African praise melodies were the thing that officially birthed adoption in my soul. Enchanted by the joyful rhythms crooned by children with trauma-marked lives, my 5-year-old heart sank into beat with the tunes played on repeat as I wept. The cassette tape was my connection to the African children I knew for only three days but loved with my whole heart.
A few years later, I sang and rocked an infant to sleep after a long day in the first grade. Tears streamed down my face while we waited for his caseworker to pick him up. I don’t remember the name of this tiny boy that my family fostered for less than 24 hours. But I loved him.
Perhaps these were the moments that taught my heart you could love someone you didn’t even know.
Perhaps these were the moments when I learned that love sometimes looks more like tears and sacrifice than smiles and butterfly-filled stomachs.
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There were more lessons to be learned.
Eleven years after I first heard the songs of the African children, my feet followed their drum beats to Kenya. We visited orphanages and met children living in stick huts. The stench of poverty rose up from the Nairobi slums where children emerged, begging for money or bread. Those rapid weeks taught me that my life was meant for a purpose beyond my own comfort and days.
The concept of adoption was beginning to sprout from the seed that had been planted years ago.
As my career in child welfare began, I attended a Christian conference for advocates of adoption, foster care, and family care. I had spent much of the past several years with teenagers who were aging out of foster care. What I realized was needed were parents who would commit to a child no matter what. No matter how hard it got. I noticed that between the ages of seven and nine was the turning point for kids. They either got that family or they didn’t. The outcomes for the kids that didn’t were not very happy.
I wanted to be that family for one child.
What I wouldn’t know for a while was that same exact week a 2-year-old boy with curly hair and blue-green eyes was being removed from his mom and put into foster care.
When I met this little one, he was already five years old. During the three days he stayed at my house, I knew I loved him. I knew I was meant to be his mom.
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These moments hold me to love when the anger-looking hurt spews in my face. They keep me going for one more day when I am weary. Many days, adoption feels like fighting ghosts of trauma past. I can’t see the wounds, but I feel desperately broken, bloody, and bruised. All I want to do is hug him. But his brain mixes signals.
The mother who once held him sweetly was also the mother who didn’t stay.
We were made in the image of Love Himself. When we look at the face of Love we see scars from the thorns, cuts from the whips, bruises from the hits. This is what love looks like. No matter how hard it got for Him, He stayed. It would have been easy to walk away. After all, He didn’t make this mess. Why should He bear the weight of it?
Because that is what Love does. He took the punishment so we might be called His children. So that we could belong. We spew bitterness, pride, and hurt in His face, but He holds fast.
Sometimes love looks like getting up and trying again.