#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.


#weneedoneanother | nat’l adoption month detour


So…I’m taking a little detour in this “adoption series.” Hang on for the ride! It could be fun, it could be helpful, it could feel exposing, it could be just what you need. I mean, just what WE need.

In my “adoption world,” there are quite a few places and people asking the adopted person to write for them – because they’re eager and open to learn, because they’re realizing that the adopted person’s voice has been quiet or even silenced or even missing, because they’re learning to “lean in and listen.” I’m SO grateful for that. It’s a gift to both the “host” and the writer.

As November (AKA National Adoption Month) was approaching, I had this idea, this thought: “What if I invited the adoptive parent to write for me, the adopted person? Maybe it could be encouraging (to the adopted person and to other adoptive families and even those who aren’t closely connected to adoption) to hear stories of awareness and insight and surprise and honesty and healing – of transformation – from adoptive parents. Maybe in order for ALL of us to keep moving forward, we need to listen, collectively, to one another, together. We adoptees are asking adoptive parents to listen to us, but I wonder how well we are listening to them? Giving them voice?”

(SIDE NOTE to adoptive parents: I can only imagine that it’s been easy to feel hurt or guilt, maybe even shame, from things adoptees have said or done to and about the adoption world, but specifically to and about adoptive parents. I’m so sorry for the ways you’ve been hurt, misunderstood, pushed away by criticism or sarcasm or anger or ignorance or defensiveness. That is NOT helpful, kind or respectful. Thank you…for your grace.)

So, a few weeks ago I shot this out on Facebook, asking adoptive parents to write for me, to write…

a post about YOUR awareness and understanding and transformation, etc. because you’re realizing how much the adoption process is a 2-way street. because you’re realizing that there is both brokenness and beauty. because you’re realizing what it means to “listen.” this is NOT really about “how your child came to you” kind of post, but more about how YOU are finding more of YOU, more of your child, more of Jesus, in the adoption process.

And I’m so glad they did. I’ve so enjoyed reading each one. I’ve needed to read these. My heart needed to read these. And I want to share them with you.

I hope that as you read these stories over the next few weeks, you’ll feel enlightened and encouraged, but even more so, connected to more of the heart of the adoptive parent. Thank you to everyone who submitted a post. Your voice is a gift…to ALL of us.

So get ready…


#weneedoneanother | part 2: show and tell


Ready to roll? Again?

I hope that PART 1 of my musings got you thinking, at least a little. I know it was a lot. Keep processing and chewing on it – for you, for your child. Absorb what you can, (gently) spit out what you’re not ready for. Thoughts and comments and even push back are always welcomed. For real, I can take it. Additional perspective and wisdom and experience is something that always teaches me, deepens me, strengthens me. I love when I get to “add to” who I am.

Well, here’s PART 2 if you’re up for more lovely rainbows and unicorns.

One of the most surprising and enlightening things a mentor told me is that when she listened to me share my story, she sensed that I was telling it from my “head,” from my left brain. All the information and facts and data I shared fell right out of my mouth, with ease, like bullet points. I didn’t skip a beat. I knew exactly how to tell, how to “report” my story.

I’ve always been remarkably good at remembering and articulating the details. I haven’t always been good at feeling the details. Back then, and even now, my story can stay stuck in the events, in the data, which makes it really easy for my heart to stay stuck there, too. Tucked away. Closed. Protected.

There are experts and therapists who can help you know how and when (not IF) to tell your child his/her story in an age appropriate way – the really, really good parts AND the hard, messy parts. It’s all important to know, to tell, to feel. One thing I believe wholeheartedly, is that when telling a story, whether your own or your child’s, it’s essential to always tell the truth. Always. To some this may seem like a “duh,” but I’ve met so many parents who have a really hard time believing that telling the truth is going to be helpful, especially if parts of the story have the potential to hurt their child. And I get it. It feels awful to have to tell your child that someone made a decision that hurt him/her, that someone was sick or died, that someone wasn’t able to take care of him/her, that someone didn’t want him/her, that someone did something un-loving. And now you – YOU – have to be the messenger of that kind of bad news. Not fair. At all.

But here’s the thing: You are not the one who committed the “wrong.” The hard truth is not on you, it’s not about you. It’s on the story. You are the messenger, the one who tells what happened. And then, you get to be a person who feels and grieves WITH your child, who aches WITH your child, who mourns WITH your child, who helps make sense of the story WITH your child. YOU get to be the one who shows compassion towards your child, for his/her story, for what happened to him/her. Now THAT is a gift. That is a chance to show love and build trust. And believe me, YOU want to be that person! When you enter INTO your child’s story WITH him/her, you become a soft place that your child can always return to when he/she has questions and doubts and confusion and anger, when shame tries to sneak it’s way in. And when the understanding and acceptance and gratitude and healing find it’s way in.

And let me add this…when you tell the hard parts of your child’s story, let your heart show. Allow your anger and sadness and disappointment with the unknown facts, with the unfair decisions, with the unjust actions to surface, so that your child is able to see and know that it’s OK to feel the hard feelings, that it’s OK to say them out loud. Often times we don’t know that’s it’s OK to feel (or verbalize) all those messy feelings. And so we need your help, your permission, your lead. And as you show those feelings, what begins to happen is that your child begins feeling your compassion for what happened to him/her, towards his/her hurting heart. It’s kind of hard to explain, but when you experience someone’s empathy towards your story, it changes you. You feel seen. You feel heard. You feel known. And feeling known is one of the most wonderful and needed gifts that you can give your child. To feel like someone “gets” you, to feel like someone understands you, THAT is when the focus becomes less lasered in on the feelings and more on feeling compassion towards yourself, for that little boy or little girl inside of you.

SIDE NOTE: I know that many of you feel an urgency to tell your child his/her story because some of us keep telling you how important it is. Here’s my two cents on this: while your child is young, unable to make sense of what you hope they will make sense of, practice showing your heart and responding to their heart in the everyday things, like when it’s time to go to bed or get dressed or turn off the TV – anytime they show their feelings, anytime disappointment surfaces. Practicing here will help with there – what is to come.

For me, the more I’ve shown the little girl inside of me tenderness and grace and forgiveness, when I’ve told her, “I’m so, so sorry that you had to lose the two people who created you, who were first connected to you, who were “supposed” to love you and take care of you,” and “I wish that had never had to happen to you,” have been the very moments when something inside of me opens. It’s been the moments I began realizing how much she – the little girl still inside me – needed love, how much that I long for love, that I was made to love. It’s like that little girl was stuck “back then.” She shut down, became dismissive of her pain, hid her anger and fear and shame, and did what she needed to survive, to know that she mattered. For me it was (and can still be) performance and perfection, telling myself that I needed to be a “good girl,” but there are a million ways we can respond to life when our hearts shuts down. And whatever it is that opens up (I would say it’s our spirit), it begins to soften – not only to the truth and grace and love offered by the people in our life, but to the truth and grace and love that God has to offer. Truth about how lovable we are, how valuable we are, how much he sees and knows and delights in us, how much his heart grieves at what happened to us, about how lovable our birthparents are (no matter what choices they made), about how he planned for us before the beginning of time. Oh…so many tears as I’ve heard his truth. And, lots of resistance to allowing these truths to replace the lies I had believed (and can still believe) about myself and people, and even how good and trustworthy he was, back then.

You see for us, the reality that the two people who created us didn’t stay with us, for whatever reason – good or bad – messes with our goodness. It distorts our identity. It makes us doubt our significance. Even if a child received love and nurture and safety as they were raised by foster parents and/or caretakers in an orphanage, the loss of birthparents – not staying with them, not staying connected to them – is serious, grievous, unfair. Our lives hold the impact of that. Our hearts carry the weight of that. Forever.

I’ve often thought back to when I was in the hospital giving birth and what it would’ve been like to need to or choose to or be forced to “give my babies away,” and all I can come up with is that it would be excruciating painful, devastating, horrific. I would feel the impact of that loss every single day. To think about living through that experience as an adult and comparing it to what that would be like for my babies – my babies who were connected to me, who needed my touch and voice and smell, my love. And then to be carried away, “placed into” another family’s home, and expected to adapt, expected to reconnect, expected to disconnect from what was – their first people and surroundings? OH, MY HEART! How in the world do you do that? Even with a healthy family structure and environment? HOW IN THE WORLD does one ever “get over” that? How does one ever get over any other treacherous relational experiences like when one parent leaves the other parent, or cheats on the other parent, or is abused by another human being? And so on and so on.

What the adoption world (historically, but maybe even still) has asked of us adoptees dumbfounds me. And people wonder why adoptees seem so angry, why they just can’t “get over it,” why they just can’t be thankful for what they did get, for what they do have. (Later post on the “angry adoptee.”)

But you…we…can change that.

Friends, the loss of birthparents is traumatic for your baby – the vulnerable, tender, innocent, precious one whose body you hold. Please, please don’t negate or dismiss or cover up the impact of early trauma, of relational loss, or the other multiple layers of trauma that come after the initial separation. I beg you. We beg you. Hold all of this WITH us. You don’t have to fix it. You don’t have to take responsibility for it. You don’t have to heal it. You don’t have to take care of our feelings (or attempt to make us take care of yours). You can’t. I hate to have to tell you that, but you can’t. I don’t think any of us would ask this of you. But I do know that what we would ask of you is to be there, with us, in it, showing us all the compassion and tenderness and grace you possess. Giving us permission to be mad, sad, scared, shameful, disconnected, untrusting – to feel. Giving us permission to be on our own journey, to make sense of our own story. Giving us permission to find who we are, to heal, to experience redemption, in our own time. (Later post on acceptance and healing and redemption, because that comes WAY later in the story!)

Please, please give us permission to be human. 

And so I had to feel. I had to feel what lay dead and distant inside of me for years. I had to speak my own truth, out loud, to myself, to others, to God. It felt so wrong and disobedient and unsettling to feel angry and resentful and sad, to wish I knew my birthparents, to feel unforgiveness towards my birthparents, to wish that I hadn’t needed to be adopted. Yet, I hated myself for not loving myself, for not accepting my story, for allowing shame to veil me. I heard over and over again, “It was God’s plan for you to be a part of our family,” and “Just think what your life would have been like if you had stayed in Korea,” and “God has a purpose in all of this for you.” Those sentences messed with me. Unknowingly for a long time, but as I grew older, something in me didn’t feel right when people said those things to me. Parents – these phrases might all be true, but speaking truth before acknowledging the pain will only force your child to be somewhere, someone, he or she is not.

SIDE NOTE: Maybe instead of saying, “It was God’s plan for you to be in our family,” you could say, “We know it makes God’s heart so sad to know that your parents weren’t able to take care of you (or died or made the choice to leave you or weren’t able to parent you or made choices that hurt you or chose the plan of adoption – whatever language you decide).” And then, “And at the same time, we know it makes God’s heart so happy that you get to be a part of our family.” Pain and joy – they always exist together.

And so when you hear that adoptees hold this belief that we should feel grateful for having been adopted, you (hopefully) can understand why we feel influenced to feel this way. When the missing story or awful story or just plain hard story – the past –  gets pushed aside and the focus becomes about the present, about the “forever family,” about what we have NOW, the gratitude feels forced. It’s like our past exists only as pieces of information to compare our current life to rather than a story to be told. And for many years, this was true. This is what parents were taught about our beginnings – that it happened, that it’s over. But our past – the time before we joined your family – is part of our story, part of our lives. It shaped us, our insides – the way we relate, the way we connect, the way we trust, the way we love, the way we see us and you and God. However mysteriously it happens, I believe that our brains get wired to begin believing the lie that who we are is not OK. This lie can turn more specifically into either, “I am too much” or “I am not enough.” And when we don’t believe that who we are is good, that feels badly. That’s painful. And like I wrote about in Part 1, when we feel pain, we have a choice: we can FLEE the pain or we can FEEL the pain.

I’ll be honest, fleeing feels WAY better. It makes you feel better about yourself. Well, in a deceptive sort of way. But the way you stroll through life gives off the sense that you have something to prove – that you’re smart enough, rich enough, funny enough, strong enough, cool enough, pretty enough, good enough. You get it. Some try to make people tell them that they’re OK. Others try to convince people that they’re OK. There’s something deep inside us all that yearns to know that we’re enough. That’s part of the impact of “the fall.” And after awhile, what we’re doing seems futile. It doesn’t give the return that we’re hoping for. And at the end of the day, when we lay our head down on our pillow, that sense of peace that we all want, just isn’t there. The striving get’s so tiring, and in time, will take it’s toll – sometimes within your marriage, sometimes your job, sometimes your children, sometimes your body. Spending all that energy proving to the world that you’re somebody because you believe you’re nobody is going to bite you in the butt. I’ll say it a little nicer: it’s going to cost you something. Maybe that’s a relationship or job or respect or money, or maybe even your own soul. And no soul is worth losing.

Fleeing will always lead you to a dead end.

But if you choose to FEEL, you’ll find more of you. And that comes with a cost, too. If you choose to enter the heart spaces, you choose vulnerability. And, unfortunately, not everyone has the ability or maturity to handle or hold the heart spaces with you. Let’s face it, it’s not easy to cry, especially with others. And for some, it’s just as difficult to feel and show anger. It feels so wrong. And what about shame? Who wants to admit that they think they suck, that they’re bad, that there’s something wrong with them? There are few people who will be willing to navigate through all of us with you which is not about you, it’s about them – their inability, their insecurity, their lack of practice with vulnerability, their belief that brokenness needs to be buried. (Finding safe people is hard and takes time, but critical to the process.)

But aren’t all of these emotions (and all of the others) human? Could feeling these emotions WITH your children show them that you’re human too? That it’s OK to be human? Could modeling humanity for our children actually allow them to feel what they need to feel at the appropriate age in the appropriate way? So they don’t get stuck emotionally, “back then”? And after you begin feeling what’s inside and naming it and owning it, then what do you do with all that mad and sad and scared and shame? It’s not in the feeling that’s bad or wrong, it’s what you DO with the feeling that either destroys and dismisses or repairs and reconciles. (Later post on what to DO with the feelings.)

Feeling will always lead you to your humanity.

(So, if you need a breather or a break, I guess this could be the place to take one. But I would keep reading if I were you.)

And so as hard as it was to tell God that I felt confused and angry and hurt and sad and scared, that everything felt so unfair, it was the beginning of a shift. A shift that went from me hiding from me (and everyone else) what was inside of me, to me seeing me, what was inside of me. I began allowing myself to be human. I started choosing vulnerability – with me, with others, with God. I started trusting, what was inside of me. And you know what? For many, many years, my vulnerability came from an invitation from someone else. I didn’t go there intentionally. I didn’t ask for it. I didn’t seek it. Vulnerability was always shared. Others showed me their heart – the good and the hard – first. And then I chose to “go there,” with them. Little by little, pieces and parts of my story were told. And felt. And responded to. Each of these people showed me that they were safe – that all my feelings were OK to lay out on the table. No judgment, no criticism, no rescuing, no “You shouldn’t feel that way.” They responded to my heart. When I began naming out loud what was inside of me – the parts I felt scared of, ashamed of – it felt SO vulnerable. It felt like I was taking off my clothes, sitting there naked and exposed. But in their response – their eyes, their posture, their tone, their words – it felt like they were re-clothing me with dignity, with truth. Everything I showed, everything I told, was listened to, affirmed, empathized with, responded to, shown compassion. And it changed me. And them.

Vulnerability will always lead you to intimacy and connection and authentic relationship, to trust. 

First it was people. People came first. Then God.

People were the ones who showed me that God was safe enough to trust. People were the ones who displayed God’s heart, his character, his love. Maybe for some, there’s this amazing instinct and belief that God is trustworthy, but I think those of us who got messed with, not only doubted that people were good and would stay when it got hard or inconvenient, but also doubted that God was good and would stay. And then to be told that God “allowed it to happen”? Or that he “planned it” And “had a purpose”? What? It’s really hard to trust a God like that. (Later post on the huge word, “trust.” Maybe even a little on the topic of “God and pain” and the “Gospel of Adoption.” That is, if I find the courage. Rainbows and unicorns first.)

And let’s talk about God for a minute, and the church. Wanna go here? I do.

DISCLAIMER: I am not a theologian, not even close, but I do have some thoughts on God. Please know that these are my thoughts. They don’t need to be your thoughts. But, they could be “our” thoughts, together – ha! Please know that my faith, my view of God, his view of us – they’re always evolving and growing and maturing and expanding. (I hope yours are too.)

It seems, in my experience, that the “church” has been taught and told, “point your children to God.” For some, there’s been an intentional parenting philosophy that instructs parents to focus on telling their children who God is, what he expects of them, what he hates, what he’s against, what behavior is considered “holy,” what needs to be prayed for, what needs to be gotten rid of. Much of the evangelical church language can seemingly put demands and expectations on what being a “good” Christian looks like, acts like, talks like, believes like, feels like. The focus seems more on the outcome and results and behavior, rather than on the process of transformation and formation of the heart. Maybe for some, this way of thinking and living motivates and inspires and challenges. Yet, for others, it’s been confusing and shameful and destructive to the heart of humanity, to building authentic relationships. Where is God in the should and must and need to and have to? Yes, God is in the good, in the obedience. I think it pleases him when we choose to live under and in and with his authority. I believe that with everything inside of me. But…And…isn’t God also in the suffering? In the hurting and hard? In the unknown and blurry and messy? In the mad and sad and scared and shame? That we feel in our hearts? And isn’t the heart the very center of where Jesus lives and breathes and moves?

OK – so keep with me here.

As a parent, when my child feels disappointed or mad or sad or scared, even shameful, it’s so easy for me to begin telling her what really happened, why she shouldn’t feel that way, give her perspective, tell her something truthful in an attempt to get her refocused off her pain and onto feeling better. But that’s all cognitive, all left brain. When I begin rationalizing or explaining or theorizing, that only speaks to her mind. But what about her heart? The center of where Jesus lives and breathes and moves?

What do we do when everything inside our children is questioning and doubting and hating and hiding and fleeing? Do we force them to step into their head space? Tell them what they should be and must do and need to feel and have to get over? Does God do this with us? Does he demand or force us to be joyful or grateful or humble or honest? Or does he invite us? To be and do and feel and move forwards because that’s the kind of person he created us to be. And if/when we’re open to hearing his invitation, if/when we accept his invitation, if/when we choose him, I think that has the ability to bring SO much more glory to him than if he made us, or demanded us or forced us. Maybe as parents, we could choose to let go of and release what we don’t have control of. And then allow our presence, the way we show love, the way we model trust, be an invitation to our children to enter into their heart spaces.

Maybe the “church” needs to (whoops – I mean, could) awaken (or re-awaken) more of her heart to more of God’s heart. Maybe she has spent an unbalanced amount of time gaining knowledge and passing down knowledge, circling around in the left brain (which is very useful and needed, in time), and asking everyone else to, too. And I wonder what the impact of that is. I wonder if there might be a lot of “Christians” who know a lot about God, but have very little experience feeling known by God because they’ve never invited him into their hearts. I wonder, adoptees, how much you’ve been told, how much you “know” about your story. But even more so, I wonder how much you’ve felt “known” in your story.

We want to know our story. We want to feel known in our story.

When a child is asking why his/her birthmother and birthfather, his/her first parents, didn’t or couldn’t keep him/her, I’m going to guess that he/she doesn’t want to hear: “Honey, I don’t know why, except that it was part of God’s plan” or “Sweetie, they placed you for adoption because they loved you so much” or “Baby, I don’t know all the details, but I’m so glad God gave you to us” or “God had a plan that we just can’t understand” or “I know that’s hard to hear, but you were meant to be with us, our family.” And on and on. NO. NO. NO. That is NOT going to help us feel known (even though some or all of this could be true and “might” be OK to say at some point in time). That’s going to rip us right away from our heart and force us into our head and expect us to make sense of something that you and I as adults can’t even make sense of. And I know, parents, what I’ve learned from listening to you, is that you don’t want that for your child. I believe that. You have shown me that.

So…I’m going to ask you to listen.

Go after the heart. Go after your child’s heart. When he/she is screaming because he/she is so mad that someone didn’t keep him/her or couldn’t keep him/her, or sobbing because he/she misses his/her first parents and doesn’t understand why he/she can’t meet them, or isolating himself/herself because someone in his/her life keeps being mean and he/she feels rejected, or even when he/she does everything perfectly right and seemingly has adapted, GO AFTER HIS/HER HEART. Meet your child where he/she is at – IN the emotion, IN their heart. I give you permission to do that because the church, historically, hasn’t given us permission to do that. We’re supposed to be strong and resilient, looking forwards and upwards, not backwards or downwards, focused on getting rid of sin rather than sitting with our shame. But, my friends (OK – I’ve calmed down now), I’ll say it again, the heart is the very center of where Jesus lives and breathes and moves. And if he’s there, in the heart, could it be, then, that he’s already in the story? You see, you don’t have to go looking for him. You don’t have to worry about if your child will find him. He’s already there. In the heart spaces.

(OK – take another breather and then keep reading.)

So, if God’s in the story and your child is in the story, then don’t you want to be in the story too?

We want you in the story, WITH us. The story BEFORE YOU WERE MINE! (Hey – that’s a good book title! (wink))

The heart is the very place where Jesus enters the story, where he steps into humanity to make himself known, where he creates space so that we are able to feel known. It’s not about inviting him into or finding him in the story. He’s already there. Smack dab in the middle. I think we’ll find him, I think you’ll find him, when we find the courage to go there, to the hard and soft and vulnerable places, in the heart spaces.

Maybe parents, you could focus less on how to “tell” (report) your children their story and spend a little more time on learning what it means to “show” them what’s in the story – showing them a true picture of Jesus by showing them his heart for them by showing your heart for them. And in doing so, maybe their heart will know it’s capacity to turn, to transform and soften, back from stone into flesh, how it was originally designed. Maybe you’ll give them an irresistible invitation to find more of their hearts, which will have the potential to awaken them to the powerful and mysterious and healing Jesus, who has been there all along. In the story. With them. Oh, and maybe…you’ll find more of your heart, too.

I think that would blow our socks off. It may even blow our hair back.

This is what you GET to do, GET to be. But here’s another really hard thing I have to tell you…just because you would offer yourselves to us in this way, doesn’t guarantee anything. Ahhh! That’s really hard to hear, isn’t it? And it stinks to have to tell you this. But here’s the deal: WE have to do our own work. WE have to go on our own journey. WE have to find our own truth, our own voice. We have to come to a place where we believe we are capable, lovable, good. No one can do this for us. But…you get to be there, right beside us, offering us a voice that reminds us that we are strong and brave and courageous. You get to remind us that it’s worth fighting for our hearts. You get to remind us of who we are. This is the gift we need from you.

And I’m convinced, that going on this journey, TOGETHER, could lead ALL of us to a new place, a better place – to more love, more intimacy, more trust. Oooh! I feel a little shalom as I type that.

Hmmm…(picture me sitting and having a thought, not making a statement, even though I might be)…

Maybe it’s not as much about the “act” of adoption that we need to promote or market or advocate for. Maybe the gift, the glory, the purpose in something like the “process” of adoption, is less about rescuing or saving vulnerable children and more about the potential for more of the “the story” to be told – a compelling heart story of entering in and letting go, of compassion and grace, of intimacy and love; a story of trustworthy relationship.

Now THAT could be a story worth writing.


Parents: It’s a ripple affect. You gotta know your story. You gotta show the little girl or boy inside of you some heart, some compassion, and hopefully experience your own healing. And then, offer that kind of compassion to your children – their wounds, their brokenness, their frailty, their mistakes, their hearts. And as you do, I so believe that your empathy (and maybe sympathy), will begin to infuse deep into their bones, strengthening them. And the impact will be that they will learn that it’s OK and worthwhile to show compassion towards their own stories, their own bleeding heart. And as they step into the world, into relationships, they will have a secure foundation and space to always go from and return to. So, go with them, at their pace, as they’re able, when they’re ready. They’ll show you. They’ll give you clues and signals. Be alert, be ready, be prepared. And do this, BE this, not because you have to, but because that’s the kind of man or woman, the kind of parent, you already are. Maybe it’s that you just need a little more practice being who you are. Oh, and remember, storytelling takes time. Lots of time.

Adoptees: Maybe you’ve never shown the little girl/boy or adolescent or teenager or adult inside you compassion for what’s happened to her/him. That’s OK. That actually would be understandable. But that little girl or boy inside needs you – needs you to come after her/him. She/he needs you to see her/him. She/he needs to hear that you hurt for her/him, that you ache for her/him, that you mourn for her/his loss, for the way the story messed with her/him. And, that you believe in her/him – that she is capable of re-writing her/his story with truth, with compassion, with grace. And in doing so, somehow, some way, gradually the parts of you that feel so disconnected, so far removed from one another, will integrate, will come together, will be made whole, will find life. But at your pace, as you’re able, when you’re ready. You’ll know. And I want to tell you this: YOU are worth the work it will take to write this part of the story. It’s worth finding more of you. We need your story. We need you.

Friends: All you have to do – GET to be – is human. The kind of spaces that need to be created for healing to take place, are human spaces. Take the pressure off yourself to be the healer. Let go of figuring out what to “do” so your child will heal. As you sit in God’s presence and experience more of his truth, more of his love, you’ll know exactly how to BE – to your spouse, to your child, to your family, to the world. Because you will have positioned yourself right in the middle, in the heart of the story, the very place where God’s healing spirit lives and breathes and moves. And whatever happens for you in that space, however that sacred exchange of him giving and you receiving happens, you’ll find trust. You’ll know trust. And as that kind of relationship finds itself and secures itself and defines itself, a voice will rise. It will probably be a little quiet at first, but it will grow. It will find itself, and lose itself, and re-find itself, differently in different seasons. And as you listen for it, you’ll know it. It will become familiar, known. It will be a voice that not only tells and reports of, but also shows the world how good God is, how available his heart is. It will be a voice that is able to tell the world of the beautiful and redemptive story he is writing for the world he wildly loves.

And just to think, if we did this TOGETHER, if we came to see God in the story, TOGETHER.


MUSIC – Again, some of my favorites. Just click and listen. Don’t watch the videos (unless you want lyrics). Just close your eyes and listen. And be.

Worn by Tenth Avenue North

Held by Natalie Grant


#weneedoneanother | part 1: it’s about you. it’s about me. it’s about us. together.


Let’s start here…

This isn’t a neat, 5-easy-steps series. Although I’m not sure that anyone could really write a neat or easy post on anyone’s story, or on how to tell your child’s story. I’ve just been writing and writing as the ideas and thoughts and reflections have come to me. Words always spill out of me (just ask my husband), even when I don’t try and not always in an organized way! Eeek!

Something that is really important to me for you to know is that I’m still learning. I’m still evolving. I’m still on the journey. I’m still learning how to live from a loved place, a true place, a soft place. I’m still learning to trust. I’m still making sense of my own story – of the hard parts, of the good parts – and listening to how God wants to use it all and how I get to be a part of it. And, at the same time, I have become more comfortable with what’s inside me, I am OK sharing my story, I am practicing more vulnerability, I am finding my voice, I have experienced healing, I have witnessed God using what’s “bad” for good. And, the most beautiful and healing part of my journey has been that not only my view of God has expanded, but also his view of me. Oh, that feels so sweet, so peaceful, so safe to type that. So in my continued imperfection and questions and sarcasm and desire to right all the wrong, I know I can fall back and rest in this space, with him. And that is the place I write this from, to you.

Ahhh! I can’t even believe I’m gonna dive into these adoption-related topics over cyber space with you! (Later post on adopted person being known vs. feeling known via cyber space.) It totally humbles me. It totally intimidates me. I usually like to write about rainbows and unicorns, not hard stuff. OK, just kidding. But really, writing about the human heart is hard. And writing about the human heart in helpful, clear ways is even harder. And then writing about the human heart in helpful, clear ways, with an audience, is just plain vulnerable. But I’m willing. Because one of the best lessons I’ve learned in life is that sharing your story, what’s inside you, has the ability to help others feel joined and normal and seen and understood and free…to begin writing their own story, to find what’s inside of them. And that, friends, is a gift. It feels like pieces inside of us all begin being put back together when we listen, when we lean in, when we allow the mystery of humanity to be shared, together.

So let’s go.

Two consistent questions I’ve heard since I’ve stepped into the adoption/foster care world are:

“How do I tell my child his/her story?” and “What can I do to help my child heal?”

And often times, these questions come immediately after, “Hi. Thanks so much for sharing.” There’s no getting to know you or finding things in common or small chit-chat. It feels like a deep dive into an agenda – an agenda, I’ve come to understand, that has a parent’s heart for their child’s heart all over it.

And then the eyes – they keep looking at me like somewhere inside of me I must have a quick and easy and profound answer to give them. And I don’t. I give what I can, but I don’t have a quick and easy or profound answer to give. We would need a million cups of coffee (or coke) with hours and hours sitting on a couch or deck with really, really good food to feed ourselves. For days. Maybe months. Perhaps years. Probably a lifetime.

So for me, when I’m in the adoption world, a simple “Hello, my name is so-and-so and I’ve adopted so-and-so from such-and-such,” turns into something way bigger, way deeper. And I wish I could answer these huge questions. (You know these are huge questions, right?) Because I know deep down that you’re longing for your child to grow up in really healthy, whole ways. And if I could be of any help, give any clues, if my voice could help give voice to what’s inside your children, I would absolutely LOVE to do that. But I can’t. I can’t really do that in five minutes. So, I’ve been pondering and simmering and storing up the many thoughts that have surfaced since being “with” you all and blending it with and contrasting it with and balancing it with what’s inside me, my experience, my knowledge. In the midst of my daily routine with my family, my head has been spinning the past two-and-a-half years listening and observing and digesting all that my ears have heard. So many thoughts, new emotion, resistance, curiosity, shock, confusion, disappointment, gratitude, grace. And maybe even some love.

So, back to the questions.

I deeply respect that you are eager to learn, eager to do this “right,” hopeful for healing, open to telling the pieces of your child’s story that are hard and gruesome and messy in a redemptive way. That means you are thinking about it. That means you understand that there has been a rupture. That means you believe that the rupture can be repaired. That means you are aware that parents play a significant role in a child’s journey. That (maybe) means you get that there is more that comes with adoption than just the beauty of giving a child love and safety and a “forever family.” (Later post on this phrase.)

But I often wonder if you’re up for what it really takes – for your child, for you, for your marriage, for your family. Have you been equipped? Do you know your own story? Have you experienced your own healing? Have you witnessed and are you telling of the redemption in your own life? Do you believe that you are lovable? Needed and wanted, worth fighting for, worth being known? I hope so.

My prayer is that you, adoptive/foster parents, are on your own healing journey. That you are learning how to live from an identity grounded in truth, that you are finding what’s inside of you – your voice, your heart, your capability – so that the kind of eyes you are developing are the kind of eyes that can see what’s inside your child and lead him/her, walk alongside of him/her, through the places you know, in time, he/she will have to go. Instead of protecting your child from feeling pain, you’ll be able to sit with them, in it, telling them that you understand what it’s like to feel glad, mad, sad and scared, to feel shame. And along the way, because you intrinsically know what pain feels like and have entered into it and have allowed it to be used for good, you’ll know how to offer a voice that says, “You’re gonna make it. I’m with you.” And in the back of your mind, you’ll know it’s worth going backwards because it was there where you found the places that needed healing. It was there that you heard truth, that you felt grace, that you experienced healing. And when you get to do that – go on the journey with your child – it will change you. It will change both of you.

Maybe one of the greatest gifts the adoption/foster care community could offer the world because of the unique woundedness it invites into the home, because of how families are uniquely positioned to experience brokenness and suffering, which has the ability to create a deep longing for healing and wholeness, is that more and more people would become aware of how much potential there is for healing to take place, TOGETHER.

So, my friends, there are no simple answers or formulas to these questions. There’s no specific time frame. There’s no guarantee.

But, there is a process. And that process? Maybe…

It’s less about doing things “right” and more about how to respond to the “wrong.”

It’s less about if/then’s and more about what if’s.

It’s less about what parents are DO-ing and more about who they are BE-ing.

It’s less about being adopted/relinquished and more about feeling known and knowing love.

It’s less about getting your child to trust and more about learning what it means to trust.

It’s less about healing your child and more about a journey of formation.

It’s less about you, less about him/her, and more about you, together.

Go ahead and cue the rainbows and unicorns, but hang on and keep reading…

We all want a redemptive ending, right? But you know what? Redemption doesn’t just happen. When I think about the stories of Jesus, I’m always struck that for him to “make things new,” there had to be an old, a bad, a broken. He took the old and made it new. He took the bad and made it good. He took the broken and made it beautiful.

BOTH parts are always in his stories.

So maybe before we (or our children) can write and tell a redemptive story, we have to take a peek (or maybe a long look), at the old stuff, the bad stuff, the broken stuff. But looking at all of that – like REALLY looking at it – totally sucks. Why? Because if you linger for any length of time with stuff that doesn’t make you feel good, you may actually begin to see it. You may actually realize it’s real. You may actually begin feeling – the loss, the disappointment, the injustice, the ache, the sadness, the doubt, the shame, the anger, the resentment, the fear, the “my life totally got messed with,” the “my child’s life totally got messed with.” And because you’re human, when you feel that badly, you’ll want to flee. Everything inside of you will want to get the heck out of that place dripping with negativity and weight and despair.

And you can. We all can. We can flee.

Adoptees can flee. Adoptive parents can flee. We can all sprint past the hard stuff or take a detour or pretend it doesn’t exist (or matter). We never ever “have to” confront it. But if we bypass it, we’ll keep wondering why we still don’t feel OK, why we still don’t feel healed, why we still feel too much (or not enough), why all the money and things and people and vacations and working and exercising and drinking and eating and perfectionism never make us feel better. We’ll keep wondering if redemption really wins. And most likely, we’ll always fall back to relying on ourselves to make things better. Maybe we’ll even rely on ourselves to make healing happen.

So adoptive parents AND adoptees (and everyone else): No one – I repeat, NO ONE – can make you go on this journey or initiate this process. YOU are the one who decides to open yourself up for more – more awareness, more insight, more love, more grace, more intimacy, more freedom. MORE OF WHO YOU REALLY ARE. You don’t need a formula or a manual or that expert speaker (even though all of these will give insight), all you have to be – GET to be – is open. And then watch what God’s healing spirit can do.

Parents: There’s not a magical thing you can do to get your child to begin his/her healing journey. But you CAN create the kind of space where it is safe and secure to move away from and return to if/when your child chooses to go on that journey. (Later post on “the kind of space.”)

Adoptees: You’ll go on this journey when you’re desperate for something more than what you have, when all that you hold inside begins bursting and rupturing and not working anymore, when you’re open to finding more truth, more love, more grace, more trust, or maybe even more people.

But here’s the thing, we know that we are wired for relationships, right? So, you don’t have to do this alone. You could, but that would be pretty lonely. Safe, but lonely. Since healing and wholeness is a life long process, you’re going to need different people at different times for different reasons. People bring perspective and insight and laughter and good distraction and encouragement and a deck with lights and summer slush and on and on and on. Invite people in. Let me clarify: Invite safe people in. Take all the cheerleaders you can get. Take all the love and support and kindness you can get.

Friends: Let me be at least one person who will say to you:





So, let’s do this. Together. Not just the adoptive parent. Not just the adopted person. Us, together.

So whether you need to start writing or need to keep writing, know that the story is going to be so, so good. It’s just going to take some time to write it.


MUSIC: I love music. It moves me, so I’m going to try and give you a song or two for each of these posts. They’re songs that have meant a lot to me because their messages have been so strong. And, music touches the soul like nothing else.

So just click and listen. Don’t watch the video because videos with words and moving backgrounds can be distracting. And cheesy? For real, close your eyes, and listen.

Mended by Watermark

Healing is in Your Hands by Christy Nockels

NOTE 1: Please know that in my mind as I type this I’m thinking, “Eeeek! This is A TON!!!!!! A ton that I’m downloading on you, a ton that I’m inviting you to, a ton to process, a ton of work. Offer yourself loads and loads of grace as you continue to read these posts. Take in what you can for where you’re at. I didn’t know all of this at the beginning of my journey. I probably would have never been open to going “inwards” if I had. This is what I know at almost 40 and I’m still learning and soaking in and digesting and understanding and experiencing. And most of all, still healing. God takes us at the pace we’re able to move. He’ll never take us where we’re not ready to go. He’s good like that. He’s gentle like that. He loves you right where you’re at. Promise!

NOTE 2: I’m not a child or adolescent or abnormal (what an awful description) psychology expert. Nor am I an “adoption” specialist. These posts are not therapeutic or professional advice (even though that part of me is always part of me). This is from my own personal journey and some big picture thoughts on the two questions above. There are hundreds of adopted person’s experiences and paths of healing that we can all glean from and learn from and apply. This is only my two cents in the million dollar answers everyone wants. I’m “one voice giving voice.” My hope is that at least something small will resonate with you and/or your child’s story that could be helpful, that could help initiate more healing and wholeness, and more belief of how much we need one another’s stories and perspectives and gifting and healing.