Wednesday, October 10, 2018

MOTHERHOOD IS KINGDOM WORK

- - - - - - - - - -

There's a song we sing on Sunday mornings that always grabs my attention:

Holy, there is no one like You
There is none beside You
Open up my eyes in wonder
And show me who You are 
And fill me with Your heart
And lead me in Your love to those around me
(listen here)

My heart is pricked because I sense God saying to me: "those around you are the little people you interact with day in and day out." Yes, those around you may mean a co-worker or next door neighbor or the refugee in your city. But in this season of my life, those nearest to me are definitely my children. This is the kingdom work of being a mother.



"Fill me with your heart and lead me in Your love." Is this truly my prayer when I'm interacting with my children on a daily basis? In a sense, do I consider the home my mission field? My brother-in-law preached on John 1 recently (definitely worth a listen!) and all I could think about was how his reflection questions applied to motherhood.

  • Whose kingdom have you been spending your days building?
  • Who has God uniquely placed in your life that you can invite into Jesus' Kingdom to join the mission of building His Kingdom?
  • What qualifications do you need to stop waiting for to join Jesus' work?

Question #1: When I lose my cool with my precious children, I'm afraid it's often because they're interrupting my own little-"k"-kingdom building. My gaze is not focused on Christ and whatever sacrifice He is asking of me.
Question #2: Who has God uniquely placed in my life? My children, of course. Who is closer to them or spends more time with them than me? I am the most closely placed person in their little lives (and how scary is that!). My heart's desire must remain foremost to bring my children into Jesus' Kingdom.
Question #3: Lately I've been feeling very unqualified and out-of-my-league for the path of parenting and home life we are on right now. But the sermon was such a beautiful reminder that God qualified me for the job long ago--all because of grace. This journey of mine is not surprising news to Jesus. And He will be faithful to equip me.

Ephesians chapter 2 comes to mind when I think of God providing a way through grace. Usually the first sentence below is recited/memorized separately from the second, but I love them together as a way to see God's equipping in grace (through nothing of my own making) for the work He has previously planned for me to do.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, 
it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, 
created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Ephesians 2:8-10

We are not saved by works, but we are God's work--saved by grace--to do good works! It's at once a sigh of relief and also a daunting challenge. Oh may we lean into His grace in our everyday kingdom work of motherhood.

On the grace journey with you,

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

FOSTER-TO-ADOPT: A LONG ROAD

- - - - - - - - - -

I've been thinking lately about our long journey to adopt through the foster care system, which we are still in the middle of. Yes, the need is great. My heart is thrilled when I hear of a family who decides to adopt through the foster system. Yet, I wanted to chat a little about two areas that may sometimes be portrayed stereotypically and not always accurately--specifically, the areas of finances and timing.


FINANCES

Yes, adoption through foster care tends to be cheaper than adopting internationally or via domestic infant adoption--but this is not always true. For example, if the adoption is contested in court by the biological family, then the potential adoption family may rack up considerable private attorney fees. Also, when a "normal" adoption case is dragged out, then the attorney fees increase as well. The numbers vary widely but a "typical" adoption through foster care may cost anywhere from $2000-$15,000, depending on the timing and complexity of the particular case. The point is: there is nothing "normal" or "typical" about the financial side of adoptions because of the unknowns in each unique story.



TIMING

Yes, foster-to-adopt stories can happen quickly--but it's not always the case. Some cases are finalized fast if biological parents choose to voluntarily sign over their rights. Or perhaps the children are already available and waiting for adoption. In the fall publication of the Indiana Adoption Program magazine, there are 172 children listed as available for adoption. I counted them, each precious face just waiting. These cases would move quickly to adoption, perhaps even as fast as six months to completion.

On the other side of the spectrum, some foster-to-adopt cases take years and years to finalize for a variety of reasons. Perhaps the agency or county are slow to get placements or the right placement just takes awhile to come along. Or it may be the family starts a case only to have the biological parents take back their children (which is the hard place of heartbreaking and also of praise the Lord). I talked to a gal just last week who is on her third placement in a year. All were placements she thought may lead to adoption but ended up going in a different direction, and the children were removed. Or perhaps the case is dragged out in court--processes are back-logged at the Department of Child Services or maybe the parents really do try for a while but then relapse. Whatever the reason, reaching the point of adoption with a foster case is not a cut-and-dried matter. There are few shortcuts or easy roads.

Actually, I've become convinced that all roads to adoption are financially draining and usually long. International adoption is hard. Domestic infant adoption is hard. Foster care adoption is hard.



OUR STORY: FINANCES + TIMING

Bryce and I started working on our foster license in 2011 while pregnant with our firstborn, and we were licensed just after he was born in 2012. We did respite for three years (essentially babysitting for fellow foster parents) while waiting for a long-term placement. I can vividly remember sitting on the sun room floor at our previous house, sobbing after another "failed" possible placement, and praying: "Why, God? Why, when we are open and ready for a long-term placement, nothing seems to be happening?" In 2013 our second biological son was born, and we fostered again in 2014 with a few more respite placements.

One sweet girl, Miss Z, came to us suddenly in April 2015, and I really grew to love her. But then a month later we had 24 hours notice, and she was removed to live with a grandma. Little did we know that a curly-haired boy was born that very month. July 2015--that sweet baby boy joined our family. February 2016--his two precious sisters joined our family. And now, three years later, we're praying a three-way adoption will take place in 2019. Not to get into all of the financial nitty-gritty, but our case will cost thousands more than we initially anticipated (thankful for God's miraculous provision!). This happened mostly because of the long and complicated nature of the court case, the extra work our attorneys have done for us, and the simple fact that we are adopting three at once!

Ours is an expensive foster-to-adopt story nine years in the making! Adopting from the foster system is not a straight forward road! But it's a character-building, courage-calling, holy-ground kind of road. If you hear the call, don't hesitate. Find that holy road and start walking. You can bet He'll provide all the stamina and resources you'll need along the way.

Rev. and Mrs. Nguyen-hau Nhuong, Vietnamese missionaries to Laos in 1963
"As you well know, our work is very hard. . . . The rumors of war can trouble our hearts, 
and we are lacking in material aid, finances, personnel, and power. 
But by faith we shall start our work, and we believe God will help us to accomplish it."

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

AN ANTHEM ON REPEAT

- - - - - - - - - -

Answers to prayer.

Sometimes they come sneaking in and blow us away and are exactly what we hoped for, unexpectedly. And it’s amazing. Still, there’s a lingering, comforting sense of sameness because the God I worshiped yesterday, when my stomach was in knots and I was feeling hopeless, is the same God of today, when my spirits are soaring. The God who answered today is the same God who held my heart so tenderly during those months and years of heartbreak. Yesterday He was good and sure and constant, just like He is today.

My worship didn’t change. My worship didn’t suddenly restart because now He’s answered my cry. No, it’s the same anthem--sung on repeat in my heart. True, there’s a richer, deeper level of gratitude, but my confidence and hope are still the same.

Worship is speaking truth.
Worship is living through the heartache and joy.
Worship is singing and doing laundry.
Worship is kisses and hugs for scraped knees.
Worship is listening to that certain song through tears.
Worship is trusting in new mercies for tomorrow morning.

We don’t worship because of what we are praying He will do. We worship simply because He will do what He will do. (He Stands Alone.) He will do it at the proper time, and it will be good and right and always exactly His plan. Therefore, no matter what that plan may be: we worship.




In painful times, cling to songs of encouragement that proclaim truth and give you solid ground. Then, in rejoicing, it is beautiful to return to the anthems you sang in sorrow. Sing them again and just marvel. Sing them again and let your heart respond with gratitude and praise.

I played this song: He Will by Ellie Holcomb quite often over the last year, and this week I’m singing with thankfulness and rejoicing while worshiping to it all over again.

Whether I’m in want or plenty
Whether I'm in health or ill
Our God promises His children
He will, He will

Does He promise to answer our prayers exactly as we desire, in our timing? Does He promise to give us our heart's desire? Does He promise to come through according to our hopes? No. His promises are surer and deeper--everlasting promises.

He’ll bind up the brokenhearted
Oh He will, oh He will
He’ll set captives free from darkness
Oh He will, oh He will
He’ll breathe hope into the hopeless
Help a restless soul be still
Oh He will, He will

We will praise Him through our sadness
Till the promise is fulfilled
Oh He will, He will

Yes! Amen! Jesus surely will.
Sometimes we need to tell our souls to worship in sorrow so that the anthem is ready to continue in times of answered prayer. A soul secure in Jesus will worship no matter the season.
Let the anthem resound!