Wednesday, May 21

Our big news...

We are moving! 

It seems like we've been put through the fire the last two weeks, but I suppose James just wanted to make sure to interview all levels of hospital care before we relocate our entire family to Athens for the IT position that Michael has accepted at Price Avenue Christian School in Athens, GA! 

Yes, the hospital systems passed the test, though none of us would mind if we didn't have to experience all the levels of healthcare that we have in the last 2 weeks... ever again. :) (2 hospital ER's, ambulance transport, the PICU, and the general pediatrics floor at the children's hospital).

Michael will start on June 9th and the rest of us will follow as soon as is feasibly possible. We'll be readying our house for sale and preparing to move there in the next couple of months. This position is one that God led us to several months ago, though the final interview and start date has come upon us very quickly! 

We love the area, the school and church, and we're still close enough to family in Titusville that we can continue to have those strong relationships as well. The peace we had throughout James' hospitalization and the support we received in Athens was confirmation of God's provision for us even without the long-term resources and people we have had with us in FL. 

Your prayers are greatly appreciated as our family makes this BIG transition!

Monday, April 14


Definition: In the positive spiritual sense, brokenness is the condition of being completely subdued and humbled before the Lord, and as a result, completely yielded to and dependent upon Him also.

When you don't feel like God is near, you don't feel like He hears you or cares about you, when you feel like your world is falling apart and like the God so many profess and love has meant nothing to you. When you cannot describe the hurt and pain in your life and feel that no one else can possibly understand. When you question the decisions of today, tomorrow, and a thousand yesterdays. When you want to yell and scream at the God of the Universe but then you wonder why you would waste your energy because it doesn't feel like He's really there anyway. When you question the very existence of God because He's never meant anything to you personally, but you can't bear to say it out loud because you were raised in the idea of Christian beliefs as a societal rule even though it was filled with hypocrisy and idle faith. When God feels like someone else's fairy tale and a mind game that successful people throw around. When you feel bitterness toward those that experience success and feel anger at your own defeat. When you can only find your worth in other people's success (for instance, your children), or when your worth comes from something physical (a bottle, a needle, or even just chocolate and french fries...). When your friends cannot understand your lack of interest in their God and you cannot bear to tell them that you're not interested because you NEED their love and support. Or when they scoff at the idea of God and run their lives their own way. When life falls apart. When you have nothing left to give. When you ache for normal, peace, and for the "good old days" again...

There... at the bottom, without hope, there truly is ONE who wants to help you. Wants to heal your heart. Wants to lead you toward happiness. Wants to give you worth. Wants to help you see past the dirty of today into the tomorrow. He doesn't take away our consequences for life's choices, but He listens. He doesn't reject you, and He doesn't backlash if we reject Him. He does require that we accept His gifts for ourselves, though, because we cannot ride on the shirttails of our ancestors to say we are Christians. We have to see past our grandfather's faith and lay our own lives down.

"I have nothing left, and I don't feel like you have ever cared" Cry it out to Him.

"I want to make things right in my life, and I know I need help to do that!" He really does hear your pleas.

"I need to see a brighter tomorrow. I need Hope back, I need Joy back." He can give those things, but you do have to ask for them.

"I want to have you as a part of my future. I want to hear you, to feel you, to know you are really there, because right now, I don't." He's ok with your real feelings, you don't have to pretend.

Even this... "I don't like you, I don't know if I want you. But I need to tell you that!!"

BROKENNESS... Laying your life out, prostrate without barriers before the Lord because your heart is so overwhelmingly burdened for something that words don't come and only the utterances of your heart can form prayers.

Cry out to Him. Find an empty room, park your car where you can be alone. Let yourself be vulnerable before God. Tell him how you feel! And wait. And listen. And feel.

Yesterday was Palm Sunday, the day we mark as a celebration of Jesus' arrival in Jerusalem. Where the week began with great celebration and ended with Jesus' crucifixion and death. But the new week began again after the time of darkness, despair, and agony. Literal DEATH through the most torturous means available. Having thorns pierced through his head, and hanging by nails in his hands and feet. Not because he was a robber or a rapist or a murderer or anything else. Because on the cross he took the sins that you and I have committed, all the sins from the beginning to the end, and He bore them on the cross. His heart broke in the physical sign of stresses, he sweat blood. And he still showed mercy to the man on the cross beside him even in his final hours.

There is forgiveness. There is mercy. There is a REAL God, a real Jesus Christ, His son. And He wants to be a part of your story. A part of your healing. A part of your life past your grandmother's faith. He wants to be real to you.

Find your place, let your emotions out, be angry, be sad, be whatever you need to be... be yourself. God is big enough to hear it all. To bear it all. And He already did, on that cross.

The story doesn't end with the cross, though. It ends with the resurrection, where God came to earth and showed us all that He has overcome the grave, given forgiveness beyond what man alone can do in his own heart. That through Jesus Christ we can know and have direct access to God the Father. That our sins weren't forgiven here on earth alone, but in Heaven, and that He wants to have a relationship with us, and to give us the genuine gift of eternal life.

It's not a fairy tale of your friend's successes, but a true faith with a living God.

Find him. Search Him out. Be real with Him. Then if you will, come, tell me about it so I can celebrate with you and pray for you on your continued walk toward Him. It doesn't mean everything bad goes away, but it means you have the Hope, the Joy, the One who never leaves you by your side to face the hard times in life.

This Easter season, look for Jesus. He's waiting to hear from you...

Tuesday, February 11

Wesley has a new friend! Our newest family member, Odina, is a pup trained by Canine Companions for Independence in Orlando, FL. He is SO happy with her and she has already began taking her 'spot' up next to him wherever we go in the last 10 days! Here's a video of our first week together :)

Monday, January 13

17 Nosy Questions about special needs adoption- ANSWERED

You know the questions that people WANT to ask, but they’re not sure how to ask them in a way that doesn’t come across as nosy, insulting, or otherwise inappropriate?  Close friends can discuss it, and others that have walked in similar shoes have experienced similar and will share their own responses as well, but for you or I to just walk up to someone and ask what we REALLY want to know, well, it just wouldn’t be appropriate.  

There is a difference between something that someone NEEDS to know and something they simply desire to.  Curiosity.  Many times we’ll be told not to answer questions of curiosity because it’s really not necessary.  I think differently, and so do several influential historical people:

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”

“Around here, however, we don't look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we're curious...and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”

“I think, at a child's birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift would be curiosity.”

And so, even when there may be a bit of discomfort in the actual conversation that surrounds these questions, I feel like putting it out there is a way to help others to see what adoption and special needs parenting is really all about.  There are questions that are intended to be nosy or rude. These aren’t those.  These are the questions that are meant to understand, to inspire.

These are the responses to those hard questions from 13 moms of multiple children with special needs...

1. Did you fall in love at first sight, or does it take a while to have it feel like the child is really “yours?”

Amy: Sometimes, but "knowing" a child was mine and "feeling" it are different. Sometimes the bonding was quick, usually it took time to fully feel that true mom/child connection.

Jaclyn:  I have fallen in love with many orphans and still love them, but the feeling when I saw my sons was so overwhelming it brought me to tears. The feeling was soooo strong that I could not deny that God was calling me to GO!

Meredith: I think the idea of love came quickly, but the ‘love’ I had for each child initially and the LOVE I had for them a year-18 months home was amazingly different.  Initially I cared for and about them, but once that true bonding occurred between the two of us, it was a deep and indescribable love that you know with very few people in a lifetime.

Sara 1: When I first saw her photo, it was like love at first sight. I felt like I knew her, as if there was some sort of connection all ready. Seeing her for the first time in person I still felt that connection, pull and love towards her, but it was mixed with fear as she was more "feral" than we had expected.
Sara 2: Yes, as soon as she was placed in my arms I was in love with her. It was as if she was born to me.

Alysha: Yes...first sight of their picture where the idea of who they are is different then who they really are. Seeing them for the first time in real life was surreal and one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Both times my heart felt exactly like it did when I first saw my bio just knew they were mine. No matter how hard it might be at times, they are mine and my heart knows it.

J:  Love at first sight with the first 3 who were all toddler age, not as much with our older two, still excitement but not the motherly, protective feeling right away.

2.  How did your biological kids really react to having a new child in the house?

Amy: We started our family by adoption, then biological kids, then adoption, so.....

Jaclyn: There was definitely a honeymoon period. At first, the boys could do no wrong, but now they treat them about like they treat each other.

Meredith: It depends on the child.  Our kids already in the home LOVED our first two adopted children.  Both were much like infants.  The third child that entered was with just as much enthusiasm as he was like an older infant/young toddler.  The fourth and fifth came home together and one was readily accepted, but the other was walking, in to the other kids’ things, and quite honestly wasn’t very nice.  Other kids in our home have said they didn’t like her at times, and I can’t blame them.  I didn’t like her at times either.  But love?  Love is different, and there is definitely love between every set of sibling.  Not a single child would wish they didn’t have a single sibling.  

Sara 1:  My then 4 yr old traveled with us and knew for many months that we were working towards bringing her sister home. She was very excited.

Sara 2:  Very excited to have a baby in the house.
Lorraine: Our biological kids have welcomed each and every new sibling with open hearts and open arms. We've always included our children in the prayer process when God call us to adopt another child, and God has never led us to adopt a child without already turning our children's hearts toward that child. Once the new child is in our home/family, it's no different than when a new biological sibling is born. There's the usual transitions and adjustments all families have when a new member is added, but nothing God can't handle. Everyone learns together how to adjust to the new normal.

Shelley: My bio kids don't remember what it is like for a child to enter the family in the "traditional" way (ie: mommy pregnant/new baby being born). So, for them, children joining our family through adoption is the "normal" way. They were always accepting of the new kids.

3.  You adopted out of birth order- did the kids already in your house feel displaced?

Amy: we adopted out of order, but added in the middle so it worked out fine. Might be different if the new child became the oldest.

Jaclyn: Our boys became #3 and #4 of 5. Amusingly, our youngest is the only one who feels "displaced" because even though the boys are 2 years older than her they are both smaller.

Sara 1: No she did not feel displaced, likely due to the fact that developmentally she was still much older though.

Meredith: We chose to let our oldest/firstborn always stay the oldest, but even that looked different than we anticipated.  He is developmentally the oldest, and physically the biggest, but by age he is 16 months younger than one sister and 12 months younger than another.  Since they were not encroaching on his “man of the house” status (under Daddy, of course), he never has minded their chronological age being older than him.  Our other kids came in the middle, within 7-8 months of another bio child of ours, and she loves the close siblings.  Again, she is older than both of them.  

Lorraine: Our adoptions have been all over the place, and most definitely out of birth order. Our first adoption was of an 11-year-old girl. Our bio kids were ages 9, 11, and 13 when our 11-year-old daughter joined our family. So, we entered adoption out of birth order. Then we adopted a 4-year-old, then a 22-month-old, then a 17-year-old (who became our oldest child), then a 5-year-old and her 7-week-old half sister, then two 6-year-olds. So, our oldest biological child is no longer the oldest child in our family, and some people feel that's a huge deal. But, our oldest child agreed and was willing to give up his position as the oldest because he had a tender heart for adoption and a true understanding of redemption through adoption. He knew this because he first experienced it for himself through his adoption and redemption by our Savior, and he also experienced the adoption and redemption of several other family members being adopted into our family from hard situations. Our other two biological children were not the oldest to begin with, so they were not at all concerned about adopting someone older than themselves. One of our adopted daughters is four months older than our biological daughter, and they're best friends. Sure, it was challenging at first, but I think most of those challenges would have occurred regardless of the age difference. God has worked out each and every detail, and, for us, personally, our children (bio and adopted), their hearts are much more concerned about helping others than protecting their position in the family birth order.

Shelley: No. We did respect the fact that our youngest enjoyed being the "baby" of the family. We only added a child IN birth order (ie: as the youngest) after our youngest bio child indicated that she wanted to be a big sister.

4. Were you ever afraid the child wouldn’t bond with you?

Amy: Yes! Our 2nd international adoption our son wanted nothing to do with me (as in screaming like he was being murdered if my husband left the room)! It took a year, but he loves me and visa versa. He is now my biggest mama's boy!

Jaclyn: Definitely!! Adam bonded very quickly. It is taking Matthias much longer since he cannot hear and speak.

Meredith: I wondered for the first year after our first adoption, but as the love story slowly unfolded, I learned that working to gain our first adopted daughter’s love and trust was very different than the ‘easy love’ with the boy we adopted at the same time.  Our third child had a ‘transferrable bond’ with a single caregiver since birth, and I never really was concerned with his bonding.  Our 4th and 5th children, one bonded quickly and easily, and our daughter, now 3 years home, continues to struggle with bonding.  We take it a day at a time and know that God is sovereign in this too!

Sara 1: Sometimes I would think about that as a possibility, but I had talked to a few people who had spent much time with her, so I didn't actually worry about it.

Sara 2: Yes, she had suffered many different care givers at the hospital over her first two months and displayed many classic signs of attachment disorders. She was in SO much distress all of the time, for a few weeks I wondered if she would ever relax into me and feel safe. Which she did after about a month and a half. She is FIRMLY bonded to us now.

Shelley: Not until it happened

Gillian: Yes, I was afraid that she wouldn't bond with me, and it has proven to be a challenge. But what has totally surprised me was my struggle with bonding with her. I assumed it would be her issue, but it turns out, it has been something both of us have had to work on together.

5. Do you expect your typical kids to care for your special needs children when you’re no longer able to?  

Boston:  No I don't expect it, though I believe they'd be willing. They are our children and we made this decision. All responsibility is ours.

Amy: No. However, THEY talk about caring for them when they are older.

Jaclyn: Definitely not, but I imagine they will want to.

Sara 1: No, I do not expect any of my typical children to take care of our disabled children when we are no longer here. I do however expect them to care about them, make sure that they are cared for, spend time with them etc, as they would of a typical sibling. I don't worry about this because they are very close and I can't see one abandoning the other.

Sara 2: No, I would not expect my other children to care for her if we were unable. Unfortunately it's not likely that it would ever be a consideration given her diagnosis and life expectancy.

Meredith: No, we don’t expect them to take care of our children with disabilities, however we do hope they will want to be involved in their lives and have an impact on the care that their siblings receive when we cannot provide that anymore.

Lorraine: We don't expect anything. We seek what God desires and trust in His sovereignty, believing He has a plan and it is good. Several of our children have expressed that they wouldn't have it any other way than to help care for their siblings who have special needs after we're no longer here to provide that care. The love runs DEEP. However, if our children live overseas or are in situation where they're unable to help care for their siblings who have special needs, or even if they choose not to for whatever reason, we have complete faith that God will provide that care through someone special. We don't feel like we have to figure this out before we say YES to adopting children when special needs. We trust God has a plan and it is good. He will provide the care each of our children needs, and, for us, it doesn't matter if the care is provided by a sibling or another person God places in the lives of our children who have special needs---we just trust He WILL provide. But it's heartwarming to see the depth of love God has woven into our children's hearts, connecting them as siblings who passionately love and protect one another. Our children all pitch in pretty much 24/7 on a daily basis, not because they have to, but because they want to.

Shelley: Absolutely not.

Alysha:  I've enjoyed listening to my girls go back and forth over who will have who live with them when they get older. Not even talking about it in a sense of my husband and I being gone. Just wanting to have their bro's with them . It blesses my heart. They already make plans over taking their bro's to the movies, Disneyland and so on. I know they don't really get the gist of maybe one day really having to "care" for them, but I know in my heart that they don't see their bro's as burdens the way the outside world does.

17 Nosy Questions about special needs adoption- ANSWERED (part 2)

Part 1:

6. Do you worry a child can’t be “turned around” if they have a difficult history before coming to you?
J: I am very much worried about that right now  

Amy: When we adopted a child with a significantly traumatic history and severe attachment issues, I realized that we couldn't "fix" her and she might never truly heal from her wounds. We realized all we had control of was how we loved her and not if she responded to that love. That is hard! I realized that loving unconditionally is so hard in reality (no matter how much you understand "why").

Jaclyn: I always worry about the future of all my children. My biggest concern is whether or not Adam will be able to function in a "normal" manner later in life. He literally has only half a brain because they left his hydro untreated. Either way, we love and adore him!!

Sara 1: I didn't with this adoption, but it is always a thought in my head when considering other adoptions. Mostly because I have to make sure that my children at home are safe, not because I'm not willing to parent a troubled child.

Shelley: EVERY adopting family should realize that there is always the possibility that you can't "fix" the child. If you are going into adopting with the idea that you are "fixing" or "saving" a child, I'd recommend you rethink things.

Meredith: I’ve experienced, as a sibling to adopted children, that love doesn’t cure history.  It’s not up to me to turn a child around, but to love them through it and to trust in God’s delight of His child.  I hope and pray my children will all learn to love the Lord and find healing in Him, however I am not naive enough to believe that I have the capability to change a person’s heart from the inside out except through Him.

7. How do you make the decision to adopt a child when you have vulnerable children at home? Have you ever been concerned about the child being unkind to or resenting the children with special needs?

Jaclyn: All of my children including my bio kids have special needs. We made the decision as a family.

Meredith: We have only adopted children with significant special needs, so our concern with them resenting another’s needs was never really a thought.  We do, however, have safe practices in our home because even though all of our adopted children have significant needs, they are not always safe left unattended with one another, either.  We have gates as physical boundaries at night and use other similar practices in the daytime when needed.

Erin: I cannot recommend hosting enough. We had 3 little kids at home. Our daughter who is also adopted has CP, so she is vulnerable on many levels to "older kids" in the home. We hosted a sibling group of older boys a total of 3 times (individually and together). We went into it as a short term mission to a child for the summer, expecting it to NOT work long term. Instead found that they got along well with our other children, our other kids LOVED them, and they didn't have any alarming/concerning negative behaviors. We also just had a peace about them while they were here and after much prayer and careful consideration, we adopted them. I have also seen other families host with intent to adopt and come to the realization during hosting that it will NOT work with the other kids in their home because of behaviors that become evident or the desires of the host child. Our boys got to experience our home and our rules several times and they asked us to adopt them. I think that has made our transition with them much easier than if we had just showed up at their orphanage. If we had not hosted, we would NEVER have considered adopting "older kids."

8. What do you do about the feelings you have because you can’t bring them ALL home?

Jaclyn: I knew going into it that I could likely only "save" one or two. I continue to advocate and encourage others to do the same.

Sara 1: It's a horrible feeling. For us we knew that one little boy HAD to get into a family and we came home and advocated for him. If no one had gone for him, we would have returned. Beyond that I know that I can't take them all of I would just have my own version of an orphanage, so I do what I can to help anyone else who wants to adopt, and I try to share as much as I can about adoption with as many people as I can. I also try to support my daughter's old orphanage however I can.

Meredith: I try to advocate for those left behind as well as the general care of orphans, but it is a burden that doesn’t go away.

Allison: I try to motivate other people to bring home children.

9. How do you get the feeling that that child is the “right” one?

Jaclyn: God...... It is the only answer I have. I prayed. He answered!!

Sara 1: How do you ever know anyone is the one, your best friend, your partner? It's a feeling you get, one of peace that says that this is a right option for you. And it's up to you to move forward with that or not.

Allison: The feeling of connection to a child/sibling group just wont go away. I pray about it and if it wont go away I know God is trying to tell me something.

Brittany: For us, it has always been the feeling of immediate excitement versus the feeling of trepidation. For each of our adopted children, I had an immediate sense of peace in my heart and excitement in our responses/conversations about the situation. For every situation we ultimately turned down, we are now able to look back and the first thoughts we had about the situation were somewhat unsettling. We, of course, have had fears, thoughts, questions etc each and every time we are presented with a situation, but when we have been the right family for that child, there is a sense of peace that comforts and quiets the mumbles and allows us to leap (with faith) forward.

10. Do you ever truly love your adopted children like you do your bio children?

J: Yes!

Jaclyn: Definitely! They are my kids. As my friend told me once..... does it matter if a package comes via UPS or Fed Ex?? God sent them to me as my children and I love them all.

Sara 1: Yes you can. But I think it's possible to love all of your children differently, biological and adopted.

Sara 2: Absolutely.

Lorraine: Yes. Having both biological and adopted children, I can honestly say there's no difference between the love. There's a special relationship with each child that looks different because each child IS different. I would bet that if people watched us interact with our children without noticing skin color, people wouldn't be able to tell which ones are biological and which ones are adopted because there's no difference in our love for them.

Gillian: Do you ever truly love your adopted children like you do your bio children? Bonding has been an issue for Evangeline and I but four years in I can say that I love her, and I don't see her differently than my other children. Do I still struggle? Yes? But it makes it a lot easier when there is love.

11. What was the biggest difference between kids from US foster care and kids from other countries as far as how they do in a family?   

Boston: Surprisingly, there were WAY more institutional begavour's in our foster adoption situation. She was essentially in a nursing facility and they cared for her, but she spent a lot of time in a pack and play.

Sarah 1: I don't think it's kids from overseas orphanages vs. kids from North American foster care. Children are all different, and they take in a deal with their life experiences in their own ways. A child who has been living in a MI may be better adjusted if they were well feed, and allowed to play, and talked to, and liked by staff and other residents then a child who has been severely neglected and or abused by a birth family and then placed in an abusive foster home (or even just a foster home ill equipped to meet the child's specific needs).

Amanda: Kids from orphanages in my opinion adapt MUCH easier to family life. . . Kids from foster care have been taught what a family is over and over and over, but every time it was a wrong view and they were again moved. This means that you have to try to get them to change their view. Whereas kids in an orphanage don't even have a view of family yet. It is MUCH easier in my opinion (after 8 from orphanages and 12 from US foster care) to teach them what a family is the first time, than it is to try to change their view of family from something negative to something positive.

Meredith: Our son from foster care adapted easier to our family than any of our other kids, except maybe our first son, who was much like an infant.  Our foster-adopt had a single loving adult in his life from 3 months to 3.5 years, then came to our home.  One of our children from an orphanage was unused to being held or touched and so sensory deprived that she had a difficult time adapting to life outside of her crib and would scream to be put back in her crib.  Another daughter was raised like a pack-animal and had no social boundaries, knowledge of appropriate interaction, manners, or knowledge of the many ‘ordinary’ things in life like waiting for food to cook or going to a grocery store.  It felt like we were training an animal at first, and she had such a long time of all of that, that we are still trying to get through some of that.