These are the thoughts that ran through my mind as I sat through my son's high school graduation last night.
Four years ago, that child still lived in an orphanage and had given up hoping for a family. Though only days remained until our long-awaited "Gotcha Day", he had no idea we were coming for him.
Four years ago, that boy didn't speak a bit of English and had no idea he was about to be thrown into an all English world.
Four years ago, he'd lost all contact with his siblings with no idea if he'd ever see them or hear from them again.
Four years ago, that boy's life was just about to change in ways he never dreamed.
Today, four years later, I look at all he's overcome in such a short amount of time. The first year felt long and hard. He didn't want to even try to speak English. He didn't know how to merge into a family, nor did he want to suddenly depend on a parent to meet needs he'd already learned to meet on his own. He dealt with extreme culture shock and missed the friends who'd become his family after growing up in an orphanage together. He hated our rules, feeling so constricted and trapped in a home when all he wanted was to hang out with friends 24-7. Knowing we'd only ever parented a child, he felt so misunderstood as a teenager. He masked all that fear and insecurity with a wall of arrogance that I wondered if we'd ever break through. That was a long year.
Once we made it through that first year, the last three years have seemed so short in comparison. He played soccer for a recreational team and his high school team. He dove into all the fun church activities, forming a great relationship with the youth leaders. He served on a mission trip and is about to head out on another one soon. He worked hard in all of his classes in high school (despite not ever bringing homework home) and pleased all of his teachers with his attitude and eagerness to learn and participate in class. He passed all of his state exams, even the writing one! He took several extra classes online in order to make up for the credits he lost the first year by attending a newcomer school. Despite making his schedule even more complicated, he followed his passion for art and took an AP (College credit) art class his senior year. He thrives on relationships, so his lowest grades in high school were the online courses where he didn't have a chance to build a relationship with the teacher or participate in class discussions.
He's still got a long way to go to overcome all the holes in his past. He's still not at the same emotional maturity level as his peers, though the gap seems to be getting smaller. There will still be many battles he'll have to face that will differ from other students his age. We still have days or moments when it's obvious we've only had four years together and our attachment level isn't anywhere near what it should be for a 19 year old "child". There's still so much that we didn't have time to teach him correctly. But I can't discount the first 15 1/2 years of his life and how they shaped him. God allowed him to live those 15 years without us because they are part of the story God is writing with his life. When I look at David (at exactly the age now that Juan David was when he joined our family), I know he's already his own person and can't imagine him going through the sudden and extreme changes his brother did at this stage in his life.
I couldn't be more proud of that boy last night as he walked across the stage to receive his diploma, knowing all he faced and has overcome in just four short years. And I loved sharing that moment in pictures with his siblings who cheered him on from afar from two different continents. I cannot wait to reunite him with his sister very soon, and I can only hope and pray that God will miraculously get Julian there,too, despite the current mishap over his ticket (which by the way, cannot be refunded, despite our efforts to fix the situation).
I also can hardly wait to see him embrace life as a college student at DBU this fall. We still haven't gotten all the financial aspects worked out, but we know without a doubt it's where he's supposed to be for at least his freshman year. It was a matter of stepping into the waters and trusting for God to make a way.
I am so very thankful for these two key people/relationships in his life. His youth pastor and his ESL teacher, both of whom have poured into him in such an encouraging way to get him to this day. Looking forward to traveling to Guatemala with Shane in just a little over a month. Even though he's no longer at our campus, he's still very present and active in his life. And the ESL teacher--let's just say God could not have given him a more supportive, encouraging, understanding, connecting, and all-out-amazing teacher who believes in the potential of every student that comes her way.
Dropping him off for line-up!
Pre-ceremony pic taken by his ESL teacher of three of her ESL boys
His whole row of fans--Ang, Matt, Will, Sam, David, Kyleigh, Shane (and Warren and Martha sat somwehere else). Mauricio was sad to have to cancel out at the last minute due to having to be at middle school camp a day early.
When they called his name--unfortunately, it gets blurry due to movement right as they go to hand him the diploma.
Diploma in hand!
Celebratory dinner afterwards with family
He did it!!!!! In four short years.
So proud of you, my son, and so humbled and honored that God chose me to be your mom for this stage of your life.
I could have very easily written this song for him 7 1/2 years ago when the adoption failed and I lost all contact with him. God surely has had His hand on him and has great things planned for my son.