To imagine my newly married days with an older child that we’ve just adopted, who also has some special needs, seems mind boggling. I’ve met a woman who knows the grace of God for this very moment. Mamas, when you eke out that “this is too hard” cry, remember there are stories emerging all around us of a God whose strength is made perfect in this ache.
Christina‘s is one of them.
I met her because she helped foster Lily in our waiting period. Our daughters shared a home for a few months and share a God who breathes promises over them every day, despite what the odds might say. I have a deep admiration for Christina, as she is one choosing to see His word over her daughter as the final word. Today you can read her words and watch her story on video. Grab your tissues.
(For the month of May and a week into June, I will be pressing pause on my online writing and this space will become a series of testimonies of what He births in the midst of delay, perplexity and pain. Author friends from around the world, who love words on a page and Him even more, will share, here, how they have seen Him make the bitter, sweet.)
In 2010 I realized that I was just going through the motions.
I was a teacher at a public school. I also taught music part time and was in two different bands. My life was chaotic, stressful, and frustrating. I felt like I was living life with no goals, purpose, or motivation. I knew I wanted more. I wanted to live for something beyond my own dreams.
So I prayed that God would radically change my life. I prayed for Him to break my heart open. I prayed for clarity, direction, and purpose. All of these prayers were answered during my 8 month stay in Uganda. Not in ways I ever could have imagined. Not in “my timing.” But so full of goodness I couldn’t dream of saying no.
I remember this past year with gratitude and joy. Month by month, moment by moment. God swept me off my feet and left me breathless and trembling. I am humbled by our God who cares for each one of us and loves so deeply. He has given me so much more than I deserve. And so I reflect with a thankful heart.
After only a few short weeks of working with former street children, I felt burdened and overwhelmed by the need and poverty in the lives of the people all around me. The stories wrecked me. It was a harsh reality to accept that I couldn’t do anything about most of this suffering. My heart was breaking specifically for the children who didn’t have people to care for them and love them.
I noticed a trend of God putting certain children on my heart and showing me my role in each of these kids’ lives. Sometimes it was doing something as small as noticing a child and remembering to pray for them. Sometimes it was just sitting there with them in the dirt and holding them while they cry. Sometimes it was going back to find them on the dark streets of Kampala, even if it meant getting mobbed by crowd of hungry street children, to make sure that little one with the sad eyes had something to eat for dinner. Sometimes it was helping orphans deal with being HIV positive through art therapy and music. Sometimes it was living with former street children and being a role model of positive life skills.
And sometimes it looks very different than I ever could have imagined …God asked me to stop everything and love one.
In early February, God lead me to a beautiful little girl who had been abandoned and was living on the streets of Kampala. She was suffering from severe malnutrition, malaria and multiple physical and cognitive disabilities. She spent her days begging for food and money. Her eyes were haunting and sad, and she couldn’t speak. She rocked back and forth, humming softly to shut out all the pain.
People said she was cursed.
I knew right away that there was something special about her and I desperately wanted to help her. Within 2 weeks of meeting her, I knew God was calling me to be her mom. At first I didn’t think adoption was a practical option for me. I resisted God’s call because it didn’t fit in with the plans I had for my life. But love is a powerful thing. I knew deep down that I couldn’t walk away from this little beauty. I was heartbroken and in love at the same time.
The next months were hard…no running water, minimal electricity and this tiny child from a really hard place who needed love more than she needed food. But we learned together. We became family. I named her Mikisa Mae, which means welcome blessings.
As a single girl embarking on an adoption journey of a child with special needs, I accepted that having Mikisa probably would mean giving up on the idea of marriage. I didn’t think I could find someone who would want both of us. I chose to adopt Mikisa anyway, even though I had always dreamed of marrying someone before having children. I imagined that I would be a single mom for years, possibly forever, and that it would be hard. But I also had a peace about it and knew that God would get me through it.
Doctors told me Mikisa would never walk or talk. The Ugandan medical professionals used the label “retarded” and told me I was crazy to be adopting her. But our love for each other grew steadily and as her personality developed it became more and more clear why God had chosen her to be my daughter. Her adoption story is built on immense loss and pain, but also full of powerful redemption.
In May, I had to come back to the states for three weeks to complete my home study and other immigration-related paperwork. It broke my heart to leave Mikisa when she was just beginning to bond with me, but God used that time of separation to bring even more beauty and love into my life. While I was back in Charlotte, one of my good friends told me he wanted to pursue a relationship with me. I was ecstatic! Through the tough summer of attachment issues, uncertainty and waiting, our long-distance relationship provided sustenance and encouragement and oh so much joy.
After three months of uncertainty, waiting, and then answered prayers with a favorable ruling, Mikisa and I arrived back in the United States last August. Then, just a week after our arrival, Troy asked me to marry him. And of course I said yes! We were married October 15th, 2011.
I never dreamed I would find someone who is so perfect for me. Troy is the most amazing husband and dad. I am so incredibly blessed to have a companion to walk through life with, to shoulder these burdens with me and to share the deep joy. To be known and cherished.
Since coming home, our journey has been a winding road. We have seen numerous specialists and received more diagnoses than I initially anticipated. We go to therapy three times a week and work hard every day on her goals. We have been told that Mikisa has a regressive disorder, and doctors have shaken their heads and marveled at how well she is doing despite her bleak prognosis. She has made steady and consistent progress. She is able to walk with minimal assistance, she says over 200 words, and she understands much of what is going on around her.
We attribute all of these victories to our miracle-worker God. He is so faithful.
He continues to move in powerful ways and He is allowing us to be part of an incredible story of His love. Our lives have been transformed because of it. So many new beginnings…answered prayers. God has shown me that by letting everything go and following Him, life becomes so much better. He has plans beyond our wildest expectations. Life is short and it should be full.
I’m amazed at how God makes beautiful things out of our messy, broken lives. He makes it all work when we can’t. He hears our cries and turns them into a beautiful melody.
About Christina Felten: i am a dreamer. i dream of open skies and blazing fires. i dream of colors and melodies and freedom. i dream of peace and happiness and eternal summer days. i dream of a world where every child has a home. i am an advocate for orphans and especially pray for children with special needs who need families. i love Jesus, adoption, music, art, and traveling. i love my husband and my daughter, and am trying to be the best wife and mother possible. some days are more successful than others. more often than not, i feel like a failure, but i am trying to let go of my perfectionism and see beauty in the brokenness.