Seeing for Two

We have a semi-open adoption with our girls’ birth moms, which means that we signed a contract to share photos of the girls with their birth moms at specified intervals.

All year, I try my hardest to capture photos of my girls’ everyday lives, their special occasions, their vacations, their time with friends, their time with family.

All year, I see for two people.

I see my daughter running on the beach, not only as myself, but for her.

I watch a birthday celebration through my own eyes, and at the same time, try to take photos for her.

I enjoy watching her peddle her bike in the beautiful sunset light, and wistfully realize I can’t capture it exactly right.  I savor it for two.

As my deadlines approach, I go through all of the photos, deciding what photos I would want to see most if photos were all I got to see.

I add captions, explaining “this is her best friend” or “this is what we did for her birthday” or “this perfectly describes her personality.”

I write a letter that may or may not be read.

And then I click “submit.”

This week marks three years of moments that I have gotten to see firsthand.

I am the photographer—not the person viewing the photos through a computer or a printed album.  This privilege is never lost on me.

As I click “submit,” I pray for the woman on the other end of the photograph.

And then I step away from the computer, back to my girls, and resume seeing for two.

The Miracle in My Mailbox

A few minutes ago, I walked out the door for my usual afternoon chore: dump the full diaper pails in the trash can.  Check the mail.  Nothing exciting.

But in my mailbox today, there was an envelope from the Social Security Administration.

Inside, there was a card.

There was her name.  Riley Grace Ourlastname.  There was a number.

And then there were my tears.

After a year and a month’s worth of paperwork, this was the last detail for my last daughter.

Three years ago, when we started Zoe’s adoption process and began what would become nearly three years of continuous paperwork, I read the book “Adopted for Life” by Russell Moore.  He writes,

“Keep yourself from being overwhelmed by the sheer volume of all this paperwork by seeing it for what it is—a labor for the children God is calling to be yours.  You are kind of like Jacob of old, working years of arduous labor for the permission from her father to marry Rachel.  For Jacob, the years of work ‘seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her’ (Genesis 29:20)…imagine that Jesus himself is asking you to fill out that stuff, and do it with joyfulness and gratitude.”

I fully embraced that philosophy.  All of the work and i-dotting and t-crossing has been part of our calling to find and love these girls and make them part of our family.  And it’s over.  And they’re ours.

And it still all feels like a miracle.

I couldn’t fill out enough paperwork to earn the right to hear these girls call me “mama.”

It’s all His gift.

Thank you, Lord.

“Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness…let everything that has breath praise the Lord.”  –from Psalm 150 

Your Grace Finds Me

It had been a long day.  I had woken up at 5:15 am feeling sick, got right to work mothering at 6:10 as David had a morning meeting, and continued working throughout the day.  We had a fun day, but it was now 6:45 pm, David was still at work thanks to an evening meeting, and Zoe was getting progressively crankier and crankier—her fatigue and my fatigue locked in a battle.

Is it bedtime yet? I wondered wearily.  I looked up at the clock and sighed.  45 more minutes…

In that sigh, my heart sank.

Though I know it’s natural to feel tired, I feel guilty every time that I catch myself wishing time away.

I didn’t become a mom for nap time and bed time; I became a mom for the waking moments, when I get to watch Zoe develop and grow and explore.  I didn’t become a mom to have time to myself; I became a mom to give of myself.

When I told my boss I was not coming back to work full time, she said, “The way this baby found her way into your family was such a miracle.  I’m glad you’re not wasting the miracle.”   I’ve thought often of this as I’ve watched my sweet baby grow faster than I could have ever imagined.  This IS a miracle.  Every moment.  And our recent failed adoption reminds me of just how miraculous it is for a mother to give up the privilege of parenting so that her child can have a better life.  It defies logic.  It defies the cry of a mother’s heart.  It is a miracle—a heartbreaking and perplexing and yet ultimately beautiful miracle when God takes a child who needs a family and places it into the arms of a family who need that child.

It was now 7:00.  My sweet little one was relaxing on my lap and drinking her bottle as I thought through all this, chastising myself for my lack of discipline and energy and appreciation for our miracle and my general suckiness as a mom.   (You know, the loving things you say to yourself that really spur you on to greatness.)

In the midst of my motivational inner monologue, I happened to glance outside and realized that the scenery looked different than our usual 7:00 darkness.  Thanks to Daylight Savings Time, a beautiful sunset was happening outside our window.

It’s a shame we’ll miss that sunset, I thought.

And then it hit me.

Why do we have to miss it? 

Just because I set an arbitrary bedtime—just because we have a routine—just because I planned on a 7:30 bedtime—doesn’t mean that we had to follow through.

A few weeks ago I had heard a sermon where Andy Stanley challenged us to ask ourselves the question “what would an extraordinary person do?” in our ordinary circumstances.

As the sunset gleamed outside, I asked myself what an extraordinary mom, one who doesn’t want herself or her child to miss a miracle, one who doesn’t want to end their day in fatigue and discouragement, would do.

And just like that, Zoe was done with her bottle.  I looked her in the eye and said “baby, do you want to go outside?” 

She ran to the door, confused and excited, following at my heels as I grabbed my shoes and keys.

We stepped outside and I walked us to a place where we could see the sunset.

And as we looked up at the sky and pointed to squirrels and birds and picked flowers and waved to each car as it went by, I realized that the only people missing the miracle tonight were the people who didn’t look out their car windows to see the loving little girl waving to them and the people whose hands gripped the wheel too tightly to wave back.

Tonight, I wasn’t one of them.

Thank you, Lord.

(Want more? This song.)