Thursday, April 26, 2012

Love Fest

We don’t know if everybody has had the same experience of adoption as us or not.  We cant speak for infant adoptions or even international adoptions. We do know what it is like to have birth children and we now know what it is like to adopt older children from foster care. We started writing this blog to simply share with others our experience.  For better or worse, we simply seek to be transparent with our experience with our new children.  I assure you that we entered into this venture with pure hearts.  We had no other motive for adoption other than to provide some children with a loving home and follow the leading of our Lord. 

That being said, we have been surprised and I think its even accurate to say, hurt, along this journey.  When you willingly enter into this thing called parenthood, whether by your own womb or someone else’s, you do so with certain expectations.  Speaking for ourselves, ours was the expectation of a family LoveFest.  We envisioned children happily playing in our yard, mingling with our other children, and feeling the love and security that has been the cornerstone of our home from the beginning.  We expected our new children to somehow magically forget every negative experience of their lives, unlearn every survival behavior necessary to live in their former environments and instantly embrace the love of a caring, committed family.  That is to say, a family that cares about each other, shows common respect for each of its members, and makes sure that each member is given the best possible environment in which to develop his or her God-given skills and purpose in life.  The love always flowed to and from each of our children and us as parents.

It is safe to say that our little LoveFest bubble has been burst.  The point was brought home again when we received the sweetest video from our oldest son featuring our newest pride and joy of the family, baby Kimber.  She is our first grandchild and is now 7 months old.  In the video, she and dad were cuddling, cooing and carrying on like a couple of kittens with a ball of yarn.  In the background was Kimber’s mother saying things like, “say, ‘I love you, da-da!’”  And sure enough, little Kimber would mimic mommy’s voice and all were absolutely thrilled with her confession!  It was a beautiful thing to watch the whole process of little Kimber obviously enjoying every minute of dad’s cuddling and undivided attention.  It taught her two things:  that mom & dad are two loving creatures in her life and that the good, warm fuzzy feelings she had inside were now labeled as “love”.  The bond between Kimber and her parents is well established even now and this child is already growing deep roots of love, respect and connection that will serve her well throughout life.  This, however, is not the part that burst our bubble.

What exactly happens when a child doesn’t get such attention and affirmation from his or her parents?  After all, isn’t this just the endless babblings of over joyed parents having silly little moments with their child that, while cute, doesn’t really have the same effect on anyone else in this world (outside of grandparents that is!) like it does our son and his wife?  But wait a minute.  Let us not be so naïve as to underestimate moments like these.  As we were enjoying the moment on video, Karen suddenly toggled to the relationship we have with our new children and had the thought:  “I don’t think they love us yet.  I think they are happy to live here and that they like the things we do with them.  I think they don’t want to leave but I don’t think they really love us”

She went on to say, “You know how when you have a baby and the baby just loves you so much and you know that they depend on you for everything and you are the world to them?  It isnt like that when you adopt older children.  It is as if they have already decided that they are their own (and maybe only) hope and answer”.  I wished I didn’t, but I knew exactly what she was saying.  When you adopt (at least non-infant adoption) the initial task is simply to try to form bonds.  Every ounce of your energy and being goes into trying to form this loving, trusting relationship that so deeply communicates that “hey, you’re home now.  You’ve got nothing to worry about.  You are safe and you are taken care of”.  But how do you do that with a little creature that is stuck in survival mode?   How do you bond with a child to whom you are simply another player in their life whom they must learn to manipulate in order to survive in their little worlds?  Love, attachment, permanency, family and just plain basic respect are just occasional parts that one plays on life's grand stage in order to get what you want at any given moment; the better you can play the part in the theatre, the more likely you will get another toy.  Never get too close because after all, the social worker comes tomorrow and you won't be here anymore! 

As parents, you live for those moments when your baby just looks you in the eyes with adoration and a pure, simple love that knows nothing but to trust you.  With the baby you birthed there is never any question about love and trust.  It is somehow reciprocal and you feel it.  With your adopted children, if there is any love or trust present, you must provide it all alone.  It is a constant feeling that you are the only one that showed up for this love fest.  You are the only one invested in this relationship.  And when you feel like giving up or just riding this thing out until they hit 18 you get this nudge in your spirit that says, "now you know how I felt!" and you remember somewhere in the back of your mind that Bible verse that says something like "and while we were yet sinners, Jesus loved us".  At that moment, you get it!  You are reminded that you were once in a relationship where you didn't love, didn't trust and didn't reciprocate.  The only one that showed up for the LoveFest was Jesus.  Prayers were simply attempts to get what you wanted and not prayers that entertained the very heartbeat of God and His wishes.  Forget enjoying a relationship with the King of the Universe.  All operations were based on “what have you done for me lately!” 

In spite of the yucky feelings that come from feeling completely used, manipulated, and somewhat embarrassed as you stand there all alone with your love, we will start again tomorrow and the next day and the day after that, and on and on, and try all over again to get them to participate in our family’s LoveFest.  Just like God with us, we aren’t in this to teach them all the right lines …we are after their hearts.  Even though we know that at this time in their little lives, they are incapable of returning love as we would so yearn for them to do...or as our birth children were able to do, we will do our best to show them a love that we have been shown by our Heavenly Father...for love is patient, it is kind; it does not envy, doesn’t boast, and doesn’t act rudely.  It doesn’t seek its own way, is not easily provoked and does not rejoice in somebody else’s wrongdoings or mistakes.  It rejoices only in the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never, ever, ever, ever, evvvverrrr fails!  (our version of I Corinthians 13 and a line from the movie “Martian Child”!).

Until we talk again… 

The Unruly Member Strikes Again!

Since adding the children to our family in 2010 we have been constantly reminded of the parallel processes (see Russell’s article on Parallel Processes at in adoption.  That is, many of God’s truths have been revealed to us through the daily issues and struggles we have encountered while parenting our children. Parenting children that we did not birth reflect spiritual truths involved in the spiritual adoption God undertook in order to have us in His family.  While children will be children, we constantly are reminded of what God did for us in order to make us part of His family.  At times, it has appeared to be a constant stream of the revelation of God’s love and His desire for all of us human beings.

One of those revelations occurred recently.  It is safe to say that one of the most prominent battle groups with our children has been focused on food.  We recognize that kids by nature can be somewhat fickle at the dinner table but our new children have taken fickle to a new level of insanity!  What they ate yesterday is arsenic today!  And I’m not just talking “hold-your-nose-and-stuff-it-in” protests…I’m talking “dig-in-your-heels-and-I-dare-you-to-make-me” wars!  Given that several of the children came to us with diagnosis of malnurishment and associated health issues, we have been extremely concerned with their eating habits.
On the flip side of protesting food that is good and healthy is the absolute obsession and manner in which they devour sweets and junk food.  To give them a piece of cake or heaven forbid, candy, is like throwing a slab of meat into a pool of hungry sharks.  Seriously!  We are talking feeding frenzy times 10!  It’s not just eating fast, it was as if they have never eaten before, will never eat again and become completely tuned out to everything else going on around them.  Their tongues and taste buds seem to control everything even at the expense of health and well-being, not to mention the relationships with those around them.  And what is more disconcerting is that we have tried just about every form of consequence, reward and reinforcement known to mankind to shape this behavior into something close to normal.  While we have made some progress, it is still amazing to us how that one little body part called the tongue, with all its little buddies known as taste buds, rules the entire culinary show…even if it means something negative and undesirable as a result.

Recently Karen was thinking about this whole food thing, and realized that perhaps we were given a warning about this phenomenon.  After all, didn’t James tell us that the tongue was an “unruly member, full of poison” and could easily have its way to the destruction and detriment of the rest of the body?  Yes, we usually interpret this scripture in the context of “be careful little mouth what you say” and that would absolutely be an accurate lesson of this scripture.  But as we well know, whatever we see in the natural has a spiritual parallel and vice versa. 

When it comes to food, the tongue is still the guy who wants to be out of control at the expense of the rest of the body.  “Give me cake!  Give me Dr. Pepper!  Give me sugar!  Give me all the stuff that brings me pleasure even if it means I become malnourished or have triple bypass surgery at 35 years old!”  Not only does the tongue spout out words that control our life and destiny, but it seems that it demands its own satisfaction at the dinner table as well.  The tongue not only becomes the rudder of the ship in the context of our words, but it is also that part that defiles our body…literally! 

Not only demanding sweets and junk food but also demanding unlimited supplies of it. Our body becomes full long before our tongue is tired of tasting. Our bodies need nourishment from healthy foods and nutrients, while our tongue only longs for taste fulfillment. Our muscles need amino acids, our bones need calcium, our brains need omega 3s and yet the tongue is ruling what each body part gets. And when we are full and need to stop eating, the tongue still demands one more taste.

James said that like the bit in the mouth of a horse that directs its path, we must place a “bit” in our mouths to guard our words.  It may be that we need to wear that “bit” at the dinner table too!

Until we talk again…