Adoption Update – finally.
I have been thinking for awhile of posting an update on Joseph. As the picture of him sitting on the couch came up in my Facebook memories, I felt like it was time.
As always, I want to be aware of the honor that is owed to Joseph and to his story. I want to use wisdom in what I tell about him. At the same time, I know there are children all over the world waiting and yearning for a family and a home. If a little of our story could move others to make a place in their lives for another child, then it’s just another redeeming chapter in his story.
This has been one hell of a year. I will say that there were times when I was not confident we would make it and not sure I wanted to. It’s easy to think you are prepared for what it will be like for a child to adjust to a new culture, language, food, people, school, climate, city…every. single. thing. But it is just not possible. We were very educated on connection, attachment, and trauma. We had some really brave adoptive families who were willing to be honest with us about their experiences. (Did you know there is such a thing as “orphanage wild syndrome” – me neither.) I KNOW we would not have made it home if I had not been prepared for some of our experience while in China. But others can only prepare you from their experience with their particular child. You do not know what your child will be like. And of course, you want to hope for the best.
Adoption is hard. It’s hard on kids and families. In some ways, it is like grief. It comes about only because of deep loss, and it brings with it that unexplainable change from which you never “recover.” We have experienced PTSD and complete exhaustion. We have friends we have not seen in months. We have given up parts of ourselves that we did not even know were optional. All parents make sacrifices, and many have made a great more than we will ever experience. But suffering should never be placed on a scale – as if when the good outweighs the bad you should feel some sense of gratitude for the horror of suffering. We live in a world that is broken by sin and it creates situations that can only be experienced with deep, deep lament. Stuff down the trauma all you want but it DOES NOT GO AWAY. The body remembers what the mind so badly wants to forget.
Orphans are a part of our world and we are all called to engage with the suffering of others. This doesn’t mean that I think everyone should head on out and adopt themselves a kid even though it’s kind of in vogue these days. But, there are ways to help and so, so many of you have carried us in prayer and provided the funds to bring Joseph home. You are JUST as vital to this process as the parents on the front lines. We thank you. I have this stack of blank thank you cards that I have had every intention of writing and sending. Thank you’s for the food, the clothes, the bed and the bedding, the map, the toys, the money, the gift cards, the time when you were the only one brave enough to be around us. Maybe someday I will have the energy, but please know that we are grateful.
Joseph. I feel like he is a full sentence all on his own. He is an absolutely fascinating person. He is a snarking 13 year old full of regular hormones and angst. He is so smart! This week he made a 100% on his spelling test… and no, he said, he didn’t change the language settings on the computer to Mandarin. (That may have happened before.) He knows more general knowledge than an average grown man. He is full of rude comments, insults, and gas. He is brave and learning to be loved. He has taken on a whole new world and grown by leaps and bounds – not to mention almost 40lbs. Yet, in all the change he has remained his own man. He has been learning about his own trauma, acquiring the skills to combat the harm it can do AND actually using those skills. It is amazing but happening so close that at times I don’t notice and other times it takes my breath away. Like when I saw the picture from a year ago.
He has a million more miles to go. He has a thousand decisions to make that will determine what he will do with the life he has been given. We don’t know what he will decide. There is no guarantee, but he has some options that he didn’t have before, and I am glad for him.
We have had our own decisions to make as well. Many of the changes adoption has brought about have been the best things to happen to us. I have personally, made changes I would have never had the courage to make. I spent the first 10 or so months focused on getting to know Joseph and building attachment. It was a good choice, but I was totally exhausted by the end of the summer. (Think — having a 13 year old with separation anxiety. Along with being a human trashcan for the anger, frustration, and fears too great to fully comprehend.) After school started (thank you, God, for school!), I made a conscious effort for the first time in 6 years to rest and take care of myself. It was helpful, but I got pretty bored after a couple of months so I started working as a Petroleum Landman for our company. I love it! I have found that work has made me a better person – more complete and settled. I am sorry this was not something I understood years ago. It would have been a gift to my older children if I had gone to work. But that was not a concept I was able to grasp in those years.
Our kids have been such a great help and joy over this last year. Each one has a different and unique relationship with Joseph. I just have to tell you about Reagan (who will not be happy I even wrote his name here). He has always been a pleasure to parent, but this year he has truly become a friend and equal. I am grateful for the friendship I have with him and the support he has given. I am thankful for his perspective on life and how to best love Joseph. He has reminded me to be kind and at other times walked into the mess to defend me. He (and all our kids) has patterned respect for parents and others. He has managed to take all Joseph’s insults and pesterings, prepare all our evening meals, student teach 2 hours a day, and maintain a 3.9 GPA as a senior at Lubbock High. He has chosen to take full responsibility for his life and future. It is a great pleasure to call him a friend.
This year has brought about a good change for Doug and I as a couple. I have valued more than anything his willingness to compromise and trust me as we have had to make many strange and unfamiliar parental choices. We have had to learn new methods and let go of unrealistic and unhealthy expectations. In the process, I have grown in my confidence of Doug’s love and respect for me. I have a freedom to be who I am without the shame that I have often felt. My deep respect for Doug has grown as we have learned to work together as equals, loving and leading our family.
It has been personally difficult for me to go to church – on several levels – not the least of which was that taking Joseph anywhere those first few months was a huge unknown of what would happen. During a particularly difficult season, my pastor and friend, Dusty Thompson, sent me a text. “I watched you and Doug hold each other during the response phase of the service and take communion together – you guys are banged up, but you are still holding on to each other. I’ve been brought to tears by that image more than once this week. Just a powerful picture of hope and healing.”
I hope that is what I can convey here- a banged up picture of hope and healing. We are limping along through this dangerous journey we call life. We don’t have it all together and we certainly have not been a rescue for some “lucky kid.” We are not a great gift. But if we can give a picture of hope and healing to Joseph and to others, that is a gift to us.
Thank you again for all the gifts and prayers – you know who you are. May God continue to place the orphan in families and may we all continue to sacrifice to see it happen.
Because you are precious in my sight
and honored, and I love you,
I will give people in exchange for you
and nations instead of your life.
Do not fear, for I am with you;
I will bring your descendants from the east,
and gather you from the west.
I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’
and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back!’
Bring my sons from far away,
and my daughters from the ends of the earth
everyone who bears my name
and is created for my glory.
I have formed them; indeed, I have made them.”