I think a good lot of us have a little habit of telling un-truths. Specifically, when asked a common question such as, “how are you?”, we respond with “I’m ok” or “I’m good” or “I’m fine” – when in fact, we are not. Sometimes we are not ok. It might be a day, a week, or a season of being “not ok” – but until we own it and admit it and deal with it – how can we heal? How can we be “ok” again? The reasons vary, I’m sure. Personally, sometimes I just don’t want to get into it. It’s complicated with a long backstory to justify why I deserve to be in the hot funk I’m in. I don’t have time to talk about it, and I know that “where words are many sin is not absent.” (Proverbs 10:19) Sometimes I might know the cause of my not being “ok” but can’t imagine a foreseeable cure except for time and Jesus so I just keep it to myself and fake it until I make it. Sound familiar?
The tricky thing (one of the 1000 tricky things) for we who have adopted is that some of us, in a social media or very public sort of way, invite people along with us for the journey. We include them in the hype, the fundraising, the prayers, the trip even… and it’s awesome and wonderful and the support and prayers are so valuable, cherished even. In our case it literally kept the flames of hope alive. We choose this road of adoption it doesn’t just happen to us. No one leaves a crying baby in basket on our door step and they become ours like a fairy tale come true. We pay the fees, we do the paperwork and the fingerprints and the legal shenanigans in our country and the other one because we choose to. We say “I will”…we decide to take on this life and this lifestyle. We make a child born of other people, ours in every way that matters and it’s beautifully complex and complicated. It’s wonderful and hard. It’s exhilarating and exhausting.
We do the paperwork, we plan the trip, we meet the child, we do the things in country, we return home to our cheering network of prayer warriors and are overjoyed at long last, to begin a new normal with our new child. Then we see the doctors, have procedures or surgeries or therapies and we begin to settle in.
As most people do, we have great moments with our children, but we also have moments where we don’t really know what on earth to do. There are times when garden variety parenting just doesn’t work. We survive sleepless nights with a child who is chronically ill – a child we chose. We parent them differently than our friends parent their children because we are forever about the task of building attachment and healing their emotional health and security – and more often than not we second guess every move if someone doesn’t beat us to it.
Suddenly we don’t really want to share the good the bad and the ugly with our network of supporters and prayer warriors – and there can be a whole lotta ugly in those first months home. There may be
a lot of guilt some hesitation in telling the truth about a tough season of life upon completing an adoption because it might sound and look a lot like complaining…and maybe it is sometimes. Other times though, it is necessary to just tell the truth, for crying out loud, and be honest about our struggles – even though we chose those struggles. It’s ok to say “I’m not ok. I need some prayer. I need some help. I need a recharge. This is harder than I imagined. I need to tell the truth without being judged by my family, my friends and my church.” The truth, after all, embarrasses us sets us free.
I think sometimes we feel a misplaced responsibility as Christians (Believers, Christ-followers), or in an attempt to be a positive thinking person, to say “I’m good!”, “I’m blessed!”, “I can’t complain!” because we don’t have to look far to find someone who has it worse than we do. There’s always someone who is sicker, poorer, deeper in tragedy or grief or sorrow or what have you. Maybe it’s human nature as a whole that has a tendency to rank our current pit of despair against someone else’s pit, and most of the time you can always find a deeper, wider, stinkier pit than yous. It doesn’t mean you aren’t in a pit, though.
Sometimes I suspect we want people to believe we are ok because pride creeps in and we want to, at least, have it appear that we are thriving, winning at life, juggling it all like a pro. We post the good pictures of the happy moments, albeit they are in the minority some days; and feed off of the public praise and relish in the fact that people are buying into our fairy tale life, injecting ourselves with a nice shot of pride, and then secretly hope no one finds out that most of the time we feel like we are failing.
We are drowning. Maybe not all of the time, maybe just for a while – a season, a month – a week. Drowning is not ok. Drowning will take your life sooner or later unless you find a life preserver.
We have had our daughter home almost 2 ½ years now – and I had to count on my fingers to make sure that was really true because it seems like such a long time in some ways, and such a short time in other ways. She has just turned the fabulous age of 4 and lemmetellyou, there were no tears from this mama when we waved goodbye to toddler years. 4 – is my favorite age and I hope this year goes by sloooowly.
As I look back on these 2 ½ years I know there were seasons when I said “I’m ok” or “she’s ok” and neither was true. If I’m being honest – she has never consistently been “ok”. She is currently healthy enough. She is sleeping pretty well, but she has night terrors about once a week. She has panic attacks on the regular, especially when she is restrained (#carseat). She has a narrow esophagus and cannot eat whatever she wants independently and has episodes of getting food stuck at least twice a week, some of which last for hours at a time. She panics when she wakes up alone most of the time.
There’s an ever-present fear that drives her behavior and rightfully so. She had a rough start at life.
However, she’s the bravest girl I know. She’s a rockstar and a warrior and an overcomer. She has made huge progress, she has attached well, she has healed right before our eyes – to the Glory of God, and she is thriving against all odds.
When we first came home, most days I felt like our day was a mine field and any false step might set off a chain of explosions. Therefore, I would tread carefully hoping not to set off a bomb and survive the day. Today, the mine field is not as precarious. There is less potential for “explosions” today than there were two years ago – for sure. However, I pick my battles carefully and those battles aren’t always what other parents would choose or dismiss – but I’m ok with that now. I believe she will be “ok” some day but in the meantime, we have lots of things to work through and healing and growing.
Life isn’t just about her though…
We also have two teenagers in the throes of high school, ACT/SAT prep, college visits, sports, drivers ED, AP classes, relationships, and big life stuff. I have a loving husband who is a real-life “super-dad”, but has a job where he travels more than any of us would choose. None of us like it – but many days we default to being thankful he has a job that provides well for us; because it would be far easier to complain about the constant travel and missing his presence. If I’m being honest, there are days when we do complain. A lot. Cue the guilt from a less than thankful heart. Maybe you can relate…
I have found in my freak moments of authenticity (this is one of them), that sometimes the most healing, kind, loving things to hear from those who love me enough to listen and rifle through my complaining to hear an honest cry for empathy is:
“I know just how you feel.”
“Gosh, that must be so hard let’s pray together.”
“Can I watch Grace for you so you can get some time to recharge.”
“It’s ok to not be ok.”
“You’re going to be ok.”
It takes strength and bravery to admit “I’m not ok”. If you know someone who isn’t currently ok, wrap your arms around them and remind them of this: “it’s ok, to not be ok. There will be a day when they will be ok again.”
There was a season when I was not ok. I wanted desperately to be “ok” again. Mostly, I was carrying too much of what belongs on God’s shoulders, and expecting Him to drop whatever I dared to give Him – and I know better. It is so much better now than it was, and I can honestly say – admitting it and giving myself permission to deal and heal in that season was mission critical. Equally critical for me was that I know to my bones and believe with every single fiber of my soul that what Jeremiah 29:11 is God’s plan for each one of us – “a hope, a future.” God doesn’t take us on journeys of amazing adventure like adoption and grow us and then bring us home to drop us on the doorstep and leave us there. He never leaves us where we are. He says, “Come lay down your burdens and cast your cares on me because I care about you.” (1Pet. 4:7)
Let me encourage you, as a former pit-dweller (and potential future pit-dweller because I never just learn a lesson and master it), if you think you aren’t “ok” – you aren’t “ok”. Talk to someone, a counselor, a pastor, a co-worker. Phone a friend who loves you enough to sort out the complaining from the admitting that you are in a pit and life is messy. Dig in to the Word of God and seek out the truth because when we aren’t “ok” the conditions are ripe for satan to get in there and fill us with all sorts of lies, and you are gonna need to do some battle with the Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God.
Trust that God is who He promises to be – He is a Comforter, a Rescuer, a Redeemer and is there for you just as you are, always… whether you’re ok or not.