Thursday, August 19, 2010

imperfect people ~ so, who adopts?

our first night in china we sat in a room with several other families also there to adopt. we had just flown from the other side of the world and we were all off schedule. most of us had entirely missed at least one night's worth of sleep. sitting around a big conference table with our guide, simon, we listened as he briefed us on what to expect in the next couple of weeks. simon went over paperwork. he went over what "gotcha day" would look like the next morning. he went over several checklists. everyone had the same glazed-over-half-awake look on their face. before we got up to leave he asked us to briefly introduce ourselves and our stories. one by one each couple or family took the time to quickly tell a little bit about themselves and the child they had come to adopt. no one said much. i mean it was just a snipit...just a taste. being a person who is very interested in stories, it left me wanting more. i exited that room with very little information. but i was exhausted from our trip and our flip-flopping of time zones. and i was overwhelmed with all the other details. i was even more overwhelmed with the knowledge that the very next morning we would meet our daughter for the first time. so names didn't stick. specifics didn't quite settle in. but, i did leave that conference room knowing the people we had sat with had stories. big stories. deep stories. we had only glanced across the very surface. in the next two weeks we spent great amounts of time with these people...and this became my chance to peer more closely into their lives.

these families were in china, like us, to adopt. so, who adopts? it is true that most people would agree it is such a "cool/neat/great/fantastic" kind of thing to do. i really have never had anyone come up to me and say, "why would you adopt? that is so crazy. what in the world are you thinking?" i know at times our adoption of bella has caused people to question us just a bit. but not really about the adoption thing ....i think it was more about the particulars of our story. (i.e. big, busy family...special needs child...that sort of thing). but for the most part everyone seems to agree adoption is great. i would also gather to say most people believe it is great...but great for someone else to do. it is great for those special kinds of people. have you ever watched mythbusters on discovery channel? are you familiar with how they set up a myth type scenario and attempt to bust it wide open? i won't be able to be quite so dramatic or creative in my writing...but friends, i'd love to bust wide open the myth only special kinds of people adopt. this is one of those little bitty half-truths which cause paralysis and total inactivity in our christian communities. it is so easy to sit back and pause on this half-truth: it is for someone else to do. i have a quote at the bottom of this blog, it reads: "the truth: 34% of christian families consider adoption but...only 1% of christian families actually do." have you ever considered it? what is it which moves us from consideration to calling? i'd love to know. there are things in my life which i considered. to which i almost felt called. i walked away from some of those things. i gave up on them. why? what was the difference? i can tell you in the case of bella, this was about God just pushing us all the way. He was driving this vehicle and we knew it from the start. it was His perfect and punctual orchestration. it is evident even in the way He used my very faulty wiring. my parents will tell you i was their most strong willed child. i wanted what i wanted and i wanted it My Way. that became clear before i was 18 months. they would never have described me as a sweet natured, easy going girl. nope, not at all. the more they told me "no"...the more i was determined to have that "no." now, i can tell you for a fact this hasn't always been a character trait which has brought me great success or easy traveling. it hasn't always been used for God's greater glory and my greater good. no mam - not at all. it has gotten me into a mess of trouble at times. BUT...could it be God used it just a bit in our pursuit of bella? when i heard she had been passed over by a few families...when i learned her case was somewhat desperate....when i spoke with the cardiologist from vanderbilt and she told me she would "not recommend we pursue this child...her health was too much a risk" all of those things brought out that determined-My-Way-wiring...that strong will. could God be using my ugly and sinful nature for something good? sure He could! He is God! He uses us despite ourselves. He isn't looking for perfect angels and perfect people to do His answer His exact His show His love. God uses us in the middle of our weak and imperfect state. i am always completely amazed by this fact. so often we think we have to be well equipped and ready for His calling. you've heard the phrase, "God doesn't call the equipped, He equips the called." that's it! let's face it, very few of us are equipped. and if we ever believe ourselves to be prepared and out! the truth is, we are all messy and messed up. let me remind you we pursued a girl with big medical needs...this wasn't anywhere close to my comfort level. just before leaving for china, tyler had surgery on his ear. i had to change the dressing on it a few days afterward. when my stomach did flipflops and my knees grew weak...i was more assured than ever i had not missed my calling as a nurse. i even thought to myself..."i have to do this with assurance and poise...i have to prove i can stare something medically challenging in the face and conquer it." oh foolish i was. how foolish i am. the truth was i was about 5 seconds away from gagging.
anyway, back to my mythbusting....
so...who adopts? (i realize i asked that same question an entire paragraph ago..sorry). in our two weeks in china we spent time with 12 other families in our specific travel group from our hotel. there were probably about 50-60 families in guangzhou city, however, adopting children. we know this because we sort of all followed each other around from appointment to appointment. we are all doing the same kinds of things and going to the same kinds of places. we were are own little rainbow community. we were pretty easy to spot. guanzhou is a huge city. 12 million people....but the adoptive families kind of stuck out. we got to know many of these other families in our two weeks.
pretty much every family was there to adopt a special needs child. special needs has taken over the world of international adoption in china. in china, waiting for a healthy child could take up to 8-10 years now. so truly most of the adoptions are of children with special needs. that is a phrase we aren't always comfortable with as americans. it makes some of us squirm and feel slightly unsure of ourselves. special needs in china though can be just about anything that is slightly off perfect. every one of the children adopted in our travel group had some kind of special need. these needs ranged from bella's heart condition to cleft palates. some of the needs were easily correctable with surgery. some of the needs might be longer term in therapy and care. there was no one category. none of these children were the same...but they were all beautiful. as bella runs around my house this morning all i can come up with is yes, she is absolutely special! without a doubt.

we got to know the phelps family while in china. they were adopting sam david. sam david is a 2 1/2 year old with spina bifida. he is their second child with s.b. we watched sam david go from being timid and tearful to secure and smiling while we were with this family. rebecca and mike phelps were so patient and loving with this little guy. he was their 4th child, their 2nd adopted child. they told us they had decided to go back to china and adopt another child with sb because "they knew the ropes." they had the right doctors lined up and they knew their stuff. why not? this time they brought their 7 year old, bennett, with them. bennett quickly connected with his new brother. it was magical to watch.
the thomas family was also there for their second adoption - child number 5. this trip they were in china to bring home chaning. chaning is a beautiful 4 year old girl who had been born with an anal atresia. she also just blossomed under the love and care of her family. when chaning was first placed into her mother's arms on gotcha day, she was a big old mess. crying and carrying on. she was old enough to sort of understand what was going on and it was tremendously hard. but within days, maybe hours, chaning had her arms around her mother's neck and the sweetest smile on her face. a rocky first hour turned into a deep and sweet connection. a forever connection.
the second week a family from arkansas joined our group. they brought with them all of their children: two children in their child in their late teens... and one daughter from china adopted 4 years ago... they were there to adopt a fifth child. they had children in college and high school and yet God had layed on their heart there was room and energy and excitement for two more young daughters from china.
there was a couple from hawaii adopting their first...
there was a couple from new jersey adopting their third...
there was a couple from alabama adopting their fourth...
i could write on and on about these amazing families coming to adopt children with special needs. each one of these kids had something different going on. each one of these kids had little hope remaining in a chinese orphanage. each one of these children blossomed in the days and weeks we were with them. i will never forget the faces of these children. i will never forget how i watched as the anxiety and fear literally melted right off of their little bodies. it is miraculous. who adopts children from halfway around the world? who adopts children from orphanages? who adopts children labeled as special needs? everyday people like you and me. everyday people who are ready to watch God do something miraculous in their lives.
friends, we live too much in a climate of that-is-for-someone-else-to-do. i know not everyone is called to adopt. i know some of you are called to support those who do, pray for those who do, cook for those who do. all of these areas are vital ministries to adoptive families. out of all the things we have ever been involved in, this is the one thing for which we have most needed our community. i can assure you, there is just no way we could have done this without the hundreds of people who have been praying and caring for us. we have had friends fundraise for us, plan events, make dinners, clean our house, buy us a year long supply of toilet paper and paper towels (loved that surprise), watch our children, do research, grocery shop. we have had friends who have written us notes, sent us emails, prayed with us, left checks taped to our door. we have had friends who have cried with us, dreamed with us, hoped with us. all of it. all of it was part of the amazing journey to bella. all of it was answering God's call to care for the least and for the lost. all of it was done out of a love and desire to rescue orphans.
we had talked about adoption for a long time before actually taking the step. i think that is true of most families. we spent a very long time swimming around in the WHAT IFS. what if we actually did this? what if it actually worked? what if we added to our family? if you've spent any time reading through this blog you know i have used it to work through some of these what ifs. early on in our adoption i came across a quote by turgenev. "if we wait for the moment when everything, absolutely everything, is perfect we shall never begin." nothing could be more true. we spend a lot of our life sometimes waiting for the Perfect Time. the Perfect Time to do a lot of things in life.  we wait for everything to slow down and everyone to be on board....we wait for signs and signals and something. we wait and we wait and we wait. and sometimes there is a time to wait. but so often we get stuck in our waiting...and our wanting...and our wishing.
i have heard myself say out loud, at some point things will slow down and i will _______________. go ahead and fill in the blank. i've said it so many times about so many things it is almost laughable. things don't settle down or slow least not in our home. sometimes perfect timing is very often found in the imperfect time. and sometimes God's perfect plan is carried out by imperfect people.


Aus said...

Good morning Jody - what a wonderful post! I recognize the background of your group photo - Stayed at the same hotel earlier this year on China II - what a wonderful group you had as travel buddies! I think you will find that you have some lifetime friends from that group - we do!

And you couldn't be more correct - families that adopt are just average folk - all the same and all different - but simply 'parents'. When I'm gone you can put one word on the headstone - "dad" - that probably best describes me!

Thanks for sharing your heart - here's a prayer that your word reach one more person!

hugs - aus and co.

Shea Gilbert said...

Jody, thank you for your post. I remember the moment eric and I went from " we want to but we can't afford it, but we have 3 little kids, but but but......" to "let's just do it." I know not everyone is called to adopt or foster children, but with as many Christians are in the world and as many orphans are in the world, more are. We're at that place again. We can't afford it. The timing is right where we wanted to start another adoption but the finances....isn't it always about the finances? ugh. I know we'll get over the hump and do it again, but now I'm not sure how it will happen.
A question though.....where do you put a year's supply of toilet paper and paper towels??????

Joy said...

What a wonderful post! Thanks for sharing your heart. We are waiting for LOA of our little girl with B Thalassemia. She's our 6th child, first adoption and oh, are we so glad we answered Gods's call!