Monthly Archives: April 2013

Nature versus Nurture

Sometimes as I rock Sunshine to bed at night, I think about her first mother.  I mostly grieve for all that she will not have the privilege of experiencing with our special girl.  I wonder what she is doing now and if she thinks of our daughter.  I wonder if she knows how loved Sunshine is and what a true blessing she is to our family.  I wonder if she knows how honored I am to be her mama.  I wonder if she is curious about her personality, and the cool little person she is growing into.

living out his love

A few nights ago as we rocked and I was singing You Are My Sunshine, Sunshine started singing along.  She’s been singing with me off-and-on for several months now, and it is just the sweetest thing a mama could hear from her speech-delayed baby!  But it got me wondering about her first mother a little bit more.  Did she like to sing?  Does Sunshine sing along with me because her first mother was musically inclined?  Or is it simply because I’ve been singing to her for almost two years?  Is Sunshine’s feisty, sugar and spice personality a product of her environment or is her first mother the same way?  Is she silly because she learned from her older brother or was her first mother also silly?  Do they have the same desire to help others?  The same keep-trying-till-I-get-it attitude?  Are they both observant and careful or did Sunshine learn to be that way because of her life experiences?  Is Sunshine loving and affectionate and sweet because we love her in a similar way?  Or is it because her first mother was sweet and loving and caring as well?  Maybe it’s nature.  Maybe it’s nurture.  I can’t help but wonder what parts of her personality were decided while still in her first mother’s belly.  It’s a part of my daughter’s history that I just don’t know, and is unfortunately unknown in many adoptions.

Oftentimes, I take it for granted that Sunshine just is who she is.  I don’t think about the parts of her that her first mother gave her.  She is just “Sunshine” to me on most days.  There are sometimes when I see her do something that I know, without a doubt, she learned from our family … things she does that have her big brother or big sister written all over them.  It’s undeniable.  “Oh, she got that from Lovebug,” I can easily say.  But I just don’t know about many of the other traits.  I’ll probably never have answers to these questions, but it doesn’t stop me from wondering.  And it shouldn’t stop me from celebrating what may have come from her first mother.  Even though I may not know the exact traits that she gave Sunshine, they are no less important.  And I love her first mother for giving them to her.  Sunshine is growing into a miraculous, inspiring little girl partly because of “nature” and partly because of “nurture.”  What a beautiful thing that is to witness.

 

Nicole

Nicole

Nicole is a child of God and a wife to an amazing man.  She is a classical homeschooling mama to three (two homegrown, one who came to them through the beautiful gift of international adoption).  She is also a part-time newborn photographer, founder and adoption photographer at Red Thread Sessions, a contributing blogger at No Hands But Ours and an advocate of orphan care and adoption. She loves to blog and learn new things.  She strives to live her life to glorify our Heavenly Father. With His love, all things are possible.

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Through the Eyes of a Traumatized Child

If you’ve ever been in a car accident or other traumatic event, you know that for a while your blood pressure goes up every time you experience something that triggers those memories.  These reactions (and even memories) are largely subconscious.  How your body responds is a survival technique.

For better or worse, our brains are wired to survive.  Without much thought from us, they will produce automatic behaviors that are protective.

Kids who have not had a secure, safe place (emotionally or physically) in which to grow and learn, develop behaviors that are for one thing…survival.

The part of the brain that dictates survival is different than the part of the brain that thinks logically and rationally.

Are you connecting the dots?

This means that kids from hard places have little to no experience using the part of their brain that thinks rationally.  They are too busy trying to survive.

What does this look like?

In our house, it means every “No, you may not” and “Please wait a minute” is translated by our children as a threat to their survival.  Those negative responses from people prove to them that people are not to be trusted at any cost.  If they sense someone getting too close, they will behave in such a way to sabotage the relationship.  They can’t rationalize that an activity may not be safe or emphathize that others may have a need ahead of them.

It means every raised voice (whether in play or anger) causes high anxiety and fear that their very life may be in jeopardy.  In the unlikely case their rational brain was engaged, they immediately switch to the part that will guarantee survival.  Some kids flee, some freeze, some fight.  None think.  In these moments, their behavior is as instinctual as blinking.  They have no control over it.

Logic-based, high-reasoning consequences? Completely out of the question.  Any consequence is viewed as an attack.  It is never connected to their behavior.

In some incidences, they truly do not remember the behavior (even if it happened just moments ago) since it happened in such a high state of stress.  It’s kind of how our brain blocks out pain.  I know I don’t remember much about my experiences going through unmedicated labor and delivery.

As we’ve traveled through weeks of sinking or swimming (mostly sinking) through behavior, we’ve been clinging to Dr. Purvis’ observation that “angry kids are sad and kids that look crazy are scared.”  Putting into perspective what our kids have internalized and how it’s leaking out in behavior and examining how our reactions can either diffuse or escalate their behavior is keeping our heads barely above water.  We sink often.  We’re mentally and emotionally exhausted.

That reminds me; please excuse the unedited, haphazard rambling posts such as this one.

I know it may sound like we’re making excuses for our kids.  We’re not.  We’d be the first ones on the bandwagon if we knew traditional parenting techniques worked on kids from hard places.  We actually keep trying to jump on that bandwagon only to find ourselves banging our proverbial heads against a wall as our situation deteriorates in front of our very eyes.  I won’t lie.  I want a much quicker fix for their behavior.  You know the kind that includes lost privileges, timeouts, and extra chores.  This whole heal the root cause, instead of slapping a band aid on a gaping wound thing, is not for the faint of heart.

If you’re in our shoes (or similar ones), don’t ever let anyone tell you that trust-based parenting is the easy way out or lets the kids off the hook.

If you’re on the outside looking in, don’t judge us based on our children’s behavior or how we handle it.  I’d ask you to try to see the world through their eyes, but I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy.

________________________________

Melissa Corkum

Melissa Corkum

Melissa, who was adopted from Korea as an infant, have two biological children, a son adopted at age 2 1/2 from Korea, and 3 big kids from Ethiopia (adopted at 12 to 14 years of age). She residse in Maryland where they started a ministry called The Grafted. The Grafted exists to help the local Body of Christ connect to information, resources, and organizations in order to develop a compassionate culture that cares for orphans, vulnerable children, and widows. 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.

 

 

Cherry Hope Springs Here

cherry-blossomI cried when I realized the tree we bought for our front yard was a weeping fruitless cherry tree. Of course I had picked a tree just like me, fruitless and weeping as my husband and I struggled with infertility. We had chosen that tree to plant in our front yard to celebrate the close of escrow of the house we now could say we “owned”. Each day, as I watered it by hand, I saw lacy pink blossoms pop from the tree’s seemingly lifeless twigs. Beautiful but barren, I wondered, with inconsolable longing.

Then, weeks later, I discovered a tiny package of promise – sent just for me. As I examined the fading blossoms of my little cherry tree, something new caught my eyes. From a single shriveled blossom, grew a tiny green lump like a pea….or…was it a cherry?! I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I cried out with amazement and a strange new hope hovered inside me. How could it be? What could it mean? Could a fruitless tree really grow a cherry? What could God be telling me through this?! In the crossroads of despair and hope, I chose to embrace hope. I laughed, I cried some more, then I called my husband at work and told him through my tears. He loved me enough to agree with me that it must indeed be a sign of hope from God!

Every morning that followed that summer, I tiptoed barefoot through the muddy grass to our tree, to look at my little cherry. Day after day the cherry grew bigger and bigger. Later, it began to ripen and turn red, and I delighted in this visible sign of fertility and life. With fresh hope I began to believe it must be a sign I would someday have a baby to love. I couldn’t stop looking at that cherry for the joy it gave me was like nothing else before. Only God would have known what that small miracle of life on a simple fruitless tree would mean to me.

Even though it was the only cherry ever to grow on our tree, my hope persevered whenever I remembered it. After 2 more years of active waiting and praying, at last God answered our hearts’ desire by grafting life into our barren family tree through the gift of adoption. It was the moment I had waited for all my life!

As I held our beautiful infant daughter close in my arms I showed her the miracle tree that had renewed my hope 2 years earlier. I thought of the tears I had cried, and of all my days of despair, and I marveled in the miracle of God’s gift of life to us. It wasn’t the timing or the way I had imagined we would become a family, but it happened exactly the way God knew we would appreciate best.

With a single cherry, God brought refreshment and promise back into my heartsick spirit, and in His perfect timing, brought the gift of our precious daughter, and eventually, the treasure of our son, to the branches of our waiting arms.

It is hard to believe twenty years have passed since that cherry of hope lifted my heart. Our home buzzes with the busy lives of our highschool senior daughter and third grade son, and I am grateful beyond words for the gifts of our children, and for their beautiful birth families. God truly answered the desires of my heart, beyond my wildest dreams. And it’s my time to pray for others.

Today, our cherry tree’s branches are once again bare and scraggly, dormant in winter. I think of those I know for whom this season is filled with the heartbreak of infertility: the hollow longing for children to love. But I am convinced that hope, like spring is just around the corner. And this year, as I watch for signs of life on our tree, as I’ve done every year for two decades, I will pray God restores hope anew with the gift of a cherry on a fruitless branch in someone else’s yard. May God’s hope be yours this year. Truly, all things are possible with God. (Mark 10:27)

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life.” (Proverbs 13:12).

_____________________________

Colleen D. C. Marquez

Colleen D. C. Marquez

After many years of infertility, Colleen and her husband Mickey are the grateful parents of two beautiful children aged 18 and 9 given to them by God through the loving arms of their birthparents. They live in the Bay Area, California. Colleen’s first children’s book, A Gift for Little Tree – a parable about apples, adoption, and love hopefully will be published in Fall 2013 if it gets the funding needed via the Kickstarter campaign that ends in May!

Escape From the Prison of How and Why

jail bars
All day long I have little voices constantly asking me questions. “Mommy, why can’t I have another piece of candy? When are we going roller skating? Can my friend come over and play? Why do I have to clean my room EVERY day? Where’s my planner? What’s for dinner? When can I get a brother? And WHEN IS DADDY COMING HOME????”

Don’t you ever wonder if God doesn’t just feel as exasperated as I do when the questions come firing at me one after the other? I know that there are many days I must sound just like my children, asking God why and when and how over and over again. Man, do we ever want answers!!

In the book “Glorious Ruin”, Tullian Tchividjian says “Our hope is not ‘Jesus plus an explanation of why suffering happens’ or ‘Jesus plus an explanation about why you have this job, that spouse, those circumstances or this pain’. Our hope is that God is especially present in our suffering.” Our hope is Jesus. Not Jesus plus an explanation.

Ouch. I confess, sometimes I just want the explanation.

And if I can just be frank, the Church in general (myself included) stinks at not wanting to give an explanation for everything. We think that life should be neat and tidy, just like God. But guess what? I don’t think God is neat and tidy. I think God is a beautiful mystery who is often experienced most closely and intimately in times of suffering and anguish. I believe strongly that our inability to simply sit alongside a suffering brother or sister, in love, without offering explanations is hurting us. It perpetuates the feeling that those who are in a “dark night of the soul” so to speak, simply need to believe more for answers so that they can get out of the darkness and fast. There is no room for struggle or sorrow or pain. And that is so unfortunate, because it can be precisely through that darkness that God ushers in the deepest revelations of who He is.

“There’s a tempting notion that if we only grasped God’s will more clearly; if we only knew something we don’t know now, our wounds would hurt less. But the Gospel is not ultimately a defense from pain and suffering; rather, it is the message of God’s rescue through pain. It allows us to drop our defenses, to escape not from pain, but from the prison of how and why to the freedom of Who.”

I think when we see “Who”, that ultimately every other question we have either gets answered or fades away in the light of God. We find Him to be sufficient.

And let’s not mistake darkness or the wilderness times for things to be hurried through. As much as we may very well want to get the heck out of there, God has something for us in that space that we might not otherwise find. I think about the stupid, beautiful Israelites in the book of Exodus, who were rescued from slavery, then wandered in the desert for forty years, wavering in unbelief despite the miraculous hand of God and His presence with them. When they entered the Promised Land finally, they were a people marked by suffering AND rescue. I have to believe that God was shaping them during those years – that they walked into the Promised Land a people of deeper faith and character. And so shall we, friends. So shall we.

It’s not answers we need. It’s Presence. So, may we seek the “Who” and not the how or why. And may we be faithful to point each other to the One who rescues through pain and reveals Himself even in the darkness.

_____________________________

Amy Savage

Amy Savage

Amy is a business owner and adoptive mommy whose heart has been broken and expanded by loving orphans in Ethiopia.  She blogs at Love the Least of These because there is power and transformation in sharing our stories with each other.  She and her husband, Ben, and their three children make their home in Colorado Springs where Ben works in orphan advocacy for Children’s HopeChest.

Questions of men. Answers of Him.

The Word is eternal and it is true.
And it tells us that these, days, and us, men, are like grass.
We are here today and gone tomorrow.
But, oh, how we often live as if that is not true.
And how we fill our heads and hearts with doubts, fears, and questions.
As if this was our home and our destination.
As if there was not Glory waiting on the other side.
Surely, I have seen my own tendency towards these thoughts.

Jessica Cooksey 2

September 18, 2011 is our oldest son, Adam’s birthday.
It came unexpected, to us.
Husband and I were playing badminton on that muggy hot Indian evening.
We did not know of the baby that was being born in our rural hospital.
That precious baby, whose unformed body had been created by a good God.
But, whose unformed body, puzzled us, mankind.
Our precious Adam entered the world without eyelids, a severe cleft lip and palate, a partly absent nose, and severe webbing of the legs.
There are diagnoses for these things.
And his is “Bartsocas Papas Popliteal Pterygium Syndrome”.
It is a bit overwhelming, is it not?
And if you really look into it, you will see it is often referred to as the
“Lethal Pterygium Syndrome”

When husband, a doctor, and I, a nurse, read those words, we grasped the severity.
Maybe you do too.

But, we also read something else alongside this diagnosis.
We read from the Word, Living
He said “Your eyes saw my unformed body, every day was ordained for me before one of them came to be”.
The psalmist, David, scribed those words.
So if the Creator’s eyes sees unformed bodies and brings them into this world with breath in their lungs, then He created this Adam for a purpose.
His first days were heavy, but a silver lining revealed a Hope unseen.
An adoption story that would move mountains.

For this husband and this wife, they had already been adopted.
Into an eternal family.
They knew that they were more like Adam than people realized.
Spiritually, they had been Adam.
They, too, had once been deformed, orphaned, and destined for death.
But a Holy Blood was spilt on their behalf.
And a Holy God became flesh and dwelt among them.
And gave Himself for them.
So they could no longer be orphans, but children of this God.

So, if this adoption was true of that husband and wife
And if they were called to be His ambassadors on this earth
How could they deny this abandoned, unformed child and his need for a family?

They could not.
His Spirit compelled them and empowered them.

But, I, that wife, had one question.
“How can I raise a dying child?”
“Could I knowingly raise a child with such a diagnosis?”
I did not know that I could.
But His still small voice pierced those depths of my heart.
“Jessica, you TOO, are dying”
“Raja, your beloved, is dying”
Yes, our Spirit’s will live. But this body, it is fading.
“Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day”
After all, didn’t Solomon tell us…
“All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the Word of the Lord stands forever”
Yes, we are eternal beings. That I know. And in that I rejoice.
The idea that we are all dying is not some fatalistic idea.
Each year that passes, I see changes in my own body. We age and no man knows if he is guaranteed tomorrow.

Did I choose to not marry Raja because one day he may die before me?
No.
Do I love him or any of my family and friends less because of unavoidable death?
No.
I love them deeply in this moment.
Then why should I question loving, adopting, and caring for this precious boy because a diagnosis speaks of a shorter life?
There is no answer.
And one day, when other children enter our family, I should not look at them in a different way.
For their future, too, is uncertain.
I love each of them, my husband, and all my loved ones with love from Heaven. Love one day at a time.
We do not know what tomorrow holds. I know this moment. I know Jesus. I know what love is. I know His word.
And, after all, “the word of the Lord endures forever”.
Flesh fades like grass, but the Word endures.
The Word will give me the strength I need to love Adam.
No matter what tomorrow holds.

So, he became ours.
And this unnamed baby was named Adam.
And the one seen as a curse was a now a blessing to countless thousands.
And he was no longer alone but known by many.
And he is our son.

Jessica Cooksey 3

Many of my questions ended there.
His Word silenced my fearful heart.
But their questions?
From others you look and see…
They do not stop.
They come daily and it can unnerve me.
And it can bring up anger in me.
But He is teaching me grace in those moments.

And He uses the stories of others to remind me.
I am not alone.
We are not alone.
Adam is not alone.

Like this story.
It is incredible.
It is about a boy and a girl.
Headed for marriage.
He gets a brain injury from a car accident.
She still marries him.
And they say “it all works for good”
That verse Paul scribed in Romans 8.28.

That same verse has pulsed life through our veins many days since September 18, 2011.

There are really not words to share to capture the Glory in their story.
Just watch.

They have a blog.
And I was reading an entry from September 2012.
It was titled “What If”.
The husband and wife are talking:

wife: “Ian, if the role were reversed and I had the tbi, would you still be with me?”

husband: “yes”

wife: “why?”

husband: “because you’re more than a brain.”

And it resonates so much in this heart of mine.
And it makes such sense.
So the more people ask me,
“Why did you adopt Adam?”
“Why did you save this child?”
And when they bring up future issues that, though we consider, are not relevant or important to Adam being Adam,
I have a new answer.

“Because a baby is more than eyelids”.

“Because a person is more than fingers”.

“Because a life is more than a nose”.

“Because a baby is more than full legs”.

And when that fails, the Word LIVING is there.

His eyes saw our “unformed body”
and
“What God calls clean, do not call common”

So my heart’s “how’s” and their “why’s” are answered in Him.
We are temporary bodies, with eternal purposes.
Not just the medically fragile.
But each and every one of us are temporary.
And we are more than perfect bodies.
So much more.

He became flesh to be among the likes of us.
To adopt us thru His Holy Blood.
So these weary, broken, unformed bodies.
Can one day join Him in glory.

_____________________________

Jessica Cooksey 1Jessica Paulraj loves to see the Light known and made much of. Bred
and reared on Florida shores, she now lives in north India with her
adventurous husband, Raja, who is a Psychiatrist. She was teaching
nursing in India when her son, Adam, entered their life through the
glorious ransom of adoption. Adam’s younger brother, Elliot, was born
this past September through the beautiful miracle of childbirth, and
these brothers are quite the force to behold, keeping Jessica busy all
the day long. Jessica is convinced that a steaming cup of spicy chai
is remedy for any peril a day may bring and she loves exploring by
bicycle. You can read more about her life with these boys and her
longings to see the Light pierce darkness at We: Unformed.

Share your story {joy}

It’s hard. That’s no surprise. Afterall, there’s brokenness before an adoption ever begins. And, where there is brokenness, there is pain and grief and loss and questions and heartache. In the bloggy world, we read a lot about that stuff. Perhaps when faced with the brokenness, we’re moved to write. But, here’s the thing, there’s a lot of beauty too. There’s redemption, healing, laughter, and utter joy. ‘Cause that’s what our God is about afterall—grace upon grace and redemptive stories.

Today, we’re going to take a little time out of what can be the overwhelming part of adoption to share what could be the overwhelming part of adoption—joy.

Share your link here to a post from your blog that shares the joy of adoption. Then, go share in some others’ joy. Make sure you go check out a few of the other posts here too. I have a feeling that joy is a little bit contagious.


What Else Would You Rather Be Doing?

Complaining
Sometimes a mom just has to have a good complaining session, you know what I mean? Well, at least I know I do. It’s never fruitful or helpful to let the session last too long, but sometimes I just have to “get it out.” I remember driving my big extended 12 passenger van one day fully engaged in one of these “sessions.” I was concerned about multiple issues with our children, all of which were either rooted in adoption issues or were exacerbated by them. At that point all seven of our children were living at home and in school, and I remember feeling simply overwhelmed by all the needs. So, I’m driving the van, painfully aware of all that was not right in our family, and completely unaware at the moment of all that was good! And that led me to thinking how I just wished I could just go away– by myself! Anyone else “out there” know that feeling?
The “I’m DONE!” feeling?

The Lord’s Response
I’m sharing this with you because I’ll always remember that particular complaining session. I remember because of the Lord’s response to me. How kind of Him to listen to my complaints that I had not even turned into prayers. He asked me one simple question. I find that He has a way of doing that– of asking a question instead of giving an answer. And somehow the question, coming from Him, releases the freedom I so desire and so need to move forward.
(You’d think an answer is what we need, but somehow the answer with all its multifaceted beauty is tucked into the folds of the question. I think God enjoys my process of discovery! Proverbs 25:2 says that “It is God’s privilege to conceal things and the king’s privilege to discover them.”)

So in the midst of my complaining He asked me this:
“What would you rather be doing?”

As I am typing this I find my eyes stinging with tears once again at His kindness to me in that one question. For hidden within that simple question were great depths of His love, both for me and for my children.

A Work of Powerful Love
Adoption is a beautiful thing. Not the kind of beauty that is soft and gentle, butterflies and bunnies. Its beauty is rugged and powerful and sometimes even frightening in it’s scope. What a glorious thing to be a part of! What a privilege to co-labor with the God of the Universe as He pours out His love on these children. Indeed, what would I rather be doing?! To be an intimate player in a work of eternal significance is too lofty a thing. And yet, God has called me and many of you reading right now to partner with Him in the miraculous transformation of an orphan into a true son or daughter. That He would condescend to allow me to partner with Him, that He would call my name to join Him in His eternal purposes and will– I am overwhelmed at such an invitation.

A Work of Rebuilding and Restoring Love
Adoption is a beautiful thing. It is the work of rebuilding and raising up, of repair and restoration. It is the very work that Jesus gave His life to make available to us. Again, what else would I rather be doing? To have the awesome and deeply humbling opportunity to participate in putting an end to what are often generations of destructive living, resulting in great pain and disfunction, and to then be a part of the restoration work made available through God’s love found in Jesus. For many of our children (certainly not all adopted and foster children fit in this description, but most it seems) there are generations of ancient ruins and age-old foundations that God wants to rebuild, and many whose inheritance apart from adoption is not one of wholeness and abundant life. How amazing is it that we can be a part of the giving and receiving of a new inheritance, of a complete legacy shift, so that future generations no longer inherit abandonment, rejection, survival and pain. To see our children embrace love and then have the freedom to give love, to see them learn to enjoy life and to make plans for their future with excited anticipation– this is just incredible! Oh what a shift adoption is making in the trajectory of a generational line. Is this not amazing to be a part of?! It is the gospel at work and it is powerful and oh so good!!

The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings. (Isaiah 58:11-12)

A Work of Intense Love
Adoption is a beautiful thing. What other occupation would I prefer? Yes it is a work that is difficult and sometimes overwhelming. And I am thankful for the trend in the adoption community to share some of the harsher realities of adoption. Indeed, it is necessary that we not “sugar coat” the more intense nature of this beautiful occupation. But I also see that in the authentic sharing we can sometimes lose sight of what it is we are actually doing.

Gotcha Day for the Templetons
For it is a beautiful thing to be a part of. And I don’t mean just those amazing moments when you your child comes home for the first time and there is great celebration and joy, or when your child calls you mommy or daddy for the first time, or when she seeks you out for comfort rather than retreating into herself, or when he pats your cheek and tells you he loves you more than anyone in the world, or even when she thanks you for adopting her. I also mean those tough and sometime cutting moments when she says she wishes she never was adopted, or that you aren’t his “real” mother, or when she goes into a violent rage causing the whole family to retreat from the pain of it all, or when he shuts you out, unable to accept your love. All of these scenarios are beautiful I believe. Beautiful because it is for these situations, both the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ that God brought our children into our homes.

Dear friends, if you are in a difficult season with your child think of this– was it not for this very situation you are dealing with that God Himself brought your daughter or son into your family? Did He not look ahead into time when He saw the plight of your child and say to Himself, “where can I find a safe place for this precious child to live so that I can go about my work of restoration and rebuilding? It will be a costly work, and it will be years in the doing. Who can I trust with the messiness of such a work? Where is a safe place where I can pour out my healing love and where this sometimes trying work can be accomplished?” He looked to His people and saw you and me. He saw His servants who know how, when sun-scorched and weak, to enjoy the “spring that never fails.”

A Work of Enduring Love
Adoption is a beautiful thing. For in it we participate in God’s enduring love. The scriptures are full of this phrase, “His love endures forever.” There is a story being told in the kingdom; it is the story of this enduring love. And you and I have been invited to enter in to the story. We have been given the shocking honor to participate in the kind of love that is solid, immovable and patient. Not our love– for those adjectives don’t describe the quality of my love! No, this is the story of God’s love that I get to enjoy and share.
To endure is to hold out against, to sustain with out yielding, to last, to bear with patience. It is lasting and it is permanent. What else would I rather being doing with my life than to join into the telling of this love story?! What price is too great for the opportunity day after day to participate and co-labor with enduring love?!

So, when I get started in one of my complaining sessions it is best for me to step back and ask myself the question that sets me free from whatever disappointment and discouragement is in the now–
For indeed, What else would I rather be doing?

Oh Lord God, nothing else. Thank you for allowing me to walk alongside my child and to be a well-watered garden, a source of life. Teach me how to receive the sustenance You are for me when I feel sun-scorched and weary. What an honor it is, Father, to be allowed a role in this amazing story of restoration. And thank you that you are busy doing a work of enduring love in me as well. So, Father, I invite you to keep telling your story of enduring love in my home, in my life, in my family, in my heart. For it is true Lord, adoption is a beautiful thing.

____________________________

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. Stephen and Beth serve as leaders in their local church. Beth leads a ministry called Hope at Home, dedicated to help adoptive and foster parents encounter the Father’s heart for their families, partnering with God to transform orphans into sons and daughters. For more parenting insight and encouragement in the Lord go to the Hope at Home blog.

trust in the take-off

that moment on the runway.  that moment when the plane begins to pick up speed and the passengers begin to hold on tight.  when the flight attendants buckle in and the engine cranks up. when the cabin lights dim and the babies grow quiet.  that moment when hearts flutter and stomachs drop. that moment.

you can’t tell me you don’t feel it too.  we all do.  even the seasoned flyers feel a little bit of something as the plane moves from the solid comfort of ground to the mystery of unknown air.

i don’t know about you, but i pray.

my guess is that you probably pray a bit too.  even people not prone to praying, probably pray–at least a little.

in the past month i’ve flown with emily to texas for college visits, i’ve flown alone to georgia for a women’s retreat and i just flew with the five kids to birmingham for a week at the beach.  (no beaches in birmingham. we flew in, visited another college and then drove 5 hours to florida).  that’s six airplane trips.  if you count the two extra connecting flights, i’ve experienced that “take-off” moment 8 times this past month.

and i’ve prayed each time.

granted, this past trip to the beach i had bella sitting next to me singing the little einstein’s theme song.  “we’re going on a trip in our favorite rocket ship…”  but still, i prayed. she sang.  i prayed.

and friday night when we were taking off one more time and i was praying one more time, i thought about how good it is for us to have those “take-off” moments every once in awhile.  it is good to be at that point where we are a little unsure, a little out of control, a little on the edge of our seats.   it might not be fun, but it is good to teeter a bit between the solid and the mystery.

there’s a humility which comes when we cannot control.

there’s a hush which occurs when we have to be still.

there’s a holding-on which happens when we feel the shake and rattle and thrust.

and it’s good for us.

my mother does not fly.  end of story.  well, sort of end of story.  she doesn’t like the take-off moment.  she doesn’t like a loss of control.  i can’t say that i blame her.  in fact, i’m pretty sure there’s no person who would stand up and claim that as a favorite feeling.  it’s probably a universal most unpopular moment. but still…it is a necessary inconvenience when we want to go places, get somewhere.   i’ve pushed my mom on the subject a few times.  my siblings and i all live spread across the country.  flying would be an easier, quicker way to travel we tell her.  it makes sense to me, so i’ve badgered her about it.  we even got her on a flight several years ago.  my dad would tell you, it wasn’t worth it.  it might have been quicker, but it certainly wasn’t easier.  not for him and definitely not for the stranger sitting on the other side of my mother.

but this take-off moment doesn’t just happen on airplanes, does it?  we have them in life. times when we are leaving behind something solid and heading out into something unknown.  we don’t know how it is going to work.  we don’t know how it is going to happen.  flight seems improbable. impossible. inconceivable.  a part of us wants to put on the breaks and turn right around.  i get it.  i have felt that way a lot in life — especially in these past few years.

you see, i might fly on airplanes, but really, i am a lot like my mother.  i, too, don’t like the loss of control.  i want to be in charge of my own vessel.  i want to hold the wheel.  i want to have my foot on the break. i want to set my course and navigate my skies. i want to be in charge — of everything.  call it evidence of my birth order. call it my teacher training mentality. call it my type A personality.  call it whatever you want, but i’ll call it what it is:  my sinful nature.  i want control.  i like to be in charge. remember eve in the garden?  yep, her too.  she didn’t want the apple.  she wasn’t hungry for food, she was hungry for control.  i get eve. i have no doubt if that slimy serpent had been whispering words of pride into my willing ear, i would have eaten them up too.

this need for control might make me a good executor of details, a good party planner or trip coordinator,  but it doesn’t make me a good follower of Jesus.  it is the thing i have to work on — a lot.  in fact, i am certain it is why He set us into the middle of an arduous adoption journey. it is why He took us through a medical crisis.  it is why He moved us 1000 miles away from home.  it is probably why He gave me 5 children.  these things have created take-off moments for me — for my family.  they have kept us not only on the edge of our seats, they have kept us on our knees.

and that’s the place i need to be.  on my knees.

not just when the airplane lifts off, but each day.  every day.  always.  unfortunately for some of us, we need to be a little unsure and a little unsteady in order to be a little more aware of our desperate need for Him.  what happens when the airplane dips? what happens when it shutters and shakes?  what happens when the captain announces an emergency landing?  the prayers pick up.  the “our Father who art in heavens” become loud and clear and compelling.  i am astounded at how quickly i can move into an attitude of self-reliance when things are going smoothly.   time after time, God whispers in my ear, “get ready, jody…here we go.”  and i have to hold on.

and maybe this loss of control is a hard thing at first,  but i have to admit, when i’m up in the sky and looking at the plane having to land on a narrow runway below, i am really, really glad someone else is in charge.  because the truth is, i couldn’t do it.  i couldn’t safely land the couple hundred passengers and i couldn’t safely land myself.  i’d fearfully end up wandering around in a cloud somewhere until i ran out of gas.

we always run out of gas when we try to take control.

i’m not sure what has you on the edge of your seat right now. most of us have something.   but i want you to know this place of teetering can bring you to the point of trusting. let it.  true flight takes place when we move from the edge of our seats to the center of His will.

oh friend, don’t be afraid to fall.

on our knees.

and into his arms.

He has you.  He has me.  He has us.

 ________________________________________

jody mcnatt

jody: daughter of the King. wife to a saint. mother of five. lover of orphans. survivor of cancer. doer of laundry. pursuer of beauty. . .  you can follow her story at even the sparrow . . .

God doesn’t see borders

Commonly asked questions that seem to be popping up more and more are these:

Why international adoption when there are many children here in the U.S. who need to be taken care of?

or

What makes it so special to adopt kids outside of the U.S. when we have kids that need adopting here?

or

Why are so many people so concerned about kids from other countries and not our own? Shouldn’t we be focusing on our own problems?

I would like to take a stab at responding/answering this question as an adoptive parent. An international Adoptive parent at that. Sometimes these questions can come across offensive as an adoptive parent and a defense tends to rise up in us. My intention and my voice behind this response is not that of a defensive tone nor does it come from an offended heart. It comes with Love and understanding of questions such as these. Questions that need not be ignored or over looked. They are very valid and important questions.

First I don’t think that adopting a child from another country makes it more “special”. It makes it hard, more time consuming, expensive, and risky, but I wouldn’t say “special”. Adoption in and of it’s self is a blessing and is very special. Regardless of geography.

I love what my husband recently said in response to one of these questions:

The reason families adopt beyond the U.S. borders can be for a number of reasons. One of the primary reasons is need. In the U.S. at any given time there are roughly 500,000 children displaced from their home and within the foster care system. Of this 500,000 only roughly 80,000 – 100,000 are actually “adoptable”. There are roughly 2 million families in the U.S. today looking to adopt a child within the U.S. This means that many families are on a waiting list. This also means that if you are a healthy and young child in the U.S. (and not part of a large sibling group) you will be adopted without delay.

In Ethiopia, where our daughter Emerson is from, there are approximately 5 Million orphans. According to the U.S Intercountry Adoption webpage, only 1732 were adopted into the U.S in 2011. This hardly makes a dent in the need. The statistics world wide for orphan care are overwhelming high.

I would certainly say that there’s not anything more or less special about adoptions within or outside of the U.S. They are both important and necessary in order to “care for the orphans” that God commands us to care for. (See James 1:27 in the Bible) God did not command us to just care for the orphans where we live specifically but all orphans in need.

God does not see borders; He only sees children. With this command, He calls some to care for the orphans here in the U.S. and calls others to care for the orphans in countries such as Ethiopia, Uganda, China, Ukraine, Liberia, Brazil, Haiti etc.

However, if you look closely there is a difference in the needs of children (orphans) outside of the U.S. vs. the ones within the borders of the U.S. In the third world you will find orphans dying everyday by the thousands from lack of basics needs that are met here in the U.S. by the government and/or foster programs.

Examples:

  • Shelter
  • An Abundance of food
  • Access to free Medical Care
  • Clean Water
  • Education

And so on…
Children in the third world do not get these things.

I was recently reading a string of comments on a local news page on Facebook concerning International vs. Domestic adoption. I felt sad and drained after reading through some of the things people say about families who adopt internationally. I came to the result that most people don’t really know what they are talking about. People just need to be informed and educated and made aware. People need to understand the different needs and where exactly the needs are and how to meet those needs. And it’s up to us adoptive parents to love and educate those that just don’t know.

There are thousands of resources out there concerning adoptions both international and domestic. If you have questions on either I want to encourage you to look into it your self and find answers or helpful articles to understand each process.

Ultimately we all need to be praying about what our roll looks like in the relieving the world wide orphan and poverty crisis. Instead of pointing fingers and saying mean things to each other we need to love, encourage and help one another out. I was once asked “Why are you spending thousands to adopt from Ethiopia when there are orphans in your city’s foster care program? Why not take care of your own first. “My response was simply “How many foster children do you have? How many children have you adopted?” For us, we felt called by God to adopt from Ethiopia. God calls some there, God calls some here and God calls some to both. God’s ways are great.

God doesn’t see borders,; He sees children. And he is faithful in setting the lonely in homes. He cares for the orphans, He sees them in their distress and he deploys families from all races, economical positions and countries to care for them and to meet their needs. How is God calling you to play a roll in His story of redemption?

 ________________________________________

Jenna Knight

I am Jenna, and I blog over at Day of Knight, a place where you will find little tidbits of our story through parenting, missions, adoption and just our normal ole life. I have been married to my best friend Phillip for 7 and half years. Together, we raise our pretty awesome and completely adorable children Parker (7), Beckham (4) and Emerson (4). I am a wanna-be vegan with a side of crispy bacon. I part-time homeschool my 7 year old, and it is really hard. I am crazy about Africa and mission work. The saying “I need Africa more then Africa needs me” is completely true in my book. I am passionate about adoption and orphan care, and I also have a love for all things fair-trade. Together, the 5 of us strive to live this life to the fullest and chase wildly after God’s own heart.

Adoption Perspective…Fears and Transitions

I wanted to share about one thing I learned in helping our kids transition into our care… and how fear plays a part in those transitions. And as part of my theme for this blog is “perspective” I want to share how I experienced a huge perspective change in the reality and nature of fear.

I wrote about all the ways I tried to help our big boy transition into our care… and really I think we did a knock out job of helping him feel safe, secure and that we love him and he could trust us. In some ways, his transition was far more easy for me to understand and feel compassion for than it was for me to understand with Thea. I think I saw the physical fear in his face and eyes when I met him. He really did wonderful and had very little problems adjusting to us and our new role in his life.

That brings me to where fear took hold of me. We were always really uncertain if adding 2 new kids was a “good idea”… it was a subject of months of weighing and wrestling with… there were so many up sides for our kids (the new ones), a few downsides, and we knew a bigger and heavier commitment and responsibility on our shoulders and parents. Then there was always the thought, “What if we get a child that needs more than we are able (or feel capable) of giving them?” It was not an easy choice. But at some point early last summer we realized that there was a series of events that had lead us to both of our kids, and we had tried to find other alternatives (particularly for our daughter) but all fell through nearly immediately. We were certain she was meant to be our daughter.

But, then again, after meeting our sweet girl in September I had a bunch of doubts all over again if we could be the kind of parents and family that *she* needed. It was as if all those fears and uncertainty returned to me with a vengeance. It was almost like drowning in fear! For one, I had gone home with a sweet little boy who really made our life easy… we enjoyed, for those 3+ weeks, a family-life that was almost simple. And I liked it. We knew that we’d most likely return for Thea in January… when we were ready and able to give her the time and attention we thought she would need… but then almost immediately we had another court date for her! I was immobilized in this fear that “I didn’t have what it took” to be a mom of 5 or to be her mom!

I was also worried about getting on the plane to go back because I thought that we’d lose our court date again, for legitimate reasons due to circumstances that were taking place in country at that time. I was so worried and not wanting to go back that Tim had to make a deal with me like you would an 8 year old going to camp, his “deal” was if after one week things had not worked out I could come home, and he had already booked that ticket so I knew he was telling the truth. I feared the unknown, all the hard things I had to do on my own and I felt completely unable to skillfully take care of the possible problems that I could potentially come up while I was there! Then there was Thea and all of the hard things we had dealt with when I had cared for her the first time.

Now I feel really silly about it all… silly, that I should have known God would work it all out and that this was never up to us, but on His timing and in His will!… but all I could feel was that overwhelming dread and fear!

But… the fear was real, even if the circumstances were just possibilities.

Walking through that fog of fear I some how found my way back to her and “just did the next thing” for about 5 days. After those days I realized that instead of a screaming terrified baby, I had a really sweet, and happy baby that wanted me… as her mom. All of the logistics and issues in court worked themselves out… perfectly. Amazingly. I was humbled.

For three days after that I felt like I had been hit by a truck… it might have been jet lag, a baby that was up a few times at night or something else, but I really just had to lay around and rest because I felt so depleted! I even worried that maybe I had gotten a “bug” or was beginning to get malaria… but I didn’t. I was just wiped out… I now think it was from all the stress and fear that I had surrounding me that week or two prior.

Fear is such a weird thing.

It is an emotion, but it has physical, mental and even the ability to change how you view people and circumstances. I physically felt different during that week, my stomach in constant knots, feeling hyper, unable to sleep and unable to relax and even slightly suspicious and paranoid.

I have never ever felt those things before in my life… or at least to that degree and in that overwhelming of a way! There were times I had to say, “Marci, this just doesn’t make sense what you are feeling! You need to think other thoughts…” and I would pray.

And you know, eventually, I realized that must be exactly how sweet Thea felt for sometime (if not much longer). When I realized that that is what she was going through I immediately felt so so broken at my inability to have understanding for her! I feel so glad I had that horrible week of fear just to understand how she must have felt too!

I understood her restlessness at night, her fits of screaming, her drowsiness all day long and her desire just to “shut off” and zone out. She was afraid! She was dreading the unknown, she felt suspicious and untrusting of me and others, she felt wiped out and even potentially sick feeling. And when we moved rooms it was highly scary and alarming to her because she didn’t know what that would mean for her!

Again, I am so so thankful that I went through that horrible week… it wasn’t the week that was really horrible, but my fear in the unknown of what that week might hold.

In one of the books that we read on adoption that seemed to have the most “sense” and logic to it, the author talks about how it is one of the most important tasks for parents of adopted kids to help them have “felt safety”, it isn’t that it is truly unsafe around them, but that they perceive more fear in situations, more insecurity and that our job is to help them understand and feel safe in our care!

That is what God did for me. While I was in the airport, half way there, I sort of had a breakdown… I just didn’t want to get on that last plane to UG… I wanted to run home! I was internally wrestling with God saying, “God, I want to go home! I know (because that was what fear was telling me) I will get to UG and be told the judge will not show up, I’ll wait for weeks all alone and I am not even sure we should be bringing Thea home… I am so afraid… I can’t do this on my own! Why does your Word not tell me what I should do?” I felt this voice say, “David… David was afraid… look to his words.”

I opened Psalm 1

“1 Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
2 but whose delight is in the law of the LORD,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers. judgment,
4 Not so the wicked!
They are like chaff
that the wind blows away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the
nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
6 For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.”
Every word was like cool water to me, it calmed me, gave me perspective and peace. Every day of my 26 day trip I read the next Psalm in order… every day it addressed the need or fear I had for that day! It was “felt safety” for me. It reminded me I have a Father who cares, provides, is trust-worthy and in control… and I need not fear.

The last verse I read on concluding my 26 day second trip was Psalm 26:12,
“My feet stand on level ground; in the great congregation I will praise the LORD.”

That is what our God does for us. He helps us overcome fears and to stand on the level ground of Him… so that we can give Him glory! That is also what we are to do for our kids.

How can we be that kind of parent for our kids?
Do we brush off their fears as silly or do we help address their fears as something real, but help them see the situation through that new perspective?

______________________________

Marci Miller

Marci Miller and her husband Tim live and work at a camp for socially and economically disadvantaged youth, many of whom are foster or former foster children. This is their 8th summer at CBX and their 11th summer in camp ministry.They currently have 5 children, ages 7, 6, 5, 4 and 2 years old. The 6 and 2 year olds came home through the miracle of adoption late in 2011. Marci blogs about their adventures in parenting, ministry, homeschooling and adoption at She Can Laugh

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