God Used Adoption to Save… All of Us

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A God moment between brothers. Photo by Ann Wang

 

Original publication in Inheritance Magazine, May 2017

https://www.inheritancemag.com/stories/god-used-adoption-to-save-all-of-us

WHAT HAVE I DONE? I quietly asked myself this countless times the first year with our adopted child. Bonding was a challenge.

When he desperately reached out to a strange man in the airport and I felt repeatedly rejected in this manner, I wondered, “What have I done?”

While grocery store shoppers threw me dirty looks as our adopted child screeched like fingernails on a chalkboard, because that’s how he got what he wanted at the orphanage, I thought, “What have I done?”

Of course, we had decided to adopt after prayer and thoughtful consideration. We knew this was the right choice for us. But our first year was certainly not easy. And being Luke’s primary caregiver all day, it felt like the burden fell wholly on me.

I felt like a bad mom to my 6-year-old biological son because so much of my attention was on my newly adopted 1-year-old. My inability to return to the relative peace we once knew left me constantly tired with a sense of hopelessness. And I’m an optimist.

We knew adoption might be challenging. But no amount of warning equaled the reality that slapped me in the face. Yet, admitting my struggles felt like defeat, so I unwittingly suffered in silence as I asked God if we had misread His intentions for us.

No amount of warning equaled the reality that slapped me in the face.

The only thing moving me forward was the reminder of how God brought us to our adopted son. Our story was my beacon of truth: Adopting Luke was absolutely what we were called to do.

Even before we held Luke in our arms, he saved us.

God Used Adoption to Save ... All of Us

During the pre-adoption process, we discovered that I had a potentially life-threatening illness that would have gone undetected because the test that would have revealed the disease isn’t routinely done until about age 60, which would have been too late. Our adopted-one-to-be saved my life, although at the time we had no idea if we would still be able to adopt.

As we worked through all the decisions regarding my sickness and whether or not to move forward with the adoption, fear crept in. All the what-ifs began piling up. We asked questions like: Would we or our extended family love and support our adopted child as much as his biological brother and cousins? What physical and emotional “baggage” do adopted children come with? These questions and more are still asked of me today by prospective adoptive parents.

Would we or our extended family love and support our adopted child as much as his biological brother and cousins?

Whether adopted or biological, children are unpredictable. And so are those who love them. Some biological siblings don’t get along; some friendships are stronger than blood. Perfectly healthy children get serious illnesses; sick kids become stronger than some typical children. And as our family struggles, we take it a day at a time, tackling each challenge as it comes.

Allowing God into our fears helped us to see that it wasn’t simply about our comfort or our ideas about making a family. It was about living out God’s truths, loving beyond ourselves, and extending reconciliation in a practical way. For us, that meant adoption.

Our journey started off hopeful but quickly took several unexpected dips. We received hurtful backlash from extended family members who did not agree with adoption. We even thought about our willingness to end relationships with those who could not accept our adopted child into the family. We prayed all the more, asking God to give us wisdom about how to respond lovingly.

Various reasons to not adopt were thrown at us. “They’ll leave you to go to their [biological] family.” Or, “I heard of an adopted child who killed their parents.” It took God’s peace to know we were doing the right thing. Thankfully, immediately after we brought our child home, the naysayers became quite fond of our new addition and extended to him the rightful attention given to any new member of the family. We could not have predicted this reaction.

Finally, my required medical exam revealed an autoimmune disease that would not only postpone the adoption process, but threatened to demolish our desire to adopt altogether. Only healthy adults were allowed to adopt, understandably, for the sake of the child. I became frustrated; if this was our calling, why was it so hard?

If this was our calling, why was it so hard?

After seven months of testing and trying varying prescriptions that would not only prolong my life but save it, we were given the OK to proceed with adoption. I was expected to live long enough to watch my children enter adulthood.

During our pause from adoption papers and social workers, not only were we worried about my health, but we wrestled with two conflicting decisions. Did God call us to adopt just so I could catch and stop this disease in its tracks, but not follow through with the adoption? Or were we still supposed to adopt a child and bring him or her into this unknown future with a mom whose health could start going downhill anytime, if the medication stopped working? These questions kept us on our knees in prayer, asking for the next right steps.

 Did God call us to adopt just so I could catch and stop this disease in its tracks, but not follow through with the adoption?

My husband started to shy away from the idea of adoption. He was trying to help us be at peace with being a family of three. To me, this felt like the loss of our dream family of four. Still, as the possibility of “just three” tearfully sank in, I learned to be content, appreciating anew the child we already had.

After about a month of further prayer, listening to wise counsel, and through our reading of Scripture, we equally sensed God’s pleasure with adoption and a resounding “yes” for us to move forward.

In the process of adopting Luke, my U.S. citizenship was made official (another scary bump that was fixed on our road to adoption), our extended family grew to embrace more than blood, and my “silent” disease was found, which gave me the gift of “time” to not only appreciate the son we already had, but eagerly look forward to the one to come.

God Used Adoption to Save ... All of Us

It wasn’t long after we restarted the process that we were faced with yet another decision about our family. There was an adorable boy waiting to be adopted, aging in the system due to an undesirable family medical history. Even though the child was a typical child, it was possible that his condition might change in the future. Caring for a special needs child was a task beyond my ability. Prayer was again necessary to clear our minds of our wants and fears, and to focus on what was to be our future.

God brought clarity on the last night to make a decision. My husband and I decided to discuss our thoughts after we took time on our own to fast, pray, and read Scripture for confirmation of our next steps. We were relieved to come to the same solid conclusion. Adoption was a good choice for us.

Just like this little boy’s medical future, my own medical condition moving forward was a mystery. We didn’t know what was ahead, but we felt assured that God had our backs. And with His Holy Spirit’s help, we would take this journey one situation at a time, embraced by grace and other undeserved bonuses along the way. In unexpected ways, God answered our cries.

We didn’t know what was ahead, but we felt assured that God had our backs.

Our story takes place between the hopes for a happy home and the struggles that got us there. The initial process was a glimpse into and a preparation for what would lie ahead. Yes, even good things are hard. They take twists and turns away from and around our best plans. This taught us to rely on God and hold loosely to what we believe is the better way. We are being refined and healed continually by this process.

Nearly 10 years after bringing Luke home, he was baptized because, in his words, “I want this and I’m ready.”

He’s the source of a lot of joy and a lot of challenges — just like any child — biological or adopted. And his adoption is a reminder of God’s mercy, like catching a potential deadly disease early. It’s also a reminder of countless biblical truths, especially our adoption into the family of God.

Surprises still lie ahead. We expect them and are confident we will get help as they come. But for us, adoption has molded us, healed us, and is continually making us whole each and every day.

The Blood Test Results Are In…

Yippee for great results! Photo credit www.ahead.ie
Yippee for great results! Photo credit ahead.ie

The findings floored my doctor! YEA! (And my doctor is not easily impressed.)

I was commended for my hard work; the difference was significant. Two of the three markers of concern regarding my liver disease include my AST and ALT levels – those were within normal for the first time in as long as I can remember! It went from hovering above 32 and 42 respectively to 28 on both (normal is below 30). My third marker (Alkaline Phosphatase) is still above average, but also down (from 172 to 132, normal is below 115); so I’m well on my way.

Other areas also showed signs of a dramatic shift toward a healthier body. Four months ago, my triglycerides (a kind of fat) were above the normal range at 156 (normal being below 150). After the detox, it went way down to 61 — almost a 100 point drop! My cholesterol (non HDL – the bad stuff) went from 118 to 68.

The bottom line: my diet most definitely heals or harms my liver and my entire body, depending on what I choose to put in it. So I must continue to make the effort to eat whole foods. When I do, my taste buds change to support my new habits (e.g. now I crave nuts instead of cookies.) My brain tells me that I still want that piece of candy or some potato chips on occasion… and I have given-in after the detox; but to my surprise, it didn’t taste as delicious as I remembered. This shows me that I can do without some of my psychological additions to junk!

The  challenge will be to keep it up, to continue the reprogramming of my head. My plan moving forward includes giving myself treats a couple times a week (like cheese… a great weakness and I’m sad to say, it still tastes good to me!) And I will continue to do my best to avoid foods that inflame my system (mostly gluten, dairy, and added sugar.) I have to remind myself constantly and have others support me in this: whatever I can do to help lessen the negative effects of my disease and general poor health, these things are worth keeping up. It’s worth it to have energy and feel good all day.

With my one body, my one life, I am choosing to treat what I have been given with care. This is a way to worship and honor the God who created me. This is a way to stay around longer, to be at my best for the ones I love and to live out what I was put on this earth to be.

An Abyss of Grief: Tragedy in Connecticut and Mourning Together

Our hearts, as a nation in mourning, sank to new depths today. When innocent children and adults are sacrificed to the ills of our world, I’m sickened and saddened to an unfathomable degree.

Even in an idylic place, as Newton has been described, even in this haven, a town is plunged into mourning… and we grieve with them.

I can’t help but pause.

Pause and ask questions. Why did this happen? Who would do this? How did people miss how dangerous this person was? Is it possible to prevent a disturbed person from doing this again? How? Where is it safe?…

Pause and agree with texts and posts about hugging our kids a little more often, a little longer. Saying “I love you” often.

Pause and appreciate what (and who) we have in our lives, instead of complaining about what (and who) we don’t have.

Pause and prioritize. What really matters here? Did I have to get that upset over the bakery items I bought, left, and can’t go back for?

Pause and grieve with families like our own, who were going about their usual day when for them, the unimaginable happened. We grieve because we connect with humanity, knowing it can happen to any of us and sorry it had to happen to anyone at all.

Pause and pray. This is not a ritual. It’s recognizing that we are small and God is big enough to care for our pains. And God is great enough to bring light into a horrid mess, that is us.

In the weeks to come, many will pause to find answers and a truer picture of the details will emerge. To pause for personal reflection could also be a benefit.

Wise gun control laws are surely one part of the solution. But there’s another part, perhaps an even bigger part… our personal responsibility, not just on how guns are handled but how our relationships are handled.

Are we loving those who are close to us, knowing they are with us for a time and in our care, on loan from God? Are we loving the community around us — the people who happen into our lives, near and far — who because of our kindness can change the trajectory of their lives for the better.

Because grieving comes in waves, may we take the crests of our sadness and mold them into good.

And may the good people in and around Sandy Hook, and those however connected to them, know God’s peace in a time that is humanly impossible to bear.