How Love Makes This Journey A Million Times Harder.

We entered into foster care and adoption for one reason: Love. And if this choice has taught us anything, it’s that true love will take the life out of you in a heartbeat.

Mountain View and Hiker

The front porch of our house is my go-to place anytime I need to rant, or lend a listening ear to a friend in need. I’m not sure why, since we live on a busy street. There’s a constant stream of cars, trucks, and school buses zooming past at all hours of the day. Not exactly the quiet backdrop you’re looking for when helping a friend out. The other day, my friend called me frustrated and defeated.

I could hear the pain in his words. His daughter, whom he and his wife had adopted at birth, was pushing them over the edge. Bad choice after bad choice. Defiance after defiance. He was at the end of his rope. “Why do I keep putting up with this?” he lamented as I paced around my porch, listening. “I’m so tired. I’m not getting enough sleep. I feel sick to my stomach all the time,” he continued. All I could do was identify. We’re rowing in the same boat my friend, I thought to myself.

“Seriously, Mike, is there something wrong with me? Why do I keep putting up with this garbage?”

“Love is why,” I said. His voice fell quiet. “You keep putting up with this garbage because you love her. It’s why you started off on this journey in the first place. This is hard because you won’t stop fighting for her, believing in her, loving her. We’re right there with you with our children.”

If there’s one thing we’ve learned about love, it’s that it can fill you up and drain you of all life in a matter of seconds. We foster and adopt because of love. It’s what drives us. It’s also what causes our hearts to be ripped out. But we keep going, keep loving, even when we’re hurting so badly we can barely breathe.

The Great Misunderstanding.

Our world as a whole vastly misunderstands what love really is. If you look at pop culture, current news, or Hollywood, love is often boiled down to a few simple things- romance, infatuation, and sex.

Love can include all of these things, but it’s so much more than this. Love is a deep-seeded emotion that takes you to places you never thought you would go as a human, let alone, a parent. It’s pain over your child’s poor choices. It’s wishing you could take the dark and desperate searching out of your child because the a trauma they live with haunts them daily. It’s waking up in the middle of the night praying your child is okay. Hoping she doesn’t give in to the depression that has it’s claws buried deep into her spirit. Love is driving hundreds of miles to visit your son who lives in a residential treatment facility because home isn’t a safe option.

Yes, love can fill you with so much happiness you feel like you’re going to burst, but it can also take the life out of you and leave you empty. It can stretch you so thin you feel like you’re going to tear in two. This is the side of love our world rarely talks about, because this is the side that doesn’t sell. But this is the side that defines love the most.

What Love Really Feels Like.

Last fall I was out in Nevada visiting my son who, at the time, was living in a residential facility for extreme behavior issues. It was one of the longest, hardest seasons of our life as parents. It nearly brought us to our knees to spend time with him, and then leave, watching him wipe tears off of his face as we drove away. The pain was deep. This trip was no different. I flew out to spend a weekend with him. We had so much fun together. We drove up to a beautiful lake in the mountains, hiked around, ate cheeseburgers, and watched late-night movies. It was almost the perfect weekend.

When it came time to leave, he grabbed my hand, looked me in the eye, and begged me to take him home. Over and over he begged. It was excruciating. But I knew I couldn’t. I knew he had to finish this program. I knew he needed healing and restoration and that had to happen away from home. There was a battle raging inside of me. A part of me wanted to just drive back to his dorm, pack his stuff, and take him home. But I knew that wasn’t the healthy decision. I knew he needed to be where he was. So, I drove him back to the facility at the end of our time together, said goodbye, and left.

As I drove away, I put my iPhone earbuds in. A song on one of my travel playlists, by the artist Tobymac, began to play. At first I didn’t really pay attention, but then the lyrics caught my attention. They went like this…

I am tired, I am drained, but the fight in me remains. I am weary, I am worn, like I’ve never been before. This is harder than I thought, harder than I thought it’d be. Harder than I thought, takin’ every part of me. Harder than I thought, so much harder than I thought it’d be. But empty’s never felt so full. This is what love, this is what love, feels like. This is what love, this is what love feels like. Poured out, used up, still givin’, stretching me out to the end of my limits. This is what love, this is what real love feels like. (Lyrics from Love Feels Like, by Tobymac)

I pulled the car over because I couldn’t see through the tears streaming down my face. This is our life with our son, I thought to myself. It was taking the life out of us. The fight in us kept us going but we were drained. It was real, raw, honest-to-goodness love.

Love made this journey a million times harder than it would if love wasn’t a factor. But, we wouldn’t trade this for anything.

For The Love Of.

I knew what my friend was feeling that day he called me. I too have been stretched so thin by this journey I feel I can’t go one more step. I have had moments of sheer happiness but more often, desperation. As hard as it is, we keep going for the love of our children even when their choices, their behavior, their addiction, and their trauma is draining us and leaving us empty.

Love is so much more than sex, or infatuation, or romance.

Love is why you keep fighting even when you have nothing left. Love is why you never, ever, ever give up on your child. Love is why you would do anything in this world to help them heal.

Question: Have you experienced this kind of love on your adoptive or foster care journey? Share your story with us in the comment section below. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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  • cathybearse

    Hello! My name is Cathy and we have two adopted daughters! Your article was spot on! I would love to share our story but … not sure where to start. We adopted our youngest at 2 and she came with a bevy of mental illness we prayed would not touch her life … it did! The past five years have been PURE UNADULTERATED HELL! But, through it all I knew we were in it for the long haul and things are finally starting to calm down some. I think the one thing also if you don’t have a relationship with the Lord God Almighty .. good luck! He has assisted us many times! Good luck and keep loving!

    • Cathy, thanks so much for sharing here. We are so glad to hear that you liked the post!

  • Brenda Smith

    Thank you. We feel the same. Our daughter is seventeen and life has been anything but easy but I refuse to let go because I love her with everything I have got. She was not spoilt growing up but life dealt her a heavy hand. BPD, odd and adhd . for mist of her primary school years we could not give her the correct medication because of a problem with her heart but after a second suicide attempt (four in two and half years) we decided her mental well-being is more important. She hates rules or hearing the word no from or her father and schoolwork is nonexistent. I feel better knowing other people also have this all encompassing love that won’t let go. People think because she is adopted that it is easy to let go. They do not realize the pain and heartache is even worse than if it were your own child.

    • We’ve had people say that to us before- “Well, just think if she were your own child!” Good grief people….SHE IS MY OWN CHILD! Thanks for sharing. Hang in there. You are not alone.

  • Wow, this is quite a story. Thanks for sharing with us.

  • Penny

    My husband and I had been fostering about 10 years, we had 7 children home 5 of which were in care. 3 of the girls decided at the end of June that they hated living with us. By the end of July I was defeated! My husband and I would go to bed each night saying to ourselves “why do we do this!” …by morning ” we got this”! By night “why?”
    The first week of August is our church family camp, by the time we arrived I was completely exhausted! The speaker was asking if we knew that what we were doing was in Gods will, and were we doing it with His strength…I went up to pray and beg God to give me direction! Asking that he would just show me a sign…. Were we done fostering? Had we given all that we had? Time to move on?… Just show me a sign Lord!
    The speaker came over to ask how he could pray with me, as I looked up at him I saw all of my kids kneeling at a far alter seeking God! How more clear could God have been that this was right where we needed to be! From that time on I have always thought of people who do missions, our missionaries go through so many difficult things on a daily basis…for love! True love! The Love of God! We are still fostering and as long as we seek God we have the all the strength we need!

    • Penny, wow, this sounds like our journey. You’re not alone. You have the right perspective. This is hard though. Keep loving and living fully!

  • DG

    I’m a new reader of your blog. This post came at a good time. My husband and I adopted 2 children from foster care. One was 7 (2013) and one was 11 (2015). It has been such a hard life. I didn’t imagine a smooth life with adopting older children, but it’s been harder than I ever expected. Most recently we’ve been dealing with a stalking, threatening birth parent, our daughters getting into trouble with online predators, and one daughter stabbing a kid at school with a pencil. I’m also really struggling with not feeling the kind of love and compassion I want to feel, and feeling guilty about it. It’s a vicious cycle. There are times I feel like I can’t possibly continue (with the stress of trauma-based behaviors and us both having full-time jobs) but with God’s help we do make it. I really appreciate what I’m reading in your posts. It has been an encouragement.

    • Thanks so much. We are so glad you found us. We have been in the same trench you’re in right now. Hang in there. We’re here for you and we’re with you on this journey!

  • Laurel

    We adopted 2 children from Russia almost 12 years ago. Our 8 month old was heavier than our 2 year old! (18 pounds vs 15 pounds) We have seen loads of specialists, we have an alphabet soup of dx’s but we love them totally. The ONLY way I get thru this is by living next to God. Jesus is always with me. I can feel Him. The past year has been interesting. The kids are Easter Seals of Michigan ambassadors. It has been fun, exciting but also even more scary to our already traumatized daughter. We only have a few more events to attend & then it will end. I feel God put us in a position to help others see “normal looking” kids can have some BIG troubles hidden inside. To add to all tha kid stuff, my husband really should have had a double knee replacement years ago and I am single sided deaf from brain surgery to remove an inner ear tumor & losing hearing in my ‘good’ ear. God certainly has a sense of humor–go deaf just as the kids are hitting the teen years! God is always good. Tough to figure out at times, but always good. Oh, here’s us–scroll down for our story:

  • Laurie

    Thank you for your words… but do you always feel love? I gotta be honest, there are days when I feel more hate towards my child than I do love. I’m exhausted and tearful and deplore myself for feeling that way, but I have to walk away and go to my room and get away from the frustration it brings. Am I alone? Do you always love your child???

    • Heather

      Love isn’t emotions/feelings! It’s a choice. Choosing to love requires action. We might not always feel loving towards our children, but we can choose to love regardless/in spite of how we feel. Let’s face it, we are humans and we don’t always choose to love because we get lost in the emotions that overwhelm us in the given situation. I don’t always choose to love my son, I get frustrated! I hate the things that he does sometimes! Things that are hard to deal with, things that hurt me and hurt deep, and so much more. But, I don’t have to let my behaviors and responses be governed by how I feel and so I try, and fail, and try again, to make the right choice (love) and in so doing model to him one thing that he SO needs to learn….making right choices.

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