November is National Adoption Month, and I’m a little embarrassed I literally had no idea until this year. Maybe I’ve really been that oblivious, or perhaps I’m finally opening my eyes as I’ve made meaningful friendships with more foster and adoptive families. Their love and depth as people and parents humble and inspire me all the time.
Every adoption story is different but the overwhelming blessing is the same – a precious young person is accepted into the homes and hearts of a family whose hearts are trembling in fear and excitement and disbelief and gratitude.
Adoption isn’t easy. It brings heartache and loss, confusion and anxiety, and unknown curve balls along the way. There is literally no rule book in an open adoption (which is what we have, as both parties know how to contact one another). You can truly shape the relationships however you choose. So you write the story as you go.
I’ve written a play-by-play account of Grace’s birth and adoption in my new book, Joy Comes in the Mourning. It’s gone to print and will be launching soon!
In the meantime, I could hear a million adoption stories and cry my eyes dry over every single one and still go back for more. I never imagined I would become an adoptive mother, much less on the heels of our own personal loss. And I still pinch myself when I see the beautiful not-so-little-anymore girl God and her birth parents blessed us with, in all her quirky sweet glory.
I shared this story many months ago, after we discovered the sweetest school project in her writing binder.
Spelling’s not G’s jam, but if you can make it out, she’s written:
The best part of me is my heart. Without my heart I would be boring and mean. My heart helps me remember that I was adopted. It also helps pump my blood. I love my heart. The best part about me is my heart. by Grace
Oh, this one. She’s tender, funny, thoughtful, creative, and stitched together with big giant feelings. She has been surprising us since the moment we found out about her.
Just like any other major life event, Grace’s adoption keeps teaching me new things in new ways as time passes over and through it. The gift of Grace changed me – and our family – for good.
Grace’s adoption story
This piece was originally posted March 2018, revised/reposted November 2019. More of G’s story in greater detail may be found here.
She was fat and pink and healthy and smelled like heaven and miracles. The ink was drying on our adoption papers when she was just 48 hours old.
We were so overjoyed and grateful. It brought healing balm to the pain of the grief and heartbreak of losing our son. Through our first homegrown attempt at a blog, our son’s story had traveled beyond my geographical understanding to reach hearts all over the world. A faithful servant right here in our hometown obeying a nudge from the Holy Spirit connected our family to a woman making the brave decision for adoption placement for her yet-to-be-born daughter. And after a six-week whirlwind of conversation and prayer, we welcomed this angel baby into our home. We named her Grace Caroline – to honor the unfathomable grace that had washed over us, and to honor her birth mother, one of the most remarkable women we are privileged to know.
I had believed with such blind and desperate faith that our prematurely born son would heal and be whole. And he did – just not in this world. When we learned a new life would be coming to our care, I clung to belief with even more blind and trusting faith, despite the “what ifs” and cautioning sentiments from friends and family that the adoption wasn’t certain and final until the ink was dry.
I had no idea how to be a mother. I just knew how to BELIEVE. The sleepless infant stage was filled with not-so-silent nights of awe and gratitude, learning this creature I felt was other-worldly, a special traveler in this life placed in our shaky yet willing arms.
She was light and hope for every person who had walked our road with us. Her smile brightened every room and brought a little of God’s redemption story right into our real life. Her big blue eyes were wide open and so were ours.
I can imagine all parents feel this way, that our children are gifts entrusted to us just for a little while, and that while we love them fiercely as our own, they were never really “ours” anyway. They’ve always been His. What a responsibility it is to give them what they need – not from the wallet, but from the heart – and do our best to help them become all they are meant to be to accomplish whatever task God has planned for their wide open, spacious lives.
While I certainly feel that weight with Jackson and Elisha, our biological sons, I feel it even more so with Grace. Not only was she entrusted to us by her Maker, she was entrusted to us for adoption by another couple, through what was likely the hardest decision of their lives. The dreams they had for her matter to me.
Adoption: Nature vs. Nurture
Nature and nurture are mysterious and marvelous phenomena. The idea that who we are is our innate nature contrasts the idea that who we are is directly related to how we are influenced by our surroundings. I think we are each a little of both – uniquely designed by our Creator, but heavily shaped by our families and communities. Grace has been a fascinating study in this idea for me, especially once her brother, our biological son, was born. They are different as night and day.
What I’ve learned from Grace is that life is too sweet to play by the rules. In the first flickering hope of her coming, she threw every playbook out the window. I’ve never felt so unsteady and so free all at the same time. She challenges my idea of “what should be” because all that really should be is love and curiosity. We are our divine nature and our earthly nurture all wrapped up in one unlike-any-other package.
My job as her mom is to just let her be, protect her heart, encourage her spirit, and throw off any self-righteous urge I have to turn her into who I – or anyone else – thinks she “should” be. Adoption has completely reshaped my understanding of being a mother. It’s really so very not about me… and so very much about letting God do the best work he can through my human hands and heart.
We have a sweet and silly part of our bedtime routine. We ask both children, “what do you love most about our family?” Jackson offers a variety of answers usually involving his greatest loves, baseball and dessert. But Grace responds 100% of the time: “that you adopted me.” She is proud of her adoption story. It is part of who she is. I hope she will always feel such love as the dynamics of her life continue to shift and grow.
The World According To Grace
- If you can sleep, you should.
- Everyone is a friend until they prove themselves otherwise.
- “Upcycle” into a craft any item set for recycling.
- Fairies are real. So is all the magic.
- The world is your art board.
- You cannot be sad when you are planting seeds.
- Take time to catch lizards.
- Sing because it’s fun.
- A smile will get you just about anything.
- Handwriting schmandwriting.
- Make time to get the things you need.
- When inspiration strikes, run with it.
- The more colors and patterns you can wear, the better.
- Do what you love.
- Always be the first to make a new kid feel welcome.
- There’s always time for a tea party.
- It’s way more fun to love than to be mad.
- What other people think doesn’t matter.
- Collect all the things that matter to you.
- If you want to know it, figure out how to learn it (YouTube has everything).
- Baking is a cure-all for frustration.
- Boys are ew.
- Sometimes girls can be really mean.
- Music makes people happy. Sing it, play it, give it away.
- Leave rainbows wherever you can.
She’s perspective every day. And I’m so grateful for what I believe in my soul is a full lifetime of beautiful surprises still to come.
Note: To those considering adoption: GO FOR IT. Save the money, do the work, commit to the prayer, open your heart, do it scared. There are resources out there everywhere and people eager to help you on the journey too. May it be for you, as it has been for us, the most humbling and heart-filling experience of your lives.