Waking Up

We’re approaching three years with James. Time has flown by, and I’ve been quiet here on the blog for quite a while, and for good reason. I’ve been super busy, and honestly, we’ve kind of just been plugging along without much to report. Until now…

On Mother’s Day of this year, James was baptized. He was saved a few days before in the bathtub of the old Schoolhouse where we spend much of our time. You can read about that in the archives. But things were kind of quiet for a while after that. We definitely noticed a change in James, but it was the still, quiet, small changes that you probably wouldn’t notice unless you knew him really, really well.

15078746_10209107635582527_5473132784308237621_n

Then school started, and in the last couple of months, James has awakened. One night we came home from church, and James told Tim and I about a child who was there who had acted up. Instead of being mad about it, he said so sincerely,

“It made me sad to see him that way, because I was just like him a couple of years ago. I was mad all the time, and I just felt horrible. I know what he’s going through.”

Tim and I kind of looked at each other, half puzzled and half thrilled, and said, “Yeah, James, that’s what it’s like when God softens your heart toward someone. He probably wants you to pray for them.”

A little while later, he came to Tim after the Wednesday night service and expressed concern for a friend who hadn’t yet been saved. He was so intent on seeing his friend come to know Jesus. We told him to keep praying for his friend…and he has. Faithfully.

Every morning, he starts with his Bible study, and instead of blowing over it, he looks up every single verse, and really considers his answers carefully. He keeps a Bible beside his bed, and often tells me what he’s been reading lately.

We also noticed that his heart is more recpetive to correction now. Where he used to argue, complain, and defend himself, he seems to be content with confessing and making it right.

He asks 1.2 million questions per hour. But we don’t mind (for the most part). They are the great questions, the ones that grow faith and strengthen our spiritual walk. He’s compassionate toward the plight of less privileged people all around the world. He seems to have a deeper understanding of hurting people than I ever will.

And then there was that moment in the hallway at church the other night. A little boy in foster care needed some extra love, so Tim asked James if he would mind talking to him. James patiently sat with him, and told his story, and then he said, “It’s hard. It’s really hard. It’s so hard.” And he started tearing up.

And then I tear up, and I think, Wow, God, you sure can surprise us, can’t you? 

Because it wasn’t that long ago that I was crying for a very different reason, wondering if anything that we said or did was getting through. Frustrated because it seemed like we were up against a brick wall.

And we were. But God wasn’t. He knew what He was doing, and He wanted to make sure that we all knew that it was, in fact, Him doing it. Not me, not Tim…Him.

And once again, I’m in awe, getting a front row seat to see a visible change in someone. A spiritual awakening. I’m seeing the Almighty, the One and Only, the Alpha and Omega, transform a heart right before my eyes. And I think, Why me, Father? Why do you lavish such love and blessings on me, a pitiful sinner? 

Birthing an Adoption

James when he had been with us for about three months.

Maybe it’s because we were just crazy enough to say yes to this mission that God put before us. Or maybe He just loves to work in our lives and point us back to His glory.

I’m not ready to say we’re at the finish line…I mean, are you ever at the finish line with your kids? I didn’t think so. I know that his little mind still has questions and whys and what ifs. I know we still have plenty to deal with as he grows and changes. But right now, I’m basking in the glory of a changed soul.

In school, we’ve been studying five of the major worldviews (besides the Biblical Worldview). This is always a two-edged sword. It’s great for opening kids’ eyes to the world around them and softening their hearts toward people who need Jesus. But it’s also tough to learn. Yesterday, James asked me, Mom, there are so many religions out there. How do we know that this one is the right one? How can we be sure, sure, sure?

I know, it can be a scary question, but everyone grapples with these questions at some point. I was excited to see him thinking and seeking truth especially in a world where truth often seems either non-existent or fluid. And I believe that the Holy Spirit lead me, because I don’t think fast enough to be able to come up with a multiple-point apologetic response. So I wanted to share it here with you…in case you need it.

James, that’s a great question, and it’s one that pretty much everyone deals with at some point in their life. There are a few ways that we know that our God is the one, true God. First, there is evidence that supports the events in the Bible and you’re reading about that in The Case for Christ series right now. Second, somewhere around 40 authors were inspired by God to write the Bible. They lived at different times and different places, and yet, they all had the same central message..Jesus. Of course, there is an element of faith. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who believe without seeing.” (John 20:29) And finally, James, I know that our God is real and true because even though I can’t physically see Him, I see Him at work in my life, and I see Him working in yours. 

And then I shared some specific times that we have seen God clearly at work in our lives and encouraged James to look for God in his every day life. Pray in accordance with God’s word, and watch Him deliver on His promises.

It is one of the greatest blessings of a parent’s life to see their children being transformed by God. It is the prayer of my heart being answered before my eyes. But this one…this almost feels like a double blessing.

 

Advertisements

Redemption

bath tub

Who gets saved sitting in a claw foot bathtub? I thought.  Sitting on the closed antique pull-string toilet, where I found myself so often in the last year, I couldn’t help but chuckle at the story that this would be for him.  You see, James regularly goes to that old bathtub to sit and think.  Sometimes he goes when his behavior requires some extra thinking time.  Sometimes he goes to get away from the world for a bit.  Sometimes, he takes a clipboard and gets his schoolwork done back there.  Most of the time, that’s the place where we have the hardest and the best conversations.  So, I suppose that it makes sense that he was sitting in the bathtub and I was sitting on the closed toilet when he said, “Mom, I need to talk to you about being saved.”

We’ve had the conversation several times now, but I could tell that this time was different.  There was an urgency in his voice and I had the feeling that he was serious about it this time.  As I began to talk to him, he said, “Mom, I know that I have to believe with my heart and confess with my mouth, but I’m just….I’m just….well, I’m just so bad sometimes.  I just can’t get it right.”

Haven’t we all felt like this sometimes?  My heart went out to him, knowing what it’s like to feel the weight of your sin.  I think it’s particularly so for kids like James.  I think they not only carry the weight of their own sin, but also the weight of their past, and the weight of sin that isn’t even their own.  So, I talked to him a bit more explaining, and then Dad came in and climbed in the claw foot tub with James and took over the talk.  Yeah, it was quite the sight.

After a while, they came out of the bathroom and announced that James had accepted the wonderful gift of salvation.  I don’t think anything is a better moment for a parent.  Birth is amazing, but this rebirth…it’s better.  And for a child that wasn’t naturally born to me, it was almost like a make-up for that missed time.  Isn’t God crazy good like that?

He is in the business of redemption…sweet, beautiful redemption.  And nobody does it better.  No one could orchestrate this scenario.  No one could ever dream up being saved in an old bathroom in a schoolhouse.  Just God.

We have prayed for that moment…many times over, but I know that it’s not by our strength or power that he was saved.  It was by the grace of God.  It was God who placed him in a Christian foster home.  It was God who placed him in our home.  It was God who gave him family and extended family and a church family and friends who prayed for him.  It was God who gave him a story that paralleled our story so perfectly.  It was God who used trouble to lead to restoration.

“…and I will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.”  -Hosea 2:15

door of hope

It was God who chose James Wood.

So today, with joy and gratitude in my heart, I have to recite one of my favorite passages:

“I will show my love to the one I called Not my loved one.

I will say to those called, ‘Not my people’,

‘You are my people’;

and they will say, ‘You are my God.’

-Hosea 2:23

When Love Doesn’t Come Easy

 

adoption-dictionary

 

Once again, I probably should have seen the warning signs…and I guess I did to an extent.  I’ve been doing this for over two years now, but right in the midst of a season growth and good days for James, I somehow dismissed the sudden regression and the random behavior issues.  Not all of it was glaring, but it was there. So, as you can imagine, I wasn’t quite prepared for Valentine’s Day this year when he suddenly burst into uncontrollable tears while claiming that his sister gave him a “funny look.”

 

In just ten minutes, we were going to be hosting six ladies for our first annual Valentine’s Day Tea Party at The Schoolhouse, so needless to say, it was not the best time for a full-fledged melt down.  I knew I didn’t have time to delve into the depths of the despair that he felt, and I also knew that he was really looking forward to the party, so I just asked him to go collect his thoughts and come out when he was ready.

 

It wasn’t long before he came out of the bathroom with dry eyes and a big smile.  And boy, did he ever shine at that party.  He is a gifted conversationalist and makes everyone feel included and important.  It’s one of the things that just comes naturally to him.  He cares deeply for others.  He spoke at all the right times with all the eloquence I could ask for from a nine year old boy.  He beamed the entire time.

 

I thought there was a chance that with the fun and success he felt at the tea party, the sorrow had passed, so I decided not to bring it up again.  But the next morning, I could tell it was gnawing at him.  I knew what had to be done, so the first chance I got, I sat down across from him in the kitchen chair and asked what was bothering him.  This may seem like an easy question but for a young boy, it’s not.  It’s particularly tricky to one who is sorting out a difficult past.  I may as well have been asking for the keys to Alcatraz.  I persisted though.  I know how to get a kid’s emotional dam to break.  You just gently keep making little knicks with a pick until the whole dam is compromised.  I had him to tell me all the little things that were bothering him until the big things just couldn’t be held back any longer and burst forward with all the pressure of the Hoover Dam. 

 

The years of carrying the stigma of being “different”, of being a “foster kid” started rolling down his cheeks.  Pretty soon after that process began, we got to the core of the hurt…”But Mom, why me?  Why did God do that to me?”

 

I wasn’t prepared for the rush of pain that surged through my body at that heart cry.  Tears started welling up in my own eyes until they spilled over onto my cheeks.  Somehow, seeing me cry caused him to stop.  Ever so gently, he used his blanket to wipe my eyes and gave me a big hug and rubbed my back softly.   It was my turn now.  I guess those tears were the heartache of your child not knowing what a precious gift he was.  It was the pain of your child being angry with  your God, who you love so dearly.  It was the sadness of seeing him struggle to understand how his entire life has glorified God in a unique and special way when you can see it so clearly.  It was the fact that he was hurting, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to take it away.

 

I made him look me in the eye (running with mascara trails by now) and I did my very best to give him what he needed to hear, silently asking God to give me the words.  I told him how he is a person full of compassion.  I told him that the days of being a “foster kid” are over.  I assured him that he is ours forever.  I talked to him about God’s sovereignty and how we don’t always know the why behind the things that happen but we can trust God because he’s a good Father…the best.  God is always faithful and always good, just and right.  We discussed where he had been and how bright his future looked. 

hands-love

 

And then we got to the part that he needs to hear over and over again.   This principle outlines every conversation.  I told him that we can live our lives making excuses and feeling sorry for ourselves and for what’s happened to us, or we can live our lives asking God how we can glorify him through our situations.  I told him once again that life isn’t fair, a fact that he knows all too well.  And then I told him that we can choose to listen to the lies that Satan whispers in our ear telling us that we aren’t good enough and never will be, or we can listen to the truth of God.  That we don’t have to be good enough…He loves us anyway with a never-ending, unfailing, always and forever kind of love. 

 

And that is my biggest, most fervent prayer for James.  That he will begin to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ for him.  For James Wood. 

 

We covet your prayers for James to understand this as well, and for all the children who have been abandoned at some point in their life.  It is so hard for them to understand unconditional love, because they weren’t given it at the time when they needed it most.  One of the best things that you can do for waiting children in Arkansas and around the world, is to pray that they will somehow grasp the Father’s love for them.  That in the midst of their heartache, the Lord would wrap his arms around them and show Himself in a tangible way through the hands and feet of Jesus…through The Church…through YOU.

 

This is my heart’s cry today…that Christians all over will realize the huge responsibility we have to pray for, to love, to care for, to raise these children.  Because without the love of people, how can they ever begin to understand the love of Jesus Christ?

 

Preparing Your Biological Children for Adoption

Preparing Your Biological Children for Adoption

When we began the long process leading up to adoption, we knew that this was not going to be a husband and wife thing. It was going to be a family thing.  We knew that we would need our children to be on board, because we had a suspicion that it wouldn’t always be easy, and we never wanted our kids to resent the decision to adopt.  Looking back now, I can clearly see that God had his hand at work in our kids long before we ever knew that adoption was on the horizon.  So, I wanted to share some of the things that we did (both knowingly and unknowingly) that helped to prepare our children’s hearts for adopting their brother.

  • Read missionary biographies. We particularly loved George Mueller and Gladys Aylward. Those were two of our all-time favorites. These are really great to show the hardships and the blessings that come through adoption. When we were reading these books, we had no idea that God was preparing our hearts, but when the time came, those biographies boosted our faith in God, and helped us through some of the more trying times that we faced.
  • Talk about it. A lot. We started the conversation over a year before we began moving forward with the adoption process. It started very casually, just discussing the fact that many children don’t have families and that more families are needed. Then it became more serious as we started discussing it in a more personal way. Some questions to ask are:
    • How would you feel about getting a new brother/sister?
    • Would you enjoy sharing your room?
    • Will you begin to pray about this?
    • How do you think adopting a child will change our family?
  • Discuss reality. Everyone has the picture of Little Orphan Annie in their head when they hear the word “adoption”. But in reality, it is not like that. There is a lot of hurt and pain involved with adopting a child, and that will affect your children and your family as a whole. So it’s important to talk about the reality of adoption, not the pre-conceived ideals.
  • Give them your time. Waiting is one of the hardest parts of adoption, but trust God with the timing because it’s also the greatest gift. During that pre-adoption period when your paperwork is finished and you are just waiting for a call, take that time to focus on your bios. It will be a while before you can do that again. For a little bit, most of your energy is going to go to your newest addition, so spend one-on-one time with each one of them. Talk to them, play with them, and give them lots of love to store up.
  • Pray Together. We prayed together with our biological kiddos a lot before and during the adoption process. We wanted them to know that God was in control of the situation, and that we were depending entirely on Him (because we definitely were!). We wanted them to see God at work and one of the main ways to do that is to see God answering your prayers.

Preparing Your Biological Children for Adoption

  • Keep the lines of communication open…before and after adoption. Nothing was off limits for our kids during the pre- and post-adoption stages. If it was on their hearts, we wanted to know it. There were several times that we had to pry out a confession about how they felt. But it was so important to let them get it off their chest, and to let them know that their feelings were 100% normal.
  • Point out their God-given qualities that they will get to exercise through adoption. We really tried to play up my kids’ character qualities. I remember saying things like, “Isaac, you have such a kind and forgiving heart. That is going to be so helpful to you and so comforting to your new brother.”

 

These are just a few ideas that will help to prepare your biological children for adoption. Adoption is such a blessing, but it should not be taken lightly.  It absolutely will change your family.  Expect your family dynamics to shift, your routines to be upset for a while, and your children to feel a little unsettled for a while.  But rest assured and know that it’s only a short time before things begin to settle and the blessings start flowing.

One Year of Trusting God

Surviving and Thriving in the Pre-Adoptive Stage

It’s been one year. Okay, one year and 28 days since we added our fourth child.  In some ways, it seems like the past year has been going in slow motion, but in other ways, it flew by.  Life is funny sometimes.  We had a lot of “firsts” last year.  On Valentine’s Day this year, I realized that it would be the first holiday that wasn’t a “first” for James.  It seems like such a long time ago when he wasn’t quite ready to make Valentine cards for the family.  I still remember it like yesterday though.  When I explained to him that every year, we write each other Valentine’s and have a special Valentine Day dinner, he said, “That’s weird.”  But that night he sat down at the table and couldn’t keep himself from smiling when he opened one Valentine Card after another and read about how much we love him.  It must have felt strange to him.   I can remember wondering if our Valentine’s Days would ever be the same again.  After this year’s celebration, I can say they’re not the same.  They are even better.

This year, James was on board from the beginning, helping with decorations, making Valentine Cards for everyone, and excitedly preparing the traditional Valentine supper. It was so fun to see the difference a year has made.  It filled my soul and renewed my hope that broken things can be beautiful again.  Here’s a taste of this year’s celebration:

brothers valentine

 

 

 

 

Sometimes, I think about these blessings that I would be missing out on if we hadn’t obeyed God, and I just am saddened by the sheer possibility. Hearing your biological child say, “I love you,” is absolutely amazing.  Have your adopted child say, “I love you,” is a totally different kind of amazing.  Not necessarily better or worse…just a feeling that I wouldn’t want to miss out on experiencing.

 

James has made leaps this year:

  1. He has grown like a weed! I have no doubt we’ll see a good two inches of growth this year on his ceremonial birthday doorway marking.
  2. He has flourished in (home)school without the assistance of medication.
  3. He is sleeping regularly.
  4. He is becoming a great brother.
  5. He no longer becomes hysterical at bumps and bruises.
  6. He is starting to trust us.
  7. He has accepted our traditions and added some new ones.
  8. He freely expresses his love for us.
  9. He expresses remorse when he does wrong.

This isn’t even half of the list. The confidence I now see in him, the peace I’m seeing growing in him…

 

I wish that I could say, “Look at what we did! We saved this child!”  But there’s no way.  It was much less about what we did and much more about what God did.  Last year, most days I felt as though I was drowning, struggling up to the surface every few days just to get a gasp of fresh air before heading back down.  I experienced my first (and hopefully last) round of serious depression.   Looking back, I think it was just the perfect “thorn in my side” to remind me that God is doing this…not me.  God was making us a family…not me.

On the very day that marked one year since James has been with us, I could literally feel a big sigh from deep inside. I looked around and suddenly saw James, who seemed like he had just always been there.  I looked at my biological kids and said, “Wow!  You’ve grown since last time I really saw you.” And I had this renewed sense that I’m still here.  I’m not coming up for air every few days anymore.  No, I am swimming strong, and all my little ducks are right beside me.  While I wasn’t looking, they were having the time of their life learning to swim strong too.

When There Isn't Enough Mom to Go Around

That phrase that I said every day last year as soon as my feet hit the floor…do you remember it? I trust you, God. It got me through, and not only did it get me through, but God was right.  His plan for our family was and is good and right and perfect.

So, as we close the door on this first year together, I am climbing out of survival mode. I’m shedding the extra pounds I picked up on the way, but even more than that, I’ve shed many of the worries I carried with me, seeing once again that God can be trusted.  And now, my faith is just a little-or maybe it’s a lot-stronger than it was.  Now the next time God asks me to do something hard, I’ll know without a doubt that it’s a good plan, and maybe, just maybe, I won’t worry so much.

Birthing an Adoption

Birthing an Adoption

Birthing an Adoption

“You do realize, Mrs. Wood, that after today, it will be as if James were birthed to you, right?” asked the man questioning me in court the other day during our adoption hearing. “Are you serious?” I thought. To me, it felt like I truly had birthed him, and it was the Longest. Labor. Ever…to the tune of two years!

It started about a year and a half ago. I remember it really, really well. Sitting across from Tim, I boldly said, “I want more children, but I am absolutely sure that I don’t want to be pregnant again.  Let’s start praying about adoption and see if it’s time to pursue it.” Unlike most women, pregnancy was not a blissful thing for me (and yes, I have spent time feeling guilty about this). Although I never had terrible morning sickness (thank You, Lord!), I certainly spent the first three months waking up to saltines on my bedside table and wondering if I was going to make it through the day. I remember with my second and third pregnancies terrible pain just from walking because I carried them low…or funny….or something.   I remember not being able to sleep on my stomach, therefore not sleeping well for nine long months. I remember worrying about everything I did. I remember gaining 60 pounds. Every. Single. Time.   Although I remember anticipating my babies fondly, it’s just not something I wanted or needed to experience again.

I honestly believed that adoption would be nothing like birthing a child. Man, was I wrong. When we first set out on this journey, I laid awake for nights in a row, thinking about the child out there who was mine, who needed us. I wondered what he looked like, what he sounded like, what it would be like to have him with us. I waited, both patiently and impatiently, while I nested uncontrollably. I cried at the drop of a hat when someone mentioned the word adoption…or hello…or cat…and though I didn’t physically hurt with this child, you can bet my heart hurt for him.

When we first got matched, it was as if I had just taken that pregnancy test. The exact same joy, anticipation, and just a touch of, “What have I done?” The first few weeks that James came to live with us were the hardest of my life thus far. I was so sick I literally couldn’t eat, and it had nothing to do with a virus. I was in the depths of post adoption depression, and it was not easy. I woke up each morning, unsure of whether or not I’d make it through the day. But every day, by God’s provision, I made it, and over time, James and I began to bond. I would sit him in my lap, cuddle him and rock him. I would hold his little hand as he fell asleep…all the things I did with my newborn babies. And while I haven’t gained 60 pounds, over the course of the last six months, I’m rounding the 20 pound mark. I’m an emotional eater…can you tell?

And then, there was the other day when the judge finally said, “He’s yours!” I had no idea that I would feel different at that moment. I thought that nothing much would really change, but my whole world changed with that one statement. As I fought back tears, I looked back at James, smiling from ear to ear, and it was as if the doctors and nurses had just placed a brand new bundle in my arms. Suddenly, I overwhelmingly felt that he was really mine. Forever.

So when the man questioning me asked,

“You do realize, Mrs. Wood, that after today, it will be as if James were birthed to you, right?”

…well, you’ll just have to forgive me for the chuckle that must have been at least a little bit visible. I have absolutely birthed this child. Maybe not from my body, but every last bit from my heart.

Adoptive parents out there who have never gotten to experience pregnancy, never, ever let anyone tell you that you haven’t experienced birthing a child. Adoption is absolutely, positively birthing a child into a new life. And just like the birth of a new baby, it is beautiful, incredible, messy, painful, amazing, and completely worth it.

Adoption Day

Adoption Day

Today, August 3rd, 2015, we officially welcomed our fourth child, James Wood.

Today was the day…Adoption Day! I actually like the way a friend put it best…FOREVER DAY!! When I think of how many not-forever days my little guy has had in his eight years, I am SO thankful that today was a forever day. As we prepared for today, Tim and I mentally rehearsed our answers to the questions we would have to answer. Yes, adopting a child requires you to actually raise your right hand and testify with a real life judge and real life court people. Thankfully, our adoption specialist gave us a heads up on the questions we’d need to be ready for like our wedding date (yes, we actually debated on that question and considered asking her to look it up…we are THAT bad!). Then there were other questions, like, “Why do you want to adopt James?” That’s the one I got stuck on.   I wondered if the judge wanted my short answer or my long answer. As it turned out, he didn’t want either…he didn’t even ask the question! Probably best, because the long answer would have kept us there all day! However, I still want to give my long answer, because one day, I want James to know for sure that he was fought for, he was wanted, and he belonged from the very beginning. So here it is…

Why did we want to adopt James?

Adoption Day

Introducing James Timothy Wood

Because God left an empty spot in our family for seven long years…and he fills it perfectly.

Because we prayed….and he was the answer.

Because we have fought for him…and he has been worth it all.

Because he needed us…and we needed him.

Because he’s been the one missing at our dinner table.

Adoption Day

Adopted at Age 8 on August 3, 2015, after 2 years of foster care.

Because over six months ago, we decided to love him…so we do.

Because we knew it was him, and when we met him, we couldn’t have been more sure.

Because we have cried together under the shade tree in the back yard…and we’ll probably do it again a few times.

Because this kiddo has a big future ahead of him…and we want to help him navigate it.

Adoption Day

Because he calls our house “Home”.

Because his “heart has some light with siblings” in his life.

He deserves a do-over…one that includes a forever family.

Adoption Day

And like I’ve told him over and over when he’s questioned our intentions, I want to be there to cry when we take him to drop him off at college…or trade school…or his first apartment…whatever.

I want to cry again at his wedding.

I want to be Grandma to his children, and I want to tell them the story of God’s hand in their Dad’s life.

I’m looking forward to the day that he talks about often…the day when he builds a house right beside us right here on Old Salem Rd and spends all his spare time working the farm with his family.

Adoption Day

The Wood Children

I don’t know if this is what life will look like for us or not, but last night, as we were sitting together as a family, discussing the events of today, James said, “You know, it’s like yesterday and everything before it is the Old Testament of James, and tomorrow starts the New Testament of James.” And I think that’s the most exciting part of today. It’s a fresh start. His future is now in HIS hands, not the state’s, not the caseworkers’…and I ask you to pray with me that at the right time, God will impress upon him to choose to do the most important thing with his life, and put his life entirely in GOD’S HANDS.

Thank you all for your support and love throughout the past year and a half! It’s surreal that we are finally closing the door on this chapter and starting to write the rest of the book.

Adoption Day

The Wood Family, 2015