Thursday, April 25, 2013

Adoption: journey and blessings

There is no doubt about it, adoption is a journey.  Adoption is a blessing.

In the adoption world, we also talk about adoption being hard.  And it is.  But to define "hard" is difficult.

Hard is...
  • Your child having a major temper tantrum and not being able to connect with her.
  • Your child shutting down emotionally and not being able to figure out what has triggered it.
  • Trying to decipher if an undesirable behavior or reaction is related to adoption or just a normal kid thing.

But hard is also...
  • Listening to your child tell stories about her past.
  • Reading your child's file and crying as you read what she has endured.
  • Watching your child be fearful about upcoming changes (any change...change is difficult)
  • Knowing that your child will continue to struggle with attachment, identity, and self worth.
Yesterday an adoptive mom shared that she was shopping with her two kids.  Her adopted teenaged son, who has been home over 10 years, waited outside one of the stores.  When my friend left the store, she thought her son saw her and followed.  But he didn't.  And when he realized that she was gone, he panicked.  He told her that she thought she left him.  Abandoned him.

The fear of abandonment lurks under the surface for our kids.  And that is hard.

But the blessings of adoption ease the pain of the hard parts.  Adoption is also an overwhelming blessing.  It is an opportunity to see God's redemptive work in a beautiful and unique way.

When Yuly had been home about a year, she asked me, "If you hadn't adopted me, how would I have heard about God's love for me?  In Colombia I only heard about God's punishments, not His love for me."

To be able to share God's love and the hope we have in Christ with my daughter, that is a blessing.

And from this weekend, as Todd was fixing breakfast for Yuly, she was sharing with him about her Bible reading for the day.  She is reading about the children of Israel and the tabernacle and was asking about the difference between the tabernacle and the temple.  This lead to a discussion of the Holy of Holies.  Todd reminded her about the thick curtain the surrounded the Holy of Holies.  Yuly interrupted and said, "that's the same curtain that was torn when Jesus died on the cross!"

Yes, my sweet girl has been adopted twice.  And to listen to her and her daddy have spiritual discussions over breakfast, to know that she is beginning to understand the love that God has for her, THAT is one of the best blessings of adoption.

The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”  Romans 8:15

Friday, April 19, 2013

Flight of faith

There are so many aspects of adoption that require faith. Just to name a few:
  • Choosing an adoption agency
  • Choosing a specific program (e.g., international vs. domestic)
  • Raising the necessary funds
  • Accepting a referral of a child
And for me, right now, there is another one: the pending reality of being half-way around the world from my family.

Here are our travel plans:
  • Todd, Savanna and I will leave together on Sunday, May 5
  • We will arrive in Guangzhou on Tuesday, May 7 (that seems so crazy to me!)  
  • We meet our daughter on May 8.  
  • We finalize her adoption on May 9 (Yipee!!)
  • Todd and Savanna leave for home on Sunday, May 12
  • Todd and Savanna arrive at home on Monday, May 13
  • I celebrate our daughter's birthday with her on China on that same day
  • We have our Consulate Appointment on Tuesday, May 21
  • We board a flight home on Wednesday, May 22 (God willing!)
  • We arrive home on Thursday, May 23.
That is (for me) a long time to be away from my home and my family.  Yes, I know others have done it.  Yes, I know others have had longer and harder separations.  Yes, I know God will be with me.  But I still struggle.

When we adopted Yuly, Riza, Todd and I traveled to Colombia.  After a week in Colombia, Todd traveled home.  5 days later my parents and my oldest daughters came for a long weekend to visit.  Then they returned home and I followed them 4 days later.  With a 4 year old and a 7 year old Spanish-speaking daughter I made it through flying to the capital city (Bogota), the embassy process (including the medical appointment), flying to Miami, through immigration and then flying home.  God was with me then (and I am grateful for all of the prayers offered during that time!)

So, I have been in a foreign country before by myself with children.  And in some ways, I think the China experience will be easier because there are so many adoptive families in Guangzhou.  When I was in Colombia, I was the only English-speaking adopting mom in the hotel.

But there was one big difference.  The flight from our home to our city in Colombia was 5 hours.  I think I had comfort know that if something happened, Todd could come back.  He could help me.  He wasn't that far away.

This time, I will be a 28 hour flight away.  I will be on the other side of the world.  And that's a little overwhelming to me.

God continues to use this adoption to teach me to trust in Him.  Yes, He has given me a wonderful, Godly, supportive husband, and I am grateful.  But ultimately, my hope needs to be in Christ alone.  And so, I choose to trust in God that He will be with me in China and with my family at home and that He will be all of the help that I need.

Psalm 121
 I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

April Lifesong Blog: Foster care and Ethiopia

Lifesong is an amazing ministry.  Currently they are trying to sponsor all of the children in an orphanage in Ethiopia.  For $19/month you can ensure that an orphan is receiving food, education, and, most importantly spiritual mentoring.  To learn more about this project:

And here is the April blog report...all about foster care.  Could God be calling YOU?

The Forgotten Initiative (TFI), foster care ministry of Lifesong for Orphans, is bringing joy and purpose to the foster care community by LEARNING the needs, SHARING the needs and EQUIPPING the local church to meet those needs. 

Check out what TFI is doing to serve the foster care community...


Project Sunshine: Foster Home Edition is a fundraiser & service project all in one!
After foster children are removed from their homes, they often wait for hours in agency rooms. These same rooms are also used for weekly visitation between the birth parents and their children while they are in care. Project Sunshine was birthed out of a desire to create friendly spaces for kids during this dark time in their lives.

Project Sunshine: Foster Home Edition simply takes the Project Sunshine concept and applies it to a foster parent's home and at the same time raises funds for The Forgotten Initiative!
Check out this video to meet the families we are serving this year in Peoria, IL on May 17-18 and click here to see how YOU can play a part in serving the foster care community!

How can YOU help Project Sunshine: Foster Home Edition?


Watch our new vision video to get a better idea of how The Forgotten Initiative, as a whole, seeks to minister to the local foster care community by bridging the gap through Forgotten Advocates.


Mentors Needed: Step into the lives of children of vulnerable adults affected by foster care through relationship building, tutoring, job/life skills training, etc.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013
6 - 9 PM
Richwoods Christian Church, Peoria, IL

Read more from The Forgotten Initiative... 

Project Sunshine: Foster Care Edition 2012 - "My home looks so beautiful. The impact of being gone and coming home to see this is almost unbelievable. I just don't know how to say thank you enough." Watch the Video
American Orphans - "Only a life contemplating the love of Christ becomes a life acting the love of Christ. And love always moves. Loving first and foremost Christ. And loving others." Read Full Story
Perspective from Foster Care Caseworker - A caseworker's job is heart-breaking, challenging, and can be extremely overwhelming.  Read as Jenna shares her heart with us! Read Full Story
Impact of Journey Bags - "Last night at midnight three precious little beauties showed up on my doorstep. They each had with them a blanket, a stuffed animal, and a book bag, their Journey Bags of course..." Read Full Story

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Do Hard Things Part II

One more thought...

Although I am learning to embrace doing hard things, I still sometimes whine about the hard work.  Sometimes I feel that if I am doing what God has called me to do, somehow it should be easy.   I know that's crazy...Jesus's example alone should be enough to show me that doing what God calls us to do requires sacrifice and commitment.  And its not easy.

I have a favorite story in the Bible that is somewhat obscure.  In the story, Abraham and God are talking and God promises Abraham that he will be given a son.  After some discussion, God tells Abraham to offer Him a sacrifice:

So the Lord said to him, “Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.”
10 Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however, he did not cut in half. 11 Then birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away.  Genesis 15

I love this truth in this story.  Abraham is trying to do exactly what God told him to do.  Not only that, what he is trying to do is to worship God.  And yet, the birds of prey came down and tried to disrupt his sacrifice.

If I were Abraham, I would've stomped my feet and asked God, "Why aren't you keeping the birds away?  I'm trying to do what you said.  Help me out!"

The first time I really considered this story was when my girls were younger.  It seemed that no matter when I tried to have my quiet time alone with God, a child would have an "urgent" need and interrupt me.  I would try getting up early, waiting until nap time, whatever.  It seemed as if I were constantly interrupted.  I remember crying and asking God to help.  I complained that I was trying to spend time with Him, so why didn't He help keep my girls quiet during my prayer time.  God showed me Abraham's story.

I found kinship with Abraham (although I am thankful that I was dealing with a daughter in need of a drink than birds of prey harassing me while I offer a sacrifice). And I appreciate that the detail of his difficulties offering a sacrifice were included in the Bible. 

It is in the depths of hard times that we see God's strength revealed and we experience Him in new ways.  And somehow, the hard work changes us.  Our faith deepens.  Our relationship with God is enriched.  And we see that we can accomplish the difficult with God's help.

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.  Psalm 73:6

Friday, April 5, 2013

Do hard things

In 1996, Todd and I packed up our then 15 month old daughter and moved to Florida.  It was not a decision we took lightly.  We left our families and an amazing church.  But as we prayed, we really felt that this was where God wanted us to go. The impetus for us to move here was so that I could go back to school..  Todd willingly switched jobs and relocated to sunny Florida.  We settled in and I started school at Florida State University.

We thought we would be here just a few years.  Just long enough to get my degree.  It took me longer than I expected.  Much longer.  It was harder than I expected.  Much harder.

But, I did it.  I graduated in 2002.  During my experience in school, God taught me many things.  I learned to trust Him more. My faith deepened.  My prayer life grew richer.

After graduation, I continued my work at the hospital.  Although I used the education I received, I didn't really work in a job that required my specific educational background.  Not that this was a problem to me.  I loved my job.  I loved my co-workers.

Still, in 2011, I walked away to homeschool our two youngest daughters.  It has been wonderful.  I love it!  Not every moment of every day maybe (just being real!), but I truly enjoy this role and am so thankful that I have the opportunity to stay home and teach my girls.

Ever since I graduated, I have wondered why I went to school.  We invested a lot of time, effort and money to get me through school.  Initially I worked in a job that didn't really require my degree (but was in my field) and now I am homeschool. Why, then, did I need to go to school?  Many would argue that I am not using my education.

But, I believe that my education is not just the book-learning I did. I know there was more although I don't fully know the answer even now.  And I know that I may never completely understand.  However, I also believe that God is big enough that there is probably not just one reason that I went to school, but many reasons.  For example, my journey has brought me into contact with a unique circle of friends that I know God expects me to bless.

God has recently revealed to me another reason.  He taught me that I can accomplish hard things with His help.  School was hard.  But with His help, I finished.  Adoption is hard (at times).  But with His help, I can parent all these beautiful children that God has given me.

On our journeys, all of our decisions impact other decisions.  Maybe I needed to go to school so I could learn that I can choose to do hard things and with God's help answer the challenge.  I am confident that the time deepening my walk and strengthening my prayer time has been essential to my walk--I wouldn't be where I am today without it.  I am thankful for the journey God has given me...hard times and all.

 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9