Friday, January 25, 2013


As January 21st approached, my husband and I began to ask the questions: Should we do anything special for MLK Day? Should we attempt some kind of education about MLK, Jr. and his role in our history?

We struggled with the thought, because we are torn between two seemingly good thoughts. On one hand, we recognize and are thankful for Martin Luther King, Jr.'s work on a daily basis. Were it not for his voice and his conviction, used by God to accomplish His purposes, our life would look very different. We would be denied the joy of many deep relationships and friendships we have with people of different ethnic backgrounds and we might remain blind to the ugly, hateful sin of racism. On the other hand, we would love to not even have to distinguish between skin color - especially not to a 4-year-old and especially not to a 4-year-old black child living with white parents. He will be confronted with these things soon enough, we fear, but why even introduce a thought that should never exist - not in his mind or anybody's mind - beyond the obvious difference in appearance.

So we were torn, as I'm sure many are, and we're not convinced we did exactly the right thing, but I wanted to put myself out there and share how we approached the situation. I would love feedback from any of you who have addressed this in your homes as well. First, a very helpful friend sent us a biblical way to interpret the holiday and what we were truly celebrating:

1. God made all people equal. K-Man knows his skin color is different from yours. He's not blind. So the emphasis is God's good creation in diversity.
2. Sin in human hearts makes some people think they are more valuable and others less valuable b/c of their differences, which may be skin color or something else.
3. God is in control of all things and where sin grew out of the hearts and into social oppression, God used men and women to stop that oppression. One man he used was named MLK....(Okay, you'll have to be simpler than that.)
4. Jesus died for everyone, no matter what differences there are.
5. Jesus rose from the dead so that one day sin that makes people look at one another because of their difference will never have power in this world again. (New heavens and new earth).

The first thing I did was a total fluke. I signed up to be the Mystery Reader at K-man's school on the Friday before MLK day. It never entered my mind until I pulled up at the school how appropriate the book I had selected was. I read to them Dr. Suess's book, The Sneetches. If you're not familiar with the book, the basic gist is that some sneetches have stars on their bellies and some do not. Based on those stars, a silly interchange takes place over and over as they battle over who is better. When it hit me, I decided I would talk to the kids about pride, and that's what I did. They're 4, but they understand the concept...believe me. I asked them if they knew what it meant to brag. I asked them if they liked when other people thought they were better than everybody else. I asked them what kinds of things might tempt us to think we're better than other people. It was a good conversation, and afterwards I was able to remind them about Monday and about MLK, Jr. who was a man who stood up against pride and taught people that we are all equally important. It was a tough thing to talk about without mention of God, but when K-man and I walked to the car, I was able to bring God into the equation, because we know, of course, that the only reason we're all equally significant is because the Creator made each and every one of us.

So we tried to focus a bit more on the idea of pride all weekend - mentioning MLK Jr.'s name often as a person who God used to point out people's sin in being prideful. On Monday, we tried to make a big deal about MLK Jr.'s birthday from that perspective. We were pleased that at the end of the day, K-man could say the man's name and articulate the basic gist of what we just outlined. Since then, the name has stuck, which I do think is hugely important considering how significant his work is in K-man's life, specifically.

On Monday night, we read a new illustrated children's book that my mom gave us, I Have A Dream. It's a beautifully illustrated version of Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous speech. Now, while reading it, I did realize there were lots of references to race and skin color (clearly), but I think with the way we tried to present it all weekend, it didn't conjure up the same thoughts we were concerned about initially. After reading the book and looking at the pictures, we played the CD of his speech (came with the book) in the background while we ate dinner. It was neat to be able to point out the fact that his speech was riddled with scripture and to point back to our great God who loves His people. It was actually a very sweet day of gratitude for all of us, as we reflected on God's goodness in working through yet another imperfect man to bring about His Sovereign plan.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Who are the wicked?

A very good question posed after my mention of this verse in last night's update:

"The wicked plots against the righteous and gnashes his teeth at him, 
but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he sees that his day is coming."
Psalm 37:12

I spent a very long time in the beginning of this journey trying to figure out where the breakdown in the system was. Is it DFACS? Is it poor lawyers? Is it poor judges? Is it biological families? Is it lawmakers? Is it poor foster parents? ...and I could go on and on.

Likewise, I searched for the answer. Do we ultimately need better DFACS case managers? better judges? better foster parents? better lawyers? more accountability for biological families? better government policies?

Every time I peeled back a layer of the system, the Lord showed me another one. Every time I thought I had found the solution, the Lord showed me another problem, and he continues to do so. Just when I thought, "Wow! So many of these biological mothers and fathers have no idea how to parent their children. They are to blame!" God gave me Miss M, whose mother opened my eyes to the heartbreaking reality of multi-generational foster care. How could I expect a child who grew up in foster care, herself, to know how to parent a child of her own? You can find my account of that meeting here. Just when I thought, "If we could just find a good CASA...or a good lawyer...or a good case manager..." The Lord showed me the power of the judge that reigned supreme. Just when I thought, "If we could just find a good judge," God gave us Zizi, who had a wonderful judge who was simply bound by the word of the law to make a very unfortunate decision.

So, what is the lesson here? What is the Lord teaching me? I think He's teaching me the true meaning of the depravity of man. I think He's teaching me the overwhelming reality that human beings will never be able to fix what is broken in this world. I think He's teaching me that Satan has an agenda that includes attacking the fatherless, and that evil is very real and very present in each and every one of these heartbreaking cases. Satan is plotting against the world's fatherless. He is gnashing his teeth at them, and I see him do it regularly. I see him use jaded case managers. I see him use lazy lawyers. I see him use biased judges. I see him use lawmakers. I see him use biological families. I see him use foster families.

The reality is this: without Christ, we are wicked...

"None is righteous, no, not one; 
no one understands; no one seeks for God. 
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; 
no one does good, not even one."
Romans 3:10-12

...and I see it so vividly in the court room. This is why I tell people it's one of the darkest places I've ever walked. 

The answer is Christ moving through His church. I pray the church will stop ignoring the fatherless children that fill America's foster system. I pray that one day I will go to court and see many more joy-filled Christ-following faces who are passionate about seeking justice in the name of Christ. I pray that the Lord will finally laugh at this wicked scheme, but if not today, I pray He will protect my own sinful heart from becoming lazy, jaded, discouraged, impatient, proud, or biased. If I don't humbly walk in the light of Christ by His grace, strengthened by the joy of the Lord, I will forfeit the privilege of being used by God as a light in a dark place and will be no different from this world at all.

"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 
Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand 
against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle 
against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, 
against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, 
against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 
Therefore take up the whole armor of God, 
that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, 
and having done all, to stand firm. 
Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, 
and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 
and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, 
with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 
and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, 
which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, 
with all prayer and supplication."
Ephesians 6:10-18a

And with that, I have a quick plug for a new film. "Faultless is a full-length documentary developed by Unthinkable and the Christian Alliance for Orphans. The goal of the project is to inspire and equip the Church in America to more deeply love and care for domestic orphans for the glory of God.

"The film combines a mix of adoptive/foster parents, children from the system, and a variety of experts providing commentary along the way. They created Faultless for the person who is not currently engaged in caring for domestic orphans in America, it was made for the ignorant. In light of this, the film hits on a variety of topics without going very deep on any of them. Among many other topics, the film discusses aging out, the importance of state collaboration, the need for more African-American parents, and the fears adoptive families face. All of the topics in the film are covered through the lens of the Gospel with explicit motivation from James 1:27."

They are showing this film in Atlanta, GA on January 25, 2013 at 7:00pm. I'm hosting a gathering after the film to discuss any thoughts conjured up by the film. If you are a Christian, you are commanded to care for orphans in some capacity. This doesn't mean we all have to be foster parents. Far from it! But, we are all commanded to care. Understanding the system is the first step to figuring out how you might be able to care for America's orphans. We will discuss everything from donating children's clothing and toys to advocating in the legal system to being a babysitting resource to being a foster parent. Please message me if you'd like more information. For security reasons, I can't post any more details on this page.

"Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen."
Ephesians 3:20-21

Monday, January 14, 2013

:::Sigh::: Court

Where do I even begin? We had court today. It was the first time since October. I was praying, mostly, about my interaction with their mother, but she was not actually waiting in the same waiting room that we were. I should have guessed that they would bring inmates in through a different route, but I didn't guess that at all. I was able to get a handful of pictures to her, but mostly, we just endured the awkwardness of the courtroom drama.

My husband, myself, and our case manager, were seated on the left behind DFACS. She and her family were seated on the right. And the battle began, and it was a discouraging one.

They called our DFACS case manager to the stand and began to grill her hard. She had no documents, no files, no paperwork. No, she had a piece of torn-out notebook paper with a few scribbles.

When did you contact mom to notify her of ___________? Um....I'm thinking that might have been November or December

What grades are the boys in? Um............I think 2nd, no 3rd...I'm not sure
And what is the name of the school where they attend? Uh.....I think it's it?

And on and on it went. It never got any better.

Mom's attorney made several allegations that were completely untrue. DFACS case manager said things that were not accurate. And there we sat, dumbfounded and discouraged, once again, to see those in whose hands our boys' future lies. having put very little effort into defending their case. But we know that's not true. We know that, though they think they hold the future, they do not. I was comforted as I sat in the court room by these words, and I repeated them to myself over and over.

"The wicked plots against the righteous and gnashes his teeth at him, 
but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he sees that his day is coming."
Psalm 37:12

I don't know how this will end, but I do know that the Lord will laugh in the end. He will have the final word. Whether it be at a time when I can see it or not. Whether it be how I would like it or not. I know His perfect plan will prevail. No amount of negligence or incompetence will be able to thwart His ultimate plan.

That being said, I do, also, want to plead with anyone reading this blog who has any legal expertise. Please find a way to work for justice on behalf of America's orphans in foster care! There is a desperate need! If you need suggestions, I have plenty! These kids need you.

Before I close this out, I'll give you one more visual and prayer request. They announced in court today news that was pretty devastating to their mother. She ended up leaving the court room in tears. The news they announced was somewhat connected to my husband and I, so I'm praying that even tonight, as she is lying on her pillow, that the Lord would continue to soften her heart to me. I pray that this will not be an insurmountable blow to our relationship. I pray that His grace would go before me and continue to forge a loving relationship where there has no business being. Only God could have bridged this gap thus far. I pray He will continue to do so.

I also ask you to pray for the coming weeks. Their mother may be getting out of jail soon, which would make our lives look much different, but more importantly, it would make her life look much different. We're trying to find a way to present housing options at local Christian shelters with solid reputations and track records. Pray that the Lord might make a way there and give us the wisdom to know how to present it.

Thanksgiving and Christmas

We had such a sweet holiday season over here. It pains me not to be able to post many of our favorite photo moments, but I tried to snag the few that didn't show faces.
First, no trip to my home town would be complete without frequent visits to the surrounding railroad tracks. We might as well have gone to Disney World. K-man and B-boy love nothing more than trains and train tracks, so the chance to see real, large, moving trains is a real treasure :)

K-man and my brother
B-boy and "Doc" (my dad)
We, then, headed over to see my extended family on Thanksgiving day. This is the only shot I can post, but K-man and B-boy both had about the most fun 2 boys could have. They slept hard that night!

My grandfather, who died many years ago, was a career railroad engineer. He also made amazing, elaborate model railroads that are still scattered through museums today. At my aunt's house this Thanksgiving, we snagged a few of his old model trains and brought them home. It is so sweet to hear K-man talk about "Pop" and "Pop's trains" all the time now. What a sweet connection to a precious man from a different generation.

...and then it was Christmas! 

We tried several new family traditions this year, and many of them turned into sweet memories. For advent, we bought 25 cardboard ornaments from a craft store and wrote a different name of Jesus on each ornament along with the corresponding scripture reference on the back. Each night, K-man got to choose one ornament out of the basket. We would read the name of Jesus, read the scripture verse, and talk ever-so-briefly about what it meant in the grand storyline of the Bible. It was sometimes sweet, sometimes chaotic, (sometimes couldn't finish fast enough), but at the Christmas Eve service, as readers were reading Old Testament prophecy and parts of the Christmas narrative, it was really special to be see his face light up as he heard names that we had talked about. It's been fruitful after Christmas as well.

On Christmas Eve, we sat down with K-man and talked to him about how God had blessed us with material things and how we were about to receive even more on Christmas day. We told him that we honor God when we think of others before ourselves, and we told him the sad reality that there were other boys his age who would not receive many presents on Christmas...maybe not even one. We prayed together and asked God to give us generous, loving hearts as we went through our toys and clothes and collected things to give away to children who might need them. It was a bit rough at first. His heart wrestled with the notion, but in the end, we were actually finding ourselves trying to find a way to convince him not to give away all of his favorite trains.

We carried on the tradition of taking K-man to the dollar store and letting him "shop" for the people he loves. It was especially sweet this year, because he could grasp the concept of getting things that people might like. A few people still ended up with dolphins and sharks that grow in the water (a sign of true affection, I think), but many others received very thoughtful gifts from K-man this year. The smile on his face as he gave gifts to people was PRICELESS! One of the best parts of my Christmas season. What joy!

Then, there wer, of course, K-man's school Christmas concert and church choir concert. I can safely post pictures of these, because...well...take a look...

Pre-K Christmas Party where the children sang "Rudolph" and "Frosty"

Church Preschool Choir Concert. What's that? You can't find him? Well, just look slightly to the left of the girl on the far right. Do you see the 2 brown shoes popping up from the floor? That's our man. The rest of him is sobbing on the floor behind Mr. Kevin.

As you can see, K-man is not much of a performer, but you can't do it all, I guess! On Christmas Eve morning, my parents gave the boys these 2 highly prized gifts. For K-man...a new bike! For B-boy...a cozy coupe truck. He can only go backwards so far, but if I let him, I think he would eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner inside. He adores this thing...


...and Rudy, our foster dog, seems to like it too!

We spent Christmas Eve night with my in-laws and had a very special Christmas morning with that side of our family. It.was.wonderful :)

 The Bible board books that B-boy received. A few days later, I caught B-boy in K-man's lap while K-man was "reading" the stories to him. Some of them were spot on. Some of them had some fuzzy details to say the least...haha!

 K-man and his beautifully wrapped gift from his Aunt Kristin. The boy loves cars. I think he could have stopped right there.

So after Christmas had come and gone, it was time to head back over to my parents' house to celebrate New Year's. K-man and B-boy had one awesome night shooting the obligatory fireworks in the driveway. We christened him well...went to the Fireworks trailer to pick the ones he wanted, held his own sparkler, and held a Roman candle (with assistance). When ours were done, some of our neighbors pulled out the big guns. We finished the night with 2 boys in their PJ's standing on the front wrap-around porch way past bedtime watching some very close, very large fireworks. They were loving every minute of it, and so were we :)

 Happy New Year! 
I can't imagine a year fuller than this last one, but hey...bring it on!