Tuesday, February 28, 2012


From Susan Hillis:

One of my favorite parts of today was the collect call I received at 7:30 this morning from the Clayton County Jail. It was my daughter, who calls me almost daily. She had an amazing testimony to share with me, but wait, I am getting ahead of myself! Let me give you some background....

My Hefty List
As a mom of 10 kids there were many 'what if's' that I considered from time to time when they were young, in moments of anxiety. What if one of my children grows up to make those kinds of choices that land someone in jail;  what if one of them makes the kind of choices that lead to a serious infectious disease like hepatitis C, or what if one of them makes the choices that lead to a teen pregnancy? My 'what if's' formed a pretty hefty list.  (There were many other 'what if's that never occurred to me in my wildest imagination, which I have indeed faced, but that will be the story for another post).  My insightful husband would comment from time to time, when I allowed words to grant expression to my worries, "Sweetie, I would much rather have a prodigal than an older brother." While given those two options, I agreed, however, my real preference was simply that we raise 10 disciples.

I Focused My Energies on Loving Her
Well, one of my 'what if's' did in fact come to pass.  And I, ever bent or Rescue and Hope and Restoration, have stood in awe to see the gracious Hand of God reaching out and touching my dear sweet young adult child as she walks into danger! This daughter (who had RAD characteristics growing up) has lived in various Atlanta hotels and been in and out of jail five times over the past two years. She is in again right now, this time for violating probation. Deeply hurt before we adopted her at age 10, the combination of counseling, all the love we could give, faith, and careful attention to school environment, just were not enough to bring her into full healing and wholeness. But they were enough to connect us so deeply that she knows, even now, that we continue to be her family.  In fact we were just planning last night which of us will go visit her at the jail this week. The Lord was also so tender, to connect her deeply to Himself during her 8 years in our home before she decided she was in love with a homeless young man in downtown Atlanta and would be living with him. When every attempt of mine to push her away from him ended up pushing her away from me instead, I determined to place my energies and focus rather on loving her, keeping the relationship, praying for her, and encouraging her to walk into the future God has for her.

So, from the Jail, we have these wild conversations several times a week.  Right after she went in this time, we sent her a Bible through Barnes and Noble (jails have a nice system for allowing this!), and she was delighted.  Soon I was hearing stories like this:  "Mommy, I have lots of people reading my Bible; I read it an hour at 4 in the morning when they get us up for breakfast and I read it an hour after lunch. Hey mommy, can you send my friend T.... a Bible just like mine so that we can study it together? Her prison number is xxxxxxx." (And in the background of my mind I almost chuckle as I am hearing John Valjean from Les Miserable belting out the famous measures from "Who am I?.....Two-four-six-0-one.") And I wonder, what kind of hearts may be hiding inside those bodes down at that jail.....

The Voice in the Vent
So here is my story from my talk with my daughter this morning: 

"Mommy, I am thinking of leaving my boyfriend when I get out of jail." 
Surprised, I say, "Oh, sweetie, I think that would really help you walk towards putting God first in your life, and using the talents He has given you.  You have such an amazing gift of mercy and service.  What has caused you to think of leaving your boyfriend?"
She replies, "Mommy, I have met a boy here through the vent (this is how guys and girls talk to each other - through the heating vents!) He is a strong believer and he reads his Bible every day like I do and we are talking about what we are reading. I told him my mommy and daddy want me to like a different boy who is following God and who doesn't live in a hotel and who has a job and who will take care of me. Well, mommy, he said, 'I think your mama is right and I agree with her. When you get out I think you should decide now that you are not going to go back with him.'"  Inside, I thank the Lord for putting this wonderful voice speaking truth, into her life.

I then tell her about the Andy Stanley talk I listened to yesterday on how much Jesus cares that we use our talents - that it doesn't really matter to Him whether we feel like we have a lot of talents or a few; it only matters that we use the ones He has given us. And I read her Matthew 25, the Parable of the Talents.  After I finished, I mentioned I expected some hard meetings at work and asked her to pray for me before we said goodbye.  Her prayer went something like this, "Lord Jesus, thank you for mommy and thank you that You are going to help give her wisdom today in her mind and in her words. I pray she will feel You helping her with her meetings and she will be able to have peace. Thank you for the food you give us and for how much we have, when so many people have so little. Amen."

And do you know what?  The Lord did for me today just what she asked of Him. I seem to have lost my fear of the 'what if's.'

Friday, February 24, 2012


Parenting Differently

In the adoption community we talk a lot about the need to parent the adopted or foster child differently. Over the 12 years since our first adoption I have honestly gone back and forth over this question. With three children by birth and four by adoption Stephen and I have certainly had the opportunity to think this through in real life experience. Today I'd like to share with you why I have come to the conclusion that actually there is no difference between parenting the adopted and biological child. So, let me explain!

I say there is no difference in parenting our children because it is clear to me that each and every child-- adopted, foster, or biological-- needs to be parented differently. If all we had was conventional wisdom to fall back on, then this question of treating our adopted child differently would be appropriate; however, we have more than just wisdom. As believers in the Living God who gives us the Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation (Ephesians 1:17), you and I have the incredible freedom and power to live our lives as parents according to the Spirit. We make parenting decisions based on what God is saying by revelation. So, when we parent in the Spirit, that is by revelation, the issue is not do we parent a child differently because she is adopted, but rather we parent each child differently because we can! What freedom! What privilege! What hope!

Stagnant Parenting

The word revelation may seem too spiritual to be practical for some parents. It really is not anything more than God disclosing something to us, especially something that was not previously known or realized. Our God is all about revelation for He is a self-revealing God! Remember what Jesus says to us, "The sheep that are My own hear and are listening to My voice; and I know them, and they follow Me." (John 10:27) It is normal for us to hear God speak to us, and not something reserved for those parents who are "really spiritual." As Susan pointed out in her last post, "I am coming to think of revelation as present fresh truth brought to light, to extend the wisdom of past foundational truth." That is, conventional wisdom will bring some benefit, but without revelation we become stagnant in our parenting, relying on wisdom and revelation from past situations. What works for one child very well may not be the effective approach we are needing for another. Revelation in our parenting, that is simply hearing what God is saying now, or what Dutch Sheets describes as "a current strategy for a current situation," results in Powerful Parenting. 

Powerful Parenting

Don't confuse control with power! Our efforts to control our children inevitably end in frustration and often anger and disappointment on both sides. (I make this statement from experience, having given control a good try!) However, when we respond to that nudge from the Holy Spirit even when it seems counter-intuitive, we see the power of God effective in our efforts to train up our children. Stephen and I have found that many times as we've sought God's "parenting advice" about a particular child for a particular situation that His approach does not always match up with our conventional Christian Parenting Wisdom. It is our experience, especially as we've loved our children through their teen years, that it is not possible for us to parent in power without revelation from God. 

Let me share a few examples of parenting differently, or what we call parenting in the spirit.

The Runaways

When our precious daughter Rachel was quite young she became fed-up with the way things were going in the Templeton household. None of us remember what the issue was actually, but whatever it was Rachel was "out of here!" She took those chubby little legs of hers right up the stairs, packed her little suitcase 
and marched out the door. It must have been a weekend because Stephen was home-- I went into mommy-mode, heedless of any 'parenting in revelation' stuff! "Stephen, go get her! She is actually walking down the driveway-- Go!" His response to me was absolutely not according the my very good wisdom, which was and remains, never let a little girl wander down the street by herself. Stephen caught something by revelation for that current situation. He felt that we needed to let Rachel go ahead and feel some of the consequences of leaving her family and her home. Of course, he did not let her out of his sight, but as far as she knew, she was indeed on her own. She tramped up the side walk and Stephen backed out the car, slowly following her. Needless to say, the effort of lugging that suitcase up the street helped our sweet girl to realize that maybe she would stick with us a little longer after all. And sure enough, there was her daddy, who'd been there all along, ready to put her in the car and reunite her with her problem parents. 

Some years later we had a replay of this scenario with our precious son Pasha. I told this story in previous post, but I'd like to share it again because it illustrates this point of parenting by revelation, not merely by past wisdom. As you will see, what was effective for Rachel was not what was going to effective for Pasha. How tempting it is to take something that was powerful and clearly from God and assume it is therefore going to remain powerful for all other situations.

So, not long after bringing our first two Russian children home, we were enjoying a typical day in our "new normal" of post adoption when Pasha asked if he could watch a movie. This request was common-- really common! When I answered "No, not now my son," (my "really common" response!) our son was devastated. We had begun to see that disappointment was a trigger for this child and that his response to it was often extreme, far out of context for the normal disappointment that every child feels when he doesn't get his way. This time he declared in his broken English that he was not going to live here anymore. He preferred the orphanage and was leaving, never to return. I am still full of thanks to the Holy Spirit for the whisper of His voice at that moment. "My son, mommies don't leave their children, so if you are going to run away, I will have to run away with you." He looked up at me in anger and stormed out the door. Following him, both of us barefoot in the heat of the Atlanta summer, I said, "I wonder where we will sleep tonight?" "On the side of the road," was his response. "Wow, that will be uncomfortable, but mommies always stay with their children." (Just like the "Runaway Bunny," this mama was going where her son went!) Our conversation continued like this about a quarter of a mile. And then, our precious son said, "Let's go home," all of his anger and pain drained. 

I tell you this because it is clear to me that God's answer to this typical but serious issue was one that brought life, healing, hope. This was His answer for this particular situation. It was specific for this child and that need, and was accessed by revelation. 

I know this is getting rather long, but I'll share one more short example from more recent times. Just a few months ago Stephen and I were praying about a situation with one of our sons and we felt the Lord direct us to "parent him like a man." I won't go into the details, but that revelation from Him helped us make some decisions with clarity. That same week Susan Hillis shared with me that the Lord had just told her that she must parent her daughter as if she were three years old.

The Joy of Hearing

The Lord led us to handle the two run-away scenarios in distinctly different ways, but not because Rachel was born into our family and Pasha was adopted in. We parented differently because we have the amazing joy of hearing our Shepherd's voice and responding to the very One who created our children and who knows them best. Susan could deal with her daughter in the way that was most effective and life-giving, while I could approach my son from a completely different angle according to what would bring forth the eternal fruit of righteousness in him.

I will end this post by encouraging you again-- hearing the voice of God for our children, adopted and biological, is the norm for us as children of God. It is not something super-spiritual or mysterious. What wonderful plans God has for our children-- and as His sheep we can be confident that we do hear His voice.

Monday, February 20, 2012


From Susan Hillis:

Redemption in the Storm 

I remember it as though it was yesterday.  Walking through the High Museum of Art in Atlanta and standing as though transfixed before a Russian masterpiece on special exhibit, Aivazoksy's 'The Wave.'  In the larger-than-life storm I saw what our life had become after losing our son in the accident;  in the lifeboats flanking the sinking ship, I saw symbolized the Hand of God, rescuing us from the sinking ship of grief.  Though I stood in an exhibit hall full of people, it was as though I stood alone before this painting, sure that the redemption in those lifeboats was soon to be multiplied.

You see, it was just before we were leaving to adopt our first two children Anya and Alex, from their Russian orphanage.  In those lifeboats I saw and still see, the Lord's rescue for us, and His grace in extending that very rescue to many others.  I longed to be an instrument of God's redeeming hope for them, the same way He had been redeeming hope for us. 

And I imagine many of us have felt this same deep gratitude.  The Lord pours out His goodness and love and kindness on us like no one else could, and we want nothing more than to pass it along to others.
I Wanted to Build the House 
During the early years of our adoption journey, I, like many of you, became an avid student of loving and healing kids from hard places. I wanted to read all I could, learn all I could from the Lord and psychology and child development and educational theory and those who had gone before. We longed, out of gratitude for all the Lord had done for us in restoring my joy and healing my broken heart after the death of our son, to be allowed by Him to pass on that same healing to our precious new children, building them a safe and secure and restorative home. I was so sincere and conscientious and intent and driven. As our family grew from Cristi and Trevor and Anya and Alex, to include Katya and Sasha and Vasya and Ksusha and Masha and Lana, I continued to pour into these treasures all of the love and wisdom and bonding and encouragement and grace and security I could. We learned and told and retold their stories. We made their adoption books and life albums. I learned Russian and took various ones back to Russia to find their Russian relatives and keep their connections. In fact just 2 weeks ago I was in Russia and able to have tea with their Aunt Raisa and cousin Sasha, and give them their own copy of a beautiful Life album Katya had made, to pass on to her Russian mama.

We prayed their friends into families. Many friends. Many families.  We needed and benefitted from all the wisdom we received.  Many of you have experienced the same.

God Had a Different Plan

With time I realized all that wisdom was critically necessary, but something more was needed in order for my children to receive the most complete Love available. I needed revelation from the Lord to extend the wisdom. In many quandries, when all the wisdom still leaves me stuck in a labyrinth of confusion, there are so many times the Lord has given us special insight or clarity about how to respond or how to love or how to pray. I am coming to think of revelation as present fresh truth brought to light, to extend the wisdom of past foundational truth. And I love the first thing Paul prays for the Ephesians in chapter 1, "that the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ would give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him."  I now think of there being a bridge to healing for each of us and each of our children, and that the first half is composed of wisdom given by God -- but it is only half.  And to get all the way across the bridge into healing and wholeness we need the other half of the bridge -- the Lord's revelation.

And today I read these words from I Chronicles 17, that ring in my heart with comfort and relief and expectation. It is the revelation the Lord gave to David when he showed him, "It is not you who will build me a house ....[instead], I declare to you that the Lord will build you a house." 

Who is Building Your House?

So my dear precious friends, I long for you to be spared of stress and anxiety that I felt from time to time, as you seek to love and learn and grow in all these foundations of wisdom. Yes, we benefit and our families benefit from learning all the wisdom we can (Proverbs 3)!  Yet, they benefit most if that wisdom is accompanied with the revelation that rests on the confidence that "unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain." (Psalm 127:1) I pray you are encouraged and your burdens lifted by the reminder that it is the Lord who will build a house. 
I am coming to have a clear view of my job: my job is to love them, keep the relationship, speak to them of God's treasure in them, and pray for them.  It is God's job to build our house. It is God's job to build yours! I am excited to see how they all will turn out!

Thursday, February 16, 2012


You may remember Renee Johnson from Hope at Home 2011. We are excited for you to read what she shares from her personal experience in loving her three adopted daughters. In addition to being a mom, Renee holds degrees in Physical Therapy and Public Health. She balances her home life with her responsibilities as a Senior Scientist for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

All or None?
Thirteen years ago as I prepared for the adoption of my first daughter I, like many other parents, embarked upon reading every piece of "helpful' guidance that I could find. The plethora of advice and opinions available related to attachment and/or bonding really heightened my awareness of the great importance of this issue. It seemed like every author had both their must do and their must don't lists: the problem  was they weren't in agreement. By the time I headed off to bring home my sweet baby (actually a 6 year old), the possibilities of attachment failure and the potential long-term consequences of not achieving an adequate attachment weighed heavy on my mind. I had bought into the idea that attachment was an all or none adventure and that the possibility of messing it up was high. 

I’m glad to report that my perspective and understanding of attachment has substantially changed over the years.  I have come to discover that attachment is far from an all or none endeavor.  Below is a peek into the journey of my changing thoughts. 
Measuring Attachment

In the all or none model, frustration is inevitable.  After we returned home many well meaning people would ask me about “how the bonding was going” or if “my sweet baby was attached to me yet”?  This question evoked feelings of failure in me, because of course she wasn’t fully attached at 2 weeks or one month or 3 months or even 1 year or 3 years. About 6 months into parenting, it became clear that I was using the wrong measuring tool and if I didn’t find a new one then I’d both miss our progress and feel ongoing failure.  A cook doesn’t expect to make a delicious cheesecake while measure vanilla by the quart, nor does the auto mechanic measure engine oil by the teaspoon if he wants his garage to run efficiently.  Similarly, as a parent, I needed to define for myself some more appropriate units of measure for this topic of attachment. 

Physical, Emotional, Spiritual
Upon observation, I could initially see that there were three specific dimensions which were important for me to focus on.  They were physical, emotional and spiritual.  I began to think about our attachment progress in the format of three bar graphs.  This allowed for encouragement based on progress along any of the three dimensions.   All of the sudden I could see that specific activities were increasing our attachment in each of the dimensions.  Achieving eye contact while playing a game at the table became a attachment success.  I could see attachment growth and was no longer focused only on the tipping of the scale to being “attached”.  This three dimension model seemed to work well for a couple of years.    
With the addition of my second daughter, I could see that there were some additional dimensions that were significantly impacting our overall attachment.  Good food, particularly meat, was incredibly important for her and seemed to somehow be a dimension of its own.  Not only food, but everything sensory seemed to come into play. Again after my third daughter came home I could see even more areas that I could focus on to facilitate attachment success. The visual bar graph in my mind was becoming complex and not as helpful.

Rejoicing in Progress
At some point along the way I had a discussion with some of our Russian friends that shared a model which looked like a spider web or radar graph.  In this type of graphic, zero is in the center and 100% is at the end of the spoke.  As success is found along each of the spokes the center is pulled out and I can see a visual representation of the window to my children’s hearts opening.  In reality, the exact point of our attachment along each of the individual spokes fluctuates as life moves forward.  In all of our relationships, level of attachment fluctuates as our circumstance and priorities change.   Also, it was my experience that each of the spokes of attachment was different for each of my children and seemed to fluctuate over time.  
How refreshing it is to have moved from an all or none model, in which it seemed nearly impossible to get the scale to tip from unattached to attached, toward a model which is fluid and lets one see progress and regression as a normal function of life.  As we and our children move toward progressive levels of attachment in any one area we can rejoice in seeing our progress instead of always waiting to attain some level of perfection before our attachment scale can tip.

Monday, February 13, 2012


From Susan Hillis:

I  experienced a brand new, ‘first time in my life’ twice during the past month:  I received text messages that looked like this:

Now, what was totally new is that it was not the normal thing when I had my kids to send pictures around of my pregnant belly! These pictures happened to be from the two of my precious six daughters who are currently pregnant!!!
The Reason you Adopted Me
During this same month, I had gone out to lunch at Waffle House with Alex, one of our four awesome sons (we do this pretty regularly and share what the Lord is teaching us, how we are doing, and what we need prayer for).  So while we are sitting there talking, he asks me this question, totally out of the blue, “Mom, do you ever think that maybe the reason God had you adopt all of us is because of how it will change the next generation….I mean, because of how our children will have a totally different life all because you  adopted us?”   
“Alex that is an amazing and wonderful question,”  I reply,  “and the answer is YES, I have thought about that A LOT!  In Isaiah 58 and 61 the Scriptures actually say that God will change and bless the next generation when we obey him by caring for those who need His care. But I am wondering…can you tell me what you think?”
He continues, “Mom, I’ve been reading that Revolution book you gave me, you know, the one that goes with the movie Courageous.  It has helped me see that I think my kids will have a totally different life than they would have had if I had stayed in Russia at the orphanage. You and daddy have taught me important things like honor, and respect, and responsibility, and integrity, and wisdom. If you had not adopted me I would not know anything about all that. But mom, I am worried about whether all of the kids in our family are really taking advantage of what you and daddy have taught us.  Do you think all my siblings are?”
At this point, I have a lump in my throat I reply, “Sweetie, I am SO proud of you and of the other kids in the family who RIGHT NOW are walking fully in the Lord’s blessing and who have so totally taken advantage of all daddy and I have poured into you. I think these sweet words you just said are ones I will remember when I am on my death bed, and I will think that they are some of the most wonderful words anyone ever said to me in my whole life!! (my eyes are wet)  We both know that the kids in our family are in different places with this question….some are taking full advantage, like you, others are partly taking advantage.  There are also some kids in the family who do not seem to realize or to have much interest in what daddy and I have tried to pour into them, or who do not seem to want to learn it yet, but I trust that with time the Lord will help them, too; the Scriptures promise in Philippians 1:6 that the Lord will finish the good work He begins in all of us.”
The Next Generation
Many of you who are reading this, like me, are called to love children who need families.  We are familiar with and fond of passages in Isaiah 58 and 61 which speak of the blessings that come to those who love the least of these. Isaiah 58:11-12 promises that “if you pour yourself out” for the least of these, the Lord will “guide you continually, satisfy your desire in scorched places, make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.”  But then it goes on to say just what Alex was realizing: “and you shall raise up the foundations of many generations.”  I can just hear it, the wonderful  hymn playing as we build our families, raising strong foundations, “on Christ the solid rock we stand;  all other ground is sinking sand!” 
Jesus chose for his very first sermon the passage from Isaiah 61 that is similar!  “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for He has anointed me to bring good news to the poor, to bind up the brokenhearted. (v1)”  As Jesus does this with us and then empowers and equips us to do this with our children, they have “the oil of gladness instead of mourning. (v3)”  Then they are the ones God calls and equips to join in, as they, along with us, become “the repairers of devastations of many generations!(v4)."  
Just yesterday we went to lunch again and Alex said, “Mom, I’ve been thinking about my long term goals. I want to keep growing as a believer, and I want to finish college, get married, and become a missionary who helps orphans. I want to help other kids the way you and dad gave to me.” It is that has already happened with our oldest daughter Cristi, who works full time with an adoption and orphan care ministry. It is what our sweet daughter Anya longs for as she says, “Mommy, I want to adopt 4 kids with HIV.”  It is what has happened with our sweet daughter Katya who has  been knitting beautiful blankets and sending them to orphans in South Africa for 4 years. And I trust some of the other treasures entrusted to our care may be nudged along this path as well.
His Image
We easily acknowledge that all children are created in God’s image. In the past, we have loved and adopted many who have come from hard places, from difficult and sometimes even tragic circumstances of conception, birth, and childhood. We have seen in the past and see at present, all of these treasures of ours as equally bearing the indelible image of Christ. But I wasn’t prepared to think about this for the future – for my children as they begin to have children. You see, the 2 texted belly pictures above are 2 precious babies who will be born soon, one to our teenage daughter who is in high school, not yet married, and growing in faith; and the other to our twenty-seven-year old daughter who is in graduate school, married, and growing in faith.  And I have become so very thankful  and excited about God’s grace that is greater, always greater.  And for the Song I often sing, “Your love never fails, never gives up, never runs out on me (or them!).  On and on and on it goes. And it overwhelms and satisfies my soul. And I never ever have to be afraid.  One thing remains….one thing….remains….HIS LOVE.”  And I have become expectant with hope for “all the good” (I dare you to google that phrase ‘all the good!’ in the Bible-on-line!) that the Lord will do with and for both of these new little lives being woven together in their mother’s wombs by God for His glory. 

Friday, February 10, 2012


If you have been reading this blog for long you know we talk about Identity a lot at Hope at Home, which you can read about here, and here. Stephen and I have had front and center seats (the kind so close to the stage that you can see the make up and hear the breath of exertion from the players) for the drama and action of what most recognize as the primary task of adolescence-- the grappling with the question of "Who Am I?" The issue of identity is one we all face, but one that our adopted children must face with added complicating factors. Even those adopted at birth with no conscious memory of their birth parents contend with confusing realities once they enter their teens.

The Border Pieces
As your child grows, whether he is adopted or not, it is as if he is trying to piece together a complex puzzle. As we all figure out early on in working a puzzle, you first separate out the border pieces, right? It seems to me that for our birth children the rummaging for and connecting of the flat-edged border pieces was an easy task. Their puzzle borders seem to be solidly in place without much searching and confusion. No struggles with missing pieces impossibly hidden amongst the mass of shapes, or irretrievably lost in the dark corners of the basement game closet. 

Missing and Misshapen Pieces

Borders denote definition and, therefore, identity. The borders of a country, for instance, identify it on a map. Without the definition provided by the border pieces, the process of putting together a complicated puzzle becomes all the more confusing and frustrating. With our adopted children, their relinquishment and the resulting pain, is like trying to work a puzzle without the border pieces, or at least without whole sections, and with hard to find pieces, or misshapen fragments. In 1 Peter 5:10 we see that God's plan is for our children to live complete and whole, border pieces fitted together and the puzzle finished:

"And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace [Who imparts all blessing and favor], Who has called you to His [own] eternal glory in Christ Jesus, will Himself complete and make you what you ought to be, establish and ground you securely, and strengthen, and settle you." 

The Message says it like this; "[God] will have you put together and on your feet for good."

Puzzle Pieces in Our Hands

Isn't that what we are helping our children to do? To partner with the Holy Spirit in "putting together" the pieces of the puzzle? As we get revelation of who our child is from the very One who created them, it's as if we have a puzzle piece in our hand, a flat-edged border piece that was lost or destroyed along the way by rejection, fear, anger, pain, abuse...... We parents are methodically offering these border pieces to our child as they go through the process of figuring out who they are. We have the awesome opportunity to place these pieces back into the pile of puzzle pieces on the table and watch our child pick it up, examine it, and recognize it as a defining part of who they are. 

Box Top Parents

Just as we look at the box top of our puzzle that we have propped up on the table for easy reference, so do our children look up at us as they work their complicated jigsaw puzzle. Along the way they fit in pieces with that sense of satisfaction we all get when we find the next bit of the puzzle. They are looking to us to find out who they are, how they fit in, how to relate, how to give and receive love. You and I are like that box top picture for our children as they discover their identity, scrutinizing the picture and piecing together their puzzle.

Father God, it is so good to know that You are  completing our children, making them what they ought to be, "putting them together and on their feet for good." We so desire to partner with You in this God. Would You give us revelation of who our children are, defining border pieces of their identity. And we trust You to use us so that when our children look to us they will see what is helpful as they put together the puzzle before them. What greater joy is there than being a part of such a project?!

Monday, February 6, 2012


At the Created for Care Retreat I participated in an Adoptive Mother Panel. Sitting there with those beautiful mamas was such a joy! I loved hearing their responses to the questions from the other moms. What a great way to learn! One of the things that came up in responding to the question of bonding with your child in those early months of adoption was how to deal with their rejection of you as their mother. Andrea Young, a wise mama and the visionary for Created for Care, shared how often she would rock her son in her arms at night just to have him smack, scratch, and generally push her away. Such a hard experience for a mother. Andrea shared that she realized she needed to just keep holding him, keep touching him gently, nightly treating him as if he wanted to be held and snuggled. 

As If

Over time her son learned to receive and enjoy this nightly routine, and even learned to be tender back, gently stroking his mother's cheek rather than hitting, pushing, or scratching.
As Andrea shared this story, encouraging the moms to keep at it, to do what mommy's do regardless of how their new child reacts, I realized she was speaking an important truth- the truth of "As If."

What he Needs vs. What he Wants

Scott Means, who is part of our Hope at Home team and the writer of the Journey to Surrender marriage blog, writes about the need to love your spouse "as if." He says, "It means we do our best to love them “as if” they are closer to the person that we know they really are on the inside, despite what we might observe on the outside. It means having grace at the center of the way we view and interact with our spouses." I think we can take this principle and apply it to our children. Andrea knew that her son needed to be snuggled and loved, but she was dealing with the current reality that because her son was unaccustomed to this normal physical expression of a mother's love, he did not want what she knew he needed. What a wise mother she was to treat him as if he wanted it. In doing so, she gently led him to be the person she knew he would be-- one who freely gives and receives love.

Designed for his Benefit

For some this may seem difficult. Is it right to pretend like this? It hurts when your child hits you, and hurts even more deeply when he or she rejects your love day after day. If you are like me, your initial response may be to pull back, to protect yourself emotionally by withholding love and intimacy. Many adoptive parents deal with the very difficult and uncomfortable reality that not only does their child not seem to want to bond with their new mother and father, but they themselves struggle with bonding and having feelings of love with their child. I love what Gary Chapman says in his book The Five Love Languages.

 “Perhaps it would be helpful to distinguish love as a feeling and love as an action. If you claim to have feelings you don’t have, that is hypocritical and such false communication is not the way to build intimate relationships. But if you express an act of love that is designed for the other person’s benefit or pleasure, it is simply a choice. You are not claiming that the action grows out of a deep emotional bonding. You are simply choosing to do something for his benefit.”

Sometimes parenting the adopted or foster child involves loving them as if those tender feelings we desire are the reality. It is sometimes simply a choice to do or say something purely for the benefit of your child--in full expectation that the day will come when the reality will change. 

Father God, we look to you for the strength and the desire to love our children "as if." Would you place in our hearts actions and words designed purely for their benefit. Even this week, Lord, we ask you for a breakthrough with each child. Amen

Thursday, February 2, 2012


God's Promises for our Children

If you read the previous post, NOT ONE, you know that sometimes God gives us parents promises for our children. Sometimes we hear them as direct words from Him. Sometimes they are simply desires deep in our hearts. Or often there will be a scripture we feel God has given us for our child's life and future. However these words and promises come, they are more than just nice thoughts and touching stories. I believe these words are actually given to us to put to use in our parenting, and especially in our intercession for our children. 

When we were in the process of our second adoption Stephen and I were asking God for a scripture for our sons. We wanted to catch a little of what the Lord was up to since we were bringing home two complete strangers into our family. We figured that God knew some things that would be helpful to us! The scripture we were drawn to was the beginning of Psalm 40

 I waited patiently for the LORD;
   he turned to me and heard my cry.
 He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
   out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
   and gave me a firm place to stand.
 He put a new song in my mouth,
   a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the LORD 
   and put their trust in him.

Weapons in Our Hands

As the years have gone by, Holy Spirit has reminded us of this verse. And we have seen it as a promise from God for these boys. That God would place their feet firmly on a solid rock, that they would have a song in their mouths that would cause many people to recognize God's goodness. This scripture wasn't given to us just for our adoption announcement. We have realized that God led us to this scripture so that we would have a vision for what He is doing in our sons' lives. And with that vision, we would partner with Him to see it come to pass. Now that is some exciting work to be a part of! 
When things have been tough, we have learned to remember the things the Lord has said to us about our children. We have learned to recognize the scripture and God's words to us as powerful tools in our parenting. Actually, we have come to see them as weapons in our hands.

In 1 Timothy 2:18 Paul exhorts Timothy, 

 Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well

The Good Fight of Faith
As we pray in faith from God's Word and from His words and promises to us, as we "recall" them, we find that we have weapons to fight in the battle for our children's healing and restoration. 1 Timothy 6:12 tells us that we are fighting a good fight-- we "fight the good fight of faith" by holding on to the promises of God. 

What promises have you received from Him for your children? Are there any scriptures you feel God has given to your family or to your individual children? I encourage you to recall them, to write them down, to pray them, to share them with the family, and mostly, believe them as you fight this good fight of faith to see God's eternal purposes manifested in the life of these precious children. AMEN!

It would be a gift to our Hope at Home community if you could share some of the promises and scriptures God has given you. As we read them I think God will use them to build up our faith and maybe also to speak His thoughts to us. Thank you!