November is National Adoption Month, and today I wanted to share our story with you – the beautiful and the broken… When my husband and I got married in 2011, we knew we wanted a family. We knew we were meant to be parents. We even talked about how we both wanted to adopt, but we assumed that this would be much later, and we planned on having our own biological children first. Did you know that’s how you make God laugh? Tell Him your plans. As you can guess, His plans were much different than ours. This is our adoption story…
By the summer of 2014, with no luck getting pregnant, we decided to jump in feet first and signed up for adoption classes. We got our license by February 2015, and then we eagerly began looking for the child God had for us. It was a long, tedious, and heartbreaking process, but in October 2015, I saw my son’s profile online and God instantly spoke to my heart: “That’s your baby. Go get him.”
There was no doubt he was meant for our family, so we immediately began the process of contacting caseworkers. It took 5 months to wade through the paperwork and be selected as his family. We lived in Austin and he was in a foster home in Houston, so we had visited him every weekend for 2 solid months until school let out for summer. At the end of May 2016, our green-eyed, 5 year old little boy came home, and he officially became a Barnes on Adoption Day in November of 2016. It was such a long process, but such an amazing, insightful journey. Here are the 3 things that our adoption has taught me.
1. Adoption isn’t always a fairy tale.
I had this idea that when our child would come home, that everything would fall into place and we would have the perfect little life. Boy was I wrong! Here’s something that won’t surprise you: parenting is hard. It’s hard for all of us. Kids don’t come with instruction manuals, and we’re all pretty much just winging it. I felt like I had adequate experience working with kids. I mean, I was a kindergarten teacher for several years. I know kids. I know they have quirks, feelings, and personalities all their own. And I know that there are tough days where those little personalities with their own feelings can clash with my own, but I was always able to overcome that effectively as a teacher.
When my son came home, it was like a nuclear bomb dropped into my world. I was in no way prepared for how hard it would be to parent a child dealing with early childhood trauma. I didn’t know I would have to teach a 5 year old how to hold kitchen utensils and feed himself, because no one else had taken the time. I wasn’t prepared to be cursed at (well!) by an angel faced child. I didn’t know how angry he would be, and how he would take it out on me; that all of his feelings would be BIG feelings. And I didn’t realize how much his big feelings would affect me – mentally, emotionally, physically, even spiritually… Secondary Traumatic Stress is a very real thing, folks. We were both unprepared and overwhelmed, but every night I tried to ground myself by repeating those words God had spoken to me: “That’s your baby. Go get him.”
2. It’s a perfect picture of how God loves us.
I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent in prayer since my son came home. Truly, my prayer life has taken a dramatic shift since I’ve had kids. But one of the things God has revealed to me in my quiet time is that this relationship I have with my adopted son is a beautiful reflection of God’s relationship with me. We know scripture teaches us this in Romans:
“For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.” ~ Romans 8:14-17 NASB
I now see this scripture with new clarity and a deeper understanding more than ever before. Since my son came home, we’ve been through some real struggles, and life has not been easy. I truly do not understand how his mind works and why he does the things he does. But even in the brokenness, he is mine, now and forever. I wouldn’t trade him for anything in the world. My love for him is utterly unconditional. And therein lies the beauty. Like my son, I mess up. A lot. I can get a bad attitude when things don’t go my way. I’m human. It’s what we do. But it never changes how God feels about us, and it cannot take away the fact that God has adopted me into HIS family. That case was sealed on the cross by Jesus Christ. I can’t change it, and I don’t want to. Without Him, my alternative was bleak. But in Him, I have a completely new life. Praise be to God!
3. I wouldn’t change a thing.
It’s been two and a half years since he came home, and my whole entire world has changed. I’ve changed. I have learned more patience than I ever thought humanly possible. I’ve learned the who, what, when, & where of every super hero known to man. I’ve experienced a love that I didn’t know a heart could hold, and I’ve seen firsthand God’s provision and plan come to fruition. I’ve watched my son grow, explore, and try new things. The angry little boy that walked into my life two years ago is very different today. He’s mad an incredible amount of progress. We are still dealing with his trauma – and will for many years to come, I’m sure. But we are beginning to see something nothing short of miraculous: healing. He is learning how to be part of a family. He is learning that he is loved, and that he is home. This little boy has given me the greatest joy and honor of my life… he made me a mom.
This is what I want you to know.
I want to make it clear: I’m in no way trying to paint a negative picture of adoption. It’s been an incredible privilege and an amazing experience. But in reality, the adoption story begins in a very ugly way: the severance of the original parental relationship for one reason or another. Yet adoption is beautiful in its ugliness because it’s a picture of grace and restoration. If you’ve been feeling like you may be called to adopt, or foster, here’s my advice: DO IT. It’s worth it: every moment! The good, the bad, and the ugly – because you are changing the entire life path for a child, and in effect, generations to come. Will adoption be hard? Absolutely. Every child will come with baggage. That’s what happens when you take a journey. Remember that every child is different. Your story might not look like ours. But they’re all beautiful, because they are all handcrafted by the Master.
If you’re not called to foster or adopt, you can still make a difference. Find the foster/adopt community in your area and ask what they need. Here are a few ideas:
- Donate clothes, toys, books, etc., to foster families for their kids. Most foster children come into CPS care with nothing. It’s up to the foster parents to supply their needs, and I promise, they need your support and help!
- Sponsor foster kids at Christmas time.
- Become certified to babysit or provide respite care for a foster/adoptive family. While in CPS care, families cannot have just anyone watch over their kids. (Contact your local Department of Family & Human Services to find out what classes or certifications you may need.)
I want to share one final thing about God’s plan for our family with you… FIVE DAYS after our son’s adoption was final, we found out we were pregnant. You can never convince me that God’s plan isn’t perfect in HIS timing, or that He doesn’t have a fantastic sense of humor.
“Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart.” ~ Psalm 37:4