Yearly Archives: 2014

Six Things Foster/Adoptive Families Need When a New Child Arrives #top10ofalltime

This post is shared again as one of our most popular posts but also in honor of Dimples, beloved daughter of one of The Sparrow Fund’s favorite bloggers, who God took home to Himself this past week. Read her wise words and go over to her blog to read about the little girl who blessed their lives and now praises Him in Heaven.

________________________________________________

What would have helped you the most in the early weeks and months of adding a child to your family through adoption or foster care? If somebody had asked you, “What can I do to help?” and you were able to answer anything at all with no shame, guilt, or concern about whether they really would want to do it, what would it have been?

This is what you answered:
Bring Food

Many of you stated that having meals delivered allowed more time to focus on all of your children, but also gave you some contact with “the outside world.” It does not have to be dinner, as somebody said, even bringing cut-up fruit would help. Someone else mentioned having dinner brought by friends who then shared the meal and spent the evening with them. One person wrote that when they adopted a baby, friends brought meals, but when they adopted an older child people assumed it wasn’t as demanding and didn’t bring meals. I think we can safely say that every adopting/foster family will be blessed by meals.

We don’t need to make this complicated – simple food is a blessing. I remember a friend bringing us “Breakfast in a Bag,” a gift bag filled with yogurts, juice boxes, muffins and other little treats. Gift cards for take-out were also mentioned – a great idea. After one of our babies was born, a friend brought us Kentucky Fried Chicken and another ordered pizza to be delivered – what a treat that was! Cookie dough ready to be baked, homemade soup or spaghetti sauce, a frozen lasagna, will all be welcomed.

Provide Household Help

Several of you wrote that you needed help with laundry and cleaning. I know we all have a hard time letting people see our mess, but I for one, find it very hard to relax if my house is too messy and chaotic. A friend grabbing the vacuum or folding laundry while we visited was a big help. I had a friend once pick up all of our kids’ dirty laundry, take it home, and return it clean, dry and folded. A group of friends might want to go together to hire regular cleaning help for the first few months after new children join a family, or create a cleaning team themselves.

Along those lines, a number of years ago I was very sick and needed treatments that were an all day event. One day a friend came to my house while I was at the clinic, put new, clean flannel sheets on my bed, washed my other set, and cleaned my house with my older children. I came home and crawled into a clean bed with new sheets and it was pretty much one of the best gifts I’ve ever received. That was nearly nine years ago and I’ve never forgotten it. Friend, if you read this, thank you once again.

Run Errands

Picking things up at the store, or driving children to sports practices and appointments was also mentioned as a great help. If you are already out and about, or if you can add a child or two to the crowd in your car, you will make a big difference for a family adjusting to life with new children. The first year my girls were in school, a friend drove them home every day which not only simplified my life, but relieved my mind. As our little ones grow older, we forget how difficult it is to buckle multiple kids into car seats in order to pick up one child from an event. Waking kids from naps to take an older child to a practice is even worse. This is a great kindness if you are somebody who is already in the car and happy to run a quick errand for a friend with a new child.

Provide Babysitting or Respite

Many of you said that babysitting would have helped, even if it was just somebody being with the kids while you took a nap. Some said they needed help with their other kids while they took new children to multiple appointments. Others said they needed care for their new children while they gave some attention to their original crew. Of course, it all depends upon the unique needs for the family, but this seems to be a need for most families. Weekends are particularly difficult for Dimples, the lack of structure that she enjoys at school just doesn’t transfer to a long Saturday stretching before her. We try to fill her days, but one of the greatest gifts we receive are friends who invite her over for a few hours, or even all day. This Saturday when I’m in Denver, she has big plans with our youth pastor and his wife and she is already looking forward to it.

Respite is a great need for families whose new children have significant challenges. A family can quickly become exhausted when there is constant raging, arguing, and destructive behavior. A friend who understands children from “hard places” and is willing to give the family a 24 hour break, or even a four hour break, will have an impact far beyond what they may imagine.

Show Kindness to the Original Crew

I’m in the process of (slowly) writing an article for Empowered to Connect on “giving voice” to the siblings of children from “hard places.” Our original children struggled with our inability to give them attention and time when we added three new children to our family and one year later added another. They lost us for a number of months as we struggled to figure out how to live this new life.

My friend, Beth, welcomed Ladybug into her family and home, and nearly completely homeschooled her for a year after Dimples came home. Rusty and Ladybug joined the youth group of a local church and we were thankful for the encouragement and positive adult interaction they received. It was so meaningful, that we eventually made that our church our new church home.

Friends who will take the kids and do something fun is also a huge blessing when life at home seems to be a load of work or simply tumultuous. If a family has new children who are raging or crying for hours, the kids may need relief from the stress too. My friend, Sue, began taking Ladybug and Sunshine to the library once a week, which they still look forward to each Friday.

It is very easy to forget how hard this adjustment phase can be for the other children. Reaching out to them, or giving the parents a break from the new kids, so they can enjoy the other children, is a real blessing.

Be Present

I have to admit, I was struck by the prevailing theme of loneliness and isolation in the comments. I hope you will read them yourself, because I can’t express the thoughts as well as the original authors did. Over and over readers expressed that once the initial excitement died down, they felt lonely. The needs of their children may have prevented them from getting out and about; they were stuck at home, alone, living a new life with new children. It is hard to imagine how very isolating this can be.

Several people said they wished friends would just stop by for coffee, even if the house was messy. Others used the words grief and loss to describe how they felt. Some of you said you needed somebody to just listen and not judge or try to cheer you up as you coped with the changes in their lives. Encouragement is needed. If you live a distance away, a phone call, email, or encouraging text may be what a mom needs. Knowing you have not forgotten her, that you are praying may help her through the next hour.

It has been four and a half years since we brought our first adopted children home and for a long time our life needed to become very contained and small. We simply could not go out much; even going to my bookgroup once a month became impossible. I hope you’ll be encouraged to know that this month I am going to my bookgroup once again — and I even read the book.

If you missed this post, be sure to go back and read the great responses from everyone. Please take a moment to add your thoughts – it is not too late.

Thank you for being a great community and sharing my life.

Encourage one another.

______________________________

Lisa Qualls

Lisa Qualls, writer of One Thankful Mom, is the mother of 12 children who came to her by both birth and adoption.  As she winds her way through the challenges of attachment, trauma, and life, she shares what she is learning in the hope of helping other families.  She earnestly believes in the power of God to heal children’s broken hearts and wounded minds.

Do I Feel the Same About Her as I Did My Bio Babies? #top10ofalltime

I’ve been putting off this post long enough. I will try to be authentic and clear, but I have a feeling that only those who have both bio and adopted children will truly be able to understand my sentiments. So, if you don’t fall into this category, please extend me some grace.

The honest first part of my answer is no. From the moment I saw Joni’s picture, I prayed that she would be the one for us. When they placed her in my arms, I thought she was the bravest, cutest, loveliest, most fascinating creature I had ever laid eyes on (sorry, Oakley and Colston, but it’s true). My heart swelled with compassion, curiosity, tenderness, and protectiveness. Those days spent in China were amazing as we watched a petrified, catatonic little baby slowly open up and begin to accept our love and care…then, we got home.

The truth was, she was a stranger to us, and we were strangers to her. She had strange orphanage behaviors and deep emotional needs. This was different from my biological babies who from the moment they came out felt familiar and seemed to automatically know who we were. We didn’t have to work on bonding; it came naturally and was already there to some degree. They were blank slates ready and willing to trust us to care for all their needs. There IS something to the biological connection. I believe it was created by God and meant to assist us through the sleepless nights and projectile vomiting. Even at my worst newborn-moments, my heart had an inexhaustible reservoir of love and compassion for my babies. I didn’t have this automatically with Joni; and so, the tough moments were difficult. The fun, happy times were incredible, beyond my dreams (I can’t get or give enough kisses from that child). But, if she was excessively fussy or clingly or mean to my other children, I really struggled in my feelings towards her. This deficit often made me feel guilty because even if I still acted appropriately loving toward her (and I have to confess that sometimes I didn’t; thankfully, most times I did), I knew my heart wasn’t matching that action. I mean, what kind of monster was I? I knew to expect these behaviors. And, actually, in my “professional” opinion, Joni was doing at least average in her transition period. But, this wasn’t something I could just grit my teeth and change or read books about and fix. So, I prayed that God would give me a true mother’s heart for Joni so that I could love her just as much as her biological mother would have if she had kept her…even more.

So before you call CPS, let me give you the second part of my answer: “No, not yet. But, each day, my mother’s love grows more and more.” God is in the process of answering my prayers, and this journey of bonding continues in a positive direction. It’s been under 3 months since we’ve had Joni, and I’m relieved and grateful that what didn’t come “naturally” is coming “supernaturally.” I can see that shortly, even when things are tough, Joni will stir up the same feelings and emotions that my other two children do. In fact, most days she does. The moments I find myself struggling, I now handle better with more hope and less judgment.

________________________________________

Lynne Prinzing

Lynne has been working in the field of international adoption for 11 years but now enjoys her main role as “Manager of Domestic Affairs.” She lives on a camp property operated by the Christian outreach ministry Young Life where her husband works as the Guest Services Coordinator. Her three children (Oakley 6, Colston 2, and Joni 1) are a great source of joy and growth in her life. Joni joined their family through adoption from China this past February, and everyone is busy learning and stretching as they adjust to a family of five.

Her Birthday #top10ofalltime

Lydia is 2 today. And, I didn’t expect to feel the way I do.

For a Raudenbush child, a birthday means a bedroom door decorated with streamers and balloons when he or she wakes up in the morning. It means a meal of their choice, some fun activities, some sort of party, gifts, a celebration of them all day long. In fact, they think about it pretty much year round, looking forward to their day, making lists of game ideas, themes, gift ideas.

And, for me, their birthdays mean remembering. I remember being pregnant with them and my labor and delivery. I remember those first moments holding them, studying their faces, memorizing their cry.

So, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that I feel like I do today.

We are celebrating Lydia with the streamers, balloons, gifts, a special meal, and all that. But, I am also grieving that I cannot remember those first moments with my child. I didn’t know them.

A sweet friend gave birth to her second baby last week, a beautiful baby girl. Another friend and I went to the hospital the next day to see her and meet the baby. The mommy was glowing as she shared her birth story. We doted on that little girl, admiring every wrinkle of her brow and how sweetly folded up she still was. We looked at her expressions closely—“Oh, I think she just looked like her big brother,” “Did you see that? She really looked like her daddy when she made that face.”

I’m thinking of that visit today, wondering what it was like for my daughter’s birth mother today 2 years ago. I know I can’t romanticize the event. I do not know what her situation was; I just know that she and the birth father could not keep her. But, I do wonder. I wonder if they loved her the moment they first saw her. I wonder if she nursed her and cradled her close. I wonder if they saw themselves in her and laughed about her strength even as a newborn. I wonder what they named her.

I cannot tell Lydia today how long I was in labor with her, what the doctors said when she was born, how Daddy cried when she finally was born and she screamed for her first breath.

But, I can tell her what we were doing that day.

We joined the special needs program. On March 10, 2 years ago, after waiting nearly 2 years in the healthy child program, Mark and I sent an email to our agency with our application to join their program to adopt a special needs child—a step of faith we quietly took. We told them: “We feel like we need to open to the child God has for us. We do not know if she is in the sn program or not. But, we are opening ourselves to that possibility.” In another email I sent that day to an adoptive mom, I said, “We want to be open to what God may have for us, but this sure is scary.” And, it was.

I cannot tell Lydia about her first moments. I long to know what they were but have accepted that I most likely never will. But, I can share with her our story on her birthday and how God laid it on our hearts that very day to join the program that would lead us eventually to be a family.

We prayed this morning together as a family as we always do. We thanked God for Lydia, for her life, and for her birth family. We thanked Him that they protected her, that they cared for her as they did and made sure she’d be cared for 15 days later when they knew they could not do that any more. We prayed for them today that if they knew what day it was and if they are thinking about their little girl and missing her, that the Lord our God would comfort them and somehow allow them to know in their hearts that she is loved and secure.

Happy birthday, our sweet Lydia. Thank you, God, for this child.

____________________________________
Kelly-NHBO1-150x150

Kelly has a passion for supporting adoptive families, specifically to encourage parents to be intentional and understand their own hearts more clearly as they seek to care for their hearts of their children. Kelly has a Master’s degree in counseling and has been working with adoptive families since she and her husband Mark founded the The Sparrow Fund. Married to Mark since 1998, they have 3 biological children and 1 daughter who was adopted as a toddler from China in 2010. You can learn more about their adoption story, how they’ve been changed by the experience of adoption, and what life for them looks like on Kelly’s personal blog, My Overthinking.

Adoption is Hard #top10ofalltime

Children from hard places who have experienced trauma
(and I would argue that losing your birth family is always traumatic)
are going to have attachment issues.

Their trust has been broken
by the very people who were
supposed to be the most trustworthy.

Your words mean nothing to them. They have no reason to trust what you say and they have every reason to doubt. They have been hurt, they have had to learn to protect themselves, they lack the ability to empathize, and they are scared to death, they are master manipulators and they want to be in control.

WARNING: Their behavior is going to reflect this.

And it is going to make you feel crazy.
And parenting them is hard CRAZY HARD.

Even if you fell in love with their referral pictures, chances are that once you enter this crazy hard world of loving a child with attachment issues, you are not going to FEEL like you love them. No, it does not FEEL the same as parenting a healthy attached child. Not the PC thing to say, but true. It’s hard to feel love for a child who tries to sabotage you at every turn.

But, you see, you DO love them:

You love them by doing the loving thing over and over and over.

You love them by parenting them in the way they need to be parented with high nurture and high structure (despite how you parented your other kids or how your church friends parent).

You love them by holding them when they are raging and telling them that you aren’t going anywhere.

You love them by praying for them and fighting the spiritual battle on their behalf.

You love them by not being easily offended.

You love them by not being easily manipulated.

You love them by not giving up, by not confirming their suspicions that you are just like all of the others who abandoned them and broke their trust.

You love them by laying down your life, picking up your cross, and dying to yourself

over

and over

and over.

Yes, you love them. . . and by the grace of God, someday, yes someday, you will wake up and realize that they believe you and they trust you and both of you FEEL, truly feel that phileo (friendship) love that you have both been longing for.

Dear “trauma mama” if you are in the trenches today, lovingly parenting through the crazy-hard, please do not lose heart! Do not give up or be easily discouraged. Fight the battle by dying. Just for today, lay down your life and choose love.

_________________________

Jen Summers

Blessed beyond measure to be a child of God, wife of Disco Man, mother of ten awesome children (9 adopted from “hard places”), and friend of many. Messed up in most ways and so thankful for His saving grace in my life. Trying to be thankful for His refining fire as well. Desiring to live fully, every day, for His glory alone. You can follow their life at Grace and Glory.

Choosing to be Uncomfortable #top10ofalltime

I realize something lately. I have been getting way too comfortable. See, it’s been almost 3 years since we adopted Hope, and over a year and a half since we brought home Sam, and things are settling down (relatively speaking).

When first home from China, the thought of your child having lived in an orphanage, having gone hungry, or having suffered, is so heavy that it sometimes it seems hard to breathe.

The enormity of it is overwhelming.

You look into the eyes of your scared and fragile child, and they are still so haunted by what has just transpired. They are scarred by what they have gone through, and most times will never form the words to tell you just how bad it was.

You are confronted with it like a smack in the face every single day.

Every single time they look at you.

The gut-wrenching fear when you leave the room.

The eating hoards of food as if there will never be more.

Or in Sam’s case…the not being able to eat since you were never given the chance and you just don’t know how to swallow.

The scared, distant look, or silent cries with puddles of tears that go on for weeks, months, sometimes longer.

It is easy after you have a year or more under your belt to see your now 33-pound toddler–laughing, playing, and loving…

to forget.

It is easy when your now 5 year old gets a glowing report from preschool at how “advanced” she is and how she is a leader amongst her friends and doing so well that she is sure she will excel next year in Kindergarten…

to forget.

To forget that your toddler was skin and bones and couldn’t walk, talk, or eat. That he was hosed off in dirty water and slept in a snowsuit because of the cold–and no heat at his orphanage. To forget that most pictures sent to you he had blue lips, despite their best efforts to keep him warm.

To forget that your daughter was once so petrified when she was handed to you that she actually caused other parents to cry at the pain she felt at being separated from all she has ever known. To forget that she had to be pried away from her caregivers at the orphanage–and that she screamed until she passed out. That she came home hyper to the point of where she couldn’t sit still for more than 3 seconds at a time.

It is easy to get comfortable. It IS easier to push all that unpleasantness far away in your brain and live in the now, relish in how they are doing now, forget what they went through. It is easy and comfortable to do that.

But it is so important NOT to do that.

You see, when you “forget” or “move on,” you forget that there are millions of kids out there–millions of Hopes and Sams. You are ignoring the fact that just because your kid is okay now, that many others are continuing on in that existence who we try and push to the far recesses of our brain.

So I will choose to forever be uncomfortable.

When my babies are sick, and I am holding back their hair while they are vomiting, and nursing them with ginger ale and crackers, and running them a hot bath, cuddling them into clean, cozy jammies…

see the baby in the back?

I will remember the baby I saw in pictures from Sam’s orphanage–face burning with fever, tied to his/her crib in an upright position, probably sick with a cough of some sort. I will look at that picture and the sadness in that baby’s eyes…

and I will feel uncomfortable.

While we are out to eat as a family, ordering appetizers, meals for each kid, and dessert–and most food doesn’t get finished…

I will think of the children who hoard their food, saving for the next pang of hunger to strike. Or think of the babies with prominent ribs, malnourished and waiting for any morsel…

and I will feel uncomfortable.

When we have a birthday party, inviting friends, family, spending money on cake, food, decorations, and most likely a blow-up thing of some sort….

I will think of the children who never have their birthday marked with any special recognition. I will think of the fact that two of my children had birthday’s “assigned” to them since there is no real record of their birth. I will think of the pain of that day for their birth parents…

and I will feel uncomfortable.

When my 6 kids are digging for sandcastles on the beach, frolicking in the waves, and screaming with joy as they do on vacation, getting ready for their 5th night of ice cream…

I will remember the children who have never, ever, left the four walls of the orphanage. Never rode in a car–except when they were brought there. Maybe they will get some time to play outside once and again…but their days, nights, holidays, are all spent within the confines of those walls. Some of them aren’t babies; some are 11, 12, 13 years old and have never left their orphanage. I will remember them, and, yes,

I will feel uncomfortable.

When I snuggle in front of the fire on a bitterly cold day, I will think of them.

When I fill readily available prescriptions,

when I sign kids up for sports,

when I browse the aisles in the grocery store filling my two carts with food,

when I tuck my kids into bed, kissing their sweet smelling heads goodnight,

and when I greet their sleepy eyed, bed-headed selves in the morning…

I will think of all the beautiful children waking to no greeting, no morning kisses, cuddles, and hot breakfast…

and, yet again, I will feel uncomfortable.

When I stop those feelings, is when I am forgetting. Forgetting means orphans do not exist.

To be comfortable is to be ignorant.

And in this case, ignorance is not bliss.

Ignorance hurts children and their chances for a better life. For even one person like myself, sitting and staring at my computer screen in my slippers, can make a difference to them. If only by caring and remembering they are there.

On this very day I urge you…

FEEL UNCOMFORTABLE.

Remember them.

Do something to make a difference.

Think of them every single day.

They just might change your life. They sure did mine.

________________________________________

Amy Dinello

My name is Amy, and I have been married to Darrin for almost 16 years. We have 4 biological kids (Hannah 12, Joseph 8, Caroline 6, Charlie 5) and two children from China (Hope 5 and Samuel 3). Both of our blessings from China were born with limb differences. We are incredibly blessed by the miracle of adoption and would love to talk to anyone about adopting a child with a limb difference. I am a stay-at-home mom who also is a volunteer for Love Without Boundaries. I am the Fundraising Coordinator for their Orphanage Assistance Program. It is an incredible way to remember those children still waiting for a family! I am just happy to be living an amazing life with my family and sharing a bit of our continuing story on our blog.

Our First Failed Adoption #top10ofalltime

One day, my friend approached me with information regarding a possible adoption. She knew someone who was pregnant and expecting biracial twins. The birthmom wasn’t sure what she was going to do regarding parenting vs. adoption, but we gave her our profile to consider.

We didn’t think of it or talk about it very often, because we didn’t think it would really happen, since the Mom didn’t seem confident one way or the other. She had chosen us and yet kept putting off meeting us or with a lawyer. We weren’t sure what to think and tried to keep our emotional distance.

One day out of nowhere, JC and I discussed what we would name the babies. In a 2-minute conversation, we had our names- almost as if they hadn’t come from us. We never discussed names again, or referred to them by name in conversation or prayer. I never told a soul, nor wrote them down in my journal. I tried to put the names out of mind.

When the babies were born, we began to get conflicted messages. Without sharing too much information in cyber-space, we were on an emotional roller-coaster. At one point, I was in tears on the phone with my dear friend, Lisa. Lisa, who had for some reason always been confident that these were our babies, shared with me the source of her confidence.

Months previous, she had a vivid dream that revealed the names of our babies as well as the verse written on the nursery wall. I thought it was interesting and begged her to share the names, and she was strangely resistant. Eventually she gave in and told me the names.

They were the same names.

Sam and Grace.

And the verse on the nursery wall? The very reason we had picked the name Sam:

“For I have prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted my request.”
~1 Samuel 1:27

In 1 Samuel 1, Hannah, a barren woman, begs the Lord for a child and He eventually answers her prayer with a son whom she names Samuel.

Grace- because she is a perfect gift from the Lord- as is His grace.

How could this be? How could Lisa have known the same names we had chosen- without ever whispering it to a soul? It had to be the Lord. As I praised His name, and sought His voice, I felt Him urge me to let go- to release the wall I had up to guard my heart and to let Him guard my heart instead. In that moment, I knew these were my babies. I knew that I was their mama. I rejoiced. I cried. I wondered what would happen next.

The next day we got a phone call. She was definitely going to parent the babies.

WHAT???? How could this be? Did I hear the Lord wrong? NO! No way! But if not, how could He have led me down this path only go have my heart trampled?

The following is from an email to my parents:

I don’t understand. I did everything right and was obedient. If this wasn’t going to happen, then why did the Lord tell me to open my heart? Why did He keep sending confirmation after confirmation to have hope? Why did He give us NAMES? It seems cruel. Either this is not over according to Him, or I totally heard Him wrong all this time (but why involve Lisa with the dream??) or…what? I know He’s Truth and Good and Love. Yet it would seem my heart doesn’t matter to Him if this is truly over. Or do I hold onto hope against all odds??? At every turn I heard, “God can do what He says He can do.”

It’s not that this adoption didn’t work for us. It’s that I feel like He led us on during these last few weeks. I got attached b/c HE told me to open my heart and bonded me to these babies that I’ve never even held. Why would He do that????? It feels like He’s playing games with my heart.

Eventually, the Lord showed us that only by attaching us emotionally to these children would we be committed to praying for them throughout their lives. And so, we came to terms with the fact that we are their spiritual parents, their God-parents, if you will.

A glance into my journal from that time shows this:
I don’t know what will come or even if its over, but there must be a reason you told me to open my heart and let me get emotionally attached to these children. I will surrender to this bond and take on the role of Mom- if only in a spiritual sense. I will not waver in prayer for them. Perhaps I’ll pray harder than if they were in my care- as I have no control in their upbringing. So we’ll pray. But you’ll have to do the leg work, Father. We will trust them to your care.

It occurred to me later, that if I had only read the NEXT VERSE of 1 Samuel 1:27 and 28 and realized it applied to me as well, I might have been better prepared.

“Now I, in turn, give him to the Lord, as long as he lives, he shall be dedicated to the Lord.’ She left him there.” ~1 Samuel 1:27-28

So we released them to the Lord and pray for them daily. We pray for these children and trust that He will grant our requests.

________________________________________

Lauren

Lauren is in love with the Lord, the man of her dreams, and her new daughter. She and her husband married in June of 2006 and thereafter began their journey of infertility and adoption. Despite the many wounds, heartaches, and suffering, He has blessed their family abundantly. Come see for yourself on her personal blog.

No Debate #top10ofalltime

This post has been being written over and over again in my brain several times over the last few months. Last night I couldn’t sleep at all over it, so it’s time to get it out and put it to rest so I can get some rest! Way to often recently, an ugly debate has been raising its head on social network sites and quite honestly, I believe it grieves the Lord, and fuels the enemy’s fire to steal kill and destroy.

Domestic Adoption
vs.
International Adoption

If you have sensitive toes, you may want to stop reading about now. Because some things just need to be said.

First of all:

This is an argument we should NOT be having.

Disunity in the Body of Christ is a disgrace to the Lord. John 17:23 says that by our unity, the world will know that we are Christians and they would know how much we love people. Ephesians 4:13 says that unity is a sign of maturity. We are immature believers if we are arguing over this issue. We are NOT showing the world Jesus and we are NOT showing the world how much He loves them. If you want to talk to a family about their motivations behind one or the other, do it in private. I am 100% willing to bet that you will come to complete understand about their reasoning. At the end of the day, this argument only brings DISTRACTION from the real issue….every child deserves a family. And the enemy is having a party if he can take the focus off these children, and onto one another and ridiculous arguing.

Second:

No one child is more deserving than another.

I have worked for an adoption agency for 5 years now. The first three were spent in the domestic program. Over the course of that 3 years, I got to be in the delivery room 32 times to welcome precious children into this world. I took custody of 32 babies and handed over the majority of those tiny, squirming infants into the arms of adoptive mamas and daddies. I helped new parents figure out infant car seats and walked sobbing birth mothers out of the hospital and drove them home. Often times, the birth mom didn’t want to see the newborn. I spent many hours, in empty L&D rooms, with fresh newborns, rocking and praying over them, assuring them that they had a family coming. And they always did. More often than not, I was in tears as well just watching the process.
Those babies are just as orphaned as the ones in China. They are no more deserving of a family……and to say, “why go overseas when you can adopt right here in your neighborhood” is a very western, selfish, american, ugly, thing to say.

NO one child is more deserving than another.

NOT. ONE.
I dare you to look at my children and say that they were less deserving because they were born in China. I bet not one person who has made that statement above would believe that if they spent one hour with my kids. Adoption is a picture of the very gospel….and to say one person is more deserving than another is a slap in the face to our call to care for the orphan. People who make this debate would never comment on a missionaries post and say, “why are you going to serve overseas when there are people right here who need Jesus?” Doesn’t that sound absurd? It sounds just as absurd when you ask it of the orphan.

Third:

Families go where God calls them.
Why did we adopt from China?
We had children there.
The Lord made that crystal clear.
We would’ve gone to China, Africa, Arkansas, or the North Pole if the Lord had asked us to. The Lord calls us the Body of Christ….we each have a function. If we were all called to the same place and the same thing, the world would be boring and lots would go undone. If we were all called to care for China’s orphans, the rest would go unnoticed. When families call me and ask about the process, the first thing I say, every single time, is “pray about WHERE.” Then call me back when God tells you, and we’ll move forward. Praise the Lord we are all called to different places!!! We get to be His hands and feet right here in our backyards and overseas!!! That ought to make us rejoice, not debate!!

Lastly:

Be respectful and prayerful.
People need Jesus. Children need families. Families need children. Before you take a stab at an adoptive parents motivation, consider what YOU might do. If you look around and you aren’t doing a thing, please keep your opinions to yourself. Adoptive parenting is HARD ENOUGH. Adoption brings baggage. Even to a two day old infant. It’s a lifetime process and is a beautiful thing. It’s a good hard. Instead of debating, we should be praying for one another. Asking the Lord what we can do. Holding the hand of a broken mama who’s birth mom has changed her mind, and the baby has to go back. Bringing dinner to the family who just came home from two weeks overseas and can’t get their days and nights turned back around. Serve one another! (1 Peter 4:10)

Toes ok?

Put it to rest, friends. Give it up. Let it go. If you are called to this road, celebrate it with one another. It will change you…….and it’s not a glamorous life. Adoption changes the way you see the Lord, changes your checkbook and how you spend your money, and gives you a burden that some days is all consuming. If you haven’t been on this road, respectfully keep your opinions to yourself. Be the Body of Christ that we are called to be to one another and to a dying world that needs Jesus like nobody’s business. And if we are going to fight over something, let it be:

Philippians 1:27
Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News.

my lil’ fighter

 

________________________________________

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.

Just Because It’s Hard Doesn’t Mean It’s Wrong #top10ofalltime

“But I will rejoice even if I lose my life, pouring it out like a liquid offering to God.” Phil 2:17

This fostering journey has taken it’s toll on me emotionally and physically but it has grown me spiritually. My natural tendency is to think that when it is hard or when I see myself or my kids being affected that we shouldn’t have done this. But, that’s simply not true. We know that we are right where we are supposed to be. We didn’t make a mistake.

Somehow, we have this notion in our heads that if we’re in God’s will, life will be easy and uncomplicated. Things will make sense but that is just not the case. If it were, where would faith come in? Why would we need to be dependent on Him?

I’ve been pondering the story of Jesus’s birth – The Story. Mary was pregnant with the Son of God. The King. The Savior Himself. And yet Mary and Joseph went from Inn to Inn looking for a place to rest. They had to question what in the world was going on. “God, you want this baby to be born healthy don’t you? We need a place to stop. Why are there no rooms? I thought this was Your plan but it doesn’t make sense to us. It hurts.”

In our own waiting seasons, don’t we find ourselves asking the same types of questions? Mary’s situation was not easy or uncomplicated. It was definitely not comfortable. She was affected in many ways and yet through her obedience, she received the greatest gift imaginable. She held Jesus in her very arms. She cared for the King of Kings. I cannot grasp this really.

In our situation, I have come to realize that I need more help. I have always been full of emotion but with the added stress that six kids brings (and oh they do!), my lows have been lower, and I need some help with steadying out my hormone levels. I’ve talked with my Dr. and we have a plan to try out some medication.

This is not really fun for me to share but I do so because I want you to know the realities. I know there are differing opinions on this whole issue but we believe that this is the right next step for me.

Even so, I struggled with this. One of my biggest fears going into fostering was that I would “wither up like an old dead flower” and let me tell you, Satan has been throwing that back in my face. “Look, Jami. You have failed, you can’t handle it. You are losing.” But I am not accepting his lies nor his evil whispers. I will choose to listen to the Voice of Truth. He tells me “You don’t need to handle it. I am in control. I have given doctors the ability to help you. This is My provision right now.

When I am weak, He is strong. His strength is made perfect in my weakness. He doesn’t call us to pull up our bootstraps and work harder for Him, He knows our weaknesses. He just wants us to look to Him and be led by Him. He calls us to obedience, no matter what the cost. Even if that means the decline of health. Even if that means pain. He died for us. Why should we not suffer for Him? In our situation, my “suffering” pales in comparison to what the three little ones in our care have experienced. They are worth it.

________________________________________

Jami Kaeb

Jami Kaeb is wife to Clint and together they have six children (four of whom were adopted). After having her eyes opened to the overwhelming needs of those in the foster care system, she began a journey that ultimately led her to found The Forgotten Initiative (TFI). TFI equips and supports “Forgotten Advocates” to bridge the gap between Agencies and the Church, bringing joy and purpose to the foster care community. Learn more at www.theforgotteninitiative.org. Jami loves coffee. A lot. And connecting with others. When the two are mixed, she is especially happy! You can get to know her better through her blog at www.lifewithapersonalgod.org.

Letting Go of Expectations #top10ofalltime

No one ever promised us that adopting our children would be a simple thing. I didn’t expect to whisk Silas into the mix and then just go about my happy business.

I knew it would be really, really hard.

For like six months.

And then it would be sort of hard for another six.

Then we might have a few bad days over the next six months.

Then we’d be home free.

We’d be in “regular parenting” territory then, which is never a slice of pie. It always requires effort and attention. It can be frustrating sometimes, exhausting often. But the dark, bruisey days would be over.

We’ve had Silas with us for 19 months. My extremely generous timeline for unfavorable behavior has expired, and we’re still registering a solid Month Ten. At least this week.

It’s been one of those weeks that used to find me feeling bullied and defeated, but now, after much practice, I simply feel bone-tired. It has worried me, the way I’ve learned to compartmentalize. It has concerned me at times, the way my patience grips the very edge with its fingernails.

This adoption thing? It can be lonely business. It’s hard to find the kind of everyday support that I crave, not because people in my life are unwilling to offer, but simply because it’s different.

When these hard weeks come, I sometimes feel judged. She should be doing things differently. I feel inadequate. I’m tired of screwing up. I feel defensive. He’s had a difficult life. I feel exasperated. What will it take for him to start to understand how this stuff works? I feel rejected. My kid doesn’t love me.

I feel all of those things, at times. They are my knee socks, my jeans, my gray T. I wear them well. They fit just right, at this point and they’re surprisingly comfortable.

But then I pull on my love for my child. I zip certainty up to my chin. I ball up my hands and shove them into Promise.

I walk in the sunny-day truth that I often know the right thing and choose the wrong anyway. I do not always obey the very first time. I shove and kick when I’m scared, or when I think my idea was better.

And still, just as I love my angel-lashed boy, I am loved.

I could never have known for sure what this journey would look like or how it would feel. I might have run screaming for the hills had I understood that it would be this hard this long. That is the thought that threatens to break me. I might have turned my back on one of the blessings of my life. I might have missed the moment where he turns to me and says, “I lu yew Mommy”. I would have missed stifling a laugh when he looks up at me and says all mean and sassy, “I tickle yew”. (He finally understands that “I spanka yo bottom” wasn’t working for him, so he improvises now.)

So, I’m learning to let go a little. I’ll not take personal the days where he wakes up spitting mad at me and the world, because these days come in waves. I’ll ride it out knowing that maybe tomorrow, or next Monday, he’ll smile straight into my heart and giggle me through my day.

Every day is a step in the right direction, even when it’s hard.

Every day is a chance to remember that God honors this work. He honors it full. He cheers us on, reminds us that the dark days move faster if you dance a little.

Every day is one more opportunity for grace – for all of us.

________________________________________

Shannan Martin

Shannan Martin is an ordinary girl who searches for and finds beauty in the everyday. She’s the wife of a man who thinks all of her jokes are funny and who regularly indulges her late-night, thinking-out-loud ponderings. They have three funny shorties, Calvin, Ruby, and Silas, who came to them across rivers and oceans. Together, they are embarking on a fresh adventure and are confident that God will meet them there. And though they no longer live on the farm, life remains a heaped-up pile of blessings, and Shannan will forever remain a Farmgirl at heart. She has blogged for three years; come take a look.

The Wrong Diagnosis #top10ofalltime

Several months ago, I took Evangeline, our adopted daughter from Ukraine, five years old, diagnosed with Down syndrome, to a developmental pediatrician.

“I heard this doctor is good at what he does, and I want his opinion about Evie’s lack of development since she’s been home from Ukraine,” I affirmed rather loudly to my husband Sergei in an effort to hide that really, I was taking Evangeline to this doctor for a second opinion.

A year ago, Evie was evaluated at the Erikson Institute here in Chicago for Autism. At the time, her main activities included rocking back and forth, sitting on her bed, and looking at a light-up toy. Her eye contact was sporadic at best, and she could not tolerate textured food nor touch (unless it was rough housing). I was certain we would come home with a dual diagnosis of ASD (autism spectrum disorder) and Down syndrome because almost every time I reached out to my beautiful blond little girl, my hand would get slapped.

After several appointments, Erikson concluded that Evangeline was not on the spectrum but probably suffered from the debilitating effects of orphanage life paired with cognitive and developmental delays that can accompany Down syndrome.

But I wanted an answer.

When the report came in the mail, I opened the letter while sitting on the toilet seat behind a locked bathroom door and cried. On some level, I wanted the dual diagnosis because I wanted answers. I wanted to know why Evie ground her teeth constantly, why she sought out dust and dirt to eat but refused real food. I wanted to know why she scratched her sisters when they tried to hug her, and cried at loud noises, and sat off to the side of our lives alone, most days, rocking.

But I did not get a concrete answer. I got a “keep doing what you are doing. Find more therapy opportunities, give her time to bond with your family.” And slowly over the next few weeks, I started to shut down. I found it too painful to try to connect with my daughter. For months, I went through the everyday motions of caring for my family as best I could, all the while holding back from climbing into bed. I no longer attempted to bond with Evie. If she was fine being a part of our family without really being close to me, than maybe, I could live like that too.

And, then I realized something.

I was seeking out the wrong diagnosis for the wrong family member. Sure, it was good to have Evie evaluated a year ago. She certainly had characteristics that could point to ASD. But really, I was the one who needed the most help. I was struggling from post-adoption depression, which could have only been aggravated by a little post-traumatic stress disorder thrown in after Polly’s stroke, diagnosis of Moyamoya, and two brain surgeries. After our time at the Erikson Institute, I quietly unravelled.

I have struggled with depression all my life, but alas, it is kind of like that pesky monthly period for women. Every month I am shocked that my foul mood results with menstruation. And I am 36 years old!

Depression is like that for me, too. It sneaks up on me: a few aches and pains, feeling a little down in the dumps, sleeping poorly. I fight, I do what I absolutely need to for the family and then when I can’t anymore, I get into bed and I don’t get out.

I started to see a doctor and a therapist, but I wasn’t feeling better. I cried out to God to help me, to show me how to trust him and get back on track, but to no avail. I struggled for months, but still, somehow managed to post perky facebook stati often enough so that people outside my direct family wouldn’t suspect a thing.

But I was drowning.

This past fall, God gave me the strength to try again to get help for my depression. I went back to my doctor and let her put me on a higher dosed anti-depressant. I started seeing a different therapist and we clicked right away. I started to wake up in the morning and notice that the sun was shining.

And I saw Evangeline, a little girl considerably changed from a year ago.

Since Evie has been with us (over two years) there have been little breakthroughs here and there in our bonding. I liken them to nicking the surface of a frozen lake with a BB gun.

Now that I am above water again in life, the ice is starting to thaw. I can sit a stare at Evie for a while, marvel at her button nose, appreciate her smell, want to pull her to me.

So, why did I take Evie for the second opinion last week?

Because I wanted to make sure that a dual diagnosis isn’t in the picture for our girl. A lot of her behaviors have fallen away but she has a lot left. And although we are doing much better, I am now struggling with the guilt of that missed time when a shadow of a mother was parenting my daughter.

At the appointment, Evie climbed up into a chair, uninterested in the train set the doctor attempted to entice her with. But she laughed when he tickled her, and followed his finger as he played with her, and looked both the doctor and me in the eye almost the whole time.

I loved the doctor. He was a bit brash and un-orthodox (took a text from his wife during our interview and laughed out loud at what she wrote :). But he cut to the chase with me and it was just what I needed.

“I don’t see any definite red flags regarding a dual diagnosis off the bat, of course, if you’d like, we can do a full evaluation of Evangeline to get more in-depth. But I have to ask, why are you here? You’ve already had your daughter evaluated at Erikson?”

“Because, well”, I took a deep breath. “Because I am afraid I am not doing enough. Our other daughter got sick and ended up needing two brain surgeries six weeks after Evangeline came home from Ukraine and I. . . well, I’ve struggled with depression.” I kind of left my answer there but in my heart I added, I am afraid that I have already failed her.

“Mrs. Marchenko, your family has been through a very difficult time these last few years. I want you to know, you are doing a good job with your kids.”

I had to look away as the tears pooled in my eyes.

“And now, Ms. Evangeline,” the doctor turned to Evie and let me attempt to compose myself.

After the visit to the doctor, I realized I had been looking for two things: 1) the wrong diagnosis, and 2) validation that I am the right mom for my child.

Adoption is beautiful, but it is also very hard.

With God’s help, we all can be the right parents for our children.

________________________________________

Gillian Marchenko

Gillian Marchenko is a writer, speaker, and advocate for individuals with special needs. Her writing has appeared in Mom Sense Magazine, EFCA Today, The Four Cornered Universe, and Chicago Parent. Gillian lives in Chicago with her husband Sergei and their daughters Elaina, Zoya, Polly, and Evangeline. Connect with Gillian on Facebook or Twitter, check out her website at GillianMarchenko.com, or follow her family blog Pocket Lint.