It has taken me a while to even be able to write about any of this because it is so complicated and wonderful and difficult and healing. 

Just a few weeks shy of 3 years of Rayne living with our family our adoption was finalized on the 17th floor of the Daley Center in Chicago which; maybe ironically is much more sterile and posh than the DCFS courts when have been frequenting for 3 years. This is not lost on me- I feel and ache deep in me for the injustices we have seen over the years in this system and I am still wrestling with how God is asking me to respond.  This day in court; surrounded by a tribe of people who included both family & friends that ARE family Rayne became an Engstrom.  

 Adoption all begins with loss. The smiles of this day in court first began as sobs deep within by many. It is real and profound loss that is held in your body, mind, & spirit that I cannot begin to understand but I can promise you I have witnessed. You can spin it with trite platitudes like “it was meant to be this way” but I have found there is no running from it. The truth is that it has changed our family and invited us all into a deeper, more complicated story we never knew we needed to live within.  And I am holding onto hope that this loss; if bravely met with courage, vulnerability, & truth, can point to a redeemer making all things new.

I cannot look at these images without crying- maybe it is all still too fresh and, as in any writing and sharing there is a danger when things are still in process because this all too soon can be a relic of my thoughts that soon becomes overshadowed by all that is next. But as I have reflected over the last few months I also want to share what I live in today in the hopes that is resonates with your story, encourages your heart, or expands your view of complicated issues I never began to understand until they took residence in our home. 

This is what I know right now. We can hold joy & pain and happiness & sadness in the same moment- humans are pretty incredibly made that way. It is just so often we short change ourselves by boiling it down to just one emotion. 

Pursuing a relationship with her first family is messy and hard and I have had to set aside my own junk time and time again.  Something we have sought after and prayed for for 3 years (and at times felt like giving up on)  is also life giving to us and our daughter.   We are seeing how much something once filled with anxiety for us all is becoming filled with SPACE to grow and with new possibility. As this relationship is redefined without the presence of workers and the courts I think a lot of her first family.  I wonder if it brings them peace to see her now or if it is so hard to watch that it physically hurts. I think probably both and I am asking God to help me hold space in my heart for them too.   

Rayne is strong and in her 6 year old way is saying she can hold both pain & joy & needs peace from knowing we can too. This is helping to teach her the hard but good lesson of advocating for herself even if that might hurt us or them.   There is no smooth road forward we can see or make out in the distance but for now we continue walking together in the best way we can to show honor and love.  I’m sure there will be many course corrections needed along this path and I pray I am discerning and open to that all.  

I hope I am never so attached to outcome that I miss what God is doing right now.   I share these images of a day in court because it was a special day filled with family & friends & miracles & tears AND there is so much more of this story yet to unfold.  

Thank you to all those who walk with our family & have encouraged our weary hearts time & time again. May we bravely walk the journey that is difficult but brings us to the end of ourselves & the beginning of what God’s mercy & grace can do.
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*images by friend & talented photographer Tyler Core.

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