At the end of every visit, she would wrap her arms around my neck and say, “zemiru daddy”. Holding back the tears (again and again) I would comply to my daughter’s request and sing to her:
“You are so beautiful to me
You are so beautiful to me
Can’t you see
You’re everything I hope for
You’re everything I need
You are so beautiful
It was never my best performance. My shaky voice would struggle through the words. The small arms squeezing around my neck would constrain my vocal chords. And It was hard not to lose it. But the song meant everything to her. She could not understand it, but I could feel my adopted daughter’s heart absorbing the truth in its words.
Actually, it was in prison that I learned how to connect with my girl. These two stories seem to be non-related, yet this past week they collided.
You see, a few months ago I was part of an event in Central Prison, Raleigh, which created a beautiful and safe place for inmate fathers and their young daughters to dance together. The purpose of the day was just that… for fathers to speak identity into the hearts of their little girls.
We created a dance floor. Played Joe Cocker. And saw heavy tears of love and connection. (Watch the video below).
So I repeated in Ethiopia what I saw inside Maximum Security. And in both spaces I felt God in a new and beautiful way.
At three weeks old this beautiful girl was abandoned. A gift despised. Sweet and pure yet well acquainted with rejection. And she’s just of one of the 60 million orphans alive in the world today.
No parents. No comfort. No hope.
Just a name in a system. A sad statistic. A few details here and there.
But as soon as we heard her name, we said yes.
It’s the Amharic word for gift and she’s our precious daughter in waiting. Our dream come true. Our joy in Ethiopia.
I flew more than 30 hours to meet her. And I was the first man to hold her. Comfort her. Sing to her. That was precisely why I came to Addis Ababa… to be that man.
The plan was to bring her home and sing to her till she tells me to stop.
I came back yesterday. Heavy hearted and empty handed. And trust me, I’ve been a fraud. Something in me wanted to do good works in order to balance my sinful nature; to feel holier than others. My insecurities drove me to preach more, write more, “sin” less. I wanted to plan an adoption so I could compare myself with others and be found superior.
Somehow, I wanted to prove to the world that I was a real Christian.
A better Christian.
And I was hungry for a story that said, “Carlos is so awesome.” I wanted social media to watch and celebrate us as, “the Puerto Rican-British couple who adopted a baby girl from Ethiopia, have two gorgeous boys, and win the Cutest-Family-in-the-World-Award.”
But now, I know her name and have seen her face. Now I couldn’t care less about anything else. My heart is undone for the girl I will walk down the aisle someday. She’s no longer an idea. No longer a statement of my “holiness”. She’s a living, breathing, darling woman.
Born to be loved.
Here to be accepted.
Ours to be included.
And now I know the joy of singing to her and I also know the pain of leaving her.
I so want her here, playing with her brothers, eating my rice and beans, dancing with her mama, worshiping at our church. But we have to wait some more… and every day feels like a miscarriage of hope.
Sometimes we want God to do things for us and sometimes we want to do things for God. Right now, I feel like a prisoner of both. I’m trusting God to provide, to open the necessary doors for the paperwork to be completed. And I’m also pushing doors, talking to anyone and everyone that could help. I’m praying, worshipping, fasting, tithing, giving and whatever other spiritual “ing” that might help.
But most of all, I’m falling in love. And surrendering to my Father above.
Yes, this adoption process has been challenging. Multiple times I have thought about quitting. It has created a number of concerns about money and parenting and family dynamics. But the LOVE for Sitota arrived instantly.
And at the end of the day, “the greatest of these is love.”
Excuse me for wrapping this up by stating the obvious, but now that I know what it is to love someone so much (while at the same time not being able to have them with me) I have a glimpse of what Father God must feel now that He’s fully paid for our adoption but we choose to stay in our orphanages of rejection.
Get out of that place already you majestic child of God!
Join His family fully. Accept the fact that He has given you his very name. His heart of love is pumping goodness in your direction. Don’t deny Him the pleasure of singing to you while you wrap your arms around His neck.
No matter where we’re at and no matter what is going on in our lives… He’s the Father you and I and Sitota truly need.
For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” Romans 8:15
+ Our local news talking about the event in Central Prison: