We had just returned home from two-plus weeks in China.
We’d fallen in love with the boy we called Superman on Christmas Eve of 2012. And on Christmas Eve of 2013, we were in a hotel in Guangzhou, China, holding that precious superhero in our arms.
It may have taken 12 months for God to officially write this boy into our family’s story, but it took less than 12 seconds for all of us to fall head over heels for the vivacious 2 and a half-year-old who already felt like he’d always been part of the family.
Because I’m slightly obsessive about pictures, announcements and communicating fun news as quickly and loudly as possible, I had scheduled a photo session with our dear friend Sarah the week we returned from China.
I didn’t want Superman to waste one more moment than possible viewing pictures in our home that didn’t include his precious face.
And so, on New Year’s Eve 2013, our new five-person family gathered at a local park in the fog and the rain to capture the beautiful redemption story God had written.
In Superman’s life.
In OUR OWN.
Standing by this lake holding the little boy who, in just two short weeks, had shaken my world and unveiled my eyes, I felt something deep inside.
I’d written on my then-private blog on my last day in China that I didn’t know what it was God was calling our family to, but I knew that after holding the hands of just a roomful of the more than 600 children in Superman’s orphanage — children we watched sleeping two to a bed and eating nothing more than vegetables in broth — it was more.
Jesus had already stirred my heart, and though on this day of our first family photo, I was 100 percent in love and completely content, I knew on this day that this was only the beginning.
I knew our story didn’t end here.
What I didn’t know was that, on the exact day our family took this first photograph of our family of five together, a woman across the world I would never know but would later become one of my greatest heroes was making the hardest decision of her life.
She was choosing life for her baby boy, a boy born with cerebral palsy in a not very handicap-accessible country that requires pay-first medical care and offers very few services to those with special needs.
Though abortion is legal (and strongly encouraged by the Planned Birth Council even in China’s written laws) in China until late into pregnancy, this woman chose life for her son, dressed him in a blue cotton coat and pants and placed him tenderly in the hospital garden where she knew he’d be discovered quickly.
And then, at great risk to herself, left him.
On the day we took THIS family picture.
The boy who would later become our son.
Only God could weave a story this broken into something this beautiful.
Today, on New Year’s Eve 2018, we celebrate the big FIVE — five years home for Superman, 5 years old for Superhero 4 — the superheroes who’ve turned our worlds upside down and taught us the true meaning of LOVE.
We never knew before these boys captured our hearts what we were missing.
We never knew our joy could be this BIG!
We never knew that special needs were really just superpowers in disguise until we watched the boy who’s been through 14 casts and 10 surgeries learn to use a pointer-finger-turned-thumb that now allows him to color, write, thumb wrestle and even proficiently ride a bike.
Who, just this year, has worked through a challenging season of emotions and loss and processing his past and piecing together his views of family and who, thanks to God alone, in the last month, has finally regained that sparkle we saw the day we picked him up in China.
We never knew what “undefeatable” meant until we watched the boy who we were told might never walk not only SPRINT through life with a walker but take now 20 independent steps … after only 16 months home.
We never knew that when God called us to special needs adoption that He was really calling us to front-row seats to daily miracles in the making. All the time, as we faced human fears and a litany of what-ifs and the countless questions and concerns of well-intended friends and family who asked if we were really equipped to care for children whose special needs may “negatively affect” the other children already in our home (NEWS FLASH: Bringing home two superheroes whose “special needs” were just superpowers in disguise is, in the words of the first two boys in our home, the “best thing that has ever happened to them”), God was whispering in our ears, “Trust me. Follow me. I have the best-kept secret this world has ever seen. And I’m about to entrust it to YOU.”
That THESE angels — the vulnerable ones, the abandoned ones, the medically fragile ones, the ones the world, even people in OUR CIRCLES would deem through words or actions “less valuable” — are really some of the most precious of all.
And the places we’ve seen Jesus most at work?
In their eyes.
In their lives.
In the ways they have taught US in five years more than this 36- and 40-year-old have learned in an entire lifetime.
These once-orphans are not the blessed ones in our family.
Every moment, every hour, every minute, every day, WE ARE.
Thank you, Lord, for five years on the “in” of your best-kept secret.
It’s our life’s mission to make it your worst-kept.
Until the orphan story changes.