#DisconnectToConnect

Do you like social media? I do.

I love to post pictures of my children, share insight into my passions, and like my friend’s status. I feel inclined to retweet a great blog post or article. I dutifully share quotes and statistics that call others attention to the needs of humanity and the brokenness in our world.

I like to look at my friends pictures, utilize the networking platforms within social media, and randomly creep on people’s profile pages (true confession).

I enjoy watching videos, checking my newsfeed, following the retweeted ‘tweet’ back to the original source, taking the latest challenge and sharing with others ways they can be involved.

But, what if I like social media so much, that all I ever do is like, share, and retweet? Will anything be different? Will I have done my part to create change?

The geniuses behind the social media movement would presumably say, yes.  On some levels, I would agree.  Social media has given me a platform to educate and encourage others about foster care and adoption.  It has given the non-profit organization I work for a way through which we can tell our story, call people to action and solicit donations.  I see the value in social media.

And yet, I am afraid.  I’m afraid my generation, my peers, my friends, and even I may be using social media as the easy way out, even unintentionally.

We sit at home, in our office, along the pews at church, or at a coffee shop, click a button, type a post, write a blog, and believe we have changed the world.

Boom. World change. Easy.

Or is it??

It is not as easy to physically go into our communities and find those who need our “hands and feet” to bring them good news and help. It is not as convenient to step out of our lives, disconnect from the created reality of social media and step into the messiness of those around us.  Maybe they don’t need another like or share.  Maybe instead they need a friend, a voice, resources, a listening ear, a ride, a jacket, a meal, our talents or even our homes.

If we are not careful, we will just become a generation of social media activists.  The poor will still be poor, the sick will still be sick, the hungry will still be hungry, the lonely will still be lonely, but our laptops will be warm while our coffee cups are full.  Generation fail. 

What if our newsfeeds currently full of bathroom selfies, beach selfies, gym selfies, church selfies, bed selfies, dog selfies, and  food selfies suddenly became saturated with selfies of widows, orphans, the elderly, the homeless, our neighbors and the downtrodden. Or, what if, selfies really weren’t needed anymore because our desire to be liked had been passed over by a desire to serve, love, comfort, and bring hope to others, all the while fulfilling needs within ourselves that we subconsciously had buried beneath one more post, picture, like, share and retweet.

I like social media, I really do. But, if I’m honest, social media can become a crutch through which I cover up my obligation to help others by just giving them a quick click.

So here you go, take this challenge, disconnect to connect.  You can like it, share it, retweet it, hashtag it or hide it, but in the end, please disconnect for a bit, go out into your community and use your life for real change, real purpose, and real connection.

Boom. World change.  It’s just that easy.  The world is waiting for you.

#worldchangebeginswithyou

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”   – Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

 

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They Are Precious In His Sight

Every year we celebrate a man, Martin Luther King Jr., who courageously fought for equality for generations past, present and future.  We highlight his courage, his love, and his character.  We look around and high five each other, because ‘we’ve’ come a long way.  And yet, most days are but a poor reflection of what truly should be.  We seemingly gloss over the ugliness of reality with catchy quotations spread throughout the social media world, while overlooking the messy brokenness that still wrecks entire communities. 

To understand some of this, one must only look to the numbers presented within the foster care system.  Numbers, frequently quoted in relation to a term known as ‘disproportionality’. 

In 2011, more than half of the children entering foster care in the U.S. were children of color.

Black or African American children are disproportionately more likely than other children to be reported, investigated, substantiated, and placed in foster care.  – Children’s Rights (www.childrensrights.org)

Does that quote catch your attention?  Now, we can all start cranking out excuse after excuse about why this might be the case.  Some of which may be valid points, as such, a lot of deep issues are built into disproportionality.  But, let me tell you about what I often struggle with as an advocate and professional in the child welfare field.  I struggle with the reality that there are a significant number of foster and adoptive families, who simply do not want an African American child.  Here is a list of things I’ve heard over the past nine years,

  • We are open to other races, but not African American.  We are just not sure we could effectively meet their cultural needs.
  • We are open to other races, just not African American.  We do not feel we would know how to deal with their hair and skin care needs. 
  • We are open to other races, except African American.  We are worried our extended family may not accept them.
  • We would prefer not to be placed with an African American child, because we are not ready for the questions people might ask us when they see us out in public.
  • We would prefer a Caucasian child, so that they will look like us.
  • We really want to have a placement soon, but we are willing to wait until it is a Caucasian child. 
  • We are open to bi-racial children, as long as, one of the races is Caucasian and the other race is not African American. 

Yep, I didn’t make any of these statements up.  Can I tell you something else?  Most states struggle to place African American children in adoptive homes.  In the state that I live, work, and foster in, children of minority races above the age of 2 are classified as ‘special needs’ adoptions and subsidies are provided in hopes of encouraging families to adopt such children. 

But wait, take a moment to read this beautiful quote from Dr. King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech,

“….one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers….”

Let that sink in.  No really; pause, reflect, and let the beauty of that statement soak into the depths of your soul. Now ask yourself, why do we so often avoid the African American child in the foster care system?  Oh, we will take the Hispanic, Caucasian, or even Asian child, but “dadgum, we just don’t know how we’d parent that African American child.”  What the ___________?!? (you fill in the blank)

Now, to be fair, I could have written a completely separate blog (and, maybe I will) about all the beautiful stories I have seen of transracial fostering and adoption.  Families who love the children in their home, despite any differences in race.  Of moms and dads seeking out anyone and everyone they can find to give them information regarding what hair and skin products work best for ‘their child’.   Families celebrating differences and aspiring to immerse their child fully into their cultural heritage.  But, today, in the midst of all the quotes, posts, and reflections my heart stopped instead on the ‘why?’

We have come so far, but, ‘why’ are we still not there?  We can do better America.  Child after child in the foster care system needs us too. 

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

***I realize this is a heavy conversation and all parts of the conversation cannot be worked out and stated in a simple blog post.  I also respect families being honest during the licensure process about their personal limitations.  Regardless, as an advocate for children in foster care, I feel this is a topic to highlight, address, and bring to light. 

If you want to learn more about ‘disproportionality’ in Foster Care ask Google, or click on one of the links provided below.

http://www.ncjfcj.org/sites/default/files/Disproportionality%20Rates%20for%20Children%20of%20Color%20in%20Foster%20Care%202013.pdf

http://www.casey.org/Resources/Publications/pdf/RacialDisproportionality_ES.pdf

http://www.ncjfcj.org/resource-library/publications/disproportionality-rates-children-color-foster-care-2013-technical

http://www.childrensrights.org/issues-resources/foster-care/facts-about-disparities-in-foster-care/

https://www.childwelfare.gov/systemwide/cultural/disporp/

http://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/cb/afcarsreport19.pdf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

Trust, Rescue, Redemption, Love and Sacrifice

Foster parents aren’t super heroes. We don’t wake up and put on capes and go save the world. In fact, if our lives were a movie, it would be full of messiness, doubt, failure, and a lot of heartache. And yet, even in the midst of all that, a hero does emerge and His fingerprints are visible all throughout foster care.

Foster Care Teaches Us to Trust God

“For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you.” Psalm 33:21-22

Without fail the number one thing foster parents hear on a regular basis from friends, co-workers, family, strangers, and church members is this, “I could never do that. I could never love a child and then have to give them up.” You know what? Neither can we. But, it really isn’t about what ‘you’ or ‘we’ can do. It is about what God wants to do through us. For Him to be able to do that, we have to be willing to trust Him. Foster care teaches us that it is okay to not have full control of outcomes, because we were never asked to write the ending, we were just asked to play a role in the middle chapters. Do you know how crazy it can make someone if they don’t know how the story ends? Let me tell ya, crazy. So, we learn to trust. There are hundreds of thousands of children out there who need a family to love them for a season. They need mom’s and dad’s to say, “I got you, right now.” But, too often people sit on the sideline and say, “I can’t, I just can’t..” To open your life to foster care, you have to trust that God knows and cares about the ending even more than you do. You have to learn to trust Him, when agencies, individuals, friends and biological families let you down. Trust pushes individuals to believe God will see it through, despite the pain, messiness, and uncertainty they will experience in the process.

Foster Care Reflects God’s Heart for Rescue

“He brought me out into a broad place; he rescued me, because he delighted in me.” Psalm 18:19

When Adam and Eve took the bite, rescue was set in motion. God’s plan has always been to rescue His people. That has never changed. Foster care is clear evidence of the fact that He is still in the business of rescuing His kids from the worst situations. It is the visible, tangible process through which He calls His people to join Him in the process of providing rescue for children who most need it. It is easy to get jaded by the world, look up and see many horrific things happening and ask, “Where is God in all of this?” We’d challenge you to look for Him in foster care; a place where countless individuals give up their personal agenda’s to take on God’s agenda of rescue. You find Him in the sibling group taken from the drug house in the middle of the night, in the baby experiencing withdrawals from drugs in the NICU, and in the child taken from a home with no food, no water and no electricity. God swoops in and rescues His kids. Rescue is in each and every story. We are called to be His hands and feet, but if we do not show up, then who will?

Foster Care Reflects God’s Heart for Redemption

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” Romans 3:23-24

God is most definitely in the business of redeeming individuals and families. Foster care displays that time and time again. Foster care is about second chances and the most difficult thing about seeing someone get a second chance is there will come a time when you don’t believe they deserve one. That is when God teaches you about your own redemption and He reminds you that you really didn’t deserve a second chance either. In foster care God acts to redeem His family, both in the physical and in the spiritual. Biological parents get a horrible rap, sometimes deserved, but in reality a lot of them are just people who have made a bunch of mistakes, like you and I, and they need redemption. They need a God to speak deeply into their souls beyond the poverty, the addictions, the habits, the failures, and the brokenness and say, ‘you are mine and you matter’. Foster care reveals God’s redemptive work, in His timing, and in His own way. Being a foster parent also teaches us that our redemption is constantly at work and that all of us are in need of a second chance.

Foster Care Reflects God’s Heart for Love and Sacrifice

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:12-13

Ultimately, foster care teaches us to love in ways we never ever thought was possible. It pushes us to love others, our children and ourselves in a whole new light. Foster care teaches us to turn to God for the strength to love on days we do not think we have any love left to give. Being a foster parent rewires our hearts to look past behaviors and directly at a child, understanding they are a precious creation of the creator and reminding us to love them as He loves them. It also teaches us what it is like to sacrifice our own life for that of another, a child. Foster care brings Christ’s words in Matthew 16:24-25 to life, Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” During this journey, our selfishness, our desires, and our agendas are held accountable in light of God’s love and sacrifice.

We do not know how our journey will end, we haven’t been given the pen to write the final chapter, but we know this, we are thankful we chose to say ‘yes’ to God, when it would have been much easier to say, “Get lost. Foster care is for someone else.”

Trust, rescue, redemption, love and sacrifice are each woven into the fabric of foster care. As foster parents, we will never get to wear a cape, but we have been able to watch the real hero of the world do His work and show us His beauty and that is more than we could have ever imagined.

Can I tell you something? I’m SCARED!

It is about to get real!  I mean really, really real.  You see, I’m the kind of person who doesn’t like to worry, and if I can put it off until tomorrow I will.  So, when people have said to me, “I could never foster, because it would hurt too much when the kids went home”, to be honest, I just didn’t think about it, because that ‘going home’ bit was a distant reality.  It wasn’t something I cared to worry about at that moment.  But, I can’t put it off any longer, that ‘day’ is just around the corner and if I’m blatantly honest, then I’d tell you I’m SCARED!! 

I’m scared about a lot of things.  Will our kids be tucked in every night?  Will they get three meals and good snacks every day?  Will they get lots of hugs?  Will they be told how special they are?  Will they get the care they deserve and need?  Will they have someone there to help them with their homework or do a craft with them?  Will someone be there to throw the football around with our little guy?  Will someone give them the special character band aids when they fall down and scrape their knee?  Will someone protect them from the things they have seen and experienced in their past?  So many random fears are running through my mind right now.  But, you know what?  I’ve decided this isn’t so much about me being scared or my own fears, instead it is really about my ability to trust.  Can I trust God with these children?  Do I trust God enough that I believe He can keep these kiddos safe even when I am no longer in the picture?  Even when I am no longer their mom??

I love that God has been able to use me, a simple mom, in His greater purpose.  I love that He has been able to use our whole family (immediate and extended) to write a love story on these children’s hearts and vice versa He has used these kiddos to write a love story on our hearts!  And, even though, this next month might bring A LOT of  heartache, I can honestly say I’m glad God picked me to love these kiddos.   

The day is fast approaching when I will not be able to put off the hurt and heartache of saying goodbye to these four amazing kiddos and I pray that when that time comes I will be able to put ALL my trust and faith in God.  I pray I will be able to rejoice in seeing a family reunited and take heart that we were able to be a small part of this beautiful and messy redemption story.  I pray that God will take my hurt, fear, and lack of trust and exchange it for His peace. 

As my husband and I have said time and time again, it is not about us, but about God and these beautiful children and if I’m honest, I just need to trust Him with writing this final chapter, because it is about to get real….

 

 

 

 

Dear Church: Racism is OUR Problem

Dear Church,

I love you. You have helped raise me, you have taken care of me, and you have shown me immeasurable amounts of grace and mercy. You have taken me in with all my scars. Scars formed by failures past and present. Scars formed from sins small and large. For this I will forever be thankful. You are the Bride of Christ. This makes you beautiful. You are His hands and Feet, this makes you powerful. And, yet, as the Bride you are not perfect. In fact, your scars are also evident. The brokenness of your heart and walls is on show for all to see. People love chipping away at your cracks, mocking your Groom and mocking you, his Bride. But, I still think you are special.

That is why I want to talk to you. You, the Church. I need you to know something. I need you to hear the heart of the Groom. His heart is one of diversity, and yet, Church we often fall short of the Groom’s heart.

It is not your fault. You didn’t create the shades, but you did allow the shades to divide in your name.

In fact, it is not within your walls that I learned of such evil. I learned it from those in the community who claimed to be a part of you and from those who claimed not to be a part of you. That both agreed, often made it very confusing for me. Aren’t we supposed to be different?

I still remember my grandpa using the word. You know the word, n****r. He said it during his normal conversation while talking about the recent signings of the Dallas Cowboys. I sat there as I heard him say, “Well, they signed a bunch of n****rs.” I’ll never forget that moment. I won’t. I was confused. My closest friends were all African American. I was blessed to be raised around a very diverse, accepting clan of Army Brats. We were not white, black, brown, or tan. We were simply, children. Children, who loved and accepted one another regardless of the color of our skin.

Church, do you remember when I was in the 8th grade in San Angelo, Texas? Do you remember that day at lunch when I was sitting with all my friends (all African American’s) and one of them asked me why I never sat with the white kids? You remember me being confused and angry, right? Why would I sit with the white kids? Why did it even matter? Those were my friends and I sat with my friends. But, that day, I began to feel some of the racial divides of our country.

And, then I would hear that word again. It was in the ninth grade, my family and I had just moved to Yukon, Oklahoma. One morning, while in the locker room, a teammate mentioned, “n****rs.” Once again, I sat there stunned, speechless, and unsure of what I was really hearing. It hurt. It hurt deep. In fact, I wondered, why in the heck was I living in such a place like this?

And yet, nothing would hurt as deep as my college years. It was post 9/11. My roommate, my brother, my friend is of East Indian heritage; somehow this would classify him as an ‘Arab’. As if, being of Arab descent was bad? Every day he would mention things that were yelled at or spoken to him on campus in those following weeks. I would get so angry. You remember don’t you Church? I had quite a temper back then. I would fight anyone, anywhere, anytime. And so, I was mad. That set up that fateful night during an intramural basketball game when an opponent asked him if his ‘camel was parked outside.’ You remember that don’t you Church? That was not my finest night, but I had to fight, I had to defend, I had to stand up. All around me I didn’t see a single member of your body getting angry. That was the only night in my life that I threatened to kill someone. In fact, I’m ashamed to say I threatened to kill the guy’s whole family. I remember the anger, the rage, my body shaking and being held back by others. In that moment, I would have done it Church. I would have murdered everyone who dared speak racism against my brother. I’m not proud of that moment Church. It is a moment that the Groom covered with His grace. For that I’m thankful. But, I’m also not ashamed for being angry and reacting. Why would no one else stand up?

And yet, in the days, weeks and months to follow it has only continued to spiral. I’ve heard it since then. All the stereotypes of supposed ‘Arab’ people. They are ‘towel heads’, they ‘own 7-11’s’, and they are all ‘extremists’. Church I know this breaks your heart. Especially, since your Groom, of Jewish heritage, most likely had a darker, more defined complexion than that of the Caucasian Jesus I grew up looking at. I bet you hated having that picture on your wall, didn’t you?

It still hasn’t stopped. Church, it is your body I have seen rallying against the ‘Mexicans’ who are here illegally. I know you don’t mean too, but your name is all over it, because we, your body, love to do things with a sprinkle of the Groom on top. And, yet, ‘those people’ are part of YOU! They are members of your body, they are also the Groom’s Bride. Why, why can’t we see that? Church, why do we promote racism in the name of being an American, being a Republican or being a Democrat?

Church, is your heart breaking yet? Mine is. It hasn’t stopped. You are aware of the recent trial that took place and the racist undertones that have accompanied it. The President spoke some strong truths yesterday. Did you hear it Church? Did you hear him express the reality of profiling and stereotyping that he, as a bi-racial African American man, has faced throughout his life? I know it’s true, because I’ve seen it. I know it’s true, because as much as I’ve touted my diversity and openness I too have made judgments based on conceived ideas about certain populations. I’m guilty. I’ve laughed at jokes that only enhanced racist stereotypes. I’m guilty. I’ve made blanket statements about people based on their race in my mind, even if I never spoke it out verbally. I’m guilty. I’ve stood quietly by while listening to others spew brokenness without standing and rebuking it every time. I’m guilty. Those moments have not been my finest moments Church. Admitting these failures hurts. It hurts deep, because all my life I’ve said I’m not that person. But, it is also freeing. Don’t you see Church, when we admit it, own it, and bring it to light, then the light will cast out all darkness, evil, and ugliness. Church, it is okay to admit we’ve failed. In fact, it is more than okay. It is beautiful.

I’ve heard friends, co-workers, church members and family members say things that don’t make you proud. I’ve seen them post things on Facebook or forward an email with a racist undertone. And, you know what hurts? I didn’t always respond Church. I didn’t. I wish I had. But, Church, I failed you, I’m sorry. I’m sorry I have not been who you need me to be. I’m sorry I have not been who the Groom needs His Bride to be.

Church, why am I talking to you? I’m talking to you, because your body operates like this. Racism, prejudice, and bias are real inside your walls. I know you know. You see it every single Sunday. Caucasians worship within your walls with other Caucasians, African Americans worship within your walls with other African Americans, Hispanics worship within your walls with other Hispanics, Asians worship within your walls with other Asians and on and on and on. You see Church, I understand, it is not just a Caucasian problem, African American problem, Hispanic problem, or an Asian problem. I understand the problem is not centered around one tone of skin, or one society, or one culture. Within each race there is racism, prejudice and bias toward others. Church, within your walls, no matter the color, racism still runs its course like a virus. Why Church?

Why are we like this? Why Church? Why are we okay with racism and at times even try to ignore it? As if, it will just go away? Or, act as if it really “is not that big of a deal”. Our silence on the issue only further perpetuates and condones it. The words not spoken speak volumes. Why are we so quick to praise the Groom with our lips and hearts, but decimate His beautiful creation with those same lips and those same hearts?

Why am I talking to you Church? I’m talking to you, because you can change this. You can call all people to the table and hold everyone accountable. You alone can blend the shades and spread the message. You can call racism what it is, sin. And, as we know Church, sin will always separate us from the Groom. The Groom covers our sin, but we have to address it and then we have to confess it. We have to own our sin; we have to be accountable for our sin. You know this Church. You know the Groom stands by wanting to take His Bride by His side. But, she is ugly. She is racist. She is prejudice. She is bias. She is broken. Church, you can fix this.

I still believe in you Church. You are beautiful. You are the Bride. But, Church, racism is OUR problem.

Please Church, please let the Groom restore you to the beautiful blend of shades you were meant to be.

Sincerely,

A guy who loves the Church & loves the diversity with which it can be..

“I am not what I ought to be.
I am not what I hope to be.
But I am not what I once used to be
and by the grace of God I am what I am.”

~ John Newton (1725-1807), former slave trader turned minister and abolitionist; author of the hymn, Amazing Grace

*These are my thoughts and honest reflections about the issue. Some terms in this post are not politically correct, and it was meant to be that way, to highlight the racist under tones in our society. Some things may offend you. If they do, ask yourself, why? Why are you offended? Full disclosure, I’m a 33 yr old white guy trying to be more like Christ, but often falling short of who He wants/needs me to be. I struggle daily with my own temptations, sins, struggles. I have not experienced extreme racism or prejudice directed at me, so I don’t claim to be a victim or even to fully understand. But, I do believe the conversation needs to be had. And, what better place than the Church? The very place that was intended from day one to be full of diversity. We’ve dropped the ball, we’ve been silent, and we’ve perpetuated evil in places evil should never have a foothold.