“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, and penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.”(Maya Angelou)
I love when people show up, especially women. I have a bent towards the feminine soul – how it uniquely bears the image of God. Oh, don’t get me wrong! I love the masculine soul, too. I guess you could say that I lean both ways. But, well…you get what I mean, right? (I’m laughing right now.) The thing is, as a woman, I most understand and resonate with a woman’s heart. And I love it. I affirm it. I admire how it longs and loves and leans towards “bringing forth life.” In others.
This past weekend (and in February), I got to be in the presence and aroma of 450 moms at the Created for Care retreat in Atlanta. And now, this week, I need a nap. I need to rest my heart for a while. I’m sure they do too. Because talking and listening and giving and receiving and crying and connecting can TOTALLY wear a woman out. In really, really good ways.
These moms – they stayed up way too late one day last August to register for what has become known as “the retreat you just HAVE to go to because you’ll feel like you just BELONG with all these other moms.” These women have met and connected all over the Facebook and blog worlds for months and years, and for many of them, meet at this retreat for the first time. And they immediately fall in love – with the feminine soul, with the unique hearts of other adoptive moms, with the stories of one another’s children.
They just “get” one another.
And I’ve learned to appreciate it…them…this love.
Because two years ago, I didn’t. I ran off to my room with cheesecake. And hid. And thought they were crazy.
But each retreat, each year, I’ve stayed a little longer. With them. Because we need one another. We need one another’s stories and mistakes and perspectives and truth-telling and strength and vulnerability and humor. We miss out on something huge when we try to do life alone. We actually may miss out on “bringing forth life.”
The adoptive parent needs the adopted person’s voice. The adopted person needs the adoptive parent’s voice. Because together, we can be known, we can love.
“…it is only when we are known that we are positioned to become conduits of love.” (Curt Thompson, Anatomy of the Soul)
NOTE: The “adoption world” also needs the birthparent’s voice…because there are many people in the adoption “triad.” This post, coming soon.
These past two years, I’ve been surprisingly invited to share my voice and step into the world of adoption. Still honored. Still blown away. And in each space, parents quickly begin sharing stories with me – stories of their adoption journey, stories of their child’s journey. I haven’t always known what to “think” or “do” with all of the details they share. Sometimes I feel like they want something from me that I can’t give them. Sometimes it feels like they’re searching for affirmation or encouragement or the “right” answer in order to prevent disappointment and heartache – for them, for their children. I’ve had to process these moments each time because usually, in my experience outside of the adoption world, people don’t begin conversations with me by sharing so much information about themselves and their children, within minutes of meeting me. So, it’s felt a little weird and awkward at times. I’m sure my little Asian eyes have widened as the stories have been told – eeek!
But here’s where I’m at today…
I sense that these adoptive parents are wanting someone to just “listen” to their story, to the miraculous ways they believe that God brought this sweet, sweet baby into their lives. I sense that they want to know how to love their children well, how not to “mess them up.” They want to heal their babies. They don’t want their babies to feel pain. They want their babies to know they are loved. They want to be “good” moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas. They want to know that their choice to adopt matters, that love will change their child’s story. They want ALL of this, for their child, with EVERY. OUNCE. OF. THEIR. BEING.
I’ve learned to honor that. I’ve come to respect that. I’m learning to listen – to their stories, to their longings, to their fears, to their miracles. Because you know what? I long for the very same things for my children. I think most parents do.
And so I’m learning that I don’t have to “think” or “do” anything. Or, teach or tell. All I can offer is me and my listening heart. And join them. And then maybe, offer a response – a blend of honesty and grace, a glimpse of an adopted person’s heart, a belief that the feminine soul was crafted in ways that can bring forth life in others, and specifically in their children.
But, my voice is only one voice. There are many voices and many experiences that can be invited into the conversation. I hope we’re listening to those voices too.
So after reflecting on these past five retreats with all of these tender and tenacious and beautiful mamas who hold some of the fiercest love for their babies that I’ve known, I have a few responses (below). Maybe they will be helpful. Maybe not. Either way, I feel deeply honored to have shared space with you these past two years, having my voice invited to speak into your stories, while at the same time allowing your voices to speak into my story. The Created for Care space has felt so safe…to be heard and understood, to feel loved and affirmed, to be known. THAT, crazy mamas, is a gift I hold onto tightly. Forever.
So, my message remains the same as it first spilled out during my first March 2012 retreat:
Please listen to the story and voice and heart of the adopted person. Because it matters. Deeply.
The adopted person’s voice…let’s keep finding it and listening to it and leaning into it.
The adoptive parent’s voice…let’s keep equipping it and supporting it and encouraging it.
The advocate’s voice…let’s keep using it to fight for what’s good and true.
Let’s keep sharing with one another – not just the easy and fun and good stuff, but also the hard and hurting and hidden stuff, because then we will know the places where life needs to be breathed in…gently, compassionately, graciously.
Let’s keep writing this story together – not just the adoption part of the story, but the whole story – the one that begins with loss and ends with redemption.
You, I, we…get to be a part of that story!
So, so grateful to have you journeying with me as I continue to learn how to articulate what’s inside of me, as I continue to experience more of God’s love and grace and healing.
Thank you, from the Korean adoptee, the marriage and family therapist (don’t forget those holidays and birthdays), the glow in the dark fox, and the mama who is cheering all of us on as we, together, create sanctuaries and cultivate shalom all over the world, in our homes.
With deep gratitude and respect, Carissa
So…a few responses to what I hear from the deep hearts of adoptive parents. I’m always allowing ideas and information (and theology) to work themselves out within me, with God, so my disclaimer is that I don’t have anything “figured out.” I’m in process, with you. I just might have the crazy notion to actually write and say some of these things out loud! Ahhh!
Let’s keep the conversation going. Let’s keep moving, forwards, together.
- There’s nothing that’s hard or bad about your child’s story of loss that takes away from all the good and joy in your decision to adopt. Nothing.
- Adoption includes both beauty and brokenness, gain and loss, suffering and redemption.
“My story bears too much heartache to be ignored and too much beauty to be hidden.” (Dan Allender)
- Parenting is not the process of figuring out how to do things “right” so we won’t mess her/him up. It’s about entering in – into their pain, into the brokenness, into their GLAD, MAD, SAD, SCARED. It’s about going to the hard (and good) places, with them. I think we’ll be blown away at what happens in our own life and story when we do that, and how it will change our capacity to love. When our hearts enter into another person’s story, it will just know how to “be.” It won’t be focused on what to do or say. The control will be gone, but the healing will be initiated.
“To console does not mean to take away the pain but rather to be there and say, ‘You are not alone, I am with you.'” (Henri Nouwen)
- Jesus – He does the healing. All we have to do (get to do) is create the kind of space for healing to happen.
- You don’t have to, but you get to…you get to offer a sacred, stunning, glorious, beautiful picture…of Jesus, of shalom.