I can't tell you how many hair products and shea butter based lotions I've tried in the past twelve months, searching for the magic paraben free formula that will detangle curls or soothe away excema. Last night I found an half used tube of cream in the back of the cabinet. I began to rub it on Bethie's squirming, smooth, freshly bathed brown skin. And I had to pause a minute, because the smell was so overwhelming.
I shook my head and sadly whispered, "Wow."
It wasn't the honeysickle or coconut oil that almost knocked me over, no. This was the scent of fear. Of trepidation. Of cluelessness. Of sadness and loss and hope. A sweet miasma of uncertainty like I had never previously known. Because this cream was what I, her new momma, rubbed all over her soft brown skin in Addis Ababa, and in the first few weeks that she was home in Austin.
One year ago today, a horrified little girl kicked and screamed and and cried and clawed her way into our family.
The weeks that followed were so intense - and so exhausting - that I couldn't even write about them. All I could do was the next thing. And the next thing. And the next thing.
It's the most awkward thing in the world to have a child handed to you like that, with little to no instructions, and to be told she's all yours. Take her. Do the thing. The mothering thing. It's awkward when it's a tiny baby in the hospital, and it's awkward when it's a toddler on a dusty street in Africa. It is, honestly, flat out absurd.
But you do it, you take the child, and you take her home, and the things that don't come naturally, you do awkwardly. You feed and bathe and rock and read and sing and tickle and rub scented lotion over smooth skin. You do this day after day like a blind woman groping in the dark until one day you realize that it doesn't feel quite so awkward anymore. Then more days pass and it starts to feel normal. A few more days and it's natural. Then it becomes routine. Somewhere along the way you quit questioning your every move. You make mistakes - lots of mistakes - and discover that this strange child is strong enough to weather your mistakes. You realize she's stronger than you are.
You realize that God is stronger than you are.
And your understanding of grace, of redemption, of the true meaning of blind faith reaches an entirely new level. You realize that all of these things are hard and born of terror and pain. All are messy. All of them make no sense. All of them are beautiful. All of them are possible.
We're there. Praise the Lord, one year later, the absurdity of grace and redemption and faith have become our normal.
She's blossomed, this girl. I can't even describe how much. For 364 days I've had the amazing blessing of witnessing a flower unfold. A rebirth. She's not shy and introverted, like she was in the orphanage. This child is silly and extroverted and adventurous. She's loving and tender and sweet. She's smart and sneaky and cuddly. She's whiny and annoying and demanding. And she loves shoes more than almost anything.
The most amazing thing is how we did it, how we all labored through to deliverance: we fed. And bathed. And rocked and read and sang and tickled and rubbed lotion over smooth brown skin. We did it awkwardly until we did it naturally. We did some things well. We made some mistakes.
We loved her.
That was all we did.
We loved her awkwardly.
Now we love her naturally.