Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Family is a verb

Some people believe the word family is only a noun. As in, family (n): a social unit consisting of one or more adults together with the children they care for. That makes sense. That's definitely a valid definition.

But I think family is also a verb.

Family is a verb when you're so sick and your fever is so high that you can't move - and you're home alone with four kids - and a single text asking for help brings your neighbor and friend to the rescue. And she feeds your kids dinner while you moan in agony on the couch. That's what happened to me last week.

Family is a verb when a single mom is struggling through the holidays and a family from her neighborhood or her church comes alongside and brings Christmas presents and groceries and homemade caramels without being asked, and then invites her and her kids to Christmas dinner.

Family is a verb when a child is taken from his home because it isn't safe for him and for a terrifying, painful moment he's alone in the world, and then another family opens their front door and says, "Come on in."

I believe in the power of family. And as I aspire to become a published author, that's what the stories I write are about. I think the world needs more stories about what it means to family. And about how families can come in all shapes and sizes.

Would you consider joining me on my journey to bring stories of family to the world by visiting my newly remodeled website and subscribing to my email list? For every person who subscribes, I will donate $2 to the Rehoboth Children's Home in the Philippines, where a group of men and women - many from our own Gallatin County - are working tirelessly to bring family to vulnerable children. I would really appreciate your support!

The holiday season can be a difficult time for people who don't have a stable, loving family. It can be traumatic and confusing for kids in foster care. Lonely and depressing for folks in nursing homes or rehab centers. Overwhelming for single parents or people struggling through illnesses or disabilities. As you count your own blessings today, I challenge you to think about how you can family this Christmas. Because remember - family is more than a noun. It's a verb.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

What do these 3 things have in common?

What do Pinocchio, the Velveteen Rabbit, and Foster parents everywhere have in common? Pinocchio was a puppet carved from wood who wanted to be a real boy. The Velveteen Rabbit was a stuffed bunny with button eyes who wanted to be real. And foster parents? Yep, you guessed it.

They want to be real, too.

People often ask foster parents questions like: "What happened to (so-and-so's) real parents?" "Why were they taken away from their real parents?" "When are they going back to their real parents?" I know what they mean, but I also know that getting up five times a night with a kid having nightmares is real. Changing ten poopy diapers a day is real. Rocking a baby for ten hours a day while he goes through withdrawals is real. Shuttling an 8-year-old to counseling appointments and speech therapy three times a week is real. And that's what foster parents do.

Sometimes when someone finds out I'm a foster parent, they glance over my brood (counting silently in their heads), and say, "How many of these are your real kids?"


It's tempting to respond with sarcasm and say, "Well, none of them are fake." Har har. But I understand what they're asking. There was a time in my life when I might've phrased it the same way, before I learned the appropriate terminology. So I don't get upset with them for using the term "real." But I do want to know this: Why does it matter?

What difference does it make which of these children came from my body and which came from another woman's body? It doesn't change the way I care for them. Or love them. Doesn't affect their importance to me and shouldn't affect their value to you. They are a child in my home whom I am responsible for. They could be biological, adopted, foster, neighbor...they could be my second cousin's husband's from his first marriage. Doesn't matter. If they're in my home and I'm caring for them, they are real to me and I am real to them.

In The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams, the Skin Horse explains to the Rabbit how a toy becomes Real by being loved for a long time. And the Rabbit asks, "Does it hurt?" The Skin Horse responds by saying, "Sometimes. But when you are Real, you don't mind being hurt."

And that's what it's like to be a foster parent. It hurts sometimes, but you don't mind because you are Real - just when a child needed a real parent the most.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

The $35,000 question: Part 2

This will be short and sweet today.

In my last post, I addressed the question: Could I put a price on helping just "one" child? And the answer was NO. (click here to read that post.) I said adopting one child would not only change that one child's life, but would create an immeasurable and priceless ripple of change that would affect many lives. And I could never put a price on that.

But, as I mentioned, there was another question. At that point in our adoption process, we had settled the question in our minds about whether we could "justify" the cost, and that no longer kept me up at night. But something else did.

How would we know if adoption was for us? If we were cut out for it? How does anyone know whether or not they should adopt?

Before we started the process, I would've said, "Everyone who wants to adopt, should adopt." I thought that was true. But as we learned more and got deeper into it, I began to see the other side of the coin. Where I had seen a black-and-white issue, I now saw a vague grayness.

I read somewhere that about 75% of Americans think about adopting, but less than 2% follow through. I think the number who follow through should be higher - much higher - but I don't think adoption is for everyone. Not anymore.

But is it for you?

Adoption is for you if you are willing to spend thousands of dollars of your own money with no guarantee you will ever add another child to your family. Adoption is for you if you can accept the high likelihood that your adopted child will have mental, psychological, or physical challenges (or all three) that you were never told about. Adoption is for you if you can handle people asking intrusive and inappropriate questions, and people staring and pointing at your family (particularly with transracial adoption). Adoption is for you if you can wake up in the morning and go on with life even if your heart feels like it's been pushed through a meat-grinder, fried on a skillet, and devoured by a broken, callous world.

And adoption is for you if - no matter how hard you try - you just can't talk yourself out of it.

If that's you, please get in touch with me and let's talk. There's a child out there waiting for you.

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress..."  --James 1:27