I'll be honest with you, when I asked my friend, Tish, to take our family photos, I wanted the happy family photo, you know, the one that makes everyone go "awwwwwwwe". These would be the photos for our Christmas cards, my Facebook profile picture picture, the one eventually printed out in 6 or 7 years and then eventually, in 6 or 7 more years, hung on our wall. It would be the photo I sent to the grant organizations that helped us complete this adoption. This would be the photo those organizations would put on their website and blog posts. The picture that would hopefully inspire or encourage some other family in their adoption journey! So imagine my discouragement and disappointment when we got our photos back and I saw that sweet face of our son so miserable. I'd be lying if I said I didn't ask Tish to Photoshop a smile on the kid or do a face-swap to make our photo look a little more "tidy" but then as I was praying I heard a small quiet voice say "be honest".
Be honest? Let people see the truth? Are you crazy!!!!!! Then people would know that we are not perfect. That our lives are not nice and neat and tidy. People would know (gasp!) that we don't have it all together!!!! How will that honesty encourage people?
And then it hit me. The times I have been most encouraged was not when I saw other peoples "perfection" but when I heard those beautiful and comforting words "me too"
Knowing I was not alone, knowing that I was not the only crazy one out there in the world...there was comfort and encouragement in that.
I don't want to be a Photoshop family! We are far from perfect and this picture is an honest depiction of where at right now. We are a family fighting for attachment. Fighting for bonding. Fighting through grief, broken expectations, and loss. And maybe there IS something encouraging about that.
We tend to put on a mask for people, pretending that everything is ok. We only post pictures of ourselves when our hair and makeup are perfect and our body is positioned in the right angle so you can't tell that it was a bag of oreos that you ate for dinner - and even then, we use some sort of instagram filter to make our teeth look whiter or our skin tanner. We think no one would want to hear about our bad day or our struggles in life. We keep up a Photoshop-type life, faking a smile and pretending that its all ok, And then we look at everyone around us, and there life seems so perfect and beautiful, so we are tricked into thinking that we are all alone in our trials when in reality, they have a Photoshop life too!
So here it is, people, this is us! We are struggling. We are fighting daily to keep our family together and afloat. The past several months have been hard. As parents we have fought doubt, fear and anxiety. We have watched our kids struggle as they adjust to this new life. We have had to make hard decisions that brought us (and them) to tears. We have struggled to regroup financially after one of the hardest summers of our lives. We are still trying to find some sort of normal. But, friends, this is life. This is often what adoption (especially older child adoption) looks like. It is not neat or tidy. It is not easy. (But that doesn't mean it's not worth it.)
I know everyone wants to believe the adoption fairy tale, "...and they came off the plane and all lived happily ever after..." but that simply isn't the case.
The real journey begins once you are home.There are days, weeks, months, even years of bonding, adjusting, learning and growing. You fight against the assumptions of some and the judgement of others. You feel lonely and isolated - here you did all this work, all this fundraising, all this advocating and fighting for your child. There were hopes and dreams of what your family would look like, the adventures you would have, the memories you would make - and none of them are a reality. Some days they don't even seem like a possibility. But you asked for this! So how can you be discouraged...how can you complain...
So we hide it. We hide the pain. We hide the trials. We put on a brave face and go out into the world, absorbing all the emotional blows that come our way. (For example: as I walked my child to the school bus and he left without saying goodbye, another mom (whose children covered her in kisses and hugs and shouted "I love yous" all the way up the bus steps) comes to me and says "I don't know what's worse! Having them so sad to leave you or not having them be sad at all..."
But the truth is - you aren't alone. That mom with her overly affectionate kids that cover her in kisses while my child won't even mumble a goodbye - her life isn't perfect either.
We are imperfect people living imperfect lives. I don't want to pretend to be someone I am not. I also don't want to pretend that our lives are perfect or that motherhood is easy, marriage is a cakewalk or that adoption is easy. I do want to be sensitive and not embarrass my family - but I know that transparency is something God has worked a lot into my life over the past years. I want to be sensitive to what our family is going through, but also be honest as well in the hopes to encourage others who might feel alone.
Galatians 6:2 says to "Bear one another's burdens". How can we do that if we are living Photoshop lives?
Let's be bold. Let's be brave. Let's be (gasp!) honest.
After all, life is messy, but God is good.