Tuesday, August 26, 2014

“Special” + “Needs” = God’s Perfection





                  So often, parents with special needs children are often looked at with pity. After all, it’s hard not to feel sorry for someone that has that “special” child that has all those “needs” that other children don’t have. But, who is to say what is “special” and what is a “need.” After all, God doesn’t make mistakes, and he certainly didn’t make a mistake in my daughter when he gave her those “special needs”.
                  My daughter was born prematurely. Doctors have guesstimated that she was around 33-34 weeks gestation at birth. We may never know any answers because our child’s birthmother didn’t actually know she was pregnant until she was physically delivering our daughter. On top of all of this, our daughter also tested positive at birth for alcohol and three different illegal substances.
                  After many tests and doctors’ visits, our daughter has been diagnosed with FAS (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome), and she quote-in-quote fits the medical definition of a “special-needs child.” Our baby girl will have her battles. She will have her struggles. She will have her “needs” that do make her “special.” However, even at such a young age, our daughter has overcome battle after battle to prove that she is perfect and strong just the way that she is.
                  Of course, if I could take away my daughter’s daily struggles, I would. I would in an absolute heartbeat. I don’t want life to be hard for her. I don’t want her to hurt or be faced with circumstances that are not fair to her. I want to be her mother, and I want to protect her from anything that may harm her. But, I am only human, and I have to remember that I don’t know what God has in store for my daughter and her journey through this life.
                   In times of doubt, I often find comfort in the verse from Jeremiah 1:5. It states, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”


                  They are such simple words, but they are such a pure truth that speaks straight to the worries of my heart. My daughter is not a result of God’s mistake. My daughter is not being punished for the choices of her birth mother. She is not to be pitied for being “special” or for having “needs” that other children don’t have. She has been designed in the image of God, and she is meant to have a purpose in God’s perfect role. I consider myself lucky to have the privilege to watch as she takes on the world… in her own “special” way.







Friday, August 22, 2014

After Placement Issues – Eating




This is dedicated to my mom:
Mom, I’m sorry for having been such a picky eater when I was a child. That couldn’t have been easy for you. You did a great job keeping me healthy and fed in spite of my outrageous shenanigans. I’m really sorry. But all those years in jest that you willed me to have a child just like me, jest no more. Yes, thank you, thank you very much.

My mom is a terrific mom. We had it made when we were growing up. She was a stay-at-home-mom, an awesome stay-at-home mom. We played and baked cookies and did crafts and I thoroughly enjoyed my childhood - most of the time. Five days a week my life was terrific. Mondays through Thursdays were golden. But come Friday, life began to look a little less rosy. As the dinnertime hour neared and the frying pan came out, I knew what was coming. Something horrible called “Fish Fridays.” I despised fish. Some discipline techniques used for me not eating the horrid fish involved sitting at the table until it was dark, going to bed hungry, or missing a fun Saturday activity with friends. Or sometimes all three. It was a showdown every Friday. Saturday we got a reprieve with some tacos or pizza. But come Sunday, when she put a stockpot of water to boil, I knew what was coming next….lentil soup, which was worse than fish. It is a vile substance. And then the whole performance started again. My brother started sneaking food to his room during the week so that he could ensure I was fed on my hunger strike nights. And then Monday came, and life was good again, until the next Friday.

This happened every week. I became stronger and more devout in my commitment to battles against the fish and the legume. The showdowns got outrageous. My mom finally got sick and tired of the berating about the “bad food”. So she taught me how to warm leftovers up or make a turkey sandwich for myself. She stepped back and I got to eat whatever I wanted. Peace came over the dinner table. We were both happy. And what do you know? I like fish now. But what’s more important is that I still love my mom!

I never had to wonder if my mom liked or loved me. I never had doubts. I was born from her womb. She kept me safe and healthy in utero and after I was born. She kept me safe from trauma. She nourished me, loved me like crazy, and gave me an awesome childhood.

I never was starving.

I never had to beg for money to get food. 

I’ve never eaten a half eaten cupcake out of a trashcan.

I’ve never been malnourished.

My legs are not bowed because I didn’t have nutritious food as a child.

My teeth didn’t come in with cavities from lack of proper nutrients for oral health.

I’ve never wondered where my next meal was coming from.

But your child probably has. And mine has too.

And for these reasons, now with my own child, sometimes I don’t get to make the dinner that I want to make. I haven’t been able to make gourmet macaroni and cheese in six months. Sometimes I have to eat a dinner of mashed potatoes and Chinese dumplings. And, yes, sometimes, I have to make two meals. And even if I make something I think Yiyi is going to like, I still have to have a backup plan because perhaps, just perhaps, today she will decide her previously favorite is one of her most detested. Sometimes dinner for her is a Nutella sandwich. If you are asking yourself “what is a Nutella sandwich?” please, let me enlighten you. It is simply two pieces of bread with a thick layer of Nutella in between. And if it’s Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. and my enchiladas have too much cheese in them (she hates cheese with a fiery passion) and she wants to eat a Nutella sandwich, I say to myself, “well, there’s hazelnuts in here and hazelnuts have protein and therefore some nutritional value,” so I turn to her and say “sweetie, I would be happy to make you chocolate and bread. Would you like it whole or cut into triangles?”

And then she will eat her Nutella sandwich (yes, I know, I know, chalk full of palm oil, I am aware that it’s trash, calm down people). And I will rest easy tonight knowing that my child is going to sleep with a full tummy and hopefully also with the comfort that comes from knowing that there will be breakfast in the morning and lunch after that, and so on and so on. And when you adopt a child from a hard place that is what matters most.

As adoptive parents with kiddos who have eating challenges, we must realize that often these children are traumatized, have often gone without, feel out of control, and are so confused by the whole thing that controlling what they put into their body is sometimes the only thing they can do to survive. And there’s the more surface level issue of children from other countries who simply don’t like some of our food (c’mon, if you really think about how strange hamburgers are, it’s a wonder we eat them!)

Do not succumb to food battles! You are not using attachment parenting if you are battling about some dumb casserole. You are not putting your child’s needs first if you get upset about having to get up make a quick cup o’ noodles. It’s not about you. It’s not at all important. But what is important is that your child is fed and goes to sleep at night safely under the safe roof of parents who love him and that he wakes up in the morning feeling safe, secure, and more loved than he was the day before. And although it may seem silly, sometimes warming up some frozen pot stickers from Costco can really do more than nourish the belly. They may just nourish the soul a little too.

And that, my friends, is what they call “food for thought.” (Pardon the pun, but I had to do it!)  

 ..............................................................................................................................................


Nikki has been working as an adoption social worker for the past 10 years.  The consummate single gal was married in 2012 and started an adoption process to adopt a 10-year-old with special needs from China soon after.  Nikki loves writing home studies in the Western Missouri area and preparing families for the realities of adoption.



Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Tips for Parents of Children With Reactive Attachment Disorder



If you are parenting a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder you have my complete respect, support, and empathy. Parenting a child with RAD can be overwhelming.  I am right there with you. I want you to know that there is hope! My husband and I adopted an 8 year old boy from Eastern Europe. Although it has been a very hard 10 years with him, he turned 18 this month, is living at home, kept a job for the last year, graduated from high school and has just joined the military. I’m writing this to pass on some of the things that we have learned on our own journey and hope it will be a help to you on your journey.

Take Care of Yourself

When flying on an airplane, the flight attendants will always tell you in the event of an emergency, ”place the oxygen mask on yourself first and then on your child.” They know that we have to help ourselves first in order to help our child. Children with RAD drain you emotionally, physically, spiritually, socially, and financially. Keep your healthy relationships healthy. Don’t sacrifice absolutely everything to save this child. One day this child will be an adult. Whether or not he succeeds or fails as an adult, you still will have the rest of your life to live. Hopefully your marriage and your relationships with your other children will still be healthy.

Get Help From Others

Don’t feel like you need to soldier on alone. I think sometimes as adoptive parents we are embarrassed to ask for help. Think of the adoption process. Every agency imaginable scrutinizes our life to see if we will be good parents. Our friends and family pray for us, and follow our adoption story. Many people tell you what a “saint” you are for adopting this child. In their heads they are picturing this beautiful Hallmark movie. The adoptive child comes home and everyone immediately falls deeply in love and bonds together. The child flourishes in your family just because of your love and care. We know that our family looks a lot more like a reality TV show than a Hallmark movie.

Create a Support Group Around You

Connect with other adoptive parents and friends that you can honestly talk to and pray together. Look for family members or friends who can provide respite care. Consider getting a counselor for yourself or talking to a pastor at your church. You are carrying a heavy amount of stress, so don’t be embarrassed about getting some help.

Be Open to Outside Professional Help

With our son we reached the point where he needed to be moved out of our home to a Boys’ Ranch. This broke our hearts. Words cannot describe the pain and heartbreak this caused for my husband and me. Our son was a danger to himself and was big enough that we were no longer able to physically restrain him. For his safety, and the safety of the others living in the house, placing him in a Boys’ Ranch became our only option. This was a painful and expensive solution. At that time we felt like we had failed. We later realized that by removing him from the home we were able to focus on keeping our other three children healthy. We wanted to keep the healthy people healthy. This also insured that our son would be kept safe.

The facility had a staff 24/7 that could enforce the rules. He had to do school and follow directions. If he chose not to obey the rules there were clear consequences. This ranch was also a Christian facility and we knew that our son was being loved while he was in their care.

In the end this turned out well for our son. He returned to our home a few years later. School had been kept up to date so he was able to graduate from high school on pace with his class. His record was kept clean and he was never in any trouble with the law. This enabled him to get a good job and join the military.

Understand RAD

I say this as loving as possible. People who mean well will offer you tons of parenting advice that just will not work with children with RAD. Be respectful of these people, but don’t feel like you have to listen to them, even if they are in your own family.

A characteristic of RAD is that the child will be manipulating relationships and make you look like the bad guy. Educate and communicate with your family and friends. Over time they will see the manipulative behavior.

You Are Not Responsible For Their Choices

We cannot make anyone do anything. Not our husbands, our kids, no one. We can do a lot to influence and help them. But in the end, they choose their actions, not us. So do not take on their failures as your own. In the end it is their choice on how they will live and what they will do. You are doing the very best you can to help them. You have given them loving care, you have raised them as best as you can, and given them an opportunity. Take comfort in that thought. Release yourself from carrying unnecessary guilt.

Redefine Success

 Our older two children are biological and our younger two are adopted. Our older two children are overachievers. We all hoped to add two more kids and basically multiply the love and the fun. Well, the fun didn’t come and we did not always feel the love. This was a loss of a dream for us as parents. We felt like we failed until we redefined what success looked like. Our younger children were not going to be like the older two. This was never God’s design for them. He created each of us to be an original. We are each loved greatly by our Creator. We each have our own strengths and our own challenges.

For our son, success is to love the Lord, to have healthy relationships, to hold down a job, and to abide by the law. Although he does not agree with us on many things, he has a job, friends, and a good relationship with his family. We are praying that he learns to trust the Lord and love Him deeply. It has been a long, hard road with our son but his story is still being written. So is our adoption a success? 
I’d say yes!

Lori Good
Christian Life Coach

Saturday, August 16, 2014

August Giveaway


It is giveaway time and this month we are featuring an amazing company called Trades of Hope!  I was first introduced to Trades of Hope at our Joy in the Journey 2014 retreat when they were there as a vendor.  I immediately fell in love with their jewelry/other items, their passion and their ministry.  Shortly after returning home from the retreat I knew that I wanted to be a part of their team. 


 

Trades of Hope is a missional business that sells fair trade and handmade jewelry, home goods, and other accessories that are made by women artisans all over the world. Our goal is to partner with co-ops and missionaries to empower these women out of poverty and their desperate situations. Some are coming out of the sex trade, others are sick or caring for their children who are ill, and others simply have not had the opportunity to make an income and provide for their families in a dignified and safe manner. My goal as a Compassion Entrepreneur is to be a voice for those who have no voice by marketing and selling these goods to support the artisans, their families, and communities.

So onto the giveaway...

The HoneyBee Bracelet

 
Handcrafted by our beautiful Costa Rican Artisians.

Their are two ways to enter:
1. For one entry share our Facebook page on your personal Facebook page.
2. For a bonus entry like my Trades of Hope Facebook page.
*Comment on the post on our Facebook page that you have done both and we will announce our winner on Tuesday, August 19 at 9pm CST. 

 
Thanks for entrying and helping spread the ministry of Trades of Hope.
 
-Much Love-
Tiffany 




Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Adopting an Older Child

Teaching children for the past 20+ years has taught me a lot about their little personalities.  How their learning styles, although changeable, are pretty much set by age 7.  Some studies also reveal that our personalities are set by around first grade as well.  

So, when my husband and I felt called to adopt, we knew we wanted an older child, but one under 7 (so that we could still help to shape them - or so we thought).  Luckily for us, our social worker told us to make our age range broad, so our home study stated that we were requesting a boy aged 3-8, but our limit was still 7!  This was fine, because when we started our adoption process, our agency had some boys waiting in that age range.  However, we didn’t allow ourselves to look at them until we were at a point that we could be matched with one of them. But by the time that point came, they had all been placed. So we waited and waited and waited.  

One night I was on a website looking at missions trips to Ethiopia and came across a waiting child list. I contacted the agency to get permission to view their children and told them our gender/age preference.  The next day she sent me the picture of an 8 year old boy that they had not yet placed on the site.  An 8 year old - past what we thought was the highest age we wanted to g o- but oh my goodness - he stole my heart!  His eyes - there was something about those eyes!  My husband said he didn’t want to see the picture until after he had prayed about it as he didn’t want to be swayed by an adorable child, but the next day, he had to look too!

It just felt right - peaceful - so we began pursuing adopting him, even though he was from a different agency.  After much prayer, God worked out all the details and we were on our long journey to bring him into our family.

While we waited, we read all the information our agency had given us about adopting an older child. We felt as “prepared” as we were going to get, at least intellectually.  But nothing can prepare you for the emotional journey of adopting an older child.  As if adoption itself isn’t emotional enough! Add in past lost, trauma and abandonment along with trying to adapt to a new culture, family structure, food, sleeping arrangements and on and on.

Our time with him in country was wonderful. Our son was so sweet and charming; but once we got home it was another story.  

It started the first night home when I asked him to eat a grape- tears, running to his room, not talking, mean stares.  Confusion, hurt feelings, not understanding one another.   Off and on this went for months. He would be incredibly happy and loving for days and then something ( a memory, disagreement or misunderstanding) would set him into a major crying depression in which he wanted nothing to do with me or anyone else.  It was SO sad and HARD. Sometimes I would just sit by him and cry too… for him… for everything he lost.   Some days I felt at my wits end and would just cry out, “Jesus help!” 

And He always did….every faithful, ever true….He never let us go.  He would show us new resources…. A phone call to a driver in Ethiopia, a local woman who spoke Amharic,  fellow adoptive mamas of older kids - one of them from his orphanage, Bible studies,  a lady in our church who was an adoption attachment specialist and on and on.  

He healed us.  And I do mean US.  Once I was reminding my son how much I loved him and how he would always be part of our family. I was trying to explain what it meant to have a family and all the benefits that come along with it - unconditional love, belonging, joy - and I felt God speak to my heart and say, “Do YOU really understand what it means to be MY child?  Do you even comprehend that you are a joint heir with Jesus?  Do you know that you are my daughter and I love you no matter how you act?”  He took me to a deeper level in my relationship with Him that day…all through seeing family through the eyes of the one adopted.  Thank you Jesus!


Now, all those episodes seem like a distant memory.  Like the pain you have with childbirth, that you forget soon after as it is replaced by the joy of new life.  Our son has been with us one year and seven months now, and he makes us smile every single day!  He has grown and blossomed and connected and adapted and God has made something beautiful out of the dust of a broken situation.  Our son LOVES life, I mean loves it!  And he helps us see even little things through new eyes. It’s still not always easy, but we know who goes before us…and He is leading us to start the process to bring another older child into our family. We can’t wait to see what He does this time!!



God has changed me so much through this process and show me several places where I was set in my ways and needed to see things from a different perspective.  But most of all how He doesn’t give up on us,  It’s never too late.  He can change us, He can make all things new.  He makes beautiful things, He makes beautiful things out of us and out of 8 year old boys!


Sunday, August 3, 2014

Who is Joy in the Journey: Meet Tiffany

 
(Me and my amazing husaband)

 I am Tiffany.The final piece to our adoption lovin' foursome!
I am a wife, mother, teacher, and most importantly a daughter of our King. God has blessed me with an amazing husband who I have been married to for 10 years. He always supports my crazy ideas and holds the fort down when I am off “working” on my greatest passion….adoption. I always knew that adoption would eventually be in God’s plan for my family but what I didn’t know was that adoption would take me on two of the greatest journeys of my life, bringing my precious babes home. I have been blessed with two of the most beautiful children in the world. Kyler, my sensitive, hyperactive, momma loving boy is 7 years old and Kenzie, my strong willed, curious, daddy loving princess just turned 2. Both of my children were adopted from the beautiful country of Taiwan. 

(Daddy is a Firefighter so we love visiting him at the station)
 

Over the past several years my heart towards adoption has exploded. I have had the opportunity of helping so many families bring their children home and I have loved every minute of it. The one piece of advice that has stayed constant through it all is this: finding joy in the midst of waiting, beauty from ashes, seeing Jesus’ thread throughout every piece of the journey. This was a very hard concept for me to learn when I was in the midst of my own process, but when I truly grasped this concept God grabbed my heart and allowed me to grow in Him in ways that I never thought possible.
I pray that this blog (and retreat) are a place where you can find hope, you can find support, and you can find growth…and just maybe, in the midst of all of that…you will learn to look up. Thank you for joining us! We are excited to see where God is going to take this dream. Buckle up girls…it is going to be a crazy, fun ride! 

(My beautiful family)
 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Who is Joy in the Journey: Meet Sarah

I'm Sarah, the newest member of the Joy in the Journey team, and a Jesus follower who is passionate about loving God and loving people. I have a huge heart for adoption, orphan care, and supporting and connecting with adoptive families.

My husband Matt and I have been married for 11 years. He makes me laugh, gets my weirdness, encourages my heart, helps me pursue my passions, and is an amazing father to our children.


We talked about adoption before we were ever married. In fact it was part of our conversations before we even started dating! We always knew adoption would be part of our family, and are so humbled and thankful for the story God has authored for our family.


I’m incredibly blessed that two of the cutest, sweetest, craziest, silliest, and most energetic toddlers in the world (not that I’m biased or anything) call me mommy! Our sons were adopted from Taiwan. They are less than 14 months apart and are biological siblings. Levi just turned 3 and came home December 2011 when he was 6 months old. Ethan will be 2 in August and came home in September 2013 when he was 13 months old.



Life with two toddlers is crazy, messy, and exhausting, but yet also full of sweet cuddles, laughter, and joy. After teaching elementary school for 9 years, I am grateful to now be a stay-at-home momma to my boys. I’m finding that motherhood is simultaneously the most absolutely wonderful and yet hardest thing I’ve ever done!  I am so thankful to my adoptive mommy friends who are helping me navigate this journey and who encourage and support me, who pray for me, and who laugh and rejoice with me.

I've seen just how vital true, deep, Christ centered friendships are to each of us…especially those of us who are walking through the adoption/foster care process and motherhood. I am passionate about supporting, helping, and connecting with other adoptive families. Last fall my heart was longing to be more actively involved in the adoption community and to help others who were going through the adoption and foster care process. My husband and I began praying that God would open up an opportunity for me. Not even two weeks later the original three Joy in the Journey ladies called! I am thrilled to be part of the Joy in the Journey team and absolutely loved seeing the amazing things God did at our retreat last year, and what He is doing through the blog, and in our Joy in the Journey community.

It is my prayer that this ministry will help adoptive, foster, and interested mommas to connect with others who also passionately love the Lord and who are walking similar paths. Our desire is that this will be a safe place where we can come alongside of each other, be real, cultivate relationships, grow and learn, and where we can support, uplift, and encourage one another. It is my prayer that together we will pursue true Joy.


I truly hope that “Joy in the Journey” will not just be a name or catch phrase, but rather reflective of how we, mommas whose lives have been blessed by adoption and foster care, live each step of this life long adoption journey. Let’s walk it together!