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Recently, a friend and I leaned against my kitchen counter, watching our children play in the backyard. As we sipped coffee we chatted about a young couple in our church that is in the process of adopting two children.  We reminisced about the time when we were in their shoes, recalling how little we truly knew and understood about the road that lay ahead.  My friend and I agreed — we wished we could share all we have learned since that time about adopting children from “hard places.” We wished that someone had done the same for us.

As we talked, I realized that much of what we have learned along the way might be helpful to more than just this couple. They are good lessons and timely reminders for all of us who are on the adoption journey, no matter how far along.

I would encourage my friends to give up their pride and their desire to compare. I thought I was a fairly humble person, but adopting my children has brought me to my knees when it comes to thinking highly of myself and my capabilities as a mother. My oldest daughter was a hard baby and a challenging toddler, but once I got on the ‘Christian Mommy Discipline Train,’ she shaped up pretty well. That doesn’t mean I never had a child misbehave or throw a tantrum in public. I won’t even mention the time that four-year-old Noah pulled the fire alarm at church and the congregation had to evacuate the building. There were embarrassing moments to be sure. But this…this kind of parenting brings a different sort of humility.

In my first 20 years of being a mother, before adopting, I was never so stumped or so completely empty of wisdom as I have been at times in trying to be a good parent to the children we have welcomed into our lives through adoption. I never read so many books, pored over so many websites, or called so many experts in search of help. I never took my child to a therapist or felt that I might need one myself. I never called my husband home from work because a child was so distressed or out-of-control that I couldn’t keep everyone safe—and not just once, but many times.

And as someone who was a passionate homeschooler, I never had to seek out alternatives to homeschooling because it wasn’t working. I never thought about acronyms such as IEP, RAD, or PTSD. I never sent an email to my friends telling them I couldn’t manage the summer on my own, and asking if they would be willing to help.  Based on my years of experience as a successful parent, I thought I had it all figured out, only to find out that as we began the adoption journey I was, in many ways, completely starting over.

But I quickly learned that there were many other things I did not know from my previous years as a mother.  I didn’t know the indescribable joy of watching a child fall in love with me. I didn’t know the beauty of holding a child in my arms and fiercely loving her even though I had only met her weeks before. I didn’t know the agony of waiting for a child who was 8,000 miles away, or seeing her turn her face to me for the first time and come into my arms. I didn’t know the hope I would feel when I saw sad and tender tears on my child’s face for the first time, after months of anger and frustration. I didn’t know how incredible it would feel to hear my child say, “I love you, Mommy. You are the best Mom!” when I knew this was truly a revelation to her.

To those who are considering adopting a child from a “hard place” as well as those who are already traveling this journey toward healing, I say: be ready to lay down your pride and abandon yourself to love.  It will be different than you think—better in some ways and much harder in others. Find a few people you can trust, friends you can call at any hour, friends who will understand and love your children even when they seem unlovable. Don’t pressure your child to become like your other children who have been raised with loving guidance and discipline since birth. And do not, under any circumstances, compare your newly adopted child with your friends’ children. You will live to regret it. Rather, give your child time and permission to heal, and become a committed and active participant in that healing. It won’t be easy nor is it likely to come quickly.  This healing will take a great deal of your time, energy, and finances…but give it all away for your child’s sake.

I have come to learn that it is precisely this kind of adoption journey – a journey of humility, selflessness and sacrificial love – that God called us to when He called us to adopt.  I suppose Eby’s vacation Bible school verse says it best:

He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you? But to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. — Micah 6:8

Amen.

~Lisa



  1. Andrea H. (Reply) on Wednesday 24, 2009

    Wow, this is so true. Although my daughter wasn't adopted but I knew exactly what you meant on the things you have experienced of having to call your husband and other things. But I know it always looks and sound so graceful of adopting older children but you layed it all out there and it is tough but rewarding and most certainly not for everyone. God has chosen very special people for that, and you are one of those people, Lisa. Your perserverance and faith has completely knocked me off my feed. You are not a quitter, that's for sure.

  2. neely (Reply) on Wednesday 24, 2009

    thank you…i needed this today!

  3. Laurel (Reply) on Wednesday 24, 2009

    Thanks for being that friend I can trust, as I walk through things more difficult than I ever could have imagined.

    Laurel

  4. Shonni (Reply) on Wednesday 24, 2009

    Wonderful post…as usually, thank you for sharing what you and your family are walking through as your journey together.

  5. Mamita J (Reply) on Wednesday 24, 2009

    Oh my word…That was so beautifully written and so true.

    Thank you…and amen.

    Julie

  6. Donna (Reply) on Wednesday 24, 2009

    Amen!

    Well said!

    I really thought I was resting all my parenting successes in the hands of the Lord. Then I saw my pride bruised and my heart humbled.

    Thank you for sharing all you do. I have learned much from your resouces. Trauma affected is a new word in our house, but it brings hope of a direction to seek answers.

    Isn't it good to know God is forgiving of our foolishness and pride. And that He is the great Healer of all hurts!

    Delight in Him-
    Donna

  7. Angela (Reply) on Wednesday 24, 2009

    Oh, thanks Lisa! God has been laying the WALK HUMBLY part of that verse on my heart a lot lately, too.
    I so appreciate you, and all the wisdom you share here.

  8. KT (Reply) on Wednesday 24, 2009

    Great words of advice! And not only can you not compare your adopted child to your bio kids. You can not compare your adopted child to their biological also adopted sibling! It amazes me how much these kids are different, yet come from the same first family!
    You are awesome Lisa!

  9. Bonnie (Reply) on Wednesday 24, 2009

    Good Advice! Please keep it coming – as someone who has just jumped into the deep end of the pool – adopting a 7 and 9 year old, I want to read everything I can before they come home!

  10. Signe (Reply) on Wednesday 24, 2009

    Wow, it sounds so much better when you write it out like that. I'm sitting here in tears, thinking about our fantastic kids, all of them. They are so worth the odd looks we get.

  11. a Tonggu Momma (Reply) on Wednesday 24, 2009

    I love this post. Thank you so much for writing it. And I'll be linking to it this coming Wednesday at the No Hands But Ours site (a site for those considering the China adoption special needs program).

  12. Marissa (Reply) on Wednesday 24, 2009

    You're writing has restored my courage and my faith. Thank you.

  13. shell (Reply) on Wednesday 24, 2009

    thanks lisa, your honesty is SO refreshing!

  14. Ajay (Reply) on Wednesday 24, 2009

    Lisa,

    I just foined this "blogging world" and the reason was to learn from families like yours who have Godly wisdom in their home and who have stories with experience on adopting older children. We have two kids, our youngest Sam was adopted from Ethiopia through CWA Dec 2008. We feel God speaking to us about an older sibling group and are going to move cautiously but obediently. We're just starting to learn. What advice or resources would you recommend as we pray about making this big decision? Books, guidelines, others to talk to? I'd really appreciate anything you can share.

    Blessings,
    Ajay

  15. Audra (Reply) on Wednesday 24, 2009

    I have 3 older adopted siblings and I so know where you are coming from. I was talking to a friend whos daughter came home with my 3 and she was talking about never needing to discipline her because she was so good and seemed suprised that my "perfect" kids needed discipline from me! Yeah… they act VERY good in public, because I have very strict rules. I am loving, but I also "don't play" when it comes to certain things (like taking a running lap around the restaraunt.. yes, they needed a time-out). So I caught myself comparing and realized my reality is very different from hers and dog-gone it… I am doing a good job with my reality!

    Thanks for your post, I enjoyed it a lot!

  16. Jen (Reply) on Wednesday 24, 2009

    Great post to read as we are waiting to bring home a toddler (2.5 y old from Ethiopia). Some good reminders for a mother who has been blessed with 3 that have been so easy.

  17. Audrey (Reply) on Wednesday 24, 2009

    This post really hit me, Lisa. You give me so much hope. I am grateful that you have been sharing these bits of wisdom on your blog and I am learning so much from your experiences. Thanks so much!

  18. Andrea (Reply) on Wednesday 24, 2009

    Lisa, as usual you have spoken to my heart. It truly is a learning curve, a humbling, hard, exhausting, wonderful, insightful learning curve.
    Thank you for sharing your heart.

  19. small world (Reply) on Wednesday 24, 2009

    So true and aptly said dear friend!
    Theresa

  20. [...] way, but after six months we found ourselves sitting with our daughter in a therapist’s office.  Our despair was great, we were exhausted, but the therapist shared her confidence and strength with us. Hope began to [...]

  21. Cindee Snider Re (Reply) on Wednesday 24, 2009

    Oh, Lisa, WOW! Absolutely beautiful! I'm so blessed to have "stumbled" onto your site today. May God continue to touch other lives as you share His work in your own, and may you be abundantly blessed as He is glorified.

    Cindee

    • One Thankful Mom (Reply) on Wednesday 24, 2009

      Thank you so much, Cindy. I'm so glad you found A Bushel and A Peck!

  22. Wendy (Reply) on Wednesday 24, 2009

    I decided to check out your "Top 9" tonight, and I'm so glad I did. As a mom to 3 relatively easy bio kids and an 8 mos. old Ethiopian princess who has just been home 2 months, I needed to hear this. I just spent almost an hour by her crib, reassuring her that this new bed (just coming from the bassinet by my bed) and her new room were safe, and patting her and singing to her until she finally fell asleep. I always took great pride (though I didn't see it at the time) in what great sleepers my other three were. But there is no room for pride here. It's just hard work, parenting a little one whose world has been traumatic and turned upside-down more than once. I would (pridefully) like to let her cry it out, but I know that's not what's best for her. Gulp. Thanks for your words, which the Lord placed in such a timely manner for me!