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It's hard to believe that 10 years have passed since we brought Juliana home from Russia. Then, just a few weeks short of her third birthday, Juliana weighed a mere 22 pounds. She had difficulty digesting proteins, falling asleep, and walking without bumping into walls. Time and a full pantry took care of the food issues. Music and a night light made falling asleep a bit better. And thick glasses kept her from bumping into things. That was the easy stuff.
When she came home to the United States, Juliana also had to break the language barrier, navigate a huge number of new relationships, and learn how to make simple choices with her new found freedom. Looking back, that stuff was relatively easy too.
Suffice it to say that Juliana's life in Russia didn't prepare her very well for life in an American family. It did, however, make it impossible for her to travel without numerous--but unseen--extra bags. In those first few months, however, it became clear that what Juliana carried wasn't because the orphanage where we met her was bad, but because the reasons she ended up in one were. There is no substitute for family.
In the first year I could always tell how Juliana was feeling by what she left on her dinner plate. When something was bothering her she wouldn't eat much. She would, however, grow increasingly active, and then suddenly crash in a flood of tears. There were times it seemed something would trigger an emotional reaction, and times when it just came completely out of the blue.
I remember reading a rather sad poem back when I was in the seventh grade. It was "To a Dead Kitten," by Sara Hay. Not more than 10 or 12 lines, but the last line has stuck with me ever since: "How could this small body hold so immense a thing as death?" I've thought about that poem over the past 10 years whenever I've seen Juliana wince because something has touched a not-yet-healed hurt in her.
The truth is that like too many children, Juliana was wounded at a young age by adults who were supposed to take care of her, but either couldn't or didn't. As a result, she came to us sad, fearful, and anxious. She also came equipped with an assortment of tools for dealing with hunger, loneliness, and insecurity. That's a lot for a toddler to carry.
But Juliana isn't a toddler anymore. She eats like a horse, sleeps in on Saturday mornings, has outgrown her need for glasses, and far from bumping into walls, she's an extraordinarily talented dancer. Oh, and did I mention? She's also beautiful. Yes, the hurts are still there. And while I'm sure they will continue to heal, I also suspect that the damage from the trauma Juliana sustained won't entirely disappear. Neither did the marks of Christ's crucifixion.
Glory shines from the hands and feet and side of Jesus Christ. Glory can shine from our wounds as well; not our glory, but His. God has the power to bring good from any situation. Being Juliana's mom has deepened my faith in that power. It has also fundamentally changed my view of it.
I used to think that God would transform our hurts by healing them; that he would use our weaknesses to call us into communion with those who had the strengths we lacked. But I'm beginning to see that God can use our weaknesses and hurts as strengths--even gifts--for others. What I need and cannot find within myself, is amazingly not in others' talents or strengths--but in their weaknesses.
Perhaps the transformation we desire most isn't God healing what we've suffered, but his giving us a reason to have suffered it. That reason is love. How great is the God who loves us! How awesome that he who is risen from the dead, takes the wounds of the cross to the right hand of the Father!
Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a wife and mother of eight children, and a disciple of the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales. She is an inspirational author, speaker, musician and serves as an Associate Children's Editor at Pauline Books and Media.