What I See Now That I Never Could Have Imagined Then

I became your mama a dozen years ago today.

Lilly gotchaAt a Holiday Inn, not a hospital. In a Chinese province unfrequented by foreigners, not somewhere familiar and close to home.

I had no idea what I was doing back then. There are plenty of days when I still have no idea.

But I do know this. Being your mother has been and always will be one of the great joys of my life.

Before my dream of becoming a mom was fulfilled—and for several years thereafter—I never thought much about the future you. Oh, I definitely prayed for your future—your heart and growth and spiritual development. I pondered the way the world was going and wondered how everything I was teaching you would ever stick.

But while I occasionally dreaded the days when you would enter seasons that were hard for me, I never really looked ahead to what those days would actually be like, to what you would actually be like when you reached them.

Maybe this is because I’m a recovering worrier and thinking too much into the future is hazardous to my health. Whatever the case, nothing could have prepared me for what I’ve seen unfolding right before my eyes as I’ve watched you this past year.

Before we met you, the people at your orphanage told us three critical facts about you: You played hard, you slept hard and you showed excitement at food.

Let me just borrow a phrase from Mel B. (your favorite America’s Got Talent judge) and say this: they were spot on.

Lois and little lillyWhen you were younger, you ran non-stop. It wasn’t until you went to school fulltime in first grade that you stopped taking naps every day. And your metabolism was off the charts, which explains the amount of food you used to eat and the speed at which you consumed it.

You were always in a hurry and always hungry—for food, for motion, for fun.

We’d look at the work you brought home from school, complete with large, sloppy letters, misspelled words and careless math errors. “It’s better to be right than fast,” your dad would say. We didn’t realize, back then, that you were developing the ability to be right and fast.

Just last summer, when you were serving on the student leadership team of your ballet school’s end-of-year show, the production coordinator told me that working with you is like working with three people. Beautiful girl, you’re only 12, but you flat-out know how to get things done!

With you, though, it’s not really about the process. It’s about the people. You love people. When you were little, you would always find some other kid at whatever playground we were at and ask the scariest question your introverted mother can imagine. Not, “Do you want to play?” or, “Can I have some of your goldfish crackers?”

It was always, “Will you be my friend?”

You gradually gave that up as you got older, but you still find friends everywhere. And you are a good friend, too. You look out for your pals, you draw things out of them, and yes, you call them out when necessary. What I would have given to have a friend like you when I was in middle school!

One morning, as we drive by the high school, you tell me how you can’t wait to go there because “there are so many more people.” As if the 750 students at your current school are not enough. I scratch my head and shake it in wonder at the same time.

Before you could talk, I never would have imagined the conversations we’d have some day—in the minivan, at the kitchen island, high above the giraffes on the sky tram at the Omaha Zoo. You may roll your eyes at the “life lessons” I’m always teaching you, but you are learning them. I can see it in how you relate to everyone around you, from your classmates and elderly grandparents to strangers at Wal-Mart and the preschoolers next door who adore you.

Just the other day on the way to school, you were marveling at how similar various members of our family are even though we’re not related by blood. You’re right, you know. That’s how this miracle we know as adoption works.

We waited so long for you and prayed so hard—that you’d be healthy, happy and just right for our family. And the verse we put on your adoption announcement pretty much sums up how we felt about you—then, and now: “We prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted us what we asked of Him.” (I Sam. 1:27-28)


Photo by Lettricia Spell

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