If you’re thinking of adopting a child, my heart spins for you. You’ll take part in this great, unfolding love story and gift your children with a narrative ripe with redemption and hope. There are no guarantees in any adoption but I promise you this–you will learn more about God’s love for you and show God’s love to the world in ways that will exceed your dreams. I’m cheering you on as you prayerfully consider welcoming an orphan into your heart and home. This morning as I prayed for future adoptive Mamma’s, these three things came to mind:
1. Whether you adopt abroad or in your backyard, the need is great and the love is the same. When I announced we were adopting a child from China, I was so taken aback by tongue-slinging venom people tossed in my direction. “Why would you adopt overseas when there are so many kids in your own city who need a home?” these shrill voices protested. Oh and this barb is my personal favorite: “It’s God bless America. Not God bless China.” Wow, just wow. Here’s my humble opinion: God calls us to love “the least of these” and shockingly, that reaches beyond the border of Peoria, Illinois. I know–it’s crazy, right? God did call us to “love thy neighbor” but in this increasingly global economy, the concept of “neighbor” is extended to people the world over. We’re more interconnected than ever with the Internet and social media. It’s ignorant to think otherwise. And doesn’t this country represent an amalgam of races and diversity of thought anyway? It’s what makes our country so great. I don’t remember anywhere in the Bible where Jesus said he favors the foster kid in Peoria, Illinois over an orphan in Ethiopia. I believe His command was simply to love. There are children in desperate need of love in Vietnam, Uganda, and America….not to mention a million other cities and countries in between. Don’t let people drag you down for standing firm in your choice. You go where God calls you to go. You love who God calls you to love. End.of.story.
2. You don’t get to go shopping in an orphanage to pick out the baby of your choice. Orphans are not puppies in a pound where you get to choose the cutest one. Well-meaning people have asked, “Did you choose your daughter out of a line-up?” Uh, no. Both of my kids were chosen for us…in every way imaginable. Our agencies sent us emails both times with pictures, descriptions of their development and simply gave us a choice of saying “yes” or “no.” In rare circumstances, some people have met a child overseas and successfully adopted that particular child. That’s wonderful. But unusual.
In 2012 I had the privilege of traveling to China to serve special needs orphans at Maria’s Big House of Hope. I fell head-over-heels in love with a little girl named Julia. Once I bonded with her, I contacted an agency that facilitates many of the adoptions for orphans at this medical complex and tried everything in my power for an entire year to align my paperwork to allow me to adopt this precious one. I became obsessive over it. I didn’t understand why God would have me to bond with a child so powerfully who so desperately needed a family and not let me adopt her. I waited, pleaded with my agency and turned down referrals of equally precious children because I felt this child was mine. Well, she was not meant to be mine after all. It was something I really had to surrender before accepting the referral to adopt my Hadley–a child who in every way is the perfect fit for our family. God has the Big Picture in mind. You’re merely a piece of the puzzle and that means you have to shelve your desires sometimes to trust in a plan and system you can’t always understand. I still pray for Julia and have been told she has found her forever family (I sure hope so!)…it’s just not mine and I’m at peace with that.
3. You will love your adopted kids every bit as much as your biological kids…but you may have to parent them differently. When we brought my son home from his orphanage, he was crazy clingy and made sure to mark his territory with me, his new Mamma. He latched to me like a leech and loved ones were quick to comment, “You spoil him by picking him up all the time!” “You need to let him know he doesn’t get to be the center of the universe!” “Put him in time out–show him boundaries!” I heeded the advice of well-meaning parents who felt it was their place to correct my new mom mistakes. Boy was that a big mistake! Big. My son missed out on an entire year of nurture and he was making up for lost time. The more I pushed him away, he more he wanted to possess me. His protests increased and I didn’t know what to do until I sought the advice of an adoption counselor who said his bonding was disrupted and he needed reassurance I wasn’t going anywhere. “Carry him everywhere if you can! Rock him like a baby at night and feed him with a bottle to re-create those bonding experiences he missed out on!” I was also told time-outs don’t work to discipline kids “from hard places.” They need time-ins. These kids have been outcast so often, they need reassurance, not rejection.
My daughter was three when we brought her home and it quickly became apparent she had a food hoarding issue. Well, duh. She was starving for three years in a poor orphanage. Every night I’d find fruit in her coat pockets, snacks in her back-pack and Cheerios in her bed. We gave her a generous helping of food at dinner but she still wanted seconds–she needed reassurance that her food source would never run dry. In a “normal” situation, you’d punish a child for sneaking snacks but knowing she was still in survival mode, I’d let her sleep with a little bag of Cherrios next to her pillow and made sure she had a healthy stream of fruits and protein to graze on during the day.
The single greatest parenting book I’ve read in adoption is called “The Connected Child: Bring Hope and Healing to Your Adoptive Family” by Karyn Purvis. Read this book once. Then read it again. And again. It’ll offer practical tips and spiritual encouragement along your parenting journey.
Parenting a child from a hard place is not easy. You are called to be Jesus to these kids. Your love is the healing balm that will allow them to grow in knowing the love of their Heavenly Father. I can’t imagine a higher calling on this earth than showing love “to the least of these.”