So What? Part 2 of 3 Part of What’s Next……

So, yesterday we talked a bit about trauma and how it can lead to scars on kids.   Kids who aren’t as resilient as adults.    Kids who will, in many situations, carry those scars for a long time.    You can read it at So What?  Part 1.

Part 2 is going to talk a bit more about how I’m going to be involved in doing “something” about those scars and how you can get involved too…….

For those of you who don’t know me very well, let me give you a little background……

I’ve been married to my high school sweetheart and best friend for 29 1/2 years.   We have 5 kids – the youngest two were adopted from Haiti almost 11 years ago.   After spending a number of years supporting the orphanage that we adopted them from, I left a career in banking and went to work for the orphanage raising awareness and funding from here in Michigan on a full time basis.    I did that for 3 1/2 years until that position was eliminated last May.

During those years as an adoptive parent, I’ve learned many many things but a couple of them that I want to share with you:

  • Very few people can truly understand the journey that parenting children from hard places is.   It’s a journey of joy, of healing, of sadness, of pain, of doing things differently.    Therefore, it’s often a lonely road.
  • Adoptive parents are some of the most ordinary but amazing people I know.    We are not perfect, we are far from it.   We’re screw ups, we’re failing, we’re hurting, we’re just ordinary people who have answered the call to give love to someone who needs love and to be family to someone who doesn’t have a family that can and does care for them.
  • There’s a group of people who work for an organization called Adoption Family Support Network.   Originally, my interactions with them were mainly through events and social outings.   But more and more I got to know them and realized how much more they do.    They do a lot of “walking beside” adoptive families and helping them through the tough times in life.    Whether that be connecting them with resources, being a listening ear, connecting them with other adoptive families, training, whatever it takes to smooth out the bumps in adoptive family life.

After discussion, planning, swapping ideas and more, I’m proud and excited to join forces with The Adoptive Family Support Network.   My official title is “Adoptive Parent Consultant.”    The real title doesn’t matter – what matters is that I’m going to have the opportunity to help adoptive families who might be struggling or lonely or not knowing where to go or…….

As those of you who have known me for years,  my passion for troubled kids has been a long standing “thing” with me.    This is such a “right fit” for that – because I get to help others who share that passion.

So what does that mean?    A couple of things:

  • AFSN recently got some substantial grants and have moved from being a 3 county organization to being statewide.   So anyone who lives in Michigan can take advantage of the support that we offer.
  • The written and electronic information that we put on Facebook, (https://www.facebook.com/AdoptiveFamilySupportNetwork) and on our website at www.afsn.org  is available for anyone anywhere.
  • There is an AFSN Group on Facebook – it is a “secret” group – but friend me on Facebook and then ask me to invite you.    It’s a great place for anyone in any area of adoption, foster care etc. to talk, share ideas, learn from others.    We’d love to have more of you join!

It also means that I’m going to be doing more writing on here (and elsewhere) about adoption, about parenting children from hard places and other ways to make a difference for kids with scars.    So the focus of this blog is going to shift a bit.

If you want to chat about this more, call me, e-mail me, use the “contact me” button on the side of this page.

It feels really good to join forces with the people at AFSN and to get to work with families who are doing amazing things in ordinary ways……..

These kids need to heal from their scars.   We get to help with that.

I hope you’ll join us.

Tom

When Did We?

When did we?   When did we see God in need?    When did we do something about it?   These verses make it very clear that we can’t say, “When did we see you?”

God says that if you see a need, you need to meet that need.    No excuses.   No delays.   No “I didn’t notice.”

Matthew 25:35-40 (NIV)   35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’  37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’  40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

The needs are there – we need to do something about those needs.

TJV

 

So What? Part 1 of 3

Quite regularly, I talk to people who are overwhelmed.  Actually, I had a conversation the other day with a good friend and we both agreed that we don’t do well with “small stuff.”   Yes, we both like to relax, like to play mindless games, like to get lost in a TV show occasionally.

But when it comes to the “stuff that matters” we aren’t going to get caught up in the small stuff.    Things that don’t make a difference.   Things that don’t have an impact.

Life is too short to spend it chasing things that don’t matter.

So What?   Tell me something I didn’t know.    I’m not going to.

But I’m hopefully going to tell you some things that you already knew but in ways that will grab your attention.

So What?   Well, here goes……

Children are important.    Duh……   But let me expand on that – not only are children important, but the lives they live and the experiences they encounter during the first 15 years of their lives (even more so, the first 5 years) will be things that they carry with them for the rest of their lives.

If those experiences are “normal” and relatively calm, then they will carry the experiences that they remember as a solid foundation for the rest of life.    They won’t remember everything but they will, overall, have a good base to build on.

If those experiences are disruptive, traumatic, violent, unstable (and the list can go on and on), those experiences, those things that a child felt, heard, saw will leave scars.   Scars that might heal with time.  They are actual physiological scars in many cases.

But scars that will never go away.    And for many kids those are scars that will prevent or at least make it very difficult for them to do things that we take for granted – love, cuddle, be a friend, care for someone else, share, related to the opposite gender in a positive way, deal with criticism well…….

I discovered, first hand, in June of 2003, that a lot of children, a lot more children than I ever thought have been damaged by those tough, tough experiences that no child should go through.   Literally millions of them all over the world, all over the country.  And in your back yard.   And at your kids school.   And……   And……..

So we agree, children are important.

And we agree that not all children have experienced a trauma free (and by trauma, I am NOT referring to middle school tween age drama) and stable home environment.   A lot of them have not – and are suffering from it.

And so are their families.   Their parents (whether biological, foster or adoptive), their siblings, their cousins, aunts and uncles, grandparents – the scars are hard on all of them.

These type of scars can happen to kids of all social and economic backgrounds.   They can happen to kids of good physical health, it can happen to children who face long struggles with disease or who experienced a significant injury.   It can happen to children who experience the death of a parent or the divorce of their parents.

It IS NOT ONLY adopted children who can be struggling with these scars.

There are many adopted children who breeze through the struggles of abandonment and adoption with very little if any problem and very little if any scars.  We never hear about them – because they are living life and just going on about their business.

But by the very fact that an adopted child went through an abandonment, a forced relinquishment, time in an institution or in foster care and then adjusting to a new family and in many cases a new country means that adopted kids are more likely to bear the scars of the tough things they went through.

I’ve heard it said, but I don’t know if it’s completely accurate, that approximately 1/3 of all adopted children are considered “completely blended in” with their new surroundings and made it there without significant, if any, trauma or scars from it.    1/3 of all adopted children carry scars but are able to heal from those scars and live a relatively normal life.   And 1/3 of all adopted children deal with significant damage and significant scars that prevent them from living a “normal” (what is normal anyway?) life.     Like I said, I don’t know if the percentages are accurate, but that’s a pretty good description of the situation with adopted kids.

So, what have we discussed?

  • Children are important
  • If children don’t live a relatively calm and “normal” childhood, it leaves scars.
  • These scars can cause a lot of problems both now and in the future.  Not everyone has scars and not everyone is impacted by those scars in the same way.
  • Adopted kids are at a higher risk of these scars, but THEY ARE NOT THE ONLY ONES who can face these type of scars.

So what?

Do we leave feeling hopeless?   Did I write this just to make you sad?   Or mad?

No, I didn’t, but I did write this to hopefully get you to care about kids – kids beyond your own……

But for that, you’re going to have to stay tuned to Part 2 and Part 3.

Stay tuned……

Tom

 

It’s Not About My Friend Todd……

Hi, my name is Tom and I have a friend who is a Realtor……

His name is Todd.

Seriously he is and unfortunately he doesn’t live near me – because he’s really good at what he does.

But this is not about my friend Todd.   And he’d be the first to tell you that.

But he can’t because I don’t believe he can read this right now.

See, besides for being a good friend, and a kindred spirit on many things that matter, Todd is also married to a nurse like I am.   Just another reason he’s a good guy.

But this isn’t about Todd.

Though he posted a picture on Facebook this morning that prompted this post.   See, Todd is not in Ann Arbor right now.

He’s not even in the United States.

He’s not even in North America.

Todd and his wife are part of a medical/surgical team that is in Africa right now.   They are providing surgical care that is unavailable to patients there without them – and training the local medical staff while they are there.

The picture – he’s in what is obviously a surgery room, wearing scrubs, looks like he hasn’t shaved and probably showered in a while and the look on his face is not quite sheer panic but close to it…….

The caption –  “So far outside my comfort zone……”

That got me thinking – imagine what would happen if all of us stepped outside our comfort zone.

Imagine what would happen if the church in the first world wasn’t happy with the status quo and wanted to step outside our comfort zone and do more and be more of what God is??

Do you think God is happy with comfortable?

I don’t.

Do you think God likes it when people step way outside of their comfort zone and put themselves in positions where they have no choice but to rely on Him?

I do.

And that’s where my friend Todd is this week.

And that’s where we all should be – not necessarily in Africa, but outside our comfort zones……

Thanks, Todd.

Me

Death Valley–and Psalm 23

Psalm 23:4 “Even when the way goes through Death Valley, I’m not afraid when you walk at my side.”

Continuing the thoughts about Psalm 23…….

When I read through Psalm 23 today, one of the things that really struck me was that Death Valley can take on many different meanings……

Death Valley can literally mean you are walking through the Valley of the Shadow of Death with someone you  love and care deeply about.   That is tough, tough beyond imagining.

Death Valley can also mean that you are walking through a place like Death Valley California – a hot, dry, mean, nasty and unforgiving place.   A place where, if you are unprepared, you’re literally going to become toast.   A place where, if you don’t have adequate supplies, you are going to end up very close to the “other” valley of the shadow of death.

Death Valley can also mean just a hard, unfair, difficult stretch of life.  A part of life that isn’t fun, isn’t enjoyable and a part that sucks a lot of life and energy out of you.

Three different interpretations of what Death Valley means.   And you know what?   It doesn’t matter which one you are in,  God is there.

God is with us in any of them. 

God is with us in all of them.

While it doesn’t mean we won’t have troubles, it does mean we can face those troubles without fear.

Not without being scared – there are many many things that can make you scared – and that’s good.    ISIS, Boko Haram, Hurricanes, tornadoes, totally relocating your family to another country – just a few of the things that can make you scared.

But scared is different than fear.    Fear is the type of thing that makes you question your  existence, question whether you will make it.   Scared is knowing you’ll make it – maybe not here, but you’ll make it in God’s House.  

There are a lot of really ugly things going on today.   We don’t need to fear them – because God’s with us.

And He’s going to see us to the other side of Death Valley – whatever that particular version of death valley might be…….

Tom