Adoption awareness and orphan care have become a life’s work for us, a calling bigger than adding children to our family. It’s seeped into our faith, hearts, conversations, serving, friendships, and Instagram feeds.
Though our first steps in were tentative, three adoptions later, we are a family flying the adoption banner. We’ve compiled dossiers, read books, received grants, fundraised, waited, travelled, and attached. We’ve also served, bought t-shirts, spoken, written, advocated, and conference-d. We’ve started an adoption ministry, urged our church to offer an adoption grant, and served on mission trips. We’ve jumped onto the bandwagon and we’ve driven it too.
But just because we wear the t-shirt doesn’t mean we’ve got it all sorted out.
This year, this veteran adoptive mom found herself rattled by Orphan Sunday and National Adoption Month. I love the awareness it brings. It stokes the fighter in me who wants to shout at the world to stand up for vulnerable children. I pray that we’d all be outraged that families give up their children because they can’t afford food or medical care. That we’d not be OK with kids growing up in the US foster system or in the world’s orphanages. That the world would see the redeeming beauty of adoption.
But the truth is, I’m still in process with my thinking, and my understanding has layers now. I wrestle with how best to “defend the fatherless”. I wrestle with how to help in a way that doesn’t hurt. I wrestle with my role and my motives. I wrestle with my own apathy and my own helplessness. I wrestle with how much of my kids’ stories to share and with what words to use. I wrestle, and I pray you will too.
Our family was given the gift of three children birthed in China, and they are perfectly fitting puzzle pieces. But, I don’t think God intended them for our family or that we saved them. I wrestle with that thinking. Rather, I think He can redeem any of the losses or the traumas of this broken world, even parents having to give up their children. We are merely grateful that He chose us to receive these beautiful gifts. They are cherished children now, but we didn’t save them. As much as I’d love to believe that, we just don’t have it in us. It was us who were saved. Us who could have missed it. This life turned upside down by adoption and these glimpses into brokenness. This life less comfortable and full of heart checks.
We are just a crazy, under construction family blessed by adoption, redeemed by God, wrestling with how to see with His eyes and love with His heart. Like so many of you, we’re a big mess with rattled hearts.
I’ve come to realize that God is a fan of heart-transforming wrestling. I can say now that I’m grateful for how adoption stretches my trust, comfort and thinking. From the signatures on our first application, we wrestled to understand the wait, the red tape, the apathy of governments, and the sheer number of children without birth parents who can raise them. We just couldn’t fathom why adoption was so hard when so many wait. One side of my brain gets angry with God and the other knows to trust that He’s good. I pray that even with the hard questions, that I will trust His goodness. I pray you will too.
I don’t yet have tidy answers to my questions, and I don’t suppose I will this side of heaven. This is messy redemption business happening in a broken world, and I think grappling is part of the package. This questioning has forged a sweet, new understanding of who He is to us, to our waiting kids, and to the world’s fatherless.
Years ago, my fired up for orphan care self landed in Zimbabwe to serve kids in group homes. I arrived planning to serve and save and left unsettled and having not saved a soul. One afternoon, while painting strokes of blue paint onto the wall of a home alongside the teens that would inhabit it, I contemplated the words Save and Orphans written in giant letters across my t-shirt. Knowing they could read English, realizing that I was nobody’s savior, and seeing that these “hurting orphans” were not just a cause, but souls with beating hearts, thoughtful minds and stories beyond my comprehension, I felt differently about my well intended t-shirt. My mindset shifted, and though I still fail, I’ve been more carefully considering my words ever since.
Now as I parent three kids who know great loss, words matter. I don’t expect to always say the right thing. I don’t have that within me either. It’s just that I want to intentionally tell our story, while still protecting and honoring theirs. I want to consider first how my kids would/will hear my words. There are just too many complexities within parenting from adoption that I don’t have the luxury of ignoring. I’ve made mistakes in this, but I’m learning. I desire to honor God, protect the hearts of my kids, and “look after orphans and widows in their distress”, so it’s a dance I want to dance prayerfully.
Honestly, I’m just beginning to process how my need to feel good, matter, and belong within the adoption community might subtly sneak into my mindset when serving, advocating, and posting on social media. God’s given me passion, but I’m learning to pause before I act, speak or write. I’m praying that moment by moment, I’ll defer to His guidance in first shepherding my kids’ hearts.
My National Adoption Month prayer is that together we’d wrestle with our role on behalf of vulnerable children. That we’d be shaken by what we’ve seen, what we know, and what we’ve been called to. That we’d wrestle with whom and how we’re called to love. That we’d openly celebrate the beauty of adoption, passionately advocate, and prayerfully consider how to do it well.