Adoption is beautiful and hard.
That’s what a friend told me a couple of weeks ago and the phrase has stuck in my head and rolled around in my heart like a catchy tune or phrase.
Because that pretty much sums it up. Sums up our year. Sums up our days. Sums up our moments.
Last Wednesday, July 13th, marked the one year anniversary of Mia Grace’s Gotcha Day, her “birth” day of sorts into our family. It was the day an orphanage director named Wendy walked out of a back room curtain holding a seventeen-pound seventeen-month-old serious faced little thing whose head was damp with sweat and whose hand clutched an orange little plastic shovel as if her life depended on it. (To read more about our adoption story, click here.) After placing her into my arms and giving me a five minute low down on Mia Grace’s schedule, history, and daily rhythms (not much time or information when someone hands you a total stranger of a seventeen-month-old), Wendy departed, and the whole experience of Gotcha Day lasted about twenty minutes after we had waited for a daughter for almost two and a half years. And I still remember the exhilarating feeling of riding with former LingYu Xu now Mia Grace Baker, in the car back to our hotel, feeling like we had just busted someone out of prison. I couldn’t wait to get the orphanage smell, the orphanage clothes, and the orphanage shovel out of her hands and let her start becoming a Baker, an official member of our family.
And what a becoming it’s been.
Sometimes the beauty and the hardness of it all still catches me off guard. I have been asked a number of times this year if loving Mia Grace is harder than loving my biological children. Yes and no. With my biological children, loving comes easy. They have my scent, my brown eyes or Jason’s hazel eyes, my husband’s walk, the personality traits of their grandmothers, and a connectedness to my mother’s heart that goes back to the long nine months of carrying them in the womb and soaking in their sweet baby scent in the hospital. I don’t have those things with Mia Grace. Sometimes I’m still taken aback to look down in my arms at the little person I’m holding and see brown skin, dark brown, almost black, beautiful almond shaped eyes, and a small, petite stature that looks nothing like mine. Nothing about her looks like me.
There is nothing biologically or historically speaking that draws her to me or me to her. But the love I have for Mia Grace isn’t based on biology. It’s based on something deeper, truer, beautiful, and fierce. It catches me off guard and makes me catch my breath. It’s a love that sometimes feels different and looks different than I have for my biological children, but it’s a love like steel that has uncuttable cords and reaches past biology into grace.
Because when I look at her, I see myself. I look at my skin, the color of my eyes, the smallness of my hands, the hardness and often disobedient nature of my heart, and I don’t see anything about myself that looks like my heavenly Father. I am just so other than Him. Yet He loves me. Sent His Son to die for me. Wrapped me in cords of love and drew me to Himself in a love that will not let me go that is rooted and grounded in His glory and grace.
I used to hear those words, see those words, and understand with my head but not necessarily my heart. But adoption has helped to change that. I understand a little bit more about this love that holds me and emanates from Someone who looks nothing like me. Who spent large amounts of His resources, in fact, the very best that He had, to change my name and secure me to Himself.
So is it hard sometimes to love someone who looks nothing like I look or who shares none of my history or ancestors? Yes. But the beautiful far outweighs the hard. In fact, the hard has made the past year even more beautiful.
I don’t know where you are today. I don’t know if you have ever experienced and received your heavenly Father’s unconditional, deep love and embrace, or if you have felt like you’ve had to earn it. Prove it. Work hard at it and for it. But from one very imperfect adoptive parent, let me tell you on behalf of the very perfect adoptive Parent, you are loved. No matter your looks. No matter your situation. No matter your past. No matter your present circumstances. The Father’s love for you isn’t based on your similarities in scent, or facial features, or shared history. His love for you is based on a decision He made, long before you were born, to go after you in your sinful, wretched state through the beautiful, hard death of Jesus on the cross. And once you have accepted Christ by faith and surrendered your will to His Spirit, His love for you is secure. Final. Complete. Bound to Him with cords of love that go deeper than biology. They are tied tight through grace.
To celebrate Mia Grace’s “Gotcha Day,” I drove up to Java, the local coffee shop here in Ketchum, Idaho, the town where we are staying for the next several weeks, and bought a coffee for myself and a giant cinnamon roll for Mia Grace that was as big as her face.
Over breakfast, the girls, Jason, and I went around the table while MG licked icing off her fingers and smeared the rest in her hair, and recounted all of the ways God has been faithful to Mia Grace and our family over the past first year of adoption. All of the beauty and all of the hard. Our cheeks were wet with tears by the end of our cinnamon rolls and testifying to the goodness of a God who has the power to make all adoption stories beautiful.
The next day, I hiked up our favorite Ketchum peak, Bald Mountain, with Mia Grace on my back.
The climb was a tough one, especially with the added weight of a two-and-a-half year old on my back, but once again, the hard of the uphill reminded me of the strain and hard of adoption. Of learning to love, bond, attach, connect with, and help train, raise, and steer someone with such a different history, past, biology, and story than mine. But then we got to the top. And we simply sat back and soaked in the beautiful view with an enjoyment more sweet and rewarding precisely because of the hard uphill climb.
As people who love Jesus, it’s so easy to forget our “Gotcha Day” with the Lord the older we get. It’s easy to never pause and remember the cords of love that drew us and have never ceased to hold us, no matter how off course we get. And we lose our sense of wonder and awe in our own adoption stories, forgetting the hard parts of our past and our present climbs only serve to make the love we are held with more beautiful and the views more breath-taking.
My challenge to you this week is to eat at least one cinnamon roll…and remember the great lengths God went to to secure you to Himself. Rejoice in your Gotcha Day, and recount at least ten different ways your Father has been faithful to you in the past. Then walk out into your day, your week, and your season in confidence, knowing that the hard is tightly bound to the beautiful, and God’s love will not let you go. That’s the story of adoption. That’s the story of Mia Grace. And that’s the story of you and me and all those who love King Jesus, the author of all adoption stories.