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.

God Gives the Goods, Youth Renewed

Photo courtesy of images online
Photo courtesy of images online

Praise the Lord… who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. -Psalm 103:5, NIV

As I watch my 6-year old hop circles around me (because walking is “too boring”), I’m reminded of an idea I often hear — the desire to bottle a child’s energy and sell it for a fortune.

My renewed energy is like a drop from that bottle. Except, it is not harnessed from a child, it is a gift from God. Nature is from God; so when it comes to veggies (whole and simple foods),  I eat as Daniel in the Old Testament ate, and my body responds favorably, as it is meant to function and thrive.

In the Bible (Daniel 1:12-16), Daniel and his buddies are given “royal food” for their optimal health. But Daniel challenges the thoughts of the time and responds, “‘Please test your servants for ten days (sound familiar? 10-day-detox!): Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food’… At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food.”

The “royal food” of our day is the stuff of rich nations: convenient, abundant, fatty and preservative-filled to last longer. What seems “good” to us is in many ways, a bad habit that has forced our taste buds to change. I am right in there with everyone who suffers from this “royal food” habit. So the psychological switch to alter what I’ve known all my life is daunting… but ultimately doable.

I took my blood test on Friday and will share my results when I receive them at the end of the month. So for now, after the official detox and roughly 17 days on my new meal plan, I take the next step… in the direction of wholesome and sustainable eating habits. Even if my blood result is not as impressive as I hoped (maybe in time it gets better?), this change in lifestyle is ultimately good. But I have a sneaky suspicion my results will speak loudly for itself; and like in Daniel’s time, I will be and look healthier than when I ate the “royal food.”

12 Days of Christmas Ornaments: A Tradition of Memories — Day 12

IMG_3830On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me – 12 Hopes and Dreams!

11 friends and family, 10 gifts from giving, 9 wooden beauties, 8 family trips, 7 Bruins beating Trojans (38-28!), 6 Asian Orbs, 5 manger scenes! 4 major awards, 3 dancing pigs, 2 handmade bells, and a portrait to put on the tree.

It’s the day before Christmas and for me, this can be either a magical time or a mad rush to finalize the securing of gifts. Sometimes it’s both. But my longing is for the former.

Yes, this can be even a “magical” or supernatural time for adults as well as kids. When our perspective of the special day ahead is aligned to the true meaning, the wonder is there.

I’m reminded of a song I always hear on the radio during the seasons; one of the verses includes this line, “This is my grown up Christmas list…”

As a young child, you may deeply hope for candy. But as you grow, the sophistication of dreams grows along with you. Sometimes that wish grows a little faster than one’s maturity can take (this year my 5-year-old asked Santa for an “ifone” — I don’t think so!)

But if I do my job as a thoughtful parent, I can plant seeds of hope and truth, continuing to nourish it while asking God to grow it up in a healthy manner. I try to remind my kids and myself (over and over) what is really important in this world (things that last: who we become and how we get there, people and how we treat them, God….)

To drive this point home a bit deeper for our family, last year I planted another little seed that has the potential to sprout goodness. We all wrote our hopes and wishes on a gift tag and hung them on the tree as ornaments. Of course, I gave some suggestions to think beyond the tangible. And even my 4-year-old at the time got it or at least, is slowly getting it (see pictured ornament). He had me write about giving food to hungry people. And to make his wish come true, we did just that through the year.

Of course, this takes some effort, but not much. And it’s worth it! Believe me, it’s not just for the kids; I, too, am reminded of the desires God wants us to have, the prayerful hopes and wishes that bring life. In fact, this season is all about life… of a baby who came into this world to give us the ultimate life.

So let us remember through our ornaments, among so many other things, all that makes this life worth living.

Merry Christmas to you all in my cyber world. And Happy Birthday, Jesus!

12 Days of Christmas Ornaments: A Tradition of Memories — Day 8

IMG_3854On the eighth day of Christmas my true love gave to me –

8 family trips

7 Bruins beating Trojans (38-28!), 6 Asian Orbs, 5 manger scenes! 4 major awards, 3 dancing pigs, 2 handmade bells, and a portrait to put on the tree.

Seven years ago, our family visited the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. When I was 10, all I wanted to be was an astronaut, so the visit was truly thrilling for me, especially. So to remember our trip, I was so pleased to have found an ornament to help us relive our experience. Every time I bring out our golden space shuttle ornament, memories about a family trip and a youthful dream reemerge.

Though our son remembers one thing about that vacation (the Mickey pool on the Disney Cruise), I recall several more. At the space center I remember seeing the space suits, the mission control room, the size of the rocket boosters, and the shuttle mover over gravel. It was all awesome!IMG_4025

Yesterday I was a chaperone on my 5th grader’s field trip to the California ScienCenter, the new home of the retired space shuttle Endeavour. Again, to see the shuttle up close was amazing and the 3D IMAX movie, breathtaking and humbling. Our trip yesterday, our trip to Florida, and a little girl’s dream are all wrapped up in my tiny fragile ornament. It represents to me: God giving man the  ability to reach great heights, figuratively and literally!

On the flip side there’s God’s natural wonders, supernatural “great heights,” if you will. This last summer we visited Yellowstone, the first National Park in our country. There, we saw another kind of amazing. So what did I do? Well, I bought a bison ornament, naturally, since we saw about 100 of them.

Again, it’s my way of assuring that we remember the great moments in our lives, each time we bring it out in December.

On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me – visit here tomorrow to see.

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.

Writing Journal: Rejected Rhino

Recently, my first short story submission was rejected from a children’s magazine. I won’t say which one, but it’s very well-known and rhymes with “this bites.”

Honestly, I’m not bitter. I knew going in that I would have to send in 100+ submissions before getting my first acceptance; so I have at least 99 more to go. Still, this rejection stings. And I’m sure every single one thereafter will also.

Everyone gets rejected: from a choice college, a job, a boyfriend/girlfriend, a loan… Unfortunately, I’ve entered and love a field where rejection is the norm. I am (or trying to be) a fiction writer for children. And as such a writer who is finally trying to get published, I must psychologically evolve into a rhino, thick-skinned and always moving forward.

Though I’ve written for newspapers, I feel like I’m learning to write all over again. The children’s book writing world and the business around it has its own unique challenges. And I am learning.

So as I prepare to send my work to agents, I ready my rhino dermis and resolve. Right now, I am a children’s writing nobody and maybe always will be. The glimmer of hope is in knowing that other writers believe in me and in what I’ve written so far. And maybe one day, just the right acquiring editor will also believe in the works I produce.

In the mean time, I try to remember why I write: because God gave me this passion, it glorifies Him when I do it, it feeds my soul because that’s how I was made, and the stories that bubble within are worth sharing.

So bring on the rejections. It’s part of the life I’ve chosen to embrace. I consider it a privilege to enter the arena with masters who have gone before me, who were rejected more times than they can count (J.R.R. Tolkien, J.K. Rowling, Herman Melville, George Orwell, Judy Blume, Beatrix Potter, Madeline L’Engle, Dr. Seuss…) They continue, if still alive, their rhino-like efforts to keep doing what they are good at and love and so will I.