In Defense of the Optimistic, Life is Hard and Life is Sweet

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It seems to be a trend. It seems to be the latest and greatest share and like on every social media venue. The rawest and best spelled-out forms of misery, pain, and turmoil gather the greatest attention. When a mom can talk about her parenting struggles in very vivid colors and show the realities of her shortcomings in good humor, we all, me included- find a good laugh and can certainly relate. When the best wifey blogs describe in excruciating details all that they deal with in raw emotional detail and some crude humor…and then end their rant with a short sentence about “love and grace” helping them through it all- it’s a hit. We all say, “Hooray! This is normal and I feel okay about my marriage now!”

It was only after reading a very pessimistic article about the struggles involved in attachment in adoption, shared by a fellow adoptive mom as being a “must read” that I felt a sadness about what is particularly popular for reading material by most, even in the church. Because quite frankly, after reading the article, my emotions left me wanting to curl up in a ball and suck on my thumb for a while. My immediate reaction was pretty much, “Poor woman. That must be a terrible realm to live in everyday. I am so sorry that she is dealing with those things.” 

And then I realized. Wait. I am. I’ve been fighting those same battles for a few years and I do not see my life as remotely close to the way this woman described hers. I am in no way implying I am doing something better than this other woman. I KNOW that is not the case and I know where that kind of pride leads. I do not have everything under control. I do not think my life is perfect. But even in the middle of the battles we face–I can’t imagine life being any sweeter than it is.

(A little aside here. I am not against honesty. There is a place for confession. There is place for openess. I get that people need to be prepared and trained for what can come with the territory of adopting from hard places. But more than that, I get that this should be handled in a severely delicate and Spirit-led way, which I rarely see.)


Maybe those of us fighting those attachment and trust battles feel the rest of the world needs a glimpse of our reality. Maybe those of us who have less than perfect marriages feel like everyone else needs to know about how real-life should be. Maybe those of us who feel like we are fighting battles everyday think airing our complaints (in a godly way, of course) might make someone else feel a little better about complaining. Wait…what? (I’m referring to the wide-array of topics where pessimism takes the cake here, not just one.)

Here’s the truth. I’ve been criticized for my stubborn optimism. Sure, it’s gotten me into a little trouble. I always think I have enough time to conquer the world and still feel confused when I couldn’t check off the bajillion things I’d hoped to accomplish in a day. I still think my burrito will close no matter how much taco meat, cheese, and pico I fill it with. “It will close this time. IT WILL.”  But by-golly, even with all I haven’t accomplished,  I know I’ve accomplished way more in this sense of optimism (and perhaps eaten a few extra calories)  than I ever would have by finding all of the faults and struggles in my daily life and fixating on them, glorifying them, and airing them to no end.

I’ll never forget a very pivotal moment in my faith. Just a young broken teenager who had recently come running home to Jesus, I remember knowing that God wanted me to go on a mission trip to the Philippines. I also remember knowing that I did not have a penny to pay for that trip, at all. With a large payment on the trip due in one week, I remember sitting down with someone and telling them about how I had no idea how it was going to work out. I was concerned. Where was the money going to come from? I remember this well-meaning person telling me matter of factly, “Calley, you just may not be able to go on this trip. You may have to accept that.” And then I remember a relentless hope- rising up inside of me in opposition. I thought to myself, “Yes. Yes I will. I know God wants me there. I will be going.” Amazingly, by only a work of God, the money was there. My life was transformed on that trip. That was where God made it clear to me that I would not be spending my life to entertain others in the arts as I had always hoped. I would be pouring it out for Him; which would be far greater than my personal plans.

I couldn’t wake up every day and do what I am called to do if I constantly recounted every thing that went wrong on the previous day. Apparently God knew I had to be wired to see the glass half-full, or I certainly would never be able to keep saying yes to adopt again or to change more. I don’t have time to sit around and fixate on the days I have spent warring in what felt like the pit of hell itself for the lives of my children. I don’t have the energy anymore to give a pat and bow to nights full of screaming, the days of holding a child so full of pain and hurt that all they know to do is holler. I don’t have the life-span to devote my days educating people on the risks of adopting neglected children because I am sincerely and honestly too caught up in amazement by watching them be transformed with the power of hope. 

Someone recently wrote me and said, “I’m so thrilled you’ve had such a pleasant experience adopting! And, wow, the second time with older children! That’s just not the case with so many.”

Danny and I get a laugh of comments like this. Our lives are far from perfect. These people have no idea. We just do our best to obey God. Besides the heavier issues that come with a life of being a leader in a church, parenting children and some from very hard places, there are the other things. Like my toddler, who has figured out how to run in a room, strip off a diaper and shake it enough to let a sufficient amount of poop fall into the rug so that any innocent patron walks right into it, spreading it all over the house. In fact, I’m still looking for hidden clumps of poop from today’s fiasco. They have no idea about the days we’ve spent at war.

However, it is with absolute honesty and truth that I can say, I do not see those days as deal-breakers, game-changers, or mile markers in the journey to walk with Jesus and do what I am called to do. We have fallen down over and over again and we have faced things we thought we’d never be dealing with, but never once have I regretted obeying God. Not once. I love what I do and I am super happy doing it. I get mad. I mess up. I find myself in a continual cycle of change to make this all work. And I love it. I eat it up. This only comes from knowing that Jesus Himself is right with me, as I abide with Him.

Do you want to know what I’m seeing? I see joy and beauty here. I see constant progress in all of my kids. I see that, the more we trust and believe what God says in the middle of every storm…the greater the victory and the deeper the healing. Adopting older children has been one the sweetest blessings of my life. My kids, all of them, are incredible. I can’t take the credit for that and I wouldn’t be stupid enough to try. I left my pride-filled, so-called ability to parent in my own strength somewhere back on the side of the road when we only had one child. When a situation or need arises as we follow Jesus, I can’t check the internal pantry anymore to see what energy and time resources are there and determine if I have what I need. God alone knows that we are riding on straight Holy Spirit resources here and there is seriously the greatest relief and comfort in that. His supply is never spent. But I don’t elevate my family and kids and call them incredible because of my pride or my desire to hide their imperfections or make my family look special. It’s because I sincerely see my kids that way. In the middle of their journey to healing. In the middle of their phases and changes- in the middle of the struggles, I really see Jesus here. Does it get anymore beautiful than that?

Every single human being faces battles and fears they never thought they’d face. Every human being that is ever born will wake up one day to an unexpected and difficult situation even in the middle of their obedience to follow Jesus.  They will be required to decide how they will walk through it. With hands pushed forward in “back off” stance? With hands raised to testify of how terrible they are and the knitty-gritty details of what they deal with in their struggles? Or their hands open in front of them in a position of surrender, ready and willing to walk forward with their eyes on Him? When we fix our eyes on Him, He does change the way we see things.

I love what Jeremiah 17:8 says. God wrote this on my heart during a particularly challenging season…

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD and whose trust is the LORD. For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes; But its leaves will be green. And it will not be anxious in a year of drought, nor cease to yield fruit.”

It’s not so written that during a difficult week, year, or even life- God intended on us ever being overtaken by the drought. Somehow when the roots keep reaching down deep into the waters of life with trust; only by His hand, the fruit can keep coming. And when we are watching beautiful fruit come out of a severe drought, it’s difficult to pay an ode to the magnitude of the drought. We can’t. We stand too amazed at the stream that remained constant, supplying everything needed for an abundant harvest right in the middle of it.

Life is hard. But with Jesus, it is so, so sweet.