adoption text on brown surface
adoption text on brown surface
Photo by Pavel Danilyuk on

“Listen to what I mean, not what I say.”

My husband knows those words well as they come from his external-processor wife. My best friends know how to “take and sift my words,” as the poet wrote.

To keep what is worth keeping

And with the breath of kindness

Blow the rest away.

But I don’t have that luxury, that “inexpressible comfort,” when I write.

I Failed And I’m Sorry

No writer does. Because readers can’t see writers’ hearts. You can’t hear my happy sighs or see my messy tears. You don’t know what happened last night or how he hugged me this morning. It’s up to me, the writer, to convey what I mean. And I fear I failed you, dear reader, last week. I failed to express my heart.

My last post, Don’t Force The Duck: 16 Years After Adoption Day, struck a chord. Actually it struck two very dissonant chords in readers. One group expressed gratitude for my candor with hope, the other near outrage that I would be so critical of adoption.

For each person who responded, there are dozens of you who made comments in your minds and left them there. I suspect The Duck ruffled more feathers than I know. 

What I Meant

While my goal for this blog is to build stronger, softer saints who embrace God’s uncomfortable grace, I don’t want you to be uncomfortable because of my inability to write what I mean.

So here’s what I meant when I took the twin occasions of the 16th anniversary of our A#1 son’s adoption day and National Adoption Month to share a few pages of our unfolding, unfinished story. 

I wanted to be the voice that I wish I had heard 20 years ago when I scoured the internet for adoption stories and studied all the “adoptive families” I knew. I wanted to be the voice that was neither the adoption-grim voice of our friend Jo, nor the blissful, glib voice I heard in those glossy adoption magazines. But I may not have been. So here’s take two.

What did I mean by that adoption post?

  1. I meant to say that any decision we make to love – whether it be to marry, to conceive, foster or adopt children, or to be a loyal friend— brings with it the very real risk that the results of our commitment will be harder than we thought. That is par for the course with earthly love. When the hard comes, we are not to lose heart and think we made a mistake. Rather, it probably means we are starting to love like God.
  2. I meant to say that I am not giving up. Not for a second. In fact, in the week since that post, God has softened my heart to help me better love A#1. A caramel macchiato with extra caramel delivered late to the high school is exhibit A.
  3. I meant to say that no heart change, including a decision to love a person or to love God, can be forced. God alone gives new, soft hearts (Ezekiel 36:26). I didn’t force the duck and the duck stuck is my reminder that God can soften hearts without my help. 

What I Didn’t Mean

What didn’t I mean to convey?

  1. I did not mean to disparage adoption in any way. Because in the end, adoption is the way every single Christian becomes a child of God. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves (Ephesians 1:5-6). God loves adoption. It’s how he builds his family. I’m glad we could adopt. 
  2. I did not mean to convey that the hardship in our relationship is one person’s fault. No way. I am a sinful mother—a sometimes proud and impatient, harsh and unkind mother. Jim is a sinful father, and we have two sinful sons. Our sins affect each other. We are all sufferers and sinners. I wish I’d been more clear on that.
  3. Finally, in no sense did I mean to convey that our story is over. Not a chance. While there is life there is hope. If can’t help myself, I am a prisoner of hope

Comfort Is Overrated

Maybe, if the duck post was your first, you wondered how it could possibly be written by a mother who is joyfully pressing on, by a mother who hopes against hope. Well, one of the themes of this blog is that comfort is overrated. Could I beg two minutes more to explain that?

By comfort, I mean being comfortable. Believe me, if I could find it in Scripture that God’s plan and will for his children during their time on earth was to go through unscathed, unchallenged, untested, untried, uncorrected, undisciplined—in other words, comfortable—I’d be the first to proclaim it.

But the longer I seek my Savior and Lord—and so far it’s been about 25 cycles through his Word— I can’t seem to find comfortable among God’s goals for us. I don’t see it listed as a Spirit fruit or a mark of the mature Christian. In vain I search for verses that say God’s children will be known by their comfortable lives. 

Mostly what I find is that Christians will be marked by their love.

For the Love of God

I read of a God who loved so much that he spared not his own Son, but freely gave him up for us all. I see a maligned and misunderstood Jesus who, in the span of one chapter of Matthew, is called a blasphemer and prince of demons. Then I hear the crowds laugh at him when he announced he’d raise a daughter back to life. Later, in the Upper Room, he would tell his disciples, if they hated me they will hate you, and in this world you will have trouble.

Now I hear old Simeon tell mother Mary that a sword would pierce her heart. I read that two of his three closest friends, Peter and James, were murdered. I see his servant Paul stoned, whipped, and left for dead. But I don’t find smooth and easy lives mentioned as evidence of God’s love.

Rather, from Genesis to Revelation, I meet a God who suffers with us, who calls us to come to him and share his yoke. I see the One by whom all things were made and in whom was life, indignant and weeping at the grave of his beloved friend Lazarus. I see Jesus who loved Mary and her sister Martha wait four days when he heard Lazarus was sick. He didn’t rush in to make them comfortable. He shows his love by giving us what we need most—a view of his glory. Suffering can give us that view. It can show us His glory. The stars are brightest in the darkest nights.

Adoption does that that for me. It shows me God’s glory.

Adoption, Parenting, Loving: All Uncomfortable Grace

This sometimes uncomfortable grace and lavish love of God is manifest in adoption every single day. Every single day. After all, He adopted me.

As I end, please know that your comments are most welcome. I love hearing from my readers. Whether your comment is critical or thankful or something in between, I am grateful to you for investing your precious time reading my words.

I pray that they will equip us to embrace God’s uncomfortable grace, and to grow more strong and meek—like Jesus.

Even as sometimes we groan.

And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.

Romans 8:23

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  1. Thank you for both writings. As a believer, being adopted into God’s family, I find myself to be a duck a times and other times not. I go through seasons of growth that take a lot of patience on my Heavenly Father. But, I know that I am unconditionally loved by Him. And your writings reminded my of that. So when this duck, sinks or swims, I am always loved.

    1. Hallelujah! And thank you Shelley for reminding me, God never “unadopts.” We duck sheep all stuck. “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.” (John 10:28-29)

  2. In reading your first Duck post, there was never a doubt in my mind about your heart for & steadfast devotion to God or for A#1. Your thoughts (in the first & second Duck posts) were humbly & honestly presented. ❤️ As a fellow traveler in this adoption journey, raising two boys who are so incredibly different, I know it isn’t always easy. In fact, it is joyous one moment & devastating the next. Your words in both posts conveyed that. In no way did I interpret what you wrote as a maligning of adoption, or as a statement of regret. You were dealing honestly with the topic to help others who are contemplating it, or who feel (at times) scared, uncomfortable, and inadequate, in parenting someone with whom we are nothing alike. It’s like driving through a blizzard. We know how to drive (parent), we know where we want to go (character-building), but we cannot see the road beneath our wheels (character traits in the child that are passed down biologically) and it’s slippery (emotional trauma that runs deep in a child because of separation from a birth mother). Your post was about not giving up because you (the parent) and A#1 (the child) are not perfect. It WAS about relying on the Lord’s grace, instead of trying to attain some unattainable Christmas card or Instagram post family. I am grateful for your words in both posts and pray with hope that you are not beating yourself up for sharing your heart and your story with courage & humility.

    1. Aunt Julia ??❤️ You know that if which you speak. Thank you for sharing it publicly. You feel it acutely and you think through it biblically, humbly. The blizzard analogy is spot on. I’m glad the main idea came through: Don’t give up, because of God’s grace. Thanks again. May the road be, if not smooth, then firm beneath us.

  3. I know r haven’t known each other long, but I wholeheartedly agree with what your Aunt Julia said. I originally read only what you had on Facebook. Today, when I saw you had ruffled fathers, I went back and read both posts here. I see the same heart and message in all of them, and it is so beautiful and full of truth.

    My husband and I have considered adoption because the choice to have our own children has been taken out of our hands. I really appreciated your message. I thought the message of choosing to love and believe God is working and wants you doing these things, in spite of how hard they can be, was really inspiring. It brought tears to be eyes in a good way. This is very much a story you are allowing Him to use for His glory, which sometimes means He will use it to stretch people. I’m not always real accepting of being stretched, especially initially. That’s the only way I can see getting anything less than beautiful, honest encouragement from what you wrote.

    Thank you for sharing and for being honest and hopeful in such a beautiful, truthful way!

    1. Dear Darla,
      Now your gracious words are tearing me up. First, glory to God for giving us stories that can showcase his Fatherly love. Second, I will admit I tweaked (plucked?) the duck a little since the first post. Third, I applaud you for allowing the stretch.

      I keep reminding myself that God disciplines those he loves, and if we’re not disciplined, which can feel like being stretched, we’re “illegitimate children.” (Heb. 12:7-8)

      Thank you Heavenly Father that you stretch us in love.

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