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When You Mother The Broken

The day we pulled up into our driveway with them -- into the home that had been full of empty bedrooms for years while we waited for them -- we sat with the keys in the ignition while they, buckled into boosters in the back, slept off days of sleepless travel and we sighed.


We’d finished the hardest part, hadn't we? They were … home.

They transitioned almost seamlessly into our home -- but for some minor hiccups with attachment that an ergo and night-time bottle feeding (eye-to-eye) seemed to cure.

My little girl smelled like me. (She was mine.) My son even looked like Nate, aside from his chocolate skin. They slept through the night and played for hours like best friends and made our family of four feel easy.

A year later and we were adopting again. Insta-family.

And somewhere between that cloudless day when we brought our first two home and the one when we had five packed into our rusty suburban, the seamless days of adoption had vaporized.

The days when it seemed easy were distant.

What had been long-hour stretches of innocent chatter and pretend-play became lives and histories of once-strangers who were now siblings, rubbing up against each other’s life-losses.

What had been remedied, after our first adoption, by eye contact and skin-to-skin holding – little daily steps to build that bond of attachment – had now grown into heart-issues that needed more than simple strategies.

I started totaling the years of fatherlessness among my children, blushing that my home study never surfaced how grossly under-qualified I was to parent them.

I’d signed up, naively zealous as if I were running for student council, not taking on decades of life with children who, mostly, only knew loss.

Seven AM, for me, meant that I would walk outside my bedroom door and face gaps that needed years of holding, not just a quick morning prayer. Their lives were bleeding and I’d never been trained with a tourniquet.

So I cowered.

I shriveled.

What mom wants to watch herself fail … in the face of tear-stained cheeks and expectant eyes that needed a win?

What mom wants to watch herself fail -- period?

I shrunk. I folded.

And it’s here that He began to give me a perspective on my motherhood.

And for life.


Adoptive mama who is wondering how the “yes” you mustered to open your door and your bedroom and your late-night hours to that little life … dropped you right here, one bleeding, reeling mess with a bleeding, reeling child: today is where He tells you who you are.

Today is when He tells you who He is.

Biological mama who is almost wishing she could label this brokenness away. Who stares, deep, into eyes that look like yours -- but which carry a kind of pain and disconnect that you aren't even sure where it came from.

Today is when He tells you who He is.

She buckles (in public). She kicks and screams underneath that sullen shoulder shrug and angry eyes – the day after you stopped the globe to celebrate her birthday – and God says you get to find Me …"when they cannot repay you" (Luke 14: 7-14).

You pour yourself out for the child who can still barely respond to a hug and He tells you that He sees you in this secret. This child ties you to a reality that's more than flesh in front of you.

The dinner-date you planned that never happened because your son melted down-- with years of feeling rejection from someone who wasn’t you – left you homebound and aching. And it gave you a new chance to weep, at His feet. Your heart had never needed to open like this – to Him – before.

When they cannot repay you, you get to find the One who can fill up your insides -- better than any repayment.

When we mother the broken we meet the Father of the broken. We can’t just quote His Word by rote and pray pious prayers, anymore, we have to wrap our little-girl fingers around His once-flesh and cling with all we have left, if we want to "more than survive" these years.

What the world tells us is loss – these children who might smile big for our Christmas cards but cry themselves to sleep well past when they should be sleeping through the night – is crazy, beautiful gain, in Him.

We gain. Him.

The way into His heart is to go down, mama. And you now have an invitation, with this child who cannot repay you.

The four once-down-trodden under my roof have held my hand with their lives and gently led me to a measure of the love of God I didn’t need when I was successful.

Adoptive mama, biological mama, step-mama -- staring at what feels like your failure, this oozing life that has kept you from a neat and tidy motherhood might just be exactly what you need to crack your heart open to God (the One whose eyes bore with love into your broken one … the One whose eyes bore with love into your broken you).


Sara Hagerty

For Your Continued Pursuit: Luke 14:7-14 | Matthew 6:6 | Philippians 3:8

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