Earlier this year I got a phone call.
I knew it was coming, in a general way and I had a feeling when Hannah messaged to ask if she could call late that night, that this might be the news we'd been waiting for.
My hunch wasn't wrong. They video called from three thousand miles away in Nicaragua. It was after ten p.m. when my phone rang and they shared the news that after years of groundwork and paperwork, after a year on a list, they got the call.
Drove to Managua.
Met their son.
Just like that.
I tried to imagine what that must've been like. One day it's a Concept, with a capital C. A proper noun, because it represents a person. But still not personal. There's this space that you've been working to prepare in your heart; all clean and gentle and warm, free of expectations, untouched by disappointment. A gift just for them, unopened and unclaimed. Waiting. You do everything you can to make Concept, who is formless and edgeless, firm enough to hold this space, despite the many pieces of life that continually vie for real estate. You think; no, this part of my heart belongs only to Concept. Inadequate though this may be, you hold it in place, with braces of hope and sheer force of will.
You keep this vigil, with no discernible deadline on the horizon, until, at long last, the weight of it finally begins to feel comfortable and familiar, and then WHAM, people are calling you mami, and you're scrambling to buy diapers becausewhat you wrote on your application under "preferences" was older sibling set, not baby boy.
WHAM, suddenly at the doorstep of your heart here he is. Not your Concept, but your Child, with solid edges and specific details. Big feet and a tiny, expressive face, real and warm and waiting for his gift. It stirs inside of you, and you wonder "Is it big enough for him? Can that little slice of real estate which was so hard won hold something so vast? "
But he is tiny, and the thing about hearts is that they're like skin. They grow to fit what you put inside. So you give the gift you have, because thisis who you've been saving it for; Him, and no one else. You give it and then you trust that it's going to expand to fit and encompass all the weight and specific-ness of this Child. You trust that it's enough, even as you feel at once full to bursting and weak and stunned under the weight of the new normal.
This is what I imagine, though I could never presume to speak for her. I don't know if her experience was like this at all and really, it's hers to describe, not mine. But I can tell you what her face looked like on that video call, them having just arrived home with him, the mass of blankets bigger than the mass of boy.
She looked tired. A little dazed, like it hadn't wholly settled yet. But when she talked about the circumstances of his birth, when she talked about the rest of the adoption process to make it official, she was already fierce about him. And when she looked at him, it was all there, plain as day;
"Mine" was written all over her face and in the possessive bend of her frame as she held him.
So, I got on a plane the next week, to spend some time with my darling friend, to get to witness those first few days as mother. I thought she might need someone to help her remember that she was still herself, too, in the midst of all the change and the new roles. But that turned out to be a wasted concern. If anything, Hannah's "Herself-ness" was already perfectly suited to adapt, to give care, to love. Who she was simply expanded to compass the new role, the new child, the new dynamics of life. That's the thing about her. She gives gifts of heart entirely, with all courage and no strings.
I've wanted to write about her for a long time, to share a little bit about how beautifully she gives. Watching her, I always find myself praying Lord, grow my compassion to be like Hannah's, because He gave her an extravagantly beautiful heart and an abundant portion of love. This is who she is.
She is the one everyone wants to bring their worries to and tell their stories to, because if ever there was a soul who would weep with those who weep and laugh with those who laugh, who would walk with you in earnest, it's her.
Less than two weeks in to the onset of motherhood, in addition to hosting my eager self, she was back to helping with school (mostly from home), and still inviting guests into her home every day. She was already back serving seniors at the community center. The Sunday we visited the seniors is one of my favorite memories of Hannah, because it so perfectly represents who she is. From the moment we walked in the door, she went from person to person, greeting them by name, holding their hands, listening to their troubles, her face a mirror, honest and kind.
It's just that, the way she values people makes them feel so valuable.
You could see it on their faces, lit with joy or full of almost childlike concern as they leaned close, eager to speak because they knew they would be heard. And I understand this. I've watched it happen to people as they age, as if they are forgotten before they're even gone. I think regardless of age, people who are unseen and unheard tend to fade. But when Hannah talks to them, it's like all the color and intensity of life pours back into them. I've never seen anything quite like it before.
I was recently studying Isaiah. There are several places in Isaiah which scholars believe are prophecies of the coming Messiah; descriptions of Jesus before he came. They called these passages The Servant Songs. When I witness Hannah's heart and her life, I see these words about Jesus reflected in what she has chosen and given. Her life is a Servant Song.
1The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,a 2to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, 3and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor." Isaiah 61:1-4
I felt so blessed to get to be there, in those early days. It was generous of her (and her husband, too) to share that precious time with me, not just with the growth of their family, but over meals, and in the blurry middle of the night. In the Holy quiet of morning and over more than a few perfect cups of coffee. It was beautiful communion. On a completely personal note, I've spent so much time imagining the day AP and I welcome a little one, never to any resolution of course. How can you imagine what you've never known? Being in their home in those early days was an enormous encouragement to my soul.
If you'd like to know more specifics about Hannah and the work she and her husband are doing in Nicaragua, or to follow their wonderful blog, you can visit it here.