As I walked into the building I know and love — the one where the two sons we birthed and the one we brought home from China and the two sweet Chinese superheroes we’ve since hosted met JESUS in the worship and the faces of some of our favorite people in the world — I knew it was going to be a hard day.
Joy’s chaperone had called on Friday night to inform her that she would be returning to China in a week, and although she took the news well on the phone, from the time she hung up, she fell into a funk.
All of us did.
So over the weekend, as we tried to soak in every waking second with this sweet girl, all of us felt the heaviness.
Of the impending goodbye.
Of the hole this ball of personality would soon leave in our home.
Of Joy’s questionable future.
By the time I walked into church on Sunday, I had received messages from 11 different families inquiring about our sweet girl — three in the previous 24 hours. But it seemed that each family faced a roadblock. An obstacle. Something that was keeping them from committing to our girl now, at this time.
And as I lifted this angel, who has long since forgotten how to walk in a family where ayis and shu shus and brothers are more than willing to carry her everywhere, I found my heart in turmoil.
God, I prayed, as I squeezed into the row next to some of the most incredible women who have been PRAYING for Joy and FIGHTING for Joy and SHARING JOY’S STORY more than anyone else I know, this can’t be the end of her story.
Tears were already forming in my eyes as this sweet girl snuggled into me.
And then the worship music began … with “I Have a Hope.”
And I lost it.
I have a hope.
I have a future.
I have a destiny that is yet awaiting me.
My life’s not over, a new beginning’s just begun.
I have a hope, I have this hope.
Tears flooded my eyes, and as they began spilling onto my cheeks, the girl in my arms looked.
And she pulled me in tight.
For the entire song, as I sobbed, this incredible girl — a girl of only 7 whose emotional wisdom is far beyond her years — a girl who should have been the one being comforted, who should have been the one being held, who should have been the one receiving the reassurance of an ayi who would promise to never stop fighting for her heart and for her cause — SHE was the one consoling ME.
Stroking my hair.
Rubbing my back.
Wiping the tears from my eyes.
Kissing my cheek.
Pouring out LOVE in the purest, most compassionate form.
Tending to MY broken heart.
We in the world — we consider these children with the extra chromosome “slow.”
And as I stood in that church service with a shattered heart and an aching soul, bawling over this girl I would soon farewell and a future that God hadn’t yet revealed as SHE wiped away MY TEARS, I couldn’t help but think that it wasn’t THIS SWEET ONE with the extra chromosome who had the disability.
It was ME.
IT IS ME.
Because it is ME who takes longer than three weeks to fully open my heart and my soul and my love to another.
It is ME who weighs the relationship and the need before diving into love.
It is ME who offers compassion, not openly, fully, with my whole heart, but after busting out my measuring stick to measure the gravity.
While I sometimes tip toe into love with caution, this girl dives head first.
While I enter relationships in baby steps, using a watering can to slowly and gradually trickle more and more love into the relationship, this girl uses a hose — spraying feisty, fiery, endlessly refreshing love on every thirsty soul she meets.
While I offer hugs only after I’ve established relationship, evaluated dynamics and considered the other person’s response to my physical affection, this girl distributes them like candy.
Without evaluating the dynamics.
Without fretting the response.
Without worrying about whether it would be appropriate to hug in any given scenario.
SHE JUST HUGS.
She just loves BIG.
She loves LAVISHLY.
She loves AUDACIOUSLY with a rare freedom every adult I know wish she experienced.
A freedom to not care what others think.
A freedom to give love without worrying about whether it will be returned.
A freedom to pour out love LAVISHLY, not worrying about how her own love tank will be refilled.
It seems God refills Joy’s love tank every minute of every day. And ironically, hers gets FILLED the more she GIVES HER LOVE AWAY.
God, TEACH ME to love like THIS.
Teach ME to be so bold.
Teach ME to give so abundantly.
Teach ME to be so tender, with cotton and cacti souls alike.
Because in the last three weeks, I’ve realized it’s not THESE precious ones with the disability.
Give me a heart like Joy’s.