Published: 5 years ago

Year One

Today marks 365 days from the moment that a judge in a North Carolina courtroom took her pen and legally added a sixth member to the Franks family. It was just under a year ago that I grabbed the cutest co-host ever and posted this video announcing that my daughter Haven was forever a part of our household with all the rights and privileges thereof. Last name? Check. Unconditional lifetime love? Check. Sharing the vast Franks family fortune ($87.22) with her brothers? Check.

If you know our story, you know that we first met Haven in April of 2011 and she started living with us full time in May. But it was that piece of paper – delivered to us by our attorney across his dinner table – that sealed everything. It was that piece of paper that meant we could breathe again and rest confidently that our little girl wasn’t going anywhere. The next time she leaves our house will be when she gets married at 45 years old. (It’s in the contract.)

The last year has been eventful, to say the least. We’ve learned a tremendous amount about ourselves, our marriage, our three sons, and our new daughter. We’ve laughed and cried and worried and fretted and worried why we suddenly used words like “fretted.” This past year has been a learning lab for all six of us, adjusting to the new normal.

A few weeks ago I came across this incredible post by Jen Hatmaker, a mom of two adopted kids. (Go ahead. Take ten minutes and read it. I’ll wait.) She detailed in brutal honesty her family’s adoption journey. Granted, our stories are vastly different: their kids were much older when they adopted. They came from a different culture, a different continent, and they spoke a different language. But Merriem and I identified with so much that she wrote.

So what have we learned? Here are the highlights:

We’ve learned that it’s hard to start over when your other kids are pretty much grown and self-sufficient. We’ve had to readjust to diapers and car seats, to bath times and bed times. We’ve had to reincorporate the term “baby sitter” in our household. We’ve realized that we’re nearly a decade older than we were the last time we did this, and that folks in their late thirties don’t bounce back as quickly as folks in their late twenties. Ouch.

We’ve learned that adding personalities to the mix can be a tough road. If you look up “strong willed” in the dictionary, you should see a picture of Haven. You should, but you won’t, mainly because she grabbed that dictionary off the shelf, ran shrieking through the house with it, ripped that particular page out of the dictionary, and tried to stuff it down the toilet, making it overflow into the living room. Let me be clear: Haven is not strong willed because she’s adopted. She’s strong willed because…she just is. It’s not an “adoption issue,” it’s a sin issue. She was remarkably normal when she came to live with us, and I think we somehow made her this way.

We’ve learned that everyday life is – at least temporarily – no longer easy. When Haven is happy, she’s really really happy. When she’s mad, she’s really really mad. She doesn’t do anything quietly. Everything she does, she does big. For that reason, there are a growing number of restaurants and stores that we can no longer go to until she’s 16 or the statute of limitations runs out. Target employees go on break when they see us pull up. There’s not a shopping cart within a three state area that she hasn’t figured out how to climb out of, screaming as she goes. We’ve had to start tipping 40% in restaurants to cover the mental distress of the waitstaff.

We’ve learned that a two year old takes all the time you have…and then some. Nothing really works the same in our house anymore. Everything we do, we have to do with Haven in mind. There’s no more sleeping late on Saturdays, no more hopping in the car to run a quick errand, no more stepping out of the room for more than 3.5 seconds unless you want to see a Pop Tart go into the DVD player. From the moment she wakes up until the moment she goes to sleep, we belong to her and her incessant demands. Our hobbies are out the window. The year before we adopted her, I read over forty books and wrote dozens of blog posts. Since we met her, I’ve read less than 18 books (unless you count Brown Bear, Brown Bear, in which case the count goes to 4,912). And this blog – as you know – has been shot to heck.

“But Danny,” you say, “that’s so negative. You make adoption sound like a hard thing. I thought Christians are supposed to adopt. I thought when you adopted a child, that child rode in on a magical purple unicorn and their poop smelled like daisies and you got to send out adorable Christmas cards that makes your family look like a walking Benetton commercial.”

And yes, most of those statements are true. Christians are supposed to care for the fatherless. It is going to be hard. And there will be gloriously glorious times as well as gloriously hard times.

We know – at least we think we know – that we are not dealing with these issues because Haven is adopted. There was no emotional baggage she needed to unpack. There were no attachment issues she needed to work through. God was very gracious to our family in the fact that, since Haven came to live with us at eight months old, we are the only family she remembers. She knows nothing else.

We’re not dealing with any of these issues because she’s adopted, we’re dealing with these issues because we added another sinner into a family of sinners.

Adoption isn’t something you do because of romanticized notions of adding to your family. Adoption is something you do because you’re convinced that God called you to care for the orphan. It’s that calling that gives you strength. It’s that calling that helps you persevere. It’s that calling that helps you understand that you too are adopted, you too are strong willed, you too are a hot mess that God still loves unconditionally.

Before you think I’m a horrific ogre who sits in his room at night thinking up the negative issues around adoption, let me tell you the other things we’ve learned:

We’ve learned that love for our children is not limited by biology. Like you, I’ve read the horror stories of families who “return” their adopted children because bonding never took place. That simply has not been our experience. From the first weeks of knowing Haven, she has been our daughter. Far before a judge declared her to be so, she was her daddy’s princess. There hasn’t been a nanosecond that we’ve looked back, second-guessed ourselves, or wondered if we made the right decision. Haven belongs to us, and we belong to her. There is not a speck of difference between her role in our family and that of our three sons.

We’ve learned that one little girl can bring tremendous joy to a family. I can’t possibly encapsulate the fun things she says and does into a single paragraph. She sings “Call Me Maybe” (I hate whoever taught her that). She eats gummy bears like there’s no tomorrow. She sees beauty in sunsets and mountains and rainbows and rivers like the rest of us never have.  She lights up a room when she walks in to it. And she’s also a diva: she loves her shoes, loves her dresses, loves to get dolled up and then run around the house to everybody saying, “Look! Look! Preeeeetyyyy…” Her constant sidekicks are “Puppy” and “Baby,” two ratty old toys that have seen better days but find themselves wrapped up in her arms at night. She adores her brothers, imitates her mama, and has her daddy wrapped around her chubby little fingers.

We’ve learned that God has expanded our hearts through this process. I cannot imagine loving someone more than I do my little girl. I look forward to our time together every night where we sit in her bedroom floor and read books and pray while she snuggles up with her daddy. I revel in seeing her grow and learn and come up with such off the wall phrases that there’s no doubt she’s a part of our insane family. (“Austin! You STOLE MY BABY!”)

We’ve learned that God loves our daughter more than we ever could. Are we the perfect family for Haven? Not a chance. Perfect families don’t lose their cool or lose their religion when things don’t go just right. But for some unknown reason, we are the family that God sovereignly chose for her. And that choosing comes with a mandate: we have a responsibility to raise her to fear and love Jesus with all her heart, soul, mind, and strength. God gave her to us not so we could show her how much we love her, but how much he does. And in the middle of that, we’ve learned a little bit more about how much he loves us as well.

One year in? It’s been heart-wrenching and heart-filling. It’s been one of the hardest things we’ve ever done and the only thing we could ever imagine doing.

It hasn’t just changed her life.

It’s changed all of us.

9 Comments.
  1. Julia Farrow says:

    Danny, I am sobbing like a baby while reading this. They are tears of joy that you have found such love in your new daughter. It doesn’t matter if she’s biological or not. There is something about that daughter that totally changes your heart. But they are also tears of sadness know that in what seems like a few short months, my baby girl will be graduating from high school and moving on into the world of independence. She is so excited, but I’m mortified! How did it get to be that time in our lives? Right now I’m wishing I had that time back. Enjoy every minute (even the difficult ones), remembering that “this too shall pass”! May God bless all of you!

    • Danny says:

      I’m horribly behind on responding to these comments, so let’s just take ’em as a group, shall we?

      Julia, thank you. We are running that same spectrum as well. Jacob (16) hits his senior year next fall. What hasn’t hit is the reality of starting an empty nest (now I’m gonna cry).

      Jeff & Mandy, so good to see you last Sunday. Thank you for walking with us in the early stages of this journey. Some of those conversations are still paying huge dividends in our family’s life.

      April, what a pleasure to hear from you! Merriem shares Facebooks updates with me from time to time on you guys. If you’re considering adoption, there’s no better place to start than by reading Russell Moore’s Adopted for Life. It was a critical read for me as we jumped in head first.

      Courtney, if Ben is serious about courting my daughter, he’s gonna have to start P90X training next week.

      Tina, no words. I just thought of you carrying a diaper bag in that Mexican restaurant in P-Town and started laughing all over. How old are we again?

  2. Jeff & Mandy Whitt says:

    From my heart to yours I can honestly say that I have felt EVERY one of these emotions in the past 5 years of Jordyns life! What a priviledge to have been blessed as her parents!

  3. April (Heard) McDowell says:

    Reading your blog posts takes me back to a time not too long ago (well okay maybe it has been a little while) when I was in your youth group. I am so happy for your family. I can’t believe how big your boys are and little Miss Haven is a doll. We have a little girl too and she also is full of personality! Adoption has been on my mind a lot lately and it seems we keep meeting other people who have adopted or are in the process. Thanks for setting such a good example for the rest of us and giving us an inside look at the whole process.

  4. Courtney says:

    this post makes up for your lack of posting. great insight from the other side. love Haven and love watching your family change over the past year and a half. 🙂

  5. Robyn Eason says:

    Beautifully said dear friend. Love you all!

  6. Amber Burt says:

    Danny, thank you for telling your family’s truths about life with a new person added to the mix. Thanks for not varnishing or glossing or sugar coating. You don’t know me, but this blog, this post on your blog is kind of changing my life. The funny part is, the life changing has nothing to do with anything you wrote about your family. Its about the way you wrote it and the freedom of expression that only comes from knowing who your are as a(n adopted) child of God. Your blog is a permission slip for me. That might not make any sense to you, but Jesus gets it. I wanted to thank you for being available for use as an instrument of God.
    -Ms. Amber

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