Is This Messy Journey Really Worth It?

Author of 5 books, podcaster, parent trainer, husband and father.

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It's a question all of us, on the foster or adoptive journey, have asked a time or two. Especially when things are tough at home, and our kiddos are struggling. But the real answer to this question may surprise you.

This is a debut post by Jennifer Summers, who serves as Content Creator for The Honestly Adoption Podcast and Oasis Community within Confessions Of An Adoptive Parent. We are thrilled to share this post with you.

It depends on what you’re really asking. Are you asking if I feel like it is worth it or if I KNOW it is worth it?

Do you want the raw and honest truth?  You’d be scared if you saw it.  If you saw the actual mess.  Not the “oh, this messy journey…hahaha, (insert winky emoticon) mess.” I’m talking about the actual, nasty mess that this journey often is:  The mess I know all about, from living it for the last 10, long years.  The mess I hear all about, when other adoptive mamas feel safe enough to share with me the reality of what hell they are going through.

Do you want the raw and honest truth?  You’d be scared if you saw it.

This week it looked like our 16 year old son (who has been home for 8 years) telling us it would have been better for us to have left him in foster care or with his abusive birth family… because we’re just his meal ticket, and he can get what he needs from any adult, and he actually isn’t interested in relationship with us… nor has he ever been.

This week it looked like every.single.night. full of bickering, arguing, fighting, contentious, strife-filled sibling chaos as the unsettledness of the 16 year old spilled over onto all of our other kids, who were more than happy to pick it up and run with it.

It also looked like my 10 year old punching my 11 year old because he “looked at him and smiled funny,” and the 11 year old responding in kind.  It looked like other kids neglecting chores and homework, it looked like sticky floors and nasty bathrooms and overflowing laundry.

And, not like this messy journey is without financial cost, right?  So it also looks like an empty bank account because we spent our savings sending the 16 year old, who “hates us”, to residential last year, where he could receive intensive counseling. Obviously, that worked well.

It looks like broken vehicles, we can’t afford to fix, sitting out next to one of our old (but still running) cars that got a flat tire this week.  It looks like cracked concrete outside and cracked tiles inside, like broken light switches, stained carpets, clogged and broken sinks, another piece of broken furniture, ripped couch cushions, a dirt backyard that we can’t afford to put grass in and, oh yeah, that picture window my other 16 year old son “accidentally” broke while using a sling-shot and a bottle of essential oil. Inside. Don’t ask…

This week it looked like my Liberian sons encountering racism and bias in our local public schools, from both students and administrators, multiple times over.  It was my husband and I needing to go in – AGAIN – to talk to the principal and teachers to “work it out” when it shouldn’t have been ours to work out to begin with.

This week it looked like google chats and instagram messages found…ones they didn’t want me finding for obvious reasons.  And it looked like the multiple 3 hour conversations that followed, as we tried to reach and “shepherd their hearts.”  Only, their hearts don’t want shepherding because trauma tells them that our shepherding or teaching or, well, even just speaking to them is offensive and scary and uncalled for in every way. And, of course, we are “extreme” parents because we aren’t “tolerant” of every repulsive thing our teenagers want to view, or talk about on social media…how dare we set a boundary!

I hate trauma.

This week it looked like my husband and I losing it with each other, yelling and speaking words we never thought we would, because we’re so damn tired and exhausted and weary from 10 years of trauma parenting that we can hardly think straight.  It looked like falling into bed every night too exhausted to even kiss goodnight, let alone do anything else enjoyable…

This week it looked like me wiping snot and tears off my face with my own pillowcase because I was absolutely overwhelmed, but too tired to get up for a tissue, sobbing for hours on end as I grieved the losses that I feel so deeply for our adopted children, for our biological child, for our family, for our marriage, for my husband, and for myself.

It looked like battling (again) feelings of condemnation and resentment and regret, as I wonder if I “just should’ve, could’ve, would’ve” any number of multiple things the experts said I should have done.  Did I give them enough “voice?” or too much?  Have we helped? or hindered their hearts healing?  Will my biological son ever recover from the complex secondary trauma he has endured because we adopted nine other children?  Will our oldest daughter (adopted at age 12) ever believe and know how much we truly love her and talk to us again? Will our marriage survive and if it does, will we actually still like each other?

Fortunately, someone must have known I was asking these questions this week and thought they’d help make it clear by publishing an article about how horrible all adoptive parents are and how we all must have a “savior complex” and how much better it would have been for my kids to have been left in an orphanage where they actually might have died, and my other kids in foster care or with their birth parents who abused them. Clearly, I am the scourge of the earth…

By the way, I don’t really need other people telling me how much I suck as an adoptive parent, because my kids are pretty good at letting me know every. single. day… as they take their trauma pain out on me, since I’m actually their one safe place.  Isn’t that awesome?

Oh yes, let’s not forget that when lamenting about my week, to some “in real life” friends, one of them actually said, “well, didn’t you think about them all being teenagers at once when you adopted them?  You didn’t have to do it.”

I actually had no words.

No words… but just my already bruised and wounded heart crushed a little more.

I didn’t think that was even possible at this point.

So, in answer to the question, “Is this messy journey worth it?”

No, not today…

Today, and many days, I don’t actually feel like it is worth it.


I KNOW it is worth it.  I know that adoption is a picture of how God reached out to us, in love, to offer us relationship with Him.  I know that it is a picture of redemption and grace and provision.  And I know that there has been nothing more costly and messy than Jesus’ journey to the cross where he bled and suffered and died so that I could be adopted into His family; so I could be known and belong.

And you know what?  Jesus didn’t feel like going to the cross anymore than I feel like getting up tomorrow and walking this messy journey again.  He asked for a different way; the agony was so intense that he cried and sweated blood just thinking about it.

I haven’t sweated blood yet, but I’m fairly sure that tomorrow or the next day I will cry some more, when the overwhelming cost of the messy journey of adoption hits me smack upside the face once again.

And my only hope will be to look up into the face of Jesus, and see his compassionate loving eyes looking back, and remember that He gets it, and He is with me, and I will KNOW that it is worth it.

Have you asked this question a time or two? What have you discovered about your own journey? Share with us in the comment section below this post.

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Mike and Kristin Berry are the Co-Founders of The Honestly Adoption Company and have been parents for nearly two decades. They are the authors of six books, and the host of The Honestly Adoption Podcast.

Sarah Gray

Sarah Gray is the executive assistant to Mike and Kristin Berry. And she is the best in the land. In addition to providing a warm and friendly response to the many emails our company receives on a weekly basis, she also manages Mike and Kristin’s speaking and meeting schedules, and makes sure that team events go off without a hitch.

Nicole Goerges

Nicole Goerges is a Content Contributor & Special Consultant for The Honestly Adoption Company. She works with Mike and Kristin as a recurring co-host for the Honestly Adoption Podcast, and co-host of Kitchen Table Talks, exclusive video content for Oasis Community, along with Kristin. She is a fellow adoptive mom, and former foster parent.

Matt McCarrick

Matt McCarrick is the Content Production Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. If you’ve loved listening to our podcast, or enjoyed any of the videos trainings we’ve published, you have Matt to thank. He oversees all of our content production, from video edits, to making sure the tags are correct on YouTube, to uploading new videos to Oasis, to hitting publish on a podcast episode, he’s a content wonder!

Karen Anderson

Karen Anderson is the Community Engagement Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. She spends the bulk of her time interacting with, and helping, people through our various social media channels, as well as providing support for Oasis Community members through chat support or Zoom calls. In the same spirit as Beaver, Karen is also passionate about connecting with parents and making them feel loved and supported. Karen is also an FASD trainer and travels often, equipping and encouraging parents.

Beaver Trumble

Beaver Trumble is the Customer Care Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. Chances are, if you have been in need of technical support, or forgotten your password to one of our courses, you have interacted with Beaver. He is an absolute pro at customer care. In fact, he single-handedly revolutionized our customer care department last year. Beaver is passionate about connecting with parents and making them feel loved and encouraged.

Kristin Berry

Kristin Berry is the co-founder of, and Chief Content Specialist for, The Honestly Adoption Company. She spends most of her time researching and connecting with guests for our podcast, as well as direction, designing and publishing a lot of the content for our social media channels, blog and podcast. She loves to connect with fellow parents around the world, and share the message of hope with them.

Mike Berry

Mike Berry is the co-founder of, and Chief Marketing Specialist for, The Honestly Adoption Company. He spends the bulk of his time and energy designing and building many of the resources you see within our company, as well as social media and email campaigns. His goal is to use media as a means to encourage and equip parents around the world. He is also the co-host of The Honestly Adoption Podcast.