So I get heaps of emails asking me a similar question. It goes something like this…
“We would love to adopt a child but are concerned about how it will affect our biological children.”
“We have four biological children. We have fallen in love with an eight-year-old boy who we would love to add to our family, but it will be an out-of-birth-order adoption.”
“We’re concerned about how adopting a child who has profound special needs will impact our family.”
“I am so afraid for my other children. What if our decision to adopt a child destroys our family?”
These are all very legitimate questions; questions that we too wrestled with.
So I thought I would share my experience with my own family with you all. I know this subject is one every parent has to deal with when we feel called to adoption. It is huge. As parents of biological children we will all do anything we possibly can to protect them. We would never intentionally do anything to cause our children harm. And, we will do anything to protect the peace in our homes. That’s just what parents do.
As I begin to share my heart and our own experiences with you, please know this–that I am sharing from my OWN life, my OWN family, and our OWN experiences. What I share here is based on our own journey in the Lord. I realize full well that not every adoption is the same. Not every family is the same. There are times when things do go very wrong with adoption. I have friends who have had to fight to keep their families together when an adoption has turned things upside down. There are absolutely times when things do not go as we have prayed they would. Adoption is not for the faint of heart.
Again, this is OUR testimony.
I so clearly remember when we felt led to adopt our first child. We had three healthy biological boys. Life was wonderful. Yet we knew that there was a missing piece. To cut a very long story short, we felt the call to open our hearts and home to a child who would not be a baby and who would have a special need. It was unchartered territory for us. We were clueless.
One day the call came.
“Mr. and Mrs. Salem, we have a little girl who we would like for you to consider. She is nearly three years old and lives with a foster family in China. Oh, and…she is Hepatitis B positive. We really need you to do a lot of research about her special need so that you can make the best decision for your family about whether to proceed with the adoption.”
Goodness, it was such an exciting call to get. Kind of like when the lines show up positive on a pregnancy test. Super amazing. We were thrilled.
What the heck is Hepatitis B? A virus? Is it contagious? And what about our other kids? Wouldn’t it just be easier to adopt a healthy infant? How would she fit into our family? So many people advised us to keep the current birth order–yet this was definitely not that. The thought of bringing any harm upon my boys made me feel sick to my stomach. Yikes.
It was such a new journey for us. And so we did the only thing we knew to do. We prayed and asked the Lord to direct our steps.
And He did.
Hannah-Claire has been such an enormous blessing to our family. That birth order thing? It really didn’t matter in our case. She was our child, no matter where she fitted in the birth order. God just took care of all the details. The fact that she was not the youngest child didn’t matter one single bit.
God used our first adoption to plant the seed for what was to come in the future–three more adoptions in eighteen months.
Our biological boys have handled every addition to our family like true champions. They have welcomed them and loved them unconditionally. They have truly amazed me. Every fear that I ever had about adopting children and how it may affect them is nothing but a very distant memory. Connor, Kellan, and Cade have exceeded my expectations.
That is not to say that we have not had a few bumps in the road. I remember when we brought Haven home in 2008. Cade was our baby at four years old. Haven, however, even at eight years old, was so much younger developmentally than he was. It was like we adopted a toddler. Cade dealt with having another “baby” in the house by becoming just like his sister. He went for a period of about two weeks where he refused to speak at all (Haven is completely non-verbal). Instead, he would make the baby sounds that Haven made and let us know what he wanted by pointing.
Of course the novelty soon wore off. He soon realized that he could get a lot more by using his words. He caved pretty quickly.
After seeking wise counsel we learned that it is so normal for some siblings to deal in different ways with new children added to a family. The thing they reminded us about was that [for the most part] it never lasts very long at all. Just as some children adjust to having a brand new biological baby in the home, so some deal with adopted siblings. It’s just life. We have been so blessed though. Our children have astounded us in the way they have opened their hearts to their new sisters.
With each adoption we have gone out of our way to shower our children already in the home with much love and affection. We would hate for them to feel left out. As far as we know, thankfully, none of them ever has.
What about special needs? How does that affect our boys?
It has been a blessing for them. In every way imaginable.
Unfortunately, we live in a world gone crazy. A society consumed with “me, me, me.” We live in a time where many people live for themselves, and forget about the needs of others outside of their four walls. Sad. We don’t want that for our children. We want them to know that pursuing the American Dream is a bunch of nonsense! Pursuing Jesus Christ and the things He calls us to do is the only thing that brings satisfaction in this life. It is a tough lesson to teach in this country–even more so as we head into 2011.
Our children who have special needs are a gift to our boys. Yes, a gift! These girls have taught my boys more about life and what truly matters more than any book, any wise cousel, or any conference could have taught them. In our home is where they are learing the heart of God.
I think that these days the word “sacrifice” is becoming a bad word. Not many people even know what it means to live a life of sacrifice–one where we can say with all our hearts that, “it is NOT about me.” We don’t want to give sacrificially. We don’t like giving of our time, or our money. We make every excuse about why we should not do something–instead of finding every reason why we should–simply because God said so! I cannot think of a better place for my children to learn about the “one anothers” of the Bible than right here in our home. Love one another. Love one another. Love one another some more. If they cannot get it right here, how will they ever get it right when they leave our nest?
Adoption is teaching these beautiful boys of ours so many things…
They are learning how to give (even when they do feel like it).
They are learning to serve (even when they feel lazy).
They are learning to love unconditionally (even if the love never comes back to them).
They are learning that God is BIG in our lives.
Learning what it means to be patient with those who struggle in life.
They are learning that every child matters to God–and should matter to us too.
They are learning to see ABILITY, not disability.
They are learning to share what they have (sharing a bedroom has a way of teaching them that lesson).
They are learning what it means to put the needs of someone else before their own.
Yeah, they’re learning alright.
I truly am so proud of my boys. I am proud of the way that they have embraced our calling as a family. Naturally as we have grown in size, changes and sacrifices have had to be made–not just by Anthony and I, but by our children too. Fancy vacations, brand new clothes, trips to restaurants, the next latest toy or gadget–they have all had to take a backseat with our larger-than-average family. We have had to cut back and scale down in many areas. But you know–they don’t complain. They get it. They get why we do what we do. God has done an amazing work in their sweet little hearts as we, as a family, have chased after the command to care for orphans with reckless abandon.
I believe with all my heart that God is more than able to take care of every little detail for those who feel called to grow their family through adoption–including the hearts of our biological children. I don’t for a single second believe that when we are obedient to answer the call to care for orphans that God abandons us in it. That is not to say that things are always smooth sailing and hunky dory. Oh no. The trials DO come. Following the will of God is never an easy ride. Whether it be adoption, missions, taking care of a sick loved one, feeding the poor, giving of our time and energy into something that is tiring and draining. It is never easy. But nor was it ever meant to be. Facing trials with the Almighty God is what draws us nearer to Him, to that place where our faith is strengthened and cannot be shaken.
God is amazing in our obedience. Oh how He loves the fatherless passionately. And yes, He adores our biological children too…and He will take care of them when we bring His orphans home.
And so the road may be long, with many a winding turn, that leads us to who knows where…
but she ain’t heavy, she’s my sister. So on we go.