Imagine climbing into a car or onto a plane and leaving behind everything you have ever known: pets, possessions, places, your home, your relationships.
When we bring a child into our home, we’re offering them a new family and a new life, but it’s important to keep in mind all they’re leaving behind. In addition to all the physical and emotional losses, the sudden cultural change might also mean losing a sense of belonging and a sense of safety. So much of what helps us feel connected to the world around us in an understanding of how we fit. When cultural realities shift suddenly, that can be lost.
To make things even more complicated for a child in Foster Care or Adoption, while they are experiencing all this loss, everyone around them might be throwing a party, (and rightly so!) While they might at some point recognize the day they entered your home as one of the best of their life, in the moment, it might feel like the hardest day they’ve faced. That kind of discordance can make grief challenging, and that, in turn, leads to a situation where individuals aren’t able to appropriately heal and process emotions.
What can we do?
As parents, we have a few things to consider in these situations:
Face your own culture of grief
One of the greatest barriers to engaging your kiddos in their sadness is your own narrative around grief or loss. All of us grew up in environments where certain emotions were valued over others. Getting in touch with your own bias’ around what is a ‘valid loss’ and what is not, is the first step. In order to enter into your child’s pain, you need to also be able to have compassion on your own losses.
Validate is really a psychological word for the Biblical concept of compassion. When we validate someone’s loss we look at them and agree that what they’re facing is really hard. It’s not pity. Compassion doesn’t place us on a higher plane. It levels the playing field between both the griever and the comforter, and enables us to understand, to empathize. If you struggle with this, it may be worth journaling through all that your child has lost to try to grasp just what this might have been like for them.
If your kiddo is sad and grieving, remind yourself that grief is not a thing that we need to be treated for; grief is our soul’s treatment for wounds. It’s a way of integrating losses into our identity and making sense of the world around us. Some parents may understand and validate their child’s pain but feel unable to let them work through it, feeling instead a temptation to save them from it. They may feel the need to point out the positive or smother the pain with a treat. But the more kids feel safe to grieve and the less afraid they are of those feelings, the more they are able to navigate the world around them.
Start with you and God
And if all this is really hard, it might be worth starting with you and God. After all, you too are an adopted child who has left behind a culture. You too have losses to grieve. Practice hearing from your Father about His culture of grief, where He collects your tears in a bottle. Hear His validation of your pain as He has compassion on you for He knows your frame. Learn from Him as you watch Him grieve the death of a friend in John 11. You have a Great High Priest who is able to sympathize with you in your weakness. Draw near to find grace and help.
If you want to know more about cultural bereavement and how grief plays out for kids, you can watch this short video here! And don’t forget to sign up for our CAP list so you get resources like this sent to you automatically!
If you need help navigating some of these obstacles with your kids, sign up for four free coaching sessions where we hope to learn more about your experiences and provide you with support and tools for moving forward with your family. If you’re interested, let us know here.
We’re also offer online group sessions for moms who might be interested in processing and sharing their experiences with us! Interested? Sign up here.
We wanted to let you know about an exciting new opportunity we have for families considering or engaged with Foster Care or Adoption: our Culture and Adoption Project (CAP).
Take a few minutes to fill out this quick survey to help us learn more about your experiences!
Culture is an integral part of our identity formation, impacting the way we relate to ourselves, others and the world around us. Fostered or adopted children are required to cross cultures – even if it’s just moving across the street!
We fully believe that God can and will use these transitions – both the sweet and the hard - to make us all into the men and women He has created us to be. Our goal is to not to fix or change the stories He is writing, but to come alongside families and help parents understand some of the unique things their kids might be experiencing, and equip them to make the most of these cultural transitions to both give and gain God in a new way.
Want more info? Check out these links:
Sons in the Son is a ground-breaking new book from David Garner. Highly recommended by Russell Moore, Nancy Guthrie, Sinclair Ferguson, and J.I. Packer.
Single copies of Dr. David B. Garner’s new groundbreaking book are 46% off ($13.50) for T4A readers. Enter code: ADOPTION at checkout to receive free shipping on any order containing Sons in the Son. Sale ends Friday evening.
If you wish to purchase copies for your pastor(s) and others you think would benefit from this ground-breaking book, the discount automatically increases to 50% off ($12.50 each) when you buy 5 or more.
Angela Tucker is a transracial adoptee and the subject of the powerful documentary Closure. She uses her personal story to educate others and encourage stimulating and transformative conversation and prompt procedural change specifically around adoptee rights. Angela’s unique worldview, passion for humanity and justice combined with her education and work experience in the social work field combine to form powerful and engaging presentations, while maintaining great respect for the topics. Angela is an editor and columnist for The Lost Daughters, and has been featured on BBC World Have Your Say, NPR, Huffington Post, Slate Magazine, The Daily Kos amongst other publications.
Much more to come, including audio from Brandon Hatmaker, J.D. Greear, John Sowers, Dr. Sharen Ford, Tony Merida, Susan Heath Hays, Chris Marlow, Tara Vanderwoude, Sara Brinton, Nemili Johnson, Johnston Moore, Herbie Newell, Rick Morton, Jason Kovacs, and many more! All for free download!
Below is the first installment of audio from our 2015 conference from this past November. We’ll be adding much more free audio from the conference over the next week, including audio from Brandon Hatmaker, J.D. Greear, Angela Tucker, John Sowers, Dr. Sharen Ford, Tony Merida, Susan Heath Hays, Chris Marlow, Tara Vanderwoude, Sara Brinton, Nemili Johnson, Johnston Moore, Herbie Newell, Rick Morton, Jason Kovacs, and many more! For free download!
“True Religion is Simple” was the talk that opened up this year’s conference. If you wish to follow along as you listen, click on the image below to download the PDF of the speaker notes.
Quite a few people I know really well are going through some dark times right now. All of them are experiencing some form of great loss. So when I stumbled upon something last night that I wrote in 2004 about a crises of faith I had when my son Daniel died in 2002, I thought I’d pass it along in hope that it would encourage someone who is going through a dark time. Click on the image below to read the pdf.
We live in a world where death continues to dominate the headlines in the major media outlets. If we’re not careful, we can become jaded, cynical, and shortsighted in our attempts to advocate for a pro-life agenda. What the world (and the church) actually needs more than a pro-life defense that’s filled with political and theological rhetoric is a vision of life in this world that is cast, framed, and informed by God’s consummated work of adoption. In my first article for Theology for Life, I attempt to do just that.
Here is what I believe is at the center of pro-life conviction:
Prior to the incarnation of the Son, you can see how people might have failed to see the inherent value and importance of the embryo. It would not have been a huge leap to conclude that abortion and infanticide were viable options to an unwanted pregnancy or child. But with the virgin conception and incarnation, that has forever changed.
As soon as Jesus was conceived by the Spirit in the virgin womb of Mary, the healing and sanctifying of our humanity began. When Jesus said, ‘I am the resurrection and the life’ (John 11:25), he was not merely referring to what he was about to do with Lazarus in the tomb, nor to what he would ultimately do in the last day, but to the entirety of his incarnate life. Jesus was the Resurrection and the Life from the moment he was conceived in the virgin womb all the way to his resurrection from the dead and forever beyond. It was from that very moment that he began to heal and sanctify our humanity—to progressively bring his resurrection life to bear upon all our inability, estrangement and disobedience—from the inside out.
” . . . when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’” ~Galatians 4:4-6
I both love and hate being alone. As an introvert, I need and enjoy time alone everyday. Along with sleep, of course, it’s what I need to recover, recoup, and recharge each day (the alliteration was not premeditated).
But as an introvert, I also hate being alone . . . too much, that is. My inner voice can knock me around pretty hard. The voice inside my head can easily forget to remind me of the good news of the Gospel. Instead of encouraging me by repeatedly reminding me that I am God’s beloved son in the Beloved Son, it can discourage me by relentlessly rehearsing all the ways that I have failed to love the Lord my God with all my heart and with all my soul and with all my strength and with all my mind, and my neighbor as myself. Rehearsing failure without remembering Jesus’ success on my behalf does not lead to confession and the pursuit of holiness. It leads to more failure.
Recently, I’ve been thinking quite a lot about the word our in Galatians 4:4-6. I think it is critical that we modern-day Bible readers don’t allow our individualistic mindset to cloud our understanding of what Paul is doing in these verses. He’s writing “to the churches of Galatia” (Galatians 1:2). Yes, these churches in Galatia were full of individuals, but Paul was not so much addressing individuals (though he was) as he was addressing the corporate bodies of believers that were living in Galatia. ”So,” you may be asking, “how should the corporate focus of Paul’s words guide how we understand and apply Galatians 4:4-6?”
My tendency is to read and understand these verses primarily with reference to myself personally. For example, when meditating on Galatians 4:6, I naturally remind myself, “Because I am a son, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into my heart, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’.” Although this truth is certainly true of me (and you), Paul is not so much addressing me as an individual as he is addressing the corporate body of believers with whom I am united (and the corporate body with whom you are united): “And because you [plural] are sons [plural], God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts [plural], crying, ‘Abba! Father!’” When my focus is primarily me and not our, I lose one of the major benefits of these verses.
As I mentioned earlier, one of the downsides of my introverted tendencies is that my inner voice can relentlessly rehearse all the ways that I have failed God and my neighbor. Often, even when I realize what I’m doing and begin to remind myself that I am God’s child, it’s not enough to pull me out of my downward spiral. I need other voices speaking the truth of what Jesus has done into my head—and I suspect you do, too (whether you’re an introvert or extrovert). One reason Paul tells us that we are God’s children and that God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts is so that we realize that we need each other to remember the good news of the Gospel. As Sinclair Ferguson has written:
Despite assumptions to the contrary—the reality of the love of God for us is often the last thing in the world to dawn upon us. As we fix our eyes upon ourselves, our past failures, our present guilt, it seems impossible to us that the Father could love us. Many Christians go through much of their life with the prodigal’s suspicion. Their concentration is upon their sin and failure; all their thoughts are introspective (Children of the Living God, p 27).
It’s funny (well, not actually funny), when I’m spiraling downward, I tend not to believe the good news I’m telling myself. But I do tend to believe others when they remind me of the good news of the Gospel. That’s why, even as an introvert, I treasure being with the people of God.
Yes, I still enjoy and need my alone time. But what I have found is that I need other believers regularly reminding me of the Gospel more than I need to be alone. After all, Jesus both lived and died for me and you. For us.
Scott Crawford, longtime T4A volunteer staff member, lost his father last week to a long battle with cancer. In honor of Scott’s father, I wanted to share the beautiful eulogy that Scott wrote for his dad.
A eulogy by son, Scott Crawford
He stayed true to his wife and best friend for nearly 50 years. A covenant “to have and to hold, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health” breached only by his passing over into the presence of the one true King…that which we celebrate today.
He parented 3 children, watching 2 of them follow in his footsteps serving their country in the U.S. military. He, along with our mother, Pat raised and supported us through thick and thin, never begrudging…always forgiving.
As the son of Pearl and Stanley, he knew of his father’s service in the Great War and his ultimate sacrifice for liberty. What may come as a surprise to many of you, he was adopted at the hospital the day he was born, never to know anything of his biological parents.
As the much younger sibling to his older, adopted brother he became an uncle at a very young age. Walt moved to the Virginia coast near Norfolk – I can still remember the trip to visit the warships at the port and spending time with my cousins, the youngest of his multiple children.
Many of you present today knew my father, Stan as a loyal, selfless, big-hearted (and light-hearted), cheerful friend. Always the jokester, dad was the eternal optimist and knew how to brighten the conversation no matter the subject matter.
Some of you came to know him as the stalwart, devoted patriot who spent 8 years of his life serving in the Armed Forces. He loved this country, the liberty and values he defended while serving and all his years after.
Lastly, revisiting this list of adjectives, the legacy dad would want to leave behind is not one of his accomplishments or accolades. He would love to tell and retell stories of his experiences, of both failures and successes. On the contrary, he would rather tell you about how his marriage covenant was a three-way covenant between himself, Pat and God. He would want to tell of how he came to know the Father, and his love for Stan. Dad would want you to know that he became a son of the living God, co-heir with Jesus the Son…of the brotherhood of the saints through his redemption and reunification into God’s family. How he has now joined friends and fellow soldiers who have also accepted the free gift of salvation and now rejoices in heaven with his Savior. My father would want you to know that the same Father that has welcomed him home is the same Father of the lost, the fatherless, the broken-hearted, the sick, the lame, the poor, the rich and everyone in between….that he loves you as well and is waiting for you to respond to His message of mercy, grace and forgiveness.
Fun picture of Scott’s father when he was the lead singer in a band a “few years” ago. Looks like they should have rivaled The Beatles!
“Like cold water to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country.” —Proverbs 25:25
The Son, who was sent forth by the Father to redeem us (John 1:14-18), is none other than the One who eternally enjoyed communion with the Father (John 1:1, 18). Not only that, but he also fulfilled all the Father’s will with every breath he took from the moment he was conceived to the very second he died. The good news of the Gospel is that when that faithful Son became man, his communion with the Father became incarnate, and along with his incarnation perfect obedience to the Father permanently lodged itself within the human race. In the incarnate Son, thirst-quenching communion with the Father and perfect obedience to His holy will burst into the far country of our alienation from the Father (see Luke 15:13 and Proverbs 25:25).
Through the incarnation, Jesus (who is fully God and fully man in his one Person) became not merely the means but the place—the locale—where communion with and obedience to the Father happens in all its unimaginable fullness. It is only in the Person of Christ that God and man finally meet in loving communion. The understated good news of the gospel is that the humanity of Jesus has become our communion with and obedience to his Father. Only in Jesus can true radical obedience and unending loving communion be found.
The Son of God came into the far country of our estrangement, not as an outsider or a detached observer, but as a true man among men, like us in every respect yet without sin (Hebrews 2:17; 4:15). James B. Torrance explains it this way:
Christ does not heal us by standing over against us, diagnosing our sickness, prescribing medicine for us to take, and then going away, to leave us to get better by obeying his instructions—as an ordinary doctor might. No, he becomes the patient! He assumes that very humanity which is in need of redemption, and by being anointed by the Spirit in our humanity, by a life of perfect obedience for us, by dying and rising again, our humanity is healed in him.
By being “born of a woman” (Galatians 4:4), the Son of God journeyed into the far country that he might heal us of our estrangement and conflict with God from within his own Person. Jesus wasn’t merely the means of our reconciliation. He was the Place of our reconciliation to the Father. As soon as Jesus was conceived by the Spirit in the virgin womb of Mary, the healing and sanctifying of our humanity began. When Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25), he was not merely referring to what he was about to do with Lazarus in the tomb, nor to what he would eventually do in his death and resurrection, but to the entirety of his incarnate life. Jesus was the Resurrection and the Life from the moment he was conceived in the virgin womb all the way to his resurrection from the dead and forever beyond. It was from that very moment that he began to heal and sanctify our humanity—to progressively bring his resurrection power to bear upon all our inability, estrangement and disobedience—from the inside out.
By being “born under the law” (Galatians 4:4), Jesus lived out a life of perfect communion with the Father in our place, as our substitute. What we did not do in the Garden of Eden—lovingly obey and commune with the Father—and what we do not do now, Jesus did for us in the far country outside the Garden in his incarnate Person that he might bring us home to the Father in himself. Jesus’ humanity has become the place of our communion with God. In his humanity, Jesus actually became Eden restored and expanded for us. By virtue of his union with us and our subsequent union with him by the Spirit, we are amazingly and wonderfully brought to participate in his very own knowing of the Father. The almost-too-good-to-be-true good news of the Gospel is that Jesus is where our live-giving, life-changing, thirst-quenching communion with the Father happens, and Jesus is the only place where it happens.
To read more on the life-giving, life-changing, thirst-quenching good news of communion with the Father, here are a few books you should get:
Come hear adult adoptees Angela Tucker, Nemili Johnson, and Tara VanderWoude at our November 5-7 conference at The Summit Church in Durham, NC. We’re excited that all three of them are giving main session talks, participating in a main session adult adoptee panel, and leading workshops. Click here to learn more about this year’s conference. Will you join us?
Click here to learn more about this year’s conference.
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