Posts Tagged ‘Adoption’

Kids these days are different.
Systems these days are broken.
Some always have been.
But they don’t always have to be.

When I was born I nursed at my mother’s breast.
One of my friends just had a baby, but they are not together because she is in jail.

When I was one I saw both parents in my home every day.
My friend has a one year old who she sees for an hour every other week when her daughter is brought to the jail for a visit.

When I was two I tried to run away (but couldn’t open the door), because my parents wanted me to be safe and wouldn’t let me play on the stairs.
One of my friend’s kids are out of county with her in-laws and she cannot reach them now because she’s in jail, and if nothing changes she cannot be with them when she gets out because she’s not supposed to leave the county on probation.

When I was three I moved to a new house with my family.
One of my friends signed her three year up for an Angel Tree Christmas present to be delivered, because she will be in jail for many more years and her daughter has been adopted into a new home and family.

When I was four life was great, I had dolls and toys and dates with my mom while my sister was at school.
One of my friends was not allowed to talk to her kids for several months until CPS changed their minds and now she can call home from jail and at least talk to them on the phone while she waits for her trial and for the courts to decide if she is guilty or innocent.

When I was five I went to kindergarten and loved my teacher.
One of my friends has a son in kindergarten who hides under the table, swears at his teacher and asks for his mom.

When I was six I had my first real birthday party and all my friends came over.
One of my friends has a six year old in the hospital because he tried to take his own life.

Don’t misunderstand what I’m trying to say. I am by no means saying that these six women are innocent. Nor do I think they would all make the best mothers (some sure would). But I do think this…our system is broken. We are not helping these kids by throwing their moms in jail and forgetting about them. Maybe, just maybe, there is another way, that we haven’t tried yet.

Like I said before.
Kids these days are different.
Systems these days are broken.
Some always have been.
But they don’t always have to be.
Will you take one step towards changing them?
Will you make a difference?

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After the awkward introduction with a new girl where I couldn’t shake her hand because we aren’t allowed to touch:

“How are you doing?” I tried to ask soothingly.
“I was caged alive for 7 months.” she said despondently as she stared into my eyes.

*pause*  …  *breath*  …  *think*

“That must feel really scary.” I settled on. (At this point I still wasn’t sure if she meant she’d been in jail for 7 months, been in solitary confinement for 7 months, or she had somehow been held captive before jail.) I’m not sure I ever really figured it out, but she went on. She told me how great her life was and then she paused:

“Then he went off and died on me.” she said as the tears started to flow.

*pause*  …  *breath*  …  *think*

“Who was it that died again?” I asked, trying to pretend I just missed his name when really I was incredibly confused by the conversation… She went on to talk about addiction, loss, and through the tears our conversation continued to be very confusing. I can only imagine how confused her heart must be feeling tonight.

After joining the ladies for our PB&J lunch on the block another new girl asked to speak with me. She said she had court yesterday and it was hard to process. Noticing her eyes filling with tears I quickly promised I’d call her out to talk one on one instead of at the table with all the other girls listening in:

“So what happened at court?” I asked.
“If I get more than a year they are going to adopt out my daughter,” she sobbed.

*pause*  …  *breath*  …  *think*

“That must feel really scary.” I settled on again. This has honestly become my go to phrase. Sometimes there’s just no way to fix it. There are no words to say. We still can’t touch, so no hugs to give. Nothing I can do but acknowledge the emotion. And sit in the pain with her.

We talked about adoption. How there was no one in her life she would trust with her sweet daughter because the people closest to her did drugs. How she knew adoption was good, but that this girl was a part of her. She wasn’t for someone else. I can only imagine how scared her heart is feeling tonight.

On to the next and the story goes like this:

“So you heard my big news?” she asked cynically.
“I’m so sorry.” I replied, knowing she was referring to the loss of her mother.
“This is torture.” she said flatly.

*pause*  …  *breath*  …  *think*

Again, no words were fitting. I had a hard day yesterday when my mom flew to another country but is still only a phone call away. We reminisced on stories of her mom. How she was her best friend. That she would miss the funeral. Though she was struggling throughout the whole conversation she was grateful that her mom was finally out of pain. I can only imagine how much her heart is hurting tonight.

IMG_5657I think it’s these conversations that make me dislike TV so much. I have a hard time sitting back and separating these stories from the stories in the shows even when they are so very different. I hear the phrase “New Girl” and I think of all the new girls I met today and their stories. I hear “Orange is the New Black” and think about what all the different colors of clothing mean in jail. I hear “House of Cards” and think about the odd politics and manipulation that goes on between the girls in there. I just can’t get their sweet faces out of my mind.

But I also see so much good. I get to see the girls who care about each other as well as they can in the middle of these broken situations. I hear about the gratitude lists that are being made each day. The many people who start their mornings reading the Jesus Calling book we were able to give out for Christmas and then choose to face the day with hope. The counselors who squeeze as much work into their time there as possible. The COs who stop many fights before they begin. The excited updates of girls who have gotten out. The constant requests of prayers for loved ones. I know it’s hard to imagine their lives, but if you believe in God, would you lift up a prayer for these girls? I’m sure their hearts could use it tonight. 

“Happy birthday!” I told her. No present though. Not a cake and ice cream, or even a card or a hug. She told me instead how it’s a stressful day with people detoxing and in bad moods on the block. Not your typical birthday party.

“I finally heard from my fiancé,” she said. I was glad to know he wasn’t dead because she had been nervous that he might be. “He’s with another woman now.” She said as if that’s what she deserved since she was in jail.

“I lost a daughter 10 years ago.” She said seemingly unrelated to our conversation. So then we talked about that. We talked about how 11 days before her due date the baby stopped moving. The cord had wrapped around her neck and then she had to deliver a dead baby. She talked about how she knew it was dead, but still had hope it would wake up and cry. How she held her sweet daughter for two hours before saying goodbye. Today she cried. She said she hasn’t cried the whole time she’s been in jail, and that she needed this. It’s amazing how long it can take us before we are willing to talk about the pain in our past.

“I was clean for two and a half years,” she said as the tears started to flow. “But I came back here and I used and I can’t remember Sunday through Thursday…I don’t know what I did. I feel so ashamed. Did I sleep with people for money? I can’t remember. Then when I was sober again and I got picked up for something else and brought back to jail.”

“I didn’t call or anything, I just stood her up,” she said about visiting her four year old daughter who now lives with a different family since she was taken away as a baby when her Mama was addicted to heroin. “I know she was there wondering, ‘Where is my Mommy? Why didn’t see come?’.” This woman is left hoping her daughter knows she loves her even when she’s failed to show it.

5 stories. All hard. Jail stories are hard. Sadly, these are just one day. Every day has so many stories. And they’re hard. It makes my heart happy that Jesus offers hope. I could never go in and hear about this pain again and again without having hope of redemption.

Sometimes the world is overwhelming. It seems like there are problems that are too big to solve. Maybe there are. It seems like one voice is too quiet. One attitude is too weak. One belief is not enough.

When I think of Ferguson. Racism. Modern day slavery. Homelessness. Orphans. Inmates. The problems are bigger than what I can solve. That my friends is just a basic fact. You all knew that. I know that. I sadly cannot fix the world.

But when I stop to think, I stand corrected. There are a lot of times when one person made an impact that shook the world. Jesus. Mother Teresa. Martin Luther King Jr. Gandhi. Rosa Parks. Other than Jesus, these people weren’t really a big deal. They were individuals who didn’t have much of a voice, but they took the lead. They made a difference. They impacted the world through whatever means they had. I can too. One voice does make a difference.

  • Ferguson: I cannot go there to listen to peoples stories (black and white) and give people hugs, but I can encourage those around me to respond well. I can share the facts and refrain from sharing the negative commentary. I can pray for the families involved (black and white) and for the many families who never made the news but have experienced the same loss, unrest, injustice. One voice does make a difference.
  • Racism: I can love well. Share truth. Encourage people to celebrate diversity instead of pretending it isn’t there. I can refuse to be a part of any racial jokes or derogatory comments. I can find my identity in Christ and not the color of my skin and encourage others to do the same. One voice does make a difference.
  • Modern day slavery: I cannot put an end to it myself, but I can wear a dress everyday for a month to raise awareness that it still exists. I will be participating in “Dressember” (on Moldova’s team!) which raises funds and awareness to stop human trafficking. I personally am not raising funds, as I am not yet fully supported for my own ministry, but I can raise awareness. One voice does make a difference.
  • Homelessness: I don’t have a home to offer to my friends without, but I do have hugs, smiles, encouragement. I have a voice that stands up for them when I hear people make generalized comments and gently remind people that “the homeless” are not just a group, they are wonderful individuals each with their own story. And I have a chance to hear a couple of those stories. One voice does make a difference.
  • Orphans: As much as I would love to, I cannot adopt them all. There’s too many and I don’t have the other half of the family that it would take yet. But I can love my brother. I can babysit kids in the foster system. I can raise awareness and help struggling Mamas to know how to take care of their kiddos. I can support other peoples work with orphans. One voice does make a difference.
  • Inmates: I can’t get them out…nor do I want to try. I can’t give them all hugs (which I seem to think is the answer to everything). But I did just get it ok’d after much begging to buy the 56 women I interact with in jail a Beth Moore Bible study workbook for Christmas (Let me know if you’d like to sponsor an inmate for Christmas by funding one book – about $16 each – don’t buy the book though…I will have to order them all together and ship them to my office in the jail).

Basically, there is a lot I can do. And I’m not just one voice…I am one of many. There are so many who care about these same things. Jesus has the power to bring healing to our broken world, and He choses to work through people. Broken people. In a broken world that He wants to redeem. That’s why He came back to save us. Don’t be overwhelmed…follow Jesus. He has a plan for your life that may not always make sense to you, but it is better than you could imagine!

And listen to this advice from Mother Teresa: “People are often unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway. If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway. If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway. Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway. For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.” – Mother Teresa

Sometimes it’s easy to see God’s hand guiding and directing things. Sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes good situations make you happy. Sometimes good situations make you sad. Sometimes your emotions get all jumbled up because really happy things and really sad things come in the same package. Does this make sense? Let me explain…

I have a friend who just had a baby. (that’s a happy thing.) But my friend is not in a position where she has the ability to keep and care for her baby. (that’s a sad thing.) The happy and sad things come together in this situation.

My friend found an amazing family that wants to adopt her son. They will love him and treasure him. They will raise him knowing Jesus. She couldn’t have picked out a better family to place her son with! (that’s a happy thing.) I sat with her in the hospital as she continued to recover from giving birth. She was across the hall from the nursery, but her baby was not in there. He went home with the new family. (that’s a sad thing.)

Adoption is a fabulous thing. My brother is adopted, and I could not imagine my life without him. But I cannot help remember what he went through before he was my brother. Adoption can’t be all happy. There is a reason kids need to be adopted, and that in itself, no matter the situation, is sad. I think Jody Landers summed it up well in her famous quote…

adoption

I am thankful to have a job where I can go to the hospital and sit with a mother who does not have her child. That I can encourage her to get up and start walking laps around the halls. That when she has people calling her and giving her advice in every direction I can listen. That I can tell her she has a beautiful child and that I am so proud of her desire to give him the best life that she can. I’m thankful to know the family who wants to raise her son. I am praying that all the legal side of things will go through. It is such a huge and exhausting process.

In the next couple of months I am hoping to work full time in this job. It is exciting and adventurous in the sense that I never know what to expect. Some days it’s sitting in a hospital room listening. Some days is driving people from one town to another. Some days it’s writing and responding to tons of emails. Some days it’s coordinating service projects. Some days it’s hanging out at the homeless shelter. Some days it’s sitting at the jail in meetings. Never the same, but always an adventure. Pray with me as I finish raising support in order to switch over to full time work with the church. Pray that God would provide the money that is still lacking through donations. And pray for my friend as she adjusts back to everyday life without her baby. And pray for my other friends as they adjust to life with a baby. Thanks for your prayers! Couldn’t do this alone!

Sometimes I Inspire Myself

Let me just start by saying it doesn’t happen all that often, but recently I did inspire myself! See, I wrote myself a letter over a year ago, and I just received it this past weekend. The letter was an assignment at the Bible School I went to. The requirement was that it had to be a 2 page letter to yourself. The instructions reminded us that moving away from Bible School would be challenging. We knew we would face tough things, even if we didn’t know the specifics of them. So go ahead and encourage yourself, remind yourself you belong to God, etc. So I did.

Some of the good points I wrote to me were:
* You memorized Scripture. Do you still remember it? Are you learning more?
* Remember your spot by the fire for devotions? Where’s your spot now?
* You sought an adventure everyday…even if you never left the house. I hope you still do.
* Mentor. Do you have one? Are you mentoring? It can be hard, but it’s worth it.
* Sit at the kids table once in a while.
* Pray often.
* Give hugs.
* Call friends.
* Write letters (and send them).
* Love well Shelby. You know how…just stop and let Jesus.

I ended my letter by reminding myself, “You are nothing and everything. A bit of dust filled with the breath of God. A beautiful, adopted daughter of the King”. There was much more in my letter. Precious memories. Reminders to pray for specific friends. More challenges. I think I should start writing myself letters more often.

Sometimes it’s easy to forget what God has gotten you through in the past and you can begin to dwell on the challenges you’re facing right now. (At least that’s true for me). When I see friends going back to jail I find it exhausting. When I think of raising hundreds of dollars of monthly support it’s overwhelming. Sometimes even planning the little things can lead to fatigue. But the reality is that God’s got this! He’s done it before. I’ve seen it. He can do it again! Many of my personal challenges are so minor compared to what I’ve seen Him do in other people’s lives already.

So today I focus on the ending from my letter and I challenge you to believe it about yourself… You are nothing and everything. A bit of dust filled with the breath of God. A beautiful, adopted child of the King.