Sunday, February 27, 2011

He who began a good work in you....

Someone once said to me, “You and Dean are such great people.  God bless you.  I just couldn’t do it.”  Actually, both Dean and I have heard versions of this statement many times over the years.  I'm sure we're not alone.  Other moms and dads answering the call to care for an orphans through adoption have told us of similar comments that have been made to them.  Each time the words are spoken, we are reminded of how inadequate and ill-equipped we once were and how AWESOME the Lord is to not have left us that way.  

First of all, let me say that the ONLY great things about Dean and I are a result of the Lord’s work in us.  I was reflecting on this truth last night while I was reading Paul and Timothy’s words to the church at Phillipi.  “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”  Phillipians 1:3-6. And then, at church today, I picked up my Sunday School book for next quarter and was so excited to see that we are going to be studying this very passage next week!  Why am I surprised when God confirms a truth in my heart by showing me how he’s gone ahead of me and prepared me for what’s to come?  [Secretly, I think I let myself be surprised this way because I love, love, love the way unexpected confirmation feels in my heart.]

The Lord’s promise to the church at Phillipi wasn’t just for the Phillipians….and it isn’t just for me.  When He beings a work in us, He completes it!  He equips….He supplies….He covers…..He provides!  So….in a way, it’s true.  You cannot do it!  You aren’t good enough! You aren’t equipped [yet], and you aren’t adequate [yet].  BUT HE IS…and HE WILL complete HIS work in YOU!  

I remember what we were like 11 years ago when God first called us to adopt.  We looked at other foster/adoptive parents with awe and wonder and questioned God daily about our fears.  Would a new addition change our family too much?  Would it be fair to our other children to bring in this orphaned, hurting child? Would we be able to give our sons everything they deserved in life?  Could we really come up with [sacrifice, give up or ask for] the money we needed to adopt a child?  Wow! We were all about ourselves, weren’t we?  Thank you, God, for not leaving us THERE!

As we prayed and trusted God, he began to put other questions into our hearts as he worked in our lives.  Will you turn your eyes and look away from the least of these?  Do the things that break My heart break your heart? Have your lives become so comfortable that you don’t know what hopeless looks like?  Do you have room for just one more?  Can you trust Me with your lives so that they will know Me one day?

And when we began to surrender to His will for our lives…and the going got tough…we began to ask God even more questions.  What do we do about this child, Lord?  This is really hard, Lord.  Are we strong enough for this, Lord?  Shouldn’t we put our other children first?  Will this child ever be healed, Lord?  What will happen, Lord, when this child has to leave and go back to his family?  How will our hearts stand the pain? And He began to answer us, assuring us of His will and of his provision.  Dean and I weren’t always the [far from perfect] parents we are today. The ability to feed, clothe, nurture and train up in the Lord these 7 children is a result of the Lord equipping us for His glory. Every adoption has been through His provision, and every addition has been such a blessing.  From caring social workers, effective trainings, and a supportive church to embracing families, encouraging friends and financial provision, God has always made a way where there seemed NO WAY we could do it ourselves.  

It’s our hope and prayer that the Lord will use us to encourage you and equip you to answer the call to care for orphans through foster care or adoption.  In the coming weeks I’ll be sharing with you the many ways the Lord has equipped {and continues to equip] us and others to serve the least of these.  Let me know if you think of a topic or interest that you or someone you know would be blessed to hear about. Check back often for support and encouragement and know that you will never be alone on your journey should you choose to answer His call to care for orphans through adoption or foster care. 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Encouragement anyone?

One of my adoption friends shared a praise report that I simply had to pass along.  Last Friday night, Dean and I held an informational meeting at our house regarding a new orphan care and adoption ministry .  There isn't a ministry like this in the area, but there are many families that are adopting or considering adopting.  God has been leading Dean and I to step up to serve through encouraging and supporting these families.  I was so excited about the possibilities of this new ministry that I think I talked the ears off of a few folks.  I was really worried that I had overwhelmed people with my enthusiasm until I went to a mom's meeting with our homeschooling group.  One of moms had come to the meeting Friday night and  had shared about her family's adoption of a little girl from China and their plans to adopt an older waiting child from China in the near future.  Tonight she shared with me that on Sunday they went forward at church, explained what God was moving them to do and asked for the church's prayers.  Not only did they get the prayers, support and encouragement that they needed, but people pledged to help them financially, as well.  One family pledged $1000!  God is just amazing, isn't he?  And because God spoke to Dean and I about adoption ministry in our area....and we decided to listen....we get to have front row seats to the Adoption Story that He's scripting down in this here neck of the woods! Do you remember that show, Adoption Story?  You might not, but I used to watch it all the time on Discovery Health and think, "We could never adopt a child from another country.  We don't have that kind of money."  God has certainly done some work on us over the years.  We still don't have the money, but we know the One that does!  As I lay my head down tonight I know one of the things I'm going to be praying for is God's protection and provision for a little girl in China and her American mommy and daddy going to get her. Won't you?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Making a go at farming...

This morning I got up feeling so restless.  It's a feeling that's been stirring in me very frequently of late.  God has been speaking to me and tugging at my heart, and I know there's something in the works, but the vision just isn't clear, at least not yet anyway.  Waiting is not my strong suit, so before I even stretched my foot out from under the covers I prayed and surrendered my impatience to the Lord and asked Him to help me wait on him.  As the Breakfast Club gathered, I put on some music for them and almost laughed when the first song that came on was "While I"m Waiting".

Dean doesn’t seem to have any trouble with waiting. I love that about him.  If ever he’s waiting on the Lord, he just does something like bring 'round the tractor.

Right after lunch he dug us a garden spot. It was a spur of the moment decision that we didn't even talk about until enough space for a 4-row garden was plowed up.  We are not farmers, so this should be a very interesting endeavor indeed.  I can't even keep potted plants alive.  I think a 4-row garden is a bit ambitious for a first attempt at farming, don't you?

Besides the love, laughter, and incredible joy that lots of kids will bring to your adventure, you can rest assured that when there’s a job to do, many hands make light work.  I think my ball team took all of 3 minutes to clear the garden spot of all the grass clumps and rocks.  I wonder if their enthusiasm for farming will continue during the hoeing and weeding phases of farming.  I guess we’ll see, now won’t we?

While the kids had a great time playing in the plowed field, the dirt got the best of me today.  That's a real shocker, too, because dirt is not new to Team Robinson. My kids are masters at putting on the mess.  We’re just SO not farmers that it didn’t even cross my mind, when the kids yelled, “Tractor!” and ran out the back door, to tell them to change out of the shirts they wore to church this morning.  I was just caught off-guard; that's all.  I’ll be on my game next time for sure!  At least the girls had the sense to change out of their dresses.There certainly is a lot of dirt involved in farming.  I guess the boys' "outside" wardrobe just got a little fancier.  I’m not sure red clay of this magnitude will ever come out.

I'm not sure you could call what I did today farming. I hope I get better at it.  Next time I'll try and pick up a rake or a shovel or something.  Today, my sole purpose in heading out to the garden spot was to take pictures of the adventure.  Here are a few of my little FFA....Isn't he just the cutest?!?

Sweet Riley Man has decided he wants me to take pictures of him "doin' cool tings".  I wonder sometimes how or why something makes it into his book as a "cool ting". Apparently today hanging your tongue out while throwing pine straw was SO cool.  After the picture he kept saying, "Did you see me mom?  I was so cool. Lemme see it 'gain." 
Check out this cool FFA post we found near the field where Dean was plowing!  I love old things that were here when my grandparents lived and farmed here.

Dear friends, please pray for me as I wait....and as I garden.  I think I'm going to need all the help I can get!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Do you share His heart for orphans?

Between the addition of our two new treasures and our move to a new town hours from our church family and friends, the past 10 months have been interesting to say the least.  We have spent a lot of time at home and have pulled away from many of the activities we’ve always enjoyed in the past, as well as the ministries outside of our home where God has used us in the past. We’ve needed time as a family to regroup and find a new “normal”.  Now that we’re “there” (I think), we’re ready to raise our hands up to Him higher still to be used by Him for His glory.  I don’t know about you, but I want more of Jesus, and I need to connect and serve with others that love Him, too.  We’ve been cooped up among ourselves here for long enough! The Lord has really been speaking to me lately about advocating for orphans and supporting adoptive and potential adoptive families.  God has given us a vision to start a ministry in the Talbot/Upson/Meriwether area that will educate, equip, encourage and support anyone that has a heart for the orphan. We are passionate about answering the call to care for orphans and would love to get to know others that share this calling.  If you’d like to learn more about our ministry, join us for an informational meeting at our home on Friday night, Feb 18th at 7:00. Click on the “Contact Us” link above to drop us a note telling us that you’d like to come, and we’ll send you directions.  

Monday, February 7, 2011

Created for Care

Praise the Lord for an uplifting weekend away.  I returned just yesterday from the Created for Care retreat where 250 sweet and inspiring adoptive moms gathered for a time of restoration and encouragement. Not only did I get to spend 3 whole days with some of my very favorite people, I got to talk to them without having to say “hold on” or “I’ll have to call you later”. It’s was fabulous.

That’s not all, though. There were stories, inspiring stories of families that are answering the call to care for orphans through adoption, and I got to hear these stories in person from such beautiful, adoptive moms.  Check out this video for a glimpse of what God is doing for His children!

There’s more! There were speakers, the kind of speakers that adoptive moms need to hear speak, the kind of speakers that confirm that the Lord will never abandon us on this journey He has called us to.  We were also treated to informational classes on African American haircare, large families and lifebooking.  For a moment I wished I was still fostering because I could've completely wiped out my training requirement for the year, all in one whack!  Beth Templeton and Susan Hollis spoke to my heart with such inspired wisdom that my soul was strengthened and my spirit refreshed. Loved it!

Would you believe there’s even more?  I was so excited to hear new friends tell about the ministries that are a result of their faithfulness to lift up what they have to offer for the Lord to multiply!  My heart was blessed to learn about children in Africa with HIV and the beautiful families giving these children a hope and a future and educating others about the myths associated with raising HIV positive children.  I feel like I was living under a rock before.  I was inspired by the folks at Sixty Feet and moved by their film Bereaved to pray every day for the imprisoned children in Uganda. The list goes on and on. I'll have to try to figure out how to grab buttons for all the wonderful ministries I learned about so I can post them here on my blog.

My heart is filled to overflowing with inspiration, encouragement and Jesus! If you're a mom that has adopted children or is planning to adopt in the future, this is one event you don't want to miss. I hope to see even more mommies at the Created for Care event next year!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Grief and Loss: A Foster Family's Perspective

When Dean and I first felt God calling us to foster, we didn’t know anything about hurting children or broken families. Families in our circle were composed of moms and dads with their cherished children, intact families living the American dream. I didn’t even know anyone that had ever been involved with child services, much less a child without parental care or a family struggling to regain custody of their children. When we first felt the call, we were signed up to find the perfect little baby girl to fill a gaping, hurting hole ripped in our hearts by a lost baby.

As soon as our foster home was approved, a little girl was placed in our home. Having been trained well, we knew the “on paper” version of what to expect, but what we did not expect was the heart-wrenching feelings of grief and loss that came along with the joy of fostering God’s precious children. Over the past 10 years as foster parents, we have learned the true meaning of casting our cares on the Lord and how to cope with the grief and loss that was once debilitating for us as a family.

One of the first encounters with grief and loss that we experienced came, not when the child was moved from our home, but when she arrived. When our foster children first came to our home, they were brought to us grieving another foster family or even a terrible home situation. They’ve lost loved ones and everything they know and understand. When you realize what it is that the child you have welcomed into your family has lost and how their hearts are grieving, the grief process begins in your own heart. For us, in the beginning, we were not equipped for this. We had been told about it, but the reality was that the grief and loss of our foster daughter had a stronger-than-expected impact on all of us. It was so hard to experience this grief and not know what to do with it. Over time, though, we began to reach out to other foster parents and our case manager, and we learned to cope.

We were doing really well, too, until the day came for that sweet child to leave. We knew it was coming. We had months to prepare. We told ourselves everything would be okay, but once the day arrived our hearts were broken. I remember feeling overwhelmingly sad. There were times when we were angry, and we had to work hard to not let our anger turn to bitterness. There were days when I thought the feelings of sadness and anger would never go away.

As we allowed God to draw us to himself for comfort and restoration, we began to feel our grief softening. We prayed and studied scripture even more than before. We spent time with other foster families and strengthened those relationships. It wasn’t long before our hearts were feeling stronger, and we just knew it would be easier the next time we were faced with those feelings.

We were wrong. It didn’t get easier. We loved that baby for over a year and our hearts were ripped out of our chests on the day he had to leave. We were tempted to quit fostering. We were only signing up for more heartache, right? I’m so glad we didn’t quit, though, because God was at work in our lives when we didn’t even know it. After that second loss, God began to reveal to us what he wanted us to do with our grief and our loss. We began casting our cares onto Him more faithfully, and He began to turn the work we were doing for him into the work He was doing in us and in the children’s lives we were touching. God began showing us that he is the ultimate healer, protector and provider, that it is in HIM [not us] the orphan finds mercy...In you the orphan finds mercy, Hosea 14:3...It was at this point that the feelings of sadness, while still there, were no longer overwhelming. It was at that point that we knew the most important thing we could share with these children would be that they would find mercy in Him...The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit, Psalm 34:18...We still grieved for children that we loved and had to let go. We still grieved the losses that the children we met had to cope with. We still had to deal with the sadness that the absence of a precious child brought to us. God just equipped us to cope, and in Him our hearts rested.

During our 10 years as foster parents, we fostered and grieved the loss of over 20 children. We were blessed with three children through adoption during this time, as well. Looking back, it is amazing to realize the ways in which God equipped us to love these precious children as Jesus love them, even through the grief that comes with being a foster parent. While grief is certainly an issue that foster parents must learn to cope with, it is by far overshadowed by the joy that comes from loving the precious children God brings into your home and the comfort that only He can provide – both for these children and for the families that love them while they are in foster care.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Homeschool Day at the Capitol 2011: Does anyone happen to see Riley’s pants?

When we are at home I have a certain expectation for how my children will behave and how the day will proceed.  A typical day rarely fails to meet my expectations, and there is a great deal of comfort in knowing that, especially for this homeschooling mom of 7.  I’m not saying that unexpected things don’t happen. They do, ALL the time.  It’s just that I know how the children will respond to whatever kind of something happens, and I have a game plan in place to handle whatever that something is.  When we venture out into the great big world, I have a very different set of behavior expectations and ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA what will happen. For example, I can expect that little Miss Lauren WILL become over-stimulated by noise and crowds. It is a just a given; but I have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA what that over-stimulation will look like outside of our home. It’s like the new environment requires new expression somehow.  Things can go from good to ugly REALLY fast.

Knowing and accepting this to be true, I refuse to be intimidated and hole myself up in the house with the children all day, every day.  So, when my friend Michelle says to me, “Are you going to the capitol on Tuesday?”, I thought to myself, “Homeschool Day at the Capitol!  That sounds fun!” Yes, we would have to be up and dressed, all 8 of us, by 6:30 in order to get in the car on time.  Sure, it would require a 2 hour drive to Atlanta during rush hour traffic. Forget that my big van isn’t going to fit in any of the parking decks downtown and it’s almost certain that Blake is going to have every reason to post publicly on my Facebook wall “I told you so”.  We’re the family-on-the-go, not scared of anything. “Sure we’ll go, Michelle!” 

Homeschool Day at the Capitol was pretty exciting, if I say so myself. (Check Blake’s Facebook status for the counter-perspective.)  We had our picture made with Governor Deal and a bazillion other homeschooled children from Georgia.  We located our legislators’ offices and introduced ourselves.  (By the way, I’m quite certain that George Hooks will NEVER forget my children since he welcomed them into his office. Hopefully no crime will ever happen there since my kiddos fingerprints are EVERYWHERE and on EVERYTHING.)  We walked through the natural history exhibits and oo-ed and aw-ed at all that was there.  I was even able to give a free demonstration of the extremely useful skills I learned during CPI training to a good portion of the Georgia Capitol cafeteria. It was no big deal really when Lauren came unglued during lunch; being certified in Crisis Prevention/Intervention, I am always looking for opportunities to share my expertise with others. And even though my kids jumped into line and treated themselves to some ice cream at the Ice Cream Social set up by Publix lobbyists for the legislators, I was cool, calm and collected…right up to the point where Riley lost his pants!

GHEA had arranged for the children to have a Q&A session with Senators Loudermilk and Skelter in one of the senate committee rooms on the 3rd floor.  Riley wasn’t in the mood for that political mumbo jumbo so I sat right outside the door with him, while the other children attended the Q&A.  It was perfect really; the senate committee room had a glass window on the door so I could try to read the senators’ lips while keeping an eye on the other children.  Riley was sleepy, so I let him roll around on the floor at my feet. I wasn’t really watching him, but I could see him out of my peripheral, and I could feel him, of course, banging into my legs constantly.  All was going well until I took my eyes off the committee room and looked down at Riley, who no longer had on ANY PANTS! They weren’t just off. They were gone; nowhere to be seen. Right about that time a lobbyist comes trotting down the stairs from the 4th floor. He saw the look on my face and the bare-bottomed Riley and said, “I just saw some pants fly over the balcony a minute ago.” You have GOT to be kidding me! I ran over to the balcony and sure enough, there they were, smack dab in the middle of the rotunda floor, 3 stories below.  I certainly didn’t expect that.  Riley’s defense:  A cold, marble floor feels so, so good to a hot little boy!
While I was able to wrestle the little guy back into his cute little corduroy slacks, I was unable to convince him that it is politically incorrect to walk around the state capitol barefooted.  I shrugged my shoulders and decided to just let it go. Besides, I think it is far less offensive to ditch your cowboy/rain boot combo than to lose your pants, anyway.  All in all we had a great day. Even the barefooted (and bare-bottomed) youth of Talbot County have a voice at the Georgia Capitol, and for that I am truly thankful.