Grace & Adoption

I’ve been hit hard this week by the weight of adoption, and more significantly the love between a parent and a child. It’s not hard thing to search for when I go looking, especially as I work a job that I eat, sleep and breathe the plight of the world’s most vulnerable children, but this week was on a new level. This week, I looked through photos of some of our kiddos waiting for families and I also saw someone close to me accept their family’s first foster placement. This week, I did not leave my job at the door, and instead carried it around with me, praying and wondering how else God would help me meet needs.

Early in the week I read an article of a sweet kiddo who the system failed. He went from foster family to foster family, never having the opportunity to land in a solid family setting long term. By the end of his short life, he got caught up with the wrong crowd and died at an early age. The author of the article did an excellent job, and the line that has stuck in my head and is breaking my heart is, “A child should never have to prove that he is worthy of love.” Amen. Each child is a gift, is special, is worthy of love. Yes, they are a sinner in desperate need of a savior, but no more than another.

As I’ve been processing through the different situations that I’ve encountered this week, the truth of the Gospel has gone to a deeper place in my heart. If I had to prove that I was worthy of God’s love five years ago, I would have failed. If I had to prove that I was worth of God’s love five days ago, I would have failed. Today I would fail at proving that I was worth God’s love. Thankfully, I do not have to prove a thing. Because of God’s grace, I do not have to prove a thing.

This special truth does not mean that my heart does not break for the over a million children in the foster care system throughout the United States tonight who are in the midst of feeling like they are unlovable. It does not mean that my heart does not break for the 163,000,000 children globally in need of families, it simply deepens my gratitude for Jesus’ work on the cross two thousand years ago, and affirms my greater belief in missions. I want to share the testimony of God’s grace with the world, and with those who feel unlovable.

Because of Christ’s work on the cross, none of us have to prove ourselves worthy of love.

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Grace and Unmet Expectations

Yesterday, I ate my feelings. Three cookies and a couple pieces of chocolate later I realized what I was doing. I was upset and thought that a copious amount of sugar was somehow going to solve that. Note to self: too much sugar will give you a stomach ache, not fix any big problems, but you will be frustrated by the stomach ache and you may forget about the other problems momentarily.

But not for long. Because then the phone rings or another email comes in. It’s the reminder that over a year later, families still are not allowed to bring their children home from Congo.

I have a feeling I may be consuming a lot of chocolate this week. Or maybe I can convince my boss to take some walks with me. There’s nothing particularly worse about this week except that the Department of State issued an official statement saying that adoptive parents without referrals should cease pursuing their adoptions from Congo. Let me pause for a moment and explain. The Department of State is essentialling telling families to give up hope that they will bring a child home from Congo if they have not already received a referral for this child.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of families sit heartbroken, mourning the loss of a child they never met, but had pictured in their family for years. Their expectations, along with their hearts, are crushed.

I’ve spent many a drive home crying out to the Lord on behalf of these families and these kids. My heart breaks for them. Frankly, I’m a little pissed, my human brain screams at the Lord, “Aren’t you supposed to be great and mighty, God? You called these families to care for the orphan and this is what you give them?” My flesh just barely resists the urge to add a, “You suck!” on the end of the previous statement.

These families seeking to adopt from Congo are not alone. I’m reminded daily of heartbreak. Childhood cancer, miscarriages, abortions, failed adoptions, called-off engagements, divorces and even death. The reality is, we hope for, pray for and plan for things that may not come to fruition. We start to dream and picture how and when God is going to show up. We think through bridesmaids, baby names, adoption announcements, put down payments on houses and pay into retirement funds only to have our plans fall through. I wish I could say, “Let’s stop hoping, praying, planning and expecting,” but I don’t think that’s the answer either.

Today I stand with those who lives aren’t what they thought they would be. Today, I lift up those experiencing heartbreak and unmet expectations. In the gap between what we think things should look like and reality, Lord, would you meet us with your grace? Jesus, would we be reminded through clenched fists, tear stained cheeks and middle fingers that You meet all of our needs, that everything is a loss compared to knowing you? Would you speak to our broken hearts, into the darkness of our souls and remind us of your grace, love and compassion? And when all else fails, if it can’t fall together today, can you at least make sure we’re surrounded by lots of chocolate?

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Why Do I Care for the Orphan?

This blog post is written in partnership with Show Hope, a movement to care for orphans.

Plainly, I care about the orphan because God cares about the orphan. The Bible is littered with examples of God’s heart towards the orphan and His provisions for them. He commands His people to care for the orphan, inviting all of us into the ways that He will be faithful to His promises.

More practically, I care about the orphan because I see the nourishment and support that a family provides. Each child, no matter where they are born – a small village in Africa, a slum in India, city in England or a suburb in the United States – is full of potential. There is potential for this child to contribute to changing the world, but their potential is increased or decreased based on their access to a loving family to protect and provide for them. Children are able to overcome insurmountable odds, but a loving family as a child’s first line of defense and first community only helps increase a child’s view of self and ability to positively impact the world.

The power of a family is not limited to the orphan. As I’ve transitioned into adulthood, my parents have supported me every step of the way, by forcing me to stand on my own two feet and not providing for me financially, by helping me test drive cars and make pro and con lists and by driving two cars to Indianapolis and spending a weekend moving me into my big girl apartment. They have come alongside me and believed in me even when I could not believe in myself. My parents, Sue and Mike, have solidified my belief in the value of a family.

Jesus was born into an earthly family. The Bible communicates that Mary, Joseph and his brother, James, all play significant roles in His life on earth and the ministry of the Church after His death. Even though He experienced the ultimate fellowship with God the Father, Jesus, too experienced the benefits of an earthly family. We do not know much about Jesus’ childhood, but one can imagine that His family helped shape and form into a man, even though He was God.

I care about the orphan because my heart is tuned to the marginalized. God has written them on my heart – I have a hard time hearing stories of heartbreak without my own heart breaking. Jesus hung out with those on the margins, and as a follower of Christ, I want to follow in His footsteps. Jesus sees the potential in each person, no matter where they’re born and if they’re born into a family or not. I want to be part of bringing God’s kingdom to earth and part of that is through caring for the least of these among us – including the orphan.

As the Outreach Coordinator for MLJ Adoptions, I am able to care for the orphan by sharing with prospective adoptive families what children without families may experience in their early years. I am able to speak about the success stories of families who have brought children into their home and helped them move from orphans to sons and daughters. It is the greatest privilege of my job to advocate for the world’s most vulnerable children. God cares about the orphan, He cares about their situation, He sees their potential, and He invites me – and you – into the story of advocating for their right to a loving family.

 

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Summer Reflections

As July winds down, summer is almost over. Which breaks my heart. Summer is a special season to me, full of wonderful memories spent at my grandparents’ house when my family came back from Japan for 8 weeks each summer. Summer is when it’s socially acceptable to eat ice cream for many meals. Summer sunsets are very special to me. It’s summer when I feel God closest to me, when I know that no matter what my heart is going through, it’s all going to be okay. And even though the summer isn’t quite over, no matter what this 75 degree Indiana day wants us to believe, I’d love to share about what I’ve learned this summer.

  1. Busy is not a way to describe how I am. It doesn’t count. It may be true of my schedule, but it’s a cop out. It says that what I fill my calendar with is more important that who I am, which is a lie I’m trying to fight hardcore in my life. Busy has a negative connotation, almost to say that I’m a victim to the things I’ve said yes to. These things I’ve said yes to are good things – I need to quit making myself a victim to them. Working a second job is not something that has happened to me; I’ve made the conscious decision and I truly do love working there, I need to stop complaining and start celebrating. I am not and will not be a victim to this culture of busy. Yes, there are times when I may need to say no, or slow down, but that is not a reflection of who I am, simply of what I choose to do.
  1. Adoption changes lives. It’s been a busy summer at work, and some evenings I’ve taken work home, or I’ve gotten up early to get to the office to get stuff done. I’m beyond thankful that I have the privilege of working a job that changes the lives of children in need. For older children and children with special needs, when a family chooses to adopt them, their lives are changed. In some cases, adoption means that a child gets to live. I love that I get to work in an industry that actually changes lives.
  1. Goals are a good thing. I want to get out of debt and pay off my student loans. If you’ve met me in the past year, I’ve probably shared that I have a second job to pay off my loans, or how I can’t wait to be debt free. I’ve tried to put my money where my mouth is and get serious about paying off my student loans. I’m making progress and it’s so empowering! It’s silly, but I love being able to make progress and meet goals on something that I’ve decided is very important to me.
  1. God wants me to be healthy. This means that I put good food in my body, make sure I’m working out enough and also setting healthy boundaries. It’s easy to want to say yes to everything, or be all things to all people, but God wants me to give the things I’ve committed to the best I can and this requires me to set boundaries. I also cannot fix people, I must draw a healthy boundary to love people well. Boundaries bring freedom. Emotional, financial and physical health bring freedom.
  1. Those who were part of the early church were brave. I’ve been hanging out in the book of Acts this month and my mind continues to be blown at the ways the followers of Christ responded to God’s commands immediately. Incredible results follow radical obedience. I want to obey quicker, and with bigger faith. As I’ve been reading, I keep asking God to help me develop my “faith muscle”. Like with any muscle, I have got to work at it slowly and surely, even when it’s uncomfortable.

I’ve been reading my way through 2014 and this summer, I have enjoyed numerous books with a glass of wine sitting on my patio, or with my tumbler on the beach (the best place to read). Some of my favorite books of the summer are:

Behind the Beautiful Forevers (Katherine Boo), Deepening Community (Paul Born), Boundaries (Cloud & Townsend) and my new favorite book – The Ragamuffin Gospel (Brennan Manning). I highly recommend all of these books!

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What have you learned this summer?

 

It Was Worth It

Saturday morning, I helped organize an information session on adopting from Latin America. We had families join us who were at all stages in the adoption process, including having finished their processes. If you know anything about adopting, you know that the process is long. No one understands setbacks, uncertainties, and waiting like adoptive parents. One of the adoptive moms said, about her daughter, “She was so worth it, I’d do it all over again, without a doubt.”

As I stood in church on Palm Sunday and listened to the worship band lead our church in worship, I was struck by how the woman’s words about her daughter are true of those of us who have been adopted into God’s family. At the end of this week, we’ll celebrate Easter; God’s declaration that sin is not the end of our story. Our past, present and future sins were paid for on the cross that fateful day 2,000 years ago and now, Jesus reigns from his true throne in heaven. Each year, on Easter, we celebrate Christ’s sacrifice; He reminds us that we are worth it.

The author of Hebrews says of Jesus, “for the joy set before Him, He endured the cross.” The joy is us, individually and collectively – believers, members of the Body of Christ. I can’t get the image of the triumphal entry out of my head today; the palms being waved and people shouting, “Hosanna, Hosanna in the highest.” All the while, Jesus knew what He was headed towards. He knew that this was the beginning of the end. At the end of the road was a painful death, but He chose to walk the road anyways. He eventually carried His own cross to His own crucifixion. And yet, it was His joy. It was worth it to Him. His death and resurrection declare that we were worth it.

Let’s not forget, that we did nothing to earn it. We mine as well have been given hammers to hammer the nails ourselves. We are worthy because of His sacrifice. Just like the little girl who was adopted did not have to earn her mother’s love for the process to be worth it, God saw us in our sins, at the beginning of time, and decided Jesus would still come. His love makes us worthy.

Just as the little girl’s identity changed from an orphan to a daughter, so did mine when I accepted Christ. Adoption is forever. I am part of God’s family for eternity. I am worth it because He says I am. I can’t earn a better spot in His family; I’m all in. This week, that’s the truth I want to live out as I prepare to celebrate Christ’s death and resurrection. I want to honor Him and His sacrifice. He said I am worth it – will I do the same for Him?

Tomorrow

When I was younger, and living in Japan, there was a family with two adopted daughters from China. I remember Emilee asking my mom why the girls didn’t look like their mom, and my mom explained that these two girls had been adopted. I don’t remember the girls’ names, but the more my mom told us about adoption, the more my 7 year-old brain was convinced that I would one day adopt children. This desire to adopt only grew as we moved back to the U.S. and in our new neighborhood, three families adopted daughters. By the time I was in high school, I knew Angelina Jolie needed to watch her back because I wanted to be an Ambassador to UNICEF, just like her.

My heart broke for orphans when I traveled to Monterrey, Mexico with Back2Back Ministries and I saw the devastating long-term effects of being abandoned. My junior year of college, I learned a great deal about sex trafficking and then spent the summer interning with Back2Back Ministries, I began to truly believe in adoption. I believe it changes children’s lives. It gives children opportunities they could only dream about.

Children are special, and deserve to be treated with value. Adoption helps marginalized children gain extraordinary experiences.

Tomorrow I start my first big girl job, with an adoption agency. It was a journey that has had numerous detours and I don’t know where I’ll ultimately end up, but tonight I rejoice. God has written on my heart a desire to serve His children. I don’t have the patience to teach, I don’t get to be a missionary yet, I can’t do the medicine thing, but He has crafted something special for me. Something that will build my skills and grow my heart. I’m thankful, and confident that God knows what He’s doing. Tomorrow is the start in another chapter in the adventure God and I are on together.

“The place God calls you to is where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” – Frederick Buechner