We hear it all the time and sometimes it’s just written all over somebody’s face, “I don’t know how they do it”, when they see our large family. What’s typically not said, but generally in their undertone is this sense that we’ve got to be crazy. (And I don’t know that I would dispute that claim sometimes!) The question however that is more important and perhaps the hardest to answer, is WHY we do it.
But before I get into explaining the hierarchy of our decision making regarding adoption I want to clarify a few things. These points of rationale are my own and I don’t expect anyone to take them on or to feel any sense of judgment as they are shared. I know that each of us are unique in how we find our way through life. Meaning, I understand that our path is different from anyone else’s path and that I embrace that difference without holding it against anyone while at the same time being comfortable with the path that we are on. A work mate of mine has expressed a number of times to me, “you really live your religion”. I’ve had to do a lot of thinking about that phrase. What does that even mean? Does it mean that all people of my religion have to adopt a bazillion kids? Certainly not. And I know that it’s not what he means by that. But I know that some could take it in that way. For me I’ve come to a personal realization of what is best for me and my family and I find comfort in that. But I also find comfort in knowing that we are an anomaly and I don’t expect others to “follow suit”. I would just hope that they find their own path and find comfort in following it. Or as my wife would say, “answer your calling, whatever that may be.”
We have a sign on the wall as you come in our house that says “You Call It Chaos – We Call It FAMILY”. And that is a reflection on my first “why”. It is important to recognize that we do comprehend the perceived chaos that is the Barrus Family. In fact, at times it isn’t perception at all. It is downright crazy. But, over the last number of years as we have gone on this adventure together I have begun to appreciate Bridget more and more for her sensitivity to spiritual things. I’m a right brained, linear thinking, accounting minded, prototypical fix-it mentality type of male. I think in utilitarian concepts and logistics. Things need to make sense for me to feel comfortable. So when it came to us opening the doors of our home to our first kid, my “baby” sister (Kim – 15), my logistical mind went into over drive. We were in a 2 bedroom duplex with two little ones already. But she really needed a place to stay and she’s family. How do we make that work? How would we help her with school? How would a teenager fit into our family dynamics? And on and on my linear mind processed all of the data until we finally purchased a home where we could fit another kid and while I didn’t have answers to all of the questions I reached a comfort level. I knew she needed to come stay with us and we were going to be able to make it work.
That was the first, and probably easiest transition we’ve had. But as I look back I have to think that if God had started us out in any other way we probably would not have arrived to the point that we are at today.
The next round was still within family as we agreed to have Bridget’s step-niece come live with us. But instead of Kim who, bless her heart, was 15 going on 13, we were working with Kristi who was 15 going on 30. These two girls couldn’t be any more different in their backgrounds or personalities so again the ol’ brain starts hammering away at the logistics of it all. It didn’t take long before they were rooming together and supporting one another in high school and keeping each other in line………… for the most part. (Lessons learned from raising teens will be part of another blog posting and oh, boy did we learn a lot!)
The two girls ended up graduating together and went on with their lives and as they were transitioning I recall Bridget and I discussing the thought of “we can’t possibly have any other relatives that need a place to stay, do we?” And within a short time we were contacted by a relative on my side of the family that I hadn’t spoken with in years telling us that their son had attempted suicide and the doctors said he shouldn’t/couldn’t go home. He needed a place. But the pitch was not one that this overly analytical mind needed to hear to get to a level of comfort. “He’s got lots of issues” “We’ve had problems with him for quite some time” were just a few of the comments made. But, for whatever reason, I was able to get to that comfort zone in feeling that we could be of help and things would work out. I can’t express enough how wonderful this experience was. This young man entered our home and it was a tremendously fulfilling experience. He loved to make the little ones laugh. And once we showed him unconditional love and some understanding he quickly bonded with us. As we reflect back we consider him our first “unofficial” adopted kid. He seemed to be excited for life and had just graduated high school and was ready to go on a church mission but, regrettably, the skeletons that had haunted him and drove him to attempt to take his life before came back again and he took his own life. Our hearts were crushed and we truly feel like we lost our son.
In the midst of all of this we had transitioned into a larger home and we both felt very blessed and also felt the impression that we should give back so we entered the world of foster care. Little did we know what we were getting ourselves in to. Due to the high demand for foster parents we hadn’t even finished our training yet before the Department had asked us if we would be willing to take in two young sisters. Our hearts were full and our doors were open. And in the midst of the flood gates opening we ended up taking in 65 foster kids within a 3 ½ year time frame. (Another blog post about foster care will follow).
We had decided that we would then take the next step and go from temporary care givers to kids to becoming eternal care givers to a child through adoption. Kendall was a foster kid with a fellow foster family that was looking to be adopted and we made the leap and adopted this 13 year old boy to give him a forever family. He came into the family on the heels of Mark passing away so, in reflecting moments, I think we were filling a void in family. Our boys needed that older brother that they missed so badly and we felt that Kendall could be that child. I will write more about our experiences with Kendall (BK) in another post, but suffice it to say that this adoption was a VERY challenging one for everyone in the family. So much so that by the time that he had graduated and left the house I didn’t know if there would ever be another addition to the family. EVER!
We were in the healing stages as a family unit when out of the blue Bridget contacted me one day and told me that a friend of hers messaged her saying “I think I saw your kids on an adoption website” (translation – I saw a few kids that I think would be perfect for your family). And according to her she knew from the moment she saw their profile that they were her kids. Me? Not so much. I was nowhere near a comfort level emotionally let alone logistically on how we would make it all work. We just went through a number of years that caused a lot of pain and division within the family and I felt we needed time to heal. I didn’t know how to respond to Bridget. Here she was saying she knew for certain that they were her kids and all I could respond with was “how in the world can you come to that conclusion???” As I was speaking with a friend online I was advised to find out for myself from a spiritual standpoint if what she was feeling was accurate. And this is the moment when my thought process took a huge turn in regards to adoption. After a few months of soul searching and prayer and discussions with Bridget I had some moments of personal inspiration. I can’t say there was a specific AH-HA moment. But a softening of my heart and a breakdown of my walls that had always restricted me in my thought processing. With Bria and Bronx I was still transitioning into my own sense of spiritual understanding so while I didn’t have the same absolute and definitive impressions that Bridget had I also didn’t have any emotional blockage to making the decision to bring our kids home. I had found a sense of comfort. And how happy I am that Bridget was patient with me and my stunted emotional state. I went into the adoption process with a still guarded tone due to our recent experiences but those quickly washed away as we were able to see a wonderful bond created between the two new kids and the rest of the family. Has it been all fun and games? I don’t want to give any false impressions so the answer is no. But it has been worth every moment.
Now we must be done. Right? Eights kids is a good number (4 biologically and 4 adopted). Well according to the Man upstairs the answer to that question has been no because within a year we both felt that there were more kids that were supposed to be part of our family. I can’t explain those feelings. Perhaps Bridget can – you’d have to ask her. But all I know is that my spiritual side and my logistical side were working together and we were looking at profiles of kids across the country. And something came into our minds/hearts. “If not us, then who?” After seeing the growth and happiness from all of the kids with Bria and Bronx in the mix we felt a sense of longing to give to children what they might not ever get if we don’t step in – an eternal family. Having been working with DHW for as long as we had we knew that sibling groups were difficult to place. Most adoptive parents are looking for a single child, particularly a younger single child. Bridget and I knew we were capable of more so we opened up the search to sibling groups. And after a lot more time on our knees and in heart felt discussions with the rest of the kids and each other we determined that this group of 6 siblings from Las Vegas was who we were directed towards. 6 KIDS? I know right?!?! I can’t quite explain it myself. And I know some within my family certainly don’t get it as they consider us “kid collectors”. But I’ve seen lives change for the better all because I/my family were willing to open up my heart/home to my Heavenly Father’s children. These beautiful children have been home for 6 months now and again, while it hasn’t been easy, it has been absolutely worth every moment. We are a family.
So, to answer the question of “why” I felt it necessary to give some of the back story. Because the “why” has changed over the years. Recently, Bridget and I had the opportunity to go to dinner with some cherished friends, Scott and Tess Pyrah. One of the things that Scott did to help me break down my feelings about the “why” of what we do was asking me “why is that important?” and with each answer he would follow that up with another “but why is that important?”. This was a training exercise he had learned in a seminar recently and the intent is to get to the core of what drives your decision making. Upon finishing this exercise I had determined that my “why” fits into three categories within a hierarchical order.
At first it was utilitarian in thought. There was a need and we had the capacity. And as noted – she was family. It wasn’t until the 2nd round of official adoption that it turned from logistics and sense of ability to…I honestly feel that this is what my Heavenly Father wants me to be doing. Bridget and I have developed a skill set from all of the various children that we’ve had in our home (also have had 30 exchange students) and with that in mind we feel that we are ready to be of service to our God when He calls.
My second “why” is that I have been asked by a loving Heavenly Father to walk this path with my family. My first and foremost thought process about adoption from this day forward will always be – “I’ll do what you want me to do”, when Heavenly Fathers asks me. That is not easy for me – AT ALL. I can’t quite put into words how difficult it is to fight against that right brained part of me when it comes to this decision making. But it helps me find peace much more quickly as I feel comfort in being in that pathway. And I have faith knowing that if He asks me, He will give me the tools, peace, and resources to do exactly what He asks.
My third “why” comes from my mother, who taught me compassion. After working with those 65 foster kids and having lived in a third world country for 2 years, I have seen the impacts of extreme struggle and loss. And my heart aches for children who have no sense of knowing what unconditional love is. I believe that all children deserve that – although not many receive it. And while Bridget and I can only do so much I am not going to put a limit on what my abilities are or capacity is. In the words of Mother Teresa “what we do is nothing but a drop in the ocean, but if we didn’t do it, the ocean would be one drop less”. Which again bring the thoughts ringing in my head “If not us – then who?”
My fourth “why”………. drive, per se, is towards society. There is such a decay in society as more and more kids grow up in these scenarios and then end up having their own children, many times recreating an ongoing cycle of abuse, anger, immorality, and pain. I want to be part of the solution to creating the world that I want to live in and not just be on the sidelines complaining about said society.
So there it is in a nut shell (kind of a long/big nut shell). Are Ben and Bridget Barrus out of their minds? ABSOLUTELY! But we wouldn’t have it any other way.
From the land of chaos,