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.

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