We sat around our large dining room table, feasting on terriyaki while anticipating our family Christmas celebration. It was December 19th. The week had been full with a catering job, kids finishing school for the holiday break, Christmas shopping, and our intent to celebrate Christmas and my birthday before boarding a plane at the crack of dawn on the 21st.
Kamise and Mez had enjoyed the fare of three Christmas parties that day so were up in their rooms wrapping their gifts to the family and preparing for bed. As the rest of us were finishing our meal, Kamise bounced down the stairs. A few of us caught a glimpse of her and were surprised by her hairdo. Mez had pulled her two-inch long hair into little Pom poms all over her head. There must have been 14 of them. It was a look we'd encountered every Saturday for the first six months after Mez and Kamise arrived from Ethiopia, but not since then.
Hair was an integral part of their culture. They would spend three to four hours working on each other's one to two-inch long hair on Saturdays. But their hair doesn't grow longer than a short afro because of genetics. So it was difficult to produce a becoming hairstyle after all of their labor. We loved their afros and encouraged them to embrace that style over pom poms and such. Pom poms on eleven and nine year-old girls was a bit out of place.
So we were caught off guard when Kamise bounded down the stairs, head covered in pom poms, ready to celebrate Christmas and all of its photographic opportunities. Much to my shame, I voiced my disapproving surprise with a sarcastic comment. Another followed suit. There were sounds of surprise. Some restrained themselves. But I didn't. I was the fool who spoke without thinking first.
And I am her mother.
She stood inside Dennis's arm and took our banter. Then she turned and ran up the stairs. I was covered in my ugliness. The one who's supposed to protect and deposit life in her did just the opposite. I followed her upstairs and when I entered her room, she was removing the bands which bundled her hair. Her new counselor's voice streamed through my mind,
"She is full of fear and anger and doesn't know how to let it out. It's all bound up in her."
She was skilled at blocking the flow of tears of sadness. Skilled at clamping down on them to not risk vulnerability. I looked her in her dark brown eyes as she tore at the bands with her comb.
"Kamise, I was so ugly to you. My words brought death. I am supposed to be a life-giver to you and instead I was unkind and unloving. I feel terrible about what I spoke into you. Please forgive me."
Still tearing at bands, she forgave me. But the battle to forgive myself loomed over me. I walked out of her room and asked Cole to take his turn with his sister. All 6'1" of him humbled before her and sought her forgiveness. When he exited the room, he told me she was crying. Tears were breaking through the tough and I entered back into her room.
She was a heap under her covers, crying. I sat beside her, hovering over her with my body, and apologized over and over for hurting her. As I did so, her whimpers turned to heaves. She wept and wept and cleansed the pain. Fear beginning to give way to trust. She began to form words in her weeping, expressing her fear that her brothers aren't going to like her Christmas gifts for them because she didn't have much money to spend and they're not good. Her shame poured forth and her fear that she would ruin their Christmas. It was deep and guttural. I asked her if she would be willing to share this with them before we open our gifts. To my surprise, she agreed.
Her vulnerability was stunning. It was beautiful. It was so very brave. To forge a path into an established family system is a monumental journey. To be outsiders in a well-oiled family machine must be such a lonely reality. And to be small. And to feel powerless to become an insider. She is fierce and she is a fighter. And our fierce fighter grew even fiercer as she opened her soul to us that night. Even after some of us had shot arrows at her.
Keegan came to her and wrapped her in his arms as she wept out her shame and fear.
"Kamise, I love you whether you buy me a gift or not. I love you. I'm so glad your my sister." He continued to reassure her as she heaved in his arms. She then threw off the covers saying she was hot and leapt into his arms, wrapping herself tight around him. She held onto her 18 year-old brother with all that was in her, sobbing in his embrace.
I was witnessing a miracle. Redemption rising out of the ashes of darkness. My words had crucified, and I was watching the God of the universe bring beauty from ashes, resurrect life from death.
After Keegan left her room, I asked Cole to return. Kamise leapt out of her bed and threw her body around him, holding him as if life depended on it. Her invitational soul surprised him. He wrapped himself around her and listened attentively as she offered her shame and fear once again. Tears filled his eyes then spilt forth. How stunning is the power of a vulnerable soul. Through his tears he expressed his love for her despite her gift; that he's so thankful she bought him a gift at all.
"I love you. I'm so glad you're my sister."
"I love you and I'm so glad you're my brother," Kamise wept.
And there I was, sitting on her bed, witnessing the supernatural movement of souls. And weeping with my children. Tears of ache. Tears of wonder. Tears of gratitude.
When we sensed God leading us to adopt, He whispered the following to my heart,
"I'm calling you into deep waters. I am marking your life with something only I can pull off. You can't pull this off. Nobody can pull this off but me. I alone will receive the glory."
I wanted my life to be marked by Him. To be marked by Him doing the impossible. Yet I waded into the deep waters trembling with fear, knowing I was in way above my head. And we were, and we are.
Yet this Christmas, as we celebrate how Hope broke through Heaven into the arms of an unwed virgin, to offer us resurrection out of His crucifixion....
The stream of his Hope is bursting forth life in the Brockman family. Without a doubt, only He could pull this off.