Tuesday, February 26, 2013

what to do while you wait: a [mini] tutorial

Much of the adoption process is work and business. Finding a good consultant who can point you to the right agencies, filling out paperwork for your home study, gathering pictures for your profile, obtaining background checks and physicals and references, applying for grants.  


Almost every family reaches a point where their home study is complete, their profile is created, and their applications have been sent to agencies across the U.S. In the beginning there's a clear plan. I walk families through exactly what to do and when to do them. Follow these steps. Complete this paperwork. Apply to this agency. Pretty straightforward.

Inevitably, if I'm working with a couple in the adoption process, there is one person who thrives in the "get it done" stage of adoption. They stay up late filling out paperwork, get me the edits to their profile right away, and love the check boxes they can begin to check off getting them closer and closer to adopting their sweet baby.  

The hard thing about adoption is there's no "due date." Before a match, no social worker can narrow down when your baby will be in your arms. You don't know to buy winter or summer 0-3 month clothes or even if they should be pink or blue.  

This is the point when I've had numerous families say adoption has done for their faith what no other experience has. This waiting stage has couples lean into Jesus in a way they've never experienced before. But what do you do when the busyness of adoption wanes and you're left waiting?   


Plan

Take this opportunity to educate yourself more about adoption. Read good books, blogs, and articles on adoption; things like adopting trans-racially, openness, and birth parents. Educate those around you on your endeavor. Tell friends and family why you've decided to adopt and bring them into your story. Are there things you can do in this stage to bulk up your finances; more grants to apply to, fundraisers to plan, loans to apply for?


Prepare

Yes, the paperwork and the process is done to this point. But I encourage families to do what will be helpful to still feel like their on the journey and anticipating a little one. Create your baby registry and decorate the nursery. Make the most of your time before a new baby: projects to complete around the house, travel, special time spent with other children.


Pray

During this time your profile is being presented to birth parents. What an incredible opportunity you have to pray for a birth family and a child. When you say "yes" to being presented, I firmly believe you are on the front lines on the battle for life. You have told a mother that her life and her baby's life is worth it. During those few days when a birth mother is choosing a family, you have a unique opportunity to pray for this family. There's the chance that no one has ever prayed for this sweet baby. What an honor God has given you to pray LIFE over this birth mama and her sweet baby. You can also use this time to passionately pray for your little one wherever they may be.


Although this period of waiting can feel static, waiting on God is anything but passive. It requires strength, a devotion to what God has called you to, and a steadfast hope that He will bring to pass what He has promised.

Want more adoption [mini] tutorials? Click here for more resources!

Friday, February 22, 2013

blessings

Since the kids were babies we've had a bedtime routine. When they were little it consisted of baths and books. Story time and singing. Always a reading from the Jesus Storybook Bible. And then tucking in. And requests for water. And then tucking in. And one more potty break. And then tucking in. And tiptoes out to the living room and reports of tummy aches or deep questions about the universe. And then the threats of getting back in bed....


Our kids are a little older now (five and seven) and bedtime looks a little different. Brushing teeth and showers, reading from Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing while snuggling on the couch, and then tucking in and prayers.  

Since they were born, we have chosen to hug them tight, lay our hands on their heads, and bless them with these words:

Isabelle, the Lord bless you and keep you
The Lord make his face shine upon you
And be gracious to you
Jackson, The Lord turn his face towards you
And give you peace
Amen
(Numbers 6:24-26)

Growing up, this song was sung as a benediction every Sunday morning at my church by a beautiful choir. The same choir sang it to Jamy and I at our wedding after we made vows beginning our family.  It speaks of God's goodness, power, strength, and grace that is sufficient for our days.

There's something powerful in blessings. The Bible is full of blessings, over 600 in the Old Testament alone. Blessings publicly declared God's favor and endowed prosperity and success.  

There's something powerful in words. What our kids hear daily shapes their hearts: who they are and who they are created to be.Words of life, affirmation, and God's ultimate provision for them can lay the foundation for them to face the world with truth.  

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore, choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God and obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days...Deuteronomy 30:19

Sometimes in the quiet of night, when these are the last words Jamy and I speak over them, I can hear their little voice whispering the blessing too. We both say "amen," and my prayer is that these words would sink way down in their hearts and their dreams. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

in her own words: a foster mama shares why excuses don't matter

I told you this fall about my brother Tim and his wife Meg beginning their journey to foster care. Days after they received their license, a baby was placed in their home. In his short few months, he already had a story of tremendous hurts in his life.

It's been amazing to watch my little brother parent. Tim and Meg are quite a team when it comes to parenting. But they not only have the typical up during the night, diaper changing, feeding and rocking stuff of parenting. They also have the court hearings, legal paperwork, and lots of the unknown stuff of foster care to deal with. And they have embraced all of it.  

We all have. This new little member to our family came just days before Christmas. Nonny knit a new stocking for the fireplace and extra gifts were placed under the tree. Family pictures had a new face. He'll always be a part of our family, even if he was only with us for a short time.

Tim and Meg are questioned often about their thoughts on all of the unknowns they're dealing with. And their answer has always been that he's worth it. They've decided to love wholeheartedly; without knowing how long he'll be in our family pictures, without knowing how to fill our all of the medical forms when they go to the pediatrician, and without knowing what tomorrow will bring.

Because in his short life, although he has tremendous hurts, he also has a story of tremendous redemption,  love, and healing.

So when people ask Tim and Meg about foster care, and eventually offer up why it's not for them, this is what Meg has to say...

Tim and I have heard a million excuses of why people don't do foster care when they find out about our situation. Don't get us wrong, we also went through those same excuses when we started our journey. But one fact always seemed to trump all of our excuses--the kids are worth it.



1. If they were taken away from me, it would hurt me too much. 
This is a valid point. However, if you are truly called into foster care, it isn't about you and your feelings. It's about these children who have been through hell and need a refuge. It's about being a safe place. It's about showing children love; real unconditional love. Every minute you spend with them will make a huge difference not only in their life right now, but in their life as an adult.

2. I couldn't handle visitations or interacting with the birth parent(s).  
Again, Tim and I thought the same thing at first but God has humbled us. You realize that {most} all parents, no matter what mistakes they have made, love their children. I always think about if my life would have been slightly different, I wouldn't be that far from most of them. What if I grew up in foster care? What if all I did was witness abuse of my older siblings as a child? What if I was abused? Most of the time, the things that cause children to be in foster care is a cycle in the family. It's a learned behavior and we are blessed that we never had to be exposed to. By no means am I giving excuses for their actions, but to demonize the entire person is wrong.

3. There are so many risks and unknowns.  
This is completely true. The child will come to you and all you will know is their age, gender, name, and a vague reason of why they were removed from the home. That's it. To be honest, this was all we knew for about the first month. It's okay, though; we survived. We focused on simply caring for our little guy. That's what we got into this for anyway, right? To take care of children who needed a nurturing home. The information comes in time, but it's been two months now and there are still a lot of unknowns. For example, we don't know how long he will be in our care. But we do know that God is in control and that's our anchor. God knows the little guy's future and that has to be enough for us. You would drive yourself crazy otherwise!

I'm begging you. If you feel called to be a foster parent, do it. Take action. There are so many children who need you. As a matter of fact, we were only licensed for 10 days before we were placed. The need is so great and these children are so worth your time.

Monday, February 18, 2013

congratulations Ronn and Elizabeth

Ronn and Elizabeth are no strangers to adoption. They've grown their family already through three adoptions, both domestically and internationally. When they contacted me in October to help them with number four, they were confident God wasn't through building their family.


It's been a joy to journey with Ronn and Elizabeth and watch their heart for adoption, birth parents, and Jesus as they worked to bring another little one home. Ronn and Elizabeth were home study ready on January 12th. Last Sunday they received a call about a birth mom who needed to choose a family - right away. They prayed, offered their profile, and waited for several days.

What they didn't know is that during that time, the birth mother chose them to raise her sweet baby and asked the nurses to keep their profile near her bed to focus on during labor and delivery.  


Hours later, Ronn and Elizabeth got the call that their son had been born. As they raced to the hospital to meet him, we laughed over the phone at the goodness of God that their son was born just a few miles from their home and that God had perfectly orchestrated the miracles that had brought them to him.


Soren River James was born February 12 - exactly 4 weeks after they were home study ready. He was welcomed by Ronn and Elizabeth and ecstatic older sisters and brother Brielle, Elaina, and Titus. A perfect addition to this family with a heart for adoption and for children. His little life is already a testimony to God's perfect timing and provision.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

our funny valentines and true love

We're not huge on Valentine's Day around here. Jamy's tendency is to buck the Hallmark-created holiday and chuckle at all the schmucks that get pulled into buying expensive horrible chocolates in large cardboard hearts. (*gasp* we live in Kansas City where half our friends work for Hallmark as writers and photographers!)

But now we have kids who adore it. Making Valentine's boxes and bags to collect their Valentine's from their classmates. Getting their list of friends and choosing the perfect princess or sports ball Valentine for each one. Carefully signing their name and picking their favorites to save for their teacher and mommy and daddy.


So, we have been sucked in. We survived the chaos during high school and college and certainly can survive it through our kids as well. And I've decided to embrace it.Taking the cue from my dear friend Tracie and their new tradition, we have also instituted "Family Love Day" around here.

Instead of the sentimental, over-the-top meaningless gifts, I wanted my kids and Jamy to know how much they are loved. By me and more importantly by their Heavenly Father loves them unconditionally and without limit.
  

They each woke up to 14 hearts on their door with reasons why I love them. Jamy and I created the kids together and I surprised Jamy with his own hearts from me.


Here's just a few:

For Bella:
I love to watch you dance
I love listening to the way you tell stories
I love your imagination

For Jack:
I love playing soccer with you
I love your belly laugh
I love your compassionate heart

For Jamy:
I love the way you provide for our family
I love that you make me laugh
I love your servants heart


Our Family Love Day will celebrate our love for each other. But I want my kids to start grasping a love so much deeper than the broken kind of love we see around us represented today by over-sized teddy bears and roses.  

Last night Jamy and I read this together from Scotty Smith's Everyday Prayers:
Only your love is better than life, Jesus. Only your love meets the deepest needs of my whole being and satisfies my most intense longings. Only your love is unwavering,  Jesus, for all other loves are filled with conditions and contingencies. Only your love is unfailing, Jesus for all other loves are fickle and finite.
Only your love can expose and replace my idols. Only your love can break my self-indulgent chains and set me free to love well.  Only your love can heal the greatest heart-wounds I carry.  Only your love can move me from navel-gazing to kingdom living...

This is my prayer for my family today:

So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith - that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with the fullness of God.  Ephesians 3: 17-19


We're celebrating this kind of love this year, praying it overflows into our marriage, into our family, and into our world...

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

keys to a successful adoption: a [mini] tutorial

If I could sit down across the table with every adoptive family over a mug of coffee and give them advice on the adoption process, this would be it:

Be ready and available
I rarely meet a couple who has never thought about adoption for their own family. In fact, most people I know tell me they've seriously considered it, but have yet to take the important first steps. Then they hear about a need, and are unable to walk into it simply because they haven't prepared. You have to make yourself ready for adoption for it to happen. This mean taking the steps to become home study ready and making a down payment with your heart and your money.  God can't use families if they're not available.  

Be a part of a team
You can't go it alone. Adoption requires community. Adoption is a complex process of home studies, profile creation, legal paperwork, and applications. Finding the right professionals to help you is crucial; the right adoption consultant, home study and placing agency, social workers, and attorneys often means the success or failure of an adoption. But on top of having the right adoption professionals, also surround yourself with a team of friends and family who will help with the emotions, fiances, and logistics of your adoption. Going down the road with others who share your vision and prayerfully support you will enable you to confidently walk out what God has called you to.

Be open and flexible
Adoption is a constant tension of having a plan and a vision and being ready for God to change it at a moments notice. This week I got a call from one of my clients who learned about their baby Sunday and met him Tuesday. Their plans for the week changed dramatically. Adoption almost never happens as you "plan" it. Roadblocks come up. Emergency calls are received. But if you have a heart that has been open and available to God and are a part of a team wisely built, God does amazing things in the chaos of moments.

Babies are born.  And families are ready to embrace them.

Want more adoption [mini] tutorials? Click here for more resources!

Friday, February 8, 2013

plentiful redemption

This past week has been a hard one to say the least. On both personal and professional fronts, I've seen hearts go through the wringer. After celebrating a huge milestone in our family, we got hit hard. Then I watched as friends have also been through the fire in the past few days. I have witnessed and gone through tremendous brokenness, loss, and pain.  

Yeah, it's been a really rough week.

And then yesterday I was reminded of this powerful truth when a friend posted this to her Instagram feed. (Jami Nato is amazeballs - to use one of her words - you need to check out her blog).


So I sat, scrolling through my Instagram feed, and wept.  It was a perfect reminder.

Yes, my hope is in the Lord.

With him there is a steadfast love that is unchanging and everlasting.

And because of Him, with Him, there is plentiful redemption.


I got stuck on the word plentiful. Admittedly, I often think of Jesus' grace as "just enough." He gives me just enough to make it, just enough to endure, just enough to hope.

But the Psalms describes the Lord's redemption as plentiful.

More than enough.

Abundant.


His redemption is plentiful for the circumstances of this past week. I can rest in his steadfast love. And because of these truths in the midst of all this brokenness, I will hope in Him.

Amen.  Let it be, Lord.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

the book that's tattered at our house

Jamy discovered a book years ago when Jackson was a baby.  I remember him bringing it home, thrilled at what he’d discovered.  A children’s bible storybook that tells the whole story of God and his great rescue plan.  Every single story between its pages, from creation to the flood to the new earth points to Jesus. It’s amazing. I've never found another children’s book that so clearly ties everything that happens in the Bible to Christ and His work to redeem a people to himself. 


The book, The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name by Sally Lloyd-Jones, has since become award-winning and translated into over nine different languages for children all over the world to appreciate and our family favorite. The illustrations by Jago capture my kids attention and make the stories come alive. It’s so great that we’ve also bought Lloyd-Jones’ other books, Song of the Stars, A Christmas Story and Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing.
  
Listen to how it begins:


No, the Bible isn't a book of rules, or a book of heroes.  The Bible is most of all a Story.  It’s an adventure story about a young Hero who comes from a far country to win back his lost treasure.  It’s a love story about a brave Prince who leaves his palace, his throne – everything – to rescue the one he loves.  It’s like the most wonderful of fairy tales that has come true in real life! 
You see – the best thing about this Story is – it’s true.

There are lots of stories in the Bible, bit all the stories are telling one Big Story.  The Story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them.

So from the day Jamy happened across this amazing little book in a bookstore, we've read it to our children.  Every night, with our kids curled up beside us on the couch we pull it out. Our kids each have their own copy that's falling apart and taped up from being loved on so much. 


Here's a video of one of the stories of the events surrounding Jesus birth:


I’ll be honest.  I sometimes go to this book when I need to be reminded of the big picture. While reading the stories to Isabelle and Jackson I often get choked up and hold back tears as God pierces my heart with His truth. I know counselors and pastors who use this book as a "go to" for adults to bring us back to the centrality of Jesus and simple truths.

Rules couldn't save them.  Only God could save them.  
(Moses and the Ten Commandments from Exodus 16-17)

God will heal the terrible sickness in our hearts. 
(The little slave girl and Naaman from 2 Kings 5)

The Rescuer will come.  Look for him.  Watch for him.  Wait for him.  He will come!  
(Prophecies from Isaiah) 

Jesus is making the sad things come untrue.  He is mending God’s broken world.  
(The story of Jarius’daughter from Luke 8)

Jesus takes the nothing and makes it everything.  He takes the emptiness and fills it up.  

(The feeding of the 5,000 from Matthew 14)


And we can all can quote by memory this phrase that’s woven into the fabric of these pages and now into our hearts that describes God’s love for all of us:

His Never-stopping

Never Giving Up

Unbreaking

Always and Forever

Love

Friday, February 1, 2013

cheeseburgers on china

Yesterday was a big day for our family. It had been one year since "the thing." That's what we end up calling it since no other name for that kind of ceremony fit.

A year ago after "the thing" we made plans to have our friends (who had become family) join us at Bucca di Beppo for dinner to celebrate. I had encouraged Jamy to make dinner reservations for the group of us. Unbeknownst to me, no reservations were made and when we arrived to the restaurant with our troop, the wait time was way too long. So we disappointingly headed home to get our kids fed and to bed - it had been a long night. Jamy had the kids in another vehicle and I had to stop on the way home to get gas. As I was pumping gas in my dress I had bought for the occasion (the ceremony, not the gas pumping) I was admittedly frustrated at the very anti-climactical (yes - I think I just created a word) way the evening had ended up.

This had been a significant day in our lives and in our journey for the past three months. We had just made vows to each other and our kids. We had just celebrated the goodness of God.  And now plans had been foiled and I was headed home to grab the kids cold pizza and get them to bed.

But when I got home there wasn't cold pizza being reheated. The table was elegantly set with our best china, candles were lit, lights were dimmed, my bouquet from the evening was our centerpiece...and McDonald's take out was being served. Jamy and the kids had hurriedly run through the drive through and prepped before I walked in the door. The kids were giggling to show me the "elegant" dinner that was prepared for us to enjoy together.

It was perfect.

So last night we did the same thing. Jamy and the kids surprised me with flowers. (Side note, earlier in the day he had my favorite pizza delivered to The Women's Clinic - pineapple, ham, and no sauce - for lunch. He knows Papa John's pizza beats flowers any day in my book.)  He ran to pick up McDonald's while we set the table. And as we prayed over our cheeseburgers and talked about what this meant for our family over french fries, I was overwhelmed with the imperfection and beauty of it all. Our table full with each member of our family eating and laughing and talking. Just the way it was meant to be.


I'm pretty sure this will be tradition every January 31st in the VanSyckle household. Cheeseburgers on china.  Diet coke and Sprite in wine glasses. Candles and Happy Meals. The best way to celebrate what God's done in our home.

This morning the kids gave us this "song" they had written.  Even more perfect.

Yes, we "sould" be thankful.  Daddy came back.  And we're gonna celebrate.  Cheers.


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