Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Anything But Natural

We recently signed our renewal contract as foster parents. There's a line in the agreement that states, "The foster parent will care for the placed child as he or she would care for other children in his or her home."

I was talking with Baby J's social worker, and she was asking various questions about how things were going, and I remarked, "You know, foster parenting is one of the most unnatural things you can do."

"What do you mean?" she asked.

My heart's response:

In this season, I am his mother, her mother. I've agreed to care with my whole being, as I do any of the sons I've birthed. I choose to love, when I know my heart will be broken, when I know there is another, dreaming of holding this child, of singing him to sleep. Of one more chance...
I set his schedule to have it thrown out the window for worthy time with his real family. I wake up, desperate for my Savior because I know part of me will die, will grieve, will dream of a tiny face and fingers I may never see again. But I have promised to care for him as I would my own, so he is worth every moment of that grief.

I wish I could capture where we've been, but I can promise there are places of me that have been to the shadowlands and back.

Jamie has led us through beautifully heartbreaking decisions that have crystallized my longing for Jesus. We've tasted death, sorrow, and pure annoyances, all within the month, and in sincerity, it's pushed me just over the edge of the cliff.

We packed Baby J's bags, wept and wailed our tears, said our goodbyes, only to have him stay once again. A natural momma's response would realize we may need to shy away from the shadowlands. But I'm not a natural momma, and we're unnatural. We're not of this world, so we walk our family right back into the shadowlands, deep inside the forest.

Jamie's heard me weep one too many times that I just don't feel this is making a difference. My narcissistic self wants satisfaction. Can we not do the ministry, but still claim the comfort?

He held me. And he walked me back to the shadows, where we love when it's not natural. When our body is screaming to brace itself, and our souls are aching for walls of protection.

He whispers to me to look, to listen...

And I see her momma hold my hand and tell me she has someone believing in her for the first time.
I hear myself telling her once again that I failed to give her the grace that has been given to me.
I listen as she comes down to the floor beside me and hear her say, "I forgive you. I just want your love."  I watch myself cradle a baby I love to the ends of the earth, and know that he will take part of my soul that no other child will have. 
So, I give it.
I see my husband love when it is not easy to love, and I see him seeking the face of his Savior.
I hear my oldest say we're the luckiest family in the world to have this calling, even when it's not fun.
And I hear myself say yes to Momma as she asks if we will be there by her side to do this with her, to keep believing with her when all is said and done.

My jealousy rises, my soul leaps in my throat, my hands grasp for comfort, and I surrender to the one who surrendered all for me, who gave the most unnatural thing possible. He knows where I am more than I do. He grieved as he led His child to slaughter. He care for this orphaned, rebellious child and made me His own, and He entered the shadowlands with me, and then He grafted the eternity of home in my heart so that I could face the unnatural here on earth.

Catie and Jamie have been married for 11 years. They have three young biological sons. They became licensed foster parents 18 months ago and have cared for 13 children. In addition to their sons, they have three children who look to them as their mother and father. With each placement, they seek to be Jesus to their children's families. And always, they are deeply dependent on Jesus every day. You can follow Catie at This High Calling

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Waiting Room

The waiting…..
Two years ago my husband and I decided to start trying to conceive our fourth child; our first three kids were all surprises so I am certain we are pretty fertile. While I was trying to narrow down my cycle (sorry tmi!) I read the book by Mary Beth Chapman “Choosing to See” through that book God grabbed my heart and called me to adoption. I have 7 adopted siblings so I thought I was well prepped to move forward and handle the adoption journey; after all my parents covered every type of adoption out there international, independent, and through the foster system. I don’t know if it’s because I was a teenager when my parents adopted most of my siblings or because I was not the parent going through the adoption but I don’t remember seeing my parents struggle with the process as much as I have!

It has been one year and four months since we began our adoption journey the hard thing is we are no further down the road than when we began. Our journey started as an international adoption however after our international home study was finally completed we began to feel God pull us in a different direction. August of last year my husband and I began the process of becoming foster parents in hopes of adopting through our states foster-adopt program. November of last year we were officially licensed foster parents, ready to take in children woohoo!! I am not sure why but I was under the impression we would not have to wait long for a child needing a long term home….I was mistaken.

The first month or two after we were licensed I did not go anywhere without my cell phone and I checked my email every two seconds (our state sends out emails to find homes for kids, whoever responds first usually gets the child.) In the 6 months we have been licensed we have had 5 children come and go from our home, some have been with us for as little as 5 days some up to two months. None have needed a long term home, none were even considering adoption. I have learned in our states foster system, in most cases, the word adoption is a bad word. I learned I have to fight for a placement of a child under 2, getting placements is all in who you know and who knows you. Learning these important facts has been discouraging and I’ve often wondered, “Ok God what are you up to in all this? I know you have called me to adoption, I know you are with me, but can’t you make it just a hair easier? I’m just trying to be obedient down here.”
No, we currently do not have a child with us who needs a forever home we have an empty bedroom with a crib just waiting. I have no clue when or if an adoption will happen but along our roller coaster ride of trying to adopt I found a verse in Exodus that has been my life raft. I cling to it when I see friends getting placements of babies and I have nothing, I cling to it when I hear friends happily share they are pregnant, I cling to it when a child we love leaves our home, when I feel lost, and confused.

“The Lord himself with fight for you, just stay calm.” Exodus 14:14.

Just. Stay. Calm. Just. Stay. Calm. God is up their fighting my battle for me, he has this thing under control I just need to stay calm and trust in His perfect timing.

A year and a half ago when I started this adoption journey it was self-serving, we have three wonderful boys and my heart has always longed for a daughter. I was going to adopt my daughter at all costs, I didn’t care what harm financially or otherwise it could cause my family. Let me just say I’m SO thankful we serve a loving patient God. J My heart has been completely changed, I no longer want to serve my needs and my wants, but I want to do only what God has for our family. It’s not about me, it’s about Him. I think God has needed the last year and a half of struggling to get that through my thick skull.

I don’t have the waiting mastered, I still struggle daily. There are days where I am emotionally exhausted and ready to throw in the towel on this entire adoption thing. The truth is I don’t know if all of this will end in an adoption, I don’t know what God’s plan is, I pray our family welcomes a little girl or boy but I have learned I need to be ok with whatever God does whenever he does it. Not easy!! Through all the ups and downs God has been there, ushering me into His protective wing, gently showing me where I needed a heart check, comforting me, and growing my faith and trust in Him. The last year and four months have been torture….but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. God is seeking after me and using these struggles to pull me into Him, kinda makes me feel extra loved knowing He wants a relationship with me that much. I will continue to stay calm, trust Him, and continue to pray for a child to become ours.

Brittany is a wife and a stay at home momma to her three boys and her husband Rusty is a pastor at a church in Washington. They are a party of 5 in the process of becoming a party of 6. The only thing missing from their family are some pink frills, so they are in the process of adopting their princess!  They are trusting God to show them how He will make it happen.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Love, Unnaturally

It happened.

I knew it would.

I’d been here before.

The most beautiful part of waiting is receiving His response after your heart chose expectation instead of fear. I’ve been in both shoes, frequently, and choosing the former always makes the bitter taste sweet.

She was in the middle of her contribution to our dinnertime banter, tentatively trying her hand at directing what she had, once, only just observed. Her “how about, Daddy, we …” wasn’t our typical fare but we jumped on board with her suggestion. She scootched herself against the back of her chair and sat up, tall. She wore ownership.

And as the quickened chatter (which happens when life just produced a day with oh-so-much to recount) continued, time stood still for me. Her eyes found mine in that moment, fire-sparks underneath their dark shades. What once were hollow sockets which held yellow-stained symbols of a life lived bare and broken, were now magnetic.

And that moment produced the feeling for which I’d been waiting and praying and expecting. She is mine.

I saw Hagerty in her, as if I were staring at her nascent flesh and searching out what my womb had hidden for nearly a year. She is all mine.

The myth about adoptive parents is that they come born with a gene which loves that which is not from them — instantaneously — or, they’ve simply settled for a lesser love, one which couldn’t possibly match the love sown when one life produces another of its own kind.

To the contrary, adoption is one of many opportunities to try on another kingdom’s love, the love we were made to breathe.

Love that changes those that it brushes up against, the healing love that can happen as one life makes an imprint onto another, has only one source.

And it is in no way natural.

He is in no way natural, normal — at least not in this world.

I can’t yet fully trust that what feels normal and natural, to me, is a sign of His kingdom and His nature. To love her, I don’t — first — look to what I feel. I can’t. I’ve spent several decades in an inertia-of-life which is natural to man, but unfamiliar with the ways of God. I live embedded in a world that, although created by Him, is not His world. And His-speak is not yet my-speak.

His ways are not my ways. 

To tune into the fullest expression of this love, the fullest expression of His love, requires more than just a natural feeling or desire. My heart needs to be trained to desire, to love.

So I ask Him to dress me up in love, for her.

I practice.

I position. I wrap my arms around what feels foreign (and, well, is foreign) and exhale prayers that what He sowed — familiar to me and into her before she knew me — would come forth. I act the part, not out of falsehood but as one who is learning that I am keeping beat with a rhythm which this world can’t produce.

God knew her frame before I held it and He knew that she would be mine.

And after I’ve reached deeply into Him and He has spilled out over me to move muscles I’ve barely ever stretched, love starts to take shape. His love, in me, for her.

Then, what’s been simmering in my prayers and stirring in the heavens, surfaces.  She flashes her almond eyes at me beneath long, black eyelashes she inherited from another mother and my heart drops into my stomach. Hours logged praying that her skin would smell like my skin and she would wear my life’s shape, receive a response.

His kingdom comes down in the moment I feel what He’s been training me to do. This is Love’s nexus.
And, because my heart is being stretched to lift eyes up — not out or in, the receiving that happens in this moment is more than just for her. Love implodes and I grow. Further from the world’s metric of love that’s leaving me starved, and an inch closer to an understanding of Him as He really is.
He teaches us a love that’s not natural, but it is astounding.

In her early days under our roof, when bedtime arrived, this particular little one wiggled uncomfortably under love’s expression. She giggled and screeched and squirmed when her daddy went to kiss her goodnight. But, night after night, unrelenting, he draped each one of her untrained arms around his neck and cupped her chin in his hands. “This is what Daddys and daughters do,” he coached, as he held her.

She, too, needed to be trained to love.

Until one night, those arms found their home wrapped around his neck. No coaching required.
So, when I get an email from a friend who voices what I’ve been feeling: adoration prayer is not natural, I don’t feel very good at it, I return to that baby-book moment when I finally felt the kind of love for her that He had me practicing. That one moment I saw my heart grow, after a thousand moments before then, where the real training happened.

Living His love, not just talking about it or sitting under sermons about it, is unnatural to what we know. I have dozens of thoughts a day that seek to oppose His love, and even more circumstances which plead for me to believe He isn’t who His word says He is. They are subtle, but toxic, and all around me.
Moving in a direction where my thoughts are His thoughts and my inclinations are His leading is — at first — training in a resistance pool. When I expect it to be easy, to come naturally, I’ve bought into the lie of the world that love costs pennies and not a life. 

Enter adoration, into the thick sludge of life.

It is looking up — saying, singing, praying God’s Word back to Him, in my own words — when my feet seem stuck in another direction.

It’s asking Him to dress me up in love, before I feel it.
It’s practicing.

It’s paving a way for feeling and creating a lifestyle of breathing — first from His Word — what true Love is in the meantime.

To read more about the concept of adoration prayer, read “Why I Adore” and “Showing Up”.
Third photo compliments of Cherish Andrea Photography.

Sara has been married for nearly eleven years to her husband Nate. They have two children whom they adopted from Ethiopia and two whom they adopted from Uganda. Sara found her unexpected road through pain and perplexity to be one that led her to the feet of a Man she is coming to know as Father. You can read more of her musings on Jesus’ love, orphans, and the quirks of everyday life as a mom at Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet.