My life had been struck by the cleaver of tragedy twice: once by infertility and again with an epilepsy diagnosis three years later.
I was praying for, hoping for, desperate for miracles—the grand, sweeping Biblical kind, ones that were radical, magical, and immediate.
I prayed for them, but there was no immediate healing, no miraculous pregnancy. Years passed, and I grew weary of waiting. I lost touch with that part of myself that searched for the miraculous, and when I stopped looking for it, I stopped seeing it.
It is hard to know you are in the middle of a miracle while it is yet unfolding.
My brain still has a black hole of seizure-damaged scar tissue in it, but I haven’t had a consciousness-impairing seizure in five years. Every night I am able to lie down in my bed, exhausted from productivity instead of a post-ictal seizure haze is a miracle.
Even if it is a small one.
Five years of small, daily miracles, like breadcrumbs from Heaven.
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After nearly a decade of fertility issues, we adopted our daughter in 2017 after she had been living with us in foster care for two years. I had expected the experience to be another sudden, giant miracle. I had naively hoped that once the judge banged the gavel and the adoption papers were signed, we would be a family.
And we were. On paper, at least. But we didn’t always feel like one.
Our daughter has reactive attachment disorder, which means she didn’t develop normal attachments to a stable caregiver in her early life. RAD has a grim prognosis and lifelong complications: stunted growth, emotional disturbances, mental illness, attention deficits, poor peer relationships, and behavioral issues such as lying, defiance, cruelty, aggression, and self-harm. In fact, because RAD adoptions have such a high failure rate, it was recommended to us on more than one occasion that we come up with an “adoption dissolution plan” (which we just couldn’t bring ourselves to do).
When we adopted her, it felt like a miracle. This girl was made for us. God had placed her in our family. I could feel it. I knew it. I was expecting a radical, immediate change.
But her RAD did not miraculously disappear when we became a family. In fact, some aspects of it got worse. As parents, we’ve had to continually prove ourselves to her. We’ve had to earn her love, and she has put us through a frustrating and confusing obstacle course to do so. She expresses love on her own terms—another hallmark of RAD. She rarely responds in kind to our displays of affection. It is not unusual for her to shriek and shove us away when we hug her. She seldom returns the “I love yous” we give; she often offers us cold shrugs or mumbled “yeahs” instead.
Though she seldom reciprocates the affections we show her, she does share her love in the ways she knows how, and these moments always catch me by surprise. Crayola masterpieces presented as gifts. Unexpected, bone-crushing, 30-second hugs. Gentle pats and kisses on the forehead while I’m lying on the couch watching TV. Even a few golden “I love yous” given a flash of brave vulnerability with her hands hiding her face or in a silly voice that sounds like Christian Bale playing Batman.
Over time, these small things—seizure-free days and surprise-flecked nights—became so ordinary I did not see them for what they truly are: stacks of tiny miracles that had accumulated into . . . well, one giant miracle.
I mean, it’s not the giant miracle I was expecting, but it is the one I got—not immediate, tidy, and whole, but gradual, cumulative, and messy, with a thousand pieces so small I did not initially see their value because individually, they weren’t worth very much to me. One day without a seizure measured against my 38 years of life? Almost nothing. And yet . . . five straight years of them is something else entirely.
In the moments I received them, these breadcrumb miracles always felt insubstantial, like they could never be enough to sustain me, but I see now they were consistent, daily bread for the last five years of my life. Instead of consuming these crumbs with gratitude and allowing them to fill me, I cast them aside and whined that I was still hungry. It wasn’t until I finally looked at the heap of rejected crumbs that I could see the stunning (and yet unfinished) mosaic I had been given.
An entire feast of breadcrumb miracles.
If I was not nourished by them, it was only because I did not partake.
Originally published on the author’s blog