Happy Thanksgiving from my family to yours. Can you imagine what it would be like to sit at a table together eating, talking, sharing stories, laughing, and maybe leaning our heads close, tears in our eyes?
It isn’t possible to anticipate the journeys we will take in our lives. And still, the Word of God instructs us to give thanks in all things.
I look back and think, “I could never have imagined this.” God’s dreams for us were so much bigger, and truth be told, so much harder than I would have chosen. But in all the hard, he is working to make us more like him and more useful for his kingdom.
When we suffer, our compassion grows. Our ability to step into someone else’s story and feel their sorrow, regret, anger, fear, becomes possible because we know what it is to feel sorrow, regret, anger and fear.
I want God to use me, yet sometimes I’m held back by fear and shame over my own story. I fear what people will think and frankly, that is the best way to keep me paralyzed – fill my head with voices that accuse and shame.
One antidote is simply to say – “No. I am not the person you say I am. I belong to a good Father who loves me and never leaves me. He knows my name and calls me his child. He is not disappointed in me and will never reject me.”
Our adoption journey has been so imperfect and so public. We live in a small-ish town and have a large-ish family. We go to a large-ish church. Not having a clue what I was doing way back in 2006, I began this blog to tell the story of our adoptions. I never imagined the story God would give me to tell.
My family is not perfect. We are messy and broken, but we press on loving each other fiercely.
I have one child who is very distant from me. This has become public in parts of our community. People have opinions based on small amounts of information, and places that once felt safe and warm for me don’t feel that way now.
My pastor once told me shame was holding me back from being who God wants me to be and doing what He wants me to do. There is truth in that.
As adoptive parents, I know we’re not alone in this struggle. I’m quite sure we’ve done many things wrong, but I am also quite sure that we’ve tried very hard. Parents are human and we do our best.
Many of us are parenting children who came to us as strangers. Before we ever met them, before we saw a picture or knew their name, they lived through trauma, abuse, neglect – things most of us can hardly imagine.
Then they became ours and we grew to know our children and love them. We do our best to meet the deep needs of their hearts. We strive to heal wounded, traumatized minds. Ultimately, we cast ourselves on the good Father, the best healer of all. He alone can piece a broken heart back together – he may use us in the process, but he is the great healer.
And we get to do this under the watchful eyes of the world. Some people will see our humanity and know we’re doing our best, others will judge, and others will assume they can do it better. In my worst moments, I want to say, “You adopt an older child who spent many years in an orphanage and then come tell me how to do what I’m trying to do.” How easy it is to judge when you haven’t walked in someone else’s shoes.
But let’s not go down the frustrated-to-the-point-of-tears road right now.
This Thanksgiving, I give thanks for my family, for God calling us to walk this beautifully broken, messy road of adoption. We are not the family we used to be and I can say that I’m thankful.
There is joy in the journey. Our world is so much bigger and our hearts have expanded to love so many more people. Our eyes have been opened to issues of race, poverty, injustice, and marginalized people. God has surrounded us with amazing friends we consider family. And what would I do without a boy who still wants to snuggle and read aloud with me?
If your family is broken, and you don’t want people to see your mess – come on out of hiding with me. Let light shine into your dark places. If you have a child in prison, or residential treatment, or one who chooses not to live at home, or won’t join the family for holidays, or a child who is an addict, or has turned their back on God, you are not alone. If you fear a curtain will be pulled back and you will be revealed to be a bad mother, that is a lie – let it go and be free. Don’t hide in shame any longer.
God doesn’t expect us to be perfect parents. He only asks that we do our best to love him with all our heart, soul, and strength, and love our neighbor (our children) as ourselves. That is a big enough task for all of us.
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