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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M is for Money #AtoZChallenge

A to Z Letter MTo be brutally honest, adoption costs too much money.  W-A-Y too much money.  Granted, it costs money to pay for agency fees, attorney fees, travel expenses, and (if you’re adopting internationally) all the required in-country fees…including bribe money in some countries.  It is daunting.  Daunting enough that many worthy families are priced right out of the market because they don’t have the resources.  You don’t have to be monetarily rich to raise children…not even close…but looking at the amount of cash required to undertake a domestic or international adoption can (and does) derail adoption dreams for many families.  And it shouldn’t.

Money-IIWhen we originally began our adoption pursuit, we elected to pursue a domestic adoption.  That is an adoption that is done within the United States, often on the local level, but also between states as well.  The fees are not insignificant, and they cover agency expenses and birth parent expenses through the duration of the adoption.  Many agencies have a sliding scale of fees based on family income, but it is never inexpensive, and it can get pretty astronomically expensive if you have a higher income.  Some agencies have a maximum cap on the scale, and some don’t.  Some agencies have set rates, and while you will know exactly what you are contracted to pay, that may not be your total out-of-pocket expenses.  Even with set fees, it’s expensive.  Too expensive.

money banner

Couple that with what you will lose (per contract with your agency) in the event your birth mom changes her mind, and it can be staggering.  We had that happen, and our contract stipulated that we lost 50% of the initial chunk we paid (half total cost of a domestic adoption).  Further, there was no refund option for the balance of the money, should we have chosen not to pursue it further.  The balance was credited toward a new match, which essentially makes your decision for you.

75-percentBy the way, we were very thankful that we had the contract we did, because it changed shortly after we signed, and the disruption fee went up to 75% of the initial chunk (or about 35% of the total cost)…and still no refund option  That kind of cash is a lot for just about any family, but for a family who doesn’t have that kind of money in savings or other resources, it’s a deal breaker.

ADOPTION-tax-creditSure, the federal government gives a one time tax credit for adoption, and it is substantial.  But…it happens after the fact, so it’s a great tax incentive, but you have to complete the adoption before you can claim the tax credit, so it isn’t available to you when you could really use it.

There are so many families who go through domestic adoption more than once, and it boggles my mind that this is an option for them.  The expense is not small at all.  I am confounded at how normal, middle-class families are able to swing that.  I’m in awe of it, actually, because adoption is such a rewarding experience, and it is deplorable that the expense of it can derail those plans for so many.

I wish I knew what to suggest to bring the cost down.  I don’t, unless it is a complete overhaul (or eradication) of tax laws, so that our economy could run without government impediment.  The cost of health care and insurance is sky high, which contributes significantly, and we are not moving in the right direction on those issues either.  But I’ll save any more politicking for another post, and share the following:

  • foster to adopFoster to Adopt is a much more economical way to adopt children, because the children are wards of the state, and their expenses are covered with tax dollars.  The only out of pocket expenses are agency fees and/or attorney fees.
    • You have to know going in that getting a baby is unlikely, but there are so many older children and sibling groups that are desperate for homes.  In our state, the price is the same for one kid or six kids.
    • There is a high percentage of special needs kids in need of forever families.  Many are babies or toddlers who have significant health issues.  If you are equipped to care for special needs, or desire to parent special needs kids specifically, this is the way to go.
    • icwa_logo_114x114If you are a member of a Native American tribe, and have any inclination at all to adopt, run (don’t walk) to the Foster to Adopt program.  There are so many Native American kids who are languishing in foster care due to the Indian Child Welfare Act, which requires Native American kids to be adopted by families that have at least one Native American parent. The unintended consequence of that law is the lack of qualified families who meet this requirement, while there are many other families (ours included) who qualify in every other way, and would take these beautiful kids.  But we can’t.
  • Private adoptions through an adoption attorney (check here for a list of attorneys in your state who specialize in adoption) are typically less expensive.  I didn’t learn this until after we had already contracted with our agency, otherwise we would likely have seriously considered this avenue.  Interview the attorney and find out if s/he is a good fit, and what expenses to expect.
    • There is a downside to using an attorney, and that is the (possible) lack of financial, psychological and emotional support (and counseling) for the birth parents.  They will need support, and it is worth evaluating in your decision.

god-says-trust-me-i-will-show-you-187You might ask why we didn’t pursue the Foster to Adopt program.  When we started again in our current state, we did intend to do exactly that.  However, our agency sought us out and asked us if we were willing to join their domestic program, because they were in desperate need of adoptive families to match with the birth moms in the program.  Throughout our hole journey, we have followed what we believed God was calling us to do, and we felt in this case that this was his way of steering us toward the right match.  In my mind, there was no way we could have said no.

I’m still not convinced that we won’t end up considering one more addition to our family through adoption.  My husband is not so sure that’s the right direction for our family, but I don’t know.  God has a way of using time and circumstances to show us the way, and as we have through all of this, we are continuing to rely on his guidance.

every child deserves a family

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.

Doing It Right This Time

An Adoption Manifesto

This is the second time in the past four years that we have been at the end of a home study and ready to add a child (or two) to our little family.  Our first attempt, undertaken in Tennessee, went smoothly through every step of the process, but the months ticked by as we waited for a match and I began to get discouraged.  We watched other families, who started their adoptive journey at the same time, bring their babies home.  I can’t imagine feeling any happier for them than I did (and do), because I intimately understood where they had been and how the struggles to expand your family can discourage even the most hopeful.  As we approached the anniversary of our approval, with no obvious progress, I found myself wondering what was wrong with us, what was wrong with me, what did birth parents not see in us that they saw in others.

Amazing, then, as we were contemplating having to renew all of our paperwork for another year, to have a job offer fall into my husband’s lap that we just could not refuse.  This was not out of thin air.  We had been open to relocation for quite some time, and my husband had even submitted his name for consideration on a four year international assignment in Santiago, Chile…one that ultimately fell through.  So my husband accepted this job offer, and we picked up and moved cross country so he could be a member of the start up team for a new office.  Our adoption file was placed on hold.  We settled in to life in the desert, sold our Tennessee home, and except for some truly precious friends we left behind, severed our ties to the Tennessee Valley.

It took me almost two years before I was able to tackle a home study again.  It is an arduous process, packed with lots of paperwork, interviews, and extremely personal questions.  It has to be that way…it should be that way…but it can feel really invasive.  After having been through it once, after having second guessed virtually every answer, every disclosure, every decision as we filled out the application, I was momentarily paralyzed at having to do it again.

My husband told me that the first time around, he felt like he was the one running point, pushing me to get everything completed and submitted, and though he knew I wanted to do it, he felt a little like he was dragging me along, and he wasn’t going to do that again.  If we were really going to do this, I had to run point this time.  I had to take the lead in getting the paperwork finished, scheduling the interviews, prepping our 7yo son for his interview, getting our house prepared, and basically moving the process along.  I think he wanted to make absolutely certain that I was in this 100%, and he was right to put the responsibility on me.  I needed that to get me moving, and here we are now, having completed the process once again…waiting for a child (or two) to add to our family.

And this time, we are doing it right.

My husband and I have had a lot of conversations about our experience in Tennessee.  He didn’t realize at the time how discouraged I was, in large part because I felt like the agency was not taking good care of us once our home study was complete.  I had sensed that our social worker (also the head of the agency) did not seem to have an aura of joy about her job.  She didn’t exhibit excitement about what she was doing.  She didn’t seem energetic or filled with an eagerness to find a match for us.  She didn’t seem excited to present us, and over the course of a year with them, our profile was viewed twice.  After all the hours spent making it as good as we possibly could, making sure it accurately represented our family, making sure it was well put together and error free, it seemed to languish on the shelf most of the year.  This is devastating to a family who has such high hopes that this (very expensive) process will culminate with a beautiful child to call our own.

He also didn’t realize that I had been feeling profound regret about some of the choices we made regarding the type of child we wished to have.  I made these decisions against my personal convictions, and I knew when I did so that I would regret them.  I hated myself for compromising what I believed was the right thing to do in the name of avoiding some really difficult conversations.  I’m no stranger to conflict.  I’ve dealt with it all of my life, but I have capitulated many times when I wished I had not (even though it was to keep – or make – peace), and here was yet another example of doing just that .  Again.

Not this time.

There were many, many conversations with friends and family over the course of our first home study.  We were grateful beyond words at the outpouring of support & love, at the willingness of those closest to us to provide references, and at their unabashed happiness for us as we pursued what was in our hearts.  So I was completely taken aback when I was cautioned:

  • to think long and hard before we decided to adopt a black child
  • to think long and hard before we decided to adopt a mixed race child if one of the birth parents was black
  • that adopting a black or mixed race child would be fraught with problems throughout our lives
  • that black people value their culture highly, and that would be cause for conflict and frustration in our family
  • that only white people adopt trans-racially and trans-culturally, because we don’t put as high a value on our own culture and traditions
  • that adopting a black or mixed race child would cause the child to have problems being accepted in both the black & white communities
  • that a black or mixed race child would have identity issues being raised in a white family
  • that a black or mixed race child may not be accepted by their own families
  • that people would talk about us having a black or mixed race child

AND:

  • to think long and hard before we decided to adopt a child with any special needs
  • that we would not know what we were getting into
  • that we would likely encounter more difficulty than we anticipated
  • that we needed to be very, very sure we wanted to take on those burdens

I was utterly unprepared with any answer to these cautions, especially the reservations voiced about race.  It NEVER OCCURRED to me until that moment to exclude certain racial or ethnic backgrounds when indicating the children for whom we wanted to be considered.  My husband and I had talked at length about what special needs and/or health problems we felt competent to handle, but the truth is, you never know how special needs and health issues will manifest themselves…until they do.  Adoption is no different from biology in that regard, and the only difference is that in an adoption, you can withdraw.  But if you have discussed it, and prayed about, and know that God has your back in all things…well…

We had also discussed all of the racial issues, and we had no racial concerns or exclusions…until some reservations were verbalized to us.  And I did what I have done some many times throughout my life…I made the decision that would not ruffle feathers, and I nearly choked on it.

Not this time.

If you attended church when you were a child, or have attended regularly with your own children, you are probably familiar with this little song:

Jesus loves the little children,
All the children of the world.
Red or yellow, black or white,
All are precious in His sight,
Jesus loves the little children of the world.

I was reminded of that song as we started our current home study, because “red or yellow, black or white,” all are precious in MY sight, too.  I do not care what color my child is, what race my child is, what ethnicity my child is, or what culture my child is.  I want my family to reflect the body of Christ, and that means actively seeking not to exclude certain of those whom God may entrust us to raise, but rather to be willing and open to whomever God brings into our family.  I can’t do it any other way.  I am compelled as we go on this journey to make decisions I believe are right in the eyes of God.  I believe that includes making practical decisions regarding the health and safety of our biological son.  I also believe it means cleaving to our convictions, and if it ruffles feathers…well, we are prepared for that.

I’ll leave you with one final thought.  We had a discussion with our son a few months ago about what kind of child he might want for a brother or sister.  After telling us he wanted a big brother, a little brother, a big sister, and a little sister, we had the following exchange:

Mom:  What color brother or sister would you like?  (I was teasing, because he’s as likely to say green or orange as any other color)
Dad:  What about green?
Son:  No Daddy!
Mom:  So what color would you like?
Son:  Like us.  You know, human color.
Mom:  Well, what if we get a brother or sister that is the color of D____? (a black/Hispanic kid at school).
Son:  Mommy, D_____ is not a color, he’s a boy!!

What a perfect response from a child who sees people, not colors.  May God continue to keep his heart that pure and unencumbered with prejudice.

Thank you for reading my heart.  Please, pray for us as we pursue adoption once again.  Your prayers are a life raft for us during this journey.