It Would Be Easy

It would be easy for us to say no to a situation involving a family member that, if all goes through, will distinctly rock our fairly routine family life.  It would be easy for us to say that we are too busy, too poor, too stressed, too hectic, too old, and far too content in our own circumstances to do anything to help.  It would be even easier to say “it’s not our problem”, and walk away living our own life with our own little family.  It would be easiest for us to sit on the sidelines with our own opinions; yet, not be willing to step out in action, in love, and in faith to help.

It would be easy for us to ignore the need, which in turn would ignore the living, breathing lives of those involved.  When we look at the situation at hand though, we know the decision that needs to be made is not the easy one.  Often, the right thing to do is the hardest.  We also know that if the tables were turned, and we were in need of help, we would desperately want the love of family to stand with us.  We also know we have the ability, the means, the love, and the solid rock that is our Lord to carry us through.

It would have been easy for Jesus to say no.  It would have been easier for Him to say He was too busy, too poor, too stressed, too hectic, too old, and far too content in His own circumstances to do anything.  He did not say, “Father, they are not my problem.”  Oh, it would have been especially easy for the Son of God to circumvent the calling on His life in order to avoid hardship.  Because He chose the hard path that led to a bloody and brutal death on a cross, we have been given new life, abundant hope, and eternal grace.

Our life may be changing in the next month or two.  We may have less time, less space, and less money.  We may have to rely on each other for even greater support.  We may have to be even more fervent in prayer, and patient in the progression of things.  We may have to help our little ones understand the opportunity to imprint love onto someone else.  We may lean on the circumstances to help them understand their own stories.

We may face objection, questions, and fear.  We may ask at times why the Lord led us down this path.  We may even face heart-ache.  I can’t help but think, though, that if we didn’t face these things, then our answer would have been far too easy.

The Gift of This Day

photo (36)Following a day that has shaken most of us, my husband and I decided to get the kids out of the house and visit the local nature center. We are trying to keep the news channels off our television, and to shield the little ears in our home from hearing about the tragedy that took place in Connecticut.  To be honest, we both can barely keep it together when thinking about the precious six and seven-year-old boys and girls whose lives were taken.  All of the children who died were born in 2005 and 2006.

Our son was born in 2006.  He thoroughly enjoys Kindergarten, and is learning so much.  He doesn’t know a stranger and says “hi” to every student and teacher he passes by.  Our walk in to the school building every day has become a ritual of sorts.  I thought about stopping this and letting him off at the door to save time, but after yesterday, I will continue to walk him into the classroom, say hello to his teachers and friends, hug him, tell him that I love him and to have a “blue” day (color card incentive for good choices), and walk back out greeting people along the way.

My husband and I cannot really talk about the school shooting without getting tearful.  The thought of losing a child; especially in such a violent way, is so unbearable.  The lesson that I was reminded of yesterday is not to take any moment for granted and to love our children for the incredible gifts that they are.

photo (40)As the day turned into evening, we baked up a batch of gingerbread cookies for the kids to decorate.  The smell of sugary comfort filled our home while our children gleefully awaited for the cookies to be done.  During this time, I was reminded again of the stark difference between what my day involved and what this day must have been like for the grieving parents, siblings, friends, and grandparents who all lost loved ones, and the sense of security they once had.

I know as the days go on, our family will go about our business of staying busy, gearing up for Christmas, and creating new memories.  I also know that we will get to a place where we can talk about the school shooting without getting tearful.  We will be able to discuss rationally (at least in our home) the pro’s and con’s of gun laws in our country.  I know we will return to a sense of normal.  For today though, I’m choosing to cherish the laughter I hear from the living room, the off-key singing of a boy in a bathtub, and the gift of this day with my children.

Every good and perfect gift is from above… – James 1:17

Letter of Love

photo (33)I’ve known my husband since we were in our early to mid twenties.  We’ve been a couple for about 19 of the 21 years we’ve known each other.  He’s traversed the valley of infertility with me, jumped right in to foster parenting classes, stayed up late at night to feed the babies, and drove our car with extra care while on our way to our adoption hearings.  We’ve basically grown up together in many ways, and parenting continues to grow us.

It was about 4 years ago when we went through a difficult time with employment.  My husband lost a job just a few weeks before our adoption hearing.  I was quite shocked that a company would let someone go right before an adoption, but never-the-less, our adoption happened.  Several months passed by with no potential employment doors opening for my husband.

As Christmas came around, I could tell that he was worried about what to get me.  It didn’t really matter to me anyway as I knew finances were tight, and I had been given the most amazing gift of my sweet boy through adoption.  I was so thankful to be a mother, and to be able to wake up each morning with the knowledge that my life had been drastically and blessedly changed by motherhood.

We really don’t make a big deal out of presents for each other.  Instead, we enjoy giving gifts to others, and that year, we were so excited to see our son’s expression when he woke up.  As the morning progressed, we headed into the hearth room where our stockings are hung by the chimney.

As I reached my hand into my stocking, I felt a piece of paper.  I pulled out a letter (the one pictured above), and had no idea what in the world it was.  As I unfolded it and started reading, I realized it was a love letter.  It was not one of those “I’ve got a crush on you” kind of notes one may get in high school.  No, this was a love letter from a man to a woman.  It was a letter from his heart to mine. It was a letter of one’s humble admission of loving someone else more than that person would ever know.

There I was sitting half-disheveled in my pajama’s with tears rolling down my cheeks clutching a letter.  All of this occurred while my curly-haired 2-year-old squealed with the delights of Christmas morning.  My husband sat there a little embarrassed and a little stoic.  This letter was the best Christmas present I ever received.  From time to time, I pull the letter out and read it as a reminder of how special marriage is, and how lucky I am to have married someone who is one of the most self-less persons that I know.

This morning while thinking about the gift of that letter on Christmas morning, I thought of the love letter that the Lord has written for us.  Scripture really is our love letter from Him.  It is the grounding wisdom of our history, the guide for our every day walk, and the revelation of our future.  It is His promise skillfully described.

The Word brings life, love, and meaning.  The Word transforms us, shapes us, comforts us, and humbles us.  The Word creates for us the ability to stand firm in our faithful knowledge of the Lord, and it confirms to us how incredibly passionate our Heavenly Father loves each of us.

The Word is Love.

The next  time you need to be reminded of how loved you are, open your Bible and read the Lord’s letter of love written for all of us.

Related Article: Letter to my Lord

When Good Things Happen to Bad People

Why does it seem that bad things always happen to good people?  I have often wondered this; even though, I believe the Lord holds all of us His hands, and that suffering is part of the walk here on Earth.

I have been thinking lately of “good” people versus “bad” people.  I can say that I probably have fit, or still fit, in both of these categories at various times in my life. As a believer in Christ, I know that I am not good enough for His redemption.  It is by grace and supreme forgiveness that I am saved.

Being in the field of social work, I hear the awful things that people do to children and see first hand what the years of poor choices have often lead to, but, I also get the “back story” to these people’s lives.  I learn that many of them were abused as children, grew up in extreme poverty, and had absent fathers & mothers.  Many have addictions that plague them starting in their early adolescence and on through adulthood.

I had a client tell me one time, “You’ve treated me better than my own family ever treated me.”  She was 20-years-old, addicted to meth, homeless, uneducated, and just lost her baby to the foster care system.  I was certainly not her friend.  I was the case manager for her and her infant son, and ended up being the one who recommended termination of her parental rights.  However, I was kind to her.  I tried to put myself in her shoes.  It is tragically sad that I treated her better than her family.

I have often thought, “By the grace of God go I”.  Basically, I didn’t grow up in these type of situations and give praise for the Lord’s grace in my life that I’m not living this way now.  There is great heartbreak in our own backyards; yet, so many of us are shielded from the turmoil.

I have had my share of bad things that have happened, but I have also had an incredible amount of good things and good people in my life.  I am left with the thought/question of, “What if good things happened to bad people?”  I mean, what if the world showed more mercy and kindness to those deemed “bad” by society?  What if you and I (you know…the “good” guys) decided to wake up each day with the notion that we are going to make a positive difference in the life of someone who otherwise might be overlooked or looked down upon?

What if goodness and kindness became a habit?

The best thing ever happened to all of us.  Our Lord and Savior chose us.  His love and mercy are incredibly good things that continue to bless us every day.

photo (23)I believe in the power of a redeeming God who loves everyone – “good” or “bad”.  I also believe in His calling for us to love one another.  Maybe it is time for us to show the goodness of His love to others.  I cannot help but hope and believe that if more good things happened to bad people, our world would be a kinder, softer, and more loving place.

What do you think?

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.

Thankfulness

Happy Thanksgiving!  Here’s my top ten list of things I’m thankful for:

  1. Grace – the Lord knows I’m a mess, but He loves me anyway.
  2. Love – my husband knows I’m a mess, but he loves me anyway.
  3. Adoption of my children – my life is much more colorful because of them.
  4. My job – I’m blessed to work for a child welfare agency that understands that our own families come before those we work with.
  5. Freedom – to get an education, to go to church, to live without fear.
  6. Salvation – Jesus chose us over His life.  What a beautiful Savior!
  7. My parents – for their support & for never allowing me to be a victim of my own set of circumstances.  I cannot imagine how painful my hysterectomy must have been on them.
  8. Revelation – the Lord has spoken His will into my life and has shown me that His plan had a purpose & for that I am so grateful for.
  9. Friendships – my friends also know I’m a mess, but they love me anyway
  10. Reading/writing & fellow bloggers – I’m so glad I stumbled onto writing.  I always knew I enjoyed it, but never realized how much of an outlet it is.  Thank you all for reading my blog, and thank you for sharing your worlds through writing your blogs.

Oh yeah, I’m also thankful for moments like these, and so many more!!

Let Them Love You

One part of my job with the agency I work for is to recruit foster families.  I show a brief documentary about a foster/adoptive family to prospective families as part of this effort. The images and story of the family gives a brief yet insightful glimpse into the life of a typical foster home.  It also does a great job of promoting and showing the struggles and work, yet joy that is found in being a foster family.

My favorite part is an interview with a 16-year-old boy who was residing in the home as a foster placement   I’m not entirely sure of his whole story, but I get the feeling that he had been passed around a lot and moved from placement to placement.  In his interview, the teen describes moving into the family’s home and how much he liked it.  He then moved on to giving advice to families who want to foster and adopt out of the system.  His words “Let Them Love You” are ones that are hard to forget.

At first, I thought he meant for children to let the foster families love them, but then I realized that he meant foster and adoptive families need to let the children love them.  Sometimes, it seems foster families give in too quick when a child does not attach right away, or is not the right fit for their home.  The matching of families and children is so difficult when placement is needed immediately.  I also understand the complex and sometimes severe issues that cause disruptions in and out of homes.  However, I just can’t get his words out of my mind.

I have heard many people say “I could never be a foster parent because I would get too attached.”  I know the pain of being attached to a child, yet having to step one foot at a time into the unknown.  I get it.  Despite the hardship of it all, the children need attachment.  They need for families to love them to the point of not wanting to let them go, but they also need families who will recognize that reunifying with birth family is extremely important.

There are over 1000,000 children and youth available for adoption in the United States Foster Care System.  Many are children with medical, emotional, and behavioral challenges.  Many are part of large sibling groups.  Many have meandered through the system without ever setting roots anywhere.  Many are like the teenager who spoke on the video I described above.  Too many are not anywhere long enough to be allowed to love anyone.

I think the best thing those of us working within child welfare could do to make it better is to listen to the kids who are living life in a system made up of judges, case workers, lawyers, and temporary parents.  They have so much to offer us if we just took the time to listen.  We need to hear to their words and take heed to their insights.  We need to give them the opportunity express their hearts and feelings just like the teenager on the video.

We need to let them love.