by Crystal Kupper,
Today, at exactly three weeks old, Avinly smiled, her right cheek revealing a dimple previously hidden. After oohing and aahing over her beauty — the burst of love from a once expressionless face — I pulled out her baby book and turned to the milestones page.
There it was, listed right on top, just like always. “First smile,” the entry read. I jotted down the date and returned the book to the closet shelf, savoring the seconds-long taste of dessert amidst days of repetitive meat and potatoes.
Just a few minutes later, I got a message from Reece’s Rainbow that I never wanted. Colt, the boy I’ve been praying over for a year, was denied the chance to find a family in January by his own president. As the weeks passed, we held out hope that Russia would allow exceptions for special-needs children like Colt to be adopted.
Today, that slim chance was formally shot down. All the money raised to help Colt’s family bring him home was taken away, given instead to a boy from a country who lets Americans adopt. Meet Ezra, an 18-month-old from Eastern Europe with hydrocephalus, anemia and a protein-energy deficiency.
In every baby book, the first smile is always the first entry. The logical part of me realizes why, yet the heart knows further still that smiling is not what we do first. From the moment we enter this world, confused with fists clenched, we cry.
The mothers and fathers, watching from above with the advantage of years, smile and laugh with joy at the sound of their child’s distress, for they know the cry is beautiful. The cry — the deep, guttural wail that something is wrong here — signifies life, the opportunity for growth and future happiness.
Avinly has cried hundreds of times already in her 21 days. Her cries don’t scare me, because I am her mom and I know those sounds are temporary. I know her smile, given me today as a gift for the first time, will multiply as the days pass, and the cries will lessen.
Even as my heart soars for Avinly, it cracks for Colt. And I don’t know which emotion to embrace.
Until I read and re-read this quote from Ann Voskamp:
Rejecting joy to stand in solidarity with the suffering doesn’t rescue the suffering. The converse does. The brave who focus on all things good and all things beautiful and all things true, even in the small, who give thanks for it and discover joy even in the here and now, they are the change agents who bring fullest Light to all the world. ~From “One Thousand Gifts”
So today, I am focusing on all things good and beautiful and true: my daughter’s first smile, the giggles of the boys over the season’s first run through the sprinkler, my husband’s wink across the dinner table.
I give thanks, whispering a promise to Colt to never stop bringing the Light.
For God, as our heavenly father, knows that we cry before we smile. And he is unafraid, for he knows these sounds — these quiet, soul-loud wails of anguish — are temporary.