My very first blog entry was about miracles.
When I wrote it, I was so grateful to be alive. Everything felt so fresh and so new because my perspective was sharp: I knew what mattered, and everything that didn't just faded into the background. I’d gotten one giant miracle: I’d had a seizure while driving 70 miles per hour down the Interstate, and
I didn’t kill anyone else, either.
I didn’t even hit anything.
I'd had a feeling just before leaving work that I shouldn’t be driving, which I ignored. (I wasn’t about to let epilepsy stop me from doing anything. I didn't even take the emergency medication I have to help abort a seizure.) Twenty miles in to my forty-mile drive, I had another feeling, a strange sort of knowing, like a voice was telling me that I needed to pull over.
This voice sliced through the lambswool fuzz of the seizure aura in my head, clear and sharp, and this time, I obeyed it.
My husband, too, had a knowing that day. He heard the report of erratic driving on the Interstate and somehow knew it was me, so he got into his truck and raced to the scene. He beat the police there.
So many things converged that day to make one giant, take-your-breath-away miracle.
Praise Jesus, hallelujah.
But time wore on, and the luster of my second chance at life wore off. I lost touch with that part of myself that searched for the miraculous, and when I stopped looking for it, I stopped seeing it. Miracles, I figured, were rare and special, once-in-a-lifetime things. They wouldn’t be miracles if they were ordinary.
I was wrong about that.
I’m starting to understand that miracles can be made of ordinary things, as tiny and mundane as breadcrumbs.
My brain still has a black hole of seizure-damaged scar tissue in it, but I haven’t had a consciousness-impairing seizure in four years. Every night that 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 small one.
Four years of small, daily miracles, like manna from heaven.
After nearly a decade of fertility issues, we adopted our daughter Nadia 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: once the judge banged the gavel and the adoption papers were signed, we would be a family.
And we were.
On paper, at least.
Our daughter has Reactive Attachment Disorder. Because of the neglect she suffered early in life, she didn’t develop normal attachments to a stable caregiver. 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 (I watched one unravel while I was still teaching), it was recommended to us on more than one occasion that we come up with an “adoption dissolution plan” (which we refused to do).
When we adopted her, I was expecting a giant miracle. This was a dream come true. She was made for us. God had placed her in our family. I could feel it. I knew it. My hope for a beautiful family bond was strong. Her very name seemed to be an almost prophetic thing, coming from the Russian word for hope. We let her choose a second middle name for herself, and, out of all the names that exist, she chose Hope. I didn’t realize at the time that the meanings were redundant: Nadia Annalise Hope. Hope. Graced with God’s Bounty. Hope.
She was surrounded by hope, literally bookended by it.
But this hope grew dim when her Reactive Attachment Disorder only seemed to get worse. As a defense mechanism, RAD kids often try to self-sabotage relationships when they become too close. We have had to work hard to prove ourselves as parents, to prove that we love her and will not abandon her. We have had to earn her love, and she has put us through a frustrating and confusing obstacle course to do so. She usually shrieks or shoves us away when we try to hug her. Our “I love you’s” are rarely returned; she offers us cold shrugs or mumbled “yeah’s” instead. I try to remember what she's been through, but I'm not going to pretend that this sort of rejection doesn't hurt. Still, I tell her at least twice a day that I love her because I know she needs to hear it.
Though she seldom reciprocates the affections we show her in the moment, she does share her love in the ways she knows how, and these moments always catch me by surprise and steal my breath: Crayola masterpieces presented as gifts. Unexpected, bone-crushing, 30-second hugs. Gentle pats on the forehead while I’m lying on the couch, watching TV. Collections of birch paper and branches, given to me because she knows how much I love them. Even a few rare and golden “I love you’s,” though the words are often too loaded with meaning for her to say them without a buffer of some kind: usually her hands cover her face or she speaks in a strange voice that sounds a lot like Christian Bale playing Batman.
Over time, these things—seizure-free days and snuggle-filled nights—became so ordinary that 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 quick, tidy, and whole, but gradual, cumulative, and messy, with a thousand pieces so small that I did not initially see their value because individually, I could not comprehend their worth. One day without a seizure measured against my 37 years of life? Almost nothing. And yet…four straight years of them is something else entirely. One Batman-voice "I love you" every couple months against the two I offer her daily? A grim ratio. Often times, it feels like almost nothing. Yet for a RAD kid, this is huge. Most never even make it that far. These tiny breadcrumbs of love that she scatters for me feed the hope that this adoption is solid, that our love is reciprocal, that we truly are a family.
At first, these breadcrumb miracles felt insubstantial, like they could never actually sustain me, but I see now that they were consistent, daily bread for the last four 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.