Category Archives: Older Child Adoption

Wayland {China Trip – Advocating}

I’d like to introduce you to a precious 7 year old boy.  His name is Wayland, and he’s amazing.  He delights in simple pleasures and always has a smile on his face.  He is joyful, friendly, affectionate, thoughtful, social, tender, and incredibly patient.  And he’s waiting for his family to find him.

I had the immense pleasure of meeting sweet Wayland.  He had such a positive attitude and a palpable zeal for life.  He smiled and laughed and looked into my eyes warmly.  He sought me out and called me ayi without prompting.  He affectionately hugged me and sweetly laid his head on my shoulder.  He talked to me during our time together, despite my limited understanding of Mandarin.  That didn’t hold him back though.  He taught me new words while patiently repeating each syllable over until I got it right.  Such a smart boy and a terrific teacher!  When he wanted something, he used words to ask respectfully, but accepted no when I couldn’t say yes.  He asked me to pick him up so he could get a better look at new sights, and he was curious about everything that he saw.  Handsome Wayland was a complete gentleman during our time together.

His repaired congenital heart defect does not hold him back – he is energetic and runs everywhere!  He has way more energy than I do!  He can dress and feed himself, use the bathroom alone, and understand directions.  He also sometimes helps the nannies with chores.  He goes to school at the orphanage, and is taught by a wonderful teacher who really cares for the children.  He is working on typical age-appropriate skills, and can speak in complete sentences.  He can sing preschool songs and loves to join in with games.  He appears to be at age-level for most skills.  He seems well-attached to his nannies and loves being social with the other children in the orphanage.

Sweet Wayland needs a family!  I truly feel that whoever has the privilege of becoming his family will be incredibly blessed.  He is a precious boy, but needs the title of son!  He is designated Special Focus and is currently with Madison Adoption Associates.  They have video and more pictures to review.  Also, up to $2000 in grants are available for his adoption fees!  Please, if you are at all nudged to find out more about Wayland, email Sarah Hansen at Sarah@MadisonAdoption.org.

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NicoleNicole is a daughter to the King and a wife to an amazing man. She is a classical homeschooling mama to four, by birth and adoption. She is a part-time newborn photographer, a founder and adoption photographer at Red Thread Sessions, a contributing blogger at No Hands But Ours and an advocate of orphan care and adoption. When she’s not with her family or behind her camera, she loves to blog, create, give life to old furniture, spend time at the beach and read. She strives to live her life to glorify our Heavenly Father.  With His love, all things are possible.

In My Heart Forever {China Trip}

I’m home.  And I’ve been awake since 3am thanks to jet lag.  I gave up trying to fall back to sleep at 4:30am, and finally got out of bed.  With the children from the orphanage taking over my dreams, and their precious little faces dancing across my closed eyelids, I knew it was a lost cause.  While everyone else on this side of the world rests, I am wrestling with what I experienced and captured through my camera this past week.

Thinking of the children and the reality of their daily lives brings me to my knees.  While I can drink coffee without boiling water first, and write a blog post without a sometimes-working, buggy VPN, the children are most likely finishing up dinner halfway across the world.  While I will soon hug and kiss my beloved little ones good morning, and tell them how much I love them, the children will prepare for bedtime with no mama and baba to tuck them in and tell them how much they are adored and so very worthy.  While they sleep, my day will carry on in the peace and warm serenity of my home and church, surrounded by my treasured family and friends.  And some variation of my comfortable life will play out every day while the children in the orphanage remain inexplicably grateful and joyful and happy, despite all that they’re missing.

The incredible disparity of our worlds is almost too much to fathom.

I was invited into a community of His people that I didn’t know before.  A community that’s real, even though it’s easy to ignore because it seems so distant and far away.  A small community of His children who are hurting and longing for mamas and babas of their very own.  A community of His nannies who give their very best every day to help the children live and grow.  But even their very best simply isn’t enough because there are too many children and not enough of them.  Because nothing replaces the love and belonging of a family.

I think of precious Wayland and the way the Father literally put him in front of me, despite my ability to remain emotionally unattached behind my lens.  My job as photographer makes it easy to observe from a distance.  It’s a role that I’m comfortable playing because it allows me to stay focused and complete the task at hand.  It’s the role that I signed up for when I said yes to this trip – to document our time and bring home pictures of waiting children to help them find families.

Though I wanted to be open to what the Father had waiting for me during this trip, I did not expect to fall as hard as I did.  He wrecked me.  Not just for Wayland, but for all of the children.  For the nannies.  Although I was the designated photographer on the trip, the Father used the short time in mighty ways to show me why I was really on that trip.  Despite myself, I got to see a small glimpse of His love for all of His children.  To understand what’s truly important.  Not medical diagnoses or adoption files or questioning whether a nanny is feeding children the right way.

But people.  Loving people is what’s important.  No matter their status or special need.  Orphan, nanny, or otherwise.  That’s what He wanted me to see.  Because the Father wants all of us to be adopted as His sons and daughters.  And He’ll use anyone to accomplish His mission, if we just humbly offer ourselves to be available.

As Mike Foster wrote in his book, People of the Second Chance, “Bring what you have, no matter what it looks like.  His standards are embarrassingly low, and he will work with everything you’re willing to put into his hands.  You are imperfect, but you can be perfectly loved and perfectly used by him.” (pg. 30)  I’m resting in that truth this morning.  As I reflect on this past week and try my hardest to make good on my promise to Wayland, my prayer is that He perfectly loves and uses me and all of my team members, despite our imperfectness.

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NicoleNicole is a daughter to the King and a wife to an amazing man. She is a classical homeschooling mama to four, by birth and adoption. She is a part-time newborn photographer, a founder and adoption photographer at Red Thread Sessions, a contributing blogger at No Hands But Ours and an advocate of orphan care and adoption. When she’s not with her family or behind her camera, she loves to blog, create, give life to old furniture, spend time at the beach and read. She strives to live her life to glorify our Heavenly Father.  With His love, all things are possible.

A Beautiful Girl

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They told me she was introverted, easygoing, compliant. They told me that she gets sad sometimes but that she is easily comforted when her nanny, who clearly cares for her well, explains right and wrong. They told me that she can write her Chinese characters quite well, that her receptive knowledge is good, that her expression is okay. They told me she is good at math compared to other children in her class. And, they told me she really likes music and dancing and that she is remarkably talented.

I nodded my head and smiled. I believed them. Sure, I’m sure she enjoys music and likes to dance. And, it was endearing to hear her nanny say that she was talented in dancing…so sweet.

And, then they asked if I’d like her to show us.

This little girl hasn’t had her papers submitted yet. She has Down Syndrome, they told me, as if when I heard the words I’d agree that she would not be wanted.

She has Down Syndrome. And, she is beautiful and marvelous in every way. And, oh, how I hope that someone has room in their family for her. If you think you might, let us know. We’d love to talk to you about how to make that happen.

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Kelly-NHBO1-150x150

Kelly 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 and the October orphanage trip on Kelly’s blog.

Four Way to Care for the Fatherless When You’re Not Called to Adopt

You may have no intention of adopting, but know (and love) friends and family members who have. I commend you for taking the time to learn about how you can best support these families in your life!

Four-Ways-to-Care-for-the-Fatherless-When-Youre-Not-Called-to-Adopt-700x1050Not everyone is called to adopt, but Scripture is clear that all are called to care for the fatherless and act on their behalf. I love Isaiah 1:17, which says “learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.” Every Christian is called to do good before God, and that includes seeking out justice for those who are being oppressed.

This is one of the main reasons I’ve chosen to write a book about foster adoption (enter your email in the sidebar for updates about a late Spring release!). Adoptive families need their churches, and fellow believers, to come along side them with right thinking and a Christ-like perspective as they follow the path God has called them to. Pastors, elders, and ministry leaders ought to be equipped with a basic knowledge of the different types of adoption, helpful adoption lingo, and an arsenal of how to best support the growing families in their congregation.

I must say though, our church is amazing, and they are very adoption-friendly. We have received nothing but support from them, delicious casseroles when both boys arrived to our family, clothes, books, toys, and gift cards. You name it we probably received it! It’s not about the tangible though (although those things were life-savers). More importantly, it’s the attitude of the people in our congregation that have blessed us the most.

Here are four ways to care for the fatherless when you’re not personally called to adopt:

1) Respect boundaries that have been set

A few months after our oldest son arrived, we noticed some quirky behaviors that alerted us to some possible attachment issues. We kindly asked our small group, and others in our church who regularly interacted with him, to respect a few boundaries we needed to put into place for his good. He needed to learn who mom and dad were, and who was going to meet his needs. It’s not going to be the sweet old lady we see every Sunday who wants to give him candy, or our amazing small group who showers him with lots of love and attention. It’s Adam and myself, and he needed a renewed focus on that goal.

Everyone responded to us in a way that showed they love our little boy immensely, and respected our role as his new parents. Our son learned that high fives on Sunday mornings are more appropriate than hugs and kisses, and “I love you” is reserved only for family (for now). He has grown so much since we set these boundaries, and thanks to our amazing church, they played a massive role in that healing! We are so grateful.

2) Have a teachable heart in regard to birth parents, loss, and race issues

I’ve had countless conversations on Sunday mornings with teachable and open-hearted people in our congregation. I could not be more thankful for where God has placed us. There is a respect for our boys birth parents, an understanding of the loss our sons have experienced, and a growing openness for the fact that, as black boys, they will likely be racialized as they grow older (this one is the most difficult one we’ve encountered, being in a predominantly white community, as it takes time for lifelong false beliefs about different ethnicities to be broken down). There is not much more I could ask for in regard to support for our boys! Our church has done this well.

3) Remember that your words matter

Educating yourself on adoption lingo will bless adoptive couples immensely. Remembering that any child in their family is “their own”, whether through birth or adoption, is one of the greatest gifts you can give them. Acknowledging the loss their child has been through (loss of birth parents, siblings, friends, a prior foster home, and everything familiar to them) is a very important part of caring for adoptees. It’s easy for us to want to celebrate (the orphan has a home!), but that’s not the case for the child who has lost everything. There needs to be an understanding and respect of that.

We had one awkward encounter a few days after our oldest son joined our family. A kind older woman asked him if he liked his “new mommy and daddy.” He looked at her like she had three heads. His little two and a half year old brain was probably thinking “I have a mommy and daddy, and they aren’t it!” We did quickly become “mommy and daddy” to him within a week or two, which we learned is typical for kids in foster care. Up until that point we were Miss April and Mister Adam to him. He had just been removed from his birth mom a few days prior, and was probably so confused and scared about what the future would hold for him. That question was well-intentioned, but highly inappropriate.

These are the sort of encounters that become opportunities for us as adoptive couples to show tons of grace, and kindly educate. I gently corrected her comment and let her know that he has a mommy and daddy who love him very much, and that we are thrilled to have him be a part of our family right now. I don’t think she understood, and that’s ok, but I believe in situations like this grace will always trump the snarky remarks we may be tempted to make.

It’s important for supporters to keep in mind that their questions and remarks, likely born out of curiosity, could put the adoptive family in an awkward position. If their children are older, and can understand, comments that are not well thought out could be hurtful to them and disrespectful to their fragile past. It’s never ok to make judgments about a child’s birth parents, racial slurs, or comment about how you “can’t believe no one wanted them”.

4) Be committed, with hope, for the long haul

The church ought to be a place where adoptive families can enter in with all of their messiness, and receive love and support as they seek to lead these precious kiddos to hope and healing, and ultimately, to our Savior. You may not be called to adopt, but you are called to care for the fatherless. Learning how to do that in a way that blesses the adoptive families in your life will be a precious gift to them.

This will look differently for each family, so don’t be afraid to ask them what they need, and how you can best support and love them through the years. Some families may be more or less open with you about their children and their needs. Some may not know what they need because they’re still in the fog, trying to get a grasp on what would be best for their kiddos. The love and faithfulness of a church who is in it for the long haul, just as the adoptive parents are, is a beautiful way to show the gospel to families who have grown through adoption.

Love on the family if their placement fails. Pray for their kids when an important court date is near, or they have a visit with their birth parents. Bring them meals when a new child enters their family. Show them immense amounts of grace when their son or daughter acts out during worship. Don’t assume their child is “troubled” or “damaged” or destined to work at the grocery store for their entire lives because X diagnosis runs in their birth family.

If you believe the gospel, then you know that no one is too far gone! Not a single one. Even the most broken, messy, un-attached child, with the most disturbing past is not too far gone for our great Redeemer. It’s not too hard for him to save them, and heal them, and it shouldn’t be too hard for you to believe he can save them and bring them complete healing either.

Let us not forget that he saved you and me in our sin. We need Jesus just as much as our children from foster care do. Believe in the power of the gospel to heal, and save, having great hope for their future, praying for their spiritual adoption into the family of God. This is the best way you can care for the fatherless without actually adopting.

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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.

 

 

Here it is, W___. I’m telling them {advocating}

WM letter

Dear Uncle and Aunt,
I am very happy to write this letter to you. My name is W____. I’m thirteen years old. I study in the senior class here, and my favorite class is Table Tennis. I desire to be adopted by an American family. When I see some other children going abroad, I really envy them. I hope that you could help me find a family soon. Thank you! Below are some of my homework (Chinese and math homework.) Best regards, W___

Dear W___,
I am glad to help you! I am going to share about you with as many people as I can. I will also tell them about how you are a little shy but have a lot of friends, often chatting with the other children in your class and whispering in their ears, and how you love to smile. I know your papers say you have what we call “CP,” but I’ll make sure families know how you can play basketball and ping pong, help your foster mom and dad out around the apartment where you live without any trouble or fuss, and that you’re a healthy kid.

When you were in the English class we taught, you worked so hard to learn “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes.” I know it wasn’t easy to get all the words and all the motions right. But, you did great.

our canopy bed picAnd, when you were a part of the photography workshop in October 2014 when you were only just 11, you were a superstar with that camera. You took one of my favorite pictures from the whole workshop!

I’ll tell them all that. I’ll be sure of it.

It makes sense that your heart hurts when you see your friends leave to be adopted. It makes sense that you would want to have a family too, one of your own who will take you home to live together for everyday forever. I will do my best to spread the word that there is a really great boy who really wants a family and who will make a really great son who is available to be adopted right now.

Your friend,
Aunt Kelly (and Uncle Mark too)
WM - 1

WM 2

Interested in learning more about this young man? He’s currently available for adoption from “the shared list,” meaning that any agency with a China program can help you. If you are not already committed to an agency, I recommend contacting Madison Adoption Associates (who gives $3,000 in grants towards adopting boys over the age of 8 and has confirmed they will give that in addition to income grants for the adoption of W___) or America World to learn more.

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Kelly-NHBO1-150x150

Kelly 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.

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.

 

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.

“Dad, I’ve Gotten Myself into a Little Trouble”

It happened almost every weekday around 6:30 and it was one of the most touching things I have had the privilege to witness. It is a picture of adoption really—simple, deeply moving, and truly beautiful.

Our three boys, all recently home from a Russian orphanage, would climb up on the wooden fence in front of our house and just look down the road. I remember the first time they did it I wondered what they were up to. (Back in those early days of adoption I wondered that a whole lot!!)

And the oldest, still speaking only Russian, pointed down the road and said something about “Papa”—being super bright I was able to translate that right away!  And I recognized “waiting,” a Russian word I had learned, along with lots of other mommy vocabulary like “brush your teeth,” “I love you,” “be careful,” “time for bed,” “don’t do that!” ……. not to mention a few cuss words that our children would repeat when angry. Wondering what in the world they were saying, I asked a Russian speaking friend to translate. Yikes!

Over the years there have been many moments like that one, the kind of moments that compel you to reach for your camera in hopes that you can somehow hold on to the warmth and beauty of it all. I didn’t get a photo of my boys waiting for their Papa back then, but I see them still and think, “That right there is what adoption is all about— that child has a Daddy to wait for at the end of the day.”
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And when I think about these children, who once were orphans standing at a different fence watching people who weren’t their parents drive away, I am overwhelmed.

But my understanding about what is beautiful has changed, or more accurately has expanded, since those early days of the Papa-lookout. God has been teaching me to see the beauty and power of adoption in what at first look (and even second and third look!) appears to be only ugly.

Let me explain by telling you another adoption story, although if you are like me you may not recognize it as beautiful.

A few years ago my husband and I traveled to Texas to be with his mother, who was having surgery. Leaving our seven children, all older teens and young adults by this time, made us a bit nervous since a few of them were not doing too well. Just as Stephen’s mother was being wheeled back into her hospital room after surgery his phone rang. Such bad timing, as so many parenting moments are!

As soon as I saw his face I knew two things: it was one of our children, and it wasn’t good.

I was right.

“Dad, it looks like I’ve gotten myself into a little bit of trouble,” he says.

He was making this call from jail.

The details aren’t necessary, but I will tell you I was so angry. I felt deeply disappointed, deeply discouraged, and deeply weary of the battle.

And I could only see the ugly in this.

A few hours later I was able to take the time to pray, which began with me complaining to The Lord, and then asking Him once again to please tell us what to do to help our son heal and live in the freedom of sonship.

And as is always the way with God, He answered my desperate question with a life-giving response, so different from what I was looking for.

“But Beth, this is a SON who has a DADDY to call when he has ‘gotten himself into a little bit of trouble.’”

Just that.

One sentence that completely changed my perspective and transformed what was ugly into something truly moving.

What felt like yet another failure, of my son and of our parenting, became a powerful picture of adoption.

For this was no orphan.

This was a SON.

Who had a FATHER.

This was simple, deeply moving, and truly beautiful.

This, my fellow adopters, is what adoption is all about. It isn’t what I had dreamed of when we brought our children home 17 years ago, and it has cost us more than we ever imagined, but it is the work of the Father’s love played out in all of our lives.

It is what adoption is all about.

                                        ___________________________________________
Beth Templeton

Beth Templeton

Beth has been married to her husband Stephen for 27 years. They have seven children, ages 18-24. Several years after giving birth to three girls God called their family to the adventure and blessing of adoption. In 2000, they brought home a brother and sister, ages 5 and 10, from Russia. Then they returned to the same orphanage 18 months later and brought home two more brothers, ages 7 and 10. Beth’s heart has been deeply and forever changed as she has watched the love of Father God poured out on her whole family through adoption. She leads Hope at Home, a ministry dedicated to help adoptive and foster parents encounter the Father’s heart for their families, partnering with God to transform orphans into sons and daughters. For more parenting insight and encouragement in the Lord, go to Hope at Home.

 

When You Stop Being Invulnerable

A friend (who’d worked at length with children) watched the two of them play innocently in the one small section of the waiting room where we’d told them they could unpack their tote of just a few toys. We’d described to him their first few months at home with with us and he witnessed what we’d said and more. They played without fear and securely under our boundaries, even though we’d not been within immediate reach. They took delight in simple trinkets, but even more in one another, as ones who were already siblings before they became our family. Neither set of eyes was dull, but alive.

“There’s a word for that,” he said. “They are ‘invulnerables’.”

He spoke to what we’d presumed. They were untouchable, unadulterated by loss that had shrouded the years before they could even walk. Our children — former orphans — had been preserved.

And I was relieved.

We’d said ‘yes’ to them knowing what the books said about the possible implications of loss and brokenness, but we hung on to optimism more than we did hope — because optimism is often marked by naiveté, but hope is forged. (We were too new at this to have forged real hope.) She’d always fight for her little brother and lean into me as mommy. He would trust. Their eyes would always be bright with expectation. They were the rare kind of “normal” that gets produced out of abnormality. I thought for sure.

Phew. Both Nate and I knew I wasn’t cut out for layered pain as a new mom. So we called them The Invulnerables and I exhaled.

Until one day we couldn’t anymore.

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Growth and time and siblings added to the mix revealed worn edges that two-on-two hadn’t. One struggled to trust. Another to lean in. The brightness in their eyes waned, for a time. A little bit of pressing and we saw tired years behind those wide-smiles and flickering eyes. Life had, in fact, worked them over before we held them for the first time. They weren’t as invulnerable as they once appeared.

{But really — is anyone?}

+++

I cringe, later, at what I’d call an over-share with a new friend sipping coffee. She wasn’t ready for that. I wasn’t ready to say all that. I blush when my child says that thing in that way in public. I don’t want to send the text for the third day in a row that begs “I need prayer” and I feel slightly naked before the friend with two older (read: more composed) children, who stops by unexpectedly and sees my wreck of a house at 3pm on a Tuesday.

I resent the tears I cry over missing my Dad in the middle of someone else’s birthday dinner when I’m reminded that he’s gone.

Who, really, doesn’t want be an ‘invulnerable’?

Most of us have let life and humanity train us into thinking that vulnerability is to be avoided — in us and in others. It’s toxic. We’ve bought into the lie that exposure of the heart — in even the smallest of ways — only brings pain.

The one who makes that 9pm crisis call to friends to say “our marriage is stuck, can we come over and get some help?” wakes up to a morning-after “why didn’t we just resolve it ourselves?” gulp of shame. The 50 year-old woman who musters courage to whisper to her decade-old Bible study group “I’d still like to be married. Would you pray that God would give me a husband?” leaves that night feeling foolish for putting herself out there. The 25 year-old wanna-be songwriter sings the first song he wrote, passionately, before he steps off the stage and makes a promise to himself to never take a risk like that again. The mother of that baby in the NICU — whom the doctors said wouldn’t make it — works up a prayer for healing and asks others to pray with her, only to wish she’d just accepted her lot as the reality of that exposed prayer creeps in and over her. What’s it gonna feel like if He doesn’t “come through”? What will they say about me and my wild prayers? she thinks.

We’d all like to climb out of those few circumstances that somehow slip past the gate of invulnerability we so fiercely guard because we’ve only been trained to know the downside of vulnerability — the human side of vulnerability.

Branch Water MJ

When the first two we adopted stopped living so seamlessly in our world — no longer without a bump or blemish — I coiled. I’d built an understanding of us as family that required them to be invulnerable. They were smooth, easy, and I was safe and unexposed. During those first months after we got our second two children and when the bumps and blemishes began to surface in our first two children, I was terrified. My heart had attached safety to invulnerability and I was now unsafe, by my metric. Their vulnerability — the fact that their past had impacted them in ways I couldn’t easily tidy up — made me feel vulnerable.And I didn’t know what to do with that.

I didn’t know what to do with vulnerability.

It wasn’t all that different than the walk to the car after my “overshare” with a new friend or the way I felt after leaving a baby shower where my barren womb was noted … or when it wasn’t.

Vulnerability shuts down the systems of self-defense we create around our manicured lives.

And vulnerability, to God, is beautiful.

It’s His currency.

Flower Cherish

I form a language about God and nearness and tenderness, but I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced it independent from my own vulnerability. I talk of Him as a kind Father and a gentle leader, but that language rarely moves to reality without some level of uncomfortable exposure in my heart. I pray for “more of God” but I rarely grow in personal, intimate understanding of Him without, first, wearing the kind of vulnerability that I seem to spend most of my time avoiding.

The invulnerables are impenetrable.

And those who learn to re-set their system in the face of vulnerability — to turn to Him and bury their otherwise-shamed faces in His chest — are the ones into which He reaches. They’re the ones who grow.

I want to be them.

Daisies MJ

I want to make the call to a friend at midnight because I need help, and turn to Him the next morning when my shame tells me otherwise.

I want to send a dozen texts for prayer and find out how safe it feels to curl up in His lap when that voice in my head tells me I’m a burden in my weakness.

I want to write a book (another one!) that exposes layers of my heart and life I’d feel safer not sharing and see Him wildly celebrating my partnership with Him when my heart starts to shrink back in fear.

I want to pray for my once-barren womb to open again, even past 40.

If the naked exposure of my vulnerability before God means I get to not just see but smell Him and touch Him and be held by Him, I’ll take it.

Invulnerables1

For Your Continued Pursuit (cause I don’t want you to just take my word for it): 2 Corinthians 4:7 | Psalm 22 | Psalm 34:18 | Isaiah 42:3 | Psalm 31:1-2 | Romans 8:1

 

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

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.

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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.

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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 kraudenbush@sparrow-fund.org 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.