Friday, April 25, 2014

Translating Adoptionese

I started writing this post a while back but for whatever reason, never got a chance to finish it.  And ya'll, I'm so glad because Kristen at Rage Against the Minivan just posted THE FUNNIEST video on this very subject the other day!  So, it's best we start off with this lovely little gem to give you an idea of what we're talking about today.

If you wouldn't say it about a boob job,
don't say it about an adoptive family.

Yup. Believe it or not, I get all of those questions, phrased just like that, ALL the time. And no, they are not asking about my boobs. Now, don't feel horrible if you've let one of these slip.  I'm sure I said a few before we went through the adoption process, too. Adoption lingo is new territory for a lot of people, and sometimes that little filter between our head and mouth gets all clogged up at just the right time to make for some awkward moments like in the video.

So, I'm here to help navigate these crazy new waters with you. Here's a list of common questions and comments that we hear. I'll do my best to explain how to rephrase it or explain why it's completely inappropriate so you can become a fluent in Adoptionese.  Here goes...

  1. "Is she your real kid?"

    This is one happens ALL. THE. TIME.  As funny as it is in the video, this is one that can hurt in real life, especially if the kids can hear, which is usually the case.  Let me explain once and for all: there are no fake kids. None. Every child is a real child. The appropriate terminology here is biological.
  2.  "Where'd ya get her from?" or "Where'd ya get that baby?"Like he said in the video, "she's not a fashion accessory" I just happened to pick up on a whim or on a clearance rack. Simply ask, "Where was she born?" or "Where did you adopt from?"
  3. "Could you not have your own kids?" or "Could you not have real kids?"

    So a reminder, the terminology you're looking for is biological.  However, unless you know someone very well, this is not at all appropriate and for most people is a private issue. So if you are checking out at the grocery store and see a multiracial family that you have never met, leave this question off the list.  Personally, I don't mind this question because I'm a pretty open book, and I absolutely love a reason to start talking about adoption. But to be sensitive to people you come across or even friends you know, try asking in a delicate manner which gives the person the opportunity to open up or to bow out gracefully: "I think adoption is great. What made you decide to adopt?"
  4. "How much did she cost?" or "Was she expensive?"

    This is NEVER appropriate to ask in front of a child or to a complete stranger.  And you do not pay for a child- that is trafficking. There are a ton of expenses involved in an adoption, yes.  Those expenses are for numerous things like agency fees, documents, home studies, social workers, couriers, orphanage fees, travel documentation, lawyers, airfares, hotels, court fees, etc.  But if this is something you are truly interested in, a simple google search should help you figure it out without embarrassing or humiliating someone, including yourself.  If you want to ask a friend you know, simply ask about the costs involved in an adoption, NOT the cost of a child.
  5. "What happened to her real/birth mom?" or "What happened to her real family?"

    Adoption, while it is a wonderful thing, is born out of brokenness, grief and loss. This is a very private issue and one you don't need to ask. EVER. Just for some perspective, click here to see the pain and heartbreak on these parents' faces as they abandon their children at a baby hatch in China.
  6.  "They really don't want girls in China, huh?"

    Um, don't go there.
  7.  "She looks like a China doll."
    Just don't.
  8.  "So you want to be like Brad and Angelina?" or "You're going to be like Brad & Angelina."

    Please. Make. It. Stop.
  9. "Are you babysitting today?" or "Are all those kids yours?" or "So you're collecting a basketball/baseball/football team."

    Believe it or not, I get this one a lot!  I find it kind of funny, and I expect it now because I have to be honest, with two kids that look a lot like me and one that doesn't, well you can see it coming. It's an honest question and a way for people to try and figure out your situation.  It does get old, but it's not offensive or inappropriate.
  10.  "Does she know she was adopted? Are you going to tell her she's adopted?"

    This one is sometimes whispered to me so no one else will hear. I wish people would whisper some of the other ones! Adoption is not a bad word or a bad thing at all! We openly talk about adoption at home. At 2 years old, Zoe knows she was born in China and can find it on the map. Adoption is a beautiful thing, another way for God to knit a family together, making it whole. And honestly, if we didn't tell Zoe, well, see number 9 and the picture below.

  11. "Weren't there any American kids you could adopt?" or
    "Why don't you adopt from the US?"

    Be ready if you ask me this because I will ask you the exact same question. I read a statistic today that said if 1 family in every 3 churches in the US adopted a child, we would adopt every child in need of a family in the US. Yet, tens of thousands age out of the system every year without a family. There are millions, MILLIONS of children across the planet that need homes. God put China on our hearts so that's where we pursued Zoe. Right now we are waiting on our fourth child in Ethiopia because God broke my heart for their orphan crisis.
  12. "You know, now that you have adopted, you'll get pregnant." or "You adopted and got pregnant, yup, happens every time."

    Stay far, far away from the first one. People who have struggled or are struggling with infertility have probably been down a tough, painful road that has left scars. Telling them they will get pregnant is like driving a knife right into their heart. Adoption isn't a fertility cure. And adoption isn't always a "Plan B." Some of us chose it as "Plan A" and were overjoyed to also have biological kids.
  13. The Horror Stories.

    As soon as I tell someone Zoe is adopted, it's not unusual for that person to unload on me the worst adoption story they've ever heard from their brother's friend's cousin's wife's sister who read an article about it on the internet. Maybe it's the only other time they've heard the word adoption?  Whatever the reason people feel the urge to vomit up these stories, it is NOT okay. We love our adopted children and don't want you to rain on our family's parade. And believe me, anyone who has adopted has researched everything on the topic and has been all but strip searched for their background checks. Nothing you can conjure up will surprise us or suddenly make us second guess this thing we have ALREADY done.
  14. "I have always wanted to adopt, BUT..."
    I welcome this conversation if you're serious and might be open to talking about possibilities. But if this was just a one time fleeting thought you had and you're simply trying to find common ground with me, please don't. It will make you look foolish.
  15. "She's so lucky" or "You're amazing for doing that."

    There's no way to sugarcoat it: Do. Not. Say. This. I know you have every kind intention but it does not go over like you think it will. She's not a charity case. She's my kid. If you want to say something sweet, try, "She is awesome. You're so lucky/blessed to have her in your family." That will bless us beyond measure.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Simply Easter

The way holidays are celebrated in our culture is getting quite ridiculous. From the bombardment of advertising in everything we see and hear, to the pressure of measuring up to our Pinterest perfect friends, to our cultural obsession with excess and over-the-top E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G. It's stressful. It's expensive. It's exhausting. And in the end, it's fruitless.

What if I told you that my holidays are easy, cheap, relaxing and fulfilling?

Let's go back to the basics. Here's the definition of a holiday: a day of festivity or recreation when no work is done. Is that what your holidays feel like?  While we're stressing out to make our Jesus holidays super-amazing-awesomer-than-has-ever-been-done-before, Jesus says this...
"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." -Matthew 11:28-30

I like His style. So I'm following it. It's simple ya'll, strip it all down to the core- Jesus.

We see a holiday and apparently it's in our nature to add to it, make it bigger and better, always fighting to outdo ourselves and not be outdone by our neighbors.

But a fair warning:  when we begin to add anything to Jesus, well, is it still Jesus we're worshipping and celebrating?  Is He not fun enough? Cool enough?  Magical enough?

The Jesus of the Bible loves kids. He said we should all have the faith of little children. Now that's fun!
"But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.  Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” Luke 18:16-17
The Jesus of the Bible was a rebel.  He turned the social norm upside down, tossing tables, eating with sinners and fighting for the outcasts of society.  That's pretty cool.
"And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons." Matthew 21:12
And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him." Mark 2:15
 "And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”" John 8:7
The Jesus of the Bible performed miracle after miracle and defeated death. That's better than any magic trick! It's miraculous, and it's a gift to be celebrated.
 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him." John 3:16-17
Perhaps the real issue we have, the reason we want to add so much to Jesus, is because we don't know Him as well as we should. He is enough. Just Jesus.

I'm not claiming to have it all figured out. I screw up every single day, usually hourly. But I've seen the change in my family and myself as we've simplified things and made much of Jesus. My girls are only two years old, but they know who Jesus is and love reading His stories. He is exciting to them. We get excited about Jesus, so our kids do, too. They learn from our example. So we have to ask ourselves: What is our example teaching them?

Our Easter was beautifully simple this year.

We woke up and untaped our oven to eat our resurrection cookies. They were super easy and quick to make. (Even this non-cook here had all the ingredients already in her pantry!) A very cool idea, but with the girls so young we just simplified it to taping the oven, then unsealing it in the morning and eating our empty tomb cookies. Here's the recipe and script that I found.

We got ready, and went to church.  Eriek and I served in the service following the one we attended, while my parents took the kids home for lunch and quality time.

After naps, we hunted eggs. Although Zoe loved finding them, she kept giving them to Arella, who gladly accepted the extras.

But when we opened the eggs, we used this great idea for resurrection eggs for toddlers.

In the first egg, place a bread crumb.  We used a Wheat Thin.
Jesus ate dinner with his friends.  Luke 22:14-15
In the second egg, place a cross (we just used stickers we had).
The next day Jesus died on the cross.  John 19:17-18
In the third egg, place a strip of cloth (we used a piece of tissue).
He was wrapped in cloth and placed in a tomb.  John 19:40
For the fourth egg, go outside and pick out the coolest rock you can find.
A stone was placed in front of the tomb.  Matthew 27:59-60

Leave the fifth egg empty.
Jesus’ friends came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been moved.
The tomb was empty!  Luke 24:1-3

Fill the sixth and final egg with a sweet treat (we used M&Ms).
Jesus is alive!  That’s the sweet surprise of Easter.  Matthew 28:5-6
Ya'll I spent less than $5, including the baskets I bought last year for $1 each.  It took 5 minutes to put together, well, once I got those plastic eggs opened. And the girls LOVED it and were excited to see and hear what was in the next egg. My mom threw one of our favorite crockpot recipes together, and we all had a fun, laid back, easy dinner enjoying each other.

Even two days later, Arella was pointing out Jesus' empty tomb in her Bibles, and Zoe drew a circle and told me happily it was a rock.  When I asked her if that was the rock rolled away from Jesus' tomb, she got very excited and said, "Yes it is!"
We don't have to dress up Jesus. He is ENOUGH.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Here I am, Send Me

"And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.”" Isaiah 6:8
I started praying that verse a lot in 2009.  Freshly retired from diving but not able to be a mom like my heart desired, I was lost. 

If you've never seen what I did for so many years,
here's a little snippet someone took at the 2008 Olympics Trials.

You may not realize it, but this crazy diver chick that likes to throw her body off of 3 story buildings in a single bound, twist, flip and go in the water with nary a splash, craves a little action and adventure.  So when my 3 story building was taken away and there was nothing to replace it, well, I didn't just feel lost, I was empty, confused, scared, aching, stir crazy... you get the idea.

I kept praying for God to send me because I didn't want to sit and be still and wait.  But I learned that I have to say "yes" before He tells me where to go and what it's going to look like.  Because if He lets me know where He's sending me, generally I'm going to argue, disagree or high tail it the other direction.  Hmmm, that actually reminds me of Jonah and Moses.  Guess we all have something in common.

As I have been learning to say "yes," (although I'm sometimes secretly hoping He'll send me a certain direction) I have discovered that the hardest yesses are usually the simplest ones.  Waiting for over 3 years to meet Zoe was my first one.  In case you've never had to knowingly wait that long for something, let me tell you- It. Is. Torture. But she was definitely worth the wait!

This weekend is Easter, and like many of you, I'm sure, my family and I had Easter plans.  Our church will be starting two services on Sunday, which made me excited for an early service that would give us time to have a family lunch and fun activities for the kids before nap time.  But suddenly we were down a staggering number of volunteers to help with the kids in the later service.  Shortly after my shock and dismay that no one was volunteering, I read a blog post that quickly convicted and humbled me. 

Easter is not for me or about me.  It's not about my well-intentioned, Jesus-focused kid activities.  It's not about spending time with family.  Easter is an opportunity to introduce people to Jesus by being like Him and telling people about Him.

"For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45
"How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”" Romans 10:14-15

Sometimes God asks us to say "yes" to simple things like serving children for an hour and a half in place of our own plans. It sounds small and trivial on so many levels, but many of the families (kids and adults alike) that are coming this Sunday will have the opportunity to learn about Jesus and maybe start a relationship with Him for the first time.  Sometimes the little things are the big things in disguise.

So, yes, my husband and I will be serving in the late service.  And we hope to serve you there.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Photo Album

After we were matched with Zoe but waiting to go get her, we sent a care package to her at the orphanage.  One of the things we sent was a baby photo album with pictures of all of us and written in Mandarin underneath them was "Mommy," "Daddy," "Sister" and "Forever Family."

The day we met Zoe, the orphanage director had brought all the things we had sent to Zoe, including the photo album.  She was terrified of us initially and holding onto that photo album seemed to console her a little bit.  She was holding on for dear life to something she knew, something from home, yet it was pictures of us.

You can read about that crazy awesome day here.

She's passed out in my arms still holding that photo album tight. The orphanage director is the woman next to me.

Today, nearly 16 months after being home with her forever family, she still likes to pull out her album.  But now she can tell me who everyone is in the pictures.  Love watching her grow up, my little Spicy Peanut.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

'Tis the Season

Sunday morning I woke up busting at the seams with joy.  I kept looking at my family all silly and happy getting ready for church and just couldn't wipe the grin off my face.  I whispered a heartfelt thank you to God, and all just felt right in my little world.

Then lunch happened.

 Meet trouble and her sidekick.

After church we went to eat with our house church (our small group that meets for Bible study on Wednesday nights).  I missed the first half of lunch while I was nursing the baby in the car and came in to find out that while Eriek was ordering food the girls nearly tore the place down in their hungry toddler frenzy.  While I was eating with one hand, Zadok spit up on my other arm. One of my friends held him while I cleaned myself up and finished eating, but he wouldn't settle down.  So, I took him back and was bouncing him around, while the girls were running amok, and Eriek was off getting cookies.  I passed off the baby to another friend so I could take Arella to the bathroom and came back to find out that Zadok had a BLOW OUT on this poor girl who has now just had her first real baby experience.  Off I went back to the bathroom to clean up my messy little man and give him a quick wardrobe change.  By the time I walked back to our table, EVERYONE had left.

I felt so defeated.  I felt so stressed out.  I felt so frustrated that I couldn't even enjoy a lunch with our friends.  I felt like giving up and never leaving my house again.

Then I remembered something that humbled me and reminded me that this is my season.  A new friend of mine wrote this blog post that I needed to hear but didn't want to accept.  I've always been a tough, do-it-myselfer, overachiever type.  Surprising, right?  But when I read the beginning of that post, it could've easily been me in that young mom's place, wishing for more than the diaper trenches of life.

However, this is my season in life right now.  Don't get me wrong, it's an exciting, joyous, captivating, fulfilling and completely awesome season!  But at times it's also exhausting, defeating, stressful, dirty and did I mention exhausting?
"For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven" Ecclesiastes 3:1
The grass is always greener though, right?  We so often long for the next season of life or the next big thing that we usually forget to just be present and intentional in this moment.  We forget to find contentment wherever we are. 
"...for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Philippians 4:11-13
While we run the race of life, it's easy to get caught up in the competition and begin to sprint.  But life is a marathon, and we have to wisely pace and nourish ourselves to finish strong.
“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble." Matthew 6:34
I do absolutely love this season of my life.  But when I'm sinking in the day's quicksand, it is nice to be thrown a log reminding me that it is, after all, only a season.

This charmer helps to melt away any rough days.