On the last weekend of September, life as I was planning it was interrupted. The rush of the prior week was muted. I drove five hours north of my home in Santa Barbara. I stopped. I breathed. I raised my gaze as I looked up to the blue skies and majestic Redwoods.
I was rerouted from my initial plans for the weekend. I opened my heart to hear the testimonies of women ignited by the Word of God. This was not an easy trip to make, I’ll admit. I was reluctant to go.
I’m an adoption writer. As an adoptee and mama-by-adoption, it’s a subject I know well. I also write on topics of faith and forgiveness, gratitude and God.
I’m a Christian. I love mercy. I get up every, single day with the prayer that my life would be an example of justice and of fairness toward others.
My faith doesn’t make me perfect—far from it—and it doesn’t make me immune to mistakes, heartbreaks, or setback. My faith gives me hope and a confidence that through the ups and downs of this life, God is near.
And so, when I took a few precious moments today to sit quietly in prayer, I was deeply moved when my little girl (who I didn’t realize had come into the room) snuggled up on the couch and said these words:
I used to push and run and barely breathe. Life was an uphill climb to an unknown destination. Like a hamster on a wheel, I frantically peddled my feet forward, never really arriving anywhere.
I felt out of touch with myself, short of air, and numb to feel. It wasn’t elegant. I call this stage in my life my “time of roughness.”
I kept my life rough on the surface—jagged and sharp—in order to keep people away, to keep feelings from entering, to keep memories from coming too close.
It’s early morning, here in England, and much is quiet except for the sounds of sheep in the field. I’m in the English countryside, where I was born, and enjoying the soothing melody of home.
It’s been nearly three years since I’ve been back here. Just as it always has, my birth country greets me and meets me with memories: a past and present intertwined with gratitude and grief; my journey as an international adoptee.
I trudged to the front of the group, my palms clammy and heart racing. The gym was overcrowded with sweaty kids, a typical 90’s summer day club. The promise of good times and trying new activities had become disillusioned for me quite early on. My quiet, slightly pudgy 7-year-old self had won the attention of the camp director. And since attention was neither appreciated nor desired, dread—not laughter—filled my summer days.
All three of our children came into our family through adoption. One Sunday, when Rachel, my youngest of three kids was just a couple weeks old, we sang Oceans during worship. I’d never really attached to the song like so many other Christians that I know did. But that morning, the song fell on me fresh.
“Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders / Let me walk upon the waters / Wherever You would call me / Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander / And my faith will be made stronger / In the presence of my Savior.”
The little black ringlets of hair curling round her rosy cheeks and dark brown eyes captured my heart at first sight. It’s a moment I’ll never forget. As the tears came out of nowhere and my heart exploded, it was instantaneous. Somewhere in that place a Mama feels the deepest of emotions, I knew she was ours. God had shown me the little girl He’d hand-picked for us halfway across the world.
It was love. A love that seemed surreal — but one I knew was a gift. I just wouldn’t understand the magnitude of that gift for many years to come.
Our adoption story wasn’t one of the easy ones. I don’t know that anyone has an “easy” story, but ours was riddled with unheard of obstacles, detours, and heartache.
“We cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are.” ~Oprah Winfrey
We live on a planet plagued by crisis. War, hunger, disease, exploitation, racism, gun violence—these are just a few of the headlines presented, daily, on news outlets worldwide.
It’s seldom when we hear on our televisions, or read on our news tablets, of the crisis that I advocate on behalf of: the orphan crisis. This crisis has placed its grip on an estimated 17.8 million children around the globe: orphaned and vulnerable children in need of our care and attention. And, where there are orphaned and vulnerable children—there are also vulnerable and marginalized mothers.
These were my last few hours in Ethiopia. My daughter’s adoption had been finalized and we were on the way to the airport in Addis Ababa. As an international adoptee myself, I knew that I was not taking my daughter “home.” We were leaving her homeland and I had great respect for the power of that moment. I held a deep reverence for the loss that she was experiencing within her, even though she could not voice it or make sense of it, yet.
There are times when I find it challenging not to be hard on myself. Just last week, for instance, we took a family Spring Break trip. We traveled through Joshua Tree and Zion National Park.
In Zion, we set out on an afternoon canyoneering and rappelling excursion. Now, I have rappelled in my life—this wasn’t my first rodeo. In fact, there was a time when I rappelled deep into caves and down steep cliffs, like a pro. So, I felt very secure in my ability to scale the giant rocks of Zion. I also was pretty psyched about showing my kids my rappelling ability.