Welcome to my first adoptive mama – Valerie Garrett. She lives in the mitten state near me and I met her at the first Michigan Mini Created for Care Retreat this past January. I know she has a courageous heart for justice and is a mighty mama full of truth, fighting for what is good and beautiful in this world.
Lean in, and listen to her story…
“A Tender Heart for a Healing Soul” by Valerie Garrett
My 8-year-old son is delightful. He wakes up singing. He loves to laugh. He is tender toward others. He lives with exuberance. Today, you might not imagine the challenges he has overcome.
He was adopted at 2 years old from Haiti. His transition, of course, was not without heartache and deep loss. We walked with him through deep grief and fear. He has healed from food insecurity. He now sleeps through the night. What once could only be described as violent sleeping (which he slept through, but we could not) is now, increasingly often, peaceful sleep all night long.
Ah, but this…this is a story of learning what it means to be loved by God; this is a story of the night when Grandpa stepped into his world…a world he could not see, but moved to be a part of nonetheless.
Recently, my son got to spend the weekend with my parents while my husband and I attended a conference. My mom awoke one day in the wee hours of the morning to find that my dad wasn’t in the bed; she could hear him in the bathroom…but he didn’t return…and didn’t return…and didn’t return. Finally, she got up to check to be sure he was okay.
She found him in the hallway, outside the room where my son was sleeping. He was weeping.
Because of recent health problems my dad has had, she was deeply concerned. Had he coughed blood? Had he nearly fainted?
“Honey, what’s wrong?” she asked, urgently.
He looked in at his grandson, and back at her. Through his tears, he said, “I heard him banging his head, so I went in and rubbed his back and he stopped…,” and he continued as his voice broke, “but I just wish I could take away whatever it is that torments him when he sleeps.
You see, sometimes even now, my son bangs his head on the mattress at night. It’s loud. It’s disconcerting. It breaks our hearts. That night, Grandpa’s hand on his back, rubbing and soothing and speaking softly…that was the hand and voice of Jesus. Because Jesus has already taken all of that pain onto Himself at the cross. He knows about it. He loves us through it. He rejoices in our healing.
By the grace of God it’s not just my son who heals. It is us. As we stand in the gap for my son, watching God heal him, we learn God’s love so deeply. It wasn’t until this that I truly understood what it means to be loved by an almighty God. If I will weep when my children weep, and rejoice when my children rejoice, how much more my God in heaven when He sees the same?! And we soothe one another, by reminding one another that Christ has already taken on all that pain…that He took care of it at the cross because He loves us…and no, that doesn’t mean we don’t feel it, but it does mean that we can lift our eyes and be made whole.
As we seek to be a safe space for our children, to speak life and truth and worth and value over them, we learn that God is doing the same.
That night, Grandpa stepped into the hurt places. The ones we can’t see but can only wonder about. The ones that linger even long after so many of the others have healed. Always having a patient tender heart with little ones, He did it because in that moment, moved with compassion, the hurt places hurt him, too. And I choose to believe that when a patriarch looks in on the third generation and weeps for its pain, Christ stands next to him and weeps with him. Christ puts His hand out and rubs that little back as well, and utters those soothing words. And encountering those sacred moments when we can be a safe space – a conduit of God’s love – we all learn a little more about what it means to look like and act like Christ, who shows us how to love by loving us first, and so perfectly well. Then, we too, are made whole.
Valerie Garrett is an experienced design consultant, adoptive parent, and a passionate yet balanced advocate for adoption. A proponent of preserving the unique story of each adopted child, she is co-owner of Life in Color, Inc., whose current primary offering is a fill-in adoption life book. She blogs from Holland, MI where she lives with her husband and son. She is available for speaking and writing engagements. You can find her at her blog, on Twitter, Facebook, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.