She turned 4 today. It takes my breath away to think about the story that has already been wrapped up in my daughter’s life. I wasn’t there when she was born. I was actually on vacation in Niagara Falls the week that she entered this world. In a book, I once read about how women in rural Ethiopia give birth with incense burning so that the first smell that baby encounters is beautiful and that the air is cleansed. Was that what her birth day was like?
On this day, I think a lot about her biological roots. Is there a grandmother somewhere wondering about her? Is her mother alive? This mother heart aches at that these thoughts. This little girl is so precious and to have known her in utero and to have not gotten to know her beyond is heart wrenching.
People tell us all the time how lucky she is. I know what they mean. I know that they are being nice. My pat response is, “We are blessed to have her.” What is true is that her life began with unthinkable loss and brokenness and by most people’s standards, that isn’t lucky.
On our way to the airport one Thanksgiving week, we received the call that we had been waiting to receive for over a year. “There is a baby girl we would like to tell you about. . .” We were juggling three kids and luggage at the curb when we told the agency that we were open to this little one and what we knew about her, so they could go ahead and send us her picture. We laid eyes upon our daughter, age 3 months, after we made it through security.
We are so fortunate to have gotten to celebrate each of her birthdays with her. On her first birthday, we purchased a cake from a bakery next to the hotel where our family had been staying in Addis Ababa. As soon as we finished singing to her, I couldn’t help but cry. I make my kids’ birthday cakes each year. They are always far from professional, but it is my little thing that I do. While I make that cake, I think about who they are and where they have come in the last year. Our family had gone to Ethiopia to visit our girl because we wanted to be with her for her first birthday, but we knew that we were not going to be able to bring her home. It was so devastating to know that this was my daughter and we weren’t allowed to take care of her. Homecoming ended up being four months later. She was sixteen months old when she finally was able to have parents take care of her.
“Was Wesley in your tummy?” she asked.
“Yes.” I responded.
“Was Zach in your tummy?”
“Yes.” I braked to allow people to cross the crosswalk.
“Was Lilly in your tummy?”
“Yes, she was.”
Anyone could tell where this is going. . .
“Was I in your tummy?” she asked with a tone that indicated that she knew the answer. This conversation was months ago and she just turned four today.
“No, you were not in my tummy.”
“Whose tummy was I in?”
“You were in your Ethiopian mama’s tummy, but she wasn’t able to take care you,” as I pulled the car around a roundabout.
“Why couldn’t she take care of me?”
“She was sick. But God was with you and he was taking care of you. And when Mommy and Daddy heard about you we wanted to be your Mom and Dad and we wished that we could go and get you right away. God put you in our family.”
That is something I have heard her say numerous times since that conversation, “God put me in this family.”
Today we celebrated Ruby Melat turning four. She is currently living on her third continent. Ruby is so full of mischief, joy and life. Her story contains a family that adores her. Everyone needs a family. God is a redeeming God and is writing something amazing into her. And we get to love her in that story. We are the “lucky” ones.