12 January 2008

Hope, Expectations and Premeditated Disappointments

I went to sleep last night still thinking about what I would offer the parents of children with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. I began wondering what I would anticipate if I were going to adopt a child knowing that they may have special needs and considerations. Then the thought came to me, "What child doesn't have special needs and considerations?!" Children are basically black holes of need, no matter what syndromes have been attributed to them or describe their behavior. Admittedly, some are more challenging than others, but none of them get parented properly without effort; love, sweat and prayers.

I was grateful to see a comment posted on my first blog article regarding adoption and parenting children with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). My prayers were answered in that the person who left a comment is a Christian who has experience being raised with siblings and raising children with either FAS or Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). I haven't read her blog thoroughly but I have glanced through enough to see some heart tugging stuff. Vicki, I hope you'll read Kari's comment and peruse her blog(s).

It occurs to me that the first bit of counsel I would give someone considering the adoption of any child is to make certain they know what they are getting into. One of the wisest and godliest men I have ever known taught me this: "Any time we expect something other than God to act according to His character we are setting ourselves up for failure-those expectations are premeditated disappointments." I wish I had known that before I took two beautiful little girls into my life and we made our family. It would not have changed my mind about raising them, but it would have changed how I raised them.

I knew that going from my single and self-indulgent lifestyle to parenting was going to be difficult. I had no idea how difficult it would be and the difficulty was going to be found with me. Sure the girls had their problems- they were kids after all, but I was the one who was supposed to have the tools as an adult, not them. God used those two precious girls to expose how selfish and self-focused I was. Trying to love children, especially on your own, is an excellent way to magnify each and every character flaw in you. For readers not familiar with me, I raised two of my sister's children after her death. I went from single to single parent in an instant. My sister actually had five children. For reasons that I won't go into here, I raised only two of them and coordinated visits with the other three children who were living in two other households. So, I got to live like a single, never been married, widowed and divorced parent all at once. Now I get to be a grandma and I hope to be much better at this job than I was as a parent. Ahhh!

Back to expectations. As believers we can expect God to fulfill each and every one of His promises to us. He will exchange grace for grace. Today's grace may not be sufficient for tomorrow's trials so He renews it daily. If you are going to adopt a special needs child, you need to rely on those promises and seek that daily grace. You need to know it is going to be hard. It is going to be frustrating. It is going to be a lifelong commitment. Your heart will break and God will mend it. Your guts will churn and God will soothe them. You will become weary and God will send you help and give you rest. You need to be all in and not be just one more trauma in life for the child to get over. You need the fellowship of believers who live their lives in Christ with purpose and with passion. You will need their encouragement, you will need their prayers you will need their help. Practical help.

Adopting a child with FAS may mean you need to be ok with the fact that you may never ever be appreciated for your efforts this side of eternity with Jesus, at least not from the child. You need to be ok with the idea that it is not about you. It is first and foremost about God and His glory and the souls he has entrusted to you. Make no mistake, these fragile vessels contain souls created in His image. They will not complete you. They will not make you whole. You are not going to be able to love them enough to fix them. As with all children, they are a mission field. God will use you as tools in His hands, but you may never get to appreciate His handiwork nor the depth of change your earnest loving and striving will make in the child's life and in the lives of those who watch you. Not here anyway. Heaven is another story- and there it won't matter to you as you'll be in presence of Almighty God, our hope and the only one deserving of glory.

Reflecting on my own life, parenting was the hardest thing I have ever done. It is also the most rewarding thing I have ever done. If you are being called to parent a child with FAS, don't be discouraged by how difficult it is going to be, just be ready- expect to be refined and blessed.

More to come

Proverbs 10:28-30
28 The hope of the righteous is gladness, but the expectation of the wicked perishes.
29 The way of the LORD is a stronghold to the upright, but ruin to the workers of iniquity.
30 The righteous will never be shaken, but the wicked will not dwell in the land.

Proverbs 23:18
18 Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off.

Lamentations 3:22-25
22 The LORD'S lovingkindnesss indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail.
23 {They} are new every morning; great is Thy faithfulness.
24 "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "Therefore I have hope in Him."
25 The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him.

Romans 12:10-15
10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor;
11 not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;
12 rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer,
13 contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and curse not.
15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.

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