I am home and I am emotionally drained. Today was the first of two days at the Christian Alliance for the Orphans’ Summit VIII. There were all kinds of people there with all kinds of connections to foster care and adoption and orphan care domestically and worldwide.
You know you’re in for it when the first song of the first worship set of the first session has you welling up. I looked around at the 1,700 plus people packed into that auditorium and I was overcome with emotion at how many people are loving the unloved children of our world. People flew in from all over to be inspired and learn more about how they can make a difference. Everyone there had come because God placed it on their hearts to play a role in helping the orphan in his distress..even Greg, who was dragged to the conference under duress. (Well, that might be a bit harsh, but not completely untrue!)
The man next to me in the general session was discreetly wiping away tears. What pain has he endured? Infertility? Loss of a child he’d hoped to adopt?
The couple I ate dinner with had two foster daughters reunified with their mom when they thought they could adopt them. Now they’re hoping for word next week on twin girls with whom they’ve been matched.
The foster youths we heard speak during a lunchtime session have endured horrific loss and pain in their lives, yet have risen above it.
The couple in tonight’s documentary set out to adopt one child, and somehow ended up adopting four!
Family after family that we met had adopted multiple times in multiple ways. My guess? The first adoption was really long, drawn out, expensive, and/or painful, so they tried a different route, undeterred from adoption altogether. Then they found out that the second route to adoption was…you guessed it…long, drawn out, and painful, too. But once you’ve seen one child, or two children transformed by love, you’re addicted. Which doesn’t change the fact that adoption is messy. And hard.
163,000,000 orphans worldwide. Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Isaiah 1:17a
We learned about the brain chemistry of traumatized kids. And when they showed a video of a child having what’s called a fear-based siezure, I recognized it immediately. I have seen that on Middle Boy’s face…the sudden absence of expression and turning away. Shutting down. Then turning back on as if nothing had happened. Then a yawn, a loss of fine muscle control, a loss of gross muscle control, and then finished. All because a simple request or a certain object triggered a great trauma in their past. And when Karyn Purvis (goddess of attachment theory!) said next, “These siezures are common in children who haven’t been protected from harm in the first three years of their lives,” I started to cry suddenly. I couldn’t even hide it. Why did four of “my” kids have to go through trauma like that?
One speaker told us that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is more common in foster children than in war veterans. That foster parents are exposed to chronic stress and secondary trauma, as they relive the trauma of their foster kids. Secondary Trauma manifests itself in physical, emotional, and relational ways. Self care is critical, they tell us. Wahoo! I have been pretty good at that one. Although the house might be falling apart around me, I take as much time as I need during Midge’s nap each morning to regroup, pray, read, and rest. I know that this season will pass and I can clean up the house then. I won’t regret taking care of myself and running to the LORD to take care of me. Allow yourself to be needy, she told us. I will take that prescription and run with it.
I didn’t last through the final session…the one I was so excited about! Francis Chan is speaking, but I am spent. I needed to come home and regroup and regurgitate everything to Greg on the couch in front of the t.v.. (Don’t you think that’s what Greg was hoping to do tonight after the kids go to bed? ha!)
My kids will be home in minutes from dinner with Daddy, Papa Ken (the afternoon babysitter!), and our babysitter/daughterish person, Sara. The house will get loud for a few minutes, then quiet, except for Tyler, who will come to the top of the stairs multiple times to ask us the same questions he asks every night. Greg and I will rest, pet the cat, go to bed, and begin again tomorrow.
Justice and mercy flow from the gospel, because we were rescued by a father who loves us. We are making the gospel story visible to others, because God is a father to the fatherless. (the first italicized statement is the theme of the conference. the second is a quote from Jedd Medefind, president of the Christian Alliance for Orphans.)
P.S. When the kids got home, Tyler, the lover, ran straight to me for a hug, Jake, the rule follower, ran straight upstairs to get ready for bed, and Midge, my baby, ran straight to me and shouted, “miss you!” which I’ve never heard her say spontaneously before. Then she got distracted by a toy and made a sudden left turn before she made it to my embrace. I love these people. And I even got to watch Francis Chan streaming live from the conference, so I didn’t miss him after all.