May 04, 2016
Our church family and friends flooded our family with kindness, practical help and tremendous support after our daughters came home from India. But sometimes people don't know how to help when a family is going through a difficult transition or season, and as a result don't get around to doing anything. Here are some simple ways you can be an abundant blessing to a family whose dynamics are shifting as they become a Safe Family, open their home to a foster child, or complete an adoption.
1. Bring a meal. On the afternoons when a meal is coming, I am able to relax more, engage with the children more effectively, get more things done around the house, and live in the moment.
2. Pick up frozen dinners that can be popped into the freezer. Trader Joe's entrees such as Mandarin Orange Chicken, burritos, pizza's or lasagna's have been readily accepted and always enjoyed. On the days when nothing seems to go as planned, opening up the freezer to find something ready to go into the oven is wonderful blessing.
3. Go grocery shopping. A dear woman and fellow adoptive mama dropped off a grocery sack filled with a gallon of milk, a loaf of bread, grapes already washed and and in snack-sized Ziplocks for the kids to take to school, homemade muffins, a box of cereal, and Pop-tarts for a quick breakfast. Incredible.
4. Take kiddos to the park. When our baby was first born, a friend took our older two to the park for two hours so I could have down time with the baby. It was one of the first times I was able to breathe after my mother went home.
5. Buy clothes. When our two daughters came home from India early last summer, our precious babysitter asked if we were low on clothes. Who would have thought to ask that? We actually were in desperate need for more jammies, and thus she went out to the store and stocked us up. She did buy a new set for each girl, but she also went to the thrift shop and picked out another half a dozen sets that were in good shape and ready to wear. It was tremendously helpful, especially considering that our girls still have a hard time going into a store without a major tantrum.
6. Mow their lawn. A darling church mama arranged for young men from our church to mow our lawn all summer, once a week. It was one less thing that my husband had to worry about. Even when our home felt laden with chaos, our neatly trimmed lawn was a visible reminder that we were cared for.
7. Drop off a coffee. A friend swung by with a latte one afternoon. One of my favorite tee-shirt's says "with enough coffee I could rule the world," and by buying a friend a coffee, you are empowering them to do so.
8. Recommend a book that has been helpful or encouraging to you. A friend recently loaned me "Parenting the Hurt Child" and I am more interested in reading it, and it has more credibility in my mind because it was helpful to her family.
9. Offer to watch some of their kiddos. As everyone adjusted to the new family dynamics, different kiddos needed more attention at different times. When a friend offered to watch some of them, it gave me the freedom to meet the needs of whoever needed focused one-on-one time the most, while not pressuring our friends to watch everyone.
10. Give the parents a restaurant gift card or Groupon. When a family grows, there isn't always money in the budget leftover for date nights. When a friend gave us a gift card to an Italian restaurant, we felt so refreshed by our night away over candle light, homemade bread and fresh pasta.
11. Invite their whole family over for dinner. I think a lot of people were intimidated by the new size of our family and the emotional needs of our children. But a few special families didn't let that stop them from inviting us over for a meal or play date. Yes there were tantrums and tears, but knowing that those families loved us despite our messiness, made us feel loved.
12. Send over a mothers helper. A handful of young women came over last summer to play with our kids and help me out around the house. Together we helped get everyone snacks, folded laundry, cleaned up toys, and put away dishes. Having an extra set of hands was helpful.
13. Take their children on an outing. Dear friends of ours took our kids to the zoo and left us sitting on our porch swing with fresh hot donuts from the farmers market. As they drove away with our children, our kiddos were thrilled, our souls were at peace and our bellies were full. With donuts. Amen.
14. Just ask. When you are unsure of how you can help, send a quick email or text asking them what they need. Some friends just text me on their way to the grocery store asking if I ran out of anything. Perhaps the parents just need to go for a walk or run and you can supervise playtime in the backyard while they take the time to exercise or talk. Or maybe having someone sit on their porch and pray with them could transform their day.
They may not need anything at all, but at least you have asked, and they are reminded of God's kindness to them through the visible, practical and tangible body of Christ. As they journey through a dark and difficult season, your kindness and service to them could be the light that carries them step-by-step to the other side.
January 06, 2016
The email we had been waiting for years to receive finally came. They were ready for us to travel. The passports were ready, their medical exams were finished, their birth affidavits were complete. Now it was up to us to book our flights and bring our girls home.
Friends squealed and hugged us, praised God and loudly proclaimed how excited we must be. Wanting to rejoice with them, I spoke of how we were preparing our home for their arrival. But the joy I expected to feel never came. Yes, the timing scared me, but I knew that we could nonetheless power through and complete this final leg of our adoption journey. Weak in body and aching to hold my beloved newborn, I knew I could persevere through the ten day trip needed to bring all of our children under one roof.
But before true rejoicing could enter my soul, I found it necessary to grieve the losses that brought our family together. Our sweet girls had lived in this orphanage for the past 19 months. Their father worked tirelessly as a day laborer to provide for them after their mother had left, but when he realized he couldn't make ends meet, he was forced to take them to the orphanage and sign away his rights. How old were our daughters when their mother left? Do they remember the day? Do they remember the hour? Will the memory be forever seared into their minds? What about the day their father dropped them off, never to return? What were those first few hours like as they were shown their new beds, got acquainted with the children their age, and given their first mass-produced meal?
For Queen, we don't even know the circumstances surrounding her two and a half years in the orphanage. We know only that she was baptized before being dropped off and given a name in Amharic that means "She is loved." The orphanage was never even aware of her serious medical condition and thus it went untreated until she was home with us at three years of age. Are her birth parents still live? Where was she dropped off, and by whom? What emotions did she experience as an infant during that time of transition? Will a sense of abandonment always reside in her soul because of her early life experiences?
For Mr. Man, we were in the hospital and we held him five minutes after he was born. We helped give him his first bath and stayed in the nursery for the routine infant medical tests. We rocked him in the hospital room, fed him his first bottle and took pictures of him so frequently that he soon became accustomed to the bright light of the flash. But his courageous birthmother first had to decide that she was unable to care for him before we could have the privilege of being his mama and papa. She had to suffer through a difficult pregnancy and make the hard choice of giving him to parents who could more adequately care for him. A part of her mother's heart had to die in order for me to become his mama. Suffering had to occur before the joy of mamahood in my life could be made complete.
With four of our children, we had to witness tremendous grief before our family could expand. Before we could stand in court and testify and before we could be the ones meeting our children's daily needs, we had to watch worlds crumble and birth parents surrender their own rights so our rights as parents to be instated. While this seems to be the biblical pattern, and the way of the Cross, this paradigm does not normally hold true for the creation of family, the birthing of children. Most children come into this world surrounded by parents who love them and who are able to meet their basic needs for nourishment, shelter, and clothing. But when these necessities are not there and separation from the mother who birthed you becomes the harsh reality, large worlds are shattered and tiny ones are destroyed. Grief chokes and tears spill forth. Children both large and small are forced to live the rest of their lives with the reality of pain from a destroyed bond that God never intended to be broken. For the relationship between mother and child is the most basic and formative of bond; it is a bond that exists at the very cellular physical and emotional level.
So we step in as the mama and papa to our children knowing that this was never the best plan for them, but it was God's redeemed plan for them. We step in knowing that we can never replace our children's original mama and papa nor fully understand the deep-seated grief that our children carry knowingly or unknowingly. We can never fully heal their broken hearts, nor should we expect to be able. That is God's job.
But we can be His arms hugging them. We can be His hands serving them meal after meal. We can speak His words of love over them. We can point them to Him who heals their hearts and repairs the damage that this loss has made on their souls. When we walk into the orphanage tomorrow and take our girls home, they may not be thankful. And that is okay. Because we are here to grieve with them for as long as it takes for their souls to work through the loss. We won't ask them to grieve alone. We won't question their tears. We will simply cry with them through the dark days until God shines light on their grief and makes them whole.
Many expect that the rejoicing should begin on the day we first hold our daughters in our arms. Yes, we will rejoice in the fact that God has given them to us, that they are special gifts that we do not deserve. We will rejoice over their smiles, their laughter and the light that they bring into our family. We will shower them with gifts, and take far too many pictures, and delight in the personalities that God has given them. But we will do so knowing the need to balance their grief with our joy. We cannot fully rejoice now because we know we need to enter their grief and walk with them through their healing journey. As we look to the months ahead, we recognize that at times we will grieve with them, and at times we will rejoice with them. This delicate dance of grief and joy will be led by our daughters in the safe surroundings of our home until their hearts rest in a place of safety, healing and wholeness that their Creator alone can bring.