Romance versus Reality

I think when all of us begin the foster care or adoption journey we have a fairy tale mindset about the outcome. We see ourselves holding a tiny, drug-addicted newborn- wrapping him/her in a snuggly-soft blankie and rocking him/her to sleep. Or we imagine a school-aged child who has come from a home rocked with abuse and neglect….and in our minds’ eye we scoop them up, take them shopping at the Gap, and they are forever grateful and indebted to us for ‘saving’ them. In our little fantasy world, we sleep all night, are responded to with love and respect, every problem has a upfront and concrete answer and we are masters of our own destiny. After all, we are answering God’s call….

Then the train leaves the station. And the trip is a little rocky..there’s still beautiful scenery along the way, but storms brew and rains come and the journey seems to linger. Such is foster care and adoption. Lives in the balance often falter. Children who come from hard places often challenge us beyond our abilities and we are driven to our knees (which is exactly where we should be!)

I was reading this post to Cara just now and she asked me why I was writing about this subject. The reason is that after my last post about Kevan, I realized that even after 17 years of fostering, I still romanticize situations. I asked for some detailed information about Kevan and found out that there are issues I was unaware of. However, that doesn’t mean God doesn’t have a providential plan mapped out for Kevan’s life!

In all of the situations we face with foster care and adoption, when we persevere through adversity, lives are changed, hearts are turned, and the heavenly Father is gloried. Ultimately, the reality can turn out even sweeter than the romance.

Published in: on October 30, 2010 at 11:41 pm  Comments (1)  

Here’s another face you need to see….

His name is Kevan. I had the privilege of driving him to have his first Heart Gallery picture taken over 2 years ago. I picked him up at school and drove him (along with 5 other boys! What was I thinking?) to the park to meet the photographer. Four of the boys headed back to school, but Kevan, then 9, and Alan, a 13-year-old, hung out with me throughout the entire 2 hour shoot: they filled their pockets with candy and took turns playing on a Playstation PSP that one of them had brought.

When we all loaded back into the car, an interesting thing happened. These two boys, who had never met, decided that they ‘wanted to be adopted together’. Kevan told me “we’d be great brothers, we’d share everything…” I couldn’t help but think what an awesome sight that would be: these two strong handsome boys sharing a family. Before I took them back to school, we made our way to a fast food restaurant. I told them they could order anything they wanted. Kevan waited patiently for Alan’s lead and then proceeded to order exactly what Alan ordered. After hearing the total bill for the food, Kevan looked curiously at me and said “you must be rich”. I told him that wasn’t the case, that I just wanted the day to be special for them.

As we sat in the parking lot while they ate their lunch, we talked about what kind of families they would like to have. I explained the Heart Gallery, and told them that it was my job to help find a family for them. Kevan blurted out from the backseat “Thank you for taking me to get my picture made today, and for taking me out to lunch.”

“You’re welcome, Kevan”, I said as I wondered how many ‘normal’ kids would be grateful for such a small un-exciting adventure.

I dropped them off at school that day with a fierce determination in my heart to find the perfect family for those two!

Fast forward two years. October 2010. Alan has a forever family. Kevan…well, Kevan had his picture made again. Two years older, two more years without permanence. My heart broke as I talked to him and watched him get his picture made. I wondered if he remembered the day we shared two years ago, and the fact that I took it upon myself to find him a family. I wondered if he felt the way I felt: that I had let him down. And I have let him down, we have ALL let him down.

I ask myself over and over again how we can get the word out about kids like Kevan….kids who through no fault of their own have ended up in an endless system, without hope, waiting…just waiting. It is time that we look into the face this child who is counting on us to spread the word that he is valuable…he matters…there is no one else like him. It is time that we
plead Kevan’s case and do not rest until he has the one thing that has eluded him…a place to call home.

Published in: on October 28, 2010 at 11:54 pm  Comments (4)  

50? No Way!

I feel like I’m in my late 20’s, but as of yesterday….I am, wait for it……50! I cannot believe it! I have to admit, I was not real excited about it. :)

But, my birthday was fantastic! My parents took me out for breakfast, my kids took me out for lunch, Cara took me for a surprise manicure and my hubby took me out for dinner (after all the food earlier, my ‘dinner’ was just chips and salsa!) And when we got home- A Surprise Party-with some of the most special people in my life! Here’s a picture (if I had known, I would have dressed up a bit more-but doesn’t a boa make everything and everyone look better?)

Published in: on October 24, 2010 at 4:53 pm  Comments (13)  

What’s it gonna take?

Since returning from the Together for Adoption conference, I’ve been hit with lots of information about international adoption, been following a couple of incredible blogs about Haiti, read accounts from Uganda and heard about children adopted from Ethiopia. Let me say at the onset that I am ALL for international adoption. That’s not what this blog post is about.

What it is about, is a call to action. It IS about the estimated 125,000 American orphans that are right here in our own back yard. These are children who are faced with a life lived out in foster care and the hard reality of aging out of the system alone, unless someone intervenes.

I think the root of the problem lies in the fact that Christians, and just people in general, don’t consider children in the US foster care system to be orphans. The word ‘orphan’ seems to be reserved for children overseas, and yet we, here in the richest nation in the world, have 125,000 of our very own.

125,000.

The problem with numbers is that they can be just that, numbers, until you come face to face with just one precious face.

That one face puts it all into perspective. 125,000 is not just a number, it is the reality of 125,000 faces of all different ages, colors and sizes. Faces with names and stories and needs and dreams.

What are we going to do with that? What’s it gonna take for the body of Christ to stand up, stand strong and make a difference in the lives of these kids? I’m praying that every child in our state will find a forever family….every child. David Gibbons says that “zero should be the new measure in our churches: zero orphans, zero children in foster care.” Gibbons also says that reaching ‘zero’ is going to take radical sacrifice and radical activism. Let’s get radical!

Zero. Sounds so good to me.

Published in: on October 16, 2010 at 10:20 pm  Comments (10)  

Heavy hearts just keep coming.

Today I got the kind of call I dread. It was a precious young foster mom that I have communicated with on several occasions. She had asked me to pray today for a court date they were having regarding the future of the precious little son they have had for 14 months. I did pray and hoped with all of my heart that God would intervene and allow him to be their son forever.

When I heard her voice on the other end of the phone, it was all too familiar to me….and it certainly didn’t mean he was staying. As I held on to the receiver, all I could do was listen to her cries and pray. There are no words to describe the shock, the grief and the gut-wrenching heartbreak that comes when a judge makes an unexpected and seemingly unwise decision. There is no way to comfort or console a mother who is losing her most valuable possession. Prayers seem to go unanswered, quoting scripture seems pharisaical and all the anecdotes in the world cannot cover the pain. All I could do was listen, pray and let her know that I truly and completely understood.

Sometimes I wish I didn’t truly and completely understand. Instead, I wish my daughter was here and that I could just sympathize on the surface with these situations instead of empathize deeply and internally. I wish I didn’t have the picture ingrained in my mind of my child looking up at me from the backseat of a car as she was whisked away never to see me again. I wish….but then God brings me back to the reality that foster care is hard. This world is sinful and all of us in this world are sinful. The system is a mess and the individuals within the system are a mess. But, nothing and no one can change the fact that I had the honor and privilege to be Baby B’s mother for 15 months-that God allowed me to pour into her life- love and peace and passion while she poured into me life-changing truths that would alter the course of my ministry.

And tonight, my precious friend Paige, God is saying to you ‘well done, my good and faithful servant’- your baby B will always carry with him the joy, the nurture and the unconditional love that could only come from having you as his mother during this difficult time in his life. Whatever happens from this point on, he is forever changed because you listened to God’s call on your life and you were willing to sell-out to your son-no matter what the cost and no matter what the outcome. I pray that God will hold you tightly in the palm of His hand…because He, as well, knows what it is like to give up a son.

Published in: on October 12, 2010 at 11:20 pm  Comments (8)  

The whole Erwin gang at Chase & Holly's rehearsal 5/10 :)

I finally got Chase and Holly’s rehearsal dinner pictures (from May) downloaded- and thought I would share one! :) Cara, Holly, Chase, Serenity, Christie, Jeff, Connor and Caleb!

Published in: on October 10, 2010 at 8:33 pm  Comments (2)  

Another Heavy Heart

Today, I was in charge of a Heart Gallery photo shoot that our adoption coalition hosted. It was an incredible morning with 5 volunteer photographers and a host of other volunteers who gave up their Saturday morning to drive kids, feed kids, love-on kids, corral kids and help kids ‘shop’ from some donated clothing we had received. The kids had a blast. Me, not so much. I mean, the event was a blessing and it was great to see the kids have such a good time, but waves of grief flooded over my soul. The first wave white-capped with my tears as I saw a precious little girl that we had photographed 3 years ago- after we placed her incredible photo in the Heart Gallery, a fight ensued to have her placed with her much older teenage sister. So, we photographed them together. Today, after no inquiries (even with the help of a beautiful television interview with them), we, once again, photographed her by herself. Only now, she is 3 years older. Her countenance is no longer that of a bubbly bouncy 4-year-old, but a somber 7-year-old with a few too many disappointments in her life. My heart absolutely broke and I cannot get her out of my mind.

Next, wave after wave of teens that we have photographed at least once before (sometimes more) came. There they were. Waiting. Hoping. Grasping at just one more chance for permanence. They continue to put it all out there with the hope of getting a family, and yet photo shoot after photo shoot, their names are still on the list.

Tonight I am resolute. Tonight I am committed. Tonight I am crying out to the Father; THE Father who is a Father to the fatherless and who ‘puts the lonely in families’. I pray that He will equip me, inspire me, and bouy me as I search for out-of-the-box ways to find families for ‘my’ kids. There is a quote on our Heart Gallery trailer that says “there are no unwanted children, just unfound families.” Tonight, I pray that those families will be found….and soon.

Published in: on October 9, 2010 at 9:05 pm  Comments (1)  

Thoughts from Austin :)

I’m just catching my breath after returning from the Together for Adoption Conference in Austin this past weekend. Jeff and I had an incredible time both at the conference and together. I led a small break-out session entitled “Persistent Passion-Weathering the Storms of Foster Care”. We met some neat people and listened to some great messages that inspired us and gave us a renewed vision for finding families for the kids waiting in our area (and beyond). I thought I’d give a synopsis of some of the information that we found inspirational!

*God’s purpose in adoption is personal, ever growing, ever deepening
*Adoption is God-sized!
*We don’t face the global orphan crisis alone- it is HIS mission!
Dan Cruver

*You cannot lead a child to a place of healing if you do not know the way yourself.
*Real families need REAL families to help them on this journey- (not perfect families or those who seem to be perfect) The church can (or should) be a place for families to be real.
(Micheal & Amy Monroe) Tapestry Ministries

*Regarding the church and the orphan crisis-Knowledge about the bible requires activation.
*Meeting the orphan crisis will require RADICAL SACRIFICE and RADICAL ACTIVISM
*The United States Foster Care Stats should “mess you up”
* ‘zero’ should be the new measure for the church- ‘zero’ orphans, ‘zero’ foster kids, ‘zero’ widows not being cared for
David Gibbons-

*Latest statistics- 163,000,000 orphans worldwide
500,000 US foster kids, 125,000 available for adoption
*Pray BIG
*Pastors are the key- if pastors love orphans, people will love orphans
Dr. Susan Hillis

*Apostolic ministry is focused on the individual- Movements are made up of individuals
*The apostles focused on individuals with great need- Churches are often known more for political posturing than compassion
*What convinces a skeptical world is seeing- the sight- the act
*Jesus Christ is the SOURCE of the power to adopt. He takes what we give and leverages it for His Kingdom.
*God has placed in His church the power to rescue the fatherless. Jesus was willing and able. The hesitation is not in Jesus, but in the church
*We are not the answer to the orphan crisis, Jesus is.
J.D. Greear

*James 1:27- not sure the translation but “…the kind of religion that makes God smile”-
*Pharoah’s daughter and adoption of Moses. Of all the places she could bathe, she chose the Nile River. Was it a coincidence that she chose the very place that her father was having all of the Hebrew baby boys thrown? She saw the basket- picked it up and looked inside.
*The whole ministry of adoption is wondering ‘what’s inside?’
*Every year 19,000 kids age out of the foster care system, they climb out of the basket on their own and try to make their way to the shore.
*Psalm 68 God is a Father to the fatherless. How does He father them? By placing them in families. God is the Father to these children and the church is the mother. The church is the bride of Christ and needs to wake up and quit watching the baskets floating by…
*Your heart can’t tell the difference between your biological and adopted kids!
*What are we saying when we say we can’t afford to adopt? That God the Father is a ‘dead-beat’ dad? That He can’t take care of His kids?
*It is beautiful to see what God can do when His church comes together to wade in the water looking for baskets.
*Isaiah 53- By faith take a basket and see what you have inside.
*The orphan crisis should disturb and disrupt us.
Robert Gallinas- Project 127

Whew! Those are some brief thoughts from the conference! I think they will post all of the messages and break-out sessions on line sometime this week at togetherforadoption.com :)
By the way, if you haven’t clicked on the 147 Million Orphan link (on my sidebar)- you need to. I met Gwen and Suzanne at the conference- they remind me of me and Caryl (just a wee bit younger!) They are doing an INCREDIBLE job raising awareness about the global orphan crisis- and are just so real.

Published in: on October 7, 2010 at 4:45 pm  Comments (3)  
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