Verse of the Day

Saturday, May 1, 2010

How Adoption Has Changed Me

The last year has been a whirlwind of anxiety, anticipation, excitement, confusion, and joy--- sometimes all of these emotions occurring in the same hour-- as our family welcomed it's newest members. Our family grew from a manageable 6 members, to an often insane 9. We have 4 adult children from my husband's first marriage (not living with us), 3 home-grown kids of our own (ages 15, 13, and 11)... and we have 4 heaven-sent adopted kids (ages 6, 7, 8. and 8). To say that adoption has changed our family is an understatement. And having been through it twice, well, the lessons are always new and changing. A person really can't expect to stay the same after experiencing such emotional, physical, and spiritual peaks and valleys. Life is just not the same. Adoption refines. Adoption humbles. Adoption blesses. Adoption strengthens.  And I've come to agree with the adage:  sanity is overrated!

Adoption Broke My Heart

Adoption has refined me in countless ways. I have long prayed for the Lord to break my heart for the things that break His heart. Yet, despite the years of praying this, the Lord showed me I still had a great deal of breaking required to make my heart pliable enough to be fully His.  We've adopted before, so I unwittingly assumed that I was pretty broken.  After all, I was broken enough to adopt!  Additionally, I've traveled to impoverished Mexico, and I've seen the deplorable poverty of Guatemala.  Yet, my heart had still not softened to where it needed to be.

Ethiopia broke my heart. It literally smashed it into pieces. I've heard before that traveling to Africa will forever change you; this is a truth that I can't explain without tears coming to my eyes. Seeing the young rural Lalibela children, walking on emaciated legs, carrying heavy loads of firewood... and not just one or two children... but child, after child, after child, working in the fields all day long... how can you not be changed?  These kids are totally alone.  Are they hungry?  Are they thirsty?  Where is their mother?  How does Jesus feel when He sees this little one out, alone on dusty country roads--- walking all day with no shoes, no food, little water--- and unprotected from any person or animal with harmful intent? But it wasn't just the children.  Seeing feeble, lifeless widows begging for money or food on the streets... how does the Lord feel about her despair? Seeing tear-stained, fly-filled faces of abandoned little ones traipsing around Addis Ababa... hoping for a handout of money or food. How does Jesus feel seeing all of this pain?

I know a little of how He must feel. Angst. Pain that goes far beyond a momentary wince. It's that sadness of soul you feel--- you know the kind--- it feels like you're driving in a car and going over a big dip in the road. But it's not in your stomach. It's your heart. It's an unsettling sensation. The Spirit has gripped your heart. The poor---their lack, their pain, their hunger grips you, even if just for a moment. How must the Lord feel as He sees the entire world's pain all at once? That kind of pain we are simply unable to understand. But I am thankful to be able to experience His pain, if just for a moment. Yet, our hearts seem to cry out: life seems so unfair! Why God?  Why do You allow this?

God never promised fairness. No two people are treated the same by our Heavenly Father. He is the one who chooses where we were born and to whom. He chooses the country we claim as our home; He chooses our talents, gifts, and tendencies. Some are rich, some are poor. Some are strong and resilient, some are wavering and easy to shatter. But God does promise justice. He will judge everyone in this world based on his or her relationship to His son. He will judge believers on how they loved and served people. (See Matthew 25:31-46) While we are on His earth, we are to seek and promote justice and mercy. We are to bring what we might consider "fairness" to a people or to a situation. We are literally the Lord's hands and feet.  God uses pain for a purpose.  We are to share in His suffering, the suffering we see all around the world.  We are here to help alleviate someone else's pain.  

When I saw the people of Ethiopia, I wanted passionately to make a difference for someone... anyone. We were blessed with a couple of wonderful opportunities to help people in a very practical way. Yet, being able to help a couple of people just falls so flat. It's just not enough. I have to continue reminding myself that the world can be changed, but it will happen one life at a time. I can't save the world, and it's not my job to try to save everyone. I just want to do what God created me to do and to help everyone He's given me to help. I now pray for opportunities to serve Him and opportunities to "be" Him. My outreach--- my territory-- needs to be enlarged. I need Him to show me how to gather more people to help.  I have to let the pain He allowed me to experience turn into action, not passive resignation.  Jesus didn't frustratingly throw up His hands and give up because the world's pain and the misery was too great.  He doesn't want us to give up either.  

Adoption Humbled Me

The experience that is Ethiopia made me more determined and more inspired to find creative ways to bring assistance and comfort to the needy. Yes, it sounds great to start an Orphan Ministry at your church--- and I do hope to do that-- but why not examine my own house first? What can we do now?  I had to start looking at my cultural values and my own way of processing life. The Lord used Ethiopia to shine a little light on areas of pride and idolatry in my life. Very humbling. Little things like the type of face cream I used became big heart issues for me. I could no longer justify spending a hefty sum on a beautiful container of wrinkle cream. Buying another book became a heart issue for me: why buy it now with the intention of reading it in a few weeks or months when a little kid needs to eat now? I could no longer justify buying a pair of shoes... just to have a newer pair of shoes. Perhaps I just felt that I "deserved" such niceties. After all, I am such a "good" little Christian homeschooling mommy... don't I deserve something just for me? Something to make me look pretty or feel good? Hmmmm. Sounds like a little pride and vanity to me... now.  

Now I can see how much more I can give to others if I just deny myself little things. The little things add up to a lot of money when those little things are cut by an entire family. And of course the funny thing is it doesn't feel like denial; it feels like finally understanding that I'm just not that special of a person that I should "require" such things. I'd rather give a little extra money to World Vision, AHope, or YWAM's Orphan Adoption Ministry so that they can buy a widow some shoes or so they can buy food for a starving child.  

Adoption Challenged Attitudes towards Food

Adoption has also changed my attitude towards food. I've lost 15 pounds. I realized the number of times I was eating when I wasn't really that hungry. Seeing starving people helps you to realize the ridiculousness of eating for enjoyment or entertainment. Americans are so spoiled.  We don't often contemplate what is going on outside of our own families.  We spend large sums of our money in huge warehouse stores, storing up food for months.  We eat to celebrate, we eat when we are sad, we eat because we're bored.  How many of us eat simply to live?  In many parts of the world, people live on less than two dollars and day.  One little town in Ethiopia doesn't even have a local store to purchase formula for malnourished, abandoned babies ... food and clean water are not taken for grated.  People all over Africa and other parts of the world starve to death on a daily basis.  And we remain blissfully unaware.  We'd rather pretend we didn't know about how much of the world lives; we are too comfortable.  Now don't get me wrong:   food is still enjoyable to me --- and I do love my coffee--- it's just that I don't feel like I have to fill myself with it anymore.  And if I can buy food cheaper, so that I can send more money to relief organizations, I'm going to do it.  Once you see a starving child, you figure out ways to give more.   

Adoption Changed the Way I Managed my Household

Because we do have many more at our table, menu planning, laundry, and house cleaning are big issues.  Practically speaking, the biggest differences to my day are cooking and cleaning. Cooking for 7 children, three times a day is time-consuming.  And making sure I have Ethiopian food on occasion adds to the complexity of the menu.  Yet, food preparation has never been that daunting for me.  I really don't mind it.  And even the laundry doesn't seem to be that much more difficult to complete. The house, however, is just always a mess. THAT drives me crazy! The messes that kids can make are simply mind-boggling.  The new kids throw everything on the floor... or hide little items behind or under furniture.  They like to "store" things for later use; it helps them feel secure.  Yet, I know, this too, shall get easier. It's all about training, training, training. It just can't be done overnight.  (We are trying some chore/behavior charts with a reward system; I'll let you know how it pans out.)

The other area that is very challenging is school. Ah, another area of pride for me. I was so proud of the fact that I could home school my children in a "classical Christian" sort of way. I spent lots of money on books, supplies, etc.... only to suddenly realize that this was absolutely not going to work with any of the adopted children.  Have you ever realized how many of our phonics materials use items only known to our culture?  I had to look for the very basic of basic materials for all four adopted kids; I also had to radically adjust my expectations regarding performance and progress.  These kids are going to be years behind.  There simply is no way of getting around that.  I had to accept that--- deep within my being-- that regardless of their aptitude or intelligence, these were my children.  I needed to love them and accept them as they are, not as I wished them to be.  Any one of my "old original" children could have had any number of learning or behavioral issues.  Would I have treated them any differently?  Would I have loved them any less?  No.  Each child placed in our home, whether by being born into the family or adopted, is chosen by the Lord himself to be in this family.  I just love them all.  I love them as they are today, not what they will be in the future.

Adoption Blessed Me

Speaking of love, another almost inexpressible way adoption has changed me is that I really didn't realize that it was such a tremendous spiritual blessing.  My husband likes to say that when we started out in the adoption arena, we naively thought we were doing something for God.  After all, we were responding to His leading.  Yet, as we look back on the adoption of Miss B., Mr. B., Miss G., and Mr. A., there is no doubt in my mind that the Lord simply used them to bless us.  I get to experience the joy the Lord must feel as believers become one of His adopted sons or daughters.  The joy I feel in my heart when I see little Miss B. jumping up and down after winning a soccer game... it's of the Lord.  The joy I feel when Miss G. sleepily saunters down the hall in the early morning--- and gives me the sweetest hug and smile there ever... it's of the Lord.  These kids simply overflow with love, joy, and excitement for living.  It's contagious!  To think that by being disobedient to the leading adopt could have resulted in my missing all of this?  I am just so grateful and joy-filled, even on the hard days.  I am blessed.

Adoption Strengthened Me

Adoption has filled my heart with joy, and strengthened my walk with the Lord.  Because adoption also broke us financially, we have had to rely more fully on the Lord to provide for our daily needs. We have had to forgo purchasing a house; we have had to forgo vacations and lots of "nice" little things American families like to do.  We don't eat out; we don't go to many movies.  We just don't have the extra cash.  But all I have to do is look at these kids... I wouldn't trade them for anything money could buy.  I'd rather know that I was instrumental in saving their lives as opposed to saving for a retirement.  Yet, we have often gotten challenged on these very points.  Are we reckless for not saving for our futures?  Are we selfish because we don't put away ten of thousands for our children's college funds?

First and foremost for us, the Lord directed us to adopt.  If we had not been obedient, we would have committed a blatant and calculated sin.  Second, additional answers come from Scripture.  We are to be diligent, to work hard, and plan as much as we can.  The Lord knows we need food and clothing, but we are not to obsess over acquiring them or hoarding them.  Additionally, we are not to store up treasure on earth.  The lust for earthly treasure has the ability to become more important than the Lord.   It can also vanish in a moment.

The definition of "treasure" varies from person to person.  For some, it's a house.  For others, it's a meaty retirement fund or investment portfolio.  But the Word says we are to store up treasure in heaven by taking care of people in need and ministering to Him.  The Lord did not own home, as He had "no place to rest his head." (Now I'm not against home ownership, but I've had to realize that we may never own a home.  That may not be in His will for us, I don't know.) Yet, it doesn't make sense if I scrimp and save for a house, or hoard food, or kill myself pouring money into college funds if my neighbor is dying today.  That is just not compassionate.  It's not loving our neighbors as ourselves.  It's okay to provide for our families and do it well; we just can't forget about ministering to the least of these--- the orphans and the widows in the world.  Our world--- our culture--- our families need love, compassion, and moderation in all things.

Financial opposition has brought into focus the need for total dependence on the Lord.  Whatever He wills is right and true for us.  As long as we stay focused on being in the Word, listening and obeying His leading we will enjoy great blessings and treasure.  He becomes our strength, day by day.

Adoption Inspires Me

Finally, adoption inspires me.  Experiencing such awesome joy in my very own family inspires me to do more and greater things for the Lord.  And it's not out of duty or obligation.  It's out of the sweet love and gratitude I have for my Savior.  He saved me from hell, from a life with no purpose or meaning.  I have a burning passion to serve Him because He first loved me.

Adoption has prompted me to think big:  what can I do as part of a group to help save lives on a global level?  How can I help someone enough so that they lift up their hands and praise the Lord that He met their needs?

My big prayer now is finding others who would like to join with me in ministering to orphans and providing support for the adoption community.  I pray that opportunity presents itself at our new church home.  Time will tell.

Sanity is Overrated

7 kids.  2 dogs.  2 cats.  1 stinky hamster.  18 or so loads of laundry a week.  Endless cycles of loading and unloading the dishwasher.  5 different grades in home school.  Piles of smelly, mismatched soccer socks.  Sigh.  Life is very busy and very overwhelming sometimes.  Yet, the saying is true:  sanity is overrated.  I'd much rather run my fool head off loving on my kids and teaching them the Word of God on a daily basis that have a clean, tidy, predictably comfortable life.  Living life for the Lord can mean living on the edge.  But trust me, it's a great place to be!   Our live belongs to the Lord; we find our greatest joy when we full serve Him and do what He wills.

Adoption will change your forever.  If you have already walked down this road, you know it to be true.  If you haven't and feel the tug on your heart, follow what the Lord tells you to do.  It's so worth it!


  1. Kristin, I got tears in my eyes reading your blog. I just got back last night from a trip with World vision to the Dominican Republic/Santo Domingo and I am overwhelmed by what I saw. I got to meet my sponsored girl, who lives in a shack and to see her life and the life of others in the barrios; but to also experience their love and thankfulness to God. It was humbling.

  2. Thank you for this wonderful post. You have spoken so much truth!!

  3. Laura,

    Isn't World Vision amazing? We have never visited any of our sponsored children, but it is such a privilege to help them. I also like that they help kids stay with their families; that is so positive.

    Missions trips change you forever, huh?

    Blessings to you, Laura!

  4. Wow! Love this post. Beautifully written and straight from the heart. Thank you.