“I hate you! I wish we weren’t sisters!”
My daughter’s screams echoed down the staircase to where I stood washing the dinner dishes. I dropped my rag into the soapy water and hurried towards the commotion. Angry voices filled the air as I climbed the stairs to my girls’ bedroom.
“Your pajamas are ugly! I wouldn’t want to wear them anyway.”
I rounded the corner to find all three of my daughters rolling around on the floor, pulling at each other’s pajamas, their faces twisted in anger. I breathed a quick prayer for guidance as I waded in and pried open clenched fists. Separating the tangle of girls, I pulled my youngest daughter onto my lap.
“They are wearing matching pajamas,” Hannah sobbed into the safety of my arms. “When I tried to wear the same pajamas, they changed theirs! They won’t let me match them.”
I gently rubbed Hannah’s back as her tears soaked my t-shirt. I glanced at my other daughters. They were huddled together on the carpet, dark eyes filled with defiance. We don’t want to be a part of your family, their eyes and their actions seemed to say. It is us against you.
Oh, Lord, I whispered as I looked at my hurting children. Help us to figure out how to become a family.
Everything had seemed so clear when we began the adoption process. My husband and I were living what we considered to be the perfect life. We had two beautiful children and a loving marriage. He owned a small business and I enjoyed staying home to raise our son and daughter. Life can’t get much better than this, I often thought.
Then we started hearing stories of the orphan crisis in Ethiopia. My heart broke as I learned of children growing up on the streets. Children living in garbage dumps in the hopes of finding scraps of food to eat. Children wasting away for years in orphanages. God seemed to speak directly to my heart and say: These children need love. You have love to give. You have room in your hearts and your home for more. Don’t close your eyes to the need you see in the world.
For the past two years we had followed God’s leading. Filled out paperwork. Completed background checks. Traveled halfway around the world to meet our new children: Hamdiya, Shukriya, Eba and Eyob. A sibling set. We had been given two more sons and two more daughters to love. God had combined our little family of four from America and with a little family of four from Ethiopia. Now we had to figure out how to become one family of eight. We had started our journey worlds apart from each other but were now joined together forever.
One way to knit our family together, apparently, was to wear matching pajamas. I began sitting in my daughters’ bedroom every evening as they changed. I monitored their choices for the night. We had so many differences working against us: language, skin color, history. I was not going to allow pajamas to become another dividing factor. I made sure all three girls were wearing the same pair when I tucked them into bed.
“Goodnight, sweet girls,” I said as I pulled the covers up to their chin. “The Lord bless you and keep you and make His face to shine upon you. The Lord be gracious unto you and give you great peace.”
I kissed their foreheads and left them lying in the soft glow of the nightlight. Clean and sweet smelling from their baths. Dark curls dampening their pillowcase. Matching pajamas safely hidden under their piles of blankets.
It took many months and overwhelming struggle to build our new family from all of the broken pieces. Battles were fought and apologies accepted. Anger exploded and grace was given. We had to earn our children’s love. They needed to learn that they could trust us, that their hearts were safe in our hands. Eventually, the tears came less often and laughter flowed more freely.
One bright summer morning, almost exactly one year from the day the judge signed the adoption papers declaring us a family, I sat outside sipping my cup of coffee. The sun warmed my shoulders as I rocked slowly on the porch swing and enjoyed the silence. Suddenly, the front door burst open and two little girls tumbled out.
“Look, Mom,” they said as they stood in front of me. “We are same-ing! If you braid our hair then we will look exactly the same.”
I stared at my daughters. One dark and striking. One fair and lovely. They had chosen matching outfits to wear for the day: neon green tutus, bright orange t-shirts, silver sandals. Black curls escaped the messy bun on one. Silky strands gathered tightly into a neat ponytail on the other.
They held hands and giggled as they waited for my response. I quickly grabbed my camera.
“Wait right there, girls.” I said. “I want to take a picture of my beautiful twins.”
That night I climbed the stairs to tuck everyone in to bed. Long gone were the days of monitoring pajama choices. Instead, I stood in the hallway outside of their bedroom door and listened. Quiet laughter filled the air as three sisters whispered in the dark. I smiled as I thought about how much had changed over the past year. More joy filled our home. More hope filled our hearts. And more love than I ever thought possible filled our family.