Stand Sunday

It’s Stand Sunday, a day we set aside to bring awareness to the orphan crisis. I’ve thought and pondered for some time what I wanted to say on this special day, because I know I need to use my voice when given the opportunity. But really, what I do best is tell our story, and that’s what you’ll find on every page of this blog-the story of a family doing their best to follow God.

stand sunday

 

Adoption is something that I’ve always had in my heart. Of course, in my dreams, it looked much more perfect and picturesque than reality has proven to be. But I would, without a doubt, do it all over again. In the beginning though, it took some nudging to move us to action. I think that’s how the Holy Spirit works oftentimes. It’s small nudges, knowing someone who has been touched by adoption, hearing a sermon…lots of little things prompt us to action. It’s my prayer that this blog and my words can be that nudging for someone.

 

What I want to do today is share some of my older posts in hopes that you will look around, read our story, and feel that little nudge from the Holy Spirit…you know it–it’s the one that says,

 

We have that extra room.

We’ve always wanted a boy/girl.

There’s really no reason not to just look into it.

 

So grab your coffee and a snack, and make yourself at home here on the blog. Take a look into our life to see how challenging, emotionally taxing, and exponentially rewarding adoption can be. 

 

 

The Adoption Process

So You Want to Adopt…Now What?

Do You Have What it Takes?

Adoption Day

Pre-Adoption-Surviving and Thriving

Twelve Seventy-Five

Committing to Love

A Future and a Hope

ADHD vs. Hypervigilance

It’s Just a Tongue Depressor

A Year of Trusting God

It’s Different

Bonding

Bonding Part II & Grace for Us in Parenting

Preparing Your Biological Children for Adoption

We Can’t Watch That

When Love Doesn’t Come Easy

21 Things You Should Know About Adopting an Older Child

Spoons, Forks, and Family

It Was Worth It

Redemption

Waking Up

There’s no good reason, no excuse to not be involved in orphan care. If you can’t foster or adopt, you should support someone who can. Period. This is one case where “We’re too busy” just doesn’t cut it. It’s biblical. God told you to. Everyone plays an important role in the orphan crisis. So if you aren’t in a position to foster or adopt, please reach out to your local foster and adoptive families and find out how you can support them. Here are some ideas to get to you started:

How to Provide Support to Foster/Adoptive Families

 

If you live in Conway County, here are some local resources to get involved with:

Room 29:11

If you live in Arkansas, check these out:

Project Zero

The CALL in Arkansas

One of the best resources is someone who is or has been “in the trenches.” Search out local people who will point you in the right direction. Of course, if you have any questions, feel free to e-mail me anytime. I pray to be the “nudge” that is needed for many people to accept the call to orphan care.

 

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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.

 

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

To Test, or Not To Test…That’s the Question

 

I sealed the plain brown envelope with some hesitancy today. That envelope held some pretty important papers…standardized tests for my oldest boys.  Now, I should explain that we are not required by the state of Arkansas to do standardized testing.  On the contrary, they wisely realized that by requiring the testing of homeschoolers, they were wasting taxpayer money on something that didn’t really mean much in the grand scheme of state education.  However, I’ve always said that I would test my kids regularly just for a few reasons:  A) To make sure that I know where they are in respect to other kids, B) To make sure that they have exposure to test-taking situations, and C) In the event that we do put them back in school, it will be added documentation for where they should be placed.

testing

 

But, I made that decision five years ago, when we pulled our oldest child out of public school. A lot has changed since then.  My philosophy of education is vastly different than it was.  I don’t want a standardized test to define my children’s knowledge or worse, to label them one way or another (genius, average joe, or dumb as a rock).  After all, my children are anything but “standard”.  They are each so unique and different…how could any of them be tested up against the other?

So I didn’t test them last year. It was James’s first year of homeschooling, and I wanted to give him a year of rest, and Isaac had tested the year before so it wasn’t going to hurt anything for him to skip a year.  Then this year rolled around, and I really wanted to see where they stood academically.  So we decided to go for it and test them, but as I sealed that envelope today and sent it off in the mail, I got that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach again.  It’s that inner dialogue that we all fight in one way or another that says, “What if this just proves that everything you are doing has been worthless?”

Of course, I know that voice….and it’s not the voice of my Father. So I reminded myself that God leads our every step, and then I realized all the things that these pieces of paper would NOT tell me.  Here’s my list:

  1. That paper will NOT tell me how far we’ve come with James. .. All the hard days, hard discussions, and tears that have paved the way for healing…there’s no test that can tell me the result of that.
  2. It does NOT account for all the times that we stopped instruction to do some serious heart work this year.
  3. It won’t tell me that James is testing WITHOUT medication for the first time.
  4. It won’t tell me that Isaac, who was a struggling math student until last year, did every problem in his head (and nailed it!).
  5. That paper will NOT provide a complete synopsis of the skills, talents and gifts that God has given each of my children.
  6. That paper will NOT tell me the hours that we’ve spent together reading and discussing great literature together as a family.
  7. It will NOT tell me everything that my kids know about our three-year study of American History from the days of the Native Americans to the present.
  8. That paper will NOT tell me the character of my children.
  9. That paper will NOT tell me the spiritual condition of my children’s hearts.
  10. That paper will NOT tell me their intelligence level.
  11. That paper will NOT tell me their worth.
  12. That paper will NOT tell me MY worth as their Mom or their Teacher.

Thankfully, after reciting these things to myself, I was able to drop it in the mail knowing that we’ve had a great year. Not only have we made big strides in academics, more importantly, we’ve made big strides in life.

So mamas and daddies of both homeschooled and public schooled kiddos, here are my words of wisdom when it comes to standardized testing…Everything has a place, but keep it there, in its place. Don’t allow it to seep out into other areas where it has no business.  A piece of paper, whether it’s a standardized test or a BMI or anything else, at the end of the day, is just a piece of paper.  It tells you a few things, but stops short of the big picture.

If you are seeking God’s will for your family and diligently following it to the best of your ability, you have nothing to worry about….God will fill in the gaps, so rest easy.

 

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?

 

We Can’t Watch That

Movie

We messed up. We always read the reviews, but this one time, we didn’t.  You would think that we would have this down by now, but as we sat there watching this movie, my mind was racing…wondering what to do.  Should I go turn it off?  Leave it on?  Should I try to grasp for some off topic theme?  No…there was nothing to do but finish the movie, and pray.  You might think that this movie had really naughty language…or maybe adult content, but that wasn’t the problem.

We found Bold Eagle on Amazon Prime, and we thought that it was just a non-mainstream movie, one of those silly budget kid flicks that would be completely harmless.  And to a good percentage of the child population, that’s exactly what it was.  But not to our family.  The plot involves a baby eagle being separated from his birth mother while she has been captured by evil people with the help of babbling, ignorant policemen.  The baby eagle spent lots of time in the care of a kind police dog.  And then, at the end, the people who captured the birth mom turn out to be the bad guys and the baby eagle is reunited with his mother in a fantastic, feel-good ending.

Yeah….it really does sound pretty much harmless. But here’s what it teaches my adopted son.  It teaches him that the people who locked up his birth mother (the police) were probably bad guys, confirming something that he already halfway believes.  It teaches him that one day, there will be a glorious reunion with his birth mother…a reunion in which she has been looking for him for a long time, and it was the bad people keeping her from him.  It teaches him that his birth mom was most likely a victim.  It plants the seed that maybe we are just a temporary family.

I had never, never, seen these things in movies before adopting James.  It never crossed my mind, but now it’s what we think about every time we sit down to watch a movie.  Do you have any idea how many movies have adoption-related themes?  A gazillion.  I’m not condemning these movies…really I’m not, but I do sometimes wish that we didn’t have to be so vigilant.  Movies that all the other kids are watching are many times a no-go for our family for that very reason.  And let’s just be honest here…what kind of movie would end with the baby eagle being forever separated from its mother?  I mean, seriously?  So I get it, really I do.

It just gets frustrating sometimes. It’s a constant reminder that our story won’t exactly have a happy, feel-good ending.  There will always be moments where he will look at me with tears in his eyes and say, “I just want to be with my real mom.” And that phrase will still sting ten years from now.  There’s a really good chance that he will always think of his birth mother as a victim, and there’s an even better chance that he will always, always hope for a glorious reunion with her.  Some days, it’s just hard.  Some days, I am tempted to go through his birth mom’s entire rap sheet with him.  But I don’t.  I know that she holds a special place in his heart, and while I will be truthful, I won’t be hurtful.

I am reminded of a storyline from a movie that we absolutely loved, Inside Out. It’s a storyline that shows that our memories and emotions aren’t continually set on joyful.  Sometimes they are slightly colored with sadness, and best of all, this storyline shows us all that it’s okay to be sad sometimes.  We need to feel our emotions, big and small, pleasant and unpleasant, regardless of whether we want to or not.  But going through those emotions with people who love us and care about us make it just a little bit better.  So that’s what we will continue to do.  In the meantime, I sure do hope for more movies like Inside Out.

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.