Saturday, November 13, 2010


Before Duzi came home, while we were still gestating in the paperwork pregnancy process that is adoption, I had the incredible opportunity to glean wisdom from friends who have adopted. Most of these friends attend my awesome church. Some of these sages are in my very own family. I’ll never forget what my friend, Kathleen (mother of 5-- 3 bio, 2 adopted), told me about parenting adoptive kids from traumatic backgrounds. Over lunch one day, she said, simply, “Adoption is messy.”

She didn’t say it in an intimidating way – she said it in an honest, encouraging way – in a setting realistic expectations kind of way. I took her words to heart and began trying to adjust my expectations. Even though I had read lots of books and blogs on adopting older children, I knew that I had romanticized the process to a certain extent, and I wanted to prepare for reality.

The truth is, I don’t think any parent, biological or adoptive, can truly prepare adequately for the arrival of a new child. You learn on the spot, adversity becomes your teacher, and you cry a lot. Most often, you learn by making mistakes. The addition of Duzi to our family has been wonderful and hard at the same time, just like the other two times we’ve added children to our family.

But, we are definitely encountering new challenges - challenges that are unique to adoptive parenting. I haven’t blogged since August. I’ve avoided writing because I haven’t known how to articulate just how messy our life has been. I’ve hesitated to write about the chronic messiness of our new family life because 1) We are supposed to be a poster family for adoption, 2) I don’t like feeling vulnerable, and 3) Denial is just more comfortable sometimes; It’s a pretty awesome coping mechanism.

Here’s my full confession: I’m exhausted and am dropping balls all over the place. I’m forgetting things. I’m not doing a good job caring for important friendships in my life. I’m having a very difficult time processing any adversity that pops up outside our family life. I’m grieving for my new son and all that he’s lost in his young life. I believe God uses adoption as an incredibly transformative, redemptive tool but, all adoption stories begin with loss – and I’m grieving for his loss.

The grieving is what caught me by surprise. Mike and I have traveled all over the world, visiting orphans and street children in unimaginably poor communities and slums. I thought we had grieved for these injustices. I thought we were appropriately outraged.

And then, we started grieving these things for our son. Our SON. We’re committed to protecting his privacy and to allowing him to tell his own story when he’s ready. But, as you can imagine, there was a significant portion of his life that was lived under very unjust circumstances.

Strangely, this has thrown me for a loop. We knew all about his story before he came home. The story itself wasn't a surprise. But, as we bonded with him and really became his parents, the story we had memorized felt different. Now, I’m incredibly angry about what he’s lost and profoundly sad about it - in ways that feel paralyzing and incapacitating sometimes. For the first time, because I am an upper middle class American woman and have lived a life of privilege, I am seeing injustice through the eyes of a mother, and it has wrecked me.

So, if I haven’t responded to your emails, texts, or voicemails – I apologize.

I’m a mess.

I do think that this mess is holy. And I know God is at work, doing His usual thing - redeeming pain, transforming our mourning into gladness, making a way in the desert.


  1. Love, love, love this post. Thanks for being willing to share your "messy". Being wrecked as a mother is something I can really understand. Many blessings to you as you continue to wade through this thing called life!

    I might link to you if you don't mind. :)

  2. This is BEAUTIFUL - even if it's hard and messy - thanks for sharing!

  3. As an adopting mom, I so appreciate the honesty of others. Especially when said in an encouraging way. thank you.

  4. Love this and so appreciate your honesty. Although I have an adopted siblings, I did not grieve for what was lost for him in the way I have grieved it for my son who we adopted at 6 months. Thank you for putting words to what I have felt for my own child.

    I pray that in the midst of this mess, you can cling to the truth that God will make good of all of it in His time.

  5. Thank you for sharing. I hope to adopt one day, so it's great to hear about real and messy experiences.... it's reality, even if it's not glamorous.

    I'm struck by how you're grieving the injustices done to your son and feeling the weight of the injustice out there as a mother... It sounds like God is giving you a heart like His, to help you see it the way He does. What a hard but very important process. Thank you for sharing.

  6. Thank you for sharing with such brutal honesty. We are in the waiting phase of an international adption and your post has made me think about the truth of the messiness of adoption. It is a beautiful and wonderful thing, but it is messy and it isn't easy. I'm so glad you shared your truth today. Your family will be in my thoughts and prayers.

  7. Jodie, thank you for sharing so openly! I also remember this grieving time with each of my kids and it hits hard. Andrew and I are praying for you guys like crazy and we so appreciate the amazing examples of God's love in action that you are!!!

  8. I think you just summed up my life for the past year!
    We brought home our daughter from Haiti 12 months ago and Amos came home the same day Kembert did from Haiti.
    Adoption is very messy. i was just joking the other day that I missed so many commitments this year! i would just forget! my mind was other places!!!

  9. I am seeing injustice through the eyes of a mother, and it has wrecked me.

    This was the line that got me, because I know I will be in this same place sometime next year. I wish we could prepare to be wrecked. But out of the demolition grows weeds that surprise us by blooming into flowers.

  10. um, i have a LOT to say ... like:
    1. i love you
    2. you are human
    3. i love you
    4. you are stronger than you probably feel right now

    and ...

    5. let yourself off the hook for being the poster family for adoption. did you give that to yourself? dude ... no wonder you're stressed. :)

  11. I don't know how I found your blog, but I know I needed this today. I never, never, never imagined myself fostering an older child. We were only prepared for infants. Somehow God led us to take a 14yr old girl who is pregnant into our home. What!!?? Seriously? Me with a teenager?? All of those things that you say you are doing, I am doing too. Really, the forgetting things and dropping the ball is all I feel like I do these days. It's a horrible feeling. :( I hope you keep writing and I can share with you and pray for you.


  12. I love and appreciate your honesty! Thank you. I can only imagine how life must be crazy at times but I KNOW God is going to bless you in amazing ways!!

  13. Thank you for a realistic glimpse into the beautiful mess that is adoption. Adoption has always been a part of our family history, with my mother having been adopted, and my sister being given up for adoption, but we are now seeing it from a new angle by becoming adoptive parents ourselves, and yes, it is beautifully messy.

    As a survivor of 18 years of abuse as a child, I have come through the 'messy' aftermath beautifully, but just as you grieve the injustices through the eyes of a mother all over again for your son, I'm grieving all that our soon-to-be-daughter has lost in her abusive past from the prospective of a mother for the first time -- I see myself in her from a new angle altogether... and yes, it's messy. Just as life is messy. And, so very much worth it.

    So glad God didn't shy away from messy when He adopted us into His family.

    Thank you so much for being willing to "go there", to speak of the less than perfect parts of adoption... those of us who are in the trenches with you appreciate knowing we're not alone.

  14. so much love and so many prayers coming your way J. We're touched by your love and your honesty.

  15. Yes, adoption is messy (heck, the world is messy!). I have questioned myself more and more in the last couple of weeks, "am I really willing to let my life be messed up for the glory of God?"-"am I willing to step into the messiness?". I know in reality that's it's too late, I'm already in the messiness and at times I'm praising God that He has allowed me to be a part of it, but other times I just want to throw in the towel and enjoy a peaceful, quiet life in a commune or on a mountaintop, away from the world.

    Thank you for putting words to some of my feelings.

  16. p.s. I agree, this mess IS holy.

  17. Definitely a holy mess! We have adopted 3 children domestically and they are open adoptions with different challenges. Most of our families don't quite understand the grieving part of adoption (for the kids AND their birth parents) and it seems to get glossed over. I am so thankful for the family that God created for us but I hear ya on the messiness of it all. Thoughts and prayers with you and your family!

  18. I so appreciate all your comments and support. It's good to be on this journey with friends. :)

  19. Thank you for your candor, your perspective, and your obvious strength.

    My husband and I often talk about adopting and it helps so much to hear about the process (including the "messy" parts).

  20. I am crying right now for you!!!! I will never be able to understand completely, but my heart aches for you and Duzi, for all of you as a family unit.... I empathize with you as a mom, but as my mind wanders into the possibility of ANYTHING bad happening to my kids, I check out because I can't mentally go is too much.

  21. I "favorited" this the other day on Twitter and just got around to reading it today. You told a beautiful story, beautifully. Thank you for sharing it.

  22. Came here from Tongginator's Sunday Liinkage. Thank you for sharing. We used to attend Overlake when we lived in Kirkland. Gave me a happy flash to the past.


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