Finding Belonging When Your Family Looks Different

Out of Place – Sarah’s Story

As we stepped off of the plane I knew life would look different. I just didn’t know how. Walking into the unknown is scary, but suddenly choices we had made, my husband and I, to walk this path, felt undoable. We can’t do this! I kept thinking. I was uncertain. Out of place. No longer would we live in a state of comfort or ease. No longer would we have a predictable path. No longer was child rearing going to look like our friend’s.  

In our arms we held the carry-on luggage as well as our newly adopted daughter. Although it was three months into the new year, I started telling time beginning here. Before adoption. After adoption. Before the hardest year of my life. After the hardest year of my life. During that year I didn’t know it would be the hardest year. During that year I only knew one thing: I was completely and one hundred percent not in control. 

All throughout the adoption process I thought I knew the next step. It was like being pregnant. I read the books, I delivered the baby, but then after the baby, what!? They were going to let me go home with this!? When I was in the hospital after delivering our first child, I was kind of shocked the nurses and doctors were just ok letting me take this baby home. I mean, I had never done this!? 

The Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Year

Because of jet lag, I remember waking up with our daughter at 4 AM and being wide awake. My husband and I would stumble downstairs and feed her to keep her from crying. We didn’t want to wake our other three children. I would sit on the couch and look at her in those early morning hours. The sun wasn’t even up, but we would sit there wrapping our hands around the warm coffee dozing off. I wondered what her life would be like. She was different. She wasn’t what I expected. And suddenly I was different. I wasn’t what I expected either. 

As a mother I had to change. She came from a hard place. She was nonverbal and never had solid foods. At two years old she could barely crawl or sit up. How would I even begin to give her what she needed? As a wife I had to adapt. When weariness from life hits a family the marriage begins to crumble. And so ours did. We had to readjust, refocus, and relearn each other again. As a person I had to learn a few lessons. 

The year was horrible. Not because of our daughter, but because of me. I wanted life to be normal. I wanted life to be easy, predictable, and steady. Instead, I had to look at our daughter, with special needs, and say to myself: I will never ever know her future. Will she live on her own? Will she marry, have children, or even be able to speak? The hardest year was six years ago. Today I have no answers. Even now I don’t know any of the answers to those questions. 

The painful beauty of redemption

So there I was. God was going to have to break me apart to teach me some lessons.  I had to surrender to God, His will for my life, and the surrendering was painful. Not because of Him, but because of me. I had so much pride, self-sufficiency, and independence. I had to break completely apart before God could begin in me a work of redemption. Everyday I would look at the miracle that is my daughter and glory in her progress, glory in her beauty, and glory in her life. 

When I was living that very terrible year the verse I clung to was Psalm 46:1. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (KJV) A very present help means He was present, physically, with me on those days I felt tired and worn. God was also with me, strengthening me. A present help also meant He was here in that moment. So many times during that year I lived moment to moment. If I begin to think about the future anxiety would cripple me. God reminded me He was with me in those moments. 

In my daughter I saw redemption. Yes, she was redeemed from a life of loneliness in that orphanage in the middle of China. But she provided for me redemption. She was the tool God used to show me how desperately wicked I am and how deeply His grace can reach. In her I saw redemption of my own life. Would I ever be the same? No way, but that is the point of redemption. God wanted to use this very horrible year to show me a few things. About myself, yes. About Him, even more so. Sometimes our hardest things reveal the most beautiful things about God. 


If you’ve ever felt like you don’t belong, this series is for you! Every Monday, we’ll hear from someone who has also struggled to belong. Be sure to subscribe below to get The Scoop so you never miss a post! As a thank you, you’ll receive access to these scripture cards and adult coloring pages in the free for you library!

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Meet Sarah Frazer

Sarah E. Frazer is a writer and Bible study mentor at sarahefrazer.com. Sarah is the wife of Jason and mother of five. She and her family serve as full-time missionaries in Honduras. Her passion is to encourage women to start today with a Bible reading and prayer habit. Sarah is the author of several self-published Bible study resources for women. She shares tools and encouragement for Bible and prayer study at sarahefrazer.com. Follow her on Instagram and download her 12-Day Bible Reading plan here.

*Feature Photo by Jude Beck on Unsplash

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Sarah K. Butterfield is an author, speaker, and ministry leader who has a heart for empowering women to grow in their faith and be intentional with their time. She and her husband and two boys live in San Diego, where she writes about pursuing a deeper relationship with God in the midst of motherhood.

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