The Gospel-Centered Mom: 3 Fads that are Killing Your Joy

3 Fads that are Killing Your Joy

I’m already sweating when I pull into the parking spot. Not close enough to the store, but it will have to do. Four kids ages four and under – the big cart with a two-seater car attached to the front is my goal. Shoot, those are at the other grocery chain. Did I bring my stroller? Doesn’t matter, that wouldn’t help. Two carts or one? This store has narrow isles. One cart. Two can ride, two can walk.

“Everybody out!” Why do I say that? No one can get unbuckled without me.

Everyone in diapers/underwear? Check.

Everyone have shoes on? Check.

Into the store, cram groceries around the toddler in the basket, make a beeline for the checkout. Stuff a cracker in each mouth, grab my wallet – oh. The wallet that’s sitting on the kitchen counter at home? Yeah, that one.

Fail.

Sometimes the gap between my expectations for the day and what actually happens is huge. I look back at the end of the day and think, “What went wrong?”

Disappointment is natural. But when we base our joy on how we’ve measured up to our own expectations, something is off balance. “Was I a good mom today? How do I know?” It is a God-given drive to be the best mom you can be, but our calling becomes an idol if our joy depends on our performance.

There are a host of factors out there waiting to help you determine if you’re a good mom. We have to be guarded. What is meant to help can actually be destructive to our joy. Three major fads in the mommy realm are ready to give you a grade.

Ready to see how you measure up?

Click through to The Gospel-Centered Mom: 3 Fads that are Killing Your Joy to read the rest of the story.  Don’t forget to read the comments at the bottom.  Excellent insights there as well.

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L is for Love #AtoZChallenge

A to Z Letter LAdoption is, ultimately, an act of sacrificial love.  Sacrifice on the part of the birth parents, who choose to surrender their children to parents who can provide what they can not.  Sacrifice on the part of adoptive parents who are willing to jump through the hoops and come up with thousands of dollars, to bring children who are very much wanted – and loved – into their homes.  The thing is, from the adoptive parent perspective, it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice at all.  It really just feels like we did what was necessary to expand our family…just as we did with our biological child.  Was it harder?  Maybe…maybe not.

adoption is loveWe have always felt that we were called to adopt.  Not because we didn’t want biological children (we did, and we have one), but because we felt keenly for these children in need of stable homes…homes that are not possible without adoption.  In so many cases, I wanted us to be the right family for them, wanted to scoop them up and bring them home.  My heart has been full to the point of breaking so many times for the needs of these kids.  We have hoped and prayed for them, and that it would be clear to us when we were the family that was needed.

It was clear, in myriad ways, and most surprisingly, in ways we could not have predicted.  I am so grateful for that, and for knowing that God was guiding us toward the birth parents whose needs were needs that we could meet, and who committed themselves, without being believers themselves, to make a sacrifice for the sake of their child that would radically glorify God.

adoption_is_another_word_for_love_ornament_roundI have mentioned more than once that I don’t know how people go through adoption without God.  It takes a fortitude and strength, and I don’t have it without God.  Still, there are many non-believers who undertake both sides of this journey, and they may not ever know the powerful witness they are for God, just in doing this one thing.  Why?  Because they are modeling the sacrificial love that God shows us daily…love that is steadfast, love that they (we) choose to take on, love that may or may not be returned, love that is unconditional, love that does not measure what can be gotten in return. God uses us…all of us…to show the depth and breadth of His own love.

He used our birth parents, and he used us, and I am so grateful for it. 1cor13

H is for Home Study #AtoZChallenge

A to Z Letter HIt is exactly what it sounds like…a study of your home (not just the bricks and mortar) to ensure that it (you) are suitable candidates for parenthood.  Amazing that when we have biological children, the assumption is that we are suitable, but when we seek to adopt, we start at zero and must pass inspection of nearly every detail of our lives.

It is what it is, and if you’re committed to adopting, as we were, it’s part of the price you pay (no pun intended, right?).

We underwent two home studies, and in both cases we had a case worker with whom we forged a really great relationship right from the start.  That is important.  If you don’t connect, I would strongly urge you to find someone else do to it.  This is the person who, for all practical purposes, holds your adoptive future in his/her hands, and you want someone who advocates for you, which means you want someone who likes you…a lot.  It doesn’t hurt at all if the feeling is mutual.

The nitty gritty of the home study looks like this:

  • homestudyApplication…fill it out fully.  Rest assured you are being checked six ways from Sunday, so do not lie.  If there are things that need to be disclosed, disclose them.  Better to deal with them now – especially if they are deal breakers – than after you have spent a lot of time and a good deal of money.
  • Health History…physical and mental health, so get your physicals.  Your doctor will have to fill out a form from your application packet that confirms your fitness to parent.  It’s not about perfection, just about reasonable mental & physical health…and “reasonable” is a very elastic term.  Don’t let this worry you.
  • Criminal Background…the rule of thumb is no felonies, but obviously each state has standards specific to the state.  This requires fingerprints, and it takes several weeks, so get your digits inked early.  In our state, I learned it is a misdemeanor to fail to license your dog.  Now I think this is a huge overreach of government intrusion into my business, but it’s small potatoes when you want to adopt, and the home study will require it.
  • Financial Background…your credit history will be checked, so if there are issues, address them and fix what you can.  Your income will be verified.  Every state has a minimum amount a family must make to be considered for adoption, with a set amount more for each additional adoptee (if you want more than one child).  We were considering that, so we had to verify we could, in fact, financially care for multiple children.  You will need at least one, and probably 2-3 years of signed tax returns to provide, so find them and keep them accessible…and you will have to update them for every home study renewal, and for your final adoption hearing.  Fair warning…
  • magnifying glassHome Inspection…clean your house, lock up your firearms and ammunition separately, have a plan to keep your cleaning supplies & medications out of the reach of children, pick up your clutter, lock up hazardous materials in the garage, etc.  It will all be checked.  On this point, I think it goes easier for families who have kids already (we did), because the health and well being of your child(ren) is an indicator that you are, in fact, successful parents already.  I’m not sure this is fair, but it is reality, so if you’re seeking to adopt your first child, jump high & clean through the hoops.
  • Interviews…the only residents of your home who will not be interviewed are pets and young kids.  In our son’s interview (he was only interviewed in the second home study, and was seven at the time), we were allowed to be present, but he had to answer the questions.  We were interviewed jointly and separately.  In our individual interviews, we were questioned about many of the personal issues that were addressed in our applications.  Be truthful and honest.  Don’t gloss over struggles and weaknesses, because it looks and sounds bogus.  Address them head on, and be honest about how you manage them.  We both did that.  interviewCase workers understand that no one is perfect, and why would you want that anyway?  We are human, and fallible…what the case workers (if they are doing their job right) need to see is that you are functional, that your marriage is stable, and that you have the necessary qualities to make a good parent.
  • Documentation…make sure you have certified copies of birth certificates (for everyone living in the home), marriage license(s), divorce decrees and custody arrangements (if applicable), legal residency and/or citizenship (if you were not born in the US), dog licenses (I’m serious!), and any other that is required.  Keep it accessible, because you will need it more than once (thank you CPS, or whatever that agency is called in your state).
  • Money…yes, the home study costs money, and it is not usually included in the cost of the adoption.  This varies by agency, so check the stipulations of the agency you select.

One very important point regarding your interview:  talk ahead of time about how you want to discuss your discipline strategies, because you will be asked.  Spanking these days is controversial, so if you do spank, make sure you are prepared to answer that question.  Also know that you will likely be required to sign an agreement that you will not spank your adoptive child, particularly if you are adopting from foster care.  This is crucial to understand, because when you adopt foster kids, there are almost always issues with neglect and abuse (physical, psychological, sexual, verbal, emotional).  Spanking is counter productive, because it reinforces abuse in the mind of the child.  You must be willing and prepared to use other behavior modification strategies, and you need to make sure that you can administer them consistently and with love.

OK, soapbox done.  Just be informed, so you can be good parents to whatever child(ren) God places in your family.

home study approved

This is boring, tedious stuff.  A lot of it is, in my opinion, overkill to satisfy the state’s requirements, but it not optional.  My husband and I talked about adopting before we ever married, and we both felt (and feel) strongly that God called us to it.  None of the hoops that we have jumped through to get to the end were lofty, but they were necessary, and in the end, our second child is now home.  It was all worth it for him…even licensing the dog.

G is for God #AtoZChallenge

A to Z Letter GI don’t know how anyone goes through the adoptive process – as adoptive parents OR birth parents – without God.  I know that adoption is not limited to believers, but I honestly don’t know how those who don’t find their strength in God are able to do it.  Adoption is hard.  Really hard.  Yes, the blessings do far outweigh the difficulties, and it really is worth it, but it is not for the faint of heart.

When we started five plus years ago (with a Christian agency that had a great reputation), I was excited and nervous…and scared.  I had heard the horror stories of changed minds and children being ripped from adoptive parents’ arms months or years after the fact.  But I also knew that there were red flags present in those situations, and that making sure we chose a good agency, one that made sure all the details were done right, and was a believing agency to boot, would protect us.

great is thy faithfulness musicWhat I didn’t foresee at that time, and couldn’t articulate until much later, was that just having the Christian tag on the agency doesn’t make it the right agency for us.  I was confident when we went through our first home study, with a wonderful case worker with whom we connected instantly, that we had chosen the right agency.  A few months into our initial year, I began to have doubts.  Our profile was not being presented often…in fact, perhaps 3-4 times over the course of a year.  Our social worker was also the director of the agency, and as I had more interactions with her, I became more and more in doubt of her enthusiasm for our family.  I began to feel we did not have an advocate, and I began to doubt our suitability to be adoptive parents.  I wondered what was wrong with us.  With me.  What was making us a family that no one wanted?

lamentations 3 22In retrospect, I see now that it was not that no one wanted us, but it was that few birth parents saw us.  The reasons given were that we didn’t fit the profile desired by the birth families.  I was really, really discouraged.  What’s more, I didn’t have the words (ironic as that is) to articulate that to my husband…not until we moved away.

I am so grateful that we had (have) friends who are vigilant prayer warriors.  I know that there were many, many prayers spoken on our behalf, and I know that were it not for that, I would have felt completely alone, and completely marginalized by our agency.  I also see now that God was present throughout that entire, discouraging year, and rather than barring us from having our hearts’ desire, he was working diligently on my heart.

After our cross-country move, it took me over a year to gear up and be ready to try again.  We were starting again from scratch.  This time, when we underwent our home study, my heart was (finally) where it should have been all along.  I finally prayed, without reservation:  “Lord, I will take and love whatever child you have chosen for me.  Period.”  My heart was not there before.  True, our (Christian) agency didn’t care for us in the way I would have liked.  The director didn’t have the enthusiasm for us (or in my opinion, for her job in general) that I thought she should.  She did disappoint me desperately, and I came to believe that if she had lost her enthusiasm and joy for this job, perhaps it was no longer the job for her.

strength for today

But, my heart wasn’t prepared in the way it should have been, and God used that year to show me that.  As soon as I let go of my fears and doubts about WHO I could parent, God opened up the door that brought our beautiful son into our home.

We had decided to pursue adoption through foster care.  We had not made any limitations with regard to race or ethnicity, we were flexible in what special needs we would consider, and we were open to more than one child, of any age up to our biological son’s age.

all I have neededWe got a call from our agency, requesting us…appealing to us…to consider joining the domestic adoption program.  They had more birth moms than they had adoptive families to present.  They desperately needed more adoptive families in the program.  I saw God all over that.  How could we say no?  We couldn’t. and in that moment we set the wheels in motion that brought our son home to us.

If I wasn’t convinced in God’s providence before (I was), I have seen it firsthand now.  God wants to give us the desires of our hearts, but He also wants us to trust Him completely, and trust that He loves us and has our very best interests at heart.  I had to trust Him completely, and stop trying to engineer the outcome I wanted, and as soon as I did that, he gave me the best possible outcome, one that I could neither have engineered nor foreseen.

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not;
As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be.

 

E is for Extended Family #AtoZChallenge

A to Z Letter EWe have been blessed though this adoption journey to have extended family on both sides who support us.  Incredibly blessed, because it could have been otherwise, and I have seen cases where it was otherwise.

From the moment we started this journey, we felt strongly that we wanted our family to reflect the family of God.  Both spiritually and physically, we wanted our family to be one that mirrored the family of believers of which we are a part.  We felt strongly that the decisions we made regarding our potential adoptive child should reflect, to the extent we were capable of managing, God’s adopted family.  Practically speaking, that meant (for us):

adoption through jesus christ

  1. We would make no ethnic, racial, or cultural restrictions;
  2. We would be open to special needs, to the extent we could foresee that the impact on our biological son would be positive;
  3. We would limit age to all ages younger than our biological son (to preserve birth order);
  4. We wanted all cases where we were being considered as a potential adoptive family presented to us.

With our first attempt, before we moved to our current state, my confidence had not caught up with my convictions, and I (not my husband) made limitations on our criteria that I almost immediately regretted.  But it was done, and even though we still allowed for more flexibility than most families seeking a private, domestic adoption, nothing came to fruition.

That all changed when we moved.  This time around, all of our criteria reflected what was in my heart…and is in my heart to this day.  And I wrote this. Nothing like making a public statement to the world (or at least, the blogging world) that holds your own feet to the fire.

So as it happens, our sweet baby, from the moment he was born, looked uncannily like our biological son.  They both strongly resemble my husband.  So much so that our birth mom’s mother (who was in the room with her when she delivered), mentioned it more than once when she showed us the pictures of his birth.  We hear it all the time from family and friends, who marvel at God’s handiwork.  We hear it from strangers…so much so, that many times I just agree and say nothing of his adoption.  But sometimes I do tell them, and remark on God’s exquisite design (and his sense of humor).

child equals jesusAnd you know, our family exactly reflects God’s family.  Both spiritually and physically.  It always did, I realize, and it continues to now.

Our extended families?  They have been supportive from the beginning, and they are thrilled with the beautiful little man who became a part of us.  I knew from the beginning that he would be loved.  I knew it even before I knew we would have a him and not a her.  I knew that, whatever child God provided for our family, s/he would be loved.  I knew, because our families have demonstrated that kind of love – on both sides – for us.  And they have demonstrated that kind of love – on both sides – for previously adopted children.  I knew, and more importantly, God knew, that our child (whomever that may be) would be loved.  And that, really, is the most important thing.

jesus loves the little children

C is for Child Protective Services (CPS) #AtoZChallenge

A to Z Letter CI have very mixed feelings about CPS.  Very.

Official CPS approval is a very big part of having a complete (and successful) home study.  And it is after the (licensed) agency has done a thorough and extensive background check, documenting residency history, job history, financial background, criminal background, health history (including mental health), our children, our pets, and some of our friends.  I’m sure I am leaving a few things out.  Not only did we have to provide legal and/or certified documentation for numerous details, we had to answer a lengthy application questionnaire, and all of us (yes, even our son, who was 7 at the time) had to be interviewed.

cpsBut even after all of that is done, we still had to get CPS approval, after which it was presented to a judge for final certification that we were, in fact, eligible to adopt a child.

That is not the end of CPS involvement.  30 days after baby came home, at our first post-placement visit, we were told that we could at that point contact the court and request the application to finalize our adoption.  We did, and submitted it, which triggered the court to start requesting our information from the agency.  At this point, our agency sent us a sheaf of paperwork to fill out, including another application on which we were to note any changes (there were none).  We had to update financial paperwork.  We had to submit (again) a certified copy of our marriage license and birth certificates.  And then…our entire file had to be submitted to CPS again for approval, without which we couldn’t go to court and finalize our adoption.

Why this had to be done twice within an 18–month period baffles me.  What on earth do they believe will change within 18 months that will change us from suitable to unsuitable parents?  It’s not as if we were not in regular contact with our agency.  We were.  It’s not as if we hadn’t been regularly signing and submitting paperwork as required.  We had.  It’s not as if we weren’t making regular payments.  We were.  It’s not as if our social worker had not been talking with us regularly.  She had, and the post placement visit had been done as well.  What on earth are we going to do, deliberately or otherwise, to disqualify ourselves after we have gone to this much trouble and this much expense?

Well, CPS had to make sure…twice.  And here’s the thing…it was a rubber stamp on a file they saw 18 months before that had not changed, but it could have taken weeks.  It usually does, our agency said, so don’t really count on it being done in time. It could have derailed our court date and forced a continuance, if not for the ANGEL of a paralegal in the adoption department of our local court, who rattled cages at CPS to make sure the approval got moved to the top of the pile and pushed through in time.

There is no alternative.  A licensed adoption agency is not “official” in the eyes of the government, even though it does the heavy lifting.  CPS is the official representative of the government, and in order to even be considered, they must approve us.  At least this is an area where, if the adoption agency has done its job (ours did), then CPS can’t really do any harm…unless being slow as molasses in January qualifies as harm (not really).

NO_cpsBut these were not our only dealings with CPS…and what follows could have derailed the entire adoption, and made us start from scratch, but this time adopting from the state.  All because our beautiful, perfect son was born exposed to methamphetamine.  Not addicted, but exposed.

Any time a child is born exposed to drugs or alcohol, it triggers a call from the hospital to CPS…which triggers a visit and an “official” report.  The agent came, and (thankfully) spoke to me first.  She then spoke to the birth mom, and apparently flexed enough muscle that our birth mom stopped talking to her, and would only talk to her agency social worker.  Thank God for that.  CPS did not need to even come to the hospital in this case.  What they needed to do was verify that an adoption plan was securely in place, and that would have negated any need for further contact.  They did not…they chose instead to rear their head, because they could.  They chose to give our birth mom a hard time, because they could.

This is the point I became all too aware, once again, that CPS does not really exist to do what is in the best interest of the child.  If they did, then they would have consulted the reams of paperwork on our birth mom and us before they decided to get involved.  They might have made some discreet phone calls to the social workers attached to our case before coming to the hospital.  They might have even been kinder to our birth mom, because they already knew that she had made an adoption plan, and that she was not seeking to parent this child.  There was no need to treat her like a second class citizen because of the meth use, especially since she was not keeping this baby, but they did.  I believe here, just as with every other part of this adoption, that God was continually intervening on behalf of our precious child.

StilI, I have mixed feelings.  Very mixed, because though I understand the necessity of having an agency that protects children, the colossal inefficiency, and utter failure in some cases, of CPS to actually protect children, gives me no confidence that they can do what they exist to do.

A is for Adoption #AtoZChallenge

Well, I did it.  I signed up THIS MORNING to participate in the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge 2014.

Yes, I’m crazy.

Oh well…I loved participating in 2012 for the first time.  I missed it last year when I didn’t do it.  So I’m jumping in with both feet, hoping to jump start my words again, and hoping that 26 days is enough to lock in the writing habit again.  I’ve missed it.  I’ve felt blocked and unable to write for months & months.  I’m inspired by the challenge.

And…I’m inspired by the challenge to tackle a theme.  So many of the bloggers in this challenge choose various themes, and while on the one hand it has the potential to create an added layer of difficulty, I think this is the year.  Here’s why…

We just spent the past 18 months…well, it’s really been off and on for five years…but in the past 18 months my family (husband, son, and me) went through a successful home study, two unsuccessful matches, one successful match, and on March 6, 2014 finalized the ADOPTION of our second child…another son…a beautiful, perfect little boy who just passed his 6-month birthday.

So ADOPTION it is…at least, in brief…26 entries over the next 30 days.

What I will say today is that ADOPTION is wonderful, heart-wrenching, beautiful, difficult, fulfilling, frustrating, and so full of blessings it is impossible to count them all.  I am beyond grateful for the gift of adoption, without which we would only have one child…a child who desperately and fervently desired a sibling, and who prayed faithfully for one until he arrived.  We are so grateful for him, and truly, we are grateful for the experience that brought him to us.  I will write our complete story one day, but suffice it to say for now that…

ADOPTION is not for the faint of heart, because it will fill it to overflowing and rip it apart.  Staying the course is not easy when things get bumpy, matches fall through, money is lost, or any of a million unexpected details arise…many of which will complicate things.

But ADOPTION is an amazing, fulfilling blessing…more so than anyone who has been through it can explain, and more than you can even anticipate.  I wouldn’t change any part of our experience, because it resulted in this wonderful child we have been privileged to add to our family.

So come back over the course of this month and read about our story.  I promise, it has a GREAT ending!