Category Archives: adoption

Eve of Sorrow, Dawn of Joy

It’s a girl!” So began my life in a hospital located right beside a lake where unwanted baby girls were drowned near Bangalore, India. Fortunately for me, in a country where over 50 million baby girls are missing through gendercide, my birth mother chose life! I was then adopted at 10 months old, just six months after my severely traumatized six year old brother. He had seen his birth-mother take her life by setting herself on fire, and suffered from severe RAD and PTSD. We were given love, family, encouragement and a future in the US with our new “forever family” and more importantly, the hope of an eternity with Jesus.

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My adoptive parents felt God’s call to adopt, as it stands as a testimony reflecting the heart of the gospel, where God adopts each one of us who repents and accepts His free gift of forgiveness through His beloved Son Jesus’ death on the cross. Just as Christians become a part of God’s forever family, my brother and I would become a part of their “forever family”. However, my family and I faced much rejection from other Indian families and friends because orphans are deemed less valuable than their biological peers with bad “karma”.  Adoption is discouraged in Indian society.

During the teen years, my world started spinning around me as life overwhelmed me. I struggled with the primary trauma of losing my birth-mother, and the secondary trauma of living under my older brother’s severe suffering. Everyone around me seemed to have easy, perfect lives. I had many deep questions but no answers. Why would God allow me to be abandoned? Who was I? Where did I belong? What were my roots? Why couldn’t I meet my birth family? I was angry at Jesus and at my adoptive parents, and began rebelling. Meanwhile, God in His grace miraculously touched and transformed my older brother’s life. He had suffered for eleven long years, and our family had struggled much along with him. God’s touch on His life was awesome and complete. But I didn’t care. I was angry. My brother had been my ally in suffering, yet now he had left me behind! Additionally, my beloved ninety-one year old great-grandma who had come to live with us died of lung cancer. This further devastated me. I felt like I was living a nightmare and was lost and alone. By my high school years I didn’t even feel alive.

Then, two years ago, I made my first visit back to the hospital where I was born and had been relinquished near Bangalore, India. For years I had felt unwanted, lost and broken. I was looking for answers to my confusion. Excitement, nervousness and fear overwhelmed me. Would this open a Pandora’s box? It felt like my future hinged on this visit!

The Mother Superior of the bare-bones orphanage greeted us and then introduced us to twelve tiny children. They played on stone floors, slept in uncomfortable cribs, had no toys, and were impersonally cared for by their caregivers. Practicality ruled the place. Then, I saw the lake behind the orphanage where all the local unwanted baby girls were drowned! Realization hit me hard!  This could have been my end, had I not been adopted! I was overwhelmed by God’s grace! My parents had gifted me with temporal and eternal hope through my adoption! I was gently told by the Mother Superior that I may not get answers to my questions on this side of eternity, but that I must learn to trust God’s perfect plan. She challenged me to live my life with a passion for God’s glory! I realized that mine was a rare life preserved by the very hand of God, for the purpose of becoming a voice for the millions of voiceless Indian girls who are being abused and killed! While new hope coursed through my veins, I still struggled.

I have met several adult adoptees over this year and though our stories may be very different we all struggle with tremendous loss rooted in the separation from our first families. For me, the loss was real. But as my Pastor recently said, “Yes, life is unfair, but God is good”. I know that for me, my hope comes from the fact that I have had the privilege of being adopted permanently into God’s family. Jesus paid a very heavy price for my adoption- he gave up His very life for me, and because of this; I am a new person, with a new hope and a new identity because I have put my trust in Him. And though this life is painfully hard, and there are days that I don’t feel like I can even take one more step, I know that one day all my tears will be wiped away, and I will rejoice for all eternity as a daughter of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

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If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. ~ Romans 10:9

This song has also been a source of great encouragement to me over the past year: Just Be Held by ‪Casting Crowns‬

To those of you that are parents of kids from hard places, I plead with you to not give up on your children. Keep them rooted in the Word, through Bible Study, church, family devotions and prayer. Even if your children hate you and hate the Word, keep them in the Bible. You are not the answer to your child’s struggles, ultimately, Jesus is the only answer.

Dear Heavenly Father,

Help us to remember that You are our only hope. I pray for those who are struggling because of their life losses. Remind them that You are the Good Shepherd who walks with them even through the valley of the shadow of death. I thank You that You have promised to always be with them and never leave them nor forsake them. Bring them Your comfort, hope and peace.

In Jesus Name,

Amen

Movie: Change of Plans

 

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Watching Change of Plans on YouTube brought on a myriad of emotions in me. The movie is about a DINKs (dual income, no kids) couple who are well set in their life and careers suddenly being confronted with the reality of caring for their friend’s four kids on her death, three of whom had already been adopted once by the friend. Overnight, they had to stepp into this arena, with absolutely no parenting skills and with no real understanding of trauma or appreciation for the need for stability or permanency for the children. They were forced to step into this parenting journey only because there was a sudden need but with the condition that it was an interim temporary arrangement. Not to give away too much, I’ll admit that it was a heartwarming, Hallmark-ish movie with a happily ever after ending. A rare, clean, family movie, definitely worth the watch.

Tears streamed down my face as I sat in the dark watching it as it hit so near home. My husband and I had great careers with only upward potential when we were suddenly confronted with the need for a family for a traumatized six year old child who had tragically lost his mother in Bangalore, India. We were living in NJ and working in NYC, the hub of power and success. Most of our siblings, relatives and friends had great jobs and careers and comfortable lives. Strong STEM education had led to high success jobs for most of them and it was easy to see that living the American dream was the goal all around us. If we were to do this, we would literally become the odd ones out giving up an amazing future in exchange for an unknown, broken child’s life. We had to prayerfully make the decision in one day – a decision which would literally turn the entire course of our lives upside down! One that would force us to lose the American dream and more importantly, one that would also force us to depend on God alone to provide for our every need. Even our son’s own biological relatives were unwilling to make that choice – it should have been the extended family’s  moral obligation to provide the love and safety of home and family for the newly orphaned kids.

The American Dream versus Orphan Care – a very tough choice to make! It was a decision that would throw us into a form of isolation as we now would be in a separate socio-economic strata of society too. We wouldn’t have money to go on vacations like the rest of our peers, we wouldn’t be able to send our kids with ease to private schools or for many extracurricular classes growing up, we couldn’t easily afford the cars or the lifestyle that we saw all around us. All this was a consequence of our choices! Soon after our adoption, we found our non-English speaking, traumatized son reeling. I was confronted with making the choice of giving up my budding career as a Senior Business Analyst at a large pharmaceutical company to stay home with our  son. A few years down the road, my husband had to make the choice literally overnight to throw away a blossoming career in Executive Management in the tech sector in NYC to move three thousand miles across the country to a job at Microsoft way below his level, not even in his area of expertise at less than half the salary, just so he could be more available to help our struggling kids, particularly our son who had PTSD and RAD which was devastating him and our family. My husband’s career never recovered from then on as the corporate world is always suspicious of such changes – for who would deliberately choose this downward path when climbing the ladder of success is the goal of life? It isn’t easy even today when men’s conversations automatically gravitate towards ambition, achievement, career success, as well as financial ease and comfort for their families as they move towards retirement knowing that those dreams cannot be ours.

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So, it was heartwarming to see the couple in the movie making the deliberate choice to give up significant career opportunities to joyfully care for the sibling group of orphaned kids, considering the kids’ lives worth more than their own booming careers! Yes, such major life choices can impact lives eternally! It might be a rare phenomenon in Hollywood but it can be a more common choice for a Christian family. This calling is not just for a select few but for all who are called by God’s name. James 1:27: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to care for widows and orphans in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” Yet most often, by default we turn away from this and other such sacrificial, yet impactful life callings and gravitate instead towards the comfort and temporary steadiness of the American Dream!

Just like the couple in the movie, my husband and I also had absolutely no parenting skills but we had willing hearts. We had no external resources to guide us nor did we have family nearby who could teach us and support us on this incredibly difficult journey. I would often look at friends who appeared to be such amazing parents and wished we could be like them. Within a span of six months, we ended up being parents to two kids, a six year old son and a ten month old daughter. Additionally, our son was so traumatized and angry that he was constantly passive aggressive, especially with me, as he was living with PTSD and RAD. You can only imagine our parenting chaos! Our daughter was affected living with her own life losses as well as living under his trauma for years. Following in their shadows, the only life our youngest, biological daughter grew up with was trauma related living under the brokenness of her two older siblings. We struggled deeply as we often did not have the faintest idea on how to parent these kids God had entrusted us with. Again, we felt like fools for years because despite wanting to be good parents and despite sacrificing so much for these kids, even probably putting in far more effort than most of our parent peers, we were constantly failing. The first parental validation we received was fourteen years into our journey at the first Refresh Conference for Foster and Adopted Parents that we attended five years ago. We have since learned that adoption is a journey of deep loss make no it an excruciatingly hard journey with no happily ever after. Yet, our calling was to continue faithfully parenting in love, absorbing their pain and suffering on ourselves, just as God does for us. Here’s an encouraging video for parents who have chosen to be on this hard journey – You Are Not Alone! 

Change of Plans showed some of the resistance and real life struggles with the kids’ adjustment, but overall it came across as a fictional feel good movie with all problems sorted out in an hour, ending with smiles and happily ever afters. But life isn’t scripted in Hollywood. In real life, since adoption is built on real trauma and loss, it is often fueled by loss of control, anger, rage, lying, hoarding, even violence. The kids often have huge physical, spiritual, emotional and intellectual needs which require a sacrificial investment of time, energy, resources, money, etc by the parents to just keep them going. We’ve also learned that more than the best, most loving parental efforts, the life losses and suffering faced by adopted kids are so deep that only Jesus can truly fill the void in their hearts to heal and make them whole! The same holds true for adoptive parents who’ve had to lay it all down and often have to go through life without the desired parenting results – only Jesus can give us hope!

So unlike in the movie, life may not turn out Hallmark style with the happily ever after…….but God tells us that it’s still worth it to sacrificially follow in Jesus’ footsteps! Our guarantee of a happily ever after is in heaven!

The verses in 2 Corinthians 4:7-17

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies…….. So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison…..

Every person who has experienced adoption by their Heavenly Father can joyfully make such painful, sacrificial choices daily because they have a guarantee of eternity with all the glory and riches of life with God to look forward to for all eternity!

 

Anne of Green Gables

I devoured the Anne of Green Gables book series when I was a mere fourth grader in Sophia Girls High School in Bangalore, India! I could not put them down, even going after school between library days to get the next book in the series. I was after all following in my Mom’s footsteps as she had recounted to me how amazing the story was. Lucy Maud Montgomery writes a vivid, beautiful, heartfelt tale of a little orphan girl’s life as she blossoms into womanhood with love, intelligence, character and wit! I absolutely loved it and re-read it many times over!

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In the mid 90s, after immigrating to the US, I had the opportunity to get the video series from our local library in Paramus, New Jersey and was absolutely fascinated. It was awe-inspiring to see the vivid descriptions come to life as Anne lived her exciting life out with full drama on the exquisitely beautiful Prince Edward Island. Megan Follows acted wonderfully bringing to life the character of the little orphan girl who grew up before our very eyes on screen. She displayed the charm, wit and intelligence that Ms. Montgomery had woven into Anne’s character, giving many a young girl the dream of living life to the fullest, just like her. Even more was the desire to bring up a daughter just like her! I definitely fell in love with Anne Shirley as a kid and dreamed of the day I could visit her home on Prince Edward Island in Canada. It intrigued me even more for my middle name is Anne too and I always imagined (with the flattery of Anne) that my Mom had named me after reading this amazing story! Yes, I am an ANN with an E!

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Even as a young girl, visiting Shishu Bhavan (Mother Theresa’s orphanage in Bangalore) always touched a cord deep in my soul – I just knew I wanted to help those precious children. But, orphan care was even more etched into my brain and heart after I read and then saw the beauty of family enfold in this precious little girl’s life. I saw the impact that even a very unlikely family like Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, an older brother and sister duo, could have on a vulnerable little girl’s life. I watched as she longed and waited for a feeling of permanency even if it meant just working hard to serve a family as an unpaid maid – the setting of the book clearly showed how little she was valued as a person in society, she was just another unworthy orphan girl! I saw the fear and sadness in little Anne as she faced the uncertainty of a future with the Cuthberts – something I have taken for granted with the expected permanency of my family. I saw Anne willing to do anything so she could just stay with them – yet failing miserably repeatedly as her angst at being looked down on as a “red head” caused her to blow up many a time! It was real and funny, yet taught us many important life lessons. She was modest and boisterous, sufficiently aloof to be desired yet bold enough to face the world on her own. Anne through her stay with the Cuthberts had the opportunity and the tools to hold life by the horns and face it with grace and dignity coming through as a winner! She chose not to mope about her past misfortune but to focus on her future hope! Anne took on the young men of her generation and pummeled forward making a mark on her world as well as on the hearts of many of her readers and viewers. Anne Shirley was an incredible role model for young girls for generations to come!

Anne of Green Gables was one more piece of the puzzle of my desire to adopt one day. The series gave me a glimpse of the beauty of adoption (though technically, Anne was permanently fostered by the Cuthberts). At that stage, I hadn’t even comprehended the eternal and awesome beauty of God adopting me into His family through Jesus with a promise of living with Him in His heavenly home as His precious and beloved adopted daughter forever. That truth eventually did seal the deal for me, leading my husband and me to adopt an older child! And God in His Grace brought the adoption of our son to fruition for His glory too! As I look back on Anne’s story and my son’s story, I see gratitude being the basis for living life well – gratitude to God first and then gratitude to parents. I also saw the reality of the privilege of teaching a child about the God who loves and cares for her when she came not knowing about Him at all. I saw the beauty and the privilege of changing the course of a hope-less orphan child’s life when she was given the status of foster daughter! Anne lived a full life of joy and grace bouncing off that true heartfelt gratitude! Well done Lucy M. Montgomery!

Of course this is yet another fictional, happily ever after story – those are the ones that catch our attention and fill us with awe and wonder. But, life doesn’t always follow art; the reality of caring for orphaned and vulnerable children has shown us that gratitude is hard fought for. That kids who were orphaned often struggle with loss, brokenness, trauma and lack of control which turns their worlds upside down. It takes an act of God through Jesus’ death to redeem them, and then fill them with a His value, joy, forgiveness and purposes which then takes them into the fullness of life! In fact, every one of us can relate for we are all spiritual orphans who need redemption from our Heavenly Father and only through that hope we can live purposefully for His glory! Just like Anne longed to live on Prince Edward Island, we too long for the beauty of Heaven – her adoption by the Cuthberts allowed that to happen just like ours will happen through Jesus!

I have introduced this book series and TV series to my children because it’s a beautiful story of redemption and hope! In fact, much to my delight, my family bought me the DVD set just this past Christmas! I love it! If you haven’t ventured into Anne’s world, it’s never too late!

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Here are a few opinions to add voices to mine: Eight writers on how Anne shaped a generation of young women.

Race, Caste and Class

A story is told of a prince who wants to marry a real princess, but is having difficulty because there are many pretenders who are in fact not princesses at all. One stormy night a young woman drenched with rain seeks shelter in the prince’s castle, claiming to be a princess. So the prince’s mother offers her a bed covered by 20 mattresses and 20 feather-beds, with a single pea at the very bottom. In the morning, the guest tells her hosts that she endured a sleepless night, kept awake by something hard in the bed that has bruised her badly. The prince and his family rejoices. Only a real princess would have the sensitivity to feel a pea through so much bedding! So the two get married.

Here is a children’s fairy tale with the subtle message that no one is worthy of the prince’s hand except those with the “blue blood” of princesses! Unfortunately it reflects a tragic reality that exists even today. An article about Princess Kate talks about the class divide that still plagues Britain: “She may be beautiful, graceful and fabulously rich, but Middleton is still a ‘commoner’.”

Coming even closer to home, I hail from a country where the caste system is ingrained in our culture. India’s caste system is among the world’s oldest forms of surviving social stratification. At the top of the hierarchy were the Brahmins who were mainly teachers and intellectuals and are believed to have come from god Brahma’s head. Then came the Kshatriyas, or the warriors and rulers, supposedly from his arms. The third slot went to the Vaishyas, or the traders, who were created from his thighs. At the bottom of the heap were the Sudras, who came from Brahma’s feet and did all the menial jobs. Outside of this Hindu caste system are the Dalits or the untouchables. Christians in India are also often associated with castes that depend on the region and the language spoken.

Yet another way we humans distinguish ourselves from each other are by our race and ethnicity. This is sometimes referred to by the color of people’s skin – red, yellow, brown, black and white. The extreme abuse of this was found in Nazi Germany during the second world war. Nazi foreign policy was guided by the racist belief that an enlarged, racially superior German population should establish permanent rule in eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, and this led to the horrors of the holocaust.

In addition to caste and race, there is also an underlying thinking about class and pedigree. We just looked at the story of “The Princess and the Pea”. However, even in everyday life,. We talk about the “poor”, the “middle-class” and the “rich”. We also talk about “blue-collar” workers and “white-collar workers”, as well as about the “educated” and the “uneducated”. An extreme abuse of this was found in slavery, that used to be practiced until relatively recently. Today the exploitation of human beings still exists in a twisted, evil form now known as “sex slavery”, where typically younger children and girls are forced into prostitution. Even leaving aside these extreme forms of exploitation, considerations about class and pedigree have seeped right into our own homes! For example, often the dignity of labor that is taken for granted in America does not exist in third world countries such as India. Most homes employ maids who are not allowed to eat at the table of the home in which they serve, but sit on the floor with a different plates and glasses that only they should use, and are often treated as working machines rather than people. All of us (the exploited and the exploiters) have been conditioned to believe that they do not have a right  to be treated the same way as we are, in society.

The Christian gospel does not give room to us, for using these kinds of differences for social stratification. There are two premises that our fundamental to our Christian faith.

  1. Every single human being is in the same plight – at odds with our Creator, and on the path of His wrath against our sin. None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one (Rom 3:11-12).
  2. God does not accept a person by any considerations based on race, caste or class. He opens his arms to welcome all of us – all who put their trust in Jesus, who died on the cross on our behalf, and bore the punishment for our sins: 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). One of the apostle Peter’s early discoveries as a Christian caused him to say: I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality (Acts 10:34, KJV).

Thus the playing field is flat. No one has any intrinsic advantage or disadvantage over anyone else. In fact, often the things that we consider to be advantages may actually work against us the other way! But I digress – more on that in a later post. Flushing this out in detail in his letter to the Ephesians, Paul concludes: He Himself is our peace, who has made us one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall  … that He might create in Himself one new man …, so making peace, and might reconcile us all to God in one body through the cross (Ephesians 2:14-16). And Paul triumphantly states: There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal 3:28). This truth should so grip our hearts and minds, that it should spill into all our interactions with others: Show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? … If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. (James 2:1-4,8-9)

This radical way of thinking has caused fundamental changes in society that have reverberated across the annals of history. The US Constitution states: …We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. And after this there has been a civil war and a civil rights movement to uphold this now “self-evident” equality in the dignity and value of all human beings. Unfortunately, even truths such as this are not sufficient to erase centuries-old habits and biasses.

More unfortunate however, is the sad fact that although we Christians should be leading the way, we still have not fully embraced these profound truths in our personal lives and families. For example, these differences are deeply ingrained in the Indian Christian Community, and are evident in the choice of spouses we make for our children. One of the ripple effects of this is that most families do not even consider the option of adoption except when they have a need, such as in cases of infertility. Stay tuned for other posts, where I unpack the underlying reasons why I make these statements. May God grant us grace to transform our thinking from the inside, so that behavior becomes consistent with the faith that we profess!

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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

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: