Celebrating 5 Years of Being Family!

It is October in Pretoria – the most beautiful month in our beautiful city! I never get tired of seeing the streets of our city lined with the most vibrant green and of course purple trumpet flowers of the Jacaranda trees. We have also been in the grip of a heat wave, with temperatures soaring above 33 degrees for nearly two weeks now and it seems that spring was just a rumour. With the high temperatures we have had to make plans for the children to cool down as we do not have a swimming pool. Buckets, hoses, sprayers and even a big crate do the trick so that they spend hours entertaining themselves and cooling down.

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Watching my two kids play in the water, fills my heart with joy and gratefulness. They splash, laugh, tease each other and of course fight with each other like any other set of siblings do. And that is what makes me happy – they are just like any other siblings, regardless of the fact that they don’t look like each other or like us. We are family!

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So many days I am aware of how God created each child uniquely and specifically for our family. Nina is a strong willed girl, not really phased by other’s opinions with an imagination that may have her end up on stage. Siya on the other hand is a people-pleaser. Enjoying attention and wanting people to like him – and of course he succeeds in this wherever we go. These unique traits of them have already helped them in handling situations. Siya recently started school and having Nina as his big-sister has helped a lot. She protects him like a tiger and handles all the “Is he really your brother?” questions without blinking an eye. Of course we have to help her and teach her the correct words to say, but she isn’t offended by anyone trying to tell her he cannot be her brother.

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In the past few weeks we have celebrated both their birthdays. Siya turned two end of August and Nina turned 5 a few days ago. Birthdays especially are a time when I am reminded of this wonderful and precious blessing that we have experienced with the adoption of our two children. In the normal day to day life of being family we tend to forget how we became family. We are a normal family with the normal ups and downs of parenthood. Days are filled with instructing and disciplining our children, breaking up fights, nagging them to eat their food and clean up their rooms. Mornings filled with the rush to get everyone on time for work and school. Bedtime routines that can sometime go on much longer than hoped for.

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This week, 5 years after becoming parents for the first time, I have been thinking so much about this road that we have been on. I have been thinking about our struggle with infertility and what an incredible heavy burden it was at the time to carry, not really believing that there will be a time where I am completely at peace with the fact that I will never conceive. I have been thinking about how we wondered and prayed about how our family wlll handle adoption, and how we were blessed with a loving, open-armed family welcoming both our children. I have been thinking about the moments I first met each baby – Nina as a newborn giving her first cry and Siya when he was 7 weeks old. And then of course I have been thinking a lot about our childrens’s brave tummy mommies. Always grateful, always humbled beyond words for their selfless act of love and gift of life to us!

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I have also been wondering lately what our lives would have been like if we didn’t go through these trials and things happened the way we thought and hoped that it would. If I had a choice, what would it be? And then I can say with a certain heart – I will not choose a thing different than how it happened! The trial of infertility brought to me a new understanding of what it means to live with my eyes fixed on Jesus and hoping and longing for an Eternal Life with our Heavenly Father. Adoption taught me a deep gospel truth of how God adopted us into His family (Eph 1:3-10), and I truly believe that I would never have understood this completely if it weren’t for experiencing this personally.

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Looking back on our journey I can echo Apostle Paul’s words in Romans 8:28

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

Wednesday Wisdom 1/4/2015

“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians: who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”

Brennan Manning

“All My Children Are “My Own””

A very good look at both adoption as we know it to be but also our adoption into God’s family by the work of Jesus Christ.

All My Children Are ‘My Own’


OCT 292014
The theological significance of adoption language.

“We prefer not to refer to our children as ‘adopted children’ as we see adoption as having been a one-time event. We just call them our children,” Hagerty said.

“If Mommy gets a baby in her belly, will you send me back?” my daughter asked, with nervous eyes searching the floor, inhaling the shame of those words as if they were her indictment.

It’s often near the surface for this one — not the year she was “chosen” and a mommy and daddy flew all the way across the ocean to look her in the eyes and call her daughter — but the too-many, earlier years that still seem to weigh heavier. These days, she lives buoyant and giddy. Her eyes have found a sparkle, and we see them more than we see those hands that spent nearly a year awkwardly covering them. My little girl laughs. A lot. And this week when I hugged her I could tell her body wanted to melt (not stiffen) in my arms.

But just within her reach is the shame she feels about her life on the other side, when her given last name tied her to no one. One phrase or question or hint of her past and I watch those eyes, which just harnessed a sparkle, go dark.

Adoption saved her and it haunts her, because of its open-ended definition to her. It’s still a question. She, like many of the rest of us, has yet to reconcile the power of this one act.

Children of My Own

I hadn’t even kissed their foreheads or tickled their feet and this stranger’s words about them stung.

“Oh, you’re adopting? Just you wait. Once you have them at home I’m sure you’ll be able to have children of your own.”

A phrase I’ve heard a hundred times, and it never ceases to give my heart pause. Children of your own, words that expose a subconscious understanding of adoption as charitable affection versus primal love. As if these, once-adopted ones, were somehow, not truly mine.

There is a distinction in our language about those children, once adopted, and their biological counterparts that reveals much more about the state of our hearts — the state of myheart — than it does about the children to whom it’s referring.

That simple phrase, often spoken by beautifully intentioned people, reveals the shame under which my daughter sometimes lives. But she’s not alone, she just lives an outward existence that represents the battle each one of us fights in our understanding of him.

It is inherent to human flesh. We are interlopers, or so we think, hanging on to the coattails of another person’s inheritance. Certainly we’re not “one of his own,” we hold deep-down; instead we grasp at something we believe will never really name us. We are simply recipients of his charitable affections, we subconsciously reason.

Our language about physical adoption reveals the gaps in our understanding about how he has adopted us. And those words that sting when I hear them make me hurt more than just for my children, but for the representation of his name.

Most can’t imagine a love beyond what we see in the natural as the most intense form of love — the kind birthed when a mother’s body breaks open to give life to one that shared her flesh and her breath. How could it be that a mother could not only love, but see as her own, a child that her womb did not form and who wears another mama’s skin? We see the struggle of attaching, mother to child and child to mother, that so often happens in adoption, and it only reinforces our subconscious belief that true love between mother and child is only inherited through blood … and not won.

Adoption Changes Everything

When my daughter’s eyes fill with the shame of her history and her heart begins to clamp behind them and adoption is still her question — am I truly “in” or just posing? – I see me. I see a hundred weak yeses as just plain weak and all the things I’ve declared with my mouth that my body never fulfilled and the times I poured out prayers to him only to forget him, the real source of my strength, hours later.

I see a never-ending list of failures. I live, subtly, as if I am on the outside of that fence. Just like her. All things that could be wiped away in an instant if I understood the power of his having adopted me. This reality changes everything.

I am a child of his own, this God-Man who wrapped his holiness around my sin-stained existence and renamed me. Adopted. Grafted. I am one who is marked by his name more than any of my failures.

A child who knows that adoption isn’t really about the past that haunts her, the forever stamp of separate, not included, but instead the name of the King who fought, hard for her — she wears a love that is fierce. She’s a force with which to be reckoned, this wildly-loved former-orphan. Me.

So when I hear that phrase “a child of your own” separating the children under my roof from the one born from my womb, and my heart saddens at the misunderstanding of this wild-love that’s been birthed within my home among children who wear another mama’s skin, I can’t help but think of him.

He calls me “his own” when the world and my heart wants to label me forever severed.

Adoption is his great declaration.

Sara Hagerty is a wife to Nate and a mother of five whose arms stretched wide across the ocean to Africa. Sara is the author of Every Bitter Thing is Sweet: Tasting the Goodness of God In All Things and she writes regularly about life-delays, finding God in the unlikely, motherhood, marriage and adoption athttp://EveryBitterThingisSweet.com, where this article originally appeared.

* This article was first posted on Christianity Today.

Still Worth It?

Beautiful, honest written by Jennifer Phillips about the difficulties surrounding the adoption of their daughter from China.

Still Worth It?

It’s a peculiar thing to love a child who does not love you back. 

When a child grows in your womb, she is part of you. You speak to her, you feed her, you nurture her. You are familiar to her. The first time she’s placed on your chest, she naturally snuggles up. She doesn’t have the muscle tone or coordination yet to try to move away from you, but even if she did, she wouldn’t want to. A newborn’s body naturally curves onto yours as she leans in, not away, for reassurance. She may cry, but she nestles against you for comfort. Being apart from you is scary and unknown; being held by you is home.

My Chinese adopted daughter Lucy and I did not get the privilege of this natural form of bonding. She and I missed out on crucial months of stroking, rocking, singing, and cuddling. Left alone for most hours of the day on a wooden slat that cruelly pretended to be a bed, she soothed herself with tapping or tongue-sucking. She had no one else. I entered the scene 15 months into her under-stimulated life and wanted to hold her. I wanted to kiss her and stroke her and give her all the things she’d missed out on for so very long.

I was not welcome.

I was a stranger, and because she was sensory-deprived, touch was almost painful for her. When I held her on my hip, she leaned her body back, hands in the air. Her newborn body never got the opportunity to nestle against the chest of someone who loved her, so she never learned how to lean in for comfort. Instead, she stiffened at my touch, her expression stoic. When she awoke from her nap, she didn’t cry for me—not even when she had a soiled diaper. Why should she? When no one rushes to your side when you cry, you eventually stop crying. Lucy didn’t know she needed me because her needs had never been met well. The concept of a mother was foreign to her.

Bureaucratic Nightmare

This form of rejection would have been heartbreaking enough had I brought Lucy home under normal circumstances. But I was wrestling with the unrequited love of an infant as a temporarily single mom in the center of a bureaucratic nightmare. My husband and I are missionaries in Australia and traveled to China with our three children in tow to adopt Lucy at the end of 2013. Following the instructions of our adoption agency, the National Passport Center, and fellow ex-pats who had gone before us, my new, malnourished, 15-month-old daughter and I flew to the United States immediately after her adoption to secure her automatic U.S. citizenship, obtain her U.S. passport, and fly home to Australia, to which my husband and other children had already returned.

Her passport application was denied.

Based on a residency issue we didn’t know existed, and to our knowledge had never previously been applied, the agent refused to issue our daughter a passport. Eventually, to our shock and dismay, her U.S. citizenship was denied as well. This left me and my frail, sensory-deprived daughter indefinitely stuck half a globe away from the rest of our family. The longest I had ever been away from my children was eight days. I was now staring down the barrel of a potential six-month separation, possibly longer.

I was so torn. My three biological children who were bonded to me, and had been since day one, were on one side of the world. My adopted daughter, who still didn’t quite know what to think of me, was with me on the other. I felt so guilty for “abandoning” my older three who needed their mom, yet I had been called to love one who had already experienced abandonment and was only beginning to heal. 

Loving the three was easy; loving the one was hard. 

When all we knew of Lucy was four pictures, a video, and a limited medical file, the words “She’s worth it” flowed easily. Worth the paperwork, worth the adoption fees, worth whatever it would take to mean she was ours. My husband and I knew it would be hard, that it would change our family forever, but we emphatically claimed that she was worth it all.

Now that statement was being tested. 

Was she worth being separated from the rest of my family indefinitely? Was she worth the legal battles, the hours on the phone with congressmen, senators, and the State department? Was she worth the enormous stress?

Go Home?

During this period of separation, a question hovered on the lips of those who meant well: If the battle over Lucy’s citizenship and a passport became lengthy, would I consider leaving her in the United States with family and returning for a time to Australia to be with my husband and the other kids? I could understand why some people thought I should do so. I’d only had Lucy for a short time, and she was just getting used to me. Babies are resilient, and oh, the hero’s welcome I would get at home! I could imagine my older kids’ response: My youngest would squeeze my neck as hard as she could. My second-born would give me lots of sloppy kisses, and my oldest would sweetly say, “I’ve missed you, Mom.” It would be such a relief to hold them again.

On the other hand, I had to fight every day for another tiny little piece of Lucy’s heart. She didn’t give kisses. She didn’t know how to hug, keeping her hands defensively in the air most of the time that I held her. She would have rather been alone in the dark than with me.

It would have made sense for me to go home, right? Except, she’s my child. Mine. God gave me a love for her that is just as intense as the love I have for my other three. This baby came to us traumatized and neglected. She had experienced abandonment once, and I could not do it to her again. I couldn’t undo the security she was just beginning to feel. I just couldn’t.

In the book of Matthew, Jesus talks about the shepherd who leaves the ninety-nine to go after the one lost sheep. This priority would seem foolish to most, but Jesus is no ordinary shepherd. He knew the one was worth it. I was worth it. You are worth it.

So was Lucy worth it? Even though she didn’t lavish me with affection, didn’t yet fully accept me? Even though she pushed me away? Even though it meant indefinite separation from the other loves of my life?

I looked into those deep brown eyes, full of mystery, sorrow, and yet the slightest hint of hope and light, and I said, Absolutely. Our commitment to her was being tested to the fullest extent, but our answer was still yes. We would do it all over again.

In a world that so easily throws up its hands and says, “Too hard,” and walks away, God was asking us to mirror his commitment to his people by looking at sweet Lucy and saying, “Dear one, you are not too much for us. No cost is too high; no burden too much to bear. We will fight for you, because you are worth it.”

Who knows? Maybe a day will come when Lucy walks through the pain of questions of identity. It’s almost inevitable. Maybe one day she‘ll feel sad because she looks different from us, or maybe a peer will cruelly joke about her “real parents.” Maybe it is for these moments that God created an opportunity for us to fight for her, for me to choose to stay with her rather than return to her adoptive siblings. Maybe God knew about weak times to come when she would need to know for sure that she is worth it. 

I pray that she’ll be able to look back and see that at a time when she offered me nothing, I sacrificed presence with those closest to me in order to love her and bring her home. I pray that the memory of that sacrifice will draw her heart towards a Savior who also forfeited presence with the One closest to him so that he could one day bring her home, for good.

 

*This article is a modified excerpt from her book in progress, Bringing Lucy Home: A Story of Hope, Heartache, and Happiness © 2014. You can read more about her family’s story at littlelucymei.blogspot.com.

Wednesday Wisdom 21/05/2014

“Ultimately, here is the result I see again and again: love for orphans transforms. It transforms children as they experience love and nurture they’ve come to live without. It transforms individual Christians, as we encounter Jesus deeply and personally in a destitute child. It transforms the broader community of believers as well, pulling us corporately beyond a religion of self-development to a costly-but-muscular faith. Finally, love for orphans transforms a watching world, as it sees – perhaps for the first time – the Gospel embodied.”

Jedd Medefind

Christian Alliance for Orphans

Being Family – The Greater Blessing

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Being family is special. A nuclear and extended group of people bound together by a bond that allows for quality relationships. Therein lies the joy of being family – the satisfaction and safety of relationships that are shaped and directed by love defined by the boundaries of what we call family. Belonging to a family is a wonderful privilege – a true blessing.

Jesus affirmed the inherent value of family by pointing out the importance of ensuring respectful family relationships (Matt 15:3-9). As the eldest son he also showed a special concern for the care of his mother during his earthly ministry. Even as he was suffering and dying on the cross he committed her to the care and protection of John, the disciple he loved (John 19:26-27).

But Jesus also showed us that there is a greater family with greater blessings. During his earthly ministry when the crowds where pushing closer to hear his teaching his mother and siblings sent word to him through the crowd that they were there to see him (apparently to take him home to save them from further embarrassment!). His response definitively marked out spiritual family – those who hear the Word of God and do it – as more important than earthly family (Luke 8:19-21). Jesus elevated kingdom priorities above loyalties to earthly family if they pose any hindrance to following Jesus wholeheartedly (Luke 14:26). Jesus believed and affirmed that although earthly family is a blessing the infinitely greater blessing lies in being a child of the Most High God – not only hearing his Word but doing it (Luke 11:27-28)

Despite the precious blessings of our earthly families they are only temporary blessings. Through faith in the Lord Jesus we become part of God’s family bound by the bonds of love for His chosen children – a family with blessings that will last into all eternity.

At the end of time there will only be one family left – the family of God – bought with the precious blood of Jesus. In that day it will not matter what earthly family you belonged to, only whether you belong to God’s eternal family. In that family every child will be adopted and every child will share in the love and the full inheritance of God’s only begotten Son, Jesus Christ (Eph 1:4-14; Rom, 8:15; Rom 8:23; Gal 4:5-7).

“In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.”  

Ephesians 1:4b-6

Wednesday Wisdom 25/12/2013

“Let earth and Heaven combine,

Angels and men agree,

to praise in songs divine

The incarnate Deity,

Our God contracted to a span,

Incomprehensibly made Man.

~

He laid His glory by,

He wrapped Him in our clay;

Unmarked by human eye,

The latent Godhead lay;

Infant of days He here became,

And bore the mild Immanuel’s Name.

~

See in that Infant’s face

The depths of deity,

And labor while ye gaze

To sound the mystery

In vain; ye angels gaze no more,

But fall, and silently adore.

~

Unsearchable the love

That hath the Saviour brought;

The grace is far above

Of men or angels’ thought:

Suffice for us that God, we know, 

Our God, is manifest below.

~

He deigns in flesh t’appear,

Widest extremes to join;

To bring our vileness near,

And make us all divine:

And we the life of God shall know,

For God is manifest below.

~

Made perfect first in love,

And sanctified by grace,

We shall from earth remove,

And see His glorious face:

His love shall then be fully showed,

And man shall all be lost in God.”

~

Charles Wesley

An Indispensable Leader – Nelson Mandela

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In a thought provoking piece Dr Albert Mohler draws out the complexity surrounding our celebrated leader Nelson Mandela. He demonstrates the indispensability of the man as a leader in the course of South Africa’s history in a way that is illustrative of the ironies of history. 

As Dr Mohler says:

 

“Nelson Mandela was one of those men. He was essential—even indispensable—to his nation and to the eradication of apartheid. But no man’s life is heroic in every respect, and no human hero can save.

 

God alone can save us from ourselves, and he saves us through the atonement accomplished by the Son, Jesus Christ. There is salvation in no other name, no matter how honored on earth.”

 

It Takes a Family

Family photo Siya

If it takes a village to raise a child it takes a family to love them. Not a sentimental love but a love that owns that child no matter what, a love that takes them in encircling them with bonds of care, a love that anchors their hearts with a deep sense of belonging. A love where children find rest, safe and secure, knowing they are wanted and loved without reserve.

We are very grateful for the special welcome and love Siya has received from our family. Bringing a child from a different race into our family, we expected apprehension and perhaps even disapproval. What a blessing, however, to see the way in which our families have embraced Siya into the family. We know it’s not easy and therefore their attitude and actions have been even more meaningful.

Grandpa Chris has embraced Siya in a particularly special way. For the first two family gatherings he has insisted on a whole new set of family photographs as part of Siya’s welcoming – a reminder to the broader family, and a special remembrance for Siya, that he belongs. On the day Siya was placed in our care Grandpa Chris made the following post on his Facebook profile that set the tone for the way the family welcomed Siya:

Facebook post

“Today we have a new grandson. At first glance, he does not look like us from the outside, but soon he will speak like us, laugh like us, eat like us worship like us. Yesterday, his biological mother gave him away and if I have my way, it will be the last time that someone has turned their back on him. In our family he will be raised in the fear of the Lord, he will receive a good upbringing and education, he will receive a lot of love and he will take up his own special place amongst his own family, his grandparents, his uncles and aunts and his cousins and nieces. 

A new life awaits him.

If you are on my friend list and this development makes you uncomfortable and causes inner turmoil, here is a handy window period to draw a line through your name on my friend list and quietly disappear without prejudice.”

To all our family: We have been wonderfully blessed by the way you have supported us with Siya’s adoption story. In a country where race divides, you have been exceptional examples that those divides can be crossed by family love. Through this experience we have only come to appreciate you more deeply than before – we cannot thank you enough! 

Coming home to a family is the longing we all have – A place of rest, a place of safety, a place of belonging, a place of love. Earthly families can be a foretaste of that special joy. A reminder that there is an eternal family where the deepest most profound love binds people together for eternity – not by blood or race, but by the love and sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the beloved Son of our God and Father.

Siya has been blessed with grandparents, uncles, aunts, nephews and nieces who welcomed him and who love him. Our prayer is that in time he will come to know the Father from whom every family in heaven and earth gets its name (Eph 3:15) and his Son who paid the price to draw us into God’s eternal family.