Home and Safe and Loved


It’s hard to find words to describe the moment. When this person you’ve never met gets dropped in your lap. She’s not a trusting newborn who fits into the crook of your arm with ease, like she’s been taking up residence inside your body for most of a year. It’s different.

She’s a stranger. She’s lived a life. When she should have been fed, she was not. When she should have been held, she was suffering alone. When she should have been rocked and carried and touched, she was left in a crib for so long that her head is, and always will be, misshapen.

When she gets handed over, she doesn’t look into your eyes and know that you are about to shelter her and love her and provide for her. She looks past your eyes. She leans away. She hits you in the face.

She’s stiff. She’s sad. She’s scared.

It’s a moment I thought we trained for like marathon runners. We read the required books. We watched the required videos. We filled out the required forms. We did our stretches. None of this was a surprise in my head. But, it was a shock to my heart.

Pride is such a sneaky thing.

I glided through the adoption process high on my faith. God proved Himself trustworthy every day - through the amazing generosity of friends and strangers who helped provide what we needed to make this happen, through the almost-eerie opening of doors that led us to this specific little girl, through intimate moments with the Lord, speaking to my soul through His Word, as if He were right in the room with me.

I trusted Him. I know I did. But, somewhere in there, I started trusting me.

During our training, we learned about how difficult it would be in China. We learned about attachment and how hard it would be for the child, and how hard it could be, even for us. But, I would be fine. I knew I’d be fine. I mean, look at what God had done! I wouldn’t struggle. I’ve lost count of how many people I told, before getting on that plane, “Even if the details of this adoption end up a worst-case-scenario, I’m not afraid. God has been so faithful, how can I not trust whatever He has for us in this?”

And I meant it. I wasn’t afraid. I knew things could be tough and I knew God could be trusted. I was as prepared as I thought I could be.

But, then I got to China.

And I was handed this girl.

This starving, severely developmentally delayed, fearful, flailing, tiny deaf girl. I felt so much compassion for her, but I didn’t feel ready.

And suddenly, I didn’t feel okay.

I’d done the training, but truthfully, I hadn’t really believed that the training applied to me. I’d subtly listened to the lie that I’m strong enough. I’m better. More equipped for this than the “weaker” parents from the training who struggled.

My pride and judgement from the past few months was instantly exposed to me, but repentance wasn’t my first idea. Rather, my first ideas were isolation (ignoring texts from my friends) and despair.

We looked at Joy and saw what we thought might be a worst-case-scenario. That first week, she was the size of a one-year-old. She flailed constantly and couldn’t seem to learn anything. And Brandon and I were convinced, for days, that we’d just adopted a child who would never grow, never learn, never communicate…

God gave us this girl. We knew that to be true. And we loved her already. But, I spent those first days grieving. Grieving the simpler days of soccer practice and laughing in my home with my healthy, happy girls. Grieving the hopes I had of signing the Gospel to Joy, so she could understand and know grace and freedom. Grieving the desire to see her grow up and thrive.

And I was angry at myself for grieving. And angry at myself for being weak. Angry at myself for sinning. Angry.

How could I be so stupid? How could I be so proud? How did I think I was doing this with the Lord all those months, and look at me now? Look at how sad I am! Look at how stiff she is when I try to rock her. If I’d really been walking with God, I wouldn’t feel so much fear and sadness right now! I’d be celebrating! Do I know my own heart?? Does the Lord know my heart? Is He going to take care of me?

Thank God for Brandon Hiltibidal who had the brilliant idea that maybe I needed to repent of pride. When he said that, sitting on the edge of the bed in China, it took me a minute to remember that repentance was a thing. It took me a minute to remember that the Holy Spirit intercedes for me.

So, I buried my leaky mascara-smeared eyes into the white hotel comforter (sorry, room cleaner) and I told God I was so sorry and so prideful and so weak and so in need of Him. And under that blanket there really was a God who really heard my heart and really forgave me and really decided to shower me with grace, instant grace in that moment, in that hotel room, thousands of miles from home.

Later that day, Joy learned how to sign “food.” Since that moment, she has learned much more, she has grown much more, she has smiled much more , and our hopes for her future have resurrected. We have a calendar full of doctor’s appointments this month and there are still a lot of question marks. But, here’s what I can tell you. Somewhere in the second week of the trip, I remembered that the Lord adopted a broken, needy, stiff, scared little girl named Scarlet, who didn’t know how to trust or love or be loved. God loves me and has endless grace for me, and as I started to remember that, I started to feel less fear and more joy. Less like an emotional mess and more like a mommy.

Every day so far, there have been moments when this new calling - doing it fully and doing it well - have been hard. And I feel overly weak. Then, I open my mailbox to find cards from friends with perfect, anointed words of comfort and grace. Handwritten scripture. Bouquets of flowers. My people leave meals on my doorstep because I can’t invite them in. And their love reminds me to renounce the lies. The lies that my not-enoughness is what matters.

And so, I’m pushing back on the half-truth that I should despair because I’m not enough. And I’m replacing that half truth with full truth.

Full Truth: I am not enough. I am WAY too weak. BUT...God’s power is made perfect in weakness.

I’m not sure I’ve ever read anything more beautiful:

"But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me." 2 Corinthians 12:9

Grace is ours. God is real. Joy is home and safe and loved. And so are we.