(At the end of this post is an update, written five years later. It’s beautiful. I believe it will make you smile)
Once upon a time, I said it had been a two-year battle. Then I discovered more and declared that it had been a four-year battle. I revised this one more time down the road and said that it had been a six-year battle. Now it’s been twelve years, and I no longer deceive myself into thinking it’s a battle we’ve won yet. I never dreamed that a heart-winning process could be so long. I know differently now.
Sometimes life is just harder than words can describe, and that’s especially true when it involves adopted children who have been broken almost beyond repair before they ever even get into our arms.
It’s sometimes hard to find the right balance when it comes to sharing with a watching world.
We desire the protection of our children’s privacy as they work through the tough, not-so-attractive stuff, and we don’t want the beauty of adoption lost in our sharing of the uglier side of parenting these miracles.
On the other hand, we also don’t want to paint a picture full of misconceptions that the life our family leads is one that runs only along sunny paths strewn with roses.
We want, to the best of our ability, to accurately represent what God is doing in our lives — through our family. And sometimes that means sharing some of the yucky stuff.
Today we celebrate our Carlin’s 14th birthday. Her story has been one of the toughest of our adoption journey. It’s been wrought with deception and pain and betrayal. It’s left us with holes in our tired hearts that will scar over, but never go away.
But it has also had many beautiful moments that have encouraged us to press on.
Carlin Jessica means, “little fighter/champion beheld by God,” and we are certain that God has never taken His eyes off of our girl.
But oh, there have been times — so many times — when she has fought His love and our love with all the strength her shredded little heart could muster.
This can happen when little ones are betrayed too many times. Something breaks, making it pretty much impossible for them to ever trust anyone, love anyone, accept love from anyone again.
She’s not the only Rosenow who has stepped — or is still stepping — to this very intricate dance. Wanting our love and true acceptance so badly; coming close to surrendering; being jerked back by something inside that just won’t let go; pushing with all her might against all who love her; suddenly recognizing the aching desire for this love and choosing to back up and try again. Sometimes things look so “okay” on the outside — often for very long periods — and then it all crumbles or it becomes clear that it was mostly all a facade.
The healing is happening. We are sure that, in spite of the steps backward, this dance also includes steps forward — enough of them that there is actual forward motion. But it is indescribably slow.
Sometimes I fear that we’ll run out of steam before we ever reach the point of actual victory. Then I remember that God has promised. She is His. We are His. He will never leave us to fight this alone. He is the Master — THE Victor — when it comes to heart battles. He can reach in deeper . . . . deeper . . . way past the point where our human love and methods can reach.
The real, real Carlin is in there. Still locked away much of the time, but over the years, we’ve seen more and more glimpses of her, and we know that there is a work going on inside the deepest part of her that we believe will eventually result in a beautifully finished masterpiece of God.
We know that, no matter how many times we want to give up, no matter how many times we feel that it’s hopeless, we must press on. This child is our daughter. Too many people quit on her before she got to us. We have promised that we will never, ever quit on her. We promise her that daily, knowing that we can trust God to carry us through that promise.
And it’s not just about her.
The truth is ever present in our minds and evident in our walks with our Heavenly Father that this unbelievably hard task of reaching a child’s true heart is part of His refining of our own hearts.
There’s nothing like dealing with someone else’s uglies to make you so very aware of your own uglies and need for redemption and healing. So many times, as we’ve tried to process the pain caused by our daughter’s rejections of us and betrayals of our love, I’ve been startled to bump right up against myself in her actions. I’ve said to myself, “Wow. That’s exactly how I act toward God!”
I’ve been faced with the disappointing reality that there are so many pieces of my heart that I’m withholding from Him; that I also dance backward and forward as I give Him some of those pieces, and then snatch them back. She has been the mirror (one of the mirrors) God has chosen to use, to help me better see myself.
He has planned each child for this family, brought them home at just the right time, and is busy every minute of every day rubbing us together, mixing our pain and our joy and our past hurts and our future hopes all together into something that will one day be beautiful.
If we will surrender to this polishing, refining process, we will all come out as better people on the other side. Our bodies and our hearts will be battered beyond recognition. I’m sure of this because I witness it every day. But the real us — the us inside these imperfect earthly bodies — will be slowly, slowly shaped into the likeness of our Savior. If we will surrender.
Constantly I pray for my children’s surrender of their hearts, their wills, their love to us as their parents, and of their entire beings to God as their true Father.
I pray that they will choose this surrender so that they will be free. Free to feel our love for them in their deepest beings. Free to trust us with their very lives and their heart secrets. Free to soar well beyond the limits that their previous lives set for them, where they will discover all that God created them to be.
I pray for that with all my heart. And every day, we commit anew to staying this course by our children’s sides.
Today, we will celebrate Carlin’s 14th birthday and her presence in our home. Today, we will thank God again for reaching into Carlin’s dark world, snatching her out, and bringing her to us.
We will continue looking forward, hungrily grasping every hint of light and hope that we see, and we will continue allowing God to chip away at our own brokenness as we follow His leading and command to passionately love and parent Carlin and all of our children through to adulthood.
I will never give up hope that she will someday emerge whole, intact, and well-prepared to serve as His champion. And He will never take His eyes off of her.
Update — This is a copy of the “speech” I wrote for Carlin’s high school graduation in 2019, five years after this blog post. The long-awaited healing happened! I hope this encourages some struggling parent’s heart:
Your story was very much one of those dramatic, up and down, hold-your-breath rides that culminated in the unbelievable realization that you were finally our daughter!
The years that followed your homecoming were so hard, though. You didn’t fall in love with me quickly. Your shattered heart just couldn’t let you become that vulnerable again.
I won’t dwell on those hard years, although I won’t ever act like they didn’t happen either. They did. And they were hard. But they were also precious and part of your story and dear to me in ways that I couldn’t see while we were still in those trenches together. And I’ll always believe that they were critical to the deep, complete healing that we were finally privileged to witness in all areas of your heart and your character. And that they will be key pieces to whatever work God has ahead for you.
I can now see that the pain and challenges of those years somehow caused my love for you to grow even deeper in so many ways.
There is a quote by Charles Spurgeon that I held onto tightly during the long, hard journey to bring you home, but eventually, I came to see that it was even more poignant when applied to the even longer and harder journey to help your heart be set free after you came home.
“God knows that delay will quicken and increase desire, and that if He keeps thee waiting, thou wilt prize the mercy all the more for its long tarrying.”
~ Charles Spurgeon
That is so true. You are precious to me. I cherish you as a daughter, and will never be able to find words to express just how honored and blessed I am to be your mother. And somehow, the long delay, and the battle I was forced to fight on your behalf, sweetened that gift, once it finally happened, in indescribable ways.
Your peaceful demeanor and calm beauty amaze me. Your are gifted in ways that you aren’t even aware of, and I marvel at your servant’s heart, the joy that lights your eyes when you don’t even know anyone is looking at you, and the beautiful and powerful things that you so quietly infuse into this family on a daily basis. Your siblings are so very blessed to have you as a sister, and I’m so thankful that they have you as such a shining example.