Loving Children… That Are Hard to Love

Many adopted children are so easy to love. They may have a vibrant personality, a good sense of humor, a smile that lights up the room, a positive attitude or other characteristics that attractive! They may remind you of yourself, your beloved husband or siblings or someone else you love. It is easy to love what is familiar.

But what about the adopted child that comes to your home and has characteristics that are “hard to love”. A whiny voice, a negative attitude, doesn’t follow directions, seems lazy and doesn’t return love. The list could go on and on. In fact we each have our own list of characteristic that we find difficult to live with and difficult to love… What bothers me may not bother you and vice versa.

I am writing about this because I have received many emails asking for help! What should I do and how do I love a “hard to love child”?

Do we personally have “hard to love children”? Yes, we do and if we are all honest everyone should answer that question with a “yes.” Hopefully they are not hard to love all… the… time…

However, if your child is newly adopted you may feel like he/she is hard to love all of the time. And you haven’t had that moment of “whew” things are finally getting better. Adoption isn’t easy and sometimes it’s really, really hard and it challenges us in ways that we don’t want to be challenged.

Hubby and I have had many of the same feelings that you are feeling. We wondered if we would ever get to the point of really loving our new child. I wasn’t feeling very hopeful. It was the one special need we said “NO” to. The one we didn’t think we could do and the one we didn’t want to do. I was concerned about my feelings and even more so about my husband’s feelings. I felt like I was to blame for this “mistake.”

Or was it a mistake? God orchestrated the whole thing… Hubby and I knew all the risks and we jointly answered with a “YES.” Together we prayed about it before, during and once we were home. We knew HE was near to us the whole time…

God doesn’t make mistakes…

So since this wasn’t our plan, it must have been God’s plan. Even if you did not pray about it I am pretty certain it was God’s plan for your family too!

Nothing in the way this child acted was familiar to me. Or another child that has a shrill and whiny voice that is unpleasant to continually listen too. Or another child that forgets everything I say and I have to repeat, repeat, repeat myself on a daily basis. Okay I could go on and so could you, wink, wink!

Yikes! So what do I do? What should you do?

I did the only thing I could do… I gave it too HIM! I prayed, I visualized giving it to him and I asked HIM to help me, I mean us. I asked HIM to help me to LOVE.

My personal imperfections became clear and the fact that HE loves me despite that was eye opening. Unconditional love, that is what HE has given to me. That is what HE wants me to try to give this child or children, whatever the case may be.

So maybe this child was meant to be ours so that we could grow closer to HIM. Maybe I needed to fix a few of my many flaws. Maybe my list of undesirable characteristics was too long… And maybe, just maybe, I could love someone that is completely different than me (or what and who I think I am)…
Maybe I could be more patient.
Maybe I could instruct more tenderly and then help the child do what I ask.
Maybe I could look past a special need that previously bothered me.
Maybe I could give love even if I don’t get love back.
Maybe I could be an example to the other children and they could learn to love a sibling that is hard to love.

So many beautiful maybes…
So many interesting challenges ahead of me… and you…
So much continuous support from our Maker. He is there ALWAYS, ready and waiting for us to call on HIM.

It’s possible. I can do this because HE can do this! You can do this because HE can do this.

I have seen our older children grow immensely from this exact situation. If I would have tried to change anything about it, I would have robbed them and us the opportunity to grow in our compassion for others and in our faith.

Look at this situation as an “opportunity” and embrace it.



Sickness and Snuggles

There’s been some kind of virus floating through our house for the past week or so. And as I predicted it would, the illness is slowly making its rounds through the family.

Last night we got hit with a “double whammy”. As my husband and I were tucking our sweet China babies into bed we realized that both of them felt warm, and sure enough taking their temperatures confirmed our suspicions: The two littlest members of our family were sick.


I don’t know what sick kids means in anyone else’s home, but it ours it means an extra kiddo or two in Mom and Dad’s bed. So last night we had our littles in bed with us…one on either side of me, with their 100+ degree fevers making me feel like I was sleeping in a furnace! I wanted SO badly to turn on the A/C…even though the temperature outside our house was in the 50’s. But despite my own hot flashes, the contorted shape my body was twisted into by the child on either side of me, and the overall fact that I was just so uncomfortable that I couldn’t sleep, a beautiful thought occurred to me.

I was there to take care of my babies.

Both of my little ones had surgeries in China that I wasn’t there for. Both of them had illnesses…either at the orphanage or in the ICU…before I became their Mama and was able to take care of them. The privilege of caring for these two once orphans in their current sickness was not lost on me. Because once upon a time, they didn’t have a Mama to take care of them when they didn’t feel well. They didn’t have parents to snuggle in bed with when they were sick. And once upon a time, we didn’t have them.

Every excruciating day of the wait. Every typo and delay that sent me into a frenzy during the paper chase. They had led up to that moment. The moment when I snuggled down with my two babies and was thankful to be up all night taking care of them when they were sick. So many times during the wait to hold my babies in my arms, I lost sleep over a bit of bad news. But the lost sleep that comes from snuggles during sickness…it’s oh so sweet.


We are just three short days away from our one year anniversary with Grace. Three short days away from celebrating her Gotcha Day. A lot can happen in just one year.


I remember being so immensely grateful that when Grace was placed in my arms one year ago, she willingly came to me and laid her little head on my shoulder. We chose her but she chose us right back. And if there were a theme for this year, I think that would be it. We chose her but she chose us right back.

About a week ago, Grace had an epic sort of tantrum that was reminiscent of those first weeks home. We work through those every now and then, and this one was some combination of two year old will mixed with the anger and rage that I remind myself on occasion is not my fault. Every now and then we see where the wiring was severed in that year and a half in an orphanage and it puts us in a place and posture of going to the One who can restore wiring. Who can repair better than it was to begin with. Jesus has high and holy authority when it comes to wiring and He can see it much better than I can. So, I have to trust Him with her because He is better at the repair. He can fill holes and deficits and make all things new. Where abandonment cut through the wiring He is piecing it back together with belonging and being known.

This particular tantrum was surrounding Grace’s severed wiring that requires her to completely do it herself, even if it causes her harm. Otherwise known as sprinting into a busy parking lot. She was angry that she was scooped up, angry that she was buckled into her car seat and angry that her fashionable shoes were confiscated so that they did not hit anyone in the vehicle. She remained angry when we returned home and angry as I started dinner. BUT, she chose us right back. She finally settled and wrapped her herself around my lap and I stroked her tear stained face and hair and reminded her that she did not have to do that anymore. A constant reminder that I love her and will not leave her. She sighed that older than she is sigh and said “OK mommy,” all the while resting in my arms. In the midst of the “stuff” that she can’t explain and can’t understand but that is real and painful, she chose us right back.

And I would choose her again and again. It is just one year and we can barely remember what it was like before her. She seems to have been here all along. I remember the urgency we felt to move like a speeding train into adoption because we knew SHE was there and waiting. We knew she was there long before we ever knew who SHE was. We knew then that it had to be NOW.


And here is the part where I write in fear and trembling. Not the bad kind, but the really great kind that stops the world spinning for a moment and you feel the need to remove shoes because the ground is no longer cracked but indeed holy. A couple of weeks ago, I was driving down the interstate early one morning after dropping three children off at school. Grace and I were the only ones left in the van, heading to errands and I was in that early morning mom fog, contemplating a second cup of coffee. I was silent and enjoying the quiet with the hum of the radio that I wasn’t actively listening to as I drove. I glanced in the rear view mirror and that’s when it happened. I will never forget that moment. Grace had both hands raised high, swaying gently back and forth, eyes closed and was intently worshipping. No doubt about what she was doing. I wasn’t doing it and she wasn’t mimicking me but she was immersed in worship, completely on her own. Time stopped for a moment and as I focused in on the song on the radio that was just background noise moments prior, I realized that the words were simply Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Hallelujah.


That was an answered prayer on display in my van. Evidence of wiring restored. Evidence of a spirit alive and kicking and healthy and well and overflowing despite working through unimaginable and unexplainable grief. Worship from a little child. A little child who is my daughter. I chose her. A little child who belongs to her Heavenly Father and who knows that His name is holy. He chose her too.

And she chose Him right back.

baby steps and giant leaps

I’m not sure if I’ve posted here before about the long and winding road we walk with our Joel in regards to education. In a nutshell, Joel came home to us at age 3 having spent his life in an orphanage. He was not speaking Thai at all and we were told by his pediatrician there that he would endure significant speech delays but that cognitively he was holding his own. We homeschool our kids in a hybrid type way. They attend private school on M/W each week. They are taught all subjects by degreed teachers. We carry out home assignments given by those teachers on T/T/F. They will graduate from an accredited high school {one that scores above the national average}, have transcripts and guidance counselors and the works. But I get to have them home with me three days a week and am not responsible for curriculum choice or benchmarks being met or any of the stuff that scares the daylights out of moms like me!

Last year was TOUGH. Joel was grossly speech delayed. He has been in therapy for three years for language help. It’s worked wonders. Still, he has far to go. Kindergarten was a huge struggle for us because he had never had to sit for 3 hours to do work {even off and on} throughout a day, his speech hindered his ability to learn to read, our 18 month old Little Prince came home from China in September during the third week of school, etc. It was a true labor of love getting this boy through Kindergarten.

We struggled and lamented and prayed for months about whether to retain Joel rather than allowing him to go on to 1st grade. Every week, we made a decision and by the weekend, had changed it. My mind was on overload and my heart was aching. I so didn’t want to make a poor choice for him. And my husband looked to me for more insight on the decision since it was I who spent three days a week schooling him. We met with his teacher, an administrator and others for wise counsel.

In the end, we decided to promote.

And I held my breath all summer long.

We’ve still had hard days. But by and large, this year has been worlds better than last. He struggles in reading, and is in the lowest group; and learning to count by 2′s and 5′s has taken years off of our lives…I’m sure of it! However, I told my best friend, I know that Joel will not be a 20 year old walking around and not able to count by 5′s. Eventually, it will click. Surely, surely, it will click.

Last week, his reading teacher stopped in to tell me {I work at the school}, that she had just done Joel’s benchmark testing for the end of the first quarter. I sucked my gut in, held my breath and waited. To my relief, she informed me that he had improved and had advanced a level in reading! Oh my, ya’ll. This was huge.

All summer, I kept telling myself, “as long as there is positive movement, as long as he doesn’t stagnate or regress…I’m going to just go with it and be grateful.” But he advanced a level! WaaaaHoooo!!!

As if that weren’t enough, his math teacher stopped me in the copy room to say how much she adores Joel. How she is so impressed by how hard he is working…how hard he is trying to improve. I mentioned that we are working hard and that I hope it will begin paying off for our sweet boy. She was so validating…reminding me of all Joel had been through, of where he came from. She spoke of the stark disadvantage that he began with as opposed to all of the other 1st graders in his class. I knew all of this, of course, but it did my heart good to hear that she knew it too. Not to make him a victim or to dismiss his ability or lack thereof. But just to “get it.”

Then, on a random home day, Joel told me that he could do his math problems by himself. I was hesitant, and honestly doubtful, but wanted to let him try. Imagine my joy y’all….


Tears welled up and I had that familiar lump catch in my throat.

We aren’t where we want to be, but we certainly aren’t where we were. Sometimes, those seemingly small steps our children take are actually giant leaps!

Broken Hearts

A few months ago, I was visiting friends at the courtside of a pick-up basketball game happening in our church gym. Our children were playing in the out-of-bounds area at the opposite end of the court from the game, rolling a ball and engrossed in the kind of game toddlers contrive. At one point, without me noticing, the game moved from the opposite end of the court to our end, and at about the same time, my two-year-old little girl scampered into the middle of the court chasing after a wayward ball. I saw the impending disaster at the same time the men playing basketball did. They started yelling “Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!” to the man who was moving backwards at full speed towards my daughter, and he began desperately trying to stop his momentum. At the last minute he did – And instead of 175 pounds of adult male crashing down on my little gal, he sort of folded over her… still knocking her over, but managing to catch her at the same time. I knew what could have been a disastrous accident was averted by his quick reaction time, and she wasn’t hurt.

But that didn’t stop the terror from taking over her face nor silence the blood-curdling scream she let out… partly from the scary situation of nearly being trampled by a grown man and partly because the person there to pick her up off the ground wasn’t a face she knew.

My first response was, of course, to run to her and assure her that everything was ok. I could feel her heart pounding as she curled into my chest. She knew she was safe, and she quickly calmed down… even venturing a small smile to the man whom she had collided with. As soon as I knew she was OK, my thoughts turned to a very strange place. I kept seeing the look of terror on her face as she searched the crowd around her in the immediate aftermath of her accident – all men she didn’t know. The confusion and disorientation brought on by the scary situation made her momentarily forget where to find me, and I saw desperation painted on her face… desperation to find just one person she knew she could trust.

It only took about 5 seconds for me to make it to the center of the circle, but the expression on her face in those 5 seconds seared into my mind. For some reason my mind immediately jumped to a busy Chinese street, chaotic with a cacophony of horns and a perpetual traffic jam. I pictured a crowd of people huddled around an abandoned toddler… and when I imagined the terror and desperation, the confusion and disorientation — the utter fear painted on that child’s face — I saw the face of my daughter.

It isn’t the first time motherhood has given an electric shock to my heart for orphans. I remember in the early months after Cora was born realizing that the newest arrival at New Day Foster Home, where we worked at the time, was a little girl who was born on the same day as my daughter. At the time, motherhood still fresh and raw and aching in my own life, I wrote about Cora’s birthday sister – and my motherhood-sister. She was an unknown woman in the story, but a woman who I knew was going through the exact same things as I was at the exact same moment in the exact same country. Our bodies were healing, but mine did so while nestling a sweet baby girl near my heart. Her arms were empty. I didn’t know what circumstances led to the abandonment of her little girl, but I knew that as a mama, her arms must have ached for the heaviness of her daughter.

China Random 1_19_2010 _ 09_57_04

Now my daughter is a busy toddler… full of the funniest things. Hotels are “elevator houses,” she asks for her “comfy cozy” pajamas at night, she often tells us she’s “a little kinda hungry,” and when we clean out her ears with a q-tip, she asks to see her “ear poop” every. single. time. (And then chortles as she screeches “EEEWWW!” like she’s an 8-year-old boy.) These are the things of toddler-hood. And as a mama, one of my jobs is to gather them all up and tuck them into my heart. To treasure the little and the big. The silly and the profound. To value, love, nurture, and be able to tell embarrassing stories to future boyfriends. But around the world right now — from our own country to across the seas — there are millions of children for whom there is no remembrance. Fingernails that haven’t been clipped, diapers that haven’t been changed, first steps that haven’t been acknowledged, birthdays that pass by unannounced, and little ones who pass away without anyone remembering the exact date. The gulf between what my child has as a loved and treasured daughter — the birth-right of every child — and what an orphan experiences is more vast than my brain can comprehend.

As we wrap up the paperwork stage of our adoption process (dossier sent to our agency yesterday! Wahooo!!!), my mind is turning towards our future child more and more. I don’t know her name or how old she is. I don’t know if part of her childhood story will be standing alone as a scared toddler on a busy street corner. I don’t know if her mama got to nestle her in her arms for 1 minute or 1 month. I don’t know if anyone is celebrating, or even noticing, her first tooth and her first word and her first steps. But my heart is starting to ache as I think of all that she’s missing… of all that I’m missing… of all that her first mama is missing…

Any adoption starts in a tragedy. Whether it’s the tragedy of a newborn being tucked into a cardboard box and left on the steps of the hospital, or the tragedy of a terrified toddler turning in wild circles on a street corner, frantically looking for at least one familiar face – the start of every adoption is brokenness. As adoptive parents, we get to be part of the redemptive response to tragedy, but it doesn’t negate the brokenness. As we refine our medical conditions checklist and talk to specialists and consider what sorts of special needs we are most equipped to handle, I find the one that all orphans share – regardless of the physical condition of their bodies – is the one that gives me the most pause. And I’m praying and trusting that God is already at work in this process… comforting her first family, protecting our little one’s heart, and equipping our family to be an instrument of healing in her life.


The need for adoption talk never expires


A family for only a few months, I took my toddler daughter with me to visit a friend, an older women, a faithful woman I loved and respected. While Lydia was mesmerized with the dust in the air visible in the sun light, my friend shielded her mouth and whispered:

Are you going to tell her she’s adopted?

I giggled a little. Wait, she’s serious. That wasn’t a joke. I whispered back:

How long do you think it will take before she finds out?”

We didn’t wait until the “correct developmental stage,” when children start to notice physical differences, etc. etc. There was never a day we didn’t talk about her story with her. Bedtime stories are most often adoption stories or China stories; we’ve got nearly every one ever printed. The most watched video on my phone is the adoption movie I made for her. She knows every word of the song I used for it and can narrate every scene. She has been to known to introduce herself with the big 3: (1) name, (2) age, and (3) “I was in another mommy’s belly in China then my mommy came to China and adopted me.”

When she asked to come with me to China on my recent adventure, I wasn’t all that surprised. It was heartwarming really. Oh, my sweet little girl. She wants to go back and visit her homeland. But, then she got me.

Come on. I wanna go. I’ve never been to China before!”

What? Did she just say that? My daughter who is in her second year of Chinese school? who wears her Chinese silks for Spring Festival? Who learned how to pronounce her Chinese name better than I can? After I have made great efforts to incorporate Chinese culture and artwork into our home and rehearsed and rerehearsed her story with her? Adoption is so commonly talked about around here, some likely think we’re slightly odd.

Oh, honey, remember? You’ve spent more time in China than the rest of us combined.

She smiled and off she went, trotting away like a horsey as she does and moving on to the next thing to get herself into. As she moved on, I took pause, realizing that those adoption conversations, the ones some may think should be a finite thing, are never complete. My daughter’s need for adoption talk will never expire. My responsibility as a mother to engage her in adoption talk is never a checked off item on my mental to-do list. I get that it may not be daily; adoption doesn’t need to be every evening’s dinner conversation. But, it’s constant, enduring through every season of her life, a conversation that never actually ends but is more of a run-on sentence like these words strung together with very little punctuation—on that day, two weeks ago, when she forgot she didn’t just travel to China but she was born and lived there and on another day, in another season, if she wishes she could forget.

Let me try to answer the question again.

Yes, we have told her she was adopted, we do tell her she was adopted, and we will tell her she was adopted. It’s her life, and I wanna be the one to walk with her in it.


Love Tank

All kids have “love tanks” – deep wells within their hearts which hold the fuel they run on: love.

What happens when those tanks run low? I’m no expert, but I can tell you what happens when my Jubilee’s tank is low.

“Mom, what did you buy at the store? Hi Mom. Mom? Mom, where’d you go? Mom, do you have an itch on your leg? Mom, Mommmm? [knock, knock] Mom, are you going potty? Did you have a dream last night? Mom? Hi Mom.”

[Insert something about me feeling INCREDIBLY smothered and frustrated]

When her tank gets low, there is little that can be done but drop everything I’m doing and fill it. That is sometimes quite inconvenient, particularly if we have an engagement for which we cannot be late, or if I must get the gratin potatoes into the oven in time for dinner guests, or if I am literally in the shower with shampoo threatening to run into my eyes.

But there is a better way: prevention. My mom taught me this lesson when I first became a mother myself in 2005.

“You give them 10 minutes of your undivided attention every day, and they will give you hours of space and time,” my mom said.

Wise words, I’ve found. Ten minutes is not that much, but so often we don’t give them even that. I’m not talking about a hurried question in their direction while we push them through the grocery store. I’m not talking about asking them how they slept while we rake a brush through their hair during the morning routine. What my mom meant was completing an entire puzzle together, or sitting down across the table with them and drinking entire mugs of hot chocolate.

Or washing broccoli together, as was the case for me and my little Jubilee this week. For the umpteenth time that day, she followed me to where I was going, stopped where I stopped at the refrigerator door, and asked, “Can I help you, Mom?”

This time I didn’t say no.

“Sure,” I said. “How about you wash the broccoli?”

Rarely have I seen her get more excited. She jumped and squealed with pure delight. And then she quickly switched gears. She was all-business with that broccoli, I tell you, running each small green tree under the water and scrubbing it with her deft brown hands, before piling it carefully into the steamer basket in the pot. I was impressed, and I told her so. She beamed. We talked about lots of things while we prepped for the meal, just Jubi and me. It was a precious parenting moment, and I dare say it was life-giving for her. I could almost see her tank filling before my eyes.


And all the next day, Jubilee did not follow me everywhere I went. The day was marked with peace, and quick hugs on the fly. It was glorious.

Part II {Genetic analysis: to test or not to test}

{Part I, Dark brown hair, Light brown hair is here}

It’s discussed pretty regularly in the adoption community.

To test or not to test.

Now just to make sure we’re all on the same page here, I’m not talking about genetic testing as advised by your doctor for medical reasons. I’m talking about genetic analysis for children who are growing healthy and strong. I’m talking about collecting some spit, sending it in the mail to a lab, and a relatively inexpensive genetic testing of our children that were adopted to find out more information about them, like what ethnicity they are, the rare chance of finding distant (or not) relatives, and health information. There are several companies that are doing this including 23&me, FTDNA, DeCodeMe, and DNATribes to name just a few.

There are kinda two camps on the subject, (not to mention those of us that waffle around in the middle) and personally I think there are some really important things to think about from both points of view. Our children from international adoption come to us with so very little. Few material possessions if any. Little to no information about who they are or where they come from. So giving them any little additional morsel of who they are seems like a good thing… right?

Well… maybe not. It’s not really so cut and dry and should requires some thought.

Camp A

As parents we can gather that information and present it to our children when we feel it will ultimately benefit them the most. This can include information about their genetic make-up and/or birth families. Maybe we explain and discuss the test results right when we get the results. Maybe children are part of the search or maybe they’re too little yet to participate and understand. Maybe it becomes as much a part of our child’s story as their country of birth. Maybe we use this information to find and possibly connect with biological family members and possibly start a dialog or relationship. Or we might decide keep all this information under lock and key until a child desires to know more or the time seems right. But information is just one of many tools we can use to help our children learn more about who they are, where they come from, their genetics, and the results of the testing can be used (or not) in a variety of ways to help heal the wounds that remain from the loss that comes as an inherent part of international adoption.

After all, our biological children already get to have all this information at their disposal. They can use ancestry.com and look up their family trees and know that great great grandma Sally came over from Sweden. They know who has glaucoma, who died of heart disease and who their cousins are. So shouldn’t we try to give our adopted children the same information and “level the playing field” rather then leave them with empty holes that might be able to be filled?


Camp B

The process of gathering information should be up to the child since that information is theirs alone. Children who are adopted come from a place of loss and have so very much taken from them. They have little to no control about where they go or who they will live with. So shouldn’t we leave at least some of the power to discover who they are up to them? Shouldn’t we “facilitate” their search on their terms rather than satisfy our own curiosity to know who they are? The resulting information after all is theirs and not ours as parents to uncover. It is a decision that they can make all on their own, and if they ever come to us and say, “Hey Mom, I’d like to do that testing thing,” only then should we guide them on their own journey to genetic testing, as initiated by the child. After all their genetics won’t change over time, so there is no rush to get the test done. A child can have testing done years or even decades later without changing the results or losing information. And as children grow to teenagers and adults they have better skills to process the information they will find, and it should be their decision alone.

And let us not forget that there is every possibility that the information revealed from genetic testing may open a can of worms. Health histories. Maybe no information at all that will help a child heal their wounds of loss. There are of course no guarantees. Genetic testing, no matter how much hope or information it provides, will never “fill the hole” for adoptees. Our children come to us from a place of loss. It can be like a hole void of information. And a place of no control. Our children lost it all when they came into our lives and into their forever families. They lost who they were, a language, a community, security, their heritage and more. And let us not forget that they likely lost it all in a split second and had no say in the matter. So even in our efforts to help them learn more about their identities, we must be sure not to take their power to learn about themselves.

As parents of a child that is internationally adopted, it is very natural to “miss” those early years before they came into our arms. As their mama, I too missed out on their first steps and giggles, and very much want to know as much about our children as I can. But does OUR parental desire to put all the puzzle pieces together outweigh their right to privacy and their right to their journey of self-discovery? Even if their journey may be totally separate and apart from us, their moms and dads?

About a year after Tess and Jude came home we did decide to have Tess genetically tested to hopefully give her a “community” to genetically identify with. In a world full of boxes, she just doesn’t fit into any of them and we worried about the implications of a grown up without a box to identify with. Four years later, we realize that the results of the test really didn’t provide us with any concrete answers. Duh. We certainly don’t regret having the testing done, but it surely didn’t satisfy any curiosity or tell us much more about who she is. She our daughter after all and we already knew that.

And off and on we wrestle with if we should use a different company and have the test performed again, or have Mimi and Jude tested. To be honest, I’ve been way too busy with dirty laundry and dust bunnies to sit down and come to a resolution with Papa about whether or not we should do it. Yes, we’re curious about our children’s background. But this is our curiosity and certainly not “child initiated” at this point. And I’m coming to the realization that the longer we have our children with us, the less that it matter to me who they are and where they come from. Our children are His first and foremost, ours after that, and no test results, ethnicity, or genetic markers will change that.

Still, I very much believe that information is inherently good and a powerful tool. The jury is still very much out, and we’ve yet to decide whether or not to have our adopted children genetically tested.

We’d love your input!

2013-10-08_0001Tess & Jude adopted from Vietnam in 2008 and Mimi via China in 2012

To be continued… Part III {Birth family search from an adoptee’s perspective}




I am the proud mama of four-year-old virtual twins, both adopted from China. And while they were adopted in two separate adoptions, 23 months apart, they are every bit as much of brother and sister as they can be.


This has its benefits. The two of them always have a built-in playmate. As their mother, it is fun to watch them as they build a “fort” in the playroom to hang out in while they watch TV. Or, witness those occasions where the dress up clothes seem to explode onto the bodies of two very creative characters as they enter a world of make believe that only they are privy to. And because I am that mom, I can admit that it also makes my heart swell on Sunday mornings when they walk into their class at church wearing coordinating outfits. They are best of friends and stick by each other like glue.

But that doesn’t mean that these two don’t have their differences. Oh no. They are as completely polar opposite as they can be in personality, and on more than one occasion this has resulted in conflict. Recently, however, a new player has entered the game and threats of “I’m not your best friend anymore!” can be heard in the midst of their arguments. I have NO idea where this came from. It’s not something our older three children ever said, and we certainly don’t allow our children to speak to each other that way. But alas…here we find ourselves.

Every time this argument arises and the “disowning” takes place, I gather my two babies and have a talk with them. Over and over again, I tell them that we don’t stop being someone’s friend just because we’re angry at them. That talking to each other that way isn’t speaking in love, and that they need to treat each other lovingly. And I always wrap up by reminding them that no matter how angry they may get with one another they will always be brother and sister.

A couple days ago yet another argument broke out…this time over which pretend world they were going to be visiting on their adventure…and I heard my daughter yell not “You’re not my best friend anymore!” but instead, “I’ll always be your sister!” Only, she didn’t use the sing-song, former preschool teacher voice I use when having my talks with them. She yelled it as a threat, implying that even though her brother was angry with her, he was also stuck with her for the rest of his life.

I have to admit…I laughed. Thankfully out of hearing range of two little sets of ears! Not only did my darling girl prove to me once again that my little “Dynamic Duo” will always be one step ahead of me, keeping me on my toes, but the truth of her words resonated with me. Because…for better or for worse…these two kids from two different parts of China are stuck together. Forever. Nothing will ever change their brother/sister status. Their journeys started out so differently, and yet God wove them together as each child entered our family. Two people who would have likely never met had they remained in their birth country are now “real” siblings in every way but through blood. And that takes my breath away. So of course, I had to gather my two little ones and explain to them what a blessing it is that they will always be brother and sister…no matter how many ups and downs they have in their relationship. That they are a gift to one another.

But these two aren’t just a gift to each other. They’re also a gift to me. Sure, we have our less-than-ideal moments. I will not deny that at times they make me want to pull my hair out. And whether through their arguments or their incredible ability to gang up on me and completely overwhelm my parenting expertise, their shenanigans have resulted in much solace known as “mommy time” after their daddy arrives home in the evenings. I wouldn’t change a thing, though. Because these two make my life a million times richer…even if they do make it a million times more chaotic.

I honestly can’t imagine living in a world where these two wouldn’t always be brother and sister. Or where I wouldn’t always be their mama. So I’ll gladly take all the crazy they throw my way. Their relationship is the miracle of adoption on display, a true example of what it means for new branches to be grafted onto a family tree.

Forever, for always, and no matter what.

All In

We are fast approaching the one year mark of the anniversary of Grace’s adoption. I remember feeling confident in the decision to go and get my baby girl across the world. The Lord had confirmed that decision a thousand different times in a thousand different ways…it is an exhilaratingly joyful thing to hear the Father and walk in the way He directs. I remember being mostly concerned about my other three children and how it would affect them. They were from the beginning, ALL IN. So full of love and excitement and crazy fundraising ideas! So now that the “honeymoon” is over, I asked them tonight how things look presently…

Me: (asking William, age 4) What is the best thing about Grace being in our family and having an adopted sister?

William: I really wanted to have a baby sister. She is funny.

Me: What is the worst thing about Grace becoming a part of our family?

William: When she knocks down my guys (super heroes) on my Batman house. That makes me mad. Sometimes it’s funny but mostly makes me mad.

My older two children agreed that the worst part is when she cries or throws a fit. My oldest daughter is happy for the company of another girl and thankful that Grace got our family because we know Jesus. My oldest son, like his little brother, loves having a really little sister to play with and read to. When I inquired about this more, he actually does really love it. I watch him choose her all of the time. What I love about their answers is that they are so normal. I have heard these answers every time a new baby was born. They aren’t particular to adoption, but very particular to a funny little two year old who is very cute and very loud in her fits but also very much their sister. I know it doesn’t always look this way but there is a very normal atmosphere growing among my children. I can try and complicate it with my book knowledge and constant monitoring of this forever family and it’s possible disruptions, but they are siblings. And they are all in.


This picture proves it. We recently went to court to re-adopt Grace. When the judge asked us (I’m pretty sure he meant my husband and I) to raise our right hand to pledge that our statements were true, everyone raised their right hand. These kids were for real. I think that prior to approaching the bench, I may have threatened at least one of them with some possible jail time if they didn’t calm down and act right. My oldest had already dreamed about the possibility of running in the court room, throwing open the doors and yelling, “I object!” Not because he objects to Grace, but just because it would be fun. So when it got serious and down to business, everyone in the family stepped it up. The policeman was so tickled by the unanimous response that he started laughing, took a picture with my phone and then proceeded to the back offices behind the bench to show the secretaries the line of hands raised and at attention.

It speaks to my heart, it really does. My children wanted to be there, to stand there, to participate and show their solidarity for their sister. It drifts me to a deeper place too. How the judge was pleased to celebrate with us. How I thought there must be much that grieved him but that this was a really good thing to preside over. How the policeman took our picture and showed it to not only the judge sitting to his left, but to everyone around him. How our lawyer counseled us in what to say and when to say it and how he humbly guided our steps that day. How all three took joy in being on our team in those moments and how they all advocated on our behalf. Working in a system designed for justice that often by necessity and reputation is known for dealing with the “bad” when in fact it protects and promotes goodness and righteousness and truth. And new names and new lives and new families. New inheritance.

The natural always reflects the supernatural. The earthly things point to their truest representation in the heavenly things. A little picture here of a lot of glory there. With hands raised we are “in” for adoption. The judge asked me, “Why are you grinning ear to ear?” The answer is, my wonderfully amusing children and the fact that we were made for this! And the knowledge that no one went to jail, despite glee filled running down the long corridor of the court house, erupting in laughter as they hit the finish line (doors of another court room).

Happy Adoption, Re-Adoption and every good gift that comes with it sweet Grace!