Let’s start here…
This isn’t a neat, 5-easy-steps series. Although I’m not sure that anyone could really write a neat or easy post on anyone’s story, or on how to tell your child’s story. I’ve just been writing and writing as the ideas and thoughts and reflections have come to me. Words always spill out of me (just ask my husband), even when I don’t try and not always in an organized way! Eeek!
Something that is really important to me for you to know is that I’m still learning. I’m still evolving. I’m still on the journey. I’m still learning how to live from a loved place, a true place, a soft place. I’m still learning to trust. I’m still making sense of my own story – of the hard parts, of the good parts – and listening to how God wants to use it all and how I get to be a part of it. And, at the same time, I have become more comfortable with what’s inside me, I am OK sharing my story, I am practicing more vulnerability, I am finding my voice, I have experienced healing, I have witnessed God using what’s “bad” for good. And, the most beautiful and healing part of my journey has been that not only my view of God has expanded, but also his view of me. Oh, that feels so sweet, so peaceful, so safe to type that. So in my continued imperfection and questions and sarcasm and desire to right all the wrong, I know I can fall back and rest in this space, with him. And that is the place I write this from, to you.
Ahhh! I can’t even believe I’m gonna dive into these adoption-related topics over cyber space with you! (Later post on adopted person being known vs. feeling known via cyber space.) It totally humbles me. It totally intimidates me. I usually like to write about rainbows and unicorns, not hard stuff. OK, just kidding. But really, writing about the human heart is hard. And writing about the human heart in helpful, clear ways is even harder. And then writing about the human heart in helpful, clear ways, with an audience, is just plain vulnerable. But I’m willing. Because one of the best lessons I’ve learned in life is that sharing your story, what’s inside you, has the ability to help others feel joined and normal and seen and understood and free…to begin writing their own story, to find what’s inside of them. And that, friends, is a gift. It feels like pieces inside of us all begin being put back together when we listen, when we lean in, when we allow the mystery of humanity to be shared, together.
So let’s go.
Two consistent questions I’ve heard since I’ve stepped into the adoption/foster care world are:
“How do I tell my child his/her story?” and “What can I do to help my child heal?”
And often times, these questions come immediately after, “Hi. Thanks so much for sharing.” There’s no getting to know you or finding things in common or small chit-chat. It feels like a deep dive into an agenda – an agenda, I’ve come to understand, that has a parent’s heart for their child’s heart all over it.
And then the eyes – they keep looking at me like somewhere inside of me I must have a quick and easy and profound answer to give them. And I don’t. I give what I can, but I don’t have a quick and easy or profound answer to give. We would need a million cups of coffee (or coke) with hours and hours sitting on a couch or deck with really, really good food to feed ourselves. For days. Maybe months. Perhaps years. Probably a lifetime.
So for me, when I’m in the adoption world, a simple “Hello, my name is so-and-so and I’ve adopted so-and-so from such-and-such,” turns into something way bigger, way deeper. And I wish I could answer these huge questions. (You know these are huge questions, right?) Because I know deep down that you’re longing for your child to grow up in really healthy, whole ways. And if I could be of any help, give any clues, if my voice could help give voice to what’s inside your children, I would absolutely LOVE to do that. But I can’t. I can’t really do that in five minutes. So, I’ve been pondering and simmering and storing up the many thoughts that have surfaced since being “with” you all and blending it with and contrasting it with and balancing it with what’s inside me, my experience, my knowledge. In the midst of my daily routine with my family, my head has been spinning the past two-and-a-half years listening and observing and digesting all that my ears have heard. So many thoughts, new emotion, resistance, curiosity, shock, confusion, disappointment, gratitude, grace. And maybe even some love.
So, back to the questions.
I deeply respect that you are eager to learn, eager to do this “right,” hopeful for healing, open to telling the pieces of your child’s story that are hard and gruesome and messy in a redemptive way. That means you are thinking about it. That means you understand that there has been a rupture. That means you believe that the rupture can be repaired. That means you are aware that parents play a significant role in a child’s journey. That (maybe) means you get that there is more that comes with adoption than just the beauty of giving a child love and safety and a “forever family.” (Later post on this phrase.)
But I often wonder if you’re up for what it really takes – for your child, for you, for your marriage, for your family. Have you been equipped? Do you know your own story? Have you experienced your own healing? Have you witnessed and are you telling of the redemption in your own life? Do you believe that you are lovable? Needed and wanted, worth fighting for, worth being known? I hope so.
My prayer is that you, adoptive/foster parents, are on your own healing journey. That you are learning how to live from an identity grounded in truth, that you are finding what’s inside of you – your voice, your heart, your capability – so that the kind of eyes you are developing are the kind of eyes that can see what’s inside your child and lead him/her, walk alongside of him/her, through the places you know, in time, he/she will have to go. Instead of protecting your child from feeling pain, you’ll be able to sit with them, in it, telling them that you understand what it’s like to feel glad, mad, sad and scared, to feel shame. And along the way, because you intrinsically know what pain feels like and have entered into it and have allowed it to be used for good, you’ll know how to offer a voice that says, “You’re gonna make it. I’m with you.” And in the back of your mind, you’ll know it’s worth going backwards because it was there where you found the places that needed healing. It was there that you heard truth, that you felt grace, that you experienced healing. And when you get to do that – go on the journey with your child – it will change you. It will change both of you.
Maybe one of the greatest gifts the adoption/foster care community could offer the world because of the unique woundedness it invites into the home, because of how families are uniquely positioned to experience brokenness and suffering, which has the ability to create a deep longing for healing and wholeness, is that more and more people would become aware of how much potential there is for healing to take place, TOGETHER.
So, my friends, there are no simple answers or formulas to these questions. There’s no specific time frame. There’s no guarantee.
But, there is a process. And that process? Maybe…
It’s less about doing things “right” and more about how to respond to the “wrong.”
It’s less about if/then’s and more about what if’s.
It’s less about what parents are DO-ing and more about who they are BE-ing.
It’s less about being adopted/relinquished and more about feeling known and knowing love.
It’s less about getting your child to trust and more about learning what it means to trust.
It’s less about healing your child and more about a journey of formation.
It’s less about you, less about him/her, and more about you, together.
Go ahead and cue the rainbows and unicorns, but hang on and keep reading…
We all want a redemptive ending, right? But you know what? Redemption doesn’t just happen. When I think about the stories of Jesus, I’m always struck that for him to “make things new,” there had to be an old, a bad, a broken. He took the old and made it new. He took the bad and made it good. He took the broken and made it beautiful.
BOTH parts are always in his stories.
So maybe before we (or our children) can write and tell a redemptive story, we have to take a peek (or maybe a long look), at the old stuff, the bad stuff, the broken stuff. But looking at all of that – like REALLY looking at it – totally sucks. Why? Because if you linger for any length of time with stuff that doesn’t make you feel good, you may actually begin to see it. You may actually realize it’s real. You may actually begin feeling – the loss, the disappointment, the injustice, the ache, the sadness, the doubt, the shame, the anger, the resentment, the fear, the “my life totally got messed with,” the “my child’s life totally got messed with.” And because you’re human, when you feel that badly, you’ll want to flee. Everything inside of you will want to get the heck out of that place dripping with negativity and weight and despair.
And you can. We all can. We can flee.
Adoptees can flee. Adoptive parents can flee. We can all sprint past the hard stuff or take a detour or pretend it doesn’t exist (or matter). We never ever “have to” confront it. But if we bypass it, we’ll keep wondering why we still don’t feel OK, why we still don’t feel healed, why we still feel too much (or not enough), why all the money and things and people and vacations and working and exercising and drinking and eating and perfectionism never make us feel better. We’ll keep wondering if redemption really wins. And most likely, we’ll always fall back to relying on ourselves to make things better. Maybe we’ll even rely on ourselves to make healing happen.
So adoptive parents AND adoptees (and everyone else): No one – I repeat, NO ONE – can make you go on this journey or initiate this process. YOU are the one who decides to open yourself up for more – more awareness, more insight, more love, more grace, more intimacy, more freedom. MORE OF WHO YOU REALLY ARE. You don’t need a formula or a manual or that expert speaker (even though all of these will give insight), all you have to be – GET to be – is open. And then watch what God’s healing spirit can do.
Parents: There’s not a magical thing you can do to get your child to begin his/her healing journey. But you CAN create the kind of space where it is safe and secure to move away from and return to if/when your child chooses to go on that journey. (Later post on “the kind of space.”)
Adoptees: You’ll go on this journey when you’re desperate for something more than what you have, when all that you hold inside begins bursting and rupturing and not working anymore, when you’re open to finding more truth, more love, more grace, more trust, or maybe even more people.
But here’s the thing, we know that we are wired for relationships, right? So, you don’t have to do this alone. You could, but that would be pretty lonely. Safe, but lonely. Since healing and wholeness is a life long process, you’re going to need different people at different times for different reasons. People bring perspective and insight and laughter and good distraction and encouragement and a deck with lights and summer slush and on and on and on. Invite people in. Let me clarify: Invite safe people in. Take all the cheerleaders you can get. Take all the love and support and kindness you can get.
Friends: Let me be at least one person who will say to you:
YOU CAN DO THIS. YOU HAVE WHAT IT TAKES TO DO THIS.
YOU WERE CREATED WITH THE ABILITY TO DO REALLY, REALLY HARD THINGS.
YOU ARE WORTH FINDING MORE OF BECAUSE THIS WORLD DESPERATELY NEEDS ALL OF YOU.
YOU HAVE THE CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE ON YOUR SIDE.
So, let’s do this. Together. Not just the adoptive parent. Not just the adopted person. Us, together.
So whether you need to start writing or need to keep writing, know that the story is going to be so, so good. It’s just going to take some time to write it.
MUSIC: I love music. It moves me, so I’m going to try and give you a song or two for each of these posts. They’re songs that have meant a lot to me because their messages have been so strong. And, music touches the soul like nothing else.
So just click and listen. Don’t watch the video because videos with words and moving backgrounds can be distracting. And cheesy? For real, close your eyes, and listen.
NOTE 1: Please know that in my mind as I type this I’m thinking, “Eeeek! This is A TON!!!!!! A ton that I’m downloading on you, a ton that I’m inviting you to, a ton to process, a ton of work. Offer yourself loads and loads of grace as you continue to read these posts. Take in what you can for where you’re at. I didn’t know all of this at the beginning of my journey. I probably would have never been open to going “inwards” if I had. This is what I know at almost 40 and I’m still learning and soaking in and digesting and understanding and experiencing. And most of all, still healing. God takes us at the pace we’re able to move. He’ll never take us where we’re not ready to go. He’s good like that. He’s gentle like that. He loves you right where you’re at. Promise!
NOTE 2: I’m not a child or adolescent or abnormal (what an awful description) psychology expert. Nor am I an “adoption” specialist. These posts are not therapeutic or professional advice (even though that part of me is always part of me). This is from my own personal journey and some big picture thoughts on the two questions above. There are hundreds of adopted person’s experiences and paths of healing that we can all glean from and learn from and apply. This is only my two cents in the million dollar answers everyone wants. I’m “one voice giving voice.” My hope is that at least something small will resonate with you and/or your child’s story that could be helpful, that could help initiate more healing and wholeness, and more belief of how much we need one another’s stories and perspectives and gifting and healing.