I woke her up early, the rest of the house was still asleep. She put her clothes on that we had laid out the night before and then slipped into my room. “Mom”, I heard as she opened the bathroom door. She squeezed me tight and watched as I put my contacts in. Then she slid open my jewelry drawer and picked up the gold bracelet she had made me from the kit she had received at Christmas. It was loud and completely clashed with my green sweater and simple silver necklace I had on. She slid it on my wrist and then pulled my arm so I would lean down and she could kiss my cheeks. I would wear the tawdry bracelet like it was a strand of pink star diamonds.
My mind ran circles around the last 3 weeks. Time had sprinted with a blur. We began with a little girl who cried because she had to go with us and now found ourselves with tears again, but this time because she didn’t want to leave. Several nights before, she clung to me and sobbed until she fell asleep just from the thought of going back. Back to a place where her head would be covered and freedom would be hard found. A place of emptiness and survival. Orphanage walls, a place where no child should be. The thought of it has eaten my heart alive.
I had just spent three weeks watching this bubbly, funny, affectionate little girl emerge. It didn’t take us long to fall head over heels with her frilly self! She loved anything that sparkled…and that was fried. She adored our fat dog and her first consistent words were , “Andy, come here!” Quickly followed by telling our two year old, “Harris, no!” She never hesitated to throw her arms around my waist and to declare to whoever would listen, “My mom”, which gave Heath a run for his money! And now I had to watch her go.
We made our way to the airport and killed time for the delays that would put us running when we finally landed in New York. She poured over her book that my friend, Savannah, had put together for us. Flipping to the end, then starting over again. I had shoved the tears back all morning but once we boarded the plane, a few fell out as she enveloped my arm in hers and laid her head on me. She slept for about an hour and woke up chatting away. I knew she was sad, but she was also looking forward to seeing two of her friends who had spent their time in the Northeast.
We arrived and hustled through the cold to terminal 1. There, we met up with the group and the girls chatted and showed each other their pictures. She would get up, walk a few feet to where I stood, give me a hug, then join her friends again. But after doing that four or five times, the hugs became longer and the tears would trickle down her face. I am used to being the stoic one (until I am alone), the one who stays solid even when my heart is melting inside of my chest. But not this day, I was a puddle inside and out. I knew this was going to be a part of it, so hadn’t I prepared myself? No. No way can you prep for this.
They gathered everyone around and children’s names were called, their passports handed to them, and they walked into the abyss. She squeezed me as tight as she could, I could hear her cries even in the midst of the terminal chaos. “Jildiz”, they called. I leaned down, cupped her full cheeks in my hand, wiped her tears and said, “Mama loves you!” She sobbed louder and I walked her over to get her passport. I could go no further. She turned and looked back, said “paka paka” with more tears squeezing out, racing to fall off of her chin. I stood there, my feet weren’t moving an inch, there was no way I was letting her turn around and have to search a crowd for me. She made it to security, looked back, blew me several kisses and waved, and then just like that, she was gone. Another mom gripped my neck, I wiped my eyes.
I had held the orphan, but I had never let them go. I had held them and listened as their last name was changed and they were no longer a number. They were mine.
Lord, when You said to take care of the orphan…when You said it is pure worship, You didn’t tell me my heart would be slain. But I will die to myself to chase after You, Jesus. I will use my hands to praise and worship You, even if it means wiping tears and waving goodbye. When I read Your word, it’s not a “calling”, it’s a command. And You and I both know how all too familiar I am with disobedience. So show me the way, and help me to walk in it. And walk those big brown eyes and sparkling boots right back into my arms. I’ll be waiting, eyes set like flint, on You.