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If you’ve followed my blog – either this one or Team Dragovich – it will come as no surprise to you that our family’s most difficult season of adoption came after our children were home.

Maybe this was because we adopted older children. Maybe it was because we went straight from Superman’s deployment to traveling half-way around the world (which, unfortunately for my husband, felt like deja vu) and bringing home two new children when the original three barely had time to re-acquaint themselves with their father. Maybe it was because I spent more of my ‘waiting’ time skimming magazines for girl clothes and following happy blogs of families uniting with babies who seemed to fit perfectly from day one. Somehow I missed all the blogs and articles that shared of post-adoption woes.

Maybe.

Or maybe, no matter the circumstances, my post-adoption journey would have been difficult, even incredibly painful. Dying hurts. And for nearly two years – and sometimes even still – I felt like I was dying.

Rather than regurgitate much of what I’ve already shared of our adoption aftermath, I’ll direct you to some past posts. I’m not sure if any of them still truly express the emptiness I felt, or the darkness within. I have this annoying habit in my writing to place a positive spin on everything – wrap it up in a pretty package and offer it to the masses as a ‘word of encouragement’ – when the reality is oozing and messy; hard to contain and disgusting to the touch.

Building Compassion for my adopted children
Responsibility to my adopted children
Bonding with my daughter
Turning Point

Christians often talk about ‘dying to self’ and ‘taking up your cross and following Jesus.’ Christ says it plain enough:

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” Matthew 16:24-25

The problem is, most our dying is of the self-gratifying kind, thus not true dying at all. We ‘sacrifice’ for our ministries, our neighbors, our families, co-workers, people around the world and more, but often it’s a superficial sacrificing. I know. I’ve done it; a thousand times over, played the walking martyr who does the ‘right thing’ because, “that’s what Jesus would do.”

But, I still hold the strings in much of my life’s direction. I manipulate the motions. Not until I’m backed into a corner and forced into a decision of surrendering my will, my dreams, my attitudes, my ideas, my hopes and my securities – really, the essence of who I think I am – does the dying kind of sacrifice begin.

I knew that adopting would be a sacrifice. I was willing to risk the pain (at least, the amount of pain I perceived I would suffer) in order to parent two more children. There was a desire and conviction to adopt.

But the depth of sacrifice was God’s doing. And for me, He chose adoption to teach me a tiny sliver more about the dying kind of sacrifice; the only kind of sacrifice that can result in full life.

Our family’s social worker – who was equal parts of blunt before we brought the kids home (“just expect the first year to be a living hell”) and supportive in the aftermath – says that 99% of families she counsels say the other side of adoption was nothing like they thought (dreamt) it would be; regardless of the age of the children adopted.

If this is the case, then: a) How the heck did I end up on all the 1% of happy family post-adoption blog sites; and b) How do people support one another better in the dying? How do we keep from offering trite platitudes and band-aid Scripture quotes (which is incredibly abusive to God’s Word) when what’s really needed are fellow valley walkers. Maybe then, more people would be courageous enough to share honestly without fear of judgment, rather than feel a need to constantly gloss over their own pain.

It’s true, not many people want to hear, “I think I’ve just ruined our family,” after they spent 18 months supporting your insane decision to adopt in the first place. And in an age so insulated against suffering, is it any wonder? Any measure of persevering through hardships we Westerners have ever known has quickly been stamped out over the last 100 years or so; accelerating upon the creation of Apple Inc. (Thank you, God, for Steve Jobs).

But, real life – I mean real life worth living – is filled with both: pain and joy. In fact, who can say they’re living joyfully, unless they’ve walked the valley road? And who can benefit fully from the valley if they’re constantly looking for a canyon wall to scale or being rushed through by well-meaning people who hate to see them suffer, but aren’t willing to walk alongside them, either?

 

The rest of this week – the last week of celebrating National Adoption Awareness Month – I’ll share at least one other post-adoption story from a fellow adoptive friend. I will offer you a few sources that continue to feed and nurture me as I learn to embrace the light and dark of living together. I’ll also highlight some organizations that minister to the widow and orphan.

Friday, I’ll do the drawing for both Love You More, an adoption memoir by Jennifer Grant, and The Girl in the Orange Dress: Searching for a Father Who Does Not Fail by Margot Starbuck; both writing friends and fellow members of the Redbud Writers Guild.

So… leave a comment! Do you have an “aftermath” story to share? Do you have a friend who needs you to put on your valley-walking shoes? Maybe not regarding adoption, but in any arena of life – the world needs less band-aiders and more valley walkers.

 

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