Here's what I said.
I have three beautiful girls . None by birth, all were gifts of adoption. I struggled with what to speak about this afternoon. After all, I am passionate about adoption, even more so about older child adoption. I pray that what I have to share is meaningful and noteworthy, that it doesn’t just touch your heart for a moment, but leaves you with a lasting impression, one that makes you just as passionate about these kids as I am.
Today I brought with me my oldest daughter, Hannah. She turned sixteen last month. Some days I look at her and can’t believe how quickly she went from nine to now. Today she is gracious and kind, considerate, compassionate and incredibly generous. I believe with all my heart that today she is the young lady that God created her to be. But I also believe something else. I believe she has always been this person, I just think it was hidden under a lot of hurt.
When Hannah came my house became very loud. She was a screamer, a tantrum thrower, a hard-to-handle kid. It was not what I thought it was going to be. And to be honest, as soon as I realized that, I wanted out, actually I wanted her out. But thankfully, that is not my personality. I am the type of person that will dig in my heels. I would rather be miserable than to fail at something I know God had called me to do. So I resigned myself to that misery. She was in third grade. I figured I had ten years and then I could get my life back. I settled into that misery with a long term goal in sight: her high school graduation.
It’s hard to imagine, looking at her now, but that girl was a firecracker. She would look for ways to irritate and annoy. Not just me, but anyone who came in contact with her. She was the kid you warned your children about and I was stuck with her. She went through several teachers and a few schools that first year. She was wearing out anyone who was forced to spend time with her. She was a mess and I was becoming a mess right along with her.
I don’t know if you’ve ever done anything that showed your true colors, but when Hannah moved in my true colors came out. They were not pretty. I was becoming unrecognizable. Where was the person I always thought I was? Where was my compassion? My patience? My gentle voice? Gone. Long gone. I was a teacher, for heaven’s sake. I’ve dealt with difficult kids. What happened to all my training and experience? Let’s just say the difference between handling this type of child during school hours for one school year is a world away from moving one into your home. This was all Hannah, all the time and those ten years I was counting on were starting to feel like an eternity.
I wish I had the time to explain how we went from there to here, but that’s a long story filled with a lot of hard work and learning, but mostly filled with God’s grace, forgiveness and great love. He has truly changed our hearts through this process, Hannah’s yes, but mostly mine. Hannah did not know who God had created her to be during the traumatic years of her past. She knows now and daily she strives to glorify Him with her life and her story. I’m no longer the person I thought I was either. We have both been changed by our journey. Both for the better. No longer am I looking forward to that high school graduation, rather now I am treasuring the days and moments she has left with me in our home, by my side before God takes her on her own journey with a family all her own.
Did the difficult years end? Yes. So much so that two years after Hannah’s adoption, Ashley’s adoption was final. And just last October, Amy’s was. These three girls that I have the privilege of calling mine came from different parents, different cities, different schools, but now make up one family. They were all firecrackers in the beginning. But the second and third time around I was better equipped to handle the craziness. Would it have been easier to stop? To hang a “no vacancy” sign on our door and concentrate on the two of us as we were just beginning to enjoy the fruits of our labor? Yes, much easier, but not nearly as rewarding. Adding a new one always throws us back into “difficult.” I don’t think there’s anyway around it. All the hard work starts over. It’s like adding a new baby to the mix, only one that talks inappropriately and throws things. It’s a supervision nightmare. It’s going back to the beginning. Sleepless nights, teacher phone calls, broken stuff.
So, why do I do it? What keeps me coming back? Sixteen-year-old Hannah, fourteen-year-old Ashley and eleven-year-old Amy. Amazing young ladies that live in my house. They’ve always been these amazing people, they just didn’t know it. Now they do. Will I do it again? Probably. I told Jesus I would take whoever he brought to the door. Each time it was someone I had not expected, maybe even someone I would not have picked. I’m so thankful I never tried to choose. God did a much better job than I ever could and has given me the most extraordinary girls in the world.
Difficult? Yes. Tiring? Yes. Worth it? Yes, a million times yes! Often people tell me how much I’ve done for these girls, but I want it to be known that they have done far more for me than I will ever be able to do for them. The past seven years of this journey has changed each of them, but it’s changed me the most. I’m so thankful for the valleys of adoption, because they have led us to some amazing mountaintop views.