Guest author: Liz Ellmann, MDiv
I know it’s February, yet I can’t get the Christmas hymn “O Come Let Us Adore Him” out of my head. That’s because a dear friend recently adopted a beautiful Russian baby girl named Carina, and my husband and I are part of Carina’s new extended family of “aunties” and “uncles” who truly do adore her.
Something about Carina and her relationship with her new mother embodies divine love. Tingles run up my spine when I pause to consider the awesome power of love that brought together my friend and her new child. It’s the kind of love that is borne out of the deepest desire of a single childless woman, agonizing loneliness, years of hopeful prayer, bureaucratic hard work, and excruciating delays. It’s the kind of love that requires trust and surrender to God’s miraculous way: my friend’s willingness to accept an abandoned baby girl as her own and Carina’s willingness to accept her new mother and new home.
For her birthday, Carina’s mother invited extended aunties, uncles, and cousins for a little celebration. Turning two years old became a love-fest.
My second favorite memory of the birthday party was when Carina’s mother patiently showed her how to play with a bright pink party horn. Initially Carina looked confused—what do I do with this thing that I put in my mouth but can’t eat? Soon she discovered that by blowing into it she uncurled the long pink paper tube and made a sound: Toot! Toot!
Watching Carina tour the room looking for play partners who also had colorful party horns was better than any comedy show or entertainment channel. With big brown eyes filled with delight, she toddled from auntie to uncle and to every newly adopted cousin to practice blowing the curly pink horn into their faces and to be tickled in return with purple and pink horns tooted back.
My most favorite memory of Carina’s birthday was when it came time to blow out the candle atop her homemade chocolate birthday cake. We all gathered around Carina who was sitting on her mother’s lap. As we started singing “Happy Birthday,” mother showed Carina how not to touch the hot flame, but instead to gently blow out the candle. As the candle smoke rose like incense up toward heaven, a steady stream of tears—pure joy—flowed down my friend’s cheeks. Looking around the room filled with love and adoration, she told Carina, “This is all for you.”
Carina looked up into her mother’s eyes with a twinkle and then placed her hand smack dab onto the top of the cake scooping up chocolate frosting and licking every finger before going back for more.
As spiritual directors, we are given the opportunity to offer unconditional love to the people God sends us to companion. What memories do you have of a time when God’s love for you and your spiritual companion was made visible?