Posts By: Admin

I Share a Bloodline With The Children We Adopted

“Look, she’s calling you mommy!” said a beautifully well-intentioned friend, wanting to celebrate just how quickly we’d become a family.

My little girl was building with legos in the corner and her less-than-nimble fingers needed help piecing them together. She called me mommy when she was hungry and when she needed help in the bathroom, too.

We adopted our first two children from Ethiopia at 1 ½ and 3 ½. We were their parents and they came to us potty trained. We were parents and yet we’d never changed diapers or done 3am feedings. The first day we met them, the only words they knew in English were “Mommy” and “Daddy” – and for all they knew, these were our first names.

The reason I remember this friend’s celebratory words were that I wanted to celebrate then, too, like she did. Couldn’t calling me “Mommy” mean that my little girl knew all of what that that name meant — couldn’t it mean that we were more of a family than a mere three weeks of knowing one another might otherwise imply?

As a new mom, then just having crested my twenties, adoption was what I’d seen on Christmas cards and in “Gotcha Day” videos where teary-eyed parents met the children they would spend their lives raising and wide-eyed children met strangers holding gifts and crying.

Sure, I’d read the adoption literature. I knew the stories. But I still was not all that different from my friend. When my daughter called me “mommy”, I ascribed more weight to those words than I did to the fight soon coming to win her to knowing the fierce love behind that name.

Our language betrays how quickly we want to declare victory. How quickly we want to move past pain.

When we adopted our first two, we had scores of friends and family who wanted to agree with what we’d already hoped – that the transition would be smooth and that any past trauma would have left very little imprint. We all wanted that piece of the vacuous American dream “healthy and happy children.”

We all secretly wanted “normal.”

So my little girl – the one I’d only just met – calls me Mommy and we all breathe a sigh of relief, as if this somehow indicates we are well on our way there … to that empty and elusive state of “normal.”

Girl MJ

Mommy is a tender responder to ouchies who fiercely fights for the hearts of her children and is relentless in her love for them, even when they hurt her out of their own hurt. But what I didn’t know at thirty was that the reasons why the ones who called me mommy (we now have four that we adopted) might struggle to believe me as such were entry-points for all of us into the heart of God.

As a culture, we want to stamp “done” and “fixed” over the things that hurt and the parts of us that still bleed. We want to bandage deep wounds without cleaning them first and label “complete” over the parts of us that still need His healing touch.

We want to celebrate a child who calls her caretaker “Mommy” as if this one day in which they were adopted means that all the past was forever erased.

And this is, perhaps, because we don’t yet have a grid for God as the deep Healer of our wounds.

He heals.

We don’t want to bleed because we‘re not yet quite convinced that He, Himself, bandages.

Perhaps we are called (in James 1:27) to care for the orphan and the widow because something happens to us when we get closer to a wound that’s still bleeding. We are opened to a side of God we cannot see when we’re spending our days trying to tidy our lives before Him who promises to be near to the ones who actually aren’t all that tidy, the God who promises to be near to the broken-hearted.

Morning run glory. Waking up expectant. I'm gonna see Him today.

Not too long after we adopted our second two, my husband said to me (about one of ours with a history that still leaves me in tears) “you know, you weren’t all that different from her, when I first met you.”

Excuse me?

This particular child bristled to the touch and averted her eyes when confronted with affection. She retreated down a long corridor of vacancy when she felt shame and shame seemed to be what she wore, no matter how we spoke otherwise to her.

When my husband met me at twenty-three I was more savvy. I hid those emotions that my child wore front and center. I stuffed them down deep, far from sight – except to those who were on a path to really know me. Indeed, I was messy underneath my carefully-groomed exterior.

These children who are now ours, but who were once orphaned, have brought our home a little closer to the mess. Not just theirs but closer to the mess inside of us, the mess we Christians like to tidy. Real fast.

James 1:27 has not been, to us, a call to powerful and strong believers who are wearing badges of rescue and saving the broken ones. Rather, it’s been our introduction to the way we humans bleed. All of us humans. And, even more than that, the God who uses this place of bleeding as an entry-point into our hearts as healer.

I couldn’t begin to know God as healer until I admitted my desperate need for healing. I’m just a few steps ahead of my children, in that. That’s the bloodline we share in common.

For When You Are Fresh Out of Amazing

I managed to crumple into a heap on my bed while holding the babe. I was still a mother, even in this melted state. I finally released the kind of tears you cry when a dozen times previous they’ve been stifled.
 These weren’t just today’s sobs.
The questions I’d been evading for weeks, perhaps even months, fell into my mind like bombs being dropped by planes overhead, strafing across my otherwise rational thinking.

Who was I to think I could live my life well—this life right in front of me—and with any sense of joy?

At what point did I move from having a good handle on my priorities to just surviving my days?

Have I just messed this all up? What is wrong with me that I’m here, now, unable to hold it together?

I clamped my eyes shut, over the tears, as if I could somehow close the door on all the questions, the insecurity, the creeping sense of failure, and go on to make a fantastic gourmet dinner in a spotless kitchen. As if I could even press pause on the swirling around me for long enough to pray, or even form a sentence or grab a tissue.

They were shut for five seconds before the baby cried, joining me in my meltdown and reminding me that I didn’t have the luxury of time to gain perspective on this internal rift. And then a knock at the door and I heard a squabble down the hall, between which there was a lineup of blocks in primary colors scattered across my hallway.

How did I get here? And what do I do now?

Continue reading this post over here –> 

The Antidote to Comparison

Three sisters share a bathroom, a closet, hairbrushes and the nightly bedtime recounting of the day. They know each other’s strengths just as surely as they know one another’s morning breath. All the girls know that Eden can sing and Hope can dance and Lily can paint. They celebrate each others’ differences readily. They wouldn’t want to forfeit what’s theirs — and doesn’t every girl have their one thing? You’d never catch Lily in a leotard these days and Eden’s paints have long since dried up.

But in the everyday things of life they share – the writing, the reading, the piano playing … oh, and the hair – they often give each other the side-eye. The celebration of one another is a struggle. It’s work to rejoice over a sister’s longer hair and longer books read, and new writing pieces. On these, their natural bent can be to be silent.

Not all that different from us mamas, if we do what’s “natural”, isn’t it?

A friend who’s a triathlete or another who’s in sales or still another who plays the violin masterfully – they’re all easy for me to celebrate. I could spend a whole summer at the pool without getting my head wet, I like to buy (and not sell) and I’ve never once held a violin.

But what about the mom with children the same age as mine? Or (for me) the other writer, the other speaker, the other adoptive parent?

It seems harmless to remain silent at another’s successes – to look sideways and feel better about who we are because our successes might be bigger or to feel worse about what we’re not in light of their gold. It seems harmless to cast the side-eye and to stay silent. I mean they are, after all, succeeding – surely they don’t need celebrating in addition to enjoying all that so-evident fruit.

Within my heart, however, they do need celebrating.

When I don’t see the people in my world with the understanding that God has given to each a unique role within His body and that my job is to feel with another when they’re weak andto rejoice with another when they’re honored, I miss out on the beauty I was meant to receive from that person.

And I miss out on the sweet whisper of God telling me, uniquely who I am in Him.

We dress up comparison like we dress up our pet demons – “oh, it’s not that bad. It’s just a function of motherhood — just a function of a being a woman.” But what it steals from us (in ever-increasing increments over time) is the ability to hear His vision for our particular life and for our particular calling.

It all gets cloudy. And fast.

Comparison is the masqueraded thief  {continue reading this new post over here –>}

That Question: “What Am I Doing Wrong?”

I had to hear it through a half-dozen other mouths before I realized it’d been in my head first, and for possibly years.

“What am I doing wrong?”

It’s the mother whose child isn’t sleeping, and the wife who’s husband isn’t emoting, and the daughter who’s father is still in rehab and the twenty-five-year-old who is still in the same cubicle, with the same title, three years into her job who are all saying it.

Haven’t we all said it? When was the last time you did?

We brought our second two children home from Uganda (which meant we were now parents of four) and this question roiled around in my head at 11 pm, just hours after another child’s meltdown. This was the first time they’d known the safety of a Daddy’s strong-arms, but my husband’s arms still seemed to feel anything but safe. This was the first time they’d known family dinners and full bellies and rhythm, yet here I was staring at their sobs and asking that question: what am I doing wrong?

{Continue reading this post over here —>}

Tethering the Strings of the Heart

She slid up next to me, a sprig of a thing with her long, thin frame that will likely be taller than mine before the year closes. I was wiping down the counter — tasking — and she wrapped her arms around me and rested her head in the crook of my neck as if we were settling in for a late night story.

My children show affection in different ways, though all of us Hagerty’s tend to be cuddlers. This particular one, however, reserves her hugs as exclamation points. She doesn’t often initiate and when she does, I pay attention.

What was it today? I asked myself and then remembered that I’d been asking myself that more frequently with her.

You see, we’re living time backwards. My children are aging with the calendar but they’re also healing — four of them were orphaned, once — and healing tends to bring them closer to home, despite their age indicating that they’re closer to launch. When they move a little closer in — when they lean, when they initiate, when their eyes look straight into ours for a little longer — we take notes.

What was it today? {Continue reading over here … }

When They Cannot Repay You

The day we pulled up into our driveway with the first two of our children that we’d adopted — into the home that had been full of empty bedrooms for years while we waited for them — we sat with the keys in the ignition while they, buckled into boosters in the back, slept off days of sleepless travel and we sighed.

Done.

We’d finished the hardest part, hadn’t we? They were … home.

They transitioned almost seamlessly into our home, except for some minor hiccups with attachment that an ergo and night-time bottle feeding (eye-to-eye) seemed to cure.

My little girl smelled like me. (She was mine.) My son even looked like Nate, aside from his chocolate skin. They slept through the night and played for hours like best friends and made our family of four feel easy.

A year later and we were adopting again. Insta-family.

And somewhere between that cloudless day when we brought our first two home and the one when we had five packed into our rusty suburban, the seamless days of adoption had vaporized.

The days when it seemed easy were distant. {Continue reading over here … }

On Tears (and Other Blessings)

It is the rare writer who invites you in, not only to their heart but yours, and through the back door — in such a way that words and story are subtly ushering you closer to the heartbeat of God.
I read Christie Purifoy’s book last summer and I’ve counted down the months until it would be available in book stores, until I could gift it to friends. Readers, writers, ones wanting to get lost in story and find themselves in Him in a new way: buy this book. Today I’m hosting her on the blog and learning from her as I read:

“I sometimes think that every good gift I’ve been given has its roots in emptiness. I cannot separate the blessing of these four children from the years of infertility and longing. I cannot distinguish this [home] from the restless wandering that brought me here. Even summer is a gift we receive only on the far side of winter.” – Christie Purifoy, Roots and Sky: A Journey Home in Four Seasons

In summer, we feel the warmth of the sun on our arms, we hear birds singing outside our open window, and we feel we are blessed. Yet we cannot know the fullness of summer without the emptiness of winter. So which one, truly, is the gift?

11827178965_1c4464f2c3_o

I wrote a book and assumed I knew what every word of it meant. Two weeks before my book released, my family suffered a great loss. Now I am reading every word with new eyes. My own words, written so many months ago, have become my guide through a new season of emptiness.

“… I am finished with sifting. Finished trying to untangle the knots of good and bad. Finished naming one thing a gift, another a curse. … These things must be embraced entirely or not embraced at all.” – Christie Purifoy, Roots and Sky

The book I wrote tells the story of our first year in an old Pennsylvania farmhouse called Maplehurst. It is about all the ways God leads us home.

Now I know: our home, our place of rest, our moment of sweet arrival, lies on the other side of emptiness. On the other side of loss. And we travel toward it accompanied by a great many tears.

15759913560_ec5fae63d4_o

I realize this sounds like bad news, but it is bad news the way snowfall in winter is bad news. God meets us in our empty places, and it is sometimes as sweetly quiet as snowflakes falling on a red-brick chimney. It can be as beautiful as the white-frosted limbs of a giant maple tree. In other words, it may be hard and cold, but it is not only that.

Certainly, it is nothing to fear.

“… there is always this edge running through our lives and our days. … the cliff edge between winter and spring. The fault line between death and life. It is the line between loneliness, which is easy, and friendships, which will be hard work. I am realizing how frequently we are invited to dive into the unknown. To make a flying leap toward light and life and love. How frightening it always is. And how necessary. And also how well cared for we always are, even if we are never, at least not exactly, safe.” – Christie Purifoy, Roots and Sky

I am writing these words from a place of emptiness and grief. At the same time, I am writing these words from my home. My armchair is pulled up close to the window of this attic room. Outside, snow is falling on the evergreens, the bare maples, and the fountain I can just see down below.

I have come home, and every day I see more evidence that the God of the universe is also making a home here, on this hilltop, with me. But this does not mean that there will be no more emptiness. This does not mean there will be no more tears. Not yet.

Not yet because there are new things to come. New life yet to grow.

14124054521_9da647f204_o

And one more spring approaches.

“I long to see the glory of God in this place, to taste it even, but for everything there is a season. These are still planting days. These are the early days of small beginnings. Days to sow, quite often in tears, hoping, believing, that we may one day reap in joy.” – Christie Purifoy, Roots and Sky

ChristiePurifoy

Christie PurifoyChristie Purifoy earned a PhD in English Literature at the University of Chicago before trading the classroom for a farmhouse, a garden, and a blog.

In lyrical, contemplative prose, Christie’s just-released book, Roots and Sky: A Journey Home in Four Seasons, unveils the trials and triumphs of her family’s first year at Maplehurst. Christie invites you into the heartache and joy of small beginnings and the wonder of a God who would make his home with us.

Connect with Christie and discover more about life in a Victorian farmhouse called Maplehurst on Instagram and Facebook.

That Voice of Surprise

She was turning eight on the first birthday that she celebrated with us. I think this was her first birthday ever, as the first years of her life had been undocumented.

And I was overwhelmed – a likely coupling.

We’d just completed our most recent adoption of two more children and my head was still spinning. Life hadn’t stopped to let me more deeply absorb the impact of melding lives and histories and cultures all under one roof. I still had to cook dinner every night. We all needed clean underwear.

In the times of transition like this, I was most aware of how limitless life can feel. We’d just adopted internationally and outside the birth order. I could find hundreds of blogs and dozens of articles to inform this transition. I was cooking for six now, not just four.  And there were countless sites I could search for recipes and women offering advice on the screen about how to feed a large family. I was homeschooling – certainly no dearth of resources there to tell me what to teach and how to teach it. And in an effort to keep myself sane, I was still running several mornings a week. According to the sites, barefoot running was the new trend for the well-studied runner. {Continue reading here … }

That Holy Loneliness

“I want a friend who is just like me, Mommy,” she said through tears to me, years ago.

“I feel alone.”

She dismissed those siblings of hers who like different songs, and sing to different beats and the spend their time ordering when she wants disorder or deconstructing when she wants to construct. She didn’t want a friend who was a year older, or another a year younger. Surely not one that’s too “rowdy”, or another too quiet.

We made a verbal list. She wanted a girl who knew what it was like to live with all those crazy siblings, while also one who wanted to put on her pajamas at two o’clock in the afternoon some days. Oh, and one who didn’t like messing with her hair. {Continue reading over here …}

No More Running On Empty

There’s this thing that happens when I’m introduced to another woman who has adopted. We can know little to nothing about one another and yet share a glance that says “oh, you’ve had a taste of where I’ve been.” That’s likely true of anyone who has walked through pain, themselves, or with their children — that knowing glance. Jennifer Ebenhack and I have this in common: a hunger to find Him as we hold the hands of our children in a walk towards restoration and fingernails that have gotten a little bit dirty clawing our way there. I’ve invited her to write, here, today. Her words strike a deep vein. Read on, ready to be stirred.


I can’t keep living like this. I’m being eaten alive, Lord! I threw myself to the bed and sobbed. Resentment toward Jarod, each member of my household, and every missionary who ever enjoyed a family trip back to the States flowed like poison from my mind to my heart and through every cell of my body. I wanted to destroy something or someone—to exact revenge on Joseph for ruining our adoptions, to rebel against God for allowing all of this, to do something drastic enough to prove to everyone around me that I needed help.

My tears turned to silent cries: I’m afraid I’ll do something horrible, God! I’m terrified. I’m exhausted. I’m desperate! Don’t you see? There’s no way out! But even as my adrenaline pumped, my mind jumped ahead of my tantrum: What good would it do? I was only heading deeper into the darkness, and I’d already spiraled so far into the abyss of self-pity that I didn’t recognize myself. I knew the antidote to darkness was light. But apart from an adoption miracle—which I’d long ago given up on—how could anything change?

Utterly depleted, I reached for my One Year Bible. Just this once, God, could you show me something I’ve never seen before?
Window MJ

My hope rose just a little as I flipped pages to find the reading of the day, but my expectations were soon let down.

Psalm 23.

That’s it? How are verses about sheep and oil going to help me today, Lord?

I read on, expecting nothing.

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”

I scoffed, and a few tears ran down my cheek.

“He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside still waters.”

 Lie down? If only!

“He restores my soul.”

And here I stopped.

“He restores my soul.”

I was living in a spiritual desert that rivaled the Sahara. Those four words may as well have been an invitation into the turquoise waters of Tahiti.

Are you serious, God? You can do that? This from a woman who’d been studying Scripture since childhood.

I drank in the words one more time: “He restores my soul.”

And suddenly the truth became real, piercing through all my cynicism. I was placing impossible burdens on everyone around me. It was no wonder they failed to deliver. My husband, friends, and family were powerless to perform the duties of my Savior—my Shepherd. Life was disappointing. Circumstances were impossible. My loved ones let me down regularly. But I was never supposed to place my hope in them. I finally saw that.

Okay, Jesus. Be my Shepherd. Please, restore my soul! I turned a wet face up to the ceiling. Help me! I am such a mess!

I was still on my bed, in a hot, cluttered room, but I had been spiritually plunged into the still, clear waters of restoration. God was listening.

I devoured the following verses.

“He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” Of course. He will help me—after all, His holy name is at stake.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.”

Like never before, I knew what it was to fear evil, and oh how ready I was for His comfort. I also knew what it was to prepare a table; the process of making three meals a day from scratch, setting the table, cutting and cooling the kids’ food, and dishing out seconds and thirds before I’d had my first bite had frustrated me regularly. The beauty of Jesus serving me so tenderly humbled me. He wanted to feed me. He wanted to anoint my wounds with oil. He offered to keep my cup so full, filling it after every sip, that it would overflow. I didn’t have to run on empty; I didn’t have to live with a dry cup.

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

I’d spent the past months convinced darkness and despair would follow me all the days of my life. But here was restoration for my soul.

There was a knock at the door. Someone needed me for something urgent, as always. Drying my face with tissues, I opened the door. The needs remained. Mommy was in demand. I was still stuck. Nothing had changed.

Yet everything had changed.

Jen Profile In a Sun-Scorched Land Back CoverJennifer’s eight eventful years in Haiti produced a gift of brokenness through which she has discovered the depths of God’s healing grace. She passes that grace on to others through her blog, life coaching, her recently released memoir, In a Sun-Scorched Land: A memoir of adoption, faith, and the moving of Haiti’s mountains, and her ebook Take Courage: Choosing faith on my journey of fear. 
Jennifer, her husband Jarod, and their five children currently reside in South Florida. Jennifer blogs regularly for The Better MomClub 31 WomenFaithgirlz, and JenniferEbenhack.com. You can also find her on FacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram.

 

In a Sun-Scorchd Land Cover