Yearly Archives: 2013

On Mei and Mysteries

One year ago today we held our sweet Mei in our arms for the first time.

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We met her in an office at her orphanage. They brought us to her and less than an hour later she left the only life she could remember.

We wondered- “Would she be scared? Would she cry inconsolably? Would she learn to love us (for we already loved her)?”

But she wasn’t inconsolable. She was quiet at first. Just taking it all in… tentative… yet open to our love and affection.

In the past year, we have had the honor of watching Mei learn so much- she took her first steps when home just three days, and she learned to talk (she was not speaking yet in Ch*na)**. She is now speaking in full sentences (at a consistently elevated volume to be sure that she is heard!) Not only is she talking, but this child is one smart cookie! I am always amazed by the connections she makes and her comprehension of things for her age (and considering she’s only heard our language for a year!) For instance, the other day, I was watching her pretend to make some cookies out of sand, and I said “Mei, you are such a good cook!” She looked right at me and said, “I am not cooking; I am baking!”

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We’ve seen wonderful things on the medical front, too. Our little peanut has gained a pound for every month she has been home- no longer can she be labeled ‘failure to thrive’! In Cincinnati this summer, she was able to receive the surgery that will give her the best chance at ‘normal’ function of all of her systems. And perhaps even more importantly, the testing prior to her surgery in Cincinnati revealed another condition that, left undiagnosed and untreated, would have led to kidney failure. (We sure stood in awe of God that He had orchestrated all of this – her crossing the ocean and then us all heading states away- to get her to the right doctor who would find this condition.)

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Please if you hear anything in this post, please hear this. We share all of this for one reason and one reason alone- to give glory to our Lord. If you think for a second, what an amazing family… see what they’ve done for her… she is so lucky! … you have totally and completely missed the point. Oh, how my heart hurts inside when someone says this! I know it is meant for good, and we do receive it as such- as a gift of encouragement. But all I can think is- Oh, how I wish they knew the truth.

If there is one thing that I have learned this year, it is, ironically, exactly what Satan tried to convince me of to keep me from adopting Mei in the first place.

Because the truth is- we are not enough.

We are not strong enough, loving enough, or faithful enough. We do not have what it takes to save or redeem or heal the broken heart and body of an orphan child- (or, coincidentally, ourselves or our birth children).

Now I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is true… It is just not the whole story.

That day when we met Mei, we met a child in desperate need. And she met two parents in desperate need. And all we have done is carried her, sometimes crawling ourselves, to the altar of God. Where all those who know they have nothing to offer meet a God who delights in offering Himself to fulfill our every need.

So I have shared with you how Mei has changed in the past year. How we have seen a life renewed… redeemed. But what I cannot share with you is how. Because so much of it is mystery. This is all I remember, and quite frankly, much of these memories are foggy (smile). I remember …

hugs
kisses
pigtails
dirty diapers
doctor’s visits
laughter
tickling
laundry
reading together
playing
cleaning
hospital visits
prayers, tons of prayers
tears
awe
gratitude

That’s what I remember. That was my part, pretty much. So you can see I am pretty much un-awesome. Pretty much just like you. Doing the things you would do. Many of which were thoroughly enjoyable.

But what is awesome is how all of those things, offered into the hands of our Loving Father, have been shaped and molded to bring about miracles right under our roof- in both my life and MeiMei’s.

It is a mystery. A beautiful, marvelous, redemptive mystery. I have not the slightest idea how to explain it, but I know it is not new. It is, in fact, the Story we celebrate this Advent season, is it not?

Like Mary, I want to say- “I am your servant. Let it be to me as you have said.”

And yet, so very often, the best I feel I can offer Him is .. well, not much. I am a mess. I want to offer Him more, but at the end of the day, the truth is my greatest efforts often fail… I am a mess.

But then I remember… that’s where He first came. Into a messy, dirty, humble stable. That’s where our God chose to enter the world.

And (can I get a Halleluiah here?) HE STILL DOES!

This Christmas we celebrate Emmanuel, “GOD WITH US”. And that, my friends, is the key to the mystery. The mystery of my redemption.. of Mei’s redemption.. of all these mundane, commonplace things transformed by God into marvelous miracles.

He still comes! He is still Emmanuel!

I’m not talking about how he comes when I get a warm feeling while singing Silent Night by candlelight on Christmas Eve. (Because for eighteen years this is as close as I thought He got to me).

I am talking about how He comes in the everyday– even in… no, especially in… my stables, my messy places I set aside for Him with a hope-filled prayer that He would make His home here. Right here in my heart, in my home, in my arms as they reached for that no-longer-orphan child… Praying Oh, come Emmanuel. Just be with us. And help me to trust that is Enough.

My prayer for us this Christmas… That we may slow. Slow the searching for the “magic” of Christmas- in all the lights, and gifts, and parties, and food. That we might look deeper. Look for the miracle. Celebrate the God who came. The God who still comes. Emmanuel.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel has come to you…

** I would be remiss if I did not pause here to stress that Mei was in a very good institution. We believe that she was truly loved and cared for. We do not believe that she was mistreated in any way. To the contrary, we believe that she was given the best care that was available to her at that time. We are incredibly grateful for her birth country and specifically for the orphanage and caregivers who loved and cared for our daughter for those two years.

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Haley Long

I am a recipient of amazing grace. I’ve been married 12 years to my husband, Scott. We had 2 children, Isaac and Zoe. Then one day God met us both in the same moment and broke our hearts and filled them with love for orphan children. In 2008, we brought our son Beniam home from Ethiopia and in 2012, we brought home our daughter, Mei from China. I am a Florida girl who loves sunshine, water, and sand. I enjoy almost anything you can do outdoors, especially in the mountains. When forced to stay inside, I love to read and write.

Analytical Anna

Early this morning, as I was gently stirring my two littlest for K-5.
I suddenly heard a familiar voice in my head accusing me.
The voice was analyzing the way I woke up one daughter compared to the other.

The voice was telling me that it was because I still don’t treat them equally, saying I still have a long way to go, and making those feelings of condemnation rise back up.

You know, the ones you hear when you first meet your new little one and you realize that this attachment thing takes some time because you don’t have all the “feelings.”

Yeah, that one.

The voice was immediately making me doubt myself and how far we have come. Making me feel I should robotically go through certain motions just to think I have attained all the checks on the “Prove Your Love” checklist.

Today, I realized that I want the days of the questioning to be over.
The days where I analyze every action and doubt myself.
I want to just be their mom and stop constantly evaluating my every little action.

It has gone from something to good to being a source of condemnation.

As I spent the day contemplating that thought and talking with the Father about it.
I began to consider what Paul said to the Philippians about attaining our goals.

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Sure I am probably not where I want to be.
But according to Paul, what good am I doing evaluating every action.
What I need to be doing is constantly focusing on pressing on.
This life is a one-foot-in-front-of-the-other journey.
A journey in which Paul said, I will always need to be reaching/straining forward.

I will certainly never attain perfection this side of heaven.
So I might as well just enjoy being a mother with or without my daily failures.
I might as well just trust the love working inside of me.
And trust God to give me ideas at just the right moment
that accomplish just the right thing that is needed for that moment.

Because I can actually hinder the relationships I so desperately want to build
by attempting to treat each of my children exactly the same, all the time.

As if that even proves anything.
Where is the love in that?

I can be the source that keeps these relationships from flourishing,
if I live in a constant state of frustration or condemnation.

I want to live free from that fear.
At the heart of this, I know that is the enemy’s voice-planting fear.
But I refuse to be afraid.

I will press forward.
And I will do it without doubt,
without condemnation,
and without over analyzing everything I do.

And I truly believe that as I build this confidence in God in my own heart,
it will spill over into my children as well.
For this is something they, too, will have to face in their own way someday.
Especially as they contemplate their story and begin to face doubts of their own.
What better model could I give to them as their mother than this!

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Lokey 197Anna Lokey and her husband Shaun have four girls (one from China) and FINALLY a boy (also from China). She’s a normal mom, living a life for God, raising a family that does the same, homeschooling, and trying to keep up with everyone’s schedules. She says, “If I can get my kids to school and gymnastics on time and then fix a real meal for dinner, it’s been a good day!” You can read more about them and their anything but LoKEY life on her blog www.anythingbutlokey.com.

Gotcha Day Link Up

You thought the day would never come.  The day when the child or children you have been praying for would officially join your family.  The waiting is in the past.  The wondering is in the past.  You have seen God’s perfect plan unfold and you couldn’t be more excited and thankful for the journey God has led you on to get you to this point.  To get you to the child that God had for your family all along.

We want to hear your gotcha day stories!  Besides loving a good cry, it’s a great opportunity for all of us to share God’s faithfulness and give Him the glory He deserves.

So, go ahead, link up.  Share your story.

Share God’s story.

The Door No One Can Shut

It was definitely a surreal experience to be sitting in that soviet-style government office back in the fall of 2000. My husband Stephen and I had flown to St. Petersburg, Russia, to complete our first official trip in the painfully slow process to adopt our son and daughter, Pasha and Kristina. Like so many of you, we were not prepared for scope of what would be required of us to bring our children home. There was the financial and time out-put, of course. The paper work alone was a huge source of stress and effort! Anyone else out there know the tune to that song?! But there was also a considerable and unmeasurable emotional and spiritual cost as well. Joyfully given, but as I said, unforeseen.

So, that morning sitting across the desk from the stern woman who seemed to hold the fate of our children in her rather intimidating hands, Stephen and I were already experiencing a sense of relief at being so close to the finish line of a long race. We eagerly awaited the official approval of our adoption, sure that we had dotted every proverbial “i” required of us. So, what happened next totally took us by surprise.

This woman slammed her fist down on the desk and in a severe tone said, “You cannot adopt these children.” When our translator and amazing advocate, Sasha, explained to us what she was saying, we were absolutely dumbfounded. How could this be? What else could we possibly do? We had jumped through every hoop, and some of those hoops more than once as the time passed.

It was then that Stephen experienced one of those moments that you remember and tell about for the rest of your life. He said that as we sat there, with this dread coming down on us like her fist on the desk, that he heard the Lord’s voice as clear as ever he has heard it. Our wonderful, kind Lord met with us right there in that ungodly office–He is indeed EMMANUEL! GOD WITH US. Stephen said out of the blue he heard God say, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. (Revelation 3:8 NIV)

I include the scripture reference here, but at the time, although he knew it was from the Bible, he didn’t know exactly where. After we left the office (there were lots more harsh words directed at us before we could leave) Stephen shared with me that such a peace and assurance came over him at that moment, totally in opposition to the atmosphere in the room, that he knew that whatever that woman said or did at that point would carry no weight and have no influence in the end.

Dear friends, the call to adoption is an open door that Father God placed before us and our children. Undoubtedly many of you, like us, have had similar occasions when someone has come along, and with some authority of their own, reached out to slam that door shut. And I am not just talking about the part of adoption that is the process of getting your child into your home, all the official paperwork finally completed and officially approved. For if adoption is the transformation of an orphan into a true Son or Daughter, then to some degree many of us are still adopting. As we parent our children, loving them through their grief, trauma, attachment issues, and search for identity, you and I enter into the powerful and efficacious expression of the love of the Father that we call adoption, both for our children and for us.

It is good for me as a mother of 7 to remember how the Lord intervened in that Russian government office all those years ago, for since then there have been many different versions of that scene played out over the years–times when the enemy has tried to stop the process of my children living in their full inheritance as a true son or daughter. That door of adoption God opened for you and me will not be shut!

And that spot right there, in the center of that doorway, is where this mother will take her stand!

Father God, together as a community of mothers and fathers, we thank you for the open door of adoption through which your love continuously flows to us and to our children. We are in total reliance on You God, for we cannot open that door, nor can we keep it open over the years– BUT YOU CAN AND YOU DO. May each child represented by each reader of this post enjoy every single bit of their inheritance as a True Son, a True Daughter. Amen.

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Beth Templeton

Beth Templeton

Beth has been married to her husband Stephen for 27 years. They have seven children, ages 18-24. Several years after giving birth to three girls God called their family to the adventure and blessing of adoption. In 2000, they brought home a brother and sister, ages 5 and 10, from Russia. Then they returned to the same orphanage 18 months later and brought home two more brothers, ages 7 and 10. Beth’s heart has been deeply and forever changed as she has watched the love of Father God poured out on her whole family through adoption. She leads Hope at Home, a ministry dedicated to help adoptive and foster parents encounter the Father’s heart for their families, partnering with God to transform orphans into sons and daughters. For more parenting insight and encouragement in the Lord, go to hopeathome.org

Go Again

We stand in line at the grocery store like clockwork. It’s Friday. The cashiers know my family and my children know them by name. Miss Misty is having a baby. Eden called it months before it was obvious and I hushed her in fear that she’d engaged in the taboo question all children have a hard time containing. Mr. Ty’s daddy just died. Caleb prayed for him to be healed nearly every day since he’d told us, but Mr. Ty’s heart seemed to be healed in the meantime. “I believe in God, now,” he tells them as he weighs my cucumbers. Miss Sata has a new hairstyle, again, and Mr. Roger still isn’t quite sure my groceries will fit in the oversized bag I tote every week.

Just like at home, I forget we are different when we are there. We may have been”different” to each one of them, when they first met us, but now the normal we live everyday is just as normal to the man re-stocking the produce each week as we scoot our cart passed him.

But one week, our cashier was new and curious and demonstrative. The groceries slowed to a halt  on the belt and his face flushed, red, as he gushed about them and gave kudos to me. “Wow, it’s so amazing what you’ve done.”

Adoptive mamas alike share the same discomfort with comments like this, but this particular one struck a new, strained, chord.

This week, when the window shades were pulled, I had been far from amazing.

Tired at best. I hid behind my bedroom door and cried, exhausted. Was it always going to be this hard? I’d run bone dry — out of those tender, patient words with a long-suffering tone, and this particular child pushed away every movement I’d made towards love. It was as if every one of her actions was purposed to say: “I’m going to make it impossible for you to love me. I’m waiting for you to fail me. Prove to me I’m not worth it.”

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And fail her I did.

She needed steady and I reacted. How many times will this child resist my advancements towards her heart? In my fearful expectations, I inhaled her years of fatherlessness like it was a death sentence. Albeit subtle — all in my head — she read me, of course; a child, once orphaned, becomes an expert at detecting a weak-link of love. They prepare to flee at the first indication that love might fall short.

Hearts bleed in my home in different intervals, but at any given moment one or another is reminding me that we aren’t exactly re-creating normal. I press my hand against the wound and it hemorrhages and I wonder if we’ll ever stop bleeding out old blood.

What a perfect storm. The recovering perfectionist fails and the child backs away further. Who wouldn’t fail this child who’s fiercely resisting my love? I argue to myself. She waits expectantly for her history to repeat itself and I fight feeling trapped by her expectations.

On days like these, while you cry behind the shades pulled tight and your neighbors are shouting out accolades, the YouTube video of the beautiful moment when they found themselves wrapped in your arms is not enough to sustain you. Those of us who have saidyes to the wounded child   — or even if you just happened to find yourself raising one — need a grid for their very worst days.

He gave it. In words, once. In expression, all throughout history.

Go again.*

He told the man, Hosea, who married a harlot that couldn’t leave her darkly-patterned ways. What a life calling. How do you explain this to your mother and father, whose dreams for you surely stretched well beyond welcoming a stained bride who still hasn’t decided yet if she is staying?

Ring on Branch

His words to me are in kind. Look deeply into those eyes that are like vacant corridors and hold her again. Let her forehead feel your lips. Scratch her back and tickle her belly and tell her — again — that she’s yours … forever. Call forth from what is not, what will one-day be. “…just like the love of the Lord for the children of Israel” (Hosea 3:1).

You see, friends, she (any one of the “she”s in my home on a given day) is only my greatest challenge if I believe that my eighty-something years on earth were intended for me only to know safe love — the world’s version of love. If I am to receive and live a love that has a known a shape and form that doesn’t bend or break or bleed, then she’s a real problem. A hindrance.

But His love isn’t plastic.

And He said about me what He is saying to me about her.

Go again.

Path

So I go, again, to her — not because I have some stalwart strength that needs recognition from a grocery store cashier, but because I want to invest my life in knowing the “other-than” love of the Father that outlies every one of my natural understandings of Him.

It’s not my resolve that equips me. My knees are busted open and blood-shod from falling in my pursuit of her heart. But in my weakest moments, I can know this love. Because of my weakest moments, I can know this love.

The most beautiful part of my story these days is bloody.

A friend recently stared into the eyes of her daughter, adopted at an older age and bristling — hard — against her love, and said tenderly, “Babe, you’re going to call me your best friend one day.”

That’s His love that goes again.

Going again is looking into that dead-pan expression and saying it’s not about how far gone you are [the lie they’ve listened to all their lives], it’s about how far He is willing to go to retrieve you. 

Holding Hands

FLower opened

I won’t come by this love naturally. It’s not natural for those of us clothed in flesh to lean in, not back, when pushed away. The real life-blood of God courses through my system when I resist the urge to divorce my heart from the battle for hers and, instead, go again.

It’s in the going again that we wear the cross and find out from experience what we know in Word, that that tree was more about life than death. Though death was required.

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The person in our lives most challenging to love — the child in our home or the friend down the street or even our blood-kin — is the instrument for bringing us to the end of that plastic kind of love and the beginning of our own personal revelation of the cross as a doorway, not just a destination.

He’s aptly positioned them so we might have a place where we get to be the rare ones on the earth who share His heart — the heart that goes again.

They aren’t our greatest challenge, friends. They are our greatest asset.


Tree in Snow

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Making it Practical for those in and outside of adoption: If your love for the one under your roof has run dry, start the line of prayer with yourself: Father, where I am putting up walls to Your love? Where am I not receiving You? Though maybe not connected by blood, this child was given to you for more than just their own heart’s redemption. Every one of their challenges is tied to something He is also doing in your heart. Resist the urge to divorce them in your heart and ask Him to reveal the layers in you that need to know Him as the Father who goes again.

Spend time meditating in the gospels on the cross. Smell the blood and sweat against that wood. Ask Him to make His Word alive in your experience.

And put what He shows you into action. Slide away from the screen, pad your way down the hall to her bedroom, and wrap your arms around her, tight. Ask Him on the way “How do You see her?” and tell her what He shows you. Make it a habit: hug her as many times as you feed her. Give her His words about her, not just your observations. Let them become her true food.

Go again.

 

*For Your Continued Pursuit: Hosea 3:1 | Hosea 2:14-15, 19-20, 23 | Hosea 6:3 | 1 Corinthians 13:-10 | 1 Corinthians 1:18-19 | Galatians 6:14 | Hebrews 12:1-2 | Matthew 10:38-39 | Colossians 3:2-3

First, fourth, fifth and sixth photos compliments of Mandie Joy. Second and third photos compliments of Cherish Andrea Photography. Last photo compliments of Photography by Kamarah.

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Sara Hagerty

Sara is a wife to Nate and a mother of five whose birth canal bridged the expanse between the United States and Africa. After almost a decade of Christian life she was introduced to pain and perplexity and, ultimately, intimacy with Jesus. God met her and moved her when life stopped working. And out of the overflow of this perplexity, came her writing.You can read more of her writing at Every Bitter Thing is Sweet.

There May Never Be a “Good Time” but Now is the Time

9509983801_48ea3d05e7_oThis has been a busy and exhausting week.  We are hosting 2 sisters for 3 weeks at our home through Safe Families for Children.  Some days I’ve laughed and felt my heart burst at my girl’s ability to share, love them, and be welcoming.  And some days I’ve cried and felt defeated at our inability to get anywhere on time, the selfishness that emerges so quickly from the girls (and myself..ahem), and the death of our “normal routine.”  It is hard but the best kind of hard. The kind of hard that Jesus asks of us so that we know for sure with every ounce of our being that we are not self sufficient.  It has been almost one week and there have been days I was ready to say “this is just too much” but in those moments God has sustained.  I have visited a friend who is on the journey with us and has 2 of the siblings from this family as well.  I have remembered that when we come to the end of ourselves then God shows up and we cannot take credit.  And He does things better and more beautiful then we ever could.

The timing may seem crazy but as I sat in the Safe Families conference last week I felt so convicted that I always can think of a reason why right now is just not the right time.  And my reasons are pretty good ones:  I’m still feeling sick, I am almost 8th months preggers, we have two kids, we don’t have tons of extra space.  But as I examine my heart I know that those are excuses.  The truth is there is never a “great time” to serve and love and welcome in a stranger into your home because it is messy.  But yet that is exactly what Jesus calls us to do.  It is so important to Him because it costs us something, it transforms relationships, and it requires us to live in faith and not just talk about it.  It changes others but mostly it changes my selfish heart.  I read that the Bible instructs us to love, welcome, and care for the stranger over 100 times.  But yet I can always think of a reason why now is just not the best time.  I cannot recall a time in recent history when I have sat happily on my couch while perfectly behaved children played in a completely clean home while dinner cooks in the oven.  There will never be a “good time” to do this.  Our life is messy and real hospitality means inviting people into that mess and chaos and saying we love you.  We don’t love perfectly but because we are desperately loved and have received outrageous grace from our heavenly Father we gladly can extend what we can to others.  The grace we have been shown is not just nice or great it is ridiculous and life changing.  And it spills from us.

We want to support their mother in a difficult time and really show that we take seriously the command to love our neighbor as ourselves.  You see it is easy for me to think I am pretty good at that until my personal space and time is threatened.  It has been hard for us all to share our lives, our space, our stuff, and our time.  And the opportunity to do so has allowed us to loosen the grip on those things.  Anni and Evy are counting the cost with us and I am so proud of them.  Not because they perfectly share but because they are struggling through and living what it means to love others.  It has afforded us so many great chances to talk as a family and work through this all.  I am bursting with stories and it has only been a week but this morning as I was puking in the sink and thinking to myself “I just cannot do this one more day” I saw this….

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The girls getting their hair did and then Annikah brought me this….

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A note the oldest girl wrote about her time here so far (we eat a lot of fruit…be still my heart).

And I remembered that God knows best and His grace is enough.  And friends and family are supporting us in this and one will be here with pizza in an hour (crowns in heaven I tell you).  It is these things that convince me more and more we are meant to live exhausted and spent for His glory but full of abundant love and peace because of His scandalous grace.

Boasting in my weakness because that is where He is shown to be strong.

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finalRoxanne Engstrom is a mama of 3; Annikah, Evangeline, and the newest little boy Abishai. Roxanne and her husband Jason now live in Chicago after returning from 4 years learning, loving, and living on a small island in Africa. They have a heart for adoption and supporting vulnerable families and are now back stateside after a failed adoption overseas. They are currently a Safe Family through Safe Families for Children and becoming Foster parents in the hopes of adopting. She blogs about their family’s adventures and what God is doing in their lives at www.roxengstrom.blogspot.com. She is grateful that even though the journey can be difficult God gives joy and promises abundance along the way.

Adoption: Beauty from Ashes

Every single adoption starts with one thing: loss. Perhaps not always on the side of the adoptive parents, but certainly always on the side of the children and birth parents. Always. That part, the beginning, the loss, cannot be ignore or glossed over.

There’s a whole lot of pain and separation and loss that happened in my children before we came along. There was nine (ish) months of growing in the womb and bonding to their mothers. There was, for one of my children, at least several weeks of bonding outside of the womb. Then there was separation and trauma and loss. Another period of adjusting to a new environment … and then we came and though we love them fiercely we were still strangers. So when we took them from their home country it was another trauma and great loss. Familiar smells and sights were gone. Their once familiar language was no longer heard. Yes, they were gaining so very much… but in order to gain they had to lose a lot.

This part of adoption breaks my heart. This part feels largely ignored by the world. Comments like, “He’s the luckiest boy in the world….” or ” she won the lottery when she got adopted by you two…” are proof of that. I understand the sentiment behind the comments, I truly do. What they mean to say is that it is such a work of God’s grace and mercy that out of such brokenness and heartache and loss could be hope, restoration, and redemption. Yes, I see that, I promise I do. But that’s not lucky or winning the lottery or getting the best deal in life. It’s beauty from ashes… but you can’t discount the ashes.

When talking about adoption we need to start in the ashes. For so many reasons I cannot be a whole, loving mother to my children without first acknowledging, examining, and being willing to dive into the loss they experienced. Out of that I get to dig and search and help them find the beauty, yes, and I am so honored to be that person who gets to stand with them. But if we ignore the loss, shove it aside and pretend it never happened and that now is all that matters, the restoration cannot begin.

There must be a balance. The temptation is to always portray adoption as all happiness, roses, rainbows, puppies, and the like. On the other hand, there is so very much hope and joy that comes with adoption. So we shouldn’t solely focus on the painful parts either. I believe when we give our picture of adoption we should not be shying away from the ashes while portraying the beauty.

After all, let’s be so thankful that our children’s stories don’t stay in the ashes… that there is so much hope and beauty and grace in them. Because isn’t that the gospel picture? Suffering, pain, loss, darkness … then dawn, redemption, restoration, hope, and completion.

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Lauren Casper

Lauren Casper

Lauren Casper is the wife of one handsome pastor, a mother of two beautiful toddlers, and worshiper of the King of Kings. She uses her voice to share her broken story of traded dreams and overwhelming redemption with the hope that others will see God’s work of restoration, healing, and grace in their own lives. Lauren is currently writing her first book about her journey through infertility and the surrender that led to adoption. She dreams big and writes with a transparent heart on her blog, http://www.laurencasper.com/.

Chance Observation from an Adoptive Dad

We live in a college town.  It’s not unlike other small-ish college towns where the continuous hustle and bustle generates a continual near-electric atmosphere – especially downtown.

 I don’t usually, but a few weeks ago I had the occasion to drive down Main Street on the way home from work.  Sometimes I loathe driving this route, but this particular evening I was “feeling it” and thought I might enjoy the change in scenery.

 Oh the scenery.  As you might guess,  there are LOTS of people doing LOTS of things in every direction.  People of every shape, size and age abound.  Trying to imagine what they are doing can be fun.  Maybe call it “people watching” – that’s a non-creepy way to say “observing”.  Some are clearly on a mission – they are running, going to the library or headed to and from class.  There are couples holding hands, others that look like they are considering holding hands and yet other twosomes that appear to be on a first date.  A few older retired couples are headed to a restaurant the students cant afford (this is beginning to sound like a Billy Joel song).  There are the freshman – very easily spotted – traveling in wolf packs and wearing the latest trendy fashions (Ladies – I’ve observed 2013 as the tall leather brown boots, black workout pants and North Face jacket kind of year – in case you felt left out).  If you are wearing the exact same thing as your friends it is ok…up to maybe twelve of you?  There are the seniors that are clearly very practical and goal focused – drinking cheap coffee, maybe having a slice of pizza and not having changed from their pajamas in a few days.  Get the picture?

 So on I drive.  It’s a slow ride as I stop for the small scale parades across all the “mandatory stop” pedestrian crossings in town.  Closer to the west side of town the speed picks up, the streetlight intervals increase and people are clearly having less fun.  I stop at the next spotlight and notice another pack of freshman walking at a clip – their dorms obviously being a further walk from downtown.  They completely ignore the very expectant girl they walk around on the narrower sidewalk – and so nearly did I.

 

She wasn’t with friends.  She probably wasn’t headed on a date or out to happy hour (I hope).  I don’t know anything about her – except that at that moment I’m sure college wasn’t what she had planned.

 The tone of my drive suddenly changed.  What was her deal?  How did she end up in this situation?  Surely I don’t want to judge her past actions – but you can imagine that possible scenarios crossed my mind.  Whatever her journey had been thus far – at least she was still in school – doing what she had probably set out to do initially – her strong resolve carrying her through.  But at what expense?  Further thought answered my question.  Her’s.  Her expense.  I arrived home a bit late for dinner after another ten minutes in the car.

Later in the evening I flashed back to that moment.  When I did, I didn’t see a stranger girl with no face.  I suddenly saw Ash’s, my son’s birth mother.

Now I have perspective on it.  I’m sure there were many times during and after B’s pregnancy when that girl was Ash.  Not the fun girl to be with.  Her condition alone probably signaling “wet blanket”.  Learning that some friends weren’t true friends and learning the real identity of those around her.  And yet, she was focused, resolved to her situation.  She ultimately persevered, though undoubtedly it wasn’t easy – all at her expense.

With the holidays approaching I thought back to a similar situation long ago. Don’t think I’m stretching – there are many similarities.  Mary, mother of Jesus, probably shares a lot in common with these women.  My son is certainly not The Christ….but Mary had a pregnancy not asked for – certainly not by any anticipated circumstance.  She was unmarried – probably bringing another 2000 years of legalistic judgement upon her.  Despite our crazy liberal society today it is apparently still generally taboo to be young, pregnant and unmarried.  (I’ll never understand the logic of a society that is “ok” with abortion, but only if you feel like it).  I can’t imagine Mary had many true friends.  Her family relationships were undoubtedly strained.  She probably wasn’t invited to the latest 31 party in town.  She was surely publicly shamed – being seen with her would be unacceptable.  And yet, she was righteous. She was doing the right thing – even though her society thought she should stand alone.  Without Mary and her Baby, where would you be?

While I have said “thank you” to Ash several times for many different reasons – I’m not sure I can say it in a big way that would cause me to not need to say it anymore.  This recent experience helps me understand a bit more about what she has done – not just for us.  She was “that girl” and can never get back what she selflessly gave up for someone else.  A lot of someone elses…me included.  Thank you, Ash.

Before Jesus healed a blind man, Jesus’ disciples asked “who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind?”  Jesus answered them saying “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him”.  (John Chapter 9, verses 2-3)

Many of us have heard John 3:16– but do we stop there? John 3:17 says “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

The supporting point of these two verses notes that God himself finds little relevance in how we got to be to where we are today.  His Son Jesus is not here to judge us or condemn us for our current state.  He is here to take us out of that state.  To make beauty from our ashes.

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Amber Houser

Amber is the blogger behind Bumber’s Bumblings.  She is madly in love with God, her husband (Nate), her two beautiful children, and extended family; she enjoys making new friends, running, cooking, chocolate, green smoothies, sleep, instagram, peanut butter, and pizza.  After months of trying to conceive turned into years, Amber shared in the isolation and devastation that so many women suffering from infertility experience—until she and Nate were led to open adoption and a magical, miraculous son.  Amber is the founder of the Delaware Area Moms Through Adoption Group, has shared her adoption story in a documentary film, Unborn by Christian artist, Caitlin Jane, and has had the opportunity to speak at retreats, women’s banquets, and small groups about her path to open adoption.

 

 

In Everything Give Thanks

“In everything give thanks.  For this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

1 Thessalonians 5:18

Thank you, God.

In the years of trying to get pregnant and nothing happening.

In the unsuccessful fertility treatments.

In the expectant mom who had made us her number one choice and then after meeting us ended up picking couple number two to parent her baby.

In the “expectant mom” who chose us.

In finding out that the “expectant mom” wasn’t expecting after all.

In the nights that I laid in bed wondering if it would ever be our turn to be parents.

In the expectant mom that chose us and then dropped off the face of the earth.

In the expectant mom that chose us and then decided to parent.

In more waiting and not knowing what our future would look like.

Looking back, I truly can thank God for all of these things because these storms led us to our precious boys.

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While I don’t believe that God calls us to be thankful for the storms in our life, He does call us to be thankful in them.  As we begin the week where we set aside time to offer up our thanks to our Heavenly Father, I encourage you to be thankful in the hard stuff – In the waiting, in the not knowing, in the stacks and stacks of paperwork, in the difficult or insensitive questions and anything else God has put in your life to draw you closer to Him.

In everything.

Give thanks.

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beach familyAbby and her husband Wes began the journey of domestic adoption in 2009. Blessed with a (more than they had planned but oh so thankful for it) open adoption experience, they were able to witness the birth of their first child Max in the summer of 2010. Little brother Sam joined their team in September of 2012. Wes and Abby are trusting God as he leads them in their relationship with their sons’ birth families. You can follow their story at Akers of Love.

An Answer…

I was going to blog about Wednesday.
I was going to blog about Wednesday and how disappointed we were in the non-answers we received.
The girls had their big Neurology appointment on Wednesday and we were so hoping to hear “an answer”.
We wanted a, “this what is wrong and this is what we are going to do about it” answer.
We wanted an answer as to why sweet Maggie cannot control her precious little body.
We wanted to hear that with good physical therapy, Lucy would one day run!
That is not what we heard though and we were left feeling saddened by what our girls might have to overcome or simply learn to deal with as they grow up.
Once again, I found myself feeling un-equipped for what we heard or did not hear.
There was just no “answer”…
or at least not the answer that we wanted…and that was hard and left me feeling discouraged – but then…He answered

and He answered in the way that He knew would penetrate my heart the most.

After the business of the rest of the day, my sweet Lizzie…

 

you know the one whom we thought might have the toughest time adjusting to her new sisters, the one whom we thought might not want to share us…
 or her stuff!
Yep, the Lord used that Lizzie to give me an answer but it wasn’t an answer to our “what is wrong” question but more an answer to “what is right”.There is a question that comes up about our adoptions (spoken and unspoken).It is a question that many adoptive families get, especially those who have adopted multiple times.How will this affect your other children?Sigh…Don’t get me wrong, I totally get that most people ask this out of genuine concern for our children but it still makes me sigh.The Lord gave me an answer though as sweet Lizzie chose this day to show us what she had been writing in her journal at school.

 

Interpretation – “I love you Maggie and Lucy so much!!  They have cerebral palsy.  For Maggie, it affects her talking.  For Lucy, it affects her walking.  Lucy is like Charlie (loud – hehe).  I LOVE YOU MAGGIE AND LUCY!”

Yep, she had written about her sisters and about her big family and about how much she loved us – all of us and there was my answer.

Not the answers we had hoped for that day but the answer that really mattered.

Love, just love, unconditional and totally accepting.

I saw it in the face of our Emmeline that day on the beach.

You all remember those pics right?

Those beautiful pictures of Em realizing that her sister, Lucy, who walks very slowly and unsteadily had been left behind…

and the joy that radiated from Em’s sweet face as she went back to get her was my answer.

It was not a burden for sweet Em, but a joy.

A moment that was not lost on me and one that I use to remind myself of the blessings that have been gifted to us.

I was reminded again today as we watched our precious Lizzie play soccer.

After watching this amazing child just tear up that soccer field, our precious Lucy insisted that she walk across that field, all by herself, so that she could give her Lizzie a hug!  The look on Lizzie’s face as she watched her sweet sister struggle to get across that field and walk right into her arms was all the answer I needed!

So, yes, growing our family through adoption has indeed affected our other children.  By allowing them to tap into to those precious fruits of the Spirit, they are learning (and are teaching me) that just loving unconditionally, without an “answer”…

is the best answer of all!
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Galatians 5:22-23 


 His answers aren’t always what we would like them to be but they are always the best answers and trusting in that is a constant work in progress for me but what blessings come from waiting on Him and staying on that sometimes rocky path!Praising You in the good times and in the tough times Lord!
_________________________
Annie H.

Annie H.

Annie H. and her husband, Chris, live in Charleston, SC along with their 7 children, Christian, Charlie, Caleb, Emmeline, Lizzie, Maggie and Lucy.  After Annie and her family adopted their daughter, Lizzie, from China in 2008, Annie’s heart was forever changed and following the Lord’s call, she became an advocate for those precious children still waiting. Annie now works for Lifeline Children’s Services as their International Adoption Advocate and has loved working with the same wonderful agency who helped her to bring her daughter home in 2008 as well as their two newest daughters in August of this year. Annie manages the Lifeline advocacy site Wonderful Waiting Kids where she advocates mostly for older children and those with more significant special needs and blogs about their family and adoption at Cornbread and Chopsticks