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Thursday, April 29, 2010

There is a Difference

Have y'all ever had a dream where you are looking down at your feet and you notice that you are barefoot, standing on a scarred, worn hardwood floor that looks nothing like the floors in your house, and you wonder "why am I standing here?," but then you get distracted by the pretty polish shimmering on your wiggling toes? And then, just as you stop admiring your rather feminine toes, you realize you are feeling mighty drafty, but suddenly a bright, hot light warms you up... so much so that you forget about feeling drafty until a great big curtain whooshing by chills you again? And that's when you realize you are standing on stage, sporting nothing but nail polish and a bright spotlight, in front of a huge crowd?


I've never had that dream either.

*cough, cough*

(Except for maybe this week.)

Because I'm feeling quite vulnerable after sharing my heart with y'all last week. I'm still reading your comments - mighty good stuff there - but I'm also feeling a tad exposed. Kinda like a goldfish in a bowl, swimming round and round, with nothing to do or say.

And with lots of new faces pressed up against the glass.

I know that not everyone agreed with what I wrote last week, especially since my post touched on that age-old controversy of predestination versus free will. And I appreciate that most expressed themselves so very humbly and graciously. I still feel exactly as I did when I wrote that post, but I also need to clarify one point... a rather large point at that. Because I've received a couple of private emails this week, asking (very politely, I want to stress) why I am anti-adoption.

And... umm... I'm not actually anti-adoption.

I'm an adoptive parent. I'm also waiting to adopt AGAIN from China. Which means I am not against adoption... I am against people adopting for the wrong reasons. Raina summed up those wrong reasons quite nicely in her recent post Preventative Maintenance Checklist for Adoptive Parents. I do want to clarify, though, that I believe the phrase "feeling called to adopt" does not always equate to "wanting to save an orphan." And I think, if we are truly honest with ourselves, we know our personal truths within our own hearts.

But how do we know - for sure - what is inside our hearts, since we sometimes allow our emotions and personal desires to muck up God's will for our lives? Well... anyone who adopts, adopts. But not everyone who adopts becomes an adoptive parent.

*cue confused chorus of "whhaaaa?"*

Adoption does not end when you finalize the paperwork, y'all. It does not even end once you and your child finally establish a strong bond of attachment to one another. Adoption parenting is a life-long journey, filled with many, many layers that go beyond the typical. Every adoptee? Has special needs. Because every adoptee? Has extra "stuff" he or she deals with in addition to the regular "stuff" of childhood, adolescence and yes, even adulthood.

Some of this extra "stuff" is very, very difficult.

And some of these children feel that "stuff" more deeply than most.

(My daughter? Is one of them.)

As parents who adopt, we must ready ourselves for the rather unique journey that is adoptive parenting. We cannot simply "bring our children home" and call it a day. We must be proactive. We must humble ourselves more than most. We must acknowledge that adoption is built on loss and therefore, oftentimes, grief. We must grow comfortable with the importance of both sets of families, even if no contact exists between them. We must be prepared to change how we do things - how our parents did things - because adoptive parenting can often, then sometimes look different from parenting a biological child. We must be prepared to tackle racism and discrimination head-on if we adopt transracially. We must... well... we MUST.

Only there are lots of parents who have adopted who don't.

And that breaks my heart.

If you've been considering adoption for awhile now, don't let my recent post scare you off. Yes, I believe that adoption is Plan B for a child's life, but that doesn't mean it's a less valid way of forming a family or that God fails to create beauty from ashes... because He does. Yes, I believe that God holds family preservation over and above adoption, but that doesn't mean that adoption is unnecessary... because there will always be children needing families. Yes, I believe there is a difference between "caring for" orphans and "adopting" them, but that doesn't mean that no one should adopt... it just means that not everyone should.

Adoption is a redemptive response to a tragedy, y'all. REDEMPTIVE.

Which means that, when done ethically, adoption IS good.

But don't - PLEASE DON'T - stop at the questions, "Am I prepared to adopt? Am I called to adopt?" Instead ask yourself the questions, "Am I prepared to be an adoptive parent? Am I called to be an adoptive parent?"

And then sit with your thoughts - and God's answers - for awhile.


Aus said...

Maybe the reason I read you is because you 'get it' - at least like we think we 'get it'.

I've said for a long time there is no such thing as a 'non-special needs adoption' - you may get a physically healthy child - but they will still have special needs.

I kind of thought I had a pretty good grip on parenting, I had three bio's that were late teen to young adults by the time we adopted our first.

That's what I get for thinking....this is a whole different 'kind' of parenting. I guess in the back of my mind I 'kinda knew' - but never expected 'it' to show up at the times that it does....smells, sights, touches, even specific kinds of men's shirts - stirred feelings and responses from our various kids like you wouldn't believe!

And adding a second and then third adopted child really 'stirred up' the feelings in the other ones too - something that multiple adoptors need to think about!

All that said - and I love all my kids with a passion - adoptive parenting has unique rewards too...I think of it as God giving us a little extra payback because we answered when He called!

Nice work - hugs -

aus and co.

Elizabeth@Romans8:15 said...

Never had that dream, but in college, I had a recurrent one that I was in my organic chemistry labs with no shirt on....so I can kinda relate. And since I try to put it all out there on my blog, I can also relate.

I still agree. But I do struggle with feeling like we were "called to adopt" without sounding like we were on some life saving mission. We do know that God stirred these feelings in us when we could have easily (I assume) had another bio child, and we answered. And He made it so clear to us all along the way, that yes, you are going in the right direction.

It's a sticky subject for sure, but one that does need to be discussed. I'm glad people are reading and discussing and that we are all learning together!

Tonggu Grammy said...

Aus, you captured it! "God gives a little extra payback BECAUSE we answered when He called." As a non-adoptive parent who is friends with several adoptive parents, I believe that that's what they would say if asked. They DO believe they were called to adopt -most already had bio kids- and they also believe that they are the response that God wants to a tragic situation. Plan B for the child, as TM would say. God is so great! He can redeem any situation, even a child who needs parents.

happygeek said...

I heart you.

Big puffy pink and glitter filled hearts (for MIss T)

Stefanie said...

I'm gonna chime in here and agree with Aus and TG... God definitely give us bonuses, for SURE! I am just SO glad that we answered His call, we are blessed beyond measure in so many ways!
Thanks for always sharing your heart, TM... and I think you look pretty cute up there in your sparkly nail polish (don't worry, we can't see anything else ;))

Chris said...

Wow...once again you just simply blow me away.....

The way you write...
The way you put your thoughts together...

You are so compassionate...
so aware....

"As parents who adopt...."
I love that paragraph!!
I mean, really love what you wrote!!

Thanks for allowing yourself to be vulnerable....you are a brave woman!!! And thanks for giving us a peek into your {amazing} heart!!!

Larissa in Country Western Australia said...

Just realised that you wouldn't see my comment on your Shopping the Perimeter post in your Works for us section. I also said something about God and Adoption in there. You don't moderate the comments, so I thought I'd point you to it. I'm new to your blog and really like it. Adoption is something I know little about, I'm glad there are Godly, called people like you adopting out there.

Lucy said...

I've said I was called to adopt, maybe the way I should phrase it is: I believe God ordained me to adopt. When I was seven, I had a "knowing" in my heart that I would adopt.

I did not understand all of the ramifications of what adoption means. I did not have a clue about the pain my child would have gone through. I was too immature to consider that adoption is "a redemptive response to a tragedy." But I did "know" God had let me know I would one day adopt.

I've told my daughter, God birthed her in my heart and helped me fall in love with her years before she was even born.

God made a way for her to be supported, loved and nurtured when the person who gave birth to her physically could/would not care for her on this earth.

God knew/knows there are always going to be people who need families, acceptance and love. I do believe God ordains/appoints/calls certain people to adopt children. Children that for some reason have experienced tragedy in their lives.

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to consider our role and purpose in adoption. It's less about us, it's more about God's "redemptive response to a tragedy."


bbmomof2boys said...

I didn't weigh in on your other post. Not real sure why though. We didn't feel "called to adopt"...we were TOLD to adopt in no uncertain terms! Yep, TOLD. God is amazing at how he orchestrates things. He did for our adoption, from the first meeting of a little Chinese baby girl that was literally given away to my friend, to our first next door neighbors and their daughter Hope, to my mom meeting him in Heaven and then my dad, to my own doubts and then confirmation that yes, this is the road we are supposed to take by a little girl who moved in next door and has the same name as the one we made up (we THOUGHT we made it up!), to our referral, my job..ohhh its just endless at how God did this!!!

I wish Little T could have stayed with her birth parents! But I'm so thankful that God chose us (yes, he really did!) to parent her. Was it his plan B for her? Seems like it but again - Praise the Lord that we are plan B!

Now I'm being told to adopt again. Is it my will or his? My emotions? I don't think so. When I start to think it is someone says something, a sermon will speak to me, or someone will post something (Stef!).

I also agree that not everyone who adopts becomes an adoptive parent. Funny, because my husband was actually in that category. He adopted but in the beginning he was not an adoptive parent. Then he started to see that Little T was going to be dealing with things that are far different than the boys. Once he realized that he started reading and talking and praying. Now? He's an adoptive parent because like you said - it goes way beyond just adopting!

Sorry - got long winded there!


Debby said...

Good morning. You really hit it right on. I can't tell you in words right now. This so reminds me of my adopted son and his biological sister. I think today is the day I need to start my story on my blog about our adoption. Come to Cozy Blanket (later today or tomorrow) and here our story.
Keep on posting your feelings because they are so truthful.

Jason Rust said...

You listen to David Platt? This sermon describes my feelings. You should listen:
go to the bottom...father to the fatherless

April said...

I had such a long comment prepared I decided to post about it instead. As always, thanks for sharing.



LucisMomma said...

Very Good post. Especially this paragraph, which is exactly what I think (but not so nicely said) when some adoptee's blogs state that they wish to stop adoption entirely.

"If you've been considering adoption for awhile now, don't let my recent post scare you off. Yes, I believe that adoption is Plan B for a child's life, but that doesn't mean it's a less valid way of forming a family or that God fails to create beauty from ashes... because He does. Yes, I believe that God holds family preservation over and above adoption, but that doesn't mean that adoption is unnecessary... because there will always be children needing families. Yes, I believe there is a difference between "caring for" orphans and "adopting" them, but that doesn't mean that no one should adopt... it just means that not everyone should."

Colin and Jill Canada said...

My daughter asked me this morning: "Where's my 'nother Mama?"

At 2, almost 3 years old, I never imagined she'd ask me a question like that - at such a tender innocent age.

One thing I'm thankful for, is that she is asking questions. I say that, because I am trying to find my way learning this adoptive mama thing and sometimes it isn't easy for me to keep hold of my emotions, so I can only hope I get it together better when she really knows the full meaning behind that question.

Because I'm not sure if my tears will help her.

As always, I enjoyed your post and you're right, you shouldn't set out to JUST adopt a child. You need to be that Adoptive Parent. And you know what, sometimes you don't 'get that part' until you're actually in the role. And every child is different and ever child is going to need to be nurtured differently. I just pray that the Lord equips me and helps me through each set of needs that arise.

Hugs, Jill.

PS - Nice toe nails! ;) You never did remind me of that type!

Patricia/NYC said...

Spot on, TM!! Perfectly stated!!
From the momma of another who feels things very deeply!! :)

Rachel@just another day in paradise said...

I think your blog is doing some wonderful things lately. Thank you. (Just make sure you use those powers for good and not evil. . .) : )

Anonymous said...

Our daughter from China is 11. Each night when we say our prayers, I give thanks that we are a family. She recently asked me about why I say that. I mentioned that it would be wonderful if families in China (and everywhere) would have the resources and support they need to be able to be parents to their children. "I wish your birth parents had been able to raise you, but since they couldn't, I'm so thankful that I get to be your momma." She replied - No mom! And went on to explain that she didn't want to grow up in China. Why not? Because she wouldn't want anybody else to be her parents. How sweet, but if you were with your birth family you wouldn't know or miss us and would be most comfortable with that family. No! I don't want to have to eat Chinese everyday! I can understand that, but if that is what you were used to, it would seem normal. No! She doesn't even want to think about not being is THIS family. I suppose that I would have felt the same way at her age. I assured her that her feelings make sense, but it is O.K. to love her birth family too and to think about and pray for them. "I know, but right now I just want to get some food."

On the rare occasion that she does feel the hurt and loss that comes with adoption, she talks. I listen and reassure. Then we cuddle and cry together.
Joy in Kansas

Diane said...

Thanks TM. I too am prone to goldfish syndrome ;)

I am very cautious about weaving God into our adoption stories. As you know, I adopted an 8 year old from China. We are fortunate to be in contact with her teacher from her SWI school. Every once and a while her teacher will send my daughter little videos of her old classmates. As wonderful as this connection is- it stimulates the guilt complex within my daughter. The videos are a reminder to her of children who remain institutionalized without a plan B coming their way. If God loved my daughter so much that he found her a forever family- does he love those left behind less? Why does God only call on some and not all? If God were to call on all then there would be fewer orphaned faces to haunt my daughter in her dreams.

My greatest challenge- as an AP- is to restrain from weaving a Divine fairy tale and to just be comfortable saying- I honestly don’t know.

The Source said...

I've hesitated with my response because I want to be careful not to offend anyone or hurt any feelings because that's not my intention. I don't offer an opinion on transracial adoptions because I've seen parents handle that many different ways, and they all seem to be doing what works best for their families & children. I just want to express my opinion on Plan B.

I've never adopted a child, so I have no personal experience with the issues that arise, but I do know several very well. They include both those who have adopted internationally, locally through the foster system, and right within their own families. And although I agree that a lot of times adoption IS plan B for a child, I also think that there are times when God never intended for a child to stay with his or her birth parents at all.

Within my extended family is a precious cousin who was adopted by my grandparents shortly after her first birthday. By that time, she had been starved, beaten, mistreated, given bottles topped off with alcohol to make her sleep...she had been uncared for, carted around to drug-houses...she was underdeveloped, malnourished, delayed and unloved. Every single time she was left at my grandparents' home they pleaded with the parents and begged the officials to be allowed to keep her! Her father? Was their own SON. Yet, every time, when her parents showed up sober again, or were released from jail, they were forced to give her back. This finally came to and end when she almost died of meningitis because she was left untreated. Her father was sent to prison for stealing something...her mother left with another drug addict and never looked back. My cousin was raised by parents who loved and cherished her, and she's a wonderful woman in her 30's now.

When my cousin was a teenager, she asked my grandmother to help her get in touch with her biological mother. She just wanted to know her. The reponse was a letter that was so full of meanness it was unbelievable. She let my cousin know that she had never wanted her, would never want her and didn't want to hear from her again.

I wish that my cousin had been spared that hurt. I do think my grandmother did the right thing in helping her to find her mother. But I don't feel like that mother was ever Plan A for my cousin's life.

Of course there are mothers and families out there who would have kept their children with them if possible. Or those who still love them and pray that they will have a life full of happiness even though they had to part. But there are also some who never intended to be parents. In those cases, maybe they were never meant to be. Maybe they really were just a means to an end? Or maybe I'm way off base.

Like I said, I don't want to upset...I just want to explain my point of view. From over here on this side of things. Are you still my friend?

Lisa said...

Just another beautiful, heartfelt, thoughtful and brave post from the equally beautiful, heartfelt, thoughtful (and thought provoking!) & brave Mama T! Yes, that's you!

And your comment to me?? Thank you oh so much, cuz for some reason I was feeling a bit "fish bowl'sh" too! :) I love that our posts mirrored one another a bit this week completely by accident!

Nicole said...

Four of my beloved nieces and nephews were adopted at older ages. They had been in foster care for many years. Their biological parents are still alive, but they are not allowed to have contact with them. And I know what you mean when you talk about extra "stuff". There's lots of "stuff" to deal with. It's hard.

Wanda said...

Well....with toes that cute - I never even noticed you were naked!

Laura Lee said...

You are right on here (once again) I believe. I have a cousin who was adopted, his birth mother was on drugs, and already had three kids so she gave him up. His mother and father were not "adoptive" parents as you define it... they were just parents, just having a kid because it was the thing to do it seemed, and they couldn't biologically.
I think most of his problems as an adult (and he has MANY) stem from the fact that he wasn't told until his latter teen's that he was adopted.. and when its a secret I think it gets ugly once its out, to much to process in too short a time. They should have embraced his past, and his future and shown him God's mercy in it all. Instead the fact that it was a secret made it seem, bad? wrong? shameful?

Good for you for being brave enough to tackle the deeper issues here. Sometimes people see a movie like the blindside of read a story about adoption and it seems all warm and fuzzy, its hard work too.

Robin said...

Another great post! I do feel we have been "called to adopt", not to "save an orphan", but to do what God has equipped us to do to help those in need. I know it's not going to be easy. But is anything God asks us to do easy? I, too, think adoption is good. The reasons adoption is necessary are not good. But God bring good out of the mess sin makes in this world.

Debby said...

I finally posted about how we adopted. Stop over to Cozy Blanket and see. More to follow.
I am just sick over what happened in China today.

autumnesf said...

I'm always surprised at the people that come out and point out that some Plan A families are never meant to be.

You did qualify that abuse is never a preferred plan A.

Thats the one that always gets thrown at me when I speak up for birth parents also. I NEVER think all birth families are where a child should be just because they are birth families. ABUSE is never acceptable. I get so frustrated with that stance when we state from the beginning that we are not talking about abuse.

Geesh I sound crabby. Don't mean to....I just get so frustrated with people that think we condone abuse because we believe in preserving families.

I guess it makes it easier to demonize our stance.

(You don't have to post this if you don't want...it really is more grousing with you than a response to anyone.)

Wuxi Mommy said...

Thank you so much for sharing your heart in these posts. It's given me so so much to think about. Many, many friends and family, even complete strangers, have asked me why I chose to adopt. For me, it was something that was always in my heart. It wasn't so much a choice for me, but more something I knew one day would be a part of my journey. I wholeheartedly agree that it would be best for our children to grow up in the family they were born into. In our fallen world, I know this is very much impossible. And I love how you talked about adoption as redemption. What a wonderful analogy. Your words have given me a lot to think about, and I really appreciate your willingness to expose your thoughts with us all!

Erica said...

Beautifully stated. I think there is a huge difference and I am glad you clarified these for those that don't understand. I've known since I was a small child I was going to adopt and I had never known anyone adopted, been exposed to adoption, or really knew what it meant! But God put it in my heart. He didn't call me to rescue an orphan, he called me to be a mother to a child that was not born of my womb.

And adopted children are different than bio kids. We like to sugarcoat and say they aren't but they are. The love I have for my son is deeper than ANY love I have ever experienced, but it takes special tending.

Elizabeth Channel said...

I live in a suburb where international adoption (specifically Chinese adoption) has become almost a weird status symbol to the point that there is this odd and uncomfortable cross-prejudice against people who do adopt from China coming from the camp of people who believe those people adopted for status. It's crazy and bizarre for me, coming from a small town where adoption was embraced and everyone assumed that people chose to adopt because God called them to do so. My daughter has a close friend who was adopted from China and her mother has told me about this strange form of discrimination she encounters. I just wondered if this was a wild-spread issue or just localized in my odd suburb. Not trying to muddy the waters...

Mei Ling said...

"I believe that God holds family preservation over and above adoption"

Adoption is a human constitution. It sounds like a nice thing to say that God does xx for xx reason, but really, our futures and choices (as so many say) are ours to make, yes?

Nothing will get done by simply believing in God. That's where free will comes in.

Anonymous said...

I haven't been commenting lately, but it's not because I have problems with what you said. I don't necessarily agree with every point, but as someone who has considered adoption (in our far distant future when both our girls are done teething and potty-training and maybe even off to college), you have definitely given me a lot to consider, especially when it comes to motives behind adoption. So I thank you.

I just haven't been commenting because my brain is mostly dead these days (see above re. teething and potty-training). But I'm still reading!

Raina said...

Oh TM. Why am I commenting. Why can't I just leave it alone.

Yes, I know people are called to adopt. But, as you said, that is only the first step of a long, strenuous journey and each of us must search our hearts that we have the right motives and capabilities to adopt. The "Christian adoption movement" is disturbing when it appears that adoption is not happening in a responsible, ethical way. When we enter into this [often corrupt, always difficult] adoption industry, we AP's better be ready to do more than just love our children. You know I could go on and on. I wish more people were open to listening.

And I really don't understand the "payback" and "bonus" comments, especially in the context of God and adoption. I hope no one is using that kind of language with our children - bio and adopted. It seems wildly inappropriate from where I sit.

Thank you for another thoughtful post. And stop hogging my fishbowl.

a Tonggu Momma said...

Oh, Raina, I know your heart about feeling "called to adopt." I only clarified because - in that one specific post - I didn't know if that would be clear to others if it was their first time visiting your blog. I worried that they might put two and two together to come up with five. I should have articulated that better. I was worried about putting words into your mouth. I'm sorry.

Dorothy said...

As someone who's thought a lot about adoption, I love the way you've expressed things in this post and the previous one on adoption. I'm an American woman fostering Thai babies in Thailand until they're adopted. I see the birthmom's tears and watch them kiss their little babies "goodbye", and I think "this is WRONG". I kiss my two year old foster son for the last time as I hand him to his forever family, and as my heart breaks, I think "this is WRONG." I see the kids doing well with their a-families, they are healthy, happy, and so loved, and I think "what a BEAUTIFUL picture of redemption". God can use everything, even wrong choices, and pain and do something so beautiful.

Adoptive families have my deepest respect and appreciation.

P.S. I hope you understand that when I said "this is wrong", I was using it in the sense that I too believe that God's Plan A is for kids to be raised by birthfamilies. But because we live in a broken world, babies are relinquished, there is a need for orphanages and foster care, and adoptive families, and there is pain that adopted kids must face.

Kristen said...

I think this is another excellent post. You are really making me think! And I appreciate it. I believe EVERY Christian should ask themselves if they should adopt and if the answer is no, then they should support orphans. We are all called to do something and it looks different for every family.