I have a confession to make.
Three years later and they are still sitting, red and white (and a little torn), at the bottom of my closet.
Most of her things we packed away in a box. We gave away her crib. We donated the stroller. We put away all the little baby things in our garage. But, for some reason, I can’t seem to move these two packages. Can’t figure out what to do with them. These two gifts unopened. A promise broken.
Life just doesn’t turn out the way we expect…the way we hope, dream, and long for. It happens to all of us…in some small or great ways. We have a future in our mind and then that future becomes our present and we collide (sometimes gracefully, sometimes clumsily) with the reality of our unmet expectations. And we mourn for what should have been, could have been. The baby we never held, the job we never achieved, the relationship that never healed, the school we never attended, the child who never grew up, the place we never lived, the moments never celebrated, the marriage we never had. All these little red gifts sitting at the bottom of our closet never opened.
2015 felt a little like the year of reality of unmet expectations. Our youngest started kindergarten, and I had no babies at home to take care of. I could go back to work because there were no longer children at home. We visited Africa for the first time (it was a wonderful trip), but not to meet her like we always thought. We moved forward in a completely different direction in the adoption process; trying not to reel at the closed doors and to be grateful for the open ones. It’s here in the hard realities, the crushed dreams, the stings that we are reminded—He is the best actuality, He is the greatest hope, He is the most soothing balm. He sits with us on the bottom of the closet with the unopened presents, and He says, “I am the ultimate gift”. And I've realized that it's in the unmet expectations of life that we understand it more fully; this world is not our home. It’s not the place where we will be complete; where we will have everything we need and want. It is now that we tredge and stumble through the mud with Him, so that one day we can dance free and graceful before Him. It’s in our broken dreams that we’re reminded: eternity with Him is the sweetest thing to long for.
This morning, I got up early and set in the stillness of a house asleep. I thought about her four years of life so far and how she lost parents as an infant, how she left the only place (her transition home) and caregivers she had ever known when she was a toddler, and how (we believe) she now lives in a overcrowded and understaffed orphanage. I thought about her growing up and, with a catch in my throat, I wondered if she would ever even have dreams, plans, hopes, expectations. The thought took my breath away. Because having no hopes at all seems harder than having hopes unrealized.
I pulled out my journal and wrote my birthday prayer for her. That she would have someone at the orphanage who had a gentle touch, a soft answer, an encouraging word. I believe it earnestly and pray it desperately: just one kind person in a world of harshness would make all the difference in her present and in her future. Just one person to be dependable, to feel like family, to stick up for her, to share a secret with, to bring a smile to her face in a world where smiles are few. Please Lord, don’t let it be too much to ask for just one. But mostly just one person to whisper His name to her. One person to tell her He was the balm she needed. One person to tell her what she already understands so well—that the world is harsh and undependable and crushing. He is peace and steadiness and healing. He wants to give her future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11). One person to tell her, He is the best birthday gift.
So today, this week, in honor of her birthday, I am praying He will show me to whom I should be that one person. I can give someone the only hug they received today, the only encouraging word, the only friendly smile, the only listening ear. I can be the one person who speaks truth and life and love to someone. Father, use me to make a difference in someone’s present so they have hope for You in their future.
I can’t give her the little red presents wrapped up in my closet. I can’t be her one person. But I can pray that someone else will be. And I can pray that I can be that one person for someone else. And those are my dreams, my little hopes born fresh this morning.
Can you be the one person for someone today?