Yearly Archives: 2015

Enlarged in the Waiting

I love the Advent season. Advent is all about waiting in anticipation, not just for the presents of Christmas morning, but for the manifestation of God’s presence—the increase of His kingdom, in this world, in our situations, in our hearts, in our homes.

We have done a good bit of waiting over the last 15 years of adoptive parenting.  We have waited for paperwork to be approved, for our children to come home, for proficiency in English, for a new normal for our family, for attachment, for healing, for wholeness, for the replacing of an orphan spirit for the Spirit of Adoption that speaks of sonship.

Our spirits are often full with the promises God has spoken to us. Even as I write, I am filled with the satisfaction of a promise already come to pass as I live out the dream in real life! For, like many of you, our children are home and they are no longer orphans. Oh how wonderful that is!

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But there are some of you reading this who are in the waiting- for-your-child-to-come-home stage; you are facing significant obstacles between you and your child being home. I just want to pause this post to add our faith to yours in prayer:

Father God, in faith we believe You for these precious families. We call these children HOME. And we speak to the mountains that would hinder that homecoming and say, Be Moved. Comfort the hearts of our friends who are waiting, and protect these precious treasures who are waiting to come home. Amen. 

 For a few other things that are very dear to my heart though, I am still waiting, feeling the weight of the wait! I am waiting for some promises that have yet to be delivered safe and sound into the arms of our lives. Sometimes the weight feels heavy and wearisome. When it does, I find I must be careful not to allow disappointment to sicken my heart.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire is fulfilled, it is a tree of life. (Proverbs 13:12 AMP)

Do you ever hear those whispers like I do–the ones that say “give up; it’s not going to happen; it is just too hard to continue in hope; the weight of the wait is too burdensome; it would be much easier to quit believing, maybe this is all there is and I should just settle …..”

I am pregnant with a promise from God, and I suspect you are too. For me it is the Promise of Adoption and all that is hidden in the meaning of that word. The promise of deep inner healing for my children, and their wholeness in all areas of their lives–healthy attachment, freedom from the residue of rejection, intimacy with the One who is The Spirit of Adoption.

And in the wait to see the promise delivered I sometimes feel cumbersome, waddling through some days with the weight of it all.

And it is clear to me that the enemy is always after the unborn life, tempting me to abort that unborn promise–to settle for less.

And I recognize the temptation to defer hope–to postpone hope for some other time, for some other promise. The sacrifice of bearing the unborn promise, nurturing it with the food of faith in what seems like a past term pregnancy, sometimes makes me weary.

BUT then I am reminded that

God’s Love Endures Forever.
Love, God’s Love In Me, is Patient.

The enemy would kill the child. It has always been his way.

But Father God responds with a shout, “LIVE!”

And so I choose to agree with LIFE.

And like a pregnant woman, I am enlarged with the promise rather than diminished by its weight.

And I see that God is changing me and my children with His promises, and once again I recognize the honor it is to bear such a weight. The stretch marks of the growth process haven’t faded, but they speak a good word to me. They speak to the expansion required by adoption, the shape change in our family and in our hearts. They speak to the pain that comes with growth— the “more” of increase. They are marks of growth in compassion, understanding, patience grace, mercy, and warfare. They are marks that speak to me about who I am becoming in the process.

And I am learning to enjoy His presence with me and in me along the way.

That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy. Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.(Romans 8:24-28 MSG)

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Beth Templeton

Beth Templeton

Beth has been married to her husband Stephen for 27 years. They have seven children, ages 18-24. Several years after giving birth to three girls God called their family to the adventure and blessing of adoption. In 2000, they brought home a brother and sister, ages 5 and 10, from Russia. Then they returned to the same orphanage 18 months later and brought home two more brothers, ages 7 and 10. Beth’s heart has been deeply and forever changed as she has watched the love of Father God poured out on her whole family through adoption. She leads Hope at Home, a ministry dedicated to help adoptive and foster parents encounter the Father’s heart for their families, partnering with God to transform orphans into sons and daughters. For more parenting insight and encouragement in the Lord, go to Hope at Home.

 

The Great Unknown

wagi 2I woke to see this quote this morning on my Facebook feed.

“Christians outnumber orphans 15 to 1. All we need to do is have 1 out of every 15 Christians adopt, and the other 14 come alongside and help. I believe we can actually do this.” – Pastor Randy Frazee.

At first read it sounds like a simple solution to the orphan crisis. Assuming Randy’s statistics are correct, if 1 out of 15 Christians adopt we can address the orphan crisis in one full swoop. I agree with Randy that Christians need to rise up to address the injustice of children left helpless not only because they are without birth parents but because they remain without any parents willing to care for them. If the answer to the problem is so simple, why don’t 1 in 15 Christians rise up to meet this need and eradicate the orphan crisis? I do not profess to have all the answers, but I do suspect that there is one reaction that hinders a response to the orphan cry. Though adoption is the easy answer, it is the hard solution.

Don’t get me wrong. I agree with Randy. Christians must respond to the cry of the orphan for a place to belong, a place to be protected and a place to be connected. But there is one reason NOT to adopt.

There is a cost.

It will cost you everything.

And if you have adopted you know what I am talking about.

Jesus did not say in this world, I will send you to do easy work. He said, In this world you will have trouble.

So why are we surprised when the process to make an adoption happen is costly? Why are we deterred when the road is not easy? Why do we stop trying when the path is blocked by hindrances? Why do we doubt that the mountain ahead of us can be traversed if we but keep our eyes on our guide?  And why do we quit before we begin?

Let that sit for a moment in your mind. What is it that makes the call to adoption possible? Is it our money? Is it our time? Is it space in our home? Is it our desire? Or is it merely our willingness to go to a place that is HARD?

I have always treasured the story of Peter walking on the water. Peter was my kind of guy. He was a bit of a hot head. (I can relate). He was a regular guy. A fisherman. Nothing special in the world’s eyes. But Peter had faith. He had the kind of faith that took him to unknown places without suitcase or a credit card. Peter followed Christ wherever he went, even out of the boat and on to the water.

Peter did not follow Jesus in the water; he followed Jesus on the water. It was an experience that defied gravity and made history. Take a look.

Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” (Matthew 14:22-33).

I do not get the feeling that Peter sat in the boat when he saw Jesus coming and thought about the impossibility of what he was about to do. It does not sound like he spent much time contemplating all the reasons he should not climb over the edge. He saw Jesus and simply asked, Lord if it is you tell me to come.

Tell. Me. To. Come.

How many of us are asking this of the Lord? Tell me to come Lord and I’ll get out of my boat— my safe, comfortable, spot and I’ll head towards the impossible. All because I have faith that you are the creator of the universe, and surely you can bring me to the place you have called me to.

That seems like a crazy idea to me, but Peter’s account is there to point us toward out of the boat experiences. Sometimes our call to follow Christ makes no earthly sense! I can relate. When we were called to adoption we were in the midst of a financial crisis, contemplating selling our house and closing our business. The pursuit of adoption defied our reality, but Jesus clearly called us to a place of trust without borders. Adoption is a calling to walk upon the great unknown, defying gravity by the One who created it. It will not make sense. It will not be easy, but Jesus makes it possible, to do the impossible. When it comes to the hindrances that keep us from following Him, it really does not matter how contrary the obstacles it only matters that we follow. You see we can spend hours debating why the adoption process should be shorter, simpler and less expensive. We can talk all day about how many obstacles we have in our lives that prevent us from the pursuit. We can excuse ourselves with our ‘if only’ scenarios, or we can fast and pray and listen for God’s call. If he says come, we need only fix our eyes on Him and go.

What about you? Have you been called to help those who have adopted? Or have you been called to climb out of your boat and be 1 in 15? Either way, I can promise you it will not be easy and more likely hard, but if you focus on the impossible you will never leave your comfortable spot. Look up. Keep your eyes fixed and your faith will take you the great unknown!

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Tiffany Barber

Tiffany is a wife to Kirk and mother of eight including six biological and two newly adopted from China. With a looming financial crisis at the outset of their recent adoption, God took their family on a journey of faith. Having been home just over ten weeks, they are currently working through the transition phase of their new adoption. Tiffany writes an honest account of challenges of adoption and the redemptive work of her savior Jesus Christ at Extravagant Love. Though her faith and limits have been tested, she points that adoption is paving the way for her to grow and experience God’s presence as never before.

One Year.

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November 24, 2014

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Waiting behind the curtains.

I can hardly believe it was one year ago today that we met this sweet, precious boy for the first time. We walked into an eerily quiet Guangzhou civil affairs office and peered through the infamous curtains. The curtains that separate all families from their new children until it is “time.” The curtains my son sat behind, waiting for his future to begin. The anticipation in the room was palpable as more waiting adoptive families shuffled in and the noise steadily grew. After all of the paperwork was signed and it was “time,” I finally held him in my arms and knew instantly that he was my son. The unconditional love I felt for him was overwhelming. All of the waiting and heartache melted away as our new life together officially began. The escalating chaos and noise of the civil affairs office went unnoticed as we became a family of 6 that day. My other children attempted desperately to catch his attention, to see even a glimpse of a smile, while hubby held the camera ready to snap. Snacks, drinks, and toys were placed in his lap to divert his welling tears. I tried to shield him from everything else that was going on around us because I knew he was overstimulated and unsure. But everyone was elated to simply be in his presence after waiting for so long. I gaze at this picture of me holding him … the one that I asked hubby to shoot on my iPhone so I could tell the world he was finally ours … and I feel all of the emotions come flooding back. The feelings of joyfulness, thankfulness, concern, love, fear, protection, confusion, trauma, and more. I see a scared, apprehensive little boy who had no idea what was happening to him. I see sadness and brokenness in his precious eyes. I see hurt in his face that no one should have to experience. I see an amount of bravery and strength that is overwhelming.

I also see the beautiful story of redemption unfolding in his little life. I see a child who is loved deeply by his family and by his Abba Father. A child who is fought for. A child who is fearfully and wonderfully made. A child who was knit into our family through divine intervention. A child who has difficult past experiences that are part of his story, but don’t define him. A child who has hope. A child who is worth it all.

Over the past year, we have watched our precious son and brother come alive. He’s blossomed from a quiet, shy boy into a loud, fun-loving, needs-to-be-in-the-mix, joyful, sometimes bossy, silly, loving son who happily gives and receives affection. He has learned that his mommy and daddy will meet his needs. He has gained 7 pounds and grown almost 4 inches this past year. He has learned how to draw, how to put puzzles together, how to use simple words to communicate, how to pretend play, how to rough house, and how to laugh so contagiously that you can’t help but laugh with him. He has won the love and attention of his siblings. He has learned how to take things apart so he can figure out how they work. He is learning the ABC song and will impress anyone with his Itsy Bitsy Spider hand illustration skills. He has learned so much in his short time with us, and we have too.

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November 24, 2015

We have learned to love more, give more of ourselves, and forgive more. We have learned to be more patient, although I’m still a work-in-progress on that one. We have learned more about ourselves as we’ve grown and stretched. We’ve been reminded that we aren’t in control, but we know Who is as we learn to let go. We’ve been reminded that when we mess up, we are forgiven by the One True God. We’ve remembered over and over again what God’s grace means, as we stumble through trying to share it with each other. We’ve felt His unconditional love repeatedly. Through adoption, we’ve learned, grown, stretched, shown grace, forgiven, and loved together. We’ve been reminded what our Abba Father’s adoption of us means, as we try to grasp our eternal inheritance in heaven. And we’ve seen a small glimpse of His remarkable redemption of us.

“God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” Galatians 4:5-6

Happy Family Day precious son. You are so very loved!

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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 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.

Finding Life in Infertility

There was so much life in my home last night. I woke up to empty wine glasses scattered about my living room and dishes filling my sink. And, I sat and cried in gratitude. I have found this beautiful infertility and adoption community. These women filled my home last night, some who have been coming since the beginnings of this group 6 months ago, and some whose faces and stories were brand new to me. But regardless of what history or lack of history we have with each other, we were instantly and eternally bonded because we share each other’s deepest pain and greatest passion through our infertility and adoption journeys. I adore these women.

My mind is always racing and processing for a while after these monthly gatherings. Each time blows me away with how God is moving and how God can turn pain into purpose. My thoughts woke me up before the sun and the rest of my house this morning. As I sat and reflected in the quiet stillness of the morning, I started to hear giggles coming from the back of the house. The quiet giggles quickly turned into loud happy yells. I walked in to get my munchkin out of bed, and his delight when I opened that door melted me. He reached his arms up to hug me, and in my arms was where he wanted to stay all morning. We played in the backyard. He held my hand as he walked, contemplating letting go, but just not quite ready yet. He’d play on his own for a couple minutes, then crawl over to me to give me a hug or lay on my lap. Back to play. Back to me…over and over. He has my heart.

There is life after infertility.

There is life in the middle of infertility.

I have found it, and I am so very grateful.

Morning greetings….

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…and outside play time.

Processed with VSCOcam with c3 presetIf you are experiencing infertility and don’t have a community of people who are in the same boat, I hope you find one. If you can’t find one, maybe you could start one. I’ve been amazed at how many people have come into my life since I started praying for a community like this. Being able to share with people who walk this same road has helped me find peace with infertility.

Also, about adoption. If it’s on your radar, and you’re struggling with whether or not to take that leap, just do it…whether infertility is a part of your story or not. Adoption is the most amazing miracle I have ever experienced. It gave me a son who far exceeds my wildest dreams, and not a day goes by that I am not thankful for the infertility that became a part of the story that led us to him. He has brought joy and life to our home and filled my heart to overflowing.

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Kinnier-3 copyMindy and her husband, Nick, adopted their son, Silas, domestically in August of 2013 after seven years of marriage and two years of unexplained infertility.  They live in Southern California, where Nick is a pastor and elder at ROCKHARBOR church and Mindy is a part-time teacher. She also hosts an infertility and adoption group each month, where she gets to do life with women who share her deepest pain and her greatest passion. She blogs at Finding Sunday.

His Good and Perfect Will

“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”
Revelation 4:11

This verse.

It’s been one of my favorites for a while. Next to this verse in my bible is written “baby – 2007”. We were two years into trying to add little ones to our family and nothing was happening. My thoughts were consumed with having a baby. Slight panic was beginning to set in. When this verse smacked me in the face, it was truly a gift from God. I clung to this verse to remind me that God was in complete control. It was easy for me to believe that everything God creates is by his will, but I could rest on the truth {even if it was a hard truth to swallow} that anything He does not create is because it was not His will.

His good and perfect will.

His good and perfect will for our family was for me to not get pregnant.

His good and perfect will for our family was for me to be the mama of two boys that are better than I could have imagined.

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My love for this verse has evolved. It’s not about a baby anymore. It’s about praising Him for the family He did create and the beautiful stories He wrote to make it happen. It’s about telling my boys that they were created for a purpose and that they exist because God willed them into being. Every part of who they are is because of our worthy God.

My family is exactly the way God intended it to be and ALL glory, honor and praise goes to Him.

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2F4A9155Abby 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.

Thanking God With Open Hands

Our two adoptions were completely different.  One took almost four years, the other only six months.  During one there were times I convinced myself I was in the driver’s seat and if I didn’t make it happen it wouldn’t happen.  The other was an exercise in blind trust and following God’s lead every step of the way.  At the beginning of one I had such a tight grip on my ideas of how it should go.  Throughout the other I knew from the beginning that I needed not white knuckle my way through, but simply be open to where He led.

As you anticipate Thanksgiving, you may have had thoughts, hopes, and plans about what this Thanksgiving would look like.

Surely we will travel by Thanksgiving. 

Our home study should be finished by Thanksgiving. 

Thanksgiving will mark six months home and we should be well on our way to feeling settled with our new addition to the family. 

We should be matched by Thanksgiving. 

It will be so good to gather with family at Thanksgiving. 

But, for many of you, this Thanksgiving is shaping up to be very different from that picture in your head.

Your Travel Approval is proceeding at a snail’s pace. 

The social worker still needs to squeeze in one more visit before she even begins writing your home study. 

While you’ve been home six, or eight, of even ten months, your newly grown family is feeling anything but settled. 

You have not matched with a child yet, and it has you wondering if you ever will be. 

This year’s family get-together is not shaping up as you had hoped.  Perhaps your newly adopted child still isn’t ready to be introduced to lots of new people, or maybe you lost a family member to whom you had hoped to introduce your child. 

As with our first adoption, our plans, our timelines, those assumed pictures we often hold onto with clenched fists often do not match up to what is.

This past Sunday we were encouraged by our pastor to enter into Thanksgiving with open hands. Each finger of the open hand names something that will help us to regain perspective.  When our hands are open, we not only release what has us so white knuckled, but we become open to what God has for us in this day, this adoption, this Thanksgiving.

First, we are reminded to come with grace.  Grace received and grace given.  Grace that covers all we are not and cannot.

Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all.
Romans 4:16

With that perspective, we are moved into a posture of humility.  With humble hearts we are reminded who we are and who God is.  He has always been and will always be in control.  His plans are good and His heart is turned toward us.

Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
    whose hope is in the Lord their God.He is the Maker of heaven and earth,
    the sea, and everything in them—
    he remains faithful forever.
Ps. 146:5-6

When we are humbled we can be reminded the He alone brings healing.  He can bring healing to our discouraged attitudes, our broken hearts, our crumbled dreams, our frustrated spirits, and our fractured families.

He upholds the cause of the oppressed
    and gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets prisoners free,
    the Lord gives sight to the blind,
Ps. 146:7

 

The pastor then reminded us that we can be moved into a posture of praise. We can praise Him for who He is, for where He has brought us, for His plans for us, for His control of the situation, and for the story He is writing.

Praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord, my soul.
I will praise the Lord all my life;
    I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
Ps. 146:1-2

All of this will leave us with a sense of hopeHope in the midst of what is and what is not.  Hope that His plans are good.  Hope because He is right where we are.  He has not left us or our family or our story.

Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
    whose hope is in the Lord their God.
Ps. 146:5

It took a major blow for me to release my grip on our first adoption.  My closed fist wasn’t ready to receive all God had in mind for us.  It took the bottom dropping out for me to let go of my ideas and have open hands – and an open heart – to God’s plan.  Once I did, I could receive the goodness He had planned.  And during the hurt, brokenness, and confusion I was open to seeing Him and hearing Him in ways I couldn’t when my grip on my plan was so strong.

As you enter this Thanksgiving week, consider your hands.  Are you holding on with all your might to your plans, your ideas, your dreams, or your picture of how this Thanksgiving should be?  From paperwork to timing to travel to attachment to family adjustments and family get-togethers — is what is not at all what you thought it would be? Are you still gripping that plan, those ideas, that desire with white knuckles?  Perhaps, like me, your picture of how it should be is keeping you from experiencing who He is right where He has you.

Try loosening that grip this Thanksgiving, and open your hands to grace, humility, healing, praise, and hope. 

The Lord reigns forever,
    your God, O Zion, for all generations.Praise the Lord.
Ps. 146:10

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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” and on the Board of The Sparrow Fund.  

 

Life Books – Memories Forever

Life Book 2

I have always been a memory keeper whether it be writing in a journal, saving boxes of letters and photos, or making scrapbooks. Keeping stories has been super important.

When the big girls were young, I became a Creative Memories consultant in an effort to do three things. 1. Create their books. 2. Create them at cost. 3. Help others catch my passion to be a memory keeper as well. I was successful at all and I have shelves of beautiful scrapbooks to prove it.

Then life happened and six little ones came home to their forever family so creating everything from scratch fell by the wayside. I could NOT print all those photos, collect all those supplies, and keep the mess out all the time. It was at this time I began writing my blog and scrapbook as I knew it came to an end.

I began printing my blog each year and those books became my scrapbooks of memories.

As the littles came home I knew I wanted to create a Life Book just for them. It would make a way for them to ‘go back’ and remember ‘their China’.  The books have done just that. None of my children really remember their time before us but their books sure help them think they do. They are their all time favorite books too. Not a day goes by that one of them doesn’t pull it off the shelf and want me to tell them THEIR story. It is fun for them to compare stories and see how the miracle of adoption has made us a family.

Giving them back a part of their China story was very important to me and now one of their most precious possessions.

5 Steps to Make a Life Book:

  1. Make up your mind to do it: This might seem like a no brainer but certainly makes a difference in the time set aside to do so.
  2. Gather all photos into one place: It is more doable when you spend some time getting organized like gathering all photos needed for the project into one folder on your computer.
  3. Create an account in Shutterfly: Creating an account is a good place to start and will be used through all future projects.
  4. Work on the book in batches: I find adding all the photos first is best. Then editing each one before adding the story. I include most all the photos of life in China before adoption, the time we were in country adopting, and some of the first weeks newly home.
  5. Tell the story as if speaking to your child: This story is for them and telling it as if speaking to them sure makes reading it special. Reading together when they are young will strengthen attachment and when older it will build confidence of their story.

As I was finishing up HollyMei’s life book last night I found myself taking screenshots galore for a tutorial to show you how to make one. This morning it dawned on me to make a video tutorial so I messaged my sweet friend Lisa Furey because she is the guru of everything. I have taken several classes from her so she shared with me how to make my own tutorial. Thanks Lisa!!!

Video Tutorial to Make a Life Book at Shutterfly:

PS. I thought you might need to see how large the photos show up in the book once published so here is a few pages from EC’s Life Book~

Life Book 1

I sure hope this helps you decide to take the plunge and get publishing! I promise your kids will feel so very loved because of it!!!

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2015-11-12-16.43.29-2Shay Ankerich is mom to nine going on ten kids (seven from China), wife to Scott, and a homeschooling mom.  She loves Jesus, adoption, blogging, reading, photography, and crocheting. She might even be writing a book but it seems to be taking a lifetime to finish. You can find her writing at A Beautiful Symphony about Family, Home, Adoption, and School.

Adoption Truths: Grief

Grief.

We will all experience it at some point in our lives. It is the part of our experience here on earth, but seeing one so small experience grief breaks my heart.
Our sweet Eva has been a part of our family for six months now (see my gotcha day blog post {{{HERE}}}). Over the last few months there has been transition, pain, joy and the mere busyness of life. From homeschooling to Pilates to bonding with Eva, I will be honest and say the last few of months have been exhausting and overwhelming at times. But each day is better than the last with Eva.
Today I am sharing with you what it has been like to walk with my sweet girl on this journey of grief in hope of providing encouragement where it is needed and hope to those about to walk a similar journey.
Many days are a roller coaster of emotion for Eva as she traverses the stages of grief as well learning how to be a part of our family. She gets frustrated when we don’t understand her and angry when we discipline her. There are days when she is happy all day and days when she is sad and angry, asking when she will see her China family. I have had to explain numerous times that we are her forever family, but that is hard for her to understand. And of course, a nap can work wonders on the difficult days.
There are so many things for her to learn and and comprehend at the young age of four:
  • what does obedience look like in our family
  • how to fit in and play with her new siblings
  • the realization that she is not going back to her foster family in China
  • the fact that we love her and that she will never be taken away from us
  • meeting new people all the time
  • who are all these people interested in her
  • English

This list could go on and on.

Stop for a moment and think about what is would feel like to experience all this and then think about what it would feel like to one so young. How would you react in the same situation?
But interspersed throughout her pain, sadness and sometimes defiance is joy. Those are the moments where we see the real Eva letting go and letting love in. And it is in those moments that I can hear God whisper to me, “patience, my child. I am ever patience with you, be patient with her, hold her, comfort her, discipline her and above all LOVE HER!”
“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.
Instead He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish,
but everyone to come to repentance.”
As Eva’s grasp of the English language grows, so does my ability to ease her fears and answer her questions. It is a beautiful thing to watch her open up her heart a little more each day to us. She wants to be a part of our family and has so much love to give but it is hard for her little heart to let go of the family that loved and cared for her for the first 4 years of her life.
“But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God,
slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.”

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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 Eva Hanting just joined their family in May 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.

 

Parenting and Adoption: Year 10

IMG_0977My hands were wrist-deep in suds, the two youngest were already in bed, Ruby sat at the table coloring a picture of two friends, one with brown skin and one with “tan” skin, holding hands, with twin bows in their hair.

Across the island, Cory and Calvin were mired in the angst of an almost-tweenager, and for the hundredth time this month, I was lost. What really helps in moments like these? Our words were even, but the temptation to cast guilt was ever-present, and I found myself wondering (again) about the invisible “they’s”. What would they think if they knew how he talks to us sometimes? They would never allow this. They would command more from their kids. They would know what to do. They, they, they…

(Who are they?)

I scrubbed oatmeal from our breakfast dishes while the discussion turned in circles and I thought hard about how I might have acted when I was ten. I do it all the time. I try to trip into the past and take stock on myself, my experiences, my parents, and all the air between us.

At ten, I found my first best friend and I must have been teetering on the edge of boy-crazy because when Glen – the epitome of fourth-grade cool – got hurt in a recess game of kickball, I tried to make myself cry. It seemed like the right thing to do.

I was one of two teacher’s pets that year. Everyone thought Mrs. Artz was so mean with her permed old-lady hair and the way she frowned without even trying. But I had cracked the code, and all it took was staying sweet and trying my best. Sometimes I offered to fill the mailboxes during free time. She liked me, so I liked her back.

Once, I screwed up a quiz so royally that I had to skip recess and re-do it in the hall. Stretched out stomach-down on the gray floors that smelled like old news and fresh starts, I scrubbed my eraser across my mistakes then flicked them away with the back of my hand. And I seethed. After everything was put back together, I stood up, walked to the drinking fountain, and said the F-word. Out loud. To myself. I tried it on, wiggled my skinny shoulders under its weight. It was as exhilerating as I expected, but my cheeks must have flamed like apples, because that was almost thirty years ago, and I still remember it like yesterday.

My identity was taking shape, and I had no idea.
I see myself in that little girl.

Maybe that’s why I wig out when I catch my kids at their worst.
They’re kids, yes. They’re figuring out who they are, and who they want to be.
But I know there are slivers of this reality that will be part of them forever.
It can be painful to watch.

I believe every kid has a few gold threads stitched into his fiber. They’re unique, outside the norm. They make him who he is, but they also make him stand out. (There might be nothing more terrifying to a ten-year-old than being different.)

We are dealing with so much “different” right now.
You can take the typical woes, like being cool enough, tall enough, fast enough, smart enough (i.e., not too smart, just smart “enough”,) funny enough. On top of that, we’re feeling an epic technology deficit, which appears to be monumental to a fourth-grader.

I wonder all the time if this stuff would matter so much if my child didn’t still believe he should be living half a world away.

It comes close and ebbs away, but it never, ever leaves.

A few weeks ago I found him sitting in my bed with his nose in a book, which doesn’t happen nearly as often as you might think. He read me these lines, “She felt a sudden, deep longing for her dead mother, and then wondered if it was harder to miss a mother you had loved, or, like Dallas and Florida, to miss a mother you had never known.”

There were no tears and we didn’t parse the words into a deeper meaning.

We didn’t have to.

I kissed his head and told him it was beautiful. I promised I would read the book when he was done, and I did.

I don’t know what to do from here. I have no idea where these turns will take us.

Our days are mostly just like yours. We laugh and grow and do all the things families do. We belong to each other, and it’s as real as the ground beneath us. But some nights are quiet enough to tell the other side of the truth, so we do. Morning always comes, but we can’t forget. I have never known this kind of pain, and it isn’t even mine.

I believe in adoption with my whole heart. I believe in family and forever-love, restoration and redemption. I believe there is no such thing as, “This is all he knows” or, “He doesn’t even remember that.” It’s an unfair loss, one some kids feel more deeply than others.

I probably sassed my parents when I was ten years old. But I know I was a good girl. A rule follower. I earned love and a good reputation. I was a girl who pretended to be boy crazy when all I really wanted to do was play with my Barbies. I was a child who didn’t know how to say no and only had the guts to say how I really felt when I was stone-cold alone.

Those aren’t the goals I have for my kids.

I’m still not sure what to do or say or how to fix small problems (hey, eye-rolling) or bigger ones.
But he trusts us. He still reaches out for my hand and he’s not afraid of wounding me with the truth.
Our love for each other is gladiator-fierce. (There’s so much room in one heart.) We love each other every day, and some days find us at our worst.

On this day, I want to champion all the ten-year olds. Let’s remember how weird it was for us and be open to the possibility that it’s even harder now.

Find a child who might not quite blend in (oh, how I wish my kids could see the beauty of not blending in!) and show her how the world couldn’t function without the particular glint of her gold thread.

Let’s honor everyone’s story. Let’s refuse to default to the sort of parenting that leaves no room for every voice. Let’s lead with honor and guide with love.

Because I protect my kids’ stories with gladiator fierceness, I asked Calvin for permission to share some of what he’s going through right now. Though he sometimes says no, this time he said yes. I asked him, “What would you tell people about adoption?” He answered, “I would tell people that even though adoption breaks your heart, it’s in a good way.”

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

What Orphan Sunday is Not

Child-with-Down-Syndrome-October-2015-1-265x398Orphan Sunday.

It’s not about a movement. Movements eventually fade with time.

It’s not about a cause. Causes are embraced by only a few and can distract us.

It’s not about providing content for pastors who preach every Sunday. There are nearly 775,000 words fully able to provide content for a lifetime of 52 weeks.

It’s not about checking a box. One designated Sunday service of 52 Sunday services even if every word and moment of those 2 hours bled a particular topic does not allow anyone to say a box can be checked and their job is done.

It’s not about telling people they need to do more. It’s not about urging the Church to adopt. It’s not even about adoption.

If it’s not about a movement, a cause, content, checking a box, rallying people to do more, or adoption, what is it about?

It’s about the heart of God. It’s about who we are as His children.

A devoted and faithful child cares about the things that his or her father cares about. As those who follow Christ, we are called to mirror His heart. And, His heart is for the one without, every single one without.

On Orphan Sunday, the Church reminds those within its 4 walls of the ones without its 4 walls who are dear to our Father’s heart—the approximately 153,000,000 children around the world who are orphans—and need to be dear to our hearts not just during a nice service, singing songs that stir our hearts, watching videos that leave us in tears, or hearing His Word preached and responding with Amens. Those things are not without purpose; they are tools He uses to grow our hearts to look more like His own. It just can’t end today because tomorrow is Orphan Monday and the next day is Orphan Tuesday then comes Orphan Wednesday, Orphan Thursday, and Orphan Friday…

His call. Our call. It isn’t about today; it’s about everyday.

Learn to do good. It doesn’t come naturally and is not easy. But, we have the best teacher to help us.
Seek justice. It can be hard to find in a broken world.
Help the oppressed. If you have been comforted, you can be comfort.
Defend the orphan, every orphan. They are His and, therefore, our little brothers and sisters.

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Kelly-NHBO1-150x150

Kelly has a Master’s degree in counseling from Biblical Theological Seminary and founded The Sparrow Fund along with her husband Mark in 2011. She works alongside Mark in his full-time purposeful work in China and works part time as a therapist at the Attachment & Bonding Center of PA, Kelly has a particular interest in (a) encouraging parents who are struggling to attach with their children, (b) helping parents walk with their children in understanding their own stories, (c) helping couples continue to pursue each other and grow together while they parent their children as a team, and (d) training and supporting orphanage staff in China to build relationships with children and each other. Kelly and Mark have been married since 1998 and have 3 biological children and 1 daughter who was adopted as a toddler from China in 2010. You can learn more about their journey on Kelly’s blog.