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3 Tough Questions Adopted Children Ask

Last week, we celebrated four years home with our son, Judson. Four years of joy, bonding, growth, but also pain and a lot of hard days. While we have overcome a great deal of our initial struggles, like language and boundaries, we have seen new ones develop.  These days we are watching Judson begin to sift through his history and we often have no idea where his processing will land! Some of his questions, we have easy answers for, but others, leave us with no easy response. In adopted kids, we often see that with developmental milestones and increased cognition, a new round of processing their history and integrating this deeper understanding into their current reality.  We have seen this to be true when Kindergarten started and anticipate harder and harder questions at the age of 10, 12, 16 and 18.  Our job as parents is to simply listen, answer truthfully and appropriately and create the environment where kids feel free to ask.

Here are a few tough questions adopted kids will ask:

Why did my birth Mom give me up? 

I wish there was an easy, pat answer for this, but there is no way to fully understand all the reasoning that goes into the decision a birth mom makes to choose adoption. This answer will be specific to your situation, but the main thing to remember is to frame it in a way that speaks life and freedom to your child.  No matter why a birth mom chose adoption, she chose to love and value her child’s life. As adoptive parents, we get to speak that same value into our child in a way that builds a foundation for future conversations. Obviously, answering this in an age appropriate manner is crucial. We have a phrase called, “the burden of information” which we often use in determining how much to share. Too often information carries a heavy burden and part of parenting and leading is learning to discern if the person is able to carry the load that certain information brings. This is crucial when dealing with the hard questions you adopted child will ask. Using a phrase like, “She loved you so much and she wanted you to have a family that would adore you and give you the kind of life she wasn’t able to give,” frames the conversation in love and honors your child’s birth mom.

Why don’t I look like you?

This question is tough, especially if the child has siblings who are the spitting image of their parents. Our son will never look like us but we use these type of questions to lay the foundation for a secure identity in who he was created to be. When he makes statements where he wishes his skin looked like ours, we are quick to say, how much we love his skin and how beautiful he is. We will also say that everyone is created uniquely and perfectly and we want to affirm that even though our appearances are different, they are not less than. As adoptive parents we are able to frame these questions in a way that help our kids find value in what makes them unique while also giving them a sense of security that comes from unconditional acceptance.  Creating a strong family identity also creates a strong bond for all your children, especially your adopted child. We have a name we use when we talk about our kids as a whole. He has no doubt he is a StewKid!

Are you going to kick me out of this family?

I was recently talking with another adoptive mom and she said that on her son’s five year gotcha day, he actually packed his bags and thought it was time for him to leave. For five years he had in his mind that this was a temporary situation that he would one day have to leave. My friend was absolutely wrecked that her beloved son had carried this false belief for five years. There is no adoption that is not the result of loss. There is no adopted child that on some level grieves for this unexplainable void, even if they were adopted from birth or age 12. Loss is a part of their story so feeling secure is not as simple as providing lots of love, a healthy meal and a warm bed.  Building a foundation of security and trust is a lifetime commitment we give to our adopted kids the minute we said  yes to this journey.  When you see your adopted child’s fear of losing your family coming to the surface, simply love and speak strong of your commitment to them. Give hugs. Throw in some candy and then go to your bathroom, lock the door and weep.

Parenting is messy and there are no easy answers to the questions that matter. We are four years in and the processing Judson is already doing to understand his history is mind boggling, yet beautifully innocent. At the age of six, he has no reason to question the sincerity of what we say and we have numerous opportunities to simply reflect back to him who God created him to be. Our prayer is that he is rooted in God’s amazing love and grace for him and he sees his past as a source of strength.

What kind of questions do you get as a parent?

 

The Crushing Blow of Stereotypes- 3 Ways to Destroy Ignorance

I’m sitting here battling with the Lord about writing this, but the shaking of my hands, the racing of my heart and the intense feeling that God is pressing upon me cause my fingers to move. I will call it for what it is…FEAR.

I am a Southern, White girl about to write about the injustices of Racism. What right do I have? What authority do I have to speak out against this? The FEAR of saying something WRONG, causes me to SAY NOTHING at all.

I am the wife of a Pastor.  Am I going to offend someone? Am I going to speak out of turn?

I don’t want to go out on this ledge because it carries the risk of vulnerability, of feeling small and of being told, you have no idea what you are talking about.

But GOD…He won’t let up, so I am stepping off the ledge and saying, BRING IT. I will not respond to FEAR by FLINCHING.  I will not RETREAT into those areas of safety and comfort. SO here goes.

This week we saw in a new way how stereotypes have the incredible power to build a foundation for false thinking. How false thinking plays out into small actions that feel justified and can ultimately lead to devastating and deadly actions. While the example of what happened may seem small it stirred something almost primitive in me.

Our oldest came home from school and shared some statements her English teacher had made while they were reading the book, The House on Mango Street. While I have never read the book, Parker shared that it is about a Latino girl and her life. Conversation around racism came up in Parker’s class, which is good and right. They talked about instances of racism and some of the underlying causes. As they are discussing the recent shootings in North and South Carolina, her teacher made a casual statement, “Well, it is the South.” As if the South as a whole bear the responsibility for the actions of  a few. She went on to say that “California is more advanced than the South.”

Y’all.

Bless her heart.

I can’t even.

For the Love.

Needless to say, it caused ALL THE FEELS in this Mississippi/Tennessee hybrid. You may think yes, get your southern sass out and tell her like it is. Defend your southern roots. Give her a piece of your mind with some sweet tea, too.

So, I sat down and over the last hour, crafted an email to this teacher detailing my thoughts on her stereotypical statements that perpetuate the cycle that an external circumstance of another individual determines their worth, that the actions of a few determine the beliefs of all and the weight of careless words often rest on the shoulders of others for a lifetime.  On this Martin Luther King, Jr weekend, I wish I could say she has no basis for her beliefs, but I can’t. Our history does not give us the foundation for a defense, but dear JESUS, may that same history that was made by the choices of a few, be what spurs us to examine the lies we have believed based on assumption and make them go toe to toe with the TRUTH of who God has declared each person to be. May every person, Southern or not, realize we all have some baggage to deal with and actually decide to raise the next generation with eyes that are not color blind but rather lovers of all the colors.

We are all image bearers. We are all Created by GOD, for GOD and we must fight to view every INDIVIDUAL we encounter with the same measure of GRACE we have been shown by our FATHER.

Our journey in California has not been some enlightened trip into the progressive land of love and acceptance. How’s that for breaking down a stereotype of love and liberalism we all have about this large West Coast state! Just like Tennessee is more than country music, riding a tractor back in the holler, drinking moonshine. There are some amazing, good and right things in people who live in every area, just like there is darkness that abides in our midst. This is not the result of where we live…it is a result of living in a fallen world. It is the result of living in a world that teaches for me to feel ok, you must feel less than.
Would you believe that our family has experienced more RACISM in CALIFORNIA than we ever did in the SOUTH? Do I blame the whole state of California for the ridiculousness of a few…no. Why? Because I have met some of the most godly people who would go to war for my family in a heartbeat. Individuals who feel, in their bones, the injustice done to our boy, who say not on my watch and respond with a fire in their belly. They are who I think of when I look around at this sunny land that still feels foreign to me at times. We are well-loved, well supported and our family is blessed to be around others who are fighting for unity, especially in the church and across churches. We are a part of a church that participates in regional efforts to promote healing and unity across all racial lines. It is beautiful and right and messy and hard. But, that is what is special about it…we still do it.
I felt compelled to share a portion of my long-winded, emotion filled email with you because it is the outpouring of my heart. This response is filled with sarcasm and over the top use of words because I wanted to display how WRONG stereotypes can be and how ingrained they are in each of us. Man has the Lord done a work on my heart in this area, and He still is. I am also going to add again, I love the people of California. It may seem a little haughty in nature and like I am going to be waving a Confederate flag soon, but this is my attempt to get the attention of a teacher who in my opinion, displayed how stereotypes, both good and bad, matter and have great influence.
And please read it in the most southern accent you can muster….
I thought I would share some things about our family to give you some insight into why I am responding to your statements so strongly.  
We are from the South.  I was born in Mississippi and my husband in Tennessee. Our parents and grandparents, who taught us to respect those in authority, work hard, have integrity, are all from the South. We were educated in the public schools of the south, attended both state and private universities in the south and actually have three Master’s degrees between us. My guess is we are more educated than many parents in your school. Three of our four children were born in Tennessee, thus making Parker from the South. This is evidenced by half the sweatshirts she wears to school with a big orange T for the University of Tennessee.  Parker is a young woman who is intelligent, compassionate, strong and kind. She is a leader, incredibly graceful and has the potential to be a world changer. She moved to California two years ago and experienced on numerous occasions the ADVANCED nature of California students. They have asked her if she eats with utensils because she is from the SOUTH. They have asked if she was born in a barn because she is from the SOUTH. The tone of these questions, while meant to be funny, indicate a level of ridiculous stereotypical thinking that is, in essence, attempting to make her feel inferior based on where she was born.  To declare that one region of the country is more “ADVANCED” than another is what allows students to think that they are superior to another based on an external circumstance which an individual has no control over…kind of like racism, which believes that a person is inferior based on the color of their skin. Most students know Parker is from Tennessee so your statements just added fuel to their false belief system. These statements did nothing but allow kids in your classroom to think they are better than kids from any other state but California!  That thought system lays a foundation that believes “you are less than because __________.”  Is that really an ADVANCED way of thinking? Is that truly what you believe?
I thought I would share another fact about our southern family. Our fourth child was born in Ethiopia. He is a beautiful African boy that we brought home to be in our very Caucasian, Southern family four years ago. Based on the stereotypical belief system you shared with your class, all southerners must be racist, so a family from Tennessee would never spend $30,000, travel to Africa and bring home a very traumatized, dark-skinned child and take him in as their own. Do you know when he first recognized his family looks different….when we moved to Rocklin, CALIFORNIA. Crazy thing about moving to California is we actually have experienced, on a gut wrenching level, more Racism than we ever did in the South. Three families actually left his preschool after we started because they felt like the “quality of the program had gone down since that family with the black boy started.” They actually believed that “he could have AIDS or something.”  So yes, California is really more “ADVANCED” since they make false assumptions based on the color of a four-year olds skin and the fact that he is from Africa. Not to mention their knowledge of how one actually becomes infected by  AIDS is remarkably ignorant. I was honestly shocked because I too had the false belief that something like this would never happen in CALIFORNIA because it is more ADVANCED.  Especially living two hours from San Francisco. The reality is these things happen everywhere…Rocklin, Nashville, Boise and New York City. 
I am extremely saddened to have to write this email and I know the verbage of it seems over the top…which is my point.  The stereotypes which lead us to believe that we are superior to another individual is what leads to racism, sexism, biases, extreme thinking and the justification of actions that are devastating and deadly. These ignorant beliefs are  not limited to a section of the country or the world, those with high education or those with very little. Sadly, Individuals all over the USA hold others in contempt based on their race. You have influence and the ability to spark conversation and thought that encourages these young minds to embrace their uniqueness, honor those who are different, learn from others with an opposite point of view, be inspired to speak out when they see injustice and choose to show grace and mercy when wronged. This is what breaks down a stereotype and allows us all to see a person for who they are and the gifts they have to offer the world around them. 
Thank you for listening. 
Here are  few ways I am FIGHTING for UNITY this year:
1. Change your Language: Do you stereotype mass groups of people, places or things? I personally don’t understand why anyone uses a PC anymore, but I still love and respect many Microsoft users.  In our family, the extreme words of ALWAYS and NEVER only are used in reference to our Creator, GOD. I doubt a PC user NEVER gets work done efficiently. Check your language….watch extreme uses of words that apply the thoughts of ONE to the shoulders of ALL.
2. Speak in Love: I’m hopeful that is what always motivates me. Hate does not change people. Shame doesn’t change people. Love and Grace, wrecks people to a point, where God changes their thoughts, their views and their actions to line up with HIMSELF. My prayer is that what is seen and heard is a love for all people, who bear the Image of my God.
3. Make One Change: For us, MLK is not just a day out of school. We will be joining the MLK walk in our city because I believe it matters. I believe it says, we are all in this fight for unity, and I am going to press through the awkwardness, the challenges and seek to bring people along with me. For you, it may be getting to know a family that looks different from your own. Invite them to dinner. Speak openly that you want to break down any tensions that may come up and again, one individual at time, destroy stereotypes.

Jesus, wreck us with the wrong way we look at people. Help us to be life speakers, unity builders and HOPE givers. Break our hearts for all people, all nations, all tongues. Only You Jesus…..

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Do You Remember the Day of His Birth?

Today Judson turns 6.

I always feel a deeper connection to Judson’s Birth Mom on this day.  The woman who carried him in her womb, who felt the first tinge of labor pain.

 I wonder if she felt excitement that she was about to meet her child or did she feel nervous that she was about to be responsible for another life?

I wonder where she was when her water broke. Did she have her Mom coaching her through the early stages of labor? Or was she alone and an outcast because of her young age? 

I wonder how long her labor was and if she had someone beside her to encourage her and hold her hand. 

I wonder if the sun was shining of was their rain falling on her roof that day. 

I think about the moment she made that final push and discovered she had  a son. Did she cry for joy, count his toes, touch his nose, and marvel at how perfect he was? On that first night did she just hold him close and snuggle him? 

Did she have any idea she would only hold this perfect baby boy for 19 months? Was fear rising within her because she didn’t know how she was going to provide for him? Did she know she would one day entrust a foreign, unknown American family to raise her son?

I think about this new baby boy too. How much did he weigh? How long was he? Did he have a lot of hair? Was he hard to soothe or was he an easy newborn? Did he like to sleep on his back or his side?

Did he feel completely loved in those first moments? 

And then I think about that day six years ago and I have zero recollection of what I was doing on the day this baby boy was born. According to @kelstew, I was “Out and about doing some work,” and I was “Trying a diet cherTy limeaid for a change. Living on the Edge this Friday afternoon.” While hopefully what I share on social media is a bit more thought provoking these days, the reality is that I don’t remember. 

I bear the name Judson’s mom and I have no idea where I was on the day of his birth. 

While I grieve the lack of information on this day six years ago, I also rest in the knowledge that God knows every detail of each moment of Judson’s life. While I can’t share with him how big he was or what the day was like, I can point him to the One who does. I can point him to his Heavenly Father who breathed life into his lungs and has orchestrated every step he will take, who knew Judson would begin his life in rural Africa, loved by one Mom and continue his journey with a mom, who lived in a far off place, with skin that does not match his own at the age of 2.  

I think about Judson’s Africa Mom today. I hope she has moments today where she remembers him, the day she gave birth, the smell of his baby skin and the love she has for him. I pray she rests in the knowledge that he is safe, he is healthy and he is loved. I’m thankful she has her own memories with him that are hers alone. I treasure the thought that there is knowledge in her heart and mind about her Obsi that no one else can know. 

Judson turns six today. 

  

Living to Tell

Adoption is obviously a big deal to us and I am constantly reminded of how it is a true picture of the Gospel. We, as believers, have been adopted by the Father and given a new name, a new identity and the same inheritance as that of Christ. 

Recently, I have been given new ways to share about adoption. The first was through guest lecturing for a couple of college classes in an Adoption focused class.  We shared about the International Adoption process. I loved being able to dust off the Adoption Social Worker hat and share the technical part of adoption. I also was able to weave in our adoption story. They had a ton of questions. We were encouraged by their interest. 

A couple of weeks later we were able to share in another college class. Judson’s preschool teacher, Kristian, teaches at a local college in the Early Childhood Education department. She asked Jason and I to come and share about Adoption, brain development in children from hard places and how it effects their learning.   I really loved this side of it because it is what we have lived and how we have seen tremendous progress and growth. 

Lastly, I was asked by our friends, Greg and Angela Pullen to travel with them as they go to China to pick up their son.  They wanted to take their three kiddos with them, but also wanted to be able to focus on their new little one. I was super excited to be able to go.  Jason was a trooper and so kind to let me go because this isn’t a short trip. And in case you haven’t forgotten, we have four active kids, who live on the opposite side of the country from our parents and built in help. 

So I’m in China and seeing adoption from another perspective. I’m seeing it from the point of view of an adoptive Mom, an adoption social worker and a friend. Either way, it is a blessing to share what God has taught me, to walk this journey with our friends and see a child come to life with the love of a family. 

Adoption: A Raw Look into the First Year

November is National Adoption Month.

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A month that helps raise awareness for children awaiting adoption in the foster care system. Our adoption journey began 4 years ago this month. Our journey to bring Judson home was fairly easy compared to most until the day it wasn’t.  After we brought him home the long days of waiting felt like a cake walk. I can say now that I needed the hard days because it was during those days that God began a much harder process of redeeming the broken that lingered in me. Toddler adoption became more than just helping our sweet boy adjust. His journey became the vehicle God would use to shift many areas of my heart and life that needed to be moved.  This was a letter I wrote myself one year in to help me process all that had happened. When I wrote it, I never knew if I would ever share it.  My prayer is that for anyone who is in the midst of struggle, this will bring hope. For anyone in the midst of waiting, that is will bring perpsective.  For anyone in the midst of contemplating adoption, that it will bring truth.  Please let me know what you think.

___________________________________________________________________________________________

Dear Kelly

I wanted to write a letter to the you of one year ago.

I wanted to let you know that you were absolutely clueless. You had no idea of the depth of what would be required of you. You had read the books, knew all the lingo, counseled parents for three years about adoption, but you truly had no frame of reference with which to speak so casually. Sweet Kelly, hold on to these few moments of ease, because that is not anything you will experience over this next year.

I want you to know that the first time you bathe Judson, you will want to throw up. To physically see the life that he has endured in the sunken, infected flesh will give you your first glimpse of what is before you. When you enter a room, he will cry. When you leave a room, he will cry, too. More quickly than you can imagine, you will see your life look like a prison and you have no idea how quickly you will be released, or worse yet, will you ever have any freedom.

And then, naïve Kelly, you will feel tremendous guilt and uncertainty over the depth of fear and uncertainty you feel as a result of this precious child.

You will learn to live in two worlds.

The world inside your home of biting, kicking, hitting, screaming, disobedience, exhaustion, chaos and trauma and the world outside that you will walk, desiring to paint a picture that life is not as hard as it is, that adoption is all roses and sunshine and that with just a little time and love, all will be ok.  You will quickly learn that toddler adoption is a whole different issue that few have knowledge or expertise in.  You will see God begin to strip you of every thought but of getting through the next hour and today.

And Kelly, I know you don’t understand what I am about to say, fully, but you will grieve. You will grieve the loss of childhood that this precious child did not have. You will also mourn the loss of time with your other three children and feel on a daily basis like you have let them down. You have been quickly impatient and tried to negate the feelings of loss they have because, you know, GOD called us to this and this is HIS journey for us. The pep talk and reminders you are giving them, is the mantra you need to be reminded of over and over. You will feel anger on their behalf at the aggression inflicted on them, your precious children, at the hand of, your other precious child. These dual feelings of guilt and anger and intense commitment will rage a war in your mind and heart that you will not know how to process.

You are a trained counselor, an adoption case worker, have two Masters degrees, have written articles about building strong families and you have no clue what to do.

You will also be moved to tears when you look at your three biological children and see the depth of love and commitment they have for each other. You will weep and look in awe as they LOVE and ACCEPT and FORGIVE. They will RISE, Kelly, not because of anything you have done, but only because of what JESUS is doing through them. They are simply amazing.

Kelly, you will be slow to share the true depth of your emotion or lack there of. After all, this really isn’t what people want to hear and you really would never want to discourage anyone from adoption. But when you do share, you will have zero tolerance for anything that resembles a quick response to the depth of pain, anger and resentment that you are trying so hard to process and redeem. So Kelly, you will withdraw, keep the circle small, be quiet, and pray this is just a phase that you can quickly pass through.

You will also realize that some journeys are not meant to be shared casually, but are uniquely designed to be walked with your Savior.

You have a man who will prove, yet again, that he is the absolute biggest blessing, outside of Jesus, that you will ever receive. He will love you through the hardest of days, challenge you to rise above your emotion and focus on Truth, listen to you, encourage you, pray for you and just simply help you.

You are not in this alone.

Kelly, lest you think that there was no good seen, let me set you straight. You will also get to experience, life, personality, joy, language and love being reborn. You will be stunned at how far he will come.

He will go to sleep without screaming and thrashing around.

He will go into his preschool class with no hesitation after a hug and a kiss.

He will love routine and structure.

He will begin to obey and respect boundaries.

He will gain weight, be healthy and grow from the 20% to the 60%.

He will use words like “delicious” and “adorable” that will show how adorably delicious he is to behold.

He will make you smile and laugh and you will share funny stories about him with your Mom.

He will LOVE you.

He will NEED you….and Kelly….you will begin to surrender to this journey.

You will realize the depth of your need for JESUS, every moment of every day, as a result of this child’s great need for you.

You will fight that with every ounce of your being, but slowly begin to release yourself of any expectation, perception of reality that you have ever had and simply love him.

You will embrace the techniques that help bring order to what had been a wildly chaotic world for him.  You will begin to feel a peace and calm that is not determined by your circumstances or how well your children behave, but from choosing to live according to TRUTH, believing the identity that Christ has given you.

You will be shocked that the very thing that has brought you to the pit of your life came as a result of the most beautiful, amazing, survivor, you have the privilege of calling your own.

Kelly, I know this sounds scary, and hard, and ugly, and you want to run away.

Let me tell you the two things that will get you through this next year….Jesus and your man. There will be times when you will literally drop to your knees and call out to Jesus, because you are at the end of yourself….that is a good thing.

You are not walking this alone. You are more aware of your Savior, His plan to prune away all areas of your life that are not of Him, and use your family to restore and redeem the life of one of His precious children. You are unable to walk this in your own strength for your flesh is so very weak.

But God, HE is strong and mighty and HE will not abandon you.

As I close this letter to you, let me remind you of a few things. Just because you are walking a hard road does not mean you are not right where the Lord wants you. It simply means that the Lord needs to narrow, refine and prune away that which does not bring Him glory. That is the definition of a Christ follower.

Next, is that you need to be real about the reality of adoption. The fact is you need to share about how hard it is and break down the walls between adoptive parents.  There is space that exists between honoring the journey of your precious boy and offering hope and support for those in the trenches with you.

Kelly, this year will be a ride, twisty, long, exhilarating, joyful, scary, high and low, but it is your ride.

Enjoy it, learn from it and hang on. And never forget….it’s going to be worth it…

Your boy is worth it all.

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Blessings on your journey,

Kelly

On the day of his birth

As my sweet Judson turns 5 today, I have a million things running through my mind. The realization that he has spent more days with us than without us, hits, but is quickly followed by the stark reality that I have been his forever Mom for more days than his first Mom who gave literal birth to him.  I look at this boy who has changed and grown and changed some more and I am simply amazed that we get to spend our days watching this boy become more and more of who God made him to be. I see glimpses of that boy….

JUDSON

The year from 4 to 5 has been eventful for sure. We moved from Seattle to Tennessee to California in the first half of his fifth year. Judson is charming, inquisitive and utterly delightful (in most moments).   He loves to be with people and is not afraid to get to know you whether you are open to it or not. Judson is fearless in the way that he has no idea he should practice caution. He simply does what feels right at the moment which leads to some interesting parenting challenges. He is tall, he is friendly, he is a defender of people and an amazing encourager. Judson loves routine and does some of the cutest things like kissing me three times before bed and daily telling me “You are the best Mom.” He is the kind of kid who becomes the kind of man that is known because of how he treats others.

OBSI

Obsi…the name his first Mom gave him.  The name we kept to lay claim to the rich Ethiopian heritage that is his. The name that has been changed as the sign of a new start, but also is significant of the sacrifice that his first Mom made. And though her sacrifice was honorable in light of her circumstances and choices, there are still scars that have been left that we see.

We see Obsi when you ask why your skin is different.

He notices he looks different and while we celebrate him for who he is, Judson is just beginning to understand that one of these is not like the others.  We see the occasional timidity and the words, “What if they don’t want to play with me because I look different?” We see, as his parents, that just by nature of being in our family, he loses anonymity and everyone knows there is a story there. As his Mommy, I see the challenges he will face and I am so thankful to walk it with him. We see Obsi and his dark skin and pray that God will continue to shape him into a warrior.

We see Obsi when you say things like, “God made all the skins and Mommy, you love all the colors.”

On the surface this is cute and precious, but it shows the depth of processing that has been going on in his mind.  I also see the words we speak over him giving him life. God did make all the skins and He loves all the colors.  We want to be a family that isn’t easily offended when people notice Judson and ask questions, because honestly, that is part of the deal of adoption. We pray our family is seen as merely a reflection of the Kingdom, of Heaven….all the colors and all the skins.  We see Obsi and love that at the young age of five, he is tender to the things of the Lord.

We see Obsi when we face our first experience of blatant racism.

We recently felt the sting of judgement because of the color of Judson’s skin, his adoption story and his African birth….not by one family, but by three. People who made assumptions based on these things and chose to react in fear based on it…without one conversation with us or really, even knowing us. We also saw a friend radically and completely defend him. I saw the fight come out in her on his behalf and it was strong and powerful and completely beautiful.  I am not naive that racism is still a huge issue in our world (even in our country), but this gave me a small glimpse to the complete injustice that exists in light of it. I felt how ridiculous it is to make gross assumptions based on one aspect of a person.  I also saw that we can’t shield him forever. We can’t keep it away from him because false thinking and stereotypes are in the most unlikely places, waiting to rear their ugly head. I grieved for my Obsi in that moment when I saw the cruel words that will one day land in his ears, the darting glances, the unease that will take root in others at the mere sight of him. I also felt heartbroken for those who will miss out on being in the space of this amazing kid. I felt the sting of rejection for him and pleaded to the Father to protect him for as long as possible, to help us know how to handle it and to be people of peace.

STEWART

Judson loves his family. He tells us all the time, “We have the best family.” We are not surprised he is wired for family because he was knit together by the Father. In this past year, Judson has prayed numerous times, words that Jason and I have not said to him. He has prayed, “God, You are the best Dad.” and we have seen that Judson felt the love of the Father when his earthly Daddy was waiting to be the hands and feet of that love.  Over this last year, I have watched this StewKid, relax into his family and breathe.  I have been in the front row as he has stopped fighting us so much and trusted we are for him and we are not leaving. I have heard the question, “Mommy, you are coming back to get me, right?” less and less.  The other StewKids love him, laugh with him, argue with him, wrestle and tattle on him. They only see their brother.  He still asks a 14,245 questions a day and will push the SAME boundaries, but he is a fighter, he will get it done and he will make a way. This StewKid will be a force to be reckoned with for sure. We are just praying his is a life submitted to the King.

If I could have a conversation with Judson Obsi Stewart’s first Mom, I would say a lot of these things…

But mostly I would say our boy is just getting started….

Stewarts-1174

The prayers of a boy

Every single night, we tuck our kids in, say our prayers and hopefully speak life and identity into their hearts and minds. I will be completely honest in saying that in my 12 years as a parent, bedtime is not always my finest hour.  In my mind, I am ready to check out of Mommy duties, so I can be quick to enforce a bedtime.

One of our first stressors in bringing Judson into our family was helping him transition to bedtime. He had some very intense responses early on that left us completely at a loss of how to respond. We ultimately worked it out and he is an awesome sleeper. He rises a little earlier than we would like, but he still naps everyday at 4, so I will take it. Parenting…the act of constant compromise between our wants and their needs.

He is also like every other kid and likes to prolong the bedtime ritual. We have created a process that he follows EVERY night. It goes a little something like this.

  1. Judson crawls into bed and we cover him up.
  2. He asks, “What kind of day am I having tomorrow?” This is where I tell him about the next day (which he needs to know) and he asks about 14 questions about it.
  3. Jason or I pray for him.
  4. Judson asks, “Can I pray for you Mommy/Daddy?”

Then the fun really begins. Here is a sample of the prayers of Judson:

“Dear God, He bring us peace and power and mighty. I ate pancakes for dinner. And sausage, but not to much because I don’t want to get sick again. I went to Bridgeway and played and we don’t go to church, we are the church. And God brings us peace and blessing and if you are lost, God finds you. AAAAAAAAmen.” “Wow Mommy, dat was a long one.”

Then, he hugs us and kisses both cheeks. On our way out, he says, “Your de best Mommy/Daddy in de whole world”. Then, we say, “Your the best 4 year old in the whole world.” He then asks for the opposite parent to come in and pray and the above process is followed. And then, we say I love you and close the door. This may be met by a few questions through the door.

I literally left in tears the other night at the precious prayers of this boy. I mean, seriously….if you are lost, God finds you…how can you not love that!

Early on, I honestly wondered if I would ever cherish bedtime with Judson.  And God has shown me the beauty of routine, ritual, and a process that helps build security into a boy who spent many nights alone, with no one to tuck him in, say prayers over him, find his blanket, kiss his cheeks, rub lotion on his extremely dry knees and elbows, give him a game plan for the next day, and say, “I love you.” God is so faithful.

My heart has been so very tender since then to the Mommy’s and Daddy’s who are longing for those moments. For the ones who are waiting and wondering if their child is being shown love in an orphanage full of children. I keep thinking about the many who are in the midst of those hard days with traumatized kids where the dark doesn’t bring sleep, but rather brings out the fear of what has been their story. I keep returning to those older kids who have told themselves they don’t need anyone but in the dark, the tears come out of longing for a family.  The Lord keeps me awake, lately, praying for the millions of children who will never know the security of a bedtime routine and for the others He is keeping awake because of the longing in their heart to give a child the security of a bedtime routine. I hope the prayer of a little boy reminds you of the Truth….

God is Peace.

God is Power.

God is Mighty.

God is the Blessing.

God will find you.

 

One year

It is hard to believe that it has been one year….

One year since we laid eyes on this boy….

And witnessed, first hand, the depth of his fear and trauma….

And began the journey of healing and growth for all of us…..

And learned, in a new and fresh way, what it means to truly depend on Jesus for our next breath, our nest hour, our next day…..

And began to see beauty in the small things, progress in minute ways, and experienced the mercies of new mornings…

We are not the same people or the same family that we were one year ago……

BUT….

We have learned that LOVE does cover a multitude of hurt and sin…That HE does bring beauty from ashes….That HE fights our battles for us…and that we have a choice in how we respond on the hardest of days and in the face of intense joy. We have also seen a sweet, precocious, energetic, playful, defiant, exhausting, boy come alive. We have watched language burst forth, heard the words “I wuv you” seen sibling love and sibling fights in the span of two seconds, and watched ALL of our children RISE up.

We are a family that is daily being grafted together, not by blood, but by choice. We are more aware that we are nothing apart from Christ and HE alone is the author of our days. We have embraced the calling HE has on our life to live a life poured out, boundless, full of adventure and unleashed from our own notions of what our lives should be….

We are not the same……

And, I am so thankful…..

Visual Gotcha Day

I realized that I needed to put pictures to words to remember our Gotcha Day. Our agency director, Sue, actually sent all of these to us….

Jason and I seeing Judson Obsi

Approaching him gently…no tears!

Ahh, there are the tears…those clothes and tennis ball are the only thing we have from his orphanage days.

You can see he is looking for an out…anyone? Please?

Jason and Sue got in on the action to see if they could calm him…it didn’t work.

This is Hewitt…she is amazing. She talked to him for several minutes and calmed him right down. I realized later that we left without giving her a chance to tell him goodbye and it just hurts my heart. She cared for him for 9 months and I can imagine that she was a source of comfort and stability for him.

We had several other parents at the T house that day and we shared many conversations as we let him acclimate to us a little more.

Judson has an amazing dad and I love how he began to look to him from day one. Those few days we had just us and Judson Obsi were such a blessing and I am so thankful for our moments, just the three of us.

I will always remember this day for the simplicity of it and the significance of it. No turning back, Judson is finally where he was created to be.

Bringing Judson Home…Gotcha Day

January 9-10

Travel Day was crazy, of course!
Jason was able to go to the staff retreat for a while and I finished last minute details. Emery had gotten strep throat over the weekend so she was home with me.
We were able to spend a little time with Parker, Emery and Bradley as I was, no doubt, throwing things in the suitcase.
Our last moments as a Party of Five we spent in prayer together.
It was precious to this mommy, who can’t shield them from the long days ahead, but I can point them to the fact that we are in this together.

This is their story, as much as his.

And I have no doubt they will Rise to the task that God has given us.

Next stop….Ethiopia.

January 11, Gotcha Day

As soon as we landed in Addis, we were able to get a game plan together for the day. It was 8am and we had been traveling for almost 14 hours. We originally thought we would go to our guest house and get some rest, but after talking with our Agency Director, who is in town, we decided to go, get changed and head to the Transition house to pick him up. We are so excited to be traveling with Charlie and Gina Mitchell, a family from our church who are bringing home Nate and  Abe. We were greeted by them and their sons at the guest house and we both received an extra dose of energy. We all ended up going to get Judson Obsi.
Sue, our agency director was at the T house, along with a few other parents!

Our moment was not dramatic except in the only way that matters….
He let us approach him, touch him, and talk to him for a few minutes With NO TEARS!!

We had been told he was giving out smiles and high fives, so we knew the prayers of so many were not returning void!

We felt hope and joy!
He of course started crying, but we went into the living room and Hewitt, the lead nanny, spent a long time talking to him, telling him we are his mommy and daddy, we love him, and that she was going to get him candy! He finally calmed down, interacted with us, then, fell asleep.
We left the place he has known for 9 months , as he slept…

When we got to the Guest house, we spent a lot of time playing cars, eating suckers and being with Nate and Abe. I am so thankful we are traveling with them. They are familiar, active boys and just plain fun. They also provide familiarity for him.

That afternoon, I was able to feed him Injera and give him lots of water that he is drinking from a sippy cup! We heard him speak in this high pitched voice, scolding Abe for trying to take his smarties! It was such an answered prayer just be with him!

He is showing an ease with Jason and would just lean into him. What a picture of grace and love…a child leaning into his father. He is still very solemn and shows no emotions and we definitely have some developmental and health issues to address, but he made tremendous progress today. h

His only episode of crying was when I tried to lay him down for a nap. Too much for our guy. So Jason held him and he fell asleep for a nap. We gave him a shower after he woke up and he refused to sit in the tub for a bath. It was obvious he didn’t know what to do. His belly is very distended and his pull ups are falling down because the rest of him is so tiny.  We put on his pjs, and I can’t tell you how BIG that felt to this mommy who thinks matching pjs is essential!

After that we tried to feed him, but he was not very hungry. We are learning if you put a lot in front of him, he wants to have it all in his hands. Trial by fire with the food…

And tonight, he fell asleep with a magna doodle in his hand and his mommy by his side and has slept all night, unlike his parents! He is actually still sleeping at 7:30.

Jason and I were spending some time in the Word this morning and Jason read John 4:46-54 and how appropriate it was for us on this early morning….

So he came again to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine. And at Capernaum there was an official whose son was ill. When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.”
Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.”
The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way.
As he was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was recovering. So he asked them the hour when he began to get better, and they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.”
The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.”
And he himself believed, and all his household. This was now the second sign that Jesus did when he had come from Judea to Galilee. (John 4:46-54 ESV)

We believe this promise that OUR SON WILL LIVE, not just physically, but that the real boy will be unleashed and come alive.  What a gift we were given from Jesus, speaking truth to our minds And hearts!

We are rejoicing in this day and know that God is at work…praise you, Father…..

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