Our sweet tender Ravenna has been walking through some deep grief and questioning over the last few months. She has been really wrestling with wanting to see and know her birthmom, to tangibly feel her and be known by her. We have both curled up and wept together, talked to God about the pain and agreed that we will love and honor her birthmom and these feelings in every way that we can, she and I. I wrote more about this intense and intimate, sweet and searingly painful moment here. Then and few weeks later, after all of my attempts at things to help (draw a picture of birthmom, give her a name Ravenna creates, etc.) fell completely flat with almost hostile indifference, Ravenna came up with this:
It was a moment I hope to never forget. It was so beautiful.
Read the story here.
Well, about a week later, her class started a section on families. The teacher wanted to share something about adoption with the class. When I asked Ravenna what she wanted the class to know, she frowned and said, “I don’t want to tell them anything, Mama.”
Her teacher was wonderful, and we talked through some of what has been coming up for Ravenna. Instead of family trees, they made adorable family gardens.
Her garden with 6 flowers for our family of 5 now sits where she lovingly placed it on our mantle.
But, she kept mentioning wanting to make a family tree.
And, I kept trying to figure out how to honor Ravenna’s whole story in that family tree.
What does it look like when there is a birth family, a foster family, and all of her immediate family now?
Which thing goes where on the tree?
How do I guide her as to where those things go?
In true Ravenna style, she led me.
She proclaimed one morning, “Mama, I want to make a fabric family tree!”
The girl is crazy about fabric. She took a whole box of it all the way to Mexico as her one main toy during our Whatever Project roadtrip and has already started piling some up for when we go this year!
So, we headed off to the fabric deptartment, and I stepped back and finally let Ravenna lead. She lovingly and deliberately picked out fabric for everyone. Ladybugs for Georgia, space for Parker, Lighting McQueen for Daddy…and horses, two different horse fabrics. One for her birthmmom and one for her foster mom. She included her birthdad and foster dad as well with dog and buffalo fabric. It was a garden with birds and sparkly see-through candy canes.
During all of this, she twirled in the aisles, hugging her fabric and saying, “Oh, I love this day, Mama, I wish it would never end!!!”
We bought a pack of two canvases, and she diligently went to work.
I let her decide where and how everything went, and it was totally different and far better than if I had forced structure on it.
This is her masterpiece, her family, filled with love–her love for these people in her life.
So, do you see it? the candy cane fabric?
She insisted that she did not want to be a part of the tree. At first, I paniced thinking maybe she did not feel like part of the tree or part of the family. I could not be more wrong…
She wanted to be touching everyone. She said, “I love them all, Mama!” So, if you look closely, that candy cane fabric is around and ontop of every piece there.
Then, as we were working away, she cutting and placing fabric and I glueing it down, she stopped and said, “Oh no!!!” and ran to her room to get something. She came back with that big striped piece (from her Mexico collection) that is now across the top saying, “Mama, we forgot God, and this would be perfect!”
So, God gets to hang out all striped and sparkly at the top of our family tree!
She made me the top of the tree flanked with Doug on one side and my mom on the other and she is nestled up close to us.
She then brought it to school, wrapped in more fabric so her special secret would not get out
and proudly showed her class.
Showing Daddy over and over again!
“God sets the lonely in families…”
Shannon and her husband Doug live in Washington State with their three wild kids: Ravenna (China), Parker (Big surprise guy!), and Georgia Mei (China, special needs program, heart condition). They are working hard to love the Lord and wrestle with what it means to fully live, serve, and love in the name of Christ. You can read more about their family on Shannon’s blog. And, you can read Ravenna’s very own blog here.
Today is a special day for the Clark Family. It is the day we expanded–the day we welcomed a new member and became 6 strong. It is Ruby’s “Chinaversary.” On this day, 3 years ago, we met her for the very first time in person. Of course, I had already fallen head over heels for the little girl whose picture I carried EVERYWHERE and showed to EVERYONE! Oh–that picture–of a chubby little girl with a shaved head…I BONDED with that picture and then of course with the curly headed little girl who would be mine. We met on a cold day in Nanjing in a government office in a crowded room full of crying parents and children. It was CHAOS. But, when I think back, all the noise fades, and I see my precious husband tearing up as he coaxes a little girl with an orange dum-dum lollipop. I remember that child falling asleep on my chest in the midst of the chaos and I remember feeling like the LUCKIEST woman in the whole wide world.
I STILL feel that way…wow…it all comes back.
So, today, I am dropping the Rubester off in her class, and we always kneel and say a quick prayer that she will make good choices…believe me, it’s a daily struggle. It’s a minute-to-minute struggle some days! We’ve already been talking about why this day is special and, as we wrap up the brief intercession with the “Great Overseer of Good Choices,” she looks up at me and says, “Mama, I’m so glad I’m here!”
“Oh, baby, I’m so glad you’re here, too!” I say back.
And, she gives me a wise smile, and I know she means HERE–on this side of the world…in THIS family–
H . E . R . E .
Thank you, Jesus. My cup runneth over.
As a busy mama of five mischievous children, Tiffany tries to maintain some sanity through sewing, blogging, & reading. She is a 38-year-old homeschooling wife who is crazy in love with her prince and a daughter of the King… Her family includes 3 “homegrown” children as well as two children born with special needs in China. It’s been an incredible ride the whole way! She dreams of getting an adoption ministry up and going in her hometown of Columbus, GA but, for the time being, encourages couples seeking information about adoption. Tiffany volunteers her time as a member of a Citizen’s Judicial Review Panel for the juvenile court system in her district of Georgia where she reviews foster care placements and helps to reunite and build families for children in foster care. She is also a member of the blog writing team for An Orphan’s Wish, an organization striving to meet the needs of special needs orphans in China. Please peek in on her family’s antics at Gingham & Ricrac Diaries where she writes about life with a “biggish” family, sewing, special needs, adoption, and whatever else the good Lord sees fit to let overtakes us!
Originally posted just yesterday on their personal blog…
We leave today.
For the past few weeks, I’ve had these tiny blasts of panic. They haven’t ever lasted long because almost immediately, I’ve thought of another task that needs to be completed. This paper needs to be signed. This call needs to be made. For work or for the adoption, something always needed to get done. I welcomed the tasks because it made the fear go away.
So, last night, when all my tasks were over, I feared the fear. I went to bed thinking I would be in a meltdown by morning. But, something happened. I woke up and felt at peace. Calm. No panic. Just an ease about what God has called us into.
That defines this whole process. It really defines my entire life as a Christ follower. Countless days of fear and panic, followed by calm. The peace comes from understanding that any semblance of control is just an illusion. It’s faker than T-Pain’s singing voice.
More than any other experience, adoption has showed me that the God I believe in is real. This story is not ours. It’s not even Lucy’s. It is God’s. He is weaving this ravaged world back together. He uses tarnished people.
Every time we have had a roadblock, someone has come in the name of Jesus and helped us navigate it. Paperwork problems? Meet this notary. Money issues? Here’s a check. Computer issues? Use mine. Work issues? Take whatever time you need. Scared? Here’s a group of people to let you know that what you feel is normal. Here’s a group of people who will pray for you.
We thank you all. Family members. Adoption agencies. Friends. Coworkers. Youth Group Kids (you all know who you are). Caretakers. Coaching programs. Women’s groups. Birth mother. There is no way that we can thank you enough. It’s not possible. Each of you has played a large part in the life of our daughter. We love you. Our family’s faith has been strengthened because of what Christ has done in you. This is a unique adventure that would not happen without you. You’re the best.
Lucy’s coming home. It’s all happening.
See you guys later.
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 left just yesterday for Ethiopia 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 and offer your support as they answer God’s call on their lives on their personal blog.
Of course, there is a lot of Cooper’s story that is missing. I expected that.
But, there are other things missing too….things that bother me, and I don’t know why.
I am missing pictures of what we were doing on some significant dates in Cooper’s life.
I have no pictures of us on the day he was born. Although this picture was taken two days later:
I do happen to have a picture of what we were doing on the day he was found. And, in a way, that’s tougher than having no picture at all:
We were celebrating at a family party. While our son suffered the biggest loss of his life.
I do have one other picture. I took this picture the day Cooper arrived at the orphanage.
I have no picture of what we did on the day when he arrived at New Day a year later needing oxygen upon arrival. However, this picture was taken just one day later.
I have no picture of what we did on the day (6 short days later) his heart was repaired, although again, one day later, this picture was taken.
I have no picture of what we did on any of his birthdays. Not one.
I also know that these pictures just highlight all the years, all the stuff we missed. He missed.
How much he lost, and how much we lost.
And looking at them would make me really sad- to think of what I was doing here, oblivious to the fact that my son was lying in a hospital bed recovering form open heart surgery or blowing out the candles on his first birthday cake or being left alone in a hospital to hopefully be found.
But still. I wish I had pictures.
Jenna is a teacher, turned stay-at-home mom, turned Children’s Ministry Director who is passionate about children. After hearing God’s call to care for orphans 4 years ago, she has become increasingly passionate about adoption and orphan care. She and her high school sweetheart, Scot, have been married for 13 years and recently brought home their son Cooper who is 3 years old and seriously adorable (go see for yourself!). They are excited to see what God will do in the next chapter of the story He is writing with their family. Jenna and Scot feel strongly about sharing their story so that they might be of encouragement to others in various stages of the adoption process. You can follow along with them on their trip and afterwards at Our Many Colored Days.
What was different in your life this past year? For me, 2010 was this: only one thing changed but that changed everything.
You know what I mean?
2010 was the year Ephraim joined our family. We picked him up in Ethiopia on February 1st. That’s it. That’s really the only big thing that happened.
But you know what followed that?
No sleep for 9 months.
An incredible amount of love.
Laughter up the wazoo.
The inability to leave the house very often at all without a baby and cereal.
Giving away our dogs because that just wasn’t happening.
Toys all over the floor every single day.
The best kind of cuddles.
I could go on and on.
The boy changed it all. And, I will always thank God for that boy. That exact boy.
Laurel has been married to her husband Chris for 3 years. They adopted their first child almost a year ago from Ethiopia and plan to begin the process of adopting through foster care in the next couple of months. Chris is a pastor, and Laurel is a stay-at-home mom. You can follow their story at God Found Us You.
There’s something I’ve been thinking about. I hope you don’t think I’m a downer–I’m usually not, but I guess this is kind of a downer topic.
I think a lot of people might think of Korea as a country that is not able to care for its orphans, which is why so many foreigners adopt from Korea. But, actually, in 2007, domestic adoptions surpassed foreign adoptions in Korea. That’s a great thing! It means that every year more and more children are staying in their country and their culture.
Great news, right? What you may not realize is that for the most part, the domestic adoptions are being completed in secrecy. I don’t mean illegally. I just mean that the adoptive couples are keeping this a secret from their friends, community, and, even more shocking, the child they adopt. We’re talking fake pregnancy bellies and/or moving to a new neighborhood immediately after adopting in order to pass the child off as their biological child.
This is probably confusing to most of us, so here is an excerpt about this practice from MPAK (Mission to Promote Adoption in Korea, lots of interesting reading there):
Parents are afraid of the possible ridicule and discrimination their adopted children may face as they grow up in the Korean culture. Children who are openly exposed as adoptees in Korea are vulnerable to other children who are not adopted. Some children (or adults) may look at adoptees as people who are less than equal. Some Korean parents forbid their children from associating with adoptees for fear their children may be negatively influenced by the children who they consider are less than equal. Some parents will not permit their children to date or marry adoptees (or people with orphan backgrounds). Some look on adoptees with pity. If an adoptee makes an ordinary mistake or gets into a trouble, he/she is judged differently from their biological children who get into the same trouble. Therefore, parents do not want to subject their adopted children to an environment of negative social stigma. Thus adoption in Korea take place in shrouded secrecy.
Okay, so why am I talking about all of this? I have blogged about the guilt I felt after bringing Matthew home. I really beat myself up about taking him away from Korea — the language, the culture, making him into a minority, not just in his new country, but in his own home.
At one point, I was talking about this with a friend who also has a son from Korea. I was saying that I thought it would have been better if a family from South Korea had adopted him. She responded in a way that surprised me–she said maybe not.
Because since he is here with us, he will know who he is. There will be no secrets, and he will know his true story. He will have the opportunity to search for his birth family, if he so decides.
If he was adopted in Korea, he would still have his language, his culture, he would not be a minority. But, would he always feel just a little bit different? Would he always have questions that no one would be willing to answer?
Clearly, it would have been best if his original family could have remained intact. Unfortunately, that did not happen.
This past year has left me thinking how these two options are different and each infused with its own kind of loss.
I would be curious to hear any thoughts on what you think of this–is either one better than another or are they both just different kinds of awful?
Elizabeth is a happily married mama to 2 preschool-aged boys. She and her husband have a 4-year old bio son, Isaac, and her younger son (3.5 year old, Matthew) joined their family as a toddler through international adoption from South Korea’s waiting child program. Being only 6 months apart in age, the boys are virtual twins but couldn’t be more different. They have been a family of four for just over a year. Feel free to visit their family blog, Everyday the Wonderful Happens, where Elizabeth blogs about the boys, their antics, her son’s special needs, her beliefs, adoption, and pretty much anything else that tickles her fancy.
So much of what’s communicated about the world of adoption can feel so fatalistic.
Both the outside observer and the mom who is in the thick of it can share the same bleak perspective. One perceives trouble and the other lives it, daily. Anecdotes about the neighbor’s son who, post-adoption, traumatized his siblings, share equal weight with a mother’s desperate prayer requests for her child, whose countenance has iced-over since they brought her home.
Rewind 10 years and any sort of bump in the pathway to the “normal” life intimidated me.
My secret goal was to maintain an equilibrium in every way. A good marriage, steady friendships, growing impact on the world, faithful-but-not-interrupted walk with God. None of these, in and of themselves, are wrong, of course. But, they couldn’t exist alongside my prayers for a unique intimacy with God.
He let me share, however little, in His sufferings.
Little did I know that what was in front of me would prepare me to administer healing to my daughter and walk alongside my son in his grief. My hiccups found me a Father, and they are teaching me to be a mother.
Though I met with Jesus in the back-alley of life and found true safety outside of my “normal” life, I still carried those same expectations for normalcy over my children, who came to me through an anything-but-normal means. Residual fear of straying from the norm carried through to our first months and even year of absorbing Eden and Caleb into our fold.
“Happy children” was my goal.
The problem, unfortunately, being that I also prayed even before the first time I laid eyes on them, that they would know Him as Daddy. I’ve asked, almost daily, that they would know in their innermost being how high, wide, deep and long is His love.
While happy is surely the fruit of a child who knows their Father loves them, there are years where that truth may have been called into question, for my little former-orphans. And, they cannot be erased.
And, grief has surfaced in our home.
The pain behind her eyes is unavoidable at times. Her grasps for the promise of security exposed behind weak attempts to disguise them. Is our love as temporal as the one she first knew? If the womb’s bond was broken by poverty, who can she trust?
The foundational fissures of a child, once abandoned, cannot be easily caulked. Even the early years are subject to a forever imprint.
Yes, but God.
The same words I heard years ago about all those areas of “normal” being stretched thin, are the words I hear now. I found a flicker of light in the night, then, that set my whole heart on a different course. One breath of His changed everything.
I was not made to simply endure, forever living by the scars I’d incurred along the way. I was made to conquer. To win. And the prize was the internal shifting of my heart that would never be taken away from me. I would never be the same again.
My walk through the valley of the shadow of death marked my twenties and early thirties. My daughter found it at three and four.
But, her scars will be her testimony. And, the imprint, a remainder mark of the sweet kiss of Jesus.
I feel the ripples of loss in my home. When fear fills her eyes and insecurity leaks out, I inhale the abandonment too. She clasps her hands around my neck with a hold that craves promise, while expecting that one day this, too, will end. Her joy and zeal, overshadowed as of late, by tentativeness.
By itself, it is bleak. It is fatalistic. There is reason to accept our children will be forever broken.
“But God” echoes from my insides. I want to shout it in my home and let the hope of those words linger like a candle’s fragrance in winter over our responses to this vessel not-yet-fully-healed.
She gets to find Him. Early. The darkness ignored by many but undeniable to her, begs a light. My little girl will see the goodness of God in the land of the living.
And because I’d faulted in my marriage, my friendships, my impact, my ambitions, her road to Him is actually exciting for me. I know not just what is on the other side, but the Man she gets to meet along the way.
And His grip around her tiny fingers offers her early admittance to safety.
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.
It’s one of Oprah’s catch-phrases. This much I know to be true. Following that phrase, she expounds on some epiphany or conclusion or lesson she has learned.
There are many things I know to be true. In most of those cases, it is because of personal experience or first-hand knowledge.
I know that the bottom of the Dead Sea is very difficult to walk on because of the large salt crystals littering the bottom. (personal experience)
I know that acting uninterested at a David Copperfield show seems to ensure you will be called up on stage to help with an illusion. (personal experience)
I know that the pain of giving yourself fertility injections is nothing compared to the pain of being childless. (personal experience)
But, there are other things I cannot be sure of. I can only imagine how it must feel or be or what I would or would not do, but I don’t know for certain.
I think it would be great to have an awesome singing voice and perform for the masses. But, I don’t really know what that would be like and never will.
I can imagine that losing a parent at a young age would be incredibly painful and difficult. But, having never experienced that I don’t really know how it feels.
I can say that I would never move far away from my family, but I have never had to make that decision and pray I never will.
That’s just it. We don’t REALLY know what it’s like to experience something without really experiencing it ourselves. I can imagine how I hope I would react, what I hope I would think, how I hope I would respond all I want. But, until I walk through it myself, I really have no idea.
I have never been a very scandalous person. No huge public life dramas have played out in my life…until this past summer. We did not complete the adoption of the child we traveled to bring home. Naively, I had no idea just how scandalous this was in the eyes of some in the adoption community. In reading what many other AP’s think about disruption, it seems as if the thinking is either you bring home the child you were referred no matter what, or you are a terrible, selfish person who wishes for that child to never find a family.
I can tell you, without a doubt, that that is not the case. At. All. This much I know to be true.
Our adoption journey was pretty bumpy. But, by far, the hardest things this momma still deals with are the misconceptions people in the adoption community have regarding those who disrupt, and the hurtful comments said about “those parents.”
The sadness and shock we felt when the serious undisclosed needs became apparent was hard, but we had lots of supportive people walking us through the confusion. Discovering that we were not the best family for the child we thought was ours was hard, but we had peace about the decision, knowing it was the best for that child and us. We were simply not equipped to handle that child’s needs and knew that there would be a family out there who could meet those needs and meet them well. Facing the reality of not coming home with a child, the child who we had attached to at some level through video and pictures, after almost 4 years of being in the process was hard. But, with the peace we had in our decision, we knew that if that’s what it came down to, it would be okay. Our family, our friends, our church lifted us up in prayer; listened to us as we processed through everything that was happening; and supported the difficult decision we had to make.
However, the comments about disruption I read upon returning home, and still stumble upon as I scan adoption boards, pierce my heart and rattle me for days. I sit stunned at the broad paintbrush often used to paint all parents who go through this as cold, heartless, uneducated, and unprepared, only thinking of themselves with no thought or caring for what happens to the child. It just is not that simple. It is not like that.
The comments seem to center around the same logic: EITHER you are on the side of the child, OR you disrupt. EITHER you parent a child who you know is not a good fit for your family, OR you are declaring that that child unworthy of having a family.
This much I know to be true; it’s not an either/or type of situation.
From the outside, it is not possible to know ALL the details of a disruption, to know all the reasons a family felt ill-prepared to meet a particular child’s needs. Those details are extremely personal and private for both the child and family. Absolutely, the AP’s want the child they are unable to parent to find a home, the right home. It’s the same thing we all want for all the kids on those lists. We want homes for all of them. But, as AP’s we have to make decisions along the way in a special needs adoption as to what needs we feel called to and prepared to handle. Some of those reasons are personal preferences, but some have to do with very practical things such as insurance, availability of services, etc. AP’s who decide they cannot parent the child they were referred do so with the family’s and child’s best interests at heart.
Since returning home 6 months ago, I have been in contact with other AP’s who have also gone through the pain of a disruption. And, there are certain common denominators that have been true in each of those situations. This much I know to be true:
- The parents hurt and grieve over the loss of the child. In all cases, parents have prepared a room and bed and clothing for the child. They have lined up medical treatment and doctors. They have prepared the other children in their families for this brother or sister. They have packed, planned, and prayed for this child. In most cases, the parents have named the child. In all cases, the parents fully intended on bringing home that child.
- The parents want the child they are unable to parent to find the right family. They pray for them. Often times, they actively advocate for them. And sometimes they even offer monetary donations to help the child receive treatment and/or diagnostic testing while that child waits for a family.
- The parents have grief and confusion and heartache and disappointment that they need to process through.
- Parents who are offered another referral while in country (and this is becoming more rare due to Hague regulations) did not travel intending to “switch” or “upgrade”. Many times, it is implied that AP’s who come home with a different child had some “master plan” to get a better/younger/healthier/cuter child. When in most (if not all) cases, the decision is made to not complete the adoption well before the option of receiving another referral is even presented. It is not a situation of “would you rather have this child instead?”
- The parents receive a lot of negative comments on forums and on their blogs from some in the adoption community and, as a result, feel isolated, judged, and shut out. Online forums can be a blessing for all the sharing of information and personal experiences that help to educate families about adoption. However, the relative anonymity also makes it too easy for some to say hurtful and judgmental comments aimed at parents who decided they could not complete the adoption of the child they had traveled for. Most of these comments offer support and compassion for the child in a way that is critical of the AP’s.
So, to those who have said my husband and I were not prepared as adoptive parents, you are right. We were not prepared in many ways.
We were not prepared to meet a child whose needs were far beyond what were presented and what we were equipped or approved for.
We were not prepared to learn that the medical files we reviewed had not disclosed the other serious medical needs the child had that were not related to the main SN.
We were not prepared to leave behind the child whose picture we proudly shared with family and friends.
We were not prepared to find the child who IS our daughter in such a crazy and confusing way.
We were not prepared to feel God’s presence so clearly throughout the entire process.
We were not prepared to be given such a sense of clarity and peace about the decisions we felt led to make.
We were not prepared for the outpouring of love, support, and understanding we received from our friends, family, and church family.
We were not prepared to feel so alone, isolated, and criticized by members of the adoption community in cyber-land.
And, we certainly were not prepared to be judged so harshly by an adoption community that had previously been such a source of support for us.
I do hope that this experience of having my personal adoption decisions judged so harshly by others has taught me to stop doing the same to people in other circumstances. I am reminded that in any given situation, it’s not as simple as either/or, because, this much I know to be true…
There, but for the grace of God, go I.
I never thought we would disrupt. Never. It wasn’t on the radar. It wasn’t in our vocabulary. At. All. Not even a little bit. We were bringing our child home no. matter. what. Except that she wasn’t our child. We knew that without a doubt. There has never been a doubt about any of it at all. No second guessing. Just hurt. Hurt for what had to happen, and hurt for the stigma that seems to cloud over us within the adoption community. Miraculously, we came home with our child, and the child-who-was-not-ours has found a family as well. Her family.
We couldn’t be more thrilled.
This much I know to be true.
Stephanie has been married to Matthew for over 5 years. She “retired” from teaching after 18 years in the classroom when she had their first child. But, she continues to do a lot of work with school-aged children by teaching science to home-schooled children each week and being involved in children’s ministry in their church. It is through their two children that God has revealed Himself most clearly. He not only worked a miracle in enabling them to have a biological daughter who is 2 ½, He continued to show Himself in a mighty way throughout an adoption journey that was anything but normal. Her days are filled with all things “toddler,” and she loves the blessing of being a stay-at-home-mom. You can read more about their family here.