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Adoption {Not for weak of heart: A journey of loss, healing & redemption}

I told you I’ve been reflecting while at the beach with my sweet family…that seems to happen often in this momma’s heart when I get away–as so often I’m crazy chasing littles, homeschooling and scrambling for what’s for dinner much too late in my day. I’ve also been reflecting as any transition for one of our littles (even the transition of vacation and back)–causes bumps in the road and stirs reminders of how the journey through adoption requires so much more of us–energy, thought, processing…things I never imagined when we started our journey to grow our family in this miraculous way.

The online classes that agencies require you to complete–really now seem like a joke. Mind you, we took them quite seriously while we were in the process–and answering them was even fun for us as we were dreaming of what our precious child would look like, how our family would be blessed, how our child would impact the world and even us, how our children would be better through it and because of adoption…little did I know as not one of these online classes really prepare you for what the journey really requires.

Looking back and reading my blogs from right when we came home–I probably did my blog readers and those preparing to bring a little home a disservice by not being completely transparent. BUT–at the time, I needed to blog the beautiful–for MYSELF…to help me see the beautiful in the HARD. And it was harder than I ever imagined. I can’t believe we are getting ready to celebrate two years home with our 4th child–and I’m so thankful for how far he has come…how far WE have come–and how much we have learned and continue to learn.

I think many start out like we did. Richard and I always wanted to adopt. We couldn’t wait to one day adopt. And how beautiful it would be to open our home and hearts to a child that needed a family. Sure there would be sacrifices we knew…BUT eventually that child would be a “YOUNG” through and through–and it would be easy peasy in the end as our child smoothly fit in our groove as we were consistent and…LOVE would heal all the wounds. We’d have the most beautiful Christmas card you could imagine. Honestly–writing that now…makes me have to take a deep, slow breath…

On one of my bike rides at the beach–I smiled thinking of that phrase I used to always say (with a preschooler screaming in the back with passerby bikers to question what kind of babysitter was I anyway!?)…that phrase We’ve just always wanted to adopt…and thinking about this statement—which was true—but what I was really saying were things I didn’t yet know or understand…like…Would we REALLY say we “wanted” these things:We’ve just always wanted to turn our lives upside down to help a new one adjust…We’ve just always wanted to learn a new way to discipline and potentially even CHANGE the way we have always disciplined our biological children so we are consistent with all our children for the sake of a new one…We just always wanted to cocoon “park it at home for the first months home” with a new one who hits, screams and isn’t so sure about this new environment…We always wanted to struggle with patience on a whole new level–to beg Jesus for a deep connection with this new one–because you are struggling not feeling immediately what you thought you’d be feeling…We always wanted to miss months of sweet bed time moments with the other children while you rock a child that hits you and screams and doesn’t even want to be rocked… While in the beginning there WERE many beautiful connections and moments–there were also many, many feelings I never knew I would struggle with–feelings that even now I still struggle with. There were feelings of guilt with the other children I had to work through. There were even moments I wanted to rewind…to go back for just a moment to the way things used to be–full of order, peace, predictability and children that knew love and returned love with ease and joy. No’s were understood and accepted as security abounded in all knowing there was a purpose and a reason for those “no’s”–and bottom line–each and every one was deeply loved–and they understood, felt and knew it. There were thoughts and feelings that I’d never think of typing or allow myself to utter aloud…ever.

Honestly, I had an idea of what we were saying yes to–but I really didn’t know their extent. Because WHY would a little one who had experienced loss–who hadn’t been born into a world knowing security or consistency–who had given up on being loved and loving back…why would this child easily let loss go, quickly be healed and celebrate in a beautiful redemption story just because he was now home and because his new family just knew everything would be okay?? I mean, there should be no tears, no difficulty, no struggling once the Christmas card picture is beautifully captured…right?? I’m not sure I really took time to process what the healing would REALLY look like as I anxiously awaited a new number on the wait list each month, and I am SO thankful I spent those months reading everything I could get my hands on and going to trainings to learn as much as I could about something I really had never experienced. Yet nothing can really prepare you for your own family’s journey as each one truly does look so completely different.

I wish I could sit in a room not so much with moms and dads adopting for the first time–but with THEIR FAMILY and THEIR dearest friends and challenge them to a call of support. To share with them what their love and support will mean in the weeks and months ahead after they grow their family in this miraculous way. Because the journey to helping a child heal and actually BECOME family–to walk beside them as this little one learns to release the orphan spirit and accept DEEP down being a son or daughter FOREVER and knowing this will not be a quick process but one that takes years…for some even a lifetime–and having support of others who GET IT and understand–who will be there for them…who simply call to check in and ask how they can pray or support them will mean all the world to these parents who just always wanted to adopt and are now learning what it really means to love a child whose needs are greater than they have ever experienced and who is in the midst of the the orphan to son/daughter that just doesn’t happen overnight.

One thing I took for granted was how I knew the faces and expressions of my biological children as I had been staring at these faces since the day they were born—and what those expressions actually did to MY heart without my even thinking about it. I knew every expression and what it meant…the deep feelings behind it in their tiny, delegate hearts–and often I would even see myself or Richard in an expression that melted my heart because it was just another connection to us through resemblance…what a miracle it is to see this before your eyes…so many things without my realizing it formed natural connection after connection. I took for granted how when one of my children cried or were injured–mommy’s kisses made them instantly better or even just my holding them made them JELL to me–and tears stopped and everything was okay. I didn’t realize how THIS connected me deeply to my children–what gratification there was feeling and knowing that I could stop the tears or the hurt. And then…this new precious one…whose expressions I didn’t know…who would scream at “no” and not understand…who would fall but push mommy away instead of molding to my racing aide…who would cry–and I could only wipe away tears, but nothing I would say or could do would make them stop. I would pray for patience…call upon the Lord to wipe the tears…and ask for help (okay–BEG from help) from the Lord in a way I HAD NEVER DONE BEFORE.

And I realized…

I could not do this. I couldn’t do this without the Lord’s help. Had I been doing much of my parenting without the Lord’s help before? I know I was calling on Him–I was praying for my children–but naturally because they molded to me from the beginning I knew and began to see that I wasn’t really relying on Him to ease their pain or help me sooth them–because…*I* could do it. They hadn’t experienced trauma–they knew love…and it was just easy. I was used to bringing home newborns from the hospital each time we grew our family and the other children would still get my attention because of course newborns sleep the day away. I could meet the new needs of children all trying to figure out their places, the change and the newness as a new one slept–and even while a baby nursed in his most demanding time–I could still be fully present to talk through things with them. We’d morph and grow tenderly and slowly together as a family…addressing each new stage bit by bit–and never all at once. Everything was quite different not bringing home a newborn–and really, as much as you would think I would have KNOWN bringing home an older one would be different…I really didn’t prepare so much for what that would really look like or process how it would require more and different things of us as parents and even so much more for our children as well. I had to be very careful how I handled change in front of and WITH all of the children–and very sensitive how I answered their questions–and also very cautious how I responded to the new and unexpected demands. I still have to creatively answer questions (“Why does he cry every time we go to a new place and then we have to leave? Why does he think all he has to do is cry to get what he wants? in a way that doesn’t build bitterness in the hearts of my children and we have to creatively take things apart to get to the bottom of behaviors and wisely decide how to walk through them and shepherd all of our littles to maturity, independence and understanding.

Two years later–and things are different than I imagined before. I thought we’d be home with another child by now as we always said we wanted to adopt another and have all of our littles close together. But instead we have had to step back and needed this time to grow a bit more together and allow ourselves to travel a bit farther and deeper before growing again. The difficult days are fewer (but they are there–and they still try us and require more than I could have ever prepared for), and I have learned to die to myself more and more…this for me is so important because I can not act out of my flesh “how I want to respond” because it wouldn’t be healing for the one who needs to experience healing–this is a struggle for me daily–and I am experiencing my OWN redemption through this refining process. I am learning to ask Him to help me to love deeply and to follow through as the Holy Spirit guides me to love…and to recognize while behaviors might be unlovable–my child is absolutely PRECIOUS…absolutely BEAUTIFUL…absolutely ADORED…and absolutely WORTH EVERY MOMENT WHETHER EASY OR DIFFICULT.

I have learned to let go of my stubborn ways or how I want things to be or the picture I had imagined–and instead to say I don’t know what the heck I’m doing and I need the wise counsel of those who have gone before me and counselors like those with ministries like Empowered to Connect to teach me and guide me in helping my child walk through loss and experience true healing. I’ve learned that it is NOT ABOUT ME–or the fulfillment of anything I wanted or once dreamed…it’s not about well behaved children (I used to take pride in this! Now, we vote before going into the public place who will be the one to run out with the screaming child BEFORE we go in so everything is a bit smoother…because it’s no longer about smooth–but more about being prepared and setting realistic expectations)…it’s not about how we look or how others perceive us…it’s about His glory being revealed…about sitting on the floor with each of my children–holding their tender, little faces in my hand and looking in their eyes and reminding them how much they are loved…how much the Lord deeply loves them. And in this…seeing their faces light up…this is redemption in the works for all of us.

Honestly, I’m thankful I didn’t know what I was saying when I said those words…we’ve just always wanted to adopt…because I never knew what we were really saying we wanted to do. I’m afraid if I had known–I might have run for the hills–and in doing so, I would have missed it. I would have missed the most amazing, refining, heart-breaking, healing, redeeming, beautiful and holy adventures that I’m convinced any family will ever take. And this–THIS–is the reason you see many adoption families who just always wanted to adopt driving big 15 seater passenger vans full of little ones…that I assure you have thrown their parents for loops and unexpected turns, emotions and struggles that made them question, worry or collapse with exhaustion at the end of the day. Yet–they grew again in this miraculous way. Because after you see a child begin to heal–to begin to love again…who once pushed you away…now RACE in the room just to see you…shouting, “MOMMY! Mommy! It’s me–good morning! I missed you all night!”. And you know the Lord really can do anything–He has a purpose…a purpose for this–He is healer–and no matter how hard it was in the first years, you saw the Lord work in ways you just never imagined. He not only brought healing to this new love, but He grew Himself greater in all of your children’s hearts–and when you mention the possibility of adoption again to them–instead of uneasiness, they offer their own room–and start brainstorming how it could work…yet again. HAD you stayed in your predictable and comfortable path and not followed Jesus on this roller coaster unknown parenting adventure…had adoption not been part of your journey…you would have missed…THIS.

They do always say that adoption isn’t for the faint of heart–and it’s so true I’m afraid. But adoption also opens your eyes to how weak your heart really IS and how much you need the Lord to strengthen and guide you every step of the way. Things will always look different in our home than they would have had we not grown in this way, but two years later–I would not change anything…and I think we just might be crazy enough to grow again–and again–and maybe again.

Thank you Lord for the work you have done in our family and in my own heart! I can so tell you are chipping away on me–and much is left to be done. Help me to love deeply Lord. Thank you for loving me despite the inner fits I pitch–and I know I, too, often struggle with the orphan spirit and truly accepting my identity as a daughter of You. Help me Lord to live like a daughter of the King–to love like a daughter of the King and to see into the hearts of my children so I can go there with them. Will YOU Lord Jesus meet each of my children where they are? Will you help them see You and experience Your love? I confess my feelings of frustration and lack of patience–wanting to tell littles ones to stop behaviors (how YOU must want to tell ME to stop behaviors some times too!)…instead Lord will you help me see the behaviors for what they are…the ROOT of the behavior and guide me how to help heal and press forward? I know You can do this–help me Lord to SEE…and to REST in You. Thank you for your patience and love toward me. Thank you for my beautiful family–and for entrusting these children to me…wow–what a privilege and calling. I need You Lord as this is too big for me. I thank You and praise You that YOU are ENOUGH!”

This is the song I sing over and over these days (this was the song I clung to when I lived in China in my 20’s…and once again I cling to again.) Only Jesus satisfies. He will satisfy all your longings–no matter where you are. Whether you are adopting and waiting–there is a purpose from Him for the wait. Whether your family has something big ahead–or you are just struggling with feeling lonely or like something is missing–HE ALONE SATISFIES. No matter what is going on–if you happen to still be reading–listen to this, close your eyes as you do–and allow Him to fill your craving for more…because HE IS THE MORE YOU ARE LONGING FOR. He will see this through for you…{Hymn: “Satisfied”}

Jenny - May 30, 2012 - 10:14 pm

Andrea- this is so incredibly beautiful. I can’t tell you how much these words touched my heart. I appreciate your honesty and sincerity and for sharing this amazing song too.

Jessica - May 30, 2012 - 10:19 pm

Such a beautifully written expression of redeeming love. Thank you for stepping up to help so many families through the “first years.”
He does make all things beautiful in its time!


emily anderson - May 30, 2012 - 10:41 pm

beautiful. all of it.

Sharon - May 31, 2012 - 5:08 am

Love the message of redemption here—this is beautifully written, feels like you got right inside my heart.

Melissa - May 31, 2012 - 7:09 am

As someone who also agrees that thost agency trainings are a joke and who loves ETC, THANK YOU for this post 🙂

Megan - May 31, 2012 - 8:27 am

I’m tucking this away to read and re-read now and in the future. Thank you for your honesty and sharing your story!

carrie - May 31, 2012 - 8:34 am

Andrea, this is so timely as I have been mulling over many of the same thoughts you share here. We are only 6 mths in to a domestic adoption from foster care and already it looks almost nothing like what I imagined. 2 of the siblings aren’t with us and there are days when I look at my bio kids and pray for God to protect their hearts and give them understanding of the situations beyond their young years. I find myself surrendering almost daily to God after I have selfishly tried to “fix” their problems or behaviors through tough discipline instead of stepping back and looking and praying to see what the root cause is. The flesh in me sighs at the truth that 12 years of hurt and damage will likely take as long to heal, but we cling to the truth that His mercies are new every morning…thank you for writing what I couldn’t put into words…I will be sharing with family who don’t understand why we “put up” with the things we do. God bless you in your journey… i hope to be able to attend a CFC conference one day 😉

Beth Templeton - May 31, 2012 - 9:36 am

Wonderful post Andrea. So many challenges unique to parenting a child who’s experienced trauma. How in the world is it done without God?!
I just wrote a post last night that is up at Hope at Home very similar to this– even some of the words are almost the same! I also included a song! We must have been on the same adoption page! blessings on you dear one!

Melissa - May 31, 2012 - 9:41 am

Thank You! Thank You!

Jenni - May 31, 2012 - 9:55 am

I totally understand how hard it is to describe all the feelings that go along the initial attachment process. No amount of training ahead of time prepare us for that. For me, the good outweigh the hard. But at the same time I find myself relying on the Lord so much more than ever with my bio kids. It’s a beautiful journey that is as much for the parent as it is for the child.

Annie D - May 31, 2012 - 1:34 pm

I have followed your blog since before your little one aome home. I have often thought it is great she is sharing the good things, but I knew there had to be some tough times too. I am glad you are now sharing that. For you see, I have two adopted daughters as well as a biological daughter who has also had to adjust to having adopted siblings. The first child I adopted was 9. All of my parenting skills were immediately challenged. And no matter how much I tried to love her and discipline with care, she pushed me away. It was two years before I felt like she really trusted me, but even today 7 years later, we still have “adoption issues” that have to be dealt with. But, I know she loves me and is bonded as a forever part of our family.

The second child I adopted was almost 12. She had been through 10 foster homes. I knew from experience that it was going to be a tough transition and even harder because she was so hurt. She was 100 times tougher than my other daughter. She screamed, she cussed, she threw things, she pushed us all away, she was suspended from school 4 times in six months. Through it all I was patient, and loving, and praying with her and for her to accept us as family. I sought out help for both of us and for all of us as a family. She refused to participate. I told her no matter how hard she pushed, I would always love her. Then, my second daughter came to me and told how she was being abused physically, mentally, and sexually by this little girl. I pushed to have her placed in a mental health facility so she could get the help she needed. She was there for 9 months. She refused to come home and threatened some pretty horrific things if she were forced. A judge finally decided that it was not in my other children’s best interest to take her back into our home.

She has been out of my home for three years now. There is a piece of my heart that will always be broken for the little girl who couldn’t accept family. Legally she is still my daughter, but last month she petitioned the court to change her name back to her biological name. The judge asked her why she wanted the change. And her answer was because they hurt me by wanting to love me, I don’t want to be loved. Breaks my heart. And, yes, I still love her with all my heart.

You are right adoption is not for the faint of heart. It can and does often end well. My first adopted daughter is now 16 and I can’t imagine life without her.

Thank you for sharing your truths. People need to be prepared for it when they say yes. That child will always have a biological family no matter how young they are when adopted. My daughter was horrifically abused and still, she wants to make contact with her dad (mom was murdered in a drug deal gone bad) because “he has probably changed by now”.

Sorry to be so wordy. It is just not often that folks write about the more challenging side of adoption. It is a journey of many ups and downs, but one that is worth taking. I would do it again in a heart beat, but right now my girls just don’t feel like they can go through it again.
God Bless,

Annie D - May 31, 2012 - 1:40 pm

This is my “blog”. I write it mainly for family, but feel free to read some of the trials we have been through.

Charisa - May 31, 2012 - 1:58 pm

#1..LOVE that song. one of my faves. I have sang it many many times crying out to God.

#2..thanks for sharing the real story. so many times I have looked at blogs/fb updates and wondered “what is wrong with us?” because it didn’t look like what everyone else was sharing. I was exhausted and feeling so alone many times. and oh the guilt of not having oooey gooey feelings in the beginning with one of them.

thanks for sharing your heart.

Deanna - May 31, 2012 - 4:55 pm

Andrea, I have been reading your blog for a couple of years now while my husband and I have steadfastly prayed about adopting, but have never commented. We have three bio boys and are now in the home study process of adopting from Ethiopia! We are so excited and yet completely terrified at the same time. However, we know that He will equip us and lead us through this entire process. I just want to thank you for writing such an honest and sincere post. I plan to pass this on to our friends and family so that they can better know how to support us when we bring our little one home. I’m sure I will be rereading this in the months to come. It’s so nice to know that I’m not alone in some of the uncertainty that I’m already feeling. Thank-you! YOU are a blessing.

Kyra - May 31, 2012 - 5:01 pm

Thank you so much for sharing this. I saw the link on a friend’s facebook page. I have ‘always wanted to adopt’, though I know the challenges are immense. Reading your post made me wonder what you would say to someone who was where you were before this journey began for you?

Crissy - June 1, 2012 - 7:57 am

Andrea- thank you thank you thank you! I have been feeling sooooo alone lately in this. I could write so much, but I just want to say, I identify so much with what you wrote in this post, and I totally think the Lord has used it to encourage me. Thank you so much for listening to Him and being transparent. I can’t thank you enough.

Tamara - June 1, 2012 - 11:14 am

Thank you for your honesty and sincerity. These are the words our family needed to hear today. He alone is faithful. Praise the LORD!

Melissa - June 1, 2012 - 1:01 pm

This is Beautiful ,Thankyou needed this today !

Jennifer - June 1, 2012 - 5:41 pm

Andrea, I really appreciate for your honesty. As we wait to pick up our little girl from China, I have been trying to prepare my heart for just how difficult, humbling, rewarding, crazy, yet beautiful our life with our daughter will be. I’m thankful for the example of godly mothers and families who have walked this path before us. It is such a blessing to have “met” you online although I wish I could ask you so much in person! Praise our Father who has adopted us out of lonely, desolate places, and set our feet upon the rock, and praise Him for allowing us to do the same for these little ones.

Naomi - June 2, 2012 - 12:24 am

Excellent! I could relate to so much that you said. Especially the part about thinking you would have adopted again by now 🙂 We just celebrated three years home today (June 1st) with our daughter from China! Such a blessing! But oh so hard also. Been in the process to adopt from UG for 16 months and we wait for His clear direction.

Blessings to you!!! Thank you!!!