Author Archives: Stephanie Smit

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.

Smit

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.  

Thanking God With Open Hands

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

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

Surely we will travel by Thanksgiving. 

Our home study should be finished by Thanksgiving. 

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

We should be matched by Thanksgiving. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Stephanie Smit18 years in the classroom as a teacher was easy compared to parenting three little ones at home full-time. Through their three daughters, God has revealed Himself most clearly to Stephanie and her husband Matthew. He not only worked a miracle in giving them their biological daughter, He continued to show Himself in mighty ways throughout adoption journeys in China and Bhutan that were anything but normal. Nowadays she enjoys encouraging and connecting with other adoptive families through speaking and her work on the leadership team of “We Are Grafted In” and on the Board of The Sparrow Fund.  

 

Terminology {Does It Matter?}

Within the past few years it seems there has been a big emphasis placed on examining the terminology we use in talking about adoption.

Birth mother, first mother, expectant mom.

Kids of our own, biological kids.

Given up for adoption, placed for adoption.

But, does terminology matter? I believe it does. It’s also apparent that the adoptive community believes it does. Many adult adoptees will tell you that terminology matters to them as well. Thinking about, understanding and using various adoption terms in thoughtful and sensitive ways is greatly valued in the world of adoption. So, it only seems to follow that terms used in talking about adoptions that aren’t completed, fail, or are ended are understood and used in a thoughtful and sensitive way as well.

What is it called when a family does not complete an adoption they had begun?

What is it called when a family welcomes a child into their home intending on adopting him or her but end up not completing the adoption?

What is it called when an adoption is ended after the child has been placed in a home and the adoption process has been legalized?

As special needs adoptions have increased, the instances of failed or unsuccessful adoptions have also increased. Adoption is beautiful, but it is also complicated. Families, social workers, agencies, and governments all work to give children homes. But, medical files aren’t always accurate, governments aren’t always honest, special needs aren’t always clear, and the process is far from perfect.

take 2

 

Enter the home study. Hours of interviews and stacks of documents converge to outline what parameters a referred child must fall within. Agencies are not quick to allow families to diverge from what they are approved for in their home study. After all, many factors were taken into consideration to determine those parameters: income, family make up, ages of children already in the home, health insurance, proximity to health care professionals and specialists, etc.

As an adoptive community, we need to continue to encourage education and preparation for all potential adoptive parents. But, we would also do well to understand that even with all the education and preparation possible, adoptions may still end before placement, after placement but before finalization, or after finalization. How are we as an adoptive community going to respond? It goes without saying that our hearts are and will be broken for those children. Absolutely. But does that sympathy and empathy have to come at the expense of the adoptive parents?

I don’t understand how a family could end an adoption.

I don’t understand how a family could not bring home a child they intended on adopting.

You are right. You won’t be able to understand because you aren’t intimately involved in that situation. But, we don’t need to understand in order to minister to each other. We don’t have to agree in order to offer support and encouragement. We don’t have to like it in order to continue to enfold those parents within the adoption community.

If you’ll allow the analogy of preparing for marriage, an engaged couple is wise to do all they can to fully understand the commitment that marital vows require. However, even in Christian circles, we have all witnessed marriages that have fallen apart. Education and preparation aren’t always enough. But, when engagements or marriages fail, do we take to social media to dissect a situation we know very little about? Do we callously say, “How could they…?” “I can’t believe they…” “I would never…” On the contrary. We have come to realize that our world is broken. Our standard and our desire continues to be for every married couple to be beautifully united and eternally committed. But, we realize that when that doesn’t happen, the reasons are complex and complicated; the people involved are still God’s children and are hurting and in need of support. We realize that God’s love and work of redemption is not hindered by broken people or broken situations or broken promises. He is not a God who gets stopped at dead ends or unmet standards. His redemption story continues to unfold even in the midst of brokenness.

wagi

Years ago, we did not complete the international adoption of a child we intended to bring home. I felt like we carried the label of “the family who disrupted” as a scarlet letter. However, our experience of not completing an adoption of a child before the child was in our home is very different than a family who has enveloped a child into the fabric of their family only to have them taken out of their home or deciding that adoption is not the best choice for all involved. We can’t pretend the experiences and situations and resulting hurt are the same. And yet, so many do. We refer to every situation of an adoption stopping or ending as a “disruption.” Simply lumping all situations under the umbrella term of “disruption” is not helpful to the parents in that situation, the community called on to support, or the potential adoptive parents who are trying to learn all they can about what sometimes goes wrong. We need to consider more accurate terms.

Here’s a list to help: (Source: https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubPDFs/s_disrup.pdf)

An uncompleted adoption – An uncompleted adoption is an adoption in which the family decides not to adopt a child before the child is in their home and before the adoption is finalized.

A disrupted adoption – A disrupted adoption is an adoption that ends after the child is placed in the home but before the adoption is finalized.

A dissolved adoption – A dissolved adoption is an adoption that ends after the child is placed in the home and after the adoption is finalized.

Being sensitive to using correct terminology can go a long way in discerning what type of support those families may need. Offering caring support to these hurting families will go a long way in ending the shame and isolation they often feel.

So, does terminology matter in talking about adoptions that either don’t happen or don’t work out for the long term? Absolutely. Understanding and using the correct terms for each situation shows a general understanding of what the family went through which will directly impact the kind of pain they may be feeling and support they may be needing.

Terminology matters. We’ve known for quite some time that it matters to adoptive families and adoptees. It’s time to understand that it matters in these situations as well.

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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.  

 

 

 

Did They Ever Notice {Summer Flashback}

Miss A has been with us for about 4 months now. As time goes on, as I watch her playing and interacting, I find myself wondering, did they ever notice?

I mean, she spent 7.5 months in an orphanage being cared for by nannies. It was, as far as I can tell, a really good orphanage. We visited it and got a tour, and it was lovely–for an orphanage. It was clean and bright, and the directors and nannies were cheerful and welcoming and friendly. But, it was still an orphanage. She was still cared for by nannies. And that makes me wonder, did they ever notice?

Miss A likes to feel a blanket or burp cloth with her fingers as she drinks her bottle. Propped up in the crook of my leg so we can see each other face to face, her hands are in constant motion. Seeking out and then rubbing and feeling the piece of cloth. Did they ever notice this?

As her eyelids get droopier and droopier drinking her bottle, she will usually begin lifting the cloth to her face. Covering her eyes, then dropping it down, then bring it back up to her face. She will grab a corner and rub the side of her face as her eyelids close. Did they ever notice?

Should she finish the bottle before drifting off to sleep, she has been known to almost nibble on the fuzzy side of her blankie to fall asleep. Did they ever notice? And, if so, did they ever give her a soft cloth to feel as she drank her bottle?

We first noticed this in China. She would hold her shirt or my shirt as she drank her bottle. Then she would grab her bib or burpcloth. So, when we came home, I got out a blankie square with a silky side and a furry side. She loves it. Peeking in at her at night we will find her laying on it like a pillow. And, it sometimes makes me sad. Sad because I wonder what she did at night when she was (presumably) all alone in her bed with nothing to grasp or cuddle or snuggle.

In all likelihood, given what I know about orphanages, given that the nannies (caring though they be) are taking care of many children at a time, I know that they probably didn’t notice this quirk of Miss A. They didn’t have time to notice. They couldn’t notice.

Instead they had to focus on taking care of each child’s basic needs. Feeding, changing diapers, and sleeping. Straight forward caretaking. Judging from Miss A, they seem to have done a fantastic job of caring for her basic needs while in the orphanage. On Gotcha Day she was a well-fed, healthy, happy, clean, chubby cleft baby who had already been given her first surgery. Her basic needs were well met.

But, just getting your basic needs met isn’t what we were designed for. God created us to know Him and to be intimately known. And He sets the example for us–He knows His children intimately. He knows how many hairs we have on our head. He knows our deepest fears and struggles. He knows our gifts and talents. He knows what makes us laugh. He knows how we laugh. He knows our heart and soul and mind and spirit, for He created us. He notices it all.

There is so much more to be had than to just have your basic needs met. So, God places children in families with parents who, if they are intent on doing it, will know those children intimately. Through relationships and time and noticing we get to know one another intimately. Think of your closest friends, your spouses, your family. What makes those relationships so valuable is that each of those people knows you intimately. They can “read you like a book.” They know your quirks and your looks and your fears and your joys. And, isn’t that a comfort–to be known intimately?

This is what has brought me so much joy from being a mother. To spend every day with my daughters has given me the opportunity to know my girls intimately. Knowing that Miss E will probably need extra reassurance when she hears a loud car go roaring down our street. Knowing that Miss A likes to crawl around with a block in each hand. Noticing and knowing the little things, the looks, the cries, the giggles, the quirks. I love knowing–really knowing–my girls.

So, as I watch Miss A, as I study her expressions and movements and quirks, it makes me sad to realize that they probably couldn’t notice them. She had great basic care for the first 7.5 months of her life. And, for that, I am forever grateful. But, she didn’t have the care of a Mommy and Daddy. She didn’t have someone who took notice of how much she liked soft blankies and, in turn, made them available to her. She didn’t have someone who knew her intimately.

 

Now, she does.

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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.  

We Didn’t Have a Clue

We didn’t have a clue.

As we blissfully stood posing for pictures following our wedding ceremony, we had no idea how God would write our family’s story, the twists and turns our story would take, the struggles we would face.

We were completely clueless.

Had you asked me I would have told you that we would soon work on having a couple biological children and would later adopt.  Although I wouldn’t have known to reveal it, if you had seen my plans, my version of our story, the story would unfold very “normally” on a very “normal” schedule with me being the primary person in control of its unfolding.  God would be there, for sure, but if I were to be honest, He would fill the role of blessing my plans.

We didn’t have a clue that getting pregnant would not come easily.  No clue that fertility specialists would soon be part of our future, specialists who would tell us that we were delusional to think we could get pregnant.  No clue that the God I imagined cheering my plans for a family on would become the God who held me together in heartache as He nudged me from the driver’s seat.

We didn’t have a clue about the family God had in mind for us as we posed for this picture celebrating that we were DTC back in October 2006, seated at a local Chinese restaurant with a newly purchased panda bear in the background.

No clue that the 11 month wait to adopt from China would stretch into 14 months and eventually 3.5 years.  No clue that God would be pressing into my plans with His whisper of, “Not yet. Wait.”

No clue that less than a year after that picture was taken we would find ourselves miraculously pregnant — with no medical intervention — after many fertility treatments and a failed IVF.  No clue that God would show Himself to be the God of surprises and miracles.

No clue that 9 months later we would not be holding our Chinese daughter, but our biological daughter, Miss E.

No clue that 1.5 years after her birth we would change course in our adoption and commit to a special needs adoption and, six months later, come home with our precious Miss A.  No clue that God would so obviously be our source of strength during that adoption trip, proving himself to be the never-leaving, always-guiding God who comforts the weary and whispers, “This is the child.”

No clue that less than a year after coming home with Miss A, God would show us another daughter in a country we had very little — if any — knowledge of.  No clue that God would so clearly answer our prayers of, “Who?”  No clue that He would call us to an independent foreign adoption in which He would become our source of bravery and courage nudging pushing us into unknown territory whispering, “Trust me.”

No clue that only six months later we would be bringing that daughter, Miss L, home.  No clue that we would see God’s work and miracles so clearly in her adoption story as He moved bureaucratic mountains with ease saying, “Nothing is too difficult for me.”

No clue that we would become the parents to not one, but three beautiful daughters with three different nationalities within five years of that wedding picture.  No clue that as we were singing, “Jesus, Be the Center” during our wedding ceremony God was most likely whispering, “Hang on!  I’m about to show you what having me at the center looks like.”

Yep, we were pretty clueless back then.  And it’s a good thing.  Had God filled me in on the plans He had for building our family I would have said, “No way!  That’s crazy!  I can’t do that.  It’ll never happen.”

I would have thrown out every excuse in the book.  It sounds too hard.  Too complicated.  Too expensive.  Too abnormal.  Too risky.  (Don’t we all just want normal?  Easy?  Typical?  I know I did — and honestly I still crave it!)

But God is God.  And He can work through anybody to do anything to reveal Himself more fully.

Even an over-emotional, non-risk-taking, clueless worry-wart like me.

Glory be!

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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.  You can read more about their family on their personal blog We Are Family.

You Might Need a Mirror

You can read all the adoption and attachment books you want.

You can prepare as thoroughly as possible.

Your heart can be bursting at the seams at the thought of finally meeting and bringing your child home.

And it {most likely} will still be hard to adjust.

Jet-lagged parents have little to no energy to make it through the day, let alone manage those first days of juggling the bumps of sibling adjustment.  Emotionally drained parents have little ability to truly assess how things are going, how the newest child is bonding, how the family as a whole is adjusting.  What was read in a book or learned in a seminar days, weeks, or months before can seem entirely different when you are the one navigating it all.  All the stuff you learned before you adopted can come flooding back in snippets and you might catch yourself over-analyzing every. little. thing.

Whew! She’s sleeping in her own crib…is that okay?  Does it mean she isn’t bonding…or won’t bond?

How is big sister adjusting?  Is it just me or does she seem a bit distant?

Is our child showing signs of bonding?  Even tiny signs?  

He’s crying…a lot.  Crying is good, right?  Grieving.  Or is he crying too much?  Am I not meeting his needs?

If you are like me, the desire to “get it right” and implement all those good techniques can leave you more than a bit overwhelmed and even confused.  I should know this stuff.  I’ve read all about it.  So why is it so hard to know what’s going on now that I’m in the midst of it?

Fatigue, emotions, stress, adjustment, jet-lag, they all have a way of clouding our judgement. Seeing the affects of trauma up close and personal seems more overwhelming than you thought it would be back when you read that book.

You want some advice?  Get yourself a mirror.  Yes, a mirror.

Not an actual, reflective mirror you can hold in your hand or hang on a wall.  But a trusted and wise friend, a close family member who can reflect back to you what they see in your children and in your family.  Like an actual mirror, they will be able to help you see yourself from the outside looking in.

Following both of our adoptions, the words of those closest to me — who spoke truth to me as I felt overwhelmed by how much adding a new family member rocked our carefully balanced family –were balm to my soul.  From outside of my overly analytical and emotional mind, they could see what I could not.  Their sight was not clouded by fear and worry and sheer exhaustion.  Instead they spoke back to me encouraging words about what they saw happening in our new child and in our family.

Look!  I can tell she keeps her eyes on you as you move around the room.  She wants to know where you are.  That is good!

You guys are so natural with your kids.  You are doing such a great job of keeping their routine and making life feel as normal as it can.

She already seems much more relaxed and alert.

From inside my crowded mind, I could not see what they were seeing.  My fear and worry had kept me from seeing the bits of growth happening right before my eyes.  Hearing their positive observations reflected back to me helped me to see reality a bit more clearly.

Are you feeling overwhelmed?  No matter what stage you are in the adoption process, we all find ourselves there sometimes.  Resist the urge to just keep muddling through.  Invite that trusted friend over.  Call a close family member.  Ask them to reflect back to you what they are seeing.  What they have noticed.  Let them be your mirror.

Note: Perhaps you are in the position to be a mirror for someone else.  Has God crossed your path with another adoptive parent who could maybe use some encouraging words?  Pray about how He might have you be their mirror.

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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”.  You can read more about their family on their personal blog We Are Family.

It’s All About {Connection}

It was a brief phone call; one I (truthfully) did not expect to receive.  Noticing that her Chinese daughter had the same Chinese name as the daughter we were waiting to adopt, I commented on her blog asking about the pronunciation.  She responded saying that since it was hard to describe in an email, she’d give me a call once they returned from their adoption trip.

A call?  Once they are home from China they are going to be exhausted and jetlagged and busy adjusting to life with a new family member.   There is no way she’ll be in any shape to call me about something as minor as a pronunciation.

But call, she did, this mom-whose-blog-I-followed-because-they-were-a-few-steps-ahead-of-us-in-the-process.  Sure, I related to what she shared of her heart and her faith on her blog, but she was still a stranger.  Yet here we were, two excited mommas chattering away because of a connection made via a blog.  Although it was brief, it was a connection that God would soon use.

A few months after that first phone call, my husband and I finally left on our own adoption trip, a trip that held unexpected struggles and heartache.  While our family and friends back home offered loads of prayers and support, it was “that mom I talked to on the phone about a name pronunciation” who intentionally reached out to me through my blog to offer the kind of support only another adoptive momma could offer. God used her to speak His words to me.  And the connection grew.

That was 2010.

Fast forward to today and that connection remains.  It grew stronger through emails and blog comments.  It grew through shared faith and shared passions.  It grew during times of actual meeting-each-other-in-person visits. And it eventually grew to include partnering in some of God’s work with adoptive families through this We Are Grafted In blog.  A small connection through a blog because of a minor similarity in our adoption stories grew into a beautiful friendship.

As crazy as my husband may sometimes think it is, I’ve been blessed with connections of many different kinds through the bloggy world.  A fellow cleft-momma in the South, a sweet adoptive momma who flies by the seat of her pants just like me, a momma from our travel group who was the hands and feet of Jesus on our difficult trip.  For all its craziness, the Internet has made it possible to find connections in spite of distance.  And these connections have meant the world to me as I navigate what it means to mother these beautiful children God has grafted into our family.

The theme of connection is a familiar one in adoption circles.  We mainly think of it in regards to our children who crave a connectedness they often can’t verbalize.  As parents, we strive to find ways to meaningfully connect with our newly – and often not-so-newly – adopted children.  There’s also the new connections we make in our faith once we understand more fully our own spiritual adoption.

Connection is at the very heart of relationship as evidenced in its definition:

relationship  n.noun

  1. The condition or fact of being related; connection or association.
  2. Connection by blood or marriage; kinship.
  3. A particular type of connection existing between people related to or having dealings with each other.

And being connected is at the heart of what we strive to do through this blog, We Are Grafted In.  Grafting joins (or connects) what might otherwise not be connected.  God has grafted us into His family.  He has grafted our children into our families.  We strive to feature posts that will encourage you in your family’s journey of grafting new members in through adoption.  We strive to help you become more connected to your Father.

At the beginning of last season, we stressed the importance of community and our desire for We Are Grafted In to be a place where you could find community or belonging.  This year we want to take it a step further.  Our prayer is that you begin to perhaps find a more personal connection with some of the bloggers who share in this space or with followers of our Facebook page.  We invite you to reach out through commenting or blog visiting or emailing and be intentional about connecting with others in this little piece of the bloggy world.  You never know the connections God has waiting for you!

That former internet-stranger-now-friend recently sent me a postcard.  On it she penned a hand-written note. And while it was written from her to me, it is also what we at We Are Grafted In would like to say to each of you, our readers and contributors…

connected post card

  ___________________________________________

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”.  You can read more about their family on their personal blog We Are Family.

Be a Blessing {A Call to Help}

We were all hot and drenched with sweat by the time we reached the steep incline.  Hours of hiking the rugged country of Israel had left us drained.  But there was more to see just ahead, so one by one we tackled the climb searching for footholds and struggling to keep our balance.  Our guide had paused midway up the climb offering his hand to us in assistance.  However, nearly everybody in our group declined his help, perhaps not wanting to appear weak or tired or needy.

hand

Once our group had made the climb and was ready to continue, our guide gave us a bit of an earful.  Why had we all declined his offer of help?  We were surprised by his question and stood silently.  He went on to explain that by declining his help we had denied him the opportunity to bless us.  Our declining actually took something away from him.

Whether we like it or not, we all need help from each other.  God designed us to live in community — in community with Him and with each other.  And in community living, there is help that is needed and help to be given.

The Sparrow Fund specializes in being on the helping side of things, in being a blessing to others.  What began as a fund to give grants to families to help cover the cost of medical reviews of a referral quickly grew to include: training and speaking, retreats, and offering other resources to adoptive families.  All of these “acts of helping” fall right in line with their mission: Encouraging and supporting families in the adventure of adoption.  The Sparrow Fund has made it their mission to help, to be a blessing others.  But they can’t do it alone.

They need help.  This is your opportunity to be a blessing to them.

They need funding in order to continue to do the work to which God has called them.  Most of that funding comes from Building the Nest — an event that lasts for only one month.  One month to raise funding for all that they do.  And that month is May.

May 31st (Saturday) is the LAST day…the LAST day to buy from any of the businesses listed here and have 10% of the profits go right back to supporting the work of The Sparrow Fund.

So, on their behalf, can I ask you to take a look at the businesses involved in this year’s Building the Nest, and then make a list of all the people you will need to buy a gift in the coming months.  (Birthdays, anniversaries, teacher gifts, Christmas, etc.)  You need to shop for them anyways, why not do it now and shop with a purpose.  Shop knowing that your purchases are helping to continue the work of The Sparrow Fund.  By being intentional about your shopping right now — today — you will be a blessing to not only Mark and Kelly who run TSF, but you will be blessing all of the families TSF supports throughout the year.

Each and every purchase will make a difference, and each and every purchase you make will enter you in a drawing to win an iPad bundle!  Just follow this link and leave a comment to the original post telling what you bought and you will be entered!

The Sparrow Fund exists to bless others.  Won’t you take this opportunity to bless them with your purchases?

                                    _____________________________

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”.  You can read more about their family on their personal blog We Are Family.

Wrestling

I’m a rule follower.  I’m usually not that interested in blazing a trail or forging a new path.  I like tried-and-true.  I like safe.  Perhaps I feel like if I follow a set rule or the “right” way the outcome will be guaranteed.  Guaranteed to be positive, productive, and pleasant.  Who doesn’t like pleasant, right?

So, I’ve done my fair share of reading.  I should clarify, I am not a reader of novels and quality literature.  I really wish I was, but I’m not.  But, I do read helpful how-to books.  Books about how to grow spiritually, parent successfully, and nurture effectively.

I’m also surrounded by friends and family whose input an opinions I value.  Honest, God-following, straight-shooting, encouraging, wise people.  I’m not afraid to admit when I don’t know something or need to grow in an area, and I’m quick to seek out the wisdom and experience of others.

But, what I’m really looking for in all of that is a rule.  A “right” way of doing things.  The right way.  Because if I can figure out the one right answer to whatever challenge or decision I am facing, I will be guaranteed to like the results.

The only problem is, as much as I really, really want there to be one. right. answer. There usually isn’t.

What works for you, might not work for me.

What worked for one of my children, may not for the other.

Which makes this whole parenting gig challenging, to say the least.  Besides the typical decisions of parenting, there are questions and decisions about what my children – biological and adopted – need to grow into emotionally healthy, spiritually strong people.  And as they grow, the questions and decisions change.  In parenting, instead of a to-do list where things are crossed off leaving you with a feeling of accomplishment, one decision or question often leads to another.

Does she need more time with me?

How can I encourage bonding in a way that she will connect with?

Are her outbursts a normal phase or is she working through something adoption related?

How will my two daughters with two very different adoption stories feel about their story?

When is it appropriate to share each detail of their story?  When are they ready?

Is she too attached to me?  Is it healthy attachment?

How do I encourage our bio daughter who feels left out being the only one not adopted?

Big questions.  Big decisions.  No real “right” answers.  No one rule to follow to guarantee results.  Just a wrestling.

Wrestling with the options, the experts’ opinions, the input of wise counsel and the prayers to my Heavenly Father to guide me.  To guide me in some clear and unmistakable way, please.  And while there have been times when He has done so, I find that more often than not I am left to wrestle.

Wrestle with the options and choices and decisions.  We wrestle with the what as well as the why.  We wrestle with Him.

“Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.” Genesis 32:24

“…your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men and have prevailed.”
Genesis 32:28

“…he wrestled with the angel and prevailed; He wept and
sought His favor.”
Hosea 12:4

However, wrestling is never wasted.

I believe God actually wants us to wrestle.  Wrestle with decisions and wrestle with Him.  He doesn’t spell out every right answer to every question we face.  You just have to look at all the Christian denominations there are to see that people interpret his Word in different ways, all wrestling with what it means to follow Christ.  We want black and white, but often we feel like we find a lot of gray, and so we wrestle.  We want clear explanations to the struggles we face, and so we wrestle.

It is in the wrestling that we develop a closer relationship with God. There is a closeness – an intimacy – necessary in wrestling. It can also be messy.  It is a struggle that brings us near to God and strengthens our faith, changing us as He touches the parts of our character that need shaping.

So, while I still want one right answer to each parenting and attachment question, I’m often times left to wrestle.  Wrestle with the choices set before me and wrestle with God, yearning to hear His voice and see his leading.  And in the end, praying to be strengthened in the process.

I’m not sure that my desire for the Book of Right Answers will ever go away, my list of questions, concerns and decisions about my children sure isn’t.  But, I am growing in my appreciation of the growth and intimacy that comes from the wrestling.

                                    _____________________________

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”.  You can read more about their family on their personal blog We Are Family.

What Was I Thinking?

It may seem a bit odd, but I love to take pictures of my girls sleeping.  Besides the fact that they all seem so sweet as they peacefully sleep, I often find myself marveling at the fact that they are even here.  These children, gifted by God, were desperately prayed for, cried over, and pursued.  There were many years of uncertainty that they would ever fill this room, these beds.  And yet, here they are!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Away from the hustle and bustle of the day-to-day chaos of raising three girls so close in age, watching them sleep is also a time when I think back over what it took to get them here.  And while there is mostly just amazement when I think of what God did, I’m surprised by how often recounting their story brings up almost a sense of fear in me.  Miss L’s story in particular brings thoughts of I can’t believe God did that and I followed!  That is so unlike me!  I must have been crazy, because that is something I would never do!  What in the world was I thinking…

…saying yes to doing an independent international adoption?

…saying yes to adopting from a country that has only done 6 foreign adoptions in the last 7 years?

…being our own travel agent and navigating travel requirements in Bhutan and India? 

…taking the risk that the US Consulate wouldn’t issue her a US visa?

…piecing together what hoops to jump through without an agency’s help?

…riding in a taxi by myself to the Consulate in New Delhi?

Seriously, I was crazy!

But what I’m finding is that just like God is in the business of giving grace for the day, I also believe He gives us bravery when it is necessary.  Looking back it is easy to see reasons to be terrified, and while I certainly had a sense of fear at the time of her adoption, I had a greater sense of God calling us to it that overcame my own hesitations.

One of my favorite verses is Habakkuk 3:17-19. (Amplified)

Though the fig tree does not blossom and there is no fruit on the vines, [though] the product of the olive fails and the fields yield no food, though the flock is cut off from the fold and there are no cattle in the stalls,
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will exult in the [victorious] God of my salvation!
The Lord God is my Strength, my personal bravery, and my invincible army; He makes my feet like hinds’ feet and will make me to walk [not to stand still in terror, but to walk] and make [spiritual] progress upon my high places [of trouble, suffering, or responsibility]!
 

Throughout the longing and yearning phases of building our family, I drew comfort in the first two verses.  Though I didn’t yet have what I desperately wanted, I was determined to rejoice in the Lord. My focus was on the word yet.

But in these hurried days of raising these girls who have remarkable God-stories, I find myself drawn to the last verse. Looking back in amazement at how God brought them to us and how He chose to use me in the process, and I am more convinced than ever that He was my personal bravery.

In circumstances that today would make me say no way, He gave me the strength and desire at that moment to move forward.

In situations that today would make me say that is too risky, He gave me the courage in those days to press on.

So today, when I am faced with parenting challenges that seem to great for me, may I lean on Him to give me the strength, courage, and wisdom necessary to press on.

He was my personal bravery in the amazing circumstances of Miss L’s adoption, may He be so again today.                                          __________________________________________

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 her work on the leadership team of “We Are Grafted In”.  You can read more about their family on their personal blog We Are Family.