Saturday, January 26, 2013

And She Will Be

"I just read a newspaper article that was very sad and heart-breaking. It was about this guy who has aids and has no one to take care of his 8-year-old disabled son Geoffrey when he dies. The dad is really worried about it. I know it sounds mushy, but my heart aches for Geoffrey. It's just so sad what he has to go through."

I wrote those words in my journal when I was nine. By that point, I had been a foster sister for a year. My eyes, previously limited to mostly-Mayberry scenes, had now been opened to the suffering of children. What I saw -- suddenly all around me, it seemed -- pierced me to the core. (And people say homeschoolers are sheltered. Hardly!). Through newspapers, books and magazines, stories from other foster parents and in my own home, a seed fell on my tender heart.

This photo of Shelbea and me is blurry, and that's a good thing. If you look closely, you'll notice I am wearing a Winnie the Pooh necklace, earrings, shirt and shorts. Thank God I left my matching hat and socks at home. It was a phase I'm still not pleased my mother let me stumble through.

When my seven consecutive birthday cake wishes came true and I finally got a baby sister, that seed sprouted. Since Shelbea slept in my room, I always checked on her before going to sleep myself. She had this funny habit of sucking on a pacifier upside down before somehow flipping it right-side up again, only to repeat the cycle as she slept. I loved that quirk, often giving it to her the wrong way on purpose just to watch her little tongue work its magic.

One night, standing over her crib, I marveled at my foster sister's baby beauty. Yet images of so many others just like her crowded into my mind. What good could I do? I was only 11.

Shelbea sighed in her sleep, then twisted her pacifier. And unexpectedly, I had a moment.

She is my one, I thought. She is my first contribution to this world. I will help rescue her. Knowing and loving Josh and Keith, then Shelbea, and then Jaimie not long after, nurtured that first seed into a full-on, growth-hungry sapling. And it's never stopped.

Rescue has long been my life theme, specifically of the innocent. Sponsored kids, foster kids, disabled kids, trafficked and abused didn't matter. If I could do something -- ANYTHING to help even one, I did it. And do it.

Fast forward to today. I tuck five-year-old Jack in, listening to his prayers. He snaps his eyes shut and clasps his hands tightly. "Oh Jesus," he says, "Please help Colt find a good family to adopt him before it's too late. Please keep him safe, God."

My heart breaks all over again, in ways both wonderful and tragic.

My girl within me thumps and Wombas (like baby Zumba...get it?), reminding me of her presence. I instinctively reach for my stomach, cupping my hand to feel her sweet kicks. "I haven't forgotten about you, little one," I say. Jack has grown used to this weird habit.

I am more than 30 weeks now, closing in on the day when I will meet my daughter. I still haven't gotten used to that word. My daughter.

Just like my relationship with his daddy, it took time for me to fall in love with Jack. When it happened, I fell hard and permanently, gulping in deep breaths of both, making up for lost time.

Jude was different. My love for him was ever-present yet cautious, a first-time back handspring after a mastered cartwheel.

But this child. I felt a connection with her from the beginning, embracing the beauty of new life while simultaneously not knowing a single thing about her.

No matter. She has a personality, and I can feel it.

Every day, I feed my rescue obsession by reading child advocacy blogs, writing to my Compassion kids, checking out the kids on Reece's Rainbow, networking with other child advocates on fundraising, etc. It's incredibly painful knowing that so many precious kids around the world are discarded, abandoned, being used as political pawns, sexual slaves and more. Sometimes, my only response is to pray, cry and touch my tummy. "I will always protect you, little one," I swear. "I will never let anything like this ever happen to you or your brothers."

She understands. I know it.

Nick and I believe in the power of name meanings. We've chosen Jack and Jude's names accordingly. But with this one, we were stuck. Exhibit A: after agreeing on and liking Sydney, we found out it was a contraction of St. Denis, a 3rd-century martyr most famous for his decapitation. As in, after they chopped off his head, he picked it up and walked a 10k to the nearest church, preaching about Jesus the whole way.

Um, no thanks. Despite the love of Jesus and exercise (two very important things in my life), Sydney was out.

I wanted something that encapsulated everything I stood for -- everything positive I wanted to pass on to my first girl. So when I found a name that meant "Compassion for the least of these," my heart started pounding. Compassion is it. Nick and I sponsor and/or correspond with five Compassion International kids. I was the race director of a 5k/10k called Run for Compassion Salem. My favorite worship song's first line starts out, "Everyone needs compassion."

I couldn't agree more. After a few tense days of wondering, Nick came home from work and announced, "That's it. That's our name," making me squeal with delight.

So around April 3, I can't wait to introduce you to Avinly Dawn Kupper.

(Yes, Avinly like "Anne of Avonlea." If I can name Jack after C.S. Lewis, why not this one after L.M. Montgomery and my favorite Canadian redhead?)

She will be another priceless gift from God, the result of a love between two people that only grows with time. She will be cherished by her big brothers, her extended family, her church and community, just like every child is supposed to be, even if that dream doesn't always happen in this fallen world.

Most importantly, Avinly will grow up knowing about "the least of these." And I know in my spirit that she will live up to her name.

It may not be about kids; her passions may not be my passions, and that's okay. I've found that the longer I'm a mother, the more my roots of love and compassion sink into my soul. They anchor me to both my known and unknown babies around the world, even if the fruits of their hearts look slightly different than my own.

Avinly will be a world-changer. For the least of these. And that's the most I could hope for.