Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Birth Moms, Adoptive Moms, Real Moms

After posting a picture with a short description on our Facebook page that gained  almost 1,000 likes, 100 comments and 200 shares, I feel compelled to share more information and expand upon my thinking. What was posted was 100% true and from my deepest heart affections. Here is the post:
"Today we attended a wedding. We sought counsel and over and over were advised not to attend. We were told it wasn't safe. People believed that it would be confusing. Brian and I prayed, as we usually do, that we would be open to God's direction even if it went against all human wisdom (there was a time we received the same negative counsel by well meaning Christians about accepting a 4th, 5th and ...6th child into our family).

After seeing the tears stream down her face and the joy she expressed at the sight of the blond 3 year old she gave birth to, God confirmed we had listened well. I am so thankful God grabbed a hold of my heart and led me courageously to attend Maggie's birthmom's wedding. I wasn't condoning her life choices but choosing to show her love and grace regardless of her behavior. God gave an overwhelming peace to my heart that no fear of man could shake. He had also orchestrated perfectly that in Maggie's "too big clothes bin" sat a beautiful flower girl dress that had been given to us when she was only an infant. It was too pretty to pass along before she could use it and when we dug it out it fit perfectly as if it was waiting there just for this moment!

Adoption is a unique journey and at times confusing. This little girl that I have raised and adore was not grown in my body. I will forever share her with another mother. While that thought could consume some with sadness it reminds me that it isn't love being shared as in separated but shared as in combined. My baby girl is loved twice! And when I adopted this little girl, I was not just given a daughter to love, but her mother to love also! We love our adopted kids best when we choose to love their parents!"
 If that post was true then what else do I feel compelled to share? There is a great tension between biblical truth and real experience. Both are 100% true yet can seem so opposite. I am going to attempt a balancing act of carefully upholding the unchanging truth of Scripture yet the always changing truth of emotional experiences. Let me explain using our FB post as an example. It is a biblical truth that God hates sin (Rom. 1:18), therefore we should strive to uproot any sin that takes us captive and avoid close relationships with unrepentant, habitually sinful people. We also know that God deeply loves sinners (Rom. 5:8), so much so that He took the payment for their sins upon Himself.

We see that the affects of sin cross generational borders. This in full display in the lives of our adopted children. A mama that drinks with a baby in utero may present us with a precious baby that struggles with FAS for the rest of their life. A mama that neglects the basic nutritional or hygiene needs of a child may lead to a us watching that child suffer a life of illnesses and deficiencies. A mama that makes choices that ultimately results in her not being able to carry out her role as mom and leads to her child being permanently removed from her care will almost always cause us to have to walk that child through attachment issues, which can include, mental or behavior issues and counseling or therapy for a length of time.

We also know that these mamas, whether they allow to sin to temporarily creep into their lives or are completely taken over by it, are still deeply loved by God. We know that God uses us to be His hands and feet and graciously gives us the strength to love people where they are. We see Jesus as our example talking to prostitutes and dining with tax collectors. (Luke 15: 1-10, Matt. 21:28-32, Mark 2:16-17, John 4, John 8:7)

Out of the deep love of our Father we stepped out in faith to show our love for a woman that has made decisions in her life that has resulted in her daughter being placed in our arms at just 6 weeks old. I made it my goal to show her nothing but kindness when I would bring this precious baby, that I was caring for and attaching to, to visitations. Then when the tables turned I reached out, confusing our case workers, for approval to write her during her prison sentence. We wrote almost a hundred letters back and forth during that 2 year sentence. I kept her updated on her baby's everchanging abilities and kept her 50 picture limit filled. Also, via letter, I had to inform her that her baby was going to become ours through adoption. A hard pill for any mom to swallow.

It was God's mercy filling my heart that compelled me to meet her at the bus station when she was released from prison and invited her to our church on Mother's day. As her old nature and ways began to creep back into her life due to her new found freedom, our contact became only through email. When we received a wedding invitation and request for Maggie to be the flower girl we were unsure what we should do. We didn't know the right answer and all the "what if"s we could think of began reeling through our minds.

There is an unhealthy fear of birth parents instilled in us from news stories, from a cousin's friend's brother's horrific experience and our own inexperience with this unique relationship. This fear is real, it is tangible, we can feel it. Fear can act itself out in many ways in our life. Fear can make us angry, paranoid, or unforgiving. While fear is a very real experience, let us move into the tension between experience and biblical truth. I am afraid, but God says, "do not fear" (Josh 1:9, Is. 41:10), "fear is not from God" (2 Tim 1:7), and "God is love" (1 John 4:8). While our emotions often want to take over we must "renew our minds daily" (Rom 12:2, Eph 4:21-24) to strive to stay in the tension. God is our protector and promises to go before us. Fear can stifle and even paralyze acts of love.

"God I am afraid (real experience), but you love this woman and promise to give me strength to love her (biblical truth)."

Click here for a blog post of a party with Titus' birth family.

So we attended a wedding. We chose love over fear. God confirmed we chose well but what should we think when real experiences begin taking over? The days after the wedding I had deep pangs of sorrow as I edited the photos and saw the same nose and smile I admire on my baby staring back at me on birth mom's face, not mine. We also had old behavior issues resurface in one child, another break down emotionally about missing their own birth mother and our littlest Maggie went through a bout of wetting. Some would ask, was it the right choice then?

True love is choosing to be vulnerable. True love is self-sacrificing, just as Jesus sacrificed all and bore much pain to show us the love we don't deserve (Is 53:4-5). Shouldn't we live out all that love is (patient, kind, content, humble, honoring, unselfish, slow to anger and forgiving 1 Cor 13:4-7) even at the risk of being hurt? Shouldn't we teach our children that love is worth it?

God promises to work all out for our good (Rom 8:28). Our oldest children got to see first hand the type of fearless love we extend to all our birth mothers even when it is difficult, though their own is not receptive or safe. Also, some deeply buried hurts were stirred and resurfaced so we can work through them together biblically. Maggie will have days that arise in her future years when she questions who she is and where she came from. The benefit of seeing love in action toward the woman that bore her during her time of questioning will far outweigh a few accidents as her tiny frame attempts to make sense of this crazy thing called being adopted. I repeat whole-heartily, we love our adopted kids best when we choose to love their parents!

Although adoption is beautifully designed by God we must remember that it is born in suffering and loss. Somebody lost family so we could gain ours. Adoption is so beautiful because it shows the power of God's Word holding true, that which was meant for evil, God used it for good (Gen 50:20)!

Posted by Shannon
Soli Deo gloria - Glory to God alone


  1. God be praised! We learned how much God can bless us when we faithfully pray for and choose to love the birth parents as well as the foster children. Seeing our first placements go back to their mom was a blessing because we had learned and grown to love her and root for her. Her joy was contagious! How could we be sad for ourselves (selfish) when God was restoring and healing a family before our eyes!? He is so good to us! The mom came to our church the very next day (after receiving her kids back) and we text several times a week. She's reading her bible, going to church, working hard, and trusting God. We couldn't be blessed more by such a unique, rare, and beautiful experience. We know it's entirely God's doing for God's glory.
    Your experience was too. What a beautiful example for your children. Even if they don't yet understand it.
    Thank you.