Three weeks into summer and they’ve already logged a season full of memories as we drive our suburban across the country to visit old friends and family and fill our lungs with the salt air of the east coast. That night a few days ago that they stayed up way too late, catching fireflies under the Virginia sky just so we could linger, longer, with friends from dusk to dark, was the night I might as well have crawled back into my six year-old skin.
Fourth of July when I was six meant emptying out jars of last year’s fireflies only to catch them anew at my grandparents house by the river.
My children get a second chance at what was my childhood normal. Innocence was summer’s musk for me and it is, now, for them, too.
My former-orphans wear flip-flops with flower appliques and madras shorts and big bows in their hair. They ride bikes and climb trees and weed the garden for the day’s “Team Hagerty” task. They have tea parties underwater and sport goggles that I sometimes think might leave a permanent ring into the fall, they’ve been on so long.
They dress themselves up in normality.
And I forget.
Until she melts down, just shy of an hour before we’re to leave and meet new friends for dinner — all those years of insecurity mustering themselves up into one deadpan expression. She goes under and I go with her. Not sure whether to press pause on the plans (as we’ve done so many times before) or press ahead, I get stuck in my thoughts.
We’ve made our home her cradle, a place where her still-infant heart can beat, and bleed. She can cry safely here. Her body jumps multiple sizes in one season, but her heart moves only inches towards healing. Healing — real, lasting healing takes time.
I know this.
I knew this, once.
“This is what we signed up for,” Nate tells me in an effort to pull me out of the pit.
When I start to believe that the Christmas card we sent out — the snapshot of our “finest hour” when all clothes are pressed, nails are scrubbed and smiles are vibrant — is truly our most glorious moment, I lose sight of all that fills up my insides.
Our God was birthed onto straw and soil.
And He calls us to another way. A better way.
“But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you.” Matthew 14:13-14
When I expect to be repaid, no matter how subtle, my insides wither. Repayment, like that night when she crumbled, would have been a child whose countenance shouted “I am loved” despite her history and whose mommy could count on her to be steady. Other times, with the rest of them, it’s “beating the odds” and matching up, normal, against children who didn’t know loss before they lost their first tooth.
But I was made for another reward.
As were you.
One that can’t really be marked by the naked eye, and may even go undetected by even the most discerning eye. And when I wrangle this life of mine in an attempt to fit it into another mold — the mold whose greatest glow shines externally — I miss the beauty of what happens underground. The beauty He intended all along.
Isn’t this the message for all mothers, for all people who have found themselves buried — hidden — under circumstances that just aren’t repaying us for the sweat we’ve shed?
It isn’t a consolation to not be repaid, it’s a prize.
The craving for a reward, in and from them, is not wrong. It’s merely displaced. We were made for a deeper heart connect that comes from the secret validation that no one can ever take from us. We subtly crave repayment from the one we’re fighting to love, but that circumstance was aligned mostly to reveal our own hunger for a living-touch from the One loving us.
And our life is a series of God-initiated circumstances which awaken us to the reality that our greatest reward is birthed into dirt.
My lot just happens, today, to be adoption — and all the delayed healing that comes after it. The place where you lack reward may be elsewhere. The scenery changes but the effect is the same. He is using this feast in our home to teach my flesh, that thinks it craves normalcy, what I was really made to crave.
Even the greatest goal of my motherhood — and trust me, I still have them and hold them dear, these prayer-goals of mine for our home — falls grossly short of the one pursuit that may mess up my outsides but set me free on the inside.
When she looks down after I tell her I love her or her sister weeps in loss for another mother that’s not me, I feel His hand on my shoulder. When the one who came into our home at the youngest age (the one who wasn’t “supposed to have these issues”) has the deepest heart fissures, God leans in to me. Gentle. Tender. Knowing. He brushes my skin with a holiness so “other” yet so mine because of who He is, always, and who I have become in this vulnerable moment.
And I remember.
My payment is Him. A love that rushes in over my senses and expectations of a neat-and-tidy life on this earth and lifts me into another realm.
And He — this God-Man who has seen my squandered moments and my heart’s vomit and continues to reach in, not away — is an endless invitation. He is extravagant.
It’s this reminder that produces another “yes” in me for tomorrow.
If my days are going to be won by His Words, my end can never be the people I serve or the party I throw.
My end must be Him.
First three photos compliments of Mandie Joy. Third photo compliments of Cherish Andrea Photography.
And (a little bit of a gasp here), I am a newbie on twitter (amazing for a girl who can barely shut down her computer on her own!). You can find me here: https://twitter.com/SaraHagerty. Be gracious with this slow adapter ;).