Monthly Archives: January 2013

Meeting her.

Last month, before leaving for the DRC,  I wrote about what was weighing heavy on my heart – the day I would take my son from the arms of his foster mother.

Every time I talked about it with someone, I was in tears.  Every time I thought about it, I was tears.

As a foster mom of a son that I have loved since the minute he was placed in my hands at two weeks old, my heart was filled with gratitude for this woman whom I would soon meet.

The days leading up to our meeting were filled with nervous trepidation, as I knew that I would never be able to voice to her just how much I understood her role in our son’s life.

Because of our baby J, I know what it means to love a little one who is not promised to you.

I know what it is to be up at all hours of the night, rocking, cradling, and snuggling a child that I did not birth and whose sweet little toes I may never get to see fill the shoes of a grown man.

I know what it means to pour everything you have into a child that may never thank you, and in fact, never remember you.

There was so much I wanted to say to her, my Tyson’s Mama Isabelle.

As I walked out to meet her and my baby boy, the tears were flowing.

She greeted me with a huge smile and I hugged her as tight as I could.

She spoke no English and I spoke no French.

Through our lawyer, who spoke minimal English, I shared with her everything I could muster in the shortest and most succinct amount of words.

“You have loved him so very well.  Thank you.”

It wasn’t enough.  But nothing I said would have been.  Nothing could have conveyed how full my heart was at that moment.

As I held our smiling, cuddly son, with chunky thighs and full cheeks, it was quite evident that Tyson had been well-fed, held tightly, and cuddled often.

And believe me, I fully realize that this is not always the case in international adoption.

Because of Mama Isabelle, our Tyson bonded quickly to us.  He craves snuggles, makes great eye contact, and smiles and smiles and smiles and smiles.

It’s been three weeks since I met my son.  Three weeks since I took him out of the arms of his Mama Isabelle.

When I talk about it or think about it, it still brings me to tears.

But it isn’t out of sadness.

It’s out of a heart that overflows with emotion for the gift of a son who now carries my last name.

It’s from a heart filled with thankfulness for the selfless love of a foster mom caring for our baby 4,000 miles away.

It’s because of a heart bursting with love for my own foster son who is a miracle and gift that I one day may have to return.

I can’t guarantee the tears will stop anytime soon, because they are filled with gratitude and awe at this life we’ve been given.

Thank you, Mama Isabelle. You were an answer to five months of prayer for our son and a tender reminder to me of my call as a foster mom.

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Leslie Word

Leslie has been married to her husband Brian for almost three years. They live in Montgomery, Alabama where Leslie works for a nonprofit agency and Brian is a student pastor. They are passionate about caring for the orphan and have helped start ONEfamily, an adoption, foster care, and orphan care ministry in their church. Their free time is made up of watching football, eating Mexican food, and spending time with their rambunctious puppy, Knox. They have chosen to adopt first and are currently fostering a little guy and just returned from the Democratic Republic of Congo with their son. You can read more about their adventures here.

Near Despair

Yesterday, I was on the edge of despair. We talked with our lawyer and found another thing told to us had in fact not been granted…said to be impossible. I sat down after that phone call and doubt began to grip my mind and heart. The raging waters of this journey of adoption were overtaking me.

Friends on this journey with us gave encouragement and others spoke truth into my despair. But my battle was fierce. It seemed that “having faith seemed like a denial of reality….” I looked at everything from the last 2 years from my senses and said, “I want to quit!! A quitter I will be, I don’t care!” I wished for the pain to go away, the waiting to cease and all lost to be returned. Foolish. I sat foolish on the bank of my waters, cursing all that has become, not seeing the true realities.

Then a friend posted a video of a spoken word and I melted, as quick as sand melts when waters crash over it. It was called “strike the waters” and it spoke directly to my heart.

You see, this journey of adoption has had its seasons, but amidst them are moments when I am tempted to despair. Yesterday, I wrote this in my journal:

I have fought for faith today. My feet are at the edge of these waters I have been swimming in for 2 years…I got out of this water today and was ready to retreat…to sit down on the beach away from it’s depths and call it’s win…and accept my loss. I was content to go back to the sand where I once built my castles. But I found that all my castles had been knocked down. I turned in my heart towards those raging waters who have tossed me for two years now and all I had was anger. I screamed out, “Let me be, you adoption journey!! Let me be!!” I sat in doubt and admitted the cries of my heart. This journey in these waters have been a place of slow death. I look up from the shore and see the waters roaring up and down and curse it with my might. I hate you! How dare you come and disturb my castles of pleasure and break through my walls, shattering all of my dreams. You take down all my creations like they are nothing.

My parenting skills, my plan of education, my belief that all things will be properly put in its place if you just work hard and do right. You take them down with a mighty blow. How dare you crash down my savings and make me ask for help as though I could not take care of myself! You knock down my schedules of time and seasons and expose my inabilities to manage this life!

You take my priorities of safety and security and snap it in my face. You erode the face of my towers and proclaim my failures and lack of control!

You take my naivety of rebuilding and continue to wash away all of my pride telling me to “pray to my god” Injustice you are!! And today in my despair I hate you! I hate you because of what you do. You rage upon me and seek to call my bluff. You call me out to your waters and seek to drown me in your depths. Maybe you are true and too strong for me. I walk away from your waters that give me daily, my salty tears!

I sit here on the shore running the sand grains between my fingers asking why…why so much destruction to myself…wasn’t I fine before building my sand castles on this shore?

And then God..He rescued me, as He has done every time.

who enclosed the sea with doors
When, bursting forth, it went out from the womb;
When I made a cloud its garment
And thick darkness its swaddling band,
And I placed boundaries on it
And set a bolt and doors,
And I said,

Walking Away: 2 Years Later

2 years ago today we were walking through the halls of what had been Asher’s home for 23 months.

Still in shock over being handed a 17 lb 23 month old who had never had anything solid in his mouth.

Who wasn’t walking, talking, or even crying. Whose spine I felt every time I held him.

I was angry. The other child that was adopted from this place on the same day was healthy, chubby, running all over and babbling all kinds of Chinese. And was younger than Asher by a few months. I was anxious to see just what kind of place this was and try to put the pieces together of a very, very fuzzy puzzle.

It was cold and dark inside the building. Colorful but sterile. The staff were sweet, smiling at us, and welcoming. A nanny walked by with a basin of bottles, with large holes cut out of the nipples so the kids would drink fast and be done so the next chore could be done. Strangely quiet for being “home” to about 100 children.

We didn’t get anymore answers to our fuzzy puzzle. All we were told was that they had tried to “fix” his hands, but that “it didn’t work.” (how exactly you fix missing fingers is beyond me)

But then our time was over. We said our goodbyes. And we participated in one of the greatest miracles I believe I’ll ever be a part of:

We walked out of that building with our son.

That my friends, is a miracle.

The Lord had His eyes on this child when he was abandoned in a box. In His Sovereignty, moved the heart of a man to find him, take him to the police station, and then to an orphanage that participated in International Adoption. In a city of 7 million people.

7.million.people.

And we got to be a part of that plan and participate in the miracle. I’ll tell you one thing, no one ever struts when they are adopting. Adoption has been the most humbling experience of my life. Hands down. If there’s ever any pride in this process, the Lord is not in it. Saying yes to this calling ought to make us fall on our faces to the ground and just weep over how BIG God is and how GOOD He is and how SOVEREIGN He is. And BEG Him for wisdom and understanding on how to love and parent these gifts He’s given us.

We got in the van, and drove away that day. Feeling more guilty than I ever have in my entire life that I only had ONE child in my arms. That 100 were still in that place. It did and does still feel, like not enough.

Today, there is healing.
There is eating and running and singing and giggling.
There is peaceful sleep and security.
There are lots and lots of hot wheels.

Revelation 21:5
And He who sits on the throne said,

Same Love, Different Love

I think one of the biggest misgivings people have about adoption is wondering if they can love an adopted child as much as a biological child.

I’ve been asked it.

And I’ve answered it in various ways….depending on where we were on this journey.

I’m going to be honest here.

Back when we adopted Rylie, deep down, I might have answered in a way that showed my doubt. She was tough. And a lot of the time, I was faking it. And a lot of the time, I wasn’t very good at faking it.

And I wondered.

Can I really love this kid? I mean, really love her like my others?

Without convincing myself? Without trying to convince other people?

And if I can….when? When will it happen?

Because it wasn’t instantaneous. And I was completely unsure if she would ever really feel like my daughter.

It was hard to love a kid who gave you absolutely nothing in return. Who fought you every step of the way. It just was. And I’m only human, so I’ll admit that.

With Jude, it was much more instantaneous. Because he was so darn lovable. And he made loving him easy.

Same as Jonah.

Same as Reagan.

Love at first sight.

Now back to Rylie….

Let me say…unequivocally….without question…I. LOVE. THIS. GIRL.

I love her as much as I love my other kids. I don’t always get along with her as well. But I love her.

Deeply.

Fiercely.

Just different.

She doesn’t make me mushy with the warm fuzzies.

She is usually pushing my buttons in some way….and I sense she gets a great bit of joy out of that. 😉

But still, I love her.

I love her in a “I can’t handle her dealing with any more injustice and tragedy in her life than she has already experienced” kind of way. In a vengeful kind of way. In a fighting kind of way.

Because her life hasn’t been fair. And it’s wounded her in a lot of ways.

But I venture to say that in the end, SHE will be the one I am the most proud of.

Because when I look at her on the playground at preschool…..playing by herself because the other kids can’t understand her, I realize how brave she is. And I realize how much I admire her tenacity.

And I realize that it makes my heart physically hurt to see her experience that.

And I want to fix it and shelter her from it.

She’s got a lot to overcome. She risks a lot of hurt and rejection coming her way in the future.

And I know that loving her doesn’t change that.

But I hope it helps her get through it.

I hope it helps her realize her value. Her worth.

I hope it shows others a glimpse of God’s love for us….despite how utterly unlovable we sometimes are.

So….can you? Can you love an adopted child as much as a biological one?

Well, let’s just say if you mess with her, I will mess. you. up.

And if that’s not love, then I don’t know what is.

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Jennifer Middleton

Jennifer and Rush Middleton have been married for 11 years and have 4 kids, Jonah (8), Reagan (5), Rylie (3) and Jude (2). Rylie came home from China in 2010 and Jude just arrived earlier this year. The Middletons have been through the easy and the hard of bringing a child into their family, yet the awesome gift of adoption has rocked their worlds in more ways than they can count. You can check out their blog about family, life, adoption, cleft lip/palate and other randomness at Apple Pie and Egg Rolls.

Share Your Story {Family Day}

In celebration of WAGI team member Suzanne who met her new son this week in Shanghai, we are inviting you to share your own stories of the day you became a family.

Whether that day was last month or years ago, share your post, share your pictures, share your heart and let us celebrate with you the spirit of adoption.



A Highlight of Our Lives

The anticipation that builds as you wait to meet your child for the first time is hard to express in words. It reminds me a little of waiting to walk down to the aisle on my wedding day. As we signed paper after paper, it was truly difficult to concentrate on what I was doing! Our lives were about to change forever!

On our way to get Anthony!

 

AND THEN HE WALKED IN THE ROOM . . . our precious, precious boy. It was the meeting I had imagined, quite unlike our experience with Grace (but she was 18 months so you can imagine she was scared and didn’t know what to think). He ran to us and hugged us and said, “I love you, Mother” and “I love you, Father” and “I love you, sister.” It was sweet music to our ears, and I feel tears welling up in my tired eyes as I write this.

First of many!

 

He came to us with a backpack filled with candy and snacks and the items we sent him in the care package. The Shanghai Children’s home also gave us a beautiful photo album and a chop (a traditional Chinese name stamp). They were so sweet and generous.

He brought some toys he had to show us and shared several of his treats with Grace and us. You should see them together. They are so cute. Children can overcome language barriers in amazing ways.

The language barrier is pretty significant, but we will trust God and speak lots of English. God put homeschooling on my heart for a reason! Exciting times ahead.

FIRST FAMILY PHOTO! Someone got mad at me for being behind her. Can you guess who needs a nap? 🙂

 

Grace is napping now, and we are playing with Anthony. Please pray that our bodies would adjust to the time here. Grace keeps waking up at 2:30 AM and is thus very tired and hits the grumpy stage pretty fast. Please continue to pray for the bonding process and for the language barrier. We are so happy with our precious son and can’t thank God enough for the amazing ways He is working in our lives!

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Suzanne Meledeo

After struggling with infertility for five years, God led Suzanne and her husband, Adam, to His Plan A for their lives, adoption! Their three year old daughter, Grace Lihua, came into their lives on May 8, 2011 (Mother’s Day) from Fuzhou City, Fujian Province, China, and they are currently in Shanghai bringing home their second child, He Jianyou, an 8 year old boy. After a career in politics, Suzanne is thankful for God’s provision in their lives that now allows her to serve on the We Are Grafted In admin team and work part time as a Pilates Instructor while spending time with Grace and preparing for the home schooling of their boy. You can follow their adoption journey and life once they get home on their blog, Surpassing Greatness.

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Come back tomorrow to link up your own blog posts about the day you met your child! Let’s celebrate together!

I Can’t

God planted in my heart love for a little girl who needed me. I didn’t know who she was, but I prayed for her. Over time, we opened our hearts to a sibling group. Somehow I knew it would be three, and I would pray for our three children whom we did not yet know. When we picked up our children, I felt a connection because I had prayed for them daily for several months. It was easy to take them in my arms and tell them I loved them. I truly did, but I didn’t know how much that love would be tested.

In the beginning weeks, the sheer stress of adapting from four children to seven was enough to make me question my sanity and, yes, even my love. Many times, I didn’t think I could function another minute. I remember kneeling beside my bed begging Jesus to intercede on my behalf. I cried out, “Lord, you know my heart. Now please talk to the Father about it. I don’t know how or what to pray. But I know I just can’t do this…I can’t do this.” Sobs racked my body as I wept before the Lord. After my emotions were spent, I strangely felt at peace. God ministered to my heart and in the quietness I realized, “No, I can’t, but He can.”

I can do everything through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13

The apostle Paul penned these words at the end of his letter to the Philippians. Paul suffered many hardships for Christ. He had been shipwrecked, beaten, jailed, falsely accused, and much more. Yet I love verse 11 because he says, “I have learned to be content, whatever the circumstances.” Isn’t that what life is, a learning process?

I learned that day on my knees, “I can’t, but He can.” I got up with renewed strength knowing that just as God was faithful to minister to my hurting heart, He would be faithful to help me love all his precious children. He would create in me a love with a bond so strong that I would no longer think, “I can’t.”

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Natasha

My husband and I have been married for 20 years. We have 7 children. Our first four were biological (Ryan-18, Kaytlin-16, Alex-14, Cory-12). Then God brought us three children through foster care whom we adopted (Troy-14, Michael-11, Amber-9). We love the Lord above all and desire to bring up children who love Him as well. My husband has ministered at the same church for the past 15 years, and my greatest joy is to serve alongside him. Other things I enjoy include reading, writing, baking, and entertaining in our home. My life

My Diagnosis

We tried to get pregnant for five years before we began the adoption process. No diagnosis was ever determined for me. I remember thinking that, in some ways, it would have been nice to have an answer to why we were not getting pregnant. That way we could either have closure or fix the problem.

Now I know my diagnosis. It’s called, “God-had-other-plans-that-are-better-than-mine.” His plan far exceeded my expectations.

Even as we began our second adoption, I found myself reverting back to my old ways and forgetting that His ways are best.

When will I learn? Probably never. It’s a constant battle with me, but I am so thankful for God’s grace and patience.

Today, I’m asking you to pray for everyone who is in the adoption process right now. The process is hard, but God knows that and He wants us to come to Him with all of our doubts, fears and desires.

Here are a few suggestions for your prayer time.

*For peace as they wait to see how God’s plan unfolds.

*That God would remove any financial burden. God will provide!

* The adjustment of a new life joining the family.

* Wisdom for any decisions that need to be made during the adoption process.

* Patience for the waiting.

* That they would let go of the control and release their longing and desires to the Lord.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Not so rare

My post where I described the sometimes rocky journey of attaching to my new daughter evidently hit a nerve. I can now say without a doubt that I am not the only one to experience this. In fact, I’m pretty comfortable asserting that my experience is far closer to the norm than the love at first sight adoption fairy tale that everyone imagines to be the norm. And because I think it is so important, I will repeat it again, attaching to a new child, even a child who is thrilled to be in a new family, can be hard. (I’m sorry to sound like a broken record, but the more I write about this, the more I hear from or hear about others who struggle with this. If I have to be a one-woman campaign to say they are not the only ones, then I will.)

There is absolutely nothing wrong with a parent who struggles with the absence of happy, lovey-dovey feelings. There is nothing to feel ashamed about because this is a normal reaction which many adoptive parents have. Adding guilt to the whole cocktail of emotions that a new parent experiences is not helpful and probably is more than a little hurtful. Guilt and shame can cause even more avoidance toward building a relationship because every time a parent interacts with the child and those warm fuzzy feelings don’t appear, guilt and shame are ready to jump into the breach. Trying to avoid feeling these negative emotions often means avoiding the child who is seen as the cause of them.

But the child is not the cause. The child is merely trying to make sense of the sometimes terrifying situation he or she has been thrust into. None of us is at our best when confused and scared. None of us is at our best when thrown into a new situation where we are unsure of the rules. None of us is at our best when trying to communicate in another language, especially one we have no familiarity with at all. These are the things we have to remember every time an annoying behavior repeats itself. We are allowed to help ease the child out of that behavior, but we aren’t allowed to act as though the child is doing it on purpose, solely to annoy us.

And this is where the hard part comes in. We are the ones who invited this child into our home… annoying habits and all. We are the ones who have to be the grown-ups, whether we like it or not. This means embracing the idea that love is a lot bigger than how we feel. We need to take it upon ourselves to do the things which are going to help us to love our child. Even if we don’t feel like it. Even if the child doesn’t respond. Even if it takes more than a few months… or years. It’s not easy. It takes a good support system, lots of rest, and the grace of God, but it can be done.

But most importantly of all, there is hope. If you continue to act lovingly toward your child; be careful not to avoid him or her; work to have more positive interactions than negative ones; smile; and get professional help if it is called for, one day you will wake up and see that small person (or not so small as the case may be) come into your room and you will be surprised to find that your heart is flooded with love at their mere presence.

You will make mistakes. You will lose your patience, You will have set backs. But keep trying. Nothing is too hard for God. Ask Him to help you to not harden your heart towards your child, but for you to find how to love him instead.

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My relationship with H. continues to grow. I try to be careful to get enough sleep and rest which gives me the patience that I need. One thing I am making myself do is to only have positive thoughts about her… thoughts that dwell on any negatives I try to be quick to shut down and think about something else. Learning to love and attach is sometimes more a battle of the mind than anything else.