Unintended Consequences

This post may be long and repetitive. But I was asked to share this in church and thought I’d share what I said here as well.

Since I was in high school, I knew God wanted me to adopt kids someday. I cannot explain why I knew that or how God told me exactly but I remember having that thought as early as age 17. When I prayed for a future spouse, I prayed for someone who wanted to adopt kids. So, when D and I started talking about getting married and the future, adoption was always part of the plan.

Around the same time I started thinking about adoption, I also began to struggle with anxiety. This is something that was a big part of my life through most of my college years and early twenties. I would have to talk myself out of bed some mornings because I was just so burdened with anxiety and worry. I tried many things and sometimes it would get better but I would habitually return to worry. For me, it really came down to an issue of wanting to be in control. Anything I couldn’t control, I worried about.

A few years ago, I started doing research on adoption and foster care as we thought about how we might grow our family. I knew God wanted us to adopt but we did not exactly know from where or how. I was continually pointed to things on foster care, specifically the story of one couple who shared about their foster children through a podcast. I was so encouraged and blessed by their story and I suggested D to that he start listening to the podcast as well.  James 1:27 says, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” It became clear that we were being called to live out this verse through foster care and adoption. We could not get the stories or the statistics we heard out of our minds:

  • A half million kids in foster care in the United States.
  • 130,000 kids WAITING for a family (literally adoptable at that moment).
  • The likelihood of adoption decreasing for children over the age of three.

I began praying for the kids who would come into our home and I loved them before I knew their faces or names. I cried for them and I thought about them often. You might think that is crazy but that is the kind of thing God does. But in addition to my desire for these kids, I was also faced with the reality that becoming a foster parent puts you in a place of vulnerability and very little control.

It was getting to a point where not taking the next step seemed like disobedience; God was clearly telling us to do this. As soon as we made the decision to start the process with an agency, the worry struck. I was worried about what people would think. I was worried about if we could afford me cutting back my hours at work. I worried about getting in over our heads. I talked about all these worries with Dan but they were not worth holding up what God was saying to do so in March we attended our first class to become licensed foster parents. After about ten months we were licensed and they called us about a five year old boy who needed a home. S was with us for five weeks. In those five weeks, we cared for a kid who was used to having no rules, we established boundaries, we formed a relationship with his parents and, ultimately, we were part of his family being reunified. Just two days after he went home, our agency called us about M & T.

In the past three months, we have been a family of two, then a family of three, then a family of two and then a family of four. We have parented an energetic five-year-old boy, a sweet but determined two-year old girl, and a newborn (perhaps our biggest challenge). Our situation in both cases has changed on a daily basis. Some days we were told S would be with us for a long-time and then suddenly he was returned home. We continue to learn more about M’s past each day and wonder what is going on in that sweet little head of hers. We cannot control their past and we cannot control their future. I can honestly say, with each sudden or unexpected change of plans, God has given me peace.

I’ve received a few comments about how relaxed I seem as a parent. Friends who have known me for years and have known me to be a “not-so-relaxed” person are surprised by this. While we do wonder what will happen with M & T, I do not find myself overwhelmed as I once would have been with the “what-ifs” of the situation. While I don’t expect that my tendency to anxiety is completely cured, I know that I am a different person because of what God has done.

What we expected of being foster parents was the opportunity to live out God’s heart for the orphan by caring for kids who needed a home. We hope to have positive relationships with our agency, our kids and, if possible, with birth parents. We hope to adopt kids who cannot return to their family. Ephesians 1:4 explains that we have been adopted by God and this experience has at least given me a small glimpse of His love for us. But for me at least, the unintended consequence of all of this has been a deeper trust in God with a new found ability to give over to Him my worries and fears.

Feeling the Love

Having two kids has made me a bad blogger. While time is less available to write, I feel like I could make it happen if my mind was working like normal. That probably says more about me than it does about parenting. I’ve cut my hours at work which requires me to focus a great deal when I am in the office so reading and writing while not at work seems like too much effort for my brain (but maybe my brain would function better if I spent more time reading and writing).

Many people have kindly asked how we are doing with two kids. Two very young kids. For the most part, I think we are doing fine. But I would be lying if I said it was easy. The regular challenges of raising kids combined with the unknown factors of this situation can be stressful and hard.

T is ever changing. As soon as we think we have a good routine down, he grows or changes and we need to re-vamp things. Not much different than any other newborn (I’m assuming). M is doing great but you cannot help but wonder what is going on in that sweet little head of hers. Every week we take them to a one hour supervised visit with their birth mom and we watch for behavior changes after that. Up to this point, we have not really  seen any but that makes me wonder as well. At one point on Wednesday, I was trying to put a very tired toddler to bed while a very inconsolable newborn cried. It was not my favorite moment. But all of this also happened Wednesday:

  • I was able to spend the morning with several new moms talking about all the things that are probably only interesting to us while our babies ate, slept and played and while M wandered around being her sweet little self (and munched on Goldfish and Aunt Heather’s apple slices).
  • A generous friend gave M a birthday gift. Then she filled up my car with diapers, wipes and baby supplies. I knew she had put some stuff in my car but I cried when I opened the trunk. It was overwhelming and so incredibly kind.
  • While at our visit yesterday, the kids’ birth mom wished me a Happy Mother’s Day. I was speechless. That is the type of thing that makes foster care so rewarding and heartbreaking at the same time.
  • We received kind words of affirmation from one of the administrators at our agency telling us that the staff “speaks highly of us.” I hope that does not sound boastful but we deeply desire as Christians to have positive relationship and reputation with our agency. It was nice to know that we are doing something right.
  • I was able to return to helping out at the youth group on Wednesday nights because a friend (and parent of two girls in our youth group) has kindly offered to watch the kids.

That was just Wednesday. On a weekly basis, we have friends and family helping us in many ways, including providing free child care. People have brought us meals. We have not bought a package of diapers since early March and from what I can tell, we are all set well into the beginning of summer. We have baby clothes and equipment thanks to the generosity of D’s sister and family. A few women at church have lent or given me baby carriers that they are no longer using. I could go on and on and on. All this to say, you don’t have to foster or adopt to live out James 1:27. We are so blessed to be surrounded by people who understand God’s heart for these kids.

Really, Officially Licensed

Yesterday, our agency called. I have my phone set to a funny ring for when an unknown number calls so that I am sure to pick it up. The wonderful woman I spoke with a little over a week ago called to let me know that we are officially licensed and eligible for placement as of yesterday. She also told me we will be getting some information in the mail regarding who our social worker will be. I thanked her several times for calling. D and I are both pretty excited and thrilled to have this next step completed. The next phone call really will be the big one.

Last night, we recorded our second podcast, this time without T & W (which was scary). It is not perfect but hopefully we will get better as we do it more often. The episode is an update on where we are at as well as about the reactions we have gotten from people over the past year as we have talked with them about becoming foster parents, including one crazy, hilarious, weird reaction we got at church one afternoon.  We will make sure to let you know when it is posted.

7 Quick Takes Friday

UPDATE: Keanan (Howerton) and Amos (Ivey) are coming home! Praise the Lord! And don’t stop praying for all the other orphans and people of Haiti.

Another set of quick takes – current events edition…

In entertainment news…

1. Tonight is Conan’s last night as the host of The Tonight Show. There have been so many great moments this past week from Conan (and David Letterman). I think this whole thing is ridiculous. I can’t wait to see what Conan comes back with in September.

2.  For some reason I can’t embed videos today on the blog.  But I would recommend you watch this, just in case you were thinking about blaming Conan for this mess: Don’t Blame Conan (David Letterman)

In local news…

3. Last night, I went to my school district’s public budget forum with my friend, Heather, who is a teacher in the district. They need to reduce the budget by $19 million dollars due to cuts that the state is making. As a supporter of public education, this bothers me and I certainly have my opinions on what should and should not be cut. If you live in my city, I hope you will consider either attending one of these forums or reading the summary online (I posted the link on Facebook). And take the survey as well to share you thoughts.

In world news…

4. Yesterday, Anne Jackson posted this on Twitter:

And the link goes to this photo. Beautiful.

5. I’ve been keeping up with the news on Haiti by following Soledad O’Brien on Twitter. Yesterday, she covered the departure of a group of orphans being transported to their adoptive families in the US. Thanks to all who have called and prayed for humanitarian parole for these kids.  The Howertons and Iveys are still waiting for news.

6. The earthquake is drawing a lot of attention to Haiti but there are people who have been ministering there long before the tragedy. Thanks to my husband for sharing a link about this family that has been there since 1994.

In American news…

7. This weekend marks the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade and on Sunday many people will acknowledge the right to life through Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. The statistics are overwhelming.

According to the Allan Guttmacher Institute, African-American women are nearly five times more likely than non-Hispanic white women to have an abortion. Almost one in every two African-American pregnancies ends in abortion. (source: World Magazine)

I am thankful for many churches who will be showing this video on Sunday morning. Consider what could have been.

*Hosted at Conversion Diary

Haiti.

I’ve been hesitant to post about Haiti because I don’t want to appear to be one of those people who just jumps on the bandwagon. There are lots of people who have cared for Haiti before the earthquake struck. Haiti has known suffering for quite some time.

But what is getting to me the most about Haiti is the number of orphans who were already there (380,000) and the number of children who are now orphans because of the earthquake. Through following the stories of a few bloggers, I know that adopting from Haiti is challenging. When D told me the news of the earthquake last week, I immediately thought of Kristen who had just traveled to Haiti to visit their son who they have fought to adopt for three years. She is back in the United States but her son is still in Haiti. I can’t imagine what it felt like for her to leave him there. There is some hope that these kids who have families waiting for them in the US will be able to come home. I ask that you pray this would happen. And that you would take action to encourage humanitarian parole for adoptive children in Haiti.

Want to do more? We love the logic of Abraham & Molly Piper’s five year-old son. Here are a few options:

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me. (Matthew 25:35-40)

FAQ #12: Seriously, when are you getting your kid(s)?

Yesterday, after reading this article (Child poverty, neglect on rise in Michigan) in the Detroit News and seeing the statistics (see chart), I was heavy hearted and running short on the patience I’ve been practicing. Knowing our kids are in those numbers is sad.

I did something I’ve been trying not to do: I called our agency. I didn’t want to bother them and I know they have done all they can do at this point but I just wanted them to know we are very ready. I left a message for our friend (who works at the agency) and she had someone from the licensing department call me back today. The licensing worker told me that our information was sent to Lansing mid-December (as we expected) and that they are checking the database daily to see when we are officially entered in the system that matches foster parents with kids (basically Match.com). She said, “It should be anytime.” That could mean a million things but it was nice to talk with someone and know that they are looking out for us.  She also told me that she would give us a call when it was official.

Yesterday, someone asked me if I am sick of being asked when we are getting a kid or kids. Nope. Not at all. I love talking about it. Sometimes, I’m afraid I’m talking about it too much. I apologize if I have talked your ear off at any point but we I say we are excited, I mean, we are really, really excited.

Nothing New to Report

No calls yet. We are just waiting. We did get some great stuff for the kid(s) over the holidays:

In case you haven’t seen these two videos, I thought I would post links to them here:

There are eight other videos deal with adoption, foster care and orphan care over at the Abba Fund’s blog. You know, just in case you needed a good cry.

Things I Needed to Hear

We are really slacking on the blogging. So, I will just direct you to other reading material…

I started reading The ABBA Fund blog shortly after we returned from the Together for Adoption conference last November. I really like it because the posts are interesting and readable.

On Monday, Jason Kovacs (the author of the blog), posted these questions:

Do you ever feel as though the magnitude of the need is overwhelming? The task that God has called you too great? Do you ever feel like the disciples when Jesus asked them to feed the hungry multitudes?

My answer to these questions was: YES. This is something that I have been struggling with lately which lead me to continue reading the rest of the post which was a quote from Charles Spurgeon. Two subsequent quotes from Spurgeon were posted as well and I would encourage you to go read them, especially if you are feeling overwhelmed: We Cannot, We Must and We Can.

I Love This: Christian Alliance for Orphans

We have been bad bloggers. D is working hard on school stuff and has not had time to write the rest of the Together for Adoption posts. Maybe I will get to it sometime over the long weekend.

Anyway, I think I’m going to launch a weekly post called, “I Love This.” Sometimes it may be a product or a something I find on Etsy. Or it may be an organization or a blog.

But, today, since it is November (National Adoption Month), I am going to feature the Christian Alliance for Orphans. I love the Christian Alliance for Orphans because they seek to inform individuals and churches about orphan and adoption ministry. They represent the coming together of many different leaders and organizations who are committed to inspiring and encouraging people to get involved in orphan care. I encourage you to visit their website and sign up for their eNewsletter.

Happy Thanksgiving!