Monthly Archives: March 2011

It Was Always So Cold

It was always so cold in the waiting room.  That’s what I remember most.  It was always cold, and everyone would sit and read their magazines and act like nothing was wrong.

But we knew there was. We all knew it even if we didn’t want to admit it.  Why else would we be sitting in the infertility clinic’s waiting room?

We spent lots of time there off and on over a ten-year period. We would go and do treatments. We could get discouraged and quit. We would start again. We would hit a road block and grow discouraged. We would try again for the big guns: IVF.  We were back at the starting line.

In February 2006, after six months of processing our final diagnoses – unexplained infertility – we began to ponder adoption. We had lots of fears and uncertainties. We had known adopted people but hadn’t really looked at it for us.  There just seemed to be so many ups and downs and questions and finances. Where to begin?

When we first began to explore adoption, we thought about two places: China and Ethiopia. China seemed to have the much more established program five years ago, so we ultimately landed there. We filled out the paperwork and excitedly dove in because within a year or so we would be parents.

Or so we thought.

Two years later we were still waiting and growing discouraged. It seemed every effort to have a family was taken away from us and the thought of actually being parents seemed to get pushed further and further in the distance. We met with our agency again, totally discouraged because the wait in China literally grew longer every month. We weren’t sure we could wait as long as it took…we weren’t getting any younger and had gotten a late start as it was.

February 15, 2008 we attended our first meeting to discuss Ethiopia. We were handed a sheet of paper with two beautiful little girls who were already waiting for  family, and began to learn about the process and costs associated with Ethiopia. After spending a weekend praying, we jumped in. Because our paperwork had recently expired in China, we had a fresh homestudy and I-600 in hand, so our dossier only took a matter of three or four weeks. We were working on finalizing it when we got the call. A referral was waiting for us. A baby.

The theoretical moved into the actual.

We went the following Monday to meet with our agency and realized one of the beautiful little girls we had seen on the paper February 15th was actually going to live with us forever. The amazing photo of a girl we had seen would live on in our photo albums and we would be on our way within months to bring her home.

I had a friend pose the question: “Is adoption the answer for infertility, or is infertility the answer for orphans?”

Wow.  What a change of perspective.  I now know, with no medical training, what our “unexplained infertility” was for…and that was because our daughter didn’t grow from our bodies but from the plans God had for our family. We weren’t supposed to get a relatively easy road to parenthood because our road was taking us much further than we imagined…both literally and figuratively.

We couldn’t be more happy than the way our lives have turned out, even though it was nothing we had planned. Our daughter is and continues to be the biggest blessing in our lives. The joy she gives us and everyone she meets has enriched our lives beyond measure…and the long road getting here makes it all the more sweeter.

We are starting our second adoption this month. We can’t wait to see what God has in store for us. We can’t wait to step off the plane in the country that has captured our hearts and walk another road to another amazing story.

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David McDurham

David McDurham and his wife, Amy Myers McDurham, adopted their daughter, Ella, from Ethiopia in 2008. Both would mark it as one of the most spiritually challenging and rewarding experiences of their lives. David is a minister, and Amy is a marriage and family therapist. They live in Texas.

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Am I Doing Everything I Can?

That is the question I ask myself almost daily.

When we accepted Kalia’s referral, we knew there was a risk of learning disabilities and developmental delays. We had no idea whether these delays could be overcome or if she would always have problems….and to what extent. It was a definite leap of faith, but I felt God pushing us to accept her referral, even with all the unknowns. We struggled with whether to accept or not. Every time we thought we’d have to turn her away, we’d come across something that changed our mind. Night after night, I prayed for a clear cut sign to know how we should proceed. Every time I’d come across information that was too much for us and we decided we’d have to turn down the referral, new information would just “miraculously appear” to make us rethink our decision. We finally realized this was our “sign.” I never felt more at peace than when we finally decided to accept. I just knew this was the path we were supposed to be on.

Which is why I struggled so hard when we got her home and reality hit…HARD!

Kalia has significant delays. Currently she is almost 42 months old and is testing at between 18 & 30 months (18 months for speech, 30 months cognitive…physical & emotional are in between).

When she was first home, I babied her…A LOT! I mean, come on….she was without a mommy and daddy for almost 2 years…she deserved some extra babying. I did things for her that maybe I should have let her do herself. At times, I felt like I pushed her too hard (expected too much); at other times, I felt like I didn’t push her enough (babied her more than I should have). Oh, the mommy guilt!

We didn’t get her tested through Early Intervention until she was 2 (home 4 months), and she didn’t begin any therapies until 26 months. She didn’t walk until 22 months, and still doesn’t talk. She’s now been in therapy for 16 months. At times, I see improvements…and, at times, I wonder if we’re getting anywhere.

It’s taken me many months to accept Kalia’s delays. To push past the fact that she’s 3 and should be acting like a 3 year old. To accept her as the 18-30 month old that she is and not worry that she’s not “normal.” Some days I’m still working on it…

I wondered many times why God would bring us all together. Her delays are quite extensive and there’s really no promise that all will be better in the future. There’s just no way for us to know what her future will be like. Why would He bring someone with so many unknowns and such huge delays into our busy life? This was not my dream. This was not what I had in mind when we chose adoption.

Lucky for me God was/is in charge. Because, delays or not, unknown future or not, I couldn’t imagine life without this little girl in it. And I will do ANYTHING I need to to help her get ahead. I continue to pray that we’re doing all we can and for Him to keep us on the right path. I continue to force myself to have faith that, while I don’t know what the future holds for her, He does!

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Brandi S

I am a wife and mother to 3 children (ages 14, 12, & 3), the youngest was adopted in May 2009 from Hunan, China. I spend my days working as a graphic designer for a local newspaper and my evenings enjoying my children’s daily activities. Sometimes I even manage to squeeze in a few minutes with my husband! :)

While We Wait: Sacrifice

Sometimes some things just need to be shared. They BEG to be shared. As much as part of me would like to blend in, not make any waves and go with the flow – be NORMAL – the events scream out, “Don’t keep me to yourself! It’s not fair!” Or maybe it’s not the events at all that scream out, maybe it’s Someone. Someone who is guiding my life and its events and is weaving me into His story…

About a month ago, I received some misinformation. Someone misunderstood something that was said and called me upset about the possibility of Ethiopia closing its international adoption program. Not knowing all the facts, I got upset too. I spent a very long weekend wondering about all the “what-ifs.” What if Ethiopia really put a stop to all international adoptions? What if we couldn’t adopt from Ethiopia? What would we do? I spent a few days mourning the potential loss of our Ethiopian adoption. What it came down to for me was that I grown to love Ethiopia. It had ceased being just a means to grow our family. We have grown to love the country like they are somehow already our extended family. Just thinking about the possibility of losing that was gut-wrenching.

As Sunday rolled around, it began to dawn on me that if I really love Ethiopia – particularly the children – then I want what’s best for them. If there is corruption, then my prayer is that it stops. If children are being trafficked, then it needs to stop. No matter what. In worship on Sunday morning, we were singing a song that says,

You are the everlasting God,
The everlasting God.
You do not faint,
You won’t grow weary.
You’re the defender of the weak,
You comfort those in need,
You lift us up on wings like eagles.

Of course, I’ve always sung those lyricsthinking of myself. But as I was thinking about them, I started thinking about the children of Ethiopia. THEY are the weak ones who need a Defender; THEY are the ones who need a Comforter. Of course, He comforts and defends me too, but singing that song that day, my heart changed and all of the sudden this adoption wasn’t all about me anymore. My desire was that first and foremost God would protect His children.

As I was singing and praying, another thought came to mind, “What if we didn’t adopt at all and just gave all of our disposable income away? We could sponsor tons of kids each month. We could even help fund projects like building wells or schools. We really could do a lot of good with the money we’ve already saved and continue to put away.” And it was those thoughts that exposed what was really in my heart. My heart cried out, “NO! I want to be a mom! It’s the deepest desire of my heart! I can’t give that up!” And that’s when I heard Him. A still, small ,powerful voice. “Will you give Me your desire to be a mom? Will you sacrifice that to Me? Will you lay it on the altar and let Me have it?”

What do you do? When the Creator of the universe, the God who you say you worship, the God who gave HIS Son for YOU, asks for something you hold most dear? You let Him have it. You say, “OK, God, OK. Take it. I want You to have all of me. Do with me what You will. I will sacrifice my desire to be a mom to You. You can have it. Take it.” At least, that’s my story. I just couldn’t hold onto something when God was asking for it.

That hasn’t always been my story, though. I like to plan, and I like to control, and I like to think I know what life will look like in 6 months or a year. But God wouldn’t allow me to think that way any longer. And what I’ve realized is that by giving Him my deepest desire, I’ve actually given Him complete control of the future. (I “gave” God complete control of the future – how delusional are we to think we have any control over that anyway?) But my heart has changed. And the way I feel about the future has changed. I feel like I’ve given Him the lump of clay that I’d molded into what I thought the future would look like. He’s taken it and is molding it, and will eventually let me see what it looks like. And while there are parts that may look exactly like what I thought they’d look like, I suspect there will be some parts that will look very different. I have no idea which parts those will be, or what they will look like, but I totally trust Him.

While the information I received about Ethiopia closing its doors was not quite accurate at the time, there really is a lot going on over there right now. It’s hard to know how much is really accurate, and how much is really just speculation, but for sure things are changing. I really have no idea how it will all play out, but getting caught up in the details right now doesn’t seem to matter much to me. God is completely in charge of my future, and I trust Him to work all things out in His timing – whatever that may be.

I was asked today if we have a Plan B. No. Plan A all along has been to trust that God is writing our story. He has, and is and will continue to do so. I have no idea what that looks like, but I know it will be beautiful.

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Rebecca Daniels

Rebecca and Robert are in the process of adopting their first child from Ethiopia. From Tennessee and Mississippi, they met and married in Fort Worth, Texas where they currently reside. They enjoy delighting in good friends, food, and fellowship and eagerly anticipate where God will lead them next. They invite you to follow their adoption journey on their blog.

At the Heart of Him

Matthew is feeling alot better, but we experienced some backsliding while he was sick. It’s not anything worth going into in great detail here–-we are just having some “Who’s the Boss” moments around our house. Whereas, before he got sick, we were beginning to settle into some really nice “yes ma’am” times.

It’s frustrating, for certain, and when we experience turns of events like this, I always find myself searching for the reason. What happened? Did I drop the ball? Miss a red flag? Fail to meet some crucial need?

My mind goes first to adoption. Loss. Abandonment.

I know that adoption itself does not define Matthew. That every single aspect of his personality is not completely due to the circumstances he has lived through. But it seems like it would be reckless not to take it into account.

Sometimes I feel like a doctor examining a patient. My patient has diabetes. It is controlled but it is chronic. When that patient presents with any other symptom, I treat it, but I always have to investigate if the diabetes is causing it or if it stands alone.

Sometimes I never know why or what causes these setbacks. I just have to treat the symptom, re-establish our roles, stick with our consistent boundaries, and try to patiently await our return to the promised land of “yes ma’am”.

The key is to remind myself that while I do have to thoughtfully consider his past at all times, I also have to remember that he’s a 3 year old, a stubborn 3 year old with a strong personality who is working to make his mark in our family and in this world. I will never know why he does everything he does, just like I will never know the exact reason Isaac acts the way he acts.

So like any good doctor, I find myself again assessing him, and wondering what I can do to make it all better. I wade through his past and our relationship searching for answers, but at the same time, I have to remember that sometimes a diabetic just gets a cold.

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Elizabeth Wood

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.

Just Three Letters

My husband and I agreed before we got married we wanted five kids.

Now, that was a strange number for a young couple with limited experience with children to pluck out of thin air. Why five? I mean, don’t people usually go for even numbers? It makes shopping for vehicles and seating in restaurants so much easier.

“We want a large family.” We said just like that; easy breezy, not a care in the world.

That was before three precious baby girls were born to us in rapid succession in the years 2001, 2002, and 2004.

The idea of the two of us raising five kids suddenly seemed laughable; a blissfully ignorant notion my sleep deprived husband and I had once naively considered. We were fully immersed in baby boot camp now, with no conceivable end in sight.

Three wonderful daughters; how blessed could one family be? My husband was like that man from a popular truck commercial which was airing on TV at that time. You may remember the denim and plaid clad man’s-man standing in front of an oversized pickup truck with three bouncing little girls in pink tutus? That was him.

We felt we were finished. Life was good.

Over time, as the girls got a bit older we finally saw the light at the end of the toddler tunnel. And with the light came that strange desire to expand our family again. At first we thought the answer to satisfying that desire would be to birth more kids. Over time, the Lord showed us He had other plans.

Through a series of events too long to share here, my husband and I found ourselves home with one completely adorable boy adopted from Ethiopia in 2008.

Kid #4 had already materialized. What was to keep us from adding one more? My husband and I had decided when we adopted our first son from Ethiopia that’d we’d commit ourselves to adopting a second son from Ethiopia at a later date. Our daughters enjoyed tight girly bonds. We wanted similar boy camaraderie for our sons.

What had seemed like a completely random choice in the number of kids we wanted to raise ended up being a whisper from the Lord about the blessings He had in store for is. But what is amazing to me is the journey God had my husband and me on without us even knowing it; a journey to raising a son with HIV.

The whole point of adoption for us was to provide a family for a child who needed one. We chose not to birth more kids in order to make way for orphans who were already in the world. When we started our adoption journey, we were parents of 5 children; 3 realized and 2 yet-to-be realized. God had already prepared room in our hearts. The question for us would be whether or not we were willing to trust His choice for us.

Our fifth child was born HIV+. Both his first parents died, leaving him an orphan at age 2. While he waited for a new family, his health began to decline. For this orphan, the reality of HIV was never going away. Ignoring it wasn’t an option. There would be no forgetting all that the virus had stolen from him. And it would continue to steal more if something didn’t change.

God was asking if we would be willing to turn toward an orphaned boy’s suffering and pain to face HIV head on. Would we embrace the challenges this little boy faced? Could we lighten the crushing load he carried upon his shoulders? Would my husband and I be willing to love Jesus, the orphan with HIV? (See Matthew 25:31-46)

While three little letters were threatening to drain the boy’s life away, fear wanted to steal his place in our family and take up residence instead. Thankfully, three other letters loomed larger than HIV ever could: G-O-D

That’s because GOD’s promises to us are rock-solid reliable. We can be assured God cares deeply for orphans. (Psalm 68:5-6) Jesus thoroughly approves of any of His followers seeking to welcome orphans into their family in His name (James 1:27, Isa 58:6-11). With God for us, who was HIV to stand between us and this boy?

With hearts open to the Lord’s leading, our family set out to discover more about HIV/AIDS and adoption. What we learned surprised us. There has never been a case of transmission under normal family living circumstances. Medical professionals informed us our other children were not at risk for transmission so long as our family practiced universal precautions in our home.

HIV is considered a chronic but manageable disease with proper medical treatment. That’s because medications called ARVs have been developed to treat the virus. When 3 or more ARV medications are used in combination, the treatment is called HAART (Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy). This therapy has literally transformed life for people living with HIV and can reverse the damage HIV caused to their immune systems. HIV is no longer a death sentence. Children with HIV who receive medical care are expected to live a normal lifespan. HIV is like any other chronic but manageable disease (think type II diabetes); it’s not a blast to have HIV, but it’s MANAGABLE. People can and ARE living beautifully with the disease.

My son would be one of those people.

Since beginning HAART, my son’s viral load (the measurement of how much HIV is in his body) is undetectable. HIV can no longer prevent my son’s immune system from functioning normally. My son is healthy, strong, and growing everyday.

Honestly, my heart breaks for all the wonderful families that could include AMAZING children if only they would open their hearts up to children with HIV. Truly, people don’t know what they are missing when they refuse to even consider these kids!

That’s why I love working with Project HOPEFUL. I love helping educate, encourage, and enable families to experience the joys of adopting a child with HIV for themselves.

I CANNOT fathom missing out on parenting our son simply because of fear of three little letters. He is a joy and a pure blessing, rounding out our family perfectly. In our world, five is an even number.

With our HIV+ son, a light came into our life. Our family is complete now that he’s in it. None of us would trade the joys of our son to be free of dealing with HIV. My husband and I shudder to imagine that given the choice between GOD and HIV, we might have chosen anything other than His plan for our family. Life is too good.

Jesus, our G-O-D, has shown us just how much He can be glorified through something like H-I-V.

Isaiah 61:1- 3
1 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
2to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the LORD
for the display of his splendor.

To learn more about HIV/AIDS visit www.projectHOPEFUL.org. Be sure to follow the BLOG for informative articles, up to date news, and more!

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Jen Sloniger

Jen Sloniger freely admits she lies awake some nights trembling in awe at the privilege of parenting the Fab Five: Rienne (10), Aurora (9), Allyse (7), Abrham (4), and Jonas (3) and prays continually to get it right. She and her husband, Dustin, marvel at the goodness of the life God has given them together these past 11 years. She is committed to pursuing BOLDness in Christ. Because no matter how big a chicken she is, His power to transform is bigger. Jen is the Communications Director for Project HOPEFUL, a non-profit organization dedicated to educating, encouraging, and enabling families and individuals to advocate for and adopt children with HIV/AIDS. She blogs at www.beBOLDjen.com.

Considering the Cost

The #1 thing I hear from people in response to our adoption is: “Isn’t it really expensive?” I want to step up on a soapbox every time and remind them that God owns the cattle on a thousand hills and what He promises He provides and all that Truth! But, lately, I have started to see that common question in a whole new way. Truth is, adoption is very expensive. It costs a lot more than just dollars and cents though. So if just the money thing scares you, then you probably aren’t ready for adoption.

Dan Cathy said, “A God inspired dream will never fit in your checkbook or calendar.” That is so true. Adoption is a God-inspired dream for us. We were not qualified by the size of our savings account, for sure! We weren’t qualified by how practical it seemed to add another 2-year-old into our lives a few weeks after moving, changing jobs, leaving family, etc., etc., etc. Adoption can cost a lot more than money. It has cost us our comfort, our “normal”, our sense of control, our plans, our understanding, our pride…and the list goes on.

I can remember placing all my focus on ways to come up with the money when we started this ride. But, honestly, getting donations and applying for grants was the easiest and most joy-filled part of the journey for us. The process of hearing people’s hearts and stories and watching them be obedient to the call to give towards our family was humbling and amazing! It wasn’t just a few checks from a few rich people that helped us reach the financial end. It was the many drops in the bucket from a faithful group of people all over the world who are passionate about Gods love for orphans, some of which we have never met.

So, to answer your question, folks: YES! Adoption is VERY expensive. But, the trade off is complete reliance on the Holy Spirit to weave together a story so much bigger than you. You just have to decide for yourselves if its worth it.

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Bethany Gaddis

I have been married going on 8 years to a worship pastor, a rock star, and the most involved and intentional dad I have ever seen! Together, we have the privilege of parenting three amazing children (Jaxon- 5 1/2, Jovie, 2 1/2, and Jaydn 2). Jaydn recently came to us through adoption from Uganda, Africa. We just moved to Little Rock, Arkansas, but I am a west coast girl at heart. I enjoy photography, adventure recreation, and teaching high-school students about the most important decision they could ever make: to follow Jesus. I enjoy writing as a way to learn life lessons out loud because, most of the time, the right (wise) answers are in me somewhere; I just have to dig to find them. I am a firm believer that this life is not my own, so I try my best to respond to every opportunity that crosses my path to give of my life, my love, and my resources.

Veronica Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

Every family has their own thoughts/beliefs regarding whether or not they will change their child’s name upon adoption. Some do. Some don’t. Everyone has their reasons.

Our kids came to us through foster care, and foster care rules specify that foster families cannot change a child’s name during the time they are in foster care. That only makes sense. It’s hard enough having to bounce from foster home to foster home, let alone having to learn to answer to a new name at each home. We also learned that even children who are in an adoptive placement can’t have their names changed UNTIL the adoption is final. Since we were in adoptive placement for 2 years, we didn’t change our girls’ names . . . very much.

Veronica was the oldest of the sibling set of three we adopted last year. She was nearly 6 when we got her and 8 by the time the adoption finalized. “Veronica” has never been on my top list of names I would choose for a child of mine, and I asked her if I could call her “Nikki.” She agreed.

It’s been 3 years since the girls moved in with us — 3 years of changing, adjusting, and growing. And Nikki has, without a doubt, blossomed. She came to us as a tantrum-throwing jekyll-and-hyde. Her cute face belied an angry spirit. When things went her way, her eyes sparkled and her smile lit up the room. She was an absolute joy.

Should we dare ask her to complete a chore or deny a request, her angelic demeanor immediately morphed into white-hot rage. She threw herself to the floor, kicking and screaming and striking out at anything or anyone who was in the near vicinity. Blessed with vocal chords that surpass normal volume capabilities, her tirades could be heard by neighbors across the street and down the road.

Usually, her tantrums lasted until she would finally collapse hoarse and exhausted, physically unable to continue. She would literally wear herself out. Minimum tantrum time was 2 hours. Daily.

Once she slipped into tantrum mode, reasoning with her was impossible. All we could do was let her fight it out on her own, make sure she didn’t harm herself or anyone else, and endure. When it was all over we’d pick up the pieces with her, go over what had led up to the tantrum, reassure her of our continuing love for her, pray with her, and move on.

Over time (a lot of time, actually!), as she began using the managing tools we were teaching her, the tantrums waned. We weren’t so aware of it at first, but those outside our family began commenting. “She’s so sweet!” someone said. “She’s a new girl!” my mom exclaimed. “She looks happier.” a friend observed.

Most importantly, Nikki noticed. The other day, she sat down next to me and said, “Mom, remember how I used to be called Veronica?” I nodded. “I’m glad I’m not called that anymore.” Curious, I asked her to explain. “Well,” she began, “Veronica used to be really bad. She threw tantrums and got in lots of trouble. That’s the old me and she doesn’t live here anymore. Now, I’m Nikki!” I understood perfectly. She associated her old self with her old name. She wanted a new start and a new identity.

Our conversation made me think of a verse in Revelation 2. Here Jesus promises to give all who overcome a new name. What a wonderful hope we have! Someday, when Jesus takes us home, we will also be able to say, “That old, sinful me doesn’t live here anymore. I am a new person!”

“I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.” Revelation 2:17

“Whoever is a believer in Christ is a new creation. The old way of living has disappeared. A new way of living has come into existence.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

Margie Seely

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Margie “inherited” her passion for adoption from her foster grandmother. Today, Margie and her husband Shawn are blessed with five incredible kids, all adopted from the foster care system, plus four others who are unofficially official members of their family. They are also the proud grandparents of one very special little boy. Teaching full-time, running a home business, and learning all the ropes of their first international adoption keeps Margie hopping. She enjoys blogging about it all and connecting with equally busy moms.

What Would Have Been Our Referral Day

Originally posted on their blog on February 2, 2o11…

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5 1/2 years ago, Jon and I made the decision to adopt a little girl from China. We requested a healthy infant thinking we would see her sweet face in about 1 year. If you have been following our story you would know that that one year stretched into 5 long years.

Several years ago, Jon and I started talking about switching to special needs. It never seemed right at the time. Our motive seemed to be to just speed along the process. Special needs seemed like such a scary thing to bring into our home. Each time we looked into it we stepped back and decided to wait it out.

Then, in October of 2009, I saw a picture of a little girl who shared my birthday. God broke my heart over this girl. I knew our family was not capable of taking care of this little one, but God showed me that we could venture out into special needs. I remember sitting on the counter in the kitchen crying over this little one and trying to explain to Jon the depth of my feelings. It was time to make the change. God had worked in our hearts.

We sent in our medical checklist and prepared our hearts. To be honest, I was terrified. Were we doing the right thing? Would I regret switching to special needs when the time came when we would have gotten a referral for a healthy child? These fears would creep up over the next few months.

Then, we got an email. The day that our lives changed. The day we saw our daughter for the first time. We claimed her immediately and prepared to bring her into our lives.

Do I have regrets?

Today would have been the day I would have seen the face of that healthy infant. As I sit and contemplate that fact I know in the depths of my being that I have NO regrets. Lily is a blessing from God that I could have never imagined. She is joy, love, happiness, and the one who holds me and says, “my mama.”

I am her mama.

There are no regrets.

Praise God!

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Liz Grabowski

Liz has been married for 15 years to her best friend. She has two bio sons, one adopted daughter, and a son and daughter waiting in China. Her days are filled by home schooling and loving on her kids. God has been so faithful during their adoptions. They are continually blessed. You can follow their current adoptions on her blog.

Questions to Ask Adoptive Families

I explained in this post that I was a researcher. Just to prove myself, this post should give assurance that I’m truly anal retentive a listmaker (wasn’t quite sure which to strike out there).

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When we were in the process of choosing an adoption agency, calling agencies, scouring websites, and reading through lots of materials we got in the mail from them was very helpful. I became a bit of an information-hog. But, I realized that more helpful than all the 2-dimensional literature were conversations with other adoptive families, some whom the agencies provided as references and some who we found on our own. We quickly learned that the adoption community was full of families many of whom genuinely desired to help other families and encourage them in their process honestly. And, that is really what we needed.

As you are exploring adoption agencies and, more generally, if adoption is right for your family, take advantage of families who love to “talk adoption” and want to encourage you in the journey!

Here are some questions you can use to get you started as you reach out to adoptive families. I didn’t have these when we were initially talking to families and just at the beginning stages of our adoption process. But, I started listing them as time went on. And, now, as an adoptive parent who gets a good number of people asking me about adoption, I often use these to help me structure some of my words to them when they don’t know what to ask. In a time where blogs are prevalent and email is so easy, you may want to consider using blog comments or emails as a first way of connecting. But, you will learn much more and make a much more personal connection by speaking on the phone. Don’t be afraid to ask a family if you can call them to talk more. It’s so much easier to speak on the phone than type out all their thoughts anyway–as long as you don’t mind some background accompaniment of little children! And, you are likely to get much more accurate answers as they spill off their tongue!

As you get your phone and notebook ready, consider some of these questions to get you started:

  1. What agency did you use and why did you choose them? At one time, these families went through the same process you are going through. It’s helpful to hear why they made the choice they did.
  2. Would you choose them again knowing what you know now?
  3. What do you see as your agency’s strengths?
  4. What do you feel like your agency is not as good at? No agency is perfect. It is good to go into it knowing what challenges you may face with a particular agency and be prepared with how you will handle those challenges.
  5. Were there any surprises in the process (e.g., in paperwork issues or finances)?
  6. Were they true to their word? Was their anything they told you early on that was not accurate? Obviously, the adoption process can change dramatically and without much (if any) notice. But, it is helpful to ask this question to see if anything they could have controlled changed from the time a family started and came home with their son or daughter.
  7. How did you primarily communicate with them? Email? Phone? How quickly did they respond to your questions or concerns? This is so very important, particularly if you are entering a program in which time is of the utmost importance (as in the China special needs program, for example).
  8. Do you feel like the agency cared for your family on an individual basis? When we started, I knew I would need a lot of “hand holding” in our adoption process. So, this was very important to me.
  9. Do you connect with other families from your agency? In what capacity? Families are able to share with you connections that the agency may not share themselves—yahoo groups or email lists that the families themselves manage.
  10. What was your in-country experience like? This was absolutely crucial to us. We knew many agencies would be able to facilitate our adoption. But, we knew we would need them most when we were in a foreign country where we could not speak or read the language. We wanted to know that we would be with an agency with a good reputation for making sure the trip went as smoothly as possible.
  11. How has the transition been for your child and for your family? Has your agency provided any support to you during the adjustment time? Where have you found your support? Not only will this help you learn from their adjustment experience, it will show you any postadoption support the agency provides. And, it will help you establish a list of other resources you may want to explore as well for yourself.
  12. What advice would you give a family just starting the adoption process? Allow the family to share anything else on their hearts. You may find that God speaks to you clearly as they answer your question.

Keep your notes and the families’ information somewhere you’ll be able to find it again. Speaking from personal experience, it is a real blessing as an adoptive family to hear back from someone we talked to a while ago to get an update about their process and maybe even a picture of their new child.

________________________________________

Kelly Raudenbush

Kelly is a stay-at-home mom/manager to 4 children–the youngest of whom is from Baoji, Shaanxi, China. 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. She is always willing to “talk adoption” and share about how God brought their family to the place they are now. You can learn more about their adoption story as well as follow day-to-day life on their personal blog.

True Religion

If you are a blog reader of mine, you know I process through writing what God is teaching me–and you also know any time I take a few days off from writing its usually not because I’m busy (because writing is HOW this momma unwinds from her busy)…it’s usually because He’s teaching me and it’s hard to process. I haven’t blogged since Sunday publically–but I did write on Monday, Tuesday and today…very long posts—prayed over them…processed them…and then stowed them away in my heart–and for now that is where they will stay.

The Lord is really teaching me a lot right now–through walking with others in their hardship (their distress) and pain…orphans and widows…choosing to do life together and saying, “We are in this together—for the long haul…and we will look for God and His faithfulness through it.”

While some of my readers may come to my blog and feel “moved” to consider adoption after hearing our experience…or after seeing a sweet coming home video–that, my sweet sisters and brothers, is not really what James 1:27 is about at all—or else anyone not called to adopt wouldn’t be offered a part in true religion–right? Adoption is growing my family–it’s choosing to follow God in growing my family in a different way…and to be willing to do for my newest son what I would and will do for all of my children to be there for them and when need be–walk through times of hardship, healing and pain with them. I can some what guess that it may be more often, however, for the children God brings to me through adoption–but that of course is no promise. We are NOT all called to adopt…any more than we are not all called to have more children biologically–but adoption IS one of the many ways God can use us to change orphans to sons and daughters…and this is GOOD…it is a CALLING…and discerning that calling over emotion is very important.

SO…what about James 1:27? How do we LIVE true religion? Because this–as believers we are all called to–if we want to experience Him fully and live true religion (James 1:27). How do we care for, visit and look after orphans and widows in their distress? How can we help walk with orphans and widows during their time of pain? This verse isn’t about changing orphans to sons and daughters or finding the widow a new spouse–but about going there with them in their distress—and THIS is what true religion is. While only 1% of the estimated 140 million orphans worldwide are considered eligible for adoption, and 90% still have one living parent–or you could say 90% have a widow as a parent. How can we live James 1:27 to these? How can we look after, care for and visit them…and really begin going there in their distress with them? The Lord has been showing me more and more about the answers to these questions–and while my home right now is pretty crazy and may not be the best fit right now to add another one of the precious 1% to come join our crazy–how can God use me right where I am for the other 99%? To really LOOK AFTER these in their time of DISTRESS…oh–I think I’m ready to go there.

When I think about visiting orphans and widows–the first place my heart naturally goes is to our “other family”…my son’s first family. There is a widow and single orphans across the world. Then I think about our next closest–those already around us. Our church alone has countless single orphans whose mom or dad is no longer with them–and essentially in many ways single moms are modern day widows in our culture. How can I live James 1:27–pure and faultless religion? While we follow where the Lord leads in these ways and choose not to always share the ins and outs here–God sees our hearts and our hands–and that is enough. And it is good.

And while most times my tendency is to start at home and move outward–I want to also remember where the places are where the forgotten live? I think about our ministry in Zambia/Africa–where adoption is closed yet more than 1/3 of their children are orphans. WOW. Our eyes are opened when we VISIT them (James 1:27) but naturally more people visit the countries they adopt from. SO–what about these countries that some times fly under the radar? Use us Lord to live James 1:27–to YES serve in our neighborhoods and to live true religion here–but to also some times leave where we are comfortable or feel personally connected to and visit, look after and love widows and orphans in places that aren’t as convenient or as attractive…meeting someone in their distress will never look fun–it’s not a brownie sale and the pain through it is not “blogable” and thankfully so…because there are some things so sacred where true religion resides that should be treasured in our hearts and leave us in worship as we see Him working through us. Following the Lord in the way of James 1:27 will not be easy–but I can promise it will refine and change…and you will be amazed when you see Christ come through. You WILL see His glory. He will be faithful with His presence. And it will be SO SACRED that you won’t publically share it with others…because you will know–it is HOLY…you won’t be able to write about it because you can’t even express it’s power. It is TRUE RELIGION…it is beautifully painful, yet good—and you will want to follow Him again and again in true religion to see Him over and over…and over again. And it makes sense why He calls us to serve and be His hands in this way.

And speaking of visiting orphans and widows in their distress–if you would be interested in joining us on our next trip to Zambia this June–please contact me. We have just a few spots–but we’d love to take you with us! There’s no building. There’s no painting. But there is sitting. We sit and we listen…and we love. As simple as that. And you probably not be able to find the words to write about it either…or words to express how YOU were changed in the process. But James 1:27 doesn’t have to just be around the world…it can be as close as next door. It probably won’t knock on our doors–but when you are ready ask Him to take you there and begin leading you to true religion and worship in this way. I never want to lose sight of what this verse means and what through it we are being asked to do.

As believers, let’s pray how He can use us to live James 1:27 fully and to be used for His great glory and good…

________________________________________

Andrea Young

I’m a momma of 4–one of whom joined our family in June of 2010 through the miracle of adoption. Our family has been on the board with Wiphan Care Ministries since February 2007 where we help run two schools ministering to 450 orphans and 150 widows daily. We have also recently been led to get our nonprofit for a new ministry Created for Care whose heart is to serve and minister to families in the pre, during, and post-adoption process. I am a writer at heart, a stay-at-home mommy who loves crafts, and I love nothing more than staying “yes” to Jesus…which usually makes for an adventureous life. That’s me in a nutshell.

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