Yesterday our three kids and I held hands in our front yard, eyes closed, hearts racing, whispering one last prayer as Darwin opened the gate for the old navy blue pick-up truck whose misterious contents held untold joys, frustrations, triumphs and heartbreak that would unfold in the coming months and years.
We would be parents not to three but now to five.
I waved excitedly and smiled although my weary cheek muscles shook slightly after an adrenaline-laced few days of preparation, prayer, and nerves.
Then the pick-up came to a stop, and I knew that a new beginning had arrived. The back door on the double-cab eeked open, and some little legs with too-huge pants began reaching for the ground far below.
Josue, six years old.
His older sister, Jackeline, eleven years old but already on the cusp of puberty, was quick to exit behind him. Her maturity and undeterred joy remind me so much of the other young woman who arrived at our home in similar fashion 15 months ago and has since become like a daughter to us.
In these situations, you never know what to say. Or at least I don´t. Thanks be to God, our three kids were genuinely emotionally prepared and excited to meet them, so we all swooped in for the big welcome.
Josue screamed, fearing the extremely friendly dogs who likewise came to greet him.
From there the afternoon and evening were a joyful yet on-edge (and least for me) blur of touring the kids around their new home, hanging up the wet dirty laundry they brought with them, assuring Josue over and over again that the dogs are our friends, talking with the case-worker and signing paperwork, and breathing deeply as we began to learn all over again what it means to be a family.
I think I was waiting for some kind of explosion or tear-filled breakdown (probably from our 10-year-old Gleny who will have to adjust to now having two older sisters), but it never came. Instead late in the evening I passed through our living room to see Gleny playing ¨Doctor¨ with Josue. He doesn´t talk and walks with a limp, but Gleny had enthusiastically set up an entire scene in our living room with feather boas, little plastic chairs, a toy kitchen set, more stuffed animals than I could count, and a very large doll that was receiving urgent medical attention with ¨Doctor Josue¨ for her fever. And Gleny was the patient´s mom, of course.
Last night was a sleepless night for Darwin and I, as much due to exceeding joy and thanksgiving to our Father as listening for the kids to get up or cry in the middle of their first night in a new place. Josue did indeed get up about 25 times, turned on the light after bedtime, slammed the door more than a couple times (always with a big, toothy grin), tried to climb the top bunk to be in Jason´s bed, tried to wear his shoes to sleep, and repeatedly put the stuffed animals in his mouth.
But all of that is to be expected, and by God´s grace I had an extra dose of love for this little boy with buck-teeth and clothes that aren´t the right size. It is through him that I believe God will teach me what it means to be patient and to love without expecting anything in return.
Pacing around our living room long after the kids´bedtime, I noticed the girls´light was still on, and as I approached the door to stick my head in and remind them to go to sleep, I stopped short as I heard a not-so-familiar voice — Jackeline´s — through tears sharing things of the heart with her two new roommates who doubtlessly understand her and have shared in her sufferings far more than I ever will. A smile spread through my chest as my heart offered up prayers of thanksgiving to our Father. It is no longer Darwin and I ministering to children, but the children themselves alongside of us and in the moments when we can´t be there who are ministering to and supporting one another in love.
Josue finally settled down after numerous Bible stories, songs, foot massages, and more than a few dozen trips to his room to tell him to return to his bed, and he finally stayed in his own bed the whole night without any more shenanigans. This morning he won the promised prize for his obedience, a juice box during breakfast.
And this is how it all starts.