Sunday, January 25, 2015

OUR WEIGHTED BLANKET

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

WHAT IS THAT TO YOU?

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

RUSSGLISH

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.

Friday, November 7, 2014

FEARLESS PARENTING

From Beth:

"Do Not Be Afraid!"--it's all over the bible, from beginning to end, persistent and compelling. It's like God is saying to me, "No really Beth. Do you hear? I am serious-- do not be afraid. Yes, I get it. There are some scary realities, but I'm not backing down on this one." 

The words somehow feel like more of an invitation than a demand, more like a comfort and a promise. From Genesis (15:1) where God appears to Abram in a vision and tells him, "Fear Not," to Revelation (1:17) when Jesus appears to John with "Do Not Be Afraid," we see scenario after scenario where we are given this comforting command. 

Our adoption journey has helped me to understand why all these people needed to hear some version of "Don't Be Afraid," for God's ways are scary! His ideas and vision for us are so extraordinary, so "out there," that fear is almost always  part of my human reaction. And adoptive parenting has provided oh so many opportunities to fear! 

How kind of our God to command and comfort, to demand and invite, all at the same time! He leads me out of my fearful state, for He has places for me to go with Him. And He is wanting me to bring my children along too! 

I remember my fears when God first called us to adopt. I'm sure many of you relate to my fear-filled what ifs--what if we didn't hear God accurately, what if we don't have what it takes, what if the children we feel God is calling us to don't actually come home, what if our finances or paperwork don't come through, what if our children already at home are damaged, what if I can't be the parent my children need, what if they have serious issues I can't handle, what if things turn out really "badly," ........??? 

That list could go on and on, right?! 

But then there is His voice directing me, "Beth, don't be afraid. Don't let these possibilities intimidate you." 

And do you know what reason He gives for us not to be afraid? Have you ever noticed? Almost always God tells us not to fear because He is with us. 

Fear asks, What If?  Love asks, Who With?

He doesn't tell us that He will make it so we avoid all things that frighten. No. But He does, over and over throughout the scriptures, tell His people that whatever it is that frightens them will never be bigger than His awesome presence with us. 

I love what Moses tell the Israelites as they face the many obstacles of entering the Promised Land,

Be strong. Take courage. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t give them a second thought because God, your God, is striding ahead of you. He’s right there with you. He won’t let you down; he won’t leave you. (Deuteronomy 31:6 MSG)

How good is that?! God strides ahead AND is right there alongside. This is who I've known Him to be to me throughout the 16 years since He spoke to us about adoption. 

Always ahead. Always with. Always greater.


And you know, He truly has never let me down. I see how He has walked with me as I have parented our children, continually calling me to fearless parenting, commanding that I not parent my children out of my fears for their future-- for what life will look like for them if they don't attach well, or if they don't learn to trust, or if they don't receive the healing from all the abuse and rejection of their pasts. Yes, apart from God's love, which truly does cast out all fear (1 John 4:18), I can justify some fear in my parenting approach. But in the context of His love for me and His love for my children, there is no place for fear. 

So my friends, the next time your child rages for hours, or can't sleep at night, or continues to hoard food, or seems unable to look you in the eyes or receive your hug, or lies, or........ hear Father God commanding you to Fear Not! 
For He is with you. 
He is with your child. 
He is faithful. 
God, today I release my fears for my child to You once again. I want to be a fearless parent! May Your perfect love for me and Your perfect love for my child drive all fear from our relationship. Amen. 



Monday, November 3, 2014

A BEAUTIFUL MESS

From our friend Gina McCarn. We very much appreciate hearing about the realities foster parents face. May we all see the beauty in the mess!!

Perhaps one of the most beautiful messes is foster care. I became a foster mom 21 months ago. We are still in our very first placement with two little boys. Our family has grown to 5 children ages 3-11. The joy this has brought me as a mother is unexpected to me. I expected to provide care, both physical and emotional, to these little boys.

I did not expect to fall head over hills in love with them. I prayed the LORD would break my heart for them and give me the desire to fight for them and love them as much as the children that shared my body for nine months. 

I did not expect that sometimes I would forget I did not give birth to each boy. Sometimes when the older one asks me questions about him being a baby, I have to remind myself that I didn't know him as a baby because I can easily picture what he was like. I know him that well. He's lived with me for 21 months. I have rocked him to sleep. I have cried with him. I have played trains with him. Phil and I were there when he learned to ride a bike and write his name. We have cleaned up boo-boos and disciplined with love and truth. We have blown out birthday candles with him. I walk him to the bus each morning. I recently surprised him with a Captain America costume. I am watching him learn to read. I listened as he asked Phil to help invite Jesus to live in his heart. I dream of his future. I pray for his wife. He and I dream about him being a daddy just like Phil. We try to guess what he's gonna look like at age 20. I imagine he will be a much bigger version of this current 5-year-old boy sitting at the kitchen table gulping down homemade food while I sort out his laundry from college. These little boys are woven into our family. 

I don't even hesitate anymore when people ask me about my children. I answer without thinking. "I have 5 kids. 4 crazy, stinky boys and 1 beautiful princess".  

However, there is so much more to the story of how the McCarns became a family of 7. These sweet faces joined our family out of significant loss. In the early days of them joining our family, I also didn't expect how much my heart would break for their mom. Milestones pass. They are growing. They are learning. She is missing all of this. Recently I  sat in our youngest's bedroom floor after tucking him in for the night. He's officially been with us longer than he was elsewhere. I was struck with heavy grief for him. Where is his mom? Is she okay? Does he remember her, what she looks like, what she sounds like? I try to keep her memory vivid for both boys. Her picture hangs in their room.  We guess together that the youngest must have her sense of humor. The older boy must have her fast legs. They both have her intelligence. They both have her contagious smile. 


We don't know how this journey will last. Phil and I started with anticipation and the hope that a family could be reunited. I had so much compassion for their mom. I believed she could do this and get her kids back. I would often tell people that this was going to take time and that we needed to be patient. 

Even my patience has grown weary because I want answers!  The LORD so gently reminds me that his timing is perfect. He is not restricted by time. The LORD reminds me these are His children. He doesn't need us to write this story, but He has chosen us. We must be patient and let everyone do their job. No stone should go unturned. No effort should be dismissed for the sake of efficiency. We must trust the LORD has gone before every court case, family visit, and appointment that comes our way. I need to trust Him and His promises. Each day, I choose to remember that there is a mom that gave birth to them that also had dreams and hopes for them.  

It would be so easy to judge her and think that she and I are so different, including our sins, but they aren't different. We both have sins. I can look somewhat heroic because I am cast in the kind light of a foster mom. Her sins may look uglier and more grievous because of the mistakes she's made. However, judgement of a mother is not what we were asked to do as a foster family and the goal of foster care is ultimately reunification of the family. 

We were asked to stand in the gap and help with a need while a mother needed grace, assistance and patience.   

Whether we pack the boys' bags to go home, or they become McCarns forever, I want to be able to look them in the eyes knowing we did everything we could to fight for their family. 

I did not expect to love these boys the way we do. 
I did not expect to see so much of my own brokenness along the way. 
I did not expect the mess. 
I did not expect their case to take this long. 
I did not expect my children to love these boys so much. 
I did not expect the compassion and sadness I feel for their mom, but the LORD did. 

He expected all of it. 

He calls us into the mess and shows us beauty through unexpected, unimaginable ways. 
He invites us to follow HIM with details missing and sometimes without an end in sight. 
He loves us through each step. 
He's there meeting us even when our answers are not His desires. 

When we look for His fingerprints, we find beauty in the mess.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

IS ADOPTION TOO HARD?

From Beth:

I don't think I've met a parent in the process of adoption with children at home already who doesn't ask this question, in some form or other: 
How will this affect my children? Will they be harmed? What if they are hurt through this decision to adopt? 
We need to ask these questions. Going into adoption with our eyes opened and the rose colored glasses off is important for sure. 

It was a question Stephen and I asked when we first realized God was calling us to adopt. I told the Lord this was fine and good and all, but I couldn't do something that would place our three girls in danger. I told Him that I needed to be sure we really were hearing right. 

So many unknowns. 
So many scary stories and warnings from well-meaning friends. 

So, as with all things in this life, it comes down to this:

What Is God Saying?

As we prayed, Stephen felt the Lord respond to our concerns. God told us that yes, it would be hard on our daughters. It would cost them something. 
But He assured us that it would be the kind of hard that would build them up, not tear them down or bring damage to them. 

And that was all we needed to hear. 

We realized that actually it wasn't our goal to try to create a home where nothing bad or hard ever happened. We weren't looking for a life where our girls had no challenges to overcome. 

In reality, we came to embrace the fact that adoption would bring challenges into our home. And indeed, that has been the case--far more than we anticipated actually. 

How true is it that challenges and hard times are often the very best way to know Jesus in deeper ways?! And that right there is really what our parenting is all about. That is the bottom line. 

So we embrace what is hard, knowing it is all happening in the context of love and in the safety of God's plan for our children, both the ones born to us and the ones grafted in. 
Those of you who had children at home before you adopted or fostered, what helped prepare your children? What helped make the hard times productive for your child?
Here are a few of my thoughts:

  1. Prepare children ahead of time by talking about the life your adopted or foster children are experiencing. As much as it is possible for you, begin to create a common history even before the adoption. We were all amazed to find out there was a live webcam in Vyborg, Russia, so we could see the people walking down the street, see what they were wearing and how cold it was. Make use of the internet to find out about the history and culture of the place your child lives. If it is possible, write letters and send gifts as a family. We have some of the sweetest notes from our children to their new siblings and those interchanges did much to connect us as a family. Although this is not possible or wise for everyone, when it is appropriate travel as a family to receive your new child. The common experience you will have as a family in your adopted child's environment will expand understanding and compassion. The week we shared as a family in Russia before each adoption gave us our first family stories, not in our home, but in our adopted children's homes!  
  2. Anticipate what is ahead POSITIVELY. We might be tempted to tell our children how hard it is going to be, how they will be jealous and how difficult their new sibling might be. Rather, stress the positive as you prepare for the challenges ahead. Don't ignore the fact that life is about to change, but help your children see their role from a place of strength. For instance you might say, "Sometimes you might feel like you want mommy's attention when I am feeding the new baby (or helping teach your sister English, etc...) You are going to be such a good helper. Isn't it good that God has made you to be the big sister?! You'll get to teach her so many things. Do you think you could teach her how to get dressed by herself like you do? (or help her learn English words?)" Emphasizing the role of the sibling, as the one who can help and give with an open heart will help your children see that things are going to be required of them, but that they can give with love rather than see this season as a time where things are taken from them.
  3. Let your children know, not once but over and over and even years after your new child comes home, that there is no topic off limits. They may need to be able to say "I wish we had never adopted," or "I don't like the way it is." Give them the freedom to let you know when they are not doing well with all the "hard" stuff. Make time to let them talk to you, without fear of judgement or correction. This freedom will take you all through many a tough time!
  4. See the challenges as an opportune time. Help your child recognize for her/himself that when we are weak it is actually right there that we get to know God and the strength of His love for us in a new, deeper way. Be sure to pray together through the hard times and painful issues. The enemy would love to use this as an opportune time to speak his lies, but God has better plans for your children!!
Read about adoption from the perspective of children born into the adoptive family on our blog by clicking on the Children's Stories tab. 

Do you know an older child who has a story to tell? We are interested in hearing from teen and adult children, both those born into the family and those adopted. (Not every story will be accepted.) 
Email us at hopeathome@northlandschurch.com



Monday, October 13, 2014

THE HUNTED ONES

From Beth: 

I remember those days that some of you are living in right now. Those days when if I could just have a moment to myself (even if it only meant privacy in the bathroom!) it felt like I might survive the day. This photo I saw in my Facebook feed recently is too true!
With 7 children, I have to admit that sometimes I felt hunted....

Mommy, I'm hungry.
Mommy, can I watch a movie?
Mommy, he cheated.
Mommy, look at me, look at me, watch what I can do!!
Mommy, Mommy, Mommy.......
Mommmmyyyyyyy!!!!!!!!!!!

Of course, some of these words came out in Russian, some in screams, some in excitement, some in joy-- that is the mommy life, and I loved it. 

But you do sometimes get weary of being pursued, of being followed. 

And in the thick middle of all these demands I am pursued by Another. 
Surely or only goodness, mercy, and unfailing love shall follow me all the days of my life... (Psalm 23:6 AMP)
Chased down by the One who is Goodness, Mercy and Unfailing Love.

Did you know that the word for follow means to pursue, to chase. How cool is that?! In other verses it is translated to hunt down. God is chasing us down friends. Not to accuse us or to expose or chastise. Not to demand things of us. 
NO! 
He is chasing us down with His love. 

We are the hunted ones. 

Surely 
Only

And looking back I see it is true--in seasons of ease and joy, and in seasons of pain and grief--I am one who is pursued. 

Never left alone. 

Never, not one moment of one day, have I been left to myself.  

Oh thank you Lord God. 

Thank You. 

Holy Spirit, would You help me live as one who is hunted? Show me the goodness, mercy and unfailing love that pursues me this day. Help me to show my children that they too are hunted ones. Thank You Father that You will never leave me alone, that not a day of my life will I live apart from The Hunt!