Did you know that November is National Adoption Month? I love that this initiative—designed to draw attention to foster children in need of adoptive families—shares a calendar page with Thanksgiving. While we did not adopt through the foster-care system, I can think of few things in my life that I am more thankful for than the two wonderful people who joined my family through adoption.
I don’t know if I should admit this during National Adoption Month, but I don’t often think about the fact that my daughters are adopted. They were babies when they joined our family, and it’s like we’ve always been together—first the three of us, then the four of us.
They know they are adopted, of course, and from time to time, they talk about their birth parents or wonder if they have biological siblings in China. In the quiet, secret spots of their minds and hearts, I know they both ponder—each in her own way—the mysteries that surround their former lives.
When we talk of these things, I imagine with them what their birth mother looks like or what kind of personality she might have, based solely on what I see in them. I also tell them that this is one of those times in life when certain questions simply cannot be answered, at least not this side of heaven.
I wish it were not so, but then again, maybe it’s not so bad to learn this at a young age.
Lilly and Molly are from different parts of China, and they also are quite different in personality and appearance—from each other and from us. This is no big surprise—I could say the same thing about myself and Randy. That’s how families often are, adoptive or not.
While I have been stretched at times due to our differences, I am eternally grateful for them. One of the most unexpected blessings of motherhood, for me, has been how much I’ve learned from my daughters. Not in my role as a parent, but as a person. They serve as examples to me simply by being who they are.
But we are also not so different in this immediate and extended family of ours. Sometimes, in fact, the similarities amaze me.
There’s the way Lilly absorbs every iota of information she reads and contributes bits and pieces of it to her normal, every-day conversations. Exactly like I’ve heard her grandpa do throughout my entire life.
There’s the way Molly tinkers on the computer, figuring out shortcuts and entirely new functions that I didn’t even know existed. Just like her daddy does when he gets his hands on an unfamiliar software program or a new piece of electronic equipment.
There’s Lilly’s intensity. I didn’t realize it until a few years ago, but I think she gets it from me.
There’s Molly’s love of building things. There’s no doubt where that comes from—just look at the before-and-after pictures of our home, and then watch her and her home-remodeler-extraordinaire father drive past any random construction site and simultaneously ogle the structures coming out of the ground.
There’s Lilly’s gift of hospitality, so much like both her grandmas, and her natural leadership abilities, so like those of her uncle the former Navy captain. And I can’t forget Molly’s helpful penchant for keeping track of all sorts of details, which is a dominant trait in more than one generation of our family.
What I love about this list is that all these similarities exist between people who share no genetic material, but who clearly share something even deeper.
I have no way of knowing all the ways being adopted might impact Lilly’s and Molly’s minds and hearts as they grow older. Whatever happens, I hope they never lose sight of the bigger picture—the spiritual piece of the family puzzle that looks different in each of them but is definitely alive and well.
A strong line of faith extends through the many branches of our family tree, and I love to remember where it all began, at least for one limb. You see, my dad’s grandfather—Lilly and Molly’s great, great-grandfather—was a merchant sailor from Germany who became a believer at a port of call far from his homeland.
Can you guess where? It was in Hong Kong, at a Salvation Army meeting.
When I think of how all this could have happened in such a seemingly serendipitous way, I have but one response: only God, the One who knits every family together, could have drawn that faith-filled family line from Hong Kong to Germany, from Germany to the United States, and—many decades later—from the United States back to China again.