Today is "Gotcha Day." No, it's not some weird September celebration of April Fools Day or a day to pull a practical joke. On this day, just two years ago, I was pacing back and forth in a small hotel room in China. I was awaiting the arrival of my little girl. It was the kind of joyful anticipation every dad feels when standing in the hospital room awaiting the arrival of a child.
A wave of questions flooded my mind: "What will she look like? What kind of personality will she have? Is she going to be daddy's or mommy's girl?"
Before those questions were answered the questions deepened: "What if she doesn't like me? Am I really ready for this? What if this is harder than we anticipated? Am I making a mistake? Can I love her enough? Will she ever be able to love me as a dad? What if this doesn't work out? What if I'm not enough for her?"
And before those questions could be answered, she arrived. I saw a little girl across the courtyard. She was wearing a pink jacket, a red dress with cherries on it and pink and white shoes. She was the most beautiful baby girl I had ever seen.
Until I draw my last breath, I will never forget how she looked that day and I'll never forget how much I loved her. Never.
That's "Gotcha Day."
A few days ago I posted two pictures of Elli taken almost two years apart. The difference in the two pictures is remarkable.
A dear friend of our family commented on the pics, "When love takes you in...everything changes." It's true. In every way.
Everything has changed since Gotcha Day.
Elli is a completely different kid. She is stunning. I know I'm biased, but she is (and I'll fight anyone who would dare say otherwise). She has grown so much. She smiles more. She laughs more. She's more secure. She trusts more. She is loved more.
Every night at bedtime I ask her the same series of questions:
Me: Are you daddy's girl?
Me: Are you mommy's girl?
Me: Are you Luke's girl?
Me: Are you Noah's girl?
Me: Are you Adam's girl?
Elli (some days): No.
Elli (on other days when they haven't been fighting): Yes.
Hey, let's be honest: love is hard.
But love took her in and everything changed.
It's not just Elli who was taken in by love. I was taken in as well. Today I am a different man, husband and father than I was on Gotcha Day two years ago. I have learned so much about myself these past two years. Adoption has painfully revealed some of my deepest insecurities. I've learned that I can be a very selfish person. I've learned that I can be too hard on my kids.
But I have also learned so much about love. Love is hard work. Love is dying to self for the welfare of others. Love keeps on giving when there's nothing left to give. Love is unconditional. Love means putting someone else first knowing you may not get something in return. Love is a choice. Love is Jesus on the cross. There he gave his life for the good of others.
On Gotcha Day it wasn't just Elli that was taken in by love. Love took me in as well.
That's right. Adoption has changed me...for the better.
All of those questions I had on Gotcha Day 2 years ago? They've all been answered:
- What will she look like? Stunning. Like her mommy.
- What kind of personality will she have? I would describe her as a funny, crazy, sassy, caring Princess Power Ranger.
- Is she going to be daddy's or mommy's girl? Don't tell mommy, but I won.
- What if she doesn't like me? She does.
- Am I really ready for this? I wasn't.
- What if this is harder than we anticipated? It is.
- Am I making a mistake? No way.
- Can I love her enough? Absolutely.
- Will she ever be able to love me as a dad? No doubt about it.
- What if this doesn't work out? It has. It will.
- What if I'm not enough for her? I'm not. I'm not enough for Elli, but Jesus is. He is more than enough. My job as her father is to point her to him.
Today is Gotcha Day- a day when we celebrate Elli becoming a part of our family. But it's more than that. It's a day we celebrate love taking us all in.
We love you, Elliana Joy Jing Pollard. We didn't just take you in: you took us in. Love took us in...and everything changed.