Three Things to Say to a Conspicuous Family

As I’ve mentioned before, because I chose to adopt transracially, I am part of a conspicuous family.  As such, I have read many, many articles and blog posts about “what not to say to adoptive families.”  I want to add my two cents, but since I am a kindergarten teacher, it is hard for me to make a list of things NOT to do.  That sounds so negative, don’t you think?

And so I give you…

Three Things to Say to a Conspicuous Family:

  1. “Hi, I’m _________.”  This one is my favorite.  I think it’s a great test of motive.  Would you normally introduce yourself in this situation?  Standing behind us in the grocery line?  No.  Watching our kids play together at the park?  Maybe.  Introduced by a mutual friend?  Yes.
  1. “Your daughter is so kind/helpful/(insert other adjective that describes your genuine observation here).”  Everyone wants to hear this about their kid, right?  So if you’ve seen something great that she’s done, by all means, tell me about it.  Cute is the wild card here.  If you have a relationship with my daughter, by all means, tell her (and me) how beautiful she is.  If you are a stranger telling me how cute my daughter is, when you say “cute,” I hear “different.”
  1. “I’m really interested in adoption.  Can I ask you a question?”  Yes, yes you can.  Obviously, it helps if we already know each other, but I am so passionate about adoption that I am not above discussing it with strangers when it’s approached in this way.  Ask away.  Just know that while I am more than happy to share my experiences, the details of my daughter’s story are hers to share when and with whom she chooses.

Honestly, common sense wins the day (doesn’t it always?).  Usually in public, a smile will do just fine.  And if we’re friends, there’s no need to walk on eggshells.  Relationship trumps etiquette.  And I will tell you if you say something crazy, I promise.

Are you part of a conspicuous family?  What would you add?

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On the Fight

Today, I am grateful for the closing prayer.

It’s only in retrospect that it all came together for me.

The word was good.

Don’t be afraid.

Remember the Lord.

And fight.

The story was Nehemiah, rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem.

Posting a guard at the exposed places,

the vulnerable places.

Equipping them with the necessary weapons.

Exhorting them to fight for their families.

Anyone who knows me knows that I will fight for my family in one hot minute.

One. Hot. Minute.

It’s only in retrospect that I realized the exposed place,

the vulnerable place for me is foster care.

Am I willing to sift through the rubble and start the long, hard work of rebuilding?

Am I willing to fight for these babies’ families—with weapons that seek not to crush, but to restore?

Am I willing to rally the troops with a battle cry less “take no prisoners” and more “set the prisoners free?”

Can I tell you the truth?

This is hard.

Really, really hard.

But today, I know the God of Nehemiah.

Today, I choose to fight for family.

Even if it is not my own.

I choose to fight.

On my knees.

On Being Transformed

Don’t conform, Paul tells us in Romans 12.

Don’t fit in to fit in.  Don’t let the world shape you into its image.

We hear this word, and in all of our zealous evangelicalism, we think we know what must come next.

We will not conform.

We will reject.

We will stand out to stand out.

We will draw lines and build walls and start Facebook fights to keep the world out.

Out of our lives.  Out of our homes.  Out of our churches.

And yet,

Our call is not rejection, not wall-building, not (dare I say it?) Facebook-fighting.

Our call is to be transformed.

To allow ourselves to be fundamentally altered by Jesus.

To allow our minds to be renewed.

Renewal doesn’t always mean rejection.

Sometimes it means building bridges instead of burning them.

Transformation doesn’t necessarily mean standing out.  Sometimes it means standing in.

Sometimes it means sharing a story, meeting a practical need, or extending an invitation.

Often, I think, it means just listening.

Just being there in all your hot-mess-fundamentally-altered-by-Jesus self.

Without an agenda.

This week, friends, I am praying for transformation.

For fewer lines and more stories.

For fewer walls and more listening.

For less standing out and more standing in.

Torn

Today, my heart is torn.

Because I want to take the friendly texts and the tiny sprout in a paper cup and the candle covered in tissue paper and just be happy, darn it.

I do.

And yet,

My super-sweet newsfeed makes me want to throw up a little.

The thought of something called “mama mania” makes me want to crawl back under the covers.

You see, it’s on days like today,

Mother’s Day,

That my redemption longing echoes the loudest.

It throbs so violently in my heart that even though the words are supposed to be

Bless the Lord, O my soul

The only ones I can muster are

Come quickly, Lord Jesus.

You see, the reality of adoption that never makes the glossy brochures or the public service announcements is this…

The joy and the loss are tangled up together.  Always.

I get to watch my daughter practice gymnastics moves in the living room and listen to her read (so well!) and style her hair and teach her to be kind because someone else does not.

This is not lost on either of us.

Especially today.

The reality of foster care—behind all the myths and stereotypes is this…

You must learn, somehow, to hold the little ones entrusted to you both tightly and loosely.

You must love, must bond, must mother with all your heart, knowing all the while that your goal is to mother these little ones into another mama’s arms.

And so, today, we smile to your face and accept your enthusiastic wishes for a Happy Mother’s Day.  We know how to talk a good game.  All of us.

And then we come home and pile into the brown recliner—too small for all of us, really.  But today it feels just right.

And we snuggle for a long time without any words.

And then we speak the names of the other mamas.

And we water the tiny sprout in the paper cup.

And I try to memorize this moment with my heart– every last bit of it.

Because although, today, my heart is torn,

It is also full.

So, so very full.

Learning to Obey

“and teach them (the disciples you will make of all nations) to obey everything I have commanded you.”  –Matthew 28:20

So this morning, during the offering, a little boy—probably about 3 or 4, and undoubtedly coached by his parents beforehand about putting his coins into the offering plate—decided that he was not going down without a fight.  The plate came to him and he had a Vulcan death grip on his hard earned money.  Mom and Dad reminded him—gently at first, then with increasing levels of persuasion, of what he had promised to do, but he was not buying it.  I was trying not to stare (that could totally be my kid, so I have all kinds of empathy for his parents), but I’m pretty sure the episode ended with tiny fingers being pried open.  I know the little guy ended up unhappily on the floor.  I hope Jesus changes some lives with those grubby coins.

It was cute (only because it was not my kid, I know).  But the truth is, I am that kid.  And, if you’re honest, I bet you are too.

…teach them to obey.

To observe, look at, know intimately.

To think about intentionally.

To act upon deliberately.

I’m good with the knowing.  And the thinking.  It’s the acting upon that gets me every time.

The truth is, I’m still learning to obey.

Sometimes the metaphorical offering plate is passed and I put my coins in just like everybody else.  Sometimes I even do a little celebratory dance up to the front of the church to drop them in.  And sometimes, I hear the word and go all Vulcan death grip like my little friend.

Sometimes I cling with all my might to the last vestiges of what I think is mine and he has to pry my reluctant fingers off one by one.  And sometimes I even end up having a tantrum in the floor when it’s all said and done.

I believe that Jesus can change some lives with those grubby coins.  Or at least one.

Mine.

***

On the off chance that my little friend’s mama or daddy reads this, I just want to say that you are awesome.  I’m not sure if your little man learned the joy of obedience today, but I have no doubt that he is on the right track.