A Note from Shaunti: Did you know that November is National Adoption month? Recently I was looking around the table at our regularly scheduled staff meeting and I realized that four of my eight core staff members are adoptive families! Wow! I’ve had the privilege of walking alongside several of them over the years and I know it is both a beautiful and difficult journey.
Many of us who are not adoptive families have wondered: is there a way to support the adoption and foster care community even if we don’t feel called to become an adoptive family ourselves? Quick answer: YES! This week, I asked my new blog coordinator, Kristy Floyd, to share a bit of her story and how we can best support the adoptive families we know.
Guest Post by Kristy Floyd
Have you ever been in a position where someone genuinely wanted to love you well so they kept asking what you needed, but you could never figure out what to say because you yourself had no idea? Much of our adoption journey has been like that: paved with individuals, friends, family members, and church family asking, “what do you need?” And unfortunately, our response was always, “we honestly just don’t know.”
I’d like to take a moment here to help people who have wondered, and been asked, that question.
My husband, Dane, and I, were in our mid-20s when our family expanded, literally overnight, from one to three children – all around the age of six. “Irish triplets,” people would say. We thought we were ready for this. After all, we had done all the research and read so many books on being an adoptive family. As my dad noted four years later, we felt like we knew it all, but truly didn’t have any idea of what we were walking into as a young husband, wife, and sister. He was so right. We weren’t prepared for the hurt our children had endured and the pain it would cause all of us as we walked with them through healing.
We felt powerless in those moments when people could see our suffering and feel our weariness and we still had no idea how to answer their pleas. What do we need? We need a miracle. For the pain to go away. For the love to grow faster and our kids’ hearts to attach well – even though it wasn’t my skin next to theirs when they were born.
It was and still is so much to carry. But there’s that great phrase in the Bible: “But God….” He always makes a way, doesn’t He? Christian community was and still is a huge part of the answer. Having others surround us with their experience, help, or simply with their willingness to be present was a game-changer for our whole family.
So what is it that those in Christian community can do to help, when a family may not even know themselves? Realistically, every family that walks through adoption will need something different in the ever-changing seasons of their lives for years to come. But there are things that can be done, even when the answer still is, “I wish I knew”:
Pray, pray, pray.
First and foremost, pray. In fact, you may want to make prayer your main ministry to an adoptive family you know.
God is doing a powerful work in adoptive families as they work to help kids heal from trauma (which many adopted kids have, even if they were adopted as infants). And prayer is a key way of fighting the battle – a battle that is not for the faint of heart. It takes many warriors to stand in the gap for families that are often exhausted and feeling alone.
Pick an adoptive family that you know – or more than one – and ask them what you can pray for. Then pray faithfully and follow up to see how they’re doing and get their latest prayer requests. That process will allow the family to trust you with the real prayer requests over time. You might hear big issues, and you might hear small ones. (As one adoptive mom on my team said, after reading a draft of this blog, “I had people storming the gates of heaven over potty training!”)
Be present. There is such peace in knowing that the journey is not walked alone. Sitting with an adoptive mom and/or dad to let them vent about setbacks or celebrate their older child finally giving them a hug is a powerful gift.
One caution: As you listen, some things will come up that sound so foreign to you – at least if you don’t have foster or adopted kids yourselves. Be careful to listen with love, not judgment. And to be a source of strength, not need. One adoptive mom put it this way, “One woman became such an important source of support for me because she would listen as I shared these really hard things, and she was sympathetic and comforting, but she didn’t get emotional or teary-eyed. She stayed calm. That was so valuable because I was wrestling so much with my own emotions, it was too much for me to manage other people’s emotions. So I ended up not sharing a ton with other people because I didn’t have the bandwidth to help them when I could barely help myself.”
Another idea: as you engage with the family, keep an eye out for ways to come alongside that might simply be encouraging. For example, I was given Shaunti’s book, Find Rest. It was something I didn’t know I needed but something God definitely provided. Each devotional helped me walk through times when my heart needed a break or gave permission to trust in my Savior and Abba Daddy when our life felt like it was falling apart.
The people who came alongside us helped me to rest in God’s promise from Isaiah 61:3: that He was taking the ashes of trauma and making them beautiful through the restoration of our family.
Offer to help with specific needs.
This is a big deal: Ask adoptive families how you can help meet specific needs that you know exist. Instead of “how can I help?” ask, “What dinner can I bring by this week?” Instead of “is there anything I can do?” ask, “Which appointment do you need babysitting for, so I can occupy your other kids while you take Robbie to the therapist?” Or even, “When can we have your kids be with us for the weekend, so you and your spouse can get away for two days?”
There will be other specifics, but trust me: every adoptive parent needs food, babysitting, and respite time.
Seek ways to learn.
Finally, work to understand. Ask adoptive families for recommendations of books, websites, and training programs that will allow you to better see life through their eyes. As you understand their family, and what parenting looks like for them, you will start to see more and more how you can be an important ministry to and partner in what God is doing in their family.
These days our kids are preteens and we are healing every day. And thankfully, people continue to ask the question of how they can help. At least in this season, we are finding ways to answer them. None of them require money or expertise. Presence is the most powerful gift.
Spend time in prayer today. Ask God to give voice to adoptive families to find community and for wisdom as to how you can help meet their needs along the way.
Kristy Floyd is the blog coordinator for Shaunti.com, as well as a wife and an adoptive mom. She lives in Texas with her husband, Dane, kids Brenley and Mathan, as well as their spunky Boston Terrier, Fawkes. (Unexpected events occur, as many adoptive families understand, so they are now a family of four, instead of five, but that is a story for a different time.) As a family, they enjoy traveling, food, Jesus, and board games. Daily, they are overwhelmed by God’s promises and the truth that He is bringing beauty from ashes.
This article was also published at Patheos.
Check out the online courses of Shaunti’s research and teachings at SurprisingHope.com.
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