How many of us on the finally-at-home side of adoption have thought this thought, uttered this phrase, typed it out on social media, or desperately scribbled it in a journal: “in the trenches today”? I’m guessing more than a few! Before we adopted our daughter, I hadn’t much heard this phrase related to child-rearing, but once we were home, this became the phrase that seemed to best describe the fresh-off-the-plane experiences people had, and as the months pass, “in the trenches” is still going strong.
Raising kids in a fallen world is warfare for their hearts and minds. Adoption does not create a new war; it just adds a new facet to the war that already exists, a new front to be protected whether your adopted child is your first or your fourth or your twelfth!
When we use the phrase “in the trenches”, we have to know that we’re relating our experience to battle. I mean, we dig trenches to lay a sprinkler system in our backyard, but that’s a rather benign trench line, isn’t it? The trenches we speak of are active places. Above our heads and over the sides of our trenches there are times when the battle rages intense, and times when eerie silence descends.
Trenches during wars can be nasty places.
They can be cold, and dirty, and muddy.
They can be pain-filled, and vermin-filled, and disease-filled places.
But you know what else they are?
They are life.
They are safety.
Trenches are a break from the clamor of the battles that are being fought.
Raising children isn’t easy. Raising adopted children is a brand-new challenge! It’s daily battles to see walls crumble and fortifications crack. It’s experiencing highs and lows in ways that I never experienced in the early years with my first three! The landscape of this war is often littered with dreams laid aside, hopes held with open hands, and tear-filled prayers. Likewise, the landscape is dotted with moments of joy that are overwhelming in their nature. There are times when we need rest, and we get that relief in the trenches, but it isn’t meant to be for long. It’s meant as respite, a chance to catch our breath, a moment when our hearts can recover from battle, whether the battle was over adoption-related issues like mistrust or fear, or more mundane skirmishes such as the fact that your children wouldn’t eat their vegetables at dinner (it’s not just in my house, right?)
Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.
In wartime, trenches are places to retreat to escape the constant bombardment from the enemy. We have an Enemy, too, one who hates the fact that the lonely have been set in families and will do whatever it takes to destroy us. Our trenches are places where we can draw back to rethink strategy, or pray, or count to ten after breaking up bickering siblings, or just have a cup of coffee during a much-needed naptime.
The trenches are where we call a friend who knows what life is like now and hear words of encouragement. The trenches are where we hop onto social media to be encouraged by other families who were once where we are, but are now further down the road and it gives us hope. The trenches are good.
Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who hope in the Lord.
The thing I relate to the most with this idea of trench warfare is that even in the reprieve, there isn’t complete rest. Trenches aren’t without their problems. The knowledge that we’ll be sent over the top to do battle again is real. The feelings of isolation that can descend on us are heavy, even when we know we are surrounded on all sides by those walking with us through this. We know that the good days don’t follow the “infinity and beyond” model. We fight the battles, we walk along side of pain, and then we retreat into moments of rest. Some days our lines surge forward with intense speed and we’re joy-filled! Some days the lines falter and fall apart, and that’s okay. There is joy that can be found anyways, if we just look for it.
Trenches aren’t meant to be single-person dwellings. A few weeks ago, I asked for updates in an online group I’m in. Most of us traveled to bring our children home during the same time range, and so the battles and victories we experience tend to be similar. Doctors Appointments. Attachment. Adjustments. Bonding. Healing. Laughter. Smiles.
There are days when the grief I feel over the life our daughter has experienced in her past overwhelms me. On that particular day, however, we had seen some good, and I wanted to both encourage others and be encouraged! We had a rare moment when all four kids were happily playing together! A moment I, like many of the mamas in our group, definitely memorialized with the snap of my camera. I shared my picture, and many from our group answered my inquiry with pictures of their own… proof that there was good stuff going on, despite the conflicts that inevitably flare up.
Keep fighting, friends. I’m with you. When you post your prayer requests, I’m praying. When you share your joys, I’m cheering for you! When you’re sitting on your couch sipping on your afternoon caffeine fix, I’m honoring you with a cup of coffee of my own! When you wonder if you’ll get a shower today, remember, those stinky clothes are precious! I have a friend who calls her day-old outfits her “garments of righteousness” and I love this! We’ve done good things, mamas, with only an extra layer of deodorant and a baseball cap to hide the hair that needs shampooing. We’re wearing our battlefield duds, and they are like bright white when the Lord looks at us and sees us loving the ones He has called to be in our families.
I generally see “in the trenches” as a phrase that’s used when we’re walking through a tough day, or when we’re living a tough season. And honestly, I have used it to mean that very thing. However, I propose that we stop thinking about them that way. I’m not famous, except maybe to the children in my house under the age of 6! I am not a coiner of phrases or a changer of societal norms. I can only share what I know has changed the way I look at the Big Picture I am living.
With that said, I propose that, at least for today, we view our trenches with new eyes that don’t equate trench life to the battle. We need a place to rest. The trenches may not be perfect, but they can be places of rest and encouragement. Whether we are in a time of rest, or prepping to hurl ourselves over the ramparts into another day, take heart, and give thanks for the trenches.
I Corinthians 15:57
But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Oh my goodness. I hysterically screamed at my sweet, wonderful, long-suffering husband, “get in this trench with me!” when we’d been home a few weeks and I was exhausted and totally overwhelmed. I will never forget that moment. Thanks for writing this. <3
You know, Megan, I wrote this when I was feeling the “rest”, and then when it was published, I was feeling the heat of the battle! It was a good reminder for myself to separate the battles from the rest… I too often mix the two together, you know? I hope that your exhaustion and overwhelmedness has ceased a little, even if for a short while, to allow you some rest as well!