I will never forget walking with Anthony on a remote beach on the Wild Coast of South Africa in 1997. It was our honeymoon and we were talking about all the things that we wanted for our marriage.
A nice home.
Two perfectly healthy children.
Just two. That was my limit.
I was that person. I wanted the perfect life. The perfect children. The white picket fence. The fairytale.
I look back on my life over the past eighteen years and somewhere along the way (I’m not quite sure exactly when it happened) that person who I was on the beach that day died. My flesh crucified. My heart changed from the inside out. My life left in the hands of the Potter.
When we set out on our adoption journey in 2004, never did I imagine that my life would look so vastly different to what I thought it would.
We committed to adopting Hannah-Claire and one of things people said to us all the time was, “She is so lucky that you are bringing her home. Her life will never be the same again.”
In a way that’s true, of course. Each one of our six adopted children are redeemed. That’s just what adoption does because adoption was GOD’S idea in the first place, not ours.
But what I didn’t know to tell people all those years ago is that God would do something even more amazing than just change our daughter’s life.
Adoption would change ME.
God would use each one of these six precious children to mold my heart and change me.
Nearly three years ago Anthony and I sat on our bed with a few photos in our hands. They were pictures that we struggled to wrap our human heads around. They once again showed us the reality of the fallen world in which we live. The one where children are literally discarded because they are born less than perfect. The one where the weakest of His flock are often left to languish. It’s the reality where children are so often deemed not worthy of food, love, attention, and the basic necessities of life when they are labeled “special needs” in many countries around the world.
In our hands was the sad reality of one teenage girl. Nothing but skin and bones stared back at us. But behind the suffering was a fighting spirit that refused to give up.
For hours we sat there–praying, talking, and coming up with a hundred reasons why this would be a very, very bad idea. We felt like the most unequipped, uneducated parents on the planet as we read her list of needs. This wasn’t a baby that we would gradually learn to take care of. She was fourteen years old and weighed fourteen pounds! The level of neglect she had lived with was something we had never encountered before. We would be on the fast track to learning how to meet her needs.
Cerebral palsy. Microcephaly. Scoliosis. Malnutrition. Emaciation. Osteoporosis. Bilateral hip dysplasia. Blindness. Seizures.
We were clueless about every single one. Our children who have Down syndrome seemed like the easiest special-need children in the world to deal with as we read her file. We stood at the edge of the cliff that night and taking a giant leap of faith felt like one of the most terrifying things we had ever done.
“How will we parent this child, Lord?”
“How will we know how to take care of her?”
“What about our other children, Father?”
“What if we mess up? What if we fail miserably?”
Anthony and I sat there with tears running down our faces that night. We knew that God was calling us to follow Him with blind faith…
…to trust HIM even when we felt so very inadequate.
We were right where He needed us to be–completely and utterly dependent on HIM to see us to the other side.
And so began a journey I never would have imagined possible back then.
We got through the paperwork quickly and later that year I met Hasya for the first time. It was glorious. And it was terrifying! She was weak and fragile, and I wondered if she would even survive the long journey home in a few months.
And God was teaching me to trust in the storm.
Two years ago, Hasya and Kael came home from Bulgaria. Hasya barely survived the excruciating journey home and was admitted into the hospital to be rehabilitated. Never before had I been so afraid for one of my children’s lives.
The journey to her healing had begun as she was very gradually re-fed and rehydrated.
The past two years have been nothing short of an unfolding miracle.
We watched in wonder as the fragile, emaciated teenager who we brought home began to blossom before our eyes. She learned to sit in a wheelchair for longer than five minutes (gravity was scary after spending fifteen years on her back in a crib!). She learned how to eat pureed food. She gained more movement in her stiff joints with the help of therapy. The weight started to accumulate on her tiny frame. She eventually learned how to drink from a cup too. She learned to laugh and her giggle became sweet music to our ears. And after several months of being home, she learned that human touch is a good thing! She learned that touch was tender and wonderful, and slowly we gained Hasya’s trust. After suffering at the hands of man for so many years, this was a glorious victory. She began to reach out for us when she knew we were near. She finally knew that she was safe and that she would never, ever be harmed again. Her neck got stronger and we were able to switch the headrest on her wheelchair for one with no support. Each step a victory!
We weaned her off her anti-seizure medication after a recent EEG showed no sign of any seizure activity whatsoever. Healed!
Not because of anything that we did (we’re still those same two unequipped, goofy people figuring this thing out day by day)….but all because of WHO HE IS.
My fairytale was changing.
And through this gift from God, this young lady whom we treasure more than words can say, God continued to do such a deep work in me over the past two years. Where I previously knew that all life was precious and valuable…suddenly, I became passionate about it. This daughter of ours–broken in the eyes of the world, dependent, fragile, hurting, unable to do the things our other children can do–she is created in the image of a God who never, ever makes mistakes.
Through her suffering and her slow healing, God began to open my eyes and burn a passion in my heart for the forgotten, the forsaken, and the ones deemed not worthy of the basic necessities of life.
I forgot about my white picket fence.
This child who is 100% dependent on us, who cannot see, cannot speak, cannot walk, and will always rely on us for her every need, has shown me what a reflection of God’s glory her life truly is.
She radiates the love of Jesus just because of who she is in Him.
She shines His glory simply because she is fearfully and wonderfully made…just the way she is.
Hasya has been one of my greatest teachers. She has taught me the beauty of slowing down and savoring every moment–every victory no matter how big or how small–they all come from His hand. Hasya has shown me time and time again that with God, all things are truly possible.
It is one of my greatest joys in life to care for this precious treasure every day–an honor and an absolute privilege that I will never take for granted. Is it always easy? Of course not. Parenting any child has it’s challenges! We have learned to embrace every obstacle and trust God in every storm as we deal with medical issues and uncertainties. He never promised us easy! Do we always get it right? Heck, NO! Thankfully, His grace is always sufficient. Jesus is enough.
And her life has shown me that “brokenness” doesn’t mean imperfection. I’m no different to my daughter. I am just as flawed, just as broken as she is. We’re all broken people desperately in need of a Savior. Our brokenness just looks different.
As we celebrate Hasya’s seventeenth birthday, my heart is overwhelmed. I cannot stop thanking God that He chose us–two people who were so afraid to take that leap off the cliff. Two people who initially set out determined to live the picture-perfect life. Two people who were probably last on God’s list as He roamed the earth looking for someone to rise up to care for this child. We were willing. And that was enough, I guess.
My life looks so different to what I thought I wanted. But do you know what?
I’m living my new fairytale.
And it is so much more blessed and amazing than I could ever have dreamed possible.
Yes, it’s true. Adoption certainly does change children’s lives.
But today, as I look at this treasure from heaven…
…I am so, so thankful that adoption changed ME more.
Happy, happy birthday, beautiful love. We celebrate your special day AND the two-year anniversary of your homecoming. No words can express how thankful we are that you are ours.