Heavenly Permanence

For my last post in recognition and celebration of National Adoption Month, I wanted to write something so bold, fresh, and new that everyone would want to become a foster and adoptive parent.  I wanted to try to list every well-known person (alive or deceased) who has either been adopted or who has adopted children.  I considered writing about persons in Scripture who were considered to be adopted, or at least, raised by persons other than their biological parents

I realized, though, that none of this compares to the incredible and profound blessing of our adoption by our Heavenly Father.  Through the sacrifice of His son and our acceptance of Christ as our Lord and Savior, we have been given an Eternal inheritance, and the promise of His love and His care.  We are sealed  by His grace.

The word permanency comes up often in child welfare.  Permanency refers to the goal of achieving something permanent in children’s lives.  I like to refer to it as the final place a child gets to call home.  We talk about the goals to attain permanency for children in the system all of the time.  Well, with the Lord, the goal has already been met and achieved!

Our permanency is in Heaven!  Now, isn’t that something to celebrate!!

“I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” -2 Corinthians 6:18

Beauty in the Complexity

Here is another insight I’ve discovered since becoming a parent through adoption:

Adoption is extremely complex, but there is beauty in complexity.

The closer we got to our first adoption, I was so eager to “get it over with”.  I just wanted the judge’s gavel to fall and for our son to be declared ours.  I did not want anyone else to be in control of my son anymore.  I looked at that day with fantastic expectation and with the thought that it will all be so much easier after adoption than when we were fostering him.

Our daughter was placed with us a few months later and I was also looking forward to the day that we could adopt her.  Right after our daughter’s adoption, we closed our foster care license.  What I have realized through the years since then is that adoption continues to evolve as our children grow older.  The gavel may have fallen, and the “cases” may be closed, but our journey really has just begun.

We see the look of confusion at times when the children are talking about birth parents and why they do not have the same birth moms.  We watch our son stare at his baby pictures and ask a million questions about the baby that he was.  We overhear the kids talking in the back of the car or in their rooms about birth parents.  I even heard my daughter say that she wished I was her birth mommy.

My husband and I have late-night talks on the couch after the kids go to bed about how we should address specific issues and questions as they arise.  Our son usually has a rough couple of days after visiting our daughter’s sibling, who is also adopted, because he doesn’t quite understand how his sister could have a sister of her own.

I often watch the kids and wonder how much of their lives will be affected because of adoption.  Don’t misunderstand me.  There are incredible opportunities, safety, love, and stability that they have because of adoption, but, it would be amiss of me to assume that it is always going to be easy for them.

I worry at times that we are being too open in discussing it, or maybe not open enough.  I used to weep for my children because of the losses they have endured without even knowing it.  I have wished to be able to wipe the slate clean for them.  All of these things are issues that my child-bearing friends do not have to take into consideration when parenting.

The complexity of it all makes me appreciate the opportunity to talk with other adoptive families about their experiences, and to learn from each other.  I love the diversity of each family and the journeys that many have been on.  I also have come to realize that adoptive families are unique and special in so many ways.  Yes, there may be worrying, wondering, weeping, and wishing, but in these things there is great beauty.

My Life’s Song

Here we are in the last few days of November and the last week of National Adoption Month.  This past month I have posted something each day that I hope has inspired people to take care of children through adoption and foster care.  I’d like to share some insights I’ve learned as an adoptive parent.  Here’s the first one:

Through the adoption of my children I have learned that my life was planned and designed with great purpose.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that growing up I never really understood or appreciated the concept of a life planned in advance; especially if the plan included the heart-wrenching grief of infertility.  I did not comprehend how a loving God could or would allow infertility, even though barrenness is written about in Scripture.  I certainly never envisioned myself as a mother.  I just didn’t think it was “in the cards” for my life.

Seeking the Lord and the adoption of my children have both revealed to me that mothering was written into my life story.  My children were planned for me, and I was planned for them.  Despite the medical problem I had that resulted in being barren, I was still designed with the great purpose of motherhood by the God that created the Heavens and the Earth.

Some call it fate.  Some may say I lucked into being able to adopt.  I choose not to call it either of these things.  I call it the grace of the Lord and His Divine Plan.  I call it the presence of a living God whose works are ones of love.  I call it the pouring out of His blessings.  I call it a mission-filled and purposeful design.

Adoption really is my life’s song.  My children are the instruments.  Our experience together is the melody.  The Lord is the composer, and, from time to time, you just might catch me dancing to it.

“For I know the plans for you, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

One of the Lucky Ones

This is the story of my dear friend Missy and her mom Marcia.  She’s a special person and I’m so thankful she shared her story with me, and with all of you.

Missy, Marcia, and Missy’s sweet little girls

“We are often told that we look alike.  Our eyes meet and we just smile knowing that we are the only ones in on our little secret”, explained Missy when telling her story about her experience as a child in the system.  It was about twenty-four years ago that her life took a drastic, yet remarkable turn.

From the beginning of her life, one would not consider Missy to be lucky. Her biological mother was just eighteen-years-old when she gave birth to Missy, and already had a lot on her plate as she was mothering twins when Missy was born.  Missy’s toddler and preschool years were spent with her mom having multiple boyfriends.  She actually remembers her mom changing the pictures on the wall depending on what boyfriend was visiting.  Things were rough, but got much worse when she was five-years-old.  Her mother married a man who was not the kind of father she and her siblings needed in their lives.

Physical abuse was a part of her life as young girl.  Missy remembers being beaten for trivial things such as losing the pen to the Yahtzee game.  Sometimes, she and her siblings were beaten so severely that they had to miss days of school.  Her siblings experienced sexual abuse, but Missy did not.  She is incredibly thankful for this, but carried guilt as a child knowing that her siblings were exposed to this type of horrific abuse. 

One of the worst memories Missy recalled was when her step-father tried to force her to drown her puppy for peeing on the floor.  Missy always had a genuinely compassionate love for animals, so her step-father choosing this as a punishment for both her and the pup was incredibly cruel.  Although young, Missy stood up to her step-dad, refused to drown her pup, and instead took a beating that lasted for hours.

As time went on, things got worse.  She remembers her mom being beaten beyond recognition.  Her mom would tell the children that she was going to take them and leave, but never did.  Missy suspects she was scared and had such low self-esteem that she chose to stay.

After three years of living a nightmare with her step-dad, a knock on the door occurred and child protection services removed the children.  Although in desperate need to be taken out of that environment, Missy was scared, clung onto her teddy bear, and sobbed over being taken away from her mommy.  She and her siblings moved from home to home for various reasons, and she remembers the drive to each new home being very scary.  They would arrive at a new place full of strangers and a trash bag full of their belongings. 

Enter Marcia.  Marcia was a former neighbor of Missy and happened to be at the Children’s Division office when she overheard the social worker talking about needing to find another home for the kids.  When Marcia realized that the children being talked about were the three children she fed when they were hungry, she immediately stated she wanted to take them into her home.

Even though their home was filled with children, Missy remembers feeling loved as though she was the only child there.  Marcia and her husband Jim welcomed her and her siblings with an incredible amount of love.  Her birth mom was never able to reunify with her children.  Missy feels as though she chose the lifestyle she was living with her step-dad over her and her siblings.  Although never legally adopted, Missy chose to change her last name to Marcia’s and Jim’s last name when she was twelve-years-old.  In their hearts, they were already adopted in love.

Being taken in and loved on made an incredible difference in the lives of Missy and her siblings.  They were given safety and nurturing.  They were given the opportunity for normalcy.  The rest of their childhoods were ones free of abuse and neglect.  Marcia and Jim are heroes and helped to changed the lives of children who desperately needed a place to call home and the love of a family.

The following is how Missy ended her story.  I’ll let her words speak for them-self:

“I have not seen my bio mom since I was taken away.  It would be easy to be mad and full of hatred for her.  I chose a long time ago to let this all go.  The pain and hate only brought me down.  Matter of fact, if I ever see her I may thank her.  My past has made me the person I am and brought my new parents and siblings into my life. “My mom” and I are very close and I know we were brought together for a reason.  As she says “we are like peas and carrots”!  I now have two beautiful girls myself and cannot imagine letting anyone hurt them.  I realize not all foster children are as lucky as me.  I was able to graduate from college, get married to a wonderful husband, get a great job, and have two beautiful babies.  I guess I consider myself one of the lucky ones.”

 

Missy – I think those of us who consider you a friend are the lucky ones.  Thank you for sharing your story of how one person can change the life of a child, and for your personal resilience to rise above.  You, my dear, are an amazing woman.

Beautiful for God (quote from Mother Teresa)

“Do you want to do something beautiful for God? There is a person who needs you. This is your chance.”
-Mother Teresa

I find this quote from Mother Teresa to be simple, powerful, and truthful.  I think that if you substitute the word child for the word person, it makes this quote even more awesome.  I hope your day is one that shines beauty for the Lord’s sake!

Welcoming children, Welcoming Him

And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.

-Matthew 18:5

I love working for a child welfare agency that is not only Christian in name, but in acts and philosophy.  The agency has been involved in the social welfare of children since 1886 and has evolved through the years as societal changes have occurred.  Although our services have developed through the years to meet the needs of children and families, our priority and reason why we do the work has not changed.  We know that we can serve the Lord by ministering to children who are hurting, youth who are struggling, and families who are broken.  We also believe and have witnessed the great miracles that occur in the lives of children and families through the love and acceptance of Christ.

One aspect of my job is to speak to families who have expressed an interest in foster care and adoption.  Like my husband and I, many families go into fostering with a desire to parent children and know that fostering is an avenue that could lead to adoption.  There are others who see it as a way to give back to children or their society.  Most of the Christian families I work with feel the Lord calling them to be foster parents and to adopt a child out of foster care.

Thinking about these families leads me straight to the Scripture noted above. Our Heavenly Father loves children.  They are near and dear to His heart.  One cannot also overlook the fact that He wants us to be like children when it comes to our walk with Him.

I really do enjoy witnessing the love of Christian families that is poured into children in need of foster and adoptive homes.  To see and know that change is happening in children’s lives is what keeps most of us in the field of child welfare going.  The Lord stirs the hearts of people so that they can minister to His children through fostering and adopting.  

Welcoming children in the name of the Father is a blessing.  Families who feel the Lord calling them out to become foster and adoptive parents are able to learn so much about their own personal journey with Christ.  One such foster parent who was hoping to adopt the child she was fostering, said to me, “The Lord reminded me that they are all His children.  We are just taking care of them.”

It is statements like the one above that confirm my personal belief that when people do what they are called to do, especially when it comes to caring for children, the Lord blesses them with His wisdom, His grace, and His power to withstand many trials.  When the Lord whispers His plan and His calling into the lives of others, they are able to whisper His love into the lives of children.  When one welcomes children, they welcome Him.

Trust Your Heart

The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ – Matthew 25:40

Here’s another sweet story about adoption-

Although Scott and Cammie were blessed with three children, they knew their family was incomplete and yearned for another child.  They were unable to have anymore biological children and had been considering international adoption when Cammie came across an exhibit about adoption of children with Down Syndrome at a convention.  It tugged at her heart and she left the conference with an application in hand.

Upon returning home, Cammie approached Scott about the idea and showed him the application.  He quickly responded with “Why is it still blank?!”  Their family had some concerns but were also very supportive of their decision.  Cammie is adopted as well so it just seemed to be a natural thing for their family to do.  They followed their heart and went through an agency in hopes of being matched with a child who needed a home.

After waiting for two years, they were matched with Addysen, and were so overjoyed!  She was 7-months-old at the time.  Their adoption is considered open and Addy’s birth parents visit once per year, and they exchange emails.  Cammie is pleased to have the level of openness that she does with Addy’s birth parents. This is something she wished she would have had as a child.  She is not sure if Addy will ever completely understand adoption, but they continue to openly talk about it.

Scott and Cammie feel the biggest joy of their adoption of Addy is watching her develop and grow to the best of her ability.  Because of her special needs, they celebrate each skill she accomplishes.  They enroll her in dancing and other activities so that she can develop her social, physical, and emotional skills.  Addy is loved and accepted by her extended family and community.  She brings great happiness to their lives.

The biggest challenge is dealing with Addy’s health issues.  She has multiple complications and spends many days in the hospital.  Scott and Cammie have developed a team approach to taking care of Addysen’s medical needs and lean on each other for support during the difficult times.  They are wonderful parents to her.

Adoption has taught them that each family is unique and special.  It has taught their children that every person is a child of God who is loved deeply regardless of where the person comes from or who they are.  Their advice to families considering adoption is trust your heart.  If you desire to adopt, then you should follow your heart.  Adopting a child with Down Syndrome or other special need may not be for everyone, but they just knew it was meant for them.  Adoption has been a tremendous blessing and they cannot imagine life without it!

On a side note, Scott and Cammie are now foster parents and are taking care of a little one with special needs!  For information about adopting children with Down Syndrome, please click here.  The ministry linked is call Reece’s Rainbow.  They advocate for the adoption of children with Down Syndrome from all over the world.  Many of these precious babies are abandoned, and in need of loving homes.  Here is a link to Cammie’s blog as well The Heflin Family.