Monthly Archives: May 2014

Be a Blessing {A Call to Help}

We were all hot and drenched with sweat by the time we reached the steep incline.  Hours of hiking the rugged country of Israel had left us drained.  But there was more to see just ahead, so one by one we tackled the climb searching for footholds and struggling to keep our balance.  Our guide had paused midway up the climb offering his hand to us in assistance.  However, nearly everybody in our group declined his help, perhaps not wanting to appear weak or tired or needy.

hand

Once our group had made the climb and was ready to continue, our guide gave us a bit of an earful.  Why had we all declined his offer of help?  We were surprised by his question and stood silently.  He went on to explain that by declining his help we had denied him the opportunity to bless us.  Our declining actually took something away from him.

Whether we like it or not, we all need help from each other.  God designed us to live in community — in community with Him and with each other.  And in community living, there is help that is needed and help to be given.

The Sparrow Fund specializes in being on the helping side of things, in being a blessing to others.  What began as a fund to give grants to families to help cover the cost of medical reviews of a referral quickly grew to include: training and speaking, retreats, and offering other resources to adoptive families.  All of these “acts of helping” fall right in line with their mission: Encouraging and supporting families in the adventure of adoption.  The Sparrow Fund has made it their mission to help, to be a blessing others.  But they can’t do it alone.

They need help.  This is your opportunity to be a blessing to them.

They need funding in order to continue to do the work to which God has called them.  Most of that funding comes from Building the Nest — an event that lasts for only one month.  One month to raise funding for all that they do.  And that month is May.

May 31st (Saturday) is the LAST day…the LAST day to buy from any of the businesses listed here and have 10% of the profits go right back to supporting the work of The Sparrow Fund.

So, on their behalf, can I ask you to take a look at the businesses involved in this year’s Building the Nest, and then make a list of all the people you will need to buy a gift in the coming months.  (Birthdays, anniversaries, teacher gifts, Christmas, etc.)  You need to shop for them anyways, why not do it now and shop with a purpose.  Shop knowing that your purchases are helping to continue the work of The Sparrow Fund.  By being intentional about your shopping right now — today — you will be a blessing to not only Mark and Kelly who run TSF, but you will be blessing all of the families TSF supports throughout the year.

Each and every purchase will make a difference, and each and every purchase you make will enter you in a drawing to win an iPad bundle!  Just follow this link and leave a comment to the original post telling what you bought and you will be entered!

The Sparrow Fund exists to bless others.  Won’t you take this opportunity to bless them with your purchases?

                                    _____________________________

stephanie smit18 years in the classroom as a teacher was easy compared to parenting three little ones at home full-time. Through their three daughters, God has revealed Himself most clearly to Stephanie and her husband Matthew. He not only worked a miracle in giving them their biological daughter, He continued to show Himself in mighty ways throughout adoption journeys in China and Bhutan that were anything but normal. Nowadays she enjoys encouraging and connecting with other adoptive families through speaking and her work on the leadership team of “We Are Grafted In”.  You can read more about their family on their personal blog We Are Family.

A Letter to Her First Mother

To her first mother:

You are one of the most important people in my life, and I have never met you. You live somewhere halfway across the world, in a Chinese city. You are our daughter’s first mother. You carried her under your heart for a precious 9 months, gave birth to her, and then made a difficult decision. And although you couldn’t raise her yourself, I know that you loved her in an unbelievable way because you selflessly chose LIFE. You chose to make her a blessing to another mother, even though it was surely a devastating and unsettling decision to make.

I am that mother, and I want you to know that I think of you often. I think about you when I rock her to sleep at night. As I sing her favorite song to her, I cannot help but mourn your losses as a mother to her. I look at her birth mark and her belly button, and am reminded of the short time she was able to spend with you. When I look into her eyes, I wonder how much they look like yours and I regret that you can’t see the light in them. When I see she has grown another inch, I wonder if her first father is tall. When I see her smile and laugh, my heart hurts that you cannot see her happiness and beauty. I’m sad that you haven’t been able to witness the graceful way she has handled every situation thrown at her. I hurt for the experiences you have already missed, and all of the experiences in the future that you won’t be a part of.

As we celebrate Mother’s Day here in the U.S., I want you to be at peace. I want you to know that our daughter is most definitely a blessing to me. She is also an amazing blessing to her Daddy, her sister, her brother, and all of her family. She is joyful and happy. She rarely stops smiling and she lights up every room she walks into. She is loving and affectionate. She is strong and courageous. She is so very graceful and brave. She is smart and clever. She is funny and silly and feisty. She has a beautiful spirit and has completely stolen my heart. She is so loved and has been well-cared for her whole life, including the year she spent with her foster family in Fuzhou.

When she is old enough to ask about you, I will tell her that you loved her. Although I do not know the circumstances of her birth, I will tell her you made the best decision you could at the time. I will tell her that neither one of us are less her mother than the other. We are both equally mothers to her in different ways. I will pray for you with her … for peace as her first mother, that you know our daughter is loved, healthy, happy, and well-cared for. We will pray that you know God’s love as we do, and that if we do not meet each other in this life, that we will see each other in Heaven.

Many blessings and so much love,
Nicole

 _____________________________

NicoleNicole is a daughter to the King and a wife to an amazing man. She is a classical homeschooling mama to {almost} four, by birth and adoption. She is a part-time newborn photographer, a founder and adoption photographer at Red Thread Sessions, a contributing blogger at No Hands But Ours, and an advocate of orphan care and adoption. When she’s not with her family or behind her camera, she loves to blog, create, give life to old furniture, spend time at the beach, and read. She strives to live her life to glorify our Heavenly Father. With His love, all things are possible.

 

Family Is More Than Blood

IMG_9892Before we adopted for the first time, I had only a vague idea about “orphans”.  I knew they existed in damp countries where townspeople wearing shades of brown and gray stood in line for bread rations.  I pictured dark-skinned babies with distended tummies and Chinese orphanage rooms lined with rickety cribs.

Not in a million years did I picture faces that would one day form my family.

One of the magical things about adoption is that God always knows.  It doesn’t come as a surprise to Him.  His walls are lined with family pictures that would take our breath away if we were to get just a glimpse. We think the one hanging on our wall is it.  We think we know things, or that our family is already complete.  But we don’t even know the half of it.

Fifteen years ago, I daydreamed about knobby-kneed, fair-skinned kids with sticking-out ears and (fingers crossed!) Cory’s blue eyes.  But God had already decided something better for me.

Our family grew, and I forget sometimes that we don’t share blood.  We share time and space, a history that is whole enough to carry us home.  We share laughs and germs and rants and prayers.  We are a family.

And still, we grow.

This afternoon I rushed between dinner prep and homework when the front door opened and Robert and his best friend Fernando tumbled in, all long limbs and pierced tongues.  They sat at the island for not nearly long enough and somewhere in between their stories and nonsense, Fernando referred to Cory as “Dad”.  Oh, I saw this one coming. It made me smile.

Because family is so much more than blood.  And no one was meant to be alone.

The needle draws us together, pulls us near, and with every stitch, we’re closer to what we were always meant to be.  And with every stitch, our love grows, covering us and all the ones left standing cold around us until the shivering stops and we know that what we are together is real.

I can’t say for sure that you’re meant to adopt.  But chances are, you’re meant to be impacted by adoption. In one way or another, I believe you’re meant to see that what the world calls brokenness can be a thing of sure beauty, adorned in the best possible ways, unexpected and entirely holy.

It could be a niece, a nephew, a grandchild, a godchild. Maybe your best friend will adopt, or your neighbor.

Maybe you’re not as close to “done” as you thought.

_______________________

BioShannan Martin believes the turns in life that look like failure are often holy gifts, a lesson she chooses to embrace after the bones of her comfy farmgirl life were shattered and rebuilt from the toes up.  Together, Shannan and her family sold their dream farmhouse, moved to a disadvantaged area in the city, and adopted a 19-year old felon.  Nothing could have prepared her for the joy she would discover as her family began to live the simple, messy, complicated life they were created to live. In walking beside the forgotten and broken and seeing first-hand the ways she so cleanly identified with both, Shannan’s faith was plucked from the mud.  She and her jail-chaplain husband now live on the wrong side of the tracks with their four children. She blogs often at Flower Patch Farmgirl.

Turning the corner.

So I think I am finally turning the corner with my son.

We have made it through that 1st year…

you know, the one where you are just trying to keep your head above water.

The one where you just try to figure out how to function as a family of “plus one”.

The one where you are usually delving into uncharted waters of special needs, and loss, and trauma;
all the while trying to also fix supper
and maybe get your other kids
…oh, that’s right I have other kids too
to softball practice on time.

Yeah, that year.

We made it through that one.

And now, we have even made it 3/4 of the way through that 2nd year…

you know, the one where you finally feel like you can see glimpses of the “real” them.

The one where you actually begin to stop doubting your survival.

The one where you begin to see real, honest attachment taking place.

Finally, some light at the end of the tunnel.

That’s where we find ourselves right now.
And it’s such a beautiful, encouraging place to be.

Such little things, but absolutely some of my most precious memories.

-The other day, as I was dropping him off at school, I was suddenly prompted to lean over and give him a kiss goodbye. Well, he planted me one right on the lips and skipped off like he has been doing it everyday. No excessive giggling, no awkwardness just honest affection.

-We were leaving the ball field the other night, and he ran up beside me to take my hand. Just wanted to hold it as we walked to the car. Wasn’t trying to be manipulative-again, honest affection.

-This letter for Mother’s Day. Scribbled down at the ball field one night while doodling on some paper. The third sentence just makes me cry puddles of tears. For him to know…

Turning the corner - anna lokey

These moments envelope me from head to toe.
I don’t even really know what to say about it.
It’s almost like wooing or courting someone in a prearranged marriage.
Goodness! You KNOW those first signs that it’s working are so fulfilling!
Well, it may be silly, but that’s the only thing I can think to compare it to.

I’ve never experienced anything like it and I will take all the hard just for these most precious moments. It’s absolutely worth every mile walked, and worth all the miles we still have yet before us.

____________________________________

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.

Once Upon a Time Until Forever {Part Two}

There’s a new picture hanging in my kitchen today, a new masterpiece to our mixed media gallery, hanging between Olaf magnets and a flyer from school.

Yesterday was her last Chinese class of the year. Little dark-haired people skitted around the room while soft-spoken Lao Shi tried to shepherd their bodies with seemingly swelling energy. Typically, one of us sits in her class and typically tries to read despite the reason why we’re there. But, with the senioritis that suspiciously attacked even these preschoolers, I was needed.

Lao Shi had brought photocopies for the children to complete and staple together as memory books of the year. Way over the heads of children who can barely write their own names, most of them were scribbling and distracted and alternating between singing Liang Zhi Lao Hu and Let it Go. Lydia clutched a red pen in her little fingers, firmly held it motionless over the ABOUT ME page before her and swung her feet with gusto below her. As the teacher tried to help other kids, I pulled up to her desk to help her, filling in the blanks with the words she supplied to me.

My age: 5.

Where I was born: China.

My parents: Mommy and Daddy.

Brothers & Sisters: Ashlyn, Drew and Evan.

Pets: Mojo and Bebo.

My picture: 

Okay, Lydia. Go ahead. You draw a picture of yourself there.

Pressing hard on the page, she drew her typical person—a round circle for a head, an oval torso, stick arms and legs, eyes and a smile, and some hair around the head. But, then she started intensely working on that torso. I thought she was intent on giving herself a dress that matched the one she was wearing. I watched until she put the pen down with contentment.

That’s a big belly and inside that is a baby that was beautiful called Yue Yue that became Lydia.

It was not a dress she was intensely drawing, it was herself in the womb of her first mother. I smiled and waited for her and for the lump in my throat to dissipate a little. While I waited, she picked up the pen again and went back to her drawing, this time drawing a little body on the chest of the stick figure that was her China mommy.

A doctor helped me to come out of her belly because that’s what doctors do.

Is that your China mommy holding you?

Yup….I don’t know her name.

I know. I’m sorry. I don’t know her name either. I wish we did….

No one stopped to listen. No one there sat with me and marveled at all this little 5 year old girl is processing when she is told to complete a picture appropriate for the title ABOUT ME. This little moment just blended into the energy of the room and class went on without a notice of another step in the journey of a little girl and the woman who is her second mother.

Lydia on swing

_____________________________

 

Kelly Raudenbush

Kelly Raudenbush

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

Once Upon a Time Until Forever

We were just snuggling up in my favorite chair to read together. A few pages into some silly old book about the Jetsons that she dug out from the shelf, I found myself skipping words and wondering how long I’d be sitting there killing time. She joined me in corporate loss of interest and shuffled through a stack of books to find another, landing on one about adoption that I don’t even like and have kept only as an example. Great. I had this book in my own stack of books next to my desk, not with her books, but she found it and now wanted to read it. I decided reading an in-the-moment edited version was better than the message that could be sent if I said no. And so I read, moving quickly, changing words as we went, and closing the cover in record time.

She didn’t seem affected and just nestled in under my arm and chit chatted about seemingly silly things. Sandwiched between observations about the cats and requests for the iPad, she threw this one in with a big smile on her face:

Tell me the story of when I came out of someone’s belly.

You mean your China mommy’s belly?

Yeah, I want to hear the story. Start with Once upon a time…ok?

While Mark was sleeping on the other side of the world, the place where her story began, here I was facing perhaps the most challenging request she’s ever made of me. Sitting comfortably in my favorite chair on the prettiest day of spring yet and being asked to tell my daughter her own story is infinitely harder than all her midnight requests for more water waking me from a sound sleep put together.

I looked right into her eyes, brushing her hair from her forehead and I told her her story, starting with “Once upon a time” just as she had requested. She smiled the whole time as I told her things I know because I just know like how her China mommy’s belly grew and grew and how she felt her kick and twirl inside her because I bet she was a little monkey even then. I moved to what I know universally to the little we know more specifically, giving her what I felt like her little 5-year-old heart needed. She added in a few details she knew herself that she has learned along the way as I’ve looked for opportunities for openness, and I affirmed her as she did.

Oh yes, the lady with a ponytail walked into the room holding you and your eyes were so big and I thought at that moment that I was looking at the most beautiful baby in the whole world.

She told me to keep going when I thought I was finished, urging me to continue until I took that story right up to today, summing up several years in a few sentences that included things like moving from a crib to a big girl bed and then another bed as we made the playroom into her new bedroom. At a loss of something more to say when we got to present day, I paused and wondered if I should tack on a The End or something but feeling like it just wouldn’t be the right words. Instead, she nestled in closer and smiled even bigger and ended my story of her story herself

And they all lived happily ever after.

And, then we just sat for a while, the quiet interrupted occasionally by another funny observation about a stuffed turtle toy or the marble tower she was going to build until she jumped up and bounded onto the next thing.

______________________________

Kelly Raudenbush

Kelly Raudenbush

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

Chatting with My 25 Year Old Self

When I was 25, my husband and I had been married for almost two years. It seemed like the perfect time to add children to our family. Little did I know the journey we were going to experience…

Abby and Wes 25 year old self

If my 25 year old self was sitting in front of me I would hand her a sweet and salty snack and cut right to the chase.

 

Your journey to becoming a mom is not going to be easy. You have a plan, but God has a different one for your family. You are going to cry a lot (even more than you already do) and have many ups and downs.

You will take more pregnancy tests than any one person should ever take. You will be consumed with wondering whether or not this month will be the month you finally see a positive result.

You will avoid certain people because every time they see you they will ask, “So when are you two going to start having kids?”  Every. Time.

You will go to a fertility specialist to get answers and discover that there really are no answers…something they like to call unexplained infertility.

After two failed IUI cycles you will realize that God is calling you to wait.  This will be one of the hardest parts of your journey.  As you wait, women all around you will be getting pregnant.  You will want so desperately to be happy for them, but on the inside, you will be a mess.

God will start putting a desire for adoption in your heart, but once again, there will be more waiting.  Your husband will not be ready.

But hold on, 25 year old Abby.  There is hope.  Lots of hope coming your way.

You will look back on all of those tears that you shed and be so thankful.  Those tears will bring you to your knees and draw you closer to your heavenly Father than ever before.  Your faith will be tested and you will learn that He is good.  Always.

Although the desire to become pregnant may never go away, God will miraculously take away the deep sadness of not getting pregnant and allow you to truly celebrate when others announce, “I’m pregnant!”

People are going to ask your husband, “When are you going to start a family?”  and you’re going to get to hear him say, “I already have family.”  It will melt your heart and make you love him even more.

And that sweet husband of yours?  He will come around and say out of the blue one day, “Let’s adopt.”

You will begin the adoption journey with lots of excitement, lots of questions and a bit of fear, but you will have complete peace knowing that this is exactly the path God wants you to take.

Expectant moms will choose you and unchoose you, try to scam you and rightfully change their minds, but once again, you will have peace.  It will be hard and you will wish you could be at the finish line, but you will have peace.

And then I would cut right to the chase again because I wouldn’t be able to handle it anymore and a would whip out this picture.

mother's day

You would say, “This isn’t what I pictured.” and I would say, “Isn’t it so much better?!?!?!”  You would agree…I’m sure of it.

I would tell you the stories of how God used two brave women to bring these two precious boys into our family.  You would be amazed at God’s faithfulness and His creativity in writing these stories.

We would probably sit in silence for a bit with you trying to wrap your head around all that I just said.

With tears in your eyes, you would ask for the picture, hold it against your heart and say, “I’m coming for you boys.  It’s going to be a long wait, but by the looks of things, you’re worth it.”

_________________________________

beach pic 1.jpg

Abby 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.  You can read their story at Akers of Love.

 

Some Powerful Words of Approval

Blessing. It is the simplest of things to do, as are so many of the things I forget to be intentional about in the daily swirl of parenting!

I love to tell my daughter, “You are just amazing! I love who you are and I love it that I get to be your mommy.”

It is a joy to say to my son, “What a strong young man you are! It is just plain fun to be with you.”

Who of us does not desire that kind of approval?! I still see, after these many years later since our children first came home, that the need for blessing in our adopted children is even more key to their wholeness and identity than with our biological children.

Father God spoke powerful words of blessing over His Son:

And behold, a voice from heaven said, This is My Son, My Beloved, in Whom I delight! (Matthew 3:17 AMP)

There is a lot in this short scripture for us!

  • The voice that spoke the blessing was the Father. There is something powerful about a daddy’s blessing. We mamas can and should bless too, for we have a voice of significant influence, but you fathers have a unique and powerful role in blessing your children.Beth Templeton Cattalooche Ranch- Labor Day 089
  • My Son”–find ways to speak belonging, relationship, and connection. Father didn’t say, “this is the son.” He said “this is My son.” I just love that!
  • “My Son“–never grow tired of speaking sonship to, with, about, and over your adopted child. A son or daughter is not an orphan. I see my children’s perceived need of this truth to come and go over the 14 and 12 years they have been home, but I am absolutely convinced that they always are hungering for this declaration. Even now as young adults, maybe even more so actually because they are going through the sometimes complicated process of making sense of their identities, they sometimes struggle with what it means that they are no longer orphans.
  • God spoke this defining blessing out loud where others could hear. I love speaking words of affirmation and blessing to my children in the hearing of their siblings, peers, and other adults. Sure, they may act embarrassed at some stages, but I can see they really love it underneath! For all of us, it just plain feels good when someone speaks of their pleasure in us. We are empowering our children when we bless them in front of others.
  • My Beloved”–we find ways to highlight that this is not just our son or daughter. Not only a child who was adopted, and so now has a familial connection to us. No! This is a much loved child. Oh how our children need to hear this. This reality may not be true for your children, but for ours, the fact is that they know from experience that not all sons and daughters are much loved.
  • “My Beloved”–again, notice that Father God highlights the personal connection with His son. Jesus is not merely a beloved son, he is my beloved son.
  • “In Whom I Delight“–I love how God doesn’t stop at familial relationship as He blesses Jesus. It’s like He is saying, “There is even more than that! I like him–a lot. I enjoy him. He pleases me.” Find ways to show your approval. Even, and especially, in those times when it is hardest to find something of which to approve!

And you know, God spoke these power words over His son before Jesus had done any miracles, or fulfilled His destiny, or made the choice to yield to the Father’s will of death on the cross. We also can and should bless our children, not based on their performance, but on their identity–even and especially when their actions don’t reflect the truth of who they are as a true son or daughter.

So my fellow parents, let’s be intentional in speaking these kind of powerful words of approval and blessing and life into, about, over and with our children. I am seeing the fruit of it in our 4 adopted children who are now 19, 19, 21 and 23– there is very little more satisfying than that for this mama!

___________________________

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.

Wrestling

I’m a rule follower.  I’m usually not that interested in blazing a trail or forging a new path.  I like tried-and-true.  I like safe.  Perhaps I feel like if I follow a set rule or the “right” way the outcome will be guaranteed.  Guaranteed to be positive, productive, and pleasant.  Who doesn’t like pleasant, right?

So, I’ve done my fair share of reading.  I should clarify, I am not a reader of novels and quality literature.  I really wish I was, but I’m not.  But, I do read helpful how-to books.  Books about how to grow spiritually, parent successfully, and nurture effectively.

I’m also surrounded by friends and family whose input an opinions I value.  Honest, God-following, straight-shooting, encouraging, wise people.  I’m not afraid to admit when I don’t know something or need to grow in an area, and I’m quick to seek out the wisdom and experience of others.

But, what I’m really looking for in all of that is a rule.  A “right” way of doing things.  The right way.  Because if I can figure out the one right answer to whatever challenge or decision I am facing, I will be guaranteed to like the results.

The only problem is, as much as I really, really want there to be one. right. answer. There usually isn’t.

What works for you, might not work for me.

What worked for one of my children, may not for the other.

Which makes this whole parenting gig challenging, to say the least.  Besides the typical decisions of parenting, there are questions and decisions about what my children – biological and adopted – need to grow into emotionally healthy, spiritually strong people.  And as they grow, the questions and decisions change.  In parenting, instead of a to-do list where things are crossed off leaving you with a feeling of accomplishment, one decision or question often leads to another.

Does she need more time with me?

How can I encourage bonding in a way that she will connect with?

Are her outbursts a normal phase or is she working through something adoption related?

How will my two daughters with two very different adoption stories feel about their story?

When is it appropriate to share each detail of their story?  When are they ready?

Is she too attached to me?  Is it healthy attachment?

How do I encourage our bio daughter who feels left out being the only one not adopted?

Big questions.  Big decisions.  No real “right” answers.  No one rule to follow to guarantee results.  Just a wrestling.

Wrestling with the options, the experts’ opinions, the input of wise counsel and the prayers to my Heavenly Father to guide me.  To guide me in some clear and unmistakable way, please.  And while there have been times when He has done so, I find that more often than not I am left to wrestle.

Wrestle with the options and choices and decisions.  We wrestle with the what as well as the why.  We wrestle with Him.

“Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.” Genesis 32:24

“…your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men and have prevailed.”
Genesis 32:28

“…he wrestled with the angel and prevailed; He wept and
sought His favor.”
Hosea 12:4

However, wrestling is never wasted.

I believe God actually wants us to wrestle.  Wrestle with decisions and wrestle with Him.  He doesn’t spell out every right answer to every question we face.  You just have to look at all the Christian denominations there are to see that people interpret his Word in different ways, all wrestling with what it means to follow Christ.  We want black and white, but often we feel like we find a lot of gray, and so we wrestle.  We want clear explanations to the struggles we face, and so we wrestle.

It is in the wrestling that we develop a closer relationship with God. There is a closeness – an intimacy – necessary in wrestling. It can also be messy.  It is a struggle that brings us near to God and strengthens our faith, changing us as He touches the parts of our character that need shaping.

So, while I still want one right answer to each parenting and attachment question, I’m often times left to wrestle.  Wrestle with the choices set before me and wrestle with God, yearning to hear His voice and see his leading.  And in the end, praying to be strengthened in the process.

I’m not sure that my desire for the Book of Right Answers will ever go away, my list of questions, concerns and decisions about my children sure isn’t.  But, I am growing in my appreciation of the growth and intimacy that comes from the wrestling.

                                    _____________________________

stephanie smit18 years in the classroom as a teacher was easy compared to parenting three little ones at home full-time. Through their three daughters, God has revealed Himself most clearly to Stephanie and her husband Matthew. He not only worked a miracle in giving them their biological daughter, He continued to show Himself in mighty ways throughout adoption journeys in China and Bhutan that were anything but normal. Nowadays she enjoys encouraging and connecting with other adoptive families through speaking and her work on the leadership team of “We Are Grafted In”.  You can read more about their family on their personal blog We Are Family.

To Pastors on Mother’s Day

for pastor's on mother's dayThis Sunday is Mother’s Day. I know you know that already. It’s been on your calendar all year.

Moms are going to fill your pews this Sunday wearing pretty dresses. Some will have been served breakfast in bed. Some will have received bouquets of flowers already that morning. Some will be looking forward to children coming home that day to take them out for lunch. Some will be anticipating phone calls, hugs, kisses, crayon drawings, and homemade cards.

But, Mother’s Day isn’t always that pretty.

There will be women sitting before you this Sunday who are aching to become mothers. Some of those women are struggling to make it day-by-day as they endure infertility treatment. Some of those women are single and long to be married and wonder if they will ever have the joy of being a mother.

There will be some women sitting before you this Sunday who are mothers but not parents, women who have placed children in other families to be raised by other mothers. They may not look or feel like mothers; they may struggle to define who they are.

There will be some women sitting before you this Sunday who were mothers for a short time and didn’t consider themselves that at all, women who ended their pregnancies and motherhood through an abortion and now wonder what life would have been like had they made another choice and chosen life for their child.

There will be some women sitting before you this Sunday who are broken mothers, mothers whose relationships with their children are strained at best, mothers who haven’t spoken to their grown children in months or even years, mothers whose children are in rehab or prison or who knows where.

There will be some mothers sitting before you this Sunday who are divorced from their children’s father and who are tired, so very tired, whose little ones may not even know it’s Mother’s Day at all.

There will be people sitting before you this Sunday who have lost their mothers and people who still have their mothers but have been hurt by them.

And, all those people? They’ve had Mother’s Day on their calendars all year too. But, they aren’t coming to church dressed in their prettiest clothes ready to stand to be recognized. Instead, they wonder if they should come at all. Some are ashamed. Some are resentful. Some are full of grief. Some are angry at the mothers around them, you for pointing them out, and God Himself. Some are simply sad and have already put tissues in their purses in anticipation of the day.

The ones coming to church in their best with smiles on their faces really don’t need to stand for recognition or be publicly thanked. They’ll get all that elsewhere. It’s the others who need you this Sunday. Speak for them.

To the women who are celebrating this Mother’s Day as mothers for the first time, know that we celebrate with you. 

To the women who serve day in and day out to little ones, cleaning noses and bottoms and sippy cups and car seats, know that we applaud you and support you.

To the women who work outside the home to provide for their families, know that we honor you for all that you carry.

To the women who have been celebrated by their families already today or will be later today, know that we take joy in that with you.

To the women who are not yet mothers and who long to be, whose hearts are heavy with that desire today, know that we walk with you through whatever God calls you to today and for days to come.

To the women who wonder what life would be like if they were mothering now the child who could have been theirs, know that we want to hold your hand and encourage you.

To the women who are separated relationally with painful distance between you and your children, know that we hurt with you and pray for reconciliation and trust for you that there is hope for just that.

To the women who are mothers here who haven’t had the recognition from their children and feel forgotten, know that we remember you.

To those who have been hurt by their mothers in some way, who find this day a painful reminder of that hurt, know that we acknowledge your pain and want to offer hope for restoration to you.

To those who are watching their mothers grow older and change or who are grieving the loss of their mothers, know that we grieve with you and pray for comfort for you.

It’s a big day—Mother’s Day. It’s your challenge…privilege…to communicate God’s love to everyone in your church this Sunday as is your call every Sunday. As you do that, HE will meet each one just where they are and speak the words they need to hear.

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Kelly Raudenbush

Kelly Raudenbush

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