Friendly Stranger: Two of your kids are adopted? What a great thing you’re doing.
Me: (shifting uncomfortably) It’s a joy. They’re amazing. We love our kids.
What I really want to say: Yeah. I’m awesome. (But in a really, really, really, really sarcastic way.)
Because I’m not. The number one thing in this world that’s teaching me the true level of how not awesome I am is parenting. Specifically, adoptive parenting, because every day I know my kids deserve better.
People look at adoptive parents like we’re extra selfless, extra amazing. (Not all people, I know. I’ve also had people accuse me of stealing my kids, so, you know, all kinds of opinions flying around in my world. And lots of adoptive parents actually are extra amazing. I’m sure of it. I’m just not one of them.)
The truth is, nothing has made me realize the depth of my depravity, the evil inside me, than parenting. I sink to new levels of impatience and stare at myself in an out-of-body way, flummoxed by the selfishness and anger that I didn’t know I had.
Maybe you can relate. Maybe a little? Adding people in our families is like juggling, whether through marriage, adoption, or birth. You get good with one ball, then add another and have to work hard for awhile to incorporate that ball into your routine, then add another, drop them all, practice, get good, add another…
I thought I was a fairly fabulous girl.
I was gracious, loving, often patient. I rocked out on several components of the fruit of the Spirit. God was kind of lucky to have me on His team (she said sarcastically).
Then I got married. I was still awesome, except that this guy kept moving my stuff and had opinions about my life and my time and my money. Excuse me? He had some issues, but thankfully I was patient and loved him through his refining process of learning to be less selfish and do what I said.
Then we had a baby. Still awesome. Slightly less time to do what I wanted when I wanted to. Hmm. This baby seemed to need me a lot, like, even when I was trying to sleep or talking with a friend. No problem. I would rise to the occasion.
Then we adopted a toddler. At this point, I realized maybe I was a lot better at blogging about how much I loved this child than I was at actually showing this child love. Because blogs didn’t hit me and try to bite me (well, most of them). Every day I gripped the kitchen counter because I felt anger and didn’t know where it was coming from. A few months in, my husband told me, “You’re angry.” No, I’m not. I don’t get angry. That’s ridiculous. You’re the one with the anger problem. Not me, not it, no way.
Adopting a child from a hard place who needed so much unconditional love and never feeling any in return had uncovered something dark in me, an anger and selfishness that I didn’t know I had. My hands shook as I stroked her face and told her how much I loved her, how much I would always love her, and she howled back at me in rage. Honey, didn’t you read all my blog posts about you?
I howled at God. Help me. I don’t know how to do this every day. She needs me to love her in her brokenness, but I’m just me and I’m tired and frustrated. She needs me, but I don’t have any of me left. She needs You, God. You.
“Let Your grace flow down through the cracks in my parenting.”
And He gave Himself. His love and patience flowed out through my shaking fingers and He sustained. I never felt like a superhero. I wasn’t awesome. But God used my hands to administer His lovingkindness. I hit my knees in humility and recognized the level of my own brokenness and the magnitude of His grace.
And then we adopted a nine-year-old. I needed to make room for more of God, because once again, I wasn’t enough, and the space I’d made for Him wasn’t enough. I needed more grace, more love, more patience.
As my three children vie for position in the family, fight for attention and love, and struggle individually, I feel not enough and small. I’m not a grown-up. I don’t know how to do this.
And there is no magic bullet, is there? No 12-step plan to greater capacity. I wake up every day and beg God for help before I get out of bed.
He always answers when I ask for His help. He’s in the pause to regroup so I don’t yell. The laugh that starts as a snarl. I feel His presence when I pull my daughter into my lap to kiss her after she’s shattered me with words.
I am not awesome. I am not enough. I am not doing a great thing. But He is. And He’s using my hands and lips.
Whether you’ve adopted or birthed or married into kids and spouses. He’s using us to do this huge awesome thing. We are so screwed up. We are so not enough. But we get to do this anyway. We get to wake up every morning, plead for help from the Giver of Good Gifts, and stroke cheeks and pack lunches and change diapers with supernaturally-imbued loving hands.
It’s really hard. I know I never make parenting look easy. I’m too messed up. It’s really, really hard. And each hard moment is a crack into which His grace can trickle.
When I look back over the last few years, I’m not the ooey-gooey rosy-glassed mama I once was. Going to an orphan care conference a few weeks ago, I realized how much I’d changed from that girl who first started on the adoption journey five years ago. I was tempted to think that I was worse, that I was a battle-worn cynic.
Battle-worn, yes, from the trenches of motherhood. Cynical, no. When I look back over the grace flowing over the last five years, flowing through the many cracks and crevices left by brokenness, I can’t be cynical. How can you be cynical when you’ve seen the hand of God in your family, in your kids, and in your own heart? The more cracks, the more room for His grace to flow.
It’s flowing freely over here.
image from www.flickr.com/photos/woollybah