Category Archives: adoption

Modern Day Folk Tales and  The Day God Said Pizza

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Modern Day Folk Tales and  The Day God Said Pizza

I’m thrilled to welcome my cousin, Julia (always Julie to me) Brown, to the blog this week. Julie and I sat with our paternal grandmother as she read The Little Red Hen from the Golden Book illustrated by J. P. Miller, it’s lessons of responsibility and consequences gently but securely rooted in our young character. All these years later we find ourselves coming from different directions, but with the same moral burden for the children who are at risk.

She recently shared this sequel to the original tale and it resonated with me. What are we, the evangelical right doing to support the women who have chosen life. Are we pro-life or simply pro-birth?

There’s An Egg in My Barnyard

One day an out of town hen arrived in the barnyard, laid an egg, and then just left. The animals all stood around looking at the egg, trying to figure out what to do, as it was soon going to hatch.

Some of them teamed up and made signs saying “Leaving eggs in the barnyard is a sin! Immoral Hens Will Not Be Tolerated!!”. That kept them super busy and they clustered far away from the egg to discuss the bad hen’s sure descent into hell.

Some formed a club to promote the idea of each individual chicken being responsible and accountable for himself and the dependent members of his own family. They knew if that were true there would be no future eggs in the barnyard, and they were right.

But the egg still sat in the barnyard.

Some said, “Just break the egg now; that will end the problem”.

There ensued a vehement battle between animals for and against the idea, but the egg still sat in the barnyard.

Some of the animals just sat in front of the barnyard TV with remotes in hand, farting into the couch cushions and watching reality shows about slutty hens.

The Little Red Hen, whose name by the way was Elizabeth, took the egg home and sat on it. When it hatched, she taught the little chick what to do.

She loved it so it would be well adjusted and happy. She taught it right from wrong so the little chick could grow into a fine grownup chicken who would contribute to the barnyard community.

While all this was happening there were several other animals that were concerned, and could see the groups that were forming weren’t really addressing the IMMEDIATE issue of the egg in the barnyard.

For one reason or another, they weren’t able to take the little egg in, and they knew The Little Red Hen was carrying a heavy burden they should share.

So they chipped in as often as they possibly could and helped, and the little chick grew into a fine grownup chicken.

Moral of the story: There’s an egg in your barnyard; help.

THE END

Perhaps this story has you wondering about your role in the life of the egg in your barnyard. You might enjoy this post about ways to help foster families in your area.

Last week I had a Facebook message from a sweet girl who grew up with my daughter. She asked about how she might help them, in the midst of a particularly trying situation with a foster baby.

She wrote: “Hey, I keep thinking about Elizabeth and her family and I feel like God is leading me to send pizza. Pizza, seriously? My desire this year is to focus on listening and obeying so here I am…”

A few hours later, Elizabeth called with a report on the day. She casually mentioned that it would have to be a – wait for it – pizza night at their house. She was just too tired and too late returning home to cook.

Imagine the sweet friends joy when she realized that she had, in fact, heard God say “Pizza”.

By his grace caring for the eggs in my barnyard,

lorraine

 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
James 1:27

More about Julia:

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Julia Brown is a recent retiree, after having spent most of her career as an executive administrative assistant in the corporate world and the last 13 at a local police agency. In her retirement, she has arbitrarily decided she is a textile artist and has several art quilts in various stages at this writing. She lives in a 215 square foot camper in the western North Carolina mountains with her husband and her sewing machine, while they build their retirement home. She has been so moved by Lorraine’s account of her daughter’s life as a foster parent, she decided to add one more title to her name, that of foster parent advocate. While she says she can’t move mountains, she can carry a handful of sand at a time.

 

 

Wait! I Have to Wait???

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Wait! I Have to Wait???

Last Saturday we got up at three in the morning for a one day road trip to a destinatIon four hundred miles away. There was a new baby at the end of that road and it was time to meet her.

I had waited a week and I couldn’t wait any longer. I’d kept reminding myself that there were others helping my daughter with the day to day; I knew it was my turn to wait. I didn’t like it, but I waited.

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When we arrived at the house, Nana greeted us, baby in arms. She whispered that the other children didn’t know we were coming. I couldn’t wait to surprise them!

The five older children were in the backyard with Mom, enjoying some play time before the sun was high and hot. I paused to watch them play and then turned to my daughter. She looked tired; with a newborn and a four month old in the house, she hadn’t had much sleep. Wait, what?

You read that right. The youngest, just about four weeks old, was just visiting; her foster parents were on vacation at the beach and were getting a respite. My daughter was willing to cuddle a newborn for a short ten days to give them some time of refreshment.

A call came on Friday; Mom was enjoying caring for the wee one and they were all looking forward to Dad and their oldest brother returning from camp the next day. When she heard the request, the answer was an immediate yes. Yes, they would foster the baby, a four month old, currently in the hospital and a sibling to their adopted daughter.

Mom would be spending the next day at the hospital to meet with doctors and begin bonding with the precious girl. Hospital time; she waited to take her home.

The following day, a little girl who had been living in an unsafe situation moved into a house filled with children and love. The details aren’t mine to share; her story is still being written and by the grace of God, I am only part of it.

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The troops were rallied; friends, neighbors and family began showing up. Thirty-six hours isn’t much time to prepare for a new baby.

In the meantime, Dad and older brother were experiencing some delays of their own. Homeward bound and anxious to reunite with family, their bus broke down in the middle of nowhere. They weighed options and waited.

I’m a doer. Over the years as my daughters gave birth, I helped. I loved to pop in with food and while I was there do some laundry or a little cleaning.

This time, when I said “I’ll come”, she said “Others are here. Just wait, mom.”

You know how your “heart” is the seat of your emotions but your actual heart is pumping blood and keeping you alive? How is it then, that when your heart is aching the pain is in your chest? I struggled for a week with putting my finger on the emotion that was bringing me so much discomfort.

Was I jealous? Was I suffering from a severe case of “fear of missing out”? After all, other grandmas were there, in my daughter’s home, doing all sorts of things to help her. Oh dear Jesus, take the wheel, I wailed. Am I jealous? But when I got still and honest, I felt nothing but gratitude and love for those women who were there to help.

On Thursday afternoon, as I cleaned the break room kitchen at the office, I prayed (a great thing to do while taking care of mindless chores, by the way). Give me some clarity, I asked. Help me sort all of this out.

Suddenly it was clear. A new grandchild was waiting. I needed to hold her and speak words of hope and love over her. “It’s time…go” HE said.

For the fifth time in just three years, I took a baby that might leave in my arms; I opened my heart without holding anything back. I will gladly surrender it in exchange for the assurance that this little one will know the love of a grandma.

Waiting. This very minute, I have two grandchildren in waiting. Oh, not in my heart; they are sealed there forever, but the courts are still doing the legal stuff and so we wait for the day their names will be written in our family Bible just as they have been etched in our hearts.

In the waiting there is a beautiful picture of God’s waiting for us. He loves us even before we have all of the legal stuff (our sin) figured out and he loves us first.

Teach me to wait with your patience and steadfast love, Lord.

In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us… 1 John 4:10a ESV

But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 ESV

 By His grace alone,

lorraine

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From Out Here: A Grandmother’s View of Autism

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I pen this as an observer; I claim no expertise. I’ve never parented a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). I don’t go to therapy appointments, I don’t visit the neurologist or the behavioral specialist and I don’t deal with the inevitable daily challenges of raising a child with a neurological disorder.

However, I love a child with ASD. He’s my grandson.

I also don’t have type 1 diabetes. I don’t prick my finger eight or more times each day to test blood sugar. I don’t position a spring loaded device on my belly and push the button to insert a cannula to deliver insulin – to literally keep me alive. I’ve never woken from a diabetic coma, surrounded by paramedics and feeling rotten. I’ve never been hospitalized with Diabetic Ketoacidosis.

But I love a man who does, who has. He’s my hubby.

It’s been a journey. So here I am, twenty years after his diagnosis, still clumsily discovering how to be an encourager and advocate while maintaining my primary role as wife and lover. I avoid being the “diabetes police” but I’ve said the wrong thing and responded in the worst way when he most needed compassion.

diabetes-528678_1920I cannot express the highs and lows (no pun intended, but it’s so true) of dealing with diabetes. You can do the same things day in and day out and get wildly different results. Just last Saturday, the excitement of finishing a 5k was clouded within minutes when his blood sugar reading was high. There is big potential damage to vital organs from exercising with high blood glucose. But there are so many factors outside of his control, and virtually none within mine. There were many emotions that surged, from aggravation to fear, but the truth is that you just deal with the present. Adjust, course-correct where possible, and keep living life with this person I love with all of my heart. I wouldn’t want it any other way.

ASD makes normally simple things hard for our boy. He struggles with waiting. Changes in routine are upsetting; he doesn’t like to share certain toys and he’s not especially affectionate. Many times he’d rather play alone than with his siblings. Some days are just hard for him to deal with normal stuff.

He’s learning and developing skills to cope through therapy and the efforts of his parents. They are his champions.

 

Watching him run and play outside makes my heart soar. He’s brilliant, this little guy. He loves books – he will sit with anyone who is willing to read. When he is having a good day, he is delightful. His joy is pure and wild and unfiltered.

Since his diagnosis he has made significant progress. I have high hopes for this boy, confident that he will reach his potential because he is surrounded by people committed to building a strong foundation.

So here I am, clumsily discovering how to be an encourager and advocate, while maintaining my role as his grandma and my daughter’s mom. I am not an expert on ASD and I’ve said and done the wrong thing. I’ve responded with impatience when I should have been compassionate. I’ve already made some monumental blunders in dealing with him. Without a doubt, I’ve annoyed his parents by saying the wrong thing or reacting inappropriately to his behavior. I’ve misunderstood and been misunderstood because I didn’t know enough about his symptoms and limitations. We’ve learned to extend grace to him and each other.

I don’t know what our sweet little grandson’s experience will be. I’ve read lots about autism, pretty much everything I can get my hands on; I listen and ask questions of his parents. And what I’ve learned is to expect the unexpected. The things that worked yesterday (or the last time that we were together) don’t always work today. Regression can occur and expectations have to be adjusted. But at the end of every day, the little boy who lies down (possibly after jumping in his bed for a bit) and sings himself to sleep is a gift from God, fearfully and wonderfully created.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful,
I know that full well. – Psalm 139:14 NIV

May we ever grow in compassion and joy for every life.

April is Autism Awareness month. The Autism Society has issued a challenge of sorts. Awareness has been mostly achieved, so they encourage friends to become partners in the movement toward acceptance and appreciation. During April I’ll share some ways that you can take that next step.

Autism

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Average or Extraordinary?

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“The truth is maybe we are just average. But the way I see it — families where parents get up every morning and go to jobs that are hard so they can get their kids through school and through life, and struggle to make it all work and manage to do it with dignity and a little humor — well, that’s not average. That’s extraordinary.”
Frankie Heck, The Middle

cafeteria-662458_1920There she stood, her jet black hair in a perfect Laura Petrie flip. Unlike Rob’s wife in the 60’s sitcom, her features were harsh. She had a nasally voice and when she saw me she smirked and demanded an explanation. After all, students weren’t permitted in the cafeteria before school unless they had business there.

I had strict orders from my mother that I was to hand the sealed envelope to anyone but her. I must have been all of ten years old, and a most compliant child. I was torn between obeying my mother and respecting the Tasmanian she-devil adult in front of me. I have no idea what happened next.

Honest. It’s blocked from my memory and while I’m sure that spending precious time and money with a counselor might help me remember and sort it out, I’m not sure I that I want to go there. It was mean-spirited but I did learn at a tender age that I never wanted to make another person feel like that.

She was the mother of my friend, our neighbor across the street. And she thought our family had too many kids. Even I realized that. And I knew that the envelope contained an application for free lunches. Handing it to anyone else was safe, but handing it to her just confirmed her opinion.

Strangely, I admired the perfect little playhouse that was situated in the perfectly manicured back yard. Her children, one boy and one girl, completed a perfect family. They were even born in the correct order, boy first. Her home was so clean it shined.

I never, not even once, felt welcome or wanted there. I did feel shame and judgment, not able in my immaturity to fully comprehend the strong opinions behind them.

Hubby and I married young. It was our choice. I was ready for my own home and family. The reality of the cost of providing for a family and the social norm of the 70’s to have 2.5 children were a big part of our choice to limit our offspring to two. In fact, I was so naïve about the heart’s capacity to love that during my second pregnancy I worried that I could never love another child like I did my first.

I am incredibly grateful for my two daughters. The real joy in having lots of children is giving them siblings. The truth is, our brothers and sisters know us as we always were. They share family secrets, feuds and jokes. And they show up. Good times, bad times, hard times. Two daughters, born six years apart, with four hundred miles separating their homes. And yet, their hearts are in tune. And while I wish I had given them a larger family, peace floods my soul when I realize they have each other; that they will drop everything and run from everything else to each other.

Sometimes life comes full circle. As of this moment, I have eight grandchildren; my mom would be so proud of her granddaughter’s house full of babies and children. Yesterday, the youngest turned a year old. He’s a foster but he just might stick and that would oh so wonderful, because you see, I love him like crazy.

When the whole crew arrives for a visit our normally tidy home is cluttered and loud within minutes. Babies cry and toddlers act like, well, toddlers. The kitchen stays busy and the door to outside slams loud when the windows are open and the weather is perfect for outdoor play. There are disagreements over sharing toys and someone skins a knee and because we have a five year old girl in this mix, there is drama. Lots of drama. And poop – with three in diapers, someone always has poop. We deal.

But that’s not all. There are moments of baby snuggles and reading to toddlers. There are five year old secrets to share and hair to braid. Big boys build Lego models and share their favorite things about the new Star Wars movie. There are showers and tubbies every evening and lots of stern warnings about staying in bed, even at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. I sneak in and warn them about nice Mommy being done for the day before she confirms that she’s not kidding.

The truth is, it’s a lot of work to manage a large family. Things that some families take for granted are not possible. The budget may allow for a meal out, but seriously, why wrangle so many littles to a restaurant when it’s so much easier to feed them at home? I marvel at the way that the older boys take responsibility, whether making sure all of the diaper bags get to the van or buckling and verifying everyone is safely seated.

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I’m mostly a spectator in the life of this big family. I can’t speak on their behalf and I have no experience parenting so many. I freely acknowledge all of that. But I am so thankful for a second chance at a big family.

When I think about them in twenty years, I can only imagine how great Thanksgiving will be at their house. I sure hope I live long enough to see it.

As it turns out, this heart of mine does have the capacity to love more than one child.

 

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I’m Seeing Red and It’s Not What You Think

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Mom, do you remember when you were awaiting the arrival of your babies? There were months to prepare and everyone was waiting with excited anticipation. Showers celebrated the impending arrival of your blessing; new clothing was washed in that amazing Dreft detergent and folded and placed at the ready in a lovingly prepared nursery. The arrival of a child is a blessed and joyous event that should be celebrated.

When the call comes, foster parents have little time to prepare. Until that moment, they have no idea of age, gender, size or situation. In a matter of minutes or hours the child will arrive, likely with nothing more than the clothing on their backs, sometimes in the middle of the night, confused and possibly fearful.

May I share the arrival story of my second granddaughter? A case worker called – this is the official announcement that you’re “expecting”. The baby was being discharged from the NICU. In a matter of hours, a very sick, very tiny baby was delivered to her new home. There was no time for preparation except in the heart of a woman who heard the specific call for this child and said “yes”.

Foster moms go into nesting mode from zero to sixty with that call. And often, they are on their own. If they’ve been at it for a while, they likely have a network they can mobilize. Sadly, that network is mostly other fostering families.

It’s not the same. I get that. But what if we, as a community of believers…the CHURCH, got serious about this issue? What if we said ENOUGH? What if rather than getting bent out of shape about a disposable cup we took up the cause of the orphan?StarbucksCup

In the United States over 250,000 children enter foster care each year. That number is staggering. While not every family can or will foster, the statistics tell that if one family in one church out of every three churches were to welcome one child into their home, there would be no child waiting.

I wish I could just lay my heart bare. Words are supposed to do that, but I am better at telling a story than championing a cause. As best as I can tell it, this is what I want you to hear, dear reader. What if that that one family out of those three churches had an army of people around them? What if when a mama posted a status update about needing a toddler bed, instead of sending links to beds for sale on Craig’s List that same team of people found a bed and delivered it to that home where everyone is in prep mode?

I never knew. I had no idea. I thought those people were super heroes and I admired how they had it together and managed so well. I ignored the fact that I could should be a part of the story. I freely admit that I only became part of this amazing story because of my daughter and son-in-law.

But regardless of my failure to walk in it, this was not written for one family in one church out of three, my friends:

Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their misfortune and to keep oneself unstained by the world. James 1:27 NET

So, dear reader, if you are still with me, and if that verse is speaking to your heart, let’s get on with it.

There are ways to touch the lives of children in foster care even beyond becoming a foster parent. I was going to give you a nice, neat bulleted list, but I just deleted all of it (I hope I don’t regret that in a minute!). What if we got to know them by spending time, asking questions and then reacting and responding as needed out of our abundance and with the conviction that these children ARE our responsibility?

Further, what about the church? What is her role in supporting fostering and adoptive families? It’s not enough to celebrate Orphans Day one Sunday in November (if your church even did – mine didn’t but that’s my fault).

Under the authority of the very Word of God, churches must provide tangible support for families who pursue a calling in fostering and/or adoption:

  • Put in place supports that will allow the families to maintain their current level of involvement in the church
  • Make sure you are ready to welcome special needs children into the various ministries for babies, children and teens
  • Make church the easiest place to navigate with a large family
  • Grief counseling (fostering involves loss)

Fostering is a delicate dance. For good reasons foster families take lots of things one day at a time. And ironically, that’s how love grows. One day at a time. And sometimes, that little girl who was discharged from the NICU becomes my granddaughter.

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The Book says it more than once. I’m only sorry that I am so very late to this amazing dance.

Learn to do right; seek justice.
Defend the oppressed.[
a]
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
plead the case of the widow.
Isaiah 1:17

Wisdom, Grace and Two Moms

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child-917367_1920I close my eyes, and in my mind I bury my face in his hair – soft and fragrant, long brown tendrils with blonde tips brushed on by the very hand of God. This baby, becoming a boy, just learning words for the things he loves and wants. Mama, he says, and milk…that boy loves his milk. And with every thought my chest tightens and I choke back sobs over the unknown. What if? I want to trust you, Lord, and I do…but I fear this decision left to a man. And so, I’m here again, reconciling faith and fear. I need a word, a reminder that you have this little one secure in your grip, and his mama too.

And there it is…

Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe. ~Proverbs 29:25~

We won’t fear one man’s decision, for we trust you, Lord.

I wrote those words in January. It was the day that our daughter and her husband would appear in court to make their plea for adoption of a child they had fostered since he was a few weeks old. Until a few weeks before, it seemed that this little one was intended for them. Our family loved him deeply and we all had hoped he would become part of our forever family. But now his relatives were also pleading their case for adoption and a judge would rule. I can’t fully explain the agony of waiting; I prayed as I worked and when the text came, I was devastated. In few words, the message was relayed. “We lost him.”

What am I supposed to do with this, Lord? And I remembered: Trust me.

In a very short time, it became apparent that God, the loving, compassionate, perfect Father, was doing a miraculous work in the lives of two families. I will never forget the text:

“He’s going to be okay, Mom. They love Jesus too.”

And then two mothers, who both loved a child with ferocity, chose peace. They chose the welfare of a child over their disappointment, anxiety and rights; together they slew so many negatives in the process – jealousy, bitterness, fear…all defeated with one choice. The families lived together for a week, focusing on reducing the stress of transition for the little one. They stood together before a judge, celebrating adoption. The families shared a meal to celebrate. And then it was time for this little boy to leave with his new family. They boarded a plane and returned home.

In 1 Kings I read about two mothers who lived in the same house. Although a baby was born to each, one was lost. In her anguish, the grieving mother claimed the other woman’s child. They appeared before Solomon, each arguing her case. In his wisdom, the king suggested that the child be cut in two, giving each woman one half. The woman who objected was immediately recognized by Solomon as the mother. She cared more for the baby’s well-being than for her loss.

That is when I knew that the story of these women should be written down. Two mothers, one child. In this story, they had mutual purpose: the well-being of a child they both wanted to call their own.

Yesterday those families stood together again. This time it was in a church, not a courtroom. They stood before a pastor, not a judge. The foster parents became the Godparents; they pledged to remember this child in their prayers, to give counsel and aid in the true knowledge and worship of God. They promised to stand in the gap in the event he loses his parents and to place in his hands the holy Word of God, all so that he may grow up to lead a Godly life to the praise and honor of Jesus Christ.

Everyone in Israel was amazed when they heard how Solomon had made his decision.
They realized that God had given him wisdom to judge fairly.
1 Kings 3:28

And everyone who heard was amazed when they heard how these families walked together in love. They realized that God had given them wisdom and grace for this very thing.

To God be the glory.