Monthly Archives: April 2014

It’s nest building time

It’s that time of year again. The Sparrow Fund team is all abuzz because May means it’s time to build the nest. This May marks our 4th annual fundraiser which is what allows us to continue our work to support adoptive families through grants, support, and training as well as our new work in orphan care as we lead teams to serve at an orphanage in Shaanxi, China.

Building the nest for The Sparrow Fund isn’t an independent task; it takes a lot of people to build that nest so that we can help others as they build theirs through this thing called adoption. All the businesses linked up below have joined us by making a pretty big commitment to donate at least 10% of their total sales during the month of May to The Sparrow Fund so that we can continue to serve adoptive families in a significant way.

Visit their sites, shop with purpose and make that 10% something crazy. Then, after you do, come back and leave a comment here sharing who you purchased from and what you purchased. For every purchase you make, you get one entry to…

win an ipad mini

Pretty awesome, right?

*in order to to qualify for an entry to win, orders or purchases must be made within the month of May. Comment must include the name of the business and what you ordered. The winning entry will be chosen during the first week of June and announced on The Sparrow Fund Facebook page and Twitter feed.*

Jewelry Design

Art and Design

Home

Clothing & Accessories

Photobucket

Special Gifts

Services

Sponsors for Building the Nest

To get the nest started…

Sparrow Sponsor

Norman L. Graham, Inc.

Norman L. Graham, Inc. is a premier builder of custom homes and additions in South Central Pennsylvania. From design to construction, every Norman L. Graham project is built with care and careful attention to detail. What better partner to build the nest than a company who is all about nest building.

Other Sponsors

If you would like your store or business to be a part of this May fundraising event, please contact Kelly at The Sparrow Fund to be added to this post and future posts as part of this effort.

The Beauty and Brokenness of Foster Care

It was a Wednesday. We received a call from our foster care agency at 3:30 in the afternoon – a newborn baby girl had been taken into custody by Child Protective Services at the hospital and was in need of placement. “Are you interested?”, they asked. Of course we are.

By 7:30 that evening they were at our front door, holding a tragically fragile little girl who needed a home to live in and a family to love her.

It was the best and worst day of her life.

She was wholly unaware of all that had transpired in her short 3-day life. Tragedy, abuse and brokenness brought her to our front door. Hope, love and healing welcomed her in. While we celebrated the opportunity to care for her, we also ached over the reality that someone had put her in a position of needing to be protected in the first place. Two years later, it’s now our joy to call her our daughter and to hear her call us her Momma and Dadda; it’s also our heartache that any of this ever had to happen in the first place.

EQUAL PARTS GOOD AND BAD

Everything…everything about foster care is equal parts good and bad, joy and sorrow, beauty and brokenness. It’s a good day when a child is placed in your home. It represents safety, security and an opportunity for a child to be loved and cared for in a way they likely would not have had available to them otherwise. It’s indeed a good day when a child is placed in your home – it’s also a really bad day. It’s a day marked by hurt and brokenness, that while so much gain has been made available to a child, it’s ultimately loss that has led them to that point. Generational cycles of brokenness within families have perpetuated themselves now into the lives of the next generation – abuse, neglect and abandonment have become a part of their stories. They didn’t ask for this, it was unjustly handed to them by those who were most responsible to protect them from the very things they’ve now been harmed by.

While the opportunity to love these kids is good, no doubt the circumstances that brought them to us are probably very, very bad. This is where the call to foster care begins, what it exposes us to and the perspective it demands we keep in order to rightly and lovingly care for vulnerable kids.

THEIR TRAGEDY OVER OUR EAGERNESS

As excited as we may be about fostering kids, they certainly aren’t excited about being foster kids. Our personal sense of excitement does not drive our efforts. Their personal tragedy does. Heartache does. A desire to see good come out of bad does. A willingness to embrace what is broken and do whatever it takes to bring healing does.

Celebrate the opportunity to open your homes to kids in need, knowing that if it be for just a few days or an entire lifetime, you’ve been given the unique opportunity to offer them something special – love. Yet at the same time, never let your excitement about being involved in foster care be separated from the heartache you feel over the tragic reality that something like foster care even has to exist in the first place.

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jason johnsonJason Johnson is the husband to Emily, a dad to four girls (youngest adopted in 2013), a pastor for 13 years, a former church planter and now the Church Engagement Officer and creator of the ALL IN Orphan Care Church & Ministry Campaign with the Arrow Foundation—an organization committed to equipping, resourcing, and mobilizing the Church to help kids and strengthen families around the country. You can follow his ministry at Jasonjohnsonblog.com and find this post originally published on that blog here.

Seasons Change

To every thing in life there is a season.
So cliché, right?
But really.

Life is about seasons.

Right now you and I are in a Season of Life.

There have been seasons of no sleep with feeding babies, tear-filled times of waiting for adoptions, days when my family was small and play dates with friends were plenteous.

Seasons when I felt lonely, the stressful times of potty training, the bittersweet moments of sending them to school, the shaking and trembling decision to homeschool.

I think of seasons when my life was slower, when I had to take time to nurse my baby and I had an excuse to hide away from the world.

Days before kids, when my hubby and I could make a midnight run to Sonic just because we wanted to, or take a spontaneous trip, or go on a date, and it affected no one.

I think you get the idea.

And I have found myself in seasons when I thought…
When God will this end??!!
AND
Please God don’t let this end??!!

Right now, you and I are in some of season of life, either one I mentioned above or maybe something unique to you.

But He is Faithful no matter what season we find ourselves.
And here is where I see my opportunity.

Whenever we are in a season we rarely have the perspective we need to appreciate the season that is taking place.

We can usually only see things to complain about.

But there will always be things to complain about.

Instead we should focus on truly reveling in the things we enjoy about the season we find ourselves.

Look around at the season you are in. If you don’t know what you enjoy, figure it out.

Your season will only last for just that, a season.

When it is gone you don’t want to regret that you focused on the negative things of that season so much you missed the good.

Then, when you look back, you can be fulfilled in knowing you took part in those moments and were present there, instead of getting caught up in regret or trying to recreate the past.

There are things in each season you just never get back.

But that’s ok, because you are living it.
And this season is all part of the beautiful tapestry God is weaving of your life.
You are you because of everyone of them.

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

Redefined

Redefined….. I ran across this word the other day.  It made me think a lot about adoption.

Adoption has redefined many things in my life :
Redefined family
Redefined sacrifice
Redefined needs
Redefined importance
Redefined God
Redefined me

I am going to try to put into words how adoption has redefined my life in a series of posts.
I am not trying to be profound or prophetic…just real.  “My redefinition” has been truly mind blowing in many ways.  I pray as you read you will experience the gravity of what God has done through adoption.

REDEFINED —- FAMILY

2.4
That’s the average amount of children in a family.  Humph.
I was almost there with my two girls for 12 years.  Twelve years of what society told me was “the norm”.  I loved being an at-home mom and, then, graduating to a teacher at the school where my girls attended.  It was my dream job and made it possible to allow my girls to attend a Christian school.  Who wouldn’t want to be a PE teacher where you could “act like a kid” everyday and get paid for it?
(Ok….no comments from the peanut gallery)

Then came, THE sermon.  A sermon that revolved around the idea that you can do more and you NEED to do more.  Adoption was the “more” that our friend, Greg, spoke about.  He was not promoting adoption; but, merely giving the example of how God called his family to do more.
They adopted two beautiful children from Guatemala.  Precious children who were very much in need of love and safety. The family was obedient to God’s calling.  “Two less” as we say in the adoption world.

This was the spark our girls needed to beg us to adopt.  God used them to open our minds to “more than 2.4”.  We were quickly sucked in to the calling and the appeal of a baby girl was what consumed my dreams at night.  Our friends and family thought we were crazy. We even heard the words, “You are ruining your life”.  Goodness, the comments were harsh but The Lord led us away from the comments and into His pure and holy will.

Fast forward eleven months.

Stepping off the plane in Beijing was surreal.  We were in China after months of paperwork and prayers.  The sites and sounds were so different.  We were walking through the portal to a very different culture.  Streets were crowded with pedestrians busy on their way to work, the market, the park, to who knows where.  Busy busy busy.  Walk walk walk.  On their way with an air of urgency.

We saw sights that were forever ingrained in our hearts.  Children begging. Disabled men bearing their scars with a tin cup nearby.  Poverty beyond our comprehension.  A culture completely upside down from that of what we knew and lived.  Children discarded because of their gender or special need.
It was a realization that I would be back…..one less would never be enough.

Our family continued to grow in the years that followed.  Adoptions in 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, and 2012 Our children all from China and needing to be loved and to feel secure.

8 less? Yes. Our family has been redefined and all our children’s lives changed for better in every way.  Every day is all consuming with the constant nag of a child “needing me”.  It is exhausting and tiring beyond words. It is God’s calling in our lives fulfilled.  Our family is not even close to the “normal” family….the ideal family of our society.  Our family has redefined normal in a radical way, It is our “new normal” and I would not change it in any way.

Being smack in the middle of God’s will may not be easy but it is right where I want to be!

Family redefined. It is a beautiful thing.

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Jenna Shriver Photography_Maryland Photographer_Rumbaugh Family Portraits 2013-4 (1)Kelly is a fun-loving Christian girl who loves the Lord.  Called to be an adoptive parent, she has ten children, 8 of which are adopted from China. Kelly is also a breast cancer survivor and feels called to give God glory through her testimonies speaking at events nationwide. Her website is www.kellyrumbaugh.com and her blog is www.mommymomentsandgodwinks.blogspot.com.  

 

The Blessings of Adoption

As adoptive parents, we partake in so many blessings along the adoption journey. There are also many times of trial, heartache, and grief, but wouldn’t you say that the blessings out weigh all this. Over the past few days, God reminded me again of the many blessings that enter our life through His amazing plan of adoption.

At our Good Friday service, I witnessed our precious son, who last year was struggling to understand English, our love for him and his place in our family, lift his hand in praise to the Lord. We were singing “Amazing love” and I looked over at him to discover this sweet boy singing his heart out to God. His little hand went up in praise even though no one else had their hands up. He then told me later that that was the first church service where he had really focused on God. AMAZING! HIS AMAZING LOVE!

Then, on this very afternoon that I am typing these words, my son, after giving me a big hug, proclaimed, “I like this family. I am so glad you are my family, my new family!” That’s right, precious boy, we are your Forever Family!

My heart is filled with immeasurable gratefulness and love for our Father who brought my boy from China into our family and held him tightly until he began to understand the depth of His love for us.

One little hand
One little hand raised in praise
One little hand where there were none
One little hand signifying love
Love for the Savior.

One little heart
One little heart filled with understanding
One little heart praising God
One little heart full of love
Love for the One who saved him.

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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 May 2011 on Mother’s Day from Fuzhou City, Fujian Province, China. And, their son, Anthony Jianyou, joined their family in January 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
.
 

what makes us really free

The mail came just as we were walking out the door, in it a surprise package for the girls. Tearing into the paper, they found crayons and coloring books and one precious item that Emma immediately grabbed. “I snuggle with this in the car,” she announced.

The 45 minute drive to a friend’s house was quiet as she admired her treasure. To a child whose life has afforded very little to call her own, anything given directly to her holds deep value.

We walked into the house where she was meeting our new-to-her friends and within minutes, I saw her place the treasure in her new friend’s hand and say, “This for you.” Less than an hour of ownership and she was already generously giving this treasure away to a stranger.

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I’m embarrassed to admit that part of me wanted to jump to her rescue and assure her that she did not have to give anything away, but who wants to adjust that level of generosity? I  say that I want a culture of generosity in our home, but I can learn so much from these girls.

Not two hours later, the little girls reappeared from their games and loom band bracelet creations, Emma carrying a tiny gold necklace and glowing like she was carrying the moon. One of her new friends had returned her generosity 10-fold.

And I had to wonder, what security do these little girls know that allows such radical (in their economy) giving? They give without second guessing, without wondering how it will be received or whether they might regret it tomorrow. Could it be that they have watched the goodness and regular provision of their parents and realized that no matter how much they give away, there is a steady stream of both calculated and extravagant goodness that flows their way?

No, she’ll probably never get a replica of that little popsicle stick flower that she loved and her friend will probably never get another bumble bee necklace exactly like the one she gave, but they have a child-like trust that they are loved and that whatever happens, the people who love them are working for their good. Even for the former orphans living in my home, empty is becoming less about fear and more about getting to watch Mommy fill the bowl again…and again.

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And their mama who wanted to stop all this giving and just let them keep what was theirs? That’s because lack is scary to me these days. I wonder how I’ll provide for them financially and still find time for their hearts. I second guess a family trip and a birthday gift, wondering if what was given should have been saved instead. Of course there’s wisdom in saving, but this little note isn’t for the extravagant spenders. It’s for the savers, like me, who hold back what could easily be given and make that into a habit of holding onto everything.

Would my level of generosity be dramatically changed if I truly believed that God would provide everything I need –especially if I give it away? What would I freely give away if I truly believed that He would not allow me to suffer any level of lack that was outside of His loving plan for my good and my heart’s health?

Seeing Emma hand over her little trinket stirred up so much love in me and all I wanted to do in that moment was take her to Target and buy her all.the.things. I’m so grateful God allowed me to watch and feel the delight of a parent when their child truly rests in provision, so much so that giving becomes a complete joy and not a threat of lack.

Because when you’re truly trusting, not only do you feel secure in what you have, but also in what you give away.

If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children,

how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”

(Matthew 7:11)

free printable download available here

**Yes, I know that so many are generous without any assurance of future provision. I want to be like them, too, but for today, my take-away is that I DO have a Father who promises to provide – not always in my timing or my plan, but always just the same.

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Mandie Joy Turner copyMandie Joy is a foster parent and mama of two beautiful little girls newly home from Africa. She blogs at www.seeingjoy.com.

 

How to Support the Family who is Adopting & What Adoptive Families Wish You Knew

I get emails and messages all of the time from families who are in the beginning stages of adopting – either they have just started the process and are working through the grueling bazillion of hours of paperwork, or they are in the excruciating wait for their referral, or they are home and dazed with their new child.  There is a reoccurring theme that flows through these messages:

We’ve lost our friends, or (and sometimes AND) we’ve lost our relationship with our family; we don’t know how to ask for what we need from the people in our lives, and we now feel so very, very alone.

My heart breaks every.  time.  I read this stuff, and I immediately go back to our own journey and our own losses.  I feel solidarity with their words – a solidarity that none of asked for.  Most people who enter the adoption journey do it understanding there is a cost – they count the cost ahead of time – but none of us walk into it expecting to lose the relationships most dear to us simply because of the process.  But I have witnessed it far too often.  I have read your words, I have witnessed the tears, and I have heard the cries of countless other families who have experienced the agony of a lost village.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.  There is another way – a beautiful way, and that is what I am proposing today.  For some of us, it is too late, and know that my heart feels that pain, but for others, it is not.  Perhaps this post can save a few relationships, and can bring the needs of adopting parents to light.  Because in the trenches of the dark, tough, tunnel vision of the process, it is so hard to say what we need, or to even know what we need; so let me be your voice today.  Don’t be afraid to share this with your friends and family, from my experience there are so many times when they just don’t know what you need, and a little nudge in the right direction could be the difference between a broken relationship and whole, healthy relationship.  And truly that is what we all need.

If you landed here, and you are friends with a family who is adopting, or you just found out your daughter and her husband are adopting, this is written just for you.  That family needs you.  I mean desperately needs you.  They may not know it, they may not have the words to tell you, but I can tell you with certainty that they have never, ever needed you more than right this moment.  And while every family and adoption is unique, this list is pretty universal, and will give you a really good starting point.  It’s not exhaustive, and I am not the expert, but I hope it gives you some ideas.  Here are 6 things adopting families wish you knew about them, and what you can do to show your support and love to them.

1. We have tunnel vision – especially at the beginning.  Perhaps our eyes are just being opened to the orphan crisis, to foster care in our country, to what God says about caring for those in need – which then dominoes into social justice and sometimes missions, and we are very passionate about the subject.  We are so passionate that conversations with us will be single subject, one sided rants about the above.  It’s new, it’s exciting, and we are on the front-end – it’s much like a brand new dating relationship.  We see all of the positives, and we are starry eyed, hopeful, expectant and just plain excited.  We want to share this excitement with the world.  I mean the.  whole.  world.  We see brown skinned babies at the mall with white parents, and we go weak in the knees and nearly squeal at them.  We see Asian children at preschool and immediately start dreaming and yapping about our future children and the beautiful gift that is adoption.  You might feel a little weird around us (okay a lot weird).  Something has happened to your once-normal friend who used to chat about shoes and clothes and TV shows, but is now shouting about how your clothes are not fair-trade (and neither is that coffee your drinking or your candy bar your eating!), and don’t you care about the child soldiers in Africa?!  You might feel a little uncomfortable, like perhaps now your friend expects you to jump on the bandwagon and get weird too – perhaps even start an adoption process yourself, and that’s not your calling so you squirm and begin to feel uncomfortable every time you see her number on the caller id or read another passionate blog post or facebook update.  We are single-minded and self-absorbed, much like the expectant first-time mama who is growing her precious baby inside of her.  But we need you – no, not to adopt – we need you to listen, give us grace, and invest in the process – much like you did when your sister was expecting her first baby.  Be excited with us – even if you don’t quite get it yet.  Do your own research on these subjects that have begun to matter to us.  We need you to give us time and space and allow us to go through this process.  The tunnel vision will not {exactly} last forever.
2. We are making connections all over the world with other adoptive families, but we still need you.  Social media is an amazing tool to connect people.  Within days of signing up with our adoption agency, and being accepted into the program, we were given access to oodles of families going through the exact same process, or families that had already gone through the process and had their children at home with them.  I started seeing beautiful, trans-ethnic families pop up on my newsfeed on facebook, and my excitement grew by leaps and bounds.  It is wonderful to be connected with other families who are just as excited as we are, who get the language of adoption, who are filling out the same paperwork, who are also dreaming of children who will soon enter their home, or who are in the trenches of raising their new children.  It is an amazing gift, and so beneficial to have other families to walk through the process with.  I always look forward to getting together with the families I have met during this process, and I cherish those relationships so much.  However, they do not have the history that I had with my other friends and family.  They don’t know those quirks about us, they don’t know our favorite dessert, or our favorite movie, or what makes us tick, or how we parent our children.  They have not experienced the years of conversations around the table that make us as familiar as that old sweater.  And they are not right here to hug us when we have had a really, really low day, to have a shared pot of coffee with, or to offer us a real live shoulder to cry on when the wait becomes unbearable.  We need your physical, in-our-life presence, more than you know – it is irreplaceable.  You are a valuable part of this journey.  You bring clarity, wisdom, and understanding, because you know us so well.
3. The paper work is enough to make us feel like we are going crazy.  The amount of paper work for an adoption – especially an international adoption – is stark-raving ridiculous.  I am sure that forests have been obliterated because of that paperwork.  It is enough to make us want to gauge our eyes out when we feel as if we are filling out the same thing over and over and over, and the red tape makes us want to strangle somebody.  (Of course we get the reasons behind it all, and we want an ethical adoption process.)  But the process is enough to make a sane, quiet person turn into an absolute lunatic.  It’s like filling out a job application and writing a resume times a gazillion, only the end result isn’t employment but rather our son or daughter being allowed to come into our family.  It is maddening and overwhelming.  We just need you to understand the stress and the pressure we feel from the overwhelming amount of paperwork (not to mention the social worker visits, the perfecting of our home to prove we are fit to parent in order to pass a homestudy).  It makes us crazy and stressed out.  Ask us about it, though.  Be interested.  Learn about the process – offer to help by watching our children while we fill out paperwork, or run around the city for clearances.  Drop by a meal ( I promise you that meal planning has slidden to the back burner, and in its place are piles of unending paper work and boxes of Kraft macaroni and cheese.), or just drop by with a gigantic bar of chocolate and a hug.
4. The wait feels like it will kills us, and it puts our whole life on pause, because we are so in love with our child whom we have never met, and feel like there is a gaping hole in our family.  This may be one of the hardest things for people, who have never walked through the adoption process to understand.  To love a child we have never met, and to miss that child in a way that knocks the air from our lungs sounds preposterous.  Surely it cannot be the same feeling that a parent would feel if their birth child was missing from their home.  But let me assure you, it is the same feeling.  Remember the way you felt when you heard your child’s heartbeat for the very first time, or witnessed the kicks and wiggles on an ultrasound machine?  That overwhelming desire to protect, and nurture your child with every fiber of your being before you had even physically met her?  It’s the exact same thing.  But we don’t have the privilege of watching our bellies expand and feeling the reassuring wriggling inside of us.  We just have this stretched out heart, and the realization that in this moment we are powerless to keep our child safe.  We don’t have the privilege of knowing that our wait will be just nine months – a definite ending point when we will see our child’s face.  Instead our timetable is very much indefinite, we get no guarantee of when he will arrive, and that is hard.  It is so hard.  We walk around and it hurts to breathe, to function, our world feels like it has stopped because our child is missing.  I remember one instance when I was having an especially difficult time with the wait.  We had received our referral for Jamesy, and we were waiting for a court date and permission to travel to Ethiopia to meet him.  The day of his first birthday arrived – a day I had begged God to bring him home by, but that wasn’t in His plans – I was in agony that day.  My heart literally hurt at the thought of him not being with family for his first birthday.  That day, a dear, beautiful friend, showed up at my door with a gigantic hug, and a gorgeous hand crocheted blanket for Jamesy, as a tribute for his first birthday.  The gift and hug meant the world to me – that she cared and noticed the pain.  I don’t remember if she said anything, but the words were not what was important.  My advice to you?  SHOW UP.  Just show up, and extend grace, love, and mercy – let them know that you see this pain, you acknowledge it, and you care.
5. After we bring our child home, we may disappear for awhile.  Many families choose to cocoon with their children when they first arrive home in order to begin the initial bonding and attachment process.  Most families are pretty straightforward with their plans.  We need you to respect us, even if you do not agree with the plan or understand it.  It is so important for this new child to learn that her parents are the ones who will now be meeting her needs.  I can promise that so much thought and preparation went into these plans.  It will seem as if you have lost your friends completely, but you have to understand that the things going on in that home right now are intense.  There is trauma like they have never experienced before.  A child that has to be placed for adoption is always bringing pain, and the new parents will soon realize that the child’s pain has now become their pain.  Things are heavy, things are messy, everyone is floundering trying to acclimate to the new normal.  There is sleep-deprivation, diapers filled with parasite infested stools, a language barrier, cultural clashes, a baby that will not take a bottle or fall asleep at night, a teenager who is so frightened from her past that she wakes with night terrors and asks to sleep on our bedroom floor, and in it all are our other children who need so much of us as well.  (Invite them out for play dates!)  Everything is kept so private in order to protect our children.  We haven’t yet learned the balance of what to share and what not to share, so we typically share nothing and quietly push through the ugly mess that is the beginning.  Please be understanding.  Don’t stop pursuing us, but understand that we may be so far inside the dark trench that we cannot figure a way out yet.  Mail us cards with encouraging words and scripture, bring us coffee, or meals, offer to do our laundry or shovel our driveway.  Ask your friend if you can sneak away with her when she goes to the grocery store. Just don’t cut ties.  Give the family, time and space, and the grace to figure things out.  Understand that right now she is in a scary position, throwing her love all over a child who may never return that love.  It is frightening and vulnerable and overwhelming.  She feels like she cannot complain to you, because she chose this road and she is afraid that you just might throw that at her, and she cannot take one more hurt.  So she doesn’t say anything, she just closes herself off more.  There are things that she just cannot tell you in order to protect her child – just understand that.  Read all of the books that you can get your hands on about adoption and children from hard places, and let her know that you care.  That will mean more than you can ever, ever imagine.
6. If you stick around for the whole journey and the cocooning phase and the years to follow, and you still answer your phone when she calls, then you are a friend for life.  The adoption process in not an easy one – for any parties involved – including the friends and families of the adoptive parents.  If you invest yourself in the process in the above ways, if you stick the whole ride out, and don’t give up on your friends when they go completely crazy in the process, then you deserve so much respect and appreciation.  You are rare, and a treasure to these adopting families.  Don’t underestimate your value.  When the family finally comes up for air (and it literally may be years later), and you are still there extending coffee and grace and of course a chocolate bar, know that you have given a beautiful, priceless gift.  The world needs more people like you.  The Church needs more people like you.  Your calling may have not been to extend your arms to an orphan, but instead to extend your arms to a former orphan and his family.  And that is precious beyond words.  Don’t give up on us.  We need you.  We so need you.  We just might not know how to tell you.

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family19Tiffany has been married to Jim for almost 12 years. They are blessed to be mommy and daddy to 4 children. In 2010 God opened their eyes to orphan care, adoption, and Africa. Their third child came into their family via Ethiopia and adoption, and at the same time they fell in love with a teenage street boy from Ethiopia. Today, they call that teenage boy, “son”, and now have two children from Ethiopia. God had bigger plans, though, and He opened their hearts to the needs of street children in a way that could not be ignored. The Darling family is preparing to move to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, early this summer to serve by reunifying and preserving families, advocating for domestic adoption inside of Ethiopia, and discipling street children into godly adults. To learn more about their ministry visit www.mercybranch.com. You can read about their adoption stories, raising a special needs child, and how they are preparing their family for a life overseas at Tiffany’s personal blog A Moment Cherished.

Zo Ba! {Let’s Go!}

“We love the lovely because it is flattering to us to do so.God loves the unlovely, and it broke
His heart to do it. The depth of the love of God is revealed by that wonderful word, ‘whosoever.’The Bible reveals God to be the Lover of His enemies.” – Oswald Chambers
There’s no secret I have a favorite on this trip.
His smile and laugh grabbed me within the first 20 minutes of entering the orphanage.
This kid is a firecracker…wherever I am, he always seems to show up.
Outside with the older kids….he’s there….inside with the infants, he comes swaggering in for lunch….and comes right to me with arms UP.
Of course, as soon as I felt comfortable, I asked about his adoption status. I was told details that I can’t share publicly,  but the fact is, this child will never be eligible for a family.
It is, in fact, impossible.
On day one of this trip blog, I said there were two ways that these kids would hear the Gospel.
One, by being adopted by families who live and shout Jesus with their lives.
Two, by people coming to them.
22 children of our orphanage are currently available for International adoption.  Close to a dozen on top of those, are already matched and waiting for parents to come. They represent the first group.
He represents the second.
This kid.
He represents
 millions.
147 million orphans worldwide in
Asia, Africa, Haiti, South America…. and only a
tiny
fraction are available for adoption.
Jesus said, in Matthew 25, “whatever you do for the least of these, you do it to me”
Today, I go to tickle one of the least of these.
I got to see him cry for the first time, and while the nannys ignored him, scooped him up and
rocked him, noticing he was patting his diaper area….he just needed to potty and didn’t want
to wet his pants…. Rushed him to a potty seat and the smiles returned.
 I got to give him a sucker and watch as he didn’t bite it like most American kids do…
he licked it for 15 minutes till there wasn’t a grain of sugar left on the stick.
He doesn’t understand that Jesus loves him.
He’s still too young.
But he will one day. If people who say they love Jesus,
are willing to step outside their comfort zones,
eat some nasty food and travel around the world,
leave their families and their smells and all familiarity
and GO.
To the least of these.
And if the “least of these” to you means you tollerate
your neighbors kids,
you need to have this baby boy grab your cheeks and get as close to you
as he can…..HE is the least of these.
Luke 10:36-37
“Jesus asked, which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked? The man replied,
“the one who showed him mercy.”
Then Jesus said,
“Yes, GO now and DO the same.”
_______________________________________________________________
Emily

Emily

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.

Moments – Two Weeks

It turns out, I was right in feeling {unprepared} for all that the last two weeks have held for this gang.  Until you’ve lived through something like this, there’s really no way you can fully prepare for the experience.  EVEN if you have the most awesome support network of “been there done that” mommas sharing their experiences and advice.  EVEN if you have an amazing crowd of friends and family praying you through and supporting you practically and emotionally.  Which, I am so grateful to say, I do.  But still. {unprepared} I was.

I’m not gonna lie.  These last two weeks since Mei Mei’s surgery have been hard.  The day of the surgery, frankly, was likely the easiest of the days that we had while IN the hospital. ( We waited. She slept.  And oddly, I only felt momentary flashes of nervous anxiety over her care or well-being. SO. SO. grateful for that.) 

And just this past Saturday we finally experienced the easiest day-into-overnight since we returned home from our four day stay.  In between those good days, we’ve crammed all kinds of hard moments.  Sleepless nights.  Night terrors.  Temper tantrums.  Pain management gone awry.  Lost patience.  Ugly behavior.  And not all of it was Mei Mei.

But in between those good days, we’ve also crammed a lot of really great moments.  Those are the moments on which I am (sometimes hourly) choosing to focus.  Those are the moments that the Lord uses to swing my eyes back to HIM and HIS perfect plan for Mei Mei.  For our family.  It’s an act of discipline, this choosing to focus.  Especially at this time of year.

Mei Mei got the honor of placing the first ornament
on her first-ever Christmas tree. Yes, I cried.

I could (and am sorely tempted to) stress over the anger and aggression that comes bubbling up out of her in those difficult moments.  I could keep looking at that “holiday To Do list” that isn’t getting smaller any time soon and despair of ever finishing it in time.  I could sink into the flashing moments of Mommy-guilt and inadequacy, wallowing in the fear that I’m not meeting the needs of the other gang members, in the every day and in the fervor of the holiday.  I could, I could, I could. And really, I’ve struggled NOT to.

But then there are these other moments.  These moments when HE comes to me and whispers to my heart. S nippets of Scripture memorized as a child.  Refrains of songs and hymns buried deep in my heart.  I’ve said it before but it bears repeating. In these moments, I am so incredibly grateful for parents who trained me in The Word.  Who taught me to seek His face in good and in bad moments.  Who encouraged me and lived out the example that joy comes NOT in the circumstances but in the confidence and security of being HIS CHOSEN CHILD.  It has carried me well in these last two weeks.

First cookie decorating party ever! Not sure how much icing went on the cookies.
Last year, only 3 of our kids were home for this tradition.
This year, The Gang was ALL here. Yes, I cried.

I am convinced, in all of these moments, both hard and healing, that the prayers of the Body of Christ carried us.  I am convinced that His Word is powerful and full of Truth that rises above the difficult moments.  I am convinced, now more than ever, that HE HAS CHOSEN ME for this time.  For this child.  For even in those moments where I feel like I’m failing miserably at all of it, He speaks to me.  In those moments when I wonder if my inadequate and all-too human response to my daughter’s broken-ness is doing more damage than good, He offers me HIS response.
It’s those moments when I get the second wind to go just a little deeper into her heart.  It’s those moments when I get a fresh fire to escort her to the healing He has for her.  Those moments, even the hardest of moments, I remember that they are just that: moments.  By definition, moments (both hard and exultant) are fleeting. He is not. He holds those moments.  Each and every one of them.

________________________________________

tracyTracy, aka The Gang’s Momma, has been married to Todd, aka The Boss, for almost 24 years. Together they parent 6 kids (ages 19, 18, 14, 12, 6 & 2 ½).  She loves to read, write, cry over weekly episodes of Parenthood, and share a good cup of coffee with a friend. A confirmed extrovert, Tracy has met her match in their newest daughter for both strength of will and love of socializing. While parenting her two youngest who came home through China’s special needs program is definitely the most challenging thing she’s ever done (between attachment issues & some complicated medical needs), the Lord is also using it to make her a stronger, better mommy. (At least that’s what she tells herself over her 2nd or 3rd giant Tigger mug full of coffee almost every day!)  You can find the occasional musings of the momma at www.whitneygang.blogspot.com.

 

The Fall

Lucy fell

Lucy always falls

but this was a bad one

this one was down our stairs

like all – the – way – down!

She hit hard

and so did I…

For you adoptive Mamas out there, you know the moment when you have that kick in your heart, the moment you have that “oh my gosh, I REALLY DO LOVE this child” moment?

Well today was that moment.

Not that I have not loved sweet Lucy, cause I have.

I loved her before we brought her home and I loved her when we met her and all the days after and the day we stepped foot into the R Hospital where she lived for 4 years, I knew that we would be ok cause this was so not ok.

Know what I mean?

Today though…

today was my kick in the heart moment when I realized just how strong, how deep, how real my love for this precious child is.

As I watched Lucy plummet down the stairs and land in a heap in the floor…

my world stopped

and I was terrified.

As I held her and comforted her and kissed away her tears and wiped away the blood on her lip and told her that she was ok and that I loved her and cried with her…

I knew…

I also knew that, even though she seemed ok, she needed to stay home from school…

I needed her to stay home from school…

The fall 1

and as she rested all tucked in on the sofa with a blanket and a doggie or two, her heart began to open up and she began to tell me a bit more of her story and I got my second kick of the day.

The fall 2

What Lucy told me did not shock me as I have heard many stories, heartbreaking stories, from other older adopted children and I saw first hand what I thought her life had been in China, so I was not shocked but still completely heartbroken for this beautiful child – my child.

The fall 3

Lucy told me that she would fall down all the time and that no one would help her.  She shared that she would fall in the bathroom a lot (here my heart broke as I saw what this bathroom looked like) and that she called for help and no – one – would – come.

(heart shattered)

I asked her if her sweet BFF at the hospital would help her and she said yes.  This sweet boy, who is now home with his family (praise God), told his Mom that he would help Lucy up and down the stairs and pick her up when she would fall.

Sigh…

Again, heartbreak for my sweet girl and for her BFF as he was just a child too.  They apparently just decided one day that they were going to be big brother and little sister.  He took care of my girl!

Lucy told me that she would get scared in her bed at night and that she would cry but no – one – would – come…

She said that when she fell down and hurt herself, no one would kiss her and make it better and that they would be angry with her, always angry with her.

Oh sweet Lucy, would that I could have come to you…

 I know, however, that I cannot stay “there”

I know I have to be here for her – now

so we talked and we hugged and we cried and then we watched “I Spy”

I know there is more to come and Maggie’s story has really turned us inside out (more to come on that later) but for now, we just keep on coming when she calls and kissing her when she falls and loving her through it all!

This is why we have 3 more children than most people thought we should have had.

I cannot and I will not ignore their plight or His call.

Praying more will begin to hear this call and not just to adopt but maybe to help others who are adopting or sponsor a child or at least be supportive of those who do hear the call and choose to answer!

My heart is heavy for my daughters but I know they will be ok

My heart is heavier for those who will never have a Mom or a Dad to come to them when they call or kiss them when they fall.

Please pray for all of these precious ones who wait and all of the families who step out in faith and ignore the promptings of this world to follow the promptings of our heavenly Father.

“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” John 14:27

It is not easy but we were not promised easy and nothing that comes easy is treasured nearly as much as that which comes out of true hard work and challenge and we are so incredibly blessed by our challenges right now.

“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” James 1:2-4 

_________________________
Annie H.

Annie H.

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