Adoption Awareness Month: Equipping for This Calling
November is Adoption Awareness Month. I'm glad we Americans designate months for making people aware of stuff. But what I usually find is it's less Awareness and more advocacy. Which is great, I am obviously a huge advocate for adoption. I think more people are called to adopt then actually do adopt. But along that vein, and along the vein of awareness, I do want to help raise awareness of what a difficult job adopting can be.
See, we all talk about callings in life, like being a pastor or a doctor, lawyer, humanitarian, missionary, etc. but in most of those cases, it's never taken for granted that there is a lot of work that goes into preparing for those callings. And even after they start walking and living in that calling, like, lets say a missionary to Zimbabwe, all of us are aware that they are sacrificing much, working hard every day in conditions that we cant even imagine. They know before hand from all the training they've gotten in bible school or seminary or from other missionaries, that this calling requires getting equip. It requires more then they humanly have to give.
Take a doctor for instance, if your called to be a doctor, you have to go to eight or more years of school, and then internship, then residency, etc. We don't take our callings in life lightly. Usually when we have found our calling we work hard at getting all the equipment we need to prepare for the calling. We are always learning more about it so we can continue to grow and be better at it.
Do you see where I'm going here?
In adoption, we talk about how it is a calling, how it's something that God has called many to do, but only few are doing. I believe the reason why so many people are not answering that call is because they feel that they don't have what is needed to do the job. They believe they are incapable of loving a child that is not their own flesh and blood. And most of the time, they are right.
Wait, did I just say that? Yes, I did. See, we want people to be aware of how badly adoption is needed but we aren't too keen on making people aware of how much is required for this calling. The reality is, just like when you birth a child, when you adopt one, things will be brought to light about YOU that are really really ugly. You may look at that child and think, "what have I done? I don't feel anything for him." Or worse, you look at that orphan who was abused as a child who has now acted out his abuse in your home on one of your other children and you may think, "I've made a mistake. How can I ever forgive him?". Or you look at that hard cold shell of a child that looked so sweet in the orphanage with his rehearsed smile, and you wonder if you will ever feel anything for him.
Then you realize that, Oh my Jesus, I am not capable of doing this. This is too hard. I am lost. I don't have the equipment. THEN usually one of two things start to happen. Either, you go inward, start thinking that no one will understand these feelings so you cant tell anyone. And you decide to just try to do this on your own.
This is not good.
Or, now you start reading the books, begging for help, when actually, you should have prepared for your calling better. Your trying to play catch up and you start feeling overwhelmed with guilt that you didn't do this before. You start wondering if the damage can be fixed. Oh if I had only known then what I know now.
This is not good either.
But, I know, at the time you just had such a "heart" for orphans. You had such a "burden" for the children around the world that had no parents. You heard all the wonderful stories on Oprah. You read about the 21 year old girl Katie in Uganda who adopted 13 girls. Your church paraded families on stage showing you the wonder of adoption, it was all so romantic. And you just knew, this was what you were meant to do. This was your calling. So you did it without putting on your equipment.
I am not really speaking to YOU as much as I am talking about me. See, I wasn't prepared. I thought I was, but I wasn't. After Steele's adoption it took about 5 months to really attach to him, but he was a new born so it was easier. After Abel's adoption, well it's been three years and there are days when I wonder if we will ever really get there.
Each child has brought out huge insecurities in ME. And there is nothing LESS effective then an insecure parent. I spend most days feeling like a total failure. I knee jerk react instead of being calm and thinking through discipline. I don't give each child enough individual attention. I let guilt motivate me more then anything when it comes to Abel. His past, his time as an orphan, felling sorry for him that he had to go through all that and trying to make up for it.
I heard a lady tell me one time that how ever old the child was when you adopted them, that is how long in years it will take to fully connect with and love that child like they were your own. I didn't believe her of course. But I do now.
Love is work. Attachment, connection, they take work. Work that requires equipment. We know this in marriage, but we also need to be aware of this in adoption. Your calling is work, if you neglect the work with the equipment, you will fail. Like I said, we know this in marriage, and we also need to know this in adoption. Especially with an older child.
I fail miserably, almost daily. I brought into my marriage and my parenting LOTS of nasty baggage. I brought in bad equipment. And like I said, more baggage is revealed with each child. BUT God is there. Dang, how could I do any of this without him? Really, I cant even begin to imagine. He helps me. He's revealed some things to me recently that He's digging out of my heart, it's painful and there are days where I don't think I will ever stop being that bad parent, but I'm a work in progress and I have to lean on Him, seek out and use the equipment that He has provided or I will fail completely.
I thank God for grace and the fact that He said "love covers a multitude of sins". I know that every day is a fresh start and HIS love will cover my parenting sins of the past. I just gotta grab a hold of that and move forward.
So this adoption awareness month, know this, adoption is hard, as all rewarding callings are. It's work, but He has provided the equipment and what calling in life isn't hard work?
Adoption is a life of huge sacrifices, most of them painful, but that is where the fruit comes from. God gives us these children, He calls us to parent them. They save our lives as we save theirs.
We as parents have to be the initiators of love, we have to work at the love, even when we don't feel it so that our children feel safe, loved and connected.
God has given us the equipment, we simply have to seek it out and use it.
So how do you equip for your calling to adopt, before adopting and after?
Get books on raising adopted children and read them. I got the book, Parenting the Hurt Child and The Connected Child. I purchased them AFTER I got Abel when I should have gotten them BEFORE I adopted him. And, as I read them, I found that many of the scenario's fit Steele more then Abel. I discovered that Steele had sensory disorder that, had I been educated on issues faced by children who have unhealthy womb environments, I would have been better equip to handle his temperament and meet his needs better as a baby.
Find a support group.
Healing Place has an adoption ministry called His Heart for Orphans, they have all kinds of support groups for people considering adoption and/or people who have already adopted. A lot of churches are starting these because they realize that the people answering this calling need to be better equip and supported.
Talk to people who have adopted.
Find people that will be honest with you about the good and the bad. Tell them that you don't want the sugar coated version of their lives that they present to the world, you want to know the stuff that they think will scare you away from adopting.
DON'T get advice from people who have not adopted.
Most people who have adopted older orphans especially, have learned that people who are not walking in their shoes, judge based on their reality, not yours so they've learned to protect and go inward to avoid such judgement. People who have never adopted say things like "of course I could love that sweet boy! All he needs is a mothers love!" or "just discipline him like you would your biological children". Stuff like that. Listen to me, they don't know their butt from a whole in the ground when it comes to this. DO NOT get parenting advice from them.
This is what I do. I ask God to help me love and connect with Abel. Like I said, Love is work, it's work that YOU have to do. When I don't want to hug, I make myself hug. I pray for God to help me see opportunities to connect with Abel. I ask him to help me not get lazy at this work. I ask him for more equipment when needed. I repent for failures, Beg for mercy and grace, then extend what is received to my children.
I lay hands on all of my kids every night before bed and pray for them, first off I say "Thank you Jesus for ... Thank you for letting him be my child". And a couple times a week we join hands as a family before bed and each of us pray for each other.
Get professional counseling.
Again, find a counselor who has adopted a child or is adopted or something like that. DON'T go to some church pastor for counseling. Find a professional. Seriously. Your pastor may be great, he may have raised wonderful children and he may counsel hundreds of people a day, but if he has no experience or education in helping parents of and/or children from hard places, don't go to him for parenting advice.
Let's work together to seek out, grab a hold of and use the equipment that He's given us for this wonderful calling of adoption.