Monthly Archives: September 2014

Weight

I promised a blog detailing the wonderful, joy-filled adoption of our daughters. It is coming. I promise. But today, I have heavier things on my heart and I wanted to share in the moment.

There is a little baby boy sleeping soundly on my chest as I write this. He doesn’t weigh much. Only a smidge over 9 lbs. However, one would think – judging from the heaviness of my heart – that he weighed a couple tons.

I have only known Mr “I” for 7 days. I firmly believe in love at first sight. It’s happened to me a couple times in my life and last Wednesday morning was no exception. The adoption of our daughters had been finalized only a week and a day when we got “the call.” Fellow foster parents know what call I’m referring to.

“…baby boy…almost 2 months old…dropped off at our office…adorable…needs a bath…length of placement is guessed to be short-term…adorable…baby boy…”

We hadn’t really planned on being ready that fast, but there is nothing quite like a call like this. In my years of reading as a teenager and young adult, I always loved the stories of foundling babies. Babies who appeared on your doorstep or young ones left on church steps. There is something inside the heart of a mother (whether she is already a mother or not!) that aches and longs for the idea of a little one that needy. Someone unable to care for themselves who needs you to love them. Love them, snuggle them, care for them. A little one who has experienced the opposite of this kind of care creates a cry for love that you simply cannot resist. These calls from DCS are the modern day equivalent to that. And you fall in love. Hopelessly, fully, completely in love. Maybe because you know its right. Maybe because you can’t help it. Maybe because you know that every child – no matter how long they will be in your care – deserves to be loved with the unconditional, secure, unending love of parents. Of a daddy. A mommy.

I am writing this just an hour after receiving another call. This was the call letting me know that we would be saying goodbye to Mr “I” today.

Now you may be reading and saying to yourself, “Oh, this is the reason for the weight on her heart.”

I’ve just gotta be real with you all. I started writing this blog in my head (yes, I write them in my head first) when I was up on the couch feeding little man in the wee hours of the morning during that very first night. That weight really comes from the very first moment you feel the responsibility. From the moment you fall in love. So…instantly.

I believe that the special love of a parent to a child always comes with weight. That ache deep in your heart that is hard to describe. However (without having experienced the weight of love for a biological child personally), I believe that the weight of loving a foster child is very different. The weight of the deep, instantaneous, embedded in your heart forever love is tied together with a pain that is equally as strong. And, those two emotions are tied so closely together it is hard to tell where one begins and the other ends. It touches each aspect of your life as you care for these precious children.

When you count the fingers and toes, reveling in their tinyness, there is the weight of wondering – how did it feel for biological mommy to count them during those first hours of life.
When you hear the tiny snores and feel the weight of a soundly sleeping body, there is the weight of pain – not yours, but the pain felt by a biological parent not experiencing these moments – not even knowing where their child is.
When you are awakened with cries of night terrors or devise special feeding plans to provide nourishment that was lacking, there is the weight of anger – anger directed towards whoever could treat a precious child in such a way.
When the smile directed at you is a result of your voice and face, there is the weight of loss – knowing that this little one does not belong to you.
There is the weight of moments lost to you that you will never know, the weight of responsibility to cherish the moment you are in now – not knowing how many you will have, and there is the weight of handing the child back to another person – probably forever.
There is the weight of knowing that you have given this child a place in your heart. Forever. And the weight of knowing that you will not always be there. You won’t always get to heal the hurts, or calm the fears. They will probably have to experience those again and your arms will not be there to hold them.

And, as a believer in Christ, there is the weight of trust. Trust in the all-sovereign Savior. This weight must be the heaviest because He is the only one who sees and knows all things. He knows the desperate longing of my heart to see this child again. For eternity. He hears the fervent, tear-filled prayers that the introduction to His love received in our home – no matter how brief – would be a seed. He sees the path of this precious little one – things that have been, are, and will be. And He loves. So much more perfectly than I ever could. He is good. And He is the one we must cling to. He is the one who called us to this kind of love for others and He is the one who will hold our hearts in His love as the weight breaks them over and over again.

And there is the settled weight of peace. There is peace in resting in the care of our loving Father who knows the weight. Who has experienced the weight. Who will bring justice, right the wrongs, and wipe away our tears. In His time. In his perfect plan.

We love you, little man!

WAGI Weight post

 

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Lydia Brownfield

Lydia Brownfield

Lydia Brownfield lives in Indiana with her husband Justin and their three daughters. They have been foster parents since 2011 and were thrilled to finalize the adoption of their daughters this year. They hope to continue to show God’s love to the many precious kiddos God will bring through their home – for whatever length of time He sees fit to leave them there. You can follow their journey on her blog, After All.

No Matter What!

Thank you all so much for your prayers, the notes of love and encouragement for our sweet Hasya, and for just being a part of her life (and her journey to healing) from afar. It means the absolute world to me. Seriously!

Yesterday was so painful. Another fracture was something we definitely were not expecting. Seeing your child suffer and remembering why this happens is so hard. As amazingly well as Hasya has done in the past eighteen months, the journey still remains one of many highs and many lows too.

Yesterday was a very big low.

While excellent nutrition and huge growth have possibly helped her fragile bones a little, the truth is that her osteoporosis is something that may never fully go away, according to her doctors. The x-rays yesterday showed us just how paper-thin her bones still are. Once again, no plates could surgically be inserted to strengthen the femur that snapped–there simply is not enough bone to work with.

Today, as my strong, brave, courageous little love lies quietly in her bed, I am once again reminded that God has a plan and a purpose for her life that my human heart cannot fathom.

Last Sunday Anthony preached in our beloved church. Completely unplanned and led by the Holy Spirit, he walked over to our Hasya who was at the back of the church. Daddy gently picked up his beautiful daughter in his arms and carried her to the front of the church.

“Do you see this child? Some day Hasya will be free of all pain and all suffering. Some day she will be standing in front of me in heaven and she will use her voice for the first time. And she’ll be smiling. She may say thank you for giving me a life. And I’ll say to her, ‘No, sweetheart, turn and look next to you. HE is who you should thank. It’s all for HIM. He just asked us to do it. You see, this life matters. It matters in heaven. And it matters here on earth. Her life matters for all eternity.”

Yes, it does! Every day God gives us with this precious child is a gift from heaven. And though there are times when it certainly is not easy and our hearts ache at the things she has to endure…

…it is such a joy and and an honor to be the ones who hold her hand in the good times and in the tough times too.

We’ll press forward and trust, with the help of her doctors and her Father in heaven who leads us on, that we can find ways to make life more comfortable for our sweet girl. Whether God chooses to heal her here on earth or if that will only happen when He takes her home, I have no clue. That is not for me to know.

For today we’ll choose to be thankful for the amazing progress that she has made…

….and leave the rest in His loving, faithful hands.

The Father never promised that the journey would be easy.

But He did promise that He would gently lead and guide us, give us peace that passes all understanding when the storms coming knocking at our door, fill us with wisdom from heaven, and show us the way when we need clear direction.

Because He’s just so very faithful like that!

Today we’ll choose to rejoice in all that He has done and we’ll embrace this journey with everything that we have.

No matter what!

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_MG_4340-EditAdeye is a blessed daughter of the King of Kings, wife to the most amazing man in the world and mommy to nine beautiful children. Three sons the good old fashioned way, two special needs princesses from China, two angelic treasures who have Down syndrome from Ukraine, and two amazing blessings who also have profound special needs recently adopted from Bulgaria.  We’re crazy about Jesus, learning daily about total surrender, passionate about adoption, and learning every day how to live life to the fullest with various special needs and medically fragile children.  I share my passions, my heart, my victories, my struggles, and my daily life on my blog, No Greater Joy Mom.

The Power of Pursuit

The summer that she turned three, my baby sister very uncharacteristically woke up almost every night to the silence of her new home – our home. She would grab her favorite blanket, and make her way into my room, disgruntled hair and soft, silk-like pajamas dancing shadows on my wall.

I learned to expect the touch of her little hand on my cheek, waking me up, begging for my attention.

We quickly found the sweetest of routines. I would lead her back into her room and climb up next to her on her twin size bed.  She would wrap her arm around me as her eyes bounced open and closed, her chubby hand placed securely on my back, as if reminding me to stay close.

Only when I was sure she was sleeping soundly, would I peel her arms off of me and tiptoe out. I always turned back to look at her, noting how she appeared just a little bit more beautiful as each insecurity spilled out of her and was subsequently made visible to me; a deep sign of trust. I marveled at the love a high school senior and a preschool baby shared for each other, that if not for adoption, we would never have even known each other. I think of us walking this earth, leading separate lives, unaware of how we were meant to be sisters. We truly never understand grace until it is staring us boldly in the face.

Stephanie Davis Photography http://www.stephaniesblog.com/

Stephanie Davis Photography http://www.stephaniesblog.com/

The challenges of adoption are not lost to me. A three-year-old wanting to find the security of snuggles in the dead of night? Hardly a challenge. It’s easy to find the grace there, to see the beauty and recognize the fiercest feelings of love. Truly a grace – a bold grace. We could wrap that moment up in a beautiful pink ribbon and call it adoption.

I fear though, that when we focus solely on the feel- good moments, we miss out on the strongest of graces. I think of the gospel, of my very own story of adoption, and see the power of His pursuit. What makes the gospel story of adoption so magnificent is that even when I was dead – when I was running full speed away from the cross- Jesus found me; He pulled me out of my self and my sin and my insecurities and sufferings and pain and beckoned that I come to Him. He pursued relentlessly; He pursues me today, and tomorrow, when my soul is sucked dry and my flesh is weak, He will pursue me again. That’s grace.

This grace is bigger and deeper than my mind is capable of comprehending today – or ever. I am not always eagerly crawling up onto my Abba Father’s lap – rather, He is drawing me out of the depths and bringing me gently and magnificently to Himself. He is doing the pursuing. This pursuit is powerful, because it changes lives – my life. 

I am years away from making sense of the hurt and pain associated with adoption. I have resolved that there are things about my siblings’ stories I will never understand or be able to call okay this side of eternity. I am slowly learning, painstakingly slowly, to find the grace associated with pursuit.  If my God can pursue me, even when I am trapped in my deepest sin, then surely I can give an extra minute or an extra thought to the pursuit of walking with my siblings as they work to heal and love and trust again.

The nights that my baby sister climbed up onto my bed were undoubtedly powerful moments. That beauty can be spotted a mile away. I am thankful, though, for the glimpses I get into the pain. I am learning to see a grace manifested when there are moments or seasons, sometimes-long seasons, of tears, rage, hurt, and pushing away; these are the moments that are not so beautiful, and yet, they are filled to the brim with grace. I see it. Through my dimly lit, deeply obscured, self-seeking life, I can still make out this boldest of graces.

This grace is different from the feel-good moments. Yet, it is one so deep and wide and vast I can hardly make sense of it. It is a grace that sometimes has to sit simply in the knowledge of love – of getting to be invested in hurting lives -even in seasons of darkness, when the feel-good feelings are obstructed from my view. I have learned that these moments are powerful and transformative, because they rest in something so much greater than a hug or a laugh or a captured moment for Instagram. These grace moments are the transformative type; they are moments so long and rich that they last from earth all the way until our welcome into heaven. We may not even know the power of these grace moments until we enter into heaven’s gates. These moments are not broken apart by hurtful words or behavioral outbursts. They stand secure, unwavering amidst the hard, painful, seemingly hopeless moments of life.

This is adoption. It is a bold love that is not scared of seeing hurt, touching hurt, or being hurt. There is truly transformative power in the pursuit of loving another hurting soul. I am thankful when that love looks like a baby sister climbing up into bed, quietly pursuing my love; I am equally thankful for the days when I get to do the challenging work of pursuing the heart of a hurting child, because it is in those moments that I more fully understand the passionate love my Savior has for me.

May this life be one filled with pursuit – showing grace and being grace to the hurting children in our lives.

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KyleeKylee recently graduated with a bachelor’s degree in social work and is currently working at a child-placing agency while going back to school to pursue a masters in social work. Her parents jumped into the crazy world of foster care just days before her 8th birthday and cared for numerous infants and toddlers over a ten-year time span; four of those kids later became permanent family members through adoption. Kylee is passionate about learning how to better love her siblings from “hard places” and loves sharing about this journey and passion on her personal blog Learning to Abandon. 

 

A Lesson in Trust . . . the Adoption Wait

Waiting.

How many of us like to wait? 

I’ve always disliked waiting.  Even as a child, it was one of my least favorite things. I liked to know the ending of stories before I finished reading or watching them, much to the dismay of many family and friends (this is still true today, just ask my husband!).

I didn’t like waiting for presents. As a child, I used to scour the house every year looking for my mom’s latest hiding place for presents which were typically neatly packed in a lovely flowered cardboard box. Sometimes I was successful in finding “the box”, sometime not. One year I came home from school, walked back to her room looking for her, only to discover the “present box” open on her bed! Pure bliss!

Now that you’ve had a glimpse into my childhood, translate this to my adult life. I’m sure you can imagine all the lessons God has had to teach me in patience and trust. 

Then, translate this again to the adoption wait. Nail bitingly difficult for me! 

The wait for children has probably been one of the biggest opportunity for growth for me in my Christian life. My five-year struggle with infertility was a real trial and lesson in patience in waiting on the Lord . . . learning to trust Him and His plans, not my plans. Recognizing that it is all out of my hands was a huge adjustment but a necessary and important life lesson.

Once I had accepted His awesome and amazing plan A for our lives, adoption, the waiting began again.

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As we begin our third adoption (yes that’s right, friends, we are in process on our third adoption!), I’ll let you in on a little secret. The waiting doesn’t get any easier!

You see pictures of this precious child that belongs in your family and all you can think about is how long each step of the process will take. How many months will you wait before you hold that child in your arms. Each passing day feels like an eternity, precious time lost. Moments and memories slipping by with you unaware. You wonder about your child’s needs, hopes and dreams, desiring to meet them. But it is all out of our hands. They are in the hands of our heavenly Father who loves them above all things and meets their needs in ways we never can, will or should. 

So as my frustration with the wait has been building over the past few weeks, God spoke to me very clearly through my son who came to us two years ago from China at the age of 8. My mom asked him on the eve of his 10th birthday what he liked about America. He first said having a family who loved him (so sweet), but when my mom said, “Anything else?”, he said, “Oh! God!” He further explained that while in China he used to wonder if there must someone great and amazing who loved him. Just think, not only did my son wait 8 years to feel our arms about him, he waited 8 years just to hear the name of God. Talk about convicting!

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So why I am focusing on the wait? Why I am obsessing over something so temporal? Why I am taking my eyes off Jesus, the author and finisher of my faith?

What if instead of focusing on the wait, I focused on God and His love for me and my new little one who is waiting too.

What if instead of lamenting how long adoption takes, I take that time to pray for my precious ones entrusted to me by God.

What if each time I cry out in frustration at the adoption process, I instead turn it into an opportunity to deepen my relationship with God.

It isn’t about us, it’s all about Him. 

All in His time and for His glory alone.

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Suzanne Meledeo

After struggling with infertility for 5 years, God led Suzanne and her husband Adam to His Plan A for their lives—adoption! Their daughter, Grace Lihua, came into their lives in 2011 from the Fujian Province, China. Their son, Anthony Jianyou, joined their family in January of 2013 from Shanghai, and another little girl will be joining their family in 2015 from the Hunan Province. After a career in politics, Suzanne is thankful for God’s provision in their lives that now allows her to work part time as a Pilates instructor while home schooling their children and working as a part of the WAGI leadership team. You can follow their adoption journey and life on their blog, Surpassing Greatness.

Waiting

I don’t like waiting.

I am the girl that always chooses the longest line at the grocery store.  Well.. actually…I choose one of the shorter lines, but something always happens that causes my line to move slower than all of the other ones.  Always might be a little dramatic, but you know what I mean.

Waiting is hard because it usually means you aren’t doing anything.  You have done everything in your power that you can do.  During the waiting periods for both of our adoptions, I remember saying, “If God could just tell me how long I was going to have to wait, it would be so much easier to handle.”  Moving forward is so much easier than being at a standstill.

Looking back, those waiting times were really sweet times for me and the Lord.

And these two were definitely worth the wait.  10478708_10152616495539120_3312072202697036569_n

We are in a different season of waiting now.  Waiting to see if our family will grow again.  I’ve written about it before.  We trust God, that if it’s time to move forward, he will give us the green light to do so.

Another standstill.

So, instead of spending my time wondering what will happen, I am fixing my heart and mind on what I do know.

The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge.  He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.  Psalm 18:2

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.  Psalm 46:1

I am he, I am he who will sustain you.  I have made you and I will carry you;  I will sustain you and I will rescue you.  Isaiah 46:4

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.  Matthew 11:28-30

Maybe you are waiting. Waiting for paperwork to go through. Waiting for an answer from God about whether or not you should adopt. Waiting to go meet your child in another country. Waiting to bring your child home.  {Congo mamas…I’m praying hard for you.}  Waiting to be chosen by an expectant mom. Waiting for your spouse to be on board with you.

Whatever you are waiting for, my prayer is that you turn to the ONE who wants the very best for you. His best…not what you think is best.

Psalms 27:13-14 I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living! Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!

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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.

Years in the Making

whitson postOn August 12, 2014, we officially became a family of five.

The adoption of our daughter, Kariah Whitson, was finalized by a kind judge who has adopted two children as well.

I can’t put into words the feelings of the last nine months, but my husband Matt and I have written plenty about it already. What I haven’t written about is the journey to get to her. It was years in the making.

Excerpts from my prayer journal

April 2, 2009 (less than a week after Kariah was born):  Lord, you know what I’ve been struggling with over the last couple of weeks. I need clarity please. I feel like we’re good parents, and you’ve blessed us so much. I feel like we should share that. Having four kids scares me to death. What if I don’t have enough time or patience to give them all the attention they need? Transracial adoption scares me too. What if we don’t know how to do that well? … I have so many questions. I trust you, God. I will not live in fear. If this is your will, you will provide the money. You will give us the patience and wisdom to raise them well. You’ll give us everything we need if this is your will for our family.

September 19, 2009:  I’m so scared about adding more children. I love our family as it is, and I like having two. But more than that, I want your will for our family. You alone know what our family is supposed to be and how it should be formed. And if it’s what you want for our family, please place that on Matt’s heart as well.

November 3, 2009:  It’s so hard for me to rest in this, not knowing what it means or how or when. I am trying to take my will out of it completely, and just be open to what you have for us. I want what you want. I want to not have the kids be really far apart, but you know what’s best. I don’t want to start over in 5 years, but you know the plan. I just want to play my part in it.

December 22, 2009:  Thank you for the confirmation this morning. I am ready to adopt again. I want what you want for our family, even if it’s hard and requires sacrifice. I also want your timing, so I will continue to wait on Matt to be ready and feel like it’s the right time.

September 13, 2010 (after two potential adoptions fell through):  If adoption is not what you have for us, please help me see that. Give me peace to close the door and move on emotionally. I want to be obedient, Lord, but I don’t know what you are saying. I don’t know why you’ve led us down the path you have, but I don’t have to understand.

March 28, 2011:  I’ve been avoiding you, I’m sure you noticed. I don’t want to talk about the baby thing. I’m tired of talking about it, feeling confused, getting frustrated, and repeating that process. Nothing is changing. I can think it to death all day, but it comes down to me not understanding what happened two years ago when I felt so clearly that you were calling us to adopt again.

October 22, 2013:  I’m not sure what to say right now. Here we are again with another adoption situation in our path. How many times are we going to do this? Please make your will clear to us. And for this sweet little 4-year-old girl, Kariah, please prepare her little heart for the changes she’s about to endure. Open her heart for her new family that she can attach and bond quickly. Comfort her in her inevitable grief. Give wisdom to her new family that they can love her well and support her in her grief and transition. And Lord, if she is to be our daughter, prepare us, prepare the boys, and give us peace and joy in the process.

October 23, 2013:  Can we just talk about Kariah today? I’m feeling the weight of that more each day. Are we prepared to raise an African American girl? And a very wounded one at that? If this is your plan, equip us for that. If she needs to go to another family, prepare my heart. I’m tired of being disappointed. I’m tired of adoption situations coming before us constantly, especially considering our conversations about adoption 4 years ago and my confusion ever since. I keep waiting for it to make sense, but it doesn’t.

One month later, Riah was home with us, and it all started making sense. God did indeed change Matt’s heart. The man who wasn’t interested in adoption said he felt something change the moment he saw her picture. And when we met her for the first time, we both knew she would be ours. I wish I could say my faith never wavered, but I can’t. For four-and-a-half years, my faith and doubts danced together. You may have noticed that I often referred to four kids in my prayers. That’s because I kept thinking there would be two, and I still haven’t ruled that fourth one out. But I’ll just let God work and see what happens.

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Becca WhitsonMatt and Becca write about marriage, parenting, and life through the lens of a married couple, parenting team, and pastor and professional counselor. They share hope and restoration by giving a glimpse into their lives- the failures, the successes, and the brokenness and beauty of everyday. You can read more of their writing at WhitsonLife.

The Fruits of Attachment Labor

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While we were waiting to bring Sunshine home back in 2010 and 2011, I learned as much as I could about fostering attachment. I tried to memorize all of the attachment advice. Build trust by meeting needs quickly, check. Be the only ones to meet all of her needs, check. Love unconditionally, check. Don’t let other people hold her, check. Wear her for as long as she’ll let me, check. Cocoon for a few months after coming home, check. The list goes on, but those were the ones that stuck in my head. The ones I repeated over and over.

Sounds easy enough, I suppose. Except, it wasn’t.

I prayed a lot and became very close to God during that time. Sometimes I got the attachment thing right, but I failed miserably many other times. Occasionally, I felt isolated because most of our friends didn’t understand. Many of our extended family members didn’t understand either. Sunshine appeared “fine,” so I’m pretty sure a few of them thought I was being a controlling crazy person. It’s hard to put into words how much I desperately wanted to protect the bond with her! I should have done a better job explaining the attachment theories back then though. Maybe it would have made more sense to everyone else. I had only a few friends to lean on for support in those first months home. I relied on them and my husband heavily, and we pushed forward.

Fortunately, attachment came easily for Sunshine. I think her strength and bravery, coupled with the year with her foster mother really helped her thrive. I didn’t fully realize it then, but it was such a blessing! Over time, attachment became less of a concern as our precious girl blossomed into the child God created her to be. We became less intentional about attachment based on her cues, but I always remained protective. Hence, the reason it took a year and a half before I was ready to leave her in the church nursery.

Fast forward to this past week. Over three years home with us. It was a big week of firsts. First Mandarin lesson with a new teacher. First day of homeschool co-op with a new tutor. First day of Community Bible Study (CBS) with another new teacher. First day on the IEP with a new speech-language pathologist. That’s a lot of firsts, even for an adult!

And you know what? She rocked it. Every single new adventure I threw at her. Rocked all of it. When I picked her each time, she was beaming with a smile that clearly showed how happy she was. She has been asking for “dat Chinese wady” since her lesson. She has been singing the new songs she learned in co-op. And she said the only thing she didn’t like at CBS was “da bwocks” … I’ll call all of that a big win. I couldn’t have been anymore proud of her, she tackled it all so beautifully.

As I reflected on Sunshine’s successes this week, I thought back to those first few months home. The intentional attachment parenting was worth it. Every bit of it. To see her effortlessly thriving in so many new environments is absolutely priceless. I have a smile on my face just thinking about how well she did. It can be hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel on some days, but the fruits of all that attachment labor are paying off in such big ways.

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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.

 

Not My Dream

Melanie photo

Is this really my life?

I fought hard against this calling.

This is not what I really wanted.

I wanted a simple life.

Holding a child in my arms who is thrashing against all my efforts to love is not what I dreamed for motherhood.

Continual disruptions of birth family visits, social workers, and court dates.

I signed up for this?

A child slipping into an infantile state and wailing for anyone else to come hold her besides me.

Anyone but me.

Muffled sobs against my shoulder that she wants her brothers who live with another foster family on the other side of town.

And I rock and struggle to draw her flailing form into my arms. She shrieks foreign gutteral sounds.

After returning from a visit with birth family. This is what happens. Last time it was projectile vomiting.

And I rock and whisper…

I know you are confused. I know you are angry. Mommy loves you. Will you be my baby and let me rock you?

Over and over we do this. My chest heaving with hers, our tears mixing a salty stream between us.

I hear it all the time: I could never be a foster parent. I just couldn’t let them go.

Really? Maybe God is calling you to foster care.

Seriously.

You want to know a secret?

I said the exact.same.thing.

Do you think we do this because our hearts are stone hard and we have a special gift in letting go? Or that we’re not fearful?

We’ve wrestled with every fear and reason why we shouldn’t do this. For years.

Even when we signed up for ten weeks of intensive training, we still questioned: Is this what we’re supposed to be doing?

We walked the tough road of watching my daughter’s best friend and her foster family. After three years, she went home to her mama.

Difficult circumstances. Gut-wrenching pain.

He pricked our hearts a long time ago. And in His perfect timing and plan, we jumped in. He used a friendship in my Kindergarten daughter’s life, along with our broken past to draw us in.

We decided we would start slowly by trying respite care- ministering to foster families when they needed a break.

We got a call before we were licensed. To take a seven-year-old boy for a week. That week rocked my world.

He was the same age as our middle son.

He endlessly spoke of his losses, his words permeating every quiet space. My ears burned with stories of his past– his mama’s choices, his grief.

My kids were carefree, laughing and talking about superheroes. An empty gap in the conversation erupted as this dear boy attempted to connect by sharing his stories of drugs, police, and guns.

Talk about a real-life superheroes. These kids that endure the worst of life and still keep going. Continuing to hope. They are the superheroes.

My boys fought like tigers all that week. The extra testosterone in the mix pressing against their comforts– their stuff (specifically Legos).

My chest was a cavity of shards every night I knelt down with him. He was a bundle of blankets and tears asking why. Every.single.night. Anguish and prayers for his mama.

I thought I would die. I didn’t know how to handle this.

Was this really where He was calling us?

His mama’s addiction was the same that caught my husband and our family in a net and almost destroyed our lives four years beforehand.

No mistake this sweet boy was our first placement. A ripping away of our comforts. A reminder of our rescue- what our lives could have been.

A bursting of our children’s comforts is not a bad thing. They are called to more, just as we are.

I am repeatedly caught off-guard by how children love with pure hearts. No agenda or to-do list.

My kids are big sinners, like us, but they are unencumbered by life or worries. A freedom to love without bounds that I don’t have.

Babies seemed to rain from the sky last summer. My kids spent the months of June and July bouncing fussy babies, feeding hungry ones, and bringing joy to little faces.

While this mama breathed into a paper bag, trying to regulate my oxygen level. Because it was hard.

Deeply loving other people’s kids. Adjusting to different schedules and stages of babies.

As my kids begged for more babies, my heart was doubtful. Unsure if I could handle and manage this calling.

So, we detoured–pursued adoption for six months, while we continued to serve as a respite foster family.

We thought adoption seemed safer, you know? Ha! Insane thinking- my adoption friends can tes.ti.fy to that…adoption bears it’s own heavy grief and uncertainties.

The Lord shut the door on adoption for us. We ran after every country and adoption agency known to man. He slammed that door tight.

I grieved all last summer. The realization set in– He was cementing our feet in foster care.

We couldn’t run from our calling, our passion. We couldn’t unloosen what He had sealed in our hearts.

And the phone call came in October.

Would we take the little bitty girl we loved with all our hearts?

The one that had us all wrapped around her tiny brown fingers.

She had occupied our crib more than any other child, spending countless hours in our home as respite.

Full-time foster care frightened us and kept me up at night, but we knew without a doubt.

We said yes to Little Bitty, jumping in with both feet and all our doubts and fears. Holding out empty hands to the Father. Knowing this was our calling.

We are not extraordinary.

We are normal, fearful, questioning, struggling, people.

Doing what He has called us to do.

Often with anger at injustice and shaking fists.

Much of the time with fear and trembling.

We are still standing.

Because He strengthens the weak-kneed.

Gives hope to the weary.

This is not the dream I had. His plans are bigger and better.

Because we serve an extraordinary God.

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Melanie Singleton

Melanie Singleton

Melanie and her husband, Kevin, have been foster parents for two years. During this time, they have had twelve children in their home. Foster care has challenged their family to look inward at their own brokenness as they seek their Savior to serve the *least of these*. Only by His strength. You can follow their journey on her blog Running to the Father.

 

Together Called 2015 #timetoregister

Bear Creek Slide with registration date

You don’t need another conference. There’s a lot of great conferences out there. I’ve been to them. I’ve taken copious notes, gone to lots of seminars, and met a lot of people. I’ve been blessed by those conferences. But, I can tell you, we don’t need another conference to build some sort of pseudo-resume in our career as parents. We need connection; we need each other; we need rest.

Together Called was born to meet that need. It isn’t just another conference. It is an opportunity to come together, a place for husbands and wives to step out of the chaos we call everyday life and be encouraged, a place for us to learn and fellowship together as individual couples and as a community. It’s a weekend set apart so that you can take a deep breath and commit to lock arms again with your spouse so you can press on in what you have been together called to do.

Please join us there.

bohlender73

The Bohlenders {they’re awesome}

We want you to come gather with us at this retreat designed just for you March 27th-29th, 2015 at the beautiful Bear Creek Mountain Resort in Berks County, Pennsylvania (easily accessible from Lehigh Valley International Airport and Philadelphia International Airport). Randy and Kelsey Bohlender, our keynote speakers, are going to bless our socks off; I just know it.

Because you’re our friends {yes, you reading the We Are Grafted In blog makes us friends}, we’re giving you a bit of a heads up. Last year, Together Called filled in under 5 minutes. Yeah, no joke. We watched our inbox fill with registrations from couples from 14 different states across the country until every spot was gone, a whole 4 minutes and 16 seconds later. We moved to a new venue this year to make room for more couples, but we’re expecting it to fill again. So, friend, go ahead and grab your phone now and set your alarm for 8:55pm EST on Sunday. Registration will open at 9:00pm EST. We’re eagerly anticipating seeing who those 100 couples will be to join us there this year. And, we want you to be one of them.

Wanna know more? See the Upcoming Events page for more details like a schedule for the weekend, cost, and that sort of thing.

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Together Called is offered to families below actual cost because of the generous support of sponsors who know how valuable this retreat is for families around the country. Those sponsors include Norman L. Graham, Inc., Bethany Christian Services’ Lancaster office, Living Hope, Madison Adoption Associates, America World, and the Attachment & Bonding Center of PA.

We need additional sponsorships so that we can meet all the expenses of this retreat. If you wanna hear about what sponsorship entails, email info@sparrow-fund.org.

It’s All About {Connection}

It was a brief phone call; one I (truthfully) did not expect to receive.  Noticing that her Chinese daughter had the same Chinese name as the daughter we were waiting to adopt, I commented on her blog asking about the pronunciation.  She responded saying that since it was hard to describe in an email, she’d give me a call once they returned from their adoption trip.

A call?  Once they are home from China they are going to be exhausted and jetlagged and busy adjusting to life with a new family member.   There is no way she’ll be in any shape to call me about something as minor as a pronunciation.

But call, she did, this mom-whose-blog-I-followed-because-they-were-a-few-steps-ahead-of-us-in-the-process.  Sure, I related to what she shared of her heart and her faith on her blog, but she was still a stranger.  Yet here we were, two excited mommas chattering away because of a connection made via a blog.  Although it was brief, it was a connection that God would soon use.

A few months after that first phone call, my husband and I finally left on our own adoption trip, a trip that held unexpected struggles and heartache.  While our family and friends back home offered loads of prayers and support, it was “that mom I talked to on the phone about a name pronunciation” who intentionally reached out to me through my blog to offer the kind of support only another adoptive momma could offer. God used her to speak His words to me.  And the connection grew.

That was 2010.

Fast forward to today and that connection remains.  It grew stronger through emails and blog comments.  It grew through shared faith and shared passions.  It grew during times of actual meeting-each-other-in-person visits. And it eventually grew to include partnering in some of God’s work with adoptive families through this We Are Grafted In blog.  A small connection through a blog because of a minor similarity in our adoption stories grew into a beautiful friendship.

As crazy as my husband may sometimes think it is, I’ve been blessed with connections of many different kinds through the bloggy world.  A fellow cleft-momma in the South, a sweet adoptive momma who flies by the seat of her pants just like me, a momma from our travel group who was the hands and feet of Jesus on our difficult trip.  For all its craziness, the Internet has made it possible to find connections in spite of distance.  And these connections have meant the world to me as I navigate what it means to mother these beautiful children God has grafted into our family.

The theme of connection is a familiar one in adoption circles.  We mainly think of it in regards to our children who crave a connectedness they often can’t verbalize.  As parents, we strive to find ways to meaningfully connect with our newly – and often not-so-newly – adopted children.  There’s also the new connections we make in our faith once we understand more fully our own spiritual adoption.

Connection is at the very heart of relationship as evidenced in its definition:

relationship  n.noun

  1. The condition or fact of being related; connection or association.
  2. Connection by blood or marriage; kinship.
  3. A particular type of connection existing between people related to or having dealings with each other.

And being connected is at the heart of what we strive to do through this blog, We Are Grafted In.  Grafting joins (or connects) what might otherwise not be connected.  God has grafted us into His family.  He has grafted our children into our families.  We strive to feature posts that will encourage you in your family’s journey of grafting new members in through adoption.  We strive to help you become more connected to your Father.

At the beginning of last season, we stressed the importance of community and our desire for We Are Grafted In to be a place where you could find community or belonging.  This year we want to take it a step further.  Our prayer is that you begin to perhaps find a more personal connection with some of the bloggers who share in this space or with followers of our Facebook page.  We invite you to reach out through commenting or blog visiting or emailing and be intentional about connecting with others in this little piece of the bloggy world.  You never know the connections God has waiting for you!

That former internet-stranger-now-friend recently sent me a postcard.  On it she penned a hand-written note. And while it was written from her to me, it is also what we at We Are Grafted In would like to say to each of you, our readers and contributors…

connected post card

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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.