Anyone who knows me, knows Tonia is my best friend.  And anyone who knows Tonia, knows that she is an amazing writer.  Let me tell you, it makes me nervous every single time I use punctuation, because I know Tonia reads every letter of on this blog (because that's the kind of friend she is) and I know she is noticing each of my many grammatical errors (because that's the kind of friend she is... just kidding... no, I'm not). 

I have been begging Tonia to write a blog post forever.  And after the post, What We Want You to Know About Talking About Adoption post, she confessed that she had been working on a blog post about what it is like to be on the outside of an adoption.  So I thought it would be good, for those of us inside the adoption world, to read what it feels like for our friends and family on the outside.  I hope you enjoy it!
A very blurry picture of me and Tonia.
Outside Looking In
by: Tonia Carroll Johnson

My friendship with Brandy started when we were two college freshmen who knew of each other but didn’t really know each other. We had been high school tennis teammates, and although we had talked before, we had never really had a real conversation. We found ourselves away at college, two and a half hours from home, lonely and homesick. We started spending evenings together, and the rest, as they say, is history. I’d love to add a lovely picture of us, circa 1999, but I have already been warned about ever posting such a thing on the internet…

A lot has changed over the years, and we have been there for each other through the peaks of happiness and the pits of despair. One thing that has not changed, however, is Brandy’s desire to adopt. Before she even spoke of marriage, she spoke of wanting to adopt. It may have been during one of those lonely college evenings when we were still teenagers. I know that it has always been her heart’s calling. Logan shares that calling, and their passion for the orphans is contagious.

As an outsider looking at their adoption journey, it isn’t always easy, though. I am excited for them as they anticipate the arrival of their second child, but I find myself not always knowing what I can do to help, or wondering if I’m doing enough. I am careful in my conversations about adoption because I worry that I’ll say the wrong thing. It is difficult for me to understand the adoption process, and I know that there are times when I should say something, but I don’t know what to say, so I say nothing. Nothing, when my better judgment pleads “Say something!”

I don’t speak for all family and friends of adoptive families, but these are specific things that have, or would, help me wrap my brain around things my heart already knows. Or is it the other way around?

* When we ask what we can do, give us specific ways that we can help, whether you are in need of prayer, are collecting supplies to send to the orphanages, or just need encouragement. Suggest ways we can use our God-given talents to help. For me, those things are “write a letter,” or “make a craft.” I can do those things and know that I am helping.

* Be forgiving when we say the wrong thing and gently correct our misconceptions. Or, when we’re really just not getting it, be blunt. Know that adoption is a foreign concept for some of us, something we can’t fully understand without having experienced it ourselves.

* Help us better understand the adoption process. Encourage us to ask questions and share resources with us. Invite us to an adoption seminar for friends and family, or allow us to share with you in your child’s culture – at a restaurant, a church service, a traditional dance. Don’t make us (me!) dance, though.

* Share your hopes and dreams for your future child. Speak of him/her/them often, and don’t let us forget that they are already a part of your family, regardless of their present location a few states or half a world away.

It’s true that some of us can be clueless. But some of us are really trying. We want to support you during the lows of the process and rejoice with you in the highs. We don’t always know the most graceful way to do that, but our hearts are waiting with you to welcome your sweet baby home.

11/13/2011 11:19:29 am

Thanks Tonia for the post and thank you for all the help you have been in making elephants for our adoption fundraisers and for "being there". You haven't only been a consistent supportive friend for Brandy but I have found you to be for me too- THANK YOU! Angi :)

11/13/2011 11:49:30 am

This is really good. I think back to some questions that I asked adoptive mamas in the past that I know NOW were totally offensive. But I am so grateful they were gracious and that they took the time to give me information. I want to strive to pay it forward and do the same for well-meaning people that ask me sometimes appalling questions.

11/14/2011 09:24:01 am

Great blog, Tonia! I wish I could have seen you guys circa 1999. Bust out those pics!!!! :)

I sometimes (well, all the time) worry if what I am saying is the right thing too. I want so desperately to help and support you on this journey, but sometimes I am clueless as to what to say. That coupled with my nervousness of wanting to say the right thing usually explodes into some lame statement. I leave you kicking myself, wishing I had said or done something different.

Please know that I love you all so much, and I always-no-matter-what want to help. Even when my actions of words fail me.

Daryn Lewellyn
11/19/2011 12:34:19 am

Wow Tonia! Well done. What a friend you are for Brandy. Your blog said a lot of things that we have also felt. As parents we are so proud of Brandy for all that she does.


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