Category Archives: Realities

Expectations, realities, real struggles

The Gospel in My Living Room

In her book Kisses from Katie, Katie Davis wrote, “Adoption is the gospel in my living room.”  I know I have posted that before, but I’m realizing how wrong it feels out of context.  The full quote doesn’t sound as nice, but there’s a reason Katie wrote every word of:

In an effort to be real, I will tell you: It was hard. . .  [Adoption is] the greatest blessing I have ever experienced.  Adoption is also difficult and painful.  Adoption is the gospel in my living room.  And sometimes, it’s just hard. (72)

I haven’t talked about the hard side of adoption here that much, mostly because I want to protect my siblings.  I don’t want others, people who can’t understand how hard their road to family was, to judge them.  Because of that I’m not sharing specifics.  But I’ve been avoiding posting about the grit of adoption, and I feel like I need to face it.

Adoption is like the gospel, but that doesn’t necessarily mean what we want it to.  When we think of the gospel, we like to think of nice things–forgiveness, healing, life.  Crowds of people with enough bread and fish to eat, men raised from the dead, women healed, children sitting happily in Jesus’ lap.

And that’s all very cozy, but there’s more to it than that.  Some parts of the gospel are not so pleasant, and some parts are downright nasty.  The gospel is rough; it is blood, and sweat, and tears.

The gospel is stains, and scars, and grime under my finger nails.  Redemption is my lungs constricted with sobs, and dust clinging to my sweaty palms.  Adoption is jumping ship and walking on the water, and realizing the waves are tall and the wind is strong, and feeling my faith flicker like a candle caught in a draft.

Adoption is not running to the pain–adoption is bringing the pain home with me, into the stronghold that was my only safe place.

It took me so long to fully understand how every adoption has and always will start with tragedy and heart-tearing sacrifice.  I can look into a child’s eyes–wrap my fingers around five smaller ones–and whisper yes, because someone looked into the same wounded face, answered no, and opened her hands.  My joy and my gain is, and must be, tainted by their grief and loss.

Adoption is a kind of warfare; against pain and shame, and injustice and abandonment.

“Adoption is redemption.  It is costly, exhausting, expensive and outrageous.  Buying back lives costs so much. When God set out to redeem us, it killed him.”  –Derek Loux

Adoption will cost you.  It will hurt you.  In a way, it will kill you.

Adoption will leave you on your knees, breathless; staring into Jesus’ face, that shines with radiant light.

___________________________

Hanna Rothfuss

Hanna Rothfuss

My name is Hanna Rothfuss.  I am 14 and in eighth grade.  I have lived in the suburbs of Omaha, Nebraska for my whole life.  My interests are reading and writing, mainly about fantasy and orphan care–often adoption.  I have four siblings, two of which are adopted.  I’m a homeschooler and a child of God.  I pray that all my writing is encouraging, empowering, and brings glory to Him.

You can read more of Hanna’s writing on her blog: Taking My Time.

Post Mother’s Day Blues

Is there such a thing as Post Mother’s Day blues? There must be. I have them.

Seems like my family can’t win. On one hand, there is part of my heart that wanted more from them – more appreciation for how tough this job really is and a deeper understanding of how much I really love them. On the other hand, despite the wonderful cards and texts from them, somehow I feel terribly undeserving. If only they knew the depths of my dark heart – the unkind thoughts and resentments that lurk there sometimes.  If needed, I would crawl over cut glass for them, with a triumphant smile on my face for all the world to see – to proclaim my abiding sacrificial love for them. But inside, I confess, there are days that I grumble, feel discouraged, ashamed of my failures.

What grade would you give yourself as a Mom? Some days I’m feeling pretty good – maybe a B or B+. Some moments maybe even an A! On a bad day, much much worse. Some days it might depend on who I’m comparing myself to. And, I wonder – do we get to grade ourselves on a curve? How do you grade a mom when her children have brains altered by past trauma, when their behavior often makes no sense, when they fight the very love that she is offering?

I confess that, early on, I really did think that, if I was a good enough mom, my efforts would translate into amazing results with my kids. My husband and I had thought we would be the perfect adoptive parents. We thought we could provide the ideal environment for our children to heal from past hurts. We weren’t prepared for how hard the fight would be. Over the years, each child has both clamored for and resisted our love, and it can be exhausting. Behavior has been infinitely more challenging than we had anticipated, and I often have felt completely inadequate to the task. And much to my dismay, I am a very different mother than I thought I would be – too often impatient or distracted or angry or just tired.  What a rollercoaster. There have been wonderful times of joy and victory – fun family outings, meaningful conversations, signs of great growth. At other times, I’ve fought deep discouragement.

The good news is that God is the One responsible for the results. The God who loves our kids even more than we do WILL accomplish His purposes for them.  What a privilege that He invites us into that work. He chose us for them, and them for us. All four of my kids are “launched” now,  and I truly marvel at all He has done in their lives. And as I look back I realize that indeed He sometimes accomplished great things in them through us! But at many other times, he has done so in spite of us. He didn’t need us to get it right. What a comfort.

Certainly, He calls us to diligence and obedience. We all work hard to be the best Moms we can be. We read books, and blogs, and consult friends and sometimes professionals. We are intentional. And we should seek excellence in all we do. But at the end of the day, it seems the most important lesson I’ve learned is that they just need our constancy and to know that we ARE their moms and that we are FOR them, no matter what, forever. The rest is details.

So, our part becomes simply to be faithful and leave the results to God. I am an awesome mom, and YOU are an awesome mom, simply because we provide our kids the opportunities to learn and grow and be loved. Some of our kids can’t take it all in right away. It doesn’t happen in our timing. But, we need to trust that God has made them to receive that love and guidance; and eventually it will bear fruit. And even on the days when they are fighting it, we are awesome because we are faithful.  That is all that is needed.

A constant, faithful, imperfect Mom is exactly what your child needs – an eye-rolling, “Are you serious!?” impatient, too-busy, bought-Kentucky-Fried-Chicken-for-the-church-potluck-cause-I-ran-out-of-time-to-make-homemade, kind of mom who says “You can never lose my love.” That is what we are called to. That is what they need.

And they’ll get it…someday. I can’t tell you when. But they’ll get it.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord…As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and does not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish,… so is my word that goes out from my mouth. It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.  – Isaiah 55:8-11

____________________________

cheryl nitzCheryl Nitz, ACSW, LCSW has worked in the field of adoption and foster care for over 30 years. She has extensive training in the field of attachment and trauma, particularly in the area of facilitating healing in foster, adopted, and post-institutionalized children. She currently is the director and a therapist at the Attachment and Bonding Center of PA. But, she often says her best education has come from being a parent with her husband to their four kids (two of whom came to the family through adoption) and grandparent to four!

So….You’re Adopting!

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for listening. 🙂

————————————

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

Okay With Being Okay

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

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

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

Sometimes I feel like we should be struggling more.

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

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

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

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

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

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.

___________________________________

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.  

Climbing to Find Beauty

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do we see what God sees?

Beauty 1

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

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

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

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

Beauty 2

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

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

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

BEauty 3

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

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

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

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

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

Beauty 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

________________________________

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

The HOW of Adoption: {People Ask/Say all the Time}

Family-Photo-Ankerich

You can imagine the stares and questions we get when we walk into a place with all our littles. And the head shaking that ensues when we share about CallaAnne! I know! I used to be the same way when we were a family of three girls and bigger families were near. The same questions popped into my head that I will share below and little did I know God had MUCH bigger plans for our family than we would ever imagine.

Giving God control of your thoughts changes your life and gives you blessings you NEVER saw coming!!!

People ask us all the time HOW in the world are we able to handle this adoption life God has given us and at times its hard to put into words. My husband Scott chose this topic today and hope together we are able to give hope to anyone called… you just have to say yes.

People Ask/Say All the Time:

“How in the World do you handle all those children?”

God is First: We don’t handle them. We love them with God’s help. First and foremost, a relationship with God is foundational to all successes in life. Being in step with God’s will brings strength, guidance, and assurance all is well. Everything begins with prayer and as long as Scott and I are praying together, God keeps our hearts, thoughts, and actions aligned. Each time we have gone forward with an adoption, we BOTH had to know it was the right decision for our family and the only way we knew that was communication with God and each other.

It is NOT easy to move forward. We usually describe it as an elephant in the room. We know it’s there but we don’t discuss until we’ve prayed and have a decision. My prayer is always for God to press on Scott’s heart what is right and true. All in time, we come to the decision by allowing God to be First!

We can handle all God has called us to because it is His plan and He is First!


 

“How do you love so many at one time?”

Love each other like crazy: Scott says all the time we are able to love all our children because we love Each Other like crazy!!! Marriages need to be strong to handle the many facets of adoption. There is no way we could do this without each other. Complete submission and dedication in our marriage comes before the needs of our children and after following God. We are best friends and share everything. There are times when you feel you can’t go one more second and it is in those rough patches, a spouse can make all the difference.

I have sweet precious friends that are single and raising beautiful families too. I know they are surrounded by amazing people that support them in their journey as well. It boils down to putting your trust in the One whom has called us to this life. He gives all of us what we need for each day we wake up.

Scott and I certainly give God the glory for the Love we are able to pour out on so many and love each other well! 


 

“Well you all certainly had to be Called to adopt all those kids!” 

Being Called: We are ALL called in James 1:27 to look after orphans and widows. That can look so different for you and me. Our family was called to birth and adopt our children. You may be called to foster, support an orphan or orphanage, support a family adopting, or whatever you hear God telling you. The bottom line: You have to be Listening and Willing!!! We adopted our Chinese children because God showed us their faces and they were waiting for us to come. We will go until they are all home and we will know that being completely surrendered to God’s will.

We certainly did have to be called to birth and adopt all our children because God ordained it all!!!


 

“You sure do have your hands full!” 

Hearts Full: Yes our hands are full but mostly our hearts. When you are living a certain life, it’s not something you think about in tiny parts and decisions. It is a daily flow and rhythm of living and loving. It is being and doing the necessary things for everyone to stay alive and thrive. As basic needs are met, love begins to bloom because everyone is learning to be a family and feeling secure. When we are out and about, it does look like my hands are full especially walking through Target with six kids riding on the shopping cart, but there is strategy behind that practice and a whole lot of work back at home that brought us to this place. Love does not come easy or fast. Lots of blood, sweat, and tears come first.

Yes we have our hands full but our Hearts are the fullest and our life meaningful. 


 

“How are you going to send them to college?”

Confident: Educating our children is a one day at a time adventure. Two of our children have graduated college and living beautiful productive lives. One is in college now chasing the destiny God has laid before her. Six are home learning as we do life and I don’t worry about their future. God meant for them to be in our family and He is molding them into what He wants them to be. We spend much time reading the Bible and discussing how the stories apply to our lives then have time to actually practice them.

I LOVE our home life and confident God has their futures all figured out… I don’t have to be concerned with that just now. (Jer 29:11)


 

“Well you won’t ever retire, will you?”

Commitment: Choosing to have children is a lifelong commitment. It isn’t a choice made that ceases once they graduate college or get married or have their own kids. We are still extremely involved in our big kids’ lives and wouldn’t want it any other way. When we brought our children into our family, we committed our lives unto them. Our family hinges on this amazing scripture: 1 Peter 4:10, ” Each of you has received a gift to use to serve others. Be good servants of God’s various gifts of grace.” Where in the Bible do we ever see someone retired?

Scott and I will probably never have the retirement most people will enjoy BUT we will live our lives completely and fully to the measure God has set for us through our Retirement years.


“What do your big kids think about all these little kids?”

Sacrifice: We tell in our adoption story the amazing way our big girls (little then) wrapped their hearts around bringing home little EK when she was just 11 months old. None of us imagined we would soon have 7. There is no way adoption would have worked had they not been FOR it. Being for it doesn’t mean easy either. It is hard to be a child in a family and more being adding yearly but God covers that too. Our big girls have changed and matured so much through watching and accepting their little siblings into our family. Our littles are SO very blessed to have our littles in their lives. ALL of our children are SO very blessed to have so many to love them.

God did a mighty work in our big girls’ hearts when He brought us to adoption and we can’t imagine life any other way!


 

“You sure are blessing those kids and just so proud of you!”

Our Blessing!: The opposite couldn’t be more true. As much as we are blessing our children choosing them for our family, THEY are blessing us more than we can even put into words. We are different because of them. There are days when we are in awe and fright of maybe missing life with them and other days we wonder WHAT in the WORLD did we do. :) But when all settles down and we remember the calling, we are the ones being blessed just for saying yes!

Blessings always abound when you say yes to God! 


 

In the end, we can’t imagine standing before God and Him saying,

‘What in the world were you doing loving all those children?”

 

What’s your biggest fear in raising a big family? Trust God. He is OVER it all!!!

___________________________________

2015-11-12-16.43.29-2Shay Ankerich is mom to nine going on ten kids (seven from China), wife to Scott, and a homeschooling mom.  She loves Jesus, adoption, blogging, reading, photography, and crocheting. She might even be writing a book but it seems to be taking a lifetime to finish. You can find her writing at A Beautiful Symphony about Family, Home, Adoption, and School.

For When We’re Afraid of the Dark

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

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

Why?

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

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

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

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

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

What fear do you need to face with confidence today?

God is already there.

____________________________

IMG_8192

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

 

 

Enlarged in the Waiting

I love the Advent season. Advent is all about waiting in anticipation, not just for the presents of Christmas morning, but for the manifestation of God’s presence—the increase of His kingdom, in this world, in our situations, in our hearts, in our homes.

We have done a good bit of waiting over the last 15 years of adoptive parenting.  We have waited for paperwork to be approved, for our children to come home, for proficiency in English, for a new normal for our family, for attachment, for healing, for wholeness, for the replacing of an orphan spirit for the Spirit of Adoption that speaks of sonship.

Our spirits are often full with the promises God has spoken to us. Even as I write, I am filled with the satisfaction of a promise already come to pass as I live out the dream in real life! For, like many of you, our children are home and they are no longer orphans. Oh how wonderful that is!

img_f0710212aa1
But there are some of you reading this who are in the waiting- for-your-child-to-come-home stage; you are facing significant obstacles between you and your child being home. I just want to pause this post to add our faith to yours in prayer:

Father God, in faith we believe You for these precious families. We call these children HOME. And we speak to the mountains that would hinder that homecoming and say, Be Moved. Comfort the hearts of our friends who are waiting, and protect these precious treasures who are waiting to come home. Amen. 

 For a few other things that are very dear to my heart though, I am still waiting, feeling the weight of the wait! I am waiting for some promises that have yet to be delivered safe and sound into the arms of our lives. Sometimes the weight feels heavy and wearisome. When it does, I find I must be careful not to allow disappointment to sicken my heart.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire is fulfilled, it is a tree of life. (Proverbs 13:12 AMP)

Do you ever hear those whispers like I do–the ones that say “give up; it’s not going to happen; it is just too hard to continue in hope; the weight of the wait is too burdensome; it would be much easier to quit believing, maybe this is all there is and I should just settle …..”

I am pregnant with a promise from God, and I suspect you are too. For me it is the Promise of Adoption and all that is hidden in the meaning of that word. The promise of deep inner healing for my children, and their wholeness in all areas of their lives–healthy attachment, freedom from the residue of rejection, intimacy with the One who is The Spirit of Adoption.

And in the wait to see the promise delivered I sometimes feel cumbersome, waddling through some days with the weight of it all.

And it is clear to me that the enemy is always after the unborn life, tempting me to abort that unborn promise–to settle for less.

And I recognize the temptation to defer hope–to postpone hope for some other time, for some other promise. The sacrifice of bearing the unborn promise, nurturing it with the food of faith in what seems like a past term pregnancy, sometimes makes me weary.

BUT then I am reminded that

God’s Love Endures Forever.
Love, God’s Love In Me, is Patient.

The enemy would kill the child. It has always been his way.

But Father God responds with a shout, “LIVE!”

And so I choose to agree with LIFE.

And like a pregnant woman, I am enlarged with the promise rather than diminished by its weight.

And I see that God is changing me and my children with His promises, and once again I recognize the honor it is to bear such a weight. The stretch marks of the growth process haven’t faded, but they speak a good word to me. They speak to the expansion required by adoption, the shape change in our family and in our hearts. They speak to the pain that comes with growth— the “more” of increase. They are marks of growth in compassion, understanding, patience grace, mercy, and warfare. They are marks that speak to me about who I am becoming in the process.

And I am learning to enjoy His presence with me and in me along the way.

That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy. Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.(Romans 8:24-28 MSG)

                                        ___________________________________________
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.

 

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

___________________________________

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.  

 

Adoption Truths: Grief

Grief.

We will all experience it at some point in our lives. It is the part of our experience here on earth, but seeing one so small experience grief breaks my heart.
Our sweet Eva has been a part of our family for six months now (see my gotcha day blog post {{{HERE}}}). Over the last few months there has been transition, pain, joy and the mere busyness of life. From homeschooling to Pilates to bonding with Eva, I will be honest and say the last few of months have been exhausting and overwhelming at times. But each day is better than the last with Eva.
Today I am sharing with you what it has been like to walk with my sweet girl on this journey of grief in hope of providing encouragement where it is needed and hope to those about to walk a similar journey.
Many days are a roller coaster of emotion for Eva as she traverses the stages of grief as well learning how to be a part of our family. She gets frustrated when we don’t understand her and angry when we discipline her. There are days when she is happy all day and days when she is sad and angry, asking when she will see her China family. I have had to explain numerous times that we are her forever family, but that is hard for her to understand. And of course, a nap can work wonders on the difficult days.
There are so many things for her to learn and and comprehend at the young age of four:
  • what does obedience look like in our family
  • how to fit in and play with her new siblings
  • the realization that she is not going back to her foster family in China
  • the fact that we love her and that she will never be taken away from us
  • meeting new people all the time
  • who are all these people interested in her
  • English

This list could go on and on.

Stop for a moment and think about what is would feel like to experience all this and then think about what it would feel like to one so young. How would you react in the same situation?
But interspersed throughout her pain, sadness and sometimes defiance is joy. Those are the moments where we see the real Eva letting go and letting love in. And it is in those moments that I can hear God whisper to me, “patience, my child. I am ever patience with you, be patient with her, hold her, comfort her, discipline her and above all LOVE HER!”
“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.
Instead He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish,
but everyone to come to repentance.”
As Eva’s grasp of the English language grows, so does my ability to ease her fears and answer her questions. It is a beautiful thing to watch her open up her heart a little more each day to us. She wants to be a part of our family and has so much love to give but it is hard for her little heart to let go of the family that loved and cared for her for the first 4 years of her life.
“But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God,
slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.”

_________________________________________

SONY DSC

Suzanne Meledeo

After struggling with infertility for 5 years, God led Suzanne and her husband Adam to His Plan A for their lives—adoption! Their daughter, Grace Lihua, came into their lives in 2011 from the Fujian Province, China. Their son, Anthony Jianyou, joined their family in January of 2013 from Shanghai, and Eva Hanting just joined their family in May from the Hunan Province. After a career in politics, Suzanne is thankful for God’s provision in their lives that now allows her to work part time as a Pilates instructor while home schooling their children and working as a part of the WAGI leadership team. You can follow their adoption journey and life on their blog, Surpassing Greatness.