When Do I Know It’s REALLY God’s Will, Not Mine?

shadowToday I came across this fascinating discussion over at Jen’s “Conversion Diary,” about a mother of three who was about to adopt a child with special needs . . . and is wondering if she was making a mistake. And if so, what to do now?

Read all about it here.

When we step out prayerfully, wanting nothing more than to do the right thing, what happens if we make a mis-step? Do we retrace our steps . . . or take the next one, trusting God to bring something good out of our own mistakes?

A dear friend of mine is struggling with this dilemma right now. Adopted child with severe emotional problems, hurting her and his younger siblings. She loves him. But the child outweighs her by 40 pounds, and is intent on hurting everyone and everything in his path . . . how long can this go on?

When I was a kid, I knew a family that had a troubled teen with a drug problem. Ultimately, theygave the child a choice: stop, or leave. He wound up in Teen Challenge, and was positively transformed by the experience.

Every day parents are brought up short with the poor choices of their teenage (and younger) children. The volitional component varies — some choices are “freer” than others, but the consequences remain. And when this happens, to “love” that child is not a warm and fuzzy feeling. To “love” in these cases is to want what is in the child’s best interest. In this case, to get him the help he needs to keep him from destroying himself and others.

This is God’s will: to love the child, for as long as we have him (or her). And to help that child become the best and truest version of himself — the masterpiece of God’s (and not our own) design.

Three Special Books for Adoptive Families

I’ve recently had three children’s books cross my desk, two of them about adoption.

ten daysThe first, “Ten Days and Nine Nights” by Yumi Heo (Random), is for families with older children who are awaiting the adoption of a younger sibling (in this case, from Korea). Ms. Yumi — who was born and grew up in Korea — writes with simple charm, and her illustrations are especially beautiful.

Ms. Yumi writes: “The first time I met a child who had been adopted from Korea — where I was born and lived until I was 24 years old — was eighteen years ago on a ski trip to Massachusetts. I was cautiously learning to step with my long skis, and he was my teenage ski instructor. It was strange to see someone from my country who was so adept at a Western sport, but is also made me feel proud of him. He had come such a long way, without his birth parents, and was thriving . . . ” She wrote this book for the many Asian children she’s known who were adopted as children; having adopted the United States as her own home, Ms. Yumi says, “I’ve always felt a kinship with these children.”

beginningsThe second book, while not specifically about adoption, is nonetheless a beautiful book entitled simply “Beginnings,” by Lori Ann Watson and Shennen Bersani (Pauline Books and Media). With the eye of an adoptive parent, I was especially touched by one passage near the end of the book, which reads:

“And in the beginning — in YOUR beginning —
God thought of you, and he loved you.
He loved you so much that, at just the right time,
he chose the perfect place for you,
inside the safe, warm shelter of your mother’s womb . . .”

Though like many adoptive parents I like to tell my children that they grew inside my heart long before I laid eyes on them, acknowledging the gift of their birth — and affirming that, whatever circumstances led to the adoption, their birth mothers indeed loved them from the beginning — is an important part of helping a child make sense of his own family story. Because the truth is that, no matter how our children came to us, they were known and loved by God from the very beginning.

The third book I’d like to review today is entitled Red in the Flower Bed, by Andrea Nepa (Tribute Books). Andrea is an adoptive mother of a little girl from Vietnam, and I had the pleasure of asking her a few questions about her book:
red flower1.  Tell me a bit about your international adoption story.

Our adoption journey began when we went to Vietnam to get our daughter when she was 4 months old.  We stayed there for 2 weeks, which was an incredible way to get to know a little bit about her place of birth.  We loved watching her spunky personality emerge as she grew.  Our biggest challenge so far was when she was diagnosed with Ewings sarcoma, a rare pediatric bone cancer, at the age of 5.  (After major surgery and 8 months of chemo, she has now been in remission for 2 years). 

She understood from an early age that she was adopted and sometimes would cry that she missed her birth mother.  Her mourning and my inability to answer her questions about her adoption (we were not given any info. as to who her biological parents were or even the circumstances of her being given up) was part of my inspiration to write this story.  Plus, I felt that somehow perhaps she was meant to be with us, since we live only 20 minutes away from the best children’s hospital in the country, if not the world.

 2.  What advice would you give parents who adopt an older child, and run into difficulties parenting that child — if the “flower” has difficulty fitting in their particular garden?

You have to acknowledge and respect the child’s cultural heritage no matter what age they are adopted at.  The idea isn’t necessarily for the flower to have to fit in to the garden, but for the flower and garden to complement each other with their differences.  It is no doubt much harder for an older child to adjust to a new family in a new culture than for a very young child.  Ideally, the child should be accepted by their family unconditionally for who they are and not have to live up to expectations for the kind of person they “should” be.  The garden flowers accepted the seed for who she was before they knew what kind of flower she would be.  Also, I believe that parents need to be flexible in adapting to the personality of their child (whether or not they are adopted, but of course this is just my opinion!).

3.  The image of “seed” can be a loaded one for some adoptive families, especially those whose children come from neglectful or abusive backgrounds. The suggestion is that — no matter what you do to raise the child, all he is and will ever be is already determined in the “seed.” How would you respond to this?

The seed retains its identity no matter where it lands, since its heritage can’t be denied and shouldn’t be ignored.  Looking different is not something to be ashamed of.  In the story the seed thrived and blossomed into a healthy, beautiful flower because it was given the love and care it needed.  Superficially the poppy looks like her birth flower, but also in a good environment she is allowed to reach her full potential. Likewise, a child who experiences an abusive home will likely be influenced in a negative way. This is one good reason to adopt a needy child!  All children deserve a loving home.

 4.  What do you say to grown international adoptees who long to know more about their roots, but don’t know how to begin?

I don’t have direct experience with this, but from an adoptive parent’s perspective I will say that it is important to be honest with your child as much as possible even if this means saying “I don’t know”.  The child should not be made to feel guilty about asking questions about their past; it’s their right to know.  The only question that my daughter asks that I can honestly answer with some confidence is when she wants to know what her birth mother looks like.  She loves to hear “she looks like you”.  This is another reason why I made the seed turn out as a red poppy like its mother flower.  In terms of dealing with adoption issues, it is important for adoptees to have contact with other adoptees.

EMN Mailbag: Adoptive Mom of Romanian Special Needs Child Seeks Support

Hello, I am Lori Lesko, mom to Michael Marius Lesko, 10, whom we adopted from Romania in 2000. Our son has been diagnosed with autism and verbal apraxia so we have had our share of ups and downs.

I am interested in keeping touch with other parents of kids from international adoptions, and would like to get your email and be allowed to post comments.

Thank you,

Lori Lesko
Mom of Michael

You can contact Lori through her e-mail: mike.lesco@sbcglobal.net.

Miracle Monday: The Blessing of Adoption by Judy Miller

At one time or other, all adoptive parents wonder (sometimes only to themselves) whether the love they feel for the child they’ve adopted is the same kind of love other parents feel for their (biological) children. According to Judy … it is! I was delighted that she was willing to share her first impressions of her international adoption experience with us. Thanks, Judy!

I am one of those – one of the thousands, perhaps tens or hundred of thousands of parents, who feel that their child was destined to be with them.

In the deepest recesses of my being I am convinced that my children chose us. It may not mean much to anyone other than my husband Mark, my kids, and me. And that’s fine, but, here’s the thing, three of my four are adopted. Their stories of how they came to be our children often leave people scratching their heads in wonderment.

My family is highly visible, encompassing three races, three countries, and three cultures. We have seen that how we are a family inspires others to consider adoption as a means of becoming a parent or adding to theirs.

Mark and I hit the secondary infertility roadblock after having our first child. The fertility treadmill was emotionally taxing, financially draining, and  affected our relationship. Intimacy became duty. My body, mind and sprit were tired and sore. We conceived once more and lost the baby. I was done. All I wanted was another child. It was that simple – and that difficult. Fortunately, Mark felt the same. Through grief we came to terms with our loss and realized that dream of having more children was going to happen. Through adoption.

For whatever reason, I felt drawn to China. The sensation was overwhelming. In the process of narrowing agencies down from an original list of seventy (this is not a typo), I tried to consider adopting from another country, but for whatever reason it didn’t feel right. Mark and I went with my gut feeling and in doing so were able to reduce the list of agencies to three. But, we were still on the fence; none of the three stood out for us.

Funny things happen. I was going through the mail during a drive up to Chicago; in it was a packet from an agency I had contacted via email earlier in the week. Upon opening and reading through the packet of information, I began to cry. This was our agency. I knew it. I read the entire packet to him as he drove and we called the agency from the car to get the process rolling.

Eleven months later we were in China, and as the elevator doors to the seventh floor opened, I set eyes on my beautiful daughter for the first time. I was engulfed in raw love for my daughter. It was akin to what I had experienced as I gave birth to Holden.

Josi was handed to me.  I held her close, taking in her scent, tasting her as I kissed her, and whispered into her ear, “Hello, Love. I’m your mommy. I have been waiting for you. I will keep you safe and love you forever.”

An Adoption Story: Guest Post from “JoJo”

Today I received a comment from JoJo, an adult South Korean adoptee. JoJo sent me a link to this beautiful tribute, written to honor both his families.

What struck me most was the warmth and acceptance that JoJo expresses for the Korean woman who was his first mother — and the gratitude for BOTH his families who sacrificed to give JoJo a good life.

If you’ve ever considered international adoption, be sure to check it out.

20/20 Russian Adoption Special: Carrie Craft Follows Up with the Mulligans

mulliganToday I received this link to Carrie Craft’s interview with Mike and Tanya Mulligan, who adopted three special needs children from Russia. Their adoption experiences were featured on an hour-long 20/20 special that drew a strong response (Tanya says it was 80%  positive, despite the obvious difficulties the family was having).

If you are considering international adoption, please take some time to read this!

John Paul II and National Adoption Month!

“Adopting children, regarding and treating them as one’s own children, means recognizing that the relationship between parents and children is not measured only by genetic standards. Procreative love is first and foremost a gift of self. There is a form of ‘procreation’ which occurs through acceptance, concern and devotion. The resulting relationship is so intimate and enduring that it is in no way inferior to one based on a biological connection. When this is also juridically protected, as it is in adoption, in a family united by the stable bond of marriage, it assures the child that peaceful atmosphere and that paternal and maternal love which he needs for his full human development.”

John Paul II, Letter to Adoptive Families (Sept 5, 2000)

November is National Adoption Month — and today,  November 15 — is National Adoption Day!! Yipee!!!

Are you looking for ways to celebrate adoption? Click here to go to an article from “Adoptive Families” magazine that offers 30 ways families can celebrate!

For more information about this important resource for adoptive parents, or to subscribe, click here!