Well, if I am going to be honest, it wasn’t the money that would have kept us from adopting, although we didn’t have it. It wasn’t the stack of paperwork, cause I mean, really, anyone can do that. It wasn’t even the travel or any other part of the process…
Honestly, what would have held us back to the point of inaction, to the point of not having Maria and Elijah come into our family was our fear of the unknown in how it would affect Finley.
Andrew and I are kid people, so when we had one of our own, our joy and love for him came very close to idolization–bordering on the edge of holding him up above, and in front of missing what God would have in store for us, for him, while clutching him, frantically ignoring God while reacting to fear.
Our little Finley, we had never left him overnight, because, I mean why? Why when it’s way more fun to be with him. We had no need to give each other ‘breaks’ because one of us might miss out on one of his sweet faces or happenings. If one of us had to be gone, we would listen to the other eagerly relaying all the precious things he did in the other’s absence.
So when we felt called to adopt a 10 year old, we were like, ‘What the flippin’ heck??’
“There must be a better fit for our family,” we told each other, we instructed God. “…a better fit sibling wise, a better fit life stage wise…We should be deep in this season of life of finger painting and listening to Raffi.
But when the call became so clear, so darn clear it summated into a choice, obey or deny. Could we unhinge our clutched fingers, open them enough to extend our palms into what God would have?
“With depths and shallows nobody could sound
Like January Christmas lights under billion year old stars.”
The magic of Christmas lights is enticing, something we long to experience, to grasp. But in our attempts to bask in the temporal, brassy light, we may have never looked up to see the bigger, authentic, eternal, just past our line of vision.
Something greater, something that beautifully outshines our short sighted vision.
There are many things I wanted for Finley, that I would pray to be in his heart, things that we tried to foster ourselves, often leading to parental frustration. There were many times I had prayed as a mother for my son to have a heart of compassion, patience, kindness, and I assured myself I would see, well, maybe when he got older? Because it wasn’t happening with our efforts.
But, many of the things we prayed over him, we didn’t see develop until his two siblings came home.
Which brings me to the personal realization that the more I strive for things in my own strength, when I act based on the knowledge I’ve gained from the world or make decisions stemming from fear –I can come up lacking, with more strife and emptiness than when I submit, even my most precious of gifts back to God, goodness and reality replaces imitation.
Things of value and growth replace fear and striving and triviality.
Surrender, so easy it’s hard.
And I could go on for lengths of the benefits of our adoption in so many areas, like the benefits to our newest children, on our parenting–or maybe the growth of our personhood which influences our parenting, our community, but instead, I want to focus on the effects on Finley, his teeny heart, the one person who has benefited in some of the biggest ways, but was also almost the reason, unbeknownst to him, that we missed out. That we all almost missed out.
Adoptive parents are doing a thing of true beauty, pushing so much aside for the sake of another, but they are often met with warnings and criticisms, or internal fears, popping up at random through the process for a variety of reasons, sometimes surrounding their bio children.
(Bio, short for biological, meaning poppin’ out of your own womb)
So what I want to share is a tiny glimpse and some concrete details on one area of our adoption: the life of our first child, Finley.
I could write a book about each area, but instead I will just go through and mention a handful of the good, the ones that are deeper, more unexpected and so much more of a reflection of the goodness of God’s plan for our family than we could have ever done on our own. (Although we tried…)
Do I value his comfort more than his compassion?
On a chilly day in October a judge asked us why we would be adopting when we could have children of our own, and wouldn’t our son become jealous?
We told the truth, that we want more for our son than what our world invites our minds to take part in, that we value his character more than his temporal comfort, and a spirit of compassion in place of expectation, a love for others and skills to show it, in place of a desire for his own personal gain above all else.
I remember there were initial growing pains when we first brought our children home, Finley had a lot of growing to do–and it showed.
But our son, who in many ways was a demanding, only child, would watch in those first weeks home, as his tiny, baby sized brother screamed in pain and discomfort at meal and bed times as his parents desperately tried to fill this newcomers needs.
“Mama,” he said “…’lijah…he, he sad…”These weren’t the wails of a fussy newborn, a mere pester, but of a child, petrified and actively recoiling in fight or flight mode. He looked at this child who now lived in his home, used his toys at random, and felt uncomfortable with his pain and sadness.
“Mama… he sad.”
And while I didn’t recognize it at the time as I tried to meet my other son’s needs, I did start to notice a gentleness when Finley played with him, that I never noticed on the forced play dates with other children his age. The ones I so desperately wanted for him to socialize in utopian peace, but where I was often breaking up moments of toy stealing or sand throwing.
Do I value his stuff or his happiness more than his character, his development of a giving heart?
It was in these next few months that more of Finley’s character was shaped, but humbly enough, not in the efforts of the two parents who would love nothing more than to claim responsibly for these new traits.
“Maria, I want that toy!” he demanded.
And the child who never had anything of her own, smiled and said, “Sure!” disarming him.
And Finley began to learn not quite as much effort was needed, while we added that he needed to ask kindly and say please. (Our efforts overshadowed by the mere presence of his sister from afar.) She shared warmly, happily with him, modeling a behavior and attitude very uncommon in American children I know. And after a short time, when she would ask to use a toy he was using,”Ok, here ya go,” and he gave it gladly, as all the record players in the world screeched to halt in shock.
|God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good. Romans 8//28
Meanwhile, Elijah has a strange knack for sharing, even at inopportune times, like right when I place Finley in a time out. Elijah, will smuggle like a Mexican drug lord, running full speed when I turn to slip a toy through the rungs of the crib to the chubby, captive hand of his brother.
“I just playing,” Finley smiled at me innocently when I go to retrieve him, Elijah grinning at me, triumphant. Elijah sweetly showing Finley the fun in sharing, disarming his zeal for selfishness further.
My two sweet brothers. They are each others great teachers as one, for the first time learns to enjoy life, and the other learns, for the first time, what is important in this life.
The word that is in my head about our experience with adoption and the effects on Finley is, unexpected. The blessings, the growth, the opportunities, are not only numerous, overwhelming in number, but cover more areas than Andrew and I could have even planned or thought of on our own.
News flash, that I get each day, God is good.
Maria is used to big crowds of kids, being one of the oldest, caring for others. On a road trip, Maria helps tired Finley fall asleep. And our son, who was so doted on by his parents, who had not even been interested in being held by others (such a pickle) asked,
“Maria, you hold my hand?”And she of course, held his sweaty, little toddler hand in her palm.
“Mama, good news!” she whispers as she shhh‘ed anyone who may wake him.
Sometimes people ask, ‘But could we have time for all of them, could they share the attention and things, they are used to things a certain way? Recently, “The Today Show” ran a segment on post-wedding depression, which is a condition where brides sink into a dejection because they are no longer the center of attention. As if too much attention set them up for failure once they entered regular life.
It can be hard for American parents to raise children who don’t live a life of expectation. Parents actually have to take great effort, take careful action and strides to keep toys and child ‘stuff’ out of our homes, to not spoil, to not raise a child who believes that their own happiness is the ultimate goal, while others long and wait. Who aren’t crippled by first world problems.
//It’s one thing to teach your child to care for the poor, the orphaned or those in needs, and it’s another to do it. To live life infused with the ideas taught by God.//
| Maria leading the little ones in a prayer of thankfulness
Sometimes I hear that a family wouldn’t want to take in a child with special needs because it might not be fair to their other children having to take that child to the doctor, and meet their needs. When I hear this, it kind of hits me funny, but at the same time I didn’t really form a final thought or decision on it, I mean, I understood their feelings, but isn’t patience, compassion, sacrifice of ones own time and interests for the benefits of another, especially health benefits somethings good to learn?
So I will share our experiences with it. Elijah, as of this week, has three therapies a week focused on his development. That may sound like a lot, but each one, from speech to OT brings a well educated specialist, who comes to our home, for free to work with him. Half the time Finley is sleeping during this time, but when he’s up, they just work with him too.
And he is learning a lot. A lot! From experiences he would not otherwise have.
And I am learning a lot. I now know all the ways to maximize story time, play time, all because of the extra needs of Elijah. Which benefit all my kids. And in ways that I wouldn’t have experienced without this sweet boy, and his extra needs.
And remember this is focusing on Finley, and his learning and growing and enjoyment due to adoption, not the utter joy of seeing Elijah grow leaps and bounds in the process, so I won’t mention that 😉
|Speech therapist playing a fishing puzzle game, while teaching the boys how to signal to each other how to take turns quickly and easily. Yes, two 2 year olds, learning this. Because of ‘special needs adoption…’ And it’s genius and they use it every day. And it’s these moments that I know, God knew what he was doing all along, and in fact, I believe he wants to draw me closer to him through the goodness of these significant blessings, my realization that he is gentle and kind and cares about me and all my kids. I believe he wants to take the pressure off of us trying to strive for the best all on our own.
“To some, that type of surrender might seem to be bondage; but those who have bowed the knee–those who have laid down their arms and waved the white flag of surrender–know that it is the only pathways to true freedom. And with that surrender comes a host of blessings that cannot be experienced any other way: the grace to obey God, release from having to run our own world, the peace of God, unexplained fullness of joy, and greater fruitfulness than we ever dream possible.
I have seen this so many times in my own life that I often look back and wonder, Why did I ever resist the will of God? -Nancy Leigh Demoss
Finley used to be a more fearful child, and even with our urgings and support, he would often not want to try things out of his comfort zone. The only two people who have been able to allow him to step out of his comfort zone are Maria and Elijah.
|This used to be considered the spinning wheel of death in his mind, he wouldn’t even look at it. Until Maria, all on her own, told him she would help him. “It’s ok, I hold you, Finley.”
|And he actually tried it. And loved it.
Finley also gets great comfort and confidence from his brother Elijah. One of the effects of early neglect is fearlessness, which is definitely one of Elijah’s traits, although he is recently showing signs of increased safety awareness, well, a little.
With Elijah by his side, I’ve seen him try so many new things, I’m talking from trying triple slides at the park to not breaking ear drums when we use the nose sucker (THAT one really got me, that he would be civil about it after seeing Elijah do it #miraclesdohappen)
|“Let’s do this thang!” -Elijah
Even when Finley feels put on the spot or nervous, he will reach out for Elijah, talk about him, or just say his name, “E-why-jah-do!!”. His own personal little support, who couldn’t be happier about it.
Learning to be a helper: With more kids, meant we asked him to help out more, even if I wasn’t sure he could.
Turns out he could, he enjoyed it, and Maria was an amazing example.
|Yard work. With a helmet.
Us: When we adopted a 10 year old who was so much more aware than two toddlers, we knew we had to get this whole parenting thing right. We invested in our parenting, read a couple books, made changes, felt changes, grew closer to all of them, instead of raising little ones, letting life get in the way as everyone grows up and apart. #dang.
New experiences and things to learn: Finley has learned so much from his siblings, from circumstances that they have brought, that he would have otherwise not been a part of.
|Maria teaching Finley Spanish while I make the bed
|While back in his car seat, Maria reading books to the boys, the books she brought on her own just for them
|Taking her time to help him, show him things he would not otherwise be able to see or experience. Also, who lets their kid walk barefoot at a pet store?
|Assemblies at school, she is never to cool for a little brother who wants to sneak in with sister.
Maria is in love with the bible, with the story of love, of God who loves her before time, who loves her forever, who knows her and always has, “Mama, did you know this?”
“Finley, do you want to hear?”
“Shhhh, quiet, dada, Maria reading bible…” he tells us over his shoulder, as she takes her time to read him God’s word. I am not sure what I was expecting, but I don’t think it was this.
|“A sister is a gift to the heart, a friend to the spirit, a golden thread to the meaning of life.” Isadora James
Hearing about the robot Maria made at camp, learning about the process.
So interested in what she learns at home from the cheap workbooks we get at Costco.
“Liquids change shape!!!!!!! Blue water is liquid!” I’ll tell you I wouldn’t have constructed this activity for him to experience before Maria came home.
|#sciencerocks that’s his actual face when seeing liquid in action
|Always learning time from sister
Some have asked, what about the experiences of the adopted child that they might bring into the family, exposing it to my current children?
Well, there’s good news and bad news with this one. The bad news is that this is a fallen world, and your child will be exposed to all sorts of things we wish they wouldn’t, and the hard part is that much of it will be as they grow older, outside of your home, where you can’t be as strong of a presence through it. But the good news in adoption is that whatever a child brings, they bring into a family, with adults with parents, with people who will help lead and guide each child and family as a whole, all under the same roof. In fact, there are certain things our kids have brought that I feel honored to discuss as a family, to live a life of inclusion and love, not of fear.
That said, Maria and Elijah did not come from good places, but their innocence is one I have not see replicated with most other children their age in this country. They bring sweetness and joy in small things, gratefulness and appreciation, things that I want to rub off onto Finley, because of where they have been.
But just know, all children are resilient and aware, even Finley knows when Elijah needs extra grace, he is not hurt, but strengthened by it.
But what’s kind of cool to me, and my mama’s heart, is the peace that the adoption has brought to me. I have learned a new way of parenting, one of pursuit of my child’s heart even in the face of rejection, giving me skills that I hope I can use when my children become teens, and the world flaunts things of hurt masked in cool in their direction. Where in the past I may have felt forlorn while reading news articles, I now have freedom, and that my friends, is goodness. That and the valid knowledge I have in God’s good plan for my children, and the hope that my children will rather spend their time in service than in passive, selfish consumption.
But even if our children came with more hurts and baggage than they did, it would be worth it, they would be worth it to love them through it. As a family.
Ok, but whatever, right? He may be learning more, be more social and kind, more patient and compassionate, and maybe even a whole lot better to be around. But mostly, it’s just way the heck more fun.
Way more fun to have your own big sister, your own little brother to live life with. Instant best friends, instant teachers and protectors, for his whole life.
|‘Maria pway trucks with me?’ ‘Ok’
|Now that you’ve cleaned up your lives by following the truth, love one another as if your lives depended on it. Your new life is not like your old life.
1 peter 1/22
But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard–things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely. (
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far go together. -African Proverb
And just before you think, well maybe it’s just this family…
Maybe they went for one, happened upon two, special needs, broke birth order, artificially twinned the boys, but maybe they just got lucky. Maybe it’s just coincidence that so much goodness came out of it…
Before you, or your spouse, or family member writes it off, I want to share just a hand full of things I asked my friends to share this week. I bet they all had their few nay-sayers as well.
Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.” Matt 22:37/40
1. Beginning last week, our friends are hosting a 16 year old
orphan from the Ukraine. Today they posted this picture of Vlad, helping to wipe cookies off the mouth of their toddler son, who obviously is feeling pretty cool about it. You guys…blessed by an orphan.
| (See their blog here, also we’re doing a Noonday party for them on the 26th, if you’re local, pop in! Also, I met him at church tonight, lovin’ family life, carrying the 4 year old who was alive with giggles… sweet boy)
2. Right now, this family is in the Ukraine with their two little sons and the little girl they are adopting, totally busting birth order, too. I’ll let the picture speak for itself. Also, please consider supporting
them, they are stuck in country with a passport delay.
|She sent me this one today, painfully cute? I think sweet sister fits right in 🙂
3. From Brandy: So many things to say…they are more compassionate than I think they would have ever been without their little sisters. By opening their eyes to orphans, especially to special needs, it has allowed them to look beyond the end of their own nose. Their view on the world is different than their peers because they’ve been forced to see what really matters in life. I’ll never forget the time a young man with DS came up to me at the end of the Joni and Friends Family Retreat. He wanted to thank me for my 12-year-old son helping to take care of him and to let me know he did a good job. He wanted to make sure my son was coming back next year. To be honest, I don’t think my son even thought he was doing anything special. He was just doing what he knows…helping out no matter who you are. There is also the refining side of having their little sisters…my daughter with FASD is hard. As much as it would be easy to think that life would be so much easier if she wouldn’t have joined our family, her sandpaper-like qualities are smoothing out all the rough edges on all of us. My bio kids may be exasperated with her now and not see that smoothness being worked out in their character, but I believe that one day they will look back and realized that even that hard stuff shaped them into a better person. www.mommymap.net
3. From the Walker Family:
“Our youngest was 6 and there was a 7 year gap between him and our next oldest child. I thought we would adopt someone close to his age to close the gap and so he wouldn’t feel so much like and only child with no one to play with. Initially it was the hardest on him to have Sasha, 7, join the family. He was used to be the only little one and he did not have to share attention or his belongings with anyone. I have to say that he has grown the most through the adoption and I have seen his heart go from struggle to find his new place in the family, to complete joy in having her as a best friend and new sister. He is a patient teacher, (he taught her to say her English alphabet the first week home and has continued to teach her everything he knows about everything!) This is a new role for him and he has grown into it beautifully! They are pretty much inseparable now, and Sasha thanks God in her prayers every night first, for Levi and then for her Mom and Dad, and I am totally okay with that!”
4. These teen girls all have adopted siblings with Downs syndrome, and were so touched and transformed by their siblings and the experience of adoption, that they are working together to help more orphans! Now those are some teen girls to be proud of, who have their hearts in the right spot, and are serving others, because their parents said yes.
5. My biological daughters are benefiting because I’m studying and trying to be a more positive parent in helping my adopted daughter transition into our family. She has also taught my almost two year old many great skills like feeding herself, dressing herself and picking up her toys. She has showed her how amazing this life we live is through her excitement and joy in even the smallest things.
And through this journey, as we work hard, reap benefits, grow personally, and as a family and live a life that I could never even quite imagine, it’s important to remember that the purpose of our adoption was not for blessing,
The first purpose was for obeying God. Because it’s through obedience that true freedom is born, true life and joy, but it’s so backwards to what we think will happen, so it ends up being like a surprise party.
“Surprise!! God is good, and life is good, and rich and Surprise! Your heart is being connected to many as you get to experience the healing of children you are blessed enough to call your own. Surprise! The worries and life fears you clutched so tightly were dispersed, because you said yes. You didn’t know, but surprise! God will draw you lovingly to yourself, and nothing compares with that.
Meanwhile, God is smiling, “Well, I did tell you that I am the good shepherd.”
“Well, I know, but I didn’t know you meant it literally...”
Obedience to God looks different to each person, because each person is created individually. If you are called to adoption, you will know. Don’t think fear is the absence of faith, faith is action in spite of fear. The opposite of faith is disobedience, not fear. And although Finley has grown leaps and bounds, in ways that could just shatter our hearts with joy, the second purpose of this adoption was for two little children, lost and locked away.
But as I reflect on my own heart, and how it has changed on this journey, and I see the little boy we started with, and how much stronger he is, as a two year old person since having his new siblings, his joy, his life, it is such a reflection of God’s goodness, of how close I let fear make me want to run my own life, perhaps into the ground. Left to fret and fuss over the little life, engage fully in the trivial, to will and direct with failure the characteristics that I only now see after ‘simply’ obeying God’s calling.
It was not easy to say yes.
“The challenge that comes into sharp relief is whether we are willing to give up all we have to follow Him, to know God. Are we willing to trade up?….In that sense, Jesus isn’t requesting a sacrifice at all. He’s asking us to play Bigger and Better, where we give up ourselves and end up with Him.”
And I remember when I didn’t want to adopt. And I remember when I didn’t want to be a mother to a 10 year old. And I remember when I didn’t want to share my home and my time and my boy with more. And I remember when I didn’t know that sharing this life with more only made it richer, and I remember when I didn’t know that fear only brought striving, and that surrender brought life. I remember when it was hard at first, and I remember wondering what we got ourselves into. And I remember that even when we didn’t know how to do any of it, we learned that God keeps his promises, every last one.
And now I know that both of my kids like finger painting. And Raffi.
Believe in the Eternal, and what is good–live in the land He provides;
roam, and rest in God’s faithfulness. Take great joy in the Eternal! His gifts are coming, and they are all your heart desires!
Commit your path to the the Eternal; let Him direct you. Put your confidence in Him, and He will follow through with you.
He will spread out righteousness for you as a sunrise spreads radiance over the land;
He will deliver justice for you into the light of the high sun.