Maybe you've seen the billboards around your area, or the website advertised: I Am Second. The meaning behind it is that you are second behind Jesus. When Bethany went on her mission trip to Mexico in March, their motto was "I Am Third," meaning, that first is Jesus, second is others, third is yourself. I think that is pretty appropriate! I learned years ago that that is what J.O.Y. stands for- Jesus, Others, Yourself. Remembering that helps me keep lots of things in perspective in my daily interactions and expectations.
This spring, I have thought of those words in a different way. As an adoptive mom, I am not the first mom that Minte ever had. Since he was in the care of others for 5 years before he came home to live with us, I'm not really even the second. I am third. I've read a lot of blogs in the adoption world, and there are as many opinions about how to refer to this as their are bloggers and families. I certainly don't think the way we have done things is the only "right" way (or even right at all some days!) but I certainly have no problem taking my place as "third" in order of the caregivers in his life. Maybe even fourth, now that I think of it!
This past Mother's Day was an important day. A year ago (and the year before that), Minte was in an orphanage, wondering if he would ever have another mother, hoping that a family would adopt him. This year... here he is! Of course, he had never heard of such a holiday. They don't have "Mother's Day" in Ethiopia. So, when the day came, we explained to him what it was. As we began talking about Mother's Day, it became evident (and very obvious) that it wasn't just about me, his American mother. When he came home to live with us here, his (now deceased) Ethiopian parents came too, in a very real way. They are talked about and remembered in some way in our home every day. They are part of his every day conversation and a very real memory for him. So, how could we leave out his Ethiopian mother on Mother's Day? We decided to plant a rose bush for her in the back yard. I asked him if he wanted to plant something, light a candle, release a balloon... other things I had heard/read about. He chose to plant something. When he and his Dad went to the store for the rose bush, they came back with two because he wanted to plant one for me, too. Isn't that sweet? Here is what we ended up doing on Mother's Day... our "Mother's Day Garden:"
I love the way it turned out! His Ethiopian mother's rose bush is on the left, and mine is on the right. The purple flowers in the middle are for the relative who cared for him before he came to the orphanage, and the yellow flowers are for all the "mommies" at the orphanage. The stone in the middle is so appropriate: Ecclesiastes 3:2, "To everything there is a season..." All of us have had our season in this precious boy's life. Some object to referring to oneself as "2nd mommy" or "3rd mommy" in a child's life because that implies that there may be someone after you. Well? None of us knows what tomorrow holds. I can't be certain I will be the last and final mommy he ever has, but this garden reminds me that God is there at every season and will bring just the people into his life to care for him when it is time. This is my season, and I'm just glad to be a part of God's plan for this amazing young man, whether I'm his final mommy (which I hope I am!) or not. God is so faithful.
As Father's Day approached, we asked him what he would like to do, and decided with him that we would plant a tree for his Ethiopian father. We have a shady little nook outside our dining room window that is perfect for a Japanese Maple. It is a window we look out of everyday, so he will be able to see it all the time. Yesterday he and his brother and dad took some time to plant the tree.
I love the way this turned out, too! The tree will grow to about 6 feet tall (about as tall as his American dad), and will be a constant reminder of his precious Ethiopian father, who had so much to do with the man Minte will one day be. As I watched those precious boys (and dad) plant that tree, I was reminded of Psalm 1, and the fact that I've written their names beside that Psalm in my Bible. Oh how I pray that they would be planted like well-watered trees because they meditate on God's Word, whose leaves will not wither and that whatever they do will prosper. What a wonderful reminder! The stone at the bottom of this tree is Psalm 25:4 "Show me Thy ways O Lord, teach me Thy paths."
Hopefully we have helped him to feel like he has honored the memory of his precious Ethopian parents who loved him so much. He knows he was loved and because of that has been able to readily receive our love. It's important for him to know he can remember them. He can miss them. He can talk about them, and most importantly- honor them. These first Mother's and Father's Days have been important milestones in our family. We are so blessed.