Monthly Archives: July 2014

Forgiveness

“Forgiveness.”
This is the word the Lord has given me recently.

Quite a while ago I stopped posting about the unwelcome guest in our home:  Trauma.  I wish I could say that absence of posting = absence of the impact of trauma.  Not.so.much.  

It’s been nearly four years since we were first introduced, and I realize I need to take some time to ‘heal thyself’ in order to maximize my ability to help us become a healing home.

I still ask the Lord to change my hard heart, to give me the patience to respond with compassion, the strength to persevere through the trenches and joy to rise above the chaos.  I still make the same mistakes.  Not because He isn’t answering my prayers.  Because I am so very human.  I get in the way of His work in me every day.  I.am.not.bragging.  I’ve been desperately asking God to show me why I am so insistent upon living as the former self, rather than as the new creation He has made me to be.

And He has!  It’s all about forgiveness.

Heaven knows I don’t deserve the depth of forgiveness God has extended to me.  I can’t begin to express how thankful I am for His redemption.  With God’s grace, I have been able to overcome deep wounds and forgive others who have hurt me, only because He has shown me how!  But now comes a revelation that shakes me to the core.

I am withholding forgiveness.  I am casting blame.  Not audibly, but clearly in my heart.  And it is spilling over like poison, tainting everything it touches.
What a horrible admission!  But maybe you’ve been there?  Maybe you are like me and didn’t realize this is brewing in your heart?  Let the healing begin!

I realized that I was so beaten down with the impact of my child’s trauma that somewhere in the process I began to blame him.  In my heart I held him accountable for the countless hours we spend on the road for therapy, for the constant attention he requires, for taking my focus off the other children, for every time our plans change suddenly because of his reaction or response, for the fact that he must always be supervised, for the fact that I am exhausted because every moment must be a teaching one, and on and on and on…  I blamed him for relationships lost, conflict gained, misunderstandings, judgment, and  criticism.
Truth is, as critical as someone else may be of my parenting, I am my worst critic.
And so, I was also blaming myself.  I couldn’t understand why he would do things he shouldn’t or wouldn’t do things he should, why he would retreat so deeply within himself, why he would lash out for no apparent reason, why he would lie about something so c.r.a.z.y and obvious, and why MY response would typically escalate his reaction.   And so I also blamed ME!

Forgiveness starts here!

My child doesn’t need to know that I blame him or that I need to forgive him.  He doesn’t need that burden.  But it is something that must happen in my heart.  Today I began by granting forgiveness…to myself and to him.  I will never be a perfect parent.  At the end of the day I hope to say I did my best (totally relying on God!).
Raising a child requires commitment and investment.  Raising a child with neurological, physical or emotional conditions requires even more.  And in the words of Dr. Karyn Purvis, “…the longer a child experienced neglect or harm, the more invested you’re going to have to become in their healing.”    In an effort to help my child heal, I’ve focused too much on ‘fixing’ him.  That has proven to be frustrating and exhausting because in the process to ‘fix,’ I have not been able to appreciate who he is, making this adventure more about the destination than the journey.

He is treasured.  He is valuable.  He is wanted.  He is a child whom God has entrusted to me.  Not so that I can fix him.  So that He can change my heart.  And so that I can shape, nurture and protect my child.

God has given me a firsthand opportunity to live out Scripture.   It is one thing to say, “Sure, I can love my enemies (because I can keep them at a distance); I can speak for those without a voice (because, in all honesty, I get to choose how much effort I put into it); I can fight against injustice (because I can quit when I’m tired).”
What am I to do when the person who acts most like my enemy lives in my home?  When the person whose voice I must be doesn’t want to hear?  When my fight for injustice is mocked?  When I am at the end of my rope but the battle rages on?
Then I lean in close to my sovereign God, and I trust that He will never leave me (Jos 1:5), that He works ALL things for His glory and for the good of those who love Him (Rom 8:28), that His grace is sufficient (2 Cor 12:9), that He gives me hope (1 Pet 1:3), that His strength is enough (Phil 4:13, Heb 12:12).

God is more than able!  He has loved me in spite of my hard heart, and He has made a way for me to love.  Healing begins with forgiveness!

To HIM be glory!

*Disclaimer*  I am not a single parent.   My husband and I are very much a team with the attitude of me-and-you-against-the-world-babe, but this is my heart issue.

 ___________________________

Connie Johnson

Connie Johnson

Connie is crazy about her Lord, crazy about her husband, and crazy about her 11 kids.  You can read more about life in her family and what God is teaching her on their family blog: http://k6comehome.blogspot.com/

Two Worlds

My world. Their world. Two different worlds. I entered their world for a brief time then returned to my world. And I cannot reconcile the two.

Erin 1

They are too different, these two worlds. I return to the comfort of my home and family. And it is good to return to these familiar comforts. They do not know this comfort. Can you wrap your mind around that? They don’t know what it is to have a family.

Erin 2 Erin 3

I go about my normal, everyday life. Dishes, laundry, errands, children… all the normal stuff. Then something reminds me of one of them and I’m suddenly half a world away in thought.

Erin 4

I sort through the pictures I took. Thousands of pictures in an attempt to capture their everyday life. I smile, I cry, I work diligently at editing and uploading these pictures because it is the one way I can merge the two worlds. My photos transport them here and take me back there in memory. I hope and pray that these photos help to make the children “real” to people, that they show the precious value of each and every child.

Erin 5

Already some of our children’s families are finding them. It is exciting and rewarding, but always, always, there are more children, more needs. It is why we do what we do. Working in every way we can to bring these two worlds together for the good of our children.

_______________________________

Erin bioErin Martin is a stay-at-home, wanna be photographer, budgeting, homeschooling Mommy to five amazing children. She is also waiting child advocate who believes that every child deserves a family and that there is no such thing as an “unwanted or unadoptable” child. She and her true soul-mate, Keith, have three son who were given to them via the homegrown method. Their daughters are rare gems from afar (Kazakhstan and China). As a family, they are passionate about orphans and believe that caring for those least esteemed among men is one of the most important things that Christians are called to do. You can follow Erin on her blog God Has Answered.

 

A Letter to My Daughter’s Birth Parents {Summer Rewind}

Dear Amanda and Conner,

I have no idea if you’ll ever read these words, but I have to write them.
I have to hope that, even if you never stumble across this blog or
open the card that we sent on your court day, you somehow know the way that
we feel about you.

I remember getting the call that you were at the hospital, Amanda.  It
was June 28th- the day that we would meet our girl.  I had
simultaneously anticipated and dreaded this day since May 16th, when I
first heard your voice on the phone.  Although I was grateful to be
allowed in the delivery room when Piper was born, I was also unsure of
myself.  Would I say something stupid?  Would I pass out since
I’d never seen a live birth before?  Would I be able to convey my
excitement about bringing home Baby Girl without rubbing salt in your
wounds?
 At least our case worker would be there to help us know
how to navigate this situation that most people never face…

Except that when Andrew and I arrived at the hospital, you only wanted the
two of us back there with you.  Panic.  I was honored that
you and Conner trusted and loved us enough to let us experience something
so special, but up to this point, we had depended on Bonni to help us know
what to say to you and how to act.  Andrew put his arm around my
shoulders, and I quickly prayed for the kind of strength and wisdom that
could never come from me.  Please don’t act like an idiot, please
don’t act like an idiot.

When we walked in the room, my fears were gone, and I immediately felt at
home.  “Hey guys!” you grinned.  Even in labor, you looked
beautiful and seemed calm.

In a few minutes, the nurse came in to see how far you were dilated.
She looked at Andrew and me, hinting with her eyes that we should
step out.  We took the clue and started to leave the room when you,
Conner, looked at her and said, “No, it’s okay.  They’re
family
.”  I wonder if you know how much those words meant.

Time seemed to stand still as we spent the next hour or so talking with
both of you and trying to wrap our minds around this huge thing that was
about to take place.  Though we had met you before, those moments in
the delivery room were especially precious to me as we actually got to know
the parents of our little girl.  In the moments away from the agency,
the paperwork, and the caseworkers, you became my friends and not just the
couple who had chosen our profile book.  Conner, I learned that you,
like my husband, hate making decisions about restaurants.  Amanda, I
learned that you and I are both somewhat obsessive about using the Weather
Channel app on our phones.  It was the little things in that
hour-long conversation that made you both seem more real and made me love
you more.

When the nurse came back later, it was “go time.”  Andrew and I stood
awkwardly at your head and stroked your hair as we tried to think of
something to offer other than, “You’re doing great!”  Conner, you were
a natural.  You knew exactly what to say and do to help your girl.
And Amanda, wow.  You made labor and delivery look like a walk
in the park.  I honestly expected so much anger and frustration, but
all I saw in that situation was love.  I wish there was
a way for you to have stood back and watched the scene like we did.
Your relationship with each other is inspiring, and your affection
for a baby who you bore for someone else is, frankly, earth-shattering.
Those words that Conner whispered as you pushed, “Come on, Amanda,
this is the last thing we can do for her,”
melted my heart in more ways
than you’ll ever realize.

Just 30 minutes after you started pushing, Piper was here.  I cried
the happiest tears of my life as I took in her thick hair, her chubby
cheeks, and her perfect little body.  Then I watched as the two of you
held her, and my heart broke.  This was the reason why I had
been so afraid of our time together in the hospital.  You clearly
loved her as much as I did, yet you knew that she wasn’t yours to keep.
You said that we deserved her, and I knew that wasn’t true.

The nurses came in and out to check on Piper as the four of us bounced back
and forth in our conversation between the trivial and the significant.
Andrew and I left for about an hour to pick up some food and to give
you two time alone with Piper.  We got back to the room and ate dinner
together, and I found myself wishing (though I knew the impossibility of my
idea) that there was a way for the five of us to be the little family who
lived happily ever after.

The hospital prepared a room around the corner for Andrew, Piper, and me,
and we slowly collected our belongings to spend our first night as a family
of three.  Before I went to bed, I walked down the hall to refill my
water bottle.  Your door was open, and I stopped.  Conner, you
were headed out briefly to get some fresh air, so I sat down in a chair
next to the bed for some “girl time.”  Amanda, as I listened to you
share your hopes and dreams, as you talked about your friends, and as you
revealed your plans for college in the fall, I felt connected to you in a
way that few people will probably ever be able to grasp.  Though we
didn’t always talk over the past nine months, we were in each other’s
hearts as we shared this journey.  We have a unique bond: I wanted so
badly to be in your place (to be pregnant), and you wanted to be in mine
(“established” enough to raise a baby).  There is no way to explain
those feelings to anyone else, but I think you know.

The night passed uneventfully, and I began to think about how the two of
you would be going home to a new “normal” in just a few hours.  I
started dreading those last moments in the hospital.  Finally, around
2:30, both of you came down the hall.  This was it.  Andrew and I
stepped out of the room to give you the space that you needed with Piper.
We held each other tightly and prayed for the words to say as we waited for
you to come out.  About five minutes later, the two of you entered the
hall with Piper, and all the tears that I had been holding back came
flooding out as I looked at your faces.   I never guessed
that goodbye would be so hard.
  Amanda, I’ve thought that you
are unbelievably strong throughout this entire journey, so seeing you
dissolved by emotion was almost unbearable.  It would have been wildly
inappropriate to take pictures in the moments that followed, but the scene
will forever be captured in my mind as you handed Piper to me for the last
time and as you, Conner, hugged my husband like there was no tomorrow.
In those moments, every word I had rehearsed was gone.  Each of
us knew that there was nothing to be said which could possibly convey the
feelings we had.  In shaky voices and through blinding tears, we all
said how much we love each other.  Amanda, you asked me to “take good
care of her,” and I promised that I would.  Then the two of you walked
around the corner and back to your lives.  I still cannot fathom
how a day can be so joyful and so gut-wrenching at the same time.

Andrew and I walked downstairs to the hospital’s chapel, where I buried my
head in his lap, and we both sobbed.  I have never seen my husband cry
like that before.  I had thought that I would be filled with guilt
when you two went home without a baby, but really I was just overcome with
sadness like I haven’t ever known.  I was sad for you because of the
difficulty of your decision, and I was sad for us because I felt like we
had just lost two people who, in a matter of days, had come to mean
everything to our family.  “Be still and know that I am God,”
the walls of the chapel read, and this is ironically the verse tattooed on
the wall of our bedroom at home.  Both of us found it difficult to “be
still,” because our hearts were so heavy for you.  We prayed over and
over for God to give you peace, and I still pray every day that you’ve
found it.

As I got ready the next morning, I burst into tears all over again, and I
wondered how many days would pass before I woke up without crying for you.
In the weeks since we have been home with Piper, time has slowly
eased the hurt, but I don’t think of you any less.  I have never once
doubted that you would change your minds about the decision you made, but I
have felt an unexplainable stillness in knowing that if you did, I would be
okay because as much as I care about Piper, I care about the two of you
equally.

Every night before bed, we tell Piper how many people love her, and the two
of you are always at the top of the list because you will always be her
parents, too
.  I can’t wait until she is old enough to ask
questions about the picture of the four of us on the wall in her room,
until she wonders how she got her beautiful black hair, and until she makes
the connection that her middle name is the same as her birth mother’s.
I can’t wait for that day because then I get to tell her, once again,
the story of two people named Amanda and Conner who loved her so much that
they made the greatest sacrifice two people could ever make.

People say that you can’t understand true love until you have a baby.
Although I don’t fully agree with that statement, I do believe that
I’ve experienced a fuller and deeper kind of love because I met you.
In your words, Conner, this situation was just “meant to
be.”
 Through our whole adoption journey, I have been the
most worried about our relationship with our child’s birth parents, and
that has actually come to be the most beautiful part of it all.

You named our sweet girl Grace when she was with you for nine months, and
grace has absolutely been the theme of our song.  “Thank you” seems so
inadequate for expressing the gratitude we daily feel for your selfless
gift- Piper.  Somehow I hope you know just how much you mean to us,
not just for giving us a daughter who we could never have on our own, but
because of the truly strong and special people that you are.  I love
you and respect you both, and because of you, my heart is full for the
first time in years.

Love,

Mary Rachel

 

_______________________________________________________
Mary Rachel Fenrick

Mary Rachel Fenrick

Mary Rachel Fenrick recently became a mom when she and her husband adopted their daughter from an agency in Oklahoma City. God used infertility to not only teach them more about himself, but to bring them a perfect baby and two wonderful birth parents. You can read more about her journey on her blog, the Fenricks

Abigail ~ “The Father’s JOY”

Doug said we were “done”. He said it so many times I almost believed it myself! Done adopting that is… He had, in fact, said that before we adopted Rachel too, but he was so adamant this time that he almost banned me from ever looking at another orphan advocacy site again! I tried to reason with him… Banning me from even looking at the faces of the hopeless would mean that I could no longer be a voice for them either. I have found God’s sweet plans for my life through the gift of adoption. If there were to be no more for my own home, I felt compelled to at least draw others to the children in desperate need of forever Mommy’s and Daddy’s. Doug finally relented and agreed that I could continue to look and advocate for those that wait. This I would do with great joy!

Lori 1But what was I to do when my eyes landed on the face of this precious little girl who I was convinced was to be my own? What she needed more than anything else was a Daddy. And she and her foster Mama had been praying for just that! Sure- Abby needed a Mommy too… but her Foster Mama loved her well and the hole in her heart needed a Daddy to fill it! I happened to know of a most wonderful Daddy… and I prayed he would be the one this little girl longed for!

Of course, you know the rest of that story by now. God would make it clear to Doug that Abigail was to be his daughter and his heart was so tender toward her that he could hardly speak her name without tears. Suddenly the man that was convinced we were “done” was driven to pray and to work tirelessly to do whatever it took to get his daughter home!

On the other side of the world, news would arrive to the little girl that had waited so long… Abigail had a Daddy! As photos arrived of him on the computer, she would wrap her arms around it to hug her dream come true and the screen was smudged with kiss after kiss planted on her new daddy’s face. Finally the two would meet via Skype. There are no words… just one picture to tell the story.

Sadly, Abigail’s Daddy couldn’t travel to China to bring her home, so our “Gotcha Day” included another introduction via computer screen.

Lori 2 a

She would have to wait almost 2 more weeks before finally meeting Daddy in person and being in his arms for good! This made their meeting on November 22 at the Jacksonville airport, that much more special! I’m certain words can not capture the moment, but a video camera caught the beautiful moment when Abby’s dreams finally came true…

Lori 2

We made it home just in time to celebrate Thanksgiving! It would not be difficult to figure out what this Daddy is thankful for this year! Pretty obvious, huh?

Lori 3

It would be an understatement to say that Daddy is smitten with his newest little girl! S.M.I.T.T.I.N.! Is it any accident that a fatherless girl was given the name Abigail~ “The father’s joy”? No accident at all! God knew who her earthly Daddy would be and his JOY does indeed overflow!

Lori 4

Our days are FILLED with JOY!!!!

Lori 5

Abigail, you are and always will be… your father’s JOY!

___________________________

Lori M

Lori McCary

Lori McCary and her husband, Doug, live in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida with their four adopted daughters from China.  Their three biological kids are grown and have left the nest to start families of their own.  A first grandson was born in March 2014, yet the Lord is still adding another daughter from China later this year!  Lori is passionate about loving the fatherless and encouraging others to do the same.  She and her husband are both involved in full-time ministry and speak around the country about the hope and joy found in Christ alone. You can follow her at http://www.lorimccary.com/.

The Other Mama {Summer Rewind}

My 6 year old daughter has just begun to ask some very thought provoking questions surrounding her birth mother lately. She’s my thinking child, so although this doesn’t surprise me, I must admit some of the questions…oh.my…let’s just say I’m thankful they have come mostly at night in her bed, with the lights off…so she can’t see the tears that roll down my cheeks. We’re entering a whole new chapter in this adoptive parenting journey and begging for wisdom and revelation from the Lord to help us wade and part these waters.

And at the same time, I’m often in awe of how the Lord has been preparing us for these moments, long before Ashley came home. I’ve mentioned before that I worked in the domestic side of adoption for a few years before transitioning over to the international. Over those years, I worked with birth mothers. And you better believe I took mental notes and had dozens of “light bulb, heart pounding, Holy Spirit” moments with these women. Some of them I knew for months and others I met literally in the delivery room or the day after.

But one thing I knew about each one of them….as hard as they tried to hide it, or as openly as they grieved, was that this was a gut.wrenching.process, and one that they would never, ever forget.

One day the Lord gave me this verse:

Isaiah 49:15
“Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for the child she has borne? But even if that were possible, I would not forget you!”

The very God of the universe in His Word, gave an answer to our children…”Did she forget me?”

Can you see it? “…even if that were possible…”  which means….it’s NOT. And even if it were…HE WOULD NOT!!!

Meet little miss “A.” She’s just a week new y’all and has the most perfect baby skin I’ve ever seen!!!

emilyblogpic
Her mama, “M” called me from our church’s Crisis Pregnancy Center a few years back. She was pregnant was interested in adoption. We began meeting and a few months later, a baby girl was born. I watched her do the most courageous thing a woman can do….hand her child over to another mama and daddy to love and raise as their child. And as I watched her grieve, I prayed deep for the woman that had left my baby girl at the orphanage gate for someone else to raise. It’s as if the Lord just allowed me a glimpse of her grief through these women in my care.

A year later, she called back. Pregnant again. And, choosing life for her child, a few months later I stood in the L&D hallway yelling for them to run FAST because their son was about to be born. And she did it again, this time knowing full well the grief to come. Don’t miss that this girl had made some very poor choices, but she had made the most important one for her children….LIFE.

This time around, she’s ready to be a mama. She and her family will raise baby A and get to experience all she hasn’t gotten to with her other children. And rest assured, she has not forgotten them….their pictures hang on her walls. As I left her house, I wondered if Ashley’s birth parents had photos of her….she wasn’t abandoned as a newborn. I’d never wondered that before.

When questions come that I don’t have answers to, I go to the Word. It tells me that it is impossible for a mother to forget her child. And it drives me to pray deep for the two women that will never know this side of heaven how the Lord had His eyes on these babies, and how He placed them where they are loved and treasured.

Oh, how I wish I could send you pictures. For your walls. Just so you would know.

Thanks for the reminder, M…..you are one of the bravest women I’ve ever met, sister.
_____________________________

Emily Flynt

Emily Flynt

Emily and Jay have been married for 11 years and have 5 childen–Avery 8, Ally 6, Annalyse 4, Ashley 3, and (finally) our BOY, Asher 2. Ashley and Asher were adopted from China and were both special needs adoptions.  Emily spends her days chasing toddlers and waiting in line at carpool. Her favorite place in the world is in her van, all alone with the worship music blaring! She would count it an honor to have you be encouraged at www.ourhimpossiblejourney.blogspot.com.

 

“Tell Me My Story Again”

“Tell me the story about ME now.”

“Talk about me, tell me one more thing.”

“Um, now please tell me my story again.”

In May, we celebrate family days for both Erica and Brooke. May 6th marked two years for Brooke Cai Wei. May 23rd marked eight years for our Erica Xin Leigh. Two years a family. Eight years a family. These days are special to us; they have become special to the girls. A day to remember, a day to reflect. A day to recognize the invaluable gift we were given the day they became our own. A day to grieve the unknown events. The unknown families. The unknown circumstances that would necessitate this day. A day to rejoice over this thing called “family”. A day to look back and measure just how far we’ve come, how far He has brought us in this journey of restoration. This journey of mending hearts, binding hope, weaving the bond between a family formed not by blood, but by love.

Meredith 1

“Tell me the story. Tell me the story again”

“Was I funny? I was chubby, right Mei? The China nannies always called me “chubby girl”, didn’t they Mei?”

“I only said ‘Bu Yao’, because I was scared. Why was I scared?”

“I loved to play with those toys. Remember those toys in that picture? From when I was in China? I think I really loved those toys.”

“What did I like to do when I was a baby like Lizzie’s new baby sister? Was I a cute baby?”

“Tell me more about me. Tell me the story again.”

These past weeks, more than any other, have been filled to the brim with questions. Peppering. Bouncing. Endless. Wanting more and more, and never satisfied. One brings it up; the other quickly follows suit.

“Now me…now say something about me!”

Meredith 2

Asking questions. Jumping in and filling in the answers, because they’ve heard the stories told over and over again. Recounting “memories” from photos seen; photos displayed around the house. Telling new stories of their early selves that may be true; but may be not. Searching for details. Breaking into smiles when we say “Yep, you were!” “Oh my goodness, I remember that too…” “Really? Tell me more about that story! I don’t remember that one!”

My heart breaks, however, when they inevitably ask questions for which I have no answer.

“What did I look like?” “Was I bald?” “When did I learn to walk?”

In my head, all I can think is “We don’t know.” “It doesn’t say.” “We weren’t told.” “We weren’t there.”

“We weren’t there.” There’s a certain twinge to “Gotcha Day”…”Family Day”…that I can never fully shake. Yes, eight years. Yes, two years. Yes, years now spent together as a family. I’m immensely thankful for those years; I wouldn’t trade them for the world. But I know that those years can never give back time. Those years will never provide me with the answers to their questions. They will never make doctors appointments easier, when a cardiologist asks for Brooke’s family medical history. They will never answer Erica when she asks if her first mama had glasses like she does now.

Meredith 3

It can be overwhelming. It can dishearten. Discourage. It can be painful. But just as adoption is borne from loss…creating beauty from brokenness; growing hope from pain…something incredibly beautiful can come from these unknowns.

Each year together is filled with opportunities. Countless opportunities to discover these precious souls. For every “unknown”, there are a hundred “knowns”. For every unanswered question, there are a million that can be answered. For every memory apart, there are countless more together. These years can’t replace – by any means – but these years can build. They strengthen. They create and they nurture the relationship formed, so that when the questions come, when the unknowns arise, you are there to see them together.

Meredith 4

So yes, sweet girls, yes…I’ll tell you your stories again, all about every moment I can. I’ll tell you all about how you became ours. Show you each picture, every tear, each grin. We’ll remember together, every detail we can, and wander together throughout the unknowns. Let’s look through the memories, yet another time. I’ll recount what I know; you do the same. I’ll remind you again how deeply you are loved, what a miracle you are to our family. You’ll scurry off again, ready to play, but know that whenever you need…

I’ll always be here, I’ll always be near, to tell you your stories again.

______________________

Meredith

Meredith

Meredith is a storyteller and a dreamer; a passionate heart for justice and an advocate for the voiceless. A recent college graduate, Meredith is the oldest of 6 children, a family formed through the gift of adoption. After interning at a special needs orphanage during college, and caring for and falling in love with a little girl with a very broken heart, Meredith’s own heart was broken for orphans, and for children with severe heart defects. By God’s grace, this little girl soon became Meredith’s baby sister, and “life as she knew it” was turned upside-down. Her heart for orphans with CHD has taken her from China to Iraq, and everywhere in between. She believes in choosing courage, daring greatly, and loving well. You can follow along on her journey at www.risingtogo.com.

H. AR. D. {Summer Rewind}

This special season of adjustment for our family, a birthday was kind of a big deal to get through.  For Keturah, it probably held some special challenges, but nothing that she didn’t make it through with grace.  She’s adjusted to the big sister role beautifully.

It’s the mama in this equation that’s struggling. 

Patrick’s presence at Urbana undoubtedly added to how difficult the day was for me in degree, but I somehow think that what I found hard would have been hard had he been here too.

“Hard?” you ask, “how was celebrating Keturah’s birthday hard, exactly?”

Now before I go on to tell you exactly what I mean by hard, let me first state that I share this side of my story not only to acknowledge the less-than-picture-perfect moments of our lives, but more specifically to share some of those moments of our lives post-adoption.  I’ve been honest about adoption issues here before.  It’s not easy.  

I also desire to make perfectly clear that most of the ‘issues’ I speak of lie with me and not Marilla.  She’s got her own issues, to be sure, but what I’m writing about today concerns my personal response to the reality of parenting an adopted toddler at this stage in the game.


Please do not mistake my self-disclosure as anti-adoption sentiment.  It’s not.  I’m being honest too, when I say that I love Marilla, and would absolutely adopt her all over again. 

Okay, now to spell it out.  Celebrating Keturah’s birthday was:

H.  AR.  D.

H — Harried, but Holding it together.

I started off the day just feeling pulled in too many directions.

My desire was to celebrate Keturah’s birthday by making her the center of attention.  To date in our family life, it has proven to be a reasonable expectation that the birthday girl or boy gets mom and dad’s attention, and is generally given preferential treatment.  Because that is our custom, the non-birthday child has enjoyed taking part in this celebration, knowing that his or her day is coming.

Marilla, being new to our family, and over the last four months being the primary recipient of most preferential treatment, has no concept of what it means to celebrate a sibling.  Why didn’t she get to blow out the candles?  She doesn’t know that she’s got a day of her own marked on a different month of the calendar, and doesn’t realize that there is no injustice, and no threat to her position in preferring jiejie for a day.

Marilla needed explanation and guidance through every element of Keturah’s party.  This kind of teaching opportunity I would have been glad to seize during another friend’s birthday celebration—staying close by, whispering instructions and affirmations into her ear as we navigated new territory together—but on Keturah’s birthday, Marilla’s needs just served to make me feel pulled in the wrong direction . . . away from my birthday girl.

I ended up with Marilla on my hip or at my side for the majority of the morning (while administrating party games, and barking all kinds of orders at my poor sister), when I would have preferred to draw Keturah in under my arm.  The presence of other moms and my sister’s help (she cleaned up at least one accident while I got a wet little girl to the potty), allowed things to go as smoothly as they could given my own internal tug-of-war, and I managed to keep these growing emotions under control for the morning.

By Marilla’s naptime, though, as my sister manned the older two over lunch, I continued to struggle.

AR — Angry & Resentful.

With the party behind us, I thought that I’d be able to have some quiet moments with Keturah—maybe talking about her party, maybe playing with a few of her presents.  An over-tired Marilla required a nap time bottle from me, while my sister manned lunch and party-clean-up for the older two.

I’m ashamed to admit it, but I did not do well with Marilla’s nap time needs.  I felt she’d robbed me of special time with Keturah, and I took it out on her.  I was impatient as she took her bottle.  When she had trouble settling (and remember, she’d spent the morning being overstimulated) I just felt angry.  I demanded that she “relax” and “stop moving around,” and “go to sleep”.  I resented her presence and her needs because they seemed maliciously in direct opposition to my own desires.

I did eventually get to leave a sleeping Marilla’s side, but I must have carried that anger and resentment along with me.  It only escalated when a premature wake up dictated that I excuse myself from listening to Keturah’s pretend play with her stuffed animals in her kitty-cat box to tend to Marilla.

D — Desperate.

I don’t like to admit to anger or resentment.  Or desperation.  But I’m glad that the range of intense emotions that I felt on that afternoon lead me to that place of admitting that it was so hard that it hurt, and that I just couldn’t hold it together on my own.

As I rocked an unhappy and over-tired two-year-old in my arms and desperately prayed aloud over her, she finally settled again.  At the end of all of my own resources, I crawled to the opposite side of our bed, and just cried my heart out to heaven.  No words.  Just tears.

It’s uncomfortable to be desperate.  And I loathe the process of getting there.  I hate that I don’t learn enough from these cycles: holding-it-together –> anger & resentment.  I want to be living there in that final place of desperation that’s so inevitable at this particularly challenging stage of life.

It’s in the desperate moments that I realize how high and unreasonable my own expectations are, and how it’s not my job to meet every need of each my children all of the time—however much I’d like to.

So, yes, Keturah’s birthday was really, really hard.  That’s the rest of the story.  The honest truth.

Funny how that stuff doesn’t end up in the birthday pictures, somehow, but I would hate to forget it.

___________________________

Kim Smith

Kim met and married her husband Patrick while living and working in Asia in 2004. Their first two children, a son and a daughter, both born in Beijing, came along shortly after. Their adopted daughter, Marilla, was born in Henan province in 2010, then joined their family through the China adoption program as a two-year-old. After fourteen years of serving in China, Kim and the Smith family repatriated to Texas just this last fall. She formerly blogged about their lives overseas at Asiaramblin.

During the Process

During the adoption process, there are few things more fierce than the determination of an adoptive mama (or baba) to get to her baby. She has a strange, indescribable love for her child that carries such intensity, it’s often overwhelming. The “my-claws-will-come-out-if-you-get-in-my-way” mama bear protective instincts kind-of-love are ferocious and very real. Anything that stands in the way of getting to her baby is met with aggressive determination to overcome. She is her child’s best earthly advocate and she knows it, so she fights with love for her baby in a way that may appear insane to bystanders. To have such powerful feelings for a child, sometimes living on the other side of the world who she has never met, is confusing for many people. It’s not logical and makes no sense. I know this. But love often doesn’t make sense, does it? And I am, once again, feeling these intense emotions as we wait to bring Dumpling home. Maya Angelou said, “Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.” Yes, that sweet Maya Angelou, who’s poetry I so enjoyed reading when I was younger, knew a thing or two about love.

Knowing that my God is fighting even harder to bring him home to us makes the feelings even more intense and staggering. He is already moving mountains, and I am anticipating Him continuing to overcome barriers in amazing ways as the process continues. I am so grateful for the opportunity to bring a SON home through adoption, to experience God’s intense love for His children in a small earthly way. Knowing that we will bring Dumpling home at the end of this long process is what keeps me focused and pushing forward. He is waiting for us and doesn’t even know it. I think about him all the time. I look at the clock, factor the 12 hour difference, and wonder what he’s doing. I study his referral paperwork over and over to try to memorize his routine, realizing that it’s probably different because the information is a year old. I cling to the information I have nonetheless. I watch the few videos I have of him obsessively. I stare at his pictures, looking for any new piece of information I may not have noticed before. I wonder if he got enough to eat today, if he got to play with friends, and if his boo-boos were kissed. I wonder if someone loved him today, yesterday, last week, last month. I wonder if he knows he matters. I wonder if he knows what hope is. I wonder if he knows how much he’s loved, by us and his heavenly Father.

Despite all that I don’t know right now, I know that He knows. And that gives me peace. I know that the Father has His hand on our precious little guy and He loves Dumpling more than I can imagine. His love is stronger and greater and mightier. His love is deep and His love is wide. His love prevails and crosses all oceans. His love is all we need, and knowing that is so freeing.

I’ll finish with this sweet quote from the late Maya Angelou: “I am grateful to have been loved and to be loved now and to be able to love, because that liberates. Love liberates. It doesn’t just hold—that’s ego. Love liberates. It doesn’t bind. Love says, ‘I love you. I love you if you’re in China. I love you if you’re across town. I love you if you’re in Harlem. I love you. I would like to be near you. I’d like to have your arms around me. I’d like to hear your voice in my ear. But that’s not possible now, so I love you …’”

 _____________________________

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.

 

{their vision is valuable} make it happen

  In March, The Sparrow Fund led our first team to serve at an orphanage in China. A team of 13 people from all over the United States held babies, taught preschoolers how to play London Bridge and blow bubbles, and built relationships with the staff who serve the 300 orphans in their care day in and day out. It was a foundational trip in an ongoing work. As we plan the next trip there in October, only a few months from now, we are looking forward to being able to do more as trust has been built. Among our team of 14, we have a neonatal nurse and several occupational therapists who will be able to assess children and gently encourage their caregivers to better care for them. We’re also offering something entirely new. It’s super exciting but we need help to make it happen.

Ben Leaman who generously volunteered to be part of our team in March, has agreed to join us again and bring something incredible to the older children there—a photography workshop for 10 young adults (aged 10-14). Using a custom designed 5-day curriculum, we will be teaching them photography basics but also speaking to their hearts to show them that they are beauty makers and creators and that their vision is valuable.

As Ansel Adams pointed out, you don’t make a photograph with just a camera. But, we do need equipment or we cannot offer this program. We are seeking Valuable Vision sponsors, people like you who understand the significance of what we’re doing and want to come alongside a specific child to allow him or her the privilege of joining us to be mentored in photography and heart.

Be a Valuable Vision Sponsor

Through a donation of $200, you will be sponsoring one child to be a part of our program. Your $200 will pay for the camera, camera case, and memory card he or she will use for the class (note that we have been given a discounted price for the equipment). You will also pay for the in-country printing of some of the child’s shots for him or her to keep as well as the printing of a portrait for the child to keep as well as to be placed in his or her orphanage file—a shot that could be potentially used for advocating for that child as well if he or she becomes available for adoption.

As a sponsor, we want to engage you in your child’s vision. You will receive professionally printed artwork of one of your child’s prints (8×12 freestanding Standout) as well as your child’s portrait and a small gift purchased specifically for you during the trip to Shaanxi, China this fall (all funded by another source).

There are only 10 Valuable Vision sponsor spots—don’t miss the opportunity to have your family be one of them. Click on the button below to secure your sponsorship spot.




If the $200 sponsorship is beyond your means right now but you want to support this program and make sure it happens, consider giving a lesser amount of perhaps $100 or $50. Your donation of any amount will ensure our being able to offer and continue this program so that orphans are mentored in a skill and can know that their vision is valuable.

Please note that with all donations to The Sparrow Fund, your gift is tax deductible to the full extent of the law. 

Abandonment {Summer Rewind}

Abandonment.

Conscious or unconscious, it is a fear that plagues the adopted child.

Jesus is teaching me, gently and quietly, about this fear and how it takes shape in my own son.  I don’t like to think about it, because I want to believe that my son knows he is safe, secure and loved.  I don’t like the thought of him feeling afraid or insecure.  But the reality is, his beautiful life’s story has a fear woven into it that I may never be able to truly comprehend.  And I pray that someday the love of Jesus reaches deep within and heals its scars.

Sometimes I think people believe that when a child is adopted young, that they don’t remember.  We think that they happily move from the arms of a grieving birth mother into the arms of a loving adoptive family and never know the difference.   And we think that surely after they have been with their adoptive family for a while and seem happy and adjusted, everything must be just roses and butterflies.

My son’s tears tell me otherwise.

We have been incredibly blessed with a beautiful and smooth transition as our son entered our family from his foster family.  He didn’t even cry when we took him from the adoption agency’s office back to our hotel.  As a matter of fact, he fell asleep in my arms as we rode in the taxi, captivated by our dark-haired angel.  At first, the nights were hardest.  He would wake up multiple times, screaming and crying.  But as time went on, the nights got easier and the days were full of laughter and joy.

He transitioned well into preschool, crying when I left him but stopping quickly after and enjoying the day with his classmates.  Leaving him in the church nursery has gotten easier.  He has stayed away from us overnight with grandparents.  In most ways, he is a completely normal toddler- fully adjusted and secure.

But sometimes.

Sometimes I see the look of panic rise in his eyes when I begin to walk away, even just up the stairs in our home, that can only come from a deep place of hurt and fear.  In those moments, he isn’t just a typical toddler wanting his mommy.  He is a child who has been abandoned by all things familiar and safe and is overcome by fear of it happening again.

I’ll be honest.  Sometimes it is exhausting.

There are days when it seems especially close to the surface and it doesn’t take much to set him off.  Being a mom of three, I can’t always just drop everything and hold him.  But I am learning that convenience is secondary to fulfilling the need my son has to know he is safe.  Loved.  Secure.

I know that as he grows, we will continue to deal with the scars left by his past.  There may be emotions and situations that are hard to understand.  But I am thankful for the grace of God that gives us wisdom and discernment in those situations.  And I fully believe in the power of Jesus Christ that can transform a heart that has been abandoned into a heart that finds its complete security in Him.  Because, after all, Jesus knows.  He was abandoned too.

“About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabacthani?’ (which means ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?'”  Matthew 27:46

Oh, beautiful Savior, that He would endure abandonment from God the Father, just so he could feel and understand the pain my son feels.  Jesus knows.

If you are another adoptive parent dealing with the grief of your child, take heart!  You are not alone.  Jesus Himself understands the pain of your child and is able to give you the strength you need to love them through their pain.

Maybe you yourself have buried the fear of abandonment deep down inside of you from a past experience that sometimes takes shape in fear.  Be encouraged today that Jesus understands.  And He can heal that pain, remove the fear and replace it with the security of knowing you are His.  Nothing can change that.

Today I am so very thankful for a Savior who loves my son so much more deeply than I could ever dream of.

And I wait in hopeful expectation of the day when my son realizes that he was never truly abandoned, but that His Heavenly Father was with him all along.

_____________________________

Heather Fallis

Heather Fallis

Heather and her husband Derick stay busy raising their two biological daughters and their son who came to their family from South Korea in 2012.  They are youth pastors at their local church and Heather is a director of a private Christian preschool. When she is not working or spending time loving on her family, you can find her sharing coffee with friends, writing, making music, or getting creative [messy] in the kitchen. You can follow their family’s journey at www.ourheart-n-seoul.com.