I’ll never forget the day my two boys were sitting in the bathtub making ice cream cones on top of each other’s head out of soap and in the process creating a lake outside the tub. My 5 year old, Isaac suddenly stopped mid-soap and gawked at his brother, 3 year old Joel. “Mom”, he gasped “Joel’s ear is gone!”. I laughed and explained that Joel was born without an ear and it had always been gone. Isaac had never noticed. Joel had lived with us for over a year and his brother had never noticed he did not have an ear. Isaac nodded and then carried on with all the soap and water, he didn’t care that Joel was missing his ear. His only concern was that it had somehow fallen off, and perhaps it was floating somewhere in the tub among the bubbles.
This happened years ago and since then we have added more children through adoption. My days now swirl around keeping up with all their activities and medical appointments. We have our share of sad moments when one is teased for looking “different”, but for the most part we try to educate and roll with it. We know that our children will always deal with staring and gawking. They are also learning each day that in our culture, they do not fit the standard of what is considered beautiful. It has been a process to learn how to best handle it, and how to make sure my children feel confident in who they are on the inside. They are learning that they may be picked last for the kickball team or pointed and whispered about, but they still are chosen and loved. They are learning to be brave and stand up for what they know to be right and true. My kids are learning to define beauty.
And they are teaching me. I am learning that beauty is blind. It is looking at your brother and not noticing that he is missing his ear and that his jaw is crooked and it makes him talk different. It’s seeing beyond the outside to the brother on the inside who is a best friend, playmate number 1 Tonka truck road builder. It’s worrying about him at school and hoping that no one makes fun of him. It is never once seeing him as being anything less than a perfect brother.
Beauty is selfless. It is sitting down for a family meeting and every child voting “yes” to the idea of bringing home one more brother. A brother who will never walk and is considered unable to be educated. A brother who will take a lot of time, energy and money. It’s watching your children put their own money into your adoption fundraising jar to bring home a child they’ve never met. It’s hope deferred as they sacrifice material things and help with fundraisers and join in the endless waiting.
Beauty is brave. It is walking off an airplane exhausted, weary and scared with a 4 year old child that cannot walk himself and seeing your children with tears in their eyes waiting to meet their brother for the first time. It’s seeing him scooped into the arms of siblings as they cover his raw fear with the balm of safety and security that only children can give each other.
Beauty is innocence. It is seeing a 4 year old child that has only lived within four walls, fed a liquid diet, and kept within his crib day after day, sit with the sun on his face. It’s watching him enveloped by a strong, brave family of 5 children who understand and know what it means to be different. It’s a boy conquering all odds to be a cherished brother and son.
Beauty is grace. It is knowing that you and your husband cannot do this “raising 6 kids, 3 with special needs, and work full-time thing” alone…but then looking around and realizing that you are not alone. You are surrounded by your children who are stepping up to help the littlest one with dressing, bathing and loading into the car. It is seeing your kids teach love to a child that has never been considered worthy and lovable, and who takes more than he gives.
It is watching a child who had almost zero language in his native country, whisper to his mommy, “you are Israel’s mommy, I love you mommy, thank you”. And yes, he says that almost every night and I almost cry every time.
Beauty is never so shallow as to be skin deep and defined by man; because this kind of beauty places a baby in an orphanage because he will never walk.
It is realizing that beauty exists even in the darkest pit of an orphanage. It’s realizing that it is like a small flame, that you carefully cup your hands around and breathe love and worth slowly upon, and it starts to glow. And each breath fans the coal and soon you have a flame.
Beauty is God. A God who whispered adoption in the ear of a mother an ocean away and breathed a tiny flame of hope into the wisp of a boy lying alone in the darkness of an orphanage. A God that taught a dad and mom that blind, selfless grace is exactly the kind of beautiful love that was sacrificed on the cross.