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How Can Adoptees and Foster Kids Know Who Is A Safe Person?

This photo shows an opening in a bush in the shape of the heart, which indicates the growth that can happen when adoptees and foster kids learn to share only with safe people.

Wouldn’t it be great if every safe, trustworthy person wore a sign on his or  her back that said so?

That might qualify as an adoptee fantasy of the highest order!

However, there are certain characteristics that define safe people, and once we learn them we’re much more likely to make wise decisions regarding with whom we share our deepest selves.


I don’t know about you, but I can’t stand to be in any kind of conversation or relationship in which one person dominates. It absolutely drives me nuts! After the conversation is over, I feel like I’ve been bound, gagged, and shoved in a corner.

These are the kind of people I befriended before I learned about trust. I was a  co-dependent, thinking I could rescue them and help them by not sharing my thoughts, but just listening.

That’s far from the kind of relationship we’re looking for. There has to be a natural give and take, kind of like playing a graceful game of tennis. One shares and then the other responds in a continual, flowing manner.

A key to this kind of relationship is what David Augsburger calls “equal hearing.”  I love this..


I will claim

my right

to be

equally heard.

If I yield

my right to speak,

if I do not claim my time for sharing,

if I do not express what I want in equality,

I am squandering

my privilege of


I will respect

your right

to be

equally heard.

You are you.

I want

to hear you.

If I usurp

your right to speak,

if I use up

your time for conversing,

if I do not listen

for what you want in


I am stifling

your privilege of personhood.

If we’ve located someone who’s not a dominator, but equally as interested in us as he is in himself, we can look for the second characteristic, which is a nonjudgmental attitude.


Don’t you hate having someone point his or her long, bony finger at

you and tell you what you should or shouldn’t be doing? In my opinion, this is nothing short of playing God.

I love the saying: “If you can spot it, you got it.”

It has helped me immensely to learn about the psychological dynamic of projection. My layman’s understanding of it is that if someone says something judgmental about me, they’re really saying that is how they feel about themselves. Try that next time someone throws a judgmental thought at you. It diffuses your reaction so that you can respond responsibly and not emotionally.

It is my belief that we are all of equal worth and are on a horizontal playing field. One of the most effective ways I can spot people who judge are those who give unsolicited advice or counsel. Yes, they may be well-intentioned and even knowledgeable. However, unsolicited counsel is nothing more than a glorified put-down.

Augsburger created a diagram about relationships that I have made myself accountable to for years, and it has literally changed my life. It has helped me sidestep the judgers as well as keep my own attitudes and behavior on track. Notice as you review the diagram that “talking with” is the correct way of relating to others.

Talking down







Equal Mutual

give and Talking with hearing and

take being heard






Talking up

Once we’ve weeded out judgmental, self-appointed counselors from our lives, we can put out feelers by observing the reactions of others to our words and feelings. Safe people desire to build up, to reassure us that they care enough about us to invest something of themselves in our lives through words and actions.


Here are some attitudes and actions of people who build up:

They accept us as we are—they don’t try to “fix” us.

They recognize our potential.

They believe in us and tell us so.

They encourage us to “aim high.”

They assure us that they will always be there for us.

They seek to neutralize our fears.

They make us laugh.

They tell the truth when we need to hear it, and they admit their

own mistakes readily.

They give us the freedom to screw up and make mistakes…to be human.

In my book, these basic characteristics are “givens” in finding safe people. Being in their presence is like being in the hollow of a tree — we are safe from the storms of life and safe to tell it like it is.

As we apply what we’ve learned in this chapter to our lives, we will gradually gain the ability to identity safe people and then develop relationships with them.


To begin searching for safe people, put out feelers, and take a risk.


(This is an excerpt from chapter 8 of 20 Life-Transforming Choices Adoptees Must Make).

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Twenty Gifts of An Adoptee

This photo shows gifts that are symbolic of an adoptee's gifting of being adopted. Many downplay being adopted, but this veteran adoptee looks back with thankfulness.

1. The first gift is LIFE…May you remember the One who created you in the heart of the Father in eternity past.

2. The second gift is BIRTH…May you be grateful for she who chose to sacrificially carry you in that sacred place.

3. The third gift is a NEW NAME….May you rejoice in the fact that God knew your name before you were ever born.

4. The fourth gift is BELONGING…May you recall each day that the only One who can fill your need for belonging is Jesus.

5. The fourth gift is FAMILY….May your differences remind you that our family is like a beautiful grafted tree, magnificent to behold.

6. The third gift is STRENGTH….May you continue to grow strong because of the challenges you encounter.

7. The fifth gift is IDENTITY…May you celebrate that you are a wondrous combination of nature and nurture, with awesome potential.

8. The sixth gift is SECURITY…May you rest assured that you will never be forgotten. Your name is written on Jesus’ palms.

9. The seventh gift is LOVE… May you realize your parents would have traveled to the ends of the world to find you.

10. The tenth gift is ACCEPTANCE… May you understand your acceptance is not based on your performance, but Jesus’.

11. The eleventh gift is GRACE…May you rejoice in being yourself because we accept you just as you are.

12. The twelfth gift is TALENT…May you celebrate your differences and share them with your family and the world.

13. The thirteenth gift is PURPOSE…May you be inspired to discover your unique footprints across the sands of time.

14. The fourteenth gift is TEARS…May you shed them freely so that you can freely laugh.

15. The fifteenth gift is ADVENTURE…May you delight that your history isn’t given to you on a silver platter. You will have a life of adventure!

16. The sixteenth gift is HUMOR…May your funny bone be tickled when others

say dumb things about adoption.

17. The seventeenth gift is CALLING…You were created and adopted for a purpose

that no one else in human history can fill.

18. The eighteenth gift is COMMUNITY…May you experience the blessing of friendships with fellow adoptees.

19.  The nineteenth gift is TENDERHEARTEDNESS…May you be willing to weep with those who weep, for your adoption wounds qualify you to be a wounded healer.

20.  The twentieth gift is ABUNDANCE….May you experience the full, abundant life planned for you, every single day of your life!

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The Beautiful Braid of Adoption

Navigating the Waters of Adoption Is Complex

I can already hear boos coming about this post. Many people believe adoption is a bad thing that should be avoided at all costs.

Even though I am a huge fan of family preservation (doing whatever to keep a child with his mama), I know from personal experience that staying in a family that is wrought with evil and dysfunction is not in the child’s best interest.

In my case, in my 72nd chapter of life, I am so thankful that I was adopted and that God, in his infinite wisdom, removed me from both birth parental influence so that I could be safe and loved.

I believe this metaphor is about adoption through God’s eyes. We need to remember we live in a fallen, broken world, however. Our ribbon in the braid may tattered, torn, and seemingly beyond repair.

We need to work together…all in the adoption triad…to find healing and wholeness.

So, with those things in mind, consider this piece.

Long, long ago, before anyone in the whole world was born, God thought about you, and He smiled.

He envisioned the incredible the person you would become and the Life He wanted to give.

Would you believe….he knew about every single day of your life before any one of them ever came to be.

Then, He made a beautiful braid of shining ribbons and named it adoption.

There were three colors in His braid: green, purple, and red.

The green ribbon is your birth family. They gave you many gifts– your first home was your birth mother’s womb. DNA was from both your birth mother and father.

You weren’t in her womb by yourself. God was there with you all the time, taking the wonderful things about your birth mother and father and weaving them together to make you.

The things you like to eat, like ketchup on scrambled eggs or big, sour pickles may have come from your birth parents. The things you are good at—playing sports or painting pictures—they may be gifts that were passed on to you from your birth  parents.

You may never get to meet your birth parents, but even if you don’t, they will always be a very important part of you.

Your mom and dad are the purple ribbon. God knew that you needed your mom and dad to become the person He wanted you to be, so He lifted you from your birth parents and plunked you into their arms. They gave you a home, a family, and love. Most of all, they told you how Jesus died on the Cross to forgive you for all the times you are naughty.

YOU are the red ribbon—a unique weaving together of nature and nurture into one marvelous human being, with awesome potential. God planned your adoption and who planned who your birth parents and mom and dad would be.

Even though God created the braid, He wants you work with Him as you grow up to make the braid longer and stronger.

How do you work with Him?

Every time you learn something about your adoption, whether you feel happy, sad, glad, or mad, talk to Him. That’s called prayer. You don’t have to use fancy words. Just say, ” I need You,” and you’ll see He’s the Kindest Friend you could ever have.

Every time you talk with Him, your braid will grow stronger and longer.

There’s a super thing you’ll discover about the braid every time talk to God in prayer. Look real close and you’ll see a shiny gold cord woven around all the ribbons– in and out, round and about.

The golden cord is there to remind you that God made the braid and you never have to be afraid that He will leave you.

He promises to be with you always!



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Has God Forgotten the Fatherless?


Perhaps when all is said and done, beneath the anger of many adoptees and foster kids is the primal fear being forgotten. Forgotten by the one who gave them birth. Forgotten by the biological father whose name they may not even know. Forgotten by the blood relatives whose lives went on without them.

But most of all, forgotten by God.

As I became aware of this issue personally and shared it with fellow- adoptees in our support group, eyes welled.

Searching for wisdom, I learned that far from being forgotten, the orphan is the object of God’s special care and protection.
• He does what is necessary to preserve the orphan’s life (Jer. 49:11)
• He gladdens the orphans’ heart with the bounty of Providence (Dt. 24:19-farmers were to only glean fields once & leave rest)
• He feeds them from the “sacred portion” (Deut. 24: 19-21) • He defends the cause of the fatherless, giving food & clothing (Dt. 10: 18; Is. 1:17)
• He hears even the faintest of cries from the orphan (Ex. 22: 22-24) • He becomes a Father to them (Psalm 68: 5)
• He rescues when the orphan cries for help (Job 29: 12)
• He considers helping orphans an unblemished act of worship (Jas. 1: 27)
• He provides what the orphan is searching for – love, pity, and mercy (Hosea 14: 3)
• He blesses those who provide for the orphan (Dt. 14: 29)
• He has a unique plan for the orphan in history (Esther 2: 15)
• He strongly warns judges who issue unrighteous decrees & the magistrates who cause oppressive decisions against the orphan (Is. 10: 2; Mal. 3: 5)
• He is pleased when nations and people treat the orphan justly (Jer. 5: 28)

•He will draw nigh and be a swift witness against oppressors of the fatherless (Is. 10: 2)

• He commands others not to remove “the ancient boundary stone” (could this be their biological history?) or encroach on the fields of the fatherless (Prov. 23: 10)


While studying the subject of feeling forgotten, I saw a poster-sized reproduction of a
U.S. commemorative stamp. Two words grabbed my attention —”NEVER FORGOTTEN.”
The poster illustrated an army dog-tag on a chain, inscribed with the words MIA & POW— NEVER FOR- GOTTEN.


“That’s what I, and possibly many others adoptees and fostered need,” I zealously concluded. “A tangible reminder that we will never be forgotten!”

Then, fantasizing as only an adoptee can, I envisioned commissioning a talented jeweler to design a golden dog-tag (diamond-studded, of course), inscribed with the words ADOPTEE — NEVER FORGOTTEN! It could be worn daily as a reminder. A symbol.

However, the purest of gold, the brightest of diamonds, and the boldest of letters will not erase an adoptee’s primal feelings of being forgotten.

Not that the feelings necessarily dominate or paralyze. Rather, they lay dormant, triggered into consciousness only by specific present-day events.

  1. An unanswered letter
  2. A geographical move
  3. The death adoptive parents.
  4. “Behold, I have indelibly imprinted (tattooed) a picture of you on the palm of each of My hands.” (Isaiah 49: 16)
  5. The rejection of a friend.

    6. The remarriage of a former spouse.

    7. The empty nest.

    8. The death of a spouse.

    Because adoption is a life-long journey, filled with pleasure as well as pain, this writer has learned that by acknowledging, accepting, and verbalizing these feelings of orphanhood, my spirit is open to embrace and enjoy the words of another inscription. Not an inscription written on a dog- tag or a U.S. commemorative stamp, but one that is eternally imprinted on the living, nail-scarred palms of Jesus Christ — LORD of Lords and KING of Kings. ■


    Recommended Resources

    The Gilbert Adoption Video
    Home Sweet Home Educational Media Company Box 544444
    Dallas, TX 75254

    The Children of the King, by Max Lucado Crossway Books, 1994


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The Double-Whammy of One Adoptee

This photo of two mittens can be illustrative of two areas of life that run parallel and that hurt. What can one do to find comfort? Sherrie shares what she learned from a teen in a wheelchair that was life changing.

There’s  a nine-year old double-whammy inside me that I’ve kept secret.

By double-whammy, I think of boxing terms, of a hard-hitting, one-two upper cuts. Both hits with the same intensity but landing on different places of the body. Perhaps, one hard hit under the chin and the other in the gut.

Double-Whammy Brings New Limitations

At the beginning of my double-whammy, there was extreme eye sensitivity. I couldn’t even watch TV without wearing clunky dark glasses that we old people wear after eye surgery.

One Saturday morning when I entered a sunlit playground with our young grandsons, it felt like someone dosed in my eyes with poison.

Explaining why I couldn’t play in a way they could understand, I quickly went to the shade of surrounding oak trees.

Promptly, my fav people came for a pity party–me, myself, and I.

Double-Whammy Is Out of My Control

There was a young man sitting in a wheel-chair behind me that I felt like punching. He was incredibly annoying, like fingers over the blackboard. Rocking back and forth, he kept singing, “God good, God good.”


How could he say such a thing when he not only was confined to a wheel chair but also had delayed learning issues?

Finally, I turned around, trying to be nice over my inner growl. “Young man, are you singing ‘God good?'”

He nodded affirmatively, smiling, rocking, and singing.

His uncle, waking up from a nap, spoke up. “Isaac knows that God is good. In fact, he has memorized 20 Psalms. Isaac, tell us what your summer is going to be like.”

“Ride horses…go to camp!”

The roar inside me faded, for from this young man, I learned a deep truth that has fortified me during my double-whammy years.

Double-Whammy Offers Choices

The lesson?

Focus on what you have, not on what you don’t have.

After months of searching Dr. Google for answers, I was sure that I’d nailed the diagnosis.

After visiting a rheumatologist after a few months, she said,  “You have Lupus (SLE). The anti-DNA blood test confirms it.”

Boom…boom, boom.

Upper cut to all of me.


Double-Whammies Shares Similarities

You’re probably wondering what the other wham is that corresponds with the Lupus wham?

With all due respect to God and everyone, it is being adopted.

It would take years for me to see living with Lupus and living life as an adopted person have many similarities..thus, the double-whammy.

Here are a few similarities:

  • Adoption hurts….Lupus hurts
  • Others don’t know you’re adopted (no mark on you!)…Others don’t know I live with a chronic illness
  • As an adoptee, I look fine. As a Lupus patient, I look fine.
  • As an adoptee, when I voice hurts and losses, others often judge me as an angry adoptee. As a Lupus patient, if I voice when I’m not feeling well, I can be judged as a hypochondriac.
  • The subject of adoption is rarely talked about. Lupus, even though life threatening, is still in the beginning of in-depth research.
  • Adoptees often are misunderstood….so are Lupus patients.

So, there you have it!

My double-whammy in a nutshell.

Neither of the whams would be my choice, but I am convinced that they have been allowed in my life for my good…and like Isaac, I choose to think about what I can do, not what I can’t.