I’m Thankful for Friends Who Talk Adoption

“You know your Mom’s not your real mom,” he quipped casually.

My heart nearly tripped as the words rounded the corner from the room where my older kids were playing with a friend.

“You’re adopted,” he continued. “Your mom’s not your real mom.”

We’re not adopted,” my daughter countered, “just our brother.”

I cried from outside the door.  I couldn’t speak in the moment, but deep inside I planned out a whole Mama bear list of things to talk to my big kids about later.  I was grateful the comment had no power to threaten their identity, but equally panicked over the reality that those same words might knock my then peanut-of-a-boy over one day.

We’ve always been honest with him about his story precisely so he can own his beginnings and identity.  It’s part of who he is, the messy and the miracle, the painful and the prayed-for.  He is just starting to understand that his story is different from his big siblings.  Most recently he’s started understanding that babies grow inside their Mommies.  He got upset one day when I was telling him about the mom he grew inside of, insisting he’d been in mine instead.  Even though I don’t want him to hurt, I also don’t want to cover the hard parts of his story to protect him, because it will just delay the wound.

But I want him to know at the same time that he is absolutely ours and fiercely loved.  And I wanted my big kids to know to know the same: that I was just as much their brother’s mom as theirs.  No doubt ever.  After their friend left, I told them they should stand up for their brother if they ever heard kids say something like that.  Ever.  It was an important reminder to them and to me to be prepared.

Yet my heart ached over the million imaginary ways my little son might feel out of place, hurt, or unloved because someone else didn’t understand his story.

Still, their friend’s tone had been matter-of-fact, not malicious.  He wasn’t taunting; I believe he was just processing in his own child-like way something that was foreign to him.  So though I was broken by the conversation, I was also thankful to my friend for even trying to explain adoption to her son.  It’s not easy.

What a bizarre cocktail of emotions erupted from one moment.  Welcome to the world of adoption.

People always seem to have something to say, don’t they?  Even under everyday scenarios, someone will be there to tell you to put another layer of clothes on your kid or ask you why you haven’t started your baby on solid foods yet.  Maybe as humans we can’t help ourselves.

But whenever your story is a little bit off the beaten path, people tend to say things that range from comical to extremely hurtful because they just don’t know enough about your story.  Certainly there are some who are just hurtful- who don’t want to even listen.  But I believe most people don’t intend to hurt- they just haven’t had enough experience with adoption so it’s like a foreign language to them, and they need to learn a few common phrases to help them on their journey.

Once a friend of mine was going through a hard situation that I’d never experienced.  I ended up looking up stories and comments from people online who had similar circumstances.  I was so grateful because I’m sure I would have said something absolutely hurtful without meaning to if I hadn’t tried to understand.

And today if YOU are reading this post as we head into Thanksgiving, you’re taking a step towards understanding adoption and I’m so thankful for you.  WE’RE thankful for you, because my friends have some of their own hard and hurtful stories as well.  I hope you’ll listen and learn a little bit about what it’s like to adopt and some simple well-meaning phrases that don’t come across the way you might think.  Some stories are painful to hear, but in sharing maybe we find healing.

Yes adoption is a many-layered wonder of loss and love.  Not all stories are easy or simple to share.  But I’m hoping that as we bring it into the open and talk more, our adopted children will grow up being confident of who they are, without fear that their story is wrong because it’s different.

(Maybe we’re doing OK because our kid so far has no shortage of confidence in being himself.)


Friends Share Their Adoption Stories…

*What people said to them that made them uncomfortable, and how they talk about adoption with their own kids.*

Pamela: (International Adoption- Ethiopia) People often talk romantically about adoption and how “lucky” our kids are to be in our family. I am always uncomfortable with that talk because it seems to gloss over all the loss the children have experienced in their short lives.
Also, I get annoyed when people think that threats of punishment or consequences will be effective on kids from trauma… they have lost their culture, language, birth family, and anything familiar; what could you take from them that is more valuable than those? My children are much more motivated by knowing you love and care about them as a person.

Since our children were older and of different race it is obvious that were adopted. I have always been comfortable telling their adoption story. I believe that when I keep silent the children might get the idea I am ashamed or uncomfortable with their life story. I even spoke to their school about adoption in 2nd grade so their friends could learn their story. Our children did nothing wrong to deserve their difficult start and I want then to hear that message over and over.

Terry: (International Adoption- Korea)  A Hispanic woman made Chinese eyes asking if daddy was Chinese, Other questions, “is he black”, “what is he”, and he has “horse hair”; “chinky chinky chinaman- go back to where you came from” from 5th graders to my Kindergartener on the bus to/from school. Also great was my mom asking for me to give him back so I could get a white one…… lovely.

We celebrate anniversaries – no gifts.. We would show the movie “here comes D” or “E’s arrival” which led to their stories. Dad and I got married and started [a family]…Because we wanted children to fill out our family, we brought you into the family. You joined us on this day, so it’s your anniversary of becoming part of [our] family! The kids, especially E, really enjoyed their videos. They heard pet names used by the adoption staff and could see who was there not only when at the airport, but later at our home.

Caroline: (Foster-to-Adopt)  When I first brought her home somebody asked me, “Where did you get that?” …uh… I’m going to chalk it up to social awkwardness?

I do really appreciate when parents are willing to take the time to explain adoption to their children. My cousins got a book about adoption from the library and read it with their children, and it really helped them to understand that our daughter belonged to our family.

I plan to be open and honest about it [her adoption story], and always allow her to ask questions and talk about it. We will show her pictures and tell her about her birth mom and about how we met her and brought her home, and about her adoption day. We will read books to her that explain adoption at an age-appropriate level.

Lisa: (Private US Adoption) I think for some people it has been hard for them to understand having a semi open relationship with the birth mother. They see it as once you adopt that’s it so why are we having any relations with the birth mother. This has been hard to explain and for them to understand.

Briana: (Foster-to-Adopt) “Why would anyone want to give her up.” This is not true, her mom wanted her very badly but was very sick with addiction and could not provide the care she needed.

I haven’t shared much yet because she is still very little. I do have a shadow box of her outfit she came to us in and some cards sent. I will be open and honest and tell her what is appropriate when she asks.

 

 

 

The Weight of the Wait (and Other Adoption Struggles)

Reading back through a journal can be an abrasive revelation of the state of your heart.

In July of 2013 we’d completed all the tedious Dadoption paperwork, the thorough twelve evening fostering classes, background check and more.  The day we were licensed was like a giant breath in with no thought of exhaling.  Possibility was all I saw on the rosy horizon and my heart swelled with such noble prayers as this one:

July 16, 2013
“I pray that it [adoption] would be your will…that it would be a situation that accomplishes far more than just bringing a life or lives into our family…that you would accomplish justice through this adoption. And while I pray it happens soon, I trust your timing…”

Except I was still holding my breath, in case He hadn’t noticed.  I didn’t really trust His timing; I trusted mine.  I’d put in all the “hard work” and faith of preparing for adoption, and I thought God’s job was to now wave His wand and give me a baby.  Now-ish. The waiting wasn’t part of my plan, and my excitement wore thin.  Less than a month later, my enthusiasm gave way to cautious vulnerability:

August 4th, 2013
“…as I try to process waiting an unknown amount of time for an unknown child in an unknown situation I begin to think of pregnancy as the obviously easier option to increasing our family. Except it’s not an option…it is very hard- I keep seeing babies everywhere and my heart is so ready for another baby.”

My heart hadn’t changed, I was simply becoming more honest.

When you adopt through the foster care system, you get to choose ahead of time what characteristics of a child you are open to or medical issues you feel capable of dealing with.  Are you open to a child of any race?  What age range are you hoping for?  Could you take in a child who has had sexual abuse, drug or alcohol exposure during pregnancy, a family history of mental illness?  If the child is older, what behavioral issues are you comfortable handling?

We were open to a child (or very young sibling set) under three of any race with possible drug or alcohol exposure and minor medical issues, but we didn’t feel we could handle a severe medical issue.  Still, we were counseled to draw our lines of preference a little wider than our comfort zone to stay as open as possible to a match.

Once licensed, you receive calls or emails about children who need homes as they come into care.  As hard as it is to etch your preference in ink, it’s horrifying to have to say no to a little person with nothing theoretical about him.  We had to say no to several children for a variety of reasons, but we believed it was better to know our limitations with two small children already in our home than to say yes out of guilt.

Yet as hard as it was to say no to a child, it felt just as hard to not be chosen for a child.

Even if you agree to take a child that comes into care, you still don’t know if you’ll be placed with that child.  There are many other families in the state waiting as well, and every family that says “yes” to a child gets sorted through to determine the best placement for the child.  If you’re among the final few families chosen, you’re part of the “teaming” process where social workers go through each detailed family profile to match the child with a family.

If you’re chosen, you still have an opportunity to decide that you can’t take the child after hearing their full story and history and sometimes meeting the child.  After being chosen and officially agreeing to take the child, you begin the foster to adopt process.

I kept a notebook of all the children we said “yes” to.  Little did I know we would agree to twenty-six children before actually being placed with a child.  My prayers shifted again:

October 12, 2013
“I’m disappointed. I felt like we prayed with sincere and earnest hearts. I feel like we are being obedient to a calling. So it hurts when God does not seem to be answering our prayers.

January 14, 2014
“I don’t doubt God’s ability- I begin to doubt His willingness to help- that I’ve got to do more- be better- pray another “dumb” prayer cycle with other people- that God isn’t going to answer till I’ve done all that…

Was God unable to help me, or was He unwilling or…was it me?

I had trouble relaxing into God’s plan, into His purpose. If I could convince myself that it all still depended on me, then I could be in control again.  Waiting was like a heavy weight pressing so hard on me that my fear, need for control and doubts were pressed out into the open.

Waiting comes in shades, you know.  Sometimes we wait on what we know will inevitably come, like a holiday or the end of school.  That waiting is bright and clear, illuminated by checked off calendar boxes and heralded by changing seasons.  A wait to be placed with a child is the color charcoal, thick with fog.  It’s the pain of unmet expectation amplified by uncertainty.

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Waiting brought me to a point of honesty with God, of learning somehow to trust who He is outside of what my circumstances were.  Looking back I know I needed that time of being stretched by waiting on God, but it didn’t see it in the middle.  In fact, just days before we were placed, when our miracle was ripening, I pleaded with God yet again:

February 4, 2014
“God I’m losing hope. Nothing has landed yet…I know you are God- that you can do whatever you want- I know that none can know your ways or seek out your thoughts. Yet I stand here, begging you to give us another child. I don’t want to feel like giving up- don’t want to keep waiting with no promise- no hope and no answers- no action. I feel helpless and hopeless and I’m becoming despondent. Please fill me and hear me.”

Less than a week after that prayer my social worker called and asked me if I was sitting down.  He told me we’d been chosen for a little newborn boy- an emergency placement child that needed to be taken home straight from the hospital…today.  I frantically called my husband, crying, and told our two young children that they were getting a new brother.  (Surprise!)

I’d have prepared a bit more if I’d known- maybe washed my hair at least.  I’d have remembered to bring a camera, that’s for sure.  And yet I would have missed out on a different kind of miracle from within the waiting.

The wait gave way to a whirlwind of formula, doctor visits and social workers.  I’ll share more about the post-placement story later, but know this about adoption: If you feel overwhelmed by the uncertainty, you’re not alone.  Maybe you’ve been praying longer, wrestling harder, and still don’t have your answer.  Or maybe you’re like some friends I know whose joy was granted then put on hold again…indefinitely.  I don’t want to pretend that every adoption story ends in cute blue booties or perfect pink ribbons.

The pain of waiting is that you don’t know what’s on the other end or when you’ll be able to exhale again.  But I also believe that if you’re willing, you will learn something in the waiting that you could never experience in only chasing what you know you can achieve or create on your own.

I pray that God will sustain you through whatever your wait is, and teach you more about Himself and your own heart through the weight of the wait.


OTHER STORIES OF WAIT AND OBSTACLES…

Terry: (International Adoption- Korea)- Part of the home study is a full discloser on each parent. Writing is not hubby’s specialty, so we devised an alternative method- we videotaped the Q&A.

[Obstacle of waiting:] identifying why another child was brought over when mine was “next” and all papers were completed x2!!

A big situation developed when we pursued the second adoption. I had wanted a large family, adoption costs were high so hubby said no more after second one. I tried to adopt a sibling group or multiple birth baby from Korea. You pay once for USA fees and 2x Korean fees. I received a call after about 18 months of waiting. Not going to happen, would I accept a single child? I was about to turn 35 in January so said yes, a girl. It broke my heart as I did not believe 2 kids made a large family. We received a call in Feb that a baby was available, only was positive for Hep B. I only had 3 restrictions, “no Hep B, HIV or inoperable physical defects” . This baby was Hep B pos. I called a dear friend, MD who used to work in Korea for years. She advised me to pass on this baby, as child would have issues being placed in daycare (remember this is early 1990). It killed me to pass this baby on but we did. 3 days later, we received another call for a baby. This was E. I had problems connecting with her. I was so angry that she wasn’t 2+babies. She was quite demanding of physical attention (at 24 still is, lol) so much so I had to quit teaching Lamaze classes out of my home. It probably took me about 6 months to finally accept the finality of our family and fully connect with her. She is not the worse for wear.
FYI – D was never a clingy baby. He preferred to sit near, not on our laps.

God taught me to trust Him through this process. He showed me that He knows more than I do about what I need or can handle. E kept us busy as if we had a houseful!

Caroline: (foster-to-adopt)The process of getting calls was really intense and emotionally difficult. Sometimes we had to say no to children because we knew it wasn’t the right fit for our family, but it was very difficult to say no to a child in need of a home. Saying yes was also scary and exciting.

It was also very difficult as we fostered our daughter to accept the possibility that we could lose her if there were biological family members capable of caring for her. Living in uncertainty is very challenging.

Another challenging aspect of adopting through foster care is acknowledging the loss involved. We felt compassion for our baby’s birth mother who had to suffer through losing a child. We wanted to fully enjoy and appreciate our baby while also carrying the weight of the brokenness in the situation.

Lisa: (Private US Adoption) Honestly we were lucky and didn’t have any major obstacles. We had minor obstacles such as the wait time felt like an eternity. Our adoption agency, American Adoptions, was really good at keeping us informed and staying in touch with us through the process…it can be a long process.  [A]t times you will feel all you are doing is paperwork and paperwork that tells all the small details about your life. The waiting can be hard and seem like it can take forever but in the long run the wait is totally worth it.

Pamela: (International Adoption- Ethiopia) We struggled with waiting almost a year to be match to a sibling group. Our first match was with twin boys who were said to have a deceased father but this was discovered not to be true. After that we were shortly later matched to a sibling group of a boy and girl whose mother was supposed to be deceased. That adoption went through and we brought them into our family only to learn that both their birth parents are alive.
We also had to advocate for adjusting school work and emotional support since our children were only labeled a ELL students. I initially homeschooled and then pushed in the classroom to help facilitate all the necessary adjustments.  We also struggled with helping a child deal with sexual abuse trauma.

Briana: (Foster-to-Adopt) My husband was very against a 3rd child and adoption, for the fear of the unknown. I kept praying about it and trusting God had a plan and would change his heart. If one of you in a relationship feels that way I encourage you to not give up. My life and my husband’s life is forever blessed for the gift of our daughter. I thank God everyday that he made her miraculously come into our family and complete it.  

 

 

 

Making Adoption Affordable: 3 Myths and 6 Tips

Today is NATIONAL ADOPTION DAY which is the perfect opportunity to share how to make adoption a little more affordable for those who have been biting their nails over it.  I’m keeping it simple here and hope to point you in the right direction no matter where your search may take you.

But first, let’s start by busting a couple myths that might keep you from ever starting an adoption in the first place:

Myth #1: All adoptions are (crazy) expensive.

Fact: Adoptions range from virtually free to somewhere in the $40,000+ range.  (I’m hoping that number on the right is less scary by the end of this post!) The cost could include agency fees, home-study costs, paperwork and more.  Here’s some snapshots of why costs vary:

Adoptions of children through foster care adoption are typically FREE (state funded) and sometimes there’s even a monthly stipend for caring for the child pre-adoption.  Children in foster care adoption may get other financial benefits such as free state health care or sometimes even in state college tuition. (Our son has access to both of those options currently.)

Private adoptions aren’t covered through state funds, so cost varies based on agencies and situations.  In some cases, adoptive parents help cover birthparent expenses which may increase the overall adoption cost.

International adoptions fluctuate based on country and agency, and you have to factor in plane tickets costs as well.  There may also be additional medical costs if a child has been malnourished, unvaccinated, has an untreated medical condition, etc.

Unfortunately you won’t find a one-size-fits-all chart for adoption costs.  As others have suggested, go to an open house or info session and ask these questions up front with agencies.  That will give you a much clearer picture of what costs to expect for your own journey.

Myth #2: You have to make a ton of money to qualify for adoption.

The State (foster adoption) and agencies (both US and International) may provide different income guidelines.  But you don’t have to be wealthy to adopt.

When we adopted, I wasn’t making any income so we relied solely on my husband’s modest salary.  In fact, we were on State insurance which I feared would immediately disqualify us from adopting.  Our social worker assured us that we were OK and the state is more focused on whether families are able to cover their monthly expenses and care for a new child. What a relief!

Myth #3: I’ll never be able to afford the adoption I’m longing for.

If you’re hoping to adopt, you might be surprised at how many average, non-Richie Rich families have gone before you.  The cost of adoption can be prohibitive and overwhelming at times, but you’re not alone!  Although our foster-adoption came at virtually no cost to us, I want to leave you with the following 8 tips for raising funds and pursuing your adoption goal:


Tip #1: There’s More Than One Agency Out There…

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When you start investigating adoption agencies, you might be tempted to assume that they all have essentially the same policies and fees.  This can cause you to give up quickly if you encounter an agency that doesn’t seem to fit with your financial needs or situation.

Don’t give up!

  • We turned down working with one agency that wanted all the money for the adoption up front before placement.  We simply didn’t feel comfortable with that.
  • We wouldn’t have financially qualified for private adoption through another agency.  (This was discouraging, but thankfully it didn’t stop us!)
  •  The third agency wouldn’t have disqualified us from adoption based on our income, and would have offered us a payment plan to afford our adoption after we were placed.

Keep trying till you find what works for you!

Tip #2: Grant Me a Grant!  There are numerous adoption grants available for adopting special needs, harder to place children, plain old financial need, etc.  Don’t be afraid to research and apply!

Check out this adoption grant link to get started and even request a free adoption funding kit!

Tip #3: Invite Family & Friends to Partner With Your Journey!

There can be a stigma around asking people for financial help, especially when not everyone understands our way of growing a family.  However, you’d be surprised how readily people want to pitch in.  Not everyone is able to adopt, but so many are excited to support others who do feel able.

You could send out support letters explaining your story and asking for financial help or perhaps talk with a family member about an interest free loan.  Check with your church or other community groups– they may be able to provide additional support.

If you’re uncomfortable asking for funds directly, definitely talk to friends and family about helping YOU raise money through tag sales, fundraiser events, or whatever crazy scheme you come up with! (More crazy schemes to follow!)

Tip #4: Take Advantage of Holidays

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Friends of ours once fundraised by selling home-made ornaments around the Christmas season.  The ornaments were easy to make (and an easy amount to ask people to pay!)  The built in benefit is that people who purchase get to hear your story and remember you in their prayers and thoughts as they hang your decoration on their own family tree!

You could do similar crafts for sale around Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Thanksgiving…Get Creative!

Tip #5: PINTEREST!!

Wow, have you been there recently?  A simple search for “fundraise for adoption” brought me straight to some amazing links like this one: “78 Adoption Fundraising Ideas”. Not only will you find some great ideas, you’ll discover other families like you who needed help making finances work.  (Knowing you aren’t alone is like chocolate to the soul…it makes everything better!)

Tip #6: Ditch the Piggy Bank and Fundraise ONLINE!

Even since three years ago social media has exploded and your options for reaching more people to help are incredible.  Sites like “Go Fund Me” enable you to raise money without having to physically canvas neighborhood for funds (which would be right at the top of my stressful dreams list.)

MORE ADVICE FROM MY FRIENDS…

Pamela (sibling adoption from Ethiopia): We adopted siblings( brother 6 yr and sister 4yr) through international adoption from Ethiopia; we choose this way because God put it on both my husband and I to offer a home to children in need since we had been blessed so much materially but lacked the savings to begin. This agency had a fund to help with hard to place kids.The agency had us apply for funds available to help cover cost of agencies adoption costs and then we paid for home study fee, legal document fees, and travel expenses out of pocket. We did receive a large tax credit from US income tax in the year we finalized adoption.

Lisa (Private Adoption): At one point we did a small fundraiser but we mainly had help from our families.

**TAX CREDIT UPDATE: As of November 2017 the National Adoption Tax Credit has been saved!

If you want the full blown IRS account of what the adoption tax credit could mean for you, here’s a link!

Missing My Son’s Mom: An Adoption Confession

Psst…for those who are new, it’s a November Adoption Celebration Month on my blog!  Have you ever wondered or worried if you’d be able to handle a relationship with an adopted child’s birth parent?  Find courage in reading my personal story and the perspective of my friends at the end of the post!  Thanks for stopping in! 


It’s irrational to expect to meet an intimate stranger at a retail store- but welcome to my irrational imagination. I scanned the Babies “R” Us for any sign of what I believed her face must look like. Why on earth would she be here of all places? You don’t have to convince me I’m crazy. I’ve never actually met her. To be honest, I don’t even have a picture and I don’t know where she lives. But I know her name. And I know I see pieces of her in my now three year old son…because the woman I’m looking for gave birth to him.

Photo Credit: Mysticsartdesign (pixabay.com)

We have friends for whom the decision to adopt seemed quick and calculated. Our desire was always there, but we meandered and poked and investigated quite a bit before deciding to pursue a child through the foster care system. By the time we jumped in we had two young biological children, but my heart longed for another baby. After six months of licensing and home study, and seven months of waiting (a story for another time) we got a miracle phone call and our lives swelled to make room for a three day old infant with no name.

My husband found metered parking by a snow bank near the hospital in the dead of winter, me with grungy hair and a gloriously bewildered heart. We met some social workers in the lobby, then down a hall, up an elevator, wrong floor, elevator down, and stopped. That final antiseptic clean hallway we conquered is still etched in my memory. There was a small conference style room at the end on the right where we were told to wait. Wait. Wait for a little boy with a total of zero shared DNA that we’d only known about for 72 hrs.

The door opened, and they wheeled in a tiny baby with a nose that melted my heart (I’m so serious) in a slightly oversized Christmas outfit, even though the holiday was well over. Now what? With my biological children, people asked in the hospital if they could hold my baby. But this was foreign territory; a baby not from my own body. I found myself asking someone else permission to pick up that precious almost-mine child. Seven something pounds doesn’t do true justice to the weight of the miracle I held in my hands that day.

Our first family picture the night we brought our foster (soon to be adopted!) son home.

As beautiful as that hospital moment was and remains to me, it owns an untold sadness as well. Though we often want to view adoption through the celebratory lens of love that grafts a new limb on a family tree, it’s not natural for a limb to need a new tree in the first place. As I heard at an adoption group early on, no adoption story comes about without loss first. That hospital may be last place my son ever encounters his biological mom, the one who brought him into this world and carries a family history I know so little about. I had no idea how painful it would be to own just tiny scraps of the story that rightfully belongs to my son.

Initially we had some limited contact with our son’s biological brothers, and though we haven’t had the chance to see them lately, I’m beyond grateful for those moments. They’ve each been able to hold him as a baby, and one brother even passed our baby’s picture along to his biological mom. Briefly we thought a window might be opening up to meet her, but she never reached back out. I don’t judge her for it; her life is full of it’s own grief and loss, that I’ll never be able to know or erase.

Why was I so afraid of contact with the birthparents when we first started our adoption journey? In my insecurity, I couldn’t imagine trying to maintain a relationship with a woman who, in my mind, had a stronger claim to my child than I did. How agonizing might that be? But by the time we were waiting for a child, I knew in my heart that I would make room for that possibility because it would be in my child’s best interest. We would adopt not just this child, but his story as well.

I never dreamed of the pain on the other side of the coin. I never conceieved we simply wouldn’t know his mom or dad at all. In all my rosy adoption dreams, not one included me frantically searching the internet, or the aisles of a random Babies “R” Us, for a strange, precious face. I’ve dreamed of his mom and long to be able to look into her face and see my son’s eyes, or cheeks, or (bless me) his nose. I can only offer him his resemblance to his biological brothers as we have their pictures and I share them when I tell him his birth story. This is his thread-bare history-the bits and pieces of his pre-story melted into the story of how he filled our lives with joy. But I long to give him more.

Oh I know there’d be a distinct pain in the knowing, in the seeing. Maybe it would be much harder than I imagine, trying to let my son grow up knowing two moms. Would he face a more personal rejection? Would he struggle to make his two worlds fit together? I can’t speak into that because it’s not our story. But for those who have always thought like I did that it would be better not to muddle through an open adoption, communicating with your child’s biological parents, I can only say there’s a deep loss to not knowing them as well.

When we send our children off to school for the first time or to camp perhaps, we often feel we’re somehow missing a piece of who they are by not being with them. We eagerly anticipate asking them how their day was, who they played with, if anything bad happened, so we can fill in the gaps we missed. Because our child’s story is part of our story and we want to own all of it. The same is true of my adopted child: somehow I feel I’ve missed a piece of who he is by not being there to access and know the roots of his life that are invisibly intertwined with mine. There are questions I can’t ask or answer: Where did he get his whimsy and love for dance? Is his extroverted self a carbon copy of his dad? Did that smile get passed down from a great-grandfather? And those are just the tip of the iceberg. In the end, I’m simply left with swiss cheese pieces of his heritage.

Maybe one day we’ll learn a bit more about his biological mom and reconnect our son with the thread of his past that remains. In the meantime, I’m not sure I’ll ever stop wondering where she is and trying to find her face in even the least likely places. Whether I meet her or not, she’ll always be part of our story.

 


 

Thoughts on Birth-parents from other Adoptive families…

Caroline’s Story: (foster-adoption) “Our daughter’s birth mother visited her several times when she was very young.  It was important to me that I always treated her with kindness and compassion. I wanted to make sure I respected her dignity and I hoped that she would see that her baby was being taken care of by a safe and loving family.” 

 Lisa’s Story: (Private US adoption) “We have a semi open adoption with G-‘s birth mother.  From day one we decided we wanted G- to know her story.  Once she turned 3 and could kind of understand things we started mentioning her birth mother as her ‘tummy’ mommy and that she couldn’t care for G- the way [my husband] and I could so we adopted her.  We would read adoption books to her and still do to this day. She seems to get it…as much as a 4 year old can.  We also have made it a point to meet with her birth mother once a year and we send her pictures every month.  We want G- to know her story and if in the future she wants a relationship with her birth mother that door has already been opened for her. 

Briana’s Story: (foster-adoption) “We met her [birth mom] a few times and agreed to send a few emails a year.  She has not responded to them since the first one.  We are open to emails and letters but not interested in visits.  We might be when F- is older and has a better understanding of the entire situation.

Pamela’s Story: (Sibling Adoption from Ethiopia): “Since it is an international adoption distance hinders relationship with birthparents/family. We worked with another agency program to locate birth family and send letters and photos of children. We intend to travel back to Ethiopia in a couple years to reconnect with birth family. We describe our family as a blended family so that the children maintain their connection to birth family within our family.”

TERMS DEFINED:

Closed adoption: An adoption in which the adoptive parents do not maintain any kind of relationship with the birth parents through visits or correspondence.  This was once a very common kind of adoption, sometimes with parents never telling their child about their adoption at all.  But studies are showing more benefits to open or semi-open adoptions, though they aren’t always possible.

Semi-Open and Open adoption: Adoptive and birth families maintain some form of ongoing contact.  This could mean the adoptive family sends emails or pictures to the biological parent(s).  It could even mean occasional visits.  In private adoptions, an agency usually helps coordinate the parameters for ongoing contact.  Semi-open adoption involves non-identifying contact (bio family doesn’t have access to adoptive families last name, address, etc.)- but correspondence (and even visits- see Lisa’s Story) can occur.

In foster-adoption, prior to adoption, the state will decide the amount of contact the biological parent has.  The biological parent is given specific goals to reach in order to be reunified, and visits are often a part of that.  The state may also require that the foster-child visit with his or her biological siblings.  Post adoption, the adoptive families can decide what amount of contact with the biological family is safe or healthy or their child.

Agencies, Social Workers and Adoption Types (Oh My!)

Once you truly understand your own story and why you want to pursue adoption, you will have a clearer sense of what TYPE of adoption makes sense for you.

There are two basic categories of adoption*, with many subsets: DOMESTIC ADOPTION and INTERNATIONAL ADOPTION.   (*A third type of adoption is Embryo Adoption, which I’m hoping to have a friend share more about in a future post.  Check out the link if you’re dying to know more now!)

  • Domestic adoption is more of what I’m covering here as it can include any adoption from the US, including private adoption, family member adoption, adoption through foster care system, etc.
  • International adoption is any adoption of a child not born in the United States.  (Note: I do have many friends who adopted internationally, including one woman’s story I’ll be sharing throughout this month’s blogs.  If you have specific questions for them I’d be happy to pass those along to my friends!)

**Since I’m not experienced in all the adoption areas, I encourage you to check out this website for a more comprehensive look at each type of adoption to see what might be a good fit for you.

As you explore adoption options that might work for your family, I’d like to remind you of a couple things to keep you from getting paralyzed in fear or inaction:

  • Every adoption type has it’s own unique risks and blessings.  I think most of us want to find the quickest and least painful way to adopt a child.  We think we can minimize our risk by choosing the “perfect path”.  (BTW, if you find that path please let me know because I’m still looking!)  But nothing in life worth doing is risk-free (from purchasing a home to getting married, from pursuing a degree to writing a book).  As I told someone recently, if you have a passion to adopt or a passion for orphans then there’s a greater risk to your soul in NOT stepping out than in stepping out.  Don’t choose not to adopt simply because you’re afraid of choosing the “wrong path”.
  • There isn’t a “right” way to adopt and all adoptable children are equally worthy of adoption.  Often we get so amped to share our stories of adoption that we can make it sound like our way is the best or only way to adopt.  We might come off at times like the only right way to adopt would be through foster care, or from Ethiopia, or ___________ (fill in your story).  There’s not some chart somewhere that graphs which children are more worthy of adoption than others- all children are worthy and your path will be unique.  Whether you adopt a healthy five year old from the foster-care system, a one year old with down-syndrome from China, an infant through private adoption, (or any other variation), you shouldn’t feel guilt because you think someone else’s story was “truly sacrificial” or more important.  Like I said, let other people’s stories inspire you and stretch your mind to embrace a story you might not have considered, but please let’s drop the “should” because they really don’t help anyone!

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, I’d love to share a few personal starter stories of friends who have adopted.  You’ll hear more of their answers through more blog posts.  To protect privacy, I’m giving made-up names for these friends and their children, but most are happy to talk more if you’re interested in following up with more questions.  I also give one caution: each story represents someone’s unique experience.  Since adoption agencies and regulations shift from year to year (eve in the three years since we adopted!) I advise you not to use these stories as guides not rules.  I tried to provide links to any agencies listed, even if the experience was negative, because it’s possible that agency or group that didn’t work for someone else would work for you or has updated to become more user friendly.  With that said, let’s get started!

MEET TERRY! 

  • She adopted two children internationally.

We were adopting in prehistoric times- late 1980’s.  We were told the State/DCF will not provide any sort of adoptions [Carrye’s note: this is no longer true!] so we checked out other options.  Catholic Family Services– we would have an 11 year wait as neither of us was catholic.  Thursday’s Child- were possessive of the adopted child pose placement- ridiculous rules.  My sister’s neighbor adopted from Korea thru FCA and had a great experience.  We were basically self-educated on adoption; it was difficult to find agencies to work with.  We were limited in which country to adopt from due to cost and time off work for various residency requirements (prior to FMLA) and due to family extreme prejudice, what “kind” of baby would be accepted.”

  • What organization she used: Straight placement through Family and Chidlren’s Aid of Norwalk.  They currently have an office in West Hartford and name changed to just Family and Children’s Aid.
  • How she raised funds: “We used up any savings we had.  Made two payments prior to placement and third on delivery.  We were on our own.”  [Carrye’s note: the landscape of adoption fundraising has changed significantly- more details on that to come!]
  • Her suggestion for people just starting out: Keep a binder with a list of organizations you are looking at.  Try to keep a note on each place- who you contacted, how did you feel about pre/post placement requirements (rate 1-5), how comfortable were you while discussing (rate 1-5), how about the financial requirements + the inevitable incidentals that come up (rate 1-5).  Be sure to list anything that feels wrong- requirements, timeline, $$$, etc.  Just a few word, not the kitchen sink.”  🙂

MEET CAROLINE!

  • She adopted through DCF Foster-to-Adopt program in CT. 

We considered both private and DCF, but a few factors that influenced our decision were cost, waiting time, and understanding the need for safe and loving homes in the foster care system.”

  • What organization she used: Waterford Country School
  • How she raised funds:  “Not Applicable- the state provides all the funding for DCF adoptions through foster care”
  • Her suggestion for people just starting out: “We were fortunate enough to have friends go through the process before us so we had a good understanding of how it worked.  We took it one step at a time, and prayed and talked about it as a couple a lot.” 

MEET LISA!

  • She adopted an infant through Private Adoption in the US.

“We decided on private adoption because we knew we wanted a newborn and a child that wasn’t foster to adopt where we had the chance that the baby might be taken away from us.”

  • What organization/agency she used: “Waterford Country School did our home study and pre and post placement visits.  Our adoption agency was American Adoptions.”
  • How she raised funds: “At one point we did a small fundraiser but we mainly had help from our families.”
  • Her suggestion for people just starting out: “I would want them to know that it can be a long process. That at times you will feel all you are doing is paperwork and paperwork that tells all the small details about your life.  The waiting can be hard and seems like it can take forever but in the long run the wait is totally worth it.”

MEET BRIANA!

  • She adopted through the DCF foster-to-adopt program in CT.
  • What organization/agency she used: “…[we] used a private agency through Waterford Country Schools. It was grant funded to use WCS.  We had heard that a few families from our church had gone this route and had a great experience.   We knew we would be getting the same social worker who came highly recommended.”
  • Her suggestion for people just starting out: “Go sit in some information sessions and just get things started.  It seems overwhelming but once you get the ball rolling there are people around to hold your hand through the process and make it very doable.  We were blessed to be supported with amazing social workers.” 

TERMS DEFINED!

Home Study: This is essentially the review of your home and paperwork (performed by a social worker) of your family background/situation to make sure your home is safe and your family is able to care for a new child.  At first I viewed this as a test that I was afraid to fail, but it’s better to view it as preparation for you and your social worker.  If your home has minor issues (peeling paint, needs updated child safety locks, etc) your social worker doesn’t “fail” you…they tell you the areas you need to fix to bring your home up to their standards.  Then you continue your process!  It also gives the social worker a chance to get to know who you are uniquely as a family.  This information helps future social workers or, in the case of private adoption, birthparents who are looking to understand what kind of family they’d like to place their child in.

Social Worker: An adoptive social worker is a licensed professional who helps families/children in various steps of adoption.  They can work for agencies or the government.  We had one social worker (primarily for us as parents) that did our home study and called us to tell us about potential children we were matched with; another we only knew briefly as she was in charge of actually finding placements for the children that came into DCF care; yet another social worker (technically our son’s social worker) visited us regularly while we were fostering our son and gave us updates on paperwork and where the State was in our adoption process.  The social worker who did our home study also checked in on us periodically while we waited for a placement, went to the hospital with us to help us pick up our baby, and checked in on us afterwards as part of post-placement services.  Our two long-term social workers became friends to us, and were both present at our son’s adoption in court!

Me holding our son for a first official post-adoption family picture with our amazing judge in court.

This has been a lot of information to throw at you at once, but I hope that it’s been helpful!  Tune in next time to learn about Open/Closed adoptions and my personal story for those that are afraid to know their adoptive child’s birthparents.  I’m looking forward to continuing the conversation!

 

 

 

 

Embrace YOUR Story: Reasons for Adopting

“Do you want to have your tubes tied?”  I was 23 years old and pregnant with my second child when my doctor asked me this question.  No, she wasn’t being insensitive or doubting my ability to parent more children.  But after watching my journey through pregnancy with type-1 diabetes, she wanted to make sure that I knew what another pregnancy would mean.  There would be more ups and downs.  There would be more chance for problems.  Did I really want to push it and risk my health or a future child’s?

I believe whatever child I might have delivered would be worth the pain, but honestly I was scared.  My second pregnancy had come with a hospitalization I hadn’t planned on due to diabetic complications from…the stomach bug.  How many pregnant mommas end up in the ER over THAT?!

Two stressful diabetic pregnancies unexpectedly unearthed a dream of adoption that had been blooming somewhere in the recesses of my brain since I was young.  It was filed back deep in my box of passions, bolstered through listening to missionaries to orphans abroad and watching friends and relatives adopt as I grew up.  Their stories were indelibly seared in my heart where I still carried them when I got married at age twenty-one, but diabetes made me pull those dreams out, polish them up, and chase them with my whole being.

Looking back, if I could find no other joy in diabetes, I’d be thankful for the way it brought me to my miracle third child.  No more a miracle than my others, but somehow I recognized the pure, unmerited gift in him in a fresh way, with nothing but faith in God to unite us.  And yes, I believe there’s a divine reason he’s part of our family.

So diabetes brought me to a desperation deep enough to pursue adoption even though I had no clue what I was doing.  It’s a huge piece of my story.

What is your story?  I know there are many who adopt because of infertility, others who adopt because pregnancy would be hard for them with medical conditions.  There are families who adopt because they feel strongly called to look after an orphan or child in distress, and others who specifically look to adopt kids with special needs.  Some feel there is a hole in their heart without another child, and others simply feel drawn to make room in their hearts for one more.

You shouldn’t feel guilty if your story of adoption doesn’t start just like someone else’s story.  If you try to compare your story or motivations with someone else’s, you’ll always feel like something is wrong with you.  Instead, own who you are and the unique losses or victories that brought you to this place.  Be honest with yourself because that will shape which path you choose on your adoption journey.

While we were waiting to be placed with a child, I became so desperate at one point that my prayer to God shifted away from my honest heart and I started praying whatever I thought God wanted to hear.  Maybe if I was open to older children with more special needs God would be answer or be more pleased.  I really wanted an infant but I thought maybe that was asking too much, or that maybe I was a horrible person for saying no to older children who needed a home.

But along my journey, I learned to be honest with myself and even with God.  Sure, he has the beautiful ability to take our desires and shape them into His own, but we don’t need to hide our hearts from Him.

And we don’t need to hide our hearts in all their weary expectant mystery from our own selves.

This doesn’t mean we set unrealistic expectations of adopting the perfect rosy child who smiles on cue, always eats her vegetables, and has zero baggage from her past.  I’m sorry, biological children don’t come with any such problem-free guarantee either!  Don’t close yourself off to a blessing of a child in the pursuit of an elusive “perfect”.

At the same time, don’t try to say yes to a path to adoption that isn’t right for you, or feel guilty about not taking a child that you don’t think you’re capable of caring for.  Know yourself, give your heart to God, and then trust Him in the waiting.

(Pst.  It’s a lot easier said than done.  More on the waiting in a future post.)

Also take the time to educate yourself and hear other people’s stories.  Someone else’s story might stretch your view of what’s possible, or it may make you say, “Nope! That’s not for me!”  That’s OK.  Either way, you’re learning something important about yourself and your journey.

I found this link in my search for tools, and it seems like a great beginning for those not sure where they stand with adoption.  So for a first baby step, I encourage you to check out “Questions to Ask Before Adopting”.  It will guide you through some initial self-investigation to sort out your heart and some possible next steps.

If even that feels overwhelming (you’re not alone!), maybe start writing out or thinking through your own story.  What events and people have shaped you strongly?  How did adoption end up on your radar?  Who can you share your heart for adoption with who will encourage you and help you wrestle through your thoughts?

I hope as you continue to follow my blog you’ll continue to find confidence to step out and dream a bit more.  Next time I’ll talk a bit more about the kinds of adoptions you might pursue and share a bit from my friends! Thanks so much for joining, and as always, feel free to reach out with any questions or comments.

 

Adoption Starts With a Story

November is National Adoption Month and I’m celebrating big on my blog! Maybe you’ve always wanted to adopt but your questions so far outweigh your answers that you wouldn’t know where to start.  If that’s you, I hope you’ll find encouragement, practical advice, and some resources to move you even a little farther along in your journey.

If you have no desire to adopt, I hope you’ll still find a fresh awareness of adoptive families as you learn more about the journeys of myself and a handful of friends.

If you don’t like kids at all…well…check back in December.  🙂

So why should I be telling you about adoption?  For one, because I’m not an adoption expert.  (The first thing you should know about adopting is that you don’t have to be an expert to pull it off.  It helps to have some facts and to prepare yourself for your journey, but what you most need is a heart to connect with a child and perhaps the physical ability to chase them around a grocery store.  But that’s getting ahead of ourselves.)

The truth is, I’ve invested numerous hours in personal adoption research spanning private domestic, overseas, and foster-care adoption.  I’ve had in person or phone interviews with a few agencies.  I’ve made intentional meetings with friends who are adoptive parents, wielding notebook and pen to jot down their every insightful thought on adoption.  I have relatives who have adopted and graciously allowed me to peer into and even be part of their family’s story.  I’ve read and skimmed through stacks of books and websites to satisfy my curiosity on the subject and prepare for our own adoption.

I’ve also spent months getting licensed (home study, paperwork, background check and all that jazz) in order to adopt a child through foster-care adoption in CT (DCF).  In 2014 we brought an infant child into our home and were able to finalize our adoption in court about a year later.  So I have a lot of practical experience and a passion for adoption that kind of just oozes out of me at this point.

But I’m not an expert because I’m not sure such a thing exists in adoption world.  “Adoption” is a term that refers to such a wide range of families, situations, and constantly fluctuating legalities, that no one person really has the definitive answers.

Some of you are thinking, “EXACTLY!  How can I adopt when it’s so hard to find answers?  P.S.  I thought you were supposed to be encouraging me, not overwhelming me.  Gah!”

Before you lose heart, the beautiful thing about so many kinds of adoption is that there’s no one right way to do it.  Instead of feeling trapped by overload, breath in the fact that options are your friend.

Also, you don’t need all the answers to get started.  I believe it’s far more important to know others who have taken the adoption journey ahead of you- to know you’re not alone- to know where to turn when you need some advice.  That’s where this experienced-but-non-expert comes in.

When I first started out, adoption was like this crazy out-of-reach dream that only a handful of people I knew had accomplished. Mostly it was for rich celebrities and people with perfect houses who vacuum wearing pearls and take family pictures where everyone is not only smiling but wearing matching clothes custom made by a clothing company I can’t pronounce.  Minimally, it was for people who knew what they were doing.

Then I started talking to people about adoption- normal people with kitchens that sometimes piled up with dishes like mine and whose children weren’t glowing and angelic 24/7.  And these people didn’t claim to have all the answers; in fact many of them had more questions than before they started.  But they’d adopted anyway.  I found out that adoption isn’t perfect and neither are the people that open their lives to it.  And in those imperfect stories I found courage to step out.

Think about it a different way: suppose you were a high school senior who didn’t personally know anyone who’d ever been to college.  You were faced with a bajillion college choices, application deadlines, and majors to pick from.  You might have lots of great information and guidance counselors, but you’d be daunted without being able to hear someone’s story first hand.  How did they pay for college? How did they feel confident in their decision of schools?  What do they wish they’d known before they started their freshman year?  What you need is a story.

Textbook or professional answers are practical tools to move us along in our journey, but personal stories fuel our courage to begin and a passion to sustain us in our journey.

That’s what I want this month to be about on my blog: personal stories to fuel your courage to begin.  Passion to sustain you in your journey.  And if nothing else, some heart-opening stories that give you a clearer window into adoption than you had before.  I hope you’ll check in often this month.

Here’s what you can expect in the coming weeks:

  •  My personal story of our DCF adoption including what it’s like having biological kids and an adopted child.
  • What real adoptive parents wish they’d known when they started out (and other answers from adoptive families.)
  • Some obstacles you may encounter/potential resources to help!
  • Links and references to adoption agencies…
  • Further adoption community resources…
  • And more!

I hope you’ll check back in often!  If you are considering adoption, I’d love to hear your questions!  If you’d rather meet in person to connect and ask the gritty questions, send me a message here or connect on FB and I would be happy to meet or chat with you.

If you have adopted and want to add your voice to the conversation, please do!  We all need your story.

 

 

The Problem With Mercy (Friend Post Friday #8)

He may be the only Patriots and Red Sox fan to live south of the Mason-Dixon line, and he belongs to a small subset of pastors whose clothing of choice includes a Dr. Pepper baseball cap and jean shorts.  He blogs fearlessly (at More Conversations That Matter) about topics that some shy away from; yet his goal isn’t “being right” but starting a conversation that births change, hope, and healthy dialogue that seems to be slowly disappearing from our culture.  He also happens to be my dad, and today I’m excited to introduce you to him as my October “Friend Post” blogger!!  The man isn’t without faults (he did force me to eat canned spinach once….CANNED!) but I’ve always deeply respected the way he lives his life.  And it’s not so much the fact that he started a church and pastored for years, it’s the way he allows God to move Him.  He cares little for what people think of him, yet you can’t be around him without feeling seen and valued.  In addition to blogging and loving people in his community and beyond, he’s currently a part-time pastor at Westside Community Church in Huntsville, AL, eBay selling genius, and there’s a rumor he’s even working on a book.  I hope you’ll let the humble words of his post reverberate in your soul and find yourself closer to God’s heart in the end.

————————————————————————————————————————

“The Problem with Mercy” – by Roger Martin

God does not want you to consider mercy.
God does not want you to attempt mercy.
God does not want you to extend mercy.

God wants you to love mercy.

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (The Bible, Micah 6:8, NIV)

My daughter, Carrye, has part of this staggering word from God indelibly inked on her arm.

“Do justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly with God.”

Do justly. I understand that. Pursue what is good and right. Of course I should do that.

Walk humbly with God. It’s amazing that God wants to walk with me at all, but if He wants that, I’m in.

Love mercy. Uh…this bothers me.

It bothers me because he does not ask me to be merciful. He asks me to love mercy.

On rare occasions, I do love mercy.

Several months ago, I was on my way to an eye appointment. I was in a hurry, not because I was late, but because I am always in a hurry. Approaching a stop sign to turn right, I saw a huge stream of cars approaching from the left a little way back. I would be waiting for a long time to get through this stop sign, but if I pulled out right away, I would save a lot of waiting. I made a break for it, after a brief hesitation at the stop sign.

I saw the blue lights in my rearview mirror almost immediately. I eased into the Burger King parking lot. I had joined the tens of thousands of thousands of lawbreakers in America that would be would be caught. Drug offenders. Thieves. Undocumented immigrants. Stop sign-ignorers. I was busted. And now I would face the law. I waited, heart thumping, watching the officer in the car through my side view mirror.

Finally, the officer opened the door and marched toward my window. Here is what I knew. That officer approaching my window could write me a ticket or issue me a warning. He could fine me or he could reprimand me. He could give me justice or give me mercy. Guess what I wanted? Mercy. But it was more than that. In that moment, I loved mercy. Believed in it. Hoped for it. Thought of ways to negotiate for it. Longed for it. Championed it. Mercy for lawbreakers…please!

And God presses into my heart a reminder about all the other lawbreakers in our country, and He asks me the question, “Do you love mercy for them?” I think of people like Nuri Chavarria, resident of Norwalk, CT, who came into our country illegally 24 years ago. Assigned for deportation, she was supposed to board a plane to Guatemala on July 20 of this year. She instead took refuge in a church and has since been granted a temporary stay. Do I love mercy for her? Do I love mercy for 51 year old Robert Booker, who is 2 decades into a life sentence for three non-violent drug sale offenses?

I hear so many voices in our country today clamoring for justice, for law, for full consequences. She knew the law. She knew the consequences. She broke the law, and now she should pay. Send her to Guatemala. He should not have been selling drugs; put him away for life. It’s only fair. We love justice.

Wait a minute, Roger. Doesn’t God want justice, too? Are you suggesting that laws should be ignored, that crimes should not have consequences? I am not. After all, in the instruction quoted earlier, God says “act justly.” We need laws that champion justice, and just laws must have consequences. I believe that God calls us to both “do justly” AND “love mercy.”

But something is wrong when I love justice for other lawbreakers and love mercy for me.

God calls us into the difficult space of loving both justice and mercy for all. What will it look like for me to love both justice and mercy for others? It will help, of course, to look at the deeper story of the person. It is why I want tell the officer a bit of my story in an appeal for mercy. I could tell you that Nuri Chavarria has four children—all American citizens—the oldest of which has cerebral palsy. Is that the only reason to seek mercy? No, but mercy becomes a bit easier when we look at the person behind the crime and put ourselves into her shoes.

The officer wrote me a ticket for failure to yield. Justice. He told me he could have cited me for more. Mercy. The court offered to take the offense off my record if I would go to traffic class. Mercy. I got both justice and mercy. Are there ways to love both justice and mercy? Could Nuri be fined and allowed to pursue citizenship? Could Robert’s sentence for a non-violent offense be changed to time served—24 years?

We could debate details, but the bigger question is whether we ever love mercy for anyone besides ourselves? God is pressing me on this. Roger, will you love mercy for others as much as you want it for you?

Yesterday, I stopped into a tiny little thrift store, not unusual for me since I sell on eBay and am always looking for items to purchase and resell. The older sales clerk chatted merrily on her phone in a language I did not understand. I peered into the glass case between me and her. That’s when I saw them: four somewhat valuable porcelain figurines. Four very distinct figurines. Four figurines that were stolen from my home in February of this year. It was unmistakable. I was stunned. I was a bit angry. I was perplexed. My mind whirled. Did she buy them from the thief? Was there a different story? What should I do?

I asked to see them, and she placed them on the glass counter top. I told her they had been stolen from my home. I told her that she should not buy from that person again, because the items were stolen. She smiled and shook her head: “Not pay. Donations only.” I told her that they had been stolen in February. She smiled and nodded, carefully putting each back into the glass case. I asked what she was selling them for. $10 apiece. She smiled again.

I could call the police. The officer who responded to the theft had answered my exact question. “If you see anything in a pawn shop somewhere, feel free to call us.” I could call them. I could demand that they be returned to me. That would be fair. But I sensed that God wanted me to love mercy. God had blessed me with many eBay sales. This woman was eking out a living trying to sell mostly yard sale leftovers. My figurines were easily the most valuable items in her store. I smiled back at the clerk, and I left her store slightly closer to the heart of God than I was when I walked in. Slightly brighter. Slightly freer.

Love mercy. Love mercy because it is right. Love mercy because God does. Love mercy because you deeply want mercy for yourself. There is, after all, this sobering word from Jesus:

For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (The Bible, Matthew 7:2, NIV)

Fantasy Football Theology of Unity

You know that obnoxious person on your Fantasy Football team who has absolutely no business being there?  They own an official jersey for their favorite team, but you’re pretty confident they wouldn’t be able to pick out their team’s starting QB in a lineup of three people; they rarely watch any games so they foolishly place all their strategy eggs in the “projected points” basket on any given week; they have the nerve to use an outdated “egg” idiom to describe football.

My name is Carrye, and I’m that obnoxious person.  (Nice to meet you.)

For all the reasons I don’t really belong in my fantasy league, I admit I’m becoming a bit obsessed with it.  I’m tracking player injuries, add/dropping players like a boss, and occasionally staying up way past my bedtime on Monday nights to see if I pulled out ahead of my fantasy opponent.

But here’s my problem- I’m so devoted to the fantasy part of football that I’m completely missing the non-fantasy point.  Let me explain.

Exhibit A- Week 5: Vikings Vs Bears

I was losing by a hair going into Monday night’s game, and had placed my only hope in the questionably capable hands of Minnesota’s Adam Thielen.  I’d read stats that suggested he was performing better than expected.  Then again, I only hear the stats I want to hear.  I was optimistic about pulling ahead until I looked at my opponent’s final player- Stefon Diggs.  Through painstaking research I discovered a little known fact: both players were on the same team.  I know…my powers of observation are keen.

I won’t bore you with how football works, since you probably know the basics: endzones, tight pants, those yard lines that magically appear on the TV aren’t really on the field, and all that jazz.  But the bottom line is that two teams play against each other to see who gets more points. (Call me Captain Obvious but I’m setting up a point I promise.)

In my great desire to win a fantasy game, I changed the goal of the game to “how can my player on the same team beat his fellow teammate?”  Not team vs. team.  No glorious community win.  I pitted brother against brother because my focus was on a fantasy issue- a decoy problem that distracted me from the real-life, larger purpose of football.  The Vikings won (actual goal met) but I sulked over a personal fantasy loss of .4 points.  (My player did score more points, though. So. Yeah.)

Where’s the theology in all this convoluted fantasy football analogy?

It doesn’t take a lot of digging today to find ways to disagree with those around us.  It’s practically an epidemic, and trust me I’ve been infected.  Of all the divisions though, the Christian vs. Christian rifts are the most sobering and appalling for me.  Unlike fantasy football, many of the issues we disagree with aren’t skin deep- they are places we have strong convictions about and strong emotions over.  I’m not suggesting we bury our convictions or stop taking a stand for the justice around us. (Ask for discernment.)

But sometimes in our division we get so focused on where we disagree that we lose sight of the “ultimate purpose” of following God (pursuing peace, justice, love and freedom with God), and instead focus on the “decoy purpose” of being right…or feeling justified…or proving someone else wrong.

(Guilty as charged.)

Colossians 3:12-15 says, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.  Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” [Emphasis mine]

There are a million problems with the world, and we are called to step out and make a difference hand in hand with our brothers and sisters. But for myself (maybe you can relate) I need to ask myself what it looks like to pursue the real life goals of peace and justice with brothers and sisters that I don’t always agree with.  What does it look like to bear with others, forgive grievances, and find peace as members of one body or team?  That’s a real life-changing goal.  And unlike the ease of my fantasy click and drag investment, it’s going to require real life sacrifice and sweat.  And it will probably take a lot of practice.

Still… I’d rather stop caring about a .4 point loss striving against a decoy enemy and  instead enjoy the victory of a messy community that disagrees sometimes but chooses to work together to love and serve the world anyway.  In the meantime, my ESPN app is calling…


Your thoughts?  I don’t have many answers here.  Where are the places that we can stand up with our fellow brothers and sisters to give freedom, hope and justice to others?

 

 

Dear Husband, [Insert Sappy Title Here]

Dear Husband,

I don’t know how to start this letter.  I thought about using some sappy music line about you lift me up to soar or fly or generally be airborne.  Like one of the lines from this song:

Except I know that’s not exactly your music preference, and I didn’t actually realize till just now that she’s singing to her sister, not a man.  Oops.  Moving on…

Even though it’s not our anniversary or Valentine’s day or some super romantic day like Superbowl Sunday, I’ve been thinking about you a lot.  I’ve been thinking about the ways you constantly give.  How you clearly don’t keep track of whose turn it is to pick a movie on date night, since by my count I’ve picked the last 38 out of 40.  How after I talked to my mom on the phone that one day and had the sudden urge to plan a trip and cart the kids hundreds of miles to see them, you asked, “When would you want to go?”, instead of “Why would we spend money on that?”  How you give me the gift of your honesty when I need to be sharpened or I’m being selfish. (Not to say that happens frequently, or anything.  Ahem.)  How when I get a little too excited after watching a romantic comedy, you humor me by dancing across our sexy toy strewn living room floor.

I watch you give yourself to the kids too, when it’s not always convenient or easy.  You read and play video games and sit on the floor to play and they know your love is faithful and ever-present.  They are so excited for you to return home each night- and if you ever think you’re not enough, I hope their excited little faces make you think twice.

But what I’m most grateful for today is the way you’ve loved me in my growing up.  In my still becoming who I am.  In my figuring my stuff out.  Man, we were babies when we got married.  At 21 how could I possibly have known all that would happen?  That I’d be diagnosed with type-1 diabetes.  That we’d end up adopting.  That it would take me till I was nearly 30 to realize and own my crazy God dreams.

Don’t you dare say it, we’re both aware that most of who I am is crazy.

Thank you for loving me not just for who I was when we met, but for loving me right into now.  For loving who I may become.  For loving me through a chronic condition that is difficult and sometimes makes me play the victim.  For loving me when I’ve made selfish choices seeking to find myself, and for supporting me when I finally found a passion that I couldn’t seem to breath without.  Thank you for loving me in all the messes and “middles” of the story when I’ve bitten off more than I could chew and ran crying to you to talk me off a ledge and encourage me to get back out there.

Thank you for listening and listening and more listening.  And for those precious words of wisdom that you somehow seem to store up for just the right moment.  And for making me laugh, because no one can do that quite like you.  (Which is saying something because you’ve got some tough competition with my sister.)

And it goes without saying, but thank you for every single dish you’ve ever washed, because nothing says, “I love you” like a clean dish.  Or a coffee.  Eh, it’s a toss up.

Anyway, in a world where it’s easier to take than give and to criticize than encourage, I just want to say thank you for choosing to give and encourage.  You’re my wind and my joy and my better half and all that jazz.  I’m probably missing something super corny but important, so hopefully this picture just summarizes all my sentiments.

Photo Credit: Angela Yuriko Smith (Pixabay.com)

I love you.

Your-Crazier-by-the-day Wife