Sunlight streams through the window as she sits before me, illuminating a face that radiates warmth. I struggle to fit the pieces together - her beautiful face with the ugly words that flow from her lips as she describes her childhood in Mexico: "We were in every way abused."... "We never went to school because my dad said we were lazy and had to work."... "We would wash windows, collect cans, and my dad would take our money to buy his beer."... "We had nothing to eat - my brother would steal a bag of Cheetos to feed all of us."... and, worst of all, "It still strikes me to think that my mother knew... she knew what my dad was doing to me... I would cling to her crying and he would drag me away... she knew."... "I always blamed myself for what happened."
As I visit with the amazing young woman before me, as she unveils the rivers of pain that have shaped her, I hear a resounding refrain. Nothing is wasted.
She tells how her mother finally decided to leave her father, and how he would always find them; how they escaped to family in the United States, and how things changed, but didn't get better. She speaks of continued abuse and neglect. She reveals a rescue that felt nothing like deliverance at the time, that led to many years spent stumbling through valleys of darkness and depression to finally reach a place of light.
As she speaks, I try to imagine myself on the path she describes: year after year of abuse, being removed from my family who, in spite of everything, I love and miss terribly, thrust into a place where I can't talk with anyone because I don't know the language, struggling to teach myself English and, at the same time, catch up on years of missed schooling because I am determined to not be held back in school.
I am not surprised by her next words, "I thought about suicide a lot."
She confesses that for years she was terrified of men, hated men; that, once, a boy at school touched her and she had a panic attack so severe that she had to call her Family Teachers, Arnie and Melanie Padilla, and they lovingly walked her through that experience and so many others. She smiles impishly as she remembers that she got a "little chunky" at The Children's Home because she could eat as much as she wanted.
And now, this college junior proclaims with confidence, she is proud of herself, of who she has become, and of the road that led her here. She knows that she is smart, and she is strong. "I taught myself my ABC's, how to read, multiplication... I graduated... I have accomplished a lot." She realizes that it is a big deal that she is moving forward, not looking back. "I want something better for myself - I want to give better to my children"... "I'm able to be 'OK' with my family not wanting me, but I feel like I can have a good relationship with them if they want it"... "I don't think about suicide anymore."
In the hands of our Redeemer, nothing is wasted. She is grateful as she wonders aloud where she would be if her mother had never left her father, if they had stayed in Mexico, if she had not come to The Children's Home. She is not angry at God. No, she is thankful to Him for leading her through to this place, for putting people in her life who loved her enough to do hard things. Even though her life has been so difficult, she trusts there is a reason, that there has always been a reason.
Wounds remain. Even in the short hours we spend together, I can see that much is true. There are still things to come to terms with, to move past, to heal from; just as there are things to embrace, to dream, to hope for... "Something that I look forward to is having kids... when I have kids, I will have my family. And, hopefully, they will get married and have kids, and it will grow, and it will all be my family... and it will be different"