Healing Flows Out OF The Cross & People Who Love

In life we have all kinds of days – Good, Bad and Ugly. Some days you know heading into them what they are going to be. Other days (Good, Bad or Ugly) you get surprised. Yesterday was a surprise. Thankfully it was of the good kind. The day ended for me watching the return of the X-Files after I had enjoyed a wonderful Texas sunset while sitting on my back porch with my honey. But that was just the icing on the cake.

My epically good day began with of all things, the decision to skip church. Rather than do the typical Sunday morning routine, Jen and I decided to keep the family home and attend our church via the internet. In doing so, our somewhat frantic race to get eight people up, fed and out the door was replaced with a more relaxed option. We slept a little longer, had breakfast when we wanted to and at the service start time we all made it to the family room couches to watch River Pointe Church online. Sounds great doesn’t it?

It was – right up until our technology failed and watching the service wasn’t an option anymore. That’s when Jennifer said, “That’s ok. Dad can give us a lesson.” As she said it the Apostle Paul’s instructions to Timothy to “be ready in season and out of season” popped into my mind. After fidgeting for a minute, I was so thankful to the still small voice of the Holy Spirit that popped into my head and prompted me to pull out an ole’ reliable. I headed to the office and grabbed my copy of Max Lucado’s book, “God Came Near.”

As our family circled up, I read the very powerful chapter entitled, “Out of the Carpentry Shop.” That particular chapter is about Jesus’ decision to leave the safe and comfortable life that he lived while being a carpenter in Nazareth. The question that is asked is did Jesus hesitate? And if he did hesitate, what was it that swayed him to go? As Max puts forth so eloquently, “If there was hesitation on the part of his humanity it was overcome by the compassion of his divinity.” He goes on to explain that it was Jesus’ divinity that heard our voices crying out for a savior, and it was his divinity that saw our faces needing him to rescue us. It was a very powerful reminder that every person holds infinite value because Jesus deemed us valuable enough to take our place on the cross.

This is the part where the day became surprisingly epic, but before I get to it I have to remind you something. Our family is beautiful. The diversity is rich and the different colors paint a bold picture of what the family of God will be like one day in heaven – people of every tribe and race joined together to worship as a family in the great house of God. But while our family is all of that, we are also a family that has been brought together through a boat load of trauma. There are all kinds of hurt that needs to be healed. On most days we default to survival skills of flight, fight or freeze. Most days we act like everything is all right, when in reality we carry around a hidden rejection wound that affects everything we do and everything we are.

Now back to the epic part. After reading the chapter, I asked the questions listed in the study guide. One of the questions was, “How is your life altered knowing that Jesus went to the cross to die for your?” After a few of us answered, one of our kids from hard places said through tears, “I’ve always thought that my life was pretty worthless and that I always mess things up or cause things to go wrong, but knowing that Jesus died for me is hard to understand.” Boom.

What unfolded next was beautiful. Each of their siblings began to say encouraging things. Mom, Dad and Memaw each spoke the truth to her – that they have infinite worth and value, and that the enemy wants them to believe lies but that God will tell them the truth. We were able to talk about the hard place that they had come from and about how God wants to heal that wound. We talked about how God heals the wound through having a relationship with him. We all told them how much they mean to us and how much we love them. We all surrounded them and put our hands on them and prayed over them. It was a great moment in the life of our family.

As I reflect on that I am amazed that a teenager was able to articulate those big feelings. It wasn’t until I was in my thirties that I was able to do that. I am so happy that my child is moving down the road to healing and I can’t wait to see what God does with their life. I’m so thrilled that I get to be a part of it. It is also amazing to think about how their siblings responded. They reacted from a place of love and acceptance, even though they themselves are dealing with the same issues. It reminded me of an earlier post that I wrote. The foundation for healing from the wounds of hard places is found in the Gospel and relationships. Healing flows out of the cross and people who love. Both can be found in our home.

It was a good day!

Hope For The Journey

I recently spoke with an adoptive mom. Her story is not for the faint of heart. She and her husband wanted to begin a family and after having several miscarriages they realized that natural childbirth was not an option to them. It was from this devastating news that God began to open their heart to adoption. They worked with an agency, but had trouble being matched to a birthmother. Waiting went from months to years and through it all the disappointment grew. Finally after waiting and waiting they were matched with a birthmother. Again their hopes were dashed when a few days before the due date the birthmother changed her mind and decided to keep her child. They had just about given up hope when once again they were matched with another birth mom late in her pregnancy. After this birthmother delivered their dreams were realized when they became the parents to their precious child.

They were ecstatic and wanted to believe that their dreams had come true. But after their child was born it became clear that there were medical issues that they would have to be concerned about. Their baby’s birthmother had consumed alcohol and taken illegal drugs while pregnant. Their child was struggling with all of the various issues that Fetal Alcohol and Drug Syndrome can bring. After a lengthy stay in the hospital they were finally able to go home. Now their child is four, but has had to work to overcome severe developmental delays. Their child melts down easily and it makes it really difficult to go anywhere outside of the home or to be able to make and keep other children as playmates. They feel isolated from friends and family. They love their child immensely, but all of the work is not what they expected when they dreamed about having children. They are stressed, worn down and are in desperate need of support.

Even though when we spoke this mom was very discouraged, I sensed a large amount of faith in her voice. I did not get the impression that they were a family in crisis, but they were very definitely a family that was weary from the journey. They love their child deeply and would not go back if they could, but they honestly understand that they have experienced loss to a large degree. Their adoption experience simply has not lived up to their adoption dreams. And that has been hard to process. But they have and they are.

Are you in this same boat? Have you been blessed with a miracle child? A child who has some uphill battles? A child who has big obstacles to overcome? Are you weary from the adoptive journey?

You are not alone.

Let me attempt to offer you some encouragement.

There is one thing that adoptive parents with kids from hard places need to have in spades. That one thing is a healthy dose of hope.

When the journey is long and weary and it appears that there is no end in sight, you have to have hope. Hope is what allows your reservoir of love to refill so you can continue to give freely to your child. Hope is what you need when it doesn’t look like your child is ever going to be able to read. Hope is what you have to have when you think that your child will never be able to have a friend. Hope is what you have to have when you can’t seem to break through those defensive walls that are built so strong around your child’s heart. Hope is what you have to have when your child can’t stop acting that way. Hope is what you have to have when your teen child runs away from home. Hope is what you have to have when you are told any number of things that adoptive parents are told about their precious kids. Hope is what you have to have when reality’s parameters puts limits on what you wished your child could become.

Hope is everything. Hope is the only thing.

But hope in what, you ask?

Jesus.

I’m not trying to sound trite, or get all Sunday School answer on you. I really do mean it when I say – Jesus. To make it through this adoption journey, you have to hope in Jesus.

You have to place your hope in the fact that He is who He says He is, and that He will do the things that He says He will do.

Consider some of His promises:

  • “I will never fail you or forsake you.” – Hebrews 13:5
  • “I am always with you, even until the end of the world.” – Matthew 28:20
  • “I make all things new.” – Revelation 21:5
  • “I have come that you might have life and life abundantly.” John 10:10
  • “He who began a good work in you will see it through until it is complete.” – Philippians 1:6 (Paul’s promise about Jesus.)
  • “I consider my present suffering as nothing compared to the eternal glory that waits for me.” – Romans 8:15-39 (Paul’s promise about those who love Jesus.)
  • “All things work together for the good of those who have been called God’s children. – Romans 8:28 (Paul’s promise for those who Jesus loves.)

Hope is experienced and renewed through relationship. If you find yourself lacking hope, then you probably need to figure out how to be able to reconnect in your relationship with Jesus. He really is all you need. He will renew your hope. After all, I believe that it was Him who promised to give you an easy load if you would give Him your heavy burden.

When the journey is hard. When it doesn’t seem like there will be a victory. When all you are experiencing is defeat. There is Jesus. He is with you. He has not abandoned you. He is making things new. He is giving you abundant life. He began a good work in you and in your child. He will not stop His work in you or your child until the job is done. Your present suffering really isn’t anything compared to the glory He will reveal. All things really are working for the good of you and your child because you love Jesus and Jesus loves you.

You’ve got to have hope!

The Adoption Journey

Adoption really does reflect the Gospel story. Ephesians 1:5 says, “God’s unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ, and this gives him great pleasure.” In this verse when the Apostle Paul is describing how we experience being restored in our relationship with God he uses adoption as a metaphor. Being restored in your relationship with God isn’t just about knowing that one day you will go to a place – Heaven, but it is also knowing that you are now in a family – God’s very own family. Becoming a Christian is so much more than just gaining salvation. Becoming a Christian is becoming a dearly loved child of God.

That is the Gospel story, and it’s reflection is adoption. As any adoptee or adoptive parent will tell you, the adoption story is very complex and at times can be down right difficult. Whenever I make that statement I have grown accustomed to seeing puzzled faces looking back to me. There are a lot of people who don’t understand the adoption narrative. Or perhaps they have only heard an impartial adoption narrative. The impartial adoption narrative is romanticized and can come across almost like a fairy tale.

It goes like this. There once was a cute little baby in distress who needed a family. There were these brave, beautiful and selfless parents who wanted a child. The parents found their child and through an incredible miracle adopted him or her. And they all lived happily ever after and never had any trouble because this is supposed to be how these stories go. Fairy tales are compelling and make for great stories, but they rarely are true.

The full adoption story is just as compelling, but the truth is not washed over. The full adoption story is incredibly redemptive, but what makes the redemption so rewarding is in understanding the pain and struggle along the way. The glory of the cross is the sacrifice required and the cost that was paid in anguish and blood. The adoption story finds its beauty and meaning inside the story of the cross because that is what is reflected through it. We would never white wash around the cross and we must not white wash adoption either.

So, let’s take a look at the full adoption story. Let’s understand all of the parts. Let’s go into this thing called adoption with our eyes wide open. Let us know the sadness, the grief and loss. Let us know the frustration of hard work. For it is in knowing the difficult emotions, which allows us the satisfaction when healing comes. For our adoption story just like the cross ends in redemption and when redemption does come it is thrilling.

The first part of the adoption story begins with “Tragic Loss and Great Need.” The Gospel story begins with a fallen world and adoption always begins with a child in need. A child who was supposed to be loved and nurtured isn’t. Poverty, disease, drugs, abuse, neglect, war, abandonment and death – When those words are used they typically are never used to describe something good for a child. The adoption story begins with those types of descriptive words. When those words are used to describe a child it usually means that there is a child who does not have a mom or dad to care for their needs.

Thank goodness that the adoption story begins there, but doesn’t end there. The second part of the adoptive story is when “Grace and Hope Intervene.” This part of the journey is about God pursuing and doing the work to redeem us. Adoptive parents’ work is seen here also. Grace and hope intervene because God is at work in the adoption story. God is the Father for the Fatherless. His heart is for the orphan. He places the lonely in families. God makes all things new. In every adoption story God the Father has prompted earthly fathers and mothers to intervene in the lives of these children who are in such desperate need. This part of the adoption journey is about adoptive parents working on behalf of their adoptive child. Paperwork – background checks – home studies – money – waiting – matched – more money – travel – family united – home.

In the impartial adoption narrative we would next move into the happily ever after phase, but not so fast in real life. Just like in the Gospel story when after we have been adopted by God through the cross, life is not automatically perfect or easy. The long road of dying to self and becoming more like Jesus has to take place. Even though we theologically understand this we have a real hard time living it out. So is true in the adoptive journey.

Even though most adoptive parents have had the pre-adoptive training where they are taught how hard adoption can be, many of them think to the contrary. They still believe that they will have the fairy tale ending. This marks the beginning of the third stage of the adoption journey – the “Fairy Tale Delusion.” Adoption experts are correct. Adoption is hard. Later on I will expand on what I’m calling “The Rejection Wound Spectrum”, but for now just understand that every adoptee has a rejection wound. This wound was birthed in trauma and for every adoptive family it will have a big impact. It’s not a matter of if – it’s a matter of when. The fairy tale delusion stage lasts as long as it takes for “when” to occur.

When the “when” occurs you enter the most dangerous stage of the adoption journey, the fourth stage – the “It Just Got Real Up In Here”. It is the most dangerous because like in the Gospel story it is where the unrealistic expectations of the fairy tale life die and the realization that the journey ahead is going to be very difficult comes alive.

In the Gospel story this is where most who abandon their faith drop out. They don’t understand how God could make bad things happen to good people, or some other beef they have with God and they decide that the cost is to great to follow Jesus. So, they quit and walk away from the faith.

For adoptive parents it goes like this. Instead of being seen by your child as the great rescuer and being appreciated and loved, you are on the receiving end of all of the pain that comes from having a rejection wound. Because of the pain of the wound, your child is giving you their very best “fight, flight or freeze” response. Instead of connecting and attaching, you are getting dis-regulation and meltdowns. Instead of the picture perfect family, you can’t even bring yourself to go to church because of the judgement you get when your kid has a full on fit during the children’s time.

And when that truth sets in, it is very tempting to take the easy way out and hit the eject button. The reason this stage is so dangerous to the family is because it is easier to run away than it is to roll up your sleeves.

If you are reading these words and are considering running away, let me offer you some encouragement. Don’t run away. Running away might be easier, but it is never worth it. Running away brings short-term relief, but also brings long-term pain. Rolling up your sleeves will bring short-term pain, but it is the only hope of having long-term pleasure. Don’t hit eject. Instead move into the next stage.

The fifth stage of the adoption journey is “The Road To Hope and Healing.” In the Gospel story we spend a life time growing in our faith. We make a lot of messes out of things. We have to cry out to our Heavenly Father and He has to meet our needs. When he meets our needs we learn how secure we are in Him. We may not start out whole and mature, but when you walk with Jesus for a lifetime that is where you end up.

In the adoption journey it is at this point of the journey that parents know that they need help. And with as much zeal that they had to complete all of the paperwork needed to bring their child home, they begin to attack how they might be able to help their child. The help is there, but it is fragmented in its approach. There are great experts who are working on a lot of the different issues that adoptive children from hard places are dealing with. But most are working in silos. In some instances it can appear that their work is contradictory. But nonetheless, the work is being done and the help is there.

As an adoptive parent in this stage, you are leaving no stone unturned. You are working the problem and getting the help that you need. You are making mistakes and asking for forgiveness. You are meeting your child’s felt needs and connecting with them on a deeper level. You are taking one step forward and two steps back. You are fighting with school systems and competing meds. You are reading every Dr. Karyn Purvis book, attending every Empowered to Connect Conference. (And you should be doing this!) Deb Jones at PACT (Parenting Adoptees Can Trust) is on speed dial. You know what TBRI stands for. The Refresh Conference is required vacation time each year. You are advocating for your kid because your kid is worth it. You are fighting the fight and you get tired. You have days where you wish you had never adopted, but then you have days where you would adopt 100 more if you could. This may not sound like happily ever after, but it is the road to it.

Slowly and surely you begin to have good days with your child. Breakthroughs and progress is made. Your family begins to function in healthy ways. Then adolescence begins and you start over. Just kidding! (Kind of.) But you never give up and you always trust in God because He is on your side.

And one day you will reach the sixth and final stage of adoption – “Celebration.” In the Gospel story our ultimate celebration will be on the other side of glory. Even though our ultimate healing is on that side of eternity, we do experience great times of victory and advancement on earth.

So is true in the Adoption story. One day our adoptive kids will find ultimate transformation and healing in heaven. But also on this side you will see them have breakthroughs. One day the struggle and hard work will cease. On that day your child will be grown. Your child will be on the road to healing. Your child will no longer be a mess but will instead be able to live the best possible life they can. It might take awhile, but “He who began a good work in them and you will see it through until completion.” And on that day you will celebrate. And during the celebration you will know that all of the hard work was worth it.

If you are on this adoption journey, I commend you. I pray for you and I walk the road with you. Don’t hit eject. It’s worth it. “For I consider this present suffering as nothing compared to the vast riches that await us in heaven.” – Romans 8:18

 

The Foundation For Connecting With Your Kids From Hard Places

It goes without saying that the Apostle Paul is a big figure in the New Testament. He was the one that helped the Christian faith spread out from Israel and impact the non-Jewish world. He took several journeys where he introduced people to faith in Jesus and created lots of churches. He lived a bold life of adventure and along the way his letters to many of the churches he started found themselves canonized and in the New Testament.

One of his earliest letters was his first letter to the church in Thessalonica. It’s very clear from reading this letter that Paul had a real deep affection for the folks in that church. He wrote them to encourage them in their faith because they were being persecuted because of their belief that Jesus was the only way to be made right with God. In this encouragement he urges them to continue to share their faith and influence others to believe in Jesus. He also addresses some Christian doctrinal issues and specific matters pertaining to their specific church. From his instructions on these issues and matters we can draw principals to our lives on and grow our faith. He also speaks about the hope that we have in Jesus after death, giving us comfort in knowing that those who have given their lives to Jesus will be reunited one day in heaven.

There is this one verse in the second chapter of the letter that I love. It’s 1 Thessalonians 2:8. “We loved you so much that we not only shared the Good News with you, but our very lives as well.” I love this verse because I believe it served as the foundation for Paul’s life and ministry. There are two things here that I want to point out to you. 1. The “Good News”, or the Gospel, and 2. “our very lives”, or relationships. As we look at Paul’s life we see throughout the New Testament that he was all about convincing people to believe in the Gospel, and the primary vehicle in which he did that was through authentic relationships.

We would do well to let those two things serve as the foundation for our lives as well. And not only that, but if you are the parent of a kid from a hard place, you would be doing well if you let those two things serve as the foundation of your parenting. The Gospel and Relationships.

I plan on expanding on this later, but if you are parenting a child that has come to you from trauma, there is only one thing that can truly heal and transform your child. That one thing is their belief in the Gospel. And the primary vehicle that God will use to get them to that belief is their relationship with you as their parent. So here we are back to Paul’s foundation – We love our kids so much that we will share the Gospel with them as we give them relational connectedness through our very lives.

So, I hope that you will begin to ask yourself some very important questions. How is the Gospel at work in you? How can you better allow your child to see the Gospel’s work in you? How are you as a parent pointing your kids to Jesus? How are you offering your life to them? How are you present with them in everyday moments? What are you intentionally doing to connect with their hearts on a deep level? What priorities do you need to have based upon having the foundation of your life being in the Gospel and having connected relationships with your kids? What changes in your lifestyle do you need to make to reflect the priorities you have based upon the foundation of the Gospel?

In answering these questions hopefully you will continue to allow the transforming power of the Gospel to work it’s way deep into you. As it does its work, I hope that you will discover the power that the Holy Spirit puts into relationships. My prayer for you is that the Gospel and the power of relationships will become the foundation of your life and impact your parenting.

Pray for Hope!

As I write these words there is a baby girl named Hope laying on an operating room table fighting for her life. She is in the middle of a ten hour operation to receive a new liver. It is a miracle that she has made it this far, and it will be a miracle if she is to make at all.

But her name is Hope, and her family’s hope is in Jesus.

I am writing these words to ask as many of you who do pray – to pray. Please pray for baby Hope and please share this story so others might pray too.

Hope was born in China with a bad liver. She was abandoned and placed in an orphanage where she was deemed “unadoptable”. Children, of which there are simply to many, who find themselves in this situation usually do not make it. My heart has broken a thousand times over, as I remember standing in the cemetery of an orphanage probably like the orphanage that Hope was in – filled with precious ones who were also deemed “unadoptable”.

But her name is Hope, and her family’s hope is in Jesus.

That’s right, she has a family. Despite being labeled “unadoptable”, Jesus made a way for an amazing woman named Cindy Morrison to meet Hope in the orphanage. Jesus made a way for Cindy to adopt Hope and bring her home to her four other sisters, even though the doctors didn’t expect Hope to survive the plane trip. She did make it home. She is loved by her Momma and four sisters.

Her name is Hope, and her family’s hope is in Jesus.

Since being home Hope has been receiving treatment that has improved her health dramatically. But unfortunately without a new liver it was just a matter of time. She was placed at the top of the transplant list, but no donors were available.

Her name is Hope, and her family’s hope is in Jesus.

Through the miracle of Facebook someone who was a friend of a friend heard Hope’s story and volunteered to be a “living donor” for Hope. (Yes, that is a thing. The living donor gives a portion of their liver. The donated portion grows into a new liver, and the donor’s liver regrows also.) Tests were run and rerun. Policies were debated and re-debated. At the end of it all the living donor was in fact a match. Surgery was set, but baby Hope grew to sick and so the surgery was postponed.

Her name is Hope, and her family’s hope is in Jesus.

After gaining new strength, a new surgery for baby Hope with the living donor was scheduled for later in December, but last night Cindy got a call that there was a donor for baby Hope. Someone’s greatest loss would be Hope’s greatest gain. Rush to the hospital. Tests. More tests. It’s a match. At 6:30am today surgery to save baby hope’s life began. There is no guarantee. She is as fragile as fragile can be. She needs our prayers and her family needs our support. Please pray with me.

Her name is Hope, and her family’s hope is in Jesus.

 

Celebrating The Day Gracie Joined Our Family!

Gracie Close Up

Yesterday was a crazy day. We arrived back home to Houston at 4am from a wonderful visit to Washington state to celebrate Jennifer’s parents 50th wedding anniversary. After flying all night I went into the office and Jennifer and the kids continued to move into the home that we just closed on. School starts Monday and we are doing our best to be settled in the new house before the bell rings. Like I said, it was a crazy day.

It was also the 13th anniversary of the day we received Gracie into our family! We love celebrating those anniversaries with all of our adopted children. But yesterday was so out of whack that we were not able to. We will be celebrating once the craziness subsides. Gracie has picked out a Japanese hibachi restaurant and I can’t wait for that fun to begin.

But I do not want to wait to share how wonderful my daughter Gracie is, and how much I love her. Gracie, you have brought so much joy and laughter to our family. You are a beautiful young woman and I am so excited for your future. I’m so glad I get to be your Dad. Happy Gracie Day!