Friday, December 30, 2016

Lessons Learned

As I sit here reflecting back on 2016, I'm a bit overwhelmed at the gravity of the changes in our lives this year so instead of a year in review post or a top ten moments, I've decided to wrap up this year with the lessons learned throughout this journey that began over four years ago to become a family a four or maybe it is better title "The things I know now that I didn't know then"...

1.) It will not go as you planned... At all. 
You will begin your adoption journey. You will have an "ideal" plan, an "ideal" timeline of how things will play out, of when things will happen, of when it will be completed... but God will change all those plans. He will most likely turn all those plans on their head because his plan is better. His plan is best. Don't get me wrong... accepting those changes to your plan is not easy. Ever. But God knows what is best. He writes the best stories. He creates families. He chooses YOU to be the parent for the exact child(ren) he had planned to bring to you. Read Proverbs 19:21. Memorize it the day you send in your application for adoption. Trust me... he is going to teach you what that verse means through any adoption journey.

2.) Adoption is messy and ugly before it is beautiful.
EVERY adoption begins with loss, sadness and trauma. Just as our adoption through the Gospel is started because of brokenness, sin and separation from our Heavenly father, every adoption story begins because of a great loss that is outside of God's perfect plan for a family. It is so easy to be captured and captivated by the beautiful AFTER pictures of adoption and that is ok, but when God chooses you to adopt, he chooses you to enter into the mess, to understand the loss and to see that only he can redeem the brokenness in every story. Please do not be offended if a family chooses not to share everything about their child's past. It is personal. It is difficult.

3.) No two adoption journeys will ever be the same.
You can send in your paperwork the exact same day, you can be matched with children in the same month from the exact same country, but it will not play out the same. Only God knows how all the details will play out. We began our process very near the time another couple did who also lives in Wichita. We have been home 10 months and they are sadly still waiting to travel. 

4.) Adoption changes your life more than the child(ren) you adopt.
We've heard so many times "you guys are changing their lives" or many similar iterations. While we understand the good intentions in which this is stated, we cringe a bit each time we hear it. Adoption wrecks your life in good sense. It flips your world up side down. Your normal isn't normal anymore. Your worldview is shifted. Your heart and lives will always include a family on the other side of the world that you may never meet. Each day I am amazed at the strides our boys have taken in only 10 months, but even more so I am humbled by the daily lessons we learn from them.

5.) No matter what, there will be people who just don't get it.
They won't think about the questions they ask. They won't think about the hurt their comments can make. They will say something insensitive, rude or even racist and have no idea. It is just easier to accept that it will happen so you can be prepared with how you will or won't respond in those situations. Sometimes you just have to turn around and walk away, but every once in a while, the Holy Spirit gives you just the right and timely words to speak. Pray for those words!


6.) The paperwork (and questions to answer) will seemingly never end.
Just when you think you've filled out the last form, something will change and more paperwork will be required. You will sign more paperwork than buying four houses. You will be fingerprinted more than most criminals (I really am not joking on this one). You will pay for more background checks and immigration clearances that it takes to work in the secret service (ok this one is probably a stretch, but for real though). Oh and the personal questions you answer and then those answers are sent to some government agency half way around the world... yep, prepare yourself to lay your entire lives... personal, financial, emotional, spiritual... out for all to see and assess if you are fit to parent a child. Then the best part is when you are asked if you've considered the implications of bringing two children into your home who come from a difficult past. You bite your tongue and hold back the sarcastic response of "No, I haven't considered what that might be like; I just enjoy filling out hundreds of forms and paying tens of thousands of dollars to do something I haven't thought through at all."

7.) Your prayer life will change... hopefully for the better.
There are so many unexpected curve balls in any adoption journey that your only option is to turn to the Lord in prayer because there is nothing... absolutely nothing you or anyone can do to move your case along. There is also this amazing thing that happens... you get to know other adoptive families along the way.. you will be amazed at how the Lord knits your hearts together with other families who you may never meet in person and breaks your hearts for their kiddos also waiting half a world away to come home. Prayer will bind your hearts together. At times, prayer is often our last resort, but adoption will show you over and over again that it is your only resort and it is the most powerful thing you can do. 

8.) You will understand the greatness of the Gospel to a larger degree.
You know your adopted child is your child. There are not "real" children and adopted children. They are all your children. They all carry your family name. They will all share in the inheritance you pass on to them. They are not second class citizens in your family. The brokenness that began the journey for a child to be adopted is redeemed by the love of our Heavenly Father to place the lonely in families. The lost years of their history will be restored. Our brokenness is redeemed at the cross. Our sins are forgiven and washed cleaned. We are joined as coheirs with Christ. We are children of the King. We aren't servants out in the cold, served the scraps and leftovers. We will be seated at the table of the wedding feast.