Who’s Taking Care of the Kids?

The tables were set with linen tablecloths. The lights were dim. The dinner was delicious. People seemed to be enjoying themselves. And by the end of the night, many were moved to donate to help this adoption agency fight the orphan crisis.

I confess that I was enjoying the annual banquet with my husband and friends just as much as anyone! But this time, something seemed to be missing. Something felt a little “off” to me. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what was bothering me until we were on our way home.

The church was missing. 

Now, don’t misunderstand me. I have long supported these adoption agencies and have pointed friends and strangers alike to seek their aid in adopting. They have done wonderful things for the orphan crisis and have brought many lonely into families.

But these agencies exist because there was a need to fill. They exist because the church (as a whole) gave up.

“Currently, there are approximately 500,000 children in foster care in the United States,” according to A Child’s Hope International.  “It’s estimated that 120,000 are eligible for adoption. With over 400,000 churches in the United States, if one person in every 3rd church would say ‘I’ll take one’ all of the children would have a home. . .Sadly, each year, about 26,000 children age out of foster care WITHOUT the support, guidance, care and love of an adoptive family.”

These numbers are staggering! The church alone could virtually wipe out the orphan crisis in America, yet there are 500,000 kids without a home!

I can’t wrap my mind around these numbers! When did the church stop participating in orphan care? Especially when it’s clearly commanded in scripture.

Give justice to the weak and the fatherless;
    maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute – Ps. 82:3.

To do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed,
    so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more – Ps. 10:18

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world – Js 1:27.

I’ve been doing some research on orphan care in the Bible, and it appears that formal adoption was not really an issue within the Jewish community. In fact, the two main reasons for adopting someone was to either allow them to receive your inheritance or to help take care of elderly people who may not have had children to care for them. When a child was orphaned, the extended family simply accepted that child into their home.

It seems that’s the way orphan care was handled up until the 1800’s in America. With more and more people sailing to make a new life in America, more children were coming in, literally, by the shipload! Of course, it was typical for many of the people on the ships to die en route or to succumb to sickness once they reached land. Without a lot of family around, many of these children were placed with random families and eventually – between the 1850s to the 1930s – on “orphan trains” and sent to families in need of extra help (americanadoptions.com).

As the need to find foster homes increased, agencies, laws, and court procedures were put in place as a means to find families for these children. But the need has become overwhelming, and the court systems are bogged down with cases that come before them every day.

It’s time for the church to step back in. We need to come together to provide a community of support for these struggling families. We need to be able to provide assistance for single mothers (or fathers) who want to keep their children but can’t parent alone. We need to be in the lives of these children, so they know that their family isn’t limited to just people with the same DNA.

I don’t claim to have all the answers about this. I don’t know the logistics or what it would take to get the church to rally around its community. I am sure there are cases where the church has tried to help, but their help was more of a crutch than a tool to build a stronger family unit. I understand. We are dealing with broken people in a broken world, so everything we do has its risks.

But we have to do something!

I actually read about one church out West that decided to attack the orphan crisis in their own town, and they did it with their whole heart. Within a year, all of the children in the foster care system in that town had been adopted, and there were families on the waiting list!

In my state, there are over 3,000 children in foster care – and not enough homes to take them!

The need is great! Christmas is here, and over 500,000 children will not be home for Christmas.

The time to act is now! Don’t tell me that you can’t do it because your heart would break. The children need you!

Don’t tell me you don’t have enough room. The children need you!

Don’t tell me you can’t deal with the biological family. The children need you!

Please, as you enjoy Christmas traditions with your family this year, stop saying, “I can’t,” and ask yourself, “Can I?”

As we look forward to a new year, let’s work together to end the orphan crisis here at home and abroad.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Truth of Adoption

I am going to be real with you.

Adoption is hard.

No matter how old your child is when you adopt them, or whether you know all about their birth family, or even if you have an open adoption, there is no doubt that adoption is just. plain. hard.

Why? Because with every adoption, there is a loss represented. No matter how much you love your children, there is nothing you can do to erase that loss. No matter how much you try to protect them from hurt, there is nothing you can do to change the fact that they have been hurt.

You love them, and you do all you can to pour yourself into them, but some days are just going to be bad.

Some days they are going to pour out that anger and hurt on you.

Some days you may wonder if your love is enough.

So I am giving myself a pep talk while I write this to you. When the hurt of adoption is overwhelming the love, remember these things.

1. Take a deep breath, and remember it’s not about you.

This is the hardest one for me to remember when I’m in the trenches. Even though all three of my children were adopted at birth, my oldest is at the age when she wants to know absolutely everything about her birth family. Unfortunately, I don’t have all of the answers for her, and that’s hard. But I tell her everything I know, and I tell her how blessed she is to have two moms who love her enough to want the best in her life. Her birthmother did that by giving her to me, so I can be her mommy. So when her emotions become so much that she has to rage, I know that I need to remember that it’s not all about me. She just feels safe enough to take it out on me.

2. Give them a break.

Sometimes when one of my kids is having a particularly hard time, I send them to their room for a break. Sometimes they just need to be in their room, where they can cry, scream, or even fall asleep. When I am feeling overwhelmed, I know that I need a break from other people in order to process all of the emotions I am feeling, and I think kids need that, too. Most of the time, it ends with a hug and an apology.

3. Stand firm.

I know that one thing we want to do as parents is to immediately take away the hurt. And oftentimes, it can appear that the best way to do that is to give in to them, so they will stop crying. But children – especially children who have been through some kind of trauma – need to know there are boundaries. They may push back, but they need the stability that boundaries provide them. I know that when my kids are upset with me because I won’t allow them to have their own way, I need to (lovingly) stay the course. They always know what they can expect from me.

4. Pray for them.

No matter how much you love your children, you will never love them more than God does! After all, He is the One who created them, and He is the One who has a plan for their life. When the hurt is too much for us parents to handle, it’s still not overwhelming to God! So when I don’t know what else to do to comfort my children, I am so glad that my heavenly Father does.

Adoption is hard. But the children are worth it! And day by day, as you pour your love into their lives, the hurt will grow less, and the love will grow more. My hope is that one day, these days of hurt will be a distant memory, and all they will remember is that they were loved by a lot of people. Until then, we soldier on, loving them through the hard because, after all, they are just children, and they need us!

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Just 1 More

There were 24 people at our Thanksgiving meal yesterday. Three tables were filled with family who came together to laugh and talk and reminisce. Ten children, and 14 adults. It was difficult to squeeze into our chairs with a group that large!

But. . .

I think there was probably room for 1 more.

1 more child could have feasted with us yesterday.

1 more child could have had a family to call their own.

1 more child could have gone to bed filled with turkey and stuffing.

Just 1 more.

November is almost over, and I fear that many people have long forgotten that there are over 130 million orphans around the world who didn’t even get a meal yesterday, let alone stuffed themselves until the buttons on their pants were popping!

There are children about to age out of the orphanages in China before they even have a chance to hit puberty.

drake

“Drake” is currently available for adoption!

Just 1 more.

There are children here in our own country who may have been given turkey yesterday but couldn’t think of any reason to be thankful. These children were handed food by strangers, who volunteer once or twice a year. But why didn’t they offer to bring them home for dinner?

Just 1 more.

I recently reported on a group of students who were putting together meals for orphans in Haiti. The meals were small but had all the vitamins needed to bring one child to nutrition. All they have to do is add water. Somehow, it made our Thanksgiving meal seem extremely excessive!

Just 1 more. 

November begins as National Adoption Month, and ironically, ends as Thanksgiving. But what happened throughout the month to show our thankfulness for the bounty we have? What have we done to help the children in need of families?

I know that you can’t help all 130+ million orphans. But could you make room in your home for just 1 more?

As we launch the 2016 holiday season, would your prayerfully consider adding just 1 more to your table?

Even if you can’t adopt right now, can you take a child in for Christmas? Can you offer help to a foster family? Can you take in an expecting mom who has nowhere else to go?

Just 1 more means that there will be 1 less child spending Christmas without a family to love.

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me'” – Matt. 25:40 NIV.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

O Give Thanks

“O give thanks unto the Lord; for He is good: for His mercy endureth for ever” – Ps. 136:1.

 

This has been a difficult year in America. We are divided. We are annoyed. We are terrified. We are angry. We are anything but the United States of America.

But tomorrow is Thanksgiving. Can we just stop for a minute and remember why we have this day every year? Can we put aside our differences and come together at the table?

We give thanks not because we are good but because God is good, and His mercies are new EVERY morning!

I have been studying Thanksgiving (the TRUE story) with my kids, and it definitely didn’t look anything like what we have today! I can only imagine how the Pilgrims felt the first year in America. They had come from a nation that was divided. They were annoyed with one another as they struggled to survive. They were terrified as they watched so many of their family members die from sickness and the cold winter.

 

the_first_thanksgiving_cph-3g04961

Yet, they gave thanks. They came together with the Native Americans, and they sat around a table and gave thanks. They had so little. There were no crowds to push through at the grocery store, no traffic jams to maneuver, no football games to watch on television. They simply came together to give thanks.

Yes, I know that Thanksgiving didn’t become an official holiday until much later, but the Pilgrims are the ones we look to and remember on this day.

We in America have so much. My best friend housed an exchange student last summer who was amazed with the number of storage buildings we have for our “things” here in America. She was from France and marveled that we would need an extra “house” for all of our stuff!

Yet we aren’t content.

We have access to clean, running water, where many people around the world have to walk miles each day just to carry back buckets of water that may or may not be sanitary.

Yet we aren’t content.

We have information at our finger tips while many people around the world have never even seen a book or would know how to read one if they had a library in their town.

Yet we aren’t content.

We have medical knowledge, nutrition, and hygiene while many still suffer with diseases we have vaccines to cure.

Yet we aren’t content.

We have freedom of speech and religion while others are oppressed and forced into silence for their beliefs.

Yet we aren’t content.

Despite this, God continues to be merciful to us. He has promised His mercies forever! We can be thankful because God is GOOD!

America, we can do better. We can be united again! Let’s begin by gathering around the table tomorrow, sharing laughter and thanksgiving for our many blessings.

Happy Thanksgiving from my family to yours!

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Book Review You Have to Read

“On the third new moon after the people of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that day they came into the wilderness of Sinai. They set out from Rephidim and came into the wilderness of Sinai, and they encamped in the wilderness. There Israel encamped before the mountain, while Moses went up to God. The Lord called to him out of the mountain, saying, ‘Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, you shall be My treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel’” (Ex. 19:1-6).

What did the Hebrews do at the foot of Mount Sinai for over a year? – Connilynn Cossette

In all of my Sunday school lessons and Bible studies, I have always pictured the wandering Israelites as a group of complainers – all following after the one true God but stumbling often (as we Christians do) and losing sight of Who was leading them. I have lumped them all together as one big, obnoxious mob!

That is until I met Shira, a Hebrew woman living at the foot of Mount Sinai and created by the rich imagination of author Connilynn Cossette.

Shadow of the Storm is the second book in Cossette’s Out from Egypt series, which brings to life the people who actually lived through the greatest exodus in all of history. For the first time, I was confronted with the fact that Moses wasn’t just leading Hebrews but also was leading Egyptians who were swept up with the mob. Either they had married a Hebrew or had decided that the Israelite’s God was worth following.

What an amazing realization to see that even in the Old Testament, God was saving people that were not a part of his “Chosen People”! He gave outsiders, or gerim, the chance to lay their sins at the foot of the mountain. But guess what? Some of the Hebrew people were just as prejudiced as people can be today! Can you imagine what a burden that must have been for Moses?

Cossette first introduced Shira as a secondary character in her first bookCounted with the Stars, as a slave girl who worked alongside Kiya and led her to Jehovah. (I have not had the privilege of reading this book yet, but it is definitely on my must-read list!)

Shira is a devout Hebrew woman, who lost her father in Egypt and lives with her mother, sisters, and brother in the Hebrew camp. She has resigned herself to living her life all alone after being brutally attacked and made barren by a cruel Egyptian man before the Exodus. She is determined to find a way to love weaving – just as her mother has always done and her mother before her.

I envisioned a very boring life for Shira – sitting around weaving in the desert, eating the same manna over and over again every single day, and wondering if this life was any better than the life in Egypt. Can you imagine it?

Connilynn could! In her book, Connilynn paints such a clear picture of what is described in scripture that it is clear that she has done extensive research.

Shadow of the Storm begins with one of the most deplorable acts performed by the Israelites – the creation of a golden calf to worship as Moses is on top of the mountain standing in the very presence of God! Because of their disobedience, Moses commands the Levites to kill everyone who participated in the worship of this false idol. That part of the story has just always seemed a part of the harsh Old Testament law. But imagine living through that! There were many widows and orphans created on that night!

Connilynn brings to life the horror, panic, anger, and overwhelming loss of that night. But amidst the chaos, there are still women in labor and in desperate need of midwives. When Shira sees the need, she finds herself volunteering her services – despite her mother’s disapproval.

Shira feels a yearning to be a midwife, but how can she be if she herself has never experienced giving birth?

Dvorah is a gerim living among the Hebrews. She worships the goddesses of her ancestors and has no plans to give herself over to the one true God – especially after her husband is killed by the Levites, leaving her to raise her son by herself. Forced to live with her lecherous brother-in-law and his wives, Dvorah begins to offer her services as a midwife as well in order to keep her brother-in-law from abusing her and her son or, worse, throwing them out to survive on their own.

There couldn’t be two more unlikely women pushed together to prove their worth as midwives.

In the middle of all of this, Shira meets a friend of her brother’s, Ayal, whom she begins to dream of marrying – until she is called to deliver his wife’s baby. When complications arise, Dvorah makes Shira feel as though the woman has died because of her inexperience. Fearful of losing anyone else, Shira returns to a life of weaving, despite being pulled back to Ayal’s tent every day to care for the new baby and his two boys.

Now Shira is face-t0-face with a man she can never marry but longs to call “husband.” At the same time, Dvorah sees an opportunity to escape her current living conditions and sets her sights on Ayal as well.

Will Shira ever find love and be able to heal from the wounds of her past? Will Dvorah find the peace that she has always longed for?

Is the God of the Old Testament as compassionate and true as the God of the New Testament?

I have to tell you that this book was such an excellent read for me! I have heard these truths of Hebrew history ever since I was a child, but I have never seen the people who lived these moments. Because of this book, I am able to picture the real people found in Exodus, Deutoronomy, and Numbers – people who are just like we are – stubborn, forgetful, deceitful, prideful, prejudiced, and just overall sinful!

What an amazing God we serve – the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob! The God Who doesn’t abandon us in the desert but shows His greatness in our every day life!

Thank you so much to Connilynn Cossette, Amy Green, and Bethany House Publishers for allowing me the opportunity to be a part of the book launch team for this book! You have been wonderful to work with and to get to know better!

I highly recommend you pick up a copy of this book for yourself and do your own in-depth study of the Israelites in the wilderness. You may be surprised to find that we aren’t so different from them and need a Savior just as much as they did!

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Wish by Beverly Lewis Falls Flat

I was excited when I received The Wish by Beverly Lewis as I have always been a fan of her works on the Amish community. In fact, I have several complete sets of different series by Lewis. So I was eager to meet her newest Amish characters.

Leona Speicher has always felt as if she didn’t belong in her own family. But she has fit perfectly with the family of her best friend, Gloria, even dreaming of one day marrying Gloria’s brother and truly being her sister. But when Gloria’s family leaves without saying goodbye, a lot of questions are left unanswered, and Leona is left wondering if she will ever see or hear from her best friend again.

Three years pass, and Leona is about to be engaged to be married when she suddenly receives a cryptic letter from Gloria telling her she will be calling. When Leona finally speaks to her long-lost friend, she is still left wondering what could have happened and whether her friend is truly happy in her new “English” life.

Determined to find answers for herself, Leona immediately sets out to bring her friend back home. But will Gloria decide to stay English, or will she come back to her roots?

I was so disappointed by this story! First of all, I don’t believe Lewis ever truly answers what happened to Gloria’s family. There’s some vague reasons given, but the family becomes almost an after-thought. This becomes more about Leona (whom I found rather annoying and naive). Even Gloria, who is the one being “rescued,” seems to get lost behind Leona.

Second of all, I have never seen Lewis not bring the reader to a clear understanding of how to have a relationship with God. In this book, Leona seems to believe that she can “save” Gloria simply by bringing her back to her Amish roots. Instead of showing how the family can be redeemed – even if they stay “English” – it seems that the whole way to salvation is by giving up everything in this world and living as the Amish do. (I know that this is not what Lewis believes, but it seems to be the message of this particular story.)

Overall, I did not particularly enjoy this story and would recommend that you find another one of Lewis’ wonderful series to read.

*I was given this book by Bethany House Publishers. All opinions are my own.

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Waves of Mercy: A Book Review

“What is a man profited. . .if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?”

Anna Nicholson seems to have it all – beauty, brains, a wealthy upbringing, a handsome and wealthy fiance, basically everything the world could possibly offer to her! But at the end of the 1800s, Anna is finding society to be lacking and the endless parties and shallow religion to be unfulfilling. Knowing she was adopted when she was little, Anna fears that she will never be able to move forward in marriage if she doesn’t understand her past and the nightmares that haunt her. The more she seeks for truth, the more sure she is that she  wants to know more about the God she heard about in the small community church in Chicago. But her fiance has forbidden her to go there, insisting that she avoid becoming a fanatic. The closer Anna gets to the truth of her past, the more unsure she feels that she isn’t compromising her soul to gain the whole world. Along the way, Anna befriends Derk Vander Veen, a worker at her hotel, who is studying to be a minister and able to answer many of Anna’s questions as he seeks answers to his own.

“No one can pluck us out of God’s hand.”

Geesje is the complete opposite of Anna. As an elderly woman who helped to found the Dutch city of Holland, Michigan, Geesje has been asked by her community to share her story for the city’s 50 year celebration. With the urging of her close friend, Derk, Geesje writes down her memories, remembering 50 years earlier when her family was persecuted in their homeland because of their religion. After barely surviving the potato famine, her parents, her father’s apprentice, and Geesje join other Dutch families as they escape to a new opportunity for freedom in America. But along the way, Geesje’s faith in God is tested over and over again as she survives shipwrecks, sickness, death, loneliness, relationships, and fire. Through simple actions, Geesje demonstrates a Christian’s struggle to continue to trust God’s plan.

“When my parents were gone and God was all I had,” I said, “I discovered that He is enough. I survived malarial fever, so I knew He must have a purpose for me on this earth even though I couldn’t see it. I kept moving forward, one tiny step at a time, clinging to Him in faith. And isn’t that the definition of faith – moving forward through the darkness, clinging to God?” – Geesje de Jonge, Waves of Mercy

Waves of Mercy by Lynn Austin is a beautiful story of love, faith, grace, and mercy. Whether you’re searching for a deeper meaning to life or a Christian struggling in your faith, Lynn Austin has written this book for you! The truths found within remind us of the love our heavenly Father has for us, even when we can’t see His plan, even when it feels He has abandoned us. Even when we are lost at sea, shipwrecked without our family, or alone in the wilderness seeking a new life. He is always there, and we can never be plucked from His hand!

I review a lot of Christian books, and I can usually pretty much guess how the story is going to play out. But this story left me wanting more, hoping that Lynn will bring us more stories of Anna and Geesje – two women who seem to have nothing in common but the friendship of one young man. But there is always more to a story, isn’t there? (You’ll have to buy the book to find out the rest!)

I will say that I learned a lot about the struggles of the Dutch immigrants and their unwavering faith. I had never heard of Holland, Michigan, before, but I enjoy learning about new people and places and feel as though I have traveled there now! Lynn does a fabulous job of researching her novels to bring to light important historical events and people.

I feel quite confident in recommending this book to others because I feel that the entire purpose of this book was to help me reflect on my own faith. Over and over again, I was reminded of scripture that point to Christ’s love for me and faithfulness to me. In my opinion, any book – fiction or non-fiction that consistently points the reader back to Christ is a book worth taking the time to read.

I have thoroughly enjoyed being a part of the launch team for this book, and I was given a copy by the author in exchange for my honest review.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment