"Gotcha Day" has evolved at our house. It's a day that adoptive families typically celebrate- either the day they became parents to their children or the day they finalized the adoption. In our case (domestic adoption), it's the day we finalized in court.
I always envisioned this day to be a joyful day set aside each year just for our little family. We would go somewhere fun, make special foods, and remember the happiness we felt the day our little guy became ours. What I didn't expect was my son absolutely HATING "Gotcha Day." On his 2nd Gotcha Day, he was 2 1/2 years old, he screamed at me "NO GOTCHA DAY!" I offered balloons, his favorite foods, going out for ice cream, the whole works. He refused. Maybe he just doesn't understand, I thought. Maybe next year will be better.
His 3rd Gotcha Day, I was prepared. I called it "Ford day." I told him about it in my excited voice (the one I reserve for telling the kids good news). This time, it was different. He didn't just scream at me, he gave me 2 good weeks of irrational, angry, unpredictable behavior. The kind where you wonder what kind of demon crawled inside your precious boy and took over.
The 4th time around, I finally got it. This day was for us, it wasn't for him. For him, it was remembrance of a day that he lost his biological family. The day he lost that part of him that he can't quite verbalize yet. As he grew older, he was able to tell me that "Ford day" made him sad. And it broke my heart. Even though we have a great relationship with his birthmother, he still feels it. That part of his gut that misses something he never had. That feeling of separation from someone his heart was once tied to. His little brain has questions and hurt that he can't quite put into words yet. But I get it.
There is no adoption without loss. Even with an open adoption, even with a great counselor, even with the best parents on the planet, there is loss. Each child will deal with it differently, but if we truly want to love our children well, we have to try to understand the parts of their story that led them to our family. Walking that journey with them will help form the unbreakable bond that we strive for. I'd much rather have THAT than a silly Gotcha Day celebration*.
*Please note, I'm not making the point that Gotcha days are bad, this was just part of our journey.
We have been fostering over the past 2 years. During that
time, in addition to our own 4 kids, we have had 14 children
in our home. Looking over this period, there are a few things
that I hear over and over again from non-fostering families.
I have spent a lot of time thinking about how to respond. I
would like to share my heart for fostering and why our family
continues to do it.
The number one comment I continue to get is “I could never
foster, it would be too hard to give them back.” Here’s my gut
response, “Oh no, not for me! It’s easy. I am heartless and
have little emotion.” But that probably would not be Godly or
compassionate. We recently sent our foster son back home to
live with his biological father. He had lived with us for a
year. He came to us when he was 14 months old. I am the only
mother he has known! This was one of the hardest things we have
ever had to do! It hurts.
So, instead, here’s what I want to say to my non-fostering
1. It’s not about me. It is so easy and natural to
act selfishly. Christ is our greatest example of
selflessness. Fostering is painful, hard and rewarding.
I have to take myself and my emotion out of the equation,
as much as possible. Remember the big picture. It’s
about these precious children not myself.
2. I am not guaranteed tomorrow. I am not promised my next
breath. If I invest everything I am into these kids and
they leave next week, I have to be okay with that. Every
moment counts. What am I pouring into these children
that they can carry with them for a lifetime?
3. I need Christ every moment, every day! I am selfish. I
am weak. It is HARD to love people who can be so
unlovable. I can only show Christ’s love by begging Him
to give me compassion, patience, wisdom, joy. I not
only have to do this for the children in my home, but
for their moms and dads as well!
4. If I didn’t take this child, where would he be? I have
to accept that Christ never promised this life to be
easy. Of course, I want to be content and things to
be simple. But, the reality is that this is a fleshly
desire. I don’t know many ambassadors for Christ that
had it easy.
Another redundant comment I hear from non-fostering families is
the “I’ve always wanted to foster, but……” (now isn’t the right
time, our kids are too young, our house is too small, I need
to do such-n-such first). Yeah, I get it! I can promise you,
there will never be a perfect time. I think sometimes this
comment comes from a place of inner guilt. They see us acting
on what God has called us to do. Not everyone is called to
foster, but we are all called to reach out to those in need.
The fact that we foster has a tendency to make people feel like
they have to defend their reason for not doing so.
I haven’t lost friendships since we’ve started fostering. But,
the dynamic of many relationships have changed. My marriage
has been challenged, but strengthened. It can be confusing
and frustrating and lonely. But for us, every heartache has
been worth the reward. I am a better person because of this
journey. I am closer to Christ because I’ve needed Him more.
My children have compassion for the hurting. Our hearts break
for what breaks God’s.
Life certainly threw us for a curve when my
husband Michael and I were taken through the deeply painful experience of
infertility. After the birth of our daughter, we struggled to add to the family
for several years. We prayed and waited, our hearts slowly breaking as we
watched the plans we had for our family slowly fade away. Walking through the
halls at church, there seemed to be hundreds of beautiful pregnant women,
mothers with newborns, and happy families coming to worship. I really struggled
with jealousy and doubt during that time. As I poured out my heart to God daily,
He started to whisper in my ear about adoption. Adoption was never in our plans,
but suddenly I was seeing it everywhere. As I started to let go of the dreams I
had for our family, God started to weave together a new dream.
At the same time, a friend approached me about helping start an orphan ministry at Crossings. I was more than happy to help. Of course, the Lord knew where He was leading us, but I was still a little clueless. Through meeting other adoptive families and seeing their hearts for the fatherless, the Lord awakened my heart and showed us with absolute clarity that adoption was going to be our path.
We submitted our paperwork to our adoption agency in 2009 and in 2010, we got
a phone call from a young girl asking us to be the parents of her unborn son.
The joy in that moment was more than I could handle! We got to be there for his
birth, bring him home from the hospital, and call him our son. And better yet,
we get to have a relationship with his birthmother and share the love of Christ
with her. In early January of this year, we submitted our paperwork again to the
adoption agency. 18 days later, we got a phone call about a baby who had just
been born. We were at the hospital two hours later, and we brought our second
son home the next day on January 30th. The most amazing surprise ever!
Because God took us down this path, Michael and I are passionate
about helping children find families. Michael serves with Citizens Caring for
Children, an organization who helps Oklahoma foster children. I have the
privilege of helping support families in many different aspects of adoption. I
work with an adoption fund who assists Oklahoma City families with adoption
costs. I also get to serve families at Crossings and beyond who are adopting or
fostering. Seeing this kind of love unfold day after day is such a blessing! Our
ministry here at Crossings, called “Chosen,” is full of miracle stories. As more
and more families are called by God to answer the call to adopt, we are there to
support them each step of the way.
The adoption experience changed nearly everything in our lives. Through the
pain and refining process, we have a richer relationship with the Lord, a more
meaningful marriage, and a deeper gratitude for our children. We get to
experience God’s love in new ways. Ephesians 1:5 says that “He destined us for
adoption as His children through Jesus Christ.” And today as we experience the
unbelievable love we have for our children, we understand more and more the
all-consuming love God has for us. He doesn’t care what we look like or where we
came from, He just loves us. And like a parent, He says He will never leave us
or forsake us. We are special. We are chosen and adopted by the Most High. And
He has greater plans for us than we could ever imagine.