From her earliest days, Meadow Rue Merrill dreamed of adopting a child, and she longed to travel to Africa, even wrestling a promise from her husband that if she promised to marry him, he would not stand in the way of her going. Redeeming Ruth is Meadow’s record of God’s “yes” to her dreams — and it stands as powerful evidence that the unfolding of our dreams may not look exactly as we imagined.
International adoption is complicated even without a large family and economic limitations. The Merrill family had both, but when they met tiny Ruth, she captured their hearts. Ruth had traveled from Uganda through Welcome Home Ministries, Africa, to stay with a family in Maine (friends of the Merrils) where she could receive physical therapy. When Meadow and her husband Dana held Ruth’s limp body for the first time, they were astonished at her level of disability from cerebral palsy — and at the way their hearts responded to her.
Desire warred against ambivalence as Meadow and Dana weighed the wisdom of bringing a profoundly disabled African child into their already-full-and-busy home located in the whitest state in America. Yielding to what Meadow described as Dana’s “annoying habit of believing that God will take care of us,” (22) they took one tentative step after another, weathered countless setbacks, and put thousands of miles on their vehicle until one momentous day, Meadow and Ruth boarded a plane for Uganda to finalize Ruth’s adoption.
Time to Walk
In the spirit of “leaving the 99 to save one,” Meadow spent nearly a month in Uganda chasing paperwork, caring for Ruth in primitive surroundings, living among the other orphans and workers at Welcome Home. There, she gained insight to the hopelessness of Ruth’s future, forever trapped in a body with the skill set of a two-month-old infant, if she did not gain entrance to the United States and the privilege of hope that comes with education, health care, and rehabilitation.
Together, the Merrill family prayed for healing and trusted for progress, but what would healing look like? Her big brothers and sister prayed specifically that Ruth would walk and talk. Would a cochlear implant restore Ruth’s hearing? Meadow pondered theological implications of her daughter’s fragility:
“[P]erhaps God’s purpose was higher than ours. Perhaps instead of healing Ruth, he intended to heal us of our selfishness and pride. Wouldn’t that be a miracle?”
A Faith Journey into God’s Yes
Redeeming Ruth reminded me of why memoir is my favorite genre. Not everyone who reads Meadow’s descriptive prose will be able to appreciate her references to Brunswick area landmarks or have memories of sunny days at Popham Beach and walks around the trails of Mackworth Island that heightened my appreciation for the setting. However, it will be a rare reader who does not identify with the struggle to hold onto a dream that keeps slipping away or to continue in faith when sight is alarmingly out of sync with expected outcomes.
The Merrill family’s unique story is a valuable resource for anyone who is learning to trust God’s motives and struggling to live well in the tension of pursuing a dream while holding it loosely, for within the flow of story, priceless principles emerge:
Close the door on worries.
“I can believe what my mind is telling me, which is ‘Panic!’ Or I can believe what the Bible tells me, which is that children are a blessing. Whenever I feel overwhelmed, I close my eyes and picture myself physically putting my trust in God the way I’d put something in a cupboard. I give my worries to him. Then I close the door.” (149)
Love like a fool.
“Even if you love and lose, keep sharing God’s love anyway. Love in the face of suffering and grief and heartache and loss. Love beyond racial and religious and physical borders and barriers. . . You won’t have to look far to find someone who is hurting, someone without a voice, someone waiting to know they are loved.” (203)
There is nothing of value that may be lost here that will not be redeemed in heaven.
“Everything life takes, love restores. Everything. Broken bodies. Broken hearts. Broken dreams. No matter how painful. No matter how devastating. God can transform even our greatest sorrow into something good.” (201)
The unfolding of Ruth’s story rebukes the notion that God is made visible only in happy endings. Loving and caring for Ruth became Meadow’s offering to God, “one small piece of this broken, pain-pierced world that [she] could redeem.” It will surprise no one who has read the New Testament that redemption is a costly process. In the midst of grinding fatigue and great joy, discouragement and soaring faith, mourning and soul-deep comfort, the Merrill family continues to live their way into God’s high purpose for bringing Ruth into their family.
This book was provided by Hendrickson Publishers in exchange for my review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Downeast Magazine is a favorite here in Maine, and Meadow shares an excerpt from Redeeming Ruth in their March 2017 issue. You can read it here.
A fellow member of the Redbud Writers Guild, Meadow wrote an article featuring her adoption journey for September 2017 issue of The Redbud Post: A Promise, a Prayer, and an Irresistible Smile.
Featured image from Meadow Rue Merrill’s website.
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