Our story of adoption is beautiful AND it has been born out of brokenness.
Our story of adoption is beautiful AND it has been born out of deep loss & pain. Pieces of each of us have shattered, been remade & re-imagined, and are seeking and slowly but surely finding new pathways. This is raw and unshiny. I have written and rewritten parts of this over and over again for months. I am trusting that there is catharsis & release in processing in the midst and there is grace from those who are on the journey with us; either in our day to day or from afar. I also know that some may not understand all I feel because we are different and we are living different, messy, & beautiful stories. And that is ok. The older I get the more I realize I just cannot fully understand something I have not walked so I also have faith that you can receive my story even if it is not yours; that is part of holding one another as sacred. I can only speak of my journey right now and looking back over the almost 3 years since a sweet and understandably terrified little girl was dropped off at our home. I share because I want you to have the courage to boldly step into the places you are called even while you are uncertain and trembling.
For some their adoption story is that they just knew from day one. That was not ours. We were strangers to each other and it felt; well, strange. She was confused and her identity was altered in joining a family unit that was so established (crazy- but established :). My identity had to die and be reborn many times as well as I failed and tried and failed. I did not know how to help her or meet her needs and it crushed me because one of the roles I felt pretty good about in my life was "Mama." But I felt lost. It just did not feel natural and I was worried that made our story not as "good." We were not equipped or prepared for all that parenting all of our kids would mean during those early days. And there are times I felt embarrassed or afraid to be honest about that for fear of my own insecurities coming to light or the judgement of those who felt so sure. I was shaky at best. But as I was vulnerable and admitted all I did not know I was comforted by other brave voices saying "me too." This is the story we are living and I am overwhelmed with gratitude lately for this winding journey. I see more of just how deeply we are loved and how we do not have to earn it.
As was our role we held a hope that restoration and reunification was possible and as we forced ourselves to think of and on that possibility it became a true desire for us, for her, & for her family. I wanted it so badly at some stages I lost sleep and would pray for it in the rare silence of early morning. I now believe God took me through that longing in order to have just a tiny glimpse of the deep loss that she and her first family experiences. And as time and life went on God revealed more and more through the long process of waiting that we are her family too. I knew the very moments it was happening when our adoption worker asked us about it a few weeks back in our assessment and grabbed Jason' hand and started to sob. It was a shift. There were many moments of insane desperation & exhaustion where we thought we just could not go on. There were times all I could see was the pain and loss and wanted to run away from it. There was a new awakening for me of things I had read about, the results of poverty and systemic injustice are real and left in it's wake are people. Real people that have now burrowed into my heart, whose stories now rise above pat answers or judgement. We like to believe we are born with limitless possibilities but for many there are so much of our lives we do not get to choose. Yes, we choose how we respond to both the possibility and limits in our life but it is not for me to judge. Father Boyle says, “Here is what we seek: a compassion that can stand in awe at what the poor have to carry rather than stand in judgment at how they carry it.” That is still my prayer that I would truly understand and live this. Some times the trauma and grief has threatened to engulf me and our community of people reminded us that is where Jesus lives. In the hard places, where there are no easy fixes, that is where we see more clearly the face of God. I am tempted to think of myself more highly than I should, that maybe there are people on the outside, but over and over again I see that is where Jesus dwells.
There were moments I wanted to hold tight to what I thought was right; but only out of fear and not true selfless love, and in those times God was gracious through slow moving delays and often painfully frustrating court process to NOT give us the answers we wanted. And for the most part we did not know why and were not allowed to know much. Unpredictable and completely out of our control- this invites me to lay down my idol of control. Embrace devastation. Embrace suffering- as I walk in my own (even as it pales in comparison to many) I have a greater allowance and more space for the sufferings of others.
And I am grateful because arriving where we are now was worth the wait. It was worth the reassurance and deep conviction God has given us that we are family.
There is no instruction manual for walking through this and both hoping for reunification AND allowing your heart to be moved to love a once stranger as your very own child, for holding BOTH of those things in tension. There is fear of loving deeply and wildly and being crushed with disappointment- but that is what love requires in all relationships. There is no promise of tomorrow with any of our dear ones. Contending for family & love is a risk but as once strangers are transformed to relatives we all experience more belonging. This story of ours is teaching us that we can find this belonging we all long for in hidden and unexpected places. True belonging is a daily choice that can welcome in healing for us all because it reminds us we are dearly loved simply because we are created by a God who loves us and calls us sons and daughters.
So many tell us "we could never do this" foster parenting gig but friends, if God is calling you to live in this in between place holding everything yet grasping nothing I promise you YOU CAN. Ours is not a story of exceptionalism. Please do not believe that lie. Between the first yes to becoming foster parents until the final yes in the family courtroom that will declare her our daughter forever there have been so many rough, vulnerable, weak moments of "I'm not so sure" and "I just can't do this anymore." But I firmly believe I would rather fail trying than fail sitting on the sidelines watching. Perhaps to some that seems hard fought and thus less 'happily ever after' but for me it makes the YES more sweet, more formed through fire, more costly, closer to the kind of love I want to follow after. You don't have to be a super parent or super brave- you just have to be brave enough for that day and humble enough to apologize & be wrong. A lot. That being said it is not for everyone either and that is ok because there are plenty of dark corners that need light- the light that can be shined through weak people surrendering and believing themselves to be wholly loved by God and declaring that everyone else is too! I will not convince you OR dissuade you. I WILL take you out for coffee though and I will ask tough questions, those that others loved me enough to ask me and that have helped me through this. I will surround myself with people and resources that will allow me to continue to ask those questions and will tolerate the space when the answers are not clear. I am not going to tell you "He will make it easy" because in my experience that. is. a. lie. It should not be easy because it is painful stuff.
This was a choice to walk this unknown path trusting and choosing love over fear. We were and still feel weak a lot of the time. This journey may not be what you are called to but I want to encourage you to risk, to step out into what feels scary but what stirs your soul. Do the scary thing - whatever that means for you. Because I declare you can do this, not because you are exceptional but because God delights in healing AND it will most likely break you AND that is probably the best thing for you. DO the thing that you are afraid of friends. Do the risky thing because your fears might be true- but past fear there is hope that only comes from facing those fears. In the struggle and the rebuilding you will be remade stronger IN that weakness. That is the beauty of the God we serve. You will be devastated- probably multiple times. But the beauty is that; for us, it has changed from a selfish self righteous fear of being devastated to a sorrow for all her first family has lost and a hope for what the future can be for us all. And choosing to embrace LOVING in the unknown will continue to be risky. Courage can be contagious so surround yourself with people that will push you & ask you what breaks your heart and more importantly "what are you going to do about it?" You cannot do it all- but you have gifts that are meant to be given away. They will atrophy if you wait to use them until you have perfected them (um, also because that will never happen). Push back against what you see dividing the world and fail, alongside others, in working to make it right. And then keep trying knowing God cares about this more than you ever will & He is working to remake the world. Remind each other often who God says you are and who God says they are because you may forget. This world needs more beautifully broken people loving each other imperfectly but wholly.
*last 3 images from the talented Jennifer Mock Photography