Saturday, June 15, 2013


You can tell I don't have infants anymore because I'm getting back to crafting.  Recently I took this birdcage I had purchased at a yard sale in college, painted it, cut out some wires, added some dowels and hooks, and gave it a clear coat.  Now instead of collecting dust it is a decor item in my bedroom that is both useful and interestingly beautiful. 

By adopting Joni I thought we were doing something similar but on a much larger scale.  By taking a baby languishing at an institution and bringing her home into a loving family she would become a productive member of society with useful roles as a sister, daughter, grand-daughter, niece, and friend.  I assumed after little TLC and intentional therapy her inner beauty and God-given talents would emerge and bring beauty and light to the world.  And this is true.  But unlike my little craft projects, it hasn't been only me who has been doing the hard work.  In fact, if anything I have gotten in the way of the creative process.  Most of her progress is due to Joni and her Heavenly Father.  Furthermore, I've discovered it's not only Joni who needed a make-over.  It has been a family overhaul, mostly centering around my own sanctification process.  It is much harder to be WORKED ON then to WORK ON something/someone least for me.  I only hope and pray that at the end of this I can be described as someone useful and interestingly beautiful.  Joni is there already.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Updates Photos of My Cutie Pie

All is going well.  Joni is talking constantly now, loves playing with other kids, is very helpful and well behaved.  She is silly, funny, smart, and perceptive.  We love her dearly and are so thankful she is a part of our family.  Adoption and Joni have changed us in amazing ways for the good.  She continues to struggle with some food obsession, doesn't show any empathy towards others, only tolerates (doesn't seem to enjoy and only rarely initiates) affection, and occasionally treats her brother like he's a threat to her survival.  The mommy and daughter bond continues to grow but we'd still love your prayers.  We are looking forward to celebrating her adoption day in a few weeks.  Can't believe it's only been two years since we brought her home!


Friday, September 14, 2012

The Hardest Part (for me) in Adoptive Parenting

*This article is an excerpt from Chapter 6 of Created To Connect: A Christian’s Guide to The Connected Child. This study guide companion to The Connected Child can be downloaded for free. Printed copies of the study guide are also available for purchase.

What if becoming the parent God has called you to be to your child from a hard place means that you need to un-learn as much or more than you need to learn? What if many of the popular approaches to parenting and discipline, many of which are regarded as “biblical,” actually aren’t best for your child given his background and history and what he needs to heal and grow? What if the parenting program you previously used, even with great success, when raising and training your other children needs to be significantly altered or even discarded for the child you adopted? What if the parenting techniques that most of your friends are using or that you grew up with are likely to be ineffective in achieving long-lasting change for the child you now love and desire to connect with?

I believe that parents need to seriously consider these and many similar questions as they set the course for how to best relate to and parent children from hard places. More importantly, parents need to honestly engage the question, “Am I willing to unlearn and let go of certain ways of parenting?” If you’re willing, what “new things” do you need to learn and, most importantly, how do you go about doing this?

We have come to conclude that many traditional parenting approaches and programs, including many promoted in our churches, are simply not effective for children from hard places. Many of these approaches often tend toward the extremes, while also failing to reflect the heart of God for our children. They are either overly harsh, punitive and authoritarian in nature (referred to in the child development literature as “Authoritarian Parenting”) or overly permissive, excusing and lacking a healthy amount of structure (referred to as “Permissive Parenting”). Tragically, parenting styles falling within either of these extremes often serve to compound the problems they intend to address, while leaving parents and children more frustrated, disconnected and discontent.

As we mentioned, many parents are inclined toward Authoritarian Parenting or a “law and order” approach, focusing almost exclusively on structure—rules, requirements, control, consequences and punishment. Misbehavior is met with more and more structure, with a focus on changing the behavior above all else. With this high structure, low nurture approach, every offense is met with a consequence or punishment, and as the behaviors persist or escalate so too does the punishment.

Yet both research and experience show this approach is almost certain to fail with at-risk children. Because many of our children lack a solid foundation of trust, which ideally would’ve been established in the first year of life, attempts to establish authority (i.e., “who’s the boss”) without connection generally prove ineffective. Ironically, research indicates this reality persists even as children grow older, evidenced, for example, by the fact that children from homes with an emphasis on structure without a corresponding emphasis on nurture are more likely to engage in hard drug use and other acting out behaviors as teens.

Conversely, other parents practice Permissive Parenting by focusing almost exclusively on nurture, ignoring altogether their child’s need for structure to learn to regulate his behavior and develop healthy relationships. In their desire to be compassionate and extend grace to their child, these parents sacrifice the structure their child needs. This is seen in a parent who allows her child to behave in hurtful and even cruel ways because, as she said, “he has already been through so much I simply want to show him God’s love and grace.” One mother told us she allowed her daughter to repeatedly attack her, bruising her face and body, and accepted the beatings believing she was showing her God’s love. Instead of helping their child heal and grow, however, these parents are offering “cheap grace” by allowing their child to operate without boundaries, guidance and correction. As a result, this approach also fails to bring about the lasting change parents desire, just as it does in our lives when we cheapen the grace God extends to us.

Instead, we are convinced that parents need to find a new balance in their approach to parenting, referred to as an Authoritative Parenting style. Particularly for children with difficult and painful histories, parents need to apply this balance in order to truly connect with their children and lead them toward healing and lasting connections. This balance isn’t found so much in mastering the “right” parenting program (be it “Christian” or otherwise) as it is in understanding and applying the principles of Paul’s instructions in Ephesians 6:4 to “take our children by the hand and lead them in the way of the Master” (The Message). Different translations and versions of Scripture use slightly different terms to communicate this point (including “nurture and admonition,” “discipline and instruction,” and “training and instruction”) but the essential idea remains: as parents we are responsible for connecting with and correcting our children in a way that shows them the love of Jesus. It is in providing a consistent balance comprised of equal parts of high nurture (connecting) and high structure (correcting) that we can best lead our children in the direction they need to go and show them the love of God in tangible ways.

This conclusion is also supported by child development research that confirms that an optimal environment for children is one in which there is an equal balance between nurture and structure. This Authoritative Parenting style is rooted in the belief that the Law (structure) is our teacher and that Grace (nurture) is our guide. In fact, the research supports that those children who experience this ideal balance are at a lower risk for acting out behaviors in adolescence. The parent who understands the need for a balance of nurture and structure is most likely to be successful with the at-risk child.

I like to think of this as yet another example of science catching up with God. After all, isn’t this how God relates to us as His children? Using a balance of both nurture (His tender mercies) and structure (His guiding hand that directs and corrects us), He kindly, yet firmly, leads us into a right relationship with Him. The apostle Paul puts it this way: “God is kind, but he’s not soft. In kindness he takes us firmly by the hand and leads us into a radical life-change” (Romans 2:4, The Message). Both we and our children need love that is expressed in ways that lead to connection and transformation.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Best Blog Ever

So anyone who is interested in adoption or family should be reading this blog.  Jen Hatmaker is frank, perceptive and funny.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Good Days!

The last month has been really good.  In fact I started to chart "bad days" (defined as Joni being distant, mean to Colston, fearful, self reliant and mommy being short fused, annoyed, not gentle, and not concerned with actions that promote attachment) and we had only two this month...TWO!  That's awesome and Joni got sick one of those days so that explains one of the those days and my cycle could have had something to do with the other day.  This is really exciting for me.  Not only that but Joni has really begun to show her true personality to my family and friends without inhibitions.  This is such a blessing because I have had the pleasure of knowing her silliness and intellect but it means so much to me that others can now see her too.  People who have loved and prayed and supported us through our journey especially.  I finally feel like we are at the "other end".  This last week a friend who I met over the Internet was in China adopting her daughter from the same orphanage as Joni.  Her blog and photos brought back a ton of memories.  On one hand their trip made me sentimental and even wistful for that moment when we were handed Joni.  On the other hand I don't envy the next couple of weeks/months/even years they will have to adjust.  Not all stories are the same but the year and a half after bringing Joni home was the hardest of my life and there were some really dark moments.  But today I can't imagine life or our family without her, I experience huge regret even thinking for a second about reversing our decision to adopt.  We all LOVE Joni and Joni LOVES us.  This is so beautiful and came about like a miracle, a miracle I doubted at times but was granted by God's grace none the less.    

Friday, July 20, 2012

A Bad Day

So today has been one of our classic "bad days" in terms of mine and Joni's relationship.  She has been fussy, distant and unhappy all day.  She has disobeyed in practically every area we've worked on since she's been home including, but not limited to; stealing food from her siblings, using off limits electronics, refusal to take turns with her siblings, and stuffing a huge amount of food in her mouth.  She has made poor choices and is in a real funk.  Although this may describe your typical two and a half year old girl what I find difficult and adoption related is that I can discern no cause nor improve the situation with any effort.  It's a normal day, she's been fed and slept well, I've been with her all day, and no strangers or strange environments.  I've tried redirection, verbal corrections, time-ins, time-outs, holding therapy, attempts at connection/humor, I even resorted to a swat on the bum.  But nothing helps and herein lies my struggle this year and half into our adoption journey.   Unlike my biological children, I feel completely inept and inadequate in helping to mold and restore Joni's heart.  Oh, I know what you are going to say...."Oh but Lynne her disposition is so much brighter now, she smiles so much more, she plays so well with her siblings, she talks so much more, she runs around with the other kids and seems so normal, she clearly wants you and so this must indicate trust and love"....yes, these might be true but something about days like today make me think she is just the same broken, fearful, and hurting girl we brought home a year and half ago.  She's just learned how to fake it and how to get more of what she wants.  I really question whether the harm that was done by her abandonment and 14 months of institutionalization can be reversed and I fear our relationship is doomed to a few good weeks and a few bad weeks for the rest of our lives.  I know this is a lack of faith on my part but it's what I'm feeling today.  I know that healing takes time and that progress is often two steps forward, one step back, but today those one steps backward feel overwhelming and foreshadowing a journey I'm not equipped to make.  I'm waiting...waiting for the breakthrough when I know in the deepest places that God has shown up and truly healed our daughter and set her on a path toward life to the fullest.  That's what adoption means to me now.  Staying committed, asking for help (from God and others), staying humble and broken, and waiting with hope that His promises (to me and to Joni) will come true. 

"How gracious He will be when you cry for help.  As soon as He hears, He will answer you."
-Isaiah 30:19

"I will turn your sadness to gladness.  I will give you comfort and joy!
-Jeremiah 31:13

"Call upon Me in the day of trouble.  I will deliver you and you will honor Me."
-Psalm 50:15

"You hear, O Lord, the call of the hurting.  You encourage them.  You listen to their cry."
-Psalm 10:17

"Yes, the Lord is my helper.  I will not be afraid."
-Hebrews 13:6

"God is able to make all grace abound to you."
-2 Cor. 9:8

Even as I write this it occurs to me that Joni might wake up and be her silly, fun, sweet, helpful version and all will be well with the world and once again I will be singing the wonders of adoption.  I am not usually not an emotionally led person but that is me with up and down.  I can't even blame today on my cycle.  Sheesh...what is this girl doing to me?

Friday, July 6, 2012

Belated Update

So it's been almost 8 months since I updated this blog.  We've been busy and I just plain lost interest for a while.  However, enough people have asked me about it that I thought a new update was needed.  Joni is doing great, growing physically, emotionally, and mentally.  She is absolutely adorable and gets attention wherever we go.  Her speech and occupational therapists think she's come so far and are so encouraged by her progress that we can reduce sessions.  They've taught me so much and are ready to "pass the torch" to me...not sure I have the confidence in myself that they have in me but I'm willing to give it a go.  The good news is we can pick services back up if needed and she qualifies.  On her good days an outsider watching Joni play with her siblings would never even know we didn't get her at birth.  They love each other deeply and annoy each other and act silly together.  It is as I dreamed it would be.  Joni LOVES her daddy, she greets him as he walks in the door and loves to ride around on the golf cart with him at work.  He's pretty smitten too.  So now for the harder side of things.  Joni still has tough fact today at the park she just followed me around, freaked out when I put her on something that spins, REALLY freaked out in the bathroom with the hand dryer and seemed to only be genuinely happy when we were eating our snack (food remains her true love).  Thankfully these days are the exception and not the norm.  As far as our bond's still in progress.  She has begun initiating kisses and hugs (sparingly, very sparingly) and for me (the ultimate affectionate) that has been huge in being able to receive/feel her love.  She still mostly just tolerates my cuddles and tickles but I can tell they don't distress her the way they used to....hoping one day to move them into the "enjoyable" category.  Things feel normal at home now, not like I am babysitting 24-7.  But the honest truth is even after almost a year and a half I still feel a "lack" in our relationship.  I get angry too quickly at her, though thankfully I am beginning to find some victory in responding the way I want to.  There are moments she feels foreign and I get annoyed at her behavior.  Joni struggles to love me too, I can see it.  She still has some walls up and they get reinforced every time I say "no" to her, get angry or put any boundary on her.  She wants to do and have everything her sister and brother do and have, when I don't allow it the incredible "injustice" cannot be resolved in her mind and I can't seem to help her in that.  There is no "this person is wise, loves me unconditionally, and has my best interests at heart" in Joni's mind, there is only "this person doesn't care about my feelings and is totally unfair so she must not really love me in this moment".  I'm at a loss as to how to combat this.  Joni also still struggles with processing issues.  Getting her to talk was amazing and took a lot of hard work on every one's part.  But nothing comes easy for her and I think her anxiety and fears and people-pleasing nature get her distracted and make it very difficult for her to process and store information and access it later.  She still doesn't even really answer "yes" or "no" accurately and can't tell the difference between a sheep and cow (but has no trouble with all other animals).  It's hard to explain but there is just some "misfiring" that I'm detecting. I'm not sure long term what this will mean for her but the real struggle is can I love and accept her unconditionally so that all challenges are met with patience and compassion?  I really WANT to be there and I've certainly grown but haven't arrived yet.  I'm trying to give myself grace but that is also a struggle for me.  I know what she needs and I know what she deserves.  I wait and pray and beg for my heart to be broken for Joni because I know that I have yet to really weep over her situation in the way I should.  It's weird knowing all this intellectual information but having to wait until it transfers to my heart fully.  I have no control and this isn't easy for me. 

All this to say I am SO grateful for Joni and my famliy.  We are very blessed and I feel this way 99% of the time.  It's so hard to know what of our struggles are adoption related and which ones aren't.  My biggest fear is that my blog would discourage adoption so I want to make it very clear that I believe Joni was meant to be in our family, that had she stayed in the orphanage her capacity to engage in an intimate relationship would have been destroyed, that I, Scott, Oakley and Colston love better because of her.  If someome were to take Joni from us (God included) I would be DEVASTED and would immediately miss her eyes, smile, laugh, walk, fingers, silliness, skin...everything just like if one of my biological children were taken.  I don't regret bringing her home, it is one of the best things I have every done, but also maybe the hardest.  I suspect to many of you that will make a lot of sense.