I see it behind their eyes, the calculating and impression. I see it behind their shining brown eyes, how glad they are that I believe I am beautiful. They love me. To them, I am love and guidance and warm, soft blankets and early mornings. They have never doubted how wonderful I am. They have never doubted my beauty. How confusing it must have been for them to see me furrowing my brow in the mirror and sucking in my stomach and sighing.
I can’t show you a picture of the bleak room we entered where fifty or so children, all dressed exactly alike in white tshirts and blue pants, immediately surrounded us as we walked in. Have you ever thrown a piece of bread in a pond just to watch the ducks fight each other for it? Imagine that, but with toddlers, literally crawling our legs. They swarmed all of us, including my children, but we mothers were attacked the most voraciously, so desperate were they for a mother’s embrace. I can’t show you the face of one of them, a boy I think, as I held him tightly, but imagine the purest joy you’ve ever seen. Then another climbed my leg and I held one in each arm as they clung to me, burying their faces in my neck until they pulled away and laughed.
Yes, there are needs in our community that need to be met, but we can NOT begrudge the family who feels God’s call to care for that child in Africa, or China, or Bulgaria whose very life hangs in the balance if a family doesn’t step up and bring him into their own family. We need to offer support to those families who are entering into this form of ministry through family building. The biggest support we can be before that child comes home is to offer financial help. This kind of adoption is very expensive, but these kids are worth it! After the child comes home, foster families have SO much wisdom to offer! We had the benefit of knowing our kids and their issues before committing to their adoptions, so we can help coach, mentor and encourage those parents whose kids have come from hurting places and who may have brought with them issues their parents were unprepared to deal with. If we cut ourselves off from those parents because we think they spent unnecessary time and money when they could have just helped a child in our neighborhood, we will be cutting off a support of understanding and education those parents will desperately need. I don’t think the Bible gives us an option to take a pass on offering that encouragement just because we think they should have gone the same route we did.
(Pictures) are the stories we plan to pass to our children, to help recount to them and help them remember from where and whom they came. But even more than that, keeping ourselves out of these pictures — out of these stories — can symbolize something greater about how we see and treat ourselves as both mothers and human beings, and our children are watching. I am hoping that we might accept ourselves, perceived warts and all, as valuable, integral, essential parts of our own stories. I’m hoping we can value ourselves in our everyday forms as mothers, women, caretakers, warriors and, most importantly, individuals.
Notes from Drew: That’s $72 dollars for biscuits. At Popeye’s, the biscuit comes free with your order. At Williams-Sonoma, it costs you the rough equivalent of your phone bill. How good could these biscuits possibly be? There’s a threshold past which biscuits cannot improve. Even the best goddamn biscuit in the world isn’t $72 better than a Popeye’s biscuit. Unless that biscuit can make you teleport.
While symbols can be important, we have focused perhaps too much on them instead of the underlying reality they reflect. Instead, we need to go back to the basics of living as disciples of Christ, living missionally for Christ and demonstrating the Gospel in tangible ways within our schools, workplaces and communities. While I would be happy to see the Ten Commandments back on the courthouse wall, the fight over symbolic issues is backfiring, alienating people from the truths of the gospel rather than attracting them to it. The kind of Christianity the world responds to is the authentic “love your neighbor” kind. Its appeal can’t be legislated through court battles and neither can courts stop its spread.
Here is a start: Look around your living space. Do you surround yourself with things you really like or things you like only because they are absurd? Listen to your own speech. Ask yourself: Do I communicate primarily through inside jokes and pop culture references? What percentage of my speech is meaningful? How much hyperbolic language do I use? Do I feign indifference? Look at your clothes. What parts of your wardrobe could be described as costume-like, derivative or reminiscent of some specific style archetype (the secretary, the hobo, the flapper, yourself as a child)? In other words, do your clothes refer to something else or only to themselves? Do you attempt to look intentionally nerdy, awkward or ugly? In other words, is your style an anti-style? The most important question: How would it feel to change yourself quietly, offline, without public display, from within?
This may illuminate one way that poverty replicates itself from generation to generation. Children in poor households grow up under constant stress, disproportionately raised by young, single mothers also under tremendous stress, and the result may be brain architecture that makes it harder for the children to thrive at school or succeed in the work force. Yet the cycle can be broken, and the implication is that the most cost-effective way to address poverty isn’t necessarily housing vouchers or welfare initiatives or prison-building. Rather, it may be early childhood education and parenting programs.
you see, it’s not about finding the perfect fit for your family. it’s about finding the right family for each orphaned child. and it won’t be perfect. it will be messy. hard. discouraging. lonely. exhausting. painful. raw. but it will also be wildly beautiful. full of love. life changing. exhilarating. purpose-giving. redemptive. it will expose things about yourself that you never knew were there. deep wounds that need healing as well as strengths you didn’t think you had. it will change your perspective. it will break your heart. but it will be good. so, so good.
What I’m reading . . .
A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: (A Mostly True Memoir) by Jenny Lawson