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What I Learned When My Children Fell Apart In Front of MeAdoption, brokenness, and grace. A "Small Talk" guest post by Sara Hagerty.
What I Learned When My Children Fell Apart In Front of Me

For the past two years, I've been working on a book called Small Talk: Learning From My Children About What Matters Most. I'll be sharing lots more information about the book on this blog in the next few weeks (pre-order sale starts Monday), but one of the most exciting parts of announcing its release is sharing a series of guest posts that explore the main premise behind Small Talk. Small Talk is a book that explores a host of topics--love, death, beauty, kindness, forgiveness, prayer--that have come up for me through my children's questions, comments, or experiences. I've asked 8 fellow writers to share with us their own "Small Talk" experience, a time when something a child said or did prompted the adult to think more deeply or differently about the world as a result. To initiate this series, I'm thrilled to introduce you to Sara Hagerty, author of the recently-released Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet, who writes about her experience with brokenness, and healing, through the lens of her children's questions about their adoptions:

We were all packed in, beginning our cross-country trip back home after visiting family. Our first two, adopted from Ethiopia, had been Hagerty’s for years. The second two, from Uganda, with us for only months. We were all still figuring out one another and fumbling through how these five individual parts and stories with their slivers of pain might all mesh as one family.

Out of the blue, the one most emotionally steady among my children burst through the comfortable silence of six sets of eyes fixed on the landscape outside of the windows.

“Why did she leave me?” she sobbed.

I tried to absorb the shock. This was a first for her. What had triggered this?

“Why did my birth mommy leave me?” she bellowed. And then she began to wail. While my mind was running through potential responses, the one behind her joined in, wet-cheeked already himself (whether from sympathy or empathy, I wasn’t sure).

I was still floundering to respond while the third, beside her, chimed in, “Why did my birth mommy have to die? Why didn’t I ever get to know her?”

By that time I was crying too, just as I am now, as I type. How could one car, one family, hold all this pain?

Finally, the fourth found her voice, through whimpers. “Why is God letting my birth mommy die?”

I was stunned to silence.

Though our goal was to raise wholehearted children – and wholeheartedness, for us and for our four would likely mean years of conversations about their broken histories -- I didn’t expect that we’d need to discuss their severed places this soon. And with all of them at once.

Who are we to walk them over this glass?

My parents attended every single one of my sporting events. My husband Nate’s sent him to a magnet school, honing his gifts at a young age. Neither one of us wrote a check for college or even had to share a bedroom in our later years at home. Every October, my family and I tromped on fall leaves all the way down the street to the neighbors’ clam-bake and in the summers Nate had greased watermelon contests in his neighborhood lake.

Even the simple, less notable childhood mile-markers were a given for us.

I still have my original birth certificate.

But history had prepared us in another way. Even though our parents paid for our wedding and bought our first cars, we had grief of another kind – life can only go on so long without grief.

My womb was still empty and we’d known years when our bank account was too. My father died months after we brought home our first two from Ethiopia and our marriage had been hanging by the thread of our vows for years after the wedding rice was swept away.

Pain and loss is inevitable when you’re old enough to look at life through the lens of decades, not just years. Our children, though, had been ushered there early.

The questions about their loss rested on the same fault line as the questions I asked of God in the dark of the morning when the clink of another negative pregnancy test hit our metal trashcan.

That question, for me, had never been: is God good?

I saw His beauty in the sunrise and in the wrinkles on my grandmother’s hands (who’d survived the tragic loss of two husbands, yet lived to hold her great-grandbabies). I saw His beauty in scripture. Daniel was saved from lions’ mouth and Joseph was brought restitution. Mary had a secret. She held salvation, covered in after-birth. The Son of God had her DNA.

He was good all over the place. My real question, however, was and is the same as the one my children face: But is God good … to me?

For years, I’d look at women who resented the physical marks from the babies they’d birthed, with envy. Me, I was scarred by life -- and still barren. They had what I wanted. They were blessed, but I was somehow … cursed.

My daughter’s friends had their grandparents at every one of their birthday parties. Those friends remember when they got their ears pierced and have pictures from the first day of first grade. Their mom saved their first baby tooth. My daughter can readily look at her loss just like I did, through the lens of one who seems cursed.

But the story for her is greater, just as it is for me. And my answer to all their pain – though it didn’t come on that day they steamed up the car with their tears and I stumbled in knowing how to respond – is the same He has given me.

Pain is an invitation and loss isn’t a curse when it peels back the layers over the heart to reveal the hunger buried underneath -- inherent in every human, no matter the circumstances -- for a personal, intimate brush with God.

I met God when my body broke.

I never knew He could be so near when life was working out for me. I didn’t know, then, what it felt like to have Words from the Bible jump off the page, or to have a tender reach from Him intersect a random moment. I didn’t need to know Him that way, then.

My children, now – years after that day in the car – are meeting Him in the same way. Their pain, their broken stories, threaten to make them believe they’ve been cursed while others are blessed. But the real truth is that He’s given them an invitation to bleed. Early.

And the ones who bleed get to know -- not just know about -- His flesh pressed up against their wounds, forming a tourniquet, and a salve, for their bleeding.

He is near to the broken. And isn’t that nearness the craving of every human heart?

My children just have an early invitation.

Sara is a wife to Nate and a mother of five whose arms stretched wide across the ocean to Africa. After almost a decade of Christian life she was introduced to pain and perplexity and, ultimately, intimacy with Jesus. Her book, Every Bitter Thing is Sweet (released this week via Zondervan) is an invitation -- back to hope, back to healing, back to a place that God is holding for you—a place where the unseen is more real than what the eye can perceive. A place where even the most bitter things become sweet. {She writes regularly at EveryBitterThingIsSweet.com.}

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