Monthly Archives: August 2015

This is Adoption {Summer Flashback}

I remember the yellow hue of the hospital lights in Moscow. Not the warm, buttery kind of yellow that warms you up inside, but the dingy kind. The kind too dark to usher the relief that light usually brings into the dark.

I was there with my husband John, a translator, and our newly adopted son Arie. He wasn’t sick. We were there for his visa exam: the one that would grant us permission to go home.

For me and for John this was a momentous step forward: one of the last details to check off our long but dwindling list that would make our adoption complete.

For Arie this trip to the hospital was terrifying. He whimpered in my lap, fighting back the urge to cry with as much courage as his two-year-old body could muster. I held him tight, reassuring him as best I could as a relative stranger with a foreign tongue.

“It’s the smell,” said our translator, trying to explain the fear on our usually happy boy’s face. “It reminds him of getting his shots.”

Indeed, it did smell like alcohol swaps in that waiting area. Our translator whispered some encouraging words to Arie in Russian. He started sucking his thumb feverishly.

When at last it was our turn to see the doctor our boy’s demeanor turned around. The crinkle of the paper on the exam table and the happy tickles from the jolly Russian doctor distracted him from his fear. He laughed! Soon the exam was over and we were on our way back to our temporary apartment. Ever closer to home.

Two years have passed since that day, but I remain forever changed. Forever changed for having witnessed the inner turmoil of a child scared and alone. My husband and I were there with him of course, but oh how little Arie knew of us. He called us Mama and Papa, yet had no way to know what those names truly meant. He didn’t know we were going to be with him forever; to him we might have been two more faces in his ever changing sea of caregivers.

Today Arie knows exactly what Mama and Papa mean. He knows we are forever. He knows he is safe and secure. Just this morning I took him to the dentist and rather than wail in terror as he did at first, he climbed into the dental chair and laid back without hesitation. He giggled as the hygienist “tickled” his teeth with raspberry flavored toothpaste, glancing occasionally in my direction with a goofy grin.
These days when he is scared, Arie searches out my comfort. A normal action for most kids; a milestone for those who have had a lonely start like his. In the night, if he wakes up in the dark he cries out for me and my husband. Those suppressed whimpers we heard at the Moscow hospital have been replaced with loud cries for help. Where my foreign words formerly provided him with little relief, my simple presence is now his favorite comfort. He falls against my chest; the sound of my heart and the whisper of my voice quiet his wailing. He sighs deeply and snuggles in.


This is adoption. This is a picture of redemption. This is something that was lost, found. Broken, put back together. Injured, healed.


Adoption is not easy. Not for the child, not for the parents. When I say that I have been forever changed, I mean it. My eyes have been opened to a world I would rather have not seen. I know that today there are thousands of children just like my son who wait. Hundreds, at least, who have been brought to hospitals not by new parents and not for a simple visa exam, but by a nanny or caregiver- maybe known, maybe not- sick or for surgery or an extended stay.

The caregiver will leave when her shift is over and a new one take her place. Or maybe not. Maybe the child will be left alone, under the care of nurses and doctors who have to check his chart to remember his name. They do their best, I know it- those caregivers and medical staff- but they are not Mom. They are not the one he really needs to walk him through his fear. Not the ones to hold him in his time of need.

We do not adopt out of obligation or sympathy. We adopt because we long to hold the hand of the one who needs us. Because every child deserves to know the love of a family. We adopt because we were made to live for more than ourselves. Because we know what it means to be redeemed. We adopt because in Christ we know what it is to have been chosen.

We love because he first loved us.

Do you have more love to give?



Jillian Burden is still adjusting to this beautiful thing called motherhood; she and her husband are parents to a son by way of a Russian adoption. While her belly might not have expanded, her heart and her faith sure grew as her family did! You can read about this soul stretching journey to parenthood on her blog.

This Day {Summer Flashback}

How do you do it?

This is what everyone asks.

How do you hold Little One close knowing that his days in your arms are

so fleeting, so uncertain?

How do you scramble to make it work at a moment’s notice?

How do you shuttle him to doctor’s appointments, nursing him back to health so that he can leave again?

Friends, this is how I do it.

I go out each day and gather enough for that day (Exodus 16:4).

I make plans for this day.

I figure out childcare, transportation, food for this day.

I hold and rock and snuggle and sing on this day.

And by the provision of a gracious Father, I do it again tomorrow.

My eyes have only two focuses.

Eternity. My promised land where I believe that all will be set right.

All will be well.

And this day.

I cannot think about the in-between.

It wrecks me. Just the thought of going there makes it a little hard to breathe.

And so, again, I hand the in-between back to the One who isn’t wrecked by it.

And I mix up formula in this day.

I make salt dough ornaments in this day.

I pray and love and hold and bless in this day.

Sometimes it feels like a little, and sometimes it feels like a lot, but it always works out to be just as much as I need (Exodus 16:18).

In this day, I gather enough.

And by the provision of a gracious Father, I will do it again tomorrow.


shannon hicksShannon is mom to an amazing seven year old.  She is a Christian, a licensed foster parent, a kindergarten teacher and a huge advocate of connecting church people and little people in need of forever families. She blogs at A Little Bit of Everything.

The Big Brother {Advocating}

We were getting into the van to leave the orphanage for the day when the director gently touched my arm and said something to our translator.

He wants to know if he can show you one more child to find a family for.

He brought me to a tall boy who was waiting for me on the front steps, fiddling with his fingers obviously nervous but also impressively willing to look me right in the eye. He continued to stand before me, nodding his head occasionally as the director spoke about him to me with the translator next to us relaying every word.

He goes to a school nearby and is very smart. He’s very social. He likes computers and running.

I saw an opportunity and jumped in.

Running? Wow. Are you fast?

Bigger smile and a head nod as he answers.

He says he’s good and wins races.

I offered him a high 5, and he accepted. The director went on.

The only thing wrong with him is that he looks weird. His brain is all normal.

I was stunned.

His eyes looked away from me as I blinked more than I should have in nervousness.

I wrote down notes in the green binder I carried with me everywhere.

school. smart. very social. computer. running….only his eyes.

That’s his reality. He’s known as the boy who looks weird. But, by some supernatural gift of grace, he’s still able to smile with his crooked teeth and unusual features and look me right in the eye.

On the last day our team was at the orphanage, the staff allowed us to take all the children who were able outside for free play. We blew bubbles and used sidewalk chalk and bounced balls and raced plasma cars. We were nearly finished when I saw L. C.G. in his school uniform running to join us. He looked right at me as he had done before with a big smile but then walked right past me. I saw his head turning, clearly looking for someone. I thought he might be looking for an ayi, maybe looking for the other boys his age whose disabilities keep them from going out to school as he gets to do. Suddenly, he stopped turning as he found what he was looking for.

big brother
L. C.G. scooped up a child, a little one who clearly knew him as evidenced by how tightly he wrapped his poofy little arms around his neck. There in the courtyard of a place known for broken relationships, I witnessed brokenness being redeemed.

big brother 2

Before all else, the boy who “looks weird” was searching for this little boy. He hugged him and spoke to him as I stood marveling at how he knew he could offer this child something no one else in that place could.

After a few minutes, he put him down and brought him to an ayi and then ran off to join his buddies racing around the yard on bikes way too small for their growing bodies but not unlike my own sons would do at home.

I added more notes to my binder that night.

Gentle. Compassionate. Would make a great big brother. Look for his file. This boy needs a family.


His file has been found. He’s on the shared list right now which means any agency can show families his file. And, any family—no matter where they are in their adoption process—can hold and lock his file to move forward to make him their son. Feel free to email me at if you have questions about him or the adoption process or about an agency to help you. And, click HERE to read the letter he wrote only days ago for me to share with all of you.

#TC2016 Save the date!

We’re not going to try to put into words why you need to be a part of Together Called 2016. We’ll let these quotes from couples who attended last year make the point for us.

There simply are no words. We haven’t brought our daughter home yet, so we didn’t even know if we belonged at this retreat. We could not have been more blessed….God reaffirmed our calling and reassured us in so many ways this weekend….We also received great insight into our marriage and our bio kids just by having this time away that was centered upon family. God has mightily worked through you by you following his calling to put on this retreat. You blessed our socks off, and we could never thank you enough.

We gained a perspective from others, hearing what they have walked through, that gave us great encouragement as we look at our pending adoption. The stories of hope we heard as we connected with other couples were the biggest takeaway.

The retreat was so wonderful start to finish. As simple as it might sound, the care package with the note as soon as we entered our room put many of our concerns to rest immediately. We truly felt welcomed.”

It was the first time in a long time that we got to really talk and have direction in our discussion!

We came into this weekend so dry and distant and really struggling. After about 14 months or so of what we’ve deemed “crisis living,” we really needed this time away. It did not disappoint. We feel infused with support, truth, and a renewed sense of purpose for our marriage and our family.

Put TWO events on your calendar right now:

  • October 4th. Registration for Together Called 2016 will open on Sunday, October 4th at 9pm EST. If this year is anything like previous years, it will fill up fast (and by fast, we mean potentially minutes). Be ready to register right at 9pm to make sure you get one of those spots. If you are on our mailing list [hint: add yourself to our mailing list now], we will send out a reminder to you.
  • April 8th-10th. Those are the dates for the marriage retreat itself. We’re at a new location this year that promises to impress you. Liberty Mountain Resort is close to Gettysburg, PA and accessible from Dulles Airport, Baltimore Washington International Airport, or Philadelphia Airport. Consider coming out on Thursday and staying through Monday, perhaps, to take advantage of all that Gettysburg has to offer!

TC2016 Save the Date

Things No One Told Me About Adopting a Child with Special Needs {Summer Flashback}

Before Afua joined our family, I read many books, I researched the best doctors and hospitals and I spoke (or facebook messaged, texted, skyped…) with moms who had adopted children with similar special needs. But no matter how much I prepared, some things still took me by surprise. Maybe they never came up in conversations or maybe this is the stuff we don’t usually talk about. Adoption is a beautiful way to grow a family (we had adopted before and knew this). Adopting a child with  known special needs is a beautiful journey with its unique  challenges that stem from loss, trauma and often unmet medical needs.

Learning the child’s diagnosis

Jenni 1

I remember sitting at our Neurologist’s office and he patiently reviewed Afua’s MRI results with me. He described the areas of her brain that were affected by the lack of oxygen, that it likely happened during a certain part of the pregnancy and that in the end, the diagnosis given to her in Ghana, cerebral palsy, was correct. Hearing those words took my breath away, made me speechless as if I had no clue and this was a newborn baby with a devastating, unexpected diagnosis. I knew it was coming. This wasn’t a surprise. But in that instant I grieved the diagnosis as if I had not known. Adoptive moms are not superheroes, we grieve our children’s diagnoses as all mothers do. We may know what’s coming when a doctor confirms the test result. But it’s just as real and sad.

Then came a diagnosis I did not expect. The audiologist came to me as Afua was still in surgery.

“Profound hearing loss”
“it is unlikely she hears speech at all”

Tears were streaming down my face as I listened to her explain waves and decibels and hearing levels. It was like a foreign language and all I wanted was to hug my girl. But she was still in surgery so I sat in disbelief.

We are not extra tough as we process new diagnoses that sometimes come unexpectedly. When we say “yes” to adopting a child with special needs, it is not because we are expecting an easy road or we somehow are up for anything. We say yes to a child and we join their journey of medical diagnoses, different abilities and navigating a world that isn’t always as accepting as we want it to be. Because we firmly believe that every child regardless of their differences is deserving of a loving home and a family. And in the midst of our “yes”, we realize how much we needed them too.

When others notice your child is different

Jenni 2
I remember the first time we went to a high school football game. Afua was in a stroller and I took her to the concession stand. Two little girls stood in front of us and one kept looking back. Then came the dreaded words: “What’s wrong with HER?” Don’t worry, I handled the situation with adult maturity, kindness and compassion (with a little bit of education thrown in for good measure). But it bothered me. It made me sad that there were children who were not around children with special needs. Children who didn’t know a nice way to ask why a child was in a stroller when they should be walking.

The truth is, as I have parented Afua, the less I think of her disabilities. I see my daughter. I know her smiles and her expressions. We have a language and I know how her body moves. None of it is strange or unusual to me. But other people (strangers usually) will remind me that she is not typically abled. They do it by their looks, their stares and their comments.

Friends may or may not stick around

Jenni 3

This journey is hard to understand, right? I’ve had people ask me why we would choose to parent a child with special needs. When you adopt, you get to pick, they say. Some have hinted that we are trying to prove ourselves to be special, faith filled or we just may not have thought this through. They know our time alone as a couple is non existent. They see the way our life is stretched thin. Some choose to continue our friendships (even thought we aren’t always the most consistent company). Others have stopped asking, and that’s ok too.

What I have found is that the friendships that have remained have become so special and authentic. There is no pretending that this is all easy and smooth. They also see the absolute beauty that exists, the way Afua is changing all of us and how she is an equal member among the siblings. Those who take the time to know Afua get why she is in our family. She belongs with us and we belong with her.

You will doubt your abilities and it’s ok

Jenni 4
I am not an organized person by nature and it is a vital skill when parenting a medically complex kiddo. I also work part-time which makes things challenging. Afua is one of 5 children and they also have appointments and needs to be met. Honestly, there are days that I wonder how to juggle it all. In the process of figuring it out, I have learned to let go control (so hard!!!) I’ve reached out for help (so humbling!!!) and I have had to find organizational tools that work for me.I am still struggling with this area of parenting but modern technology is helping me keep most of my appointments :)I know I can’t do this by myself and I don’t have to. I have a great husband, wonderful family and friends and also a caregiver that fills in as needed. Our life is richer because we aren’t doing it all alone.

You will find allies in the most unlikely places

Parenting a child with special needs means you spend a lot of time in local children’s hospitals, therapy clinics, surgery waiting rooms and doctor’s offices. There you will meet
other families who are exhausted yet so proud of their children just as you are. We give each other “the nod” and in silence we know that there are others who are walking this path too. And whether we chose this journey or we discovered a diagnosis along the way, there is a mutual acknowledgment of the hard.
You will meet therapists who are innovative, energetic and supportive. They tell you to take a break and get a cup of coffee while they help your child achieve a new skill or make them more comfortable. You meet doctors who devote their lives to children and their families and you are not just a number. They explain things in a way that makes sense and guide you through tough decisions as if they were making them for their own children. Allies are everywhere and it makes things a bit better.

Jenni 5
I share these thoughts in hopes that I am not alone. That others may feel the same grief, the same joy and the same purpose in parenting a child with special needs. That maybe your friendships were tested also and the invitations are fewer. That maybe your child wasn’t adopted but you recognize these feelings as universal. And maybe this opens a conversation about special needs, adoption or even prompts someone to reach out to a family raising a child with special needs.


Jenni Wolfenbarger

Jenni Wolfenbarger

Jenni is a mother of 5, married for 19 years to her high school sweetheart Eric. Her children range in age from preschool to high school by birth and adoption. Jenni works part-time in a charter school system providing therapy services for children with special needs. Jenni is a advocate for orphaned children with special needs and is passionate about family preservation. When she is not driving her minivan to various activities and appointments, she can be found blogging at Joyful Journey.

One Year

We’re here.

The one year mark as mommy and daddy to this treasure of a child.

I had faith we would get to this point, and here we are. All by God’s grace.

It has been oh so sweet. And oh so difficult.

Three hundred and sixty five days ago Adam and I unpacked our car after a week at the Cape. Sand still between our toes and sunscreen residue on our skin. We ate our Nardelli’s sandwiches, surrounded by beach chairs and suitcases on our kitchen floor. I lifted our empty plates from the table to place in the sink and my phone rang. I knew by the ringtone that it was our case worker.  I knew before we even said “hello” that our lives were about to change.


A two and a half year old boy. African American. Can you be ready in four hours?

Time stood still. The shock of that short six minute phone call momentarily paralyzed me. I wanted to give in to it, but I knew there wasn’t time. This was the real deal and we needed to move. Fast.

Unpack as quickly as possible. Install our extra air conditioner in his bedroom. Shower. Race to Target and get him some clothes, toys, a baby monitor, diapers, and snacks. Sizes were a complete guessing game for us. We called immediate family on our way to the store and we missed our exit. I texted friends to pray and asked for advice on what to buy.

Bubbles. Bouncy balls. The video monitor I swore we would never spend money on, but now “we don’t know what an active toddler is capable of.” Sold (and we’ve never regretted it). A Batman hoodie. Cargo shorts. Goldfish. Applesauce.

We arrived home with maybe 30 minutes to spare. Making the tacos I had planned for, pre phone call, was not even a blip on our radar. I may have grabbed a granola bar and I remember telling myself “Breathe deep. Just do the next thing.”

At around 6:30pm a white car pulled into our driveway and two women stepped out. I was too scared to look and could only muster up quick peeks out our living room window as I asked Adam for the play-by-play. We waited for the first glance of our new son’s face and uttered prayers out loud, mostly “Jesus help us!”

The next hour or so was a complete blur. He was sleeping in the car and needed some time to be woken up and brought in. One of the case workers waited with us inside. After a few minutes he was semi-carried to the door in an almost business-like manner. It still makes me cringe to think about. He arrived with a few plastic bags of clothes and toys, including an outfit he had thrown up on earlier that day. Some of the things he had were brand new and likely a care package from the family he was with for two days prior to us. That’s what I remember about his entrance through our front door and into our family.

He played with toys and jumped off our ottomans while Adam and I signed a mountain of paperwork. A smell filled the room that indicated his diaper needed to be changed. We hardly remember a word that was spoken to us that evening. One of the case workers called his birthparents on the phone and they said goodnight and “I love you” to each other. He is so very loved by his birthparents.

It was getting late and we asked the case workers about his bedtime. We were given shrugs and told “maybe 9pm?” We’ll just figure it out, I guess.

Then, they left. We were all alone. Now what? Let’s give him a bath. That may help calm him if he’s scared. I’ve never bathed a child before, but we figured it out (and were glad we bought a rubber ducky at Target earlier that day).

After his bath we gave him some goldfish crackers and watched an episode of Jake and the Neverland Pirates. At that point it was the only kids TV show I had heard of. I fumbled into our Netflix account, hands still shaking from the shock of the day, trying to add it to our list.

Our first picture together, an hour after we met

Our first picture together, an hour after we met

Bedtime was hard. We assumed he was sleeping in a crib because no one told us otherwise (actually, no one told us much of anything). We found out many months later, after we had transitioned him to a twin bed, that he had never slept in a crib before. He was probably terrified being in a “cage.” After about three hours he finally dozed off. Adam and I were up most of the night watching him sleep on our new video monitor.

Life has never been the same since July 21, 2014, and it never will be again. We are forever ruined, in the best possible way, by this little man.

Today, one year later, we are home from another week at the Cape. This time with our little J in tow. We got home last night with a car full of plastic beach toys, a deflated orca whale, and countless sweet memories.


We traded quiet road trips for stops on the side of the road to “use the facility.”

We sacrificed peaceful days on the beach reading, for digging in the sand making “cement” for creative factory operations.

We gave up exclusively tending to ourselves, to make sure baby skin was covered in SPF and sleep wasn’t sacrificed too much for watching sunsets over the bay and going out for ice cream.

It is all worth it. Every difficult moment of the past year was, and is, tremendously worth it.

This boy is a treasure. A true gift from the kind and generous heart of God. He is astoundingly valuable and worthy of love and care and all the complexities that go with adopting from foster care. I can’t imagine life without him, and it’s hard to imagine life before him anymore.

Our culture says these kids aren’t worth it. They’re too “damaged” and “troubled.” Or that it’s not worth the hassle to work with the broken state agency. One person said to me that J’s birth mother should have been sterilized. I’m certain some would say that he should have been aborted and his parts sold for a cheap profit.

By God’s astounding and abundant grace, He gave little J life. A life that has hope and a purpose. A life that has experienced an immense amount of healing and maturity over the past 365 days. A life that is precious to Adam and I, our families, his birth family, and those who have met him.

His life is not a mistake. He is an absolute joy, a priceless treasure, and is worth fighting for every single day.


RedemptiveHomemaking.com_April is a follower of King Jesus, wife, mother, writer, and adoption advocate. She lives in New England where her husband serves as a worship-pastor. Her introverted nature loves to read, sip coffee, and cook nourishing food for those she loves.  Read more on her blog Redemptive Homemaking.



Waiting {Summer Flashback}

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!



square for blogAbby 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.

Labor Pains


Two days ago, I swayed on my parents’ hammock in a stolen, quiet hour, devouring Everything You Ever Wanted by Jillian Lauren. I was sucked into her story, immersed in her pain, gulping it down like it was the only air left in the room. If she’d been within my reach, I would have sobbed into her hair. I’d have kissed her on both cheeks and the forehead. Yes. This. You wrote my story, and now there’s no other option than for you to move into the vacant room in the basement. Don’teverleaveme.

Ten hours later, I sat with my mom in the E.R. while she suffered through a few tests (she’s fine!) Because she’s a trooper and one of the nicest people I know, she joked with the nurses and tried to put them at ease. When asked about her pain level she said, “Well, I’ve had kids. So this is a 7.”

For a split second, I thought she was talking about the pain of a torn-apart heart.

I can’t talk to you about contractions, epidurals, or mastitis. Oh, but I know a thing or two about bearing children. I could pen an anthology about all the ways a heart can break. If you don’t have time for that, I could show you the flattened gaze of a toddler in his passport photo, and you’d see a glimpse of everything. Some say my kids were too young to understand, but those same people run to their infants’ cries and spend their lives making the world safe and cozy. It’s what we do. If you think my kids don’t remember, I’d ask you to imagine your own without you. Just for a second, allow yourself to go there. Does it hurt? Do they feel it?

When I speak, I can’t get two sentences into my son’s adoption day without turning my back to the audience to compose myself.

It was one of the most beautiful days of my life.
It was hands-down the most painful.

And I’m just the mom.

Back when I doodled hearts on my notebook, back when I met a boy with clear, blue eyes, back when I walked the aisle a full head taller than my dad in a too-short dress, I never pictured this sort of motherhood, constantly leveraging the miracle against the loss.

This is adoption, the bearing of a shape-shifting weight. It’s holding something precious in your hands but getting lost sometimes in the fallout. Adoption is the gas-slick rainbows of my childhood – as magical as the regular kind, but far more complex, and with an edge.

Last night was a rough one.

There are hard parenting days, and then there are hard adoption days. Those are the ones that level me. A decade into this gig, I haven’t progressed beyond curling up in bed and sobbing so hard I choke.

I was not built to be rejected so persistently by someone who loves me so much.
(Or was I?)

I was not cut out for this job.
(Or am I?)

People get uppity when someone implies that adoption is harder than garden-variety parenting. It’s all hard. It’s all the hardest job we’ll ever do. I get it. Honestly, I have no built-in control group. My kids are all over the map and one feels almost no loss at all (yet?) I don’t know what the heck I’m talking about. I’m not qualified to weigh in when it comes to comparing, and there’s really no point.

But I’ll do it anyway.

When hormones and dysregulations and sibling rivalry and boring ol’ disobedience end with someone sobbing because they miss their birth mom or they’re mad we didn’t teach them Korean or they feel unlovable at their core, “hard” veers off the cliff and we all crash and burn.

When your kid won’t stop lashing out and it’s turning your home into a war zone but for the life of you, you don’t know what else to try, you don’t know how to love everyone right, you would do anything/have tried everything/just want to make it stop, the air can rattle with the reverb of anxiety and fear.

When you’re lonely, but you’re terrified of being judged by people who haven’t walked the same ground, well, you do what it takes. You hoist yourself up and you hug those kids harder. You make new friends, because your family is so worth it. If you can’t understand us, you don’t deserve to. (That’s what you say to yourself on the worst days.)

I am tired of spit-shining my kids’ loss.
I’m sick to death of pulling my sleeves down over my contact burns.

We have so many good days. We’re working now, not nearly as broken as we used to be.
But we are entitled to these days, too. We’ve earned the right to sob our guts out until our hair clings damp against our foreheads and our eyes are rubbed raw.

I would give my right hand to erase their hurts, but I know the scars aren’t wasted. I’m not confident in my ability to say the right thing or explain it perfectly to my kids when I can’t wrap my own head around it, but I do know this: 1) I will love you every single second of your life, no matter what. 2) I will never give up on you. 3) You can say whatever you’re feeling and you won’t be in trouble. Tell me the truth. Tell me.

We were made for each other, not by a God who inflicts pain, but by a God who is famous for the way he can make a solid Plan B almost feel like it was always meant to be.

I believe childbirth is the most intense pain a woman experiences. I don’t have to have felt it myself to trust it’s true. If there’s someone in your life who has adopted, you can offer them the same. Be their safe place. Get loud about the ways you see them. Cheer them on. Root for their kids. Do they parent in strange ways? I sure hope so. Do some of their kids have massive feelings that spill out in some pretty frustrating and annoying ways? I’m sure of it. Love them anyway. Love them just the same as if they were quiet and tidy. Let them be sad with you. Celebrate success. Believe what they tell you.

Morning came, just like it always does. Today is for eating French toast with puffy eyes and forgiving each other for the thousandth time. We’ll pray for grace we can’t manufacture on our own, and we will find it somewhere in that asphalt swirl, where the light catches a hard place and makes it gleam.


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.