Twenty four years ago today, my little 6-year-old world came crashing down on what should have just been a normal Friday of first grade and playing with my friends.
Our neighbor across the street was also one of my best friends. His mom would pick me up and let me play at their house on Friday afternoons instead of going to after-care since both of my parents worked.
I remember playing Cops and Robbers in their playroom with Tyler when his mom came in and told me I needed to go home. I got my stuff and ran across the street and our huge front yard and swung the door open.
My little heart wasn’t prepared for what happened next. I was greeted with complete somberness and sadness. My mom was sitting on the couch surrounded by ladies who were comforting and consoling her.
“What’s wrong, Mom?”
In the next few moments, my perfect little world shattered. Our family of five, including my dad who had just adopted me the year before and my two stepsisters, turned into just my mom and I. Over the next few minutes, I would discover many of my things were gone, including the two new puppies we had just got. It was all replaced with a letter that said some of the most defining words of my childhood.
“I only married your mom and adopted you for what I stood to gain by doing so. I never really loved you.”
And just like that, I was abandoned twice before I was 7 years old.
The next few months were filled with me trying to justify it. I begged the only “Dad” I had ever known to still want me. I asked for photo albums and to stay in touch with my sisters. He didn’t want custody of me. He didn’t fight for me. In fact, he fought to not pay child support.
What I would learn 15 years later is that I was a big part of why he left. He couldn’t deal with the medical issues and the difficulties of raising a “special needs” kid. In his words, my existence is just a constant reminder of the mistake he made by signing the adoption decree.
Why am I telling you this today?
Because the pain is still very real.
Even though I’ve come a long way. Even though God redeemed my pain with a real Dad who I got seven of the most amazing months with. Even though I am better for not splitting my childhood between two worlds. Even though I love every single second of the life I live today.
As a kid, all I wanted was to be a daddy’s girl. To be rejected at the deepest level by every guy who walked into my home was devastating. I worked hard to hide it for decades though. I lived with a heart of steel by day and cried myself to sleep every night, begging God to fix whatever was wrong with me.
I lived with the emotional agreement with that lie for twenty years. I lived in complete survival mode for most of my life.
It wasn’t until a mentor I deeply trusted looked me in the eyes a few years ago and said “I don’t buy it. You’re not okay. There’s pain and you have got to deal with it.”
Over the last few years, I’ve come to know and understand my place in my Heavenly Father’s house. I’ve learned what authentic community is. I’ve built confidence and learned that what people do and say to me is about the condition of their hearts but my response is about the condition of mine. I’ve learned that my worth is not a feeling, it’s a fact. I’ve learned that I’m valuable to God, the world around me and to myself – regardless of who I am or what I do. I’ve learned about redemption and freedom.
I’ve learned that the guy who walked out of my house 24 years ago and left me with fragments of a world to make sense of isn’t an evil guy. He’s not the enemy. In fact, in the last few years, I’ve learned to pray for him and his family every single day.
In fact, I pray for all the “dads” who had the opportunity to be my hero and ended up being my villain as a kid.
The biological father that I don’t even know.
The adoptive father who lied to my face and rejected me at the deepest level.
The stepfather who made my teenage years a living hell with crack, alcohol, rage and abuse.
I pray for their hearts and for them to know they are forgiven. I pray they learn to live in the confidence of who they are as sons of God. I pray they would know that while they hurt me, they did not break me. In fact, their decisions made me stronger. I pray for their families to never feel the pain I felt. I pray I was the only one they ever treated like that. I pray for God to arrest their hearts and for them to be the very people who step into some lost kid’s world to help put the pieces back together.
I’ve learned that freedom comes from feeling my feelings, telling the truth about them and trusting God with the healing process.
March 7 is always a mile marker for me. It’s the day I can stop and evaluate how much stronger I am than I was the year before.
Rest assured – this kid is on fire, and beauty always rises from the ashes! The story of redemption lives on….