by Erin Burns
“[B]ut those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31
Five years ago, my husband and I decided to take a journey toward adoption. Everyone who walks the path comes to their decisions for many different reasons. For our family, we realized that we were not complete yet. We felt the nudge that the family wasn’t done growing, and like many in this world, I was unable to have biological children. We decided to not only adopt but to adopt older children and teens.
I have heard countless times from people who cannot believe that we would take an older child, and they have so many questions. What I can say? The adoption journey can be scary, whether we are talking about an older child or a baby. It starts a whole new branch of your family tree and takes love and effort. However, being a parent comes with those same fears and concerns. With older teens, we constantly honor their memories and experiences in the past and learn to grow with new supportive love together.
I have learned many lessons through this journey; too many of them to list here. However, I can share two.
- Expect the unexpected. For me, this was found in the humor my adopted son and I have with each other and how he can instantly make me smile. It was found in the love that poured into my heart when I looked into my little girl’s eyes. I found unexpected strength when watching my oldest girl overcome and learn how strong, brave, and capable she was to embrace the challenges and become the woman she is today. I found the unexpected in all the sibling children and young adults in my house as they constantly bond, each from a different journey. Each one is 100% sibling for life.
- God is with you. I ultimately believe that God placed each of my children into our lives. God was with them in their darkest days. God was with my husband and me as we agonized over if we should take the leap of faith on the adoption journey. God was with each of those scared children who lost everything as they were introduced to strangers and invited to start again. God is with us on the best of days and the worst of days as we grow into a family together. God is with us as they experience bedtime stories, holidays, family meals, clothes that fit, and meals on the table for the first time. God is with me as I cry, realizing they are doing these things for the first time, and we all take it for granted.
So how can I sum up adoption? As we mark Adoption Awareness Month? Grace. Oh, that word we Lutherans know so well. There are days in my house when we look at each other and say, “there is grace for that.” Our lives are not always perfect, no life is, but we have grace and love for each other to go through the waves of life together. God’s grace has gifted me with my beautiful family, and I am forever grateful.
Now to the scary part, according to Adoptionnetwork.com, on a given day, there are nearly 428,000 children in the foster care system in the United States. When the children can not be reunified with their biological families, the mission is to move them as quickly as possible to adoptive homes to stabilize them. However, many stay in foster homes or institutions, especially the older ones. Around 20% of those children will never get adopted and will age out of the system without support or family. These are statistics we need to remember and pray about because they are not just numbers. That is 428,000 lives affected in many ways by unstable living conditions.
During this month, as we lift those individuals, please join me in prayer for praying for those who are facing instability, for those who have lost family members and are unable to return to their lives, giving thanks for those who are saved by God’s grace and led to nurturing families, and for the families that say, YES.
The Rev. Erin Marie Burns is associate pastor at Lord of Life Lutheran in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. She recently completed a term as president of the Northeastern Ohio Synodical Women’s Organization.