A few years ago I read a book by one of my favorite authors. In his book, Chase the Lion, Mark Batterson shares a truth that has stuck with me ever since I read it.
“As I look back on my own life, I recognize this simple truth: The greatest opportunities were the scariest lions. Part of me wanted to play it safe, but I’ve learned that taking no risks is the greatest risk of all.”
Almost six years ago I was there. Confronted with something that I never, ever thought I could do (or would ever, ever be “called” to do), let alone even be willing to do in my life.
It feels like yesterday that Anthony and I were driving with our seven children in the car on a family outing. As Anthony drove, I caught up on some e-mails on my phone—slowly making my way through my ever-overflowing inbox. I will never forget the moment that I opened the email. I had become accustomed to reading about children needing families and urgent situations that needed someone to advocate for them.
But this…this was so very different.
Through my tears that day, I read her story to Anthony as he drove. A young girl in eastern Europe desperately needed a family. The only life she knew was that of the confines of a crib. She was emaciated beyond description—holding onto life by a thread.
She was fourteen years old and weighed fourteen pounds.
I read and reread, trying to wrap my head and my heart around what we were reading. Fourteen years old and weighing just fourteen pounds! We could not fathom how she had survived.
She was available for international adoption.
And right at the end of the e-mail…
Would we consider going?
Would we be willing to adopt this child?
Later that night, when all of our children were in bed, Anthony and I sat on our bed and wept. We wept for this precious girl who had obviously known nothing but a life of sadness, starvation, and complete abandonment by those who were meant to care for her. We could not contain our tears as the magnitude of what we were asked to do settled into our hearts.
We were already raising seven children—three of them with special needs. Yes, we had experience raising children with needs. But Down syndrome and the other needs our children had felt so minor compared to what we were told this beautiful girl was dealing with. In the two years that our two little girls who have Down syndrome had been home from Ukraine, we had learned so much about how to care for their medical needs. Our children were healthy and doing well. Life felt comfortable. We knew nothing, absolutely nothing about caring for medically fragile children. Truthfully, we didn’t even know what half of her medical needs were. Had never even heard of them.
Sitting on our bed late that night, fear rose up in my heart.
What if I couldn’t be a good Mom to her?
What if we failed horribly?
What if bringing her home was the worst thing ever for our other children? After all, she would require so much of our time. What if it stretched us too finely?
And what if she died? How would we feel? The loss of a child must surely be the hardest, most painful journey through which a parent ever walks.
Every fear I could possibly have had surfaced, and to be honest, I felt completely ill-equipped. Surely there were many, many others who could do a much better job than us? Surely?! I counted all of my faults and my failures and all of the very good reasons why this was just not for us, and I named them one by one before the Lord.
But, something happened that night on our bed. Something that I can only describe as being miraculous. That peace that passes all understanding flooded our hearts. In spite of every fear, every inadequacy we felt, every logical reason we had come up with as to why this was a crazy idea and we should close the door tightly and walk far away, despite every flaw and failure we felt in that moment, we knew one thing without a shadow of a doubt…
…in the stillness of that winter’s night, the Father had whispered our name.
In spite of us being so very ordinary and feeling like the last people on earth who God would call to rise up, by His unfathomable grace and mercy that my heart still cannot fathom, He chose us.
I was facing my scary lion while clinging to my Aslan whom I knew was stronger and mightier than any fear or battle that I had ever faced in my life.
He chose us to be the parents to this child, not knowing for sure if she would survive the months and months it would take for us to complete the paperwork. This teenager’s health was so, so fragile, and every day was a miraculous gift that she had been given.
Amazing grace my heart will never understand.
He named her “Hasya”—a Hebrew name meaning “have mercy” or “protected by God.”
Mercy had brought her this far and Mercy would hold her tightly.
At the end of 2012, I made the first trip overseas to visit our Hasya. No words can ever describe the feelings, the emotions, and the fear that I felt walking into that cold, grey, depressing building that she had called home for nearly fifteen years. This was so far out of my comfort zone. I had never even held an emaciated child. As missionaries in different places around the world, we had seen some very hard things. But this felt so different. I had no idea what to expect. I only knew one thing as we climbed the stairs to where they would bring her to meet me…
…Jesus would be enough for her. And for me.
The Everlasting God carried me step by step and through each moment of our time together.
I spent five days loving and getting to know our new daughter. Fragile, completely inconsolable, starving, miserable, in pain from a broken femur, fearful, and with more special needs than we were originally told, Hasya was struggling. I spent too many hours to count pushing her stroller in circles around the building—trying anything I could think of to stop her from crying inconsolably. It was absolutely heartbreaking.
And in those days, every fear that I ever had about how I could possibly parent this child rose up in my heart. I felt so completely and utterly unequipped for what I knew lay ahead.
I have now been Hasya’s mom for five years. We got her home safely by the grace of God. The trip home was excruciating for her! After nearly fifteen years of knowing nothing but lying flat on her back in a crib, having to be held was so painful on her fragile bones and contracted limbs. By the time we arrived in Colorado, her body was shutting down. She had zero energy, could not even manage to drink drops of water, and the stress of the long flights home was just too much for her malnourished body. We admitted Hasya into the hospital for several weeks where we slowly but surely addressed her many medical challenges–the diagnoses just kept getting longer. She was fed mere drops of formula at a time to avoid refeeding syndrome which would have been fatal due to being so extremely malnourished.
Three weeks before her fifteenth birthday, she weighed just twenty pounds.
And God was merciful. So very merciful.
I look back on our journey together over the last five years and Batterson’s words ring so very true. They remind me of what I almost missed out on because of that great thief–fear.
This sweet young lady who celebrates her twentieth birthday today is one of our greatest gifts in this life. She has been one of the sweetest, most amazing blessings the Lord could ever have given Anthony and me. Has it always been easy? Of course not! Taking risks has challenges. Risks stretch our faith. So does facing medical uncertainties and all of the challenges that come from raising a child confined to a crib for nearly fifteen years. Every hard thing we ever do for God will stretch us and grow our faith—that’s the place where we see His faithfulness shine so very brightly.
Taking risks means leaving every fear in the hands of a Father who knows what He’s doing.
Taking risks means less of me, and so much more of Him.
Taking risks means that I am fully dependent on the One who knows what He’s doing.
Taking risks allows God to do the impossible in and through a yielded heart.
Taking risks can change everything. It did for Hasya. And it did for me. I am no longer the person I was five years ago. I see life differently now. My faith in God is unshakable because I have seen His goodness through my precious daughter. The things that I held onto as being so important, well, they no longer matter to me. The riches of this life are found in those I love and in those I am blessed to call my friends, not in material things. I have learned to embrace the hard things and trust God with a deep faith that I never knew before God gave me this most precious daughter.
And I have learned something about God when He puts something on my heart. As scary as it may seem at the time, fixing my eyes on heaven and reminding myself of His faithfulness even when it feels terrifying unlocks a door to so much more than I ever could have anticipated. Even a shaky “yes” whispered with just the tiniest of tiny mustard seeds of faith will open that door.
Because one tiny little girl was worth laying down my fears for.
Yes, Hasya’s life was saved from certain death the day that I carried her out of that institution. And I am so ridiculously thankful for that.
But this daughter of mine, just having her in my life, has changed me from the inside out and given my life a richness I never would’ve known…simply because God put her in it.
Adoption really does change lives.
And sometimes, it changes us most of all.
Happy, happy twentieth birthday, beautiful Hasya. How thankful we are that you are ours!