A friend of mine in Redding, Natalie Putnam, asked me to write a guest blog for her site on adoption. It was the first time I had taken the time to really sit down and write out my feelings on this journey we have been on the last 10 months. I wanted to repost it here for all of you as well…
Previous to starting our adoption process Sara had spent a week training in Ethiopia during their cool, damp, rainy season and fallen in love with the country, people, and culture. We have had the pleasure of traveling all over the world training and racing as professional track and road runners so we can tell when a place grabs our hearts in a unique way. Sara so raved about Ethiopia that we decided to return the following year (only slightly earlier in the year before the rain arrived) to prepare for the upcoming Boston Marathon.
In between training sessions we spent many afternoons in Addis Ababa visiting orphanages and other family-based care providers. It was on one of these trips that God truly broke my heart for older child adoption. After meeting and playing with the many, many older children in the orphanages I couldn’t help but feel that I would take any one of these kids home with me.
I couldn’t think of a reason to not adopt an older child that wasn’t driven by fear. I seek to make all my decisions in life with a love-based approach so rather than determining ‘I am afraid that I won’t be able to handle the challenges that adoption will hold’ I ask myself, ‘Do I have the love in my heart to love these kids?’ For me the answer to that question was yes. It was that simple.
After that trip we went home and changed all our paperwork to adopt an older child. During this time we began becoming aware (mostly via Facebook) of waiting kids in sibling groups and again my heart burned for these kids, being filled with love from the God who loves these children so deeply. I couldn’t find a good reason, besides fear of failure, to not step up and adopt a sibling group.
Being a professional runner taught me that if I was going to have a chance to win a race I had to take a chance and go out fast with the leaders. Once I committed to going out with the leaders, I couldn’t afford to let fear creep into my mind because it would weaken me. I knew that failure was an very real possibility (I failed a lot more than I was successful throughout my 20 year career spanning two Olympic Marathons, the American Record in the half marathon (59:43) and a 2:04:58 marathon best time) but I knew I could get through failure, what I could not accept was not trying to win. I approached building my family the same way I approached races. I trained endlessly to exhaustion, learned from the best coaches and athletes in the world, and then went to the races believing anything was possible.
I always liked to be prepared for anything I might encounter from the elements, the course, and my competitors, but at the same time expecting nothing, meaning being open to however my body was feeling and being able to respond moment by moment accordingly. So when it came to adoption I was a student but then I was also not going to allow fear to creep in once I had committed. I knew I would fail many, many times as a father but knowing that I didn’t have to be perfect set me free to pursue being a good dad without fear.
During this time of switching home study agencies we became aware of a sibling group of 4 girls ages 5, 8, 12, and 14. Apparently they had been looking for a home for these girls for quite some time, unsuccessfully. They were talking of splitting them into two’s since they weren’t able to find a family for them. The idea of splitting up siblings crushed my heart. I couldn’t imagine being split apart from my siblings at that age. I felt immediately that God had put love in my heart for these four girls and wanted to adopt them. My wife took a more systematic approach, weighing out the pro’s and con’s and deciding if we were at a point in or lives to be both willing and able to adopt four girls. Ultimately, we decided to travel to Ethiopia and meet the girls and get to know them and let them get to know us without them knowing that we were thinking of adopting them (so they could be free to be themselves around us and not performing for potential parents). Something that was important to my wife and I was giving the girls choice in choosing us. Through all the trauma and everything the girls had been through they were never given and choice in any of this, everything just happened to them. We wanted to empower them to choose us just as we were choosing them.
I am so grateful that my Dad never forced me to run when I was a kid. I was really into baseball as a kid and just like every other little kid in the U.S. dreamt of one day playing in the Major Leagues. So even though I was good at running, and my Dad told me I could be a great runner if I wanted to, he never forced me to run. He waited until I chose running. If my Dad would have forced me to run I would have never made it through all the very hard seasons of running that awaited me. The ability to get through hard things comes from inside, a desire that you want to do something. If you are doing something for someone else or not because you want it for yourself then you will never get through the hard times. In the same way, we wanted our kids to choose us because when the hard times come they have to know they choose this path.
During the adoption process I began to understand how aggressively God pursues us in the same way that I had to aggressively pursue my kids. I flew through endless stacks of paperwork, went to never-ending fingerprinting and doctor appointments, met with social workers, paid a large sum of money and patiently waited for that day we would all pull up in our driveway home at last. Adoption is like running. It is a journey, it’s got hard stretches, but in the end it is a beautiful adventure that is very much worth taking. Adoption should also be celebrated in the same way that winning a race is celebrated. The best way we can understand our adoptive Father’s (God) love for us is to adopt for our self.
God does the same for each of us. He pursues. He pays a great price. He longs to be with us. He patiently waits for the day that we make a home with him in our hearts.
Adoption is the greatest thing I’ve done. It’s sweeter than competing in Olympic Games and running American Records because it has increased the love in our house and in my heart.