Sunday, January 21, 2007

Faith and Adoption

I have been pondering this post for a very long time, mulling my thoughts over in my head, trying to find the way to put certain thoughts into words. I have struggled mightily, and as usual I am sure nothing will come out sounding like what I really wanted to say. I wish I was a much better writer and was more skilled at getting my message across, but alas I am only a housewife and not Thoreau or Emerson, but since you are not paying for this like you would a magazine or a book, I guess you get what you pay for! Hahahaha!

Faith and adoption go hand and hand, believe it or not. I seldom find an adoptive parent who doesn't somehow feel guided by their God or Higher Power to their children. Those who are cynics might somehow explain that as one goes through the adoption process, you are forced to relinquish so much control and you hate feeling helpless, so it is easier to attribute the events to God rather than accept that it is simply up to others and everything happens randomly.

Then there are those who are not cynics by nature, who don't buy the "randomness" argument, who believe that God...whatever form He/She takes for them...has a plan that they must follow. Many who adopt borrow from China the belief in the Red Thread, "An invisible red thread connects those who are destined to meet, regardless of time, place, or circumstance. The thread may stretch or tangle, but never break.". Whether a Red Thread, God or Randomness, all actually a require a Faith in something, don't they?

I will admit here to not formally participating in organized religion for many, many years. For too long, sadly. But actually, this departure from organized religion had nothing at all to do with my faith in my God. So often it felt like it was all about exactly that, religion, rather than embarking on my own unique faith journey and seeing where that would lead me. I have felt God in my life since I was a young child with no religious training. I don't know why or how, but I did, and it had nothing to do with going to church. I feel it was God calling me. He has directed all of the most important decisions in my life, led me to the most important people I would have in my life, and it has only been when I have turned my back on Him, thinking that I knew more, that I have regretted my decisions. More importantly, when I have been in the periods of my life when I have felt closest to Him, or at least in pursuit of my relationship with Him, I have been the happiest.

That does not mean that my faith has been unthinking or gone unquestioned by myself, and it also does not mean that I have not at times done or said things that I have regretted or would be categorized as "Unchristian". There have been long stretches of my life when I have ignored Him, or relegated Him to some back room in the recesses of my brain. Yet somehow, He always calls me back, sometimes in big ways and sometimes in very subtle, quiet, nuanced ways. Sometimes I have elected to ignore His voice speaking to me, and others I have yearned to hear it.

But there are few events in a persons life that crystalize their faith as adoption does. It tears down the walls of denominationalism, it removes the barriers erected by organized religion. It strips it all down to the most basic elements of a belief that there is a child somewhere waiting for us, and it is our job to find them and bring them home. Period.

I often have found over the years that the adoptive parents who struggle the most with the pre-adoption phase are the ones who can't seem to grasp the concept that they are not in control and that they should let go of everything and just...well...let it be. They fret and stew over how many children a particular agency has available, they want guarantees that the specific kind of child they are looking for, perhaps a perfect caucasian infant girl with no negative medical history, will be available at the time their paperwork is completed. They want to have the power to "order" a child like they "order" a hamburger. Consequently, their lack of faith that theirchild will find them leads them down a frustrating path of discouragement and dispair over the process. They often have no peace about it all, and a time in their life when there are so many other things to worry about becomes that much more difficult.

On the flip side there are others who believe with all their hearts that they mustrelinquish all control so that their God can do His/Her work and find them their child. They take to heart the AA mantra "Let go and let God". They are willing to walk blindly with faith into the deep and often murky seas of adoption, and sometimes this too causes confusion as it is almost directionless, and often reminds me quite contrarily of the 60's hippie perspective of "It's all good". Sometimes these families who have the very best of intentions end up dismayed and shocked that their God would allow them to bring home a child who has issues far beyond what they find they can handle, because they maintained the attitude that God would take care of it all and He wouldn't let them down, in spite of the fact that resources were available to help them make a better informed decision, to help them ascertain if they really were going to be able to "love" a child through his or her issues.

I know that there are many others that don't fall anywhere on the spectrum described, and I also realize I am generalizing for the sake of this post. But I think you get my drift.

I think that I fall somewhere in the middle of the two. Each of our adoptions has slowly brought me closer and closer to understanding what it means to really turn something over to God. I am, by nature, a total control freak. I am a typical Virgo who thinks I know everything and doesn't understand why others don't see things the way I do. I am also brutally honest about my own shortcomings and failings, and I am astute enough to recognize that the traits surrounding control and understanding can be blessings or curses, depending upon the circumstances.

With each of our adoptions I felt a deep need to know as much as I could possibly know, to do literally thousands of hours of research to be well prepared. I knew there were things I couldn't control, but I could at least know how to handle them or recognize them if they arose. It was this research that allowed me to recognize Josh's Reactive Attachment Disorder symptoms at such a young age, and it was my controlling nature which pushed me to press on in finding counseling and sticking with him when the going was at it's worst.

But it is the faith part where I have really grown, where my experiences of God's divine plan have become most evident and can not be denied, even if I were to try. For some reason, and this I can not explain, I have innately understood that there were particular children that were mine, although they were not born to me, and they would come to me eventually. Each time we have adopted we have purposely kept the field wide open in terms of what children we would be willing to consider, much to the chagrin of our various Social Workers who have tried to get us to narrow things down a bit for our homestudies. When referral time came along, we have always made it clear that we will consider any child, although with Josh we did start with the plan that we would like a Kazakh boy, but we accepted info on children of several different ages and genders and quite seriously considered them all. Thankfully, 2 of our three adoptions ended with us accepting the referral of children who were quite the opposite of what we initially thought we would bring home.

Each time, I have had to remind myself over and over during that difficult referral phase, that I didn't have to stress over it, that I didn't need to worry if our agency had 1 or 50 kids available. If we had held up our part of the bargain and carefully and prayerfully selected the right agency, then our child would be there. But I knew we could not limit ourselves in any way, as I did not want to decline a child because they didn't fit my narrow perameters of what I thought was best, only to eventually realize that forcing my own will on the situation caused me to miss out on a very special child that was the one who was really meant to be mine.

This goes so completely against my grain, that it was a real life lesson to learn. I also have learned to leave no stone unturned in my quest. I had to have faith that God put certain things in front of me to lead me to where I needed to be. Matthew came to us by inquiring about a posting someone made on an adoption chat group about a sibling group, and this led us to our agency, which led us to Kazakhstan (not in the intial plan at all) which led us to Matthew. "T" is coming to us because of following up on a phone call about a new program which was unknown to us and was not in our original plan either. Josh came to us with faith and patience that of the 8 referrals we had received, none of them were him....and I can't explain what we were looking for or why it didn't feel right other than God was whispering to hold on, that He had a child waiting for us...and I saw his picture on the photolisting on the day we were going to make the decision and a mere few minutes after his photo went live on the internet...and I understood then why we hadn't yet found him. He was being held for us until we were ready.

This adoption has put my faith into practice in ways I never would have expected. I never in a million years would have imagined accepting the referral of an 8 year old special needs child based solely upon a photo and a gut feeling. We have been fortunate enough to learn a bit about our new son-to-be's personality from others who have met him, but honestly I think my God yelled (for some reason, He does that to me...He tends not to whisper much in my ear but to yell in my face, could it be that I am too hard headed to listen otherwise? hahahaha!) at me the very first moment I saw the blurry photo after opening the email attachment. I knew it, I just knew that I was looking into the smiley eyes of my son...who was supposed to be my younger aged daughter! This third time around I feel less of a need to know everything, less of a need to have "proof" that this is the right child or to control everything.

And this time around is different in a way I am certain I can not explain. It almost has a dreamlike quality to the experience, like I am so absolutely only along for the ride and am a minor player in a mini-miracle. God has consistently sent us sign after sign after sign in such a way that I can't possibly be misinterpreting His will. It is as if He knows that others think we are nuts and He is reinforcing for us over and over that others do not know what He knows. There is total, complete peace in my mind over this adoption. I guess, to put it simply, I have Faith.

Does that sound naive? Probably. Note that I have not said that I have faith this will be easy, quite the opposite is true. I am anticipating many struggles that I have already gone into in depth elsewhere in the blog. But I have Faith that whatever we face is what we are supposed to face, and that "T" has been ours long before we knew it.

Faith is a funny thing, and it is often seen by those who don't have enough of it to be a cop out. For me Faith is truly the best gift I could be given, and it is not a stagnant thing but it grows and morphs each day as I mature and see more clearly through the layers of my life. Faith leads me places I never imagined going.

Faith = hope + confidence


LaJoy Family said...

Tina emailed me privately and asked me to post this for her, as she was having problems doing so: I am having posting my comment to your new post and so here it is....

What a great post Cindy. "Just a housewife" Sheesh, woman you're a
writer too.

A very timely post for me to read and the letting go of control is
something that I am mindful of especially now in our wait for our

I am envious of your faith. I have struggled with coming to any sort
of belief structure as a result of being raised with no religion or
spiritual faith. In sputters and jags, I have gone on my own quest to
find what is true for me and to look for the divine in any dark corner
or troubled heart. I used to be mad at myself for not having a solid
belief, but now I live with the knowledge that faith is a journey and
not a moment in time. (For me anyway) Growing up adopted tested my
spirit as I didn't have much support in that I had difficult feelings
about it and that I was simply different from my parents. Adopting now
as an adult is such a walk of self-discovery and a test to my own
spirit and is revealing much to me in the ways of what we cannot see.
The message of "you are not in charge" keeps coming to me in my life.
I am getting it here and there, but alas, I will be learning it and
trying to get it my whole life I think. You are much farther down the
road than I am and I am inspired by what you have written. Thank you
for a reminder for what is really most important.

Sorry I can't seem to make it work! Maybe you can post it for me...


LaJoy Family said...

Michelle emailed me and said she was having problems posting, so I offered to post her comment: "I must admit that I do not have an intimate relationship with a traditional Christian God. But I do have a tremendous amount of spirituality and faith that there is some entity or energy that guides things. Even though I know this international adoption can be a tremendously nerve wracking process - I am very much at peace with letting go and I am somewhat surprised by that as I too am a virgo with a tendancy to control freakishness! I know I am going in the right direction, because I started heading towards Guatemala and it felt all wrong for me and Kyrgyzstan just feels right! Kind of a long post....but you are right about the necessity of faith in God or the universe or something to help through this!"

Nichole...aka Mia's Mommy said...

Hi, I just came across your blog today and I LOVE the first post I read...this one. We too had no intention of adopting how we did. We planned on adopting a boy up to 8 out of foster care with a limit on the special needs. But God had another thing in mind, he knew our daughter the moment she was born, even though we did not. Now we have our beautiful Guatemalan Princessa who is legally blind with limited light perception and periphrial vision.

Please know you ar enot alone in knowing that God chooses our children for us, not the other way around. And if it is not meant to be He will close those doors before they ever open. But by allowing us to "think" we were on the path to our son, he opened the door to our daughter.

I wait in anticipation to read on as you post about your family.

From one mommy to another

Anonymous said...

"For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope." Jeremiah 29:17

This is the Bible verse that I kept posted on the door of our home office where we did all the paperwork to bring our two "Bobeks" home in '01. (Bobek is Kazak for "baby").

During our referral process, many people prayed for us and specifically for the person who sent us the referrals from the adoption agency.

As we prepared to travel to bring our two children home, I felt as if I had jumped off a cliff and was being carried on wings to where my children were.

Today, 6 years later, when people ask us how we found our children, I start out with the practical answers of how we ended up adopting where we did, but then I always add, "but the real answer to your question is that was where our children were."

All the adoptive parents I have spoken to over the years KNOW they ended up with the children they were meant to have.

Cindy, your positive, encouraging attitude has touched so many people over the years, I hope you know what a difference you have made in the world.

Sending all of your family love, blessings, and prayers,

Peggy in Virginia

LaJoy Family said...

Hi Peggy! So nice to hear from you and thanks for your comments. I sincerely doubt that anything I have ever said has amounted to much or that I have made any kind of impact on anyone in this virtual world, but I am grateful that you understand what I am trying to express, that means a lot to me. Warmly, Cindy

Dawn and Joe De Lorenzo said...

Our adoption journey has been the most difficult for me in terms of challenging my faith. It was a wake up call that I really need to develop more faith. I struggle trusting that God has not forgotten me or that our desires are as important as anyone else's. Great post! Thank you for sharing.