We didn’t meet in a labor & delivery room like most moms and daughters do. Instead, we met in a back room of a foster care agency. Caring for children that weren’t from my womb wasn’t new to me. My husband and I had previously adopted two daughters from other parts of the world. But this was a whole different kind of new. It was the first time I had ever held in my arms a child with profound disabilities. By God’s grace she slept through our whole first meeting. While asleep her body was calm and resting. Later I would learn that would be the only time she was restful.
Ten days later, we met that same case worker on the side of the highway in a parking lot and our lives were forever changed. I will never forget trying to hold her stiff, arched 2 1/2 year old tiny body in the front seat of our vehicle while my husband loaded all her medications and belongings into the back. Her body would flop this way and that way, and I had no idea what I was doing. It was that day she became my teacher. Looking back over the last six years, I can hardly fathom all the lessons she’s brought to me. Without a spoken word, she’s taught me more about Jesus than any sermon I’ve ever listened to.
We were to be her “in between place.” We would advocate and take the very best care of her. Truth is, we were full of our own plans for our lives and I would have to get over so much selfishness to see God’s plan. As we reached out to everyone we knew to see who might provide this little girl with a forever family, we were heartbroken to be faced with “no” over and over again. It made me angry. How could people say they valued life if they weren’t willing to see that hers was sacred too? But when I was brutally honest with myself, I was no different than they were. And when I looked over the life of Jesus, it was plain to see that this is the exact thing He spent His life doing—caring for those in need.
As I spent much time on bended knee, tending to this little girl with her endless needs, I experienced deeper worship than I’d ever known. I often found myself at the end of my own strength and skills, and I learned to depend much greater on God. I wasn’t “good enough” for this role where He had placed me. And that was okay! What He wanted from me was surrender. To trade in my plans for His would mean I would lose control of my life. I’m a planner through and through, and this terrified me. The unknowns of the future plagued me with fear. Watching this little girl work so hard to even raise her head up humbled me. Things I had always taken for granted, she struggled so much to do. And when she would flash me her signature crooked little grin and burst with joy when I spoke her name, I knew everything was going to be okay.
Over time, she has shown me what living really means. She has taught me how to love in ways I previously never knew. And while she is completely dependent on me to care for her needs, I’ve learned that’s exactly what God wants from me: to depend fully and completely on Him. Some see a long list of diagnoses that seem to grow by the year, but what we now see is daughter, sister, friend and treasure. Our nest will probably never be empty, but it’s full of more joy and purpose than we could have ever built ourselves.
Lord, thank you for showing me that your plans are so much greater than my own. You invested your life in those who needed you. I’m so grateful for the strength you provide along this journey and for the indescribable joy you brought to us in the form of a little girl who is now our treasured daughter.
Shelly Roberts and her husband have eight children: three biological and five adopted. The youngest three adopted children have significant disabilities. Follow Shelly on Facebook, or on her website Reaching Hearts with Hope.