Kim de Blecourt

Adoption and PTSD

June is National PTSD Awareness Month. Having suffered from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), I know the road to healing can be filled with fear, uncertainty and loneliness. But please know, healing will come. EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy (discussed later in this post) benefited me greatly.

This post will focus on the trauma/PTSD suffered by adopted children. Much of the information following has been pulled from two different websites: www.ptsd.va.gov** and GoodTherapy.org* (Lesli Johnson).

Adoption Can Bring Trauma / PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder)*

The impact of adoption (and all that happened leading up to the need for adoption) is far-reaching and ever-changing—a process that continues throughout the lifespan of the adopted person and those connected. Multiple placements, foster care, or time in an orphanage can exacerbate this trauma.

An infant or child separated from their birth mother will almost certainly experience some level of trauma, as they will perceive this event to be a dangerous situation. The sensations, sights, and sounds with which they were familiar are gone, and the mother is no longer available to soothe the child or help the child self-regulate. Because the only part of the brain fully developed at birth is the brain stem—this controls the sympathetic nervous system, which generates the “fight, flight, or freeze” response—babies are unable to use parasympathetic abilities, such as self-soothing.

When this happens before the age of 3, it is encoded as implicit memory—like any event that takes place before the development of language. As noted trauma expert Bessel van der Kolk explains in his book The Body Keeps the Score, “We have learned that trauma is not just an event that took place sometime in the past; it is also the imprint left by that experience on the mind, brain, and body.”***

When a traumatic event occurs or something happens that is perceived as traumatic, the associated memories may become stored in the brain and nervous system in a maladaptive way—frozen rather than processed. Current reactions are fueled by negative beliefs stemming from events that occurred in the past. People become stuck. In some cases, trauma that happened years ago continues to feel like it’s happening in the present.

Many adoptees have issues related to attachment ruptures. An adopted child whose parent is a few minutes late to pick them up from school may dissolve into tears. The internalized belief or negative cognition that child develops may sound something like “It’s not safe to trust” or “People I love leave me.”

An adult who was adopted may unknowingly recreate abandonment scenarios in relationships, unconsciously choosing partners who are not truly available and do leave, fulfilling the negative belief “I am not worth it” or “I am not lovable.”

In both examples, the reaction in the present is disproportionate to the situation. This is useful information that some feeling, experience, or memory from the past is being triggered. A much younger “self” is running the show. The fight, flight, or freeze response gets activated in these situations, and the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain in charge of executive functioning and decision making, goes offline. The person may feel disregulated, scared, and confused.

What are the Symptoms of PTSD?**

PTSD symptoms usually start soon after the traumatic event, but they may not appear until months or years later. They also may come and go over many years. If the symptoms last longer than four weeks, cause you great distress, or interfere with your work or home life, you might have PTSD.

There are four types of symptoms of PTSD, but they may not be exactly the same for everyone. Each person experiences symptoms in their own way.

  1. Reliving the event (also called re-experiencing symptoms). You may have bad memories or nightmares. You even may feel like you’re going through the event again. This is called a flashback.
  2. Avoiding situations that remind you of the event. You may try to avoid situations or people that trigger memories of the traumatic event. You may even avoid talking or thinking about the event.
  3. Having more negative beliefs and feelings. The way you think about yourself and others may change because of the trauma. You may feel guilt or shame. Or, you may not be interested in activities you used to enjoy. You may feel that the world is dangerous and you can’t trust anyone. You might be numb, or find it hard to feel happy.
  4. Feeling keyed up (also called hyperarousal). You may be jittery, or always alert and on the lookout for danger. Or, you may have trouble concentrating or sleeping. You might suddenly get angry or irritable, startle easily, or act in unhealthy ways (like smoking, using drugs and alcohol, or driving recklessly.
Can children have PTSD?

Children can have PTSD too. They may have symptoms described above or other symptoms depending on how old they are. As children get older, their symptoms are more like those of adults. Here are some examples of PTSD symptoms in children:

  • Children under 6 may get upset if their parents are not close by, have trouble sleeping, or act out the trauma through play.
  • Children age 7 to 11 may also act out the trauma through play, drawings, or stories. Some have nightmares or become more irritable or aggressive. They may also want to avoid school or have trouble with schoolwork or friends.
  • Children age 12 to 18 have symptoms more similar to adults: depression, anxiety, withdrawal, or reckless behavior like substance abuse or running away.
So what does a typical EMDR session with an adopted person look like?

EMDR therapy targets unprocessed memory as well as the emotions, beliefs, and body sensations associated with it. Bilateral stimulation (generally eye movements, tapping, or tones) activates the brain’s information processing system, allowing the old memories to be digested or reprocessed and stored in an adaptive way—even if the person doesn’t have an autobiographical account of the memory (for many adoptees, the trauma happened before they developed the language to explain the events, so the memory is primarily somatic in nature and stored in the nervous system).

After gathering history and establishing rapport, the therapist and person in therapy work together to establish target memories and present triggers that are causing suffering and/or interfering with daily life. The “targets” are the starting points of the session and a point of reference to trace the memory back in time. Using bilateral stimulation, EMDR helps integrate the early memories, body sensations, emotions, and negative beliefs the person has. Over a series of sessions, symptoms are reduced, and beliefs associated with the memories or experience are shifted to a more positive and adaptive state.

Rather than the belief “I’m not lovable,” the person may be able to recognize and have a felt sense of worth despite what happened in the past. Many therapists combine various EMDR protocols, guided imagery, mindfulness practices, and visualization to create calm states and nurturing figures in the present to help heal the wounds of the past.

EMDR is safe, effective, noninvasive, and powerful. It does not involve medication or hypnosis, and works wonderfully with talk therapy with people who were adopted.

If you want or need support on your healing journey, find an EMDR therapist in your area.

More Information on PTSD

Please visit the Veteran’s Administration PTSD website for basic information on trauma and treatment options.

My friends Shelly and Wanda offer great insight and help at their website PTSD Perspectives.

 

Reference:

* GoodTherapy.org “Adoption Trauma and the Healing Role of EMDR Therapy” by Lesli Johnson

** The National Center for PTSD

*** van der Kolk, B. (2014). The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma. London, UK: Penguin Books.

7 Truths When Letting Go of Your Missionary Child

7 Truths When Letting Go of Your Missionary Child

Guest Post from Brenda Yoder

Brenda is a fellow author and speaker. We get to meet up at conferences we both serve at. She is such an encourager. Her latest book, FLEDGE, is a Godly perspective on launching our children for Him. Her post regarding letting her missionary child go comes from her heart. Read through to learn how to WIN a copy of FLEDGE on Monday, June 18, 2018.

“Our firstborn, Jenna, went on a mission trip her junior year in high school and spent Christmas Day at an orphanage in Mexico. When I read her senior scholarship essay about establishing an orphanage where children would feel known and loved, I realized God had captured her heart for orphan ministry.

Jenna is my only daughter, the oldest of four children. As she narrowed college choices, she settled on two Christian colleges. One was two hours away and the other was eleven hours away. Just as God grabbed her heart for orphan ministry, he grabbed my heart as a fledging mother who needed to let go.

I was rehearsing how to tell Jenna she should attend the college closer to home when the Holy Spirit convicted me. “You’re not letting her choose,” He said. “I want to work in her life but you’re standing in the way. Loosen your fingers so I can work. You have to release her to me. If I’m calling her away to the mission field, a college that’s far away is just a stepping stone. Let go.”

I stood in my living room crying. I got the message. God told me to back off and take my hands off my only daughter. It was a lesson in obedience, like Abraham with Isaac. I’ve had to surrender at the altar again and again.

Jenna went to that far away university, which also took her to Guatemala several times and confirmed her call to orphaned and vulnerable children. She currently is a full-time missionary doing orphan care with Back2Back Ministries in Mexico.

Since Jenna graduated, two more of our children have fledged. My youngest is still in high school. Releasing a firstborn, single daughter to the mission field has been a life altering journey.

Here are seven lessons I’ve learned since God said, “Let go.”
  1. When worried about her safety, God reminds He’s her safety. I have to trust her to God’s care.
  2. Seeing a child immersed in their calling brings joy. But it’s bittersweet when it takes them to another country.
  3. Family time is scarce when kids are far away. Our family is only together about twice a year. Rather than lamenting the times we’re not together, I embrace the time we are (there’s more about this in Fledge).
  4. I miss common mother-daughter experiences like shopping or hanging out. It’s just that simple.
  5. Being a missionary parent is a unique role. There’s a spiritual battle for children called to vocational ministry. Their needs are different because the demands of the mission field are unique, similar to that of service men and women. Our role is to support her emotionally and spiritually.
  6. I must be strong even when I don’t feel like it. A missionary child needs a mom who’s strong and supportive rather than worried and weepy. I take my burdens to God, trusting he will provide. This often is an act of obedient faith.
  7. Raising kids means we let them go so they can cling to God, not us. This is a conscious choice.”

Fledge: Launching Your Kids Without Losing Your Mind is based on Psalm 127: Like arrows in the hands of warriors are children born of one’s youth. God was right when he told me to take my hands off my firstborn, and he asks the same of you. Our parenting job is to raise our children with tender hearts positioned towards God. When we hold our children too tightly, we get in the way of God’s perfect plan. He asks us to let go.

Brenda Yoder is a national speaker, author, Licensed Mental Health Counselor, and life coach whose passion is encouraging others when life doesn’t fit the storybook image.

For more on letting go and everything else relating to the fledging stage of parenting, get Fledge: Launching Your Kids Without Losing Your Mind. It’s available online and at major retailers.

Join Brenda Yoder on Facebook for her upcoming Fledge Parenting Forum, on Instagram, Twitter, and at brendayoder.com.

NOTE: I have personally benefited from this book. So much so, I want to share a copy of Brenda’s book with one lucky winner. Simply leave your comment below and share this blog post on any social media platform, and my children and I will randomly select a winner on Monday June 18, 2018.

Should Christians Adopt?

Her question was “Should Christians Adopt?”

My friend and I were enjoying coffee in the fragrant coffee shop while the wind whined past our window. The window was occasionally steamed up by the espresso machine we tend to sit by. I’d much rather watch the Michigan winter than be out in it.

My friend and I like to debate different issues, especially pertaining to religion. As an evangelical, I hold pro-life beliefs. My friend, sure only that she is spiritual, described herself as still exploring her true beliefs.

We became friends long ago, and we hold mutual respect for that friendship. I truly enjoy her company. I cannot imagine a life being lived for Christ in which I didn’t know or fellowship with non-believers. How could that be Christ-honoring?

I had just finished answering her “Would Jesus adopt” question, when she quickly moved to her next question, “Should Christians adopt?” After a brief pause to refill cups and plates, we moved back into our conversational question and answer debate.

“I don’t have a straight-forward answer for you on this one, friend,” I admitted. “This is more of a yes-no-sort of answer.”

 

When Christians Should Adopt

Caring for the fatherless is a ministry. It is a calling (a strong urge to minister to others’ needs). It’s a desire to fill the gap left by an absent parent(s). It is also an imitation (in a very small, human way) of what God has done for us; adopted us into His family.

Caring for the fatherless means foster care or adoption of those who have been abandoned/removed by authorities. It is accepting of all that comes with their backgrounds – trauma, problems with attachment, medical issues, etc. It is the pursuit of finding families for those waiting children (vs. finding the perfect child for your family).

For me, this is exactly what Jesus was talking about in Matthew 25:40, “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

For another take on what Christian adoption is (should be), read more HERE.

 

When Christians Should Not Adopt

Caring for the fatherless is not to be entered into without a great deal of self-reflection, a strong support system, and prayer.

Questions for self-reflection may be: Why am I drawn to the ministry of orphan care? Do I feel called to this ministry, or am I self-motivated in some way? Does God want me to minister in this area? How has God made this clear to me?

Questions regarding your support system may be: Who in my immediate family has prayed about caring for the fatherless with me? Have they felt moved in the same direction? Who in my family supports my calling to minister to the fatherless? In my circle of friends? Who have I consulted in our church regarding my calling? How have they advised me?

When I consider the personal calling to ministry that foster care and adoption is, it brings to my mind Ephesians 4:1-3, “As a prisoner for the LORD, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

Although the ministry of orphan care will not be a smooth or easy one, it is highly rewarding and fulfilling. Never have I seen the face of Jesus as I have in the faces of vulnerable children. The Church is the answer to care for these children. However, I would want God squarely beside me for the journey, and know without doubt I had been called to this challenging ministry.

You can read more HERE.

 

All Christians Can Do Something Regarding Orphan Care

After reading the “yes” and “no” answers above, now here’s the “sort of” answer – Christians will not all be called to adopt. There are many parts to the body of Christ. We all have a part to play in His ministry (1 Corinthians 12:4-7).

That doesn’t mean as Christians, as His Church, we are not all called to minister to the fatherless, however. Quite the contrary. I firmly believe His Church, is the only answer to the orphan crisis. As my friend, Jason Johnson, has so wonderfully stated, “No one is called to do everything, but everyone is called to do something.” Read more from Jason HERE.

I believe all Christians are to care for the orphaned and vulnerable in some way. Every church should have an orphan care ministry, each slightly unique to their congregation. God’s mandate is clear in both Old (Psalm 82:3) and New (James 1:27) Testaments.

 

While my scripture references may have caused my friend’s eyes to glaze over slightly, the message they carried left her silent for a little while. God’s word has a way of causing contemplation. I could tell yet another question was brewing.

“While I kinda get all that,” she said with a wave of her hand, “I don’t understand how in the world you can honestly believe the Church is the answer to the orphan crisis. How can that possibly be?”

More to come soon…

 

 

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.

_____________________________________________________

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

Why I Wrote “Until We All Come Home”

The most common question I am asked nowadays is “Why did you adopt?” The second most common question I’m asked, especially if the person asking knows anything about our adoption journey is “Why are you writing a book about your adoption?” Today, I’m tackling the second question…why did I write “Until We All Come Home?”

Our adoption journey has been described by a fellow writer and friend as “a terribly, beautiful story of love for a child.” The beautiful part is understandable. A family gained another member. A child gained a family that adores him. Adoption can be a beautiful thing. The terrible part comes along with our journey to get our son home. Perhaps the one sentence description I used to describe my book to agents and editors says it best: “Our adoption journey was like “Not Without My Daughter” meets “The Hunt for Red October” and “The Hiding Place.””

I was simply trying to get the son we had just adopted, home to America. There are still serious post-Soviet overtones throughout my son’s homeland of Ukraine and nothing there is simple. It was only through my faith in God’s heart for the orphan that we were finally triumphant, almost one year later. During that time, I learned Russian, I tried to keep a low profile and most of the time, I lived in Ukraine without my husband and daughter. For perhaps the first time in my life, God became my everything.

Jake (Sasha) watching life happen outside the orphanage

 

Ukraine is where many dear friends live, it is my second home and the birthplace of my son, so there is no revenge theme here. We were made a solid offer for the rights to publish our story, but profits from the book go to a favorite non-profit of ours, Food for Orphans, so it wasn’t for the money. And since I had posted our adoption journey on Facebook, our story wasn’t a secret. Our journey even attracted a casting director from the Oprah Winfrey Network, so our story was already in the public eye. Later, I was interviewed for a nationwide NPR show. That interview is still online and part of an iTunes podcast — so again, no secrets here. But to re-live it all again? I would have to have help. I could barely function, let alone construct sentences. So not only the ‘why’ but the ‘how’ became a question. So then, why did I choose to tell our story? Wouldn’t it had been better buried deep?

Group #4 Izmail Baby Home 2009

When we finally arrived home on Sunday, April 25, 2010, I was numb. I had lost over 40 pounds. I could no longer cry. I was hearing things that weren’t there. I could hardly talk. Yet through all my Post Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms and the relief of being back on American soil, there was one thing I was sure of — I was to tell the story of my Deliverer. At times it was if I could feel God’s hand on my back, gently leading me forward through the publishing maze. When I wanted to give up, and believe me, there were many times during my publishing journey I wanted to do just that, He led me forward. My time in Ukraine had attuned me to His voice. I no longer questioned, I simply followed.

Since being home, I have heard the ‘confessions’ of those touched by our journey. One couple has started attending church again. Other friends, who claim no knowledge of Jesus Christ, have confessed they have started to investigate Him again. God works in mysterious ways. If the often painful re-telling of our story leads someone one step further towards heaven, then it is a journey I’m willing and happy to make.

Make no mistake, I am NOT a saint. Only God knows my imperfections better than I do. Many are revealed in my book. But, if God can use me, in spite of myself, I am His. I have nothing to boast about except Him. And I can talk about Him, all day long.

So there it is — the answer — I wrote a book about our adoption journey to show you my God in action. To bring attention to the orphaned children of the world He loves so dearly is a bonus. To raise funding to feed them, an honor.

Soli deo gloria.