I’ve been thinking alot about my commitment in the last post to catch you up to real time here. I definitely could. Maybe I should. I’d probably keep a few of you from wandering off. But in the words of Aerosmith, a great lyrical genius of our time, “I don’t wanna miss a thing.”
*Sidebar: Those of you who know me, just grinned at that comment. As for the rest of you, it’s important to establish some ground work here. I cannot commit to writing all of this down, baring my heart and soul [woah, drama moment] without the freedom to be a little silly at times. Especially in these coffee-induced mornings. You’re going to have to bear with me a bit. Ok. Good chat.*
Now what’s with the birthmarks and baby lips? Don’t worry, this is not going to be a long, drawn-out exposé on revelations from my childhood and overcoming adversity. Well maybe a little, but we’ll keep that part quick and get to the good part. Today’s bit of the story is a glimpse into one of my favorite parts of the God story here: the continued weaving together of two lives. Two girls, two scars. One creative Writer.
Back to 8 year old Katelyn. The one with the strange infatuation with black-headed China dolls. The one with that seed in her soul. I mentioned in my last post about growing up with the world at my fingertips. In many ways, that was true. But this morning, I think it’s worth stopping to note a blemish in the story of my rosy, simple, pony-loving childhood. Now obviously I’m being a bit analogous here, but I’m really talking about a physical blemish. I feel like this part of the story is another exercise in my heart’s beginner workout program. It’s about a time when God started teaching me to get over myself. To have patience with strangers and rude, snotty-nosed kids alike. It’s about the gift of an imperfection. One of many in my life. So here we go.
Raised hemangioma with a strawberry on top. Huh? Well, that may sound like some sort of a diseased dessert to you, but for me, these were overly-familiar words that rolled off my little tongue several times a day. You can probably figure out what I’m talking about from my scary clown picture above, but just to be crystal clear, this is what’s going on with my forehead in the early years. A beauty mark, I was told. A little something to make me different, to teach me a little toughness, patience to explain the same thing over and over to strangers. Another gift. A bread crumb. An imperfection that made me uniquely qualified for the task ahead.
You see, not only did I have a big “talking point,” I guess we’ll call it, plastered across my forehead, I had a surgery. A scar. A big scar. A scar that required a gnarly workout headband be worn across it the entire summer of 1993. I also had a bowl cut, but I digress. [Mom, I’ll never forgive you.] A birthmark, a scar, and a story. So many questions. So many comments. So many opportunities to learn patience with others, some of whom were genuinely curious and others who were flat-out dumb. My first chance to overcome. It really wasn’t that bad. I’m really anti over-hyping any part of this story. I was not traumatized by my birthmark or my surgery. Impacted? Yes. Permanently affected? I think so. Traumatized? No. I mean, if I could survive that bowl cut, I could surely face anything.
Now. Let’s flash forward and talk for a minute about Miss Willa James! Yay. Y’all, she’s the coolest. So much more on her, you don’t even know.
The day we first heard about “the Woo” was March 23rd. There was a missed call and a text to “call me ASAP” from Chad as I walked out of work. It was a Wednesday. A Friday in my real-estate schedule. Two days off ahead, and I already had a little weekend pep in my step. A moment later, I was on a 3-way call with Chad and a sweet, patient, slow-speaking woman from Eugene, Oregon. The lady (a Placement Advisor from Holt International) was describing a baby girl with big brown eyes. A true baby girl. Only 14 months. I was ALL ears. Listening to the first words spoken about this little one was like listening to a voicemail from your crush. I leaned-in to the speakers in my car. I wanted to soak in every word. Every detail. I never wanted it to end. I was already imagining those eyes, that full head of black hair when the lady began describing the “special need.” A cleft lip. “Hmm.” I thought. “I know nothing about cleft lips. I’m sure she’ll be fine. I think they can fix that.”
A blur of a drive home later, I sat on my unmade bed, alone. There was no way I could wait for Chad to come home. It would be hours before we could be together. These were simply hours I didn’t have. I had to SEE. Shaking with a mix of fear and excitement I didn’t understand and couldn’t control, I opened my email. There she was. The sweetest little mug shot I’d ever seen. My daughter. Was she? Gosh, I hoped so. Willa?! Is that you? I must have looked completely certifiable, sitting there on the edge of my bed, talking aloud at my phone. Those eyes. They were better than anything I could have ever dreamed. That hair! Oh my. Simply marvelous. Wait, was she even Chinese?! This was surely not the Buddha-bellied, bald baby I’d imagined. Had a Mexican man and a Phillipino woman given birth to a girl in China? She seriously looked like the beauty of every ethnicity rolled into one if you asked me.
Ok. The lip. I zoomed in as close as possible. I took a screen shot and then zoomed in further. I’d never seen anything like it. I felt both completely unqualified to make assumptions and equally sure we would be just fine. Those baby lips. She would have a scar, I thought to myself. A big scar. A “talking point.” A gift.
To be honest, I don’t even remember checking “the box” for a cleft lip. Chad says we talked about it, and I’m sure we did. This baby girl with the big eyes, thick hair, and snaggle-toothed mouth, wasn’t at all what I’d imagined. She was so much more beautiful. More interesting. I knew in that moment, I was hitching my wagon to the One who is much stronger than myself. I was taking off on an adventure, a long road ahead.
In the week that followed, I wish I could say, I was ALL in at all times. Some level of excitement always remained, but really, truly, I’ve never experienced such fear. Physically crippling fear. I barely ate. In the next week, a battle was waged in my soul. A struggle between the Spirit of God in me, championing love, truth, and trust. Then there was an enemy fighting like his time was running out. Adoption is so many things wonderful. In many ways it is easy. How hard is it love a child without a home? But in that week, I began to understand the gravity of it all. The permanence. The unknown. But as He always does, the Protector prevailed. He shielded my soul. He fought for my faith and my daughter’s story. Soon, fear subsided and excitement returned. That week was truly “all the feels.”
These days, our Willa girl’s cleft lip is gone. A fresh, pink, but remarkably faint scar is in its place. A scar much like the one on my forehead. In so many ways, my daughter and I will never have much “in common.” She’ll probably never wear my size 9 shoes. We’ll always know exactly who’s hair brush is whose by the pigment of the strands within. But our scars, our imperfections, our special gifts are something we’ll share. I know a day will come when she is “just over” people asking about her scar. Mommy will understand. I will tell her all about “beauty marks” and how God makes us each perfectly unique. I hope her heart will be comforted by mine. I hope she’ll grow with the confidence of knowing her Creator makes no mistakes.
I could go on forever about the hopes I have for her, but I need to wrap this up. Seriously, thank you for reading along. I’ve been particularly overwhelmed by the sweet words texted and spoken in response to this little blog. I hope you’ll continue to show me grace as I figure out how to chronical this story. I also hope one of you reading this will find a bit of courage as you’re considering adoption or as you also impatiently wait to bring home a child. You are stronger than you think. Your scars have a story and a purpose. And best of all, you’re not the one writing the story.