August 22, 2012

A Home in My Heart

On a cold January night before my third trip to Uganda, I didn’t want to go.

Almost in a fog I packed in preparation for the three-week trip, during which I was to finalize custody arrangements for our sixth child. A few weeks before, my husband, Matthew, had spent five weeks wading through the vagaries of the country’s high court system waiting to bring Andrew home; all in vain. The upcoming Christmas holidays had shut down government offices, and he was forced to return home without a court decision, and without Andrew.

Since Matthew’s return, the court had granted the guardianship request for our 5-year-old son-to-be, and the passport had been obtained for him to travel to the United States. All that remained was for me to get Andrew’s U.S. visa and bring him home.

But I didn’t want to go.

A Tough Year
Sixteen months before, we had added three boys to our cozy family of four. Four months after that we spent three harrowing weeks in the hospital with 3-year-old Levi, as he barely survived one heart surgery, then miraculously recovered from a second. Even more stressful had been the growing pains of parenting a family in perpetual upheaval. The first-comers suddenly found themselves as middle children. Our strongest-willed child is also the one with the above-mentioned medical issues. And our oldest is adjusting from life in an East Africa boarding school to live in twenty-first-century United States, complete with high school, girls, video games, and the Internet.

2012 1524 page28Through most of it I’ve worked full-time, changing jobs in the spring in an attempt to achieve better life balance, then finally surrendering and quitting altogether.

Now we were repeating the whole song and dance. For six months we’d been praying and stumbling forward as door after door opened for the adoption of our new son. Through it all I had to rely on faith in the absence of any desire to bring a new child into our chaotic lives.

Don’t get me wrong—I love our kids. But I felt more tired than triumphant; more as though I was barely holding it together than living the noble life of the Proverbs 31 model wife and mother. I was burning the late-night candle, all right, but it was burning at both ends. When I looked in the mirror, I saw gray hairs, tired lines of one who had aged 10 years in one. I believed we were supposed to make a home for Andrew, but it seemed as if there were no more room. I felt as if I didn’t have any more to give.

Coming Together
Matthew met Andrew when he was in Uganda getting our last three—Timothy, Levi, and John. Timothy, then 16, was understandably unsure of a future with two mzungus (White people) he did not know. Levi and John were reasonably content in their cozy orphanage and a bit skeptical of the bearded man who toted them in a backpack and called himself “Daddy.”

But Andrew, then 4 and a lifelong resident of the orphanage, had no such reservations. He latched firmly onto Matthew and was ready to get on the plane. Last summer, as Matt was planning a mission trip to Uganda, we learned that Andrew would not, as expected, be able to live with relatives after his six years at the orphanage were up.

My husband knew he could not walk away a second time. Without money, plan, or much enthusiasm, we prayed that God would open doors or close them. And one by one the mirage of hurdles disappeared.

Money for various fees materialized. Andrew’s aunt signed his adoption release. The immigration approval was processed. And now with a court order in place, the only obstacle to overcome, it seemed, was my threadbare heart.

For several nights I thought about the journey ahead and simply cried. It was silly; but to go by myself, even to a place I’d been to before and loved, seemed overwhelming. The thought of trying to navigate dusty roads, haggle with overly eager boda boda drivers, tromp through noisy marketplaces, evaluate safe and affordable dining choices, made me just want to curl up under my down comforter and stay there.

Each prayer I prayed about the trip was just to make it, to simply be able to move forward one small step after another.

What Do You Think?
1. When have you faced a challenge that seemed, at first, overwhelming? What was it?

2. When have you felt impressed that God was asking you to step out in faith? How did it turn out?

3. Does God ask everyone, at some point, to step out in faith? Or is that just for “really spiritual” people?

 4. If God were asking you to do something special for Him, how would you recognize it?


Strength for the Journey
But something happens as I get on the plane. As I pass over continents and slip through time zones, doubt and discouragement disappear, replaced by purpose and peace. Confidence takes the place of cowardice. I sleep sweetly; I wake refreshed; I chat comfortably with seatmates. I should be exhausted by jet lag; instead, I feel energized. I descend onto the tarmac of Entebbe International Airport bathed in the equatorial heat and Lake Victoria’s breeze, and know I’m exactly where I should be.

Forty-eight hours later I see Andrew sitting in the corner of the dining room at Welcome Home, scooping up spaghetti with his fingers from a plastic bowl. He looks at me. I wave.

Two days later he has moved into the room of my guest house. As unconsciously, as anticlimactically as that, Andrew becomes my little boy. He is strong-willed: there’s no question of that. He is curious and curiously destructive. At bathtime he boisterously slides up and down the tub, emptying bottles of soap and shampoo. He spends waking hours jumping on the bed, flicking light switches, darting around corners, slamming new toy cars into concrete walls and each other.

Yet it simply, quietly fits. He walks into my life as my son, no questions, no reservations. I love him instantly, immediately, completely. Faith has produced substance. Evidence has led to proof. I have seen through a glass darkly; now face to face.

It’s as if I have flown from a world of darkness and uncertainty into a place of light and hope. The stress and sorrow of the year before melt away. The cold, gray days of winter burst into tropical warmth and pulsing hues. The labor pains are over, a son is born, not of blood, nor of a husband’s will, but of God. And I am filled with joy. 

Larisa Brass, a freelance journalist living in East Tennessee, is the mother of six children, all adopted from Uganda. This article was published August 23, 2012.