Yes, She’s My Real Sister

I tend to write heavy stuff because I feel it’s essential we shine a light on the issues we’d rather keep in the dark.

Sometimes, though, encouragement is best gained from someone who points to positive experiences. Someone like Katie Carper. Besides the fact that her writing captivates me, and besides the fact she’s another owner of dark curls, Katie is also an adoptive mom. But mostly I’m intrigued by the fact that she brings to her children—and to us—lifelong experiences as a sister to three adopted siblings.

How refreshing to read the perspective of a child impacted by adoption. I hope you’ll find the same enlightenment from her story that I did.


Yes, She’s My Real Sister

Mar 27 Sisterhood is Real

In the early 1970’s, my parents learned that they would not be able to have any biological children. Though they had always considered adoption as a way to grow their family, this devastating news led them down that road sooner than expected.

After adopting two boys, Dad and Mom thought to increase the estrogen level in their home, so they adopted an infant girl. She was a dark-haired beauty with olive skin, full of giggles and spunk. They named her Melanie.

Ten months after the birth of my sister, I was born. Seems doctors can only make predictions regarding procreation. The Long family now swelled to two boys and two girls.

Growing up, I struggled to connect with Melanie, my almost-twin. I did not value our differences, made more apparent as we shared a bedroom. She was not bothered by a bit of clutter; I was a neat-freak. At 9 pm, she grew more animated while I crawled into bed. She often hit snooze; I jumped out of bed to beat the sunrise. Melanie did not stress over academics; I had mild panic attacks before every test. She was the optimistic extrovert; I was the overthinking introvert. She excelled in music; I began to sweat when pressured to publicly sing “Happy Birthday”. She had dark, silky smooth hair like Selma Hayek; I had a thick, course mane, like a brunette Ronald McDonald.

We were never mistaken for sisters. Strangers were stunned to learn we were siblings and even more confused to discover we were just ten months apart. Despite our conflicting personalities and interests however, I always thought of Mel as my big sister. I was happy to share stories that began with these two endearing words: “My sister…”

Over the years, many have asked, “So, is Melanie your real sister?” Real sister? What does that mean? Was that word a subtle attempt to cheapen Mel’s role in my life because we weren’t sisters by blood? Was it a question born of curiosity? Or did it reveal an ignorance in matters of adoption-speak? Whatever the reason, each time I was asked, I felt the need to explain myself, to provide concrete evidence that we were siblings, to prove to some jury that she was my legitimate sister. I imagined we were caught in a scandal, our sisterhood finally exposed as a fraud. Several years passed before I could name that feeling as shame–shame that we didn’t share the same womb, family history, physical characteristics, or core personality.

I’ve come a long way since those awkward, painful moments on the other side of that insensitive question. Time, adoption resources, and talking with other adoptive families have helped me to feel less alone as I’ve worked through those feelings of shame. I now have only deep gratitude for how God made us sisters through the pain and beauty of adoption.

I feel privileged to have enjoyed such a rich childhood, full of memories with my big sister, my only sister. Her feet kicked my own in the double bed we shared as kids. Beneath the handmade quilt and cool sheets, her brave hand reached for mine when late night thunderstorms scared me stiff. Those same strong hands yanked my thick hair during our knock-down-drag-out fights. Her fierce green eyes lost their sparkle when faced with my cruel words. Her stifled snorts only encouraged me to make her laugh harder when we got the giggles in church.

Melanie has always been and will always be my real sister. When we connect, we share real hugs, real laughs, and real stories while we sip our real blueberry wine over a real game of Scrabble. Regardless of the insensitivity of others, we know with certainty that our sisterhood is real and no one has permission to diminish that truth.


20170327 Katie CarperKatie Carper is a recovering people-pleaser with a strong sense of justice and a deep desire to include the excluded. She’s grateful for coffee, laughter, and this adventurous life with her husband and 4 kiddos. You can find her at katiecarper.com where she blogs about community, faith, adoption, and special needs with hope, humor, and a good dose of snark. She also shares snippets of her life on Instagram.

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Sometimes Love is Fierce

Lord, does your word support the idea of kicking our children out? How can I know if it’s the right thing to do?

We battled this decision with each of our children as we came to the point of feeling we were no longer helping them move forward into adulthood—and the cost of them remaining in our home was too high. That “tough love” part of parenting sure was heart-wrenching. Hard, but necessary. Never entered into quickly or thoughtlessly. Followed by hours … days … months of prayer, motivation questioning, and Scripture searching.

I suppose if we’d never second-guessed our boundaries, if we’d never wondered if we were too strict, then we’d probably been too weak—the lines drawn too softly.

As parents we should question ourselves at times. We do make mistakes, after all. Another look allows us to examine our child’s behaviors, objectively evaluate appropriate consequences, and review our own responses as well.

When in doubt, I found it helped to hold my discipline choices against God’s word.

Though a great example as a long-suffering father, God’s discipline wasn’t always pretty: pestilence, famine, sickness, and death. And, He did kick His children out, too. Several times. Starting with the Garden of Eden.

But this is what’s amazing to me. Sending His children into exile is part of God’s gospel story.

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God knows we have to come to point of realizing that our sin is so wretched we do not deserve to even dream of His presence.

Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord?
And who may stand in His holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
Who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood
And has not sworn deceitfully.
Psalm 24:3-4 (NASB)

There is none righteous, not even one.
Romans 3:10 (NASB)

It’s only when we reach a place of humility and awareness of our need, that we can turn to Him for salvation.

Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lip.
Isaiah 6:5 (NASB)

And only when we truly repent can we begin to experience the breadth and length and depth and height of His love.

…that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.
Ephesians 3:17-29 (NASB)

Our children need this too. They need to come to understand that we love them so much we’re willing to do the tough stuff in order for them to grow and have a fulfilling life.

Sometimes drawing a child close and holding them while they hurt is necessary. Sometimes guiding them through a maze of tough decisions is. But sometimes we have to put away the smiles, stand firm, and mete out the discipline.

And, sometimes, our absence needs to be felt.

The nice thing is, when we do withdraw, God remains near.

He may be quiet—a gentleman who refuses to barge in uninvited. But He’s there. Always.

And that’s why we can sometimes take a step out of sight. Sometimes we need to retreat to a place of rest. Sometimes we need to shut our ears to complaints. And as we do, we can be assured God is always with our children. He always has been—even before we came into their lives. He always will be—long after we’re gone.

“Can a man hide himself in hiding places
So I do not see him?” declares the Lord.
“Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?” declares the Lord.
Jeremiah 23:24 (NASB)

And you know what else? God is very, very patient. He’s not swayed by false pleas for reprieve. He’s not deceived by manipulative fake obedience. He will stand His ground and wait … and wait … and wait … until His child is truly repentant. And then He’s instantly there to scoop His children close, dry their tears, bandage their wounds, and lead them in His paths of righteousness.

Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.
Acts 3:19 (NIV)

Even though we had to tell each of our children they had to move out, we always kept a door open for repentance. None ever moved back in to our home, but in time they each moved back into a loving relationship with us.

You see, sometimes love must be firm, determined, even fierce. But love endures all things because love always hopes (1 Corinthians 13:7).

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
Hebrews 12:11 (NIV)

I Just Want to Hold You

I’m not a crier.

Or, at least, I didn’t used to be. But one day my quivering voice confessed to my mom the realization that I’d never hear an enthusiastic toddler sing “Mommy,” as he ran to me, his arms reaching wide. I was wading through grief after coming to the awareness that I’d never be my children’s first mom. My arms would not likely be the ones they’d long for.

Have you been here with your nonbiological child? When all you want to do is hold them tight and tell them how precious they are—and have them believe it. To see that belief reflected in their eyes; and hear it in their voice; and watch it as they walk through life.

This desire is one of the strongest for any mom. But some of us have become painfully aware it’s not a desire that will necessarily be fulfilled. And so we find our arms achingly empty.

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This desire. It’s innate. It’s a God-image part of us. It mirrors Father God’s base nature.

This I-long-to-hold-you characteristic of God is seen throughout Scripture.

The eternal God is a dwelling place,
And underneath are the everlasting arms;
Deuteronomy 33:27a (NASB)

We see it depicted in God as our shepherd in Psalm 95:7 (NASB), For He is our God, And we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand. Psalm 23 describes Shepherd-God as the provider for our every need: places of rest, nourishing food, refreshing drink, restoration for our souls, guidance toward righteousness, comfort in the darkest places of life, safety from our enemy, empowerment for our calling, abundance, goodness, mercy, and eternity with Him.

And can’t you just picture this from Psalm 116:1-2 (NASB)?

I love the Lord, because He hears
My voice and my supplications.
Because He has inclined His ear to me,
Therefore I shall call upon Him as long as I live.

And how about this image?

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
… He will cover you with His pinions,
And under His wings you may seek refuge;
His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.
Psalm 91:1-4 (NASB)

In fact God delights in our presence so much, He is never far away.

O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
You understand my thought from afar.
You scrutinize my path and my lying down,
And are intimately acquainted with all my ways.
…You have enclosed me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.
…Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the dawn,
If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
Even there Your hand will lead me,
And Your right hand will lay hold of me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me,
And the light around me will be night,”
Even the darkness is not dark to You,
And the night is as bright as the day.
Psalm 139:1-12 (NASB)

God is intimately aware of this longing in our hearts to draw our children close.

He smiles with us those moments we stand in moon-lit rooms, gazing at our sleeping cherubs. His heart swells with ours as we cheer from the bleachers and applaud from the auditorium. His heart aches alongside ours when a defiant one turns away from our instructions.

But one thing He does not do is embrace the emptiness that Satan’s lies have attempted to forge. Because this Father knows there is always hope. Always. Hope.

Why? Because when it comes down to it, He’s the first parent. He’s also the last parent. He is our Creator—He is our children’s creator. Author. And Finisher. The final say-so.

And whether our children want it or not—whether we believe it or not—His arms are eternally long. Our children are never out of His reach.

mar-13-no-one-is-everbeyondgods-reach

Behold, the Lord’s hand is not so short that it cannot save; Nor is His ear so dull that it cannot hear. Isaiah 59:1 (NASB).

Now What?

It was another Help, Lord! moment.

One of my children had just blindsided me with another, never-before-used, boundary-challenging technique. Dumbfounded, frustrated, and weary, I asked my heavenly Father, “Now what do I do with THIS?”

I once considered writing a book titled Now What? because it was a question I asked on a regular basis. Too frequently I felt thrown off kilter. The misbehaviors I faced—almost daily—required the wisdom of an experienced professional. I frequently felt like Tim Conway, in the Carol Burnett Show episode years ago, when he jabbed himself in the forehead with Novocain. But I knew I had to formulate some sort of immediate response to the inconceivable situation, so I typically used anger to fight through the stupor.

In one of those crying-out-to-the-Lord moments, I told Him, even if there are books out there to help me, I don’t have time to read them. And even if I read them all, they still wouldn’t have prepared me for this new issue. I needed divine insight, and I needed it right now.

Have you heard that phrase, “What would Jesus do?” Asking this question actually helped me. Jesus said anyone who had seen him, had seen the Father (John 14:9). I figured no professional insight could begin to compare to the wisdom of Father God. So if I took a good look at the way Jesus handled “out-of-the-blue” behaviors, I might get some clues about my current situation.

• Because He was confident in His identity, no surprise attack ever threatened Him.

• Because He never felt threatened, He could remain in control, think clearly, and respond appropriately.

• He used Scripture to guide His responses.

• Even when lied to, lied about, misunderstood, misrepresented, belittled, betrayed, crushed, and crucified, He remained confident Father God’s purposes would be accomplished.

• He was therefore free to patiently instruct, guide, provide for, heal, forgive, encourage, beckon, comfort, and even die for a fickle, unreliable, self-centered, wayward bunch of children.

When “what thens” fly in our face, it’s time to return to the most basic truths. We are God’s and He’s the One calling the shots.

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! (1 John 3:1, NIV).

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28, NASB)

But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases. (Psalm 115:3, NASB).

The Lord of hosts has sworn saying, “Surely, just as I have intended so it has happened, and just as I have planned so it will stand,” (Is 14:24, NASB).

Time and time again, God took me back to the basic—yet earth-shifting—truth that He loved me. He delighted in me. My identity was based on who He declared I was an eternity ago, not on what my children did a moment ago. As long as I took regular time to remember this, I would find myself at peace and able to parent the tough stuff from a place of confidence.

mar-6-our-identity-is-based-on-what-god-declared

I’ve talked with many moms the past several years. I’ve heard stories of horrendous misbehaviors. But you know what? I rarely hear anything new. Crazy lying. Stealing. Feces smearing. Destruction of property (even brand-newly decorated rooms). Explosive episodes. Sexual acting out. Drug usage. Alcoholism. Debt-incurring financial choices. The list goes on and on.

No matter how horrible, none of these behaviors can ever change who God is. None change who we are. None threaten God. They don’t need to threaten us either. None steal God’s peace, or joy, or love, or decision to lay down His life. None thwart His eternal plans.

So, what then? Then is when we sit down, breathe belly-deep, and wait. Wait until the dust that clouds our thinking settles. Wait until we remember how deeply we’re loved. Wait until we’re confident in who God is, what He’s able to do. Wait until we have an answer from God.

But those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31, NKJV).

Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Yours is the dominion, O Lord, and You exalt Yourself as head over all. (1 Chronicles 29:11, NASB).