I haven’t written anything about our failed adoption in a long time, and as much as I would like to say that my heart is all healed, it’s still something I think about often. It’s so weird to me that the baby that was almost ours is now 15 months old. I wonder if she looks like Zoe did at 15 months. I wonder if she has Zoe’s spunk and zest for life, if she says as many words as Zoe did. I wonder if she is being cared for in any minimally appropriate way. I think about her, and I wonder, and I have no answers.
At the same time, I look at my second beautiful daughter—the one I wouldn’t trade for anything—and rejoice. I rejoice and I marvel and I realize that I couldn’t possibly have the answers. I only see a hands-breadth in front of me.
Trusting God to work purpose through my pain and entrusting God with someone I love are among the hardest things I have ever had to do. Yet that is what we are called to do everyday as Christians and as parents and as life-livers. The things we grasp tightest didn’t originate with us. Loosening our hands and lifting them up with thanksgiving and trust is the only response that will free us to truly enjoy them. You can’t own or earn grace. You just live in it.
The same is true for answers. You can’t own or earn them either. Sometimes, you are given them, and sometimes you just live in the mystery—and that is still grace, although not always in ways you appreciate.
With that perspective, it feels trite to try to understand: “if it hadn’t been for Brianna, we would have never been in the adoption process and we would have never gotten Riley!” because really? If God wanted us to have them both, He would have made a way (thankfully for my sanity, He did not make this happen). I’ve found that adoption makes you wonder what God really intends as plan A and plan B and I am increasingly hesitant to speak for God on these matters.
But what I do know is this: despite the pain, loving Zoe, Brianna, Riley, and their birthparents has been a gift and a privilege.
We are meeting Riley’s biological family this week for lunch and I am so excited to look into her birthparents’ eyes, give them warm hugs, and hear—really hear—how they are doing. I am thrilled to show them how our child is growing and developing and how she claps to “If You’re Happy and You Know It.” I am nervous to see my parenting reflected through their eyes; I am hopeful they think we’re doing it well. I am not new to this, so I know there will be some awkward moments and some lulls in the conversation where we don’t know what to say next. But I also know there is a gift of grace that binds us all together.
Glennon Dolyle Melton writes about her conversation with her young son after the death of his favorite fish:
“When he asked me, “why, mom? Why does God send us here where things hurt so much? Why does he make us love things that he knows we’re going to lose?” I told him that we don’t love people and animals because we will have them forever; we love them because loving them changes us, makes us better, healthier, kinder, realer. Loving people and animals makes us stronger in the right ways and weaker in the right ways. Even if people and animals leave, even if they die, they leave us better. So we keep loving, even though we might lose, because loving teaches us and changes us. And that’s what we’re here to do.”
–“On Fish and Heaven,” from Carry On, Warrior: Thoughts On Life Unarmed
I am thankful to have had the chance to love and to learn about love from these people. It has made me stronger and weaker in the right ways and I am better for it.