Friday, September 30, 2011

Linking You Up

The last 60 days can be measured more accurately by emotion than by time.

@Jen Hatmaker
After an arduous adoption journey, our kids were safe in our arms, tucked into their bunk beds their dad built with his own two hands, surrounded by the dearest, most sincere community we have ever known. God delivered them from poverty and abandonment back into a family, no longer alone in this big world; now wanted and loved and welcomed with great fervor.
The end.

Five important things every new adoptive grandparent needs to know.

@Orphan Doctor
Information compiled from parent experiences and from various websites to provide general descriptions of various medical issues common to children coming to the U.S. from Ethiopia.
Even children who are experiencing attachment strain may have some of these signs of healthy attachment. Knowledge of positive attachment will help parents build on the areas that are strengths, but should not be used to ignore indications—even mild ones--that a baby/child is experiencing difficulty.

@Empowered to Connect
Since adopting our children, our world has expanded to include many others who have become very important in our journey and in our lives.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Created for Relationship

I've asked another of our wonderful YWAM moms to be our guest blogger today.  Jennifer and her husband John adopted Sena and brought her home in February of this year.  Jennifer just returned from a conference put on my our friends at Empowered to Connect and does an excellent job in this post of sharing some of what she gleaned.  Jennifer's blog is 7,739 Miles Away.  Thanks Jennifer!

Dr. Karyn Purvis is known to many in the adoption community as the author of The Connected Child - a book that every adoptive parent should consider reading before and after they bring their child home.  She is the director of the Texas Christian University Institute of Child Development and is a gifted teacher.  I had the opportunity to attend the Empowered to Connect conference in Nashville featuring Dr. Purvis this past weekend and I came away from it with knowledge and tools to help me be a more effective parent not only to the daughter who came to us through adoption, but also to the sons who were born to us. 

The principles that Dr. Purvis teaches are based on the premise that we were created for relationship.  Deep within each person is a desire for connection with others and the connection between parent and child is one of the most important.  In children from "hard places," that connection is compromised usually as a result of abuse, neglect, or trauma.  It can then be very difficult for these children to develop secure attachments with subsequent caregivers.  

Those of us who have welcomed a child into our family through adoption have the responsibility of helping that child heal from emotional wounds that can run very deep.  That can seem like such a heavy burden, but there is comfort in knowing that the very One who created our complex minds, bodies, and souls, and who knows us and our children from the inside out, is right here with us on this journey.   He has entrusted these children to us so that we can be agents of change in their lives. 

I often think about how it must grieve the heart of God to see His children suffering at the hands of those who should be protecting them.  Conversely, I know that He is pleased when His people step up and say, "I will do it.  I will open my heart and my family to a child in need."  Isn't it just like God, then, to throw us a lifeline and give us some tools we will need for such a big undertaking? 

It would be impossible for me to give an adequate summary of the weekend, but here are some of the key points that I learned:

1.  Children need to have a voice.  They need to know that they are heard and that they are precious.  In a newborn baby, a healthy cycle of attachment is formed when the parents consistently answer the cries of the baby and meet whatever need that child has.  In doing so, a foundation for healthy interactions and the ability to resolve conflict later on without aggression develops.  For the first months of a child's life (in a loving environment), they receive "yeses" consistently from us.  Yes, I will feed you.  Yes, I will change you.  Yes, I will hold you....

2.  We should practice "Investment Parenting."  When we bring an adopted child into our home, we should strive to give them as many "yeses" as we can because they are the building blocks of trust.  With a newborn, we expect that we will be inconvenienced.  We will lose sleep.  Our meals might grow cold while we tend to our baby.  We instinctively and continually give of ourselves to meet that child's needs.  We shouldn't expect it to be any different with an adopted child - whether they are 7 months or 7 years old.  They need us every bit as much as (or more than) that newborn baby did.  Dr. Purvis suggests that for every year that a child spent outside the comfort of a loving family, approximately one month of very intentional parenting/mentoring is necessary to help bring healing to that child.  

3.  We need to be fully emotionally available to our children.  In order to do that, we need to examine our pasts and consider how the experiences in our own upbringing may be impacting how we parent our children.  We need to resolve our own issues before we can hope to bring resolution to our children.  According to Dr. Purvis, "You cannot lead a child to a place of healing if you do not know the way yourself." 

4.  The IDEAL response.  Dr. Purvis emphasized the importance of teaching our children how to resolve conflict using respectful words, logic, reasoning, and the sharing of power.  The goal is mentoring, not dominating, to bring resolution.  In addressing misbehavior, we can keep these in mind:

I: Immediate - within three seconds
D: Direct - proximity and eye contact
E: Efficient - a measured response (not a lecture)
A: Action-based - give opportunity for a re-do
L: Leveled - at the behavior and not at the child 

Ultimately, we want to help our children make good decisions by practicing under our guidance.  This requires us to be very intentional and consistent.  Children from hard places are much more apt to respond to a "coach" rather than a "warden."

5.  We need to make our churches a safe place for adoptive and foster families.  The church is embracing adoption like never before, but along with that comes a tremendous need for support.  Families cannot do this alone.  Too often, a family who is struggling keeps quiet because it is hard to admit that the thing they willingly signed on for has gone south.  As adoptive families, we need to be there for each other with no judgment.  It can be a hard road - it shouldn't be a lonely one.  

There is so much more material that was covered in the course of the weekend.  I highly recommend checking out the Empowered to Connect website at  There are many helpful resources available there.  If you ever have the opportunity to attend an ETC conference, it would be an extremely worthwhile investment in your family.  The stakes are high and I am thankful to have resources and research that weren't available even ten years ago to help us as we endeavor to be the very best parents we can be to the children God has given to us.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


If you are home with your adopted child, it doesn't take much effort to remember how difficult the waiting time can be before you board that plane to finally bring them home!  Or perhaps you are right in the midst of that looooong waiting period.

Waiting for references.
Waiting for fingerprints.
Waiting for approval forms.
Waiting for court dates.
Waiting for paperwork.
Waiting for travel.

Our prayer for our YWAM families is a promise from Isaiah that almost seems impossible...

Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength
They will mount up with wings like eagles
They will run and not get tired
They will walk and not become weary
             Isaiah 40:31

Is it possible that we can actually gain strength while doing something as difficult as waiting?

While it's not the way most of us would choose to put on some spiritual muscle, the answer is YES - if we wait the right way. 

Waiting in faith - trusting that God knows the right time for everything
Waiting in hope - knowing our faithful God is the One who controls every circumstance
Waiting in peace - surrendered to God's plan, God's way and God's timing 

Isn't it hard to be "out of control" when something means so much to us?  For me, that's what waiting on God centers on.  And I'm convinced He knows that's something we need to learn.

Let's share a favorite verse that has been particularly meaningful to you during your waiting time.  Leave a comment below, printing out the verse and the reference so we have a whole list of encouraging truths to read out loud, pray and believe!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Needing Each Other

Today we have a guest post!  I've asked Haley Ballast, one of our YWAM adoptive moms, if she would share about the adoptive mom support group she facilitates in the greater Seattle/Tacoma area.  Haley and her husband Jon adopted Zeke and brought him home in February of this year.  Her blog is We're All Yours - be sure to take some time to read all of Haley's posts!

Typically when I have experienced the Holy Spirit putting words in my mouth it has been during challenging situations, like sharing my faith with a non-believer, or helping a friend through a crisis. This time, however, it came right out of the blue: "I think I want to start a support group for YWAM Ethiopia moms," I heard myself say to Becky.

We were chatting above the cacophony while dozens of children enjoyed the Tacoma Children's Museum at a YWAM fellowship gathering last May. After the words left my mouth I immediately felt silly for saying them.

Who was I to do this? 

Why didn't I think before I opened my mouth?

God has so much more work to do in me, but one thing I have managed to learn is that it's no good arguing with the Holy Spirit. On the way home that night half of me was giddy with excitement and the other half was secretly hoping Becky would forget our conversation.

No such luck on the latter -- by the next day Becky had already emailed all the YWAM Ethiopia moms in the area and told them about the group, listing me as the leader! As emails started coming in from other moms excited to meet together, willing to help, and wanting to participate, my anxiety faded. God was in this, and I was along for the ride.

A few of the local YWAM adoptive moms
(They promised more photos to come!)

Our group has been meeting monthly since June and I cannot begin to describe how much it has blessed me already. The Holy Spirit put the words in my mouth to get things started, but His work didn't stop there. As we have met together He has been faithful to bless, grow, teach, encourage, and comfort us through one another, through prayer, and through His presence with us.

If you are a YWAM mom in the greater Seattle / Tacoma area, we would love to have you join us at our next meeting! We meet the 2nd Friday evening of the month - contact me for more details (go to Haley's blog and leave a comment).  If you are outside the area, maybe its time to get a group started where you live! Here are a few suggestions to get things rolling:

*Pray! Prayer is always a good place to start. :)

*Start connecting with other adoptive moms in your area through social media -- blogs and facebook are a great way to make initial connections. Search for a facebook group for adoptive moms in your area, or start one of your own if there isn't one yet.

*Decide what your focus will be for the group (fellowship, education, topical discussions, prayer, etc), and arrange the format of your time together accordingly. For example, our group is focused on building relationships and prayer, so we spend time connecting and sharing with each other and then praying together. A group focused on education might want to bring in guest speakers, read books together, or watch teaching videos. Of course your focus can change over time, or you can mix things up from time to time, but I think it helps members know what to expect if the focus is clearly communicated from the beginning.

*Be open and flexible with the group -- if there aren't very many Ethiopian adoptive families in your area, think about widening the scope to international adoptive families, transracial adoptive families, etc.

*Don't let insecurities stop you -- this is about providing space for God to work through community, not about having all the answers. If you (like me) are not a long-time veteran adoptive parent with lots of experience, that's OK! You can probably still write emails, make snacks, rearrange your living room furniture into a circle, and pray for God to work, right? Yes? Then you can do this! Go for it.

We were simply not made to do this alone - adoption, parenting, life - all of it was meant to be experienced in community.  My prayer today is that God will draw us to one another as we follow Him down this crazy amazing adventure of adoption and the even crazier and more amazing adventure of adoptive parenting!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Counting the Cost of Adoption

from our friends at Empowered to Connect

"The adoption and foster care journey is filled with joy, blessings and beauty. But it is a journey also marked by loss, pain and challenges of various kinds. As a result, parents must be mindful to ‘count the cost’ of traveling this journey. Watch as Dr. Karyn Purvis encourages parents to ‘count the cost’ as they engage the adoption and foster care journey in a way that leads to true hope and healing."

Saturday, September 3, 2011

To our mission teams...

Bonney Lake, WA

University of Kentucky

Virginia Beach, VA

Tennessee, Florida and Washington

Nova Scotia, Canada

Puyallup, WA

"I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers because I hear about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints.  I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.  Your love has given me great joy and encouragement because you brother/sister, have refreshed the hearts of the saints."
                                       Philemon 4-7

Wow!  How could we have expressed what is in our hearts any better than this?  This is truly our prayer for all of the individuals who have partnered with Adoption Ministry in Ethiopia during this past mission season.

We have witnessed your service and love to the poor, marginalized and afflicted.  You have fed the hungry, poured out your lives, extended your hands, hugged and kissed the lonely and sick a million times.  You have carried your tired and exhausted bodies into vans for long rides down donkey and goat laden rodes.  You have sacrificed creature comforts and familiar foods and when your physical bodies were affected, you have pressed through.  

You have respected and honored the customs and culture of a precious people. You have obeyed the call to "Go."  You have been a vessel of the Holy Spirit and of God's love lived out to orphans, widows, men, women and children in Ethiopia.  You have refreshed the hearts of the saints!

How is it that so many of you tell us, "I would go back tomorrow!" as you're leaving Ethiopia?  Why do we spend inordinate amounts of money, have garage sales, car washes and bake sales to fly to the other side of the planet to live for a while in these conditions and then ask for more?   It must be the deep sense of contentment, happiness and fulfillment we come home with.  It is losing our lives and finding our lives.  "For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will find it."  Matthew 16:25 

Is that the "full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ?"  Is it the in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit which encourages and helps us to become servants and not think so highly of ourselves? (Philippians 2) Is it standing in proxy of Christ Himself to feed, comfort and love His children as He would do?  Is it seeing the grace, acceptance, faithfulness and kindness of God so visibly in our serving that we understand our own lowly position and desperate need of that same grace?

Paul's exhortation to "BE ACTIVE in sharing your faith" appears to be the key to our "understanding of every good thing we have in Christ."  Our hope and prayer is that the Holy Spirit will continue to increase your understanding, even now that you've returned home.

We love you all and cherish the time that we were privileged to spend together.

Mark and Liane Wolbert

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