My Orphan Heart
God had blessed Brent and me with 4 beautiful children the “old fashioned way” – Caleb and his three little sisters, Gracyn, Maddie and Ellie. We felt the call to adoption even before the last two came along, and as the estrogen level gradually increased in our household, we grew more and more excited about adopting a brother for Caleb. We were living in Lusaka, Zambia, as missionaries, and we had the opportunity to visit several orphanages in search of any possible matches for our family. Finally, we met the one who was to be our son. Thomas came into our home at the age of 6 (well, in theory anyway). He was as cute as he could be and full of energy and joy. He rarely spoke and when he did it was in a whisper. He was precious. He was a perfect companion for Caleb because they were both very athletic and active, but he also played well with Gracyn and really reached out with gentle affection to Maddie and Ellie. At first it seemed that our transition was too good to be true!
Quickly, however, reality began to set in. The only thing we knew for sure about Thomas’s past was that he had been dropped off at a police post by a “good Samaritan” about a year and a half before we met him. He had a family once, but then he was alone. We will probably never know why. The hardest thing for me as a mom is not knowing where all his bumps and scars came from. I was there when each of my other children breathed their first breath. I was there for every sleepless night. I was there for every boo-boo and bad day. I know what makes them the way they are because they came from me. I know why they are scared of certain things and how to make it all better when they cry. All I wanted from the first moment with Thomas was to wrap him up in my arms and make everything OK for him. Why couldn’t it be that easy?
“Expectations are premeditated disappointments,” I heard someone say. Of course, I didn’t expect adoption to be easy, and I knew in my mind that Thomas would be dealing with many emotions and baggage that I didn’t understand. We read the books and did the online classes. But knowing all that in my mind didn’t make it easy for me to handle the fact that he did just about everything completely backward from what we expected. We took Thomas into our family, our home, and gave him our name. We gave him his own bed that he didn’t need to share (though for quite a while he still preferred having a bed mate). We gave him his own clothes to wear and his very own toys to play with. We told him constantly how we loved him, how we would never leave him, and that he could always trust us to do what was best for him. I expected Thomas to soak up our love like a thirsty sponge. But instead he was stiff and guarded. I expected him to be grateful for every little thing he was given. Instead he broke things, lost them or left them lying around. He was insatiably selfish and even on Caleb’s birthday was throwing a full-on tantrum because he did not receive any gifts. I expected him to feel safe and secure with us. But instead he was afraid and I had no idea how to help him. I expected Thomas to treasure the fact that he was part of a family and that we cared for him and his well-being. But instead, he resisted everything we said. He was manipulative. He was protective. He didn’t trust us.
The only thing I have been able to do is cry out to God. And God has most definitely used this time to reveal “junk” in my life that I never knew was there. But even more than that, He has used Thomas to reveal Himself to me in a very real and intimate way. As I have seen my Father more clearly I have also seen how very much like Thomas I am.
God has adopted me as His own, given me a new name, clothed me in His righteousness, blessed me with every spiritual blessing, and made me a co-heir with Jesus, giving me an imperishable inheritance. Yet, I often refuse to receive what He has given me, treat His gifts poorly, or complain that I want something different or more. God longs to be intimate with me, to show me the fullness of His presence, abundant life, freedom and hope. But I resist Him, I guard myself, and I look for fulfillment in other places and from other people. He tells me not to be afraid and He promises He will never leave me. Yet, I can become crippled with fear. He says that I can trust Him wholly, completely, and He wants me to give my cares to Him, to rest in His wisdom, and to know that He will always do what is best for me. But instead, I trust in myself, my husband, my friends, and I want to plan out my own life on my terms. Apart from the work of the Holy Spirit, I would continue to live as an orphan. Yes, I would say I am His child, but I would continue to leave His banquet table to return to the streets and eat scraps.
There is only one hope for me, and for Thomas. God is a faultless Father. He knew us before the foundation of the earth. He was there when we breathed our first breath. He has been there for every sleepless night. He has seen every hurt and heard every cry. He knows why we are the way we are because we came from Him. He wove us together in our mothers’ wombs. He knows our thoughts and the things that we are afraid of, and He knows exactly how to help us. He does not get tired or overwhelmed or lose His temper. He cares so much that He will not leave us in our orphaned state. He lovingly forgives, restores, and sanctifies us with greater patience than I can even imagine.
I thank God so much that He has considered me worthy to be Thomas’s mom. I thank Him for loving me enough to show me even how much I really need Him. I thank Him for loving me perfectly and for being the perfect example of how to love my children. I thank Him for the progress that we have made, and that our hearts are melding together – slowly but surely. Thomas is, in so many ways, an incredible gift from our Father.
I am the very grateful wife of Brent and mother to 5 blessings! Our family has served on the mission field in Zambia since 2008, and we are currently embarking on a new ministry in a more rural part of that country (check out our ministry blog). I am passionate about music and though I don’t get to sing in public much anymore, I am always singing somewhere – the shower, the kitchen sink, the car – or dancing around the house embarrassing my kids! I’ve also become an avid runner and am training for my third half marathon! God has been so gracious to me and, in His mercy, He continues to teach me and lovingly guide me as I seek to be like Him and to nurture my family. I pray that as He teaches me, I can also be an encouragement to others who are on this journey with me!