Posts Tagged ‘international adoption’

The Connected Child(ren of God)

Years ago, when we began the journey of adoption, it was surprising to read in “The Connected Child” that we would want our daughter to cry.  Reading the explanation, however, seemed to make perfect sense.  For a child who has never known the safe environment of a loving home and parents who cared for her needs, she has to learn the connected-child-cover-web-198x300instinct to cry out.  Previously, crying gained her nothing, or quite possibly the opposite of affection, and so she may have “unlearned” the behavior.  As our child became connected to us, it would become evident through moments like crying out – knowing she could trust a proper and loving response.

Fast forward several years.  We’ve finally brought home a daughter who is about 5 years old, and not only has she “unlearned” many habits of children who grow up in healthy environments – she’s also acquired many habits of children who grow up in unhealthy environments.  She is loved, for the first time as never before, and brought in to being part of a family. At first, she didn’t understand much of anything.  What did “Father” mean?  What did “Mother” mean?  There are certain things, and certain words, that if you were to examine them in the routine of many normal homes it would be confusing.   But in our context, where we’re attempting to purposefully build the connections most children would naturally develop from birth, they make sense.

Now take a step back.  Think about the Old Testament and the actions or words spoken between God and His people.  A common question among people who don’t want to believe in God, or even those who do but are honest with their doubts – “Why would God command ______?  Why would God do ________?”

I can’t pretend to understand the mind or heart of God completely, but I do understand the heart of a Father who wants to connect with the heart of their child. A child who has never known a Father like this before.  A child who has become so separated from the concept of “family” or “parent”, that it is a completely foreign concept.

So we see God calling out His people from among all others.  We see God rescue His people, only to force them into depending on Him through the wilderness for 40 years. We hear words from God about the wrath He’s capable of, even though ultimately He reveals His heart to be powerfully Loving and full of Grace for humanity. (lol, I realize that sounds bad here.  No worries, we’re not threatening wrath or taking our daughters on 40 year wilderness journeys.)

It’s not the kind of relationship we’d have if we were born aware of Him.  But it’s an adoption that impacts us to the very core of our being, for eternity.  Romans 8:15 reminds us, “The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”

One of the most natural ways to build that connection and bond? Simply to hold our daughter, and to allow her to feel our love. To remind her that we are here, and she is here, and she is ours no matter what happens.  To help her feel safe, and loved, and comforted.  To provide for her needs, and help her to see how depending on us to meet those needs is a trustworthy habit to develop.

In this moment – maybe it’s a good reminder for you and I – if this is what I am aware of, can’t we trust that God knows even better how to move His children into a fully connected relationship with Him?  We can trust in these moments, if we allow ourselves to be held by Him, to listen to His words, and to depend on Him to provide – these are habits worth developing in our own lives.

Even as I continue to pray my daughter would know my love deep in her heart, and not just in behavior – I also pray that my heart would deeply come to know the Love of my Father, not just in my behavior.  I pray that God would use this understanding of His Love – to invite even more children into fuller connection with Him…

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“Bring You Where I Am” by Wick – Music Video

I know, you’re probably sick of hearing about it by now. But here’s the official music video to go with our song, complete with links to purchase the song or donate to our adoption if you’d like!!

Insanity of God…

“I held tight to the psalmist David’s conviction that the weeping and tears might linger for the night, but that joy would come in the morning.  Sadly, after six years in Somalia, each morning brought only more tears.  For perhaps the first time in my life, I was dealing with something that I could not fix. Prayer and obedience and hard work and good training and Godly intentions and sacrifice – none of it seemed to make a difference.” – Nik Ripken, The Insanity of Godinsanityofgod

We are being reminded lately, that when you connect your life with the broken heart of God, it’s often heart-breaking.  It’s not a great sales pitch, and it’s not a great advertisement to convince a world that doesn’t know Jesus that we’ve made a good decision.  It’s not even a great testimony to convince other Christians we are, indeed, following God’s call on our life.  Heck, it’s not even a great assurance to ourselves as we lay our heads on pillows each night…wondering where God is.

The truth is, God’s people are suffering globally.  They are suffering in horrible and unjust ways. They are sold into slavery, trampled underfoot in the name of progress, cast aside for more important things.  They are thrown in prisons, beheaded, shot at, and sometimes – even made fun of in high school cafeterias.  Does this mean God has turned a blind eye to their needs?  Is God deaf to the cries of the suffering followers of Christ?  Why doesn’t He do something?  Lord of all creation, quiet in places that severely need His Words of healing and life.

I imagine the scene between Elijah and Ba’al, only this time it’s our God who is scoffed at, “Shout louder….Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling.  Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.” 1 Kings 18:27

These are some of the same thoughts we have, now over 2 years into an adoption process.  2 years, and still we feel very close to where we began.  Those who know about adoption in the DRC might be quick to say something like, “What’d you expect?”  Certainly when we began the process, we knew not much about our path was certain.  But we stepped out on faith that we were responding in a way that revealed the heart of God.  Even though at times, if feels we’ve nothing to show for it….I still believe these years have been growing fruit for the Kingdom.  Not that I’d choose the same road, if I could go back in time.

Nik Ripken found himself in a similar spot, after years of suffering in Somalia.  Crying out to God, and returning to the US to see what needed to change, he set out on a new mission: to find out what good God was in places of intense suffering.  What he discovered is enough to fill many books, and encourage the heart of any broken follower.  God, and the belief in God is accomplishing great amounts of light in the midst of a darkened world.  Stories that don’t make sense, but reveal the heart and life of a God I’d give my life and the life of my family to serve.

“..before we can grasp the full meaning of the Resurrection, we first have to witness or experience crucifixion.  If we spend our lives so afraid of suffering, so averse to sacrifice, that we avoid even the risk of persecution or crucifixion, then we might never discover the true wonder, joy and power of a resurrection faith.  Ironically, avoiding suffering could be the very thing that prevents us from partnering deeply with the Risen Jesus.” – Nik Ripken

There appear to be forks in the road, very near, as we continue responding to God’s call on our family to reveal His love to a broken world.  We’re not yet sure what it will look like, but we know what it will feel like.  Heart-breaking.  As much as we have many confirmations, that we’re right in the midst of where the heart of God is…..it’s still hard.  Even as I can smile at my family, knowing we’re laying foundations for a home God can, and is using to change the world….I hold them before God, continuing to believe that He’s able to do what He has not yet done here…bring redemption to this story.

Adoption and Men…

When entering the “world” of adoption conversations, especially when you connect to a blog/Facebook group/other online conversation, you’ll quickly notice the primary voices are women.  Certainly God uses “a mothers heart” in many cases, and speaks into a family through the bride.  In other times, it might be the “fathers heart” that He uses to tug toward adoption.  But even in cases where the couple is equally engaged/pulled toward reaching out to the orphan, most often it seems the mother is the one “out there” with the topic, connecting with others and having conversations about the process.  There are a few reasons that stand out as to why this may be happening:

1. Adoption involves a lot of emotion.  Like, gobbs.  The waiting, the picture updates, how far away this child is from you physically, etc.  And as we all know, emotions are for women.  (tongue in cheek)  Even as young boys, men are trained to have Jedi-like control over their emotions.  When someone is being “emotional”, we instantly feel they’re not being “manly”…whatever that might mean.  So even though a man may feel it, they’ll probably keep most of it to themselves.  There’s also a big chance, that even though they care deeply about what’s happening, they don’t have theimage words or the need to put into words all they’re feeling.   That’s because…

2. Men easily compartmentalize.  “The amygdala is a part of the brain that controls our emotional responses. In men, the amygdala communicates with just a few parts of the brain, like the visual cortex and part of the brain responsible for movement. (source: Lloyd) It’s like the amygdala is a power strip, and men have just one appliance plugged in. In comparison, a woman’s power strip is fueling many different appliances. In women, the amygdala is more connected to parts of the brain that control language, which may be why women talk about their feelings. It’s also linked to parts of the brain that control bodily functions like heart rate, blood pressure and digestion, which may be why women get a stomachache or other bodily response when they’re stressed or worried. In comparison, men seem to compartmentalize and show no outward display of emotion. But men still experience all the same emotions that women do, they just don’t cope with them in the same way.” (stolen from a science-ish website)

3. Adoption is much more emasculating than men realize when they “sign up” for it.  It’s sounds like the great plot for a manly story.  “Man helps his family reach out to the other side of the world, where a young child is in need of rescue, he helps bring them home and increases the size and heart of his own family (Christians add here “in the name of Jesus”).”  It’s totally a “knight in shining armor” type thing.  But then the journey actually begins.  He realizes he doesn’t have the finances to do it alone, and has to go around asking others to help.  He’s told by the agency “All of those natural fatherly desires you have to go and do whatever it takes to help your case move forward and bring your child home?  Let ’em go.  We represent you, and it’s in the best interest of everyone for you to let us do so.”  It’s probably true.  With the amount of extortion and corruption trying to seep into international adoptions, it’s really good to have people with experience and dedication to what’s best for the nation and children.

With these elements, and many more being thrown into the mix…our responses are important:

Wives – Understand the differences about how this adoption process impacts you and your husband.  Offer grace when he doesn’t seem geeked out about gushing his adoptive emotions over coffee.  Love him by asking specific questions, give him time to respond…and don’t expect a book.  Pray with him.  Help him connect whatever part of the process you’re in to his manly quest.  Sure, he may not be able to ride over there on a horse and scoop up your child – but he can certainly put on his shining armor and head out to the fingerprints office.  Be thankful that he can breathe slow and steady when you feel all out of sorts, and how God’s heart is reflected in such steadiness.

Husbands – Understand the differences about how this adoption process impacts you and your wife.  Offer grace when it seems she’s carrying a giant heavy burden…because she is.  When seemingly out of nowhere, she tells you how hard it is to endure all of this, and wonders if you even care.  This is your chance to be as manly as you were hoping you could be.  Not by rescuing your child just yet…but by scooping up your wife.  Reassure her.  Pray with her.  Use that focused amygdala to your advantage, and let her cry on your shoulder.  Dig deep into the compartment of adoption emotions and try to communicate what you’re feeling to her.  Be thankful for the depths of her emotions, and see how Gods’ heart is reflected in their mystery and force.

the story we wanted him to write.

I remember back in early April 2012.  We were right on the threshold of a new adventure in following God’s call for our family.   We’d made the decision to adopt internationally, and felt God leading us to learn more, and grow a love for the people and country of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  We’d been warned by several others, “this is an expensive process.”  “This is a journey with many unknowns.”  With smiles on our faces, we nodded.  We were aware.   We looked forward to the story God would write as we handed him a new stack of blank pages for the future of our family.

But we already knew what he would write.  The pages may not have been completely blank.

He was going to write a difficult but charming story of how a small midwestern family in full time ministry overcame great odds, and the  impossible financial realities of a single ministry income, to bring home a beautiful baby girl from the Congo.  It would be an amazing story and illustration that encourages every family to realize just how much of an impact they can make on the world, even if they aren’t a “power family” according to their status and income.

So far, that’s not been quite the story.me

After connecting with a great organization for quite a while, they ended up being much more focused on other efforts in the DRC.  That was fine while we were being processed, and finishing our homestudy.  But over a year into the process we finally felt released to switch to a new agency.  It seemed like prayers were answered, as immediately we received a referral.  We prayed for God to care for her, and put it completely in His hands.  We shared her picture with our children/friends.  Then her parents came to pick her up.

So here we are, back at the top of the “waiting list”, and the DRC has currently stopped issuing VISA’s for adopted children to leave the country.  They’re investigating specific cases of unethical practices from non-US countries, and making a statement while they do it.  It’s ultimately a good thing, as everyone involved genuinely wants the best for these children.  God has definitely used this time to help us learn more about the country, the people, and pray for the instability and fighting to cease.  This season shouldn’t impact us, because…well, it seems we’ll still be waiting a while.

If God had asked me as a young child what I wanted Him to do in my life, things would look quite a bit different from what currently is.  In reality, I’d probably be running around as the 5th Ninja Turtle.  So that’s obviously not the point I want to make here.  What I do want to do, is point out:  I don’t believe God is “making” this process difficult on purpose, as a sort of cosmic response of “I’ll teach you, Chadwick.”

I don’t believe God caused most of the difficult circumstances that have happened in my life, or in the lives of those I love…or your life.  Whether it’s the brokenness of your home growing up, or the economic struggles we’re currently facing as a nation.  He has granted humanity freedom out of His great love for us.  But I do believe God can write redemption into whatever story is happening due to the loving freedom He has granted humanity.

The story may not be the one we “wanted” Him to write as we handed him the paper and pen.  He may not be following the script we attempt to whisper into his divine ear every evening.  But He is still writing a beautiful story of hope and healing.  He offers to do the same in your life even today.  How will you respond to His invitation to be a part of New Creation?

Our story may not convince people that adoption is an easy/do-able choice.  But it may help paint a picture of what a family stubbornly relying on God looks like.  An image of parents who talk and pray with their children about a broken world.  Human beings yielding themselves to following God’s call…even as that call is largely unknown and uncontrollable.  As we’ve seen throughout scripture, He’s pretty good at knowing where such a story should lead…

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