Monday, October 31, 2011


So often the wait for our children to come home seems so long, but the Lord never wastes time! Here are some ideas to make the time fruitful by building up your family even before your adoption. You will enjoy reading the accounts of adoption from Birth Children's Perspectives HERE. If your children are old enough, read some of these accounts aloud and talk about them together.

God had already rocked our world in a big way that night when we heard Him say, "You need to do this." Stephen and I were in a meeting at our children's school and were not anticipating that we'd hear from God at all! Yet when Susan Hillis began to speak of the opportunity to have Russian orphans come spend their summer in our homes, and when I was minding my own business filling out a form for one of our girls and not really paying her any attention, God interrupted me -- interrupted my thoughts, interrupted our family, interrupted our life! It was a Glorious Interruption! As if I had a marionette string attached to the crown of my head, I looked up from the form I was filling out and heard, in the most clear voice as if with my ears, but in my spirit, "You need to do this." I turned to Stephen and said, softening the words a bit because I couldn't quite say it so commandingly yet, "I really think we are supposed to do this." His reply was a simple, "I know." 

I won't tell the rest of the story here, but that same night, as we reeled with the increasing clarity of what had just occurred and with the many, "well, that will mean...." trying to engage our minds with the consequences, I found myself asking the Lord, "But what about our girls? Will they be ok? I don't ever want to do anything that will harm them!" We didn't feel we could move forward until we heard what God had to say about this concern. It was our gravest concern actually. Maybe some of you reading this know exactly what I am talking about. I'll never forget the time Stephen and I were praying about this in the following weeks when he turned to me and said, "I feel like God is saying that it will be hard on our girls, but not the kind of "hard" that will tear them down or bring damage to them. It will be the kind of hard that will strengthen them as people." Once we heard that, we were ready to jump in the deep end!

So, now we were in full preparation mode. I'd love to share with you some ideas to help prepare your family for the huge changes that adoption brings. Preparing your children to receive a new sibling can have a significant impact on the kind of relationships the siblings will have later on in life. And for many of us, there is LOTS of waiting time until our children come home, time used by God to make us ready.

1. Pray
We learn so much through the adoption process don't we?! One of my favorite things I learned in our long months of waiting for our children was the absolute power of prayer to change my heart. We prayed every day, literally, for the brother and sister we thought we would adopt. As we prayed for them, God began to carve out a place in our hearts and even in our lives for these two children. They became ours in a way that is difficult to describe. We had never met them, had only seen one photo and a very short video, but somehow through prayer we became connected to them. We never ended up adopting them (another story for another time), but I will tell you, because of that year of constant praying for God to bless them, I anticipate meeting them in heaven and embracing them as a mother embraces her own children. So, I encourage you to pray for your waiting child often and watch how God not only uses that to bless them, but how He uses it to prepare you to receive them as your own. 

2. Be at Team
As you pray, be sure to include your children as often as possible. So much will be communicated to them as you do! They will see that this adoption process is something that you are doing together as a family-- that it is not just something Mommy and Daddy are doing. I encourage you to include your children who are old enough in the decision process. Not to say that if they say they don't want to adopt that you will say "no" to God's call, of course. But we believe that if God is calling you to adopt, He is calling your family as a TEAM. Let your children know that you have heard His voice and that you know He will speak to them as well. And then give them some time to come into agreement. Let them in on what God is saying to you and expect that He will lead them. Having the whole family recognize your adoption as a call from God will provide a wonderful strength when times are difficult, and all the loving feelings that accompany the idea of adoption are replaced by a real live stranger in your home. It gives you a reference point to help your children through those tough times-- there is absolutely nothing like knowing you are in God's will to strengthen you!

3. Expose 
Spending time with other families who have adopted, and fostering friendships with other adopted children will do part of the work of expanding your hearts and your lives to receive your new family member. The sometimes frustratingly long wait from the call to that first day at home together is the perfect time for exposure to adopted children and adoptive families. For us finding a group of families who adopted from Russia was a huge blessing and help. Look for ways to serve an adoptive family by helping with tutoring or offering to have their children over to play or even spend the night. This service will not only be a huge blessing to the family, but will really help you to prepare yourselves for what your life will be like. 

4. Communicate
Help your children and other family members with the adjustments to the changes ahead by sharing appropriate information about your new child. How much you tell, and what details you leave out, will depend on your child's age, as well as on the facts at hand. But telling some of the story will allow your family to develop understanding and compassion. Just finding out about what their life is like, the foods they eat, their daily routine is interesting and helpful to begin a relationship. Your family will want to know what happened to their new sibling's parents and sharing something of that story is important. Going through this process now will help you in the future as you decide how much of your child's story to tell over the years.

5. Anticipate 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 older 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.

6. Listen
Including your children in the decision-making process can be extended all along the way. Keep your family "in the loop" and give them time to respond, especially allowing them to share their fears or negative thoughts. For instance, the decisions that the new sibling will share his brother's room or that the new sister will be older than your birth daughter are best made as a family, allowing the children to share their fears or concerns. Again, this doesn't mean that all decisions are made by your children, but rather that each child knows he or she is valued and heard. It can be hard not to become defensive when your children share negative thoughts, but staying calm and encouraging may be all they need to eventually be willing to make the changes demanded of them. So often just being heard is what people, children and adults, really want in time of conflict. When our middle daughter expressed that she did not want to have a sister older than her, we took her seriously. However, as it became clear that God was leading us to our precious daughter Kristina, whose birthday turned out to be 2 weeks before Rachel's, we knew we had a situation on our hands. You can read about this situation from Rachel's point of view in her post, but for us it was clear that we needed to communicate with Rachel and then trust God to open her heart. 

7. Connect 
We love to say at our church that parenting is a team sport, and this is even more true with adoption. Indeed, adoption is a team sport! Connecting with people who will be there for you once your new child comes home will be life-giving and on some days you may even say life-saving! Don't wait until after your adoption to find help. Hopefully you have people asking what they can do to help-- now's the time to say, "Actually I will take you up on it. Thank you!" Having meals brought in those first weeks is very helpful. Getting friends or family members to take your daughter to her piano lessons every week or your son to his soccer practice is worth more than you may be able to anticipate. Maintaining some normalcy for your family is very important. So much change and sacrifice will be required, so keeping some things "the way it used to be" will communicate love and security to your children. But you will need help for this. If your child speaks another language you will want to line up someone you can call to translate. Susan tells a wonderful story of the day her daughter wanted (as in insisted!) to wear her bathing suit to church and needless to say, translation was needed! 
The help you can get for those first months will diminish any resentment or just simply the stress that your children may deal with.

8. Create a Common History 
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!

Help us help waiting families by sharing ways your family prepared for your adopted children-- leave a comment! Thank you!

Thursday, October 27, 2011


From Stephen Templeton:

Beth and I both vividly remember the first full blown fit our first (birth) child threw. Boy were we unprepared-- we gave her that first sip of Coca Cola and then dared to take the cup away from her chubby little grasp, resulting in one seriously angry child! Her fit was epic--the stuff of Templeton Family legend, still retold at family gatherings! However, our experience in parenting our adopted children has exposed us to a kind of anger that comes from a deeper place, and one that has provoked in us emotions that have alarmed us, feelings of anger and frustration that took us completely by surprise.  

We had planned on addressing this topic of Anger at Hope at Home 2011-- not just the anger so common in a child who has a difficult past, but also our own anger as parents when faced with the often hurtful actions and words directed at us by the child we are trying to love. As the saying goes, "hurt people hurt people." We weren't able to work this topic in to the conference, so we thought we'd create a webinar forum and trust God to use it effectively. One thing we know, when we get caught up in our child's anger the outcome is never what we desire. If you haven't read our post, "Parenting in Grace: Identity" you might find it helpful in finding ways to parent a child who is going through a difficult time. And mark your calendars for our webinar.

Join us for our WEBINAR, "DEALING WITH ANGER: IN YOU AND YOUR CHILD"     November 7, 7:30-8:30 pm

It is quite common for adopted children to struggle with anger, so in this follow up Hope at Home Webinar we will be discussing how to successfully manage and handle anger in your child. We will be discussing strategies to help your child understand and more constructively manage his/her intense feelings and anger. We'll talk about how anger is a secondary feeling and response, and that helping your child understand and recognize the primary emotions and triggers are important steps in effectively managing strong anger responses. We'll discuss how you can help your child develop self restraint and how to help him/her develop a different response when anger triggers occur.

Anger can also be a common struggle for adoptive parents for a variety of reasons. We'll spend some time discussing how to constructively deal with and control our anger response as parents.

While these understandings can be very helpful, God's supernatural healing touch is what we all need. We will spend some time praying for deep emotional healing that only God can provide for our adopted children.

We look forward to having you join us. 
For more information and to register click HERE.

Monday, October 24, 2011


From Susan Hillis:

I spent many years at home with kids, having a desire to help them daily to avoid the self-indulgence embodied by our culture, and instead to replace it with the Lord's beauty and values.  So every day I would say something like this to start off the day, "Today we are going to do something for our eyes, something for our hands, something for our hearts, something for our brains, and something for our bodies." We actually had a poster where the kids had helped me draw 2 eyes, 2 hands, a simple heart, a wrinkly brain, and a stick figure body.  Often we would have a board of some kind and check off our activity when we had completed it.
Here are some examples of the kinds of things we did every day with this 5-fingered ingredients to a good day!


"God gave us our eyes to see the beauty of His creation.  Let's go on a walk to see how many colors of flowers we can see (spring), or how many shapes of leaves we can pick up (fall), or how many sizes of acorns we can find (winter), or how many different kinds of bugs we see (summer)."  One May when some of the kids were out looking for bugs, Alex came home with a beautiful black spider, intrigued by the 'red squiggles on its stomach', and complaining of a swollen thumb where it had bitten him.  He proudly help up the spider in the bag, and we realized to our chagrin, that it was a black widow!  We called poison control and were told just to watch him - and he ened up being fine!  In spite of several of these types of extremes, we loved thinking together about this question, "Hey guys, what can we do for our eyes today?''


"God gave us hands to draw and color and play games and paint and play instruments. We also need our hands to make yummy food and to eat with! Let's do something fun with our hands today." Then we would draw or color or paint or sculpt or make home-made playdough or play home-made oatmeal-can drums. Sometimes we would make cards for each other or send a picture to a sick friend. Sometimes we would eat spaghetti with our hands or mix up squishy cookie dough with our fingers. Sometimes we would play simple games like CandyLand with our hands. 


"God loves us a ton. More than we can imagine.  It is amazing that he says if we do just 2 things, we will have a good life, one that makes us happy and God  happy. The first one is this: He tells us, 'love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and strength and mind, and the second one God tells us to love your neighbor as much as you love yourself."

Today lets talk about what we could do to show love to God or someone else."  We might decide to go visit someone lonely and take them a picture, or we might go serve at a food pantry, or we might sing some praise songs together or read a Bible story or act out a story like Daniel in the lion's den. One memorable day we went on a walk around the block to visit a 92 year old woman. We found her stooped in her nicely manicured lawn, cutting a few pieces of grass with scissors. "Hello, we thought we might visit with you a little while."  She invites us in, "I always liked girls better than boys," she says, looking intently at our son and daughter.  Then she proceeds, "I am  so glad to be out of that hell-hole." I proceeded to ask her what she meant. This is what she called the nursing home she had been confined to temporarily when she broke her hip. Needless to say, once we left, I had some new lessons to teach about God's view of girls and boys being both His favorites! About how hard life can become for old people. About how proud I was of them for showing God's love. And we talked about how our hearts feel when we show love to someone. "Warm  inside." "My heart feels happy."


"God gives people a brain that can do things that none of the animals can do. Like math. Like thinking about complicated questions. Like creating and using words.  When we use our brains to learn about God's world, we can serve Him in ways that are so very special. Let's talk about what we want to learn about this week." If it was the week of the black widow, we may learn about spiders. If we had been painting the night sky, I might pull out Van Gogh's 'Starry Night' and teach them a little about Van Gogh as a man and as an artist. 


"God gave us bodies that enjoy moving and exercising and jumping and running. He says He made our body to be the place He lives inside of, with His Holy Spirit.  In the Bible we learn that our body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. Let's talk about what we can do to keep our bodies in good shape today." We might run or skip or do dance exercises or swim or hike or play four-square or basketball.  If it was rainy we sometimes would go to a gym to run around. Or sometimes we would put on old clothes and go sliding into mud puddles. One memorable day our neighbors had a huge 12 foot long, 3 foot wide puddle.  We decided it would be so fun to pretend it was a slippy pool slide - so we ran outside to play. Before I knew it lots of the bored neighbor kids had joined us! I did not quite know what to say, when, after getting cleaned up, I ran into one of the neighbor kid's moms and she began to complain about how crazy her kids had been that day - sliding in the mud and rain of all things! I was too embarrassed to tell her it was my idea!
So, often the posts I offer are more thoughtful, devotional, or testimonial. Today I just wanted to share the structure that was the under-girding foundation for so many wonderful conversations about God and life and the world and beauty, and that at the same time laid down scores of fun memories!
God bless each of you!

Friday, October 21, 2011


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. In times like this one it becomes clear that there is 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, that 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

This covenant of peace is my child's legacy now. Indeed, it is mine and yours as followers of Jesus. And my how we parents need this peace! God promises that His Peace is ours, part of our inheritance as His beloved sons and daughters. As parents we are only able to impart to our children the things that are ours. When I do not have peace, I do not have it to give my child. So I pursue peace because I see that I need it and that my child needs it. And how thankful I am that this peace is mine by inheritance, not based on my performance and not according to what I deserve! 

And let the peace (soul harmony which comes) from Christ rule (act as umpire continually) in your hearts [deciding and settling with finality all questions that arise in your minds, in that peaceful state] to which as [members of Christ's] one body you were also called [to live].
Colossians 3:15

Peace: the Umpire of the Heart
In the moment I described above, and in countless other times, I have had great need of a peace that could not be found in my current situation. The Rule of Peace is so often what my child needs, and what I need as a mother who can so easily fear for her child's future. I love the Amplified's definition of "rule." The Peace of Christ acts as an umpire in my heart. It gets to decide what is a fair or foul thought and what is allowed in "the game." Fear, anxiety, deadness of spirit-- none of these is ruled a "fair ball." Also, note that it is the Peace of Christ that rules, not some mere absence of conflict or anxiety. If we are waiting for a time in our families where there is no trouble, no strife, no difficulties to face, then we are in trouble!  No, this is a peace that belongs to you and to me, to each of our children, regardless of season and regardless of past hurt. This Peace is our inheritance as a child of God.

Philipians 4:7 describes Peace as a military guard:
And God's peace [shall be yours, that tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and being content with its earthly lot of whatever sort that is, that peace] which transcends all understanding shall garrison and mount guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Peace:  A Guard over your Heart
Can you just see that? Your heart and mind being protected day and night by the military presence of a trained guard. This guard of PEACE allowing entry to some thoughts, hopes and dreams but raising His weapon against other thoughts, fears and deceptions, forbidding access. Ever present, greater in power than any circumstance, full of hope.

So Lord Jesus, you yourself are our Peace. (Ephesians 2:14) You stand guard, you occupy my heart and mind with military troops, and you call the shots as to what is allowed in my inner life, in my heart, in my mind. May it be so Jesus. May your Peace Rule over each one of us and each one of our children, despite of and in the midst of difficult times. Your peace is greater than an orphan legacy, with it's accompanying fears, anger, hopelessness.... Beautiful Powerful Peace--- RULE TODAY IN OUR CHILDREN AND IN EACH ONE OF US!  

Take a few minutes to listen to this SONG  by United Pursuit. It speaks simply of the Peace that we have freely in Jesus. This peace will NEVER be removed from you. It is always available, even if you feel you have failed in some way as a parent. He is always right there, ready to release Peace.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


From Susan Hillis:

The Story of the Links

I have received great hope and comfort and direction from  the Lord over the past 8 months or so through this simple illustration.  It is one that I have drawn on the back of numerous napkins at restaurants and on our own family white board at home several times, to remind us all of where we are going.  So here is the story of the links, which I feel the Lord revealed to my mind's eye.  These links have been such a source of hope and encouragement to me.  I pray they are to you as well!
I am Eternally Linked to Him
This first link, link 1 is a vertical link connecting me to the Lord and the Lord to me.  He has unconditionally and eternally 'hooked' Himself to me and me to Hiim, in a bond of steadfast, enduring love.  The link is like a giant bungee link, strong enough to literaly sustain my weight if I hang onto the bottom of it. "I have loved you with an everlasting love." (Jere 31:3).  The secret to me continuing in grace and love is for me to determine to keep this link strong.  To "Look up," as Paul did when he received his sight.

I am Linked to My Child

Now we get to link 2.  It is a horizontal link, connecting me to my child.  It is a consequence of link 1.  That is, a consequence of His love in and through me, I begin to feel God's love poured out into my heart on behalf of those who are fatherless.  "God is a father to the fatherless;  he places the lonely in families." (Ps 68:5)  Many times they may not even realize that I am  loving them, as we read of in Hosea.  "They did not realize that it was I who healed them.  I led them  with cords of human kindness and ties of love."  (Hosea 11:1).

The Only Link that Holds My Child
And our desired goal is this development of link 3.  It is the only link that will hold them in life.  It, my dearly loved friends, is the link between their hearts and the Lord's.  It is fascinating that Ps 27:10 says, "Even though my mother and father forsake me, the Lord will take care of me."  It does not say, 'Even though my mother and father forsake me, there will be other parents who will take me in.'  Our love in link 2 is necessary but never sufficient to hold them, or anyone.  Just as human love has been necessary but never sufficient to hold me.  I continue to learn to pray for this 3rd link.  Lord, cause my children to experience you entering their lives and caring for them  exactly where they are.  Exactly in the way they need you to care for them. 

 In our family of 12, there are some who have this third link strong, and they do well in spite of life's storms.  There are others who are well on the way to allowing this third link to materialize.  Thankfully, in spite of many challenges, not one of us has determined we want nothing to do with this third link - - which gives me great hope that we are all works in progress.  I pray that the Lord completes this good work of the third link in each of our children.  And I pray He keeps the first link first, in each of our hearts as parents. 
A Practical Idea
Let me close with one idea.  I have found that children have a deep capacity for spiritual insight.  We might all sit down as a family, with me drawing these 3 links and explaining them.  Then I might suggest each of pray about this 3rd link, asking the Lord to help our connection with Him  be the strongest connection in our life.  We might even, in a more one-on-one situation, draw the state of our own links with the will be a wonderful opportunity for encouragement in the Lord when they draw any link at all, or a dashed link, or a partial link .  Even if they draw nothing in the place of this third link, there is great hope in the one who keeps loving us in a way that carries us even when we do not see or feel His arms.  Above us ARE the EVERLASTING arms.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


I remember one of the first prayers I prayed when we decided to adopt was about family unity. I felt a strong desire that we be one family, not split by the biological children and the adopted children, or divided by the Americans and Russians. Growing a family through adoption can mess with a sense of family unity, no doubt! Your biological children (along with extended family and friends) may be on high alert for how you are going to treat the new addition to the family. It can be quite hard for them to understand why you are parenting your new son or daughter differently as they make their adjustments into their new family. And the adopted child will undoubtedly be watching to see if she is being treated like the others. How do we parents handle this delicate situation? Prayer, prayer, prayer-- God is faithful and will work in your family way beyond your parenting abilities. Start and end with believing prayer, asking God to bring true unity into your family. Through the years and many prayers we have felt that our sense of unity in the Templeton family has been strengthened by some practical approaches to parenting.

"It's Not Fair!"

"Mommmmmyyyyy, that's not fair!" Anyone else heard that one before? I often think the old, "If I had a nickel for every time....!" I'd like to suggest that we shouldn't try to make things fair. In our efforts to create unity there is a certain logic to the idea that everyone should get the same thing and be treated the same way. Isn't that the best way to make sure everyone feels equally loved and cared for? If one child gets an ice-cream cone because they finally learned how to swim after a summer of being afraid of the water, then, to be fair, maybe all the siblings should get one too-- to avoid jealousy and complaining. In actuality, I believe that fairness works against family unity, that it should not be our goal as parents at all. We don't want to confuse fairness with unity-- unity does not mean sameness. I find the definition for unity to be fascinating; it is defined as "oneness, especially of what is varied and diverse in its element or part."

A Culture of Honor

Rather than try to minimize the differences or detract from the diversity of your family and the uniqueness of each child (in age, life experience, talent, stage of life, strengths and weaknesses etc), work to establish a culture of honor in your family. For instance, when you compliment one of your daughters, telling her how pretty she looks in her  new outfit, and her sister says, "What about me?!", take the opportunity to help this child honor her sister. Most often the "what about me?" question is simply that child's way of asking, "am I special?" We don't need to dilute the compliment by making it general, declaring everyone in the family is equally pretty today. We can respond, "You are my sweet daughter, but right now Mommy is talking about your sister. Don't you think she looks pretty in her new outfit?"

With your adopted child, you may find this issue of fairness to be a significant struggle. As long as his identity is tied to his past as an orphan, he will believe that when someone else receives something (even a compliment), it somehow takes away from the provision that could be his. He may feel that someone else's blessing costs him something. 

Love is NOT Like a Pie!

One way Stephen has explained it to our children is that love is NOT like a pie. You might sit down with a whole pie and talk as a family about how the love in your family is not like this pie. When there was just mommy and daddy, each gets half a pie. Once big sister was born, how much pie will mommy and daddy get now? What about now that there are 4, or 5, or 9 members of this family?! How wonderful that the love in our family does not decrease when we give it out! That it does not diminish our portion to have someone get attention or honor. 

A Culture of Celebration

We have found that when we celebrate and rejoice in each others' achievements and successes we move toward establishing family unity, and lessen the issues of sibling jealousy. For years one of our daughters took piano lessons and had a yearly recital. We felt that we needed to celebrate and honor all her hours of practice and her wonderful talent by requiring the whole family to go. Now, I will tell you that the idea of waking up early on a Saturday morning to sit through hours of piano playing was not on any of the Templeton sibling's  lists of things to do! (If you are wondering, sleep would have been first on the list I suspect.) But here was an opportunity for us to communicate the message that as a family we can celebrate this one child's life. Going to watch a brother run in a race or saying no to an invitation because a sister is in a play after school communicates that your family stands together and rejoices in each others' strengths and successes. We create a sense of oneness when we do this. As Romans 12:15 says, we "Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep."

You may face the complicating factor that not all of your children have talents or giftings that are so obvious and easy to celebrate, especially in the early days of adoption when your child is either very young, or more marked by negative behaviors (ones that you certainly don't want to celebrate!), or simply a stranger to you still. It is very important to find something to celebrate. Don't limit your praise to performance-based achievements. If your child sits through dinner for the first time-- celebrate. If you've been working on her attitude and she cleans up without arguing-- celebrate. Let the family know how much you appreciated your son's kindness in freely sharing his toy, or your daughter's care for a friend at school. 

Remember, unity exists in the context of diversity--"oneness, especially of what is varied and diverse in its element or part." An adoptive family is certainly diverse! It is wonderful to know that this diversity does not disqualify us for true unity. What are some ways that have worked in your family to establish unity?

Monday, October 10, 2011


From Susan Hillis:

We were sitting around the table chatting with kids when one of them, giggling, commented about their day, "The teachers saw a guy and girl holding hands in the hall and walked up being them, saying, 'No PDA allowed.' We hear it all the time...PDA.  Hey mom  (I guess they think I am in still living in the DarkAges!), do you know what that is -- PDA?"  (in case someone reading IS in the Dark Ages...PDA means 'public display of affection'). 

To which I replied, "I don't care very much about 'PDA' but I care A LOT about 'PYD.'
The kids sitting around the table are now quite curious, as their 'with it' mom knows a new acronym  that they have never heard before!  "Mom, what's that mean...'PYD'...we haven't heard that one yet.'
I explain, "That one means 'Pray Your Dream...'  PYD.
"Oh mom, no one knows that one," they reply.
I assure them, "Someday they will!"

Make a Wish
So here's how 'PYD' came to be.  I was returning from a trip to Russia, waiting in the long line at Passport Control in New York's La Guardia Airport.  I see a 'Make-a-Wish-Foundation' poster like this one.  And right there, jet-lagged, standing in line with my suitcases, it becomes clear.  If a man-run Foundation can make the wildest dream come true for a dying child, then God can certainly fulfill His people's wildest prayers for every child around the world who needs a family's love.  The words, 'Make a Wish' disappeared from the poster in my mind's eye, and in their place were these words, "Pray Your Dream.."  And I started then and there, "Lord, my dream is a believer in the life of every orphan.  I pray for a believer in the life of every orphan." 

Many of you reading this are part of God's answer to that prayer.  And it is spreading.  I am hearing rumblings of a new movement being birthed.  A movement called, "World Without Orphans."  So now I ask you, join me in making PYD a virally recognized acronym  among us believers.  Among those of us who have experienced, personally, the joy and freedom, the purpose and hope of the One who said to us, "I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you." (John 14:18)  And He did. And He does. And He will....PYD!!!!
A new aspect of PYD is becoming clear for me.  Not only do we pray that the Lord will cause a believer to ENTER the life of every orphan, but we pray that we as believers will actually have grace to REMAIN in the life of the orphan.  To REMAIN on those days when their previous orphan-like hurt and at times denial, threatens to push us as away. On those days when 'hurt people, hurt people.'  When their deep hurt causes them to hurt me deeply. I am learning a new secret to this REMAINING.  And it is this: 

HIS LOVE COVERS ME                                                           The Lord's love covers me, "He will cover you with his feathers and under His wings you will find refuge." (Ps 91)   It is the love of the transfiguration [because it also transfigures, or transforms me!] when "He was still speaking [and] a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, 'This is My Son whom I love.  With Him I am well pleased." (Matthew 3:16-17) Jesus' gloriously radiant love still covers us, His daughters and sons who have adopted and fostered, and it says to us, "You are my beloved in whom I am well-pleased.  I've got you covered."


The Lord's love covers them..  "Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins." (I Peter 4:8)  Love covers by forgiving and by helping guide them back to their real gifts and purpose and identity in the Lord and in our family.  I have seen it as a process that often takes years, but oh, the joy we experience when our chldren begin to live as the Lord's sons and daughters.  And for those who are not there yet, I pray for the grace to have the kind of love that covers a multitude of bad choices and bad attitudes.  What is amazing is the glorious result, "Blessed are those whose sins are covered." (Romans 4:7).

A Hands-On Example
For those with young kids, it would be so easy to invent a 'love covers' game.  Dump chocolate syrup on the floor then place over it a pretty thick clean towel, smile and say, 'love covers.'  "This means that we love and forgive each other's messes.  If we don't cover this brown mess and walk in it, it gets all squishy between our toes [let's try it];  but if we cover it and walk on it, we stay clean.  In the Hillis (or 'xxxx') family we are going to forgive each other's messes." 

I saw this played out beautifully several months ago when our daughter who has been in and out of jail and living on the streets came home to visit for the first time in over a year.  I watched with thankfulness as I saw her sisters and brothers hug her, then walk arm in arm around the house.  


Thursday, October 6, 2011


There isn't a person alive who does not yearn for identity and purpose. As we raise our adopted children we see that this question of identity is often more complicated for them-- complicated by a missing or shattered past, by the realities of relinquishment, rejection and abandonment, by the issue of race and culture, by tough questions of "why me" or "what if....?" 

It seems to me that the people who are the most whole are the ones who are settled with who they are and enjoying a strong sense of purpose in their lives. Identity and purpose are the basic ingredients of wholeness for all of us, and most likely your adopted child will  require extra effort on your part to instill and call forth his identity as a son with a destiny, her place as a daughter with a calling. It has been fascinating to me to hear that even children adopted as infants often find, once they become teenagers, that this issue of identity gets confused and complicated by the realities of adoption. 

One of the most effective opposing forces to your adopted child's sense of identity is an orphan spirit. For some children their adoption into a loving Christian family has not freed them from this sense of being an orphan-- one who lacks parents, lacks love, lacks protection and provision, lacks security..... Even when the lack is replaced in adoption by a loving mother and father, a wonderful home and church with lots of friends, abundant provision in every way, this sense of being one who lacks can remain and threaten to become a child's primary motivating identity, even years after his or her adoption as a daughter or son. 

Much of our work as adoptive parents is to administer this truth, day after day and year after year, that this child is no longer an orphan, but a true Son or Daughter. One who is defined not by lack, but rather by possession and inheritance! One who is worthy, acceptable, significant, powerful, full of purpose and destiny and calling, defended, safe, beloved....

What can we parents do to help our child receive and embrace their Identity as a Son or Daughter, rejecting the lies borne out of the facts of their past? Lies that tell them "you are not significant, you don't have what it takes, you are unloved and unwanted, you are too different to fit in, you have to fend for yourself...." Lies that keep them from connecting, and limit their ability to walk in their true destiny. 

There are no simple answers to this question, but I believe there are some practical things we can do to massage into our treasured children the TRUTH of their identity. We spoke of a huge key to release identity in the post, "Parenting in Grace: Who is this Child?" 
I'd like to share a few ideas that are more practical in nature, but no less spiritual in my opinion. These are some things that Stephen and I learned to do in the early years of our adoptions that we found effective in instilling identity and the truths of sonship. 

Family Name
Be intentional about using your family name. There is something powerful about a family name. It speaks of belonging, heritage, relationship, history. When we are born again into the family of God, we take on His name and the full inheritance that goes along with it,
"For Whom every family in heaven and on earth is named"
Ephesians 3:15
Being named is more important to our perception of ourelves than we may realize. There is something significant for our children in hearing over and over that they are Templetons. If your child is being unkind, rather than say, "Don't be unkind. That's not nice," you might say, "In the Templeton [inserting your name of course!] Family we treat each other with kindness." Look for ways to intentionally insert your family name into daily life. "We Templetons go to church and worship God." It may seem awkward but we have found it to communicate the truth of sonship to our children, especially in those early years.

Family Meetings
Having regular family meetings is a wonderful way to impart the wholeness of "sonship" into your adopted child. Just the gathering itself communicates that they are part of a whole or a unit, something established, something that has a history. These times can take on whatever flavor or purpose
you decide is needed at the time. Because we have such a large family, in recent years we have used these meetings to share what is going on in our lives. We ask each child to share what they are doing in school, what activities they are involved in, what issues they are dealing with. That way everyone feels connected. We also find that using these times for prayer is very powerful. Praying out loud for each other (especially in response to some need that has been shared) goes a long way to establish belonging and love. Sometimes each of us will write down five things we like about each family member (younger children can draw pictures) and share. Other times Stephen or I will read aloud a story or scripture, or address a family matter that needs adjusting or correction. No matter the focus, the gathering will help you to create sense of identity and belonging.

Family Traits
Like Father, Like Son
Something we learned from our dear friend Susan Hillis is to be sure to identify Templeton family traits in our adopted children. Just like we do when a baby is born, we search for and comment on family traits. ("He has his daddy's nose," or "Her eyes are definitely from her mama's side of the family.") For instance we might say, "You look just like your mama when you smile like that!" or, "You are so much like your daddy taking care of that dog. He always loved dogs when he was a boy your age." The wonderful thing about these comments is that they can be said regardless of skin color or any other physical difference. They speak volumes to your child-- you belong, you are a part of a family with a story, you are not separate. 

There is power in a name! The question of "Who Am I?" is one we adoptive parents want to be answering within the day to day life of our family.  Don't wait for the question to be asked by your adopted child. Look for ways to communicate the Identity of Sonship in everyday life-- you belong, you are loved, you are acceptable, you are celebrated, you are connected, you are a person of destiny and purpose......

Monday, October 3, 2011

An Adopted Child's Perspective on Adoption: Sasha

From Susan:

Brian and I have seen that each of our children -- regardless of how God gave them  to us -- become most fully that person they were created to be, when they are walking with the confidence that they belong to their heavenly Father.  Our son Sasha, adopted at age 14 from Russia, wrote this description of His heavenly Father. 

Heavenly Father

by Sasha Hillis

Written at age 20, six years after adoption

Everyone has a personal story to tell. The story I will share is a story of my life. I am not the main character in it, but God is. All of us also have parents, most of the time we have amazing parents but sometimes parents aren’t so great. Over the course of my life I have learned something very important: God surpasses our earthly parents by so much, and He is the best parent and friend you could ever have. 
My name is Sasha Hillis. I was born in a small Russian village September 29th, 1985. For the most part I had a pretty good childhood. A negative aspect about my childhood was that my parents were alcoholics. They weren’t always alcoholic, but some circumstances led them into it. They drank often, and when they did, it became crazy at home. When alcohol wasn’t around, we had a pretty normal family life.    
           One day, when I was about six or seven years old, my mom got in trouble and was sent to jail. My dad had to take care of us three kids all by himself, which he wasn’t used to doing. For a little while he was able to take care of us, but then he couldn’t handle it anymore. He made a decision to send us to an orphanage. We were first sent to the hospital for a check-up. We stayed there for about two or three weeks. Our dad came to visit us once, and that was the last time we ever saw him. When he left, my memory of him disappeared almost instantly, and did not come back for long time. In the same way I didn’t remember my mom. I just lived in the present. My mind didn’t bother to remember about the past. It was if all the memories of my home, and my parents were erased. I had started a new journey without them.                                                                     
           After staying at the hospital, my little sister and I were sent to the orphanage. My one year old brother could not come with us because he was too young. My sister Katya and I were sent to the orphanage, which was called Svirstroy, a big building with about one hundred fifty orphans occupying it. We lived there with group number five, the group where the youngest kids lived. Living there was a pretty easy life for me for a while. Then I turned eight years old and was ready to go to school. I and several other people from my group were placed in a new group. Then things completely changed. I went to school and started on the road of growing up. School for the first three years was a big struggle for me, and I didn’t enjoy it very much. I started to improve, later on, which helped me to finally enjoy it. Being in the orphanage or in school gave me an opportunity to do what I really enjoyed the most, which was
One day on my way back from school, I was called back because someone was asking for me. I looked at the person and then remembered that it was my mom. It probably had been five years that I had not seen her. She visited me several times again, and I even got to go home over breaks. I didn’t see her for while because she got in trouble by drinking again. After I had met my mom again, I really wanted to leave the orphanage and live in a family. An orphanage is the kind of a place where kids often desire to live in a family even though it often felt like home, but that soon changed. My mom wanted to get us out of the orphanage, but her bad habit kept her from it. In the year of 2000, we were adopted by a family that I wasn’t exactly expecting. We were adopted into an American family, by parents who loved their kids, and most importantly, God. They introduced us to a God who always looked after us, and took care of us. He was always around for the good times and the bad times.                                                                                                                          
            My first parents might not have been able to be the good parents for me and my sister and my brother, but there is a God who always watched over us and loved us. He made sure that we got an education, and care. He also provided a family for us that led us to Christ, and accepting Him as our Savior. He will never leave us or forsake us. Part of the reason why God gave me an American Christian family is so that I would know Him and about Him. He is a father who loves, cares and provides for His children, and He will still do that and He will always be a faithful father to us, and never leave us. “Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me.” (Psalm 27:10) That is the promise that He left in the Bible for us to remember and be comforted by it.                                  
           God is not only my father, but He is also a God of everlasting love. God is a father of nations. He could be a father to all the fatherless, and not just to a few. His great love can expand to everyone. No matter how we might mess-up or even try to walk away from God’s love, He will always be there loving us and waiting on us to return to Him. “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God! And that is what we are!” 
          Our Heavenly Father well never fail us, and He also has great plans for us, “For I know plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jer 29:11)We can always trust and depend on Him. God has created and chose us all for good reasons. All the abilities and gifts that our Heavenly Father put in us are not there just for random reasons. The reason is so that His will be done and His name be glorified.  

Sculpture 2008 by Sasha Hillis, an art major in college: The Good Shepherd