Embracing Brokenness: An Adoption Story

For the rest of the week I will be off (by myself!) at a Benedictine monastery near my parents’ home: writing, praying and hanging around monks. I’m pretty excited. So while I’m off in Benedict-land, I’m honored to have two dear friends of mine stepping in to guest post at Mama:Monk.

Amanda Fleming Kolman and I shared a dorm room for one glorious year at our cheesy Baptist college, where we, the ultimate of church girls, laughed like crazies and jumped on our beds to our favorite Watermark song (to our college-aged selves it seemed the most appropriate form of worship for that particular song). We also smoked cigars on the roof of our dorm the night she got engaged to Loren, the man she calls, “the freaking catch of a lifetime.” She has three kids who are “spunky and bright, and a whole lotta fun to know.” She’s a trained counselor who now stays home and is currently struggling with the fear that she is too simple. She likes to sew, can peaches and weed the garden. And she has virtually no interest in modern art or politics.

She also shares my middle name, Elaine (which, hearkening back to my college self, is the name by which I always refer to her).  And for more reasons than all of the above, I’m honored to have her as a guest. Thanks, Elaine.

*  *  *

I know that my family turns heads, although I’m not usually aware of it.  Every once in a while, though, I can sense that people are looking at us, and probably wondering what our story is.  My husband, Loren and I, have adopted three daughters.  Hope, 6, is African American (first generation actually, since her birthparents were born in Zambia and Kenya and met in the US).  Bella, 3, is half Caucasian and half Latino…but she is blond headed and blue-eyed and looks an awful lot like me.  And Ava, the 8 month old whose infectious laugh totally makes up for her ear-splitting scream, is half black and half white.  Her coffee-with-cream skin and loose curls pay tribute to that fact.  We are about as diverse as families get, I guess.  A unique reflection of God’s creativity and beauty.  And I wouldn’t change it for anything.

But adoption, any kind of adoption, is complicated.  And sometimes, while you’re living your very normal life with three precious children, you have a moment that threatens to undo your carefully crafted idea that everything is as it should be.

Recently, Hope casually said to me at the dinner table, “Mommy, wouldn’t it be fun if my birthmom was my mommy?  Because we look alike.”  Ouch.  I looked across the table at Loren and could feel him trying to bandage my open wound with his eyes.   I gathered my thoughts a little and said, “I know it’s hard for you sometimes that we don’t look alike but do you know that it’s one of my favorite things about our family?  And I love being your mommy, so it might be fun for you but I sure would miss you.”

I know it might be easier for Hope if I looked like her…easier for all of us, maybe.  Just eliminate the pain, right? But then again, I know it isn’t my job to eliminate all of her pain.  And as frustrating as it can be to watch her suffer, I DO know that God lovingly placed her in our family because it was part of his good plan.  As hard as it is for me to understand, my God was there as she was conceived, loving her in the perfect way that only the Father can, and allowing her to be born to parents who loved her, but because of that, would place her for adoption…knowing she would hurt because of it.  He also planned for my womb to be closed and for us to begin the process of adoption at just the right time so that Hope would become a part of our family…knowing that we would, at times, hurt for her and with her.

The thing is, this part of our story, this pain, is no less beautiful than the other parts.  It’s messier for sure, and harder guaranteed, but it is not out from under the protection of his hand, and no less orchestrated than all the rest of it.  But we live in a broken world. And the reality is that Hope is a part of our family because things are not as they should be.  And I’m not exactly sure what to do with that.   It’s uncomfortable.  And oftentimes, I would prefer just to pretend we are normal.

But, I can’t.  And that’s part of what God is teaching me in this lifelong process of adoption.  My children are learning, at a very early age, about brokenness.  They are already grieving losses and they are looking to me to guide them through that.  And what I want more than anything is to point them to the One who came to redeem the brokenness of the world.  If I try to ignore it, they learn that brokenness is unacceptable.  And I know that in order to really understand the life of faith that I so want them to embrace, they will have to embrace brokenness.  Their own and that of others.  And let that brokenness lead them to Jesus.

So, what’s a mom to do?  Later that night, I pulled Hope up on my lap and assured her of those things I know to be true.  That she was placed by God in our family.  That she was not a mistake.  That it’s okay to be sad.  That God has a very special plan for her life.  And then, I let her scamper off to play and went and had a little cry in the shower.  Because these truths don’t make it hurt any less.

*  *  *

Though Amanda wants to stress that she is “not a writer,” you can read more of her musings on life, faith and motherhood at her blog. She has an article, also about adoption, that will be out in the November issue of Thriving Family.

  • http://none Helen Neill

    Amanda, I know your parents and support them in their work. I have met you and two of your children. Also, I have the greaatest admiration and appreciation for you and your husband as you pattern your lives after that of our great Model as expressed in this writing.

    This article blessed me and one that I can pass on to friends.

    In His Amazing Grace,
    Helen

  • Jana Dean

    Amanda (yes, still “Mandy” to me!),

    How beautiful are your words and how touching your true life story. God has blessed you and Loren in a very special way and those precious children are doubly blessed to have parents who love them and who love each other. We do live in a broken world. Thanks for opening up your heart to allow God’s love to pour out to the rest of us.

    Love and Blessings,
    Jana

  • Michelle Batson

    I remember the first time I met you, it was not long before the first adoption. Although I have not had a chance to really get to know you well, it has been great to watch your family grow and it truly is beautiful. I could only wish the looks you get from everyone else were the same as mine…amazement. I only wish I had your strength and faith!

  • http://waterwatereverywhere.wordpress.com/ mainlinemom

    Thank you so much for this…great for me to consider as I long to answer God’s pull on my heart to adopt.

  • http://www.p4x.org/ Scott Olson

    That is rad! Thanks so much for taking the time to write this – on some levels I can deeply relate as we have had some of the same conversations with our two adopted sons. Appreciate you sister!

    Scott

  • Laura

    Thank you so much for writing this – and for Micha who’s blog connected me to it! I’ve only met Micha once, and clearly don’t have the pleasure of knowing you, so I almost skipped by without commenting. However, my heart just won’t let me!

    I was adopted by my parents – a plan very clearly orchestrated by God. My birth mother was about 15 when she had me. I am now 32 and have two beautiful children. I guess I have a few thoughts that are most easily expressed in bullet points…

    - My God-loving parents made sure I knew that God loved me and has always had a plan for me (Jeremiah 29:11 was often posted or quoted). Because of this, I never felt like a mistake. I was unplanned, but not a mistake!
    - I didn’t look like my family and sometimes people would point that out. But again, knowing that God had chosen ME to be a part of my adopted family made me feel special. It was hard at times to know I was different, but my family’s love (and their assurance of God’s love) made all of it bearable. I think they also highlighted how my birth mother must have REALLY loved me in order to choose to give me to a family that could better provide for me.
    - I have not met my birth mother…and I don’t think I will. I’ve always been afraid that my joy and love for/from my adopted family might be hurtful to her in some way…because God so perfectly placed me there.
    - As I look at my experiences as an educator, a friend, and now as a mother, I’m often reminded of how my adoption began the path God has brought me on. It helps me to be more compassionate and know that families differ in so many ways.

    The truths you assured your daughter of are fantastic. When more questions like hers come your way, I hope the sting of that brokenness will once again lead you to the peace of knowing that you are the perfect mother God has chosen for three lucky girls. What a gift.

    • http://www.atimetodance-amanda.blogspot.com Amanda

      Thank you all so much for your encouragement!

      And Laura…you have no idea what comfort your comment gave me (which just may be the reason God laid it on your heart to write it). I pray often that God would grant my children the kind of peace about their adoption that you have. And I know that even if they grieve parts of it their whole lives, that he will use it to draw them, and Loren and I, to himself…and cause us to long for His perfect home all the more. Thank you for sharing.

  • Judy Taylor

    Amanda,

    I regret I did not meet you and your family in person when you came to visit at First Baptist Church, Wills Point, Tx. However, I did notice you, your husband Loren, and the children and yes the difference in your family from the norm. My thoughts were, WOW could I do that? What amazing love, strength, and compassion! You go girl!! I also could not help but notice the love I saw in the eyes of the childrens grandparents, when they looked at their grandchildren. It was plan to see they saw no difference! We love serving with Bro. Jerry and Brenda at our church. Thanks for letting us in and sharing with us a little about your family and adoption!

    Love in Christ,

    Judy

  • http://ourfamilybuildingadventure.blogspot.com/ Kierstin

    Amanda–
    Thank you for sharing your heart with us. I follow your blog and have often thought “I want to be like her.” I LOVE the diversity of your family! We have 2 biological sons and are in the process of adopting. We are hoping for a little ethnicity but will be soooo happy with whatever child God chooses for us! I think your family is awesome and just wanted to share that! May God Bless you!!

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