Three days after our second son Colin was born, we left the hospital with him. As we walked through the lobby, my wife and I were both in tears. A few minutes earlier, we experienced an intimate exchange with the birthparents as they placed this little boy in our arms to leave the hospital. Now, we were walking to our car and it was hard not to feel as though we were stealing him.
I don’t completely understand the word “bittersweet” but if I needed an illustration of it, walking through the hospital lobby that afternoon was exactly that. It was a combination of the greatest and most dreadful emotions I believe I’ve ever felt. 3 years of praying, questions, doubt, hurt and pain had now culminated with bringing home a precious little boy.
Our agency encouraged us to call the birthparents in the first 24 hours to give them an update on how he was doing. Lauren and I took Colin into our room and we dialed the phone to call them. I have to admit I was nervous about this call but it was the right thing to do. We talked for a few minutes; they asked questions about his first night at home and how our older son responded to having a baby brother. We asked them how they were doing and feeling. Toward the end of the conversation, they had a question.
We can’t wait a year for pictures and a letter. Would you be open to visiting sooner?
It was the beginning of our conversation about open adoption. We told them that we would be open to any contact provided it was healthy for Colin and in his best interest. Our goal was always to choose what was best for Colin. Since he would be the one with little or no choice in the matter, we didn’t want to set an expectation or standard for him to maintain later in life. Instead, we wanted to have an open relationship with the birthparents that underlined their love and affection for him without expecting anything from him in return.
My own adoption shaped this conversation in a significant way. My adoption (in 1980) was semi-open with cards, pictures and letters until I was 11 years old. At age 11, I began asking questions that my adoptive parents didn’t have the answers to. “Why was I adopted? Why didn’t she want me? Why did she give me up?” As I mentioned in an earlier post, a lot has changed in the 30 years since my adoption. Adoptive parents are (or should be) trained to frame adoption differently now. We don’t use words like “gave up“. We say “placed for adoption”. We don’t say “She didn’t want you.” We say, “She wanted what was best for you.” Some may say that’s sugar-coating or skirting reality but it communicates adoption in a way that doesn’t reflect on the child and something they had no control over.
At age 11, my adoptive parents halted all communication with my birthmother. I didn’t realize it at the time but it had a great effect on me. It wasn’t until my mid-20s that I recognized the issues that arose from it. It wasn’t the only thing to blame but it certainly was significant. This series of events led me to believe that adoption was an identity or a stigma. As our conversation progressed with Colin’s birthparents, I didn’t want him to feel those same hurts. I didn’t want his deep questions to go unanswered.
We agreed to a more open relationship with Colin’s birthparents for several reasons. We had to acknowledge there were people in his life besides us who loved him, cared for him and wanted what was best for him. How could we shut out people who cared about him? We started slowly with visits at a park or a restaurant. Phone calls, text messages, pictures. The further along we get, the more we understand how beneficial this is for him and for his understanding.
This is a daily journey in open adoption. At the center is this sweet little boy who has very little knowledge of the intricacies of his story. One day, he will know it completely. When that day comes, my deepest desire is that he has all the pieces of his story; that he is aware of all the people who love him, care about him and want what is best for him.
To read other posts in the Adoption Journey, click HERE
DISCLAIMER: Open adoption has been a great experience for our family because we and the birthparents agree that the most important person in this story is our son. Open adoption is not for everyone. Your situation may be very different. Please consult with a Licensed Social Worker, professional counselor, adoption attorney or other adoption professional before proceeding with open adoption. The story I share here is completely my personal experience and not intended in any way to be seen as professional advice on adoption.
My wife is a labor and delivery nurse at a local hospital. You can imagine that after 2 years of infertility, helping mothers deliver their new babies everyday became a very painful part of her job. As well, there were many days she cared for mothers who very evidently did not want their babies. In these situations, she could do nothing even though her heart ached to care for these little ones. As we began the process of becoming foster parents and looking deeper into adoption, she was very transparent with her colleagues about this next step in our lives.
We received a phone call one night from a doctor colleague of my wife. This doctor is also her personal OB/GYN. She was well aware of our situation and reached out to my wife. The doctor was caring for a patient who was considering adoption for her baby. This young girl had settled in her mind that she would place her baby for adoption but she had not yet chosen a forever family. The doctor connected Lauren with this girl and they talked by phone a few nights later.
Their first conversation lasted three hours. Three hours. As I listened to them talk, it sounded like old friends catching up on life, family and dreams. It was awesome to find out about this girl who was incredibly talented, bright, smart and working very hard to graduate from college. She had been dating her boyfriend for over 3 years and had become pregnant. We learned later that her boyfriend was also highly talented, a musician, an engineering student at a large university and working very hard. These were two very good kids who found themselves having to make an extremely difficult decision.
Over the next three months, there were multiple conversations. We learned more about each of them, their families, their hopes and dreams. Even more, we learned about their desires for this baby boy who was coming. They wanted him to grow up in a family full of love that would push him to achieve his wildest dreams. Both of them expressed how deeply they wanted to parent him but understood with their current stage of life, it was practically impossible. The best decision for him (and for them) was to place him for adoption.
The more we visited, we learned that they wanted a closed adoption. They wanted pictures and a letter once per year detailing his life, achievements and milestones. For them, it would be too difficult to watch him grow up in a different family but they knew that was best for him. We were so impressed by their maturity and resolve; this wasn’t a flippant decision to cover up a “mistake.” They had thought out, researched and made a very informed decision to place their son for adoption.
In August 2010, we received a phone call from the birthmother informing us of her decision. She wanted us to be parents to her little boy. We were elated, ecstatic and overwhelmed with joy. After 3 years of infertility, we would finally welcome another baby into our home.
Want to read previous posts in the Adoption Journey? Click HERE
When my wife, Lauren and I began dating in 2002, we knew almost instantly that we would end up married. From the beginning, it was as if we belonged together. There were ups and downs but we dated for 18 months and were married in June 2004. As we began to talk about a family, we both agreed that adoption would be part of our family’s story. We planned to have 2 or 3 children and then adopt a child. Simple enough, right?
In mid-June of 2005, I came home from work early and Lauren was home. She had just started a new job and was supposed to be at orientation. Nevertheless, she had come home early from work. As I walked through our living room, she grinned and handed me a card. It was a Father’s Day card announcing that she was pregnant with our first child. To be honest, it was a moment of sheer terror for me. According to my wife, I went pale and clammy; she thought I was going to faint.
I finally processed the gravity of the news and slowly acclimated to this idea that I was going to be a Daddy. It was overwhelming but exciting. In February 2006, we welcome our first child, Noah. He was a healthy, happy little boy and is one of my greatest joys. When Noah was 18-months old, we talked about expanding our family and started trying for another child.
After several months, we had no success in getting pregnant. We visited doctors and specialists to see if something was wrong. Each of these visits brought more confusion as there was no concrete reason why were not getting pregnant. It was extremely frustrating and gave rise to some painful conversations between my wife and me. All we desired was to expand our family and there was no explanation why that wasn’t happening.
In September 2009, after 2 years of trying to get pregnant and with no success, we began exploring the process of adoption more intently. We sensed that God was leading us to proceed with adoption and away from our original plan. We began investigating, went to a few classes and in January 2010, began the process to become licensed foster parents. After 30 hours of training, we were certified as foster parents in May 2010.
There was an overwhelming sense of peace and calm upon being licensed as foster parents. It seemed as though God had intended this all along. Our story would take an interesting turn later that same month (May 2010). It all changed with a phone call late one night. I’ll share more about that in my next post.
This is the part of the story where I begin asking the question, “Where do we go from here?” There are so many intricate details woven into my adoption story that it’s hard to separate them out into a logical order. In the next few posts, I’d like to share about the move from adopted child to adoptive parent. My experience as an adopted child led me to adoption as a parent. I wanted to pass along one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received. When my wife and I married, we shared the same desire and we knew adoption would be a part of our family at some point.
As I spoke about in Part 4, I took words spoken to me very personally. Some words took root in my life and caused hurt, pain, insecurity and doubt. The only way to overcome those things was to choose to see adoption a different way.
Most of my life, my family attended church regularly. I’ve heard countless sermons about loving your neighbor and fearing the Lord. As well, I heard about how God loves us so that He sent His son to die for us. At age 11, I trusted Christ as my savior. Since that time, I’ve tried my best to trust God, learn His teachings in the Scriptures and how to live as He taught us.
There are 2 very poignant themes in the New Testament relating to adoption. One is found in Paul’s letter to the Romans and the other is found in James.
For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
(Romans 8:15-17 ESV)
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
(James 1:27 ESV)
In Romans, the Apostle Paul says that we have been adopted as sons into a family. This family has God as its Father and all those who follow Christ are part of the family. In this adoption, we are given the ability to cry out to God as Father or in Hebrew, “Abba!” Abba is an intimate term much like we use Daddy. It is a reminder that, in Christ, we belong to a family.
In James, he writes that pure and undefiled religion before God involves taking care of those who can’t care for themselves – orphans and widows. He says we are to “visit [them] in their time of affliction,…” An orphan’s affliction is particularly in not having anyone to care for them. As Christians, we are challenged in this passage to be that person; to care for orphans (and widows) when they can’t care for themselves. Simply put, it’s compassion toward widows and orphans.
As a Christ-follower, I’ve been adopted into a family and been called a son. Then, I’ve been given the responsibility to care for orphans which, often times, can and should lead to adoption. These two themes always stood out to me in the Scriptures. The more I understood my adoption as a son of God, the more I realized the calling to bring adoption into my own family.
More than all of this, I realized exactly what adoption meant. Just as God welcomed me into His family, my parents chose to welcome me into theirs. It was an active decision that they made to make me their son. This is completely different from becoming pregnant and having a baby. That can happen with little or no choice at all. However, they actively pursued me through adoption and brought me into their home. I can now look at this and see an immense amount of value, worth and purpose in God’s handiwork through adoption.
Adoption, at its core, was God’s idea. His plan of salvation revolves around redemption and adoption. These things laid a foundation for me to see adoption as a gift rather than a curse; as a process and not an identity.
How has God’s adoption of you as His son or daughter shaped what you think about adoption? How do you respond to these themes in Scripture?
NOTE: The below letter is not specific to any one pastor or a specific situation, rather, it stems from years of being a youth and associate pastor, a lay person in the church and now an elder.
I admire you. You have chosen and been called to such a challenging position. Thank you. Though Hallmark likely created it, Pastor Appreciation Month is not often recognized the way that it should be and you’re not appreciated nearly enough.
You pour many hours into the Scriptures preparing your weekly messages but because you seek to meet the needs of your flock your study time is often cut short. You’re called upon to counsel, you’re asked to perform weddings and you’re expected to attend way too many fellowship lunches. You need to be at too many meetings and the one that you miss will NOT go unnoticed. I don’t envy your position, but I’m thankful you’re in it.
I hope you sense the sincerity of my above words. 99% of the Sr./Lead Pastors I have dealt with in my roles fit the above descriptions and I believe you need to hear more words of encouragement because your job is extremely difficult. I have a different form of encouragement for you as well… an encouragement to consider doing a few things I believe will help you and the people you care for. These suggestions may seem elementary, but please examine your leadership style and ask yourself and/or others if these things are true of you.
Collaborate: Your leadership is needed, but ownership in the values and convictions for the church will rarely come from your decree, rather by the discoveries of your leadership team (staff, elders, lay volunteers, etc.). Don’t tell them the direction, collaborate on the values and then lead them in the collective vision.
Develop: Steward your staff and your lay leadership well. The Rich Young Ruler walked away sad because he could not give away his riches to others in need. I believe a number of pastors would walk away sad if Jesus asked you to give away some of your gifted people (staff/leaders). Take the time (and allow your other pastors to take the time) to develop others under you with full knowledge that God may call them to be pastors, leaders and influencers to others elsewhere.
Get Unchurched: You spend 99% of your time with people who are or who think they are Christians. Many under your care have no idea how to bring Jesus into an everyday conversation. It won’t matter what you tell your people to say until they know that you’re being intentional about it too! I challenge you to fall in love with the lost, not just fall in love with the idea of the lost!
Again, I’m thankful for you and believe in you. My simple hope is that you’ll believe in us (your staff, your leaders and your congregants) a little more. Believe that we have good ideas and let us give them. Believe that we can be developed and give us the chance to mess up a bit and then catch us as we stumble. And last, believe in us enough to do life with us. Join us and set the example when it comes to loving and spending time with people who don’t yet know Jesus!
Over the past week, I’ve seen several people respond to the Relationships posts here. I found a post from about 6 months ago that I thought was worth reposting. I hope it challenges you in the same way.
I was reading through some old posts about a vacation my family and I took several years ago. All of the memories of that vacation came flooding back as I read. I thought, “I wonder if I could write a “review” of my marriage and feel the same way?” Would great memories come flooding in? Would the feel of those special moments in my marriage arise as I looked back over my marriage?
We’re so quick to blog about experiences we have, books we read, conversations that jostle worldview or perspective. We post tough experiences or joys on Facebook or Twitter without a second thought. These things impact us and we automatically default to sharing them with the world. There’s nothing wrong with this. We were created to be relational people. However, do you approach the journey with your spouse with the same attention and heart? Those powerful moments that you share on your blog, your Facebook, Twitter, Google+, does your spouse know about those things before the rest of the world?
You’re on a journey with your spouse. You vowed, at the altar, to walk with him/her “until death do us part.” God gave you a built-in “traveling buddy.” As you go through this life, you have a companion, a partner, a friend to share it with. When you see something beautiful – “Hey, look at that!” When you experience something painful – “I can’t believe it. Neither can I, let’s talk about that.” When there are no words to explain or describe, when you just need a person to sit with you and take it all in. God created you for your spouse and vice-versa for those very moments.
Don’t forget to journey together. Allow God to use your experience and your spouse’s experience to paint a picture, to make the memories that you want to blog about, to share moment that will increase your love for one another. Journey together.
“Take my hand and hold me close.
Keep me near when the world is cold.
Share my joys, share them deep.
We’ll walk together, you and me.
So take my hand,
And take my heart.
We’ll walk together,
Until death do us part.”