Update // Congratulations to our winner for this giveaway, Joyce!
Last week Missy and I met with our social worker for the last time. Haiti requires two years of follow-up visits to ensure Haitian adoptees are being well cared for and have successfully transitioned to their new families.
Since all of our previous visits with the social worker had gone well, this one was more of a formality, but I still wept while watching her car pull out of our driveway because it signified that now no individual or country can ever refute or rescind the fact that Missy is my daughter.
Four years after I made the commitment to adopt a two-and-a-half-year-old I hadn’t yet met (soon after her biological mom’s death from AIDS and her grim diagnosis of HIV, tuberculosis, and severe malnourishment), Melissa Price Harper is officially my kid. For now and for always. I was so undone with gratitude that night I had a hard time going to sleep. I found myself lying next to my softly snoring kindergartener, holding one of her beautiful brown feet in my cupped hands thinking, “I could stare at these darling tiny turquoise painted toenails for hours and be totally content.”
My how things have changed.
I brought Missy home two years ago on April 14, 2014 after an arduous two-year adoption journey. And as much as I knew then that God had worked an extraordinary miracle on our behalf (I had a heart-wrenching failed adoption prior to beginning the process with Missy), I had no idea how much laughter and joy and hope she’d usher into my corner of the world.
I had no idea then that getting to be her mom would quite literally change the topography of my heart. That I would see Jesus bigger and love His image bearers more as a result of this one little lion-hearted girl God picked me to parent. She’s opened up a whole new world to me that I never paid attention to before.
For instance, we found a new place to get her meds from because the pharmacy where I used to leaf through People magazine while waiting for my prescriptions to be filled every now and then (don’t judge me, you know you like to read that brain candy sometimes, too!) wasn’t the best option to obtain pediatric HIV meds. So now we frequent a private pharmacy that specializes in HIV and AIDS. They don’t sell candy, cards, breakfast cereal, toothpaste, or Chia pets—just pricey medicine for pretty sick folks. It’s tucked away on the fifth floor of an old building that used to house a low-budget shopping mall.
While coming and going or waiting for her scripts to be filled, Missy and I have chatted it up with a few scantily-clad ladies of the evening, several rough-looking ex-cons, an HIV+ transvestite in towering red heels, and lots of men in the latter stages of AIDS. The first two groups I’m familiar with because of the time I’ve spent volunteering at an addiction recovery organization, but I’d never spent any time around gaunt men with dark circles under their eyes and Kaposi’s sarcomas (cancerous dermatological lesions that often accompany late-stage AIDS) marring their skin. That is, until I took a leap of faith and accepted the gift of all things Missy.
Of course, some of these colorful customers gave us a sideways glance of curiosity when we first stepped on the elevator with them—probably because with Missy dressed in her plaid school uniform, black and white saddle shoes, knee socks, and a bow bigger than her head and me wrapped in my whole middle-aged, sleep-deprived, harried mama glow, they assumed we’d mistakenly come to the wrong place. That surely a darling mocha-colored kid and her pale chaperone weren’t going to the “special” pharmacy.
Some even hurdled over benign curiosity and jumped straight to barely disguised contempt when they first saw us. Which aptly describes the thin man with cracked lips, multiple sarcomas, and an angry expression with whom we rode up the elevator with recently. He literally averted his gaze and exhaled in protest when Missy blurted out happily, “Hello Sur! How awe you?” I put my hand protectively on her shoulder and tried to stealthily scoot her a few inches away from him. But this was one of those times her ardor was not easily redirected. She tugged on his sleeve and persisted with more animation and volume, “I’m Missy Haar-Purr and this is my Mama, Sur!”
He threw me a look of frustration and exhaled louder, emphasizing his irritation at our presence. It was all I could do not to grin at his shocked expression when we walked into the pharmacy behind him and the darling women who run the place swarmed Missy like a bevy of favorite aunts. He visibly startled when they asked her to sing (she has a habit of serenading people she likes) and she responded by belting out the praise chorus of “Your Great Name” followed by an enthusiastic, hip-swiveling encore of “Shake Your Booty” (Missy’s musical repertoire is surprisingly vast). A few minutes later, after she’d handed a big sucker to each one of the staff members, she turned to him, held up her last remaining lollipop and asked sweetly, “Wood chu like a sucker, Sur?”
His contempt melted like the wax beneath a lit candle. You could tell by the way his expression softened when he leaned down and replied gently, “Well, yes honey. I believe I would.” My daughter and some other mom’s very sick son chatted a little bit more then she hugged him and turned to leave. At which point he reached up and shook my hand. When our eyes met, we both smiled. I couldn’t speak because I was too close to tears. But I don’t think we needed any more words. Enough had already been said.
Motherhood has changed my life in a myriad of ways I couldn’t have begun to imagine beforehand. It has softened me through the belly and broadened me through the hips—thanks a lot, Chick-fil-A! More importantly, motherhood has softened me in the heart and broadened my embrace to include people I never noticed before: people desperate for a mother’s affection even if she’s not their very own. If you keep your eyes peeled, I bet you a nickel God will send someone like that across your path today so you’ll have the wonderful privilege of getting to love on somebody else’s kid too.
“Hilarious storyteller” and “theological scholar” are rarely used in the same sentence, but Lisa Harper is anything but stereotypical! She was Focus on the Family’s national women’s ministry director followed by six years as a women’s ministry director at a large Nashville church, is the author of eleven books, and has an academic resume that includes a Masters of Theological Studies with honors from Covenant Seminary in St. Louis. Lisa describes her greatest accomplishment to date as becoming Missy’s mama.
Want to hear more wisdom from Lisa on motherhood? Enter to win 2 tickets to hear her (along with Lisa-Jo Baker, Angela Thomas-Pharr, Laura Story, Sophie Hudson, and more) at dotMOM this year in Nashville!
By entering today’s giveaway, you acknowledge Lifeway Christian Resources’ official promotion rules. Today’s giveaway starts at the posting time of this blog and ends Friday (05/06/2016) at noon (12:00 pm) CST. The winner will receive 2 tickets to the dotMOM event. Travel costs are not included. You must be 18 to enter, and you may only enter once. The winner will be selected at random. Only participants who live in the United States or Canada are eligible to win. For questions about the rules and regulations of this giveaway, please contact Heather Warfield at One Lifeway Plaza, Nashville, TN 37234-140.