Adoption, My Story

Village Mindset

Village Mindset…

In looking into adoption, I’ve combed through many books, blogs, and internet sites. One term that’s come up repeatedly is Kinship Care (formal or informal). Kinship care refers to the care of children by relatives or close family friends (often referred to as fictive kin) for children who must be removed from their birth parents. Immediately my mind thinks of that old adage, ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’ As I’ve raised my own children, I have often thought about this saying. In our current society it can seem like we don’t often see this village mindset in action. We so often feel like we have to independently go at it alone and in so doing miss the blessing of a community.

My Own Village…

When I first married, we moved to a town where we had no family in order for my husband to attend grad school. He did have a few friends from his childhood (fictive kin), but I had no one. I eventually made friends and found my community. It was life-giving to have others to ‘do life’ with. After the birth of our first child, I again found myself needing more community – a bigger village. Over the years more and more of our family members have moved to town and I’ve discovered how much of a ‘village’ I had still been missing. The help and support I’ve received from our family (blood and fictive) these past years has been priceless. Sure, I could’ve done it on my own, but the outcome would have been very different and much more difficult.

Receiving my Own…

Accepting help and encouragement from ‘my village’ has set me on a trajectory of emotional, spiritual, and personal health. It’s bolstered my energy, peace, and love. I’ve learned how to give because of the ways I’ve been given to. Being raised in and raising kids in a village is amazing and awesome. Not only is it good for my kids, but it’s good for me too. I’m so thankful for the communities and families that model the village mindset of supporting those around them. I guess one could say, ‘It takes a village to raise a parent,’ too.

Adoption, My Story

Grandma Johnson

Grandma Johnson

Little did I know growing up that the adoption thread in my family didn’t start with us! You see, I have five cousins that were adopted (from Korea and Costa Rica). But my brother was the first (adopted from Indonesia), or so I thought. I don’t remember when I learned, but my own grandmother was adopted as an early adolescent after being abandoned, going through foster care and living in an orphanage.

The Life and Times…

Grandma’s mother died when she was a young girl. After that, her father remarried. Sadly, her step-mother didn’t really ‘choose to accept’ these step-children and they weren’t treated kindly. Her dad was a bit of a shady character too. He wasn’t around all the time and he had some run-ins with the law. Sadly, she was eventually forced out of her home through abandonment. She entered into foster care and thankfully, had a wonderful foster mom. This woman was involved in a church community where Grandma met a wonderful Sunday School teacher.

Grandma Johnson (left) and her two brothers around the time her mom died

Unfortunately, her foster mom had to have a serious surgery and couldn’t care for her anymore. So Grandma was put into the orphanage. This was so sad for her foster mom, that she pleaded with the people in her church to adopt my grandma. After praying, the kind Sunday School teacher and her husband felt like they should adopt Grandma Johnson. So they did!

Changed For Good…

I never heard my grandma talk about her childhood, but God brought about so much good from her hardship. She married my precious and gentle Grandpa Johnson and they had six children. Each of those children had kids (a mix of both biological and adopted) giving her 29 grandkids, six of whom are adopted. In the next generation, my generation, there are so many great grandkids and we’re still counting! But, out of them all (so far) there have been eight adoptions and I hope to add to that number through our own adoption journey.

Grandma and Grandpa J. with their Children and Grandchildren circa 1989


Grandma Johnson truly started a family legacy. Because of one caring woman who advocated for Grandma Johnson and one couple that listened to the Lord’s leading, an adoption legacy was birthed. I’m so excited to continue it in my own family! It also makes me wonder, what legacy will God write into my story? How will God use the ups and downs of my life to change a generation, and the one after that!

Grandma Johnson at our family reunion circa 1998
Adoption, My Story

White Savior?!?

White Savior

Two words that really shook me were ‘white savior.’ I read it in a blog and maybe a book and thought about it a bit. I then worried whether that term applied to me or not in regards to my desire to adopt transracially. I kept thinking about it and decided that it was not the case. But, I ran into a friend who advised me not to list a preferred race on my adoption application because people might perceive it as the ‘white savior complex.’ I value this friend’s thoughts on the topic and so this comment really got me thinking. After all, I don’t think she thought of me this way, but how in the world can I help others to understand that it’s not in my heart to adopt “just to feel good about myself and bring up a non-white baby to be white-like”?

Interracial Family…

All my life, I pictured a diverse family. You see, I grew up in an interracial family. My brother and I were different skin colors. He is Indonesian and I am white. Being 11 years younger than him, I didn’t discuss his entry into our family (adoption), and he didn’t discuss mine (biological). We just were family. As an adult, I now see there was probably times of discomfort on his end in being a different ethnicity from the rest of the family, but I also hope there was joy. This wasn’t the only picture I saw of interracial adoption either. Of the 14 adoptions in my extended family, they’ve all been interracial, even the ones by non-white adopters, like my brother. What I saw of adoption was beautiful and colorful (can I say that?). I pictured my future family as being interracial and growing through adoption.

My older sister and I with our aunt holding our dolls.
Our family made sure our dolls were interracial.

Define White Savior…

Wikipedia defines white savior as “a white person who acts to help non-white people, with the help in some contexts perceived to be self-serving.” Let me just clearly say, this is not what we are doing in wanting to adopt a non-white child. We believe God is calling us to adopt transracially. Ultimately, this isn’t about our choice, it is about obedience.


Even though God’s showing us that now is time to move forward with adoption, the truth is that God placed this dream in my heart as a young child and has been preparing me throughout my life. My experience of growing up in a transracial family (immediate and extended) is just one of the ways He prepared me for His desire for my future family. As I reflect back to my childhood friendships I realize that many of my friends were fostered and/or adopted. This did not shape my view of my friends, but it was a part of who they were. Finally, being on the younger end of my extended family has given me many opportunities to see my cousins and brother love, nurture, discipline/train-up, and fully accept their adopted children, while still encouraging the cultural heritage they are a part of and preparing them for the world ahead of them. God has been preparing me (and He still is) for walking in obedience to His direction for us to adopt a child that’s racially different from us.


We choose to obey the call of God on our lives to adopt transracially. We are not unaware that it will be hard and that we will be stretched to grow in so many areas of our lives. But we are committed to take the hard along with the plentiful good. We are committed to learn what we need to learn to help all of our children understand not only my husband’s and my culture, but the culture of our adopted child. We will not be afraid to ask questions, seek answers, and find support for each unknown in our future. We are excited to grow in our adoption and we are honored to be the ones to love and cherish our next child.

No, I am not the savior in this adoption. I am white, but the longing for our future child comes out of a deep place, a calling put inside me by my Savior, Jesus Christ.

Me with one of our childhood dolls

Post Script: After talking with another friend about this topic, she said something that was a really good reminder and a truth I’ll need to keep in mind:

“Some people are just going to think about you in this way (white savior complex) and you won’t be able to change their minds.”

This is always a good thing to keep in mind. We need to be more motivated by what God says and what is true in our heart than by what other’s might think.

My Story, Praise and Worship

In Memoriam of…

… Cousin Renee Zensen, Dad Jerry Olson, Cousin-in-law Neil Guggenmos.

It’s been a surreal month with two cousins dying in addition to the remembrance of my own dear father’s premature death. For a time I could ‘hold it together,’ but the grief flooded out at the latest events and I’m truly feeling my feelings. The story is below.


My older sister, uncle, baby me, and cousin Renee

In late March, I got notification that my cousin had suffered a medical emergency and passed away a little more than a week later. This is my dad’s sister’s daughter, Renee. It was unreal, truly surreal. This is the type of thing you see in movies, but you don’t actually expect to happen in your family. And yet, it does happen to some, to us. It’s nonsensical. I remember my older cousin more as my older siblings’ playmate than mine, but there were times I played with her too. One memory in particular is laughing with her. I wore a red fringe skirt one time we visited. We girls were in her bedroom and I stood in front of her full-length mirror and made that skirt shake! We giggled and danced and there was so much joy! I’ll remember most her smiles and laughter.


Dad and me playing and cuddling

April 20 is Dad’s birthday, or rather ‘was,’ depending on how you look at it. Renee’s memorial was held on the same day as her late uncle’s (my dad) birthday. I couldn’t make it up to the service but I remembered her on that day. I also remembered my father who died at age 67 after a 17 year battle with cancer. I felt the pain of his premature death more acutely this year. He would’ve had some very comforting words to offer his sister and family and yet, he wasn’t here to express those. There are many things Dad didn’t get to experience and I didn’t get to experience with him because of this disease, but I take comfort in remembering the good memories and all the growth that has happened in my life since then. Dad would be proud and he’d probably tell me that I am beautiful, that he loves hearing me sing, and to keep following God.


Neil & Kara’s Christmas photo years ago

Less than a month after Renee’s death, we got news that my cousin’s husband was missing in the Alaskan wilderness. After a long search, he was found and I am mourning his loss. I loved Neil from the first time I met him. It was completely obvious to anyone that I had a little girl crush on my older cousin’s new husband. He had a big smile and welcomed me openly. How could I but welcome him openly into my family and my heart as well? My heart aches for Kara because not only is she my cousin, but she’s also been a role model and mentor. Whether she knows it or not, I look up to this powerful opera singer who loves Jesus so dearly! Our similar educational paths has put a special connection on my heart to her and her family.

Flooded with Emotion…

How could I respond to this pain and grief? I was in deep heartache and no words of prayer seemed to go deep enough. But God’s been stirring something in me. He’s been preparing me. He’s been calling me to deeper intimacy with Him. On Thursday, May 2, I sang. I sang for Neil, I sang for Kara, I sang for Renee, and I sang for Dad. I ‘raise(d) a Hallelujah in the middle of the mystery.’

Thinking of my loved ones and deeply mourning with you all. I love you, truly. – Brittany