Sibling Attachment

My family began the adoption process in 2005.

Adding to our family had never really been discussed, and as far as I was concerned, I was happily the baby of 3 with 2 loyal and protective big brothers that looked out for me. But the Lord had other plans for the Horner clan and He made it very clear to my parents that adoption was His plan for our family!

By July of 2006, our paperwork was logged in to China and we had received the referral for an 8 month old baby girl—our AnnaClaire! I was 13 at the time. The most giddy big-sister-to-be. I mean, I was the one who blogged every single day and wrote notes to AnnaClaire before I went to bed at night. I was with my parents every step of the way, taking road trips to get everything authenticated, counting days between various approvals, helping create a wardrobe for this little girl we didn’t yet know, but already loved. The whole adoption process was a dream for me and I loved every moment. Mom and I would excitedly follow blogs of any and every family traveling and longed to be walking the streets of Shamian Island with AnnaClaire.

Finally, in December, we boarded a plane to Beijing, and we met AnnaClaire a few days later.

Emily HorneIt wasn’t just my thirteen-month old baby sister that I met that day. In that stuffy little room, I met Jesus. I met Him as I watched the gospel unfold before my eyes. Hopeless to great hope. Orphan to beloved daughter. Abandoned to utterly adored. I watched ashes turn to beauty and as she screamed, I saw Jesus meet my sister in her brokenness and confusion, as He meets me daily in my own, pulling me to Him and whispering His affirmations and delight in me even as I flail my arms and try to run in every other direction. And because of it, I will never be the same. Involve your kids in the adoption process because they just might meet Jesus, and their lives will never be the same because of it. (Who knows, they may even move to China 9 years later because of the seed planted when you let them be a part of the process.)

My family has gone on to adopt 4 more times. We brought Kate home in November, 2008. Charlie and Grace came home in July of 2010. And Ellie completed our family, miraculously, in February, 2012. Our adoption stories all have the fingerprints of Jesus all over them. I constantly reflect on his faithfulness in how he has brought our family together, and I could not be more thankful for the 9 people that he has given me to call my own.

But that doesn’t mean it has been an easy road… and what good things ever are?

AnnaClaire and Kate’s adoptions went fairly smoothly, and I adjusted to my big sister role with total joy and excitement. As I entered into my junior year of high school and found my family in the midst of another adoption journey, those feelings started to fade. We traveled to China for Charlie and Grace the summer between my junior and senior year. At the time of their adoptions, they were 4 and 10 which was a vastly different experience than adopting snuggly baby girls. It was HARD in every sense. The demand on my parents was significantly increased and with my brothers now away at college, I felt hurt, alone and forced to independence. I may have been 17 years old, but I needed my parents as much as ever, and I felt the effects of their busyness and increased demand for attention. I began to distance myself in a jumble of hurt, pain, bitterness, and longing for the family of 7 I had known and loved. The pain was real and it was deep and it stayed with me for years as I came to terms with guilt and shame I felt for wishing things differently.

emily horner 3Let your children grieve and give them space to do so.

Be patient with them as they process the loss of what was. Talk about it and be open and empathetic in hearing their hearts. Don’t push them into guilt and shame that their feelings are somehow “wrong.” We are entitled to our feelings. Change takes time to process and to adjust to; you can’t force relationships to happen. Pray for your children and trust that the Lord is perfect in his timing. That he can soften the hardest of hearts, as we see firsthand in the Old Testament, when he lets his people go, releasing them from Pharaoh’s grip that they may flee Egypt and begin the journey to the Promised Land. And the Promised Land is coming. No matter how much it hurts and how long it takes, there is healing to be found and restoration to occur. Walk with your children as they grieve. Be there for them and make time for them, going out of your way to spend one-on-one time with them, reminding them of your love and adoration… how special they are. Even when it feels like you have nothing left to give, just keep showing up in their lives. Remember that adoption isn’t just you and your husband/wife’s thing. It’s a family thing. And in remembering this, your children may again meet Jesus. Because as much as he revealed himself to me in that stuffy room, my heart so full of joy as the gospel unfolded before my very eyes, He also met me in the challenges and hardships of adoption as he drew me near and showed me that He is FATHER and He is enough. As He showed me what true dependence is and that He will NEVER leave me or forsake me.

The Lord has been so gracious with me as He has healed my heart.

I stand amazed at His faithfulness over these past 10 years since we first started the adoption process. As He has restored what seemed too broken, as he has deepened my love for my family in a way I never imagined that I would feel.

Emily Horner, Lifeline Intern 

For more about Lifeline’s Crossings ministry, visit our website HERE.