My Wounding

November 27, 2015 by nohandsbutours 1 Comments

“I not only have my secrets, I am my secrets. And you are yours. Our secrets are human secrets, and our trusting each other enough to share them with each other has much to do with the secret of what it means to be human.” – Frederick Buechner

Be gentle with me, dear reader. Please be tender and generous and kind with me. This is my heart, spilled out in letters and words, and it’s more than a little vulnerable and afraid. But I come to you, sharing my story and telling my secrets because I firmly believe that by so doing, perhaps someone else can begin to find freedom.


I found an old newspaper article the other day. A story from my childhood that you would hardly believe could be true. I never dreamed I could so easily find the details – maybe because the actual event feels so surreal that on some level it seems it couldn’t possibly be real – but there it is in black and white print. A miracle of Google. I was 8 years old. My father suffered a psychotic break and in his attempts to protect his family from the people he thought were chasing us, he took off with all of us in his private plane. Flying cross-country with his wife and two small children in a harrowing journey that would seem more appropriate to come out of Hollywood than my past, he ended up making an emergency landing in a nuclear power facility in Idaho. We were immediately surrounded by security officers and interrogated for several hours, something that I’m quite sure only fueled my father’s delusions. “Engine trouble,” the article called it. That’s why they say he landed the plane where he did. And maybe there was engine trouble. But my memory says that engine trouble is code for what happens when you’re being flown across the country by a man who had quite literally lost his mind.


If you would have asked me a couple of years ago if this event still impacted me today, I’d have laughed off your question with a lighthearted “Of course not!” I would have talked about how it was something that had happened to me but that it didn’t define me; that it didn’t impact the way I walked through the world today or interacted with those I love. I’d tell you that I was only made stronger from the experience and that nothing inside of me was wounded or frail or broken or hurting. I would have confidently said that I’d dealt with it and moved on. I’d have said with deep conviction that one traumatic event like that didn’t have much of an impact on me.

And maybe it didn’t… maybe if taken in isolation, that one harrowing plane landing and terrifying journey didn’t have much impact on me. But I understand something now that I didn’t understand a few years ago. That plane landing represents so much more – years of an unpredictable and chaotic family rollercoaster with long stretches of relative stability and short bursts of unbelievable turmoil; years tainted by an always-present undercurrent of mental illness, alcohol abuse, and emotional turbulence. What I now understand is that those years left a mark on my heart and soul that is undeniably profound— but that I also undeniably denied.


Sometimes when you get off a rollercoaster, you don’t quite know which way is up. It takes a while to get your bearings. And maybe if you ride the rollercoaster long enough, your whole system is recalibrated. Abnormal becomes normal. Roles get reversed. Trust is exchanged for control. I exited the rollercoaster of my upbringing with a great head on my shoulders (something that seems a bit surprising to me), a need to be perfect and please, and a deep conviction that I was responsible for the well-being of those around me. I was accustomed to being emotionally responsible for those who were supposed to take care of me, and I was only too ready to step into that role for anyone I thought needed it. Looking back I think it was this brokenness that fueled my heart for orphans in many ways… and perhaps even served as part of my personal drive to live four years in China, working on their behalf. I was a wounded healer. A year before we adopted, I heard Karyn Purvis say at an Empowered to Connect conference that lots of us wounded healers find our way into fostering and adoption. I knew in that moment that she was talking about me, but I didn’t yet know what that meant.


This is where the story gets blurry and messy. I’m starting to know more deeply my own brokenness, but it’s hard to find the edges; to define it and categorize it and break it down so I can explain it. It’s still hard for me to understand the full implications of my childhood trauma in my life today. Sometimes I feel as if, for most of my adult life, I’ve been sitting on the banks of a cold, dark pond, tucked away in some hidden mountain valley. The pond has a chipped little sign next to a creaky dock that tells me it’s called My Wounding, and I’ve stood at the edges and admired how the surface is so calm. In fact, when the light hits it just right and the air around is still, it’s beautiful. Its dark and murky waters don’t seem terrifying to me, but rather peaceful, and I feel comfortable on the shores. I’ve been content sitting there on the banks, looking out at the water but feeling none of its effects. I hardly notice when the wind blows and causes a few ripples, even when it gets my feet a little wet, because I’m still comfortably in control… sitting there on the edge, staring out at the surface I know will soon be still again.


But then Alea came home. And I found myself all alone, standing in my kitchen with a broken-hearted child wailing in my arms. I could plainly see – perhaps more than anyone else around – that this little one, newly not-an-orphan, needed far more healing than I could possibly provide in my own strength. And just like that, My Wounding was struck by a gale-force storm. Clinging to my newly-adopted daughter, it seemed the stormy waters overtook us both; as if the pond had suddenly and unexpectedly tripled in size and there wasn’t time to clamber to higher ground. I was fighting to keep both of our heads above water, and I couldn’t hear His voice whispering peace and calm into the storm above the angry and loud din of my own fears and brokenness. The storm raged, and My Wounding consumed me.


And there it was. I was a caregiver who couldn’t be all that her child needed. A wounded healer who couldn’t heal another. I was a woman who had learned to the very core of her being that the easiest way to cope with unpredictable and fearful people was to build strong and secure emotional walls (I think the experts call it avoidant attachment), and I found myself fighting to attach to my daughter when everything in me was screaming to detach, check out, build walls, and emotionally walk away. I was living with the weight of these impossible contradictions and saw no end in sight. I gulped and gasped and all I seemed to get was mouthfuls of murky water. The storm didn’t pass, and it felt as if I were drowning as waves of her grief and loss crashed into my own. As the waves crashed, the waters grew more turbulent and murky, stirring up My Wounding until the calm and peaceful (albeit dark) pond was a distant memory and I was left frantically sand-bagging; fighting back the dangerous waters of my own inadequacies and brokenness as I tried to claim safe, secure, and stable ground for myself and my family.


The sandbags didn’t hold.

How could they? We were never meant to stand our own ground, to be our own healers, to save ourselves. And while the storm didn’t lessen in intensity, miraculously something began to shift and I started to hear His voice in the middle of it all. He’s always been good about speaking to storms. He used friends and family, pastors, dreams, and sometimes a nearly audible voice speaking to the deepest places in my heart to help me ride the waves – one-by-one, moment-by-moment. He was always my daily bread. I started letting Him fill the sandbags.

I wouldn’t say that the waves have all calmed yet. Daily I find myself sometimes still gasping for air as I struggle to get my head above the neediness, brokenness, and loss that continues to shape such a large part of my beautiful child’s personality. Or more honestly, I struggle to get my head above the way her loss crashes into my own need to make her world whole and perfect and right, a task I can never accomplish. But in my deepest places, I know My Wounding will never be the same. He’s spoken freedom straight to the deepest parts of my heart, and now that those waters have been stirred, I’m no longer content to sit on the shore of that dark and quiet pond. Its peacefulness is deceptive, and it no longer feels like a comfortable part of my story.

A few months ago, I began going to counseling. It isn’t easy. It means looking at hard things from childhood I’ve never really considered and have even worked hard to hide; not from others so much, but mostly from myself. It feels like I’m wading out into the middle of My Wounding, and it takes everything I have to trust that God will keep my head above the water. As I wade out, I hear His whisper calling me to go out further and in deeper. I hear Him asking me to trust Him as He holds my hand and helps me look straight and deep into the waters of My Wounding. I hear Him promising me that as I do that, His redemptive and healing hand will touch those waters and make them clean, clear and life-giving. Waters to sustain me and nurture my children.


I don’t like writing stories when I don’t know how they end. It feels safer to start the journey of sharing when I know the moral of the story; when the lesson can be neatly summarized and tied up with a preferably tidy ending and pretty little bow. Even when the story is filled with many broken roads, I don’t mind sharing when I can see God’s redemptive hand working to bring beauty out of the brokenness.

But this isn’t really one of those times… though I do see signs of His goodness and redemption, I’m still very much in the thick of a journey down a very broken road – or perhaps wading deeper into a very murky pond. And part of me would rather stay silent. Partially because I also don’t like sharing stories that deal with the brokenness of others. Sure part of this is my story, but it is also the story of my family, of my parents. And I can promise you that they don’t see much of it in the same way. Despite our deep differences, my heart’s desire is to honor them, and I understand that telling secrets like this could seem to some as deeply dishonoring. That has been one of the things that has held me back from sharing for so long.

But that isn’t the only reason it is hard to share. I also struggle with wanting to stay silent so that I can preserve the appearance that all is well in the hidden valleys of my heart. That My Wounding doesn’t exist, or if it does, that it has never been anything more than a comfortable place to sit and remember the past.

But that isn’t the truth. It isn’t safe and it isn’t free to pretend that My Wounding is benign or beautiful. And I feel called to testify. To speak of His goodness even when I don’t know how this story will end.

Because I know I’m not the only one with My Wounding tucked neatly and quietly away. I’m not the only one who has sat on its eerily quiet shores and appreciated the fact that all appears so calm and still; who tells herself there’s nothing too dangerous in those waters. I’m not the only one who has found herself so comfortable there on the banks that it even starts to feel like home.

And I’m not the only one who has gone through the very unnatural-but-sacred act of making an orphan her son or daughter, and in so doing, find that when I think I’m only standing on the shores of someone else’s wounding, I’m actually knee deep in my own – frightened by how fast the water is rising and the way it threatens all I know to be true about myself. I’m not the only one who has discovered that her trauma triggers my trauma; her grief triggers my grief; and her loss triggers my loss. And as I watch my precious daughter struggle along her own journey to wholeness, doing my best to help her find her way, I know I’m not the only one to suddenly realize with shocking clarity just how far I personally am from the place I want to take her.

So this isn’t a happily ever after story – yet. This is me, writing a dispatch from the front lines, neck deep in My Wounding and clinging to the hand of a safe God who I’m only just now starting to be able to call Father with any degree of trust and surrender and tenderness in my voice. And I’m calling out to you… you sitting there on the shores of Your Wounding. I want to tell you that when you’re holding His hand, it’s OK to jump in.

It’s hard work, but when we understand what’s in those waters and let Him make them clear, we will be able to better lead our children through theirs.

Telling the Story: Theirs, Mine and His

November 26, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

I realize now that when we first brought our children home, I had an undefined, but deeply felt and well-meant desire. However, I have also realized that my desire was not exactly what God had in mind. Let me explain. I wanted our adopted children to be so loved, so secure, so encompassed in the life and culture of our family and our story, that they would come to a point where they never felt different or separate from us. I didn’t want them to feel like they didn’t fit in or that they were somehow “other.” I wanted the sadness and torment of their story to be absorbed in the love of our story. I wanted the pain of their pasts to be erased by the power of healing love.

But trying to lose the one story in the beauty of the other creates an invisible barrier that works to separate, which is the complete opposite of what I desired! It wars against the spirit of adoption which does not erase any of our pasts, but rather uses the past as part of the redemptive story of love. And that redemption my friends is the freedom that propels us all into our destinies.

As our children have grown up (Now 20, 21, 23, 23, 25, 25, 26. 3 by birth, 4 by adoption.), I have realized that God has not asked me to be an author/writer of my children’s stories. He doesn’t require me to heal or cover up or redeem their stories — that was His to do!

His plan for me, and for them, is so much better.

So, what is my role then? I have asked this question countless times over the past 15 years of adoptive parenting.

And I have discovered that He has given me a different role, one that invites me to fully embrace my child as I co-labor with Him in the transformation of an orphan into a true son or daughter. That is the story of adoption, both theirs and mine.

So, I have been learning to be:

A caretaker.

I have the privilege of caring for and nurturing their story. As a caretaker I cannot ignore or neglect my child’s past. Rather, I get to discover, along with them, the nature of this unique garden that is their life, filled with plants both exotic and unfamiliar. I have the honor of helping them discover the beauty of it, and make sense of the unfamiliar and even the unknown. I have sensed the Lord telling me to embrace each child fully, including their pasts.

As my children have gone through the process of trying to discover who they are, I realize that they are longing for me to see them. Really see them. See that they are, in fact, different from me. They are looking to me to see if I will approve, accept, and celebrate them as Russian, as members of a different culture and a different family. This has been tricky for me, because there are parts of their stories, by no fault of their own, that are not honorable, not worthy of celebration — things like rejection, abuse, addiction, prostitution, murder, abandonment. But you know what I have discovered? There is always much to celebrate in each story. So I honor what is honorable. And I care for the details, the good, the bad and the ugly.

A curator.

I select the content to be presented at the appropriate time, and to the appropriate audience. We have been intentional to search out all the details that we could find, collecting anything about their story and their birth families, so that when the time came, we would be able to help. Part of the role of a curator is fact-finding. To me, it is an expression of love to be a keeper of this information. Interestingly, some of our children have wanted, even needed to know details, and some have not — at least not yet. Depending on their age and their maturity, we release parts of the story we feel they are ready to see. This “time-release” issue is huge and I have found that prayer has been such a gift in discerning the right time to share.

I have also discovered that simply asking my child if he/she wants to know more has been helpful. I may not be able to find out more, or I may discern that more information would best be kept for a later time, but even so, by asking I am able to help my child recognize that there is a story that belongs to him/her, and that I am here to help.

In the early years the telling is easier, as we withhold the uglier and more painful details of the story. But as our children grow older, their questions also mature. They will wonder about motives, about fault. They will go over their story with the inquisitive eyes, seeking to make sense of the facts they know, and to fill in the details they don’t know. And my role in this process is, in part, to gather information and then release it.

A truth-teller.

For we wonder, wouldn’t it be nicer, kinder, more loving to keep the uglier parts of their story hidden? Our desire to protect is so strong. Isn’t that what good mamas do?

Truth telling is scary I have found. What if the information is too much for him? What if she is not ready to receive it? What if they lash out in their pain?

I have learned that as much as I would like to cover over, sugar coat or lie about these things, there very well may be a time when my child needs to know the facts. And so often the facts, even the darkest and most appalling facts, are less frightening than the fear of the unknown and what-ifs that often manifest in what looks like anger, hatred, rebellion or opposition, but is in actual fact simply deep-rooted fear.

In reality, I can’t actually cover up what they already know in the depth of their souls. But I can speak words of life and son-ship, hope and forgiveness, understanding and compassion, into those dark places.

So I have learned not to try to fix it — or them, but rather just be a presence of love, life, and hope in the complexities of their story, always ready to lead them up and out into the beautiful open spaces of son-ship, redemption and destiny in Jesus.

I’ve learned not to let fear of the negatives that I know, or fear of all the frightening possibilities that I don’t know, intimídate me from this important role in my child’s life.

A story-teller.

Recently I heard someone give this excellent advice, “Don’t get stuck in the subplots.”

As our adopted children take in, process, and make sense of the facts of their story, I get to be one who helps them shape the narrative. I have realized that although I am not the author of their story, God has given me the amazing opportunity to offer language and perspective that places my child’s story in the context of His story, the grand telling of a love so powerful that it redeems us all!

My words to and over my child help them interpret the facts of their narrative, which is such a key in the teen and young adult years. Weave hope and destiny into the words you speak. Over time they will begin to see themselves defined by that, rather than by their past. By sonship rather than orphan. By beloved rather than rejected.

I find that it helps in this process to ask, what is the story the Father is telling about my child? And how can I help connect their subplot and mine to His glorious story? And I have found that I am empowered with courage to embrace what is hard in my child’s story when I tell it in the context of love and honor, and in the safety of God’s overarching grand story.

I look for ways in the telling of the story to speak to my child’s true identity, acknowledging the past, but speaking to the possibilities of the future. Asking questions with my child, and offering possibilities in the face of the missing pieces of their story has really helped me in this story-telling role. “I wonder what that must have felt like for you?” or “Maybe your mother was so so sad when that happened.” I like questions because they allow me to come alongside my child and connect with them where they need it most.

Templeton 2

Maybe you also have been discovering your role in your child’s story. I would love to hear what you are learning. For how wonderful is this, dear friends, the story is not over yet — theirs and mine and yours!

I cannot end this post without saying that all four of our adopted children have had seasons where they have pushed me away from their stories, or tried to deny any connection at all with their pasts, and the residue of relinquishment in their thinking, emotions and relationships. I have heard quite a few times, “The way I deal with that is that I just don’t think about it.”

And so I wait. I pray. I speak life. I stay emotionally connected, so that when the time comes that they are ready to “go there,” I am ready to go with them.

What a beautiful gift the Father has given us to participate in His story of redemptive love!

guest post by Beth Templeton who writes at Hope at Home

find my family: Jude

November 26, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

Jude turned four years old in October and is diagnosed as having lower limb weakness. He came into care at the approximate age of two. His nannies report that he has big beautiful eyes and is very handsome.


When his file was prepared in October of 2014, he could stand up and walk while holding onto something or holding someone’s hand. He could also walk by pushing something like a small stool. He is cooperative and can help put on and take off his own clothes and shoes. Jude’s favorite toy is the wooden rocking horse!


He can get on and off of it and likes sitting and riding on it. He likes to hold the milk bottles to help feed the younger children. He also likes playing outside. The slide and swings are his favorite, but he enjoys playing with balls and toy blocks too. He can build a tower with 5-6 blocks. He doesn’t want the other kids to touch his blocks or he’ll cry. Jude likes taking baths and playing in the water. He eats noodles, eggs, and bread regularly.


He receives some physical therapy, but would benefit so much more from the love and support of his own family.

Jude is designated to Great Wall Adoption Agency, please contact them for more information.

Meet the Contributors: Nicole

November 25, 2015 by nohandsbutours 3 Comments

Continuing today with our series in which we share a short Q and A with one of our contributors to give y’all, our faithful readers, a little more behind-the-scenes insight into the amazing group of writers assembled here. And it will also give each of our contributors a chance to share their heart in a …Read More

find my family: Naomi

November 24, 2015 by nohandsbutours 1 Comments


Naomi is a precious two year old little girl who is listed with Lifeline. Her special need is cerebral palsy. Naomi is a beautiful little girl! She responds to others asking for her belongings and waves goodbye to others. She is a good sleeper and likes playing with toys. Naomi’s file reports that she is …Read More

Nothing Else Mattered: FAQs About Anal Atresia

November 24, 2015 by nohandsbutours 1 Comments

We saw her face. We fell in love. Nothing else mattered. My husband and I simply wanted to be parents and we knew in our hearts that our children were in China; we just had to go get them. Like most parents to be, we hoped and prayed that our children would be healthy. Our …Read More

Embracing Their Story: Going Back

November 23, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


Their story with us didn’t start at the beginning. I think we jumped in around chapter 3 or 4. Much like opening a book midstream and trying to piece together a plot, our adoptions began with many unanswered questions and many holes that I knew we could never fill. Yet at some point, I knew …Read More

Embracing Her Story: Gracie

November 22, 2015 by nohandsbutours 1 Comments


We know that God is the only one who can heal hearts and redeem stories. But what of our role as shepherds of their hearts? One powerful, guiding gift we can dig into is the experience of others, young and old, who are willing to share their stories. As part of our Embracing Their Story …Read More

Appointed One

November 22, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


“I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness – secret riches. I will do this so you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name.” Isaiah 45:3 In a crib, in an orphanage, halfway around the world, sits a boy. He’s easy to miss, …Read More

Tears In Your Bottle

November 21, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


I caught myself staring at my little Chinese boy tonight as he fell asleep in my arms. So much has changed in our three plus years together. He is a whopping five years old now, has gained 15 pounds and grown 10 inches among other things. Our life together is so normal now, it’s almost …Read More

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