Sometimes, I think advocating for adoption feels like trying to get your friends to climb Mt. Everest with you. You've summited the peak once before and you know it's worth it. But try telling that to your friends who can't see past the miles and miles of white-ness, freezing temperatures, and physical and mental exhaustion. You tell them, "Trust me, it's worth it. You don't want to miss this." But all you see is fear, fear, fear in there eyes. And understandable so, as you remember being paralyzingly scared yourself not too long ago. But each step was worth it. Each step, though painful and draining, brought you one step closer to something bigger and more beautiful than you could ever imagine.
So, how do you "get past" the big, bad Boogie Man, Mr. Fear. When I picture "fear," I somehow think of "Marshmallow" in the movie Frozen. (Let's blame that on the fact that I have a Frozen obsessed daughter who loves to sing "Let it goooooo!" as loudly and persistently as possible!) He's massive, volatile, and wants to keep you away from the very place you want to be. And, no matter what you throw at him, it seems like you can't demolish or shake him sometimes!
We've met so many people who have a desire to adopt, feel called to adopt, know they are supposed to adopt. But Marshmallow is screaming in their ear, "Nooo!
It's too expensive.
How will you ever afford their medical bills?
It's too much of a risk.
You don't know anything about special needs.
What will this do to your kids?
This could wreak your life.
Just have your 'own' kids. That will be much easier."
We get it. We were and are there some days. If there's one common chorus I've heard from every foster and adoptive parent is this: we ALL battle fear. Our fears may be different. They may be conquered once and for all or continue to be a daily battle. So, what do you do when Marshmallow seems unstoppable? When you know you're supposed to take the next step of faith, but he's standing in your way? Well, we are not expert in this fear verses faith battle. We're just another soldier, fighting this war right next to you. But here's a few tools that's helped us take that next step, inching closer and closer to that step of obedience God has called us to do.
1. Pray & Soak in God's Word
This is kind of a "duh" one in the Christian world. Of course you're supposed to pray and read your Bible. But pray specifically ("God, help us to know the best agency to chose. Help us to meet people who have adopted to encourage us. Please provide all the finances we need. Keep our child safe and gives us wisdom and courage to say 'yes' despite all our fears of the unknowns.") and build a theology around why you are doing this. If it's because you see a cute little picture and have an emotional response ("I just want to save a kid's life."), that's not going to cut it when the hard days come and Marshmallow whispers in your ear, "What in the world are you doing?" Reading a book like Adopted for Life by Russell Moore will help you grasp a Biblically theology on adoption and give you the solid foundation for the "why" when fear tempts you to doubt your calling.
2. Build Your Village
We told our family and friends that we were going to adopt "some day." You know, some time in the future when our lives were nicely put together. But when "the day" arrive (when we realized we will never have it all together!), it was so hard to tell people that, yep! We're actually doing it! I remember being so scared to say "We're adopting!" because...what if it doesn't work out? What if China rejects us? What if we don't get all the money we need? What if? For some people, waiting until the adoption is finalized to make an announcement is best for their situation. But for us, we knew we'd need a village of prayer, support, encouragement, and generosity to help bring our boys home. But putting yourself out there and actually saying it...yikes! And if you can surround yourselves with other adoptive families, you'll be blessed beyond belief. Because they won't judge your fears. Because they don't ask annoying questions. Because they'll just roll up their sleeves, pray like crazy with you, and share how they made it through this fear-turned-faith-fulled journey.
But we've been so blessed by sharing our story with others. Not long after we started adoption #2, we heard some not so good financial news. Honestly, if we had heard this news two months earlier, before we announced we were adopting, we would have been like, "yeck no! Not adopting now! Too risky!" But we had already told people we were adopting again and they were so excited for us. Obviously, there are times when God leads you in another direction, but for us it was much easier to stay obedient to His call when we had others cheering us on. So, we told our village that we are going to need extra prayers to conquer this unexpected mountain and they dove right in with us. Your village might only be a trusted friend or an online following of 10,000 people, but whatever it is, God always uses community to strengthen us when our hands are weak, our hearts are tired, and we just can't do His work alone.
3. Research Your Fears
It's easy to feel guilty about your fears. To feel like you should be strong and brave. But in reality, a lot of our fears stem from logical questions that we don't allow to be answered. So, instead of stuffing our fears in the deepest, darkest parts of our closet, why not bring them into the light, carefully exam them, and shed truth. We we first started seriously talking about adoption (Not the "Oh, we know adoption is a good thing and a Biblical thing, so we'll adopt some day!"), we both had a ton of fears. Like enough boulder fears to suffocate our trembling hearts. My husband's fears were financial: "What if we get halfway through the adoption and can't pay for the rest? What if this child has major medical needs and we can't afford them?" Mine were more geared towards special needs: "What type of 'special needs' might our son have? What if they are too 'big' for us to handle? Do we even get a choice or do we just get blindly matched with a child?"
After joining some Facebook groups and reading every single article from No Hands But Ours, we learned bucket-loads that helped put out (most!) of the fear fires. We learned that there are so many grant agencies that will partner with you financially to bring your precious child home. We learned that there are literally a million and one different creative fundraisers (garage sales! Both Hands project! coffee! and more!). And we learned that as we shared our story, generous strangers, friends, and family wanted to partner with us in bringing our precious son home. Yes, our faith was stretched, but we have learned that there is nothing to fear when it comes to the financial aspect of adoption. Yes, you might work yourself exhausted to bring your baby home, but you don't have to do it alone.
As for fearing specifics about our unknown child, I quickly learned that China's program for "special needs" children ranged from very minor to lifelong and, although every child's health is truly unknown until adopted, you do have say in what type of special needs you feel your family can handle. I researched (and researched and researched!) every special need on the MCC (medical checklist-list of special needs that you are willing to accept), read every article on No Hands But Ours regarding each special need I felt like we could handle, and spoke with our insurance at length to understand what would be covered. Ironically, both our sons' special needs are either not on the MCC or special needs we did not check initially! So much for becoming Dr. Google! In the end, you realize that your child is your child-not a list of medical needs. He's your precious boy, not a file to be feared. My greatest comfort was reading family's stories about how they learned to support their brave little warriors, no matter what their known or unknown needs or conditions were. These were ordinary moms and dads loving and caring for extraordinary children...nothing scary about that!
4. Get on the Same Page as Your Spouse
This can be the biggest hang up to taking that giant leap of faith...one of you is ready to jump and the other doesn't want to leave solid ground. Yep, we've definitely been there too. We don't have too much advice here, other than talk openly about why you do or don't want to adopt. My husband, the wise financial provider of our home, knew we didn't have the $30,000 for the adoption and wasn't sure we could afford to support a child with special needs. These were very real and important questions, however once we gathered the facts, he realized in the end, we have to trust God financially in every area of our lives. He's provided for us this far, so we can be confident that as we continue to walk in obedience to Him, He will provide all that we need. (And we have yet to miss a meal or not be able to pay a bill! Praise the Lord!)
I, on the other hand, am the bleeding heart of the relationship. I want to adopt ALL children. The ones with major medical needs. The ones about ready to age out. Pretty much, if they are available for adoption, I'd say a ginormous "YES!" to them! My more logically-minded husband had to remind me on many occasions that we might not be the right family for a certain child, that we might not have all the resources needed to properly support this precious soul. There were many special needs that I was gung-ho about checking the box, but once we really talked it through, I realized that where we live, what insurance we had, and what our family life looked like might just not suit this particular child. And of course, his rational patience directed us to our precious son, Titus, who is perfect for our family.
5. Take the Leap
So, you've read your Bible, prayed like crazy, talked to family and friends, researched away, and deliberated long and hard with your spouse...so now what? I hate to tell you, but that fear, Mr. Marshmellow, but still be looming in the background. But, unless there's a big flashing red light saying you should wait or follow a different path, then dive right in...to paperwork! To checking out agencies! To whatever that first step is. I literally spent a year researching adoption agencies (because that's how long it took us to go from wanting to adopt from China to qualifying to adopt from China...a long and painful year!) and I'll never forget filling out the form on CCAI's website to request more information. You'd think I was signing my life away, how nervously I wrote out our basic information. I couldn't wait, yet also dreaded, that package, telling us about how wonderful adoption from China would be. And I'll always remember watching the video, barely able to see actual footage of families meeting their precious children for the first time through my bucket loads of tears. And for the first time, I began to truly believe that it could be us some day, meeting our son who was alive and a million miles away from us at that very moment.
Going back to life lessons from Frozen, when it all comes down to it, sometimes you just have to throw your arms in the air like Elsa and say, "Into the unknown!" No matter how much you research, prepare, and pray, in the end, if you truly believe God is calling you to this step of obedience, there will still be fear of the unknowns. (Believe us!) But, we've learned the great joy and peace amidst the swirling fears when you step out in obedience. And each time you take that timid step of faith, it gets a tiny bit easier. And that gigantic Marshmellow-monster of fear melts just a little bit. And then, one day, when you meet that sweet face you've been staring at in pictures and videos for months, you realize what you were so afraid of is...just a child. A dear child who you are now oh so incredibly grateful each day that you chose to say "yes" to. That you chose to step out in faith for. That you chose to not let fear stand in the way between you and your precious new son or daughter.