It's raining today, and I'm sitting in the kitchen with the rain sound soothing me, and little Y just laid down for a nap upstairs. We've been singing "happy birthday" to him all day, and I know he doesn't really know what a birthday is, but he knows it makes him happy. He keeps asking if he can "open" his birthday. I know he means he wants to open a present, but I don't correct him, because I understand and I too want to "open" the day; unwrapping the layers of it with the anticipation of joy. He's never celebrated a birthday before, and I have never looked into those brown eyes and celebrated with him, remembering the long string of days and years leading up to that special day the way I have with the older children. The ones who grew inside of me, with all of the days of their lives laid out behind us in a familiar path.
Last year I had only known him for a few short weeks when his birthday came, and we passed the day with little fanfare because we knew he wouldn't understand, and we didn't want to further confuse him or his sister when there was already so much adjusting to be done. And I...would have struggled to celebrate the way I can today. Because I was struggling to "find" him. I was looking into little eyes which often looked back at me with cool detachment. I was holding and hugging and carrying a little body which melted just as easily into the arms of any stranger. But now ...now I have days and weeks and months...adding up to more than a year...of knowing him. Knowing him. He has become familiar to me. His eyes look at me with delight and trusting expectancy. His arms reach for me. His little voice calls for Mama, and I know it's not just a word...no longer just a label that he uses to have a need met.
I carried him upstairs to his nap just now, singing to him as we went. And I sang as I laid him on his bed, and his eyes were on mine the whole time, and they were twinkling with the pleasure of it. The pleasure of "happy birthday" sung again and again, and the pleasure of the moments alone with Mama, and of snuggling into the bed and me stroking his soft blanket against his face because I know he likes that. And I knew that he wanted the fan on, and I knew that I would turn and walk away and make it almost to the door before he would call me one more time. And I heard the words he always says..."Hug, Mama." I go back and hug him one more time, with him smiling and his eyes sparkling because he knew I would come back and hug him again. And I looked down at him and realized, tingling, that it had happened. I had wondered for so long if it would ever come, and now I saw that it had come upon me...like a soft blanket placed on a sleeping child, because I had never been aware of the moment it came, but only relaxed in the warmth of it. The warmth of feeling that he is mine in a way that is sure and safe and abiding. That the invisible, steely bond that existed from birth between me and his older brother and sisters, now holds him to me as well. I looked down at him and had a strange soft shock of remembering that he did not grow inside of me...but knowing that he is just as much part of me as if he had.
And now I sit and ponder all of this (I'm thinking about Mary, and how she "treasured it in her heart"), because I am seeing once again how we prayed that God would bring us children from Ethiopia; children who needed love and healing, and that He would let us love them, and help us to help them heal and grow. And then how He brought them here, but that He has just as surely been healing and growing me. Because all through this last year God has been showing me that I was living like an orphan. That I didn't really know how to love Him. That I sometimes look at Him with that same cool detachment with which little Y once viewed me. That I too often look for my sustenance and support from arms other than His. I am learning to know and trust the invisible, steely bond that has always been there to connect me safely to my Father. I have placed my trust in Him again and again as I walked the hard path of the last few years, and He has never failed. I am learning to know that "Father" is more than just a label for a distant being who holds authority over my life. He loves me. I am safe in his arms. He sings over me...delights in me. He will always be there when I call to Him. Can I ever, ever teach Little Y (or MJ) anything that compares with what I have learned through having them in my life? I can't...but I will be a vessel through which their Father will teach them. I can trust Him for that too.
The rain is not darkening the brightness of this milestone for me, or for my littlest son. I have had some moments of grieving and praying today for Meselech (the children's Ethiopian mother), but this date on a calendar is not something that she is aware of. This day is for Little Y and for us, and it's a gift. We're going to keep opening it all day long.
(By the way, I've dropped the children's "blog pseudonyms" and I'm just using their initials. If you know us in real life, you'll know who I'm talking about without having to remember the nicknames...and I won't have to keep up with the nicknames either! If you don't know us in real life, their initials are under their pics on the sidebar.)