I have a hard-headed kid. She marches to the beat of her own drum. She doesn’t mind being different. She is always either the first in line or the last in line. She is never wrong, even when she is. She is kind and she is brilliant.

She also has low self-esteem. She isn’t attached to anyone or anything. She is incredibly hard on herself. She is a subconscious self-saboteur and we butt heads a lot. She wears her emotions on her sleeve and that is how I first noticed her fragility.

You see, she is the middle of five, in the middle of which are three girls, of which she is the middle. She is the middle of the middle. Additionally, all five of my children are adopted from foster care. When they came to us, they were ages seven, six, five, three, and almost two. That was three years ago. I’ve always said they are normal kids who carry extra baggage, and that is not more evident than with my hard-headed middle child.

She comes across as uncaring, but you can easily see the cracks in her armor when a friend decides to play with someone else, a younger sibling refuses her help, or when she makes a mistake of any magnitude. There are times she falls to pieces simply because she thinks she is in trouble.

A few days ago, after a particularly difficult week, I felt like we needed to have a talk.

I brought our handy-dandy whiteboard easel into her room that has been the center of many of our family meetings. The kids just seem to respond better when they have a visual. I drew a bucket on the board. We talked about how many of the people from her past have poked holes in her bucket and how she never feels full because the love poured into her is leaking out of those holes. (Sometimes it feels like it comes out faster than I can pour it in, but I didn’t tell her that.) Those holes were made by people who neglected to take care of her when she needed them, those who hurt her physically, and by those who hurt her emotionally. In truth, some of those holes were made by her but that is for another conversation.

I asked her, “Are these holes your fault?”

“No.”

She is in no way responsible for those holes. But, she also is in no way equipped to repair those holes. I told her I desperately want to be able to fix those holes, I want the love I pour into her to stay there. I want her to always feel full and loved. Unfortunately, I am not equipped to fix them either.

But God.

Every single part of my family’s story from zero to five children overnight contains those two small but powerful words: BUT GOD.

But God can fix my sweet girl’s damaged bucket. He can fix the holes placed there by people from her past, and He can fix those she put there herself because she thought they were supposed to be there. In fact, He is the only one who can fix those holes. Thank goodness because my bucket is running on empty, too!

What I desire for my daughter is that her bucket be so full of love, it overflows onto others around her. Because both her hard-headedness and her fragility are valuable characteristics of a strong leader. And that is what she is, a strong leader.

Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28, NLT). Whatever the burden or baggage you carry is, whatever the reason for the holes in your bucket, know there is only One who can fix it. He will happily do it if you just ask. 

God is waiting to turn your story around with two little words: BUT GOD.

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Kristal Black

We went from zero to five children overnight through the miracle of foster care and adoption. We are learning to parent while our children are learning how to be a part of a family. I am a working mom, passionate about encouraging others in foster care or curious about foster care. Life with five kids is an adventure!