Morning Star Reunion 2017!
Today some dear friends met their three Congolese children for the first time. As I saw the photo of the first look, brown skin smooshed against white in an embrace, laughter, and smiles over coming language barriers, I was overwhlmed once again with the incredible beauty of adoption. Strangers becoming family. This summer we gathered in a barn outside of Birmingham Alabama with a group of people who should have been strangers but who instead were like family. We had the normal small talk and get to know you conversations you would have with strangers, but they didn't feel like strangers, they felt like family. You see our children had once been a family in a bright little house on the outskirts of Beijing. They once called the same American woman Mama and each adored their beloved Ayi's. They took walks around the block sitting two by two in strollers. They shared shoes and funny Chinese cartoon character shirts. They sat in a line of white high chairs eating rice and vegetables every day. They celebrated birthdays with big flowery cakes and lots of candles and singing. They snuggled together on the famous white sectional. And they sat vigil when one of their brothers or sisters left for heart surgery, cheered when they came home and grieved deeply when they did not. They weren't your typical family but certainly not any less than family. They were a group of strangers who chose to love each other and that is when they became family. And it was the same for us as we gathered in the Alabama heat, a group of strangers made family by love.
We spent two days bonding through lots of play. And boy did we play, there was a splash padding, rain puddle jumping, air hockey playing, farm animal petting, s'more eating, bubble blowing and trampolining. Our kids ran around covered in dust, hay, sweat and sugar having the time of their lives.
On Friday we called the beloved Ayi's in China, seeing their smiles and hearing their cheers, and laughter, as they got on the phone with each child, was an incredible gift. These women who rose in the night with bottles for our babies, changed their diapers countless times, gave hundred of baths, read them tons books, gave them a million kisses and sat for days by their hospital beds for a few minutes got to see the fruit of their labor as our children shyly nestled in their adoptive mothers chest or crossed the living room showing off new walking skills into their mothers arms. These women labored knowing they would have to let these babies go to another mother and they are forever my heroes. Brave and fierce with love are these women. We spent some time making cards and creating finger print art for these dear women, trying to provide a small way to honor them and make them a part of the weekend. My hope is one day our reunion we will have a reunion with them, our family fully reunited.
And like a real family, we didn't just have fun together we also grieved together. We spent some time remembering those babies from our Morning Star family who have gone on to the Lord. My words weren't elegant, and they were broken with tears, but I just wanted to speak their names in a crowd of people who knew them, loved them, remembered them and missed them. And so we sent balloons to Molly, Lilah, Luna, Kiah, Lily, and Joel, once again announcing that they were and are loved.
Almost exactly a year before this reunion Dave and I arrived at the@morningstarfoundation baby house and met Ben for the first time. He was timid and pretty unsure of these two Americans who seemed very interested in him. The Ayi's kept telling him we were his Mama and Baba but he wasn't quite sure. He had a woman he called mama, but she was taller, had long hair and could speak English and Chinese. His heart belonged to another, and so we did our best to play it cool, we gave him space, followed his cues, got down on his level and waited for him to respond. It took time but he slowly started to engage us, he smiled at us, let's us play toys with him, propped his foot on my leg while I fed him. He started to open up to us. Not replacing his other mother and his Ayi mamas but making room for what he recognized to be love. The two days of the reunion I watched the one he once called mama play it cool, she gave him space, she followed his cues, got down on his level and waited for him and slowly he responded. A smile, a hug, a sit on the lap and then they took a walk and laughed so hard together. The restraint she showed in not running up and squeezing and kissing our son was incredible to witness. The one he once called Mama, the one whose face lit up when she walked in the door, the one that comforted him when he was sad, the one he loved, she held back for his sake. This continued to show me this young woman's deep strength. A strength that says you before me, the strength it takes to the live out of the great commandment, "love your neighbor as yourself." She chose his well being over her own and so she restrained when she wanted to run and hug and kiss and hold. Because this is what true love does. I say this not to boast in this girl but to boast in her God, the God who loves her just like this, with a selfless, self-sacrificing love. His love in and through her is so evident as he gives her the strength to love these babies so selflessly. Thank you @meredithtoering for showing us how to love as Jesus does.
We may have technically arrived strangers but you never would have known becuase love made us family and I hope and pray there will be more family reunions in the years to come!