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Life Story - Brenda McIntosh

Where is the best place for a child to grow up and encounter the nurturing needed to promote appropriate developmental attachments? According to psychologist Dr. John Bowlby, children who come into this world are wired for attachments. Bowlby also states, “Where there is maternal deprivation children often develop mental and physical disabilities.” This is a truth we all accept. In Dr. Robert Glover’s book “God’s Heart for the Orphan,” Glover identified Bowlby’s theory of attachment, and acknowledged that the child is pre-programed for attachment.  But, he took it a step further by identifying how children are pre-programmed, according to Psalm 139:13-16, (NIV) “You created every part of me; You put me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You because you are to be feared; all You do is strange and wonderful. I know it with all my heart. 

When my bones were being formed, carefully put together in my mother’s womb, when I was growing there in secret, You knew I was there—You saw me before I was born. The days allotted to me had all been recorded in Your book, before any of them ever began.”  God knew us before we were. He placed us in the womb. In Psalm 68:6 we are reminded:  “God places the lonely in families.”  The family is the most intimate relationship in which attachments form and needs are met. 

Some folks are born into families that nurture them and some are born into families who do not. When the dysfunction of a family not nurturing a child happens in our society, Children’s Services often steps in and advocates for the child’s rights. According to Humanim, a non-profit organization dedicated to stopping violations of children’s rights throughout the world:  “Children’s rights are human rights. They protect the child as a human being. As human rights, children’s rights are constituted by fundamental guarantees and essential human rights: Children’s rights recognize fundamental guarantees to all human beings: the right to life, the non-discrimination principle, the right to dignity through the protection of physical and mental integrity (protection against slavery, torture and bad treatments, etc.)”  Miracle Foundation, a international non-profit organization that seeks to provide families for orphans, makes this statement in explaining their goal:  “a child has the right to live in a family environment, be in a stable, loving nurturing environment, to health care and nutrition, to clean water, electrical power, and safe environment, to quality education, equal opportunities, to guidance from a caring adult, to be heard and participate in decisions that affect them, to be prepared for active and reasonable citizenship, to be protected from abuse and neglect, to dignity and freedom, and to spiritual development.” These organizations see children the same way God sees them.  Children have a right to life and dignity. To me this is a crucial point, since American society discards the basic right to life of the unborn. Children also need families.

Having said all of this, I want to turn the focus of this story about adoption to a much more personal one. I have raised nine children. My youngest is fifteen years old. My oldest child, a son, lost his battle with drug addiction in 2013.  He left behind three daughters. In 2015, we were approached by Children’s Protective Services and asked if we could step in and parent one of our son’s daughters, because her mother was also struggling with drug addiction. At the age of four and half, our granddaughter Kahlynn came to live with us. We were still parenting our own children, but as they say in the Disney movie “Lilo and Stitch”, “Ohana means family. Family means no one gets left behind.”

When Kahlynn came to us she was malnourished, with a failure to thrive. Kahlynn’s mother was not able to maintain sobriety in order to regain custody of her.  We accepted Kahlynn into our family with all of the same love and opportunities we gave our own children.  Because of this, she has been able to overcome her deficits and thrive. Kahlynn is still living with us, and will continue to live with us until she reaches adulthood.  At times she struggles when she remembers her mother. Sometimes she longs for the mother who gave birth to her. But, the older she gets, the more she seems to realize that she needs the love, structure, and protection our family provides. She doesn’t know the reasoning behind it, but even at nine years old, she understands that she feels safe and secure. Because we had nine children, we never really thought about adopting. That all changed when it was brought to our attention that Kahlynn was in need of a family. Kahlynn is now one of us.

I cannot help but reflect on the concept of adoption in my own life. I am an adopted child of God. God made me part of his family. He has grafted me into his family tree. The blood of Christ has paid my fee for my sin. I am loved, accepted, and forgiven. In his book, Love, Acceptance and Forgiveness, author Jerry Cook identifies that we, just like our Lord and Savior, should treat others with love, acceptance, and forgiveness. As we do, they will see the loving relationships available to them as part of the family of God. In His family, every pre-programed need for attachment is met. We enjoy a loving family relationship with God our father, and our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Our society has somehow made orphans feel like they are less of a person, not worthy of being loved. But in the Kingdom of God, while we were yet sinners Christ died for us, so that we may be called children of God. We come to our Father God at various levels of dysfunction or disarray.  We had a failure to thrive. God, in all His wisdom and love, knew what we needed. We needed a family. He took us in and adopted us. He gave us His unconditional love, acceptance, and forgiveness. He has made us his sons and daughters, and joint heirs with Jesus. At one time, we were all orphans in this world, until we accepted our Lord’s invitation to become His son or daughter. Now, those of us who have accepted His invitation are part of His forever Family. 

So, the next time God places a lost, orphaned soul in your path, remember what it feels like to be part of His family. We are all adopted. There is not one of us who deserves to belong, but thanks to our glorious Savior we are redeemed, and adopted into His family.

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