Monthly Archives: December 2010

Her Inheritance

“And I want Mommy to have a baby in her belly,” I overheard her say as I was walking up the stairs this morning. I stopped in the hallway outside her room just long enough to hear “but sometimes it takes a long long time for babies to come. You have to pray and pray and pray. And wait.”

My daughter delivered a five year-old summary of her mommy’s life.

Nate had been talking with them about Zechariah and Elizabeth. And, to Eden, Elizabeth was another one of those women – like Sarah and Mary … or her mommy – whose story reminded her that pregnancy must come at the hands of a miraculous God.

I’d never told her I want to be pregnant.

She wasn’t my “second choice”, and I didn’t trust her young mind to later process my desire alongside of her own story with a healthy perspective. She was too young to catch wind of her Mommy’s pain.

The first time I remember her mentioning it was after a playgroup where all the women, but two of us, were pregnant. Children built towers, played instruments and read books around their mothers who shared life-stories. Naturally the topic of pregnancy came up. And my little one, who has not yet lost the hyper-vigilance that is a survival mechanism for many orphans, absorbed every word.

Later, in her prayers, she asked God to “send a baby to her mommy’s belly.”

It initially hurt my heart.

I’ve been preparing to field questions and observations about how our family is different for years. I just didn’t expect the first of them to be about my personal scarlet letter. I anticipated that she’d one day feel the pang of our skins’ different colors and her unique entrance into our family, but I didn’t suspect she’d have this other difference on her radar.

While the things that make our family different don’t seem to be a struggle for her now, they may one day become more than observations. I could call it maternal instinct that makes me want to protect her from every potential hurt, every pain. But my heavenly Father’s instincts were different.

His protection came not from avoiding that which would cause pain, but for offering His companionship as I walked through it. The valley of the shadow of death is land claimed by the Father. It is a holy place.

For me. And for my daughter.

At five, she has lived years I want to erase, but that God will redeem. And then, as one grafted in to this family, she has inherited new opportunities for pain.

But the ground I’ve taken in my life and heart, as it relates to processing my lack, doesn’t need to be won over, again, by her.

Her inheritance comes (from God) through me. She is my legacy. What I win in my lifetime — in terms of a hopeful perspective on all He has allowed and joy in the midst of “setback” — she gets to live out.

Her words to Nate this morning were not pain-filled. Sure, something in her – I’m not quite sure even why – wants her mommy to be like the other mommy’s with babies in their bellies. She longs, in the way a five year-old has capacity to. But what she has come to know as commonplace Christianity has taken me years to receive:

You don’t always get what you want, but in the face of delay, you pray and pray and pray. And wait. Sometimes for a long, long time.

And in the meantime you worship the One who holds beauty.

My highest aim as a parent is not to try and protect my children from all that might befall them, but to, instead, seek the healing touch of Jesus in every area of my own life, knowing that they will inherit what I leave behind. The “unfinished” will be theirs to finish or to pass along. And those ashes subjected to beauty, will remain their crown.

At five, Eden doesn’t wonder if God will still be who she believes Him to be if, next month, Mommy isn’t pregnant. “God is good, He is so so good to me,” she sings as her bare feet dangle from the potty.

Bracing myself against the hits I fear might come from the Father is a distant memory. After many years of having my soil tilled and turned, the ground is supple to receive the God of Hope.

And because of His great mercy in my life, to save me from my fearfully expectant heart, my daughter receives new land on which to plant.

My freedom won is her inheritance to build upon.

The fullness of God I pray almost daily for in my own life, isn’t just my platform for the next age. It’s hers too.

And her daughter’s.

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Sara Hagerty

Sara and her husband, Nate, have been married for nine years and brought home their two children from Ethiopia last year. They recently started the adoption process for two more from Uganda. They have a heart for prayer and to see people touched by the love of Jesus. What started as a blog chronicling the ups and downs of adoption has become a passion for Sara. You can read more of her musings on orphans, walking with God through pain and perplexity . . . and spinach juice at Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet.

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Beauty From Ashes

Ashes: The remains from something destroyed.

The enemy: Referred to as the “destroyer” {1 Cor. 10:10, Ps. 17:4, Job 15:21, Ex. 12:23}.

Sin: Leads to destruction/death {James 1:15, Romans, Due. 24:16}.

Many of us have seen first hand the effects the destroyer and sin have on children.

Their lives become mere ashes.

If you would have told me 5 years ago {when we first started adopting} just how far the destroyer would go to destroy children to ashes, I would not have believed you.

Now I know differently.

I understand the lengths the enemy will go.

I know that sin, even in the life of a child, truly will lead to destruction/death.

My heart has been broken.

I have read about {and experienced first-hand} 5 year olds in bondage to,

sexual sin
idolatry
thievery
deception.

I have watched as my own 5-year-old daughter attempted to eat out of a garbage heap {despite the fact that she has never known hunger}.

BUT.

We have a promise, mamas.

One that is much, much bigger than the plans of the destroyer.

One that breaks the bonds of sin.

JESUS.

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives, and the opening of prison to those who are bound, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to give them beauty from ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit, that they may be called the oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified. Isa. 61:1-3

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The McCourtneys

Zane and Summer McCourtney met and married in 2001. They have been ministering in Uganda since 2004, first at a Bible college and church planting and now working with the unreached people in Northern Uganda, a region of the country devastated by 25 years of rebel war. They have been allowing the Lord to place the lonely into their own family since 2006 after the birth of their second child. To date, the Lord has placed 10 children into their home (you can read their stories on their ministry blog under No Longer Orphans). Each of our children has a story–a story of hope and redemption. We believe that Jesus Christ and His word alone are able to bring healing and restoration to the hearts and minds of our children. We have been blessed to see this firsthand–get a glimpse of it on Summer’s personal blog.

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You Have Enough Kids

Over the years, starting even when we had just two kids, I have heard statements (from friends, family, and strangers alike) such as “you don’t need any more kids,” “you have enough kids,” “well, surely now you have enough kids” and “why would you adopt again? You have enough kids already!”

These types of statements used to make me feel like I had to explain our decisions or they used to make me feel like I needed to be a better parent because maybe if they saw that I was the best parent in the universe, they would think that I could “handle” more kids.

I have tried (in vain) to explain to people that we are adopting children WHO DO NOT HAVE A FAMILY, kids who NEED A HOME, but this does not seem to matter to those who continue to make this statement after or before each addition we have made to our growing family. I know that some of it has been said by those who are concerned because they do not want to see us overwhelmed or having a harder life than we could have if we chose the easier path, but this is the path we have chosen, and all we need need is support. We are not demanding that others open their homes and adopt. (I do encourage adoption, but I never ask my friends and family directly why they are not doing more to help the plight of orphans in the world!)

Recently, a family member said to me again, “you have enough kids” and for the first time, instead of feeling like I needed to justify our decisions and make excuses and explanations, I felt angry. I thought about all the other times that people have said to me similar things and I realized that many of those things were said before the addition of some of our kids, kids who those same people now love and adore. Kids who now have a home and a family. Kids who are no longer orphans. Kids who I could not be more proud to call my children. Kids who have made our lives richer, not harder. Kids who have taught me more than I have taught them. Kids who have given me more than I have given them. Kids who we would not know had we thought of our family in terms of “enough.” And, I was angry.

We have been on the adoption journey for more than 10 years now, and it is one that has had its share of heartache, and I am well aware that some of that heartache has been shared by our close friends and family, even though they did not get any say in our decision to choose this path. But, they have also had the opportunity to get to know and love tiny humans who are so precious and have so much to give. I have listened to well-meaning friends or family members over the years say things that have hurt, badly, and for the most part, I have remained silent. I have talked to Mark about my feelings about certain things that have been said. I have cried about some of the more hurtful comments. I have tried to understand where the person is coming from and for the most part, I have not gotten angry.

But, suddenly, when this last comment was made, all those other hurts came bubbling up to the surface and I felt ready to attack! I held my tongue, but have given a lot of thought as to why that one comment has upset me so much. I think part of it is because of the implications. Some people said this when we only had two kids or three or four, if four was “enough kids,” then what does that say about the last three?

Another reason it has me so upset is that we are talking about human beings here, precious children, not possessions. To say that one can ever have “enough” children sort of sounds like they are shoes or something. Another is that I have never seen how it is deemed okay for people to question our personal decisions and give unsolicited advise and judgments, but it is not okay for us to do the same to them. What I mean is that when it comes to things that go against the norm, things like adoption, having a large family, and homeschooling, it seems that everyone and their neighbour thinks it’s somehow acceptable to tell us what a terrible thing we are doing. (Honestly, a family member told me when the boys were little that if I chose to homeschool, I would RUIN my children and they would never be normal – I have seen “normal” and believe me…I will be so glad if my kids are not “normal”!) Can you imagine how inappropriate it would be for me to say to a friend that I thought it was a selfish decision to go back to work full time when their baby was 4 months old because they wanted to pay for a nicer vacation or to say to a family member that it sickens me to think of all the starving children who could be fed for the cost of one of the brand new vehicles they buy for themselves every year? People judge it wrong that we went into debt to pay for an adoption of two children, but think nothing of going into debt themselves for a newer car, a bigger house, or even the latest computers, gadgets, and fashions!

I do not walk around telling people that they should not move because the house they have is “enough” or that they should not get another TV because the two they already own are “enough” or that they should not buy the latest iPhone because they just bought the last version and that should be “enough.” And, if you are shaking your head thinking, “yeah, but those are things, not children” then you are starting to get the point here! It is actually pretty uninformed to say “you have enough kids” as though they were objects. If there were ever anything I would want “too many” of, it would be children. Children are a blessing.

In response to the inevitable question, “are we going to adopt more kids?”, the answer is this: I don’t know. If you look only at logic, then the answer is…probably not. Logic dictates that seven children is nowadays, in North America, a huge family. Logic dictates that seven children is a huge expense. Logic dictates that I have a husband who is much more rational than I am and is less apt to make decisions based purely on emotion. Logic dictates a lot, but it does not dictate the size of our family. For now, we are done. That could mean forever. Or it could mean that tomorrow we will start the process for another adoption. Because God trumps all logic in my mind and in my heart. Our family size will be determined by God. He has called us to adopt, and I know that He is still working in our family. That does not necessarily mean that He will add children to it though. But, if God did lead us to add more children to our family through adoption, they would be as much of a blessing as each of our other seven are. Our lives would not be as rich or as fun or as crazy or as full of love as they are were it not for each one of our SEVEN children, each one.

As a message to our friends and family and to the friends and families of others who choose paths that are less socially acceptable…

Please support and love us where we are at, on the path that we have chosen. Pray for us, because the path that we have chosen is not an easy one. We know that you did not choose this path and we are not asking you to homeschool yourself or adopt yourself or have a large family yourself. We are not even asking you to understand or like the path we have chosen. If you choose to come and visit us on this journey once in awhile and ask how we are or offer your help, we would appreciate it greatly, but if you can only offer judgment and harsh words, please heed the wise advise of Thumper in “Bambi”…”if you can’t say somethin’ nice, don’t say nothin’ at all”!

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Sharla and family

Sharla and her husband Mark are the parents of seven children, two gifted to them through birth and five gifted to them through adoption. They adopted three of their children through the foster-to-adopt program and, in 2009, brought home siblings from Ethiopia. You can follow their story of faith, homeschooling, adoption, and special needs parenting at Pockets of Change.

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She’s ours

Dear Mum, Dad, brothers and sisters:

I’m very happy to hear from you and receive your pictures. I love all the toys you send to me. Thank you Mum and Dad. Hope to see you soon as possible. I’ve been working hard with English. When we meet each other, we can make simple conversation.I hope to get a electronic dictionary which can help me to study English easily. I’ve been dreaming of becoming a member of your family and start a new life in the States. In the end, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Miss all of you, Mum, Dad, Brothers, Sisters.

I can’t even begin to tell you all the emotions I am feeling right now. The idea of this beautiful teenager living in my home. My daughter, who we don’t know. But, there is something about this adoption that goes beyond my understanding. The Lord bound us together; this is His plan.

I’m not foolish. I understand all the risks, all the issues that can occur. But, I see a joy in her that I did not see before. The first photos we saw early spring 2009, when we were still waiting for Asher to come home. She looked somewhat unhappy. There looked to be pain deep in her eyes. I thought that it would be hard for her to find a family. I hung her referral photo on my wall and prayed for her.

But, I don’t see any of that here. I actually see hope! Maybe I’m reading into it, but even the photos I received of Arielle in June she appeared very distant. Blank. Aloof. I reasoned in my mind the possibility of a learning disability.

But, I’m certain that it was a guarded heart I was seeing. Pain of being discarded? Overlooked? A medical need that made her feel unlovely? I don’t know for sure…but look at her smile. Wow! I think inside of every heart, we have a need to be loved and to belong. God built that into us.

Arielle LiXue is ours. And, she knows it. She made us a card for Christmas, and here she is modeling it. If you look close at the photo below you can see her signature…it reads “yours Arielle.” She’s ours, and she knows it.

She IS loved, and she does belong! I am one blessed Momma indeed!

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Terry J

Terry has been blessed to be married to her best friend Brad for 27 years. They are just a normal family (well, what is “normal” anyway?) who love the Lord and love each other. They have 3 grown children: Amy (27), Lauren (25), and Bradley (23) as well as a 5-year-old son adopted from China and a 4-year-old son adopted from Haiti. Their youngest has sickle cell anemia and is frequently hospitalized, but he’s a blessing beyond measure. They are in the process of adopting a 13-year-old daughter from China, Arielle LiXue. Arielle will age out in June 2011 so they are praying to travel Feb/March. She has waited a very long time for a family, but her wait is coming to an end! Follow their journey on their blog.

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This Christmas: Why Christmas Stinks Sometimes

It was the third day in a row or maybe the fourth. I don’t exactly recall. I do, however, vividly remember coming home from work and being met by my normally patient and long-suffering wife declaring in an overly frustrated tone, “Here, you deal with him. I’m done!”

The kids were home for Christmas break, and one son in particular was being more than a handful. This was very uncharacteristic for him. The first day, we thought it was simply childhood Christmas excitement. By the second day, we were beginning to lose our patience. By the time I arrived home this day, she was almost at her wits’ end. Nagging, whining, crying, bugging siblings, arguing, you name it. But why? Didn’t he know Christmas was almost here? Had he forgotten that Santa was “making his list and checking it twice?” Wasn’t he aware of how much mom and dad had to do in order to get ready for Christmas? For so many reasons, now was not the time for him to be acting this way.

What I did next doesn’t come naturally to me. Try as I might to practice what I preach, I admit that my default reaction to situations like this is to lay down the law. But, something told me that there was much, much more going on than simply bad behavior. Call it what you will, I like to think of it as my God-given “adoptive dad instinct.” So I said to my son, “Let’s go for a walk.” And, after a little cajoling, he agreed, and so off we went.

We walked for a while engaged in nothing but small talk. Eventually, I changed the subject. “So what’s going on?” I asked.

“Nothing,” he answered.

“Of course,” I thought, sarcastically to myself. But, I persisted.

“Mom says you’ve really been acting up the last few days,” I continued. He nodded in agreement. “That’s not really like you. Is something wrong? Are you worried about something?  Maybe upset about something?”

This time, he shrugged his shoulders and just kinda hung his head and shook it side to side, ever so slightly. I’d seen that look before. It told me I was on the right track. And then, he gave it away.

“Do I have to tell you?” he asked. This is the tell-tale question he always asks when he has something he really needs to talk about but is a little afraid to bring it up. More often than not, the subject is adoption related. So, I gave him the response I always give when he asks me this question. “Of course, you don’t have to, but you know I always want to hear what you are thinking – no matter what it is.”

And then, he practically blurted it out. “Dad, Christmas just stinks!” he exclaimed. “I know I am supposed to love it and be having fun, but I just hate it. I really do.”

It instantly occurred to me that somehow I managed to have the only elementary school-aged child in all of America who actually hates Christmas. But, I quickly asked the obvious question, “Why?”

“Because it makes me really sad,” he said. “It makes me think about my birthmom and my birth family. I wonder what they are doing. Do you think they think about me?”

“I bet they do,” I replied. “No…I am sure they do. And did you know something else? You’re not the only kid that thinks Christmas stinks because of that very same reason.”

“I’m not?” he said, finally slowing down to look directly at me.

I grabbed his hand, and we continued. “No. You know Ms. Melanie who was adopted when she was a little girl?” I asked.

“Yeh,” he replied.

“She’s told me a million times that lots of special occasions, like Christmas, birthdays, even Mothers Day and Fathers Day, are really hard for her. She even has a special name for those times that make her kinda sad and make her think of her birth parents and her birth family. She calls them trigger moments. This happens to a lot for people who were adopted and not just when they are kids. She says that even though she is an adult, it still happens for her sometimes,” I explained.

I’ve always heard the expression “the weight of the world being lifted off of your shoulders,” but I don’t think I’d ever literally seen it happen until this moment. It was though he realized in an instant that everything he had been feeling and thinking was not only okay, it was also very real and quite normal. And, the fact that I was understanding, even if it could not fully understand – that was all he seemed to need.

Our walk lasted over an hour as we continued talking about what he had been feeling and processing over the past several days. We talked about how it was okay to feel these things, but it wasn’t okay to act the way he had been acting.  Instead, he needed to find a way to talk with mom or me about it. As important, I assured him we would do a better job of being available for him, especially during times like these.

I can’t honestly say that I truly understand all that he must have been feeling or processing in his little heart and mind.  And, frankly, the connection between all of that and his behavior still somewhat alludes me. But, I know that his feelings are very real. Amidst all of the tinsel and lights and despite the excitement of being out of school and the anticipation of the gifts and fun of Christmas day, the reality is my kids – not unlike other kids who were adopted – still have profound losses that cannot be erased and must not be ignored. And sometimes, even against their own wishes, the realities of their past and what they have lost comes crashing in. Even at happy times like Christmas.

In the face of all this, my job – whether at Christmas, on birthdays, on Fathers Day or whenever – is to always be available for my kids. To be open and willing to listen and talk and allow all of who they are to become part of our holidays and special occasions. As we do this, I realize more and more that rather than taking away from these happy times, embracing them and all of their past allows them to be more fully present – and allows us, as a family, to be more connected as we move forward.

After learning from my son why Christmas stinks sometimes, I no longer look at Christmas quite the same as I once did.  But, of course, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Michael Monroe

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 December 23, 2010.

This Christmas: An Advent Prayer

Lord, meet me, join me. Make my aim, Lord, this Advent to bring joy to you through the giving of myself–my time, my plans, my agenda–for you to use. My gift of myself to you must take priority over my gifts to my family and friends. After all, it is your birthday we are celebrating–not mine, not my children’s, not my husband’s, not my friends’–your birthday, Lord. Part of my gift to you is loving the people you have put in front of me–those who are easy to love and those who are not. I want to give you my response to lonely people around the world–the orphan, the widow, the ones who are all alone, the ones who others have passed by. But, I do not know how to respond. Forgive me when I do not take the opportunities you have put in front of me to do it. Help me, Lord, to be able to do it.

Keep at the front of my mind that the cleaning of my spiritual house must take priority over the cleaning of my physical one, that nourishing my family’s souls is more important than holiday meals, that encouraging peace and harmony in my home is more beautiful than twinkling lights. Remind me, Lord, that in-filling times alone with you must happen alongside outpouring times with others. Remind me, Lord, and enable me to act in obedience with that reminder.

May an awareness of your presence fill me every moment of my day so that rather than you being squeezed out of my busyness, I will be aware of you walking with me as my shepherd. You are the only one this Advent season who can help me find those ordinary yet amazing experiences of joy that you provide with such grace and mercy and love amongst all the responsibilities, pressures, and heartaches of this world.

Lord, meet me; join me; forgive me; enable me; remind me; be present with me; reveal yourself to me.
Amen.

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Kelly Raudenbush

Kelly is a stay-at-home mom/manager to 4 children–one of whom is celebrating her first Christmas home this year. She adapted this prayer from an anonymously written advent prayer she received at a women’s Bible Study that inspired her to take it and write one for herself. Though she’d love to spend more time writing, 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 that are way better than what she could come up with. You can learn more about their adoption story as well as follow day-to-day life on their personal blog.

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This Christmas: To My Son

Dear Finley,
It’s that time of year again.

The stores are crowded with people and, when we go outside for walks, we have to layer you up. Your little self is still used to Ugandan weather and so, it’s taking a little getting used to, this take your breath away chill in the air. I bundle you in hats and coats and kiss your freezing cold cheeks as we run our errands. Baby on my hip. Smile on my face. You make me so happy, Finley. It takes a lot longer running errands with you, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Last year, I remember getting ready for Christmas and having a lump in my throat the whole time. Being on the edge of tears for reasons I couldn’t explain in a sentence. I would wrap a present and think of you. Make cookies and wonder where you were. What you were doing that very instant. What name we would name you when you were with us.

It was only a few days until Christmas and suddenly I realized I had to get you your first ornament. I felt like such a bad mommy that I hadn’t thought of it before. Even though you wouldn’t be physically with us that year, you were being carried in my heart. each. and. every. day.

And so, all of a sudden, I threw myself into searching. It’s all I could think about. I had to find you the perfect ornament. And, then, finally I found it.

This year, I didn’t even have to think about what to get you for your first year with us. It was there in front of me, and it was perfect. A little sailboat made out of fabric for the little man who came all the way from across oceans to be with us. Our beautiful little man. Our Finley Asiimwe.

A few days ago, we laid under the Christmas tree, and I taught you how to stare up at the pretty lights and ornaments like me and my daddy used to do.

And, even though your little, you marveled.

You would look at the tree, look at me, and put your little finger back in your mouth, content to just stare. Pressing our heads together, we laid size by side. My arm around you. Both of us staring up. Enchanted. Enjoying the simpleness of life. We laid there until it was your bedtime and I had to pull you away. I love making memories. And, even though you may be too young to remember it, that night will always be one of my favorites.

I am so thankful for you, Finley, and everything you bring to your daddy and my life. We couldn’t ask for a better Christmas present this year then you. We love you more then you know, little man, and I am so so happy and honored that God chose you to be our son. You are perfect to us in every single way.

I love you to the moon and back.

Mommy

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AbiQ

AbiQ, is married to the love of her life and best friend. They currently live in a snug little apartment in the east bay with their little man, Finley Asiimwe, and two pups, Lexi Louanne and Mr. Mogley Winchester. AbiQ and her husband man just brought their baby boy, Finn, home from Uganda last month.

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This Christmas: Joy in the Unknowns

My husband and I are so near the beginning of the adoption journey that we get a bit overwhelmed knowing so much is below the surface that we can’t see, can’t imagine, and can’t even comprehend! It is like a huge iceberg of unknowns bobbing around in our life. But, we do know we serve a God who sees the whole. In fact, He has created it intricately both for His glory and for our good.

Recently, I was talking to someone who was refuting my Advent and Christmas enthusiasm because, in their opinion, Christmas couldn’t possibly really be Jesus’ birthday, and it really is a pagan ritual just switched over to celebrate Christ by uneducated pagans long ago… because of that, it is wrong for Christians to celebrate it. I am sure you’ve heard this argument before.

As heated as I am sure this debate could have gotten, I am not one for arguing, especially over things like that, and I mildly thanked them for their input and excused myself from the conversation. The arguer was completely correct, I don’t deny it, nor would most. We don’t know the date of Jesus’ birth. We don’t even know the exact year. Most experts agree that we may be off by as much as 30 years. I got to thinking that it is odd that we don’t know the date of Jesus birth; many other dates are recorded in God’s word. But, as I have only two things on my mind these days–advent and adoption (both about the coming of a child, I might add.), I easily began to think about this argument in light of adoption, the orphan, and our future as a family. I realized as I thought about the unknowns of Christmas that surely we would not know our coming child’s birth date either. This unknown saddened me for a moment as I focused on it alone.

I can assume the same is true for many, if not most, of you as parents to your children who have joined your family through adoption. Your child has a birth date, for sure; the accurate one is just unknown in many cases. Some person found your sweet child, took a look at their belly button or development or teeth and made an educated guess as to how old they were. Many families have even found they were misled to think their child was younger, by 2 or 3 years, than they really are. But, I can assume that this didn’t alter your feelings of love, devotion, and commitment to your child one iota! You may have that fleeting thought when you set the birthday cake in front of them every year… “I wonder what day it really is?” But, you would never fail to throw the biggest bash to rejoice that they are with you, they are another year older, and they are the unique and precious individual God has created, all on account that you don’t really know one specific detail.

When we celebrate the birth of Christ, we aren’t saying December 25th is the most holy day on the calendar, so we celebrate Christ this particular day. No, we are stating that Christ came! We don’t know when, but we’ll take any day (for they were all created by God), and we will celebrate the coming of our Lord that day because we do know one important thing; He came!

That day was decided a long time ago, by people who made the choice for us, doing the best they could. They didn’t celebrating the Coming because, like the feasts of Israel, God commanded it and gave a date and time to do it. They did it out of a heart desiring to honor, worship, and take joy in the fact Christ did come both into the world and into their hearts and lives!

Like all things, perspective is essential, especially in the face of unknowns.

Many times, all we can do is grasp onto one thing we do know when we face too many unknowns, like Job did, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth” (Job 19:25). We all know the difficulties Job faced and that his main suffering was not knowing why God did what He did in the life of Job. But, even then, the Coming of Emmanuel was known so plainly to Job!

Not knowing fully forces us into a place of having to fully trust. It encourages us to hope in things we can’t see and take joy in what we are given in the present. We realize that some details aren’t meant for us, right now. It helps us to practice joyful acceptance of our circumstances.

It makes me smile to think about the wonderful ways God has woven adoption, faith, expectancy, waiting, hope, and His Son Emmanuel all together this season. While we celebrate the coming of one Son, most of us wait for the coming of another son or daughter. Isn’t it just like God to allow us to experience this doubly this Season? What a gift from God, which we can savor most fully in the unknowns.

May you be blessed as you wait, wonder, and watch, both for the Coming of our Lord and the homecoming of your child!

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Marci Miller

We are a family of 5… so far. We live and work in rural Colorado at an amazing camp for kids from all backgrounds. Working with hurting children has grown the seed of adoption in our hearts. We want to grow our family, and adoption is the way God has led us to do that! Check out Advent, a family guide to celebrating Advent together and seeing Christ in the Christmas season, written by Marci. It includes object lessons, lots of fun ideas, classic Christmas short stories, recipes, and lots more. It is our hope that this book about the coming of one Son will help bring about the homecoming of our son! You can follow the journey here.

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This Christmas: This is it…

Advent.

I grew up in a church in the south, but we never really celebrated advent. I mean, we went to Christmas parties. Our church read scripture about the birth of Christ. We sang all the songs. But, the word “advent” didn’t enter my lexicon until the past few years. Even now, I don’t really spend a lot of weeks or even days preparing for the celebration of the Messiah.

I do know what it’s like to wait. In August of 2009, Anna and I started the process of adopting a child from Ethiopia. We had discussed this for years and finally took the definitive step forward. Since then, it’s been a process of waiting. Get this form turned in and wait. Have this notarized then wait. Pay this fee and wait. Make this phone call and wait.

We decorated the house for Christmas with a slight sadness because we have waited so long and Lucy still isn’t here yet. We had seen her face, but we didn’t even know when we’d be able to view it outside of a backlit computer screen. It was frustrating.

A week ago, we got a call from our agency that said we had a court date. We’re going to be in Ethiopia at the end of January, and we arrive at court on February 4th with the anticipation that she will be ours. So now, even though she’s not here yet, we celebrate Christmas with a joy that our lives are about to change forever. There will be new joys, new hopes, new life that enters our house. Maybe that’s what Advent is about. The anticipation of new joys and new hopes and new life.

After years and years of wait, the Hebrew people got the Messiah they had been promised. All of humanity was given the Savior of the world. He didn’t come in a way that they expected. But, when he did come, all was right with the world. God never shows up the way we want him to. He always messes with our sense of expectation. For a while, I thought he was some cosmic bully, just letting us know that he’s in charge. I’m starting to see that God messes with our expectations because he wants us to know that if we take control of our lives, it just doesn’t work out as well. When he takes control, he blows our expectations out of the water. He lets us see just how small our plans are.

So, this year, I will celebrate the birth of the Savior of the world. I will celebrate knowing that God knew this Christmas would be my last as a nonparent. I will celebrate because God has an enormous plan for the eventual redemption of the world, and I am a small part of it. I will celebrate because he knows what he’s doing, even when I don’t.

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Russ Polsgrove

Russ and Anna have been married for 5 years. Even as friends, before dating or marriage, they shared with one another that they each wanted to adopt. After marrying in May 2005, talk of adoption slowly entered its way into their conversations. Russ, working as a youth pastor, and Anna, working as a teacher and at a girl’s group home, saw the need more than ever for children to have loving, safe homes. After coming to this realization, they chose to begin the adoption process to adopt a little girl from Ethiopia. They will travel to Ethiopia at the end of January to meet Lucy and eventually bring her home. They are so excited about their story of choosing adoption to bring their first child home. You can follow their journey on their personal blog.

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This Christmas: Joseph – Defender of the Fatherless

It was to be a quiet divorce. A silent separation.

I imagine the first conversation between Mary and Joseph, the one before the angel visited him. Mary coming to him with tears, saying, “I’m pregnant and I swear, I know it’s hard to believe, but this is the chosen one, the Son of God.” Joseph stood contemplating fact or fiction, excuse or explanation. He wondered whether to accept Mary’s word or hunt down the scoundrel — “who did this to my fiance?” Maybe he seethed.

Mary was so tender, so meek and mild, maybe delusional.

With an awkward sort of compassion, Joseph, “being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly.” It was the best he could do, he thought. The dream-state proclamation of Immaculate Conception changed it all — “the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit,” the angel said. And though it’s not in Scripture, I wonder if the Angel might have said, “and that child needs an daddy here on earth.”

There are so many themes in the Christmas story. Sometimes we get lost in angels, wise men, and mangers, and that’s assuming we make it past the wrapping and trim. But if we dig deeper, if we look closer, there are sub-themes that tie into the larger meta-narrative of scripture.

When Jesus chose to take our skin he first took residence in an unwed mother. He chose the potential of fatherlessness.

Scripture is clear, God will provide for the fatherless. In the Christmas narrative God provided by way of a simple carpenter, a man who had every right to secretly divorce his fiance. But that carpenter transcended occupation and became known as a biblical hero of our faith.

Certainly Christ is the center of this season. But for a season that also celebrates the bit characters like Mary and the wise men, perhaps we should consider the life of Joseph more closely. As a man he was pragmatic, certainly. But as a follower of the living God, he shed his pragmatism in obedience to a call, choosing to be called “daddy” by “God with us.” And in his decision to care for the fatherless, the world received the reconciling grace of God.

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Seth Haines

Seth Haines is an average guy who married way over his head. From time to time, he writes here. He can sometimes be found fly fishing for trout on the White River in rural Arkansas. Coffee and folk music fuel his soul. He believes that cliches are generally cliche for a reason.

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