The house was quiet, exhaling after the tussles of the day.
I settled into my chair and heard the ominous creak of an upstairs bedroom door, the one that needed a shot of WD-40 that we never found the time to apply. Her feet were light and slippered on the stairs. I knew who it was before I saw her.
She said, “Mommy, every time I have a really happy day, I get really afraid afterward.” She was ten, and she was thirty, afraid of the dark and self-aware enough to know the pattern of her fear.
We adopted our four oldest children from Africa, at various ages, though none still wore diapers when we held them for the first time. In two years, we multiplied from my husband, Nate, and me to us plus four.
As each child came into our fold, we had one thing in common: the ache of a life that felt out of time. They’d lost the innocence of childhood before they lost their first tooth, and Nate and I grew gray hair as we waited (not by choice) to grow our family.
In one sentence my daughter touched humanity’s flitting response to joy: we don’t know what to do with it. And our response to Him: we don’t know what to do with His nearness, which reaches closer than our skin.
She didn’t know about my wrestling with fear. After twelve years with an empty womb, I birthed a baby who threatened to incite more fear in his living than I experienced in the decade of wondering whether I would ever heal enough to carry him. After he was born, I asked in celebratory wonder, “Did this happen? Did I really birth this child?”
Yet in the next breath, I feared that this would be the day that he might not wake up.
It was just like what I had done with her during the months after we’d adopted her. I’d stare at her vibrancy across the room, still unable to grasp that she was mine, only to fear losing her.
“Too good to be true” is humanity’s response to God’s gifts and to the God who doesn’t just hold the files of our lives but also writes them. And studies them.
What I told my little girl that night was no different from what I’d barely grasped myself: adore Him here.
“The joy of the Lord is my strength,” I told her, quoting Nehemiah 8:10, adding, “Don’t focus on what you’re afraid of, but look at God.”