Friday, August 30, 2013

RESOURCE REVIEW: The Connected Child




Hi all!  I’m Amy, wife to my amazing hubby, Chris, and mother to my beautiful 3 year old daughter, Ava, and hopefully soon, another precious little Taiwanese child!  


Our daughter came home from The Home of God’s Love in Taiwan when she was around 3 months old and it’s been a wonderful, crazy ride since!  Ava has fortunately adjusted and attached well to both Chris and I.  I was thankful to have an amazing group of adoptive mommas supporting me that gave me a loaded arsenal of books on attachment!


The Connected Child by Dr. Karyn Purvis has been such a great tool for us as a family.  I wanted to share a little bit about the book, its contents, and how we have integrated the principles into our family life.  First let me start by saying that no matter what age you adopted your child, birth to teenage years, all our children are ”at-risk” simply by being adopted.  Dr. Purvis often terms these children as “from the hard places”. 


 This book is a very practical, application style, how-to book on parenting children and promoting attachment.  It is geared towards a little bit older child, primarily once they are able to understand and follow simple directions.   She approaches parenting children from a wide variety of backgrounds—institutionalization, orphanages, foster care, sexual abuse, physical/verbal abuse, loss and grief, poverty, etc.  This book is not a book on how to discipline your child, although discipline is included.  It’s more about the process of integrating a child into your family, developing healthy attachment, and the many aspects of parenting a child from the hard places—love, nurturing, encouragement, discipline, and relationships.

“As much as we might wish for a quick answer, no single treatment works perfectly with all at-risk children.  …The key is to treat the whole child, with all his or her interrelated needs, not just one small aspect of behavior or illness.”

“Effective coaching and parenting of an at-risk child, as explained in this book, is multidisciplinary and ongoing.  It involves building EQ (emotional intelligence) as well as IQ (intellectual mastery).  It supports your child’s senses and physiology along with his or her psychology.  It means helping your child get in touch with his own feelings as well as his needs, emotions, hunger, pain, and fear—so that he can then connect comfortably with the world around him and you.  It means teaching your child communication skills and coping mechanisms, so she can succeed in life.  It means demonstrating that you are in charge, yet sensitive to your child’s needs.  This book contains practical techniques designed to help you and your child achieve these goals.”

There is a vast amount of information in the book, almost overwhelmingly the first time you read it.  I recommend reading it, then going back and slowly going through the areas that you are currently facing as a parent in the here and now.  There is also a DVD series through her Empower to Connect Seminars that are amazing!   Our local adoption group got together to watch and discuss them weekly.  (We rented them through our local library.)  It is the same info contained in the book, only a bit more in depth.   It’s great for visual and auditory learners like myself. 

There is a nice balance of theory and application in the book.  Dr. Purvis is very adept at giving real life examples and walking you through each situation and how to address not just the behavior but the underlying motivating factors.  She walks you through step by step:   getting out of crisis mode if you’re dealing with a particularly challenging child, helping your child feel safe, understanding how your child’s background effects their behavior, establishing your authority, tools for correcting behavior, teaching your child to self-regulate, setting appropriate boundaries, encouraging your child, problem-solving with your child, building self-confidence with your child,  teaching valuable life skills, and ultimately healing.  She even tackles some more in depth issues like sensory processing disorders as well as addressing food insecurities (i.e. food hoarding).   One thing she does incredibly well is teach you how to work with your child instead of fighting against your child.  She discusses how to turn your child’s defense mechanisms into safe, positive, attachment building behaviors that meet your child’s needs but breaks down the ultimate need for the behaviors in the first place.


The biggest take away we have in our family personally is probably the IDEAL approach that Dr.Purvis lays out.  Here is a link to a short video about the techniquehttp://vimeo.com/6965006.  Below is my paraphrase of the technique as laid out in the book. 

Immediately responding to misbehavior within 3 seconds.
Directly respond by making eye contact with your child, giving them undivided attention, and bringing them NEARER to you to teach and guide them.
Efficiently give your response:  least amount of firmness, correction, and words as possible.
Action-based redirection and correction:  physically doing a real life “do-over” and giving them an opportunity to learn the correct behavior and be successful at it.
Level the response at the behavior not the child.

Chris and I use this daily in our household.  I admit Chris is much better at the approach than I am, and much more consistent.   It is not the only method we use, but I must say, it is very effective for us.    Anytime we correct behavior or discipline, we always follow it with “I love you” and a kiss.  Then it’s back to business as usual.


She also gives a lot of scripting ideas that are short and sweet.  We love these in our house!  It’s a great trigger to quickly and easily help Ava right her behavior on her own and “self-regulate”.  While our words are not exactly the phrases that she always uses, the basic concept is the same.  Some of the phrases are:
               
Dr.Purvis’ Scripts
“Are you asking or telling?”
“Is that showing respect?”
“Use your words.”
“Is that gentle and kind?”
“Listen and obey."

Common Earhart Scripts
“Are you whining?”
“Use your words.”
“Can you ask me?”
“Listen the first time.”
“Try it again.”



One of the things I love about this book is that, in general, it’s just good parenting.  The strategies are great for at-risk kids, but also for any kid!  Many families built through adoption also have biological children in the mix too.  This parenting method is great for dealing with the everyday challenges no matter what the background of your child or how they joined your family.  This way you not only have an individualized way to deal with each  child, but also a consistent approach that fits for the whole family, not just your adopted child.

My biggest criticism is that I felt like the book started in the middle of her approach and at times feels a little disorganized.  The end chapters of the book have some good lessons about normal, healthy development of a child, as well as some basics on brain chemistry and how our brains work.  I wish this was at the beginning of the book.  As she talks through her methods, she has a tendency to assume that you already understand the foundation she’s working from.  However, the video series does a great job of setting up the foundation of philosophy, normal growth and development, and how the brain works and it’s chemistry, before it delves into the nitty gritty of parenting.  So it might be beneficial to watch the video series in conjunction with reading the book.


Overall, for us, this is a must-have book for parenting and developing secure attachment with Ava and any other child we bring into our home.  I am including some links to some great resources for her approach to attachment and parenting.  She also does a conference twice a year called Empower to Connect.  She has a ton of free resources on the TCU child development page http://www.child.tcu.edu as well as her Empower to Connect website www.empoweredtoconnect.org.

Purchase the following DVDs at http://www.child.tcu.edu/DVD%20sales.asp
Empowering, Connecting & Correcting Principles
Trust-Based Parenting Creating Lasting Changes in Your Child's Behavior




Tuesday, August 27, 2013

LIFE LESSONS: what adoption is teaching me


Groaning yet Gifted in Waiting

A couple weeks ago at church, the preacher was talking about “waiting.” Elbowing my husband, knowing what “waiting” has meant for us lately.  As he went on describing how difficult “waiting” can be, tears filled my eyes--because we’ve been in a long season of waiting--and groaning. Waiting. It is so hard. We are powerless, yet we know the One who is powerful.

For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. Romans 8:22

We are waiting for an adoption referral (an official match and invitation for us to travel to meet the children) for 2 boys, who are brothers, in separate orphanages. We’ve been waiting over a year to meet these sons. The waiting is miserable, faith shaking, and emotionally draining. Hope deferred truly does make the heart sick. (Proverbs 13:12) We mostly feel a mixture of helplessness and hope that we will able to adopt them. Every day is filled with new hope and repeated disappointment.

Waiting makes us groan but it is also a gift.

Flash forward 11 months, and fly over the enormous mountain of paperwork, fees, fundraising, and learning everything we could about adoption. This process has been beautifully gifted with God’s presence, His provision, and His power.

His presence:

I’ve never felt such deep comfort and tender care from God as I have experienced this past year. His nearness and help has come at the perfect moments. I know He is with me, loving and guiding my heart in waiting. When the waiting is especially hard, my groaning has been met with tender reminders that He is holding all things together. He is loving these sons more than I can. Comfort through scripture reminds me that all the members of my family, near and far, are being helped. 

I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? 2 My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. Psalm 121:1-2

His provision:

We had to raise the money to cover costs. Having never fundraised before, we were timid yet trusting that God would provide what was necessary for the adoption. We invited our community to help us. It has been amazing to see God provide! Through bake sales, garage sales, donations, grants, and many loving acts of service we have received everything needed for our adoption journey. Our faith in God’s promise to provide for His children is secure and grateful! 

His power:

Waiting to adopt has proven to be a gift of seeing God’s power at work. We are not messiahs; we are adoptees into the Messiah’s family. He has given us His own name—we are “in Christ”. We are but one family called to just one part of the Messiah’s mission in the world, adoption. We’ve seen His power to change us, comforting, providing financially, blessing us with community, calming our weary and worrying hearts. His power has given us His spirit to guide us through making wise decisions and giving us strength to endure the waiting.

What a gift this waiting has been! We groan, yes, but we know that our God is powerful and attentive to us as we wait. He is faithful!


The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.” Deuteronomy 32:4

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Trisha Wilkerson (Seattle, Washington) Christian, wife to Mike (pastor at Mars Hill Church), momma & homeschooler to 4 almost 6 (adopting two boys from Latvia), and author of Everyday Worship, Our Work, Heart, and Jesus http://tinyurl.com/mm5822j 

**As you read this, the Wilkersons are in Latvia for the adoption of their sons!  Please join the Joy in the Journey ministry as we pray for an amazing trip and smooth transition for this sweet family!**

Friday, August 23, 2013

Tag your Friends GIVEAWAY

If you've visited the Shopping with a Purpose tab at all, you've probably noticed those delicious-looking Jollypops by the Shubert family {of Crafting a Family}.  



These lollypops are homemade using one of America's favorite hard candies :) by the Shuberts, who are waiting for a referral of their second child.

Jollypops are PERFECT for parties, giveaways, or gifts and every cent you spend on them helps bring the next Shubert baby home.  And, in addition, the Shuberts also have beautiful scarves and necklaces for sale.




Ready to order?!  Click here to head over to their facebook page and place an order for your next event today!

You can also read about the Shuberts' adoption journey on their blog at http://hearttoheartshuberts.blogspot.com/.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Now for the GIVEAWAY!!

Heather has graciously agreed to give away one dozen Jollypops to one lucky winner.

To enter:
  • Click HERE to go to the Joy in the Journey Facebook page.
  • Make sure that you have "liked" the page.
  • Click "share" to share the FB page on your own FB wall.
  • Tag as many friends as you can think of that would benefit from the Joy in the Journey ministry.
  • Leave a comment on the Facebook post that says "COMMENT HERE FOR GIVEAWAY" telling us how many friends you tagged.
  • You will receive one entry for every tagged friend...no limit!


Giveaway ends at 8:00 p.m. Central on Monday, August 26th, 2013.
Winner will be posted on the Joy in the Journey Facebook page.  

P.S.  Don't forget that we LOVE to feature adoption fundraisers!  If you're interested in free advertising, click here or here for information on how to get your Shopping with a Purpose event featured!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

LIFE LESSONS: what adoption has taught me


What has adoption taught me?

When you are given a question like this, filling a blank screen with words feels like a daunting task.
So as my cursor keeps blinking and my mind keeps wandering, I find myself with an answer that I don’t really want.
The fact that there is adoption reminds me and teaches me that the world we are in is broken.
For disease should never strike, famine should never kill, and children should never cry with no one to answer. 
And if I let it, adoption could point me further and further down the rabbit hole of brokenness.

But instead adoption points me to some One even greater.
The truth of the matter is that adoption is less about the brokenness and more about the setting of things right.

So when I see adoptive parents dancing with their kids or the smiles of my own children I can’t help but remember the words of a God who would say, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice for they will be filled”.  Matthew 5:6

Isn’t that what this is? 

Isn’t adoption a piece of bringing justice to a world that is unjust? 

Isn’t it just following the footsteps of a God who wants to make all things new? 

Aren’t we now blessed and truly filled because we hunger for what God wants us to hunger for?

So what is it truly that adoption has taught me? 

That I am blessed when I thirst for what is right. 
And I am filled when I fight for what is just. 
And there is great joy in the journey of bringing God’s kingdom to earth as it is in Heaven.

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My name is Brennan Conklin.  My wife of 10 years is Janna. 
We have adopted our three children from Taiwan; Lyndlee, Gavin, and Israel.  We currently serve at Real Life Church in California.


Friday, August 16, 2013

RESOURCE REVIEW: blogs for adoptive families



Hi, my name is Kim Smith, and I am a BTDT mom. What is BTDT? It is Been There Done That parenting. When, my husband, Brad, and I began our adoption journey in 2005 we would come to rely a great deal on BTDT parents (Wow! Why does 2005 seem like such a very long time ago!).  These BTDT parents were a source of countless amounts of information and knowledge that guided us, as newbies, along this amazing journey God would lead us on. One of the countless blessings that God gives to adoptive parents is the support and friendship of people that we would never have come into contact with except through our shared passion for the orphan and adoption. We found that blessing many times in people we met on blogs. As our journey would continue over several years (and we all know that the journey is only beginning once our child is at home), we have become connected with many people through the “bloggie” world. I wish to share with you invaluable sites that we have found over the years.


As I was writing and researching to write this post, I realized just how extensive my list had become; in addition, I found that there were thousands of other blogs out there. Many of these sites are written by moms and some dads that are just like you and I. Many are familiar sites, and they feel like old friends some of whom I have met in person and some who I have come to know over the years through their blogs.  I have tried to list the sites in categories; however, it is not always possible to put some of these in just one category. There are parents of multiples, parents with special needs, parents that have adopted from one country and parents that have chosen a multi-faceted adoption approach with children from many different countries. I have included in my list several web sites that I found helpful during “paper-chasing” and web sites that have been of great help as our journey continued with our children at home. I pray that you find these blogs intriguing and helpful in whatever stage of this journey you are on.

“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Colossians 4:5-6

Adoption Websites:

Special Needs:

http://aplacecalledsimplicity.blogspot.com/  (China, Uganda, Domestic)
http://www.fivechilipeppers.blogspot.com/   (*Our Website: China, Special Needs, Older Child*)

Twin/ Multiples Adoption:

Older-Child Adoption:

General Adoption:

http://gillispiefam.blogspot.com/  (Cambodia, Vietnam, Ghana)

Foster Parenting:

Domestic Adoption:

Some Blogs that fit in multiple categories:

*http://k6comehome.blogspot.com/  (Bio, China, Special Needs, Older Child)
*http://www.nationsaroundourtable.com/ (Bio, Uganda, Special Needs, Older Child)
*http://aplacecalledsimplicity.blogspot.com/  (Bio., China, Uganda, Domestic, Special Needs, Older Child)
http://www.fivechilipeppers.blogspot.com/   (*Our Website: Bio, China, Special Needs, Older Child*)

Blogs by Adoptees:

Helpful blogs for families on the Journey:

Financing an Adoption:

Support for Families:

Mommy time:

*http://jenhatmaker.com  (adoptive mom too!)

Blogs on Attachment and RAD:

Orphan Ministries and Adoption Advocates:

* Blogs I have followed over the years and highly recommend)

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About us: We are Brad and Kim Smith, parents to seven children, and we have a passion for orphan and adoption ministry. Our seven children include 3 bio sons and 2 daughters and 2 sons adopted from China with varying special needs. We homeschool all 7 of our children and live life serving Jesus as our Lord and Savior.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

CONNECTING: with my spouse {Charlie and Me}


I sat on the couch, coffee in hand, pen and paper in lap, and contemplated the many ways my husband and I connected with each other during our adoption adventures.  And then I realized these connections were not the result of some miraculous epiphany; these bonds formed many years before we adopted our oldest boy, and continue to develop and evolve throughout our life together.

I can’t recall the exact moment or life event that opened my mind to the possibility of adoption as a way to build my future family, but by the time I entered my sophomore year in high school I knew my role as a parent in the far-off future would somehow involve adoption.  In fact, I was so convicted to this abstract decision that four years later, during the early dating phase of our relationship, I asked my then-boyfriend, Charlie, his thoughts on adoption.

“I would absolutely adopt a child,” he told me.  And that was when I knew I would eventually marry the boy.

Many years passed, and, as is often the case in marriages, life threw us some curve balls.  After one particularly painful and emotionally draining fork in our parenting road, I looked at Charlie and said, “I think it’s time for us to adopt.”

“Make some phone calls,” he replied.

We met with a local adoption attorney and I spoke with the director of a local crisis pregnancy center.  Both offered the same suggestion, “Contact the Gladney Center in Ft. Worth.  They’re the best.”

The next decision then presented itself: international or domestic adoption?  Charlie and I discussed our options and chose international adoption.  But, what country?  The answer revealed itself through Charlie’s disclosure to me that his mother’s family immigrated to America from Kiev in the early 1900’s.  Suddenly the choice was clear and we began the process of adopting through Gladney’s Russian adoption program.
The more Charlie and I talked and dreamt about our adoption possibilities, the easier our decisions became.  And when Gladney finally sent information about a baby ready to meet his new family, we immediately agreed to accept the referral.

Pregnancy and adoption both naturally draw a couple together as they prepare their home to become a haven for a family, not just two people sharing living quarters.  But, unlike pregnancy (where the woman’s body nurtures and protects the growing fetus while the man benignly watches from the sidelines), adoption allows both parents to work as equal partners in bringing the new child into the family.  Charlie and I worked in tandem to complete paperwork, make decisions, and prepare our home to welcome the newest member of our family. This combined effort culminated in our standing side by side before a judge in a courtroom halfway around the world, equally sharing in the euphoria that accompanies the “birth” of a child.



I am thankful to have a partner with whom I not only share all the ups and downs and responsibilities and exuberance that go along with parenting but who also harbors the same convictions and similar emotional ties to our children.  To me there is no connection more powerful or fulfilling.  This continuous bond brings me great joy in my journey as a wife, a mother, and a person, and I am forever grateful I found it with such an amazing and compassionate partner.

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Dawn Sticklen lives in Joplin, MO with her husband and four children, two of whom are adopted from Russia.  She writes the blog, 'Since You Asked...', where she hopes to make the world a better place, one blog post at a time.

Friday, August 9, 2013

ADOPTING FROM…(Country Spotlight): Ethiopia




1. Why did you choose to adopt from Ethiopia?


After waiting on a Taiwanese wait list for nearly six months, God abruptly placed it on our hearts to switch countries {and continents!}.  We spoke to everyone we knew who had adopted children and eventually had brunch with two families in our community who had children who'd been adopted from Ethiopia.  Twenty-four hours after that conversation, we were sure that God had called us to adopt from Ethiopia as well.  {As a side note, our son was conceived the same month that we switched and began to pursue an adoption from his birth country.}




2. Did you adopt independently or through an agency? 


Though we initially hoped to complete an adoption independently, once we chose Ethiopia, it became clear that we would use an agency.   


3. Is the country still open for adoption? 


Ethiopia is still open for adoption and is a strong program.  The country seems to be ever-evolving in regards to rules and regulations about the actual adoption process in an attempt to make the process more ethical and seamless.  


4. How long did it take?


Our process took almost two years from application to having our son home, but more recently, the trend seems to be longer.  However, there are so many variables...age/gender preference, openness to special needs, amount of orphanages a particular agency works with, regions the agency works with (some regions in Ethiopia are more open to international adoption than others), amount of waiting families on a particular agency's wait list, etc.

Our kids on July 4th, 2010 {the month we applied to our agency}
Melia (age 5) and Camden (age 3)

Our kids on July 4th, 2012 {two days after bring Bek home}
Melia (age 7), Camden (age 5), and Bekele (age 1)

5. How many times did you have to travel? 


Ethiopia is a two-trip process.  The purpose of the first trip is to meet your child(ren) and appear in the Ethiopian court to agree to the adoption.  One the second trip, the family has their official "gotcha day" and appears at the US Embassy for the visa appointment.  Our wait between trips was almost three months.

Court day {and B's first birthday}

Bek at our Guest House just after our Embassy appointment

6. What is the average cost of an adoption through Ethiopia?


Agency costs for adopting from Ethiopia are roughly $16,000 to $20,000.  Additionally, the two trips together average an additional $8,000 to $10,000.

7. What has been your biggest joy of adopting from Ethiopia?


Obviously, our son has been the biggest joy of adopting from Ethiopia.  But, in addition, adopting from Ethiopia has brought awareness and a love for a country halfway across the planet.  Ethiopia is a country rich in history and brimming with pride.  Our family has grown to love this beautiful, amazing culture and country.










Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Choosing Joy in the Journey of Motherhood


People say it all the time: Being a mom is about making sacrifices. And it absolutely is. If we are holding true to the definition when discussing the sacrifice of motherhood, it means, “to surrender something prized (our independence and self) for the sake of something considered as having a higher claim” (our children).  

At times I have a curious amazement with regard to the level of sacrifices that one will choose to make. Truly…daily life changes when children enter the picture. Our sacrifices come in all shapes and sizes: career changes, sleep deprivation, cancelling girls night out, embracing the spit up stains on your shoulders, down-sizing houses, up-sizing medical bills, scheduling bed time activities with the hubby {yep, I went there}.

Sacrifices. They’re out there. Moms make them all the time.

But here’s my issue with the above truth: When we allow ourselves to get so caught up in the sacrifices that we make as moms, we begin missing out on the REASON we’re sacrificing in the first place. And I, for one, refuse to allow the hiccups of daily life to rob me from experiencing the amazing joy in this journey called motherhood.

From what I can tell, being a mom allows us to live life and take in experiences in a way that wasn’t possible before putting on the mommy-hat. Now don't get me wrong, I’ve always been charismatic, outgoing, enthusiastic. I’ve experienced genuine joy; I’ve felt legitimate pain. But I never knew how profoundly I could love another human being, how dramatically I could feel someone else's pain, or to what degree I could celebrate in another’s successes, at ANY level, until I became a mom.

Here are a few examples:

The agonizing ache of waiting for my child to FINALLY be placed in my arms for the first time is like nothing I can even begin to explain, and wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy...yet the way that pain somehow vanished the first time I kissed him is nothing short of  miraculous.


The absolute pride of watching my daughter perform as Mary in her ever-so-professional preschool Christmas program nearly brought me to tears {yes, I have become THAT mom…I don’t know how, really. It just happened}.


The gut wrenching acknowledgement that my child will deal with assuming stares, ignorant whispers, and pre-determined limitations his entire life, yet finding the self restraint to keep the mama-bear in check while he discovers his place in this world is a struggle I face daily.
 


The fullness of living in these precious moments; of taking in every hug, kiss and giggle before it's too late.


...and approximately 42 seconds later...
The exhaustion of enduring an hour-long temper tantrum {which was most likely sparked by my giving him the wrong red crayon or the fact that her brother may be about to touch her} in a calm, adult-like manner is enough to make going to the grocery store alone rival a day at the spa.


The beautiful, miraculous wholeness that comes over me when I hear her singing ‘Jesus Loves Me’ to her baby brother is a feeling I wouldn’t trade for the world.


The sheer terror of seeing my toddler fall off the edge of a dock into an ice-cold lake strikes a fear so deep and real that the thought of never letting him out of arms’ length again makes perfect sense. 


Nope, motherhood is not for the faint of heart. It’s not always {ever?!} easy. It’s fun and difficult, rewarding and trying, exhilarating and exhausting, beautiful and messy, exciting and terrifying…often at the same time.

But more than anything it is incredible. Amazing. Miraculous. Mind-blowing. It is an experience that literally takes my breath away every day. God picked ME, out of every other person on the face of this earth, to be the mommy to these precious angels. 

How lucky blessed am I?! 

Of course there are days that I'm ready to lock myself in the bathroom with my Ipod, a good book, and something with LOTS of calories; there are days when I think that one more 'why' might just send me over the edge. I'm not about to say that those days don't exist. But I can still choose to savor these fleeting moments that I know will be gone all too soon.

And, yes, motherhood is about making sacrifices. But they don’t have to be the life-sucking kind of sacrifices that will deplete you of YOU. ‘Super Moms’ are no more real than the boogie man. Your family deserves to have a mom who is fulfilled, happy, and a joy to be around—one whose footsteps they will be inspired to follow.

So choose today to be a mom who makes the most out of life and lives each day with a purpose.
Close the computer lid {after you finish reading this, of course}.
Let the laundry pile up and have a pillow fight instead.
Go on a walk and see the world through your child’s eyes.
Sing loudly and off key.
Dance like a maniac.
Run through the sprinklers.
Tell your kids that they can be ANYTHING.
Tell yourself the same thing.

Now believe it.

Friday, August 2, 2013

CONNECTING: with birthparents

Her Facebook status read:

                “I’m EQUIVALENT to a high school graduate!! That’s right, I beat the GED!  Wahoo!” 

As I read her post, I was overwhelmed, excited and so pleased for her.  I have known her through 13 years of struggles, trials and JOYS!  But it is the joys that diminish all the other moments and make the relationship worth every minute!  She has worked so hard to get to this point in her life and I am blessed to share this moment with her….because I always knew she could do it!  I LOVE THIS WOMAN!  

I love hearing about her journey!  I love knowing she will always be a part of my life and family. I loved telling her daughter she received her GED and seeing the smile on her face, as we talk about what that means. But most of all, I LOVE that because of her…some pretty precious little people call me “Momma.”  

She is the birthmother of my daughter, Mackenzie, and her half-brother, Gage.  She is my friend and I am so grateful that God joined our lives together.



Mackenzie and her birthmother

My name is Emily, and God has loaned me six beautiful angels!  Our oldest, Michael (23), was our nephew before he became our son.  Miranda (22) was crazy enough to adopt US as her parents 3 years ago.  Mackenzie (12) was a private domestic adoption.  Mason (10) and Zeke (5) were adopted through foster care.  Currently, we are in the process of adopting Gage (9) from a kinship foster placement.  With each child’s adoption we have been taken on a new road in our journey and on that road we usually gain more than one passenger.  I LOVE that!!  We not only gain this beautiful new life in our family, but we also have the privilege of welcoming birthparents, siblings, aunts and uncles, sometimes previous foster families and if we are fortunate enough…even more grandparents!

My children are each connected, in one way or another, to one or many members of their birth family.  I can honestly say that when our adoption journey began over 17 years ago, I had no idea my family would include such a diverse group of individuals.  While I LOVE explaining all the branches of our family tree, it is rather confusing and I would hate to lose you!  I will say we have an amazing bond with two of our kiddos' older brother, who lives with his biological father and step mom.  This young man is fourteen and would do anything for his little brother and sister.  I am still so overjoyed that his father brought him to the hospital when he was 2 and let him hold his baby sister in our hospital room.  

We are also blessed to have a “Pops.”  He is the great-grandfather of one of our sons.  He and his wife took our boy into their home when he was placed in foster care at 2. He is such a strong, caring man and he loves ALL of our children…as his grandchildren!  

We have had the opportunity to see birth mothers have more children and experience the pure JOY of motherhood.  We have had the opportunity to make memories with family members that thought they may never see this child again…I can’t imagine the feeling of loss…and don’t want to! 


Mackenzie and her two biological half-brothers

I came upon this verse, as I was preparing to write this blog, about connecting with birth families: “God sets the lonely in families.” ~Psalm 68:6

This is so true!  Isn’t it just amazing how He weaves all our journeys together?!  Praise the Lord!  Birth families are such an amazing connection to our childrens’ pasts and one more soul to love them through their future.  People always ask me, “How do you do it?”  My usual response is, “By God’s grace.”  

Building and forging a relationship with birth families is not always easy…and unfortunately, not always possible.  I am careful to keep some family members at arms-length, but if they are appropriate and have a genuine love for our child…why would I say no?!?  As an adoptive parent, you ALWAYS have the right to say no…you are their PARENT!  But if you are given an opportunity…or if God so directs your path…open your hearts to the possibility of loving these extended family members too!  I LOVE the JOY these individuals bring to my life and my child’s!  This is how we are finding the JOY in our JOURNEY!!                                        
                      
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My name is Emily.  I spend about 10 months out of the year being the secretary at my childrens' elementary school.  I love my job, coworkers, and environment!  I love taking my children to work with me and being there when they have finished a hard day at school.  I was recently invited to be on the Orphan Care Ministry Team at our church and I love where God is leading me!!