Give them GRACE!

These past few weeks have been a roller coaster of emotions and hard realities.  Appointment after appointment has kept me busy and scrambling for childcare, forcing me to humble myself enough to ask for help.  I've truly experienced what it feels like to be the 'helped' as opposed to the 'helper'.  To see the sacrifice people have made to bring meals, watch the kids, and so selflessly offer prayer and love has overflowed my heart with gratitude that I could never put into words.  So I just wanted to start this blog by thanking everyone who has bent over backwards to make this transition as smooth as possible.  

We've been home a little over a month, and I've braved going out in public with all 4 by myself...twice.  I've seen strangers look at us and count, "1...2...3...4??" under their breath in disbelief.  Few people have even come up to me and asked, "Are they ALL yours?" while clearly keeping their eyes locked on the Asian.  I know a lot of adoptive parents are annoyed with questions.  I don't mind talking about it, and I'm learning how to answer those awkward questions in a way that educates as opposed to humiliates.  It's no secret Emi is not biologically mine, and all of my kids are watching how I handle the questions and comments.  Do I get irritated that they would dare think Emi doesn't belong to me?  Or do I graciously answer their question, validating that Emi is very much a part of our family, she just came in a different way than the others?  I know it will get harder as she gets older, as I will want to protect her from feeling like she doesn't belong.  But I also know that acting like there's something to prove will only breed insecurity.  She's ours and we love her.  She was adopted.  There's nothing to be secretive or defensive about.  If I truly believe that, then there's no reason to gasp in horror when someone mentions the word 'adopted' in the presence of the kids.  Clearly, she's adopted. Or I'm babysitting.  Both VERY logical assumptions.  Ninety-nine percent of the time questions are asked out of completely innocent, genuine interest. 

Because we've adopted a child with special needs, it's put us into 2 groups - the adoption community and the special needs community.  The issue I mentioned above is just a result of our adopting trans-racially.  However, I've uncovered the world of special needs activists as well.  All of a sudden, 'normal' is never OK to say.  The appropriate term is 'typical'. I've been corrected that Emi has special needs, she is NOT a 'Downs Kid'.  She IS normal, just not 'typical'.  And (so I've heard) have mercy on the poor soul that asks, "She has special needs?  What's wrong with her?" 

Ugh.  It just makes my head hurt!  And my heart, for that matter.  Whatever happened to GRACE? 

Before we adopted and before we were part of the special needs community, we would have asked the EXACT SAME QUESTIONS.  Actually, I still do sometimes.  It doesn't mean that I have a lack of respect or that I'm maliciously plotting to offend someone.  They are just words - terminology that has become tabooed because of our obsession with political-correctness.  In our attempt to FORCE normalcy, we've created insecurity and stifled uniqueness.  Treat them like they're the same as everyone else, but different and special at the same time.  How does that work?

I recently read a blog (not belonging to anyone I know) of an adoptive mom that expressed frustration that their kids' friends did not understand adoption.  The overall tone was something like 'teach your kids about adoption so my kids don't have to'.  I couldn't disagree more.  Who better to teach the world about adoption than those who have experienced the joys and hardships first hand?  What an amazing opportunity for our kids to share the gospel!  Adoption is not the norm.  It will spark questions and controversy.  When we chose to adopt, we committed to educate our children on how to honestly answer these questions and graciously deal with adversity, not suddenly expect everyone they come in contact with to ask the RIGHT questions the RIGHT way with the RIGHT tone and the RIGHT terminology.  We do not expect the world to understand every unspoken, politically correct rule.  How will they know if they don't ask?  I want my sweet kids, who love their sister more than words can say, to teach others and be tangible examples of the grace of God.  I want the world to hear it from them.   

I know this goes against the grain of a lot of what you'll read and hear from the outspoken members of the adoptive and special needs communities.  But the more time goes by, the more frustrated I get with the overall victim mentality that seems to dominate blogs and discussion groups.  And I'm not implying that there is never the appropriate time to intervene on your child's behalf.  It is part of our job to protect them.  But if I can, I'd rather protect them by using these early years preparing them as opposed to acting like I'm entitled to humiliate someone who asks an innocent, and possibly a little tactless, question.  The last thing I want to do is make people afraid to ask about our adoption story for fear of saying the 'wrong' thing.

Chances are, you might hear me say Emi is an Asian Downs Kid that we adopted.

(GASP!) 

Not said in the most eloquent way, but it is true.  She's carefully and wonderfully made by a perfect Creator that does NOT make mistakes, but she's not 'normal' by the world's standards.  And guess what?  I'm OK with that, and if I make this clear in the way I react, my kids will follow suit.  There will come a day when mean, malicious things will be said out of prejudice.  Emi will be called dumb.  Jenna will be told she's not skinny enough or pretty enough.  Caleb will be made fun of for not being the tough guy.  Luke might be struggle with his speech for the rest of his life.  They ALL will experience negativity that will threaten their identity, sense of belonging, and feelings of self-worth.  And my heart will break into a million pieces for them.  But my prayer is that we teach them how to handle such situations with grace and confidence that only comes from Christ, and that I will not condition them to be defensive and insecure.  The way we react to others' comments has WAY more affect on our kids than the comments themselves.  It will teach them how to handle these inevitable circumstances - to either cower under the weight of words or rise above them. 

"And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly, to love MERCY, and to walk HUMBLY with your God." Micha 6:8

"Therefore...clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience." Colossians 3:12