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They chortled around the dinner table tonight.

Sometimes the only way to describe the bubbling laughter of my children is that made-up word from Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky” poem.  The lithe dancers in my husband’s aquamarine eyes twinkled and twirled as he spun stories of ten-year-old hijinks clad in camouflage and courage.  His voice grew more animated recounting the night he and his comrades-in-arms taunted a group of teenage boys and lived to tell the tale.  Our three kids giggled and guffawed as they pictured Daddy streaking camo blur from big bad high school bullies.

My eyes sucked in the gut-laughing scene around the table and I thought, “We made them.”  We made these beautiful smiles and sparkling eyes.

Usually I don’t think about us making our kids, because for all three, many other people hold claims in the creation department.  I don’t give us any credit.  But tonight, I found myself thinking, “We made them.”  We made this scene.  We made this moment.  We brought these children formed on different continents into a family.  Of course, God did.  And He used us.

Gratitude filled my soul and spilled over into my stomach and up my throat and out my mouth, and I chortled, too.  I laughed joy and I laughed celebration.

For twelve long years we have forged our family out of tears and needles and papers and prayers.  For twelve long years we have felt failure and loss and longing.  But tonight I grinned with my family, this group of strangers now blood and sweat and laughter and memories, this unexpected, unexplainable us.

I felt complete, a sigh of relief, and I received the moment as a gift.

Taking three strangers and making them kin isn’t easy.  They have different pasts, and we’ve placed them on one path.  These chortling children have endured much to arrive at our kitchen table, even the incubator boy from my own womb.

Family has not come effortlessly, but then, it never does, does it?  It takes work, perseverance, late nights, early mornings, and a long, slow scooping out of our own selves.  We fall down, we tire out, we worry these kids will never come, never mesh, always elude and avoid us.  We wring hands and hearts and fire prayers and profanity.

We bend.  We break.  We surrender to a plan we didn’t write.

And sometimes we’re surprised by how good it is.

On pokey pins I’ve tip-toed over the last few months peeking into our progress and praying for a sense of normal, of belonging, of team.  We are together, and even when we chafe and fight as families do, I feel a growing sense of safety, of relaxing into we.

We have arrived, not at a destination, but on the journey’s road together.

It feels good to be a family, and I say that amidst tween griping and child sullenness and preschooler whining.  We all have the daily foot stamping sigh of the undone, unrealized, undeserved, unfair moments sucking the marrow out of life.  Some days we feel complete chaos, not complete.

And yet.

Even in the argh, it feels so very good to be family.  Many times I’ve felt failure, felt frustrated, felt yearning, but tonight at my kitchen table, I felt complete.