Last night, we attended this house party. Not one with kegs like in days gone by, but one with a phenomenal vocalist playing her acoustic guitar and singing through the Bible… better known as a quaint and personal house concert. So many of her sets spoke right to the place I’m standing, looking at the effects of sin, God’s crazy calling on His peoples, His faithfulness in the midst of pain and destruction, and the promises. Promises.
Something else happened, too. One of my less favorite happenings, and one I forgot to expect with a new referral. The infamous awkward and the HARD. (In case you don’t know, this may be the hardest part of our wait, to know our kids, to see their faces, and to watch them grow in pictures without us, their family.) We get it. We’ve been in your place, honestly. You are curious, and we’ve been curious. You’re concerned, and we’ve been concerned. You want to say something, and you just don’t know what. Maybe Rules of Engagement will help.
No, this isn’t war. It’s adoption. But it’s not always nice. It’s not pretty, and the beginnings aren’t happy, so we need some rules to make sure we reduce as much of the awkward and unintended hurt as possible. Here we go. Follow if you will:
. 1. Our children are not entering our family by choice or happy circumstances. Please, even though it’s natural to wonder, don’t ask us why in public. See, this is a bit like us saying to you, “Wow, you’re pregnant. Tell us all the details of how it happened!” We don’t want to embarrass you. Right now, we are not going share the specifics of our children’s story. (It feels unfair, right? It’s not. I promise. I won’t ask you about your conception either.) Remember, adoption has NEVER been a thing of beauty. Its roots are painful. Its lineage is redemption. Adoption did NOT originate from beauty. It came from pain and brokenness, and it is only a decent answer to the tragedies of this world. Your question of why will never be answered with a white picket fence surrounding a sweet, safe haven called home with loving parents standing at the door sending these children off as though it’s their first day of kindergarten…
2. 2. “Wow! You must be a Saint.” “What are you thinking?!?” and “My, my, your hands are full, and you’re going to have more children?” ARE NOT phrases I want shared in response to our referral news. There is a pop culture sentiment that motherhood is a-bottom-of-the-bucket job, a passing hobby, and sheer drudgery. It seems this culture also tells us children are risks, not gifts. Four of our 7 children will forever battle the scars of abandonment that attend adoption, which means they will battle feeling loved, treasured, and precious. We are working to instill in our children (all 7) that they “are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb and a reward.” (Psalms 127:3-5 ESV) I’m not a saint because I parent my children. I am simply obedient and walking in the joy of the gifts God is giving us…. children…yes, all of them. So when what you really mean is, “This is going to be a lot of work. I know you are going to be tired and need help.” Just say that.
3. 3. Please, don’t use our adoption as your opportunity for your racist platform or bigoted ideology. Yes, half of our children will be black. Yes, we know they are black, and we are not. We actually love the differences that God created in different nations and races. And you don’t need to point out that this will bring along its own set of difficulties. We know.
4 4. “You are adopting from Ethiopia? You know there are kids here, in your own country, who need homes. Right?” continues to surface. Please, refrain from snidely challenging God’s call on our lives. There are specific reasons we chose to adopt from Ethiopia. The primary and most poignant response is, “God called us to Ethiopia.” Where has he called you?
5. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. That sounds funny after the previous statements; but, really, ask. Just use discernment, and if you are in doubt, ask in private. We desperately want to share our journey with you. This is not a road to travel alone; we need you. You are our support. We NEED this village, and I’d love to hear from you, adoptive and non-adoptive friends. Both perspectives are valid. Share your thoughts?