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. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015


From Beth:

Susan and I have been off the blogging grid for a while, taking care of many needs with our families and friends. And if you follow us on Facebook you'll know that Susan spent many weeks in West Africa working with the Ebola crisis. But, we are back and excited to see what God might have us share with you in this 5th year of our bloggy life!!

One of my favorite scenes from C.S Lewis' Narnia stories is the one in The Horse and His Boy where Shasta is riding along, afraid and filled with self-pity. An orphan himself, he has a long list of very good reasons to justify his fears.  He becomes terrified to realize that there is someone, or something, walking alongside him. He hears the breath of this mysterious presence, but cannot at first see him. Once he gets the nerve up to talk to the beast, Shasta begins to share his sad story. 

He finds out from this interaction that so much of his pitiable story is actually (totally contrary to his own interpretation) a story of rescue and love. Hmmmm, I believe I'm familiar with this storyline myself! How often I have had the Lord totally reinterpret what I was sure was a 100% "bad" situation by showing me a new way of seeing. (Remind me one day to tell you about the phone call we got from jail!)

But, back to my point:
After listening for a bit Shasta changes the focus from himself to his friend, Aravis. What about her, he wonders? What is her story?
Copyright 20th Century Fox

I have always loved Aslan's answer (for Shasta gradually realizes it is a great lion who is walking alongside him.)  
"Child," said the Voice, "I am telling you your story, not hers. I tell no one any story but his own."
Like Shasta in the story, we so often want to compare our stories. It's human nature I suppose. We look to see what other moms are doing, how their children are behaving, how their adoption or fostering story is playing out, and then we measure ourselves against them.

Sometimes we come out on top, using another's weaknesses or failures to make ourselves feel good. Other times we don't look so good in comparison, and we allow our perception of their success to diminish or even condemn us. 

Either way, comparison is, as they say, odious. It is offensive, both to us and to the people to whom we are comparing ourselves, our homes, our marriages, and our children. 

The best cure is as Aslan said, to listen to what God has to say to us about our lives, and trust Him with the many "but why?" questions that arise in our hearts along the way. We wonder why others seem to have children who have succeeded so well. Or why our child has not attached despite our best efforts while another family has a child who is so very well-adjusted. Maybe we are struggling with a child who has angry, hateful outburst, and then we read a sweet Facebook post about a child who told her mother how thankful she is she was adopted. In little and big ways, these comparisons add a weight to us that God does not intend. 

I think Jesus was speaking to Peter about these same things when they walked along the beach that amazing day that Jesus showed up and made lunch for His friends. Jesus is telling Peter about his future calling and suffering and Peter, noticing his friend John, responds with, "What about him?"

Jesus simply won't engage with Peter to compare their two stories. 
Jesus said to him, If I want him to stay (survive, live) until I come, what is that to you? [What concern is it of yours?] You follow Me! (John 21:22 AMP)

So my fellow adoptive parents, let us not measure ourselves and our children--our adoption stories-- against our friends, both the social media kind and the in-the-flesh kind. Rather, let's concern ourselves with what Jesus is telling us about our own lives. Let's do as He says and Follow Him, even as we "follow" each other on Facebook! 

For that frees us up to rejoice with the victories around us and to genuinely mourn with our friends who are going through hard times. This is the community of love that we all desire to be a part of!

I will end with this statement from Graham Cooke:
Rejoice in who you are. Rejoice in who you are becoming. And then have the decency to do the same for other people!

Monday, November 10, 2014


From Beth:

There are so many sweet blessings tucked away in adoption. So many unexpected moments of beauty. 

Our youngest daughter loved to play with dolls and could spend hours playing house, but her two older sisters were not as interested. So when Kristina came home at age 10 it was especially sweet to see the two of them disappear into a closet or hidden corner to play. Julia had found the sister she had been missing all this time--the older sister who liked to play the way she did! 
Julia on the left, Kristina on the right

As I said, it was one of those many unexpected gifts God put on display for us as we journeyed through this wonderful reality that is adoption. 

One day Stephen and I peeked into the bedroom and heard the strangest thing. We didn't want them to see us. You know how that is--when you have two children playing happily the last thing in the world you want to do is put an end to it! And we were about as stretched thin as we could stand trying to make the adjustment to adding two older children into our family. Makes me tired just thinking of it! 

So, we quietly stood at the door and listened to the most precious sounds. The two new sisters were playing dolls and Kristina, who didn't speak English was jabbering away to Julia. Julia, who didn't speak Russian, was replying back. Both were completely engaged; neither frustrated with a lack of communication. Then we'd hear sweet Kristina throwing in some English words she'd picked up. And Julia mixed in some of the Russian words that had begun to be familiar in our home. 

We called it Russglish, and they played in that language for many months. 

This is what adoption does to a family. It changes all of you. It pulls on each member to yield and morph and grow and adjust. We are not the family we would have been had we not adopted, as surely as our adopted children are not the people they would have been had they not become Templetons. 

I am deeply thankful to our God who does not leave any of us the way we are, always calling us forward into new places of growth. I want to be as open to change as those two little girls were, willing to change the language of my life so that it communicates more accurately His love. Adoption has been doing that work in our families, as I imagine it is doing in yours as well.