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:: You Are Not Alone [Learning to Belong] (Christina’s Story)

Those of you who have been following this blog for a few years know that this story is one of my favorites. I had the awesome privilege of going with Christina the day she picked her sweet daughter up from the street corner she had called home for years. They lived with us in those early weeks of becoming mother and daughter and I have such respect and love for both of them after watching that journey. I talked to Christina on the phone the other day and was yet again amazed by her attitude towards the hard parts of their ongoing story. It’s my pleasure to share her with you today. Be sure to follow along with their story on Christina’s blog, as well…they have a special little addition coming this month!

 

 

i used to dread weekends.  it was like my world collapsed when i didn’t have something going on that would distract me from myself.  i packed my schedule to the max…always working more than one job and playing in more than one band.  my life was chaotic and stressful.  and lonely.

my parents and 6 of my 7 siblings live in a community similar to the amish.  i grew up in that utopia, and it was my the only life i knew.  but deep down, i eventually came to the realization that it wasn’t where i would stay.  i left the community when i was 20, and have never felt quite so alone in my entire life.  completely unprepared for this abrupt transition, it was like i had been thrown into a strange, new world that i had no context for.  it was scary and overwhelming.  i had some extremely difficult years of wandering and feeling lost.  holidays were especially tough as they reminded me of the gaping hole of not having a family that welcomed me home.  it’s been 11 years since i celebrated christmas with my family.  i have many neices and nephews i’ve never met, and i haven’t seen some of my siblings in over 6 years.

every girls’ dream is to get married and have children.  for me, this was a desire that almost consumed me throughout my 20’s.  i had very low self-esteem and thought that no one would understand me because of my unique background.  this insecurity caused me to put up walls around myself that isolated me from friends who were trying to connect.  i was good at pushing people away.

i never wanted to live in one place for very long.  i am a traveler, and people used to call me gypsy because of how frequently i moved.  i have lived in many different countries and always kept myself conveniently unattached.  that was easiest for me.  there was less chance of getting hurt or rejected.

 

late in 2010, i decided it was time for another adventure.  i quit my job and moved to Uganda, arriving just two days before christmas.  i spent the holidays in an orphanage for children with special needs. i butchered a turkey and shared the children’s joy at their meager gifts.  but inside i wondered, “God, what am i doing here?  why do i still feel alone?”  i felt the need for family strongly as i shared that sacred season with the fatherless.

weeks passed and i moved into my new role as intern at newstart, a home for former street boys.  i was the only girl there and the only one who didn’t understand the native language.  while the boys tried hard to include me in their daily lives, it was isolating to say the least.  i struggled with the lack of electricity and almost threw up every time i used the pit latrines.  i dreaded my nightly cold sponge baths in the dark and found it very challenging to cook over a charcoal fire.

i was overwhelmed…in over my head.  the ache was heavy and i was wrecked by the poverty i encountered on a daily basis.  i felt so powerless in the face of so much need and desperation.  i begged God to show me why he brought me to Uganda.  my prayer for 2011 was that God would radically change my life, but it was very hard to discern what his will was.

until i met her.  a little girl with no name and no words.  her eyes were hollow and her legs were stick thin.  she reeked of urine and was covered in dirt.  her matted hair framed a tiny face and she was paralyzed on one side.  she sat on the street, begging for money.  alone.  at 5 years old, she only weighed 20 pounds.  she winced and pulled away from my gentle touch.  she cried and struggled when i tried to pick her up.  her solitude was her comfort.  she had completely retreated into her skeleton-like body.  her mind seemed to have shut down from years of neglect.  at that moment, my already aching heart broke into pieces.

 

i left her on the streets that day, but resolved to do everything in my power to change her situation in some way.  that night, as i lay awake looking up at the vast, expansive sky, i heard God’s first whisper, ”choose love.”  i shook my head and thought about the possibility of this little one staying at the orphanage i had recently visited.  “it would be perfect for her” i rationalized.  “they already have children with special needs and she would fit right in.”  but God’s words haunted my dreams.  “she is yours.  i have chosen you to be her mother. she is your family.”  i felt a strange parallel in my need for a family and her desperation to be loved.  her threads of loneliness hung far heavier than mine ever had.  she was so scarred by the pain she had endured.  so vulnerable.  and i didn’t think i had the tools to love her the right way.  could the two of us, both so broken by life’s circumstances, learn how to love each other?  could our stories be woven together?

 

it took me several weeks of a very intense internal struggle before i accepted that this was indeed what i was feeling called to do.  many questions surfaced: how will i raise a child as a single parent?  how much medical care will she need? how will i pay for all of this?  am i equipped to be a mom?  am i willing to give up the possibility of getting married?  am i willing to give up all my plans for the future? these were hard questions and i didn’t have the answers.  it scared me almost out of my mind to think about what i was about to do.  in the end, i had to let go of my fears and trust that God would help me.

although i loved my little girl fiercely, it was a scary and lonely time.  several times in the first week of Mikisa coming to live with me, she almost died.  we struggled to bond for many months.  attachment wasn’t just hard for her…i had a lot to learn as well.  little by little, we learned how to be a family.  mikisa slowly started to let me love her, and i slowly started to understand what i had just committed to. friends from all over the world rallied around us, donating enough money to cover all the adoption expenses.  it was an incredible time of community-building.  and in the middle of it all, one of my friends back home, Troy, said he liked me.  as in really, really liked me.  [this was one of the friends i had kept at a safe distance the year before i moved to uganda.]  he said he knew when he heard i was adopting Mikisa that I was the right one for him.  he wanted to pursue a serious relationship with me.  wow!  that summer was a time of many miracles and sometimes it felt like i was hanging on the edge of a cliff.  here i was, learning how to be a mom to a child with very complex needs while at the same time starting a long distance relationship with a man i was crazy about!  it was unbelievable!

shortly after my return to the states with Mikisa, Troy and I got married.  Mikisa now has a daddy and i have an amazing husband.  my years of longing for a family of my own have finally been fulfilled…and in such a way that i never could have planned it myself.  God has blessed us abundantly.  in just over a month, we will welcome our second daughter into the world.  we are ecstatic!

 

in the 2 years since i met Mikisa, life has thrown us a fair share of challenges.  Mikisa’s health is a continual reason for concern, and she has been diagnosed with some very heavy medical labels.  raising a child with multiple special needs and deep emotional wounds is very difficult at times.  but we are learning that no matter what the doctors may say, God has the final word.  and his word is full of hope and promise and goodness.  so we cling to that with growing faith, and humbly accept his grace for all the times we fail. he gives us the strength we need to get through each day, to breathe deeply one more time when we feel like we can’t, to take one more step. his love has flooded our lives and we see now more than ever the power of his redemptive work. we are learning to embrace this life of all consuming love.

 

our little family continues to walk on this winding road without knowing what is around the next bend.  but we do it now with great joy and the knowledge that no matter what the future holds, God is a God of love and his plans are so much better than ours.  He is the one guiding us on this journey and we give him all the thanks and praise for the good things he has done.  he is walking right beside us and always has been, even when it didn’t feel like it. we are not alone.


Christina lives in Charlotte, NC with her husband Troy and daughter Mikisa.  They are looking forward to the arrival of their second child later this month!  Christina loves art, music, traveling, reading, writing, and learning.  She is passionate about orphan care and loves children with special needs. She writes at Welcome Blessings.

  • Esty Loveing Downes - I seriously could sit and weep. Christina, I am undone reading this even though I watched it in real time.
    My pride in you, my thankfluness to the Lord for His gentle gifts leave me refreshed and amazed. I love you all.ReplyCancel

  • Carla Harvey Lambert - Beautiful.ReplyCancel

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