“Tell Me About When I Was in China, Mommy!”

It’s his birthday again.

“Mommy, tell me again about when I was in China,” asks our son. If you know Levi, then you can imagine his face lighting up with his signature beaming smile and his eyes twinkling with delight that you can almost see sparkling through. He eagerly awaits his turn as we tell stories about each of our children’s birth and life beginning.

Today is his 7th birthday, and somewhere in China, there must be a mother who feels depleted—for the son she gave away took not only part of her looks, but surely, part of her heart as well. Is she thinking of the child she abandoned at the gates of the orphanage? Is she remembering his cries, coos, and smiles as she held him one last time? Is she perhaps grieving her flesh and bones forever severed from her presence?

He doesn’t remember her face. The smell of her skin, he forgot. The sound of her heart, he lost. The letters of her language, he can’t understand. And yet, the shadows of his abandonment follow our family story. When she pulled away, she pushed him out into this world with no written history, no family identity, no known connections…Who is this boy? Where is his home? Who is his family? Why was he rejected?

It’s been 5 years now since he came into our home. The stories we know of him are stories that only go back to the day we first met him. His beginnings are but a mystery to us all. When it comes about his life in China, there is not much we can share. We can only pretend that he was active and kicking his mother’s womb just by how energetic he is today. We are certain that he was the greatest eater because we cannot keep this boy satisfied for more than a couple of hours. We are guessing that he did not cry much because he is not much of a crier today, but we bet he cooed and smiled a lot instead. In fact, we joke that he came out of the womb smiling (something he connects with his father today who is just as content and happy as Levi).

We may not know our son’s beginnings in China, but we know the One who never stopped knowing our son through it all. Though we did not see Levi’s life in China, God saw every aspect of his growth. What is hidden and uncertain to us has always been plain to God. For us, the comfort of the mystery is in its development according to God’s plans. From the moment of his conception, through delivery, abandonment, and adoption, God remained present. Under the eyes of Heaven, the story of our son’s life is known and written still.

Every year on his birthday we celebrate his known life. The inhumanity of his abandonment has been met by the grace of Heaven. What was taken away from him as an orphan, God kept in him as an image bearer. Levi’s value and worth as a human being was never erased when his family chose to discard him. I can’t help but remember his biological mother who chose life for Levi, instead of death. Obviously conflicted, this mother risked more in illegal abandonment than what she could have avoided through legal abortion. I often wonder if she ever drives by the orphanage and dreams of her boy. Maybe, on every July 12, the womb that lulled my son for nine months pains her some, just enough to remind her of the life she birthed and gave away. The depths of her grief, if there, must be deep and painful.

We love China for giving us our son. He often reminds me that though his sisters and daddy were born in America, he comes from China and I come from Romania. My son and I share a birthing story in different worlds and continents. When it comes to stories of his life, my husband and I are intent on celebrating all that we know of him, his mother, his country—but especially about our God who never missed an event from his life!

Because our known God knows you, we wish you a very Happy Known Birthday, Levi!