I Have A Dream…

Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.” Proverbs 31: 8-9

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The past several days have been pretty quiet around our house — both with our adoption process and in general.  Trey has just returned from a weeklong mission to Guatemala, and we have both come down with nasty colds.  Mine began as a bad sore throat and cough over the weekend, which has turned into completely losing my voice all day yesterday and today.  I was sent home from work (at our church) as soon as I arrived yesterday, and I’m staying home today as well — including a trip to the doctor.

I had been so looking forward to worship yesterday morning.  I knew I felt bad, but I was really surprised when I opened my mouth in the car on the way to church, to sing a line of praise with the radio, only to find:  There were no words.  I had no voice.  For some reason, it really hit home for me to think about the “voiceless” all over the world, and how they must have to worship: in spirit, by faith, and in silence.

In my short time without a voice, I have also thought about all the children in the world who might physically be able to cry out, but in reality, they have no voice.  No say in the matter of who gets to take them and where they go and what will happen to them…

In honor of them, and the fact that, even without a voice, I (and we) do still have a voice, I’d like to share with you something that is on my heart.

In the words of MLK:  “I have a dream.”

It’s a simple declaration, really, in the middle of all these updates about our personal adoption process… but I’m learning that processing what adoption means to me is all a part of that journey, too.  So I’d like to thank you, sincerely and in advance, for allowing me to “open my mouth.”

I have this teeny tiny little, big powerful important dream…

That more fostering and adoption would be present in our community, in our church, and in our culture.

Not just in theory, of course — but really.  And not that people would stop having babies biologically.  (In that case, I would be horrified.  And sad.)  Just that MORE fostering and adoption would begin taking place….

This isn’t a dream that’s mine to claim.  Many people share this dream and have fought for it for years.  I’m just one small voice added to the battle cry — but I write this because I know that every prayer and every voice matters to make it louder.

I know you guys know this stuff.  You know the need, and you know about God’s heart for the fatherless.  You know that there are, in fact, MANY “causes” out there worthy of our support and action.  I also realize that not every one of us can be passionately on fire about every single one of them (many things, yes, but not everything).  In His sovereingty, God created each of us uniquely, purposefully giving us different gifts and passions to serve and expand His kingdom as we work together as the body of Christ.

I don’t want to be this flippant, cause-championing cheerleader just because all of a sudden I’m personally invested in something.   The thing is, there is a MUCH greater purpose involved…

It’s taken me a while to see that ALL of our individual stories are part of a much larger story in all of this.  In my own life, my personal relationship with God really began to grow simultaneously alongside a deepening interest and involvement in missions.  I started to realize God’s worldwide mission of redeeming all men back to himself, which includes the orphan, the abandoned, the unreached, the voiceless — and the privileged.  I have only just begun to see how adoption is on God’s magnificent, loving heart.  He is the father to the fatherless, and He is our adoptive Father… the one who does not “just” save and redeem us, but who actually brings us into His family!  “Not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise [who] are counted as offspring” (Romans 9:8).  The recognition of our own spiritual Adoption is inseparable from the living out of our Christian lives.  We are told that the “poor” will always be among us — but the even bigger truth to wrap our minds around is that we ourselves are among the depraved… broken and in need of a Savior.  Saved, and yet also given a Father…

Like the quote says at the bottom of this site:  “We adopt not because we are rescuers.  No, we adopt because we are rescued.”

To be honest, there are FAR more educated, inspiring, well-spoken, and well-researched people out there who can build this case much more effectively than I could ever attempt.  You guys are smart, too.  The statistics are abundantly available if you want to know the where’s and what’s.  The Bible is FULL — cover to cover — with the why’s.  And, Lord knows, there are bookoos* of foster and adoptive moms in the blogosphere who are plethoras of knowledge and experience when it comes to the how-to’s.

So, here’s what I’m NOT going to say:

“Could you find room in your heart to foster or adopt?”

Or any other similarly stated proposition.  (I have to say, I really dislike those kind of questions!)

For one, because I’m not going to question the amount of love in your heart.  I know plenty of people who have plenty enough room for love in their hearts to foster or adopt a child they did not conceive.  (Maybe they just haven’t thought about it before, or maybe they didn’t know they could create a family outside of the “norm.”  Or maybe they are called simply to love the family they already have.)  And, two, because it’s not — and can’t ever be — about GUILT.  It’s not about “should.”  (It’s not even fully about compassion.)

My charge, instead, would be for you to seek God and ask Him to search your heart… to reveal what He might be calling you to.  To point out those “rooms” in your heart reserved for scary questions and possibilities and what continuing to live out the Gospel in your own life might mean.  (These aren’t cookie-cutter rooms that look the same for everyone, by the way.  And they definitely aren’t Pinterest.)  I believe in the power of suggestion, whole-heartedly, but I believe even so much more in the power of the Holy Spirit.  So, if you’re still reading and feel moved to accept: I challenge you to pray intentionally about fostering and adoption.  I’m praying for you, too.  I’m praying for my church, and I’m praying for THE Church.

I know I don’t know everything (or, truth be told, nearly enough).  I’m still learning all the time…  But here’s the [over-simplified] unavoidable truth:  There are many, MANY children out there who desperately, genuinely need a forever home.

Can you imagine the gospel-casting culture that would be created if this was no longer “out of the ordinary”??  If more and more people came to understand both the theological aspect and the missional aspect of adoption?  That fostering and adoption aren’t just for those other people who are “into” that sort of thing?  But that “adoption is about an entire culture within our churches… the church, an entity that transcends both blood kinship and legal fictions” (Russell Moore, Adopted For Life)?  The church as the “justice-loving, gospel-proclaiming community she was called to be” (Micah Jelinek)?  This makes me so excited!!!

No, not everyone is going to be called to adopt.  On the other hand, YES, you might be.  And it’s easier said than done.  But while we here have innumerable freedoms and opportunities, I also believe that many times we are operating with limited vision.  (Too often.)  We don’t even conceive that God MIGHT be calling us to something we’ve never even thought about‚ and, in fact, we’ve never asked Him.  Our affinity to remain incubated in our comfort zones, perhaps our unintentional stereotypes, our fears, get in the way…

I think it might be possible that one common misconception about adoption is that adoption is only for certain “types” of families.  Like couples who already have biological children.  Or couples who have suffered (tremendously) with infertility.  I personally believe that any way God orchestrates adoption is absolutely beautiful.  To me, either way is equally valuable and significant.  But I mention this simply because it might not often be considered that adoption is also for couples who choose to adopt “first” and then might still decide to have biological kids one day… (like us).

And single ladies: There is a huge place — and need! — for you here as well!  We learned in our foster-parenting classes that oftentimes (due to particular situations of abuse, etc.), single women are the most wanted and ideal situation for a foster baby or child.  Because, sometimes, it simply isn’t wise for there to be a male presence in the household at all.  Just check out the blog of this amazing, single, full-time foster parent in her mid-20s, who inspires me to no end (and even let me write a guest post here on her blog back in March!) – Seeing Joy.  And for a single woman who desires a child and chooses to adopt — is the love she provides not far greater than the situation from which the child might come?  Is it above God to create a family in that way?

So the misconceptions do exist, but sometimes all it takes is simply becoming more informed to start turning the ship around.  And even then, no amount of facts or figures can truly represent the stories of real people who have accepted this call.  There are REAL families who are filled to capacity with the love God has blessed them with through fostering and adoption… And REAL families who have traveled a long, hard road — and yet still rejoice.  I am incredibly humbled by their devotion to Christ.  By their pursuit of Him above their pursuit of adoption…

There are a LOT of complicated (and quite sensitive) issues swirling throughout this topic.  There’s a lot of opinions even without voicing a dream!  But instead of avoiding it altogether, I have an even greater fear:

If this doesn’t become a part of our conversations, there isn’t much hope for it becoming part of our culture.

It all starts with vision.  It starts long before the how’s and what if’s, before the words “can’t” and “not (for) me.”  It starts with the knowledge of what’s yet to be set right and the courage, by faith, to consider your own unique role in God’s redemptive plans — whatever that might be.

The Bible presents a dream for all believers, too: that one day “He will wipe away every tear from our eyes.”  Until that becomes a reality (and I believe that it will), what do we do with the grace of our identity and inheritance in Christ here on earth?  I have to ask myself that, too.

Good intentions are never enough, and there is a lot left to learn… a lot left to be done.

But I have a dream… and you’re in it. :)

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* {I literally had to look up how to spell “bookoos“; turns out, it’s a Southern thing (I knew it!)… from the French word “beaucoup.”  Ha!  Fun fact for the day.}

Graduates!

We did it!  We have graduated!!!

The last time I could say that, I was walking across a stage at UNCW, my English/ Professional Writing degree in hand, ready to start a job in the publishing world the very next Monday.

There was no tossing of caps this past Tuesday night.  There was no diploma to frame, no commencement speaker, and, truth be told, I feel a little less sure of myself walking into the future this time around…

MAPP

Say hi to Mrs. A and Mrs. N!

But there was banana pudding.  And two awesome instructors who believe in us.

And that’s saying something.

In case you were wondering, Trey and I have spent two nights a week for the past five weeks attending foster-care adoption parenting classes called MAPP (Model Approach to Partnerships in Parenting) at our county DSS.  The days were long on Tuesdays and Thursdays with a 3-hour class to attend after work.  The A/C went out at DSS halfway through the class and never quite recovered.  Sometimes we’d get a call for a showing of our condo the very next day that we’d have to clean up for after getting home late.  We continued attending our couples small group/Bible study that meets every Tuesday at 7am before work (making Tuesdays an EXTRA long day).  There were a few times we really thought we must be crazy for doing this.  MAPP is not required by our agency.  There was a LOT of work to be done outside of the 3-hour sessions after work twice a week.  And, at this point in time, we aren’t even pursuing foster care.

But I’ll tell you why it was absolutely worth it…

To give some context, MAPP is your first step toward foster-care licensure or foster-care adoption.  It is designed to equip and prepare you to work with children who have been abused or neglected, to partner with birth parents, to help you decide whether foster parenting is right for you, and to show you how to work as a team (in the best interest of the child) with everyone involved (social workers, judges, guardian ad litems, birth parents, etc.).  Foster families are so incredibly needed, and MAPP class is considered “boot camp” for licensure.  They want to make sure you know what you’re getting into…

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Ready to support our county DSS!

We learned about such topics as:

  • Strengths and needs, losses and gains
  • Neglect and abuse
  • Building and maintaining trust, and helping children form healthy attachments
  • Discipline vs. punishment, and helping children manage their behaviors
  • Identity, self-concept, and culture
  • Birth-family connections
  • Disruption and placement plans
  • and defining the family system

Some of the most memorable moments for me were:

  • The “imaginative journey” we took when we stepped into the shoes of someone removed from their family
  • The sticky-note game of defining our 5 most important connections
  • The video about foster care from a foster child’s perspective (“Do you REALLY expect me to be grateful, trusting, and easy to love?”)
  • The interactive game we played on the first night where we matched our strengths with needs
  • and the case study we role-played at the start of the class that was threaded throughout the rest of the sessions.

Our intent in taking the class was simply to learn more (all we can!) about adoption and parenting, and to position ourselves for the next call from God, wherever that might lead in the future.  At this time, upon our completion of MAPP, we are NOT moving forward with the next steps toward foster-care licensure through the state or pursuing an adoption placement through the state (because we are already working with a private agency).  But I can say this for sure: Our minds and hearts have truly been blown wide open to the needs and realities of foster parenting.

foster

I would encourage ANYONE who is interested in adoption to consider taking this class.  It is required if you plan to be licensed foster parents or foster-to-adopt, and it might not be if your plan is private-agency adoption.  But, either way, you are going to learn a ton about yourself in the process… possibly even to conclude that foster parenting INSTEAD of adoption is right for you — or vice versa.  The important thing to remember is keeping an open heart.  You might think yours will break in the process.  That it couldn’t possibly handle giving a child back that has been living in your home for any length of time.  But I would suggest to consider the hearts of these children who are removed so suddenly in the first place (for many different reasons)…

Currently there are 425,000+ children in foster care in America.  There are 9,500 children in foster care in North Carolina alone.  One of the social workers on the panel at graduation told us there are people whose job it is to go to our county DSS every day and receive calls — they literally get that many calls every day.  There are children who desperately need a safe place to live until they can be reunified with their biological family (which, keep in mind, is the first priority).  Sometimes foster care might lead to adoption, but becoming a foster parent means recognizing that fostering is temporary, and that adoption might only happen if it’s in God’s will.

Honestly, I don’t know much about being a parent.  But somewhere in all of this I have come to believe that ALL parents (whether you have biological children or adopted) are foster parents.  Our children belong to God; He has simply given us the gift and the privilege of parenting them while they’re here on earth.  The time we have with them might be cut tragically short, or it might be full and long, but we are fostering God’s children nonetheless…

We would be happy to answer any questions that we’re able to about MAPP or foster care (and please know: we’re nowhere near experts!!).  God is so amazing to have given us the opportunity to learn a little more in this area, and we would be honored and blessed to walk alongside of you in the start of your journey as well.

As Mrs. A would say, “You guys are awesome!!!”

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{Side note: I would also be so happy to have a conversation with any of you personally about the role of the local church in all of this.  This important subject has been consistently laid on my heart and in my path lately, and I would LOVE to discuss it — just didn’t feel as though this particular post was the best or right platform for that.}