We’d been home for months when this curious stranger approached me with eyes full of questions. “Where are they from?” and “Are they siblings?” and “Are they all yours?” stumbled out of her mouth. I was trying to shield little ears from hearing when she looked at my daughter and said, “Sweetheart, you must be so thankful to have a mommy like this. You sure are lucky.”

I cringed, hoping my little girl didn’t hear. Sure, she’d been adopted. We flew halfway around the world to get her. To this innocent bystander, my daughter had a bed and a doll and cute boots and a headband and could expect a meal every 3 hours. She was getting an education and could take a shower every day. She was “lucky.” Why shouldn’t she be thankful?

For many years before that bed and doll and those warm showers, my little girl went to sleep every night afraid. No one had told her the boogie-man wasn’t real. She didn’t even have a last name. The intersection of that history and ours came to mean that two strangers with skin that looked and smelled different were telling her to call them “Mommy” and “Daddy.”

Becoming a daughter meant inheriting even more questions, and different from when she was one survivor among many. Did my birth mommy’s nose wrinkle when she smiled, like mine does? Would she sing while she cooked? Did she talk to God? During these early days, thankfulness would have been an extension of luck. Airy. Light. Here today, gone tomorrow. Mere optimism, with no weight.

This woman’s well-intentioned mention of thankfulness spoke to the way we can so often short-circuit the long and painstaking work of God towards ...

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