I Couldn’t Choose Adoption

October 26, 2015 by cloften  
Filed under Bible, Church and Leadership

laylah9I will never bungee jump.  I have ridden thrilling roller coasters and climbed tall mountains, but I will never jump.  I am terrified of heights, and although roller coasters and mountain climbing touch on that nerve, they are gradual, or I am strapped in and unable to do anything but hold on with my eyes shut and scream while the roller coaster creeps its way upward in infinite “click, click, clicks” to its summit.  Bungee jumping, however, is different.  Not only are you at some unholy height above the earth, but as you peer down to the ground “miles” below you, you must choose to leave the platform.  They don’t push you.  You have to jump.

It’s the jumping I have a problem with.  Given the choice, I choose the platform…safety…certainty…over the probably exhilarating experience of freefalling.  My desire to protect myself from the possible pain of splatting on the ground prevents me from experiencing the thrill of reaching the end of my rope just short of the splat and having it spring me back into the air for another gleeful descent.

So for years I stood on the “platform” peering off the edge at the freefall that was adoption.  We wanted more children; we knew there were children who needed families, and we felt certain that there was, as my husband would say, “another Loften out there somewhere.”  But I could not jump.  I filled out paperwork.  I looked at waiting children websites.  I prayed.  I talked to adoptive moms about their experiences.  I talked myself into it.  I talked myself out of it.

There were too many horror stories.  The “splats” at the bottom of the jump.  Costly international adoptions fruitlessly pursued for years.  Heartbreaking domestic adoptions interrupted by unforeseen biological relatives.  Plus the timing was never right for our family.  We were going to move.  We had just moved.  Our biological daughters were too young.  Now they were too old.  Our family was no longer in that season.

What if there was a “splat?”  That would mean devastation for our daughters too.  For years I had coped with the pain of infertility, wanting more children, planning for more children, but being heartbroken month after month, year after year.  My heart was scarred and bruised, no longer bleeding, but still fragile.  I couldn’t choose to throw it off the platform.  I feared it could not endure a splat.

For years my husband and I had seesawed, each taking turns being the one who was “pursuing adoption” and the one who was making con lists.  During one of his “pro list” phases, we went to a meeting.  We filled out paperwork.  But we were still safely on the platform because we were currently living in an apartment and would not be able to have a home study until we moved into a house.  Then we moved into a house.  Then we had a therapist friend over for dinner who worked with some boys who were eligible for adoption.  And she asked if we would consider trying to adopt them.  And my heart screamed, “YES!” And God pulled up next to that bungee jump platform in a roller coaster car and harnessed me and my fragile heart in.  We “click, clicked” up higher and higher as God carried me through the adoption process.  I no longer felt like I was peering off the edge of a platform trying to muster the courage to jump, but as if I was strapped in, being taken somewhere that I wanted to go although I was not brave enough to get there.  Friends and family pointed out to me that I was leaving the safety of the platform—“Are you sure you want to do this?” “It’s been a long time since you had little ones.” “Aren’t some of those foster kids really messed up?”  “What if you fall in love with a child and then they go back home?”

All I could do was agree with them.  These were valid concerns, and I could see the safe platform becoming smaller and smaller in my rearview mirror.  But I was strapped in, and God was driving.  He did not wait for my weak and wounded heart to become strong enough to risk being hurt again.  He knew I could not and would probably never be able to jump into the uncertainty of adoption.  But I could trust My God enough to strap myself into His roller coaster.  He didn’t ask me to trust the process, or the agency, or the circumstances, or the people.  He asked me to trust Him.  God and I had a lot of history together.  He had proven His love for my weak and wounded heart time and time again.  I could trust Him.

Four years later, I look back at the roller coaster ride that was the adoption process, and I cannot believe I survived it.  If I had been able to see the death falls and inverted spirals from the platform, I know my fear would have kept me from climbing aboard and buckling up.  By the time our home was open for adoption the 2 boys who lit a fire in my heart had been adopted–the first roller coaster loop.  But when my beautiful, blue-eyed 4 year old daughter wraps her precious arms around my neck and squeezes, “Mom, I love you a million billion one hundred and thirties,” my eyes well with gratitude and humility.

Thank you, Lord that you chose this broken, fearful mama for adoption and carried me onto a ride more awesome and rewarding than any I could ever have the courage to choose for myself.

What I Learned about the Love of God from Adoption

September 9, 2015 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

I still remember the moment like it was yesterday.  It is emblazoned on my mind and heart forever.  We were standing outside the NICU at Washington Regional Hospital.  Maylee and Lauren, who were 14 and 11 at the time, were too young to go in.  So the nurse said that they would hold her up through the window so we could all see her together for the first time.  Then in very Lion King fashion, the nurse held this precious baby up where we could see.  She was tiny and covered in fine blond fur and this three day old baby was one of the most beautiful precious thing I had ever seen.

Mine from the beginning

Mine from the beginning

Just 24 hours earlier, we didn’t even know that this precious baby girl existed.  We were just living our lives and doing what we do every day.  Then on Tuesday afternoon, we get a call from DHS and they tell us that there is a newborn baby girl at the hospital.  She has no one.  Her mom had left her and she was alone.  They asked if we wanted to be her foster parents, but they told us there was 99% chance that she would need to be adopted and asked us not to say yes unless we would be able and willing to do that.  It was the easiest yes I had ever said especially to something as immediately  and drastically life changing as we knew this would be.

We had been praying for this for some time.  We knew that God wanted us to adopt and we were patiently waiting for God to put the child in our lives.  I had been talking about it this way.  I knew that somewhere out there was a Loften.  We didn’t know who he or she was or where they were or anything.  However, we knew that God knew and at that just the right time, he would bring her to us.

So there we were with this beautiful baby at the hospital and in exactly the first moment that I saw her, she had me.  I was hers and she was mine.  There was not and has not been one moment of hesitation.  She was fully loved and fully mine.  Even though for the first 7-8 months of our life together, there was a chance that she wouldn’t be with us forever, it didn’t matter.  I was her dad.  She was mine.  I loved her fully and recklessly.  I didn’t know what the future held, but I knew that that baby girl need a daddy.  That daddy was me.

She's mine and I'm hers

She's mine and I'm hers

She has now been mine for almost 4 years.  We get to celebrate Laylah’s forever day in October (the day she legally became what she had always been in my heart) and then her 4th birthday in November.  During that time my love for has exponentially multiplied.  I can’t believe that I have the great privilege of being her dad, and I’m super thankful to God every day that he placed her in my life.  At night when I check to make sure that she is still well tucked-in, many nights I just stare at this wonderful gift from God.  That leads me to this.

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.

Galatians 4:4-7

There was a time in my life where this passage was just another passage in Scripture.  Adoption was a theological concept and metaphor that Paul used to explain what it means to be saved and have a relationship with God.  That is no longer how I feel about this passage.  It is not an abstract theological concept.  This touches the most sensitive place in my heart.  I know how I feel about Laylah.  I know what it means to me that she calls me Daddy.  I know how it makes my heart leap for joy that she knows that I love her and that she is mine.

But let’s also be clear, I am a selfish guy with mixed motives and imperfect love.  So what if God’s love for me is not only like the love that I have for Laylah which is huge, but it is, in fact, significantly greater than that?  What if when I call Him Dad, what he feels about me is even more? What if when he looks down on me, he loves me with a deeper more complete perfect love than I do when I’m just staring at my beautiful daughter?

Just keeping it real

Just keeping it real

God loves me and us far deeper than we realize.  Each step that I take in my life with our precious baby girl, I realize that more and more.  Take a moment and ask yourself, if God truly loves you like an adopted son or daughter, what does that really mean? What does it really mean that God loves me as his own?