Jillian Burden

Will You Adopt Again?

I think Arie was home for just over one month when someone asked me this question for the first time.

“Will you adopt again?”

It didn’t catch me off guard because I’d asked myself this question a lot. During the fundraising. After the home study. After the first trip. In the middle of our court trip. When Arie came home. A week after he came home. Two weeks. Three weeks. A month.

But asking a new mom if she wants to adopt again when the adoption is in progress or shortly completed, is sort of like asking a new mom if she wants more kids when she’s in the middle of labor. Or those long, sleepless night with a colicky baby.

Theoretically she’ll probably tell you yes, but it’s also a lot to get her head around.

The process of adoption is hard. For us, the fundraising, home study, paperwork, and of course the travel was almost all-consuming. When we remember that very long year, it’s hard to imagine doing it again.

But then of course, we think about our son…

…and the way he wakes up from his nap and waits for us to come and get him. I think about the cautious look he wears when he sees me peeking in the door, wondering is it time to get up? Am I allowed to be awake? And the smile he wears when instead of it’s nap time now I say, wakey wakey! Did you have a good nap?

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I think about that timid, obedient little boy we met at the orphanage and then I see our little Arie- still obedient, but walking around with a new swagger. And lounging on our furniture like he owns the place. Like he belongs here. Like this is his home at last.

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I think about the little boy we knew in Moscow who rejected almost every food we gave him but scarfed down whole bananas in three or four bites, struggling to control something in his strange new life. And now I watch with total delight as he digs his hands into the cookie dough to pull out as many chocolate chips as he can grasp. He eats them with a sly grin on his face and a sparkle in his eye and I think to myself that these are the simple gifts of belonging to a family.

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I remember holding him in July when we first met him and I remember the way his body flopped out and away from me. He’d been walking on his own two feet for so long, he didn’t know how to be carried. Then I watch as he climbs onto the couch with his stretched out papa, imitating what he sees with endless giggles, and then falling into his father’s chest.

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I remember that endless paperwork. I remember the giant doses of stress. I remember the long flights. The home study. The fingerprinting. The being-on-a-first-name-basis at Fed-Ex. The feeling like it was too much and that it would never end.

And then I look at Arie and I think about how immensely blessed I am. Not just to be a mom at last, but to have been used by God to change a life. I think to myself that all my angst-filled questions about what I’m going to do with my life have been laid to rest because I feel like I’ve done something. I can’t imagine anything greater in life than to receive a divine calling and to answer it.

I was really hard but it was worth it.

When I think about that, I think that yes I’d like to adopt again, if God calls us. And honestly? I’m praying he does.

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Don’t forget about the easy way you can support adoption and care for orphans…through shopping. Go find some gifts for your family and friends…or yourself…HERE.

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Jillian Burden is still adjusting to this beautiful thing called motherhood; she and her husband are still new parents to a son by way of a Russian adoption. While her belly might not have expanded, her heart and her faith sure grew as her family did! You can read about this soul stretching journey to parenthood on her blog.

10 ways to care for orphans [without adopting]

This is a question I get asked a lot: How can I answer the biblical call to orphan care if I am not able to adopt?

God does not hide his will from us and if you are someone who has earnestly sought God’s will concerning adoption and he has not led you to adopt (or has not led you to adopt right now), there are other very valuable ways that you can serve the most vulnerable children in our world today.  If you have a heart for orphan care—whether or not you are able to adopt—here are ten invitations to orphan care for you to pray over:

Original photo by flickr user Moving Mountains Trust, creative commons.

1. Host an orphan in your home: This is one of my favorite ways to get involved in orphan care without adopting. New Horizons is an international orphan hosting program. US families host children for 4-6 weeks in their homes and pour love into them. The children see what it is like to live in a family and have opportunities and they have their “horizons” broadened. The goal is not for the host family to adopt the child, although sometimes either the host family or family friends will go on to adopt after the experience. The goal is to show the child a life other than the one he knows and give hope for a better future. Please take a moment to sign up for the photo listings and ask yourself if you have 4-6 weeks to give to one of these children.

2. Get your church connected to an orphanage:  I found our about the organization The Hope Epidemic through an instagram hash tag of all ways (although I #cantrememberwhichone) and I am so impressed with what I’ve seen through them. Their mission is to connect American Evangelical Churches with orphanages all around the world. They want these churches to connect in order to share the gospel, to build relationships, to better the orphanage environments, and to advocate for the adoption of children in the orphanages. I’ve always wondered what it would look like if the church arose to take care of our orphan crisis once and for all. The Hope Epidemic is trying to do just that.

3. Donate on behalf of children with special needs: Reece’s Rainbow is a Down Syndrome adoption ministry. You can look at pictures of waiting children with Down Syndrome or other special needs on this site donate to a specific child’s adoption, whether or not a family has been found for them.

4. Support an orphan graduate program: There are a few different orphan graduate support programs out there but Hearts for Orphans caught my attention because it is run by adoptive parents and shares the gospel with orphan graduates. When orphans age out of the system most turn to crime, prostitution or suicide simply because they don’t have any support systems or life skills. Orphan graduate programs work to equip teens with life skills, like cooking and budgeting, and help them find meaningful work. Hearts for Orphans works in the Ukraine. If you have a specific country on your heart, do a google search for “orphan graduate support” + “country.” If you can’t afford to donate to these ministries, consider volunteering for one in your area! Organizations like these always need volunteers to do tasks like photocopying, putting mailers together or even cleaning.

5. Advocate for a specific child: Project Hopeful is an organization that educates and advocates for the adoption of children with HIV and other special needs. Their FIG program (Family In the Gap) exists to match families with orphans overseas. As as a FIG family you would pray for, sponsor, and fundraise for the adoption of a specific child. You can also be matched with an unadoptable child (in their home country’s foster care system) and you would support the foster family as they care for the child. This is such a cool program and I love how you can get your whole family involved. I can picture families with children working together to brainstorm fundraising ideas (summer lemonade stand??) to help with the child’s someday adoption costs.

6. Help parents and families in crisis: Safe Families is a movement by Bethany Christian Services that serves families who need safe, temporary care for their children. From the website: “This network of host families help parents who need to temporarily place their children due to unmanageable or critical circumstances… this temporary care for children in need gives parents time to establish stability in their homes. Can you open your home to a family going through a troubled time?” There is a video on their site that’s worth watching if this movement interests you at all.
 
7. Sponsor a child: Most of us are aware of these programs that help provide food, water, and education for children in developing countries. If you have a heart specifically for orphans, you can use Compassion International’s search tool to find and sponsor a child who has been orphaned. You can also select country or special need if you desire. I’ve heard of families sponsoring children who share birth dates with little ones. Some couples honor the loss of a pregnancy by sponsoring a child who was born around the time of the expectant due date of the baby they lost. When you sponsor a child you have the opportunity to do more than just give money; you can correspond with the child, send gifts, and share the love of Christ with her!

8. Give to an adopting family: Whether you’re able to write a $500 check or sell knit-wares online for cash, donating to a family who wants to adopt is a much needed and very fulfilling way to answer the call to orphan care. If you are wondering how much a $30 donation could help just take a look at my son and know that he didn’t come home via a few enormous donations. He came home though a ton of small ones. Every.penny.matters. Also there are nonprofits like Lifesong and The Sparrow Fund who give grants to adoptive families if you want to give to them so that they can continue to serve adoptive families. If you have no money or wares to sell you can help by offering your services. Maybe they need babysitting or volunteers at a fundraiser. Maybe they need someone to mow their lawn because they just don’t have time between working and completing the home study. If you look hard enough I know you can find a way to help!

9. Send care packages to orphanages: In the end of January, my church asks all the congregation members to use one Sunday for an act of service. This year our small group used the Sunday to put together a care package for Arie’s former orphanage. If you know anyone who has adopted, consider sending a care package to their child’s former baby home or foster home.

10. Support Antihuman trafficking efforts: Because orphans are so vulnerable and too often without protection, they are at increased risk of being trafficked.Take a minute to visit WAR International’s website and view the video on their about page to learn more.

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Don’t forget about the easy way you can support adoption and care for orphans…through shopping. Go find some Mother’s Day gifts for your mother…or yourself…HERE.

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Jillian Burden is still adjusting to this beautiful thing called motherhood; she and her husband are still new parents to a son by way of a Russian adoption. While her belly might not have expanded, her heart and her faith sure grew as her family did! You can read about this soul stretching journey to parenthood on her blog.

Once you were fatherless, but now…

One month from today we will have our little man.

We will drive to the baby home for the last time,
sign in at the front door for the last time,
shake the director’s hand for the last time,
take off those communal clothes our little man’s been wearing for the last time.

We’ll dress him up in the outfit we so carefully picked out just for that day.
We’ll roll up his pant legs which I’m sure will still be too long.
We’ll zip up his brand new winter coat and slip warm mittens onto his little hands.
We’ll walk out those heavy metal doors,
down the cement steps,
and outside the black gate.

We’ll climb all three of into the backseat of the car.
And we’ll drive away, forever.

The words on the chapter in our little man’s life-without-a-family, all written. Finished.
The proverbial page, turned.
A thousand empty pages waiting to be filled with a hope and a future.

A year ago I found this one couple who had chronicled their Russian adoption journey via youtube videos. The video of this couple leaving the orphanage with their little boy for the last time contains one incredible, poignant moment: as they head down the staircase to leave the baby home, their translator tells them to open the door and bright, white light from outside floods into the dark hallway.

“The door to the world. To a new life.” she says.

And in the background of the video, a song with these lyrics:

Sin has lost it’s power,
Death has lost it’s sting.
From the grave you’ve risen
Victoriously!
Into marvelous light I’m running…

This moment- this moment of leaving the old and starting the new- this is the picture of salvation. In my son’s story, I see my own. I see my rescue. I see my ransom. I see the life I’ve been given, the gift of the Father. For I was once fatherless, but now I am a child of God.

When John and I walk through those orphanage doors with our son in our arms, we will be living in a moment we’ll remember forever. A moment that will forever cause us to worship. A moment made of new clothes, and footsteps on tile floors, and the weight of a child in arms, and cold winter air, and three in the back seat….

but mostly it will be a moment made of grace.

Through the door. To a new life. Into marvelous light.

This is all of our story, who know the Lord. Once we were not a people, but now we are God’s people.

One month to begin a story that has been written for all eternity. Praise the Lord.

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Jillian Burden is an expectant mama; she and her husband are expecting their first child by way of a Russian adoption. While her belly might not be expanding, her heart and her faith sure are growing! You can read about this soul stretching journey to parenthood on her blog.

A Word on the Backwards and Beautiful Journey to Adopt My Son

It is I who dwell in the womb this time

rather than he

Formed, already, in the depths
he has passed into light

So instead, I go there
to be formed, molded, and shaped
into the thing I am becoming:
Mother.

I hear the pulsing
heartbeat
of time
I know I am moving forward
closer to the day of my birth

I feel pressure
The world constricts around me
tighter
tighter
my own heart slows
I fear that I can hardly breathe

Then
the pressure ceases
I dwell in hope
and comfort for a while

The rhythm cotinues,
contraction
relief
contraction
relief

I am angry
I am hopeful
I am worried
I am relieved

I pray for delivery
from this vague and murky waiting place
I pray for delivery into clarity, into light
into his arms
into his heart
to see his face

This is a backwards, beautiful journey:

My son,
he
is birthing
me.

________________________________________

Jillian Burden

 

Jillian Burden is an expectant mama; she and her husband are expecting their first child by way of a Russian adoption. While her belly might not be expanding, her heart and her faith sure are growing! You can read about this soul stretching journey to parenthood on her blog as they get ready to take their second and final trip to Russia to bring him home.

A Treasure to Carry

The Lord continues to bless me with encouragement when he knows I need it the most. A few months ago I went searching online to see if I could find our little man’s orphanage. I want to know where it is, to look it up on google maps, to see pictures, to imagine him there. But between having little idea about where to start and having to translate all those sites from Russian to English on google translate, I didn’t get very far. I looked through hundreds of orphanage pictures, hoping I recognize something in the background from the photos we have of out little guy… hoping I’d maybe even have some sort of motherly sense to just know which “baby house,” as they say in Russia, was his. But I did not.

Until today.

Through the miracle of the internet and what I’d say is God’s gracious guiding, I found it. A woman I connected with on a private adoption-related forum (hi M!) found my etsy shop. She bought a t-shirt and sent me a link to the website of her son’s orphanage, asking if perhaps our son was there too. I clicked on to the site and saw that it was one I had visited before. I wasn’t sure it would lead to anything, but still- I cut and paste every piece of wording into google translate and kept clicking around, hoping and hoping until…

Until I suddenly saw his sweet face and soft smile looking back at me. I inhaled sharply and tears prickled at my eyes. It was one of the pictures we already have of him, but just to know…. to know where he is… to see the faces of his peers, his playmates, his friends… this is a gift I treasure deeply tonight.

There is only one picture of his orphanage on the website and I’ve memorized it already. The white walls, the gray floor, the pine table and chairs, the colorful toys, the old fashioned play-pen like my parents would have played in. The room it sterile, but bright- filled with sunlight from large windows- and clean. It gives my mother’s heart some peace. A treasure, that picture. A gift for my soul.

On the site, the children in the baby house are “listed” with a picture and short description. The words used to describe our sweet son echo the descriptions his nannies have given us through our agency: quiet, gentle, tender, sweet. Our precious, precious, baby boy. Oh God how I long to cup his face in my hands, to stroke his head and push back his hair, to whisper, “My love. My baby. My son.” Do that for him today, I pray. Warm his heart until it glows with my love, from miles and miles away.

Today, for this gift, I am thankful. For a peek into his world. For a gaze into the eyes of the children with whom he spends every day. For a connection with another mama whose son waits with mine.

Until I carry him in my arms, I treasure these gifts in my heart. I carry him in my heart, today.

________________________________________

Jillian Burden

 

Jillian Burden is an expectant mama; she and her husband are expecting their first child by way of a Russian adoption. While her belly might not be expanding, her heart and her faith sure are growing! You can read about this soul stretching journey to parenthood on her blog.

How Long?

We’re not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us;
we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.
- C.S. Lewis

I came across this quote in a rather timely read of Mary Beth Chapman’s book Choosing to See. The book is about Mary Beth’s life, her marriage to musician Steven Curtis Chapman, the birth of her children, the adoptions of her three youngest daughters, and the tragic death of her 5-year-old in 2008. Reading through this painful story has helped me work through a lot of the pain and sadness I’ve run into this past week as John and I wait endlessly for our adoption to move forward. Sort of an “if-she-can-make-it-through-that-then-I-can-make-it-through-this” kind of a read.

While our adoption process had been moving along fairly well- albeit slower than we had hoped for- we’ve come to a standstill. The home study is long done. Fundraising complete. Agency fees paid and sent. Our preliminary dossier carried to Russia; it should even be translated by now. All our immigration paperwork has been sent in to the US government. And now? We wait, endlessly- waiting for Moscow to lift the adoption suspension and start registering dossiers again.

I wake up every morning, hit the snooze button, and begin to pray for our little guy. I walk around our neighborhood, whispering prayers to God- asking him to AWAKE and act on our behalf. Pointing out that if he can make spring happen, raise every blade of grass to life, and command the trees to burst with blossoms- if he can create new life where only weeks ago it looked like there was none- then surely he can move a government to lift this adoption suspension. I lie down at night wondering what our little guy is doing, if he’s just getting up for the day, and hoping he’s well cared for. I imagine what it’s going to be like to finally hold him in my arms and then I force myself to think about something else, otherwise I’d never sleep.

I cry a lot because even though I know God’s putting all things back together in Christ, the effects of the fall are still too powerful. I cry out because I hate that the world is still so broken and I lament that God seems so slow to move sometimes. I cry because I don’t know whether my faith is weak or whether I’m right to be so upset in the face of brokenness.

I’m not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us;
I’m wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.

I’ve received a lot of assurances through our adoption journey. “It will all work out.” “All in God’s timing.” “He has a plan!”

Yes. True.

But “a plan” that “works out” in “God’s timing” still leaves room for lament. Think of the martyrs whose testimony far surpasses my own; their deaths were part of a plan that worked out in God’s timing… but still, they died.

The only thing I know is that somehow it all works out for God’s glory. In that, my faith is unwavering.

But in the rest of it, I cry out with the Psalmist:

How long O Lord?

Will you forget me forever?

How long must I wrestle with my thoughts?

And day after day have sorrow in my heart?

I trust that this endless waiting and wondering and worrying is God’s best. I trust it works out for his glory. I’m just wondering how much more painful it’s going to be.

________________________________________

Jillian Burden

 

Jillian Burden is an expectant mama; she and her husband are expecting their first child by way of a Russian adoption. While her belly might not be expanding, her heart and her faith sure are growing! You can read about this soul stretching journey to parenthood on her blog. And, take a few minutes to check out her storefront as well; for one more week, she’s partnering with The Sparrow Fund by giving 10% of all her sales from her Etsy store to help adoptive families.

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