“You and I were never meant to be complete. Could we just be broken together?”
The Sunday before we left for the Philippines I heard God speak to my heart. He said something to the effect of “You have no idea what I’m about to do…the ride I’m about to take you on.” It sounds ominous, but it wasn’t. But it wasn’t all joyful either. I was left with a sinking sort of feeling, but also an excited sort of feeling. Kind of the way you feel as you chug up the first hill of a big roller coaster. You see we thought we were going to the Philippines to adopt a child. We would bring him home and love him and make a family and that was the goal, the purpose, the plan. That was the adventure. And it was. And it still is. But it has been and continues to be so much more. Stepping out into these unknowns is teaching us how to truly love like the Father, how to allow ourselves to truly be loved by Him, how to trust Him implicitly, how to walk in obedience when it seems impossible. How to lay aside our flesh when it wants to yell or curse or run away. How to learn to be settled when all around is chaos. How to embrace the Prince of Peace when peace, as you understand it, is so far away you’re not even sure if it even exists anymore.
This journey has been a lot about brokenness…a term we talk about a lot in adoption circles…a concept we were prepared for intellectually, but not experientially. You see when you bend a knee to fully engage in the brokenness of a child something incredible and scary and hard happens. Not only are you broken by their brokenness, but you come face to face with the brokenness that lives in you. We all have it, some of us just hide it better than others. Turns out I have a lot of it.
In the midst of tantrums and tears and the wild confusion of those first few months as a family I suddenly realized that we’re not that different, Bart and I – we bear our wounds together. We both fought this at first-hard. We ran from our pain. We pushed it aside. We tried to be “good” and act whole and normal, until we exploded with our pain and fear in ways that were dramatic and scary. But we are learning and God is gracious. And now we try to put our hearts on our sleeves and say to the world “We are not ok. We are broken. But we are not alone. We are in this together.”
Every night we sing this song before bed and when I get to this line I squeeze Bart’s hand extra tight. He always says “Ow!” playfully, but if I don’t do the squeeze he reminds me. “You were teaching me the only thing love can, hold hands through it. When it’s scary, you’ve got me.” Turns out that my son doesn’t need a momma who has it all together to help his heart heal, though that’s what I desperately wanted to give him. Just like we all need a Jesus who suffered to heal our wounds, my son needed a momma who suffered to heal his. We are not afraid of our brokenness anymore. We don’t always love it and it can certainly be disruptive to the picture-perfect lives we often crave. But we are learning to embrace it and work through it. We don’t have the option of hiding from or slipping around our trials, so we are learning to walk through them each day…bravely.
At one point in our journey I remember asking my friends, “Who allowed me to adopt?” We went through countless interviews, forms, essays, references, psychological and personality evaluations. Strangers came to our home and our lives and hearts were analyzed with a fine tooth comb…and they approved us. They essentially said, “Yes, this person would make a great adoptive parent”, and I thought so too! And then other strangers and family and friends handed us money! You all joined with us and said we believe you can do this. We believe you can and should adopt and so we want to help you pay for it. Here we are, a nice couple in love, two adorable kids, involved in church and community, stable job, grip on parenting…
But the truth is we are a mess. We look good on paper, maybe, but we are broken and sinful and selfish. I curse too much and I lose my temper often. I crave time alone and feel angry when that time is compromised. I get disgusted when kids wipe boogers on me or sneeze on my food or fart on my lap (this happens 9 times a day). I throw or kick things sometimes purely because I think it will make me feel better (it doesn’t). I cry more often than is probably normal, I fight with my husband over stupid things, I bounce between not caring at all about housework and screaming at everyone about the disaster that is our home, I spend too much money at Target (I think they put something in the air there), I binge watch stupid shows on Netflix (Hello judgmental Netflix asking if I am still watching), I neglect my soul on a regular basis, and to top it all off I doubt God’s goodness and my trust in Him wavers at best.
This past year I have felt like Peter on the waves. I jumped out onto the water – so excited to walk on top of it. So ready and willing to be like Jesus. To live and breathe and die like Him. So eager to know what it truly is to do something wild and wonderful and radical in His name. So ready to be a light, to bring hope, to partner with Him on some grand adventure.
Only after awhile my feet were all wet. And it was windy and cold. And I was suddenly aware of how dark the deep water was. And I was sinking. I felt like everyone was watching. Everyone cheered me on as I jumped off the boat. And everyone was waiting to see our success. And my heart was racing and the world was starting to spin. I was wet up to my knees, then to my waist, then I feel the cool crisp water reach my chin. I have felt fear and anxiety and stress to the level that breathing was a foreign act my body somehow forgot how to do. I was flailing as I worked painstakingly to keep my head afloat, but I was getting so incredibly tired. And I was going down fast.
In my utter weakness Satan took hold of my brain and my thoughts. God what is wrong with you? Why did you call me to this? Why did you think I could do this? It is too much, Lord. You have tricked me Lord. I have been deceived. You made me think I could do this and You promised You would be with me, but here I am…drowning in the sea of my fears. Cold and alone. Not to mention shaming myself continually because I’m the one who took the jump! I chose to step out onto the water. I believed I could do it, but there I was…sinking.
But then God. Well, He does what He is always so good at doing. The waves and wind still know His name. And He called out for it all to stop. For me to stop and remember who He is and who I am in Him. His truth combatted the lies, His peace overtook the turmoil, His grace removed my shame. His hand – steady, strong, warm, and always extended—reached out and pulled me up. I’m still sputtering and floundering and crying. I’m still struggling to catch my breath as the adrenaline starts to leak out of my body and I often collapse at His feet, sobbing. But I am safe. I am home. I am rescued.
He was there the whole time, waiting for me to need Him – hoping my faith could stand, knowing it might fail me, loving me anyway. Like a daddy teaching a little girl to ride a bike without training wheels. He gave me my helmet, set my bike on soft ground, gave me a gentle push, then let the wind carry me as far as I could go. But when I fell He was right there to pick me up, straighten my helmet, and hold me closely until I had the strength to get back up and try again. He is so good to us. So loving, so patient, so gracious.
You see, my 6 year (+9months) journey as a mama has been riddled with fears and worries and anxieties. I was the mom who baby proofed everything, who researched car seats, who interviewed pediatricians, who sweat over birthing plans and vaccine decisions, who refused to use crib bumpers and blankets and who scoured every floor for dangerous things my children might ingest. I have been known to lay awake watching the baby monitor (which we still used up until a month ago), waiting for someone to move, then running up to check on them if they didn’t. I have spent countless hours stressing over SIDS, childhood cancer, diseases, accidental drowning, and countless other freak accidents. I was the mom who worried over every sniffle, rash, cough, fever, and called the doctor often. The mom who still can’t go to bed until I’m sure I’ve felt the sweet softness of their warm breath as they sleep.
I thought it was just who I was – part of me, or maybe normal mom stuff? I was an anxious mom who lived in fear of something happening to her children. Then God did something wild in our hearts and in our lives. See you’d think that a mom like me couldn’t choose to parent a child with a disability and a life-altering illness. Who needs specialists and surgeries and therapies and whose body will one day quit on him and will need to be opened up to receive a new organ from a gracious donor (Lord willing, Bob or I). Surely this mom is not brave enough. This mom is terrified and God should certainly call someone who is brave for a child with such needs. A mom who is strong and confidant and who looks at challenges with a desire to overcome, not a desire to run away.
But here I am-his mama through and through, bearing all my worst fears. Living out the anxieties of my mama heart. Choosing to raise a child who is sick. Choosing appointments and therapists and IEPs and special education. Choosing what I always feared. (I see you, God. This irony is not lost on me.) You see all these years my parenting has been about control. I worried anxiously and made myself ill trying to keep them safe, happy, loved…and I obsessed over the many things I could not control.
Arrive on the scene my precious Bart – wild and wonderful. Parenting him has been an adventure in trust and letting go. It has taught me to loosen the reigns and enjoy my kids for who they are, as they are, and let God take care of the rest. I walk closer with Him than I ever did because I need Him more than I ever did. When all the worrying and googling and obsessing and controlling can’t change a diagnosis you have no choice but to lay it all in God’s hands. The waiting, the questions unanswered, the future…it is all in His hands.
This year I’ve learned to trust. Well…not completely. But I’ve learned that I didn’t trust well, and I suppose that is the first step. And do you know what else I’ve discovered? I actually am brave enough. I actually am strong. I am tough. I am an overcomer. But not in the way you might think. It turns out, at the core of me I am brave, because at the core of me is Him who says, “Do not fear…I have summoned you by name”. At the core of me is a Savior who went to the cross, who laid it all down for me. At the core of me is a God who has a plan to prosper me. A plan that doesn’t involve me and my family staying inside of an anxious bubble. A plan that is filled with adventure and trials and heartache, but that is not complete without joy and excitement and plenty of truth and grace and lessons to be learned. And it comes with the promise of being held through it all. When I came to the end of myself I found Him there, and suddenly realized I had all that I needed the whole time, I just didn’t know how to use it.
My sweet little Bart is changing the world, one heart at a time, starting with mine. His joy, his excitement for life, his determination and strength. I am proud beyond measure of this sweet boy, once a stranger, but forever implanted on my heart. Adoption is redemptive, my friends. Redemptive for the child, redemptive for the family, and redemptive for the world as it sees that God sets the lonely in families (Psalm 68:6), God will not leave us as orphans (John 14:18), God will work things out for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). And man do I love Him for it.
“Sometimes….The thing you never would choose for your life, chooses you for a reason. Sometimes…The thing that you’d never pick, picks you to become brave.
Sometimes….You get what you need — by walking through what you never wanted.
The thing you never wanted, may turn out to be the thing you need most. I hadn’t known: The thing that may make you fall a bit apart, may be part of what one day holds you a bit together.”