Adopted: to Show Them  They are Image Bearers. 


It was the quickest decision I’d ever made in a grocery aisle. My husband, Ernie, saw me answer my phone as he carted around our ten month old son and tried to figure out who I was talking to.
“Yes. Y…yes. Okay, 8 months?” I darted my eyes towards Ernie, who was still curious. “When will we need to be ready? Okay, so tomorrow.” Ernie quickly rolled towards me, feeling complete freedom to interrupt with, “So, who is this?”
The next morning we picked up our daughter from a children’s group home. Can I just describe her to you for a moment? She was like a ripe, juicy, chubby baby, just waiting to be squeezed to pieces. She had the most perfect, milk chocolate skin, and wispy curls just trying to push through on top of her head, though just the very top. She reached for Ernie like he was the love of her life she’d been waiting for, and just melted into his strong, safe arms. She was absolutely changed after that first hug from a father who wanted to love her forever.
We fed her sweet potatoes and sang to her, tried to get our son and her to be her new best friend. We took her to the park and rocked her to sleep at night. She was enjoying every bit of affection we could give.
I got another phone call. This little girl had a brother and he needed a placement as soon as possible too. They’d been separated a week and a half prior to her joining our home. We prayed for wisdom and walked into another group home, we picked up a giggly, grinning little boy who had a head full of curls, and the same perfect, milk chocolate skin. He walked with me to the car and we had his sister waiting outside. I can’t describe to you what it was like for them to reunite, but what I can say is, though her brother had a significant speech delay, his eyes sang “I found you” and he touched her shoulder. It was beautiful to be able to bring them together.
It didn’t take long before our daughter, whom we later named her T, and our son, whom we later named J, showed significant challenges. The road before us looked a lot longer as a few years later, and challenges rose rapidly. As the mother, especially, I quickly felt deeply inadequate and began to fear the battles that would come. Tantrums would explode that I couldn’t explain, distant and cold eyes would not be able to look into mine, hands and feet would become physically combative where I’d have to find a safe place for them. And I clearly felt my own anger rise like never before and wanted to keep them safe even from my own words. What was (still is) going on?

What is happening when you cannot help your daughter who is pushing away and her eyes tell us she’s currently away from you emotionally? What do we do when we physically cannot control our son who has suddenly been struck with anger and he cannot come back to a calm and peaceful state?

What is going on when your child’s sibling accidentally brush against their shoulder and in the blink of an eye your child is hissing at everyone in the family and throwing punches at anyone who might come near?
For the children from difficult places that come to our homes, it’s likely they have never experienced the goodness of a mother or father reaching for them when they were crying out as a newborn, or immediately soothed after a big fall. It’s possible they’ve never felt the comfort of an outside person bringing them down to a level of peace.
Parents are like external emotional control panels. Babies do not yet know how to feel comforted and safe on their own. They need to be picked up when fearful or hungry and have someone bring their emotions back down as they hear “Shhh,” or “I’m here, it’s okay”. Babies cry, parents arrive. They cry out again, parents give the same care. The cycle happens so many times for a child that they understand some idea of regulation and trust that they will be cared for. It’s their beginning experiences of a God who says, “I am with you and I will never forsake you.” Perhaps these children can hear the gospel one day and understand in a unique way because their parents showed them a small picture of God in their early days. And we have the same opportunity for the children from difficult places.
The children who have come to us are asking us to show them a God who will never forsake them. They need this, not just in words, but in our healthy touch, our immediate arrival upon cries, our endless amount of reminders of our love for them, our willingness to start over no matter how many tantrums or time they take from us. 
Whether their experience was fearful neglect, horrific abuse, or anything in between, the effects on these children is clear. Life for them had to be an “all about me” perspective. When you see your caregivers on auto-pilot most of the time, then yes, it had to be “how to take care of me”. 
Now they are in your home. You know they have been brought to safety, but they don’t know that yet. As you teach them to not take their anger out on your children, or break the T.V, remember they are in an immense need of healing that is beyond a few lectures or consistent time-outs. You’ve been called into redeeming work. Your child does not know they are made in the image of a good and faithful God, who saw them in their need. They do not know about the joy of being God’s workmanship; that our hands, and words and feet have purpose that they haven’t ever imagined before. Ellie Holcomb, one of my favorite artists, sings a beautiful line that makes me think of the hope I have for my children, “I need a rescue, I need a reckoning, from all the things I’ve done and have been done to me.” And the cross is that rescue and reckoning for what have been done to these little image bearers.
I can see it in my son’s eyes sometimes when we talk about God creating us, he has some pain there that he still does not understand or cannot communicate. We, perhaps, have a journey to walk with him still as he considers what it means to be an image bearer when he was knitted into a womb that he wouldn’t stay forever connected with. Thanks be to God, he has a rescuer and one who has, at the cross, reckoned what’s been done, and that rescuer is also his true Father who will never leave him or forsake him.
I will be spending some more weeks on this topic as I’m smack dab in the middle of crying out for wisdom for my children; how to love them and how to be tool used by God for healing when there’s also my sin that is so evident. If you’re walking through this like me, I hope you feel encouraged that you are not alone!

Happy Six Years, my boy

Today I plan on getting my four year old up on the counter with me to learn how to make cupcakes. We will haul out the butter and flour, she will sneak bites of the batter when I’m not looking. I’ll be teaching her to do this on Haddon’s birthday because not too many years from now I’ll ask her to make the cupcakes we learned together so mommy can go visit his grave and remember him. But that will be later down the road, today we celebrate 6 years of having him as their brother and our son. Six years of treasured conversation about heaven and what it would be like to be before Jesus, and how neat that someone so connected to us sees him face to face. Our kids have had many years now of seeing mommy and daddy aching to see their brother, yet full of hope, and beginning to understand how getting to live in both of those realities only comes from knowing Jesus. Our kids have a very special connection to the future hope of the resurrection, and so do Ernie and I. I long to see him, but I know I’m one year closer. We will have eternity to embrace one another over and over again, and that embrace will also be when Jesus finally (oh, finally!) wipes away every tear from my eyes.

About Haddon

Welcome to the stories of God’s faithfulness from our grief in losing our first son, Haddon. He was born at 33 weeks, and lived for 40 hours with an unknown virus.

I have saved all the writings from our early days in how God truly showed us the sweetness of His Son Jesus, in the middle of deep sorrow. I hope these words encourage you, some of these days filled with tears over my keyboard are the most precious days of my life.

Haddon and Mommy

What Our Days Are Made Of

(Written March 31, 2015)
Four years feels deeper
I don’t make it to Haddon’s grave often; and it’s because I’m busy with good things from the Lord. I did, however, go a couple months ago. The loss felt deeper and the sorrow came as I stood over his gravestone that read: Jesus lives and so shall I, when he returns with Him I’ll rise.
I longed for Jesus to return that day and raise this boy of mine so I could embrace him once more.  I know a day is coming when my arms will wrap around him and Jesus will wipe away the final tears from my eyes.
I stood over his grave and felt the affection for him as his mother in a deeper way. The Lord is teaching me and growing me in how to mother my children, which gives me more joy and new desires to love them and care for them, and for me this extends to Haddon, some how. I felt deeper love for him and longed to care for him once again.
The waiting feels harder
Ernie and I were ready for the return of Jesus when we rested Haddon in his grave. The New Heavens and New Earth felt so near to us; and really, they still are. Life is a vapor and eternity will never end. But four years here has started to feel long. I don’t want to be 70 years old and visiting his grave, with a mind that will surely forget all the details of my sweet time with him. I want Christ to return soon, so this grief is only but a few short years. We believe God’s plans are good for us, but the waiting has become difficult.
God is working in us and our joy is increasing and at the same time our sorrow remains. The truths from this passage are a clear picture of what our hearts feel:
[We live as] sorrowful, yet always rejoicing. 2 Corinthians 6:10
We are sad today, and we will be sad tomorrow. The sorrow we carry will be with us as long as we live. Do you feel this too? But the promise for Christians is that we will never have to carry sorrow without the hope of Christ. Jesus suffered and was crushed so that our earthly sorrow does not have to crush us. He allows deep waters and waves of grief but they will not drown us. We may be 70 years old, our eyes wasting away from grief as we stand over the graves of our sons and daughters, or wading through waters of other deep sorrows that threaten to steal our hope.
We can rejoice in our sorrow. We can’t rejoice on our own (I have cried the ugly cries, have you?). The Spirit will lift our eyes to thank God that this loss is not where our hope dies , and that the death and resurrection of Jesus is the steady heartbeat of our sad but hopeful hearts. The Christian hope continues living because it’s root is a living Savior.
Sorrow and hope, these are what our days are made of in our family. We miss our boy, yet God has not withheld goodness from us.  We will walk through our years with the hope of Christ while we wait for the day that sorrows will be no more.
Happy 4th birthday to my precious son Haddon Brooks Blanco.
I wouldn’t for a second trade your joy with Christ for a cake mix and birthday candles today, but I do miss you and my heart aches to see you.
With all my love, Mom
Adley and Brother

Remembrance: Where There’s No Straining For My Eyes To See

I am sitting in the quiet of my living room as little ones sleep. This pregnancy has led me to eating lunch around 10:15 rather than noon. So as I unashamedly finish off a plate of spaghetti by mid morning, I sit here thinking about this new little one that has continued to grow inside me.

The gift of children has been quite the journey for us. For two and a half years God has lifted my eyes to trust him as he tells me that his ‘word is upright and all his work is done in faithfulness’ Psalm 33:4, a life giving verse for me in the midst of a trial that wanted to suck the life out of me.

As we first kissed our firstborn and buried him into the ground in the same week, the Lord stood guard over my heart from the hungry sins of bitterness, anger, and hopelessness who were always tempting me in my hours of sorrow. But The Lord stood in my sorrow, loudly declaring for me that if he did not spare his own son for my sin how could he also not provide me all things?
Since then, every pregnancy has been a step of faith onto a path to which the final destination is not visible. We cannot strain our eyes and squint hard enough to make sure we see a baby down the road that will survive after birth. What we can see is the Lord’s faithfulness to us before, where there’s no straining or squinting for our eyes to see. God has shown Ernie and I the power of remembering what He has done.

So I lay here, feeling the kicks of a little girl squirming inside me and I pray that she continues to kick and move and jump for 15 more weeks. I want her to live. I want to watch her grow and watch our son care for his younger sister. I do not want to place her in the ground. But my hope is not in a living child. My hope is that God emptied his anger and wrath on his son. He showed his son no mercy so that he could freely give mercy to me. In light of this hope, I can walk in faith with bearing or not bearing children, raising them or burying them.

Guest Post: My Husband

(Written March 30, 2013)

Today I have the joy of letting my husband, Ernie, share a little about our first son, Haddon. I’m very excited to have this on here, hope you enjoy reading about his love for Haddon and his even bigger love for Jesus. Thanks honey, I love you.

This weekend marks the celebration of the death and resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ. We will be gathering to celebrate his perfect life, his death as the ultimate curse of God for sin, and his resurrection, the proclamation of the Father’s satisfaction with his Son’s sacrifice. We will join the millions of Christ-followers who see the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus as the most central and important event in the history of the world.
This year as we celebrate Easter we will also be celebrating another important celebration in the life of the Blanco family, the 2nd anniversary of the life and death of our first-born son, Haddon Brooks Blanco. While Easter has always been important to us, through our son Haddon, God has given us a lens in which to view Easter. We are far more aware of the joy that the resurrections provides as an anchor of hope for all who are in Christ. We are growing and experiencing a new understanding of awaiting that one day when all who are in Christ will be raised to glory with the resurrected Christ.
Haddon has taught me that God’s love for his own son is far greater than my love for my own children. As a proud father, I have experienced what many other fathers have experienced when they transition into the role of fatherhood, an immense awakening of fatherly love. We are so proud of our kids the instant that we first see them. We almost immediately began searching for similarities to claim before anyone else can suggest otherwise. We find for the first time joy in being awakened and depended upon during the night (though certainly this applies much more thoroughly with our wives). We would do anything to show our kids how much we love them. This is a gift from God that our hearts are instantly tied to our children, as if we had been best friends for a countless number of years. That is exactly how I felt as I entered fatherhood when Haddon arrived two years ago. I loved him instantly. My bond to him formed quicker than any other bond God has ever given me, even quicker than the bond that first formed meeting his mother and my wife, Lisa.
God’s relationship with his Son is so profoundly deeper than my relationship with both of my sons. Whereas my bond with Haddon, and his younger brother Ernie has lasted as long as I have known them, God’s bond with his son has existed from the foundations of eternity. Prior to the coming of Jesus to earth, the Father and Son had never experienced any separation. Their bond was so profoundly rich because of their unique relationship that it is difficult for Christians today to even conceive of the love that exists between Father and Son.
The Lord has also taught me these past two years that the deeper the love one experiences with another, the deeper the hurt one feels when experiencing a separation from the relationship. This is why the separation of the Son and the Father on the cross is unparalleled in all of world history. Not only did God separate himself physically from his Son, but he also separated himself from any sense of goodwill, of love, and of affection for his beloved first-born. He so separated himself from his relationship with his Son on the cross, that Jesus literally became the curse and scorn of God by hanging on the cross at Calvary. And because that separation between Father and Son occurred, we were given over victory over the temporary separation that occurs when a child of God departs from this earth. I am reminded when my heart aches for the separation that I currently feel from Haddon, that God the Father is more than familiar with my pain. He has destroyed the sting of death through the loving sacrifice of Jesus. As Haddon’s dad, its just a little easier to understand some of the grief God’s heart must have went through Christ was afflicted with the sins of the world.
Lastly, I am reminded that God is the magnificent victor over death and sin. Jesus did not stay dead in the grave, but as the Scriptures remind us Jesus conquered death and rose on the third day appearing to over 500 witnesses before ascending to the Father in glory. God’s stamp of approval of his Son’s death in the resurrection is the reason that there is hope to be found in a world marred by sin. This hope is spoken of in 1 Peter 1:7 which states, “In this you rejoice , though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” The resurrection reminds me that each trial God has called me to and will call me to, are carefully designed for my good and for the everlasting glory of Jesus Christ. This Easter, which is also the same day as Haddon’s birthday, I will be rejoicing in my God who has victoriously conquered death and promised new life to all who put their faith and trust in him. The resurrected Christ indeed is our only hope for victory over death.
Romans 8:32 “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will ne not also with him graciously give us all things?”

 

Jesus Reached Down into Death

(written September 3, 2012)

erniepic
Tonight baby Ernie and I read about Jesus raising Jairus’s daughter from the dead in Luke 8 in his Jesus Storybook Bible, we absolutely love that book. So there was Ernie, drowsy and on my lap and I’m reading along. Then I came across the part where Jesus comes to his daughter, when no one believed Jesus was going to wake her from the dead.

“Jesus walked into the little girl’s bedroom. And there, lying in the corner, in the shadows, was the still little figure. Jesus sat on the bed and took her pale hand.”

I began to cry as I remembered Haddon’s still little figure when there was no longer any life in him just like this little girl. I still continued reading, this was a good story.

“Honey,” he said, “it’s time to get up.” And he reached down into death and gently brought the little girl back to life.
 The little girl woke up, rubbed her eyes as if she’d just had a good night’s sleep, and leapt out of bed…
Jesus was making the sad things come untrue. He was mending God’s broken world.”

I told Ernie that one day, we don’t know when, Jesus will reach down into death, into the very grave we visited of his brother, and raise him back to life as if he had had a good night’s sleep. With his mighty hand, he will make this sad part of our family come untrue. 

My Two Boys

BoysLook at my boys. Their newborn similarities melt my heart to pieces. Haddon, what a sweet boy you were, I miss you today. Sometimes when I glance in the rear view mirror and see the car seat that holds Ernie, I picture another car seat next to him that could be holding a little one year old Haddon. I’d be asking him to keep his hands out of brother’s face, or something like that:)
Sometimes I give Ernie Brooks a tight squeeze and remember God has sustained him and he is such a gift to us, along with any other children that may come our way. Sometimes I whisper to him about big brother, how he’s with Jesus and much happier than he or I could ever be right now. My dad’s sketches of Haddon sit above Ernie’s changing table, and Ernie’s eyes often glance in that direction as he wobbles around during his diaper changes. We like to think he’s looking at the sketches.
These frames of them hang on the wall of my parents house side by side, and my heart just wells up every single time I go over there.
My boys, my boys. I love these two boys.

To Women Who Struggle This Mother’s Day

Perhaps this Mother’s Day is difficult for you and your heart is exhausted from all the celebration. I know that feeling. Last year was my very first Mother’s Day, it had also been just a bit more than a month since I had lost my firstborn. I remember going to church was too painful so I spent the day with Ernie. Now each Mother’s day will come with the desire to have my little Haddon with me as his daddy and siblings gather to say how much they love me. How sweet it would have been to have him today. If you are approaching today having lost a child, or you have longed for a child and cannot have one, you should know your pain never goes unseen by the Lord. I pray that you hold on to this truth today:

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”
Psalm 34:18

One thing I keep tucked away during days like this is that while the Lord is gathered with families celebrating with their mother, He is also gathered with the families who are mourning.The Lord is able to both rejoice and weep with his children at the same time. Remember that when the Lord says he is near to the brokenhearted, it is a promise he keeps.