It’s time

Good people, it’s time. OUR BOYS ARE COMING HOME!!! Almost 2 1/2 years to the day we met them, they are coming home.

We are feeling shock and panic and denial and elation all at the same time. This whole scene is very much reminiscent of the time I first gave birth. I remember being in my 30th-ish hr of labor and calling my mom into the bathroom at the hospital to tell her I didn’t think this was such a good idea after all and that I wanted to go home. Lord help.

The biggest saving grace to this whole big, scary life change is that I know it wasn’t my idea! This was solely initiated and sovereignly executed by God alone. And so, I have no choice but to believe that He will equip us for what He has called us to do. Anyone who knows me well, knows that I am no kind of mother-of-the-year. Wife of the year? Probable runner-up. Friend of the year? Yep. Sister of the year? Every year. But mother? I love my kids….. but I am not that fun, “let’s do stuff together all the time” girl. I’m the “go find your brother” and “let’s go away without the kids” girl. All of the research points to “cocooning” as a family for a while to give them stability and healthy boundaries. READ: staying only at home for a long time together. Also, not leaving them for even longer. I hate isolation. Pray, saints.

During the painfully long process of adoption, all we ever though about, talked about, dreamt about was “when they come home”. We have lured you into loving them and begged you to pray them home. We have prepared our home, showed them pictures of our home and wondered if they were ever actually coming home. And now, seemingly suddenly with one week’s notice, they are almost here! But the reality is, this is not what they know as home. They live with 120 other kids. No one has ever parented them in any way that’s even remotely similar to the way we parent. They have no possessions. They do not understand safety, stability, nor structure. They do not even know what paved roads look like. They don’t know pets. They don’t know conversation. They don’t know obedience and they don’t know grace. They don’t know new people, new clothes, new toys, new anything. No snuggling. No pajama days. No being comforted when they are sick or hurt. No forgiveness and no forever. While they are leaving the very poorest country in the western hemisphere, it is all they have known. They are leaving their family…..all of their friends….all of their reality. So while we are so excited for them to come home to their new life, their new family, their new lineage; they are about to have their world rocked. They are coming with abandonment issues, attachment problems and overall emotional trauma that comes with being an orphan

The more I prepare for their homecoming, the more I want to make sure you know how much we love you…our people. You who have waited and prayed with us. You who have stood by me as I have learned how to give up control. You who listened to me bawl every time I left them and you who have ridden the waves of doubt, fear, joy, unbelief, hope and anger with me. You who I have met along the way and have been forever changed by. You who came with me to Haiti….with me to know them and so that I would be better.  You who have given generously so that we could go visit them 11 times in two years…… you people. Please know that we could never have done this without you.

We are fortunate to be in relationship with some great people who have gone ahead of us in this adoption journey as well as some experts in the field. We also feel beyond blessed to have known these boys for two years, albeit one week at a time. So with some great advise paired with what we have learned about them thus far, we are attempting to prepare ourselves and our home for the daunting task of helping these two precious boys to feel safe and secure and loved, while also making sure our first two boys don’t become invisible.

We are going to have to check out for a bit once they get here, but we will be back! I am attaching what has been a life-changing sermon for us (by a fellow adoptive dad whose kids are also from Haiti), as well as a link to one blog and a portion of another (both by a fellow adoptive mom whose kids came home from Africa 1 1/2 yrs ago). I hope these will be helpful to those of you who are in our community and who do day-to-day life with us.

We know you are excited and looking forward to meeting them and loving them. We cannot wait to show them what an amazing extended family and community they have! Thank you for understanding and for waiting patiently while we become a new family. We covet your prayers and we are forever grateful for all your support.

Supporting Families After the Airport      (an excerpt from “How to Be the Village” also by Jen Hatmaker)

You went to the airport. The baby came down the escalator to cheers and balloons. The long adoption journey is over and your friends are home with their new baby / toddler / twins / siblings / teenager. Everyone is happy. Maybe Fox News even came out and filmed the big moment and “your friend” babbled like an idiot and didn’t say one constructive word about adoption and also she looked really sweaty during her interview. (Really? That happened to me too. Weird.)

How can you help? By not saying or doing these things:

1. I mean this nicely, but don’t come over for a while. Most of us are going to hole up in our homes with our little tribe and attempt to create a stable routine without a lot of moving parts. This is not because we hate you; it’s because we are trying to establish the concept of “home” with our newbies, and lots of strangers coming and going makes them super nervous and unsure, especially strangers who are talking crazy language to them and trying to touch their hair.

2. Please do not touch, hug, kiss, or use physical affection with our kids for a few months. We absolutely know your intentions are good, but attachment is super tricky with abandoned kids, and they have had many caregivers, so when multiple adults (including extended family) continue to touch and hold them in their new environment, they become confused about who to bond with. This actually delays healthy attachment egregiously. It also teaches them that any adult or stranger can touch them without their permission, and believe me, many adoptive families are working HARD to undo the damage already done by this position. Thank you so much for respecting these physical boundaries.

3. For the next few months, do not assume the transition is easy. For 95% of us, it so is not. And this isn’t because our family is dysfunctional or our kids are lemons, but because this phase is so very hard on everyone. I can’t tell you how difficult it was to constantly hear: “You must be so happy!” and “Is life just so awesome now that they’re here??” and “Your family seems just perfect now!” I wanted that to be true so deeply, but I had no idea how to tell you that our home was actually a Trauma Center. (I did this in a passive aggressive way by writing this blog, which was more like “An Open Letter to Everyone Who Knows Us and Keeps Asking Us How Happy We Are.”) Starting with the right posture with your friends – this is hard right now – will totally help you become a safe friend to confide in / break down in front of / draw strength from.

4. Do not act shocked if we tell you how hard the early stages are. Do not assume adoption was a mistake. Do not worry we have ruined our lives. Do not talk behind our backs about how terribly we’re doing and how you’re worried that we are suicidal. Do not ask thinly veiled questions implying that we are obviously doing something very, very wrong. Do not say things like, “I was so afraid it was going to be like this” or “Our other friends didn’t seem to have these issues at all.” Just let us struggle. Be our friends in the mess of it. We’ll get better.

5. If we’ve adopted older kids, please do not ask them if they “love America so much” or are “so happy to live in Texas.” It’s this simple: adoption is born from horrible loss. In an ideal world, there would be no adoption, because our children would be with their birth families, the way God intended. I’ll not win any points here, but I bristle when people say, “Our adopted child was chosen for us by God before the beginning of time.” No he wasn’t. He was destined for his birth family. God did not create these kids to belong to us. He didn’t decide that they should be born into poverty or disease or abandonment or abuse and despair aaaaaaaall so they could finally make it into our homes, where God intended them to be. No. We are a very distant Plan B. Children are meant for their birth families, same as my biological kids were meant for mine. Adoption is one possible answer to a very real tragedy… after it has already happened, not before as the impetus for abandonment. There is genuine grief and sorrow when your biological family is disrupted by death and poverty, and our kids have endured all this and more. So when you ask my 8-year-old if he is thrilled to be in Texas, please understand that he is not. He misses his country, his language, his food, his family. Our kids came to us in the throes of grief, as well they should. Please don’t make them smile and lie to you about how happy they are to be here.

6. Please do not disappear. If I thought the waiting stage was hard, it does not even hold the barest candle to what comes after the airport. Not. The. Barest. Candle. Never have I felt so isolated and petrified. Never have I been so overwhelmed and exhausted. We need you after the airport way more than we ever needed you before. I know you’re scared of us, what with our dirty hair and wild eyes and mystery children we’re keeping behind closed doors so they don’t freak out more than they already have, but please find ways to stick around. Call. Email. Check in. Post on our Facebook walls. Send us funny cards. Keep this behavior up for longer than six days.

Here’s what we would love to hear or experience After the Airport:

1. Cook for your friends. Put together a meal calendar and recruit every person who even remotely cares about them. We didn’t cook dinners for one solid month, and folks, that may have single-handedly saved my sanity. There simply are not words to describe how exhausting and overwhelming those first few weeks are, not to mention the lovely jet lag everyone came home with. And if your friends adopted domestically right up the street, this is all still true, minus the jet lag.

2. If we have them, offer to take our biological kids for an adventure or sleepover. Please believe me: their lives just got WHACKED OUT, and they need a break, but their parents can’t give them one because they are 1.) cleaning up pee and poop all day, 2.) holding screaming children, 3.) spending all their time at doctors’ offices, and 4.) falling asleep in their clothes at 8:15pm. Plus, they are in lockdown mode with the recently adopted, trying to shield them from the trauma that is Wal-Mart.

3. Thank you for getting excited with us over our little victories. I realize it sounds like a very small deal when we tell you our kindergartener is now staying in the same room as the dog, but if you could’ve seen the epic level of freakoutedness this dog caused her for three weeks, you would understand that this is really something. When you encourage us over our incremental progress, it helps. You remind us that we ARE moving forward and these little moments are worth celebrating. If we come to you spazzing out, please remind us where we were a month ago. Force us to acknowledge their gains. Be a cheerleader for the healing process.

4. Come over one night after our kids are asleep and sit with us on our porch. Let me tell you: we are all lonely in those early weeks. We are home, home, home, home, home. Good-bye, date nights. Good-bye, GNO’s. Good-bye, spontaneous anything. Good-bye, church. Good-bye, big public outings. Good-bye, community group. Good-bye, nightlife. So please bring some community to our doorstep. Bring friendship back into our lives. Bring adult conversation and laughter. And bring an expensive bottle of wine.

5. If the shoe fits, tell adopting families how their story is affecting yours. If God has moved in you over the course of our adoption, whether before the airport or after, if you’ve made a change or a decision, if somewhere deep inside a fire was lit, tell us, because it is spiritual water on dry souls. There is nothing more encouraging than finding out God is using our families for greater kingdom work, beautiful things we would never know or see. We gather the holy moments in our hands every day, praying for eyes to see God’s presence, his purposes realized in our story. When you put more holy moments in our hands to meditate on, we are drawn deeper into the Jesus who led us here.

Here’s one last thing: As you watch us struggle and celebrate and cry and flail, we also want you to know that adoption is beautiful, and a thousand times we’ve looked at each other and said, “What if we would’ve said no?” God invited us into something monumental and lovely, and we would’ve missed endless moments of glory had we walked away. We need you during these difficult months of waiting and transitioning, but we also hope you see that we serve a faithful God who heals and actually sets the lonely in families, just like He said He would. And even through the tears and tantrums (ours), we look at our children and marvel that God counted us worthy to raise them. We are humbled. We’ve been gifted with a very holy task, and when you help us rise to the occasion, you have an inheritance in their story; your name will be counted in their legacy.

Because that day you brought us pulled pork tacos was the exact day I needed to skip dinner prep and hold my son on the couch for an hour, talking about Africa and beginning to bind up his emotional wounds. When you kidnapped me for two hours and took me to breakfast, I was at the very, very, absolute end that morning, but I came home renewed, able to greet my children after school with fresh love and patience. When you loved on my big kids and offered them sanctuary for a night, you kept the family rhythm in sync at the end of a hard week.

Thank you for being the village. You are so important.


9 responses to “It’s time

  1. This is so cool! Love the honest truth you bring and the ‘message’ at the end.I have listened to the Ivey sermon multiple times because it is so real. I am so happy for you guys and know we are right behind you. Cannot wait, but scared as well!

  2. Kel, your story never ceases to amaze me. Thank you and thanks to Jen for sharing so candidly and allowing us to be part of all of this even as it’s being written. You truly are doing a kingdom work, and while it’s exhausting, draining, and sometimes bitter, it is knitting together something far bigger than we ever could do ourselves. God has you every minute of every day. He has equipped you, guarded you, held you, and is now working through you to complete what He has started. Love you and yours always. I will be here ANY TIME, any day or night.

  3. I’ll bring the expensive wine! 🙂
    You all can do this….hard, ugly, scary, exhausting, painful, healing, restoring, beautiful! We can do this together!!

  4. I am next door! Day, Night, Wee hours, Whenever! If you holler out the door, I will come running. I will bring the expensive wine. We can sit for however long you want. I will listen, cry, laugh, hug, kiss, soothe, support and listen some more. I will Babysit, Dog sit, Adult sit! I will cook, clean, drive, run errands, make phone calls-WHATEVER you need, anytime of the day or night! I am here for you and your Family and all of our kids! My yard is their yard. My house is their house ANYTIME. I love you ALL very much!! XOXO Praise God!!

  5. I am so excited for you guys and yes, God will give you the grace to survive the days ahead. I am the same kinda mother as you described yourself and God will bring you to a place of daily grace and reliance on Him hourly…and joy in the mundane tasks and even isolation. It is a lonely calling until God brings the support systems to you. Everything Jen Hatmaker says about after the airport is sooo true. I wish I had known those things or had friends/family (besides my youngest brother and his wife) that supported us. We did it alone. So saying all that please, please, know that you can call me any time a day, cry/vent on my shoulder whenever and I will not judge you, ask me for anything. I love your yielded heart and I am here for you…through the joys and the sorrows, the set backs and the triumphs, the beautiful and the ugly moments. Please know that I will be praying for you daily and as often as God brings you to mind.

  6. You are truly an inspiration! I’ve followed your journey and find healing in my own soul through your words and experiences. Call or text me with anything you need. (and I make great pulled pork when you want sandwiches)

  7. Please know that lots of love, prayers and joy will continue to be coming your way from the greater Farmville, Virginia area! Especially from the Farmville United Methodist Church and The United Methodist Women and Southside Va. Emmaus as well! But also from your favorite Aunt Maureen

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