In the future when you think you’re having a rough day—worked late again, family members inconsiderate, or soccer coach kept children too long at practice—think again. After reading By the Grace of God, I realized nothing we do in our daily lives rises to the level of a rough day—not until you’ve “learned” to eat a coal sandwich to survive.
As unreal as that sounds, it is just one of the things Norma Shifflett endured as a child. In her short, poignant autobiography, Norma walks us through the full gamut of her ups and downs: suffering under a dysfunctional early home life replete with alcohol addiction and physical abuse, followed by a carousel of foster situations. And then, a heartless separation from her siblings due to a mild but persistent disability.
Finally settling in, she is adopted by a wonderful woman. Norma credits her adopted mom with saving her life. As a teenager, she sets out to find her sisters and along the way discovers family secrets. With few resources, Norma uses her creative instincts to keep hope alive.
Her search is heart wrenching, filled with disappointments, dead ends, anger, and hopelessness, but ultimately joy. Along the way, she learns some very tough lessons, the toughest perhaps that the abusive adults in her life would never own up. Norma says she often felt melancholy when seeing other people reunited with family members. She wondered if her time would ever come.
I asked the author what has been different since her reunion. “It is wonderful to walk down the street and not have to wonder, is she my sister, or is that my sister?” she said. “I am so thankful to God to be blessed with this miracle.”
Readers will enjoy her odyssey. You’ll cringe at some of the tough moments. Laugh aloud at some of the comical moments. Norma tells it as it is: “By the grace of God, she has sisters again. Was adopted into a great family. We are alive.” It is remarkable she found the fortitude to persevere and complete her journey. Her life did not begin well, but she is fulfilled and thankful.
Norma Shifflett has lived in Alexandria since age eight. She is a graduate of T.C. Williams High School and a former pre-school teacher. This book has a happy ending that offers hope and inspiration to anyone battling through a tenuous journey in life. It’s a quick but powerful story where readers can take time to reflect.