Trying Compassion

I have gone back to work. After 20 months at home with my girls, my former school contacted me and asked me to come back to help them finish out this school year.

It was weird to walk back into a building and rooms I hadn’t seen since May 2011. And then I met my students. I had already heard about one student. (That’s just the way it goes in schools – you always hear about the most difficult ones first.) But I had resolved to form my own opinions.

And I think that this student needs to feel like someone is on his side, like he’s receiving compassion. So I remembered what I’ve been trying to implement with my own children and transferred this to my classroom.

When there’s a problem, I stay. When the child runs, I follow, and I tell him how I feel. I tell the child that it scares me and it’s not safe when he runs away and that I need to keep him safe. I am consistent. I speak with a soft voice. I communicate that I care.

It’s exhausting.

And after a difficult time, I ask the child for a hug. I tell him that hugs make me feel better. I encourage him. I look at the same dinosaur book over and over and over again. When we are waiting for the bus, I ask him to sit in my lap and we sing all the songs he asks for. I try to give him nurture. I try to be the teacher I want my children to have.

I am not saying I’m perfect — that’s not why I tell you what I’m doing. I guess I am saying that what Dr. Karyn Purvis teaches works. It doesn’t guarantee perfection or problem free days, but I know that I am building a relationship, one that I hope will teach him that he can trust me. I hope that he learns to use his voice, to know I am on his side, and that I will help him get his needs met. And I have hope that he will learn that other people can help, too.

I am glad that our adoption journey has introduced us to Dr. Karyn Purvis and Empowered to Connect. If you haven’t checked out Empowered to Connect’s resources, today is a great day to start doing that.


*This post originally appeared on

Shame & Grace

At the 2012 Tapestry Adoption and Foster Care Conference, I picked up the book Shame and Grace: Healing the Shame We Don’t Deserve by Lewis B. Smedes. We have had enough moments in our parenting with our children to wonder how this whole idea of shame is affecting us. The more I read this book the more convinced I become that shame is something my family needs to be more conscious of. Smedes describes shame this way:

“To begin with, shame is a very heavy feeling. It is a feeling that we do not measure up and maybe never will measure up to the sorts of persons we are meant to be…The feeling of shame is about our very selves – not about some bad thing we did or said but about what we are. It tells us that we are unworthy. Totally.”

Reading those words breaks my heart and makes me want to not contribute to those feelings. Smedes goes on to describe how shame is different from guilt, frustration, and other emotions. He identifies groups that he thinks are more susceptible to unhealthy shame like “compulsive comparers and approval addicts.” He points out a difference between unhealthy and healthy shame. He suggests religious, cultural, and parental influences that can make us feel shame. And he talks about the shame that comes from the pain of rejection. He says,

“To be disgraceful is to be weighed and found unacceptable to those whom we need to most accept us. It is, in short, to be despised and rejected by our own.”

That last phrase, “…rejected by our own..,” has really stuck with me and so have terms like “compulsive comparers and approval addicts.”  Everything I have read so far is causing me to be more thoughtful and careful with my words to my children and my husband. I think my oldest daughter feels hurts that I can’t imagine, and she needs me to be sensitive to her even when I think what I am asking or saying is trivial because it’s not to her. Everyhing I say to her and do with her is meaningful.

So as I continue to delve into this book, I am glad to have the opportunity to attend Tapestry’s Large Group Event: The Shame in Us:

Adoptive and foster parents are often surprised to learn that shame is a significant issue in the lives of their children…as well as in their own lives.  But parents and children are not without help or hope in the face of shame.  Melanie Chung-Sherman and Michael Monroe will discuss how shame impacts both children and parents in adoptive and foster families, and will provide practical insights and tools to help parents and children overcome shame and strengthen their connection.

I hope to see you at this event, but if you can’t attend the Large Group Event this Saturday, January 26 from 6:30 – 8:30 pm at Irving Bible Church, then I encourage you to check Lewis B. Smedes’s book Shame and Grace. I hope you will find it as insightful as I have.


*This post originally appeared on


Today is the four year anniversary of the day we met our daughter, Elise. I don’t think I’ll ever forget waiting by the phone in the hotel room, surviving a wild cab ride and arriving at the orphanage. It was all so surreal, and left us forever changed.

At the time, we knew so little about the parenting challenges we would encounter — though we thought we had educated ourselves pretty well.  And as we continue to learn more on this adoption journey, today I am reminded of how expectant my husband and I were. December 18, 2008, was the culmination of a very long journey for us. We had traveled a combined 24 hours to meet our daughter. I was sick. We were scared and nervous and tired. But December 18, 2008, was different for Elise. She was tired and hungry and probably wondering who these strangers were that were taking her.

And now in 2012, we are all a little older, and my husband and I are still tired. Sometimes we are frustrated that we are not farther along in our relationship with Elise, while Elise is frustrated that her little sister keeps breaking all her toys and that she can’t have more sour candy. Though we, the parents, process our family story differently than Elise, I hope and pray that as she remembers and makes sense of her own story, she will bring us with her so we can support her in her journey.

So today, December 18, 2012, we will remember where we were four years ago. And we will remember that although December 18 was the start of the story of our family, Elise’s story started before we were ever a part of it. And we will honor her story — all of her story — and how it changes our family as we continue on this journey together.

Holiday Drama

The Thanksgiving holiday feels like practice for the mega holiday — Christmas. My family and I enjoyed a nice Thanksgiving dinner with relatives gathered at our home. My oldest daughter was so excited about “the turkey giving day” and couldn’t wait for the party; she and her sister had a blast entertaining all our guests. The next day we traveled to see more family which was another day of fun.

What holiday weekend would be complete without trying to cram in a couple more things? I mean that’s what time off is for, right? Fitting is as much in as possible. So on Saturday, I took my oldest to see a Nutcracker Puppet Show.

When we arrived home, my daughter had an epic meltdown. The kind you are glad to see end. The kind of meltdown where your child trashes a most-prized possession (such as a bag of Cheetos), which only frustrates you more because you know there will be another meltdown about the lost Cheetos — fun times for all.

And when the meltdown had run its course, she was just tired (and elements of the puppet show had probably been too much). I understood because I was tired too; holidays can be exhausting.

So for our family, I’m going to have to pay more attention to how we manage our time and continue to work on expressing our feelings. I’ve learned that we just can’t overdo it. (I’ve also learned that next year I shouldn’t put my Christmas tree up before December 1, but that’s another story for another day.)

Ultimately, parenting my children well during the holidays means setting them up to succeed, and that’ll require us to opt out of some of the hustle and bustle of the season. I’m fine with that — especially if it means we don’t waste anymore Cheetos.

NOTE: Some families can feel another kind of stress over the holidays. Michael Monroe wrote about the sadness children can feel during the holidays called “Why Christmas Stinks Sometimes.”

When I Couldn’t Find the Reset Button…

This post originally appeared on Tapestry Adoption & Foster Care Ministry’s website.


Daylight Saving Time dealt us a serious set back. We had a rough week last week because we were all so tired. And right as we were about to fully recover from DST, we went out of town for a family wedding. While we enjoyed the weekend with family, we did not enjoy our Sunday evening with our overtired girls.

It was the kind of tired where you are beyond exhaustion and you start to get silly. It is very hard to redirect a four year old who has reached this point, and it always seems that at some point an emotional low comes with the exhaustion which makes me wish that children came with a reset button, but they don’t.

As we were nearing the end of our evening, our oldest, started saying, “I look awful. I look weird,” after her bath. Nothing really preceded these statements, she just started saying, “I look so awful. I look weird,” and there was no convincing her otherwise. I wasn’t sure what was causing her to make these statements, so I turned to one of favorite resources – children’s books.

I pulled outI Don’t Have Your EyesThe Skin You Live InThank You For MeThe Colors of Usand Gigi’s God’s Little Princess. Not all of these books are specifically adoption related, but I was looking to give her some positive feedback. As we read these books and talked about different people in each book and how I love everything about her, we got a part in The Skin You Live In that says you look up to the sky and ask why. She looked up and said, “God, why do me and mom look different?” Luckily, she didn’t expect me to answer because that is a really difficult question to answer, and I’m not sure what I would say. It made we wish I didn’t have to wait until December for the Color and Shame DVDs from the Tapestry Store.

But all I could do was reassure her that I loved her. And at the end of the night I said, “Do you remember what mommy said?” She said, “Yes that you don’t love my outside, you only love my inside.” While I inwardly sighed that she still didn’t get, I reassured her again that I love the outside and the inside. And this morning after 12 hours of sleep, I’m happy to report that she woke up declaring herself the smartest and best person in her family – her self-confidence was restored.

While I’m sure we will have these conversations again, I’m thankful that I was able to engage my daughter some, that a good night’s sleep has helped us over this hurdle, and especially that more resources will soon be available to me. I’ll take all the help I can get.

They’re Both Mine

I have two daughters, one by adoption and one by birth; both mine.

When we welcomed Elise into our world, we had been in the adoption process for 21 months. We had been fingerprinted, background checked, undergone a home study, assembled a foreign dossier, signed risk waivers, told to give up, then been given a miracle on August 25, 2008 – a 2 month old baby girl in Vietnam. We traveled to Vietnam four months later to meet our daughter on December 18, 2008 and bring her home.

We were in a foreign land, picking up a stranger who we were now able to call our daughter. I’d been given pictures of her when she was 2 and 3 months old, and I just assumed I’d be meeting the baby in the photos, but when we pulled up to the orphanage and saw the caretaker holding a baby (the only humans in that area), I remember thinking, I guess that’s her. And when she was placed in my arms for the first time, I held back tears because I didn’t want the Vietnamese caretakers and officials to think I didn’t have it together.

My husband and I were in a foreign country, surrounded by strangers while having our first family moments together. We didn’t understand the language, and we were thankful we didn’t have to drive around! We also couldn’t wait to get back to our Tapestry family, so they could finally rejoice with us.

* * * * *

When we welcomed Maggie into our world, I had been pregnant for 9 months. I held felt her kicks and seen my belly grow as she grew. And when she was born on May 11, 2011, I remember thinking, “Well what do you know? There really was a baby in there,” as my husband said, “She looks like me.”

As Maggie was placed in my arms, I had the same feeling of wanting to hold back tears as I did with Elise. Only this time, we were surrounded by nurses and doctors and family and everyone spoke English, and we didn’t have to survive a 16-hour flight before we could celebrate our child with family and friends. We could celebrate immediately.

Two girls, two different stories.

Both mine.

One daughter has a flare for the theatrics and aspires to be a pop star. The other follows after the pop star trying to emulate her every move. She adores her big sister which means we are well on our way to raising two divas. As I manage my divas, they don’t notice their differences. They just notice that they fight over the same toys and love the same mommy and daddy (they fight over that, too). The beauty of their story is our Tapestry community. You don’t know your differences when you are surrounded by other trans-racial families. You just live life together, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Tapestry was There

This article originally appeared in the October 2012 issue of Chatter Magazine (a publication of Irving Bible Church).

Tapestry, the adoption and foster care ministry at IBC, had been serving families for almost two years when we first encountered them. It was the fall of 2006 and my husband, Scott, and I had just started considering this thing called “adoption.” At first, we were just trying to figure out if adoption was for our family, and it was then that we attended – Adoption Myths and Realities – where we met Amy and Michael Monroe (Tapestry founders) along with other families. We ultimately decided to pursue an international adoption from Vietnam, which began a 21-month journey of faith and doubt.

When we started the adoption process, we had no expectations about the role Tapestry would play. But as we began to navigate the world of adoption and the mounds of paperwork, it became clear that we would need Tapestry for more than just information. We began attending a Waiting Families Group, large group educational events, and the first Tapestry Adoption & Foster Care Conference in October 2007. At each group or event we learned about things such as adoption-friendly language, lifebooks, and other aspects of the adoption journey we had never considered. And along the way, we became part of a community.

Community (That Continues)

Scott and I were a young couple just following God’s prompting, eager to soak up any and all information, but we were not prepared for the stress, the lack of control we would feel, and the testing of our faith. We needed families who had been in these same situations to hold our hands and believe with us.

When our dream of a baby from Vietnam came crashing down with the announcement that we were number four on the waiting list and the agency only had three children to match before adoptions from Vietnam closed indefinitely, Tapestry was there. As we navigated what the loss of our dream meant and where we should go next, Tapestry was there.  When a week before adoptions from Vietnam officially closed and God miraculously matched us to a two-month old baby girl in Vietnam (with completed paperwork in less than a week), Tapestry was there to rejoice with us. Three months later, when we were only given three days notice to pack for a trip half way around the world to meet our daughter, someone from Tapestry came to my house and helped me make sense of my empty suitcase. And when we brought our daughter home on Christmas Day 2008, Tapestry was there in the airport eager to meet our little girl and celebrate with us. At each twist and turn Tapestry was there when we needed community and support, and they are still there for us as we navigate life with our now four-year-old daughter.

Support (Now and Later)

Most adoptive parents assume that the hard part will be overcoming the mountain of paperwork and navigating the unforeseeable turn of events in the waiting process, but they soon realize that the challenge begins once their child has come home. Adopted and foster children often have needs that require parents to change what they do as a family and how they parent. Tapestry has helped us through these challenges as well, both big and small.  In turn, we have wanted to give back and help families in ways we have been helped. We are excited to serve in a ministry that supports families like ours.

This October, Tapestry will host the sixth annual Tapestry Adoption & Foster Care Conference on October 27th, from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm.  This conference is great for families in all stages of the adoption or foster care process – those considering adoption or foster care, waiting families, foster parents, and those who have already adopted.  Many adopted persons as well as adoption professionals regularly attend the conference as well.

But Tapestry is much more than an annual conference. Tapestry is a ministry committed to meeting the real needs of adoptive and foster families, being in community with them, and supporting them through the highs and lows of the journey. Wherever the adoption or foster care journey leads, Tapestry will be there.

Whole-Brain Strategy #5: Move It or Lose It: Exercising the Upstairs Brain

The Whole-Brain Child brings us Whole Brain Strategy #5: Move It or Lose It: Exercising the Upstairs Brain. I can’t read that title without getting the “I Like to Move It” song stuck in my head, but that’s partly because Elise performed a tap number to that song for her dance recital. But anyway, “Move It or Lose It” is based on research that shows, “when we change our physical state—through movement or relaxation, for example—we can change our emotional state.” So, “the next time your children need help calming down or regaining control, look for ways to get them moving … the point is to help your child regain some sort of balance and control by moving their body, which can remove blockages and pave the way for integration to return.”

We need to do the exercise or activity with our children. You can play a game, do jumping jacks, whatever you like to do together, but you also need to consider whether your child is tired or hungry. Most of mine and Elise’s troubles come from not eating enough for breakfast or not getting enough sleep the night before, so I have to consider whether she’s hungry or tired while trying to decide which strategy to apply to our situation. I do know she needs to be calmed before I offer her something to eat or I might get the food item lobbed back at me. Hopefully, some family jumping jacks or tap dance routines can help us.

What I find most interesting about strategy #5 is that it’s what works for me – most of the time. I need to go to another room and do an activity (lock myself in the bathroom), go for a walk or exercise, so I can clear my head and focus on a task. I do have a distinct memory from my childhood of acting a little crazy and being told to go outside and run ten laps around the tree in our driveway, and I did it. I only had to do it once, so I’m sure it worked. My sister thought it was really funny. But all joking aside, I definitely see the value in teaching this strategy to my children since I use it to help myself.

So the next time your child is about to lose it, get them to move it first.


In the final chapters of the book, Anatomy of the Soul, is Chapter 10 Neuroscience: Sin and Redemption. This chapter discusses shame, rupture, and repair. We and our children feel shame when we suffer a rupture, a disconnection.

The way he described shame struck a cord with me:

“…the sensation of shame is so basic to the human condition that perhaps the most precise definition is the painfully acute awareness that something is wrong with me. It is the felt sensation of deep inadequacy…Shame can develop in children as young as eighteen months of age; some researchers suspect even sooner. This suggests that the sensation and experience of shame is active in the mind and body of a child before the development of language and logical, linear thought processes. In other words, nonverbal cues such as facial expression and tone of voice may make a child feel shame long before she can logically comprehend why she feels that way.”
Thompson M.D., Curt (2010-05-24). Anatomy of the Soul (p. 193). Tyndale House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Then Thompson goes on to describe how we use rebukes (braking) appropriately, but if we do not help our child through those braking situations more issues can develop:

“Usually in this situation, however, a parent will quickly follow an abrupt rebuke with an expression of affection or an explanation to help the child make sense of his or her action. However, when this form of braking is not followed by a clear behavioral or logical reconnection, the child feels shame, which can lead to a barren wasteland of emotional confusion. This whiplash shift between the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems can become wired so tightly in the child that the affect of shame is automatically triggered at the slightest hint of perceived disapproval.”
Thompson M.D., Curt (2010-05-24). Anatomy of the Soul (p. 194). Tyndale House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

I would hate for any child to find themself in the “barren wasteland of emotional confusion.” And I know none of you are guilty of reacting out of exhaustion (the kind where you are woken up about 4-5 times in a hour only to experience it again 4 hours later and you start to think your children hate you and sleep), but if you have perhaps experienced a weak moment, then I recommend reading Anatomy of the Soul to find out more on shame, rupture, repair and yourself. While my posts have focused on relating to my children, there is more in Thompson book about recognizing what is going on with yourself and how to foster growth for yourself not just your children. It is definitely one of those books that I’ll find myself consulting again and again as I grow in all my relationships.

Who Do I Love More?

While waiting for Maggie to join our family, someone asked, “Do you think you will love Maggie more than Elise?” I think they asked because Maggie is biological and Elise was adopted. That question has stuck with me. I remember I was initially taken aback, and emphatically assured the questioner that I would love them the same because they are both my daughters. And I do.

But sometimes it feels easier to love Maggie more, especially when I am on the receiving end of a rant or have been found lacking: Elise, “Mom, I wish she was my mom (pointing to random neighbor in middle of the street) because she’s better at blowing bubbles.” Logic did not work here about how I was given a defective bottle of bubbles. A full day later and after blowing bubbles for 20 minutes, Elise recanted and said I was the best mom. Whew, glad I got that fixed. (Maggie just doesn’t have enough words to offer her criticism of me – yet.)

So, as I have muddled over this question, I read the chapter on attachment in Curt Thompson’s book Anatomy of the Soul and found some relief:

“Each child is born into the world with a certain genetically predetermined temperament to which the parent reacts. This parental reaction then elicits the particular attachment pattern that the child tends to develop with each parent. That explains why no two siblings ever really grow up in the same home. For no two children have exactly the same temperament, so each elicits different emotional reactions from his or her parents…An attachment pattern, therefore, is relationship specific.”

I have five siblings, so this really resonated with me. My siblings and I are all different, and I have often said out loud, “Didn’t we grow up in the same home?” We did, but we all have had our own unique experiences because we each have our own relationships with our parents and with each other.

So I think I’ve been pondering a null question and confusing my love with our attachment or how we relate to each other. Will I love my children the same? Of course, I love both my children, but I do have different relationships with each of them. (Maybe I need to work on some of the emotional reactions our relationships elicit, but that’s a whole different post.) I relate differently to Maggie and Elise not because one entered my family through adoption and the other through birth, but because they are different people. And I understand now that that’s okay.

BTW, Curt Thompson (author of Anatomy of the Soul) will be the featured speaker at the 2012 Tapestry Adoption & Foster Care Conference on October 27, 2012.  Be sure to mark your calendars now to join us for this free all-day conference at Irving Bible Church.