~The Hellish but Beautiful Journey that is Adoption~

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The heart of an adopted child is a most mysterious place. It contains soul contradictions, painful memories, haunting fears. It can be a place of deep wisdom, frustrating lies, undying love, or cold indifference. For those adoptees who choose to engage in the understanding of their heart, they may find that they often feel like a soul in conflict.

Adoption becomes an option, because of loss.

As an adoptive mother, I too, am often a soul in conflict. Holding a child while they cry for the birth mother they will never know, never see is an unusual, yet for me, familiar place to be. The one person on the planet who holds the answer to the biggest question in her life, “Why didn’t you keep me? or Why didn’t you want me?” is not available to her, to us. She is lost somewhere in the sea of humanity that is China. In a nation that punishes those who must relinquish their children, yet gives them no other option but abandonment, a birth parent puts themselves at life-altering risk if they reveal who they are or where they can be found.

So often that unanswered question of “Why?“, becomes a quest to fix what the adopted child feels could be the possible answer to that question. And that differs for all of them. Some go about it through striving, others deal with it by hiding, and still others wrestle with it by acting out what they believe to be most true about them– that they are not worthy of love.

I hold her in my arms while she cries for the mother left behind. And I don’t feel jealousy or even hurt. I can’t really describe what I feel, but it is characterized by a sense of peace. My love for her runs even deeper in these snapshots of our days. I am so thankful that instead of having these emotions in an orphanage alone, she is instead having them in my lap, wrapped up in my arms, laying against my chest.

She is being enveloped in a mother’s love, while she grieves for the other.

It is a mother’s love that has both wounded and healed her.

It feels odd sometimes to be living a life of such strange consequences. My sweet girl must feel the same way. Yet because of Grace, my heart somehow withstands it.

So does hers.

It has caused my heart and my capacity to love, to reach depths and heights I never experienced before. The sorrow of adoption has indeed come and stretched out places in our hearts for joy. (Streams in the Desert)

And for love. Unconditional, nothing-you-say-or-do-can-change that, kind of love.

It has caused our hearts to grow larger, deeper, stronger. None of that happened without pain though, not for us and not for our daughter. Depth in life never comes without suffering. For suffering is the conduit of deep joy, of deep peace.

We must first weather the fierce storms of doubt, distrust, fear, and even unbelief before we can enjoy the calmer waters of trust, belief, peace, and hope.

In the end I cannot calm the storms. I am not Divine. I am Dust.

I am here to love her. I am here to guide her.

But I cannot heal her.

Oh how I wish I could. So she could be free, live free. And let me just stand very bare before you here, I wish I could heal her for myself too. To stop the pain my heart has felt the past four years since she came. Pain I feel vicariously through her and pain I feel deep within me, a pain of helplessness and even at times, hopelessness, as her hurts loom over me like an impossible mountain to climb.

I wish I could heal her so the anger would stop. Hers and mine. Both of us are on a journey we never expected. We have felt alone, and tired from the exhausting days and long nights. I never knew I could end up standing on the ledge of despair so quickly.

When you make yourself available to go deep into someone else’s pain, you’d better be ready to face your own.

Whatever is stirring in her, often stirs up something similar in me. This hasn’t just been a journey into her heart, it’s often been a journey into the unreached places of my own.

Carrying her pain, and my own, has almost always been too much for me to bear at times. I am so deeply grateful for the Grace of Jesus.

The old Footprints poem says in the hard times when we feel like He’s not even around, like He has abandoned us to the pain or fear, it was in those exact moments that He was carrying us. My life has become a living metaphor of that exact sentiment. I’m not sure I’ve made one single footprint in the sand these past four years.

Nothing prepared me for the moment sitting in a Chinese hotel room, our daughter throwing herself to the ground, screaming, kicking, wailing. After days of this, following her adoption day, my husband and I could do nothing but sit on the bed beside her, then on the floor with her, holding each other, holding her, and weep.

Weep bitter tears, the kind of tears that come from watching your child grieve a grief so deep, so painful, knowing you cannot do one. single. thing. to make it better. Not yet at least.

The past four years since Hope came home have been what I call, hellish butbeautiful. The beauty that is adoption, the beauty that emerges from the ashes of abandonment, is often breathtaking and quite frankly, other-worldly. To be a front row witness to that beauty has been the greatest privilege of my life. But the road that led us there, that led our daughter there, has at times looked like the road paved to hell instead. At other times I have found myself asking if it is the road to hell paved with good intentions. Pushed past limits emotionally, spiritually, and physically that I didn’t even know I had, has left me depleted in all three of the areas, sometimes for months on end.

But peppered along that road, seemingly to hell, were the most beautiful of sceneries.

Sweet moments of tender holding and hugging. Kisses on a sweaty forehead after a meltdown, dances with Daddy to princess songs, tea parties together on the floor. Laugh-out-loud moments, compliments of a two-year old. Firecracker pigtails, bows, and cute boots. Times when her big brothers declare their love for her, resulting in squeals of delight and piggy-back rides down the hall. Mother’s Day teas at preschool with handprint poems and reminders that I’m the best.

Listening to her belt out the lyrics to Let It Go, more passionately than Idina Menzel, only to finish it up with by singing 10,000 Reasons, bringing Heaven to earth, and undoubtedly God’s face so close you can feel His breath on your skin.

Watching her twirl in her ballet tutu, jet black hair slicked back in a bun, almond eyes all aglow. Daily flower picking with her finds given as mementos of her feelings for me, and even as gifts for teachers or strangers.

All this intertwined with the difficult road, makes it easier for this weary traveler to traverse the uneven terrain.

I have been allowed to look into the heart of a child who use to be an orphan, a most sacred place. I have seen a child go from hiding behind the rocks of protected tears to gut-wrenching sobs that flowed with the fierceness of a majestic waterfall, showing us that walls inside her heart were beginning to crumble. She has gone from protecting her heart all of the time, to being vulnerable most of the time. She loves with a greater abandon than I knew she could. Everything she does, she does with all cylinders blazing, even loving those she holds dear. If you make a friend of her, you have made a friend for life.

The way she has fought to deal with her pain, at such a young age, to talk about her hurt, to seek to love, to embrace ours, is utterly heroic.

I want to be just like her when I grow up.

We have arrived at a place together now, that if I sense that her anger or frustration is attached to an issue of the heart, I call it out. This has led to some of the most profound conversations I have ever had with anyone in my life. Not conversations with an adult, but sweet talks that have taken place with my daughter when she was four, five and six years old. Conversations about how she wishes I looked like her, how it hurts to look different than her classmates. How she wonders what her China Mommy looks like, she wonders if she will ever know, will ever see her. Then she tells me of her love for me, how I am the best Mommy she never had. Not the best Mommy she ever had, but never had. She meant it just that way.

She shares with me how she sat in China wishing and hoping for a Mommy like me. Then she says things that blow me away like, “Mommy, when I was in China, I didn’t have a Mom. I didn’t have a life. But now I do have a life. And I want 100.”

How can a child think this deep? She is such an old soul. Growing up way too soon, will do that to you.

Then there are days when her philosophy exceeds an adult. Days when she says things like this, “Mommy, when I was in the orphanage, the nannies didn’t know we weren’t perfect. You know why they didn’t know? Because Love tells you, you’re not perfect. But they didn’t have Love in their hearts, so they didn’t know. They didn’t have Jesus.”

Hellish but beautiful.

See what I mean?

The one thing I know, the only thing I need to know, the one thing she needs to know, the only thing she needs to know, is that this journey has been authored, will be perfected, by Jesus alone.

And when we come to the end of it, He will be waiting, with a perfectly restored heart for us both. Everything we questioned, grieved, lost, found, wanted, longed for, needed, prayed for will be found at the end of this journey. And it will be found in Him. The only One who really understands what an earthly, hellish but beautiful journey feels like.

We are not alone.

Neither are you.

Two roads diverged in a wood and I–I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference. – Robert Frost

|The Other Mommy
| If we ever want to know why the world wants nothing to do with Jesus, we need look no further than ourselves.

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