Wednesday, October 30, 2013

When It Doesn’t Feel Exciting

I want to be transparent and honest here. I haven’t been able to process this until now. Because it’s been too close to home. With not enough distance in my struggling heart.

But after having posted our boys’ homecoming and official adoption pictures, I feel the need to confess my deep heart struggle (behind the smiling face) before I record anything else about our adoption.

I wrote a family update earlier this week in an overall thankful tone for all the blessings God has provided for us this month of our adoption, through His abundant care. We are thankful. Because God is good. But I wondered from some people’s responses if maybe I had been too positive in that update. Did I make it sound too much like everything was positive and progress and praise?

Because honestly it really hasn’t felt exciting to me.

When people have communicated how excited they are for us that our adoption is finally happening, what an exciting day it must have been when our boys came home, and how exciting it is that Daniel is making progress, all those exciting words have rung hollow in my heart. I told Charly that I felt like our adoption stopped being exciting to me when we heard that Daniel had been in a coma 6 days with a serious brain infection. And when the reality of the severity of his brain damage settled in, as we were able to visit him over four successive days in the hospital. His recovery was definitely slow—no miraculous healing before our eyes—and we knew that we might not see much more progress.

When Charly and I visited Daniel in the orphanage the week before we brought the boys home, we first witnessed his athetosis, one of the results of his brain infection that hadn’t manifested itself right away. And unfortunately, our doctor friend in Lanzhou told us, these constant uncontrollable snake-like movements are not curable; we could expect him to have this movement disorder for his whole life. “God, can I really love this boy?” I questioned as we stood by his orphanage bed, and he didn’t seem to know we were there..

One week later, as I stood by his bed in our home, in the middle of the night, after his first full day with us, I helplessly watched his flailing body and had no idea if he was in distress or if this activity was normal for him. I tried giving him some water, which he didn’t take. I worried about his only having had one wet diaper the day before.

We’re not getting enough liquid into him. What if something is wrong with his kidneys too?We don’t know how to care for him. He can’t communicate with us. What if he never can? What if I am standing here looking at every night for the next 5, 10, 20 years? This is too hard. This doesn’t feel like a good plan. I really don’t think I can do this.

And I whispered in the darkness, “God, I don’t understand what you’re doing.”

So, when people have written about being so excited for us, my heart response has been, “This doesn’t feel exciting. It just feels hard.” Yes, I want to be excited with those who are excited for us. I want to remember the mountains God moved for us in our adoption journey. That He worked against all odds and brought these two boys into our home, when we had been told that it wasn’t possible.

I have appreciated people reminding me of these truths, as I have appreciated all of our adoption encouragement along the way. Reminding me that God is good, His plans are good, and He has higher purposes that we don’t always (don’t often) understand. The truth is that He ordained every single day of Daniel’s life. He allowed him to get sick when he did, and He has been completely sovereign over the type of recovery he has had and will continue to have.

In addition to these reminders of God’s goodness and sovereignty, I have also appreciated the grace and space people have given me to grieve the “loss” of the little boy we met at the orphanage in July, and to cry over what it would have been like to bring him home as he was then. People who have prayed with me and for me when I have doubted whether I can truly handle this, especially when I’m having a bad stretch of migraines. I texted some friends an hour before we went to pick the boys up from the orphanage and asked for prayer that my headache would go away, as I was in a “migraine survival mode” and wanted my heart to be in it. I so appreciate having friends who faithfully lift up my need for God’s grace and strength in my life.

Because it is so clear that I can’t handle this without Him. And I know that He knows that this doesn’t feel exciting to me right now. It’s okay to Him. We’re doing this together. One day at a time. We can take on the “hard” together.

I typed most of this one-handed this afternoon, with my other arm around my sweet little guy, cuddled and flailing next to me on the couch. We shared a couple of smiles together. And I felt grateful for the way that God has been growing my Mother’s love for him these two plus weeks. Grateful as well that God gave him his precious smile back.

The first time he laughed out loud while sitting in my lap, I cried. One of my concerns had been that if he didn’t smile, how would we know what he liked? We could meet his needs (hopefully) but could we have a relationship with him if he wasn’t responsive? Not only did God bring his smile back, He also brought his laugh. One of the sweetest sounds in the world.

Thanks be to God who made us Mother and Son. His good plan before time began. It doesn’t have to feel exciting to be good.


  1. Adoption beneath the anticipation and excitment can be hard because of the unknown and the know too. I confess to wondering about our girls with being malnourished and prematurity which a neonatal nurse told me more than I wanted to know about what might happen with Meg. Robert, our oldest son reminded me that Christlikeness was the way to handle the doubts and He had a hard way too. I think birth mothers have the same thoughts and compassion driven by love. Yours is too. Transparency can be helpful and you will learn over time who to be that way with and how much to tell. Thank you for sharing your stuggle. I admire you and your family for making this big commitment to boys who need love and need you! Linda

    1. Thanks for commenting, Linda! So appreciate adoptive moms like you who have gone ahead and have much for me to learn from. Look forward to staying in touch with you. Blessings to your family. Love, Jodie

  2. Jodie,
    You do not know me, but your sister Windy is a very dear friend of mine. Honestly, the whole Shull family is so special to us. I had Anna B. in my home while she was a toddler/preschooler and had Molly as well for awhile. I've met your parents:)
    Anyway, Windy just sent me a link to your blog and as I read your writing I had tears in my eyes. You have a gift in being able to communicate your heart through what you write. I especially loved the line, "These years are not missing to God." How true!!!! His plans for the boys did not start with you and Charly; He has been planning a future full of hope the whole time. Thank you for sharing your story, your heart. It blessed me.
    My prayer is that God will provide all that you need; migraine relief, emotional strength, a good night's rest, wisdom...
    Regina Rice

  3. Thank you so much for your encouragement, Regina! What a blessing to my heart to read your note. Thank you for those specifics you are praying for us. I've heard a lot about you through Windy and am glad that she has you for such a good friend. Love, Jodie



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