Emily Joy: Adoption and Angst


On a cold December night six years ago, I met a little girl named Emily. She was four.

I remember watching Emily hop around her new room in torn pink Ugg boots, once inside the foster home she called "the Christmas house." She jumped from the bed to the bookshelf to the corner filled with toys. She giggled and beamed.

Emily's euphoric joy was so unexpected, considering the circumstances she had just come from. Neglected and found by the police, wandering the streets at six in the morning. Nonetheless, she was full of elation. My family and I crammed in her room, lying on our stomachs and watching her spin from one object of delight to the next. Just like a small, bubbly fairy with freckles.

When we adopted her several months later, we gave her a new middle name––Joy. Emily Joy.

I didn't feel much joy at first.

When she ran to our dad after work before I did, yelling, "Hey, hey! Guess what I did today, Daddy?"

When she managed to wear plaid, polka dots, and pernicious pink all in one outfit.

When she grappled for attention and manipulated and hit and hurt.

I didn't like it. So I avoided her attempted affection with short remarks and rolled eyes.

Only in the last few years did I see how selfish I was––I was the one who grappled for attention and manipulated and hurt. Slowly but surely, I opened my heart to Emily Joy.

I saw her caring spirit in spite of the loud ways she helped others. I saw genuine love beaming through the face framed by crooked bangs––a face I had irrationally resented. I realized I was not worthy of her love, just as I thought she wasn’t worthy of mine.

Today. Six years later. We talk about meaningful topics and laugh and write stories together. I'm still making up for the wasted years of my teenage angst and pride. All by God's grace.

Adoption is a beautiful picture of our undeserved adoption into the family of God. May His love be on display in our forever sisterhood. I love you, Emily Joy. I'm sorry it took me so long to express it.

You like to tell people, "I've been adopted twice––into the Arend family and into the family of God!"

So now, let's pursue our Heavenly Father together.

"See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God!"

–1 John 3:1