waiting child highlight: Judah urgent medical need

Judah, born October 2010, is a quiet child who is afraid of strangers, and likes to play with those he knows. He was found at two years old, he was thin, weak and could walk on his own. Once he got used to the new environment he could say many words, especially when he was happy. He likes to stand on his bed to entertain himself, although he can’t climb due to his health, and gets tired after walking a short distance. He can point out his body parts, scribble with a pen, and wipe his hands and mouth on a towel. He can understand instructions from adults, and will help pick up trash on the ground when asked. Judah is diagnosed with thalassemia, an update is needed to verify his transfusion status.

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There is a $4000 Promise Child grant available for families who qualify to assist with this adoption. Contact Lindsey at WACAP for more information on this darling boy.

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Read more about thalassemia here. For more information on beginning the adoption journey contact The Advocacy Team.

Sometimes Love Is War

She’s been clawing – literally, until I cut her fingernails – at my legs all day long. Whining and whimpering and the hours go so slow I sometimes wonder if the clock is moving at all. Cora entertains herself, like she does almost every day lately, and I squelch the feelings that I’m letting her down… that I’m not present enough for her… that I’m not putting together Pinterest-worthy craft projects to help her grow and learn and get ahead of the curve.

I stare at the dishes in the sink and the laundry in the hamper and the spilled juice on the floor. I vow to finish cleaning the kitchen even if I have to pry Alea off me 1,000 more times. I know the saying about letting the dishes pile and the laundry stay unfolded because babies don’t keep. Believe me, I feel guilt for this too. But I can’t breathe in a cluttered house and it seems like the only time she isn’t fussing is if I’m either holding her or not present to pick her up. I look at the clock again and calculate how many minutes are left until naptime. 3 hours. 180 minutes. It feels like the first time I’ve used my brain all day. The whining cuts through my thoughts again.

“Alea! You’re OK!” I bark the words, cringing at the harshness ringing the edges even as they come spilling out. Alea is unphased, and her fussing continues unabated, but Cora pipes up.

“Mama, be nice.”

“You’re right, I’m sorry. I just feel a little tired because Alea has been fussing all day long.” I sigh, feeling like a failure again. The critical voice inside pipes up, “Actually it’s been 4 months of fussing, but what does that matter… who speaks sharply to a baby who is going through the greatest trauma and transition of her life?!”

“Did you make a bad choice, Mama?”

“Yes, Cora, I made a bad choice. I need to use kind words, don’t I?”

“Yes Mama, but it’s ok. You can try again.”

I look at the clock. 175 minutes till naptime. I try again.

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I often find myself looking forward to a year down the road. When she’s not so frustrated by her lack of communication. When our heart bond is deeper and stronger and wider and we both have more grace for each other. When she feels more secure and doesn’t need to be held for 8 of the 10 hours a day she’s awake.

And, if I’m being honest, I often find myself looking backward, too… to our years in China when orphan care was more exotic and garnered more attention (Yes, I just said that. Yuck.) and seemed more meaningful because it was happening “on the ground” and with actual orphans. I remember those hot Beijing (pre-children) summer nights when Jacob and I would get on our little red scooter and explore the villages around our home, watching them harvest the wheat by hand and lay the corn down to dry on the road. I can still hear the cicadas thick in the trees, buzzing over the roar of the scooter’s engine. I’d listen to worship music on headphones and spread my arms wide and marvel at how I’d ended up in such a place at such a time. I can still feel the breeze.

But I pull myself back to the now and the here. The dishes and the unmoving clock and the two little girls at my feet. Here and now. I know it’s where I find my Emmanuel. He is with me now and here, even if it sometimes feels like nowhere. Even if the beautiful everyday more often feels like the boring mundane. I’m not sure how to be fully present in this season that I often find so tedious and draining and challenging. I’m not sure how to be fully available for these little girls who have been entrusted to me… but I know it is the task He has called me to for this season of life, and I trust that somehow He equips me every day for what He has called me to. I try again.

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The doorbell rings and the dog barks and Alea jumps out of her skin and starts screaming again. A woman stands at my door holding a package, and as she apprises the meltdown happening in my living room, she smiles and says, “No need to sign; I’ll just mark it as left on the porch.” I nod my thanks and balance the box on one hip and a baby on the other. Cora runs for her scissors and descends on the package, excited to see what it contains.

“Who’s it from, Mama?” she asks.

I glance at the address. “It’s from Sammy’s family.”

We get the box open and she begins pulling out packages of Chinese noodles and hot pot spice mix and bottles of Chinese cooking wine and black vinegar. There’s a note saying that Sammy and our friend Joy wanted to help us find some of the Chinese cooking ingredients that can be hard to locate in our small West Texas town. Cora finds a prettily wrapped package for herself, and I pull the card out. The handwriting is neat and precise. It’s from Sammy… I read the note and tears well and the words blur. He calls us his heroes and thanks us for the role we played in helping his family find him. As I read the last line, I don’t contain the tears anymore. “Without you guys there won’t be a Sammy S. in this world.”

And just like that, I hear His voice deep in my heart.

“Without your yes, there wouldn’t be an Alea M. in this world.”

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I don’t want Sammy to give us too much credit. God sets the lonely in families, not us. And I neither expect nor want Alea to “appreciate” the fact that we adopted her someday. She is my daughter, plain and simple. Children don’t owe parents a debt of gratitude for doing what parents are supposed to do. So please don’t misconstrue what I’m saying and think that the reason we adopted a child was an extension of our heart for “orphan care,” or that we’re looking forward to the day when Alea can express her thankfulness to us.

What I am saying is that this stage of grafting a child into your family… these early weeks and months when their worlds are still topsy-turvy and their hearts are still unwon… this stage is HARD AS HELL. Of course I think she is adorable and sweet and cute as can be, but rooting her deep into my mama heart is hard work. It feels more like pruning than growing at this point. And pruning hurts.

In my experience, the process of making an orphan your child doesn’t allow for much of a blissful baby-moon. It is part orphan-care, part baby-sitting, part mothering, part trauma-therapist, and ALL-consuming. When I hear people say things like, “Well I’d rather adopt a toddler than have a baby and have to do the newborn stage again,” I feel like screaming. This is so much harder than having a newborn! I’m in a fight for her heart, and to be honest, I’m in a fight for my own too.

But sometimes Love is War.

And I’m going to keep fighting to give Alea her rightful full place in my heart. I’m going to keep fighting to give her the chance for full healing and restoration and redemption that she deserves; it’s her birthright as a daughter of the King. I’m going to keep fighting until the dark shadows of her orphan spirit are gone and she is secure in her identity as my dearly loved daughter, Alea M.

Love is War and she is worth fighting for.

You may be in a battle, too. And if you’re like me, you often feel exhausted, hopeless and like you are drowning in triviality (and perhaps dishes, diapers, and disorder). But I think I have a plan. It’s impossibly simple, really. We try again. We don’t necessarily have to try harder – striving rarely gets us anywhere. But we do pick ourselves up, try again, and keep saying yes to love. And I don’t mean fluffy-feel-good, everything is beautiful love. I mean the hard stuff. The kind of love that dies to self and puts others first… And I’m the first to admit that sometimes the hardest “other” for me to put first is the little one clawing at my legs.

We keep saying yes to love. That’s how we win this war.

I see glimpses of the girl she will become… the woman she will be someday. I see the spark of life in her eyes, growing in trust and love and hope. But Alea is still becoming Alea, and she still needs me to say yes.

Without my yes, there would be no Alea McKean.

I’m going to keep saying yes. When I fail, I’m going to try again. I’m going to stay in the battle, because Love is War and she is worth fighting for.

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Who needs your yes? I’d love to hear from you. I’d love to pray for you as you keep saying yes. If you don’t mind, take a moment and fill in the blank. “Without my yes, there would be no _____.” Saying YES is hard, but I can pray for you and you can pray for me and maybe together we will feel more brave.

 

 

one-of-a-kind opportunity through Lifeline

From Lifeline:

Lifeline Children’s Services is excited to announce that we will be hosting twelve children from Kunming City, China as part of our first ever hosting program! The hosting program, “Southern Hospitality 2014”, will be held in Hattiesburg, MS on October 12-26, 2014.

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We are inviting families to join us in Hattiesburg to help us make “Southern Hospitality” a memorable experience for the children. The children, with ages ranging from six to thirteen years old, will be staying all together in one hosting home with translators and a representative from the orphanage. Families will be visiting with all of the children in the home, learning about them and their culture, and participating in activities throughout the week. Families will also have the opportunity to meet with a representative from the Kunming orphanage and interact with the Lifeline China team. As a part of the hosting program, the children will also be seen by a medical doctor associated with the International Adoption Clinic in Birmingham, AL.

Our goal in this endeavor is to shower these children with love, introduce them to the culture of the southern United States, and provide them with some unique experiences. This event is also an important element in our on-going development of our orphanage partnerships in China. Through our partnership orphanages we are able to serve the children of China, both adoptable and unadoptable, orphanage staff, directors, and government officials. We are grateful to be able to participate in an opportunity such as this one. Please join us in making this an unforgettable and life-changing experience for these precious children!

For more information, please visit our website HERE.

Fault Lines

It takes an earthquake to remind us that we walk on the crust 
of an unfinished earth. ~ Charles Kuralt

At some point in my heart, you became just our little girl. You moved from orphan with a file, to a longed for daughter, to newly adopted, to just a loved girl with an incredible, unfinished redemption story.

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But there was a time….

when your world looked monumentally different

when your infant eyes peered into the face of another mother

when your world cracked open, a giant fault line forming between what should have been and what was to be

when you were in the gut-wrenching epicenter of loss, the in-between: no mother, no home, no orphanage, no records, no plan

when you became an orphan in a building filled with orphans

when all you understood of love was a nanny’s care

when meals were tasks on a busy nanny’s list

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Then, mercifully, you were somewhere in-between again. On the other side of the world, our family saw your face and recognized you as our own. The label orphan was no longer yours to carry. You didn’t feel it, but your world was trembling again.

Then, there was a time…

when you went on living unaware in Chengdu, China, no idea that a room was being painted pink, papers with your name being pushed, and your photo framed

when you couldn’t fathom the magnitude of love reaching for you from across oceans

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Next, in one swift moment, your world cracked open again as your nanny carried you in her arms one last time, making her way to a conference room. A door opened, and your world collided with ours. All of us trembled, knowing life as we knew it was behind us. The earth didn’t shatter, just pieces of our hearts. You sobbed until you could only sleep, somehow knowing that another fault line had formed, a traumatic end and a scary, but hopeful, beginning.

Then, newly adopted, there was time….

when a hotel room became common ground for tentative smiles and guarded trust

when you boarded a plane bound for the world’s other side, clinging to two almost strangers, toward all things new

when teary eyed strangers at an airport cheered because you’d finally arrived

when your little feet padded through your new home, investigating, but overwhelmed by the stimulation, something missing in institutional life

when you first sat at a family table, binge eating in case the food ran out, an orphan at heart still

when you weren’t sure about sleeping alone without the familiar rumblings of a roomful of other children, the only lullaby you’d ever known

when cleft clinic doctors evaluated your palate and prescribed dental surgery and years of speech therapy

when your pediatrician caught you up on shots and treated orphanage parasites

when you’d plop indiscriminately into the lap of anyone who’d give attention, hungry to fill up your far too empty love tank

when we wondered if you’d ever find your voice, or attach to us as mommy and daddy

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Then, without realizing it, between speech therapy, siblings, soccer and spaghetti, the weeks and years passed, and the tremors calmed. Though you’d survived seismic fractures in your foundation, you emerged just our brave little girl who smiles, plays and loves. Today you are a compassionate, silly, obedient five year old who loves stuffed animals, music and rice. You face no more fault lines.
But, as much as the first, hard struggles of adoption are behind us, the journey continues. It keeps evolving, and we now navigate occasional aftershocks.

There are times when the world shakes the ground again…

when a friend asks, “Is she your REAL mom? Where IS your REAL mom?”

when grocery check-out clerks question, “Is she yours? Are they REAL siblings?”

when giggling playground kids stretch the sides of their eyes and babble in “Chinese”

There are times when the rumbling arrives from within you…

when you place your little brown arm next to my lighter skinned arm

when you turn your face toward mine and see eyes shaped more oval than almond shaped

when you ask, “ARE you my REAL mom?”

when your baby pictures have nannies in them instead of parents

when you wonder about this “first mother” somewhere far away

Yes, my girl, you were adopted. Yes, the world will always notice. Yes, there will be long stretches when adoption is not on your mind. But, yes, there will be times when tremors of emotions come. Trust that we’ll walk with you as you try to understand the fault lines and navigate your unfinished story.

I can’t explain the loss of your culture, birth parents, or extended family, but I can point you to the One who carried you up and over those fault lines. I don’t believe God’s plan for you was for your earth to quake and land you somewhere else, but I do believe that He takes the hard and reclaims it. I trust that His work in your life, and on this earth, is unfinished, still a beautiful, emerging redemption song.

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Only God can reconcile your loses and help you uncover your story’s beauty. Know that your forever mommy and daddy are praying for you to have eyes to see that beauty at a young age. The word “adopted” might feel like a qualifier before you name, but it is a sweet word to us. It comes at a high cost, but it tells the powerful love story of unique, delicate, brave you.

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.
– Psalm 46:2-6



God does not fail

The fall of 2008 found me on a teeny-tiny island many miles off the coast of Papua New Guinea in the South Pacific Ocean. It took three planes and a banana boat to get us there and many of the seasoned locals had not seen a white person since the Japanese invasion of 1942. To describe this island without clean water, electricity or even access to modern history as isolated would be an understatement. With my bright white skin & blue eyes, to the children, I might as well have been from Mars!

We provided what medical care we could while offering access to the Great Physician, truly the greatest need on the island. On the last day, a storm was looming and there was a mad rush to load our banana boat and make the several hour journey over open ocean quickly. As I collected my gear, a mother and her tiny infant approached. The child was apparently several months old but clearly severely malnourished, dehydrated and gasping for each tiny breath. Every medical cell in my body screamed this child was going to die if I didn’t intervene NOW. But the storm continued to approach & my team was yelling for me to get in the little boat. There was literally nothing I could do to save this child’s life. The mother was already despondent, I assume having already experienced the loss of one or more children. This baby needed fluids FAST. If I would have had the physical ability to put that tiny precious baby to my own breast, I swear I would have done it. The best I could do while running to the boat was toss packages of pedialyte and oral syringes at the mother’s feet while pleading with her to hydrate her child. “Oh God, save that baby!” was all my spirit could utter. Shy of an incredible miracle, I guarantee that child did not survive the night. It was one of the more traumatic days of my life.

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I scrambled onto the boat terrified and confused and…angry. Angry at the mom for not some how producing enough milk. Angry at the entire nation of Papua New Guinea for not providing electricity & water & health care to their tiny isolated islands. Angry at the USA for being one of the richest countries on the planet and not better providing for impoverished countries like PNG. Angry at American health care for being so screwed up. Angry at my body for not being able to nourish a baby I didn’t birth. Angry…at God for allowing an innocent child to be born, only to die an ugly and very unnecessary death. No child should starve to death…anywhere…ever. It’s not right Lord! You gave me these skills. Why would You let me see something so horribly unfair and not be able to fix it?! My mind couldn’t process it and my heart was completely shattered.

The Lord spoke gently to my heart in the weeks that followed. He knew I needed time to heal and the wounds of that day were easily aggravated. But what He spoke I hear now in walking the adoption road. “I formed that tiny child in the depths of her momma’s belly, I knew each and EVERY tiny curl on her seemingly bald head and knew EXACTLY how many days she would live on this Earth – how many breaths she would take; not one of those breaths were wasted in glorifying Me. Not one.”

There are millions of children waiting for forever families and thousands of us praying, pleading, advocating for these children to come HOME. Money is raised. Blogs are posted. Ministries are supported. All are wonderful and God ordained, of this I am confident. But the Earthly reality is, there are children with the best of advocacy that won’t be adopted. Medically fragile children that will get worse. Children that won’t come HOME. It is so very hard for my heart not to deflate; Another one is still waiting. Lord, how did we fail?!

But God doesn’t fail.

And…for some reason, He also doesn’t always give us the WHY: Why children are orphaned. Why the sick aren’t healed. Why our good intentions & our God inspired advocacies don’t work.

Despite the uncertainties & the human heartache, our loving Father says:

There will be trouble, but My plans are perfect (John 16:33 & Jer 29:11).
If you run the race, I will send encouragement (Heb 12:1 & I Thes 3:1-3).
Keep your eyes on Me and I will strengthen you for the exact calling I have given you (Heb 12:2 & Isa 41:10).
Serve Me, not men, with a pure heart and when there is hardship, My glory will be revealed (Eph 6:6-7 & 1 Pet 4: 13).
Team up, love each other, encourage each other, pray for each other, bear each other’s burdens. I’ve put you together to serve Me for a reason (Col 1:9-12, Gal 6:2, 1 Pet 5:10).
When all else fails…praise ME (entire book of Psalms!)

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For those drowning in the WHYs; for those frustrated with the lack of movement; for those whose heart is crushing under the weight of the call…lets us be encouraged. God is bigger. God is greater. Even when our hearts & advocacies seem to fail…God does not!

Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall see a harvest if we do not lose heart/ God is the strength of our hearts. ~ Galatians 6:9/ Psalm 73:26

The Gift of Siblings

When we started investigating adoption, one of our greatest concerns was the impact it might have on Abby and Adam – our “bio kids.” We loved our family of four. Through the completely objective lens of all young parents, our kids seemed smarter, nicer, and better looking than all of the other kids at the park or preschool. Everything was working, and it scared us to death that adoption might screw that up… or even worse, that adoption might screw THEM up.

As a side note, I feel obliged to express my dislike for the term “bio kids.” I feel like it somehow implies that my adopted children are not biological… that they are some kind of synthetic creature or cyborg. Since none of my adopted children resemble any character from a Terminator film, we have tried to find more appropriate language to describe our oldest two kids – “The Bigs”, “The Caucasians”, “The Clones”, “The Conceived”, “The Brown Hairs”, etc. In looking for a term that made sense to younger kids, we ultimately settled on the phrases “Tummy Babies” and “Airplane Babies.” We like these descriptions because they are clear without needing to evoke childhood-ruining images of conception or some form of racial profiling.

Having ultimately decided that the calling to adoption was worth the potential costs, we began the hard work of walking our Tummy Babies through the process. We introduced the idea of orphans. We tried to paint a picture of the world outside of suburban America. We talked about God’s love for the fatherless. We prayed for all the kids in China who needed a mommy and a daddy. And when we finally got a picture, we prayed for that one scared little girl on the blow-up chair who would become Mia.

Abby started to show interest. She asked to see pictures of orphanages. And those pictures caused her to ask beautiful (and dangerous) questions about why there were so many beds and babies in the picture. And why we were only going to help one of them.

Adam was less concerned with the fate of the global orphan. He just wanted assurance that his favorite toys could be on a high enough shelf that Mia would not be able to reach them.

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When this “family photo” was taken, we had no idea it would only capture 50% of our family.

Four Adoptions Later…

That was nine years ago. Today, we have four Airplane Babies: Mia, Will, Ellie, and Sam… and there aren’t any shelves high enough in the house for Adam to hide his toys.

To quickly address a common question and one of our original concerns, I am happy to report that our kids love each other like crazy with no genetic bias one way or the other. Sometimes one kid will seem to love another kid more, but that is driven far more by who is holding the iPad or the remote control at the time than who did or did not come out of Anne’s womb.

In the early days, I considered it a success that the Tummy Babies rarely complained about their adopted siblings. When one had to share a bedroom or found some candy missing from their Halloween stash courtesy of a younger sibling, they were shockingly cool about it. (I am not saying that there were NO complaints… that might suggest that they weren’t really brothers and sisters. My sister wasn’t from China, and I am still mad at her for throwing away my Han Solo action figure that fateful Christmas in 1980… As I think about the reality of a grudge lasting more than three decades, it may be time for me to move on…)

But as I reflect on it today, I would go much farther. It is not simply that my kids are OK with having adopted siblings… I genuinely believe they are better people because of it.

Without the impact of adoption, I think our children were destined to become something less than they are today… they were probably going to grow up to be like me.

I also grew up in a suburban bubble, growing up without any real appreciation of how “unreal” my world was. I did not realize that my nice home and full refrigerator and world-class education were an extreme exception on the global scale.

I grew up idolizing Alex P Keaton and Ronald Reagan… thinking my nice home was good but could be better. I grew up in the classic American mold of wanting to do better than my parents before me… “better” as measured in worldly terms like job title, car brand, and size of my 401K.

Even after becoming a Christian in High School, it took Jesus more than a decade to soften my heart and begin to develop genuine mercy in me for the poor and marginalized in the world. To this day, I still find myself frequently pursuing a definition of success that I know is flawed.

Without some kind of intervention, our Tummy Babies were likely to follow the same path. They’re smart. They’re likable. They were on the path to succeed in the world’s eyes… the path that leads to bigger houses in nicer neighborhoods. Maybe they would have had a boat… I always want a friend or family member with a boat…

And then we started adopting.

And in the seven years since, I have seen my children realize one of my greatest dreams for them… the shared dream of all parents that our children would become better than us.

At their age, I wanted to grow up to be more like Donald Trump. They are growing up to want to be more like Jesus.

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Mia, Ellie, and their hero.

Their Airplane Baby siblings have helped them to see and experience God’s grace. They have seen people literally discarded on the roadside become beloved children of God… and they have learned that the gap between that roadside and our suburb is very, very small in eternal terms.

Abby and Adam understand God’s heart for the world infinitely better than I did at their age… maybe better than I do even today.

My Children as a Gift to Each Other

I have focused thus far on the gift that my Airplane Babies have been to my Tummy Babies, but make no mistake… the blessing flows both ways.

If the Airplane Babies have made Abby and Adam into better people, the reverse is just as true. Mia is a better reader. Will is a better athlete. Ellie is kinder. Sam is funnier. Coming from a generation of Chinese kids without siblings, they have been blessed with the best older brother and sister in the world.

I think if I polled all four Airplane Babies, they would each describe Abby and Adam as their heroes – the people they most admire, the people with whom they most want to spend time, the people that they most want to grow up to be.

If our prayers are answered and they someday choose to be baptized as an expression of their faith in Jesus, I will not be surprised or hurt if they ask Abby or Adam to go into the tank with them. I think our Airplane Babies see Jesus in their older brother and sister as much as we do.

One of Jesus’s final commands on earth was to “Go and make disciples of all nations.“

Abby and Adam get this. And I think they understand that still applies even if those other nations are sleeping on the bunk underneath them.

In great part because of adoption, our Tummy Babies want to grow up to be more like Jesus. And our Airplane Babies want to grow up to be like them. Sounds exactly like disciple-making to me.

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There was never any question what number Will would pick for his jersey.

And so I close with a great and beautiful irony. At the start of this adoption journey, the potential impact on Abby and Adam was one of our chief arguments against adoption. And in the end, the change we have seen in Abby and Adam may be one of the most compelling arguments for it.

Yes, adoption messed with their lives… and we are eternally thankful for it.



“Cold Feet”

After adopting 13 children you would think I have it all down to a science! But I don’t… Once again I have suffered from the feelings of “cold feet”…

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Am I sure that it will work out adding to this large crew that somehow seems to work well together? Was it just me that thought this child was adorable or is it God telling me she is our daughter? What about the vehicle situation–there’s no more room in our van? Really God, another bunk bed? And what about the love/hate thing I have for traveling to China? I love meeting our new child but I’m not the best mom when I am there because I am dealing with all of my feelings. I get claustrophobic in the plane and a constant nervous stomach. If hubby goes we are without him for two to three weeks. Are we too old for this? And what if…

The doubts the questions come into my mind one after another. It doesn’t matter if it was our first adoption or our last. It’s happened every single time we adopt.

It’s not God that is putting these questions and doubts in to my mind it is the opposition taking advantage of my wavering faith and my weaknesses. He is stealing the joy, and robbing me of an opportunity to put my TRUST IN GOD. The opposition would like nothing better than for us to back away in fear and to stop doing as God desires us to do. Whether it’s missionary work in the USA or overseas, whether it’s fostering, adopting, or service to our Lord, in anyway the opposition wants us to fail… and he will stop short of nothing to cause us to fail or turn around in fear. BUT our GOD is bigger than all of this. He is our armor, our strength and HE fights off the opposition. Prayer and faith are our weapons.

Thankfully my cold feet don’t last very long. Thankfully (each time) God steps in and puts me back together and sends me on the path that he has planned for us.

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When I feel this way I get rather quiet and prayerful. I put out an APB for the Lord and I don’t stop praying until I feel His presence, His comfort, HIS peace. Of course He never left me. He doesn’t ever leave us but somehow I had blocked HIM out and allowed the opposition to sneak in…

My cold feet were quickly a thing of the past and my heart overflowed with gratitude for Lord.

I wanted to share with you that questioning what you are doing is normal. Most likely others around you are not adopting so you are going in a different direction than maybe some of your friends. You are stepping out in faith for a child. You are stepping out to serve the Lord and to be His hands and feet. There are many unknowns but if you focus on what you do know you will find abundant blessings! You know that God will never leave you. You know that even though you fear you can’t do it, He can! You know that God’s hands are all over adoption- it is HIS desire that we care for the orphans and widows.

Even when our adoption journey has been hard the best still flow.

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What I have found in our adoption journeys is that GOD handles the details. The van will somehow work out or we will take 2 vehicles. The bunk bed will fit into the room–it will be crowded but that’s okay. Most likely we won’t even notice that we have an extra child at the table, it will instantly feel “normal” to us.

But to the child it will be life changing. A sparkle will come to our new daughter’s eyes. Her smile will radiate joy and her health will be restored. She will laugh and giggle as she plays with her many siblings. She will learn about Jesus and what a life with FAITH is like! And the icing on the cake is that she will run to her Mommy and her Daddy for a hug and kiss…

As we serve God we wonder how on earth could we be so blessed…

THANK YOU LORD!



changing the world

I’ve often sat in front of a blank computer screen and wondered what in the world to write. What do I have to say to you? Each and every one of you readers: pre-adoptive parents who are wading through the trenches of paperwork and up to their necks in notarizations and acronyms; traveling families who are getting a very, very good idea at what trauma looks like in the scared eyes of a child… or in the way-too-open arms of a toddler who runs up to every single stranger; post-adoptive parents who are cocooning because they’re supposed to but other than that everything that is going on in their household is NOT by the book… and then the even-farther-out-post-adoption families who wondered what in the world they did wrong because it was just supposed to be a simple case of attachment, bonding, love and happiness.

Ya’ll are successful. Just let me say it… sit down. Lean back. Realize it. No matter how you feel at this moment… you are a hero. I know that you hate to hear this word associated with your name. Hero. It’s grandiose, rather pompous… and you’re just living life, doing what you feel like you were called to do, and it’s hard. But hard is a part of life; hard isn’t wrong. It’s just hard.

The definition of “hero” is: A person noted for feats of courage or nobility of purpose, especially one who has risked or sacrificed his or her life.

…especially one who has risked or sacrificed his or her life.

There may be adoptive mamas and babas out there who consider themselves heros, rescuers… saviors. But I’m pretty sure that those mamas and babas reading this right now are the ones who cringe whenever someone pats them on the back for adopting. You’re right, it’s not all about you… but you probably need some encouragement nonetheless.

I have three sisters, adopted from China in 2003, 2005 and 2012. The first two were non-special needs adoption. I remember when I traveled with my parents to bring the oldest home, and we were all shocked that in our travel group of about a dozen families one was bringing home a boy and one, a 2 year-old. It seemed so strange. We didn’t get it. There are boys and older kids waiting? Now, a dozen years later, things have changed drastically.

Why? Because China saw that families were interested in adopting little baby girls and so they did their paperwork.

Did you know that it takes a lot of work on the part of orphanages to do a child’s paperwork for adoption? In some of the larger orphanages it’s a very streamlined process, when all of the experienced folks are working. But, as is often the case, people get promoted or laid off and so the folks that know how to stamp approvals aren’t in the office and the new staff aren’t so sure about this whole “international adoption” thing and papers pile up on someone’s desk while babies become delayed toddlers and delayed toddlers become really delayed big toddlers. And in other orphanages the process goes along at a shuffle because nobody knows which paper needs to be notarized by the government and which needs to be signed by the boss and which blood test needs to be done and… you get the point.

But when families in America started showing that they were willing to bring baby girls into their families, orphanages jumped and moved and now we have middle-schoolers who read mysteries and brush back long, thick black hair.

About four years later the baby girls in China seemed to start “running out.” This was probably accurate for the larger orphanages who figured out the system, but not at all for the smaller, poorer ones who still didn’t even know that adoption would ever be a possibility for their babies. But, in an act of faith, the orphanage staff began doing paperwork for children with minor special needs.

And those children began being adopted. Sit back and try to imagine what must have gone on that day in a random orphanage when the staff found out that the first special needs child they had ever prepared for adoption was matched. I bet that their mouths fell open and their minds started cranking as they thought of the little ones just down the hall who might just have hope.

Horizons opened. Children found families. Lives were changed.

What about the day when a sick child, one without a “repairable” special need… with something like a palliative heart condition, anal atresia, or even hearing loss, joined their forever family? The orphanages “in the know” about how the whole adoption process on their end worked must have gotten busy, inspired… excited.

I think that it has only been in the last few years that children with special needs such as Down syndrome and cerebral palsy have found homes. Do you know how huge this is?

It just takes one… I remember sitting on the mat in the toddler room of a smaller orphanage who has very little experience in adoption, telling the manager about a family I knew. “They have many children adopted from China… one has cerebral palsy.” I told her. Her eyes got big. We both looked over at the happy, smiling eyes of Xing, a lovely 8 year-old who can’t walk because of her tight muscles but who can communicate and tells the nannies, “I want more milk!” or “I want to go too.” when they forget about her in the business of tending to others.

Today, because of the testimony of others, Xing’s paperwork is being begun for international adoption.

We were sitting at a big, important lunch around the director’s table and the vice directors and managers were talking about the children who had arrived in the orphanage over the past year. “One day, because of international adoption, ” one of the ladies commented, “the only children living here will have cerebral palsy.” During the next month I did some research and found out that little girls with CP can find families… I told that to the orphanage, and they started listing off names of children whom they would have to begin paperwork for. Nothing has started yet, but these little girls are planned for “the next batch.”

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And when one orphanage we work with saw that, through advocacy, two of their beautiful girls with Down syndrome had been adopted, they decided to begin the paperwork for all of their children with Down syndrome. And they want me to help advocate for each of them when the paperwork is completed.

I have so many more stories about how the testimonies of families opening their hearts to a child and a special need has helped to change the culture in orphanages.

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So you are successful, not just because you’re doing the nitty-gritty of child-rearing (although all parents are pretty awesome for doing just that!) but because you have changed the world.

You don’t have to save all of the children… you haven’t because you can’t. But you can love dangerously; sacrificing even your own lives, and by your love – proving that life is worth it, that children are gifts and that each breath is sacred and something worth fighting for – you are changing the world.



This too shall pass

We have been so blessed with a latent case of “the terrible twos”. We have survived post adoption adjustments, attachment business, health-related-drama, and we have settled uncomfortably into some terrible-two kind of living. Lord have mercy. And when I say terrible – I mean terrible, horrible, nogood, very bad. I’m talking screaming, throw down tantrums, and the beloved: “but-I-was-an-orphan-once” cry that produces such a volume of tears, that it’s hard to believe she isn’t dehydrated after a meltdown.

Am I speaking to anyone?

I posted on facebook one day in an attempt to toe the very fine line between being real about my child and public venting about my child and said: “I am at my actual wit’s end with my tantrum throwing, alligator tear producing, albeit adorable, tiny, Chinese, miracle, superstar. #keepingitreal”

The comments and private messages I received following that post has birthed this post. Apparently I have found camaraderie among other parents who have walked a mile in my flip-flops. Thank you commenters.

Can we all just be real for a moment? The toddler years are not for the weak of spirit, and yet it has been a season when I am weak of spirit. Health challenges with Grace and my mom, funerals, two teenagers with stuff and plans and mission trips and drivers ed – and all the things of normal every day life… add in a few well placed tantrums and I just.cant.even. I had 21 comments from that post, and just under 40 “likes” because I’m not the only one who gets it, and maybe I’m not the first mom who was at her “actual wits end” with her miraculous bundle of joy.

Our first two children were born when I was 23 and 24. They are 18 months and 28 days apart and while my first born is type A, driven, organized, and independent – my second born is ever-so-relaxed about life and is as easy going as they come. However, in those early infant and toddler years they always had each other to play with and be with. My second-born was almost the size of a small toddler at birth, for crying out loud, and since they always got along as toddlers I actually don’t remember any tantrums. I don’t remember feeling the urge to leave the house when my husband came home after work. I remember giggles and toys and veggie tales and fruit snacks. Perhaps there were tantrums and hard days/weeks/months but at 24 years old I had enough youth left in me to tune it out or count my blessings or exercise away the stress.

I am no longer 24. Not by a long shot.

It’s tricky when you choose to adopt a child because you simply decide to, because it’s your only choice to parent, or because you feel like God is actually asking you to grow your family in this amazing way. It feels sometimes as if I have therefore surrendered my right to even appear to be complaining about my adorable little blessing. I’ve spoken with other adoptive moms who have shared through tears that people actually dare to say to them “Well you asked for this…” when sharing trials they are enduring such as, extended hospital stays or sleepless nights or way out of the box parenting.

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So I’m just going to say it, because somebody has to. Somebody has to tell the truth and admit it’s hard. Somebody has to be a voice who speaks the truth in love but also in honesty because another mom or dad might really need to hear that they aren’t the only one who is holding on to their very last shred of sanity on some days because truly another tantrum might just very well be the thing that causes them to see Jesus face to face.

I madly, truly, deeply, fiercely, and honestly love each of our children. Call me crazy, but sometimes I look at Grace and forget we don’t share DNA. Sometimes I have to remind myself that I missed out on 19 months of holding her and comforting her and snuggling her because she is so very much a part of our family, it is as if she has been with us since birth. She is as mine as she can be. She has almond shaped eyes, but she makes faces that I make. She has olive skin but she says things back to me the way I say them to her. We are a match made in heaven, of that I am sure. 100%.

When our fantastic caseworker was counseling us prior to our trip to China she recommended that we make sure and schedule “respite care”. What a ridiculous concept. Respite care. Are you kidding me? For months I stalked my daughter on her foster home facebook page, I prayed and wept over her very life while it hung in the balance. I counted the days, I read the books, I did all the things to be as ready for her as I could possibly be. It was ludicrous to think I would ever need a break once I was finally with her and she was legally mine forever.

Parents, soon to be parents of adopted or biological children, hear me when I say this: Do the respite care. Do it often. Recharge. It’s not only good for you it’s good for your children because they need your patience when they are in the most terrible of twos or threes of fours or fourteens. There should be no guilt in needing a break and honestly if you don’t let someone who loves you know you need it and admit that you’re treading water in the sea of life – they might never offer and you may break before you get a break. Pride is a terrible thing to get in the way of your sanity. Truly.

We who have adopted have been educated – possibly more so than those who are parents only through birth – about how to best parent these little ones. Our children were possibly under great stress while in their first-mother’s body. Study after study shows that stress in pregnancy adversely affects the developing brain of a baby in utero. Then we move on to the stress of birth and subsequent abandonment – even when the abandonment is for all the loving reasons as I believe it was for Grace. Being separated from the only home and only familiar sounds and smells you know is trauma. It affects the developing baby’s brain in those first days and weeks and months to not have a consistent caregiver, a mother, a father. It shapes how they respond emotionally – sometimes forever. It triggers exaggerated fight or flight responses. How could it not? Finally if they are one of the fortunate, they are adopted. From their perspective, they are taken against their will from the only home they know and the environment that is their comfort zone, even if it’s the farthest thing from comfortable. Then within days, they are placed with strangers who take them to a country where few look like them, few sound or speak the way they’re used to, and nothing tastes or smells like “home”. This too, even though it is the goal for every orphan and adoption agency – is traumatic. It shapes how they respond and it drives their behaviors.

So as an educated adoptive mother, and a veteran parent of almost sixteen years I have to look at the masterpiece as a whole and not just a small part. As a veteran parent I know that what I have shared with younger moms in the throws of difficult seasons of life is true: “It’s only a season, this too shall pass.” Just as winter seems to last forever, as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow – spring follows winter. It seems like just yesterday my oldest was determined to learn to write her name at only two years old. Now she’s driving me places while I clinch my fists and pray quietly in the passenger seat. This too shall pass with Grace as well. I’m older but I am wiser. I parent her differently because I have to and because I believe that there is a re-shaping of how she responds to certain situations that is necessary, whereas with our two older children I could just shape them from scratch. Some days the shaping is more like chiseling, painstakingly hard chiseling.

The children who survive those early seasons of trauma, children who “come from hard places” posses a fighting spirit unlike anything I’ve ever seen before, and Grace is no different. She is a warrior, and an overcomer. She adapted well to her heart defect for as long as she could and against all odds is on par intellectually with other children her age. When she laughs she lights up a room, when she cries she cries bucket loads of tears, when she grieves she grieves deeply and when she loves she loves fiercely, and if I am to bask in the fierceness of her love I better ought to be able to weather the wailing of a tantrum and have enough tissue to soak up the tears.

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You who are in the thick of the battle with me, I pray this brings relief to your day or at the very least a chuckle. There is safety and sanity in numbers. I have to remind myself often that someday (hopefully in the not too distant future) I will say: “Aww I just would love to go back to when she was two” because I will have only remembered the harmony and the giggles and the tea parties. However the tantrums from this tiny, miraculous, super star survivor are epic and legendary. It is unlikely they will be forgotten, but they will be survived.

Battle on friends – children are so worth it.



To the Traumatized Family

A few days ago, I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed and saw a comment on a link for a ministry to traumatized children that broke my heart. An adoptive parent was asking where the ministry was for families who have been traumatized by bringing a traumatized child into their home. This is something I once thought was very rare in adoption, but not anymore. When my own family joined the ranks, I was overwhelmed to discover how many families there are just like ours. Fighting in the trenches. Hurting because of the hurt their adopted child brought into their home. And we do so desperately need to be ministered to.

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It is a grief and heartache like no other to joyfully look forward to adopting a child, with visions of a bright future for them, only to get them home and to see the exact opposite unfold. To watch dreams of hope and healing for one traded for the reality of heartbreak and hurt for all. Those who have not experienced it cannot understand it. And because it is so hard to understand, many families who are going through it remain silent. Alone in their pain, with a fear of being judged. It is to these families that I write today. In my moments of crying out to God…in agony, frustration, anger, and hopelessness… on behalf of my traumatized family he has been faithful to minister to me with his word. And I want to pass on a bit of that ministry to my hurting counterparts.

1. You are precious to God. I remember so clearly the calling to adopt. Knowing that God had entrusted me to steward this life was so humbling, yet such an honor. My desire was to please him and steward this child well. I can also clearly recall the day I began to feel like an adoption failure. I was disgraced. Like Adam and Eve in the Garden, I tried to hide from God in my shame. But just like them, he found me. I never really understood the love of my heavenly Father until I was broken…by my accounts…beyond repair and he whispered to my heart:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?… No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
–Romans 8:35, 37-39

Nothing. Nothing. NOTHING. will ever separate us from the love of Christ. Our worth in his eyes is not dependent upon our success. Our worth was determined at the cross, when the greatest act of love in history was displayed and a perfect savior gave his life up for ours. John 19:30 records that Jesus’s final words on the cross were “It is finished.” and my beloveds, it was. There is nothing we can do to make God love us more…or LESS…than the day his son uttered one final breath and gave up his spirit. We are precious to him because of the cross. And because of the cross, we can draw near to his throne of grace with confidence to find mercy and help in our time of need (Heb 4:16). Anything that keeps us from running to the arms of God when we are hurting is a TOOL OF SATAN to keep from having the abundance that Jesus came to give us (John 10:10). We have NOT been rejected by God because our adoptions are not fairytales. He literally thinks we are to die for and wants us to bring our pain to him.

2. Make sure you’re fighting the right enemy. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard an adoptive parent say “this is killing us” or “this is destroying us” in reference to their battle in the adoption trenches. I’ve said it plenty of times myself. A traumatized family is certainly under fire and in a battle for survival. However our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Eph 6:12). The actions of the traumatized child in your home may be what are constantly driving you to your breaking point, but your battle is not against that child. That child did not enter your home with the intent to kill or destroy you and your family. However we do have an enemy that comes to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10). That is the enemy for us to fight. I’m not saying that adoptive parents shouldn’t safeguard their home and put boundaries in place to protect their family. God has not called us to be foolish. But when our family has the flaming arrows of the evil one raining down on us, we need to put on the armor of God (Eph 6) and fight the true enemy. It is much more natural for our sin natures to battle in the flesh than it is to battle in the spirit, but this is a spiritual battle.

3. Remember the Sabbath. Or in other words, take the time to rest. The second chapter of Genesis contains God’s establishment of rest. The third chapter of Genesis contains the fall of man. Our need to take a break is not a result of our sinful state; it is a part of the created order. We as humans were not built to run non-stop. All of us need to make divinely appointed rest a priority in our lives in order to function at the capacity in which God intended, but this especially applies to families who are experiencing trauma. We cannot keep trudging on and pushing through. Respite in some form or another is necessary. It can take many forms, but you need to find one that works for your family and implement it. Date nights, romantic getaways, parent/child outings that nurture the other hurting kids in your home, camps, sleepovers with trusted friends…there are a myriad of options. They may require that you humble yourself and ask for help from others, but your family needs you to.

This list is by no means exhaustive. I have learned too many lessons through my wrestlings with God to share them all here. But the three truths above are the ones I would have to say have made the biggest difference for me. It is my sincerest hope that God uses them to make a difference in your life as well. Please know that I’m praying for each of your hurting families…from here in the trenches.