Adoption, Carousel, Jesus, Parenting

Orphan Awareness Month

I’m sitting in my office pondering the things of God. November is Orphan Awareness Month. There are so many issues that have a month dedicated to awareness and action. Obviously, orphan awareness is close to my heart. My husband, Danny, and I always knew we would want to one day adopt children. We saw it happening very differently than it did, but we had a willingness to be obedient to His timing.

Around August/September of 2015, I began reading the prophet Isaiah in the Bible. Honestly, I was lost. I had been struggling to find His voice in the that particular season of life, probably because things were going so well. But I was hungry to hear from Him, and I knew He had something to say. I remember this particular Monday, I begged God to show me where to start. As one who has studied the Bible intensely since I was 10 years old, I found myself not knowing what He wanted me to hear. In a whisper, He spoke the single word, “Isaiah.”

“Ok, God, not sure why you want me there, but I’m so desperate for Your voice, I’ll obey You.”

As I began to read Isaiah’s indictment against the people of Israel, something in my heart began to stir. Isaiah 1:15-17 hit me like a kick to the gut.

When you spread out your hands,
    I will hide my eyes from you;
even though you make many prayers,
    I will not listen;
    your hands are full of blood.
16 Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
    remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes;
cease to do evil,
17     learn to do good;
seek justice,
    correct oppression;
bring justice to the fatherless,
    plead the widow’s cause.

Reading on, I got to vs.23-25:

Your princes are rebels
    and companions of thieves.
Everyone loves a bribe
    and runs after gifts.
They do not bring justice to the fatherless,
    and the widow’s cause does not come to them.

24 Therefore the Lord declares,
    the Lord of hosts,
    the Mighty One of Israel:
“Ah, I will get relief from my enemies
    and avenge myself on my foes.
25 I will turn my hand against you
    and will smelt away your dross as with lye
    and remove all your alloy.

Holy expletive! God is really serious about justice and care for the fatherless, the orphan. And if He’s serious about it, so shouldn’t I? Immediately my mind turned to James 1:27:

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.

If you’re a Believer, this passage is likely not foreign to you. But does it stir you? I knew that God was doing a work in my heart. You see, I’d become so devoted to being a Worship Pastor that I thought that was all I needed to offer Him. I was in full-time ministry. What more would He expect? Wasn’t I doing enough? Pointing me back to vs. 11, the Lord said to me:

“What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?
    says the Lord;
I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams
    and the fat of well-fed beasts;
I do not delight in the blood of bulls,
    or of lambs, or of goats.

12 “When you come to appear before me,
    who has required of you
    this trampling of my courts?
13 Bring no more vain offerings;
    incense is an abomination to me.
New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations—
    I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly.
14 Your new moons and your appointed feasts
    my soul hates;
they have become a burden to me;
    I am weary of bearing them.

The sacrifice I thought I was making for Him was really no sacrifice at all. What I called enough was a “vain offering.” Ouch!

But the Lord is faithful and compassionate, slow to anger, and His desire for our family was for us to LEAP! We were never called to be comfortable. We were called to be faithful and obedient. Faithfulness and obedience hurt most of the time!

The next day, I sat in staff meeting and listened as my pastor described a conversation he’d had with a fiery, red-headed 8 year old orphan. This little girl, Jessica, talked to my pastor in detail about how she and her sister, Stephanie, were looking for their “forever home.” Their biological mother had recently, finally lost her parental rights making them free to be adopted. This termination of parental rights process had gone on and on for years leaving my girls in limbo for many years with no real parents.

I knew immediately that these were our girls. I saw how God was putting it all together, how He needed to get that message from Isaiah to me prior to that meeting. I started digging, and after a few weeks, Danny, our two biological children, and I were volunteering at the girls’ group home. We started paperwork, home studies, classes — every hoop the state made us jump through to bring these two girls home.

On their last day of school in 2016, we were able to surprise them to tell them they were coming home with us. It was a magical day. They had already started calling us mom and dad by that point, and honestly I was so fearful. What if our fostering of them was denied? What if we were unable to adopt them?

On December 14th, 2016, we stood before a kind, loving judge who granted us custody of our two beautiful girls.

I would love to say that everything has been so amazing and easy since then, but our girls were 9 and 12 at the time of their adoption, much older than many adoptive parents are willing to go age-wise. Plus, we got 2 at once. They had and still have some really bad habits. The trauma they both experienced in the custody of their bio-mom will affect them for a long time. But we are working.

Soon into our parenthood of Jessica and Stephanie, we found out that Stephanie is on the Autism Spectrum. She also received some of the worst abuse and neglect. There are many challenges she has that we are attacking together. It is a never ending uphill battle, but the Lord is with us.

There have been months that despair has overtaken me, where I didn’t want to get out of bed, where I honestly just wanted to run away, asking God, “Why did you call me to do this? I can’t do it!” There are times He speaks and other times He is completely silent. The silence overwhelms me.

But what I’ve learned about God is that He doesn’t call us to the easy thing. His Son didn’t take the easy way out. I’d rather live in obedience than just be happy all the time. Joy is different than happiness. Joy comes from the Holy Spirit who lives within our hearts, and while despair may take us over at times, His joy sustains us, forces us to get out of bed in the morning, and love until our hearts ache.

So what is the call to action here?

  1. PRAY! Orphans experience trauma with bio-parents and often times in the group home or foster care setting. You have no idea the conditions from which some of these children come. Pray for them. Pray for people to rise up and BE the Church to these precious children. Pray for corrupt governments who oppress their people to find the light of the world – Jesus.
  2. Be an advocate. If you aren’t equipped adopt or foster a child, support someone who is called to do that work. Open up your wallet. Give to orphanages, foreign or domestic. Help those who have adopted, because costs for counseling, doctor appointments, therapies, and the adoption itself can, at times, be overwhelming. Surprise your neighbor who just adopted or started fostering by providing a meal. Get creative with the ways you can serve!
  3. Foster a child. God is calling many of us this particular action. We know there’s a huge population orphans in the world. Don’t let fear stop you. JUST LEAP!
  4. Consider adoption. It’s not for everyone, but everyone is called to do something. Whether you want to adopt from another country or domestically, it doesn’t matter. Just be obedient.

I’ll leave you with this last verse from the book of Proverbs:

If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,”
    does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it,
    and will he not repay man according to his work? -Proverbs 24:12

Now that you know about the issue, act. The one “who keeps watch over your soul” knows that you know it and asks you to pray about what your part is in the solution.

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