It was a Sunday morning. A beautiful morning with sunlight glinting through the windows. A morning that started with a lie and tears and parenting at its grittiest.
I thought about just going back to bed.
But instead we kept going, right through the “you don’t really love me” and the begging and manipulation and tears. Right through the questions in our own minds of what and how and “do we have any idea what we’re doing?” Right on through all of it.
Later a woman stopped me in the grocery store. “I’m so excited for you,” she said, “it’s like a fairy tale. You got a family, just like you wanted.”
I wanted to sit her right down and explain. I wanted to tell her that this was no fairy tale. Adoption is hard, all by itself, and adopting an older child is excruciating. It’s not really about me getting the family I wanted– in fact, it’s not about me at all.
I wanted to explain that I still have dreams about having babies and every time my daughter says, “You know, you’re not really my mom,” it hurts. And every time she says something no eight-year-old should ever know, I cringe and have to fight down the wish that I could have raised her from birth so I wouldn’t have to deal with this mess.
But I didn’t. And I’m thankful I didn’t. Because I would have been wrong. Not that it wasn’t truth, but it would have been wrong because it wouldn’t have been the whole truth.
Isn’t that the bad rap the traditional fairy tale has been given, anyway? It doesn’t tell the whole story.
The whole story includes the next Sunday, which was Mother’s Day. We traveled to a friend’s church and sat on metal fold-out chairs and worshiped with Believers we had never met before. Facing a Mother’s Day with a daughter snuggled against me made my heart squeeze so tight I could barely breathe for the beauty of it.
“Mommy?” she whispered in my ear, “are we almost done?”
Since the preacher was only on his first point, I felt confident in saying no.
I reached for my notepad and I thought about fairy-tales and how your perspective can be changed just by how the story is written. I thought about the week before, as we worked through the lying and fear and finally found the root of the problem– that understanding about being loved is difficult and learning to trust and love back is a scary process.
I thought about the whole story. How we are all living lives that are beautiful and harsh and painful and breathtaking. How God created our hearts to beat with hushed reverence at His glory, and to open wide and embrace all with His love.
So my pen scratched on the yellow-green pages and the story unfolded. It kept a little girl busy during a long sermon, and my heart was reminded to find the fairy tale in my story once again.
Once upon a time there was a beautiful little girl with rich black hair and eyes the color of dark chocolate. She lived with her mommy and her daddy in a tiny house on a big hill where windmills spun in the breeze. There was a creek where bullfrogs croaked and worms burrowed in the soil and spiders danced on top of the water. The little girl was loved so much, the love just ran all over her and dripped off her toes as she walked. And even though some things were hard, there were good and lovely things too. She learned to run through fields and spin in twirls on the hillside. “Twirling makes the world more beautiful,” she told her mommy. And it was true. She learned how to speak truth and choose good, even when it hurts. She learned how to pray about happy things and sad things, scary things and broken things. “And Jesus is still right here with me?” she would say. Her mommy would hug her tight and close and whisper, “Always.” And as time passed, the little girl learned how to love her mommy and her daddy and the tiny house and the windmills. She learned that true love lasts right through the hard things into the good and happy things. She even learned to love the bullfrogs and the creek and the worms. But not the spiders.