2014 seems like an eternity ago. But it has only been three years since we began this journey. I remember in the early days, during all the waiting, how my wife and I would primarily spend the days in-between updates doing two things.

First, we’d gather as much information about what to expect as possible. We read several books, blogs, and articles on adoption; on adopting siblings; on adopting European children; on adopting out of birth order; on blending biological and adopted children into one sibling group, etc. The internet, adoption advocacy groups, our library, and even Netflix had plenty to offer. We devoured this information like ravenous wolves in an effort to be as prepared for this adventure as we possible could be. We wanted to know all of it – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Second, we tried to find out as much information about the Nation of Poland, Polish people, and Polish culture as possible. This was a little harder. In our efforts, even Rick Steves had only produced one show on Poland and it wasn’t even the whole show! Few other TV travel people had spent much time there. When we found something useful it was like hitting the jackpot! We loved seeing the country, hearing the language, and exploring the culture. We even connected with a local Polish cultural group a time or two. We wanted to know as much as possible about this country from which our children would come.

Probably our greatest source of information and encouragement was from our newly met Polish-adopted local friends. We were so encouraged to know someone else had actually done this before – in nearly the exact same way. It was encouraging to hear their victories and even their struggles. We spoke candidly about the process and the difficulty of adopting children with trauma. Our hearts hurt for the brokenness their children had experienced, but rejoiced with them in every victory. This encouraged us and made us love ALL of our children all the more.

All in all, I think if we had it to do over again, we’d probably do the exact same things.

Probably any and all adoptive families do things like this leading up to and following their adoption journey. In fact, some of you reading this now are doing exactly the same thing my wife and I did for nearly a year…..connecting with and learning from other people’s stories. I’m grateful we have these kinds of things available to us. It makes a huge difference.

But I have one caution for you pre-adoptive people (or even post-adoptive people looking for answers)……

Don’t compare your story with ours or anyone else’s. Your story is your story. While you can glean much from what others have gone through, you really can’t understand or be entirely prepared for what this journey will bring. This is because every story and adoption journey, every child to be adopted, every family is different. Not one experience will match perfectly with any other. Sure, we can learn and grow much from sharing with one another what we’ve been through and with what we’re dealing. I think the danger begins when we believe our story should be the same or better, or if we’re experiencing more difficult things than someone else, that we’re somehow doing it wrong. So just a couple of quick points:

  1. Resist the urge to compare yourself/your story to others. Your story is unique and that’s a good thing! Your child(ren) has unique challenges. That’s OK.
  2. If someone’s public persona seems too good to be true, it probably is. Herein lies the danger of comparing. We live in a society which values positivity and happiness over authenticity. In my experience working with many adoptive and foster families, there are ALWAYS difficult things. Not that we should focus on that, but if  a blog you read or someone you share with paints a picture of perfection, don’t believe you’re failing or useless or doing it wrong if your picture is more flawed. Chances are they have struggles they’re just not sharing publicly. That’s their call, but don’t measure yourself or your family by those standards of perfection. It will be damaging to you in possibly profound ways.
  3. Embrace your journey one day at a time. It’s OK if you had a bad day, if you got nothing accomplished, and you feel emotionally empty. Get some rest and start over tomorrow. While you’re at it, pick up the book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality and begin building a strong inner life which can sustain days or even whole seasons like this one. I promise adoption will bring out the best and the worst in you. Having some tools to fall back on during those times can be the game changer. And for heaven’s sake, let yourself off the hook once in a while!! You’re not a perfect parent, let alone a perfect adoptive parent! You’re going to make mistakes – especially early on. Recover. Adjust. Ask for forgiveness for mistakes. Hug it out. Move forward in love. That’s a recipe for healing.
  4. Choose joy over happiness. Everything is harder and more complicated after you adopt. It can be difficult to find your groove again. You will, but it will take time. In that, often we lose our happiness. That’s OK for a season. Just don’t lose joy. The Bible says to be joyful ALWAYS and give thanks in all circumstances. This is great advice. Joy is a state of the soul, not an emotion of the heart (happiness). But since it’s not always something we feel, it’s usually something we have to choose. I know it’s hard – it is for me – but if you couldn’t handle it, He wouldn’t have called you to it.
  5. Find someone to journey with. There are many online adoption communities on social media and other places. Check with your agency to see if they have any other families locally who’ve used them for adoption. Get together and share honestly. Support one another. Start a support group at your church for adoptive and/or foster families. Do everything you can to do life with others and make sure no one whose taken up the call of adoption has to walk alone.

I hope this encourages you. Amy and I know what it’s like to struggle in this journey. We know what it’s like to hurt and be broken. We know what it’s like to lose our joy. But we also know what it’s like to come out the other side. If we can share with you or encourage you in any way, please…..please don’t hesitate to contact us.

We are rooting for you….and for every orphan on earth to find their family.