Monthly Archives: July 2011

In Love With Adoption

Had one of those sweet conversations with my boys last night. The kind that make you all warm and fuzzy about being a parent. It was bed time and I was impatiently telling them to turn off the light, stop talking, get under the covers, no more drinks, when Keaton asked me a question. Now, he very well could have been stalling; it worked.

He said, “Mom which one of us kids do you like the best. I know you love us all, but which one do you like?” I very much wanted to say I like you all the exact same now go to sleep so I could run into my own bed and start reading my book or flip on the TV. But, I decided to take a deep breath and explore what he was really asking me. So, I told the boys that I have so many things I like about each of them, but I would share one thing about each of them tonight. And, we began. And, in case I don’t tell them enough I will put them here in cyber-print…

Keaton, one thing I love about you is that you were my first child. You taught me how to love like a Mommy.

Kayden, one thing I love about you is that I see so much of your father in you and it reminds me why I love him so much.

Laney, one thing I love about you is you were my first daughter and have been so fun, girly, and full of life.

And, Macy

Keaton interrupted me and said, “I know what it is you love about Macy, Mom. You love that she is adopted. Right?”

My instinct was to jump on that and say I would love Macy if she wasn’t adopted, and I don’t love her differently than you because she is adopted, and you are no less special to me because you aren’t adopted, and ask them do you love Macy any differently than your other siblings? and so on…But again, I was still and listened.

He went on, “because you are in love with adoption, Mom, and you have been ever since we brought Macy home.” Kayden jumped in and said, “because we are all adopted Mom if we choose to love God.”

And, there it was. They said these things with such admiration and clarity that I was humbled. I hadn’t signed them up for an Adoption 101 class, hadn’t made them read a book about it or write a paper, or even made them sit down and talk to me. God was revealing Himself to my boys through me. Through my love for adoption. I was about as giddy as a mommy can be.

And the truth is I am in love with adoption. Sure, I love what it brought to our family in Macy. Sure I go crazy about orphans and figuring out what I can do to help God set them in families. But more than that, I love what adoption has taught me about God. I don’t know anyone else’s story, just my own, so I can only speak for myself. My adoption story isn’t about becoming a mommy to Macy. That was a miracle and a gift, but my adoption story is that God used this time in my life to draw me to Himself. My adoption story included a loss of one of those gifts. A death. And that makes it all the more life changing for me. Because in Gaby’s death, Macy’s twin sister, not the concept of it, but her literal physical death, those last 20 minutes with her on this earth, I experienced the physical presence of God in a way that I have never before in life. I felt the eternal. And, I am forever changed.

This year, I have moved from being a lifelong Christian who God blessed through normal life. I was all high and mighty about my faith and that it could never be rocked no matter what. When in all reality, He had never let anything come into my life to test that. Now, I am someone who saw and experienced pain and hurt that I believe God could have prevented and stopped but chose not to. And, I am okay. I love Him. I believe in Him. I trust Him. And, I still believe that He couldn’t take or do anything that would change my faith in Him. The ONLY way that I can say those things is through His strength and power.

Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! Through Christ, God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing that heaven has to offer. Before the creation of the world, he chose us through Christ to be holy and perfect in his presence. Because of his love he had already decided to adopt us through Jesus Christ. He freely chose to do this so that the kindness he had given us in his dear Son would be praised and given glory. Ephesians 1:3-6

Macy, one thing I love about you is that you were my first glimpse into the miracle of adoption.

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Shelley Brown

Shelley has been married to her best friend, Gabe, for 11 years. They have 5 children–3 the old-fashioned way: Keaton (9), Kayden (6), and Laney (4). Their family adopted twin girls, Macy (1) and Gaby in 2010. After fighting for 7 months with Hypoplastic Right Heart Syndrome, Gaby is now in heaven with Jesus. Shelley is a preschool director of a Christian school part-time and Gabe works for a Christian insurance company providing insurance for Missions trips. Their family enjoys the adventure God has them on and is always looking to follow Him and give Him glory in all things. Check out their family blog.

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Hearts Connected

As we walked along the paths to the play yard, in search of our daughter, it was never far from our minds that this was our last day with her. Her groupa was already headed outside, but once we caught up with them and called her name, a moment unfolded that I hope to never forget.

We called her name, she turned, spotted us and her face lit up like the sun itself. Her whole entire countenance changed as she began running toward us. As soon as I saw her face shining, I got down on her level and received her into my embrace. My heart was full.

Our play time together was just like any other day, but we were treasuring every moment. I felt like Mary in Luke 2:19:

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

As we played, it was clear she had learned over the days to anticipate our every move. She would get to the top of the slide and wait, slightly lifting her arms, expecting one of us to come up behind her, slipping our arms under hers, enfold her into our embrace, count to three in Russian and then slide down in glee.

When we would begin to climb the stairs, one of her hands used the rail, the other stuck out in anticipation of the filling with our bigger, stronger one to help her up.

She would sit on the swing sideways and quietly listened as I told her of her new family and sung to her. Sometimes she’d enter her own musical humming alongside mine, usually clinging to a flower her Daddy had given. As she would relax, she’d forget to hold onto the swing, and we’d have to quickly catch her and start the whole process over again!

Sitting down to eat our daily banana treat, she would shove the whole piece in and patiently wait for the next one. I had to learn to make the sizes smaller so she didn’t choke. Once the banana had quickly reached its end, she would then begin to explore Mommy’s purse for activities I’d brought. Stickers seemed to be her favorite. She learned quickly from her Daddy the game of putting them all over her body. Eventually they found their way to the paper.

All too soon, her groupa was on their way back in for lunch and had come to collect our daughter. As she realized what was happening, she began to flail and cry, trying to get down from my arms. Yet as soon as I’d set her down and attempt to take her hand, she would begin to run away back to the playground. She didn’t want our time to end anymore than we did. I finally caught her back up into my arms and whispered comforting words in Russian to her as tears began to fall down my own face. This was heart-wrenching! This was so hard!

As we reached her room, we each gave her one last hug. I told her all of the things in English that I had been speaking over her all week. I reminded her that we would be back for her. We double checked that her caregivers would continue to read her family book to her each day. And then she silently assimilated back into her groupa and I went off to the side to have a good cry. How am I going to make it through the next 6 weeks?

I know I’ll make it, but more than anything my heart aches for my daughter on Saturday morning when she anticipates our arrival and we do not come. Please pray for her. Even now, I cannot type this without getting choked up. Pray that she can somehow understand that we will come back for her even when it feels like forever. Pray that she will be like a sponge and take in our family book, ready for her family when we return. Pray for my mother’s heart.

As my friend, Anne, reminds me. This is was not “goodbye.” It is merely “see you later.”

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Brandy Freeland

I’ve been married to my hot man and best friend for 16 years. He is living out the phrase “never say never” with me as we journey this life together. I am an only child who said I’d never have a big family. I also thought people who adopted were crazy, and I certainly was never going to be a ministry wife. God has a sense of humor because I am a homeschooling, ministry wife and adoptive mom with 6 children! Our first four are bio (12, 11, 10, 9) and our youngest two are adopted from Russia (7, 3). Our youngest daughter is still in Russia waiting for us to bring her home. Our family is passionate about orphan care, preventing sex trafficking, and Eastern Europe. You can follow our journey here.

Sometimes You Have to be That Mom

It’s really my goal in life to never be that person. Since having kids, I strive to not be that mom, you know the one who thinks her little angel can do no wrong, or the one who packs a lunch for her kids wherever they go because they only eat organic/local, or the one who is always asking you to watch her kids but never has the time for yours, or the one who has snotty, whiny, misbehaving rugrats having a major case of the “gimmes” at the grocery store. Sorry if I stepped on any one’s toes there.

I admit, the motivation to never be that mom is really pretty selfish, but it is what it is.

Enter Ty.

He spent his first 6 months walking around on a leash. Yup, I was that mom. I couldn’t even trust him to walk from our van to our front door. He spent many a visits to the library running to the end and throwing a tantrum because he couldn’t explore freely like the older two. I was that mom with a screaming, misbehaving toddler. I hated it. I could imagine people thinking, “Can’t that woman get her child under control?” because that’s what I would have thought. Before Ty. I felt like I wanted to wear a sandwich board that read, “This child has recently been uprooted from the only family he can remember–a family he loved. He has switched languages and cultures and was born 15 weeks early. Cut him (and me) some slack. Just look at my other children and please don’t categorize me as that mom.”

At a recent training for our current adoption, we got an excellent article from Empowerd to Connect entitled, “Ten Questions for Parent Preparing to Adopt or Foster.” After our experience with Ty, the questions hit me square in the gut.

5. Are you willing to be misunderstood, criticized and even judged by others who do not understand your child’s history, the impacts of that history and how you have called to love and connect with your child in order to help him/her heal and become all that God intends?

6. Are you prepared to advocate for you child’s needs, including at school, church, in extracurricular settings and otherwise, in order to create predictablility and promote environments that enable your child to feel safe and allow him/her to succeed?

7. Are you willing to sacrifice you own convenience, expectations and desires in order to connect with your child and help him/her heal, even if that process is measured in years, not months?

I wish someone had asked me these questions before we adopted the last time. Or, maybe it’s better they hadn’t. I might have run screaming in the other direction like Jonah and missed out on all this growing and stretching God had planned for me.

Today was another perfect example.

Ty is not allowed to have chocolate because of the way it affects his behavior. For the past couple weeks, we’ve restricted gluten as well to see if it’s a factor. Because they’re not allergies, I forgot to list them on his VBS form. As much as it pained me, I was totally that mom on Monday when I dropped of his special gluten-free, chocolate-free snack with him and politely asked the VBS group leader to make sure he only ate what I had provided. It was even more painful when I explained it wasn’t an actual allergy but was behavior related. I could feel the guy rolling his eyes on the inside.

Day 4 of VBS, I dropped off his snack as usual except today, they didn’t use it for some reason. Ty was super excited when I picked him up to announce that he had OREOS for snack. Seriously!?!!? We were doing so well. And OREOS!?!? Couldn’t they have slipped up on Goldfish day?

So, I sit him down at our volunteer lunch (like I have done every other day this week) with a bowl of raspberries for him to eat while I get our main course. I had my back turned for less than 2 minutes, and he had put a handful of mulch into the berry container and then proceeded to wash the berries off in his siblings’ lemonade cups. The rest of the afternoon was downhill from there. The human part of me wanted to make him “pay” for his bad decisions. How dare he do that? I wanted justice for the older kids who had done nothing wrong to deserve to miss out on lemonade at lunch. Because of his background, he does not respond to high-level, cause-and-effect discipline. Even though I wanted to push him away because I was so angry at him, he really needed me to spend extra time with him so he didn’t have any other opportunities to misbehave while the chocolate wore off and so my connecting to him would help him reregulate and process why eating an oreo had been a “thumbs-down” decision. It meant I wouldn’t get to decompress after VBS while the kids played quietly together. It meant he had to be glued to my side while I gave him my almost-undivided attention because he has even more trouble self-directing when he’s on chocolate.

When I drop Ty off tomorrow, I haven’t decided whether or not I’ll reiterate Ty’s snack policy. It’s the battle of pride versus setting my child up to have a “thumbs-up” kinda day.

Lesson learned? Sometimes you just have to be that mom.

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Melissa Corkum

Patrick and Melissa, who was adopted from Korea as an infant, have two biological children and a son adopted at age 2 1/2 from Korea. In May they, started a paper chase for a sibling group from Ethiopia. They reside in Maryland where they started a ministry called Grafted Families. Its goal is to serve Gospel-centered churches as they care for orphans and vulnerable children. Melissa also has a photography business that specializes in adoption homecoming and foster family photography. You can get to know Melissa better on her personal blog and Patrick on his personal blog.

A Review and Giveaway: Secret Daughter

I have some friends I’d like you to meet – Kavita, Jasu, Somer, Krishnan, and Asha. I met them here at the beach on vacation; I’ve only known them for a few days. As much as I’d like to speak to them and allow you to do the same, we can’t; they are alive only in a well painted portrait of words. But, they’ve spoken to me.

There aren’t many books in which I find myself drawn in some way to all the characters. Maybe one or two resonate with me, not all. Shilpi Somaya Gowda’s Secret Daughter is one of the few.

A poor rural Indian family unable to provide for more than one child and knowing for varied reasons (as is the case in many places) that that one child needed to be a boy. And, a California couple, both doctors, unable to heal their most emotional case yet–their own infertility. Their families become forever intertwined through adoption.

It is a story of motherhood and of the discovery of what motherhood really means. You follow the journey as an Indian-American girl sees life in a new way as she learns her own story and the love of her past for the first time and concludes that sometimes the family you create is more important than the one you are born into.

Part of me wishes I were the reporter and that I could sit down in a crowded restaurant in Bombay with Kavita over a cup of hot chai and hear more. Maybe I’d bring Lydia with me and let her hear it all too, see it in Kavita’s own eyes. I know that her story of commitment and surrender is not Lydia’s story–we don’t know what her story is despite my efforts to learn more. And, I know better than to pretend that they are alike even if Kavita were Chinese instead of Indian. Still, I imagine the meeting and the blessing it would be to us.

Part of me wishes I could travel to California and join Somer at Starbucks over a cup of iced coffee. I’d ask her how she would have parented differently knowing what she knows now. Though our worldviews differ, and I have four little ones while she has one who is grown, we share the common bond of raising a daughter we wanted before she was even born whose skin, eyes, and frame do not resemble ours but who fits perfectly in our arms.

Part of me wishes we could be instantly transported to wherever Asha’s work has her now and talk while we walk together in the early morning. Asha’s self-discovery is not based first on her position before her Maker as we pray Lydia’s will be. Yet, I wish I could ask her her thoughts on language classes and holidays and traditions and searching.

But, I must settle for the page before me, pages about women and families based only on research, women and families who do not exist though represent thousands and thousands around the world, pages I will likely read again perhaps along with Lydia in 12 years or so. All so that as she enters adolescence and asks more questions, and I’m in a new season of parenting an adolescent girl with a history I do not share, I’m there as questions come up. Maybe I’ll be able to answer some, and I’ll simply be with her when I can’t, while pointing her to Truth all along.

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Interested in a copy of your own? Come on over here and leave a comment to enter to win a copy of your own. Just be prepared to get an email from me in a few weeks to hear what you thought of it!

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Kelly Raudenbush

Forever changed by our experience of being adopted and adopting, Kelly is a stay-at-home mom/manager to 4 children–the youngest of whom is from Baoji, Shaanxi, China–who is a professional juggler, juggling her calling as wife and mother with a small online store (Jiayin Designs), editing, administrating this site, and, now, joining the efforts with The Sparrow Fund. You can learn more about their adoption story, how they’ve been changed, and what life for them looks like on their personal blog.

Meet Lily & Hope

Because of the sensitive nature of our adoptions, I have not been able to share details of what has yet been one of the greatest rescue stories of our lives. A story that is now becoming our pilgrimage.

But, today, justice and mercy kissed, and we saw the strong arm of the fatherless on behalf of our no-longer-fatherless.

Today, in Lily’s words, “the judge said yes.”

As the weeks unfold, I can’t wait to tell the story. Their stories. My story. His story.

In the meantime, here’s a sneak peak at the two latest ones who have stolen our hearts. Please praise God with us for moving through the impossible to make them Hagertys. We are crazy about them.

If you are unable to watch the video above, click on this link to watch it online.

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Sara Hagerty

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

Part 3 of 3: I Refuse

Through this season of prayer and seeking God through His Word, Scott and I had become convinced that indeed God was leading us to begin the process to adopt a little girl from China with “special needs.” It was all so different than the process we went through to adopt Beniam from Ethiopia. This time, we were looking at photos of waiting children and asking God to show us which one we should adopt. It felt so strange to make this choice and often we felt paralyzed and unsure of where to go from here.

We spent hours looking and reading and praying. Sometimes I wondered if we were taking too long. But now, I can look back and see what God was doing in that time. Every child we looked at I wondered, “Could this be our child?” So with every child, my heart was opened to see them as a son or daughter, not just a picture or a statistic of yet another orphan who I could not help. With each passing week, I became more willing to say “Whatever, Lord. Whatever you want. I just want to love one of these precious children.” And following this season of searching, my heart has broken more and more for children waiting for a family. Their faces are etched in my mind, and I am totally confident that God will use these things that have happened in my heart for further use down the road.

Then one day, I think we were just ready. And, we saw this picture of Mei and Scott said, “That’s her.” We did not know much about her at all, and her special need was one we had not considered before. That night we put her file on hold in order to have it reviewed by an international pediatrician who could tell us more. When I was getting ready to go to sleep that night, I began to think more about little Mei’s “special need,” and I thought maybe this wasn’t something I was comfortable with after all. I just let my mind focus on her medical records and lost sight of some other things. My heart was heavy, and I was worn out. I sighed and rolled over to turn on the alarm for tomorrow. As I did this, I whispered out loud a quick prayer, “What do you think, Lord? Please speak to me.” (Thinking that I was checking out for the night, and the prayer could maybe be answered tomorrow) I pushed the button to check the volume on the radio, and these were the exact words I heard:

He cries in the corner where nobody sees
He’s the kid with the story no one would believe
He prays every night, “Dear God won’t you please
Could you send someone here who will love me?”

Who will love me for me
Not for what I have done or what I will become
Who will love me for me
‘Cause nobody has shown me what love
What love really means

I had heard the song before but could not help but believe that God had answered my prayer directly right after I prayed it. So, I prayed once more before I slept; “Okay, Lord, I will love her. Just for who she is. I will not focus on her medical needs. Send me, Lord. I will go to her, and I will love her, and I am sorry that I ever looked at her as anything other than a child who needs a mommy.”

After this, I thought we were good to go, but there was still the need to speak with the doctor and try to understand more clearly all of the things that were revealed in her medical file before we could formally move forward. Our conversation with the doctor was difficult. We were already so attached to this little girl, and I went to bed that night in a heap of tears wondering again if we could really do this.

Sunday, we went to church with heavy hearts. What were we doing? Was this all crazy after all? “Lord, we are here. And we so long for you. We so want to hear from you. You have been so faithful to us. In your mercy and grace, we are asking that you would speak to us clearly one more time.”

Can I just tell you that we began to worship and every. single. song we sang spoke right to our hearts and right to this situation. And all of a sudden in both of our hearts at the same time, we knew God was answering our prayer. Then after a few songs, we sang a song that was new to us and took us completely off guard. After a few verses, we both realized that we could not sing the words to this song (and actually mean them) and not move forward with this adoption.

Sometimes I
I just want to close my eyes
And act like everyone’s alright
When I know they’re not

This world needs God
But it’s easier to stand and watch
I could say a prayer and just move on
Like nothing’s wrong

But I refuse
‘Cause I don’t want to live like I don’t care
I don’t want to say another empty prayer
Oh, I refuse

To sit around and wait for someone else
To do what God has called me to do myself
Oh, I could choose
Not to move but I refuse

I can hear the least of these
Crying out so desperately
And I know we are the hands and feet
Of You, oh God

So, if You say move
It’s time for me to follow through
And do what I was made to do
Show them who You are

‘Cause I don’t want to live like I don’t care
I don’t want to say another empty prayer
Oh, I refuse

To sit around and wait for someone else
To do what God has called me to do myself
Oh, I could choose
Not to move but I refuse

To stand and watch the weary and lost
Cry out for help
I refuse to turn my back
And try and act like all is well

I refuse to stay unchanged
To wait another day, to die to myself
I refuse to make one more excuse

‘Cause I don’t want to live like I don’t care
I don’t want to say another empty prayer
Oh, I refuse

To sit around and wait for someone else
To do what God has called me to do myself
Oh, I could choose
Not to move but I refuse

I refuse
I refuse

As we sang this song, we both started to cry a little . . . then a lot . . . then it was all too much and we had to sit down and do this funny holding each other and crying thing . . . and then we were seriously laughing at each other and at the situation. It was like God was right there with us saying, “You asked me to show up. Can I make it any clearer?” I think we were crying because we were so overwhelmed by His presence with us. He felt so near and because we were joyful. HE IS NEAR. That’s why we can do this. He is always near.

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Haley Long

I am a recipient of amazing grace. I’ve been married 11 years to my husband, Scott. We had 2 children, Isaac and Zoe. Then one day God met us both in the same moment and broke our hearts and filled them with love for orphan children. In 2008, we brought our son Beniam, now 3, home from Ethiopia. We are currently in the process to adopt a little girl named Mei from China. I am a Florida girl who loves sunshine, water, and sand. I enjoy almost anything you can do outdoors, especially in the mountains. When forced to stay inside, I love to read and write.

Part 2 of 3: Everything in Here is Crazy

Scott did not freak out. I decided to tell him on our car ride to see family over the weekend since the kids would be engrossed in their books or DVDs. And, he didn’t freak out. His attitude was that if God is calling us to this, then He would make that clear and take care of everything. I was so sure he would freak out that it freaked me out that he didn’t freak out. I handled it all very maturely by telling him he was crazy and climbing into the back seat to hang out with slightly more sane people. At which point, I kid you not, Scott calls out, “Hey kids, you wanna adopt a sister into our family?” This was met with a rousing cheer from the back.

Now, I was really mad! This is not how we normally handle family decisions!

But, I was beginning to get excited too.

After talking about it some more, I agreed to find out more about “Mandy” acknowledging that God was probably calling us to be an advocate for her and help her find a family. When I inquired, we found that Mandy had found her family.

But, we both knew that God was doing something in our family, so we began to pray and read scripture, seeking His will. My heart began to be softened and eager to follow wherever God was leading us. But, I was still scared. At first, all I could see was my own weaknesses, limitations, and inabilities. But, day after day of drawing near to God, I found that I was seeing things more from his perspective. And, everything changed.

And I do mean everything. Not just my desire to follow his will no matter what. But the way I looked at my day and my kids and my house and my husband. The further we went on this journey, the more I was throwing off all these things that had hindered me from stepping out in the first place. Worry. Fear. Selfishness. Doubt. Discontentment with what I’ve been given or how my day goes. All of a sudden things that used to seem such a big deal- a missed nap, a temper tantrum, the flu, potty training, a migraine… they were all things that I could laugh in the midst of. Because, slowly, I was seeing it all through a different lens.

And that lens was Truth. It was the Word that I said I believed and loved but now I would have to live. It was the God I said I trusted but never had I been asked to trust so much. And, He was so very patient with me in my doubt. So very gracious to continue to meet me when I asked for Him to show me the way.

I remember specifically one night when I was focusing my thoughts on what others would think of our decision to adopt a child with “special needs.” I was holding my Bible open again.

“God, this is crazy. Seriously. This is crazy.”

And just as clear as day, this is what came to my mind . . . a patient, gentle voice, but firm . . .

“Haley, everything in here is crazy.”

And, I looked back down at the Bible and thought, “Did I hear that right?” So I began to think through all the stories of the Bible I could think of. And it is true. From a human perspective, everything in there is crazy. Everything.

It was a significant moment for me. Because I knew that I believed it all and God had confirmed it over and over again in my life. So if what was Good and True and Love and the Way of Jesus were crazy in the eyes of man, well then, call me crazy.

Part 3 to follow…

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Haley Long

I am a recipient of amazing grace. I’ve been married 11 years to my husband, Scott. We had 2 children, Isaac and Zoe. Then one day God met us both in the same moment and broke our hearts and filled them with love for orphan children. In 2008, we brought our son Beniam, now 3, home from Ethiopia. We are currently in the process to adopt a little girl named Mei from China. I am a Florida girl who loves sunshine, water, and sand. I enjoy almost anything you can do outdoors, especially in the mountains. When forced to stay inside, I love to read and write.

Part 1 of 3: Not On Our Radar

Adopting Mei was not our idea. We both knew that we wanted to adopt again and had our ideas of what that would look like. We would adopt a girl, maybe about 4 years old from Ethiopia or domestically, and we would wait until Beniam was in kindergarten. Because God knows we have our hands full right now. I mean, if everyone who sees me in the grocery store with all three kids remarks that I have my hands full, surely God knows, too. That is what I thought. Because that is how I looked at it then.

But, then one night, I was looking at this girl staring back at me on a computer screen. She was a “waiting child” from China. I had not intended to see her. (It is easier if you do not see.) I was innocently checking a blog to see an update on a friend’s new daughter from China. I did not know that she primarily uses her blog to advocate for waiting children in China.

So there I sat, looking at “Mandy.” And, I knew why she was there. Only “special people with a unique calling” adopt children like her. She had special needs. It should have been really easy for me to pass her by. And, believe me, I tried. I simply closed the computer and went on my way. But, I could not stop thinking about her. Days went by and I convinced myself to not think of her. I was 100% sure that we could not adopt her and that God would never call us to something like that. He knows me. He knows I am too weak. So I forgot about it.

One week later. I sat on my porch, Bible opened, praying. Asking God how I had gone from feeling so very close to Him in previous months to all of a sudden feeling distant, disconnected somehow. I wondered if I had done something to distract myself from seeing God. Lord, I really want to know. What is it that has come between you and me? And only one word came to my mind. Mandy. For real?!? What am I supposed to do about her? I am certain you would not have us adopt a little girl that is going to need heart surgery. We have three young children, one income, a small house, and you know I am too weak. That is just simply not possible! But, there were no more answers. Just Mandy.

That night, I looked at her picture again. This time with my Bible open in my lap. I would look and then in my heart say “This is just my silly emotions. I am just being a ‘bleeding heart.’” I listed off one by one all of the reasons why even considering the adoption of a child with special needs like Mandy was ridiculous. After each one, I opened my Bible to whatever page it opened to, and I read. And, each verse was a direct answer to the doubts I had just expressed.

Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished.
Luke 1:45

But how, Lord?

The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. . . . For nothing is impossible with God.
Luke 1:35, 37

By now, I was a little angry, to be honest. This was someplace I did not want to go with God. Yes, I wanted to adopt again, but this was too much, and I am not enough, and I did not want to get in over my head and drown.

I slammed my Bible shut and closed the computer. But, I was forming a plan that would get this taken care of really quick. I would simply tell Scott. He would be totally blindsided, agree that I was just being idealistic or emotional to even entertain the thought, and basically just freak out. That would be the end of that!

Part 2 to follow…

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Haley Long

I am a recipient of amazing grace. I’ve been married 11 years to my husband, Scott. We had 2 children, Isaac and Zoe. Then one day God met us both in the same moment and broke our hearts and filled them with love for orphan children. In 2008, we brought our son Beniam, now 3, home from Ethiopia. We are currently in the process to adopt a little girl named Mei from China. I am a Florida girl who loves sunshine, water, and sand. I enjoy almost anything you can do outdoors, especially in the mountains. When forced to stay inside, I love to read and write.

Parenting in Grace: Identity

Defined by Behavior?

We speak a lot about identity on our blog. One of the most important roles we have as parents is to recognize and call forth our children’s identities. Now, it takes no effort at all to do this if we define an individual’s identity by his or her behavior. If our child lies repeatedly, then we may decide she is a liar. Or if we have a child who is filled with anger and angry outbursts, then we identify him as a child with anger issues. There is a certain logic to this approach, and it certainly yields some benefits as we seek to parent our children well. None of us want our adopted child to remain defined by their behaviors learned in an orphanage! So, we patiently (or not!) focus our attention on these behaviors in the desire to set them free.

Parenting Backward

Stephen and I have found that parenting with our focus on the negative behavior is limited in its success, however. I see it as parenting backward, in a way. I mean by this that when I focus on my child’s anger, for instance, I become so easily absorbed and enmeshed in the issue of her anger, how it originated in her past, and the depth of the problem, that I find myself struggling with feelings of anger myself, along with anxiety, frustration, and even hopelessness. Being clever, I realize pretty quickly that the problem is far too great for my parenting skills! The pain, lack, neglect, abuse and rejection our adopted children have experienced is far beyond my own experience and understanding.

Parenting Forward

Over the years, we have become increasingly focused on our children’s identity in Christ and have learned to parent forward, so to speak. Our goal is the same—to bring our children into freedom from the coping behaviors that were born out of–distrust, pain, and the need to survive. With this approach, however, we identify the problem (never too hard to figure that out!), we acknowledge the connection to the past in our own minds and occasionally with our child, and then we begin to speak aloud to ourselves and to our child his identity in Christ. We call forth his righteousness in Christ and parent into his future, rather than parenting into the issues of his past. In other words, we choose to make decisions regarding our child based on what God has to say, rather than on the sometimes compelling evidence of their behavior. We are careful to speak these truths publicly (even if it is just at the dinner table) and often. As our children have gotten older, we have found that texts, emails, facebook messages, letters left on their pillows, etc. are also good ways to “call forth.”

For instance, we believe that one of our sons has a strong leadership gifting, but we often see him waiting to be led and in a place of passivity. Stephen and I have encouraged and even at times required him to take leadership roles as we work at parenting him according to his identity in Christ. When he has failed, we work it through, allowing him to face the consequences, and then try again. This has been a long process with some painful times and mistakes on our part, but one that is now bearing clear and recognizable fruit in his life.

Focus and Answers

This approach is not always easy. It is counter intuitive for most of us not to place our full focus on a problem in order to solve it. Many of us have even been trained to do exactly that—looking intently at the problem in order to find the solution. But, I believe in the Lord there is a better way! As we look intently at our beautiful savior and focus on His words about our child, we will find the true answers to the complicated and difficult issues our adopted children face. Paul did this when he addressed the issue of blatant sin in his letter to the Corinthians (1Corinthians 6). In the midst of dealing with their sin Paul says, “do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you?” Do you see how Paul declared to them their identity in Christ here? He did not say, “do you not know that you are sinful fornicators?” Rather, he called out that which was good and true, reminding them of their identity and pointing them to the future, not the past.

Transfixed by the Problem

This parenting forward can only be done as we parents set our thoughts and affections on Jesus. I don’t know about you, but I find it quite difficult to do at times. Have you ever been in a situation where you find yourself drawn to look at something you really don’t want to look at and you know you should wrest your eyes away, but you just can’t? I remember when I was in elementary school our family was in a pretty bad car wreck with a hook and ladder fire engine. In the end, we were all fine; however, my youngest sister had gotten pretty beaten up. I’ll never forget hearing my mother call out, “Don’t look at Pammy. Don’t look at Pammy.” (She was covered in blood at that point and my mother wanted to protect us from fear.) Well, you know where this is going! Of course, I couldn’t help it—my eyes were drawn as if by a huge magnetic pull to her. I have recently realized that that is exactly the way I am sometimes with my children. I become aware of a behavior that needs our attention, a gaping wound not unlike my sister’s in a way, and find myself transfixed by it and it’s connection with such a complicated past, as well as my inability to “fix” the problem, and I think to myself, “You’ve got to tear your eyes away from this. It is not helping to gaze steadfastly at this problem. Rather, it is producing fear, anxiety and even emotional distance from this precious child.” I sometimes find it so difficult not to dwell on the problem. I know enough about our amazing God to know that when I pull my eyes away from the problem and intently look to Him, that anxiety falls away with ease, solutions come, my heart is warmed again to my child as I catch again some of God’s thoughts about him or her. I am able to parent forward into the beautiful, freeing and whole person.

Transfixed by the Answer

Our faith cannot be in our parenting nor can it be in our child. Our faith must be in Christ alone. I have found that when I mistakenly put my faith in my child to behave a certain way, to display a certain amount of progress and healing, then I open myself to be blindsided by disappointment, frustration and even anger. All of these emotions lead quickly to anxiety and emotional distance. However, when I place my faith in Jesus, in what He has called us to and what He has declared over our family. In essence, when I become transfixed by Jesus, the answer, then I can remain standing, even when the storms rage around me.

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Beth Templeton

Beth has been married to her husband, Stephen, for 25 years. They have seven children, ages 16 to 22. Several years after giving birth to three girls, God called their family into the adventure and blessing of adoption. In 2000, they brought home a brother and sister, ages 5 and 10, from Russia. Then they returned to the same orphanage 18 months later and brought home two more brothers, ages 7 and 10. Currently, three of their children are in college and four are in high school. Stephen and Beth serve as leaders in their local church. Beth leads a ministry to mothers and has a passion for communicating the joy, peace, and victory available to us as parents. This fall, September 23-24, they are a part of a wonderful opportunity for adoptive families called Hope at Home 2011, going beyond the traditional conference and providing a time of equipping and restoring parents of adoptive and foster families. Consider joining them, and click here to learn more.

Fighting Stance

Isn’t that the way it always works? Once you think you’re really making progress, there’s a flare-up that lets you know you’re not out of the woods yet.

Just yesterday, I bragged on how well Caden is adjusting. I’ve been seeing it time after time again. And, last night, he blew me away with his increasing vocabulary…not only by identifying Yoda as “Tar War” but by repeating the majority of the alphabet after Chloe.

Then, today it happened. For the first time in months, Caden took his fighting stance. Along with tantrums, eating nonstop and his separation anxiety issues…all of which are GREATLY improving…it’s the only negative result of his orphanage upbringing that we’ve seen. It’s hard to know exactly what will set him off, but it almost always happens if you take a toy away from him. Therefore, I’ve trained the kids not to do that. But, this afternoon, I promised them the treat of an “On Demand” movie if they cleaned up the tornado aftermath mess upstairs. They’ve had a very “creative” morning, and I wanted it taken care of prior to dinner.

I had assigned Eva the task of collecting the Barbies (and their accessories) and putting them back in their plastic tote. So, in the clean-up process, she tried to take the plastic Barbie horse away from Caden…and then it happened. I was in their room helping Chloe pick up, and I saw it. But, I wasn’t fast enough. Caden rocked back on his legs, raised his hand, and swung the horse right across Eva’s face. He reminded me of a spider about to attack its predator…as he always does when he takes his fighting stance. I grabbed his arm immediately after he made contact and said in a firm loud voice, “No. You cannot hit your sister!” I continued holding onto his arm while I took away the horse and put it where it belonged. As soon as I let go, Caden ran off crying. I took a quick look at Eva’s face and gave her a kiss on her “boo boo,” then I took off after him.

I found Caden in my closet, sobbing a heartbreaking sob that always takes me back to Gotcha Day. I grabbed him up and snuggled him close. Through his sobs, I gave him gentle kisses that created another scenario very reminiscent of Gotcha Day. Finally, I got him calmed down, and I switched him from “snuggling position” to “cradling position”. Then, I looked down into those brown eyes I fell in love with in a referral picture over a year ago and said, “Mommy loves you.” He shook his head no. So I told him over and over and over again…kissing and snuggling more as I progressed.

I know this is perfectly normal for adoptive families. And I’ve had that point reiterated through the 12 hours of online Hague training I finished this morning…in addition to the 10 hours that I took for Caden’s adoption. I know. It’s been drilled into my brain.

My baby boy fell asleep in my arms sitting on the floor of my dark walk-in closet. And, the tears began to flow. I was crying because he doubted my love…even for a second. I cried because a 2-year-old should not even know how to defend themselves like a wild animal under attack. I cried because I can’t make the damage done during his 21 months in the orphanage go away. I cried because there was a time when he wouldn’t fall asleep in my arms. And, I cried because soon I’ll have another wounded soul calling me Mama.

We stayed true to our original plan…GOD’s original plan, rather…and are pursuing a little girl with a congenital heart defect. Her heart will be broken in ways that the cardiologists won’t be able to fix…or even stabilize with medication. Her heart will be broken in ways that Mama can’t make go away no matter how hard she tries. And that scares me as much as the complications that can arise from complex CHD.

When you adopt a child, their pain becomes your pain. It’s no different than your biological children…but the relationship is. The bonds are harder to form…and easier to damage. It’s a battle establishing a good, solid relationship with them. And it’s a battle helping them overcome the baggage from their past. You can’t be a bystander…you have to be proactive. It takes hard work to get through the issues adoptive families face. It’s not easy meeting the needs of a child who has been hurt emotionally.

As an adoptive parent, you have to develop your own fighting stance.

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Tara Anderson

Tara Anderson began a journey of grace over 20 years ago when she walked the aisle of a little country church and gave her heart to Jesus. She is a stay-at-home mother of four, the youngest of whom was adopted through the China Waiting Child Program in November 2010. Not too long ago, Tara knew exactly who she was and exactly what she wanted out of life…but now she’s just trying to figure out who God intends her to be, and what He wants from her. You can get better acquainted with Tara on her personal blog, Following Our Leader.

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