Lies and the Truth: Part Two

October 8th, 2015


LIE:  Bringing Tommy into our home was unfair to our other children, et cetera, et cetera.

TRUTH:  See this post:  Lies and the Truth:  Introduction

On the contrary, hard as it was, having Tommy as part of our family was one of the best things that has ever happened to us.  It is God’s kind of love for the stronger to sacrifice for the needier and weaker.  It was good, not harmful, for our other children to see us live that out, albeit imperfectly, as well as to live it out themselves in a limited way.

In all the intangible measurements of what’s most important in life, while it felt to us at times like Tommy’s adoption was a disaster for our family, God was accomplishing only good in us–in our family as a whole, in our marriage, and in every member of our family individually.  We were reminded that when the pressure He had sent our family had accomplished all He intended, He would lighten it.  

It is becoming more and more obvious that the pruning He was doing in us then is working to make us more fruitful now.

Every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.  Those aren’t just words; it is the truth.


LIE:  Tommy’s life was tragically cut short before it was complete.  He would still be alive if we hadn’t adopted him.  He survived sixteen years of hell but couldn’t survive much more than a year of my mothering.  He would have been better off left where he was.

TRUTH:  God decides when we are going to be born and when we are going to die.  

I did not choose for Tommy to die that day; God did.

God knew from the very beginning of Tommy’s story what was going to happen.   In God’s eyes, Tommy had accomplished his mission on earth and his life was complete.  It is not tragic to Tommy or to God that Tommy is now in heaven with God. 


LIE:  Tommy died because we had too many children.

TRUTH:  In reality, the circumstances of Tommy’s death had nothing to do with how many children were in our home; it could have happened the same way had he been the only child in our home.  In the absence of actual specific facts, the leap of logic required to connect the size of our family with the manner of Tommy’s death is similar to seeing a red car wrecked by the side of the road and deciding that it must have crashed because it was red.  Statistically, most children who die in accidental drownings are from small families.  The judgment that Tommy died because we have too many children says more about the bias of the critic than it does about our family and who we actually are in real life.  The officials who came to our home thoroughly investigated every detail of the situation and readily closed the investigation with the conclusion that Tommy’s death was a tragic accident and that we are nurturing parents who are providing more than adequately for our children. 

My assumption based on my knowledge and experience of Tommy’s size and his abilities as well as of that particular bathtub was that he was at the same risk of death playing there in a few inches of water as he would have been playing in the living room next to a heavy piece of furniture or outside in the yard under a tree.  

He was far more at risk of dying in a vehicle accident one of the countless times I drove to duPont hospital on a couple hours’ sleep.  

Tommy did not have cerebral palsy or a seizure disorder as his adoption papers stated.  At the time of his death, he was the size of a seven year old with the ability to sit up and lie down on his back readily.  Due to his cognitive limitations that affected his grasp of cause-and-effect, he was uninterested in the faucet handle.  Even had he made the logical connection and purposefully attempted to turn the water on, due to his significant lack of core strength he would have been unable to turn it on using his hands.  The bathtub leaked, so even the few inches of water I ran for him to play in had to be replenished periodically.  He very much resisted lying on his belly, and in fact was uncooperative with his physical therapist when she attempted to put him into that position.  He would immediately flip to his back as soon as he could, as he had spent nearly all his first sixteen years in this position, and it enabled him to move across the floor.  At his size, it was impossible for him to drown lying on his back in the bathtub in the amount of water I had run for him to splash in with his toys.  

I had never known him to lie down and push the faucet on using his feet, but since he was found lying on his back with his feet facing the faucet and the water running full blast, that is the best theory of what happened.  If so, it happened very quickly.

The email that was most powerfully healing to me in working through the tragic way Tommy died is worth quoting here:

“I’ve worked in pediatrics for a good while now, and the most striking thing about children with disabilities, especially cognitive disabilities, is their incredible skill at injuring or making themselves sick in completely bizarre and unpredictable ways. If I hadn’t seen them with my own eyes, I wouldn’t have believed it. Please don’t doubt yourself.”


LIE:  Tommy died because the older children weren’t at home.

TRUTH:  In reality, if the older kids had been at home rather than vacationing at a cabin, they would almost surely have been at work or busy with their own activities.  Running the household with only younger children in it was actually much simpler and easier for Joe and me that week without the added complications the five older kids bring to the family.  In my defensive response to the criticism of others that our adoption of Tommy was unfair to our other kids, and in my imprudent desire to protect all the other family members from any unpleasant tasks related to Tommy, I had taken more and more onto myself and was asking less and less from Joe and from the older children.  

As greatly as we love our older kids and are overjoyed that they want to live here, brutal honesty demands we admit that they add an undeniable element of fun but exhausting conversations, agendas, opinions, energy, needs, late nights, noise, mess, emotion, and chaos to our home that was absent the week Tommy died.  It was enlightening to us, in fact, to experience this, and we joked that maybe we should rehome them all to make our lives that much more manageable.


LIE:  Tommy died because we were too over-extended; something had to give and it’s just too bad that it had to be Tommy’s life.

TRUTH:  The circumstances of Tommy’s death actually had nothing to do with the extreme stress of the previous fall, winter, and spring.  When he died, we were in the easiest, least stressful place we had been in since bringing him home.

Among other things, we had adapted to his quirks and needs, helps and supports were either in place or coming very soon, we weren’t on a learning curve, we had a good routine established, his toughest emotional and health challenges had been resolved for the time being, he was happy and growing fast, I was getting more sleep than I’d gotten for months, we were looking forward to some positive changes, and we weren’t also fitting homeschooling into our days.


LIE:  Tommy died because we took on too much by bringing him home.  Due to our bad judgment in adding Tommy to our family, we are culpable for his death, no matter how well-intentioned our motives were in adopting him.  Furthermore, those who counseled and supported us in adopting him were stupid and partly to blame for his death.

TRUTH:  From all we could see ahead of time as we and others who know us very well thought it through, we could handle another child with Katie’s needs, and Tommy was in a far better place emotionally and in other ways than Katie had been in when we brought her home.  We had successfully weathered Katie’s transition into our family, and both she and we were thriving.  We approached Tommy’s and Katie’s adoptions similarly, with the benefit during Tommy’s adoption of added knowledge and experience.  

We assumed there would be challenges while Tommy transitioned into our family, especially in the temporary phase before we all adapted to each other and were able to access the outside supports we would need, but we made our decision to bring him home based on all that was known at the time of his needs and our resources, and on our experience with Katie.  The unique circumstances that developed after Tommy came home were not chosen by us, they were chosen by God, and He did not reveal them to us ahead of time.  It’s ironic to us now that after spending a week with Tommy in Bulgaria, my greatest concern was how his frequent, high-pitched shrieking would affect our household, especially Verity with her sensitive hearing and temperament.  

While it’s a very human tendency to second-guess ourselves if acting by faith seems at any given time to have a poor result (questioning in the dark what we knew in the light), it springs from another very human tendency–thinking we have more control over circumstances and outcomes than is actually the case.

Living by faith will always stretch us beyond what we can easily handle on our own.  By definition, acting on faith will always involve taking a risk.  After due diligence has been satisfied, additionally demanding a guarantee of a successful outcome according to our definition of success will prevent us from living by faith.  


Mama and Tom-Tom~ 



Coming up soon–Lies and the Truth: Part Three



This is the J we know

October 2nd, 2015


We went to visit J again on Sunday, and received permission to share these photos with all of you.  I hope that by the end of this post, you will feel that you know her a little better.




While we’re waiting for our building permits to come back (which we’re praying will happen in record time), our builder asked us to let everyone know we’ll soon be needing anyone who is able and willing to come and help frame in the addition.  This is hunting season, and many of the guys he usually calls on will be hunting.  And the more guys we have working out there, the faster it will go up!  As soon as our builder has those building permits in hand, he’ll be pushing hard on this project, knowing that there is zero wiggle room in the target date for finishing J’s space and bringing her home.

NOTE:  If you are able to help frame in, or volunteer any other needed labor for this project, please email and I will connect you with our builder.  Thank you so much!

Providentially, the first four major jobs that need(ed) to happen have all been donated–trees, septic, excavating, and block laying!  And did I tell you that our builder is not charging us for his time, at great personal cost to himself?  Really incredible to see God provide.  All those donating labor are standing ready to do their part when it’s their turn, even the friends who have offered to help feed the volunteers on work days!

My part of the speed operation is to have all the furnishings collected, organized, and ready to move in as soon as the new rooms are finished.  With the help of a gifted friend, Joseph’s mom-in-law, I’m on a roll now!  Already closing in on the goal and enjoying every moment!




J is currently living quite a distance from us, so the opportunity to see her doesn’t happen often enough for our preference.  Joseph and Lindsay were able to take the trip to see her on Labor Day, delivered some things from us, and had a great visit!

Last Sunday’s visit turned out to provide a good opportunity to connect with J and talk some things over with her, and Joe and I gained more insight into her thoughts.

We took her a photo album with photos from our last visit with her to add to her collection of albums of photos from her stays with us.  During her visits here, we kept her very busy with picnics, playground, camping out with tents, campfire, hot dogs and s’mores, painting, baking cookies, reading aloud, making up hilarious imaginary stories, generally lots of family fun stuff (often involving staying up too late, eating too much sugar, and laughing too hard!) and took plenty of photos.  She embraces all of it with gusto.  Some of my favorite photos are of J holding Ben on her lap for wheelchair rides.

We also took our laptop and showed her the Pinterest board with the ideas for the room that she and Laura will share.  J has a different favorite color every day–on Sunday it was orange.  She had declared that she doesn’t care what color her room is as long as it’s a color!  She and Laura definitely rejected all neutral color schemes, and their planned room is definitely a color!




J  is such a gift.  When I read through her IEP (individualized educational plan) and heard what her teachers and therapists had to say about her, phrases like “delightful girl,” “commendable and inspiring amount of effort every day,” “pleasant, cheerful and well accepted by peers,” “participates enthusiastically in all activities,” “earns her stars without exception,” “a very hard worker,” “puts forth her best effort,” “enthusiastic and willing to try new things,” “great sense of humor,” “very motivated to learn,” “good independent work skills,” ” kind and thoughtful,” I got all choked up and said out loud, “That is the J we know!”  It’s our opinion that she is going to amaze everyone who knows her by how far she goes.

We’re so proud of her, we miss her, we love her so much, and it’s getting harder and harder to wait until she is with us. We often say, “I wish J was here for this,” or “J would love this!”

We all signed a card that we left with her Sunday, and of all the tender and original messages the kids came up with for her, my favorite and hers was this by James, “I can’t write how good it will be!”

J, you are our kind of kid~



Why the Truth and Lies series?

September 24th, 2015


“And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.” 


Do you know, I used to read the Psalms and wonder why David seemed so obsessed with his enemies?  He interrupts his own conversations with God over and over again to talk to his enemies or talk to God about his enemies.  They dominate his pleas for help and intrude into his declarations of God’s goodness.  It’s hard to get far in the Psalms without running into talk of enemies.

For years, I skimmed quickly past those passages, not thinking much about them other than to make the mental note that David had real enemies and I didn’t, thank the Lord.

And then God started writing the Katie story.  And then He started writing the Pleven story.  And then He started writing the Tommy story.

Now we understand David the Psalmist better than we used to.  We understand a bit more from the inside what it’s like to be chosen by God to be part of a public story when we didn’t seek it out, and of the weight of responsibility that comes with that.  We have a better understanding of what it means to live without the luxury of suffering ones’ troubles in privacy, and how publicity can intensify our experience of both the good and the evil that is already present in society.  We understand now what it’s like to be in a position that draws personal fire from those who hate God.  Now we have experienced that the awareness of the animosity of our enemies must be reckoned with as a real part of our lives whether we asked for it or not.

David lived all this to a far greater degree than I have, and now I identify a bit more with what he writes about his enemies.  He did not cater to their demands of him, cower before them in paranoia, allow them to interpret God’s world and ways to him, live in denial of them, grow hard and cynical because of them, or try to take revenge on them.  He is a magnificent model for me of how to think and feel and talk about those who hate us.

Of course, the real story is not about David or us or any other human being.  The real story is as immense and sweeping as the whole of history and into eternity.

The truth is that there are those who hate everything God loves.  You name it; if God loves it, they will hate it.  They aren’t reasonable; they have to hate it; they can’t help themselves.


They are not the real enemy; they are pawns held captive to the enemy of our souls to carry out his bidding–unfruitful works of darkness.

And we who love and follow the Lord Jesus are not the real target of the enemy’s hatred.  His antagonism is with the Truth, and he will use any underhanded tactics at his disposal–even using the voices of those who love the Lord to speak false ideas–to lie, accuse, steal, kill, and destroy against the Truth wherever he finds it.

And just as God is using David’s openness about his enemies to help me, I am willing to be open about my personal battles for the sake of the readers who are hard-working, Jesus-loving, exhausted, struggling moms of many children and adoptive moms.  Many of you have been open with me one-on-one and like me, you have at times been easy targets for the father of lies and the enemy of all that is good.  And yes, it can be especially troubling when he speaks his wrong-headed perspective through otherwise kind people who love God but have been deceived by our culture’s point of view.

May God have mercy on those who are enslaved by the evil one.  May their hostility against us and our calling drive us all the more to the great Lover of our souls.  May we listen all the more to His voice alone, and put our hope in Him alone.


Oh, how great is Your goodness,
Which You have laid up for those who fear You,
Which You have prepared for those who trust in You
In the presence of the sons of men!

You shall hide them in the secret place of Your presence
From the plots of man;
You shall keep them secretly in a pavilion
From the strife of tongues.

Blessed be the Lord,
For He has shown me His marvelous kindness in a strong city!
For I said in my haste,
“I am cut off from before Your eyes”;
Nevertheless You heard the voice of my supplications
When I cried out to You.

Oh, love the Lord, all you His saints!
For the Lord preserves the faithful,
And fully repays the proud person.

Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart,
All you who hope in the Lord.