Thursday, March 2, 2017

Thoughts on Adoption

Last year, I was trying to help another writer understand the process of adoption as it relates to our adoption into the family of God. I ended up writing a whole essay on it and I wanted a place to share it publicly. So while this blog has been quiet enough for long enough that I don't know if anyone still reads it, it is at least publicly available. So here it is for your edification and reading pleasure.
My daughter L is adopted.
God planted the seed for adoption in both Will and I before we ever married, but took a radio ad and a lot of time and consideration before we actually did anything about it. When we plunged into the process, we had no idea how long and complicated and demanding it would be. We started in September of 2003 and, over the next 2 years, we attended training sessions, read books and online discussion boards, got shots and tests, chased down documents from all over the country, persuaded law enforcement and doctors and notaries and social workers to go way out of their way to help us, and opened our home and our lives to investigation and probing. It was long periods of agonizing waiting filled with short spurts of frantic activity. It was decisions made by others halfway around the world and maddening delays that kept our child trapped in an orphanage while we fretted and waited and waited and waited.
Do you know what L was doing this whole time? When we began the adoption process, she had not even been born. While we worked to bring her home, she was growing, playing, learning, living her life as she knew it. Adoption was not a concept that she would have been able to understand. She did not know of her need for a permanent family. She had no idea what a family was and how much it could mean to her. In fact, if left to follow her own desires, she would never have chosen to be pulled from her familiar orphanage environment to be handed over to these strange people who didn’t look or sound or smell like anything she had ever known.
Eventually we got to the point in the adoption where we had an identified child. We had decided to go the special needs track and our agency had a list of 10 children. Each child had a gender, birth month and year, and a few sentences about their special need and we were required to choose and apply for only one. How on earth do you *choose* which one will be your child? After prayer and careful consideration, we selected the youngest girl because her age and special need of a heart defect would mean we wouldn’t have to redo our home study (and then we still had to redo it). The adoption agency approved the match, then for the next 8 months, we had a few pictures, a one page description, and a daughter living in an orphanage on the other side of the planet.
We knew little about L and yet we knew she was our daughter. God had arranged for her to be born to other parents half a world away, but he had always known she would be our daughter. We loved her without knowing her. She didn’t have to earn our love. There was nothing she could be or do that would have caused us to not complete the adoption and bring her home. The adoption was our idea. We did all the work, made all the efforts, took all the responsibility. Even after the adoption was completed, we still did all the work and took all the responsibility. When she screamed in anger those first few days, when we had to teach her boundaries, when we had to guide her to understand the correlation between actions and consequences, it was all on us. Even now, all these years later, we are still taking the responsibility and there is still nothing she could do or be that would cause us to break our promise to love and care for her.
Knowing and participating in the process of adoption has given me a much clearer picture of how God pursued and adopted me. God did all the work and took all the responsibility before I was saved. Before salvation, I had no understanding of what salvation was or why I needed it. True understanding was not possible for me. Like a child, I would have chosen what was familiar, too stubborn and uncomprehending to take the risk and choose what is infinitely better. God had to reach out and take me for himself.

If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased. (C.S. Lewis, “The Weight of Glory”)

Even now that I am a child of God, my job is that of a child. God continues to take on all the work and responsibility. God does give me rules that are designed to keep me safe and I should follow them because things will go better for me if I do, but God doesn’t love me because I follow those rules. They are for my benefit, not for my acceptance. I still have a hard time remembering and believing that on a regular basis, but, like a child, I can rest in the fact that God will take care of everything.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Great Room Swap of 2017

The girls are switching bedrooms.

L's room is right over our bedroom and so we're regularly treated to thumps and bangs above our heads. K is quieter and moving out in a few months for college, so I bribed them to switch rooms by offering mini makeovers. I had promised we would work on this over their school's winter break and the time has arrived.

The had all kinds of plans and ideas and were checking out Pinterest. Look at this! Oh, this is so cute!

Then I brought them back to reality. They could negotiate between themselves as to who gets what furniture, but I'm not buying any. There are 3 beds, 2 dressers, 2 desks, numerous cabinets and shelves. Plenty to accommodate their needs without adding anything new from Ikea.

Then I gave them each a fixed budget. Everything they need or want has to come out of that budget and I am accounting for every single penny. The only thing I agreed to buy that didn't count against their budgets was paint.

At first they were all, "Yea! So much money!" Then they started looking at how much the stuff they wanted cost and suddenly they realized that the money wasn't going to keep up with their imaginations. They had decided to switch beds so they both need new bedding, which is more expensive than you think. Wall decor? Expensive. Shelves? Expensive. Even if you settle for the cheaper options, they still add up quickly.

It's been fun watching them figure out what they're willing to spend money on. We wandered around Target yesterday and a number of things went into the cart only to come right back out. Today, we spent several hours spray painting desk legs and bulletin boards and lamps because the girls realized that it's cheaper to paint your old things than buy new ones. And I had agreed to pay for paint.

The room swap that I wanted and the makeovers that the girls wanted have turned into a valuable life lesson in finance, in weighing what you want versus what you're willing to live with, in being creative and doing things yourself in order to save money.

So far things are looking good. Lots of white and pale pink and gray. Tomorrow we'll finish prepping the rooms for paint - moving furniture, filling nail holes, covering trim with miles of painter tape. It's going to be a busy week!