Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Hanukkah Begins

In just an hour, we will begin our Hanukkah celebration. No, we aren't Jewish, but over the past few
years, we have felt drawn more and more to the Biblical celebrations. Our family now incorporates many of the yearly feasts, though not exactly like our Jewish brethren, I'm sure.

We have discovered a profound sense of nearness to God when we take the time to celebrate the feasts He lovingly set out for His people.

Many would argue that Hanukkah is not a Biblical feast. Actually, it is mentioned in John 10:22 by one of its other names, The Feast of Dedication. It is also called the Feast of Lights. Want to learn more about how this celebration applies to Christians? Our good friend Bill, recently posted this webinar and we encourage you to watch it here. (P.S., We also took the picture above from his webinar. We love what it represents! Thanks, Bill!)

Each year we have done this, we have created new traditions for our family. This year Christian is old enough to really understand and notice the difference between our December celebrations and those around us who celebrate Christmas "all the way". Therefore, we have the privilege to include him in learning about why and how we celebrate Hanukkah.

One of the additions to our Hanukkah tradition this year is a mini-devotional on one of Jesus' names. We'll be doing one each night of Hanukkah. We chose these particular names because they have extra significance for us this year or because we felt Christian, as the youngest in our crew, would best be able to identify with them. We share our first devotional with you here and we welcome questions about how we incorporate the Jewish Feasts into our family's traditions.

Day 1 - Light of the World
John 9:5: Jesus said, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

In the Temple, there was a magnificent golden lamp stand burning all the time. In John, when Jesus is standing in the courtyard declaring himself to be the light of the world, He was likely standing in the courtyard of the temple rebuilt after the Babylonian captivity. The candles were undoubtedly glowing brilliantly, but their light dimmed beside Jesus.

When John wrote the book of John he said this about Jesus: “In Him was life; and the life was the light of men.”

Darkness is the domain of Satan. It says in Epehsians 6:12: For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

In John 8:12 Jesus said, “I am the world’s Light. No one who follows me stumbles around in darkness. I provide plenty of light to live in.”  In John 12:46, He said, “I am the Light who has come into the world so that all who believe in me won’t have to stay any longer in the dark.”

This means that if we are walking with Jesus, darkness cannot beat us. Jesus said these things for those with Him when he was on earth and for all on earth who choose to believe in Him after He went back to heaven. When Jesus was preparing His disciples about His going away to the Father, He said in John 12:35, “For a brief time still, the Light is among you. Walk by the Light so darkness doesn’t destroy you.”

Jesus will continue to be the Light in the future when He returns to rule the Earth. In Revelation 21:23, it says: The City (Zion where God will dwell) doesn’t need sun or moon for light. God’s Glory is its light, the Lamb its lamp!

Who is the Lamb? (pause and see if Christian or someone can answer) That’s right, Jesus! He can keep us from darkness now and He will be the Light of the World in the future for those who get to be with Him forever.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Gotcha Day

A friend of mine recently posted on her facebook that all adoptive families should stop using the term "Gotcha Day" to refer to the day their children joined their families. She said, adoptees are not things to be gotcha'd."

I've been thinking about that term ever since I engaged her in a discussion on it but I thought I would expound here. (Let me first say that I sincerely respect my friend who posted that comment on facebook. She is an adoptee and one of the smartest women of my acquaintance! Her comment has challenged me to really pray and consider this issue.)

Gotcha Days originated as a way to differentiate a child's birthday or finalization day from the day they were placed into waiting parents arms. From my perspective it is a cute term coined by parents to try and help their very young children understand the difference between how they and biological siblings joined their family. I picture it like when I chased my toddlers and preschoolers around the house and once I caught them we hugged and tickled as I exclaimed "Gotcha!" Or when we scoop up a child who just fell and comfort them with "I gotcha."  Gotcha Day celebrations are intended to help adopted children understand just how much they are wanted and cherished.

Since that time, many adoptees have shared that the term bothers them deeply. I am adoptee and I have never been offended by the term Gotcha Day. I can't even say the word with anything other than a smile. I know the people who coined the term never intended for it to be taken as hurtful or offensive. Most parents who use it do so because it is a warm and friendly way to denote a very special day; a short way to say "the day you joined our family."

Opponents of the term feel it cheapens the day and is completely insufficient to express the importance of a child's homecoming. Adoptees report that calling it a Gotcha day makes it feel like they've been stolen. A number of adoptive parents agree that the term doesn't sit well with them and even go so far as reporting that it smacks of kidnapping.

Each family really needs to decide for themselves how they will celebrate (or not) the day their children joined their family and what they will call it. We can nearly always find someone who will be offended by a term no matter what we choose to call a special day. I will even say I believe one term may be appropriate for a 3 year old and be changed when celebrating a 13 year old. Additionally, I know many older adoptees who consider their Gotcha Day to be special and sweet because their family made it so.

No matter what we call this day, for families whose children came to them well after a birthday, it provides a wonderful opportunity to celebrate that, tell the child stories of their homecoming and remind them just how much they are loved by their first family and their forever family.

So, to end this discussion, I will give you some alternative ideas in case the term 'Gotcha Day' doesn't suit your family.

  • Forever and Ever Day
  • Beth's Day (where your child's name is used)
  • Adoption Day
  • Family Day
  • Family Anniversary Day
  • Homecoming Day
  • Forever Family Day
  • Hug Day (one family used this because of all the hugs, holding and loving of the original day)
  • Arrival Day
  • Happy You Came Day

Whatever you call it, make sure your children know they are loved, wanted, and cherished!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Which is Right for Us?

I've had a dozen conversations with families over the years that started something like: "I think we want to adopt internationally so we don't have to deal with the birth mom."


"Domestic adoption seems so much easier!"

International and domestic adoption both have many joys and challenges. Each process is unique and each family must decide which is right for them and how the Lord is leading them.

Here are some things to think about when considering these two routes to building your family:

International adoption may be a good fit for your family if:

  • You love to travel or experience and embrace new cultures. 
  • You are open to an older infant, toddler, preschooler or older child.
  • You are interested in a group of siblings.
  • You are willing to walk through language and attachment barriers to redeem one of His precious children.

Domestic adoption may be a good fit for your family if:

  • The thought of getting a passport and eating unfamiliar food makes you cringe.
  • Your heart is set on adopting a newborn infant.
  • You are mostly interested in one child or twins.
  • You are willing to know and embrace your child's birth family showing His love to them even as you revel in the sweet one He gives you to care for.

There are many more things to consider including costs, wait times, children available, the process, your family dynamics, and more.

If have been thinking about adoption and would like to discuss the joys, challenges, and process, please contact me at 816-237-8242 or angela@christianadoptionconsultants.com. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

My Life is an Adventure

No, we don't travel the world. But let's review the past year:

  • We sold our house and had to move out in 2 1/2 weeks.
  • We lived in an empty townhouse for a month, sleeping on the floor.
  • We moved to Alabama and lived in a 31ft travel trailer for five months.
  • We lived in a partially finished basement for six months...washing our dishes in the bathtub. (Yes, I kept it extra clean.)
  • In the past two months we have made six 12-hour trips locating a home in KC, visiting family in MI, and moving our things and mini-farm/petting zoo to KC.

Even now the adventure continues as all our stuff is piled in the garage to re-finish the very nasty but now beautiful hardwood floors. The plan was to stay at a friend's house while they vacationed out west and be back in our house by Thursday. As with much of the past year, the plan is not quite working as we had hoped. Therefore the adventure continues and we will be camping out in our new backyard a few days while the poly cures.

I wish I could say I have handled each adventure and change in plans with the utmost of grace.

I remember walking through the basement when we were still crammed into the travel trailer. I looked right and left and frustratingly lamented, "It is NEVER going to be normal again!"

I immediately heard a quiet whispered response inside, "I know, isn't it great?!"

In an instant I realized that the Father was calling me to look beyond my circumstances and find joy and peace in Him. I realized the out-of-control mess and change in plans was part of HIS plan to bring me to a place of greater trust. I realized that it is imperative to my life and my family for me to learn these lessons. 

To not learn these lessons would be to let circumstances determine my course and my happiness. To not learn these lessons would be to teach my children that when things are hard or don't go your way you should be frustrated, upset, angry, or depressed.

Now, back to how I am handling all this adventure. Not perfect. At all. Sometimes I smile and figure out the new plan. Sometimes my initial reaction is a bit less...ummm, happy.

I tell my kids all the time, it isn't how you react to a situation because we all mess up sometimes. It is what you do after your initial poor reaction. Do you allow the bad thoughts, words, or attitude to continue? Or do you repent and turn your heart and ear to the Lord to get His take on the situation.

There is absolutely no guarantee that the adventure will slow down for us. Though I suspect at some point we will be in our new house and will find a new normal (and all of our stuff).

My goal is to find the joy in the craziness. To lean not on my own understanding as I let the God of peace permeate my attitude and home. To show my children how to trust the Lord and be kind when essentially our whole lives are turned upside down.

I can't help but think this is just a preparation for things to come. May I be found worthy for more adventure.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Goodbyes and Hello Again

In just a few days we will be official Missourians again. We closed on our house in Missouri on the 18th, drove to Michigan for our annual family visit up there, and then back to Alabama for a few days of tying up loose ends and goodbyes.

The goodbyes are bittersweet. The people in this community are so very special. They have embraced and loved us and our children so well. Their words, messages, and worship have encouraged us and caused us to grow. This has been a pretty remarkable year.

We say goodbye to some amazing friends, both old and new. Our lives have been enriched by these people. It will be hard to leave.

We say goodbye to a natural beauty all around us that feeds our souls and draws us closer to God. We will sorely miss the lovely hikes, and clear, spring-fed streams that have been part of our weekly lives down here. We will miss the easy traffic and laid-back pace of this gorgeous community.

Our favorite creek just 1 minute from the house.

As we close this chapter, we look forward to re-connecting with friends, soaking in the prayer room, and creating our own little suburban homestead in Kansas City. Our new house has nearly two acres which some day, Lord-willing, will host a small orchard, a garden and greenhouse, and food-producing animals.

Part of our backyard.
Say a prayer for me as my car will hold Isobel's mini-farm menagerie for the 12-14 hour trip Saturday. My car will be filled with 5 chickens, 6 rabbits, 2 cats, 1 dog, 1 turtle, and dozens of aquatic animals. I offered to drive the moving truck for Paul. He didn't accept.

A number have asked us what we will be doing in Kansas City. We don't have a clear picture of what the Lord has for us there. So we purpose to follow His leading and keep our hearts open to His plans and purpose for us.

Please pray with us for the trip, for Christian's transition, and for Christian starting preschool the Monday after we move. Here's to quite a crazy year of moving, travels and learning to go with the flow.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Mission Trip Recap

First, thank you to those who supported our mission trip. It was great! We are so impressed with the mission organization we went with (groupmissions.com). They were organized, God focused, and connected us with truly life-changing projects.
Jessica and I on the way to Ohio.
This was a stop in beautiful Kentucky.
Our arrival at the mission trip site where we slept, ate,
had worship and fellowshipped.
A few highlights from our trip:
First, Jessica and I were both assigned to jobs that were not tops on our list. We would gladly have switched if we could have. It is a good thing God knew better.

Jessica with her team leader and team.
She really connected with this great group of people!
In Jessica's Own Words: The mission trip to Cincinnati, OH was a really cool week for me personally. It helped me grow a lot in my faith and friendships. 

I loved serving, but honestly, my favorite part was simply hanging out with my team, working with them, doing devotionals with them, and all that good stuff.  When we were told that we would be serving at a nursing home, I was like, no. That was exactly the thing I'd told Mom over and over that I didn't want to do, and now I was stuck doing it for the whole week! I was mad but calmed down pretty quickly. (Ok, maybe I didn't calm down and Mom had to give me a pep talk, but I pulled it around.)
So imagine this. You're about to do something you think you’re gonna hate for six hours a day for a week. That was so me on the first day of work. But, believe it or not, as soon as I got there, I settled right in helping some old ladies play dominoes. My team and I ate a nice lunch outside and did devotions. We got back to base and hung out a little bit before dinner, worship and bed.
Taking a resident back to
her room after activities.
Our days were full of fun and stuff like pushing wheelchairs, playing cards with residents, and sharing good cups of cocoa with my team, but the most memorable day was the last. It was bittersweet, though, leaving all the residents we'd come to look forward to seeing as we walked through those epic-ly structured sliding doors. The last day we got to do some cool things we hadn't done before. One of my teammates, Izzie, did an Irish dance, (she is amazing) with Mario at the sound booth, controlling the music. Our mission trip leader, Chris and I got to sing for the residents. Plus another team member, Logan, showed his epic hangman skills when none of us could figure out his sentence. By the end of the day, we were all worn out and sad about leaving, but it had been a good week overall. 
And so at last we left, exchanging emails and whatnot, sad but happy at the same time. I was convinced I was going to hate it, but I couldn’t have asked for a better job, and I still thank the Lord for what he did in me and through me for the residents.

I'm so proud of Jessica. Just the other day we received a call from Lyla, one of the women she spent time with. Lyla wanted to call and tell me how wonderful Jessica was and what a blessing to her during the long, lonely days. She is still thinking about their conversations and enjoying the memory.
I ended up leading a group of teens and young adults to a Boys and Girls Club. In the mornings we cleaned, organized, and did hard labor around the place. In the afternoons we hung with the neighborhood kids doing everything from dodge ball to arts and crafts and face painting. I didn't go expecting to lead a team so it was a stretch but a good one. The Lord was gracious and filled me with strength despite lack of sleep. (50 girls packed into a few open rooms makes for late nights. :-)  One highlight of my time at the club was connecting with a 12 year old deaf girl with great artistic talent.
My team - a great group of 'kids'...who worked hard and had fun!
Face painting in the afternoon with the kids. It was a hit!
Jessica has talked about being a missionary for almost a year. She was sad to leave OH when it was time to return home. One of the biggest things she seemed to learn was to go with the flow and trust that the Lord knows what He is doing even if it doesn't seem to make sense.

When you think about it, please pray for her and future mission trips. She is still prayerfully consider missions as part of her future.

Thanks again to everyone who prayed and supported us. It was an amazing and stretching week and a wonderful time for Jessica and I to connect without the other siblings around.

We had an evening free. We joined with another
team for dessert and exploring downtown Cincinnati.

My beautiful girl is no longer a little child.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Will You Be My Forever Mama?

My son is four and has been with us since he was 18 months old.

We have talked about his adoption openly from the day he arrived with us. We have read age-appropriate, adoption-themed books to him, discussed our skin color differences, and talked lovingly of his birth mom. We have visited his biological half-brother (also adopted) and invited his half-sister (still living with his birth mom) to our home.

Depending on his frame of mind we have heard comments ranging from, "I wish I could live with my birth mama." to "I wish none of you were in that picture with me." (speaking of our family picture) to "Will you be my forever mama?"

The questions are normal, though some can be hurtful. Every time my son brings up his adoption story, I say a prayer for grace and wisdom and answer as openly as I can.

My hurt feelings don't really matter at that point because he is NOT trying to hurt me. He is attempting to process the differences in our skin color and how he joined our family compared to his sisters. He is attempting to reconcile the fading memories, experiences, and feelings he has from before he joined our family with his life now. He is trying to cope with the loss of the family who created him.

Really, it isn't about ME or my family or my parenting ability. It is about a little boy who came to us with a lot of hurts and a big dose of rejection by not being kept with his birth family.

Even the comments that seem good come from a place of hurt and fear. The one about being his forever mama is usually whispered into my ear. Sometimes at happy times, sometimes when he is in trouble or our day is a bit crazy.

My answer is always the about the same, "Yes, I will be your mama FOREVER. I am so happy to be your mama and I love being with you. You will be my baby even when you tower over me and no longer fit into my lap."

When the comments are on the hurtful side, I respond with something like, "I know it is so sad that you can't live with your birth mama. You must miss her and I bet she misses you, too. But I am SO thankful God let me be your mama and love and play with you every day because I love you so much!"

No, it is not always easy to hear hurtful comments and remember he isn't trying to hurt me. Some days I do better than others but I always respond lovingly to him and then take my hurts to my heavenly Father who knows my son's pain and my hurt better than anyone else.

I also remember that getting upset with him or responding in a hurtful way would only serve to increase his fear, anxiety, confusion, and rejection. No matter what I may be feeling, it isn't worth that.

This will be a lifelong journey.

What I say today will need to be repeated tomorrow or next week or next month...and many times after that.

What I say today will change as he grows and matures and understands life better.

What I say today will set the course for ALL of our future conversations regarding his adoption.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

On the Move...Again

Yes, it is true that our family is moving back to Kansas City. It has been a most amazing (and challenging) year of growth for every member of our family. We have been awed to see both of our girls mature in their relationship with God. (Not to mention their parents and little brother.) We have learned a great deal while living in a community setting. And we DEFINITELY would not give up the time we've had with our dear friends the Grahams. While here, we've seen the maternity home plans take shape, helped get the 501c3 non-profit status in place, built an apartment in the basement that will help fund the home, and even served our first birth mom. Best of all, we have the privilege of remaining on the Board of Directors for the maternity home!

Keep reading if you'd like to know how our upcoming move came about:
The Lord first started talking to us separately a few months ago that our time in Alabama was coming to a close. We kinda tried to ignore it since our time here has been so short. (Just so you know, we moved down here believing we would only be here for 2-5 years.) However, we began praying and asked some of our most trusted mentors to pray with us and share their thoughts. Their thoughts confirmed what we were hearing. So, we began casually looking for houses thinking it would be 9 months to a year before we moved. (We should have known better given how we moved to Kansas City in the first place. Back in 2007, we expected to move in a year but it ended up being six months because Paul's job of 10 years ended.)

9805 Eastern Ave, Kansas City, MO
Our new house (well, once all the paperwork is done anyway)
A few weeks ago we found two houses that fit the bill for our family. (Namely some land to do some of the homesteading things we've dreamed of for years.) Paul and I made a two-day trip over one weekend to see the houses because the price for the house/land in the area we desired was just too amazing to ignore. By the end of the weekend and after hours of praying on the way home, we decided to put an offer in on one of the houses. Our offer was accepted last week and the seller requires a closing date of less than 45 days.

Needless to say, our timeframe for moving has sped up a great deal.

It is with both heavy and excited hearts that we are packing our things once again. We are sad to leave beautiful Alabama and the wonderful friends we have made here. We are sad to leave the Ramp where we have grown and matured so much.  However, we are excited for another adventure with the Lord. We are excited about the house He is providing which has many elements we have dreamed of. And we are excited to rejoin some of the amazing friends He has allowed us to do life with over the past 7 years.

We truly feel we will have two homes as we leave Hamilton. We will look forward to trips down to visit and be refreshed and to see the continued work of the maternity home that we've had a small part in launching!

As we take our next leap of faith on this crazy journey the Lord is leading us on, please be in prayer for our family, our move, and our hearts as we leave behind some of the most amazing and God-loving people we've had the privilege to know.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

What is Adoption Consultation Anyway?

I have a good friend who puts it very well. She says whenever she tells people she is an adoption consultant she gets mostly blank stares. So let me explain:

As an adoption consultant and adoptive mama with Christian Adoption Consultants, I walk with an adoptive family from the time they first inquire about adoption through finalization. I help them: 

  • identify ethical agencies who provide good care to adoptive and birth families
  • create the perfect family profile
  • identify some of the best ways to finance their adoption (Did you know that most families working with an adoption consultant average $5-10K more in adoption grants and fundraising money than those not working with a consultant?)
  • help families steer clear of high-risk situations that could result in their losing thousands of dollars
  • provide support, guidance and education on interacting with their birth family, agency and attorney
  • help shorten the waiting time for families through applying to multiple agencies
Also, as a consultant, I have access to situations and children available with other agencies and attorneys the adoptive family has not applied with. I am able to share these situations with waiting families.

If you have been considering adoption, call (816-237-8242) or email me to find out how I can help! I would love to walk with you on your adoption journey, sharing my own expertise as an adoptive mama as well as my fifteen years of adoption experience.

Remember, Christian Adoption Consultants is offering a 10% discount on our full consulting programs if you apply by Friday. What better way to kick off your summer than beginning the process to answer God's call to care for the orphan?

Monday, June 2, 2014

My New Career at CAC Begins!

Today marks my first official day as a Consultant and International Adoption Supervisor with Christian Adoption Consultants! Christian Adoption Consultants is committed to helping families realize their dreams and answer God’s call to add to their family through adoption. I am beyond blessed to use my lifetime of previous adoption experience...both personal and professional to help families navigate the often confusing adoption process.

AND...to make my first day even better, Christian Adoption Consultants is offering a 10% summer discount on our full-service consulting packages! 

This discount applies to all applications received from June 2nd-6th. We only offer discounts like this a few times a year – don’t miss out!

  • Basic Consulting Service- normally $2130 is NOW $1977
  • Consulting Plus Basic Profile Preparation- normally $2680 is NOW $2412
  • Consulting, Profile, and Paperwork Preparation- normally $3430 is NOW $3087

This discount does not apply to our Do It Yourself Program or Special Needs Program and may not be combined with any other discounts. No discounts on any other packages

Sign up with me this week and I will personally walk with you on your adoption journey as well as provide you with invaluable information on financing your adoption, connecting with reputable home study and adoption agencies, and creating your adoption profile.

Contact me with questions about adoption consultation or how I can help you realize your dream of growing your family through adoption at angela@christianadoptionconsultants.com or 816-237-8242.

On Moving Down South with my Multi-Racial Family

Originally posted May 2013
IMG_0363xWhen the Lord first started whispering the idea of a move to us, I said I would never move my multi-racial family to the south. I particularly abhorred Alabama because of the racist looks we received at gas stations on our way through on our return trip from Florida after adopting Christian. I revised that very quickly since it is not my place to put God in a box. I said, “I would really have to hear from God to take my boy into the south.”
So, here we are, moving south with our multi-racial family in a few short months. On the outside it seems crazy. One thing I know is that God said go and to disobey would be far worse than any racism we may face as we enter the deep south.
 Being a multi-cultural family isn’t easy, no matter where we are, but some places are definitely more open than others. We are thankful that the church we are entering has other multi-cultural adoptive families and is a fairly diverse community.
More than once, Christian has received prophecy that he would be a bridge between the races.  We pray that would be true more now than ever.

Asking Questions

Originally posted November 2012
Christian, who just turned three a few weeks ago, is starting to gain an awareness of his adoption. Reading all the adoption books and working in adoption never gave me a clear picture of when this might happen, but more of a vague “you’ll know when they are ready.” So, I’ve faithfully read his story to him from the book we created to tell just that.
Lately, he’s been putting things together which has lead to statements like:  “I grew in my birth mama’s tummy. And then I came to you! And you were so happy! Right?”
Or questions like: “The girls (his sisters) grew in your tummy? But I grew in my birth mama’s tummy?”
He’s also gaining an awareness of the difference between his skin and ours. Recently he told a friend at church that her skin is brown and so is his. She honestly wasn’t sure how to respond, but I was thrilled he was identifying with her.
A few days ago, I overheard a conversation he had while playing legos with a 10 year old friend of my daughters. Christian was digging through the lego bucket looking for something:
Friend: “What are you looking for, Christian.”
Christian: “The chocolaty brown guy.”
Friend, confused: “The chocolaty brown guy?”
Me: “He’s looking for one that has brown skin like him.”
Christian: “Yeah”
Both dug intensely for a minute until the friend produced the chocolaty brown guy whom Christian put at the helm of the boat they had just built and proclaimed that the guy was him leading the battle charge.
Each time Christian brings something up, I say a prayer that the Lord would give me wisdom to speak to his heart and that He would help Christian understand his story and yet fully embrace the good and the difficult parts of being adopted. In a split second I ask for God to make him strong and give him joy despite losing his birth family or the difficulty of being the only black person in our family.
Anthen I launch in with an answer that often includes a reminder that God knew and loved Christian before He even made the world. That way back then God knew Christian would live with his birth mama for 18 months and then he would need a new family to love and care for him. One that included a daddy since that was the most important thing to Christian’s birth mama. Though he has no concept yet, we talk about our family being  forever and that Christian’s birth mama and sister also love him forever, even though he doesn’t live with them. I’m sure my words aren’t perfect, but I trust the Lord to work in my weakness.
I’ll be honest, I love that he is putting things together and asking questions. I love the dialogue and that I am getting many chances to remind him that he is loved and wanted and cherished. God help me lead him to You so that he gets his identity from You and not from all the losses he’s experienced in his short life!

She's Come for a Visit

Originally Posted July 2012
Today Christian’s 9 year old biological sister flew in from Florida for a visit.  She will be here for ten days visiting Christian and her other little brother, Asher.
We’re thrilled she’s here…and also a little overwhelmed.  This is our first visit with any of Christian’s birth family since they are in Florida and we are twenty plus hours from there.  Also, we have some interesting dynamics in place since Christian was 18 months old when he left his birth family and joined our family.  There are memories there for him.  Not the conscious kind any longer, but definitely memories.
Already we’ve seen him try some behaviors he used a year ago to get his way.  Behaviors we worked long and hard to see leave.  He hasn’t quite figured out how to handle her being here.  He knows her from pictures, but this ‘in the flesh thing’ is different.  He’s testing his boundaries with us and her.  It is nerve-wracking to lay our family so completely open knowing that we do things SO VERY differently than her family does them.  We look different, eat different, discipline different, and live different and she will see just about every detail of our family in the next week since she’s living with us.
But it is SO worth it.  Already she has regaled us with stories of Christian’s life before our family.  What he liked and didn’t like.  Stories like the time he was blasted by a wave at a year old. (Which explains why he freaked out in the water the first 50 times we went swimming.)  She brought a stuffed animal that was his when he lived with them.  He latched right on and carried it around all night.  She’s giving us a glimpse into where Christian came from that we simply didn’t have before.  It is invaluable and precious and meaningful.
Right now he certainly doesn’t understand the dynamics of who she is and how she is related compared to his forever family.  He’s open and accepting because we are.  Some day, the fact that he gets to stay in contact with his big sister will be important to him.
So, however awkward this feels.  And whatever the enemy tries to say to us about what she may report to his birth mom regarding our home and the way we are raising our son doesn’t matter.  We aren’t doing this for us.  We are opening our hearts wider to include a sweet little girl who is significant in Christian’s life and story.
And maybe, just maybe, she will see our love for Christian and her and carry that home in her heart along with all the fun experiences we will we have together this week!

Four Little Words

Originally posted May 2012
We celebrated Mother’s Day yesterday because we were out of town the previous week.  It was kinda nice because all the places weren’t packed with other blessed mothers.  This mother’s day was amazing compared to last year’s.  This year Paul planned to let me sleep in… I couldn’t wait.  And then four little words shattered that dream.  Let me explain.
Last year we were in Florida to adopt Christian.  On Mother’s Day he had been with us less than 72 hours.  The day before Mother’s Day we had been at a meeting with his birth mom that was required by our agency.  He was with us at that meeting.  Understand, Christian was 18 months old and had been away from his birth mom for four days when he joined our family.  He had no idea why he was away from her nor why he was with all these white people.  We hadn’t come close to finding our equilibrium in parenting him yet.
When she walked in the door, he went nuts with excitement.  He wanted to be with her and in her arms.  Her heart wasn’t at a place where she could handle that.  When he couldn’t be in her arms he went nuts with anger and frustration.  We were there only one short hour, but it felt like four hours.  My heart was breaking to  not have more more time getting to know, loving on, and honoring his birth mama and big sister.  My heart was breaking even more to see this little boy so sad and confused.
As soon as we left he calmed down and it seemed okay.  We went back to our place and Paul put him down for bed later that evening.  Whew.  The next day was Mother’s Day and I offered to stay behind and put Christian down for his morning nap while Paul took the girls to the beach since we had been in the car much of the day before.  I anticipated rocking him to sleep and then enjoying some reading for the hour and a half, two hours of his nap.
Moments after they left the peace was shattered.  This angry, confused, and scared little boy wanted nothing to do with me.  He didn’t want to be held, but if I put him down he writhed around in misery.  He screamed for the next three hours straight.  If I touched him, sang to him, or prayed, he screamed louder.  If I put him in the playpen, he threw himself against the sides.  Exhausted he would doze for a minute and then resume.  I couldn’t call Paul to come help…you don’t take your phone down to play in the waves.  If I thought the hour the day before seemed like four, those three hours seemed like an eternity.  I alternated between desperate prayers and a few of my own tears sprinkled with a hefty portion of fear.  This was certainly not my best Mother’s Day.
After that day, things began to calm and we realized that initially, Paul needed to be there.  Christian hadn’t had a dad at home so he relished his new dad.  Within a couple weeks we were home and getting into our new “with toddler” routine and Christian was getting more and more okay with me.  I could do naptimes, Paul could leave for short times – it was getting better.  Within a few months his most painful memories had dulled and been covered over by new ones of adoring big sisters, steady and loving parents, and a constant environment with few changes.  He relaxed, became loving and joyful, and the tantrums slowed to pretty much nil by the fall.
Fast forward to yesterday morning.  To show me love, Paul was letting me sleep in.  We did church Saturday and this would be relaxation/fun day.  He got Christian up and brought him in for a good morning hug.  Christian snuggled on my chest and we talked about his night.  Sweet!  Then he and Paul headed downstairs to watch a show and have breakfast.  As Paul was closing the bedroom door so I could rest more, Christian yelled, with no prompting from Dad, “I love you, Mom!”
That was it, I was done in.  Sleep evaporated as I realized that God completely redeemed last year’s Mother Day.  I thanked Him over and over for giving us strength for the past year, for helping Christian in his new life, for bringing us to such a good place.
The rest of the day didn’t matter – that was the only gift I needed.  Happy Mother’s Day to me.

THE Party!

Originally posted August 2012
Last weekend we celebrated Christian’s adoption.  We did it up right with a potluck, lots of friends, and the Lord  blessed us with lovely weather.  The food was good, the friends were fun, and the icing on the cake was meeting Christian’s little brother, Asher, and his sweet family.  It ended up an all day even with folks dropping by most of the afternoon.  Christian’s favorite part was when we finally gave him the tractor off his cake.  It was driving him crazy!
A few pics of this joyous occasion:
His cake - says "Forever - Christian Micah Caleb Kopplin, April 16, 2012"
As soon as he saw the cake he grabbed the tractor. When I yelled "no!" he promptly shoved it back on top of the cake. :-) No damage done...good thing since I hadn't taken pictures yet.
Dad praying before the eating and partying began.
Mom and dad had fun, too!
Meeting Asher for the first time
Holding little brother, Asher. At first he didn't want to see Asher - probably because 15 people were watching him meet his little brother while he had no clue the significance of the situation. A bit later he came and wanted to help me hold him!
Finally getting his prize - the tractor!
A very tired boy from all the partying. He's hanging out in his new camo tent received as a gift from our sweet neighbors.

It’s Really True and Finally Here

Originally posted April 2012
Yesterday was a long time coming.  We thought it would happen in 2011, we thought it would happen in February.  We are just thankful it is finally done!  Christian is officially, fully, completely, and legally a Kopplin.  The attorney said “Legally, he is no different than the children born to you.  He’s yours.  Congratulations!”
A lot of prayers and waiting went into this day.  Every prayer was worth it.  The actual event seemed a bit anti-climatic since it was all of 6 minutes long, including our hold time waiting for the judge to get on the line.  :-)  We finalized over the phone with Judge Day back in Jacksonville, FL.  We had a notary friend (Mitch Yap) present to administer an oath to us.  We stated our names and address, told why we wanted to adopt, and heard the judge say he was signing the papers.
It wasn’t until we got into the car to go home that the reality hit us.  He’s ours!  We must have said that a couple dozen times yesterday as we watched him play and run.  He’s ours!  No more paperwork, no more wondering, no more waiting, and no more being listed as his “foster or temporary mom” on hospital paperwork.  Did I mention that he’s ours?
God has been good and faithful during the entire 11 1/2 months he has been with us.  He has given us the strength and wisdom to help Christian transition into our family.  He has helped him bond with us quickly and strongly.  He has caused us to not worry over every bump in the road towards finalization.  There were many bumps, but He just kept smoothing them out and we tried to keep trusting Him.
Now we pray for the rest of our lives – that we would raise this little man as the Lord would have us.
Thank you for those who prayed for us.  Thank you for those who encouraged us.  Thank you for those who stood with us through all the waiting.
Waiting for the judge to come on the line. Our friend/notary standing behind us.
Administering the oath.
Right after - official family of 5 first picture
Kopplins and Hourihans, minus their dad - a mini celebration picture of our big event!

About Adopting A Toddler

 Originally posted November 2011 
The most handsome little two year old in the world!
Christian has been with us for six months and 10 days now.  I can hardly believe it has been that long and yet there is still so much I don’t know.  There are times he does things that I know have an origin not of our family.  I find myself asking him if he has seen or done something before.  Of course, he can’t tell me, but I still wonder if this is really his first time to _____ or just his first time with us.
A few weeks ago he had his first haircut at the barber since he joined our family.  Before he joined us, his birth mom kept his hair shaved so I know it wasn’t really his first time.  Unfortunately, it was traumatic.  He sat still as a statue and cried the whole time.  I had to wonder why?  What made my busy two year old sit perfectly still for 45 minutes in obvious agony?  Had he been spanked for fighting in the barber chair before?  What do I do to reassure him?  How do I make sure he feels safe?
The reality is that I just don’t know.  He has 18 months of experiences before our family (positive and negative) that I have no way to know about.  I realize that while he feels totally a part of our family, it will be another year before he has been with us for half his life.
A child adopted older may eventually be able to talk about their past – what they hated or feared, what they liked or miss.  Adopted at 18 months old, my son will never be able to verbalize those early months.  He won’t have conscious memory of them, even if feels the loss, anger, rejection, etc., inside.
I am constantly faced with good and not-so-good behavior that I can’t explain.  Who taught him to play dead?  Why does he get upset over that?  Why is he screaming for “no reason”?
I try to walk through each situation in prayer.  I am constantly asking the Lord if what is happening is due to age or loss.  I find that if I take a moment to pray and listen, the Holy Spirit often drops a nugget into my mind that focuses my prayer on the root issue.  I pray and many times feel a tangible release in Christian.
I don’t always hear that clearly, but I remain watchful and prayerful for behaviors that have some extra element behind them.  I try to remember that while we’ve poured love, boundaries, and security into his life for these past months, he still has more experiences outside of our influence that drive who he is, how he handles each situation, and how he reacts to new things.
Don’t take this wrong, I wouldn’t give up the joy of having this little guy in our family for any “easier” situation.  I can tell you that we’ve come a long way in six months.  I think back to the first days and weeks and praise God all over again.  My son’s anger and frustration at all of the out-of-control and scary changes in his life was palpable.  Simple things often became major events when he expressed his frustration and anger.  We had to teach boundaries with unending love.  We had to provide love even when he pushed away with all of his might.  We had to get up a dozen times a night to love, encourage, and reassure him.  Even comings and goings of us or family were traumatic for him.  He must have been wondering if we were going to disappear like his birth mom and sister did.
I remember vividly when people started commenting about how much more settled he seemed.  That was a balm to my heart.  That change came with much sacrifice of time, but was worth every minute.
Now he loves to “go, go, go” and sweetly yells “Bye!” while blowing a kiss when one of us leaves.  Yes, he has come a long way.  He’s gone from non-verbal to talking and repeating EVERYTHING.  He’s gone from frequent anger and extended tantrums to normal toddler cries and frustrations.  He’s gone from eating fries and chicken nuggets to gobbling celery, lettuce, and cucumber like they are candy.
So while I don’t know all that he experienced those first 18 months like I know for my daughters, the Lord knows.  I trust Him to reveal to me when I need it.  When I turn to Him, He gives wisdom in how to act, what to say, how to proceed, and how to pray.  He is the only One I can lean on or look to when what I see before me just can’t be explained or seems too big or hard.
Thankful I’m not in this alone!