My six year old walked out of her room today in a dress that belonged to someone very special to me many years ago. It fit her perfectly and it brought a smile to my face as I remembered the sweet one who once wore it.
I wrote this blog several years ago for A Musing Maralee, and she gave me permission to repost it today as I remember our girl - Arissa.
She walked into my life when I was 21 years old. I was fresh out of college and I thought I knew it all.
I was wrong. I didn’t know very much at all, actually. She was quick to teach me that and multitudes more over the course of the three months I worked with her.
That was fifteen years ago. She was ten.
I’d like to know who she would have become, how she would have loved the world the way she loved me in those three brief months. I believe I will know one day, when I meet her again in eternity.
Until then, I like to remember who she was and who I became because of her.
She loved. She loved so hard. And it puzzled me because she had been so hurt by so many of those she loved. But that didn’t stop her from loving anyone or anything.
She used to have these rocks. She kept them by a post outside of the school because I wouldn’t let her bring them inside. Oh, why didn’t I let her bring those rocks inside?? That question plagues me to this day.
She loved them. They weren’t smooth, there was nothing fancy or colorful about them. They were rocks. They had been walked on and run over for years. But to her they were perfect. She checked on them every time we walked past the school.
It occurred to me one day… maybe she loved them so much because they were so much like her. Maybe she knew they needed to be loved because she knew how very much she needed to be loved.
This little one… she was rough around the edges, she had truly been walked on and run over for years. She was a ten year old in a six year old’s body due to years of neglect. Anger and fear ate at her soul every moment of every day.
…until one day it didn’t anymore.
God did a mighty act in this child. He turned her life around. By the time she left this world to go to His, she slept with the light off, she ran her own bath water, she ran and played with dogs. Those may seem like small victories, but those are things that caused her to shake, cry, fight and scream in fear when we first met. She no longer lashed out in anger, but her words were filled with praise for her Father, her words were filled with love for each of us who worked and lived with her.
She was ready.
..and God did a mighty act in me.
I always knew adoption would be in my future. When I was a child, it looked like a baby boy from Ethiopia and when I was in college it looked like a second baby boy from Rwanda.
When I met her, everything changed. I recognized this calling on my life to love an older, deeply traumatized child as if she were my own.
…and when I lost her, I did what I never let her do. I brought a rock inside. It’s one of her rocks. One of the ones I should have let her keep on her windowsill.
It sits on a shelf in our home, and it reminds me of her. It reminds me of how she loved what to anyone else seemed unloveable. It reminds me of my ignorance in those days when she checked on them. I didn’t get it.
I get it now. I have recognized a strong calling on my life and heart to love those the world sees as unloveable. The gravel in my own backyard, in group homes, institutions, juvenile detention. Not special in any way to anybody they’ve ever know, but special to their Maker. And if they are special to Him, they MUST be special to us. Our lives are not our own (1 Corinthians 6:19) and we are called to use them to love. Period. This has become more and more real to me over the last six years.
My husband and I moved to Louisiana eleven years ago and I began working at a state funded group home. The call God had placed on my heart four years earlier became reality when I was face to face with children who had nobody. NOBODY. We became foster certified one year later and began bringing these teenagers into our hearts and home. We believe that one day we will be called to do this again, and our hope is that one day this will lead to permanency and family for a child like her, who longs for love, who has so much love to share.
I attribute this change in the dynamics of my calling toward adoption to God. And I believe it is why He brought us both to the same place at the same time fifteen years ago.
How He has used the experience of knowing her, the blessing of loving her and the tragedy of losing her to mold me into the woman and mother I am today. Do not let a sadness go by in your life without recognizing it’s worth. Loving her for three quick months was worth every tear that has fallen over the last fifteen years since losing her. I am not the same and I never will be. Children have had family dinners for the first time in their lives, been hugged tightly, loved even when they messed up, celebrated Christmases outside the walls of an institution, enjoyed turkey and all the ‘fixins’ from our kitchen instead of the group home cafeteria, held hands and been prayed with, heard about Jesus, grace, forgiveness, love. . . because of the role she played in my life fifteen years ago. Her little footprints are hidden on the hearts of each one of those children, and each of their footprints have made a permanent mark on mine.
Friends, again, do not let a sadness go by in your life without recognizing its worth. Do not let a tear fall that doesn’t change who you are and how you love. Do not miss out on the opportunity to grow through your pain, to cling to your Savior, to become who He created you to be.
I love that the anniversary of her arrival into her Father’s house falls in November. Every year, toward the end of National Adoption Month, I’m deeply reminded of the role she played in my calling to adopt. I would urge you each day to consider what your role may be in the lives of orphans and foster children in your community and around the world.
“He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.'”