General

Love Courageously

For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you. Isaiah 41:13

The international adoption of our youngest was anything but typical. However, our God is faithful, and after living in a Russian sector of Ukraine for almost one year, God brought my son and I home to Holland, Michigan. What a year that was . . .

I am often asked how I did it. God asked me to be patient. I tried my best to trust him.

During that time of heartache and separation, I learned about the character of God. Our God is multi-faceted, and I continue to learn more about him as I study his word. However, there are three characteristics of God I have taken away from our adoption experience.

We serve a God who never leaves us.

Oh, he may allow us to grow in our faith. It may feel like our prayers are bouncing off the ceiling, but in reality, he is right beside us the entire time. When I felt I could not remain separated from my husband and our daughter another day, God sent me encouragement, usually through another person. When I became fearful we would never get to be the family our son so desperately needed, God moved our adoption forward, however slight. When I became fearful of being imprisoned in a foreign country, God comforted my trembling heart with peace and sleep. He allowed my shaky faith legs to gain strength, but he never abandoned me.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Deuteronomy 31:6

We serve a God who loves us beyond our understanding.

God loved us while we were still covered by the filth of our sin. God loved us so much, he sent his son to live on earth and die by crucifixion – that was the cost of my adoption to his family. I cannot imagine sacrificing a child of mine for someone else like that. When I consider my whining, how uncomfortable I was outside of my own country, and my stubbornness…I do not understand why he would do this for me. His love mystifies and overwhelms me.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

We serve a God who calls us to imitate him.

I am more convinced than ever that God allows things in our lives for reasons only he understands. He whispers for us to follow him, to become more like him, and to imitate him. God loves others through us. God ministers through the work of our hands. God embraces this hurting world through our open arms. This is an area I still struggle with – what exactly am I to do? God only calls me to learn more about him, and love accordingly. I am his disciple.

‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Matthew 37-39

We have been called to love others in an unconditional way. Whether sharing our testimony reveals parts of our story we would rather others not know, or not. When we know what we are doing, and when we don’t. When we are being asked to do what the world considers crazy, and doing it anyway.

We have been called to love with a courage only God can instill. God asks us to love as we have been loved. Nothing more and nothing less. Tricia displays this beautifully through her life and her book.

For me, to truly love courageously meant I had to come to the end of my human ability. That’s when God’s love took over. That’s when I finally released control, and gave our adoption journey to God. And to His glorious praise, that is when I became wholly His.

When we come to the end of ourselves is when we meet God.

What does loving courageously look like in your life? If you don’t know, continue to ask God to help you learn more about him. Ask him to reveal himself through his word. Ask him to help you see others through his eyes.

He is trustworthy. He will not leave you wondering. He will answer you.

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Revised version of original post featured at TriciaGoyer.com, Walk It Out Stories: Loving Courageously

The Future of Intercountry Adoption

CAFO CONFERENCE

Last week, I was able to attend the Christian Alliance for Orphans annual conference, entitled SUMMIT. It has been referred to as “the show” of orphan care conferences. I have found this to be true, as it covers subjects ranging from foster care to intercountry adoption.

The conference theme was “What Matters Most” and it was shared among most keynote speakers during the General Sessions. It was encouraging those in attendance to pray about what was most important to them, and focus on those items in (orphan care) ministry that truly “matter most.”

I found each keynote address different and inspiring. Ranging from the importance of long-range perspective (in foster care and adoption) to justice being a gospel issue (not a social issue).

THE WORKSHOP

I was looking forward to many of the breakout sessions at Summit. one in particular entitled, “Changing the Trajectory of Intercountry Adoption.” Friends were also looking forward to hearing the workshop via Facebook Live. One even messaged me a question to ask during the session. Watch the video HERE.

There are important issues facing the adoption community. Intercountry adoptions continue to decline. There was an overall feeling of hushed depression (and maybe a little anxiety?) in the room.

CONCLUSION

Each representative gave their opinions, some more freely than others.

The rep from the National Council for Adoption seemed to highlight changes yet needed in our national government. What were your takeaways on what he had to say?

The representatives from two adoption agencies appeared to be concerned regarding the decline in numbers of children being (or not being) adopted. What was said that caught your attention?

The representative from the Congressional Coalition on Adoption was strong on one point — parents that had adopted from other countries should make sure to complete every follow up report due. She emphasized that countries closed due to United States adoptive parents failing to file such reports. Did she say anything else that you remember?

The video will prove me out, however, I recognize I carry bias. I am passionate about the life-saving gift that intercountry adoption is. Perhaps I have become overly sensitive to what sticks with me, and what doesn’t?

I left the workshop session feeling reassured by one thing — my faith. My faith is in the Father to the fatherless. He alone holds the future, including that of intercountry adoption. This workshop did not encourage a bright future of intercountry adoptions, however, it will keep me in prayer regarding it.

What are your thoughts after listening to the video? Leave your comments below.

 

GIVEAWAY – New Adoption Bible Study

It’s giveaway week!

Today, the gift is for everyone. It’s a personal gift, as well. You see, the FREE gift is a two-week sample of my latest work, “I Call You Mine: Embracing God’s Gift of Adoption” from New Hope Publishers. It’s to be released on September 10, 2018. However, you can enjoy the sample today.

Following is an excerpt from Day 1 of the study:

“His name was Sasha, and he was three years old. He clung to the fingers of the middle-aged woman who walked him into the doctor’s office that summer afternoon in Izmail, Ukraine. Our son’s orphaned status was obvious. His shaved head, mismatched clothing, and downturned eyes pricked my heart. My first eye contact with him seemed to seal his fate to mine. He was ours, and I knew at that moment that my love for him was
unconditional.
It was during the adoption of our youngest that God led me to
understand my own adoption. I was not an orphaned little one in need of earthly parents as Sasha was. I had parents—but I lacked embracing and feeling the loving arms of my heavenly Parent. For most of my life I had been rebellious.
I served no one but myself. Although I had been raised in a Christian household, I was not a Christian. I felt ugly inside. I didn’t love myself, let alone others. I needed a Parent to rescue me, to save me. To adopt me. Unconditionally. Forever.

I’m overwhelmed when I stop to really consider the mess I was before God adopted me. It wasn’t just that I was headed toward an eternity without Him. I needed His loving care, guidance, and discipline in this life. Right here and right now. I needed to understand the goodness of healthy boundaries, the depth of unconditional love, and the safe feeling of completely belonging to a family who would never abandon me. I needed to grow up under the watchful eye of a Father who would teach me and keep me safe, who would continue to love me even when I made
mistakes.
When God adopted me, when He made me His and took me in as a full and privileged member of His forever family, it changed my life, my perspective, and my potential in a way I never could have experienced apart from Him. And it was all because of His unquenchable and overpowering love for me.
Having experienced that kind of love from God, I was able to reach out and adopt and love a child who also needed to experience that kind of love. I wanted to give our child in an earthly way what God had given me: healthy boundaries, the depth of unconditional love, and the safe feeling of completely belonging to a family who would never abandon him. And most of all, I wanted to introduce our child to the God who loves unconditionally—and who loves far better and greater than I, as a
parent, ever could.
I chose my son—just as God chose me. And just as He chose you.
God finds us first—before we even realize our need for a Parent and for a family. The orphan doesn’t select the parent. The parent chooses the orphan. That is how the family begins.
It’s the same with us. We don’t reach out in love for God first. He chose us. He loved us first. That is how we joined His family.
And it all began with love.”

How to Receive the FREE Sample

If you would like to receive your two-week sample, simply click here to visit my little SHOP and complete the pop-up form. The download of the two-week sampler of “I Call You Mine” will be emailed directly to you. You can read it on your favorite device.

Pre Order “I Call You Mine” directly from my publisher (by July 31), and they will also send you a FREE copy of Jennifer Phillips’ “30 Days of Hope for Adoptive Parents” devotional.

May you have a blessed week.

Attending the Christian Alliance for Orphans’ SUMMIT Conference in Dallas this week? See you there.

 

 

Would Jesus Adopt?

I saw her waiting in our usual booth near the expresso machine. The smell of fresh coffee and something cinnamon rewarded my early commute. I placed my order quickly and joined my friend. We said our hellos, and I had just begun to remove my layers of winter wear when her first question caught me off-guard.

“Would Jesus adopt?” she asked.

She sat back in her chair, arms folded with a challenging smile. We had a past — her questions and my answers. They often led to great debates, especially since we are usually on opposite sides.

She knows I’m a follower of Jesus Christ. She knows I’m pro-life. She knows I advocate for orphan care and adoption issues. Her question was a tricky one, especially the way it was asked.

“I don’t believe having children, however they joined the family, was a part of Jesus’ ministry plan,” I said. “However, if you’re asking me if Jesus supports adoption, that’s an interesting question?”

What I personally believed would mean nothing to my friend. What evidence did I have convincing enough? I began describing the Jesus I knew to my friend.

JESUS STOPPED

The first characteristic I shared with my friend was that Jesus was all about addressing individual needs. As he went about his ministry, Jesus was often interrupted by people. Yet it is during those interactions we learn just how important each person is to God.

We read in Mark 5:21-43 that Jesus was in a large crowd of people when a synagogue leader named Jairus fell at his feet, pleading with him to go to his home and heal his young daughter. Jesus agreed to leave those gathered to follow the worried father to his home.

While walking together, through the crowd, Jesus suddenly asked, “Who touched me?” Can you imagine the look on the faces of those immediately surrounding him? In verse 31, one disciple responded, “You see the people crowding against you, and yet you can ask “Who touched me?”” Jesus kept searching.

The woman who had reached out to touch Jesus’ robe knew she had been healed and fearfully admitted to Jesus that it was she who had touched him. Jesus let her know it was her faith that had healed her.

Now while this was happening, people from Jairus’ house came to tell him not to bother Jesus anymore for his daughter had died. Can you imagine all this happening in one small part of one day in ministry?

Jesus overheard what was said and told Jairus (verse 36), “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” And they continued to travel to Jairus’ house. They were met by people already in mourning for his daughter, but Jesus rebuked them and healed her.

All while he was to be somewhere else, addressing a crowd of people gathered to hear him, he healed both women, young and old. He took the time to address their individual needs.
It was the same in Luke 18:35-43 when Jesus was entering Jericho and heard a blind beggar calling out to him for healing. In Luke 18:40 it states, “Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him.” Then, healed him of his blindness.

Jesus stopped whatever he was doing to interact with those who believed in him. Regardless of the crowd, or where he was going, or who he was traveling with, he stopped what he was doing to heal and to love the blind man calling out to him, or the small girl in the house away from the crowd, or the desperate woman who simply wished to touch the hem of his garment because she believed.

Would Jesus have stopped for the orphan?

JESUS CARED

The second characteristic I shared with my friend was how Jesus came to encourage and lift those who were vulnerable to the world around them. We read of this throughout the New Testament, especially of those who were considered lowly, the children.

We read how Jesus made time for blessing the children parents brought to him. In Mark 10:13-16 there is a passage describing such a scene. The disciples had scolded those who had brought children to him. Jesus told the disciples not to stop the children “for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Then, Jesus took the children in his arms and blessed them.

What a picture it paints in my mind. In our human frailty and fallen world, we, like the disciples, can only imagine children bothering Jesus, while he saw the opportunity to gather them in his arms and bless them. I can only imagine their curiosity and shy glances at Jesus. Their giggling and perhaps the brave child climbing onto his lap. I can see the face of Jesus, relaxing and smiling at their joy and energy.

Jesus spoke of children being considered the least here on earth yet the greatest in heaven (Luke 9:46-48). While his disciples were arguing who would be the greatest among themselves in heaven, Jesus wrapped his arms around a child and told them “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.”

Again, that beautiful image of Jesus taking a child into his arms.
I cannot imagine a more vulnerable sight, even today, then that of an orphaned child. Regardless of the why or the how they came to be unloved, their vulnerability is evident.

Would Jesus have cared for the orphan?

JESUS LOVED

The third characteristic I shared with my friend was that Jesus deeply loved those around them. Only in the book of John do we learn that his mother, Mary, was present at his crucifixion. In John 19:26-27 we read of Jesus seeing his mother near the disciple he loved, John, shortly before his death on the cross. Out of his limitless compassion, he spoke to them.

Jesus performed a sort of ceremony between Mary and John. To Mary he said, “Woman, here is your son.” To John he said, “Here is your mother.” This constituted a form of adoption and consolation for the two who would perhaps miss Jesus most, in his human form. The passage continues and tells us that John cared for Mary in his home from that time on.

In all his agony, Jesus loved Mary and John enough to make sure they remained in each other’s lives and looked after each other. To be that loving, during his own death by crucifixion, I cannot imagine. So complete and binding was his love.

That love is the same love we are adopted into, as God’s children. That limitless, incomprehensible love.

Would Jesus support adoption?

The Jesus I know stopped everything for one suffering person. The Jesus I know cared for the most vulnerable and lowly. The Jesus I know loved deeply and continues loving us today.

To me, the answer is clear.

My friend was leaning forward on the table. Then, she slowly leaned back in her chair, and smiled again.

“So, if you’re a Christian, you should adopt…is that what you’re saying?” she said.

I’ll have to tackle that question in a future post.

How Adoption Saves

It began as the story of a family that never was.

One by one, over a decade, four children were born to a single woman in Odessa, Ukraine. They each entered the orphanage system directly from the hospital they were born in. I was privileged to have known two of them.

One was internationally adopted into a family. It was an adjustment. Life in a western-cultured family is very different from an Eastern European orphanage.

For two years, nightmares terrified him. He never wanted to see an orphanage again. It was hard to even coax him into any large building — one look and you could see his fear.

The other had been a part of the system for sixteen years. She had finished high school and was on her way to trade school. She was ready to experience life on her own terms.

She didn’t want anyone telling her what to do anymore. She didn’t want to be adopted and said “No, thank you” to the offer. But, she wanted to meet her younger brother. I was there when they first met.

The young boy began to change, almost as soon as he entered his new family. His hair grew thicker. His paper-like nails grew strong. He started to grow so fast, he often complained of leg pain “in his bones.” His quick grasp of his third language in his first four years of life surprised all. He overcame his fear of crowds, the small family dog, and meeting new people.

The teenager, the young boy’s older half-sister, moved into her first apartment with a friend from the orphanage. She dreamed of becoming a cook and an accountant, so she might open her own “small but good” cafe one day. She took lots of photos. She kept in touch with her younger brother via Skype. Her life held promise.

The young boy had health concerns, some more serious than others. He received months of treatment and surgery in the U.S. His chances for a healthy life restored.

The young woman became ill and by the time it was discovered, the Tuberculous (TB) had developed pustules in her right lung. She started a rigid treatment plan in the government run TB treatment center in Odessa, Ukraine. It wasn’t long before her left lung became infected also.

The boy’s family was very concerned for the young woman. They flew to Ukraine to encourage her to receive treatment. They made sure she had medication and food. They urged her to enter into a hospital for proper dosing and care.

The boy is now in fifth grade and thriving. He loves mathematics, Legos, and Marvel Super Heros.

The young woman would have been 26 this year. However, she died on June 22, 2014. Her U.S. family held a service for her in America. They remain broken-hearted.

The boy is our son. I am convinced he was spared a similar fate due to his adoption. His life is one of love, family and continued promise.

Lena, the Ukrainian daughter of our hearts, had her life cut short by a cruel disease. She was a victim of faulty reasoning:
• One that believes a government can raise children;
• One that believes remaining in a birth country is more important than joining a waiting family, regardless of where they live; and
• One that believes children are merely headcounts of the country in which they were born, and have no human right to a family.

I know people who are avid adoption supporters, as I am one of them. I often hear from people who are anti-adoption. From personal experience, I can tell you they are equally passionate about their beliefs.

My pro-adoption beliefs aren’t formed from a successful or non-successful adoption experience.

My pro-adoption stance doesn’t stem from any extensive research or doctoral degree.

I am pro-adoption because of our son and his sister.

I am pro-adoption because love doesn’t recognize man-drawn boundaries.

I advocate for adoption because I believe the right to family is a basic human right.

I fight for (domestic and international) adoption because adoption saves lives. Our son is living proof.

Dear Lena. You will remain forever young and beautiful to the family who loved you and considered you their own. May you rest in peace, knowing you were loved.

Ваш американский мама

3 Ways to Battle Compassion Fatigue

As an undergrad, I majored in Criminal (Juvenile) Justice. As I interned with the Kalamazoo Probate Court, I learned about compassion fatigue first hand. However, that experience was introductory compared to caring for our newly adopted child.

Having been raised in an Eastern European orphanage from birth to almost four years of age, little Sasha was a heart-broken, un-diagnosed (therefore untreated), bundle of unfocused energy.
Our first months together consisted of constant indulgence of his sensory deprivation and his inability to ever be away from me without his fear of separation making him extremely upset or even ill. I eventually got used to his watching me shower (or joining me while he was still fully clothed), or his sitting on my lap while I used the toilet. It was draining, exhausting and an unexpected addition to the already stressful situation I was in (read about our adoption journey in “Until We All Come Home: A Harrowing Journey, a Mother’s Courage, a Race to Freedom,” Faith Words, 2012). But I loved him. A mother’s dilemma.

Over the next few years, I found myself exhausted. I felt a strange sort of emptiness. His pain was my pain, yet whatever I did made little difference. Exhausted, empty, I cried out to God to fill me, to heal my son, and sometimes I just prayed, “Help!”

Compassion fatigue is described as “the overall experience due to chronic use of empathy when helping those who are suffering in some way” (my simplified version of Newell & MacNeil’s study definition, 2010). With any parenting, there can come fatigue. Special needs parenting raises fatigue to a higher level, and perhaps, an even greater need for attention. While not limited to adoptive parents, those involved in the foster care system or those ministering to orphan care needs, I have heard more such talk about compassion fatigue from these groups more than any other I know.

With all praise to God’s grace, I discovered three simple yet effective strategies that helped me the most while dealing with compassion fatigue, and they were found in God’s word.

1. LOVE GOD (Matthew 22:36-40)

When you love someone, you spend time with them. Yet recent studies reveal that many Christians are not in the word of God everyday. Start simple; a devotional constructed around at least one verse or verses. I chose, “Our Daily Bread” (mailed to our home monthly and free) and “Jesus Calling” (I actually bought it in two different formats–hard copy and a phone app, to ensure constant availability). The next decision is harder – Make a decision to read everyday. Some days I needed to read the devotional a couple of times (sleepy eyes blur easily and a multi-tasking mom’s mind often fails to catch everything the first time). Then, I discovered “31 Nuggets of Hope,” a devotional especially written for adoptive parents by Shelly Roberts. Only 30 days long, this power-packed devotional can be read and re-read over a span of months. Highly recommended for those searching for a more specific devotional versus a general one.

2. PRAY BOLDY (Ephesians 3:20)

After reading (and if time allowed, re-reading) the days devotion, follow-up with a short prayer. Mine usually went something like this:

“Dear Heavenly Father. Thank you for your word. I am seeking your will for my life. Help me to apply what I read. Re-fill me with your grace for anything I face today. No one knows what I will need more than you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.” Short prayers like this one, throughout the day, worked best for me. Be specific, bold, and keep asking. There is power in prayer.

3. PRAISE CONSTANTLY (Hebrews 13:15)

If fatigue (or worry or fear, for that matter) engulfs you, little will help more than praising God.

Praise him for what he has done, is doing, and will do. Praise him throughout your day. Praise him in song. Satan can’t get away fast enough. Praise is another under-utilized power source – tap it.

Those are the three simple strategies which help in my battle against compassion fatigue. Share yours in the comment section below.

* Photo courtesy of Cathy Cantu, blogger at 5 Minutes for the Frazzled Mom