Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Big Adoption Series - Chapters 13 - 17

Chapter 13 - click here.

Chapter 14 - click here.

Chapter 15 - click here.

Chapter 16 - click here.

Chapter 17
Here's the whole truth and nothing but the truth: Our transition with Silas has been a difficult one. And then, every once in a while, it's a slice of pie. It's not that I purposely kept this information to myself. He just happens to time things so well that precisely when it gets bad enough that I need to talk about it, it's over. I'm also hyper-aware of what I put in print about my kids, because I know that once something is unleashed to the universe, it's unleashed for real and forever. I try to be aware of the fact that they may, one day, dig this stuff up and take a peek. I hope they do! But no one wants to think that they are remembered as the "difficult" child.

And yet. My mind has been digging to the other hemisphere over the past week or so, and I've found some truths that deserve to be told. Part of my hope in writing this series is that some of you - many of you? - will lay down your hesitations and your excuses and your misgivings and your "that's great for you, but it's not for me"s, and you'll wrap a child without a family into your own. So, I talk about what a gift it is. Listen to me. Look at my eyes. It is a gift. But it is not without challenges and sacrifices. And yes, most of you could tell me a thing or two about the sacrifices and challenges of birthing biological children, but this is different. It is probably not harder, and it's probably not easier, but it is, quite possibly, more complicated. At times, it is knock-the-wind-out-of-you unexpected. It is raw like a tender baby knee on asphalt. It is real like the ground you walk on.

I remember those first nights, even the first weeks, thinking to myself, "In six months most of this will be over. We will be past the really hard stuff." Of course, six months stretched out in front of me like an eternal Summer with no air conditioner in sight, but I survived an entire childhood of those Summers, so I knew that eventually, the sun retreats and you fall asleep in that delicious air that happens but for a moment - not too hot, not too cold. Air so perfect that you don't even notice it is there.

Siley has now been with us for eight months. We have had days dotted with sprinkles and days so dark that I couldn't tell you one good thing about them.

Last week was a long strand of dark days. Not pitch black, but almost. Dusk turned to grey, then dusted over with charcoal, and inched slowly, precarious toward tarry, painful black.

After eight months, I told myself that we would be able to toss black right out of the color box. Eight months is over half a year! But then I remember that we have 10 months to go until we are "even" with the length of his first life. Maybe then the playing field will be leveled, and I hope it is, but I'm realizing every day that once we're even-up, we still have work to do. Our job is to make our precious boy's heart feel held. Telling him every night that we will never leave him, that we will always love him, is one thing. Making him know it for sure is another.

Here's what I learned last week: I learned that there might be times when I look at the face of my child and hear the whisper of a heart-breaking lie that he may never love us. In that moment, I just might believe that lie. But in the very next moment that follows, I will trump those ugly enemy words with the comforting weight of a truth which I have never held before. It doesn't matter if he never loves us. Our love for him is not dependent upon his love for us.

That truth sustained me through nights where my baby physically turned his body so that he did not have to look at me. It sustained me when he called to me from his crib, then thrashed violently to be freed from my arms, preferring to stand alone in the dark. In those moments, I felt the spotlight of grace shining down on me. It allowed me to keep my wits and feel not-alone and as we sat/stood in that baby room, the pin-dot of light grew wider. I realized there was room enough for both of us there, in that grace. So, I shared.

Bathed in grace, I remembered that Silas no longer hits us with the intent to hurt us. He doesn't scratch at our faces. He has learned that shrieking his way through the day works for no one.

Every day, I crawl out to that grace-baked rock and I lie down until the warmth and the truth permeate me, until the light radiates right back off of me. Only then do I remember that while it seems like an impossible task to balance cuddles and trust with discipline and boundaries, it's the flour and the sugar of the cake. We stir that bowl every day, throwing in some of both, and the end result is the learning of love.

He is learning that we love him. He is learning to love us back.

This baby that fills up my heart and every now and then chips a tiny piece off, sacrificed everything he trusted to be ours. It takes time to learn love.

So my burner has been dialed back to low. There's no rushing this. We will take the good with the bad and be reminded just how far we have come in eight short months. We will simmer here, for as long as it takes - forever - until all that separates, all that is no good on its own, is distilled down to the thick, amber syrup of love that is fully known.


Join me here next Wednesday for Big Adoption Series - Chapter 18

(To catch up on Chapters 1-12, click here and start from the bottom.)


  1. I know I don't usually comment but this touched my heart tremendously. I don't think you need to be an adoptive mother to understand these real emotions that surface when we come face to face with the reality of motherhood. That these sweet babies are people with unique minds and wills. I had idealistic notions of what motherhood would look like and it was nothing I expected. And funny enough...those lies you can hear whispered are ones I am deceived about regarding from my biological child...and we adopted as well. I could write a book about what kind of emotions this post evoked in me. I know my children are precious gifts and their story is one beautifully constructed by my Lord and King. But HE is teaching me sacrifice and to be a mother with servant's heart. That I am to love them and pour myself out at the same time regardless of what I get back. Our years as foster parents seem like a cake walk compared to what we sometimes face...those same dark days. But know this was refreshing to find a friend on my seemingly empty island. Thanks.

  2. you are not alone! just know that :)

  3. Silas has a special mama ;) I love how honest you are here, how you balance things that are so hard with truth and love. There's not much easy about this thing called life, but there's a whole lot that's beautiful.

  4. Every time I read your posts, I am AMAZED at the emotion you stir within me! Several of your posts have literally brought me to tears, they are unbelievably real. Your writing truly captures the love that oozes from your heart. This, like your other posts, is so heart warming. I am a momma too, and every mother has these feelings, adoptive or not. I think deep down, we all seek our child's approval. We want to be reassured that we are doing a good job, that we matter. In his own time he will reciprocate the love you show him.

  5. okay shannan, i just have to stop right now and tell you how much i LOVE LOVE LOVE your new blog. will be back after reading this post!!

  6. I have no doubt that one day that black crayon will be thrown out forever. Love does conquer all!

  7. i'm back! shannan - thank you so much for your honesty. you are not alone, my friend and i am so glad to know you! praying for grace on those dark days.

  8. This is the word picture of unconditional love. He's going to soak up your grace & love as you have your Father's and he will in turn give it to someone else. Because you loved him.

    (I know someone who could relate to this right down to the hitting without intent to hurt and shrieking through the day. I'm going to pass it on to her. I know she will be thankful there is someone else who knows what she's walking through)

  9. Amazing. So Christ like...the love you give overwhelms me. This is leaving me breathless tonight... : )

  10. Shannan - thanks for this honest post and for challenging me to consider adoption in a serious way, for shaking up my "good-for-you-not-for-me” thinking. I talk about this topic with my husband a lot. You do not make it look too easy or too hard. You do make it look normal, accessible and something that doesn't require a saint gene. Although, I do occasionally refer to you as "Saint Shannan" when referencing a FPFG post.

  11. Beautiful, raw and real.

    I remember well the countdown to the day when Lily was our daughter longer than she was an orphan. Those first months were r.o.u.g.h. We still have rough days mingled in with the great ones. Days where she is so afraid that I'm not going to take care of her that she tries to control everything and everyone around her so that no one can let her down. Nights when she whispers, "I'm afraid you're going to leave me tonight, mama." Moments when she won't look in my eyes.

    After four and half years, she is still learning to love me. And trust my love for her. Sometimes, she fakes it, and uses a hug or a "Mommy, I love you" to manipulate. Those are hard, too.

    Those wounds on her precious heart. The same ones, maybe with different shapes, on Silas' priceless heart. God, heal them!

    She is learning, and every year I look back and can see how much she has grown. She does love us and needs us and wants to be with us. She thanks God for her family, unprompted and to her children's church teacher, so I know she isn't saying it because she knows it's what I want to hear. When her teacher asked her to draw her "heart's desire," she drew our family.

    Those little victories...well, they aren't little. They are some of my heart's greatest treasures.

    And after four and half years, there are WAY more great days than rough ones. I'm fully convinced that your long string of wonderfully bright Siley-Pie days are a-comin'! And that I would do it all over again if given the slightest nod of opportunity.

    I love your heart, friend.

  12. These words, they slay me. You've shone light on things in my heart that need to be fixed concerning my children. Even the two grown ones.
    Thank you.

  13. Such an amazing story Shannan. I wish I was like you. I know in my heart that I can't ever be.
    A couple of weeks ago at church, the visiting pastor preached about fostering. He and his wife have two of their own and a foster child who they hope to have forever. Here in Australia you can't adopt unless the parent signs the child over to you, and that is almost impossible to happen.
    So, reading all the posts about Silas and this last one makes me feel like the universe is telling me something. I don't listen to the universe, only God. He knows I struggle with my own children and would not cope with another that wasnt' my own.
    You and Cory and others like you are very special people. I wish with all my heart I had your depth of love, but I don't.

  14. I always read your blog but have never ( I think) commented, just wanted to wish you well. It is sometimes so hard to take oneself out of the picture, whether with children or partner or family or friends or strangers, and to let them have and own their feelings regardless of how it affects our own feelings. Always that selfish little voice pops up and whines, 'but what about me...?' . The thing is when you have the emotional strength and the ability to see what others need it is up to you to be the selfless one - however hard it seems. I am glad that your character and your faith is making this possible for you. Best wishes to you and yours.

  15. Beautiful writing Shannan. I love how you show us your heart. I am praying for Silas. God will heal his little heart. Dark days will turn sunny. HE will made beauty from the ashes. Love to you- xoxo

  16. i wrote my first post about our adoption the other night....working myself up to share the rest...for all the same reasons you wrote about here....

    "It doesn't matter if he never loves us. Our love for him is not dependent upon his love for us."

    my favorite part...the HARDEST PART of it all..but the best part...

    this is the part where we get to understand God's grace in such a real and tangible way.


  17. You spoke my heart. We've had one 'easy' and one 'rough' adoption. Both came to us at the same how thankful we were that they weren't both 'rough'. :) God will get you through it. Ours have been home with us for 2 1/2 years now and I could count on one hand the number of rough days that we've had in the last six months. Our little 5 1/2..spit in our faces, bit our collarbones, pinched anywhere that she could grab hold, kicked our shins, screamed for hours on end, bit herself til she bled. It was terrible, but those are now days in the past that I can look back on and see just how far we've come.
    Blessings to you~

  18. Just want to send you a big cyber HUGG! and thank you, Sister, for sharing your heart!

  19. "It doesn't matter if he never loves us. Our love for him is not dependent upon his love for us."... this, my friend, is God's grace. And it shook me to the core to hear it so plainly.

    I fully beleive our children love to grow Christ when they can see Him so plainly in our love for them.


  20. Oh Shannan,
    Thank you for your candor and loving heart. God chose you for Silas for a very special reason. You are Cory are just what Silas needed. I'm praying for your dear family.

  21. "This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us..."

    Your writing is filled with His grace. Silas will never have cause to regret what you've said here. It is infused with love.

  22. Shanny - you know what I'm going through with the boy child. It's not that far off with what you are going through with Silas - in many ways it's parallel. Different struggles, but boils down to trust and love. You are being so steadfast, as I am trying to be - and I think in the long run, and Lord does it ever seem like a LONG run at times - love will conquer. Trust will win. The anchor will hold and life, which is beauty full all the time, even when the clouds make it hard to see - will unfold with colors we've never even seen before - and black - even though it's not in the box anymore - will most definetely be mixed in with those colors - giving those colors a new depth, a rich tone. My heart is giving yours hugs. Love you beegirl.

  23. "our love for him is not dependent on his love for us."

    That's gospel love, Mama, so very true.

  24. My last child (of three and second adoption) was almost 14 months old when she came to us and my "6 months" lasted almost 2 years. At almost 6 she has finally let her guard down and loves us almost as much as we love her. It has been very hard on our marriage of almost 30 years and had we not been committed it would have been the end of us but the sun is shining in our family with fewer moments of black so life is good. Attachment is tough work and adoption isn't for sissies but like anything in this life worth having it was worth working for.

  25. Hugs to you friend. Our God is an awesome God and he picked you to be exactly the Mama Silas needs because of the heart you have.

  26. Your honesty is so touching. One day, if Silas does see this, he will see, again, how much you and Cory loved him right from the very start AND how that love stems from your love for God. What a blessing that will be.

    Thank you so much for reminding me, everyday, of the wonderful gifts God gives us.

  27. Your words remind me so much of my nephew . .. the aching to be held and refusing to be. . . . the look in their eyes when they reject you . . .the love you try to give back . . . I'm sure you have considered it but just in case, have you ever had him evaluated for Sensory Integration Dysfunction? Our world got so much better when we had the tools to help him with his sensory issues. Sis never did understand why he would only take a bottle if he was facing away from her, how he would incessantly make noise but refuse to be comforted, how he rocked all the time, always moving, and always always always wants long sleeves and pants (for the record we live in Arizona. He wears long sleeves, pants, and jacket when it is well over 100 out. I'm just a random person who stumbled upon your blog and loves your words of love, but I wanted to mention the sensory thing, just in case.

  28. You're story here reminds me so much of another friend of ours who adopted a little one. A very tough road... of one afraid to love and be loved.

    Hang in there.

    I'll be honest.

    I fail miserably as a mother to truly hear the 50,000 "I love you's" I get through out my day. You're post made me stop and thank the Lord for those moments - those words- I hear freely doled out from my three year old. I'm so blessed and yet I forget...way too often.

  29. I love this post. We have had our son for 9 months now and there have been many challenges. I am constantly praising the Lord for the healing that I do see in my son's heart, for the strides he has made, for the joy that is overtaking the fear and anxiety.
    It used to break my heart when my son would refuse to look into my eyes as I held him and loved on him. But now he will look in my eyes so much more often and for such longer periods.
    I pray for continued healing of your son's heart and spirit. I pray the same for my own son. Thank you for sharing. We'll just keep working and keep loving.

  30. You had me laughing in the last post, and crying in this one. What a journey! Thanks, as always, for the truth.

  31. Shannan, Bless your heart! You have been brutally honest and open in this post and have touched many people. I can't even imagine the struggles you have faced but there is always light at the end of those dark days. Silas is a very lucky little soul and God knew exactly what he was doing placing him in you and Corey's hands and hearts! Hugs! Traci

  32. Thank you, thank you for sharing this honest post. I need these words for inspiration as much as the triumphant chapters.

  33. My heart is so full for you Shannan...full of so many different things. You and Cory are such good parents. I've seen you in action, so I know what I'm talking about. It may not always feel like love wins the day to days, but it most certainly will win out in the end.

  34. Silas,I would have picked him out of a billion peevish babies, just to call him my own Si-Pie. Babies don't come with everything already packed in their bags for life. That is what we do as parents....pack their suit cases and watch them pull out what they need when they need it. You will be amazed at what God is going to do in Silas's life and you and Cory get a close up view as his Mommy and Daddy. Its amazing how we as parents can remember the wonderful times and the rest can fade into the fog of the years. Kiss my babies for me today and tell them Gam will never leave them either!!!

  35. For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to adopt someday (when I actually get married, that is...), but reading your posts has made my heart ache for the experience of adoption even more. The good with the bad. Thank you for all that you're sharing...your heart and love just shine through your words! Lifting your family in prayer tonight!

  36. At times, it is knock-the-wind-out-of-you unexpected. It is raw like a tender baby knee on asphalt. It is real like the ground you walk on.

    oh, sister...
    how hard, this is. yet, as you wrestle love into this boy, God is redeeming. you are doing raw kingdom work. i'm praying for you. don't ever give up. it makes a big, big difference. thank you so much for linking tonight. xo

  37. ps. if it helps, i used to hit and scream and yell too. my parents didn't know what to do. so they just kept loving me.

  38. Uh, I was a terrible terrible TERRIBLE child.
    I think that's why I'm so wanting this whole phase with mine to be OVER fast. Because I can't imagine dealing with it for as long as my parents did. I mean, I turned out well (if I do say so myself) but the process was not as fun as one could have hoped.
    Thanks for writing this. It makes me feel like picking up my boot straps, or myself, or something like that.

  39. i haven't adopted, but i was abandoned while pregnant with my first child. although God quickly brought a wonderful man into our life as my husband and her father, she struggles with attachment issues. she screams, hits and yells too. i feel so inadequate as a mother some days. thank you for this honest post about loving a wounded child. i am encouraged.

  40. i just want to give one word: yes. (that is how i say "i understand, a little, a lot", when my heart's too full). if i ever meet y'all i'd like to give you hugs and stickers.

  41. bathed in grace is the best place to be.
    His time is so perfect.
    keep choosing love. xo

  42. I just found your blog and was looking back at your adoption journey and saw this post. We have had 4 1/2 years of more difficult/dark days than happy days as well. This past year has been better and our daughter is finally attaching. But it hasn't been without a struggle. Thanks for your writings!

  43. Your words are so powerful and eloquent. And your Faith...inspiring.