My family road-tripped last summer and one of the places we stopped off at was the Grand Canyon.
Visiting this place has been on my bucket list for basically my whole life, and to finally see it in person was stunning. Words fail to describe the depth, the colors, the beauty or the sheer big-ness of it all. Even pictures cannot come close to describing it.
The colors are bright, and yet subtle at the same time.
It’s hotter than hot on a summer’s day.
It takes you to a place where you feel truly insignificant and yet a part of something bigger than yourself; you feel like a part of a God-sized piece of the work He is doing on this earth.
Earlier this year we passed the three-years-home mark and memories of the Grand Canyon have been flooding my mind as I try to put words into what our attachment and bonding looks like at this stage in the post-adoption journey.
I thought attachment would be challenging when we first came home, and I wasn’t wrong. It was actually much more challenging that I thought it would be. Trauma and neglect had cut a deep scar into the landscape of our daughter’s heart and it was open and raw and painful. It took what seemed like ages before I could say she was acting like she felt safe.
It was hard work to reach this place. Day-by-day, hour-by-hour of being intentional with her to bring her to this place where she began to understand what family meant. We didn’t always get it right. Heaven knows we messed up more than our fair share of the time.
Loving a child from hard places isn’t easy on the soul; loving a child from hard places takes more out of you than you could imagine some days.
As time passed, as therapy was sought, as patience and wisdom were grown, as we worked to talk ourselves through how her brain was processing before we responded to her outbursts of emotion… our family grew in grace and in love for each other.
This journey has been dizzying.
It’s been filled with bright moments, and subtle changes we’ve had to search for especially on the days that seem more filled with “hard” than not.
It’s been hot with emotion – hers, ours. Make no mistake. This process has been world-changing is for every single person in our family
It has taken us to a place where we have felt completely insignificant as the world swirls around us and yet part of something grand; we’ve been a part of a God-sized plan as He has knit us all together into one cohesive unit.
It’s not over, not by a long stretch. We have only been with her for three years. We’ve only been living this post-adoption life for three. short. years.
It feels like a lifetime ago that we first saw her in that overheated office building halfway around the world, but the truth is – we have a lifetime ahead of us. Grand Canyon isn’t called one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World for nothing. It’s phenomenal, but it didn’t get that way overnight. God can speak worlds into existence and it is beautiful. He can also use the steady flow of a river to carve the land in order to reveal the beauty hidden beneath.
The beauty that has surfaced in our family because of adoption is a Grand Canyon sort of beauty.
It’s something we would never have seen without the tears, laughter, and heartache of adoption.
It’s something we would have missed had we been too afraid of the fall.
It’s a thing of beauty, this family of ours, and finding new ways to appreciate the intricate design of us is a joy.
Attachment is a big, beautiful, hard-to-understand thing and, like the Grand Canyon, it’s hard to explain unless you’ve been there yourself.
All I can say, what I always say, is it’s all worth it. Every single effort made. Every single tear shed. Every single giggle fought for.
The feel of a small hand reaching out for mine rather than trying to pull away.
The warmth of my child’s body snuggled next to mine rather than arched back avoiding contact when I pick her up.
The little one that hugs my leg and holds on for comfort rather than reaching her arms up to any person that walks by.
The smile that comes from a genuine place of joy.
These are the things I could take for granted three years into this attachment journey but I won’t. It would be like looking at the vast beauty of the Grand Canyon and forgetting what I saw.
Beautiful things are worth remembering, especially if you know the cost of that beauty.
Adoption and the subsequent attachment journey takes a different toll on every family. Some may struggle as medical needs hamper the attachment process. Some may struggle as personality conflicts between siblings flares and explodes. Some may struggle as their child remains aloof, believing that “alone” is safer than “family” after years of neglect or abuse.
Keep working at it, friends. The view you have of your particular canyon may look glorious or it may look dismal, but it’s still a thing of epic proportion. Take a step back and see it for what it is… a God-ordained change in your landscape, a life-altering experience, a GRAND calling.
He will rejoice with you in the good times. He will sustain you through the hard times, He promises to and He will. He will be glorified in it all, and really, that is worth taking a breath and peeking over the edge, isn’t it?
Three years into attachment is a thing of raw unparalleled beauty, and I cannot wait to see how the landscape of our family continues to change as the years pass.