Reading Material

I really do want to write. I can’t decide if I want people to read it or not. And I also have a hard time getting a coherent thought out without being interrupted by someone who needs to be hugged, fed or clothed. So, for now, I’ll share some of what I’ve been reading…

The Trouble with Dave Ramsey from Shannan at Flower Patch Farmgirl

We resisted what we believed in the pit of our stomachs to be true. We thought we could serve them both. We thought maybe we could be that one rich couple who has a lot of money so that they can give more away. We wanted a piece of the blessing of God’s promise, but we hoped it could be without sacrifice. We didn’t want the “living like no one else” to be for nothing.

Six things adoption has taught me by Shaun Groves at Simple Mom

In 2007, I visited an Ethiopian orphanage, trying not to make eye contact with any of the little ones around me in need of a father. I’ve always found avoidance to be the surest way to never feel bad about saying “no.” My brother-in-law, who was adopting from Ethiopia, was there with me. “Maybe we’ve made it too complicated,” he said. (I knew by “we” he meant “me.”) “What if God’s will for our life is found wherever someone’s need and our ability intersect?”

From By His Wounds You Are Healed: How the Message of Ephesians Transforms a Woman’s Identity by Wendy Horger Alsup

I was taken back a bit when I first read the definition of the Greek term translated humility. It means a deep sense of your littleness, especially your moral littleness. Unlike our culture’s watered down version of this term, humility does not mean that you are simply nice, polite, or diplomatic. It means that you have a correct understanding of your salvation as Paul outlined in Ephesians 2. You understand that you were dead in your sins, you were born a child deserving of God’s judgement, and God saved you by his grace and not by your own works. You understand your moral littleness. Then you respond to others in light of this understanding. A humble person does not stand in judgment against others from a point of righteous indignation. You and I have completely missed the entire message of Ephesian 1 and 2 if we think we have any moral high ground over anyone else. This is the core of the gospel.

And, lastly, this verse has shown up to me through various people and places over and over in the last month.

I have told you these things, so that in me you you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33, NIV)

Reading Material

I LOVE this post from Shaun Groves on God, poverty and the government. At one point in my life, I was very interested in politics and now I am very cynical and get all my political information from Comedy Central. Shaun’s post is so well-balanced and has lots and lots of links and resources.

Megan from Millions of Miles re-posted this from last year: Do you have room?

“Wait!” I’d like to think I would scream, “I have room! Come and let Jesus be born here!” But if Mary and Joseph had taken me up on that offer, would I have really done it? Or would I have said, “Well… actually, it’s kinda cramped in here. And we have our routine and you might get in the way of that a little. Oh, and by the way- we all snore. You know, come to think of it, we’re really pretty comfortable here just as we are. Are you sure you want to stay here? We don’t have a lot of money and our TV is very small. If you went down the street, they’d probably let you stay there and their house is way bigger and they have a lot of money. You might really be more comfortable somewhere else. I’ll tell you what- here. Here’s a few dollars. Good luck. I really do think someone else could accommodate you better. And if they can’t, well… I’m just sorry. It’s just not a good time for me. You understand, right?”

Meanwhile, Jesus gets born in a barn…

And meanwhile, millions of children all over the world go without families because we tell ourselves the very same excuses…

And, lastly, this one is just pretty. Our house is about 1,000 square feet (not including a full basement & garage). I am pretty content with this size of a house but it is a challenge to organize and figure out what goes where. I always love seeing examples of small, simple living done beautifully and this house tour from Apartment Therapy was a perfect example.

photos from apartment therapy

You can see more of this house at the family’s blog: {aka}|design

7 Quick Takes Friday

This one is a bit all over the place….

1. We saw M and T a couple weeks ago. Not sure why I didn’t post about it but they are both doing great. I seriously could not believe how big T was. He is not crawling yet but has taken to rolling across the room at an amazing speed. I’m not sure how they are keeping up with him. M was hesitant with us at first and clung to her mom (which we took as a good sign). But after about ten minutes she decided she needed to to show us a bunch of stuff including all her Dora-themed toys (and there are many) and her new potty skills. We took a walk to the park by their house and had a great time playing and laughing. We should be seeing them again next week.

2. My friend, Marcia, is having a little baby boy in January and, along with her sister, I’m working on planning a shower. I’m finding myself distracted by all the fun options for baby showers theses days:

{1} A school themed shower for a teacher {2} An outdoor, fall woodland event {3} A nautical, modern shower {4} And my personal favorite, a Pat the Bunny shower

Inspirational but we’ll be going with something suited to the mom-to-be’s taste for our event.

3. Due to the lack of cable television and a great deal of cynicism, I’m pretty unaware of what is going on in the political world. I know, I know…there is an election next week! I kinda wish we were headed to the Rally to Restore Sanity tomorrow.

4. D and I have both been keeping up with the crisis in Haiti. I am a bit ashamed of how unaware we were until the earthquake last January. We keep up with the news through Real Hope for Haiti and the Livesay’s blog. Right now there is an opportunity to help malnourished children.

5. Kristen at Rage Against the Minivan put together a fantastic resource of how you can help orphaned and vulnerable children if you cannot adopt.

6. Poverty Unlocked is a podcast hosted by W (of Foster Parenting Podcast). She recently did an inspirational interview with Matt and Julie Kouri and Dawit Kassaye Woldeyohannes about how they are working with the orphan care crisis in Ethiopia.

7. D and I have completed our crazy month of school and work. We are officially waiting again for a new placement and hoping it will happen sometime next week. I’m spending the weekend “nesting” (again) while we wait for some new little ones. We are excited but please pray for the kid/kids who will be coming into our home from tough circumstances.

*Hosted at Conversion Diary

7 Quick Takes Friday (on Saturday)

A few more thoughts & links from the conference….

1. There was so much to take in at the Together for Adoption conference but I left with a huge conviction and sense that I need to pray more for orphaned and vulnerable children and for what our role should be in caring for them. Dr. Susan Hills talked a lot about things she has prayed for over the last twenty years that are just now becoming reality. I’m confident that prayer is needed as much as all the programs and ideas and action.

2. This post did a great job of summarizing Robert Gelinas’ impromptu message he gave at the conference after one of the speakers was unable to come due to illness. It was pretty amazing for something he only had a few days notice. God is doing some amazing work through the local church in Colorado in the state’s foster care system. This message was especially inspiring for me.

3. I am participating in an online book club where we will be reading Dr. Karyn Purvis’ The Connected Child. I bought this book weeks before the conference. We don’t start for a few weeks so if you are interested in joining there is still time.

4. I was not at the breakout session lead by Tom Davis of Children’s Hope Chest but the story is so encouraging and amazing. In one hour, eighty people gave enough money to rescue six girls from sex trafficking. Go read about it.

5. November 7 is Orphan Sunday. Click the link to see what you church can do that day to draw awareness.

And for some non-related thoughts…

6. We spent a little extra time with my niece &  nephew this week to help out their parents a bit. Ellie (age 3) asked me to tell her a story about a princess yesterday. So, I told her a story about a princess who loved to read books and pray and share with others. Ellie seemed unimpressed and decided to finish up the story for me, “And then the prince came and they danced!”

She also asked me to tell her the story about her birthday. If you know me, you know I have just a bit of a soft spot for this story and have never told it without crying and yesterday was no exception. I’m guessing Ellie is probably done asking me for stories.

7. One last thing…GO GREEN!

*Hosted at Conversion Diary

 

What Made the Weekend Even Better…

There were two bonuses to attending the Together for Adoption conference this past weekend.

One was being able to see my dear friend, W. When someone asked me, “How did you get into fostering?” I was able to point directly at my friend. We knew nothing about foster care before finding Foster Parenting Podcast a few years ago. They opened our eyes and God used them in a huge way. We met once a couple of years ago so it was so much fun to get to see each other again and record a podcast episode (without the boys).

The second bonus was being able to spend quality time with my mom. She has certainly walked the foster care road with us and they have their own experience with being foster parents to my teenage cousin. She and my dad are involved in their church’s developing foster care and adoption ministry. Plus, we got to eat out, stay in a hotel and see Austin a bit together.

I’m not sure where I would be without the mentorship and support of these two women. It was extra special to get to share such a meaningful weekend with them.

We Pray and Ask for Justice

My mind is spinning from the conference this past weekend. I don’t think I really even knew how much I needed the encouragement. I wanted to go because I’m always wanting to learn more about foster care and adoption and I love to connect with others who “speak my language.” But I realized that I have been feeling a little weary coming off of the reunification of the kiddos. I know that foster care is exactly what we are supposed to be doing but the the encouragement we received at the conference was more affirmation. God has a heart for the Fatherless and I want my heart to be like His.

The worship was lead by Aaron Ivey and the worship team from The Austin Stone. The songs continually pointed us back to the real reason 1,000 people were gathered in Austin. We can love the fatherless because Christ first loved us. He bore our sin and made us His children, no longer lost; no longer orphans.

Dave Gibbons, of Newsong, spoke about the church as the answer to the foster care challenge. He made a few points that I just loved:

  • Churches and ministry leaders are often obsessed with numbers. I know D is asked often how many kids are in our youth group. Gibbons challenged us to consider a new metric by which we measure our churches: zero. Zero orphans in your cities. Zero widows with unmet needs. Because what does it matter how many people were there on Sunday morning when there are hundreds of children in your city who will age out of foster care this year without anyone to call family and without anywhere to spend Christmas?
  • Gibbons also unpacked James 1:27. Have you ever wondered how the two parts of this verse are connected? “Visiting widows and orphans in their affliction” and “keeping oneself unstained by the world” seem like separate thoughts. He pointed out that if you are stained by the world – materialistic, a worrier, idolizing yourself and the things of this world – you will be unable to care for those in need. You won’t even be able to see their hurt. Your heart will be closed off to God’s obvious call to “pure and undefiled religion”. Convicting, I know.

It was a privilege to hear from both of these women. Dr. Susan Hills is a the senior scientist for HIV research with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. As if that isn’t impressive enough, she is also mom to ELEVEN kids (three biological, eight adopted from Eastern Europe). She told us about research she was a part of that showed that 20% or more of the 163 MILLION orphans worldwide will contract HIV. That is about 33 MILLION new cases of HIV in next five to ten years.  She also encouraged us to pray and shared the story of a pastor from the Ukraine who began preaching around the country about the plight of the orphan. Ukraine reduced the number of orphans within their own country by 90% because the Ukrainian church began adopting them.

Dr. Karyn Purvis, author of The Connected Child and resource for Empowered to Connect, also spoke a few times at the conference. She is the director of the Texas Christian University Center for Child Development. I wish we could clone her and make sure every state had one of her for their foster care system. She is a gentle spirit who has worked with children from the hard places. She has seen it all and can make the hopeful statement that she has yet to meet a child that is unable to come to dramatic levels of healing. Dr. Purvis is passionate about the church adopting and adopting well.

It is no coincidence that God placed two of His followers in these importance positions of influence.

Other highlights for me…

  • A discussion on honoring first families lead by Tara & Troy Livesay
  • Hearing about Project 127 and the amazing things happening in Colorado’s foster care system from Robert Gelinas
  • Connecting with foster parents (or prospective ones) during a breakout lead by Saint Fults (check out his idea, Radical Foster Parenting)
  • Networking using the fun cards created by T & Heather

I have more to say about the two people I was able to spend time with during the conference and what the big “take home” was for me but those will have to come later this week.

*The pictures were taken by The Austin Stone Story Team

They are Worth It

People often express their concern to us about getting “too attached” to kids. I think Dr. Moore explains it better than I usually do:

Yes, orphan care can be risky. Justice for the fatherless will sap far more from us than just the time it takes to advocate. These kids need to be reared, to be taught, to be hugged, to be heard.  Children who have been traumatized often need more than we ever expect to give. It is easier to ignore those cries. But love of any kind is risky.

The Gospel means it’s worth it to love, even to the point of shedding your own blood. After all, that’s what made a family for ex-orphans like us.

Read the entire article here.

Together for Adoption 2010

I’ve been hearing the buzz about the Together for Adoption conference on Twitter and Facebook for months now. We went to this conference two years ago (when it was only about 200 people). This year they are expecting one thousand or more. It is encouraging to see a new generation of Christians who are embracing adoption and as more people grow families through adoption, more education (like this conference) will be needed. I love that the church is answering this call but we must understand there is a great deal of learning that must come when you welcome a child from a troubled background or different culture into your family.

This year’s conference is in Austin, Texas. I’ve always wanted to visit but this year seemed out of reach for us. I knew D could not go with his busy schedule and I wasn’t sure we should spend the money for me to go by myself. But then, I saw on Facebook, that W (from Foster Parenting Podcast) was going to be there. We’ve only met in real life once but W feels like a life-long friend to me. I really wanted to see her and D kept saying, “Just go. Don’t worry about the money. You should go.” (A piece of advice to anyone reading this who is single or dating: marry someone who encourages you to pursue your passion. It is a big deal.)

I kept thinking of how I could pull it off and mentioned to my mom that I might go. And, because my mom is great, she offered to go with me. So tomorrow, we are flying to Austin for a weekend of great speakers, seeing my dear friend and quality time together as mother & daughter. I regularly read three of the blogs by the conference’s featured bloggers and I’m hoping to meet them face-to-face as well (and not act like a dork, if I do). I’m thrilled to be able to spend a weekend meeting people who share my passion and being able to learn more about how we can help the millions of children in need around the world.

There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children. (Nelson Mandela)

FAQ #15: How do you feel about the kids? Do you love them?

I think this is a really good question. I also think it is something that people are sometimes afraid to ask or talk about.

The short answer is: Yes, we are totally in love with these kiddos and we also still really love S too. Was it instant? Yes and no.

God began shaping our hearts to these kids before they came into our home. When we were in the “waiting stage” of foster care, I often thought about and even missed our kids. I loved them and I didn’t know who they were. So, on the day that S arrived and when M & T arrived, I already loved them because God gave us love for them. It was just there; I can’t explain it.

On one particular night, when S was being very inquisitive (and stalling bedtime), he asked me why we didn’t just have a baby. Although he never called us mom or dad, he had put the pieces together about the roles in our house. I told him that maybe someday we would have a baby, but that we had prayed for him and that we wanted to take care of him because we loved him even before we knew who he was. This kind of boggled his mind and he brought it up a few times. Honestly, I think it was sort of comforting to him to know that we wanted him around even though he really did want to go home to his parents.

There is really nothing I can compare to the first few days or weeks of a placement with kids. I’m going to talk about M & T’s case specifically here. Having a two year old and a newborn suddenly in your home cannot be anything but chaotic. You go into survival mode. You just do what needs to be done and I don’t think you are really processing or thinking about your feelings at that point. M came into our home incredibly frustrated and scared (and rightly so). She screamed for two hours the first night she was with us; there was nothing you could do to comfort her. We were just focusing on making her feel safe and comfortable (which is what we did for T as well). Within two weeks, she was a happier kid and she continues to be happier and more at ease with each day.

Our experience was that after those first couple of weeks life began to feel normal. Our house was calmer and we could begin to think about how we felt toward these two little ones. And we loved them. We continue to spend time focusing on attachment and helping M & T feel secure and comfortable. As we did things to enable their attachment to us, we attached to them and we loved them. I’m unsure of how someone could provide such constant and intentional care without falling in love. As we head toward reunification, I can tell you my feelings for them have not changed a bit. I feel even more determined to demonstrate to them what a family should be like. I want them to be able to recognize security, comfort and love as they go forward in life. My prayer is that their mom will continue to provide these things for them and that they will know what they are because they have lived it out in our home.

Some people are of the mindset that they could never love a “non-biological” child as much as they love their “own.” In my opinion, that is more of a choice that someone makes in their own mind and heart rather than a universal truth. I’m deeply saddened when I hear people say these (or, even worse, when I hear adoptive parents say this). In my experience, they are missing out on a great deal of joy and love that God has graciously  poured into our lives in the last five months. I have no doubt that there is enough love for every kiddo that comes into our home, no matter how they arrive or how long they stay.  I’m sure there are cases where attachment and bonding are much more difficult and situations are more challenging. We may find ourselves in that situation one day and I’m trusting God to enable us to deal with those challenges. He brought us here and I’m learning more each day that there is joy in obedience.

P.S. T & W did a great episode on this topic a while ago.