When I took my eldest child to the pediatrician for a check-up as a newborn baby, the nurse looked at the infant carrier at my son, looked up at my husband, looked at me, and then said, “Sorry, maybe the next one will look like you.” I always thought that was sort of a funny remark to make, as if I so loved the way I look that I’d want my children to all be clones of me.
With three blond biological children and my head of dark brown hair, I always joked that my Chinese daughter would be the child who looks most like me. But, even with our dark hair, we very obviously look different. When we’re at home just doing life, I really don’t think about it. But, when we’re at the grocery store or shopping at the mall, I am reminded of how different we look. We draw a lot more attention than I ever got when I shopped with any of the other children.
Our youngest daughter is only a toddler now, seemingly unaware of our physical differences. But, there may come a time in a few years when she is unsettled about how different she looks and asks questions about how or why we are different. And, if she does, I want to be prepared to answer her.
We will talk to her about our own insecurities and how we have struggled with how God made us. We will share with her how God has helped us through that and how He continues to. We will encourage her that He is the one who made her and that there is nothing about her that is a mistake. And, we will assure her that we love everything about her—how she is different from us and how she is like us.
A helpful children’s book to follow that conversation could be I Don’t Have Your Eyes by Carrie A. Kitze. The book recognizes the differences between parent and child—eyes, ears, nose, hair, hands, knees, feet, toes, height, smile, voice, face, skin. But, also points out what is similar, those things that we share because we love each other and are part of each other—the same way of hearing those in need, the same way of gently touching others, the same way of giving thanks on our knees. The message of the book is this: it’s what is on the inside that matters most. The book ends with, “I don’t look like you on the outside but I look inside and in our hearts we are the same.” At a young age, this may be all Lydia needs. But, I think I’d want to follow it with one more thing—even when we don’t see eye to eye, even when our way of doing things are very different, even when you feel like our hearts are not the same (as children adopted or biological are certain to feel at some point), we love you; we want you with us; we are thankful for you; and we will walk with you always. Not a bad message for my biological kids too, don’t you think?
Think about it. Talk about it.
If your child looks physically different from you or siblings, when did he or she notice that and ask about it?
Do you look different from your family of origin? Was that an issue to you growing up or as an adult?
How have you celebrated your similarities and differences as a family?
This book has been used in a positive way in schools. Consider buying it for your children’s classroom and downloading the actiivity that goes along with it here.
Kelly is a stay-at-home mom/manager of a bunch of little ones (3 blond biological kids age 8, 6, and 4 and 1 dark haired girl from China, age 17 months) she’s hoping stay little for a while longer. She is a part-time editor and part-time blog-surfing junkie, always on the lookout for good resources and essays to post on this site. You can learn more about their adoption story as well as follow day-to-day life on their personal blog.
It’s hard to even believe that this picture was taken on December 28, 2009. Maggie came to us as a quiet, floppy, shocked little girl. She had no idea what was happening and, really, neither did we. We had no idea what a complete joy and blessing Maggie is or how much we would love her immediately. We also didn’t know she was deaf. Looking back at our China pictures now, I see how Maggie was so confused and detached. She couldn’t hear what was happening around her, and she had to have been scared to death. She did not respond to her Chinese name or to our voices. She did not take a bottle for 3 days, got very constipated, continually looked at her hands, and laid her right ear down on tables or floors to hear the vibrations. (She preferred to lay down on the floor rather than sit up.) Her little body went through so much as she grieved and tried to understand what was happening. I think her way of dealing with all the changes was to just shut down. How could she have known that we were going to love and care for her, that she would have a forever family and all the hugs and kisses she could stand. She couldn’t. She didn’t. But, that is okay. We have taken it slow; and, day by day, we have watched her unfold like a beautiful flower.
Her special need was multiple. A heart condition (a small VSD, ventricular septal defect) and microtia/atresia which we later found out was also severe hearing loss (a.k.a. deaf). We were told she could say “ba, ba, ba,” smile, and stand on her own and that she was lively and liked musical toys. All the pictures of her showed her to be a healthy looking little girl. We had done all the research, read special needs blogs, attended a seminar on what to expect when you adopt internationally, and prayed a lot for our daughter.
I remember when I first saw her through the curtain at the adoption center in Guangzhou. Maggie looked a little like her pictures; but, really, she looked very different. I saw her head was crooked to one side, her facial expression was out of sorts, she had what looked like bug bites on her face, and her head was oddly misshapen. Chuck and I waited til it was our time to officially meet Maggie, and she was first handed to me. With a pink toy duck in one hand, I reached out to Maggie. Finally, I was holding my baby girl. This was the moment I had dreamed about for so long. There was a big smile on my face, and my heart was beating so fast. I took a good look at her. I loved her so much already, and it was evident Maggie had some things to overcome. She was more like an infant than a 14 month old. She would lean way back when I held her, and she stared at her hands constantly. At one moment, I stopped to pray and tearfully thank God for Maggie. I asked for wisdom to be her mother, and I prayed that Maggie’s pain would be washed away, that she would know she is accepted and not rejected. It was a crazy Gotcha day, and I was so overcome with emotions and questions. Was she ever held? Did she ever have toys to play with? Just how neglected was she? I thought she was lively and talking? What really went on in her orphanage? I had a feeling that Maggie was severely neglected. I was right. I also watched her intently and knew that she was very smart, and she was a fighter, chosen by God to be my daughter and destined to overcome her special needs. I saw it. I knew it. My heart felt it.
Although we did a lot of research on what to expect and knew the self-soothing and floppy, flat affect was “normal” for a child who was institutionalized in an orphanage in China, nothing could really prepare us for the reality of it. You see, Maggie was just another baby in the orphanage. She probably spent over 20 hours by herself in a lonely crib with no toys and no sounds. She learned not to cry and to soothe herself by rocking back and forth and looking at her hands. She was given a bottle with a big opening, filled with formula and rice cereal. It would have been propped up and no aid was given if it spilled. Everything was on a tight schedule. She was bathed with cold water that was poured over her. She learned to just survive. I was once told by a fellow adoptive mom that there is a difference in surviving and thriving. She’s so right.
Because now, we see Maggie thriving. She laughs and smiles, plays and discovers, hugs and snuggles. She is changing every day into this bright, sweet little girl who we knew was there somewhere. Sure, we still have days she looks lost and sad or she stares at her hands too long like she doesn’t know what to do. But, then, she’s back and laughing in her daddy’s arms. All Maggie needed was love, someone to give her a chance, to believe in her and tell her she matters. Her special need was that she needed a family. Everything else is minor compared to that need. She has completely and totally captured our hearts, and we are forever changed. How could we not be?
Would we adopt a special needs child again? Yes!!! A thousand times, yes! Was it worth all the unknowns, money, and time? Yes! Every child is precious and important: the whole and the broken, the sick and lame. My heart breaks to know that there are 147 million little Maggies around the world who need a family and someone to say to them, “You matter. God loves you, and so do I.” My prayer is that by sharing Maggie’s story, more families will hear the cries of the orphans and say YES to adoption. I pray also that James 1:27 will burn in the heart of Christians: “Pure and lasting religion in the sight of God our father means that we must care for orphans.”
Thankfully, Maggie’s story does not end here. Eight months later, she has caught up developmentally with her peers (except for language). She can do a front flip, play peek-a-boo, twirl, and run. We have had a hard time with her bone conduction hearing aid and are waiting on her new fancy hearing aid to come in. Maggie is still not talking, and I am still having a hard time being patient. God is teaching me so much though, and I am learning that He is in control of Maggie’s life–not me, not the doctors.
Kathy is a mom blessed with a great, funny, handsome husband; two wonderful boys; and a precious daughter adopted from China through the special needs program. She is a Jesus lovin’, homschooling, adoption advocate, chocolate lovin’ momma. You can learn more about her family and their adoption journey on their blog.
Many of us in the adoption world are affectionately referred to as “fundraising families.” For the purpose of this post, we will go with FF for short. Our numbers are growing…and for good reason.
Those who “affectionately” refer to us are basically…well…US! We are a tight bunch. We empathize, sympathize, strategize, rationalize, visualize, and sometimes even hypothesize on what all this fundraising stuff really means.
I don’t have hard numbers, but I heard it said not too long ago that the number of families entering the adoption journey that will be fundraising will be 8 out of 10.
So, being a FF in the homestretch of this part of the journey, I thought I would share a few thoughts on what I have learned thus far. I guess I’ll start off by being a “negative Nellie” and then end on a super positive note.
Fundraising Fact #1
There is no easy way around it. It is simply hard. And, with hard comes not always fun as well. Oh, it is loads of fun when the t-shirt orders are pouring in, and the agency deadline is far enough away you are pretty optimistic it will all come together before it’s due. By the way, we missed the deadline more than once with our agency. But, there are the many days where there is just silence. One of the plagues in Exodus was darkness. God’s word says the darkness was so strong it was felt (see Exodus 10:21). Well, in fundraising, there is silence. Often, the silence is so loud, it is heard. And, that silence leads to discouragement, loneliness, and even despair, leading us right back to hard and not always fun. Even those in the cyber community who make it look easy will admit it is hard, but each will also admit that the hard is worth every single tear, cry, and groan.
Fundraising Fact #2
The 80/20 rule applies.
Actually, according to other FF’s, it is really more like the 90/10 rule. In other words, 90% of the funds raised seem to be given by only 10% of the people with whom you are journeying through life. And, while your heart is strengthened by these generous donors, you realize the entire 30-34K (estimated cost of an international adoption) cannot be obtained by these precious few…and they realize it, too. Which leads us to…
Fundraising Fact #3
“Where did everybody go?”
They didn’t go anywhere; you did. They are where they have always been and probably where you once were as well. You have in your life your “go to” people—always there for each other, always will be. But, the fact is many others are just not going to understand with their heads or their hearts where you are going. It just is what it is. They may smile and admire what you are doing, but the truth of the matter is they just don’t get it and THAT IS OKAY!
When my 12 year old was questioning the lack of support at one point, I tried to put it in a way he could understand. I asked him if his sister were kidnapped, and I needed a million dollars ransom to save her, could he help me? He looked at me long and said, “I can’t, I don’t have it to give.” You can’t give something you don’t have to give. For some reason, known only to their hearts, these “where-did-everyone-go” people don’t have the support to give—money completely aside. You have got to let yourself off the hook with this one. The time and heart energy wasted on trying to convert even closest friends and family members is not yours to take on. Surrender it, and give it back to God. It’s His job. Can He use you? Sure, but probably not in the way you envision right now. Let it go. Or, at the very least, put it on the back burner for now.
Cause here’s the deal…
God has called you to an incredible journey. He is entrusting you with that which breaks His heart. It is so clear in His word He favors the orphan, widow, and the least of these. He trusts YOU to steward this journey, not them, at least not now. Whether these people around you ever “get it” or not, whether they come around and support you with a financial gift or fundraising support or emotional support or not…
That is THEIR journey!
Take your eyes off them, and put them on Him. He will amaze you with new people who will encourage you in so many ways. Some of the people I thought would walk shoulder-to-shoulder with us simply cannot or will not. Others I knew only as acquaintances I am now “doing life with.” Further, some people I have never met in person have provided faithful support and encouragement. God is drawing together a community. He’s good like that. I was discussing the plagues in Exodus with my husband and was amazed at how God continued to harden Pharaoh’s heart over and over. But, you know, others needed to see. They needed to see God’s power and believe. The same is true for some hardened hearts watching your journey.
Fundraising Fact #4
God funds what He favors.
I know on the “silence” days, you really wonder if it will all come together. Let me let you in on a simple truth I wish I had embraced early on. It’s real deep; steady yourself. It is four simple words but full of truth:
It is already done.
I told you it was deep. It really and truly is already done! It is already accomplished. It just has not been delivered yet, and the reason it has not been delivered yet is because God has a purpose greater than the adoption costs going on here. Your journey will look like what He needs it to look like; fraught with struggles and successes; covered in tears and triumphs; filled with hope, dreams, faith building and worship. Because, it really is not about you, and it really is not about the orphan. It is about Him, and it is about the Gospel. Each of these little journeys is a picture of the Gospel. No wonder it costs so much. For Jesus, it cost his life. No wonder it is so hard. No wonder others don’t have it to give. No wonder.
Being the picture person I am, I liken the journey of my family and your journey to pieces of a big, beautiful painting, sort of picture tiles building side-by-side and on top of each other to form the final masterpiece. As I said before, our “tiles” will take as long as He needs them to take and will look like what He desires them to look like so that He can draw from the other tiles pieces that will form around ours and continue to form the grand picture . Wow. I’m sure that is full of theological holes, but that’s what I wish I had known from day 1.
I would not for a minute dissuade you from entering the journey of adoption due to lack of funds but rather encourage you to take the next step. You don’t have to have the end in sight. You don’t even have to have the step after the next step in sight. You just have to start. A fence is no place to sit. No matter how you dress it up, a fence is a fence, and it’s just a barrier. Hop off one side or the other. You’ve already been on “that” side. And while it may be safe, your “picture tile,” is losing its color. Watch as He blows your socks off with what He will do with your story. In the end, there WILL be enough, because He is enough.
Dale and Kim have been married for 24 years and are busy parents of three childen (14, 12 and 9). Although they thought they were “done” and even made it official they would not be enlarging their family, God led them to His heart for the orphan. They are now waiting on a referral of a toddler girl from Ethiopia. They consider it an privilege to steward the fundraising journey and have agreed to “never say never.” You can read more about their family and follow their adoption journey on their blog.
Support other fundraising families here.
Are you fundraising? Do you know any families who are? Have them contact us to put a button on our site.
After our adoption of Karleigh Mei in December 2008, we realized even more what a blessing it was to bring into our family a child who so desperately needs a family. The Lord began whispering in my ear that there was someone else who was made perfect for our family soon after Karleigh Mei had been home. I would look at China waiting children lists and wonder if we were supposed to pursue a child from China again. I would look at other programs from Ethiopia, Rwanda, India, etc. wondering if He was calling us there. I never had a clear answer, just that somewhere there was a child for us.
On January 12, 2010, a devastating earthquake hit Haiti. Two weeks later, we were told about a group who was trying desperately to get help to some orphans in Haiti and find them homes. These were preearthquake orphans. We were told they were looking for families who were homestudy ready or had adopted internationally before. We signed up and made ourselves available. By the time we were given the list of children, there were large sibling groups and older children remaining. We heard the Lord telling us not to pursue any of these children.
As soon as that door was closed, another possible door was opened. There was another group who was looking for families to take injured Haitian orphans in to get the medical treatment that was needed for them. We again came forward ready to help. This group wanted to make sure that not only were families homestudy ready but also state licensed to foster. We were given information on an agency who could get us licensed very quickly. The Lord was not telling us no, and so we filled out our application and off we trotted to the classes.
It was in these classes that we learned of the huge need for families to take in local children. The need is huge! We left the classes wondering exactly where it was the Lord was leading us. We had already committed to the group wanting to help the Haitians; so, we sat and waited.
Sometimes waiting is not so bad! Especially when you know all you can do is wait. The Lord is so good and gentle and kind. He really gave us a lot of time to come to grips with what He was asking us to do.
Because of circumstances in Haiti, it began to become clear to us that we would not be getting an injured child from Haiti.
I have always thought that someday I’d like to foster to adopt a child. I think that the enemy really doesn’t like this. He’s been quite successful from keeping the Church from helping hurting children. Oh, the fears that he can make us believe! The biggest fear I’ve had (and I’ve heard others say over and over) is attaching/bonding with a child only to have to give that child back. But, I’ve come to realize that whether or not we decided to foster, there is still a child who needs a safe, loving home to live in. And, we had to ask ourselves: why are we doing this? The answer is simply because there are hurting children; and, if we don’t, then who will? We have learned we have to completely surrender to Christ and what He has planned. It also puts Jeremiah 29:11 in a whole new perspective. For us and for the child/dren He brings into our home.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”
We have finally heard clearly from the Lord that He has called us to foster. And, hopefully, if it’s in God’s plan, to adopt whomever we are able to bring into our home.
And, so, now we wait. We have already gotten some calls on hurting children, but other homes were found for them. We are just trusting in the Lord and know that whomever He brings to us, it is His perfect plan.
Only a week later, in early July, their family agreed to foster a 5-day old baby girl, a girl who has been marveling their household everyday since.
Jenn has been married to Karl for 19+ years and have five (hopefully, six!) children. Adoption has always been on their hearts, beginning when they started dating. Karl adopted their oldest, Katie, soon after they were married. Their four biological children are ages 23 (+ her spouse!), 17, 15, and 13. They also have an adopted daughter from China (age 4) whom they adopted when she was 3 years old. And, they hope to adopt their brand new little foster baby. Trusting in the Lord! You can read more about their family on the blog.
“Hey kiddo, you sure are special.” I suspect many kids hear this often from their parents. I know my kids do.
In fact, since my kids were little, I have told them three things almost every day of their lives: “I love you, you’re special, and I love being your daddy.” As they’ve gotten older, we even converted this into our very own sign – three fingers sticking up, each representing an element of my reminder to them. As they are getting out of the car for school in the morning, I typically flash three fingers at them. In response, Grant, my seven year old, is always good for a “I know dad – you love me, I’m special and you love being my . . .” as the car door slams.
So, the other night, we got to talking right before bed, and Grant asked me, “Daddy, why am I special?”
“Good question,” I replied, as I bought myself some time to compose an answer. “Why do you think you are special?” I asked.
“Because I was adopted?” Grant replied, as if asking me to confirm that he got the answer right.
In Grant’s response, I was reminded of something that we as adoptive parents must be sensitive about. Our adoption stories are indeed special, full of miracles, joy and blessing. Our children are special, themselves a miracle and a joy and a blessing. But our children are not special in the same way that our adoption stories are special. Even more importantly, our children are not special because of our adoption stories.
Our children are so much more than a story – more than a past, present, and future. They are fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of a loving and gracious God. They are passionately loved by this same God and they are objects of His pursuing and redeeming grace. They were made by Him and for Him. This is what makes them special and imbues them with unimaginable worth.
I know firsthand how our understanding of adoption changes over time. This is true for us as parents as well as for our children as adopted persons. Maybe “changes” is not the right word – maybe our understanding simply becomes more complete. As the years go by and the complexities of our story become more evident and understandable, we and our children gain new perspectives and discover varying emotions and realities associated with how “we” came together as a family. Some of these perspectives reveal a fresh sense of amazement and wonder; some of these emotions and realities can be difficult and even painful. As a result, it is important that our children are neither defined nor valued in relation to their adoption story.
Having collected my thoughts, I replied to Grant, “No, silly. You’re not special because you were adopted – although I do think you have a pretty special story. Why are you special?”
“Because God made me?” he replied.
“That’s right,” I said. “And who loves you?”
“You do,” he said.
“But who loves you more?” I quickly replied.
“God does, I know.”
“Hey, Grant . . .” flashing three fingers as I walked toward the door.
“I know, you love me, I’m special, and you love being my daddy,” he said.
How true that is.
Michael and his wife Amy are the proud parents of four children, each welcomed into their family through adoption. Together they lead Tapestry, the adoption and foster care ministry at Irving Bible Church in Irving, TX. In addition, they lead the DFW Alliance of Adoption and Orphan Care Ministries, a network of over 25 churches in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, as well as Empowered To Connect, an online educational resource for adoptive and foster parents and church ministries. As part of this effort, Michael and Amy coauthored, together with Dr. Purvis, Created to Connect: A Christian’s Guide to The Connected Child. This blog post was originally published on the Adoptive Dads blog on September 21, 2009.
Welcome to wearegraftedin.com! This first post is the culmination of years of discussing the need for a site like this and months of more intentional planning to actually make it happen. We pray that the site will be an encouragement to families considering adoption, in the process of adopting, parenting their adopted child, fostering children, or considering the significant ministry of orphan care.
We encourage you to join the forum and use it to interact together and discuss any thing from paperwork and how to choose an agency to preparing for travel, preparing siblings for a new child, or how to engage your church in your process. May it be a source of education, encouragement, and fellowship.
We plan on posting relevant articles, challenging and encouraging essays and personal blog posts, and monthly featured families. Become a follower and be watching for some really good posts we have lined up in the coming weeks!
We invite you to become a contributor as well. We welcome your submissions for potential posts as well as your suggestions of helpful resources and retailers. We have tried to add what we think families would find helpful here but are always open for suggestions to better meet the needs of the families who will visit the site.
May He be glorified as we seek to please Him in our families and in our community together!
Grab our button, and spread the word!