Giants Fall

There are two books that have blessed my socks off recently.

The first is a title that caught my eye as I was wandering through a bookstore with a friend a few months back.  The title “Overextended…and loving most of it!” made my breath catch in my throat and I nearly grabbed the soft cover off the shelf.  The subtitle reads:

“The Unexpected Joy of Being Harried, Heartbroken, and Hurling Oneself Off Cliffs.”

Lisa Harper’s words spoke to my heart in ways few have been able to.  So much about Christianity today has become tame, logical, practical and sensible.  Faith is valued most highly when it’s carefully planned out, thought out, weighed out with pros and cons and calculated to require as little risk as possible.

This has just not been my story.

I’m a jumping off cliffs, intensely passionate, go for the gold kind of girl.  This is how God speaks to me.  In the middle of my deepest passions is where I feel Him closest; His heart beating strong within my own.  Everything that is there has been planted by Him and I love to be on His adventures…but sometimes I feel like I’m constantly swimming against the current.

Like there’s something wrong with leaping out without answers;

committing without the figures matching.

Shouldn’t I have a plan that wraps it all up neatly in a bow?

But what kind of faith has it all figured out?

What kind of faith makes sense to everyone else watching…or even me for that matter?

What kind of faith chooses the obvious, the safe, the perfectly within my comfort zone option?

You don’t need a big God to do that kind of faith.

I’m not even going to balance this out with all the thoughts that may be spinning through your mind right now because well…I’m just tired of those.

Is there anyone out there who wants to live big?

Is there anyone who believes in a God that makes all things possible?

Is there anyone who is willing to jump off cliffs and believe God will take care of the parachute?

The second book is called, “Your Beautiful Purpose” by Susie Larson.

Subtitle reads:

“Discovering and Enjoying What God Can Do Through You”

Again, this woman hit the nail on the head as she explored purpose, faith and a big God.  We really do not need to be hiding in these shells of fear, apprehension, confusion and insecurity.  God longs to free us from those bonds to walk in an abundant life that is full, beautiful, purpose-filled and covered in grace.

Recently I cried out to God,

“Please, God, if I am doing the total wrong thing here please remold this clay!  Please redeem this somehow and use it to fulfill your purposes.”

And you know what?  I’m ok with that!

He is perfectly capable of doing that.  And if that cry is coming from a heart that is sincere, searching and laid out before him like a blank page…I think He loves it.

We frequently talk about how small we are and how God does not need us but chooses to use us anyway.  We talk about how on our own we can accomplish nothing!  Maybe we should also realize that daring to step out in faith when we’re not quite sure of all the detail is not going to derail God!  You might just get to see how big your God really is!  I believe with all my heart He loves to take us on those adventures and to see the trust in our floundering leaps of faith.

This morning I was reading in Esther.  Mordecai’s words to his fearful, cautious niece always take my breath away.

“Do not think to yourself that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews.  For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish.  And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such as time as this!?”

-Esther 4:13-14

The worst case scenario of Esther approaching the King was her death.  That really would not have helped the Jews at all.  In fact, it could have made things much worse!  She had logical reasons to believe the King would not appreciate her bold gesture.  But Esther chose to believe that her God was big enough to take care of the details.  She was willing to put her life on the line to be a part of God’s kingdom purposes!

Most of the time we’re not being called to put our lives on the line.  We  are asked to sacrifice much smaller things, like our pride, our popularity, our reputation, our comfort.

And guess what?

Just like Mordecai made clear to Esther…YOU ARE NOT IRREPLACEABLE!  God’s purposes will not be stopped by one little human!  When I decide to curl up in my shell and quake in fear or maybe simply say no, He has thousands of other options.  Thankfully instead of immediately getting frustrated He will usually kneel down, peer into that dark little abyss and remind me of all the reasons I should be coming out to join him…because guess what?


Not because I have so much to offer, or am specially talented.  No.  More likely, He wants to build something in my character.  He wants to show me something new about Him.  Or maybe He wants to see if he can pry my hands open to let go of those things I hold so dear.  My security.  My safety.  My logical reasoning.  My comfortable life just the way it is.

Do I want to miss that?


I love reading stories about Peter in the Bible. He’s so brash and arrogant…yet so many times his passion and zeal are just so endearing. You gotta love him. In all his enthusiasm, he often misses the mark. For people like Peter and I, that means a lot of harsh rebukes…and that can be painful. But when God got a hold of that zeal, energy and ambition and molded it into something He could use, Peter emerged a whole new character.




All in for his Jesus.

God didn’t need to take away all that zest for life to use Peter…and you don’t need to throw all the zest out of your life either!

Maybe you’re like me, and you’ve known all your life that you’re just a little too over the top most of the time. Or maybe you have a son or daughter that is constantly living on the edge and you feel like they’re bound for some sort of disaster. Don’t give up just yet. See the potential for bold faith, courageous cliff jumping, and surrendered ambitions. Now believe with all your heart that when Jesus Christ moves in, He transforms even the wonkiest characters into something beautiful.

Cheers! 🙂

Love this song by Francesca Batistelli

“Giants Fall

Everyone’s telling you
To let go of what you’re holding to
It’s too late, too far
You’re too small, it’s too hard
Throwing water on that spark
Living deep inside your heart
With oceans of reasons
The things you’re not seeing
But oh, maybe they don’t
Know what you know
That you’re not alone

Don’t you be afraid
Of giants in your way
With God you know that anything’s possible
So step into the fight
He’s right there by your side
The stones inside your hand might be too small
But watch the giants fall

We could really live like this
Can’t you imagine it
So bold, so brave
With childlike faith
Miracles could happen
Mountains would start moving
So whatever you may face


Ask and believe
You’re gonna see
The hand of God in every little thing


Miracles can happen
Anything is possible
Watch the giants fall

Yes, it’s true…I’m pregnant! :)

First, there were 2.

Then, we became 4.

Now…we are anticipating number 5!

Yes, it is true!  I am pregnant! 🙂

My daughters, my husband and I are all over the moon with excitement about this next step of our lives.  It is still a little hard to believe in the midst of the craziness we live, but Little One is growing and I am becoming more and more aware of a new presence in my body every day!  My daughters regularly scrutinize me to see just exactly how fat I have become and my clothes are starting to make some real complaints at being stretched and pulled.

I smiled when I met a woman in the grocery store and she said,

“Oh, isn’t that something!  You know, it happens so many times!  After someone adopts they end up pregnant!”

I grinned at her surprised expression when I said,

“Well, this one was actually part of the plan.”

Yes, we may be crazy.

But we are all very happy and confident that this new little person is entering the drama at just the right time, all in the hands of our Creator.

I feel a little guilty some days.

I have two beautiful daughters, and now I am pregnant with a third child.  I know there are so many women who enter the world of foster care and adoption because they’ve been unable to bear children from their womb for one reason or another.  I know there are hundreds of women who long to be able to carry a child.

I don’t know what to say.

But I do know this.

This life inside of me is valuable and precious, and I will choose to celebrate it with as little guilt and as much confidence as possible.

I am so excited to meet this child, just as I was so excited to meet my daughters last Spring.  They can’t wait to be big sisters, and I am so thrilled they are here to enjoy this journey with us!  Just as I was in awe at the arrival of my two beautiful girls in our lives, I am in awe that once again…even after all the mistakes I’ve made…God has chosen to place a child in my care.

My favourite passage of scripture these days is found in Psalm 139.

I found this passage shortly before I realized I was pregnant, while putting together lifebooks for my daughters.  I wanted to start their stories with the message that even though I wasn’t a part of their beginning, God was.  He was always there, and their presence here with me is not a mistake.  When I found these words in Psalm 139 I was filled with both awe and incredible joy.  It felt like such a gift to be able to etch these words into the beginning of their stories when there is so much I cannot tell them with confidence.

We are blessed to have pictures of their birth parents…even a picture of their Mommy a few weeks before giving birth, her belly swollen and a smile on her face.


Yet her presence in my daughters’ lives is mixed with so much uncertainty, pain and even anger at times.  I have longed to be able to tell them without a shadow of a doubt that their birth mother loved and cherished them from the beginning; that she made choices for them out of a deep love and selflessness inside of her; that she dreamed of a bright future for them.  It would make the story so much simpler to be able to tie it up in a neat bow of heroism and sacrifice all for the good of them.  But their stories are not quite that simple, and there are a lot of questions without easy answers.  They know much uncertainty and rejection for their young age, and all I can do is to give them honest, age appropriate answers to their many questions…and to say the words “I am so sorry.”  It is not my story to twist, paint in bright colours or finish with a flourish.

So imagine the gift of these words.













As I was woven together in the dark of the womb.






Psalm 139: 13-16

A few weeks later when I found out I was carrying one of these tiny miracles within my own womb, I went back and smiled as I read these verses again.  All my children’s names will be written in my Bible beside this verse.  No matter who their birth parents may be, what truths their stories may hold or what devastation life may bring…I know this to be life-giving, sustaining TRUTH.

He has seen us long before we were ever born.

We are HIS intricate creation.

Our existence is not a mistake, and before our first breath He could see each day of our lives stretched before Him like the seashore.

We are loved.

We are wanted.

We are in his capable hands.

And that is enough for this Mama to cling to.  If I accomplish nothing else I hope to give this knowledge as a gift, buried deep in the hearts of each of my children.


Attachment 101 – Part 3

In my last two posts in this series I introduced the attachment theory and explained how that affects children who have been adopted.  We discussed how to step into your child’s life and take control of their world confidently so that they can attach to you and trust you as their new caregiver.  I explained that children who have experienced trauma in their lives need a lifestyle that is highly structured and highly nurtured.  Taking control and developing boundaries focuses on the need for structure, so today I want to focus on nurturing.

When most people think about adoption, nurture is the picture that fills their mind.  They imagine holding their child, hugging and kissing their child, laughing, playing together and smiling.  They think about all the things they will do together, the sweet little rituals they’ll establish at bedtime and the millions of ways they will try to help their child forget all the grief, fear and loss of their past.

Before your child comes home, you will not be able to truly imagine that reality will set in.  You will not be able to prepare for those days when all you want is to be left alone.  You will not be able to comprehend the strength it will take some days just to reach out and give those hugs, kisses or gentle pats.

The bottom line is that no family is happy all the time, and children working through difficult feelings rarely display those emotions in cute, loveable ways.  It is not easy to be gentle and kind in the face of defiance.  It is not easy to stay energetic and positive when your children are testing every limit they find.  It is not easy to create a peaceful atmosphere with a screaming child.  You will get tired of being followed all over the place.  You will grow weary of a child’s tears, missing the loved one you can never be.  You will crave just one night of solid sleep.  Then you will feel incredible guilt as you think about all they’ve been through.

You will be a parent, not a revered saviour.

Realizing this is a bit of a let down; we all love to feel like heroes.  But it’s also exciting when you realize you have really become a normal family, complete with all the stresses and chaos.

Nurturing consists of those tangible ways we express to a child that he is adored, important and irreplaceable.  It’s caring, warm gestures that go above and beyond, but include, basic survival needs.  Nurturing is essential for attachment.

Children who have grown up in dysfunctional, chaotic environments are often starved for nurture.  However, they will not always respond the way you’d think.  It can be more difficult than imagined to nurture your child.

Touch is one of the most obvious and powerful communicators of love, and obviously important when nurturing your child.  Hugs, kisses, back rubs, holding hands, wrestling and piggy back rides are all great ways to connect with your child physically.  For those children whose love language is physical touch this will be even more important.  In some types of attachment therapy “holding” is considered it’s own exercise.  Some children will take awhile to feel comfortable enough to relax in your arms or ask for hugs or kisses.  Others will be all over you within hours or days.  It may be more uncomfortable than you think having that child who wants to touch you all the time.  Many children struggle to figure out appropriate social boundaries.  They may hug and hold hands with any adult they meet.  They may want to touch your face or body in ways that would be totally appropriate for a baby or toddler but not quite as cute in an older child.  It can be hard to offer hugs and kisses without limit, retain enough boundaries to keep yourself from feeling claustrophobic and teach your child appropriate social boundaries.  It is especially difficult with a child who has been sexualized by adults in their life.  Beware of any sort of touching that the child is uncomfortable with and follow their lead.  If you see signs of provocative or overly sexualized behaviours, be sure to clearly direct your child away from those behaviours.  The goal is to nurture your child, not to lure them back into unhealthy habits.

I remember the first day I met my daughters.  At 7 and 5, they were anxious little whirlwinds of activity.  I wanted so much to be able to just reach out and hold them…but I was a stranger.  While one of them soon snuggled in close under my arm, the other one circled me warily, staying just out of reach.  Now she falls asleep in my arms, but then she needed me to follow her from room to room, looking at everything she pointed out and then letting her retreat again for a while.  The most I got was to let my fingers slide over her silky hair for a second.  My husband, however, won her over by offering piggy back rides 🙂

Food is another basic way to nurture a child.  We all need food and water to survive, but some children have not always had plenty of food or water.  They may remember times when their tummies ached with hunger, or they may cope with anxiety by grossly overeating.  Be sensitive to this and try to make sure you take advantage of the opportunity to give them that physical satisfaction food brings, while establishing healthy eating patterns.  Simply doing the little things like getting a drink of water for them, pulling something from the fridge, scooping food onto their plate or packing a plentiful and appealing lunch can help children feel nurtured and cared for.  For children who hoard or steal food, packing a special snack basket or stocking a cupboard just for them helps reinforce the message that food is readily available when needed.  This helps them realize they are not in danger of being without enough food as they’ve been in the past.  For children who may have missed early infant nurturing, spoon feeding or even bottle feeding is a bonding activity that will reinforce tons of positive messages.

Like many little children, my littlest A loves to snack!  She adores junk food and candy and begs for food anytime she’s bored or slightly hungry.  While this is very frustrating, I’ve tried to turn it around by getting ahead of her and surprising her.  When she’s busy with something else I’ll suddenly interrupt her and tell her it’s snack time!  She’s always delighted to realize she didn’t even need to ask and it’s way more fun for me!  I also like to let the girls lick off spatula’s, have a few chocolate chips when I’m baking cookies or pick out a special snack to go in their lunch at the store.  My grocery bill has definitely went up since I started packing creative, healthy and appealing lunches but it’s a way to send my nurturing along to school with them.

Even though your child may be an independent 8, 10 or even 16 year old doesn’t mean you should never do anything for them they can do themselves.  While promoting attachment you are not focusing on independence.  We all love to be treated with care.  Go out of your way to care for your child.  Pack their lunch, start the bath water for them, help a younger child dress, brush their hair, trim their nails, put their pajamas in the dryer to warm them up while they’re in the bath tub.

Simply having fun and spending time together is a big part of nurturing your child.  Laugh.  Smile.  Snuggle on the couch and watch a movie.  Make eye contact and pay attention when your child is speaking to you.  Make yourself and your home a “safe haven” your child can come back to no matter how he or she is feeling!  Reinforce the message that we all have feelings and they are not wrong in and of themselves, it is what we do with them that matters.

Most of us know how to nurture, it’s just difficult to do it when we’re feeling tired, worn out or frustrated.

Last week I had a bad week.  One of my daughters was sick and I was just not in the mood!  She is a detail person and struggles with anxiety in the best of times, so feeling a little off turned her into a real bear!  The tiny bump on her lip and the fever she developed had equal significance, along with a possibly occurring rash and itchy spot on her left leg!  She woke up multiple nights in a row and knocked on my door in tears, panicking at the thought of not sleeping which then of course kept her from sleeping for long afterwards.  She was defiant and mean at school, tired and grumpy at home.  I am telling you this to show you that even though I know all about nurturing in my head, I fail miserably on a regular basis!  Last week I had the perfect opportunity to show my daughter that I cared about her and would go out of my way to nurse her poor tired little body.  Instead, I was grumpy, irritable and insensitive.  I knew I was failing miserably and instead of choosing to let this motivate me I let my mind take me on a huge guilt trip instead.  After everything this little girl has been through, how could you treat her with such a lack of compassion?!  What a horrible mother!

See, just because my daughters have not been born to me by birth and have trauma in their past does not mean I always find it easy to be gentle and kind.  I am no superhero!

So I hope all you moms out there are encouraged to nurture your little, middle sized or big kids today.  Go the extra mile to make them feel important.  Remember the golden rule.  Take every opportunity to love.  They’re worth it!

I’ve been memorizing the second Psalm for the last little while.

I’m not usually very good at getting around to memorizing scripture, but I kept remembering a conversation I had with a friend.  She was sharing the idea that choosing to believe that God’s Word is our ”bread and water” spiritually, involves choosing to believe that scripture has fed us whether or not we feel fed.  In other words, just because I don’t feel refreshed or inspired after reading God’s Word doesn’t mean my time spent there was fruitless.  She talked about a Bible Study plan that was built on simply reading scripture.  Choose a passage and read that same passage over and over for weeks or even months.  Meditate on it…and believe that it is powerful, life transforming and healing…even if you don’t feel like it.

This idea was intriguing to me, so I decided to try this out.

I find it hard to maintain a healthy devotional life in the midst of my mothering.  Time is precious and limited.  Routines are unpredictable at times.  Stuff happens!

I have always found huge comfort in the fact that God knows and understands my days.  An hour spent reading scripture or praying is not always possible, and I do not need to beat myself up about that.  I can worship my Creator in many more ways than just sitting down with my Bible.  He can speak to me through a million other channels.  There are all kinds of little ways I can show Him my desire for Him and my commitment to transformation throughout the day.  Scripture to song, verses taped to the fridge, and an open Bible on my desk are all little ways I’ve tried to make sure I am still “eating” spiritually in those seasons of chaos which usually involve babies or demanding toddlers.

However, I also know that God’s Word is powerful.  There is nothing that can replace it in my life.  I go through seasons where I feel I am starving at times, but I also come out of those seasons.  The hard part is diving back into the Word at the first possible moment.  Hungering.  Thirsting.  Gasping for oxygen.

Sometimes I just have no idea where to start.

I read through one gospel or epistle, then go…what now?!

So the last time this happened, I decided to try my friend’s idea.  I chose the second Psalm because of verses 2-3.

“But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law doth he meditate day and night.  And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not whither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.”

This summed up so beautifully the desire I had for God’s Word to be written on my heart; engrained into the core of my being.  It’s been good.  I have a new passage memorized, I know what to read each day, and it’s an exercise that’s easy to do even when I’m exhausted or only have a few minutes.

What about you?

How do you make sure you are spending time in God’s Word and in prayer throughout your days?

Does it matter?

I’d love to hear your ideas 🙂



The other day I had a grumpy Mama day.

I was lazy.

I was tired.

I didn’t feel like hopping up to get glasses of water, towels for dripping little bodies, snacks for hungry tummies or just walk those extra steps to see what was so exciting.  All I wanted to do was sit on the couch, enjoy the book I was reading and let everyone else fend for themselves.

Funny thing is…the longer I sat and ignored the needs around me, the worse I felt.

The more times I sighed heavily, let unkind tones slip from my lips and frowns crease my brow the more guilty, frustrated and exasperated I felt.

Then, suddenly, there was a little voice complaining,

“My tummy hurts.”

And before I had a chance to process this, there was vomit all over her jammies, the couch and me.

And you know what?

There, in that moment where I had more reason than ever to let myself catapult off the edge of the self pity cliff, I felt my heart kick into gear.

Gone were the weary muscles, the impatient tones and the self obsessed thoughts.

Suddenly, my mind became consumed with one thing.

My daughter.

She needed clean pajamas, a bath and some medicine.   She needed drinks and blankets.  She needed a bed made up closer to the bathroom and my own room where I would hear her immediately if she cried or threw up in the night.

She needed her Mommy.

It wasn’t until later that night, slipping into bed and leaving my door a crack so I would hear her, that I realized the transition that had occurred in a split second and had to smile.

It no longer mattered that I was tired…I knew I would be up multiple times that night and it was ok.  Instead of wishing I could hide in a corner and finish my book, I felt the irrational worries familiar to mothers playing tag in my mind.

What if she wakes and I don’t hear her?

What if she chokes on her own vomit?

What if her fever spikes while I sleep?

What if I’m missing something?

Does she have enough blankets?

Should I give her more liquids?

I didn’t want to leave her side.  I wanted to be able to see her, feel her and hear her so I knew she was ok.

While I laid awake for an hour in the middle of the night with her fevered face tucked up beside mine, I wasn’t thinking about the lack of sleep I was getting.  I was only thinking…I guess this is what it feels like to be a Mommy.

To wish more than anything that I could take all the yucky, awful feelings away and make her happy and healthy again.

To realize I would do anything for this little life entrusted to my care.

To be overwhelmed with awe that I have been chosen to serve such a beautiful, wonderful, perfect little life.

To be snuggled up next to a smelly, sick little girl and know

I am where I belong.

Attachment 101 – Part 2

My last post, Attachment 101, was designed to introduce and explain the theory of attachment. As a short recap:

1. Bonding and attachment occurs as an infant’s needs are expressed and met, over and over and over again.

2. When children do not receive consistent, predictable nurturing the internal message becomes “I am responsible to keep myself safe.”

3. Children with interruptions or gaps in their attachment development are essentially brain-damaged. If you could see a picture of the child’s brain that has been nurtured and cared for consistently versus neglected, abused or moved frequently there would be a physical, noticeable difference in the number of connections formed. This is more than just an emotional problem!

4. The good news is that these missing connections CAN be formed later in life! However, it is much more difficult than beginning with an empty slate. There are deeply ingrained survival skills that need to be destroyed before new concepts can be established firmly.


With all that behind us, let’s keep moving forward.  I’d like to talk about the rewiring process and what that can look like for kids and parents hoping to create a secure, loving environment where a child can thrive. There are many different things parents need to remember when parenting a child who has been hurt physically or emotionally.

I won’t be able to cover everything I’d like to share in one post, so I’ve broken it down into several categories to keep it clear and simple. For today, I’d like to focus on the control issue.

Most children who have experienced a past of abuse, neglect or bouncing through the foster care system will enter their adoptive families with their guards set high. They have been let down by many adults in the past and they have learned to rely only on themselves to survive. In the past, this was an essential survival skill for them. Learning how to keep a distance from people, read adult behaviour and predict major changes on the horizon helped them to cope with the incredible amount of losses they’ve had to endure. It made the inevitable goodbyes bearable, kept the fear at bay and taught their brains how to function under major stress.

Now that your child has entered a forever family, it is imperative that they learn how to let go of that control and hand it over to you. The very skill that made it possible for them to survive will now be their greatest obstacle. They cannot bond and attach to you until they are willing to rely on you as their parent and caregiver. Children cannot go through life depending only on themselves. No matter what they may have convinced themselves of, they are not invincible. They are children. They need adults to guide them, lead them, protect them and nurture them. As adoptive parents we desperately want to play that role in our children’s lives and help them overcome the paralyzing fears they grapple with but often times they will not allow us to get that close.

They are afraid of abandonment.

They are afraid of abuse.

They are afraid of feeling weak or powerless or vulnerable.

They are afraid of opening their hearts and then having them broken.

Unfortunately, there is no easy switch to flip. There are brain connections that have never been formed and deeply rooted instincts that will not be easy to change. Basically, it is up to you at this point to take control of your child’s world unapologetically and be the parent!

This will be the beginning of a war.

They will fight you ferociously on this.

They do not realize you are on their team. All they know is that they are in danger of losing the defences that have always kept them safe. They are terrified of losing control but they are even more fearful of someone else taking control.

Interestingly, we all know this feeling. As adults, control becomes a word that raises red flags in everyone’s minds. We do not feel comfortable submitting to authorities we do not trust. We want to remain in charge because we’ve seen or experienced abusive control in relationships around us. However, if we are to form deep, soul level relationships we will have to let down our guard at some point and allow someone to get close enough to potentially break our hearts.

Infants are dependent on their parents for everything. The only way they will feel loved, nurtured, safe; is if someone has complete control over their life. In this environment, they attach and they trust as their needs are consistently met.

This is what needs to be replicated in your adopted child’s life.

It might take months, years or decades but this process cannot begin until you as a parent take control from your child. They will not hand it to you on a silver platter. They do not know what they need. You do.

Hurting children desperately need to be shown that parents are more powerful than they are. They have terrorizing trauma, deep grief, and overwhelming challenges looming before them, and they need to know there is someone strong enough to handle all that. They need to know that they are not too much for you. They need to know that you are big enough to protect them and help them heal. They need to know that with you in control of their lives they will be safe. You will not lead them into chaos and danger as others have.

This does not mean that we march into our children’s lives and take over every little choice they have. This does not mean we abuse our authority over them or become someone they fear. This is what many of them have experienced in the past.

Instead, our primary goal should be to look for every opportunity possible to lovingly send the message,

You do not have to decide that.”

I will take care of you.”

“I will keep you safe.”

You do not have to fight so hard to survive, baby.”

At the beginning, you will need to move into the parent role before you really feel like your child’s parent. Realistically, you are strangers, but this should not stop you from acting like you are in charge.

Set boundaries.

Be active in your child’s life. Know what is going on and show you will handle the big stuff.

Don’t allow another adult to step into the role that is only yours as a parent.

Give choices, but make sure your child is choosing between a few good choices that you have come up with.

Help them with every little thing you possibly can.

Do things for them that they can do themselves.

Make your expectations as clear and simple as possible, with consequences that are logical and simple.

When they cross a line, be matter of fact about consequences but not harsh or angry.

Don’t pick battles you can’t win.

Every time you act or speak in a way that tells your child you are comfortably in charge, you are cementing a feeling of safety in them. This authority establishment is not up for grabs. You are not asking for their permission to be the parent. Instead, you are lifting a huge load off their small shoulders and placing it on your own without a flinch. As they fight to take it back, be firm but gentle. Never forget their fight is really fear.

Many children go through this same stage of testing authority, and much of this will sound familiar. Children who have been hurt, however, have much more at stake in their minds. This is not just testing, this is tearing down the structure by which they have survived so far. Their future depends on you getting this message across to them. It’s not really about eating peas, it’s about being in charge of their life.

The best way for parents to go about taking charge of their children’s lives and sending these safe messages is to parent in a way that is focused on plenty of nurture and plenty of structure.

While children are adjusting to their forever families and attempting to attach, they are under a lot of stress. As most children, they will do best in a home where their days are predictable and structured. This does not mean you need to run your home like a boot camp, but you will need to be prepared to change your lifestyle to accommodate your children’s needs. While they are trying to attach and bond with their new family, children are not going to be able to cope with the flexibility of most children their age. Plan to spend lots of time at home, get lots of sleep and say no to some events or social engagements. As parents, you need to set a pace and rhythm to your home that both you and your children can thrive on. Put up a big calendar that your child can see and let them know what to expect as much as possible. Though you are stepping in to take control of your child’s life, you are not entitled to run it with only yourself in mind. Don’t let your children decide what and how much you do, but make sure you are making the best decision for them. It will take some trial and error at the beginning, but soon you will know how much your child can truly handle.

Making sure your child knows what to expect, is getting enough sleep and is supported by you through each day sets him up for success! It also sets him up to count on you to create an atmosphere he can thrive in. Structure does not mean less fun or less loving. Instead, a structured life for your children will help them to be able to have more fun and it will help your fearful child realize you know what is best for him and will do it!

Explaining decisions you make to your child can be a great way to show them you are dedicated to being a great parent. Let them know that they need to go to bed at the usual time because you know they need sleep to feel good and enjoy the day tomorrow. Let them know that you require them to eat nutritious food because you want them to have healthy bodies and feed good. Let them know they are not allowed to play near the road because it is not safe and you need them to be safe. Let them know that they cannot be left with a babysitter yet because they are still learning how to be a family and they are not ready for that step yet. Though most children tend to roll their eyes or sigh at these parental ‘lectures’, you may be surprised at your adopted child’s reactions. Even though they may not like your decision, they are hearing an important message from you.

I love you. I am taking care of you. I will do what is best for you even if you don’t like it.”

Often children who are starting to feel a shift in their control will try very hard to control all kinds of little details in life. They might ask questions or chatter incessantly. They might follow-up all your decisions for them with comments like, “Yes, that’s what I was going to do.” They will often try to control decision-making, play the parent to a sibling or come up with an idea just a tad different from yours. Though this can be frustrating, try to remember they are feeling nervous and anxious about the feelings of love growing inside of them. I often say things like,

That’s ok, you don’t need to be in charge of that.”

I’ll let you know if you need to know.”

I’ll think about it.”

With a smile and a gentle tone, this clearly conveys the message that you are in control and you will take care of things. It doesn’t have to be a reprimand or lecture, which will most likely throw you onto the battlefield, but your child will get the clear message they do not get to decide or be in charge.

My daughters will often later quote back to me the reasons I have given them for decisions that they didn’t necessarily appreciate in the moment. There is a measure of awe and joy in their voices as they say,

You want us to be safe, right?”

You tell us to eat healthy food ’cause you don’t want us to be sick, right?”

You’re afraid we’ll get hurt if we do that!”

Unfortunately, for an older child parenting in a highly structured manner may cause misunderstanding in other parents. Don’t let this stop you from doing what you know your child needs. While another child may be ready to walk to school on their own, tuck themselves in each night, get a drink or use the bathroom on their own, comb their hair or have a play date at a friend’s house…you need to realize that your child has not come through a chaotic life unscathed. Be sensitive to your child’s feelings, but don’t let what other people are thinking stop you from giving your child the structure they depend on to cope or the boundaries they need to attach to you securely.

While you are pouring in all this structure, however, you need to be spending just as much time giving your child nurturing…but that is a whole new, exciting topic that I will cover next time 🙂

For today, remember:

*Be the parent!

*Hurting children desperately need to be shown that parents are more powerful than they are.

*Take charge of your child’s life confidently and gently.

As I was writing this, I couldn’t help thinking of the many times I struggle and writhe in my Heavenly Father’s loving care. I can look back and see times in my life where I fought against His control, terrified that if I lost control of my life it would result in devastation. But when I finally give up and surrender to those big hands, that strong voice, that enduring love…I feel so safe. To know that He is in control of my life, orchestrating my every move, is such an incredible feeling. There is nowhere I could be safer than in the centre of His will for me.

When I see the especially bright eyes, the relieved tones and the purely joyful words of my daughter after an especially tough battle…I know that it is the same for her. In my love, she will be safe. And someday, she will experience a perfect love that is so much greater than mine. A love that is truly powerful beyond all measure and wider than imagination.

This song by Westlife reaches my soul and makes me weep. To know that this is my Father’s heart cry alongside my own small Mommy desire is breathtaking.


Hard to find a way to get through
It’s a tragedy
Pulling at me like the stars do
You’re like gravity
Even if the wind blows
It makes it hard to believe

How you gonna love?
How you gonna feel?
How you gonna live your life like the dream you have is real?
And if you lost your way
I will keep you safe
We’ll open up all the world inside
I see it come alive tonight
I will keep you safe

Doesn’t even matter to you
To see what I can see
I’m crawling on the floor to reach you
I’m a wreck you see
When you’re far from home now
Makes it hard to believe

So how you gonna love?
How you gonna feel?
How you gonna live your life like the dream you have is real?
And if you’ve lost your way
I will keep you safe
We’ll open up all your world inside
Till you come alive tonight
I will keep you safe

We all fall down
We all feel down
Cause rainy days and summer highs
The more we pray the more we feel alive

How you gonna love?
How you gonna feel?
How you gonna live your life like the dream you have is real?
How you gonna love?
How you gonna feel?
How you gonna live your life like the dream you have is real?

And if you’ve lost your way
I will keep you safe
We’ll open up all your world inside
So you come alive tonight
I will keep you safe

I will keep you safe
I will keep you safe

Attachment 101 – part 1

One of the big themes discussed in adoption today is ATTACHMENT.

At the core, this is the biggest issue facing adoptive parents and kids.  It is at the heart of all our desires for ourselves and our children.  It is the biggest difference setting us apart from biologically created families.  So what is this thing called attachment?

Let me paint a picture for you.

Think about that sweet little baby you know who is less than six months old, living in a loving, functional family.  He has entered this big wide world and yet he is so dependent on another’s care.  That voice he heard while in his mother’s womb murmurs in his ear, soothing him when his tiny face scrunches, red and screaming.  When he cries, he is quickly picked up and held close to that warm body that feels so familiar.  Mother has an intuitive sense of baby’s needs, even when she’s exhausted from lack of sleep.  When he’s hungry, he is held close in her arms and fed warm milk from a bottle or breast, often gazing up into his mother’s face as he drinks.  Rarely do her hands feel rough, hurried or anxious as she handles his fragile body.  He is gently bathed regularly in soothing warm water.  Mother is right there beside him washing his little body with a soft cloth and talking to him.  She may even set up a tiny heater in the room for when he comes out of the water, wet and cold.  He gets wrapped in a warm towel and massaged with lotion from head to toe.  Sometimes he is held while he sleeps, his mother simply enjoying the weight of his body, the smell of his skin and his tiny features relaxed in sleep.  Everyone delights in cuddling him, examining every little expression and watching his body grow.  His first cooing noises are rewarded with smiles and delighted attention from the adults who adore him.

I don’t mean to put a rosy glow on all this.  I know there are long days, short nights, hours of screaming and aching breasts for some.  But that mother you know, even when she feels overwhelmed and exhausted, will probably be making sure her baby’s needs are met.  He will still get all that tender care, protection and physical presence he needs to assure him someone in this big, wide world is taking care of him and thinks he’s the most important little person on the planet.

The very first thing baby will learn is that he can trust his mother to meet his needs; that his cries will be met with response.

When he is hungry, she will rush to get him food.  When his bottom is red and sore she will soothe it with cream.  If he cries for hours, she will worry, wondering what is wrong.  Above all else she will protect him with her very life.  She will go to extra measures to make sure the infant seat is properly installed and latched.  She will think twice when she gets behind the wheel those first few times.  She will always know where he is and what he’s doing, and will take care to be sure he’s safe.  As he grows, sits, rolls over, crawls and stands she will make sure his environment is safe.  She will feel a flutter of panic in her chest when he bumps his head, falls down the stairs or face plants into the ceramic tile floor.  Baby quickly becomes attached to his mother because he knows she is the one he can rely on.  Hers are the arms that will soothe in that familiar way.  Hers is the face that gazes at him, smiles at him, talks to him and kisses his chubby cheeks.  Through that first year of life, mother and baby are almost one.  They spend almost every waking minute together or in very near proximity.

This is the way God intended families to be built.

He knew we would need that assurance that the world can be a safe, happy place and that we are precious in someone’s eyes.  On that foundation we grow into children that are ready to learn, explore and create.  Our need for love and security has been met, and continues to be met.  Every event following those first basic patterns of care as an infant develop in us an ability to trust another human.  We will need this to survive.  We will need this for our brains to function properly.

Do you think it would make a difference if one day baby cried and cried for hours, but nobody ever came?  No warm bottle to ease the ache in his empty tummy.  No gentle arms to soothe his distressed cries.  No gentle voice murmuring words of comfort in reassuring tones.  No gentle bath times…instead his skin turns crusty and dry.  His bottom soon gets red and sore to the point of blisters that rub open and bleed, while his urine and stool stain his clothing for hours.  Maybe someone comes…sometimes…but the arms may or may not be gentle.  They may rock and soothe one day but hit and jostle roughly the next.  Faces come and go, but no consistent caregiver seems to feel responsible for baby.  For days, baby may cry until his throat is sore and his voice raspy…but eventually he will stop.  He has learned crying does not get him anything.  He will lie silently staring, listening to the sounds of his unpredictable environment.  Maybe yelling, maybe the thumping beat of music much too loud for baby’s ears, maybe the drone of the television or radio…and sometimes simply nothing.

Or maybe baby is cared for tenderly for the first 6 months, year or even 2 years…and then one day that person is gone.  In a new, strange environment he is alone and fearful.  The faces are unfamiliar, the smells and routines are all wrong.  Instead of stories and soft blankets at bedtime in his familiar room, with the night light glowing in the corner, it is dark and cool and just so different.  The blanket is scratchy instead of soft.  The room is large and open instead of small and cozy.  There are no stories, only a quick kiss and the door closing while unfamiliar lullabies play.  He has fun in the large back yard with the swing set and pool, but he misses the familiarity of that one person who held his world together.  This person doesn’t know when he’s hungry, tired or overwhelmed and he has no idea what she is going to do next.

She is a stranger.

Over the next few months, things slowly start to fall into place.  He learns new routines, new habits, new ways of getting attention and affection.  Just as he’s starting to trust that this person can fill the void…she disappears.  Suddenly he is in a new place again.  How could she leave him?  Once again, he must get used to something different.  Everyone seems happy and excited, but he is scared.  Who will take care of him now?

Will they leave too?




Is this what life is like?

After 3 or 4 moves, he will learn that there is only one person he can really depend on, and that is himself.  He is responsible to meet his own needs.  Relying on other people is simply too painful.  Eventually, they will leave and he must be able to cope on his own.  Though he may not be aware of this thought, his brain is establishing these patterns and they come with a great cost.

We know in our hearts that this does make a difference.  God never intended children to fend for themselves.  They are vulnerable.  They are needy.  Parents are commanded in scripture to love, teach and provide for their children’s needs as best they can.  God illustrates himself as a loving Father to us, giving us the image of a caring, gentle, strong protector.  We struggle as mothers, as fathers, to parent our children the way we know God desires.  We talk about unconditional love, sacrifice, wisdom and joy.  We desire the best, and we struggle to reach the ultimate.

Yet so many children are growing up without these fundamental needs being met.  They do not know who they can trust, and they are constantly on high alert.  Their brains operate in panic mode a majority of the time, constantly looking for signals that will warn them of pain, danger or loss.  Because they are so busy trying to survive, there is little brain power left to learn, explore or create like normally developing children.  There is tons of scientific research that supports this theory.

A child who has not formed healthy attachments is essentially brain damaged.

This is a fact.  Look it up.

The more I learn the more I am in awe of the Creator God I love.  He did not create us to function as individuals.  We are designed to need each other.  In our families, in our churches, in our communities…we thrive on healthy, loving relationships with others.  All these relationships are built on trust.

The good news is that these missing connections CAN be formed later in life!

Our brains can learn to make those new connections…but it is so much harder than the original plan.  Instead of an infant starting with an empty slate, you are now trying to rewire or reteach the brain to ignore the survival skills it’s relied on for 3, 5, 10 or even 20 years.  It takes time, patience and unconditional love.  Trial and error.  And every child is different.

Does every child who has been adopted struggle with attachment issues?

No, though most do to some degree.

What does this look like?

The struggle, the rewiring and the success?

I’d like to explore this a little bit in the next few posts.  I am by no means an expert, but we’ve learned an incredible amount through seminars, workshops, friends, adoption professionals and most of all some very precious little kiddos in the past three years.  It’s been an intriguing journey, and has helped us be so much better prepared for the challenges we face today with our two daughters.  I am passionate about sharing with others the issues adoptive families face daily because I believe that awareness is the key to success.  The more people understand the root of the issues we face and develop skills and empathy, the better the outcome for my children and every other adoptive family.

There are millions of children waiting for families who will dare to love them despite their challenges.  Their are also millions of families who feel they are not equipped to care for these children.  I firmly believe that education about adoption and adoption issues could change the lives of many of these children and families.

Jesus did not turn away from the messiness of life.

The hurt,

the terror,

the overwhelming rage,

the grief as deep and dark as ink,

the injustice that leaves us broken.

In the middle of it all, He was there.

I pray for the courage to love even when the cost is unimaginably high.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Phillipians 4:13

Right now my daughters and I are memorizing a child-friendly version of the 23rd Psalm.  You cannot imagine what it does to my heart when I hear them during their play time reciting these lines of incredible comfort and love about their Heavenly Father.  This is taken from the Jesus Storybook Bible.

God is my Shepherd

And I am his little lamb.

He feeds me

He guides me

He looks after me.

I have everything I need.

Inside, my heart is very quiet.

As quiet as lying still in soft green grass

In a meadow

By a little stream.

Even when I walk through

the dark scary, lonely places

I won’t be afraid

Because me Shepherd knows where I am.

He is here with me

He keeps me safe

He rescues me

He makes me strong

And brave.

He is getting wonderful things ready for me

Especially for me

Everything I ever dreamed of!

He fills my heart of full of happiness

I can’t hold it all inside.

Wherever I go I know

God’s Never Stopping

Never Giving Up


Always and Forever Love

Will go, too!”