Saturday, December 19, 2009

Adopted for Life

I recently read this book, Adopted For Life, by Russell D. Moore. Some friends of ours that are adopting their son from Russia loaned it to us. So, of course, I read it and told Chad about it. It is really a good book and I would recommend it to anyone, not just those who are adopting. In the book, Moore talks about how we are all orphans, Jesus is the biological child and we have been adopted by God. He writes about how we have all been called to help orphans, maybe not through adoption, but in some way and that our churches need to actively be involved in orphan care. For those who are interested in adopting, are adopted or have adopted he tells the story of how he and his wife adopted their two oldest sons from Russia. He gives some wonderful advice on the adoption process and how to handle things after you get your child home. Anyway, it is a good book and an easy read (Chad hates it when I say that).

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

From the Guy's Point of View

How does God talk to us? It's a fair question to ask and it has many answers. I recently found out that there are 14 families in our church going through the adoption process. Not to mention the other families who have already gone through it and the ones still considering it. So obviously God is saying something to all of us and I'm not the only one that had a decision to make. Like all of the other dads, I wanted to make the right decision for my family. The guys I've heard talk about it were so sure of their decision to adopt. They knew it was what God wanted them to do. I hear them say things like, "God made it clear to us", or "so many things happened that were obviously from God". Part of me wanted to know the exact details of how God showed them the answer. I wanted to know, but at the same time I didn't because I knew the way God made it clear to them would not be the same for me. Then it started. There was no flashing sign or billboard. There was no voice from above. There wasn't even a voice from those around me. It was completely silent and calm, but extremely powerful. God placed a heavy, overwhelming emotion on my heart that I could not suppress or explain away. And it wasn't temporary. It literally lasted months. And He didn't take it away until I finally chose to listen to what He was telling me.

This was really hard for me because I consider myself a pretty typical guy. You know, the kind of guy that likes to watch football, basketball, action sports, action movies, ultimate fighting…but never anything that might possibly cause me to slightly tear up in one corner of one eye. I mean, come on, guys don't cry, right? Well, occasionally, but that's beside the point. I guess that's why God chose to speak to me through my emotions.

Yes, when Amanda first said the word adoption, my response was, "NO, we’re not adopting another cat!!" And for good reason. Don’t get me wrong, I like cats, but our three cats have all caused me a high level of stress in the past couple of years. My cat Sam actually got stuck in the wall. I was getting something out of the attic and she decided to climb up there with me. She got scared and ran around blindly. Then she fell down nine feet into a 1x2 hole in the corner of the house. I had to cut a whole in the closet wall just to get her out. Then a few months ago, our youngest cat Sunshine got extremely sick. The vet couldn't figure out what was wrong. After a few weeks, he was near death and could not eat or use the litter box. So we took him to a different vet who wanted to do emergency surgery to remove what she thought was an obstruction. She was right. Turns out that Sunshine had eaten the Lego construction worker's hat and it was lodged in his colon. So a few months later, and several dollars lighter, the cat has made a full recovery and likes to lie on his back to show me his scar. I think he's just rubbing it in. And of course our third cat Bell is completely deaf in both ears. Sunshine harasses her constantly and she responds by screaming at the top of her lungs because she doesn't know how loud she is. She sounds like a mix between a mountain lion growling and an old lady screaming for help while getting mugged.

Needless to say, I can't handle the stress of another cat. So when Amanda clarified that she was talking about adopting a child from another country, I was relieved. Sure, coming up with umpteen thousand dollars to pay for it and traveling around the world for three weeks will be stressful, but it can't be as bad as having another cat.

So the stress of adoption was not what I was feeling, it was something far more than that. I think it started when I finally realized that we lost a child with our first miscarriage. Someone at church said, "I heard you guys are expecting". I had to correct them and say that we "were" expecting. At first I thought I was upset about us losing a baby, but it didn't go away. I knew we would try again to get pregnant and I knew that would fix the pain Amanda and I were feeling. But it didn't work out that way. When indications of our second miscarriage appeared, we were just confused. The worst part about it was that we were normal. Our doctor told us that 50% of pregnancies end in miscarriage. So now we've had two healthy pregnancies and two miscarriages, so we are perfectly average. But how can this pain be normal? But the pain that started after our first miscarriage began to change. It grew into something bigger and stronger. And it wasn't pain or sadness anymore. It was like every emotion I had was amplified. I'm a pretty passionate person. Whenever I get into something, I go at it 110% until I burn out. But this was different. It impacted everything I did and I had no control over it. I couldn't figure it out and it wasn’t going away. I thought I was in some kind of funk and just needed to get out of it. I was getting emotional over things that would have never triggered this in the past. It would happen when I was teaching Sunday School, listening to sermons, driving down the road; it didn’t really matter where I was, but when it hit, it took everything in me to fight back tears.

In Amanda’s post, she mentioned a sermon that focused on what God was calling us to do. During that sermon I knew that she was thinking about adoption the whole time. It was so clear to her what God was calling us to do, but I was still unsure. I was thinking about adoption too, but I was trying to think of the reasons why this wasn’t what God was calling us to do. I selfishly thought that God should be speaking to both of us. The fact is, He was, I just wasn’t listening. I’m so blessed to have a wife that actively listens for God’s voice.

That night, Amanda and I had a long conversation about the topic. She knew I was holding back, so I tried to explain why. Because of my passionate, almost obsessive personality, I have trouble letting things go until they are complete. So if I agreed to this, then it would consume my thoughts and actions until our daughter was with us. After experiencing a miscarriage, the thought of adoption scared me. I knew that once I agreed to adopt, I would instantly become a daddy again. They call it a “paper pregnancy.” But like a real pregnancy, adoption is not an easy process and something could go wrong. What I feared was a “paper miscarriage.” So I continued to hold back on making my decision.

Then I realized it was all about control. I was holding back because I wanted to stay in control. I try so hard to be a follower of Jesus, but how can I be if I'm not letting God's Spirit lead me. So I gave it up. On the same day that we feared our second miscarriage, I dropped John David off at school. As I headed back home, the song Mighty to Save was on the radio. It's a good song, but never really meant that much to me. And once again, that strong emotion came over me and I was fighting back the tears. So I said, "Okay God, whatever you want", and I let it go. The control was now His. When I got home, I told Amanda I was ready, and off she went. I’ve never seen her so motivated. She made tons of phone calls getting information and asking friends questions. In the meantime, I pondered over my decision and retreated into my work. Part of me was still holding to the thought of backing out. It just didn’t feel real. That is, until the following Friday when we got invited to the Adoption Support Group meeting at our church. I didn’t have much to say because I was at the peak of this strong emotion and I didn't really want anyone to see it. But I agreed to go because I heard there were free t-shirts being passed out. After the first meeting, it was official. We were adopting and everyone knew it. There was no backing out now. But this was a good thing. I felt such a relief. It’s awesome to know what an amazing church family we have to support us through this process.

After that night, the emotions started to subside. It was clear that God was relieving me from the emotional roller coaster I had been on for the past few months. Although it is a relief, in some ways I miss it because it was so obvious that God's Spirit was with me. At no other point in my life have I felt so close to the Spirit of God. It's kinda cool though because as I write this, the emotions start to resurface and God once again shows me that His Holy Spirit is always with me.