To those of you participating, are you keeping up with the daily challenges? How is it going? If you still want to join us in Advent for Orphans, it’s not too late!! Go back and get caught up on the VERY simple daily things to-do and I’ll enter you for my sweet giveaway!! Just let me know you’re participating!
Melissa B emailed me about day 5 when we had to count our coats and I just had to share!
“We’re all really loving this special way to focus on others during this Advent. We do our devotions at night since it’s the only time we can do them as a family, but little Lincoln can’t always make it through the calculations…especially when you have 19 coats/jackets at $.20!”
For December 6th, we were to count the drawers/ cupboards in our kitchen Our boys counted each door of each cabinet (some cabinets have two doors that open the same cabinet). And they counted the dishwasher as a cabinet! They also included the stove drawer. So we had a total of 19 x 7 cents each = $1.33
How many drawers/ cupboards did you have? I would love to hear your story of how Advent for Orphans is going! And share a picture too!
For December 7th:
-Give 5 cents for every light switch in your home!
-Pray for those without electricity. Pray that their needs would be met by Christians around the world. That they would be given warmth and at least minimal comfort. Pray that these people would seek and find Christ and that their faith would be strengthened.
-Pray for the children in Zambia who are studying at the Lifesong school. Pray that they would grow in Biblical truth and become future leaders.
How did counting your coats go? Although it can get cold where we live (Texas), we actually don’t own too many winter coats. We usually just wear a couple of sweatshirts if we have to. Since we only own three coats between the six of us, we counted jackets and zip-up sweatshirts that we often wear as jackets.
So we had a total of 16 coats/ jackets/ zip-up sweatshirts x 20 cents each = $3.20
By the way… just got a note from Candice that says: “If you find you have a plethora of coats as you are counting them and want to donate some to those in need, my church (Cottonwood Creek Baptist) is collecting coats right now for Operation Care Dallas.” If you have extra coats and would like to donate them, let me know and I’ll get you Candice’s info!!
It was very meaningful to pray for all the little ones that don’t have a warm coat. My heart is broken for them and we realize the need to give more, to be more.
I love how Ann Voskamp says it… “Be the gift.” “We have the opportunity to be the GIFT together this Christmas, to not miss Christ, to make room for Him in the Inn, to make room for the babes around the world who need our help.”
For December 6th:
-Give 7 cents for every drawer/ cupboard in your kitchen.
-Pray for children who have no family kitchen, children that can’t cling to a Mama’s leg while she’s busy preparing dinner. Pray that these sweet ones would gain a forever family before it’s too late for them.
-Pray for the Lifesong workers in Liberia as they care for orphaned and abandoned children and provide food, shelter, and medical care.
How did counting your beds go? Really makes you realize how much you have and how much so many others lack.
We counted four beds at our house. I was inspired by Michele D. that counted the couch (because you sometimes fall asleep there!) and Debbie who counted her packed-away air mattress! Very neat!
I like how Melissa R, who just moved into a new house, only had stained concrete rooms so far, so she counted rugs on the day we were to count carpeted rooms! And Jen who had a couple rooms that have large area rugs, she counted those rooms as carpeted rooms! I like how Candice included puzzles in counting their games! Both Candice and Michele D had 36 games/puzzles each! I’m loving hearing about how y’all are so giving!
I love what Jen said about Advent Day One when we had to count our Bibles:
“Ok, so the kids and I rounded up the Bibles, and I’m pretty sure there are a few we missed. *blush* But there are 26 Bibles… story Bibles, picture Bibles, pocket Bibles, Bibles with commentaries, etc. My hubby and I both went to Bible college, and we have Bibles in different translations. I told the kids that after hubby gets home from work, we will go through and decide which ones we are going to keep, and then donate the rest. This is eye opening and I know we are SO blessed to own so many Bibles, esp. when so many in the world don’t even own one!”
It’s not too late to join in on our Advent for Orphans!! Go back and get caught up on days 1-4 and you’ll be right on track! Leave me a comment on this post saying you’re participating and I’ll enter you in a fun giveaway! I’ll be posting the challenges here each day until December 24th so you don’t need the actual calendar to participate!
For December 5th:
-Give 20 cents for every coat you own!
-Pray for those orphans who lay cold, without a warm coat during cold weather. Pray that God would wrap His loving arms around them and that Christians would rise up to provide warmth for them.
-Pray for the 600+ orphans in India that Lifesong cares for, that their physical and spiritual needs be met. And also for those who are teaching English and life skills to these children.
To help spur each other on, I would love for you to email me any pictures of the stuff you’re counting and/or your Advent for Orphans Jar (or however you’re holding the money)! I’d love to post your pics on the blog!
For December 3rd, we counted 21 games in our home (although it was sketchy, seemed like some ‘activities’ didn’t quite qualify as a ‘game’?) We just did the best we could counting and had fun with it! So 21 games x 3 cents each = 63 cents! How many games did you have?
Tomorrow’s Challenge (for December 4th):
Give 50 cents for each bed you have in your home!
Pray for children who have no beds to lie in and for those who just don’t have a soft, clean one to sleep in. Also pray for the Lifesong workers in Honduras as they teach and feed the children there- that they will have unity, energy, and endurance.
(For those of you with the official calendar, I did change this one up a little, have fun and enjoy!)
Just want to share an extra little story here. Much of what Americans do when we pray, when we go to church, etc is based on tradition. For example, standing up when reading God’s Word. Which, tradition is fine a lot of the time. But when it steps over to legalism, it’s probably crossed the line. Legalism is easy to fall into and often we ‘feel’ that there’s a right way and a wrong way on issues that aren’t really moral issues at all. So my son did something I want to tell you about. He started this a couple of months ago and at first I corrected him for it. But then I realized that what he’s doing is not ‘wrong,’ and that this is an area I can show grace and not ingrain legalism into his little heart! After he prayed for today’s Advent calendar, instead of saying “Amen” he said “Bye bye.” Like I said, at first I corrected him for this (a couple of months ago), but then I realized that my little three year old is developing a wonderful habit of prayer. Why in the world would I want to discourage him and tell him he’s doing it wrong? I don’t think God minds a bit that he says “bye bye” instead of “amen!” It makes me smile now. His little heart is in the right place and that’s what matters most.
The “Advent for Orphans” calendar is off to a great start with quite a few of you joining me! It’s not too late if you still want to participate! Anyone can do it!
Especially if you have children!
If you want to join us (which will automatically enter you into my giveaway!), then leave me a comment on this post.
For December 2nd, my boys had so much fun counting all the carpeted rooms in our house and then getting out their calculators to do the multiplication. One closet got counted as a room because it’s a large-walk in. And they counted the carpeted stairs and top landing area as one room. So we had 7 carpeted rooms in all, a total of $2.10!
For December 3rd:
Give 3 cents for every game in your home. (Uh oh, us homeschoolers might be in for an all-day task!)
Pray for the children with HIV/AIDS in Guatemala to have hope, and to fully experience the love that God has for them.
I’m SO excited about those of you doing this with me!! Leave me a comment if you’re doing the Advent for Orphans calendar also so I can enter you for our giveaway!!
Day Two: Give 30 cents for every carpeted room in your home.
Pray for the teachers in Lifesong’s schools in Ethiopia, that they would have the compassion, skills, and strength to influence the children for the Lord.
Here was our Day One- $2.40 (40 cents per Bible x 6 Bibles in our home). Our children had a blast gathering up everyone’s Bibles and counting out the coins! (I know my jar isn’t pretty and decorated, feel free to send me a picture of your pretty jar and I’ll post it!)
Make sure to leave me a comment if you’d like to do the Advent for Orphans with me! Click here to see the details about what it is.
Lifesong for Orphans has released a neat “Advent for Orphans” calendar that I’d like to post about each day from December 1-24. My hope is that you’ll JOIN ME in the daily challenges and prayers! If you choose to participate, you’re in for a blessing!
Do you know the Bible verse, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Have you ever experienced that? It is truly SO much more blessed to GIVE than to get!
Will you join me in the blessing of giving?
I like this quote by Ray Comfort, one of my favorite speakers/ authors: “Give because you want to, not because you have to. God loves a cheerful giver, so learn to hold your money with a loose hand.”
For those of you that participate with me, we will do a random drawing at the end of our 24 days. The winner will receive a personal gift from me that you won’t want to miss!
***Each day the calendar will challenge us to do small things like, “Give 20 cents for every coat you own.” And “Give 2 cents for every pair of shoes in your home.” This would be a GREAT thing to have your children do with you! Let them count the coats, count the shoes, count how many faucets you have for running water, count out the donation, and pray for those without coats and shoes and running water. Throughout the month you could keep your donations in a jar or somewhere fun for your children.
There is also a designated prayer for each day and I will include that in the daily post as well.
The hustle and bustle of the Christmas season in America has a powerful way of luring us in to materialism and consumerism. I have to intentionally focus on not forgetting the least of these or I get over-run with… me. That’s why I’m so excited to be doing this calendar for December!
At the end of the 24 days, we can mail our donations to Lifesong for Orphans and it will go directly to helping orphans worldwide!! What a wonderful Christmas gift to give!
I know we are all on a budget, so if there are days you cannot find a way to meet the daily challenge, you’re not obligated or anything, just do the days that you can. As long as you give it your best effort, you can still be entered to win the giveaway!
Day One: for December 1st:
-Pray that the 13,000+ orphaned, abandoned, and vulnerable children in Bolivia can know the love and care of a forever family.
-Give 40 cents for every Bible in your home.
The quotes below from Larry Bergeron’s book, “Journey to the Fatherless” were really convicting to me and at times made me say, “ouch.” But in a good way, because we need to be reminded that it’s not about us, and that there are little ones and people in desperate need that are waiting for us to come help them.
And by the way, if you’re looking for a neat way to help some children this Christmas, consider purchasing a Hope Box which supplies a child with life-saving water and high-protein food, organized by this author’s incredible ministry. Or do their 10 for 1 program. $10 feeds one child for one month. This is a very reputable ministry that has the smallest overhead costs I’ve seen, they are very trust-worthy and I personally support them. I also have another exciting Christmas giving opportunity to share with you too (more details coming tomorrow!!)
Book Quotes that Stuck Out To Me:
In the forward to the book: “Unlike other material that may exist, this book may cause you to make decisions that will ruin you in glorious ways, and make your life fuller (and perhaps more challenging) than you ever imagined.”
“Jesus calls each of us to be His agents of mercy on earth until He comes again. But I warn you, Satan will set traps of discouragement and doubt. He will quietly tell you that there is no way you could ever care for a foster child, love an orphan, or afford the expense of an adoption. He will remind you daily that there is no way you can provide clean drinking water to a thirsty child in India, life saving nourishing food to an orphan in Swaziland, medical care to an earthquake victimized little boy in Haiti, books and school supplies to a impoverished girl in Appalachia or for an intercessor to free a child from s*xual slavery in Thailand.”
“Satan will tell church leaders they have enough ministries already, and to add one more would be impractical. One of the more common justifications is a new building fund which is ‘needed right now more than anything.’ When that situation does not apply, then the excuse becomes the people of the church are too busy and would become overwhelmed by the work of orphan care and certain leadership must protect them from becoming overextended.”
“Satan will tell you that your life is busy, someone else can do it. He’ll tell you that life is short so do what you can for yourself. He’ll tell you to hold onto your well earned treasures rather than share them with a family trying to adopt. He’ll tell you that you are near retirement age and there are younger people who can help these children.”
“There is a blessing that comes when you adopt a child, when you offer hope to the child in foster care or the orphan. When you do, your life will have special meaning that can transcend the disappointments of life because you helped a child in need. But that is not all. The huge blessing we get is the promise that the Lord made in Psalm 41:1-2.”
“Blessed is he that considereth the poor: the Lord will deliver him in time of trouble.”
“The Lord will preserve him, and keep him alive; and he shall be blessed upon the earth: and thou wilt not deliver him unto the will of his enemies.”
“Not everyone can or should adopt, and not every child is eligible for adoption, but every Christian can and should care for a child who is fatherless or orphaned.”
“This venture, this journey to the fatherless proves to be a pathway like no other, leading to a depth and purpose you just can’t find at a golf course or day spa.”
“We see this love not only in that God has called us to “defend the cause of the fatherless,” but that He has defended us. Not only that He directs us to “visit orphans in their distress,” but that He has visited us in ours. Not only that He invites us to set the lonely in families, but that He set us in His. Indeed, we love because He first loved us.”
“Ultimately, a journey to the fatherless is a journey to the heart of God.”
“This journey to the fatherless is a venture of unparallel difficulty and beauty that will not leave us or the world unchanged.”
David Platt is quoted in this book: “We see up close a propensity in our budgets to value our comforts over others’ needs. As I write this, more than five hundred million people in the world are starving to death. They lack food, water, and basic medical care. Children are dying of diseases like diarrhea; many who live will suffer lifelong brain damage from early protein deficiency. Others will be sold into forced labor or trafficked for sexual exploitation. Nearly one hundred fifty million children are orphans. Yet judging by what we hang on to in our churches, convenient programs and nice parking lots are still more important than such children and their families.”
“Living out the gospel will be hard work, and it will be demanding. It will cause us to evaluate what to do with the treasures piling up in our homes, with our talents that others profit from and with the time that we unknowingly invest in non-eternal things.“
“Every one of us in some way can be a solution provider helping the hand of an orphan or vulnerable child.”
I started this post at about the 3 month mark, and here I am 3 weeks later just getting around to posting it.
We’ve had Cole since August 5th. He was tiny and underweight when we got him. He’s went from skin and bones to quite the solid little man, you can visibly see fat on his body now! He’s up to 27.4 pounds now and still loves to eat.
That’s a tad over a 7 1/2 pound weight gain on a two-year old, WOW!
A 38% increase in body weight in 112 days!
His body needed those calories so badly. He can think and explore richly because he’s not worried about being hungry.
You know you’ve finally taught a child that food will always be available when he actually turns you down for food! Yes, most of the time he definitely wants to eat as soon as you mention it and he will still gobble up everything you give him. But a couple of times now I’ve offered him more food and he’s actually said, “no.” Wow! That’s huge. Look at these chunkers…
He was 31 inches tall at his Visa Medical Exam while we were in China, done on August 12th. He is now 32 1/2 inches tall. How does a two year old grow 1 1/2 inches in less than four months?! His body needed the nutrition to grow, big time.
Up until 2-3 weeks ago, Cole would NOT let me lay him in my arms like a baby in a cradled position and sing to him. He wanted upright and… well, pretty much down out of my arms. He’d take Dada any day though! But after having a huge episode of screaming one day he was absolutely exhausted. I layed him in my arms and sang softly to him. He had no energy left to fight me. So he just laid there still as a mouse and enjoyed it and completely calmed down every muscle of his body. Now he sometimes asks to be laid in my arms and asks me to sing to him. He loves it. It is so comforting and soothing to him.
When a little baby is held and loved, thousands of neurons are firing in their brain. This stimulates development and trust and healthy relationships. Cole missed out on this. But now when I hold him and he lays so completely still and stares into my eyes, I can see the voids being filled. He’s making up for lost time. Those connections are powerfully meaningful. We’re taking back what the enemy stole. When I stop singing, he softly asks for more. He lays limp and comforted, just completely melts in my arms. Precious boy.
One evening before we traveled to China we were having a family hymn time at home. Jason was playing the guitar and we decided to sing “He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands.” Such a sweet little song. Then one verse just left my heart a bowl of mush. Here we are about to travel across the world to bring home a little one and my heart is broken for all the little children out there who have no Mama to hold them and love them, and we sang… “He’s got the tiny little babies, in His hands…”
“He’s got the tiny little babies, in His hands.”
“He’s got the tiny little babies, in His hands.”
“He’s got the whole world in His hands.”
Now here I am holding Cole in my arms in the U.S. and singing those same words.
Profound difference between then and now.
I keep reminding myself that satan wanted to destroy Cole, he still does. He wanted nothing more than for Cole and every other orphan to wither away in a neglectful institutional setting or on the streets. He especially does not want these children to be lovingly welcomed into Christian families. But God… He had a plan for Cole’s life. He had a plan for our family. He knew. And He worked mightily to get Cole home.
We do have many moments of struggles, our journey so far has been hard, I won’t lie. There’s a new adoption documentary called “Dark Matter of Love.” To love and adopt is amazing and glorious and beautiful. But it can also be messy and hard and broken. Love is not always easy. In the documentary, a family is videotaped as they interact with their newly adopted children. They watch the video back with an adoption expert and kind of analyze the body language and how everyone was feeling. Kind of eye opening actually. What if you were videotaped interacting with your child? You’d probably learn a thing or two! Well, I haven’t videotaped myself, but since seeing the video I do kind of think more about analyzing the situation instead of ‘reacting’ to the situation. If I take the time to think about analyzing Cole’s behavior and looking at his heart, I can be more sensitive to how he is processing the situation. He is a sensitive little fella and doesn’t like if things are unfair or wrong. He’s smart and in-tune with what’s going on emotionally.
For me, emotionally, it’s been like a roller coaster. But I will say, the highs are really high! Cole is beyond precious and smart and cute and cuddly! We really couldn’t have asked for a more sweet boy!
We know that Cole’s life mattered so much to God that He sent us after him. We know that “all things work together for good to them that love God.” And we know that in our weakness, Christ’s strength is made perfect.
We will continue to strive to purposefully parent Cole so that he will grow up with healthy attachments, healthy relationships, healing from his past, and most importantly a strong love for God and His Word. We are immersing ourselves in resources that will help and equip us to do the best job possible. Great children don’t turn out that way by accident, it takes a lot of work and effort, and that’s a good thing.
Thank you to everyone who has come alongside us and been support and encouragement. And especially fellow adoptive Mama’s out there who have made me feel like I am not alone and the issues we face are completely normal. If you’re an adoptive family struggling (and we all do at some point!!), don’t do it alone. Reach out to other adoptive families who can share with you, weep with you, and encourage you, it can make all the difference in the world. There are some families that have been through some dark valleys, and their wisdom can be just the thing you need. Also, to my non-adoptive friends, you also have been a priceless treasure of encouragement!!
Thank the Lord that this little boy is HOME…
We hadn’t yet shared our Gotcha Day video because it was a sad day and our hearts were still processing those moments. We weren’t sure if we wanted to share. But now that Cole has gained so much weight and hardly looks like the same little boy in this video, we pray this video will serve as a reminder of what family can do for an orphaned child.
The below (condensed) post was written by a mother of 12, seven of them by adoption. That definitely qualifies her as having much experience with adoption! This post of hers hit home with me in many ways. It’s probably most beneficial to adoptive families only, but feel free to read on even if you’re not an adoptive family.
“Note: When I write about adoption, I’m speaking to other Christians. I can’t write about adoption “in general” without beginning and ending with my faith. Separating my feelings and beliefs on adoption from my feelings and beliefs about Jesus is simply impossible.
I can only see adoption through the lenses by which I see everything: Christ. Adoption would never have been part of my story apart from Christ tilling up the hard ground of my heart and opening my eyes to the 150,000,000 children around the world who don’t have a mother or father to call their own.
I’m gonna share my heart. Something that – as an adoptive mama who loves to encourage others to consider adoption – is not easy to say. And to those of y’all in the early phases of adoption, I’m betting it’s not going to be easy to hear.
There is no such thing as an easy adoption.
A smidge of pertinent background before we go on. My husband and I came to Christ in 2002. So when we prayed our little hearts out less than 2 years later, telling the Lord that we wanted His will for our lives and not our own, we were brand new, milk-still-on-our-upper-lip baby Christians. We had moved away from our close friends who had discipled us and we were on our own in a whole new community, in a whole new state. And less than 6 months after praying that prayer on trembling knee, God laid adoption on my husband’s heart. Completely out of the blue. We didn’t know anyone who had adopted, internationally or domestically. We didn’t have any Chinese friends. We had never heard a sermon preached on adoption. We had never heard of the “orphan crisis”.
We just knew what God said and we knew what we’d prayed. Eleven months later, Isabelle came home. And we witnessed God’s hand every step of the the way.
After Isabelle came home, we honestly expected to be done. Fini. The end. But it wasn’t the end. If you’ve followed our blog, you know the rest of our story… we stepped out again and again. And again. In 2012 we brought home Tallula, our 12th child (Esther passed away before we were able to travel for her), our 7th child by means of adoption.
Which is why, I suppose, I think a lot about adoption. We have more Chinese-born in our house than American-born. Our biological kids are outnumbered by our adopted kids. Adoption has consumed much of our thoughts, finances and energy for the last 9 years. And now that we are kinda-sorta-maybe done growing our family, and I don’t have to spend so much time changing diapers and wearing my Ergo carrier, I’ve managed to dig into the Word again and gain some much-needed and much-appreciated perspective on adoption. Because adoption is one meaty word.
“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” — James 1:5
When you let go of your plans and tell Him you want His plan for your life, He will give you the eyes to see it.
And I am so grateful for that. He opened our eyes and immediately our hearts broke for the orphan. He didn’t even have to give us a reference point for it… we were blank canvases who simply trusted. Some might call that naive, some might call that plain crazy. And I can’t disagree. But when you are trusting and believing in the One who made you, the One who made the universe and everything in it, trusting is really the only sane thing to do.
So there we were. Eyes on Him. And He was pointing to orphans halfway around the world. And oh-my-goodness has He blessed us exponentially for our feeble trust. I have posted here for seven years, 1,925 posts to be exact, and only managed to share a smidgen of the overflow of the joy that has come from growing our family by adoption.
But this post isn’t about the easy-to-see, fun-to-talk-about kind of blessings. It’s about the hard-fought blessings. The blessings that we not only don’t want to talk about, the blessings we don’t even want. And I know these blessings-that-don’t-feel-like-blessings first hand.
Let me be honest. I am a painfully slow learner. Because even as He has been revealing His truths to me, I falter again and again. When struggles surface, when issues arise, my actions reveal what I often want most: Comfort. Ease. Normalcy.
And this is what I want to share with y’all. With those of us that choose to follow Him off the beaten path and onto the exceedingly beautiful but often crooked path of adoption.
Adoption is one heck of a sanctifying experience.
It will showcase your fears, anxieties and failings. It will make you want to run screaming from the room when your selfishness surfaces or your laziness reigns again. It will reveal all the broken places you’ve not-so-effectively covered up. It will point out your sinfulness like nothing else.
Adoption is walking out God’s call to “love your neighbor as yourself.” To “care for the least of these.” To bring a child that was once a complete stranger into your home to love and cherish forever. And the truth of it is, sometimes your “neighbor” drives you absolutely nutty. Sometimes your “neighbor” shrieks all night and throws temper tantrums all day. Sometimes the needs of the “least of these” positively overwhelms. Sometimes you fear that you can’t even parent your other children well for trying to fill the seemingly unending needs of one child. Sometimes you feel like you simply can’t go on one. more. day.
This is when, if you allow Him, He will show you that you are as broken and in need as the child you are trying to parent.
This is when, if you allow it, He will do His mightiest, most redemptive work in you.
This is when, if you allow it, He will make you more like His Son.
“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for My (God’s) strength is made perfect in (our) weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” — 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
So don’t miss this, struggling mama. God uses the weak, the broken, and the flawed to fulfill His plans. He calls us to join Him in this mighty, redemptive work called adoption. He brings children out of orphanages, binds up their wounds and makes them beloved children. And He uses every bit of the joy and the pain to point us back to His goodness for His glory.
If you’re just getting started on this journey, know this. Adoption always takes us out of our comfort zone. You might feel more than ready for that, but undoubtedly there will be moments that there is nothing you’ll desire more than the “comfort” of what used to be. And in those moments – or for some of us, those days or weeks – instead of giving in to your own desire for normal, allow Him to have His way.
Because the Jesus that is worthy of following into adoption is the Jesus who is worth trusting in the middle of adoption. When the shiny veneer of adoption is long gone.
James 1:27 is a call to action that resonates deeply with those of us who have adopted. We highlight it in our Bibles, we wear it on t-shirts, we memorize it and share it with others because it is truth. “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”
But how does the book of James start?
“My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers (various) temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” — James 1:2-4
We need to put theses two truths together, sweet sister. We must cling to what we trust He will do with the pieces when we admit the brokenness of ourselves, and lay it all at His feet. Because His promises are true.
And as we trust Him to work on us, may we humbly recognize the sanctifying work He is doing in our fellow believers who are called to adoption as well. May we pour out grace upon grace to those who are struggling. Instead of throwing arrows, may we offer mercy. Instead of self-righteousness, may we offer help. May we point them always to Christ, the only One who is able to make all things new.
And then? When we are parenting these precious children He has entrusted to us? Children from horribly broken places? Then we can speak His truth over them like no one else. Because we have made a covenant with Him, the most unbelievable exchange in history: His strength for our weakness, His fullness for our lack, His perfection for our sin. And we can point our children to Him to be made whole – perfect and complete, lacking in nothing – as well.”
——-(See the full-length article at Ni Hao Y’all.)
Speaking of author Ann Voskamp yesterday… Ever since I read her book “One Thousand Gifts”, I’ve kept a “Thankfulness Journal” where I’ve made it a habit to jot down a few things each day that I’m thankful for.
It’s amazing how many more blessings you find when you’re looking for them!
It really has built a habit of thankfulness in me. I think of many things each day that I don’t even write down, just verbally give thanks to the Lord. In 2012, I recorded 2,026 things I was thankful for. So far this year, I have 1,835 gifts of grace recorded in my journal. God’s been amazing!
Something else sweet has happened from me reading that book and developing the habit of thankfulness, something I didn’t expect at all.
My son Alex asked if he could have a journal so he can write things he’s thankful for just like Mama does. I had no idea he even noticed me keeping a thankfulness journal! Well then, of course Caden (age 3) wanted a journal as well.
Now each night, they write a couple of things they are thankful for. I LOVE this, so so precious!
Here is a page of Caden’s (age 3) journal that he wrote all by himself with no help from me…
“I love you God and Jesus, Dada, Mama, Alex, Cole, Emily”
And this is the first two pages out of Alex’s (age 6) journal…
What a precious habit for little ones to learn, to always look for things to be thankful for!
This is not adoption related, but I was blown away at this powerful post by Ann Voskamp today. I just had to pass it on. I’ve read her book “One Thousand Gifts,” an amazing book, gave my daughter a middle name based on this book. I highly recommend you read it! Definitely on my Top 10 List of books everyone should read. You can also subscribe to her blog to receive emails each time she posts, and her posts are so beautiful, always touching the soul. I hope you enjoy her most recent post as much as I did…
Posted: 19 Nov 2013 10:08 AM PST
There must have been a blow-out sale on sheeny wrapping paper with dancing reindeer that year.
Because that’s what she’d wrapped everything in – flashy reindeer with bulbous red noses.
A whole herd of them circled under the blinking tree slathered with cheap tinsel and Grandma had scrawled our names in blotchy blue ink on each of the packages — To Jill. To John. To Ann – to all 14 of her plain-named grandkids.
The decades have irreverently erased whatever my brother John ripped into on that Christmas Eve.
But there’s no forgetting sitting on that red shag carpet down in Grandma and Grandpa’s rec room — with that oversized fly swatter from Texas hanging over the couch — and Grandma cracking her knees as she handed all the girl cousins our matching boxes.
Jill and I tore back those shamelessly nosy deers — and held up these matching green and black mottled sweaters–with tacked on strings of pink pearl beads dangling from one shoulder to the other like a drape of neon gaudiness.
No words. Weak, thin smiles. But no words.
What does a selfish 12-year-old say when holding up a sweater she’d never wear even on a cold day in Mongolia?
Apparently Grandma had a first rate degree in reading the minds of selfish 12-year-old girls.
“We can take them back. I have the receipts to The Met for both of them up there in the spare bedroom,” she was already getting up, cracking her worn out knees and moving toward the stairs, toward the spare bedroom.
“And we can just take them back – don’t rip off the tags — and you both can get something that you like.”
Like I didn’t like my own withered Grandma. Like I didn’t love everything about her. Like you could box up your bare heart and bravely hand it to someone in chintzy wrapping paper — and then everyone just decide it’s best to return it?
How did Christmas become something that we could return on Boxing Day – when Christ came to be. with. us.?
How did Christmas get handcuffed by chains of Big Box stores – when the Christ Child came small and subversively and for freedom?
How did Christmas get to be more about cheap stuff than a lavish Savior?
What makes us scared to do Christmas counter-culture — when it’s about God upending everything?
When a twelve-year-old girl was brave enough to bear down and birth God in a barn? When one man resolutely stood beside his pregnant girlfriend – big with a baby she confessed wasn’t his? When the God of the universe pulls on flesh and curls his deity into the helpness of a baby’s groping fingers? When the whole story flies straight in the face of the expected, cultural norms?
The crushing gears of Herodian forces can still tear families apart at Christmas, rabid materialism and cultural pressures hunting hard through every home to steal The Child.
I can remember Grandma’s gravelly voice, the way something had caught in her throat, something like her heart, the way she’d turned at the bottom of the stairs looking for those receipts.
I wish we had all been brave right then. I wish I had held those frail shoulders of hers, pulled that brave heart of hers close and told her that what matters is people being with each other, not people buying for each other.
Time together is too short to waste on long nooses of expectations.
Grandma’s ashes would be scattered under the oak trees down in Centerton for five long Christmases before I’d figure it out —
Before I’d be brave enough to return a gaudy imitation of Christmas — that had little to do with God.
Sure, I don’t feel one iota brave – more like a donkey fool – when I send the two youngest boys back to the woods to hunt me down a little cedar tree.
“Not more than 2 feet high or so, Levi.” I’m leaning out the back door, trying to show him with my hands stretched out like I’m telling some exaggerated fish tale.
He pulls down his hat, raises his eyebrows — as if eyebrows could hook his mother and yank her out of buffoonery.
“Because I need an upside down Christmas tree, that’s why.” And I grin like the donkey that I am and close the back door behind me. The ole knees crack a bit going up the back garage steps.
I’ve got the fish wire all ready and laid out when Levi and Kai comes carrying in this sparse cedar tree. “And now what exactly are you going to do with it?” Kai’s got hands on hips, that stance that thinks it can force your heart to cough up what it wants to know.
“I’m going to hang it.” I grin. “Upside down. From that beam.” I point. “With fish wire.”
You bet, boys.
We’re hanging Christmas upside down this year, boys —
We’re hanging Christmas upside down this year so real love falls out of it.
We’re hanging Christmas upside down this year so no one gets hanged by debt.
We’re hanging Christmas upside down this year because we’re giving the whole Christmas season to Jesus and His Upside Down Kingdom, not just some tossed crusty edge of of it.
Because we can feel it — how we’re done with the malls and missing Jesus.
We are done with busy Christmases and brushing past Christ.
We are done with over-stuffed Christmases and we are desperate to give the gift of being overcome by Christ.
You can get tired enough that you’re ready for a Christmas revolution.
Levi holds that tree turned right upside down, holds it from the beam and I touch an old wooden cross beam and tie that upside down tree up with fish wire and you bet we’re hanging Christmas upside down this year — because the only thing that catches men’s hearts is to live upside down.
To give the gifts of time and memories and words and togetherness. To give to the least of these because it’s giving to Christ and who in the world’s birthday is it anyways, to invite someone lonely and lost and looking right up to the table and pass down the ham and ask them to linger with you a bit in the light that busted us all out of the dark.
To give funds to the kids – so the kids have the fun of giving to others – because it’s mindblowingly better to give than to receive and this isn’t some cute cliche — it’s how Christ-followers upend the cosmos.
Laying the Compassion Gift Catalogues out under the Upside Down Tree feels radically subversive and we’re a whole Esther Generation that is hungry to upend the fake version of the commercialized way to really live the Way, the Truth and the Life.
To upend the old exhausting burdens of the holidays that about strangle us — and string up some new traditions that are about as weightless as a tree suspended in thin air.
To spend Advent, this season of waiting for His coming, tracing the family tree of Christ, journeying 25 days through the Old Testament and into the New, reading how, in story after story, there is a Love that comes down, that comes after us and upends what was meant to harm us, that upends what was crushing us, that upends what just about has undone us.
I hang the 25 ornaments, one from every one of these 25 unlikely, unexpected, upending grace stories, on our Upside Down Christmas tree, on our Upside Down Jesse Tree — and there’s a way to celebrate Advent that overthrows everthing that threatens to overtake Christmas.
Levi strings up the ornament with the babe, hangs it near the top of the Upside Down Tree. A Christ-centered Christmas doesn’t scale back Christmas — it scales up WHO Christmas is about.
“You’re pretty brave, hanging that up there, eh?” I ask Levi, Levi leaning off the ladder, Levi breaking into this silly grin. Maybe being pretty brave often looks pretty ugly.
“Well, you’re the one who always say we’ve gotta be brave.”
And I nod. Yes, sireee, son.
Be brave enough to return a Christmas that hurts.
Be brave enough to return the fake CHRISTmases and only bring home the real one that has CHRIST at the center of it.
Be brave enough to return any Christmas too small for the size of your soul — and only wear a Christmas large enough for real joy.
Be brave enough to turn Christmas upside down because this coming Christ ushered in the Upside Down Kingdom where
less is more and
weak is strong and
least is greatest and
consumers can get consumed and
giving is greater than getting.
Levi comes down the ladder.
I can hear Grandma’s creaking knees.
I pull the kid in close. He has her cowlick.
We weren’t when I was a kid — but we could be brave now.
The brave that turns everything upside down – to upright everything.
(above article written by: Ann Voskamp)
All of the below text is taken from “Journey to the Fatherless” by Larry Bergeron. I highly recommend this book if you’re looking to learn about what a “Journey to the Fatherless” would look like for you personally.
“The cry of the orphan needs to be heard often from leaders in the church. Without revisiting the cry of the orphan periodically, forgetfulness and the tyranny of the urgent will push their cries into the background of life.”
“The number of orphans in the world is greater now than the population of some countries- their numbers represent nearly one half of the population of the United States. There are more orphans in the world now than there are people in the vast expanse of Russia. Thousands of children die daily from the effects of malnutrition, dirty water and easily cured diseases which is an unconscionable reality.”
“What makes this situation especially tragic is that given our wealth and technological prowess, we can end the problem.”
“In the United States:
-On any given day, over 500,000 children are in U.S. foster care.
-More than half of them will spend at least two years in the foster care system.
-Twenty percent of them will wait five or more years for a safe, permanent family.
-These children will likely move three times with little or no warning.
-More than 120,000 foster care children are waiting to be adopted.
Around the world:
-There are more than 147 million orphans.
-Every fifteen seconds, another child becomes an AIDS orphan in Africa.
-Fifteen percent of Russian orphans who age out of an orphanage commit suicide before age eighteen.
-There are more orphans in Sub-Saharan Africa than ALL of the children in Denmark, Ireland, Norway, Canada, and Sweeden- combined.
-In 2006, UNICEF reported over 20 million orphans in China, and over sixty percent of children who are orphaned as infants do not make it into childhood. They pass away in the most squalid of conditions in dying rooms for unwanted and often disabled children.
-30,000 people die daily from hunger and malnutrition.”
Recently I went to an adoption conference as well as finished up the book “Before You Were Mine.” There’s a lot to say.
Some adoptive parents receive their child and then make that “The Beginning.”
They want that to be the start of a beautiful story. They now have their child and their dreams came true.
But really, the child’s beginning started at their conception, not at the moment they joined their forever family.
They have a history.
And although you weren’t a part of it, that’s still part of their story. And they need to know their story.
The more comfortable they are with their story, the more they can heal and form healthy relationships.
Ignore it or avoid it and your child will struggle with their identity and self-worth for years to come.
The authors of the above book recommend making your child a “Lifebook” using photos, information about their past, their birth country, their birth parents (if information is available), journal entries from you, prayers for them, and Scriptures throughout that point to the fact that they are valued and loved and cherished and created for a purpose.
Interweaving wonderful truths into your child’s heart from a young age.
Also from a young age, reading them children’s books that contain words like “birthmother,” “foster home,” “nannies,” etc. Making these words familiar and a normal part of every-day conversation.
Helping them start to process their story before they even realize they have a loss to process.
It wouldn’t be wise to just cover it up and avoid telling your child the truth.
It’s in their best interest for you to be honest and open and share with them on an age-appropriate level. They need to know they have a story.
What a gift you can give them! You gathered all the facts, you covered them in prayer, you spoke Truths to them from God’s Word. You gave them their story. Now they can have it. They can accept it and heal from it.
One mom in a video I watched was absolutely in tears, bawling. She thought that when she brought her cute, little Chinese girl home, that all their troubles were over. That the child would have a perfect life. That they as a couple got their perfect child. They didn’t want to talk about the child’s past and all she had been through in such a young life. Much to their dismay, this was not healthy for the child and she grieved in heavy, heavy ways.
Carissa Woodwyk (co-author of the book listed above) also grew up with parents that never spoke of her adoption. It took her years and years to find who she was in Christ, that she was wonderfully created by God, that she had purpose and meaning, that she was valued.
By handing your child their story, little by little, you are giving them the key to healing, healthy relationships, and the groundwork for them to accept Jesus in their own hearts. You are making it a normal thing to talk about, with no shame or guilt for the child.
If you have a child who has been adopted, I highly recommend you get the book, “Before You Were Mine.” It will walk you through a huge, comprehensive list of what your child will one day want to know and how you can start having open discussions now. The book mentions dozens and dozens of things I hadn’t even thought about. It would greatly benefit your child for you to read the book!
Quotes from “Before You Were Mine”:
–”Information is proof that I am a real person who was born at a real time and in a real place. Adoptees need to know their lives are not a mistake.”
–”Knowing our birth parents or where we were born is only the physical part of the story. The more exciting part is that we were born in the very heart of God Himself, long before this world began.”
–”Every adopted child’s beginning starts long before we hold them in our arms. It is often hard to remember that so many important things happened during the newborn, infant, and toddler stages even if we were not there to witness them.”
–”It is important for the child to hear the words, ‘before joining our family…’”
–”A lifebook can help children by offering a ‘safe’ tool children can use to think, discuss, question, and grieve their beginnings. It reinforces ‘it’s not your fault,’ reduces uncertainty about their past, normalizes a child’s birth story, and gives a child a history to embrace.”
–”There are missing pieces to every adopted child’s life. Not one adopted child escapes this truth. Some common questions children have are: What are my birth parents’ names? Where was I born? What time was I born? Did my birthmother see me or hold me? What does she look like? Did my birthmother know anything about my adoptive family? Was I in a foster home? Does anyone else in my birthmother’s family know about me? Were my birthparents married? Are they still alive? Do they love me? Do they think about me?”
(The book shows you some ways to answer these questions delicately and meaningfully).
–”Someday an adopted child will benefit from aligning her perception of herself with how God sees her. How important it becomes for our messages to them to be filled with purpose and hope and belonging.”
–”We may never be able to fix their fragmented beginnings. We may never have all the answers they will want or need, but we can offer a message of hope in the midst of it all so that one day they may understand God’s heart for them, His response to their loss, and His plan for their future. Does this change their story? No. Does this make a connection that will shape how our children perceive the story of who they are? Yes.”
–Parents will never have to have the “big talk” about their child’s adoption if they are “having it continuously in bits and pieces and building understanding as they go about life.”