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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!

 

Celebrating 50 Years of Grace!

It’s just near midnight at the end of my fiftieth birthday and the house is quiet. The big 50! It was a day of great rejoicing for me – not because of huge birthday celebrations and parties, nor because of outlandishly expensive gifts, and definitely not because we got to get away on a vacation to celebrate this special day! None of that happened, yet, it was out of this world amazing to me!

I am extremely grateful to my loving Heavenly Father who has poured His love on me over the past five decades of my life. These verses summarize why I am overwhelmed!

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as 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 to Himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace, with which He has blessed us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of His will, according to His purpose, which He set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in Him, things in heaven and things on earth. In Him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of His glory. In Him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in Him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of His glory. Ephesians 1:3-14

I started the day with an extra special treat – going to the Jon Ric spa to get a facial and massage with all three of my beautiful daughters. This is extremely unusual for me as I almost never go to a spa – I’ve probably gone twice in my entire life and only in Bangalore, not once in the US! It was a surprise gift to me from the “No Way” Refresh Conference fairies and it arrived right around my birthday! It touched my heart because the lovely folks at this newly opened spa had donated their time and effort to encourage foster and adoptive moms like me. My daughters were obviously thrilled and sharing this experience with them was such fun! I left feeling so refreshed! Just grateful!

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Soon after that, I got to go and join other friends in helping a dear family setup their home for their son’s First Holy Communion celebration! This group of friends from our Grow Group have become treasured brothers and sisters over the past 2 1/2 years. Each one bends over backwards to help and care for the others. We saw them pour out their love on us at our son’s wedding and today we all got a chance to do the same for this family. The place was transformed into a beautiful party house. The planning, the chatter, the prayers, the laughter, the fun, and the joy of being with these servants of God brought much gratitude to my heart. We are praying much for their son who steps into this important step of faith tomorrow and we rejoice with them!

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And then, the clincher of my day was a surprise family birthday party executed with so much joy and enthusiasm by my precious children and parents. It was amazing to see the joy and excitement on all their faces as they told my husband me how they had planned and prepped for the event all week, yet managed to keep it a secret! They are all gifted in a different ways and we could see that each one wanted to out do the other in good works for the benefit of all. Birthdays have always been extremely painful for our family as I had mentioned in this post. I am so humbled by the love of both generations we are sandwiched by. They worked in such unity of spirit as they shopped and decorated, cooked and cleaned, bought gifts and got beautiful cards – all this to celebrate my husband’s and my life (his birthday is four days before mine – but he is older and wiser!). They truly made it a memorable day for me and for us all! Each one shared how they were grateful and wanted to give back in love! My heart was so touched by their sacrifices and love! It’s a rare gift in an adoptive family! Their loving acts of service brought overflowing gratitude to God in my heart for without Him, this would not be possible!

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Seeing my parents enjoy their grandchildren brought many smiles to my heart. All four children here in WA, love their grandparents and willingly serve them. Thatha and Pattima will do anything for the grand kids. There were smiles all around as we prayed and played a quiz they had made up on my life! It brought back memories of the joys of yester years with my own beloved grandparents. I know what a gift of grace it is to be able to celebrate with three generations together. Such gratitude in my heart!

I am also so very grateful to every person who sent me wishes, encouraging notes, prayers, and calls from around the world. It is so overwhelming to see the world connected this way. Most of them didn’t have to but they chose to, out of love – a good gift from a loving Father! He has allowed me to live in an age of such global connectivity – mind blowing but amazing!

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As I sit on my bed tonight, tears of gratitude pour down as my heart overflows with praise at the awesomeness of God! We have had so many years of brokenness, pain, sorrow and suffering – days when I have cried out unable to even articulate the pain and loneliness of the journey, days when I have felt abandoned by everyone, even God. Yet today, God gifted me a day of thanksgiving and joy! Thank you Lord for doing Your work of grace in my life and in the lives of my family and friends around me. May You alone be praised! I give You thanks, I give You glory!

Bless the Lord, O my soul and all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.  Psalm 103:1-5

Lord, bless each person who has made a difference in my life over the past 50 years. Please, give them the greatest blessing of all – knowing You and becoming Your very own Son or Daughter just as You have blessed me!

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.