When we first met our little one in Urumqi, a northwestern city in the XinJiang province, she quickly attached to our oldest child, our then 14 year old daughter. Next in line was me, then our then 12 year old son, and coming in dead last was my husband. We fiercely loved this child for many months before we met her and we were well prepared that we should expect her to prefer one of us and with her limited experience with male care-givers – we assumed she would prefer me, and we were right. As we navigated through the first foggy, minute by minute days in province, we broke the rules of “no one but mama and daddy meet the needs”; because our time in China was all about actual survival. Our daughter had an un-repaired heart condition that left her with lower than healthy oxygen saturation.
When she cried or became fearful or upset (um…hello gotcha day trauma and drama) she turned blue and it was something we tried to avoid as much as possible. Keeping her happy and safe was our number one priority, so while in China and until her surgery – she pretty much got what she wanted.
Including her preference for caregiver… and it was not her Daddy.
Fast forward to today: Daddy is her hero. Daddy is the preferred bedtime buddy. Daddy, is who she calls first when she wakes up during the night. Daddy is who she wants when it’s play time, bath time, meal time, any time. She stands in front of the door to the office proclaiming “all done work”, in order to garner a few precious moments of puzzle making or tower building. It’s all about Daddy these days.
It has been quite a beautiful love story to behold.
Isn’t it strange when things that are a challenge once upon a time – sometimes end up being the things that are necessary in order to appreciate the progress and the healing. He had to consistently and constantly woo her and prove his love and steadfastness.
He had to teach her that he wasn’t going to hurt her. In order to prove himself to her, he got to be the snack giver, the fun maker, the treat giver, the story reader, and I had to back off. She has had to learn that when he leaves we can still talk to him or see him on a screen and that he comes back. Daddy always comes back. It has been 18 months and I can say now that she would be equally content and secure with her Daddy in most situations. She will still ask where I am if I’m not home. She would still ask for me if she was hurt or sick and I wasn’t there – but she is able to be comforted and contented by the love of her Daddy.
You who “get” the adoption thing understand what a monumental milestone this is. You, who have had children like mine who were resistant to trust because they have either suffered many trips to a hospital, have experienced more loss than you or I have experienced by age 3, or have overhyped triggers to fight or take flight – you understand this miracle. You are celebrating this deep healing, this is a joyous occasion. Add this to the list of something I never thought to be thankful for, before adoption. I’m thankful for it now and I’m actually thankful that it wasn’t always so easy because we would have missed living through the journey of a daughter realizing what it means to have a father, a daddy; and we would have missed out on that beautifully complicated and extraordinary transformation of an orphan into a daughter.
It’s November. This is the month where we who are deep into orphan care highlight the tremendous need for families to step out and say “I will _____”. For us, it was three years ago when we said “We will adopt.” “We will” do all the paperwork, pay all the fees, jump through all of the hoops – the many many hoops, surrender some of our privacy, wait and wait and wait, make the trip, and risk the very state of our family for a child who was unknown to us but known by her heavenly Father.
“We will” set out on a journey of love and redemption and rescue for a child we loved but had never met and had never held. It was the craziest thing I have ever chosen to do – and probably the most reckless thing we have done as a family. We feared all of the things that everyone fears in adoption. We feared financial ruin. We worried that we wouldn’t have what it takes to love a child not born into our family. We wondered how we would adequately parent a child with multiple medical needs and attachment issues when we have zero experience with such things.
We hoped for attachment. We begged God for direction and we prayed against resentment towards Him and one another should things not be the fairy tale we dreamed they would be. We knew it would change everything. She would change everything.
Grace changed everything.
That’s what knowing an orphan does to you – it changes everything. It changes the way you parent, it changes the way you see the world and it creates compassion for people far more desperate than you imagine. It forces you to choose what is mission critical with your child and your family unit and what is not. It sets you squarely outside your most uncomfortable comfort zone into a place where you, at times, feel so alone only God will meet you there. Truly. It teaches you about what it really means to be so loved, and sought after by a God who died to have relationship with you. It takes you places emotionally you never wanted to be and yet you would give your life to never leave.
It is a trip, yo.
I don’t believe everyone is called to adopt; if it is a calling per-say. I don’t believe that every person is equipped for the mind bending reality of parenting a child well, who comes from very hard places. It is not for every one. I do believe if you have a passion for it – if you long for it – if you cannot rest without adopting or fostering then it might be for you – and I believe you should pray without ceasing that God would make it abundantly clear. I believe He will. He is clear, in His word, that He is for the fatherless and commands the church to be about the business of caring for the orphan. That is undisputed fact. There are many ways to care for orphans without adopting or fostering.
For some, equally as passionate about God’s call to care for the fatherless, they say “I will support…I will pray…I will foster…I will advocate.” Certainly God has asked something of each of us in this regard and I’m confident if you aren’t sure what it is – He will make it abundantly clear to you if you are open to whatever that answer is. Rest assured – you might wrestle with the answer. You might wrestle with it for a while. You might have to sit by and pray while your spouse wrestles with it, too. It’s actually quite a good place to be.
Three years ago I had a conversation with my husband that maybe some of you dear readers have had in your homes. I had a fire in my belly to adopt and while I begged God to take it away at times – He would not. My husband had a smaller fire (but a fire nonetheless) to adopt and so since there was an obvious discrepancy in fire sizes – my concern at the time was that if I pushed this adoption thing forward and steamrolled my husband – I would get my way (*my way*) and build up a nice fat tank of resentment from my husband.
So we did what any happily married couple does: we had a come to Jesus moment complete with tears, at his company Christmas party while we were dressed to the nines and snacking on shrimp and cheese and cupcakes. We played the what-if game until we couldn’t any more. I made him promise not to resent me or the adopted daughter who might cost us a lot more than we imagined, and we resolved to say “I will” to everything that came along with making an orphan our daughter.
I will never forget what finally made me believe it was time: “I could never resent you for something God asked us to do. I would never resent a child that God sent us to make ours.”
Today, I assure you there isn’t a shred of resentment. The things we “what iffed” that night are so ridiculous to me now, yet – it was part of the process. Maybe it was part of your process too because the process of making a child yours through adoption is complicated – and yet it became very simple.
We feared it would change everything – and it did.
We feared it would cost more than we planned – and it did.
We worried she would have more health issues than we were prepared for and she does.
We worried we wouldn’t love her as much because she was adopted – but we do.
I don’t know how to explain it other than it is part of the miracle that is adoption and I, once upon a time, was the biggest skeptic of all.
Wherever you are in your adoption story, whatever hard thing you are longing to move past snap a mental photo of it so that you can say something like: “Hey, remember when you couldn’t even comfort Grace and now you’re the only one she wants at bedtime?!”
…And while it might not be that same thing – it will be a measurable progress to celebrate and treasure because it’s a living breathing miracle of healing and a reminder that nothing is impossible with God.
He makes the impossible – possible. He restores, He renews, He rebuilds all that seems ruined. He does the work on broken hearts and we just keep doing the best we can while He carries us along, wooing us and proving Himself trustworthy and safe and good.
He’s the best Daddy. Ever.