Today, I’m going to share the depth of how our family and hundreds of others have counted the cost in silence. Why in silence? Because too many people around us don’t understand what it feels like to live out your faith no matter how hard it may get and not call it quits! Nor do they want to hear you complain about something you prayed for, worked for, and were told by 90% of the people in your life not to do (especially seven times).
Now that we got that out of the way.
Let me begin with the following. In no way have I ever wanted anyone to believe that we have it all together. Goodness, that is completely a false picture of life for a family this size.
Yes, it helps that I am extremely organized and happen to have found my groove in cooking organic grain/gluten/dairy free dishes for this many people every single day. Yes, I am able to share beautiful photographs of our children and their incredibly unique personalities.
So if you consider me/us successful its only because we FAIL A LOT and keep on trying! By God’s grace we get up every time we are knocked down…we are never knocked out!
Yes, we have found joy, laughter, and a rhythm that works for our family over the years. Friends that took time and lots of hard work (not to mention mini melt-downs on my part along the way). I have shared many times over the last seven and half years how hard it is parenting adopted children. Over the years it has gotten harder, not easier. Not because we aren’t good enough parents. Not because we haven’t loved our children enough. Trust me, I have wanted to blame myself over and over again for their poor choices. I have wanted it to be my fault. Because if it was, I could fix it by changing me and how I parent. Unfortunately, even with the growing I have done along the way, it was never going to be enough. Nor would it be enough with the amazing job my husband does as a father. The hurt we face as their parents is too deep for us to heal or fix.
This truth remains the same no matter how you look at it: HURT PEOPLE HURT PEOPLE!
Children don’t necessarily intend to hurt others. Often times they don’t even know why they hurt or want to hurt those around them. They aren’t even capable of explaining the hurt they feel or the pain that was done to them. Which leads to years of heartache for both the parents and the child. Why?
Because you can’t simply figure out what is the underlying cause of their behaviors and daily poor choices. Let me just give you the short list of things many adoptive families deal with: lying, stealing, cheating, hitting, picking at clothes until they are falling apart, ruining shoes only days after they are purchased, ruining every single toy ever given to them, breaking things around the house, crying/screaming (not age appropriate) when told no or given any type of consequence, refusing to answer when asked a question and giving a complete blank stare, touching every single thing and person within arms reach until they are screaming for that child to stop, hurting family pets, hurting themselves and others (physically or sexually) often times with zero remorse.
Adopting a baby is not always easier. Especially when it is done internationally. Unlike a domestic adoption where all the medical history is openly shared and given to the adoptive parents…we were given nothing. And 95% of what we were told was a lie about every single child we adopted. From the real story of what their lives were like before being placed in foster care or an orphanage. Only once were we told the truth about the health of a birth parent and that was given to us because she is deceased. You adopt hoping for the best and knowing anything can happen along the way. There are zero guarantees with any child, let alone one who was born half way around the world in unknown conditions and medical care from the time of conception until they are placed in your arms.
For example a baby that was placed for adoption literally hours after birth can come home 8 months later and do nothing but scream for over two years. Yes, screams like someone is hurting them every day before and after their nap, and every single night before bed. What was done to them? Who did it to them? How come everything you tried never seemed to help them? Every medical test under the sun didn’t give any answers either. Nothing worked. We just had to work our way through it. And we did. Not without complete exhaustion and lots of frustration along the way.
Our journey to this point has not been easy or without many bumps along the way. We have struggled in finding ways to parent this many children all at once. We have struggled with finding what works for each child individually while still being true to our core beliefs in raising children to become amazing humans who love and serve God!
For those who have been following along my blog for the past five plus years, know this…everything you have seen was real – the smiles, the joy, our children’s unbelievable ability to love another new sibling, their ability to rise above the occasion, their ability to pray for one another and all of you, their ability to sit through a four hour funeral without complaining when we all sadly said good-bye to their grandfather last year, and to stay seated through hour long meals as a family every single night. All of it is real.
BUT SO IS THE PAIN and STRUGGLES I have shared along the way. The pain we face now does NOT change the love we have for each other or our children. It has changed how we live. It has changed how we do things around here. But it will never steal the foundation we have built our home upon – truth and love! We have poured years of truth into them and have taught them to obey us because they respect and love us.
Yet, none of it could have stopped them from hurting inside or wanting to hurt others too.
That truth is not easy to accept. It is hard to think about when you rewind situations and all that you knew during that time. It is hard to not go back and walk through all the “what if” scenarios. Trust me, doing that will never change where you are today. It won’t erase the struggles. It won’t fix the brokenness and it can never aide in the healing your family must go through every single day.
And that my friends is the reality I had to get to very fast in the last 12 days. No matter what warning signs I saw from the very beginning of our adoptions and meeting our children, and the things I noticed once they were home. Nothing would prepare me for the daily choice I would have to make to live out my faith. To love them no matter what. To do everything I can to help them become the child God created them to be. To shine mercy and grace. To shine love into the darkest places deep within them…so that the bridge of trust would become the very foundation of our relationship once and for all! Because if a child doesn’t trust you, then you can kiss healing good-bye. If that child doesn’t believe with every fiber of their soul that you mean what you have told them (“you are our forever child” “you are our child no matter what” “you are never going back to x,y,z” “no one will ever hurt you again”), then they will never let you into the places where every wall has been built up like Fort Knox. Nor will they let you see who they believe they really are, which will only hinder or completely halt you from helping them to learn and believe in the truth to silence the lies. They live out who they believe they are from the neglect, rejection, abandonment, abuse, and lies done to them! Unless, you are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice and love unconditionally.
This kind of love and sacrifice will take a whole lot of courage! You can’t give up. You must face each day as it comes. Taking them one moment at a time! You must allow yourself the grace to mess up and NOT beat yourself up. You must allow yourself to the chance to better the next day and the next. Why? Because a child’s life is on the line. So is yours. Every choice we make effects our future. What you do today will have a direct result on tomorrow. So dig deep inside yourself and truly look at the motives of your heart. Then take a deep breath and begin parenting from a place of truth and love. You will have renewed courage to face whatever mountain you must climb along your journey. It won’t be easy. It might never end. But it will be worth it. I believe that with all that I am. Because I know that I know that I know – this journey we are on is no mistake. It will bring out my gifts and talents in ways nothing else could. It will make me stronger and a better person. Which will help our family become stronger, wiser, and better people!
This is where the rubber meets the road. This is where they watch to see if you are who you say you are. This is where they watch and pay close attention to everything you say and do. They are watching to see if the trust they are dying to have with you is worth the risk. They are watching to see if you can handle their truth. They are watching to see if you are going to reject, abandon, neglect, or shame them just like others have done too many times in their young lives! They are watching to see if you will be the hands and feet of the very Savior you have taught them to know and love. They are watching to see if you will be there like you promised the moment they entered your family forever. Just know they are watching.
They may not like the consequences that come from their choices. But trust that they are thankful you are not letting them get away with things. That you desire to help them grow past the bad choices. Trust that they are thankful even when they can’t tell you. Trust that it hurts them even when they show zero remorse when they have chosen the wrong thing for the 100th time. Trust that even when you have to get them help outside of your home, knowing that it is not forever will mean the difference between life and death of their soul. Please don’t beat yourself up for doing the right thing just because it might never produce the results you prayed and hoped for. Know that it is NOT because you aren’t a good enough parent. Not because you didn’t love enough. But because you were willing to do the hard thing over and over again! Love in action is not always happiness, joy, and peace. Love in action may look very hard and sad! Love in action may seem too much to handle. Love in action may feel impossible. But when you take action with truth and love as your guide – you won’t have to regret your choices along the way! And that my friends will give you peace, joy, and hope for your families future! Doing everything in truth and love will keep you doing what is necessary in that moment for the best of your child/family.
That might just simply mean telling your child no. Sometimes saying no can be the hardest thing you do. Trust me it can often take everything in you to simply say, “no” and not enter the game of manipulation, the stronghold of lying/stealing/cheating, and all the things a child can do to have power and control in your home. They are not ready or prepared for such power/control. Nor should it be given to them. When a child is fighting for it, it is because they don’t trust you have it. So again, check yourself and how you act/react on a daily basis. Is it in truth and love? Are you leading them to healing or being stuck in the pain of their past because they are not safe to come out from under it? Easy? No way! But if you truly want to see change in your home, then it is time to do the hard work and dig deep within yourself to be the parent this child(ren) needs. Mourn the loss over the child you prayed for and hoped they would be. Then dust yourself off and learn to embrace the child who stands before you desperately in need of truth and love!
Sometimes I just want to remind parents that it is OK to be the MOM/DAD! It is OK to say no to your child. It is OK to not live for them. It is OK to set up rules and boundaries that they must follow. It is OK to take away cell phones at night and not give them back before they leave for school or work each day. It is OK to NOT allow computer or internet access in their bedrooms. It is OK to turn off the TV for a week, month, or gasp an entire year. It is OK! It is OK to say NO to things that everyone else is allowed to do and say. It is OK! It is OK to parent your child. It really is OK! It is OK to not give in when they act/react in a way that causes the entire family stress (in public and at home). It is OK to remove all privileges until they have earned them back. It is OK to teach your children to take responsibility for their choices – seek forgiveness, make things right, and pay back the cost of anything they have taken, broken, or misused! It is OK to NOT parent out of guilt over the life a child had before they came into your family. It is OK to NOT give them everything they want and to teach them having less is actually having more. They came from nothing, having anything more than nothing is a gift and blessing. The more you give, the more they have to take for granted. The more the whole inside of them becomes because soon they realize that all the stuff will never dull the pain they brought with them. Which opens the door to harder choices, bigger consequences and a vicious cycle of pain! It is OK to say NO!
I will end this post with the following. I didn’t think I could do all that I have shared with you. I truly wanted to give up so many times along the way. I wanted to give up 10 days ago. I just couldn’t take another thing to deal with and work on. Parenting is hard enough without the pain of adoption. Parenting hurt children hurts. There is no way around it. But like I said the other day, I will NOT give up on our family having victory over this pain! I was humbly reminded that this life is NOT about me. It never will be. It will always be about true love which sacrifices all for the good of another. In my case it is ten other people (nine children and my husband). They will get everything I have to give while I make sure I take the very best care of me! Don’t forget to take care of you or you will never be able to face the mountains you must climb!
May this song bless you as it did me when I needed it most last week! Hold strong to your faith friends and remember you are NOT alone!
Friends please encourage your family and friends who have already walked through adoption by offering them your support without judgment. Offer them rest in their storm. Find ways to bless them. Find ways to help them by telling them you are praying for them. Stand in the gap when they are too weary and feel swallowed up by the reality they face. Be their hands and feet. We are all called to help the orphan (not to adopt – despite the constant deafening screams of so many! Everyone should NOT adopt! God forbid! Please don’t adopt because your church is speaking about it every single month and many of your friends are now doing it. ONLY adopt when you know that you know that you know God is calling both your spouse and yourself to do it!! Then ensure you do everything in your power to prepare your heart and home for the reality of all that adoption brings with it! Even that may not be enough for what you may face along the way!) – which means even after they have found their forever family. Their true journey in this life often just begins when they have been separated from the only home they have ever known. Remember they don’t know what a “normal” family in America looks or feels like. To them it may not be a welcomed change or comfort. It may take years for the old wounds to heal or it could take a lifetime. However long it takes every single one of us is worth knowing truth and love!