Welcome to the KingZoo and Funny Farm, where we learn to live, laugh, and love together. Here you'll find snippets of life in our zoo, parenting tips we've learned along the way, reflections on shining God's light in this world, passions in the realm of orphan care and our journey as parents of a visually impaired child. Have fun!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Stress and hope

I recently read a blog post written by a new foster mom.  In it she listed the top 10 (or was it 20?) truths she has learned as a new foster parent.  While I agreed with most of what she said, I struggled with one of her points.  It was when she said that given structure and love, all children will thrive.  The very next day I read a post written by a man very involved in orphan care, reminding foster and adoptive parents to be honest and realistic when we speak about parenting these children; no rose colored glasses and perfect pictures.

Maybe the first author was blessed with a best-case scenario; a "Disney World" fostering situation.  It happens.  Some children do thrive immediately.  Some children bond easily and some never struggle with identity or past issues. But more often, children still struggle with abandonment, control, disruptive behaviors, anger, and a host of other issues even in the most loving environments.  It takes a lot more than structure and love.  Studies have shown that for many of these children, the trauma and losses they experienced early on will hinder their ability to think, reason, and process for a long time, sometimes forever.

And it effects not only the child and parents, but the whole family as well.  We attend an adoption support group.  I go for me.  I need this place where I'm not alone, where we understand each other, where we can talk about what's happening at home and where we can share research and ideas.  I go for my adoptive children.  They need a place where they are not alone, where they understand each other and where they can talk about what's happening at home and in their minds.  I go for my biological children.  They need a place where they are not alone, where they understand each other and where they can talk about what's happening at home and in their minds.  Someone recently asked me if it was fair to separate the kids into bio and adopted kids at support group.  It's not only fair, it's necessary.  Both sets of children need a place to talk and vent and share their feelings without fear of hurting the other party's feelings.  They are at different places, they come from different backgrounds. They need to be with those who understand and validate their feelings.  The biological child who made the above picture may not have done so if sitting in a room with an adopted sibling close by.  I need to see this, though, because it tells me how this child is feeling.

Another child made this picture.  We talked about it and it gave me so much insight into this child's feelings.  Between the two of them they have identified that adoption is stress, a weight (as represented by the large mug and small hand) needs preparation, diverse (thus the different chips in the top left corner), hope, joy, not simple, different, and includes more kids.  Neither child would say that adoption is wrong.  Neither would say that we shouldn't have adopted.  Neither would I.  Parenting is hard, some children are more difficult than others.  The same is true of adopted children but with the addition of loss and sometimes trauma, it can be even more difficult.

Growing up, I saw missionaries as the epitome of Christian service.  I loved their slide shows (yes, I'm that old) and their testimonies of God's goodness in the times of trial.  One that I've never forgotten was a family called to Papua New Guinea (I had never even heard of Papua New Guinea prior to their presentation but I've never forgotten it since).  They lost a child to a sudden accident while on the mission field.  They grieved but they also knew that God was still in control.  They never expected life in service to be perfect or "pretty" but expected hardship to come. In answering the call, they knew that they would need to be willing to be uncomfortable (or worse) so that others could be comfortable. I remember wishing for such a "noble" call and wondered why I wasn't special enough to be chosen for God's service.

Today I know that being called to the mission field overseas is not the only kind of service.  Each of us is called to our own "hard place" but a place from where we can love the unlovable and serve the least of these.  We also need to go forward in our place of mission knowing that it is going to be difficult.When someone is called to overseas missions, they go through extensive training in culture, language, the Bible, etc.  The sending agencies want their missionaries to be prepared for what they will face.  They want them to know ahead of time that they will need to be uncomfortable so that those they serve can be comfortable.  They want them to have hope in the hard places but to be realistic as well.

This goes against everything in our American culture which tells us that we need to be comfortable at all costs.  But we don't serve the gods of selfishness, consumerism, and entitlement.  We serve a God of love, compassion, and service.  We give sacrificially to those we are called to serve because we serve a God who made the ultimate sacrifice for us.  In our love for Him, we serve others.  It hurts.  It's messy.  It's love.

I'm more aware than ever that when I talk to those who are considering orphan care of any kind, I want to be hopeful yet realistic.  I want them to be aware of the issues.  Know the statistics and the research.  Love and pray.  A lot.  Seek help.  Get respite.  Know that you are not alone.  If you have a Disney World adoption, know you are blessed.  If you don't, you are still blessed but don't feel like you're doing something wrong.  Press in to the One who asked you to care for His children in the first place.  Parenting, and especially parenting wounded children, is where we learn to rely on His strength and wisdom. And ultimately, there is hope.

If you aren't called to adopt, maybe you're being asked to help those who have.  Pray for them.  Get to know these parents and their children.  Offer respite if you can, for either an adopted child or the biological sibling(s).  Even a few hours apart from the child can be so refreshing for every member of the family.  Behaviors that come out at home will often be non-existent for the few hours that child is with you.  That doesn't mean the adoptive/foster family is doing something wrong.  Don't judge.  You can help relieve some of the stress in the family by just being a safe place away from home.

And if you aren't called to adopt or help those who have, you aren't off the hook.  You are called to your own hard place.  It won't be easy.  You won't be able to do it on your own strength. But you likely won't have to leave the country to find it.

“Stay where you are. Find your own Calcutta. Find the sick, the suffering, and the lonely right there where you are — in your own homes and in your own families, in your workplaces and in your schools. You can find Calcutta all over the world, if you have the eyes to see. Everywhere, wherever you go, you find people who are unwanted, unloved, uncared for, just rejected by society — completely forgotten, completely left alone.”

Mother Teresa (1910-1997);
Founder Of The Missionaries Of Charity


2 comments:

  1. You are such a good writer. I'm sorry for all of the struggles but i pray tender mercies will be showered upon you. You are a great person! Love you my friend! xox

    ReplyDelete