Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Dangerous dreams

It's a risky thing to have a dream. Having a dream means leaving the relative safety of the sidewalk and stepping onto the unpredictable road of the unknown. I believe it was Erin Hanson who wrote these words you'll see all over Pinterest: "What if I fall? Oh, but my darling, what if you fly?" Flying is awesome. Flying is definitely the desired result if you take a leap of faith. But...what if you don't fly?


It's risky.

There's another inspirational saying from Pinterest that goes: "Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll still land among the stars." I used to love that saying. Yes, I thought. Dream big. Don't be afraid to fail. Shoot for the moon. I loved it.

Until now. Now one of the most ambitious goals of my life is actually within reach and I'm soaring above the clouds and dreaming big dreams...and the pavement looks awfully unforgiving from up here. Suddenly the stars feel less like a sparkly "almost made it" and more like the black abyss of space. Land among the stars? You mean where I'll die a horrible death and be swallowed up by the void?

Gulp. Thanks for nothing, Pinterest.

But dreams, no matter how dangerous, don't just go away. I've dreamed about and worked toward publishing a novel for many, many years, and recently I sold one of my books to Bethany House (a major Christian book publisher), and they plan to release it October 2020. A real book of mine. On the actual shelves of Barnes and Noble. On the bedside table of people all around the country.

But it's risky.

What if no one likes it? What if no one buys it? What if it's a huge flop and no other publisher will ever consider working with me again? What if my story offends someone? What if it puts everyone to sleep?

What if all the time and heart and sweat and tears and financial investment I've put into this comes to nothing? 'Tis dangerous to dream, indeed.

No, the wisdom of Pinterest doesn't give me much comfort when I consider my dreams now. But the Bible has this verse that says, "Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed." That's Proverbs 16:3. And that's something I can hold on to when I consider my dreams. This verse doesn't promise my book will be a best seller. Or that it will even sell a single copy. But it does promise that if I place my dream in the Lord's hands, to do whatever He wants with it, the outcome can be considered a success. Yes, even failure can be success when God uses it for His greater purpose.

It's still risky. I could still face-plant on the pavement. But I can trust that God will have a reason for that.

So here's to chasing big dreams in faith, and here's to everyone out there willing to risk the vast nothingness of space for just one shot at that moon. Just remember God's got this.

After all, He made the moon.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Top 3 Questions People Ask About Foster Care And Adoption

When people find out we have adopted or that we are foster parents, they always ask questions. Some of them are wildly inappropriate. Some of them are hurtful (as a friend said to me recently, "To be involved in orphan-care ministry is to be misunderstood."). But for the most part people have genuine and sincere questions that I really do want to answer.

Here are the top three:

1) How much does it cost?

Everything always comes down to money, doesn't it? But it takes so much more than money. It costs everything you have and everything you are. You can hold nothing back.

So the short answer to the question is "everything." The long answer is "it depends."

If you pursue foster care, the training is free, the state provides healthcare for the child, and you get a monthly reimbursement check to cover room and board for the child. But while the monetary commitment is minimal, the time commitment is enormous. You will be up at night comforting scared children. You will be spending hours on the road taking them to appointments and visits. You will sacrifice your comfort zone and your need for control and your personal space.

If you pursue adoption (outside of foster care), the monetary cost is often very high. It is not unusual for costs to reach $30-40,000. Most people do not have that kind of money sitting around. We sure didn't when we adopted. But did you know there are no-interest loans available for adoptive families? Grants and matching grants? Employee adoption benefits? Hundreds of fundraisers tailored to adoptive families? I'm told it's not good manners to talk about personal finances, but I'm going to do it anyway: when we adopted our daughter we received $16,000 in grant money and about $10,000 from fundraising efforts. We never could've afforded it otherwise.

So, how much does it cost? It depends. But you can be sure even when the state picks up the tab, there is still a price to pay.

2) How do I know if I'm ready?

People ask me this all the time and I still haven't figured out a better answer than "You don't." You didn't know if you were ready when you first started driving, when you got your first job, when you got married, when you had a baby, when you started a new job, when you bought a house. But you hoped you were. You did everything you could to be ready and then you held your breath, said a prayer, and dove on in.

If you're waiting for someone to come along with a magic wand and sprinkle Readiness dust on your forehead, it's never going to happen.

3) How can I be involved?/How can I help?/What can I do?

This question comes in many variations but the answer is always the same: be available. It's that simple and that complex.

If all your resources are maxed out on personal pursuits, you will have nothing left to give vulnerable children or families and organizations trying to help vulnerable children. And I'm not really talking primarily about money here (although you wouldn't believe the amount of joy a $25 gift card to Dairy Queen can bring an emotionally exhausted foster family). I'm talking about your time. Your love. Your thoughtfulness. Are you available? Or are all the days of your week already filled with all the many wonderful things you and your family want to be part of?

There's nothing wrong with those things. But if there's no breathing room in your life, no extra, what do you have to give? How will you be ready if an opportunity to help comes along? What happens if you become aware of a need you would love to help with, if only you had...more...time?

I'm not saying to give up gymnastics or art lessons or family bowling night or whatever. But for every yes, there has to be a corresponding no. So if you really want to help vulnerable kids, build some margin into your life. Choose your "yeses" and "nos" carefully. Be available.

So, what other questions do you have? What is the one thing you wish you knew about foster care or adoption but have always been too afraid to ask? Drop your question in the comments and click on this link to go to my website and download the Road to Adoption Guide, which answers the fourth most common question: Where do I start?

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Plans change

It's been nine and a half months since Little Man left. Nine and a half months of my heart dropping into my stomach every time I see a little blond-haired boy. Nine and a half months of missing his belly laugh and wondering how he is doing. I can still feel his arms around my neck. I don't know if I'll ever not miss him.

But time marches on. We fostered another little boy for a few weeks, and then after he left we didn't get any calls from the state. Weeks went by. Months. No calls. My arms started to feel a little empty. I thought if the state called looking for a placement for another baby...well, I kind of hoped they would. I was ready.

Then it happened. A newborn was in the hospital and needed a safe home. Would we take him? Were we willing?

My heart was immediately invested. Yes! Yes, we would take him! But...we were on vacation. Can he stay with another family until we get back in a few days?

The case worker said yes. We told our kids they could expect a new baby when we returned home. My mind raced with plans. I'd have to get the bottles back out...set up the crib...see what size diapers I had under the bed...I couldn't wait to meet him. My heart was full to bursting. Then, plans changed.

Instead of moving the baby from home to home, the case worker decided it was best for him to stay where he was, with the family who had agreed to take him while we were gone.

He would not be coming to our house.

I would not be setting up the crib.

Why are we doing this? I wondered. Why did we sign up for this roller coaster ride? I prayed and asked God why this was happening but couldn't hear an answer over the roar of disappointment in my ears.

Three days after we got back, we got another call. No, not from the state. Not to foster. Instead, a nonprofit orphan-care ministry in Bozeman was bringing five kids from the Philippines to stay with five host families here for a month to meet other families who might be interested in adopting them. Five older kids who are running out of time to find a forever family. The program is called Summer of Hope. The kids were coming in a few days. But...one of the host families had to drop out. They needed another one ASAP. One that had a current home study and a foster care license and no placements. Would we do it? Were we willing?

It wasn't what I had planned. I could still practically feel the weight of a newborn in my arms, and now they wanted me to take a 10-year-old girl from the Philippines? My heart did this sort of gasping thing that feels like it's turning inside out. This was not what I had planned. This was not what I had planned!!!


A child needed me. Needed our home. Needed a hand to reach out and span the distance between spending the rest of her life in an orphanage and finding a forever family. Yes. Yes, we would do it. No, it wasn't what I had wanted. What I had planned. But yes, we would host this girl. And when she comes, we will advocate for her, be her champions, so this can truly be a Summer of Hope for her.

You know, sometimes plans change. I don't know what God is up to. Why He worked this out the way He did. But I know that no matter how hard it is, how much it hurts sometimes, having a willing heart and an open home is a great position to be in.

You never know what might happen when plans change.

Photo by averie woodard on Unsplash