Monthly Archives: February 2011

2 Months

This was Alice the day after we got her, November 9th. We have been home 2 months today…wow. Time is flying by. We finally looked at the video and pictures we took while in China, and it is unbelievable the difference in Alice in this super short time. The weird thing about it is that while we were in China and feeling like all was going so well (which in the scheme of things, it did go well), her face tells a different story. We were such strangers that I didn’t realize how hurt she was. Now that we have known her for the past few months, I can tell you what that face is in all the pictures. It is fear, trauma, shyness, despair, hopelessness, and a broken heart….and I didn’t realize the extent of it. I knew that I had only seen a picture and had an “idea” of Alice and who she would be, but I never knew just how much we did not know each other. She seemed SO fragile and softspoken and her cry was such a dry, sad, mournful cry. Fast forward from November to January….it hasn’t been that long, but I know her so much more…I can tell you what her different expressions mean. I know we have only begun to know our Alice, but what we know, we love, and we can’t wait to know her more. She is a beautiful creation sent straight into our lives by our loving heavenly Father. He knew how to craft our family in an unbelievable way. How else could it be that she fits so well??? It is not luck or chance. What a privilege it is to be her mother. She is saying all kinds of things…like “I want chicken,” “Are you okay?” “Daddy, daddy, where we going?” “I do it,” “Ow, that hurt!” “love you,” and “thank you” to name a few. She is crazy smart, so loving and nurturing, absolutely hilarious and full of charm. She is inquisitive, confident, and opinionated. Fearless, brave, and strong. My daughter.

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Jennifer Morrison

Jennifer and her husband Charles have been married almost 12 years. They live in Athens, Alabama and are the parents of 4 children. Their biological children are Charlie (8), Max (6) and Lucy (4), and they just returned home the week of Thanksgiving 2010 with their newest addition, Alice (2), adopted from Guangdong Province in China. Just over a year ago, Jennifer, along with 3 close friends, launched an orphan care ministry at Parkview Baptist Church in Decatur, Alabama called Hearts of Compassion. The goal of this ministry is to raise awareness of the orphan crisis and the role that we, as Christians, should play in that. The ministry focuses on the various facets of orphan care including, but not limited to, foster care and adoption. Through their ministry, they have set up a fund for those adopting who qualify to receive financial assistance. Jennifer loves her life and the adventure that God is taking their family on. She enjoys blogging about adoption, life, kids, the welcomed chaos, and her amazing God.

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Just checking in for the week? Make sure you check out Monday’s post and leave a comment to enter the giveaway!

Something Momentous Was Happening

I never fully realized the full ramifactions of being an orphan until we adopted two orphaned boys from Ethiopia. Other than the obvious and devastating loss of their parents, an orphaned child quickly spirals down an abyss of loss; loss of opportunity, loss of family inheritance, loss of status within their community, loss of protection, loss of … everything.

In Ethiopia, an education requires monthly fees, school books, and a school uniform. Without money to pay for school fees, that child cannot attend school, and the opportunity to get an education and “make something of themselves” is lost. Any family property, livestock, or land is lost. Anything passed down from parent to child, from mother to daughter, from father to son … is lost.

It’s a parent’s most valuable legacy … the things we teach our children. The wisdom gained through hardship and experience, that we attempt to pass down to our children to (hopefully) lessen their mistakes. The advice and counsel we try to give as they navigate through childhood into their turbulent teens. But, for an orphaned child, … there is no such legacy.

This last weekend, my parents came to help us with some house painting and to build a new railing for a deck. My dad’s construction background comes in very handy on these types of projects, and Jay and I are very willing to take instruction and learn from his expertise. This time, we had a new little helper that was extremely curious about all the tools that were suddenly appearing and the fresh load of wood that arrived with Grandpa.

Jayden (9 years old) ended up working alongside his grandpa all day and well into the next day. Little boys are sometimes known for their short attention span, easy distraction, and quickness to boredom – but there were tools involved, and measuring tapes to learn how to use, and levels to hold in place until the bubble reached just the right spot! A dream come true for a curious (and mechanically inclined) little boy!

Jayden tucked himself along his Grandpa’s side, and Grandpa was happy to have such an attentive helper and hard worker. And, amid the hustle and bustle of all the projects, I had one of those moments where it suddenly dawns on me that something momentous is happening.

Planets are alligning,

broken cogs are suddenly meshing perfectly

and a little boy who was once an orphan was in the process of gaining a birthright … a new heritage … a legacy, right before my eyes.

I stopped to watch (and take a few pictures) as Grandpa patiently explained to Jayden how to hold the deck spindle in place so he could screw it securely in place. How to check it to make sure it was plumb and straight. After a few, Jayden caught on, and I watched my Dad smile approvingly and Jayden’s face break into a brilliant smile.

Pretty soon, they had their own rhythm going, and they were working together in perfect harmony with few words needing to be exchanged. When grandpa needed a different drill bit, Jayden anticipated it and presented the right one. When a new railing section was ready to be placed, Jayden was ready with the platforms and jigs to help with the placement. When the drill started to lose power, Jayden walked over to the charger to bring a fresh battery.

Later on, I watched as Jayden demonstrated to his little brother, some of the finer points of the tools. Pointing out the different drill bits and the various screw heads.

Pretty soon, Wesley was trying his hand at the hammer and drill, and sitting patiently while handing deck screws to his Daddy right when he needed them.

Later, I thought about what Jayden’s birthmother had told me about his birthfather. “That’s no child of mine,” he had said, disclaiming him as his son, and setting Jayden on a path of despair, starvation and bitter poverty.

And now … this little boy not only has a Daddy who claims him; he has a Mommy, a brother, 2 sisters, 2 grandpas, 2 grandmas, and more cousins, aunts, and uncles than he can count. And little by little, knowledge and wisdom and experience are being handed down to him within the birthright of his new family.

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Karen Wistrom

“We have a child in nearly every lifestage (preschool, elementary, tween, and teen), and we’re loving every minute,” commented Karen and Jay Wistrom about their four children. Two bio daughters and two adopted sons from Ethiopia keep this family of 6 on the go. Karen is the Vice President of Marketing for a cabinetry manufacturer and also volunteers as a sponsor coordinator for 2 care-points in Ethiopia with 152 orphaned and vulnerable children through Children’s Hopechest. She captures the blessings, the tears, and the momentous occasions of family life, adoption, parenting, and orphan care on her blog.

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Just checking in for the week? Make sure you check out yesterday’s post and leave a comment to enter the giveaway!

Blessed Are the Booty Hearts: Giveaway!

So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Did you feel the need to say anything out loud after you read this?

Maybe a Hallelujah, or an Amen?

Well, if you were Eva Rose, you would have cried out, “Mom! My bottom is dancing!”

Isaiah 41:10 makes my daughter’s bottom dance.

Praise be to our Lord Jesus Christ.

For a long, long time, eons it seemed, I searched high and low for un-annoying Christian children’s music. In vain. In vainy vainy vain.

I just wanted some good tunes, fun for kids, while not simultaneously making mom want to bang her head against the dashboard. So much good stuff exists in the secular world, I could not fathom why it was so impossible to find a Christian Laurie Berkner? Or a Dan Zanes for Jesus?

Wanting my kids to learn the good old songs and hymns I knew, I settled for listening to melodramatic children’s voices accompanied by a synthesizer played by a guy whom I imagined to have Flock of Seagulls hair. (With the Christian music leader frosted tips, of course. And a goatee. Probably wearing some Toms. And sporting some tats.)

And then, something beautiful and magical happened….I discovered Seeds Family Worship.

And now, if you are experienceing a little anxiety, I am not likely to quote scripture at you. Oh no.

But I will sing it at you. (Walker might accompany with an interpretive dance, should you happen to be exceptionally blessed.)

Lord knows I serenade myself with some do-not-be-anxious, like, well, pretty much every day.

These CDs, which are also available on iTunes, totally rock, and I mean that literally and figuratively. The band takes great Bible verses and sets them to great music. After listening to them, God’s word will be hidden in your child’s heart – and yours. Because get this – are you sitting down – I find myself listening (and jamming and singing very loudly) to Seeds even when my kids are not in the car.

And if you ever hear someone singing “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith, it is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, it is the gift of God….la di DA. La di DA, ohhh, not from yourselves…” while goosing cantaloupes at Kroger, well, that would be me, and that would be Ephesians 2:8. Which I now know by heart. And which my bottom now dances to.

Now, one caveat – if you buy this CD, you will find yourself trying to explain things like, “Why is Jesus da wight of da world?” and “What is wages of sin?” or, “What’s a new cweation mean?” to 3 and 4 year olds. So have your coffee ready.

But can I tell you how my heart rejoices while I try and explain theological concepts to my preschoolers that I did not learn about until I was almost 30?

Shepherd and Eva Rose’s all time favorite is Booty Heart. “Play the Booty Heart song, Mom! Booty heart!” Did you not know about the booty hearts? Well, they will see God. Jesus said so in Matthew 5:8: Blessed are the booty pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed, yeah yeah yeah, blessed, yeah yeah yeah…

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Missy

Not your typical “mommy blog,” Missy’s beautifully-written musings run the gamut from witty and light to deep, thought-provoking and prayer-invoking…often simultaneously. Her blog touches on anything and everything: the nitty-gritty of daily life with four small children, social/political commentary, the calling and pursuit of adoption, and the ups and downs of walking faithfully through life with her husband and for the glory of God.

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And, We Are Grafted In is sharing the love today. Seeds Family Music has agreed to do a giveaway here. One reader will receive the cd of their choice from their store. And, you know what else is super cool? Each cd comes packaged with two identical cds–one for yourself and one for you to giveaway. Just keep planting the seeds, people.

To enter, simply leave a comment on this post (one per family, please). A winner will be chosen from those who commented at the end of the week.

Advocating for Anton

Sweet Anton

On January 16, 2010, twin boys were born in Moscow. One of the boys, fully healthy, went home with his parents. The other twin, who was covered with wounds and bruises at birth, was left at a Moscow hospital. Given the confusion of the hospital staff over his condition, minimal attention (the hospital typically has one nurse for 20 infants), and minimal pain medication, it is a miracle he survived those early months.

But, he did. God sustained him.

Through the blessing of some relief organizations who learned about this little man and his diagnosis of Butterfly skin disease (Epidermolysis Bullosa, EB), he was able to spend a few months in a different hospital with a personal nurse where he was able to receive good medical care as well as toys and a connection with someone who cared for him. But, he is soon to be transferred to an orphanage where he will not receive the kind of care he has been getting simply due to lack of resources or skills in dealing with his medical needs.

And, so, we are advocating for him here. He needs a family.

Could you be his family? Could God use you to care for this child, His child in a miraculous way?

There is a webpage created to advocate for him. And, Anton is currently listed on Reece’s Rainbow, a website that spotlights available children for adoption with special needs and works to build adoption grants for the family God has chosen for these children.

Please visit his page on Reece’s Rainbow, consider donating (it’s tax deductible) towards the grant for his adoption.

Make a Difference: Blair’s Dream

Blair Milford

A few weeks ago, during MLK week, Blair’s class assignment was to write her dream. They completed this assignment at school, and she made no mention of “her dream” until last week when she brought home her school work. I was going through her papers and when I came to this page, I asked her to come in and tell me about it.

You see, my Blair is my thinker. My ponderer (is that really a word?). My save-the-world child.

So when my sweet, tender-hearted child read her dream to me, tears in her eyes, explaining how badly she wants all kids in China to have a home, I lost it right along with her.

She went on to tell me she wanted them to have a mama and daddy. To have sisters that love them and play with them. To have homes with families that love God so that they can know about Him and his love for them.

I’m not surprised at all that this is Blair’s dream. Since we got home with Kate, Blair has asked a lot of questions. Big questions. Really hard to answer questions. And she thinks about the answers, what they mean to her and for the orphans.

She also asked if we could pick kids out to pray for. So we have. Each month, or until the child finds a family, we go through “the list” and pick 3 kids. We print their pictures with their names and ages, and we pray for them each night. And not one night goes by that we don’t pray for them. Just the other night, I was out running an errand, and Mike put the girls to bed. When I came through the door he said, “Blair said to wake her when you got home because y’all have to pray for the girls.” So I did.

I believe that Blair’s tender, soft heart is spot on. I think that we should ache for these kids to have homes. We should be helping them any way we can. I am not saying we should all adopt, but I am saying we should care. We should find a way to help, and we can help in so many other ways than adoption.

This is where my conversation with Blair went after we both stopped crying. She started talking about ways to help. Of course her first question was, “Can we adopt them all?” Love that girl! After I explained that that is just not possible, she came up with other ways. Here is her list:

  • We can pray for the kids each day/night. Pray that they are healthy, loved, cared for, and that their families find them soon. If you want to do this and need a few kids let me know. We have a list going.
  • We can give to organizations that are helping the orphans. We can give money, supplies, or time. Some great organizations that help in China are Love Without Boundaries, An Orphan’s Wish, New Day Foster Home, and Half the Sky.
  • We can collect things an orphanage needs and then mail the care package, or we can order things in China to have them delivered to the orphanage. If you want more info on this please let me know.

And this is how our talk finished:

“Mom, will you and Dad help me with my dream?”
“Of course, babe.”
“But, it’s a big dream, Mom.”
“Yes, Love, it is.”
“But, we can do it?”
“Yes, baby, we can.”

And off she skipped spouting off what she was going to do next to make her dream come true.

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Ashley Milford

Ashley is a social worker turned stay-at-home mom who rarely stays at home. She has been married for 11 years to the man who makes her laugh until her side hurts and can fix anything with a hug. They have have 3 miracles girls, the youngest (by only 6 months) joined their family from China this past summer. You can check out their adoption journey and musings on life as they know it on her blog.

Did You Know?

“Um, Lauren’s mom?” she said with a little wrinkle on her nose and her head tilted to the right. “Yes?” I answered. “Did you know that she only has one finger on her hand?” I paused so that I wouldn’t giggle just a bit… “Why, yes, I noticed that!” I said back. She nodded and went on dancing.

“Hey, Lauren’s Mom?” She was back. With her golden little curls framing her face. This time she brought a friend with her. “Yes” I smiled. “AND did you see that on her other hand, she has two fingers but they are stuck together???” I looked into her eyes and smiled “Yep- I did know that! Pretty cool, huh?” She smiled at me “Can she COLOR?” I smiled back, “You bet she can.” She skipped off to dance in circles with Lauren.

I wondered before we brought Lauren home what looks or comments we might get. This reaction made my heart just leap. The innocent little one, with nothing other then interest asking me if I had actually noticed her hands. And then making sure her new friend could color made my heart smile. I love that innocence. I love that reaction to a child who may be slightly different then the rest of her friends. I love that she came and talked to me about it.

The thing that surprises me sometimes are just the stares. Maybe I am reading a whole bunch into the staring. The people who stare may just be amazed at how crazy my kids are. Or just how loud we tend to get in public. Or the oddity of having two white boys and two asian girls. Or maybe I have spinach in my teeth.

But, I can tell. Sometimes she is getting stared at. Her hands. The big momma part of me wants to scoop her up and give those people the what for. (Not sure what exactly that means, but I know it can’t be good) What good would that do? Will their minds be changed about people who have differences? Probably not.

I guess I just never understood that mind set. Never. I can see how as a child some differences may “look” a little scary- because they might never have seen anything like that before. But the adults? That stare? And walk the other direction? Really? I don’t get it.

I am thankful for this sweet little girl who happened to be born with hand and feet differences. I am blessed to watch her do anything and everything she sets her mind to. I am grateful for the sweet little ones who accept her without judgement, just honest questions. And worry about if she can color. I am in awe of a God who has given us the opportunity to love on this wonder.

I want to encourage you that adopting a special needs child is a special journey. Just as any other birth or adoption. You may have some extra challenges, some different issues….but it’s amazing. To encourage those who may be considering opening their home to a child with special needs: Not only will your heart be totally changed and softened, but your world will never be the same. It will be richer, more boldly colored, and mostly more full of love then you could ever imagine.

That is not to say you will not have challenging days. Or that there won’t be days you don’t hide in your shower to weep. What I am saying is that if you let this slip past you, you may miss out on one of the biggest blessings that the Lord can give you.

So, yes, I know she only has one finger. Yes, I know she only has two on the other hand. But, she is PERFECT. And we wouldn’t have her any other way.

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Jenny Markmiller

Jenny has been married to her husband Michael for 15 years. They have 4 children, two homegrown boys, Jack (12) and Sam (9), and two daughters from China, Katie Mei (6) and Lauren (5). Michael and Jenny live with their family in Oklahoma. Jenny is a stay-at-home mom to her kids. They adopted Katie Mei in March 2005 at 8 months old. They just returned from China in December, adding their little girl Lauren to their family. You can catch up with their family on their blog.

A Life That Matters

I enjoy studying people, and I’ve been at it for some time now. If you go to the mall, I’m the guy on the bench with no bags and no intention of shopping. You’re the reason I’m there. I’m watching you and hundreds more in hopes of discovering something new. One of my discoveries is how funny people look when they are mad (have you ever noticed that a lot of mall shoppers are mad?). If they had any idea how silly they looked fussing at their spouse they’d save their little fit for later.

Another, more serious discovery I’ve made is the role fear plays in motivating people. And, one of the greatest fears in our country is the fear of failing. Everyone on the planet wants to win, but Americans hate to fail! So, each morning, millions of us wake up driven by this passion to climb the ladder of success. Amazingly, most Americans successfully navigate the pitfalls, overcoming sometimes ridiculously huge obstacles. And, at the conclusion of their lives, many of them stand triumphantly at the top of the success ladder. Ah, sweet victory! The only problem is, more often than not, they discover in the end that their success ladder was leaning against the wrong building! I have to believe that the greatest fear in our lives should NOT be the fear of failure but rather the fear of succeeding at the wrong things. Hmmm . . . so many wrong things . . . what’s the right thing?

Before God created you, He created something that needed to be done. Then, He created you to do that “something,” and no one on the planet can do that “something” like you can. It’s why you were custom designed with your personality, abilities, and gifts. Friends, that incredible “something” is the “right thing” to lean your life ladder on. It

Choosing a Name for Your Child

One question frequently comes up from curious strangers and prospective adoptive parents: Did you name your children? I love that I was asked to speak to this topic because it is something dear to my heart. I love names. I do not think it is coincidental that the meanings of names often reflect a person’s personality or that certain names are pressed upon our hearts for the child we will steward. I also believe there is purpose in those names. Often, they reflect the work the Lord has done or will do in that family or in the child. Isaac, for instance, means “he laughs” and certainly reflects Abraham’s heart in learning of his baby to be.

How we come to an adopted child’s name is a very personal decision. There are three general options. First,
there are people who choose to keep their child’s given name. They feel this is a part of who they are. It is something that was given to them (usually) by their birth parents. In many cases, they feel it is the only thing they’ll be bringing with them aside from the clothes on their backs. There is a tender sensitivity in these parents towards children and their first families and experiences.

Other people choose to change the child’s name completely. They want the child to feel welcomed into their home and family. They know how precious it is to share with their child the name they prayed to give them. Much like when the Lord called some of his people into new stages or ministries, He changed their names. Abram became Abraham, and Saul became Paul. These parents are reflecting the hopes of a fresh start and future for their children.

Still others choose to use a combination of their given name and a new name. Either keeping the given name and giving them a new middle name or giving them a new first name and keeping their given name as their middle name. We chose this last way in naming our 3 daughters who came home from Haiti. We wanted to give them the names we had chosen for their new start in their new family. However, each of them was coming home as an older child. To do away with the names they had been known by for years entirely didn’t seem right. The names we chose for them reflect their individual personalities as well as their connection in coming home together. Together, their names mean “Happy Life Belonging to God.” That is our hope for them, that their new start would be filled with joy and laughter and that they would choose, Lord willing, to follow Him.

There is no right or wrong way, but I do think there is some intentionality that needs to go into naming a child that comes home through adoption. A careful consideration of your unique child and their unique past and unique future. In many ways, their names will always be the first part of their story. What a beautiful testimony to God’s faithfulness.

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Cate Johnson

Cate Johnson has been married to her best friend, Sean, for 10 years. They currently reside in the Sonoran Desert with their three Haitian princesses who came home forever in 2008. Ada is 8, Nica is 6, and Evelyn is 5. They are passionate about Jesus, adoption, and attachment. They also love coming alongside prospective adoptive parents as well as those struggling through transition and attachment. Cate blogs about all of these topics and more at Gathered From Afar and Attaching Hearts.