Navigating this current time period between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day often yields bittersweet emotions. Feelings of regret and failure dominate even the best parent-child relationships. While doubt and despair cripple those loving prodigals. Trusting God while sowing in tears may be one of the most difficult seasons parents endure.
Honored beyond words, my sweet friends Andrew Lindberg, Elementary art teacher and amazing artist and founder of Walk on Watercolors and his lovely wife, Emily bravely share their story of trusting God while sowing in tears with their adoptive teenage daughter.
Andrew and Emily’s story reaches beyond the pain of parenting a troubled child, they share Hope for everyone navigating a hard and dry season of life.
Be sure to check out the GIVEAWAY at the end of the post for your chance to own a copy one of Andrew’s paintings!
Trusting God in the Unknowns
We adopted our daughter 9 years ago. She had turned 6 prior to entering our home, after spending nearly 2 years in the foster system.
She was a live wire, always bouncing and active. The springs in her feet, however, were a smokescreen for a heart that was hurting, confused, and fearful.
We heard about attachment challenges relating to adoption. Children living through traumatic experiences often struggle to connect meaningfully to caregivers.
Subconsciously, the child feels abandoned by the adults they loved. In response, the child then withholds trust and bonding from others as a form of self-protection.
As our daughter’s upper elementary and early teenage years unfolded, we observed a downward descent in her response toward us.
Her view of life as a member of our family was solidifying in a negative way before our very eyes. We tried in various ways–blessing, correction, discipline, engagement, and counseling, to help her exchange her trauma-fractured glasses for accurate and healing lenses.
trusting god in troubled times
Typical teenage disobedience devolved into theft, lying, intense arguing. She concocted stories of abuse at home so that she could release herself from our family.
For nearly an entire school year, she walked around our home with her backpack on her shoulders. It functioned as an ever-present security blanket containing all her necessities and a constant warning sign to us that she was interested in leaving the house on her own.
Then came the straw that broke the camel’s back. The call came from the school principal in mid-April of last year.
Our daughter had stolen another child’s cell phone at school. The evidence was overwhelming, even though she tried to lie her way out of a suspension.
When we got the call, amazingly, we felt relieved!
Finally–someone else was in the position to see our daughter at a point of transgression!
Even though my wife and I were 30 minutes apart (I at work and she at home), we had the same unifying thought: “Now we can demonstrate to our daughter what abundant grace looks like.”
Watching Hope Slip Away
So, we planned on buying pizza that night. We had prepared our hearts to offer her big hugs and the gospel in action and in words.
We hoped that God would use this situation as a wakeup call in her heart–an awakening to God’s love for her, as well as our own.
However, while obtaining the pizza on my drive home from work, it was clear from my wife’s view in the house that our daughter was in a frenzy of emotion.
Before I got home with the goods and the gospel opportunity, our daughter had left our property secretly and was gone.
After a couple of hours, with the help of the police, we found her and brought her back home. But the fear in her heart kept her imprisoned in her own private dungeon, unwilling to connect with us and unwilling to stay under our roof.
trusting God Through tears
Over the course of 3 weeks, she attempted or succeeded in running away 5 times.
Some days, she just roamed the edges of our yard, looking outward. Once, she used her computer to solicit a stranger to pick her up from our house.
Sometimes she just plain left. She was unwilling to eat at our table with the rest of our family. Refusing to look us in the eye, she rejected any parental input from us, whether good or bad.
One Saturday morning in early June, she left and didn’t return by bedtime.
We kept the outside lights on and the doors unlocked. One of our older children slept on the couch, waiting for her to arrive home, praying and crying.
By morning, church friends had heard of the situation and stopped by to encourage us and pray for us.
We had no idea where she was.
trusting god with hard decisions
We knew the struggle our daughter had in our family was now becoming dangerous for her. Her actions were also causing trauma in our family.
In God’s providence, we found out about a Teen Challenge home for troubled girls with a bed available in only two weeks.
The Teen Challenge program helps teenage girls understand God has a plan for their lives and their family is God’s springboard into their bright future with Him.
We took a step of faith and offered her the opportunity to live in a new place for a year. She took it.
We are coming up on 11 months with our daughter in the Teen Challenge home. Throughout that time, our family has had the opportunity to cry, talk, heal, pray, and hope. Our daughter has grown in wonderful ways.
The first few months, she exhibited anger and mistrust.
The first phase of the program only has the girls speak with their parents 15 minutes per month. For the first 3 months (during last summer), she refused even a brief phone call!
Hope Renewed Through Healing
However, as Fall arrived and our daughter was promoted to the second phase of the program, her attitude toward us began to change.
During the second phase, the program initiates parent visits for 8 hours each month. During our first visit, we saw the fear and apprehension dissipate in our daughter.
Though our visit began with lots of distance and hesitancy, it ended with jumping on a trampoline together with smiles.
After a winter that included wonderful progress, including a profession of faith in Christ, and some regression, too, we are on the cusp of seeing our daughter to the finish line of the Teen Challenge program.
She is two months away from completing the program and being a Teen Challenge graduate. She is working on reuniting with our family in short bursts each month. We look forward to seeing what God will do in our new family dynamic.
trusting god while sowing in tears
This year has been filled with more tears than any other year we can recall.
We shed tears for our daughter as we considered sending her to a safe place where she could gain a new perspective on life, God, and our family.
We wept as we longed for healing in our family.
We cried out in times of prayer and fasting, pleading with the Lord to answer us with His “awesome deeds of righteousness” (Psalm 65:5).
We listened to songs which encouraged our hearts, giving us hope as we wept. Our brothers and sisters in Christ in our church shared our sorrows and hopes as well.
Psalm 126 has been a special comfort to us. It contains words that express what we were feeling in our own hearts. It also contained hope that carried us. Verses 5 and 6 became a foundation for our hope:
“Those who sow with tears Will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, Carrying seed to sow Will return with songs of joy, Carrying sheaves with them.”
It is in this hope that we rest in the Lord and His future plan for our family. The tears we have shed as we have worked to build a safety net and bridge for our daughter will yield joy and gladness in the Lord’s perfect timing.
Andrew and Emily Lindberg have 8 children and reside in beautiful Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Andrew is an elementary Art teacher by day and paints under the banner of WalkOnWatercolors on the side.
You can see his portfolio of over 50 biblically themed paintings at WalkonWatercolors.
Andrew painted this beautiful portrayal of Psalm 126:5-6 through inspiration of God’s unfailing love and faithfulness during this difficult time of sowing in tears for their family.
I am giving away 3 copies of his painting!!
To enter, simply leave a comment below by May 31st. I will choose 3 random winners to be blessed by this inspirational piece!
Thank you for sharing this story, Donna. It really touches me how Andrew and Emily portrayed God’s love in never giving up with their daughter. I thank God for you, Andrew and Emily. My heart aches for all the children who experience attachment disorders because of the deep trauma they have experienced. Thank you also, Donna, for the meaningful breath prayer in your newsletter. Love and blessings to you!
Lisa notes says
Wow. This story has me in tears. I’m hopeful that when this young woman graduates from her program, that she’ll be better able to receive the love that she has been so graciously shown from her parents. It’s amazing how powerful grace and love can be on the giving end; may we each be open to receiving it as well. Thanks for sharing this story!
Lisa, Andrew and Emily’s story is precious, and shows so much of God’s love for His prodigals. We can never underestimate the power of love and grace in another’s life, indeed may we be free in giving as well as receiving it!
Tobi Renee Furman says
Hello Donna. This story really hits me. I was that girl many years ago. I never stole nor did I runaway (not until I was 17 anyway) but my loving Stepmother had patience. I was not brought up in a religious home. My biological mother wasn’t a good mother. Her boyfriend beat me for 5 years before she finally married him (???why). With her I was brought up Catholic (actually, it was her parents that lived across the country). She even told me that my daddy was dead. Imagine my surprise when I met my dad and stepmom! Jumping forward, there were a lot more tragedies that I am not going to post. My mother died in 1980 & by the grace of God, I moved across the country and lived with dad and his growing family. Nobody knew what I had gone through. Years (many) later I told my Mom everything. I’m now living with my mom so she doesn’t have to be alone. Just reading this story showed me how much Andrew and Emily are God’s Angels sent just for their adopted daughter. One day she will realize this and love them even more than she does now ❤️
Tobi, thank you for sharing your story here. I am so sorry for all of the pain and trauma which is a part of your story. I cannot imagine the loneliness, despair, and pain you must have felt as a child and young adult, and even now when you look back. yet God’s good and faithful hand is so evident in allowing you to reunite with your father and his family and find love and patience in your stepmom.
I praise God you found a safe place and courage to share your story with someone who loves you. How wonderful you are able to give back by living and caring for your stepmom now.
We can never underestimate the power of love given to another when they least realize they need it. I know God will redeem Andrew and Emily’s story for good.
Lauren Renee Sparks says
Thank you for sharing this bittersweet, beautiful story.
Thank you, Lauren for reading!!!
Lisa Blair says
Donna, thank you for sharing Andrew and Emily’s beautiful story of persevering love, prayer, Christian community, hope, and God’s transformational power.
Thank you for sharing this beautiful story of hope. Once, my middle son told me, “Mama, one day you are going to lose hope.” Thankfully, with the Lord I have never lost the hope that has sustained and encouraged me just as it did for Andrew and Emily! God has a plan and it is always best to trust in it!!!
Donna, Andrew, and Emily’s story is so beautiful and inspiring. Praise God on this faithful family who trusted him while sowing in tears.
And love Andrew’s paintings.
Thank you, Deborah, for taking the time to read Andrew and Emily’s post. They are the sweetest couple. I know the Lord will bless many through their story!
I think Andrew’s paintings are so unique and inspiring!