The Day After Christmas

Every year is a fresh blank slate to fill with Christmas memories. This year was one of those. You may not feel like it right now, your house may be a mess. Christmas has worn you out. Right now, take a moment and breathe deeply. Ponder the season. Look back through the tips and count up how many you used. Guess what, even if you only did ten or five, you did more than you would have done if you hadn’t read this Advent Devotional. Go YOU!

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I hope the chapters each week deepened your faith and expanded your understanding of adoption. Not only are you chosen and loved, but so are your children, regardless of their past. Adoption makes kings out of carpenters. Adoptions transcends all bloodlines. Just as Joseph is really the father of Jesus, you are the parent of your adopted children. Adoption is for those children  who need a home to flourish in so that they may fulfill their destiny. It’s a father like Joseph that children need. A man who follows the call and doesn’t look back.

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We adoptive parents, when entrenched in the day to day with our child’s behaviors, survival mode ruling, we may wonder if your children’s births were prophesied, if they were planned for, if all the past shame neglect and abuse can bring forth a new shoot, new life from the stump of pain and decay.

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In the midst of the mess, the strewn wrapping paper, the piles of presents, take some time to prophesy for the coming year. Find a quiet place and for a few moments, look ahead to the present of the new year. Write down some prayers for your children based on the word. Remember, God can do over and above and beyond all we can ask hope or think, according to the power that works within us, the same power that rose Christ Jesus from dead.

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We adoptive parents may go through a Job syndrome of our own. Horrific things happen in the wake of our calling. Maybe you feel like the holidays are a Job syndrome. Too many meltdowns. Too much sugar. Too little schedule and your family has been thrown for a loop. I get it. I’ve been there. It’s hard to celebrate when you feel as if you are just surviving.

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Funny thing about surviving, it means you made it. You crossed an invisible finish line. Christmas is behind you and the calendar is speeding to a new year.

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Another interesting phenomenon, your children will remember the celebration, the layers of tradition, the happy times more than you will remember the exhaustion of this moment. When my children talk about our leanest years, they don’t remember lack, they remember celebration and joy. When I remember the meltdown on a Christmas shopping day, that particular child, all grown up, remembers it as a great day. Don’t give up. Don’t give in. The post Christmas exhaustion you feel is not a measure of the holiday or the memories you made.

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Let me leave you with a final word of encouragement. Parents, you are anointed and qualified to preach the Gospel of good tidings to your children.

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With the help of the Lord, under your prayer covering and guidance, your children can be set free from the mindset of neglect and lack. If you adopted a child from birth, he can feel chosen, not abandoned. If your teen struggles with his identity, you can proclaim liberty and continue to point to his worth. Formed in his mother’s birth womb, he was chosen and set apart.

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Start the new year with this in mind, you are equipped, you are chosen, you are qualified. You are the parent that your children need. It wasn’t some mix up in the universe. So, today, put on your shoes of peace, along with the full armor of God and fight the good fight of faith. You are more than a conqueror through Christ Jesus. Thank you for being who you are and doing what you are doing.

Father of orphans,

champion of widows,

is God in his holy house.

God makes homes for the homeless,

leads prisoners to freedom,

but leaves rebels to rot in hell.

-Psalm 68: 4,5

*Excerpt from 25 Days of Thriving Through Christmas An Advent Devotional for Adoptive And Foster Parents

Christmas Has Needs

I paced back and forth at the front of the house where large windows looked out over the front yard and the mailbox. The mailbox- what had been a symbol of Christmas cards and good news had become my worst enemy. I dreaded the mailman coming bringing bills and more bills, and yet I watched, waited, worried. When the mail truck pulled up to my box, I hid behind the curtains, afraid he would see me and hand deliver bills that said, “FINAL NOTICE”. I imagined him shaking his head in pity me as he saw the stack of bills.

I’ve lived there, deep in the pit, where my prayers were only about my lack. Mortgage payments. Groceries. Presents.

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How do you have a silent night when your mind is full of the need? Of worry? Of the reality of the barrenness of now?

Christmas
Has 
Needs

I’m not going to tell you how to shop smarter or spend less (there are plenty of great blogs and books about that). The truth is you cannot shop smarter with nothing. It is not a great deal if you have nothing.

Over ten years ago, we moved to our current home and still owned a home in another city. It sat on the market for a year and a half. We paid two mortgages for that length of time. A few years before that we lost our family owned business. We ate through our savings, our kids college funds and put the rest of our money into a house that the downturn in the market swallowed up. We went from being middle class to on the edge of homeless.

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I don’t share this info often because I don’t enjoy pity parties anymore. I’m not inviting you to one. I do, however, enjoy empathy parties with a healthy dose of encouragement. That is what this book is for. Encouragement. As I said before, I have talked to many adoptive families over the years and all of them have something in common- after the adoption comes the Job syndrome. Sometimes it’s years down the road. Sometimes, just months or days. It can come in different packages, loss of heath for parent or child, loss of finances, behavior issues, trouble attaching,_________(fill in the blank). The Job syndrome is a whole book in itself, I’ll keep it brief your sake, you get the picture, right? (This is redundant.)

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Christmas has needs. It needs us to step outside of our everyday stress and receive it.

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That is difficult to do when we are full of worry and the weight of the world on our shoulders. So, how do we accept the gift of Christmas when we cannot buy our children the gifts we want to? Or buy the groceries we need to make the traditional dinner? How do we meet Christ in the morning when we are so weighed down and depressed we cannot get out of bed? How do we celebrate when our children from hard places have had every trigger activated and are out of control?

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Biblical Application:

1. Accept your now.

You may not be where you want to be financially or physically, just remember a healthy part of getting on the right path is enjoying something in your now that you can remember later. Play games with your kids. Cut out paper snowflakes. Sing Christmas carols. Make gifts.  Watch for points of connection and behaviors you want to encourage. Mention them aloud to your children. Before you know it, you will have a pocket full of wonderful memories. The kids won’t remember the lean years as much as they remember the celebration.

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2. Prepare for your future now.

I’m not talking about getting a financial plan. Those are great, but the bottom can fall out of those too. Ask me. I know. I’m talking about your heart. If you believe your child will always struggle or always make things a struggle then it will become reality. Instead, look for pinpricks of light and believe that God is doing a great work in the child that He put in your care. Instead of thinking that your Christmases will always be full of lack and need, focus on the blessings you have. Thank the Father for them. Often. Keep a list or a thankful tree (it doesn’t have to be November to do this). This is heart preparation for the future blessings. It makes things well with your soul.

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3. Rest in HIM.

I can’t say this often enough. I do say it often because the Lord leads me to verses often that hi-light REST. His rest is not the same as ours. It’s not vegging in front of the TV ignoring the  issues, it’s digging deep into His word. It’s dialoguing with Him. Tell Him your concerns. Don’t just make requests. When you do, trust Him to supply. He will. The Christmas that was the most lean for us financially, friends of mine gave me gifts for my children that were perfect for them. We didn’t spend lots of money. We didn’t have it. We did celebrate. I bet if you asked my kids if they remember a ‘bad’ Christmas, they would say “NO!”The great thing about the need of Christmas is –

“You don’t have to make Christmas…..You can rest in Christ…..You can breathe easy in Christ.”- Ann Voskamp

Christmas needs us to rest in Christ.

*This is an excerpt from 25 Days of Thriving Through Christmas An Advent Devotional for Adoptive and Foster Parents

It Had Better Not Be Perfect This Christmas!

Every year when the kids and I were putting up the Christmas tree, my Spock-like tendencies came out. Every candle had to be perfectly spaced. The ribbons had to be equal distance apart.  All the lights had to be white and homemade ornaments had to go on the back side of the tree. I wish I could go back in time and change those practices. I cannot. But, you can learn from my mistakes. Part of my habit was personality. Part perfectionism. I wanted the tree to be perfect. I’m not sure who the tree was being perfect for. It wasn’t for the kids. They would rather have popcorn and homemade ornaments. Colored lights.

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The problem with perfect? It doesn’t help children. It leaves them wanting. It makes them feel as if they don’t measure up.

Happy Birthday.png

The last thing a child from a hard place needs is the expectation of perfectionism. They are wrapped in control that leaves them in manipulation mode. To add perfectionism to that scenario spells disaster. Instead we need flexibility. Fun. Willingness to bend. Willingness to bend down and see where they are and join them.

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Biblical Application:

“In the Christian story God descends to reascend. He comes down from heights of absolute being into time and space, down into humanity; down further still, if embryologists are right, to recapitulate in the womb ancient and pre-human phases of life; down to the very roots and seabed of the Nature He has created. But He goes down to come up again and bring the whole ruined world up with Him.”- C.S. Lewis

Kids who have come from traumatic beginnings or kids who have just had a hard day need us to descend to their depths in order to help them ascend into joy.

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This is the Christ-like Christmas act. This is not perfect. It is messy. It is not self serving. It is bowing down to serve.

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It is paper chains strung across the living room. It is flour all over the floor when baking. It is globs of shapeless cookies with mountains of icing. It is sloppily wrapped gifts with half a yard of tape around them. It is falling asleep on the floor under the Christmas tree with a child who pops out of bed like a batch of popcorn. It is joy in imperfection. Bend down to bring those in your world up with you.

*This is an excerpt from 25 Days of Thriving Through Christmas An Advent Devotional for Adoptive and Foster Parents

Expect a Mom Meltdown This Christmas Season

Expect a Mom meltdown.

Last year during the Christmas season, my good friend Lori posted this on Instagram:

“I am in panic mode you guys. I worry about what I’ve gotten the kids, if they’ll like what they are going to get, who else I need to buy for, where are all the extra funds going to come from? I know this isn’t the reason we celebrate, but I can’t help it. I want to give my kids the world! They don’t ask for things. In fact, JR only asked for one thing and he said he didn’t care if he got nothing else. The stress of money and things have made me grumpy and to not enjoy this season like I used to. I feel so behind….not just with Christmas, but on the house, with school. My mind is rarely on the joy that Christmas brings. So, I’m going to try and combat that this week. We are going to bake cookies, maybe research how other countries celebrate Christmas, and read the story of Jesus’ birth….I need to be reminded why Christmas makes me so happy, and I need to release myself from the stress and let God take the lead (because I’m such a control freak).”

And… the feedback was in agreement. I shared “you are not alone” and other Moms agreed that they have meltdown before Christmas moments. Some blame it on peer pressure. Yep, it is there. But I think most of it stems from our wanting to make Christmas perfect for our families. A top notch goal? Right?

Expect
A
Mom Meltdown

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Blogs and articles this season have a wide array of advice about advent readings, the true meaning of Christmas, how to decorate the best tree, the best deals on gifts, yummy cookie recipes.

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And these are all good things unless we Moms let them be the ruler by which we measure ourselves with. Then things get dicey. Our inner monologue becomes one of should haves and should dos instead of peaceful thankful thoughts.

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I am not immune to the inner monologue or the meltdowns. I had one the other day. My inner voice says, you won’t have enough to get everything for everyone and you won’t have enough energy to do everything you need to do.

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Biblical Application:

How do we combat these meltdowns and the negative speak? With the truth.

My God shall supply all my needs according to His riches and glory. (Philippians 4:19)

Needs. Not wants. Needs. Not perfection. The truth is God will supply what it is in His will to supply. He is not  our perfection provider.

I traveled to my eldest daughter, Audrey’s for a cookie baking day. I picked up my second eldest daughter, Amerey, and baby Cecilia on the way. I was feeling pretty great about the trip. I had given all my baking supplies to Audrey the day before. I didn’t need to bring anything but myself and the dough. Here’s what happened:

The fog was so dense in the mountain passes that I missed my exit. I had to travel further down the road and turn around and try not to miss it again. I almost missed the turn into Audrey’s neighborhood because I was disoriented. We pulled in her driveway and jumped out of the car, “I forgot my cookie dough!”

“What?! Mom?!”

Audrey ran out, “What’s wrong?”

“I forgot my cookie dough!”

“Mom, I didn’t make any because you and Amerey were bringing some!”

We laughed. It worked out. Audrey ran to the store and bought some more supplies. We did make cookies. We did have a good  time.

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A joyous Christmas season is not based on perfection. We’re just a bunch of human beings.

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“Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place under these circumstances: “

-Matthew 1:18

The perfect gift of Christ was delivered in much less than perfect circumstances- an unexpected pregnancy, an edict to travel, birth in a manger. Yet, the gift was still was and is perfect.

Expect a Mom meltdown. Let it go and move on. I pray that God shows you His presence in your imperfect circumstances. Speak truth to your inner self. Christmas joy does not demand perfection.

*This is an excerpt from 25 Days of Thriving Through Christmas (1)

Adoption is a Holy Mission and the Message of the Wisemen

Wisemen

Three young boys shuffled on the stage in bathrobes. They hovered in the background while shepherds, sheep and cows knelt before the baby-doll- Jesus in the manger. They seemed tacked on to the production, adding no value or having no major significance. Yet, nothing could be further from the truth. These Wisemen, who were not Jews, recognized Jesus, as King and Messiah.

“Where is He Who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the east at its rising and have come to worship Him.”

– Matthew 2:2

Who were these foreigners to say this child was valuable, deserving of life and praise? One who would replace Herod as King?

We commonly refer to the Magi as kings or Wisemen. They had taken the prophecies of the Messiah, studied and believed them wholeheartedly. They willingly sunk their time, talent and treasure into locating the child and offering him praise, thereby acknowledging His divinity and giving Jesus’ earthly parents confirmation, validation. It had likely been a few years since his birth and although Mary had pondered all of those things in her heart the night of His Holy birth, she may have been wondering as Jesus toddled around where God was. Joseph worked hard to provide. She took care of the household and may have had another child on the way.

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This short visit by the Wisemen stirred a nation and angered an earthly king (Herod). It brought forth a Job syndrome of sorts for Joseph and Mary and the nation of Israel.

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“Now after they had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, Get up! [Tenderly} take the young child and His mother and flee to Egypt and remain there until I tell you [otherwise], for Herod intends to search for the child in order to destroy Him.”

– Matthew 2:13

A genocide began in their wake. Herod ordered all the male children (two years old and younger) in Bethlehem and surrounding territories to be put to death.

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We adoptive parents may go through a Job syndrome of our own. Horrific things happen in the wake of our calling.

A year and a half after our adoption was final, 911 shook our nation to the core. Our  restaurant businesses went down hill as a result. People were afraid to go out to eat. They felt safer indoors. We had taken our children from a nation fresh from the dissolving of communism where fear and lack reigned. And now it was happening here (or at least we thought). Fear reigned.

We lost our businesses in the economic downturn that followed. We were forced to sell our home and one by one, our four restaurants. Our savings quickly depleted and we cried out to the Lord asking, why have you forsaken us? It hit hard.

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I didn’t want to suffer lack and more than that, I didn’t want my children to re enter the mindset of lack.

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In the midst of the bankruptcy I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome(CFS). I had suffered many of the symptoms since I was a child without a diagnosis. The stress of the situation made the disease rear it’s ugly head. Hubby took me to Pittsburgh to a specialist and I sat in an IV room weak, crying and questioning, why? we did what you told us to, Jesus!

Or maybe yours is just a daily battle. I get it. I understand. It’s hard to think your journey is holy when four of your seven kids spill their spaghetti dinner on the floor and you follow suit (true story). Are piles of dirty laundry holy? Or meltdowns when triggers are activated? Or your schedule is overloaded with doctor’s appointments and therapies?

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Adoptive parents may forget the holiness of the mission in the midst of the day to day trying to survive. The mission doesn’t lose its holiness or its value when kids are melting down, dishes are stacked in the sink and no one has clean underwear.

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The more I have served adoptive/foster families the more I find that the Job syndrome is pretty much one hundred percent guaranteed.

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Friends of ours who adopted from China had to sell the home they had just built and move to another state and begin again. New area. New church family. New home. All shortly after the adoption.

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Another friend of ours, foster mom of so many I lost count and adoptive mom of three, suffered health issues for years. She was convinced she had thyroid issues, doctors repeatedly told her it was in her head and she just needed to work harder at working out. Finally, a doctor followed through and listened. After some extensive tests, she was told she only had half a thyroid.

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There are many more stories I could tell you of families who suffered illness, financial loss, death of a child or fill in the blank. One thing I will say about all of these families, they didn’t turn around on the adoption/foster care road. These things may have happened anyway, you may be thinking. I don’t agree. When we are inactive, not pursuing our mission, the devil is content to leave us alone.

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If you want to know what is most valuable, look for what is most fought against, what is being battled most vehemently and violently profaned. When we march forward valuing life, there will be opposition.

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The Bible says to gird up the loins of your mind. That’s a simple way of saying prepare mentally before the battle. Put on the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation. Get out your sword of truth and write down and speak the truth, the word that is able to save your soul (your mind, will and emotions). Mary and Joseph had both had words to encourage them in their mission. Maybe you need a fresh one. Here it is. You are not alone. You have chosen to value what God values. Life. Family. Those are important to Him. You did hear His gentle whisper. What you are doing is holy. Hard, but holy. Nothing worthwhile is ever easy.

We are also like the  Wisemen, walking in the footsteps of those who say each child is valuable. He is worth redeeming. Birth moms say this when they handed that swaddled one over to adoptive parents. This child deserves life. He has a purpose. You are serving that purpose when you step up to the plate day after day. Go YOU!

*This is an excerpt from:  25 Days of Thriving Through Christmas (1)