Monday, October 15, 2012

When Going Almost Breaks Us - An Adoption Story


Silas likes to pretend to be a baby sometimes. His brother always liked it, too. I know this is normal toddler behavior, but I've always suspected that for the two of them, it's more than that.

You couldn't have convinced me, before all of these brown babies came into my life, that a tiny baby could really know what he missed. But there was the time Calvin was 9 months old and the cartoon cut to kids in Korea, a whole schoolyard of them laughing and playing. He froze. Then he bawled his eyes out. He knew. I swept him up and our hearts broke together, for two different reasons. That's when my mind changed. That's when I knew for sure that the heart knows what it wants. That's when adoption became more than my path to a family.

Then there's his little brother, the one who changed everything we knew all over again, the one who pushes back at life, all wiry limbs and almond eyes bigger than forever.

He's four now, and he's got some things to say. He tells us he loves us all the time. He calls everyone "Mrs. Doohiggy" and laughs like he invented four-year old humor. He talks trash. He gives me permission to do stuff all dang day because he has a monstrous Boss complex. "Oh sure, you can put those dishes away." "Yes, you may check your email." "Okay, you can make some lunch!"

A few weeks ago he curled up on my lap like a monkey baby and lapsed into that really safe baby world, his wide eyes wider, the weight of his body a gift in my hands. I'll play baby with him anytime.

This time, the baby started talking.

S: I was born in my Kria (Korea).
Me: Yes, you were.
S: You get me there wis Daddy. We go up in the airplane.
Me: Yep. Did you like the airplane?
S: No. I cried.
Me: Why did you cry?
S: Because I was sad.
Me: Why were you sad? (super curious at this point)
S: Because I didn't want that mommy.
Me: You didn't want what mommy?
S: (points to me) That one.
Me: What mommy did you want?
S: Foster mommy.

He wasn't sad when he said it. He was just telling the truth. I kissed his neck and sniffed his head and the baby was gone. He smiled and raced off to the toyroom, Charles wedged under one arm.

We have talked to him about Korea. We've talked about foster mommy. We've talked about the airplane and that he cried on it. We have never, ever, talked about why he cried on the plane. We've never come close to talking about how desperate he was for the life he knew, or how his world ended for a while when we showed up.

We knew his heart was broken. We know it's mapped with scars. We did not know his little-kid brain was capable of remembering a feeling that showed up 3 years back.

This might be one more way that healing comes down, to him and to us. God never wastes pain.

But I talk about Going and all the ways it can weigh us down, make us jittery or sad, and none of it will ever come close to the kind of Going that buttons your coat, ties your shoes, and sends you across an ocean, or a river.

The amount of collective faith required in adoption sends me staggering, and most of it isn't even mine.

They would never have chosen this. But there was so much more to the story than what they could see. So they came and let us love them and sooner or later, they loved us back. They chose us back.

Maybe it's in the brown eyes looking up at me every day that I find this urge to reach up and grab onto something Brave. Because despite all the ways they have lost, my babies will understand how God redeems. Their worldview and the scope of their belief will leave mine in the dust. They'll never think for a second that the neighbors they should love share their language, their skin-tone, the same hunk of dirt.

For them, it will be rooted in their soul: a good thing isn't always an easy thing. Sometimes, just what we need, that one thing that will define us, hold us, carry us into the all the rest, is born from a heart wide-split and questions that won't be answered.

If they and all the others like them can Go, so can we.

61 comments:

  1. i'm speechless and teary eyed.

    my sister-in-law just got the exit letter from Haiti and will be bringing her new daughter back home to Texas on Wed (this has been a 2.5 year process... phew.). my new niece is 8. 8! imagine how her world is being turned upside down right now. it's sad and beautifully redemptive all at once.

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  2. Love you. Love Silas. Love our God that brought us all together.

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  3. Found your blog on facebook, thanks. From one adoption Mama to another. This isn't an easy path, helping them remember people we don't, tying string back to a people and a place not our own. God amazes me everyday with adoption. Thanks again.

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  4. You never fail to put into words the feelings in my heart! We love our brown babies!!!
    ~Mara

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  5. That conversation broke my heart. So raw and true. Children are amazing.

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  6. I may have wished I hadn't read this.

    Being on the foster mommy end of this tore me slap up.

    Bless his heart. Bless yours.

    I love all the brave at your house.

    xxoo

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    1. "Because despite all the ways they have lost, my babies will understand how God redeems." I'm not a foster or adoptive mom yet (that is our heart, but we have had delays..) and oh, this broke my heart and gave me hope all at the same time. And I don't know if this makes sense, but as a mommy of a little guy with (still) unidentified special needs, this line speaks to me for my family - my sweet boy and his sweet older brother.

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  7. Beautiful. I would love to know more of what you meant about "God never wastes pain." What does that mean? Especially to those of us that have had so much of it in our lives? That's a comment that's going to keep me wondering, pondering, awake at night......

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    1. I've also heard "God never wastes pain." I take it to mean that when we suffer pain in our life then we can better minister to and comfort those who may suffer the same way. If we know Jesus Christ as our Savior we know that we will go through trials and in the midst of these we grow spiritually and many times it purges our hearts of things we putting before our relationship with God, wrong attitudes, etc. I believe God is all wise and He knows what is best for me. So, when I suffer or am in a battle He intends for me to have "plunder" on the other side. Hope my answer helps. :)

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    2. I mean that God allows painful things in our lives for a distinct and beautiful purpose. Always, part of that purpose involves drawing our hearts closer to His. He doesn't allow pain for no good reason. He doesn't miss a thing.

      Thanks for feeling free to ask hard questions here, right along with me.

      Please rest well tonight.

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  8. I've said "this is my favorite post" before... more than once. I didn't know what I was talking about. When you get brave like this and you talk about being brave... this is my favorite because I am not brave and I have soooo much to learn from your kids.

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  9. Oh, his precious heart. How amazing that he can put those toddler feelings into grown-up words. Yeah, this one hits me deep.

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  10. This broke my heart on so many levels....and I can't explain why.

    Maybe it was because I lost my temper so many times tonight with him. I yelled. I was frustrated. I was not in the mood.

    Maybe I'm crying because he has never expressed emotions about his adoption. He struggles with expressive language & cognitive thinking. I wish he could express more. Talk more.

    Maybe I am not fighting for his spiritual growth hard enough. I should do more, lead by example more.

    Maybe I am sad because I can not find it in my heart to adopt again. He wants a brother. I just don't think I have enough to give.

    Maybe I am upset because I know one day he is going to be sad. I feel that it's coming & I just hope my love is enough.

    Tell me he's going to be OK. Tell me I'm going to be OK.

    XOXO

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    1. He will. You will. You're family now, you know? I think that all the time...we're family. Forever. Come what may, good, bad, whatever. God made us a family, because He knew what all of us needed. The same goes for you and your people. :) Just keep leaning in, Girl.

      xo

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  11. I had to read this one out loud to my hubby! WOW! So glad you can pour love out on those sweet babies!

    On a different note, I got "Hold Love Strong" from the library today and am going to start it as soon as I finish the "Abrahamic Revolution"....which so far is a fabulous read!

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  12. I love your posted on adoption Shannan. We are in the process of adopting 2 sweet boys from foster. This has challenged me more than I ever thought, and sometimes I wonder if I have lost my mind to take on so much. It is amazing the hurt in this world, it angers me knowing our kids bear part of that burden. I found great hope in your words on redemption. Let that be there story. Our God is big and faithful, let his redeeming love be there story.

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  13. PS- your little Silas' temperament reminds me so much of our little almost 4 year old Noah. So feisty, so loving, such a challenge.

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  14. Just when I thought I couldn't love ya any more, just when I thought I had prayed you all up you go and show me new things to pray for. I love this post so, so much. You and your family are in my heart...and once you make it there there's no getting out.

    XOXO,
    Angie

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  15. our beautiful adopted daughter lillianna will be 22 soon. she would talk freely about where she was from (romania) when she was little, as she grew she tucked that all away. we needed to let her, after all, her life is her journey. oh how we love her. but these four words became very important as she approached high school...just get her through. sounds simple, but these words kept us. all of us. what an amazing adventure we have had together. "hearts wide-split" yes, and learning still. our lilli? she's the brave one. so much love to you in your going. keep going. <3

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  16. This is a beautiful post. My favorite part is "Sometimes, just what we need, that one thing that will define us, hold us, carry us into the all the rest, is born from a heart wide-split and questions that won't be answered."

    I'm not adopted nor do I have an adopted child so I can't relate in that exact way. But just like what you are talking about here, I have things in my life and hurts that have split my heart. I have unanswered questions about things too. I think this does help to define me and more than that, it helps me to love people more than I knew possible.

    Your blog is a daily dose of joy for me and one that always encourages. Thanks for sharing your heart.

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  17. I admire couples who want to give a child a good home, and I don't mean to sound heartless at all, but I've never been a fan of international adoptions. This heart-wrenching post spells out why. I know a number of people who were brought to the states, via adoption. They are young adults now and being forced to leave the land of their birth has haunted them all of their lives. My heart weeps for them, and for their adoptive parents. There are no easy answers, but bless you for opening your heart and home.

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    1. I sort of understand your perspective, but what about the kids in other countries who are supposed to live somewhere else? We went to where God had our children. When people ask me why who chose to adopt from Korea, the only answer I have is, "Our sons were in Korea."

      I don't think the feelings my boys have are particularly unique to International adoptees. "Adoption is the collision of forfeit and gift." (one of my fave quotes) Adoption is rooted in loss, but God redeems it.

      I think it's okay that you weep for adoptees, but only if you also rejoice with them. God's plan required extra faith from them, but He makes no mistakes.

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    2. I answer the same way. Why Romania? Because my daughter was there. If one of your children were there, would you go get them? There have been days and nights when I've agonized and cried over all the questions, and it took years to talk about some of the things I saw while I was there. Our daughters birthmother nursed her for the last time and laid her on my lap. How does a finite mind reconcile that? Mine hasn't. But the one who is infinite has. He knew her before she was born. He gets us, especially in our ragged places.
      He gets us.

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    3. We adopted sisters (age four and five)from within the county we live, from the same nationality that we are and they still longed to see their "people", the ones who's genes they share, the ones who look like them so it doesn't only happen in international adoptions. Human nature calls us to long for connection, bonds and relationship and I mourn for their loss. "Adoption is the collision of forfeit and gift"...so true. My daughters are now young adults and they have met their birth mother, they have looked into the eyes that match their own. They thought the hole in their hearts would be filled but it wasn't...it only served to raise more questions. They know that the adoptive life they were given (as imperfect as it was) was indeed a gift from God. People asked from the moment we adopted, Why siblings and why didn't you wait for infants? I answer the same way...God selected our daughters for us before the beginning of time. I wish I could erase the pain but God has a plan to redeem the years the locusts ate and I am forever thankful to have been a part of it.

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    4. I always feel like adoption is most clearly understood when it's compared to our adoption in the heavenlies and the truths found in it. We were headed toward eternal death, eternal fatherlessness, no inheritance. When God chose to make a plan to redeem us, he had to remove a lot of things, great sacrifice was paid, and even though we rejoice in what has been done for us - our life, our loving heavenly Father, our inheritance with him, his protection and guidance on earth- how often do we pick up, long for, and want to return to all that he rescued us from? I am not equating birth families, birth countries with sin... but I am saying that as followers of Christ, those who are being redeemed, those who have been rescued, our hearts can identify and understand the wonder and the struggle of earthly adoptions because our hearts understand the wonder and struggle of our heavenly adoptions. Some days we soar. Some days we need to be reminded who's we are. And the peace of the reminder comes in "I will come for you, I will not leave you as orphans" and "In love he predestined for adoption as sons..." Effort and struggle to love our heavenly father back and/or struggle to give up the things he has supposedly saved us from does not negate the value, the price paid, or the sheer good gift of grace given us through adoption. The same with our children when they grieve the loss and find joy in the gain.

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    5. My sister and I were adopted from Korea 30 years ago and I honestly do not remember ever having longings of any sort about my "birth country". However, we were only 4 and 9 months old when we were adopted so perhaps that has something to do with it.

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  18. This post broke my heart!!!! So happy that your children have you for a mother!!! I have said it before but I need to say it again--Favorite Post!!

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  19. This post made me cry. I'm not Christian and nor am I religious but my whole life (now 28) I have felt pulled towards adoption... international adoption of a girl at that. This post is what has made me so concerned about international adoption. I have several adopted friends and they all have come out of it in a great way and some have relationships with their biological mothers. Though our reasons for adoption are different, I love this post so much.

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    1. These are some of the realities of adoption regardless of International/Domestic. My intention was never to steer people away from adoption, but to understand the heartbreak is involved. Of course, the heartbreak of living without a family is infinitely worse. This is one beautiful way that God puts together a family. Please trust that if God is leading you to International adoption, He will be sovereign and powerful in that. He'll heal and protect. He'll carry you where He leads you. International adoption is one of the greatest blessings of our lives...and the lives of our boys.

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    2. Oh, I didn't think you were trying to steer people away from adoption. For me, it is really great to read your blog and see what kind of things I should expect when I eventually do adopt (once I'm finished with my Nurse-Midwifery program). I know it is amazing but it is nice to be aware of the difficulties involved. :)

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  20. the Gospel in action right.here.
    God redeeming someone's story and fixing their brokenness with you being used right at the center of it all. GLORIOUS!
    i was so oblivious to what the children endure, but He, indeed, can make all things beautiful.
    in fact, that's His specialty.
    beauty from ashes.
    and that's what i see right here.

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  21. "God never wastes pain."
    I choked. Honest, I did.

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  22. Thank you Shannan for putting words to what is on my heart. Adoption is not for the faint of heart but isn't that what faith is all about?

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  23. Thank God he doesn't waste pain. Thank GOD!

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  24. "God never wastes pain." Now THAT is a quote for above my kitchen sink if I ever saw one.

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  25. Shannon, your words followed by all these other fabulous words have made me weep with thanksgiving. Thanks for our redeeming Father who holds it all in control. Thanks for all the BRAVE parents that GO adopt. Thanks for all those precious children. Thanks for blogging wisdom that has opened eyes and hearts to adoption but mostly the gospel. Bless you all!

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  26. We are about a month away from going to pick up our 11 year old daughter in China. This post is beautiful and it brought tears to my eyes thinking about all that she will leave behind...including a foster family. I want so much for her transition to be smooth, but I know that she has almost 12 years of memories and it will be hard, there will be a grieving process. Thank you for helping me to be BRAVE!

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  27. Beautifully stated ... my teens were adopted from Romania as infants, and there will forever be the loss ... and the gain. Forever, love on both sides of the ocean. Hugs ~ Mary

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  28. "Because despite all the ways they have lost, my babies will understand how God redeems."

    Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! Praise him, praise him, praise him!

    I am so grateful for your authenticity. Your bravery to walk the path God set before you along with allowing yourself to be vulnerable before us is such a gift and a testament to his faithfulness. Humbled and honored to join "Angie" in "praying you up." Thanks for the opportunity to go with you.

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  29. This was beautiful Shannan. I have a dear friend who has gone / is going through some of these same things. Just that you listen to his young heart words shows how brave you are. xoxo

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  30. Beautiful! Tears for your boys and my own. I wept when we took off in the airplane from Seoul with him sleeping peacefully on our laps - tears for the series of unimaginable losses in his life all culminating in that airplane trip. So much loss and pain and hope and joy. Redemption. And you're right. God never wastes pain.

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  31. You captured it! Thank you for speaking Truth! I ready your blog every week and have never once offered a comment--this post called me to say keep speaking Truth and sharing what you are led to share--it is important to follow that Call!

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  32. Wow! So powerful. So Brave. xx

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  33. He is amazing, who would have ever known he could articulate so many years later? I am so thankful that you are the Mama you are! God knows the end from the beginning, we just need to be BRAVE!!

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  34. Moving, heart wrenching and purely lovely.

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  35. I love that you said "Go never wastes pain!!" Cuz gosh life is painful!! I read this blog last night and it made me shine w/ happiness! http://ashleyannphotography.com/blog/

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  36. Wow, I'm sharing this with my dear friend who has two babies of her own adopted from Korea who wonder and sometimes worry about what was left behind. That's the thing about going, something and/or someone is always left behind.

    Have been enjoying your 31 days so far.

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  37. thank you, Shannan. Such a beautiful tribute to our brave children. Their pain and memories is very real even though most people don't believe it can be true I am convinced of what my children know/miss/feel. Love how you tied this in :)

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  38. Wow! I needed that today! I am a foster momma to a 2 year old girl who has been with us for 10 months. She feels like ours, but she's not. We have several court dates this month that are reminding us of that. We want so badly to adopt her, but live in the reality that she may go back home. My heart is angry, and it's weary of doing good, and it's wishing for a quick, simple path to our family. Going hurts right now.

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    1. Girl, I'm speechless. Praying for you tonight in your hard place. Thank you for being brave enough to go when it's breaking you.

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  39. Bless that boy! He's so sweet. Talk about running deep. And it strikes me as very powerful that it seemed he had trouble connecting completely at first, but it wasn't because he would always have trouble connecting, it was that he was already connected and wasn't sure how to let go. What a precious family you are. Brave with a capital B for sure.

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  40. Oh sweet lady, this is tearing me right up tonight. I'm nearly sobbing because I know this to be true. Just last night as I tucked Si into bed, he talked of Korea like he remembered it as if it was yesterday. Some of it is certainly what we tell him, but I know he holds memories and feelings of his year there inside of him....and the months after we flew on that airplane. Our kiddos are Brave. So brave.

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  41. This may be the most beautiful thing I've ever read. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

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  42. We adopted 3 sibs last year at ages, 10, 5, and 2. Now they are 12, 7, and 3. We can so relate to this post. Have you been to this conference: www.empoweredtoconnect.org. ??? I think all adoptive parents and prospective adoptive parents should attend. We went in September. Dr. Karyn Purvis is amazing. - Marianne

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    1. Several people have told me the same thing! Time to check it out. :)

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  43. You put such amazing words to the courage of our little ones. We have a daughter and son from Korea - our son just came home a little over 2 months ago at 22 months. He has attached quickly but grieved hard. It has broken our hearts. Thank you for acknowledging and honoring all they've been through in their little lives.

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    1. In a strange way I'm so thankful and honored to have watched my son's heart break (along with ours). We all learned so much. Thanks for sharing.

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  44. When you think of the heartache he's been through and how happy he is now and how well adjusted you've helped him become, it's a testament to you and Cory as parents. And when he's older and realizes the life you've given him over what he would have had, he'll love you all the more.

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  45. I don't think I breathed until I got to the end of this post.
    You have such a wonderful way of making us readers FEEL, sweet Ess!
    XO

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  46. Beautiful. This post has touched so many people. Would you be willing to let us feature this post on "We Are Grafted In"? Since you've contributed in the past, we can use your bio and pic from before. Just let me know!
    Stephanie
    co-administrator of WAGI
    smurphy28 @ juno . com

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