Tag Archives: Advocating

Be Her Rock

Last year, Big L’s favorite song was Rend Collective’s My Lighthouse. It’s a song about God, but I think for us, it also reminded us of what it means to be a parent to a hurting child. “In my wrestling and in my doubts, In my failures You won’t walk out…

That image has stuck with me and that song always makes me think of Big L. Any lighthouse makes me think of Big L. My “word picture” for N is slightly different. Although it sometimes feels like N is the violent sea trying to batter me, I know she’s really swimming IN a violent sea. A violent sea of emotions, a violent sea of being pulled and pushed different ways by different people, a violent sea of uncertainty. All I can offer her is a place to rest. Whenever she’s misplacing her anger on me, I try to remind myself, be her rock.

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She’s scared and angry, and these feelings can come out in unpleasant ways. I want to react myself. I sometimes feel like another swimmer in this violent sea, and we might cling to or fight each other and pull each other under.

But, I can’t. She doesn’t need another swimmer who can only keep her up so long. She needs a rock to cling to.

And this is what I’m learning, day by day. Briefly acknowledge her feelings, then dig my heels in deep and let that sea crash against me.  Be unmovable despite all of the misplaced hurt thrown about. Be firm and resolute with rules and boundaries. Be solid, no matter how much I might feel like cracking.
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I am constantly being reminded that love looks different for different people. For Reed, love looks like having someone who believes in him– age-appropriate freedom and encouraging and acknowledging his successes. For Lena, love looks like cuddling and loving words to lift her up. For Gus, love looks like an engaged playmate and someone to rub his feet when he’s tired. For N, love looks like all of that, plus firm boundaries and someone who can sit beside her in all of her anger and not reflect anger back at her. I am learning, slowly learning, to see her hurt, but not mirror it. 

Life is hard. Parenting is hard. Parenting hurt kids is super hard. I think hosting is an incredible opportunity, but I cannot tell you it’s always easy. It’s not. Not easy, but absolutely worth it. 

Your Best Yes

I’m not much of a sales person. I have to be really passionate about something before I ask my friends and family to consider it. And, if there’s one thing I’m crazy passionate about, it’s hosting.

Hosting is an opportunity for orphans from countries including Ukraine, Latvia, Ethiopia and China, to come to the United States and live in a family for a few weeks over the summer or Christmastime. Sort of like an exchange program, but the goal isn’t just to teach them English and for them to experience another culture (although that can be beneficial). It’s really to show the kids, who may have never had a stable family life, what love and trust is. To introduce them to God. And, maybe, to find them a forever family.

We have so many awesome kids this season, but we need families to step up. I wanted to share a bit of what I’ve learned about hosting, through my own experience hosting and volunteering with a host organization, and also to address a couple of the most common objections I hear. I’m also open to answering questions, via comment here or email.

1. You don’t need to have it all figured out to say “yes” to the summer.

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I’m kind of a chronic planner and this is one of the most challenging parts for me. When I say “yes”, I want to have accounted for every possible long-term scenario, worst to the ideal, most likely to the most unlikely. But, if you know you can do this summer, I’d encourage you to consider saying “yes” to that and see where God takes things from there.

I had the pleasure of getting to know a couple who said “yes” to a ready-to-age-out teenage boy last summer. Unfortunately, they realized pretty quickly they could not be his forever family, but they shared about him at church and a family they’d never met before stepped up to adopt him and his brother. They’ll be home soon!

At the very least, kids need a place away from their war-torn country for the summer. A place with good meals, a bed and all the hugs they need.

2. You don’t have to be the perfect family, just willing.

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Like my thought #1, you don’t need to have all of the future possibilities planned out. You don’t need to have a ton of extra space for your host child, or be an adoptive parent, or have experience with preteens and teenagers. You just need to say “yes”. God can use your weaknesses and flaws to write an awesome story.

Last summer, we had our house on the market, we were barely only enough to adopt any of the host kids, we had no experience parenting teenagers and we knew we’d be spending a large chunk of the summer out of town. Yet, we said “yes”. And, I’m so glad we did.

Even in all of your imperfections (we all have them!), you have a ton to offer a kid this summer.

3. “But, we already have xyz planned.”

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Bring your host kid! As long as it’s not out of the country or downright dangerous, you can probably bring your host kid. And, it will be a great experience! We took Big L on a LONG trip to visit family and a short camping trip. I also had a work trip in there. She came to school registrations and doctors appointments and all kinds of things. It all worked out and Big L had a great time with her variety of experiences.

4. “Isn’t it expensive?”

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Yes, there’s no way around this one. The hosting fee covers the paperwork, airfare, passport, visa, etc. for your host child, so it does add up.

There are so many things you can spend your money on, but investing in a child is investing in God’s kingdom and in the “least of these”. It might mean saying no to a new couch or an extra couple of days on your next vacation, but it means showing love to someone who wouldn’t know it otherwise.

All of the host programs I am familiar with take tax-deductible donations. Some of the kids have grants. And, most families fundraise. We were blessed with generosity from friends, family and strangers. Don’t let the money hold you back.

5. “I don’t know if I could send my host child back.”

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You probably can’t, but somehow you will. Goodbyes are the hardest part. Both times, as I told Big L goodbye, I knew that even if it was goodbye forever, hosting had been worth it.

I’d also like to address that a lot of people question if hosting is “fair”, to bring a child here for the season and then send them home. First, the children know from the outset that it’s temporary. And secondly, the rules are pretty clear that you do not discuss a permanent scenario, like adoption, with your host child. Big L was well aware that she would return to her home country. It was a vacation and an opportunity to get nurtured. Would you not want to take a vacation if you knew you’d have to return home?

Many host kids do end up being adopted, but there are also those like Big L, who love the family experience, but would rather stay in their home country. This is where many people see our own story and wonder how I can advocate so enthusiastically for hosting after Big L chose not to be adopted. Not every story ends how I want it to, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth it. We learned so much from her and I have no doubt that she learned so much from us. We stay in touch with her and keep on reminding her that she has people who love her. People she can count on.

Even apart from hosting, we all have people in our lives who are only there temporarily, but they still can have great impact. I’ve had people pour into me for just a season and I walk away better for it, even if the goodbye was hard.

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All it takes is one person to invest in a child and show them their worth. One person to hold the mirror up to them and show them how God sees them. One person to let them know that their life was worth something, could mean something, that they could have great impact.

Maybe you don’t think you have a lot of offer, but if you have any love and space to offer, I’d encourage you to say your best “yes” and see what God makes out of it. He can take the little things, the broken things, the imperfect things, and do something incredible.

We still have around 30 kids with Project One Forty Three‘s Ukraine program alone that need summer host families. Overwhelming? Yes. But, we can find them all families. If you cannot host, can you donate to help another family host? If you cannot donate, can you share about hosting at your church or even just on your Facebook page?

I have FAQs on hosting here and I will be doing an FAQ post in the next few days for families who are already preparing for summer hosting.

The Pied Kids

We’re going to do what?! tonight?

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Get PIED for Jacob, of course! Tonight, Reed and Lena took pies to the face for a baby boy in Eastern Europe, waiting for his family. He had a matching grant last week, and as part of his fundraising effort, we volunteered to do something crazy and get pied when he reached a certain amount of money in his grant. We were one of a bunch of people who did it, and you can watch all the videos on the Baby Jacob youtube channel.

Yes, the boys did eat extra whipped cream afterwards.

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(He pied himself after watching Reed and Lena.)

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It wasn’t anything monumental– just a fun way to fundraise. We talked about an orphan, and why he matters, and why and how we can help him find a mama and a papa. And, we had fun.

“Audrey”

Ever see a face and feel like you should share it? I see lots of photos kids on different advocacy sites that I look at, but this face jumped out at me.   

Her story is sad: Audrey was born in August 2009. She is HIV+. She is shy with new people. She doesn’t like to go to sleep at night. She was taken into a foster-family for 3 or 4 months, but the husband was living in constant fear that the older biological boy would become infected and he would not even let her drink out of the same glass. Needless to say, that did not work out so now she is in need of a permanent adoptive family. She is from a decent baby house. She is serious and active. She likes to play pretend and put stuffed animals to bed (although she threatens them if they don’t go right to sleep!) She talks in 2 and 3 word phrases. When she was 1.6 years, her speech was evaluated at 1.3, so she is not far behind. Other areas of development are good. She has a strong character. She is a chubby girl with brown wavy hair and dark eyes – thought to be half Buryat. She likes playing in the bathtub. She is a mischievous girl. She had some tantrums while adjusting to her foster-family. Although that is common, the foster-family believed it was due to Audrey’s first year which was mostly spent in the hospital most-likely in a separate ward for HIV, so she might only been attended to for procedures. Audrey receives ARV treatment twice daily. She also takes daily medication for epilepsy and both conditions seem to be well controlled.

See more photos here and contact Bethany for more information.

James Again

I advocated for “Celia” a few months back and then I met her. At that point, she had a family coming, but I thought, “Wow, this girl is special. I hope this family coming for her is just as awesome.” And then I met the McCoys. Better than I imagined. Perfect for “Celia” or as she is now known Alina. Wonderful, loving parents and three big brothers to carry her around (literally).

I know that James has a perfect family out there too. A family planned by God. A family better than I can imagine. A family where he will be loved. WHERE IS HIS FAMILY?

Whoever you are, you are running out of time.

James is 4 years old. He could be transferred at any time to a different orphanage. An unfamiliar orphanage. Maybe even one which he cannot be adopted out of.

James needs a family… NOW.

Is it because he’s a four year old boy? We have one of those in our house. He is awesome. So smart, funny, helpful. A handful sometimes, but no more than any other kid.

Is it because he is HIV+? Do some research. Life with HIV is likely not what you expect. You can start with these links:
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Isn’t it the cost? The travel to a far away land? It is worth it! If you just can’t afford the cost, there are all kinds of grants and loans that you can apply for. Most families do not have the money to bring their kid home and are uncertain where it will come from. But I’ve never heard of a family being unable to adopt the child they committed to because of the cost. As for the travel, yes, it’s long, hard, a bit overwhelming at times, but you don’t need to be a seasoned traveler or Russian speaker. We are neither and we survived and enjoyed our time in Ukraine a bit.

I am worried about James. If he gets transferred, even to his best option, it will be rough. But if he lives his life without a family, he hardly stands a chance. Someone, please, go scoop up this lovely little boy?

If you want more info about how you can adopt him, if you have questions about the adoption process, etc, please get in touch with me.

Boys and Broken Hearts

In regards to my post about little men, I just want to say that I don’t judge why anyone picks a particular child. That is none of my business. I have lots and lots of respect for all the families adopting from this orphanage and I am certain that they picked the right child(ren) for their family.

But, my heart is still broken for the boys. Where are their families?

I’ve gotten a couple of interesting responses to my that post. It’s not just me who sees this. It’s not just this orphanage or this country. All over the world, including in our own country.

There are so many factors which make a child adoptable, it seems. Age, special needs, description, referral photo. Why in the world is gender one of those factors?

Being here has only strengthened my desire to fight for these children. Especially the boys.

I would like to challenge you to pray the prayer “Break my heart for what breaks Yours.” I will warn you though, be prepared. You may end up half a world away like we are!

Lost Little Men

First of all, I want to give all of the other families who have adopted or are committed to adopting a children this orphanage a disclaimer. I am NOT calling anyone out. I don’t mean this to offend and I am not questioning anyone’s decisions. But, it has really been on my heart lately.

Why not the boys? We know of SEVEN families adopting or who have adopted girls from this orphanage, including us. And ONE family who has adopted a boy, also us.

James. David. Kristopher. Cody. Peyton. Andrew. Daniel.

Some of their names.

They all still wait.

Our son and James, who we observed today, they’re just “little men” as our facilitator calls them. They wrestle, they jump, they throw things. They’re like all of the other little boys I’ve met, but without a mama and a papa.

The thing about little men? They NEED a mama and a papa.

That’s what we see in our son. He is demanding, bossy, and pushy. Yet, as we’ve gotten to know him, we’ve seen that he is loving, helpful, protective and sensitive. He needs guidance.

Julia writes passionately for the lost boys. My heart has been stuck lately on the lost men.

The lost men these boys grow up to be. After 18 years without a family. Without security. Without anyone willing to cross an ocean for them.

What do you think? Why don’t these boys have families? What kind of men will they grow up to be?