Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Heartbeat ~ Heartache?

Goodness, my heart has been stirring to write this post for a while now.  But it’s difficult to express..and it may not be received well.  This is not a post encouraging you to adopt.  In fact, it may do just the opposite (although I hope not!).

Every week I receive comments and/or emails from families inquiring about older child adoption.  My silent response is, “If you want the rosy version, read the blog.  If you want the truth, I will share it privately.

I actually prefer prospective adoptive parents to ask me specific questions.  That way I can answer directly without sharing too little or too much.

Let me first say, loud and clear, that if God is calling you to do something, DO IT!  It doesn’t matter how big the obstacles appear, how wide the gap between you and your calling, how strange or untimely it appears, how many nay-sayers you encounter (and you WILL encounter them), if God is calling you to put your faith into action and you don’t do it, quite simply, you are disobedient.

In all honesty, with each of our adoptions I was not nearly as frightened by the needs of our children as I was the prospect of disobedience.  And another truth ~ had we known the demons that plague our Teen Treasure, I’m not sure we would have followed through.  Sad, isn’t it?  That leaves no room for faith…or redemption. 

But that’s one of the things about God’s amazing plans ~ they are so much bigger than we can imagine that we would simply fail without Him!  And the testimony of His faithfulness and the way He instantaneously touched my heart for aging-out kiddos has been a game changer for me.  In those moments when I am so weary I don’t think I can put one foot in front of the other, He whispers, “Remember Me.  Remember that NO THING is impossible for Me.  Remember that I brought you $21,000 in one evening just weeks before you traveled.  Remember that I provided over $47,000 in 9 months to bring home two more Treasures.

Why?  Not because of who I am, but because He loves the orphan; He loves the family; His Love made a way for no one to perish; and His plan is redemption.

Ya’ll know that my heart beats for the orphan.  I love the redeeming plan that God has to bring beauty from ashes in the lives of some of the most desperate children.  To be honest, I would love to adopt again (don’t lose sleep over that one, Mom J)  But like I said, this is not a post encouraging you to adopt.

We in the adoption community (myself included) typically advocate for children.  That’s one way we can love the orphan.  And lately our attention has been drawn to many older children, especially those near aging out.  In fact, around Christmas time we say things like, “All they want for Christmas is a family.”  Or we plead with families who are near travel to consider rushing the paperwork to bring home a child who is running out of time.  And that’s okay…if that’s what God is asking you to do.  It’s not okay if it’s an emotional decision made to ‘save’ a child just in the nick of time.

If your family is considering adopting an older child, I am urging you to make every effort to prepare yourselves.  We have no crystal ball; we have no way of knowing the child’s true personality or how they will respond to the dynamics of our family.  We don’t even know if the information we’ve been given is accurate.  Our Teen Treasure was reported as “artistic.”  Hmmmmm.  He draws stick figures just like his Mama.

I’m not necessarily talking about stocking your shelves with countless books.  I would suggest getting to know families who have taken this journey before you.  Get a variety of scenarios.  Heaven forbid, ask your agency to tell you about problems they’ve encountered with older children acculturating, reasons for families disrupting and resources families have found helpful in times of struggle.  Of course, ask for the good stuff too, because it does exist!

I’m afraid we give the impression that these children will be so grateful for a family that they will quickly settle in …and live happily ever after.  I know families who have had seemingly fairy tale adoption experiences with teens, and then I know families who are struggling.  “Family in crisis” is how it is written into a homestudy.

There are so many reasons a family may be in crisis.  Shell shock, lack of preparation, mis or undiagnosed medical needs, lack of resources.  The last is a biggie!  When a family is ‘in crisis,’ shouldn’t there be somewhere to turn?  Someone with answers?  Oh, contraire!  What do we do?  We turn to one another!  We share our struggles, our triumphs, our prayers, our tears. 

But did you know that if you call a teen heartline you will likely be put on hold?  Seriously!  You finally get up the nerve to seek help, putting aside all fear that someone will blame you, and you get, “All our representatives are busy with other clients.  Please stay on the line and your call will be answered in the order in which it was received.”  Never mind.  I’m probably just imagining this happened anyway.  I’m probably blowing it out of proportion.

Sometimes adopting an older child is really like bringing home 3 or 4 different children ~ a certain emotional age; a different biological age; an even different intellectual age.   And they often act very differently outside the home.  Perhaps the child is apathetic at home but superficially charming and engaging in groups.  This in itself can be exhausting.

Did you know if you seek respite, you will likely get the well-meaning, “Oh, she is so precious.  He loves his siblings so much.  She’s so proud to have you as parents.  He’s a perfect angel.  She’s so helpful; I didn’t even have to ask.”  It’s just another slam to your already fragile perspective.  Another slap in your tear-stained face.

Please hear my heart.  Not every situation is like this, praise the Lord!  And again, I stand firm in my belief that there is NO THING and NO ONE beyond God’s redemption!

The truth is, many of our children come with lifelong baggage stacked one layer after another as a result of institutionalization.  They are forced not only to acculturate from their birth country, but also from the institution, which by the way, is really nothing like ‘typical’ family life.

They have learned so many survival and adaptive behaviors, it can take a lifetime to turn fear into trust.  Yet, we don’t have a lifetime.  We have 6 years?  4?  2?  We must be prepared for a bumpy ride.  It will serve us best if we are prepared to cast our desires and dreams aside, laying it all down for the sake of this child.  

Despite what we might think, bringing home a teen is not like having a ready-made helper around the house J  Or even a babysitter.  It’s more like having an infant who needs our full attention…except they are too big for us to swaddle and rock in the midst of their fits of rage.  And even when they barely know English they seem to know the words that hurt the most.

In many cases it’s especially hard for us Mamas because God made us to love and nurture.  We don’t like rejection, especially from our children.  We have dreams of this precious child cleaving to us as if they’d been entrusted to our care forever.  Teens are naturally becoming independent.  It’s God’s design.  They are not seeking approval of parents as much as approval of peers.  In fact, we parents are pretty doggone stupid by the time our kids are 12 or 13 J  And so we’ve entered their lives at a time of natural transition, and yet it’s so important for bonding and attachment to occur with the family.  It’s completely contradictory, but somehow we have to fight nature and make this unnatural thing happen!

And what happens if our Treasure becomes violent, aggressive or promiscuous?  Betcha didn’t see that in the referral info.  It can be a costly endeavor.  But really, how much is a life worth?

Okay, enough reality.  Again, if the Lord is leading you to adopt an older child, there is nothing that should stop you.  No horror story, no fear of the unknown, no hurtful words of discouragement (oh, that’s the enemy himself!), should keep you from following through with God’s amazing plans!

So what can we do?

First, we can alter our expectations.  Chances are good this ain’t no fairy tale.  But it can be a time of growth!  It’s in these challenging times with no answers that we are forced to turn to the One with ALL the answers, the One who doles out grace unending, Whose strength is unsurpassable, Whose Love is immeasurable…and Who allows us to see ourselves in the mirror each time our child rejects us to the core.  We must keep our expectations low and our hopes high.

We can strive for simplicity.  Keeping a routine without a ton of extracurricular activities and commitments is so important.  I’m not suggesting that life stops here!  Some things just may need to hit the backburner for a while.

As I said before, it’s helpful to have relationships with families who have Been There Done That.  We can glean so much from their experiences and their advice.  It’s so much more helpful to seek out the truth rather than what we want to hear.  I love it when my confidantes hold me accountable to ‘do what Jesus did,’ which is love even the unlovely.

Keep perspective!  Chances are, a season of struggle will not last forever.  As I’m whining to the Lord, I’m often given a glimpse of others who have much deeper struggles.
Bookmark resources!  If you’re in the middle of a battle with your new addition and you have no clue how to respond, surfing the net for that one applicable morsel of truth you read somewhere, sometime will only add to your frustration.  If you find something good, keep it, mark it, print it, whatever you need to do.  And if caught off guard, you can always call a time-out!  After all, you’re the boss-mom, right?!?  I really appreciate Karyn Purvis’ resources!

Pray…and often!    I remember the early days when I’d ask the Lord, “Please give us a good day.”  That’s laughable now.  Soon my prayers changed to, “Lord, no matter what today brings, please give me the grace to respond in a way that glorifies You.”  Ahem…I don’t always do that, just for the record.

Every child deserves a family!  But they deserve a good family.  Not a perfect one, but one willing to make changes to help them through the most difficult transition of their lives.  We owe it to our children to approach their homecoming in prayer and with preparation.   And we must remember that we were created not for ourselves, but for His purposes.

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  2 Cor 12:9

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Eph 6:12

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.  Ezekiel 36:26


groovy mama said...

Thanks for sharing your heart and what is real!...I think with anything their is 'unknowns', but i honor you, you heard the call and did your best to answer and it is in you that we see Jesus. Continue to do what you do and be the best with what you have, some days better than is part of growing and learning and trusing our LORD . You may not always feel like 'keepin it real' but it is in the truth that we all need!
Happy New Year, praying for you all there.

The Kings said...

Wonderful post Connie, and one that is so important to be shared.

Thank you for being brave enough to do that.

Know that you are in my prayers!

Lori King

Leveta said...

You could not have read my heart and soul any better if you had been here. All the things you wrote echo what we are dealing with here and I just wish I had known more.Would love to talk with you more about this at some time.Thanks so much for posting.

CarrieT said...

Amen and well said!! We have never adopted a teen but we can attest that even adopting younger children can be a big challenge. It took me well over a year to truly bond fully with one of our kiddos when she arrived. Most adoptive families don't talk about that!! All you read are the stories that say "the minute I saw him/her I fell in love!"

I wish more parents would speak truthfully about the challenges. We LOVE our kiddos, all of them, and we are so glad we have each one of them, but it wasn't always easy. As you say, our kids, even the relatively young ones, come with baggage and unknowns that we and they may spend a lifetime dealing with.

Carrie T. - mom to 4 from Korea

Mama D.'s Dozen said...

So well said. Appreciate the transparency.

We adopted 3 older children from Africa ... ages 6, 9, 12 when they came home (actually each was a couple of years older, which was one of the many lies we had been told by the orphanage).

After 16 months, we had to find a new family for the older brother. We could not protect our 5 younger children from his sexual advances.

The youngest sister has been home nearly 4 years ... she is 10 years old. The abuse at the hands of her older brother has crippled her emotionally. We struggle with extreme RAD behaviors often. We had no idea what RAD was when we brought our children home. We had been completely lied to by the orphanage about their behavior issues.

Now ... on the flip side ... we have the middle sister. Sweet. Thoughtful. Obedient. Always Smiling. Seriously, I can probably count on 1 hand the times she's been in trouble in the nearly 4 years she's been home. There are academic and social challenges due to the institutionalism, but she has come a long ways in a short time.

Anyway ... if we had only adopted middle sis, we would think that parenting adopted children is a piece of cake. :) Guess the Lord wanted us to have more than cake.


Treasures Evermore said...

Amen Connie....everything you said is right on the mark as far as I am concerned. We have adopted three out of our four who were older.

Lowering our expectations was one key factor....even though their age on paper said one thing...they were NOT truly that age emotionally, acedemically etc.

We also do NOT take personally any of their bad behaviour any more than we do our bio children when they misbehave. If you take things personally or as mama's sometimes do...we take it to heart we set ourselves up for major pain.

We deal with the situation accordingly and move on....cause it's really not about me...but them. And because I have never walked in their shoes...I have no idea the trauma they have endured, therefore I MUST show compassion always...but still deal with each issue.

So your post was awesome...wonderful. Thank you for sharing it here.


Julie said...

Thanks for sharing your heart. We are in the midst of praying for direction when it comes to a particular child. We know we are called to adopt again, but we are not sure if this the child we are called to adopt. Well I am fairly certain, but my dh is still seeking the Lord. Anyway, she is going on 7, non-verbal, listed as MR. But there is something about her that draws me to her. My heart is terrified to bring her home, but yet I am even more terrified of disobeying the Lord. I feel the Lord is whispering to my heart that we are going to be surprised when we get her. That what is written is not necessarily what is going on. Everytime I turn around I see messages like this one reminding that the Lord is faithful even in the difficult times, even when things seem impossible or wrong in the world's eyes.

Jerusha said...

What a wonderful, truthful post! My experience is more like "carriet". Substitute 20 month old for "teen" and you wrote this post for me. Thank you for the encouragement and hope! Blessings!

Naomi said...

I also thank you for your honesty and also for the comments the others have shared. While we are not considering adopting a teen, we have thought about an older child and are seriously praying about all these things you have shared. I am so thankful for parents like you who share the ugly and hard side to adopting and not just the fairytale.

Have you ever read Nikki's blog?
She lives not far from me but I have not met her yet. Her posts are very real about teen adoption and the struggles she had with one of her sons who has RAD.

I will be praying for you Connie!! You are such a blessing to us and a beautiful example.


Carrie said...

Very wonderfully put! Even if you adopt a child at 3 or 7 you can be put in this same situation. I say read the Parenting the hurt child by keck and kupecky!What a blessing this book is for me. I had no troubles until the honeymoon was over than wham did I get it! Most Mothers get most of the negative behaviors from the child and can act golden in front of everyone even Daddy who thinks you might be going crazy until you take a few days for yourself and he sees the ugly truth. One more big thing-You two parents stick together! Pray together and be careful who you talk to-most people will not understand-even family! Touch therapy Holding therapy crazy but it works! Thank heavens for Lotion!!!!! I want to say we didnt have many troubles but I am glad for my education before I adopted so when I saw a few things poop their ugly heads up we could get on track with some therapy! God bless you all in your adoption journeys! I would go back again even knowing what I know now!

Lori said...

Oh friend, you know my heart...and that I agree completely with you.

What a beautiful post about a very tough matter.

Thanks for your willingness to be so open and real publicly.

Love you!

Cari said...

Connie that was beautifully and honestly written. There are not enough posts on this subject to help truly educate families considering older child adoption. I think you wrote it from a great perspective of sharing the "real" with the "hope". I'm sure you won't mind me linking this post from my blog and fb because I think this is so important.

Shonni said...

Well said!!!

Jodi said...

sooo wonderfully written!! This is what I have been trying to tell my agency!!!!! I'm linking from my blog to, k? :) Love you and thank you for sharing honestly!

thesleepyknitter said...

Yep, you nailed it! :-)

Older child adoption is very, very different from infant or toddler adoption (which are hard enough). Even this morning, I caught myself thinking miserably, "Why on earth did we do this?" But we did it for heaven, not for earth.

Yvette said...

Such a well articulated post. We have only been home 2 weeks, but I see a 3 year old so severely effected by his institutionalism that it has thrown us for a loop. Everyone told me how easily that children from his orphanage bonded, they forgot to mention the lack of any social skills. Add additional unmentioned physical disabilities and anger and our fairytale has all but dried up. We were fortunate that our daughter adopted at the same time is a joy, she entered our family and has naturally fit. The two faces of adoption one so easy to ignore until it enters your home.

Mis-Wen said...

Thanks for sharing! I think the greatest gift that adoptive parents can give eachother is support. Not just in the fairy tales but when things get tough as well!

Jean said...

Connie- this is so good! THANK YOU!

It is so honest and you have beautifully written it!

Older child adoption is just a different sort of beast. Wonderfully rewarding and overwhelmingly challenging at times.

I have my own "feelings" about it too. We have adopted a child with a disability that has been very very very challenging to me- not my choice BUT it was God's choice. We pray our way through the days.

I also have to say that the category of older child adoptions needs to be better defined... We have adopted up to 9 years old- that is NOT the same thing as a 12 yr old. 12 is puberty and looking for independence. 9 is prepuberty and still looking for parental approval. I have found it challenging BUT I know it is not the same as adopting an early teen.

Thank you for writing this!

Chris said...

Thanks Connie,we prepared and I'm glad we read as much as we did. BUT the stuff you prepare for is usually not what hits you.
God's Academy is a tough one, and trusting and leaning on him is a daily work.

Karin said...

Such a great job writing this post! It's so true, real, and you still ma naged to give hope.

Kim said...

and i would be one of those "well meaning" people. i never intended to make you feel SLAMMED or SLAPPED! when all a child does it talk about how wonderful his family is and constantly compares his family to yours and is obvious that his family is far surperior, how could one not get the impression that i got. i thought when i shared all the wonderful things he was saying about you all that maybe he had had some kind of break through or maybe he had not for some reason been able before to expressed his love to you. i thought i was being positive when sharing, i saw it as a good thing...something that would make you happy. i never would have shared it if i had any idea it made you feel slammed and slapped in the face. again, i apologize that i made you feel this way.


Shine Like Stars said...

Thanks for sharing your heart. Though our son is only 10 (not quite a teen), it's been less than a year since we brought him home and it's just not pretty right now. I empathize. And I pray daily that I don't lose heart.
Older adoption is rough and ugly and scary sometimes, but when redepemtion does happen, I think the transformation is even more glorious!

Adrienne said...

Like everyone said, thank you for writing this. I wish I had read it before our adoption. Our daughter turned 5 the day we landed in America. Her age has been her greatest special need.

I love your blog and your heart for the orphan. Hang in there with the teen treasure! Love and blessings.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for being open and honest. I love you and respect your initiative in response to God's initiative in your life. I see by your fruit that God is using you. You are so right that we should ask questions and turn to others who have been there. However, I would encourage families who read this blog, as my mother has stated before, to TURN. TO. GOD. The responsibility to which you have been assigned is not a light one. I love my mother because she loves Christ. I know that she DOES NOT take lightly the responsibility of raising children. The only one who has the power, the love, the will, the time, the grace to save families and guide them in righteousness is GOD. And when I say "God", I don't mean the distant, unpersonal, merely observing God. I'm talking about the One who wrote the Book on Love. The example of all fathers. The helper of the godly man. The teacher for dads. The only one who knows how to change hearts. Because, just as the verse which my mom posted clearly states, it is not a battle of mere flesh. It is a battle of the spirit and one of massive proportions. Don't buy the lie that if everyone in your family is happy, then it's okay. You couldn't be more wrong. God disciplines His children. Why? Because He loves them. As fathers discipline their children under the guidance of the Father, children will be offended and scared and confused. The only worthy goal that a father and husband can take on is to speak truth into his children's lives. Doctors, meds, psychs, other families don't save lost and broken children. God saves them. He has prepared the good works for us to walk in. Therefore, WALK IN THEM. TRUST THE LORD. He wrote the Book. He knows what it means. He knows how that child's life lines up with the truth. I firmly believe that God has used my mother and father to pull me to Himself. THAT is the job of the father and mother. To walk in the good works that God has prepared and make much of what He has given. Christ paid for you. Christ paid for your children. Does Christ not deserve the reward of His suffering. GIVE YOUR CHILDREN TO THE LORD!!!

Kuyler Johnson

Shawshee said...

Thank you for sharing. I have a heart to adopt older kids someday and it's helpful to hear the truth. I've been blessed to live at home while my parents have been adoptiong my four little siblings from China, for it's allowed me to see the reality of adoption. (No one likes to talk about what goes on behind closed doors) But when you hear the truth you can be better prepared. Because if the Lord says do it, you better do it! And despite all the challenges and struggles I've lived through, I still can't imagine not adopting kids myself someday. (-: It's worth it, if only to hear a once lifeless two year old say "Jesus nice." (-:

TanyaLea said...

Connie ~ WOW! This is SO well written and very powerful. Have you ever considered writing a book. God could really speak through you to reach others ...just like He is here on your blog!

I know I have not walked a mile in your shoes, as I have no experience with older child adoption. BUT, I cannot say enough about connecting with those who have "been there, done that" and have gone before you. Especially fellow Christians, who hopefully have been led by God themselves, and will share your perspective on a Biblical level as well. There were no adoption classes or books that prepared me more than reading blogs of those who have gone before me. My connections to fellow adoptive mamas in Bloggyville have been nothing short of a gift and blessing to me, and I will treasure the friendships and valuable advise, information, and "real life" I have gained through others experiences.

Keep on writing and pressing on and keeping it real. I appreciate you and your candid words more than you know... and even more that your focus continues to be on God and His redemptive plan. You are a GREAT example to us all!

love you, friend!


.:♥:. tyraelynn .:♥:. said...

I love your are so passionate and heartfelt. I'm glad that you are writing this because I believe too little people know. I was an older child when I was adopted, at 17, and so I understand your sons struggles but I also understand yours! Keep writing your heart and allowing ohers to learn about all sides of adoption!
Keep smiling!

Kimberlie said...

Our youngest son joined us at almost 7 years of age, so not as old as your son, but let me tell you, there were times last year that I felt like he'd taken me to h--l and back. Things are getting better but it's slow going. He still doesn't like me that much but he likes me more than he did last year. Our biggest need is for respite because we don't have a ton of financial resources to hire babysitters for regular time away. And yes, my boy is super well behaved and charming to others who think I am just being too hard on him because "he's such a sweet boy..." Yes he is. When he wants to be.

Thanks for your openness to sharing the hard stuff.

Wendy said...

Hello Connie, I was reading someone else's blog and it was suggested to go to your blog on this date. I loved the way you shared the perspective of older child adoption. Currently, I am doing research on adoption support resources for parents post-adoption. My reason for this is because I do not know if they exist. They did not exist when we adopted our daughter. I looked and really found nothing. We are doing well, praise the Lord. I feel bad that others do not have the professional support that should exist post-adoption. It is wonderful that as parents, we have eachother for support. Not sure what I would have done without that.
Thank you for putting into writing what many of us feel.

Jen said...

In fostering an older child for the past year, I can relate to so much of what you said. It was like you could peak into my home & see the reality of it all. Thank you for that! Thank's for the truth in which you shared! We have fostered for 9 years, yet never an older child. It is rewarding, yet a totally different story than having a little one. Best part is literally seeing the change, little by little, one day at a time in a way you don't see with an infant. Bless you & your beautiful heart for adoption! ~ jen

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