What Do You Do When You Feel Like You Just Don’t Belong?

On Foster Care, Biracial Identity And More!

This is a guest post by our good friend, Natalie Brenner, who has also been a guest on our podcast, The Honestly Adoption Podcast. She is an adoptive and biological mother, as well as a blogger, and the author of the book This Undeserved Life. Make sure you check out her blog by clicking here.

We love stories that move our heart and challenge us to see the world around us in a brighter light. This story, originally appearing on Natalie’s blog, does both. May it move your heart as well…

You know. I often feel like I am the luckiest in the world, to have the friends that I do. When we moved to Portland, we had no idea the community that was in store for us. We had no idea the friends we would make, the relationships we would have for us and our kids.

I am humbled and blown away to be the one to share with you a sacred piece of my friend Christina’s story.

Christina is a biracial woman, a wife and mom to five black boys, a follower of Jesus and a justice seeker. She birthed three of her five boys and they are all some of the most respectful kids of I’ve ever met.

Christina grew up in the foster care system and was adopted by white parents who lived in a predominantly white space. I hope and pray you hear and learn from her experience and her beautiful heart…

If there is such a thing as “the wrong side of the tracks” then that is exactly where I came in to the world!

Born a mixed race girl, straight into a system that never had any good intentions for me. My mother was 13, a child herself, and already in foster care. It didn’t take long for her to do what she knew best: run away.

So round and around I went, place to place, family to family.

During these years I experienced all the things. All the hideous, really bad, hateful, traumatic, evil things. I learned to be quiet and “good” on the outside but inside my head, it was angry and loud and chaotic.

I learned that I didn’t fit in no matter where I was. I learned that being mixed meant I wasn’t white enough to fit with white people or black enough to fit with black people.

Being a foster child meant no one actually wanted me, even my family who said they “loved me.”

Being an abandoned child created a long term effect of needing to win approval from others, by any means, so that I didn’t feel like such a heavy and unwanted burden.

After 8 years I was adopted with (eventually) all eight of my younger siblings. However some good things are just too good to be true…don’t get me wrong there was so much good.

Without the incredible strong amazing woman I received as a mother I would never be half the woman or mother I am today. She was the truest example of courage and unconditional love. God gave her to me.

But the bad was just…bad. I was struggling and silent about abuse that went on in our home. Afraid to speak out and be the reason for something “good” falling apart.

Also being African American in an all white area raised by adoptive white parents came with many challenges. I feel like often times we were sensationalized, other times met with out right racism, being told things like “little ni**er children don’t belong here”.

Either way I was always deeply aware of the fact that I didn’t really “belong” in that place.

I had made a promise to God when I was very young. I promised that if God would just give me a family with all my siblings together I would grow and up and give back all that I had been deprived of. I promised to give my life up to serve and to love in the deep places where no one had wanted to go with me. To be like Jesus to the most vulnerable and forgotten, unloved, and abandoned.

Out of that promise God was growing in my soul a deep capacity for so many things that were coming in my life, I had no idea about.

Fast forward to 2018.

I am a wife and mother of 5.

God knew this journey would be where I would begin to understand how to really see the threads in my life tapestry begin to intertwine and make sense. This is where all those years of trauma were going to be used for good.

The promise I made to grow up and love and cherish other abandoned children came home to rest right here in my own family (two of my five sons are non bio).

Naturally I want to protect my sons from being torn down in any manner. Especially knowing what that feels like on so many personal levels. Alsoespecially when it comes to them being American born boys with brown skin. We live in a society where so many things are working to give my son’s a negative narrative to live by, I am passionate about countering that!

My boys are all amazing. They are extremely intelligent, kind, compassionate, strong, stubborn, funny, and impressively polite.

However they are regularly met with unfair judgements. Whether it is at school, in the grocery store, on the playground, at a restaurant. You name it, everywhere we go prejudice, bias, and outright racism are around nearly every corner.

If I do not teach my sons to celebrate and rejoice who they are — strong. smart. handsome. important. black. — they will be at even greater risk of believing the many lies that say it is just too hard to stand up or stand out. They may fall victim to the narrative that tries to imply that they are somehow less than.

My husband and I are constantly searching for ways to EDUCATE and EMPOWER our boys.

We are conscious about bringing them into contact with people of color who are leading others, who are conquering bias in our systems, who are kind and courageous and bold and POWERFUL.

We do not get the “luxury” or privilege of celebrating “black history month.” We need to celebrate BEING BLACK period. So they can celebrate their kinky rough afro hair, and embrace their big noses and bushy eyebrows, without embarrassment.

They are loud and dramatic and sensitive — all these things are beautiful.

We as their parents are committed to learning the TRUTH about our history and our people so we can share that with our children and they know they weren’t put here to be under others, but that they were created in the image and greatness of the King of the world.

A dear friend and former pastor once preached: “One of the most important things we can teach our children is to suffer well…”

To this day that has stuck with me so deeply.

I cannot stop all the ugly things from happening to my precious sons BUT by the grace of God I have and am continually learning to teach them what it looks like to THRIVE no matter what this world throws at them!

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