What Love Can Do

It was April 2002. A mother of three boys was working as the Mother’s Day Out director at her local church. At the end of the day, she found herself with one child who hadn’t been picked up: a three-month-old baby girl. She had been abandoned by her biological father, a disheveled man whom the woman had met for the first time that morning. She lovingly gathered up the abandoned child and took her home, holding the baby in her lap as she drove. Eventually, the baby was officially placed with the woman’s family through Child Protective Services (CPS). 

The possibility of reunification with the birth family loomed, but after more than a year, the woman, her husband, and their sons began to let their guard down. They joyfully began to embrace the possibility that this little baby would become a permanent part of their family. She spent her first birthday, first Christmas, and a beach vacation with them. In fact, it was the week the family came back from the beach that they received the notice from the court. A traveling circuit judge was reviewing the baby’s case. She was already 17 months old, but despite spending all the time with her foster family, the judge ordered the child be placed in the home of a biological aunt and uncle, both of whom had a history of child abuse. The baby then became part of a vicious cycle, experiencing neglect and abuse at the hands of her uncle for the next four years.

Their house was across the street from the church where the woman first encountered the baby girl, and she routinely drove by to check on her as best she could, ensuring they had eyes and ears everywhere. As a toddler, the growing baby was found multiple times in the street. Once she was found on a tricycle, wearing nothing but a diaper and heading towards the highway. The dilapidated house where she lived was regularly without electricity. Eventually, the little girl attended pre-kindergarten, where the woman now worked. The neglect was obvious. Every year on her birthday, the woman and her husband visited the child they had taken in. But on her fourth birthday, the aunt & uncle refused to let them see her. In hindsight, that was probably at the height of her abuse. It would be another year before CPS would act, finally removing her from the hands of her abusers.

In August 2007, the child, now five-years-old, was reunited with the family who had provided her with a loving and secure home years before. Her new forever home was only half a mile away from her place of abuse geographically, but in terms of care, it was light years away. The family finally knew the little girl would be their forever girl, and that God was continuing to write the most beautiful love story: it was a story of brokenness and hurt, beauty and healing. But most of all, it was a story of love. It is a story only a loving, good Heavenly Father could weave.

I am April Graves, and this is the story of how I met my daughter. It is the story of how our family was made complete by the miracle of adoption. I am always thankful for the gift of adoption but in the month of November, National Adoption Month, I try to make a conscious effort to reflect on the blessing that is Allie Grace Graves and how God, in His infinite mercy and wisdom, made her mine. 

Since August 14, 2007, when Allie arrived back in our lives, our days have been filled with intentionally seeking justice, healing and hope for our girl. It has also been filled with love, singing, restoration, dancing, praising, and LIVING. Adoption and Allie have changed the way I see the world. Sometimes it is really messy and sometimes it is so, so hard, but it is ALWAYS worth it. I read a quote recently that said, “Adoption is a beautiful picture of redemption. It is the Gospel in my living room.”

There will never be a day that I am not grateful for this beautiful love. But the further we get into this journey, the more I realize how deep the complexity of adoption actually runs. Because of brokenness and sin, our paths intertwined, yet I hold an enormous amount of gratitude for the fact that they did. In the words of my friend, Lindsey Hassell, “I am so confident that God designed our family perfectly and gave us our story to steward for His glory.” It’s ok to understand that Allie is my daughter because we live in a fallen and sinful world. In a perfect world, she should not be mine at all. That tension is not threatening. If anything, it gives me a deeper gratitude for the way He tightly wove our hearts together when we became a family.

Adoptive parents are not rescuers. We are not heroes. We are simply people who believe Jesus meant what He said when He told His followers to defend the fatherless.

So here I am… a mom of four amazing adult children: my three sons and Allie Grace, my almost 21-year-old daughter. I’m so thankful to call her my daughter and now my friend. A lot of living and healing took place in the middle of this story and maybe someday Allie and I will write a book. For now, please know that every adoption story is different and there are so many shades of nuance, but I know for a fact that part of stewarding the story God gave us is telling it. Allie and I will always do that, and I am so thankful to be a tiny part of this miracle!

Please ask me how to get involved in the foster/adopt community in our area. You WILL NOT REGRET IT.


 

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