Monday, November 1, 2010

The Ritual of Blessing

This past Sunday, I had the opportunity to share a testimony about our family during a children's ministry event aimed to encourage parents as they seek to nurture their children in faith. The main focus of the event was "family blessings." Honestly, this ritual is something that we sort of fell into, rather than something we intentionally developed. Now, though, we are purposeful about keeping it up, because we believe it is planting small seeds of faith in our children and also keeps us as parents properly-oriented toward God as the True Author of our children's lives.

Our story goes like this:

Rewind about six years, and our family would look a lot different. You would find Mike and I alone, having struggled for a couple years with infertility. At first, the doctors couldn’t find any discernable reason for our failure to conceive, but further testing did show that—for unknown reasons—my eggs appeared to remain small and underdeveloped throughout my cycle. In the fall of 2004, we finally made the decision to apply to an international adoption agency. We were accepted into their Ukraine program and began the arduous task of document-collection, putting together all the paperwork required to adopt from another country. By the first week of February, we had accumulated a huge stack of papers with every signature, seal, stamp, and certification you can imagine. Off it went to Ukraine, giving us our “spot in line” for a child.

The next week, I stood in a bathroom, staring with disbelief at TWO pink lines on a little stick!
Yes, Abby was on her way. So, while we waited for news about a Ukrainian orphan, we also prepared for the arrival of an unexpected blessing. Abby made her appearance on October 8, 2005.

In those first weeks after Abby’s birth, I remember being in awe of her. I specifically remember one night, rocking her in the darkness of her room and thinking about what a tremendous gift from God she was. But, I realized, there was a danger there, too. Do you see it? I recognized in myself a lurking temptation to “own” her too much. To mistake my love for her as the best love for her. As God’s Spirit spoke to mine in the quietness of that night, I was reminded that she was his first and foremost. So, as I tucked her back into her crib, I kissed her soft cheek and whispered, “Good night, beautiful treasure, made for God!”

It stuck. Every night…okay, more times per night than I might have preferred…I tucked baby Abby into bed with those same words: “Good night, beautiful treasure, made for God.” In my mind, those words reflect Deuteronomy 7:6, which says: “For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession.”

That winter, we received word that it was time to head to Ukraine. So we packed up 4-month-old Abby and headed over an ocean to find a son. On February 27, 2006, Ethan joined the Tapper family. I remember pondering potential bedtime ritual phrases for him. I wanted it to be something that resonated with his Ukrainian roots, was true to him as his own unique little person, and pointed him toward his future in Christ. We started calling him “Prince of the Kingdom.” Even years later, I believe that Ethan struggles to overcome patterns of thinking that he developed when he was a neglected infant and undernourished orphan in Ukraine. I continue to pray that he will internalize an understanding of himself as a true prince—prepared to do great things in God’s Kingdom! I often think of the verse from Romans 8:15—“For you, Ethan, did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship.”

Fast forward a few years. We are now officially crazy. We chose to change jobs, move to a different country, pursue further education, renovate a home, and—just to make sure we weren’t bored—oh, yeah, let’s add two boys from Africa to our family mix.

Of course, there was a lot going on with getting those boys home and integrating them into our family life, but determining appropriate bedtime catch phrases was a family priority. It didn’t take long to figure out Jadon’s special blessing! He has joy, joy, joy, joy—down in his heart! We call our youngest: “Joy of the Father’s Heart!” He is a daily reminder to me of Zephaniah 3:17, which says, “For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”

Andrew, joining our family as an older child, seemed to be the biggest challenge. What would capture his tremendous courage, his determination, his capacity to overcome against tremendous odds? Finally, as his love for sport became clear, we just began calling him: “Champ.” We remind him that he is a champion because, in Romans 8:37, God says that “we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

Every night as I kiss my children to sleep, I try to remember to bless them with these names. Sometimes, it is just: “Goodnight, Champ, Prince, Joy, and Beautiful Treasure!” But sometimes, it means telling the story of who they are—not just to me—but to a God who loves them more than I ever could.


Smith Family said...

Beautiful. This brought tears to my eyes. You are an amazing woman! We miss you Tapper Family =).

Andrea said...

I love this story.

You have a talent in writing.