Posts Tagged adoption
A few weeks ago, I took a weekend off from leading worship. I had a good excuse: I was adopting my foster son into our family forever. The adoption happened on National Adoption Day, on a Saturday morning, so I was not going to be at rehearsal. It was also a good opportunity to sit with my wife and kids through a whole service at our own church to see what it’s like to be one of the congregation. It was not as hard as I expected to be one of the worshipers who is not in control of the music. In fact, I was very thankful afterward for what I experienced because it made me more excited to get back into my job and lead.
One thing I learned was that there are a lot of factors that the musicians have no control over that distract our people from the singing. We came in right as the service was starting so I was not exactly focused until the middle of the first song. Then my kids were a big distraction. They ask questions, squirm, make noise, wander off, cry, or just about anything else they can do to occupy my attention. As a music leader, this gave me a renewed sense of peace that those people who seem to not be engaged on Sunday are not necessarily that way because they are unspiritual or I am doing a bad job. It could be just that they are not as prepared, unfettered and focused as the music director gets to be. So I want to give myself and the people I serve some grace because there are a lot of distractions. I also want to be more deliberate about doing what needs to be done to focus attention on the worship process – parents and kids alike.
There were a few mistakes the week I took off. They weren’t major, but they were noticeable. Some mistakes were only known to me because of the inside knowledge I have about song form or whatever. The good news is that despite the mistakes, my participation as one of “the people” was not derailed by a few gaffs from the leaders. I looked at the team that was leading, my friends, and their mistakes were not that important. It was actually endearing to watch as they worked around the problem and came out on the other side without getting mad or breaking down. As a leader, this gave me more peace about the process of preparing for worship. We can mess up! It’s not we should be deliberately negligent to prepare because love and hospitality require that we make an effort to do a good job. However, the fear or failure in performance is not there if you know that you are leading for family, not judges.
I love my job. I enjoy leading. Taking a week off made me miss my job and want to get back in the saddle. I believe that the Lord has given me gifts and passion and joy to lead the worship songs. It was a special time to be able to sing with my wife and kids, but we all are committed as a family to my role in our church and it brings us joy to be able to do that. Today, I’m in the office getting songs together, preparing charts, contacting volunteers, and it’s just adding to my excitement about being able to sing and play for the Lord again this Sunday. It’s the best job in the world.
Imagine that you and your family are traveling through space in a house shaped rocket. Everyone is moving together within the rocket and getting stuff done. Things are in their places and the people inside are thriving. A new baby is added to the family, but because the baby grows in the mother’s womb, the baby doesn’t affect the trajectory of the rocket.
Now imagine a 3 year old joining the rocket family. The 3 year old arrives by riding an asteroid that slams into the side of the rocket. Everyone and everything is tossed around and mixed up. Life in the rocket gets completely disorganized and chaotic. Within the first days of the traumatic event, the family gets things stabilized. Meals resume. Sleep happens. Emotions return to normal. Within the next few months, they slowly get stuff put back in it’s place and they start to thrive again. The addition of a new family member creates some new logistical challenges that have to get worked out. Can they make these changes work in the limited space and resources of the rocket?
How did the asteroid happen to strike the rocket? The child and his asteroid were traveling through space in one direction when they met the rocket moving in another direction. Their life immediately took a new turn when they slammed into the rocket. They have a lot to learn on the rocket about how things work and who does what job. Life on the asteroid was very different. Now they are on the rocket and they have to adapt in order to thrive.
A reality starts to set in for the rocket family and their new child. The rocket is now on a different course because of the impact of the asteroid. They were heading one way and now they are heading in a new direction. How do they get back on course? How long will it take? Do they even need to return to the old direction? What has been lost as a result of this change?
About 2 years ago, my family and our “rocket” was struck by an asteroid with a crazy 3 year old ball of chaos and questions and fears and giggles and songs. Our family was thriving and doing our thing, but when we got hit by this change, the trajectory of our lives was forever altered. Even 2 years later, we are still trying to put our lives back together into some form of order. But, it’s not really going to ever go back to what it was. Especially because in a few weeks, we are going to legally adopt this asteroid baby. Then we are going to baptize him into the covenant family with a new name and a new trajectory for his life and ours.
Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me. – Psalm 27:10
A few days ago, I posted a pic of my parents and my wife’s parents joining us for lunch. We are so thankful that we have been blessed with parents who fear the Lord and who also happen to all be friends from college.
This verse contains a promise that even if our parents reject us or fail us, we have a loving Father who will receive us. This promise is for me, but it is also a challenge to the church that biological family ties are not as strong as the connection that we, who have been received by the Lord, have together. The orphan, whether they literally have lost both parents or if they are orphaned by the failures of their bio-family, is now given a place in the family of God.
Monday afternoon, we received word that a newborn baby girl was at the hospital who needed a foster family to take care of her. We said yes, and the next day, we brought her home. It was her first few days of life and already, she was in the middle of a family crisis so bad that we needed to be her parents for a little while.
My family and I have been on a circuitousness path that has brought us to foster care. We were a pre-adoptive foster home that ended in a mess, and we have been through a failed private adoption. Finally, God opened our eyes (mine in particular) to how foster care is actually the place we need to be right now.
The big difference between fostering and adoption is that foster care is all about “reunification”. The big goal of fostering is to see the child’s parents restored to the point where they can be reunited with their child. If that doesn’t work out, the team of professionals looks at the other options for the child like relatives or an adoptive home. I had always backed off of foster care because I knew our desire was to be an adoptive home. I thought we can’t work toward reunification when we actually wanted to adopt. It’s a conflict of interest.
God opened my eyes after our private adoption last year failed. We lived out the worst case scenario that everyone dreads. We had taken this little boy home, given him our name, and then he was taken away. At the same time, we got to know his mom and saw how much this adoption broke her heart. No mom or dad should ever have to lose their child. God showed me that my kids, Joanna and Sam, would never be taken from us. He showed me that if we sacrificed the promise of adoption as the end goal, then fostering fit much better with our abilities, opportunities, and desires.
Kids need help from the church. Kids without parents need to be adopted. Kids with parents who have decided that it’s impossible to be a parent right now need to be adopted (not killed in the uterus). Kids who have been abandoned by their parents need to be adopted. Kids who have parents who are in trouble need people to help their parents through fostering. My point is that the happy ending for a child isn’t always adoption.
So we have this beautiful baby girl living in our home now. We have to be her parents right now so that her parents can get the help they need to be safe and nurturing parents. We are happy to see that there is a good outlook for reunification. We are happy to share that ministry with our kids. We are happy that we can be used for the kingdom. We are happy to follow Jesus’ words and deeds by caring for the orphan (even if “orphan” is only temporary state).
- My kids are completing their 3rd week of school and I have never been more thankful for the work of righteousness being fulfilled at the Freedom School.
- Last week, I was able to share music at the wedding of a former drug dealer and gang-banger who is now walking in faith and living in grace. He requested one song in particular, “What’s Gonna Make Me Long” by my dad.
- On Sunday, my wife had the first of what we hope will be many dinners with our Music Team volunteers. She hopes to have everyone on the team over for dinner in groups of 3 or 4 until we’ve hosted all of them. We are so thankful for the work of righteousness that God is doing through the NCF music ministry.
- On Monday, we met with our friend Emily Nienhuis, who works for One Heart Family Ministries. The Lord seems to be leading us back into the world of foster care. As a family, we have been through a lot of disappointments in the past 2 years. It’s been so hard to trust our Good Shepherd in the “valleys” as well as in the “green pastures”. More and more the Lord is bringing us to a place of complete dependence and trust for daily grace. We are going to get re-licensed to foster hopefully in the next two months. We plan to complete 9 weeks of training in 6 weeks, so there’s that to look forward to.
- On Tuesday, my wife and I went downtown to buy the empty lot next to our home at a land tax sale. This process has brought a deeper sense of community with our neighbors who purchased the other half of the lot. It’s also given me a new appreciation for my neighborhood and the works of righteousness that God is doing in the great city of STL!
- Yesterday, I led a group of NCF musicians who shared their gifts at the St. Louis University School of Public Heath Convocation. We had a great time, and it stretched us all to play our music in a different context. I’ve already said it, but I am so thankful for my team!
- What’s next? Choir rehearsals start next weekend as well as NCF’s 20th Anniversary Celebration.
I hated being at the hospital. All I wanted to do was take the baby home and get on with our lives. In the hospital, we were forced to look that woman in the eye as we took her newborn son in our arms. At first, I wanted to find a place where we could be with the baby that was far away from his birth-mother. I hated to be a participant in her pain. But then it dawned on me that she wanted to see us hold him. She needed to see our love being expressed so that she could know that we would be his family. I accepted the fact that I had to give up my desire to anesthetize this brutal and tragic event. I needed to suck it up and be this little guy’s father there in the room with her. She loved her son so much that she needed to know that at least he would not be alone, even if she didn’t have any hope for herself.
Eventually, we took him home and she suffered for nine days. The papers would have been signed after one day, and she would have been able to put the matter to rest. That was the plan. But instead, nine days passed with no conclusion. She had nine days of the gravity of regret and shame pulling her back toward a decision that was left open. Imagine the strength of will exerted to fight that pull for nine days. I’m amazed that she held out so long before we got that call.
Adoption is not what God intended. It is not an equally valid alternative to God’s created order. Women were not intended to take the baby from their womb and give it away to other family. Mothers were not supposed to be abandoned without any recourse but to become separated forever from their offspring. Fathers were not supposed to be a silent shadow in the lives of the children they were given as a blessing. No child was supposed to be born into relationships which would immediately become defined by their brokenness. It’s tragic, brutal and grotesque.
In the same way, Christ on the cross was tragic, brutal and grotesque. This was not the way it should be, that God’s perfect child should be beaten, cursed, and slaughtered. However, like the cross, adoption is the means by which God takes the utterly corrupted reality of an impossible circumstance and reverses the outcome into something utterly beautiful and sacred.
Adoption is resurrection.
A birth mom has selected us to adopt her baby who is due in May. She had actually selected us in December, dropped us in January, and is now back with us. Please pray for her and for her baby boy who have been through a lot.
In case you are wondering, I’m not sure how this affects my plans to go to the DR Congo but if things progress with the adoption, I will not be going this year.
Jesus is Lord!
Sing to God, sing in praise of his name, extol him who rides on the clouds rejoice before him—his name is the LORD. A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families, he leads out the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.
Six weeks ago, Sarah and I got a call from our adoption specialist with a proposition. There were 2 kids that needed a place to stay immediately. Their staff had deliberated and had chosen us as a the family to offer this opportunity to. We had a few hours to pray, talk, and come to decision. In the end, we had to set aside any fear about what the future would look like and just make a call based on our immediate situation. Could we take 2 more kids into our home and take care of them? It was too hard to imagine all the possible scenarios, so we said yes knowing that we were not jumping blindly into an abyss, but we were merely sheep being led into paths of righteousness by the Good Shepherd.
The first week might not have been so difficult if 4 out of 6 people in the family didn’t catch a stomach flu. When Sarah’s sister, who was coming to visit that weekend, called to inform us that she had contracted bronchitis, we panicked. Leading 4 kids through the biggest transition of their lives thus far was hard enough with out projectile vomit and sleep deprivation. On the other hand, it might have been a little easier since there was usually one kid who was half awake on the couch for the day.
The second week, my mother flew up from Tennessee to rescue us. We needed an extra caregiver who could oversee the house work while we handled the parenting. Discipline was a issue from the start because we had to retool the whole way that we did it. We are more traditional in our philosophy on discipline, but we needed to learn more progressive methods in order to comply with the legal requirements of “co-parenting”. We watched a few episodes of “Super Nanny” taking notes and bought a few books with good tips. Mom spent 2 weeks with us helping us to get past the sickness and initial shock of how much our lifestyle had been altered. 4 kids is not impossible, but it’s not easy to add them 2 at a time and to have 3 toddlers in diapers.
We had a nice week after my Dad took Mom home. We were able to have a bit of “normal” routine: School, work, meals, playing, naps, baths, bedtime, chores, errands. Then Sarah’s folks arrived for a visit. We gladly excepted more help. My father-in-law took on a few projects to get a few of our spaces organized in order to create a more toddler friendly environment in our main level. Today they are departing so we’ll be back to the routine.
In the last six weeks, we’ve been pushed to the limits of our patience, our strength, and our sanity. I’ve wept a lot. I’ve experienced the loss of the life we had before. It’s been a fun time being a daddy for these new kids, but it’s still a little terrifying to imagine how all this will play out. For now, we rely on the Spirit to fill us and produce good fruit in us.
This past spring, my wife and I took classes to become licensed to adopt from the Missouri Children’s Division. We went in to it with the thought that we would be willing to take on a sibling group that was about the same age as our kids. So, when we got the call this past week from our adoption specialist that they needed a home for 2 kids, a 2 year old girl and a 1 year old boy, all we could say is, “This is what we signed up for.” Now, we have doubled the number of kids in the house as well as taken a leap back in development by taking in a 1 year old. When we got hit with the stomach flu mid-week, I had to call my mom for help. She flew up to stay with us for 2 weeks. We are getting the hang of things slowly, but being sick is not helping the situation.
Why would we do this? Do we have a disposition for lots of kids? Do we have a Messianic need to become martyrs for some cause? Are we insane?
For me the first step was a conviction that if I see that I can do good and fail to step up, I am sinning. I knew that adoption and foster care is a serious need in our community, and I felt convicted that if I didn’t at least explore if adoption was possible for us then I would be serving my own idols of comfort and security. Later, I heard a presentation on the sex trafficking industry in our country and internationally and I felt a strong emotional shift. Hearing about how children are exploited and abused, I felt that I had to do something, what ever was in my power, to stop this cycle. I knew that in our community, children were being sexually and physically abused by their own parents. If I could provide a safe home for them then I knew that it would be worth what ever I had to sacrifice to make it happen. When Sarah and I moved into the city of St Louis, we were blessed (through the failing housing market, and the persistent decay of St Louis) to be able to buy a home that was larger than I ever imagined possible. We knew that this blessing was not for us to indulge in our own comfort, but to open ourselves up to taking care of the lonely and fatherless.
So here we are. This is what we signed up for.
In the story of the Exodus, YHWH saved his people from slavery to the Egyptians. They cried out to be delivered, and their Redeemer brought them out of slavery. They were brought out of a place where all their needs were met, but they were no free to worship or free to be the blessing that was promised to their patriarchal ancestor, Abraham. So YHWH delivered them. He delivered them in to wilderness where they had to depend completely on the Lord to sustain them. Even to the point of miraculous water from a rock and bread from heaven. This is where Sarah and I are now. We asked the Lord to deliver us from slavery selfishness, materialism, and fear, and he brought us out. Now we are in a position of total dependence on the Lord to provide for us. We have seen him sustain us through the service, prayers, and encouragement of his body.
I just got back from a family reunion. A good time was had by all. Ukuleles were strummed. Songs were sung. Card games broke out. It was a blast.
On Sunday, we had a worship service. My cousin, Dr. Matt Vos shared a talk that he gave at a Sociology conference a while back that was about mourning. If you knew my cousin, you would kind of chuckle at the idea of this guy talking about mourning because he’s a really funny guy who is constantly cracking jokes and cracking everybody up. He talk revealed a deep sense of mourning that he has over the brokenness in our world. As a Sociologist, he is constantly observing and criticizing the broken systems and patterns in the world. He shared in his talk that mourning is actually an act of faith. It’s an acknowledgment that things are not what they should be and that there is a God who is there to hear our cries. He shared the story of being in an eastern European orphanage and seeing the infants in their cribs eerily quiet; they didn’t cry because they had not been taught that their cries would be heard. Jesus said,
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Those who mourn acknowledge that God is good, His creation is broken, and He will hear our cries and respond to comfort. He has not left us as orphans, but He has called us sons and daughters.
A family reunion is a good time because it gives you a sense of who you are and where you came from. Total strangers embrace as if they are old friends because they are cousins, aunts, uncles, or even 2nd cousins. A bonus for our family is to see the adopted kids who have been grafted into the Ward tribe. They were once forgotten and neglected and now they are made into family. We had hoped to add to the party with an announcement that we had been selected to adopt, but it didn’t happen for us this time around. Still, we had fun knowing that we were loved, not only by a group of distant relatives, but also by the faithful Father who adopted us by sacrificing His only begotten Son.
I love the LORD, for he heard my voice;
he heard my cry for mercy.
Because he turned his ear to me,
I will call on him as long as I live.
The cords of death entangled me,
the anguish of the grave came upon me;
I was overcome by trouble and sorrow.
Then I called on the name of the LORD :
“O LORD, save me!”
The LORD is gracious and righteous;
our God is full of compassion.
The LORD protects the simplehearted;
when I was in great need, he saved me.
Be at rest once more, O my soul,
for the LORD has been good to you.