Monthly Archives: February 2015

What color is adoption?

what color is the dressWe were eating muffins at a cafe this morning when a guy approached us, held out his phone, and asked us what colors we saw.

“Um…gold and white?”

He replied, “No way! No! It’s black and blue!” He walked away laughing; we sat there stumped.

We thought he was just a weirdo until Evan came home from school and showed me the same picture and asked the same question.

Apparently, this silly picture has nearly broken the Internet since yesterday. In 6 hours alone, this picture of a dress got over 16 million hits all from people arguing over what colors it is. Our own family has been duking it out this afternoon.

Experience is reality. When we see gold and white, it’s gold and white; anything else couldn’t possibly be. It doesn’t matter that the person next to us swears it’s black and blue. We just tell her she’s wrong and roll our eyes when she tries to tell us the same thing.

So, what color is adoption?

The black and blue abounds. Hearts spill out via words on screens about the emotional cost, the trauma, the brokenness, the loss, the hurt, the hard starts that beget more hard. I’ve read them; I’ve wrote them. And, I confess that when I have been focused on the black and blue, it’s pretty hard to see any other colors. There may have been glimpses of gold and white; a change in color for just a moment that caught my eye. But, moments later, I talked myself out of it. No, I was wrong. It’s really black and blue. I must have been seeing things.

8 years into our adoption journey. 5 years into parenting a child who joined our family through adoption. 4 years into ministering to other families built via adoption. I know the black and blue; the black and blue is real and on some days seems like it can be tangibly felt. But, I know the gold and white better. And, I’ve seen how the gold and white is fully able to overcome the black and blue.

Adoption is family. It’s redemption in loss. Adoption is hope despite the unknown. Adoption is connection and relationship. It is courage and resilience. It’s beauty so intense it can be tangibly felt and breathed in. It’s power to overcome. Adoption is delighting in each other. It’s being intentional to focus on the gold and white even in the midst of black and blue.

It’s amazing. life changing. an opportunity for healing. a blessing.

It’s everyday. It’s life.

It’s good. 

What color is adoption?

It’s gold and black, white and blue, and every shade in between. Don’t even try to convince me of anything different.

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Kelly-NHBO1-150x150

Kelly has a passion for supporting adoptive families, specifically to encourage parents to be intentional and understand their own hearts more clearly as they seek to care for their hearts of their children. Kelly cofounded The Sparrow Fund with her husband Mark in 2011 to serve adoptive families. After a long time using her Master’s degree in counseling informally, Kelly recently joined the team at the Attachment & Bonding Center of PA as a cotherapist. Married to Mark since 1998, they have 3 biological children and 1 daughter who was adopted as a toddler from China in 2010. You can learn more about their adoption story, how they’ve been changed by the experience of adoption, and what life for them looks like on Kelly’s personal blog, My Overthinking.

Adoption Isn’t Always Easy {And It Isn’t Supposed to Be}

Last year I wrote this post about how marriage isn’t always easy. And how it isn’t necessarily supposed to be.After that post, I received feedback from women all over the world. Women who were relieved to hear that it’s perfectly normal to have to work to keep a marriage strong. Women who survived struggles, setbacks and heartbreak to go on to many, many more years of successful marriage. Women whose marriages didn’t last but who offered up heartfelt, insightful advice.

Today I want to share something else. Something that many adoptive parents might not say and something that may come as a surprise to those who don’t have a best friend who is an adoptive parent or to those who have never had a late night conversation over coffee (or a glass of wine) with an adoptive parent.

Adoption isn’t always easy. Nor is it supposed to be.

Do you see a theme here? Perhaps I should also write posts on marathon running and how that’s pretty tough and on grad school and how that isn’t always easy either (nor is it supposed to be).

In all seriousness, there exists a big misconception that after all of the adoption paperwork is completed and after a child is “home” that life is a cakewalk. That the child is overwhelmingly grateful to have a family and that the other siblings are thrilled and that they parents are overjoyed and enamored with every word and movement that their new arrival makes. For most adoptive families, it doesn’t work that way. Not only is adoption hard, sometimes it is gut-wrenching, brutally, frustratingly challenging.

Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE ADOPTION and it is a big part of how we have built our family. As a little elderly lady, herself an adoptive mother, told me in Home Depot the other day, “It sure is a lot of work but there’s just nothing like it. The time and energy that you invest in your children will be your greatest asset some day.” And she’s exactly right.

Adoption is much more complicated than finding a child who needs a forever family, completing a daunting stack of paperwork, plunking that child into a home and living happily ever after. It is a delicate waltz of forward and back, a complicated patchwork quilt where, at times, only a single thread holds it all together, a lifelong immersion of listening and learning and trusting and embracing.

Like marriage, adoption takes people who may be very different from one another and forever seals them together. It is entirely possible that you might not like the new person sharing your space, the child who you’d previously only seen in photographs and who you envisioned to look and behave and respond in a certain way (and it is entirely possible that they might not like you!). Sometimes you peel back one layer of trust to reveal something that you don’t know how to handle or that was completely unexpected. Sometimes you may even wonder if you’ve made a mistake.

Adopted children may not look like you. They do not necessarily share your cultural background or common interests. Heck, they may even be your polar opposite. And, for many adoptive parents, it may feel like there is a long-term guest in the house for many, many years before normalcy returns.

Children who join your family through adoption may have been loved or maybe they came from a background of trauma. They may have behaviors that you never imagined having to deal with. Urinating on oneself for attention? Lying about the color of the sky because there is no foundation of trust? Drawing on/cutting/intentionally ruining clothing? Stealing/hoarding/gorging on/refusing food and anything else you can think of that could potentially make mealtime dreadful? Oh, we’ve been there.

When the newness wears off and things start getting real, it gets interesting in a hurry. And, while it may not be the instant love affair with your new child that you expected, don’t lose heart. As the days turn into weeks, the weeks into months and the months into years, your love for that child will grow and flourish. I promise. There will come a day when it’s hard to recall your life before that child joined your family. That realization is a monumental milestone. Some day those early struggles will seem so trivial and, as the layers slowly get peeled back, you will constantly be delighted, amazed and awed by the little person who you are raising.

You will come to realize that, just like marriage, there is no foolproof “How To” guide for raising any child, not to mention an adopted child. You will learn what works and what doesn’t. You’ll make mistakes, some of them pretty big. You’ll learn from them and your child will forgive you so, in turn, you need to forgive your child when they make mistakes. You’ll see a side of yourself that you did not know existed and it may be an ugly, hateful side that you are ashamed of. You will feel emotions that you did not know that you had.

Just remember, you are getting shaped and molded as a parent just as your new child is getting shaped and molded as a loved, valued member of a family. Parenting is a constant learning experience regardless of how many children you have or how long you have been a parent. The good news is that the more you practice, the longer that you are a parent and the more experience that you gain, the more tools you will have to handle the challenges that your children face and the more prepared you are for the next adventure. It will get easier to laugh at the things that won’t really matter in the long run and to make an action plan for handling those that really are a big deal.

Adoption isn’t always easy. But few things worth doing ever are.

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Ashlee Andrews

Ashlee Andrews

Ashlee Andrews is veterinarian and a mother of five (soon to be six!) children, two of whom joined the family through international adoption. She is the Albuquerque, NM director and producer of the Listen To Your Mother Show and she blogs at The Kitchen Is Not My Office (www.thekitchenisnotmyoffice.com).

Including Your Children

People often ask if it was hard growing up with foster siblings- if it changed me or stripped my innocence out from under me in ways that left me psychologically scarred.

Photo courtesy of Stephanie Davis

              Photo courtesy of Stephanie Davis

Of course it was hard; there’s a vulnerable edge to loving again and again, knowing the small person you’ve come to accept as a sibling will be taken away in a matter of days, weeks, or months. There’s a deep uncertainty and anxiety in anticipating a loss with no time frame to draw from, not knowing if a foster sibling will end up adopted in your home, or will never be heard from again. Even before I was able to verbalize the feelings of uncertainty, they were there; when I sat at the top of the stairs and listened as my mom spoke with a caseworker regarding a case, I was acknowledging that I cared deeply and would be torn apart when someone came and took my sibling away.

This is loss. It is something that every single human on earth deals with in both varying degrees and varying circumstances.

The idea of humanity’s reaction to loss is something even the most educated psychologists and counselors are still researching and probably will be until the end of time. It is such an encapsulating topic, but what I find especially fascinating is how we know what pain feels like and take great measures to actively avoid it. Whether it’s simply an embarrassing moment or the mind-numbing grief following the loss of a loved one, the common defense it to search for ways to avoid falling into the same situation a second (or third or fourth) time. Perhaps life experiences leave us seared just enough to look for healing outside the line of fire, or maybe it’s the minds way of protecting the heart. We like safety. I’m finding that it often happens at a subconscious level, but still, when I look for it, I spot walls going up all over my life, barricading me (although often unsuccessfully) from the discomfort of pain.

As a child growing up in a stable family, I didn’t have the life experience of pain to drive me toward that same defense mechanism. When caseworkers surrendered children into my parents’ care, I loved deeply, even knowing it was just for a season.  There was no other option. I think that even if I had truly wanted to withhold a piece of love from my foster siblings (knowing, of course, a loss was looming), I wouldn’t have been able to do so. The love for my foster siblings was so real – it crossed a depth of love I have rarely experienced since then. I couldn’t help loving; it was the natural reaction to living with little people who were already fighting situations I never even knew existed.

Of course having a revolving door snatched away a little bit of that naivety and innocence that my parents had so carefully guarded. There were nights of uncontrollable tears and a deep grappling with heavy topics. I questioned physical abuse before I even knew the term abuse.

“Why would a father get so mad he would break his infant’s bones? What are drugs? Why would a mom use them while pregnant, if she knows it’s bad? What is prostitution? How does she not know who the father is?”

There was pain and that pain has had drastic implications on the way I live my life. I don’t know that it’s possible to take your children on this journey without letting them hurt. But maybe if the goal is to protect our kids from pain, we’re cheapening Calvary’s love. The reality of the gospel is the very thing that drives us to the marginalized and oppressed, even to the extent that we devastatingly fall down at the cross with a new load of pain, surrendering it all to Him once again. That utter surrender is the kind of love we’re called to know.

If we seek to teach our kids how to love one another, then is there really any more practical way to do this than in the safety of your home, where you, as a parent, can be the one guiding and facilitating the hard conversations?

It makes sense to me. It doesn’t mean it’s easy or that there will be times placements will have to be turned down, for the safety of those in your home. I know it wasn’t easy for my family and I can guarantee there were days when my parents watched us struggle and questioned their decision. There were repeated times throughout the ten years that my parents temporarily closed our home, giving our family time to rest and recuperate.

Even still, taking their children along on this journey made sense to them, and fourteen years later, I am so thankful they made that decision.

On a bookshelf in my parents’ living room there’s a photo album with pictures of all of the kids who spent time in our home. On the front page, surrounded by each child’s face, Matthew 25:40 is written: “to the extent you did it to one of the least of these, my brothers, you did it unto me.”

To one of the least of these. I believe so firmly that caring for the least of these and understanding the power of the cross go hand in hand. Not that our hearts are able to fully understand the magnitude of the gospel, but that through loving hurting souls who belong to Him, we then know His redemptive power more intimately.

My heart is to share that it’s okay to take your bios along on this journey. That it gets hard and messy, but that this kind of messy love-in-action can be life-forming for all the little souls within the bounds of your home.

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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 and on her Instagram @kyleemarissa.

 

 

Created for Care

In two weeks, part of The Sparrow Fund team will be making their way to Buford, Georgia for Created for Care!  It’s a retreat for adoptive and foster mamas to get away to be encouraged and refreshed and we couldn’t be more excited!

The Sparrow Fund will have a table at the retreat with information about our grants and the training that we offer to adoptive families.  We will also be selling a variety of items from our etsy shop such as jewelry of handmade beads as well as animals stitched by hand by refugee women currently living in Kenya, women broken from war and HIV, caring for orphans in their community, but made whole together.

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Will you be there?  We would love to see you!  

Go & enter into their story {October 2015}

You read THIS POST as the October 2014 team was just starting out.

You read THIS POST about one of our if-only-for-just-this-one-moment moments.

You read THIS POST about the heart behind the work, why we do it.

You read about team members’ experiences HERE and HERE and HERE.

table top banner orphanage 3 table top banner orphanage 5 It’s significant. As a team, we step out in faith, some traveling across oceans for the very first time. It is a big deal with lots of preparing and lots of money, team conference calls, and coordinating. We don’t do it to “give back.” We can’t possibly serve for essentially a week at a Chinese orphanage and come remotely close to giving enough to warrant the phrase. We go for relationships, to enter into life with people–the children who are alone in crowded rooms, the women whose lives are about caring for children so that they can become someone else’s son or daughter, and the men responsible for leading and making decisions that change people’s worlds. We go so the bridge between us can get a few more planks. It’s what He is about, so it’s what we want to be about too.

Today, registration opens for our next trip. October 7th-18th, 2015 seems so far away. But, we are starting now because there’s a good bit of planning to do. And, honestly, we’re pretty excited to get started.

We can take up to 12 women and at least 3 men. Some of the spots are already filled since previous team members are encouraged to go again. So, space is very limited. If you want to learn more about the trip, email us, and we’ll reply with more details for you. And, if you have a heart to get involved in any other way, feel free to email us too.

We can’t wait to see who is on this next team.

 

Why is Adoption So Expensive?

I wrote this post several days before we brought home my younger sister from China…

“Why is adoption so expensive? I feel like we’re BUYING children!” I said a while back when we were talking about adoption.

“We’re not buying them,” my brother, ​Spencer​,​ said, “We’re ransoming them.”

“Adoption is redemption. It is costly, exhausting, expensive and outrageous. Buying back lives costs so much. When God set out to redeem us, it killed him.” –Derek Loux

I know adoption is expensive, I know it’s exhausting. I know it’s costly: it is wearing on us–emotionally, financially, physically.

But it’s worth it! SO worth it.

Michael ​(my younger adopted brother) ​has been worth it. Worth every penny–worth WAY more than that! And I know Lucy will be too. She already has!

“Adoption is the gospel in my living room.” -Katie Davis

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Hanna Rothfuss

Hanna Rothfuss

My name is Hanna Rothfuss.  I am 14 and in eighth grade.  I have lived in the suburbs of Omaha, Nebraska for my whole life.  My interests are reading and writing, mainly about fantasy and orphan care–often adoption.  I have four siblings, two of which are adopted.  I’m a homeschooler and a child of God.  I pray that all my writing is encouraging, empowering, and brings glory to Him.

You can read more of Hanna’s writing on her blog: Taking My Time.

His Boys

My boys.

I love saying those words.  I love the picture in my head and the warmth in my heart when I say those words.

I am your mama.

And sometimes I still can’t believe it.

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It’s perfectly clear that we don’t share the same DNA, but you are so much a part of me.  I know what you’re going to say before you say it.  I know what ticks you off.  I know what makes you happier than a pig in mud.  I know you.

But listen, sweet boys.  You know how I tell you that I love you more than all of the snowflakes that have ever fallen from the sky?  God loves you even more that!

That’s hard for me to comprehend, but it’s true.  And actually, I’m glad He loves you more than me because there are so many times that I mess up.  I can’t love you perfectly and never will, but He can and always will.

I don’t know what your questions will be as you start processing your adoption stories, but whatever they are, I want you to remember God’s love for you and cling to His promises.

But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. Psalm 86:15

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

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5

As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:9

Even though you are my boys, you are really His.

Don’t ever forget that.

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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.

Adoption Guilt

Our family has an imperfect adoption story.

It’s the story of a young woman with a heart as big as a mountain and a brain as small as a pea.

Someone who went out to change the world by adopting a helpless baby girl, envisioning all the ideals without acknowledging any of the challenges.

How many of us are in that position? When life gets tough and our idealistic notions lie in fragments at our feet, how many of us look back at our early selves and beat our present selves over the head with a rubber hammer, mumbling, “Stupid, stupid, stupid!”?

Maybe it’s just me.

Let me be clear, I don’t think I’m stupid for adopting my daughter, who is now thirteen. No way. She’s ours and we love her. I am thankful to God for working every out so we could officially adopt her.

If I feel stupid for anything, if I beat myself up for anything, it’s for trying to be her mother when I was so ill-prepared for the challenges.

My first novel recently came out, and a reporter from a local paper wanted to interview me. The phone rang after the time we expected her arrival, and, in trying to disconnect it from the charger, my daughter inadvertently answered it.

What followed was a disaster. I was across the room and saw my daughter’s dismay. She held the phone at arm’s length, all her phone-answering skills abandoning her.

“Just say hello,” I whispered.

She exploded. “I don’t know what to say, Mom! She wants to talk to you, not me! Duh!”

I managed to get the phone away from her, but it was too late. She was embarrassed and volatile, slamming a cupboard closed, stomping, yelling her way down the hallway. And the reporter got to hear it all.

That’s what life is like for us right now. Some very good days, but then there’s  a trigger (that I can’t always pinpoint) and everything falls apart. It’s painful, it’s raw, it’s emotional, and our whole family takes a nail-biting ride on the roller coaster.

For me there’s a lot of guilt associated with that roller coaster ride.

We didn’t do things the “right way” when we adopted our daughter.

We were too young by Chinese law to adopt, but we were living in China at the time, so when I spotted a newborn with a cleft lip and palate at the orphanage where I was volunteering, I asked the director if I could bring her home.

My plan was to foster care for her. She was failure to thrive and I’d found her lying flat on her back one day, a bottle propped in her mouth. The orphanage ayis were too busy to give her the attention she needed. I wanted to save this baby’s life. I wanted to make a difference.

My husband and I had been married for two years. He was away at fall camp with his students when the orphanage director gave her approval for us to foster. There was no ceremony. The ayi put her in a disposable diaper, a clean, threadbare sleeper, wrapped her in a blanket, and handed her to me. Every month after that, for seven and a half years, I brought our daughter back to the orphanage to “check her out,” rather like a library book.

For the first ten months of her life we were fostering her for a family in the United States. That family’s adoption fell through, but by then we were attached to this ten-month-old with the huge smile and couldn’t imagine taking her back to the orphanage. That’s when we made the commitment to be her real parents, even though we had to wait almost seven more years for everything to be finalized.

So whenever my daughter has one of those fall-apart moments, when one of those triggers gets flipped and she freaks out, the enemy pours accusations into my head:

You would have treated her differently from the beginning if you’d known you were going to adopt her. You were holding back a piece of your heart all those years to protect yourself from getting hurt. You were too young, too naïve. You didn’t even ask your husband if he supported you bringing home a baby that day. You listened to everyone’s advice and got a lot of things wrong.  If she has anger issues it’s YOUR FAULT.

But what does God say?

Trust me.

The past is behind you.

I’m teaching you, I’m molding you. I will never leave you or forsake you.

Haven’t I provided for you before? I’ll provide for you now.

The hard days pass and spring comes for awhile. It’s late and my daughter, who is quite the night owl, peeks through my cracked-open bedroom door. “Can I snuggle with you, Mommy, just for a little while?”

These are the moments I treasure—the calm in the eye of the storm, the promise of better things to come, the assurance that there is grace even in our brokenness and failure.  And forgiveness. I’m learning to forgive myself for not being perfect.

Our adoption story isn’t completely written yet. I will cling to hope and leave guilt behind.

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Front Cover - Red ButterflyA.L. Sonnichsen is the author of a newly published middle-grade novel.  In it a young orphaned girl in modern-day China discovers the meaning of family in this inspiring story told in verse, in the tradition of Inside Out and Back Again and Sold. 

Kara never met her birth mother. Abandoned as an infant, she was taken in by an American woman living in China. Now eleven, Kara spends most of her time in their apartment, wondering why she and Mama cannot leave the city of Tianjin and go live with Daddy in Montana. Mama tells Kara to be content with what she has…but what if Kara secretly wants more? 

Told in lyrical, moving verse, Red Butterfly is the story of a girl learning to trust her own voice, discovering that love and family are limitless, and finding the wings she needs to reach new heights.

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AmySonnichsenRaised in Hong Kong, A.L. Sonnichsen grew up attending British school and riding double-decker buses. As an adult, she spent eight years in Mainland China where she learned that not all baozi are created equal. She also learned some Mandarin, which doesn’t do her much good in the small Eastern Washington town where she now lives with her rather large family. Find out more at http://alsonnichsen.blogspot.com.

 

Will You Love Me Forever?

Excitement, curiosity and fear of the unknown filled the eight year old boy’s mind as he entered the cold, stale room. His eyes landed on some smiling faces that looked vaguely familiar. Yes, these were the same faces that had smiled at him from the pages of the photo album he carried in his backpack, the faces of his new family. Who were these people that looked so different from him? Would they be kind, or heartless, as he was told? Would they send him back the moment he did something to upset them? Would they like him, maybe even love him? Wait, what were they saying? If he couldn’t understand them, how would they understand him? In that moment, as reality set in, uncertainty and excitement gripped him. When he looked in their eyes, he knew all would be ok. What could he do but follow them and leave all he had ever known and loved behind for a new life, a new family, a new world. In that moment of anxiety and anticipation, he simply had to believe that they would love him.

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It’s been two years since that cold January day in Shanghai, and my sweet boy has finally begun to truly understand our love. We are not going to send him back when he is disobedient. No one is going to take him away from us. He will be ours FOREVER.

The process of attachment is a rugged journey. My son was with his foster family in China from about the age of 2 until we adopted him at age 8. I can only imagine how it must have felt to be ripped from the only family he has ever known and how confusing that must have been. Why did they let him go? Why didn’t they keep him? Is it normal to be passed from one family to another? Can it happen again? Could the government take him away? He has asked us all these questions and more as he has been processing his journey to us, his forever family. He is no longer afraid to share his experiences and feelings or divulge what he felt that very first day. Sometimes, even at the age of 10, he wants to be held like a baby and rocked while asking over and over, will you love me forever?

While these questions make my heart ache for him, they are questions he needs to ask and are a part of the attachment process. He didn’t ask them in beginning. It was all too new, and there was so much he didn’t understand. Fear coupled with excitement, but as time passed he began to trust us and our love. He realized that the decisions we make concerning him stem from our unconditional love for him and our desire for the best. As his understanding and love grows, so does his courage, and as the questions come I welcome them. As I hug him for the 15th time today, reassuring and physically demonstrating love, my thoughts turn to the One who has wrapped me up in His arms more times than I can count.

“The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” (Romans 8:15-17, NIV)

Reflecting on my sweet boy’s journey of understanding and attachment, my thoughts naturally draw the connection between his adoption and my own spiritual adoption. What can I take from my experience and apply it to the journey of earthly adoption, especially as we prepare for our third adoption?

Once we believe and trust in God, we become adopted as sons and daughters. We are co-heirs with Christ! We are children of God! Do we really understand what that means? We believe that God loved us so much that He sent His one and only Son to die in our place, but do we really BELIEVE God, His promises and forever love?

Did my son truly grasp that cold winter day in China what it meant to have a forever family? He didn’t know much about us, but he trusted us enough to follow us, strangers from an unknown land, out of that room because he believed we were his new family. In that moment, he knew we would not hurt him, but did He really BELIEVE in and understand our love? Of course not! There was a long journey ahead.

Similarly, as we begin our walk with our heavenly Father, we believe in Him and hear words like “God loves you”, but do we really BELIEVE that? We begin a journey of discovery and understanding just as our precious older children do. Over time, our eyes are opened to His truth, and we finally come to a place where we truly BELIEVE that He is who He says He is and that He will keep His promises. Do we still sometimes question Him and struggle to understand? Of course! How many times have we doubted even when we knew that God is faithful and trustworthy? Too many times to count. But as we witness example after example of His love and provision for us, our faith and understanding of His unconditional love grows exponentially. We begin to see that even though we won’t always understand all that He does, His love is unwavering and unfathomable.

Our adopted children experience life up to a point and then are suddenly ripped away from all they have ever known. Can we walk unwearied with them as our Father walks with us through our doubts and fears? Are we ready to traverse the confusing waters of abandonment? Can we be as patient with our children as our heavenly Father is with us? Will we hold them when they just need to held?

God made a way for each and every one of us to be adopted, and then He gave us this amazing picture and reminder through the example of earthly adoption. As I look at my son on those days when I am frustrated and tired of answering the same questions again and again, I pray that the Holy Spirit will remind me again of the beauty of my adoption and the gentle, patient, never-giving up love of our awesome God.

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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 came into their lives in 2011 from the Fujian Province, China. Their son 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.

When You Mother the Broken

The day we pulled up into our driveway with them — into the home that had been full of empty bedrooms for years while we waited for them — we sat with the keys in the ignition while they, buckled into boosters in the back, slept off days of sleepless travel and we sighed.

Done.

We’d finished the hardest part, hadn’t we? They were … home.

They transitioned almost seamlessly into our home — but for some minor hiccups with attachment that an ergo and night-time bottle feeding (eye-to-eye) seemed to cure.

My little girl smelled like me. (She was mine.) My son even looked like Nate, aside from his chocolate skin. They slept through the night and played for hours like best friends and made our family of four feel easy.

A year later and we were adopting again. Insta-family.

And somewhere between that cloudless day when we brought our first two home and the one when we had five packed into our rusty suburban, the seamless days of adoption had vaporized.

The days when it seemed easy were distant.

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What had been long-hour stretches of innocent chatter and pretend-play became lives and histories of once-strangers who were now siblings, rubbing up against each other’s life-losses.

What had been remedied, after our first adoption, by eye contact and skin-to-skin holding – little daily steps to build that bond of attachment – had now grown into heart-issues that needed more than simple strategies.

I started totaling the years of fatherlessness among my children, blushing that my home study never surfaced how grossly under-qualified I was to parent them.

I’d signed up, naively zealous as if I were running for student council, not taking on decades of life with children who, mostly, only knew loss.

Seven AM, for me, meant that I would walk outside my bedroom door and face gaps that needed years of holding, not just a quick morning prayer. Their lives were bleeding and I’d never been trained with a tourniquet.

So I cowered.

I shriveled.

What mom wants to watch herself fail … in the face of tear-stained cheeks and expectant eyes that needed a win?

What mom wants to watch herself fail — period?

I shrunk. I folded.

And it’s here that He began to give me a perspective on my motherhood.

And for life.

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Adoptive mama who is wondering how the “yes” you mustered to open your door and your bedroom and your late-night hours to that little life … dropped you right here, one bleeding, reeling mess with a bleeding, reeling child: today is where He tells you who you are.

Today is when He tells you who He is.

Biological mama who is almost wishing she could label this brokenness away. Who stares, deep, into eyes that look like yours — but which carry a kind of pain and disconnect that you aren’t even sure where it came from.

Today is when He tells you who He is.

She buckles (in public). She kicks and screams underneath that sullen shoulder shrug and angry eyes – the day after you stopped the globe to celebrate her birthday – and God says you get to find Me …”when they cannot repay you” (Luke 14: 7-14).

You pour yourself out for the child who can still barely respond to a hug and He tells you that He sees you in this secret. This child ties you to a reality that’s more than flesh in front of you.

The dinner-date you planned that never happened because your son melted down– with years of feeling rejection from someone who wasn’t you – left you homebound and aching. And it gave you a new chance to weep, at His feet. Your heart had never needed to open like this – to Him – before.

When they cannot repay you, you get to find the One who can fill up your insides — better than any repayment.

When we mother the broken we meet the Father of the broken. We can’t just quote His Word by rote and pray pious prayers, anymore, we have to wrap our little-girl fingers around His once-flesh and cling with all we have left, if we want to “more than survive” these years. 

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What the world tells us is loss – these children who might smile big for our Christmas cards but cry themselves to sleep well past when they should be sleeping through the night – is crazy, beautiful gain, in Him.

We gain. Him.

 

The way into His heart is to go down, mama. And you now have an invitation, with this child who cannot repay you.

The four once-down-trodden under my roof have held my hand with their lives and gently led me to a measure of the love of God I didn’t need when I was successful.

Adoptive mama, biological mama, step-mama — staring at what feels like your failure, this oozing life that has kept you from a neat and tidy motherhood might just be exactly what you need to crack your heart open to God (the One whose eyes bore with love into your broken one … the One whose eyes bore with love into your broken you).

{{Originally posted on The Better Mom.}}

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Sara Hagerty HeadshotSara is a wife to Nate and a mother of five whose arms stretched wide across the ocean to Africa. After almost a decade of Christian life she was introduced to pain and perplexity and, ultimately, intimacy with Jesus. Her book, Every Bitter Thing is Sweet released October 7, 2014 via Zondervan, is an invitation — back to hope, back to healing, back to a place that God is holding for you—a place where the unseen is more real than what the eye can perceive. A place where even the most bitter things become sweet.  She writes regularly at EveryBitterThingIsSweet.com.