Adoption – “a little bit sad and a lot a bit glad”

I love my husband for writing this post because he’d rather have his nose hairs plucked than sit down and write anything longer than a text message. But in this post he shares openly what we are experiencing in our household right now in terms of adoption issues. I started the post but knew my heart was too raw and vulnerable to write without his input. I am thankful he took over for me. 

In our house adoption is awesome. We love adoption. Our family is designed by God through adoption. We celebrate adoption. It’s not something we talk about all the time, but we don’t run from the topic in any way. We are parents who have adopted. Our children have been adopted. They know about it because we started telling them their adoption story from the time we were rocking them to sleep before they could walk or talk. But adoption can be, in our son’s word……complicated.

Adoption is beautiful. Moses was adopted. Eli was adopted. Jesus was adopted. Hey, Steve Jobs was adopted. And if you are a Christian, Ephesians chapter one tells us you are adopted too! But as beautiful as it is, it is also a complex issue with complex emotions. Let’s face it, it is wonderful but it is not natural. Mixed in the beauty of being chosen and intentional love there is the experience of loss.

In our home we have been talking about how adoption is “a little bit sad and a lot a bit glad.” The challenge for us as parents is that while we love and delight in the adoption of our children and we have a genuine love and sense of “family” in our family we don’t want to deny the pain of loss that our children do and will feel. While they have gained what we like to think as awesome parents they still have undeniably lost a connection with their birth parents. That loss is deep and primal. There is a temptation to feel a bit rejected when they grieve their loss (“but aren’t we enough parents to make you not sad about that?”) but that is not fair to them. On top of that, to not give them the freedom to grieve their loss robs them of the dignity of processing the whole complexity of the issue. See, I told you it was complicated.

We have been talking about these issues with our son. Our daughter has not quite matured to the point of tackling these issues, but our son is being confronted with them through different avenues. One avenue is from a direction that we should have seen coming but we were blindsided by it nonetheless: school curriculum. Of course they would talk about genetics and inherited traits in life science, we just didn’t anticipate it. So our son is faced with the task of listing the characteristic he inherited from his birth parents. His conclusion is that he doesn’t have any, but that’s not right. We have to talk through how he does have them, we just don’t know what they are. That is a loss for him. Then there is the kids in his class asking him “what did you do to make your parents not want you?” That cuts really deep. The follow up questions of “did your mom do drugs, that would explain a lot” followed by conspiratorial laughter of how funny the inside joke is piles a lot of weight on his shoulders. And then there is the natural internal questions that comes to his mind in his quiet moments of “I wonder what she looks like?”, “I wonder what her voice sounds like?, “I wonder if she would like me?”.

These are heavy and painful questions, but we are so glad to be talking about them now rather than when he is 23 and on his own. It’s hard but I think it’s healthy.

Everybody has their “stuff”. This is just our “stuff.” To not do the hard work of working through your stuff is a recipe for disfunction and eventual destruction. The crazy part is that, like all parents, we have never gone through this before. We feel so out of our depth but that is where the guidance of the Holy Spirit is so necessary and so hope filling. We don’t have the wisdom to know how to deal with this but God gives wisdom to all who ask for it (“please, please, please God…more wisdom!).

I love adoption. My home is crafted by God through it. I couldn’t imagine not having the exact children we have which wouldn’t happen outside of adoption. My children are exactly where God wants them to be. But one of the most interesting things is how the complexities of adoption cause each one of us in our family to lean into God to make sense of things. Well, what else would you want?

Linking today with: Jen andLaura

A Merit Badge project that had all three of us crying

Our son is working on his Citizenship merit badge for Boy Scouts and so we had to attend a court case in our county. We met the Clerk of Court who was so nice to Mitchell and showed him around. He tried several court rooms before finding the one that he felt would be a good fit for us. He alerted the bailiff and court officials that we would be sitting in and there we sat on the front row of the court room.

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Mitchell was already very nervous. He did all the talking and introduced himself to the different people we came in contact with and he did a great job. But we both had a freak out moment when the judge called us up there to talk to him. We totally weren’t expecting this. He asked Mitchell what class he was in Scouts and we were both like, “Uhhhhh duhhhhhh uhhhhh…” The Judge finally says, “Are you a Webelow?” Mitchell says, “I’m a Boy Scout.” and at the same time I stumbled out, “Yes, your honorable respectable honor he’s a Webelow.” And there we stood trying to figure out exactly what class Mitchell is in Scouts. Rather embarrassing but the judge was so kind to keep talking to us. He asked Mitchell what he wanted to do when he grew up and he said, “Work for NASA.” I figured we better start with finding out what class Scout he is. Later Mitchell told Randy, “Dad, you won’t believe this. Mom told the judge I was a WEBELOW!!!! I am so not a Webelow anymore!” Yeah, totally blew that one.

Court went back into session and our eyes would be forever opened to the hard reality that many families face. Divorce, custody battles, consequences of addictions and innocent children being in the middle of it all. My seven year old and twelve year old heard testimony and allegations of very difficult things. I wondered at one point if we would need to leave but we didn’t. Terminology being used was over their heads and I decided this was where we needed to be and the conversation to follow would be an important one.

We sat through an hour of lawyers giving testimony as to why their client should have primary custody of the elementary aged child. We heard stories shared trying to prove one parent was unfit. Hard stuff. I had to wonder if this was the best court case to be sitting in but there we were and later I would sense very deeply it was God ordained. Sophie, close to the age of the girl being discussed in this case, grabbed my hand and held it and all I could think was, “Only by the grace of God are we not in the same situation as these parents. Only His grace.” I was so sad for the people in that court room but especially the little girl not in that court room. The one being fought over. I silently prayed for the girl by name and both her parents. I didn’t even know what to utter in those moments but my heart was so heavy for all of them I asked God to help them.

The judge granted the custody modification request and the case was over. As we were walking out to the van Sophie says to me, “Mom, so where will the little girl go?” I explained to her what the judge decided and where the girl would go. Mitchell was quiet for a long time. He finally said, “Mom, is that the kind of thing that could have happened to me and Sophie if we hadn’t been adopted?” I wasn’t sure how to answer him. I said, “I don’t know Mitchell. It could. I believe with all my heart that God protected you both and had a perfect plan in bringing you into our family.” And that’s when we all just started crying big ole crocodile tears. All three of us at the same time. I believe it was sorrow for the little girl we just heard about. And possibly  grieving “what could have been” and just an overwhelming thankfulness for a family unit that is built on Jesus Christ. We talked about how we’re not a perfect family and we make poor choices just like the other family we heard about. It looks different but it’s still sin and at the end of the day we all stand in need of the one true God, Jesus Christ. But that believing in Jesus and following Him in obedience really does make a difference in our lives. In our family lives too.

I pulled myself together and called Randy on the way home and asked if he could have lunch with us. We just needed to be with him after hearing all that we did. We had lunch together and I was overcome with thankfulness. And honestly as hard as it was I believe God ordained us to be in that court room for such a time as that.

 

Sophie’s Adoption

As a family we had been praying about adopting again. We all wanted a little girl but we were open to the child God would place in our arms.

We had been applied with our agency for two years and the only correspondence we received after being approved was a letter. It encouraged all the waiting couples to be applying with other adoption agencies because they had so many couples and not as many babies. It wasn’t looking so great. With our first adoption experience we were prepared to wait three years and it only took nine months. This time was completely different.

We had just about put it out of our minds altogether and didn’t really even find ourselves praying as much as we had in the beginning. We were super busy and simply enjoying life as the three of us.

We were having a blast with Mitchell. He is so full of life and just hilarious. He kept us in stitches and life couldn’t be any better.

We were at that place of complete satisfaction when the PHONE CALL came once again.

Mitchell and I were at the doctor’s office with my Mom when the call came in. Our case worker identified herself and reminded us what agency she was with. She didn’t waste much time and said, “We have a baby girl…….” She said a bunch of other things but all I could hear was baby girl. The rest of it sounded like that teacher on Charlie Brown.

I knew Randy was on a ladder painting so I called him and said, “Honey, get off the ladder I have something to tell you! We have a daughter!!!!”

Last time we had 2 days to get ready and we always wondered and looked forward to the next adoption because we knew we would have more time. But suddenly 48 hours was looking mighty fine because we had less than 7 hours to get our baby girl!

Once again we were scattered, excited, nervous and just couldn’t wait to get her. We had to do some quick work though: updated physicals, etc. but we got it all done because everyone was so gracious to work with us.

Randy had to drive to meet me and so I asked him to bring one container out of the attic. I described very clearly to him which one we needed.…the one with burp clothes and baby clothes in it. He was so addled that he ended up bringing every single Rubbermaid container in our attic!!!! I had to laugh.

And again, we all piled in a van and drove to pick up our daughter. The only thing missing this time was my Dad. He passed away two years prior and wouldn’t have missed this night for anything if he was still alive.

On the way down we discussed names for her. Mitchell was so excited to be picking up his little sister. He was gaining more of an understanding what his adoption was like and the events leading up to it. We were able to tell him things and he was experiencing things for the first time that would help him identify with his own adoption. It was pretty neat.

We finally made it to the adoption agency and Randy, me and Mitchell sat in one room while the family waited in another room. Mitchell was sitting in between us and in walked the caseworker. She placed Sophie in Mitchell’s arms. She was tiny and beautiful. So still. Wrapped in a precious pink blanket. Mitchell was doing so good holding her. After a minute or so of us looking at her she moved her arm and Mitchell said, “COOL! She’s alive!!” We laughed and then made him give us a turn holding her.

I held her next and almost ate her up she was so sweet. Randy held her and then we brought her in

Because this happened so fast and near a Holiday we did not tell anyone back at our church. Randy was making an announcement before the service began and I walked in late with Sophie. One friend who was on the praise team noticed immediately that a baby was in my arms and she just knew in her heart it was our baby. And she gasped and mouthed really loud , “Is she yours?” And everyone turned around and met Sophie for the first time. Mitchell introduced her to the church and it was really so, so fun.

I don’t think anyone heard a word of Randy’s sermon that day because of that preacher’s kid!

Sophie came to us in such different circumstances. We were prepared in different ways and God taught us so much through her.

She has been a precious addition to our family and we believe with all our hearts that she was created by God and for God’s glory. But I also firmly believe she was created with us in mind.

We laugh and say over and over, “God went to a lot of trouble to bring us our kids!” And yes, he could have, in an instant, snapped his fingers and formed Sophie inside my womb but for reasons HE KNOWS, He chose not to. I wish I knew those reasons but I won’t ever know them. Maybe in heaven I will …..or will I really care then?

Mitchell’s Adoption Story

Adoption has been an amazing eye opening experience for us. One that has given us more glimpses into the sovereignty of God. It has also been a precious reminder of the spiritual adoption that takes place when He brings us into His family.

Our adoption story began with us finding a strong Christ-centered adoption agency. We loved the philosophy of this agency and felt very much like this was the place that would help unite our future family.

They told us to be prepared to wait up to three years. Ugghh! That was disappointing to hear. I had been prepared for maybe two years max but three years was a long time. But that was okay, we knew this was the place for us. We were just glad to have all our paperwork done. It was a huge sigh of relief for us. Now all we had to do was wait for God to bring the child He was forming or going to form.

Many people asked us if we were going to go ahead and make a nursery while we waited. The adoption agency said we would have a two month heads up so we knew we had plenty of time to pull something together when that phone call came. So we decided to just wait until then. The thought of passing by a baby room for three years would be a little tough on the maternal nerves.

I was working full time and Randy was pastoring our church. I will never forget the day we got “THE CALL”. I was at work and the agency director called and said, “We have a baby!” She said some other stuff but that’s all I heard at the moment. The last thing I heard was, “You need to come down day after tomorrow.” I said, “Wait, when is the baby going to be born?” She said, “You don’t understand, he’s already born and you need to come get him!” I was flippin’ out.

About that time Randy came to my office with flowers and a card. He had also gotten the same phone call from our director and was coming to celebrate our baby. He was so excited that when he stopped to get flowers and a card he accidentally got a baby card that was written in complete Spanish! THAT was cracking me up.

We were for real like a couple about to go the hospital. I was dropping papers everywhere. I couldn’t think straight. We were so excited.

So I went and told my boss that our baby was here and that I would see her in about 18 years. She was so excited for us.

We called our family and friends and they started working with us to pull together a nursery. We had a total of 48 hours to get our stuff together.

We turned one of the extra bedrooms into a nursery in less than 24 hours and we loved the finished product. To have no ideas up to that point God really helped us come out with an awesome little man cave for our newborn.

The next morning we were exhausted but of course so excited to meet our baby boy, the one whom God had been preparing for us.

We picked up all the grandparents and began our trip to pick up our baby. We already had a name picked out and when we stopped once for dinner I carved his initials in the table at Outback Steak House. Don’t tell anyone.

Our entire family was simply giddy. We could hardly contain ourselves. We finally got to our agency and our parents waited in one room while Randy and I waited in another room so we could be the first ones to hold our son. They brought Mitchell to us and our hearts just melted. He was precious. We just soaked him up and loved on him for a while and then prayed to God thanking Him for giving us our son.

The grandparents were getting restless so we took Mitchell into see them and they fought over who got to hold him first. It was so awesome. They loved him so much.

God is faithful and we were watching His faithfulness unfold before our eyes.  The God who closed my womb for reasons we will never understand was gracious to fill our arms and hearts with a child of purpose, for His glory.

Rattled but not Shaken

I received some highly offensive comments last week from a particular blogger and her friends in response to some of my adoption posts. Here is a segment of the “nicer” comments.

“… it sickens me to see an adoptive parent bringing God into adoption. I am so thankful my adoptive parents were ok with their infertility and explained our adoptions rationally and trutfully. The fact is, most adoptive parents are infertile. THAT’S why they adopt. God had nothing to do with it. Your want for a child had everything to do with it….”

“…..Stop making YOUR wants “God’s plan”. WWJD??? He’d be ashamed of the pastor’s & the pastor’s wife, that’s for sure.”

I didn’t post the other comments because they were hostile and more offensive than these.

It’s interesting to me that when people take God out of certain things, or anything for that matter, that the situation takes on a completely different scenario. You take God out of infertility and it could be viewed as punishment, a mistake or a medical phenomena. You take God out of adoption and it too becomes skewed. This is true for anything.

For a believer, to separate God from our desires as well as our struggles is to make him impersonal and disconnected. It can also makes us think we have way more control than we actually have.  God’s ways are higher than our ways and many times our desires do not line up with His plans and purposes. Our desire was to have a biological child but that was not part of God’s plan. God was just as much in the denying of our request for a biological child as He was in the granting of our request for adopting a child. It was God, both times.

As far as the comments, I’ll admit, I got my panties in a bit of a wad. At first I was all strong girl, thinking to myself, “Boy, I’m glad I can take this because I know where I stand in Christ and where we stand as a family regarding adoption.” But I will be honest and tell you that I did toss and turn in my bed for an hour straight. I was bothered. Even though I knew where we stood, I was miffed. So I eventually got up and sat on the couch. I spent some time in prayer. I asked God to wash over my heart with a heart like His. To give me eyes to see and ears to hear what He wanted for me right then. I prayed for the girl and her friends who posted comments that clearly revealed hurt in their past. I asked God to open their eyes too for wherever they were in life. And then I randomly opened my Bible (I used to mock this approach to reading God’s Word until He actually started speaking to me through it at times) to Psalm 125:1. It says, “To those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever. As the mountains surrounded Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people both now and forevermore.”

I was so refreshed by those words. The visual and the reality of God surrounding me at that moment was a really neat feeling. My heavenly father was protecting me and he wanted me to know it. I thanked God for speaking into my life through the power of his word and then crawled back in bed and went sound-a-sleep.

Adoption – When to tell

Our kids have known from early on that they are adopted. We decided from the beginning that we would tell them their adoption story starting when they were even too young to understand. So at about six months of age we started telling each one their adoption story. We make it short and fun ….like the part where we got pulled over by a policeman and almost got a ticket. I always act like a speeding maniac while telling that part of the story and I have a pretty good impression of a siren that is usually loud and very annoying but Mitchell loves it every time.

We tell them where we were when we got “the call” and how we rushed around like crazy people dropping things and doing insane things like accidentallybuying a baby card in Spanish. We talk about what it was like to see them for the first time. And then we get to explain to them that God very purposefully created them inside another woman’s body knowing that she would make a loving decision to allow them to be adopted into our family. That before they were even born God knew and planned for them to be with us. This was God’s sovereign plan and how awesome it is to be a part of that. My prayer is that they will always view their adoption as part of God’s perfect plan and nothing less.

The Cost of Adoption

One of my dreams in life is to start some kind of a support system through the local church for couples who desire to adopt but don’t have the financial means to do so. I can only guess the desire comes from personal experience as a couple who experienced multiple infertility treatments and then adoption costs which can suck a purse dry. It was worth every penny and we didn’t feel we were poor stewards of our money (“poor” maybe, but not poor stewards). We were fortunate to have parents who loaned us the money, interest free, for each hefty expense. God always provided a way for us. I was working a full time job when we entered a $10K round of IVF. Each month we made a $500 payment to my parents until the debt was paid off. We did the same thing when we borrowed another 10K for adoption expenses. That time around I was not working full time so it took longer to pay it off but we did. We never took it lightly that we had a debt that large and we wanted it off of us badly. We were able to pay each adoption off in full in a reasonable amount of time. I give God complete praise that we are debt free. That’s not easy to say with years of infertility and two adopted children. I recognize that for every couple like us, who had gracious lenders, there are many that do not have that kind of support available to them. And sometimes that translates into those couples never having children because they simply don’t have the money up front.  Adoption agencies do not loan money or offer price breaks for incomes below a certain level.  There are very few grant options out there for potential adoptive couples. And most churches are swamped with their own budgets accomplishing good things.  We were blessed to find two agencies that only charged $10K. That is an excellent price  compared to many agencies out there. International adoption starts at $25K so you can see how this can really strap a person financially.

I’m not sure what the answer is to this financial issue but I often wonder if the church could ever help couples in this area. It’s sort of ironic that God adopts us into his family as we put our faith in him so I can’t help but think He is totally for adoption! Of course earthly adoption is different than spiritual adoption but what an interesting parallel for us…God takes us in knowing that we didn’t choose him but he chose us to be a part of his family. He bestows grace on us. He takes us out of the sinful pit we were born in and redeems us by his sacrificial and unconditional love. He even has an inheritance awaiting us. The ironic thing is that it took much more than money to adopt us. It literally cost him his life. Wow, he was serious about his love for us and he did what it took to carry out that adoption plan in full. If God was this serious about adoption I just wonder if there’s a place for the local church to be committed to helping those who desire to adopt.

I want to say that I recognize that this is close to me because it once effected me. I also don’t want to come across as saying it’s the churches responsibility or obligation to help couples with their financial needs in adopting. That is not at all what I’m saying. I just think it could be a really neat ministry opportunity for churches on a more regular basis. I know some churches already do this to a degree and I think that is so awesome.

So yeah, I’m a little biased towards adoption but so is God so I feel pretty good about that.