#weneedoneanother | nat’l adoption month: adoptive parent story 4

Excited to introduce you to Stephanie. I met her this past year at the Created for Care retreat when she told me I was a theologian after one of my sessions. And even though I consistently deny that title, she consistently encourages me to embrace it. And then we laugh. Stephanie is not only a woman with a deep heart for her family, but also for Jesus – leaning into him as she listens to his voice of grace and love. I appreciate the mile marker she’s at in her (and her daughter’s) story, and how it stands “incomplete” and with tension, because that is where so many of us live – without resolve, without the neatly tied bow. But…the story isn’t over yet.

SIDE NOTE: Stephanie was our Disney Vacation Planner extraordinaire last week! I am SO grateful for all of her guiding and prodding and encouraging and planning and checking in and strategizing with the man of the house. She was FOR us – in ways that brought not only joy to our family, but joy and redemption to her story.

Lean in and listen to her story…

“The Lonely” by Stephanie Miller

Our daughter, 3 ½ years old, adopted at 11 months from Taiwan, has a powerhouse memory.  Seriously. She can remember things that happened months ago, what she was wearing, who was there, and what she had to eat. As first time parents, we have wondered if this was “normal,” but have since chalked it up to our child being a genius {of course}. Sometimes, we go for weeks without talking about something and then, out of the blue, she brings it up again. Her little mind is always hard at work. So, on the day her gymnastics instructor told me that at prayer time before class, our daughter asked to pray for her brother to come to her house, I was floored.

Like many adoptive parents these days, we read books, attended conferences, and have tried to stay well-educated on attachment, the importance of our child’s story before they joined our family, and awareness of the issues that may come into play as she grows up. But as a mom, I’ve found myself ill prepared for the loneliness that our daughter is facing. She is our only child, and we have not felt the need to adopt again. We have not ruled it out, but she is to the age that I see her wonder at her friends who have siblings and mothers of her friends having babies.

The complication is that really, she’s NOT an only child. She has a half brother back in Taiwan. We have a picture of him that hangs in the playroom, right next to the picture of our daughter being held by her birth mother. He was not adoptable, but we decided early on that we wanted her to always know that he exists. We talk about adoption, we explain it as best we can for her 3 ½ year old brain, and we talk lovingly about her birth mother and her brother. We pray for them as a family. And when we do, I can’t help but see the sadness behind her eyes. So when she asked the gymnastics instructor to pray for him to come to our house, my heart broke.

Over the next few days, Jesus began to whisper to me. I kept hearing, “I gave you each other.”  You see, I lost my only sibling in 1999 to cancer. And loneliness – deep longing loneliness – is something I live with every day. Much time has passed since we lost my sister, and I have found happiness in my life. But the reality of having a sibling and not being able to be with them is something my daughter and I have in common. It is a different kind of loss. She has never met her brother, and in the future, that might become a possibility. But because we’ve chosen to be honest with her and she knows he exists, she will probably always wonder about him and miss his presence in her life. There really is no “how to” book for parenting. We make decisions, hopefully through prayer and seeking wisdom, and then we watch how those decisions play out. I’ve wondered if we’ve been too honest too soon.

Sometimes, I look at her playing alone or reading a book, and it’s very difficult for me to allow her to continue to be alone. My husband, in his wisdom, said, “Let her learn to play on her own for a while. She’ll be ok.” And she will be. I will be, too. We are together as a family and it’s good. God gave us each other to help us heal. We need each other, not to always “fix” the problems, but to walk together toward the One who can restore us, in spite of our brokenness and our lonely hearts. And because I have experienced the pain of being separated from a sibling and wondering what life would be like if she had been here with me and longing for her, I am better equipped to sit with my daughter in those moments that are surely coming for her. God is so wise.

My daughter, Amber Joy, is named for my sister, Amber. She has put that together in her head and when we talk about Amber living in Heaven with Jesus, she always adds, “and my brother lives in Taiwan.”

We’re not sure where this journey will lead or if we always get it right in our explanations to our {very curious and verbal} three-year-old, but we’re doing our best and we’re trusting that the God who sets the lonely in families is working all things together for our good.

Psalm 68:6a “God sets the lonely in families…”

Stephanie Miller and her husband, Justin, live with their daughter Amber Joy in Murfreesboro, TN. Stephanie is a stay-at-home mom and works as a hospital chaplain part-time. She is currently seeking ordination in the Church of the Nazarene. Stephanie is learning about contentment in the every day and what it means to hunger and thirst for God. Some common themes for Stephanie include security vs. adventure, self-confidence vs. being puffed up, and the unconditional grace of God vs. striving for holiness. In the rare occurrence of free time, she enjoys blogging, movies, hiking, and getaways to the mountains. You can follow her on her blog and Instagram at “millerplusone.”

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