Beauty in Hard Places — Learning to Slow Down & Enjoy the Journey

Shortly before I had my first daughter nearly twenty-one years ago, the nesting instinct hit full force. As my cleaning, organizing, and downsizing took over, I was fully convinced nesting is a very real phenomenon pregnant women face. Fast-forward twenty-one years and four more kids and I am once again in that nesting place…this time preparing to bring our adopted son home from an orphanage in Haiti.

Just thinking about his homecoming gives me butterflies. Not because the adoption has been a nearly five year process and there’s finally light at the end of the proverbial tunnel, but because I know that I am so close to bringing home a child that has come from a very broken place—a place where abandonment, neglect, sickness, malnutrition, and even possible abuse are very real.

All the adoption training in the world can never fully prepare one for the moments of rage, the triggers of which aren’t always clear. And it is then that I must remind myself that those moments of outright rebellion, silent withdrawal, cry-screaming, and physical punches, biting, and pinches aren’t truly a rejection of me as his mother; they stem from a place of brokenness that has yet to be healed.

My husband and I experienced all of these things with our son while on our two week bonding trip in the summer of 2015. And let me just say, it wasn’t a pretty sight. Even the orphanage director felt compelled to apologize. It was the first (and no, not the last) time that I wondered, what have I gotten myself into?

I didn’t go into adoption thinking it would be all sunshine and roses; I knew better. Sometimes the sun burns and roses have thorns. I get that. Even before my son is home, I recognize that adoption is a masterpiece sculpted of joy and sorrow, of good times and bad. And while most people outside the adoption world see only the good (i.e. the benefits of adoption), the bad cannot be ignored. Because it’s real. Very real.

I can’t bury my head in the sand; that which I resist persists. Only when I embrace the hardness of adoption do I have a chance of becoming better because of it. And only then can I truly help my son live from who he was created to be and not from what was done to him.

The anger, the meltdowns, the moments of pure rebellion…they aren’t obstacles to be overcome, but opportunities to grow in the likeness of Christ. Some gifts truly are wrapped in pain. Even now, my capacity to love is being increased, my character is being refined, my endurance is being developed. I pray the same for my son as he navigates a whole new world and transitions into his new life.

In a very real sense, adoption represents the gospel in a way not often recognized: On the part of those adopting, chosen suffering is necessary for it to happen. And really, isn’t that what Christ did for us? He chose to suffer so that we could be adopted into His family. And beyond that, He continues to love unconditionally and pursue relentlessly, even as we have our own moments of meltdown, rebellion, anger, and avoidance.

I could have taken the easy path and not adopted, but when I told Christ I was “all in” I meant every word. And adoption is something He called our family to. So when I share the hardness of adoption, I’m not looking for accolades for bringing a child of brokenness into our home; I’m reaching out for the same grace, mercy, understanding, prayers, and love that my son will also need in the days, weeks, and months ahead.

So please don’t tell my son how lucky he is or tell us how blessed he is to have us…because our “gain” stems from his loss. He has lost his biological parents, he has lost nearly 6 years of the everyday things we take for granted, such as clean water, his own clothes, multiple meals a day, hugs and kisses, a bed of his own…and so much more. Orphanages can only do so much.

And even when our son does come home, he will be dealing with the loss of the only “home” and family” he has ever known. These moments require grieving and grace. They require help and healing and yes, sometimes healing hurts.

The brokenness our family of seven will be dealing with won’t be easy, but I pray we don’t miss the collateral beauty. Because there is untold beauty in brokenness, treasure in pain and sorrow; we just have to have eyes to see it, to unearth what is hidden in the hard places and bring it into the light where it can shine like the stars, ever twinkling, ever lighting the way for others.

I am embracing this sacred pause between the waiting and the homecoming. Beauty and clarity unfolds as I take time to slow down and embrace the journey. My hungry heart is being awakened anew to the feast that is before me and I long to partake of every morsel, no matter how bitter at the time; because with Jesus, every bitter thing is sweet.

The nesting I’m experiencing isn’t all physical; my heart and mind are being prepared as well. And not long ago a mind-grenade went off: The adoption process isn’t the hardest part; it’s what comes after. 

Increasingly I am recognizing the beauty in hard places. I’m slowing down more, embracing the journey. And it is here in the sacred pauses that I find beauty revealed. In the ebb and flow of our everyday existence lies beauty all around, of heaven revealed in the small yet extraordinary moments. Yes, my hungry heart has been awakened to the feast that is before me; life is beautiful…even in hard places.

Tammy Darling
Tammy Darling is the author of 1,400 published articles and two books, "And She Danced" and "While We Wait: Devotions for the Adopting Parent." She writes from her home in rural Pennsylvania.

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