What adoption taught me about Advent

A year ago today, Noland and I officially got custody of our little girl. We were in the delivery room when she was born and I never once doubted she would be ours, but we still had to wait until the legal amount of time had passed for her birth mom to sign her rights over to us.

So on the morning of December 4, she was officially handed over to us. Noland (the more cautious half of us) made me sit in the back seat with her the first time we drove with her in the car. She didn’t even weigh 6 pounds — she looked like a baby doll in her car seat.

For us that day was the beginning of a new adventure, and one we’d fought long and hard for. For her birth parents, though — her first parents — it was the beginning of grief.

Ellie Joy turned one on Friday. Her birthday is on the first day of Advent. I love that about her. I don’t know if I’ll ever be the same at Christmas time since she came along. Her story is such an incredible picture of what we remember this season: a God who keeps His promises, who rescues us, who moves in the most unfathomable ways that we never would have written ourselves.

A God who gave something up in order to have us back.

I imagine all types of parenting gut you, but adoption has blown all my paradigms and split my heart right open in so many ways. It’s hard to look into the face of your baby every day and see the little pieces of her that she got from each of her birth parents without thinking about them, and being so deeply grateful.

And in the very next moment, I almost always find myself grieving with them. I can’t imagine being on the other end of this deal, giving up Ellie Joy.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it was like to watch them grieve her up close last year, knowing they had made the best decision, but aching so deeply that it cost them something so precious. I’ve been wondering if that night Jesus left Heaven to come to earth and a weary world rejoiced, if God was kind of sad & missing him. And how crazy it is that He gave up His son because He missed us more.

I used to think we experienced God’s heart & spirit for adoption from His perspective when we adopt, but really we are always the needy ones and He is always the Rescuer, and for that reason, EJ’s first parents will always look more like His heart to me that most anyone else I’ve ever met.

I think about how the world was groaning for a Messiah to come, and how there had been 400 years since the last word of Him, and how desperate that must have felt. And how glorious it must have been when He came.

I wonder what the Shepherds felt that night, just showing up for another nights work and winding up at the feet of King Jesus as he lay in a manger.

I wonder what Joseph must have thought, staring at a baby He’d done nothing to conceive, yet there he stood with the charge of fathering the King of Kings. I wonder what Mary thought as she sat there treasuring up everything and pondering it in her heart (Luke 2:19). I wonder what a Heavenly Host of angels even looks and sounds like.

And I can’t help but wonder about how the spirit of adoption began that night, with a Good Dad who knew that what had to happen would cost Him the highest price.

This is love at its core. A love that lays down a life in order for others to find it.

And while I’ve certainly been on the losing side of these stories before, in this one, I’m the lucky recipient of His grace. I am the weary world rejoicing at the advent of a promise at last, after years of silence.

Watching someone else grieve the gift I hold tight with the most gratitude every day has changed my perspective of this season forever.

We have been given the greatest gift, at the highest cost.

I don’t ever want to stop marveling at that.

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