It was December, 2008. Three days before Christmas.
Hannah and I excitedly drove 500 miles to meet her. And then we met her. And then we wanted to leave. Immediately.
But that hard-to-handle little girl we met five years ago was still Ashley. It was difficult to like her. It was hard to hug her. We struggled to communicate. But she was still Ashley.
You know Ashley.
She's kind and considerate, friendly and sacrificial, funny and a good sport.
I want to be more like her.
Now. Not then.
Back then she was wasn't those things. She was demanding. She was selfish. She was downright mean.
Because she was hurting.
What happened when she was given the safety and security that she had never experienced? She healed.
Does that mean she doesn't have scars?
No. It means that the large open wounds that once caused her a tremendous amount of pain every single day are now gone. If you look closely you may be able to catch a glimpse of where they once were, but they are no longer a part of her daily life. They are a part of her past.
A past she remembers. Healing isn't about forgetting, it's about moving forward.
Ashley isn't defined by what happened back then. She's defined by the One who created her. She's defined by His love, His plan and who she is in Him.
Because He has created her to do great things.
The memory of that day in December five years ago when I first laid eyes on my middle child brings a smile to my face. I had no idea what God had in store for us.
The path wasn't easy, but it was worth it.
Ten-year-old Ashley was very different from the fifteen-year-old Ashley we have today, but when I think back on that first meeting I can see it clearly now. That little fireball was still Ashley.
I'm so thankful we held on tight to her even when we thought we wanted to let go. Because even when she didn't look like it, she was still Ashley. Our Ashley. The girl that sits on my left at the table every day. The girl who asks me seven thousand questions. The girl who always wears a smile. The girl who gives everyone the benefit of the doubt.
She used to be different, but she was still Ashley.