The flip side

Tonight we saw some dear friends ride down the airport escalator with their new son in their arms. Others are headed home soon and very soon with their new little ones.

Since coming home with Pearl about two and a half years ago, we have seen child after child come home with their new mamas and papas. Sassafras and Pearl have been to the airport as much as they have been to hospitals to welcome our friends' new additions, and always help me remember to pack the tiny little American flags to give to our new fellow citizens.  

You'd thinking that surely by now I can keep my silly little self together at these airport homecomings, but I absolutely cannot. Tears, every time. The why-even-bother-with-mascara kind of tears. 

It's knowing these people's life journeys as well as their adoption journeys and just all the victory that is displayed in those tiny little hands clutching their mamas' shirts. 

It's knowing that some of the countries these sweet children arrive from have made worship of Christ illegal...yet seeing them in the redemptive arms of their sweet mamas and faith-filled daddies and realizing that now they'll hear about Him daily. 

It's knowing that for God to have moved these children halfway around the world to be with a family who will adore them, He must have some seriously big plans for them. 

It's knowing that much unlike their experiences as orphans, these kiddos now never have to worry about having disease-free water or a place to sleep or enough food to eat or clothes to wear or someone to love them and say so by standing up for what is right for them.

There's just so much to take in, seeing a former orphan (and breathing in what that really has meant for that child) in the arms of a mama and daddy who will love that sweet kiddo in all the best ways. And so I overflow. 

And then we follow them out the front doors into reality. 

The culmination of the adoption journey might be felt at the airport or standing at the crib seeing a new little inhabitant, but it is at this out-the-door moment when real life begins for an adoptive family. I watched them head on out and began to pray for their first weeks and months together, hoping that they're not but knowing the transition and that they could be headed for hard. 

Now those new families are beginning the back-breaking work of bonding and attaching with their new children. We've walked through some fire in that area, and know that parenting adopted kids is a bit trying in some pretty unique ways.  

Now that we've been on the flip side, we are seeing that supporting adoptive families is hard, too. When all we've wanted is to grab those new kiddos and squeeze the goodness in them or kiss all over their perfect faces, we have to practice self-restraint because we know that  these children need help learning that they aren't in an institution anymore and now need to develop a sense of trust and dependency solely on their parents. 

When after praying for these kids for so long we want to grab their arm and get them to look at us so we can try to see their smile, we have to resist because we know that parent-only attention is what will help knit their families' hearts together.

Taking care not to ignore their siblings is an important way to support newly-adoptive families as well. Some of our closest friends knew this was an issue in our family, and they deliberately made sure to speak to our Sass first when we saw them. It made all the difference in the world for a sensitive little something who was confused about why everyone literally ran to dote on Pearl but most of the time just shoved or elbowed her out of the way. 

Directing these freshly-home little ones back to their mamas and papas is the best way to love these families right now. And wow, it is HARD...because they are CUTE, y'all. 

But if a little hard for us takes away a lot of hard for those families, so be it. 

Mommy, do you have a picture?

Adoption is a part of the way our family moves and breathes. I’m thankful that we are a transracial family because we can never forget to talk about adoption as a way God has put us together. Certainly weekly and at times even on a daily basis, adoption is discussed openly and valuably in our home. We recognize adoption as a beautiful thing.

Still, it felt rather random for Pearl to have asked me recently if I had a picture of her birth mother. She did not use that exact terminology, but thanks to that conversation now we do have a word for what she was asking. The girls know the story of The Rainy Day, but I’ve never shown them pictures. That day I did. At the end, I showed them the picture of The Captain and me, and told them at that point Sassafras was the size of a kernel of popcorn growing in my tummy and we didn’t even know her yet.

Obviously (well, I'm a dolt so it wasn’t but it should have been), Pearl asked if I had a picture of the tummy she grew in.

This was a critical moment for her, and even I saw it for what it was. We are now taking the precarious step of talking about adoption as a beautiful thing to talking about adoption as a necessary thing. 

Pearl is beginning to learn her story.

For adoptive families, everything is on a need-to-know basis. We don’t give our children more information about their stories than they can handle.

To know that she is safe and loved and secure in the family God chose for her has been all Pearl has needed to know so far. As we begin to talk about how we are the second family God chose for her, her need to know her story will continue to grow, as will her need to know that she is safe and loved and secure in our arms.

My prayer is that we traverse this stretch with the unbreakable cord of God’s grace tying us not only together but also to Him. 

And off we go...

A month ago, a few friends and I traveled to this. Created for Care meant so much to me personally and to my family that I agreed wholeheartedly with some fellow adoptive/foster mothers that such a retreat was very much needed in our own area. The scribbles and iPhone notes and discussions on the drive home gave way to serious prayers, countless texts, and a gajillion "reply all" emails.

The vision grew and grew and as it did, Created for Care was blessed, honored, and fulfilled to see us develop a heart for serving waiting, adoptive, and foster mamas in our city. We continue to benefit from their generosity and wisdom.

Today, we opened registration for the Unfailing Love Retreat.

I honestly can't drum up any words remotely suitable to depicting how this feels.

It's a scary thing but also not at all, and it's exciting and I'm biting my nails, but also feel peace that this thing that we've been pouring our hearts and souls into for a month (and how can it be just a month?!) is...well, that it is sacred.

Oh, how we are so eager to serve the foster and adoptive mothers who need this very weekend to rest and relax and receive training in just the right areas to meet their needs, and for crying out loud to LAUGH. Sometimes when you're in the thick of it with attachment issues, you really just need to giggle with some other mamas who get it.

Are you that mama? Do you know someone who would benefit from the Unfailing Love Retreat? Please tell them. Send them here:

And do it quick, because we're giving away one free registration today only. :)

The middlest

The Captain and I had multiple opportunities for international and domestic mission trips during our college years. He went to Wales, I went to Nicaragua, and we both came home turned inside out. Through all that we saw, smelled, heard, and held in those countries, God used indescribable poverty to begin to break our hearts for orphans. Nearly seven years before we would begin the process to adopt, God planted seeds in our hearts to do something for the most vulnerable in our world.

Graduation gave way to launching our careers, which turned into years of furthering our respective educations. Finally, we were ready to become parents. Funny how we thought that making that decision would somehow instantly make us pregnant. So funny.

A little infertile while later and days after we had begun to fill out our first adoption application, the Lord blessed us through an unlikely pregnancy with one of the purest miracles of our lives: our sweet Sassafras. Then one day, she turned 18 months old.

And we remembered that we still wanted to adopt.

And we knew it would take a while to complete.

And we suddenly felt that the time to begin the process was very urgently NOW.

Now, as we look back with all the facts before us, it is quite stunning to grasp that at that very moment, Pearl was conceived...both in the flesh and in our hearts.

In flawed yet impeccable harmony. 

We did our own research about all the options and at one point I had a spreadsheet comparing the requirements for 27 different countries. We weren't eligible for many of them due to income requirements, the fact that we already had a biological child, the ages of children who needed families and were eligible for adoption, and our own ages (we were too young for some). More time went into research and prayer and meetings with the agency we selected, and finally we were sure. Our daughter was in Uganda.

Our adoption process entailed mounds of paperwork, hours of adoption education seminars, at least 25 specifically intense highs and intense lows involving inter-country glitches and delays and modifications to this requirement or that new law. For a normally stoic mama, Pearl's adoption drained me of buckets of tears...but God also filled me up with chapters of Scripture and thousands of the most intense prayers I've ever experienced. Any mama who has begged for the safety and health of her child (half a world away or not) will understand.

The day we finally met our beautiful little Pearl remains one of the most intense I'll ever see this side of heaven. The day we stood in court for her and the day we got our "yes" are also on that list.

Because of what we have learned and what we have seen with our own eyes during our trip to Africa, orphan care will always be a part of who we are. Using this little spitfire of ours, God ignited a passion in us for advocating for orphans, and for families to rise up and provide a loving home for other precious Pearls around the world. Further adoptions and/or foster care are definitely in our family's future, though we will wait for God's guidance in how and when to move forward.

Remembering the way Pearl came into our family is hard but beautiful. Hard because for us to be a part of this sweet honey bun's story, we were refined in the fire but also because in order for us to be necessary in her life, Pearl's one-time status as an orphan means she has experienced loss on a level that even adults aren't emotionally equipped to handle.

Lord, help me remember.

Oh, but it is beautiful...because yes, she is now safe and happy and healthy, and for crying out loud we get to love her. Long as I live, I'll never understand how I get to be her mama.

Most of the beauty in Pearl's adoption is part of a life she hasn't even seen yet, for her earthly redemption into the family God chose for her before time existed will bridge her understanding of spiritual redemption into His.

Created for Care

*Attachment series to resume on the morrow, friends.

Part of my introverted nature is that I am a processor. Taking it all in, mulling it over, analyzing, and applying all take place in myheart and brain well before I can talk about it. That’s good in that experiences and truths deeply saturate my being. It’s bad in that many times I don’t even tell anyone about it.

It has taken me weeks to process my experience at Created for Care, a conference for adoptive mothers. A friend had asked me to go last year and I was so sick pregnant that I physically couldn’t. She asked me again this year, but I didn’t want to commit to a weekend away from my kids…nor did I want to spend that kind of money on myself. She asked me a third time when a mutual friend had a spot and couldn’t go. I was looking forward to being with other foster/adoptive mamas who “got” me, but not really super duper excited about the conference as a whole…it sounded kinda fru fru and slumber party-ish, and well…that just ain’t my bag, baby. I was sure it would be enjoyable but didn’t have expectations beyond that.  

We left after I got off work, meaning we didn’t arrive until well past the first session. Immediately I sensed that this weekend was sacred and in many ways just for me. There was a panel of adoptive moms with some bliggety bloggin’ superstars who were very forthcoming in their real-life experiences. We laughed, rolled our eyes in unison, moaned collectively, and laughed even more at the kinds of jokes only an adoptive mama would get.

The STUCK documentary was our late-night “entertainment,” but really just resulted in a room full of 500 women knee deep in The Ugly Cry.You know the one.

The next two days we alternated between worship and breakouts and a creative quiet time session (I still can’t talk about that…suffice it to say: marvelous). Just being in the room with so many of my people filled a hole I didn’t even know I had. Speakers included Carissa Woodwyck, an adult adoptee who had some heavy things to say to us mamas about our adoptions. She reminded us that though the adoption journey is hard for us as parents, we choose it. Our children do not, and it is incredibly important to recognize their loss. Another speaker was Amy Monroe, a specialist in adoption and attachment. I attended her breakout and took piles upon piles of notes from her session. One of the statements she made that stood out to me was that “Mad is really just sad underneath.” I was reminded that it’s just so easy to catch a child in the midst of throwing a fit and to target the behavior instead of the unmet need. 

Amy Monroe was good stuff, and I’d very much like to take her to dinner for a brain-picking. Here are a few from the list of books she recommended in helping talk to your children about adoption, with affiliate links (I had ordered them from Amazon before the session even ended):

Rosie's Family
The Mulberry Bird
I Wished for You: An Adoption Story

Created for Care was special in that it was held in a supernice conference center (kind of forcing reluctant adoptive mamas to treat ourselves) and that it provided a safe and unique setting for us all to skip past the normal conversations we all experience on a daily basis on to discussions that were much more meaningful and helpful in our respective journeys. Even more than that, Created for Care was the tank of oxygen I didn’t even know I needed.

I’ve been sort of drowning, not only with behavior issues in our children but also in my own junk that has both everything and nothing to do with how I relate to and parent my kids. I am forever thankful to my friend for asking me time and again to go with her.  

As long as it has taken me to process Created for Care, I couldn’t skip past the sharing part on this one. There are many mamas out there, adoptive and non, who are hurting in some way, too. If that’s you, talk to me here. Maybe I can help.   

It was an intense few days of brokenness, healing, and restoration, and I came home with fresh eyes and a new heart for my children. 

And some furniture from Ikea, because why not.