It’s true. Adoption ruined so much of me, I am still trying to pick up the pieces of what used to be, and piece them haphazardly to the new pieces that were formed in the wrecking.
The messy work of fostering and adopting is like no other road I have walked. I know many have walked this same dusty, dirty, pothole ridden road that we have.
But hear me, it ruined me.
This is my story. My husband, our 2 biological children, and myself moved to Texas. We, being good Christians, joined a church. Then we joined a community group. Later, we sat down at our first community group gathering to find out that every single family at that table had either, fostered, adopted privately, adopted internationally, or adopted out of the foster system. We now joke that the first community gathering included Kool-Aid and everything after initiation is fuzzy. But jokes aside, I do clearly remember saying to my husband after our first meeting:
What in the world is going to happen?
As good Christians we always had phrases in our back pocket when the word ‘adoption’ came up:
“Oh we will someday.” Or “We would love to adopt, but the timing isn’t right.”
This idea of adoption just sat there staring us in the face. We pulled up every excuse possible to not do it, and felt like every single one got shot down. It’s like when you’re holding a morsel of food and dog is staring at you. At first you ignore it and maybe it’ll go away. Then you take a few quick glances out of curiosity only to peak the dog’s interest more. Finally, you just down right stare at the thing because the dog has become a hot mess of drool and pitiful whining. That’s sort of like what we were staring at; a hot mess of obvious. We couldn’t adopt internationally or privately because it is too expensive. Foster to adopt was our option.
We picked an agency, got licensed, and had this gloriously idealist idea of taking in an 18 month old boy. We though he would fit our family. We knew best, because it was our family after all. So God gave us an 18-month-old boy for respite care.
I must have missed the holy chuckle from above when we thought we were in control.
What we didn’t realize how ill-prepared we were to go back to baby. To be thrown back into it is like jumping from the hot tub into the swimming pool; it’s shocking. We had quite a time with our 18 month old. Bless his little heart, he didn’t know what was going on and neither did we. Our respite period ended and we all breathed a sigh of relief.
I contacted our agency saying we had changed our criteria for what kind of child we thought we’d do best with. Then we waited. And waited. And waited. I emailed our caseworker again and asked if there was anyone that sort of fit what we were looking for. She said there was a little 5-year-old girl who was at our agency’s ranch.
Enter where my life gets ruined.
We drove down to the ranch to meet her – and this was the clincher for me. I finally put the reality of abandoned, discarded, worthless, and problematic to a small person and we could not find a reason to say no. When I realized she truly had nothing I realized how much we had available for her.
You see, we can talk about how much we want to adopt or think we will, but our realities will never be shaken if we are not involved with their reality. My adopted child and I were leading two very different lives and I don’t know that I would have said yes if I had not met her and known what she was living with.
Two weeks later she arrived our front door step with a broken plastic tub of hand-me down clothes that were more or less ready to be turned into rags, a small notebook of pictures that contained pictures taken during CPS visits in a cinder block office as their backdrop, and a cash register toy. And she is one of the lucky ones. The black trash bag of possessions is not an exaggeration.
I knew it would be hard. I knew it would be tough. I knew, I knew, I knew. What I didn’t know was, that while a lot of attention is aimed at the child because of their brokenness, what I didn’t know was that I was going to end up finding more than enough of my own brokenness. That’s where my life was ruined; my idea of whom I thought I was completely shattered.
The truth is, a tiny 5-year-old girl made me realize how ugly my heart was, and for that I was so mad. I didn’t want to know that about myself! I wanted to go back to that time when I thought I was good Christian. I wanted to go back to that time when my good Christian phrases would get me a kind nod, smile, and make me feel like some sort of saint. I wanted to go back to the perfect family of dad, mom, and two kids, and a cat. I wanted to go back to a time when I didn’t hate myself. I wanted to go back….but there is no going back.
Month by month as we walked the foster to adopt journey pieces of myself were falling away. In between the voices of prayers, laughter, the moan of tears, monthly CPS visits & conversations, play therapy, equine therapy, and more you could hear the cracking of glass under pressure. For a full year we did foster care. It stretched my family to the limits. I bear the physical signs on carrying two children through pregnancy and my stretch marks are fully visible. The stretch marks from foster care are less visible. But they are there. They’re ugly in appearance, but represent the beautiful struggle of adoption.
God is in His goodness was there through every single moment. It sounds cliché and perhaps a bit ‘Pollyanna’-esk. The truth remains that every single prayer we lifted to heavens was answered. I never felt alone or abandoned, but I did wonder, over and over again, why in the world Jesus would love me after I found so much of myself that I despised.
On October 29th, 2015 we adopted our foster daughter. She said yes to our brokenness. And we said yes to hers.
The light at the end of the tunnel is that we all made it out alive, but I’m still standing on the shards of what I used to be. Every now and again I pick up a piece of who I used to be. I examine it. I try to discern if I should toss it into the metaphorical trash can or shelve it for future welding. I don’t have answers for this season because I’m still confused about who I am right now.
Are my old dreams still the same dreams? Are my goals still something worth reaching? Or did God bring me through to show me something new worth striving for? I look back at the old me and sometimes wonder who was I really?
Sometimes I’m ashamed of my surface Christianity and niceties. I don’t think they did me any good; they just made me look good. They built me up on a false sense of security. Just like the apostle Paul was built up in his religious zeal he considered himself good, until he encountered Jesus on the Damascus road. Paul was exposed to his condition of heart. I met Jesus in ways I never before had. He showed me my chains of self-importance and pride.
Fostering to adopt ruined that person. I’m glad they ruined that person. I don’t want to be a surface Christian. I want to pursue the Father’s heart & all that brings Him delight. I want to make Him proud like I would my earthly father. I want my family to know that being broken for the gospel is the most beautiful struggle that has ever existed.
I want to remember that bravery is sometimes looking back at myself in the mirror, even when I despise the reflection.