Melissa Corkum

Messages Through Music

I’ve been meaning to write this for a couple weeks, but we’re in the midst of a really tough season with the older kids. It’s nothing we didn’t expect or that’s not normal, but it’s kept us busy and exhausted nonetheless. It’s also made these words even more appreciated than they were when I meant to blog them.

Ty’s current favorite song is One Thing Remains. We’ve been listening to it a lot at home and singing it a lot at church.

The chorus echoes these words again and again…

Your love never fails it never gives up it never runs out on me.

Imagine if you believed the opposite in your core–that love always fails, and it has given up and run out on you. That is what our kids from hard places believe. Their behavior reflects their insecurity because their brain dictates survival and not logic. Traditional consequences are not just ineffective but damaging. Nonsensical arguments and hurtful words reign. Behavior is meant to push you away but also screams, “PLEASE!! Don’t leave me like everyone else.”

It will probably take years of love and consistency to change their paradigm. My head knows this, but my heart is frustrated at the ridiculousness that defines my day-to-day life. My flesh wants to give them what their words are asking for, but my heart is begging for the grace to give them what they need.

Enter song #2. Take My Life. Here are the lyrics that need to define my life if we’re all going to emerge on the other side.

Here am I, all of me.
Take my life, it’s all for Thee.

Take my will and make it Thine
It shall be no longer mine.

My new motto: If you thought marriage was sanctifying, try adoption.

________________________________

Melissa Corkum

Melissa Corkum

Melissa, who was adopted from Korea as an infant, have two biological children, a son adopted at age 2 1/2 from Korea, and 3 big kids from Ethiopia (adopted at 12 to 14 years of age). She resides in Maryland where they started a ministry called The Grafted. The Grafted exists to help the local Body of Christ connect to information, resources, and organizations in order to develop a compassionate culture that cares for orphans, vulnerable children, and widows. Melissa also has a photography business that specializes in adoption homecoming and foster family photography. You can get to know Melissa better on her personal blog.

 

 

Through the Eyes of a Traumatized Child

If you’ve ever been in a car accident or other traumatic event, you know that for a while your blood pressure goes up every time you experience something that triggers those memories.  These reactions (and even memories) are largely subconscious.  How your body responds is a survival technique.

For better or worse, our brains are wired to survive.  Without much thought from us, they will produce automatic behaviors that are protective.

Kids who have not had a secure, safe place (emotionally or physically) in which to grow and learn, develop behaviors that are for one thing…survival.

The part of the brain that dictates survival is different than the part of the brain that thinks logically and rationally.

Are you connecting the dots?

This means that kids from hard places have little to no experience using the part of their brain that thinks rationally.  They are too busy trying to survive.

What does this look like?

In our house, it means every “No, you may not” and “Please wait a minute” is translated by our children as a threat to their survival.  Those negative responses from people prove to them that people are not to be trusted at any cost.  If they sense someone getting too close, they will behave in such a way to sabotage the relationship.  They can’t rationalize that an activity may not be safe or emphathize that others may have a need ahead of them.

It means every raised voice (whether in play or anger) causes high anxiety and fear that their very life may be in jeopardy.  In the unlikely case their rational brain was engaged, they immediately switch to the part that will guarantee survival.  Some kids flee, some freeze, some fight.  None think.  In these moments, their behavior is as instinctual as blinking.  They have no control over it.

Logic-based, high-reasoning consequences? Completely out of the question.  Any consequence is viewed as an attack.  It is never connected to their behavior.

In some incidences, they truly do not remember the behavior (even if it happened just moments ago) since it happened in such a high state of stress.  It’s kind of how our brain blocks out pain.  I know I don’t remember much about my experiences going through unmedicated labor and delivery.

As we’ve traveled through weeks of sinking or swimming (mostly sinking) through behavior, we’ve been clinging to Dr. Purvis’ observation that “angry kids are sad and kids that look crazy are scared.”  Putting into perspective what our kids have internalized and how it’s leaking out in behavior and examining how our reactions can either diffuse or escalate their behavior is keeping our heads barely above water.  We sink often.  We’re mentally and emotionally exhausted.

That reminds me; please excuse the unedited, haphazard rambling posts such as this one.

I know it may sound like we’re making excuses for our kids.  We’re not.  We’d be the first ones on the bandwagon if we knew traditional parenting techniques worked on kids from hard places.  We actually keep trying to jump on that bandwagon only to find ourselves banging our proverbial heads against a wall as our situation deteriorates in front of our very eyes.  I won’t lie.  I want a much quicker fix for their behavior.  You know the kind that includes lost privileges, timeouts, and extra chores.  This whole heal the root cause, instead of slapping a band aid on a gaping wound thing, is not for the faint of heart.

If you’re in our shoes (or similar ones), don’t ever let anyone tell you that trust-based parenting is the easy way out or lets the kids off the hook.

If you’re on the outside looking in, don’t judge us based on our children’s behavior or how we handle it.  I’d ask you to try to see the world through their eyes, but I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy.

________________________________

Melissa Corkum

Melissa Corkum

Melissa, who was adopted from Korea as an infant, have two biological children, a son adopted at age 2 1/2 from Korea, and 3 big kids from Ethiopia (adopted at 12 to 14 years of age). She residse in Maryland where they started a ministry called The Grafted. The Grafted exists to help the local Body of Christ connect to information, resources, and organizations in order to develop a compassionate culture that cares for orphans, vulnerable children, and widows. Melissa also has a photography business that specializes in adoption homecoming and foster family photography. You can get to know Melissa better on her personal blog.

 

 

My Love/Hate Relationship with Adoption

I feel like an emotional ping pong ball lately. I am ecstatic at how well the big kids are doing but cry often when the weight of what they’ve endured to get here comes crashing down. And so it goes. Extreme joy to debilitating grief.

I hate when a language gap the size of the Grand Canyon is between meeting my kids’ needs and me.  I love that so many things in this life transcend language.

I love when they tell stories from their past that tell about what they love and who they are.  For example, our son used to own a small flock of homing pigeons.  I hate when they tell stories of their past that drip of anguish and pain no person let alone child should ever experience.

I love the diversity and culture in our family.  It is helping to shape our kids into compassionate, sensitive, and adventurous kids who handle race issues better than most adults we encounter.  I hate that we have a cross cultural family because our kids’ birth countries weren’t equipped to care for them.  I hate that their culture slips away a little more each day unless we play an active role in re-capturing it every day.

I hate that we have kids who have suffered emotional trauma which forever and completely changes their perception of the world.  I love that we’ve been stretched where parenting is concerned.  We’re so much the wiser for our troubles and have been able to use our experience to come along other families as they adventure through adoption.

I love watching them experience new things with the wonder of a toddler but hate thinking about how much they’ve missed.

I love hearing them chatter as they catch up with friends using the latest video chat technology.  I hate that video chat is the best we can do socially right now because social situations will be the last and most difficult thing to overcome.

I love that every time we adopt our diet expands.  I hate that food can be so alienating.  Thank goodness for berbere!

So goes our adoption adventure right now.

____________________________________________________________________________

Melissa Corkum

Patrick and Melissa, who was adopted from Korea as an infant, have two biological children, a son adopted at age 2 1/2 from Korea, and 3 big kids from Ethiopia (adopted at 12 to 14 years of age). They reside in Maryland where they started a ministry called Grafted Families. Its goal is to serve Gospel-centered churches as they care for orphans and vulnerable children. Melissa also has a photography business that specializes in adoption homecoming and foster family photography. You can get to know Melissa better on her personal blog and Patrick on his personal blog.

Excuse me while I talk to myself

You are the big person. He is the little person.

He takes cues from you because you are the big person.

Although biology would say he is 5 1/2, he is more like 3 1/2. If you remember that every minute, you will all be happier.

It’s your job to remember because you are the big person.

You were not there to protect him for his first 2 1/2 years so he needs you to be on his side now.

You are the big person.

Be slow to anger, abounding in love. Love is patient.

There are 2 other kids (soon to be 4) watching you to see what patient love looks like.

Be the big person.

________________________________________

Melissa Corkum

Patrick and Melissa, who was adopted from Korea as an infant, have two biological children, a son adopted at age 2 1/2 from Korea, and two teens waiting to come home from Ethiopia. They reside in Maryland where they started a ministry called Grafted Families. Its goal is to serve Gospel-centered churches as they care for orphans and vulnerable children. Melissa also has a photography business that specializes in adoption homecoming and foster family photography. You can get to know Melissa better on her personal blog and Patrick on his personal blog.

In Action

It was after a Focus on the Family broadcast during Adoption Awareness Month four or five years ago about Antioch Adoptions that God first started tugging us toward orphan ministry. We had decided we couldn’t afford to adopt but perhaps God was calling us to help others instead. Antioch Adoptions provides fee-free services in Washington state in an effort to get kids into homes. We figured that if they could do it so could we. That was just the tip of the iceberg. Years later, God has opened our eyes and hearts to a much bigger picture than adoption.

Over the past couple years, we’ve taken in hundreds of hours of conference audio, webinars, and books that basically led us to this conclusion–Everyone is called to orphan care (not adoption, orphan care). Orphan care comes in all shapes and sizes.
As you read the story, see if you can pick out all the different people and ways they helped orphans.

About 3 years ago, Patrick and I had a vision to see an Ethiopian orphan hosting program come to our church–these programs bring eligible orphans (usually ages 8 to 15) to the U. S. to spend 4 to 8 weeks for a “cultural experience.” Many of these children are able to find forever families. The problem was no programs to that country existed, and we were not equipped to start one.

We had all but forgotten about it when an old friend called and said, “I’ve just been hired by AWAA to start an Ethiopian hosting program in Maryland, do you want to help?” Um-mm…yeah!

Ten months later, 5 families (coincidentally all acquaintances of ours) welcomed Ethiopian children into their homes for a month. Throughout that month, the community came together to provide lots of American experiences to the kids from a trip to the zoo to an old-fashioned, American birthday party. Generous donations from the community allowed us to send an extra suitcase back with each child packed chock full of stuff for their orphanage.

By God’s grace, each of the 5 children have families (either their host family, a family they met while here, or a family who was able to connect to their host family some other way).

Recently, one of the families traveled for their court date in Ethiopia. They needed someone to watch their kids while they traveled. We volunteered but needed someone to watch our dog since the kids were allergic. Another host family volunteered.

It may seem trivial as you read it, but from where we watch, the beauty of the community working together to bring these 5 children home is astounding…

it’s the Gospel in action.

________________________________________

Melissa Corkum

Patrick and Melissa, who was adopted from Korea as an infant, have two biological children and a son adopted at age 2 1/2 from Korea. In May they, started a paper chase for a sibling group from Ethiopia. They reside in Maryland where they started a ministry called Grafted Families. Its goal is to serve Gospel-centered churches as they care for orphans and vulnerable children. Melissa also has a photography business that specializes in adoption homecoming and foster family photography. You can get to know Melissa better on her personal blog and Patrick on his personal blog.

Sometimes You Have to be That Mom

It’s really my goal in life to never be that person. Since having kids, I strive to not be that mom, you know the one who thinks her little angel can do no wrong, or the one who packs a lunch for her kids wherever they go because they only eat organic/local, or the one who is always asking you to watch her kids but never has the time for yours, or the one who has snotty, whiny, misbehaving rugrats having a major case of the “gimmes” at the grocery store. Sorry if I stepped on any one’s toes there.

I admit, the motivation to never be that mom is really pretty selfish, but it is what it is.

Enter Ty.

He spent his first 6 months walking around on a leash. Yup, I was that mom. I couldn’t even trust him to walk from our van to our front door. He spent many a visits to the library running to the end and throwing a tantrum because he couldn’t explore freely like the older two. I was that mom with a screaming, misbehaving toddler. I hated it. I could imagine people thinking, “Can’t that woman get her child under control?” because that’s what I would have thought. Before Ty. I felt like I wanted to wear a sandwich board that read, “This child has recently been uprooted from the only family he can remember–a family he loved. He has switched languages and cultures and was born 15 weeks early. Cut him (and me) some slack. Just look at my other children and please don’t categorize me as that mom.”

At a recent training for our current adoption, we got an excellent article from Empowerd to Connect entitled, “Ten Questions for Parent Preparing to Adopt or Foster.” After our experience with Ty, the questions hit me square in the gut.

5. Are you willing to be misunderstood, criticized and even judged by others who do not understand your child’s history, the impacts of that history and how you have called to love and connect with your child in order to help him/her heal and become all that God intends?

6. Are you prepared to advocate for you child’s needs, including at school, church, in extracurricular settings and otherwise, in order to create predictablility and promote environments that enable your child to feel safe and allow him/her to succeed?

7. Are you willing to sacrifice you own convenience, expectations and desires in order to connect with your child and help him/her heal, even if that process is measured in years, not months?

I wish someone had asked me these questions before we adopted the last time. Or, maybe it’s better they hadn’t. I might have run screaming in the other direction like Jonah and missed out on all this growing and stretching God had planned for me.

Today was another perfect example.

Ty is not allowed to have chocolate because of the way it affects his behavior. For the past couple weeks, we’ve restricted gluten as well to see if it’s a factor. Because they’re not allergies, I forgot to list them on his VBS form. As much as it pained me, I was totally that mom on Monday when I dropped of his special gluten-free, chocolate-free snack with him and politely asked the VBS group leader to make sure he only ate what I had provided. It was even more painful when I explained it wasn’t an actual allergy but was behavior related. I could feel the guy rolling his eyes on the inside.

Day 4 of VBS, I dropped off his snack as usual except today, they didn’t use it for some reason. Ty was super excited when I picked him up to announce that he had OREOS for snack. Seriously!?!!? We were doing so well. And OREOS!?!? Couldn’t they have slipped up on Goldfish day?

So, I sit him down at our volunteer lunch (like I have done every other day this week) with a bowl of raspberries for him to eat while I get our main course. I had my back turned for less than 2 minutes, and he had put a handful of mulch into the berry container and then proceeded to wash the berries off in his siblings’ lemonade cups. The rest of the afternoon was downhill from there. The human part of me wanted to make him “pay” for his bad decisions. How dare he do that? I wanted justice for the older kids who had done nothing wrong to deserve to miss out on lemonade at lunch. Because of his background, he does not respond to high-level, cause-and-effect discipline. Even though I wanted to push him away because I was so angry at him, he really needed me to spend extra time with him so he didn’t have any other opportunities to misbehave while the chocolate wore off and so my connecting to him would help him reregulate and process why eating an oreo had been a “thumbs-down” decision. It meant I wouldn’t get to decompress after VBS while the kids played quietly together. It meant he had to be glued to my side while I gave him my almost-undivided attention because he has even more trouble self-directing when he’s on chocolate.

When I drop Ty off tomorrow, I haven’t decided whether or not I’ll reiterate Ty’s snack policy. It’s the battle of pride versus setting my child up to have a “thumbs-up” kinda day.

Lesson learned? Sometimes you just have to be that mom.

________________________________________

Melissa Corkum

Patrick and Melissa, who was adopted from Korea as an infant, have two biological children and a son adopted at age 2 1/2 from Korea. In May they, started a paper chase for a sibling group from Ethiopia. They reside in Maryland where they started a ministry called Grafted Families. Its goal is to serve Gospel-centered churches as they care for orphans and vulnerable children. Melissa also has a photography business that specializes in adoption homecoming and foster family photography. You can get to know Melissa better on her personal blog and Patrick on his personal blog.

Orphans on the Brain

I can’t get last night and this morning out of my mind.

Last night, Mia cried all the way home and probably cried herself to sleep. She wasn’t pouting or tantruming. She was grieving. You see, last night was our last official group event for Welcoming Angels, the orphan hosting program sponsored by America World Adoption Agency. It was the last time (at least for a long time) we would see the 5 precious children who wiggled and giggled their way into our hearts in just a few short weeks.

It’s really amazing how quickly one can become attached to someone in such a short period of time. We are not hosting but all of the host families are friends of ours and we have been at every event. Mia became particularly attached to one of the little girls.

“My friend is an orphan,” she said suddenly through tears. “They are all orphans. We have to pray that God finds them families close to us.”

That sparked a conversation about how God answers prayers, about how to handle it when He doesn’t answer them the way we want, and why everyone needs a family.

Fast foward to this morning.

We’re driving up the school driveway when PJ says, “Mom, have you ever heard of an 8 passenger minivan?”
“Yes,” I reply, “I think it has 3 seats in the middle row.”
“Yeah,” he says, “my friend has one. I’d rather have a 15 passenger van though.”
“Me too.”
He continues, “If we had a 15 passenger van, we could adopt 10 more kids.”

I swear I don’t script these things. It’s evidence to me that our kids are watching our every move. What is important to us becomes important to them. Quite frankly, I can’t think of a better thing for my kids to have on their minds.

________________________________________

Melissa Corkum

Patrick and Melissa, who was adopted from Korea as an infant, have two biological children and a son adopted at age 2 1/2 from Korea. They reside in Maryland where they started a ministry called Grafted Families. Its goal is to serve Gospel-centered churches as they care for orphans and vulnerable children. You can get to know Melissa better on her personal blog and Patrick on his personal blog.

Who Really Benefits From Adoption?

If you know an adoptive family well, you know that the comments like “Your child is so blessed to have a family like you” and ”Good for you for adopting. I could never do that” irk us more than the ignorant, naive questions that people ask. I know it’s counterintuitive to be irritated when someone compliments you; instead, I try to see these comments as educational opportunities.

It all goes back to the Gospel. Remember when Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40). While children who are adopted certainly benefit, the blessing to the adoptive family is equally as amazing and is often overlooked by onlookers.

  • On a personal level, our adoption journey has challenged and humbled me as a person and parent in ways I never imagined.
  • I’ve been forced to learn new parenting skills. I mean you can always use more of those, right?
  • As my friend Alaina describes adoptive parenting, we are the ones who are blessed with the opportunity to love on Jesus everyday by wiping tears, feeding mouths, and driving to the ER at 3am in the morning.
  • Adoption has allowed me real life experience with one of the biggest spiritual analogies.

Our adoption journey led us to be gloriously ruined by coming face-to-face with the global orphan crisis. Adoption stories are always sprinkled with miracles. We have been blessed by so many adoption story miracles we could write a book. We’ve been blessed with the opportunity to spread what we know to be true (not what the media says) about adoption to many families.

Also, just to clarify. We could never adopt either. We’re human. We’re selfish. We’re sinful. We’re impatient. However, we serve a God who is bigger than all that. He called us, and He never calls without providing the extra grace so that He can when we can’t.

________________________________________

Melissa Corkum

Patrick and Melissa, who was adopted from Korea as an infant, have two biological children and a son adopted at age 2 1/2 from Korea. They reside in Maryland where they started a ministry called Grafted Families. Its goal is to mobilize churches to start local adoption and/or foster ministries as well as support adoptive and foster families and families interested in adoption and foster care. You can get to know Melissa better on her personal blog and Patrick on his personal blog.

Invisible Milestones

“How’s Ty doing?” Such a complicated question.

Mostly, people mean, “How is Ty adjusting?”

Adjustment, attachment, bonding. Such complicated subjects.

After a couple days home, we were super excited that we had left the constant, incosolable crying in Korea. After a couple months home, he was sleeping through the night, calling me “mom,” loving the older kids, and seemingly attached all around. On all accounts, he seemed to be adjusted, bonded, and attached. And, we had all emerged relatively unscathed.

Or so we thought.

Melissa & Ty

After about 6 months home, we realized that Ty had been functioning in some kind of shock-induced fog as his true personality replaced the kid we thought we knew.

Every time we though we had “arrived,” something else would happen. One day, he started spontaneous affection which I didn’t realize was missing until he started doing it. Previously, he would offer endless hugs and kisses but only if I was asking.

Lately, Ty’s senses of humor and drama seems to be the next invisible milestones up which we are encroaching. All of a sudden, he is quite the jokester and gives us pieces of his mind complete with dramatic sighs and hands on hips.

The coolest milestone? Realizing that I actually liked Ty. I’ve spent so much time disciplining, dragging him to doctors and evaluations, trying to understand him, disciplining, catching him up cognitively, doing damage control around the house, and finding precious moments of quiet time that it’s only just recently that I’ve really come to appreciate his personality and sense of humor. I’m finally starting to enjoy him more than I resent him.

Here’s to the next invisible milestone that is hiding around the corner!

________________________________________

Melissa Corkum

Patrick and Melissa, who was adopted from Korea as an infant, have two biological children and a son adopted at age 2 1/2 from Korea. They reside in Maryland where they started a ministry called Grafted Families. Its goal is to mobilize churches to start local adoption and/or foster ministries as well as support adoptive and foster families and families interested in adoption and foster care. You can get to know Melissa better on her personal blog and Patrick on his personal blog.

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