When God Ruins Your Masterpiece

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Frozen. Numb. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t even function. I felt heavy like lead, yet also fuzzy and unsubstantial, like I wasn’t really existing. This must be what depression feels like was the only coherent thought my brain could come up with. And so there I sat in my bedroom, there but not really there, aware of nothing but an empty numbness. Another part of me under the surface kept screaming, but the screams bounced off the gray walls of my mind, sounding just as hollow as I felt.

I couldn’t force myself to get up and go back to the living room where our three remaining foster kids were waiting for us. They knew something was wrong but didn’t fully understand what had happened. I didn’t either. I knew that DHS had taken our two youngest foster girls away from us. But why? Their reasoning had made no sense to me. All I knew for certain was that our family of seven was now a family of five and that we may never see our girls again.

Deep down I knew, as the analogy went, that our lives were God’s canvases and that He was making a masterpiece out of us through all of life’s ups and downs. But in that moment it felt like God had poured water all over our family’s canvas, leaving us colorless and warped.

The hollow feeling was familiar. I had felt it the two times we’d had to say goodbye to the three foster children we still had. They had left twice to go to different relatives but had come back and were finally working on going home.

So I knew the feeling. But this time it was different. This time we weren’t just mourning over the loss of precious children. This time we were mourning a loss while also suffering the injustice of being wrongly accused.



Spring Break 2016, a few days prior. I like to refer to it as the spring break from hell. I had just begun to get used to having five kids aged five and under. We had never planned on having more than a few kids, but…things happen. After our foster daughter, Angel, left the first time to go to some obscure relative, we got a new foster child from a different family and district, Aleyana (Aleya for short), at three and a half months old. A month after that, Angel came back to us with her two brothers, Ringo and Jonathan, and we had a family of six. When those three siblings left again to go to another relative, Aleya’s sister, Sophia, was born. So, of course, we took her in, as a newborn. About a month after taking in Sophia, the three siblings needed a home again. How could we say no? We loved them dearly and they needed stability. Not some new foster home they had never been in.



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So we became a family of seven in October of 2015. The “masterpiece” God was turning our family into was shaping into something we had never anticipated or prepared for. Much of the time, although we deeply loved all of our kids and trusted that God knew what he was doing by placing them all with us, we felt overwhelmed by our blessings.



At the time of spring break, we’d had all five kids, ages five and under, for five months, and I was still adjusting. I was just getting to the point of not having a mental meltdown at the thought of being left alone with all five of them without my husband.

As luck would have it, during the week of spring break, my husband had to work late every single night, so I was stuck with taking care of all five by myself…all day long. It became a game of what can I let slide and what do I have to address immediately. Do I change the baby’s diaper or clean up the spill? Do I feed the kids or get the bottle ready? Do I let them play, even though it’s going to make a mess (or might be slightly dangerous), because they’re occupied and letting me do something else, or do I stop what I’m doing to address it?

One evening after supper as I washed Aleya’s hair in the bathroom sink to get out the food she’d smeared all over it, I was faced with one of those dilemmas. Ringo and Angel had started to play with Sophia in her portable bassinet, pushing her down the tiled hallway. Was that safe? No. But was Sophia happy and distracted and not needing me at the moment so I could focus on her sister’s hair? Yes. So I told them to make sure she was buckled, go slow, and be careful.

Bad decision.

Shortly after, I heard Ringo and Angel start to argue, and before I could even rinse and dry my hands, I heard a thwack against the floor and Sophia crying in pain.

I ran out of the bathroom to see Sophia tipped over in her bassinet with her head on the ground. Apparently, the two older ones had been fighting over who got to be in the front and one of them jerked the bassinet away from the other, which made it fall over.

A giant goose egg formed on Sophia’s little head. It took some time to calm her down, but other than that, she was okay. We contacted our Youth and Family Services foster care worker and had Sophia seen by an ER doctor because of how late it was, and her pediatrician later, and she checked out fine. DHS started an investigation the next day, but that was normal for the circumstance. DHS would do their thing, find everything was normal, and then be done with it.

But we weren’t that lucky. Due to some major miscommunication and misunderstandings, DHS thought that something very serious had happened and that our two youngest girls were in danger because of a lack of supervision or possibly neglect. For these reasons, before the investigation was even over, the girls’ DHS worker showed up at our daycare without notifying anyone, not even our YFS foster care worker, and waited for us so they could have us sign the removal papers and take our girls away.

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The rush of emotions that flooded through me as I signed that paper and watched the caseworker carry my girls to her car and buckle them in was so chaotic and jumbled inside me. The waves of shock, horror, anger, rage, despair, anxiety, and hopelessness all fought for attention in my body and mind.

Those feelings still swarmed inside me the next day as I sat at my sister’s kitchen table, explaining to her and my mother everything that had happened. “I want to trust God,” I said, “but I just don’t understand. I don’t understand. Why would He let this happen? It doesn’t make sense. What good can come from this?” God had allowed our family’s masterpiece to be ruined in a watery disaster. I felt broken and bruised, indignant and hopeless.

My mother and sister, of course, had no answers, only comfort. What can you say to someone in a moment like that?



Saying the next few weeks were difficult was an understatement. A lot of phone calls were made and a lot of conversations took place, many not involving us. There wasn’t much we could do. We were helpless, at the mercy of others making decisions. Decisions that would restore or destroy our family.

We did have Youth and Family Services defending us and trying to explain our side to DHS. We also knew that DHS’s claim of the kids being in danger and their allegations of neglect were bogus. The accident could have happened to anyone. But that thought didn’t help ease the frustration and helplessness at the injustice we’d suffered, and it certainly didn’t help get our girls back.

Throughout those few weeks, along with those awful feelings was this strange hollowness, like my life was on pause with the uncertainty of what would happen. I didn’t know whether to be hopeful or mournful. Neither felt right because I didn’t know if we’d be able to get the girls back or if we’d never see them again.

Eventually, once DHS got all their facts straight, they dropped the allegation. But it was too late. At the same time, we got word that the tribe the girls were a part of had found a tribal home they wanted to transfer the girls to soon. Even though it was a long shot because the tribe can do pretty much whatever they want in regards to moving kids, we wanted to appeal the move. But we couldn’t because we technically weren’t their foster parents anymore. And DHS didn’t want to move them back to us because they said there was no point if they were going to move anyway. The new foster parents, good people we knew, couldn’t appeal either because they’d only had them for a few weeks. We were stuck.

We’d gotten our lawyer involved already, and when we found out about this new information, we immediately called him up. Seeing that there was no reason the girls shouldn’t be placed back with us if the allegation had been dropped, he marched right over to the judge and explained the situation.

The judge was indignant and asked DHS flat out why they hadn’t placed the girls back in our home yet, saying that it was to be done immediately.

So we got our girls back and were able to appeal the move. Which was definitely a win. But then what? After that, all we could do was wait for our court date, our only hope being that the judge didn’t seem in favor of the tribe’s decision. But what could he really do? The tribe had so much authority that none of us were very hopeful going into our court hearing.

What we didn’t count on was one authority the judge did have – the power of delay. As the tribe presented their case for moving the girls, it was obvious that some of their representatives hadn’t learned of the allegations being dropped and the reasons why, or they just didn’t care. One of the tribe’s representatives even brought up the word “abuse,” as though the bump on Sophia’s head could’ve been caused by that. DHS presented some information. Our YFS worker presented some corrected information on our behalf. And between the three parties there was so much confusion and difference in facts that the judge decided to postpone the appeal hearing for a month so we could communicate and get our facts straight.

He’d given us what little he could. Time. But was this just delaying the inevitable? We didn’t know. In the meantime, we enjoyed the time we did have with our girls and did everything in our power we could think of to change the tribe’s mind. I typed up a letter with our explanations, got character reference letters from friends and notes from our doctor. Then I drove over to the tribal office and presented them with this packet of papers as an offering, a plea for them to try to see us as we were and not as the monsters we’d been made out to be. A plea for them to give us a chance to keep our girls and continue to love on them.

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Still, because of what everyone, including our lawyer, had told us about the tribe’s authority, we had little hope going into court again. We walked in with a kind of grim resignation. We’d done all we could, and now it was out of our hands. We wanted to have hope in God, but we were also realistic.

We had no clue that God had actually won our battle even before we’d walked through the doors. While we’d been focused on one ugly smear on our canvas, God had been painting in another area, carefully connecting things I couldn’t see.

The tribe’s attorney pulled our attorney aside before court started and talked for what seemed like forever. When our lawyer returned, he had the most surprising news. During the extra time the judge had given us, the family the tribe had been planning on moving the girls to had fallen through. So…since the tribe had no other options, they decided the girls could stay in our home as long as we became a tribal foster home by getting dually certified, which, of course, we agreed to.

God had given us our miracle in a way none of us had even anticipated. It’s almost as though God had wanted to prove to us that his ways are higher than our ways, and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. He is always working, even when we can’t see it.



Looking back now, after we’ve finally crossed the adoption threshold after three and a half years, I can see the masterpiece God had been creating in us the whole time. Instead of random colors, ugly smears, and seeming accidents, I can now see intricate layers with a blending of colors and unique brush strokes that layer on top of each other to make a beautiful picture. I see strategic lines that weave in and out of obstacles in supernatural ways only God can make happen.

One of the very first ugly brush strokes we had smeared onto our family’s canvas, now makes sense – saying goodbye to Angel. If Angel hadn’t left us that very first time, we probably would not have said yes to taking in Aleya because we really only wanted one child at that time. In fact, our worker may not have asked us about her in the first place.

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Still, God’s plan wasn’t to end our relationship with Angel, so he brought her back with her brothers. Then, after those three siblings left us for the second time – another painful brush stroke, we got the blessing of Aleya’s new baby sister, Sophia.


So as we were focusing on mourning the losses of the three kids who were never meant to be ours, God was layering stroke after stroke and color after color as a foundation for our true family’s masterpiece.

But God was still working on the other three kids we loved, too. Through all of the crazy, chaotic layers that intertwined our lives and theirs, God formed a beautiful relationship between us and their mother. A relationship that is still going strong today and that allows us to remain a part of the kids’ lives in a unique and special way.


Then, of course, the biggest painting disaster of all – the girls getting ripped from our home after Sophia’s accident. That had a purpose too. Going through all of that is what led to the tribe wanting us to become a tribal foster family. And I truly believe will all my heart, that if we hadn’t become a tribal home, we would not have been able to adopt the girls. If we had stayed the course as a normal DHS foster family, the mother’s rights would’ve been terminated much earlier, and tribes are known for pulling kids out of traditional foster homes at the last minute when they’re adoptable to put them with a tribal family for adoption. They have the authority to do that. But because we were technically a tribal home and because we’d had them for so long, when the time came, the tribe not only allowed us to adopt Aleya and Sophia, they actually wanted us to.


What had at first appeared to be a watery mistake all over our family’s canvas ended up turning the perfectly clean and unblemished painting I thought we were supposed to be into a beautifully messy and stunningly artistic watercolor masterpiece.


“Masterpiece” by Danny Gokey

Heart trusts you for certain
Head says it’s not working
I’m stuck here still hurting
But you tell me

You’re making a masterpiece
You’re shaping the soul in me
You’re moving where I can’t see
And all I am is in your hands
You’re taking me all apart
Like it was your plan from the start
To finish your work of art for all to see

You’re making a masterpiece


~ by Dusty Crabtree - Author of Shadow Eyes on March 6, 2018.

4 Responses to “When God Ruins Your Masterpiece”

  1. This is such an amazing testament to God’s sovereignty. I love the painting analogy and how you thought there were mistakes in your masterpiece but God was actually making all things work together for good. Congratulations on the adoption of these two beautiful girls! The pictures are precious!

  2. I love this Dusty! It is remarkable how much of the things that happened with girls being taken by D.H.S. is how
    I totally felt when my kids were wrongfully ripped away from me due to false allegations. My deceased (now) sister & I had gotten in an argument the night before & because she was mad at me she called D.H.S. & lied. They showed up no warning & took my kids. As you know I fought every step of the way. As you also know the court prolonged it over & over & over for 3 years. I am so glad,grateful, & blessed that they are home. I am also sooooooo grateful that god let you & Clayton be my little darlings’ loving caregivers while I was fighting the system to get them back home.Thank you guys for all you have done. I am soooooo HAPPY you have the girls and they are officially Crabtrees!!! Yeah! Hallelujah! God is miraculous and I give him all Glory & Praise.😀💓💕🎈💗Much love. -Esther

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