I felt her almost before I saw her—a little girl blur running to wrap her 4-year-old arms around my legs and snuggle her cheek against my skirt. Taking in her bright pigtails and Sunday best, I greeted her softly, grateful for her warm welcome and the fact that I knew her name. With Hogar de Vida’s fluid population of 35 children, I am always learning names. Always messing them up, too.
My hands hugged her close as my heart came a little undone. People milled around me, exchanging good mornings with tico flair. They kissed to the side of one another’s cheek and asked about family members while I tried to freeze time.
We were freshly returned to Costa Rica, our new home. For the 3 weeks prior, we had whirled through our first visit back to the states. The dust of the Heartland was still clinging to my sandals. Driving the smooth, well-marked roads had made it feel like our year of language learning and cultural adjustment never happened. I found myself stepping lightly, holding on to the glow of seeing friends and family, of being fluent in the words on the street. I was feeling strange again in the place we were called to.
Then this little butterfly of a child launched herself into my lap. She stayed with me as worship cascaded around us, amusing herself with the buttons on my watch, the freckles on my arms. The presence of the Lord was richer that morning. I leaned with my whole spirit into prayers for her heart, her life. Her giggle sang sweeter praise in the heavens than my voice lifted up. She wasn’t the first at-risk child to warm my heart, but she was the first to reach so deep that I didn’t want to let go.
In the handful of weeks since, she often greeted me with light in her eyes and a leap into my arms. I was her cradle as she drifted to sleep while Matt and I prayed over her. We asked the Lord to break off the trauma of the past and lay a foundation of blessing in her life to grow on. I assumed we’d have months if not years.
Yesterday we said goodbye.
She was sweetly excited to go live with another family member. Her little feet flounced her dress as she gave hugs and climbed into the cab. And just like that, the butterfly took flight beyond my reach. I probably won’t ever know if the bad dreams keep coming or if she feels safe in those new arms.
So this is what it feels like to put your love in a basket and send it downstream. This is our calling: to open our hearts and do what we can in the time we are given, then to trust the rest in prayer to the one who sees the bigger picture.
To embrace the hello, and live so that we can grieve the goodbye.
. . .He will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and for evermore. Psalm 121:7-8