Category Archives: Foster Care

Four Way to Care for the Fatherless When You’re Not Called to Adopt

You may have no intention of adopting, but know (and love) friends and family members who have. I commend you for taking the time to learn about how you can best support these families in your life!

Four-Ways-to-Care-for-the-Fatherless-When-Youre-Not-Called-to-Adopt-700x1050Not everyone is called to adopt, but Scripture is clear that all are called to care for the fatherless and act on their behalf. I love Isaiah 1:17, which says “learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.” Every Christian is called to do good before God, and that includes seeking out justice for those who are being oppressed.

This is one of the main reasons I’ve chosen to write a book about foster adoption (enter your email in the sidebar for updates about a late Spring release!). Adoptive families need their churches, and fellow believers, to come along side them with right thinking and a Christ-like perspective as they follow the path God has called them to. Pastors, elders, and ministry leaders ought to be equipped with a basic knowledge of the different types of adoption, helpful adoption lingo, and an arsenal of how to best support the growing families in their congregation.

I must say though, our church is amazing, and they are very adoption-friendly. We have received nothing but support from them, delicious casseroles when both boys arrived to our family, clothes, books, toys, and gift cards. You name it we probably received it! It’s not about the tangible though (although those things were life-savers). More importantly, it’s the attitude of the people in our congregation that have blessed us the most.

Here are four ways to care for the fatherless when you’re not personally called to adopt:

1) Respect boundaries that have been set

A few months after our oldest son arrived, we noticed some quirky behaviors that alerted us to some possible attachment issues. We kindly asked our small group, and others in our church who regularly interacted with him, to respect a few boundaries we needed to put into place for his good. He needed to learn who mom and dad were, and who was going to meet his needs. It’s not going to be the sweet old lady we see every Sunday who wants to give him candy, or our amazing small group who showers him with lots of love and attention. It’s Adam and myself, and he needed a renewed focus on that goal.

Everyone responded to us in a way that showed they love our little boy immensely, and respected our role as his new parents. Our son learned that high fives on Sunday mornings are more appropriate than hugs and kisses, and “I love you” is reserved only for family (for now). He has grown so much since we set these boundaries, and thanks to our amazing church, they played a massive role in that healing! We are so grateful.

2) Have a teachable heart in regard to birth parents, loss, and race issues

I’ve had countless conversations on Sunday mornings with teachable and open-hearted people in our congregation. I could not be more thankful for where God has placed us. There is a respect for our boys birth parents, an understanding of the loss our sons have experienced, and a growing openness for the fact that, as black boys, they will likely be racialized as they grow older (this one is the most difficult one we’ve encountered, being in a predominantly white community, as it takes time for lifelong false beliefs about different ethnicities to be broken down). There is not much more I could ask for in regard to support for our boys! Our church has done this well.

3) Remember that your words matter

Educating yourself on adoption lingo will bless adoptive couples immensely. Remembering that any child in their family is “their own”, whether through birth or adoption, is one of the greatest gifts you can give them. Acknowledging the loss their child has been through (loss of birth parents, siblings, friends, a prior foster home, and everything familiar to them) is a very important part of caring for adoptees. It’s easy for us to want to celebrate (the orphan has a home!), but that’s not the case for the child who has lost everything. There needs to be an understanding and respect of that.

We had one awkward encounter a few days after our oldest son joined our family. A kind older woman asked him if he liked his “new mommy and daddy.” He looked at her like she had three heads. His little two and a half year old brain was probably thinking “I have a mommy and daddy, and they aren’t it!” We did quickly become “mommy and daddy” to him within a week or two, which we learned is typical for kids in foster care. Up until that point we were Miss April and Mister Adam to him. He had just been removed from his birth mom a few days prior, and was probably so confused and scared about what the future would hold for him. That question was well-intentioned, but highly inappropriate.

These are the sort of encounters that become opportunities for us as adoptive couples to show tons of grace, and kindly educate. I gently corrected her comment and let her know that he has a mommy and daddy who love him very much, and that we are thrilled to have him be a part of our family right now. I don’t think she understood, and that’s ok, but I believe in situations like this grace will always trump the snarky remarks we may be tempted to make.

It’s important for supporters to keep in mind that their questions and remarks, likely born out of curiosity, could put the adoptive family in an awkward position. If their children are older, and can understand, comments that are not well thought out could be hurtful to them and disrespectful to their fragile past. It’s never ok to make judgments about a child’s birth parents, racial slurs, or comment about how you “can’t believe no one wanted them”.

4) Be committed, with hope, for the long haul

The church ought to be a place where adoptive families can enter in with all of their messiness, and receive love and support as they seek to lead these precious kiddos to hope and healing, and ultimately, to our Savior. You may not be called to adopt, but you are called to care for the fatherless. Learning how to do that in a way that blesses the adoptive families in your life will be a precious gift to them.

This will look differently for each family, so don’t be afraid to ask them what they need, and how you can best support and love them through the years. Some families may be more or less open with you about their children and their needs. Some may not know what they need because they’re still in the fog, trying to get a grasp on what would be best for their kiddos. The love and faithfulness of a church who is in it for the long haul, just as the adoptive parents are, is a beautiful way to show the gospel to families who have grown through adoption.

Love on the family if their placement fails. Pray for their kids when an important court date is near, or they have a visit with their birth parents. Bring them meals when a new child enters their family. Show them immense amounts of grace when their son or daughter acts out during worship. Don’t assume their child is “troubled” or “damaged” or destined to work at the grocery store for their entire lives because X diagnosis runs in their birth family.

If you believe the gospel, then you know that no one is too far gone! Not a single one. Even the most broken, messy, un-attached child, with the most disturbing past is not too far gone for our great Redeemer. It’s not too hard for him to save them, and heal them, and it shouldn’t be too hard for you to believe he can save them and bring them complete healing either.

Let us not forget that he saved you and me in our sin. We need Jesus just as much as our children from foster care do. Believe in the power of the gospel to heal, and save, having great hope for their future, praying for their spiritual adoption into the family of God. This is the best way you can care for the fatherless without actually adopting.

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RedemptiveHomemaking.com_April is a follower of King Jesus, wife, mother, writer, and adoption advocate. She lives in New England where her husband serves as a worship-pastor. Her introverted nature loves to read, sip coffee, and cook nourishing food for those she loves.  Read more on her blog Redemptive Homemaking.

 

 

Climbing to Find Beauty

I write this in honor of the precious foster mom who gave me a rare gift, and for others like her, who have loved children that no one else has seen, and have believed that there is beauty to be unlocked and discovered as we journey upwards and press in for their restoration.

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She sat at the table with me, frantically biting her nails. It was her nervous habit. And she was a very nervous child, slow to trust anyone—because her trust had been brutally, severely broken by one who was supposed to keep her safe.

He buried his head in his arms, attempting to hide his shame. He was ten, and he could not read. The book I sat on the table was like a knife, threatening to cut through him. His younger, learning-to-read years had been a storm of abuse and neglect, and letter names and sounds had gotten lost in his trial. Now he felt he could never learn.

Her arms bore scares, all up and down. The hurt in her teenage heart was more than she could deal with, and so it spilled out. And she afflicted her own frame.

She missed her two sisters, born of different fathers, but sharing her mother’s blood. She hadn’t seen them in years. Fatherlessness had separated them. Her mother and father had forsaken her, and worthlessness hung over her soul like a plague.

He threw tantrums. His five-year-old body would flail as his piercing screams sounded. He was a heavy burden that most couldn’t handle—because not many understood that he’d been the only eye witness to a violent crime, and this little boy didn’t know how to manage his inner storm that relentlessly surged.

Their harsh, orphaned histories have left them scarred children. What was meant to shine with beauty has been buried.

And is it possible to unearth what was smothered so severely? Darkness holds them back in the shadows—but can their miserable hearts ever shine again?

Has the dream God held in His heart when He knit together that one been lost forever?

We’ve maybe heard that orphans (or foster kids, as we call them in America) have tough behaviors. And truth is, a lot of them do. But on the backdrop, behind that difficult behavior, is a hard story that has forged who they are and how they now carry themselves.

Does the Father see an irreparable child—or does He see hope, waiting to be watered? Does He shield Himself, or does He come up close to the wild and withered one?

Do we see what God sees?

Beauty 1

I remember sitting with a fatherless girl one day. I’d sat before her more times than I could count. She’d forged strong walls to protect what had been deeply hurt by those who were meant to love her. Her life told stories of rejection and loss, and now she held back her heart, and even tested me, waiting for—even expecting—me to reject her, too. After all, history does repeat itself, right?

She wouldn’t let anyone in. She didn’t want to talk. She didn’t want help.

But on this day, for the first time, I saw her heart crack open, just a little. It was an out-of-the-blue moment. We sat together on a park bench, silent, when suddenly she spilled out one of her aches in a sullen, matter-of-fact tone. Hurt and shame mingled as she spoke. She showed me a vulnerable place that lay behind her walls—and she let me in. One of the layers that had sealed her closed heart started to peel, like one fragile petal finally gathering courage to unfold. And I saw into her. There was a small, glorious break in her wall—and when that little window raised a crack, I spoke a sentence of truth into her. A sliver of light shone in to pain’s darkness, and it chiseled away a tiny piece of her hardness. And a beauty long-buried started to seep out, even just a little. It was a truth that no one had ever spoken to her before, one that put her head on tilt, and she considered whether or not she could believe the cleansing words; for they were so foreign to her muddied thoughts.

Their lives hold a mystery. A gift beautiful, but hidden.

Beauty 2

Their broken, hardened hearts are like shoots waiting to open, hidden atop rugged mountains—like the wild flowers that grow in places high and remote, whose beauty is seen only by their Creator who planted them… and by anyone else willing to climb, to ascend steep places, to put a hand right on a jagged edge that might cut, to take a risk, and to scale up some cliffs.

I know moms and dads, mentors, and teachers who’ve embraced these orphaned hearts. And I’ve had the gift of watching love’s labor move up, up, up… wearied, aching, but believing that there is beauty to be opened and uncovered on the journey. Hurt comes with the climb, hearts bleed, wounds cut deep; but if we don’t give up, if we keep on, if we keep reaching toward them in love—even when they turn us away, again—maybe we’ll discover that beauty waits to be found, that the imprisoned soul can be set free, that there’s healing for the broken heart after all—and maybe one day, the glory of the view from up top will outweigh the challenges of the climb.

It’s a miracle— a move of Heaven, reaching the Earth.

BEauty 3

In some ways, these orphaned ones are just like us. God is the Healer of the broken—and we are all broken.

We, too, were once orphaned. We were without hope, without God, without a Father. We needed a rescue. An adoption.

And the Father reached out through His Son, who poured out His life… so that we could have life.

God in flesh journeyed up, for us. He ascended Calvary’s hill—which, though only a hill, proved to be the world’s tallest of mountains. He climbed, wearied, with cross upon His bleeding back, because He knew there was a beauty buried which would never be uncovered unless He set His face toward the summit at Golgotha.

Blood dripped down like water, quenching a parched and broken world. And from the top of Calvary, beauty would grow, and life would spring forth. For on that mountain, and around that cross, once-orphaned hearts would gather for eternity—there finding life, gaining freedom, receiving healing, and touching a power that would open them, one fragile petal at a time… until we at last, as mature flowers atop the hill, fully behold the brightness of the Son.

Beauty 4

So who will go on a journey to find the beauty that’s hidden away in a child’s broken story, reserved for those willing and courageous enough to make a laborious ascent, to carry a cross, and to pour themselves out?

What hope is there for them if the Church, the very carriers of His Spirit, doesn’t embrace them? The world cannot deliver these children. But we know the Man who can heal them.

Will we reach to see what God sees? That flower that no one has ever noticed on the top of the mountain, that one that’s never been given chance to bloom—will you notice that one?

Will you reach to believe that God, truly, has not asked the broken one to stay in his brokenness?

Can we really believe that He is Healer? That child, whose beauty has been buried, whose fatherless face is lost in a sea of millions of other orphaned ones—will you see and pray and believe for, that one?

Beauty 5Lying beneath an orphan’s anguish-tainted story, buried under the dark eyes, tough behaviors, and hopeless countenance, there is something lovely. And those who are willing to scale rough and rocky edges, and even to let their hearts bleed, will find Him there. He still has a dream for that child. He’s already on top of the mountain, full of unfailing hope. He sees the possibilities of beauty that can be uncovered if only we will join His heart in the climb, and keep climbing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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thurlow-55-e1421354870495Kinsey is a follower Jesus, a wife to her Husband, Jon, and advocate for the fatherless. She and husband have worked in full-ministry at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, MS for the last decade. Through the years, she has spent time among the fatherless and currently works with internationally adopted children as a teacher and with America’s foster children as a mentor, tutor, Bible teacher, and friend. You can join her and her husband via webcast every Friday at 10 AM at http://www.ihopkc.org/PRAYERROOM/ for weekly prayer meetings for the fatherless at IHOPKC. Kinsey also blogs regularly at http://jonandkinsey.com/ 

I Could Never…

I don’t know how many people have said to me, “I could never do this.” My response is always,

“What, you mean foster care?” To which they reply, “Yes, I could never hand them back.”

 

Often that comment is followed by a loving glance or hug to their child.

 

When a child is placed in our home through foster care, they are very much our

children. We love them unconditionally and learn their love language, where their

hearts and souls need healing and how we can help encourage that healing. We put in

hours and hours of training to learn how to parent them the best we can, and those

hours are little compared to the on-the-job training during which we plead with God to

guide us.

 

But one thing a biological parent must not forget, all of our children, yours, mine,

foster or adopted, they are His first. Losing your child from your home is H. A. R.

D! It feels like a death. You grieve, you hurt, and it leaves wounds that eventually

heal, but leave a scar. Those scars can be deep and ugly; they can be hiding

bitterness and other ugly emotions. But they don’t have to be! Only with the love of

Jesus Christ and the constant conversations with Him can that scar heal to a

beautiful mark despite its ugliness. It is beauty from ashes. But ask anyone who has

lost a child, through a failed adoption, a reunification in foster care or a

death, ask them and they will tell you they are changed forever. There will be a scar, but Jesus Christ brings healing.

 

That’s what makes doing foster care, this thing you think you couldn’t do, doable.

 

We have been foster parents to 5 children, all of whom we have adopted. Our cases

have varied from on the door step of reunification to straight into the adoption

unit. But still ,  and I speak from experience, a heart that has deep scars that on the

outside appeared healed but were actually oozing with bitterness. We lost our son through a

failed adoption. A year of anticipating him, 10 days spent holding him and loving

him and another full year pursuing him though international adoption. The bitterness

ran deep towards the people whose ill informed decisions changed everything. Not

until I invited the Healer in, did the true healing  begin. In a way I felt like

hanging on to that ugliness kept my son close, but it didn’t and it distanced me

from friends and my God. My scars are still there. I’m forever changed. I’m forever

missing my little man, but I’m no longer oozing with bitterness. And I have a new trust, a new understanding, that my God is a healer who, no matter the pain, will not leave me or forsake me.

 

If you feel God calling you, put yourself out there! You can do this. You’ve got God.

 

Do you trust Him as your Healer?

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wandaWanda has been married to her high school sweetheart, Matt, for 16 years. They have six children, ages 2-11. Adoption has been on her heart since a very young child. She is passionate about foster care and supporting and encouraging foster and adoptive families in their journey. She is a stay at home mom who loves to make jewelry for her little business, cook for her family and cheer on her soccer players.

Encouragement for the Weary Foster Mom

Encouragement-for-the-Weary-Foster-Mom-cover2-700x1050
Last week my husband and I had to make a difficult decision for our son. There was this unspoken pressure from the world to do one thing, when the Holy Spirit was clearly telling us something different. The truth is, we didn’t want to be ‘different’. We already look different as a transracial family in a predominantly white community, receiving stares and questions wherever we go. This decision, if we followed the Spirit (which by God’s grace we did), would likely bring more eyebrow raises and questions.

I’m learning to be grateful for my lot and say with confidence “it is well with my soul.” There was a loss that came with the decision we had to make. It isolates us even more as a foster family and makes us look even more different than the typical suburban family in our area. Our decision was minor compared to most, however it is still an opportunity to trust that God will bless us for being faithful in our particular situation. This decision will likely bring great benefit to our son and, Lord willing, propel him towards more healing and wholeness from the trauma he has experienced.

I was at an event recently, surrounded by beautiful families. From what I could see we were probably the only foster family, and the only transracial family present. This event very unexpectedly stirred up pain in my heart. Pain that I needed to process through and lay at the feet of Jesus. Questions arose in my heart, and bitterness began to sneak in as I watched glowing pregnant women walk by, and children playing together without their parent’s supervision. My son has having a particularly difficult night and we ended up sitting in the car for a while. Selfishly, all I wanted to do was have an adult conversation, something that is precious (and rare) these days.

If you could see into my sinful heart that evening, you would have heard these questions asked through bitter sobs. God, why did you call us to this? Why can’t we just blend in and have our family grow the “old fashioned” way? Why won’t you heal this precious boy quicker? Why can’t it just be stinking easy?!

“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him…” Philippians 3:8-9.

“Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” Matthew 16:24-25.

Knowing Jesus is far more precious than any loss I may suffer. The loss of comfort. The loss of an easy life. The loss of blending in. The loss of typical milestones for our son. The loss of reputation among those who may not understand. The loss of the first two and a half years of my son’s life when I couldn’t protect him from all the hard things he experienced.

Just like I held my son this morning as he sobbed into my shoulder because his birth dad missed the bus again, and his visit would be cancelled, Jesus held me as I wrote loss over my life once again. He is so patient. So kind. So long-suffering. So merciful towards my bitter and entitled heart.

This life is not my own. I was bought with a price. A great price. I am weary, yes, but my little boy is worth it, and trading all my former hopes and dreams for new ones, for the sake of Christ, is even more so.

“The only way to have the power to follow Christ in the costly way of love is to be filled with hope, with strong confidence that if we lose our life doing his will, we will find it again and be richly rewarded.” John Piper, The Power of Hope.

Weary foster mom, your life is not unnoticed by the creator of the entire universe. He longs to be gracious to you and provide for all of your needs. There are great rewards for those who follow Jesus, risking it all, in this broken (but beautiful) world of foster care. It is worth the cost.

Photos by my mother at Ground to Grow On Photography.

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RedemptiveHomemaking.com_April is a follower of King Jesus, wife, mother, writer, and adoption advocate. She lives in New England where her husband serves as a worship-pastor. Her introverted nature loves to read, sip coffee, and cook nourishing food for those she loves.  Read more on her blog Redemptive Homemaking.

 

 

This Day {Summer Flashback}

How do you do it?

This is what everyone asks.

How do you hold Little One close knowing that his days in your arms are

so fleeting, so uncertain?

How do you scramble to make it work at a moment’s notice?

How do you shuttle him to doctor’s appointments, nursing him back to health so that he can leave again?

Friends, this is how I do it.

I go out each day and gather enough for that day (Exodus 16:4).

I make plans for this day.

I figure out childcare, transportation, food for this day.

I hold and rock and snuggle and sing on this day.

And by the provision of a gracious Father, I do it again tomorrow.

My eyes have only two focuses.

Eternity. My promised land where I believe that all will be set right.

All will be well.

And this day.

I cannot think about the in-between.

It wrecks me. Just the thought of going there makes it a little hard to breathe.

And so, again, I hand the in-between back to the One who isn’t wrecked by it.

And I mix up formula in this day.

I make salt dough ornaments in this day.

I pray and love and hold and bless in this day.

Sometimes it feels like a little, and sometimes it feels like a lot, but it always works out to be just as much as I need (Exodus 16:18).

In this day, I gather enough.

And by the provision of a gracious Father, I will do it again tomorrow.

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shannon hicksShannon is mom to an amazing seven year old.  She is a Christian, a licensed foster parent, a kindergarten teacher and a huge advocate of connecting church people and little people in need of forever families. She blogs at A Little Bit of Everything.

One Year

We’re here.

The one year mark as mommy and daddy to this treasure of a child.

I had faith we would get to this point, and here we are. All by God’s grace.

It has been oh so sweet. And oh so difficult.

Three hundred and sixty five days ago Adam and I unpacked our car after a week at the Cape. Sand still between our toes and sunscreen residue on our skin. We ate our Nardelli’s sandwiches, surrounded by beach chairs and suitcases on our kitchen floor. I lifted our empty plates from the table to place in the sink and my phone rang. I knew by the ringtone that it was our case worker.  I knew before we even said “hello” that our lives were about to change.

April-Swiger-One-Year-Since-our-Emergency-Foster-Placement-6

A two and a half year old boy. African American. Can you be ready in four hours?

Time stood still. The shock of that short six minute phone call momentarily paralyzed me. I wanted to give in to it, but I knew there wasn’t time. This was the real deal and we needed to move. Fast.

Unpack as quickly as possible. Install our extra air conditioner in his bedroom. Shower. Race to Target and get him some clothes, toys, a baby monitor, diapers, and snacks. Sizes were a complete guessing game for us. We called immediate family on our way to the store and we missed our exit. I texted friends to pray and asked for advice on what to buy.

Bubbles. Bouncy balls. The video monitor I swore we would never spend money on, but now “we don’t know what an active toddler is capable of.” Sold (and we’ve never regretted it). A Batman hoodie. Cargo shorts. Goldfish. Applesauce.

We arrived home with maybe 30 minutes to spare. Making the tacos I had planned for, pre phone call, was not even a blip on our radar. I may have grabbed a granola bar and I remember telling myself “Breathe deep. Just do the next thing.”

At around 6:30pm a white car pulled into our driveway and two women stepped out. I was too scared to look and could only muster up quick peeks out our living room window as I asked Adam for the play-by-play. We waited for the first glance of our new son’s face and uttered prayers out loud, mostly “Jesus help us!”

The next hour or so was a complete blur. He was sleeping in the car and needed some time to be woken up and brought in. One of the case workers waited with us inside. After a few minutes he was semi-carried to the door in an almost business-like manner. It still makes me cringe to think about. He arrived with a few plastic bags of clothes and toys, including an outfit he had thrown up on earlier that day. Some of the things he had were brand new and likely a care package from the family he was with for two days prior to us. That’s what I remember about his entrance through our front door and into our family.

He played with toys and jumped off our ottomans while Adam and I signed a mountain of paperwork. A smell filled the room that indicated his diaper needed to be changed. We hardly remember a word that was spoken to us that evening. One of the case workers called his birthparents on the phone and they said goodnight and “I love you” to each other. He is so very loved by his birthparents.

It was getting late and we asked the case workers about his bedtime. We were given shrugs and told “maybe 9pm?” We’ll just figure it out, I guess.

Then, they left. We were all alone. Now what? Let’s give him a bath. That may help calm him if he’s scared. I’ve never bathed a child before, but we figured it out (and were glad we bought a rubber ducky at Target earlier that day).

After his bath we gave him some goldfish crackers and watched an episode of Jake and the Neverland Pirates. At that point it was the only kids TV show I had heard of. I fumbled into our Netflix account, hands still shaking from the shock of the day, trying to add it to our list.

Our first picture together, an hour after we met

Our first picture together, an hour after we met

Bedtime was hard. We assumed he was sleeping in a crib because no one told us otherwise (actually, no one told us much of anything). We found out many months later, after we had transitioned him to a twin bed, that he had never slept in a crib before. He was probably terrified being in a “cage.” After about three hours he finally dozed off. Adam and I were up most of the night watching him sleep on our new video monitor.

Life has never been the same since July 21, 2014, and it never will be again. We are forever ruined, in the best possible way, by this little man.

Today, one year later, we are home from another week at the Cape. This time with our little J in tow. We got home last night with a car full of plastic beach toys, a deflated orca whale, and countless sweet memories.

April-Swiger-One-Year-Since-our-Emergency-Foster-Placement-17

We traded quiet road trips for stops on the side of the road to “use the facility.”

We sacrificed peaceful days on the beach reading, for digging in the sand making “cement” for creative factory operations.

We gave up exclusively tending to ourselves, to make sure baby skin was covered in SPF and sleep wasn’t sacrificed too much for watching sunsets over the bay and going out for ice cream.

It is all worth it. Every difficult moment of the past year was, and is, tremendously worth it.

This boy is a treasure. A true gift from the kind and generous heart of God. He is astoundingly valuable and worthy of love and care and all the complexities that go with adopting from foster care. I can’t imagine life without him, and it’s hard to imagine life before him anymore.

Our culture says these kids aren’t worth it. They’re too “damaged” and “troubled.” Or that it’s not worth the hassle to work with the broken state agency. One person said to me that J’s birth mother should have been sterilized. I’m certain some would say that he should have been aborted and his parts sold for a cheap profit.

By God’s astounding and abundant grace, He gave little J life. A life that has hope and a purpose. A life that has experienced an immense amount of healing and maturity over the past 365 days. A life that is precious to Adam and I, our families, his birth family, and those who have met him.

His life is not a mistake. He is an absolute joy, a priceless treasure, and is worth fighting for every single day.

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RedemptiveHomemaking.com_April is a follower of King Jesus, wife, mother, writer, and adoption advocate. She lives in New England where her husband serves as a worship-pastor. Her introverted nature loves to read, sip coffee, and cook nourishing food for those she loves.  Read more on her blog Redemptive Homemaking.

 

 

The Other Mother

Since day one, many have asked about The New Chick’s biological mom. And for all seven of the months he’s lived in my house, I’ve put off writing about her. But, there is a season for everything, and a time for every purpose under heaven.

The first time I saw her it was in the Chambers County Courthouse. I looked up from admiring the five day old baby who was snug against my chest, and saw her walking toward us. I knew her by the tears pouring unchecked down her face. She humbly asked me if she could hold him, and I began to wonder at the world I had just entered.

As I unswaddled all five precious pounds and placed him in his mothers arms, I realized this entire endeavor was going to require more of my heart than I had expected. I felt all at once tremendous pain for her, and ferocious protection over him.

Those two emotions would only swell with the passing weeks. At times they were at war within my soul.

Someone commented on her right after he came to us. They posed a question, that was really more of a statement, along the lines of how could anyone do what she has done. The person went on to make her out as a total sinner, and me a total saint.

I just blinked and ashamedly said nothing. But inside was a raging inferno.

There is nothing fundamentally different about she and me. The only thing that polarizes her life from mine is that I was given a gift when I was 6.

The gift of the Holy Spirit when I got adopted by The King.

Without that gift I would have been her. I would have chased this world and let it have it’s way with me. I would have made costly decisions; looking to all the wrong things to make me feel happy and all the wrong people to make me feel loved. I would have given myself to a man way too early and gotten pregnant and had a baby.

It would have been me watching the social workers walk out of the hospital with my first born son, still sore from giving birth to him.
It would have been me wondering where they took him.
And who was holding him. And what was going to happen to him.
It would have been me facing every parent’s worst nightmare.

It would have been me.

But Jesus.

I won’t lie. There’s another side to my feelings about her. It’s not jealousy. Or competition. It’s more like looking at her and wondering if I will be her in a few months.

I fear the pain she’s already lived through.

Handing my baby over to the social workers to be cared for by strangers. Wondering where he is and if he needs me. Missing his firsts and wanting him so desperately it hurts. Fearing that he’s wants Mama, but can’t have her.

I hate the notion that her success will mean my greatest loss. And just as much I loathe the idea that if she fails, I somehow win.

Because if he goes back, I’ll curl up and die for a while. But if he stays, I’ll grieve with the knowledge that she’ll do the same. Either way, pain will be thick.

It’s true that she and I are very different. I was adopted and she wasn’t. She brought him into the world and I didn’t. I know him in ways she doesn’t.

And every time I say “Come to Mama” I am reminded that there is another.

But in this we are the same.

She and I are both the other mother.

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Beth LawrenceBeth is Wife Supreme to one good looking pastor, and Queen Mother to two awesome bio children and two darling fosters. She writes about foster care along with this, that and the other atJust Beth. Beth is slightly addicted to her morning coffee, loves talking about Alex’s House Orphanage in Haiti, and gets the biggest kick out of pulling off her hair-brain ideas. (Her husband’s words, not her own.) She’s been featured on ForEveryMom, FaithIt, and some other cool blogs that were desperate for material.

To Understand Forever

*This post was written two years ago, when celebrating three years of having my little sisters HOME. This month we celebrate 5 years, and while we don’t have our ‘forever’ figured out yet, the journey is proving to be so sweet and so worth it*

Today we celebrate three years of baby sisters. I remember that day so clearly, the day we welcomed a 5-year-old and a 2-year-old back into our home and began our journey of forever.

We painted a room pink, bought new soft blankets, and filled a closet with more dresses than any two girls would possibly need.

That day was joyous, so we celebrate it, and rightfully so.

This journey isn’t without pain though. I was reminded last night of the harsh dichotomy that exists within the world of adoption. In order to have the privilege of loving these girls, they had to go through a lot of loss first. In order for me to love them and know them, others who loved them first had to lose them.

Last night, I peered into the little girls room and found a sweet 8-year-old sitting on her bed, looking at pictures of her first mom and her siblings, and crying. Tears in her eyes, and staring at the same pictures over and over again, she expressed in words how she was feeling.

I sat with her and kissed her head of blond hair over and over again. I rubbed her back and I chose my words carefully; I said that missing is okay. I wish I could have promised her that she would see her first mom again, that one day she would feel all better; I wish I could have whispered that she had no reason to cry, as many have told her before. But sister has every reason to cry. She should cry. It’s heartbreaking, but it’s good. I hate that for her. I hate this part of adoption. I hate watching an 8-year-old grieve over such hard things. The reality of that injustice makes me angry.

We get to celebrate her heritage and accept the reality of her past, however messy it may be. We speak with respect and honor towards her first mom, because that lady loves her. We even celebrate that the grief, which was once manifested through compromising behavior, is now morphing into the expression of words. That is huge. (and all the adoptive families said AMEN!)

When it comes down to it, none of us really know how to accurately depict the tragedy and beauty of adoption that has been so confusingly woven together. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out which part is the beauty and which is the tragedy. What do we celebrate and what do we grieve over? It takes a lot of work and time and tears. And sometimes we realize it’s the very thing we’re celebrating, like 3 years of permanence, that actually has so much grief wrapped up in it, too.

We know that we get to celebrate the notion of forever, because God’s plan is for every child to have a family. We don’t really, fully understand what ‘forever’ means, but we use that term anyway. We know that it represents something exciting and that there is permanence in the word, but even still, it is too big for our finite minds to grasp. What I have promised my little sisters is that we’re going to do our best to figure it out together, not through words, but through actions.

Right now, forever means afternoon Wii games, spontaneous trips to sonic, watching first-year ballet classes through the doorway, and blaring One Direction in the car.

Tomorrow it might mean something completely different.

So today we don’t have it figured out, nor to we necessarily intend to figure it out in this life time, but we celebrate 3 years of stability. We celebrate 3 years of baby doll playing, kindergarten graduations, learning how to read, and nighttime prayers. We celebrate 3 years of properly celebrated birthdays, summer afternoons spent by the pool, bike rides, and countless afternoons of painting nails. Today we get to celebrate new relationships, the beginning stages of trust, and the remembrance that through all of the chaos and tears, we are family.

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KyleeKylee recently graduated with a bachelor’s degree in social work and is currently working at a child-placing agency while going back to school to pursue a masters in social work. Her parents jumped into the crazy world of foster care just days before her 8th birthday and cared for numerous infants and toddlers over a ten-year time span; four of those kids later became permanent family members through adoption. Kylee is passionate about learning how to better love her siblings from “hard places” and loves sharing about this journey and passion on her personal blog Learning to Abandon and on her Instagram @kyleemarissa.

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We’re building the nest this month!

Head right on over HERE to find out more and learn about the 40+ businesses that support adoption and the work of The Sparrow Fund!

From One Grandmother’s Heart to Another {Letters}

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My son and daughter-in-law have fostered over 30 children in 6 1/2 years.  They are believers of families being reunited and rejoice when it occurs.
 
They fostered and loved Isaac since birth.  He was a week away from turning 4 when he left.  His sister, Mariah, joined them at 5 1/2 and was with them for shy of 2 years.
 
The process of adoption had begun.  Yet, it was not to be.  
 
A judge ruled they were to be adopted by family the children did not know, 3 states away.  He gave the foster parents less than 18 hours to prepare, pack and say goodbye to their children.
 
Foster care has many successes and it is a joy to stand in the gap on behalf of the children.  However, this event was gut wrenching.  Hearts were broken and man’s system and process failed the children.  Because they left?  No.   Because they were not considered.  
 
But Father God considered them and He was in the midst of their fears and tears.  He promised them a peace that cannot be understood, a love that will never fail, and plans that are good.  We trust Him and believe Him.
 
This letter came from His heart beating in my heart 12 hours before it broke.

Oct 17, 2014

From one grandmother’s heart to another…
I want to first say I am not angry.  But, I am very, very sad.  The thought of saying goodbye to Mariah (not her real name), who I have come to love as my own is very difficult.  And then, Isaac (not his real name), who we have loved since birth is equally as difficult.
But, this is the decision that has been made, and so I pray blessings upon you, your daughter who will care for them as her own, and for your son, as their father.  I am sure there is joy for his children to be with their aunt and grandmother.
I don’t know how many grandchildren you have, but I have 7.  I know their skin color and mine are obviously different.  The very sweet part of it all is that their heart and my heart both beat red….with love for each other.
I will always love Mariah and Isaac.
I pray they will bless you and your family with the joy, laughter and fun that our family was blessed with.
I promise I will pray God’s provision, protection and presence as the days of transition occur.  I pray, while they will not be easy, they will be filled with peace.  For your sake and theirs.
Speaking heart to heart, if you would ever feel comfortable letting them write us a note, or even call, I would be forever grateful.
I know the past several months may appear our families are at odds…but we aren’t.  We both love the same children with all our hearts, that’s all
Please whisper to them now and again that “Tiki (that’s what they call me) loves them.”  And will you give them a kiss for me?
Peace be with you – Tiki
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Dave TeresaTeresa married her best friend, David, and blended their families together almost 29 years ago. Technically, they have 3 grandchildren but claim an additional 16, as one of their sons and his wife are foster parents. Teresa lives in Kennesaw, Georgia and just celebrated her 62nd birthday.  She is a retired bookkeeper, avid tennis player, and now a missionary with Operation Mobilization USA.

From Foster Mom to Birth Mom {Letters}

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Dear Sara,

My head won’t let go of the last time I saw you.

You stood there, by my dirty Odyssey, clinging to your little girl’s hand. You kissed it over and over again. You spoke these words, “I love you; I’ll see you. If I’m not at the doctor, I’ll be here next Monday.” You reached to the back of the van for your little boy with an “I love you very much.” Still, you held on to your baby girl.

I admit that I rolled my eyes at your, “If I’m not at the doctor…” comment as I sat in the warmth of the driver’s seat watching you through the rear-view mirror. How many times had you already detoxed? Your commitment to the whole thing seemed suspect.

I held my hand over the “Close Door” button, as I waited for you to let go. My face depicted a patience that my head was not claiming. I had to get these kids home. We needed to commence with the terrible transition from you, Mommy, to me, Mama Kim, from candy and toys to dinner with vegetables and rules. We needed to start the conversation about where Mommy goes when she leaves us at the Child Protection Agency. I wanted to get going with all of this, but you wouldn’t let go.

That was Monday.

Today is Thursday, and I’ve just hung up the phone.

D&#n it, Sara!

The caseworker said it was last night. But, they found you this morning. You’re gone. You took your last breath in the dark with a needle in your hand.

I would have waited, Sara. I would have waited to strap the kids into their car seats. I would have waited to push play on the video player that distracted them from your “I love you.” Had I known it would be the last time they saw you and you saw them, I would have waited!

I slap my hand away from that “Close Door” button over and over again in my mind, now. I repent of my impatience. I watch, a million times over, your hand relentlessly squeezing, caressing, and grasping your baby girl’s. It was like, somewhere in your heart, you knew.

You were sick with your addiction, Sara, but you were their home base. You were what their little 3 yr. old and 4 yr. old brains understood to be reality. What words do I use to explain that what was real is gone?

They ask where you are every week. And, every week, they learn all over again that you won’t be back. They say, “ok.” But, I fear what that “ok” will turn into at age 9, 13, 17. Will it be anger, betrayal, fear, recklessness, or a will for something different? I pray that it’s something different, Sara. I pray that what they will know of you is that you loved, and you loved hard. That you didn’t want to let go. That the tide that overwhelmed you, does not have to come for them.

That will be my prayer now. And your hand, holding and reaching, will be the picture I keep and the story I tell, as long as I get to be a part of their new reality.

Rest, Sara. Rest well.

Love, Mama Kim

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kim millerKim Miller and her husband Bryant live in Ohio, where she serves in full-time ministry in the United Methodist Church. They are the bio parents of two, foster parents of an ever-changing number, and pet parents of a nervous Border Collie and a cat who doesn’t care. Kim is a graduate of Asbury Theological Seminary and Ohio University. She shares bits and pieces of her life over at kimberlyrmiller.com.