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A Story Behind the Picture

Since Atlanta is still snowed in and I’m off my minivan-driving schedule for the time being, I decided to try braiding Evie’s hair. I can do off-the-scalp braids fine. French braids no problem. But the underhand braids require my hands to go the opposite direction from what they’ve done my whole life, and I could not figure it out. Especially with my wiggly girl.

But today, armed with graham crackers and a pile of books, we set forth. I’m not saying they’re the best braids ever. They’re too loose, and the parts aren’t perfect, but my fingers finally got it down.

I have high hopes for our future together.

Okay. This is the hard part. Lots of times, we adoptive mamas post photos of hair or clothes or when our kids throw their arms around us and say amazing words about family and Jesus and puppies and fluffy clouds. We capture these beautiful moments, because they are so, so, so sweet like agave nectar. I love these moments.

But sometimes, at least in my own world, the picture doesn’t tell the whole story. Adoption is beautiful, and there are beautiful moments. But adoption also starts with brokenness, and sometimes there are broken moments when life feels like it won’t ever be sweet again.

She’s smiling. She looks so pretty.

Here’s what she was saying to me for an hour while I did her hair:

I don’t want to be in your family anymore.
I don’t love you.
I want to be in the neighbor’s family.
I love them.
You’re a bad mommy.
I don’t love you.
I’m never being in your family.
You are mean.
I hate you.

She sang these words. She rolled them around in her mouth, experimented with different versions, all in the sweetest little voice.

I kept braiding. I kept breathing. I kept telling her that I love her all the time, no matter what, that her words hurt me, but there’s nothing she can say to make me stop loving her and stop being her mommy.

She sliced me to pieces. Her words destroyed me.

I kept braiding.

After two and a half years, I see these shining, glimmering moments of beauty, of love. But there are still ashes.

She runs to strangers to give them hugs and tries to go with them. She walks past our front door into a neighbor’s house for comfort and love.  When my van pulls up in the carpool line, she tries to drag the teacher past it to the next car.

I want the pain to go away. I’m trying to remember that we’re supposed to do hard things and this life isn’t for cushiness. But I’m aching so much that I can barely see the truth.

Hey, we’re okay.  I mean, feel free to send chocolate, but we’re okay.  We have support. We have resources. We aren’t drowning. We’re just aching.

And sometimes this is adoption. Sometimes I feel like if I start crying I won’t ever stop. Sometimes I’m just so grateful we get to do this thing called family together.

You may be thinking that DNA-sharing families go through this stuff, too.  That’s true.  I guess with adoption, we always wonder if something is adoption-related or personality-related or a little of both.  Ultimately, the pain probably feels the same.

If you’re in the adoption process, I’m not sharing this to scare you. Children need families and arms willing to hold them even when they’re messy and mean. I’m thankful for parents who love me even when I’m messy and mean.

I guess I’m sharing this small slice of our life to remind you that if things get hard, you’re not alone. You’re never alone. There’s always a story behind the picture. It isn’t as glossy and shiny as it seems. There are layers and layers and layers.

During her sing-songy diatribe, Evie repeated several times that she was in Jesus’ family but not in our family.  She wanted to be with Jesus but not with us.  I guess that’s the point.  Whether our kids are adopted or biological, if we’re pointing them to Jesus, He’s going to heal their hurts.  If I have to choose her loving me or Him, it’s going to be Him.  Every time.  He’s the only one who can heal everything up and make her whole.

My daughter is amazing.  She’s smart and funny and compassionate and often sweet and tender.  She’s a work of art, an incredible masterpiece that isn’t finished but is already stunning in its intricacies and depth and glorious brushstrokes.  This journey that we’re on together is drawing both of us closer to God, and if we’re both headed toward Him, then I think that means we’re headed closer to each other.

And there’s hope. The last few days have been an emotional juggernaut. But when I look back over the last two-and-a-half years, I see love. I see beauty. I see promise.

I have high hopes for our future together.

And some days just really suck.

I guess whether we have kids via paperwork or birth, we all feel rejection at some point.  It’s a universal aspect of motherhood, rejection.  Today wasn’t the first time I’ve experienced it, and it won’t be the last.

If you’re feeling rejected, join hands with me.  We’re good moms.  Even during those times when we feel smashed to pieces and our hearts bleed, we’re good moms.  Even when we feel like we’ll never hear it from our kids, let’s hear it from each other.  We’re good moms.

I have high hopes for our future.


image from Arrok at