Her Story Too

I could see it in her eyes.  The disappointment.  She didn’t say a word, but I knew what she was feeling and thinking.

Adoption is coming soon. In the midst of all the preparations, our soon to be adopted children were asked by their case manager what they wanted on their adoption day cake.  Our biological daughter, who has been on this journey the entire time, desperately wanted to be asked as well.

She wanted to have a voice in the celebration and the cake decoration decision.  She wanted to be a part of the story, a part of the day.

She is 9 and as much as she gets it, she still struggles at times.

Later that evening, I pulled her to the side and I asked her how she was feeling.  She simply stated, “I want to be able to share the story too.”  It makes sense.  We often hear people talk about how the foster children are having their story rewritten with adoption.  While that may be true, we cannot forget that biological children are also having their stories rewritten. 

She was four or five when she began encouraging her mother and me to become foster parents.  To be a “mom and dad for kids who needed it.”  My career had led to her being around the foster care world her entire life.  To her, taking in kids was the natural thing to do.  At her young age and in her innocence she didn’t fully comprehend all the things she might or might not be giving up.  She just knew we had to do it.  Over the past 3 years we have seen her share her home, her stuff, her parents, her friends, her grandparents, her holidays, her extra-curricular activities, and almost every faucet of her life with four other little people who needed it.  She has never blinked.  She has been a champ through it all.

So much so, that I think we, at times, have forgotten how much her life is different.  This has become our normal. But, in our desire to heal the wounds of those we have brought into our home, we can never forget the sacrifice she made to take this journey. 

I think that is why she wanted to be included in the cake decision.  Because, this isn’t just about the children gaining a family, it is also about a 9 year old giving her family.

She is brave.  She is kind. She is pure.  She is love.  And, she reminded me tonight that this is her story too.

It was a reminder I needed more than she’ll ever know.

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Foster Care – Step 1 – Count the Cost

 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’ – Luke 14:28-30

In the years leading up to our decision to jump head first into foster parenting we really thought we had “counted the cost”, and yet, two years into this journey we have learned so much about the real cost of fostering.  We’d like to share with others what we have discovered.  This is for those thinking about fostering, those in the middle of fostering, and those who may just be sitting on the sideline watching others.

The Cost of Inconvenience – Your life will largely be flipped upside down by the journey to foster.  Do you like your nice, safe, well-scheduled life?  Then maybe you shouldn’t foster.  Sounds crazy right?  Foster care advocates telling you not to foster.  But seriously, this journey will inconvenience you, your family, your kids, your schedule and everything you hold dear as “normal”, so if you are not willing to change, bend, and be flexible then we are almost certain that being God’s hands and feet for the least of these may not be your cup of tea.  The goal of foster care is not to make your life convenient.  In fact, you are asked to sacrifice your convenience on the behalf of a child whose whole life has been inconvenienced by abuse, neglect, and trauma.

The Cost of Giving Without Reciprocation – Do you need to be affirmed?  Do you need a child to tell you how awesome you are?  Do you need them to want you and love you?  Well, that might not be the case with a child you foster.  You see, you are not their hero, you are not their first choice, or even their new mom or dad.  Sure you are the one taking care of them and providing for them, but they may never be able to adequately respond to everything you “have done for them”.  If you think you will need that affirmation and this journey is about you, then we are afraid it will end horribly, not just for you, but more importantly for the child or teenager you are serving.  As for giving.  Have you ever given so much it hurt, only to have to get back up and give again? Yes? No? Just so you know, foster care is a lot of giving, hurting, and getting back up, because there is a child who needs you.

The Cost of Your Family – Do you think all of your family will agree with your choice?  Nope.  Some family members will not be on board.  They may be completely unsure as to why you would want to bring “that kind of child into your home.”  They may think you are taking time away from your “own kids”.  And, you know what?  They are right.  The foster journey will cost your biological kids time and resources.  Hopefully it will also stretch them at an early age and teach them what following Christ really looks like.  Yep, it is more than Sunday School, worship songs, and cute dinner prayers.  Our first week in, we almost believed the lie.  We were laying in bed, staring at the ceiling and we asked each other, “have we ruined our children’s lives?”  We had two kids and we added 4 more kids through foster care.  We had outnumbered them!!  They went from the majority to the minority overnight.  The enemy wanted us to believe we had ruined their lives.  And yet, in that moment, we also knew Jesus was saying, “Nope, I never asked you to protect your kids.  Keep going.”  Others have not always agreed with us, but that is okay, because Jesus did. Boom!!

The Cost of Your Sanity – Bureaucracy. That one word alone will send chills down your spine.  Have you ever parented a child with 100 other people telling you how to do it?  They create a new form, rule, regulation on a regular basis.  We have three case worker visits every month, one CASA visit, family visits every week, and therapy appointments throughout the month.  Our schedule is dictated to us at times. Did we mention trying to schedule medical and dental appointments with Medicaid? Short summary, a joke.  Then there are 6 children in our home.  They do a pretty good job of chipping away at our sanity too.  Just because you are a “good parent” doesn’t mean you will be a good foster parent. Count the cost of all the interference that you will walk through in this process.  We’ve seen several families give up, because they didn’t want to deal with “the system”.  Children and families lose out when you don’t go into foster care understanding that your sanity may disappear.  The good news, we’ve proven we can still parent pretty dang good even without our sanity!!

The Cost of Your Life – Foster Care cannot just be something you do, it has to be who you are.  A parent who has chosen to love, care and give all of yourself on the behalf of a child who needs you.  You don’t want this to inconvenience your life, your schedule, or your kid’s lives?  Well, then do the future foster child a favor and don’t even get in the foster parenting boat.  They need individuals who will be willing to give their lives.  Wait, it seems like we’ve heard a story about a God who did the same for us, right??? Oh yeah, Jesus.

This post is filled with truth, sarcasm, and some more truth.  What we hope people understand is this, foster care will cost you a lot!  Does that make it not worth it?  Never.  We would sign up again, 1,000,000 times.

We do want individuals to understand there is a need to count the cost.  We are not just “trying out kids to see if it works.”  These are real little people, who suffer real consequences when we decide we cannot do it anymore and disrupt the placement.  We recently read that research states “every move causes 6 months of regression in a foster child.”  Wow.  These kids are not being given the chance to count the cost, but they are certainly paying the costs. 

So, this is our wisdom to you, you, and you.  Count the cost friends.  These kids are too important for you not to.

One Sunday. Really?

In a few weeks, individuals throughout the global church will focus on something near to the Father’s heart, the orphan. For this, I’m very thankful.

But, I’m also saddened and heartbroken. You see. I cannot begin to wrap my mind around why the orphan is only worth one Sunday in churches worldwide. I have a hard time understanding why the church chooses not to preach about our role and responsibility to the orphan on an ongoing basis. Is the orphan not our problem, our responsibility, or our call? Has scripture misled us all these years? Was God not serious when he clearly told us what ‘pure and true religion’ was and is in James 1:27?

I have been attending church for all of my life. During that time, I’ve heard three messages on our responsibility to the orphan. Yes, 3, that’s it! The first was in 2008 when I stood before the congregation I served in Waco, Texas, and preached about God’s heart for the orphan. Prior to that point I had never sat in a local church and heard a message regarding the church, the orphan, and our role to serve as followers of Christ. How ironic it is that we like to celebrate our own adoption into God’s family, but rarely do we call people to reciprocate that same love, commitment and sacrifice to be a family for someone else.

Do you know why that is? I don’t. But, I tend to think it is because we don’t like messy, life changing mandates to be placed on our lives. We like clean, simple, concise calls that only stretch us so far and guess what?? Often times, church leadership is not immune from that same desire. After all, if they call their people to serve in that capacity, what does that mean for them? Will God call them to do the same? So, we avoid preaching things that might get extremely messy. Instead we preach on the simple; the things we can control, manipulate, or quantify.

It is sad. The church was never intended to be God’s pep rally; we were intended to be His hands, His feet, and His body. Instead, somewhere along the way we convinced ourselves that salvation is all about our experience with God and not other’s experiencing God through us. And when it’s about us, it is easy to forget them; the orphan, the fatherless, and the lonely. When we are busy fitting God into our lives, it is easy to forget that He wants our lives to be all about Him.

The work of the orphan is messy. The orphan forces us to stare directly into the brokenness of our world with all of its sin, selfishness, heartache, disease, poverty, addiction, homelessness, neglect, abuse, generational cycles, failure, and struggles. And none of these fit very neatly into our calendars on our iPhones, or our Sunday morning ‘experiences’. So, we avoid it. But, we shouldn’t.

Underneath all that brokenness is God in action. He is the God of the orphan, of you and of me. He is the God of adoption and sonship. He is the God who defends the fatherless and sets the lonely in families and He is the God who calls all of us to follow Him on this journey. He never promised it wouldn’t be messy and heartbreaking, but He did promise the redemption story would be worth the ride.

On November 2nd, I’ll applaud those churches remembering the orphan and at the same time my heart will be heavy wondering, what if? What if the church really rose up and heard God’s heart? How could we change this world, but more importantly, how could we change the life of that one orphan in Africa, that one foster child in America, that one child abandoned, or that one teenager ‘aging out’ of the foster care system? How could we live out our adoption and act like adopted children who have love to give, resources to pour out, and a life ready to be interrupted? How could we join God in doing what He is already doing, loving the orphan?

Join me. Say a prayer and ask God to rise up the Church on behalf of orphans worldwide. And, then ask God to move you and I to join Him, our Father, in this cause, a cause that is near to His heart.

3 Simple Steps to Get Involved Today:

Educate: Connect with local groups who serve foster children, learn about the needs they have from the smallest to largest. Connect with a family who has fostered or adopted. Spend time understanding their heart, the process, and their needs. Connect with organizations that serve orphans on a global scale. Listen to their needs. Basically, spend time becoming familiar with the orphan on a local and global scale.

Pray: Ask God what it is He would have you to do. Not everyone is called to foster and/or adopt a child, but we are all called to do something. Ask and then listen.

Engage: Whatever it is you feel He is calling you to do, do it! If we wait around for someone else to do it, who is to say it will ever get done. The orphan needs me and you to obey and do whatever it is God is calling us to do. Education and prayer will only go so far without action. Get involved and do something.

P.S. I’m a big fan of Orphan Sunday, http://www.orphansunday.org and the Christian Alliance for Orphans. I hope you will be too.