E… L …I…
His little hands trace wiggly lines over each letter. Almost four, his stubby fingers seem to be holding a pencil for the first time.
Written for him, my lines are large and straight, intentional for his learning.
His lines merge with mine occasionally, but mostly curve over, around and off. When he finishes, he sets his pencil down. Almond shaped eyes turn toward me, eager for approval. My smile brings his smile.
For so long, his name had been written on our hearts. While waiting to bring him home from China, we’d whispered it in prayer, penned it into boxes on a mountain of adoption documents and had it embroidered on shirts. Dang Lan Cheng though, heard it for the first time just two months ago.
When he entered the orphanage, part of his given name was a name carried by every child in their care. Dang means “government.” He was one child in an orphanage of three hundred, in a country with hundreds of thousands of orphans. Sadly, this name represents that. Graciously, Cheng means “flourishing and prosperous,” a sweet promise of more to come.
One day in November, we arrived in China, hearts anxious to make him a son.
We brought the name Elijah, or Eli, meaning, “My God is Yahweh.” No concept of family, or the love that was to come with his new name, his little hands trembled as we drove him away from all things familiar.
Now he carries a portion of his Chinese name, his given name, and our family name, a merging of past and future. Each name a chapter in the story God is writing.
And might there be yet another name? One that his birth parents gave him and still carry in their hearts? Though we’ll never know it, we hope that this relationship was honored with a name.
A lost name, a generic name, a hope-filled name, a God-focused name, and a family name. Each, and the part of the story they represent, matters to the Lord. Luke 10:20 tells us, “Rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
We live in a broken world, where for reasons beyond us, parents sometimes can’t keep their children. A world where a little boy spent three years waking up in an orphanage. Still, we can rejoice.
He wasn’t alone. Heaven had his name written down. Eli’s birth parents might always be lost to us, but they are part of our story. His orphanage time, hard, but God can redeem every day of it. Life for Eli LanCheng veered over, around, and off the Lord’s intended plan, but now is his time to flourish. How grateful we are that God has written our lives into Elijah LanCheng’s redemption story.
As Eli looks to me now for approval, direction, and security, I grieve for what he’s lost. I don’t know how we will manage this merging of lives. No idea how I’ll teach him all that he needs to be taught.
How will we ever help him carry the weight of his loss? When he wonders what name his birth parents gave him, what will we say? My heart fears that he’ll never learn to write his name, never express himself in English, or never learn to fully trust. The doubts tumble around in my heart.
If I look too far ahead, or too closely at my son’s unique needs, fear grips me. I’m certain to mess up this adoptive momma gig. I’ll veer over, around, and off the course laid out before us. I’ll say the wrong things, fail to pick up on emotions, and not have enough time to meet every need. I can love him, snuggle him tight, and look into his unsure eyes, but the rest is out of my league.
Our names are written in heaven though, so surely God’s got a plan for us. Surely His redemption work didn’t stop on adoption day. Our God is Yahweh, after all, which means LORD and indicates an immediacy, a presence. He’s actually in this with us, and His bigness covers my weakness.
And then God gets even more personal with us…
“See, I have written your name on the palms of my hand” (Isaiah 49:16).
It is a picture I can scarcely take in. When I hit the pillow at night, counting my parenting failures and worrying about Eli’s needs, I need only remember that the LORD is present. And, He is so intentional about my son and I, that He wrote our names on His very hand. His grace, power, and plan can cover my wiggly, weak momma skills.
So tomorrow, as he traces E…L…I, maybe I’ll trace the name of Yahweh. There is something in writing it. As I move my pencil over the letters, may it remind me that God is intentional. I can trust that the Author of redemption is going to give this story a good ending.
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Ashleigh Slater, Founder & Managing Editor
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