Trading in Your Dreams
Joe is the kind of friend I can be honest with. When I told him my story, I held nothing back. But I would discover I wasn’t being honest with myself.
I was telling him about our plans to adopt. We already had four kids and now we were looking to add to our family through adoption. One of his first questions was about transportation.
“Can you fit five kids in your car?” he asked.
“It’s not a problem. Our minivan has enough seat belts for eight. We even have some breathing room,” I replied.
I then said more. Words indicating I had no idea what I was talking about.
“One of the last things I want to do is to buy one of those big, white mega-vans. The kind plumbers and electricians drive.”
I had a hard time saying yes to adoption. My oldest three children are 4 years apart. When it was only the five of us, adopting one more kid made some sense. Adding another person to our family seemed possible.
But six years later our baby girl came along, and our family seemed full. Soon afterwards, though, my wife brought up the idea of doing more.
If your cup is full, then it is full. How do you add more to it?
More is always relative. Whether you are drinking from a big gulp or shot glass, when the fluid reaches the brim, no more can be added. As soon as you add a drop, the contents will spill. The only thing you have added is a mess.
The two cups are different sizes. Vastly different. But more is impossible.
“How is the adoption process coming?” Joe asked.
“There has been one change. Instead of adopting one child, we are now adopting two,” I said.
“What are you going to do about your van? Will you fit?”
I replied confidently, “We will still fit. It will be full, but we can fit.”
Two weeks before heading off to China, I had to test my theory about fitting in the car. I enjoy the mind-bending puzzles at places like Cracker Barrel. The kind that have a simple solution that can be difficult to see at first.
My van became one of those puzzles.
I took all of the car seats we would need and began arranging. There were a total of 8 seat belts. I needed to fit in two adults, two teenage sized boys, two booster seats, and two toddler car seats.
I crammed. I pulled, I squooshed. And it all fit. Barely.
In the back seat I had tightly arranged an eleven year old boy, a booster seat for a four year old who can’t keep your legs still, and a thirteen year old boy. It was tight. Sardines tight.
The problem with a tight fit is that if anything changes at all, for example an incredible growth spurt in your 13 year old son, it disrupts the delicate balance.
I like the puzzles, but I wonder if some don’t have a solution. Maybe they only exist to drive you nuts.
Ten months after coming back home and a year and a half after our initial conversation, Joe was finally able to meet our kids. It is always fun to see plans and people meet.
And then I had more news for Joe.
“We are going to adopt again,” I told him.
“Uh oh,” he responded.
I sighed with the acceptance that can only come when one realizes they are completely defeated. Surrendered. Done.
“And?” Joe added. There was no need to finish his sentence, we both knew what I would have to say next.
“We are buying one of those vans.”
Some containers appear to be full, but when you take a closer look, they are filled with items that do not matter. Like a bag of chips or a box of cereal, some of the space is filled with air.
This was not our van. It was full of people. There was definitely no more space.
But this was true of my story and my dreams and my decisions. The goal of not driving the big, white mega-van was the wrong dream. Through my stubbornness, I artificially created an obstacle to living a better story.
This past April we drove to Atlanta, only six hours away. But I realized how tightly we fit. And then I could see clearly, more than ever, that the van was only an obstacle. And once I let go of it, once we decided that a really big van would be okay, I discovered breathing room.
And room to do more.
Once we discovered this space, once we removed the extra air in the box, the decision to adopt again was easy. I no longer had an obstacle. Letting go of my minivan allowed me to say yes to something good.
We are in the process of adopting again. This time from Ethiopia. Probably two more kids.
Good thing our new van seats twelve.
I traded in the smaller van this week. Our new van is a monstrosity. It is big. Really big. But the dream that fits in our new van is much better than than the one that fit in the old, much smaller, van.
What obstacles keep you from living your better story?
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