Friday, December 30, 2011


It's an honor for us to introduce you to our friend, Susan TeBos. Susan is the mother of three internationally adopted children and co-author of Before You Were Mine, Discovering Your Adopted Child’s Lifestory. This helpful book equips adoptive parents to commemorate and celebrate their adopted children's birth stories. You can find out more about Susan and her thoughts on Facebook--

Communicating and Understanding
The other day I was searching for a website that gives voice to birthmothers desiring to reach out to the child she could not parent with words of encouragement and love. I had no idea that sites like this even existed. So I was certainly surprised when I spotted a YouTube video of a birthmother cherishing her final moments with her newborn baby. This video had received over 32,000 likes. Amazing!  So many eyes glimpsing the heart of a birthmother, dreaming and wondering if perhaps this love and encouragement was true for them, too. I could only guess that most of these viewers were adult adoptees, individuals who had never been introduced to their lifestory or taught that it is okay to know.   

Today, more than ever, wondering and not knowing have been replaced by communicating and understanding. We’ve come a long way as an adoption community and kids are asking and parents are telling. Still many adoptive parents hesitate to go to the difficult places of their child’s heart mainly because it is uncomfortable, or they don’t know how, or they may not have all the answers. Additionally, many are not sure what the outcome of the truth telling will bring. Some even wonder if it is worth it. 
Becoming our Child's Storyteller
Experience tells me that it is so worth it and that every authentic effort to bring clarity and truth to an adopted child is valuable. I believe it is our distinct and unique privilege to become our child’s storyteller. And to do this well we must believe that this precious child is counting on us to go there first; to go to her story and to know it, and feel it, and see it with compassion and truth. She is counting on us to be ready when she needs us to hear her, affirm her, to reassure her, and to guide and protect her. Who better to receive her concerns or desires or hurt?  Who better to walk with her through it all?  
My husband, Mike, and I are raising our three children to receive their birth stories and hopefully accept them one day too, even the messy stuff that causes tears and wondering. It’s all about layers of learning and establishing our roles as storytellers in their lives. We started telling when they were little and it was easy. We talked about their birth country and birth parents names and facts and data like eye color or occupation. We even delighted in performing our own silly versions of Russian dances wearing furry Russian hats. Then, as our kids grew, the wondering grew, too. That’s when the hard work began. Russian hats became embarrassing. Eye color not enough. Questions surfaced that were more sophisticated, questions we didn’t have definitive answers for and yet were honest enough to tell them so.  
Introducing the Birthparents
That’s when we began introducing their birthparents in a new way, looking at things like character, for example, and making safe assumptions that would help them see this person more fully. A person’s actions can tell us a lot about his or her character. With this in mind, one day I decided to download an extensive list of character traits off the internet with lots of options to select from. I just Googled ‘character traits’ and pop, up came lists to choose from. After selecting 4 or 5 traits that were believable and best described our oldest son’s birthmother, I was ready to share something new with him when he needed it.  When the day came, Matthew, age 13,  was visibly relieved to begin seeing his birthmother in this new way…hopeful, friendly, safe, responsible, and even loveable. He had never considered her this way before and his heart softened toward her that day.  As for my part, the words I selected to describe his birthmother were not just random words simply chose to appease his heart. He knows I would never jeopardize our mutual trust in that way. 
Sadly, we will not have such comforting words to share with our daughter regarding her birthmother’s character.  It will not be easy.  It will be hard to describe a person who was so broken at that time in her life.
May you, too, discover the privilege that is unique to adoption.  May you speak truth into your child’s heart. May you enter holy ground where a reservoir of feelings waits to be shared or released.  May you become your child’s storyteller.

To find out more about how to become your child's storyteller, read Susan's book.

Thursday, December 22, 2011


Why Knit?
I took up knitting not long after our first adoption. I knitted a scarf first, imperfect with its holes randomly scattered, revealing to all that not only was I a novice, but also that I am decidedly not a perfectionist. The holes didn't bother me really-- but the sense of satisfaction I felt at having actually finished a project was soon to become an addiction. I've lost count of how many scarves I've knitted over the past 11 years, but suffice it to say that even my husband and 3 sons have scarves-- I totally knew they'd never wear them! I didn't care though because I soon realized that the hobby I began as a way to connect with our Russian daughter, who loved to knit, turned out to satisfy a need that parenting definitely does not. That is, I could set out to accomplish a goal and actually see it finished within a week or two. How refreshing in the midst of the parenting goals which consume our thoughts, our time, and our emotional and spiritual energies. Goals like bringing our children into healing from the deep wounds of their pasts, teaching them to give and receive love, to think before acting and to understand consequences, to learn English and to get along with others, to handle their anger well, not to mention personal hygiene, sharing toys etc, etc, etc........!

Delayed Gratification

Talk about long-term goals--parenting surely can lay claim to being the job with the most delayed gratification ever! We realize early on that our efforts in raising our children often don't see the fruit we desire and believe for until an undisclosed but greatly anticipated and hoped-for day. So we parents learn to sow seeds in all kinds of climates, stages, and circumstances. 

  "Happy and fortunate are you who cast your seed upon all waters [when the river overflows its banks; for the seed will sink into the mud and when the waters subside, the plant will spring up; you will find it after many days and reap an abundant harvest], you who safely send forth the ox and the donkey [to range freely]." Isaiah 32:20 (Amplified)

I'm excited to share this scripture with you because it has been such an encouragement to me in the past few weeks. I am encouraged once again as a parent to continue to sow the seeds of love, wise counsel, firm boundaries, unconditional acceptance, words of Truth, kindness and firmness....

"You Will Find it After Many Days...."

Parenting is one of those jobs that is vast in scope with only occasional (but glorious) signs of accomplishment and finality. We treasure those moments when, like the tying off of the last piece of yarn on my latest knitting project, we see that one of our long-term goals have been met. As this scripture says, "you will find it after many days..." I want to encourage you parents to continue to cast in hope the seeds of your love (in all its many forms) on all the waters of your child's life, all the waters of your families' circumstances. For indeed, that seed will sink into the mud of your child's life, deep into his identity. And though hidden from you for what may seem an impossibly long season, so long that it may call upon you to believe with faith-filled hope, it will indeed "spring up." 

Glorious Satisfaction

Just recently we experienced the glorious satisfaction, (far more gratifying than any completed knitting project I am here to tell you!) of seeing seeds of healing spring up before our astonished eyes -- seeds sown over and over and over and over in hope. To hear our child speak words to us that could only be spoken from a place of deep healing, confirmed in both eyes and tone of voice, left both Stephen and me full of praise to God for His faithfulness. This experience, so fresh and pleasing, reminded us that we must not grow weary of casting our seeds when all we see is a muddy stream and truly wonder if we've made any progress at all. 

Father God, we are believing You for the promised abundant harvest. Help us to parent in faith when our eyes don't see any evidence of plants and fruit in our children. May it be to us and our children as you have said. Amen.

Friday, December 16, 2011


From Susan Hillis:

It strikes me as ironic that at this Christmas season it is so easy for me to ignore a central fact of the Christmas story: Mary was pregnant and single.  Like so many young girls around the world.  Like one of our daughters. 

And in spite of the judgment that comes by many, the image of God is being perfectly formed in much so that we read that Jesus is "the exact imprint of His nature." (Heb 1:3) And the image of God is being formed in them.  And the image of God is being formed in her. Indeed and in deed, God "forms their inward parts;" God "knits them together in their mother's wombs." (Ps 139:15). I am relearning some of these lessons about how easy it is for me to chose judgment over grace, and I am excited that the Lord is moving me to see His image in those I can so easily judge.  

I have been thinking for the past several days about that section from the book by Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz, where the believers on the liberal campus have a 'Confession Booth' over that 'debauchery week end.' The latter has some inviting-sounding-name, but that is what it is.  You may know the story. The Christians begin receiving drunk and high folks around midnight, who come into their tent and have a seat.  And the believers say, 'we want to apologize for failing to love you.' There was a sense of the believers coming to see, even in those walking in overt rebellion, something of the nature and image of God.

Hidden Testimonies 
So....while we have most of our 10 children doing so very well, there are a few whose choices have differed from what we expected and hoped....they have made the kind of choices that tempt me to feel like a failure as a mom...yet I am refusing to take that on! Here, for those few who are walking in 'affliction,' are some hidden testimonies (By the way, I dare you to do a word study of the terms 'testimonies' and 'affliction' of Ps 119 in the ESV...the testimonies should always outnumber the afflictions, if we but have eyes to see. "In the way of your testimonies I delight," Ps 119:14):
  • We went to visit a daughter recently, who has been living with her boyfriend ...she and he are involved in a church and bringing their neighbor friends who are struggling to the church - and they are seeing her boyfriend's parents come with them to the church.  They are working hard at a house repair business, together, and wanting to get married they say.  I felt nudged by the Holy Spirit to ask the boyfriend's forgiveness for judging him so severely all these months.  His eyes filled with tears so much that he couldn't even speak.  'Ma'am, I had been praying so much you would find it in your heart to give me a chance.  I love your daughter.' (He recently fell and has a serious back injury!  pray for him!)
  • Another daughter has been living from hotel to hotel, with all that involves, for over a year, in and out of jail with her boyfriend.  I have been concerned for her and thankful for the clear direction to keep the relationship - she calls me often.  I had so judged her boyfriend's mom, who I am told has many kids, each with a different father, and many felonies.  Well, of all things, last night this daughter tells me "Mommy, [my boyfriend's] mom is really changing.  She is very involved in a church and is trying to get us to come with her.  She has quit all that bad stuff she was doing.  Now she is even trying to quit smoking.  She is turning her life around mom and she is trying to help us do the same thing."  And I am thinking, "O, Lord, I never would have expected You to begin to work in HER!"  I had just longed for her to disappear, to be out of their lives.  
  • And finally, we have a dear daugther who is pregnant and unmarried.  I am trusting she and her boyfriend will grow to love the Lord deeply and personally through all this.  God is opening up SCANDALOUS provision for her, and I mean SCANDALOUS - we pray she learns to steward this provision responsibly, for God's glory, as she moves to live with some dear friends for a time.     
The Ending is Good
BUT GOD....His love never fails, never gives up.  Even if we are in the depths He is here (Ps 139 "Where can I flee from Your presence?").  Like the mama bunny in the classic children's book, The Runaway Bunny, who 
promises her son she will be wherever he runs to, God is like that with me....and with my children.  And He is like that with you and your children.  May you have eyes to see His image, over these holidays, in the least of these that are 'insiders' in your lives!!!

For many months now this phrase has been in my mind:  "Only adopt kids if you are willing to be crucified by them, but there IS a glorious resurrection. "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me." Galatians 2:20. I had thought of that for me.  That the Lord is bigger, for me, than the heartache.  I am beginning to see anew, this is true for them as well. Sometimes is seems like my life is a movie! And I trust in the Lord that the ending is good - even though I may be in the scary part right now.

Much much love!  It's THANKSGIVING time!

Blessings to you!

Friday, December 9, 2011


Sometimes Susan and I have to laugh and enjoy how God works with us at Hope at Home. We have often texted, or emailed or made a phone call and found that we have the same message or scripture to share, completely independent of each other. It's actually such fun for us-- knowing that we are hearing some of God's heart together. This week we both wrote articles for this blog on traditions, so you are getting a double whammy! It's especially funny to us this time because usually I am the one who loves to talk about the practical aspects of parenting, always intrigued with how the Truths we are learning look in "real life" at home, and Susan always says she's more of the big vision type, excited by the beauty and power of the Truth. Well, she felt quite impressed with herself this time because her post is full of practical ideas for creating Christmas traditions, and rightly so-- it's a wonderful article! And my approach is focused more on the overall benefits of traditions in your adoptive family. So here is part two on traditions:

Traditions and Unity

So, I am a big fan of traditions I have to say. In their place and for the right purpose traditions are a gift in any family. Those of us whose families are formed by adoption may find that the creation of traditions serve as an effective tool in building family unity. You may have found, like us, that adoption does not lend itself to unity, that family unity is something we parents must be intentional about. The very nature of adoption is to introduce someone from the outside into the life and heart of your family. In our post on Family Unity I gave the definition of unity: "oneness, especially of what is varied and diverse in its element or part." An adoptive family is nothing if not diverse! We have found that creating family traditions has significantly helped us to be ONE family in the midst of much diversity. There is something about family traditions that fosters a sense of unity, peace joy, fellowship....

Creating Traditions

Unlike routines, which are merely every day activities that require no special behavior and usually do not produce good feelings, traditions are "practices that create positive feelings and are repeated at regular intervals."  We think of traditions as being handed down from one generation to another, but you can create your own traditions to meet the needs of your adoptive family. I loved the ideas that Susan shared in her post on Christmas Traditions. For many of us these wonderful Christmas activities will be new, but traditions have to start somewhere! The first few Christmases after our adoptions we attended a Russian Christmas celebration, filled with Russian music, dance and food. It was an effort on our part to make our children feel valued and to give them something familiar and comforting. It ended up not becoming a tradition for us because it didn't seem to mean much to our children, but I do encourage you to think outside your family traditions to find activities that will be congruent with your family. I'll share one other Christmas idea with you. Because we have seven children and we were trying to avoid having 42 presents under the tree (representing only the ones each child would buy for his/her 6 siblings!) it has become a tradition with us that each child give all the money he or she would have spent on gifts for their siblings to buy a gift(s) for someone in need. Over the years we have given anonymously to families struggling at our church, to homeless children at a ministry in our city, and to unwed mothers. I know that sounds very impressive so I feel I must tell you that we still have plenty of presents under our tree, and most of them are store bought! But we have found that this tradition of giving to someone in need is a wonderful way for our family to live out who we are as worshipers of Jesus. 

The Gift of Heritage

Along with creating new traditions, I encourage you to embrace ones that you grew up with and value. It is a wonderful gift to your children, especially your adopted children, to be warmly gathered into the heritage of your family, the traditions you grew up with. It creates in them a sense of belonging and history. It is a sad reality for our precious adopted children, to one extent or another, to have missing or fragmented histories. When we maintain traditions it fills in the sometimes gaping emotional holes that their missing stories have left. Take the time to tell your stories of growing up, of the things you used to do each year, and then do it again with your children! Both Stephen and I grew up in a liturgical church and we continue to enjoy observing Advent (the four weeks leading up to Christmas) with our children. It has been an effective way for us to celebrate Jesus in December rather than celebrate presents and Santa Claus. Our best family devotionals have been during these nightly readings, lighting the candles in our advent wreath, and sharing the amazing story of redemption.   

We have been surprised over the years at how protective our children are over our traditions. Sometimes we go to make a change, not actually realizing that something like where we place our Christmas Tree has become a tradition, and find out we are practically flirting with the unpardonable sin! Just two years ago I tried to place the Christmas tree in a different corner of the room and I wish you could have heard the uproar. Fascinatingly, it is our adopted children who often feel the most passionate about our traditions. They have an amazing memory about whose turn it is to put the star on top of our tree each year! I have come to realize that by giving them the gift of traditions we are creating a sense of security and belonging that goes beyond the counting of its value.

Stephen and I just spent an evening with another adoptive family who came to Hope at Home 2011, talking and praying for each other. They were sharing that every Christmas Eve their family shares communion. I just loved that. Stephen and I decided that this year we will do the same-- looks like a new tradition may be born for us Templetons! 

I heard Bill Johnson once say that having a history gives a person the momentum for success. Let's include our adopted children into our family histories and into our spiritual histories, and watch how God uses it to launch them into their destiny in Him! 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011



"Now may the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ" has been my prayer this week for myself and my children, and it is now my prayer for you....may the Lord use these ideas to direct your children's hearts to the Love of God!!!!!

Living as we do in a culture steeped in materialism -- the longing for and love of things -- I have spent many Decembers thinking about how to help the focus of our home be on the gifts Christ gives more than the gifts you get, and the gifts Christ wants more than the gifts you want, and the gifts you give more than the gifts you receive.  Mostly I have just kept open eyes and open ears, and copied great ideas from others, which I will pass along now to you. 

The Gifts Christ Gives 
The gifts Christ gives to us are so many -- forgiveness, acceptance, identify, hope, purpose, belonging, beauty.  One simple tradition we have been doing for many many years is making and using  a Jesse tree.  It is a simple felt wall hanging with velcro ornaments that I made with our kids.  It looks like this.

Jesse Tree. Every night we read or paraphrase the summary (when they are younger), or read the Scriptures, and let one of the kids place the velcro symbol for that reading on the tree.  The kids have their 'special' symbols now which they often beg to be 'mine' to put on!  It may be the angel they made, or the 10 commandments, or the dove with the lop-sided eye, or the apple that they always place in  exactly the same spot each year -- until the brother walks into the room the next day and tricks them by moving it!  Then I get to arbitrate a disagreement!  All in all, this daily tradition in December helps weave the truths of the gospel, from creation in Genesis, through the hope of the resurrection, in our hearts.  It is a way for God's written word to be sown in our minds and hearts during this wonderful season of birthday celebration for our Lord!  Invariably there are nights we miss, and we just double up on those. (There are quite a few books available on Amazon that give the patterns and readings for your Jesse Tree. It is a fun project to do with other families in your church!)

Advent Wreath. We also have an advent wreath that we light each Sunday of December during either lunch or dinner, and we discuss the symbolism in the wreath.
Christmas music and stories and ornaments: We like to use these a lot!  I typically buy one new Christmas album and one new kids' Christmas book every year.  We often make ornaments together at home and talk about year Jonny made a pig out of styrofoam balls, pipe cleaners, and sequins. We talked about God's creation - and the pig looked soooo funny that it became a favorite over the years.

Act It Out. Every year we get up, have breakfast and open stockings, read the Christmas story from Luke 2, pray, and then begin to share gifts. Usually at some point during the day, we act out the Christmas story reading from a simple version of Luke always enjoy acting out stories....we have some funny family memories of "the year Cristi was the donkey, Anya was Mary, and Anya fell off." 

The Gifts Christ Wants
Gifts for the Least. We have talked a lot over the years with our kids about the gifts Christ wants.  Matthew 25 is a great passage for this: "I was hungry and you gave me food;  I was thirsty and you gave me drink;  I was a stranger and you welcomed me; I was naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you visited me; I was in prison and you came to me."  We know the rest - when we give these gifts to the least, we give them to Him.  At times we get up early and make biscuits with friends and take them down to homeless folks early on Sunday morning.  Other times in the afternoon we go down and help with Hosea Williams 'feed the homeless' meal in Atlanta.  One year we went over and carolled for an older woman who was a shut-in.

Gifts of Kindness and Service. We also talk about the fact that Jesus loves it when we give to Him in secret. (Don't let your right hand know what your left is doing.) Some years we decorate a gold box and put a slit in the top. We encourage everyone in the family to look for ways they give to the Lord when others are not looking....maybe make your brother's bed or do his chores; maybe give a compliment to someone looking sad and then write this down on a slip of paper, unsigned, and put in in Jesus' gift box. At times we read them later in the month and at times we just leave them secret.

The Gifts You Give

I always disliked the typical talk between kids at school that goes like this. "So, what do you want for Christmas?" or "What are you gonna get for Christmas?" Then the answer, "Well, I am gonna get a computer." In our family of 12, folks don't get computers for Christmas! Also,this focus flies in the face of Jesus' words that "it is more blessed to give than to receive." While I wish I could say, "All of my kids were content simply focusing on giving and not receiving," that is not the case.  The creepy creeping materialism often made them feel pressured, different, since that is not our family focus. But we were able to come up with an answer that helped A LOT!  We decided, together, that we could say something like this, "In our family we get big presents on our birthday, since that day is about us....but on Christmas we focus more on giving, since that day is about Jesus' birthday." 

Gifts We Make.  A number of folks have asked me, when they learn when have a family of 12, "What is Christmas like?...Is it just out of control?"  I feel sad when I hear it, as we have so lost sight of the One who we are celebrating.  I usually say, "No, Christmas is really a fun time in our family. We approach Christmas like this.  Each of us draws 2 names out of a hat, and then makes a gift for that person."  Here is an example of gifts kids made for each other last year...the hand tied UGA blanket, the sweat pants with "ACC" on them, standing for Atlanta Christian College. We have many examples....home made jewelry, funny videos, picture albums, poems, stories, golfballs painted to make them personalized, paintings, knitted scarfs, home made peanut brittle or candy.

The impact of focusing on making gifts is that we spend lots of times at home together working with our hands for each other, rather than out at malls walking aisles.  Over recent years some of the non-artistic kids have begged to buy their gift and we have agreed to that, since they do seem spent on ideas after many years of doing this...the focus, though, still is more on the gift we give over the gift we want.  It carries over into Christmas morning like this.  From youngest to oldest, or vice versa, we start by finding a wrapped gift we made and taking it over to the family member we made it for. So even then, we are looking for what we will give.

May your family enjoy many gifts in this next month--gifts that bring joy in the giving and in the receiving! 

Friday, December 2, 2011


From Michelle Haswell. You will also enjoy Michelle's last post, "He Shouts Restore over Our Lives." 

If you haven't yet, LIKE Hope at Home on Facebook. It's a nice way to keep connected with what's going on at Hope at Home and with other adoptive and foster parents, as well as to receive encouragement throughout the week. 

We all go through seasons where we find ourselves in need of being refreshed due to the demands that life places on us. In those times I have found that the only true and deep refreshing comes from the Lord Himself. This understanding is born out in various scriptures throughout the Bible. 

Psalm 23:3 "He refreshes my soul"

Jeremiah 31: 25 "I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint" ( such a beautiful promise)

Philemon 1:7 "Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you brother have refreshed the hearts of God's people"

2 Corinthians 7:13 "We were especially delighted to see how happy Titus was, because his spirit has been refreshed by all of you"

It is clear that one of the ways God intends to refresh our souls is through one another. A good question to ask ourselves is "who does this for me?". Amidst all the needs of parenting, make sure there are people in your life who refresh your soul! For me these are deeply valuable and very necessary relationships.

The scriptures tell us that the Lord shouts 'Restore' over our lives. Sometimes we need more than refreshing, where we have suffered loss we long to have areas of lives reinstated to their former condition. God can take care of these needs as well. 

When we choose to become parents through adoption or biologically there are many things that we give up, some go without saying but I believe there are some places the Lord wants to restore back to us. Among these are: peace at home, intimacy in marriage, who God called you to be (sometimes as parents we can feel as if we have lost a part of who we are), financial stability, to name a few. God is great at the restoration of lives and He loves doing it. 

Psalm 14:7 "When the Lord restores his people, let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad."

Jeremiah 30:7 "I will restore you to health and heal your wounds"

Sadly there are situations in life that have the potential to cause great damage to us emotionally, like rebellious children, abusive marriages, or financial collapse.

The good news is that our heavenly Father is in the business of not only refreshing and restoring but also rebuilding the broken places. As I mentioned in a previous blog, when my husband and I lost triplets who were born prematurely, we found ourselves in need of some serious emotional and spiritual repair. I'm so thankful to the Lord for the rebuilding and strengthening in our lives through His faithful love.

Jeremiah 33:7 "I will bring back Judah and Israel from captivity and will rebuild them as they were before"

Amos 9:14 "I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel, and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine, and they shall make gardens and eat their fruit"  (He not only promises to rebuild the ruined places but also promises us great fruitfulness)

Parenting always requires sacrifice so that others may live. Our greatest example of this is Jesus' own sacrifice on the cross. He gave up His dignity, His position, His life so that we can have eternal life. I believe that along with the daily sacrifices we make and the things that we give up because we love our children, there are also places in our lives that the Lord longs to refresh, restore or even rebuild if we will allow Him to do so. 

Jesus loves us with a great and abiding love that surpasses knowledge. He is the kindest person you will ever meet. I encourage you to ask Him for refreshing, restoration or rebuilding for your life.