Sunday, June 12, 2016



I realize now that when we first brought our children home I had an undefined but deeply felt and well-meant desire. However, I have also realized that my desire was not exactly what God had in mind. Let me explain. I wanted our adopted children be so loved, so secure, so encompassed in the life and culture of our family and our story, that they would come to a point where they never felt different or separate from us. I didn't want them to feel like they didn't fit in or that they were somehow "other." I wanted the sadness and torment of their story to be absorbed in the love of our story. I wanted the pain of their pasts to be erased by the power of healing love. 

But trying to lose the one story in the beauty of the other creates an invisible barrier that works to separate, which is the complete opposite of what I desired! It wars against the spirit of adoption which does not erase any of our pasts, but rather uses the past as part of the redemptive story of love. And that redemption my friends is the freedom that propels us all into our destinies! 

As our children have grown up (they are now 21, 21, 23, 24, 25, 25, 27. 3 by birth, 4 by adoption) I have realized that God has not asked me to be an author/writer of my children’s stories. He doesn’t require me to heal or cover up or redeem their stories—that was His to do! 

His plan for me, and for them, is so much better! 

So, what is my role then? I have asked this question countless times over the past 16 years of adoptive parenting. 

And I have discovered that He has given me the a different role, one that invites me to fully embrace my child as I co-labor with Him in the transformation of an orphan into a true son or daughter. That is the story of adoption, both theirs and mine. 

So, I have been learning to be:

  • A Caretaker
I have the privilege of caring for and nurturing their story. As a caretaker I cannot ignore or neglect my chid’s past. Rather, I get to discover, along with them, the nature of this unique garden that is their life, filled with plants both exotic and unfamiliar. I have the honor of helping them discover the beauty of it, and make sense of the unfamiliar and even the unknown. I have sensed the Lord telling me to embrace each child fully, including their pasts.
As my children have gone through the process of trying discover who they are, I realize that they are longing for me to see them. Really see them. See that they are, in fact, different from me. They are looking to me to see if I will approve, accept, and celebrate them as Russian, as members of a different culture and a different family. This has been tricky for me because there are parts of their stories by no fault of their own that are not honorable, not worthy of celebration—things like rejection, abuse, addiction, prostitution, murder, abandonment. But you know what I have discovered? There is always much to celebrate in each story. So I honor what is honorable. And I care for the details, the good, the bad and the ugly.

  • A Curator  
I select the content to be presented at the appropriate time, and to the appropriate audience. We have been intentional to search out all the details that we could find, collecting anything about their story and their birth families, so that when the time came we would be able to help. Part of the role of a curator is fact-finding. To me it is an expression of love to be a keeper of this information. Interestingly, some of our children have wanted, even needed to know details, and some have not—at lest not yet. Depending on their age and their maturity, we release parts of the story we feel they are ready to see. This “time-release” issue is huge and I have found that prayer has been such a gift in discerning the right time to share. I have also discovered that simply asking my child if he/she wants to know more has been helpful. I may not be able to find out more, or I may discern that more information would best be kept for a later time, but even so by asking I am able to help my child recognize that there is a story that belongs to him/her and that I am here to help.

In the early years the telling is easier, as we withhold the uglier and more painful details of the story. But as our children grow older, their questions also mature. They will wonder about motives, about fault. They will go over their story with the inquisitive eyes, seeking to make sense of the facts they know, and to fill in the details they don’t know. And my role in this process is, in part, to gather information and then release it. 

  • A Truth-Teller
For we wonder, wouldn’t it be nicer, kinder, more loving to keep the uglier parts of their story hidden? Our desire to protect is so strong. Isn’t that what good mamas do?  
Truth telling is scary I have found. What if the information is too much for him? What if she is not ready to receive it? What if they lash out in their pain?

I have learned that as much as I would like to cover over, sugar coat or lie about these things, there very well may be a time when my child needs to know the facts. And so often the facts, even the darkest and most appalling facts, are less frightening than the fear of the unknown and what-ifs that often manifest in what looks like anger, hatred, rebellion or opposition, but is in actual fact simply deep-rooted fear. 

In reality, I can't actually cover up what they already know in the depth of their souls. But I can speak words of life and sonship, hope and forgiveness, understanding and compassion, into those dark places. 

So I have learned not to try to fix it —or them, but rather just be a presence of love, life, and hope in the complexities of their story, always ready to lead them up and out into the beautiful open spaces of sonship, redemption and destiny in Jesus. 

I’ve learned not to let fear of the negatives that I know, or fear of all the frightening possibilities that I don’t know, intimidate me from this important role in my child’s life.

  • A Story-Teller
Recently I heard someone give this excellent advice: Don’t get stuck in the subplots. 
As our adopted children take in, process, and make sense of the facts of their story, I get to be one who helps them shape the narrative. I have realized that although I am not the author of their story, God has given me the amazing opportunity to offer language and perspective that places my child’s story in the context of His story, the grand telling of a love so powerful that it redeems us all!  My words to and over my child help them interpret the facts of their narrative, which is such a key in the teen and young adult years. Weave hope and destiny into the words you speak. Over time they will begin to see themselves defined by that, rather than by their past. By SONSHIP rather than ORPHAN. By BELOVED rather than REJECTED.
I find that it helps in this process to ask, what is the story Father is telling about my child? And how can I help connect their subplot and mine to His glorious story? 

And I have found that I am empowered with courage to embrace what is hard in my child’s story when I tell it in the context of love and honor, and in the safety of God's overarching grand story.

I look for ways in the telling of the story to speak to my child’s true identity, acknowledging the past, but speaking to the possibilities of the future. Asking questions with my child, and offering possibilities in the face of the missing pieces of their story has really helped me in this story-telling role. “I wonder what that must have felt like for you?” or “Maybe your mother was so so sad when that happened.” I like questions because they allow me to come alongside my child and connect with them where they need it most. 

Maybe you also have been discovering your role in your child’s story. I would love to hear what you are learning. For how wonderful is this dear friends: the story is not over yet—theirs and mine and yours!! 

I feel like I can not end this post without saying that all 4 of our adopted children have had seasons where they have pushed me away from their stories, or tried to deny any connection at all with their pasts and the residue of relinquishment in their thinking, emotions and relationships. I have heard quite a few times, “The way I deal with that is that I just don’t think about it.” 

And so I wait. I pray. I speak life. I stay emotionally connected, so that when the time comes that they are ready to “go there,” I am ready to go with them. 

What a beautiful gift the Father has given us to participate in His story of redemptive love!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015


From Beth:

I love the Advent season. Advent is all about waiting in anticipation, not just for the presents of Christmas morning, but for the manifestation of God’s presence—the increase of His kingdom, in this world, in our situations, in our hearts, in our homes. 

We have done a good bit of waiting over the last 15 years of adoptive parenting.  We have waited for paperwork to be approved, for our children to come home, for proficiency in English, for a new normal for our family, for attachment, for healing, for wholeness, for the replacing of an orphan spirit for the Spirit of Adoption that speaks of sonship. 

Our spirits are often full with the promises God has spoken to us. Even as I write, I am filled with the satisfaction of a promise already come to pass as I live out the dream in real life! For, like many of you, our children are home and they are no longer orphans. Oh how wonderful that is!

But there are some of you reading this who are in the waiting- for-your-child-to-come-home stage; you are facing significant obstacles between you and your child being home. I just want to pause this post to add our faith to yours in prayer:

Father God, in faith we believe You for these precious families. We call these children HOME. And we speak to the mountains that would hinder that homecoming and say, Be Moved. Comfort the hearts of our friends who are waiting, and protect these precious treasures who are waiting to come home. Amen. 

For a few other things that are very dear to my heart though, I am still waiting, feeling the weight of the wait! I am waiting for some promises that have yet to be delivered safe and sound into the arms of our lives. Sometimes the weight feels heavy and wearisome. When it does, I find I must be careful not to allow disappointment to sicken my heart. 

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire is fulfilled, it is a tree of life. (Proverbs 13:12 AMP)

Do you ever hear those whispers like I do--the ones that say "give up; it's not going to happen; it is just too hard to continue in hope; the weight of the wait is too burdensome; it would be much easier to quit believing, maybe this is all there is and I should just settle ….."

I am pregnant with a promise from God, and I suspect you are too. For me it is the Promise of Adoption and all that is hidden in the meaning of that word. The promise of deep inner healing for my children, and their wholeness in all areas of their lives--healthy attachment, freedom from the residue of rejection, intimacy with the One who is The Spirit of Adoption.

And in the wait to see the promise delivered I sometimes feel cumbersome, waddling through some days with the weight of it all. 

And it is clear to me that the enemy is always after the unborn life, tempting me to abort that unborn promise--to settle for less.

And I recognize the temptation to defer hope--to postpone hope for some other time, for some other promise. The sacrifice of bearing the unborn promise, nurturing it with the food of faith in what seems like a past term pregnancy, sometimes makes me weary.

BUT then I am reminded that 
God's Love Endures Forever.
Love, God's Love In Me, is Patient. 
The enemy would kill the child. It has always been his way.

But Father God responds with a shout, "LIVE!"

And so I choose to agree with LIFE.
And like a pregnant woman, I am enlarged with the promise rather than diminished by its weight. 

And I see that God is changing me and my children with His promises, and once again I recognize the honor it is to bear such a weight. The stretch marks of the growth process haven’t faded, but they speak a good word to me. They speak to the expansion required by adoption, the shape change in our family and in our hearts. They speak to the pain that comes with growth— the “more” of increase. They are marks of growth in compassion, understanding, patience grace, mercy, and warfare. They are marks that speak to me about who I am becoming in the process.

And I am learning to enjoy His presence with me and in me along the way.   

That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy. Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.(Romans 8:24-28 MSG)

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

"Dad, I've gotten myself into a little trouble....."

It happened almost every weekday around 6:30 and it was one of the most touching things I have had the privilege to witness. It is a picture of adoption really—simple, deeply moving, and truly beautiful. 

Our three boys, all recently home from a Russian orphanage, would climb up on the wooden fence in front of our house and just look down the road. I remember the first time they did it I wondered what they were up to. (Back in those early days of adoption I wondered that a whole lot!!) 
And the oldest, still speaking only Russian, pointed down the road and said something about “Papa”—being super bright I was able to translate that right away!  And I recognized “waiting,” a Russian word I had learned, along with lots of other mommy vocabulary like “brush your teeth,” “I love you,” “be careful,” “time for bed,” “don’t do that!” ……. not to mention a few cuss words that our children would repeat when angry. Wondering what in the world they were saying, I asked a Russian speaking friend to translate. Yikes!  

Over the years there have been many moments like that one, the kind of moments that compel you to reach for your camera in hopes that you can somehow hold on to the warmth and beauty of it all. I didn’t get a photo of my boys waiting for their Papa back then, but I see them still and think, “That right there is what adoption is all about— that child has a Daddy to wait for at the end of the day.”

And when I think about these children, who once were orphans standing at a different fence watching people who weren’t their parents drive away, I am overwhelmed. 

But my understanding about what is beautiful has changed, or more accurately has expanded, since those early days of the Papa-lookout. God has been teaching me to see the beauty and power of adoption in what at first look (and even second and third look!) appears to be only ugly.

Let me explain by telling you another adoption story, although if you are like me you may not recognize it as beautiful.

A few years ago my husband and I travelled to Texas to be with his mother, who was having surgery. Leaving our seven children, all older teens and young adults by this time, made us a bit nervous since a few of them were not doing too well. Just as Stephen’s mother was being wheeled back into her hospital room after surgery his phone rang. Such bad timing, as so many parenting moments are!

As soon as I saw his face I knew two things: it was one of our children, and it wasn’t good.

I was right. 

“Dad, it looks like I’ve gotten myself into a little bit of trouble,” he says. 

He was making this call from jail. 

The details aren’t necessary, but I will tell you I was so angry. I felt deeply disappointed, deeply discouraged, and deeply weary of the battle. 

And I could only see the ugly in this. 

A few hours later I was able to take the time to pray, which began with me complaining to The Lord, and then asking Him once again to please tell us what to do to help our son heal and live in the freedom of sonship.

And as is always the way with God, He answered my desperate question with a life-giving response, so different from what I was looking for.  

“But Beth, this is a SON who has a DADDY to call when he has ‘gotten himself into a little bit of trouble.’” 

Just that. 
One sentence that completely changed my perspective and transformed what was ugly into something truly moving. 

What felt like yet another failure, of my son and of our parenting, became a powerful picture of adoption. 

For this was no orphan. 
This was a SON. 
Who had a FATHER.

This was simple, deeply moving, and truly beautiful. 

This, my fellow adopters, is what adoption is all about. It isn’t what I had dreamed of when we brought our children home 17 years ago, and it has cost us more than we ever imagined, but it is the work of the Father’s love played out in all of our lives. 

It is what adoption is all about. 

Sunday, April 26, 2015


From Beth:

I recently heard William Paul Young, author of The Shack, say something that so perfectly describes what I have seen in some of our children. He said,
Shame destroys your ability to distinguish between a value statement and an observation.

As soon as I heard this I thought, "That's it. That perfectly describes countless parenting moments in our home." 

I would make a statement, completely reasonable and normal, the kind parents all over the world make as part of the loving raising of a child. And my child would respond as if I had just asked them to do something horrible, something no parent would ever require. 

There have been times over the years when it felt like my parenting seemed to always and only affirm their shame. 
No matter what I said, or what tone of voice I used, the push back from my parenting efforts was massive. To the point where many times I would almost despair of it all. 

I would offer, "Let me help you with your vocabulary so you can be ready for you test tomorrow."

What I hear myself saying is, "I am here to help you. I know you can do this. You are not alone. I am proud of you and want to be a part of your life!"

What they heard was a harsh value statement, "You are such a loser. You are not smart and you can't do anything right. You are a disappointment to me."

I would observe, "That outfit is probably not appropriate for this event. Maybe you could wear that nice outfit we bought last month."

What they heard was, "You are ugly. You aren't meeting my standards. I don't accept you the way you are." 

It is the voice of shame.

If you think this sounds extreme then that is truly wonderful, because that probably means that shame is not a big part of your child's foundations. For many adopted children however, the facts of their early years have been masquerading in their minds and emotions as truth. Shame takes the facts of abandonment, neglect, abuse, relinquishment, orphanage life, and anything else it can wrap it's tentacles around, and disguises it my precious child's mind as a deep truth about his/her identity. 

Shame speaks words like rejected, never enough, alone, unwanted, failure, weak, too much to handle, unsuccessful....

And when those horrifying words are spoken a child may shut down completely, totally disengaging.
No eye contact. No verbal replies. 

Or there might be yelling. "I hate you. You are a horrible mother. I wish I were never adopted. My life would be much better without you. Get off my back and just leave me alone. You make me want to die....." 

We have heard all of these words, and more, in our home. 

It is the voice of shame. 

Or, you might see your child put even more pressure on him/herself to please, to do everything just right. But the anxiety and anger levels build over time and at some point you will experience the inevitable blow up from so much self-imposed pressure.

I am overwhelmed with the reality that my Father God has allowed me to be a part of His healing work in my children through adoption. For it is in the context of family that our children have heard, over and over, that they are no longer orphans, but true and beloved sons and daughters. 

It is so easy to allow shame to bait me into an unloving, shame-based response. And so unhelpful! 
So I decided a long time ago to respond with the Truth--to counteract the shame with the antidotes of love, belonging, identity, understanding. 
Over and over again, in so many varying forms of my maternal love I have the opportunity to speak truth into the lie. 

  • Speak it in season and out of season. 
  • Speak it when your child embraces their identity as the beloved, and speak it when your child denies the truth of it, either through their words or through their actions. 
  • Speak it when they are in front of you listening, and speak it when they have gone to bed and only you and God can hear.
  • Speak it when your heart is full of the truth of it, and speak it when the words seem like a lie even to you.

Speak it--
over and over and over and over, 
day after day after day after day,

year after year after year after year.

I am seeing the fruit of this in our family. That inner voice of shame is being drowned out by truth, unmasked by love without conditions and limits. And where shame is still successful in its ugly masquerade, I am even more determined than ever to speak truth, for this is what adoption is all about, right? It is about radical rooted love, both for me and for my child. 
It unmasks us all and reveals the beautiful truth that we are His beloved ones. 

Friday, April 17, 2015


From Beth:

I am not a gardener, but if I were my garden would look something like this.

Pretty, right? Everything in its place, ordered, organized, contained and thriving. Beautiful and fruitful. Yep, that is it right there. 

And that is a pretty good picture of what I was going for with our family. Each child organized, contained within the life-giving boundaries we set up, and thriving, etc. Sounds good doesn't it? 

But as our family grew through adoption my neat rows of seasonally appropriate lettuce and tomatoes, and those lovely flowers intentionally planted to catch just the right amount of sun, changed into a whole other garden.

Our family metamorphosed overnight into a crazy out of control mess of a garden. A beautiful, willy-nilly kind of place, full of surprising varieties and diversity. 

It has been a great adventure to discover and appreciate all that our adopted children have introduced into our lives. They brought with them so much that is lovely, fascinating, strong, creative and exciting from their birth families, country, and culture that have made our garden gloriously unique. Like an heirloom tomato imported from a far away place, I haven't always immediately recognized the special qualities introduced to our family through adoption. But as the years have gone by, 15 now since our first two treasures came home, I have identified so much that I might have at first mistaken as a weed. 

I have learned to not to try to pull up something because I didn't plant it, but rather clear a space for it in my heart and in the culture of our family. Let it grow and enjoy its fruit and beauty, and make it my own.

And where weeds have come in (to join the ones already there!)--the unwanted and unwelcome residue of rejection, abandonment, trauma and orphanage life--then I have learned to carefully remove them. Not all at once with a hoe of shame, but gently dig them out with the trowel of prayer and love and identity. Some of these weeds continue to sprout up over the years, the lies that threaten to choke out sonship, so I continue to maintain this special plot of land God has given us. 

And I have learned that some plants just need some time to grow before they can set themselves apart from the look-alike weeds. So I garden with care and nurture, waiting for the season of flowering and fruit.  

And I have learned to be at peace with the process of being a care-taker of such a crazy garden. As tempting as it was to take our new transplants and try to force them into my perfect rows, it proved to be destructive to us all whenever I tried it! 

So instead I focus on enjoying the beauty and surprise of it all, and the honor of being a part of such a family. 

Sunday, March 8, 2015


From Beth:
I hear the Lord saying, 'I will stay close to you, as I instruct and guide you along the pathway of your life. I WILL COUNSEL YOU along the way, and lead you forth with My eyes as your guide. So don't make it difficult, don't be stubborn when I take you where you've not been before. Don't make Me have to tug you and pull you along. JUST COME WITH ME!' (Psalm 32:8-9, The Passion Translation)
Do you hear echoes of your own parental voice in these words? I know I do! Look how our Father starts with connection--oh how I love that about Him!
When my eyes are on Him, I see the way forward, because I see it in His eyes. 

So often we parents don't know what to do to help our child, to parent well and wisely. The options either seem too many, or they seem to have disappeared altogether! We busy ourselves scanning all the possibilities, but sometimes we forget to simply look at Jesus to see what direction He is going. 

We are so quick to run to counselors when we recognize the effects of trauma and all that surrounds our adoptions and fostering. Stephen and I are so very thankful for the therapists that have helped us and our children. We have received significant help and guidance, and God has used these counselors to help our children. But as my dear friend Susan Hillis says, there is a difference between a counselor with a small 'c' and THE COUNSELOR! The One who promises, "I will counsel you along the way..." 

His love for you and your child goes beyond--deeper and higher than your child's need. 
Deeper and higher than the limits of your parenting abilities. 

I have found Him to be so practical in His guidance as Stephen and I make tough parenting decisions. Certainly adoption is constantly taking me "places I have not been before"--I often find myself on unfamiliar ground as a parent. 
I suspect you know exactly what I mean! 

So today, I just want to encourage you my fellow parents that you do hear God's voice-- you are created for it! God would not promise His counsel if we were incapable of receiving.  

For all the counselors in the world, and all the best parenting practices you can put in place, will not heal your child. We co-labor with God for our child's healing, but in the end, each one will walk in wholeness not by our own effort, but by His! 

I used to think that the love of our family would be "enough" to carry our children into healing and freedom. 
Is love enough? If we are talking about my love, then I will have to say NO. 
But, if we are talking about God's love for my child, and for me, then a resounding YES is my response to that question. YES YES YES! Greater than hope, Greater than faith-- LOVE IS GREATER than any loss your child has faced.

Even if a king has the best equipped army, it would never be enough to save him. Even if the best warrior went to battle, he could not be saved simply by his strength alone. Human strength and the weapons of man are such false hopes for victory. They may seem mighty, but they will always disappoint.... The Lord alone is our radiant hope and we trust in Him with all our hearts. His wrap-around presence will strengthen us. (Psalm 33:16-17, 20)

So, wherever you are in this parenting journey, remember you have a Wonderful Counselor, free of charge and available for home visits 24/7. And remember that you always have hope, a radiant hope, that comfortably surpasses your own parenting abilities and far outstrips your child's needs. 

Sunday, January 25, 2015


From Beth:

Stephen and I were not as prepared as we thought we were for parenting our new children. Truthfully, we thought we had this parenting gig down. We didn't know that our adopted treasures would need something different from us. But, as with many of us who adopted before all the trauma and adoption education was so wide-spread, we figured it out pretty quickly! Yikes!

Our first clue came in those early days after coming home from Russia with our new son and daughter. Huge HUGE transitions for us all! We were constantly asking the question, "Is this behavior adoption related? (We didn't even know to ask if was trauma related!) Or is this normal for this child? Or maybe it's just the stress of travel and jet lag, or frustration at not being understood, or.....?" 
It reminded me of caring for our three newborns, actually. "Is she crying because she's hungry? Tired? Needs a diaper change? Sick?....." But, our children who came home to us through adoption were older, years beyond diapers and midnight bottle feedings. 

Once the honeymoon stage was over, the rages began. It became clear that our son's fits were actually not fits at all. There was an intensity, a deep place of anger and fear, that I soon realized was more like rage than any childhood fit I had ever seen. 

I remember times when I would literally lay the weight of my body over my son's raging little form-- praying that he would know that he was safe, desiring that my embrace would keep him from hurting me or himself, hoping that maybe the strong physical presence of his loving mother would somehow communicate to him that no anger need ever overcome him, that peace would replace fear. The weight of my love was the beginning of the miraculous process of displacement that is adoption. 

Whirling fear is displaced with love 
Raging anger with an anchored peace
Dark hopelessness with a bright future

Over the years I have found that the trauma my son experienced before he came home requires this action of displacement quite often. Like a weighted blanket, I still cover him. Of course, I don't cover him with my body any more for he has grown into a strong young man, but with my love, through prayer and words of hope. 

It is so clear to me that as surely as my husband and I are creating a legacy of love and security and hope for our children, that there exists also an orphan legacy--things handed down to a child from a past marred by relinquishment, fear and lack. But in those long moments of struggle with my son, and all through the years when the legacy of fear would burst to the surface despite the weight of our love, I have known that when God's peace rules, the orphan legacy is nullified. It must make way for life-giving peace.
For though the mountains should depart and the hills be shaken or removed, yet My love and kindness shall not depart from you, nor shall My covenant of peace and completeness be removed, says the Lord, Who has compassion on you. (Isaiah 54:10)
And it has not stayed hidden from me for long that I am not so unlike my son. His trauma has traumatized me. His pain has become my pain. 
And I am desperately in need of the weighted blanket of my Father's love. 
And I must choose, once again, to allow His legacy of love, peace and hope, displace my fears and heal my wounds.