Three truths that take the pressure off adoptive parents

Family walking

If you’ve considered adoption even for a second, I’m guessing a few questions have crossed your mind:

What if I don’t have what it takes?

What if I mess up my entire family?

What if I love my adoptive and birth children differently?

Join me at The Better Mom today where I ask and answer these important questions about adoption.

You may be surprised and relieved at three truths that take the pressure off!

*Have any other questions about adoption? Feel free to ask!

*Have an adoption story you’d like to share? I’d love to hear about it! Leave a comment!


What every non-runner needs to learn about the race


I live with a bunch of runners. (Note my careful choice of words.)

My husband coaches cross-country and track and can’t resist discipling our own 8-14 year-olds in the art of running in his free time. My eight year-old ran two 5ks in the past two days. They are all putting me to shame.

But though I don’t count myself among these dedicated athletes, I’m learning a couple valuable lessons from them.

First of all, serious runners don’t have an “off season.”

  • When one season is done, they condition for the next.
  • They eat wisely year-round.
  • They go to bed early each night so they’re ready for those pre-dawn workouts.

After all, to stop training is to lose ground.

Secondly, running requires self-discipline: a throwing off of hindrances and entanglements.

Real runners resist the temptations that are accepted as “normal” to everyone else:

  • soft drinks
  • excessive sugar
  • late nights
  • injury-inducing activities

Runners have a goal in mind and persevere to that end.

It’s easy to forget we’re in a spiritual race, isn’t it? Yet it’s SO easy to be hindered, to become entangled.

When others indulge in whatever makes them happy, we look at our well-worn running shoes and our narrow path and wonder what would be so wrong with a break.

Why not enjoy an off season?

Wouldn’t it feel great to sleep in? Put our feet up? Eat without restrictions?

How easily we veer off course when our eyes are fixed on the fun everyone else is having.

But how different the perspective when we are instead,

…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Hebrews 12:2-3

There is lasting joy set before us too!

If we stay on course, persevere, cast aside the weights and entanglements, our sacrifices will pale in comparison to the reward.

I don’t want to be disqualified.

I don’t want to lose heart.

I want to say with Paul and so many of the witnesses who have gone before me:

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

2 Timothy 4:7

Jesus, please strengthen our “feeble arms and weak knees” (Heb. 12:12). Help us fix our eyes on YOU!

*How’s your race going today? Any words of encouragement to add to your fellow runners?

Doing hard things

The funny thing about hard stuff is that we didn’t believe it would be this hard.





Walking by faith.

Those of us living in a first world country are especially confused by hard. We watch commercials promising the easy life, sure that if we buy or do the right things, we’ll be able to avoid hard.

But aren’t all our best memories connected to the hard stuff?

A race won.

A baby born.

A degree earned.

What’s your hard thing?

About eleven years ago, mine was moving to a fourth-world country and becoming an instant mom to three… eventually mom to five.

Around three years ago, it was fighting panic and adrenal fatigue — pushing through life even though I wanted to hide in a safe little corner.

Today it’s being faithful at home, while also letting my light shine a little further. It’s putting myself on my blog, in a book, and even on a speaking platform.

Each hard thing has been scary. Today is scary. And exhausting. Did I mention hard stuff is exhausting?!


Every single time I want to go live in those life-made-easy commercials, God gets involved.

He elbows me in the ribs and just won’t let up until I’ve gotten the point:

  • blogs…
  • verses…
  • songs…
  • homeschool curriculum…
  • sermons…

They all say the same thing:


I don’t know what the future holds; God might take me from hard to easier, or maybe from hard to harder. But even in my fear and wimpiness, I’m motivated to press on by a couple huge things:

1) I know there will eventually be a permanent end to all that is hard. Hallelujah!

And at that end we will be rewarded for our perseverance.

“In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay.” Hebrews 10:37

“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” James 1:12

2) I don’t have to do a single thing in my own strength!

God promises to empower and equip me for each challenge.

“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13

Isaiah 4113

Here’s the deal: God has specific tasks in mind for each of us. We’ve been uniquely designed for our own hard stuff.

Jesus saved us — completing the ultimate overwhelming job. And He sustains us. He empowers us.

Our time here is limited. Will we do what He’s created us and saved us to do?

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Ephesians 2:8-10

Alright, now it’s your turn to share. What hard thing is God asking you to do?

Not crushed, not in despair, not abandoned, not destroyed

Sometimes all I remember of 2 Corinthians 4:8 is “we are hard pressed on every side,” “perplexed,” “persecuted,” “struck down.”

I groan.

And I know I’m not alone.

Stop for a second and you’ll hear it too… the groaning of the earth as cancer consumes, atrocities fill the news, immorality is celebrated, and injustice prevails.

When it all overwhelms, we question.

I did.

The radio celebrated a powerful, awesome God. On autopilot, I sang along. But the words clashed with my frustration, and I fell silent.

For a moment, I refused to agree.


If you’re so great, why don’t you DO SOMETHING?

I sat there, imagining all I would do to end the suffering of children, of the desperate, of God’s people — all I would do to prevent myself and my loved ones from being hurt — if I could.

Please… When will you do something?

I didn’t expect an answer.

But then, the forgotten truth rushed back into my brain, taking my breath away like it hadn’t for a long time.

He did do something. He did exactly what I’m desperate to avoid.

He abandoned glorious comfort.
He took on a body that knew pain.
He suffered injustice.
He gave up His life.

All this, though He didn’t have to.

God… Creator…The Almighty… suffered.
Not as a victim.
Not because He was helpless or powerless — in the wrong place at the wrong time.

But for me. For you.
My God — Jesus Christ — died to save us from the mess that our sin birthed.

And then the worship flowed naturally, because I remembered how worthy He is.

Oh, the privilege of singing to a God who did something. A God who did everything.

Of course, He’s not done yet.

“For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.”

2 Corinthians 5:4

“We know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus.”

2 Corinthians 4:14


“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

2 Corinthians 4:8-9

For this “momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.”

2 Corinthians 4:17

The groaning will soon be over.

This is not the end.

(How is God renewing your “inner man” today? How can I pray for you?)

Winner for Sun Shine Down

Congratulations, Amy Sterk! You won the drawing for Gillian Marchenko’s memoir, Sun Shine Down.

The rest of you can find her book here! Thanks so much for participating!


A reminder of brokenness — Guest post by Gillian Marchenko (and book giveaway!)

I’m delighted to welcome Gillian Marchenko as a guest blogger today!

Whether your life has been touched by a child with special needs or whether you’re simply struggling to accept the gift of brokenness God has given you, you will be blessed and moved by Gillian’s memoir.

Enter to win a copy of Sun Shine Down, the story of Gillian’s daughter Polly, by doing any of the following, then leaving a comment to let me know what you did:

  1. Like Gillian’s facebook page.
  2. Subscribe to Gillian’s blog.
  3. Like my facebook page.
  4. Subscribe to my blog (click “follow” to the right).
  5. Leave a word of encouragement for Gillian below.
  6. (Less conventional, more helpful) Stop for a second and pray for Gillian and her family as she has three speaking engagements this week, including the National MOPS convention this weekend.

The winner’s name will be randomly drawn and announced tomorrow morning.

Now join me as Gillian remembers the importance of brokenness in her life…


It’s supposed to rain later today.

My left arm aches.

I broke it in two places, two different times in my childhood, and now sometimes when the weather changes it aches, either up near my shoulder or in my wrist; the places it broke.

The aches remind me of those times; the agony and pain, the fear of being in an emergency room as a child, spending the night for the first time in a hospital, getting attention from classmates and extended family, people signing my cast, ‘Get well soon!’. Me trying to itch the inside of my cast with a hanger, not being able to swim for half of a summer because I couldn’t get my arm wet. Being a bit doped up on the medication to ease the hurt.

My broken arm became my whole world. How could it not be when the pain was great, instant, and overwhelming?

At the time there was no way of knowing that the pain wasn’t going to be my new normal.

For all I knew I could be in that kind of fear and pain for the rest of my life.

I went to the hospital and got help. The excruciating pain eventually turned into a dull ache and then only, a flimsy itch.

Life went back to normal. I was found splashing around in the kiddie pool within eight weeks.

But a dull ache returns now and then.

And I am reminded that at times in my life, I’ve been broken.

Recently I went to four parent-teacher conferences for my kids in two different schools.

I was prepared to discuss each kid, I thought. But when I sat down with Polly’s teacher (who has Down syndrome and stars in my recently published memoir, Sun Shine Down), I was surprised to read that she hadn’t met her goals. After a whole year at school Polly still couldn’t figure out classroom procedures. She struggled with transitions every day.

Polly was cute and everyone loved her, but basically she was still just walking around making messes in class.

And the dull ache, the fact that I had a child with a disability started up again.

Polly’s birth shattered me. I teamed up with Jesus and my husband Sergei to put myself back together, but much like that pesky jigsaw puzzle you’ve almost completed, a few pieces were lost in the mix, and now I walk around with empty spaces.

Most of the time the spaces are used for good.

I have more compassion for others.

I understand grace better.

I relate to others through my brokenness.

And sometimes it feels right.

But there are other times when it still breaks my heart that Polly is behind her peers.

I am OK with Down syndrome.

But there will always be days in my life where the rain will come.

And because I’ve been broken, I will ache sometimes.

It doesn’t mean I love my kids less or that I wish my life was different.

It just aches.

And that’s OK, I think.

Gillian Marchenko is an author and national speaker who lives in Chicago with her husband Sergei and four daughters. Her book, Sun Shine Down, a memoir, published with T. S. Poetry Press in the fall of 2013. She writes and speaks about parenting kids with Down syndrome, faith, depression, imperfection, and adoption. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, including Chicago Parent, Thriving Family, Gifted for Leadership, Literary Mama, Today’s Christian Woman, MomSense Magazine, Charlottesville Family, EFCA Today, and the Tri-City Record. Gillian says the world is full of people who seem to have it all together. She speaks for the rest of us.

Buy Sun Shine Down on Amazon, Kindle, or Nook

Follow Gillian and her family at, on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest

When we’re waiting for the bus


Ever feel like you’re in Dr. Seuss’s book, Oh the Places You’ll Go… but not exactly on the last page where things finally come together?

Somehow I think we’re all a little more familiar with the “slump” page, the “alone” page, and especially the “waiting” page.

My dear fourteen-year-old special-needs son was on the waiting page last week.

Upon starting his new school (which is amazing) on Monday, we were informed that bus service would begin Friday.

Due to Jaden’s obsession with buses (think bus = Disneyworld), it was a long week.

Thursday was spent informing every friend, foe, and stranger — ten times each — that Jaden would be riding a bus the next morning. Those discussions, of course, were followed by countless fist pounds — Jaden’s favorite expression of celebration.

We greeted Friday morning with joy and relief, rushing through morning preparations in order to be on time at the rendezvous point.

Jaden high-fived, fist-pounded, giggled with anticipation, and kept an eagle-eye on every vehicle entering the neighborhood. Even Jaden’s ears were on high alert. They perked up at the rumble of every bus engine within a one-mile radius.

Ten minutes passed and though no bus had appeared, spirits were still high. Jaden continued to pace and chat excitedly.

Twenty minutes passed and my patient (slightly more sober) son continued to keep watch.

Thirty minutes later a little reassurance from mom was necessary. “It’ll come, it’ll come… but maybe I should call the school to make sure.”

After forty-five minutes, both Jaden and I slumped onto the curb, not at all sure the bus dream would come true today.

There had been a glitch. Obviously. Another call confirmed the bus would not be coming that morning. So I drove him to school… where apologies abounded!

My boy had my sympathy. The truth was, I knew all too well how he felt. How often I’ve waited, full of hopes and dreams, only to crumple in disappointment when expectations weren’t met on my time table.

I wish I could say I’ve always responded with the same grace he showed that morning. I fully expected some kind of angry outburst; but, upon delivering him to school and being assured that he would have a bus ride home that afternoon, I saw sunshine and faith return.

We all take our turns in the waiting room (or at the bus stop) though, don’t we?

Waiting for a train to go
Or a bus to come, or a plane to go
Or the mail to come, or the rain to go
Or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
Or waiting around for a Yes or No
Or waiting for their hair to grow.

Sure, sometimes waiting is about procrastination, fear, or laziness. And maybe that’s what Dr. Seuss is talking about above in Oh the Places You’ll Go. But sometimes, it’s just a huge, necessary part of life, whether we like it or not.

In fact, I’m finding that God’s work is best done in the waiting period. It’s in that awful in-between place that we are the most desperate for Him.


I am so tempted to slump on the curb or throw a tantrum when the bus doesn’t show up. I did quite a bit of that as Jarod and I waited nine years for an answer to prayer. I’ve done far too much of that even after seeing how very trustworthy my God is.

And so the lessons continue. I will wait for the bus again. I’ll be unsure, helpless, and in suspense. But that’s not at all bad for me.

Not if I hand it all over to Him again.

Not when I remember that there are no glitches with God.

He won’t leave me at the bus stop one minute longer than He wants me there.


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