One of my favorite seniors is graduating today! Congratulations Miss Devyn! I am so proud of you and how far you’ve come.
In honor of Devyn’s graduation, I want to share Devyn’s testimony that she kindly wrote for the blog. Her story is a story of grace, mercy, love, God’s redemption, and a mother’s ultimate sacrifice.
In Miss Devyn’s own words…
Between the ages of zero to eight years old I grew up in an unsaved, abusive home. My married parents brought in boyfriends and girlfriends, or ran away with them. I was raised knowing how to call 9-1-1 as soon as danger arose. By the age of eight I was a trained mother. I raised my three younger siblings with the help of my older sister. I had been put in foster care once before, but my mom got the five of us children back. This time around, at eight years old, DHS wasn’t giving us back, and I was put in a foster home with my siblings.
Three years after being put in foster care, my foster parents adopted all my siblings and I, minus my older sister. Eventually my biological mom got my older sister back, but I didn’t have the contact with my biological family to know that. My adopted dad worked all the time to support all the new foster kids my adopted parents kept bringing in.
My parents sent my siblings and I to counseling and got us on medication to help with the new disorders we heard about. I felt like I was someone who just had to be fixed. My mom loved me, but I didn’t feel like I belonged to the family. My parents already had three of their own children and I felt like they couldn’t love me. In my eyes, I was the broken child my parents couldn’t repair and love. I always wished the new foster kids that came into our home would leave soon. I wanted to be normal, and the foster kids reminded me that I wasn’t.
In middle school I became an addicted cutter. I changed my hair color almost monthly and chopped it off as I pleased. I became used to being a rebel, and I liked it. Eventually my mom became aware of my cutting addiction when she was called into school several times by the counselor who had me covering my arms in her office. But I didn’t stop.
In high school I found my biological family online, and I also became familiar with cigarettes and alcohol. My friends and I skipped class with bottles of Bacardi from their parents’ alcohol cabinets. I was suspended from school twice in my freshman year for smoking on campus and signing my own excuse notes. My attendance record was so bad that the school actually created a “Skip List” with the schedules, names, and pictures of the students who didn’t go to class. I was on it. My mom had no idea what to do with me, especially when I ran away at the first sign of strain at home. I had lost my favorite foster brother back to his biological mom and my mom tried to replace him with two other foster children. I hated them.
On one of my rebellious days I met a cute boy in a gym at school. He paid attention to me, and the girls stared at us in envy when we walked down the halls together. We snuck out together almost every night to hang out at a pond down the street and run through the rain to the nearby park. He told me about a club he went to on Monday nights called Campus Life, so I went with him. I remember that day clearly. The Campus Life leaders were interested in me. They actually wanted to get to know the real me. So I let them know.
I told the leaders my life story. I gave them every gruesome detail and they cried with me. Our relationship grew, and that summer my Campus Life leader took me to a summer camp that he was going to be a leader at. By that point I was so upset about my life that I was going to kill myself when I got back from camp. I had the letter, I told my mom, and I was going to experience one nice thing in my life before leaving it. Camp was only a week away, so I figured I could live until then.
Camp was awesome. I made tons of new friends and I raised my hands for worship, but I didn’t realize they were worship songs. Everyone else had their hands up and looked like they were rocking out, so I joined them. It was fun! During cabin time I didn’t talk, and I flirted with boys in between activities. I was learning about why I hated God. Everyone preached about forgiveness, and I remembered the days my parents took me to church and my parents said, “Jesus died to forgive all our sins,” just before they would abuse me, neglect me, or let someone hurt me. With three days left of camp, the pastors showed us the crucifixion of Christ from the movie, Passion of the Christ, and something changed in my heart. After watching the video we were dismissed for twenty minutes of alone time with God. In fifteen minutes of that time I vented to God. I told Him how much I hate him for what he did, and for forgiving everyone for hurting me. I let God have it.
For every time I told God I hated him, He said he loved me. By the end of my alone time with God, I had accepted Him into my heart. Finally, someone loved me. I told my Campus Life leader, and he had me call his fiancée on our way home from camp to tell her the good news. I changed over night but I wondered how long, “the Christian thing,” would last.
Shortly after I became a Christian my best guy friend killed himself and then I got a boyfriend. I walked straight away from God. I experimented for a while with drugs and alcohol. I started having sex with my first serious boyfriend at sixteen years old. I was a sophomore in high school, but I thought I was an adult. After he and I broke up I slept with anyone that would sleep with me. When my Campus Life leaders moved across the country, I gave up on trying to do well.
In May of my junior year I went to a party convinced I wouldn’t drink. It wasn’t long before my friends had convinced me to take a couple shots and then I lost myself. Two weeks after the party I found out I was pregnant. My mom kicked me out and I stayed with an aunt who was forcing abortion on me. She wouldn’t let me go to school unless I had made an appointment to get the abortion. Every morning I prayed that the office answering machine would pick up, and it did. Finally my aunt made the appointment for me. On the way to the appointment I told my aunt I couldn’t do it. She told me, “You’re ruining the poor boy’s life, and the baby’s. You’re ruining your life.” I told her I was thinking of adoption and I wasn’t going to kill my baby.
Growing up I had made a promise to my future children that they would never grow up like I had. Now that I was facing that possibility, I had to follow through with my promise. Yet, when I spoke to people about the abortions they had, they seemed so burdened by it. I knew my baby had a heartbeat and although the baby was referred to as, “just a bundle of cells,” by people I thought I could trust, I knew I was also. Scientifically, I was just as much of a cellular object as my child. Morally, abortion was murder, and God has a purpose for every child he gives a heartbeat to.
So I told my Campus Life leaders. I had been more afraid of telling them about the pregnancy than I had been about telling my mom. I was supposed to fly out to see them for the summer, but God told them to cancel the plans. At first I was mad and I cried. But I knew God was going to do something.
Meanwhile my aunt was upset about me not getting the abortion, but she contacted an open adoption agency in town. She spoke to my counselor more than I did, and I didn’t like my counselor. Despite my request, my counselor had put couples in the book of families that had gone against my preferences. When I didn’t cooperate with my aunt’s demands, she said I had to find somewhere else to go. If I had anywhere else to go, I would have gone, yet I wasn’t worried. I knew God had his hand on me. I could feel it. I wrote on my Facebook profile that I needed a job; the post caught my friend’s attention. When I told him about my situation, he became concerned and shared my story with a woman from his church. That night I got a text from him saying, “A lady at my church says you can stay with her and her family!” He gave me her number and the next week I moved in with her.
Since moving in with my foster mom and her family I grew up a lot. I started at a new school that I was uncomfortable going to, but ended up loving. I made new friends and created a family within the new church I started going to. Then I got connected with Christian Family Adoptions, a much better adoption agency than I had been dealing with before. After a brief interview with the director of the agency, who is a very sweet lady, I was connected with a birth mother advocate and we set up a meeting. Over the months of our meetings I became very close to my birth mother advocate and she took my requests for adoptive parents very seriously. When the time came the Lord granted me the family that I had prayed for and I gratefully handed my sweet baby girl over to them, knowing I will be a part of the rest of her life.
The process of handing my daughter over wasn’t as hard as signing the papers. The atmosphere of the room was overwhelmingly sad, blanketed with a professional attitude. I was able to sign the paper that released my parental rights with little trouble. When the irrevocability papers were set in front of me, my hand didn’t move. I stared at it for what seemed like a long time; my best friend hurt with me by my side. I closed my eyes and remembered that I wanted my daughter to grow up happy, healthy, and loved. I signed the paper, and then I cried. My friend held onto me as I said to her again and again, “I did it. I can’t believe I did it.” I was proud, but so broken.
After the adoption I cried a lot, angry that I didn’t have any control over my situation anymore. I cried out to God, angry with Him, but He blessed me with a baby that smiled at me in the pictures her parents sent me. He smothered me with peace and love. I took grief classes. But for three and a half months, I didn’t let myself feel the full extent of my loss. When I did, I shocked myself. I cried out to God, angry that He would dare to let me hurt after what I did for Him. My body felt so useless without my daughter in my arms. Then I said the most healing words I could have ever said, “God, I wish she’d never been born.” Immediately I asked God to forgive me, and, despite her absence, I sobbed as I begged my baby to forgive me also. I knew I didn’t say it out of lack of love, but out of complete pain over my loss. I was able to breath; my Father healed me of a hidden burden.
Since the adoption I have found much healing in holding other babies. My body doesn’t feel so useless with someone to take care of in my arms. Now I’m nineteen years old and I am a high school graduate with a 4.0 GPA for my school year. My relationship with my family, which seemed so broken and beyond repair, is now mended. My mom has asked me to be the one to carry the torch in the family and I’m off to college. I’m moving on in my life, leaving the hurt of my past behind, but taking the story with me.
Devyn, you inspire me. Thanks for being part of my life. For always encouraging me when I felt I should be encouraging you. You are a true joy and someone I always enjoy being around. You are a courageous young woman with a big heart. Your unselfish sacrifice has blessed not only your daughter, but your daughter’s new family and every one that knows you! Thank You! May God continue to bless your path and may you always be His shining light! I love you!
Thanks for stopping by and please make sure to leave Devyn some love.
LYDIA GILLIS PHOTOGRAPHY is Denver based and Destination Wedding Photographer, Seniors and Personal Branding Photographer.