“Just pray for her, and God will restore her heart.”
I have a confession. When we adopted our daughter from Ukraine, we believed her cerebral palsy would be our biggest challenge. Sure, we knew she would have some emotional difficulties due to spending the first four years of her life in an orphanage, but we believed in a fairy tale. You know, where God wipes away the bad memories and a loving home is all she needed to heal from those deep emotional and psychological scars. I believed in a Christian cliché.
Christian clichés bother me. Life is messy. We all carry scars from our past, every single one of us. Whether it is a message from our childhood, a broken relationship, or someone who hurt us deeply. None of us get through life untouched in this fallen world.
Yes, God is in the business of restoring hearts, offering peace, and extending comfort. But in this life there is no delete button. A reminder of why we so desperately need God to do life with us. Sometimes we only get through because of His grace.
The details of my daughter’s past will never change, neither will the pain and loss surrounding them, but I do pray and hope that as she grows up, she will see that God was with her in the midst of the pain, and He is the one that led us to her.
So every week my daughter and I go to therapy to address not her obvious physical disability but the emotional disability created as a result of trauma, abandonment, rejection, pain, and the abuse she experienced as an orphan. A disability far more debilitating and impactful than her cerebral palsy ever will be.
And I am so thankful for how God uses her therapist — how she teaches my daughter more about how to control her emotions, to regulate her big feelings, and even to trust us, her parents.
Adoption is not a fairy tale. It is heartbreaking. It is messy. And it is absolutely worth it, because watching your child grow and make sense of their life is far greater than an imagined happily ever after.
Ellen Stumbo is a writer and speaker. She is the mother of three daughters: Ellie; Nichole, who has Down syndrome; and Nina, who was adopted and also has special needs. She is wife to Andy, a pastor. Visit her at ellenstumbo.com.