You couldn’t have convinced me, before all of these brown babies came into my life, that a tiny baby could really know what he missed. But there was the time Calvin was 9 months old and the cartoon cut to kids in Korea, a whole schoolyard of them laughing and playing. He froze. Then he bawled his eyes out. He knew. I swept him up and our hearts broke together, for two different reasons. That’s when my mind changed. That’s when I knew for sure that the heart knows what it wants. That’s when adoption became more than my path to a family.
Then there’s his little brother, the one who changed everything we knew all over again, the one who pushes back at life, all wiry limbs and almond eyes bigger than forever.
He’s four now, and he’s got some things to say. He tells us he loves us all the time. He calls everyone “Mrs. Doohiggy” and laughs like he invented four-year old humor. He talks trash. He gives me permission to do stuff all dang day because he has a monstrous Boss complex. “Oh sure, you can put those dishes away.” “Yes, you may check your email.” “Okay, you can make some lunch!”
A few weeks ago he curled up on my lap like a monkey baby and lapsed into that really safe baby world, his wide eyes wider, the weight of his body a gift in my hands. I’ll play baby with him anytime.
This time, the baby started talking.
S: I was born in my Kria (Korea).
Me: Yes, you were.
S: You get me there wis Daddy. We go up in the airplane.
Me: Yep. Did you like the airplane?
S: No. I cried.
Me: Why did you cry?
S: Because I was sad.
Me: Why were you sad? (super curious at this point)
S: Because I didn’t want that mommy.
Me: You didn’t want what mommy?
S: (points to me) That one.
Me: What mommy did you want?
S: Foster mommy.
He wasn’t sad when he said it. He was just telling the truth. I kissed his neck and sniffed his head and the baby was gone. He smiled and raced off to the toyroom, Charles wedged under one arm.
We have talked to him about Korea. We’ve talked about foster mommy. We’ve talked about the airplane and that he cried on it. We have never, ever, talked about why he cried on the plane. We’ve never come close to talking about how desperate he was for the life he knew, or how his world ended for a while when we showed up.
We knew his heart was broken. We know it’s mapped with scars. We did not know his little-kid brain was capable of remembering a feeling that showed up 3 years back.
This might be one more way that healing comes down, to him and to us. God never wastes pain.
But I talk about Going and all the ways it can weigh us down, make us jittery or sad, and none of it will ever come close to the kind of Going that buttons your coat, ties your shoes, and sends you across an ocean, or a river.
The amount of collective faith required in adoption sends me staggering, and most of it isn’t even mine.
They would never have chosen this. But there was so much more to the story than what they could see. So they came and let us love them and sooner or later, they loved us back. They chose us back.
Maybe it’s in the brown eyes looking up at me every day that I find this urge to reach up and grab onto something Brave. Because despite all the ways they have lost, my babies will understand how God redeems. Their worldview and the scope of their belief will leave mine in the dust. They’ll never think for a second that the neighbors they should love share their language, their skin-tone, the same hunk of dirt.
For them, it will be rooted in their soul: a good thing isn’t always an easy thing. Sometimes, just what we need, that one thing that will define us, hold us, carry us into the all the rest, is born from a heart wide-split and questions that won’t be answered.
If they and all the others like them can Go, so can we.
Shannan Martin is an ordinary girl who searches for and finds beauty in the everyday. She’s the wife of a man who thinks all of her jokes are funny and who regularly indulges her late-night, thinking-out-loud ponderings. They have three funny shorties, Calvin, Ruby, and Silas, who came to them across rivers and oceans. Together, they are embarking on a fresh adventure and are confident that God will meet them there. And though they no longer live on the farm, life remains a heaped-up pile of blessings, and Shannan will forever remain a Farmgirl at heart. She has blogged for three years; come take a look.