Monthly Archives: January 2014

Stories

I have told both of my boys thier adoption stories since they were newborns in my arms.  It’s not easy to put into words the miraculous and complicated way God brought them into our lives, but I’ve always felt like it was good practice for me even if they have no clue what I’m saying.  The way they became part of our family is precious and I don’t ever want to forget those stories that made me a mama.

Right now, it’s pretty much a one-sided conversation.  My oldest is starting to make some straight-forward connections like…

“L is my birthmommy.”

“I grew in her tummy”

“She picked you and daddy to be my parents.”

Then there are moments when I can see it in his eyes.  His little brain is just spinning trying to figure out his story.

That’s when a little bit of fear sets in.  I realize that there will probably come a day when there will be hard questions to answer and upset or confused emotions that come out of my boys.  In my humanness, I want to protect them.  I don’t ever want them to doubt our love for them or their birthfamilies love for them.

Then my loving, heavenly Father whispers to me and says, “Abby, don’t you remember how I used some really difficult situations in your life to draw you closer to me?  I want to do that for your boys too.”

So, yes.  It will be hard.  There will be emotions that may be difficult to deal with.  I won’t have all the answers for my boys, but I have the priviledge of pointing them to The One who is control of all things and has EVERYTHING they need.

“And my God will meet all you needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:19

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IMG_4672Abby and her college sweetheart 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.

Consider the Waiting Child – Living Life with Limb Deformities

 

My children are BEAUTIFUL. God made every one of their fingers and toes PERFECT. Will the world see it this way? Not always, but we know God designed each and every one of us for His glory and loves us just as we are.

 
“For you created my inmost being; 
you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; 
your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” 
(Ps. 139:13-14, NIV)
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Imagine a boy from China thinking he was abandoned because of a deformed thumb. 

Imagine living your whole life with a dysfunctional thumb, one that flopped about, out of your control. 

Imagine being ripped from the only country and home you have ever know to be whisk off to a new country with a new language, new family, new home, and new friends.

Imagine being told that something that has always been a part of you is going to be removed, yes, to make your life and functionality improved, but still . . . 

Imagine thinking that they were just going to cut off that floppy thumb without any pain killers. Horrifying thought for an 9 year old boy.

Imagine the relief when you learn they have “special sleep medicine”. 

Our boy from China, though scared and unsure, held his head high and walked strong and sure into Scottish Rite Hospital in Dallas, TX to emerge 24 hours later with a new thumb. Well, he did have to wear a cast for six weeks, but you get the idea.  

Anthony is full of life and energy with a flair for the dramatic! He is extremely intelligent and picked up English with incredible speed. He joined our family in January of 2013. Anthony has a deformity in his right arm and hand. He is missing the bones in his right thumb and the radius in his forearm is short causing his arm to slightly curve in. The amazing and renowned pediatric hand surgeons of Scottish Rite Hospital performed an amazing surgery on his hand. They removed his limp thumb and moved his index finger to the location of the thumb so that he now has an opposable digit. It is truly amazing! This is the only surgery they plan to perform. At some point as medicine advances, there is a possibility that they might be able to lengthen his arm as well. 

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Imagine a darling little 18 month girl bursting into your lives like a wildfire. 

Imagine the parental distress over her precious misshapen fingers and toes.

Imagine the joy in learning that only a few short hours away from your home is someone who can help provide her with better functionality. 

Imagine a sweet little girl who in and out of surgery without a single issue in less than a day.

Grace is a vivacious fun loving four year old who makes friends everywhere she goes. She joined our family in May of 2011. Grace has amniotic banding syndrome which led to deformities in her fingers and toes. She is missing her big toe on her left foot and the middle toes on her right foot are fused together as one. Additionally, her right foot is a slight club foot. Her index finger on her left hand is not properly formed and two of her middle fingers on her right hand are short. The same pediatric hand surgeons at Scottish Rite worked on her right hand to help her with movement and will possibly perform a follow up surgery on each hand in a few years. Grace wore her arm cast for a mere four week, and she never complained or once tried to pull it off. Keeping it dry was a bit of a challenge. 

We also went through a series of casts and physical therapy on her right foot/leg to work on stretching the muscles and help the foot straighten. This is an ongoing process and we will most likely be refitting her for another AFO soon. 

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Our greatest struggles will be managing our children’s hurt feelings when other children ask them why their hands and feet are different. While the doctors performed wonderful work on their limbs, they will never look normal by the world’s standards. We know and will always communicate to them that God see them as perfect and beautiful, but that we live in a fallen world, so there will always be questions and looks. Haven’t we all experienced the cruelty of children at some point in our lives? Did any of us escape the teen years unscathed, without experiencing ridicule about something? Of course, this will break our hearts, but we pray that we will use these opportunities to point our precious babies to the One who loves them more than any of us could imagine or fathom. 

 

There are many things we will never know about our children or their past. 
 
BUT
 
What we do know is this.
 
They are BEAUTIFUL.
 
We CHOSE them just as God CHOSE us.
 
We will LOVE them FOREVER.
 
We are their FOREVER FAMILY.
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After struggling with infertility for 5 years, God led Suzanne and her husband, Adam, to His Plan A for their lives—adoption! Their daughter, Grace Lihua, came into their lives on May 8, 2011 (Mother’s Day) from Fuzhou City, Fujian Province, China. And, their son, Anthony Jianyou, joined their family on January 14, 2013 from Shanghai. After a career in politics, Suzanne now works as a part time Pilates instructor while home schooling their children, writing and working as a part of the Sparrow Fund Blog leadership team. You can follow their adoption journey and life on her blog, Surpassing
 

Oh, The Joy!

Once upon a time there was a mama of 4 girls.

She was happy and content in her world of baby dolls, hair bows and polka dot tights.
Then one night she was aimlessly surfing her agency’s website…..
when her heart literally skipped a beat.
Her husband sleeping, she called her friend in Florida..
“I think i’m looking at my son….” 

 
This mama was scared….A BOY???!!
Lord!! What would she do with a boy???
Her best friend would tell her, “there’s something about the way a boy loves his mama…”
and she would listen, but not fully understand.
Until Monday, December 6, 2010, in Guangzhou, China…..
In the International adoption world, a female child under the age of 3 is still the most requested child across every county and continent, including the United States. In 2011, for China, there were 1,888 females to just 699 boys (http://adoption.state.gov/about_us/statistics.php), adopted and brought home to their forever families.
With a shared list of literally hundreds of waiting children in China, the overwhelming majority of them are male. When little girls come to agency lists, the emails come pouring in…..and young boys with minor needs sit.
And wait.
Simply because they are boys.
Now hear my heart.
When the Lord called us to adopt the first time, we knew it was a daughter. It wasn’t written in the sky or spelled out in black and white, but we knew.
We had barely recovered from jet lag when the Holy Spirit began to convict me about my willingness to follow HIS plan for our family, or mine….and it took me digging into His Word, and continually, daily, laying my plans on the alter and and offering them as a sacrifice.
Sometimes, we just have to be willing for this adoption thing to not look like we thought it would.
Lord, did you call us to adopt a daughter…..or a child?

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.

If you’re on this adoption road I’d challenge you today to seek deep the heart of your Father. Be willing for the end not to look like you planned it would.

Perhaps it will.
Maybe it won’t.
But rest assured….He knows *exactly* what you need.

 Even when you didn’t realize what was missing.

Psalm 133:1

“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!”

*Shepard, Jude, and Judah pictures courtesy of Steph at Nihao y’all and Anna at AnythingbutLokey and K&RPhotography
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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 her blog:  www.ourhimpossiblejourney.blogspot.com.

Profundity of Life After Adoption

“Nummies, Mama? I make you dis.”

His tiny little voice barely above a whisper as he approaches me on the couch, handing me a tiny toy colander filled with a wooden pizza slice and two felt pieces of bread- white and rye. “Peanut butter, cheese, and chocolate, ” he tells me.

Gifts from my boy.

From where I am sitting I can see a wall full of pictures; pictures we took of him last July, when we first met our little boy in a Moscow orphanage. He’s two, but he looks much younger. Maybe a year and a half old.

I remember last year: worrying about him, wanting- no aching– to bring him home, and counting down every eternal day until we did. Mostly I remember walking the streets around our neighbourhood and praying as desperately as I could for that home-coming day to arrive soon.

Lots about parenting an adopted child is very normal. We do all the regular parenting things like books and baths, play dough and painting, making messes and tidying up…

But parts of it are just so profound. Every time we walk those same streets together- my boy and I- I think about those prayers I whispered and that deep ache in my heart, now filled. Neither my heart nor my mind can comprehend the mysterious way in which God seemed to bend fate and bring us together.  Redemption for both of us.

We do such normal things like taking our boy to the zoo and yet the whole experience is seeped in this profound brew of what is and what could have been. I watch my boy who has morphed from babyhood to childhood in nine short months and I am amazed. As he gestated in our family he has grown only more vibrant. Just when we think we’ve hit the height of his transformation, he surprises us.

Nine months ago, he grew upset when we had him run around inside without shoes on, so used to having his little feet always covered. Five months ago we took him, bundled in our winter clothes, to the shore of Lake Michigan and he froze in the sand, then gingerly pushed it back with the tip of boot, wondering what is this stuff? We tried him on a trampoline twice this summer, both times to cries of, “I don’t like it!!” and scooped him off.

And then yesterday, we came across this net at our zoo’s playground- roped across a pit, bouncing and insecure beneath the happy feet of running children. And Arie tried it.

With apprehension, he took two steps and cried out, “Mama help!” but we encouraged him to do it alone. “Only kids allowed on here Arie! No grown ups. I know you can do it!”

Slowly, he took another step. And another. His face grew more determined and proud with every inch until finally, he reached the other side. Pure victory for my little man.

As he raced around that play fort I was lost again in the profundity of what is and what could have been. A year ago, an orphanage. Today, a zoo. A year ago, thousands of miles away. Today, here. What could have been: the small world, the day-to-day, the every changing care-givers, and the insecurity of not knowing who comes next. A little boy, relying on himself. What is: a big world of new experiences, the day-to-day and the joyful surprises, the constant love of mom and dad, the security of knowing that it’s us, forever. A big boy, growing brave and finding his way.

His life verse runs constant through my mind:

See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.

With his life, God is doing a new thing. The profound moments stitched like a colorful thread through the fabric of my day.

There will be many more of these moments. Many more times when I will be struck with the wonder of his life- of my life- redeemed. More pictures in albums and photos on my wall. Restoration. Streams in the wasteland.

Love.

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Jillian Burden is still adjusting to this beautiful thing called motherhood; she and her husband are parents to a son by way of a Russian adoption. While her belly might not have expanded, her heart and her faith sure grew as her family did! You can read about this soul stretching journey to parenthood on her blog.

Beauty Unfolding

When I was 21 years old, my prayers for my future children began to take shape. It was as if I knew they were already alive, not necessarily waiting for me yet, but growing up in their own places and living their lives apart from mine for a season. That year, I began to pray for the children who would join my family in the future, realizing that they could be currently living through the circumstances that would create a need for adoption in the future. That’s a scary thought, knowing that your future child could be living through trauma and not being able to prevent or alleviate the circumstances.

The surprise of my life this whirlwind fall has been meeting the child who was born that year – the year I began praying for her without ever dreaming she was growing up in Africa. A few years later, her sister was born. My prayers had always been for them, so I should not have been surprised when even our first hours together showed evidence of God’s work in their hearts and mine long before we knew about each other.

But as this adoption took shape, so did my fears. I was afraid that they wouldn’t trust me, afraid that we wouldn’t be able to communicate, afraid that our attachment would take years. Normally, fear cripples me, but during that season I drove a friend’s car and listened to her CD about how God is a builder. It seemed weird to think He could build intangible things like positive emotions, trust, and attachments, but surely those things are easier to build than an atom or an ecosystem? So my fears began to shape my prayers as I asked Him to build a structure for safety and attachment in my girls before we even met. I asked Him to redirect their neural pathways, allowing them to bypass the things that had once caused fear and insecurity and immediately build trust with me. Obviously, we’re only a few months into this adventure, but almost daily I see evidence that my prayers were answered in amazing ways.

The child who was supposedly terrified of light-colored skin walked across a busy parking lot to put her hand in mine, long before she knew I was her mama. She found safety in me, a stranger who did not speak her language. The one who hung back, timid, and described herself as the one who “always kept quiet” when others took her things and made fun of her suddenly can describe her feelings with beautiful language that brings tears to my eyes.

As this beauty has unfolded, I’ve had to wonder if Jesus has been praying for me, His daughter – praying that my attachment to Him would be secure, that I would not respond to Him out of old wounds and habits, that God would build in me everything necessary to enjoy life as His daughter. I don’t know what God did to prepare my daughters’ hearts for me, but I wonder if this adoption  (this uncertainty, this absence of home for Christmas, distance from friends and family, fear of inadequacy) have all been deliberate and gracious actions of a God who is building something new in me just as He is doing in my daughters.

What impossible are you asking Him to build this year?

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Mandie Joy Turner copyMandie Joy is a foster parent and in-process adoptive mama of two beautiful little girls in Africa. She blogs at www.seeingjoy.com.

Why Knit?

Iknitpic took up knitting not long after our first adoption. I knitted a scarf first, imperfect with its holes randomly scattered, revealing to all that not only was I a novice, but also that I am decidedly not a perfectionist. The holes didn’t bother me really– but the sense of satisfaction I felt at having actually finished a project was soon to become an addiction. I’ve lost count of how many scarves I’ve knitted over the past 13 years, but suffice it to say that even my husband and 3 sons have scarves– I totally knew they’d never wear them! I didn’t care though because I soon realized that the hobby I began as a way to connect with our Russian daughter, who loved to knit, turned out to satisfy a need that parenting definitely does not. That is, I could set out to accomplish a goal and actually see it finished within a week or two. How refreshing in the midst of the parenting goals which consume our thoughts, our time, and our emotional and spiritual energies. Goals like bringing our children into healing from the deep wounds of their pasts, teaching them to give and receive love, to think before acting and to understand consequences, to learn English and to get along with others, to handle their anger well, not to mention personal hygiene, sharing toys etc, etc, etc……..!

Delayed Gratification

Talk about long-term goals–parenting surely can lay claim to being the job with the most delayed gratification ever! We realize early on that our efforts in raising our children often don’t see the fruit we desire and believe for until an undisclosed but greatly anticipated and hoped-for day. So we parents learn to sow seeds in all kinds of climates, stages, and circumstances. 

  “Happy and fortunate are you who cast your seed upon all waters [when the river overflows its banks; for the seed will sink into the mud and when the waters subside, the plant will spring up; you will find it after many days and reap an abundant harvest], you who safely send forth the ox and the donkey [to range freely].” Isaiah 32:20 (Amplified)

sowingpicI’m excited to share this scripture with you because it has been such an encouragement to me in the past few weeks. I am encouraged once again as a parent to continue to sow the seeds of love, wise counsel, firm boundaries, unconditional acceptance, words of Truth, kindness and firmness….

“You Will Find it After Many Days….”

Adoptive parenting is one of those jobs that is vast in scope with only occasional (but glorious) signs of accomplishment and finality. We treasure those moments when, like the tying off of the last piece of yarn on my latest knitting project, we see that one of our long-term goals have been met. As this scripture says, “you will find it after many days…” I want to encourage you parents to continue to cast in hope the seeds of your love (in all its many forms) on all the waters of your child’s life, all the waters of your families’ circumstances. For indeed, that seed will sink into the mud of your child’s life, deep into his identity. And though hidden from you for what may seem an impossibly long season, so long that it may call upon you to believe with faith-filled hope, it will indeed “spring up.” 

Glorious Satisfaction

Just recently we experienced the glorious satisfaction, (far more gratifying than any completed knitting project I am here to tell you!) of seeing seeds of healing spring up before our astonished eyes — seeds sown over and over and over and over in hope. To hear our child speak words to us that could only be spoken from a place of deep healing, confirmed in both eyes and tone of voice, left both Stephen and me full of praise to God for His faithfulness. This experience, so fresh and pleasing, reminded us that we must not grow weary of casting our seeds when all we see is a muddy stream and truly wonder if we’ve made any progress at all. 

Father God, we are believing You for the promised abundant harvest. Help us to parent in faith when our eyes don’t see any evidence of plants and fruit in our children. May it be to us and our children as you have said. Amen.

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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 Hope at Home.

It Takes a Village {Together Called 2014}

Together Called 2014 is only 5 weeks away!  In addition to hearing from Stephen and Beth Templeton in the main sessions, couples who are attending will have the opportunity to hear from some others who have been prayerfully preparing to share with them during two different breakout session times.  We are so thankful for their commitment to helping make Together Called 2014 a time of restoration and refreshment for attendees.  Won’t you join us in praying not only for the attendees, but for the following speakers — part of the “Together Called Village” — as they prepare to share what God has laid on their hearts.

Photo: Can't wait to fill this room at this year's Together Called in 5 1/2 weeks!

The Biological and Adoptive Family: Parenting With Grace in a Blended Family – Tim and Nancy Shaw

Adoption is born out of loss and disruption. Primarily a loss for the child(ren) you are adopting but also a disruption to your marriage and the lives of the children who are anxiously awaiting the arrival of their new sibling. Blending the family God intended for you will be hard. But, in accordance to His perfect plan, God has provided us with all we need and come to a place of great joy in this process. In this session, Tim and Nancy will share the good, the bad, and the ugly of their adoption story and practical strategies for blending biological and adoptive children. They’ll discuss preparing the family for the arrival of new family members, using your children’s natural personalities to your advantage, what to do about the inevitable squabbling and sibling rivalry, and how discipline changes as blending occurs.
About the speakers: Tim and Nancy both grew up and live in gorgeous Arizona. Tim is an adult adoptee, and Nancy is a soccer mom and reluctant city girl. They were highschool sweethearts and are now parents to 7 children (4 homegrown and 3 through the blessing of special needs adoption), none of whom have actually ever played soccer. Tim and Nancy put their faith in the Lord to direct their path and get them though each fabulously crazy moment.  Nancy blogs at Ordinary Miracles & The Crazy 9.

It Takes a Village of Two – Mark and Kelly Raudenbush

Intentional parenting of kids from hard places is not easy. All the traditional methods of correction we know have to be reconsidered. As we set out to meet the unique needs of each of our children, it’s imperative that moms and dads approach correction as a team. This session will provide a little bit of why and how and then give an opportunity for couples to wrestle through some real life application for their own families.
About the speakers: Mark and Kelly Raudenbush founded The Sparrow Fund in 2011, having been changed by the adoption of their youngest child and desiring to serve adoptive families. Kelly holds a Masters degree in counseling, and they both have been trained to teach the Empowered to Connect material which is based on TBRI, Karyn Purvis’ research and methods for children from hard places. They consider it a joy to pour into both mothers and fathers who are eager to do the right thing for their families, encouraging parents to understand their own hearts more clearly as they seek to care for the hearts of their children. Mark and Kelly have been married for 15 years, have 4 children, and also work professionally with a nonprofit reaching students in Asia.  Kelly blogs at My Overthinking.

Let’s Play: Building Blocks, Building Attachment – Cheryl Walters

Play isn’t only about fun and games. In this session, Cheryl Walters will explain the importance of child’s play in building attachment and fostering positive parent-child relationships. She will also share different ideas about how to play with your children during different seasons of life for the “play-challenged,” focusing on how we can be attuned to our children and maximize interaction.
About the speaker: Cheryl Walters is a Licensed Psychologist since 1985. She is a Registered Clinician with ATTACh (Association for the Treatment and Training in the Attachment of Children) as well as a Certified Theraplay Therapist. Cheryl designed, implemented, provided services, and fulfilled the role of Supervisory/Consulting Psychologist in a specialized treatment program for children/adolescents and their parents/families with diagnoses associated with Reactive Attachment Disorder, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, and Developmental Trauma Disorder. Currently, Cheryl specializes in providing outpatient psychotherapy for attachment issues and early trauma as a psychotherapist at Bethany Christian Services.

Nutrition for Our Kids: Some Things to Chew On – Wanda Graham

You don’t have to bite off more than you can chew to provide your children with good nutrition! With her love for cooking and passion to have healthy kids, Wanda Graham has invested herself in learning how good nutrition can bless children who have experienced trauma. In this session, Wanda will serve up an overview of the impact of nutrition on our children and the role we have as parents to meet our children’s needs in this way as well as provide bite-sized tips to healthy meal and snack options that will be well received and won’t make parents feel like they need to be masters of the kitchen or spend a fortune at the store.
About the speaker: Wanda Graham has been married to Matt for 14 years. Their home here in Lancaster County is a busy one, bustling with 6 children, all of whom have joined their family via adoption (one private domestic adoption, five adoptions through foster care). She is passionate about caring for the fatherless and the families who graft them in as their own. Wanda and Matt have been joyfully serving on the leadership team for Together Called since last year’s retreat.

Together to the Throne – hosted by Stephen and Beth Templeton

There are times when what we need most is simply for someone to stand with us in prayer. This session is set aside just for that. No teaching except what you hear from God in prayer; no topic except the one you bring for prayer. Jesus said, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” During this time, Stephen and Beth, our keynote speakers, will stand together with couples, believing God for His kingdom to break in to the situations that are on your heart and for His voice to speak louder than all the others as you walk this adoption journey.
About the facilitators: Stephen and Beth Templeton, our keynote speakers, serve as elders at Northlands Church where Beth also leads a ministry to mothers and Stephen is a worship leader. Thirteen years ago, after having had three biological children, the Lord called Stephen and Beth to adopt four children from Russia, so now there are 9 Templetons. Both Stephen and Beth have a passion for communicating the joy, peace, and victory available to us as adoptive parents. Stephen is also a physician and practices dermatopathology in Atlanta.  You can read their blog here: Hope at Home.

Trauma and the Adopted child: What it is and What to do – Dr. Phil Monroe

Does adoption represent a trauma for the adopted child and his or her new family? Might trauma explain some of the problem behaviors your child exhibits? In this session, Dr. Monroe, director of the Global Trauma Recovery Institute, will review the characteristics of posttraumatic stress disorder and complex trauma along with options for treatment adoptive parents should consider. Dr. Monroe will also discuss recommendations for parents and loved ones, those who are most impacted by the adoption of children who have experienced trauma.
About the speaker: Phil Monroe is a licensed psychologist and Professor of Counseling & Psychology at Biblical Seminary. He directs both the MA in Counseling degree program and Global Trauma Recovery Institute. Phil has been married to Kim for the past 23 years and together they adopted two infant boys who are now 15 and 13. Phil’s professional and personal musings can be found at www.wisecounsel.wordpress.com.

What’s Romance Got to Do With It? – Jeff and Cheryl Nitz

All of us experience unique challenges balancing the needs of our children and maintaining a growing vital marriage. And, loving and caring for our spouses, including having some semblance of a love life, is an important way that we care for them, ourselves, and even our family as a whole. Come join Jeff and Cheryl as they share some of their own journey as adoptive parents and offer thoughts about how best to foster a fun, growing, intimate marriage that equips parents to lead healthy families.
About the speakers: Jeff and Cheryl Nitz bring both professional and personal experience to share as they offer insights, challenges, and encouragement to families whom God has brought together through adoption. Jeff and Cheryl both have over 25 years of professional experience in the field of adoption and foster care. Jeff is currently the Vice President of Adoption & Family Services for Bethany Christian Services. Cheryl is a therapist and the Director of the Attachment & Bonding Center of PA, specializing in working with families impacted by adoption, trauma and attachment challenges. But, Jeff and Cheryl often say their best education has come from being parents to their four kids (two of whom came to the family through adoption) and grandparents to four. Most importantly, Jeff and Cheryl are presenting as fellow sojourners—sharing with other adoptive parents the joys and challenges and lessons learned and deeply committed to fostering a fun, growing, supportive marriage in the midst of chaos!

Where Are My Green Pastures? – Stephanie Smit

If the Lord is your Shepherd, shouldn’t you be enjoying some green pastures? Perhaps you feel like your adoption journey has felt much more like the valley of the shadow of death than green pastures. Maybe He walked you through the “valley of the shadow of death” in your adoption process; but, now that you are home, you are still waiting for some “green pastures.” By adjusting our understanding of the green pastures David was writing about, we will gain a better understanding of how God provides for His people. Whether you are still waiting to complete your adoption or have been home “in the trenches” for many years, find encouragement by getting new perspective on the promises of Psalm 23.
About the speaker: Stephanie’s 18 years teaching in the classroom were easy compared to mothering three little ones at home full time. Through the process of growing her family with her husband Matt, God has revealed Himself most clearly. He not only worked a miracle in giving them their biological daughter, He continued to show Himself in mighty ways throughout their adoption journeys in China and Bhutan that were anything but normal. Through times of heartache, disappointment, and uncertainty God proved Himself to be not only the God of the end result, but the God of the right-there-with-you. In addition to being a full-time mother, Stephanie loves connecting with and encouraging other adoptive families through her work as administrator of The Sparrow Fund’s blog “We Are Grafted In.”  Stephanie also blogs at We Are Family.

Again and Again and Again

There was no getting it out of my head. It had become my heart’s background music.

How great is our God. Sing with me. How great is our God.

Ashlyn had invited Lydia to watch her adoption video again…and again and again. As I buzzed around the kitchen, I could hear the song from the other room over and over with Ashlyn’s sweet narration of the images that have become as much a part of the song as the notes and lyrics themselves for our family.

As I danced between the stove and sink to prepare our meal as mothers often do, a small person ran into the room and hugged my legs tight, forcing me to still as small people often do.

I love being adopted. I want to be adopted again!

Chinese adoptionCaught up in the words of praise and moving music and dramatic images, she recognized in her little 4 year old way the significance and beauty of that moment when we received her in our arms after years of anticipation.

I told her then and write now to preserve the words and my heart here for when her little 4 year old heart is an 8 year old heart or a 12 year old heart or it bursts one day as a mother’s heart.

I love you “being adopted” too. I am so happy to be your mother. When I see you sleeping in the car or watch snuggled up with your sister or listen to your long prayers before dinner, my heart smiles along with my face and I hear the words of “How Great is Our God” in my heart again. The day I saw you enter that office room in the arms of a woman who had cared for you for a year, wearing your big puffy pants, I was amazed and filled with wonder. Years of desiring you had come to fruition. I remember every moment of that day—the songs of the street cleaning trucks, the echoes in the marble halls, the cough that rattled your little frame. I can get caught up in wanting to relive that day too. But, my love, there is no need now to pine for that day. When we adopted you, it was done. Finished. You become ours. Grafted in. If I were able to go back and do it again, I would because I love you even more fully now than I did that day. But, there’s no do overs with that. Our vows that day still stand today and will tomorrow and forever more as every part of you is every part of us.

Yes, I love you being adopted. I loved that day when we adopted you. And, I’d do it again 100 x 100 times if I could. I love you that much.

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Kelly-NHBO1-150x150

Kelly Raudenbush

Forever changed by our 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 blogMy Overthinking.

Here We Go

You are my firecracker and my sweet-as-cotton-candy love. I’m crazy about you. You are my favorite three year old, though I can hardly believe that it’s true. Your birthday was Sunday.  Where did three years go? You are brave and strong and you love fiercely. When you hug, it is never half-hearted. It is teeth-clenched, arms tight, hard-as-you-can-possibly-squeeze intense, as if the best way to show someone you love them is to really make them feel it. I think you’re probably right.

You love to cuddle and snuggle and wear your “comfy cozy jammies.” You’re smart as a whip and regularly surprise us with your ability to creatively solve your problems… recently you (the girl who loves to do everything herself) began asking us to come to the bathroom with you so that you can “hold onto our legs.” When we asked you why, you matter-of-factly announced it was so you wouldn’t have to touch the toilet and therefore not have to wash your hands. (You don’t want to slow down long enough to wash your hands, and I’ve told you in the past that you must do so after using the bathroom and touching the germy toilet.) We laughed at your problem-solving. You love your puppy, LeLe, and regularly tell her that she’s a good dog. Except when she isn’t, and then you like to point out her foibles. It won’t be long till you take the same approach to us. Your descriptor-of-choice for people lucky enough to be in your good favor is “girl.” Those who aren’t are all “boys.” Regardless of a person’s actual gender, I might add. The other day after your daddy did something that particularly pleased you, you happily sighed and told me, “I love my daddy, mama. He’s not a boy anymore.” It’s nice to know you have a concept of grace.

You sing with joy, and your favorite song – on repeat in the car for weeks now – is Ten Thousand Reasons by Matt Redman. You know all the words, and when the tempo picks up in preparation for the chorus you grin and shout, “Here we go mama!” I can’t help but shout the same thing in my heart. Yes, sweetheart, here we go.

It seems like yesterday we were driving down the bumpy back roads late at night from Qingyundian into Beijing. I was so worried we’d get caught in traffic on the way to the hospital… I could see the spectacle in my mind: American women in full-blown labor on a crowded Beijing subway. Some adventures don’t seem worth having. But you told us you were coming in the evening, and we made it to the hospital in about an hour. Our doctor, Amber Chen, was waiting as I came off the elevator. The evening passed in a blur… fitful bits of sleep and worried doctors and talk of dropping heart rates and meconium and the “baby must come now or we will do an emergency c-section.” I was fretful and tired and unsure how it would all work out, and just like that, there you were. “It’s a girl!” Dr. Chen announced. “Are you sure?” I asked. She was. And so I became a mama right there – laying on a hard bed one cold winter morning in downtown Beijing. Here we go.

And we’ve been on a journey, ever since, sweet girl. In some ways, you saved me from myself as we moved back to America. You kept me grounded as I processed the magnitude of leaving China and coming home… a far harder transition than moving there ever was. In those days of uncertainty, you gave me purpose. I found a quiet joy in watching you thrive, after years of being around little ones who weren’t. Parenting is such a challenging journey – partially because just as soon as you get used to one phase, it’s time for something new. But I’ve loved the journey with you, and while I’m particularly enjoying this season where I can have actual conversations with you and hear what you are thinking or feeling, what I wouldn’t give for just one more middle-of-the-night feeding. Our journey is changing sweet girl. You don’t understand, but it’s another one of those seasons where my heart hears the change in the music. Here we go, sweet girl!

You are about to be a big sister. I’m terrified you will hate it but convinced that you’ll love it. I have no doubt you’ll be good at the big sister gig, as long as your little allows you a bit of that “big sister” bossing privilege. But I know it is going to be hard for you. Sharing your toys, your room, your mama, and your daddy. Sharing your puppy and your whole little world. In my heart-of-hearts, I think you will be huge part of showing Alea the way of being in a family. You’ll take her by the hand and wrap her up in your love. You’ll take all that brave, strong, fierce love and you’ll learn what it means to love a sister. Sometimes it might feel like iron sharpening iron, but I believe the two of you will call out all that is best in each other.

Even if you don’t fully understand, I think you know in the deepest part of your heart something is happening. You look at the painting on our wall and tell me you want to ride an airplane to China. You point at the little black-haired-beauty holding your hand in the painting and tell me, “Let’s go get my friend.” My heart swells because you don’t even know what you’re saying, but it is true. We’re going to China again… the land where I first became a mama and you became a daughter. Our feet will hit that soil in just a few months, and our family will go through yet another massive transition. You will become a sister on the same ground where we became a family. Just like your birth, it might hurt and take our breath away sometimes, sweet girl. It’s OK to be scared and uncertain and wondering what the future will hold and how it will all turn out. I am, too. But one thing I know, we are on this journey together.

The music is changing; a new song is coming, and it’s almost time… Here we go, darling.

Here. We. Go.

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carrieandjacob-32Carrie is an in-process adoptive mama working to bring home her little one from China.  She and her husband Jacob spent four years caring for orphans at New Day Foster Home in China, where they also welcomed their daughter Cora. Now, back in the US, Carrie continues to maintain ties to China with her work with Scarlet Threads, a small social enterprise working with artisans in China and Burmese refugees in Texas.  Carrie occasionally blogs at her blog, NowHere.
 

Reflections . . . the first year

It’s hard to believe it has been almost a year since our precious boy walked into our lives that frigid day in Shanghai. I can barely remember life without him. It seems as if he has always been here, and in a sense, he has. God chose him for us before the foundation of the world. He placed Anthony in our hearts before he was even a thought in our finite minds. What a mighty God we serve!

First Photo ever with my new son!
 

The past year has taken us on an amazing journey far beyond our imaginations. Never in my wildest dreams or fantasies of my future life (of which there have been many) did I ever picture myself adopting an 8 year old boy. When Adam first told me that he wanted Anthony, the fear that rose in me was fierce but stronger yet was the gentle voice of God whispering, “trust Me”.

“‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, 
neither are your ways my ways,’ 
declares the Lord.” (Is. 55:8, NIV)
 

Adoption is all about trust.

Trusting that God will provide a child for you.

Trusting that God will provide the funds you need for the adoption costs.

Trusting that God will protect and love your child while someone else holds them.

Trusting that God will comfort them when they are ripped from the only life they have ever known.

Trusting that God will meld and knit your family together for His glory.

And now, here we sit, one year later . . . still trusting, as each new day brings

More love

More joy

More frustrations

More openness

More peace

More trust.

What an amazing year!

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After struggling with infertility for 5 years, God led Suzanne and her husband, Adam, to His Plan A for their lives—adoption! Their daughter, Grace Lihua, came into their lives on May 8, 2011 (Mother’s Day) from Fuzhou City, Fujian Province, China. And, their son, Anthony Jianyou, joined their family on January 14, 2013 from Shanghai. After a career in politics, Suzanne now works as a part time Pilates instructor while home schooling their children, writing and working as a part of the Sparrow Fund Blog leadership team. You can follow their adoption journey and life on her blog, Surpassing Greatness.