Adoption Destroyed Birthdays For Me

Realization hit me recently that I have rarely been able to celebrate birthdays in our family. It was not so when I was growing up – I used to love birthdays and my brother and I usually had a combined party each year with school or neighborhood friends, and we had family celebrations with my grandparents and extended family in Bangalore. But surreptitiously, life had taken me in a different direction. And now, yeas later, I was sitting on my bed on my son’s 25th birthday, filled with a deep sense of sadness and grief instead of overwhelming joy. This got me thinking and looking back on our journey as a family. I wondered why I, who loved doing big celebrations, had so rarely organized birthday parties for my kids? I have had huge dedication, baptism, graduation and wedding parties – yet we’ve had very few birthday celebrations. Our children are now aged 25, 19 and 12 – that would add up to 50 birthday celebrations (discounting the first 6 years of our son’s birthdays that we missed)! Yet, we can count the birthday parties we hosted with our fingers. In fact, we celebrated just two out of the twelve birthdays even for our youngest biological daughter.  Why?

It all started unraveling when I recently heard a friend wish her daughter on her birthday, telling her she was thinking of the time when she was giving birth to her. In that moment, my heart broke within me – it felt like the damn broke and years of my pain was being unleashed. It wasn’t her fault – she was doing what every normal mother would do – reminiscing at the beauty of the time when her precious baby was born. But to me, that day, her words were a stark reminder of the loss my children and I have faced daily – the loss of not being together from the start and the unusual way in which our family was built layered with pain, trauma and suffering. We never experienced the joy of our two older kids’ births or the tenderness of the early years, and instead, were hit full force with the consequences of their trauma and loss when we adopted them.

Over the past 19 years, their birthday months were triggers, causing them to subconsciously fight the loss of their birth families. They were days when their anger peaked and their frustrations were leveled against me. That was understandable, for I had replaced their beloved birth mothers who had cradled them when they were born, but it hurt nevertheless. Both of my adopted children came with deep wounds. My son came home broken and traumatized at age 6, after the mother he had loved deeply and had bonded with, took her life. My daughter came home to us as a 10-month old baby, having had the privilege of being carried and nursed by her birth mother for her first few months at the orphanage. Both these women had made profound impacts on my children’s hearts, and losing them had caused deep grief and brokenness that I cannot even imagine. Consequently, my children were filled with anger, rage and frustration against me – their birth parent’s replacement. 

Looking back, we know without a shadow of doubt that God brought these children to our family. But unfortunately, due to deep-set cultural prejudices and biases, as well as a lack of teaching on the beauty of adoption, many Indians have not fully embraced our children’s’ adoption. For example, to this day despite our pleas, my older daughter’s birthday seems to be invisible to my husband’s family. These differences hurt deeply and these hurts get reopened every year, and it makes me dread birthdays because I have to find ways to balance these added pains in my children’s hearts. 

So what is the solution to this dilemma? I am in pain during every birthday in my family, I am grieving the losses of not being the one who birthed my children and loved them from the start. I am angry that people discriminate against my kids. I have struggled to be in the shadow of “ghosts” who loom large in their lives. But, I am their “Amma” , “Mom”, “Maiee”! That will never change. God opened my eyes to His mission of orphan care when I was still a child and there was no turning back (that is a story for another post)! I have chosen to step into this role and have borne much of my children’s grief and anger at their losses, ever since we adopted them in 1998. The warrior princess in me comes out, as I fight to love and protect my hurting family!

These are vulnerable children who were wounded due to no fault of their own. But, God chose my husband and me to love them, and in the process just as our parents did, we get to redirect the trajectory of their lives towards Him! In other words, the children we had adopted had totally different backgrounds and DNA from us, and we had the privilege of loving them and making them our very own beloved son and daughter. Then we got to give them the privilege of being co-heirs with our biological child, and far more importantly, to introduce all three of them to Jesus through whom they could all become God’s adopted children, co-inheriting all God’s riches for all eternity with Jesus should they choose to do so! Mind blowing truth! Worth celebrating! 

So, yes birthdays are still excruciatingly hard, and yes, my family may never have normalcy and beauty around those days – but the path we have chosen to take with our children is worth it. As Jason Johnson has said, “Adoption isn’t swooping in to save a hurting child with a cape on our backs but it is crawling in the mud alongside their brokenness, with a cross on our backs”! Beauty and brokenness are intertwined in every aspect of our lives. This is the gospel in action! We love because God first loved us (1 John 4:19). Similarly we can say that we adopt because God first adopted us! Adoption was not an afterthought for God, but His Plan A! God chose not to stop at just saving us, but to adopt us as His sons and daughters before the foundation of the world! So, though we lose out on birthday celebrations, and in our human-ness we struggle and feel deep sorrow and grief, we also look ahead to the eternal glory that is awaiting us, when every tear will be wiped away, and there will be joy everlasting and we will be celebrating Jesus all the time forever! 

So practically, how do we celebrate birthdays in our family? We do small family celebrations with my parents, where we cut a cake and a have special meal. They always lovingly give our kids a gift and Pattima (grandma) usually prays over them. On my end, I may not be able to celebrate that day in a big way for them or with them, but I hope that all my countless acts of love throughout the year show them that I love them deeply. That we are blessed despite what life throws at us! My husband created a small family tradition called the “birthday stool” where he makes the birthday child sit on a special stool while the rest of us stand around that person. We lay hands on them and each of us prays a blessing over him or her. This is our way of asking God to bless them in the midst of all our brokenness and mess. A huge blessing to us is when others, friends or family, call and wish them on their birthday, or step out and give them a special gift, or take them for a meal or cut a cake to celebrate their special day.  It means so much to this tired mama’s heart! It is a gift from the hand of God, compensating for my inability to celebrate their birthdays. My gratitude to God overflows.

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans in their distress (James 1:27).

And as far as my guilt goes, yes, mommy guilt prevails in my heart and yes, I grieve that my children have missed so much but God is slowly teaching me to focus on what He thinks is important – that we can find joy in the journey in Him and through Him. And, we look forward to unending celebrations in eternity with Him!

For another look at this, see: https://www.goodreads.com/author_blog_posts/7630205-parenting-kiddos-who-sabotage-big-days

20 Verses About Hatred

Hatred is a feeling that can be both Godly and sinful depending on why it is there. The Bible speaks of loving God and hating evil, hating evildoers, and hating lies. The more we become like Jesus and understand the love of God, the more we will begin to hate lies, godlessness and the evil of the world. However, we are also warned constantly i the Bible of how hatred and bitterness can destroy us. God tells us in His Word that hate is a heart issue and that someone who hates a brother (anyone) is a murderer! We are encouraged to love one another, not hold one another’s wrongs against them, and forgive them, not building up bitterness or anger in our hearts.

Here are 20 Bible verses covering anger and hatred:

1 John 1:6
If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth.

1 John 2:9-11
Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.

Ephesians 4:31
Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.

Proverbs 8:13
To fear the LORD is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech.

Proverbs 10:12
Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.

Proverbs 10:18
Whoever conceals hatred with lying lips and spreads slander is a fool.

Psalm 5:5
The arrogant cannot stand in your presence. You hate all who do wrong;

Psalm 31:6
I hate those who cling to worthless idols; as for me, I trust in the LORD.

Psalm 36:2
In their own eyes they flatter themselves too much to detect or hate their sin.

Psalm 45:7
You love righteousness and hate wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy.

Psalm 97:10
Let those who love the LORD hate evil, for he guards the lives of his faithful ones and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.

Psalm 119:163
I hate and detest falsehood but I love your law.

Romans 12:9
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.

Leviticus 19:17-18
Do not hate a fellow Israelite in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in their guilt.”Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.”

Luke 6:27-28
“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.

Matthew 5:23-24
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.

Matthew 5:44

But I tell you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who mistreat you and persecute you

1 John 3:14-15
We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.

1 John 4:19-20
We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.

Is Choosing to Adopt Going Too Far?

Adoption is a hard and lonely journey we undertook almost two decades ago when we chose two children to be our son and daughter. Hard because our children faced much loss and came into our family, overwhelmed by trauma and brokenness. Human nature causes us to lean towards personal comfort and away from brokenness. As we traveled this road, we found that most walked away but a few chose to walk alongside us and offered their support in deeply practical ways for which we are very grateful.

However, we are finding that adoption is a hard concept for our human minds to grasp.  Recently, when we were in the midst deep struggle, we were told by a well wisher that, “God only talks of orphan care in the Bible and doesn’t talk about adopting children. So, perhaps He only expects us to care for the fatherless by placing them in orphanages where the kids have each other, are well looked after, and might even be happy and thrive. Most adopted children seem so unhappy, and their adoptive parents struggle so much too. It just doesn’t seem worth it!” In other words, they were wondering if adoption was really required.

So the question we had to face was: Had we unnecessarily stretched ourselves too far? Did we go beyond what God had expected of us?

This caused us to pause. It is a very weighty question, because adoption had changed the trajectory of our lives! In choosing this path, had we inadvertently stepped out of God’s will, and were our struggles just a consequence of those self-made choices? We earnestly began seeking answers to these questions, because in addition to being deeply invested in it, we were also involved in adoption and foster care ministry in our church and county. Not surprisingly, the is answer embedded in the very core of our Christian faith! We re-discovered that God did not need to tell  us to adopt in the Bible, because He modeled it Himself through His actions, and Scripture is threaded with His invitation for us to be like Him! To understand this awesome truth, we need to first step back and remind ourselves of how far God was willing to “stretch Himself” for our sake, so we could belong to Him as His adopted children.

The Bible tells us that God created all human beings to reflect His nature and to bring Him glory. However, right from the beginning, we chose to rebel against God our Creator, and broke our relationship and fellowship with Him. Consequently, for His justice to prevail (since He is a perfect and holy God), every one of us justly deserves to experience His wrath against us, and we should be banished from His Presence forever into Hell. However, God in His mercy and compassion chose to do something about it, which He had planned before the world even existed! He sent His Son Jesus, to come to earth as a man, and to die on a cross, bearing the punishment for all our sins on Himself! In this way, God could  freely offer us reconciliation with Him, in perfect mercy and justice, and that we can live eternally with restored fellowship with Him. This is perfectly summed up in this well known verse: “For God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

The Bible calls this salvation. It is a free gift God has given us, although we did not even deserve it. God demonstrates His love for us, in that while were were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). Imagine that! God chose to save us when were were at our worst! He set His love on us! He sent His Son to die on the cross to take the punishment we deserved for our own sins! What a God He is! If He had done nothing more for us than to save us, the echoes of our praises for His mercy and His grace would reverberate throughout eternity!

However, the wonder of the Christian gospel is that God did even more. Far more! With a love that we can only marvel at but never fully understand, God chose to go above and beyond! God chose to adopt us into His family as His beloved sons and daughters, and make us co-heirs with Jesus. That is over the top, outlandish love! This very thought caused the apostle John to pause in the midst of his letter and exclaim in awe: “See, what kind of love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called the children of God” (1 John 3:1). As Matt Carter once said, we will never understand the depth and intensity of God’s love for us, until we wrap our minds around the kind of love that He has for us. God didn’t just love us by taking our punishment on Himself. He did it by choosing to adopt us into His family at great cost to Himself! He is now our Father. We are now His children. The implications of this thought should really mess us up (in a good way)! Through His grace, we have been redeemed and are raised up  through Jesus as His adopted children. Nothing  can separate us from His love forever! May we never lose the wonder of this staggering truth!  In fact, one day as heirs of God, we will sit with Jesus on His throne and rule all of His creation along with Him (Rev 3:21)!

Here is a powerful message our family recently watched, which explains these truths more clearly: https://vimeo.com/51894525. This message is well worth the watch, and can be life-changing for you!

This is the heart of our Christian faith. It gives us the perfect framework to address the question of whether we go too far when we choose to adopt children! Yes, we can support children in orphanages – and orphanages do have their place. However when we choose adoption, it becomes a beautiful reflection of the very nature of God Himself, and stands as a testament of the gospel to a watching world! If God has loved us so much that He became our Father, how can we stop at less? We can step out boldly, knowing that it greatly pleases and honors God. with the deep assurance that even though the price we pay be extremely high, we are in the center of a His will and that He will walk along with us to provide for all our physical, emotional and spiritual needs! So, the next time we are asked this question, we can confidently say that we adopt because it reflects our Heavenly Father’s heart!

Twice Adopted!

I want to share with you a story about love, grace, and a new life in Jesus! I was born in India. You may not know this, but there are millions of children running the streets of India not going to school. This country has about 17 million orphans. Alcoholism is rampant among the men. And women have no value; it is the 4th most dangerous country for them to live in, due to selective abortion and sex slavery.

My birth parents, siblings and I lived in a tiny 250 sq. ft. home, on the outskirts of Bangalore. My father, an extremely poor and broken man drank daily to forget his pain and wasted away what little money we had. When I was just 5 years old, my mother, in utter desperation, set fire to herself and died before my eyes, leaving me with horrible memories. Many people in India still believe in karma, and my family was one of them. Karma teaches that when something bad happens to a person they are paying for the sins of their previous life, thus deserving of their current suffering. Also, a person with bad karma can pass it on to others. So because I had witnessed my mother dying, nobody wanted to look after me. I felt the horrible pain, loss and abandonment!

Ten thousand miles away, a couple in the States, Peter and Vanita, heard about my terrible family situation, and felt led by God to adopt me, this unwanted, broken child – it was God’s providence. They went through a rigorous adoption process and I came home to them 8 months later! I came to a new culture, needing to learn a new language ,and they gave me a new name – Sandeep, which means light! With all of these changes, the transition was not easy. I was also suffering from severe post-traumatic stress, making adoption a very lonely and difficult walk for us.

As the years progressed, my younger sisters Sneha and Rachna joined our family. I however, became very angry at God, my adoptive parents and my birth father for my trauma and losses. I told my adoptive parents that I would never become a Christian because it did not make sense to me why a loving God could allow my mother to die that way. It was a strong spiritual battle for my soul, because human adoption is a reflection of God’s adoption of us into His family. What do I mean by this? The Bible tells us that because of sin we have chosen to separate ourselves from God so each one of us is a spiritual orphan. But God chose to adopt us into His family through the death and resurrection of His son Jesus – Ephesians 1:4-5: He chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will.

God chose adoption before the foundations of the world. He paid a huge price to purchase our freedom – while we were hopeless and lost in sin; Jesus’ died on the cross as payment and He then offers the free gift of eternal life to us. Romans 6:23: For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Similarly, I was lost, abandoned and hopeless and my parents by God’s grace did whatever it took to adopt me into their family. Since I was coming into a Christian home, Satan hated and severely attacked my family and me.

Towards the end of my 9th Grade, Satan’s attacks on me were the strongest and my parents almost thought they had lost me as I was very angry, depressed and rebellious. God in His mercy continued to hold onto them ,even when they were discouraged and tempted to give up, granting them wisdom and grace to love me and put strong boundaries around me. Finally, in September 2009, after rebelling and struggling for 11 years, I surrendered my life to Jesus and found peace and joy for the first time in 17 years! John 1:12: But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.

Looking back on my life, God’s grace has been extremely evident throughout. There have been pivotal events in my life which God has used to steer me according to His purposes. I had very deep anger against my birth father, and I carried the heavy burden of unforgiveness for 11 years. After I surrendered I found freedom, because God gave me the grace to forgive. It was not the new life that my adoptive parents gave me which changed my life, but the eternal life God has given me through Jesus.

My life is a miracle, and the entire glory goes to Jesus. He chose me, He loved me, He provided for my needs, and He carries me through life! I was once hopeless, but today I have eternal hope in Him.

So why am I telling you my story? Because it is an illustration of the gospel. We are all sinners but God in His mercy sent His beloved son to die on the cross as payment for our sins. Today we all have been given the free gift of salvation, and we have a choice to make. My prayer in sharing my story is that anyone who has not found that hope will find it in Jesus.

Here is a link to my testimony being shared at the Refresh Conference:

Mom’s Address to Her Adopted Son on His Wedding Day

our_adopted_kids

Babies are eagerly awaited and treasured and parental love grows from the very beginning. But what do you do when God chooses to start your family by giving you a broken, hurting, traumatized 6 year old to love and care for as your own son? Well, Dad and I thought that love and fresh air would do the trick and that we would all live happily ever after just like any “normal” family! And so, we naively decided to step into parenthood bringing you, our son,  into our home in July 1998. We had prayed much and felt led by God when we heard your tragic story but we had absolutely no clue of the roller coaster ride we were in for.

You came into our home knowing very little English – you were from an entirely different background, religion and family than us. You would just sit for hours staring outside your window in our home in NJ. You were angry, frustrated and lied incessantly. When I tried to hug you, you would stiffen and push me away. Our hearts broke as we heard your tragic story of losing your birth-mother, watching her as she had been pushed to die by setting herself on fire, being asked to step into the fire with her, as well as feeling the horror as you could do nothing to help her be okay at the tender age of 5! You were heartbroken and devastated and nobody had understood your pain. You hated me as I was replacing your birth-mother. You would stubbornly refuse to obey anything that I asked you to do. You were failing in school and unable to logically think or function. Our family was held hostage to your anger and failure. We looked like fools to our family and friends and we felt like we must be horrible parents to have a child as broken as you. We put very strict boundaries around you but it didn’t seem to make a difference . You just kept getting worse with each passing year.

kids

I knew that Jesus was our only hope and often reminded you of verses like Romans 8:28 that “All things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purposes” – yet, even to me it felt empty and hopeless. You hated God because in your mind, how could a loving God that we talked to you about, allow your mother to die so tragically without her knowing Him? We were hitting many walls and Dad and I often felt weary, angry and hopeless – even ready to give up.

I remember checking on you several times each night. I would kneel by your bedside and sob asking God why? Why would He allow a little child to be hurt like this? Why was He not stepping in and helping us? Why? Why? Why? God was our only hope and He needed to act soon.

I would cling to the cross and sob singing this song by Mark Schultz.

I’m down on my knees again tonight,
I’m hoping this prayer will turn out right.
See, there is a boy that needs Your help.
I’ve done all that I can do myself
His mother is tired,
I’m sure You can understand.
Each night as he sleeps
She goes in to hold his hand,
And she tries
Not to cry
As the tears fill her eyes.

Often late at night I watch him sleep,
I dream of the boy he’d like to be.
I try to be strong and see him through,
But Jesus, whom he needs right now is You.
Let him grow old,
Live life without this fear.
What would I be
Living without him here?
He’s so tired,
And he’s scared
Let him know that You’re there.

Can You hear me?
Am I getting through tonight?
Can You see him?
Can You make him feel all right?
If You can hear me
Let me take his place some how.
See, he’s not just anyone, he’s my son.

But, God appeared to be silent. No answers, no explanations, no comfort. The only answer I got was a promise from Him on May 12th, 2002 from Isaiah 54O afflicted one, storm-tossed and not comforted, behold……All your children shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children. In righteousness you shall be established; you shall be far from oppression, for you shall not fear! I needed faith to believe! Eleven long years went by before we saw God fulfilling this promise to me. In August 2009, God in a miraculous act of grace broke through to you my son, and let His light shine through. He even wiped away your anger and healed your broken mind, spirit and soul!

You are now twice adopted – once into our family and adopted a second time into God’s family. You now have eternal hope, peace and joy with Jesus!

Life has not been easy my son – I grieve deeply for I did not have you physically with me the first six tender years of your life and then I did not have you emotionally and spiritually the next eleven years because of your trauma. You have been learning to love and care for us step by step, in just the last few years. You know that Dad and I love you dearly through the bad times and the good times, and we are extremely grateful to God for you. Your sisters love you so much too. You have loved your family well! Dad and I have loved you deeply but we’ve also failed you much. Our hope has only been Jesus – that in our weakness, He shines strong. We hope that you will forgive us of our mistakes and sins against you but that you will take the good and carry on the godly heritage that you have received.

 

IMG_1171

And now God is calling you to fly and build your own home with this lovely young lady whom He chose and brought into your life. We rejoice at the good gift that your loving Heavenly Father has gifted you with in your wife, our precious daughter-in-love. Our constant prayer for you both is that you will fully surrender your lives to Jesus and live honoring and loving Him with all your heart, mind, soul and strength. Nothing on earth is worth more than Jesus!

Dad and I send you with our family blessingMay the Lord bless you and keep you, may His face shine upon you and may He be gracious to you, may the Lord lift up His countenance and give you peace!

Love,

~ Mom

The Meaning of Lent

So what is Lent? People often associate it to a 40 day period where they give up something. That’s partly correct but over time the true meaning of lent has been changed. Lent is the time spent in preparation for Easter. Easter, which everyone knows, is about Jesus’ resurrection from the dead….not the Easter Bunny. Lent Season is known as 40 days, it’s a basic remembrance of how Jesus fasted for 40 days and nights in the wilderness before beginning His ministry-Mathew 4:1-11. Throughout these 40 days, we must spend time thinking about what Jesus has done for us; first of all by coming down to the world, and second by saving us of our sins, by dying on the cross.

So as we begin Lent Season, we step into it by giving something up or adding something in place of what we give up. Giving up or adding something should make you step out of your bounds; something that you normally won’t do. This something could be giving up anything we hold on to tightly, something that we spend too much time or even something that needs more attention in our lives. These next 40 days can be thought of as something which you just have to get by, or you can look at it as a way to really work on your life. Some examples on what to work on could be self reflection (what do I need to change), forgiveness (whom do I need to forgive), restoration (spend time praying for yourself or someone you know), and for your own growth (work on your spiritual relationship with Jesus).

From my reading in Mathew 6 which talks about how we should fast, pray, and take care of needy etc, I got 5 points out of it:

  1. Giving to the needy must be done without praise or glory. It will be seen by God, who knows and sees all things.
  2. Prayer is important, but pray in silence. Meditate on the Lord’s Prayer.
  3. Fast with a happy and joyful heart and do it for Jesus.
  4. Be careful of the time spent in lent, don’t let it lead to you spending too much of time with the next best thing. God should be the most important.
  5. During this season approach it with a right heart, and God will provide a way through.