There’s no way I could have known when I first saw her file that she was a bit of stardust and holding her would light bits of me on fire.
The day I go to meet her at a place called Morning Star, there are lilacs erupting in the China street.
Strange, how a scent 10,000 kilometres around the curve of the planet can make you inhale home and all of us can be homesick to be wanted. In the blur of Beijing, I stop to smell a burst of lilacs.
I’ve stopped everything because I want to inhale the scent of her, the way a bit of the sky could fall into your hands and you could close your eyes tight and know you’ve been graced with a bit of a miracle, grazed with a bit of God. Adoption has stopped our whole little careening world — or , I don’t know — maybe started a world we ultimately were meant to find our way to? Who knows….
I just know that no one need adopt if they think they get to sign up to be some Savior White Barbie swooping into rescuing any abandoned child because the truth of it is:You’re the one rescued — you can’t rescue anybody. You only get to hold on to the Rescuer.
I just know that no one gets to mug for the camera with a flash of pearly whites and their newly adopted family without stepping into a story of trauma. The only way a family is made through adoption — is for someone to lose a family first. The only way anyone gets to adoption is through a door of loss and unless you fully feel the depth of that loss, the door you’re walking through leads to nowhere honest.
I just know there’s a whole lot I don’t know at all and no one ever brings home any new child, born or adopted, without pain. Children only come to us through pain — like love only comes to us with pain.
When her ayi steps into the room lit with a rising China sun, carrying her high in her arms, she is all I can see, she is all the light I can see.
She isn’t two.
She isn’t astronomical, so uncommonly tiny, but she has gravity, she means a whole world to a bunch of us a world away.
They say that she’s less than the 3rd percentile for weight, they say that her broken heart makes her light.
Maybe a broken heart — makes you break into a kind of light.
They’ve dressed her in a bit of lace, pulled her hair back into 3 spouts, like she’s ready. Her ayi points to me, calls to me — “Mama. Mama.”Motherhood is a calling to come closer, not a command to be more. I step nearer.
But never once does the littlest one look up at me. A star in arms, she’s this little tight knot of combustion, twisting her fingers, head right bowed, chin tucked in, her focused singularly on her little hands, darkening the whole world around her by peering only at her wringing hands, wringing out all this light. Fears that drive our focus — can drive us away from love. She’s so small. It is possible to somehow stay standing and feel the whole length of your heart crack.
I want to reach out, reach out across the expanse of everything and touch her — hold her. But she holds her own fears, she holds her own stories, her own past, her own loves. She cannot stop wringing and twisting her little fingers. I want to touch her and take away all those fears and all those scars and there’s no way I ever can.There are scars you can’t erase —- all you can do is write more love into them.
Her ayi nanny brushes her bangs out of her eyes, whispering assurance in her ear, pointing to me, and she keeps turning her hands through her own hands, her own scared orbit. I witness her terror and I don’t insert myself as if I’m an answer and I don’t turn away. All of our wounds need a witness — to feel how love is with us.
I honour her with shy space. She has universe of her own that doesn’t know where to place me. Who knew that right now, 18 million children spin about in galaxies of their own, completely untethered orphans, with both parents dead — that’s enough children to fill 180 Superbowl stadiums — 18 million children who have no people of their own anywhere on the planet.
They say that 77% of practicing Christians believe Christians have a responsibility to adopt, but only 5% of Christians have adopted — and I get why it’s tempting to think you shouldn’t adopt and someone else should and I get the choking fears and I get the questions that won’t stop haunting and I get that supporting adoption doesn’t mean that we’re all called to adopt because caring for orphans looks different for each of us, but it has to look like something — and I never stop getting over how Jesus left the 99 for the 1 and the whole focus of our Father is fighting for orphans, making them sons and daughters.
God searched for you, found you, fought for you, signed the papers with His blood and He adopted you and brought you Home –and the only way any of us get into the family of God is through the most painful adoption.
If real belief cares for the orphans — can one be a believer and not be caring for at least one orphan in some small way?
Adoption is all of the broken’s story.
We’re all sort of a different kind of the same kind of broken.
I watch her eyes — witness.
In the the interim of waiting for a forever family, love has been with her in that rare and brilliant place in the universe called Morning Star, where Brave Warriors fight voluntourism and blithely rotating teams of visitors, so orphans can know steady attachment and certain, dependable arms.
Where uncommon young women are less worried about how to do their hair and more focused on doing the hard and holy things, the giving up of North American comfort to bring comfort to literal broken hearts of forgotten children. There are places where there is more than believing — –there is living what you believe.
Places where Hope Wielders are about the daily sacredness of making this thing called love and it’s dangerous because it means pain, it means they will recklessly hope and love — and love enough to let go. Love enough to make a family of dozens of children, to medically advocate for their complex congenital heart defects, paying for surgery after surgery, and then Meredith and her ayis love them enough to let them go to forever families and love like this is nothing short of — otherworldly.
This is the part that feels like a morning star grazing you, marking you — the way love can be made anywhere. The way adoption can make more love, and risk can make more hope, and giving dangerously can make a heart miraculously fuller.
The way — fractured breaks in hearts can become doors. The way home happens wherever there is a willingness to let someone in. We can do this for each other in a thousand ways — we can welcome abandoned parts of each other in.
Home happens wherever there’s a willingness to pay attention.
And being relentlessly present to each other — is a tonic for each other’s relentless homesickness.
This is for all of us, for all of us and the parts of us that feel forgotten and and abandoned and want to come Home to being wanted.
The day she lets me hold her, enfold her, the day I get to pull her slowly close—
when I touch her cheek and inhale the scent of her skin warm against mine —
I listen to the thrumming heart of her and it’s so faint, it’s almost like a murmur, this cry against abandonment that beats like a drumming in her broken heart, that echoes like a howl through the chambers of every single one of our broken hearts —
If I broke into a thousand pieces — who would come to gather and pick me up?
If I up and lost my way —- who would come look for me until all of me was found?
If I forgot who I really am — who would come make me remember my real name?
I will. I will — my heart beats it back like a promise to hers.
And it can feel like a rising, all our voices saying to the forgotten: I will be your astronomer — I will find the pieces of you, connect the blazing bits of you in the black, gather you into a constellation of the brave, point the way to the Truest North Morning Star, and I will keep murmuring your realest name.
We are the exact same, her and I, the whole universe: Lost — and He found me.
Pull her closer.
Broken — and He picked me up. Picked me. Chosen.
Cup her face.
Forgotten — And He reminded me of my name.
Renamed. The way stars are.
Adoption isn’t picture perfect — adoption is a picture of the Gospel.
I couldn’t yet know what the days ahead would hold, after we sign the adoption papers.
Couldn’t yet know what the flight across the world would look like with a child who’s just lost her whole world, couldn’t yet know then what the spring would be like letting us be made into hers, long after the lilacs had burst into a blooming memory.
But there’s a certain knowing that Grace reaches through broken skies and lets stars be found and held right in hand. She doesn’t stop feeling like light.
Always: I will be your astronomer. Find you, gather you, connect you, name you.
It’s a whisper right there at the ear: Right now is only the beginning.
* Follow a kind of miracle worker & soul sister on Instagram, Meredith Toering, international director of Morning Star, orphan emancipator, Hope wielder & foster mama to dozens of broken heart babies in China
* Keep a baby from becoming an orphan & keep a family together with Morning Star
* Sponsor your own orphaned, broken-hearted baby in China — because true faith always has to care for the orphan
How our own adoption story began