Even a successful adoption story isn’t easy. Adoption is an amazing gift. It’s beautiful, mind-boggling, and a picture of what love is all about. Yet every adoption story begins in grief. So, no matter the beauty or the love we are ready to give as we choose to make adoption part of our story, the reality is that your child’s life began in a family that for some reason, couldn’t be.
But, There Is Great Hope for Your Adoption Story
I know that can sound heavy or as though I am trying to shatter your dreams of what adoption can be. But I’m not. If I could sit across from you and look into your eyes, I would tell you adoption is worth it. And I would tell you we have a God who is in the business of redeeming what is broken. He’s about bringing light from darkness and beauty from ashes.
⌞He has sent me⌟
to provide for all those who grieve in Zion,
to give them crowns instead of ashes,
the oil of joy instead of ⌞tears of⌟ grief,
and clothes of praise instead of a spirit of weakness. They will be called Oaks of Righteousness,
the Plantings of the Lord,
so that he might display his glory. -Isaiah 61:3 GW
Learning In the Trenches
When we adopted our daughter in 2011, there was some awareness around adoption grief, trauma, and parenting strategies. However, it barely scratched the surface. Even though I read all the books, took all the courses, and followed all the rules, I wasn’t equipped for what I would face. Since each experience is as unique as our very existence, I don’t believe we can ever be completely prepared for anything until we live it out.
But we can be more prepared than we are not.
We can learn from the wealth of resources out there including those who have gone before us. When Simon Benn of the Thriving Adoptee Podcast contacted me for his show, I realized I had more to share about adoption and parenting with hope. In 2018 I published my book, Surrendered Hearts, about our journey to our daughter and the lessons God taught me about living a surrendered life. Little did I know but I’d learn so much more in the years to come as my daughter became a teenager and hormones complicated things even more!
I compiled a list of insights and tips that will help you be successful as an adoptive parent. A list that will breathe hope into your adoption story.
10 Life-Saving Tips That Will Breathe Hope into Your Adoption Story
1. Deepen your faith.
When Simon and I talked, we didn’t get past my number one — Jesus. His podcast isn’t one that focuses on faith so I was extremely appreciative of his questions and for allowing me to elaborate on how my faith has, has easily been the most important lifesaver in our adoption story.
Faith in a Jesus that remains steady is counter-cultural to a rapidly changing world. Today, we have computer, phone, and app changes daily. We have new rules, new laws, new diseases, and pretty much new everything at a pace that keeps our heads spinning and our feet often unsteady beneath us. It has affected our mental health and everything about living and relationships. That’s because our souls we created for order … for peace. We were created to need each other and need an anchor in the storms of life.
Jesus is that anchor. He will hold steady what you and the world cannot.
For more on faith, jump on over to Simon’s podcast for a listen! He’s on all major platforms. If you are an adoptive parent or adoptee, I highly recommend subscribing!
2. Know that the things that are really good in life are never easy.
Adoption is really good. Parenting is really good. Marriage is really good. So, it’s no wonder they aren’t easy. It’s what makes them so valuable. When you find yourself a bit weary, remember you are working for something that is really good and definitely worth it.
3. Realize your expectations can flux and that’s okay.
Especially if you are a goal-oriented Type A personality, changing your expectations may feel like failure. But don’t pay those thoughts any attention! You are parenting the wonderfully unique child God gave you. The expectations you have may need to adjust in order to parent this child well. That is not failure. It’s actually the definition of success.
4. Accept that your envisioned version of life is not the only beautiful one.
There isn’t much about our adoption story that turned out as I thought. One of the most difficult surrenders in my life was when I had to let go of my dream for our daughter’s future. For years I believed God would heal her as I saw fit. I thought He would heal her physically, emotionally, and developmentally. I couldn’t see how freedom and wholeness could look any different than fully healed.
Acceptance happened little by little. At first, it was reluctant acceptance but then God gave me a new perspective. It was as if a veil had been lifted from my eyes and I began to see our girl as God sees her. She is full of spunk and laughter, and she lights up any room she enters. Our Selah has made and continues to make a profound impact on the world and those in it. My version of her life was beautiful. But so is the real version of her life — God’s version.
5. Give yourself permission to grieve.
Grief is a natural part of adoption for both you and your child. Give grace and understand that grief comes before healing. It leads to moving forward when you allow it the space it needs and work through it with God and a professional counselor.
6. Deal with your own personal history and trauma sooner rather than later.
Trauma, dysfunction, heartaches, fears, and anything that creates a roadblock to your own healthy living, will negatively impact your successful adoption story. Hard situations are like a thorn pricking at buried wounds. Without proper healing, they open and bleed again. They make relationships even messier. It’s critical you work through your issues to preserve your family and each relationship within it.
7. Set down your pride.
Being open to therapy and counseling is important. Pride will just get in the way of success. Therapy is good for your adopted child, your biological children, your spouse, and yourself. Begin working on yourself before your child comes home. Do the research before, as well, so that you have a short but solid list of therapists you can both afford and feel comfortable with. Make sure the therapist aligns with your family’s faith or at least, is understanding of it.
8. Understand that love doesn’t always look the same.
I was an elementary teacher before being a mother. With my students and then my first two biological children, my love was mushy. I was full of hugs and hearts. So, when my daughter came home to us, I struggled.
Selah didn’t like hugs or cuddles at all. She had never experienced them before, so to her, they were something to fear. I had to learn to love her from a distance. It seemed I had to throw away a majority of my prior habits and strategies. For a long time, I struggled with guilt because of it. To me, it felt as though I weren’t loving her well because it didn’t look like the love I lavished on her brothers.
I learned that love does the hard stuff in the name of love. It is persistent and accepts the other person while working within those parameters. It digs in, researches, learns, and prays until you find your way. Until you discover the kind of peace that only God can provide.
9. Approach each situation with both truth and grace.
So often society tells you to choose. That there must be an either/or. However, growth happens when you combine truth and grace. To grow, I need to know the right way to go. I need to know the truth. But I also need to know I am seen and understood.
Affirmations have their vital role, but without being pointed in the right direction or shown the error of my ways, my relationships cannot flourish. I cannot become the best version of myself.
Jesus often shows us this in the Bible. He shows grace for His children’s sins and shortcomings, then He instructs them to go forward differently with His offered grace. He tells them to, “Go, and sin no more.”
When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. 10 Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”
11 “No, Lord,” she said.
And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”John 8:9-11 NLT
10. Have a support system and educate them.
Your support system should be composed of doctors, therapists, speakers, teachers, writers, people who have gone before you, and people who will love you even when things are complicated. I didn’t know enough to be able to educate my friends and family well. Then, when things weren’t all sunshine and roses, they didn’t know how to respond. Sadly, many disappeared. It took time and heartache to rebuild.
Your extended family, friends, and even strangers will say the weirdest things to you. Their words will at times hurt. But be patient with them. It’s the only way they will grow to understand the adoption experience.
There is hope, healing, and beauty in your adoption story. Hold onto that truth, soak in grace, and keep moving forward!
If I can be of support or pray for you, don’t hesitate to email me! I’d be honored to lock arms with you!
Have you read our story of adoption and learning to surrender?
The word surrender has a nasty reputation. We think of it as failure — giving up and giving in. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Surrender takes strength. Moreover, surrendering to God leads to living a full and prosperous life. It’s the message of my book and the prayer of my heart for each of you to embrace a surrendered life.
God walked us through layers of surrender as we followed His call to adopt. Our sweet girl didn’t come home to us by chance. But rather, by a miraculous series of events. I’ve witnessed God use the stories of others to inspire, encourage, equip, and give us hope. I pray our story does the same for you as you explore Foster Care and/or Adoption.
Your joy isn’t dependent on your circumstances. As a matter of fact, it’s something far deeper — more meaningful and everlasting than happiness. The encouragement I share in this place and on all my social media channels equips you to live with that kind of joy every day.
I’d love to be a part of your journey toward a deeper faith. One that nourishes your heart and helps you experience the fullness of God’s love.
You can start by joining thousands of others who are discovering God, their identity as His child, and how to live with confidence, joy, peace, and HOPE! Just fill out the form below!