That’s been my view on most things in life: it is what it is, not what it should be. Our daughter came to us on September 1, 2013, at 8.5 years old. She’d been adopted from China at age 4.5 by another family, but it wasn’t working out, and the adoption would be disrupted.
My husband and I prayed and clearly heard God’s call to adopt her. I was scared. Her former family had told us issues they’d had with her, and if I said it once, I said it a million times, “I am not the mom for this.” RAD, depression, anxiety, this list went on and on. My husband was 100% confident that we were her parents. I trusted him, and he was right.
When she came, she didn’t have fingernails. She had severe anxiety issues, self worth and value issues, etc. She couldn’t sit down for any length of time. She was fidgety. She had mastered a nervous laugh in hopes of camouflaging the inner battle she was fighting solo.
Her story is her story. She is able to articulate it well. From the day she came to our family, we’ve spoken openly and honestly about it. I often use the analogy of a suitcase. I pull out a suitcase and throw “things” in it. Those “things” are part of who you are, whether you’ve wanted them or not. Her suitcase had things in it that she wanted to take out. That’s when it clicked for her, “I can bring it with me, or I can take it out and leave it out.”
My girls and I journal, so she and I began to journal immediately. This proved to be one of the keys in teaching her to process her story. I knew she had things on her mind and heart that she couldn’t share with me. Why would she? I was a stranger, and she had no reason to trust me with her inner thoughts and feelings. Journaling became our communication, and she wrote and wrote.
I remember very little about my life in China. I was in an orphanage for a while then I went to live in a foster home. I do have memories of seeing kids in the orphanage. One time we went to eat noodles, it didn’t have sauce so it wasn’t spaghetti.
The plane was big we flew on to come to America. I was scared when we got to my America.
My former parents argued about me all the time. My former dad wanted to keep me and my former mom didn’t want me. I was upset that I was causing them to argue. I prayed to God that He would help them to love me. I prayed for them to stop arguing.
We’d write daily, and still do. In the first year, she filled five 5×7 journals. Trust was building, and her entire body language began to change. This was only God allowing me to be what she needed during that time. As time progressed, on her own time, she was able to share her story with her siblings and grandparents. Each time she would share with a family member, you could see her guard go down between them.
I was told that they were putting me up for adoption. They were looking for another family for me. I was so scared. I would wake up wondering if that day would be the day I’d be sent away. I chewed my fingernails all the time. I had stomachaches every day. I had panic and anxiety attacks.
I did kind of understood what they meant when they said they were going to find a family to adopt me. I was thinking it would be a 50% chance I would be adopted by a great family and 50% I would be adopted by a worse family.
(On the day she moved to her new family) I had on shorts, t-shirts and flips flops and I carried a blanket with me. That is all they said I could take. I had to leave all my stuff there.
My husband and I had talked a lot about how sarcastic our family is. Can a child who has been through abuse/neglect see sarcasm for what it really is? We tried our very best to de-sarcasm our comments, but we weren’t always successful. As it turns out, God used the uniqueness of our family to do something really cool. He allowed us to use our sarcasm as a healing tool. She wrote in a journal entry, “Sarcasm means they like me.” She was hearing what we were pouring in to her and it was sticking. God was getting rid of “things” she no longer needed and replacing them with His truths.
If I had been in a different family I wouldn’t be with my real family now. Even though it was very hard it was worth it. I’d never want any other children to go through what I did.
The enemy tried to convince me, “You can’t help this child.” or “What IF she _____ ?” I let those thoughts enter my mind prior to our commitment to adopt her, but on adoption day, those thoughts were outta there, completely gone. I was depending on the One who loves her more than any mother could to heal her. I trusted that it wasn’t my job to heal her. It was my job to accept her for who she is.
Over the past year I’ve had many changes new home, family, school, pets, friend etc. In the beginning it was overwhelming for me. My mom has taught me that God made me perfect in His image. I am perfect the way I am. How I was treated wasn’t my fault. My real parents say they are proud of how brave I was.
After she had been home for a while, I was making quilts for beds in her room. She wanted to learn, and one day while we were quilting, I asked her to bring over the box of “trash” fabric scraps. She stopped and began ringing her fingers (a sign that she is about to burst). She burst into tears and began to share with me that her former family would call her “trash”. In that moment, God did something really cool. He gave me the idea of taking all the tiny scraps (most of which should have been thrown away) to make a beautiful quilt.
And in that, God ministered to her heart, showing her what looks like trash God can turn into something beautiful. She even chose one black scrap, and when I asked if she was sure she wanted to include that, she responded, “Yes, it reminds me that we all are born with sin, but God can take it all.”
God looks at our heart not what we look like on the outside. The scrap material looked ugly in the box but now it’s a really pretty quilt. My real mom said I might have been called trash but that I am not trash. She tells me what happened to me wasn’t my fault.
We read scripture over her daily. We prayed with her daily. This wasn’t something she was used to. One afternoon she asked me, “Why do you pray about everything and pray out loud?”
I responded, “It’s a habit I’ve gotten into. God knows what’s best for me, and I trust Him. When I pray, I am having a conversation with God, so I talk out loud to Him sometimes.”
She asked, “Did I hear you pray about what to wear? I’ve never heard someone pray about that.”
“Yes, you did!” She was listening carefully, hiding new truth in her heart, and God began to heal her hurts.
After a month or so, we enrolled her in a Christian school that our other children attend. She has been awarded the “Christian character” award in her grade two times. Redemption is real. God is in the business of redemption, and we’ve had a front row seat to watch Him redeem our daughter. Her prayer life is now mature beyond her years. She loves everyone and is the kindest, sweetest, most gentle and loving human being I have ever met.
My mom and dad have taught me all about God. We go to church every week. We do family devotions. I read a devotion every night before I go to bed to my little sister and my parents. I am more cheerful and less anxious. I now feel truly loved. God has helped me to understand that He makes things happen for a purpose even when we don’t understand them.
I am a control freak, but God didn’t expect me to know all the answers. This allowed Him to work in me. He asked for my obedience, which I was willing to give. That doesn’t mean it’s been a happy dance every day. It hasn’t. We’ve had bumps and valleys we’ve had to overcome, but we’ve done it, and learned so much on this journey. I’ve been challenged the most in our family. This brought all my ugly out from under the rug. She didn’t bring it out, God brought it to the forefront to equip me to be the mother she needs.
My personality doesn’t naturally mesh with someone who is gentle, kind and sweet. I am loud. It’s my way or the highway. Miraculously though, God has weaved our personalities together. We trust and love each other, and we’ve taught one another how to stretch ourselves to be the best we can be for God’s great commission. She recently journaled, “Let’s just say I think you are the perfect mom for me.”
My husband would say that when she came to our family, she gave off the vibe of not needing hugs and affection. Yet her love language is words of affirmation and physical touch. So much has been redeemed.
These days we don’t talk much about the past, unless she’d like to. Now, in her journals, I find glimpses of a healed heart. One day, I asked, “How do you feel about YOU?” Her response speaks volumes.
I am safe.
(Her first 3 words. I AM SAFE. We take that for granted, but a child from a hard place does not.)
I am happy, pretty, smart, athletic. My mom says I have blonde roots, but I really don’t. I love my family, dogs, cats, even the chickens, but I don’t like to pick them up. I am loved too. That’s the best part.
Her story “is what it is”, but because of Christ, she has hope! Christ gives her all she’ll ever need, and covers her with His amazing Grace! Mercy Wins! Victory over Satan! Freedom that Jesus won for her!
What I have learned from the past few years is that if you follow God’s path even when things aren’t good God can turn it into good. Today, I know that I am a child of God and my family, friends and God love me.
This incredible mom, and author of this post, helps run the ministry “Together” in Atlanta. You can connect with her at Togetherwehavehope4@gmail.com. Find out more about Together We Have Hope on their Facebook page. Adoption is a unique experience, and they “provide an opportunity for prospective and current adoptive moms to come “Together”, meet each other, discuss common concerns, build a network of support, hear some amazing women speak and have fun.”