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National Adoption Month: A Story To Enter Into

I am so grateful and honored to have Carissa Woodwyk on the blog today. I met Carissa last year at Created for Care and had the opportunity to chat with her one on one. We’ve developed an email friendship over the months as I stepped into the public relations position with Created for Care. Her voice is so incredible valuable. Carissa was adopted from Korea when she was just five months old… the same age each of my children were when they came home from Ethiopia. I’ve now heard her talk “Listen” four times. Each time I am brought to tears and walk away with something new. When you are finished reading her words below I encourage you to hop over and watch the clip from “Listen” on vimeo. It’s something everyone, not just adoptive parents, should hear.


My voice…I’m finding it.

My story…God’s using it.

Our voices…they’re needed.

Our stories…they hold brokenness and beauty and hope.

Our hearts matter. The hearts of our children matter – the wounded and broken and stunning and beautiful places. As parents, we have to acknowledge all of the heart, the whole story. Because the heart is where Jesus resides, where he enters in, where he does his transformative work.

Children who were relinquished, who lost their parents, who experienced trauma or neglect or abuse…they were impacted by our broken world so early. The messages their hearts received from the enemy were distorted, untrue. It messed with them. And, it messes with us, with our reality, in our parenting.

But…Jesus came to save, heal the broken hearted, turn ashes into beauty. I love that.

As parents, you get to be a part of providing the kind of space, the kind of presence, that opens the doorway for Christ’s truth to enter in. You become a special gift to your children when you welcome them into your home. I love that.

But, we adoptees, we have to do our own work, hear our own truth, find our own voice, experience our own healing. You can’t do that for us. But, you can be there with us. And we need you. We need you standing beside us, healing with us, reminding us of how loveable and capable and brave we are. Yes, this is the role you step into when you invite brokenness into your home. Yes, this is the responsibility and calling you sign up for as an adoptive parent.

You see, we bring so much into your home – hurt, sadness, confusion, anger, fear, shame. We also bring other people into your home – people who we were once connected to, but who are not a part of us anymore. We bring a story – a story we will someday be able to tell, but we need your help in putting the pieces together in an honest and honoring way. Yes, we need you…not to fix us or rescue us or save us, but rather to listen to us, empathize with us, grieve with us, model trust for us, remind us of who we are – who God created us to be. We need you to show us Jesus, because the picture of who he is got distorted too.

This adoption journey, this calling, it’s not just about you and it’s not just about the adopted person. It’s about God. It’s about his story. It’s about how he wants to use the journey of adoption in the bigger story he is writing about the world he loves wildly, about the world he is pursuing and fighting for and restoring and reconciling…onto him.

You…I…we…get to be a part of THAT story!

Let’s join hands and do this together. Let’s allow our stories to blend and birth something new and compelling – a story that shows and tells the world how good God is. 


Carissa Woodwyk is a Korean-born adoptee, writer, speaker, counselor/marriage and family therapist, wife, mom, advocate for the human heart. In each of these roles, she offers her story and voice in ways that invite people to connect with themselves, with others, with God. She speaks with a diverse understanding of what it means to be human and hopeful and a deep empathy and compassion for how much each person needs to know how loveable he/she is no matter how their story unfolds. She has co-authored a book titled, “Before You Were Mine: Discovering your adopted child’s lifestory.” She and her husband have two children and live near Grand Rapids, MI.



Find Carissa here:

Twitter: @carissawoodwyk
Instagram: @carissawoodwyk
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  • Sarah - I loved this post. Especially this:

    “We bring a story – a story we will someday be able to tell, but we need your help in putting the pieces together in an honest and honoring way. Yes, we need you…not to fix us or rescue us or save us, but rather to listen to us, empathize with us, grieve with us, model trust for us, remind us of who we are – who God created us to be.”

    My husband and I have chosen to remain open to a more open relationship with our daughter’s birthmother than was originally planned on/contracted on legally because of this. We want to be able to help her put the pieces together someday. The more we know about her birthmother, the more we are able to help with that process. It’s important to understand where you come from.

    Thank you so much for your perspective. And I love the description of yourself as an “advocate for the human heart.” Beautiful.ReplyCancel

  • Angela - I recently listened to a video of Carissa speaking and it was so moving and just beautiful. Thank you for sharing from your perspective. It is so important and helpful. I really love the line at the end, “Nothing that’s hard or bad about an adopted person’s relinquishment story takes away from what’s good and beautiful in a parent’s choice to adopt. Nothing.” Every day I’m praying for Jesus to heal and transform my daughter’s heart.ReplyCancel

  • Heather - Love Carissa! Thank you for using your voice and encouraging others to find and use their’s as well. Always blessed, encouraged, and challenged by your words.ReplyCancel

  • Meredith - I loved hearing you speak at Created for Care and am grateful to read your words on Lauren’s blog. Thank you for sharing your story and giving adoptive parents the opportunity to learn how to equip themselves and their children in finding, using and living their story.

    We’re scheduled to share your “Listen” video at our church’s adoption and foster care parental support group. I know it’s going to open eyes and hearts like it opened mine in February.

    Praying God continues to use you in big ways.ReplyCancel

  • Kim - Thank you so much Carissa I loved your words. Thank you so much for your support and encouragement as at times I sometimes think I am “feeling our way blindly” down our road. Honestly it gives me courage to love blindly as we go along. Thanks again.ReplyCancel

  • Becky - Thank you for sharing Lauren and Carissa! It’s so beautifully written and gives me hope as we have been waiting almost 3 years for a referral of our son. I love the part about God’s story and focusing on Him– He is our Creator, Healer, and has the best plan!ReplyCancel

  • Vanessa - Thank you for sharing, for being a voice that encourages adoptive parents while so many seem to just try to tear us down. Looking fwd to reading more on your blog!ReplyCancel

  • carissa - ladies…what a gift it is to read your words. i’m smiling on the inside and feeling affirmed and encouraged for the ways God has invited my voice out in the adoption world and how he is using it – to help you see your children more, to help you see yourselves more, to help you see HIM more. and, how he’s helping me find more of who i am, how loved i am, by him. with tears in my eyes…thank you, from the bottom of my Korean heart! cheering you all on!ReplyCancel

  • Kelly - Thank you for sharing these powerful words. Carissa, my husband and I heard you speak two weeks ago at the Tapestry Conference and your message changed our hearts forever. Thank you for being vulnerable and sharing your story. May God bless you!ReplyCancel

National Adoption Month: It all starts with ashes

I thought the best place to start this series would be at the beginning. And every single adoption starts with one thing: loss. Perhaps not always on the side of the adoptive parents, but certainly always on the side of the children and birth parents. Always. That part, the beginning, the loss, cannot be ignore or glossed over.

There’s a whole lot of pain and separation and loss that happened in my children before we came along. There was nine (ish) months of growing in the womb and bonding to their mothers. There was, for one of my children, at least several weeks of bonding outside of the womb. Then there was separation and trauma and loss. Another period of adjusting to a new environment … and then we came and though we love them fiercely we were still strangers. So when we took them from their home country it was another trauma and great loss. Familiar smells and sights were gone. Their once familiar language was so longer heard. Yes, they were gaining so very much… but in order to gain they had to lose a lot.

This part of adoption breaks my heart. This part feels largely ignored by the world. Comments like, “He’s the luckiest boy in the world….” or ” she won the lottery when she got adopted by you two…” are proof of that. I understand the sentiment behind the comments, I truly do. What they mean to say is that it is such a work of God’s grace and mercy that out of such brokenness and heartache and loss could be hope, restoration, and redemption. Yes, I see that, I promise I do. But that’s not lucky or winning the lottery or getting the best deal in life. It’s beauty from ashes… but you can’t discount the ashes.

So let’s start here. Let’s start in the ashes because for a myriad of reasons I cannot be a whole loving mother to my children without first acknowledging, examining, and being willing to dive into the loss they experienced. Out of that I get to dig and search and help them find the beauty, yes, and I am so honored to be that person who gets to stand with them. But if we ignore the loss, shove it aside and pretend it never happened and that now is all that matters, the restoration will never be complete.

There must be a balance. The temptation is to always portray adoption as all happiness, roses, rainbows, puppies, and the like. On the other hand, there is so very much hope and joy that comes with adoption. So we shouldn’t solely focus on the painful parts either. That is my hope for this little series for National Adoption Month. I hope to provide a balanced view that shows all sides of the story — not shying away from the ashes while portraying the beauty.

After all, let’s be so thankful that our children’s stories don’t stay in the ashes… that there is so much hope and beauty and grace in them. Because isn’t that the gospel picture? Suffering, pain, loss, darkness … then dawn, redemption, restoration, hope, and completion.

Tomorrow I am so grateful to have Carissa Woodwyk as a guest. Carissa speaks so beautifully into this very discussion, as a woman who was adopted from Korea at five months old, I so appreciate her perspective and know you will too.

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