Category: family

adoption…what happened?

Her cries reach me in the middle of the night. The tears that are supposed to move me to compassion and break my heart. The tears she cried in the dark, that for seven years were answered infrequently, are supposed to cause me to sprint to her room, to hold her, reassure her and comfort–meeting that deepest place inside her. Instead, I sit on the couch, holding her sister, frustrated because I can’t put the sleeping one back in her room until she quiets down. Tired, exhausted, worn. Upset that for the third night in a row my sleep is haphazard at best. So I ignore her. I turn off compassion and embrace my frustration. The first thing I tell her when she finally settles down is that I was waiting for her to be quiet, so I could bring her sister back into the room. My heart is hard. Angry. Unresponsive. Unmoved. It is like stone. I expected the months of longing and waiting to irrevocably mark my interactions with her. I expected to be a better me at the end of this process. I expected the internal longings of my heart, coupled with the external process to wreck me, break me and for this whole process to put me back together, somehow, differently.

So on nights like this, I find myself hurt and befuddled. Frustrated by both myself and the situation. I feel angry and cheated. This is not how it’s supposed to be. My heart was supposed to break easily at her tears. I would hold her tightly in my arms and declare my unyielding love for her. But by the end of most days, I’m relieved when I’ve made it through the day and we’re level. Thankful we’re not dipping into the negative, even if we’re far from the positive.

My friend sent me a text, double-checking herself, “Isn’t that evil? What is wrong with me?”

I find myself asking the same question. Why can’t I get it together long enough to be the wife God wants me to be to Doug? Why can’t I love my kids (ALL of them) selflessly, and choose to disregard the lack of sleep and interrupted “me-time,” and just meet their needs? Why can’t I be the friend I want to have? The sister? The daughter?

My heart is sick and dying and broken. And honestly, I can’t figure it out. Once, I thought did…Maybe I still do. Just set aside, sitting on a shelf. Waiting patiently for me until I get desperate enough to turn and ask for help. This truth laces through my body yet again: Wholeness, wellness comes from submission to my Savior. In this place of brokenness, He is the only one with the power to change my heart of stone into a heart of flesh. That’s it. Again and again and again, He walks this road with me. Patiently teaching me that through Him and in Him is abundant love/life. Apart from Him, I have a deep disease–a self-love that only chooses the path of least resistance–and that does not include a hurting little girl from Africa. Trapped in my own wants/needs/desires I will sacrifice her on the alter EVERY SINGLE TIME.

A tender-heart, dies, always, continually. It weeps with those who weeps. It rejoices with those who rejoice. And Jesus alone can transform my heart, so that I put my old self on the alter, let myself die yet again, a little more, with the death Jesus died. To be raised up to new, deeper life–embracing yet again the sorrow and suffering of others. Daily, breathing, in and out the gospel. Letting it mark me. Change me.

Or I can set it on the shelf, and be this hard shell that does not love, does not weep and clings too tightly to mine. Ultimately sacrificing the best things, the beloved things, for temporary pleasure. What is wrong with me?

Lord, please save me from myself. Apart from you, I will choose this body of death. Every. Single. Time. Teach me, in the moment, to choose love. 


I’m writing this while I feel like I can breathe. I’m walking around singing lyrics from the Black Eyed Peas, I’ve got a feeling that tonight’s gonna be a good night, that tonight’s gonna be a good night, that tonight’s gonna be a good good night. Tonight’s the night, let’s live it up. The kids are (relatively) happily watching TV. I’m optimistic about the style I’m trying out on Gloria’s hair. I feel like I’ve arrived. OK, maybe not. I feel like I have some respite. A break. A momentary feeling that this is normal, good and I can breathe and relax into my new family. I don’t know if it was the awesome time with friends and wine last night, the fact that all the kids slept in this morning, or that Gloria seems to be getting the “listen and obey” concept.

This past week I felt like I was standing in the middle of this darkened tunnel. And I heard voices from far away telling me that there’s LIGHT. Voices from other adoptive moms and families. Voices encouraging me to just keep putting one foot in front of the other. To keep plodding on. And eventually that plodding and placement would turn into progress and normal. Today I feel like I can sense the light. Today I feel like I can breathe. I remember a moment after each kid came to our family, when I breathed again and felt like we had arrived. I felt like myself. I felt like our family had made the transition.

With Matthew it happened around the four month mark. With Kyler it was about six months. In 11 days we will have been this new family for three months. I don’t know if that moment is today, or if it’s just a moment of rest. But I want to mark it. To acknowledge and shout that I LOVE MY FAMILY. I love Gloria. I love her when she stands there as responsive as a wall after I’ve asked her to do something she doesn’t want to do. I love her when she wails because Kyler poked her. I love her even when she’s acting like a three year old rather than a ten year old. There’s a great book I want to get her called “No Matter What.” In it, a baby fox describes all the ways he can act out and after each scenario the mama fox says she’ll become whatever he needs and always says, “I’ll love you no matter what.”

Its hard to say those words. It’s even harder to say them and act them out when honestly, sometimes I feel like she doesn’t even like me. But as we continue to walk this out and form and grow, I’m praying that the gospel is enough. Because if it’s not, than this is an epic fail. There is nothing pretty here now. We’re all raw, hurting and being stretched to our breaking points. And I’m ashamed to admit, that my breaking point is closer to Gloria, Matthew and Kyler’s than I ever would have guessed. I might hide my sin a little better, but I can’t condemn them when my heart is as nasty as theirs. How do I teach them to die to themselves, when the minute Doug gets home from work all I want to do is crawl into my bed and veg out, rather than continuing to pour love and affection out as Christ commands/asks/teaches/instructs me to?

on her birthday

My daughter turns ten tomorrow. Her first birthday with us.  I mourn the time we lost. I mourn that she lost her mother and her father. I mourn that on every birthday until now she lived in an orphanage. I hurt that there are things she believes about herself that are not true. But because of Christ’s intervention in all our lives, we get to speak something new over her. I declare that she is loved and lovely. Even though disease and death have hung over her, God has called me, us, our family, to step in the gap and speak life into her. The world spoke one word over her and prophesied loneliness and death. Christ speaks another word; in him, we speak life and a future.

There is nothing about this that is easy. Sometimes this vigilance exhausts me. Oh, it looks pretty in pictures–her brown skin next to our pink. Her brown eyes sparkling with joy. Our kids laughing and playing, hugging. But the photos are deceptive. We capture the good moments, share them, write about them. But the harder moments, my dark moments, we keep secret. Hoarding them. Afraid to say that this is different from what I dreamed. That sometimes it’s hard to love my daughter. Sometimes I look at her and see…I see a stranger that shares our last name. Is that awful? 

This is not regret. I believe too strongly that God sets the lonely in families (Psalm 68) and he set us aside for Gloria. In this broken and fallen world he has allowed us to step in as her family. But we are saying goodbye to our “normal.” Matthew has become the middle child. I feel sad that this a hard adjustment for him. As his precious toys are ripped out of his hands and occasionally broken by his own sister, he experiences anger unique to siblings. But a dear friend pointed out to me that at the tender age of four Matthew is learning that people are more important than things. So he learns that stickers and cars will not last forever. And we talk about kindness and respect, speaking love and life and truth. 

We are all learning how to love and how to share. How to love sacrificially with a love from Jesus as opposed to a love that comes because I carried her in my belly and she shares our DNA. Sometimes we’re choosing love. Just as, daily, sacrificially, Doug and I have to choose to love each other, to honor the covenant we made with each other. And I experience these same covenant ties in a fuller way in my relationship with Gloria than with my biological children. With Matthew and Kyler, it “just happened.” We didn’t plan it. We didn’t wait and long and hope and dream. But with Gloria we did. We longed for her. In some ways, I feel more like her mother because of the anticipation and the hope and the sorrow that accompanied the waiting. She awoke feelings inside me I didn’t know existed. I’ve always felt like a mommy. Wiping noses. Cleaning bottoms. Nursing. Cuddling. Kissing away tears. With Gloria, I feel like a mother. Protector. Advocate. Fighter. Healer. 

In these moments I remember that all that’s dying in me, in our family, is our flesh. We’re being stripped of old patterns of behavior and old thoughts. We’re being remade, refashioned into something new. So yes, it hurts and it’s hard. But as more of us is stripped away, more of heaven is revealed. And I know that unless I allow Jesus to dig deep inside me and remove all that is ugly, self-loving and self-preserving I will fail her at every turn. But in his grace, I have the hope that even when I fail, he will faithfully glorify himself. Because this is for him. Apart from him, loving this child profits me nothing.

I am thankful that today she is with her family. We celebrate ten years of life. Thankful for the ones who took care of her. Thankful that we get to step into her life in the role of mom and dad. 

made new

These are the words that are hard to write. How do I process through the past three weeks? The day we had longed for for months was here. My feet touched the red dirt again. We showered, slept and ate. Packed up and headed to her. Nervous. Slept for most of the drive in the very back of the car with no AC in the African heat. Woke up feeling wooden and sweaty when we were five minutes away from her. Panicked–wondering if I would recognize her in the midst of 15 other kids jumping around demanding I acknowledge them. I needn’t have worried. She was alone at the orphanage; the rest of the kids at school. I climbed out of the back of the car and wondered how to love this child. How to greet her. What her expectations were of this first encounter with us, where she knew we belonged to her. We hugged. Nervously shuffled inside the gate and waited for the door of the orphanage to open for us. Sat on the couches and drank passion juice, talking with the director and her friend. Holding her on my lap. Exchanging presents. She changed clothes into something new we had brought. She bravely asked for ice cream and we made arrangements. It was our first outing. 

Looking back, the moment seems so long ago–perfect simplicity. Eating banana splits. Laughing as Kyler tips over in the baby pool and gets soaked. Hearing her sing for the very first time. Talking about school in America. Sitting on a swing with my three children–feeling split and torn, made new. We drove back to the orphanage, ate supper and stayed through prayer. Setting our precedent for the next couple weeks. Days with us filled with swimming, movies, shopping, drinking chai and trying new food. Spending nights at the orphanage.

This has been harder than I ever imagined. At one point, four days in I felt the world crashing in around me. There is no going back. I felt the tear, the breach, the split between my old life and my new. At one point I laid my head down on the table to cry, overwhelmed by everything. At that moment my precious daughter, the one I longed for with all my heart, came in and stuck a plant up under my hair. I pulled it out and set it on the table. A spider scurried away. Kyler threw a fit about something so I picked her up to take her to our room for a few moments of quiet time. Outside, moths and gnat-like creatures swirl around our door. Imagine the plague. I felt like they were crawling in my hair and in my orifices. As I hesitated about how to unlock the door while holding Kyler to get inside quickly and not let any bugs in, something wet and slimy landed on my foot. Immediately I start hopping around and screaming. I think Kyler laughs–she’s still in my arms and thinks this is great fun. I turn back to the restaurant in defeat. For one moment, I wondered if we made the biggest mistake of our lives. 

When my sister experienced again our daughter after a week away, she asked what we had done to her. It was not the same girl she knew from previous visits to the orphanage. I don’t know how to describe it other than drama. Every no costs us something. Every thing that Matthew or Kyler get or experience that she is left out of costs us something. She becomes a wall, or at one point ended up on the floor in a tantrum because they drank her juice.

And I know this is not fair. Her world has been rocked as drastically as mine. She has lost every thing that is her normal. She has no idea how to be in a family, how to be a big sister, how to be a daughter. It’s new and overwhelming. For all of us. We are all suffering. We are all bending and being stretched. Even Matthew and Kyler, or maybe especially Matthew and Kyler. We have videos of the love that Kyler had for Gloria. It lasted about five days. Now everything is a battle between them. And most of it’s on Kyler’s side, really. She’s a pill. Arguing just to argue. If Gloria says yes, she says no. This is not a pretty time in our family. The videoes are deceptive. They leave out the worst moments. Who wants to see a nine year old screaming at the top of her lungs, “I WANT TO DANCE WITH DADDY! I WANT TO DANCE WITH DADDY! I WANT TO DANCE WITH DADDY!” And then Kyler clinging to Daddy’s legs and screaming, refusing to hold hands with Gloria, because her place got usurped.

Then the word of God comforts me. Even in the biggest struggle and challenge we’ve ever faced, I find hope in him alone. Submission and surrender. Because in all of us, Doug, Matthew, Kyler, Gloria and me–oh yes, especially in me–the only thing that’s dying is my flesh. It hurts. It’s not an easy thing. Caring for the orphan is costing us all something, but what we will find is so more precious and much more valuable. Matthew is learning that toys are only toys, and people matter so much more. Whatever this is doing to him, its teaching him things he will learn eventually–he is not the biggest, fastest, strongest, smartest and there will always be someone who can outdo him. But he gets to learn these things now. 

And me? I’m learning that I need Jesus more than I ever imagined. Surrender to him as he does his good work in me and brings it to completion. So its OK that this is hard. It’s OK to feel the stretch and the pull and the tension as we die to our things from our old normal and move into this new normal. And already today is slightly better than yesterday. I have phrases and a plan of attack–things that work and things that don’t work. And prayer. And space. And love. And an understanding that we are all trying to figure this out, but that we’re doing it together.


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