Tuesday, December 23rd, 2014

But we don’t do it like that!

IMG_2145There’s one topic of conversation that comes up almost every time I speak about Christ-centered family traditions: “We think hard to plan ways to make our Christmas celebration more focused on Jesus so that we and our children know him better. Then we go to our relatives and they do things so differently.”

I’ve written down some thoughts that I hope will be encouraging and helpful if this is your situation.

You don’t want to cause disruption in the family, but you don’t want your children to be confused or hindered in their growing faith. You’re trying to help them understand as much about God as they can at whatever age they are.

What can you do? 

[You can read the rest at the Desiring God Blog.]

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Sunday, December 21st, 2014

46 years


Forty-six years. That’s a long time of God demonstrating his faithfulness and goodness.


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Monday, December 15th, 2014


IMG_2214Nineteen years ago today, we were in the lounge outside the library in the old church building–sitting, standing, pacing, sitting again, standing again–waiting for the door to open for the entry of our daughter into our family.

That was a day that changed our lives. We can’t imagine life without our Talitha.

In the evening, I leaned over her crib and for the first of hundreds of times sang her hymn to her.

Children of the heav’nly Father
Safely in His bosom gather;
Nestling bird nor star in Heaven
Such a refuge e’er was given.

God His own doth tend and nourish;
In His holy courts they flourish;
From all evil things He spares them;
In His mighty arms He bears them.

Neither life nor death shall ever
From the Lord His children sever;
Unto them His grace He showeth,
And their sorrows all He knoweth.

Though He giveth or He taketh,
God His children ne’er forsaketh;
His the loving purpose solely
To preserve them pure and holy.

Praise the Lord in joyful numbers:
Your Protector never slumbers.
At the will of your Defender
Ev’ry foeman must surrender.

“God sets the solitary in a home” (Psalm 68:6).

Thank you, Father.


The series that tells our adoption story begins here.

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Thursday, November 27th, 2014

The Thanksgiving gateway



Thanksgiving Day is winding down. This year I’ve thought of Thanksgiving as the gateway thrown open to Advent, which is the pathway to our celebration of Jesus’ birth among us–Jesus, who through his life, death, and resurrection is for us the way the truth and the life–our greatest cause of thanksgiving.

This year, as is often true, the first day of Advent falls on the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend. Then for the next four weeks, it’s as if we’re re-enacting, remembering the thousands of years God’s people were anticipating and longing for the coming of God’s salvation, for Jesus. That’s what advent means — coming. (Read the rest at Desiring God’s blog page, including some thoughts about Advent candles).

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Saturday, March 8th, 2014

Is proofreading a sin?

Today is National Proofreading Day.

I’m a pretty good proofreader, though I’m not sure that’s good. I get way too much pleasure in discovering other people’s imperfections.

But maybe that’s my problem, because here are just two examples of what happens when there’s no proofreader.

burpless or burp less


First, here’s the bottle of capsules I would  buy because it’s least expensive. But really! I don’t want to just burp less. I want to be burpless.


Second, lest we think that’s no big deal, Mr. Adrian Monk warns of the corrupting, irreversible generational affect:

“I’ve never understood why Bill is short for William,” interjected Stottlemeyer. “Where does the B come from?”
“Why is Bob short for Robert,” I said. “Where does that B come from?”
“Misspellings that went uncorrected and, as a result, went on to contaminate the entire English language,” Monk said. “Let that be a warning to us all on the importance of proofreading.”

Today is National Proofreading Day. Proofreaders, keep your hearts pure and minimize your glee as you wield your slashing red pens. Readers, go find a proofreader to hug.

(And if you discover any errors in this post, keep it to yourself. I dish it out better than I take it.)


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Monday, November 25th, 2013

Best Christmas trees around

Running to treeschristmas tree farm


If a driver on Washington Pike has a second to take his eyes off the narrow curving road, at the intersection with Childs Road, he’ll see acres of finely trimmed Christmas trees.

That’s just one of the rolling fields of House Mountain Christmas Tree Farm, begun in the early 1990s by my uncle and aunt, Zach and Norma Henry. This video and article from early November, when people were already starting to come to Childs Road to cut their own trees, give an idea of some of the connection and memories that make the farm so much more than just a business.

Some people even make 2-day journeys to get their trees. One year 2 families from the same county in Mississippi showed up in the same field, neither knowing the other was coming.

Beginning this Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, Aunt Norma will have free cookies, hot cider, and hot chocolate out  for tree shoppers at:

6300 Childs Road, Corryton, Tennessee, 865-687-0324

(Note: Google maps is wacky on this one. On Google, you need to search 6280 Childs Road–that puts you at what’s really 6300. Other maps may be correct.) Childs road isn’t long; look for the big red mailbox on the north side of the road–or just follow the other cars to the most beautiful trees around.

If you’re in the neighborhood (or wanting an enjoyable drive), stop by and Aunt Norma will point you in the right direction for the tree you want. Pick up a saw, pick out a tree, cut it down, and come back to pay for it and enjoy the goodies. Tell her her favorite niece Noël sent you. Maybe that will get you a couple of extra cookies.

Weekends, just down the road, in the field near Washington Pike and Childs Road, there’ll be a tent where I’ll have out some items for sale: hand-knitted cotton dishcloths, decorative eyeglass chains, and Christmas star ornaments. Ask Aunt Norma how to get there.


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Monday, November 11th, 2013

Praying and waiting — Mary is there

mary olson

Our niece, Mary, works at the Bethel International School in Tacloban City on the Island of Leyte in the Philippines. Tacloban was at the point of Typhoon Haiyan’s landfall this past weekend.

We prayed and waited as the typhoon approached and then hit and swept its way through the city and across the island. Then we prayed and waited for word from or about Mary and her colleagues. (Photo: Mary on right, with some fellow teachers.)

In roundabout ways, Mary’s parents received the good news that Mary and her coworkers are safe. We are giving thanks for that. But all around them is destruction:   “All school buildings heavily damaged and most things used to make a school function lost. Hopes for miraculous reopening in January.”

Bethel International School

Bethel International School

Bethel, after Typhoon Haiyan

Bethel, after Typhoon Haiyan









News reports and pictures & pleas from survivors give us here some small idea of how bleak the devastation is and how vast the death toll–10,000 or more. That is Mary’s neighborhood, her city, her friends, her school children. I’m imagining Mary doing everything she can to help her neighbors, but with few resources.

tacloban_destructionThere is a way we can help Mary and her coworkers be Jesus’ hands there. Bethel International School is part of Converge Philippines, an affiliate of  Converge Worldwide, our denomination. Converge has created the Tacloban/Philippines Typhoon Fund.

I am thankful there are numerous excellent relief organizations. But I commend the Converge Typhoon Fund in particular this time, because “funds will be disbursed by our Philippines missionaries in consultation with Converge Philippines president Ildefonso Alfafara,”  and “churches and pastors there are already delivering food, water and other vital supplies. Our co-laborers are well positioned to serve as relief centers and deliver a gospel message.” Mary is one of those co-laborers.

We continue to pray and wait, to hear how God is working.

Lord, please protect Mary’s emotions, her spirit, her health, her strength, and her faith.

Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen and help thee, and cause thee to stand
Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.

When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of woe shall not thee overflow;
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

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Saturday, October 12th, 2013

We have no more children who are children

As of yesterday, our last child who was a child crossed the line into official adulthood. I love you, my beautiful daughter.

talitha 2 months


























talitha 5 months


Talitha 2 years

















Talitha 4 years






















talitha in hammock chair













whole family














j-n-trp portrait























jp, np, talitha - 2009


talitha bday



















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Saturday, October 5th, 2013

T4A: Saturday tweets


When Everything Sad Comes Untrue — Scotty Smith

“And oh, God will dry every tear, And everything sad will be made untrue.”(Lyrics:ow.ly/pwYYK) @StevenCurtis #T4ACon


Closing with “A Little More Time to Love” by @StevenCurtisow.ly/pwYQh #T4ACon

“One day “orphan” will be written out of our vocabulary!” – @ScottyWardSmith #T4AConRetweeted by NoelPiper and 4 others

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes” by wiping away every cause for weeping. @ScottyWardSmith #T4ACon4 retweets

We’re not going back to Eden. Eden was just a foretaste of what’s to come. @ScottyWardSmith#T4ACon3 retweets

Mt 27:52. When Christ died, many tombs opened & saints rose. Sadness was beginning to come untrue. @ScottyWardSmith #T4ACon

Rev 21:5. God says, I am making all things new. Not I will, but I AM. @ScottyWardSmith #T4ACon1 retweets

“God’s Story”commissioned by @ScottyWardSmith from @davidarmsartist for Christ Community Church. #T4AConow.ly/pwXEP1 retweets

Everything sad comes untrue in the new earth, when God dwells with men, & he wipes every tear from their eyes. @ScottyWardSmith#T4ACon1 retweets

@ScottyWardSmith, fan of classic rock and R&B, says best R & B Christmas album is by Michael McDonald. #T4ACon

“When Everything Sad Comes Untrue”: @ScottyWardSmith, who blogs daily atow.ly/pwWM9 . #T4ACon1 retweets

Shades of my old mid-GA country church: I’ll Fly Away, led by @kalebmusic, with @johnwcarrlending his former gospel quartet voice.#T4ACon
Breakout: Made in Whose Image? Is your family ruling out special needs adoption for the right reasons? — Salem Richards

Considering adopting a child with special needs? Get disability experience by volunteering with @JoniandFriends#t4ACon4 retweets

“Institutional autism”– not from birth, but develops because of the limitations of an orphanage settings.@SalemRichards #T4ACon

I thought of all she wouldn’t ever be able to do, what she can do outweighs what she can’t. @SalemRichards #T4ACon ow.ly/pwRLq1 retweets

If you want to adopt a child who desperately needs it, it will probably a child with special needs. @SalemRichards #T4ACon

@SalemRichards blogs as SisterHaiti/UgandaMama. #T4ACon ow.ly/pwRof

Breakout: Made in Whose Image? Is your family ruling out special needs adoption for the right reasons? @SalemRichards #T4ACon
Stories of the Fatherless Re-Written– Vermon Pierre

It’s Jesus who insures that every gospel move in our broken world ultimately brings praise & glory to God.@PastorVP #T4ACon1 retweets

The God of the Bible–Sea-splitting, sun-stopping, dead-raising can transform the hardest ones we minister to.@PastorVP #T4ACon2 retweets

Many fatherless wear labels of real scars,hurts–part of their story but not a trap, through God’s transforming power.@PastorVP #T4ACon1 retweets

When we see the brokenness of the fatherless, we realize we were as much in need of transformation as they are.@PastorVP #T4ACon4 retweets

Gospel move 4: Transformation. From children of wrath to sons of God. @PastorVP #T4ACon1 retweets

In adoption, the family needs the child as much as the child needs the family. @PastorVP#T4ACon6 retweets

In adoption, it’s not just the child’s story that’s rewritten. The family’s story is rewritten too.@PastorVP #T4ACon17 retweets

Gospel move 3: Unity. After reconciliation the new state is unity. God makes us one new people, one family.@PastorVP #T4ACon
Adoption is the bridge of reconciliation between someone who wasn’t part of the family, but becomes a family member. @PastorVP #T4ACon3 retweets

Reconciliation with the fatherless might be Safe Families aiding reconciliation between child & natural family. @CASFFC @PastorVP #T4ACon1 retweets

Gospel move 2: We rejected God in Eden. At the cross Jesus bridges conflict & separation with reconciliation. @PastorVP #T4ACon

Because of Jesus’ sacrifice of his life for us, we can sacrifice for the fatherless. @PastorVP#T4ACon

The cost and sacrifice in our gospel move toward the fatherless is nothing compared to Gods gospel move toward us. @PastorVP #T4ACon2 retweets

Gospel move 1. Sacrifice. It takes the shedding of blood to bring us into the family of God. @PastorVP #T4ACon1 retweets

Stories of the Fatherless Re-Written: Vermon Pierre, Lead Pastor, Roosevelt Community Church. @PastorVP #T4ACon ow.ly/pwNzD

Yay for Chik-Fil-A at T4A! #T4ACon ow.ly/i/3lccE

Update: I added the Audio Link of my last year talk, Had I But Known: ow.ly/pwFcp #T4ACon

Safe Families give hope to families in crisis, helping avert the need for long-term foster care. @CASFFC #T4ACon ow.ly/pwCRz
Our Lives Rewritten–Mike Reeves3 retweets

As surely as we know the Son, we are God’s unrejectable children. @mike_reeves #T4ACon1 retweets

Sons long to share the Father’s compassion, so pure religion before the Father is visiting orphans in their affliction. @mike_reeves #T4ACon4 retweets

When we’re with the most godly person we know, it’s hard to speak ill of others. In Jesus’ presence, we are changed. @mike_reeves #T4ACon3 retweets

Caleb who wholly followed God was a Gentile adopted into Royal tribe of Judah (his father a Kenizzite-Num 32:12). @mike_reeves #T4ACon1 retweets

Rom 8:15. The Son shares with us adopted children of God even his most intimate relationship: Abba! @mike_reeves #T4ACon4 retweets

Rom. 8:14. All who are led by the Spirit are sons. Sexist? No. The Son shares his own sonship with us adopted ones. @mike_reeves #T4ACon1 retweets

In gospel without adoption, Jesus is my get-out-of-hell card. Then I don’t need him any more. It’s all about me. @mike_reeves #T4ACon6 retweets

Adoption in Christ is the very top, the acme, the quintessence of the Christian faith. M-LJones @mike_reeves #T4ACon5 retweets

Luther realized that if God saves by his kindness, he must be a fatherly good–with all best connotations of father. @mike_reeves #T4ACon

“Our Lives Re-Written”- @mike_reeves speaking. He oversees Theology Network–a theological resources network. #T4ACon ow.ly/pwwXt

Our Lives Rewritten

— mother and son, Susan and Alex Hillis

I was a broken child. I want to be a father figure to others through teaching PE, coaching, & maybe being a missionary. Alex Hillis #T4ACon2 retweets

You see your 3-year-old, but God sees the big picture. Treat him like the way you pray for him to become. Alex Hillis #T4ACon10 retweets

Treat your kids the way you want them to become. Alex Hillis #T4ACon7 retweets

I wanted to be like my father. He couldn’t speak Russian, so I didn’t. He was a Christian, so I wanted to be. Alex Hillis #T4ACon

Alex Hillis speaking: Susan Hillis’s son, student at Kennesaw State in Ga, adopted from Russia.# T4ACon

We are fed to feed, raised to raise, loved to love. Hillis #T4ACon4 retweets

We cannot love from an empty cistern. But God’s fountain keeps filling us. Hillis #T4ACon2 retweets

The church and you need your adopted children more than the children need you. Hillis #T4ACon4 retweets

Marriage problems afflict many of the righteous. We don’t talk about that, but we need to. God delivers from affliction. Hillis #T4ACon3 retweets

Gray & silver. Gray’s base is black. Silver’s base is light. God turns our gray to silver. Hillis#T4ACon1 retweets

Susan Hillis, Senior Scientist, US CDC, blog post for USAID about her family. ow.ly/pww13#T4ACon1 retweets

Which of us was transformed by our own power from orphan to child of God? Neither can our children transform themselves. Hillis #T4ACon7 retweets

Psa 34:19–“Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.” My testimony! Hillis #T4ACon1 retweets

“Our LIves Rewritten”–Susan Hillis speaking, mother of 11, energy of a bumble bee. And her son, Alex, college student. #T4ACon
Louisville! @OCAkids equips Christians & connects them with opportunities to care for the fatherless. #T4ACon ow.ly/pwveh
Check out these videos from New Horizons for Children, Inc.–an international hosting program for orphaned children. #T4ACon


A couple years ago, I told our own adoption story. It begins here

Use one of the Subscribe to Noel Piper links to the right so you’ll always know when there’s something new here.

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Saturday, October 5th, 2013

T4A: Filled at God’s fountain


This morning Susan Hillis asked and answered, “Which of us was transformed by our own power from an orphan to a child of God? None of us, of course. We are adopted into God’s family only by the power of God.

“Neither can our children transform themselves from orphans to children of our families or of God’s. That too is by the power of God.”

As one might expect at an adoption conference, there are a lot of practical how-to sessions. But as I look over the list of breakouts offered at the T4A conference this year, I see a lot that are focused at the parents’ hearts, emotions, and spirits in relationship to God as the firm ground under our parenting and decision-making.

  • Getting over myself
  • Principles of spiritual warfare applied to adoption
  • How we love when the story is struggling
  • Fear–not-so-common discussion regarding all-too-common concerns
  • Gospel rest for weary moms
  • Seeking God’s heart as we nurture the little hearts he’s placed in our families
  • Praising Christ–The engine that powers our pilgrimage
  • When your heart collides with the heart of God
  • Brokenhearted–Walking with the Man of Sorrows.

I see here what we know we need and need to pray for, as Susan said it: “We cannot love from an empty cistern, But God’s fountain keeps filling us.”

If you couldn’t be here or couldn’t get to all the breakouts you wanted to or you want to hear your favorite sessions again, Mp3 downloads of the breakouts and main sessions will be available soon to purchase.

Susan: “We are fed to feed; raised to raise; loved to love.”


A couple years ago, I told our own adoption story. It begins here

Use one of the Subscribe to Noel Piper links to the right so you’ll always know when there’s something new here.

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Friday, October 4th, 2013

T4A: Had I but Known


Update: I just discovered that SermonAudio.com has a bunch of Together for Adoption free audio downloads, including my talk, What I Wish I Had Known]


Tonight Jason Kovacs spoke of a change in emphasis that has happened in the years since the beginning of Together for Adoption–of realizing that in the beginning there wasn’t enough weight given to the challenges and downright suffering that can come with adoption.

That thought parallels my own observation that over the last few years, there has been more open recognition by speakers and adoptive parents of that kind of pain and uncertainty.

That’s where my thoughts were this time last year when I spoke at the 2012 T4A Conference. In case you didn’t already hear these thoughts, here’s the audio of the full talk and a slightly shortened print version.

Had I But Known

Imagine you’re reading a novel . . . Well, first imagine you had time to read a novel . . . You come to the end of a chapter where all seems to be going well, but the author writes ominously, “Had she but known . . .”

Today, we’ll put ourselves in the shoes of that character, not knowing what will come next. Because that’s the way life is. God blesses us by not telling us today what tomorrow will bring.

My experience is mine and yours is yours. But I bet there’s a lot of overlap amongst us all. Listening to other parents talk about their families has been one of the most important ways God has taught me what I need to know for my family, at least as much as I’ve learned so far.

So I sent out a call for help to my blog readers.

Less than a month from now is the 40th anniversary of my becoming a mother. Had I but known that 40 years into mothering there would still be so many things I wish I knew. . . so many things I thought I knew, but I didn’t. . . so many things I hadn’t even thought about knowing, things waiting to bless me or to blindside me.

I resonated with the one who wrote, “I wish I had known that by the time I’d figure out how to do this gig with some degree of wisdom, my children would be nearly grown. I wish someone had told me that I was going to make mistake after mistake after mistake, but that God’s grace would always be sufficient.”

In all our skipping from one topic to another today, there’s just one main theme, as a blog friend wrote, “I wasn’t totally ignorant about prayer, but I’m learning so much more of it, what it means to give my children to the Lord.”

That’s the main topic today. We aren’t in control. God is the only one who has perfect control. We call it his sovereignty. He is the only perfect parent—to both us and our children.

I heard Pastor Chris Lent say, “The most common command in Scripture is ‘Don’t be afraid.’ Fear happens when I don’t know everything and can’t control everything. Do not fear—those are not just comforting words, but a command.”

We love our children and want the best for them. But sometimes we misjudge what’s best for them or just flat-out don’t know what’s best. And even when we do know, we may not have the ability to make it happen. And unless our child dies before us, someday we will be another parent who leaves him—not because we want to, but because we’re mortal.

But God. God loves his children. He always wants what’s best for them. He always knows what’s best for them. He has the power to do what’s best and he does what’s best. And he will never leave or forsake his children—never.

Do not be afraid. Do not fear.

Some of you are here because you’re in the process of adopting or are considering adoption. I don’t want to be that woman, if we were in the labor-and-delivery world, who discovers someone is pregnant and that triggers her gag reflex and she spews out every horrific birth story she’s ever heard. Meanwhile those poor soon-to-be-parents are splattered with the slimy stink of uncertainty and fear.

What I want to be, in the labor-and-delivery metaphor, is the woman who teaches the birthing class—the matter-of-fact one who knows the basic facts and helps new parents not be caught off guard by inevitable pain and possible—even probable—complications.

It’s important to be as prepared as we can be, but in reality, none of us knows all that parenting will bring into our lives, both of grief and gladness. As one blog friend wrote, “I often think it is grace that we don’t know what parenting will bring or look like before it comes, and that we can take each new turn one at a time.”

There’s another particular person here I want to say something to. You have one or more children, no matter whether they entered your family by birth or by adoption. You’re running into situations with your children you didn’t expect and you don’t know how to handle. And you don’t know where to turn for advice or support.

You look around and see 2 kinds of families. There are the ones that seem to have it pretty much together. So how could they understand? If you spoke with them, maybe they’d think less of you because of how inadequate you are. And then there are the others who are obviously dealing with severe issues—lots more serious than yours. You think you’d just look like a crybaby to them.

Well, let me open the door a crack on both those kinds of families. I know a lot of families that when you see them at church or school, you’d think all is good—no problems. But remember, God is the only one who has it all together. Any family that has children has challenges. I’m trusting you to approach those parents respectfully, not expecting them to dump out all their dirty laundry in front of you. There are probably legitimate reasons for the boundaries they’ve set—out of respect for their child, or perhaps knowing that others won’t understand and might a wrong impression or give up on their child. But many people have lots of humble wisdom and experience to share with you in a way that won’t be disrespectful to their children.

I also know a number of families whose challenges are out there for anyone to see. They love their children as deeply as other parents, but the children live with the kind of damage and disability that people write about in books.

Maybe we ourselves don’t experience anything like the almost-constant drama and danger and discouragement of those families. And yet conversations with some of those mothers have been some of the best education I’ve received for our parenting. They’ve helped me see that a child’s needs and differences shouldn’t be minimized or ignored just because they don’t match the intensity described in a book or experienced by another family.

But there’s only one friend who can be for us everything we need. That’s what I was trying to say in my children’s book, Do You Want a Friend?. I love the one blog friend’s suggestion that to avoid exploding, we vent vertically. If you’re old enough, you can picture a hissing pressure cooker. If steam were shooting from the vent, it would keep the lid from blowing and pasting the scalding dinner all over the ceiling and walls. Vent vertically.

Or for more familiar language: Are we weak and heavy laden, cumbered with a load of care? Precious Savior, still our refuge; take it to the Lord in prayer. Or as in 1 Peter 5:7, you can be “casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”

Dorothy Bode is one of those women who has taught me so much. Dorothy has 11 children, 8 of them adopted and a houseful of so-called “hidden” disabilities, meaning the disabilities aren’t obvious physical challenges. At her blog, you can read her from-the-gut response to my question: What do you wish you had known? I recommend Dorothy’s blog to you. It is powerful, gritty, and real.

What are some of the things I didn’t know?

First of all, I did know that adoption would change my life, though I still don’t know all the ways.

What didn’t I know? Here are some of the things I learned by experience and from other people’s stories.

I didn’t know that the decision to adopt would be my key experience understanding what it means for us as husband and wife to come to a decision together when, in essence, there must be a tiebreaker. Johnny was by no means opposed to adoption, either in principle or for us in particular. He just took longer than I did to be persuaded that it was a good decision for us. And during the days that we talked and prayed and consulted with close friends and our other children, I truly had no idea whether he would say yes or no. I knew his decision would be for good reasons, and only after he’d prayed a lot. Of course I knew if he said yes, I’d be elated. And I knew if he said no, I’d be bitterly disappointed, but not bitter. I would know that God had another good plan for us. The letter he wrote me when he told me yes reflects his heart-searching and his love for me and for Talitha.

I didn’t know that grief was part of every adoption. I began to realize that even before Talitha came, when I didn’t know how to pray. We’d seen a picture of the soft, sleeping face surrounded by dark curls—the little girl that might become part of our family. All the circumstances that led up to that picture in our hands seemed to be saying that she would be ours. But I knew too many stories of disappointment.

Should I pray that God would cause her birth mother to sign the papers? But I didn’t want to ask God to tear at a mother’s heart like that. And that would mean I was praying that the little girl I wanted to love would lose her mother. I wasn’t God—I couldn’t know what was best for the birth mother and for the little girl I was already calling Talitha. But if she didn’t choose to relinquish her baby, I already knew what it would do to my heart. On top of that, I had no idea for a long time to come of the grief hidden in a child who’s lost his or her first mother—the grief that seeps out in ways that neither the child nor the adoptive parents understand or maybe even recognize.

So I began to pray that God would do good for the birth mother and for Talitha, and if it meant adoption, that he would place her in the family he had for her, even if it wasn’t ours. I guess that was my confused way of acknowledging his control—his sovereignty. “You go ahead and do what you’re going to do, God. I want you to do what you’re going to do.”

I had no idea that I’d be watching Johnny so closely after Talitha came to us to be sure this was our decision and not just a favor to me. When she cried, when she needed a diaper change, when there were a lot of those normal inconveniences of having a baby in the family, what would I see on his face, in his posture? Was she our baby, or did he give any hint that she was my project and he didn’t want to be bothered. Never. It’s like one of my blog friends said, “I never realized how much I would love watching my husband be an awesome Daddy—a husband who loves me, mistakes and all.”

I sort of knew, but I wish I’d realized earlier that love is not enough. You know, like so many people will tell you when they’re congratulating you on your adoption: “If you can just love them enough, you can bring them through whatever difficulties they have.” But love ISN’T enough to erase possible brain damage, to erase the pre-adoption history.

Karen Richburg wrote, “If we just love enough . . . but you can never fill the bucket with love when the bucket is riddled with holes.”

Love might be enough if we could love perfectly and if we knew everything there is to know about what is good for our child, and if we had power to do everything that the child needs—in other words, if we were God. But we’re not.

Yes. Love is enough, if it’s God’s love.

Having adopted transracially, I had no idea how much at first I’d notice people looking at us. And I was amazed that most of the positive feedback we got from strangers was from African Americans.

I was surprised at how self-conscious I felt scolding Talitha in public or firmly grasping a disobedient hand or whatever I’d have done without a thought to our children who look like us.

I didn’t know how much it would matter to me that she knew I was her mother. There was a moment when she was maybe about 9 months old. I was holding her and she threw her arms in a hug around my neck. My instinctive thought was, “She knows!” I never gave that a thought with the children born to me. I was their mother—of course I was their mother.

I didn’t know that receiving a very young infant does not mean you avoid attachment issues, even when you follow above and beyond your agency’s requirements that only family members hold and feed the baby for a designated amount of time.

I thought a good adoptive parent would treat all her children alike, within the range that takes into account the differences of our children. In other words, a good adoptive parent would never throw up her hands and say, that must be because he’s adopted. Skip the throwing up the hands bit, but still there are times when we will know that there are differences owing to adoption. Once again, it was Dorothy who helped me see this. Our child has genetics that aren’t ours, a reality aside from us. Adoption and birth are not just 2 different ways to have children. We step into a history that had nothing to do with us. To ignore that is to do an injustice to our children. “Blended family” is an understanding that might help a family function better. It acknowledges that there were other people influencing our child before he or she became part of our family.

I didn’t really take into account that looks wouldn’t be the only way Talitha is different than me. I used to dream of an adopted daughter who, of course, wouldn’t look like me, but people would see other attributes that would make them say, “Isn’t she like her mother?” (Somehow, I was forgetting how many things about me I wouldn’t want to see in her.) Anyway, I don’t remember much about my doll playing when I was little. But I do know I couldn’t have told you the names of 7 babies, with the names of the adopted ones taking priority over the ones born into the family. And for Talitha, the names and details were consistent day after day.

I never expected that at this late stage of mothering, I’d still so often be second guessing myself, and that even real friends sometimes just don’t get it and contribute to my confusion. Is our daughter getting her way too much?—Or is it that we’re working with her and who she is so she can cope with decision-making and change? Is it letting her have her own way or is it part of dying to self for the sake of our child?

I didn’t know that a medical record that says there’s no history of substance abuse may or may not be correct. As Dorothy said one time, If you were a birth mother being questioned by an official-looking social worker or hospital admissions officer, would you want to admit you’d been using regularly?

Back when we adopted I knew hardly any families who had adopted older children, so I knew of only a couple situations of what I’d know now is severe RAD. But the more Christ’s compassion reaches into harder places through you, his people, the more stories there will be.

I was surprised that adoption made some of my children confused about where babies come from. After we’d waited several times with parents greeting their babies arriving from faraway places, one of our sons thought babies come from the airport.

Or Talitha. She was 6 and I was surprised she hadn’t asked any birth mother questions. On Jan 22, Roe v Wade day, we stood on the steps of the MN state capitol along with thousands of others. Talitha looked across the distance to a poster with a line drawing of a partial birth abortion, but it just looked like birth to her. “Look there’s a baby being born, like baby Elizabeth,” she said naming a little newborn friend. “And like you,” I said. She corrected me, “I wasn’t born, I was adopted.” So there on the massive capitol stairway, surrounded by people who would have applauded Talitha’s birth mother’s choice of life for Talitha, I explained that she had indeed been born before she was adopted, and that there was another mother before me.

I didn’t know that even adoption experts whom I know personally and admire immensely don’t always get it right. I wish I’d paid more attention to some of the books that one such friend pooh-poohed—books, for instance, about a child’s deep grief that is literally inexpressible.  “Don’t probe topics like that with your child”, I heard. “You’ll just introduce problems.”

I thought if there weren’t drastic symptoms, there was not need to consider RAD or fetal alcohol effects.

When I became a parent, I never expected to be sitting, sobbing, on the bumper of a car in an ice-covered parking lot at a pastor’s wives retreat—so no one could see me–because all the things that were wrong with a child were my fault, because all the same things were wrong with me and had been inherited from me—and I didn’t know how to change me or that child who had been born to me.

And I never expected that other times I’d be weeping because a child is so different from me and I have no idea what to do.

I never expected that I’d want my husband to stop complimenting me by saying I was unflappable. I used to think of myself as a person who could handle almost any situation. But you know how that was possible? Because I was a non-emotional person. I stuffed my emotions like you stuff a rag doll. Force enough stuffing inside and that doll can stand up stiff and straight.

During a couple of years of counseling, I learned to express more emotions than just flat or angry. And along the way, I realized I want to flap sometimes. I want to fall apart sometimes, not stuff it all down and “be strong.” I want to flop over onto my father’s lap so he can take care of me.

The body needs every part, including our broken selves and our broken children. The weaker parts have a lot to teach—including that the strong are not as strong as they thought. When I reveled in being unflappable, that might have looked like strength, but really it had more to do with control.

when god weepsI’ve done a fair amount of volunteering with Joni and Friends.a place of healing It hadn’t occurred to me that there’d be so much overlap between the worlds of adoptive families and families with disabilities.

And I never expected to be diagnosed myself with ADD after I was 60. That was a great big AH HA. But so late. Why so late? If I had known earlier, it could have made such a difference in relationships with my husband and my older children. I can’t go back and redo the young years of our boys. I grieve for those years of miscommunication and misunderstanding.

But the diagnosis came also just at the right time. As we try to understand the different sort of brain function of more than one of our children, I find myself saying, I know what that’s like. Or when Johnny and I have one of those conversations where each of us is making perfectly good sense, except not to each other, I get a glimpse of what might be happening inside a child’s head in a similar conversation.

I had no idea it would be so hard to sort out what’s brain function and what’s sin, both in myself and in my children. Even if Johnny and I didn’t agree on how a child should be disciplined or reward, at least we were working from a similar foundation and outlook.  Who know how hard it could be to understand and agree when neurological damage is involved, not just the human will.

One time one of my sons told me that when they were little it was like I wished they were somewhere else. That’s what it looks like when I’m focused on something—it’s like everything else either disappears. And I did that to my children without realizing it. Or was it an ongoing sin of self-centeredness? AARGH!

I keep reminding myself that God never wastes anything, even ADD, even if we have to wait till Heaven to understand it. And that’s just as true for our children with their various challenges, difficulties, damage.

A battle-worn blog friend writes, “I wish someone had even hinted that once we followed God down this path of parenting via adoption we were going to enter into a new kind of spiritual warfare the likes of which we had never known and possibly will never know again. We were so completely blindsided by the battle, we were not even expecting a single arrow, let alone a relentless onslaught lasting many years.”

Families who are weary and worn down by the battle are Satan’s playground.

Jesus is never blindsided and he warns us what to expect. “In the world you will have  tribulation. But  take heart;  I have overcome the world.”  That’s John 16:33, and John records another truth in 1 John 4:4—a promise of who God is for us: “Greater is he who is in you than he who is in the world.”

We are sinners, raised by sinners, raising sinners who will look back and recognize our sin while they are raising sinners.

If we think about that a while, we can fall into fatalistic depression or we can throw ourselves and our children into the lap of our Abba Father. He’s the only one in the universe who can say “Don’t be afraid” with no qualifications. He is the only father that does not sin. He does not fail us or our children. He is the father we all need all the time.

One of my blog friends wrote about heart-wrenching pain with her children who are young adults now, then she wrote, “All that said, I love my children so much and for all the hell, I would not give up the blessing of my children. I never thought I would be a mother. It is the hardest thing but the best thing I have ever done. . . . They still have their challenges but I am so blessed. He carried me through. He will carry them through too because, just as I always tell them, He did not bring you across the ocean to me without a good reason. He has a plan.”

God is in control. He is sovereign.  And he is the Father of all those who are trusting Jesus.

Last, I didn’t know that because of our adoption, the picture of God’s adoption would leap alive off the page.

We wanted to adopt. We did what we could to make adoption happen. We have worked to fold our child into our family, a challenge that remains throughout our lives.

Isn’t that what God does?—except perfectly and with no glitches.

And I look at adoption from the perspective of a child. Adoption is a much more powerful picture for me now as I recognize myself as one of God’s adopted children who has a hard time sometimes feeling like she belongs, as a child with attachment issues.

Birth can happen “by accident” from the parents’ perspective. Adoption can’t. Adoption happens by the intention and action of parents. Even when we might feel like it’s forced upon us by circumstances, usually there’s a choice at some level.

Whether the metaphor is new birth or adoption, we don’t know ahead of time very much about who the child is or what we’re getting into with him or her. God does know every detail about every one of his children and he knows precisely what he’s getting into.

God is in control. He’s sovereign. And he’s the father of all who are trusting Jesus.


A couple years ago, I told our own adoption story. It begins here

Use one of the Subscribe to Noel Piper links to the right so you’ll always know when there’s something new here.

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Friday, October 4th, 2013

T4A: Friday tweets


Together for Adoption 2013 — Friday

I’ve copied here all my tweets from today for all of you who don’t tweet and to save you FB followers from such frequent notification dings. There are a lot, but just skim through and see what catches your attention. I’ve included also a few short videos we saw today.

I don’t know what’s up with the spacing–some double space and some squashed together . I’m sorry about that, but I’ve tried to fix it, and I think it’s better now to try to write down in another some of my take-away from today.

7 pm — Jason Kovaks: The Story Rewritten
God doesn’t have foster children. His children are adopted. He gives permanence. @jasonkovacs#T4ACon


Quoting Mark Twain: The 2 most important days in your life are the day you’re born & the day you discover why.@jasonkovacs #T4ACon3 retweets

God doesn’t give us comfort, but something better. He gives us the Comforter who helps us walk through our suffering. @jasonkovacs #T4ACon1 retweets

Don’t add to the pain you carry by feeling you ought not talk your grief. Jesus cried out in his agony: Abba! @jasonkovacs #T4ACon

When God rewrites our story, he doesn’t edit out the suffering. His Son suffered and so do we.@jasonkovacs #T4ACon2 retweets

Jesus rewrites our stories so that his story is ours–lost now found, orphan now adopted, dead now alive.@jasonkovacs #T4ACon4 retweets

We want to live a great story, but that’s not what we have–there’s a persistent sadness.@jasonkovacs#T4ACon1 retweets

The stories we tell ourselves about ourselves have a thousand implications for the way we live our lives.@jasonkovacs #T4ACon1 retweets

Traveling the hours here with our 5 kids is a privilege and a bit of self-imposed sanctification. @jasonkovacs #T4ACon
Speaking now: @jasonkovacs, Counseling Pastor at Austin Stone Church, cofounder of T4A, on staff with @abbafund.#T4ACon.
Have you ever heard of a country in Africa without orphanages? Cynthia’s video: ow.ly/pw1CP #T4ACon @Saddleback

Afternoon: Johnny Carr Interview

I want to help churches be practical in implementing James 1:27–ministering to orphans in their affliction. @johnwcarr #T4ACon

@PureCharity helps Adoptive Families think creatively about raising funds to cover the costs of their adoption related expenses.#T4ACon

@johnwcarr doing Oprah: Everyone here today gets a new car!–a new Johnny Carr book, that is.#T4ACon

@johnwcarr#T4ACom emcee, is author of Orphan Justice, ow.ly/pvI87 . Sample a chapter:ow.ly/pvIjp

Fatherless: a most sobering word, because for all eternity there has been an eternally loving Father & Son. @DanCruver #T4ACon

Archibald Project’s cameras advocate for orphans–capturing moments that stir & inspire others to adopt. ow.ly/pvHfF #T4ACon

Friday afternoon — Dr. Sharen Ford: Stories of the Fatherless

I give each of you a bandaid to remind you to bring aid to one of God’s children, & a lollipop for God’s sweetness. Ford #T4ACon

There are children waiting for you to speak up for them. You are the aid that those kids need. Ford#T4ACon
HELP! H-E L-oves P-eople. You’re the help, the aid, that God sends to restore children to him. Ford#T4ACon
@JoelHome_CHC provides a home for homeless young men formerly in foster system. ow.ly/pvF34Ford #T4ACon @hope_chest
Fostering Hope’s Volunteer Teams serve as an extended family for foster families. Ford #T4ACon
Why not volunteer with Royal Family Kids–“confronting abuse, changing lives” of foster children. Ford #T4ACon ow.ly/pvEiO
Sharen Ford encourages volunteering at Camp To Belong, where separated foster siblings reunite for a week. ow.ly/pvDN1 #T4ACon
A child entering child welfare is wounded. Who meets that child where he or she is to connect and love? Ford #T4ACon
If there aren’t enough families to foster teenagers, they go to group homes. Who’s teaching how to be a man or a woman? Ford #T4ACon
Not every child in welfare system gets adopted, but none should outgrow it with no one who has connected and cares. Ford #T4ACon
Juvenile detention has a definite term, but the child welfare system holds onto a child or young person. Ford #T4ACon
“Somebody from the government is telling us to open our Bibles?!” Ford: “I’m retired!” #T4ACon

“Legal orphans” — parental rights have been terminated, but no adoptive family is on tap. Ford#T4ACon

Dr. Sharen Ford, formerly Child Welfare Div, Colorado Dept of Human Services, now retired & consulting. ow.ly/pvAsD #T4ACon

Coming up–“Stories of the Fatherless.” Speakers: Dr. Sharen Ford. #T4ACon

13-16-year-olds leave orphanages with no skills,support,hope. (Un)adopted reaches out. Video: ow.ly/pvz3q @LifelineChild #T4ACon11 retweets

What is (un)adopted? from Lifeline Children’s Services on Vimeo.


Breakout Session — Traci Heim: Positively Adopting with HIV/AIDS

Video: Truth Pandemic–Get the facts re HIV/AIDS. Can you tell which kids have HIV or AIDS? @ProjectHOPEFUL #T4ACon ow.ly/pvsW4

Kids being treated for HIV are expected to live a normal life span. Heim @ProjectHOPEFUL#T4ACon

If God is telling you to go or to do, he isn’t going to keep from you what you need to go or do. Heim#ProjectHopeful #T4ACon


Usually there are only 2 times a day we think about our child’s HIV–every 12 hours when it’s meds time. Heim @ProjectHOPEFUL #T4ACon

For parents who have adopted a child who is HIV+, the virus is probably the least of their daily issues. @ProjectHOPEFUL #T4ACon

Postively Adopting with HIV/AIDS. Traci Heim of @ProjectHOPEFULprojecthopeful.org #T4AConow.ly/pvn9m

From my back pew, it appeared that Kentucky is camouflagizing the khakis of Brit Mike_Reeves.#T4ACon ow.ly/i/3kAFv


Breakout Session–Shelly Roberts: Special Needs–Trading in Fear for Faith

This life is so short compared to eternity, and what we do here matters. @ShellyRoberts7 #T4ACon

Fostering: Why should I mop up for parents who blew it? God: Those children are mine & I love them. @ShellyRoberts7 #t4aCon

As I stand on the ledge peering over into the unknown, I know who led us here and that he has a loving purpose. @ShellyRoberts7 #T4ACon

I didn’t know that children with significant special needs live in nursing homes in my own county. @ShellyRoberts7 #T4ACon

I knew all the reasons we shouldn’t adopt another child, but until we did, I had no idea how much more I could love. @ShellyRoberts7 #T4ACon

All our adoption learning about attachment & learning new parenting techniques may be for our biological children. @ShellyRoberts7 #T4ACon

My story is just that–mine. What matters is HIS story with a savior to go to when I’m paralyzed by fear. @ShellyRoberts7 #T4ACon
God doesn’t need us to solve the orphan crisis, but he chooses to work through us. @ShellyRoberts7#T4ACon

Special needs: Trading in Fear for Faith. Shelly Roberts, blogger ow.ly/pv42K, & with AbbaFund ow.ly/pv46O . #T4ACon
Morning Session–Mike Reeves & Jon Bergeron: The Story Gone Wrong

Without belief in the fall, sin & the need for redemption are minimized, & ears are deaf to the cries of the fatherless. Mike_Reeves #T4ACon

Without belief in a historical fall, our culture is left without the category of evil. Mike_Reeves#T4ACon

Turning away from the one who IS, turns us toward ourselves, withering us to almost nonentities. Mike_Reeves #T4ACon

Adam was the created son of God, shrinking from his good Father–the original prodigal son. Mike_Reeves #T4ACon

Why would Adam make the mad move of choosing Satan over God–because he is rejecting his Father. Mike_Reeves #T4ACon

Creation is the overflow of the Father’s heart, where he will bless his son, Adam–where he will care for his children. Mike_Reeves #T4ACon

God’s ultimate blessing is sonship for us through the Son. Mike_Reeves #T4ACon

God created because of his unconfined, ecstatic love for the Son. Mike_Reeves #T4ACon
The cosmos exists because the Father’s love for the Son was so great that it overflowed. Mike_Reeves #T4ACon
The Father has loved the son eternally. That is the bedrock of all reality. Mike_Reeves #T4ACon

Good stories are powerful because they draw deep down from the structure & form of reality, of truth. Mike_Reeves #T4ACon

Photo: You’re the defender of the weak. You lift us up on wings like eagles. #T4ACon ow.ly/i/3kz1G

@mike_reeves continues “The Story Gone Wrong.” #T4ACon.

Adoption Day isn’t the beginning of happy ever after. It’s the beginning of rehab for all in the story. Bergeron #T4ACon

If a story leaves out the hard parts, it’s not true and it isn’t a good story. Bergeron #T4ACon

People call me a pessimist. I call myself a realist. Half-full? Half-empty? Whatever. The glass is 1/2 water, 1/2 air. Bergeron #T4ACon

“The Story Gone Wrong.” Jon Bergeron speaking at #T4ACon: Director, FamilyCare, Hope for Orphans. ow.ly/puPHr1 retweets

Video: “Why is your mommy white?”A 9-year-old’s surprising and wise answer. #T4ACon ow.ly/puNj

Overheard: “We knew we were supposed to adopt, but how could we afford it? We just refinanced our house.” #T4ACon


A couple years ago, I told our own adoption story. It begins here

Use one of the Subscribe to Noel Piper links to the right so you’ll always know when there’s something new here.

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