Adopting Outside the Birth Order
“Sometimes what we call ‘wisdom’ is actually fear,” she said, casually, but carefully in response to the story I’d just told her.
We’d been parents for under two years. We’d just begun to hit a stride with Eden and Caleb when we felt the nudge to say ‘yes’ to yet another paper pregnancy. We suspected it would be two, but felt for sure it would be children who were the same age or younger as our two now. “The paint is still too fresh on the walls,” Nate said when I told him about the older girl lingering around the orphan babies with new stories emerging, often overlooked. She haunted my waking hours. “Later, we’ll adopt an older girl,” was his response.
I agreed. The thing I wanted most was actually the thing I feared most.
Isn’t that how it always is? Fear forms a hedge around our greatest calling.
But then, through a circuitous series of events –one that, in retrospect, was the undeniably kind and gentle way of the Father, we learned about her.
Nate’s heart changed. “We have to go after her, Sara” he said one morning.
Somewhere deep down I knew he was right, but my mind made a case otherwise. Fear wore the guise of reason.
And when I recounted to my friend, that afternoon over tea, all the reasons why adopting an older child, alongside another and outside of the birth order, at this time just didn’t feel wise, she spoke truth.
I had article after article and hours of classwork to back up my case. And, friends, I am a researcher by nature so my intent in this post is not to blow the research out of the water, but it’s to point to a Man who, at times, trumps both research and reason.
God builds the family.
“I need to do what Lily does, Daddy,” she said. It was the first morning we saw significant progress in an issue on which we’d focused heavy attention, prayer and training weeks prior. Our “first” oldest child made a shift. Her newly-older sister’s example, the catalyst.
Eden was joyful and obedient. Her little-heart’s zeal for Jesus and His children was unquenchable, and she was about all-things-Mommy-and-Daddy. Her life carried the perfect mark of an oldest child, one that would set the pace for children to come after her. “We want to preserve her place in our family,” we told our social worker during our homestudy. Every time I said that phrase I felt a nudge, a check, as if maybe that framework was being checked by the true family Planner.
When we learned about Lily, all we knew of her was her picture and a few brief observations from her soon-to-be foster mama. On paper, she was foolish for us. Adopting a child who would be third or fourth in line seemed like less of a risk than this one (who could be as old as 10 or 11 for all we knew), after which all the others would now follow.
But He led. He confirmed. He gently course-corrected.
And we walked what felt like the plank, with no reason other than His.
At times while we waited — and even after we immersed ourselves in Africa’s dust — the fear felt unbearable to me. I would read an email, a post to an adoption forum, another research article and find myself shackled, again. What were we thinking? We’re nuts. Worst-case scenario thinking would rest over me like a cloud. Our first few weeks with her offered many opportunities for me to search for confirmation of those very fears. My perspective was horizontal, not first from His source, going out from me and back to me.
But then, beauty broke dirt’s surface. Early indications rolled in: His plan was better.
Her quiet, gentle spirit began to carry a mantle of leadership. She desired obedience, and they made her a role model. She looked for hidden ways to bless, and they stole her ideas. She giggled loud, and the joy that marked our family before she came only grew. She received, and they, too, sought to shed orphan-skin.
He sent us a first-born, late but just in time, who hungered for Jesus — my deepest heart cry for my children.*
We couldn’t have ever known. Our principles would have kept us from His perfect plan, had He not been so gentle to speak clear and consistently.
He showed Himself faithful to thwart our plans with a better one.
Just the other day Nate found this in his pocket.
Her own words, not copywork. She hid it in his coat. Full of surprises, our little girl, their big sister.
Full of surprises, this mysterious God.
*One caveat for those of you who have brought older children home and are in the midst of the inevitable intensity that comes with a life finding a new home in you: our highs with Lily are sometimes proportionate to our lows. But isn’t that so with life? We want her to soar with Him, but it’s in the lowest places where we find that we were made to soar the heights. Lest you read this post and think we drew a “lucky” card, Jesus is healer in our home. And He will show Himself healer in yours. Though you may not see it today, I pray my words might be the same signpost He’s flashed for me. (He continues to flash for me.) God always wins, their hearts are included in that promise. Part of the healing, for us — for our hearts, has been to set up memorials around beauty and make the decision not to see struggle as the final verdict, but a pathway. He is good.