It is Sunday afternoon and the back of my tired minivan sits open as we load backpacks, pillows, and fleece blankets. I kiss my other children goodbye and Russ hugs me firmly, imparting a bit of extra strength for the day. My two daughters buckle in their seats and we head west, they watching a movie or sleeping, me with one ear bud in my ear as my iPod plays.
We drive through rolling hills of wheat fields, then range land, followed by orchards. As evening approaches, we finally reach the Columbia River and merge onto I-90 heading toward Snoqualmie Pass where I pray there is no snow. Three hundred miles after we’ve begun, we reach Seattle and our friends’ home, where they will graciously host us yet one more time. In fact, we’ve made this identical trip 24 times this year.
What could possibly make me give up two days every other week, drive 600 miles round trip each time, and spend large sums of money? Hope and help for my children.
When we adopted our four children, we knew it would be challenging, but we were confident in our ability to help these new little ones. We had years of parenting experience under our belts, and for heaven’s sake, I even had a degree in Psychology from a Christian university. Surely we could handle anything that came our way.
We were wrong.
A day came when Russ and I looked at each other and knew that we could not go on without significant changes for our family. I scanned every adoption book I owned, but my brain was so stressed that I could hardly grasp the words on the page. I made dozens of phone calls to anybody I thought might help. Some felt our situation was too extreme, others said they didn’t have experience with attachment issues. Our only concrete help came from a doctor who offered to hospitalize our child. While I understand that sometimes this is a family’s only option, we did not feel it was right in our situation.
I cried – a lot. I hated to see Russ walk out the door in the morning and he felt guilty leaving me. After 18 years of successful homeschooling, we finally enrolled our new daughters in the local public school – something I never imagined doing. School became a lifeline for us and we were thankful every day for the teachers who provided structure for our girls and gave me respite. They will never know what those months meant to me.
Finally I called an adoption medicine clinic in the northwest and spoke with a social worker. She immediately made an appointment for us to see one of the doctors and I had my first glimmer of hope. These people knew adopted kids; maybe they would have some answers.
That appointment was pivotal. The doctor, an adoptive mother herself, listened and understood. I cried telling her that I felt unable to go on, yet I believed with all my heart that God had great plans for my daughter and that I didn’t want to miss out on what He had in store. She gave me hope and told me that she would do all she could to get us into one of the best adoption therapists in the entire country.
It took six months, but the day came when we made our first Sunday trip for a Monday morning appointment. Russ and I poured out the story of our past two years to the therapist and she understood it all – our stories were not new to her, they were her life’s work. Thus began our ongoing commitment to appointments in Seattle.
If you find that life with children from “hard places” has become more than you can bear, I urge you to get help. Don’t wait as long as we did; seek help early. Sadly, good help is very hard to find, so you’ll need to dig deep, make calls, send emails, see doctors, and pursue every lead that comes your way. The result may be frequent appointments, driving long distances, or even flying to see an expert who agrees to help you. It may come at great expense in time and finances. I can say with conviction that it is worth it — it is absolutely worth it.
As Christians we are called to love others, even the very unlovely. Jesus told us that we must lay down our lives to follow Him and if He has called us to the ministry of adoption, then we must lay down our lives for the sake of our children. We must be willing to follow His leading as we seek help for our children even if it comes at a high price to us.
If you are in that dark place of hopelessness, please don’t despair. Call upon the Lord, and then pick up the phone and find the help you need. If you don’t have the strength, ask a friend to help you. Hold on and wait for the Lord to send you help. He will come to your rescue.
Then you will call for help, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help and He will say: Here I am. Isaiah 58:9
Lisa Qualls has been married to her husband Russ for over 26 years. They have 11 children who came to them by both birth and adoption. She earnestly believes in the power of God to heal children’s broken hearts and is privileged to participate in the process with her own children. Lisa writes about her life and family for Empowered to Connect (www.empoweredtoconnect.org) and on her blog, A Bushel and A Peck (www.onethankfulmom.com).