What Happens When You Decide to Adopt Big Kids

Shannan Martin

Published: Jan 20, 2017
What Happens When You Decide to Adopt Big Kids
Now and then I’m asked what it’s like to adopt, and people especially wonder about adopting big kids from hard places. Here’s what I would say... they will wreck you, and you will love them anyway.

Now and then I talk to people who just decided to adopt, as though adoption was woven into the very fabric of their heart. Intuitively, they understand the significance of families being forged through loss and see it as part of God’s natural design for their family. I’m inclined to envy these people, just for a moment. They must be wiser than I to understand that adoption, far beyond necessity, is the treasure of a lifetime.

For us, the journey began when we were unexpectedly handed the gift of infertility. This was the sort of trouble we had never borrowed, and we found ourselves ill-prepared. I held my dreams for future children with their daddy’s blue eyes like an egg on a spoon, watching it like a hawk, charting, checking, guzzling home remedies, and pushing my emotional health to the brink. As a young woman conditioned to believe I was largely in control of my life, reality told a different story. After a year of tests, shots, and quizzical looks from our doctor, our hearts shifted. We would be adopting.

Any control I had lost fell neatly back into my hands as we navigated the deluge of forms, physicals, and appointments. We scrambled for the funds to pay for our family which was quietly being knit together across oceans and rivers. One year after bringing our first son home from South Korea, our daughter was born just across the city. Three more years, and we boarded a plane for South Korea for our second precious son, a little boy whose small frame and infectious giggle belied the magnitude of his grief.

I had been rescued from the family I had imagined for myself and offered the family I was made for – unexpected, complicated, and surpassing my wildest dreams. We got to work growing our roots into the same soil. Our forever-family of five seemed just right.

We didn’t know our family wasn’t done growing. We couldn’t have imagined that our next addition was a strapping young man serving time in jail, trying to navigate his painful past and difficult future without the support of a family who would love him forever.

He blew into our world, shattering our ideas about what family is “supposed” to look like. Before long, others followed. Though some are more “officially” ours than others, these big kids continue to shift our hearts as we learn to open our door, stretch the soup, and draw a circle of “family” around all of us.

At every turn, with our young children, our bigs, and the orphaned adults who find their way to us, we are reminded that we are all lonely kids longing for home.

Now and then I’m asked what it’s like to adopt, and people especially wonder about adopting big kids from hard places. Some might say I’m a fool and I’m putting my family at risk. Every once in a while I lock eyes with someone, and it’s clear—they want a big, weird family of their own.

Here’s what I would say to that: this sort of family, cobbled together from necessity and the stubborn insistence that God wasn’t playing when he said no one should be left lonely, it will unhinge you.

These big kids, they will wreck you.

They won’t always be as grateful as you hope and will expose your own selfishness. They’ll storm off when you tell them the truth about things. They’ll smoke on your front porch. They’ll tell you lies.

They’ll hog the couch and make you laugh when you’re trying to read. They’ll eat nasty food. They’ll teach you things you never wanted to know about a life you couldn’t possibly have imagined.

They’ll find the loosest seam of your heart, and they’ll yank that thread.

They’ll exhaust you, exasperate you. They’ll crack you up so bad.

They’ll go home. Go to jail. Go missing for months on end. They’ll avoid your calls. They’ll unfriend you.

You’ll tell yourself you’re done, then wonder where they’re sitting as the moon lifts higher.

You’ll worry every single day about them and pray that they come back.

You’ll have a front-row seat to many of their failures, but you just won’t care too much about the mistakes. You only want them safe under your roof. You want to feed them peanut butter cake and heat them a bowl of soup.

At every turn you’ll see yourself in them and wonder how anyone was ever able to put up with you. You’ll be unable to ignore the ways you settle for less than you were made for, align with lies, and struggle to live as a child of God.

You’ll find something to be proud of and say it often and out loud—“I’m proud of you.” You’ll learn a tiny bit about the complicated codes they live and love by.

Your heart will break in shock waves, a second time, a tenth.

It won’t matter. You’ll lovethem.

Here, in this land of the messy, grumpy, nit-picking living, my long-term plans continue to be stunningly wrong. Life keeps turning me on a dime, then doing it again. Every time I land, the sky is green, the earth is blue, and I’m slack-jawed over the good sense it makes.

In this wonky approach to knitting our family together, we didn’t actually solve anyone’s problems. It was never about that. We just kept the door ajar, and they walked in. And then we didn’t want them to leave.

Dr. Phil says hurt people hurt people, and I’ve seen it in action, from both sides. But standing at my kitchen island with my ragtag band of comrades, I’m inclined to believe the opposite is true too. We’re all hurting, to varying depths. Some wounds bear more indelible manifestations; these scars can’t be covered. We don’t need fresh air or increased personal space in order to heal. We need the gentle compression of each other, living in close proximity with certain kinship. Hurt people heal people.

Offer love and acceptance, and it will circle back around. Do this, and “your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back” (Luke 6:38).

Family was meant to live on a loop, a hazy beginning with no end in sight, the pulsing bass line that God’s kingdom on earth is alive. Right here.

Image Credit: Unsplash.com

Shannan Martin, author of the new release, Falling Free: Rescued From the Life I Always Wanted, is a speaker and writer who found her voice in the country and her story in the city. She and her jail-chaplain husband, Cory, have four funny children who came to them across oceans and rivers. Having sold their dream farmhouse, they now enjoy neighborhood life in Goshen, Indiana. She blogs at Shannan Martin Writes.

Taken from: Falling Free: Rescued from the Life I Always Wanted. Copyright © 2016 by Shannan Martin. Published by Nelson Books, an Imprint of Thomas Nelson, www.thomasnelson.com. Used by Permission.