Monthly Archives: April 2011

An Open Adoption? (Part 2)

Read Part 1 here.

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The phrase, “Adoption begins in pain” kept echoing in my mind and heart. Yes, but how does it end? What is the best way to bring healing? Open? Closed? Semi-open? And, if it’s open, what does it look like???

Enter bloggers! Grace in My Heart informed me that Small Treasures had experienced both open and closed adoptions and could talk about both perspectives! After reading her story I was amazed at her experience and stunned by how positive it was. I emailed Kristen, and she wrote back right away. Her email was like an IV of Peace. It flooded my system and instantly relaxed my fears. She explained that having experienced both, she actually preferred open, and NEVER would have guessed that she would feel that way! She told me how she loves knowing where her daughter gets this or that trait and that she’ll be able to share that with her daughter. She also informed me that birthmoms need to move on with their life and that contact may not continue in such a regular manner.

Another blogger gave me her phone number and we talked for almost an hour. She said a few things that really struck me, the most profound was, “There is a God-given relationship between a birth-mom and baby, and I respect that relationship.” True. Another statement to get tossed around in my heart and mind! She also spoke of the joy of developing a relationship with the birthmom during her pregnancy. In her case, they talked on the phone everyday. This, she pointed out, would greatly help my fear that the adoption would not work out, because you get a direct feel for how she is feeling about the situation. Is she wavering? Dead-set? Does she have the support of friends and family?

She also gave advice that put my husband’s fears at bay. Right now, the birthmom is totally in the driver’s seat. She’s calling the shots and saying what she wants this to look like. But, after the adoption is final, we’re in the driver’s seat. And, if the relationship was no longer healthy, we could cut off contact. Now I would never ever ever promise to do one thing (contact) while planning on doing another. But, as the Daddy wanting to protect his family and baby, it brought my husband (and me) peace knowing that we COULD take action if it was absolutely necessary. Furthermore, the birthmother realizes this, too, and as a result, respects the relationship.

***Please read that last paragraph in the spirit it is meant. Again- I would NEVER promise something without intending to do it. And anyone planning on such action would be dead wrong and guilty of moral sin, in my opinion.***

I also spoke with a friend who was adopted about her experience. Her adoption was closed, and she has no knowledge of her birthmother. She doesn’t know her medical history, what her birth parents look like, or the reasons for the adoption, and she has hurt as a result. She speculated that openness would have helped heal these wounds.

And what of Scripture? One of the special things about adoption is that WE have been adopted. Adopted children have a very real experience of what that means. As I discovered in Adopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families & Churches by Russell Moore, adoption is identity. It tells us who we are in the Lord. “For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, Abba, Father!” (Romans 8:15). So, what kind of adoption do we have?

Biblically, we have an open adoption. We know our birth parents. In fact, it is SO open, that He allows us to be raised by our birth parents and to keep returning to our old ways. The parallel is not exact, but you get the idea. We, as parents, are entrusted with these children while they are on earth, but they are not ours. They belong to the Father. Whether we are birth parents or adoptive parents, our children are His, made in His image and given His name. In fact, in the Catholic Church, His body and blood even run through their veins through the Eucharist.

Finally, we watched Catelynn’s story on 16 and Pregnant. I had blogged about it here in the past. My husband had not seen it yet, so I suggested we watch it together. It was an incredible experience even the second time to see what Catelynn went through and to see her perspective. As we connected with her story, we completely understood her desire to stay connected to the baby, and we saw how healing that could be.

As we continued to pray about this option and speak to friends, we felt confident that this was the direction the Lord was leading us. In fact, we went from being terrified about open adoption, to okay, to excited about it! There are still major question marks in our head as we begin to discover what THIS open adoption will look like, but we know that He gives us “just enough light for the step we’re on.” We may not know what this will look like in 6 months or 6 years, but we know that He will guide us and provide as abundantly as He has in the past!

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Lauren

Lauren is in love with the Lord, the man of her dreams, and her new daughter. She and her husband married in June of 2006 and thereafter began their journey of infertility and adoption. Despite the many wounds, heartaches, and suffering, she has experienced not only healing and grace and but also the profound beauty of the Resurrection through her relationship with Jesus Christ and the Sacraments of the Catholic Church. She seeks to “magnify the Lord” through her marriage, adoption, and blog. After three unsuccessful adoptions, they brought home their baby girl, Abigail Chiara, in September 2010.

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Check the Expiration Date on Your Compassion

We recently moved out of our house to remodel the downstairs after experiencing a water leak. In the process, I was forced to confront one of the more unwelcome tasks of moving – cleaning out the pantry. In doing so, I discovered that we had somehow collected enough random cans of food to survive for months, if not years. That was, of course, if we didn’t mind eating Spaghetti O’s that expired the same year my 6-year olds were born! I’m ashamed to admit it, but I had more than a few expired food items lining the shelves.

As I look back on our adoption journey, and I listen to the challenges of other adoptive and foster parents, it occurs to me that many of us view compassion for our children in much the same way as we would that old can of Spaghetti O’s. The honest truth is that for many of us, our compassion for our children – for the trauma and harm they suffered, the pain and loss that flows from their past and the lingering effects of their history – has an expiration date. All too often we think in terms of “they’ve been home for 6 months…they should not be doing that still” or even “they’ve been home for 5 years…they should know better by now.”

Trust me, I understand these thoughts. I’ve had (and still sometimes have) them myself. But here’s the problem – unlike the food in the pantry that eventually goes bad or the milk that spoils, my children need parents whose compassion always stays “fresh.” What I’m learning is that compassion – true compassion – does not have an expiration date. This should come as no surprise. We see it in Scripture over and over again. The Lord is “full of compassion,” His “compassion never fails” and His “mercies are new every morning.” And looking to the example of Jesus, we see his heart of compassion for those he encountered, especially the suffering and the lost.

Just as we are loved by a God who is compassionate and whose compassion does not fail, we must also be willing to approach our children with compassion in each and every moment. Not only when they first come home, but also years later when some of the fears and behaviors ”still” have not yet disappeared.

This is what Dr. Karyn Purvis refers to in The Connected Child: Bring Hope and Healing to Your Adoptive Family when she encourages parents to make compassion their touchstone. I’m learning that compassion is essential to faithfully walking the adoption or foster care journey precisely because it is essential to me connecting with my children. Far from pity or even mere sympathy, compassion is a response of genuine love in action as I learn to see my children’s behavior for what it is, even as I never lose sight of how truly precious they are. It is what sustains me as I meet them where they are time and time again, and as I gently take them by the hand and lead them away from fear and toward trust, healing and connection.

So, let me encourage you to check the expiration date on your compassion. Like me, you may find that yours has expired. But the good news is that we are loved by a God of grace whose compassion for us is new every day. No matter where you are in the journey, it is not too late to start again and to renew your love for your child with a compassion that will last a lifetime.

To read more about compassion and its importance in connecting with your child to help him heal, read Chapter 2: Where Your Child Began of Created To Connect: A Christian’s Guide to The Connected Child.

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Amy Monroe

Amy Monroe, together with her husband Michael, are the proud parents of four children, each of whom were adopted. Together they lead Tapestry, the adoption and foster care ministry at Irving Bible Church in Texas. Amy and Michael have had the privilege of personally providing support and counsel to countless families in the adoption and foster care process. Together with Dr. Karyn Purvis, Amy and Michael created Empowered To Connect, an online resource for adoptive parents, and coauthored Created To Connect: A Christian’s Guide to The Connected Child.

Confusion is Reigning in Our Home

wowzers.

I finally got my act together enough last week to invite some new friends of friends of friends over to our house for dinner.

Friends that have lived in China for 13 years
that are here for a year on sabbatical
and are
of course
fluent
in Mandarin.

It was such a great evening!
I made tacos
because really,
what’s more Chinese than ~ ahem ~ tacos.
And once the boys got over their initial shock of perfect mandarin flowing out of the mouth of a very white American man they opened up
big time.

Had I even known how downright confused and lost my precious boys were I would have had them over the day after we returned home.
Jet lag and all.

We found out so much that night.
Some good.
Some not so good.
Some downright awful.
Things that, as their mother, I am still processing.

For starters Jacob and Joey had no stinkin idea that they were here to stay.
No.
Idea.
The fact that for nearly 3 months they have woken up day after day after day after day and wondered if today is the day that
they
will
be
sent
back
is nearly too much to bear.

You could have sucked the life right out of me when those words came out of their mouth and
I’m pretty sure a piece of my heart shattered at that moment.
Sweet, sweet boys.

They are going to be your parents and love you and take care of you forever they were told.
“Impossible.” Jacob answered.

Oh my heart.

He wanted to know if we were “happy with them.”
As if we were still trying them on for size and about to activate some kind of return policy.

Sweet boy.
Sweet innocent boy.
If only you knew the depth of the love that we have for you.

At one point, he began to catch a glimpse of that secure future and somewhat understand and the look on his face when it dawned on him that he really does get to stay was a moment I shall not soon forget.
He.
Lit.
Up.

We had some funny moments mixed in with some things that were very hard to hear.
Funny things like, when they were told about our upcoming move, they said that we had too much stuff, and there was no way it was going to fit in our new house.
Would the toys come with us?
The swimming pool?
The clothes?
The couch?
The window blinds?

Yes.
No.
Yes.
Yes.
No.

When we found out that Joey has been having nightmares, we told him that he could come into our room and wake us up or call for us, and we would come comfort him.
He liked that idea.
And, for curiosity’s sake, I asked our friend to ask him what he did in China when he had nightmares.
Joey’s response was that one time he got up to go tell his foster parents but one of the other boys told him not to go in there because
they
might
be
making
a
baby.

Yeah.
Older child adoption…never a dull moment…or an awkward one for that matter…

So, the apparent confusion and silent chaos that they were living is ever so slowly being replaced by truth.
Replaced.
By.
Love.
…and from that…there’s no going back.

“For God is not a God of confusion but of peace….”1 Corinthians 14:33

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Sonia M.

Sonia and her husband John are an Air Force family with 6 boys ages 14, 13, 8, 8, 7, & 7. She stays at home part time and spends the other part of her time shopping at Stuff-Mart buying large quantities of food to feed said boys. Sonia’s hobbies include cooking, cooking, cooking more, cleaning, cooking, and cleaning bathrooms. They just returned from China with their two newest sons and are navigating their way through life attempting to glorify God in all that they do.

But Will He Conquer My Death?

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” 1 Peter 1:3 (NIV)

It was Easter, but I didn’t want to celebrate. My head knew the truth of new life, but my heart felt like I was living in a valley of death.

Every Easter we had sung songs about Jesus conquering death and rejoiced at His resurrection. Normally it was a glorious celebration, but not that year.

An outsider might have scoffed. I wasn’t dealing with real death, thankfully. Instead, an avalanche of daily deaths was burying me. My heart was breaking over the end of a ministry at church I loved.

We thanked God for our adopted daughters, but their severe needs forever ended my family the way it was. And because of those needs, I was having to close doors of opportunity that brought me great joy. One “death” after another faced me.

As I stood that Easter Sunday, arms raised in pleading more than praise, with tears streaming down my face, I begged God, “I know You raised Jesus from the dead. But will You conquer my death? Will You redeem what feels like death here and now?”

The power of my emotions poured out in waves of grief.

Before then, I had not admitted to myself that what I faced felt like death. But there it was. Putting a name to it helped. The song ended, I dried my tears, and the service continued. No lightning bolt flashed, but my heart felt a little lighter.

In the coming weeks I allowed myself to feel the grief of loss. When sadness swept over my heart, I returned to my same questions: God, I know You can, but will You conquer my death?

I prayed for new life to come into my areas of “death.”

Interestingly, a month later I went to a conference where God opened floodgates of inspiration and ideas. I left more excited about the future than I’d been in years. One day that summer, I realized God had eased my heart over the loss of the ministry I had loved.

In late summer, God handed me an incredible gift of another ministry job that I could manage in my crazy schedule. In early fall we found a therapist who could help our family with one of our daughters. Within months of my pleading prayer, it became obvious God was resurrecting what seemed dead.

While my circumstances weren’t changed in every situation, my heart was comforted. My hope was resurrected.

Jesus showed me He is the Conqueror of all death: here in this world and forever. God answered my question and prayer with a resounding “Yes!” Yes, He can and will conquer my death. I don’t have to wait for eternal life to experience my own resurrection of the heart. And neither do you.

Dear Lord, I praise You today for Your power over all death — both physical and emotional — here on earth and for eternity. Thank You for caring about the loss in my life, and bringing Your resurrection power into my everyday problems. I give You my grief and pain, and ask for Your healing touch to bring new life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Glennis Whitwer

Glynnis has been married to Tod since 1983 and has five wonderful children. She has a degree in Journalism and Public Relations from Arizona State University. Before joining the staff of Proverbs 31 Ministries, she worked in public relations and marketing for developers of retirement and assisted living communities. Her post here was part of the Proverbs 31 blog and Crosswalk devotions on April 20th, go to those to read application steps, reflections, and power verses that go with this post. You can read more from her on her personal blog.


Play-doh Revelations

Today, Cooper was playing play-doh at the kitchen table while I was washing dishes. He was chatting away to me as he did. He told me he was going to make a face with two eyes, a nose, and a mouth.

“I make him sad face.”

Something in me knew exactly where this was going, so I dried my hands and sat down at the table.

“Why is he sad?” I asked.

“He sad ‘cuz mama went to grocery store and he not find her. His mama all lost.”

Ok, think fast. Pray quick. What to say?

“Oh, and that makes him feel sad?”

“Yeah.”

“Yeah, that is sad.”

He continued to play play-doh and I continued to say a few things….honestly, I can’t even remember what now because I was on auto-pilot. In the end, the shape of the plate he was using to make the face sort of “forced” the face into a smile. I didn’t notice this and neither did he till it was done.

“Oh, he happy face.”

“Oh, yeah. He does have a happy face. Why do you think he is happy?”

“He happy ‘cuz his mama find him.”

This is the face of 4 year old grief….and we’re starting to see it and hear it now more and more. It’s a good sign (he trusts us) and, yet, it’s so hard to watch.

It doesn’t wait for you to have “all the right answers”. It humbles you pretty quick.

To be totally honest, I felt like I blew it today (although, while I can’t really remember what I said, I do remember that he never elaborated much on his story no matter what questions I asked). I’m not beating myself up though, because I know this is the tip of a deep, huge iceburg, and I’ll have many more opportunities to respond “better”. But, I did sympathize, let him talk, and tried not to put words in his mouth. I figure that’s a good start.

We’re all new to this- all of us- and I’m sure we’ll figure out our way.

Any advice on how to handle stuff like this when it comes up from those of you who have been there, done that?

________________________________________

Jenna Hardy

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.

An Open Adoption? (Part 1)

So here we are…moving towards a baby and an open adoption. We’re going to be PARENTS!!! The reality has not sunk in at all! There are so many unknowns in adoption. Should we start buying things? How can we not? How can we? But, there are even more questions about what an open adoption is and what it looks like. The Lord has opened my heart beyond belief in this, and I want to share the process with you here.

As I freaked out prayed about the reality of an open adoption, I did what any other rational woman would do. I googled it. (Turns out the birth mother did, too!) As I browsed through blogs and websites, I found four words that struck me to my core: “Adoption begins in pain.”

“Adoption begins in pain.”

“Adoption begins in pain.” I kept turning the words over and over in my mind. I thought about them while I showered, cooked, cleaned, and folded laundry. I kept mulling them over pondering their truth, significance and implications. Then as I was drying my hair one morning, I felt God calling me to my old faithful journal.

I wiped the dust off and cracked my old friend open only to find the last words I had written six months ago. “Your fears are a passport to a new state, to a higher level, to a greater joy” (from A Call to Joy – Living in the Presence of God by Matthew Kelly).  Could that have significance here, I wondered?

I began to write about the pain involved for the birth mother, adoptive parents, and adoptee.

Birth mother: to lose a child, to place him in the hands of another, to trust a stranger with your most precious gift- your own flesh and blood, to relinquish all control and possibly knowledge. Oh…my heart broke as I truly pondered her pain.

Adoptive Parents: adoption usually begins with the pain of infertility- the emotional roller coaster each month now compounded with that of adoption, to want to be a “normal” family, to fear the questions, hurt and anger the child will have as he grows. Would he shout at me as a teenager, “You’re not my real Mom!” Would others ask if he knows his real mom? Am I his fake mom? In an open adoption- to fear unclear or overstepped boundaries, judgement or regret by the birth mother, to feel like you’re sharing a child, or worse, co-parenting.

Baby: and what of the child? Research shows that a newborn can identify their biological Mom. Do they suffer emotional pain as they are torn away? Will they suffer from attachment issues? Later in life will they hurt with unanswered questions of origin and the reason for the adoption?

The statement, “Adoption begins in pain” seems to be true. But does it heal? How? In closed adoptions, are adoptive parents able to pretend? Can they imitate a “normal” family? Does that bring them healing? And what does it bring the child and birth mother? Would an open adoption bring healing to all? At what price?

To be continued…

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Lauren

Lauren is in love with the Lord, the man of her dreams, and her new daughter. She and her husband married in June of 2006 and thereafter began their journey of infertility and adoption. Despite the many wounds, heartaches, and suffering, she has experienced not only healing and grace and but also the profound beauty of the Resurrection through her relationship with Jesus Christ and the Sacraments of the Catholic Church. She seeks to “magnify the Lord” through her marriage, adoption, and blog. After three unsuccessful adoptions, they brought home their baby girl, Abigail Chiara, in September 2010.

The Sparrow Fund – The Result of Change

I have never been a big fan of change. The uncertainty of change always creates stress, stress that makes me undone and flustered. It exposes my sinful nature in ways I don’t like. I hate that feeling. And, as a result, I have always tried to minimize change. That strategy worked pretty well for a while.

Then, I got married. The changes that came with two becoming one were way different than I first expected. Most of the ways have been wonderful, but there were some changes that really challenged me and exposed sin I did not know existed. By God’s grace, He has brought me closer to Himself through that change. More change came when we started a family. Again, that change challenged me and revealed my sin in new ways. But, again, God proved and proves Himself faithful by drawing me closer to Himself through that change and my unrest. Our family of three somehow became a family of five. Each new child brought change that caused the same cycle. Change – challenges – stress – exposed sin – God’s grace and faithfulness revealed.

I was always overwhelmed content with whatever number of children we had. I thought we were good with one. Then, we were really good with two (boy…girl…rich man’s family, right?). When we seemingly suddenly had three, I thought it was enough; our plate was really full now.

And, then we somehow were talking about adoption. Could we really manage four kids? It seemed so overwhelming. How could we possibly manage? On top of the move from three to four kids, I worried about the uncertainty of the adoption. I worried about finances, traveling across the world, leaving our other three kids at home. Frankly, I worried about the entire process from start to finish. But, one day, I came home from work and stated that I thought that we would be disobedient to God if we did not pursue adoption. And, there it was; despite my anxiety, my fear, my desire to keep things status quo, we were all in. I jumped in and didn’t look back.

We charged forward in obedience, confident that God had called us to this and He was faithful, but I still struggled with worry. Once the paperwork was complete, the object of my worry most often was the health of the child who we would be making our own. How could we really know what was going on with her on the other side of the world? I knew God was walking with us and that we could trust Him, but I felt ill equipped and unprepared to be able to read about a real child, one with a diagnosed health problem, over a computer screen and discern if she was our child. We knew we needed support. As part of the research and preparation we Kelly did we enrolled in CHOP Adopt, a program staffed by a team of doctors from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia who specialize in international adoption and help families review referral paperwork and prepare to bring home a child from across the world. They provided significant support to us and became part of our family’s story as God confirmed to us, despite medical odds, that our daughter was our daughter.

And, so we received our daughter, and we became a family of 6. And, life as I knew it changed. The change that it created in me and in our family was so dramatic, it is hard to look at anything the same since going through that experience. When we had been home for about 6 months and those changes were still so real, so tangibly felt, and we realized that time did not diminish the amazement of it all, we felt like we needed to help others become equipped to experience the change that God offers through adoption.

Kelly started this site to encourage families as a result of that desire, but I felt led to do more. The man who never liked change and worked hard to keep things stable felt led to start a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping orphans and families involved in adoption. Cautious but confident in His leading, we deciding to focus on a piece that God really used in our story to help us see Him clearly in it all–the medical review and counsel in our referral process. This process is not covered by insurance and can be costly. When families are already looking at the significant cost to bring their child home, they are not looking to spend more money on unnecessary costs. But, the support we received through CHOP’s program in particular became such a big part of our story and our preparation that we felt like we needed to help those who could not afford these types of services. As a result, we started The Sparrow Fund. Our mission is that we are committed to encouraging and supporting families as they prepare for the adventure of adoption. The main way we do this is by issuing grants dedicated to pay for medical referral reviews and adoption counsel and support.

I truly believe that we are required to do all that we can to prepare ourselves for God’s service. This does not diminish our faith or trust in Him but actually enhances it. If we did not prepare ourselves the way we did and learned all that we could, we would have missed out on seeing so clearly the way God worked to bring Lydia into this family.

I invite you to come and check out our site: www.sparrow-fund.org

________________________________________

Mark Raudenbush

Husband to Kelly, father to 4 (the youngest of whom was adopted in March 2010 from Shaanxi, China via China’s special needs program), and friend to stability, Mark is welcoming change via the new venture of managing The Sparrow Fund to encourage and support families as they prepare for the adventure of adoption.

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In support of the work that The Sparrow Fund is doing and to help in that work, the following retailers have very generously agreed to donate to The Sparrow Fund 10% of their total sales during the entire month of May! Please visit these retailers’ sites, shop and shop and shop some more, and personally thank them for supporting adoption and the work of The Sparrow Fund!

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If you would like your store to be a part of this May fundraising event, please contact The Sparrow Fund to be added to this post and future posts as part of this effort.

The Road to Elbasan

Originally posted on June 2, 2010 as they waited to travel to adopt their son…

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We had hoped to be in the air today on our way to Albania, but we are currently waiting on some paperwork to go through here in the US. God knew we needed this extra time though. We have been so busy in May that had we left today, we would have spent much of our time in Albania worried about what we didn’t get done in Wilmore before we left. The road to Elbasan is longer than we anticipated, but God is teaching us along the way.

David’s orphanage is located in Elbasan, Albania, so “The Road to Elbasan” is partly the description of our journey of this second adoption. Also, it is a reference to the story in Luke 24 about the disciples on the road to Emmaus. Our pastor preached on this particular story recently, and again, God spoke to me personally about our adoption. Actually, He began to work on me during the praise and worship at the beginning of the service. With all of the uncertainty of timeline and paperwork, I have been scrambling to work though every possible scenario in my mind. Should we book tickets and just go as soon as we can, so we can meet David in person and hope that the paperwork will move through smoothly. But if the paperwork doesn’t come through, it could force three extra round-trip tickets for us to go back later. Everyday, we wait to book the tickets, however, the prices go up. I have been awake in the night thinking through all of this and even rehearsing our time in front of the judge. I have scoured the USCIS website and chat boards of other adoptive parents to try to get an idea of the new processes and timelines.

These questions and others have been all consuming at times, but God reminded me that he is in control though the simple chorus:

Peace be still. Jehovah God is with you.
Peace be still. Jehovah is Lord.
Peace be still. Jehovah God is with you.
Jehovah is Lord of all.

I have had the confidence that God is working, but I haven’t been acting like it. Cydil and I have done what we can for right now. It is time for me to be still, and rest in the peace that God is working.

I could have gone home renewed then, but there was more for me to learn. The disciples on the road to Emmaus didn’t recognize Jesus when he was walking right next to them and carrying on a conversation. Why? He appeared in a way they weren’t expecting. Since my dad is a doctor, he is often recognized by patients around town, but sometimes he is so far out of context that they doubt it is him. Does a doctor drive a 1948 Ford tractor through town or shop at Odd Lots? It must have been someone who just looked like him!

It was sort of like that with Jesus during his last days. Nothing had gone as expected. The disciples were sure that after the triumphal entry Jesus was going to set up His kingdom and restore Israel. But, then, days later, he was dead! They had already heard the good news from the women at the tomb saying that Jesus was alive, but they apparently didn’t believe it because their faces were downcast. “…we had hoped..” How sad is that past tense statement! A loss of hope! Could their disappointment be because they were hoping in the wrong thing? We aren’t too different if we are honest. Sometimes we pray for Jesus the Great Physician and instead he shows up as the Great Comforter, and we don’t recognize Him. In those situations, we often are discouraged and say, “We had hoped.” But Jesus was there all along walking with us.

Thankfully, we can often look in the rearview mirror to see Him more clearly. The disciples expressed this when they said, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” Cydil and I can already see Jesus in our ‘rearview’ mirror in this adoption. From the day we first learned of David Reni, he has been our provider. On top of our great pediatrician who specializes in internationally adopted kids, He provided colleagues of my dad’s who were willing to look at the information we had and help interpret if for us. One even currently has a patient with the same rare condition! A hospital that specializes in orthopedics is located just up the road from us. A good friend and previous student who worked with us is now a social worker at the hospital. Her Master’s research – a study of the psychological adaptation of children with limb deficiencies! We were already in the process of updating our homestudy and were able to include the information about Reni before it was filed, saving us money and time of a second update. We were able to get our fingerprints renewed without an appointment last week which will potentially cut weeks off our timeline.

We don’t just want to see Jesus in our rearview mirror though. We believe he is walking beside us through this process and through the mundane of every day as we prepare to bring David home. Would you pray with us that during these next few weeks as we journey on our road to Elbasan that we recognize Jesus daily. It would be easy to get discouraged while we wait for paperwork to come through. We ‘had hoped’ that we would be on our way to Albania today. While in a real sense I am disappointed, Jesus has already used this time to teach me more about him, and I look forward to more of the walk.

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Nathan Waggoner

Nathan and his wife, Cydil, have two adopted children, Elisona (5) and Reni (18 months), both adopted from Albania. They live at and run a missions student center on a Christian college campus in the Bluegrass of Kentucky. They love their work, sharing their passion for missions and adoption with university students. In his free time, Nathan loves kayaking, watching college football (Go Bucks!), and roughhousing with his kids. Nathan writes a weekly post for their family blog called “Fatherhood Fridays” where he writes on the topic of the heavenly Father’s heart revealed through adoption.

There’s No Book For This

Our boys have been home for 5 months now. That doesn’t sound like very long, does it? But it feels like we’ve had them forever. It’s hard to remember life before they came.

Since starting the journey in January of 2010, I’ve had many people contact me asking about the process, lawyers, where to find a referral, etc, etc.

And after the boys came home, I’ve had even more people contact me about their struggles since coming home with their new children. Having the boys home for just 5 months doesn’t make me an expert on the subject, but these struggles are still fresh on my brain and I can relate to them and hopefully offer some encouragement.

(and let me state for the record, I’m just speaking of this particular stage of our experience…I have no idea what’s ahead of us in the teenage years…)

I’ve had several phone conversations and email correspondence with moms who say, “When does this get better??!?!?!” and “My child seems pretty emotionally healthy and is attaching to us nicely, but I’m just not feelin’ it.”

And I know exactly what they’re talkin’ about.

All the scary adoption books that you read when researching adoption almost always cover extreme behaviors and major disorders, like Radical Attachment Disorder and smearing feces on the walls. So you brace yourself for the worst (especially if it’s your first adoption) and hope for the best.

But there’s no book out there that covers what to do when you’re in country, overwhelmed with jet lag and you meet your toddler for the first time…and you’re scared to death. Those books don’t cover how to parent your child when he acts up in front of the people who have been caring for him since coming to the orphanage. Nor do they talk about the dark places you find yourself in when things are all falling apart and you’re exhausted and angry and slowly slipping into a scary place where you begin to doubt yourself and wonder if you’ve bitten off more than you can chew.

And then there’s the whole issue of, “What if I don’t ever love my child like I love my other children? I’m worried that I’ll never feel that way.”

Nope. Not in the book.

Because here’s the thing…most (not all) of the children who come from Uganda are relatively healthy in the emotional department. These kids don’t come action-packed with sensory issues due to neglect and lack of touch. If they’ve spent any time at all in a babies home or decent orphanage (and by decent, I mean ‘loving’, not ‘wealthy’), these children are well loved. They are held, cared for, played with, fed and nurtured. I realize that it’s not the end-all-be-all for completely healthy children, but it sure does help.

A ton.

So from what I’m hearing and reading, these newly adopted children aren’t having difficulty attaching to their parents. What’s happening is that the parents are having difficulty attaching to their new child.

And it’s almost impossible to prepare for that.

I’ve written before that it’s extremely hard to not dream about what that first meeting with your new child will be like. It’s crazy tough not to imagine how wonderful life will be when you’re finally one big happy family. You try and try to keep expectations at a minimum.

But then you read a book or someone’s blog who just had their Gotcha Day, and they’re gushing and beaming and going on and on about their beautiful moment. And I’m sure it was…I don’t want to take anything away from that, because those moments do happen. But then your overactive, mama’s imagination gets to churnin’ and there’s no stopping it.

I can see how easy it would be to instantly love an infant. And maybe that’s why there’s such a high demand for them. Their personalities aren’t yet very vivid. They can’t talk back or throw things at you. They don’t have hour-long temper tantrums. There’s not much of a language barrier because they’re not communicating anyway. Infants, for the most part, are sweet and cuddly and well…obedient. Toddlers, however, are not.

Suddenly you have this wee person, who is a total stranger, and he’s all yours…with all the good and the bad that comes with him. And we expect ourselves to be overcome with emotion and feeling for this child.

Well, I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t work that way in most cases. Just like with any relationship, it’s gonna take time to grow. Love is rarely instantaneous. I know we want it to be, because it’s our child, for crying out loud. But the reality is, you’ve just gotta give it time.

And a lot of energy.

And a lot of love (aka, serving, doing, etc.).

And you’ve gotta be on your knees, asking God to love this child through you, because our love is flawed and skewed. And His love isn’t.

And as tired as you are, you’ve gotta be waking up early, reading your Bible, talking to God, memorizing scripture for those moments when you think you’re gonna lose it.

And eventually (and hopefully) those feelings will come.

If it’s any encouragement, I can honestly say that my love for our boys has grown exponentially. They have somehow weaseled their way into my heart, and there’s no looking back. My love for them is fierce.

Now, don’t go looking thinking to yourself…”Uh-oh. She’s feeling this way at 5 months. We’ve had ours home for 7 months and I’m so not there yet. I must be doing something wrong!”

Every child is different. Every family dynamic and situation is different…so don’t start comparing and get discouraged.

Also, this isn’t a guarantee that you’ll ever feel fully connected to your child. You may not. I know people who still struggle several years down the road. And since I have no experience in this department, I don’t have any words of wisdom.

What I do know is that God doesn’t always make it easy on us (because he wants us to GROW), and He tells us to love the unlovely.

And aren’t we all unlovely at one time or another?

So, I say all of this so that you don’t give up hope. God did not make a mistake when He gave you your new child (or children). He knew exactly how this would all go down. He sees every tear you shed in frustration and every moment of exasperation. He knows every detail of loss and hurt that your child has suffered. He knows all the “why’s” and the “when’s”.

His plan is perfect. His love is infinite. And His grace is sufficient.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
2 Corinthians 12:9

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Colleen Jobe

Colleen and Lucas are parents of four children – two girls by birth and two boys who were adopted independently from Uganda. The boys are unrelated (by birth) and are virtual twins. Lucas is in the Air Force and Colleen is a stay-at-home mom who also has the privilege of being a partner at Wild Olive, a Christian t-shirt company for women. Colleen’s adoption ramblings can be read on her blog.

How Are You?

January 27th was a Thursday. After saying goodbye to friends, and praying with mountains of people, we boarded a plane. It was to be a long trip, possibly 2 months, but we would return with our adopted daughter. There was a chance we would have to return without her. There was a chance we would have to make two trips. That didn’t matter. We were sure that God would provide us a way to come home with her. It was his calling for the Polsgrove family.

It didn’t work out that way. Due to some issues beyond our control, we’re still waiting. When we came home, we thought we would only be home for 3 or 4 weeks before we returned. It’s been over that now. And, even though we hear rumors, there’s no way for us to know when we will be going back to get her.

People have been great. They’ve been encouraging and loving and supportive through every step. Joys and pains have all been shared with our friends and family. The one question we seem to get all the time is “How are you”? That’s a hard question to answer. The most common response is “we’re okay,” which is actually probably a lie. I guess the answer is “most of the time we’re great, but other times it feels like being kicked in the chest repeatedly.”

I’ve gone through a wide range of emotions since we got home. Sad to leave her. Glad to be in a familiar place. Confused why we’re delayed. Thankful for what we have.

The truth is, we stepped out in faith asking God to do something that was highly improbable if not impossible. He didn’t do what we thought he would. In fact, on the surface it seems he didn’t do anything. I thought that would rock my faith. I even thought it might make me doubt if he was even real. That hasn’t happened. This has really opened up the most honest conversations I’ve had with God in my entire life, and I’ve been more assured of his presence because of it.

I am absolutely confused. I am fine one second, impatient the next. There are even times of searing anger towards Him. I’ve been so angry that I wondered if other Christians’ opinions of me would change if they knew about it. All these things have resulted in me having honest conversations with God. I’ve been able to celebrate when He moves in other areas of my life. And, man, he has moved in other areas of my life.

The last time I posted, I was excited about going to get the baby girl. I also said that any semblance of control is an illusion. I had no idea how true that statement was. Although it’s been painful, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I know how much I screw up things when I start to take the reigns. God will bring her home to be with us; I have no doubt. With each conversation and question and prayer, God is asking me to lean on him more, rely on his grace, breathe deep while He does the work.

This is a hard thing, but if I’m going to say “Jesus is the most important thing in my life,” I need to mean it. If it’s not put to the test once in a while, I can’t really mean it. So, I’ll wait. It’s not always easy, but I have a feeling it’s going to be worth it.

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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 who they have named Lucy. You can follow their journey and offer your support as they answer God’s call on their lives on their personal blog.

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