In her five-year-old, unfettered, and un-theologized speak she said: “God told me I needed to tell you why I don’t like my birth country.”
Something which peppered our lives back home became medication during our six-week stint in Uganda, while adopting our second two.
The days when we weren’t out there chasing paper and when the power was on in our guest home, I turned on 5 or 10 or 15 minutes of worship music and asked the children to just draw what God brought to their minds.
“Something about this is necessary for right now,” I told Nate, one morning. I knew that this short stint was inviting healing, I just couldn’t yet put my finger on how. We’d done it back home, but here it morphed from the kind of habit that’s driven by discipline into one more fueled by need.
This particular morning, as each of them shared their drawings — one drew Jesus on the cross, one sketched the sun and the other peered over her sister’s shoulder not-so-subtly and created a duplicate, still reveling in this new sibling relationship into which she was now foisted — this particular child held up a drawing of a brown hut which, somehow, was linked to her conclusion.
I’d been waiting for this day. It just came about 5 years earlier than I anticipated.
Over the course of the previous couple years, since we’d brought them home, any mention of her home country left my little girl with eyes-to-the-floor.
“We LOVE your country,” I once declared to a Starbucks barista who shared my little girl’s heritage, as I slid my sleeve over my tea. People from certain nations in Africa aren’t hard to distinguish; she noticed mine and they noticed her. As we walked away my daughter said under her breath, “I don’t love my country.” This had been her tone since just days after we’d brought her home when the subject was broached.
As her language and cognitive development advanced, I’d asked questions, at what felt like appropriate times, to no avail. We prayed in private, Nate and I, knowing that the secrets that her little body held would one day be toxic if not brought into the light. When I least expected it, eyes now on my newest two, He said now.
It just so happened to be the day we’d set aside for a daughter-Mommy date.
I clasped her tiny hand as we maneuvered our way through the the dusty but (mercifully) paved road from our guest house to the nearest spot for a cup of tea. She rambled about anything that came to mind, her flash-pot attention span skipping from one topic to the next, just excited to have a hearing, and I wondered how her five year-old mind could formulate such a bold opinion about her birth country.
She sat sipping her milk from a straw and cracked open her “prayer journal” to the page which held the picture of that brown hut.
She had remembered. I wasn’t sure that she would.
The minutes that followed felt like years as I listened to my little girl speak about big-girl things — things I’d never taught her, and which her thus-far-sheltered eyes couldn’t have seen in a movie or on a television screen. It was as if she had grown up in one morning, articulating pain and loss and disappointment and the scenes which brought them about with a coherence that didn’t fit her age.
I held back tears, just listening. Stunned, equally by her vivid account and her ability to communicate it. So many pieces of their puzzle came together in that one conversation. Holes in our understanding of them, now suddenly filled.
When she was through, we talked about her response and prayed to ask Jesus to reveal where He was and how He felt about her and saw her in those lonely years. She didn’t need my direction though. She was reacting and speaking from a place I hadn’t taken her. It was as if, in one morning, she’d tied up the story herself, before we even talked.
I sat there praying: what do I now do with these hundred little shards of glass, the remnants of her pain? But before He could answer, I saw it on her face. Her body language said everything. It went something like: “I’ve told you everything now Mommy, so what are we having for lunch?” It was finished, at least for now — wrapped up, handed to Mommy for safekeeping, and finally off the five year-old shoulders never meant to carry it.
“I want to go back to my country one day and tell them about Jesus,” she said, not too long afterwards. Her pretend-play has found her to be a transcontinental traveler, this African country one of the main stops.
He took her burden and gave her back the land that had been stolen out from underneath her innocent frame.
That sun-scorched afternoon in Africa revealed the strength of habit. Or, rather, the God-Man behind it. This prayer journaling we do with our children — pausing, looking up, listening — it’s one of the habits that I’m not just chasing, but needing.
And another? Adoration. Her sister, the little budding artist in our home, and I linked arms this summer to create a 31-day guide for parents and their children, to practice the habit of looking up at Him and letting this frame our perspective. Our minds were made to be renewed and the hundreds of circumstances in any given week which allure me and my little girl into stone-cold grumpiness are not meant to become my pets. Adoration invites a perspective change.
Want to take a peek at this free download, I’m gifting to you because it’s been an ongoing life-giving gift to me?
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For those of you already adoring with us, September’s adoration is up and ready thanks to Mandie Joy who turns my chicken-scratch into legible beauty. You can follow along with the printout over here or with the crew of us over on instagram.
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