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It was time for bed and my daughter seemed distant, so I gave her a hug and prayed for her before sending her upstairs. At the foot of  the stairs she turned and said, “Will you rock me?”

My heart cried silently, “No, you have worn me down.  The day is over and I am tired.”

I whispered in Russ’ ear, “I’m going to fake it ’til I make it.  Pray for me.” […]

We went to the “ugly chair” and she climbed in my lap.  I sang while I rocked, “…now I can trade these ashes in for beauty, and wear forgiveness like a crown.  Coming to kiss the feet of mercy, I lay every burden down at the foot of the cross.”

She sniffed back tears.  I quietly talked about the importance of “letting love cover a multitude of sins.”  Even people in a family hurt each other, but we forgive them and move on.  We can’t let ourselves be bitter or distant because it only hurts our own hearts.

She began to compare herself with her sister and the perceived disparity in privileges.  When I replied that some privileges had been earned due to mature behavior, her lip trembled and she said, “But she isn’t from Ethiopia, and her mom didn’t die!”

Her pain was so real, so fresh, I could nearly smell it on her skin.  The sobs came pouring forth as if her mother had died yesterday.  In some ways, that was nearly true.

When we arrived in Ethiopia to bring her home, we were surprised and saddened when we learned she did not know her mother had died.  Apparently nobody had the heart to tell her, so for years she held out hope that her mother would someday return for her.

We rocked and she cried.  I comforted her telling her that I knew her sadness was very real.

“But the sadness won’t go away,” she said.
Just to be sure, I asked her, “Sweetie, when did you find out that your mommy had died?”
“When you told me.”
“But didn’t you ever wonder, all those years at the orphanage, if your mommy had died?”
“No, because sometimes kids come to the orphanage because their parents are too poor and can’t take care of them.”

I nearly wept to think of her waiting and hoping, only to have us show up and strip that away.  She wanted a family, she wanted a mother, but she wanted her mother, not me.  I swept away her hope, but I also told her the truth, a truth which broke her heart.  But God is the healer of broken hearts and I know He will help her “trade her ashes in for beauty”.   In the meantime I pray that God will give me a huge measure of patience as He heals my daughter’s heart.


  1. Paula (Reply) on Monday 8, 2010

    We think our daughters didn't know about their mother's death until we told them as well. It broke my heart. Thanks for sharing.

    • OneThankfulmom (Reply) on Monday 8, 2010

      Paula, I am so sorry to hear that. This must contribute to our children's trauma…they need so much love and time to heal.

  2. Julie (Reply) on Monday 8, 2010

    Weeping for your baby.

    Much love,

    • OneThankfulmom (Reply) on Monday 8, 2010

      Julie, you know this sorrow all too well.

      • adwiti (Reply) on Monday 8, 2010

        It is a deep sorrow undoubtedly. But perhaps you could tell her that ther mother is dead but her love hasnt died it is her love that shines through you and the other members of the family who care for her. Healing happens through the great mysterious force of love.

  3. Jen Dugas (Reply) on Monday 8, 2010

    Check out this verse that I pray over my daughter from the The Message. I don't always love The Message translation…but this is perfect!

    May God himself, the God who makes everything holy and whole, make you holy and whole, put you together—spirit, soul, and body—and keep you fit for the coming of our Master, Jesus Christ. The One who called you is completely dependable. If he said it, he'll do it!

    1 Thessalonians 5:23-24

    May God use us to help our daughters heal!!

    Jen Dugas

    • OneThankfulmom (Reply) on Monday 8, 2010

      Jen, Thank you for sharing this verse! I am currently working on choosing a verse for each of my children to pray over them as a blessing. This one is perfect!

  4. Brianna (Reply) on Monday 8, 2010

    Lisa this post was beautiful, and sad, and I am so grateful to serve a God who makes beauty from ashes.

  5. Jolene (Reply) on Monday 8, 2010

    Our sons parents both died as well and at times I weep for him and how we will be the ones to tell him one day. Praying for you. Thank you for this blog! Jolene

    • OneThankfulmom (Reply) on Monday 8, 2010

      Jolene, I just read your beautiful post about infertility and God's plan A for you. Thank you for sharing it.

  6. shan (Reply) on Monday 8, 2010


  7. Cindy (Reply) on Monday 8, 2010

    Lisa,Thanks again for sharing the lessons of adoption and allowing us to see the pain of their broken heart. I will remember this…

  8. Holly (Reply) on Monday 8, 2010

    Oh my word. I am going to pray for YOU right now. Yes, your daughter has much healing to do as well, but my heart right this moment identifies with YOU. I once had an Ethiopian child that I thought was going to become my daughter…she was 12 then…too old to want to rock with me…our relationship was still too new…and I remember her saying how unfair it was that NONE of our other children had lost parents to death…and often she would use the death of her parents as an excuse for her behavior…and like you, my heart was so broken, and I was so weary and it was the hardest time of my life in so many ways. It is so very hard to be a second Mommy. It is harder to be the third or fourth or fifth. Because of what we lived through, we will not again be able to adopt a child out of birth order, so for us, "older child" adoption is out of the question, but my heart just overflows for those of you who do it…who walk the talk, who live the life and who get up every morning and do it again and again and again, who fake it til you make it…I will honor your servant's heart by praying for you tonight.

    • OneThankfulmom (Reply) on Monday 8, 2010

      Thank you, Holly. I so appreciate your prayers. As you know, there are some very hard days – fortunately, there are good ones too!

  9. Leslie (Reply) on Monday 8, 2010

    K also hadn't been told her mother had died. Thank you for sharing this. Praying for healing.

    • OneThankfulmom (Reply) on Monday 8, 2010

      I'm so sorry, Leslie. I think these children deserve to know, even if it brings sorrow. I'm so glad she has you and G.

  10. sage service (Reply) on Monday 8, 2010

    Someday… I would REALLY love to chat with you! Thank you for letting me learn and grow from you!


  11. amy (Reply) on Monday 8, 2010

    loved this entry. it spurs me on…toward the cross. grabbing down the healing he purchased for these kids.

    these moments are so difficult and so draining, and I'm exhausted from quite a few similar incidents this week, but encouraged as I read your writings!

    thanks, and love the new website!

    house mom, children's home in Johannesburg

    • OneThankfulmom (Reply) on Monday 8, 2010

      Amy, your blog is lovely and your ministry remarkable. I pray that the Lord will sustain you as you love these children. I look forward to getting to know you more.


  12. Carla (Reply) on Monday 8, 2010

    Thank you for sharing this. We actually have the opposite problem, sort of. We were told our two adopted children from ET lost their parents to AIDS. They are not related. After we brought them home, we discovered with one of the children that this was not the case. So we are dealing with "Why am I here?" Her mother never told her anything, just sent her away. It is difficult to know how to handle, just trusting God to show us. Blessings to you and your beautiful family!

    • OneThankfulmom (Reply) on Monday 8, 2010

      I am familiar with this challenge as well. It is hard to explain the sovereignty of God to a child in a way that makes sense. I can hardly comprehend it myself. I find that gently explaining the truth of the family's trials is helpful…but there is a deep wound for our children that only God, time, and lots of love can heal.

  13. Christine (Reply) on Monday 8, 2010

    Lisa I am sitting her in tears! partely beacause of your daughters pain, but aso because I have had those days were my kids have asked mr to rock and I just had nothing left, I passed selfishly, just so I could have 5min of peace. I do nothink I will ever do that again. My girls do not talk about Ethiopia, but we know there is hidden pain because when we bring it up they shut down. Thank yo for reminding me God will get me through even when I do not feel like I can do one more thing.

    • OneThankfulmom (Reply) on Monday 8, 2010

      Christine, I hear you! It is so hard to give when we are tired and feel empty. I really do have to just act loving sometimes and hope the feelings will follow. God is good, and the feelings usually catch up with my actions.

  14. jen (Reply) on Monday 8, 2010

    Reading, "The sadness won't go away," stole my breath. That is so often what I think our daughter longs to say, yet she doesn't have the words to express that (she's a little younger) – oh, how I pray for those little hearts to heal fully!

  15. staci (Reply) on Monday 8, 2010

    I am sooo sad, I have been quite ill for several weeks and just realized my feeder wasn't updating because you moved! Happy to have found your new site. It looks great.

    You are a good example for me, thank you for sharing these special moments.