Happily Ever After?

So, one more question that I think adoptive families want asked – and should ask themselves as well.

Are we victims of the “Happily Ever After” syndrome?

Isn’t that the American dream? You buy a house, buy a mini-van and a Chevy of some sort, eat apple pie and you’re living Happily Ever After?

Oh and then you decide to adopt (for any of a a wide range of reasons) and then you go through all kinds of “stuff” and then suddenly your child(ren) are home. Now what?

It’s happily ever after right?

I used to tell people that prior to adopting, I thought that we’d go through a period of adjustments and we’d get used to the “new crazy” that comes with going from 3 kids to 5 kids. And live would go on – but just with a new normal.

Boy was I naive’.

Don’t get me wrong, coming home with our kids on June 25, 2004 was a joy filled day of adventure. It was amazing seeing life through the eyes of the kids. It was amazing to see things through their eyes as they saw America for the first time. It was amazing to see Grandparents and cousins and friends meet them for the first time.

But we haven’t lived happily ever after. Life is good but it definitely has some major bumps in it. Bumps that none of us were expecting. Bumps that altered our reality. Bumps that changed directions on many things.

I think that the adoption “industry” and the adoption world and the church and the families who have adopted are all, to some extent, victims of the “Happily Ever After” syndrome. You know the one……

The syndrome that makes you feel less than “good” if you don’t show up at church twice ever Sunday – even though your kids couldn’t handle two “appearances” in church on one Sunday without coming “unglued” from the pressure to sit still for an hour and a half……

The syndrome that makes you feel like you have to answer, “We’re good and you?” when someone says, “Hey Tom, how are you guys doing?”

The syndrome that causes an adoptive family, when we met 6 weeks after they got their children home, to cautiously look around the room and say, “Tom, you’re probably one of the few people that we can say this to, but what in the world were we thinking?” (They actually used slightly stronger words – editing for readership).

We, the collective we, need to stop beating around the bush. We need to start being more open with each other, with other parents, with our friends, with our churches, with our communities.

We need to admit that adoption is hard work. Hard work for all involved.

And if we’re going to stop beating around the bush, what should we say and do? Three things come to mind:

  1. My children’s story is their story and I’m not going to get into the details of it but it is a hard story. And because it is a hard story, it can leave hard scars. Give them and us grace and space as we deal with, heal and work through those scars. Don’t “label” a child as a troublemaker until you know what they have had to live through in their short life.
  2. There are times when I’ll say, “We’re good, and you?” and I will mean it. There’s other times when I won’t mean it. When what I’ll want to say is, “I haven’t slept well all week, my kids are causing all kinds of problems, I’ve spent more time talking to the school principal than I have my wife and I don’t know if I can stay through supper time tonight.” If you really care, look at me, really look at me and say, “No really, how are you?” And then take the time to listen, to empathize and to give me the gift of knowing that I’m not alone and someone really cares.
  3. Random acts of kindness really do go a long ways. Whether it’s a quick text, “Hey, I’m running to Costco – need anything?” Or, “Can I pick your kids up from school for you?” Or “Friday night is pizza night – what kind do you want delivered and at what time?” Be creative, think of ways that you can acknowledge in even small and positive ways that you realize that life isn’t a Happily Ever After scenario and you want to try to make a small difference.

Let’s drop the Happily Ever After syndrome. Instead, let’s all admit that it’s hard, it’s hard for the kids, it’s hard for their siblings, it’s hard for the parents.

But if we acknowledge that it’s hard, it opens the door for healing, for help from those who can walk along side and make the journey a little bit lighter.

Thanks for caring,

TJV

Is Jesus on Facebook?

I heard a powerful sermon by Pastor Darrell at Madison Square Church this morning.   Let me see if I can break down 30 minutes worth of wisdom into a couple of short paragraphs……

In Ephesians 2, Paul talks about how, because of what God has done for us through Jesus, we have a new life.   That old life, that old way of doing things, that’s gone.   We now get to live the way that God wants us to.

We want to live the way that God wants us to.   But every time we walk out of the doors of the church, that old life is waiting for us.    The anger, the racism, the classism, the schisms, the list could go on and on and on.

And we have to fight that.   Every day we have to fight that – that’s one of the reasons that we come to church on Sundays – so we can have the strength and the power to fight the old life through the next week.

So that our dealing with our children reflect the new life and not the old life.   

So that our relations with our co-workers reflect the new life and not the old life.

So that our reaction to the people walking down the street reflect the new life and not the old life.

So that our postings and linking and likings on Facebook reflect the new life and not the old life.

What?

Say that again?  

Yes, Jesus reads your newsfeed on Facebook.   He reads my newsfeed on Facebook.

Is it full of racist, gender deregatory, poltically insulting ranting and raving?

Does it spend more time tearing down than building up?

Does it make the world a better place as Jesus would want?   Or does it throw more mud around and misuse and mistreat others?

Every day, when we venture out into the world (also known as wake up and get out of bed), we have a choice.   We can live the new life and live the life full of love, of forgiveness, of acceptance, of Jesus.

Or we can be angry and be hurt and hurt others and spread “mud” all over our world.   Like the old life wants us to do.

New Life in Christ?

Or the old life that teaches hate and anger and jealousy ?

Jesus wants better for us, that’s why He died for us.

He also wants that “better” to show up on Facebook.

Thanks, Pastor Darrell.

TJV

Questions – Is the Church Laying on a Guilt Trip?

So, yesterday we talked about the theology of adoption and discussed whether the way the church looks at adoption and it’s relationship with our adoption as sons and daughters of God creates problems. You can read it here.

The next question I believe that adoptive parents want the church to ask is “are you putting people on a guilt trip?”

Let me explain. James 1:27 says very clearly, “True religion is caring for orphans and widows in their distress.”

Plain and simple, it is part of God’s plan that we, as Christians, care for the orphans and widows when they are in distress.

The New Testament times were ones where if one was a widow or one was an orphan, you can pretty much guarantee that they were in distress. Without a male family member who was “out there” to earn a living, life was hard.

Look back at the Bible verse – does it say, “Thou shalt open your home up and adopt one or more orphaned children?”

Nope, doesn’t say that. God doesn’t want us all to adopt an orphan.

Did you hear that?

God doesn’t want us all to adopt. That’s not a call that He has laid on all of our hearts.

Yes, He has called some of us to adopt, but not everyone. Not everyone is able to handle the realities of adoption, not everyone is able to handle the realities of additional children and the struggles they have.

And that’s okay. Actually that’s good.

But that’s not what a lot of the “big names” in adoption and the church movements are saying. They are making a clear and obvious call that we need more families for the children who need homes.

And we do need them. From what I’ve heard, there are way more children who need homes and families than there are families for them.

But when you throw James 1:27 in front of the church and “strongly imply” that it means more people from your church should adopt, I believe you are putting a guilt trip on the church that is not productive and actually harms children.

God calls all of us to care for the orphans BUT He doesn’t call all of us to adopt.

And if “the church” is calling people to adopt – and laying a guilt trip on those who won’t adopt or can’t adopt, then the church is failing in its mission to care for the orphans.

It’s failing because people who aren’t supposed to be adopting feel guilty and end up making bad decisions.

It’s failing because people feel bad about not adopting and then don’t do anything.

God calls us to take care of the orphans.

Just because I adopted two doesn’t mean you should.

But God wants you

and you

and you

and that guy over there

and your backyard neighbor

and your uncle and aunt

and your grown children

to do something to help the children who are orphaned and in distress.

And that’s where the focus of the church needs to be. Everyone needs to do something.

Everyone needs to do something to help the orphans. And if everyone does, those who God calls to adopt or foster will rise up and take up that responsibility.

And it’s our job to support them when they do.

Because that’s what James 1:27 says.

TJV

P.S.  Want to read more about “My Church and The church?”

The Theology of Adoption – Is the Church Missing Something?

Disclaimer – I’m not a theologian, I’m not a trained minister, and I don’t even play one on TV…….

I think that a question that adoptive parents need the church to ask is simple but yet profoundly complex.

“Is the Church missing something in their theology of adoption?”

Let’s take a very simplified look at what is meant by “the theology of adoption.”

Romans 8:14-17 talks about how we, as believers, have been adopted and welcomed into sonship. We are sons and daughters of God. This is an amazing thing. We have been welcomed into the family and are welcomed into the family as God’s children.

We have not only been welcomed as God’s children but once we come “home” to God’s house (heaven), our entire slate of bad deeds, sins and troubles are wiped clean. We’re home, we’re clean, all is well.

And that’s where I wonder if the church is missing something. Is the way the church compares adoption in this world to our adoption by God as His children missing something? Is it painting an incomplete picture?

Does the church’s theology of adoption make it appear that once an adoption is finalized, everything is wiped clean and everything is wonderful? Does the church’s theology of adoption make it sound like once an adoption is finalized, all struggles and issues are washed away?

I know that once you become a Christian, your sins are wiped clean but the suffering and trials of this world don’t stop. But I often get the feeling that those who speak loudly and in front of conferences and conventions draw a very close parallel between God adopting us as His children and us adopting children who need families.

And the inherent connection there is that once we have been adopted as God’s children, just as when children are adopted into a family, it means that everything is wiped clean.

It’s not. We all know that once we become Christians, life doesn’t become a walk in the park. But does the church and it’s theology of adoption view things differently? Does it present a theology of adoption that makes it appear like everything should be “good” once your adopted child gets home? That “happily ever after” should start right after the airport?

Is the church, in it’s theology of adoption, and in its comparison between us as Christians being adopted as “sons of God” and adopted children being brought into their adoptive family setting up adoptive families for problems?

Is the church making it harder than it should be for adoptive families to say, “Help!?!”

Is the church making it less than okay for adoptive families to say, “Things are different……”

What do you think?

Tom

Adoptive Parents and the Church – Questions We Should Ask?

So, we’ve talked about what adoptive parents don’t want you to ask – Here.
We’ve talked about why we want you to ask questions – just certain ones.
We’ve talked about two questions that family and good friends should ask – here and here.
We’ve talked about the question that we want our kids teachers, youth group leaders, boy scout leaders and such to ask.   And what it means when they do.   Read it here.
Now it’s time to look at a question that might be a bit more uncomfortable.   When I start writing this, I’m planning to write it in one post but it might end up being more lengthy than that.  will end up being longer than that.
First, I want to say something about the word “church.”   I am a member of a church that falls in the category of a Protestant denomination (actually Christian Reformed) and while I’m speaking from personal experience, I believe that the challenges are similar no matter what sort of church you attend.
What questions do adoptive parents wish that the church would ask?   I think there are a number of them – but they can be lumped into four main categories:
Is our view of adoption accurate?
Are there people in our church who feel “guilty” if they don’t adopt?
Are we, as a church, guilty of the “Happily ever after” scenario?
What do we do about it?
More to come soon.
TJV