Do You Have What it Takes?

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Foster care and adoption…If you have ever looked into the face of a precious child in crisis-a child whose world has been turned upside down by circumstances having nothing to do with him or her-I can say with some certainty that you have wondered, “Do I have what it takes to help?” I know this, because for several years before we adopted, I asked that very question over and over again.   Now that I am officially an adoptive mom, here’s my answer to the question, “Do you have what it takes to foster/adopt?”

No, you don’t….

And I don’t either. No one does. Unfortunately, there is no amount of training (even though the training is wonderful and helpful), no amount of college classes, no amount of church experience that will fully and adequately prepare you for being a foster/adoptive parent. But the good news is that where you lack in “having what it takes” is where God will shine most brightly in your life.

I can vividly hear our case worker who did our final home study interview. We were a little nervous, but it went great, and her final words were, “I’m excited because I think you guys are highly qualified to take a child with special educational needs.”   Never in my life have I felt more inadequate than that moment. Something inside me told me that mine and my husband’s combined college degrees in education, our years of experience in Children’s Ministry, and our many years volunteering with at-risk children were no preparation for what we were about to do. And I was right. As soon as we got our adopted son, I knew without a doubt that I knew absolutely nothing…and that everything I thought I knew wasn’t going to work.  So the only thing left to do was to depend on God-and what a soft place to fall. That place of total dependence and trust in the One who called you in the first place. Putting your family in His hands and saying, “They’re yours, Lord…I’m just your servant. Lead me and show me what to do daily. I trust you.” That has been a truly amazing experience for me. And I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything, even on our hardest days, it is worth it.

I think one of the most common questions is, “Could I love a child and then give him up?” Let me be honest with you…it’s going to hurt. It’s going to hurt badly. You’re likely going to cry and mourn for these children. But let me ask you this, If you don’t love them in their time of need, who will? It is worth the hurt to give them a safe place to land when they are in crisis.

Fostering and adoption will stretch you and grow you more than you thought possible. And then you’ll stretch and grow some more. And it will be beautiful and it will be messy, but I can tell you this…it will be worth it. It will be worth the moment that you realize that you have made a difference in a child’s life. It will be worth it the moment that child chooses, not because you’ve been teaching him from birth, but he chooses, to say, “I love you, Mom.” It will be worth it when you’ve prayed for and ministered to birth families and you actually get to see the fruit when they reunite with their child and start attending church with you. It will be worth to know that you obeyed God.  It will be worth it when you realize that you have given what this child did not have….HOPE. One of the clearest pictures of the mountains and valleys of foster care/adoption is illustrated in this verse (one that I rest in often):

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

-Romans 5:3-5

These children do suffer…no question, but out of that suffering, hope is born. Hope that they did not have before. And that hope does not disappoint.

So let me answer the question again: No you don’t have what it takes, but God does and if you pray and tell God that you are willing if it is His will for your family, then He will provide what you need to give a child what they so desperately need-hope. The kind that does not disappoint, the kind that is abundant, the kind that comes from the people within the body of Christ working in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Conway County, it’s so easy to read something and want to do something to help, but then as days pass, to just let it go. Now, I am not saying that everyone needs to foster or adopt. What I am asking of you though is, if God stirred your heart about Orphan Care here in Conway County, would you just keep praying about it?  Would you allow God to keep stirring and tugging on your heart? It was many years before Tim and I felt the “green light” to go on adoption, but prayer got us there. Please keep praying, and please keep supporting those families who are fostering and adopting.  And please share this message and lets help bring awareness to the need in our county. Because #conwaycountycares

Conway County’s Call to Action

because we care

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”

1 Corinthians 12:27 

Orphan care is a BIG task, and it’s one that has been on my heart a LOT the past two years. Like so many of you, I wish that I could take every child who needed a family and say, “Welcome home.” But I can’t, and neither can you. And I think that sometimes because we can’t do our very biggest dreams, we just say, “Oh well…” But today I’d like to challenge us all to think about what we CAN do in the Orphan care situation right here in Conway County. I think that when we each do our part, we can accomplish really great things for the glory of God. Like 1 Corinthians 12 says, we aren’t all a foot and we aren’t all a hand, but we are all a part of the body of Christ, and we all have to work together to take care of the things that are close to the heart of God. I believe that orphans are close to God’s heart. In fact, I’m sure of it.

James 1:27New International Version (NIV)

27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Let me start with some pretty sobering statistics. Did you know that over 7,000 kids in Arkansas alone spend time in foster care each year? Did you know that every year around 250 teens “age out” of the system with no family to call their own? This is heart breaking.  Now let me make you aware of a problem even closer to home: hundreds of children come into foster care every year from Conway County and there is ONE open home. I believe there are three total foster homes in our county, but we are all closed due to being full or recent adoptions. That means that there is one home that is currently accepting new placements (and they are almost full too!). Let’s go a little further-that means that these children not only abruptly lose their home and their mom and/or dad, but they also lose all familiarity because they are taken to a different county, a different school, they are pulled out of every activity they knew. Everything is new. Can you just imagine how awful and shocking that would be to a completely innocent child?

Ok, Conway County, now you know the problem. So what’s the solution? I believe that each one of us can be part of the solution. Pray about what your part of that solution is. God may call you to take a direct role in the solution in bringing children without a home into yours. Or you could be called to serve in a supportive role. I’ll tell you more in a minute about some supportive roles. But first, let me tell you that I fully believe that Conway County is on the cusp of a huge move of God in the area of orphan care. I believe this because the need is there and because God is moving and because Conway County is FULL of people who love and obey God. I am asking you to please pray about how you can get involved in this need in Conway County. Ask God:

Is it His will to open up your home to foster children?

Is it His will for you to adopt?

Can you play a role of support for someone who is fostering/adopting?

Can you be involved in getting a CALL ministry started in Conway County?

When we finally knew it was time to go forward with our recent adoption, I was scared. I knew it would be hard. I knew it would be challenging, but I knew that I would be far more miserable if we didn’t obey God than if we went ahead, stepped out in faith and did the scary thing. And I’m SO GLAD that we did.  Our little guy has been such a blessing.  So will you pray about it? Will you pray about this very real need for Conway County?

If you can play a support role for fostering families, the need here is GREAT! The one open foster home in Conway County right now has 7 children, 3 of those being young foster children. I say again, the need is GREAT! These people are doing a mighty and exhausting work and need help! Here are some ways you can help families who decide to open their home to foster children:

  1. Pray-by far the most needed thing! Pray for their sanity, pray for their needs to be met, pray for the children in their home, pray for their biological children, pray for them to have REST!
  2. Meals-Particularly when foster families receive new kiddos, things get crazy. When we adopted, I didn’t cook for at least a month.  Meals are SO important! Any time you hear of a foster family getting a new child, take them a meal. And don’t say, “If I can bring you a meal, let me know.” They won’t let you know. They don’t have time to let you know! Just say, “I’m bringing you a meal. Would Thursday or Friday be best? Any allergies?”
  3. Laundry-It doesn’t make sense, but somehow laundry doubles with each child you bring home. Do you have an hour or two a week to help a foster family catch up on laundry? That would be a HUGE blessing to them!
  4. Encouragement-Send them a handwritten note or a message letting them know what they mean. They need to be reminded of the hope they are giving these children. They need to be reminded sometimes of the important work they are doing. Also, when giving encouragement, don’t forget the biological children-they are doing a big work too and adjusting to a lot too. Send them a note, give them an extra hug and let them know that you are praying for them too.
  5. Housework-Same principle as laundry here. Housework many times gets put on the back burner when you are dealing with broken hearts of sweet babies. You trade your rubber gloves for a rocking chair, but that doesn’t mean that a clean house wouldn’t make you feel so much better. Do you have a few hours to help a momma catch up on her cleaning? Tell her what you’d like to do and when you can come.
  6. Respite Care-More than anyone, these parents need a night out or a weekend off. To baby-sit for one night, you don’t need any special certification. Just let them know that you want to do that for them and what nights you are available. If you’d like to provide a weekend off, you will need some special training, but it’s not much and it would be a major blessing for a foster family.

You know, I’ve had the story of the State Representative who “rehomed” his adoptive girls on my heart lately. It is truly a sad story, but what’s so very sad to me is that this family obviously did not get the support they so desperately needed to handle the situation they were given. Let’s not allow that to happen in Conway County. Let’s take care of our orphans. Let’s rally around our foster and adoptive families.

Is it on your heart to help fulfill James 1:27? What part can you play in Orphan Care Ministry? Will you pray and ask God to show you?

If you would like to foster or adopt or play a supportive role here in Conway County and you don’t know where do start, shoot me a message. I’ll definitely point you in the right direction. For more information check out The CALL link below. Please share this on your Facebook pages and let’s get the word out about the need here in our county.

The CALL

Bonding Part II & Grace for Us in Parenting

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I recently wrote about bonding and I have just a few more thoughts on the matter that I wanted to throw out there. You see, we just adopted a sweet little 7-year-old boy. And oh my, what a journey we’ve been on. A wonderful, heart-wrenching, beautiful, messy journey. As I wrote about in my last post, I have been amazed by seeing the difference in my attachment to my biological children and my adopted son. I don’t think we can quite wrap our minds around this huge gap until we get the opportunity to stare into the face of it and look at ourselves honestly. It has truly allowed God to begin to clean out some ugly parts of me that I didn’t even know existed.

So many wonderful ladies have rallied around me since that post, and I’m so appreciative. It’s not easy to put yourself out there for everyone to know your struggles. But, I think it’s really important for me to do. I think that putting myself out there and learning to be vulnerable is a small part of what God wants to teach me through this experience.

As I have scrolled through Facebook a million times in the last several years, I’ve seen article after article telling moms what parenting method works and what parenting method will forever scar your children. In recent years, I’ve seen a flood of “attachment parenting” articles. Unfortunately, rather than focusing on the benefits of attachment parenting, so many of these articles are so harsh and cruel.  These articles and posts have made me feel awful many times over and have caused me to question and feel so much unnecessary guilt simply because I chose a different way to raise my babies. So I thought I might offer a little more encouragement for new (and even us veteran) parents out there, since God has enlightened me with a whole new perspective on the issue. I think He has give me a really unique perspective on parenting, having three children from birth and having one child come to us at 7 years of age. Things roll through my mind every day, but the element that has stuck out so clearly to me lately has been the stark contrast of the bond that is so present with my biological children and so very absent from my adopted son, James. Now, let me just interject here and say that James and I have made huge strides in the last few weeks. I am so enjoying this new experience of bonding with him. But I think about the years we missed a lot.

So, on to the encouragement that I promised earlier….here it is. I was a Babywise parent. Yes, I was! All three of my bio babies were raised by Babywise principles. Yes, I let them cry it out sometimes. Yes, they were on a schedule. No, I didn’t wear them. And guess what….we are still very connected and very bonded. We aren’t perfect (after all, who is but Jesus?), but the bond is absolutely there and very strong. That method of parenting was the best choice for us at the time and for our family, and I don’t regret it because we prayed about it. And if you’ve chosen it as the best method for your family, then Good. For. You!

Here’s the thing…I’m not encouraging Babywise principles. I’m not discouraging attachment parenting principles or any other method of raising children. I know a lot of wonderful people who use attachment parenting principles and other parenting methods who have wonderful children and wonderful families. Here’s what I am saying…pray….pray hard…pray often about parenting. Ask God, and not other bloggers, Facebook posts, or even friends, how you should raise your children. Lately, the motto of my heart has been, “I trust You, God.” And that one statement has transformed my life-literally. It’s what I wake up saying every morning since “the turning point” in our adoption (more about that further down), and it’s been amazing to see God work through that small, but really meaningful statement. We need to trust God with our parenting, and with our families.   Pray about the tough decisions that parenting is built on, and then stand firm on those decisions, knowing that God lead you to them, because He knew your children before you knew them. He knew the mom they needed. He knew the dad they needed. And He chose YOU.

That thought is both exhilarating and heavy. But Jesus says, “My yoke is easy, My burden is light.” You know, since I’ve decided to let go and allow God to steer the wheel of my family, I have felt so much better. It’s as if a giant weight has been lifted off my shoulders, and I have experienced this verse in a very real way. I still remember the turning point-the night that it began to all click for me. Tim finally, wearily, said to me, “You’re just not trusting God!” and then he very sweetly prayed for me as I sobbed loudly on my pillow. See, I was worried about how James was adjusting, how Isaac was relating to James, if I was giving enough attention to Hannah and Lydia, whether or not James liked me, did we even do the right thing and 500 other things….and through these destructive, pointless worries amongst plenty of worthless guilt I had built up in my mind, I had spiraled myself into a deep state of post-adoption depression that made it difficult for me to even function for the first month of our adoption. And let me just say that for a person who generally sees life as a series of rainbows and butterflies, that was SO hard. (Depression is real and it hurts) But that night, as Tim prayed for me so intently (I am so thankful to have such a wonderful husband who loves God even more than he loves me), I felt all of it melt away, and I realized I hadn’t been trusting God after all. Tim was absolutely right. I needed to hand it over. And I did and I am on a daily basis-and it has made ALL the difference.

So, parents-let’s start making it a practice to hand it over. I’m not saying we shouldn’t try to better our parenting, that we shouldn’t read healthy articles and books that strive to build up, rather than tear down families. I’m simply saying let’s trust God more than we look to Pinterest for parenting. Let’s stand firm in our decisions that were prayerfully made, and above all, let’s follow God.  If we do those things, how can we go wrong?