Adoption Month Musings – Part 2 (“Babe Ruth”)

The second “Musing” I wanted to share with you for National Adoption Month started with a conversation I had with my dear friend Jamie, who is at the same stage in the adoption process as we are. As a result, we end up talking to each other at least twice a week on my drive home from work. A typical conversation starts like this:

(Speed dial Jamie)

Jamie: “Hey.”

Me: “Hey, how’s it going?”

Jamie: “Pretty good. How are you?”

Me: Oh, ya know… good. Just antsy. You?

Jamie: The same. Have you heard anything yet?

Me: No. Have you?

Jamie: No!!

(Insert 5 minutes of over-analyzing why there haven’t been many birthmoms seeking adoptive couples and when we might hear news of them)

Me: Call you right back, I have to go pick up Elise!

(Insert 7 minutes of chatting with Karla whilst trying to stealthily coerce Elise to the car)

Me: Hey, it’s me again. (This time remembering that Jamie had gone to a conference the previous day) Oh, so how was your conference?

Jamie: It was really good! I actually got to hear a speaker who grew up in foster care talk about his story and he gave some really good pointers on working with “at-risk” children.

She proceeded to tell me his story of Foster-family hopping, right up until the climax when Elise started crying about having dropped something.

As usual.

Me: “I’m so sorry, I’ve gotta go! I can’t wait to hear the rest of the story though – don’t forget to tell me the rest!”

I spot the lost item and determine it is in safe-reaching-distance to grab it at the stop light.

Elise: “Good job, Mom!!!” She cheers and claps for me from her carseat.

As moody of a passenger as she is, gosh, do I ever love her.

A couple nights later, we call Jamie and her husband Nick up to get together for dinner. Jamie finally finished her story while we binged on chips and salsa.

The speaker had shared about keeping a notebook to track how fast he could get out of a foster home, always trying to see what it would take to get kicked out and move onto the next one. He was in disbelief to have finally ended up in a place that he stayed for over a year and decided it was time to kick things up a notch. Opening a checking account and writing a bad check for a car seemed like the perfect solution to get himself kicked out of there. Add a little driving under the influence and he’d be gone for sure.

But that wasn’t how it ended. In fact, his foster parents just kept on loving him and calling him their son. There was nothing he could do to make them stop loving him.

I fought back tears as she told me the story, as I seem to do often these days. (What is my problem?! I’m turning into my mother already!!).

Then she shared that the point he made that stuck out to her was this: Be Babe Ruth.

I blinked a couple times and tilted my head, much like my border collie does when she’s confused about why I want her to back away from the dropped food on the floor.

She explained: Don’t just aim for the fence. Point to a spot on the fence and hit it right there, out of the ball park.

It means that instead of just showing these kids love, they need you to make promises and keep them. All their lives, they have been told one thing and another — all to learn that words mean nothing to adults. They’ve been disappointed and lied to, and they’ve learned that they can’t trust anyone. The only way to really gain their trust is for their caretakers to consistently do what they say they’re going to do.

I’ll be honest, I was a little taken aback by this thought. It’s easy to make abstract promises like “I will always, always love you.” But I’m sure I’m not the only one who gets a little nervous about making concrete promises. “Let your ‘yes’ be yes, and your ‘no’ be no,” it says in Matthew 5:37. Therefore, it’s easier to just say “maybe.” Or better yet, to just make tentative plans, not tell your kid, and that way it can be a great surprise if it works out.

Or you can pull it out as a bargaining chip to threaten with once their behavior heads south.

But a Promise that’s permanent?

That’s commitment.

A Promise that’s not conditional?

That’s grace.

A Promise that’s fulfilled?

That’s love.

The more I thought about the concept, the more I realized it has applications for so many relationships. In our society today, we shy away from committing to marriage too quickly. It’s better to test the waters and pretend to be married for a few years before making any rash Permanent, Unconditional Promises of Love to someone. We want to be ready to jump ship when forgiveness is too hard or pseudo-commitment feels too restricting. After all, love is about doing what feels good for me, and when it stops feeling good, it’s time to move on. And then we pretend a break-up won’t be as damaging, as long as we haven’t exchanged rings.

In our friendships, we make “tentative” plans with each other, just because we don’t want to be tied down if something more pressing comes along. Our agenda comes before the consideration of each other. But we are gracious and understanding of each other, because we know we might be the ones to cancel next time.

In my parenting strategy, I’ve noticed that when I’m not consistent in enthusiastically rewarding Elise with a sticker for her “Nice Chart”, she’s not real enthusiastic about it either. Why should she be if good behavior one day gets her a sticker and the same behavior another day doesn’t even get recognition?

Feel free to pin. No need to give me credit for my creativity and artistry. I'm just that humble.

Feel free to pin. No need to give me credit for my creativity and artistry. I’m just that humble.

In my mind, I’ve reasoned that we shouldn’t have to always bribe kids to be good. But the more I think about the application of this “Babe Ruth” principal, the more I think at the toddler stage, consistent rewards for good behavior makes her more self-aware, so that she can make good choices instead of just always act impulsively. So even though she doesn’t have any trust-issues with us, I still see benefits to making a point of saying you are going to do something and following through.

**************

Well, those are my profound thoughts for this morning. And they really aren’t even my thoughts. But hey, I told you I was going to write another post this week, and look who’s practicing their Babe Ruth? 😉

I’m on a roll here. Maybe I’ll even write another post this week! And by maybe, I mean: Of course I will write another post this week. Let’s plan on Friday. See you then!

 

Advertisements

Adoption Month Musings Part 1

Here it is, November 12th already, and I can finally sit down and reflect on it being National Adoption Month.

My thoughts ping and pong in all different directions as I ponder if this will be the only post I manage to make time for in November. But if nothing else, I want to share two predominate things that have impacted me recently.

The first came unexpectedly one day after “racing” Elise back to the house from the mailbox. We sat down to flip through the mail and she asked me to read her the Bethany Christian Services Magazine. Instead of reading it to her, I turned to the pages of the kids who are waiting to be adopted. I told her how they don’t have Mamas and Daddies and how we should pray for these kids. After that, she memorized every kid’s name by quizzing me over and over on every picture.

When we got home from Daycare the next day, she opened the magazine up again and named off all the kids.  And then she asked me if they have Mommies and Daddies yet.

If that doesn’t break your heart…

On one hand, adopting a child from Foster Care is not a venture to be taken lightly. I want that point to be clear.

But on the other hand, perhaps we – the church – need to make a little more of an effort in finding homes for these children and supporting those families willing to do so. I know some churches do a great job at this already. But even one of the largest churches in our area offers no special assistance or programs for foster or adoptive families. That seems crazy to me.

Creating programming that appeals to the masses seems like a good idea. That’s how business strategies work, right? Appeal to the largest population using the leanest resources. But how can we call ourselves “the body of Christ” if we are not intentional about reaching out to those in the margins? Isn’t that what Christ did again and again? Broke away from the crowd to give special attention to marginalized individuals who needed Him most?

These children may not seem like our responsibility because they are not a part of our congregations.

They are not a part of our congregations Yet.

Top number: Foster children waiting to be adopted Bottom number: Number of churches

Top number: foster children waiting to be adopted
Bottom number: Number of churches

But can we make room for them? If 1 family out of every 3 churches in Michigan chose to adopt from foster care, what a huge difference we could make! (And not to say church-goers are the only ones who should adopt from foster care – but if we claim to be Christians, we are implored to “Take up the cause of the fatherless.” Isaiah 1:1.7.

Can we make more of an effort to share their stories and implore people to consider if they might be open to making room for a child in their homes? Can we support families through networking and respite care and material services and counseling? I’m sure there are even more needs I’m not aware of yet.

I could never tell anyone that adopting from foster care is something they should do. I don’t know what particular calling God has put on their family. But it is crazy to think of the number of children who don’t.have.parents.

Staggering. Sobering.

And after seeing Elise show so much interest in these children, it’s made me realize how important it is to teach your kids about real-life orphans. To help them grow compassionate hearts instead of self-pitying little souls. And not in an angry, “There are starving children in Africa who would be glad to clean your plate for you.” But in a “What do you think we should do to help kids who don’t have families?” And then involve our children in whatever activity we can think of – whether it’s praying for them, buying material supplies for a home for foster children, donating, etc…

(All that is to say, our daughter is still self-pitying. Aren’t we all? 😉 But the more we focus outward, the easier it is to forget why we thought our busy schedules and materialistic woes were ever so important to us.)

Anyway, this is what has been speaking to me lately. I wanted to share the other thought with you also, but I’m not quite sure how to segue into it without making this post extraordinarily long. 🙂

I’ll just plan on posting Part 2 next week.

 

This Season

Oh, is it October already? This beautiful two-week window of mid-October in Michigan is one of my favorite times of the year.100_7870

The bright, speckled palette of trees that frame wide-open fields of corn, wheat, and soybeans….

The cool breeze that gently washes you with the smells of burning leaves or imminent precipitation…

The warmth of a cozy couch cushion, a warm mug of mulled cider, and the lull of the voices of sportscasters on the TV– all tugging you into the nap you’ve been putting off for months.  100_7873

Mmmm… I love it.

I’ve been teaching Elise the importance of stomping on leaves when walking in the Fall. She’s caught on quite well.

100_7877

Today we played in the giant pile of leaves Tyler raked for her. She picked a “special” red one and sang “Twinkle, Twinkle” to it as she twirled the stem in her fingers while I pushed her in her swing.

elise leaf

These days are the best.

And then the day comes to a close.

I told you we are in the process of potty-training, right?

Ya know, for all the time our newborn classes spent talking about diaper contents, this was one they never warned us about. I suppose it surpassed the scope of the class.

“Go potty!” Elise demanded tonight.

“Ok, lets go,” I replied, hoping this meant a nice, dry Pull-up.

As she took my hand to head for the bathroom, she looked up at me and matter-of-factly told me, “Ahweeve in there. Ahweeve. Ahweeve in there.” She nodded at me like I needed to agree with her.

I chuckled at her toddler antics and smiled and nodded, “Yep, sure. Elise in there.”

But when I went to help her onto the potty, I gasped and gagged when brown flakes that had been caked to her skin flew out of her diaper.

And onto the floor.

And her clothes.

And me.

Blehhhhh….

Heave….

Someone please grab me the Anti-bacterial wipes.

And a trash bag.

And gloves.

I was not prepared for this. Why must potty training be so gross?!

“Ahweeve on my bootie!” Elise exclaimed.

And I fell over laughing.

Apparently Elise had spent a good part of the night with a leaf in her diaper.

And besides the leaf, she actually was dry. Hooray!

Yes…. these are the best days. Even though we’re waiting and impatient to be chosen for a baby, we are in such a fun season of life right now. And much like Fall, time passes faster than we can imagine.

Enjoy these last few days of beauty, friends. And don’t play too hard in those leaves. ❤  Just a little tip from Elise.

Baby Beluga

You’ve all been great about patiently waiting with us on this journey thus far. “Have you heard anything?” and “When are you getting your baby?” are common questions I hear each week. Your excitement with us is encouraging… I thought the frequent questions would make me feel defeated, but it actually reminds me that this whole thing is real. In the drudgery of waiting and the busyness of life, I’ve found myself forgetting that there will.be.a.baby.

A REAL baby.

That is OURS.

I do feel a little discouraged. Almost five months with only 3 opportunities and 30+ waiting families we are technically “competing” with… I’m not great at statistics, but the probability sure doesn’t seem great.

But what I’ve learned from our whole experience of building a family is that God’s purposes extend beyond my personal happiness and desires. That He has just the RIGHT baby for us, and we “just haven’t met you yet” as Michael Buble so wonderfully puts it.

Did I ever tell you how I touched his hand?

It’s on video. I can prove it. But I think only if you’re friends with my mom or me on facebook:

Wait, except my face isn’t in it, just my hand…

Oh, but I guess these Go-Go Gadget “piano fingers” (that actually were never any good at playing piano) are pretty unique. And those wrinkly knuckles. Why do I have such wrinkly knuckles?

Promise you folks, that’s really my hand. Fo’ real.

Anyway, where was I going with this? Oh yeah…

As discouraging as it is sometimes, we know that sometimes God takes us down what seem like single-lane, meandering, dead-end roads to lead us to spectacular sights.

So thank you all for your encouragement and excitement, even if you get multiple responses of “Nope, no news.” Don’t give up on us!

And don’t worry about us either. Though the adoption stuff seems like it’s not going anywhere right now, Elise is keeping us plenty busy with potty training.

I never thought I would want to keep changing diapers. But honestly, sometimes it’s just so much easier.

Good thing her high-pitched little “woohoo’s!!” and precious little fist pumps make the hassle entertaining.

Oh, and speaking of entertaining, did I mention what Elise would like to name the baby?

Baby Beluga.

We’re really into Raffi around here.

I told her maybe that can be the baby’s middle name.

 

Shaken

It’s been about 2 weeks since I last blogged and there are a few reasons for that. As you likely experienced yourself, the summer is busy. Not just “To-Do List-Busy”, but “There’s-Only-So-Much-Summer-Left-Busy.”  Since June was pretty much entirely devoted to fundraising, we’ve been trying to make up for lost time with camping and day-trips.

But perhaps another reason is the celebration of our dear friends’ being chosen by a birth-mom, and bringing their baby home, only to lose her two short weeks later. The mother had changed her mind.

It doesn’t happen a lot, in spite of what you might have heard: About 1 in 20 cases, and usually a birth-mom changes her mind before the couple brings the baby home.

We are heartbroken for our friends. We were so thrilled for them and were so blessed to have met their baby girl. The news rattled us, to say the least. No one expected it. Everything leading up to that point seemed so God-ordained. The birth-family seemed so certain, so relieved to know this baby would have such amazing parents.

The past few weeks have led us through a lot of soul-searching. All of which makes our resolve to adopt ever-more sure.

As I’ve said before, one of the common platitudes we hear is, “It takes a special couple to adopt.”

But we are not special. We are not strong. We are not prepared for that kind of devastation. We are shaken and weakened just by this news of our friends.

We are fragile… but our God is mighty. 

We won’t withhold love from any baby… but we very well may have our hearts shattered.

We may face more than we can handle on our own… but we are never on our own to handle it. 

What we may experience through adoption is a mere shadow of the heartbreak our Father has over those who reject Him. Yet His heart can handle it, and He does not shut down. He can never grow weary of loving.

“How great is the love the Father is lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” (1 John 3:1)

And if WE have been adopted into God’s family, we feel ever-more burdened to adopt children into our own. But our ability to stand and move forward with determination has nothing to do with us and everything to do with Him. The God who loves us and will sustain us. The God who loves these children. 

So that no child will leave our home without being loved as our own and covered in prayer for the rest of their lives.

“We love because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)

DSC_93431-001

Please pray for adoptive and foster families. They probably aren’t as strong as you think… we all need your prayers!

My Growing Girl

Our baby turns two tomorrow, and it has me feeling equal parts nostalgia and excitement.

When I first wrapped her tiny body in my arms, I expected to feel like we were finally being united – like pen-pals meeting for the first time.

But when I beheld her squishy little face, I was surprised to realize that I didn’t recognize her. In fact, I felt like I was staring into the face of the smallest, sweetest stranger I had ever met.

I wanted to ask her a million questions…

100_3397Do you know who I am?

Do you like me?

Do you like my cooking?

Do you promise not to move too far away when you grow up? 

What’s your favorite color?

What do you like to do for fun? 

Are you an extrovert or an introvert?

Do you like volleyball? 

Do you like to cook? 

Do you like roller coasters? Because I really don’t. Will you hang out at the waterpark with me instead?

I felt like a child myself:

Baby? What are you doing, Baby? Wake up! What are you thinking? I just want to play with you.

I loved the newborn stage. But it was so hard to wait for her personality to shine through. Like holding a present in your hands, but having to wait for Christmas to open it. Except they say not to shake a baby.

And instead of Christmas once a year, she surprises us with something new every single day. It’s like Christmas for eternity!

(Or maybe not eternity. From what I hear, 11 to 15 years old can be a bit more like Ground-hogs Day. The perpetual verdict is: Winter is never going to end. Or at least it feels that way.)

I could tell you a million funny stories from this past year…

Like how she tried to put her one-piece skirted-swimsuit on over her head came crying out to me when her face was stuck in the leg-hole like a lion’s mane.

Or how she startled me when she suddenly poked me in the booty whilst getting ready because my polka-dotted underwear reminded her of the “Press This” book.

Or how, when we’re on a mission and I’m feeling overwhelmed, I subconsciously mutter “We’ve got this,” and she enthusiastically (and clumsily) leaps into the air and loudly squeaks “GO GOT THIS!!!”

 

It scares me how fast 2 years went by. In another 2 years and she’ll be starting preschool. That terrifies me. I’m not ready! What if I just audit her classes?

Alas… I can only make the most of each day. Good-gravy, I just love this girl.

Big Girl

Alright, “Terrible Two’s”… I’m ready!

 

 

 

 

 

It’s About People

I don’t usually like posting political opinions on social media. I don’t think a witty meme or an impassioned Facebook rant is likely to change any hearts when it comes to highly controversial issues. Such issues are controversial because people’s feelings run deep. It is generally not in our nature to change our minds about something so deep-seated in our hearts. We need a deeper conviction than memes and quotes –  and even radically repulsive media  – can ever inspire.

And I am no exception.

My concern for women’s value and women’s availability to material and financial assistance is what led me to audit seminary classes for women’s ministry and choose an internship with a pregnancy resource center. In many ways, I would consider myself a feminist. One of my greatest passions is to help other women push through insecurity or adversity and succeed in life – whether at home or at work. I really can’t imagine my passion shifting in such a radical way as to deny my support of organizations that do so much good for these women and their families.

The issue of abortion polarizes people into two basic categories: 1) Those that are passionate about caring for women and 2) Those that are passionate about caring about the unborn. Reasoning that “life begins at conception” and women who’ve had abortions are “murderers” will not change individuals in the first party who truly believe their cause is out of compassion. For one, it is nearly impossible to convince people that a microscopic ball of cells, unrecognizable as human could really be a human life. And attacking a stranger’s character will never result in a heart that is open to counter-opinions.

Reasoning with a pro-lifer that a fetus is still a part of a woman’s body is pointless also. The belief that life begins at conception is rooted too deeply in their worldview.

I wish I had answers that could satisfy both parties. But I can only ask you to hear my heart on this topic, as it is one that so greatly influences my life:

After 3 years of infertility – 3 years of hoping and praying and silently breaking-down while others complained about unexpected pregnancies – my husband and I finally heard our daughter’s heartbeat on an ultrasound. Only 3 weeks after conception.

I can see how people who do not believe in the Bible could deny that life begins at conception. Life is a mysterious and amazing miracle – no matter if the life was planned and hoped for or a startling compilcation. It’s hard to understand how that such a tiny, unrecognizable shape could be human. But I do not see how anyone can deny that my daughter’s heartbeat confirmed she was life at 3 weeks post-ovulation.

To put that timeline in perspective: The earliest a woman can even know she is pregnant is 2 weeks past ovulation. Most (who aren’t crazy-lunatic-Infertiles) wait to even take a test until their period is 1 week late. By then their fetus – their baby – already has a rapidly beating heart. But as a society we don’t really educate people on that. I only knew this because of getting such early appointments while under the care of a fertility specialist.

Another issue that weighs heavily in my distrust of having the government’s hand in abortion-funding: isn’t it considerably cheaper to support the termination of a pregnancy than to tack on years of financial assistance to mothers and children living on low incomes? Seems like a bit of a conflict of interest. And what do pro-lifers really have to gain from being pro-life? Self-righteousness I suppose?? I’m not sure…

And I wonder… why does an unplanned pregnancy have to be such a burden? Why are we still afraid for our jobs, our chances of advancement, our community support, and our access to healthcare and childcare? Gender equality has come a long way, but once you throw a pregnancy in the mix, we start to feel more than a little insecure. Add in hormones and the worry about the above-mentioned items makes a pregnant women suddenly feel like a whale walking a tight-rope with no safety net. Working women are an asset. Working Mothers are a burden and a risk. I’ll be honest… I even felt that way after years of pining for pregnancy. Perhaps I am swinging liberal here, but I would gladly sacrifice higher taxes to connect families with sufficient resources than funding voluntary-population control.

(And honestly, I think finding good, affordable childcare is the greatest challenge. If moms could get affordable childcare so that they could still work even part-time, it seems like this would be worthwhile for all parties. But then, I’m not economist, so I really can’t speak to the viability of this suggestion)

Finally, as we sit around waiting to be chosen to adopt a child, my heart breaks at the amazing chances a child now has to be adopted by people who would do anything to be parents. And after years of dreaming and hoping a child, they are people who will be incredible parents too. There are not orphanages in the U.S. like there are in China. Infants are not waiting for parents. Parents are waiting for children. And not even just perfectly healthy children. Just any child to whom then can proudly give their name and their love.

(* To clarify, I am speaking of infants whose parents have chosen adoption. They are not typically waiting to be adopted. However, there are numerous children in the foster care system or have become “wards of the state.” That’s a different beast and one that also deserves attention, but I’ll save that for another time.)

Anyway… I don’t expect to have changed any minds with my ardent defense for both children and women. I loved volunteering with the pregnancy resource centers and was inspired by the warmth and compassion and generosity they showed every woman that passed through their doors or dialed their number. I think serving those women is probably the most influential movement one can take.

Because it’s not about winning or about being right. It’s about caring for people.