“‘Where are you, God?’ I whispered quietly in my closet through hot, devastated tears. He had brought us to this point, but where was He now? How did I feel this lonely and isolated all of the sudden? He whispered back in the closest thing to an audible voice I’ve ever experienced, ‘This is still My plan, even when there’s nothing in it for you.’
Let me back up a bit. That conversation happened in August of 2015, but the story really starts in my adolescent years when a desire to adopt began to grow in me. It eventually morphed into a more specific desire to adopt older kids, the ones who were the most needy, the most at-risk. Does this sound crazy? I think it does too.
When I met my husband in 2010, I didn’t want to waste my time with someone who was not down with my plan, so I let him know on probably our second date that I wanted to adopt someday. Thankfully, he was cool with that and not nearly as freaked out as he probably should have been in retrospect. We got married in 2012 and lived the newlywed, no-kids life for all of 2 years before that passion started bubbling to the surface again. I was pregnant with our first biological child, Grady, due in December, 2014. We had always talked about adopting older kids, you know, like 7, 8…maybe 9, but had never considered teenagers, partly because that was terrifying and partly because I was barely out of the teen years myself.
But then, I saw these two boys in the heart gallery for our state. We quickly found out that they were 12 and 13 years old, which was clearly above our planned age limit, but there was something special about these two. I sent a screen shot to Bryan asking for the go-ahead, and before we knew it, we were emailing with their caseworker and signing up for training to adopt through foster care. I was the only pregnant woman at our training (imagine that), and I was getting, ‘You are insane’ looks a-plenty. In hindsight, I totally get it, but at the time, I felt like we were exactly where we were supposed to be.
We made it through training and kept in contact with the boys’ caseworker the whole time. Our home was officially opened in January of 2015 and we excitedly emailed the worker as soon as we opened to let her know we were ready to start visitation. This is when we got our first piece of hard news. The boys’ foster mom had decided that she wanted to adopt them, and although we were happy for their permanency, it felt like the wind was knocked out of us and we had to start all over again.
We had to pass on a few other kids for one reason or another, and it wasn’t until we started taking matters into our own hands again and contacting caseworkers about heart gallery kids that we started moving forward. We reached out about a boy who lived a few hours away and asked if we would be a good candidate for him. Things were looking good and we were quickly scheduled for a visitation with him in March 2015. He and his caseworker made the trip to our city and we hung out for the afternoon. A few days later though, we were told that he had chosen another family. Another devastation and another door closed. The next week, his caseworker called us.
‘Have you been notified of that boy’s roommate at the group home where they lived?,’ he asked.
‘We have not,’ I replied.
‘Would you be willing to meet him?,’ he followed up.
In May, we geared up for another visitation with a boy we didn’t know who could possibly become our son.
We met with him and everything felt like it just fell into place. He was almost 14 years old, had sandy blonde hair, loved rap music, and played football. We took him bowling and out for lunch. He had a sense of humor and seemed to think we were cool, and he liked our house. Everyone was in agreement that it had gone well and that we should proceed. 3 months later, he was moving in with us the day after his 14th birthday – and the day before his first day of high school.
The day he moved in was the day I had that conversation with God, and it was one that I would replay over and over again in the coming years. Where I had felt a passion and a drive to push and get him in our home so we could become this awesome adoptive family and save this kid and make a difference in the world suddenly felt like the mist. I didn’t understand how or why I felt the way I did, so I snuck away to my closet to try and process. God spoke words to me that I didn’t know I needed, but with the coming typhoon, I couldn’t have needed anything more.
With most adoptions past infancy, there is a ‘honeymoon period.’ A time when everyone has sweet words and kind behavior and stays neatly inside all the boundaries. When the honeymoon was over at around 3 months, we started seeing things we had only heard about in training. All of that trauma that our rose-colored glasses had painted over was rearing its ugly head and we were all drowning in the tidal waves of his past that were begging the questions…
‘Is it safe here?’
‘Can I show you who I really am?’
‘Can you take it?’
‘Will you leave too?’
We learned about attachment disorders and how the brain forms connections with others. We learned how those connections can be severed through pain and broken trust and betrayal. We learned that a child who has been through trauma has a brain that physically looks different than those who haven’t. We learned that when a child is taught that the ones who are supposed to protect them won’t over and over again, something happens inside that can’t be easily reversed. We learned that PTSD isn’t just for soldiers. We learned that secondary trauma is real and that self care isn’t just about cheesy hashtags. We learned that we alone are not enough to fix anybody.
Back during that honeymoon period, we found out I was pregnant by surprise. Clark had lived with us for a week and a half, we were taken completely off guard. My youngest two kids were going to be only 16 months apart. I was going to have 2 babies. And a teen with lots of stuff going on. What was God doing here? It turns out that He was no where close to being done. Two and a half months after Clark moved in with us and we found out I was pregnant, we got a call we would never have expected. Clark’s mother had delivered another baby and abandoned him at the hospital.
‘Would you consider adopting this child as well,’ they asked.
What started as a conversation that went like, ‘I mean, this is crazy. We can’t do this, right?’ Turned into, ‘I mean, we kind of have to do this, don’t we?’ within about 5 minutes. We were going to have 3 babies, all less than a year and a half apart…plus a teenager. Remember less than a year ago when we had no kids?
The baby we brought home when I was about halfway through my pregnancy with our daughter was heavily withdrawing from a multitude of drugs. It was by far the hardest few months of our lives. Roc finished detoxing, Jane was born in April 2016, and Clark kept unraveling through it all. It took us about a year before we got to the point of reaching out in desperation for help. I wish it had been much sooner.
Clark had never been in a stable environment, and being in one now scared him to death. In his mind, it could all fall apart at any point, and he had to be ready. Why wait for us to abandon him and give up on him and kick him out when he could just take a fast pass and make it happen himself? Anytime he felt himself growing attached to us, he got scared and acted out and had an outburst. It was during these hard years that I became so completely aware of what God meant back in that closet. There were two distinct journeys going on: mine, and Clark’s. I realized I could only be the main character of one of those.
For so long, I felt like my passion for adoption was there to fix and save and rescue and change…. others. It never occurred to me that God would turn my life on its head too. When I was at my lowest, at rock bottom, when I realized that I literally could not do this on my own anymore… that was when God started refining me like crazy through our adoption. He reminded me that I can’t fix anyone, and that it’s not my job to keep trying. My only job is to say ‘yes,’ and I had already done that, so why was I striving so hard to keep a world spinning that I actually have no control over? Why did I think that God needed me to fix anything? Why did I convince myself that if I didn’t fix him, then it was all a failure?
God started showing me that my idea of what adoption would be like and the relationship we would have and the way our family would look were all from me, not Him, and that it was all going to change.
He started opening my eyes to His plan, the one that had been there all along that I was refusing to look at. He told me over and over again, ‘This is still My plan, even when there’s nothing in it for you.’ I began to realize it was never about me. I am only a tool in God’s much grander plan for Clark, the one that didn’t begin with me and certainly won’t end with me either.
We began to rewrite our expectations for this thing. We were his parents and he was our son, but what if that didn’t have to look the way we thought it did? What if it could look more like the ‘things unseen’ we kept hearing about? What if it could look like whatever God wanted it to instead of the box we had tried to force it in for so long? We kept reminding ourselves that we answer to God’s plan, not ours and not anyone else’s, and by lowering our own expectations, we began to see the thriving successes happening before our eyes.
We saw him stop running away. We watched him get a job…and keep it. We saw him pass his classes and graduate high school and move out on his own. We learned to see the things that didn’t happen as well. We saw him defy the statistics that outlined his life for him. We learned to count those as the wins instead of the ones we had dreamed up in our minds. We are still watching God show off with our son, and we’re continuing to learn to see that through God’s eyes and not ours. We can’t wait to see what else God has in store for that teen we met at a bowling alley who now shares our last name.”
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This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Alex Fittin of Northwest Arkansas. You can follow her journey on Instagram, her website and her podcast. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
Read more powerful adoption stories:
‘No one has ever wanted you here. If you find a family that will actually love you, go be with them.’: 26-year-old adopted after years of childhood trauma, abuse, says you’re ‘never too old to need parents’
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