Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Adopting an Older Child

Teaching children for the past 20+ years has taught me a lot about their little personalities.  How their learning styles, although changeable, are pretty much set by age 7.  Some studies also reveal that our personalities are set by around first grade as well.  

So, when my husband and I felt called to adopt, we knew we wanted an older child, but one under 7 (so that we could still help to shape them - or so we thought).  Luckily for us, our social worker told us to make our age range broad, so our home study stated that we were requesting a boy aged 3-8, but our limit was still 7!  This was fine, because when we started our adoption process, our agency had some boys waiting in that age range.  However, we didn’t allow ourselves to look at them until we were at a point that we could be matched with one of them. But by the time that point came, they had all been placed. So we waited and waited and waited.  

One night I was on a website looking at missions trips to Ethiopia and came across a waiting child list. I contacted the agency to get permission to view their children and told them our gender/age preference.  The next day she sent me the picture of an 8 year old boy that they had not yet placed on the site.  An 8 year old - past what we thought was the highest age we wanted to g o- but oh my goodness - he stole my heart!  His eyes - there was something about those eyes!  My husband said he didn’t want to see the picture until after he had prayed about it as he didn’t want to be swayed by an adorable child, but the next day, he had to look too!

It just felt right - peaceful - so we began pursuing adopting him, even though he was from a different agency.  After much prayer, God worked out all the details and we were on our long journey to bring him into our family.

While we waited, we read all the information our agency had given us about adopting an older child. We felt as “prepared” as we were going to get, at least intellectually.  But nothing can prepare you for the emotional journey of adopting an older child.  As if adoption itself isn’t emotional enough! Add in past lost, trauma and abandonment along with trying to adapt to a new culture, family structure, food, sleeping arrangements and on and on.

Our time with him in country was wonderful. Our son was so sweet and charming; but once we got home it was another story.  

It started the first night home when I asked him to eat a grape- tears, running to his room, not talking, mean stares.  Confusion, hurt feelings, not understanding one another.   Off and on this went for months. He would be incredibly happy and loving for days and then something ( a memory, disagreement or misunderstanding) would set him into a major crying depression in which he wanted nothing to do with me or anyone else.  It was SO sad and HARD. Sometimes I would just sit by him and cry too… for him… for everything he lost.   Some days I felt at my wits end and would just cry out, “Jesus help!” 

And He always did….every faithful, ever true….He never let us go.  He would show us new resources…. A phone call to a driver in Ethiopia, a local woman who spoke Amharic,  fellow adoptive mamas of older kids - one of them from his orphanage, Bible studies,  a lady in our church who was an adoption attachment specialist and on and on.  

He healed us.  And I do mean US.  Once I was reminding my son how much I loved him and how he would always be part of our family. I was trying to explain what it meant to have a family and all the benefits that come along with it - unconditional love, belonging, joy - and I felt God speak to my heart and say, “Do YOU really understand what it means to be MY child?  Do you even comprehend that you are a joint heir with Jesus?  Do you know that you are my daughter and I love you no matter how you act?”  He took me to a deeper level in my relationship with Him that day…all through seeing family through the eyes of the one adopted.  Thank you Jesus!

Now, all those episodes seem like a distant memory.  Like the pain you have with childbirth, that you forget soon after as it is replaced by the joy of new life.  Our son has been with us one year and seven months now, and he makes us smile every single day!  He has grown and blossomed and connected and adapted and God has made something beautiful out of the dust of a broken situation.  Our son LOVES life, I mean loves it!  And he helps us see even little things through new eyes. It’s still not always easy, but we know who goes before us…and He is leading us to start the process to bring another older child into our family. We can’t wait to see what He does this time!!

God has changed me so much through this process and show me several places where I was set in my ways and needed to see things from a different perspective.  But most of all how He doesn’t give up on us,  It’s never too late.  He can change us, He can make all things new.  He makes beautiful things, He makes beautiful things out of us and out of 8 year old boys!

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