Chronicling the joys and challenges of fostering and adopting.


Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Kids Are Good For The Soul



Last month, one of my Facebook friends said that his children are good for his soul. I don’t really know what event prompted the post, but I’ve been letting the thought ruminate. I often feel this palpably when I’m enjoying my kids; when Gabe (4) comes and sits on me saying, “Can you snuggle? Snuggles are the best, Dad.” Or when Mikayla (1) taunts me to chase her around the counter as she giggles; or when Annabelle (10) wants to help me change the oil in the van. Regardless of the strain kids add, they have a way of mending the soul at unexpected times and in surprising ways.

Interestingly, though, I find this saying to be true in a much different fashion than it was probably originally intended. That is, kids are good for our souls because they force us to deal with, and see, the depth of our own sin. Before kids, in many ways, you can remove yourself from situations so that you are rarely pushed to your breaking point. If you have a co-worker you don’t like, you get to go home at the end of the day. If you’re sick and cranky, you can take the day off. If you’re impatient, it will only mostly come out while you’re driving behind a slow driver, etc. But with kids, these luxuries are often unavailable. You suddenly come face-to-face with who you really are when the chips are down. Kids will disrespect you in front of others, challenging your patience, pride, and anger. Kids will get out of bed because they’re scared just a little bit after you finally got everyone to bed. You’ve given them all you have the entire day, and all you want is those two hours to yourself, but now they’re scared, and you’re the lucky one who gets to deal with it, challenging your selfishness. When you’re in a fight with your spouse, the kids’ needs continue. When you haven’t slept all night, and you’re starting to get sick, the kids still need you and have challenges of their own. I can go on, but you get the point.

The fact of the matter is that we’re all broken, but sometimes it takes a little extra nudge for us to see just how broken we really are. For me, kids have been that nudge. And it’s good for our spirit when we finally realize the depth of our own brokenness. Because it’s only in this realization that we can know we need salvation.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Adversity

Sometimes it feels like we’re being attacked on every side. Sometimes it feels like we can barely keep our head above water. From the simple daily tasks of non-stop tantrums, to the spiritual battles of fighting for their souls.

A dear friend and I are doing a Bible Study on the women of the Old Testament, and this last week was on Deborah, the judge and prophetess. After Joshua had led the Israelites successfully into the Promised Land by God’s will, it says in Joshua 3:1, 4 “Now these are the nations that the LORD left to test Israel by them, that is, all in Israel who had not experienced all the wars in Canaan . . . They were for the testing of Israel, to know whether Israel would obey the commandments of the LORD, which He commanded their fathers by the hand of Moses.”

These past few weeks God has seemed to lead us through a great testing of whether we will obey Him or not. When it seems as though the world is caving in around us, will we choose to be obedient? “He has told us what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbling with our God?” Micah 6:8.

It’s easy to fall into the mindset that we’ve “done enough.” We’ve walked that hard before, so we’ve paid our dues. But His command is not past tense, but present. To do justice, love kindness, walk humbly. In the midst of trials and weariness, we are called to continual obedience to Him.

He is so gracious to remind us that He hears our pleas for help like He heard the Israelites when groups waged war against them. Every single time He sent them a deliverer. He reminds us today that we are never alone. That this battle we fight on a daily basis is fought with those friends who send texts of encouragements, or the family and friends who help babysit, or the agency that continues to advocate for us, and the non-stop prayer we receive from all over the place. He reminds us that He is in control. “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to us. Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious about itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Matthew 6:33-34

Chuck Smith said, “If I am only building on consent to the truth rather than obedience to the truth, my house will fall in the time of the storm.” It is so difficult to be obedient in trial, but the Lord’s faithfulness prevails every time.




"For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith." Galatians 6:8-10

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Orphan Sunday

Orphan Sunday
            Today is Orphan Sunday. It’s a day to realize just how dire America’s orphan situation really is. You see, the fact of the matter is, the Bible doesn’t afford Christians an option in orphan care, and foster care functions as America’s modern-day orphanages. We are regularly and consistently called to step in the gap, to be fathers to the fatherless, to provide for and comfort them, in spite of the sacrifice and pain it may cost us.
           
            Here are a few startling statistics from a study in 2015:
·      Roughly 428,000 children were in foster care on any given day[1]
·      About 670,000 total children entered the system at some time during that year[2]
·      Nearly 108,000 are eligible for and awaiting adoption[3]
·      In 2014, 35,000 Americans were randomly surveyed. They found that an estimated 70% of American adults are self-professing Christians[4]
·      But with all this, no more than 2% of Americans have actually adopted[5]

What Scripture Says
The above statistics are both telling and disheartening. Undoubtedly, not every Christian is called to adoption. But we are all called to actively help. James 1:27 says that we are to help the widow and the orphan in their affliction. Isaiah 1:17 tells us we are to do right, seek justice, and take up the cause of the fatherless. In Jeremiah 5, God brings a list of reasons why He is about to destroy Judah, and one the primary reasons is their unwillingness to promote the case of the fatherless and to defend the poor. The list goes on and on.

How You Can Help
Many people know that foster and adoption are ways to help, but they are quickly at a loss when it comes to helping in other ways. So below, I compiled a list of a few ways people can pitch in:
·      Help local parents: Many people know local foster parents. Come alongside them by providing:
o   Meal trains for foster or adoptive parents who recently received a placement, or recently lost one
o   Clothes or equipment, such as car seats, during a new placement
o   Transportation to and from various appointments
o   Childcare: Foster parents rarely get out because of restrictions on who can watch their kids and who is willing to. But legally, kids can be watched by an unlicensed person if it’s 6 hours or less
·      CarePortal: The CarePortal is currently implemented in about a dozen states. It’s a program that brings churches alongside the Department of Human Services (DHS) so that caseworkers can request simple things like food, beds, clothes, etc. when they see a need for them.[6]
o   If you don’t have CarePortal in your area, you could simply contact your local DHS and ask if you can provide any of those things to a local family in need. I can assure you, they will have lots of opportunities.
o   You can also contact local foster agencies who would likely love to have extra formula, clothes, or toys on hand for current placements.
·      CASA: Become a Court Appointed Special Advocate for a foster child in your area
·      Gifts: Many children in foster care do not receive as many gifts during Christmas or even during their birthday. Contact your local foster agencies to see if there are any families that might have some toys in mind.

These are only a few ideas, but you get the gist. There are ways everyone can help. It’s simply a matter of getting out there and doing it. We all have different gifts and abilities. By getting involved, you are helping bring redemption within your own community in a powerful way. As Christians, we cannot let this opportunity slip out of our hands.



[1] https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubPDFs/foster.pdf
[2] Ibid.
[3] https://adoptionnetwork.com/adoption-statistics
[4] http://www.pewforum.org/2015/05/12/americas-changing-religious-landscape/
[5] https://adoptionnetwork.com/adoption-statistics
[6] Visit careportal.org for more information

Monday, October 9, 2017

"Mully" Review


The other night, Rach and I went on a date night for the first time in a couple of months to see, what else, a movie about adoption. The movie is called “Mully”, and as the name implies, it follows the story of a man named Charles Mully. Mully grew up in a small village in Kenya where his family abandoned him when he was a young boy. After leading a life of begging and stealing, he eventually walked three days from his village to Nairobi, where he was able to get a job, save some money, and start a family. He made a series of business decisions where he became a millionaire. One day, he had an interaction with some street kids that brought him back to the hopelessness of his childhood. It shook him to the core, and he came home to his family saying that God told him he needed to give up the business and care for the poor. He began bringing orphans home from off the street every day. They filled their home with hundreds of children, which created so much friction with his biological kids, that he actually sent his eight kids off to boarding school for a year. Eventually the house became so full, they had to move to a piece of land where they could build an entire compound.  Over the years, his children have started seeing eye-to-eye with his mission, and many of them help run the organization. Through the years involving a series of miracles, they have brought in, and cared for, over 12,000 children, all of which call him “Daddy Mully.” 

It’s stories like these that put us to shame. In America, it’s so easy to live our lives in comfort and to reject any discomfort as someone else’s calling. After every placement, Rach and I have said to each other that we’re done, that we’ve done enough and that we’re tired. Yet somehow, God manages to refocus us every time (to be clear we are still unsure of what our plans are going forward). I’m convinced, that as Americans, we must make the conscious decisions daily to intently put ourselves into brokenness. In the movie, they saw devastation constantly as they walked into the streets, but in many ways, here, we have a buffer between us and getting our hands dirty. If we want to help the poor, we give to charities that help the poor; if we want to feed the homeless, we give to food pantries that then feed the homeless, etc. We must get back to giving of ourselves… not just our resources. 

I understand that it really is not everyone’s calling to be foster parents, but that’s not the question. The question is, where can we apply ourselves consistently in which we give of our time, energy, and emotion? The news is full of stories on how our nation is utterly divided. How can you bring about unity, spread the Gospel, and tangibly meet the needs of those in your own community? Maybe you can volunteer at a crisis pregnancy center where you will be face-to-face with a single mother in your own area who is in desperate of a support system. Maybe you can help at that food pantry that you give to. Or maybe you can help with Habitat for Humanity, or Care Portal. Maybe you can even start having monthly block parties in your own neighborhood where you just create community right where you live (for more on ideas like this last one, read The Art of Neighboring by Pathak and Runyon, I highly recommend it). All of these things strengthen community on a level far beyond what we are used to, but they all require giving of ourselves. And that’s where we really need to start. No one can do it all, but we can all do something.


Monday, October 2, 2017

A Few Observations


A few weeks ago, M, our latest foster placement, went home. This is the first time we’ve had one go home, and it’s been frustrating. From our perspective, she is going home into an unsafe situation. What’s more, they removed her so suddenly, that they essentially re-traumatized her and her siblings by re-enacting their initial removal. We had 2 hours notice, and her siblings, who are in different homes, had even less. So they had no time to say goodbye to friends or teachers at school or in their neighbourhood. They didn’t have time to say goodbye to grandparents who have similarly become attached. They didn’t have time to process what was going on, and neither did our biological and adoptive kids. They were simply removed again, and this is injustice.
With that said, we have a few observations that I think are important:
1)    We can’t let our own potential heartbreak stop us from serving children: Many people have said that they couldn’t do what we do because they couldn’t handle getting attached to a child and then watching them leave. I totally understand this sentiment. We can’t really handle it either. However, that leaves the child to deal with the trauma on their own, and I don’t think leaving children to their own devices is a better option. These children are going to endure this trauma whether we decide to come alongside them or not. It is up to us to meet them in their suffering, and take some of that anguish upon ourselves so that they don’t have to carry such a load. If you feel you can’t handle it, imagine handling this as a 5-year-old. And if we don’t join in, these kids go to group homes due to home shortages where their trauma compiles.

2)    I’m so thankful we live in a country where it is so difficult for the state to deem you an unfit parent: Honestly, I continuously come back to this thought. How many times have you yelled a little too loud at your kids, or how many times could someone have at least perceived you as taking some punishment too far? Parents don’t have to be perfect (or measure up to your own subjective standard of parenting) to keep their kids or get them back, nor is being poor illegal. In reality, the bar is incredibly low to keep your kids, and this is a beautiful thing. While this doesn’t always work out in the child’s favour, more often than not, it does. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve watched our friends have cases where parents refuse to take part in a treatment plan for months or even years, and at the last minute, they do the bare minimum required, and they get their kids back. While this is frustrating on the surface, it would terrify me to think that the state could easily take my kids and give them to someone else.

3)    God is utterly sovereign: If there is one thing we’ve done that has brought this point home, it’s fostering. In foster care, you lose all control. We are only the foster parents. We’re expected to do what we’re told and when we’re told to do it. The therapist, the case worker, the lawyer, the judge, they all see themselves as professionals, and in many cases, they have no interest in hearing from the adults who are in the trenches dealing with the day-to-day activities with the child. Luckily, we have been able to look back on situations that, at the time, looked utterly hopeless, but have been redeemed in many ways. With that in mind, God has the bigger picture in view, and we are left to trust. And maybe, just maybe, later on we will get to look back on it with 20/20 vision. But for now, we can’t, and that’s okay. Our job now is to do what we can with the time we have to do it. M has left her mark on our family, and I am sure we have left ours on her in some fashion. Our time with her matters, and we can only pray, and pray hard, that things will turn out okay for her in the end.




Sunday, June 18, 2017

Happy Father's Day

As we celebrate Father's Day, I get to reflect on how incredibly blessed I am to have a father who has shown me unconditional love. He read us stories, brushed our teeth, wrestled, went on hikes, took us camping, encouraged us to be adventurous, and spoiled us. He was always so patient with me and willing to be gentle in my emotionally charged teenage years. I remember times I would be sobbing in my room, probably for no reason, and my dad would come in anyway. He would meet me in my mess. He was and is such a great example of how our Heavenly Father pursues us, in our mess. And he always pointed us to Christ. My brother, sister and I have a collective favorite memory of him: seeing him reading his Bible while we came downstairs after we woke up. He is not perfect, but he knows that he is saved by God's amazing grace and always pointed us to God's truth, and I'm thankful he could show that to me. And even today, he does all he can to pour more love into my kids. We have asked him to love kiddos that aren't "blood," and he never gives it a second thought. He's as passionate about them as his own as I am, and for that, I am forever grateful. I love you, Dad!







Because of the man he was, my standards were pretty high to find a man to marry. In God's great mercy, I married Sean. I'm blown away at the dad he has become to our kids. I think back to when we were dating and first married, and he always said he only ever wanted one, maybe two kids (being raised with a total of 4 kids was too chaotic for him). But now he is a father of seven, and he is one of the best dad's I know. He makes them a priority in his life and moves beyond exhaustion to pour into them. This summer he has made it a point to wake up with each kiddo and look at the stars with them and teach them about the universe that God has created. He chooses to teach them God's truth on a continual basis. He is kind and gentle when a girly needs it, but then rough and playful when another needs that too. He gives all he is to be their father and to point them to Christ. I am so thankful that he is their dad. I love you, Sean!









Friday, June 9, 2017

Love Your Neighbor As Yourself


This week has been rough. Very rough. A situation happened to make me want to crawl in a hole and cry for a week. It was a defining moment for our family in how we foster. We are choosing to let brokenness into our home, and that brokenness affects every single area of our lives. Our innocent children become aware of things far too early. We are tested and tried if these children are worth the pain and strife they bring in.

Christ tells us the two greatest things in life are to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27). With what happened in our home, I knew that we were at a point of loving this little girl like we would love ourselves. And when I think of “ourselves,” I think of “our kids.” Many foster families will say, “I have to keep my kids safe, so the foster kid needs to go for such and such a reason.” I understand where they are coming from, but when are these foster children ever going to be loved like they are someone’s “own” kids? When one of “your own” children does something horrible, will you kick them out? Or will you do everything in your power to make them be able to survive and eventually thrive in your home?

Our girlie is teaching us that she needs to be loved. She needs to be wanted. She needs to be safe and secure and free to make mistakes and not get kicked out, or beaten, or abandoned for her sin. She is silently asking us to love her as we love our other children. I have such a hard time depicting any of my children different from the other. God has given us 7 children. How He gave us each child is as unique as the child. And I love that. But with each of those gifts has come much heartbreak as well. 



Colossians 3:1-3, 12-15, 17 “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, no on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God . . . Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other, as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body . . . And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”



P.S. Because of God's sovereignty, children are moved from homes not outside of His will. We have known families who have needed to move children from their home, and those choices are never taken lightly and really are necessary. Each family is unique. This is a post specifically about our family's foster journey.