Clemson Football, the Agony of Defeat, and Loving your Alabama Neighbors

Last night, Clemson played in the National Championship Football Game.

Growing up in Clemson, I can remember the last time we played in the National Championship game. It was 1981 and I was 12 years old. We were the Cinderella Story that year- the little unknown team from South Carolina that traveled to Miami and won it all. I still remember staying up to watch the game (fell asleep for a few minutes in the 3rd Quarter!). When the final seconds of the clock ticked away and the Championship was ours, my dad and I ran outside screaming our heads off and we could hear fireworks being shot off all around Clemson. It was the stuff of fairy tales and that night remains one of my fondest childhood memories.

Since I was a child, I’ve loved going to games. I still get teary eyed every time I stand in Death Valley, sing the Alma Mater, watch the band march to formation on the field playing Tiger Rag, watching the Young Buses pull around with the football team, waiting with the players as they rub Howard’s Rock for the cannon to shoot off giving them their cue to run down the Hill onto the field. It seriously is the most exciting few minutes of college football!

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Since 2008, it’s been fun to watch a coach from Alabama take over Clemson’s football program and develop a team of national caliber. Over the last several seasons, it’s felt like 1981 all over again in Clemson.

Then the 2015 Football Season happened. 13-0 in the regular season. Emotional wins over Notre Dame, Florida State, South Carolina and North Carolina. A #1 ranking in the BCS polls 5 weeks in a row. Top seed in the College Football Playoffs. Defeating Oklahoma for the second year in a row. Making it to the Championship Game and having the opportunity to be the first team in history to be 15-0. This season has brought back all of the emotion and anticipation of that magical season I experienced as a twelve year old.

Despite the skepticism of sports commentators, the Clemson Tigers continued to Bring Their Own Guts and played with excellence and heart. Even when the odds were never in our favor according to Corso, we overcame them and showed the country that the ACC Team from South Carolina is a force to be reckoned with. We made it 14-0 and were heading to the National Championship team to face the Crimson Tide of Alabama.

Alabama.

My family has the unusual situation of being Die-Hard Clemson fans who just happen to live in Alabama. We are regularly asked if we pull for Auburn or Alabama (and up until this Fall, saying we pull for Clemson was a little like being Switzerland!). I have dear friends who are die-hard Alabama fans. My kids proudly their Clemson Orange at school in spite many of their friends cheering, “Roll Tide”. We display our Clemson flags, orange Christmas tree lights, Tiger Paw Car Magnets, and all things Clemson.

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The Front of Our House

 

Yeah, we are that Clemson family living in Alabama.

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My Facebook Status Yesterday Morning!:)

 

Last night it all came down to 60 minutes in Glendale, Arizona. Clemson vs. Alabama. The Cinderella team from South Carolina taking on a football dynasty. Would the Tigers make football history and become the first team to become 15-0?

Our fans showed up en masse from the four corners of the earth to cheer on their Tigers. Kids and grown ups alike wore orange for days on end leading up to the game. Two Dollar Bills were collected to be spent around Arizona to show the economic impact the Tigers bring to town.

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For Four Quarters, Clemson and Alabama duked it out. It was one of the most intense football games I’ve ever watched. Many people aged at least a year from the stress of watching it (myself included).

Yet, when the clocked ticked down to 0:00, Clemson’s Fairy Tale season came to an end and Alabama won itself another National Championship. Crimson Tide players and fans cheered and celebrated while the Tiger side felt the sting and agony of defeat. When you watch your team play their hearts out all season, a loss in the Championship Game is a hard and heartbreaking pill to swallow.

It’s an even harder pill when you’re a kid.

This morning was one of those heartbreaking times when I had to tell my kids that Clemson had lost. Despite it being one of the best games ever played, a loss is a loss.

In the midst of their sadness over their team’s loss, they had to go to school and face their Alabama fan friends and classmates. As a parent, I knew it would be one of those catalytic moments of how to teach your kids to lose gracefully and love your Alabama neighbors.

So what did this lesson look like in our family?

First, I continued to remind them that win or lose, they should be proud of their football team. They can walk into school today and hold their heads up high because they pull for a team that didn’t quit until the end and showed the country what a great football team they are. True fans stand behind their teams regardless of the number of wins and losses are next to their name. They were bleeding orange and purple before last night, and they are still bleeding orange and purple.

Second, they should go up to their Alabama fan friends, shake their hand, look them in the eye and say, “Congrats. Your team played a great game.” As hard as that can be for the losing side, the practice of congratulating the winning team shows humility and character.

As I was “coaching” my kids on how they should respond today, I also realized that the very act of congratulating their Alabama fan friends is also an act of loving their neighbors as themselves.

To loosely quote Tim Keller from his book The King’s Cross, “…loving our neighbors as ourselves means we want for them what we want for ourselves. When our opponents and rivals win, we should celebrate and be happy for them just as much as if we were the ones walking away with the victory.”

To put it in football terms, loving our neighbors as ourselves means we celebrate with our Alabama friends as they win their 16th National Title with as much fervor and joy as if it had been the Tigers taking home the National Championship Trophy.

This is a lesson not only for my kids, but for me as well.

I gotta admit, as a life-long, die hard Clemson fan living in Alabama, this is a hard pill from Jesus for me to swallow. Celebrating with my Alabama fan friends with the same amount of joy as I would as if it were my own team? Seriously? What?!? Can’t I just sit in the corner and mope and grumble and analyze every bad play and trash talk the Alabama program in my head in an effort to make myself feel better? Can’t I just continue to sit and rationalize how Clemson really did deserve to walk away with the trophy? Can’t I just lick my wounded pride and bemoan the fact that it really does hurt that we lost- especially to Alabama?

Loving my Alabama Neighbors means I have to put my wounded pride and my Clemson loyalty on the back burner and celebrate with them just as much as I would be celebrating a 15-0 Clemson Season.

For all of the Alabama fan friends out there and the University of Alabama Football Team ….Congratulations on winning another National Championship!!! Your team played well all season and I rejoice with you as you relish in another National Title. Coach Saban and his staff have developed an excellent program where men of character and athletic excellence are developed. You have much to celebrate. The Best is Yet to Come.

For all of my fellow Clemson fan friends and the Clemson University Football Team. Congratulations on making it to the National Championship Game. Win or lose, I’m proud to be a Clemson Tiger. We showed the world what Clemson Proud is and what it means to be All-In with the Clemson Family. Thank you, Dabo Swinney and the rest of the Clemson Coaching staff for your hard work and dedication to create a program that values developing men of character as much, if not more, than a winning team. The Best is Yet to Come.

 

10 Not-So-Little-Or-Insignificant Lessons

Back in October, I had a not-so-little-or-insignificant accident. I slipped while carrying a box of Halloween decorations and missed ?? (I still don’t really know how many) stairs. This not-so-little-or-insignificant misstep resulted in the breaking of my right tibia and fibula in half (yup- snapped in two!) along with another fracture on my tibia. I was rushed to the ER by ambulance and 4 hours later I was in surgery to have some nice new hardware put into my leg (read a titanium rod and 6 screws). Like I said, not-so-little-or-insignificant.

IMG_5366(X-Rays of my new hardware! Seriously, how did people survive before good orthopedic care?!)

 

So- how does one recover from such a not-so-little-or-insignificant accident? 5.5 weeks of non-weight bearing. Four more weeks of partial weight bearing. You do the math. That was a LONG time being off my feet. A REALLY long time when you take into account that I’m a mom of 4 very active children. An even LONGER time when you factor in that those 9.5 weeks fell over Halloween, Thanksgiving, AND Christmas.

Despite my 9.5 weeks being off my feet and doing mostly a whole lot of not-much, God will still on the job 24/7 and making some not-so-little-or-insignificant grooves into my soul.

  • I hate being still. I don’t think I realized how active I was during the course of a typical day until I went from 110mph to zero. I realized I’m a lot like my dad in that regard. Always on the move. Always hustling to the next thing. Always having several plates spinning at the same time. Being an adult with ADHD, I get restless if I don’t have stuff to keep me busy. Sitting at Zero MPH caused me to take a serious look at the why’s of my pace and I’m beginning to process in my soul country what of that level of activity is fun and life-giving and just how I’m wired and what about my activity level is fueled by some unhealthy and false narratives that just need to stop and be re-written by God.
  • It is REALLLLLLY hard for me to accept other people’s help. I’m an 8w7 on the Enneagram (you Enneagram lovers out there just got a better picture of me!). I have prided myself on being strong, independent, and in-control. It’s my default setting. I HATE appearing weak and not in control. It’s my worst nightmare. Over the years I have deeply wrested with asking for and receiving help. But when you can’t move around much and you have 4 active kids- you can’t NOT ask for and receive help. Seriously, if it weren’t the some amazingly gracious, kind, merciful people in my community, my family would’ve been eating McDonalds and Chick-Fil-A for 6.5 weeks and gained 20 pounds. Instead, we were showered with some good old fashioned Southern Hospitality and some AMAZING meals! These meals not only fueled our stomachs, but they healed our hurting and tired souls. As I ate meal after delicious meal, I thanked God for the people who made them and was overwhelmed time and again at God’s goodness  and care for us through them.  I also need to do a call-out for all of my carpool angels who joyfully transported my kids to and from their activities.  You guys rock!
  • You don’t realize how much you use your legs until you can’t use them. Mobility is a gift and a blessing. Forgive me for taking it for granted.
  • Even in the midst of suffering, tragedy, and hardship, God is at work in and around me. Between this accident and the sudden death of my father, the last 4.5 months have been REALLY hard. I have been pushed to the end of myself countless times and cried more than my fair share of tears (not fun for an 8w7). The temptation to sit in a puddle of self-pity, fear,  and despair has been real. When I’m tempted to “go there”, I have to remind myself that I have a choice of where I will place my focus- on the tragic, sucktastic circumstances; or on how God is at work and taking care of me. I could write a whole blog post on the latter choice that I’ve recently witnessed.
  • Up until August 20, 2015-Cove Church, HCES, MSH and Hampton Cove were just our church, schools, and community. Now they’re my family. My people stepped it up and have loved on us in some generous and overwhelming ways. We are so grateful for them.
  • Community is awesome (see above), but nothing beats your family being with you in the clutch. My younger sister flew in the night of my accident and watched my kids for 3 days. My other sister dragged her husband and 4 kids here to spend a weekend cooking and cleaning for me. When you’re at your worst, nothing beats the presence of your family being with you. On a sad note, when you’re at your worst, the absence of family members is painfully felt (miss you Mon and Dad!)
  • 46 year-old bones take longer to heal than 26 year-old bones do. Getting older stinks.
  • “Once Upon a Time” is an awesome TV show. (Thanks Netflix for being there to satisfy my binge TV watching).
  • God knew what He was doing when He made narcotics. When you’re experiencing level 12 pain, you are grateful there are medicines out there that can take it down a few notches. Over the years, I’ve scoffed as I witnessed people in severe pain crying out for their moms. I get that now and I may have done the same thing at some point before said narcotics kicked in. (wink)
  • I still have absolutely NO IDEA what God is inviting me into next (welcome to the last 4.5 years of my life!), but I rediscovered a few things I love. I’m excited to have the space and time to pursue them now and for the time being, I’m content to wait on God’s timing for what’s next.

 

So there you have it. The tip of the iceberg of some not-so-little-or-insignificant things God’s been up to IN me. Although it’s not fun being in the midst of trials and hardships, verses like these become more real and profound.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. – James 2:2-4

“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;  perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” – Romans 5:3-5

 

 

 

 

Phone Numbers

This is a picture of my parents’ contact information in my phone. If I dial any of them now, they will either be disconnected or connect me with a total stranger.IMG_5353

They are no longer valid or active contacts.

My mom’s cell number was cancelled shortly after her 2.5 year battle with cancer in 2012. My dad’s cell just a few short months ago after a sudden and unexpected heart attack took him away from us.   The home number was also disconnected shortly after my dad’s cell.

That home number followed my family for 46 years around the city of Clemson. Three houses. Four kids. Eight grand kids. It’s the first phone number I memorized. It’s the one I’ve called thousands of times over the course of my life.

Calls to come and pick me up from school because I was sick.

Calls to come pick me and my friends up from band, music, swim practice, the movies, the mall.

Calls for encouragement and comfort the night before a big exam in college, a first day on the job, or just when I was having a bad day and needed to hear the voice of my parents

Calls to share good news- a new boyfriend, finding the love of my life, taking on a new job, taking the plunge and pursuing our first adoption, buying our first home, moving across country, an unexpected pregnancy, a big promotion in our jobs.

Calls to share hard and frustrating news- a heart being broken by a boy, financial hardships, struggles at work, water in our basement, the death of a pet, realizing the dream you’d had for years was not going to happen, leaving the job you thought you’d have for the next ten + years, frustrations with our children.

Calls to ask for advice about a recipe, home repair, child rearing, entertaining, a social quandary.

Calls to celebrate Clemson’s latest big win or to lament their latest heart breaking loss.

For almost 46 years that phone number was a lifeline to my parents. Despite the miles that separated me from my parents over the years, they were just ten digits away.

So here I am, four months out from my dad’s death, and these contacts are still in my phone. It’s been hard to delete them from my contacts because the very act of hitting delete is just one more painful reminder that I will never hear their voices again when they are dialed.

No more calls for help or comfort when I’m feeling really sick and just want to hear the comfort of my mother’s voice.

No more calls for my dad to come and pick me up.

No more calls for a huge pep talk the night before my next big thing.

No more calls to share the latest results from my kids’ latest annual well check-ups, the latest achievement or award they’ve received, the latest thing God is inviting me into,  news of our family’s next big adventure.

No more calls to share hardships and frustrations and cry over the phone with them.

No more calls to trouble shoot a recipe, remember our family history, or lament about raising four feisty, strong-willed kids.

No more calls to celebrate the Tigers. The last few months have been bittersweet for me. Clemson continues to win big and after every big game or announcement, my first instinct has been to pick up the phone and call my dad to celebrate.

One of the hard and tricky things about death and grief is that it is a sudden, abrupt and unwelcome disconnection with the ones we love. And just like the simple disconnection of an account with Verizon, the live contact and connections are forever lost. All we have are archived years of memories.

I think part of why I still keep my parents’ contact numbers in my phone is so that I don’t forget the decades of conversations that did occur from those numbers. I pray that I can continue dig into those archived memories.

Special (?) Needs- Part Two

From yesterday’s post: Over the next several months as I got to know Lightening Bug better, I realized that first and foremost he was my son.  He is playful, mischievous, extremely gregarious and confident. 

And, he just happens to be cleft affected.

Have there been some challenges for us because of this? 

Yes. Surgery. Speech therapy twice a week.  Ear tubes.  Specialist visits. Some future dental and orthodontic issues. 

Have they conjured up fear, anxiety and heavy burdens on my heart? 

Not any more than the challenges of parenting Little Bee.

I wish I could wrap up my story here and say “the end”.  We had our “perfect American Family of Four”.

But, God doesn’t work like that.

Part Two:

2.5 months after returning home from China with Lightening Bug, this picture changed our lives.

It was an icy, cold, Friday afternoon and I was bored, so I decided to do what I normally do when I’m bored and take a look on our adoptions agency’s website of children with special needs who were waiting for families to adopt them.  (Now mind you, I’d done this bored, adoption web scrolling countless times!)

But on this day, as I scrolled down the list of photos and descriptions, I saw her.

And I stopped dead in my tracks.

It was a picture of Lightening Bug’s  foster sister.

I knew this because we had an almost identical picture of her in a photo album given to us by Zach’s foster mother the day we adopted him.

When we got that album, we didn’t know who she was, her name, her story.

But we had this picture of her and Ross and I prayed for God to find a family for her.

After reviewing her file and wrestling for five weeks with some big questions for God,

“can we afford this?”

“do we have what it takes to care for her special needs?  Her special needs aren’t on our LIST?!!”

“do we really want to be a family of five?”

We heard God whisper a few things to us:

I am calling YOU to be the answer to YOUR prayers and adopt this little girl.”

 “Yes- she has some needs that aren’t on YOUR list, but I’m not going to put you guys in any situation that I can’t handle!”

 So, in that crazy, audacious-like faith, we began the process of adopting her and started getting use to the idea of becoming a family of five.

6 months later, in the middle of paper chasing for this little girl, God handed us another surprise.

For the first time in our almost 15 years of marriage and 2 months shy of turning 41, found out I was pregnant!  (We are still trying to figure out how THAT happened!)

Thankfully, our adoption agency allowed us to proceed with our adoption as planned!!!

As the shock of the reality of going from 1 to 4 kids in 18 months began to slowly sink in, we began to prepare ourselves for our 2 new arrivals

On February 23, 2011, Little Mister  made his world debut.

 6 weeks a 1-day later, Ross and I boarded a plane to China and on April 10, 2011, we met Lady Bug for the first time.

Within hours of adopting her, we realized that there were more medical and developmental needs than we originally thought.

There have been days when these challenges have brought me to the point of tears and I feel anxious, fearful, and deeply burdened.

There are moments when I wonder how I am going to survive to the next hour.

It’s in those times that I hear the God whisper to me a few reminders:

First, before time began, God knew who my children were going to be.

Second, regardless of how “perfect” or “imperfect” any of my children are, they are MY children.  God has entrusted them to my care.

Third, God won’t put me in any situation HE can’t handle and as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:7-8, 16-18:

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.And though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

Special (?) Needs – Part One

Our adoption journey began in January of 2004, when-after one of those “epic marriage conversations”, Ross and I sensed that God was calling us to add to our family through adoption.

14 months later, on March 30, 2005 in the Hubei Civil Affairs Office, we met our daughter for the first time.

Our first family photo. Little Bee was not happy with this new arrangement.

After this amazing adventure, Ross and I both sensed that our next child would also be from China through the incredible, miraculous adventure of adoption.

In March 2007, we submitted our dossier for another baby girl and settled down for what was looking to be an18-24 month wait for our next referral.

21 months later, with no referral in sight for the foreseeable future, Ross and I came to a few realizations:

First, we weren’t getting any younger. In fact, our 40s were quickly creeping up on us.

Second, Little Bee was getting older and longed to have a sibling sooner than….who knew?

Third, we became aware of the increasing need for Chinese boys with specials needs to find families.

These realizations jolted us to reexamine who our next child from China might be.

As much as I longed to have another little baby girl from China, we sensed that our next child from China was not going to be a baby girl, but in fact, a toddler boy with special needs.

Special Needs

Up until this point, those two words conjured up anxiety, fear, and a weighty burden in my heart.

Having grown up with a special needs sibling and having several friends who have special needs children- either biologically or through adoption- I marveled at their strength and courage.

And while I marveled at them, I secretly prayed,“Lord, don’t let that be my calling. Please. Pretty please.”

And yet- here I was- actually sensing that God was calling ME to be a parent of a child with special needs.

So, being the recovering control freak who loves to have as much knowledge and information about whatever it is I’m stepping into-I read A LOT of special needs adoption blogs, group posts, and Wiki articles about various special needs. This, combined with my degree in Special Education and experience working with special needs children and adults, enabled me to come up with our LIST of special needs we could “handle” and would consider.

We submitted THE LIST to our adoption agency in January 2009.

2 weeks later we were staring into the eyes of a 19-month-old boy who had a bilateral cleft lip and palate and some potential developmental delays.

;

Our little dumpling

Despite some unanswered questions in his file, we sensed that this chubby cheeked little boy was in fact, our son.

On October 25, 2009 in the Guizhou Civil Affairs Office, Ross, Little Bee, and I met this cute chubby cheeked little guy for the first time and I became the mother of a playful, exuberant 2.5 year old boy.

First real time photos. Doesn’t he look like a little emperor?

;

My son.

Over the next several months as I got to know Lightening Bug better, I realized that first and foremost he was my son. He is playful

mischievous

extremely gregarious

and confident.

And, he just happens to be cleft affected.

Have there been some challenges for us because of this?

Yes. Surgery. Speech therapy twice a week. Ear tubes. Specialist visits. Some future dental and orthodontic issues.

Have they conjured up fear, anxiety and heavy burdens on my heart?

Not any more than the challenges of parenting Little Bee

I wish I could wrap up my story here and say “the end”. We had our “perfect American Family of Four”.

But, God doesn’t work like that.

(tune in tomorrow for Part Two)

An Acceptable Burden? – Part Two

From yesterday’s post:

As Ross and I thought about this woman and her amazing ability to care for multiple children at a time in her poverty, we realized that our idea of “an acceptable burden” was pretty lame.

I’ve lost track of the number of times I groaned as I scurried around getting all of the necessary documents notarized to the 5th power for our dossiers.

I’ve grown a vineyard and have a cellar full of barrels that contain the whining I’ve done over the glitches in the adoption system that have pushed our waiting for whatever the next thing was in the adoption process to be delayed YET again.

I’ve looked with longing and a bit(!) of envy when I see my friend’s newly finished basements, home theater rooms, kitchens, pools, home additions, landscaped yards, and vacation homes.  I have to remind myself that while they are taking trips to the beach and Disney every summer, we are scraping our money aside so we have the change needed to bring one of our children home.

I’ve had to grit my teeth and smile as I listen to countless comments from people ranging from, “You guy are such wonderful parents to bring ANOTHER child into your family” to “Wow- getting ANOTHER kid?!?”

And while these steps along the road to adoption aren’t fun and for the faint of heart, they aren’t as worrying a responsibility as I like to make them out to be. 

Part Two:

Paul instructs his followers in Galatians to:

“Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived.”

-Galatians 6:3(the message)

When I read these words, it’s as if Jesus is speaking directly to me:

“Julie, get down off of your easy, Radical Christian-revised version( RCrv) of the American dream.  Open your eyes.  There are 143 million children who will go to sleep tonight without knowing and experiencing the love of a father and mother.  These children are all but forgotten by society.  They are lucky to receive even the crumbs from the tables of wealth and excess.”

“Will you share in their burdens?  Even if it means walking away from your desire for comfort, ease, and more?”

“Will you endure more well meaning but stupid, insensitive comments so that one of my children can know the love of a family?” 

“Can you suck it up and quit whining about things that are way out of your control and trust in my timing of your adoptions?”

 “Will you consider it pure joy to partner with me and my heart for the orphans knowing that in the process I am refining your vision with mine?”

Lady Bug has been home ten months now.  In the process of adopting her, God threw us another huge curveball that was born 6.5 weeks before we adopted her (click here and here for more on that story).

The adoption journey and time home with Lady Bug have proven to be the hardest and most trying of any of our adoptions.  The paper chasing and adoption process for her was by far our most frustrating and eye rolling.  Within hours of meeting her, we realized there were more health and developmental issues going on with her than what we were originally lead to believe.  Navigating the diagnosis, misdiagnosis, speech and hearing specialists, educational accommodations, and trying to figure out what delays are due to lack of exposure versus developmental have been mind numbing.  The meltdowns, tantrums, language barriers, and sensory overload shutdowns have brought me to the point of tears more times than I can count. Add to that caring for a newborn and two other kids.  It’s been beyond exasperating at times.

When I get to the point where I’m beyond done, God whispers to me, “This is MY burden to carry Julie.   I won’t put you in any situation that I can’t handle.”

When we carry the burden of adoption upon our shoulders- we fulfill God’s commands that are scattered throughout scripture-

“Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.” – Isaiah 1:17

“Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.’”

– Zechariah 7:9-10

“look after orphans in distress” – James 1:27

We step deeper into the heart and mind of God who is a father to the fatherless.  We become his agents for bringing His justice and His kingdom to fruition.

When the weighty responsibilities become too big- we have a God who is bigger and is able to carry them for us.  He’s been modeling and reminding us of this

“Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.” -Psalm 55:22

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”- 1 Peter 5:7

Not all of us are called to adopt.  But as believers and followers of Jesus, we are all called to care and support the cause of the orphan- whether it’s through:

  • financially coming alongside a family who has the heart and home for a child but doesn’t have the necessary funds
  • cheering on a family who’s been waiting for the better part of forever for that phone call to come and get their child
  • bringing meals and offering to do laundry and housework for a family who has just returned home with their child and just beyond exhausted and exasperated
  • offering to babysit children so their parents can get a much deserved date night away from home
  •  spending your vacation going overseas and supporting the work of orphan care
  • get certified to be approved to offer respite care for foster children in your community so that the amazing families who love and care for these precious kids can get a night out or weekend away
  •  advocating for foster care in your community

Yes, our adoption journey has been hard.

Yes, there have been days when I’ve been beyond done and have wanted to throw in the towel.

But every night when I tuck my daughter into bed- I think about what her life would be like if we had not wrestled with the “acceptable burden question” two years ago and opened our hearts and lives to her.  I think about the hole that would be in our family if we had said no. 

My fight is to see a huge dent be made in the number of orphans worldwide.  I long to see the church rise up to the call and care for orphans in distress.  I ache to see boys and girls experience the love of a mom and dad and go from being orphans to children and heirs.

I hope we can reexamine what our acceptable burdens are, take God at his word, and join the countless others worldwide who have wrestled with this question and have gone all in for caring for orphans.

Questions:

  • For all of your fellow adoptive and foster parents out there, how have you wrestled with this question of an acceptable burden?
  • What have been some of your joys and your frustrations?
  • How have you seen God come through for you in the process?

An Acceptable Burden? – Part One

Last month, one of our pastors, Mike Hipsley, preached a sermon entitled, “Pick a Fight”.  My family was honored to be one of the LifePoint stories he shared of people who have picked our fight. (Click here to watch this sermon.  It’s AMAZING!)

Our fight is adoption and has been on our family level for the past 8 years.

This fight started as a simple desire to add to our family through adoption.  As we started on our adoption journey for our first child, we did a lot of reading and research about the orphan situation in China.  This lead to learning more about the orphan situation worldwide.

What began as a means to have children, grew into an all-out passionate fight to help see 143 million orphans find families.

It has sent us on an amazing adventure to China three times.  It has made us fall in love with a country and a culture that up until eight years ago was just a place on the map.

Little Bee and Aunt Jennie on the Great Wall

It has given us God’s heart for the orphan and broken it a hundred times over.

It has enabled us to cross paths with some amazing families who are also on this adoption journey; each journey to their children an incredible sign of how God puts families together.  I could go on and on about the joys, struggles, and insights God has taught us on this journey.

I’d like to, however, share a bit about one particular insight, or “life lesson” we’ve learned through this process.

It came through a question Ross and I were challenged with when we were deciding whether or not to adopt Lady Bug.

The question of, “What is an acceptable burden in adoption?”

An acceptable burden?

Webster defines burden as ….. “a worrying responsibility; something carried.”

When we “found” Lady Bug’s picture two years ago (another amazing story for another time), we wrestled for a good five weeks with some big questions for God over whether or not to pursue adopting her.

“Can we really afford this?”

Adoption is EXPENSIVE.  Take it from me- we are adoption poor three times over.  At the time we were asking this question, we had only be home with Lightening Bug for 2.5 months.  The dust on the debt book had not even begun to settle.  The 5-digit loan we had to take out was still feeling fresh and raw to us.  We were wondering how long it would take to us recover from it.  We laid hands on our cars, major appliances and our house and prayed that nothing would break, die, or be destroyed in the next 5 years.

And yet here we were- faced with the question of if we had it in us financially to adopt again.  To jump out of the boat of financial self sufficiency one more time and into the adoption-poor ocean; trusting that God would be true to His promises and provide some of the cattle on the 1,000 hills we’d need in order to fund this adoption.

“Do we have what it takes to care for her special needs?”

Lady Bug’s special needs were not something with which we were originally comfortable.  In fact, they scared me a little bit.  (ok, a lot!)

They weren’t on my “list” of special needs we would consider.  Why?  Because Ross and I didn’t think it was something we could “handle.”

Caring for a child with these needs would require some major surgeries. There was the potential for serious developmental delays that would require lifelong care.  And while neither of these issues would be something that would be world ending for us, they still felt rather scary, unknown, and huge.  A burden neither of us felt like we could handle or wanted to bring into our family.

“Do we really want to be a family of five?”

To be totally honest, being a family of four was absolutely dreamy to me.  I had my son.  I had my daughter.  Life was good.  It was easy.

our happy family of four

I was seeing the opportunity to jump full throttle into ministry just a few short years away.  My days of feeling benched on the working part-time sideline would soon be over.  I felt like I could start dreaming and getting excited about where God would take me and how I could use my gifts.

Being a family of four would have afforded us the ability to give each of our children opportunities to develop to their fullest potential.  Easily affording a private school education.  Multiple extra curricular activities.  Amazing family vacations all over the world.  The “easy” possibility of serving overseas (being a family with 2 kids would be a lot easier than a family with 3 kids).

It would have afforded me the opportunity to step into my “Radical Christian- revised version (RCrv)” of the American dream.

As we were wrestling through these questions with God, he answered us with a question of His own.

“What is an acceptable burden?”

As we thought about that question, we were reminded of a woman in China who also wrestled with the same question.

A woman who lives in one of the poorest provinces in China where the average annual income is less than $600US a year.   A woman, who by worldly standards, lives in poverty.  A woman with two grown sons who could go about with her life eking out daily survival.

A woman who, when presented with the same question of what is an acceptable burden in caring for the orphans in her city, stepped out in faith and declared, “how could I not care for a few of these precious kids?”

A woman, who since 1999, has been fostering multiple children at a time.  In her own words, “loving each of them like any mother would love their children.” 

A woman who tenderly and lovingly cared for a tiny baby boy born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate.  Laboriously feeding him without the aid of cleft nursing bottles and making sure he was well fed and nourished.

A woman who, when given a little 3 year old girl and told “don’t expect her to ever walk or talk” taught her how to walk, dress herself, use the toilet, feed herself, dance, talk, and help her take care of the other babies in her care.

Lightening Bug and Lady Bug’s foster mother.

As Ross and I thought about this woman and her amazing ability to care for multiple children at a time in her poverty, we realized that our idea of “an acceptable burden”   was pretty lame.

I’ve lost track of the number of times I groaned as I scurried around getting all of the necessary documents notarized to the 5th power for our dossiers.

I’ve grown a vineyard and have a cellar full of barrels that contain the whining I’ve done over the glitches in the adoption system that have pushed our waiting for whatever the next thing was in the adoption process to be delayed YET again.

I’ve looked with longing and a bit(!) of envy when I see my friends’ newly finished basements, home theater rooms, kitchens, pools, home additions, landscaped yards, and vacation homes.  I have to remind myself that while they are taking trips to the beach and Disney every summer, we’ve been scraping our money aside so we have the change needed to bring one of our children home.

I’ve had to grit my teeth and smile as I listen to countless comments from people ranging from, “You guy are such wonderful parents to bring ANOTHER child into your family” to “Wow- getting ANOTHER kid?!?”

And while these steps along the road to adoption aren’t fun and for the faint of heart, they aren’t as worrying a responsibility as I like to make them out to be.

(Come back tomorrow for Part Two!!)