Monthly Archives: March 2016

Adoption Reflections

When we first followed God’s call for adoption, we had an idea of what our family would look like, but God had a different one. Initially, my husband and I said we only wanted a little one as young as we could adopt without any special needs. Since I would never carry a child in my womb, we wanted to experience all those fun benchmarks parents enjoy with their children, and frankly special needs scared us. However, God kept pointing and dragging us toward the special needs, and the in the end, He opened our hearts to three precious children with hand and/or foot deformities who have transformed our lives in ways we could never have imagined.  

11181217_10107900757884744_498877627850055729_nSo our sweet little Grace Lihua entered our lives at 18 months old. She brought us great joy, and just like any other toddler, we had the opportunity to teach her English, experience the joys of potty training, etc. We have watched her grow in beauty both inside and out, way too fast! She is now six years old and continues to amaze me on daily.  

 

 

 

Then God did something crazy. Not crazy to Him, of course, but crazy to me. He brought an eight-year-old boy into our lives. My husband first saw his picture in an email from our adoption agency and simply sent me a text that said “I want him”.   

I’m gonna be honest with y’all. When I saw that text, I laughed, just like Sarah (Gen. 18:12). First of all, a text like this was very out of character for my husband. Second, there was no way I was going to adopt an eight-year-old boy. Think of all we had missed in his life. He wouldn’t speak English. How would he respond to discipline at the age of 8? Would he even want his life disrupted? I had any number of excuses and fears. But God had a different plan and He changed my heart. 

12189967_10107900757859794_3578549754294173009_nAnd so Anthony Jianyou became our son at the age of 8. It was by no means easy. The hardest thing for us was the language barrier. He wanted to talk with us, discuss things with us and vice versa, so we struggled for a while with a translator app, but God is faithful. This was His plan, not ours. I worked with Anthony daily, and after being immersed our lives, he learned English and our love grew and developed as did our ability to communicate. The things we learned about our sweet boy still bring tears to my eyes. He told us that while he was in China, he often wondered if there was someone out there greater than himself who loved him. Now his love for the Lord brings such joy to our hearts as does his heart for sharing God’s love with China.   

Our family still felt incomplete. We knew there was one more little girl waiting for her forever family.

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Enter Eva Hanting. She was four at the time of her adoption and her transition has been the most difficult. She spoke a regional dialect so it was very difficult to communicate at first with her. She was unaccustomed to discipline and was very attached to her care givers. At four, she had a great desire to understand everything we asked of her so we struggled for a while, but now as we approach the one year mark with our precious girl, the change is remarkable. For the first time, this past week, she told me that she now liked America and did not want to go back to China. This is a huge step for her. And she truly has the desire now to obey us with a happy heart. Oh, and did I mention she is basically fluent now in English.  

No adoption is easy, Whether it is a older child adoption or a baby, there will be ups and downs and joy and pain, but oh the rewards and beauty of seeing their lives changed forever. “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families . . . ”  Psalm 68:5-6a 

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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 joined their family in May of 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.

 

So….You’re Adopting!

 

stacey familySo…you’ve decided to adopt!  Congratulations!  Will you do me a favor?  Can we pretend we’re sitting across from each other in a coffee shop, hands wrapped around warm drinks, chatting for just a bit?  There are a few things I would like to share.  Let’s also pretend that you actually asked for my opinion.  Mkay? Thanks. 🙂

I am not an expert on all things adoption, and I am coming from the experience of domestic newborn adoption.  My opinion on some things now is quite different from what it was over two years ago.  It’s not a bad thing – but I’ve read and listened and learned and there are a bunch of thoughts rattling around in my brain now that I would love to share with you, if you’d like to listen.

So…over my soy chai latte, I would tell you these things:

Adoption is really complicated.  Each situation is so incredibly different so there is much room for variance, but I would tell you that adoption is very beautiful and selfless and, in some cases, a marvelous picture of the gospel.  But adoption is not only about you, the adoptive parent. You cannot have adoption without a biological family suffering profound loss.  Adoption is bittersweet, because on the day that your family is celebrating its greatest joy, another family will be deeply mourning.

She is not a birth mother yet.  Your words matter.  A woman is not a “birth mother” until the baby has been born and her parental rights have been irrevocably terminated.  Up until that point she is an expectant mother who has made an adoption plan for her baby.  A plan which she may or may not choose to continue with at any point.  She has (and should have) every right to do so.  This might seem like mincing words, and your agency will likely still use the term birth mother.  Ultimately I think the specific term we use is much less important than the intention behind it.  Which brings me to…

Be careful to guard your heart from a sense of entitlement.  Whew.  This one would be said across the table with as much kindness and grace as possible.  I see so much gray area here. an adoption “match” is not a guarantee of a placement.  It is a precarious dance between excitedly expecting and graciously waiting.  A friend and I were discussing via text message recently that the tough job of the adoptive parent during a match is to love and support the expectant parent(s) no matter what, being careful about laying “claim” to the child too soon.  They are not giving you a baby. They do not owe you a baby.  They are giving their baby you.  This is hard hard hard hard hard! I would sit in on doctor’s appointments with our daughter’s (now) birth mom, thrilled and excited to be there hearing the heartbeat and viewing the ultrasound and loving and supporting… excited, hopeful, but with the quiet understanding that this was not my baby yet.

Adoption is (emotionally and financially) costly, but it is so worth it.  Also, it doesn’t have to be THAT costly.  There are domestic newborn adoption agencies or attorneys that charge fees (that do not include medical or legal expenses) in the neighborhood of $30-40k.  Can’t afford it?  Yeah, neither can we.  Don’t use them.  It does not cost that much to provide good care and coordinate an adoption.  They charge that much because people are willing to pay that much.  So don’t.

And by then we would probably be finished with our drinks, and hopefully you wouldn’t be mad at me.  Hopefully?  I would tell you that adoption has blessed my life and that I am excited to cheer you on through this wild and crazy journey, and that I will bring you diapers and a casserole when your little one finally comes home.  It is all worth it, and it is important that it be done right, that it be done ethically.  Since we all just love discussing ethics, don’t we?  Um no.  Not really.  But it needs to be discussed, now doesn’t it?

Thanks for listening. 🙂

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stacey coupleStacey lives in Kansas City, MO with my husband Tim and their two kids, born in 2012 and 2015. Both were adopted locally at birth and now Stacey has a huge heart for open adoption!  She works part time as a bookkeeper for a local nonprofit, but the rest of the time, Stacey loves being outside with her kids and drinking lots of good coffee.

Okay With Being Okay

For the past few years there has been an increase in information about the effects of trauma in childhood, specifically trauma in adopted children.  There has also been an increased acceptance of people sharing the “hard” of adoption.  Both of these are changes that overall have had a very positive effect on adoption in general.  Struggling parents no longer have to feel like they should hide, or lie, or feel isolated.  They instead can connect with both experts and other struggling parents to gain much needed support and help.  Potential adoptive parents are much better equipped going into their own adoptions.  Their eyes have been opened to the fact that adoption is not all roses and rainbows.  And that is true, and honest, and in many cases accurate.

Ironically, I’ve seen that shift begin to isolate a different group of adoptive parents – parents of adopted children who are not struggling.  Families who have experienced smooth transitions, whose children have not exhibited any sensory issues, whose relationships with siblings have been easy and very typical of any siblings.

I’m kind of afraid to tell people that he is fine, that we are fine.

Sometimes I feel like we should be struggling more.

I often feel like people listen to me with a look that says “just wait” or “clearly you aren’t well-informed or tuned into your child’s struggle”.

Perhaps adopted children with smooth transitions will struggle in other ways down the road, but maybe they won’t.

Perhaps those smooth sibling transitions will hit shags along the way in future years, but maybe they won’t.

Perhaps signs of trauma are simply hidden for this season only to appear in other seasons, or perhaps not at all.

Perhaps parents that report no negative behaviors are looking through rose-colored glasses, or maybe they see things as they truly are – and they are good.

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Recognizing the high potential for negative trauma-related behaviors in adopted children is necessary.  It is good to be informed, well-informed.  Our children need us to be ready to assist them in working through any issues that arise, when they arise, if they arise.

Welcoming and supporting and accepting families who are being honest about their child’s or their family’s struggle with trauma-related issues is also necessary.  It has been a welcome shift to see the false narrative of “adoption is beautiful” become one that also says, “but, sometimes it’s hard and messy and complicated.”

Honesty and authenticity about adoption is necessary and healthy, but only if we are willing to offer equal acceptance of those whose journey has not been hard, messy, or complicated.  Instead of giving a look that says just you wait, let’s be sure our message is equally supportive.  Let’s celebrate the grace God has given.  Let’s revel in His ability to make all things new.  His redemptive work may take place over years of hard and complicated, but He is just as able to bring redemption quickly, or easily, or without much struggle.  Just as these children are His, so the work is also His…His to accomplish when and how He sees fit.

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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.  

Prom Changes Worship

The Sparrow Fund team did a few cartwheels when we got the call from the Morlans in 2014 saying they were IN to join us for Together Called 2015 and lead worship. All of us had long been Seeds Family Worship groupies. Their hearts for adoption, worship, and living out faith with the next generation by our sides made them a great fit. Once they joined us, we knew they were actually the perfect fit to partner with us. We had them locked in for Together Called 2016 before we said goodbye at Together Called 2015.

But…

They’ve got kids. And, one particular kid is a senior this year. And, her school decided that they couldn’t have some theater production and senior prom on the same night. So, they gave the students the good news that they were going to move senior prom to another weekend…the weekend of our marriage retreat.

While the Morlans are the worship leaders we love, they are also the mom and dad their children need. So, we told them kindly to STAY HOME, do hair, take pictures, wait up late for their girlie, and send someone else to lead us and serve with us.

We’re excited to share the couple who they recruited to bless us!

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Ross King has been a full-time songwriter, worship leader, performer, and producer since 1995. His songs have been recorded over 150 times, including cuts by The Newsboys, Jason Gray, Todd Agnew, Jimmy Needham, Carrollton, North Point Community Church, The Village Church, OBB, Casey Darnell, Charles Billingsley, Student Life Camps, The Austin Stone, Liberty University and many others. He has recorded several independent albums of his own music, has sold over 45,000 CDs, and have had his recordings downloaded over 60,000 times. In 1998, he helped plant Community Church of Bryan/College Station, where he served as an elder and worship leader for 17 years. He currently provides for his family by doing several different things including writing songs for Simpleville Music/Fair Trade Services, doing concerts, producing music at his recording studio, and leading worship all over the country. His newest record entitled “Unfettered” released in May 2015. Ross lives in the Nashville area with his wife, Staci, and their four children.

Ross and his wife Staci chose to pursue adoption after a couple of years of “trying.” They had been interested in the idea of adoption when they first got married but thought they might go that route after growing their family first biologically. But, God had another plan for their family. Sam is 12, Jude is 9, Naomi is 7, and Sunny is almost 3. All four were adopted domestically as infants through an adoption agency/ministry in Texas that helps/houses/counsels unwed mothers. Their adoptions are all “semi-open,” meaning they have some limited contact with each of their children’s birth families.

Ross and Staci are excited to be joining the Together Called team as worship leaders this year. And, we can’t wait to welcome them and pour into them as well.

Ross King family

Climbing to Find Beauty

I write this in honor of the precious foster mom who gave me a rare gift, and for others like her, who have loved children that no one else has seen, and have believed that there is beauty to be unlocked and discovered as we journey upwards and press in for their restoration.

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She sat at the table with me, frantically biting her nails. It was her nervous habit. And she was a very nervous child, slow to trust anyone—because her trust had been brutally, severely broken by one who was supposed to keep her safe.

He buried his head in his arms, attempting to hide his shame. He was ten, and he could not read. The book I sat on the table was like a knife, threatening to cut through him. His younger, learning-to-read years had been a storm of abuse and neglect, and letter names and sounds had gotten lost in his trial. Now he felt he could never learn.

Her arms bore scares, all up and down. The hurt in her teenage heart was more than she could deal with, and so it spilled out. And she afflicted her own frame.

She missed her two sisters, born of different fathers, but sharing her mother’s blood. She hadn’t seen them in years. Fatherlessness had separated them. Her mother and father had forsaken her, and worthlessness hung over her soul like a plague.

He threw tantrums. His five-year-old body would flail as his piercing screams sounded. He was a heavy burden that most couldn’t handle—because not many understood that he’d been the only eye witness to a violent crime, and this little boy didn’t know how to manage his inner storm that relentlessly surged.

Their harsh, orphaned histories have left them scarred children. What was meant to shine with beauty has been buried.

And is it possible to unearth what was smothered so severely? Darkness holds them back in the shadows—but can their miserable hearts ever shine again?

Has the dream God held in His heart when He knit together that one been lost forever?

We’ve maybe heard that orphans (or foster kids, as we call them in America) have tough behaviors. And truth is, a lot of them do. But on the backdrop, behind that difficult behavior, is a hard story that has forged who they are and how they now carry themselves.

Does the Father see an irreparable child—or does He see hope, waiting to be watered? Does He shield Himself, or does He come up close to the wild and withered one?

Do we see what God sees?

Beauty 1

I remember sitting with a fatherless girl one day. I’d sat before her more times than I could count. She’d forged strong walls to protect what had been deeply hurt by those who were meant to love her. Her life told stories of rejection and loss, and now she held back her heart, and even tested me, waiting for—even expecting—me to reject her, too. After all, history does repeat itself, right?

She wouldn’t let anyone in. She didn’t want to talk. She didn’t want help.

But on this day, for the first time, I saw her heart crack open, just a little. It was an out-of-the-blue moment. We sat together on a park bench, silent, when suddenly she spilled out one of her aches in a sullen, matter-of-fact tone. Hurt and shame mingled as she spoke. She showed me a vulnerable place that lay behind her walls—and she let me in. One of the layers that had sealed her closed heart started to peel, like one fragile petal finally gathering courage to unfold. And I saw into her. There was a small, glorious break in her wall—and when that little window raised a crack, I spoke a sentence of truth into her. A sliver of light shone in to pain’s darkness, and it chiseled away a tiny piece of her hardness. And a beauty long-buried started to seep out, even just a little. It was a truth that no one had ever spoken to her before, one that put her head on tilt, and she considered whether or not she could believe the cleansing words; for they were so foreign to her muddied thoughts.

Their lives hold a mystery. A gift beautiful, but hidden.

Beauty 2

Their broken, hardened hearts are like shoots waiting to open, hidden atop rugged mountains—like the wild flowers that grow in places high and remote, whose beauty is seen only by their Creator who planted them… and by anyone else willing to climb, to ascend steep places, to put a hand right on a jagged edge that might cut, to take a risk, and to scale up some cliffs.

I know moms and dads, mentors, and teachers who’ve embraced these orphaned hearts. And I’ve had the gift of watching love’s labor move up, up, up… wearied, aching, but believing that there is beauty to be opened and uncovered on the journey. Hurt comes with the climb, hearts bleed, wounds cut deep; but if we don’t give up, if we keep on, if we keep reaching toward them in love—even when they turn us away, again—maybe we’ll discover that beauty waits to be found, that the imprisoned soul can be set free, that there’s healing for the broken heart after all—and maybe one day, the glory of the view from up top will outweigh the challenges of the climb.

It’s a miracle— a move of Heaven, reaching the Earth.

BEauty 3

In some ways, these orphaned ones are just like us. God is the Healer of the broken—and we are all broken.

We, too, were once orphaned. We were without hope, without God, without a Father. We needed a rescue. An adoption.

And the Father reached out through His Son, who poured out His life… so that we could have life.

God in flesh journeyed up, for us. He ascended Calvary’s hill—which, though only a hill, proved to be the world’s tallest of mountains. He climbed, wearied, with cross upon His bleeding back, because He knew there was a beauty buried which would never be uncovered unless He set His face toward the summit at Golgotha.

Blood dripped down like water, quenching a parched and broken world. And from the top of Calvary, beauty would grow, and life would spring forth. For on that mountain, and around that cross, once-orphaned hearts would gather for eternity—there finding life, gaining freedom, receiving healing, and touching a power that would open them, one fragile petal at a time… until we at last, as mature flowers atop the hill, fully behold the brightness of the Son.

Beauty 4

So who will go on a journey to find the beauty that’s hidden away in a child’s broken story, reserved for those willing and courageous enough to make a laborious ascent, to carry a cross, and to pour themselves out?

What hope is there for them if the Church, the very carriers of His Spirit, doesn’t embrace them? The world cannot deliver these children. But we know the Man who can heal them.

Will we reach to see what God sees? That flower that no one has ever noticed on the top of the mountain, that one that’s never been given chance to bloom—will you notice that one?

Will you reach to believe that God, truly, has not asked the broken one to stay in his brokenness?

Can we really believe that He is Healer? That child, whose beauty has been buried, whose fatherless face is lost in a sea of millions of other orphaned ones—will you see and pray and believe for, that one?

Beauty 5Lying beneath an orphan’s anguish-tainted story, buried under the dark eyes, tough behaviors, and hopeless countenance, there is something lovely. And those who are willing to scale rough and rocky edges, and even to let their hearts bleed, will find Him there. He still has a dream for that child. He’s already on top of the mountain, full of unfailing hope. He sees the possibilities of beauty that can be uncovered if only we will join His heart in the climb, and keep climbing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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thurlow-55-e1421354870495Kinsey is a follower Jesus, a wife to her Husband, Jon, and advocate for the fatherless. She and husband have worked in full-ministry at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, MS for the last decade. Through the years, she has spent time among the fatherless and currently works with internationally adopted children as a teacher and with America’s foster children as a mentor, tutor, Bible teacher, and friend. You can join her and her husband via webcast every Friday at 10 AM at http://www.ihopkc.org/PRAYERROOM/ for weekly prayer meetings for the fatherless at IHOPKC. Kinsey also blogs regularly at http://jonandkinsey.com/