Susannah Shares How God Truly Got a Hold of Her

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Join is welcoming Susannah to the BCW Team!
I am so honored to be introducing myself to you lovely ladies as the new communications manager.  I love blogging and the friendships God has brought into my life over the internet.  I blog over at Simple Moments Stick and if you want to get to know me better feel free to head over there.

Since you’re going to be hearing quite a bit from me from now on, I have been thinking long and hard about how to allow you to truly get to know me from the get-go.  We each have a story of God’s handiwork in our lives and that story truly speaks to the core of who we are.  I would love to share with you all my story – how God truly got a hold of me.

I grew up in a Christian family.  Not only that, I grew up in a missionary family.  I spent six of my formative childhood years living in Taiwan while my dad taught at a school for missionary children.  I distinctly remember one afternoon as we were driving through the Taiwanese countryside.  I was looking out the window as we passed temple after temple.  My heart broke for the people worshiping in these temples, knowing that they were destined for eternity without God.  As I was thinking, though, I realized that I didn’t know for sure where I was headed after I died.  So, in my family’s van, seven year old me bowed my head and prayed that Jesus would come into my life and save me from my sins.
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I’d love to tell you my walk with the Lord was smooth sailing from there.  I mean, I was the “perfect” Christian kid.  I never caused my parents much worry, I attended every kid’s program and youth group, I helped out with classes of younger kids, and I knew exactly what to say to sound like everything was right in the world.  I didn’t truly have a relationship with the Lord.  He saved me from my sins and that was that.

Now, my family is very unique.  I have eleven brothers and sisters, nine of whom are adopted from countries all around the world.  It’s a blast being from such a big family!

I was a freshman in high school when my family decided we were going to adopt a sibling group from Ethiopia – A little boy named Andrew and his baby sister.  Of course my family was very excited that Andrew was joining our family. We knew that an eight year old who was able to care for his baby sister was a very special kid. We were also ecstatic to finally have another baby! Since I was the last baby my parents had given birth to and the youngest adoption prior had been a four year old, there had been no baby in our home for fifteen years. My mom and I prepared baby Leah’s nursery, got baby clothes, and made so many plans for what we would do with her.  She was definitely going to be a spoiled little girl.

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In February of that year, about two months before we would be able to go pick our kiddos up all those plans stopped. We got a call from the adoption agency letting us know that baby Leah had passed away due to a congenital obstruction of her esophagus. I still don’t know exactly what that medically means but we later learned it could have easily been fixed here in America. My family was devastated when we got the news that our precious baby had died.  Not very many people in our church, schools, or community really understood why we were so devastated. Some people said that it was not as though we had even met her yet. But in our hearts she was a member of our family and we grieved because a loved one had died.  (I later discovered that the grief we were going through mirrored the grief and emotions that accompanied a late term miscarriage)

My dad got a flight the next weekend to Ethiopia and visited Andrew. He went to comfort Andrew and let him know that we still loved him and were doing all we could to bring him quickly home to us. While my dad was over there, Andrew expressed a desire to still have a little sister. He said he did not want to replace his sister, but that he loved caring for younger children. The only young girl available for adoption in the orphanage was a little, developmentally delayed baby named Dinah and my parents decided that they would change the paperwork from baby Leah to Dinah.

Andrew & Dinah Gardner

These actions comforted most of the members of my family and reduced their grief, but they had the opposite affect on me. I grew very bitter. I was angry at God for taking our baby from us, angry at my parents for agreeing to (as I saw it) replace baby Leah by adopting Dinah, but mostly angry at myself for being so self centered and bitter. I fell into a pit of anger, bitterness, and grief and I hid it from everyone – friends, family, and people at church.  I didn’t want to admit to anyone that I was struggling so much.  I didn’t want to admit to anyone that I was battling the deepest depression I had ever experienced.  I thought something was incredibly wrong with me.  I did not want anyone to know about my feelings, especially my anger toward God.  I felt like my anger toward God made me a horrible Christian.  I wanted people to believe I was the same good Christian girl I had always been, so in love with God I would trust Him for everything. I would go to church with my family and pretend to be worshiping when inside I was screaming at God. Since He had laid it on my family’s heart to adopt these children, I did not see how he could take baby Leah from us and still be a good, just God.

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This went on for a few months and those months were the some of the worst months of my life. I now hated it when my mom prepared for the arrival of Dinah because it reminded me of baby Leah’s death.  I wanted nothing to do with anything to do with the adoptions.  I did not care about church or spending time with God since I was so incredibly angry at Him.

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Then, one day at youth group, my attitude changed. It was a day that I was really struggling and I finally, trying to drone out my own negative thoughts, just sat back and listened to the words of the song being played by the worship band. They were playing “Blessed Be Your Name” and the lyrics hit me hard. I realized I could not bless God only when He did what I wanted him to do, I had to bless Him even when I did not understand His plan. Then the words, “You give and take away, my heart will choose to say, Lord, blessed be your name” were sung. I realized that although God had taken baby Leah from us, He was giving us Dinah. I needed to thank Him for that even though I was grieving the death of my sister.

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As much as I tried to hide it, my parents knew I needed healing.  Since my dad had flown to Ethiopia when baby Leah had passed away, he couldn’t get the time off work to travel again when it was time to pick Andrew and Dinah up.  They blessed me by allowing me to travel with my mom and uncle to Ethiopia to pick the kids up. My time there touched my heart so much. I saw the orphanages first hand and realized how much help is needed.  I was able to forgive the nuns who ran the orphanage and the nannies who cared for my sister for not catching her sickness in time when I saw how full the nurseries were and how hard they worked to care for the babies.  I will never forget one baby boy in the nursery at the orphanage who literally looked like a holocaust victim.  He was all skin and bones, the little hair he had was falling out, and he didn’t have anything but a blanket to keep him warm.  I asked the nannies if I could rock him and they said I couldn’t because he was dying. This broke my heart because even a dying baby should have someone to love him, especially in his final days.

The trip changed my heart so drastically!  Little Dinah, the baby I didn’t want, became my pride and joy.  She learned to roll over the very first night we had her and progressed in hyper-speed after that.  With all the love and encouragement she received from my family, she was developmentally completely caught up in about six months.  She is beautiful, funny, smart, and I can’t imagine my life without her.

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After that, my relationship with God changed so drastically.  He had grabbed a hold of my heartstrings and my life has never been the same.
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