Posts Tagged ‘adoption’

adoptionTen years ago, we met our daughter-to-be through a wonderful organization called KidSave that provides summer opportunities for adoptable older children from around the world. Back then, the country of favor was Russia, but they have since closed their doors and their orphaned and abandoned children languish in bulging institutions. Since Liliana was already a young teen (13), she had a say in the matter. She had to choose.

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship [The Greek word for adoption to sonship is a term referring to the full legal standing of an adopted male heir in Roman culture]. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ . . . [Romans 8:14-17a; NIV]

The choice Liliana made to permit us to proceed with our adoption was only months after another decision she had to make back in Russia. At that time, she was living in a teen crisis center and the director believed it would be to Lily’s best interest to legally sever her birth mother’s rights. As a result, Lily found herself in a courtroom, her birth mother sitting opposite from her, and the judge asking Lily if she wanted to go through with this legal procedure (this is after months and years of emotional trauma, drunkenness, and verbal abuse). She said yes, not so much to a cutting off from the parent, but that life, that life of sorrow and hopelessness.

You would think she would have jumped at the chance to be adopted here in American. But really, she would have to leave everything that was familiar to her. There would be no going back. She was unsure and afraid. She had no way to know that her new family would come with more than just two parents and two brothers, but would also come with a new history and a new future. She would inherit from us all that we had to give. She would be fully ours.

God does the same for his adopted children. When we turn away from the old life, the old “leadership,” we are children of God. We have legal rights in the family of God. We inherit all that God has for us. But we must choose.


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orphan babyI can certainly relate to little Prissy in Gone with the Wind who says, “”I don’t know nothin’ ’bout birthin’ babies!” I don’t either, not really. Having built our family through adoption, this aspect of womanhood has eluded me. And yet I know, there is potential for great mystery and anguish; joy and sorrow.

Genesis 29:31, 33a, 34a, 35a
When the Lord saw that Leah was not loved, he enabled her to conceive, but Rachel remained childless. . . . She [Leah] conceived again . . . Again she conceived . . . She conceived again . . .

In the example of Rachel and Leah, it is the unlovely and cast-off sister whose womb is opened from the beginning and she bears four boys in a row while her sister remains barren. Each child’s name is a message to Jacob (who isn’t listening):

  • Reuben could be translated to mean, “see my misery” or “see, a son!” (as in look, pay attention)
  • Simeon means “one who hears” referring to God who heard her prayers, perhaps Jacob would too?
  • Levi could be translated to mean “attached,” in a way that Leah had hoped Jacob would finally attach to her as the mother of his sons.
  • Judah could be translated as “praise” which appears to be her final understanding, that children are about God, not man.

I discovered, after many years of tears, that my inability to bear children had to be accepted as a reality before reality could change. Once I could thank God for who I was and our circumstances, we could move on to adoption and discover the family God intended.

You would think, after the debacle of Sarah and Hagar (surely that story was told through the generations), the women would know that God’s timing was God’s alone and could not niggled with. But they did not. One sister thought the births would change Jacob’s heart and he would finally “love” her while the other wife resented her sister’s fruitfulness. But nothing good comes from resentment or jealousy or envy. . . ever.

Women have not learned much through the ages, I’m afraid. There are still women who intentionally invite pregnancy as a solution to  their problems (perhaps that boyfriend will marry her or that husband will stay closer to home). There are women who see pregnancy as a curse and continually interrupt that cycle through abortion and morning after pills. There are women who have babies without thought to the impact of that child on their finances and futures; there are women who bring children into the world in hopes the grown child will for the mother in her old age. And now, there are even surrogate mothers, who carry a child for someone else or women who defy nature somewhat by artificially inseminating a child or taking hormones to increase their chances of birth and unwittingly produce litters of babies.

I am not casting judgment, not really, but it’s all a bit out of hand. Just as there are pets languishing in shelters, there are unwanted children in foster care and orphanages all over the world.

They are the responsibility of us all.

Yesterday, the Russian government, once again (for this is not the first time) has placed into law a ban on Americans adopting Russian children. This was a strictly political move and shows little concern for the children themselves. When we adopted our daughter from St. Petersburg in 2006, her orphanage alone had over 150 children and it is only one of thousands of orphanages in the country. In the United States, in 2011, there were over 401,000 children in foster care, many of whom could be adopted.

Babies are amazing, no doubt. Making babies can be an act of true love. But we must remember, there is a future to every child born that must be embraced by all of society, no matter their color or race, their health or disability. A child born is part of the family of God.

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In this story of Abraham, Abimelech (King of Gerar), and Sarah, her husband called her “sister” to protect their household. But that protection meant being taken by Abimelech and placed in his harem of women. Her safety was exchanged for the many. But not until the end of the story are we told what drove her redemption: barrenness.

Genesis 20:17-18
Then Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelech, his wife and his slave girls so they could have children again, for the Lord had closed up every womb in Abimelech’s household because of Abraham’s wife Sarah. [NIV 1984]

God opens and closes wombs. Whether it was back then or now.

I am always intrigued by the real time that takes place within the space of a single sentence in the scripture. In order for Abimelech’s household to know that none of the women could bear children, some time had to pass by. Perhaps their monthly menstruation stopped or women who had been fruitful and continually pregnant, suddenly were not. In any case, it was not a day or a week but more like a year or more that Sarah languished amid the Philistines of that part of the Negev. Which is another reason why the story specifies that the King had not touched Sarah, a surprise, considering how long she had been among them.

In my imagination, when the King’s household discovers their barrenness, they beseech their gods and they beseech their leader to seek healing, to seek an answer, to seek a solution. In this way, it makes sense to me that Abimelech was open to hearing the voice of God in his dream. I believe his seeking was authentic. And when a person seeks from the heart, God answers.

Another interesting side note is that Sarah herself was barren. Did she reveal this fact to the other women? Undoubtedly, since the most important role of women in those days was producing children, and in particular, producing sons. Perhaps they mocked her. That would be my conjecture and yet I could see God responding to Sarah’s lament as well. That they might experience her sorrow of childlessness.

Sometimes, it takes a physical situation to wake us up. When my husband I married thirty years ago, the last thing we expected was to experience barrenness and childlessness. How could that be? We were both believers and committed to our marriage. We were faithful in things of God. And yet, we had no children for eight years. And only then did we seek adoption as a way to build a family.

And yet, despite our confidence that God was in this process, we still had people who asked if we still believed that God would give us our “own” children. Another woman told me I was probably too selfish to have children. Another said it was a curse and we should seek forgiveness for the unspoken sins in our lives. We felt the judgment of well-meaning Christians in our midst.

Our barrenness drove us to God and God’s answer was not pregnancy in the traditional sense. From this experience forward, I have been clear that we, as humans, limit God every day with our interpretation of what God’s “answers” should be or look like. And not only that, but the time it takes for the plan to unfold.

And so, for any women who sorrow over their closed wombs, I offer this one advice: accept what is today and move on so that God can bring forth the next thing. As long as we hold to our way, no other path can be revealed. Every closed womb still holds the Spirit and that is a seed for all generations.

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Do people actually prefer a mystery to the unveiling of that mystery? I think so. As long as something is a mystery, an unknown, then our imaginations can fill in all the blanks. We can make it up. But once the mystery is revealed . . . well, we’re stuck with the truth of it.

Romans 16:25
Now to Him Who is able to strengthen you in the faith which is in accordance with my Gospel and the preaching of (concerning) Jesus Christ (the Messiah), according to the revelation (the unveiling) of the mystery of the plan of redemption which was kept in silence and secret for long ages, . . .
[ Amplified]

A good friend of mine was adopted in the old days when records were sealed and adoptions were something to hide. He found his original birth certificate by accident as a young teenager (not a good way to discover one’s birthright). No one would answer his questions about the circumstances of his birth and so his imagination ran wild. He said he would look at people all the time to determine if they might be related. He imagined his birth parents as rich and sophisticated. He imagined they traveled the world. He imagined they wanted to know about their long-lost son.

When adoption records started opening up in the 80’s and 90’s and registries were created for adoptees to look for their birth parents, my friend began his search. This was the great mystery of his life and he wanted answers.

In the end, he did find his birth mother and although the physical similarities between her, his half-siblings, and himself were striking, the rest of the story was heart breaking. His mother was not rich or sophisticated. In fact, she and her many children were living on the edge, living from welfare check to welfare check, from one catastrophe to another. They were a family in crisis all the time. His birth father had been a one-night stand and long gone. He would never be found.

My friend went through several years of a new kind of struggle: embracing the truth.

Jesus was the revelation of the mystery that was laid down in the prophetic writings. He didn’t match the picture that many had created in their minds of the long-awaited Messiah. When he claimed his own birthright, it was simply too hard for many to grasp or accept. It’s no different today.

In the end, it takes more energy to perpetuate a mystery and a secret than it does to walk the truth. This I believe.

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Back in the 80’s, I had several friends who were hardcore Calvinists and quite Reformed but they also attended the same “not-very-mainstream” charismatic Methodist church at the time. Somehow, even though Calvinism is counter to the Methodist Book of Discipline (doctrine), we all got along, more or less.

Romans 8:29
For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

Just when I think I’m getting things, when I feel as though clarity is right around the corner, I’m confronted with this scripture and all the memories of arguments and disagreements and frustrations about the ultimate meaning of this passage and it’s sister in Ephesians 1:11. This is the stuff that theologians love to dissect.

Honestly, this one is right up there with pre and post-tribulation controversies. Blech!

Here’s my opinion, for whatever it’s worth. Some people are predestined for a particular purpose. I don’t believe this necessarily means predestined for a salvation/relationship which is available to everyone [I Timothy 2:1-4]. Since I enjoy the mysterious aspects of Christ’s way and its paradoxes, I believe there are those people who have a powerful anointing from God. Their path is set, from being called, to being justified, to being glorified [Romans 8:30]. They are the ones who become translucent and the Spirit shines through them. Some will reach this state in a human lifetime, others in that Christ-time eternal.

Is God sovereign? Yes. But God operates outside of time and to discuss God’s view, who will do what and when, seems ludicrous. There is no “when.” Only we, humans, in 3-D time are operating linearly and therefore, trying to figure out what’s next or why things happened in our past the way they did.

I think some people can be anointed for a season and others for a lifetime: God time.

Some years ago, I wrote a note to a woman at a retreat out of an anointing. Several years later, she happened to be at a meeting where I was speaking and came up to me, still carrying that worn-out note which had been life-changing for her. Predestined? I don’t know, but certainly, a type of glory. Christ broke through me to her because it was needful. To this day, I have no idea what was even written in that note.

How I respond to Christ will not change because of someone’s interpretation of this scripture and its codification in either Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion or John Wesleys’ Book of Discipline.

Jesus is firstborn, elder brother. He is showing the way as the rest of us are adopted into the family.

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Matthew 4:3
The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

It wasn’t that Jesus couldn’t turn the stones into bread. He could have done that at any point in his days of fasting and praying. But that was not the point. He was called to fast until he was released from it.

I think this happens all the time. There are things that are not available to us, but not because we are unable to have them. God creates an environment for us that is part of our evolving story.

If I look at my life, there are things I would have changed along the way if I could. For instance, I would have liked to have biological children but then, I would have missed having my wonderful adopted children. While pursuing pregnancy, there were many more steps I could have taken to push the point: more tests, more invasive measures, etc. Probably, I could have turned those stones into bread. But even then, I sensed a different destiny, a purpose if you will, for those circumstances.

Barrenness is part of my story so that God could produce a different kind of fruit. And as a result, not only do I have three wonderful kids, but I also have a sensitivity to the plight of orphans in a way that I would have never had before. I’m glad I trusted the Lord. I pray I can be as sensitive to His Will in my current situation.

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Sometimes we have to back into this process. What I mean is that there are times when circumstances drop into our lives and we are faced with learning perseverance the hard way. It can be done, but it’s not God’s best for us.

For instance, you might become ill with a serious disease that will take months or even years to battle. If you have not built on the phases Peter lays out in II Peter 1:5-7, you will probably discover that you must go back and pull them into the equation. If you want to live, you’ll do whatever it takes. And so, you endure. But as you endure, you discover you must control yourself, your anger, your frustrations. Careening emotions do not help the process. And then, you discover that the more you know about your disease and how others have handled it, the more knowledge you have, the more understanding you have of your circumstances, the stronger you feel. And then, you may find a desire to share that knowledge with others in the same situation. You may actually find that you feel better when you reach out beyond yourself and “do some good.” And finally, your faith in God is re-kindled!

And then, you head back up the chain and you are amazed to discover that you are stronger in each area and you are able to endure another day … another hour … another minute.

I discovered some of this backward/forward movement when Mike and I were in the adoption process for Lily. Being steadfast in our determination to adopt her was foisted upon us for a full two years. We did not go gently into this period of perseverance!

Perhaps it’s more accurate to call this process cyclical. It wasn’t a straight path from faith to virtue to knowledge to self-control to perseverance for me … it felt more like a circle and often there were times when I felt like I was on a race track going round and round and round with no progress; suddenly, a ramp would open up and we would be on another level. Yes, it was still going round and round but the view was different, the road was different, the goal was more clearly in sight, and the fire of hope was fanned into flame again.

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