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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.

***

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.

 

Terminology {Does It Matter?}

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

Birth mother, first mother, expectant mom.

Kids of our own, biological kids.

Given up for adoption, placed for adoption.

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

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

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

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

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

take 2

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Post-Referral Panic {Summer Flashback}

I have debated long and hard about whether to write about this or not, but I have decided to for three important reasons:

  • It’s the truth.
  • I felt like the worst person in the world when it happened to me, and I think part of that was that I had never heard of anyone else having these same feelings though many surely have (or maybe not in which case I may be sorry to be the first person to admit it). Feeling like you are having a reaction no one has ever had makes the feelings feel even worse. Maybe me admitting this will help someone else.
  • Most importantly of all, it contains the most significant moment in our referral story for me. The moment I’ll always come back to if I ever panic again.

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The joy of being matched lasted about 24 hours for me.

Wait.

I’m not sure I felt joy at all that day we called to tell our agency that we were sending in our LOI (Letter of Intent to Adopt).

In fact, my matter-of-factness, my taking-care-of-the-business of it, never actually yielded any emotions. However, after hanging up the phone, the fear began to build up, growing more and more as the hours ticked by. By Thursday night (the day after accepting our referral), once I had the kids in bed and the house was quiet (Scot was away the week we accepted our referral), I began to feel panic almost physically strangling me.

Scot called that evening to say good-night to the kids and to let me know that he really couldn’t talk to me that night because everyone was going out. I told him I needed to talk to him and that it really could not wait until morning. Who knows what else I said, but after the kids were in bed, Scot called back (having excused himself from the events of the evening), and I fell apart on the phone with him.

Fell. Apart.

Every fear, doubt, anxiety, worry, every bit of it came pouring out. And, that’s not like me. In this whole adoption process, if I’ve gotten really freaked out at any point, I tried to temper it with Scot fearing I’d freak him out too much. But, I figured it was now or never to let it all out. Not about adoption in general, but about the boy we just accepted in particular. I’m not sure how he even understood what I was saying over the phone because I was so emotional.

I covered it all. Every “what if.” And, that was no small task, because at that point, there were for me, still many, many unanswered questions.

I told Scot point blank that I thought we may have made a mistake, and that IF that’s what we ultimately decided, HE would need to call our agency, because I simply would not be able to. (Scot’s never called our agency. I handle all that.)

Scot patiently listened to it all, told me that if we felt like we needed to change our minds that he would “absolutely” call the agency for me but that he thought I should let him get home the next day before we made any decisions. We both knew that it was nearly Friday in China anyway, so we should take the weekend to talk and pray. He felt sure that once he was home we would figure it out.

After that conversation, I felt better. Mostly, because I got it all out. There was no question about where I was at. I was terrified.

Cooper pre-Hardy

During these couple days, I told no one about our referral (besides one dear friend who already knew about it and our pastor). I couldn’t look at the child’s picture. In fact, I had called my mother-in-law on Wednesday after accepting the referral and got her voice mail. When she called me back on Thursday, I pretended I had forgotten why I had called.

I couldn’t bring myself to tell her. THAT’s how bad it was.

(I remember it so well that I’m crying just typing this. It was awful to feel that way.)

After my conversation with Scot, I went to New Day Foster Home‘s website (where the child was being cared for) and looked at every. single. picture. they had of him. I looked hoping I would recognize him. Because looking back, I think that is what bothered me the most.

I didn’t recognize him.

I had thought when I saw the face of my child I would know him (or her). That there would be some magic or something. Or that it would be a very spiritual moment. Or, you know, anything but a series of very intentional decisions. Which is what it was.

I didn’t get a phone call out of the blue and click open the e-mail to see my child’s face for the first time. Because that’s how you think of it in all those years of waiting. And, just like when I struggled after having Sawyer via c-section (the LAST thing I expected and certainly was never part of my becoming-a-mom fantasies), I realize now that I was struggling again with reality verses how I imagined it would be.

Then there were the very REAL questions on top of that:

  • Does he have Hep B? And, if so, in combination with his heart issue would that be something life-threatening possibly?
  • What is the result of his oxygen deprivation in his first year?
  • And what about his age? What business do we, unexperienced adoptive parents, have adopting an almost 4 year old? He’s only a year younger than Chloe!!!

On Friday, Scot came home, and I’m not sure I had ever, EVER been so glad to have him back from a trip EVER. And honestly, we only casually talked about the boy we had accepted that night and even through Saturday. I actually don’t remember much about those two days.

I know we prayed about it, but I don’t remember much else.

On Sunday morning, I was on my way to church by myself. I have to be there early, so I always go by myself, and Scot comes during the second service with the kids. In the car, I prayed very specifically, and I remember exactly what I said: “God, I need to hear from you today, and I’m in a very emotional state. Anything less than complete clarity will only confuse me. Can you please be crystal clear with me this morning?”

Nothing fluffy or ornate. Just a simple honest prayer.

But, as soon as I uttered it, I wondered how it would ever be clear enough for me in the state I was in. I remember distinctly thinking, “Unless I hear ‘You should adopt him’ or ‘You shouldn’t adopt him’, will I really walk away feeling sure?” Any amount of faith I had seemed gone in those moments.

Usually, I go to church during first service, and Scot attends second service. Unfortunately, that’s just how it is because second service for us is very busy, and I have to be back in children’s ministry that hour. However, on this particular day, Scot showed up early and went to church with me.

Our pastor wasn’t teaching that morning, and one of the people Scot and I respect most in the world was speaking. This man has been a missionary around the world and is a walking example of what a life looks like when lived trusting God to the fullest!

This morning, he was speaking about Noah. He talked about a lot of things, but he specifically talked about how the call that God made on Noah’s life could not have made a whole lot of sense to Noah. Noah had never seen rain. And, the Bible doesn’t say that Noah had any skill at building. Noah, the speaker said, probably felt completely inadequate for the task. The task HAD to have seemed too big for him, too hard, too unknown, too scary. I mean, God told Noah he was going to destroy everything on the earth. That had to have been unsettling at the very least! Everything in Noah’s world must have felt turned up-side down, but because He walked with and trusted God, he did it.

Then, right there in the middle of the sermon, with his British accent in full tilt, the speaker says: “So…what is God asking you to do today? *there might as well have been a l-o-n-g pause here, because I remember it as if time stood still* Does it seem hard, scary, unknown? I don’t know what God has called you to today, but I am here to tell you JUST DO IT!” (That was all caps on purpose because he yelled it. The man is 80 years old, and he yelled it!)

Could God have been ANY clearer? At all? Really?

JUST DO IT!

And, the choice of words? Echoed the EXACT words my friend had said to me when I told her we accepted our referral. She said, while she talked to me on the phone that night, she just wanted to yell, “JUST DO IT!

Tears immediately started rolling down my face, and I leaned over to Scot and said, “I think we have our answer.”

He just smiled, and was gracious enough NOT to say, “No, I had my answer all along. It seems that now you have YOUR answer!”

That’s in my mind when New Day’s Evan became Cooper. When all my doubts and fears took a distant back seat to the fact that this was oh-so-clearly the child GOD had chosen for our family.

I will always, always be so thankful that God cared enough about me to speak to me right where I was at that morning. To assure me when I was doubting. To answer my very specific prayer and to do it in such a resounding way.

That next week, after we got PA, we requested an update on Cooper. Specifically, we asked for updated lab results so that we could see what his Hep B status was. The woman at our agency said she would ask but that updated medical info is not generally given and so we shouldn’t expect it.

A few days later, we got a short update, and some pictures. The update did not contain any updated lab work. We were disappointed but okay with whatever. However, when we looked through the pictures, the last picture was a jpeg file of Cooper’s most updated lab results where we could see VERY clearly that the ambiguous test results were gone, and he was quite clearly NOT Hep B positive.

I thanked God that day for those lab results, because although I would have trusted Him either way, He knew how scared we were about that, and he took that fear completely away.

How great is our God indeed.

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Jenna Hardy and family (minus 1!)

Jenna is a teacher, turned stay-at-home mom, turned Children’s Ministry Director who is passionate about children. After hearing God’s call to care for orphans 8 years ago, she has become increasingly passionate about adoption and orphan care. She and her high school sweetheart, Scot, have been married for 17 years and adopted Cooper 4 years ago. They are excited to see what God will do in the next chapter of the story He is writing with their family. Jenna and Scot feel strongly about sharing their story so that they might be of encouragement to others in various stages of the adoption process. You can follow along with them at Our Many Colored Days.

When Your Worst Fear Comes True

What’s your biggest fear as a parent?

Although we all have major fears like our kids rebelling or leaving the faith, I think every parent at some point lies awake at night, panicked that he or she is going to somehow fail his or her offspring in  damaging, irreparable ways. I mean, who hasn’t bemoaned, “My kid is going to end up on Oprah someday,” and was only partly kidding?

The fear of messing up our kids. Of damaging them in some long-term way.

What if your fear came true?

Mine did. Today.

One of my goals in parenting from the beginning has been connection. I want my kids to feel connected to me, to know that I value our relationship; I want them to feel loved, always. Out of balance, this can very much be an idol for me. But connection…security in our relationship…that’s a good thing, right?

The night had been peppered with sarcasm and complaint from one child in particular, with me returning the volleys with patience, then not. I doled out a consequence and removed myself from the situation before it really got out of control. When I returned, I began to debrief with this child (which honestly looked a lot like lecturing), and then the conversation took a turn. This child made a seemingly small, throw-away statement, but then his eyes filled with tears of pain. I took a step towards him. The floodgates opened.

(**Let me pause a moment here and say parents, do not quickly treat your child’s behavior and think that’s enough. Sometimes, they do just need a (metaphorical) kick in the pants to straighten up. But oftentimes the behavior is just a symptom of something deeper, and if you punish and move on, you’ll miss it. This will probably happen late at night. You will be tired. Pursue your child’s heart anyway.)

Through controlled and uncontrolled tears, my child revealed a hurt he has been holding onto for quite some time, an instance where Brian and I were unknowingly careless with his heart. I literally can’t even remember the situation he referred to, but it has deeply wounded him, causing him to question our sincerity and approval ever since.

For years, he’s been living out of fear of failure based on the way he interpreted a careless circumstance Brian and I can’t even remember.

We failed him. We didn’t mean to, but we did. And he is hurting. It will take lots of time, forgiveness, and actively throwing down boards of truth for him to recover from this.

My worst fear came true. I have damaged this child, and I can’t undo it.

As I’ve processed this event with the Lord, here are some truths I’d like to share:

1. As a parent, a friend, a daughter, etc., I will make mistakes. Some of them will be blatant, and some of them I will commit completely unaware that I have done anything wrong. Some will be intentional; some will not. Do I trust Christ to fill in the gaps these mistakes cause, especially the ones that I don’t even know exist? Because can I tell you something? If I don’t, then I am absolutely sunk.

The enemy wants to take situations like this and use them to shame and accuse:

“See? I told you you would fail!”
“The only thing to do is try harder. You must double up on your efforts. Read more books. Buckle down on intentional time.”
“YOU MUST FIX THIS.”

Oh no. I give my kids permission to say to Satan, “Shut up, you stupid idiot,” and those words would definitely apply here.

Do I want to be intentional with my children? Do I want to do everything I can to love them well and provide a secure base for all things in life? Yes. But if it is up to me to make sure that nothing goes wrong in their lives or mine, then I may as well jump ship right now.

What a privilege it was to sit before my child and through his tears and mine, take us both to the gospel—the truth that I will not parent him perfectly, but praise God, He will. Instead of wringing my hands in panic over what I had inadvertently done to his self-esteem, I was able to speak from a place of brokenness as I asked his forgiveness, but also from a place of strength as I knew that God would redeem this and make it right—and it wasn’t up to me. I hurt for my child, but I wasn’t destroyed that I had failed him, because I know that he has a much greater Advocate who will fill in the gaps that my carelessness, laziness, self-centeredness, and just plain humanity will leave.

2. Oftentimes our hurts are based on assumptions that we can’t prove.

Shout out once again to Julie Sparkman and her Idol Addiction study, which nails this point so eloquently. The situation that my child was so wounded by…it could have been interpreted a number of ways. He chose the most painful interpretation, and never asked us for our explanation. The situation itself didn’t cause his pain; the way he interpreted it did.

I can totally relate to him. I remember being super young, and our family was on a long car trip. Let’s pause a moment and think about what long car trips with small children do to parents’ nerves. The car started making a funny noise, and my dad was trying to figure out what was wrong. I saw a noise-making toy down on the floor board and thought I’d found the source of the problem, so I said, “I know what’s making the noise, Daddy!” He quickly shut me down with a, “No you don’t, Jennifer. Now be quiet so I can figure it out.” My interpretation? “He doesn’t think my opinion matters.” The reality (which I know now that I’m a parent and have made these horrific trips): “I am tired, stressed, and just want to get out of this car. Please, no one talk to me.”

How many hurts, how much bitterness do we hold onto, based on our assumptions about someone’s thoughts or motivations? Based on our interpretation of a situation that may or may not be true? The cost of doing so is so very high.

You don’t know what you don’t know. There’s actually a lot of freedom in that.

3. Past wounds threaten to define us and change the lens through which we see life.

As I listened to my child name his pain—even though the actual incident seems minor all these years later—and watched him walk through how that pain has affected him through the years, I realized that I need to name my own pain.

Oh, the wounds that go so deep, the ones that are 10, 20, 30 years old. They may seem silly when spoken now, but they have defined me to my very core, and my unwillingness to let go has caused me to interpret life through those glasses. I must name them and walk through to the other side. Things like that cruel comment about my new shirt when I thought that finally, finally I was in style. My unfulfilled desire to fit in all those years ago. The notes passed in class, the whispers in the hallways, the invitations not received.

Seems silly, right? And yet, the message permeated deep and I fight it still: Rejection. You are not worthy.

So, hand in hand with my broken child who wants to know for sure that he is loved, I walk through the pain to the other side where Truth awaits and I realize the things I told my baby boy are also true for me: I am worthy, because He is worthy. I am adored. I am His treasured possession. I am His chosen bride. I am accepted. I am safe. I am loved. I am free.

It’s almost too much to take in.

What pain do you need to name today? What wounds hold power over you and have clouded your perspective and robbed your joy? Name them—it’s not too late for you to be free.

What a night. My worst fear came true, and I never saw it coming. But what a holy night it became, as my son and I together fought through the ugly and drank deeply from the well of grace that we both so desperately needed.

The gospel, my friends. It is our only hope for healing and restoration. You don’t have to fear the worst in parenting or in anything else, because the gospel actually works there as well, thank goodness. Let’s rest in that hope today.

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, NOR THINGS PRESENT NOR THINGS TO COME, nor powers, nor height nor depth nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:38-39

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Jennifer PhillipsJennifer Phillips graduated from Samford University. She then worked with Sav-A-Life, a national network of crisis pregnancy centers, eventually becoming its Executive Director. She currently lives in Brisbane, Australia, where her husband Brian serves with Uni-Impact, a franchise of Campus Outreach. You can follow Jennifer at littlelucymei.blogspot.com.

My Gardening Life.

I am not a gardener, but if I were my garden would look something like this.

 Chateau_de_Bouges_Flower_Garden_1


Pretty, right? Everything in its place, ordered, organized, contained and thriving. Beautiful and fruitful. Yep, that is it right there. 

And that is a pretty good picture of what I was going for with our family. Each child organized, contained within the life-giving boundaries we set up, and thriving, etc. Sounds good doesn’t it? 

But as our family grew through adoption my neat rows of seasonally appropriate lettuce and tomatoes, and those lovely flowers intentionally planted to catch just the right amount of sun, changed into a whole other garden.

Our family metamorphosed overnight into a crazy out of control mess of a garden. A beautiful, willy-nilly kind of place, full of surprising varieties and diversity. 

It has been a great adventure to discover and appreciate all that our adopted children have introduced into our lives. They brought with them so much that is lovely, fascinating, strong, creative and exciting from their birth families, country, and culture that have made our garden gloriously unique. Like an heirloom tomato imported from a far away place, I haven’t always immediately recognized the special qualities introduced to our family through adoption. But as the years have gone by, 15 now since our first two treasures came home, I have identified so much that I might have at first mistaken as a weed. 

I have learned to not to try to pull up something because I didn’t plant it, but rather clear a space for it in my heart and in the culture of our family. Let it grow and enjoy its fruit and beauty, and make it my own.

And where weeds have come in (to join the ones already there!)–the unwanted and unwelcome residue of rejection, abandonment, trauma and orphanage life–then I have learned to carefully remove them. Not all at once with a hoe of shame, but gently dig them out with the trowel of prayer and love and identity. Some of these weeds continue to sprout up over the years, the lies that threaten to choke out sonship, so I continue to maintain this special plot of land God has given us. 

And I have learned that some plants just need some time to grow before they can set themselves apart from the look-alike weeds. So I garden with care and nurture, waiting for the season of flowering and fruit.  

And I have learned to be at peace with the process of being a care-taker of such a crazy garden. As tempting as it was to take our new transplants and try to force them into my perfect rows, it proved to be destructive to us all whenever I tried it! 

So instead I focus on enjoying the beauty and surprise of it all, and the honor of being a part of such a family. 

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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.

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We’re building the nest this month!

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