Monthly Archives: November 2013

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!
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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

Overthinking Foster Care

Rewind 7 years.

We’re going to do foster care.

My sister and her husband shared the news. And, I shared my thoughts, which really were a number of reasons why foster care was not a good idea.

should I do foster careEloquent argument #1: It is a lot of work. There’s paperwork and training and meetings and appointments just to get permission to foster in the first place. After you have a child in your home, those meetings and appointments won’t end. Then, add in the normal care-for-a-child stuff inherent to caring for a child. That’s a lot of work for a child who isn’t your own. Wouldn’t it be so much easier to just avoid it altogether?

And…

They have worked hard. A lot of training. A lot of meetings. A lot of teacher conferences and doctor appointments and social worker visits. It hasn’t been easy. But, you know what? It’s been worth it. They’ve been developed individually and as parents together. But, greater than that, they’ve experienced the blessing of getting to play a significant part in a child’s life and getting a front row seat to witnessing every child they’ve served grow and learn and experience healing in part or in whole. I admit that it’s been pretty amazing to watch from the sidelines.

Eloquent argument #2: You have to face hard stuff. If a kid needs a foster home, something has broken that should not have been broken. And, when you start foster parenting, you step into that brokenness. Simply acknowledging the messyness can be hard. But, when you step into that mess, you have to not only recognize that that mess exists, you get messy too. Hard stuff. Wouldn’t it be so much more comfortable to just avoid it altogether?

And…

They have faced hard stuff—a toddler found walking on the highway, a teenage girl given only a few clothes she could fit in a backpack and enough money for a one-way bus ride, and children having children. But, you know what? They can do hard stuff. They have been changed as they have come face to face with brokenness in their own neighborhood. They’ve gotten messy as those caring for children from hard places inevitably do, but they also know the God who is right there in the mess and, because of Him, they know how to wash the feet of the children in their home, bringing restoration into broken lives. And, that is what it’s all about.

Eloquent argument #3: Your heart may get broken. The goal of foster care is not adoption. While there are adoptions out of foster care, fostering isn’t designed as a way to grow a new family; family reunification is the goal. That means you are likely going to give and give to a child only to see him or her go to another family long term. Wouldn’t it be so much safer to just avoid it altogether?

And…

Their hearts have more texture than they had 7 years ago. Some newborns stayed for only a few days. Some children stayed for over a year. We’ve watched them open gifts on Christmas morning. We’ve clapped when they’ve blown out birthday candles. My mother made a teenage girl jump up and down with pure joy when she gave her a pair of big-girl footie pajamas after she said she had always wanted a pair and never had them as a little girl. They have braided hair, left quarters under pillows from the tooth fairy, helped with homework, read bedtime stories, and taught them how to pray. The family celebrated when the first child they fostered became their son. But, we’ve said goodbye to many more. All of our hearts have more texture today than they did before we knew these children. If you took an x-ray of my sister’s heart, you’d see a lot of cracks and craters of stories in there, stories of children they loved and served for a time. But, that heart is also bigger than it was before, capable of even more love than it was before they took that step to become foster parents and stand in the gap for the children who need it the most.

Somewhere along the way, my eloquent arguments seemed to lose steam and the reality of foster parenting became a bit more real to me. When Mark and I spoke last month to a group of foster parents about connecting with the children in their care, it became even more real to me. My textured heart was stirred.

Foster care. It’s all about life. Life giving all around. Life changing all around. For children. For those ordinary heroes we call “foster parents.” It’s not easy or comfortable or safe. But, the best things in life simply aren’t.

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Kelly Raudenbush

Kelly Raudenbush

Forever changed by their experience of being adopted and adopting, Kelly is a stay-at-home mom/manager to 4 children and a professional juggler, juggling her calling as wife and mother with her secondary callings (editing and serving adoptive families through The Sparrow Fund). You can learn more about their adoption story, how they’ve been changed, and what life for them looks like on their personal blog.

What Makes A Mom

One night, I was sitting with A Friend during a banquet. It was fun watching all the little kiddos running around. We were remarking about how cute this one tiny little girl was. I mean, she was really, really, cute. She was maybe 3 years old cute. Then I noticed all of her siblings. And, you guessed it! They were all cute! They were all wearing cowboy boots and belt buckles that weighed more than the cute kids. Apparently they participated in bull-riding. Anyway, A Friend remarked to me, “You know…she has six kids, and she is only 38 years old.” Well, I just looked at A Friend. I wondered what was so remarkable about that since, well…I have six kids….they’re all cute….and I’m only….well…skip the 38 years old part.

So, I looked a little confused at A Friend, and replied to her, “I have six kids you know.” And she replied to me, “Well, she birthed all of hers. There is a difference.” Now, I am not a very good bluff. I’m sure she saw the surprised look on my face because she repeated herself, “There is a difference.” I just looked at her and didn’t really know what to say. Those words made me feel that I somehow had to prove myself as a mom. Was it a competition? Childbirth vs Adoption? Thoughts ran through my mind and I wondered if there really was a difference. I thought about my babes that I lost at birth, Ashton, Grace, Ben, and Rachel. I turned to A Friend and shared that little bitty fact with her. She replied, “I didn’t know.” How could she know?
It is not something I go around telling people.

That short five-minute conversation keeps popping into my mind. It is amazing how a simple comment can affect someone and cause their thoughts to go in all different directions. Is a mom, who has never given birth, less of a mom to her two, five, six, or even ten adopted children? Do those children not count on the scale of “mommy-hood”? Is giving birth some sort of badge of honor and those who are not successful doomed to wear a scarlet letter their entire life? Is it the physical act of childbirth and the passing on of our genetic traits that makes someone a mom? Or is it the raising of a child that makes someone a mom?

I’ve always heard that DNA doesn’t make someone a mom or dad. To me that is absolutely true. I guess I just have different eyes when it comes to mommy-hood. It is not the nine months of work up through the birth of the child that makes someone a mom. It is that mom’s entire life of self-sacrifice, prayer and devotion to her children that makes her a mom.

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 Cheri lives in Virginia with her husband, Mike, of 26 years. They have 2 adult children, and 4 children at home. After struggling with many pregnancy losses, they felt God was calling them to adopt a little girl from China. Upon returning home from their trip in 2006 to adopt Eva, they became more aware of the need of orphans. They traveled to China again in 2007 to adopt Joy. Always having the older children on her heart, but feeling incapable, Cheri felt an older child was in their future for adoption. In February 2010, Cheri traveled alone to Guangdong, China to adopt 7-year-old Ivy. Cheri started blogging to share her travels to China with friends and family but has also enjoyed sharing the ups and downs of adoption and family life.

My Fairly Uneducated, Slightly Inexperienced Advice on Older Child Adoption in a Nutshell

So, not that everyone has been waiting on the edge of their seats or anything…

but it’s about time I got these few points out there to maybe benefit someone else.

Also, I would like to go ahead and mention, that I know there are some really hard things that go with older child adoption and by no means am I demeaning those experiences. Nor do I believe that these few things that I feel like have been important learning experiences for me even come close to touching all the issues that can/do arise in these situations.

Whew. I feel better now that I have that off my chest.

Now.

I think the biggest thing I was unprepared for in this whole experience was how delays in maturity really effect you in the everyday and how to be prepared to handle these things.

I like to call this first point:

CROWD CONTROL.

The good news about handling crowd control is that all you really need is a good sense of humor and perspective. That doesn’t sound too bad eh? Well, it’s not too bad if your thinking about it.

The tough part is we sometimes forget things as parents and overreact at times. Do I sound like I am speaking from experience???

Umm, yes.

So, this is something I have had to remind myself about on a regular basis this first year and probably about 1-2 years more for all I know.

Crowd control is understanding that there is a difference between knowing that your child is about 2 years younger on the inside because of what they have been through and seeing that play out every where you go.

Because when a 2 to 4 year old says, “Hey, Mom! Look at that fat man.” It is embarrassing, but everyone understands; that little kid doesn’t have a filter yet, he’ll learn.

But when a 6 or 7 year old says things like that…you start having some ‘splainin’ to do.

When a 2 to 4 year old says, “Hey, when you two get married are you going to take your clothes off and get in the bed?” most people laugh and snicker. They’re not assuming the worst, but understanding that most likely that child was just speaking in a literal sense from what he has seen his parents do.

Ah, but when your 7 year old says it…it’s a little different. It’s harder for others to see the lack of the maturity that I know exists, that his world is being redefined, that he is learning new things culturally and societally. And quite frankly, I can’t put out a psa to every kid’s parent in his classes or everyone in my church. I have had to put out a few fires in this first year.

This is why I call it crowd control.

I have come to learn in these situations that sometimes I need to make sure I am patient with my son because he is just learning, with others because they can’t be expected to always know or understand, to not overreact myself and fear the worse, and especially pepper the situation with a little sense of humor.

Now, I am not saying that sometimes there couldn’t be other underlying issues or that everything can be laughed off. But a good bit of it in our situation can, and I need to remember that.

Another underlying point with crowd control is me getting over myself and this perfect family image thing. Which honestly, didn’t we abandon that already a long time ago? Go figure.

My second point, which kind of follows along with point one is:

REDEFINING LIFE WITH A FAMILY CIRCLE.

What is family?
What is a mom and dad, really?
It is a word, a title they are familiar with.

It has begun to occur to me that the actual concept of that and all it entails will take him some time to truly understand. And we have to define what that means for him.

In his mind, he had created an image of what he thinks a family is or does, but the reality of what a family truly is and means is very different from that.

I mean, in his foster family he called his foster parents mom and dad, and at the orphanage everyone is big brother, big sister, aunt, etc.

So many people have taken care of me.

So why wouldn’t everyone we meet at church be my big brother and sister. Why can’t I cuddle with every person I meet. Don’t they all love me, know my name, readily want to hug me?

I had to fight for attention in the orphanage. I would get it from doing things like this. Shouldn’t it be the same? I need attention. That is how you succeed.

Maybe this stuff is obvious. Maybe I even read it. Seeing it come to reality is different.

I began to understand first hand how a mom and dad (and siblings too) become the center of a baby’s universe. They are the nucleus from which their world revolves. For my son, maybe it was his nanny’s or crib. Which isn’t exactly a central point, especially since that changed when he was three. From three till 6 it was his foster family, and he recognized them as mom and dad.

I am sure they probably tried to clarify they were just fostering, but he wasn’t at an age I think to truly grasp that. Most of the time I marvel at the reality he has created in his precious mind. I know it will take time to redefine that.

At the moment, we have a lot of conversations about the fact that we are his forever. He talks about not staying here forever, that he can’t. Not in a spiteful way, just matter-of-factly. So in the kindest loving way possible, I explain to him that while we may take him back to visit, China/the orphanage is no longer his home unless he decides to leave when he is older. I try to tell him that his foster parents were just helping him while he waited, that they couldn’t be his family forever. They weren’t allowed. I try to explain that we could visit the orphanage or try to work there one day, but that they couldn’t take him back if he wanted to go and we would never leave him even so.

I wonder how long it will take him to see these concepts; how long it will take for him to understand that life will never change as far as us being his family is concerned.

Some of the ways we reinforce this is by spending quality time together, which I would consider an obvious solution. But there are other things we have been led to do as well, such as:

—Remind him that there are things we discuss with family that we don’t discuss outside of our family unit. And when he asks why, it gives me a great opportunity to reinforce the nucleus of family.

—Remind him that physical affection is saved for mom and dad.

—To try to explain what strangers are and how and when to let someone in to become acquaintances and then friends.

—That all attention is not good attention.

—That though others care about you that doesn’t necessarily mean that they love you or want to be your family. You can’t just pick any Joe from down the road because they seem better and they’re kinda nice to you.

My last and probably the most surprising for me was:

WHEN PEOPLE DON’T LIKE THEM

Ok, maybe this should have been obvious. And I know this is an issue that my biological children could have, but none the less it didn’t occur to me.

So much love had grown in my heart for this kid I had never met, just like for Lily. And you assume it does for others too. But she was a cute little 2 year old girl and he was a big 6 year old boy. I just didn’t allow myself to realize that all the things that come with that aren’t as cute to others or as easy to get over.

News flash: things that he does aren’t nearly as endearing as when a little 2 year old girl does them, or even a little boy for that matter. Not even close.

Which, some of that is boy, I guess. And I am not going to lie, all of us have had some adjustments to make getting used to this in our previous estrogen-filled life.

But I just wasn’t prepared for how hard it would be for him to make friends. I wasn’t prepared for the fact that kids in our circles of life wouldn’t like him, that he would be picked on, called “weird”, and get hit. That even adults would have a hard time “liking” him.

What got me was that it wasn’t about prejudice because he was Chinese.
I had been prepared for that.
It wasn’t because he has a special need.
I had been prepared for that.
It was because he is mentally, socially delayed.
It was because he acts…different.
I wasn’t prepared for that.

I will admit this is where I have struggled the most. I want him to be accepted and make friends. I want him to have buddies. We try to help him learn what people like and don’t like. We teach him how to read social clues. While also trying to teach him when/how to stand up for himself and balance that with forgiveness, kindness and love. Which again, is not totally different than when parenting biological children, or with parenting boys, or with parenting children with special needs. But, I just wasn’t prepared for it.

I really thought he would make friends easily and that people would understand. I was more focused on him being willing to let his guard down to make friends instead of realizing that it would also be difficult for others to accept him and understand his needs.

I should have realized that this would be a challenge for others as much as it was a challenge for us. There were many times my own daughters had a difficult time understanding his actions, and I had to take time to help them see things with the proper perspective. I just didn’t have a good enough game plan in this area, or heart prep, or something.
There is so much more than just these three things, but I think these are the three things that have struck me the most. Maybe I knew, but never understood or maybe I underestimated??

People ask me know about our experience adopting an older child and these are the responses that I feel like I would have wanted someone to talk to me about more before hand. It is one thing to read it in a book. A total new one to handle in real life.

I have learned to really listen to the Holy Spirit. I don’t have all the answers or know how to handle every situation. Even having read the books, each situation is sometimes so unique and people are staring at you for answers…in those moments I need help.

However, I wouldn’t change a thing about what we have done. We have beaten some pretty negative odds out there too, I suppose; adopted an older child into a large family, out of birth order, the first of his sex in our family. In many ways though, this adoption has been easier than Lily’s was. However, more difficult on his side for the things he lost. Which I know he still mourns in his own way. Though, you would never know it to look at him. He covers it up in his silly, attention getting ways.

Anyway, this is kinda long and if you made it this far you really wanted to know my thoughts on this. So there ya go, some of my thoughts on older child adoption. It’s beautiful and fun and I would do it all over again. The good has far outweighed the hard and he has brought a lot of joy to a lot of people. He is one cool dude and our family has been changed for the better!

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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.

how to love in uncertainty

 

When you decide to say yes to a child who might only be in your life for a few days, there’s a choice to be made.

How much will I love? Where will I draw the line of investing in this child’s emotional, spiritual, and physical wellbeing? How much of myself will I allow to be vulnerable so that this vulnerable child can feel safe?

When that baby is placed in your arms – when that child slips her hand into yours – you hope they will feel safe. But how much safety can I expect to exude if my own heart is guarded by so-called wisdom and held back by fear of letting go one day? It’s well known that I advocate a deep heart-giving in these kinds of situations. There are too many days when a particular child is hard to love, nights when someone wakes up just.too.many.times. On those occasions, I need to be fully invested. I need the attachment even more than they do on those days.

 

 

[photo by Morgan Perry]

Of course, this kind of commitment – this emotional and spiritual connection – leaves room for a deep sense of something missing when the child moves on. In fact, Rachel and I have found that when we’re honest about missing our Ugandan kiddos, it makes people uncomfortable. It’s as if the intensity or prolonged existence of the pain somehow calls into question the legitimacy of our grief. A few people have said that we should, “get over it already.” But somehow I don’t think it’s inconsistent to say that you miss someone while still rejoicing and profoundly approving of God’s plan for them to move on. Of course, choosing a heart posture that honors God in that grief is necessary. Maybe the rejoicing brings all the more glory to God because of the place of pain from which it comes.

But this post is not a discussion of how much to attach or how much to grieve. It’s about what to do when you attach all the way and then need to let go. I’m learning that there’s a healthy tension of loving fully, guarding my heart, and allowing myself to miss and it can only be maintained if I remember two things: who I am and who God is.

Let me tell you what I mean:

Everyone has their own style of attachment. Mine is to jump in no holds barred and love each child right nowbelieving, at the same time, that they might be in my life forever and they might be gone tomorrow. Those two very real possibilities call out the same level of commitment, intensity, steadfastness, and purpose in me. If this baby in my arms is my daughter, would I want to remember that I held back from her in our first months together? If she’s someone else’s daughter, loving her someone else means I lay down my life for them by caring for this child as if she were my own, ready to humbly return her to Jesus and allow him to place her in that someone else’s arms when the time comes.

 

 

There’s no profound revelation behind this heart stance. It’s simply what I’ve learned from the way Jesus loves me.He chose me before I loved him and he loves me whether or not I choose him. He loves me today with the same passion as tomorrow and yesterday, whether I’m walking close to him or turning by back to him in fear. His love is constant, consistent, sure. It’s this love I’m drawing on most days. There are days when I’m drawing from my own leaky bucket and on those days, he scoots in closer than ever and whispers, “Remember where you started this day? Come back.” It’s his consistent love that compels me to joy even when my circumstances (or those of the children I’ve loved) are not what I think they should be.

Trusting God’s goodness for the children I cared for in Uganda is not difficult at all. They are each living in homes where they are adored, where they are learning love, where they will grow up knowing God’s goodness on every level. But I still miss them, because when you dive in wholeheartedly in love towards a child who suddenly moves on, that place in your heart is left empty. The great thing about having empty places that no one understands and no one else can fill is that Jesus moves into them – if we ask him to.

In the case of several of my foster children (from long ago), the someone else who I was standing-in for turned out to be someone I didn’t trust. When it came time for them to go, I didn’t agree. Seven years later, I still don’t know where they are. This is not ideal, obviously, but sometimes it’s reality and my only salvation in a situation like that is to remember that the God who committed them to me for a season has committed Himself to them for a lifetime. That’s the promise.

 

 

My perspective of God’s goodness is too limited for me to attempt to tell him what that everlasting covenant should look like today – for me, for my family, for anyone I love. The fact that I don’t understand his timing is not a reflection on God’s goodness. It is a reflection of my struggle to trust his goodness.  I can as soon fully understand the goodness of God as a baby can understand why her loving parents allow the doctor to give her a life saving, but painful, surgery. But whether or not I can fully understand him, I have him. And he is good.

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The moments of missing are few and far between these days. They’re limited to anniversaries and the times when Rachel and I let ourselves reminisce about the improbabilities and chaos of that year in Uganda. But, when they do surface, my go-to phrase for Jesus is, “OK, I feel lonely here and I miss so-and-so today. What do you want to show me about yourself in this? Where are you for me right now?”

And let me just say, that little series of questions is like a key that unlocks things I didn’t know about Jesus and me. It turns the areas of my life that I don’t understand into spaces where I can go deep with Jesus. It turns fear into the most trusting friendship. It turns shame into the deepest acceptance. It turns loneliness into the sweetest communion with my truest Friend. And I’ll take that over avoiding pain any day.

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Mandie Joy Turner copyMandie Joy is a foster parent and soon-to-be adoptive mama of two beautiful little girls who are waiting in Africa. She blogs at www.seeingjoy.com.

 

 

 

Adopting Outside the Birth Order

“Sometimes what we call ‘wisdom’ is actually fear,” she said, casually, but carefully in response to the story I’d just told her.

Searing truth.

We’d been parents for under two years. We’d just begun to hit a stride with Eden and Caleb when we felt the nudge to say ‘yes’ to yet another paper pregnancy. We suspected it would be two, but felt for sure it would be children who were the same age or younger as our two now. “The paint is still too fresh on the walls,” Nate said when I told him about the older girl lingering around the orphan babies with new stories emerging, often overlooked. She haunted my waking hours. “Later, we’ll adopt an older girl,” was his response.

I agreed. The thing I wanted most was actually the thing I feared most.

Isn’t that how it always is? Fear forms a hedge around our greatest calling.

But then, through a circuitous series of events –one that, in retrospect, was the undeniably kind and gentle way of the Father, we learned about her.

Nate’s heart changed. “We have to go after her, Sara” he said one morning.

Somewhere deep down I knew he was right, but my mind made a case otherwise. Fear wore the guise of reason.

And when I recounted to my friend, that afternoon over tea, all the reasons why adopting an older child, alongside another and outside of the birth order, at this time just didn’t feel wise, she spoke truth.

I had article after article and hours of classwork to back up my case. And, friends, I am a researcher by nature so my intent in this post is not to blow the research out of the water, but it’s to point to a Man who, at times, trumps both research and reason.
God builds the family.
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“I need to do what Lily does, Daddy,” she said. It was the first morning we saw significant progress in an issue on which we’d focused heavy attention, prayer and training weeks prior. Our “first” oldest child made a shift. Her newly-older sister’s example, the catalyst.

Eden was joyful and obedient. Her little-heart’s zeal for Jesus and His children was unquenchable, and she was about all-things-Mommy-and-Daddy. Her life carried the perfect mark of an oldest child, one that would set the pace for children to come after her. “We want to preserve her place in our family,” we told our social worker during our homestudy. Every time I said that phrase I felt a nudge, a check, as if maybe that framework was being checked by the true family Planner.
When we learned about Lily, all we knew of her was her picture and a few brief observations from her soon-to-be foster mama. On paper, she was foolish for us. Adopting a child who would be third or fourth in line seemed like less of a risk than this one (who could be as old as 10 or 11 for all we knew), after which all the others would now follow.

But He led. He confirmed. He gently course-corrected.

And we walked what felt like the plank, with no reason other than His.

At times while we waited — and even after we immersed ourselves in Africa’s dust — the fear felt unbearable to me. I would read an email, a post to an adoption forum, another research article and find myself shackled, again. What were we thinking? We’re nuts. Worst-case scenario thinking would rest over me like a cloud. Our first few weeks with her offered many opportunities for me to search for confirmation of those very fears. My perspective was horizontal, not first from His source, going out from me and back to me.

But then, beauty broke dirt’s surface. Early indications rolled in: His plan was better.
Her quiet, gentle spirit began to carry a mantle of leadership. She desired obedience, and they made her a role model. She looked for hidden ways to bless, and they stole her ideas. She giggled loud, and the joy that marked our family before she came only grew. She received, and they, too, sought to shed orphan-skin.

He sent us a first-born, late but just in time, who hungered for Jesus — my deepest heart cry for my children.*

We couldn’t have ever known. Our principles would have kept us from His perfect plan, had He not been so gentle to speak clear and consistently.

He showed Himself faithful to thwart our plans with a better one.

Just the other day Nate found this in his pocket.

Lily-Prayer-683x1024

Her own words, not copywork. She hid it in his coat. Full of surprises, our little girl, their big sister.
Full of surprises, this mysterious God.

*One caveat for those of you who have brought older children home and are in the midst of the inevitable intensity that comes with a life finding a new home in you: our highs with Lily are sometimes proportionate to our lows. But isn’t that so with life? We want her to soar with Him, but it’s in the lowest places where we find that we were made to soar the heights. Lest you read this post and think we drew a “lucky” card, Jesus is healer in our home. And He will show Himself healer in yours. Though you may not see it today, I pray my words might be the same signpost He’s flashed for me. (He continues to flash for me.) God always wins, their hearts are included in that promise. Part of the healing, for us — for our hearts, has been to set up memorials around beauty and make the decision not to see struggle as the final verdict, but a pathway. He is good.

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Sara Hagerty

Sara Hagerty

Sara is a wife to Nate and a mother of four (and one on the way) 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.

‘Tis the Season

For many of us loving children who have experienced trauma, the approach of the holiday season seems more like a looming threat than a joyous prospect. We wonder if we will experience the meltdowns, opposition, and anxiety that so often accompanies the changes in schedule, people, place and food of the holidays.

One of the benefits of having parented our adopted children for so long (they came home at ages 5 and 10, and 7 and 10. They are now 18, 19, 21 and 23), is that we have had lots of time to learn, and the years have given us some helpful perspectives. So, here are a few thoughts. I’d love for you to add some of your own in the comments so that we can learn from each other and be encouraged along the way.

Traditions and Unity

I am a big fan of traditions I have to say. In their place and for the right purpose traditions are a gift in any family. You may find like we have that the creation of traditions serve as an effective tool in building family unity and creating an anchor for your adopted children. Certainly it has been true for us that adoption does not lend itself to unity; family unity is something we parents must intentionally pursue. The very nature of adoption is to introduce someone from the outside into the life and heart of your family. I love the definition of unity though–check this out! Unity is “oneness, especially of what is varied and diverse in its element or part.” An adoptive family is nothing if not diverse! We have found that creating family traditions has significantly helped us to be ONE family in the midst of much diversity. There is something about family traditions that fosters a sense of unity, connection, fun, and belonging. Embracing traditions in the next two months can create some much needed pockets of peace for your child.

Creating Traditions

Unlike routines, which are merely every day activities that require no special behavior and usually do not produce good feelings, traditions are “practices that create positive feelings and are repeated at regular intervals.” We think of traditions as being handed down from one generation to another, but you can create your own traditions to meet the needs of your adoptive family. For many of us these wonderful activities will be new, but traditions have to start somewhere! The first few Christmases after our adoptions we attended a Russian Christmas celebration, filled with Russian music, dance and food. It was an effort on our part to make our children feel valued and to give them something familiar and comforting. It ended up not becoming a tradition for us because it didn’t seem to mean much to our children, but I do encourage you to think outside your family traditions to find activities that will be congruent with your family. I’ll share one other Christmas idea with you. Because we have seven children and we were trying to avoid having 42 presents under the tree (representing only the ones each child would buy for his/her 6 siblings!) it has become a tradition with us that each child give all the money he or she would have spent on gifts for their siblings to buy a gift(s) for someone in need. Over the years we have given anonymously to families struggling at our church, to homeless children at a ministry in our city, and to unwed mothers. I know that sounds very impressive so I feel I must tell you that we still have plenty of presents under our tree, and most of them are store bought! And not only that, but not everyone participates with great selfless enthusiasm–true confessions of a Christian mom! But we have found that this tradition of giving to someone in need is a wonderful way for our family to live out who we are as worshipers of Jesus.

The Gift of Heritage

Along with creating new traditions, I encourage you to embrace ones that you grew up with and value. It is a wonderful gift to your children, especially your adopted children, to be warmly gathered into the heritage of your family, the traditions you grew up with. It creates in them a sense of belonging and history. It is a sad reality for our precious adopted children, to one extent or another, to have missing or fragmented histories. When we maintain traditions it fills in the sometimes gaping emotional holes that their missing stories have left. Take the time to tell your stories of growing up, of the things you used to do each year, and then do it again with your children! Both Stephen and I grew up in a liturgical church and we continue to enjoy observing Advent (the four weeks leading up to Christmas) with our children. It has been an effective way for us to celebrate Jesus in December. Our best family devotionals have been during these nightly readings, lighting the candles in our advent wreath, and sharing the amazing story of redemption.

We have been surprised over the years at how protective our children are over our traditions. Sometimes we go to make a change, not actually realizing that something like the exact side dishes we have at Thanksgiving has become a tradition, and find out we are practically flirting with the unpardonable sin to add or subtract from the menu! Just two years ago I tried to place the Christmas tree in a different corner of the room and I wish you could have heard the uproar. Fascinatingly, it is our adopted children who often feel the most passionate about our traditions. They have an amazing memory about whose turn it is to put the star on top of our tree each year! I have come to realize that by giving them the gift of traditions we are creating a sense of security and belonging that goes beyond the counting of its value.

But don’t expect your child to say, “Mom, Dad, I just want to tell you how much I appreciate our traditions. These are very important to me and they are meeting a deep need I have to feel connected.” And don’t be surprised if he/she complains or acts out in some way when it is time to set the table for Thanksgiving dinner with the name tags you use every year. Our traditions did not mean that our children did not have a tough time with all the busyness–some of them did. Even to this day I see the strain on a couple of our children when the house if full of people and noise, and the daily routine is nowhere to be seen. So, most likely you still will have to love your child through meltdowns or some other difficult response. But keep the long haul view my friends. It has been a great joy of mine to watch as our children have identified themselves with our family traditions over the years, and have found a strong sense of place and belonging and connection. Now that right there is the spirit of adoption at work!

I love what Bill Johnson says–having a history gives a person the momentum for success. Let’s include our adopted children into our family histories and into our spiritual histories, and watch how God uses it to launch them into their destiny in Him!

What are some ways your family has made the most of the holiday season?

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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.

Siblings

As a by-product of my job, I get the opportunity to talk to lots and lots of people about adoption. I get all kinds of questions and lots of chances to tell our story to families, almost on a daily basis. Most families that are calling our agency today are moms and dads who have heard God’s call to care for orphans, and are already parenting biological children. So as you can imagine, one of the most frequent things people ask, is:

“How is adoption going to effect my children I’m already parenting?”

Buckle your seat belt.

 Adoption teaches your children that the world does not revolve around them.

(Romans 15:1-3)

*Because the world does not revolve around them, by the way*

 It teaches them to think outside of themselves, when your family is working and saving to  bring a child home, and they can’t have that toy, or that Disney vacation. And they may have to share a bedroom, and their toys, and even clothing. Maybe the van is really crowded (amen) or they don’t have Christmas presents stacked 6 feet deep like their friends. But that’s OK. We adopted both of our children within weeks of Christmas. They never asked why it was lean. They knew it wasn’t about gifts anyway, and we had babies to go get. And although they didn’t always have perfect attitudes about it, and they didn’t really understand, one day they will. 

 Adoption teaches your children to love and respect cultures that are not their own.

(1 Thess. 1:9, 1 Peter 1:22)

It teaches them that there is a world outside of the city and state they live in, with different people and different languages, and different cultures. If you adopt a child of a different culture or race, congratulations, you are now a multi-cultural, multi-racial family. You now get to celebrate double the holidays (kids really love this:) and your kids learn by default to respect and celebrate different skin tones. My girls especially love to point out every Chinese person they see….most recently in the van, Annalyse went crazy screaming at Ashley, “LOOK!!! LOOK!! THERE’S A CHINESE BOY DRIVING THAT CAR!!! HE’S CHINESE! FROM CHINA!!!” I’m sure Ashley will not think this is particularly cool when they are 17.

 Adoption teaches your children to be compassionate, forgiving, accepting and giving. (Luke 6:36, Ephesians 4:32)

Aren’t these the things we want our kids to know and live out anyway? This isn’t something they learn because you tell them to act this way. It’s a pattern they imitate by having parents who are living out the commands of Christ to be the salt and light to a hurting world. When you adopt, and care for orphans, they get it by default. You don’t just tell them to be compassionate, they learn this when they see you holding a screaming child who is grieving  for things they have no words for. They hear it when you explain to strangers your motivation behind building your family the way you are. They understand about giving because maybe your family has been the recipients of some pretty amazing financial gifts, and they watch you give your gifts to others coming behind you.

One day in car pool, my 7 year old said, “mama if I had a million dollars, I’d go straight to China to get some more brothers and sisters to bring home. Then I’d go to the mall.” Hey people, she has her priorities straight 🙂

 Adoption is the perfect picture of salvation. God meant it that way. 

(John 14:18)

Here’s the deal. Jay and I have two living breathing examples of the very GOSPEL that live and reside in our home. See that kid? He was far far away. He had a different name, and his life was hopeless. There was no way he could change his life on his own. Through the miracle of adoption, he was brought home. Regardless of his baggage, regardless of his ability, and regardless of his life before, he was adopted. His name changed. His future changed. It was sealed with a decree that can never be broken or changed. He can never go back to being an orphan. No matter what he does. You can read more about adoption and the Gospel here, but folks we’ve got an open opportunity to share the very GOSPEL with everyone who says to us, “what made you want to adopt?” AND YOUR KIDS WILL SEE THAT! 

 Can they learn all this without adoption? 

 Absolutely. 

 But for those of is whom the Lord has called to walk this road…..He has given our families an amazing opportunity to show the world about Him. To not only preach the Gospel, but live it out with our very lives. Which is what we are called to do anyway…..we just get the incredible privilege of being mama’s and daddy’s to some pretty amazing kids while we do it.

 And special needs? Apparently, kids overlook those as well. 

 Last week in the tub, Annalyse was  helping bathe Asher when she exclaimed, “MAMA!! Asher only has THREE toes on this foot, SEE????!!!!!!!!” #we’vebeenhome10months

 ummmm, yes. Yes, he does…..<3

 Matthew 5:14

“You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden.”

______________________________________
Emily Flynt

Emily Flynt

Emily and Jay have been married for 11 years and have 5 childen–Avery 8, Ally 6, Annalyse 4, Ashley 3, and (finally) our BOY, Asher 2. Ashley and Asher were adopted from China and were both special needs adoptions.  Emily spends her days chasing toddlers and waiting in line at carpool. Her favorite place in the world is in her van, all alone with the worship music blaring! She would count it an honor to have you be encouraged at www.ourhimpossiblejourney.blogspot.com.

Typical {Referral Day Link Up}

I wouldn’t describe either of them as typical.

No, I’m not talking about my children – although the same statement could perhaps be true of them.  I’m talking about their referral day stories.  Both daughters came to us under very unique circumstances, so it stands to reason that their referral day stories are unique as well.

Take Miss A’s story, for example.  When we received Miss A’s referral, we had just hit rock bottom in our adoption journey – unsure of if God even wanted us to continue.  Perhaps this is how it all ends, we thought.  We don’t understand the what or the why, but we’ll trust Him wherever He leads.  And if that means not adopting, then so be it.

But our network of praying friends and our incredibly supportive agency worker encouraged us to stay the course, stay open to the possibility.  And so we did.  Sad as it is to admit now, we were anything but excited when “the new list” came out.  Missing was the typical nervous energy and excited anticipation of news of a match from our agency.  Defeated and worn down, we simply went to bed, deciding to check our email the next morning.

Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning. Psalm 30:5b

Logging into email the next morning, we found message from our agency worker. She had locked a child for us, a child with a need we had felt comfortable with. Sadly, still shell-shocked and feeling defeated, we had to admit we didn’t know if she was the one God wanted us to adopt.

We saw her beautiful, smiling face and read the facts of her file.  We talked endlessly with each other, with our prayer warriors, and with our agency worker. How gentle and patient they were as they walked us through our pain and doubt and uncertainty.

It wasn’t about her. Our doubt.  Our hesitation.  Our needing to process. None of it was about her. It was all about us…and Him.

Where He led us thus far in this adoption journey was filled with pain and questions. Would we – could we trust Him as He continued to lead?

My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord, “And my ways far beyond anything you could imagine. Isaiah 55:8

So God did what He does.  He was patient with our questioning and wrestling and processing. He was powerful, moving mountains and infusing the undeniable confirmation we were so desperate to receive.  He was faithful, not leaving us to wonder where He was in this rock-bottom place.  He restored our hopes.  Dashed as they were, they were made new in ways that were beyond what we had imagined.

And in the end, He made it more than clear that this precious child – with twinkling eyes and robust cheeks looking at us through our computer screen – was most definitely our daughter.

I used to feel bad that her referral story wasn’t what I imagined to be typical – that we didn’t gush at first sight and instantly know beyond a shadow of a doubt that she was ours.  Instead, I now see that her referral story is the best kind because it’s hers…ours. And through all of the private details and the ones I’ve shared here, God was telling us about Himself and His deep, patient, enduring, passionate, and abiding love for us…for her.

So, no.  I wouldn’t describe Miss A’s referral day story as typical. But if we’re honest, when we are following God’s plan, is anything typical?

– – – – – – –

What about you?  Do you have a referral day story you’d like to share?  It may have happened years ago or just recently.  Perhaps you’ve never taken the time to write it all down, or maybe you’ve already written about your child’s referral day on your blog.  Whatever the case may be, we’d love for you to share your story with the WAGI community!  Use the link up below to provide a direct link to your referral day blog post.  And while you’re at it, take the time to visit and comment on other referral day stories.  It’s in sharing our stories that community is built and God is glorified!

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Stephanie Smit18 years in the classroom as a teacher is nothing compared to parenting three little ones at home full-time. Through their three daughters, God has revealed Himself most clearly to them. He not only worked a miracle in giving them their biological daughter, He continued to show Himself in mighty ways throughout adoption journeys in China and Bhutan that were anything but normal. You can read more about their family on their personal blog We Are Family.