When Jacob and I first moved to New Orleans 8 years ago (wow...didn't realize it had been that long), the key phrase we heard on a daily basis was "We will rebuild" or "We're rebuilding" or something along those lines. We moved here almost a year to the day of Hurricane Katrina. A time when this beautiful city was broken and still in the very early stages of piecing back the life that so many people loved here, after it had been ripped apart by fierce winds and flooding waters. It was a blessing to move here during that time, to be part of something so beautiful as serving the people of New Orleans not only in a physical sense of helping them rebuild, but also just to be able to sit with them and let them pour their hearts out. Over the years, I've heard that phrase (and those like it) less and less and the city has come back to life in so many ways. I never imagined the next time I would hear the words "We will rebuild", that it would be in reference to the son that I have not yet met.
I attended an incredible conference in Birmingham, Alabama last weekend called Empowered to Connect. It's a partnership between Show Hope, Dr. Karyn Purvis, and adoptive parents Michael and Amy Monroe. The conference is meant to give hope, resources, encouragement, connection, and so many other things to adoptive families who have chosen and committed to loving and parenting children from hard places....children plagued by institutionalization, child abuse, neglect, prenatal and childhood trauma, and other things that effect adopted children.
I was amazed at the amount of information we were given and had to stuff somewhere into our brains in a 48 hour time frame. My eyes were crossed and my mind was numb when it was over.
You see, up until a few weeks ago, I was naive. I thought that since we had chosen to adopt a younger child, that we wouldn't really have to deal with a lot of attachment issues - and I pray that we don't, that our son will immediately know and love me and receive my love as his mother. But the reality is, there is a chance that he will not...even being adopted at such a young age. As I made this realization a few weeks ago, I decided I was NOT going to freak out. Do you know how hard it is for me to NOT FREAK OUT! For the love...
But I chose to trust in Jesus and remember that He is the one who is before us in every step of this process...not just the paperwork and now the dreadful wait that we are in, but He will be there when we meet our son, when he is finally placed in my arms to be my son forever, and when we get on that plane to come home, and as we all start to adjust to being a family of 6 (whoa....) and as we begin to help him heal from whatever wounds are left gaping open from his past.
One of the first things Dr. Purvis said was, "You can rebuild their little minds and their little hearts and you can lead them to attachment." When she said that, my mind couldn't help but go back to New Orleans and the disaster that plagued this city and the mess it was still in when we moved here. And I couldn't help but think of how, over the years, the people of New Orleans came together and rebuilt this city and now it is beautiful and full of life again. We were here for a mission trip only a few months after the disaster, so to see it from the beginning of the disaster to now...amazing. God was in that. God will be in our rebuilding process as we teach our son how to attach to our family in healthy ways.
Will it take a while? It very well could. It could seem like it's better and then hit us like a storm in 10 years. But you know what - after going to Empowered to Connect, I feel equipped to handle whatever storms his past wounds throw at him and our family and I will fight with him and for him through every single one of them. Here are just a few statements from the conference that really stood out to me and I jotted down in our handbook:
"These children need to know and see their birthright."
"Don't lose sight of how precious these children are, look through the "poop" they are covered in." (the "poop" being their past wounds)
"My child CAN recover what they should have had or been given in the first 3 years of their life." (y'all, there are actual changes to the brain of children who have been in an institution, abused, neglected, or experienced prenatal or childhood trauma)
Perhaps my favorite....
"The journey isn't about making him mine, but COMPLETELY BECOMING HIS."
This conference touched on sensory processing disorder, strategies for change, attachment, adoption stories with happy endings and a happy ending in waiting from adoptive parents, and understanding the impact of a child's history. I just want to encourage you - if you are an adoptive or foster parent and you're like, "What the crap is going on with us right now - why can't we come together?" or you're thinking about adoption and you're like "How in the world would we handle the hard days" (because there will be hard days) or if you're in process....please find one of these conferences and attend. Or look through Dr. Purvis' website at her resources and do the training at home.
And, now, sweet friends, please continue to pray for us as we wait. There's nothing new right now. We still crave the encouraging words and prayers you offer to us at just the right time. We hope that we will be matched or receive a referral soon - but, as always, we remember that we are on God's timeline, He is writing our story. And please pray in advance as we prepare to rebuild the tiny little heart and mind that will be broken with wounds we cannot understand or fathom. Pray that attachment would come quickly, but if it doesn't that we would remember the skills we have been given to help our son. Pray that we would keep in the front of our minds that God doesn't call us to something, without equipping us to complete it.