Friday, October 17, 2014

Resource Review: The Pumpkin Patch Parable



Fall.....the smell of leaves, decorating the home in Fall decor, visiting the pumpkin patch, and pulling out Autumn books to read to the children. These are all familiar acts in our home, especially when it involves books.  A favorite fall book that's read often is The Pumpkin Patch Parable , written by Liz Curtis Higgs. 

Let me just start by saying that the author did NOT write this book to celebrate Halloween. There are not any ghost, goblins, witches, or scary costumes illustrated or spoken of in this book.  Instead, children are offered a charming story of how a loving farmer can turn a simple pumpkin into something beautiful. 
Every page is delightfully illustrated, and has a scripture verse that goes along with each story line.  
This parable shows us how God's transforming love can create a clean heart in each of us - filling our hearts with joy and light. 

I recommend this book as another way to share God's truth; not to replace what you already do, but rather as an alternative message. The Pumpkin Patch Parable is a great way to share the Good News and the light of God's love with your children each harvest season.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

2014 Retreat Recap




In February of 2014, we got news (through a random adoption facebook group) that the current directors of our agency as well as two past employees were arrested on charges of adoption fraud.

Our world began spinning. Quickly.

An ethical adoption was something we were always concerned of. I had nightmares about it-we asked all the questions we could think of, contacted others in the adoption world to think of harder questions to ask, researched like crazy. All of it. But there I was, living something far worse than anything I could have dreamed.

We spent a lot of time in tears and in a strange emotional fog. We had no idea what was happening, no idea where the boy we saw on our referral pictures was, no idea if he was going to become our son-actually quite sure he wasn’t going to.

Just weeks after that news and the swirling days that followed was an adoption retreat I truly felt led to be at. I had been excited about it for months. But to be brutally honest, that awful news just changed me. All of a sudden, I didn't want to go. I was terrified. "I'm scared I'm going to just be that sad person crying in the corner all weekend" I told people.

But I just felt like I was supposed to go. It's unlike me to sign up for a retreat where I know no one, 3 hours away, for over 24 hours. I'm an introvert that really prefers to be home with her babies. I like the occasional mom time away, but overall, I really like just being with the kids and the husband. Being away typically isn't incredibly relaxing for me.
But I made sure I was signed up as soon as sign ups opened in the winter.

I had been excited about it for months. I was going. The day I was supposed to leave, I was shaking. I was in tears telling my husband "I don't want to go". He told me I needed to and sent me on my way.

The next three hours were amazing. Just driving. In the quiet and with worship music. No one to explain anything to. No one to talk to. I really started to be able to process all that had happened in a way I hadn't been able to before with constant needs of small children in front of me.

I got there in what I thought was right on time. Because oh goodness, I didn't want to be early. I didn't want to have to talk to people. I knew I was at a very emotionally fragile state. Turns out, I was there with over an hour to spare. I tried mingling. I walked around the vendor area and bought a few necklaces for my sister and mother in law from The Adopt Shoppe. I teared up by the 1500 trees table-because I had a tree I wanted to buy for 'the boys' room but now didn't know that there was going to be a boys’ room.

After a few people introducing themselves, and asked "where are you in the adoption process?" I took my Bible into the woods and hid. ‘Just get me to the main stuff’ I kept thinking. I can hide it there.

Then it started. Finally. We started with lots of goofy ice-breakers and then there was an ice breaker that got a little deeper. Sit at a table with 8 strangers and tell them where you are in your adoption process, your biggest fear, and something else I can't remember. Oh and go in alphabetical order. (My first and last name starts with A. Lucky me!) So, I got to go first.

It came out.  I didn't know where I was in the adoption process because my biggest fear of working with unethical people and a possible unethical adoption has come true. I just kept breathing, trying not to cry, and trying hard to listen to everyone else.

Finally the main session started. I was sure it would get easier.
Nope.
They showed this sweet slide show of all the families represented and this adorable picture of Addilyn and Josiah holding Gideon's picture came up and you hear "aww".

And my tears can not be contained any longer. They just can't be stopped. I left to hide in the bathroom. Because I was NOT going to be a sad person crying in the corner. Was NOT.

Then Jen, one of the Joy in the Journey gals, came out to talk with me. She knew I had been considering not coming. She knew what was going on. And she let me vent. She let me tell her all the stuff going through my head and that I was walking away. I couldn't do it. I didn't know that I could trust anyone in Ethiopia anymore and didn't know if I could try. But I loved that baby. I wanted to know he was safe. And she was kind and loving and encouraging through all the word vomit coming out of my mouth that made absolutely no sense, I'm sure.

Then we had the first session. I skipped whatever I had signed up for because it sounded serious and I couldn't handle it. I didn't want to talk about adoptive kids coming home right now. So I stayed right where I was. I listened to this woman talking about staying connected to your spouse in the crazy. And I laughed and smiled and truly enjoyed every second. I learned about just staying connected to Derrick-how little tiny things were important. How it was ok to be in crazy-mode sometimes. And how making it fun or laughing about the crazy was equally important. After that session, this woman came up to me (at the time, I didn't even know her name). I recognized her as someone who I 'met' during one of the ice breakers but didn't remember anything else about her. She handed me a necklace and said "I almost didn't buy this but I did and I think it's yours."



I felt like that was just God shining. Ready to give me a hug. Just there. No need to be afraid. I talked with a few more people that night, some knew bits of my story, some did after we talked. And I learned some of their stories.

I loved hearing the adoptive moms panel and things they struggled with or needed to do. These women loved each other and each others stories. They loved just being and learning and loving their families.

The next day, I was handed a paper from a friend I talked to the night before who knew what this middle ground and losing a referral felt like.  She gave me scripture and told me she was praying. My roommates prayed for me out loud, together. Just because.

I talked to another mom who had gone through our agency and could be sarcastic and snarky with me. Cause I needed that time to be angry too. A group of Ethiopian adoptive Moms took a picture together (I couldn't believe they let me be a part-I was SURE I wasn't going to be a part of that group) then prayed together, for me, for our family, and for our boy. That is a moment I will never ever forget.

I left knowing adoption was in our story, even if I wasn't sure how anymore. When I came home and my husband asked about the sessions, I talked about the correcting while connecting class and a few other things about attachment and connecting to your children and he said "Oh, so these were like your people. They talk and think like you?" Yep. Exactly. That retreat was filled with my people. And I was so very blessed to get to be a part.

So, if you’re adoption story doesn’t look pretty right now and it’s making you second guess if you should sign up for this retreat:
STOP WONDERING.
Just sign up. I promise God will use every moment to encourage you. Even the hard ones and the times you hide in the woods. 

Friday, October 10, 2014

When God Doesn't Give You What You Want


Infertility sucks.
I could end this blog post there. But for the sake of the “deeper” message, I will keep going.

A couple years ago, my husband and I entered into the world of trying to start our family. But, it wasn’t the way I ever planned and it wasn’t anywhere near what I wanted for “my” timeline of how our life together was going to go. To make matters even tougher, we found out very quickly that it wasn’t meant to happen the natural way, and it very well may NEVER happen.

It was almost as if we didn’t even have a fighting chance from the start. Doctors had told us that we were highly unlikely to conceive, and that my window for carrying a pregnancy safely was “closing quickly.” As a then 24 year-old newlywed, my husband and I were naturally shocked. However, the shock was quickly replaced by something so much worse… ultimate heartache.

Never in our wildest dreams could we ever have imagined the roller coaster ride that is infertility. The unknown possibilities, with very harsh timelines, and crazy fertility hormones are enough to send even the strongest of minds into a whirlwind of utter mush. You are thrown into every emotion, and you are constantly hoping and praying that maybe this time would be THAT time, only to be soon hit with failure and devastation once again. On top of that, everywhere you turn there is a reminder of what everyone else can have, what you want so desperately, and what you more than likely can never have.

Our time of infertility was a really dark time for me. I found myself questioning God and all the pain he was putting me through. I cried, I screamed, and I begged for him to hear my prayers. After all, God was the one who had the power to provide miracles. Yet, for some reason, I didn’t seem to be worthy of getting mine.  As time went on, my anger changed into total depression. I had always seen myself as a mom, and for some reason, I was losing my chance before it even had the opportunity to start. My time was out, and I was devastated. I was empty. I was lost.

Slowly but surely, my husband and I mourned our lost battle with infertility. We tried to move on with our lives, and we tried to see what our future together could look like without children. But something in both of us just couldn’t ever find peace with the idea of never having a family. Living a life just as a couple wasn’t something either of us saw for ourselves. God put the desires for our own family in our hearts. They were real, and they were so very strong. Deep down both of us knew that God specifically placed those desires within each of us. We knew that he had purposely formed us to be parents, and we knew that somewhere there was a baby out there that was meant to be our child. God was still working in our lives.

Shortly after this point, adoption came into the picture. From the beginning, we were both at peace, and things just fell into place. Neither of us could imagine how we were going to financially handle adoption, but the money was always strangely there when it needed to be. Neither of could of imagined how we would have the strength to keep fighting, but a helpful smile or an encouraging word was also there when we needed it to be. God was pointing us to our child. He was leading us down the path to our family. It just wasn’t the way that either of us ever saw happening.

Today, I can stand and say that I understand why God brought infertility into my life. I am still working hard to make peace with it, but I understand why. It was the path I was meant to take in order to bring my daughter into my life, find my strength, and learn what faith really means. However, I am so very human, and I still struggle often. Infertility will be a life-long battle for me. There will always be good days, but there will also always be bad days. Those bad days are real, and they are painful. Yet I find my peace in remembering that God places desires in your heart knowing the exact purpose as to why they are there.

As I think about those other couples that have been, or may be currently in the harsh world of infertility, my heart aches in understanding. From the bottom of my heart, I want them to hear the realization that took me so long to understand, “Just because you are not meant to be pregnant, doesn’t mean that you aren’t meant to have a family.” God placed those desires in your heart. He sees you, he knows your pain, and he hears your prayers. And somehow, someway, he will fulfill them. It just may not be in the exact way that you want, but he will work in your lives the way that he worked in mine.





Tuesday, October 7, 2014

2014 Retreat Recap




My GPS reset four times and, after dumping me in the middle of a cow pasture, informed me that I’d arrived at my destination. Not unlike the preceding six hours, I couldn’t help but ask myself again, “WHAT are you doing?!”

An adoptive mama of nearly 14 years, I’d run the gamut of emotions, but I was two years into our most recent adoption and the words of the weekend were disillusion, despair, and depression. (Did ya see what I did there with the alliteration? Totally unplanned.) I was OVER adoption conferences, starry-eyed families in process and paper bead necklaces. I’d just found out my agency director was in jail for fraud and my possibly fraudulently adopted child still treated me like the scum on the bottom of her shoe. I did not want to talk nice about adoption issues. I wanted an empty hotel room and strong drink. 
Thankyouverymuch.

But. God. He has a way of delivering us out of the pit, doesn’t He?

When, to my knowledge, there were no more spots available, my friend was asked to speak, given a room to divide as she saw fit, and somehow decided that I needed to be in it. She told me, “You’re going,” paid, and signed me up (then sent me a text that said, “By the way, you owe me money.” Love you, friend.).

As I write this, I find myself asking why the Joy in the Journey retreat was so important to me. What it is that I learned from the conference. Does anything stand out besides the fact that I find myself telling people, “You’re going,” and the fact that it isn’t even a question whether I’ll go back? 
Well, I have highlights:

* The ice breakers: Introverts’ nightmare. I survived, but barely. Might I suggest offering an introverts corner where we huddle and whisper how these things are soul killers?

* Staying connected with your spouse: Hilarious. I’m not sure I learned anything, but the belly laughter did my soul good. And now my husband and I take frequent, guilt free, thirty-minute Sonic dates.

* Worship: Oh my goodness. “Oceans” still brings me to tears.

* Cupcakes: Bring ‘em back!

* Vendors: Went hoping to snag some Adopt Shoppe goodies. Found myself considering, and then following through upon, becoming a Compassionate Entrepreneur with Trades of Hope. Keeping first families together when the only thing stopping it is poverty? Sign me up. PURPOSE.

* Length: too short

* Food: excellent

* Coffee: kept her coming!

* Friends: potential life-long

* After hours: the best

But my true take-away?  That 24 hours restored my faith in humanity. And it made me head home rejuvenated and ready to tackle whatever came my way. Which is a good thing because the circumstances at home hadn’t changed.  Only my outlook.
I can’t wait to go back.

Friday, October 3, 2014

October Giveaway


It is giveaway time! 
 
We are SO excited about this month's giveaway and just in time for the retreat!  This giveaway is extra sweet because it will allow one of our blessed followers to attend the retreat for FREE!!  Yep, you read that right.  We are giving away a FREE registration to our Joy in the Journey retreat 2015.  But there is a catch....this is not a giveaway that you get to enter for youself....this is a giveaway that you get to enter for a friend. 
Here is how you enter:

1.  Go to our Facebook page or our IG (@joyinthejourney2014)
2.  Tag a person (or if they arent on FB or IG then just type their name and we will trust that if they win you can give us their contact info) that you feel deserves a FREE retreat registration.  We all have a woman in our life who has touched us as we have embarked on our adoption, foster, and life journey so here is your chance to say THANK YOU!  (You may only nominate one person!)
3.  Nominating will end on Monday, October 6 at 9pm and the winner will be announced shortly after. 

We are so excited to see who you nominate!! 

Confessions of a Waiting Mommy




I would like to give a big round of applause to the first person to ever refer to an adoption journey as a “roller coaster.” Bravo. You have successfully summed up what is taking place in my heart in 2 simple words.

Throughout this journey, I have been overwhelmed with the most beautiful kind of happiness. I have felt excited and expectant, dreaming of what it will be like to welcome a child into our home.  I’ve imagined the feeling of becoming a mother to a child who is mother-less. I’ve daydreamed about holding and comforting this child in a way they maybe have never experienced before. I’ve contemplated the joy that comes from knowing we are following the call God has placed on our lives.

However, I’ve also doubted that God really knew what He was doing when He called us to this. I’ve questioned whether or not I wanted to continue on. I’ve put my faith in my version of this journey and taken the authorship away from the One who began the story in the first place. The days of waiting have been long. The complexity of the paperwork has been frustrating. The lack of steps forward has been discouraging. The destination has felt so far away that it slipped out of sight.

It’s in these times that I have no choice but to remember our purpose. We did not begin this adoption journey simply to become parents or to add another member to our family. We began this adoption journey because of the gospel. We believe God has called us to adopt in order that we may show the deepest love and hope imaginable to this child and to this world. I cannot think of a more beautiful earthly representation of the gospel than adoption, and having the opportunity to show that to this world through our family’s story is an unbelievable blessing.

I pray for strength to walk through this journey with my eyes focused on the One who makes all things new. I pray for wisdom to walk through this journey on the path laid out for us. I pray for humility to walk through this journey knowing that the frustration of the obstacles can in no way compare to the tragedy and loss suffered by the very child we are on this journey for. I pray for grace to walk through this journey knowing I will fail, but knowing even more that Christ’s power is made perfect in my weakness.





Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A Voice from the Court Room: Are Adoptions Dying?



“The report of my death was an exaggeration” — Mark Twain 

I participate in several adoption discussion groups on the internet.  Typical topics include adoption 
laws and changes to make adoptions more secure and efficient, litigation strategies, etc.  Lately, 
however, there is a lot of discussion about the decline in adoptions domestically and worldwide. 

The numbers are irrefutable.  Adoptions have been declining across the board – so much so that they 
are hard to even accurately track.  The decline has hit certain categories of adoptions harder than 
others, but why? 

Let’s start by looking in our own backyard.  

Domestic Adoptions – Private 

Recently LDS (a large Mormon affiliated adoption agency with nearly 70 offices) announced that 
it was shutting its doors and getting out of the adoption business.  They claim that not enough young 
women are willing to relinquish babies for adoption, making their business model incapable of 
turning a profit. 

The numbers back up their decision, but why are fewer young women entering into adoption plans? 

The first reason is quite simple – there are fewer young women entering into adoption plans simply 
because there are fewer pregnant young women.  Teenage pregnancies are down across the country. 
The decreasing rate means far fewer babies are being born to American teens now than at any time 
in the past 75 years.  In the 1970s, teenagers gave birth to around 650,000 babies each year.  Last 
year, that number was closer to 275,000. 

You have to go back a little further to appreciate the significance of these numbers.  In 1957, there 
were 96.7 births to teenage mothers per 1000 teens.  That number has dropped to 26.6 per 1000 in 
2013. 

From the 1950s through the 1970's, millions of women relinquished children based on perceived 
social stigma that attached to being an unwed mother.  However, in the 1970's abortion laws were 
liberalized and acceptance of single parent families grew.  Consequently, the number of Caucasian 
unmarried women who relinquished for adoption went from 20% in the early 1970's to around 1% 
today.  That is not a typographical error. 

Compounding this issue is that many pregnant women considering their options are more likely 
today to have access to the experience of women who have been in their shoes in the past.  In fact, 
over 40% of all children born in the US today are born to single mothers.  Historically, that would mean 
adoptions should be going up, but the perceived stigma attached to having children out of wedlock 
is either much less or non-existent in 2014 compared to the decades leading up to the 70's.

Abortion would seem a likely culprit for why there are less adoptions today, but the statistics do not 
bear that out.  While adoption is often presumed to be the pro-life alternative to abortion, the 
numbers indicate that it is the greater acceptance of single parenthood, rather than abortion, that is 
driving adoption numbers down, as abortion rates have fallen along with adoptions.  From 1991 to 
2009, the pregnancy rate fell 44% and the birthrate dropped 39%.  But during that same time, the 
abortion rate also fell 56%.

And births are down across all age groups, not just teenagers.  In 2007, the trend in the number of 
births in the United States hit a historic high.  However, births have declined since then, and now 
in just 7 years the birth rate in the U.S. is at a historic low. 

On a final note, I have noticed another trend.  When I first came out of law school in the late 90's, 
the average ages of birth mothers was around 15 to 22 years old.  In recent years, however, I 
have seen that number creep up, and we now see more 25 to 36 year old birth mothers.  At the same 
time, however, while many teens decide to keep their babies initially, these children all too often 
enter into the foster care system later at age 1 or 2.  

Foreign adoptions 

The number of Foreign adoptions has dropped even more dramatically in the past few years, and 
over the last ten years foreign adoptions are down 65%.  There is a lot of debate in the adoption 
community as to the cause. 

The easy and popular answer is the ratification of the Hague Convention on Inter-Country Adoption, 
which establishes ethical standards for international adoptions.  An explanation of the Hague, what 
it does, and how it impacts foreign adoptions is beyond the scope of this article.  But suffice to say, 
the Hague’s emphasis on best practices to avoid child trafficking and other evils comes at a price: 
more time and money involved in adoptions for adoptive parents and agencies.  Ironically, in a result 
that probably was not contemplated by lawmakers, the countries that have not adopted the Hague 
are now more valuable to some adoptions agencies for foreign adoptions, and the non-Hague 
counties seem to be seeing an increase in adoptions. 

Blaming the Hague, however, oversimplifies the issue and ignores other dramatic recent changes. 
Like the U.S., most countries are experiencing declining birth rates.  Second, birth control and 
education about birth control and sexually transmitted diseases is working and gaining acceptance 
in many countries.  Third, like the US, there is not as much shame as their once was in being a single 
parent.  Finally, nationalism is increasing around the globe, and countries do not like to see their 
children leave. 

The difference between the foreign adoption decline, as compared to the decline in domestic 
adoptions, is that the need for foreign adoptions has not declined.  The numbers of unparented 
children in foreign countries in need of nurturing homes has been growing and will continue to grow. 
The current numbers are enormous, with some 8-12 million children living (and dying) in 
orphanages, and hundreds of millions on the street.  Available adoptive homes in-country can serve
no more than a tiny fraction of all those in need. 

Are Any Adoptions Increasing? 

Adult adoptions and step-parent adoptions seem to be slightly increasing, as the aforementioned 
external factors do not influence those adoptions.  Also, anyone who has been to one of my seminars 
or talked with me about adoption knows that when I counsel couples interested in adoption, I give 
foster care a strong push.  Adoption through foster care has some advantages for the adoptive parents 
(as well as a direct impact to the community), and as it relates to the topic today, adoptions through 
foster care seem to be slightly increasing each year.  I do not believe that will changes anytime in the 
near future (the reasons why could be the subject of a whole other blog). 

Conclusion 

Adoption is not dead, nor is it dying.  There are ebbs and flows in any industry, but if you are 
considering adoption, you cannot ignore the current numbers.  

If you intend to adopt from a foreign country, you need to consider the added expense and time that 
may come from a Hague country, or the uncertainty that could come from a non-Hague country. 
Adopting a newborn child may be more difficult due to the time involved in processing the adoption 
(depending on the country), and so adoption of children one year or older might be more realistic. 

If you intend to adopt domestically, you need to consider that it will not get cheaper adopting through 
an agency as agencies close.  As competition decreases, and the number of adoptable children 
decrease, the expense of adoptions will go up.  On the bright side, social media has given potential 
adoptive parents new avenues of getting their names and profiles to birth parents at little or no cost 
at all.  Furthermore, in Missouri, there may be changes in the law on the horizon that may make 
adoption an easier choice for biological parents (subject of another blog). 

Finally, many of the reasons people tell me they would not consider adopting a child in foster care 
are based on anecdotes or simply misunderstandings about the system and process (at best) to 
uneducated generalizations about foster children (at worst).   If you have not considered foster care, 
or dismissed it as something you would not consider, maybe it is time you took another look.


Joe Hensley is an attorney with offices in Joplin and Carthage, Missouri, and was just recently elected as  the Associate Circuit Judge .  His practice includes civil trials and litigation, with an emphasis on adoptions.  He is the former Chief Legal Counsel for the Jasper County Juvenile Office and is a member of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys.