“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Luke 2:14 KJV
Have you heard the Christmas song, “This Christmas“? It goes, “This Christmas will be a very special Christmas for me…”
Each Christmas, we remember all that’s transpired since the last Christmas. For some, it’s a time of happiness with loved ones, and for others, they’re feeling more like “Blue Christmas”.
From Scripture, we can find several threads that connect to the kind of atmosphere we choose and the type of Christmas we can decide to have.
A Christmas of peace. When we are at peace, we choose to embrace tranquility and trust God and His hand in our lives, regardless of our circumstances. Christ’s coming is the biggest gift and reason to be at peace we could ever have. The earthly life of Jesus wasn’t marked by a lack of strife, but it was marked by peace, and ours can be the same, if we so choose. “…on earth peace…” (Luke 2:14)
A Christmas of joy. We can choose joy for the great things God has put into our lives. No one has perfect lives, and some years highlight that more than others, but when we choose a lifestyle of joy, we recognize all of the amazing blessings God has given to us. “I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” (Luke 2:10b-11, NIV)
A Christmas of hope. This year more than others, I’ve heard a lot of people deciding to hope for the good God has for them, and that makes my heart rejoice! Truly, when we zoom out, so to speak, and take a good look at our lives, it is so obvious that our problems aren’t that big and our reason for hope is so huge. “And his name will be the hope of all the world.” (Matthew 12:21, NLT)
A Christmas of good will. We can choose to believe the best of others- be friendly, helpful, and forgiving, never forgetting all that we’ve been forgiven of. The birth of Jesus is the first part in the salvation story, and as much as we need it, how can we not give the same? “…good will towards men.” (Luke 2:14)
May your Christmas be defined by choosing peace, joy, hope, and good will in your life. May broken relationships be restored, pride be set aside, hope be embraced, peace be chosen, and joy be overflowing.
From your friends here at Canvas & Table, may you have a very blessed and Merry Christmas.
This week, we have chosen to focus our posts on adoption- in honor of National Adoption Month. During the next week, we will share the stories of five different women whose lives have each been radically impacted by adoption.
Christa and I (Ashley) met on a trip to China with Show Hope in 2010. I’ll never forget trekking the Great Wall of China with her and getting to know her over those two weeks! As Show Hope is an organization with an emphasis on orphan care, we, along with a group of other young women, got acquainted with one another’s hearts for orphan care and adoption at that time. Since then, it has been a joy to watch both of us develop, get married, and to see how Christa’s family has bloomed. Christa’s heart for children is strong and brave, and it is with joy that I present this interview, with Christa’s story of foster care and adoption. Since the time of this interview a couple weeks ago, Christa and her husband have welcomed their new baby girl!
C&T: What are the current demographics of your family? Christa: Currently, we have a 3 year old bio daughter, a 2 year old adopted son, and a baby on the way (maybe soon- contractions have started making their presence known).
C&T: What led you to consider adoption? Christa: Honestly, I’ve personally felt called to adoption since I was 4. My first career choice was to be a Batman and Joker mommy. I felt that, since Batman’s mommy had died, he needed someone to care for him, and Joker wouldn’t have been nearly so bad if he had a good mommy. After that, I got good and self-righteous. I said, “How selfish would I have to be to bring a child into the world when there are so many who are waiting for homes!”. Once God got ahold of me about my self-righteousness, I still felt called and, thus, it was a requirement for any man I perspectively might marry that he be on board with adopting. Honestly, after so many years, I was certain that God gave me that vision because I wasn’t going to be able to have biological children. Well, he’s now surprised me with two of them (whom, yes, I love just as much as my adopted son).
C&T: Did you foster before you adopted? Was it a domestic or international adoption? Closed or open? Christa: Yes, we fostered through Arkansas DCFS. We have been an open foster home for 2.5 years and fostered a few other little boys, before our current son came into our family. It is a closed adoption, due to his previous family situation. We still have pictures of them for his sake, though, and try to pray for them daily.
C&T: How did you decide the when and where of your adoption process? Christa: Honestly, before we became pregnant with our first daughter, we we planning on International adoption; though, once we had her, God brought more and more people into our lives who were foster parents. We then got introduced to an organization here in Arkansas named The CALL (Children of Arkansas Loved for a Lifetime). The more we learned about the crisis in the foster care system and what these children had been through, the more God led us to foster.
C&T: What have been the top 3 challenges of your experience? Christa: Only 3?? With it being through DCFS, there were a lot of hoops to jump through, from making our home look like they wanted it, to all the training you have to go through. That was definitely the hardest. The second challenge was letting our other boys go, when it was their time. We loved them with every ounce of our being and watching them leave was heart wrenching. The third I guess would have to be a grief in loss of certain “social standing”. I have been judged for having African American children, judged for using WIC at the grocery store, told that I was a bad mom for how I was handling my screaming infant, who was simply screaming because he had only been with me a few days, and the list goes on.
C&T: What have been the top 3 joys of your experience? Christa: Again, only 3? Oh my, seeing a mother get her baby back is priceless. Beyond that, God has blessed us beyond measure. To see God’s family step in and help us through the hard times has been so humbling and encouraging (just today I was talking to a woman about my now adopted son, and she told me what a blessing it was to try to rock him in the nursery at church, during his 2 months of screaming constantly, because she knew I was getting a break from what I was dealing with every day). And, of course, we just finalized our adoption on October 19, 2016. The joy of holding my son, who I know God specifically brought to me after years of having that desire on my heart, cannot be put into words.
C&T: If there is one thing you would want people to know about the process of adoption, what would it be? Christa: It’s hard. There are many times you feel very alone and invisible. New moms who have their children biologically get baby showers, meals brought to them, and sweet gifts galore. Adoptive, and especially foster moms, don’t get that. They may have been up all night with newborns for months, due to strings of placements, but not many think to bring them a meal. Recently, one friend who is an awesome foster mom finally had a shower thrown for her after 4 or 5 placements. She was telling how special it was, partly because not long before, her mom bought her some things and she said, “these would normally be baby shower gifts, but since you’ve not had one I thought I’d go ahead and give them to you now.”. Also, children from hard places deal with very different issues than biological children, so many times in conversation you end up simply feeling left out or looked down upon because people simply don’t understand.
C&T: What has been the most helpful post-adoption resource for you? Christa: Well, I’m not far post-adoption, but I’d say the most helpful thing throughout fostering has been people with ears to listen and not quick to try to offer advice (since generally they don’t understand) and people who tell me how they’re going to help, rather than ask, “what do you need?”. We have one family who will occasionally simply say, “you’ve not asked us to watch the kids in awhile; when this week do you want us to watch them?”. Because, honestly, you’re so tired and stressed out, you don’t even know how to ask for help. I know some families who have had friends just show up and do lawn care and others who have had a friend show up just to do the dishes and sweep the floor. Those things are amazing after having dealt with court hearings, visitations, paperwork, and home visits.
C&T: How did you/do you want to be supported before and after the adoption took place? Christa: Since we did through foster care, monetary wasn’t important to us, but again, tangible actions have blessed us beyond measure!
C&T: What would be your advice to someone else going through the same experience? Christa: My advice: PRAY! You cannot do adoption on your own. It is too hard. You have to be relying on God to help you through. He has to be your foundation. Also, make sure you and your husband are on the same page. An adopted child is not going to help your marriage. It will put so much more stress and strain on your relationship. If you are not in sync, you cannot be what that child needs. I’ve watched many marriages fall apart due to thinking that bringing a child home will fix their problems.
Christa Adams and her husband Justin will be married 40 years on February 18, 2052 (meaning this February, they will celebrate their 5th anniversary). Justin is an audio engineer at FamilyLife, a ministry to care for marriages and families, in Little Rock, AR and Christa is now simply known as “Momma”. Christa loves serving in the children’s ministry at church and is always up for whatever adventure God may present next- the problem comes when He says it’s time to stay put for awhile.
This week, we have chosen to focus our posts on adoption- in honor of National Adoption Month. During the next week, we will share the stories of five different women whose lives have each been radically impacted by adoption.
Today, I (Laurel) am delighted to introduce you to my friend Kristin. Kristin and I met a couple of years ago through mutual friends (it was at a Young Living oils class!). Kristin’s heart and spirit are so gentle and sweet – something that I know you’re going to pick up on easily today as she shares candidly about her and her husband’s journey of adopting their three children.
C&T: What are the current demographics of your family? Kristin: We are a tri-racial family. Greg and Kristin (Mom and Dad! White), Madalyn (age 10, Latino), Isabella (age 7, White), and Corban (age 2, Black – he’s bi-racial, but on many official forms, the race of the birth father is used to determine the race of the child).
C&T: What led you to consider adoption?
Kristin: We received a calling to adopt after seven years of marriage; we had not “tried” for kids yet, and as far as we know we can conceive, but we realized pretty quickly that the LORD had adoption in mind for our family. All three adoptions are completely unique and were fully God-led! It was amazing!
C&T: Did you foster before you adopted? Was it a domestic or international adoption? Closed or open?
Kristin: Our oldest daughter was adopted from Guatemala — it was a wonderful, beautiful experience! We waited 16 months and brought home a precious little one. From start to finish, it was one of the best experiences of our lives! God was so close at every step. The LORD taught us HOPE!
Seven years later, we felt the stirring again to adopt, and began the process again with our agency – this time, we were open to anything: domestic, foster-to-adopt, international. The day before our first meeting with our caseworker, we received a phone call from a family friend about a birth mom that was due to give birth to a boy soon, and would we be interested? She said she had been praying for the baby and heard the LORD whisper our names. We just knew this was God. It is a private, open adoption (we know both birth mom and birth dad). One of the biggest blessings was that I got to be in the hospital room when he was born–the hospital gave us our own room, so we had skin-to-skin time immediately and we got to bring him home from the hospital. The LORD taught us JOY!
Seven short months later, we were just coming up for air from our “newborn” experience (lol!). We received another phone call from a friend about a little girl named Isabella. Isabella was four years old and had lived with four families at that point. She had been adopted by a family through CPS and it was disrupted, so she came to us via a “re-adoption.” I honestly had never heard of this before, and it was very painful and difficult for all of us to process. It has been two years, and each day has been strenuous. Isabella has attachment issues that impact her on a daily basis. Life is hard for her. She has made HUGE strides, but our family is forever marked by this precious little girl — we are still learning how to parent her most effectively. God is teaching us GRACE!
C&T: How did you decide the when and where of your adoption process?
Kristin: When we received the undeniable call to adopt Madalyn (it was EVERYWHERE we turned!), we knew we wanted to adopt internationally and from Latin America. We had done short-term mission work in Peru, so thought that might be an option. We went to an info meeting at the Gladney Center for Adoption since it was down the street — and walked out of the there three hours later sold on them and their Guatemala program! The other two precious ones came to us through private adoption — people who knew our hearts for adoption. We had two or three other opportunities to adopt privately that never came to fruition. God places children in the homes He ordains!
C&T: What have been the top 3 challenges of your experience?
Kristin: Our first two adoptions were marked by joy, hope and light. It was full of all the beauty that adoption can bring. When we met Isabella, we got to experience the other, very real side of adoption: brokenness, heartache, pain, loss, rejection, shame, grief. It has been an experience that has changed us, strengthened us by breaking us – but it is a privilege to have a front-row seat in watching Him transform her heart.
Madalyn: Madalyn struggles the most with identity; she has a strong love for her Guatemalan people, and a heart for the lost; she sometimes feels “guilty” for celebrating July 4th, for instance – so we make sure to celebrate Guatemala in all the ways we can.
Corban: Having an open adoption has its challenges. We have recently had to stop seeing the birthparents due to personal decisions they have made – choices that we don’t feel best to have our kids be around. I think I have had to understand my role as Corban’s mom and trust that the LORD placed him with us and that its okay for us to keep him healthy and safe.
Isabella: Adopting out of birth order does impact a family unit! We didn’t realize it until afterwards, and its His plan of course, but we did have to adjust. And we had to learn a whole new language (vocabulary, brain-based study, parenting techniques, etc.) concerning adopting a child from a hard place.
C&T: What have been the top 3 joys of your experience? Kristin: Realizing that Jesus wants to know and save each one of these kiddos is the PRIMARY JOY! He plucked them for all different reasons out of their families of origin and placed them with us where He would be pointed to as the Way! It’s the Gospel before us! And helps me understand my salvation as His adopted child so much better!
C&T: If there is one thing you would want people to know about the process of adoption, what would it be?
Kristin: Wait on the LORD, hear from Him and if He gives you a call to adopt, get on board — it will be a wild ride!
C&T: What has been the most helpful post-adoption resource for you?
Kristin: Hands-down it would be Karyn Purvis’ blog The Connected Child. Another great blog resource has been Thankful Moms.
C&T: How did you/do you want to be supported before and after the adoption took place? Kristin: Our biggest needs today are prayer and respite care. Isabella’s special needs impact all of us on a daily basis – the biggest being a drain on energy and depletion of joy (being completely honest!). We are blessed to have family and friends nearby who take the kids so Greg and I can have a date once in awhile.
C&T: What would be your advice to someone else going through the same experience?
Kristin: One of the biggest suggestions I can give is to know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE! And, SEEK HELP! My husband was pivotal in deciding it was time to put the girls in school (we have homeschooled previously and have chosen to place our children in public school next semester) — he came to my rescue! It is hard for this former perfectionist to ask for help! I am a little nervous, but also excited to see what the LORD has planned for the girls as they start school. I just get to be “mom” and that makes my heart sing!
The other biggie is DO NOT NEGLECT YOUR MARRIAGE! We were pastoring a church during all of this transition of growing our family (my husband was bi-vocational), and through a series of God-ordained events, the church plant we were pastoring ended peacefully. We can see God’s Hand of provision and tender love in letting that go in our lives — we were running below empty, on ALL levels. Sometimes our biggest disappointments become His biggest blessings. We have since found a wonderful church home and are beginning to purposefully work on our four walls, starting with our marriage, which always took a back seat to parenting and church work. God is good, faithful and omnipotent!
C&T: Do you have any blog links/websites/fundraising links we can share for you?
Kristin: A dear friend who worked as an advocate for Corban’s birth mom is adopting twins from Taiwan: adoptingtheekpos.wordpress.com
Kristin Campbell makes her home in Fort Worth and loves Jesus, His creation, coffee, and doing anything with her husband, Greg. They have have been married sixteen years and make their home with three beautiful kiddos, Madalyn, Isabella, and Corban. They are about to make a move to the country so life is about to get quieter and slower. She is looking forward to seeing the stars at night!
This week, we have chosen to focus our posts on adoption- in honor of National Adoption Month. During the next week, we will share the stories of five different women whose lives have each been radically impacted by adoption.
Hope and I (Laurel) met years ago through a homeschool choir ministry and, since then, have had a fun ebb and flow of interests and life phases, through photography (we studied photography from the same school – and she was our wedding photographer!), home-based business, and now as moms of two rambunctious boys each. Hope and her husband Caleb are currently pursuing adoption of a sibling group from Central America. I’ve so appreciated her open, honest, and Gospel-centered perspective on the entire process — and I am so grateful that she has willing shared this journey with you all through this guest post, even in the midst of extensive and time consuming paperwork. Thank you, Hope! (P.S. Make SURE you make time to visit her Etsy shop, full of beautiful artwork that Hope has created. The proceeds benefit their funding for their adoption process.)
C&T: What are the current demographics of your family? Hope: We have two boys! 4 and 2 years old, and we are seeking to adopt siblings from Costa Rica. While we don’t know what their ages will be yet, we expect for birth order to change.
C&T: What led you to consider adoption? Hope: Honestly, I have had the desire to adopt for so long, I don’t even remember when it first began! It has always been a talking point for my husband and I, from the time we were first together. As God brought us closer to the point of being able to adopt, we also grew in our spiritual understanding of our adoption through Christ and became passionate to care for people in suffering. At that point, our prayers changed from wondering if we should adopt to asking God for direction on how to act on that desire. God has been so gracious to confirm our direction in so many ways. There are many threads throughout our lives – things we did not see at the beginning of this journey – that we now see God wove together beautifully to prepare us for this calling. The story isn’t done yet, and I’m excited to see what the Lord has in store for us – both difficult and beautiful.
C&T: Did you foster before you adopted? Was it a domestic or international adoption? Closed or open? Hope: We have not fostered before, but we definitely considered it as one of the possible routes for adoption and remain open to it for the future. For various reasons, we settled on international adoption from Costa Rica. I will say when you are faced with the decision of which “route” to take, it can be heartbreaking to have to choose as you become more keenly aware of the need and saying yes to one feels like saying no to another and you wonder if you chose the right thing. Ultimately you have to remember that orphan care, in whatever amount, is needed and necessary. There are all kinds of kids from all kinds of places that need love and care. There is no wrong choice.
C&T: How did you decide the when and where of your adoption process? Hope: Our ages and the inter-country adoption requirements narrowed down the field considerably. There were so many other factors involved too, like timing (how long did they estimate the process would take?), cost, how long the out-of-country stay was, etc. Adopting through a Hague convention country was also important to us. We talked a lot with our agency, and they were able to advise us some on what kind of placements they were seeing from different countries and how the kid’s needs might mesh with our abilities. Ultimately, when we realized we wanted to adopt two kids, based on what we learned about the different country programs, Costa Rica was the obvious choice. That decision wasn’t finalized until several months into the process, though.
C&T: What have been the top 3 challenges of your experience? Hope: Well, we are only half way through this process, but this is what I came up with so far:
1) The timing of paperwork doesn’t always go as planned. And sometimes for no good reason! You just have to be patient.
2) Saving/raising enough money fast enough. I will add to this though, that the money has always been there right when we needed it!
3) With 2+ years of waiting, and all of the heavy knowledge you acquire during the process, there is a lot of temptation to worry. It’s a fairly unique situation in life, because you stare down an intense life change ahead of time, knowing that it carries trauma and grief with the beauty. But! It builds your faith. You absolutely have to bank on the fact that when God has called you to this, and you know He is undeniably faithful in character, then he will sustain you through whatever happens.
C&T: What have been the top 3 blessings of your experience? Hope:
1) Getting to share with others why we are adopting and it opening a lot of conversations. Also seeing them catch the vision for orphan/foster care.
2) Getting to see my kids hearts be more open and thoughtful to loving others, especially those in suffering.
3) How much it has built our faith already!
C&T: If there is one thing you would want people to know about the process of adoption, what would it be? Hope: It’s normal to be fully committed and yet afraid at the same time. I have been so comforted by many adoptive mamas who have gone before and said even as they were landing in the country – they were scared spitless! It’s a crazy emotional process, and you’ll feel it. Adoption is a lot to process, both practically speaking with the paperwork and finances, and also with processing all of the education and mental/spiritual preparation needed to take on parenting kids from hard places. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it! Just know where you anchor and hope is, and don’t be afraid to reach out for support.
C&T: How do you want to be supported? Hope: Right now so many forms of support are an encouragement. I feel like different people in our lives are given different abilities to support us, and each one is meaningful and important. Monetary gifts are incredibly humbling and needed (Caleb and I both work 2-3 jobs right now each in order to avoid debt), but also when a friend takes it on themselves to learn about trauma parenting so they can better support and understand what we are undertaking, that means an incredible amount as well. Prayers, words of encouragement…we’ll take it all! After the adoption, I’m sure words of support and encouragement, meals, a listening ear, and respite will be really important for us.
C&T: What would be your advice to someone else going through the same experience? Hope: If God has laid on your heart the desire to adopt, don’t let cost be the inhibiting factor against it. Even though the math never quite worked out in our heads ahead of time, step by step it IS working out. There are so many great resources out there for parents wanting to adopt debt-free, as well as interest-free loans and benefits from employers.
Also, find other adoptive moms you can talk to who have walked the road before you. Their wisdom and encouragement is invaluable!
I’m Hope Helms – a wife, mom, artist and entrepreneur. I love Jesus, and nothing gets me more excited than infusing creativity and simplicity into every day life and inspiring others to do the same. Most days you’ll find me doing ordinary mom related tasks, including homeschooling, with a bunch of coffee, mac ‘n’ cheese, and messy art thrown in. All while I dream about business strategies and creative projects that may or may not ever happen!
This week, we have chosen to focus our posts on adoption- in honor of National Adoption Month. During the next week, we will share the stories of five different women whose lives have each been radically impacted by adoption.
I (Ashley) first met Elisabeth Ream in February 2012, on my first trip back to Saint-Marc, Haiti, following my move back to the States towards the end of 2011. The Reams were partnering with the ministry I was on staff with and had moved to Saint-Marc at the beginning of 2012, from another area in Haiti. Through our acquaintance, I have grown an immense respect for her family and knew she was the perfect person to share an honest take at international adoption from someone has lived in-country during the process. Elisabeth & her family continue to serve & live in the area, where Elisabeth’s tender heart continues to be a blessing to many.
C&T: What are the current demographics of your family? Elisabeth: We are the Ream Team! There are six members on our immediate team, though we have many extended family members! Our family is colorful. We like to say we have black, brown, tan and white children- one of each color. We live on a small island in a third (borderline fourth) world country. It is actually more expensive than the U.S.A. to purchase many things because most things have to be imported across the ocean. We somehow live on half of the budget that we used to in America. I’m not sure how other than God’s grace, mercy, and sovereign arms embracing us continually.
C&T: What led you to consider adoption? Elisabeth: I’ve considered adoption for as long as I can remember considering children. In our first serious conversation, leading up to our marriage a year later, we talked about the possibility of international missions and also adoption. I asked my future husband very early on how he would feel about adopting a child who needed a family. His heart wanted the same. We remember praying together and wondering, even asking out loud, if perhaps there was already a child born into the world that would one day need our family. It is amazing to think about that conversation that took place seventeen years ago, as I look at our seventeen year old daughter! She had been born five months prior to our conversation and her biological mother passed away within that year. However, it would be another ten years before we would lay eyes on the child we had prayed for that night. During those ten years we thought and prayed about adoption many times. Year nine, we began to seriously pursue researching adoption options and praying more earnestly over where and to whom God would lead our family specifically. We had two boys born into our family by this time. God opened our oldest son’s heart to adoption during a time when we did not feel we had the energy or financial resources to begin to pursue it. Ethan’s persistence encouraged us to begin our adoption journey. Ethan believed he had a sister struggling somewhere out there and that we needed to find her. When he first saw our referral picture of our daughter, Elita Marguerite, he said, “That’s her! That’s my sister!” We believe, that if you have biological children, the decision to adopt should be their decision as well. We are thankful that our bio boys embraced adopting, even adopting internationally and out of birth order, in a way that only can only be explained by God’s Spirit speaking to them and bringing peace that surpasses understanding throughout the very difficult adoption process that was to come.
C&T: Did you foster before you adopted? Was it a domestic or international adoption? Closed or open? Elisabeth: We did not officially foster through our state of Texas, which is where we began our adoption process. However, my husband’s job for the first ten years of our marriage was in church youth ministry and I worked alongside him. We always had kids in our home and occasionally there were cases where we temporarily fostered some of the kids we had built relationships within the youth group. We have family and many friends that have fostered and fostered to adopt through state foster care. My sister has fostered several children and my children have four cousins who have been adopted out of foster care. Our family’s decision to pursue the adoption of an older child stemmed from our years working with pre-teen and teenage youth, as well as watching our cousins and my best friend adopt older children who had little hope of ever having a family otherwise. We chose to adopt internationally because of our previous experience living in other countries (Fiji and Israel) and desired to live outside the U.S. with our family as missionaries one day. We felt that because of these factors God had positioned us (with a lot of grace) to parent older children, adopted internationally. The country we adopted from does not permit open adoptions. However, after the adoptions were completed we were able to make contact with members of our girl’s biological families and learn more of their histories. Also, without going into too many details of our crazy adoption story, I will say that in a way we did foster our adopted daughters. However, this happened in a backwards way after they legally received our last name. They were able to leave the orphanage and live with us permanently after we had received legal residency to work in their country of origin, which enabled us to “foster” them for the remainder of their adoption process until they received their immigrant visas to travel with us to the United States. In this way, our adoption process was similar to those who have fostered children they have later adopted. We simply were fostering our adopted children that we could not yet bring to the United States.
C&T: How did you decide the when and where of your adoption process? Elisabeth: This was a tough one for us. We kept asking ourselves, “How can we pick a country or a specific child out of millions needing forever families?”. This question burdened us for years. Finally, we just decided we had to start somewhere. We began researching several countries to see if we met their criteria for international adoption. We looked into adoption from India, Nepal, China, Korea, Ukraine, Ethiopia, and Haiti. We are not Hindu or Muslim, so we were not permitted to adopt from India. Nepal closed international adoptions shortly after we began seriously inquiring. China had a seven years waiting list at that time. Korea was a definite option that we checked into but never strongly considered. We had strong connections to adoptions in Ukraine and had observed children who were in orphanages come on hosting trips to our hometown and later be able to be adopted by many friends to whom we are close. However, adoption from Ukraine required lengthy and costly trips to Ukraine. This was out of the question considering our job and financial situation at that time. Ethiopia was at the top of the list because we had (and still have) a sponsor child in Ethiopia and were very drawn to the country. Alas, Haiti. The very last place a person should consider adopting from unless you are a junkie for braving the hardest things. We seem to enjoy choosing the hardest thing– and then moving there. Haiti’s requirements at the time we began our adoption process were that we had to have been married for ten years, one spouse must be at least thirty five years of age, and have no more than two biological children. These stats spoke to us because they matched us and there was a great need for qualified families to pursue adoption. Many of the children in Haitian orphanages were older or would be by the time their adoptions processed. We understood the wait for a child to come “home” would be years. We read reports of between two and four years before an adoption would most likely be processed to completion. That is exactly how long our adoptions ended up taking. One took two years and the other four years. We began compiling adoption paperwork. Then, the January 12, 2010 earthquake happened. We were not yet matched with specific children at this time. We were contacted by an organization that had reps on the ground in Haiti looking for paperwork-ready families that met Haiti’s adoption requirements. Many children, already matched with families, were released on emergency humanitarian parole to their adoptive families, who were permitted to foster the children stateside while completing the adoption process. We were told there could possibly be a second wave of children, that were pre-earthquake, paperwork-ready orphans, that could also be released to qualified paperwork-ready adoptive families. Our girls’ original referral pictures came through this process. We hurried to prepare our home for their arrival as we were told they could be coming soon and that we would be able to process the Haitian adoptions stateside, instead of in Haiti. This was a huge answer to prayer for us, that the burden of the long wait (not only for us but mainly for the children spending their childhoods in an orphanage) could be lifted. I prepared for a trip to Haiti with several other adoptive families. We were preparing initially that there could be a slight chance the children we were in process to adopt might be able to return with us. However, three days before our departure, the Haitian government abruptly made the decision to cut off humanitarian parole completely. We were stunned but thankful that we had researched the adoption process from Haiti and had chosen Haiti prior to the earthquake to prepare ourselves somewhat for what we would be up against, should we chose to pursue the process further. I went ahead with my trip as planned and met the girls for the first time. I went in the knowledge that I would not be bringing anyone home and not knowing when our timeline would be able to start. Leaving them the first time was hard. Leaving them the fifteenth time was excruciating. It was the hardest thing we have ever had to do knowing what we knew. We lived in Texas the first year and ½ while the adoptions were processing (or were supposed to be) in Haiti. Then we lived in Haiti for six months while the adoptions continued to progress before the girls were able to come live with us instead of the orphanage.
*The laws governing the Haitian adoption process and requirements for adoptive families has changed since we adopted. The requirements have lessened but the average wait time has tragically not.
C&T: What were the top 3 challenges of your experience? Elisabeth:
1) I think the hardest challenge in international adoption is being separated from the child, that you feel is your family, by a great distance for a long and unknown period of time. An additional hardship is when you know your child and even more so when they know you. It is like having your heart ripped out of your chest every single day. We didn’t sleep for years. We grieved as if there was a death. Yet our children were very much alive. It is how I imagine the parents of kidnapped children feel. I lost twelve pounds (unneeded at that time) in the first month alone after meeting the girls. I met our adopted children for the first time on April 17th, 2010. The girls were eight and eleven years old at that time. That is old enough to understand time and distance, but not understand why these things were forced to co-exist. When you begin an adoption process with Haiti, you basically have no timeline. The timing of the earthquake added to this challenge, because many of the offices processing adoptions were closed or barely functioning. We submitted our completed dossier anyways. An excruciatingly long year went by before it was even submitted to the first office of many that would begin to process our adoptions.
2) The second biggest challenge was the loss (whether temporary or permanent) of relationships dear to us. International adoptions, especially those that take years, take up a lot of time and energy. This is time and energy you were previously pouring into other relationships. This may be the relationship with your spouse, your children, parents, siblings, best friends, church, social circles, etc. Our adoption process hit pretty much all of our relationships hard. We had been warned by many adoptive families that have come before us that when you begin an adoption, Satan attacks where it will affect you the most. Thankfully, Satan did not win the battle. But it required the fight of our lives. There was little (if any) energy left over for one another and other vital relationships. We were going through the motions. I still feel I gave up my boys most tender childhood years. I simply did not have the energy to enjoy them. Almost all my physical and emotional stamina was being poured into surviving the adoptions. I do not recommend going about it this way. There definitely should have been more balance. But we didn’t know how and the fight was intense. I felt like I could barely breathe most days. I kept thinking about the parable of the lost sheep and how the Shepherd left all the others, just to go after that one that was lost. You know that feeling of panic when you lose something dear to you and you tear up the house and ignore whatever you were supposed to do that day in order to find it? That panic kept me going. The thought of my girls being left all alone in that terrible orphanage kept me fighting. And my Shepherd held me.
3) The third biggest challenge for our family was finances. Living on a youth pastor’s salary (equivalent to a teacher’s) was tough enough. The main reason fear had kept us from pursuing adoption sooner than we did was lack of finances. We were encouraged to not let this be the only reason not to pursue adoption and that there were many financial assistance avenues available, if we were serious and diligently sought those out. We did. We sold ourselves silly that first year. We ran in marathons for adoption, raised money selling t-shirts, coffee, bracelets, raffle tickets, restaurant fundraisers. You name it. We did it. Shamelessly- though I think some of our friends were a bit ashamed and may have thought we had completely lost it. Everyone kept asking when the girls were coming “home”. We had no answer to give them. We felt like most people seriously doubted if they would ever come home. But we just kept doing all we could do on our end. We sold stuff in five different garage sales. We begged for ransom money. We applied for grants and 0% interest loans and got them. It was intense. Friends began to only ask us about the adoptions when they passed us in the halls at church, at the grocery store or the boys’ school. The adoptions seemed to be our main identity during that time. If this question asked for a top four I would say “loss of identity” as number four. I regret that. I wish we didn’t have to push that hard for that long to acquire the finances we needed to move forward for our girls. And then again, I’m thankful we did. It was a ransom I would gladly pay again. After all, Jesus paid the highest price so that we could become His children. Although it was a heavy burden, I’m thankful we had to work long and hard and pay a high price (financially, emotionally, physically, relationally) for our girls to not only become our children, but to eventually accept the price and free gift of salvation their Heavenly Father paid for them, as well. The lessons we learned the hard way were worth it. Our girls were worth it. We learned to wait on the Lord like never before and trust His plan, even when we could not understand any of it. Mother Teresa once said, “I have found a paradox that if I love until it hurts, there is no more hurt, only more love.”
C&T: What were the top 3 joys of your experience? Elisabeth: 1) Meeting the girls for the first time. I looked into their beautiful faces and knew they were my daughters. I did not expect them to embrace me as their mother right away. I expected that this would take a long time. But they did. Right away. The first time I held them felt like the first time I held my biological boys after I gave birth to them. These are the most joyous and cherished moments I will never forget.
2) The body of Christ and God’s sovereign provision meeting our many needs in many ways reminded us that we could still keep our joy, even when we were spiritually dry and relationally distant. There were/are people that stuck closer than brothers (and sisters) and shared in our sufferings. This fellowship helped us to count it all joy.
3) Not understanding God’s plan, but trusting and walking through the doors He clearly opened as He showed us that Haiti was/is not only the country we were adopting from, but also the mission field we had been praying and seeking. The process God brought us through in moving our family to Haiti and keeping us here for the last five years has been a joy-filled journey of discovery, learning, and loving beyond our wildest dreams (though at certain times I’m not sure I would have counted that ALL joy).
C&T: If there is one thing you would want people to know about the process of adoption, what would it be? Elisabeth: If you have expectations of timelines, what your experience will be like, what your adoptive children will be like, and what your family will look like after adoption, please hold very loosely to those expectations. Be willing to let them go completely if need be. Usually “if need be” becomes the reality.
If you would have told me, when we began our adoption process with Haiti (with one of our top reasons in choosing Haiti being that we would not have to leave work, home, and family in America for a lengthy and costly period of time), that we would end up moving to Haiti and living in Haiti for the past five years, on top of spending double to process our younger daughter’s adoption completely TWICE, there is no way I would have believed you. And there is a good chance we probably never would have proceeded with adopting from Haiti had we known ahead of time. Don’t let the hard stories scare you. In hindsight, we wouldn’t change our experience for the world. We just needed to change our expectations.
C&T: What has been the most helpful post-adoption resource for you? Elisabeth: Country-specific resources, such as books about Haiti, talking to families who have adopted from Haiti, and especially those who have lived in Haiti, have helped us greatly. Moving to the country our adopted children were born and grew up in has changed almost everything we once assumed we understood. It has helped us to bond as a family in ways we never would have and altered our perspectives to better parent our children from hard places. If there is one thing I can recommend, it is to spend as much time as possible in the culture your child has come from. If at all possible (and depending on the age of the child) do this with your adopted child. If there is a language barrier and the child is older, please do your best to learn some of the language. Our most helpful post-adoption resource has been learning from and living among the people of Haiti.
C&T: How did you want to be supported before and after the adoption took place? Elisabeth: I am not sure I knew the answer to this question at the time I was going through this, before the adoption. It is difficult for anyone to hang out with grieving, desperate people who are in constant survival mode. I’m sure I was not super fun to be around. There were certain friends and family who were always just there, despite my state. I will always be thankful for them. They gave me the oxygen of encouragement when I didn’t feel I wanted any. When your children are living in a dark, rat-infested basement, cold, wet, hungry, thirsty, and scared and you know that this is not just in your nightmares but their actual daily existence that you have personally witnessed AND HAD TO LEAVE THEM THERE, it doesn’t feel right to be cheery or cheered. The surest thing to lift my spirit was each time we learned we were one step closer to getting the girls out of there. When donations of money would come in or friends and family donated their time and energy helping us with yet another fundraiser or watched the boys while I made another trip to Haiti, we truly felt supported because this helped us get one step closer to our girls.
C&T: What would be your advice to someone else going through the same experience? Elisabeth: After the adoptions, our lives had changed so much in every way I am not sure this answer is relatable to most adoptive families. But I do know that after the adoptions, I no longer wanted my identity to primarily be tied up with the adoptions that had pulled me out of healthy relationships for so long. I wanted friends to share with me about normal things like their kids’ little league or their new pet. I didn’t so much want to talk about dark and scary basements full of rats and children, the corruption that happens to you in an international adoption process, and the people who you once upon a time believed would be your biggest advocates but became your biggest enemies. No matter where you adopt from or live, after the adoption you are in yet another version of survival mode. You could call it a “transition” or “a season”. But whatever you call it, it probably is not going to be called “pleasant” or “peaceful”. Yet, pleasant and peaceful is what you will be craving after completing an adoption and no amount of chocolate or coffee is going to make up for it. The tendency then is to gravitate toward those who you feel understand what you are going through. So naturally, adoptive parents talk to other adoptive parents (whether in person or finding one another in private online adoption groups) about the hardest of things. These friendships are a lifeline. But they can also be very heavy. Lighter friendships that talk about other things besides the gravity of adoption-related issues are a needed support as much as those who are in the thick of it with you. Keep the lightweight relationships afloat and don’t let yourself believe that someone else’s issues are trivial compared to yours. You need them more than you think you do. Nevertheless, it is a difficult task. If you find it is an impossible task, at least try going somewhere light with your heavy talk friends. Talking through the hard stuff while sunbathing at the pool or beach helps lift the heavy a bit. If you cry you can blame it on the saltwater or the sight of grandma wearing a bikini and you will probably end up laughing at some point by the end of the day. The point is to go home lighter and be light to your family. The best way to do this is not to rely on your family and friends to carry this burden for you or try carrying it yourself. Just give it to Jesus in the first place. He says in Matthew 11: 28-30, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Years after the adoptions I would say that support through awareness plays a huge role of support. There are too many things we were not aware of when we began our adoption journey. Our hope is to use those negative experiences to help other families not have to go through some of the unnecessary hurts and hardships. Awareness is key in that process. Learn and listen to others who have gone before you. Don’t let the hard things you will become aware of (one way or another) scare you away. Allow that awareness to make you stronger for the ugly task and beautiful journey ahead.
Elisabeth Ream has lived in Haiti, working as a missionary alongside her husband, Eric, and four children, Elita Marguerite, Esmée, Ethan and Evan, for the past five years, serving under Heart of God International Ministries. Leaving everything to follow and share Christ has been the most intensely rewarding experience for the Ream Team. Eric’s heart is to equip Haitian Pastors and leaders with the Biblical education they need to share God’s Word with their people well. Elisabeth’s passion is orphan prevention and family preservation. Alongside Haitian partners, she co-founded a women’s ministry and microloan business program called KOFAEL which helps to “create more options, not more orphans” in Haiti.
-The Ream Team shares about living in Haiti and ministry to the Haitian people at reamteaminternational.org. -To find out more about their mission organization, visit HeartofGodInternational.org, where you can also find links for more information on “The Ream Team”. -Visit Kofael.org to learn more about the orphan prevention and family preservation ministry the Ream Team has co-founded alongside Haitian partners. KOFAEL is a growing, successful ministry that has helped hundreds of vulnerable Haitian children be able to stay with their families. -During the adoption process, Elisabeth blogged throughout their journey on at chosenandmuchloved.blogspot.com.
Today, we are bringing you a guest post from Ashley’s second cousin, Joy Humble, whom lives “a simple yet enjoyable life”. Joy writes at Choose Joy about finding joy in the everyday ordinary and we are so happy to have her sharing here on Canvas & Table today!
Psalm 100, Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands! Serve the Lord with gladness; come before His presence with singing, know that the Lord, He is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations.
Today I am going to talk about how gratitude has changed my life, and even more specifically, how it helped me battle depression. I have found that it is easy to be grateful when you get that job you’ve been wanting or when you get a new car or a raise, but it is much harder to be genuinely grateful when you are going through a hard season in life. Maybe you are struggling to pay the bills, maybe you are having relationship issues, maybe you have lost a loved one. In times of hardship and suffering its really difficult to believe that there is any good in your life. My personal journey of learning how to be grateful has largely come through battling depression.
My parents named me Joy and I believe that the name I was given is a prophetic word of the personality and person God created me to be. I believe that the last thing the devil wants us to do is live out the calling that God has placed on our lives. I also believe that the devil tries his best to sabotage and destroy those plans and our destiny. Depression is the opposite of joy and I have dealt with depression for many years. I believe that the enemy likes to attack me with depression because that is what is most effective at killing my joy and hindering me from being the person God created me to be. When you are in that dark and hopeless hole called depression, it is very difficult to be grateful for anything. Gratitude is the opposite of depression. Gratitude says, “God is good”, while depression says, “Is God even there?” In the last year I have learned that, while in that dark place, I must choose to make conscious choices to see God’s goodness and be grateful for all of the amazing things He has done in my life. A large element of depression is self pity. Poor me, my life sucks. And its really difficult to get out of that cycle. Forcing yourself to be grateful begins to break that cycle. I started writing in my blog once a week about something I was grateful for. Some days it was hard to think of something. It is pathetic I know, but true. But, when you start to make those conscious choices, it becomes easier and easier to see God’s goodness in your life. Those daily choices will change the course of your day, your attitude, and the cycle of depression and self-pity.
I have taken many things for granted in my life. I like to call them the “Thanksgiving List.” These are the things we all list off at Thanksgiving when we go around the table. Things like our family, job, house, car, children, pet, food, etc. I don’t know about you, but many times it seems like Thanksgiving is the day I am grateful for all of those things and then I tend to take them for granted the other 364 days of the year. As an American, I expect to always have a home, a job, and food on the table. At times I feel like most Americans feel as if they are entitled to those things as human beings. But it is not that way in other parts of the world and even in some places in America. Because of this mindset I believe many Americans struggle with being grateful, because our lives are already so blessed, but we are too busy looking for even more amazing and wonderful things to happen to us to notice. We want a better job, a newer car, a bigger house. And while we are so focused on what we don’t have, we completely lose focus of all of the many blessings that God has given us already. The majority of Americans have what they need to live a very full life and usually a bit extra. I think it is important to understand that this is not as common in other parts of the world and realize how much God has blessed those of us living in areas of the world where we have all we need. This is one of the reasons why I have a desire to travel outside of the U.S. – I want to see the world outside of my own little bubble. I think it would be a great perspective to have.
Everyone can find something to be grateful for. If the only thing you can think of today is that you are breathing, great start. Tomorrow think of something else to be grateful for and as the days go by it will be easier and easier to see all of the blessings that surround you. Don’t wait until you have everything you want in life to be grateful. Start today and give God glory for all He has done and the goodness He has displayed in your life. Think of the good things He has done in your past, the good things He is doing today and thank Him for the good plans He has for your future!
My name is Joy and I am married with 2 little boys, who are very active and curious. I live in a small rural town in Indiana. I am a work from home mom and a Christian. I love to write and cook and I also ave an interest in food photography. I live a simple yet enjoyable life. I post regularly on my blog, Choose Joy.
Comment below and let us know- What are you choosing to be thankful for today?
There’s something that’s been on my heart all year long: there is a time to say “yes” and a time to say “no” to everything. Early this year, God started drawing my attention to a level of over-commitment in my life that was creating an atmosphere of stress & busyness in my life that was unhealthy spiritually, mentally, emotionally, & physically. While some changes were immediate, others have taken the course of the year and others have started migrating from a “yes” to a “no”. Today I want to share my journey with you.
Saying “no” isn’t something new to me- I’ve always managed to be fairly straight-forward and bold in what I allow into my life. However, after ending the year last year in a state of exhaustion, it became apparent to me that while I had my hands to many good things, they weren’t all God things. What’s the difference?
A good thing is just that- it’s a good thing to do. You believe in it, and you think it’s a wonderful activity, but the grace isn’t there to do it. It isn’t what you were created specifically to do, at least for this season of your life, and it isn’t something you feel God has directed you to be a part of.
A God thing is something you’ve specifically seen God lead you into and not lead you out of. It’s something that goes towards your “why” in life, and for which you’ve been specifically anointed & set apart to be a part of in your life. This can include your vocation- not just “super-spiritual” activities.
I don’t know about you, but when I started looking at my life in that light this year, I could see where there was no grace, where there was abundant grace, and the places where God was beginning to lead me out of in my life.
I’m writing this today because I think there are a lot of us doing good things that cause us to neglect the God things. The God things are those things that make up your purpose, those things you should be doing in this season of life. The good things are those things that sound good, but that you know you’re only doing at this point because they are just good things to do. And there is a difference.
God things connect to your core while good things tire you on a deep inner level. This all has to do with grace. If you have three children, God has given you the grace to deal with them, and while it may be tiring, it’s purposeful. If you’ve decided to help your neighbor with her three kids and this isn’t something you’ve seen God lead you to do, you are going to be a different type of tired, because the grace isn’t there for doing it- it is literally just a “good thing” you are doing, not a God thing.
I challenge you today to consider the activities that make up your schedule. Walking away from good things can be difficult, especially when you feel as if you are leaving a hole behind for someone else to fill and when you really care about the way that good thing affects others. Yet, when you pray about it and have peace about leaving that activity behind, trust that God will fill that hole with the person to fill it for the new season. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been there, and He does it every time.
Waiting- none of us like it but all of us do it. It’s something that crosses racial boundaries, income lines, and affects people of all age. It’s something that’s literally as old as time- Adam himself had to wait for Eve to be created- but something all people still struggle with now and again. Waiting creates an emotion when the period of waiting lasts longer than we think it should. Ask any impatient person in a line and they will tell you something is happening (the line is moving too slowly, the checker should be working faster) that is causing them to wait longer than they believe to be necessary.
Certain days of the year highlight waiting that has become downright painful. Valentine’s Day is a very uncomfortable day to some singles, while Mother’s Day & Father’s Day can carry a very heavy emotion for couples struggling with infertility. A myriad of other circumstances, from buying or selling a house to waiting on an adoption or organ transplant, carry with them some very real emotions tied to a period of waiting that anyone who has gone through them could relate about. A common expression in these times of waiting is the feeling of “if only that thing were here, how well could I steward that gift or spend my time!”. Singles that feel they would make a loving spouse, adults that feel they would make wonderful parents….yet there they still are are, waiting.
I’m currently in a big, huge season of “wait” of my own- one that has far outlasted any other previous seasons of waiting I have been through. There are some hard-learned lessons God has taught me- and through the past few years, I have been reminded of the other times I waited for things I deeply desired, and how each and every one taught me something very specific. While most times I could even see the reasons for the wait on the other side, even in the ones which I still can’t understand why I needed to go through the waiting season, I know God taught me some invaluable lessons through the process. I’m sharing with you some of the lessons from my wait, and I hope it encourages you and equips you for how to spend your wait.
Live in the present. One of the most difficult hurdles to get over in times of waiting, in my experience, has been to choose to be all-here in the present, even when I deeply desire a future that has yet to arrive. This has meant choosing to redirect my thoughts, spending time considering the blessings of this season, purposely planning activities that make the most of this time, and choosing to enjoy it as long as it may last. Embracing this is so incredibly freeing, and while it won’t eliminate the emotions of waiting, it does enable you to not dwell on the things you have yet to come into in your life with an unhealthy amount of time spent thinking about the things that have yet to pass in your life. “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 “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” Philippians 4:11
Trust in the Lord. Waiting isn’t a popular activity for a reason- it can leave you feeling dejected, uninspired, & with a sense of purposelessness. Yet, God has allowed you to be in that season for a reason, and trusting His reasons for the wait and purposing to be the best version of yourself in the season can serve to inspire and encourage you as you delve in to the Word of God, choose to be a good friend, and care about what others care about despite what seems to you to be a less-than-perfect circumstance. “Trust in the Lord and do good.” Psalm 37:3
Do good. The second part of Psalm 37:3 is often overlooked- it is a partnership; a related relationship between trusting in the Lord and doing good. Depending on what you’re going through, you might not want to be very involved in the lives of others. Whether you’re waiting to get married, to have a baby, to go to school, for that transplant to come through, or in a season of painful emotions you are waiting to pass, it can be very easy to decide to stay away from places that remind you of others that have those things you wish you had. I have found that following God in obedience and doing good among those whose circumstances can remind me of what I’m waiting for can be the most profound “good work” of faith in my season of waiting. I would challenge you to make the decision to stop shielding yourself from what makes you uncomfortable and discover the way acting in faith actually serves to sooth your heart during your wait, when you are doing it unto the Lord and not for how man is going to react to your actions. “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” James 2:17
I’ve made this graphic of Psalm 37:3 to share with you below. It very much impacted me when I spent time considering the impact of this verse & James 2:17 on my life- that without faith and works of faith, my trust in the Lord was dead. I encourage you to save the image, make it your phone screensaver, and walk in trust while doing good in Christ and find your purpose in the waiting!
I wanted to note that I am not implying that there is not a need to process the emotions of waiting- or diminish how deep those emotions may be. I encourage you to find your safe people- people you can share your journey with, be honest with about the emotions, cry with, laugh with, and have the safety in which to share the ups & downs of your journey. If you have no idea where to find these people, pray for people who will pray with you, pray for you, and encourage you to walk forward in faith & good works. Wherever you’re at, I encourage you to leave a comment below- I would love to be praying for you, too!
This post is the third of a series of three regarding miscarriage. Our intention is not to overlook other types of loss, but to shed understanding for those experiencing miscarriage or ministering to those who have lost through miscarriage. We also understand that this is a trigger for many mamas. We love you and pray for healing in your hearts.
Watching others walk through miscarriage presents so many challenges. It’s a unique loss because, other than the parents, no one has seen the child (and that’s only if there was a sonogram). With most losses, friends, family, and acquaintances have seen the deceased in pictures or met them or even had extended time and memories with them. With miscarriage, there’s not the emotional connection of having seen a cute baby’s smile, cuddled with a snuggly warm little one, and heard coos and cries.
How does one relate to the hurting parents and help them during this time? Anyone who acknowledges the pain and grief has a desire to help, but sometimes the good intentions do not translate well to words. From a mama who’s been there, I would like to humbly share what does and doesn’t help.
What Not To Say:
Any phrase containing “it could have been worse” or “at least….” The pain of losing a child is deep and unique. In an innocent effort to point out how this isn’t the worse case scenario, this phrase indicates that this isn’t the “worse case scenario”.
Unrelated Attempts to Relate. “I’m sorry you’re hurting…. I totally get it! I experienced __________ this week, too.” Before you speak, just ask yourself if what you’re about to say can truly relate to the circumstance, whatever it may be. This is not an appropriate time to compare hardships.
Anything that indicates something was wrong with the baby. Attempts at lessening the pain by explaining that the baby probably would have had severe mental or health issues is far from a healing word. What this does is: 1) Lessens the value of that baby’s life. 2) Indicates that God made a mistake. “Oops! This one is less than ‘perfect’.” 3) Indicates that the baby would have been all burden and no joy. If you are going to (rightly so) assign limitless value to babies lost in the horror of abortion, please give babies lost through miscarriage the same value. More about this here. 4) Assumes God’s purposes in the loss.
There’ll be more babies. Don’t gloss over or rush past the current grief. This is often spoken to give hope to the grieving parents, but it indicates that the baby is replaceable.
What To Say:
I’m so sorry.
I’m praying for you. And do it. For a long time. The pain doesn’t lessen overnight.
I’ll be thinking about you. And let them know you are. Check in with them periodically and ask how they’re doing — and be prepared for long, honest, complicated answers.
Nothing. This is not to say you shouldn’t mention it at all, just that sometimes saying “I don’t know what to say” or “There are no words…” and then hugging their necks is enough to let the parents know you care and grieve with them.
Just Being There. A dear friend brought flowers and just sat with me – was “just there” – when we realized we were losing our baby. Her willingness to lay aside her day’s agenda and give support meant more than she will ever know.
Treat it as a Legitimate Loss. This is NOT simply not being pregnant any more. This was a living baby who was growing in his or her mother’s body. And that baby died. Another dear friend gave me books on grief to read. Did the books help me in my loss? They did. They helped me see God’s greater purpose. What helped even more was the validity that she gave me grief. By her loaning the books to me she was in essence saying, “I know you’re hurting – and your pain is justified”.
Minister. If a friend of yours lost a parent, a child, or a spouse, how would you minister to them? Do that for the family grieving miscarriage. Small tokens like sending flowers mean a lot. Consider taking them a meal or offering to help with household tasks. In many cases, the mama has gone through pain and physical strain almost as great as childbirth. Tangible help is something the family will appreciate.
Remember with them. Two dates will never be the same to the family: the loss date and the due date. Please make an effort to let them know that they aren’t alone one those days. It means the world! Another meaningful gesture is remembering their deceased baby when you “number” their family. Simple phrases like “she’s a mama of three” or “she has three babies – two on earth and one in heaven” are the ultimate expression of remembrance.
Statistically, 1 in 4 pregnancies will end with the loss of a baby through miscarriage or stillbirth. It’s highly likely that someone you know is grieving this loss. Remember to love them “big and well” while they hurt.
I’m forever grateful for those who showed us love while we were hurting so much. We love you and thank you for being there!
This post is the second of a series of three regarding miscarriage. Our intention is not to overlook other types of loss, but to shed understanding for those experiencing miscarriage or ministering to those who have lost through miscarriage. We also understand that this is a trigger for many mamas. We love you and pray for healing in your hearts.
Last week, in part one of this series, I shared about our experience with miscarriage and some suggestions for processing this unique type of loss. Today I want to focus on a topic that we barely ever touch: pregnancy after miscarriage.
In April 2014, we experienced the loss of a child through miscarriage. A few weeks later we were surprised by another positive pregnancy test. Our third child was born just thirty-five days after the estimated due date for our deceased baby’s due date.
I won’t beat about the bush on this one… the emotional roller coaster is drastic. If you’ve experienced post-loss pregnancy, you know what I’m talking about. If you have lost babies and you’re still hopefully waiting for your rainbow baby (a baby born after miscarriage or stillbirth), my desire is to prepare you and encourage you on this journey.
What emotions do you feel when you find out you’re pregnant after miscarriage?
Excitement Of course! Excitement that you have the privilege of carrying life in your womb again!
Fear It’s terrifying, folks. Your mind is telling you that your body failed last time. And although that’s not true, you can’t help but fear…. what if it happens again?
Uncertainty There’s a very real battle to allow yourself to get attached to this precious new baby. It hurts to love so deeply. It’s worth it.
Anticipation Hear me loud and clear: a rainbow baby is not a replacement baby. It’s a new family member. That said, you cannot wait to finally hold that tiny, warm little person. It’s a special kind of healing balm.
What can I expect when I’m expecting again?
A daily battle. Every day was a battle with fear and worry. My post-loss pregnancy was truly of the hardest experiences of my life. In addition to the emotional strain on my heart, my body was struggling, too. My hormones were very low and I bled almost the entire first trimester. Every weird little twinge or cramp. Every “spot”. Every trip to the bathroom. Every moment was a battle against fear.
Daily surrender. Along with fighting the fear daily, came a daily resigned rest in God’s plan. As with the baby we’d lost, God had not made any mistakes with this baby either. Whether or not it played out the way I wished, God’s purpose was perfect.
Thankfulness. Some women love being pregnant. I can’t say I’m one of them. After loss, however, I developed a whole new appreciation for pregnancy and all it brings with it.
Difficult questions. There were two questions that I was asked by unsuspecting individuals who were simply showing interest and starting conversation. The first question was, “Is this your second baby?” and the other was, “Has this pregnancy been easier/different [since you’ve had a baby before]?” Both innocent question, absolutely, but both pricked a tender spot. My second baby? No… it’s my third, but most people will never count Baby #2 as my second child. An easier pregnancy? No…. it’s been rocky emotionally, mentally, and physically. With the “baggage” these questions bring with them comes abounding opportunity. Loss and grief are part of your story and God did not give you those trials to keep hidden. Use them and share them to help others through their pain and to bring glory to God.
Meaning. So much more meaning. My third baby is a living testimony of fears abated, hope fulfilled, faith grown, and God’s faithfulness poured out. For us, this meant choosing his name carefully. When we lost Baby Hope, I felt very strongly that our next baby should be named Jubilee. Well…. it was a boy, so that didn’t work, but we did use that meaning as inspiration as we carefully chose a name for our little boy. We chose Asher Zane – which literally means, “we are blessed/happy because God is gracious”. What I have loved most about carefully selecting his name is the many opportunities we’ve already had to give a 30 second testimony of our loss, our rainbow baby, and the way God has sustained us through this. Soli Deo Gloria in all things, my friends!
Renewed confidence. Early on in my third pregnancy, I was wrestling with my many emotions and reading my Bible. The Lord sweetly gave me a verse to cling to and I share it with every mama I meet who is pregnant again after losing a baby. From Psalm 112:7…
(S)he is not afraid of bad news; his (her) heart is firm, trusting in the LORD.
Miscarriage is a painful, little-discussed road. Please read Part One of this series for encouragement. Watching others walk through miscarriage presents so many challenges: how do you love the family and help them? Stay tuned for Part Three.
In tender, loving memory of our second baby, Elianna Hope (“God has answered our desire for hope”) . April 1, 2014