Monthly Archives: January 2016

Adoption Changes Lives

Meledeo-11My kids are precious gifts and have changed my life more than I could ever imagined. They bring me great joy and inspiration. There are, of course, up and downs every day, but there are also special moments or breakthroughs when you truly see the hand of God in their lives.

My sweet boy Anthony, a child who just learned about Jesus three years ago when we adopted him, wrote this poem this fall. This is why we adopt.

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God gave us his love

while we were looking above.

For he gave us Jesus,

to die and rose alive.

And oh, we trust Jesus,

So we’re truly alive.

And now we’re waiting,

For the Lord Jesus is coming.
-Anthony, age 11, 2015

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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.

 

Irrationality {my one word for now}

You may not realize it, but today is a big day. It’s January 14th, a somewhat normal Thursday. Doesn’t seem much like a big day. But, today means that we’re officially 2 weeks into the new year which means that workout centers will start to clear out starting today and donut shops start picking up business again. Resolutions die today, at least according to popular research.

For some reason, many of us still feel compelled to make one—I’m going to read more this year, workout three times a week, drink less coffee, organize my life. We put our foot down and resolutely say, “This no more” or “This going forward.” But, only 2 weeks later, we start to drop the ball on whatever we promised as we watched the ball drop on New Year’s Eve. I’ve found myself there before though it usually took me a few more weeks to notice my feebleness, shrug my shoulders, and say “nevermind.” This year, I had none of that—not because I’ve got resolution superpowers. I just didn’t make any conscious resolutions at all.

But, I read something this week (note to self: be careful what I read because I will be challenged and compelled to respond which means lots of discomfort and unrest which seems to be my modus operandi as of late). It was from the well known psychologist Urie Bronfenbrenner famous for getting the Head Start program going in 1965 and for demonstrating the importance of connection.

In order to develop normally, a child requires progressively more complex joint activity with one or more adults who have an irrational emotional relationship with the child. Somebody’s got to be crazy about that kid. That’s number one. First, last, and always.

kids in a rowI read it and then I read it again. I want to love my kids like that.

It makes sense. We all need that. We long to be loved with a crazy kind of love, a love that defies reason, a love that doesn’t make sense, a love that says that nothing you do could make you loved any less or any more. That’s the kind of mom I want to be, for those children born to me and the one who was born to another. I want to be an irrational mom.

But, I’m so much more comfortable in the rational world. I like A + B = C. I like the comfort of predictability. Reason is my friend. And, yet. I know I need to let that go. Relationships require me to let that go. The hearts of my children require me to let that go. Reasonable love simply does not suffice. When he pushes me away and slams his door, I still love. When she yells and screams and refuses to listen, I still love. When he won’t put his shoes on or forgets his folder again, I still love. When she sulks and avoids eye contact, I still love. It’s not easy. I don’t know what that looks like all the time. It stretches me, demands practice, is easier with the help of a partner, and keeps me very aware of my own frailty. It’s where I need to be.

I bailed on a resolution this year. I probably was too busy being rational to make one. But, I’ve got a new word now that I’m shooting for as we head into the remaining 50 weeks of 2016—irrationality. Yeah, how’s that for my one word? Everyone else is picking words like strong, commitment, freedom, purpose, intentional. I may be the only one wanting someone to make me some hand drawn word art to hang by my desk that says “Be irrational today!” But, that’s my desire. That’s what I want my kids to say about me at the end of the year—my mom? she’s kinda crazy. she doesn’t get it right all the time. in fact, there’s a lot of things she could have done better when I look back on this year. but, she is crazy in a good way about a lot of things and she’s crazy about me. 

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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.

What it Means to Come Home

Two years ago, Robert was living under our roof. It was six months of learning as we went, a time of angst and struggle and so many misunderstandings ohmygosh.

It didn’t go down like I’d pictured.
Even though I knew better, a tiny part of me thought he’d fold into our lives seamlessly and walk away a really tall, really loud, unexpected, brash- and-wild Jesus guy.
Whatever about the rest. It didn’t matter.
I said.

But what I meant was, “We’ll help him get strong in his faith then God will scrape out the parts of him that need scraping.”

It felt like a win/win.

Adoption Brothers
When I tell you it was hard, I’m not done talking.
There was so much more. So much good.

Like how I’d wake before dawn and hear his boots across the kitchen floor and the universe couldn’t contain my pride for my hard-working son. I’d listen to him coo at his boys and my heart would split at the seams. We watched bad 90’s movies and one time he “fried up” a bunch of potatoes with the fanciest bottle of olive oil I’ll ever own, then did a boil/bake combo-of-doom with a New York strip steak. There were laughs. And nonsense. He taught me to be a better listener. He taught me the importance of saying, “I was wrong.”

But by the time he left, we rarely even talked about God. When we did, it was complicated. Frustrating.

He taught me I can never be good enough, middle-class enough, or faithful enough to change someone’s eternity. It’s not my job. Never was.

Can I tell you how humbling it is to do (most) things “right”, and end up further away from the prize than when you started? You cannot possibly imagine the doubt this brought to my door. Or the ways I replayed moments and nitpicked my best effort. (Maybe you can imagine.)

I worried we had somehow, accidentally, squandered one of our best gifts. I knew we’d missed the mark, despite our best efforts. It wasn’t long before we watched from the sidelines as things got worse for him and eventually blew up in his face.

I cried on the phone while the jail-house line crackled in my ear like deja vu. I wanted him to be ashamed of himself. I wanted him to feel guilt for the pain he was causing me. I hoped he’d default to Jesus like he had before, but I was well past holding my breath and in the end, I decided maybe jail was the best place for him.

I decided all these things and did my best to burden a young man who was already carrying bricks.
It didn’t make my load any lighter.

I’m sorry if this story reads like a burned-out bulb.
The good news is, there’s always good news. Jesus wasn’t playing when He said I’d never outrun my chances.

Robert moved home yesterday.
He called from the factory and phrased it just like this, “Mom, I reached the highest level at work release. Can I come home for the rest of my home detention?”

Cory and I laughed, because the kid is smart. His word choice? Brilliant.
Of course he could come “home”.

We’re at it again, only this time, we all know what we’re getting ourselves into. There’s no room for anyone to feel duped or jailed. He knows we’ll keep telling him to run to God and we know he might ignore us forever.

We can’t give him back his first 18 years. We can’t unstitch old wounds or paint him a rosier future. We sure as heck can’t hand him eternity or make him want our faith.

But we can show him that faith of ours, and hope it matters.
We can prove again that he can’t outrun his chances.

He’s home. So we are, too.
We did it together.

The next six months will be full of outlandish misbehavior on all our parts. At some point, I’m sure I’ll cuss, and I know I’ll eventually cry.

God will use us to show him; he’ll use him to show us, one more time, over and over again, who He really is and how crazy He is about us.

Because we never outrun our chances to come home.

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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.

For When We’re Afraid of the Dark

Two of our three kids are terrified of the dark. Monsters, zombies, and anxiety live in the dark. They have night lights, lamps in the bathrooms, and open doors for their comfort.

Our son will walk into our pitch-black room in the middle of the night to tell us his left pinky nail is too long, but we dare not ask him to take his dirty laundry down the hall if the lights are off.

Why?

He walks into our dark room with confidence because he knows we’re already there.

He’s not walking away from us into darkness. He’s bravely walking through the darkness to be with us.

How do we teach him to face his fears when we can’t be there? We teach him that God is always with him. Our boy can walk through any darkness because He’s already there. Hebrews 13:6 is written on a huge chalkboard in our kitchen, and we say it everyday. He’s heard it enough in the last two weeks that he has it memorized without really trying.

When he starts to look at the dark hallway with fear in his eyes, I say, “And so we say with confidence…” and he finishes it as he walks toward the light switch.

I’ve been saying it to myself a lot lately as well. Maybe you need to hear it too. So much of parenting is riddled with fear. When our newly-adopted child lies as easily as he breathes, we panic that he’ll be a criminal as an adult. When our new daughter wants to hug everyone she meets, we fear that she’ll be kidnapped. We write the worst-case scenario, and it can often cause us to react in the least-helpful way possible. Instead of calm reassurance, we panic. Our fear often looks like anger. The last thing our kids need.

What fear do you need to face with confidence today?

God is already there.

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