Category Archives: Uncategorized

Super Sparrow Big Game Football Pool

It’s that time of year. Chicken wings, chips, and guacamole abound. Super Bowl Sunday is not an official holiday, but maybe it should be given that it’s the second largest day of food consumption in the United States after Thanksgiving. Oh, and there’s a big football game everyone watches as they eat, by the way.

We’re having a little fun with it ourselves this year with our own goal of scoring $2,000 that will go directly into our grant fund to support adoptive families. It’s called a block pool, and here’s how it works. We’ve created a 10×10 chart with a total of 100 blocks (simple math, keep tracking with us). With every donation of $20 before midnight Friday, February 3rd, you will get to put your name in one of those blocks. Before the big game, we will randomly assign each row a single digit and each column a single digit. So, for your cell, you will have two single digits, one for the Patriots [insert cheers and boos here] and one for the Falcons [insert cheers and boos here]. After each quarter of the game, if your two numbers match the last digit in each team’s score you win! And, when we say you win, we mean you win. We’ve got 4 donated gift baskets worth over $100 each of Lancaster Stroopie Co. magic (and by that we mean, the most amazingly addictive sweetness that we love so much we may declare them our personal mascot).

Here’s the game plan:

  • Head over HERE and fill out this simple form with your name, email, and how many cell blocks you want to claim.
  • Make your donation for $20 per cell
  • We’ll let you know what the next play is after that.

Go team!

Celebrating 2016 and Anticipating 2017

future-and-hope

It’s what we’re about.

Magnifying the good. Whether we’re walking alongside families here or children and caregivers on the other side of the world, we want to focus on the future and the hope that is written all over it and encourage others to do the same.

In 2016, we blessed 13 adoptive families through grants so they could get the counsel and support they need as they grow their families through adoption. We also started a new grant specific to families adopting children domestically, the Avery Madison grant, and awarded our first 2 grants to families building their families through domestic adoption. We cared for over 100 couples at Together Called and many more throughout the year. Our board became further trained and equipped so we can better care for those families. We took a team of 14 to an orphanage in China to train caregivers to help them see the importance of relationship and use opportunities to build relationships with children and each other. And, we have loved hard. We’ve loved our team well. We’ve loved the One who called us to this work. And, we’ve sought to love well all those He has placed before us.

2016 was a good year.

And, 2017 is filled with hope and anticipation of more beautiful things.

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/ 

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.

whitson

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.

____________________________

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.

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.  

 

True.

Six months ago I poured my heart out to a friend via email:


Because you are also an adoptive Mama, I think you’ll understand that I find myself very much at a loss to remember why God called us to do this in the first place. I know the “right” answers: that He loves children. That we are adopted and so we do the same. That justice for the least of these is so crucial to the Kingdom. But truthfully, I can’t quite remember my own heart answers. 

Why did I want to partner with God in adoption? 

Did I really know what I was getting into? 

Why doesn’t God heal all of JM’s body, instead of just in part? 

I want very much to keep the idealistic mentality that God really does redeem the stories of kiddos like mine, but sometimes even down to my very core I am wrestling with the question, “Is God actually good toward my son? Toward our family?” 

Of course, even having these questions at all feels like a terrible betrayal of the faith I’ve held all my life. That’s where much of the depression comes from. I have not yet found God’s continued delight in me even as I question whether or not He’s the God I thought He was. I don’t think He’s afraid of our rants and raves and questions and accusations. As I’ve been living and breathing the words of many of the Psalms I keep thinking, “God let David rail against him too and didn’t strike him dead for blasphemy…” But this is a life-altering journey for me just as much as it is for my little boy. I chuckle at my naivety all the time. I really didn’t know that God would use my son’s adoption to unravel me

I just read a verse in Hosea this morning that I find is my question and prayer: “For He has torn, but He will heal us.” 

Does He still heal our kids, dear friend? Does He still heal us too? Or is it possible to be failing so miserable at being an adoptive Mom that I’ve ruined the possibility of healing for my son and for me?


There is a playlist of songs on my iPod that I listened to frequently as we prepared to make JM a member of our family. I’d listen to it in the car as I drove, looking into the backseat and picturing my boy finally there, swinging his legs and singing along to the radio with me. I’d listen to it through headphones, facedown on the couch sobbing because every minute felt like an eternity before I could tell him, “Hi, I’m Mami.” I listened to it when I couldn’t sleep, as I prayed a mother’s prayer of protection over my boy as he woke up thousands of miles away from me in a different time zone.

These songs have weathered many storms in my journey toward motherhood.

I haven’t gone back to that playlist recently, although some of the songs filter through every now and again when we’re just listening to our music on shuffle. But this morning as I worked, I intentionally chose that list. Knowing the order of the songs, knowing what songs would come up. I picked it and prayed that God would show me something new in the familiar refrains.

He didn’t disappoint.

There is a song by Sara Groves called “It’s True.”

I listened to it, as I have hundreds of times, and felt a comforting thrill in my soul as I listened to the words,

“It’s true, a God who came down to find you.”
“It’s true, angels sing through the night ‘Hallelujah!’”

In one of my recent counseling sessions I explored how the word “grafted” – used often in the adoption world – has taken on new meaning for me through the journey of adopting our son. At first, it felt lovely and beautiful. “Grafting” a family meant creating something new like a flowering tree or a hybrid fruit, juicy and sweet. The idea of being grafted together made my heart leap with excitement.

Ahem.

“Grafted” means beautiful, yes. But it is a beauty forged in the fires of battle. It is a healed beauty. It is a beauty that first knew deep pain. I told my counselor that now I know we are “grafted,” but as burn patients understand grafting. To be grafted is to have a wound that requires deep cuts and stitches before it heals. A wound that will continue to burn and ooze agonizingly long after you want it to be healed. We lived in the proverbial “ICU” during our first year and a half at home. All three of us have the scars on our hearts to prove it. (We will likely find that our wound reopens at various stages of our life as an adoptive family.)

But we are healing into a grafted family. And it is beautiful. My heart does leap with excitement as we become.

I wrote this in my journal just last week:

This season feels like one of rest and fulfillment after a really hard climb, complete with falls, scrapes, and painful bruises. It feels as though we’ve reached a huge meadow after a tortuous hike and can rest here for a while in the beauty of flowers, sweet breezes, butterflies, a bubbling brook, a shade tree, and a picnic lunch. I am feeling full and alive and rested in a way I haven’t felt in a long time. A “before we started our adoption” kind of long time. Back in 2013 kind of long time.

As I listened to the words of these special songs, my heart breathed out a sigh I didn’t know I’d be holding. Oh, how we prayed for Him to find us in our hard days! Oh, how we prayed for songs of comfort in the night! Oh, how how we ached to believe that what we were fighting for was true!

He was answering all along.

And then I heard another song. A rejoicing song. A song we’ve played over and over and over. One of the first songs JM “sang” for us in the car one day last year.

“I am not who I once was,
defined by all the things I’ve done.
Afraid my shame would be exposed,
afraid of really being known.
But then you gave my heart a home!

So, I walked out of the darkness and into the light
from fear of shame into the hope of life.
Mercy called my name and made a way to fly
out of the darkness into the light.”

– Ellie Holcomb, Marvelous Light

Two notes into the song, JM came into the kitchen dancing, laughing. He was singing the words of the song to me, not knowing that his very life is the words of this song.

It was one of those moments when the world stands still, everything but him turning blurry in my vision. Watching my son, home, singing the words to a freedom song in my kitchen. Believing with me that the truth of what we fought together has brought us into the marvelous light of God’s healing in a way I used to only dream about.

So Mary trusted God more than what her eyes could see.

– The Jesus Storybook Bible

Now my eyes are seeing.

He does heal our kids. He does heal us.

For He has torn, but He will heal us. (Hosea 6:1)

It’s true.
Hallelujah.

_____________________________________________

Karli

Karli Smeiles is a wife, mother, and birth doula. She finds inspiration for her writing in the faces of her boys, and in the abundant love of a redemptive God who recycles everything for good.
Karli and her husband welcomed their first son through adoption in February 2014, discovering along the way just how beautiful and painful adoption can be. The Smeiles family grew by one more as they welcomed a biological son to their family in May 2015!
Find more of Karli’s writing at www.lovesongforHim.wordpress.com.

Get the Word Out

You know the feeling.  God had just opened your eyes to adoption, you were brimming with excitement, and couldn’t wait to shout it from the mountain tops.  Your excitement was contagious.  You couldn’t wait to get started, couldn’t wait to find your child, couldn’t wait to dive right in.  You wanted to share your news with everyone.  You were eager to get the word out.

 

You know the feeling.  Days or weeks into your wait for a match or your search for your child you become overwhelmed.  Overwhelmed with the sheer number of precious children in need of a family or foster family.  Children of all ages and races all over the world or right in your state stare back at you from photo listings.  Your eyes have been opened to the huge need for families and the need to get the word out.

 

You know the feeling.  Somewhere in the adoption process, you hear of or see or even meet a child who captures your heart.  And while you know this child is not meant for your family, you can sense God nudging you to get involved, to share his picture, to share her profile,  You know you need to advocate, to get the word out.

 

You know the feeling. You feel dazed and in a fog.  You are missing what used to be and feel overwhelmed by what is.  Whether the attachment process going well or is in need of serious intervention, adjusting to a new family member is as taxing as it is wonderful.  Keeping it all in just isn’t working anymore.  You recognize the need for understanding and encouragement.  It’s time to share what’s on your heart.  It’s time to let some trusted people know how it’s really going, and so you get the word out.

 

You know the feeling.  You have found a resource, a book, a blog, a retreat, a seminar, a workshop, a community that has helped you and your family so much.  Your struggle has eased, or maybe it still lingers but you don’t feel so alone.  You have some answers, some strategies, some hope.  You know there are others who could benefit from this same encouragement, and so you get the word out.

 

If you’ve been a reader of We Are Grafted In for any amount of time, you know that it is our goal to provide a sense of community so you don’t feel alone in what you are going through.  Joys and struggles – and encouragement – are meant to be shared.  We strive to feature posts from other bloggers about adoption, foster care, and orphan care that will encourage, inspire and challenge you.  We are passionate about getting the word out so you, our readers, can not only learn and grow, but can also connect with each other.

 

As we gear up for a new season of new content we hope that you will join us in getting the word out:

  • Do you know friends who could benefit from reading We Are Grafted In?  Please share our blog with them. Invite them to like our Facebook page.
  • Have you come across a blog post that has spoken to your heart? That has challenged your thinking? That has put words to what you couldn’t articulate about adoption, foster care, or orphan care? Get the word out about it by submitting it to WAGI for consideration.  We’d love to hear from you.  (Send them via PM through our Facebook page or email the link to stephanie@sparrow-fund.org.)

 

Thank you for being a faithful reader of WAGI and for helping us get the word out. You are a valued part of this community!

TheSparrowFund_BirdOnly

 

When Love Has Its Way with Us {Summer Flashback}

She elbowed and writhed and pulled at my fingers which were wrapped tenderly around her arm. She shimmied with adrenaline-charged strength I’d not seen before in her, determined not to know the intimacy of my hold or to hear healing words. Her body fought what it needed most.

In between her resisting my embrace and collapsing underneath it, I brushed fingers across her forehead and wiped away tears from overfull ducts. I held her head to my neck, flesh against flesh, my touch an attempt at smelling salts. I wanted to awaken her to that which was more real than her experience of years past: love.

Shame has a way of settling itself into our bones and making us believe it’s a security blanket.

And she didn’t want to release it.

Just days before, she’d told us that she thought we were sending her back after a year. Though we’ve dreamed with her about the years ahead — when she’d try different birthday cakes, and be able to ride in the front seat — and she’s even found a regular pretend role as a bride dancing with her daddy in the wedding her siblings concocted, the enemy’s words slither through her back-drop.

And, if I step back and view these moments as vignettes, separate from His story, they appear to be exactly what I’d feared about adopting an older child. (Some of you reading, considering older child adoption may feel your heart race as you read my words). But the enemy of lies fed me a lie, even in that fear.

I feared the discomfort which adopting these older children might bring to my recently-achieved placid existence.  Yet, at the same time, I prayed prayers to know Him more. It’s almost laughable now that I didn’t make the correlation: in order for me to grow in my understanding of Him, discomfort is required to produce the shedding of old skin.

Molting is often painful.

We run from the very thing through which God has ordained to align us to Him. We put baby-gates on our lives and padlocks on our hearts in hopes that we can avoid anything which hurts. We sit in the emotional kiddie-pool wearing a life-jacket.

We inhale self-protection, a path to a nice christian life that never knows the love of a fiery God who enraptures His people.

But pain grows us. Discomfort shifts our stalemate. It irritates that which was never meant to sit stable, stagnant. And it stretches us into newness. If we let Him, the pain He allows reveals new angles of His love. It changes us.

He’s reaching, wrapping, enfolding lives which subtly thrash and twist in their seeking to avoid the very discomfort that is the making of us. He’s brushing His flesh against our flesh to awaken remembrance. The scent of that same sweat which fell from the cross resuscitates. The life-nearness to Him is where we thrive.

We were made to be held. 

And the Father who knows better than we do may, first, have to break, before He can reset.

Holy alignment.

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She broke the winds of the midwestern plains which tore across our yard with her squeals. Her bike racked-up mileage as she spun the circumference of our driveway, over and over and over again. The wind was now at her back and she’d progressed from a premature adult, fending for herself, to the little girl without a care in the world. Submission was safety. Authority — another’s — gave her permission to rest.

Another of mine retells the years of her life outside our home with the same theme: no food, no water, no sleep.

There’s no rest for one who lives fatherless.

What I feared most in bringing these ones into our home — this disruption to what felt “safe”– was the very thing He had ordained to bring forth a further “yes” with our lives to His leadership.

Hardship advances us if we let it. This moment you’re bucking up under, could it be the very irritant He’s allowing to answer your prayer for more?

I’m that little girl, just like her. We’ve both been molting. My defenses aren’t strong enough to resist His loving grip. My ponytail is whipping in the wind as I ride, fearless. And we laugh, me and Nate, at the hunger for Him I can’t quite quench underneath this little life which seems to say there’s no room for anything more than laundry and dishes and kissing ouchies. Eight months post-adoption, four kids in two years, a laundry-pile unending and dust bunnies that keep multiplying … and I am resting in HimHe that good that I can find Him, even here and now in this chaos.

When we stop trudging against His tide and say yes to what He is doing in the pain of stretching, we coalesce to a Leadership meant to make us soar, over and above all these circumstances.

Now to move from conversation to reality …

Do you have a circumstance which just won’t relent? Take a break from praying the singular prayer for it to end (or rest from rebuking the enemy, if you’ve taken this route), and sit on His lap. Ask Him what side of His nature He’s seeking to reveal to you. Open His Word and receive a new perspective on that same old itch and ache.

Moving forward: when you have the urge to cry uncle, to complain, to live in that place of discontent you’ve grown to know well, take captive each of those moments and adore. Our over-arching perspectives are won in the minute-by-minute eye-shifts.

Make a practice of replacing your heart of frustration with words of adoration and start with this moment.  Adoration takes our prayers from one-dimensional, one-sided requests, and makes them fuel for engaging with God as multi-dimensional over the circumstances of our lives.

Have you hit a stalemate in your heart’s communion? I’ve grown to believe almost all “lack of connection to Him” rests in a wall we’ve built for ourselves, knowing or not. He doesn’t barricade (His cross tore that down), but the lies we believe and the wounds that forged them – even from years past– they do.

Take some time. Sit with your molekine journal and ask Him to reveal the wound, the heart-pain, which stands between you and Him.  Let Him make you a little girl again, needing a daddy to kiss her ouchie. When He surfaces that wound, the old memory or the lie onto which you’ve somehow latched, ask Him where He was when it happened and for a piece of His Word about it and for His whisper to put in place of that hurt. 

Write it all down, this exchange: the wound, the image of where He was in that still-frame of your past-now-made-live, and His new Word over that old place. You may need to be reminded.

(This may take some time. Old wounds — or, if you are new at this, at least the first ones we begin to identify — die hard.)

But these wounds are holy opportunity. Some of my greatest moments of communing with God have come from taking an old, old hurt which turned into a rancid lie, placing it at His feet, and walking forward with His new Word over that part of my story.

And once we’ve gotten comfortable tilling the soil of those old wounds, when a new hurt comes — a terse word from a friend or a demotion when you expected promotion — it’s easy to take that hurt right up to Him.

He is always regenerating.

Photos compliments of Mandie Joy.

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

Let the Grief Begin {Summer Flashback}

“When did we start believing that God wants to send us to safe places to do easy things? That faithfulness is holding the fort? That playing it safe is safe? That there is any greater privilege than sacrifice? That radical is anything but normal? Jesus didn’t die to keep us safe. He died to make us dangerous. Faithfulness is not holding the fort, it’s storming the gates of hell.”
–Mark Batterson

Let the Grief beginWe have been home almost exactly two months. It’s kind of funny how I let myself think that since some issues haven’t surfaced yet—they are not going to. Not! I have seen grief this week, like never before. I was not expecting it, yet somehow I felt prepared for this moment and did not react negatively when the grief was displayed in a manner directed towards me. Emotions erupted over small issues that could have easily been mistaken for something other than grief. Thankfully the Lord has given me the discernment to see beneath the surface of these outbursts.

My response? I did not take an ounce of this personally. I let the emotions purge from a broken heart and sat, just sat (almost silent). I was determined that I would not shrink back in fear of what I was seeing. I sat for hours, watching as ugly outbursts erupted like a volcano. Words and feelings were often directed towards me, as if somehow I was responsible for the pain, yet I could see that I was just a safe place to let it all out.

This is one of those posts that well, might seem like too much information. Still, I share it because for those praying us through you can know exactly what we need and for those who are in the same place or who will be soon, it’s good to be prepared for the grief.

You see as beautiful as adoption is—it is also very ugly.

In order for us to have the privilege of adoption there had to be great loss for our children. This is the part of adoption that tends to be glossed over when we talk about going across the world to become a father (and mother) to the fatherless. It all seems so wonderful and good that surely it should be easy right? They will see just how much we have done for them and wake up every day and thank us from the bottom of their hearts. Only they cannot. They cannot thank us for security when they cannot begin to understand what security is. They cannot begin to trust when their trust has been repeatedly broken.

This is the part of the journey that I had prepared for and understood fully that I would never really be able to prepare for it. I recognize that this is just the beginning. There is more to come, I am certain of it. So, what then? I can fear this grief or trust that the tears, the anger, and the hurt are the path to healing.

Pain precedes comfort. It’s part of the process. It’s the step where the hurt is purged making way for the comfort.

So often when hurts come we don’t want comfort—what we really want is to be comfortable. There is a difference. Comfortable is the state of ease, but God does not promise us that. In fact, he offers us the opposite, “in this world you will have trouble.” When we are grieving, the process of healing comes through feeling the pain. It literally hurts. Comfort comes as we are strengthened through our pain, not necessarily out of it.

So, as I sat yesterday, waiting and watching the torment of emotions purging from my child, I was helpless to remove the pain, but I could be present hoping that in some way it would offer some small comfort in that not-so-comfortable place.

Though I cannot change the circumstances, remove the hurt or even begin to fully understand the pain—at least I can be present. Having a mom to be present in the midst of hurt is something new for these little ones. It is what I have to offer. So I bring it, praying my actions will point towards my comforter—Jesus.

Grief hurts. It hurts to watch and it definitely hurts to experience.

Though I cannot fix it, I am reminded that in the moment when I love my children despite their unlovable behavior, I am the tangible evidence of God’s unconditional love. What better way to teach them about the gospel? After all, unless I live out the gospel message in the day-to-day moments, it remains just a story in a book; but faith lived changes hearts.

I pray that God would strengthen me to be faithful in this journey.

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Tiffany Barber

Tiffany is a wife to Kirk and mother of eight including six biological and two newly adopted from China. With a looming financial crisis at the outset of their recent adoption, God took their family on a journey of faith. Having been home just over ten weeks, they are currently working through the transition phase of their new adoption. Tiffany writes an honest account of challenges of adoption and the redemptive work of her savior Jesus Christ at Extravagant Love. Though her faith and limits have been tested, she points that adoption is paving the way for her to grow and experience God’s presence as never before.

Adoption is my Jericho {Summer Flashback}

As I sat in church this morning listening to a lesson on Joshua chapters 5 and 6, God grabbed my heart.

We are in the middle of our third adoption. A calling from God, yes. A child chosen for us by Him, absolutely! But even in the midst of this clearly directed path by God, I needed a heart check. Sometimes He needs to step in and remind us that it is ALL about Him. Even when we are doing something He has asked us to do, our flesh can step in and take our focus off of Him.

Travel with me back to Canaan.  After 40 years of wandering in the desert God’s people are ready to enter their promised land, but there were obstacles in the way…… big obstacles, physical as well as spiritual. Big walls and armies as well as seeds of doubt and fear.

Joshua was a man of God. He was appointed by God to be the leader of His people. Yet, even as he stepped out in faith to lead his people into battle, God stepped in to check Joshua’s faith and trust in Him and His plan over their plan. Are Joshua and the Israelites truly ready to step out in complete faith, no matter what, even if it seemed a little crazy?

“Now it came about when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing opposite him with his sword drawn in his hand, and Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us or for our adversaries?” He said, “No; rather I indeed come now as captain of the host of the Lord.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and bowed down, and said to him, “What has my lord to say to his servant?” The captain of the Lord’s host said to Joshua, “Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so. (Joshua 5:13-15, NASB)

When God calls us to step out in faith, it is not always easy and sometimes it doesn’t even make sense, but that is what makes God God and us not! Let’s consider God’s plan for the Israelites to defeat Jericho.

“Then the Lord said to Joshua, ‘See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men. March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have the whole army give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the army will go up, everyone straight in.’’ (Joshua 6:2-5, NIV)

How CRAZY AMAZING was God’s victory plan over Jericho! He asked them to do something from a human military perspective that made absolutely no sense, so that there would be absolutely no question that victory was the Lord’s!

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Adoption is my promised land, but initially, there were obstacles in the way. Big obstacles embedded deep in my heart.

I had plans……normal earthly plans. Plans for red headed, freckled children, but God had other plans.

CRAZY AMAZING PLANS! Once I accepted God’s plan I went full steam ahead doing all I could to make it happen, and sometimes getting frustrated when things didn’t happen according to my schedule. How easy it is to forget that this isn’t my plan. It’s God’s PLAN! A plan to bring glory to His name, not mine.

Adoption is also my Jericho. His timing is perfect, and many times throughout our adoption journey, He has done CRAZY AMAZING things that could only be attributed to Him. Sometimes He whispers and sometimes He shouts, “Remember, I am the Lord, Suzanne. You are standing on holy ground.”

So let us shout at the top of our lungs like the Israelites at the Battle of Jericho as we move forward with our adoptions, knowing that our Creator and Savior is leading the charge for us and our children who are more precious to Him than we could ever fathom.

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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.