For those who adopt, every journey is unique. I’ve met women who have dreamed since childhood about bringing home an orphan from overseas. For others, God uses adoption to complete a family already started with biological children. For me, the road to adoption was a long and painful one. It wasn’t something I had dreamed of since childhood. It took the laying down of one dream to be able to pick up this new, fragile, not-even-really-sure-about-this glimmer of hope called adoption.
Ben and I got married when he was still in college, and the ink was still drying on my own college diploma. After four years, we were ready to start trying for kids. I whipped out my calendar, counted ahead 10 months, and calculated the perfect time to get pregnant while avoiding a delivery during fall launch season.
I was a little surprised when we didn’t get pregnant that first month, but knew it took some people a little longer than others. By the fourth month, I was starting to feel frustrated and a little bit angry at God. When we got to the one-year mark, I couldn’t believe this was happening to us. Truth be told, this was the first time I had ever really wanted something and it wasn’t happening in my perfect timeline. God was graciously—and clearly—helping me see that the illusion of control I’d had all these years wasn’t real at all. There was no way for me to control this situation or make anything happen.
Three years later, God used three clear events to speak to my heart about laying down my dream of pregnancy and instead picking up the dream of parenthood—and whatever road He had in mind to bring that about.
- First was a quote from Don Allen at our regional STP, “What do you do when you ask a good God to do a good thing and He says no? You yield.” I needed to yield my heart to God, even though I felt like asking God for children was a good thing.
- Second, He clearly spoke to me through Psalm 16:5-6. He asked me to remember and believe that He had assigned me my portion, and that the boundary lines He had drawn for my life were in pleasant places. In my Bible, next to this passage, I wrote, “Your plans for me are good!”
- And third, about a year later I received an email from a dear friend and prayer warrior challenging me to study God’s word and His heart for orphans and adoption. Had we ever considered this for our family? We hadn’t, and I didn’t really want to. But God kept speaking in His still, small voice.
Before I knew it, Ben and I had not only done a Bible study on adoption, but we were doing online research and found ourselves at a seminar on international adoption just a few months later! All along the way, God kept confirming that this was His Plan A for our path to becoming parents. We brought Sam home from Russia in 2008, and Vivian home out of the foster system in 2010.
Because Ben and I are both external processors, it was important for us to share the journey with our students. They knew we had been praying to get pregnant, and we wanted them to join us in our prayers as we waited to be matched with a child. Once we had chosen Russia, our students promptly named our child “Vlad.” Their prayers were for Vlad, their questions were about Vlad, and we wondered often what Vlad was doing and how he was growing. It got to point where I wondered if we were going to actually name our child Vlad because I got so used to that name! It was a joy to share the journey with our students, and they were so excited to meet him when we finally brought him home. (And we all adjusted to his actual name pretty quickly!) Our second adoption from the foster system was full of ups and downs. Again, we chose to share the journey with our staff and students, and their prayers sustained us during months of trials.
Whether or not you have considered adopting, it’s likely that you will encounter a friend or fellow Mommy Missionary who will adopt at some point. When we started our first adoption journey, I had no idea what I was doing! Here are a few pointers that may help you as you consider adoption or encourage a friend along the way:
- Remember that the process isn’t quick. Our Russian adoption took an especially long time. Students, friends, donors, and family were always asking us for updates. While we appreciated their interest, I got tired of saying the same thing over and over. I started a blog, and it helped to point people there for updates. If you want to encourage a friend, simply tell them, “I’m praying for you as you wait for your child.” This lets them decide whether or not to share more details, or simply accept your support.
- Think of a variety of ways to support the family. Many adoptions can be expensive and overwhelming. When we first saw the number of the projected adoption cost, we were shocked. It seemed impossible, and was a completely new faith journey for us. Raising money for an adoption was a whole different ballgame than ministry fundraising. But our years of trusting God in raising our support had grown our faith. We knew He could and would provide, and we knew He was clearly calling us to do this. So, we sent a letter to our mailing list, and were blessed by many friends and family who wanted to financially support our adoption. We even had students give us money to help! Perhaps you can help organize a garage sale fundraiser for your friend who is adopting, or think of other creative ideas to help them raise money. Or, maybe you could organize meals for after they bring their child home.
- Respect the family’s plans after the little one comes home. Before we adopted, I knew nothing about the need to bond with an adopted child. After doing lots of research (The Connected Child by Karyn Purvis is the best resource we’ve found.), we determined that we would be the only ones to meet our child’s needs for the first 4-6 months after bringing him home. That meant only we would hold, snuggle, feed, change diapers, and put our child to bed. We wanted him to understand that we were his parents before introducing any other adults into his new life. This was hard to explain to new grandparents (they got to meet him but not hold him), and it didn’t make sense to many of our friends and students. But they all trusted us, and eventually got to hold him once we felt he was attached to us. Please don’t ask to hold a newly adopted child (unless the new parents offer). It’s likely the parents are working on attachment. Support them in whatever decisions they make—even if they don’t all make sense to you.
- Be open to the Spirit’s leading about growing your own family! As I’ve mentioned already, I hadn’t considered adoption until going through years of infertility, and a friend encouraged me to seek the Lord and His heart for adoption in the Scriptures. He softened my heart and spoke clearly to Ben and me about how He wanted to grow our family through adoption. Keep your heart soft and tender to the Lord. He doesn’t call everyone to adopt, but He does call some. Are you open to what He might have for you and your family?
Melissa and her husband Ben have been on staff with the Navs for 15 years, and married for almost 18. Their family of four moved to Kansas City a year ago, where Ben serves as the Heartland Regional Leader. Her children, Sam (almost 9) and Vivian (6), are looking forward to the end of the school year, and trips to Florida and Colorado this summer. Melissa enjoys reading quality fiction, playing games with her family, and a good cup of coffee with a girlfriend (or two!).