I had a good laugh the other day and said to Chris something about remember when my blog used to be really cheerful with lots of pictures of cake and grimy babies playing in the sun? What happened? Now I can't type without crying and when I sit down to write something really witty and happy, it's not that the dialogue isn't there. It's not that we're not having fun or not baking piles of cookies and getting lost on campus playing when bed times are way long gone. We are, not much has changed. There's still kids throwing fits, messes to clean up, and life going on just like every other family. But for whatever reason, I feel like there's a download going on, a foster care influx, and the info isn't for our family to sit on and hover over. I feel like we're getting a new glimpse into a reality that's always been there, we just missed it before somehow. Like all the years I sang the songs about wanting to know the Lord's heart and asking Him to give me His eyes, to break my heart for what breaks His, it was genuine and I'm confident I took ground. It's just that now, that's the thing that comes out of my mouth and quickly from my heart when I sit down in this space.
But what about the parts to this equation that can't be done without the heart?
What about the part where there's a new little human, a little baby suddenly in my home among my own children, with his own needs and desire to belong? Where's the training manual for that?
How do you do it, how do you emotionally bring someone else's baby into your home and love them? What does that kind of love even look like?
I go back to love, the fiery kind I felt 12 years ago. The night I met my husband, I knew it was him my heart needed to love. And when he proposed, I thought I might just pass out from excitement that he chose me and this would be it forever. That kind of love.
A seed was planted that day and the months after when he waited for me at the end of the aisle and we said forever, no matter what.
Love continued on taking new form. The first time I saw her face on the ultrasound screen, a mama's love crept in slowly and set up camp. And the moment her little head was held up in over the blue curtain and I saw her lips, her dark hair, and her precious pink little face, well right then I just thought my heart was going to burst wide open. With each little face that was viewed on screens and then held up over the sheet, my heart grew and expanded. She looked like her daddy, she had his eyes on that first night we met. Her lips looked like her sisters. Her cheeks were a carbon copy of mine when I was a baby. Bella looked like Emma and then Alice was a replica of Sophie. Amazing how those features, beyond the DNA strands and multiplication of cells, the science of it all. She was us. And that realization throws gasoline on a heart growing in love and it fans the flame. You know her, you learn to anticipate her wants and needs, you learn her temperament, sooner and sooner with each baby. And I remember someone saying a baby stares at her mama's eyes because she wants to know her, I remember wondering if that was true. Did we really need to gaze, didn't she already know and I knew her every inch?
How little did I know that one day I would find the answer.
You realize how much unassuming features like eyelashes and pouted lips affect your emotion the way you love and feel affection for your baby. Then what comes second nature, the way you love your nieces and nephews, your friend's children. They're extensions of the people and relationships you hold so dear. An automatic leap on the game board, quick love and growing fondness because your value for this family member, this friend already established rank in your heart so naturally their children follow in suit.
So how do you love, even begin to recognize and understand love when all familiarity is stripped away? All you know of love are a specific set of tracks, tracks you ran on before and eventually lead you to this place but now...now you need new tracks, for a new love.
Months ago when we walked into the hospital, I still didn't have a name or picture of this little one. So many parents walked and will walk this road before me. Adoption, foster care, guardianship. You walk into a room and leave with a child, a baby, a sibling set. The room is a local CPS office, a court house, an orphanage in another country. I admire and have the utmost respect for these brave men and women who are willing to jump ship and head straight onto these new tracks of love. Not the love that is planted and grown over 9 months, cultivated on ultrasound screens and first moments of life, the labor of love and stretching of a body to host and birth this life to be. A love waiting in a hospital room alone, waiting to know his cry is heard and his life matters, that he's seen.
There he was waiting, needing us.
I thought about this moment from the first day we agreed to start the paper work. I wanted and so deeply desired quick love, instant love. Would it be possible? All the attachment literature I found gave tips and offered suggestions, but everything I read said time, it takes time. That was the day I began praying for that moment, that day. Begging the Lord for a love that would be unexplainable other than His goodness and perfect, timely provision. I made my requests specific and clear, I wanted to see this baby, whoever they are. I wanted to pull them in close and I wanted instant love.
This new love came and with it so much newness and change. A love that is no longer attached to a sonogram or a dream, prayers for months and comparing this growing life to a fruit size and preparing to see a life, an extension of your own self. It's a love that you want with everything in you to hold it loosely because we all know how the story ends that one day he leaves and he never comes back. The type of love that renders you desperate and crawling back to the cross because it's there that He first loved us. So you hold your breath for a few days, a few weeks and then you remember the day you exhaled and you let him in. The day you looked in the mirror and told yourself there's no going back and there's no way of knowing what's coming but that this baby needs love and with everything in me, I'm all in and we're all in.
This love brings to the surface a sacrificial element I've never had to give away. It will cost us everything because the seed was planted, the ground was worked and poured over, the crop yielded pulled from the ground and then it will be let go. This love requires release, that he may never know or remember who we were. He may never know the story of the day we brought him home, that his coming home outfit was passed on from a community ready to welcome him. He may never know many diapers we changed or how he was swaddled in the night. The kind of love that wonders, in the lull of the day, if he will ever know how much we loved and fought for him.
A love that requires you to step into someone else's war, the war unseen that leaves a path unrepairable and unrecognizable if the drought wins, if the thief in the night has his way. It's declaring war on a battlefield, beyond a mess you didn't make and a discomfort and inconvenience you'd prefer to walk away from. Drawing your sword and piercing into the darkness with light and exposing things I don't want to see and I don't want him to grow up in. A love that never gives up when some days you just want to quit.
Back to the cross because He didn't quit on me either.
And then you look over and that little girl who was once a baby herself in your arms, she's holding that baby and he's staring right back at her.
And she whispers and she tells him how one day he's going to move mountains and how it's going to be okay.
She holds him close and she asks me how are we going to let him go. And you fight back the tears that so easily come these days and you tell her we will some day but that for today, she's doing exactly what He's asked us to do. You fill up that baby with truth and love so that every seed planted is soaked in the Lord's presence and that scheme brewing in the dark is driven out so far it doesn't come back.
Because with everything in me, in us, this baby is marked with hope and promise. That every moment and that place where we give until we're empty and desperately crawl back so He can fill us up again, that seed is untouchable and will one day be called out to the surface and a harvest will come.
I don't know this kind of love, not before that phone rang and this tiny life came to live under my roof. I don't know this new love that catches your thoughts when your mind shifts into neutral and you can't think without crying and when you go before the throne room in the early morning hours you weep because the words can't hardly come out.
I don't know this love but I'm learning it well, these new tracks, new seed, and new war. And I look down and catch his brown eyes looking up at me and I remember, that quote from a decade ago, it came back into my mind. The one about babies staring and gazing into their mama's eyes just so they can know her, breathe her in.
We stare, this baby and me...and I'll say it goes both ways. We stare and we learn each other, we gaze and he wonders while I anticipate what lies ahead. He cackles and I wonder, I learn, I fail, and I try again. He looks in deep and I learn when to draw my sword and when to scatter the seeds.
New journey of new unknown and most of all, new love.
"God is love. He didn't need us. But He wanted us. And that is the most amazing thing."