Adoption 101 - How to be the Village (Part 1)

Well, it's Monday morning, and class is back in session. If we were in college, we probably would have skipped showering, worn our sweatpants, but (of course) made time to buy a drink from Starbucks (which will prevent us from paying off our college loans in a timely fashion). So, sit back, drink your cup of joe (or hot chocolate made with soy, if you're me) and prepare to learn more about adoption.

Today's session is actually a two-part series. It comes from a blog written by Jen Hatmaker. Here's what she has to say about her life:

In the fall of 1992, a college junior named Brandon Hatmaker pretended he needed another fork in the Oklahoma Baptist University cafeteria so he would “randomly” arrive at the utensil cart just as freshman Jen King was getting there in line. Obviously, with moves that smooth, they got married. Seventeen years after the wedding, they’ve created a whole life, including a bunch of headstrong kids, a temperamental garden, and a church plant in Austin, TX, where they have lived for 11 years.

When the kids were 1, 3, and 5, Jen decided that was perfect timing to start a writing career and speaking ministry (sarcasm). In the eight years since, she has written nine books and Bible studies and worn out the airlines speaking all over the United States at conferences for women, church planters, young adults, and unsuspecting men who got roped into running the tech booth or a camera at an event for chicks.

As things were clipping right along, in 2007 God engineered a massive gear change for the Hatmaker family. In summary, He said: “My entire world is crumbling and starving and dying, and you’re blessing blessed people and dreaming about your next house.” Evidently He was serious about all that stuff in the Bible. A year later, they had moved, started Austin New Church whose mantra is “Love Your Neighbor, Serve Your City”, and learned that the easiest place to stay comfortably off-mission is in the western church, where they had been doing a lovely job of serving the saved and ignoring everyone else.

As life headed decidedly down the path of Justice and Mission, it became clear in early 2010 that the Hatmakers were called into adoption. From Ethiopia. Two kids. Straight up. Brandon and Jen have filled out every form ever created in the history of the earth to bring home a seven-year-old boy (Ben) and a five-year-old girl (Remy). With five kids, they expect all dinner invitations to end and gas mileage to come to ruin with a vehicle big enough to cart around this tribe. (Sorry, earth. At least the suburban runs on Flex Fuel.)

If Jen’s goal at one time was to be a Bible teacher making an impact through communication, now it is to simply be a Christ-follower making an impact through radical obedience. So if this whole speaking and writing thing went away tomorrow in lieu of some new task, Jen wouldn’t be surprised or disappointed. In the meantime, the writing and teaching will continue until God gives them their next crazy assignment.

I absolutely love Jen's blog, and I wish she would write more often (I'm guessing that the five kids play a part in that!), but she had some great insight on what friends and family can do to support adoptive families.

She broke this writing down into two sections - Before the Airport and After The Airport.

Today, we'll cover Chance and I's current state - before the airport. Come back tomorrow though, as I'll be sharing the next chapter in Jen's "book of advice."

How to be the Village - Before the Airport (original blog post)

Your friends are adopting. They’re in the middle of dossiers and home studies, and most of them are somewhere in the middle of Waiting Purgatory. Please let me explain something about WP: It sucks in every way. Oh sure, we try to make it sound better than it feels by using phrases like “We’re trusting in God’s plan” and “God is refining me” and “Sovereignty trumps my feelings” and crazy bidness like that. But we are crying and aching and getting angry and going bonkers when you’re not watching. It’s hard. It hurts. It feels like an eternity even though you can see that it is not. It is harder for us to see that, because many of us have pictures on our refrigerators of these beautiful darlings stuck in an orphanage somewhere while we’re bogged down in bureaucracy and delays.

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

1. “God’s timing is perfect!” (Could also insert: “This is all God’s plan!” “God is in charge!”) As exactly true as this may be, when you say it to a waiting parent, we want to scratch your eyebrows off and make you eat them with a spoon. Any trite answer that minimizes the struggle is as welcomed as a sack of dirty diapers. You are voicing something we probably already believe while not acknowledging that we are hurting and that somewhere a child is going to bed without a mother again. Please never say this again. Thank you.

2. “Are you going to have your own kids?” (Also in this category: “You’ll probably get pregnant the minute your adoption clears!” “Since this is so hard, why don’t you just try to have your own kids?” “Well, at least you have your own kids.”) The subtle message here is: You can always have legitimate biological kids if this thing tanks. It places adoption in the Back-up Plan Category, where it does not belong for us. When we flew to Ethiopia with our first travel group from our agency, out of 8 couples, we were the only parents with biological kids. The other 7 couples chose adoption first. Several of them were on birth control. Adoption counts as real parenting, and if you believe stuff Jesus said, it might even be closer to the heart of God than regular old procreation. (Not to mention the couples that grieved through infertility already. So when you say, “Are you going to have your own kids?” to a woman who tried for eight years, then don’t be surprised if she pulls your beating heart out like Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.)

3. For those of you in Christian community, it is extremely frustrating to hear: “Don’t give up on God!” or “Don’t lose faith!” It implies that we are one nanosecond away from tossing our entire belief system in the compost pile because we are acting sad or discouraged. It’s condescending and misses the crux of our emotions. I can assure you, at no point in our story did we think about kicking Jesus to the curb, but we still get to cry tears and feel our feelings, folks. Jesus did. And I’m pretty sure he went to heaven when he died.

4. We’re happy to field your questions about becoming a transracial family or adopting a child of another race, but please don’t use this moment to trot out your bigotry. (Cluelessness is a different thing, and we try to shrug that off. Like when someone asked about our Ethiopian kids, “Will they be black?” Aw, sweet little dum-dum.) The most hurtful thing we heard during our wait was from a black pastor who said, “Whatever you do, don’t change their last name to Hatmaker, because they are NOT Hatmakers. They’ll never be Hatmakers. They are African.” What the??? I wonder if he’d launch the same grenade if we adopted white kids from Russia? If you’d like to know what we’re learning about raising children of another race or ask respectful, legitimate questions, by all means, do so. We care about this and take it seriously, and we realize we will traverse racial landmines with our family. You don’t need to point out that we are adopting black kids and we are, in fact, white. We’ve actually already thought of that.

5. Saying nothing is the opposite bad. I realize with blogs like this one, you can get skittish on how to talk to a crazed adopting Mama without getting under her paper-thin skin or inadvertently offending her. I get it. (We try hard not to act so hypersensitive. Just imagine that we are paper-pregnant with similar hormones surging through our bodies making us cry at Subaru commercials just like the 7-month preggo sitting next to us. And look at all this weight we’ve gained. See?) But acting like we’re not adopting or struggling or waiting or hoping or grieving is not helpful either. If I was pregnant with a baby in my belly, and no one ever asked how I was feeling or how much longer or is his nursery ready or can we plan a shower, I would have to audition new friend candidates immediately.

Here’s what we would love to hear Before the Airport:

1. Just kind, normal words of encouragement. Not the kind that assume we are one breath away from atheism. Not the kind that attempt to minimize the difficulties and tidy it all up with catchphrases. We don’t actually need for you to fix our wait. We just want you to be our friend and acknowledge that the process is hard and you care about us while we’re hurting. That is GOLD. I was once having lunch with my friend Lynde when AWAA called with more bad news about Ben’s case, and I laid my head down on the table in the middle of Galaxy Café and bawled. Having no idea what to do with such a hot mess, she just cried with me. Thank you for being perfect that day, Lynde.

2. Your questions are welcomed! We don’t mind telling you about the court system in Ethiopia or the in-country requirements in Nicaragua or the rules of the foster system. We’re glad to talk about adoption, and we’re thankful you care. I assure you we didn’t enter adoption lightly, so sharing details of this HUGE PIECE OF OUR LIVES is cathartic. Plus, we want you to know more because we’re all secretly hoping you’ll adopt later. (This is not true.) (Yes it is.)

3. When you say you’re praying for us and our waiting children, and you actually really are, not only does that soothe our troubled souls, but according to Scripture, it activates the heavens. So pray on, dear friends. Pray on. That is always the right thing to say. And please actually do it. We need people to stand in the gap for us when we are too tired and discouraged to keep praying the same words another day.

4. If you can, please become telepathic to determine which days we want to talk about adoption and which days we’d rather you just show up on our doorstep with fresh figs from the Farmer’s Market (thanks, Katie) or kidnap us away in the middle of the day to go see Bridesmaids. Sometimes we need you to make us laugh and remember what it feels like to be carefree for a few hours. If you’re not sure which day we’re having, just pre-buy movie tickets and show up with the figs, and when we answer the door, hold them all up and ask, “Would you like to talk for an hour uninterrupted about waiting for a court date?” We’ll respond to whichever one fits.

Class is dismissed until tomorrow, when we hear Jen's opinions about how to support adoptive families "after the airport."
Thanks for coming!

Adoption 101 - How to be the Village (Part 2)

His name shall be called...