What My Daughter Has Taught Me About Love

by Jenny Marrs, Miss August 2015


I’m frequently asked about the transition our family underwent when our daughter joined our family through adoption. Friends and family are naturally curious about our family dynamic. They wonder how Sylvie has adjusted to her new world. They ask about her siblings and the impact her adoption has had on their own tender hearts.

The short answer is: “it’s complicated.”

The multi-faceted layers of hurt and brokenness and pain Sylvie carries with her are staggering. At just over one year home, we are still working to learn what triggers fear and uncover the cause of certain behaviors.

One of the most profound lessons adopting a toddler with a traumatic past has taught me is this: love is not a passive emotion, it requires effort. 

We are doing the hard work of love in our home. It is messy and fractured and imperfect. Yet, we are stumbling through and watching the beauty of redemption unfold. The transformation has been most dramatic in Sylvie’s eyes: eyes that once were cold and lifeless are now bright and quite literally shine.

In a recent conversation with Monica of the Bentonville Project, she asked for my description of love. Looking back on my response, I see clear lessons learned from parenting my girl. 

Love is selfless and vulnerable. It is intentional. Love is seeing the mess and the brokenness and stepping into the story instead of turning away. Love is getting up every day and doing the next thing. Love gives more than it receives. Love can be fireworks and wonder and awe but often, most often, it is quiet, gentle, and unremarkable. Love is tender.  Love is laps full, arms wrapped around littles, snuggled together reading a bedtime story. Love pursues. Love forgives. Love extends grace. Love is the foundation of an abundant life.


  1. Katharine says:

    I know you could go on and on, and only stopped because adding more words doesn’t help. There are not enough words to define love…
    Been there. 🙂

  2. Sarah says:

    Big *sigh*… I needed this today… Don’t turn away, walk into the mess.

    Our crazy blended families (of a billion configurations) are hard, really hard and the love is not always at your back pushing you forward… you get to claw at it with all you have and submit to the exhaustion and pray it is worth it. Only hindsight will answer that after you see the effort manifested in the loaf of bread of life.

    • Jenny Marrs says:

      Sarah, oh girl. I hear you. It is HARD. Walk into the mess and just keep on loving even when the return is anything but lovely. Love is not an emotion- remember that. It has helped me so much to DO this hard thing of loving somedays.

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