As Christians, I believe God calls each of us to something. Oftentimes, multiple somethings.
And I'm becoming more and more aware that nearly always our callings require something of us. They're not usually things that keep us comfortable or from sacrificing things that are hard to give up. If we take a close look at the Bible, it's full of verses telling us that we're going to have to daily die to ourselves (Luke 9:23, I Cor. 15:31), to take up our cross and follow Him (Matt. 10:38, Mark 8:34) and that we're going to face trials (I Peter 5:10, James 1:2, John 16:33, Rom. 8:18).
Our "yes" will always come with trials.
Truth be told, saying "yes" to adoption has cost us a lot. And not in a financial sense, yet in ways that have been much more costly and sacrificial.
You see, adoption is hard. I don't know very many people that will tell you it's easy (albeit, I do know a select few).
Yet God is constantly reminding me that He hasn't called us to an easy life. He's simply called us to follow Him.
For us, we had talked about adoption since we were dating. I had always had a desire to adopt a little girl from China. We had talked about wanting 4 kids; having 3 and adopting the 4th. So when we had 2 girls and 1 boy the logical choice was to adopt a boy. After researching and discovering how costly private and international adoptions are, we decided to adopt through the foster care system.
Even that process is long and arduous. There's nothing easy about it. The paperwork. The background checks. The classes and trainings. The waiting. Oh the waiting. The home visits. Interviews. Having your kids interviewed (and subsequently being humiliated by their off the wall answers). The inspections and rules upon rules, the covered trash cans and electrical outlets, and more smoke detectors than a fire house has on hand and emergency escape routes posted and well, you get the point.
I wish I could say that was the hardest part for me.
Oh how I wish I could say that.
But that's not my story. And my "Yes" cost me so much more.
From the day we brought him home, we were met with opposition from well intentioned people, and well, some not-so-well intentioned. You hear people talk about caring for a child from a hard past and truthfully, you think, "Eh, not me. He's so little, I mean, just 15 months old. We've got this."
No. No we didn't. We battled him on eating what was provided since he thought his diet should consist of Orange crush, mac and cheese, and strawberry ice cream....or jarred baby food they were still spoon feeding him.... at 15 months old. We had to teach him how to use a fork and spoon, to sit up correctly since he'd been placed in a walker and left for no telling how long and then was put to bed at 5:30 pm with a bottle of milk. We had to work tirelessly with him on not holding food in his mouth. On trusting that we will always provide for him. He cried and cried if I asked him to go play while I was cooking, fearful he wouldn't be fed. He would inhale his sippy cup, gasping for air trying to drink it down as fast as he could. He'd eat like a little piglet, lest it wouldn't still be there minutes later. He'd eat to the point he'd vomit from overeating. He simply lacked trust. He lacked the faith in us that we wouldn't ever let him go hungry. And it was heartbreaking. If you haven't been there it's hard to explain watching this. And I'd be lying if I didn't say it was also frustrating at times because we were doing everything we possibly could for him.
So when people wanted to feed him.... No. Absolutely, positively no. If he couldn't trust that we would provide for him then we certainly didn't want or need him seeking that out from other people, which he did often. We went so far as to not even allow our parents and siblings to give him food. One of us would always give him his plate. And we were so thankful for their understanding.
But how they understood, others did not. And I wish that those people understood all the battles we faced early on. Yet that wasn't how our story unfolded. We were talked about. We were shamed (on Facebook of all things). Meetings were held (yes, seriously over us asking for him not to be fed) and feelings were hurt because we refused to back down on what was best for our son.
This is the life of adoptive parents. Going against stream because it's what your child needs. And as his momma, I will gladly do that despite the backlash we receive.
Amidst my battles I was keenly aware of the chatter behind my back. I remember telling Mark one night that I knew this particular group was talking about me. He dismissed it as a combination of me looking into things and because of the depression I was dealing with; which really, I can't blame him. So when a brave individual later came to me, seeking forgiveness for not standing up for me within that group, I had heard all I needed to hear.... had confirmed what I already knew but had hoped wasn't so.
I wish I could say that was the worst of it, but it wasn't.
We battled people from the outside on a lot of things, but if I'm being honest, the biggest battle I faced was within myself. I hate this part of my story. And by hate, I mean utterly in every way possible despise it. I choke back tears and sobs every time I think about it. It's hard. It's ugly. But it's also part of who I am and what's brought me to the place I am now. I've written about it in part in this post as well as this one but have battled sharing much more than that, and that's really probably a gross understatement. I've said no to God a lot because I think my story is ugly. Yet He's been speaking to me, working on my pride in order to get me to a point of sharing the hard truths of some of the things I faced. And so I'm braving the waters a bit more, trusting that He'll somehow use it for His glory. Oh how I pray that my struggles will not have been in vain.
You see, parenting a child from a hard place is.... well, hard. And as if that isn't enough, add to it that I had zero bond with Chi when he came into our home and the fact that we were the 5th home he'd been in only complicated his ability to bond with people. The excessive whining (hello toddler years), the battling people who didn't have a clue, the watching our other kids trying to adapt and struggling..... it all began to wear on me.
Combine that with a medication that I was unaware caused depression and suicidal thoughts and the perfect storm began brewing.
I went downhill quickly.
I wondered what on Earth we had gotten ourselves into. It felt like it would never get better, like he would never trust us, like people would never step outside of their tiny boxes and care enough to walk in our shoes....to try to understand what we were dealing with, like I would never have more than a surface level bond with him.
Every day was a struggle.
I woke up thinking "Oh God. OH GOD! We really did do this. I can't do it. I just can't. He deserves so much better than me." "Why!!!?? Why can't I feel something besides frustration for him?" "I want so desperately for this to be better. Please, God. Please make this better. You have to make this better." "If you can't make this better, then please give me the courage and bravery to do what's best for him, even if that's not being with us."
Multiple times throughout the day.
And God always said "You're the one."
I'd be lying if I said this didn't make me angry. I wanted my "Yes" to not cost me so much, to be easy. And this has been anything but easy.
I wanted to feel connected to him, but didn't. Therefore all the normal things he would do as a two year old exponentially frustrated me more than they should have.
It felt like the worst carnival ride in history that would never end.
Yet deep down I knew this was our path. And I knew that God would see us through it, even on the days I really struggled to believe that.
The depression worsened. The thoughts began to come. I say thoughts, but really they were lies from the enemy....and I believed them. Every single one of them.
I was worthless.... as a wife and certainly as a mom. My family was better off without me. Why bother even trying anymore?
One day I remember yelling at the top of my lungs at Mark. I blamed God. I blamed him. I blamed myself for ever thinking I could do this. I was simply mad and depressed and irrational. Oh how I was irrational. I was crying so much that he could barely understand me. I wanted to leave...had to leave. He could have the kids because they needed someone strong, someone who could guide them and see them through life because I clearly wasn't that person. They deserved better. So much better. And me leaving and letting him move on would be the only opportunity for them to have the life they deserved. Hear me when I say my love for Mark and our kids is unmatched and unwavering, yet this is the nature of lies from the pit of Hell. And every fiber of my being believed those lies. I packed a bag and we literally fought over the bag, Mark pulling it from my hands saying "You can't leave. It's going to be okay. It's going to be okay. It's going to be okay." I walked out the door without the bag, him on my heels jumping in the car beside me, refusing to let me walk away from my family.
I still can't type that without the tears flowing. The depths to which I had fallen... it's utterly heartbreaking. The reality of what I was willing to give up because I had believed the lies.
And Mark. Oh, my sweet sweet Mark. When I wanted to give up, he fought for the both of us. And the beauty and grace in that is something that I'll never forget.
I had made it through another day, but not without still believing the lies. I just didn't have any fight left in me.
The thoughts continued. I wished for death. I prayed that God would just take me Home. And when He didn't answer me, I began contemplating how I could take matters into my own hands.
With every beat of my heart, I wish this wasn't my story.
I wish I could tell you it was easy. That I immediately fell in love with him and we bonded right away. That I've never been depressed and certainly not suicidal. And gracious, certainly not over the sweetest little two year old.
But this is my story.
And God has redeemed it.
I want you to read that last sentence again. God has redeemed it.
No matter what your story is, He can redeem it sweet friends.
He walked alongside me, reminding me of His truths and promises. He'd give me days where I began to think "Maybe, just maybe I can do this." Then He prompted me to look at the side effects of the medicine I was on, which led to me stopping it immediately and subsequently the depression and thoughts leaving with it. And He saw us through the ultimate betrayal of someone sending in a letter saying I didn't love Chi. As I've briefly written about before, the letter was full of lies, complete with saying I wouldn't get up in the middle of the night when he'd cry. Imagine the betrayal and pain we felt. Imagine someone saying you won't get up in the middle of the night when your child is crying, even though your child sleeps through the night and has never gotten up (still hasn't). Imagine having the baby monitor turned to high so you could hear him just in case he did. Imagine your older son sharing a room with him knowing that he'd be awoken too should Chi be crying in the middle of the night. So perhaps then, you can imagine our hurt. The shock. The questions and wondering why someone not only could tell such lies but why on earth they would. There are some questions that we'll likely never have an answer to. Yet God can and has redeemed all of this.
What's hard for me is that I can look at my story and somehow begin to believe another lie..... that this person was warranted in sending the letter. But here's the truth:
Telling lies is never warranted.
Gossip and backbiting is never acceptable.
And most of all, despite all of my struggles, loving Chi was never in question, only my questioning myself and abilities to be the mom to him that he needed. I loved him so much that I was willing to admit defeat so that he could have better. But God never offered that as a choice, He only consistently spoke to my heart "You are enough, my daughter. You're enough for him."
Over the past several months I've thought about that sacrificial love. I've thought about his birth mom and how she signed away her rights. Now, maybe she didn't care. Maybe she didn't want to deal with his health issues. Maybe she thought "Hey, I can have more. I'll just let him go and hopefully have one with less health problems." Maybe. BUT, maybe, just maybe she thought "I can't give him the life he needs. And I love him so much that I'm signing my rights away to give him a chance at something better. I won't fight this because he needs someone who can fight for him better than I can."
The sacrificial love of a mother made me a mother to yet another.
The resemblance of our willingness to sacrifice for his greater good is not lost on me. Two mommas wanting the best for the same son.
I began asking God to bond us together, to make our hearts beat as one. And He faithfully has been answering that prayer day by day.
The stubbornness I've had over the past 18 months, the utter brokenness.... Him bringing me to my knees. Nay, breaking my knees until I would bend to His will, it has made me who I am today.
He used what most see as a negative... my stubbornness, and helped me use it for His honor and glory. For fighting my way out and refusing to stay where I was. For being willing to fight for our son and for myself to be just the mom he needs.
He helped me realize that just how it wasn't Chi's fault that I didn't carry him and have a bond with him, that you know, it wasn't my fault either. But He could still work through us to bring about something marvelous and bind us together in ways I never could have fathomed.
And that's just what He's doing.
Because you know my prayer that He'd make our hearts beat as one?
One day last week as I was holding him close, rocking him in his room, it occurred to me that due to a rare condition where his heart is on the right side of his chest, our hearts always line up and beat together.
Each time I hold him, each time I reach out to love him more and more, our hearts beat together.
That realization moved me to tears then, just as it does now.
God had heard and answered in miraculous ways.
I'd like to say there's not still work to be done, but really, with parenting there's always more to do, regardless of if you factor in adoption or not. But what I can say is that he trusts us so much now that we're constantly having to tell him to hurry up and eat because he knows it'll be there and takes his ever-loving-time eating. ;) He eats about any and everything. I'm moving past all the frustrations and we're having fun together reading and playing, snuggling and doing all the things I had hoped we'd do with ease.
And you know what that means?
God is binding us together. He's so helped me that I can't even remember what life was like before we had him nor can I imagine ever not having him with us.
Yes, there are days that are hard, but even the hardest of days is nothing compared to what I've gone through. And I'm so thankful. Oh so very thankful.
I say all of that to say this:
I don't know what your "Yes" is.
I don't know what it's going to cost you, and it will cost you something. But I know, without a shadow of a doubt, when you stay inside His will, He'll see you through each and every step, regardless of what it costs. He'll give your eyes new sight that allow you to see His hand in and through it all.
Our yes has cost us a lot. Truth is, our yes still costs us in the form of running to appointments every week and particularly with his upcoming health needs this spring and summer.
But he's worth it.
You saying yes to what God is calling you to will always be worth it.
You may be called to witness to someone at work. To become a foster parent. To adopt. To become a missionary. You may be called into the ministry. You may be called to start a new outreach. You may be called to any number of things that may cost you something if you say Yes.
Might I encourage you?
Do it anyway.
To think that our yes can be used for eternity.... gracious, it doesn't get much better than that.
Allow Him to use you. Say Yes. And then trust the Father's hand.
Because saying Yes to the Father is never easy, but it's always, ALWAYS worth it.