Monthly Archives: June 2014

Getting Through the Labor Pains of Adoption

He’s in my arms, just fallen asleep. It’s his birthday eve, and I’m thinking of his birth, wishing I had a just one baby picture, so instead I imagine with that thick stack of birth records, his entrance a full nine weeks before his body and brain were fully prepared for the harsh world he would face. 

But now I’m imagining, and he’s my infant and he’s been born and I’m gazing at him in wonder. I think of the two children I gave birth to, that surreal experience of staring at them for the first time. Those nine months of pregnancy, those hours and hours of labor, a true 80 hours of agonized labor with my first, but then, the baby.

Women experience conception, pregnancy, labor, delivery, all with hope, a desired outcome, but never a guarantee. The baby created can turn to a demise at any point in the process. But there’s hope. And women cling to that hope while they endure the difficulties in the process. There will be a baby to hold, to call mine, to feed, to hold. Perhaps…



No! women do not think perhaps I will have a child. In most cases the hope is so strong that it overrides the reality that there is no guarantee.

And I’m looking at my son again and see the similarities. When a child is handed to you for adoption the pregnancy begins, the labor begins. But this time the agonizing labor pains are staring you right in the face from the beginning. And sometimes hope is hard to find.

In our culture women easily talk about all the miseries of pregnancy. We share labor stories as if we were swapping tall tales. But what about adoption? Especially in the evangelical community, fairy tale stories of adoption are shared, trying to rally the church to move forward in masses to adopt. And don’t get me wrong, I am glad the church is rising up.

But what about the labor, the agonizing labor pains of adoption with no guarantee this child will attach to you and you to them? I propose that we need to ask potential adoptive parents – are you willing to imagine yourself in gestation, in labor with this child for as long as it takes?

Secondly, adoptive parents need to a place to voice the hard questions during the labor process and labor coaches to get them through it. And we need to normalize the questions, take away the stigma –

Will this child ever accept my love? 
Will my care for them ever feel more than mechanical? 
Why do I respond differently to this child than my other?

These questions are no different than wondering when this 24 hour-a-day “morning sickness” will end.

Without ending the stigma of these questions and offering support, we increase the risk for fetal demise, the D-word in adoption that no one likes to talk about. The disruption rate for children adopted between 3 & 10 is 10 percent. Teens are a staggering 25 percent. I read a website that described these statistics as low. I disagree. I think the statistics are way too high because adoptive parents do not have what they need. They do not get help with their labor and delivery until it is too late.
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Back to my son now. It has not been an easy week. But he’s in my arms, body soft and I smile. I have been “pregnant and in labor” with him for two years. I have asked all the hard questions and we have worked to get the support we need.  But I have realized enough hope to carry me through a hard week. He is mine and I am his. Fruit of my labor. 

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imageJenny was just 15 when she felt God’s call to spend her life with foster care and adoption. Shortly thereafter, she started working for Royal Family Kids’ Camp and did so for the next 10 years, even asking her then boyfriend to join her at camp. Her vision became a shared vision and she married her best friend Joe in 2002. By 2012 they had two children ages 4 and 6 and were planning on fostering babies and toddlers. But instead God brought a sibling group, ages 1, 3 and 5 into their lives and made it clear that they were to adopt them. Her professional background in Child Development and Early Intervention has made her passionate about forming healthy attachment relationships with her children and helping them heal from trauma. Her personal blog has been her way to seek God’s heart along the journey and you can read at lifewiththebrackmans.blogspot.com

Parenting Backwards {Summer Rewind}

Raising a child from birth to adulthood seems like a cycle of teaching attachment and then teaching how to let go. First, you try to get a newborn to attach to a breast for feeding then after a few months, a few years for some, you ween them off of the breast and onto a bottle. The process starts all over again. Attach to the bottle then ween to a sippy cup and so on. Just think about it: we use things to comfort and nourish and soothe our children just so later on we can teach them that they will have to grow up and move on from them. A blankie, a pacifier, a crib, a toy, a home, etc. It’s a cycle of teaching them to attach and let go because that is what life is all about.

Well, parenting an adopted child feels completely opposite of that to me. I feel like I am having to parent backwards. Instead of teaching Jaydn to attach and let go, I am trying to teach her to let go and attach, let go of her defense mechanisms and the tools she has been using to survive her almost animalistic institutionalized life up until now and attach to us at the heart level, let go of her fears of abandonment and sense of self-sufficiency and attach to us, her loving family who she can trust and feel safe with because we aren’t going anywhere.

It is really hard to parent this way after years of doing it the other way. Call me selfish, but I enjoy the times when Jaxon and Jovie are playing in the other room while I do my quiet time or dishes or whatever I need to do for a little while. I have taught them to trust a babysitter or a Sunday school teacher so that Nathan and I can have a date, or I can enjoy worship with our church body. Teaching even toddler-aged kids to let go has its perks! But, parenting backwards is a conscious sacrifice of those perks. With Jaydn on my lap 24/7, I can only catch bits of the sermon between feeding her crackers or keeping an eye on her as she destroys my notes with a pen. Nathan and I don’t go on dates. Dishes, quiet times, and whatever else I need to do will just have to wait until she is asleep at night. And, to be honest, by then, I’m too tired, so it simply doesn’t get done.

Another example is last night. We went to a worship and music ministry party. We couldn’t get a babysitter because it’s too early in Jaydn’s development to leave her with anyone else so Nathan and I drove separately just in case I would need to leave because of the kids. So, as Nathan wandered around meeting and greeting people he will be working so closely with in the coming years, I sat on a couch with a 40lb 2-year-old squishing my face at an almost painful strength, knotting my hair with her forceful fingers, and then jerking herself backwards at random times with brut force almost breaking my arms as I attempt to catch her each time. A sweet new friend offered to watch her for a minute while I ventured to the chocolate fountain, and I jumped at the chance. “OH! YES! Kid freedom!,” I thought to myself. I returned from the other room a few minutes later, knowing I wasn’t really “supposed” to do that, but Lord knows I needed it (both the break and the chocolate-covered fruit). Then, it was back to my lap she came. I kept thinking about how the other two kids were upstairs, entertaining themselves, and what a gift that truly had become to me as one tired mommy. I went upstairs to join them and sat on the floor while Jaydn would get up long enough to grab a toy and then plop onto my lap again. The process of her seeing me as different than every other woman in the room is an arduous one.

Please know that I am not complaining. Actually, I am learning out loud. I am learning how to parent someone who has no experiential reason to trust/love me. I am learning how to walk through every painful door of her self-sufficiency and place Christ’s redemption story there. I am not Jaydn’s mommy because I had to be. I chose this role out of obedience to God’s command through Scripture. So, as in all things I experience in my life where I feel ill-equipped and unable, I believe that God has placed me here to be more reliant on Him. I know He can parent forwards, backwards, upwards, downwards, sideways and upside down–He is The Everlasting Father. My prayer is that through all of this, He will also teach me how to let go (and let God) and teach Jaydn how to attach.

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Bethany Gaddis

I have been married going on 8 years to a worship pastor, a rock star, and the most involved and intentional dad I have ever seen! Together, we have the privilege of parenting three amazing children (Jaxon- 5 1/2, Jovie, 2 1/2, and Jaydn 2). Jaydn came to us through adoption from Uganda, Africa. We moved to Little Rock, Arkansas, but I am a west coast girl at heart. I enjoy photography, adventure recreation, and teaching high-school students about the most important decision they could ever make: to follow Jesus.

Pursuing Joy. Choosing Hope.

Hello Friends. It has been too long.

If you follow me on Instagram, you know that we’ve been experiencing some tough things around here. And to be honest, blogging about the joy in our days just didn’t feel right, when I’ve spent most of the last 2 weeks just trying to remember how to breathe.
But I’m here now.
For Me.
For You.
For Moving Forward.And now it’s time to share.
{breathe in, breathe out}
 Our oldest son was recently admitted to an inpatient behavioral health program. He will be there for an indefinite amount of time.
We do not know when or if he will be able to return home.
{breathe in breathe out}
We saw this coming.
The writing was on the wall.
But that has not made it any easier.
It is a nightmare.{I’m going to take a moment to ask you to, please, not try to minimize this event by pointing out that he was adopted & that he had a better life with us than he would have other wise. HE’S MY SON. The End.}
Before today, you knew the basics about my lil’ fam:
I am married to the man of my dreams.
 I am the mother of 5 boys.
We had our oldest 2 through fostercare adoption.
We had our youngest 3 biologically.
We like to celebrate.
That is all I let you see.
Because, that is what I want to remember.
I want to live joy, choose joy, remember joy.
But that is going to change.
We are now in the midst of a journey that will not be forgotten.
A journey that demands to be noticed.
And joy is harder to find.
And hope is a constant choice.
{breathe in, breathe out}
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So…
Why am I sharing our family secrets on the “big world wide web”?
Why am I telling you his story?
Because I know what it feels like to be alone.
Because I know I am not alone.
Because while this is his story…it is my story too.
So I’m gonna get back to blogging.
Pursuing Joy in our days and documenting it as much as I can.
And every once in a while I’m gonna go here.
I’m gonna let you see inside the not so pretty parts of these days…because even in these dark spaces, hope can be found…and  how can I not share that with you?

I will NEVER give up Hope.
Never Ever.

“For we have this HOPE as an anchor for the soul…FIRM & SECURE…”
Hebrews 16:9

**I took the above photo’s of our son & his room the day before his latest episode…the day before he was admitted to the inpatient program…I am not sure why I wandered up there for the little photo shoot…but I’m glad I did…I want to remember the little boy in the middle of all of this…because at the end of the day he is just a little boy…a little boy with a broken heart…and I want you to remember that too.**

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Processed with VSCOcam with n1 presetHello! I’m Tracey Lynne…and I couldn’t be happier to be here today!
So a few tid bits about me:
I am married to the man of my dreams
I am a fost/adopt, bio mom to 5 boys
I am a part time photographer in South Jersey
I am girly
I am tough
I play in the mud
I catch frogs
I love to celebrate…anything & everything.
I REALLY REALLY like taking pictures
I like pretty things
I like to create
I do not like to do the dishes
I do not like to do the laundry
I like high heels
I like dresses
I have tattoos {3 to be exact}
I love a party
I love decorating
I DO NOT LIKE SPIDERS
Pink is my favorite color
I  love Jesus
I love my family
I am blessed
Hidden Cupcakes (my little space on the internet) has been where I celebrate the “happy moments”in my days. The moments I want to remember for always…

{I like to think my happy moments may inspire some happy moments for you…}

Nobody’s life is perfect. Mine is no exception. And recently I’ve opened up a little more letting you see some if the “beautiful ick” that mixes with our happy. Still, when I “look back” I want the happy memories to outweigh the not-so-happy ones. It’s a choice…

 

Things That Matter {Summer Rewind}

I’ve been counting down the days until this Spring’s Created For Care conference for over a year.

I stayed up until midnight the night registration opened to make sure I got on the list before it sold out.  I arranged a sitter months ago.  I made new friends online and even arranged to share a room with someone I’d never met, which is huge for a socially awkward girl such as myself.

Created For Care is a conference for Moms who have adopted to come together and be refreshed.  To learn more about what it means to parent for these kids that come from a broken past.

Nicole-11

 

Cause y’all, it’s hard.

Harder then I ever imagined.

Josie’s six now and it’s been about six months since the questions started.

Some are easy, “How big was I when I came home to you?”

Some squeeze my chest until there’s no air left and I have to actively fight the tears back, “Can I call her Mommy?  Does she love me?  Would it be OK if I love her?”

It wretches and twists.

I selfishly want her all to myself, but that’s not the truth.  She once belonged to someone else and even if that woman has no clue what she gave up when she walked out of that hospital and left my Josie Girl behind, Josie has a right to know about her, to love her if she wants to.

I want so, so badly for her to have a positive view on her adoption story.  It’s special and,miraculous.  Touched by God so obviously that anyone can see it.  And everyday that Josie gets older I’m more aware that how she feels about her adoption will lay largely on how I react to her questions.

We’ve been age appropriate, but open with her.

We’ve recently began sharing more details with her when she asks.  We don’t know much and a lot of her story she won’t be mature enough to hear for quite awhile, but she has names and her birth story and, yes baby, you can love her too.

“You don’t look like your Mommy,” her true to the world six year old friend states matter of factly and I see her eyes searching mine.  I know that she’s feeling shy so I take her hand in mine and share the mystery of adoption with a huge smile on my face.  I watch her friend get excited and yell out, “you got to be adopted?!?!” and there’s Josie’s smile.  She’s ready to share.

Born in an ambulance, made to be a Pope but had to find us first.  It’s her story and she’s piecing it together and I’m letting her grow and ask and trying hard to hold fast to my peace that I get to be her Mommy now and it’s ok, it’s good, to share.

So it’s hard and I was excited to go to Created For Care.

I was going to meet other moms that could really understand me and hear me and know I wasn’t complaining or ungrateful, but learning and feeling my way though, hoping I don’t screw up these kids.

And maybe a little bit scared too.

The closer the conference got though, the crazier our days were getting.  We have a few big trips coming up and I am struggling to find ways to fit everything in.  I tried to fight it and push on, but the feeling that something had to give kept pushing back.

And after a stressful morning where I was unkind to Josie, I looked at her coloring at the school table and my solution became clear.  I didn’t need a weekend away to refresh and regroup.  I needed a weekend away with her.

Just the two of us.  Where we can talk and make memories and nurture this bond.

And so we are.

This morning we hopped on a plane and are headed to our Winter Wonderland.  We should land in Minnesota anytime now.  We are going to have tea and meet Baby Ralphie and, if I can talk myself into it, spend some time sledding down hills in the freezing cold.

Sometimes I have to get out of my own head and refocus on what’s important.  I’m sure I’ll go to that conference someday.  But today I’m going to hold my daughter’s hand and celebrate everything God gave me when he handed me this child.

It isn’t easy, but it’s everything I’ve ever wanted.

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Nicole is a Northern Girl turned Southern Belle. She loves Starbucks, Photography, and Homeschool Curriculum Catalogs. Passionate about Jesus, adoption, and squeezing all the love and joy out of each day. You can follow along with her life at www.JourneyToJosie.com

Between Beauty and Brokenness

gulf I’m on vacation in one of my favorite places on earth- the Florida beach on the Gulf of Mexico.There’s a 7 mile stretch between Pensacola and Navarre called the Gulf Island National Seashore. It’s a protected area so there are absolutely no buildings- no high rise hotels, no restaurants, no bars, and no tattoo parlors; only a two-lane road with a 35 mph speed limit.  It’s the beautiful beach the way God made it.  Two years ago when we drove through with our kids, I told Tom, “One day, I want to come back and run this gorgeous stretch. You can drop me off and pick me up on the other side”.

Well, the “one day” just arrived today! I excitedly prepared for my run of beauty which included lots of sunscreen, lots of water, and my favorite sunglasses. There were special signs placed all along the road reading “Shorebird nesting- 20 mph”. How cute- the Mamma birds are nesting so the cars need to drive even slower. Just perfect!!!  Maybe I’ll see a nest or two. I just can’t wait!

It wasn’t long before my “How cute!” turned into “Hey!!! what’s going on???”  I had no more run 100 yards when these cute mamma shore birds starting flying overhead, screeching and dive bombing my head- obviously threatened by my presence.  Tom and I were running the first few miles together, and I was a few steps behind him laughing at the one brave bird who got within a foot of his head, swooping down over and over. Laughter soon turned to dismay as the number of birds increased and I started hearing splats hit the ground beside me. How could my much anticipated run in such a beautiful location be so full of poop?

It was then that I remembered a word picture given by Dan Cruver at the Together for Adoption convention in Atlanta last fall. He said that adoption is the road between beauty and brokenness. Adoption is so beautiful because it pictures what Christ does for us- taking us as His children and calling us His own. But it is only possible because of brokenness in our world. Dan said that he realized this as he stood on a road in Haiti with the beautiful emerald ocean on one side and a mass grave with thousands of hurricane victims buried on the other.  As I ran along today trying to dodge the bird poop falling down, I also thought of my own adopted children.  They are so beautiful and were so anticipated. Yet because of their early years of abandonment and institutionalization, they have a lot of yuck to work through in their hearts and lives.

Gulf Island National Seashore

This sometimes translates into difficult parenting. But isn’t that the reality of adoption?

When I reached the other side of the Gulf Island National Seashore an hour later, I was covered in bird poop. But along the way I chose to enjoy the beautiful white sand, listen to the roll of waves, smell the salty air, feel the breeze on my face, and thank God for my wonderful, adopted children.

                    ____________________________

rebeccacruttendenRebecca Cruttenden, founder and director of Team Orphans, is a dedicated mom of three adopted children, and a three-time Ironman finisher.  She has raised over $80,000 for adoption grants in the last three years.  She, her husband Tom, and their three children live in Rockford, Michigan.  Her next race is Ironman Florida on November 1, 2014. You can read more about Rebecca’s work with Team Orphans on their blog.

True Religion {Summer Rewind}

 

true religion2If you are a blog reader of mine, you know I process through writing what God is teaching me–and you also know any time I take a few days off from writing its usually not because I’m busy (because writing is HOW this momma unwinds from her busy)…it’s usually because He’s teaching me and it’s hard to process. I haven’t blogged since Sunday publically–but I did write on Monday, Tuesday and today…very long posts—prayed over them…processed them…and then stowed them away in my heart–and for now that is where they will stay.

The Lord is really teaching me a lot right now–through walking with others in their hardship (their distress) and pain…orphans and widows…choosing to do life together and saying, “We are in this together—for the long haul…and we will look for God and His faithfulness through it.”

While some of my readers may come to my blog and feel “moved” to consider adoption after hearing our experience…or after seeing a sweet coming home video–that, my sweet sisters and brothers, is not really what James 1:27 is about at all—or else anyone not called to adopt wouldn’t be offered a part in true religion–right? Adoption is growing my family–it’s choosing to follow God in growing my family in a different way…and to be willing to do for my newest son what I would and will do for all of my children to be there for them and when need be–walk through times of hardship, healing and pain with them. I can some what guess that it may be more often, however, for the children God brings to me through adoption–but that of course is no promise. We are NOT all called to adopt…any more than we are not all called to have more children biologically–but adoption IS one of the many ways God can use us to change orphans to sons and daughters…and this is GOOD…it is a CALLING…and discerning that calling over emotion is very important.

SO…what about James 1:27? How do we LIVE true religion? Because this–as believers we are all called to–if we want to experience Him fully and live true religion (James 1:27). How do we care for, visit and look after orphans and widows in their distress? How can we help walk with orphans and widows during their time of pain? This verse isn’t about changing orphans to sons and daughters or finding the widow a new spouse–but about going there with them in their distress—and THIS is what true religion is. While only 1% of the estimated 140 million orphans worldwide are considered eligible for adoption, and 90% still have one living parent–or you could say 90% have a widow as a parent. How can we live James 1:27 to these? How can we look after, care for and visit them…and really begin going there in their distress with them? The Lord has been showing me more and more about the answers to these questions–and while my home right now is pretty crazy and may not be the best fit right now to add another one of the precious 1% to come join our crazy–how can God use me right where I am for the other 99%? To really LOOK AFTER these in their time of DISTRESS…oh–I think I’m ready to go there.

When I think about visiting orphans and widows–the first place my heart naturally goes is to our “other family”…my son’s first family. There is a widow and single orphans across the world. Then I think about our next closest–those already around us. Our church alone has countless single orphans whose mom or dad is no longer with them–and essentially in many ways single moms are modern day widows in our culture. How can I live James 1:27–pure and faultless religion? While we follow where the Lord leads in these ways and choose not to always share the ins and outs here–God sees our hearts and our hands–and that is enough. And it is good.

And while most times my tendency is to start at home and move outward–I want to also remember where the places are where the forgotten live? I think about our ministry in Zambia/Africa–where adoption is closed yet more than 1/3 of their children are orphans. WOW. Our eyes are opened when we VISIT them (James 1:27) but naturally more people visit the countries they adopt from. SO–what about these countries that some times fly under the radar? Use us Lord to live James 1:27–to YES serve in our neighborhoods and to live true religion here–but to also some times leave where we are comfortable or feel personally connected to and visit, look after and love widows and orphans in places that aren’t as convenient or as attractive…meeting someone in their distress will never look fun–it’s not a brownie sale and the pain through it is not “blogable” and thankfully so…because there are some things so sacred where true religion resides that should be treasured in our hearts and leave us in worship as we see Him working through us. Following the Lord in the way of James 1:27 will not be easy–but I can promise it will refine and change…and you will be amazed when you see Christ come through. You WILL see His glory. He will be faithful with His presence. And it will be SO SACRED that you won’t publically share it with others…because you will know–it is HOLY…you won’t be able to write about it because you can’t even express it’s power. It is TRUE RELIGION…it is beautifully painful, yet good—and you will want to follow Him again and again in true religion to see Him over and over…and over again. And it makes sense why He calls us to serve and be His hands in this way.

And speaking of visiting orphans and widows in their distress–if you would be interested in joining us on our next trip to Zambia this June–please contact me. We have just a few spots–but we’d love to take you with us! There’s no building. There’s no painting. But there is sitting. We sit and we listen…and we love. As simple as that. And you probably not be able to find the words to write about it either…or words to express how YOU were changed in the process. But James 1:27 doesn’t have to just be around the world…it can be as close as next door. It probably won’t knock on our doors–but when you are ready ask Him to take you there and begin leading you to true religion and worship in this way. I never want to lose sight of what this verse means and what through it we are being asked to do.

As believers, let’s pray how He can use us to live James 1:27 fully and to be used for His great glory and good…

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andrea youngAndrea is a stay-at-home momma of five. who loves homeschooling her kiddos.  She’s also a photographer and orphan/widow advocate giving of her time to Wiphan Ministries and ministering to adoptive mommas through Created 4 Care.  She truly believes the Lord can use us all right where we ALREADY are to make a big difference in this world.  You can read more of her writing at Babe of My Heart.  

Why Google Can Never Be a Mom

Let’s be honest. Google is pretty great. It can give you directions, show you photos and sort through billions of facts to deliver the information you want. Its so awesome it is both a noun and a verb. There are nearly 6,000,000 Google searches a day. One of the most common questions people type into Google is “What is the meaning of life?”.

I’m not nearly as smart as Google, but I imagine what people are really asking is  “What is the meaning of my life?”. When you type it into Google all kinds of quotes, articles and opinion websites pop up. Data to sort through for days.  And yet, that doesn’t really answer the question people are asking.

Rewind a few weeks…

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I recently returned from a trip to Burundi. This small country is nestled in the heart of Africa between Rwanda and Tanzania. Currently, my family is in the middle of adopting two children from there. One evening when I was organizing all the things I had to bring with me, I watched a film called Closure. (If you are interested in adoption, I highly recommend it.)

It is a documentary about a trans-racial adoptee, Angela,  who searches for her birth family. As someone who is adopting I was struck by her search for identity. Her adoptive family was incredible and joined her in the hunt for her biological family. There was one scene that stood out in particular.

Angela was using Google to hunt down information on her family. And Google was giving her answers, but she was looking for more than facts – she was looking for people.

Fast forward to last week in Africa…

I was sitting in a shelter surrounded by orphans. A little girl who was  5 shared my seat as I listened to the nun across the table talk about the kids who were in their care. She was sharing the facts and stats of all the children there – how old they were, their medical history, how many are available for adoption…

The children in the room were not very interested in the stats and data on their lives. They were focused on this one particular nun who tickled them, looked them straight in the eye and snuggled them while whispering something in their ears. I don’t know what she was whispering, but it sure made them all smile.

so happy to be in Africa

so happy to be in Africa

I couldn’t put my finger on it at the moment, but sitting in that room I started thinking of Angela from the documentary. Later that night I sat under my mosquito net and processed out the day. That is when I realized what the connection was.

The similarity between Angela and the children in those shelters is that they didn’t want facts or data. Angela could Google a million personality quizzes to help her shape her identity or search online for her missing family. These kids in Burundi have information in their files which gives a brief glimpse of where they have come from.

However, this information is not what these children are craving. I saw it watching them interact with the nuns. They want people to look into their eyes and really see them. They want a voice to speak their value out loud. Someone to tell them what they are great at and help them dream into what they could become.

For all the information that is out there – personality quizzes, scholarly articles, personal medical histories – there is no substitute for an actual person looking you in the eye and telling you why you matter. It is what everyone craves and I recognized it in the little eyes all around me.

While Google can spit out loads of resources and facts, it can never be a mom. It can never hold a hand, sing an original song or squeeze into a toddler bed to snuggle a sick kid. Google can never really answer the most asked question in the world, “What is the meaning of my life?“.

women in Burundi

women in Burundi

For the rest of my time in Africa, I thought about those children’s mothers. Many of them died from HIV or complications in childbirth. My imagination can’t comprehend how hard it must have been for them to realize that they would never have the chance to watch their babies grow up.

They would never get to tell them the story of how they were born, tell them the potential they see in them or share with them memories from their own childhood. Those mamas never got the chance to give their kids what they are longing for – identity.

I am reminded of the powerful privilege of motherhood. The ability we have to touch, speak and develop our kids is one not every woman is given. God has granted us the honor to speak identity into our kids. Who they are in Christ and who they are to us. It is a question the world is asking. Google may be smarter than us, but we have the answers.

                             _______________________________

ElizabethElizabeth is a church planter, speaker, writer and abolitionist. She lives in Texas with her husband and two kids. They are currently in the process of adopting siblings from Burundi. Her other hobbies include wasting time on social media, trying to remember where she parked her car & browsing Pinterest for DIY projects she will never actually make. You can visit her at Lark & Bloom or on Twitter @larkandbloom.

                          __________________________________

Are you looking for an opportunity to go and serve orphans? Consider joining us from October 9th-19th for an opportunity to do significant work in the lives of both children and adults and prepare for life-change yourself in the process. 

Visit The Sparrow Fund for more information!

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But God {Summer Rewind}

So much of what’s communicated about the world of adoption can feel so fatalistic. Both the outside observer and the mom who is in the thick of it can share the same bleak perspective. One perceives trouble and the other lives it, daily. Anecdotes about the neighbor’s son who, post-adoption, traumatized his siblings, share equal weight with a mother’s desperate prayer requests for her child, whose countenance has iced-over since they brought her home. Rewind 10 years and any sort of bump in the pathway to the “normal” life intimidated me. My secret goal was to maintain an equilibrium in every way.

good marriage, steady friendships, growing impact on the world, faithful-but-not-interrupted walk with God. None of these, in and of themselves, are wrong, of course. But, they couldn’t exist alongside my prayers for a unique intimacy with God. He let me share, however little, in His sufferings. Little did I know that what was in front of me would prepare me to administer healing to my daughter and walk alongside my son in his grief. My hiccups found me a Father, and they are teaching me to be a mother. Though I met with Jesus in the back-alley of life and found true safety outside of my “normal” life, I still carried those same expectations for normalcy over my children, who came to me through an anything-but-normal means. Residual fear of straying from the norm carried through to our first months and even year of absorbing Eden and Caleb into our fold. “Happy children” was my goal. The problem, unfortunately, being that I also prayed even before the first time I laid eyes on them, that they would know Him as Daddy. I’ve asked, almost daily, that they would know in their innermost being how high, wide, deep and long is His love. While happy is surely the fruit of a child who knows their Father loves them, there are years where that truth may have been called into question, for my little former-orphans. And, they cannot be erased. And, grief has surfaced in our home. The pain behind her eyes is unavoidable at times. Her grasps for the promise of security exposed behind weak attempts to disguise them. Is our love as temporal as the one she first knew? If the womb’s bond was broken by poverty, who can she trust?

The foundational fissures of a child, once abandoned, cannot be easily caulked. Even the early years are subject to a forever imprint. But God. Yes, but God. The same words I heard years ago about all those areas of “normal” being stretched thin, are the words I hear now. I found a flicker of light in the night, then, that set my whole heart on a different course. One breath of His changed everything. I was not made to simply endure, forever living by the scars I’d incurred along the way. I was made to conquer. To win. And the prize was the internal shifting of my heart that would never be taken away from me. I would never be the same again. My walk through the valley of the shadow of death marked my twenties and early thirties. My daughter found it at three and four. But, her scars will be her testimony. And, the imprint, a remainder mark of the sweet kiss of Jesus. I feel the ripples of loss in my home. When fear fills her eyes and insecurity leaks out, I inhale the abandonment too. She clasps her hands around my neck with a hold that craves promise, while expecting that one day this, too, will end. Her joy and zeal, overshadowed as of late, by tentativeness. By itself, it is bleak. It is fatalistic. There is reason to accept our children will be forever broken. “But God” echoes from my insides. I want to shout it in my home and let the hope of those words linger like a candle’s fragrance in winter over our responses to this vessel not-yet-fully-healed. She gets to find Him. Early. The darkness ignored by many but undeniable to her, begs a light. My little girl will see the goodness of God in the land of the living. And because I’d faulted in my marriage, my friendships, my impact, my ambitions, her road to Him is actually exciting for me. I know not just what is on the other side, but the Man she gets to meet along the way. And His grip around her tiny fingers offers her early admittance to safety. 

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Sara Hagerty

Sara Hagerty

Sara is a wife to Nate and a mother of five whose birth canal bridged the expanse between the United States and Africa. After almost a decade of Christian life she was introduced to pain and perplexity and, ultimately, intimacy with Jesus. God met her and moved her when life stopped working. And out of the overflow of this perplexity, came her writing.You can read more of her writing at Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet.

Two Years In {Madly In Love}

I stir – barely. Two dark eyes stare at me and a little voice whimpers – Mommy, I had a bad dream that I lost my family. I lift him up, pull him close and in a moment, back to sleep. 

It’s morning, but dark. I’m aware that there’s a child next to me, sleeping deeply, body twitching. I don’t even remember who it is. So I reach over and find the head – oh, that coarse hair belongs to no one but him. And I stay in bed, hand on him, bodies close, hearing our inhales and exhales.

A while later and I’m looking at him, that dark brown back, shoulders incredibly broad and strong, made for throwing and catching. And my thoughts catch up to me, and I’m taken back by my feelings, because I realize I’m madly in love.

Madly in love? See, love is a verb – and for nearly two years, two LONG years, I’ve been doing agape love. DOING love, and feeling grief. Doing love, and feeling exhaustion. DOING love and feeling hopelessness.

Agape love may be a verb, but madly in love, storge, is a feeling. And I was feeling it.

It’s that feeling I’ve felt with my infants, when I wanted to drench myself in their beauty and sweet scent, when I couldn’t snap enough pictures or share enough stories. But when rocking, a hug and a good-night kiss is met with snarls of THAT WAS TOO SHORT and then an hour of mad screaming, love is negate of feeling but instead pure obedience, unconditional, agape, following Christ, attempting to love as He loved, and and feeling my deep ineptitude the entire time.

I’ve wanted to adopt all my life, and I naively thought I would be able to mother children not born to me because of the affection I felt towards children who weren’t mine, how I could agape difficult campers during my many years at Royal Family Kids Camp. And I felt affection for him from the moment I met him, how could I not? But initial affection is not enough to carry a Mother through when it’s your son’s birthday and you wake up excited to celebrate him and he wakes up spitting in your face.

But it was that day, a month or two ago where I tenderly responded to defiance with You act so tough all the time but you’re just a little boy who needs his Mommy. His body softened, face perplexed, not knowing what to think. Up until now his Mom had felt threatened by those torrents of anger, by the non-stop arguing.

And then that night after an hour of non-stop arguing and I found those dark steeled eyes and I ask a sincere question: I wonder if right now you just need a bottle? He melts, literally collapses his body into mine, walls down now.

And in this past month he has come more and more to me – for affection, for hugs. Even when he’s angry I’ve noticed that he is willing to melt into my arms to calm himself down. Our nap time snuggles are long and sincere. And one nap as he fell into REM twitching I thought about my infants and how I would peel away from them once they were in REM sleep. And I realize we are both experiencing redemption – I am experiencing delight and joy in my son and he is feeling safe in his mothers’ arms – something we both had lost.


Joe comments how much this son loves me. And I realize – madly in love takes two – WE are madly in love. He storges me, and I storge him. Now as lovers do, madly in love is a feeling that ebbs and flows. He’s still a difficult child. I still lose my my patience.

I think these stories are crucial for adoptive parents to share. I think there is a great deal of pressure to have a “positive adoption story.” But the pain must be shared to give parents hope who are experiencing homelessness. And there are many, many more despairing adoptive parents than most people could ever imagine. But redemption is real, and praise God, it happens.

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imageJenny was just 15 when she felt God’s call to spend her life with foster care and adoption. Shortly thereafter, she started working for Royal Family Kids’ Camp and did so for the next 10 years, even asking her then boyfriend to join her at camp. Her vision became a shared vision and she married her best friend Joe in 2002. By 2012 they had two children ages 4 and 6 and were planning on fostering babies and toddlers. But instead God brought a sibling group, ages 1, 3 and 5 into their lives and made it clear that they were to adopt them. Her professional background in Child Development and Early Intervention has made her passionate about forming healthy attachment relationships with her children and helping them heal from trauma. Her personal blog has been her way to seek God’s heart along the journey and you can read at lifewiththebrackmans.blogspot.com