I met Ruby Sterling in one of my literary groups on Facebook during an author event. Ruby shared a little about her childhood during a question and answer, and I was heartbroken for what she had gone through, but also intrigued to hear her story. Ruby graciously granted an interview. I am sure that like me you will be amazed by her courage — and how God has redeemed the circumstances of her life. Here’s Ruby!
Tell us a little about your background, the circumstances you faced before your adoption.
As an adult, looking back, I know I was born into a family that was already broken, probably for generations. But as a child, you don’t have the luxury of this knowledge. My birth father was my birth mother’s 2nd husband. I was her 2nd child and his first. My earliest memories are of arguments, fights, beating, and abuse. It was like he was two people, the first being this church usher who had the “perfect little family”, the other was the behind the door violent, angry man who we all feared. We were taught very early that we were to be invisible unless we were summoned, we were never allowed friends except at church, and we could never talk to anyone.
I can remember good times, but very few and far between. I remember him as a loving father, but also as a monster who I just could not wrap my head around that was my father. I guess I ended up separating the two in my head.
Abuse is my earliest memories, physical, sexual, emotional. I would be forced to do sexual activity to him constantly, which escalated to assault, and then the first actual rape at age five. This continued from ages 5 to 10, during which another family member (his brother) also started abusing me. So yelling, physical beatings, and sexual abuse were a constant in our home. This only ended when my father was killed in a car accident when I was ten. A few months after his death, my birth mother disappeared along with my older sister, so I was left with myself, three younger sisters and a baby brother. I tried my best to care for them but apparently a month or so later (felt like years!) a neighbor noticed that they had not seen her for a while and must have reported us. A church person came, and then the cops. We were taken in as wards of the state, separated, and placed in foster homes. I was in homes for about two years until I was adopted by my mom and dad.
How did your adoptive parents find you?
Actually, this was a God thing! I was placed in a home that already had a foster child and three natural children. They happened to be friends with my mom and dad. But there was an emergency in their family and that foster mother had to be hospitalized for weeks. I had already run away several times, as she and I did not get along. My mom-to-be asked if they could keep me while she recovered, and they said yes. I got along well with this new family. Mom came to love me and having me visit. One day before I was supposed to return to the foster home, Mom thought about what it would be like to just keep me, living with them. But she told God that He would have to work on Dad’s heart, as they had only planned on having 2 kids, but now had 4 of their own, so they were already over their expectations. To mom’s amazement, Dad called her the next day from work, asked her if she was sitting down, and told her what was on his heart…. Apparently he had been thinking the same thing about how I belonged with them!!!! But they agreed that it was God’s plan, so they planned on talking to the foster family the day that I was supposed to go back to that house. But before they could even start talking, the foster mom informed them that they had taken on more than they could handle, so they were calling the case worker to have me placed somewhere else. Mom explained that they wanted me. So they all contacted my case worker, but since Mom and Dad didn’t live in his jurisdiction they would have to go through approval, which can take months, as they had to be approved in his county. But because he had no other place for me at the time, he requested to fast-track the approval. The next county did the same and a week later they became my official foster parents. But at my request they hunted for my birth Mom for months. Apparently, I was sure if they found her I could go back home and resume life in my old house. (That shows the mind control abused children are under). It took us months, but we did find her and I went to see her. It was a tearful reunion, However the hard truth was she wasn’t interested in having me back. She was a mess herself and very unsettled. She visited me a couple times as Mom gave her permission, but then no more.
After much prayer, Mom and Dad discussed adoption. Later, they took us camping for my 12th birthday and asked if i wanted to become a daughter in their family. Yes!! The rest, as they say, is history!!
Tell us about some of the emotions you felt as you became part of a family on your 12th birthday?
Of course, the first one was complete shock. I though they were pulling a prank. When they convinced me that they were for real, then disbelief. Remember, I was a very broken, rebellious, troubled kid, who did not know what love was, did not have a good view on family, or God, and distrusted EVERYONE!! Especially men. But at the same time, I really liked this home, and I think I started feeling hope for the first time.
If you feel comfortable, tell us about some of the challenges you faced getting used to a new family? What challenges did your parents face?
Most of my challenges were inner, emotional ones. I had many mental health issues, abandonment issues, trust issues, and of course a very warped sense of what family and love were. It was kind of easy to start trusting and get close to my mom, as I was not close to my birth mother, and I really liked my brother and sisters. I wasn’t so sure about dad, but I figured I could handle it. It took a long time for me to feel comfortable around him, to realize that he was not going to hurt me.
I actually think my mom and dad might not have realized the task they were setting themselves up for, because it was not an easy road for the first year or so. They were literally saving and transforming the life of a 12-year-old child, with multiple issues. They took me to counselors, therapy, art classes for therapy, literally anything they thought would help. They were so patient with me, allowing me space to get to know them, to trust them. My dad has God’s heart of patience, as it was very easy to take to and love my mom, but very hard to me to get to know dad, to allow him near me, and to allow God to break the walls around me. Dad never pushed, but was always there at any time, night or day. I still cry when I think about the first time we hugged and I told him I love him.. even today, 50 years later, saying I love you and hearing him say it to me, holds huge significance to me.
Another issue was for them was how to balance the line between my needs and their natural kids needs. How they disciplined me versus how they disciplined them, how they could show love to me versus them (as I was NOT one who liked to be touched, hugged, all that, for a long time,) The other children and I got along great, and really did not have to much to work on. My sister, who was oldest before I came along, had a little bit of adjustment getting used to that, but when she realized I was now the go to person for chores and babysitting.. she liked it… lol.
What advice and encouragement do you have for those considering adoption?
First of all, realize that you are actually holding a child’s life, mental, emotional, physical, in your hands, and make sure that this is a calling God is asking you to take. It is not easy, for your or them, and there is tons of sacrifices that you have to make. Mom and Dad say they would never do it differently, honestly… because I know their hearts, I know that they are telling the truth, but sometimes, man, just knowing what they had to go through with me, I just cant imagine!!! You are going to have to hang on to each other and a support group, AND JESUS!! Because this isn’t an easy task, especially if you take in a child over toddler age. But the life you are changing is not just theirs, but yours. You will never know rewards like the reward of seeing a child change from completely broken, to a whole, restored, loving and happy person (or so my mom says).
I will tell you this, the child might fight tooth and nail at times, might be rebellious and hateful, but they need you more than you could ever imagine, and they are just wanting you to show them that you love them regardless, that you love them though all their mess, ugliness, and are willing to hold them steady when every single piece of their world has fallen out from under them.
Tell us about how you found God.
I was raised in church, but it was a very hard, rule-oriented religion, It was male oriented, as most were back in those days, and women considered servants and children even less. Portrayed God as a fierce being on a throne, waiting for you to mess up so he could punish you, and that unless you did everything they said, He would send you to a dark pit of fire.
However, I remember this as if it were yesterday, one day I was sitting on the floor in the living room, and a record was playing, and the song “The Wings of a Dove,” came on. I just felt like the room filled with light, and I can remember saying, “God, I want the Wings, I want the Wings….” As a 5 year old child!! I had no idea what I was talking about, but I know that God knew at that point I needed something, because a few months later is when the actual rapes started. During the trauma, I would picture myself flying on the wings of a light grey bird, every time my birth father would start. So I was actually, in my mind, escaping away from that room of horror.
Mom and Dad have deep relationships with God, and I sensed that from the minute I went to live with them. It was in their church that I came to realize how utterly wrong everything I had been taught was, and that God doesn’t want us to just obey him, He wants a relationship, a friendship, with us. I learned how loving He was, and through that, how to forgive, love, and desire wholeness in every area.
We can try any and everything to fill all those holes, all those doubts, of our lives, but only God, in His great mercy, can fill them…. And to over flow them. Only He can bring complete restoration, to take someone so crushed, feeling so worthless, and make them realize just how loved and valued they are, just as they are.
Give us an update on your life as an adult.
Well, I am 60 now, with a son and daughter of my own, and a granddaughter, who are the loves of my life. I have an incredible closeness to my mom and dad, and yes, Dad still makes sure he says I love you every time he talks to me… that is such a God moment, even all these years later!!!
I wish I could say everything has been peaches and sunshine, but life doesn’t work that way. But, I can say that with God and family, you can pretty much overcome anything!
I did have a long stretch of time where I ran from God, after having life as I thought it was supposed to be (engaged and heading to the mission field) completely shatter. I felt like if God couldn’t hold my life to His plan, how could I??? So I ran, far and fast, to drugs, alcohol, sex (even though I hated sex, it was all I believed I had to give or was worth… a very common misbelief for those who have been abused as a child or teen). I even tried suicide twice….. But God….. my 2 favorite words! But God never let go of me, was there even when I did want Him, feel Him, or deserve Him. He brought me home, to Him.
I have shared my testimony a couple of times one on one. However, I have felt a tug in the past year to get from behind the curtains and to actually share my story and testimony with small groups and accept invitations to speak. I am such an introvert and the thought makes my whole body shake, but if God can use it, I will try to be open to that journey.
Thank you for sharing, Ruby!
It is so hard to think of a child going through what Ruby suffered. I am so glad that she found healing with a loving family and that she eventually developed a relationship with God. Let’s make a point of doing what we can to help broken children in our communities, whether its by teaching a Sunday School class, volunteering in our towns, fostering — and maybe God has called you to become an adoptive parent.
As a mother blessed with an adopted child, I know the struggles and the joys of parenting a child who battles the darkness of feeling alone, neglected, and rejected. I have two books in the works that focus on adoption, You Don’t Know the Whole Book About Me! and Sunflower Sanctuary.
Sunflower Sanctuary is scheduled to release in 2024, as part of the Whispers in Wyoming series. It tells of Mandy, who grew up without parents, who has a heart for ministering to children who have been abused.
Speaking of Whispers in Wyoming, did you know that proceeds from His Brother’s Atonement will reach women and children who have been traumatized by rape and abuse? I am blessed that my writing can be used in to support a ministry such as Heaven’s Family. Here is the link in case you would like to learn more: https://www.heavensfamily.org/ministries/victims-of-sexual-violence/
Some fifth-graders and I teamed up with a collection of short stories to support children who have been traumatized. Every penny of Trapped in a Jar will go to Marley’s Mission, a therapeutic horse farm, dedicated to helping children heal socially, emotionally, and spiritually. Here is more about it: