May I First See Her Heart


By Lisha Epperson | Twitter: @lishaepperson


My dreams kept time with the early morning song of unnamed birds. In the spaces of silence I wondered …would she be beautiful?

We’d talked about her that night and every day before. Imagining life with a little girl no one, until now, would call beautiful. Would we love her? Could we? Should we say yes?

Having no point of reference for a child’s physical appearance, prospective adoptive parents wonder what their children will look like. We want them to fit our family and recall adoptive families where we’ve seen God’s hand in the match. Wondering how these mystical pairings will work out for us is where it gets tricky.

Everyone wants a beautiful child, especially when the child is a girl. For some reason, I think, we worry less about boys.

“And then she stroked his neck and smoothed the feathers, saying, “It is a drake, and therefore not of so much consequence. I think he will grow up strong, and able to take care of himself.” – The Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Andersen

Unlike biological parents, we get to choose. On placement day, just as with birth parents, the option to bail is real. We can decide the match isn’t for us and choose not to parent a particular child. One reason people bail, but don’t talk about, is the way a child looks—his or her physical appearance.

A week before the entrustment ceremony we learned there’d been another family. And that family declined the match. We would be parents of a child they didn’t want. And I wanted to know why. What did she look like?

Was this a skin colour thing? Sadly in the black community we still struggle with this. We’ve swallowed the bitter backwash of the American slave trade. The way we see ourselves is tied to the way, for centuries, we’ve been seen by others.

So the conversations began. All day and well into the night, when the puff pink sky turned deepest blue, we talked. About our families and beauty. How in this world it would be easier if she were an unattractive male. We were parents of the most beautiful boy when we adopted our second (a girl) and spent lots of time fretting whether her beauty would match his.

Somehow this conversation was different. Knowing someone had passed on her, made all my prejudice about physical appearance rush to the surface and I felt small for making such a big deal about it.

Each night, just before dawn, I awakened to the same song.  A melody wafting through the sky, drifting in and out of me. When it quietened, I wondered if it was over and if it would return? I’d miss it even before it left, I’d anticipate its absence and feel a deep sense of longing pierce my core.

I waited. Faithfully. Like a mother for a child. And every night just before I could figure it out, I’d fall back to sleep. My spirit mingled with the magic of that moment—my world fully awakened yet floating on the lullaby of a beautiful song.  This was my dream, my beautiful girl.

What is beauty and who or what is beautiful? Are trees less worthy because of twisted branches? Knobby holes and storm worn boughs? Dried leaves and peeling bark? I think the opposite is true. Am I beautiful? Are you?

And how much of my perception of beauty is determined by my upbringing in the pain and confusion of western culture?

Give me a face full of character. Personality dancing through bright eyes. The distinctive allure of a nose askew, sparse eyelashes. A smile so wide I see the heart.

But I’ve lived long enough to know the power of beauty, as a woman. I remember myself at 16 when I noticed that men noticed me. I felt the power of being beautiful. We live in a visual world and to deny that truth would be foolish.

I thought of the song and the different birds singing and I knew my answer wouldn’t change. I could, I would love my bird. My mothers’ heart already sang its longing.

“He is my own child, and he is not so very ugly after all if you look at him properly.” – The Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Andersen

And I thought, my life, my heart is redeemed by grace and the girl you’ve offered, Lord. At this moment, this intersection is redeemed too.

I cared about what she looked like, but not enough to miss meeting my blessing, face to face. I knew she was mine.

So like every time before and every mother before me, I chose to love the child given. Adoption always felt more like spiritual transference than beaurocratic process. For me, the connections were collisions of faith and hope. Destiny.

Choosing to love her made me trust God differently.

And she was beautiful.

I knew she would be.


Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines forth. (Psalm 50:2 AMP)


About Lisha:

View More:! I’m Lisha Epperson, a hopeless romantic, lover of Jesus and most things antique. I love being a wife and mother of 5. I’m hooked on books (got the library fines to prove it) and all things ballet. I work out a life of faith with fear and trembling in New York City and blog about it all at


Image credit: Abspires40