Is This Messy Journey Really Worth It?

Jen says, "No, not today..."

This is a debut post by Jennifer Summers, who serves as Content Creator for The Honestly Adoption Podcast and Oasis Community within Confessions Of An Adoptive Parent. We are thrilled to share this post with you.

It’s a question all of us, on the foster or adoptive journey, have asked a time or two. Especially when things are tough at home, and our kiddos are struggling. But the real answer to this question may surprise you.

It depends on what you’re really asking. Are you asking if I feel like it is worth it or if I KNOW it is worth it?

Do you want the raw and honest truth?  You’d be scared if you saw it.  If you saw the actual mess.  Not the “oh, this messy journey…hahaha, (insert winky emoticon) mess.” I’m talking about the actual, nasty mess that this journey often is:  The mess I know all about, from living it for the last 10, long years.  The mess I hear all about, when other adoptive mamas feel safe enough to share with me the reality of what hell they are going through.

This week it looked like our 16 year old son (who has been home for 8 years) telling us it would have been better for us to have left him in foster care or with his abusive birth family… because we’re just his meal ticket, and he can get what he needs from any adult, and he actually isn’t interested in relationship with us… nor has he ever been.

This week it looked like every.single.night. full of bickering, arguing, fighting, contentious, strife-filled sibling chaos as the unsettledness of the 16 year old spilled over onto all of our other kids, who were more than happy to pick it up and run with it.

It also looked like my 10 year old punching my 11 year old because he “looked at him and smiled funny,” and the 11 year old responding in kind.  It looked like other kids neglecting chores and homework, it looked like sticky floors and nasty bathrooms and overflowing laundry.

And, not like this messy journey is without financial cost, right?  So it also looks like an empty bank account because we spent our savings sending the 16 year old, who “hates us”, to residential last year, where he could receive intensive counseling. Obviously, that worked well.

It looks like broken vehicles, we can’t afford to fix, sitting out next to one of our old (but still running) cars that got a flat tire this week.  It looks like cracked concrete outside and cracked tiles inside, like broken light switches, stained carpets, clogged and broken sinks, another piece of broken furniture, ripped couch cushions, a dirt backyard that we can’t afford to put grass in and, oh yeah, that picture window my other 16 year old son “accidentally” broke while using a sling-shot and a bottle of essential oil. Inside. Don’t ask…

This week it looked like my Liberian sons encountering racism and bias in our local public schools, from both students and administrators, multiple times over.  It was my husband and I needing to go in – AGAIN – to talk to the principal and teachers to “work it out” when it shouldn’t have been ours to work out to begin with.

This week it looked like google chats and instagram messages found…ones they didn’t want me finding for obvious reasons.  And it looked like the multiple 3 hour conversations that followed, as we tried to reach and “shepherd their hearts.”  Only, their hearts don’t want shepherding because trauma tells them that our shepherding or teaching or, well, even just speaking to them is offensive and scary and uncalled for in every way. And, of course, we are “extreme” parents because we aren’t “tolerant” of every repulsive thing our teenagers want to view, or talk about on social media…how dare we set a boundary!

I hate trauma.

This week it looked like my husband and I losing it with each other, yelling and speaking words we never thought we would, because we’re so damn tired and exhausted and weary from 10 years of trauma parenting that we can hardly think straight.  It looked like falling into bed every night too exhausted to even kiss goodnight, let alone do anything else enjoyable…

This week it looked like me wiping snot and tears off my face with my own pillowcase because I was absolutely overwhelmed, but too tired to get up for a tissue, sobbing for hours on end as I grieved the losses that I feel so deeply for our adopted children, for our biological child, for our family, for our marriage, for my husband, and for myself.

It looked like battling (again) feelings of condemnation and resentment and regret, as I wonder if I “just should’ve, could’ve, would’ve” any number of multiple things the experts said I should have done.  Did I give them enough “voice?” or too much?  Have we helped? or hindered their hearts healing?  Will my biological son ever recover from the complex secondary trauma he has endured because we adopted nine other children?  Will our oldest daughter (adopted at age 12) ever believe and know how much we truly love her and talk to us again? Will our marriage survive and if it does, will we actually still like each other?

Fortunately, someone must have known I was asking these questions this week and thought they’d help make it clear by publishing an article about how horrible all adoptive parents are and how we all must have a “savior complex” and how much better it would have been for my kids to have been left in an orphanage where they actually might have died, and my other kids in foster care or with their birth parents who abused them. Clearly, I am the scourge of the earth…

By the way, I don’t really need other people telling me how much I suck as an adoptive parent, because my kids are pretty good at letting me know every. single. day… as they take their trauma pain out on me, since I’m actually their one safe place.  Isn’t that awesome?

Oh yes, let’s not forget that when lamenting about my week, to some “in real life” friends, one of them actually said, “well, didn’t you think about them all being teenagers at once when you adopted them?  You didn’t have to do it.”

I actually had no words.

No words… but just my already bruised and wounded heart crushed a little more.

I didn’t think that was even possible at this point.

So, in answer to the question, “Is this messy journey worth it?”

No, not today…

Today, and many days, I don’t actually feel like it is worth it.


I KNOW it is worth it.  I know that adoption is a picture of how God reached out to us, in love, to offer us relationship with Him.  I know that it is a picture of redemption and grace and provision.  And I know that there has been nothing more costly and messy than Jesus’ journey to the cross where he bled and suffered and died so that I could be adopted into His family; so I could be known and belong.

And you know what?  Jesus didn’t feel like going to the cross anymore than I feel like getting up tomorrow and walking this messy journey again.  He asked for a different way; the agony was so intense that he cried and sweated blood just thinking about it.

I haven’t sweated blood yet, but I’m fairly sure that tomorrow or the next day I will cry some more, when the overwhelming cost of the messy journey of adoption hits me smack upside the face once again.

And my only hope will be to look up into the face of Jesus, and see his compassionate loving eyes looking back, and remember that He gets it, and He is with me, and I will KNOW that it is worth it.

Question: Have you asked this question a time or two? What have you discovered about your own journey? Share with us in the comment section below this post. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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  • Connie A S Wills

    You nailed the messy emotional side if this journey,,! The one most of the do called normals don’t really want to hear, even our biological family.
    We are grandparents raising 2 grandchildren. Have been for 9.5 years.
    My stepdaughters children, now ages 10)17. Our granddaughter is the 17 year old and we have, are experiencing every thing you described. Just last week, yet another “school” conversation.
    Now shed saying I’m not going to college. You guys can’t pay for it and my grades suck, so what’s the point.
    Never mind the fact that her grandfather ,,(68,,) drives ,,950 rt miles every week for 4 years now, to work Sunday-Thursdays to keep her in the same high school that she pleased with us not too move from.

    This journey is and has been the single most challenging, selfless mission of my entire life. But For God, Amen.

    • jen

      I’m sorry its so hard right now. Teenagers are hard anyways most of the time and trauma seems to just add to how hard it is. It is so challenging. But for God. Yes and amen.

  • Tamara Boyd Rogers

    Been there, done that. We adopted eight kids with trauma backgrounds, mixing them into middle of our five birth children. This Christmas, most are on their own, all are doing better than ever and we are looking forward to enjoying them and their children for the holidays. Hang in there! It is worth it and it does get better!

    • jen

      Thanks Tamara,

      There are so many good days and it’s been 10 years now and it is so much better in some ways…and then there are days that are really really hard!

  • Christine and Ron Bluemke

    Thank you Jennifer for being “real” in the trenches of parenting. We are feeling the same right now parenting one 19 year old who has managed to suck the life out of us many times including this week. It is interesting how when they are hitting rock bottom and spiraling down fast…they manage to take us with them. We have had a week of disappointments ( did not get the job..did not pass the drug test). Why not apply for more than 1 job? Are you kidding? that is doing the most!! Hoping girlfriend is pregnant…would really like to have a baby (how about a job fist??) She is not pregnant…..Really want that I phone 7 and will not wait any longer….The woman at church will not miss her credit card and my dad’s friend will not miss the $250 cash in his wallet since he has so much money. Comes home with the I phone, some new Nike boots and blue tooth ear buds. We talk about steeling and criminal consequences once again for the 20th time. He goes into hiding for the night out with friends and arrives home at 4 AM this morning ready to sleep off the drugs.
    We are not sure what more to do as parents. He needs to be supervised 24/7 when in church or at family gatherings. Every day is a new drama. He feels safe enough at home to dump his emotional trauma baggage and then go back out again to find more excitement.

    We hope greater things for him. We know the Lord has plans for him and we know he will experience greater hardship because of his trauma and FASD. The Lord came to this earth in a mess and left a mess. I agree with your point about feeling vs obedience in what we are called to do and I am reminded about the new Mercy Me song “Even If”. IT is through the tears that our Heavenly father meets us and rejuvenates us to keep on going.

    • jen

      Yes! They feel safe enough to drop the emotional baggage…and that makes it hard but it is also good. It truly is all about just loving each other right where we are. Prayers for you and yours today!

  • Rainytuesday

    Thank you so much for this honest look inside your life! It’s so lonely and isolating sometimes and it’s tempting to believe no one in the universe understands. Thank you for reminding me that God sees and orders our steps, and that we are not alone. Thank you for your blog and for being a voice that understands! Praying for you today! I’m right there with you in the trenches.

    • jen

      You most definitely are not alone. Adoptive parents do have a voice that needs to be heard, just as do adoptees and birth parents. We are all in this mess together, trying to love each other well. Honesty helps us all know we aren’t isolated and that others are there with us!

  • Brandy Pancoast

    Amen….amen…amen… and ME TOO

    From Another Mama in these trenches as well

    Always important to remember we are NOT alone…both in relation to other families like ours and that GOD is always there!!! (Footprints In The Sand in my “go to” in these broken moments)

    • jen

      not alone. not alone. Sometimes tired and discouraged, but not alone.

  • Meohme Almostright

    Wow. This so speaks to my heart. I feel like you’ve looked inside my soul. Thanks for putting it into words and validating the way I feel most of the time.

    • jen

      Thankful to be able to share and validate the real feelings. Some patches are just rough. If we can hold on to the truth and know we are not alone, we will make it!

  • True stories. All of them. You’re not alone. Wish I could hug you in real life!