8 reasons you definitely shouldn't foster

Go on any social media network and you'll find a flood of people who constantly share op-eds, Scripture, quotes, and ultrasound memes touting their pro-life status. For hordes of those same people, the vigilant activism ends there. They are loud and proud on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, but when it comes to action, clicking the Share button is good enough for them. There really isn't much - if any - actual proof that they take action to value all life.

Some folks call that slacktivism. Slacker activism.

The term that many liberal-minded people are using to address this phenomenon is no longer pro-lifers, but pro-birthers, because their actions, concerns, and voting preferences are all wrapped up in the avoidance of abortion rather than the support of the actual child's life once he or she enters the world.

Pro-birth, not exactly pro-life.

Adoption and foster care are two authentically pro-life kinds of things, but humans are just so great at coming up with all the reasons not to dabble in that messy world. Here's looking at you, conservatives, because you are the loudest when it comes to abortion.

And it's true that foster care isn't for everyone. It's inconvenient and messy and distracting and hard, and some people struggle to make the leap to give it a try. And some folks simply aren't stable enough themselves to offer help to someone else. Drowning people will never save other drowning people. But the fact is, most people aren't drowning. Most people are somewhere in the middle class bracket and they have more to share than they want to admit. Is that you? Maybe you have been considering foster care but still on the fence. If so, here are eight ways you can know for sure that hey, foster care just really isn't for you.

1. You're much too busy to attend some weird classes designed to teach you this whole new way of parenting kids who have had a hard life. Your kids are fine, so who needs that hokey attachment voo-doo? Plus, you have more meaningful things to do with those hours...like binge another season of that show you just discovered on Netflix.

2. You believe your personal children deserve to stay in that bubble you've constructed to keep them from having to see how life works for less-stable people. Hey, man. You work way too hard to give your kids more food, clothes, and toys they could ever need or want. Keeping them comfortable is more important than anything or anyone else, and they should never have to share their nice things with some random poor kid whose parents make bad choices. Their fault, their problem...not yours.

3. You feel that your race is superior to others, and you would never permit a child of a different ethnicity to live under your roof. Allow some kids in your house to speak a language other than English? Please. 'Merica! And for some of those others, I mean, my gosh, what in THE world would you even do with their hair?!

4. You just could never get attached to a kid who might not be yours forever. That's just too hard. After all, your feelings and fears and need to avoid any emotional discomfort are vastly more important than an abuse victim's need for safety, a poor child's need to be fed, or a scared kid's need for comfort.

5. You cannot handle interruptions, and helping people is inconvenient. You can't stand having your family's afternoon walk interrupted by some desperate social worker calling to ask you to help with some kid who needs a place to stay for the week. Ugh.

6. Your life plan is far more valuable than helping children and families in crisis. I mean, you have ladders to climb. You are just too busy!

7. No one has ever done anything for you so why should you do anything for anybody else? You got where you are by working hard, and if anybody else is poor it's because of one thing: they're lazy.

8. You aren't really Pro-Life. You're just Pro-Birth. You can't stand the thought of a mother killing her unborn baby, but after that baby is born? Eh, that's her problem.

Any of this feel right to you? Are you nodding your head in agreement? Then yeah, foster care is absolutely not for you.

Let's say it doesn't feel right to you. Maybe you realize - and care - that every time you say no, every time you list a "But I/my/our...", every time you put your needs before a foster kid's, another victimized child sinks into an even darker situation.

Maybe you don't believe it's Biblical to be just a Pro-Birther. You want to be a Pro-Lifer. Was Jesus a Pro-Lifer? You bet He was. It drips from every recorded word He uttered. Go and read them and you'll see. I love Him for always siding with the person with the least amount of power in any situation.

So, what now? Will you take an action step and look for a way to serve some of the most powerless, vulnerable people in our society? You have options! You can adopt domestically or internationally. You can become a full time foster parent or you can try serving as a respite-only foster parent. You can seek to understand and advocate for legislation that supports families in crisis. You can volunteer in crisis pregnancy centers or other charities that exist to help families in poverty.

If you're in my state, one of these is the best place to start.

http://www.alabamachild.org/

http://dhr.alabama.gov/services/Foster_Care/Intro_Foster_Care.aspx

https://www.agapeforchildren.org/

http://lifelinechild.org/

*All images from CC0 sources: Unsplash, Pexels, and Pixabay.

Created for Care, Round 3

I had a hundred different very legitimate reasons not to register for Created for Care this time around (despite incredible experiences in 2013 and 2014-A and B). And in the past few weeks I have had a thousand more reasons to give up my spot to someone on the wait list. I'm not sure why it's so hard to commit to this amazing retreat for adoptive moms every year. Taking a few days away at an event like this is self-care, and a very important kind of self-care for introverts like yours truly.

So here I am, chawin' my way through this enormous mountain of emotions and research and revelation that once again this blessed retreat has ushered into my soul. It has been interesting how each of the three years I have attended, God has spoken into a different compartment of my heart and about issues going on with each of our kiddos. Each time it has been just the right message at just the right moment. Manna. 

This year, my breakouts included the Enneagram and an Adoption Triad Panel. For my third I opted for a fun little tear-free (this place is an emotional land-mine, man) felt flower crafting session, and I will have you know that I came out of that room with a fun felt flower headband for Pearl, a tiny felt flowery hair clip for Sweet Love, and a pretty little felt flower barrette clip for the Sassafras.

It was all the felt floweryness.

Now, it was TECHNICALLY tear-free but there are, in fact, third-degree burns on my fingertips because that hot glue gun and I got into a bit of a tangle. And the glue was the superhot fancy kind that didn't dry immediately, so when I touched it and jerked my hand away off came hot sticky glue strings, which also melted some epidermis into oblivion. I tried to pull it off, which only made it worse and polluted my pretty felt petals with all that junky hot glue snot. Also, in my haste to get thee away from that satanic hot glue gun, I may have accidentally glued the metal barrette part together on Sassafras's so that it's actually now just a cute flower with a nonfunctional metal stick on the back. And also also, I may have totally mis-folded the petal part of Sweet Love's felt flower, and then I did damage control by just sewing the insides of the edges together. Badly. Aaaand in the spirit of total honesty, I did this weird thing with Pearl Girl's flower and now it sticks up off the band part way too much, so it looks more like a flower head-lamp than the adorable little hair accessory I had envisioned.  

 Nailed it. 

Nailed it. 

It was not my most craft-tastic day. But it was fun. 

Now, for one of my for-real serious sessions, first was on the Enneagram. A really complex personality test, the whole purpose of this tool is to reveal your strengths/weaknesses/etc. so that you can know yourself better in order to serve your people well. You take a little test to determine your personality number, which tends to describe the individual pretty closely. If you know you tend to do this thing (insert undesired behavior) when you're stressed, you can recognize it and prevent filling that void by placing unrealistic expectations on your spouse, children, etc. The more you learn about yourself, the more you can avoid projecting your own hot mess onto your people.

I'm a Type 3, apparently, and I'd say the description is mostly accurate. It swerves a bit for me when emphasizing that Threes care a lot about what people think of them, which....is not an accurate description of me. Validation for a job effectively done, yes. But to be eager for people to like me? No. To a fault, unfortunately. And there's an emphasis on competitiveness, which is way off-base. I really couldn't care less what someone else is doing (again, this is a problem), I just want to do MY thing - whatever that currently is - to the best of my ability. Excellence and competitiveness are not the same.  

My other "serious" breakout was an Adoption Triad Panel. Moderated by an adult adoptee and counselor, the panel contained three birth mothers and two adoptive moms (one of whom is also an adoptee). You guys, it got REAL in that room, let me just tell you. The conversation was expertly guided and went into some hard places. Birth moms shared how much they love and respect and admire and crave the approval of the adoptive moms, but also kind of hate them because they get to have all the power and the control and the moments and the milestones. They struggle with feeling lonely (outside a maternity home, birth mother culture isn't a thing) coming to terms with the fact that yes, they made an adoption plan for their child and yes, that is a good thing, but dang...it hurts to have to wrap your head around the fact that YOU, the woman with that baby in your belly, cannot be the best and safest place for your child. That's hard, dark stuff. It was such a big moment to listen to these ladies working out their stories today, to come to realizations, to see them spark more questions than answers at some times. 

My heart grew three new heroes today watching those birth moms share about their fears and worries and joys and journeys to peace. 

The adoptive mothers shared about how it feels like birth moms hold all the cards, that they're the ones with the power and control. They feel like life as an adoptive mom can sometimes feel like you're the half-mom, not ever enough, not ever being wanted. They talked about feeling guilty, almost responsible for taking a child from its birth mother. There was an honest and life-giving discussion about that. 

The adoptees talked about how angry they feel that the people who were their first parents didn't stay with them, even when they don't know the reason They have so many unanswered questions, mainly all circling around the word WHY, and this follows them around constantly. It was a good reminder of the heavy burden that adoptees have to bear, and an especially good refresher that adoptive parents have to work toward creating that safe space, welcoming adopted children to talk about their questions, fears, and anxieties regarding birth parents. We can't always give them answers because there ARE no simple answers. We can give them space and encouragement and if we're brave, feel the sting of birth parent loss right along with them. 

Heavy, heavy junk. 

Between all of this and the power-packed main sessions (Beth Guckenberger again this year, and I just cannot even. That lady is a spectacular fount of Scriptural knowledge and I seriously had to resist the urge to track her down and ask her OT questions all weekend. You will be happy to know the Great Resistance was successful.), I found myself perpetually teary-eyed and just feeling all the feely things. A quick trip through the vendor hall made it better every single time, though. I am still in awe of finding this cool cuff! 

Plus also some cutesy things for my girls, "just...not a t-shirt," according to Sassafras.

And The Captain held down the fort, as usual, with complete and utter ease. I don't even have to see his enneagram results to know he's totally a Type 8/4/2, by the way. ;)

KMO 2015 Intensive

Orphan care is a thing we may have talked about a time or two here at ASR, and I am always excited about an opportunity to learn more about this ministry. The Know More Orphans Intensive is a fantastic opportunity for anyone who wants to learn about the variety of ways that exist to serve orphans. On Saturday, February 28th, Altar84 will host the KMO Intensive at Grace Life Baptist Church in McCalla, Alabama...which is wonderfully local for many of you! 

There will be lots of uber-smart breakout presenters (including our very own Captain), with the main speaker Jedd Medefind from Christian Alliance for Orphans (CAFO). I'm secretly hoping to have the chance to talk to him about this little book.

Some of the breakout topics include:

  • Special Needs Adoption
  • Foster Care: An Overview
  • PreAdoption: Beginning the Adoption Journey
  • Sibling Attachment in Foster Care and Adoption 
  • The Changing Tide of International Adoption
  • Developing an Orphan Care Ministry in Your Church
  • Connecting While Correcting: The Art of Relationships
  • Attachment 101: How to Understand Kids from Hard Places
  • Adoptive and Foster Fathers: Are You Leading or Along for the Ride?

While geared toward foster care and adoption, I think it is important to note that the attachment and parenting sessions are good for any parents of any kids, and especially those who have children who struggle with anxiety or other special emotional needs.  

There is truly something included in the KMO Intensive program for everyone who is interested in orphan care, foster care, adoption, and for those who have already adopted/are fostering/have launched an orphan care ministry at their church. 

Though it will be $30 at the door, the $25 pre-registration will include access to all these speakers, conference materials, and lunch. *For those who need the childcare option for your littles (there is a extra fee, and there are limited spaces available), you will need to register ASAP to get your kids on the list. 

This KMO Intensive is well worth half a Saturday. Get registered today! 

What does the word "orphan" mean to you?

Orphan. 

It is a word used increasingly more in our society as, praise be to God, there is a growing movement among believers to care for these children who have no one else. But as with any familiar term that is central to a movement, I fret that it is so common that we take for granted what it truly means to be an orphan. 

For some, the word orphan mostly brings to mind this adorable little red-headed girl whose "happily ever after" included a fireworks display from Daddy Warbucks. And that is as close as they come to the global orphan crisis. 

I was pretty immune to what the word "orphan" really meant for a long time. I thought about all the little orphans in Africa about as much as I thought about global warming. It was a thing that was this Very Huge, Massive, Concerning, Really Sad, Overwhelming Thing, but what was I gonna do about it? I was just a kid trying to learn how to log in to this newfangled thing called the Internet, barely able to pay for my college textbooks and $170.56 note on my 1997 Chevy Cavalier.  

But then I went on an international mission trip. And while in the barrios of Nicaragua, a desperate mother thrust her newborn into my 19 year old arms and begged me to take her. The baby was wrapped in a scrap of cloth (and peed on me a little bit) and as mom had several other children hanging off of her, she was completely overwhelmed. She wanted what was best for that baby, but still to this day I can't believe that she thought I was that child's best chance. It was one of the more humbling moments of my life. As our van pulled out of the barrios that day I became unnaturally hysterical with brokenness as God let me have just a glimpse at His sorrow over that baby and mother and family and millions more just like them around the world. 

 One of the pictures I can still find from that trip to Nicaragua. 

One of the pictures I can still find from that trip to Nicaragua. 

An orphan is someone who has lost one or both parents. You'll hear the phrase "163 million" or "153 million" or "147 million" but the fact is...the exact number of orphans wordwide is impossible to know. To me, the only really important thing to know is that there are too many. Of those, many still have one parent, but then again that doesn't mean that parent can or wants to care for their child. There is no way to know how many undocumented children who live and die brief lives because they simply had no one to care for them. 

Let that sink in. No one to take care of them. 

When typical babies are born and held and celebrated and loved, the orphan has no one. They are not held, they are not loved, they are not celebrated. No one holds them regularly or looks them in the eye to help those important first pieces of emotional development take place. 

Born in the most traumatic manner possible and in a filthy “facility,” I was subsequently abandoned by my birth parents for an infinite number of reasons I’ll forever question. Day and night, I lay in the birthing center for over a month until it was eventually decided that I simply could not stay there forever. Fed and tended to infrequently, I had developed a range of infections and suffered physical wounds that remain unexplained to this day.

My arrival at the orphanage was unremarkable. I’ll never know who took me there, what I wore, if I cried. There were no pictures, nothing at all to celebrate my arrival, for my arrival marked a great and sad brokenness. From that day on, there were various different people who took turns holding and changing and feeding me, just as they did for all the other babies. I spent hours in my crib. Hours alone, for there was just too little time and love and attention to go around.
— the voice of the orphan in Woven (Altar 84)

When other babies are being snuggled and nursed and fretted over by a hormonal mama, the orphan has no one to fuss over them, no one who cares to hear or respond to their cries...no one to pay attention to their details. The orphan has no one to notice when they are not well because no one has noticed what their normal is.

The orphan is helpless, alone, rejected by most societies, and left to survive-or not- on their own. The orphan is an easy target for sex trafficking and the slave trade because they have no one to defend them. Many victims of child sacrifice in witchcraft-ridden nations are orphans. The orphan is easy prey because they have no parents to advocate for their rights or to protect them from danger. They are completely and utterly powerless and alone.

There is an epidemic, my friends. And every one of us is supposed to have some part in helping alleviate that. I know the answer for my family, but I would never presume to know what that answer is for yours. We are not all called to adopt. Not everyone is purposed for that. What we are to do, however, is figure out our place in the movement. 

Maybe it is adopting. But, maybe it is something else. Like foster care. Or birth mother/family ministry. Maybe it is service to those who are directly involved with adoption and foster care. Or maybe it is child sponsorship. Maybe it is the gift and position of giving, to help make adoption possible and improve the quality of foster care. 

What does the word orphan mean to you? 

And what are you going to do about it?

Just do something.

 *Image courtesy of Unsplash.com, under Creative Commons Zero licensing. 

*Image courtesy of Unsplash.com, under Creative Commons Zero licensing. 

5 Ways to Pray for Moms Attending the Unfailing Love Retreat

In just a few days, adoptive and foster moms from all around the greater Birmingham area will make their way to the Renaissance Ross Bridge Resort in Hoover, Alabama for the Unfailing Love Retreat. Here are five ways you can pray for this very special group of mothers:

1) Rest: Pray that these moms will have time to relax and take a break from the rigorous demands of everyday life as they parent children who have experienced varying degrees of relational trauma.

2) Restoration: Ask the Lord to restore these ladies by drawing them closer to Him through worship, Biblical and Gospel-centered encouragement through each speaker, and in this intentional time away from their families.  

3) Community: Parenting children who have unique and difficult backgrounds can be very isolating for moms. Please ask God to give this group of attendees a special bond, and for Him to forge new relationships that will provide the community of support that foster and adoptive moms so desperately need.  

4) Equipped: Pray that every session and small group class would help connect each mother with just the knowledge and wisdom she needs to better serve her family. Ask Him to provide the grace in dealing with their own struggles as well as helping shepherd their children.  

5) Challenged: Ask the Lord to not leave any Unfailing Love attendee untouched. May He pour out His love on them and then through them as they prepare to return home to their children with fresh eyes and hearts.

Thank you for lifting these special women and the Unfailing Love Retreat Team in prayer! If you know of any waiting, adoptive, or foster mom who would benefit from this unique retreat, please go to www.unfailingloveretreat.org and help them get registered.