“For I know the plans I have for you,”declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11
March 2018 marks 13 years of our adoption journey, and our first adopted daughter is about to be a teenager. Where have 13 years gone so quickly? We remember our first moments with her like it was yesterday. She was the most beautiful baby and took to us immediately. She had been in her orphanage 11 months so she had been waiting her whole life. I took her in my arms and for 13 years she and her siblings have taught us more about ourselves than the other ones put together.
Each child has seemed perfect on the outside – yet with deep hurts discovered to be healed on the inside. We have all come a long way in 13 years, and we have a lifetime of love to go.
Adoption changed us, made us a better version of ourselves and gave us the privilege of eternal significance. All parenting, whether growing our families biologically, through adoption, or in foster care, can award us those blessings if we are intentional and diligent. Scott and I would like to share 10 lessons learned about ourselves through adoption we’ve come to believe over the last 13 years.
1. Love Takes a Lifetime.
The love for each of our children was quick because we had had at least a year to prepare. Their love for us wasn’t so fast.
How does a child feel being thrown into a strange family? How does love begin to bloom?
Love takes a lifetime. Even though she’s been in our arms 13 years, there are things we still love through every single day. We know her quirks so well, and she knows ours. We are connected by our hearts. It still overwhelms my heart to think of her birth mother somewhere in China. I promise I feel like I birthed her myself. She has taught us how to love even in the deepest hurt, and we know the best is yet to come. Even if takes all our lifetimes!
2. Our Hearts Are Big.
We really didn’t understand unconditional love until we held our children for the first time. It was a dream come true. Becoming a mom and dad was an indescribable feeling. It was kind of like trying to explain how much Jesus loved us. We just couldn’t. Most everyone thinks we could never love a second child with the same love we have for our first, but God expands us and we do. Our children have taught us just how big our hearts could grow… much more than we ever imagined! At least twelve times bigger (counting our heaven babies).
3. Life is About Purpose.
God put us on earth for a purpose, and it’s not about a job, wealth, health, or even success. Our purpose is Him. He gave us heart work to do on earth and finding it can bring more joy than we ever imagined. Being a mom is most definitely my life purpose.
Helping our children choose Jesus is the most important privilege we will ever have. As each child chooses Jesus, we have peace we will be together in heaven for eternity. Is there a better feeling? Our children teach us daily that Jesus loves them even more than we do and our life purpose is all for Him.
4. Calm Can Exist in Chaos.
Life is not always calm seas and perfect circumstances. Even 13 years later, it sometimes takes us hours to love away moods or hurt feelings or attitudes. It is often chaotic as one is out of sorts, and the rest oblivious to what is even going on. It’s a balancing act at times but keeping a calm spirit keeps the chaos bearable.
Sometimes words of truth helps the situation, and sometimes just being quiet helps. Whatever comes, we set the standard. Our calmness can make or break the outcome. Our children have taught us patience we never knew we had.
5. No Expectations.
If there is nothing else we’ve learned, it’s this: having no expectations will save our sanity. Setting up safe boundaries and offering support is so important, but having preconceived notions of how we think something will go is just futile brain work.
This truth has come over years of adoption experience. We learned it through having expectations and watching everything fall apart. There is no forcing a trauma child into doing anything. It will only backfire, and there will be more to deal with. Our children have taught us we are not in control. We are the support and safe space for hard things we encounter with no expectations.
Just except it and do the work.
6. More Give Than Take.
There is so much more to adoption than we ever knew going into it. The child we are given will grow and change requiring deep strength and endurance. I remember standing on a plane for 8 of our 14 hour flight holding our little boy with severe sensory issues and massive overload. I was so tired and worn out. I think I fell asleep on my feet. I quoted every scripture I had ever learned and sang every hymn I could remember. The flight attendants fed me bananas and offered me their special seats for rest.
We thought adoption was about us giving another child love in our family and yes, that’s true, but it’s so much more. Nothing is ever easy that has worth. Our children have taught us it is MUCH greater to give than receive, and it is the foundation of eternal work.
7. Some Things Just Aren’t Important.
We are such different people than we were in the beginning our adoption journey. Things important then pale in comparison to what takes our focus now. Careers and success took a backseat to providing for needs and security. Schools and churches were not places to go anymore. They became attitudes of the heart we could do right at home. Vacations and big trips were set aside to bring more of our children home. Retirement has been redefined in the realization that our work on earth will never be done until we are on the heaven side. Our children have taught us home is where the heart learns to love, trust, and grow.
8. Focus on the Next Right Thing.
How do we ever decide what’s next? Should we keep homeschooling? Should we bring another child home? Should we go here or there?
Through the years we have learned, the next right thing is how life is to be lived. Reading the bible and praying over our family helps us know what that looks like. Simplicity leads to clear thinking and less clutter. Our children have taught us to keep life simple so we can focus on what is right.
9. Time Heals.
It takes time for children to feel grafted into a family. We believe when a child has been home longer than they haven’t, the real change begins. For 13 years EK has been a daughter, sister, and love of our family. You can see the light in her eyes. As each child came home, there was more and more healing that had to occur in everyone. There were even hurts that crept back up with kids already home. As time passed, each healed in time. Our children have taught us love always heals and wins!
10. It’s NOT About Us.
When Scott and I got married almost 33 years ago, we had no idea where our lives would lead. It is way better than we could have planned. Through the years, we have come to know this is not our story. It is God’s story. HIStory! Our children have taught us to take our eyes off of self and think of others first.
It is in this frame of mind, we find our purpose and realize this life is way bigger than we ever thought it would be!
I wonder what life lessons adoption has taught you.
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. – James 1:17