Tuesday, February 22, 2011

So You Want to Know About Adoption

I'm starting this series of posts in an attempt to answer questions that many of my friends and family have asked me over the last few years.  I must say up front that this is not a definitive discussion of the issues, by any means. Nor will it be scientific, theological, or academic in nature.  :)   (Cuz, gang, I am none of those things!)  Rather, I'm sharing from my own experiences and from the stories of folks with whom I have connected in our own journey to our Li'l Empress. I'm hoping that some of those very same folks will weigh in here on the conversation.  I must also say up front that I would like to give room for differing viewpoints and opinions. But I hope that it can all be conducted in a very compassionate and respectful way.
Several weeks ago, I gave a warm up to the topic and I think that the comments, particularly by my friend, Aus, bear some reading and thinking - especially if this conversation is important to you in your own journey. Click over HERE for the post and its comments. I gotta tell ya, Aus, I almost felt like I didn't need to write this series, so eloquent were your comments and thoughts!  :)
The first question that I often hear from curious folks is "How Did You Know Adoption Was Right For You?"  For a more fleshed-out version of our background story, you can start HERE and read through my archives. But a quick summary that I think will help you, wherever you are in your own journey, is this: We believe that God used a unique-to-me set of circumstances and planted a seed in my heart that eventually blossomed into a full-grown desire to be open to His plan and His Word for alternative ways to build our family. For me, it started with that bookBut that book isn't the only ingredient in this mix that has become my life. And I think it is really, really important to point out that element of the story. Let me expand. . . 

Over the years of my life between reading that book and signing our first adoption application, there were countless experiences and events about which I had to make choices.

I had to choose to keep my heart and mind open to whatever plan God had for me and my future family, even if it meant that He didn't actually desire for us to adopt. It wasn't about the actual process of adoption in those early stages, rather it was about being willing to take the path He was opening and trusting Him for the bigger picture of our life and our calling as a family. For example, at our wedding ceremony, there was a prophetic word spoken over us that our marriage was not just going to be for our benefit and our family, but that it carried a higher purpose for serving and expanding His kingdom. Now, I believe that every godly couple has that same higher calling and purpose - every believer carries the mission to build His Kingdom, in ways and paths unique to that believer and the way God wired them. But to hear it spoken out loud in that vehicle, we had to choose to heed it and point our life in that direction as a mark of trust and obedience. And to know that almost 200 other folks heard it that day, too, was a huge sense of accountability and purpose.

I had to choose to look at the things that happened to me and around me as opportunities to learn more about the issues surrounding adoption, orphan care, international crises involving children, and so on. For example, in my freshman year of college, when given an opportunity to write a paper about timely social issues, I chose to research and study trans-racial adoption issues. In my senior year, I developed a business plan to create and staff and run an orphanage. (Oh, the ignorance of youth! I can't believe how naive I was in my planning!)

I had to choose to tell The Boss JUST HOW deeply I felt about the idea of adoption, as soon as I felt our relationship becoming serious enough to contemplate a life together. (I'm so thankful that he didn't go running the other direction when I told him I didn't care how big our family grew!) I had to choose to surround myself with other folks who would support that dream and help us wait for it in those years. Those friends and family were invaluable to this heart when it grew weary or numb with waiting.

I had to choose whether or not to open the door of my heart to conversations about the orphan crisis in Eastern Europe when The Boss and I would watch the news together in college.  I had to choose to dig a little deeper in prayer and conversation when I found myself completely undone after a church service that featured missionaries sharing about building churches and children's ministries and medical relief centers in remote Asian villages.  I had to choose what to do with information that friends shared about their life experiences in the foster system or their own adoptions.

I had to choose to keep watering what I thought might be a seed of a dream for my family, even when the circumstances of our life together didn't look as if adoption was ever going to be a path we'd take. Between the time that I first read that book and felt broken in my heart for the children who needed parents and parents who needed children to when I put my name on an actual application from Living Hope Adoption Agency was approximately 25 years. That's a long, long time to dream.

I don't say any of that to discourage you who desire to learn more about adoption. I share it to give some context. It was our calling. It was our mission for our family. It needed to be part of The Gang's identity. While I don't believe that one should be adopting children solely as a rescue mission or as some fulfillment of "The Great Commission" (a topic I am certain will be talked about in a coming post),  I certainly do believe that parenting any child God gives to our family is a life-long calling and a mission all its own. Building your family by any means is not for the faint of heart. But how does that answer the question posed? How did I know adoption was right for us?

Simply put, it wouldn't go away. Over those 25 years, it was in front of us as a possible path to pursue. It was around us. All the time. I can't think of even one single year, even when we were in the mad-dash rush of two and three little ones in diapers, that it wasn't in my mind. In my heart. It just wouldn't go away.

Many times, it was almost as if I was seeing things about a circumstance or event that no one else around me would see. Or I was seeing them in ways that didn't connect IN THAT WAY with those who were seeing and experiencing those same things. At other times, I felt like God had given The Boss and I a pair of adoption-lensed glasses. What we saw and experienced came through those lenses and always led us back to the desire, no, the need, to seek out that child He was planning for The Gang beyond the biological options. The choices we made along the way to pay attention to the things in our life helped us clarify the big question of whether adoption was right for us.

Now, let's hear from you who have already answered that same question for your family? Tell us, how did YOU know adoption was right for your family?


Aus said...

Good morning GM - thank you for your kind words. I don't think of myself as "well spoken" or any of that - more like "plain spoken" than anything! I am, however, flattered to be considered your friend - we love you guys too!

I spent 7 years in the Franciscan Seminary, returned to 'the world', finished my degree, started what turned out to be a 30+ year carreer, and met my wife all in the next 18 monthes. You'll need that fabric in a minute.

Some dozen years after our youngest bio child came into the world we were at Church one Sunday and we had a visiting Priest speak. At the end of Mass he made a comment about having been in China and noting that there was an overwhelming need for orphan children from around the world - all waiting for thier families. Ok - fine....but for us - that was the seed.

As was my custom - once back home I was cooking breakfast when our daughter simply asked me why we had never adopted a child. She even mentioned that we had planned a 'bigger family' - but God ruled out additional bio kids - but why hadn't we adopted?

My only answer was (in hind sight incredibly stupid and displays my innate narrow mindedness!) - it had never crossed my mind to adopt a child. Marie was in shock - and once I assured her that I wasn't opposed to the idea (note - I didn't say 'in favor' - I'm like that) but she could research it - we were on our way. That seed didn't take long to grow - about 3 hours I'm guessing....

In all honesty - you would define me as a reluctant husband with adoption #1 - it takes me a while to commit to an idea...but I'll fall back to a 'family truism' attributed to my dad - "When you have two choices - frequently the one that is the hardest is also the one that is right. It's important to do the right thing."

At some point however - I knew that this was the 'right thing' - it 'felt right' - just like knowing that it's time to start your family.

Still - I had doubts - internal struggles - none of which I could then - nor can I now - put into words. That says something too - if you can't say it - is it real?

But for me - the moment that I first saw our first adopted daughter in the flesh - I was sure.

That was three adoptions ago - and I'm still sure!

Our stories are different eh? But our sureness is not! BTW - for those that haven't noticed - I'll point out the slight change to your blog title - the addition of the word "(right?)"

very cool - hugs -

aus and co.

Mama Moose said...

Our seed was planted way before we even met. Erik went to China in 1988 on a high school class trip and knew even before he came home that his daughter was waiting for him there. In fact, not too long after we started dating he said to me "when we get married we are going to adopt a little girl from China!" HA! I still stuck with him too! :)

After our son was born we instantly felt grateful for a healthy pregnancy and child, since the odds had been stacked against us due to medical issues I have. For us, it was a 'no brainer' that we'd adopt and we started the process right after I turned 30.

The thing that changed us the most was how God put a special needs adoption on my heart...because for me, as we began the process I still had so many reservations, so much fear, so many 'what if's..." but once Erik agreed to talk to the agency about special needs everything changed. It suddenly felt right and I had no more qualms.

Crazy for me to think that Madeline has been home for over 3 years and if we hadn't been steered down the special needs road, we'd still be waiting.

Kateri said...

Love this post!! As always...my friend, Tracy,is a wonder with words. Can't wait to read more on this subject!!

Joan said...

That's really cool that you came up with a business plan in college to run an orphanage. This last trip really opened my eyes to business as a way of getting places and supporting work.
Thanks for sharing :)