Thursday, September 12, 2013

Miracle of Mercy

She is running across the lawn in too-short jeans, a long sleeved shirt, and rainbow striped socks with monkey faces on the toes.  Her purple headband frames her face and she is still missing her front teeth which fell out six months ago and I have decided she may always have a lisp even after the permanent teeth finally come in.

She is content.  She is happy.  Those words make me tear up as I type because it has taken almost three years to see her consistently content and happy.  Things have been much harder than I expected and I know I have harbored bitterness and resentment because of that.  The Enemy has worked overtime, it seems, and in weakness and fatigue I too often let him snarl unchecked at my fearful heart.

I was afraid.  Afraid she would never attach.  Afraid she would never heal.  Afraid I would never feel the same warmth toward her that I felt toward the others.  Afraid I had failed and let God down.

The two-year mark brought a strange milestone, a last ditch surge of misbehavior and anger, manipulation and lies that scared the heck out of me.  How would I ever break through her heart when all I felt was hopelessness and sad resignation that the future was going to be hard...very hard...for a long, long time?

I thought about her birthmother, thin and frail and hoping I could do better.  Praying her daughter would know love and security.  But one broken attachment after another...three orphanages and multiple nannies... had scarred this little girl more deeply than I realized and just loving her was not enough.

Then she softened.  Her spriritual eyes, they saw Jesus.  Her heart took ownership of His love and she surrendered to us.  Slowly, gradually she has begun to blossom.  She knows I will protect her, draws closer around strangers instead of running into their arms.  She hesitates before giving hugs to friends outside our family, checking my face for a smile or nod of "Yes, they are safe.  You can hug them."  She runs into the kitchen as I prepare meals just to tell me she loves me.

It is not the same as the others.  I don't have the baby years to draw back on.  I don't have memories of her in pink jammies, snuggles in the night, or of watching her sleep with her diapered bottom in the air.  The love I have for her is one that is born of commitment, of a determination to overcome, of a realization that every genuine display of affection is a miracle of God's mercy.  It is the knowing I have failed, yet she loves.  It is realizing I was terribly unprepared for her pain, yet she calls me "Mom."  It is watching her sleep with her head on her Daddy's lap, wrapped in the blanket made by her grandmother and knowing that her first father, her Ethiopian Daddy, must be smiling from Heaven as he sees her become a Daddy's girl once again.  Oh, I pray he sees.

This is the reality of adopting an older child.  The warm fuzzies we want to feel toward these children are often slow to appear but pressing forward, admitting weakness, crying out to God to love her through me because I am running on empty is what has set milestones, one in front of the other, to mark her path forward.  Determining to fight for her even when she resists my affection, asking the Holy Spirit to train her up in wisdom and love, and choosing to stop and notice her excitement at simple things like going to the mailbox all by herself...these are the stones I gather along the way to mark the milestones, mark the miracles.

Three years ago I had just begun packing for a flight to Africa.  Three years ago I had a romantic notion of what "hard" would look like.  Now I know.  It was more difficult than I could have imagined, and I know she still has many struggles to face as she grows up.  There are many things I would do differently, many ugly parts of myself that have been uncovered and laid bare, but this little girl who just smiled at me with a toothless grin has successfully taken ownership of her place in this family and that is nothing short of a miracle.  She is one of us and, finally, she knows it.  She is happy and content.

And I am thankful.


  1. Beautifully written, as usual. I particularly identify with your remarks about the Enemy attacks in frustration and exhaustion. There is not much like this experience to reveal the ugliness we hang onto, even we think we have rooted it all out and are prepared to love these little broken creatures. Now even after my girls are gone,I still sometimes struggle with resentment over the pain their presence, and now their absence, still causes me. Though I wouldn't ever take it back. Prayerfully and thankfully, our gracious adopted Father uses those Enemy attacks to reveal and to teach and to make me look more like I'm a part of His family.

    1. Sweet friend, I have prayed for you so many times. I can't imagine the mixed emotions you must have. You are so right...this is all part of our refining even as we seek to be His tools in refining out children. If only refining didn't involve heat!

  2. This is just the kind of post I'm needing! Not so sure how much my girl compares to your daughter, but On the mommy end of things, I'm totally in your boat...taking heart in your perspective from two more years down the road. Thank you for blessing me with your story.

    1. Thank you for reading and letting know that it blessed you. So many of us are certainly in the same boat, and it is SO much easier when we are all honest and help each other through the hard days! It is a long and painful healing process, but the healing does occur. (In them and in us!) Blessings to you!


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