Family

October 30 2012
40

I’m adopted. I adopted my two children. There – all my cards on the table. Now let me share the quickest way to undermine that sacrament which bookends my experience of family – say it’s not natural.

I’ve heard it more than once, but read it more often now that blogs abound and adoption talk moves like a spark through dry brush. Adoption is harder because it’s not natural, so be patient through the process – that’s what they say. It always surprises me they put their names on the post, don’t cover up with a bandit’s bandana or whisper it in a dark corner of an abandoned house. The most sacred element of my life is so easily diminished with so few words – not natural.

If the holy scrolls in a synagogue were stolen, the cross in a church sanctuary pulled from the wall and defaced or the minarets of a mosque tagged, we’d all cry desecration! Local reporters would gather, scribble in tiny pocket-sized pads and rally the community to action. But call adoption unnatural or second best and all you get are sympathetic nods. My holy of holies gutted and no one’s outraged, no one notices, people even dare to applaud.

I know they mean well. But the message good but not natural doesn’t ring true to those who drink from the chalice daily, imbibing the family grace with each swill. We don’t feel unnatural in our God-ordained family. Most of us are naked and unashamed in our homes, crawling under the covers with our mothers and wrestling barefoot with our siblings and laughing with our super-hero fathers. We’re at home where we belong, naturally.

In my home, ringed by adoption goodness, I am many things: tantrum-wrangler, nightmare-whisperer, band-aid dispenser. I am oatmeal-maker, bedside-intercessor, conversation-partner, affirmation-muse and a conveyer belt of hugs, kisses and cheeky squeezes. I am not, however, unnatural. I’m not a second-hand mother, a lesser choice for these babes of mine. Nor was my own mother anything less than a natural fit for me. When God’s in the family way it might look mysterious, but never unnatural.

Family living doesn’t come easy – the tumble of personalities, insecurities and contending wills. We each struggle with identity issues, questioning our worth, wondering if we can contribute something of value to the world. What parent, adoptive or not, hasn’t had to battle personal anxieties while fortifying the healthy identity of their child? Isn’t this par for the course in family formation? Iron on iron, friction forging character and undaunted acceptance culling a child capable of self-love – this is indigenous to every family, right?

There’s one concession I’m willing to consider – maybe we are not only natural, but also supranatural. The company of the adopted live beyond the most elementary understanding of nature as mere biology. We know bone-deep that we are connected, part of God’s larger Family Tree that supersedes bloodlines, ethnicity or nationality. Our shared humanity bonds us, our commitment to love without condition and weather life’s storms together creates true belonging which is hallmark to any real family.

It would do my soul good if people accepted adoption as sacramental, not unnatural. It would be a balm to my bruised heart to hear people try and voice the mystery of how God shapes families in unique ways to His glory, to His redemptive purpose. It would sound more truthful if we all admitted that struggle and sacrament are a natural part of family life.

Adoption has created a sacred space in my life, a realization that family is a gift. As adopted child and adoptive mother, I know my life to be wonderfully natural and then some. Oh, I wish those looking from the outside would tread softly…

40 comments

  1. ” maybe we are not only natural, but also supranatural.” I was already thinking this before I got there. Adoption is the very essence of God’s love for us, how can that be unnatural? Thanks for sharing your heart.

    Reply
  2. It seems every where I look and I every where I go I see and hear the Spirit whispering to us on adoption. So glad you wrote this. We are looking forward to the day we can complete our family!

    Reply
    • Listen to the Spirit – adoption is such a blessing when God arranges it in His way, His time!

      Reply
  3. thank you for sharing this part of your story and the pain that others have caused. This is important for us to remember. Family is family. that’s something a dear friend of mine learned when he adopted a boy.

    Reply
  4. From an adoptive mom of two children, both bound into our family with holy miracles–thank you.

    Reply
    • Sandra, you’re welcome. So glad we are together in this company of the adopted… this sacramental place where family is a good gift, a holy happening and filled with redemptive energy! Blessings to your family from mine!

      Reply
  5. Hope

    Our family was completed by God through adoption. There is nothing unnatural about us. People have strange ideas that do not come from knowledge or experience. We are part of a greater plan that is far better than what we anticipate or try to accomplish ourselves.

    Reply
  6. Tina/ @teenbug

    “In my home, ringed by adoption goodness, I am many things: tantrum-wrangler, nightmare-whisperer, band-aid dispenser. I am oatmeal-maker, bedside-intercessor, conversation-partner, affirmation-muse and a conveyer belt of hugs, kisses and cheeky squeezes. I am not, however, unnatural. I’m not a second-hand mother, a lesser choice for these babes of mine. Nor was my own mother anything less than a natural fit for me. When God’s in the family way it might look mysterious, but never unnatural.”

    I can attest to that! So beautiful Kel-Kels!

    Reply
  7. Rachel Parsons

    Beautiful entry Kelly…thank you for bearing all and shifting hearts and minds.

    Reply
  8. It is completely natural to love and to bear children in ALL the ways God’s brings them to us. Mothering & fathering & raising up children is beautiful and loving full of God’s grace.

    Reply
  9. It is completely natural to love and to bear children in ALL the ways God brings them to us. Mothering & fathering & raising up children is beautiful and loving full of God’s grace.

    Reply
  10. As an adoptive mom of two boys,tears ran down my face as I read this. You have expressed beautifully the place inside of me that stood without adequate words for many years. Thank you!

    Reply
  11. If adoption isn’t natural, than that’s shame on us. I can hardly think of anything which should be more natural than making any child in search of a family our own.

    Reply
  12. I’m standing and applauding over here, Kel. WELL DONE.

    Reply
  13. Beautifully heartfelt, Kelley. And so important. There’s a big difference between ‘natural’ and ‘biological.’ ALL families are natural – and a sacramental place for people-growing, whether there are ties of biology involved or not. Thank you for this.

    Reply
  14. I love this line: adoption talk moves like a spark through dry brush (in blogland)… I feel I have to protect myself in the blogosphere or I get too hurt.

    Beautiful piece.

    Reply
  15. The thought of adoption being unnatural is foreign to me. My Grandmother was adopted. My parents had seven grandchildren total, 3 adoption 4, not adoption. One of those amazing children is ALL MINE. The only time adoption has felt unnatural to me is when we lived through the disrupted adoption of my two beautiful sons.
    All of my children were planted firmly in my heart and grown as naturally as the one I was able to give birth to.
    Thank you for writing this! Thank you for educating and speaking out. I needed to read this today.

    Reply
    • Hope… disrupted adoption. That hurts my heart, it’s like a stillbirth, that deep loss I cannot even find words for. You’re right, that disruption is unnatural and painful. Thank you for sharing a bit of your story. My heart is with you today.

      Reply
      • Yes, it was a tearing at my soul. I was thinking about them today when I read your piece. Recently I mentioned to a group of women that if you were to lose a child at six months at least someone would bring you a casserole. I didn’t even rate a banana bread.
        We as a community need to understand the pain that our brothers and sisters walk through. We will understand through listening to the hearts of one another. This is why what you said resounds with me so deeply. :)

        Reply
  16. Amen Kelley!!!! And thank you for being a “natural” tantrum-wrangler, nightmare-whisperer, band-aid dispenser. And an oatmeal-maker, bedside-intercessor, conversation-partner, affirmation-muse and a conveyer belt of hugs, kisses and cheeky squeezes.

    Beautiful words and after all aren’t we all adopted into the family of God?

    Your words brought joy to this grandma’s heart today.

    Reply
  17. sacramental and supranatural
    what beautiful words to describe adoption.
    thank you for writing this.

    Reply
  18. Caryn

    I have a son I gave birth to but I want more. I am fully capable of having another child and may still. I want more than anything to adopt and when I mention it people imply that I cannot have more kids, so insensitive. I have a heart for kids and want to fill my home kids deserve a family it doesn’t matter how it happens.

    Reply
  19. Thank you for your honesty. I wholly understand this…

    When our youngest daughter was birthed into our family through adoption this past year it was by no means unnatural. The anxiety and fears of losing her were no different than those felt during my pregnancy. For over a year our love grew for her just as our love grew through pregnancy for our older daughter. We labored her birth and when the process was final, the gavel sounded, the delivery was complete… she was officially and legally ours.

    Birthed into our family. Just like her daughters who came before. Birthed. And there was anxiety and fear and love. And it was natural. Nothing breaks me more than to here someone say and this is Sophie, she is adopted. No, she is my daughter.

    Reply
  20. This is a powerful post and I cried as I read it. Your pain is hard to hear, but your message is inspiring and beautiful.

    I could be one of those people. Who has hurt you by saying that adoption is not natural. And I think you heard less or second best, but that is not what I mean. What I really mean is different. And beautiful and sacred and definitely SUPERnatural. But different. We brought our two year old home 4 months ago and it hasn’t been an easy process. Angry birth family, grieving foster family, social workers abound, interupted attachment… it’s a lot for my little guy and for us. But I wouldn’t change it and we are more family, not less, because of it.

    So I’ll be careful how I express that from now on, because adoption is not less. If anything, it’s more.

    Reply
    • Kelley

      Christie, I am not in pain now, but I am ready to help craft more true and helpful language around adoption and help people hear with adoptive ears. Kids are more tender, they pick up on things. Sometimes if we aren’t careful, we can absorb this ‘unnatural’ or ‘second best’ without realizing it. So I want to gently but honestly say we need to be more sensitive and find better words to describe our amazing adoptive stories!

      Blessings and strength to you amid your own adoptive story, creating a community of belonging is worthwhile and holy. My prayers are with you in this season of your family formation.

      Reply
  21. Jennifer

    Beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. We have a biological child and one we adopted. I can’t even remember which is which. I’m pretty sure God can’t either.

    Reply
  22. Kelley, I hope you don’t mind that my comment doesn’t relate directly to adoption but I really wanted to say that I think you do a brilliant job here of demolishing a myth about parenting in general. Your paragraph that starts ‘Family living doesn’t come easy’ blessed me no end. If parenting your own child is supposed to be somehow ‘natural’ (and I think the concept that underlies this is ‘easy’) then what about us ‘natural’ parents who have really struggled with it at times, who have been depressed and who have felt more often than not that they have failed? To understand that all this is ‘par for the course in family formation’, to think about iron sharpening iron, to realise that the struggle is ‘indigenous to every family’ – now that’s liberating, that for me is Gospel. Thank you.

    Reply
  23. Kelley, I hope you don’t mind that my comment doesn’t relate directly to adoption but I really wanted to say that I think you do a brilliant job here of demolishing a myth about parenting in general. Your paragraph that starts ‘Family living doesn’t come easy’ blessed me no end. If parenting your own child is supposed to be somehow ‘natural’ (and I think the concept that underlies this is ‘easy’) then what about us ‘natural’ parents who have really struggled with it at times, who have been depressed and who have felt more often than not that they have failed? To understand that all this is ‘par for the course in family formation’, to think about iron sharpening iron, to realise that the struggle is ‘indigenous to every family’ – now that’s liberating, that for me is Gospel. Thank you.

    Reply
  24. keri

    kelley..i agree with much of what you have to say….i am an adoptive momma and i believe in jesus so i get the big picture of adoption and family…..but while painting our story with boy child i am inundated by his pain from he being abandoned by his first mother…..he should be with her…..that was the intention….but because of the depravity of humanity he is with me……..there are many adoptive mommas like me who struggle with the natural part…loving boy child is not like loving my biological child…..it is an unconditional love that is not natural…..maybe that is where as you call it the supernatural comes in…….dealing and healing with his scars and flowing wounds does not come to me with a mother’s instinct ….yes i want him healed but i will never be able to completely fill the soul hole his mother left…..nor do i want too……i am on the inside of this thing called adoption and it does not feel natural to me……here is a link to my last post where i and boy child understand our coming together is not natural but where both of us are trying desperately to know love with the other… http://keridwp.wordpress.com/2012/10/19/shot-through-the-heart/

    Reply
    • Laura

      Keri- thank you so much for saying this. I came to this post thru a link that a friend posted. And this post is so beautifully written and contains so much truth. And yet… it hurt my heart. I have been parenting our adopted kiddos for over 4 1/2 years. And I don’t think I’ve had a single day where it has felt natural. The contrast in how I feel about my bio kids vs adopted kids causes me guilt and grief every day. I long for it to be different. I have prayed, sought counsel, gone to therapy, attended seminars and classes… but I can’t change how I feel. I can change my behavior and my approach- and I have- and even that reminds me how unnatural this feels. Parenting these kiddos is not at all intuitive to me. It is a struggle. So I don’t relate to it feeling natural- but I know that I know that they are supposed to be in our family. And I cling to my belief that whatever is hard about this is meant to change me and it has. I love your perspective, Kelley. It gives me hope to read it. And you have an amazing way with words.

      Reply
      • Kelley

        Laura, thank you for sharing a bit of your story. Adoption isn’t a monolithic experience, is it? Like any family, there is life, love, loss, even struggle and pain. For me it’s always been natural and accepted. But I know that not every adoption looks/feels the same. How could it – we are all so different, our kids are all so different, God works in each family in such mysterious ways. I love that you aren’t giving up, but pressing in. I honor your story as you’ve honored mine. Glad we adoptive moms can share together as we walk forward… holding the mystery, holding one another in prayer. Blessings to you and your children!

        Reply
  25. Lovely, Kelley. I will send this to my friend who is fostering and hoping to adopt. I think she’ll appreciate this.

    Reply
  26. Robin

    Adoption completed my family….My little girl was placed in my arms from god. I feel I am the luckest mommy in the world.

    Reply
  27. I’m appalled. Not really surprised, as little surprises me, but appalled that anyone would say such a thing. Unnatural? God, himself, adopted Israel. Then he adopted us all[1]. While my wife and I have never technically adopted, we call dozens our kids, and they call us mom and dad. We know plenty of folk who have formally adopted It’s as natural as breathing. The process is stupidly long, arduous and complex. That’s not natural. It’s just pathetic.

    May you be blessed like crazy, and not least with the grace to help those with such a foolish mindset to be set free.

    [1] As far as I can tell, he’s adopted us all, but some refuse to accept or acknowledge it.

    Reply
  28. Jesus was adopted by Joseph. His birth was supernatural. His adoption was supranatural! We know him as Jesus Christ, but growing up He was probably called Jesus bar-Joseph (Joseph’s son).

    Reply

Leave a Comment