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Sallie Dean

Four year old me, little legs sprawled out on a warm quilt in the sun, feeding and burping my cloth diapered baby dolls. I was nurturing from the moment I could grip a lovey. “Story” – a baby girl name on my long list of potential baby names to swoon over. I was made to mom.

I’ve always been drawn to stories… my granddaddy was an editor and lifelong writer, my house growing up had bookshelves bending with books, and my best thinking is done (besides in the shower) through forming and hashing out phrases that my eyes then get to take in; words give me life. And stories put skin on concepts…walk them out in ways I can grab onto. So I love thinking of God as this Crafter of beautiful stories; stories overflowing with interesting, edgy characters with unexpected potential, plot twists that develop bravery and strength in the heroine, and endings that shock you with redemption. This is His style. And the thing is—that IS our story, when we open up our tight grip and watch for Him at work in it. The story He is writing for my life is richer than I could have dreamed up—or would have had the courage to write for myself.

With a heart and the desire to nurture babies, (remember, little mama me), I danced into the season of trying to grow a family with my sweet husband. But it wasn’t happening. Waiting on motherhood over a span of years was hard, especially with each month marked by the reminder that my body was vacant. I have never been so aware of my need for His presence; His hope. God had always been present in my life – growing up in a home where He was loved and spoken of constantly. But this giant pause button on some of my dreams taught me He is present TO ME. He met me in my wait. Saw me there. And He grew me as He wooed me out into the desert alone with my hand in His trustworthy one. Psalm 27:14 says “When I wait, you strengthen my heart.”

I gained empathy for so many who walk around with shattered hopes and invisible wounds. I had new eyes for friends who have unmet longings and a heightened sensitivity for how my words or questions can trigger hurt. I battled contentment and self-pity as I was surrounded by baby joy… “I’m so happy for you—just sad for me,” I would say. So…I decided to pray for hope, for an attitude and heart of trust. For joy now, despite the circumstances. My husband Caleb and I bought a swing for our patio, and that simple thing marked a spot for me to practice gratefulness for where He had me. We would thank God that we could linger there, savoring stillness –“just” the two of us.

I made war on the lies that pummeled my heart (and can still creep in) like, “You’re broken. You aren’t fully woman if you can’t bear life.” I actively worked to believe Ephesians 2:10, “I am His masterpiece, a handcrafted delight to Him; Created for His purposes that He planned for me to walk in.” As I worked on healing, walking through a care ministry at my church for women facing infertility, He strengthened my heart. I was able to grieve in a healthy way, and I was empowered to fight for unity with my husband—because grief and stress can squash oneness. I began to see that sharing my weakness and woundedness made His fullness even more beautiful. I knew of His faithfulness, His good character my whole life, but through this He was faithful TO ME. Good TO ME. He became my hope, the lifter of my head. He sang songs of joy over me and allowed me to sing through sorrow. Even in the “No”…or “Not Yet” answers that He gave to my prayers, I found peace and satisfaction in His closeness. Only Jesus.

What makes me teary is that God’s stories never end with ashes. As we prayed for our steps to be in-step with His purposes, a new melody began to play. Adoption was the song that began to sing in a thousand different varieties, but unmistakably beating out the same tune. It did sing in my heart a little sooner than my husband’s, so that was a dance of trusting God, and working to give unconditional respect to my guy when we were clearly on different pages. To be specific: cut the nagging, hold your tongue lady, and journal your heart out. If God was truly calling us to adopt, He would absolutely bring us both to that decision with clear confirmation. And over many months, He did just that. We became not just on board; we were passionate. In that mysterious way, He weaves goodness out of things that break His heart…. It was plain to us that building our family through adoption was what He had planned for us before He laid the foundations of the earth.

We had what felt like an eternal wait…but then a whirlwind adventure the moment we took steps toward a domestic infant adoption. We were matched with an expecting mom who in 6 days would deliver a baby girl and a baby boy–twins! Double our heart’s desire. I held her hand in that delivery room as God held every tear I had cried over those years of waiting–not a single tear had been wasted. Psalm 56 says He has a bottle just for MY tears…how great is that?! God knew her, scared with that growing belly…He knew them, precious Ezra and Remy…and He knew us the whole time, and had been weaving us together in the way only He could. He did immeasurably more than we could have asked or imagined, for His great glory!

I had always known He was an extravagant Giver of good gifts…but He became an extravagant Giver TO ME. In the words of Psalm 113, He “lifts the needy from the ash heap. He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children.” I haven’t stopped praising Him since. As I settled into this instant motherhood, He gave me countless opportunities to tell…to cry with other women caught in the pain of infertility, to give a tidbit to nosey people in the grocery store who complimented me on my “post-partum” bod; to encourage many in the journey toward adoption, and it is my greatest joy to still watch His glory ripple out. Our story is so much bigger than us.


As my babies grew into toddlers, He would give me an incredible opportunity. An email came in one day from my long ago friend, Maurie. She is one of 8 biological siblings….and her baby sister came to them through adoption at the age of 7. Little Megan has a story that is beautiful, but complex, as she has experienced significant loss in the years before she joined her forever family. In the email Maurie told me how it was like God had caused her bones to burn like Jeremiah until she couldn’t not write down some thoughts for her sister. She asked me to consider giving her words some images. I could only cry as I read them in that early draft, as I recognized so many of my Father’s words and His kind, Sovereign heart all throughout.

I had my share of insecurities as to whether I could ever find a way to do these powerful words justice, but I was hooked. It would be for Megan, but it had this weightiness to it like maybe it was for many children…. Children we couldn’t even envision…but to whom it might find its way.

I drowned in watercolor—drafts after drafts—and found myself literally weaving thread into the heavy weight paper. I was so convinced He wanted me to reinforce that He had been present in those adoption stories, taking the broken pieces of those lives and, with purpose, lovingly weaving families together.

It took me over a year to crawl my way through to the other side, but together we were able to craft Megan’s story, titled The Bridge That Love Built. We would humbly send it out into the world to be an encouragement and tool for other families to go together back to those gaps, those hard spots in their stories armed with the truth that their Heavenly Daddy was present the whole time. He knew. He saw. He cares.

And those truths echoed over my own story…and is true of yours. “You were never invisible to Him, never forgotten by Him. Everything that happened to you mattered to Him, just as if it happened to Him. He saw when you were hurt by the words and actions of other people. He heard you crying when no one else cared. He knew your deepest feelings, the ones you tried to hide.”

And those faces which were once blurred in our minds, who God knew and treasured all along, began to become clear to us… the precious faces of adopted children, young and old, all over the world who hold the book in their hands now. One story of many was from a grown adoptee who aged out of the foster system who shared through tears after receiving the book, that his wounds were being bound-up by the truth of his SEEN-ness to God…the truth that his life mattered deeply to God, that God sung lullabies to him even though no parent ever did. To hear that it is meeting a felt need brings joy down deep. That’s the power of God’s Word. To HIM be glory! What a precious privilege to be His humble little vessel with the vantage point of seeing families ushered into another layer of healing!

It is SO not lost on me that if He had not walked me through my own desert, or woven adoption into our story, I would never have had this great honor of bearing His light in this way.

So dear ones reading this, our stories may hold pain, disappointment, and heartache because this is not our home, but our stories in the hands of a Redeeming Father can be our greatest platform to offer out a calloused hand and meet others in the grit of their own journey.

As The Bridge That Love Built closes, “In Jesus, there’s always a happy ending.” What hope we have!

To hear more from Sallie, check out her interview on the Mom Struggling Well Podcast
The Bridge That Love Built can be purchased on Amazon
And don’t forget to like them on Facebook and follow them on Instagram
to find encouragement and connection with others in the adoptive/adoptee community!

Amanda Buccola
[email protected]
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