July 18, 2016
I had alluded many months ago that I had a story to tell. Only, apparently I wasn’t ready. The story wasn’t finished. And the story, while I am a character, isn’t mine to tell. Or, rather, it isn’t a story that the internets should indulge in.
The past year has been beautifully hard, and much of that has been my journey. So, I will share my journey with adoption, parenting, life this past year, while still seeking to keep my kids stories their own.
I would have never said it out loud and would have rebuked any one who said that adoption is the business of rescuing. I flew into China, fully aware of my inadequacies. Never once thinking that I was specially equipped for the task, I often wondered if I had “heard” God right in this call. It was a passion burning in my heart for certain, but I was terrified.
Our time in China was surreal. Half-way across the globe, in a world so different, but still so much like mine. Seeing a culture that was beautiful and broken just like ours. I fell in love with the country. And while my heart was ripped into two while we were there, I already knew that this would not be the last time I took such a trip.
Meeting our son was absolutely mind-blowing. The months of preparing and praying over the few photos that we had and suddenly here he is, in the flesh. It was almost hard to believe. In case you didn’t know, our first meeting with Owen was the same time we got custody of him. There were no visits. No getting used to us. No “trying it out”. We met him, took him home, and less than 24 hours later, he was a Griffis. Beautiful and challenging all at the same time.
Some people say that it was instant love. They fell hard for their kids, and attached immediately, despite even being rejected by them. I often wished this was our story, but it simply wasn’t. This isn’t a popular or easy thing to say. In the beginning, I felt more like a babysitter than a mother. And I grieved this. It broke my heart. I felt such a strong intuition and connection with my bio kids, I felt guilty when this wasn’t instantaneous with Owen. But, of course it wasn’t. We didn’t know each other. Not to mention, he was nearing two-years-old and doing all of the age appropriate testing of the boundaries, when he had probably never even had boundaries in the first place. I felt extreme guilt about my struggle to connect with him. I felt like my motherhood intuition was broken. I felt the weight of our lack of history and carried it on my shoulders. I felt like, after all this time, I wasn’t enough.
Which goes back to the rescuing. I knew I wasn’t rescuing Owen. I couldn’t. But I was living my life day-in-and-day-out trying to. Trying in my own power to make up for our lost time. Trying in my own power to fill the gaps and forge a connection between us. Following the rules, trying in my own power to create an environment where he could heal.
And I burnt out. I was in bondage, completely afraid that I was screwing up our kids, because it all felt like too much.
Owen was doing well, he was attaching and seemed happy. But emotionally, I was depleted.
I ended up deciding to give myself some grace (should be obvious, right?) And I started begging God to fill in the gaps. And that is when I realized that he had been all along. That God was rescuing me through all of this. That one more layer of my self-sufficiency was peeled down and I saw once again my pure dependence on God to do this parenting thing any justice. And I realized that God loves loves loves my kids even more than I could. He had protected Owen’s heart from my inadequacy and our lack of history. He was filling the gaps and at the same time, he was mending our relationship.
Determined to find my words, I started journaling, which once again proved to be the cheapest form of therapy. Day after day I prayed for God to fill the gaps with my kids. And I tried to find joy in them. Look them in the eye more. Say yes more. Say I’m sorry. Surrender. Forgive. Again and again and again.
And days and months turned into one year in May 2016. Somewhere around that time I was talking to another China-mama and told part of this story, and as I was speaking, I realized that it was no longer my reality. It was part of my story, but Owen and I had now built our own history. The weight of the lack has lifted, as I’ve given that to the Lord. I now longer even think that I will ever be enough to fill in all the gaps for any of my kids. And I’ve found freedom. And even more incredible, a complete and utter adoration and joy in my youngest son. I feel like his Mama. He feels like he’s mine. You have no idea how good it feels to say that.
A few weeks ago in church we were singing the line,
I’m no longer a slave to fear. I am a child of God.
And I pondered this, finding these opposing ends interesting. I would never have thought that the antidote to fear would be finding my identity as a child of God. But the more I thought of this, the more it made sense. A child, when fearful, will crawl into their parents lap. Covered, shushed, and assured by their parent. To crawl into God’s lap in such a way feels like abiding. It’s knowing him, knowing his promises, allowing him to cover us and our insecurities and inequities, assured that he has conquered our fear. And it dissipates.
That visualization makes so much sense to me now. That an identity as a child of God is the most powerful I will ever have. I’m still learning to rest in it. But I’m so so thankful for the journey that has lead me here and the children he has given me.
I’m thankful for the journey. I’m thankful for the hard. And I’m thankful for this story, because continues to form me into who I am and drive me closer to the Lord. God didn’t stop having a heart for the orphan, or any child, once they were home with parents. He doesn’t love me any less. In fact, he loves to lavish his love on me and surprise me with his goodness. I would never have known this so deeply without a pit to be brought out of. A year full of hard and beautiful.