Sunday, December 2, 2012

I {still} don't want my children to be happy

Like every adoptive mom, as soon as we got our referral for Bethlehem, I looked back over the dates of her life to see what I was doing on her birthday. Surely on October 15, 2010, the day she was simultaneously born and orphaned, I felt something deep and stirring? I shared a very deep and stirring post asking for help in redecorating our bedroom. What about the day she left the hospital? Nope. The day she came into Gladney care? Nothing. Okay, what about the day she was conceived?


Okay, I know I can't know the exact day she was conceived, but I also know how God loves 'coincidences.'

Bethie was born one month early (weighing a tiny 3.5 pounds). Eight months to the day before October 15, I had a very frustrating dinner, then typed furiously for about twenty minutes, and published this post. The result of my anger made a little bit of an impact on the blogosphere, one that still astounds me.

But here's the best part. The 'people' mentioned in my post? They could not be more thrilled about welcoming Bethie into our family...because God can and does change hearts.

From February 15, 2010

Dear Shepherd, Sissy, Maggie and Ikey,

Recently we were told by people whom we love and respect why they oppose our plans to adopt. One of the reasons given was that we would not be able to pay for your college education.

It's true.

You all have college funds - college funds which recently took a terrible hit - but "they" say that by the time you're 18, college will cost anywhere between $200,000 to half a million dollars each. You might as well know now, we won't be covering that. I'm telling you now, babies.

The people said that the day would come when you would look at us with resentment because you had to apply for school loans while many of your friends got a free ride from their parents.

Maybe you will. Maybe you'll resent us. I really hope not. But maybe I should tell y'all now why your dad and I have decided to do what we are doing.

I know you're going to think I am going off topic (I do that a lot) but several years I saw a story on a TV show about how the latest trend was for parents to give their daughters boob jobs for high school graduation (I don't know what they gave their sons.) When interviewing one of the moms, she said, "I just want my daughter to be happy." And as I tossed a throw pillow at the television, this really huge thought occurred to me: I don't want my children to be happy.

My goal as your mom is not your happiness, sugars. In fact, I spend at least half my day making you unhappy. If I had a nickle for every tear that falls in this home on a daily basis, we wouldn't need to worry about college tuition at all.

Happiness is fleeting, sweet babies. That means it doesn't last. It's a quick feeling that comes from a funny movie or a heart shaped lollipop or a really good birthday present. It's great. I love to be happy. But happiness is a reaction that is based on our surroundings. And our surroundings are so very rarely under our control. Even when - especially when - we think they are.

So no, I absolutely don't want you to spend your life chasing something that has so little to do with your own abilities. You'll just be constantly frustrated.

There are two things I desire for you, precious loves. There are two things that I spend most of my time as a mother trying cultivate in you. Happiness ain't one of them. (This means, sorry, no boob jobs for you.)

The first is, I want you to be content.

Being content is so much different from being happy. Being content is not based on your surroundings. Being content comes from within. Contentment is a spirit of gratitude. It's the choice you make to either be thankful for the things you do have, or to whine about the things you don't have.

Being content and grateful leads to consistent joy.

As you know, because I've told you lots of times, Paul talked about being content. Paul said that he had "learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want." And Paul was in some rotten situations, kiddos, really rotten.

How could Paul be content whether he was in prison or if his life was literally a shipwreck? Because Paul was constantly seeking to be in the will of God instead of his own, was constantly sacrificing his own comfort for the sake of the gospel, and was constantly being confirmed, strengthened, and blessed by God because of his obedience. He was given a supernatural power - that means something kind of like magic, God magic - to do things that most other humans could not do. And guess what? The bible tells us (in Ephesians 1) that God will give you the exact same power! If you want it!

Which leads me to my second desire for y'all.

I don't want you to be happy. I want you to be holy. That means, I want you to seek that God-power to make you content. I want you to want the Kingdom of God more than your own kingdom. And that's hard, babies, that is so hard. And that usually means passing up a lot of what the world considers happiness. But it means that you will achieve blessings directly from God that most of the world never dreams of because they are too occupied with the achieving the perfect birthday present!

This means you may be poor, 'in want' as Paul said, and that's okay. It will never, ever be okay with the world for you to be poor. So you'll be up against the world. But not your dad and me, loves, because it was never our goal for you to be wealthy - at least not in the way that the world considers wealthy.

Darlings, we love you so much. You will never even grasp how much we love you until you have children of your own, and then you'll get it, and then you'll apologize for the ways you treated us ;) But our goal is not to please you. Our goal is to please our Heavenly Father. And nowhere in the bible does the Lord command that we save our money to send our kids to college.

But the Lord does command us to care for the orphan around fifty times. He does tell us to care for the poor around 300 times. He does tell us that when we care for the neediest, we are caring for Jesus Himself. And in chapter six of the book of Matthew, He tells us to seek His kingdom first, and let Him worry about the rest, like college tuition. Because it's all His anyway.

They said that one day y'all would resent us for using 'your' college money to go and get your sister out of an orphanage in Ethiopia and bring her home to you.

But I know my babies. Even at your tender ages, I know your hearts, and I have already seen you weep for the least of these. I know the prayers I offer up to God that He and not the world would shape the desires of your hearts. I am trusting Him to answer those prayers.

So, sugarbears - I just don't believe those people.


For a copy of this post:
I am thrilled that this post is being shared so much over the internet. To God be the glory! If you feel called to share it, please be so kind as to link back to my blog, instead of copying the post itself. Or email me at itsalmostnaptime @ gmail . com with "permission" in the byline for a .pdf document of the post. Thank you!!


  1. I read this article when you originally posted it. I was frustrated. A coworker and I discussed it to death. Single, and childless I sure had my opinions!

    But God is funny. The side effects of the Haiti earthquake reached my cushy desk job. My days and nights turned into dealing with international orphans. All.the.freaking.time. Not kidding, thats ALL I was handling at work. And these families would bring their kids in when they finally got them home. Wow.

    Oh, and THEN I became a mother :)

    1. Okay, Lora, I felt like I'm at a Breaking Bad cliffhanger. THEN WHAT??

      and what was your job that had you dealing with the orphans?

      more, more, more!

  2. Hah! I became a mom and figured out I didn't know anything about anything! I found myself praying for her tiny baby soul, not money for tuition & books in 18 years.

    I worked for a member of Congress for 5 years. I helped constituents w/ problems with federal agencies. Around January 2010, I started dabbling in handling State Department issues, but then Haiti happened and apparently a lot of people in my state were trying to adopt! I had no idea so many people adopted! And once we helped them, they told their friends we could help. Once these orphans had faces, names, personalities my heart changed. I left this job in Dec. 2010 (my elected official did not seek reelection) and started a new job. My new boss had just arrived home helping pick up his new grand daughter from China. My husband's boss has 4 adopted children. I don't know what's next in how our family grows, but my heart is not the same.

    1. yea!!!!!!

      I was a perfect mother before I had kids, too ;)

    2. What an AWESOME story! It's absolutely amazing to me how God works in some people's lives. Just keep your eyes, ears, and heart open and don't ignore all these "coincidences" and you'll know what you're called to do :)

  3. Traditional college or even community college isn't the only way to get a college degree. A college degree is affordable when you know what resources are available and I'm not talking about student loans or grants or 529 accounts or whatever they're called. I'm talking about credit by exams... Aleks, CLEP, Straighterline, etc... I can even direct you to a network of people who help each other with degree planners and accountability (the same thing that College Plus charges for) for free, all through a Yahoo group! I'm finishing my undergrad this way. Looks like your kiddos will have to find a different reason to resent you. :)

  4. Your posts are always a pleasure to read - this being one of my favorites. Thank you for being so honest and open!

    We have just started our journey to adopt from Uganda. We are adopting an older child. It has been all God so far with our adoption...appreciating all He has done to get us where He has. I would so much appreciate it if you could share our blog too, I am new to the blog writing getting better, but not always brave enough to write what is exactly on my mind. Thanks for being an inspiration. :)

  5. Thanks or a timely reminder!

  6. My husband has just lost his job and we're having to scale everything right back (thankfully not the internet, because his second job is internet-based so I can keep reading!). My family, who are not believers, will have a hard time accepting that our kids will be ok, that having enough is more than enough, that what our family shares is priceless, and will give these children a lifetime of treasure. Thanking God for the opportunity to teach my children to be thankful for 'enough'. :-)

    These posts have been absolutely amazing, Missy. Thank you!

  7. Thank you! I just found your blog through my friend Maralee at A Musing Maralee. Like her, you have a gift for saying it like it is. I'm happy to add one-more-blog-I-really-don't-have-time-to-be-reading to my blog list!

  8. This was the first blog post ever read... ever... as in didn't even know what a blog was until that point. I have since then read and been encouraged by every other post you've ever written, found other blogs that I love and cherish, and started my own blog. So thank you for that. I've been blessed abundantly because of that original post- both for the content and the ripple effect.

  9. This is the first post from your blog that I ever read, and it made me want to continue reading, as I had started to discover a strong desire to someday adopt. Even though we don't know each other, I've been praying for you and your family and I'm so happy to see those prayers answered through your darling new daughter!

  10. I love God-incidences! It was no fluke that this original post was written at that time! :-)

  11. I remember this post, I loved this post. I can't believe its been so long!

  12. Also the first post of yours I ever read. Loved it then, love it now! About a year after you wrote that, I had a similar experience and wrote one of my own. Amazingly, God changed the hearts of our "people", too, just in time for us to bring home our son from Serbia next month!

    By the way, I just wrote a post yesterday in which I linked to your blog and quoted you. It was the one you wrote last week when you first met Bethie, about inch-deep love. It really, really helped me grapple with adopting B from foster care in his country and not the institution we were expecting. I owe you a debt of gratitude!

  13. It was that post that led me to you. Just re-reading it and loving it all over again. LOVE it. And so excited for your family and the addition of your newest 'sugarbear!' :)

  14. I LOVE how God weaves his tapestry of our lives and how the big picture shows his amazing creativity and glory! This post was the "last straw" that pushed our family forward to action, instead of just "being interested" in adoption (and started me reading your blog and praying for Bethie). Now, a whole Bethie life later, our family can't imagine life without our Asher (2.5 years old, home 5 months). I, too, loved looking back at the significant dates in his life (at least the ones we know about) and seeing what we were doing then. Thanks ical! And GLORY to God!!!

  15. Of course I've read this post like a billion times. But the fact that you wrote it around the time she was conceived That. Is. Awesome. I have chills. So cool!! God knew the whole time. Seriously awesome. : )

  16. one of my favorite blog posts period. ever. and yay for changed hearts. God is so good.

  17. I started reading your blog this spring after a friend of a friend linked the original "I Don't Want My Kids to be Happy" post on Facebook. As a bit of background, I had just finished several years of working in college admissions. Every time a student told me that his/her parents couldn't afford college because he/she had x number of siblings, I would stomp into a coworkers office and ask, "Why would you have so many kids if you can't afford them?!" ("affording them," in this case, meaning affording their college educations).

    Then I read your post. It was a light bulb moment, to say the least. A convicting light bulb moment. Particularly the part about Jesus commanding us to help the orphaned but not commanding us to pay for our children's college...Whoops.

    As you've mentioned, God can and does change hearts, and feel free to add mine to the list of those changed. Kids are far-ish down the road for my husband and me, but international adoption is now at the forefront of my mind, with stocking college funds having taken a backseat.

    (Also, I should add that I never met a student who would have traded a sibling for an expensive school, or who resented their parents for their family size and its implications. Maybe they were just good kids, but I'd like to think that's usually the case.)



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