When God Says “Yes”

From her earliest days, Meadow Rue Merrill dreamed of adopting a child, and she longed to travel to Africa, even wrestling a promise from her husband that if she promised to marry him, he would not stand in the way of her going. Redeeming Ruth is Meadow’s record of God’s “yes” to her dreams — and it stands as powerful evidence that the unfolding of our dreams may not look exactly as we imagined.

International adoption is complicated even without a large family and economic limitations. The Merrill family had both, but when they met tiny Ruth, she captured their hearts.  Ruth  had traveled from Uganda through Welcome Home Ministries, Africa, to stay with a family in Maine (friends of the Merrils) where she could receive physical therapy. When Meadow and her husband Dana held Ruth’s limp body for the first time, they were astonished at her level of disability from cerebral palsy — and at the way their hearts responded to her.

Desire warred against ambivalence as Meadow and Dana weighed the wisdom of bringing a profoundly disabled African child into their already-full-and-busy home located in the whitest state in America. Yielding to what Meadow described as Dana’s “annoying habit of believing that God will take care of us,” (22) they took one tentative step after another, weathered countless setbacks, and put thousands of miles on their vehicle until one momentous day, Meadow and Ruth boarded a plane for Uganda to finalize Ruth’s adoption.

Time to Walk

In the spirit of “leaving the 99 to save one,” Meadow spent nearly a month in Uganda chasing paperwork, caring for Ruth in primitive surroundings, living among the other orphans and workers at Welcome Home. There, she gained insight to the hopelessness of Ruth’s future, forever trapped in a body with the skill set of a two-month-old infant, if she did not gain entrance to the United States and the privilege of hope that comes with education, health care, and rehabilitation.

Together, the Merrill family prayed for healing and trusted for progress, but what would healing look like? Her big brothers and sister prayed specifically that Ruth would walk and talk. Would a cochlear implant restore Ruth’s hearing? Meadow pondered theological implications of her daughter’s fragility:

“[P]erhaps God’s purpose was higher than ours. Perhaps instead of healing Ruth, he intended to heal us of our selfishness and pride. Wouldn’t that be a miracle?”

A Faith Journey into God’s Yes

Redeeming Ruth reminded me of why memoir is my favorite genre. Not everyone who reads Meadow’s descriptive prose will be able to appreciate her references to Brunswick area landmarks or have memories of sunny days at Popham Beach and walks around the trails of Mackworth Island that heightened my appreciation for the setting. However, it will be a rare reader who does not identify with the struggle to hold onto a dream that keeps slipping away or to continue in faith when sight is alarmingly out of sync with expected outcomes.

The Merrill family’s unique story is a valuable resource for anyone who is learning to trust God’s motives and struggling to live well in the tension of pursuing a dream while holding it loosely, for within the flow of story, priceless principles emerge:

Close the door on worries.

“I can believe what my  mind is telling me, which is ‘Panic!’ Or I can believe what the Bible tells me, which is that children are a blessing. Whenever I feel overwhelmed, I close my eyes and picture myself physically putting my trust in God the way I’d put something in a cupboard. I give my worries to him. Then I close the door.”   (149)

Love like a fool.

“Even if you love and lose, keep sharing God’s love anyway. Love in the face of suffering and grief and heartache and loss. Love beyond racial and religious and physical borders and barriers. . . You won’t have to look far to find someone who is hurting, someone without a voice, someone waiting to know they are loved.” (203)

There is nothing of value that may be lost here that will not be redeemed in heaven.

“Everything life takes, love restores. Everything. Broken bodies. Broken hearts. Broken dreams. No matter how painful. No matter how devastating. God can transform even our greatest sorrow into something good.” (201)

The unfolding of Ruth’s story rebukes the notion that God is made visible only in happy endings. Loving and caring for Ruth became Meadow’s offering to God, “one small piece of this broken, pain-pierced world that [she] could redeem.” It will surprise no one who has read the New Testament that redemption is a costly process. In the midst of grinding fatigue and great joy, discouragement and soaring faith, mourning and soul-deep comfort, the Merrill family continues to live their way into God’s high purpose for bringing Ruth into their family.

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This book was provided by Hendrickson Publishers in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Additional Resources

Downeast Magazine is a favorite here in Maine, and Meadow shares an excerpt from Redeeming Ruth in their March 2017 issue. You can read it here.

A fellow member of the Redbud Writers Guild, Meadow wrote an article featuring her adoption journey for September 2017 issue of The Redbud Post: A Promise, a Prayer, and an Irresistible Smile.

For more of Meadow’s fine writing, including her blog, be sure to check out her website.

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Featured image from Meadow Rue Merrill’s website.

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Faith, Family, and the Adoption Journey

Last summer, we canoed down the Saco River.  With kayaks, canoes, and colorful life jackets, we were a festive family flotilla bobbing along in the gentle current. On the way to our destination, we swam, sunned ourselves on sandbars, and the kids played a rousing game of gunwale wars. It was the kind of day that becomes a better memory every year, except . . .

We received some misinformation along the way and our end point was actually further down the river than we had thought — by several hours. Wild with a quiet panic, I paddled and fretted. As the sun began to set and I pictured us navigating around fallen trees and exposed granite in the dark, I announced to my husband, “I’m not a process person!  I’m a destination person, and I want this journey to be over!”

Kristin Hill Taylor found herself navigating a similar course in her journey of infertility and the decision to adopt.  Steering around the discomfort and inconvenience of fertility treatments, enduring the open-ended waiting process, and keeping one eye on the sunset that comes with aging ovaries, she found herself returning to Daniel’s Old Testament anthem to God’s sovereignty:

“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,
For wisdom and might are His.
And He changes the times and the seasons;
He removes kings and raises up kings;
He gives wisdom to the wise
And knowledge to those who have understanding.
 He reveals deep and secret things;
He knows what is in the darkness,
And light dwells with Him.  (Daniel 2:20-23)

God graciously allowed Kristin to stay close to the truth that waiting is an opportunity for growth — but that does not mean it was easy! Once Kristin and her husband Greg entered the adoption process, they faced an entirely new set of circumstances that were beyond their control. Even so, they could see the hand of God at work when a young mum made the brave choice to continue her pregnancy and selected the Taylors as an adoptive family for her baby.

Kristin shares her astonishment at the great gift of insight adoption brought to her understanding of the Christian life. Understanding the depth of God’s choosing love and leaning into this faith gave Kristin peace in the process of becoming a mum and leaving a much-loved career to stay home with her first child. The Taylors went on to adopt two more babies, each story unique and each child a gift from God.

By sharing the details of each adoption and including the diverse stories of a number of friends who also adopted, Kristin prepares readers who are considering adoption for the twists and turns of the process.  Throughout the years of her story arc, it seemed that Kristin was perpetually updating a home study or weathering another round of disappointed hopes.  She learned that “few things define us more than how we struggle.” (49) And she realized that she was NOT a good struggler.  However, she was also in a process of transformation — as is every believer.

The sandpaper that God chose to use in Kristin’s situation was the adoption process and the emotionally draining job of mothering multiple children. As Kristin openly shares her moments of weakness and the ways in which God used His Word to instruct her, I was also challenged to dig into the truth of the book of James that “God wants me to live out my faith with my hands and my feet and my words and my actions and my attitudes and my relationships and my decision and my whole entire life.”

A closer examination of the adoption process pushed my understanding of being pro-life beyond a political position and into a realization that children are worth the level of effort, investment, and inconvenience that adoption can sometimes create. The formation of a family is worth the risk and the vulnerability.

The Taylor family has come together through adoption, and although the journey was not predictable or planned, the result is all that Kristin could have hoped for. The uniqueness of their family’s growth served as the occasion for witnessing God’s glory on display as He brought order to brokenness and wove together a network of love and connections in the making of a family.

Raymond Kayak
And, yes, the journey down the river was worth it, too!

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This book was provided by the author in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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The Great Eight!

My youngest son’s best friend is an adopted orphan from Africa.  Their first “play date” was barely impacted by the language barrier, and they have been friends for so many years that they can just barely remember life without each other.  For this reason, Mike and Hayley Jones’ story about their adoption of eight (yes, eight!) siblings from Sierra Leone was especially interesting to me, for in it, they share their journey of choosing to adopt and then bringing those children home At Any Cost. 

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I still remember the admiration I felt for my friends when they adopted my son’s buddy and his sister after their father had passed away and their mother could no longer care for them.  A third-world child does not have to lose both parents to be considered an orphan, and this was also the case for the Jones’s children.

Mike and Hayley are transparent about the fact that foreign adoption has significant obstacles and challenges.  Their situation is unique in its magnitude because of the number of children added to their family of four, but all the inconveniences and frustrations they report are part of the adoption journey and impact a family on financial, emotional, and relational fronts.

Finances

The cost of adoption is astronomical even if, like the Joneses, it is a private adoption with no agency fees. Travel costs for the family begin immediately and continue throughout the process, culminating in airfare and visas for all.   The Jones family chose to sponsor all eight children from the outset, providing food, medical care, education, and clothing for them in the interim period before bringing them home.  Their moderate ranch-style home required extensive renovations (including wiring and septic) to accommodate a family of twelve.  They even needed to purchase a larger vehicle.

Sierra Leone is considered one of the world’s poorest countries with 70% of the nation living below the poverty line.  A decade of civil war and then the Ebola epidemic of 2014 have exacerbated the poverty, contributing to a very poor quality of life over all.  Therefore, the children came to the United States with medical and dental issues that needed resolution in addition to the fact that they had been nutritionally compromised.  Because of educational gaps, the older children are being homeschooled to allow them to catch up to their peers.

Emotions

Mike and Hayley exercise remarkable restraint and good judgment in sharing their story of adoption while protecting the privacy of their adopted children, whose individual stories are, rightly, their own to share — or not.  I applaud the Jones’s approach to their memoir, because they each share from a different perspective.  Hayley was the “travelling parent,” making at least 8 trips to Sierra Leone at various stages in the adoption process, while Mike was the “anchor parent,” tending to the needs of their two very young biological sons, overseeing the extensive renovations to their home, holding down a job, and keeping the ship afloat during the three year endurance contest that continually seemed to be “almost done” . . . but then something else would fall through.

The adoption process taxes the family on every level.  Disappointment and frustration over injustice and inefficiency, heart-breaking separations from both family and the adopted children, and pain over the sad situation the adopted children leave behind are just the beginning.  Hayley confessed that throughout the three year process, she was always missing someone.  If she was in Sierra Leone with the eight adoptees, she was missing her husband and two sons at home.  If she was in the United States, she was missing her African children and anxious about their welfare.

Family and Marriage

Mike and Hayley traveled a rough road with their marriage from the outset.  For a time they separated, but, having worked through their issues, by the time they decided to adopt their marriage was on solid ground.  This is a critical point, because the adoption process put them on separate continents for prolonged periods of time, introduced financial stressors, emotional hardship, and just plain practical headaches that go far beyond the normal stress-load.

Being convinced that they were following God in their desire to adopt carried the Jones family through the many obstacles.  They involved their two biological children in the journey of prayer, and they clung to every milestone as assurance that they were on the right track in their obedience to God.

Communicating their decision to parents and grandparents held its own difficulties, particularly because of the racial difference of the adopted children.  The Joneses were ecstatic when they realized that old patterns of racism within their family tree were being overcome.

Adoption is a rich biblical metaphor that is part of God’s demonstration of love for His own children.  We are taken in, and the transaction was initiated by God at any cost.  It is a beautiful picture of redemption, in which something broken is transformed into something beautiful.  Hayley and Mike describe their own situation in the same terms.  They and their children still feel ties to “family” in Africa.  Hayley calls her kids, ” My world changers.  They all pray for God’s mercy on their village and want to share Jesus with them.”

Adoption is a journey of faith and sacrifice.  It is the love of God made visible on this planet.  At Any Cost is a realistic and heart-warming portrayal of one family’s heart of obedience.


This book was provided by Worthy Publishing in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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