issue no. 15 | Spring 2022
an alumni publication of L ifelin e C hil dre n’s S e r vi ces
The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk A useful book for the general reader to understand the complex effects of trauma and a guide to scientifically informed approaches to move beyond suffering and thrive.
Real Mom Podcast A podcast for biological, foster, and adoptive moms, about real life, from real moms.
You’re the Worst Person in the World: Why It’s the Best News Ever that You Don’t Have it Together, You Aren’t Enough, and You Can’t Fix It on Your Own by Scarlet Hiltibidal This book helps readers stare their brokenness straight in the face and grab hold of the good news of the gospel.
Safe House: How Emotional Safety is the Key to Raising Kids who Live, Love, and Lead Well by Joshua Straub A book that teaches how to use emotional safety as a foundation to parent.
The Forgotten Initiative
Anchored: A Bible Study on Self-Worth
This initiative helps people support the foster care community through awareness, encouragement, and advocacy.
by Cindy R. Lee A Bible study that outlines for readers the journey from low self-worth to knowing full worth in Christ.
A Letter from Herbie PRESIDENT & EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
Over the last year, Lifeline’s ministry has grown exponentially. We are experiencing new opportunities to equip and mobilize churches at an unprecedented level. As we move into new territory, Lifeline remains resolute in the convictions we were founded upon more than 40 years ago — manifesting the gospel to vulnerable children, women, and families. We can look back over the years and see the Lord’s faithfulness in shaping our ministry and deepening our roots in His Word. As the cultural landscape continues to shift, God is forging greater platforms by which Lifeline will proclaim the gospel and equip the Church. We believe that God has firmly planted Lifeline for such a time as this. As I reflect upon this season of ministry, I thank the Lord for families who are committed to proclaiming the gospel in seasons of joy and when difficulties arise in their homes. My prayer is that your family will remain steadfast and firmly rooted in the gospel so that when trials come, you will lean on the Lord and depend on His strength. In this issue of Journey, you will not only read updates of Lifeline’s ministry, but you will hear from Scarlet Hiltibidal
about her family’s adoption from China. She offers encouragement and wisdom about digging into the roots of the gospel as parents and pointing our children to Jesus even in the midst of our failings. Lifeline staff member, Traci Newell shares insight into what it means to grieve through infertility after becoming a parent. For us, I ask that you wrestle in prayer for the ministry of Lifeline. Ask the Lord to keep us firmly rooted in the gospel. Pray for the Lord to equip His Church to care for the vulnerable for decades to come. Know that we are praying for you continually as you disciple the hearts of your children and lead them in the gospel of Jesus Christ. In Him,
Herbert M. Newell IV President/Executive Director
Journey L I F E L I N E C H I L D R E N ’ S S E RV I C E S 100 Missionary Ridge Birmingham, Alabama 35242 Phone: 205.967.0811 Website: lifelinechild.org
EDITORIAL JENNY RIDDLE Editor
MEMORY SMITH Layout & Design
RACHEL BIDDY Contributing Editor
SHANE ETHEREDGE Art Director
DR. RICK MOR TON Vice President of Engagement
CONTRIBUTORS Jenny Riddle, Rachel Biddy, Ashley Newell, Sonia Martin, Scarlet Hiltibidal, & Traci Newell
PHOTOGRAPHY Memory Smith, Neslihan Gunaydin, & Anna Conn
W H AT I S J O U R N E Y ? Journey is an alumni publication dedicated to our families who have been through the adoption or foster care process. This is a way to stay in touch with Lifeline’s ministry, to celebrate along with other families through milestones and stories, and to encourage your walk with Christ and the well-being of your family in the days ahead!
W H AT WO U L D YO U L I K E T O S E E I N YO U R N E X T I S S U E ? We love hearing from you! Send us what you would love to read about in the next issue of Journey to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I S S U E N O. 1 5 C OV E R FA M I LY The Hiltibidal family lives in Southern California. In addition to writing and church ministry, Scarlet and Brandon enjoy spending time with their three amazing daughters: Ever, Brooklyn (Dewy), and Joy. Their daughter Joy was adopted from China in 2017.
Contents SPRING 2022
WELCOME HOME & MILESTONES
FEAR, PRIDE, AND BEING THE WORST
TAKING A STAND
PL ANTING SEEDS OF HOPE IN UKRAINE
INFERTILIT Y, GRIEF, AND PARENTING
WALLER FAMILY India
WALKER FAMILY India
MEDLIN FAMILY India
HOLLENBECK FAMILY India
LONG FAMILY India
WAREHIME-DEBAUN FAMILY Colombia
HARRISON FAMILY Bulgaria Spring 2022
VAN PELT FAMILY Colombia -4-
JOSHUA RIDDLE, 11, was adopted from China in 2013. He is the son of Stephen and Jenny Riddle. Joshua professed Jesus as his Lord and Savior and was baptized on October 17, 2021.
KAMERON ZONG KUN MADDUX, 20 years old, adopted from China in 2015. Kameron was unexpectedly diagnosed with osteoblastic osteosarcoma in April 2021. After ten grueling months of chemotherapy and surgery, Kam is now cancer free and showing no evidence of disease!
I N T E R N AT I O N A L A D O P T I O N
S C H O L A R S H I P S AVA I L A B L E Families who apply for a full international program between April 18 and May 31, 2022 are eligible for a Hope Adoption Fund scholarship, starting at $1,000. For alumni families, that’s in addition to the $300 alumni scholarship!
APPLY AT LIFELINECHILD.ORG/INTERNATIONAL-ADOPTION FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT US AT HEATHER.JACKSON@LIFELINECHILD.ORG | 205-967-0811
A STAND By A shle y Ne well
ary Beth Brown, 17, of West Point, Georgia, has never allowed her young age to limit the impact she can have on caring for the vulnerable. Over the past seven years, she has raised over $20,000 for Stand for Orphans®! Putting her heart and energy into her efforts, Mary Beth creates everything she sells by hand. From homemade baked goods to jewelry and candles, Mary Beth searches for inspiration all year long as she thoughtfully plans her stand. Creatively, she coordinates the items she’s selling in a thematic way. Making sure to incorporate Scripture references with her items, Stand has provided an opportunity for Mary Beth to tell others that we have been adopted as daughters and sons by the God of the universe. Therefore, we are compelled to lavish His love on others, spurring us to act on behalf of 153 million orphans worldwide. As only the Lord could orchestrate, Mary Beth inherited a rich family legacy of caring for orphans and vulnerable children. After hearing Jean Goebel, the wife of Lifeline’s founder Wales Goebel, speak at an event in 2002, Mary Beth’s mother, Jenna, placed her faith in Jesus. As Jenna’s convictions grew, so did the faith of her family. In 2015, the Lord called Mary Beth’s aunt and uncle to adopt, which opened her eyes to the global orphan crisis. Consequently, Mary Beth knew she wanted to somehow be involved in the process. While in the adoption process, Mary Beth’s uncle received an email from Lifeline promoting Stand for Orphans® and she said “I knew it was the perfect fit. I could partner with Lifeline and have access to the resources I would need to have an effective stand.” And have an effective stand is exactly what she did! Even through the years of Covid, successful stands were held. Now, as she approaches her eighth consecutive year for Stand, preparations are already taking place at the Brown home. Spring 2022
Although Mary Beth’s aunt and uncle initially inspired her to begin hosting a stand, the Lord has faithfully provided people along her path who have encouraged her to continue. Cultivating seeds of faith, Mary Beth’s family, friends, and church have been instrumental in spurring her on towards love and good deeds. “I am thankful for the Holy Spirit, who produces the fruit of the seeds that have been planted in me,” comments Mary Beth. Additionally, the Lord has been faithful to multiply her efforts. Inspired by Mary Beth’s stands, a friend decided to host a kickball tournament at his local school to raise money for Stand. Mary Beth encourages other kids who want to participate in Stand for Orphans to “just start somewhere.” She continues, “Sometimes the trickiest part of trying something new is stepping out that first time... hosting a stand is so much fun no matter your age, size of the stand, or what you end up selling.” When asked what contributed to the success of her stands, Mary Beth emphasized the importance of advertising via social media, utilizing the Stand resources provided by Lifeline, and most importantly, lots of prayer. Will you join Mary Beth and hundreds of others to take a stand for orphans? Stand for Orphans was created by kids, for kids! It is a chance for children to understand that God has given all of us the opportunity and ability to create change in the world. Kids don’t have to wait until they’re older to be a part of God’s work in reaching the vulnerable. Since 2015, children have raised $392,922.
To learn more about Stand for Orphans and to download your free printable Stand for Orphans Kit, visit standfororphans.org.
By S onia J. Martin A few weeks ago—dressed in a flannel shirt, old sweats, rain boots, garden gloves in hand, and a funny-looking hat on my head—I set out to tackle a small portion of my backyard garden that weeds had overrun. It was long neglected and needed intensive care. I was ready for it, or so I thought. After only a few minutes of effort, I quickly decided that the traditional gardening tactic of uprooting weeds was laborious and likely would take much more time than I had allotted to this task. In a moment of impatient, reckless haste, I went into the tool shed and retrieved a bottle of my most potent weed killer. I proceeded to pour an abundance of poison directly onto the roots of each weed. Was it effective? Yes. Did it have unintended consequences? Absolutely. I didn’t realize how insidious that
poison would be. You see, over the last two years, I have been patiently and painstakingly growing a rather large vine of jasmine along my fence line. Month after month, I would tend to the vine—shaping it, pruning it, and training it to intertwine through and around the fence. The fruit of that effort was stunning, especially when it would bloom each spring. When, in my haste, I applied poison to the weeds, it trickled down below the soil and began to kill my jasmine vine at the root. Although I focused my attention on watching the weeds slowly wither and die, my human eye could not see the effect on the healthy plant five feet away. Some jasmine is dead now, but it didn’t kill the whole vine. The main trunk of the vine had been solidly planted and cared for well; it was able to
withstand the pressures of the poison. The newly planted portions were the most vulnerable. Similarly, our newly adopted or foster children are highly vulnerable. In our humanity, we can easily get entangled in day-to-day pressures or frustrations of behaviors; we can feel like we are in the weeds, losing sight of beauty nearby. In a moment of haste, we can overreact, causing a loss of connection that their tender hearts so desperately need. You see, all of those weeds that I was frustrated with—the ones that were not responsive to my attempts at correction—were just a manifestation of their root system. Similarly, the behaviors that manifest from brokenness and trauma come from a child’s foundation—their roots. For the glory of Christ Jesus, He calls us to point these children toward the One who holds their hope and to plant them in soil that is rich with the Word and saturated in the good news of Christ. The specifics of pointing your children to Christ may look different for
IN OUR HUMANITY, WE CAN EASILY GET ENTANGLED IN DAY-TO-DAY PRESSURES OR FRUSTRATIONS OF BEHAVIORS; WE CAN FEEL LIKE WE ARE IN THE WEEDS, LOSING SIGHT OF BEAUTY NEARBY. IN A MOMENT OF HASTE, WE CAN OVERREACT, CAUSING A LOSS OF CONNECTION THAT THEIR TENDER HEARTS SO DESPERATELY NEED. Spring 2022
“I PRAY THAT ACCORDING TO THE RICHES OF HIS GLORY HE MAY GRANT YOU TO BE STRENGTHENED WITH POWER THROUGH HIS SPIRIT IN YOUR INNER BEING, SO THAT CHRIST MAY DWELL IN YOUR HEARTS THROUGH FAITH—THAT YOU, BEING ROOTED AND GROUNDED IN LOVE, MAY HAVE STRENGTH TO COMPREHEND WITH ALL THE SAINTS WHAT IS THE BREADTH AND LENGTH AND HEIGHT AND DEPTH, AND TO KNOW THE LOVE OF CHRIST THAT SURPASSES KNOWLEDGE, THAT YOU MAY BE FILLED WITH ALL THE FULLNESS OF GOD.” EPHESIANS 3:16-19 each family. But, parents can start with two main principles: 1) Prioritizing an active and growing relationship with Christ and 2) Being in relationship with their children. Through His amazing grace, God gave us Christ as an example of worship, prayer, and service to the King. As we look to Him, may our children also look to us as faithful examples. For this to happen, our children must be able to see us worship, pray, and serve. In addition to maintaining a personal Bible study and prayer time, parents also disciple their children when they witness parents’ time and intentional worship of the Lord. If a parent aims to model a life wholly surrendered to the Lord, children must bear witness to that life throughout the day. Modeling a surrendered life can be done in small ways and in big moments. For example, how parents treat a cashier at the grocery store matters. Parents sincerely apologizing when they are wrong matters. The way parents spend their free time and live a life of integrity in what they watch and listen to matters. Parents can be encouraged that the big moments are indeed powerful, but the small ones also make an immense impact. Children are more apt to listen to and emulate their parents when there
is a strong connection. As the Lord desires to be in deep, authentic relationship with His people, we should also have a significant focus on being in relationship with our children. When children feel connected, they are more willing to really “hear” their parents. That relationship gives an avenue through which children get a glimpse of how the Lord leads, loves, and shepherds us and allows space for them to learn as we lead and disciple them. This process of discipleship reminds me of the words of Paul in Eph. 3:16-19: “I pray that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” This verse was Paul’s prayer to the Ephesians, and it should be our prayer for our children whom we are called to love, lead, disciple, and shepherd.
FEA R , PR ID E , & BEING
T HE W O RS T O N E M OTH E R’S JOURNE Y T O G O D ’ S TRANSFORMING JOY By Jenny Riddle
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hen the wind blows ferociously or the waves batter relentlessly, the roots of a plant are what firmly grasp the soil and anchor it in place. The same is true in the lives of believers. When circumstances toss Christians around, their roots in Christ will be tested. Scarlet Hiltibidal knows this truth intimately. As a child, the unexpected divorce of her parents opened the door traumatically for fear and anxiety to permeate her life—from spiders to plane rides to food to acceptance to cancer to adoption. Having grown up knowing Jesus and with heavy involvement in the local church, Scarlet knew what Jesus had done for her. Nevertheless, it was only at the point when she accepted that she could do nothing without Him that her roots began diving deeper into the gospel. Her journey into adoption tells the story of this truth with tremendous clarity. Adoption first played a role in Scarlet’s life as a young child. After her parents’ divorce and a strained relationship with her father shook her young world, Scarlet was introduced to a man who would love her family faithfully, like Christ. This man, Paul, married Scarlet’s mother and legally adopted Scarlet as one of his own when she was eight years old. And that’s exactly what she was—a daughter, fully and completely. But, her personal experience could not drown out the fear she carried of personally pursuing adoption with her own family.
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When Scarlet married Brandon Hiltibidal, she knew he had wanted to adopt since he became a Christ-follower at 18 years old. At that time, Brandon internalized the message of adoption in the gospel—that believers are adopted by Christ into the family of God. From that moment, God put a desire in his heart to adopt a child one day. But, Scarlet’s emotions about adoption were wrapped in fear: fear of the unknown, fear of “horror” stories she had heard, fear of disrupting her family, fear of everything. She told Brandon, “I can’t do this.” Although Scarlet was hesitant, Brandon prayed and waited. Slowly, God began to move in her life in multiple ways to change her heart toward His call. First, God was working on her personal attempts at control and perfection. She recalls, “The Lord was teaching me how to have joy and peace by taking my eyes off of what I could do in my own goodness and my own efforts to be approved and reminded me that it’s all about Him. It’s all about what He’s done.” Second, as Scarlet saw more and more adoptive families, especially her cousin’s family, the paralyzing fear began to subside. “Everywhere I went, I would be confronted with international adoptions, specifically, and it lost its scariness when I saw normal people doing life, laughing, crying, sometimes being happy, and sometimes being sad.” Spring 2022
She was encouraged that the families she saw weren’t some kind of super-Christians; they were just typical, obedient Christians who depended on God. Finally, God brought all the pieces together as Scarlet was driving in the car one random day with her two daughters: Ever, age five, and Brooklyn (called Dewy), age one. While Scarlet was thinking about laundry detergent, Ever began a pensive conversation, expressing her childlike gratefulness for having a mom and dad and a comfortable bed instead of the cold, hard cribs she had seen in their cousin’s pictures of an orphanage. As Scarlet began to explain how the gospel calls us to care for others through the strength God has given us, her heart was immediately broken by her own words. She describes the moment as a “very supernatural moment where I started sobbing, and I suddenly was not fearful.” She called Brandon with the news that she wanted to pursue adoption. Together, they felt called to a little girl with deafness from China. After calling a few agencies and receiving recommendations from other adoptive families, they felt at home with Lifeline and began the process. Scarlet knew that adoption wasn’t something she could do on her own. She knew that dependence upon God was imperative to the process. So, depend upon Him she did. He had provided tremendously for their family in ways like financial assistance and six months of free, one-on-one, college-level sign language classes from a local interpreting agency. She describes that time as one of extraordinary peace, “I had so many genuine faith-building experiences of God providing. We were living in this obedience that forced me into dependency and this sweet, sweet time of just peace. I thought this might be the hardest thing ever, but God is the one orchestrating this and I’m going to trust Him.” Subconsciously, though, her dependence became a source of pride. “All this stuff we were trained not to do in our heads. I was just kind of doing,” she confesses. Despite all she had heard and read to the contrary, Scarlet admits that she thought their experience would be different. She “was just going to love” and believed that love would be sufficient to carry them smoothly through the attachment journey. However, when they met their almost four-year-old daughter, Joy, in China, Scarlet’s confidence unraveled in the face of reality. She began a season in which attachment was difficult, her compassion and patience wore thin in the face of challenging behaviors, and she found herself occupied with what she describes as “anger at myself” for not being what her child needed. Scarlet felt like many adoptive parents— the worst. Even though parents understand that behaviors accompanying trauma were learned out of necessity, dealing with those behaviors is difficult, and they can pull out the worst in a parent. She recalls those early emotions as a new adoptive parent as a juxtaposition to the transformation that was happening in her child, “You’re witnessing this miracle. This child needs you to be joyful and loving. Why are you the worst? That’s the monologue that was in my head all the time.” There was nothing she could do on her own to fix any situation; there was no more room for pride. Recognizing her insufficiency was good news to Scarlet.
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It freed her from the need to strive in the strength of her own efforts. Only God could change hearts. Only God could restore her joy. Only God could give her patience and compassion in the midst of hard days. Therefore, she needed to remind herself of her need for the gospel, and she also needed the godly wisdom and counsel of others to guide her in practical adjustments. Scarlet explains, “You need to bring these things into the light and not in a way that celebrates how we are the worst. Everyone’s the worst. We’re normal. Yes, there’s comfort in realizing that you’re not the only one. It’s normal, but it’s still sin to not have compassion when your child needs it.” She paraphrases Paul in Romans 6:1, “Does [being normal] mean we should go on sinning so grace can abound? By no means!” Scarlet surrounded herself with others who could help her put the gospel into practice: “I think the key to getting me to a place of peace and joy was not to pretend it didn’t exist, not to hide it, but to bring it up to my close, trusted Christian friends, a Christian counselor, and my husband.” By shedding light on the truth of her situation, she cleared out the weeds of shame for new growth. Just like with children, a parent’s heart and behavior take time and work to change as well. When she would find herself frustrated or discouraged, she began to ask herself, “What do I need to do in this situation?” The first reaction was to repent, ask forgiveness, and point her children to Jesus, who is the perfect parent. Then, she examined what practical steps she needed to take to direct her own mind and heart toward the peace of Christ: Did she need a break? Did she need to get a babysitter? Did she need to meet with a small group of women for Bible study?
Did she need to focus on gratitude? Scarlet encourages parents to consider what will help engage their spiritual heart in their day-to-day world—exercise, singing, Bible study, a coffee break—whatever will help set a parent’s heart and mind in the right frame spiritually. Adoptive and foster parents choose to love a child who knew a life before their family. For Scarlet, like numerous adoptive parents, fusing the choice to love with the security of attachment was a slow season of seeking Christ, deepening in the truth of the gospel, and doing the necessary hard work. Slowly, through the supernatural work of God, progress began to peek through the dark. She is in awe of the work God did in her and Joy’s life, “It’s a really beautiful thing when the Lord gives you this supernatural love for each other. You were strangers, and then you become mother and daughter. Wow! God made us a family, and it is the most amazing gift.” The miracles didn’t stop with Scarlet or with the incredible holistic progress Joy has made. God has been working through the entire Hiltibidal family through the adoption of Joy. Born without ears and profoundly deaf, Joy was non-verbal when they met her. Now, through the help of doctors and surgeons, Joy has ears. Through therapists and others, Joy can now communicate through sign language as she voices words. Because ASL (American Sign Language) is her primary means of communication, Ever, the eldest Hiltibidal daughter who is now 11 years old, began leading voluntary sign language classes at their Classical Conversations Co-op. Many students have joined in so that they can learn to communicate with Joy and others through ASL.
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Scarlet doesn’t attribute any of her family’s growth to herself but to the faithful lovingkindness of God. That’s why she desires to keep using her “worst-ness” to point them to Christ. Even in the difficult questions about why God’s plan may include suffering and challenges, Scarlet points her children to the gospel because only Christ can bring what answers cannot—peace, life, and hope. To point children to Christ means that parents are rooted in Him first. Scarlet emphasizes that children will absorb what you do and say. Although parents cannot ensure their children will follow Christ, they can plant spiritual seeds through their own relationship with the Lord and in some practical ways. Scarlet suggests the following as a starting place to put Deuteronomy 6:6-9 into practice: • Leaving a Bible open on the table or in the family area • Listening to scripture set to music • Doing family devotions regularly during the week • Practicing intentional rhythms as a family such as consistent worship and service • Using daily life events—such as when an ambulance drives by or observing the beauty of creation—to pray, sing, or talk about the gospel From her own experiences, Scarlet recognizes that parents have the best intentions, but they fail in the worst ways. However, these imperfections open doors to dig her roots deeper into Christ and to point herself and her children to Jesus through her own need for Him. With her roots in the gospel, she will not be uprooted when winds storm around her.
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SCARLET HILTIBIDAL IS THE WIFE OF A PASTOR, A MOM, AND AN AUTHOR WHO LOVES JESUS. SHE CURRENTLY LIVES IN CALIFORNIA WITH HER HUSBAND AND THREE DAUGHTERS. SHE WROTE A NEW BOOK IN
WHICH SHE TELLS MORE STORIES OF HOW SHE’S THE WORST. IT
RELEASES SPRING 2022 AND IS ENTITLED YOU’RE THE WORST
PERSON IN THE WORLD: WHY IT’S THE BEST NEWS EVER THAT YOU DON’T HAVE IT TOGETHER, YOU AREN’T ENOUGH, AND YOU CAN’T FIX IT ON YOUR OWN.
Planting SE E DS OF H O PE in Ukraine By Rachel Biddy
ifeline is blessed to work with two strategic partners in Ukraine who work to keep families together and serve people who are viewed as less valuable in their country. According to UNICEF, there are an estimated 510,000 orphaned and vulnerable children in Ukraine. Children in Ukraine are prone to separation from their families due to poverty and incentives from the government for children to live in government homes. Slavik and Alyona Puzanov felt the Lord calling them to care for orphans in Ukraine and founded Heritage Ukraine in 2007. Heritage Ukraine exists to shine God’s light in dark places for orphans, at-risk children and families, and children with special needs. They strive to consistently share the gospel and God’s love with children in and around the large, multi-cultural city of Odessa. At the beginning of their ministry, Slavik and Aloyna visited one orphanage per month and held their first summer camp with less than 50 children and 11 volunteers. They now visit 18 orphanages every month, and Camp LELA hosts up to 600 children and over 400 volunteers every summer. The seeds of faith that were planted through the work of a small ministry have grown into fruition. In 2018, Yuriy and Madison Perekotiy began to partner with Slavik and Alyona in their work with deaf, autistic, and at-risk children. Yuriy is Camp LELA’s pastor, and Madison leads training on trauma and attachment. They emphasize a gospel message that children can take home to their families — they want Ukrainian families to understand the gospel too. The two families come together as Lifeline’s strategic ministry partners to spread the gospel to vulnerable children and families in Ukraine. Because their ministry is rooted in the gospel, they can share everlasting hope with people in Odessa. Ministry efforts have recently shifted because of the pandemic and now, because of war. Heritage Ukraine continues to minister to those who have been impacted by the pandemic and those displaced by the conflict. Slavik and Aloyna are still providing care for the most vulnerable despite their current hardship. To partner with Slavik and Alyona and Yuriy and Madison, you can pray for their work in Ukraine. You can also donate to this life-changing work at p2p.onecause.com/ukraine.
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i n f e r t i l i t y G R I E F & PA R E N T I N G
By Jenn y R i ddl e w i t h Trac i N e w e l l
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Sitting on a stool in front of a large group of potential adoptive parents, she felt inexperienced and inadequate, but she had been asked to be part of a panel during training for these parents. She was an adoptive mom who had been led to that path sooner than she and her husband anticipated. Their journey with infertility was painful, and the challenges of attaching with their son had opened doors for new battles with it.
sked, “What a r to ra e d o m l e The pan you have g in th lt u ic f if d was the most e parents?” v ti p o d a s a d e c fa Several things flashed through this mom’s mind: difficult medical decisions and procedures, attaching, difficult behavior, becoming first-time parents of a mobile child with medical needs who couldn’t speak the same language. But what she found most profoundly difficult was “overcoming the lie that God didn’t intend for me to be a parent because of our infertility.” Her confidence as a parent was rooted in what she thought God did or didn’t want for her, and it impacted the way she interacted with her son. As she described her answer, she noticed a lady in the back corner of the room, tears streaming down her face. She knew immediately they had shared the same journey. Perhaps God had brought her inadequacy there for such a time to speak truth to another mother’s heart—that she was worthy to be a mom because God had made her so. That story is a true one. I know the details because I was the woman on the stool. I have now been a mom to a precious son for nine years, but the journey to parenthood through adoption was a difficult one that began with my own grief of infertility. The subject isn’t a widely discussed topic. It makes people uncomfortable. It’s not a conversation that people generally want at a party or the dinner table. But that’s precisely why I wanted to talk about it here with our Lifeline families. We walk with families through hard stuff to help each other be rooted deeply in the truth. Then, as parents, we can plant good seeds in our children. I worked with Traci Newell and Angela Mains to gather solid principles alongside practical information for families who have walked or are walking with others on the path of infertility. Traci is The National Director of Families CountTM and a licensed social worker. Angela Mains is Lifeline’s Program Director for Counseling Services and a licensed professional counselor supervisor. For many couples, the impetus to begin the adoption or foster care process (ever or at a particular time) is through the path of infertility. However, launching into the challenges of parenting through adoption or fostering with unresolved issues can create friction of grief between all parties; while a child is experiencing the grief of being separated from all they know, parents are dealing with unmet and possibly unrealistic expectations in a way that none of their friends or family ever have. Therefore, processing grief prior to and after bringing a child into the home is essential for the healing and well-being of everyone.
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GREIVING INFERTILITY AS A PARENT
THE GRIEF OF IMPORTANT OCCASIONS
The following paragraphs list several circumstances that may bring grief to light again.
THE GRIEF OF DIFFICULT OR IMPERFECT PARENTING As shared in the opening story, challenges in parenting can cause doubt to erupt about your worthiness or adequacy as a parent. Parenting a child from adoption or foster care adds multiple layers of challenges. Situations like parental rejection, difficult trauma behaviors, attachment challenges, or your own normal but sinful reactions to circumstances have a way of bringing infertility grief and uncertainty to the surface again. Talking through these emotions with those you trust and grounding oneself in the Word of God will help to enforce His adequacy through you and His deep love for you despite mistakes, challenges, and situations you cannot control.
THE GRIEF FROM OTHERS Sometimes friends and family misunderstand your situation or make well-intending (or ill-intending) comments to you. Despite any good intentions, their misguided actions or words can leave you with a range of emotions, from simple hurt feelings to a restrained desire to hit something. Phrases such as “If you adopt, you will probably get pregnant” or “One day you’ll have your own child” can compound sorrow and rob you of the joy of parenting the children in your home. If unattended to, the grief that forms around the pressure from loved ones can be a breeding ground for relational strife and other complications. A situation may require honest conversations or a simple “My children are my own” reply. Seek wisdom from prayer and your trusted support group in what may be best for each situation.
“...life will inevitably raise grief and pain to the surface throughout the years. That’s normal. Therefore, parents who have walked the path of infertility must be grief-aware.” Spring 2022
A sense of loss following infertility can reappear throughout life, especially at times of celebration like Mother’s Day or the birth of someone else’s child. Seeing posts on social media in which friends’ children look like miniature versions of their parents can elicit grief feelings, as your children may look nothing like you. Realizing these possibilities is important. These events can be grief triggers. Although resurfacing feelings do not usually indicate a spiral into depression, identifying recurring grief is essential. Simply being aware of occasions such as holidays and grief anniversary dates will allow parents to take necessary steps to be gracious to their children and themselves and take any action needed to address their grief constructively.
THE GRIEF OF SHARING YOUR CHILD When there has been recognition and resolution of the loss of fertility, you can more confidently acknowledge all of your child’s story. This openness removes delicate responsibility from a child to care for their parents’ feelings while healthily exploring their own story. This kind of openness also promotes reunification with birth family out of foster care, which is most commonly the goal when a child enters care. Most parents understand the need to walk openly with their children through questions and thoughts about their families of origin. Even developmental conversations about how babies are made will inevitably lead to a discussion that children from adoption or foster care did not grow in the womb of the mother who is raising them. That truth can be painful. Confusing feelings are normal, and acknowledging them is healthy. Some men and women parenting through adoption may struggle with the reality that another person shares the title of “Mom” or “Dad” with them. This struggle is an understandable area of hurt when a deep desire of the heart may be to have complete ownership of that role because of your connection to your child and yearning to parent. The Lord always welcomes sincere prayers about your struggles and sharing your hurt with Him, even when doing the best for your children means pain for you. These situations are just a few that may arise when couples parent from adoption or foster care. There is much nuance and depth to the grief of infertility and parenting that we cannot discuss all here. Still, being aware of the ongoing nature of infertility grief, even when a child has entered the home, will go a long way toward healing for both parents and children. Parents being well-rooted in their own resolution of grief and acknowledgment of God’s good will for their lives is imperative to sowing healthy seeds in the lives of children. If you would like to talk with one of Lifeline’s counselors about infertility and how it is impacting your family, please reach out to us at 205-967-0811 or lifelinechild.org/family-counseling. This article is an excerpt from a blog post of the same title on the Lifeline website. You can read the full version at lifelinechild.org/grieveinfertility.
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LOOKING FOR A FUN, ENGAGING MISSIONS EXPERIENCE FOR KIDS? This summer Lifeline will help kids learn about what life is like for kids in the EasternEuropean country of Ukraine. Mission Kid is a five-session video-based curriculum designed to captivate kids with short, kid-friendly videos. Kids will learn about the ministries of Heritage Ukraine and learn ways their church can help. WE INVITE YOUR CHILDREN ON THE JOURNEY TO SHARE THE LOVE OF CHRIST WITH VULNERABLE CHILDREN IN UKRAINE. YOU CAN REGISTER AND DOWNLOAD FREE MISSION KID RESOURCES AT:
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A L A B AM A Golf Tournament Bent Brook Golf Course May 16, 2022
Family Night at the Barons Regions Field June 10, 2022
R(un) for One September 24, 2022
Share the Story Banquet Sheraton Birmingham Hotel October 25, 2022
F O L L O W @ L I F EL I NECHI L D AC RO S S S O CIAL M EDIA & YO UR L IF E L INE STATE’ S SOCI AL M EDIA FO R UPDAT ES AND DETAILS O N U P COMI NG EVENTS
MARK YOUR CALENDARS FOR SEPTEMBER 24TH!
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