Category Archives: Family Stories

Personal family stories

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.

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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.

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.

 

Okay With Being Okay

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

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

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

Sometimes I feel like we should be struggling more.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But What About Our Other Kids?

“But what about our other kids?”

 

I hear that question all the time. I’ve asked it myself. And honestly, I think that’s part of being a good parent. We want what’s best for our kids, and we wonder what adding children to our families through foster care or adoption would be like for them.

 

Although I can’t speak for all families or children, I want to tell you a little about our experiences over the last two years. Although our youngest son was adopted, we received him as an infant, and our oldest was only two. As far as we can tell, the adjustment for everyone in that case was much like if I’d given birth for a second time. Over the last year, however, things have been very different.

 

When our 4 ½- year old daughter came to our family in November of 2016, she’d been in several families and had experienced things our boys never have. She comes from a place of hurt, just as many children in this country and around the world do. We didn’t know what it would be like for the boys to have a new sister with a different background, different race, and different behaviors. And those were legitimate concerns.

 

It’s been rough. They have struggled to love her, and at times, to even be kind to her. They’ve felt jealous and angry by the amount of attention she has required from us. They’ve been annoyed and confused by some of her behaviors, and I’ve heard several times, “I just wish it could be like it was before.”

 

I’ve had days where I’ve felt like I was in a constant counseling session… with my own children. I went from one room to the next listening and empathizing and talking and praying. But we’ve seen the light.

 

Do they still fight? Yes, like most kids probably do. Do they still get jealous? Absolutely. Sibling rivalry is alive and well. But now, they function as three siblings, not as two brothers and a stranger who moved in one Friday.

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I was looking at Project Zero’s website a few months ago, and my kids came to sit by me. They saw a sibling group of five and another of two and asked about them. I explained that the kids needed a family, and do you know what they said?

“We can do that! Let’s go get them.” Then they tried to convince me that having two (or five!) more kids wouldn’t be a big deal at all. Bless ‘em.

 

God is working in their hearts.

 

Last year, our oldest son brought home an assignment from school that God used to show me He’s already redeeming our daughter’s pain and the difficulties we’ve all experienced through these years.

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

One Year.

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November 24, 2014

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Waiting behind the curtains.

I can hardly believe it was one year ago today that we met this sweet, precious boy for the first time. We walked into an eerily quiet Guangzhou civil affairs office and peered through the infamous curtains. The curtains that separate all families from their new children until it is “time.” The curtains my son sat behind, waiting for his future to begin. The anticipation in the room was palpable as more waiting adoptive families shuffled in and the noise steadily grew. After all of the paperwork was signed and it was “time,” I finally held him in my arms and knew instantly that he was my son. The unconditional love I felt for him was overwhelming. All of the waiting and heartache melted away as our new life together officially began. The escalating chaos and noise of the civil affairs office went unnoticed as we became a family of 6 that day. My other children attempted desperately to catch his attention, to see even a glimpse of a smile, while hubby held the camera ready to snap. Snacks, drinks, and toys were placed in his lap to divert his welling tears. I tried to shield him from everything else that was going on around us because I knew he was overstimulated and unsure. But everyone was elated to simply be in his presence after waiting for so long. I gaze at this picture of me holding him … the one that I asked hubby to shoot on my iPhone so I could tell the world he was finally ours … and I feel all of the emotions come flooding back. The feelings of joyfulness, thankfulness, concern, love, fear, protection, confusion, trauma, and more. I see a scared, apprehensive little boy who had no idea what was happening to him. I see sadness and brokenness in his precious eyes. I see hurt in his face that no one should have to experience. I see an amount of bravery and strength that is overwhelming.

I also see the beautiful story of redemption unfolding in his little life. I see a child who is loved deeply by his family and by his Abba Father. A child who is fought for. A child who is fearfully and wonderfully made. A child who was knit into our family through divine intervention. A child who has difficult past experiences that are part of his story, but don’t define him. A child who has hope. A child who is worth it all.

Over the past year, we have watched our precious son and brother come alive. He’s blossomed from a quiet, shy boy into a loud, fun-loving, needs-to-be-in-the-mix, joyful, sometimes bossy, silly, loving son who happily gives and receives affection. He has learned that his mommy and daddy will meet his needs. He has gained 7 pounds and grown almost 4 inches this past year. He has learned how to draw, how to put puzzles together, how to use simple words to communicate, how to pretend play, how to rough house, and how to laugh so contagiously that you can’t help but laugh with him. He has won the love and attention of his siblings. He has learned how to take things apart so he can figure out how they work. He is learning the ABC song and will impress anyone with his Itsy Bitsy Spider hand illustration skills. He has learned so much in his short time with us, and we have too.

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November 24, 2015

We have learned to love more, give more of ourselves, and forgive more. We have learned to be more patient, although I’m still a work-in-progress on that one. We have learned more about ourselves as we’ve grown and stretched. We’ve been reminded that we aren’t in control, but we know Who is as we learn to let go. We’ve been reminded that when we mess up, we are forgiven by the One True God. We’ve remembered over and over again what God’s grace means, as we stumble through trying to share it with each other. We’ve felt His unconditional love repeatedly. Through adoption, we’ve learned, grown, stretched, shown grace, forgiven, and loved together. We’ve been reminded what our Abba Father’s adoption of us means, as we try to grasp our eternal inheritance in heaven. And we’ve seen a small glimpse of His remarkable redemption of us.

“God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” Galatians 4:5-6

Happy Family Day precious son. You are so very loved!

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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.

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.”

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Suzanne Meledeo

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

 

What I Wish I’d Known Last Summer

We drove to Florida in July for our first big adventure as a family of five. Last summer was the height of our meltdowns. I say “our” because I’m pretty sure we all cried on the floor a few times, some more than others. Vacation was just not an option. But this summer? Oh, what a difference a year (and a lot of prayers and hard work) can make.

 

I had my heart set on taking Riah to the beach for her first time, and I might have been more excited than she was. We got her hair cornrowed professionally the day before, which only added to her excitement (and mine- it was so cute!). We got on the road, and our kids did really well for quite a while. Then our road trip was extended by a traffic situation, and it’s possible Matt said the words “Never again.”

 

We pulled in around dusk, threw our stuff in the condo, and rushed out to the beach. Watching our three kids run out into the water was unforgettable. The boys hadn’t been in several years. And Riah? Well she loved the ocean from the moment she saw it. A girl after my own heart.

 

We stood, looking out at the water, her brown toes wiggling in the sand and beads clicking as she swung her hair around. Then for a moment she was still.

She looked up at me and said, “Thank you for bringing me here.

 

I suppose a girl who loves language and writing should be able to describe moments like that in a way that others can understand, but I really can’t. I’m still processing it myself. So much so, in fact, that I’m a little teary while I type this.

 

That week we caught crabs and jellyfish, played in the water, went to a museum, and fell in love with baby powder’s magical sand-removing powers. Overall, the week was restorative and as relaxing as a trip can be with three kids. Our memories helped bond us even more as a family, and I’m so grateful for the time we had there. We’re already thinking of plans for next summer.

 

On the way home, we avoided the traffic and were all in better moods after a week in the sun. We had some dance parties, ate snacks, and threatened their lives if they asked to stop to pee again. Good times.

 

About halfway home, Matt requested some worship music, so I put on All Sons & Daughters and we had a little church in my Tahoe. No matter what’s going on around me, when I hear the first chord of “Great Are You Lord,” everything stops.

I watched God’s creation speed past us out the window, thought back to the breathtaking views I’d had all week, closed my eyes, and took a deep breath. My people were in the car with me, and it felt like everything was right with the world.

 

If someone could have told me in November of 2013 that everything would be as good as it is now, I would have had so much more hope. My darkest days of those next nine months wouldn’t have seemed so hopeless. The questions of “What am I doing wrong?” and “Will things ever seem ‘normal’ again?” would have been a little quieter. My fears for our daughter wouldn’t have seemed as life-altering, and my concerns for our sons would have dissipated a bit more quickly.

But no one could have given me that. There were no guarantees that things would get easier. No promises that it would get better. That she would adjust like she has. That she would begin to trust us rather than push us. No one could have known.

 

I’m not sure the changes in our family from one summer to the next had really hit me until that drive home. I thought back to the previous summer- the hardest of my life- and wondered how we survived it. Riah’s fears and hurts spilled out all over me every day in various ways, and the rest of the family was left to endure the process and deal with what was left of me at the end of the day. I didn’t have much left to give.

 

And now? Well, we have our moments, and I still fight my own fears at times. But more than anything, I see the heart of a kind-hearted, compassionate, smart, loving girl. And I get to be her mom.

 

I turned around in the car to see our baby girl in the seat singing her heart out. And just as I turned around, she sang the second part of the verse.

 

You give hope.

You restore

Every heart that is broken.

And great are You, Lord.

 

I reached back and held her hand, praising God for healing her precious heart and restoring mine. Then I prayed.

 

“Thank You for bringing me here.”

 

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

 

“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.

 

Stories {Updated}

Two years ago, I wrote this post about talking with our boys about their adoption stories.  I thought I would give a little update…

I have told both of our boys thier adoption stories since they were newborns in my arms.  It’s not easy to put into words the miraculous and complicated way God brought them into our lives, but I’ve always felt like it was good practice for me even if they have no clue what I’m saying.  The way they became part of our family is precious and I don’t ever want to forget those stories that made me a mama.

Right now, it’s pretty much a one-sided conversation.  My oldest is starting to make some straight-forward connections like…

“L is my birthmommy.”

“I grew in her tummy”

“She picked you and daddy to be my parents.”

UPDATE:  My oldest now will ask questions out of the blue like, “Is J (his birthmom’s son) my real brother?”  Questions like this usually throw me for a loop and I shoot up a prayer asking God to give me the right words that will honor our family and his first family.  Then sometimes, I shoot up a prayer asking for grace when I have no clue what to say.  

Then there are moments when I can see it in his eyes.  His little brain is just spinning trying to figure out his story.

UPDATE: I still see his brain spinning and sometimes when we’re talking about his story, he changes the subject and that is O.K.

That’s when a little bit of fear sets in.  I realize that there will probably come a day when there will be hard questions to answer and upset or confused emotions that come out of my boys.  In my humanness, I want to protect them.  I don’t ever want them to doubt our love for them or their birthfamilies love for them.

Then my loving, heavenly Father whispers to me and says, “Abby, don’t you remember how I used some really difficult situations in your life to draw you closer to me?  I want to do that for your boys too.”

There will be emotions that may be difficult to deal with. I won’t have all the answers for my boys, but I have the priviledge of pointing them to The One who is control of all things and has EVERYTHING they need.

UPDATE: Everytime we talk about the boys’ stories, (just to be clear, it’s not a daily or even weekly conversation.  Their adoption does not define who they are…it’s simply one part of who they are.) we get to talk about God.  I am learning that there is purpose in every circumstance God puts us in.  Instead of dwelling on the details, I can focus on Him and his purpose for each situation.  

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So, yes.  It will be hard.

UPDATE:  It sometimes is hard, but the good and the joy far outweigh the hard.  

There will be emotions that may be difficult to deal with.  I won’t have all the answers for my boys, but I have the priviledge of pointing them to The One who is control of all things and has EVERYTHING they need.

“And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:19

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IMG_4672Abby and her college sweetheart husband Wes began the journey of domestic adoption in 2009. Blessed with a (more than they had planned but oh so thankful for it) open adoption experience, they were able to witness the birth of their first child Max in the summer of 2010. Little brother Sam joined their team in September of 2012. Wes and Abby are trusting God as he leads them in their relationship with their sons’ birth families. You can follow their story at Akers of Love.

Milestones

We hit a big milestone in our house last month. After being home for over 9 months, Dumpling slept in his very own big boy bed in his very own room shared with Gēgē! This was huge! Before now, he had been sleeping on a toddler bed in our bedroom to foster attachment. It worked well for us because we were able to keep him close, but we still got to sleep as husband and wife. I know many families co-sleep, which I think is a wonderful choice. But I personally like my bed to be my bed, so a toddler bed was a perfect alternative.

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We started with the toddler bed pushed up against my side so that we could hold hands as he fell asleep. Once he was asleep, I’d gently pull my hand away and tiptoe out to spend a little time with my hubby before going to bed myself. A white noise machine helped too. I still came back to bed pretty early in the beginning though, so Dumpling could reach up and touch me for reassurance if he woke up.

After a few months, we let go a little and moved the toddler bed across the room so he could still see us. This gave us some freedom, but still kept him close for attachment purposes. If he woke up, he looked to make sure we were still there, and then he went back to sleep. Once he started saying our names, he’d sometimes call out for us too. I remember thinking about how precious that sound was the first few times I heard it.

Toward the end of the summer, we began staying with him until he was almost asleep. This eventually worked up to a more typical bedtime, when we said goodnight right after all the rituals had been completed and he was still awake. It was a very natural progression and his laid back personality made for few sleeping issues. I know sleeping can bring huge anxiety for many children from hard places, but fortunately Dumpling hasn’t been one of those children.

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It wasn’t always easy having him in our room though, especially on the mornings we wanted to sleep a little extra and he woke up at 4am. Or another child came into our room for some reason, and accidentally woke Dumpling up too. But overall, it went very well and I wouldn’t do anything different. I am so thankful we were able to spend that time sharing a room with our son. Especially because of his difficult past, we were very intentional about cocooning him from the world and other adults. Sleeping in the same room was one more way we could foster attachment and bring him closer to us.

But when the time came for him to become a little more independent and move into his very own big boy bed in a room shared with Gēgē, our whole family celebrated and his eyes beamed with utter joy. He pointed to all of his blankets and pillows and loveys with pride, asking, “Mine?” for each one. The answer of “yes” every time made him smile even bigger. He took ownership of his new bed immediately and loved every moment. It was a precious sight indeed.

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I will admit that I don’t think he needed to sleep in our room for so long, as children sometimes do. I think he would have been fine if we had put him in his big boy bed the first night we were home. Obviously I can’t be sure, but his easy-going personality suggests this may have been the case. Regardless of how he would have done though, we wanted to foster attachment in any way we could. It’s difficult to teach who mom and dad are with very little verbal communication, so it had to come in the form of actions instead of words. That also meant not allowing any physical touch with all adults for a long time, in addition to keeping him close at home.

Although he is gaining independence and we’ve opened up his world when appropriate, we still keep some experiences and new adults at a safe distance, even at 10 months home. He likes new people and affection a little too much still, so we are working intentionally about teaching appropriate physical boundaries. I don’t know how long that will continue, but I do know that cocooning and intentionally limiting him has paid off in huge ways. He loves us as his mommy, daddy, jiějiě, gēgē, and jiějiě. And we sure love him to the moon and back. I am so incredibly thankful that God chose me to be this boy’s mama. It’s a true joy to watch him grow into the person that his Heavenly Father intends him to be.

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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.