Yesterday Justin and I went to the Tapestry Adoption Conference at Irving Bible Church. This conference is a free event put on by the ministry of IBC and we are overwhelmed with gratitude for the opportunity to be around so many adoptive parents and hear their perspective.
The thing that we loved about Tapestry is that they boldly addressed the questions and concerns that are not always PC to address. And we loved that – because we were just able to sit and soak in the wisdom of people in the trenches – people who are living life, in their homes, supporting and learning from the orphan. And what we learned doesn’t just apply to orphancare – it applies to life and parenting and our jobs and our callings.
I have pages of notes – but here are a few thoughts from the conference that I wanted to share:
About dealing with the grief your child will face:
- In the valley of grief, parents and children connect. The tough things you face together will bond you together. Don’t be afraid of this process – this process is the process by which you will become a family.
- Any present day loss triggers early loss – and both are grieved simultaneously. So be aware that you are dealing with deep issues sometimes without realizing it. Keep this in context when dealing with what you perceive as an overreaction.
- Be careful not to assign motive to a child’s behavior. It is often easy to think “They know exactly what they are doing” or “They are pushing my buttons on purpose.” That is not always true. Sometimes acting out is simply a response to unfamiliar circumstances and you need to take it at face value – this will help you calmly deal with it.
- In a home, communication is key. Success in a home (with bio kids and adopted kids) can be defined as creating a safe place where any emotion, any question, any confusion can be lovingly expressed and dealt with.
- Out of deep hurt, and out of the mercy of Christ only available in that place, we become wounded healers. There is purpose in deep pain because we learn how to help others. Remember this for your child. They will in time, and with an understanding of the mercy of Christ, be stronger because of the hurt they have faced.
- Communicate realistically with biological children (when possible) the extra time potentially needed by the new adopted sibling. Help them mourn the loss of time and attention, and allow them the feelings of hurt that accompany the new family structure. Make the home a safe place for them to express those things as well. In time, they will understand and the bonding will occur.
- Realize that bonding, and healing, and family, takes time. Keep expectations under control. If you are able to keep your expectations under control, you will be more likely to keep reactions under control.
About the realities of transracial adoption:
- Bathe this issue in prayer. Prayer for friends, help, support, unity in your home. Realize that God started this and God formed your family and He has a plan for your success.
- Realize that ethnicity does matter and will need to be dealt with wisely and prayerfully. We do not, although we would want to, live in a colorblind world. So prepare yourself and your child to face it with grace.
- Subordinate the issue of diversity to the kingdom. Does not dissolve the reality of ethnical differences, but puts it in its proper place. We are commanded to care for the orphan. Does being a different race matter? Yes. Will there be struggle associated with that difference? Yes. But subjugate that issue to the Kingdom mandate to care for the orphan and to raise our children with a foundation of faith. Our Kingdom alliance, as fellow Believers in Christ, will overwhelm our differences. Our Kingdom mandate, in this issue as in every other issue in the life of a Believer, takes precedence.
- We are given as gifts to one another to share real mutual relationships. Do not seek “diverse” friends. Seek people with the goal being giving ourselves to one another. If someone isn’t important to you before you adopt, why are they suddenly important to you after you adopt? Your child will see that – and will recognize the hypocrisy. Beware of using people – even for your “child’s benefit.” Seek friendships with people who are different because YOU need them in your life. Have them in your home – make them a meal. Begin real relationships with people. Invest in them not because they bring diversity, but because they are valuable and there are things we can learn from each other and because we are commanded to live in community. Heaven will be a beautiful rainbow of every tribe, tongue and skin color praising the King (so grateful for that truth) and our communities need to reflect that honestly.
- Every child, regardless of race, will feel out of place in your home at first. So talk about it. Make home the safe place they can acknowledge that they feel different without any fear of recrimination. Commit to love and give of yourself without expectation of return. Pursue that child with love. Bonding will follow.
- Often biological children will pursue a parent’s love. Many adopted children do not do this because of early loss. So it is the parent’s job to put aside our need to receive affection and pursue in love a relationship with adopted children. Do not let the child’s behavior dictate our emotional response to any child (bio or adopted). We love – period. We love because we first were loved (by Jesus – not our child). So we love. Subjugate our need to be loved back by the child and remember the love of our Father. The love of the child will come in time, but we cannot let that time affect our pursuit of the child. We love because we were loved.
- If people stare/comment on your family – how do you respond? “Every moment is not a Rosa Parks moment – learn to deal with it.” Be graceful, kind, and discerning. Realize it will happen – comments will be made (some of them terrible). Protect your child where possible with strangers. With family – educate where you can (with close family/friends) and bring them along with you on your journey slowly. Realize you live in this world – you are reading books and seeking others like yourselves. They are not. Give them grace and time to catch up – it is likely they will understand in time.
- Discussions of ethnicity often revolve around power, and for some, there is a perceived loss of power when taken out of their background. Again, subjugate that to the Kingdom. We are commanded to care for those that are not being cared for by anyone else and to raise them into the Kingdom.
- We are raising kids into a Kingdom, not a race. We are living for what’s to come. Remember that when facing hurts – keep an eternal perspective. Not everyone will understand (much like faith) – but it does not make it any less true.
One of the things I loved is how adoptive parent after adoptive parent talked about how much better they parent their biological kids now that they have learned to parent their adopted kids differently. It makes us more intentional and deliberate as parents. Because each child is wounded (in a fallen world, how can they not be?) and each child deserves our best as parents. So much of what we learned yesterday I saw through the filter of not only the future kids we so long to bring home, but I saw Grace’s face, and so much of this applied to her as well. And sweet Bekah’s. I really loved it. And I loved being around all of the families. We ate lunch with two couples who foster infants in their home. The love they show for these children and then the strength required in relinquishing them afterwards was inspiring.
This theme – subjugation to the Kingdom – kept coming up over and over. Subjugation means to bring under control or to conquer. So we have to subjugate ourselves, our expectations, other’s expectations, our fears, other’s comments, our need for approval, and our need for control to the Kingdom and to the Lord. Isn’t that difficult? Doesn’t that sometimes make you want to cuss? I think that is why I am drawn to adoptive parents and mature Believers. They have learned to do this. They get the proper order of things. It is God first – His plan, His glory, His agenda, His kingdom. After that comes our needs and desires.
I think that is why the Lord is allowing this wait. The reality of our situation has not changed and it is not realistic for us to begin the adoption journey quite yet. And that is hard to wrap my mind around sometimes. But when I look at it in this context, that I am even having to keep my desire to adopt under control and having to subjugate that to the reality that the Lord has not yet opened the door, it feels like preparation. I want to learn this and want to be faithful – because adoption is all about trusting God. With the timing, with the child, with the funding, with the process. So this wait is even part of the process for us – I’m sure.
So we are grateful. I know many of you are with us, waiting on the Lord in this area. I pray this blesses you and that you also will be encouraged in your calling to care for these children who Jesus loves. The conference took the pressure off of us – it is the Lord who builds our families – and He is faithful. He is good. And He will do what He has promised to do. And after this weekend, we feel more equipped and more committed to begin when the Lord opens a door. And we feel more equipped to parent our sweet girls with grace and the love they deserve. He is simply good.