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Posts posted by John&Nina

  1. I'm sorry if this is the wrong place to put this. If there is a better place, please feel free to move it.

    Today is the 54th anniversary of my brother Ralph's birth. We lost him in September 2003 after a long struggle with colon cancer. I mourn his loss every day, but there are those special days when Hendrick does something silly that I know Ralph would have loved or I catch a clip of Caddyshack (his favorite comedy) when I miss him even more.

    He and I did not have the perfect relationship, but he was a good brother and a man who at the end of his life tried his best to make amends for his failings and shortcomings.

    It was five years ago today that I saw him last. We had cake and talked about the old times when we ran barefoot on the beach, went surfing together and chased pretty girls when the sun went down. And I find myself today wondering, "if only..." But those thoughts are useless, and there is life yet to be lived.

    Please be in prayer for my parents today as they still hurt from the loss of their middle son. And say a special prayer for his children, that they may always know that their father, while not perfect, loved them very much.

  2. John, I read it on Yahoo! Entertainment news. They had a picture of Connor Cruise, with the caption, "Connor Cruise, the adopted son of Tom Cruise, to have part in movie..." It was again stated in the accompanying article.

    Why not just say...."Connor Cruise, son of Tom Cruise...."

    I guess no one ever "outgrows" being adopted as far as the press is concerned. I remember when Carroll O'Connor's (best known as "Archie Bunker" in All in the Family) son died of a drug overdose, they kept reiterating that he was the adopted son of Carroll O'Connor. (As if that made the tragedy any less heart rending....Carroll O'Connor was devastated and heart broken. And I don't know he would have been any less devastated had this been his biological son.)

    Now if the media kept reporting..."Tom Cruise and his third wife Katie Holmes" over and over and over....


    I just "cruised" :P through Yahoo! Entertainment News, and nearly every story began exactly the way you put it: "Connor Cruise, son of Tom Cruise..." Did they make reference to his adoption later in the stories? Of course! I will say that the circumstances are a little unique here. Connor is playing Will Smith at an early age in this movie. For the record, I had no idea that Cruise's son was African-American, so that would have left me scratching my head without an explanation. I might have thought they pulled the wrong picture.

    I'm neither condoning the press description of Connor Cruise or condemning it, but I will say this: At some point we adoptive parents (especially those of us in open adoption relationships) have to stop wanting to have it both ways. We want to be proud of our children's stories, we want them to be proud of their stories, we want their birthparents to be proud of their stories. But somehow, for some reason, we reserve the right to be offended when others say that our children (or someone else's) are adopted. I can see where some could infer that we're rather insecure in our status with all that foot-stomping...

    You're right. No one ever "outgrows" being adopted. I think that's part of the lessons that Abrazo has been trying to teach us. Adoption is part of their story, and a vital part of the story at that. It is our children's "first chapter." And we don't have the right to just cut that chapter off whenever we feel like it.

    I really hope you don't take this the wrong way, because I do see your point. Our children are our children. I cannot believe sometimes just how much I love our two kids (not because they are adopted, but because at one point I wondered if I had it in me to be a good parent). And while I don't go out of my way to tell people their stories, I will proudly and loudly tell anyone who is interested about who they are and how they came to us (with a plug for Abrazo thrown in for good measure!).

    I say none of this to be critical of anyone. I hope I'm just giving us all a little something to chew on. My best to all my friends out there in Abrazo-land. As Hendrick would say, "It's a beautiful day..."

  3. FYI: Nicole is expecting. She's got the bump and has been photographed many times in her family way.

    Re the media and adoption: I must not be reading the same stuff. Often I see mention made that Tom and Nicole adopted two children during the marraige, which is simply a statement of fact. Frankly, it would be misleading if they just stated that the couple "had" two children during their marriage or that their marriage "produced" two children.

    As for "illegitimate" references, like it or not, those are now matters of morality and not necessarily matters of legality. Most legitimate (sorry for that) media outlets frown on that type of reporting.

    Of course, this is not to say that celebrity gossip, which is probably some of what you're referring to, follows the same rules that most journalism follows. It leans heavy on sensationalism and titillation. Cold facts generally give way to the most exciting way to present something, preferably with lots of alliteration... ;)

  4. OK, most people may not know a lot about my situation. I'm 49; Nina is 39. We got married in 2002. Is it a little weird turning 50 with a toddler and an infant running me ragged? I guess. Would I have it any other way? Nope.

    Frankly, I wasn't ready to get married or have kids when I was younger. I wasn't responsible enough. Certainly, I never found the right woman.

    Overall, I can't worry about age. I know that I married the woman I was meant to marry. I also know that we're raising the children we're supposed to be raising. My wife is happy, I'm happy, our kids are happy. My family gets the benefit of a calmer, wiser, more complete me (I hope that doesn't come off as arrogant). And I am in a much better position to appreciate the wonderful gifts in my life. So my being older definitely has its advantages for every member of my family.

    Oh, and yes, I robbed the cradle. And I'm darn proud of it. ;)

  5. (Interesting parallel, there; it's as if, for all the rapport he'd built with Juno, he had become the surrogate birthfather: yet another guy who walks out on Juno and her baby and expects her/them to both be okay with it?)

    Did I miss something?? What other guy(s) walked out on Juno and her baby? Paulie? Her dad?

    Paulie, for all his sweetness and "cheese"-ness as a boyfriend, wasn't exactly there when Juno was struggling with her choices.

  6. Didn't read that one, Kay, but it is common for the adoptive father to desire leaving the adoptive mother to be with the birth mother??? That blows my mind, and I guess it would be one of those things people don't talk about.

    I have to say that this wasn't my interpretation of what happened in the movie. Clearly he felt a connection with Juno and that connection helped empower him to leave Vanessa, and I agree that there was something creepy about their interactions, but I don't think he was leaving Vanessa to be with Juno -- he was leaving her to try to recapture parts of his youth that he felt he had lost and that his current situation wouldn't let him recapture.

    I agree with you, Darren. I think his reasons for leaving had to do with his own "lost youth" and not Juno. But when they started that dance thing, a big "uh-oh" went through my mind. I was really rooting for nothing inappropriate to happen, but, in hindsight, that ship had already sailed. The minute he put his hands on her, it was inappropriate.

    Call me a prude, but you shouldn't slowdance with a 16-year-old girl in your basement hideaway and then cap it off by telling her you're leaving your wife.

  7. I think the movie was okay, but I was really upset with the apparent "feelings" that Mark seemed to have developed for Juno...

    I think I like the movie more than I first thought I did...but the Juno/Mark think really bothered me.

    I agree. That creeped me out, too.

  8. Tina,

    I must admit that the situation in your church has been gnawing at me for a while. I couldn't quite put my finger on it, but I was troubled repeatedly by what I felt was an intolerant attitude that seemed so out of place in church and in a Christian community.

    Then I read a devotional today where the Bible verse was from Matthew:

    For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?

    -- Matthew 5:46

    That was my "aha" moment. It's expected that we love our families. But what about those people who come into your life and become a part of it, whether it's "convenient" or not? Let's face it, adoption is not "convenient," no matter how hard we try to ignore the realities of it. Whether we like it or not, whether the adoption is open or not, the birthparents and their families are a part of our lives now. We can try to hide them in the closet, push them away or make pretend they don't exist. But they are there, in our child's face and mannerisms and -- soon enough -- in his or her questions.

    So, if we take Matthew seriously, if we recognize our Christian duty, what are we to do? I would argue that we give the birthparents the opportunity to love their child and, in the process, love us, too. I would argue that, while we may not want to love them, we must love the birthparents, at the very least for the sake of the child we are raising. And I would argue that there are infinite blessings for those of us who get past the idea that this love is merely an obligation and truly embrace the birthfamily and welcome them as our own.

    Thanks for letting me get this off my chest.


  9. Thanks Bobbi!! But for the record I AM trying to get a copy of it to watch!! (BTW is it a tear jerker?)

    I wouldn't call it a "tear-jerker" (I know, I'm a man. What do I know?). But I would call it "touching." The relationships all seemed very real, even if the dialogue is a little too snappy for real life.

    I thought the end was sufficiently vague. in the sense that you don't know exactly how all of these characters will cope with their decisions in the future.

    All in all, I thought, a fine, fun and enjoyable movie, with a number of memorable, quotable lines.

  10. Tina,

    I'm angry that you had to go through this. You basically had to defend a position that, in my opinion, needs no defense: Your relationship with your child's birthparents. What makes this doubly infuriating is that you had to do this in church.

    For some reason, this couple seems to deserve more sympathy and prayers than the young woman who gave birth to their child and is obviously struggling with loss. If there is any prayer to be said here (besides the most necessary one of all: for the birthmother), it is for this adoptive family to begin to understand the pain that created their family and for enlightenment and love to creep into their tiny little brains and stone-cold hearts (sorry about that; a little bit of anger just creeped out!).

    God bless you for speaking out. I hope you changed some minds and opened some hearts on Sunday. In the meantime, I'll pray for this family to find a little tolerance. I'll also pray for you and yours to discover some peace in God's house so that you can learn and worship free of the kind of angst that you have been experiencing.

    All our best,


  11. Tina,

    I feel for you. Church is supposed to be the place where you find a community of supportive people. I agree with Kay and Elizabeth. Perhaps you should talk to the pastor.

    Thankfully, our church has been incredibly supportive with us. Our minister has two children adopted from Korea. Another family adopted their son (who has since passed away) in Texas more than 30 years ago. They simply adore Hendrick. Our pastor's wife watches him in nursery every Sunday, and she also adores him.

    In another church group we're in, there are several families who have adopted.

    We may be the only "open adoption" experience, but I have to say that nearly everyone has been either completely accepting or politely curious. Those in that latter group seem geniunely interested when we tell them our story. I'm very happy to carry the banner, but I have to say it is easier when folks are so helpful along the way.

    This leads to a question, though: What do we do about "toxic" people when it comes to their possible influence on our children? Some folks you can just ignore. Others, such as relatives, you can't. I'm not a fan of snarky comebacks, so patience is definitely a virtue, but what about those folks you just know have the potential of poisoning your child's mind? Do you change churches? Confront them? I really don't want anyone telling Hendrick he should worry about his birthmother. Nor do I want anyone thinking he's a freak because he has contact with her.

    This is the hard stuff we all will deal with, so anyone who has experiences to share, please do. Your advice is definitely needed.

  12. For some reason, I've been thinking a lot of my brother lately. He died four years ago after a battle with colon cancer. I just reread a speech I wrote about sacrifice. It was delivered a year after Ralph's passing, but that made it no easier to get through. I think it was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I give you a copy of it here, slightly edited. I hope that someone finds it either inspiring or comforting.

    Thanks for reading...

    “The end of man is knowledge, but there is one thing he can't know.

    He can't know whether knowledge will save him or kill him. He will

    be killed, all right, but he can't know whether he is killed because of

    the knowledge which he has got or because of the knowledge which he

    hasn't got and which if he had it, it would save him. There's cold in

    your stomach, but you open the envelope, you have to open the envelope,

    for the end of man is to know.”

    This quote from “All The King's Men,” Robert Penn Warren's peerless novel of political corruption, might make us uneasy, because it talks about the inevitable: The end of man. When we think of “the end,” we often think of death.

    After all, “When Christ calls us, he bids us to come and die,” said German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. And it is true. We are called upon by Christ to give our all, even unto death.

    But there are other forms of “the end of man,” and some have little to do with death. I believe the lines from Penn Warren's book talk about more than our conventional perception of death. The lines also talk about change. Each new piece of knowledge we gain, every experience we have forever changes us. That change can often represent an “end” to our old selves.

    And here's the best part: With each end there is a beginning.

    Remember John 3:16-17:

    “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that

    whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting

    life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world;

    but that the world through him might be saved.”

    Jesus sacrificed his life to give us, as imperfect as we are, the opportunity to come before our perfect God and rejoice in him. As followers of Christ, we are compelled to follow this example. But how do we do this? Do we, too, need to hang on a cross? No, Jesus took away the need for that, but he did not take away the need for sacrifice in his name and in the name of our fellow man.

    Sacrifice can take all kinds of forms. It can be prayer at an unexpected and inconvenient time. It can be an act of charity toward another in the name of Jesus and you. It can be a shared fellowship that draws us closer to God. It can be a random act of kindness toward a stranger. Giving of ourselves and our talents, at any time, in the name of God is sacrifice.

    My family is a living testament to the power of sacrifice.

    In November 2002, on the day after I returned home from a retreat, I received a message from my father telling me that my older brother Ralph's battle against colon cancer had reached a stage where his death was an inevitability. Ralph had had a bout with colon cancer several years before, but he seemed to have beaten the disease. A construction worker, Ralph had moved from Pennsylvania to Florida about six years ago in an effort to find year-round work. He settled near my parents and was doing well.

    But the cancer returned, and this time, the fight would have only one conclusion. Ralph was dying, and no amount of fighting was going to change that. Immediately, my parents, both in their late 70s, took Ralph into their home, determined to make him comfortable and knowing that as his illness progressed, he would be in no shape to live alone.

    Our family rallied around each other. My wife of less than six months told me to go to Florida to visit whenever I wanted and as often as I wanted, no matter what the cost. My oldest brother Ron and I visited Ralph and my parents at Christmas time that year, knowing it would be the last time we would be together as a family.

    There were other issues. Ralph had two children from whom he was estranged. Both adults now, Jennifer and Mark bear the emotional scars of a brutal divorce and years of fighting between their parents. Jennifer was bitter and sometimes contemptuous of her father. Mark was in more danger. He had descended into a life of crime and was in jail awaiting trial on theft charges. Ralph was insistent they not know about his condition.

    Through phone calls and e-mails, my parents, Ron and I discussed calling the kids and telling them about their father. But we wavered, wondering whether to violate Ralph's wishes. Finally, in May, unsure of how much time Ralph had left, we decided that they needed to know, and I called Jennifer. As I explained her father's condition, Jennifer began sobbing quietly. When I finished, she asked if she could go to see him.

    Within days Jennifer was in Florida with her father. By all accounts, their reunion was uplifting. Ralph's health was failing, but he and Jennifer spent hours together each day, talking, taking drives and even going fishing. Jennifer spent a month with her father, caring for him and healing the hurts of the past.

    Mark was sentenced to prison for his crimes and would never see his father again. In a series of remarkable phone calls, however, he did get a chance to hear his father's voice. Ralph, determined to make the best use of his time, tried repeatedly to get Mark to admit his mistakes and craft a future for himself. He expressed his love. He gave advice on school, careers and the slings and arrows of life.

    At times, it seemed that it wasn't working. Mark appeared unable to believe that his father's illness was serious, and he also seemed oblivious to his own predicament. Once, when I visited for Ralph's birthday in June, Ralph's frustration boiled over. “He can't understand that I'm dying,” Ralph shouted at me. It's one thing to know your brother is not going to live. It's another thing to see one of the strongest people you know, now reduced to less than 100 pounds, admit it.

    That June would be the last time I would see my brother. One day, three months later, Ralph got up to use the bathroom. Stricken by a wave of excruciating pain, he cried out, and my mother ran to him. She tried to lift him back into bed, but Ralph's body slumped. On that day, September 23, 2003, Ralph David Schoonejongen, 49 years old, beloved by his family and friends, left this world as he entered it, cradled in his mother's arms.

    What does all this have to do with sacrifice, you might ask. This story is filled with sacrifice. My parents straining body and mind to care for a dying son. My wife loving me enough to not only let me go to Florida several times but also to put up with my scattered thoughts throughout a year of sorrows. My niece Jennifer putting aside her resentment and caring for her father as he slowly faded. Ralph, with little time left, giving of himself to his imprisoned son in an effort to put him on the right path.

    And my church family also sacrificed. I was on a retreat team during my brother’s illness, and my friends patiently stood beside me and behind me, supporting me through every up and down, with prayers, hugs and love.

    Three weeks after he died, I went on a retreat with a heavy heart. My church family, of course, was there for me, but something unforgettable also happened. At one point during the weekend, I broke down. I knew it was going to happen, but that didn’t make it any less painful. As my anguish mingled with my tears, I felt a hand slip into mine and an arm around my shoulders. It was a member of my small group, a stranger, really (I had known her only a few hours), but someone who felt my heartache and moved to assuage. Comforting a stranger in his hour of sadness, loss and pain … can there be a better definition of sacrifice in the name of the Lord?

    Ralph's illness and death was an ordeal, but the sacrifices of us all – family, friend and stranger – during that time uplifted each of us, changed us and brought us a measure of peace and hope for the future. It is no wonder that Revelation 7:9-17, with its glimpse of heaven, has become one of my favorite passages of scripture since Ralph's death:

    “After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could

    count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages,

    standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with

    palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice, saying,

    'Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the

    Lamb!' … Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, 'Who are

    these, robed in white, and where have they come from?' I said to him,

    'Sir, you are the one that knows.' Then he said to me, 'These are they

    who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes

    and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. For this reason they are

    before the throne of God, and worship him day and night within his

    temple, and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them. They

    will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them,

    nor any scorching heat; for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be

    their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life,

    and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

    This is the end of man. This is the knowledge that saves. God's sacrifice of his son is mimicked every day by Christians around the globe. Are you coping with a death in the family, a crisis of faith, a struggle with a loved one? No matter what your great ordeal, remember that we all are washed in the blood of the Lamb. You will feel it now as the prayers of the faithful surround you. God's infinite and amazing grace is in each prayer, each sacrifice.

    The result?

    “They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

    “God so loved the world.”

    And that is all...

  13. What junk. I can't imagine viewing my adoption so negatively.

    It seems like the author is still struggling with fertility issues.

    Just her use of the word "barren" would seem to indicate that you are correct. I know the word is biblical, but we've come a long way from women's entire worth being judged solely on their ability to bear children. It seems, in some way and despite her education, that she's forgotten that.

    Obviously all adoptive parents here are here because of fertility issues and we all struggle with them in our own way, but this essay seemed to be one giant wail. I really hope her child doesn't get a whiff of that angst.

  14. I looked and looked for a thread in which to post this, and I don't think I found the perfect one. But this one is probably as good as any other.

    If you get a few minutes read: Blessed Are The Barren by Sarah Hinlicky Wilson, a Lutheran pastor, adoptive parent and contributor to Christianity Today.

    I have to tell you that I really don't know what to make of this essay. There are some very good turns of phrases. Especially strong is her discussion of how "adoptive families are born from pain, just as the church family was born from the pain of the cross."

    But I'm not sure I like some of her analogies, and I think she reaches pretty far out there as far as her theology and interpretation of scripture goes. It's also obvious that she could benefit from an understanding of open adoption so she knows that it doesn't have to be the way she describes it.

    But if you like to read thought-provoking essays, this one might be for you. Let us know what you think...

  15. Heather,

    I don't think a child is ever too young to take to a food pantry or other charity organization. My parents took us to inner-city missions in Camden many times as children. Frankly, some of my earliest memories are of my parents engaged in some kind of charitable endeavor. I grew up thinking that this kind of behavior was normal and that giving was just part of what you did as a human being.

    So, by all means, take your kids along when you do mission work (as long as it's safe) and let them see you giving back. Soon enough, when they are able, they'll want to be part of it, too.

    On a related topic, Christianity Today offers an interactive assessment of how you and your church view giving. While it's skewed toward what is preached in the pulpit and done by parishioners, it offers some insight into how we ourselves think of charity.

    Here's the link. Just click on the "take assessment" button to take you to the interactive part.

  16. I think there are parents that Can Not and/or Choose Not to live in the "here and now" sharing an existence with their child's birthfamily, whether in reality, in their minds or in their hearts. And think it's perfectly fine to have their child feel the same way. These parents are limited by their own insecurities and a need to elevate themselves (which no parent should ever feel is needed) in their child's mind, which could be part of the reason it's okay to talk about birthfamily as long as it's negative. It's emotional cruelty, in my opinion. (Sorry to be so harsh.)

    ... Where's the compassion? for the children?


    Your post really touched on a sore point for me, largely because what you've said applies well beyond families in adoption.

    There is an epidemic in this country of divorced parents who trash their former spouse in front of the children. I know a number of people who either do this or are the victims of it. My own brother was one of them. After his divorce, his ex-wife went out of her way to spew hatred about him to their two children. Slowly, he withdrew from their lives because of it. It was a huge mistake, but one that was born of the belief that he could do nothing right by them.

    Thankfully, before he passed away, he reconciled with his children. By then, however, the damage was done. My nephew is emotionally damaged to the point where I wonder if he'll ever completely recover.

    We CANNOT do this to our adopted children. And I WILL NOT do this to my child. I've seen the damage that can be done, and it sickens me. No matter what, I want my son to have respect for his birthparents, to understand the decisions his birthmother made (we have never had contact with his birthfather) and to know that we love his birthmother very much. That knowledge may not solve every ill, but I hope it provides comfort.

    Sign me "lesson learned the hard way."

  17. Elizabeth,

    I was wondering some of the same things yesterday when I passed by the Salvation Army bellringer with Hendrick. Unfortunately, I literally didn't have a dime to my name at the time. If I had, I was thinking how nice it would have been to have him give the money to begin teaching him about giving. I'm sure there will be other opportunities, and I'll take advantage of them to help our boy learn some good lessons about "the reason for the season."

    In church last Sunday, Hendrick participated in bringing down our church's offering for Operation Shoebox, which is run out of Samaritan's Purse. So we're trying.

    Frankly, this is a major concern for us. We live in an incredibly affluent area. We're surrounded by homes that go for $1 million or more. Kids have everything from designer clothes to expensive foreign-made cars.

    Nina was appalled recently when she found out that one of the richest towns in our area was soliciting donations for its fire department so it could buy toys for kids. You might say, "how nice." But the problem was that these toys were to be given to the kids in town, nearly all of whom live in houses by the beach which go for several million dollars. So rich people were giving money so that their own children could get another gift. Huh?

    How can we teach our children about humility, charity and true worth in such an environment?

    We really want to stress the importance of family and faith, but we could certainly use some tips from others, too.

    Thanks in advance for all of your wisdom!


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