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.

* * *

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.

* * *

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

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You are NOT a Vending Machine

“This is what I want,” my son said as he flashed an expensive item before me. I saw the price first and the present second. Almost half my Christmas budget.

This was not my first Christmas with children or my  first Christmas with adopted children. I have learned the hard way that children from hard places sometimes want proof that someone loves them. Material proof. If you love me then you will buy me this pricey present, they challenge.

Material things are not eternal soul-fillers.

It was daughter, Audrey who reminded me of the important truth- I am not a vending machine (and neither are you). Christmas presents do show others that we love them, but they are not based on coins spent or love doled out in material measure. Each gift should fit the recipient and the budget of the giver. We Moms can easily throw our whole year’s budget when we feel compelled to love a child with the vending machine mentality.

* * *

The sad truth is no matter what we buy a child, it will never fill the need for love. Material things are not eternal soul-fillers.

* * *

The child may be happy for a moment, a week or a month, but eventually that vending machine need grows into greed. And greed is never satisfied. Greed never loves. Greed doesn’t affirm. Greed doesn’t hug or play board games or read books. Greed just cries for more.

So, this Christmas don’t fall into the vending machine trap. Fall into the loving, time-giving, affirming habit. Christmas gifts are not the purpose, they are the icing on the cake of Him who gave the perfect present-Himself.

*Excerpt from:

25 Days of Thriving Through Christmas (1)

National Adoption Month – A Few Words on Orphans

November is National Adoption Month! I’m doing a giveaway of 25 Days of Thriving Through Christmas on Facebook and Instagram. One book for Facebook winner and one for Instagram! Find the posts and tag three friends to get your name in the drawing.  The Whole House Team will draw and share the winners, live on Thursday!  On November 8th, Kristin Taylor, author of Peace in the Process will be sharing!

 

It’s in the dark, pre-dawn hours. The orphanage is quiet and I am awake. I can’t get back to sleep. I fluff my pillow and sit up in bed, leaning against the iron frame of the bed. Sleep hasn’t come easy this month that we have lived in the orphanage. I am running on adrenaline and my heart is in overdrive.

Hubby Jerry and I flew to Poland and then rode to Sulejow in hopes of adopting a sibling group of three. This was a small village, destroyed by the Germans in WWII, just 15 km from the first Concentration Camp in Poland. We moved into the orphanage after living a week in a castle turned hotel.

At least there was real heat in our quarters in the orphanage as opposed to the frigid castle. I still couldn’t sleep. You see I wasn’t prepared for the emotional overload. My mind skipped back and forth between joy and grief. Overwhelming joy that we were adopting. Overwhelming grief that I couldn’t take every child home. It ate at me. It gnawed at me. I played games with these kids. Hiked into the village with teens. Watched them smile while they played with my video camera. And I couldn’t take them home.

If you don't have a heart for the lost or the orphan, then go visit them in the midst of their pain. Go participate in their circumstances.

Interesting thing about orphans is they look appealing from a distance. We can form all sorts of platitudes, we can quote James 1:27 and intend to raise money for orphans. We can intend  to adopt some day. As a church, we can vow to fulfill the mandate ‘to care for widows and orphans’ while we sit in comfortable pews and take communion and remember the death and suffering of our Lord. but, up close, you can’t ignore suffering.

I couldn’t. I wasn’t prepared for the faces of neglect, swarming around me vying for attention. It’s nothing like in the movies. I couldn’t just smile and move on. Poverty envelops those children and strips them of the most basic of human needs, connection. They want to matter, just like every human being on the planet. They want someone to look them full in the face and say, “YOU MATTER. YOU ARE VALUABLE. YOU ARE LOVED.” Neglect says, “You don’t matter.” Abuse says, “I don’t care about you,”

While Hilary Clinton, looking weary and worn down, states on camera that an unborn child doesn’t have Constitutional rights, she devalues life once again. Life is valuable. Everyone with a beating heart and breath in their lungs holds value. You cannot set a dollar amount on life.The Constitution or rulers don’t set the value. It is there. You cannot snuff it out.

The church should be adopting orphans quicker than they bag their groceries at the self check out. We should be proclaiming from the rooftop the value of life, that Christ died that each child might have life and have it more abundantly. We should not be participating in stealing, killing and destroying of life. That is the enemy’s work.

Why don’t we see the value of adoption? The importance of it? Because we first don’t value ourselves. We see ourselves as sinners instead of saints (thanks, Tracey for that insight). We see ourselves as beggars instead of sons of God. We don’t recognize our own adoption. We don’t realize that we have received the Spirit of Adoption by which we cry  “Abba, Father!” We don’t know that before the foundation of the world, God chose us, actually picked us out, destined us to be adopted as His own children (Ephesians 1:4,5). Read that again. Let it sink in. YOU ARE CHOSEN. YOU ARE LOVED. YOU ARE A SON OR DAUGHTER OF GOD.  You are not an orphan, wandering, lost, looking for  acceptance. You have it. You have been pre-approved.

With that truth settled deep in our spirits, we must go into all the world and preach the Gospel which has the power to save souls. We should be sharing this news with those who need it most, the spiritual and physical orphans. Those who have been rejected, neglected, abused and abandoned.

 

If you don’t have a heart for the lost or the orphan, then go visit them in the midst of their pain. Go participate in their circumstances. You can’t watch it on a screen and understand. You cannot have empathy for something you have not lived through yourself. Ask God to give you the gift of understanding the suffering of others and the hands to do something about it. It’s okay to feel afraid of suffering. It’s not okay to ignore it.

If you’re thinking about heading down the adoption/foster path, do it afraid. You don’t have to have all your ducks in a row to adopt or foster. Just be willing. Be obedient to the call, if it is your call.  If not, support someone who is adopting. Let’s fulfill the mandate of James 1:27 and care for the widow and the orphan. Let’s follow in the footsteps of the Father and adopt.

 

The Great Misunderstanding

I was texting friend Tammy about our upcoming hike:

Tammy: What are you bringing?

Me: Subaru Forester

Tammy: I meant in your backpack.

Me: A car, apparently.

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We got a good laugh out it because we are two peas in a pod and we went on to text another short conversation that got misconstrued. Communication is a confusing thing. Often we don’t say exactly what we mean, nor do we phrase things concisely. We expect the listener, or reader to read our mind.

When raising children who have come from traumatic beginnings or ‘hard places’, we must examine our communication skills and teach them some. Often these children who have come from abusive or neglectful situations don’t have voice, that is, they don’t know how to appropriately express their needs. They may behave violently, steal, hoard or shut down instead of ask for things. Giving a child voice is teaching him that he is valued and he can get needs met without all of the above.

We know from research done in the fifties (Infants in Institutions) that if an infants needs are not met in the first thirty to sixty days, the infant stops crying. This is why you can walk into an orphanage full of infants and it is silent. Crying is a child’s voice. It is the way she communicate her needs. If those needs aren’t met, she then believes her voice doesn’t matter.

When a mother is pregnant, her hearing becomes acute so when baby is born she is able to hear every whimper and sound. When parents adopt an older child, they must renew this acute hearing. A child may be using aggression to get his needs met, he is saying something. He is answering “Subaru forester” when we are asking if he is bringing snacks or water in his backpack. He needs the snacks and water. He doesn’t know how to say so. We need to listen behaviors and link them to needs. Listen to his story when he wants to tell it. I have found my adopted kids needed to download a lot of negative junk that weighed them down before they could get to their real need.

“I never get ice cream. You guys always have it when I am gone.”

“You don’t love me. Why don’t you send me back?”

“I don’t care. That’s stupid.”

These are all Subaru comments. They aren’t answering the right question or voicing their needs properly, because they don’t know how. We parents have to coach them. We must first interpret their needs and then help put them into words.

“Oh, do you want me to take you for ice cream? Are you feeling left out?” Then walk the child through asking for what he wants, “please take me for ice cream”.

If you think this sounds ridiculous or like a lot of work. I understand on both counts. It is different. Think of it like a book and you jumped right into the middle of it. You need to go back and read the first bunch of chapters to fill in what’s going on. That’s what these kids need. They need someone to go over their past and help them make sense of it, then they need help finding their voice, even it is asking for a drink.

When you have to say “no” when a child finally finds their voice, make sure you use empathy, not impatience. It’s important that these kids feel heard. I know. It can get tiring to keep it up, but think of it as a marathon, not a sprint. So, when a child asks for the fiftieth time if you can make cookies, jump on the trampoline, ride bikes, watch a movie, if at all possible say ‘yes’ even if that is cloaked in a ‘no’. “Yes, we can jump on the trampoline, after we clean up the kitchen.”

The great misunderstanding we parents often have is believing that our child’s behavior is directed at us, as if they are trying to best to make our lives difficult. That may sometimes be the case, but more often then not, it is not. They don’t know how to communicate correctly because not only do they not know the answer, they don’t know the question.

  • Am I hungry?
  • Am I tired?
  • What do I need?
  • What do I want?

We parents have to do the job of interpreting their needs (regulating) for them until they can do it themselves. In terms of communication, this looks something like ordering the day for them. I think you need a snack now. Would you like crackers and peanut butter or an apple and peanut butter? The child then begins to notice at ten am every day, hey it’s snack time and I’m hungry! Next, they add voice to this need. Isn’t it snack time? Before you reach this milestone, you may notice your child melting down, being cranking, arguing with others before they can voice their need for a snack. This is dysregulation. We can avoid dysregualtion by giving our child voice.

This is a short article for a deep and time consuming practice. We parents must remember to practice what our kids don’t know how to. Giving a child voice is giving him value.

I will sharing about giving your child voice at Positive Adoption Support group Saturday, November 5th at Trinity Assembly of God (Fairmont, WV) at 10 am. If you are local, join us!

Linking up with Kristin Hill Taylor for Three Word Wednesday:

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Thinking About Adopting Mini Seminar Recap

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If you were thinking about coming to the ‘Thinking About Adopting’ Mini Seminar and just couldn’t make it, here is a quick recap.

There was lots of conversation, coffee and collaboration of many individuals to make this event happen. Thanks to Joe ‘n’ Throw for providing the venue, making the mugs (for prizes) and the amazing coffee!  Thanks to all the folks who shared their stories and Scott Nelson from NYAP for answering all of our foster/adopt questions!

The smell of pungent strong coffee filled my nostrils, the air abuzz with anticipation. I didn’t need any caffeine at the moment. I was too excited as people trickled into Joe ‘n’ Throw. I had chosen a small venue and a limited number because I love small intimate groups.

We opened with announcements before adoptive parents Brian and Jeanette Schoonover took the stage to answer questions and their foster to adopt story. Jerry and I shared a bit of our story next, followed by the star of the seminar, Ciarra McCartney who candidly and eloquently told her story of her journey through foster care. What a bright and brave soul she is!

Next, Molly McCartney of the Beacon Barn shared her fostering/adopting story sprinkled with bits of expertise and wisdom gleaned through years of working with children who have experienced trauma. Then we switched gears and heard from Tacy Layne of World Orphans(#untiltheyallhavehomes). I love what this organization does.

“We equip, inspire and mobilize the church to care for vulnerable children.

Churches engaged. Children restored Communitiests transformed ty the Gospel of Christ.”

We finished with Scott Nelson of NYAP answering questions about foster/adopting.

Three Things I was Reminded of:

  1. Every child available for fostering/adopting experienced some sort of trauma.
  2. Trauma can be overcome. There can be healing. Older children may be angry when they come to your home. It is misplaced anger. Hold steady and continue to connect.
  3. The adoption/fostering process is frustrating, but there is joy in the end. The paperwork, homestudy, fingerprinting, the whole process is daunting, overwhelming and scary, but on the otherside…..there is joy, triumph and a forever family!