is right. When he does wrong, he is truly sorry and aims to please once he learns the right thing to do. He tries so hard.
“Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” (Psalms 34:14)
Whatever is excellent:
Zach is very smart. He has learned English quickly, despite his learning challenges. He is learning to read and write and count. He wants to learn and doesn’t give up, no matter how hard something is. He loves school. He also loves church and “church school”. He sings his heart out at mass and really loves the Lord.
“But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also.” (2 Corinthians 8:7)
Whatever is praiseworthy:
God has chosen US to be this child’s family. To be the change in his life. To lead him to the cross. He shines Jesus’s light and brings joy to so many people who meet him. And God is glorified! And we get to be his parents. How blessed are we?
“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)
Yes, this year has been tough. And when life gets tough, it’s easy to fall into the trap of “what if”. But I’ve learned a lot of pretty priceless lessons—about myself, about God, and about loving others more fully. And this devotional was a refreshing reminder about how when we focus on the “whatevers” rather than the “what-ifs”, we will find ourselves full of wonder and joy!