Overcoming Barriers with Love
When you move back to your hometown after college, you don't expect to have to make new friends. But, I did.
So glad God brought this incredible couple into my life.
Our friendship grew over many game nights, laughs over new puppy troubles, and singing the wrong song lyrics a time or two. There was no shame. I was happy to be their third-wheel.
Now, life has changed quite a bit. It's no longer just the two of them.
...And I'm no longer the third wheel, but I'll gladly settle for the fourth. After all, the fourth wheel IS necessary...
God laid a big call on their lives and brought an incredible son to their family.
And that, my friend, is why we're here today. Settle in and be encouraged!
Clear Direction and Purpose
Even from a young age, God prepared her heart for the path she would walk. The thought of pregnancy simply didn't appeal to her. It wasn't until she was a teenager and met a girl who had been adopted internationally that she began thinking of adoption. A seed was planted as she remembers thinking, “That must be what I’m supposed to do.”
While working at a church during college, she was first introduced to foster care. It was the first time she realized kids that she knew could be taken from their families.
Seeing kids being placed in foster care and losing all of their relationships made her begin to wonder, "Maybe I can do that and help make sure a child can stay connected with their community, siblings, and church."
She knew what this meant for her own future relationship. If she was going to make this commitment, she needed to be upfront about it while dating. Laughing about it now, she admits her courage to her commitment made weeding out guys much easier.
When they met in college, his response and support helped them both have clarity about the purpose of their life together.
God had also placed people in his life to help prepare him for this path. For him, it was seeing the impact of his youth pastor, who had been a foster parent.
The commitment they made early on in their dating life was something they felt so strongly about that they included it as part of their marriage vows. Looking back, she laughs knowing they needed this accountability so they wouldn't "chicken out." They knew there would always be an endless supply of excuses not to do this, but they wanted these vows to...
"...hold us accountable before everyone we cared about."
Requirement - Be Old Enough
It was simple. They'd do this but they'd wait until they were thirty to start.
This seemed like the right age, especially since they were both drawn to caring for an older kid. It was hard to fathom someone turning eighteen and aging out of the foster system with no support or family in place.
During their first year of marriage, her job in social work allowed her to see so many kids without a place to go and seeing the pain of siblings being split up. It broke her heart to see kids wait for adoption. She said,
"I felt like a fraud. Here I was telling people to do this thing that I wasn’t doing myself. I would see the two empty bedrooms in our house, and I was consumed - not with guilt but with the recognition of opportunities that weren’t being pursued."
They agreed they would start the training to become foster parents but they were not jumping in head first yet. Maybe, short-term care. They were also intentional to learn from adult adoptees, which proved to be the most helpful insight for them.
Once they started training, they were both forced to confront the need, and they were aligned. They were doing this all the way, regardless of their age.
Being pushed out of our comfort zone is never fun. But Jesus didn't come for us to be comfortable. He came so we would be saved and live our lives so He can be glorified through us. We don't like being uncomfortable because we feel weak. But let's remember,
"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." - 2 Corinthians 12:9
Getting phone calls of kids who needed places to go with her job, she had insight of the need for pre-teenage boys who had been tossed around a lot. With his role as a middle school teacher and coach, they believed they could meet this need.
They specifically wanted to adopt a child who needed a place to land and had been previously split from his or her siblings so they could play a role in helping reconnect one day.
There was no shortage of kids who met this need. The paperwork, pictures, and videos that flooded in proved it. This was the hardest part of this journey so far - seeing so many children in need of a loving home.
Most concerned about being the right fit for the child, they wondered,"What does the child want in a family?" Knowing some had requested to have other kids in the family or to stay in their current town, they wanted to respect this.
After spending some time to think through it on their own, they decided to share the name of who they were thinking on the count of three...
They were aligned and knew the child their hearts were leading them to adopt.
Choosing Their Son
This young boy had requested a dad who was a football coach...
That was his job.
Notes revealed the young boy's need for one-on-one attention....
They were two young people with no other kids - they could do that for him.
Their decision was not without backlash. The case worker felt they were too young and inexperienced. They were young, but they each had experience with their careers. Even though they had to do things that were not required for other parents, like traveling to Dallas to meet in person, she shared,
"We would have gone ten more times if we had to. We were obsessed with him!"
They drove to Austin, where he was in another foster home, to meet him for the first time. They had been talking on the phone and he knew their intentions. He even called them Mom and Dad from the first phone call. Now, he admits,
“I was just buttering you guys up, I just wanted out of that foster home.”
He was trying to survive. He saw an opportunity to join a family, and even though this was not the first family that had told him they wanted to adopt him, he was hopeful this one would stick.
A few weeks later, he was home! The minute he came in the door, they realized they would need energy to keep up with their new son.
Of course, it wasn’t their son's fault, but he had never been parented before. He had never had stability. They had to be with him 24/7 and do everything with him. He wanted that. He never had that before. He didn’t want to get dressed or watch tv by himself.
Everything was special, and they were honored to get to do these things with him.
Learning and growing together as a family wasn't and still isn't easy. They've been together three years now and at first, she relates it to the show Married at First Sight. They didn’t know much about each other - not even what he liked to eat.
There was lots of learning and lots of questions in those days. When it gets challenging, they say these words together,
"Becoming a family is hard, but it’s always worth it."
More People Who Love You
They are so thankful for their son and feel truly honored to be his parents, but they believe adoption is "hard to celebrate." No matter how great of a parent you are, the kids have to lose something in order to end up on your doorstep.
"It is an honor to be his mother. But, it’s not just a beautiful story. It’s not. There’s a lot of pain. We have to do better as a society from thinking adoption is a solution. We need to support through poverty and addiction."
They try to be mindful and give their son the full capacity and permission to express himself. He may say, "I love you guys but I miss my mom."
Once he’s older and able to navigate reconnection with his biological parents, they want to be with him and support him through this. More than anything, they want to help him know more people who love him than not.
Recognizing it is not a competition, they have come to understand their role.
"We’re going to get through this together. We’re going to walk through this with you and do all we can to help you heal."
Their son was eleven when he joined their family, but there were still so many great first's to experience with him - from his first football game, first basketball game, first piano lesson, first time at Walmart, and first time putting ornaments on the Christmas tree.
As his mother, she soaks in these moments and shares how her 90% joy is met with 10% remembrance for his birth mom. "There is another woman out there who wishes she could do these things with him."
She's decided to hold these memories and take lots of pictures, as she can’t wait to share these with his family - his mom, grandmas, aunts - one day.
They are learning so much from him, too. Not only is he a great kid, but he’s fun to be around! He's also not afraid to call you out if you’re being mean or unkind, but he does so with gentleness and the utmost empathy.
"He has made us better people. We owe him a lot for being patient with us and teaching us how to be more empathetic towards others."
Full restoration. That's what our God is all about. He works through people. Salvation comes from above and healing comes through His people. We reach out and help another and they help us, too.
Whether you're considering adoption or you have another need pressed upon your heart, let's be challenged by the courage we see in this family.
These barriers we put in place between us and those who are hurting need to come down. Let's live out our faith with boldness and understand what this family has practiced and modeled for us,
"Excuses aside, make peace with the fact that anything you’re supposed to be doing in terms of loving others is not going to feel good all the time. Unconditional love means there are no conditions. Love is action. It takes work, practice, and doing it when you don’t feel like it."
Let's find strength in the unconditional love God has given to us. Let's find joy in dying to self and peace when we live a life worthy of our calling. Let's find rest in committing our lives to something - Someone - greater.
The good life, well it starts with a good day. Then another. Then another. Let's choose to live #TheGoodDay one day at a time.
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