It’s been four years since a photo of a very tiny little girl made her way into my email. I so clearly remember the day that we had piled our then seven children into our van and headed two hours away to look at a car we were considering buying for a precious young lady who had come to live with us. As Anthony drove, tears flowed freely down my face. On the little screen of my phone I tried to make out every detail of the photo which wasn’t the greatest quality.
I enlarged the photo to look at her face. Her fragile arms. Her body which seemed frail beyond words.
I repeated the words over and over to my husband.
“Fourteen years old and weighing fourteen pounds.”
We had already adopted four children who had special needs. We had been involved in the adoption community for many years and had seen hard things. We had slowly learned how to parent children from hard places, and by God’s unfathomable grace and mercy that my heart cannot even understand, we were seeing our children prosper.
Hailee, who came from Ukraine two years prior, weighing thirteen pounds at five years old, was overcoming years of abuse and neglect and finally we were seeing our littlest flower blossom. Her diagnoses of Down syndrome, autism, sensory processing disorder and ADHD no longer felt like something that God called other people to navigate. No! He called us! And He was gently teaching us along the way how to parent our tiniest love. Haven had been home for four years and she was making huge strides in overcoming her unimaginable past of hurt and PTSD. And through many trials, failures and victories, we felt like we had reached a place in our parenting where we had gone from clueless and absolutely terrified about special needs to, hey, (with grace, courage and a whole lot of JESUS) we can do this thing. We stood ready and willing to embrace anything that God had for us.
That was, until that day we held her picture in our hands.
Anthony and I sat on our bed late that night and we prayed through our tears.
“God, how can we even consider this?”
“God, what about our other children?”
“God, she has so many needs–some which we haven’t even heard of (yeah, we were off to a flying start)!”
“God, what if we fail her…and You?”
There were a hundred and one reasons why adding this teenager to our family would stretch us beyond anything we had ever walked through.
There were so many reasons to justify why it would be a bad, bad idea for our already largish family.
But there was one reason to say yes.
She was a child…made in His image, called by His name, created in her mother’s womb…
…and she deserved a chance.
With so much fear, insecurity and with our very shaky faith, we began the process to bring her home–praying without ceasing that she would survive in the orphanage until we could got there.
Friends and a community of people came alongside us and supported us with an extravagent love and encouragement that touched our hearts so deeply. When I felt like I was the last person on the planet equipped for the task ahead of us, they reminded me that with God’s help, I could.
Seven months later, on a beautiful fall day in Bulgaria, they placed my nearly-fifteen-year-old daughter into my arms.
I was afraid I would break her bones. I was afraid to move her. She was miserable–agitated from being held (she didn’t know human touch in a good way), crying inconsolably, just wanting to be back in the only environment she knew–the confines of her crib.
My future flashed before my eyes and I knew that life as we knew it would never, ever be the same. This child–broken, abused, sick, neglected and abandoned in a crib for her whole life–would be fully dependent on us for life. For everything. She would never walk. She would never talk. She would never feed herself. She would never see us. She would never tell us what her needs were. We would have to learn. She would require us for 100% of her care.
As I prepared to leave the institution that she called home about two hours later, a staff member whispered in my ear, “Are you sure you want her?”
Was I sure I wanted her?
“Yes!” I told her. A thousand times, YES!
Because we have learned a truth as God has called us to parent these children who depend on us for all of their needs.
Through these precious children…the ones who are often discarded, left in “laying rooms,” abandoned in dark places…through these children…His glory shines so brightly.
To nurture them back to health, to pour our lives out for each one, to teach them that human touch is a good thing, to earn their trust, to help them to become the best that they can be, well, it’s been one of our greatest blessings in this life.
This weekend our Hasya (A Hebrew word meaning “have mercy”) turns eighteen. It’s been three years since she came home and was admitted into the hospital after her body started shutting down and we almost lost her. It’s been three of the best years of my life watching this love grow and become all who God has created her to be. She has gone from that malnourished, emaciated fourteen-pound tiny little girl, to a healthy, happy and very alive young lady who weighs 45 pounds. A recent endocrinology visit confirmed that she has stopped growing and will, more than likely, remain around this size. And that’s okay. Hasya’s at a good weight for her height and she’s healthy.
In three years she has learned how to eat and drink by mouth and cannot get enough loving. Even though she is blind, functions at the level of an infant, and has no communication, she knows our voices and delights when we’re near. She knows her name, and her laugh is the most beautiful sound in the world. Her bones are so much stronger, and we haven’t had a break for 19 months. She’s been seizure-free and her scoliosis hasn’t worsened. She works hard with her therapists and astounds everyone with just how far she has come.
Why do I share my daughter’s story?
This week I saw Priceline’s latest television commercial and it absolutely broke my heart! My thoughts went to every parent around this country who, just like I, was considering adoption. I thought of every mother and every father who sat on the fence, wondering, “Could we do it?” “Could we travel overseas and bring a child who desperately needs the love of a family home?” Television is such a powerful influence and I wondered how many parents, after seeing that heinous commercial, would close the door of their hearts to adoption.
The commercial makes a mockery of adoption and of families who move heaven and earth to bring children home. These are CHILDREN, not potential pets on which you change your mind (and then go home, put your feet up, and relax in front of the TV with a bag of chips). These are precious and amazing blessings who deserve so much more than being degraded to a “that could have been hard” in a television commercial. It’s hurtful to every family who, for whatever reason, has painfully walked away without the child who they fell in love with or a parent who has ended up in a disruption situation. I have journeyed the painful road with families whose children have died in orphanages before they could get to them. I have cried many tears with friends who have lost children when countries closed their doors to adoption while they were in process. It’s freaking excruciating! It’s not funny in any way nor is it a laughing matter.
This commercial is not a true reflection of adoption nor of the families who choose to go to insane lengths in order to bring a child home. They never give up and to imply that we’re a wishy-washy bunch who run home empty-handed when things don’t go our way, uh-uh!
Sorry, Priceline, not true at all! The adoption community I know is strong, courageous in the face of challenges, willing to rise up when there is a need, selfless in giving to ensure that children in desperate situations come home, sacrificial in their love and brave beyond words. I know of families who were matched with children in Russia who are still (years and years later!) praying and fighting to get to them. Unwilling to do hard? I think not! This community of people has spurred me on to be braver, try harder, embrace difficulty with grace, and be willing to go where He sends us. Without the faith-filled men and women who went before us and showed us the way, it would have been so much harder to do what God had called us to do.
I am truly honored to be a part of such an incredible group of warriors who are more than willing to DO THE HARD THINGS!
Yes, adoption is hard. Yes, it’s stretching and it’s painful at times. But do you know what? There are absolutely no guarantees that parenting a child from our womb will be any easier! Raising any child is hard–no matter where they came from or how they made their way into our hearts and homes.
God gives us the grace to be faithful to fulfill what He calls us to do.
We live in a society where taking the easy road is so often what’s encouraged and sought. When we take the road less traveled–the one where we’re holding on by our fingernails and desperately needing God to part the waters–that is where we see the Father’s faithfulness. In the crazy storm of life is where His presence is so tangible, so sweet.
In the valley is where we can declare His faithfulness with absolute assurance.
No matter how hard I try, I cannot express the joy and the beauty that this young lady has brought to our lives. Her life matters so much to God, and to us too. Raising her along with her eight siblings has been such an honor and a privilege. To think that God chose us–two people who counted every finger and every toe at ultrasounds and knew absolutely nothing about the world of special needs. I’m not sure what I ever did to deserve this life He chose for me, but I will spend the rest of my days thanking the ONE who knew what I needed before I did.
And I am so ridiculously thankful that when I told God, “This may just be too hard,” that He reminded me…
“You can do ALL things through Christ who gives you strength.” ~~ Phil. 4:13
And faithful to His promise He has been.
Happy, Happy 18th Birthday, our beautiful and amazing Haz. How we love you! You are a joy and a delight, and we are so grateful for your life. No, life has never been the same since you came along…
…it’s been better.
Thank you everyone in the amazing adoption community who has played a part in Hasya’s unfolding story over the past four years. From sowing seed to help her come home, to praying when times have been tough. We are so, so grateful to be a part of a community who truly gets it. Thank you for believing with us that we could do hard things!
Millions of children all over the world wait for someone to come for them. Please, if God is tugging on your heart and calling you to take a gigantic leap of faith, do it! Step out and watch Him provide and give you the grace you need. Is adoption for everyone? Should every family adopt a child like Hasya? Absolutely NOT! We’re all called individually and uniquely. But when He does say go, when He confirms that adoption is right for your family, when He whispers to your heart, “This is the way, walk in it” (Isaiah 30), be faithful to answer the call and He’ll be faithful to split the sea in front of you.
Love to you all. a
A fellow adoptive mom has started a campaign to get Priceline to pull this distasteful commercial from the air. Will you add your voice by signing the petition, please? There is power in numbers. We are believing for hearts to be softened and for the commercial to be removed immediately. With one voice we will declare!