As my sweet Judson turns 5 today, I have a million things running through my mind. The realization that he has spent more days with us than without us, hits, but is quickly followed by the stark reality that I have been his forever Mom for more days than his first Mom who gave literal birth to him. I look at this boy who has changed and grown and changed some more and I am simply amazed that we get to spend our days watching this boy become more and more of who God made him to be. I see glimpses of that boy….
The year from 4 to 5 has been eventful for sure. We moved from Seattle to Tennessee to California in the first half of his fifth year. Judson is charming, inquisitive and utterly delightful (in most moments). He loves to be with people and is not afraid to get to know you whether you are open to it or not. Judson is fearless in the way that he has no idea he should practice caution. He simply does what feels right at the moment which leads to some interesting parenting challenges. He is tall, he is friendly, he is a defender of people and an amazing encourager. Judson loves routine and does some of the cutest things like kissing me three times before bed and daily telling me “You are the best Mom.” He is the kind of kid who becomes the kind of man that is known because of how he treats others.
Obsi…the name his first Mom gave him. The name we kept to lay claim to the rich Ethiopian heritage that is his. The name that has been changed as the sign of a new start, but also is significant of the sacrifice that his first Mom made. And though her sacrifice was honorable in light of her circumstances and choices, there are still scars that have been left that we see.
We see Obsi when you ask why your skin is different.
He notices he looks different and while we celebrate him for who he is, Judson is just beginning to understand that one of these is not like the others. We see the occasional timidity and the words, “What if they don’t want to play with me because I look different?” We see, as his parents, that just by nature of being in our family, he loses anonymity and everyone knows there is a story there. As his Mommy, I see the challenges he will face and I am so thankful to walk it with him. We see Obsi and his dark skin and pray that God will continue to shape him into a warrior.
We see Obsi when you say things like, “God made all the skins and Mommy, you love all the colors.”
On the surface this is cute and precious, but it shows the depth of processing that has been going on in his mind. I also see the words we speak over him giving him life. God did make all the skins and He loves all the colors. We want to be a family that isn’t easily offended when people notice Judson and ask questions, because honestly, that is part of the deal of adoption. We pray our family is seen as merely a reflection of the Kingdom, of Heaven….all the colors and all the skins. We see Obsi and love that at the young age of five, he is tender to the things of the Lord.
We see Obsi when we face our first experience of blatant racism.
We recently felt the sting of judgement because of the color of Judson’s skin, his adoption story and his African birth….not by one family, but by three. People who made assumptions based on these things and chose to react in fear based on it…without one conversation with us or really, even knowing us. We also saw a friend radically and completely defend him. I saw the fight come out in her on his behalf and it was strong and powerful and completely beautiful. I am not naive that racism is still a huge issue in our world (even in our country), but this gave me a small glimpse to the complete injustice that exists in light of it. I felt how ridiculous it is to make gross assumptions based on one aspect of a person. I also saw that we can’t shield him forever. We can’t keep it away from him because false thinking and stereotypes are in the most unlikely places, waiting to rear their ugly head. I grieved for my Obsi in that moment when I saw the cruel words that will one day land in his ears, the darting glances, the unease that will take root in others at the mere sight of him. I also felt heartbroken for those who will miss out on being in the space of this amazing kid. I felt the sting of rejection for him and pleaded to the Father to protect him for as long as possible, to help us know how to handle it and to be people of peace.
Judson loves his family. He tells us all the time, “We have the best family.” We are not surprised he is wired for family because he was knit together by the Father. In this past year, Judson has prayed numerous times, words that Jason and I have not said to him. He has prayed, “God, You are the best Dad.” and we have seen that Judson felt the love of the Father when his earthly Daddy was waiting to be the hands and feet of that love. Over this last year, I have watched this StewKid, relax into his family and breathe. I have been in the front row as he has stopped fighting us so much and trusted we are for him and we are not leaving. I have heard the question, “Mommy, you are coming back to get me, right?” less and less. The other StewKids love him, laugh with him, argue with him, wrestle and tattle on him. They only see their brother. He still asks a 14,245 questions a day and will push the SAME boundaries, but he is a fighter, he will get it done and he will make a way. This StewKid will be a force to be reckoned with for sure. We are just praying his is a life submitted to the King.
If I could have a conversation with Judson Obsi Stewart’s first Mom, I would say a lot of these things…
But mostly I would say our boy is just getting started….
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