#weneedoneanother | part 3: writing out loud


I’m back…finally. All that advent wore me out – ha! And then tending to daily life gets the best of me and my time, and then we’ve added the task of remodeling a home and all the fun and tedious decisions have soaked up my brain creativity and energy.

But in this last week of January, I wanted to say, HAPPY NEW YEAR!

I’m hoping to continue this #weneedoneanother series. If you’re just jumping in, WELCOME and it might be helpful to start here. If you’ve been traveling with me, so glad you’re still here. And breathing. And reading.

A huge THANK YOU to the six adoptive parents who I got to introduce to you this past November. I’m SO grateful for not only their words and voices, but the ways they are leaning in to the hearts of their adopted children. What a gift – to them, to their children. My hope is that each story spoke to you in helpful and hopeful ways. I know it was a risk to highlight the adoptive parent voice, once again, because I’ve come to realize that there have been and are many adoptees who feel like the adoptive parent’s voice has been raised and acknowledged and louder than the ones who have experienced the loss. My heart was to be intentional about highlighting adoptive parent stories who are awakening to the reality that “adoption isn’t just about adding, not just about gaining, not just about receiving…it’s also about losing and leaving and relinquishing and letting go of…everything.” These weren’t stories of “Look at what we’ve done” or “Look at how spiritual we are” or “We feel so good about rescuing a little baby who needed love.” These were stories of heart and soul, of journey and enlightenment, of pain and joy, of listening – to their own heart, to their child’s heart – and testifying to the reality that “holding the tension” and “listening” has the ability to honor both the adoptive parent AND the person who has been adopted. I want so much for adopted children and adopted adults to know that the landscape of adoption is changing, that there are parents who are listening to the hard as much as they are celebrating the good, that the adoption “process” is becoming more of a ground where seeds of truth and healing and redemption are being cultivated, where they are blooming. We have a long road ahead of us, so (again) I invite you – no, I beg you – no, I invite you, to “keep leaning in, keep being present, keep being still, and listen” to the heart of the adopted person…”because it just might change ALL OF US.” 

So, let’s just dive in to this “not-really-my-plan-for-the-next-post,” but since it came up on Facebook – I mean, since I brought it up on Facebook – I thought I would add it to this series. Because it’s kind of important.

I recently had a sweet adoptive mama ask me about some blog posts she wrote about her daughter, about how she was articulating her parenting story. I think that took TONS of courage! It was risky and I have a lot of respect for her – for being willing to gain an outside, adopted person’s perspective, but even more so, for following through on something that was stirring inside of her and for being open to a perspective she didn’t have, yet wanted to have. I loved her heart, her intent.

And out of that, like I do, I have some thoughts on writing and blogging “out loud.” I know this has been a BIG topic, a hard topic, a controversial topic. And that’s OK. Tension is OK. We don’t need to land in one place or in one stance or on one idea. We can be in process.

But let’s be moving, TOGETHER.

SIDE NOTE: We can only do so much “talking” and “processing” and “listening” online, on social media, via email, or even texting. Person to person is ALWAYS the best way. Feeling known happens in real time, with real people. (Later post on this.)

Relationships over rectangles. Amen? Amen.

So here’s my paraphrase of this adoptive mama’s question: Am I writing anything that would hurt my daughter 20 years from now knowing that nothing disappears on the Internet? I don’t want to hurt or damage our relationship because of something I wrote that she can read when she’s older. (Yes, I told this mom I was going to get some FB love and perspective on this.)

Here are some thoughts. My heart is to offer perspective, not tell you what to do or try to convince you to start or stop doing something. Just keep listening…

…to other adopted persons

…to your children

…to the voice within. 

This is an invitation to LISTEN, in a different kind of way.

And then…let’s all keep a posture of openness, because for all of us to keep moving forwards, together, we have to keep leaning in and listening, to one another.

When I read AP posts, I try to put myself in the shoes of their children, and at the same time, experience the post from my own perspective as an adult adopted person. I try to imagine what it would feel like to read the post – at age 5 or 10 or 20, or even today at 40 – as if my mom had written it about me.

When I read the parts where parents describe the child’s behavior that feels so hard, so annoying, so exhausting, it honestly makes me cringe a bit and I can easily conclude this:


Now as a mom of a 6 and 4 year old, I GET it. I’m WITH you. I EMPATHIZE with you. I FEEL your hard.

But…to have these “hard” or “bad” things written, about your child, in a public space…THAT is what feels hard for me (just as it would if someone wrote about a friend or spouse or coworker, just as it would if someone wrote about you).

Yes, yes, yes…we want others to resonate with and feel joined and understood. We want others to know that they’re not alone, that we’re in the trenches too, together. But my question is, “Is the Internet the BEST place to express this, about our children, using their ‘hard’ or ‘bad’ behavior?”

Ahhh! This is a really hard question to answer. So many parents and people are feeling understood via the internet in lots of good ways. But when it comes to the “personal” stuff, the personal “hard” stuff, about others (e.g. our children), is the Internet the best platform to help people feel joined? Does that become about our children? About others? About us?

I don’t know. I wrestle with it, even in my own writing. I could write SO much about my children and I often find myself pausing, wondering and imagining what they might think and feel if they read it and could understand what I’ve said about them and how their “hard” or “bad” behavior makes me feel (or even how it’s changing and growing me). They could perhaps interpret it as, “I am too much” or “I am not enough.” And I know from listening to you all that this is NOT the message you want to send your children, especially because we know that there’s something already inside of them that believes that lie. I think it’s imperative for us to think through “the message sent” VS “the message interpreted.” Just because we have really good and pure intentions, doesn’t ensure that someone won’t get hurt. So, since children are too young to process and talk through what is written about them, I default to the belief that it’s my job – our job – to protect them, their stories, but even more importantly, their hearts.

Oh, but wait…what if the “little girl” inside of me had something to say to you, too? Something like this:

“Mom/Dad – Why are you using MY hard to help others feel better about their stories? I can’t help that there’s so much hard in me, in my body. It’s not my fault. My hard is mine. And yours. It’s sacred and private – between you and me. So, even if you’re using it in a good way, it doesn’t always feel good to me. Someday I hope that I can use my hard, OUR hard, to help others, but please, please, please let ME be the person to figure out if/when/what/how to share it.”


YES to helping others feel heard and understood and affirmed.

YES to offering stories of truth, of hope.

YES to discerning if/when/how/what to share on the internet – a public platform that will hold your words and stories and thoughts and pictures…FOREVER.

YES to finding creative ways to “post out loud.”

YES to being overly cautious rather than overly truthful…for them, for their hearts, for their dignity.

YES to fighting for our children’s hearts being more important than lots of comments on blog posts or LIKES on Facebook.

Sometimes giving our children YES’s means giving ourselves NO’s.

With much love and grace, from a truth teller who is learning every day what offering TRUTH in LOVE looks like and who is on this “writing out loud” journey, with you.


MUSIC – I don’t have a song for this post, but I do have THIS video clip by Brené Brown called, “The Power of Empathy.” It’s brilliant. Perhaps what could help us in our discernment process of whether to post something about our kids or not, is to practice empathy. And after what’s inside of you connects with what’s inside your child, you’ll have a better understanding of what direction to go, to write, because you’ll have stepped into his or her shoes.

I would love to know what are you all doing and learning and changing as you write and blog and “post out loud.”

#weneedoneanother | nat’l adoption month: adoptive parent story 6

Let me introduce Tara to you as my last guest for the month. She possesses a deep and kind and thoughtful soul. She found me on my blog, then we found one another at the 2013 Christian Alliance for Orphans Summit, and now we’re, together, finding more of our voices and learning how to offer them to the worlds we both live in. She’s not only an adoptive mama, she is adopted. Which means, she has had to wrestle and wade through many layers of grief AND that she has (and is) stepped into much grace and witnessed the sweet gift of healing. She is someone whose quiet strength and authenticity will encourage you to pause and reflect and keep moving…forward.

Lean in and listen to her story…

“Suffering Together” by Tara Bradford

I’ve lived the adoption narrative my whole life starting as an adoptee and then moving into becoming an adoptive parent.

As an adult I began to understand loss in the adoption journey, my loss, their loss.

I began to watch my children’s loss unfold into suffering right in front of me. The understanding that I was gaining quickly turned into intense feelings for what they were going through.

My feelings at first were sadness, but that soon changed with time as their loss became more intense and harder for them to articulate and easier to act on.

Many days I found myself pulled under by the trauma current and simply doing whatever I could to survive and get to the surface so I could breathe.

What I didn’t realize was that over time, I began to avoid going into the water. I would try to stay close to shore where it was safe and no current could sweep me under.

Unfortunately by staying close to shore, I couldn’t be with my child if they were taken under.

I realized my disconnection and avoidance was hurting my child and my relationship with them. It was safer to turn inward – for me.

If I were truly going to be their mother through this adoption journey, I would need to be with them.

As I reached out for help and dug into my soul and why their hurt was so scary to me, I learned a lot about Jesus, pain and myself.

I learned that Jesus suffered more than my children or I combined, or the world for that matter, ever will.

I learned that because of His suffering, he calls me to join in that suffering, like a good soldier would enter the war voluntarily. (2 Tim. 2:3)

I learned that Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. (1 Cor. 13:7)

I learned that I’m asked to help carry my child’s burdens because this is how I follow Christ’s teachings. (Galatians 6:2)

I learned what compassion truly means. Not simply feeling sad for my child’s circumstance, but actually suffering with them in their circumstance.

I can’t heal my child’s wound of loss, only Jesus can do that, but I can sit with them and nurse them towards healing.

I can hold them in their pain of the rejection.

I can cry with them in their sadness of missing her smell and embrace as they question why God let this happen.

I can bear with them in their moments of hurt and frustration when they feel they were not good enough to have been with her for a lifetime.

I can struggle with them in wanting answers to the questions and not having any.

I simply learned I can. I get to. This is what I need to do as their mom. 

They didn’t sign up for this story, and maybe I didn’t either. But it’s the story that God has given us and we have a choice.

The story can write us or we can write the story.

Three years into this journey of parenting children who come from loss has not been easy, but nowhere does Jesus promise easy.

My children need their mom and since their first mom is not available to be who she was intended to be, that has been entrusted to me.

I have a choice. To stay on the shore or to get in the water.

I’ve chosen to get into the water. I’ve chosen to enter into their suffering no matter how far it takes me.

Even at this point of the journey I can see there has been change – in me and for my children.

Suffering doesn’t have to be for death. Suffering can be for growth and healing. 

Maybe that’s why God “allowed” this to happen.

I can see that God uses what I love most to mold me into what He loves most.

I can see my rigid lines of control showing soft curves of trust.

I can see my harsh storms of imperfect identity roll into sunsets of beauty.

I can see my broken shells of failure be made into white sands of grace.

I can see my looming fear of inadequacy nailed to a cross of perfection.

This journey is still stretching me. Still takes me inward on my really bad days.

But then God brings a word of encouragement through another mom’s blog, a “me too” from a friend, a verse in my reading, or a random hug and it speaks to my soul and moves me to a better place.

My children are not the only ones who need others – we need others too.

So, day by day, I do my best to see their pain for what it is – suffering – and I choose to join in every circumstance to help carry their burden because to Jesus, every one of us is worth it.

Tara’s narrative as an adopted person, an adoptive parent, and the Director of Encompass (which supports adoptive and foster families) has woven adoption through every part of her life. Tara has spoken at the Refresh Conference, Christian Alliance For Orphans Summit and the Tapestry Adoption and Foster Care Conference. She is grateful for the opportunities to bring grace and education to the adoption discussion and blogs at “Living In The Between”. You can connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.

Bradford Family Pic


#weneedoneanother | nat’l adoption month: adoptive parent story 5

Welcome to Rachel Garlinghouse. So glad that she submitted a post because in reading her words, I have a good sense that she is awakening to the many layers that are a part of the human heart – for both the adopted person AND the adoptive parent. And that as she allows herself to “be still and listen,” that her heart is dialing into her childrens’ hearts, her own heart, which will be the very moments when vulnerability leads to connection – holding the reality that joy and pain exist together.

Lean in and listen to her story…

“Second Mommy: A Heart Journey” By Rachel Garlinghouse

I was rocking my infant daughter in the soft, quietness of her room. The glow of the nightlight surrounded us as we eased forward and backward. Her eyelids were heavy, dreamy. She was too big to be swaddled anymore, so I had gently draped a handmade pink blanket over her round body. She had pulled the blanket up to her eyes, so only her curly, black afro and her long, curling-upward lashes were visible.

I had waited fourteen months for this precious bundle of joy. And now, I had the honor of rocking her to sleep.

It hit me, as her breathing became steady indicating that she was drifting off, that she was ten months old today. The old ladies at the grocery store were right. Time does fly. I smiled to myself in the dark, adjusting my daughter’s blanket.

And in a heartbeat, my peaceful spirit gave way to a flood of sadness.

Ten months.

The amount of time my daughter was with her first mother.

Forty weeks is a long time for a child and mother to be together. And not just together, but one. Breathing the same air, digesting the same food, hearing the same voices, feeling the same steps.

And once my daughter was born, the oneness broke into two. And then I entered the picture, number three. Second mommy. And then first mom was gone, and it was just me and the baby…forever.

My baby.

Her baby.

Our baby.

Adopting can best be described as bittersweet, complicated, and intricate. There is so much joy intertwined with deep pain. The emotions surrounding adoption collide, especially on days when I realize the significance of the moment.

Ten months.

Tears quietly trailed down my cheeks as I watched my little girl sleep. My heart ached for her first mother, for the future pain my daughter would face, for past and present loss, for confusion, for uncertainty.

And fear crept in. How would I be able to answer my daughter’s questions? How can I take her pain away? How can I assure her, and she believe me, that she is loved so deeply by two mothers? That she was wanted and cherished? That she is worthy of great things?

This moment with my daughter was five years ago. And since then, we have adopted two more children. And we’ve had many, many more moments where the complex nature of adoption has weighed heavily on our hearts and minds.

First Christmases and birthdays.

First steps.

First days of school.

First words.

Firsts experienced by us, the seconds.

I realize that my initial fears and questions, particularly, how can I take my children’s pain away, needs to evolve. Instead, how can I help my child navigate through normal emotions that stem from adoption?

Over the past five years, I have learned and grown.

To practice empathy.

To listen more and talk less.

To encourage open conversations.

To speak encouragement and love into my children’s hearts.

To be ever-mindful of my need for Christ and His guidance.

To meet my children where they are.

To be strong and confident, while also being humble and vulnerable.

To embrace nature and nurture.

Harder questions are coming. Tougher moments will arrive. Heartbreaking conversations are simmering. My three babies are growing up and coming to new conclusions about how life works.

And this second mommy is going to try her best to answer, love, listen, embrace, and empathize. And this second mommy vows to never let my heart become hardened or my mind to become exhausted of the bittersweet, complicated, intricate nature of adoption.

Rachel Garlinghouse is the author of Come Rain or Come Shine: A White Parent’s Guide to Adopting and Parenting Black Children and Black Girls Can: An Empowering Story of Yesterdays and Todays. Her work has been featured on The Huffington Post Live, MSNBC, abcnews.com, Scary Mommy, Essence magazine, and NPR. She writes about adoption, attachment parenting, and race at her blog and over at adoption.net.  She lives in St. Louis with her husband and three children. Connect with Rachel on Facebook and Twitter


#weneedoneanother | nat’l adoption month: adoptive parent story 4

Excited to introduce you to Stephanie. I met her this past year at the Created for Care retreat when she told me I was a theologian after one of my sessions. And even though I consistently deny that title, she consistently encourages me to embrace it. And then we laugh. Stephanie is not only a woman with a deep heart for her family, but also for Jesus – leaning into him as she listens to his voice of grace and love. I appreciate the mile marker she’s at in her (and her daughter’s) story, and how it stands “incomplete” and with tension, because that is where so many of us live – without resolve, without the neatly tied bow. But…the story isn’t over yet.

SIDE NOTE: Stephanie was our Disney Vacation Planner extraordinaire last week! I am SO grateful for all of her guiding and prodding and encouraging and planning and checking in and strategizing with the man of the house. She was FOR us – in ways that brought not only joy to our family, but joy and redemption to her story.

Lean in and listen to her story…

“The Lonely” by Stephanie Miller

Our daughter, 3 ½ years old, adopted at 11 months from Taiwan, has a powerhouse memory.  Seriously. She can remember things that happened months ago, what she was wearing, who was there, and what she had to eat. As first time parents, we have wondered if this was “normal,” but have since chalked it up to our child being a genius {of course}. Sometimes, we go for weeks without talking about something and then, out of the blue, she brings it up again. Her little mind is always hard at work. So, on the day her gymnastics instructor told me that at prayer time before class, our daughter asked to pray for her brother to come to her house, I was floored.

Like many adoptive parents these days, we read books, attended conferences, and have tried to stay well-educated on attachment, the importance of our child’s story before they joined our family, and awareness of the issues that may come into play as she grows up. But as a mom, I’ve found myself ill prepared for the loneliness that our daughter is facing. She is our only child, and we have not felt the need to adopt again. We have not ruled it out, but she is to the age that I see her wonder at her friends who have siblings and mothers of her friends having babies.

The complication is that really, she’s NOT an only child. She has a half brother back in Taiwan. We have a picture of him that hangs in the playroom, right next to the picture of our daughter being held by her birth mother. He was not adoptable, but we decided early on that we wanted her to always know that he exists. We talk about adoption, we explain it as best we can for her 3 ½ year old brain, and we talk lovingly about her birth mother and her brother. We pray for them as a family. And when we do, I can’t help but see the sadness behind her eyes. So when she asked the gymnastics instructor to pray for him to come to our house, my heart broke.

Over the next few days, Jesus began to whisper to me. I kept hearing, “I gave you each other.”  You see, I lost my only sibling in 1999 to cancer. And loneliness – deep longing loneliness – is something I live with every day. Much time has passed since we lost my sister, and I have found happiness in my life. But the reality of having a sibling and not being able to be with them is something my daughter and I have in common. It is a different kind of loss. She has never met her brother, and in the future, that might become a possibility. But because we’ve chosen to be honest with her and she knows he exists, she will probably always wonder about him and miss his presence in her life. There really is no “how to” book for parenting. We make decisions, hopefully through prayer and seeking wisdom, and then we watch how those decisions play out. I’ve wondered if we’ve been too honest too soon.

Sometimes, I look at her playing alone or reading a book, and it’s very difficult for me to allow her to continue to be alone. My husband, in his wisdom, said, “Let her learn to play on her own for a while. She’ll be ok.” And she will be. I will be, too. We are together as a family and it’s good. God gave us each other to help us heal. We need each other, not to always “fix” the problems, but to walk together toward the One who can restore us, in spite of our brokenness and our lonely hearts. And because I have experienced the pain of being separated from a sibling and wondering what life would be like if she had been here with me and longing for her, I am better equipped to sit with my daughter in those moments that are surely coming for her. God is so wise.

My daughter, Amber Joy, is named for my sister, Amber. She has put that together in her head and when we talk about Amber living in Heaven with Jesus, she always adds, “and my brother lives in Taiwan.”

We’re not sure where this journey will lead or if we always get it right in our explanations to our {very curious and verbal} three-year-old, but we’re doing our best and we’re trusting that the God who sets the lonely in families is working all things together for our good.

Psalm 68:6a “God sets the lonely in families…”

Stephanie Miller and her husband, Justin, live with their daughter Amber Joy in Murfreesboro, TN. Stephanie is a stay-at-home mom and works as a hospital chaplain part-time. She is currently seeking ordination in the Church of the Nazarene. Stephanie is learning about contentment in the every day and what it means to hunger and thirst for God. Some common themes for Stephanie include security vs. adventure, self-confidence vs. being puffed up, and the unconditional grace of God vs. striving for holiness. In the rare occurrence of free time, she enjoys blogging, movies, hiking, and getaways to the mountains. You can follow her on her blog and Instagram at “millerplusone.”


#weneedoneanother | nat’l adoption month: adoptive parent story 3

Let me introduce to you Kim. I’ve met her, but I don’t know her. But, I think I’m pretty safe to say that she has been learning that the adoption process is a two-way street, that the deep and scary and hard places that she is traveling are helping her guide and navigate and enter into the deep and scary and hard places her children have traveled. And are traveling. And will travel. She is naming what can be really hard for all of us to name – that we All struggle with fear and disconnection and protective layers and vulnerability. But then…what happens when love is offered, when love is received.

Lean in and listen to her story…

“On adoption, vulnerability, and how our children lead us home” by Kim Van Brunt

Meeting my son was nothing like I thought it would be.

When my husband and I first arrived in Uganda on a hot, humid night in February, I felt like I was playing out the scenes from a movie. It looked every bit like I imagined during the family day videos. We stood in a too-long line to get our visitor visas while I restrained myself from yelling to everyone ahead of us that our son was on the other side of those doors over there and could we please just go first.

We practically ran to baggage claim where our suitcases were waiting (all of them! In Africa! After 20 hours of travel! I should have taken that as my miracle right there). Then, we started the short, shaky 50-foot walk to the doors where we saw the crowd of people waiting for arrivals. We knew our son was in that crowd, with his foster parents, waiting for us.

In walking that 50-foot distance, what I felt like were the last steps in the marathon, we stopped no less than four times, hands shaking, knees buckling, laughing nervously as we rearranged the luggage so we could both pull our bags, my husband could hold his phone up to take a video, and we could both have an arm free to hold our son for the first time. Finally ready (were we?), we walked breathlessly though the sliding doors, as my husband started to say, his voice choked with emotion, “I see him…. I see him!”

Are you starting to tear up?

Because I wasn’t.

My main emotion? Fear. Heart pounding through my shirt, breath shallow, sweating, crazy fear.

Then my fears multiplied when I finally held our son for the first time and felt… nothing.

Well, that’s not exactly true. I felt disoriented. I felt odd, like I wasn’t in the right place. I felt too close to the moment, because it couldn’t be happening to me.

Standing in the suffocating Ugandan humidity, I looked in his face, a moment I’d imagined so many times, and searched my heart in vain for the feeling I was sure would come: Where was the love-at-first-sight?

The heavens didn’t open. I didn’t feel a warmth or a light and I didn’t hear a small voice inside saying, “yes, this is my son.” It wasn’t magical. I couldn’t hear the soundtrack.

I was looking into the face of a child I didn’t know, and he was looking at me like the stranger I was to him. I remember a desperate feeling, trying to conjure tears, emotion, relief, anything, trying to feel what I was supposed to be feeling, according to all the videos. Instead, I felt blank and empty, and in that void of emotion, fear rushed in like a tsunami. I was drowning.

This was the moment I was waiting for?

Vulnerability, tested

It wasn’t because my son wasn’t all I thought he would be. He was cuter than the pictures, he was sweet and soft and innocent and bewildered. He was everything.

It was me. It was my heart and its hardness that surprised me. I was closed off somehow, unable to open my heart up and love the way I wanted to.

But here’s the truth that I learned over the next year: As their parents, we show our children the way to vulnerability. When their hearts are wounded deep from broken connections to birth parents, birth culture, orphanage nannies or foster parents, they’re caught deep in their own fortresses, built up so quickly in their short lives to guard against another heart-deep wound. And as their adoptive parents, we don’t come storming in to destroy those protections. We open our hearts and bleed for them.

We explore our own woundedness so we understand a small taste of theirs. We painfully unlearn the blueprints we’ve imprinted from our own broken childhoods. We look into the face of Jesus, the one who shows us unconditional love as we struggle and fail and fall down over and over.

And then we show our children that they can’t do anything to lose our love. They fire attacks as if at an enemy, trying every weapon in their arsenal to make us retreat like every other caregiver they’ve loved has retreated.

Some days you feel like retreating into your own bunker, of building up your invulnerability again, putting up your walls. Other days you’d like the surface satisfaction of firing back, trying to take their stronghold by force. But is that what Jesus would do? Is that what he did to win you over?

No; Jesus calls us to follow his lead, to walk his path. This means that in every relationship, we lay down our lives for those we’re called to love. When the attacks come fast and furious from our little fortress-child, we open our arms and absorb the blows. When they rail against us, testing a belief learned deep in their bones, sometimes beyond memory, that no love lasts forever, we open our hearts again and again and again, learning our wounds, asking for healing, asking for strength to show our children a better way.

And though it may take months or years, and though our child may live forever with some of the scars from his early years, sometimes picking up his defenses again like an old habit, one day, eventually, we’ll see: All that time, you weren’t working to tear down their defenses. You were toiling and working and sacrificing in the belief that one day, they would peek out the windows. One day, they would open their fortress gate and receive a little more of the love you’re sending their way (and this is when you turn up the love to 11). And the prayer is that after a long, protracted battle, them attacking, you receiving and bleeding and sacrificing for them (and guarding against the bitterness that would have you build your own defenses), one day they would call off the attack, drop their weapons and walk out their fortress door. The prayer is that they would finally leave their protection behind, that they would run into your arms at last.

Over time I’ve learned that my own struggles with vulnerability, with the ability to attach, has to do with my own upbringing, the attachment styles of my parents, and the world-shattering experience of losing my dad when I was just 21, to name a few.

When I entered into the world of adoption and thought myself the rescuer, I know God looked at me with such love and compassion, knowing what was ahead. I had so, so much to learn. I’m not sure if I could have been on my own heart-healing journey in quite the same way without my two little Ugandan loves to guide me.

And then I can guide them. And then they can show me the way. We take turns leading each other to the foot of the throne of Jesus, the ultimate example of unconditional, complete, open love, love, love.

Remember, just like your own journey to Jesus, your child’s path will rarely go from point A to B to C. She will test the waters, then retreat and fire away again. She’ll peek out from her defenses and then, just when you feel like you’re turning a corner, she’ll launch a bigger attack than you’ve seen before. But taking the long view, you’ll see progress, with God’s help.

When we feel like building a wall, Jesus calls us to love with an open heart. When we feel like closing off or fighting back, Jesus calls us to open our arms to accept what comes. When we’re so tired, Jesus tells us to look to our right and find him holding our hand, taking the blows alongside us, and we can draw strength from him. When we feel like it will never end or we’re not sure we can last much longer, Jesus shows us the way to vulnerability and softening our hearts, so we can show our child the same path. Eventually, our child will find his way into our arms, and then we’ll be able to show him how we found our way into Jesus’ arms.

For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.

Isaiah 41:13

Kim Van Brunt is an adoptive mama and writer, holding up her broken pieces to the Light where everything can be made beautiful. She has four littles at home, including two born in Uganda, and is working on a book or two. This post includes excerpts from her upcoming book for adoptive parents, titled “Wounded Healer.” For more, follow her blog on Facebook, and on Twitter @kimvanbrunt.


#weneedoneanother | nat’l adoption month: adoptive parent story 2

So glad I get to introduce you to this parent – an adopted person, an adoptive parent, a male! We often hear from the adoptive mom, yet it’s just as important to hear from adoptive dads. They have so much to offer us, too. This story will give you more insight into not only the (adult) adopted person story, but also what he carries inside (similar to what so many non-adoptive parents carry) AND offers his children who have come from a “hard place,” because he deeply knows what it means to react and respond and nurture those deep, hard places. 

Lean in and listen to his story…

“It Permeates Everything” by Heath Pressley

My wife, Jennifer and I love being a part of an adoption group in our church. For me, being an adoptee and for Jen and I being adoptive parents, it is great being with other couples who have walked the road we are walking. During one of our group times we watched a video featuring a speaker who was addressing the hurt and brokenness caused by the rejection wound that adoptees have.

That particular speaker gave voice to the wound of rejection that every adoptee feels. The group knows that I was adopted, and at the conclusion of the video the group leader asked me if that rejection wound was evident in my life.

My response – it permeates everything.

While I may not be able to adequately describe the rejection wound, like the speaker on the video, I certainly can speak to its reality in my life.

It permeates everything. 

This wound has affected every area of my life. It has had an impact on every relationship I have ever had, and most likely ever will have. It’s worked this way for me. First, it has driven me to be an overachiever. It was driven me to attempt to be perfect. Because if I achieve, if I am perfect, then I will not be rejected.

I had a friend through high school and college who once said about me, “everyone loves you.” There was a reason for that. My rejection wound drove me to be loved and accepted by everyone, so as a defense mechanism I learned how to be fun, witty and charming. I developed confidence in my social skills and as a result, everyone loved me.

The only problem with this strategy is that no one is perfect. Neither was I, but I couldn’t let anyone know it. So I was really good at giving the appearance of being everybody’s all American. Living that kind of lifestyle is exceedingly difficult and tiresome. Not to mention manipulative.

The next way the rejection wound has affected me is in how I keep everyone at an emotional arms length. The rejection wound builds tall thick walls around the heart. If you are at arms length that means that you are not close enough to cause me pain. Unfortunately that also means that you are never close enough to offer comfort and acceptance. To this day I have lots of friends, but I’ve only let a very few into my heart. And honestly, I’ve been far to guarded with them.

Isn’t that an interesting dilemma? The rejection wound drives you to be loved and accepted by everyone, but when they do love and accept you – your response is to deflect and temper their love and acceptance. That’s not a very fun way to live.

Over the last several years God has been leading me on a journey of self discovery. My rejection wound has been exposed to the light of Jesus. Painfully so – I might add. But now that it is in the light, it is something that I can deal with, and Jesus can heal it. This has been and continues to be a difficult road to follow. It’s painful. It requires that you trade in an old identity for a new one. It brings radical life upheaval and change. But with each step it also brings freedom.

With freedom comes the opportunity to truly connect. Connection is what I truly need and it is what I truly need to give. Only connection with God can heal the rejection wound, make you whole and give you peace.

I know that at some point in my journey with God the rejection wound will no longer permeate everything. He will. It might happen on this side of eternity. It probably will happen on the other side, but regardless…

I can’t wait for that day!

P.S. – The speaker on the video was Carissa. I am so thankful for her voice. We truly do need each other.

For more than two and a half decades Heath Pressley was a church planting pastor, leading communicator, and ministry consultant. Through humor and powerful story telling that pointed people to Jesus, Heath helped thousands of people experience life transformation. His expertise has helped numerous organizations develop missional strategy and experience dramatic growth. In 2013 God moved Heath out of pastoral ministry and into orphan advocacy. Later that year, Heath became the President of Pathways For Little Feet, a Christ-centered organization that is working towards a world where every child is a permanent member of a loving family. Pathways for Little Feet encourages adoption through education, advocacy and financial assistance. Heath lives in Katy, TX with his beautiful wife, Jennifer, their five children, Josh, Mariah, Gracie, Javonte, Jack and his Mom, Donna. You can find him here on his blog.


#weneedoneanother | nat’l adoption month: adoptive parent story 1

Welcome to my first adoptive mama – Valerie Garrett. She lives in the mitten state near me and I met her at the first Michigan Mini Created for Care Retreat this past January. I know she has a courageous heart for justice and is a mighty mama full of truth, fighting for what is good and beautiful in this world. 

Lean in, and listen to her story…

“A Tender Heart for a Healing Soul” by Valerie Garrett

My 8-year-old son is delightful. He wakes up singing. He loves to laugh. He is tender toward others. He lives with exuberance. Today, you might not imagine the challenges he has overcome.

He was adopted at 2 years old from Haiti. His transition, of course, was not without heartache and deep loss. We walked with him through deep grief and fear.  He has healed from food insecurity. He now sleeps through the night. What once could only be described as violent sleeping (which he slept through, but we could not) is now, increasingly often, peaceful sleep all night long.

Ah, but this…this is a story of learning what it means to be loved by God; this is a story of the night when Grandpa stepped into his world…a world he could not see, but moved to be a part of nonetheless.

Recently, my son got to spend the weekend with my parents while my husband and I attended a conference. My mom awoke one day in the wee hours of the morning to find that my dad wasn’t in the bed; she could hear him in the bathroom…but he didn’t return…and didn’t return…and didn’t return. Finally, she got up to check to be sure he was okay.

She found him in the hallway, outside the room where my son was sleeping. He was weeping.

Because of recent health problems my dad has had, she was deeply concerned. Had he coughed blood? Had he nearly fainted?

“Honey, what’s wrong?” she asked, urgently.

He looked in at his grandson, and back at her. Through his tears, he said, “I heard him banging his head, so I went in and rubbed his back and he stopped…,” and he continued as his voice broke, “but I just wish I could take away whatever it is that torments him when he sleeps.

You see, sometimes even now, my son bangs his head on the mattress at night. It’s loud. It’s disconcerting. It breaks our hearts. That night, Grandpa’s hand on his back, rubbing and soothing and speaking softly…that was the hand and voice of Jesus. Because Jesus has already taken all of that pain onto Himself at the cross. He knows about it. He loves us through it. He rejoices in our healing.

By the grace of God it’s not just my son who heals. It is us. As we stand in the gap for my son, watching God heal him, we learn God’s love so deeply. It wasn’t until this that I truly understood what it means to be loved by an almighty God. If I will weep when my children weep, and rejoice when my children rejoice, how much more my God in heaven when He sees the same?! And we soothe one another, by reminding one another that Christ has already taken on all that pain…that He took care of it at the cross because He loves us…and no, that doesn’t mean we don’t feel it, but it does mean that we can lift our eyes and be made whole.

As we seek to be a safe space for our children, to speak life and truth and worth and value over them, we learn that God is doing the same.

That night, Grandpa stepped into the hurt places. The ones we can’t see but can only wonder about. The ones that linger even long after so many of the others have healed. Always having a patient tender heart with little ones, He did it because in that moment, moved with compassion, the hurt places hurt him, too. And I choose to believe that when a patriarch looks in on the third generation and weeps for its pain, Christ stands next to him and weeps with him. Christ puts His hand out and rubs that little back as well, and utters those soothing words. And encountering those sacred moments when we can be a safe space – a conduit of God’s love – we all learn a little more about what it means to look like and act like Christ, who shows us how to love by loving us first, and so perfectly well. Then, we too, are made whole.

Valerie Garrett is an experienced design consultant, adoptive parent, and a passionate yet balanced advocate for adoption. A proponent of preserving the unique story of each adopted child, she is co-owner of Life in Color, Inc., whose current primary offering is a fill-in adoption life book. She blogs from Holland, MI where she lives with her husband and son. She is available for speaking and writing engagements. You can find her at her blog, on Twitter, Facebook, or via email at valeriegarrett@celebratelifeincolor.com.