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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Advocate Wednesdays: Be a Voice?


As an advocate for The Forgotten Initiative, I often say that one of my functions is to “be a voice” for the foster care community and the needs that exist there.  Lately, I have been thinking about what it means to “be a voice”?  How do I do that?  If I say that God has called me to “be a voice”, what does that look like? 

In working towards an answer to those questions, I began to think of times in the Bible where it talks about a “voice”.  I am not trying to build any kind of theology here!  I will simply share some examples of the word usage and how the Lord has encouraged me.

Examples of the word “voice” in the Bible
God – “you obeyed (or did not obey) My voice”,
“He speaks forth with His voice, a mighty voice”
Collectively - “The people answered with one voice” or “He heard our voice”
Emotional expression– “voice of weeping”,  “cry with my voice”,
“voice of joy and thanksgiving”, “lifted up their voice and wept”
Tool for communication – “He hears my voice and my supplications”
The prophets – “their voice has gone out”, and John the Baptist:
“a voice of one crying in the wilderness”

Now I’ll be vulnerable and share my insights, one by one.  I pray that they are helpful and thought provoking for you.

Right away, I was reminded of the power of a voice.  The voice of the Lord spoke creation into being, and though our voices are not equal to His, we are created in His image and our words similarly hold power.  Proverbs teaches us that death and life are in the power of the tongue.   As followers of Jesus, and with His authority, our words can advance the Kingdom of God in mighty ways!  Whew… that’s a big responsibility.

God speaks to us!  And when God speaks, He expects obedience

Together, the Body of Christ has a voice!  Unity among believers is a proclamation to the world of the great power and love of Jesus.  It’s inspiring and encouraging to know that I am not “being a voice” alone, rather I’m a part of a much bigger community and grand story.  That gives me courage!

My voice needs to go up (to God) before it goes out (to others).  I am deeply dependent on God’s wisdom, knowledge, grace, love, and direction.  Without a personal, intimate relationship with Jesus and constant communication with Him, I am nothing! I heard this advice from someone, “talk to God about people before you talk to people about God.”

I have a lot to learn from the prophets.  They were messengers of the Lord.  The prophets we meet in Scripture were mouthpieces for God in very difficult situations.  Being a voice will not always be convenient or easy.  

The prophets also had unique messages.  In the greater spectrum of orphan care, what specific message is God asking me to share?  When we hear His voice speaking, making sure it’s in line with His Word, we can share confidently and passionately. 

---
Melisha Meredith 
Forgotten Advocate: Columbia, SC
  
After having two biological children, Melisha and her husband Ryan, began the domestic adoption process and through this experience, God moved them to also pursue foster parenting. They serve full time in campus and family ministry through GraceLife Church. As a homeschooling mom, Melisha’s motto is “Make disciples!” She is excited to do this in her family and in every opportunity God gives her.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Forgotten Fridays: Foster Shame

Everyone knows foster care is hard.  If you didn’t know it going in, you’d know it by the time you told the first person you were going to foster parent.  We’ve all heard the responses or even said them ourselves.  ”I could never do that.”  ”How could you ever stand to give the child back?”  ”Those kids come with all kinds of problems.”  ”I’d never want to deal with those parents.”  ”You really want the government involved with your family?”  ”The system is SO messed up.”



While it’s discouraging to hear those responses, there’s a nugget of truth in each one.  This IS a hard process.  Parents, caseworkers, lawyers, “the system”, even the kids themselves can be difficult to deal with.  We persevere because we believe caring for kids who need the love and consistency of a family is the right thing to do, not because this is an easy process.  But that doesn’t mean we don’t need support.

Finding family members or a support network of friends who understand foster care can be a major challenge.  Without a supportive community willing to walk this road with you, it is tough to find the strength to walk through it yourself.  Sometimes it’s hard to find friends who are willing to invest in your foster child and come alongside you because they don’t understand the struggles you’re going through.  And sometimes that’s our own fault.

I think foster parents often struggle with what I call “foster shame”.  We go into this process hoping for the best, but knowing the worst is probably waiting for us.  We hear the concerns of our friends and family that we’re bound to get our heart broken, but we continue on because we believe we’re called to help.  But what happens when we DO get our hearts broken?  Who can we turn to?  It feels difficult to go to our friends who questioned our decision to do this in the first place because we feel this foster shame.  We feel everyone is thinking, “You brought this on yourself, you know.  If you’d just quit you wouldn’t be going through this.”  How can you share your honest pains with someone when you think their solution might be for you to quit doing the thing you feel you’ve been called to do?  Do we really feel we should only do the things that are easy?

We bring this pain on ourselves.  It’s true.  Which is what makes foster shame all the more inhibiting.  I remember after five months of no visits, my child’s birthmom reentered the picture.  We were close to filing the paperwork for adoption (in Nebraska 6 months of no contact means parental rights can be terminated) and had begun to transition in our hearts from being a temporary home for this child to being the forever family.  When birthmom stepped back in services and visits had to be started up again, which was very emotional for me.  After five months of being the only mom, I was back to strapping this child in a carseat and doing the drop offs for visits that served to remind me that I had no control in this situation.  It was really upsetting, but I wasn’t sure who to turn to for comfort.  I knew my supportive family would be as heart broken as I was by this new development and I wanted to be strong for them.  I knew my professional team would tell me that this is just how it goes and we need to let it play out.  I’m thankful for a friend who was willing to let me express my conflicted feelings—my disappointment that things weren’t going the way I’d anticipated mixed with my desire for birthmom to be in a healthy place for the sake of her child and herself.  My friend validated that this was hard, but that we were doing the right thing to love this child.  And a few months later my friend and her husband decided to get their foster license, too.

I’ve felt that same foster shame during our group home days when a kid would break my trust in a way that was very consistent with what everyone had told me would happen, but was still so sad to this mama’s heart who wanted to see change.  I felt it when the worker hired to represent my foster child proved the naysayers right by not seeming to care much about the decisions supposedly being made in the child’s “best interest”.  I’ve felt it when I’ve believed the word of a bio parent and then found them to be untrustworthy.  These are all totally predictable emotions when you’re involved in foster care, but being predictable doesn’t mean they don’t hurt.  They still need to be acknowledged and grieved when they happen.

For my fellow foster parents:  It’s okay to feel frustrated.  It’s okay to have moments of anger or sadness when you see the troubled system you’ve partnered with to try and help kids.  That doesn’t mean you can sit in those emotions or act on them, but don’t tell yourself any lies about how you shouldn’t feel this way because you should have seen it coming.  And don’t let that foster shame keep you from confiding your struggles in a few trusted friends.  Cultivate relationships where honesty is expected and feelings are validated.  Befriend other foster parents who will know exactly how you’re feeling.
For friends of foster parents:  Resist the urge to fix their problems.  Let them say what they need to about the people involved, but don’t let yourself speak negatively.  The foster parent is likely to forgive the birthfamily/caseworker/lawyer as the case moves along, but they may find themselves remembering your negative words and feel less likely to share with you the next time if they think your assumptions are pessimistic.  Ask them questions, validate that this is difficult, but speak words of encouragement to them about the value of what they’re doing even when it’s hard.  Consider being licensed to provide respite care when the foster parents need a break so you can be a physical support to them along with being an emotional support.

This journey is difficult, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth doing.  My hope is that if enough quality people get involved in all levels of the process, we will have the support we need and we’ll see change in the system.  A girl can dream, can’t she?


---
Maralee Bradley


Maralee is a mother of four pretty incredible kids ages six and under. Three of them were adopted (one internationally from Liberia, two through foster care in Nebraska) and her fourth baby came the old fashioned way.  Prior to becoming parents Maralee and her husband were houseparents at a children’s home and worked with 17 boys during their five year tenure. Maralee is passionate about caring for kids, foster parenting and adoption, making her husband a fairly decent dinner every night, staying on top of the laundry, watching ridiculous documentaries, and trying to do it all for God’s glory. Maralee can be heard on My Bridge Radio talking about motherhood on “A Mother’s Heart for God” and what won’t fit in a 90 second radio segment ends up at  http://www.amusingmaralee.com/ 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Advocate Wednesdays: Hear how Emily came to TFI

I have always had a heart for kids. My husband Keith and I met at an orphanage (Casa Vida Y Esperanza or CVE) in Magdalena, Mexico in 2005. The Lord led us there separately, but with a purpose far greater than we could see.
We got married later that year. We lived in Geneva, IL for over two years and God led us back to CVE to work as a family in 2008.

We lived with 10 different girls ages 8-14 during our three years at CVE. Through that time, God opened our eyes to the wounds of children that have grown up in an abusive, non-God fearing environment. We grew so much in those three years, learning that God is all-powerful and that He can heal even the deepest wounds. We learned and saw first- hand how He is greater than our enemy Satan, who seeks to destroy lives.
We moved to Leo, IN the summer of 2011. Since moving back from Mexico, I have had a great desire to serve the Lord somehow locally in my community. In May of last year, I heard Jami Kaeb speak on the radio about TFI and I started giving serious thought to ways in which I could get involved. I have known Jami and her family all my life, and I had been supportive and interested in the work of Lifesong and TFI. I was really interested in all the ministry was doing but didn’t feel peaceful about pursuing anything at that time.

God led us to move to South Elgin and ever since we have been here I have felt  the Lord was prompting me to pursue working as an advocate for TFI. I felt like He was laying it on my heart that now was the time and place. He confirmed it through my husband’s support and the support of other believers from church.

I feel that TFI helps me as a believer practically apply what I feel God calls every believer to do in Acts 26:18… to share Jesus with those around us so that God will open their eyes, turn them from the power of Satan to God, and that ultimately they may find salvation in Jesus.

I know God is going before me and our whole Elgin team. Since talking with our first agency, God has opened so many doors.

Ephesians 3:20,21 is the theme verse for our Elgin team. I love praying it in regards to beginning working with TFI. I am excited to step out of my comfort zone and see God move in a way that only HE CAN! He is able to do so much more than we can ask or imagine if we are only willing to let Him use us. To HIM be the glory!

---
Emily 

Keith and Emily have two daughters and a little boy due this summer. They worked at an orphanage in Mexico for three years. After moving back to the states the summer of 2011, they have been praying about what God would have them do to serve Him in their community. Keith and Emily began to read more about TFI and pray about how they could be involved. Ever since, they have pursued starting up TFI in Elgin, God has opened door after door, proving to them that He is going before them. They are excited to see the ministry grow!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Make a Difference Monday: Do Not Fear What They Fear


We just returned from spending several days together with 2,500 people in line with our hearts. The Christian Alliance for Orphans gathers every year to discuss/plan/pray/act on behalf of the orphan and foster care crisis during their annual Summit. We were blessed to be there for the second year in a row–a tradition I now cherish.
These people gathered shoulder to shoulder with us in Nashville and we all but sang our throats dry and wept a little and held hands up to the sky. We attended seminars and heard speakers, soaked in scripture and furiously scribbled notes on paper. Many of us tweeted snippets of wisdom, blogged from pews, looked around at each other in awe of what was happening in that space. We heard story after story after story. We heard about victories. Many, many victories. We mourned setbacks. Stories that break your heart. Stories that mend them up again. Ones that penetrate your heart with beauty that can only come from a redemptive Savior. Ones that remind us never to stop listening to the stories.
We were rubbed raw with reality. In a good way. My husband and I kept looking at one another and without needing to utter words, we confirmed that we were called. We were refilled and refueled. Commissioned and convicted. Energized to continue, one foot in front of the other until our family’s open arms contain a child or children that need them.
But even when you know what God is calling you to do, it does not make it easy. The unknown is frightening. Internalizing stories–the sad, the brutal, the tell-me-it-isn’t-true stories–it’s enough to make anyone stumble or become afraid.
But our God, our God, knows the skin we wear. It’s no surprise He speaks to our fears throughout His Word.
But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.” (1 Peter 3:14)
Do not fear what they fear.
Do not fear what they fear.
Do not be frightened.
We are blessed.
This life–it is blessed but it’s not necessarily easy. But none of us are called to easy. We are called to a life that requires sacrifice and hard work. Not always fitting in or going with the flow. Sometimes limping. Sometimes being carried. Sometimes carrying others.
To whatever ministry we are called (the orphan, the needy, the widow, the foreigner, the stranger, the angry, the hurt, the unlovable, the frightened, the children, the elderly, our brothers, our sisters, all), we must be bold and courageous and unashamed by the blood and the muck and the dirtiness this world offers.
We must look into the eyes of those whom God loves, one at a time, and respond to the pain in this world. Run straight into it. 
This conference? A beautiful, stunning, heaven-sent reminder of a call. A call to all of us on this journey of showing Christ’s love to others. It takes on many forms but the result? It’s the same.
We are all called.
So, let’s remind each other. Let’s clasp hands with each other. Let’s run into it together with the end in mind. And respond to the pain, help others through it, help them learn to live again and love and be loved.
Let’s not fear what they fear. Let’s not. Let’s be a blessing and be blessed.
---
Katie Phillips 
Katie Kenny Phillips lives in Atlanta with her husband, Jeff, and their three hilarious boys (Bigs, Middles and Littles). Their home is made up of two parts Legos, one part dirt/sticks/rocks/acorns and all parts “whose underwear is this and why is it in the middle of the family room?” She and her husband just started an orphan/foster care ministry called (1) Family at Dunwoody Baptist Church and are excited to become foster parents themselves in the next few months. Katie writes at Operation: Leap of Faith and you can visit her at www.operationleapoffaith.com.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Forgotten Fridays: Real Thoughts from a Single Foster Mama

As I walk through this journey of foster care, Jamie and I stand to applaud the single women we know embarking on this journey of middle motherhood. As they share their stories, they each have refused to settle for what the world considers would be the normal next step for them. They've jumped when it has been scary, trusted when it's been dark. When you consider the places you could join the trenches of foster care without actually become a foster parent, here it is. Upfront, right in your face. They are not called to do this alone. Become their "hands of Hur," as when Aaron held Moses' hands during the battle.

Consider these following thoughts from a perfectly real friend who knows that, Obedience is dangerous. Faith is dangerous. Jesus is dangerous. 

Love the ways she doesn't coat with sugar.

Can I be honest? If your answer is no, quit reading now.

So I'm hitting a few milestones this month. One is my one year anniversary of being a foster mommy. I received my first placement, Little Man, on May 25, 2012. It's been a year of many firsts, but this Sunday brings about a first that I am honestly dreading...

What is Mother's Day to someone who is not Mother?

I will wake up this Sunday having spent everyday for 6.5 months caring for two precious little girls. And for me, it will just be another day. Another day of wiping snot. Another day of making sure that sibling rivalry doesn't turn into sibling beat-uppery. Another day of getting two children dressed, ready, hair done, matching shoes on, and out the door in a timely fashion. Another day of worrying about whether or not I have enough money in the bank for the things that they need for school on Monday. Another day of listening to the fits when they go into time-out for disobeying or pinching their sister's arm. Another day of spending two hours driving to take them to a visit with their Mom...

Their Mom...

We will spend a good bit of this week shopping for Mom's gift and making her something special so that the separation between mother and child will not be quite as painful on a day that celebrates mothers. We will spend Sunday afternoon in the car driving to go see Mom and Grandmother and take them out to eat. We will give her gifts and hugs, spend time loving on her, and telling her "Happy Mother's Day." Then I will bring them back home where we will eat a quick dinner, take a quick bath, and then get to bed to start another week of school.

Am I a mother? Yes, I perform the duties of one. Am I Mom? No. 

In my heart, I know that I chose this. I chose to stand in the gap for children when it isn't possible for them to be with their birth families. I chose to be the one that is not, and never will be, the one that they love the most. I chose to be a single mother of children who are not my own and will only be with me for a season of their lives. 

When I was choosing, though, I didn't really think about the moments that make this an awkward and painful place to be. I didn't think about the moment in church where moms are asked to stand up and be recognized, but yet I don't feel like I have the right to stand, because I am not Mom. I didn't think about the little part of my heart that yearns to be the one that is thought of first on Mother's Day. I didn't think about how hard it would be to see all of those stupid Mother's Day commercials that show a daddy helping his child give Mom a gift while knowing that this will not be anywhere on my schedule this Sunday. I didn't think about how hard it would be to see all of my friends with their families without feeling a pang of jealousy. I just didn't think...

To be utterly transparent, I never imagined how much I would dread this day and wish I could hide under a rock for the duration of it. But I'm glad I didn't think. I'm glad those things that cloud my mind with dread right now weren't a part of my thought process when I was making the decisions that needed to be made a year ago. For where would I be without my Little Man and the many lessons he taught me about love and laughter? And where would I be now without my two spunky little girls who seem to teach me more everyday of forgiveness by forgiving me of my many, many shortcomings? 

So to all other non-Mothers out there... Happy Mother's Day, from me to you.

Follow this brave, perfectly honest woman's blog at Fostering Fancies

You want this gal in your corner :)

Because of the One who sees our unseen moments,

--- 
Catie 

Jamie and I have been foster parents for 18 months have cared for 13 children in that time period.  Five of these have been long term.  In addition to our three spunky biologial sons (8, 6, and 4), we currently have two daughters who have lived with us for over a year, and a son who has lived with us for nine months.  Our hearts in foster parents are to be present and engage with our children's families, so that the gospel can seep through our wretchedness, allowing them to see grace and to know it is not the end of their stories. My personal blogs is www.thishighcalling.blogspot.com. 


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Advocate Wednesdays: A foster care journey

It was just over five years ago.

I sat with Jamie in the old Lifeline Children's Services building on their blue couch.

He held my hand. He was there because he knew this is what I wanted more than anything. Even with three boys four and under, I knew we were called to adopt.

We had her name, Frankie Joy, after me, my grandmother, and my great-grandmother.

We jumped on board with Uganda. It was Lifeline's brand, spankin' new program. Our journey would be fresh.

That night we came home, and Jamie prayed a prayer I will never forget. I wrote it down in my journal the next day...

Father, don't let this adoption journey just be about a baby, a child. Let the journey you grace us with be a vehicle of your glory, your Gospel, no matter how many twists and turns there are.

And there have been quite a few.

God slammed shut the door to Uganda, and we began pursuing a domestic open adoption, believing God was calling us to be His conduit of grace to one hurting mother.

Then, life hit the fan. And, I'm saying that in the most polite way.

As God closed door after door, our season of life grew darker and darker.

Until three years ago, when Jamie sat me down and said, I don't think we're called to one child. I think we're called to bridge a gap. I think we're called to be foster parents.

Uh-uh, no way, I responded, leaping from the bed onto his head.

Give it six months. That's all I'm asking.

Today I was listening to a sobering interview with Kathryn Joyce on National Public Radio. Joyce is a New York journalist and reviewer of religious movements in the political and cultural realm. She has studied and observed Christianity in previous writings. However, her most recent book, The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking, and the New Gospel of Adoption, evidently explores the movement of adoption as a American Christian agenda.

Though I haven't read the book, I've now ordered it. Yet, her interview gave reason to pause.

There are hundreds of millions of fatherless, motherless across the world, and we are commanded to visit them in their distress as disciples of Christ. (James 1:27). Watch the documentary Stuck and be paralyzed in the brokenness and injustice of our system across the world, but also here at home.

Right here in Jefferson County, there are 150 cases waiting for a termination date. Some of these parents are absent; some spinning their wheels and all their resources, attempting to beat the clock before a court date is set. I know. I've been there...more than once. Once that trial is reached, an appeal case can take another year...or two. Suddenly a 9-year-old is 13, and stamped unadoptable, left to age out on his or her own.

It's not one person's fault or problem. It goes back to the red tape, the hoops, and the obstacles. And, I'm fully aware that international adoption is just as messy.

I praise God for His movement of orphan care and emphasis across our Christian community.

But, are we careful to keep our hearts in check, and not allow the good thing of adoption or foster care to become ultimate?

It is because of grace we can serve and pursue these things, yet the end result is not....cannot be that cute Christmas card picture, or even that child. Our hope must be that God is a sovereign God, and He demands glory as His Gospel goes forth in every signature signed, every lost paper, every delayed timeline, every conversation with a social worker, or agency, or friend.

I can say this because this January, I realized I had allowed the pursuit of one child, to become a false king, an idol in my own life. That longing was, and is, a good thing.

Yet in spinning my wheels to accomplish my goal that I was certain God would want to bless, I almost missed what God was doing in spite of my agenda.

I almost missed a young Chinese girl, longing for a place to be known, to be remembered.

I almost missed a little bambina. And as I clung tightly to deciding she must be ours forever, I almost missed her brother and sister who grace our home every Sunday and her grandmother who has discovered there is a God who loves beyond mistakes.

I almost missed her seeking to know she is loved.

I almost missed her hugs, her squeals.

I almost missed their momma and the chance to walk through the darkest valley of her life with her.

I almost missed his fingers around mine and becoming a daughter to his grandmother.

I almost missed the 30 faces, who have longed for a safe place to lay their head. Not one of them has stayed, but they were here for the exact amount of time He appointed.

I almost missed 10 social workers, lawyers, judges, to be the incarnation of Christ to.

I almost missed discovering spaces in my heart, in my marriage, in my children, in my Savior, I never knew existed.

But God, in His great mercy, pushed past my agenda and timeline, to draw me into His own.

How deeply I am loved. How deeply I am pursued. How deeply I am rejoiced over.

Let's not seek adoption, foster care, and orphan care as another Christian agenda, but as spaces to be broken before a watching world as we wait for His agenda, His appointed time, His mercies that are new each morning. Because He who calls us is faithful, even in the darkest hours, as we wait for the children He has written on our hearts, as we hope in the mommas and daddies who have no one hoping in them.

Because of the One who has numbered each moment,



Catie 

Jamie and I have been foster parents for 18 months have cared for 13 children in that time period.  Five of these have been long term.  In addition to our three spunky biologial sons (8, 6, and 4), we currently have two daughters who have lived with us for over a year, and a son who has lived with us for nine months.  Our hearts in foster parents are to be present and engage with our children's families, so that the gospel can seep through our wretchedness, allowing them to see grace and to know it is not the end of their stories. My personal blogs is www.thishighcalling.blogspot.com. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Advocate Wednesdays: Hear from Becky in Bakersfield

I just returned from Summit9 in Nashville Tennessee. My mind is still whirling with all the information, quotes, ideas, and needs I was blessed enough to be exposed to during the conference. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Summit, this is The Christian Alliance for Orphans conference held the first Thursday and Friday of May every year. Nine years ago, at the first Summit, 30 people were in attendance. This year, not a single ticket was left as 2,500 people converged on Brentwood Baptist Church. The passion and enthusiasm is contagious - as are the encouragement and tears that come from being with so many like-hearted believers.

It's nearly impossible to really convey what it's like to spend 12 hours a day, 2 days in a row listening, learning, gleaning, crying, and laughing with others whose hearts have been turned toward the cry of the orphan.

It's powerful.
It's amazing.
It's exhausting.

I came away so full. So blessed to have met other TFI advocates. We may be separated by many miles, but our hearts are united in a common desire to see Jesus use His people to care for the fatherless.

The overarching message of Summit is that we love because He first loved us. We do not foster or adopt or sponsor orphans out of a sense of guilt, or obligation, but because we ourselves have been adopted. In all of our unlovely-ness and unworthiness, our heavenly Father pursued and adopted us into His forever family. It has to be this love that compels us.

I love that "caring for the orphan" can take on many faces. It looks different for each of us, but one things for sure - we are all called to care for the least of these - to defend the cause of the fatherless - to go and do and be His hands and feet. Listening to so many passionate people speak about this calling is inspiring and motivating and convicting!

There's one quote that keeps playing over and over in my head. It was spoken by a young man - just 23 years old. He and his younger brother entered foster care when he was 5 years old. Twenty four homes later - yes, you read that right - t.w.e.n.t.y. f.o.u.r. homes later, they were adopted. This proved to be a nightmare for him and as soon as he was 18, he ran away to escape the abuse. Someone asked him what he would've liked to have had - what could somebody have given him when he moved from house to house? His answer haunts me.

"Well, I guess I really can't think of anything material I would have wanted....What I really wanted was a hug. For someone to hug me and tell me it was going to be OK."

And with that, he began to cry - and so did everyone else in the room.

My friends, he is not alone. Countless other children are wanting a hug, too. Longing for us to open our hearts and homes to them - to introduce them to the Father who will never leave them, never forsake them, never abuse them!

So much of Summit this year focused on foster care and mentoring foster youth who are near aging out. It's a need - a huge need. Just like the many millions of orphaned children in far away lands that need forever families, there are children in your neighborhood that are longing to belong. Longing to be loved. Longing to be hugged.

I left Summit with a burning desire to speak for these children - the ones who wait. I can't say it any better, so I'll leave you with some of the other quotes that stick in my head and leave a lump in my throat....

"We have reduced children to statistics. They are not numbers. They are individuals who need love, family, and to be called by name."

"People are what kept me from becoming a statistic."

"The hunger for love is always greater than the hunger for bread."
(spoken by a young man who grew up in an orphanage in Africa)

"To God, there is no un-adoptable child."

"The foot of the cross is not crowded. There is always room at the cross and if Christ is the center of our home, it's not crowded."
(spoken by an African widow who cares for orphaned children in her village)

"You are never to old to need a family." 

---
Becky

Becky and her husband Dominic have five children and are foster parents. When their hearts were burdened by the enormity of needs in the foster care system, they desired to be a voice for the fatherless. As an Advocate, Becky has a front row seat in watching the Body of Christ use their gifts and talents to share the love of Jesus with the foster care community. 

See what's happening in Bakersfield!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Forgotten Fridays: "Why I Love Lambert"





 A couple nights ago we decided to do a family movie time with the kids.  We made some pizza and the kids picked out “The Fox and the Hound”.  They enjoyed it well enough, but after the final credits rolled I remembered there were some Disney shorts left to play.  So we sat with our three adopted kids snuggled in our laps and watched “Lambert the Sheepish Lion” together.  And (of course) I cried.

As I’ve discussed before, publicly stating you enjoy something with an adoption theme can get you critiqued.  I’m sure there are ways this isn’t a great adoption correlation and probably somebody out there gets offended by Lambert.  I don’t care.  I love him.

For those of you who maybe don’t watch a lot of cartoons from the 1950s, Lambert is a lion who is mistakenly delivered by the stork to a flock of sheep.  He is raised by his mother sheep who loves him dearly and is fiercely protective of him, although the rest of the flock isn’t as accepting.  He endures some taunts and feels left out while trying to act like a sheep.  Then his mother is threatened by a wolf and the “sheepish” lion runs to her defense.  Instead of attacking the wolf, he butts him just like a sheep would.  That’s when I get all misty-eyed.

Foster kids and adopted kids sometimes carry the weight of other people’s assumptions.  There are those who think they are inherently damaged because of their pasts.  They have drug abusing or criminal parents.  They were born with drugs in their system.  They were the product of rape at worst, irresponsible sex at best.  They were sexually abused or physically abused or horribly neglected.  And that’s just their history.

Anyone considering adoption is likely to have heard a myriad of horror stories about “those kids”.  Everybody knows somebody’s uncle’s sister’s nephew who adopted a kid and it “just didn’t take.”  You hear stories about kids that didn’t bond, kids that had severe behavioral problems, disabilities, kids who did harm to the family pet.  It’s enough to terrify anybody away from willingly taking one of “those kids” into their home.  You must be crazy.
Almost like raising a lion.

I am right there with Lambert’s mama sheep.  When somebody implies my child doesn’t belong to me or might end up being a problem, my defenses go up.  I know I can’t protect them from hearing those kinds of words or having to answer difficult questions.  Especially as parents of transracially adopted children, we can’t deny that our family wasn’t formed in the usual way.  People will make assumptions and I am often surprised when they work out those troubling thoughts in front of my children.  We are happy to challenge their assumptions and I absolutely do relish the opportunity to talk about adoption, but it’s discouraging to realize how many people haven’t learned what I know about a child’s ability to work past their history and a parent’s ability to love someone in spite of AND because of their differences.

I remember one really powerful moment early in my days as a housemother in a boys home.  I had some fear before we arrived.  What if one of the boys got violent?  What if I woke up to a child with a knife standing over my bed?  I pushed these fears down, but I was still just a 22 year-old woman living in a house of mostly teenage boys.  It was an act of faith to trust God wanted me there even when I was intimidated by having this mothering role in the lives of these young men.

Then one day I was walking with this group of boys through a crowded outdoor public area.  Brian and I had taken the boys out for lunch together and then Brian saw the blood mobile and decided to go donate. I was left supervising this crew of young men on my own as we tried to kill time until Brian was finished. We walked up and down this little strip-mall area and then got back in our vans to head home.  When we got back the boys told me, “Mrs. Maralee, there were some guys looking at you.  Like, LOOKING at you.  Don’t worry.  We scared them off.”  From that moment on my perspective was changed.  My little lions had pushed that wolf right off the cliff, protecting their Mama Sheep.

I’m not saying these kids were perfect or that I didn’t have scary times.  They made bad choices at times and the organization we worked with tried hard to screen out kids that needed a more serious level of supervision.  There are children who need greater help than can be safely accomplished in your traditional family environment.

But for the vast majority of our foster and adopted kids they are little lions—fierce, strong, brave—looking for their Mama Sheep to love them for who they are and bring out their best qualities.  In return they will love and protect you, too.  A good mother will make it her goal to help her child achieve his best and not feel ashamed of the ways he is different from his parents.  When there has been healing even his difficult history can be a source of strength and pride as he knows you love him for who he is.  Our goal isn’t to make them sheep like us, but to help them see the value in who God made them and to choose to use their gifts for good.

It may be scary to take the risk of loving a child with a history, but when you’ve watched them shove that wolf off the cliff for you, you’ll thank me.

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Maralee Bradley 

Maralee is a mother of four pretty incredible kids ages six and under. Three of them were adopted (one internationally from Liberia, two through foster care in Nebraska) and her fourth baby came the old fashioned way.  Prior to becoming parents Maralee and her husband were houseparents at a children’s home and worked with 17 boys during their five year tenure. Maralee is passionate about caring for kids, foster parenting and adoption, making her husband a fairly decent dinner every night, staying on top of the laundry, watching ridiculous documentaries, and trying to do it all for God’s glory. Maralee can be heard on My Bridge Radio talking about motherhood on “A Mother’s Heart for God” and what won’t fit in a 90 second radio segment ends up at  http://www.amusingmaralee.com/