I'm just going to be real honest. It's been almost 18 months since we took these pictures and visited the Congo to visit Israel so I really, truly don't remember which day we took any of these pictures. I would love to say... this was day two! But, as I look at them, I just really have no clue. I do find comfort in that though. I often tell other adoptive parents that I know the wait seems like it will never end, but once your child is home it is hard to remember that part of the process. It all seems like such a blur. When you are in the trenches, begging the Lord to bring your child home, it seems like each day passes at a snail's pace. Every holiday comes around marking one less holiday with your child. You begin putting your time marker on things. Surely they will be home by Halloween. I mean, they've got to be home by Christmas. And sometimes you repeat all of those holidays again. It feels never-ending. I didn't always see God's hand during that waiting time. I knew He was there and moving, but I wanted things to happen on my time. I wanted my children home way before they actually came home. Through both of our adoptions, I didn't see the beautiful picture and plan that God was creating until way after they came home. I trusted Him during those times, but it all made more sense once I was out of the waiting phase. Looking back I can clearly see how God was working and moving through the little things and the big things. I can see how His timing really was perfect. Sometimes it just takes being removed from the situation to see it all. I think that's why I can blog about it now. During those painful moments of waiting, I just wasn't ready to sit down and spill my ugly feelings out. It's almost like if I typed it out then the reality that my child wasn't home really set in. So here I am, 18 months later, trying to recall those precious moments.
Israel was 2 1/2 at the time of our visit. We had taken a mix of 2t and 3t clothes with us. In the pictures he seemed like such a chunk, but once we were there we realized how much smaller he was than we had thought. The majority of the shorts we brought fell right off of him. We did make sure to bring a Longhorn shirt for his first outfit just like we did with Joelle. I remember watching him kick that soccer ball and thinking it was just the cutest thing ever.
See his little puckered lips? He still does this. I think it's a coping mechanism for comfort... like a pacifier or thumb sucking. He's actually sucking on his tongue in his mouth. I didn't know it at the time, but that's definitely what he is doing there! I can't tell you how many times I've said, "Israel quit sucking on your tongue!" Then I think to myself how weird that sounds to say out loud, ha.
He really just wanted to play with cars the entire time of our visit, but Jared put a ball in front of him every chance he got. That smile. Those cheeks. I melt.
Seeing Joelle play the role of a big sister was just priceless. People would often say to Joelle, "You are going to be a great big sister." I would always whisper in her ear, "You already ARE a great big sister." I think what many people don't understand is that you become a family long before you meet. Israel was our son and Joelle's brother for a year before he came home. He was apart of us long before our Gotcha Day. Joelle prayed for him when we just couldn't. She was and still is the best big sister!
She is such a caregiver and little Mama. She scooped him up every single chance she got. Having a real-life baby to hold was just about the best thing ever for her!
She did share him with us a little, ha!
It's like they bonded immediately. They fell into their sibling roles without any effort. I believe that God prepared their hearts. He molded them to be a big sister and little brother. I'm so thankful that the Lord was looking over my children when I couldn't be there. I'm thankful for the protection He provided. I'm thankful for the love they felt. I'm thankful that they were fed and cared for. You really see the enormity of God in a situation like adoption. It was physically impossible for me to be there for my children while we were waiting, but nothing is or was impossible for God. He provided, He protected, He made a way. Goodness He sure is a BIG God!