Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Reluctant Husband Syndrome - Question 6


Will the adopted child accept us, and what if we get more than we bargain for?

Most people go into adoption wanting the perfect child—one who loves us and one who’s healthy (not seriously ill or difficult to live with).  But more often than not, we hear the nightmare stories.

“We had a neighbor who adopted from Ethiopia and that child abused the other children.”

“You had better watch out for Reactive Attachment Disorder.  My cousin brought home a girl from Tennessee who wanted nothing to do with them or the other kids.”

“We thought we were getting a child with just Hepatitis B, but this child is seriously autistic too!”

We can relate to the last question.  Before we adopted Haven, an American family had flown there to pick her up.  After spending just five days with her, after legally adopting her, they disrupted because she acted autistic, something they had not known and were not prepared for.  As it turns out, Haven is not autistic at all.  As many of you know, she is recovering from PTSD from being abused in the orphanage for many years.  But today she is such a sweet, loving darling—we don’t know what we’d do without her!

There is no doubt about it.  Adopting can be very challenging.  That is why everyone who says yes to going down this road should be prepared.  Be assured of these two things before you take this journey: 

(1)    Familiarize yourself with possible risks.

This does not mean that parents should research ad nauseum all of the risks involved with adopting from particular countries.  But know that in certain Eastern European nations, for example, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is common.  In certain Asian countries, being a carrier for Hep B is not unusual.  And unfortunately, HIV is rising in all countries around the world.

Still, one truth remains:


And this is true whether it’s a foreign or domestic adoption.  Authorities either do not have the will nor the resources to conduct proper medical and psychiatric exams.  The question you should ask yourself is, Are we prepared to take whatever we get, regardless of what our child actually has, medically or behaviorally, that we didn't know about prior to adoption?

Now even though risks appear greater with adopting a child, isn’t it also true that we really don’t know for sure what our biological child will turn out to be like when he or she pops out?  There are always risks, but how far are we willing to go? 

(2) Rely on the Holy Spirit to select your child for you.

This holds true whether an adoption agency presents you with a referral, or as you peruse waiting-child lists.  Whether a friend shoots you a plea on her blog or via e-mail, or if you find yourself at an orphanage choosing a child while you’re there, like in Russia.

Here the question is, Is THIS our child?  We are God’s precious, beloved children.  We give our lives and our wills to Him because we trust Him (more than we trust our own abilities!).  When God tells us to “walk in the Spirit” (Gal. 5:16), we can rest knowing that He directs our steps.

How do we know?  How can we be sure?  We just do.  I know that’s not much help to you, but if you’ve never really had to trust God for an important decision in your life, maybe He wants to use you in adopting to experience the great reward of trusting Him and seeing results.

I think the greatest fear we have is that when we ask God to show us His will on something, He’ll actually do it.

For us, adoption is really no different to any other thing God calls us to do in this life.  The road can be painful, hard, and more stretching and challenging than anything we have ever done in our lives.  When God calls us, He never promises us an easy road without trials.  In fact, we know the trials will come.  He promised them.

The thing is, we need to hold onto His promises, trusting that He will never give us more than we can handle.  That includes adoption, too.  And remember, the reward far outweighs the risk.

But...but...BUT, dear friends.  I must tell you this.  MOST children you endeavor to adopt will NOT have attachment issues, will NOT have complexities that you must deal with, and will NOT harm your other children. 

Most orphans are just plain innocent children craving a home they can call their own.  A place of safety where all of their needs will be taken care of.  Most orphans out there LONG for two special people they can call Mommy and Daddy.  And other kids who dearly love them and help them in this growing up thing; kids they can call Brother or Sister.

When we adopted Haven, we were told she may have uncontrollable, violent outbursts.  That she is extremely antisocial, and as I stated earlier, that she's severely autistic.  Either those were all lies or God did an instantaneous miracle when we got her.  Not one of those things is true.  She may not speak yet, and she may sit on her own, but she giggles when the dog or her siblings crawl all over her.  She's so content, it puts our other kids to shame.  And she loves to be held and hugged. 

When we got Hailee, we were told she didn't like to be held at all, never made eye contact, and that she never attached to any caretaker in the orphanage.  To all of that we say, Are we talking about the same girl?  It took a little while, but soon Hailee craved arms and kisses, smiling and laughing when she was showered with them.  She'll make eye contact all the time.  And regarding never attaching to caretakers, thank God she didn't.  We met the caretakers.  They loved the kids in their care about as much as I love caring for my garden--I don't weed.  I don't water.  I don't give a toss.  And the plants eventually die.

Be encouraged.

Fear not.

Be a world changer.

God may very well be asking you and your family to show this child something they have never experienced before—His utter, astonishing, unconditional healing love. 

Friday, May 27, 2011

Remembering the Nameless

I know it sounds like I spend all of my time in cemeteries.  I really don’t.  It’s just that yesterday, I had to wait a couple of hours for my new old car to get fixed.  Right next door to the repair shop, guess what was there.  Yup.

This cemetery is an anomaly.  I live in a pretty rundown neighborhood.  But this military cemetery is nestled right in the middle of city dilapidation.  And it’s very charming, very green, and very well kept.

Just a few feet through the front gate, I see the stones—Lt. Gaddy, Col. Lewis, PFC Staunton.  All just like the others.  Clean, petite marble with the familiar cross at the top.  But then I saw a random marker with the inscription, “Unknown Soldier.”  My heart broke.  How can anyone be an unknown soldier?  I thought soldiers wore dog tags?  Maybe not during the Civil War, but all of these dead soldiers fought in World War II and the Korean War.  I was saddened that somehow, this one soldier was found and no one knew his name or his background.

Hanging my head in prayer as I started to walk again, I prayed to God, thanking Him for all that this man did for his country. 

I was not prepared for what I saw next. 

As I lifted my head, I saw them.  Rows upon rows of markers just like the one that affected me so deeply--to an "unknown soldier."  HUNDREDS of them!

“How can this be, Lord?” I cried.  “And what about their families?  Surely they had families that worried about them?”

How appropriate that the Lord would escort me through this experience “by chance.”  Just days before Memorial Day.

So let this post be a dedication to all of our soldiers who fought and died for our behalf, and especially those whose names are only known to our loving Father.

“Gracious Father, protect all of our brave men and women who are deployed or are about to be.  Only You can protect them when modern technology, training, and armor cannot.  Bring them home safely to their families, and bring them home whole—physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  In the name of Jesus, Amen.”

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Reluctant Husband Syndrome - Question 5


If we adopt, how will my other children accept them, or will they?

I let my three bio boys answer this one for you further down this post.  But let me say that it’s a normal question to ask yourself.  I sure asked it before we embarked on our adoption journey.

I love my three sons more than Fred MacMurray.  I would hate it if they didn’t consider an adopted sibling as a “real” sister.  And that would make a miserable life for the sister too.  But that never happened with any of our four daughters.  Let me give you an example of their love.

When our Harper, who’s three, had her heart procedure, all of our other children couldn’t wait to see her.  They were genuinely concerned, and when they arrived at Harpy’s bedside, they couldn’t stop kissing her and doting on her.  A couple of minutes after we first arrived, I told the kids I was going to the cafeteria for a Coke.  Now, normally, there would be a blare of competing voices, beckoning to go with me.  But there was silence.  And all eyes were on their sweet little sister.  And that’s exactly what she is—their sister.

When Adéye and I see something like that, our hearts melt because we know what’s taken root in our sons’ hearts AND in the hearts of other children we’ve already adopted.  When you adopt into your family, you’re enriching your children’s lives, not detracting from them.  You also teach them a powerful life lesson at the same time.  It’s not hard to imagine what that life lesson is…

You impart the heart of our Father for orphans into your other children’s hearts.  They not only EXPERIENCE the reward of being around kids who didn’t have parents.  They grow to LOVE them as their own sibling.  And let me tell you, when those new siblings are special-needs ex-orphans, it does something in them, no matter what the age.  They learn patience, kindness, sacrificial love, and how to help another person even when they don’t feel like it.  They learn that people matter to God and to us, regardless of their special need.

Listen to what my boys are saying:

Connor, 12:  Life would be so different if they weren’t in our family.  They’re my sisters.  I don’t feel like they’re anything less.  And it’s kinda cool that they come from other countries.

Kellan, 10:  It wouldn’t be as fun without my sisters.  We do stuff together, play together.  I don’t know, Dad.  Why are you asking me this stuff? (just keeping it real, folks!)
Cade, 6:  When we have a lot of people in our house, we can go out a lot.  We get to go to fun places.  I wouldn’t want them gone because they’re my sisters.  Dad, can I go now?
Notice that none of the children mentions the girls’ special needs.  They just don’t see them.

Now, the last thing I want to do is paint a picture of a perfect Salem family.  We are not.  The boys and Hannah-Claire (the most cognizant of the four) can go at it like the best of them.  But which family does not have this?  That’s what brothers and sisters do.  I remember the old TV series, The Waltons, and believe it or not, they had their spats, too. 

We certainly do not have all the answers.  But we do know that the grace of God covers us all. Still, is there something that parents can do to cultivate a bond before an adopted child arrives home?  I believe there is.

When a couple is expecting, it’s easy to form that bond with other children because they see a constant reminder that they’re getting a little brother or sister—it’s called a mother’s belly.  The kids can touch it, pet it, talk to it.  And the mother makes it “real” for them by encouraging them to do so.

In the same way, parents “expect” a new adopted child.  This waiting period of several months from when you first start the adoption process to Gotcha Day, I believe, is God’s way of preparing a family.  The mother and father should involve their children from the start, telling them the future sibling’s story.  If there isn’t much of a story, tell them about the plight of orphans in general. 

Notice I say mother and father.  Dads, this is an important time for you.  Become involved even in this stage.  Excite your children about your new child.  They must see, not only from Mom, that this is a good thing.  Your other kids need to see Dad looking forward to this new child too.  Children are smart.  They can pick up lots of things we think we’re not communicating.  They need to hear from you, Dad, things like,

“Son, what name do you think God wants to give your new sister?” 

Or “Isn’t it exciting?!  Your new brother’s coming in just 30 days!  Why don’t we make a countdown calendar?”

Or “Your new sister has a special need.  Let’s look at her picture again and ask God to be with her.”

Involvement breeds affection, like in any new relationship.  It’s that simple.  A lot of it will grow naturally, but you can start now.

And if you’re only in the stage of just thinking about adopting, guys, let me and thousands of other dads of adopted children tell you—your life and the life of your other children will never be the same!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Over The Hedge

It was 1987, and I was feeling sorry for myself.  I’m pretty sure it was over a girl.  It was almost always over a girl.  All I remember is that I was crying and, like I said, feeling sorry for myself…a LOT.  Back-slumping, eyebrow-furrowing, lip-dropping self-pity.  Until I saw and heard something that changed my life instantly—and unbeknownst to me then—has changed me even up to this day.

I had a lot going for me in Hamburg, Germany, as I was getting a lot of modeling work, was living with great German friends, and was enjoying life in one of the most beautiful cities in Northern Europe.

Funny how a woman can trip all that up.  Or rather, how I can let a woman do that to me.  So I had to get out of the house.  I took a long walk through our residential area.  I wasn’t too familiar with the area yet, but I didn’t care if I got lost.  I didn’t care if I got run over.  (I told you it was a pity party.)

Then it happened. 

Beautiful, high row houses lined the street on the right side.  But I was on the left side, walking along a sidewalk with a high hedge of shrubs next to me to the left.  I heard the whir of BMWs, Mercedes, and Audis.  But I heard another sound.

Laughter.  Cheering.  Happy squeals. 

What IS that?  There must be a beer garden on the other side of the hedge.  It was morning, but since when did that ever stop Germans from enjoying a good liter or two?

But I heard children screaming delight, too, not just adults.  I knew they started their beer young, but this is ridiculous.

I parted the hedges slowly and poked my head through.  Grown ups were hosting outdoor games for a large group of kids and adults with Down syndrome.  The adults were teammates with kids as young as three, it looked like.  The games were simple:  Take a beach ball and toss it in the middle of a hula hoop on the ground…just three feet away.

And they were pulling for each other, boy.  If a child with DS tossed it anywhere near the hula hoop, EVERYONE cheered.  And their adult teammate with DS cheered with them, and high-fived them, nearly to the point of tears.

And that was all it took that day.  I was now in tears too.  But not tears of self-pity.  Tears of shamefulness before the Lord.  How can any problem I have seem significant at all?!  Look at all I had!  Look where I was and what I was doing!  Look at all of the daily blessings that I take for granted so often!

I don’t think I ever cried like I did that day…AFTER I saw those beautiful people with Down syndrome.

And now look at me.  I cry even here, writing this to you, thinking how blessed I am to have two treasures of my own with Down syndrome.  And this is a blessing that I will NEVER take for granted!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Reluctant Husband Syndrome - Question 4


I'm so busy now, how in the world am I going to fit in another child to pay attention to, without having the other children feeling left out?

Someone I really respect expressed reluctance at my news that we were having our third child, Cade. 

“It may not be fair to the other two.  You may not be able to give sufficient attention to your boys, and they’ll feel left out,” was the response.  My response was, “It’s a little too late for that.”

Now I have seven kids.  So if this person was concerned then, I’m sure they’ve thrown their arms in the air many times behind my back.

My Adéye has a good answer for this one.  “You just work it out,” she says.  That answer made me throw my arms in the air.  What?  You’re a lot of help, I thought.  But she was right.

You see, I harbored a vision of me on my deathbed, thinking back in sadness that I didn’t give more time to my three bio boys because of whoever we would adopt.  Now that we’ve adopted four, I know that vision will not be a reality.  And I also realize that because I was so afraid of an unfair life to my other children, I gravitate toward compensating for it. 

I know that our family is so enriched with the girls we adopted, even with—and perhaps, especially because of—their special needs.  And though this crosses over with another question I will address on a later post—How will my other children accept them, or will they?—let me just tell you now that we have seen the hearts of our boys be very drawn in love toward their new sisters.

I would lie if I said that spreading out my attention to all seven children was a cinch.  It can be challenging sometimes.  But I have made an effort to be proactive.  Last year, I committed to spending every Thursday evening with a different child.  It’s our “date” if I take a daughter.  The boys don’t like the idea of a “date” with Dad, so we call it our “hang out time.”  That’s a more cool way of putting it.

Or because Haven doesn’t speak, she naturally does not engage as much as the other children do with us.  That’s why I’ll make a point to draw her into my arms while sitting on the couch and love on her.

I know I can speak for Adéye when I say that we both are wired to naturally be aware of someone not getting sufficient attention.  When both of us were young grade schoolers (during different generations, of course!), we had antennae for any classmate who was left alone on the playground, and we’d be their friend.  But today, although our intentions are good, life can get busy.  That’s why being proactive is a good idea.

This may sound like a chore, but it’s really not.  Your love will grow so much for your adopted child(ren) that you’ll want to spread the love.  It’s really no different than if you were to have a large family with all bio kids.  As the wife says, “You just work it out.”

Wise counsel to any family of any size is this:  Make memories with all of your children.  Get off the Busy Express and onto the Family Choo Choo.  Life is so, so short.  Children grow up so fast.  SO fast.  You WILL be a great dad to all of your children—biological and adopted.  Don’t be afraid, and just “work it out.”

“It doesn’t matter where the train’s taking you.  What matters is that you get on.”
-The conductor at the end of Polar Express

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Is Your Gift Under Wraps?

Sometimes we can feel stuck.  Maybe you’re there now.   You’re doing everything you know to do.  You have lived the good life in Christ.  You realize that to be in a tough spot, it’s also the “good” life, but deep down you don’t like it.  Oh, you embrace it, you endure it, you praise the Lord through it.  But you feel like you’re trying to run in a river of molasses.  Or even worse, quick sand.

I know.  I’ve been there.  You think of your past exploits in Christ.  The exciting years.  Remember?  When you and your wife were young and had energy, time, space to be creative and spontaneous.  Maybe in those days you enjoyed sitting around all day Sunday watching football.  Or you woke up on weekends, musing in your half-conscious about whether you would go to the gym or wash your car.  Or maybe you gave a lot of thought to how you could impact God’s kingdom, serve the least of these.

But then one day…One day you woke up and realized how different your life is now.  Where did all of your time go?  Why are so many “things” keeping you trapped?  Where’s your gifting gone?

It’s days like those when I feel awkward when people ask me what I do.  If I haven’t felt like my gifting’s been exercised for long stretches of time, I feel like a waiter who tells his table he’s really an actor.

But it really doesn’t have to be that way.  You are what you are called to be.  It’s more than saying we are what we do.  It’s saying we are what we’re created to be.

God has called you for a purpose, man of God.  His gifts are merely a means for you to fulfill that purpose.  And they’re free.  That’s why they’re called gifts.  And they are still there.  Somewhere.

“For the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable” (Rom. 11:29 NASB).

If God has you in a season of life when you feel like your gifts are dormant (or even cryogenic!), remember that.  It’s only a season.  Be encouraged.  They’re still there.

You may need to unwrap the gifts, though.  The apostle Paul took Timothy under his wing.  In 2 Timothy, Paul felt he needed to shake things up in Timothy’s spirit as persecutions were growing stronger.  In a paraphrase, Paul tells him, “Look, dude.  You have a sincere faith.  It was in your grandma; it was in your mom; it’s in you.  So use that faith now, remember the gifts God placed in you, and stoke the fire!”

Put simply, if you’re gifted as a teacher, you should teach.  Maybe you can start a five-minute Bible verse study at work during lunch break.  If you’re a dormant pastor, you should past.  Seriously, who do you know on your street or at work who needs shepherding?  If you’re prophetic, ask God to speak through you to those who are around you.  These are gifts we assume are only used for the edification of the body.  That is their primary purpose, agreed.  But God uses what you’re created to be to reach the lost.  And the lost is just a doorstep away sometimes.

This is how we fan the flame, even during an apparent lull in our life.  I have to remember that a lull doesn’t mean it’s time for a lullaby.  It’s a time of listening and waiting in a very active way.  Fan the flame.  Because a fire that’s not stoked grows cold very quickly.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Reluctant Husband Syndrome - Question 3


How can I love an adopted child on the same level as my own?

You know what?  I always wondered about this; even when I was a little boy and I had classmates who were adopted.  I thought, but they’re just “water.”  You know, “blood is thicker than water”?  (Growing up in a Lebanese family, blood is everything.)

Also as a kid, I heard stories of adopted children being mistreated.  Surely it was because they weren’t the parents’ own child?  Yeah, that explains it, I thought.  Look at Christina, Joan Crawford’s adopted daughter.  “I SAID…NO…WIRE…HAAAAAAAANGERS!!!!!”

Adopted children just aren’t your children!  Or so the story goes.

But doesn’t our society reinforce this kind of stuff?  I mean, think about it.  Tell me you haven’t heard things like this…

“Well, my wife and I have been trying and trying to have a baby, but it’s just not happening.  It’s been ten years.  But we’re still hoping.  Waiting.  Praying.  I guess if it doesn’t happen in the next few years, we’ll have to consider adoption.”

Oh, Lord, not that!

When someone says something like this, I used to think, Yeah, that makes sense.  Why not try to have your own first?  The telltale phrase is “your own.” 

Already in my mind was that an adopted child is not anyone’s “own.”  Ever.  “Well, we adopted a little boy, then, glory to God!—we found out we were pregnant and we had our ‘own.’”

You see the language?  Today, the Salems tell people we have three bio sons and four adopted daughters… but that’s because we want our family to be a witness to everyone about how great it is.  Of course, if we were physically present with people, we wouldn’t need to say that Hannah-Claire and Haven were adopted. 

I like to joke that someday, I’ll tell those girls that they’re adopted.  Actually, Hannah-Claire DEFINITELY knows.  The other night at dinner, Kellan told Hannah-Claire that she’s Chinese American, to which she swiftly replied, “I’m not Chinese anymore.  I used to be.”

Don’t worry, folks.  She doesn’t have a complex about being Chinese.  If you knew Hannah-Claire, you’d say she’s just being Hannah-Claire.

Truth be told, my love for all four of my daughters is not divided with the love I have for my bio boys—it’s multiplied! 

So men, are you wondering when and how this happens?

It varies.  Everyone’s different.  But for the most part, at the defining moment when I knew that God was telling me to adopt a particular child, something happened inside of me.  I started becoming very defensive of the child I had never seen.  It’s that God-given “thing” He puts in man to make him feel like…da, da, da, DAH!...Protector of the Universe!  (Echo sound.)

Adéye shared here the supernatural experience I had when it was make or break for us to choose to get Hannah-Claire or not.  It happened in an instant.  With the others, it just kind of grew.

I think it’s amazing how God gives a family expecting a child nine months to prepare for it AND to have their love and sense of protection for him or her grow over time.

It’s the same thing when we finally make the decision to adopt.  Depending on the country and on the condition of the child, there are several months between the time you give the green light to when Gotcha Day happens (the day when you pick them up).  I think that’s convenient.  For me, God used that time to experience that growing excitement, that expectation, a father feels before baby is born.

Then—and this was the same for all four children—at that moment when my eyes landed on that child, I felt like I did when my three sons were born.  Emotional!  Wow, that shocked me the first time it happened when we got Hannah-Claire.  I kept saying that she was so cute, and Adéye had to calm me down a couple of times!

Then, holding them for the first time in my arms, oh, wow!  So much love welled up each time, I couldn’t contain myself.  And just like love that comes from God, it abounds more and more.  With each passing birthday and each fleeting Christmas, I just shake my head and say, “Thank you, God, for my beautiful family.  I could not have picked them out better myself.”


Not divided. 

Growing exponentially with time. 

Such is the love that’s inside me for my adopted daughters.  And such is the love you will experience, too, when you finally look your wife in the eyes and say, “Let’s go get that little girl.”

Monday, May 16, 2011

Cemetery: A Man's Getaway

As a husband and a father, I had to give myself permission to be alone.  If Jesus could do it in Matthew 14, I too can “withdraw by boat privately to a solitary place” (v. 13).

But if you live in a busy city like I do—and there’s no boat, let alone water—then it can be a bit challenging. 

When hotel lobbies don’t work because of guest traffic…

When churches don’t work because these days they lock the doors… (By the way, is it me, or isn’t that sad?)

When staying in your car in a parking lot doesn’t work because people are suspicious…

I go to the cemetery.   

Like today.  It was one of those days.  I woke up with a sore throat and back ache.  I called around trying to get the best prices on parts for an old car I just bought.  Then I lost the only key to that same car and it costs $90 to replace.  Then I experienced a ton of consecutive disappointments while making plans for our immediate future.  I needed God.  My wife and children would understand.  They know I’m much better when I get a breath of fresh God.  So today I needed to get in the boat, so to speak.

Men, we forget that we sometimes need this.  I know I do.  I am so used to running in overdrive that I forget that unless I’m recharged—even if it’s for a moment in the day—I’m of no use to anybody, especially my family.

So lying on top of Mabel Glass’s slab in the old Confederate cemetery where I live, I gazed at cauliflower clouds bursting out before my eyes like it was time lapse photography.  Birds competed for my attention, while the wind dusted thousands of leaves on skyscraping oak trees surrounding me.

It was sweet music to my ears.  No voices.  No cars.  No sirens.

Just me.  And God.  And Mabel and her friends long gone, reminding me that “generations come and generations go” (Eccl. 1:4).  That the most important thing on a tombstone is not the date when the person was born or when they died.  The most important thing is the hyphen between the two dates.  That’s what God looks at.  That’s what I needed to remember.

We Salems have our own “isms.”  One of our favorite Salem-isms is what we encourage each other with when things of this world trick us into thinking they’re so important.  And it goes like this: “WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH ETERNITY?” 

Men, maybe it’s a collection of little things that have gotten you down today.  Or, maybe it’s one big thing—a thing that impacts not just you but your family. 

It’s never too late to come back to the reality that God’s eternity is much greater.  He is more eager than I give Him credit for to twist my life back on track.  I only have to cry Uncle.  I only have to align myself with the One who holds my purpose and my destiny in His hand and in His heart.

I’m glad I reminded myself of this today.

At the cemetery.

While I withdrew by boat.

To a solitary place.

“Live as you would have wished to live when you are dying.”
             ~Christian Fuerchtegott Gellert, 18th-century Christian German poet

Friday, May 13, 2011

Reluctant Husband Syndrome - Question 2


How can I afford to adopt an orphan when it can costs tens of thousands of dollars, and how can we sustain another child once they're in our family?

First I would say that not all adoptions are in the tens of thousands range when it comes to cost.

Domestic adoptions cost virtually nothing if you go through the foster care system.  The average international adoption costs around $25,000, although some may be less.

Ouch, I say, as I hold my ears.  I heard you shouting just now.  “Twenty-five thousand dollars!?!  Who’s got $25,000 lying around as chump change?!”

Well, um, if you’re us, you don’t.  In fact, we are not even what you would call a “middle income” family.  But still, if you add up the cost of all four of our adoptions, we’ve paid around $100,000.  And an enormous chunk of that came from other sources.

What many people new to the adoption community don’t realize is that there are many organizations, mainly Christian, that give sizable grants just because you’ve decided to adopt.

Before we brought home our Haven, we received $12,800 total from four Christian ministries, geared toward helping families afford adoptions.

The rest?  You can start a blog with a Chip-In account.  And of course, you can think up fundraisers.  We always had yard sales.  The last one we had brought in $7,200!  There are 10K sponsored races, golf days, even benefit concerts like we had for our two Ukrainian girls.  But the greatest source of assistance should come from the body of Christ.

From experience, let me tell you the miracle that takes place when a church espouses the vision of what you’ll be doing.  We have seen churches who didn’t “get” adoption, all of a sudden become inflamed with passion for the cause.  We have seen rippling effects, others in the congregation who never considered adopting now want to adopt themselves, and it snowballs. 

If churches don’t have a fund for adopting families, they often begin one—because of YOU!  They may also mobilize the congregation to become involved financially or, like in our case, host fundraisers for you.  Imagine.  You will have become the missionary to your own church!

Allowing others to play a small part in your adoption by giving financially gives them such an incredible opportunity to be blessed.  Also, fundraising for an adoption gives the Lord a chance to show His power, His glory, and His faithfulness to provide for the fatherless.  And provide, He does.

Somehow the money came in for us, and it came in on time.  I put the word “somehow” in italics, as you’ll notice.  Let me introduce you to Mr. Somehow.

Mr. Somehow is the God of the universe.  And this takes me to the second part of the question: How can I afford to sustain an extra child financially?  It just happens…somehow!  How many of you had an “unexpected” pregnancy?  Unexpected to you, but not to God.  If you start with that premise, then you know God will take care of you and that child.  It happens “somehow.”

Mr. Somehow wins our battles for us, right?  “The horse is prepared for the day of battle; but victory belongs to the Lord” (Proverbs 21:31).  We still have to prepare our horse for battle.  If we don’t bring our horse to the battlefield, how in the world are we going to allow the Lord to win the battle for us?  In the same way, if we don’t make a definite decision that we’re going ahead with a particular adoption, how is God going to show His glory in it and provide the finances?

Remember, Charlton Heston had to hold out his staff at the Red Sea so that the Jello could part and the Israelites could cross.  (I think there’s a similar version in Exodus 14:21.)

Similarly, the priests had to step into the raging Jordan River floodwater in order for God to pile it up on one side so they could cross (Joshua 3:15-16).

And of course, would Peter have ever walked on water if he stayed in the boat? (Matthew 14:29)

God’s miracles often require we step out.  This is where faith takes a front row seat.

Husbands, if you’ve been like me—you sweat blood and water at the worry of where the money to adopt is going to come from—you have nothing to fear.  You think, “I am NOT going to tell my wife we can get this child, only to find that we’re out of money in the middle of the process!  I’ll look like a flake and a fool.”

All I have to say to that is, welcome to the ship of fools!  Let this passage bolster your faith:

“For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.” (1 Cor. 1:25)

If you really sense God tugging at your heart to give an orphan your home, then finances are not YOUR worry, are they?  In all fairness, please hear me on this: Sometimes it is not easy.  Sometimes you will wonder where you’re going to get the money you need.  But God always comes through.

I want to end on a bit of a philosophical note.  Hardly any Christian would deny that Jesus loves little children, particularly those who’ve been mistreated (Mark 10:13-16).  Do you really think that He’s happy to leave nearly 150 million orphans worldwide in their current state?

Maybe you’ve heard of a book right now that’s taking the country by storm.  Sold in WalMarts, Heaven Is For Real, by Todd Burpo, is about the author’s four-year-old son who was caught up into heaven and describes his experience.  Todd says Colton was obsessed with telling them something:

“He would wake up in the morning and tell me: ‘Hey Dad, Jesus told me to tell you, He really loves the children.’

Over dinner at night: ‘Remember, Jesus really loves the children.’

Before bed, as I helped him brush his teeth, ‘Hey, Daddy don’t forget,’ he’d say, garbling the words through a mouthful of toothpaste foam, ‘Jesus said he really, REALLY loves the children!’”

And let me add, Jesus loves YOU very much, man of God.  He will NEVER LEAVE YOU, NOR FORSAKE YOU!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A Daughter Who Changes

Tomorrow we celebrate the sixth birthday of a very special daughter who has changed our lives.  This post is not only dedicated to her but to those who are reluctant to consider adopting a child with special needs.

Hailee only weighs about 22 pounds, but hey, that’s fifty percent more than this time last year when we got her from Ukraine.  But what’s impacted our lives isn’t how much plumper she’s grown but how much she’s blossomed emotionally.  She’s a real person, not a vegetable we merely feed and put to bed.

Sure, Hailee has Down syndrome and some form of autism, institutional or clinical.  Wow.  Double whammy!  What kind of life can she possibly have?  I’ll get to that.

When we were fundraising for our second adopted daughter Haven, I met the Christian music artist Geoff Moore.  Accompanying him to a concert Geoff gave in our small mountain community was one of his best friends.  This man was a former professional baseball player (like Geoff’s dad was, incidentally), who loves the Lord and who had a daughter born with Down syndrome.

At that time Adéye and I weren’t even thinking about more adoptions because we were focused on bringing home our precious Haven.  Little did I realize at the time that God would use a conversation with Geoff’s friend to someday sway my heart differently.

As the man was telling me about his daughter, he could hardly compose himself.  This big burly guy started shaking his head and fighting back tears, saying, “Oh, you just don’t know what my daughter does in my life.  You just don’t know.”

It made me want to know.  So Geoff’s friend isn’t here.  But can I tell you so that YOU know?

When I first held Hailee at the airport in Kharkiv, she limply lay in my arms against my chest.  Wow, I thought.  It doesn’t get better than this!  She was so frail but so cute.  I didn’t see any telltale characteristic of Down syndrome, like almond eyes, but it was only because she was so skinny that she looked atypical. 

Our first moments together.

Minutes later, Adéye had to tell me Hailee was groggy because she just got “her drug.”  Her drug was a strong med given to adults with psychosis.  Her orphanage administers it to all the kids they can’t cope with because it makes them catatonic.

As the drug wore off, I saw a different Hailee.  Agitated.  Tense.  Not wanting to be touched.  Avoiding eye contact at any expense.  Crying.  Did I say “crying”?  I meant SCREAMING!!!!  Never smiling.

Now here is the Hailee of today:

She can’t get enough hugs.  When she sees me at the computer or on the couch, she waddles over to me (she couldn’t walk or even crawl when we got her!), climbs up on the couch or chair, squirms onto my chest, smiles, bounces up and down, and screams.  But oh how different these screams are!  These screams are ones of delight.  The kind that tells me to never stop bouncing my legs so she can have a fun ride.  The kind that says, “Oh, Daddy, I love you so,” without her having to use words.

Today’s Hailee knows what she wants and needs from each family member, and it’s all different, depending on who it is.  Because she knows I love to kiss her cheek, she gets in my face and forces her cheek against my lips, then smiles.

Because she loves to play with her brother Kellan in a special way, she sneaks up behind him while he’s sitting on the floor, pulls at his shirt collar from the back of his neck, then pulls him down to lie on top of her, which she loves!

Because her mom represents food to her, when Adéye enters from the kitchen with so much as a morsel, Hailee does the Frankenstein walk toward her table seat, bugs out her eyes, and screams with anticipation.

Today’s Hailee rocks less, doesn’t bite her fingers anymore until they bleed, doesn’t avoid eye contact as much as before, and loves, loves, loves to have fun and EAT!  When we were in Ukraine, we had to actually take her to a hospital because she wasn’t eating or drinking much at all, and she hadn’t pooped for days.  Today she acts like Noo Noo on the Teletubbies, sucking up anything and everything she can find.  And poop?  Well, let me just say that would be too much information!

When I’m gone during the day or first wake up, I cannot wait to see and to hold and to kiss my little Hailee.  She is changing.  But more importantly, she is changing all of us.

Hailee's turning six, alright.  But age is so irrelevant.  I don’t stress about her being or not being “normal” some day.  I am relishing today.  TODAY.  Today’s Hailee.

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