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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