It was sentiment we shared for 15 months: we were way in over our heads with this adoption.
We had said “yes” to a seven and a half year old daughter who was deaf and had never received the gift of language.
There were no schools available to teach her in her province. Consequently, she lacked basic preschool skills. My husband studied American Sign Language in college and beyond, and as a family we had taken classes to attempt to grasp as much language as we could while we waited.
In spite of this (and the hundreds of hours spent reading books and attending conferences), we did not feel equipped.
We anticipated this journey would force us into a new level of dependency on God, but we couldn’t have seen how until we began walking it.
He made it evident that He was leading us to Noel and evident that He wasn’t just along for the ride. He would navigate the journey (as broken and as beautiful as it would be) as we looked to Him.
One of the best lessons I could have learned happened in China…
It was when I came to the end of myself. It didn’t take long! Less than 24 hours after meeting this sweet gift, I was completely overwhelmed with trying to assist her without language or relationship.
The first morning we woke up with her, as I got ready for the adoption appointment that would make her “officially” a Russell, I quickly uttered this prayer: “God, I don’t know what she needs… her needs are so great. Help me to be what she needs.”
I wasn’t talking about the obvious needs of love and family… I was seeing “her big picture”.
I reminded myself that I could not be her savior. I could not undo seven years of language deficit. I could not make her love or accept us or Jesus and in that particular moment…
I wasn’t even sure what to feed her for breakfast.
But honestly, instead of falling into despair (a common pattern of mine), I felt freedom.
Freedom to cast myself onto the all sufficient One.
Freedom to know that I didn’t have to have parenting “a new daughter who is deaf” figured out before we went to sign forever papers.
Even in this new place of freedom, those weeks in China were such challenging times. They say, “Just survive those first few weeks”… and survive, we did! It was long and hard.
A sweet and smart girl marched into our lives that day. She was a headstrong, 50-pound package of raw determination.
Although small for a typical seven year old, she was strong enough to challenge our ability to protect and lead her. As is the reality for many adoptive families, we were on a crash course getting to know our new daughter by trial and error – in the midst of trekking through all of the appointments and new beginnings into our family.
We were due for our first flight only 72 hours after meeting our little girl, and at the airport she wavered between extreme fight mode and shut down.
Security patted her down, sending her into hysterics and she clung to me (nails in neck) for dear life. I could sense the fear and almost shut down of my little girl, and it forced us both into tears as we left the security area.
I can’t remember my exact monologue with God, but it went something like this: “This. Is. Too. Much. This is so wrong. Hasn’t she been through enough? This is where I draw the line. Do we have to get on this plane? She just needs to go home and get away from these crowds and expectations and we can’t even communicate to her. I feel so powerless to protect her. It’s not fair.”
Intertwined in my desperate prayer were subtle accusations… that He wasn’t doing enough, He didn’t care, and that obviously He’d missed what just happened moving through airport security.
In response, He softly spoke to my heart. “Don’t you know I’m hiding her in my shadow?”
Psalm 36:7 ran through my head: “How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.”
God was telling me as mama bear that I could stand down. Because He had her.
I certainly didn’t “see” this at the time. But His words of truth were enough to comfort and free my heart to trust Him again.
As the days turned into weeks and we were soon home, His perspective began to sink into my heart. He really did have her in His shadow. He always had.
Even before she was a prayer request on our lips or in our hearts, He had her. She was in His sovereign shadow of protection, love, and grace.
He met my mama-heart in China. He proved His commitment and care for our daughter to me, not because He was obligated to, but out of His lovingkindness.
He showed me that He will fill in the gaps and, even more, be in the gap, come what may. I’m learning the freedom and sweetness that come with taking God at His word day by day.
God has always used my kids as a means of revealing His character, and with this new daughter it is no different. His grace and mercy flood in like a tidal wave… if I’m just willing to see.
– guest post by Angela