What if you had never been born?

*This post is an excerpt from a speech I shared at the Life Choice Banquet on October 15th. I cut this down to fit a rather long post. Please don’t shy away because it is long. It has value. I began the speech with telling our adoption story, you can find our story here.

“Many are familiar with the 1946 Film Classic, It’s a Wonderful Life, wherein the character played by Jimmy Stewart gets a chance to see what life would be like had he never been born.” That is the springboard for this speech. The main point of the film is that each person’s life has an impact on everybody’s else’s life. Had they never been born, there would be gaping holes left by their absence. EVERY UNBORN LIFE IS A SEED OF POTENTIAL PURPOSE.

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Ancient Cultures didn’t value life, but Jesus does.

Jesus stepped out of heaven and into humanity. Word became flesh incarnate into the midst of the Roman Empire where human life was considered cheap. Ancient Romans commonly let newborns die. It was a legal and even applauded avenue for dealing with unwanted children.

In this same culture, Jesus gathered the little children unto himself saying, “Let the little children come unto Me, and do not forbid them.: Matthew 19:14a

“Abortion disappeared in the early Church. Infanticide and abandonment disappeared. The cry went out to bring the children to Church. Foundling homes, orphanages, and nursery homes were started to house the children. These new practices based on this higher view of life, helped to create a foundation in Western civilization for an ethic of human life that persists to this day- although it is currently under severe attack. And it all goes back to Jesus Christ. If He had never been born, we would never have seen this change in the value of human life.”- What if Jesus Had Never Been Born?

Jesus was an unplanned pregnancy .We tend to over romanticize the events around Jesus’ birth as if May were floating in the clouds and everything was perfect. Jesus is perfect, the circumstances of his birth were not. I don’t want to tread on anyone’s theology or doctrine, I just want you to think. Do you think Mary sat around writing in her diary that she wished an angel named Gabriel would appear to her and she would become pregnant by the Holy Spirit? Or  do you think she sang her day dream of being overshadowed by the Most High? I don’t think so. What happened after angel Gabriel visited her? Her betrothed was ready to divorce her. How could she explain the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit? How do you think her family and community responded to her pregnancy. Although we know, the birth of Jesus was foreordained, it was an interruption in Mary’s life plan. It shifted her whole world on its axis propelling her into a purpose that none other has ever or will ever fulfill. Jesus is the interruption that changed all of our lives.

There are over 300 prophecies fulfilled through the birth of Jesus. Could we put a dollar amount on his birth? What if he had never been born? We would not be here promoting life. We would not have salvation or the promise of heaven.

None of us would have a true purpose. We would be like those humanists say, a mass of cells who randomly act according to chemical reactions, not the heart. Jesus Christ had more impact on the life on our planet, or should I say his planet, more than anyone in history. It is because of His impact that we can have impact. It is because He foreordained, before the foundation of the world that each us of be born and adopted as his sons because of His kind intent. Jesus fulfilled a multitude of prophecies and his purposed to rescue humanity from death, hell and the grave and restore us to relationship with the heavenly Father. Because of the life of Jesus, we can choose life and trust that every life has a purpose.

just as [in His love] He chose us in Christ [actually selected us for Himself as His own] before the foundation of the world, so that we would be holy [that is, consecrated, set apart for Him, purpose-driven] and blameless in His sight. In love 5 He predestined and lovingly planned for us to be adopted to Himself as [His own] children through Jesus Christ, in accordance with the kind intention and good pleasure of His will— 6 to the praise of His glorious grace and favor, which He so freely bestowed on us in the Beloved [His Son, Jesus Christ].

Here’s a story of another life interrupted.

“You’re pregnant, Sally. Just get up and walk around. Your cervix isn’t closed all the way. You will lose this one, but you can have another one later” Sally had a three year old and an almost newborn at home. Sally was adamant pro-lifer. She was determined not to lose the baby and went home and put her feet up.  The baby was born a month early at a whopping 5 pounds. That baby was me.

Can you put a dollar amount on my life? Has what I accomplished made a difference? Does my life have value? Like George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life,  I sometimes doubt my value. During my lowest points, when I have had a bad day, yelled at the kids, cannot accomplish anything on my “to-do’ list, lost everything, I’m sick, fill in the blank, I wonder, would it be better if I had never been born?

I was an unplanned pregnancy. What if I had Never Been Born?

If I apply  It’s a Wonderful Life  philosophy to my existence, I could  list a few things that would not have occurred had my mother walked around and miscarried me. I wouldn’t be standing here promoting life. Three children: Audrey, Amerey and Hunter would not have been born. Four children Damian, Gregory, Ania and Rafal would not have been adopted.  Six grandchildren. I wouldn’t have written a book promoting adoption. We tend to measure life based on accomplishments-curing the common cold, winning Olympic medals, starting a non profit that rescues woman from sex slavery. These are noble endeavors, but let us not miss the many purposes.

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What we often consider interruptions or a derailing of our plan are actually fulfilling a purpose on our path. Interruptions are God’s way of getting our attention. These events that seem to be sidetracks, met with the proper attitude, bring the most reward.

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We often ask God, what is my purpose and if truth be told, he would pull out a bulky book full of your purposes. We may each have unique gifts and talents, but we have an encyclopedia full of purposes. Our lives intersect with others on a daily basis and that one small act that you do in a moment can change someone’s life forever.

Theory of Six Degrees

Six degrees of separation is the theory that everyone and everything is six or fewer steps away, by way of introduction, from any other person in the world, so that a chain of “a friend of a friend” statements can be made to connect any two people in a maximum of six steps.

What if a person in the chain is lost, not born, don’t you think it throws everything out of whack?

I met Ettica when I was beginning my homeschooling journey and the process of adopting. She and Doug prayed for us and gave us prayer cloths for each child. I hung onto those cloths as if they were life itself. Ettica understood the power of adoption, having an adopted sibling herself. What if Ettica had never been born? Who would have ministered to me at the time? One of the millions of purposes that was given to Ettica was to be in my life at that time. For such a time of this, we often call them interruptions. We have many of those every day.

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Daughter Audrey and I were at IKEA in Pittsburgh with three year old twins, Sam and Theo and baby Lucy ordering our lunch when the alarm sounded and we were told to evacuate the building. We abandoned the stroller and high tailed it out to the van, promising whiny children who expected chicken tenders and fries that we had snacks. We made it to the van and put a few kids in when Audrey shoved a twin in my hand and ran towards the IKEA doors. I looked up to see a mother running with two shoeless children, one slipping out of her arms. Audrey reached her just in time to catch the slipping child. She helped her the distressed mommy to her car and then joined me. That is purpose, people. It’s not always HUGE and it doesn’t make us famous. It means we are connected, we are paying attention, we reach out because we believe in our worth through Christ and because of that, we believe that others matter. Life matters. Every life matters. Every life has potential purpose. EVERYONE.  Life is not measured as one giant achievement, instead it is a great quantity of purposeful moments. It’s the loving friend who supports us in our journey, or the one we meet in the parking lot of IKEA for five minutes.

In Him also we have [d]received an inheritance [a destiny—we were claimed by God as His own], having been predestined (chosen, appointed beforehand) according to the purpose of Him who works everything in agreement with the counsel and design of His will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ [who first put our confidence in Him as our Lord and Savior] would exist to the praise of His glory.  Ephesians 1:11,12

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He works everything in agreement with the counsel and design of HIS WILL. What we deem mistakes, He deems material to work with. Do you think he thought my children being raised in an orphanage across the ocean in Poland where of no purpose or didn’t have value, or didn’t fit into the design of His WILL. Of course not. He had a plan for them. We have to stop listening to the culture of our day that says life is not valuable or that only certain people matter.

One Solitary Life

He was born in an obscure village

The child of a peasant woman

He grew up in another obscure village

Where he worked in a carpenter shop

Until he was thirty when public opinion turned against him

He never wrote a book

He never held an office

He never went to college

He never visited a big city

He never travelled more than two hundred miles

From the place where he was born

He did none of the things

Usually associated with greatness

He had no credentials but himself

He was only thirty three

His friends ran away

One of them denied him

He was turned over to his enemies

And went through the mockery of a trial

He was nailed to a cross between two thieves

While dying, his executioners gambled for his clothing

The only property he had on earth

When he was dead

He was laid in a borrowed grave

Through the pity of a friend

Nineteen centuries have come and gone

And today Jesus is the central figure of the human race

And the leader of mankind’s progress

All the armies that have ever marched

All the navies that have ever sailed

All the parliaments that have ever sat

All the kings that ever reigned put together

Have not affected the life of mankind on earth

As powerfully as that one solitary life

Dr. James Allan Francis © 1926.

How about you? What if You Had Never Been Born?

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Take a minute. Right now. You have a card on your table. Look at it. He who would achieve great things must first be born. That is a powerful statement. You have achieved part one of that statement. You were born. Pat yourself on the back or give your mama a hug.What is your story? What would Dr. James Allan write about you? Take some time, write down a few things that wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t been born.Teaching a class? Helping your dying mother? Grieving with someone. Can you put a dollar amount on that? Choosing life for your unborn child?

How do you measure the value of life? How do you know the potential of a newly formed life in the womb? We don’t. God does.

4Now the word of the LORD came to me, saying,

5“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,

and before you were born I consecrated you;

I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”– Jeremiah 1:4,5

God knows our potential before we are born. Before we are formed in the womb, He knows us. Nobody is a mistake.

Each of you were knit together with unique gifts, talents and abilities. When you walk in them, you are part of the body of Christ. Some are hands, some are toes, some of you are the brains of the body.

When an unborn baby is being knit together, we don’t know his/her potential. He/she is a gift, a blessing to us, to the world, either to the birth mother who chooses life or the the adoptive family when life is chosen at the great sacrifice and courage of the birth mother.

Although we can’t put a dollar amount on a life, we can value life enough to put our money into helping a woman to choose life. When a woman sees the positive lines on the pregnancy test and she is unprepared, she feels afraid and alone. Shame will keep these women in all kinds of prison if we let it. Her life has been interrupted. At this point,  we, the body of Christ, should value her life enough to invest in her. We should feel compelled to play Father to the fatherless like our heavenly Father. We should walk in His footsteps and bless what He blesses. He says that life is a blessing. Life is valuable. The world was started with One Holy Family, Adam and Eve. God said, “Be fruitful and multiply”. The fruit of the womb is a blessing. Let us acknowledge that by providing support and education.  Let’s reach into our pockets and support those who can acknowledge that everyone deserves a chance to be born. Everyone has value. Each life has a purpose. We don’t want to one day be asking ourselves, why was the person who needed to fulfill a purpose, write a novel, be a missionary to unreached people, teach the special needs children, run the orphanage, be the social worker or take over Life Choice never born? Where was the friend to support us in our time of need or in the IKEA parking lot?  What if the children who need to accomplish these purposes are never born. Let’s do everything we can here, right now to make it possible for Moms to choose life. We must see the potential in the life in utero and the life of the mother. We should invest our capital in those lives.  Every unborn life is a seed of potential purpose.

 

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Why the Church Needs to Adopt/Foster Children

The Orphanage

It’s in the dark, pre-dawn hours. The orphanage is quiet and I am awake. I can’t get back to sleep. I fluff my pillow and sit up in bed, leaning against the iron frame of the bed. Sleep hasn’t come easy this month that we have lived in the orphanage. I am running on adrenaline and my heart is in overdrive.

Hubby Jerry and I flew to Poland and then rode to Sulejow to adopt a sibling group. This was a small village, destroyed by the Germans in WWII, just 15 km from the first Concentration Camp in Poland. We moved into the orphanage after living a week in a castle turned hotel.

The Emotional Burden

At least there was real heat in our quarters in the orphanage as opposed to the frigid castle. I still couldn’t sleep. You see I wasn’t prepared for the emotional overload. My mind skipped back and forth between joy and grief. Overwhelming joy that we were adopting. Overwhelming grief that I couldn’t take every child home. It ate at me. It gnawed at me. I played games with these kids. Hiked into the village with teens. Watched them smile while they played with my video camera. And I couldn’t take them home.

The interesting thing about orphans is they look appealing from a distance. We can form all sorts of platitudes, we can quote James 1:27 and intend to raise money for orphans. We can intend to adopt someday. As a church, we can vow to fulfill the mandate “to care for widows and orphans” while we sit in comfortable pews and take communion and remember the death and suffering of our Lord. but, up close, you can’t ignore suffering.

The interesting thing about orphans is they look appealing from a distance.

Orphans are humans who need connection.

I couldn’t. I wasn’t prepared for the faces of neglect, swarming around me vying for attention. It’s nothing like in the movies. I couldn’t just smile and move on. Poverty envelops those children and strips them of the most basic of human needs – connection. They want to matter, just like every human being on the planet. They want someone to look them full in the face and say, “YOU MATTER. YOU ARE VALUABLE. YOU ARE LOVED.” Neglect says, “You don’t exist.” Abuse says, “You don’t matter”

Every life Matters no matter what Politicians say.

While Hilary Clinton, looking weary and worn down, states on camera that an unborn child doesn’t have  Constitutional rights, she devalues life once again. Life is valuable. Everyone with a beating heart and breath in their lungs holds value. You cannot set a dollar amount on life. The Constitution or rulers don’t set the value. It is there. You cannot snuff it out.

The Church should be adopting orphans and/or fostering.

The church should be adopting orphans quicker than they bag their groceries at the self check out. We should be proclaiming from the rooftop the value of life, that Christ died that each child might have life and have it more abundantly. We should not be participating in stealing, killing and destroying life. That is the enemy’s work.

We must first recognize our own value.

Why don’t we see the value of adoption? The importance of it? Because we first don’t value ourselves. We see ourselves as sinners instead of saints. We see ourselves as beggars instead of sons of God.

We don’t recognize our own adoption. We don’t realize that we have received the Spirit of Adoption by which we cry  “Abba, Father!” We don’t know that before the foundation of the world, God chose us, actually picked us out, destined us to be adopted as His own children (Ephesians 1:4,5). Read that again. Let it sink in. YOU ARE CHOSEN. YOU ARE LOVED. YOU ARE A SON OR DAUGHTER OF GOD.  You are not an orphan, wandering lost, looking for acceptance. You have it. You have been pre-approved.

Go into all the world.

With that truth settled deep in our spirits, we must go into all the world and preach the Gospel which has the power to save souls. We should be sharing this news with those who need it most, the spiritual and physical orphans.-those who have been rejected, neglected, abused and abandoned.

 

If you don’t have a heart for the lost or the orphan, then go visit them in the midst of their pain. Go participate in their circumstances. You can’t watch suffering on a screen and understand. You cannot have empathy for something you have not lived through yourself. Ask God to give you the gift of understanding the suffering of others and the hands to do something about it.

Five Things Your Adopted Children Would Like to Tell You Part III

Hi, thanks for joining me for the Series “Five Things Your Adopted Children Would Like to Tell You.” If you missed the introduction, you can find it here. Last month, our focus was PLAY and ways to play or use home therapy for free. We’ll have more posts on that in the future, but the theme for the month of June is “Adoption.”

When dad came to pick us kids up for summer visitation, the departure was swift.  We packed our bags in the trunk of his current car and rushed down the lane, leaving a trail of dust behind us, Mom growing smaller in the distance.  This is the moment the fear gripped me. The familiar faded and the unknown lay before me. The tense anxiety choked me while my stomach churned. Down the highway we sped to another unknown destination; Dad rarely bothered to sit down and explain where we were going and what it would be like this time. The landscape changed from the hills of West Virginia to the bluegrass of Kentucky or the plains of Iowa, where once we raced beside a tornado as it ate up the fields beside us.

Every year, it was a new home in a new state. And every year, it was the same unstable summer, with our travel and activities dictated by someone else’s moodiness or alcoholism. New places did not fill me with hope. They were foreign landscapes with no known retreats or safe hideaways from the too-familiar emotional climate. The unrest filtered down to me and cemented my fear and presupposition: There is nothing good in the world.

My past gave me a faulty picture of the world. Even today, I struggle with sitting in the backseat of a car. I need to know where we are going on a trip. I don’t just want the directions, I want to see the map. My early life sometimes still dictates my now. I know that. I have strategies to deal with it. My friends know this. They let me sit in the front or drive. It took me years to figure out why I didn’t like to sit in the back seat or why panic rose up in me. Knowing the why helps me deal with it. 15883563981_44f82f9940_oOur adopted children don’t know the why or the how. They see through the lens of their past and it is like this old camera. The view is scratched and distorted and they may blame us, the adoptive parents. Can you imagine if I went on a roadtrip with my friends and blamed them for my fear of riding in the back seat? Children have a difficult time separating their past from their now, therefore:

3. You are not responsible for the trauma that happened to me before I came into your family, but I will act like it. If you let guilt rule the home, we will both be miserable and neither of us will experience any healing.

Separating our children’s past from their now is a difficult aspect of adoption. We parents must be the mature ones and not let their reactions to past events determine our reactions. If we do react negatively, then we will live in a constant civil war and more wounds will be inflicted. No healing will take place and the child will be orphaned (rejected) twice. I don’t have my reactions mastered, I wish I did. I am writing this because my daughter Audrey says I should share things that I wish someone would have told me. I wish someone would have told me this: Many of us who have the heart for adoption, the desire to adopt a large sibling group of children, have had a troubled past ourselves. The desire directs us to adopt. It doesn’t equip us. We must equip and educate ourselves.

No one told me that my past and my adopted children’s pasts would engage in a tug of war to the death. We both had a faulty lens on our camera. Guess who had to change hers first? Me. Guess who had to die? Me. My flesh. Guess who messed up, often? Me. We assume that wrestling with the child means a physical fight and if we are not careful, that is what it becomes. Daily. There is no healing that way.

For we are not wrestling with flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the despotisms, against the powers, against [the master spirits who are] the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spirit forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) sphere.- Ephesians 6:12

I have always loved this verse, it sounds so mystical, mysterious. We aren’t supposed to engage in a fight with physical opponents, so how do we fight these master spirits who are the rulers of this present darkness? Ephesians 6:11 commands us to put on our armor that you may be able to stand up against the strategies and deceits of the devil. This is war! Adoption is war. We are not fighting with a physical sword, our sword is the Word. Our belt is truth. Our feet must be shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace. We raise our shield to protect us from the fiery darts of the wicked one. We put on our helmet of salvation (deliverance) and breastplate of righteousness. What does this look like in reality? Sometimes it means, we just stand. We don’t react when our child melts down and blames us for his hurt, his feeling rejected. We speak the truth in love, “Man, that stinks, how does that make you feel?” And we redirect, “What do you think we could do about that?”

When we disengage our right to react, we become powerful.

And more important than any of the above, we pray. A prayer for healing. Place your child’s name in the blanks: ________ is not harassed by physical symptoms or feelings or their supposed connections to past events. The curse of rejection and abandonment is broken, _____________ is a new creature with a heavenly Father who loves _________, the Stronghold is broken, the sticky web of the past is dissolved. ___________has forgiven and _________ is forgiven.______________is washed clean and ____________ reactions are based on the Word and the new creature that _____________is, not the old fearful, anxious child that _______________was. NO! ____________ is a strong, assertive child of the KIng, ______is a co-inheritor with Christ, ________________ have all the benefits that He has bestowed upon me. ______________is more than a conqueror through Christ Jesus.

Five Things Your Adopted Children Would Like to Tell You Part II

Hi, thanks for joining me for the Series “Five Things Your Adopted Children Would Like to Tell You”. If you missed the introduction, you can find it here. Last month, our focus was PLAY and ways to play or use home therapy for free. We’ll have more posts on that in the future, but the theme for the month of June is “Adoption.”

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“I hate you! Why did you adopt me anyway?”

“I can break it I want to, it’s mine! It’s junk anyway!”

“I didn’t eat your candy!”

“That’s stupid!”

This is the voice of a child who cannot self-regulate.

When a brother broke something that belonged to me and then screamed and yelled and struggled through not knowing how to regulate his own responses or manage his own brokenness or recognize his own sin, a family member asked me, “How do you keep forgiving him?”- Audrey (excerpt from Why You Should Break Your Bio Kids’ Heart)

Adoption is messy. Children who are adopted from hard places have trouble verbalizing their feelings. They struggle with self-regulation and want to control everything and everyone around them. Trouble is, if we parents aren’t careful, we end up focusing on the behavior instead of digging deeper to the root of the problem. It’s quick and easy to think the child is misbehaving to get on our last nerve. We tend to think the child wants to make us angry.

The poor choices in behavior speaks what child is unable to state verbally.

2 .I’m not always misbehaving to make you mad. Most of the time it is because I do not have the skill to self-regulate and I maintain my control by keeping you out of control.

Hurt children have a knack for making us adults feel out of control. They do know how to push our buttons. They seem to own a special button locating radar. Once they find the button, they push it mercilessly. And we adults, like puppets on a string flail around, flopping from hot to cold at their will. Rarely, if ever do these kids apologize. If they do, it is we parents have been steam rolled all day.

 If we know our kids can’t self-regulate, how do we parents step out of the ring and become the coach instead of the opponent? 

1. Recognize ” the child feels in control because you are out of control” is a fallacy.

The child who is out of control seeks to control his environment.His desire is to be safe, secure. What he usually gets in return for his behavior is pushed away when what he needs is the opposite.

Believe me, I totally get it. I have been caught in the control trap. I have engaged when I should have walked away. When I step back and think about what is really going on. Raising a hurt child is like living in opposite world. He pushes away when he needs to connect. He controls when he needs to let someone else be in control so he can feel secure. He destroys because he feels worthless.

2. Stop letting the child push your buttons

Hurt children can scope out your buttons like a sniper and he is a great shot. The tough job of the parent is to keep those buttons off.Don’t react. Stay calm and give a consequence.

For example is you watch a video of your child doing flips on the couch (that his sibling recorded) and the child lies and says he didn’t do it (true story gleaned from a friend’s Facebook page), don’t yell because he lied. Maybe jumping on the couch is one of your buttons. Tell him he lied. Don’t ask. Give him a consequence if you think it merits one. Put the pillows back on the couch and vacuum the room.

If the offense is more serious, the kid destroyed the baby swing with a machete. Or broke into the neighbor’s house and stole a jar of coins. Or choked, hit, or _______ another human being. The law in my house is people are more important than things so the harming of a person is the most serious offense. The violation of property is second. When a person is harmed, the consequence must be swift, involve an apology and usually some chores the  offended child was responsible for.If the If your teen becomes destructive and violent and things get out of control, call the police. Don’t be ashamed to do it. It is not you that misbehaved. It is him. Wouldn’t you rather a teen who went on a rampage have a stern talking to and some serious consequences when he is fifteen and under your roof, rather than him continuing ont the path to self-destruction and seriously hurting someone or ending up in jail at eighteen?

The goal is to connect and redirect. The goal is to teach the child how to connect and therefore distinguish the behavior. You have to treat the sickness, not put band aids over the symptoms.

3. Be an in control parent.

Being a in control parent may seem like a repeat of number two,it isn’t. It is a totally separate job. Not letting your child push your buttons is an inward behavior. Being an in control parent is an outward behavior. Being an in control parent means you are the boss. You make the rules. You set the schedule. You are proactive, which is the opposite of reactive. You don’t wait for things to happen. You make sure they do.

A simple example of proactive parenting is shceduling meals. You fix breakfast. You don’t wake up and think the kids are playing nicely, we won’t have breakfast and then wonder why the kids are having a breakdown an hour later. You set a schedule because the hurt child does not recognize his own body’s signal for hunger and thirst. When you meet those needs by providing food and water every two hours, then you quell some meltdowns. You feed the body, hydrate the body so the brain can function properly.

Schedule play. Make it a point to play with your children on purpose. The parent who waits for this to happen with a hurt child may wait a life time. Hurt children need purposeful play to help them connect. (You can read some great articles on play in last month’s posts) Talk therapy usually doesn’t work with hurt children. They can manipulate and lie to the counselor, plus they don’t want to continually rehash their troubled past.

Parenting a hurt child is no easy task. It is a worthwhile one. These children deserve a chance to attach and we parents can give it to them. We must be the more mature one in these scenarios. Helping these kids heal is a full time job. Dr. Karen Purvis refers to it as “investment parenting”. The more time you spend sowing seeds the greater the harvest.

Linking up with these lovely ladies today!adoptiontalkbutton

Ten Things This Adoptive Mom Wants Her Kids to Know

“Why did my mom give me up?” That is the question all adoptive parents fear. But here it was coming out of my nearly thirteen-year-old daughter’s mouth. We were sitting in the car in the parking lot, getting ready to go buy card making supplies for her upcoming birthday party.  She asked question after question. It wasn’t that her adoption was a secret. She was four. She remembers living in an orphanage. She remembers her new Mama and Tata living in the orphanage for a month. She flew on the ten-hour flight to Chicago. We spoke of it openly.

 

I didn’t fear the question because I didn’t want to tell her what I knew of her story, but, because I didn’t want to hurt her again. When we adopted her, the caregiver told us that she hadn’t spoken a word for six months after she entered the orphanage with her brothers. She suffered from extreme anxiety when she came to our home. Her new home.

I am familiar with that anxiety. It follows me. Taunts me. After my dad left when I was four, it became my bosom frenemy. I didn’t want to hurt my daughter. I didn’t want to trigger something on this happy birthday shopping day.  I answered. She listened. After the conversation, she seemed happier, lighter. “Thanks, Mom for adopting me.”

There are many blog posts/articles/books about what adopted children would like their parents to know. Those are good. Read them. Today, I thought I’d turn the tables a bit and share ten things adoptive parents would like their kids to know. Maybe we don’t say these things often enough, I don’t.

Ten Things This Adoptive Mom Wants Her Kids to Know

1. I love you. Period. 

I know you hear things like, “How can you love him, he is not your real child?” Don’t listen. They don’t know what they are talking about. Drop the real. You are my child. The world likes to speak in terms of blood. Parenting doesn’t birth only through blood but through the heart. Through commitment. Through sacrifice.  The world views sonship through DNA and genetics. That is not the true definition.

Before I saw your picture, I loved you. I prayed for you. I journaled to you.

2.  Don’t discount your value. You are “chosen.”

Some adoptees struggle with the word “chosen'” because they think it means that they were chosen by adoptive parents to leave their birth family. Some think it is as if adoptive parents are searching for you, find you and take you. Let’s look at the word in a different way. You were chosen to live. You are a survivor. You may have come from traumatic circumstances that could have ended your life (war, drugs, famine, etc.) or you may have been born to a mother who was unable to parent you and chose adoption. You were chosen to live because you are valuable, no matter how much your mind tells you the opposite. It is your choice to believe it. You are valuable. You have a purpose. Your story is unique. Write the rest of your story with this new thinking. I am chosen. I am valuable. God put me in a new family. He has a purpose.

3.  I want to help you with your story.

Many of us spend years of our lives focusing on a few chapters of our life and don’t seem to make sense of it. It’s like reading the same chapters of a textbook over and over and failing the multiple choice questions at the end. It wasn’t until I started writing my memoir alongside our adoption memoir that things started to really make sense. I had grasped bits and pieces of info over the years and had conversations with parents and siblings that made some sense, but when I asked intentionally for the purpose of accuracy that it came together. I found it wasn’t the actual events being historically correct on paper that helped me. It was the pre-suppositions they created. That event is where that feeling started. Hiding under a desk in my dad’s university office invited claustrophobia into my life.  Knowing this helps me discern when claustrophobia will attack and I can be prepared. I put the event in its place.

I see your triggers as well as I see mine. I can help you write your story. You have to trust me. I won’t feel bad if you talk about your birth parents or past events. I can handle it. If I cry, it is not for me. It is for your pain because I love you.

4. My past and your past may tussle sometimes.

It’s normal. Don’t worry. We will make it. Each of us comes into the world in the middle of someone else’s story. Our chapters of origin may be different. There also may be some common denominators. When this occurs, things can get dicey.  We may be hanging onto to each and kicking each other at the same time. When you kiddos had been part of our family for about six months, we took a vacation to the beach. We headed down into the Cheasepeake tunnel.  I gripped the hands of the two youngest (you were crying) while trying to hold on to my sanity (remember- claustrophobia).  Eldest son began a tale of lament, a chapter of his past brought on by the darkness. I tried to listen. Tears trickled down my cheeks. It was a blessing and a curse. I had a bit more of picture puzzle of his story and he had one of mine.

I have spoken with many, many pre-adoptive and foster families through the years. There seems to be a re-occurring theme- one of the parents had a difficult childhood. That difficult childhood gave that parent a heart for hurt children. Therein lies the common denominator. Take two humans who experienced rejection and they may tussle sometimes. It cannot be avoided. No parent can perfectly heal from their past before adopting/fostering. On the other hand, would you want them to? Those who have experienced loss and rejection have something special-empathy. A powerful gift.

5. Your past is my present.

You may not think so based on our busy schedules that we even think about your past and your pain. We do. It is my constant companion. I want to erase it for you, but I cannot. It is part of you. I may not say it often. I may not say it at all because I do not want to be the trigger.

I used to cry while making dinner-a lot. The thought of all the times you kids had gone hungry made me well up from somewhere deep in my gut. I hid my tears because I wanted you to eat regularly and enjoy it. I wanted your new supposition to be – I eat regular meals that mom prepares.

I read this last bit to my daughter. She has been my cheerleader this past week as I have dug deep and come up with these ten things. When I read about the meals, my crying, her being hungry, we both lost it. Faces red. Blubbering. “I’m trying to go to work, mom!” she laughed.  That is why I can’t walk around sharing how much I carry your past. We can’t walk around blubbering all day. Oh, that we could cry one big cry and get it out. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.

My two eldest daughters shared with me that they had the same “past is our present” experience when each of them gave birth. They had flashbacks for their younger siblings, “Mom, they were alone.”  When eldest daughter’s twins had to get some blood work done, she broke down in tears for them and wept for her younger brother who had no one in the hospital with him for the four or five months he fought to live after his premature birth. Your family carries your pain, oh that we could bear it all.

6. Consequences are not rejection- they are parenting.

If I had a dollar for every time a child said I didn’t love him because I gave him a consequence then I would have enough money for a shopping spree. Child, I know you are more sensitive to control. You only like that word if you are wielding it. I know. Me too. I  like to be in control, to know what is next. I don’t like schedule changes (my past and your past tussling). What I do like is character change. I have had to work hard on mine. I don’t like giving you consequences, but I would be doing you a disservice if  I didn’t.

I talked to a Foster Mom the other day at a Thanksgiving gathering for our children. One thing about fostering that shocked her was how much control was given to young foster children. “I understand that they need to feel they are in control, but they are letting them make decisions about their lives that they don’t have the maturity to make.”

I understand. The system is not perfect. In order to make kids feel secure, we give them too much control. It is not good parenting. Kids need boundaries. Staying up all night gaming and not being able to get up for school the next morning is a choice that demands a consequence to lay a better foundation for a stronger character in the future. Which of you adults could tell your boss you cannot make it to work because you stayed up all night gaming and he should be okay with it?

Stealing from siblings cannot be rewarded with ignorance. It must be rewarded with a consequence (working to pay for an item is a great consequence) because I don’t want you to grow up and end up in jail.

7.  We are your family, not a fairy tale.

As an older teen, when I got angry at my mom, I used to imagine going to live with my dad and how perfect it would be. I would be able to do anything I wanted. He lived in Washington D.C. at the time. I imagined myself jetting around the capital on the metro, waltzing in and out of museums and shopping. It was a fairy tale. The truth was -he lived in a tiny one-room apartment (nothing like the spacious ones you see on tv) and he had a grueling, time-consuming job.

We all daydream. We all like to think in terms of our life, what could be, what was, what’s next. We glorify our past or our future. You, child, have a little bit more fodder for that. My kids had been told when they were adopted that they were going to live in Chicago because that is where all Polish people lived in the U.S.. While staying in Poland, I was asked multiple times about my maid (don’t have one) and once charged a million dollars for a dozen rolls at a village bakery because I was a rich American.

We would all love to live in a fairy tale, the ones with happy endings. Wait. Don’t those have witches who bake children for dinner? Or children get locked in towers until their hair grows to the ground. Or step-mothers who send daughters poisonous apples? Who wants to live in a fairy tale? I prefer boring family life anytime. How about sitting in front of a fireplace reading aloud, sipping hot chocolate on a snowy day? Or dinner around the table? How about renting a cabin in the mountains and escaping the scorching heat of summer? Or Christmas, toned down on gift-giving, but full of celebration, family, games, puzzles, movies?

8.  You may have problems, but you are NOT a problem.

I am not a morning person. I don’t wake up with my hair in place and make-up on like women on tv. I cannot function until I have a cup of coffee in my hands and a few ounces in my belly. Too bad parenting doesn’t wait for morning rituals.

Many mornings when my children woke the sun, I had to make some decisions and say some words before my brain engaged. Not always a good thing. That was my problem. It didn’t make me a problem mom. I could wake up earlier and let my brain engage, or I could repeat the cycle. Burn the pancakes or opt for cold cereal when inside I felt guilty for not arising and preparing. Schedules helped. Menus helped. Alarms helped. I was adult enough to admit I needed to make changes. I know, child, sometimes you are not, but that doesn’t mean I see you as a problem.

My family knows I still struggle with being alert in the morning. It is still my problem. It is not me. It is something I deal with. I could blame it on genetics, disease or a busy schedule. Blaming doesn’t help though, does it? It just passes the buck. Instead of blaming, I accept it. I plan around it as much as possible. I used to pick all my kids’ clothes out the night before (or let them) down to the socks. That was being proactive on my part.

You, child, may have problems that you beat yourself up about. Not understanding math, thanks to the result of FAS (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome). You may have a difficult time reading social cues or maintaining self-control. These are problems or a better word-challenges. You may always have them, but you are NOT them. Instead of thinking- I have a problem, think – I have a challenge. How can I overcome it?

I am here to help. My youngest son likes to know certain foods are in the house. It makes him feel more secure. His problem. He often eats all of the security bounty the day it comes home from the store, then he has a week of, “There is nothing for me to eat!”  meltdowns. I took steps to help him. First, I took some of the food up in my room and hid it in my closet. I shouldn’t say hid, he knows it is there, but won’t touch it. The second step, measuring the orange juice. He often drank his share of juice in two days. So, I made him divide the ounces in the carton by seven for the days of the week. He got nine ounces of juice a day and I got an extra measuring cup to wash, but it was worth it! Now, he knows, he can make the juice last a week.  Problem tackled. No meltdowns about juice. Control is in his corner.

9.  I am not perfect.

Biggest understatement of this whole article. I am not, nor will I ever be PERFECT, not on this earth. Please don’t expect me to be. I won’t always react with grace. I will sometimes be selfish. Don’t worry, I get consequences too. I had one this week. Husband Jerry was home and offered to take youngest son and me to see Mocking Jay. I opted to stay home because I wanted to be alone and get away from certain people. Yes, sometimes I will want to get away from you, just like you want to be away from me for a while. As one of my kids says, “I just need to be alone for a while. It’s how I recharge.” I’m thankful she has the wisdom to know that about herself.

Just know this -my isms, my imperfections were there before you were born and although you may act in ways that trigger them and vice-versa, I don’t need to be perfect to love you perfectly. Perfect love casts out fear. The lack of love brings thoughts of fear, torment, and punishment. If you keep in mind that I love you unconditionally while I am being imperfect, then we can build together on that foundation that every human must. This is the foundation of perfect love in an imperfect world. If I yell at you for leaving all of your dirty clothes on the floor and demand you pick it up before company comes, that is my imperfection shining through, my need to be loved and accepted through a clean-ish perfect-ish home. It is not you. It is me. (Please still pick your clothes up for YOU, it is a great life long habit).

A few weeks ago, my two eldest daughters and families came over. One apologized for being late, to which her hubby added, “She can’t leave the house unless it is perfect, every dish put away, laundry put away, everything perfect! I don’t understand it!” To which other daughter and son-in-law replied in unison, “Me too,” “Her too”.  “We got it from Mom!” both girls shared and laughed. Yep, sometimes, I pass down my imperfections. Not on purpose. It just happens. It’s the way families work.

10. You are going to make it. We are going to make it.

Stop right now. Look back. What do you see? Days? Years? Months? Birthdays? Christmases? Vacations? Look for the good moments. Forget the meltdown you or your sibling had before the trip to the state park. Look at that photo of you repelling. You did it. You loved it. When we have negative events in our past, we tend to hyper-focus on them and forget to celebrate victories.

Remember your fear of the outdoors? Now, look at you, the photographer with an eye for detail that most don’t see. You spend hours in the woods. Alone. I am not holding your hand anymore. You are doing it. You are amazing. I stand in awe of you.

 

Remember the day you caught a jar of bees? One stung you. You vowed never to catch a bee again. Remember the time you tried to leap from branch to branch, high in the tree. You missed and landed on your ribs, knocking the air out of you in a crackling whoosh. Now, look at you-winter camping at Dolly Sods, kayaking in on the Cheat, saving lives every day on the Squad.

Remember how you struggled to learn a new language? Kids made fun of you because they couldn’t understand you? You had to start the phonics book at the beginning with your younger siblings.  You triumphed. Speaking is the main part of your job. You didn’t give up.

Most importantly, go back to number one. I love you. No matter what some activist speaking against adoption may say. No matter what a scientist may say about genetics and DNA. They don’t know the truth. Love is a thicker bond than the color of eyes or skin. Connection through adoption is real. You are loved. You are chosen. You are part of the family. You have other chapters in your life, I accept that. Let’s live these chapters right here, right now, together.