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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The "What Not To Do" Handbook

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”   -- Joshua 1:9

Some would tell you there’s a fine line between courageous and foolish. In fact, some would tell you that the Owens family crossed that line long ago.

When we announced our plans to adopt Hannah and Joseph, Dan and I were accused of being foolish and a whole lot worse. Our adoption pretty much broke every rule in the “What Not to Do When You Adopt” handbook. In fact, I think there might be a picture of Dan and me on the cover of that handbook.

For sure, there were a lot of unusual components to our adoption: we adopted out of birth order, we adopted two children who were not biological siblings, we didn’t use an agency, we did not adopt from a true orphanage, we had no health or family history on either child, the list goes on. But far and away, the the issue that raised the most concern was this: Dan and I adopted two “older” children.

By most standards, Hannah and Joseph are not older children. But by adoption standards, they are practically dinosaurs. The vast majority of the people seeking to adopt want a healthy baby –18 months old or younger.

So when we started telling people about our plans to adopt a 3 year old and a 4 year old, we heard things like this:

• “Older kids carry so much baggage with them. They are really going to be hard.”

• “You need to be prepared for them to show aggression towards your younger children.”

• “Do you know an older child will never really attach to you?”

• “You’re going to have to spend so much time dealing with their developmental delays.”

But Dan and I knew we’d heard the Lord on this one and we were determined to march forward. We did our best to prepare. We sought advice from friends who'd blazed the trail before us. We prayed. And we read some good books. Especially this one:

And what of all the concerns and criticism that so many people expressed to us? How have those issues played out? Well, it’s only been three months. But so far, Hannah and Joseph have never shown one second of aggression towards Baby Charlotte - unless, of course, you consider smothering someone with kisses to be aggressive.

Are they attached to us? I’d say we’re doing pretty well…

But what about their developmental delays? Well, I won’t lie… Hannah and Joseph both came to us with some significant delays. But before they even came home, Dan and I agreed that we would give them at least 6 months to learn and grow on their own before seeking any type of therapy or professional intervention.

And in that area alone, we’ve been blessed and privileged to literally behold miracle after miracle. When Hannah and Joseph first arrived, they were barely able to grip a crayon in their hands. But just last week, they colored this little treasure for me:

Three months ago, Hannah was terribly uncoordinated… almost clumsy. She was constantly dropping things and falling as she walked. She spilled her food and drink at every meal. She could not pedal a bike or climb a ladder. And yesterday afternoon, I took this video:

Yep, that would be Hannah zooming down the street on her scooter, balanced on one leg.

Hannah and Joseph came to us barely speaking a word of English. Last week, I happened to catch this on video… it’s Hannah, reading a book to Baby Charlotte:

I’m not saying that every adoption experience will be like ours. I’m not saying that the rules of the “What Not To Do” handbook don’t exist for a reason. But I am saying that I’ll take obedience to Christ over worldly wisdom any day. Whether it’s adoption or another step of faith, we can trust that He will equip us for all He calls us to do.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him and He will make your paths straight.” – Proverbs 3:5-6, NIV, emphasis mine


love said...

shelly owens. i love you. i am so proud and thankful for your obedience to God. for your knowing that God is bigger than the label 'older child.' that He is bigger than birth order. that He is so much bigger than what the world wants us to believe about all of this.

love wins.

praying for you always. may you all be blessed beyond belief for you love and obedience.

Chasity said...

Timely once again dearest Shelly! Thanks for blessing this heart of mine as a by-product of your faithfulness to finding Him faithful in all He has called you to.

La Dolce Vita: The Sweet Life said...

Love this post. Wait...think I said this about your last post!

Love that you did what what God lead you to do. Period. It is such a beautiful thing to see. So glad that you are being blessed with a good transition.

The video of your daughters reading together is priceless.

Lara said...

Love this. I think I will just forward this to the many e-mailers who ask me about birth order. I just keep finding myself saying "God is bigger than that." You guys are living proof. Proud to call you friend.

the monkeys' mama said...

thanks for this Shelly. I was literally just sharing with my Bible study ladies two hours ago about adopting older kids. Pray for J as he is afraid of those worldly labels that you mentioned. If it is meant to be, I know God will open those doors in his heart!

We Are Family said...

Great post! We too broke every adoption handbook rule! All the 'rules' you listed, we broke too ;) God knows what HE is doing!

Anonymous said...

All I can say is Amen to Love's comment :) Well, that and I'm so blessed by how I see the Lord moving in and through you!

Queen Los said...

Thanks for being a testimony to what God can do through faithful obedience.

Anonymous said...

Yes!! Love this post and the TRUTH you speak!


Wild Olive said...

Love that Joseph's sweet smile and Hannah's sweet voice! So thankful you listened to God's voice, too, yo. :)
Love you

PS - Charlotte is acting drunk in your video. You might want to ask her to lay off the sauce.

Mandi said...

I really needed this tonight. Shelly, God's timing, what a beautiful thing-always. We are in the process as you know. We too are adopting out of birth order and "older" like 3 and 5-6. I read a blog post about a mom's oldest of 2 adopted daughters and their gut-wrenching journey to a RAD diagnosis. I'm not going to lie, fear gripped my heart. Then I thought, no one sat me down when I was pregnant and listed out all the possible difficulties and challenges my baby "might" have one day. No one warned me that I might have a special needs child... I mean we all know it is possible, but we never think it's going to be us. Well that did happen, years later..and it changed our lives and God was right there. And God knew it from the beginning just as He knows everything about each of my Ugandan babies and come what may He determines what we can/can't handle...if life gets harder than I hope for, who am I to question His plans. Our lives are to glorify Him and fulfill his mysterious eternal purposes.... and he didn't promise us easy. Obviously I need to blog about this ;) Thanks for letting me share...you've been a greater encouragement than you will EVER know.

Shannon Evans said...

So good to hear!!! I love your little treasures and am so so glad to see that they're thriving! God is being glorified.