Our Discipline Chart

There’s this funny thing that happens when friends come to our house for the first time. Often they take out their phones to snap a picture of a piece of paper I have posted in various places throughout the house. That paper is our discipline chart.

There’s nothing magical or pretty about it. When our two newest were placed with us, we wanted a visual for us and our kids to help everyone know discipline that would be given when needed. It was also helpful to show this to their case worker to make sure she approved of our methods.

DisciplineThe first two levels on our chart are far less about consequences than about helping the child regain focus. Oftentimes when a kid is acting out, they simply need to sit somewhere quietly to take a break, or oppositely, they need to burn some excess energy. So we tend to start here, especially in cases of self-control. Many times, that’s all that’s needed to get him back on track.

Journaling is listed on most of them, though that makes me smirk because we’ve actually required our kids to do it maybe twice. Don’t be jealous of our consistency. We do like the concept, though, so we keep it on the sheet in hopes that someday-maybe we’ll be good parents. The idea is to have them copy a passage of scripture and answer simple questions to be grounded in truth about the heart issue they’re struggling with.

As far as the other levels:

  • Loss of privilege is simply what it sounds like–not being able to do something you would normally have done. This could be watching a movie with the family, going to a special event, etc, for a short period of time.
  • If our kids have finished all their work for the day, they get 30 minutes of screen time. Which can also be taken away.
  • After dinner, kids who have eaten well get a small treat. Regardless of eating habits, though, we’ll snatch that cookie right out of your mouth if needed.
  • On top of daily chores, our kids can opt to do a paid chore, usually involving cleaning or yard work. If they reach this level, we’ll give them extra unpaid chores: same chores but without the moolah.
  • We try to give our children friend time at least once a week. That can go, too.
  • They can lose a toy, one they love, for a longer stretch of time or, in extreme circumstances, permanently.
  • Community service is hours determined by us to do work around the house/neighborhood. Seems fun at first, then the hatin’ it happens.

We certainly don’t use this list as a dogmatic form for parenting but more as a bucket list of ideas to use alongside belittling and yelling at them gospel instruction. Sometimes we skip straight to a lower level, sometimes we combine a few. Most things in life are gray, and what helps motivate a child once may not work again.

The Spirit is the one who changes hearts, not you and not me. Our ultimate goal with discipline should never be to “force a child to behave how you want them to.” Rather it should be a tool to teach them the folly of sin and point them to the only one who never disobeyed. And if you’re good at that, you can guest blog for us, cause we most certainly aren’t.

Read-Aloud Review: A Long Walk to Water

41owpj9m5ul-_sy346_A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park

From Amazon: The New York Times bestseller A Long Walk to Water begins as two stories, told in alternating sections, about two eleven-year-olds in Sudan, a girl in 2008 and a boy in 1985. The girl, Nya, is fetching water from a pond that is two hours’ walk from her home: she makes two trips to the pond every day. The boy, Salva, becomes one of the “lost boys” of Sudan, refugees who cover the African continent on foot as they search for their families and for a safe place to stay. Enduring every hardship from loneliness to attack by armed rebels to contact with killer lions and crocodiles, Salva is a survivor…

Our oldest daughter, Ariana, got this book quite a long time ago from the Indy Children’s Museum, after which she tore through it and asked us to read it, too. After putting it off for way too long, we recently read this together as a family. The book is 133 pages and we read it in three days.

Yep. Three days.

I was surprised by how compelling the story was, even though it was somewhat fictionalized by Park. But I know enough to know that it was true to Salva Dut’s story and many of the other Lost Boys of Sudan. And so I was glad to read it as a family and get totally wrapped up in the story. They loved it so much that every time I’d finish a chapter, one or more of the kids (and sometimes Courtney, too!) would ask me to read another chapter. And then another. And then another.

The main reason I wanted to read this story was to give my kids a glimpse of what life is like in places where the resources are shy of our very rich country. It certainly did that. But it was far more. Because it was about loss, suffering, perseverance, compassion, and the fragility of life.

And, as the mark of any book I love, I balled like fourteen times in reading it to the kids.

What I Really Liked: I enjoyed giving the kids a vivid picture of life in a very different culture and setting. I also liked that the book didn’t shy away from the horrors Salva faced in many years, though it wasn’t grotesque about it either. I appreciated how the book got to see examples of both noble and ignoble characters, and even weaknesses and frailty in the protagonist. It was a very human story, where the perils of war and hunger are the crucible through which temptations are faced, sometimes well and sometimes not. And I was grateful that the book led into many other conversations, especially as we learned more about Sudan through different resources (more on that below).

What I Didn’t Like: Of course, it’s not a Christian book and I didn’t expect it to be, but the main character wonders many times how he could be so “lucky” and I kept reminding the kids that it wasn’t luck, but God’s kindness. And as I mentioned above, the author admits that some parts of the story were fictionalized, which was a little confusing when I had to explain that most of the book was real, but not necessarily all of it.

The Bottom Line: This is a great book that not only displays depth of character and perseverance through adversity, but also gives an honest and important glimpse into the plight of much of the globe. It’s a great story. Good for all ages, though our tender-hearted five-year-old struggled with the sad parts.

Discussion:

  • How is life in Sudan like yours? How is it different?
  • How do you think you would have responded if you were in Salva’s place?
  • Can you imagine being excited to get to go to school? Can you imagine what life would be like where you need to work all day just to survive?
  • What did you think about the Uncle’s words to just focus on the next goal? Why did he tell Salva that? Does that sound anything like “Don’t worry about tomorrow”?
  • When they were traveling through the desert and saw the group lying there, how did the people in Salva’s group respond? Why did some not want to help? Why did others help them? Does Jesus call us to give only after we make sure we have enough or do we give even if it might endanger us?
  • What are the many ways that God the Father protected Salva through his life?
  • Do you ever feel like Salva? Do you ever feel like things are too hard to keep going? What do you do when that happens?
  • How did Uncle Jewiir remind you of Jesus?
  • Is Jesus with you, even if you have to face terrible circumstances like Salva? How does this story remind you to give thanks to God for what you have? How is Jesus the only hope for Sudan?

Additional Resources

Adoption Series Roll-Up

Now that we’ve spent seven months (WHAT!?!?) opening up our hearts and convictions regarding adoption, we’re ready to get back to what this blog is all about: raising our kids in Jesus. That, of course, includes adoption, but that’s clearly not the totality of it nor is that all we care about discussing on this blog.

So since we’re done posting on adoption for the time being, we wanted to provide a roll-up of the posts we wrote on the topic to sort of wrap everything up. Our hope in this series has been to be incredibly open of the many struggles we’ve faced in our own adoption story without cleaning it up or trying to make it look pretty when it’s painful. And more, we want all of us to see our story of adoption and the resources available to adoptive parents inside God’s grand gospel story of a crucified and risen king.

Here are all the posts in our adoption series:

  1. Getting Real About Adoption
  2. Loving the Unlovable
  3. Sin in the Adopted Child
  4. Support for the Adoptive Parent
  5. Broken-Hearted Parents
  6. Some Clarifying Thoughts on Our Adoption
  7. Examining Adoption Resources (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 1)
  8. Normal and Healthy? (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 2)
  9. A Matter of Foundations (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 3)
  10. The Sins of Neurology  (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 4)
  11. Idol Swapping  (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 5)
  12. Setting the Course  (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 6)
  13. Another Way Forward (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 7)
  14. The Therapy Our Children Need
  15. Who Are You Calling Normal?
  16. Optional Adoption
  17. How to Adopt for Almost Free (And No Fundraising!)
  18. What About “Those” Kids?
  19. Trying to Make Them Lovable

Trying to Make Them Lovable

We’ve addressed many topics in our adoption series. We’ve been raw on here, slicing our hearts wide open in order to expose our weakness with the hopes of exposing Christ’s power. And it’s been painful–painful to say it all in such a public manner, painful to be rejected by those who disagree, and painful to have more and more layers pulled back in my own heart.

In the final post of this series, I want to write about my latest reflections, several months after typing my first words on the topic.

The second post of the series was titled “Loving the Unlovable.” Every adoption resource we’ve seen out there seems to have a mutual goal in mind–to make adoption easier by helping you see your children as lovable. This is done mainly by helping you understand how your child thinks so you sympathize with them. The conclusions they draw almost always end with “proving” how their reactions to situations aren’t their fault: it’s a brain disconnect because of their past.

And when parents like me–who know the truth of Scripture and are shocked when I see what a struggle it is to love a child from hard places–hear this, I think, “Thank goodness!!! That makes them far easier to love now that I see them as innocent.” And I cling to words like that because I have my answer and feel so much better.

But this makes a whore of the adoption story of Scripture: “For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.(Rom 5:10-11)” God doesn’t adopt us as his children because we were good enough or we somehow convinced him we were. No, we’re adopted while still his enemies, dead in our trespasses and sins.

He didn’t first say, “Well, she’s just a child, so sweet and innocent,” or “She can’t really help it because she’s been harmed in the past,” or “She doesn’t know any better” first so he could have the ability to love me. He said, “You’re my enemy, and you know it. There’s nothing good in you. Nothing. You don’t even want me to save you. And I’m going to show my great mercy by saving you anyway, giving you life and love you’ve never deserved. And I’m going to make you my child, because my love for you has nothing to do with how much you deserve it, but everything to do with how covered you are by the blood of my one and only Son. You’ll take my name, and when you do, you’ll be able to love people who are even as bad as you.”

I know this last story personally, though not deeply enough. And it makes me tear up to know how hard we work to try to make our children look lovable instead of how hard we work to reflect on the truth from the last paragraph. The former feels so much easier because none of us know the truth deeply enough. We all believe we’re more lovable on our own than we are. We believe we were loved by Christ because of how lovable we are. We forget that we “were dead in our trespasses and sins”. We forget that there was “no one righteous, not even one”. We forget that “every inclination of the thoughts of our heart was only evil all the time”. When we see absolute depravity in our kids from hard backgrounds, we can’t accept that we’re that awful, that we were loved when we were in that stage. So we can’t love others either, unless they first look more lovable.

The things that happened to my children aren’t their fault, but the way they respond is. The same is true for you and me and anyone else in the world. They have no more good in them than I do. And it was when I was this evil that God in human flesh gave his life for me and adopted me as his own. Even when we display more and more grace to children in situations of correction and guidance, their responses are still their responsibility and will be judged by a holy God.

Adoption is the central point of the gospel, because it’s where we find ourselves a new family, a new hope, and a new inheritance. Our new family redefines our future and sets a new course for our lives. In adopting children, we take them in with all their sin and unloveliness and problems and trauma and issues. Sometimes we even take them in as enemies, pitting themselves against us in rebellion and anger. They’re not lovely–they’re a mess. Just like we were. Just like we still are, save for the righteousness of God we are in Jesus. The kids we adopt are no different than our biological children–they’re born in iniquity, without hope and without God in the world. They’re just like us. No amount of rationalizing or psychologizing or normalizing can change that.

Through the past few months, this is the hardest pill I’ve had to swallow, and yet the most freeing. My “unlovable” children are nothing more than a mirror to own unloveableness. And I don’t want to see that ugliness in me any more than I want to see it in my children.

But the good news of Jesus tells a better story. It gives a better answer to our dilemma. The answer to loving the unlovable is still to know that “we are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.”

Here are all the posts in our adoption series:

  1. Getting Real About Adoption
  2. Loving the Unlovable
  3. Sin in the Adopted Child
  4. Support for the Adoptive Parent
  5. Broken-Hearted Parents
  6. Some Clarifying Thoughts on Our Adoption
  7. Examining Adoption Resources (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 1)
  8. Normal and Healthy? (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 2)
  9. A Matter of Foundations (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 3)
  10. The Sins of Neurology  (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 4)
  11. Idol Swapping  (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 5)
  12. Setting the Course  (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 6)
  13. Another Way Forward (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 7)
  14. The Therapy Our Children Need
  15. Who Are You Calling Normal?
  16. Optional Adoption
  17. How to Adopt for Almost Free (And No Fundraising!)
  18. What About “Those” Kids?
  19. Trying to Make Them Lovable

What About “Those” Kids?

Rules, rules, rules. So many rules in this world. Some good, some bad. Some God-given, some man-made. They’re everywhere, including in the adoption world.

I’m sure you’ve heard many of them. Don’t adopt out of birth order: it might confuse the children already in your home. Don’t adopt older kids especially: it’s too easy for them to overpower your younger kids. And don’t ever, EVER, bring a child in your home who has had any kind of sexual abuse if you have other children: because gaaaaaah!!

I truly understand the rules from the world’s view. They all make total sense. From a biblical view, though, I can’t make heads or tails of it.

We’re called to father (or mother) the fatherless (or motherless). And just like other parts of Scripture where we’re called to love our enemies or become all things for ALL people or take the word to the nations, there aren’t “buts” after those commands. So it doesn’t say “father the fatherless, but not if they’re older than your kids or a little too broken.”

This is a tough topic. I know it. I especially know it because we had to deal with all the questions in our last adoption. And we ultimately decided to break all the “rules.”

It scared the crap out of me. And that fear is still there in my heart daily.

But it scares me because I’m a faithless child. I think my children’s future somehow has something to do with me. I wait for God to curse me when I do something like this, listening to whispers that I somehow tested him. And it will all be my fault because I acted as a fool!

But then I remember there are no “buts.” And I know this was the door opened for us, the one God designed before the foundation of the world. And contrary to God cursing us, not opening the door would have meant many blessings we would have missed.

I look at my child, at the haunted looks she still has in her eyes, and sometimes, if I look closely enough, I see a spark of life break through. I see her do something kind for a sibling or run to help with something. I see the love she and all her siblings have for each other, how the family feels incomplete if one isn’t there.

I see her grow in her understanding of who Jesus is. A little girl scared of monsters in the beginning, telling us God isn’t big enough to make them go away, seeing more each day that God already defeated the biggest monster there will ever be. And even while she’s still rejecting that Jesus in her heart, I know she’s seeing him in bigger and more real ways than she ever was before.

And I think about what her life might have been. Don’t mis-hear. WE are failing all the freaking time. She’s not blessed because she now has rock star parents. She’s blessed because she’s where God intends her to be. Maybe she would have been in a better home if we hadn’t said yes. But maybe she wouldn’t be. Maybe she’d still be in the system and no one would want her. I’ll never know the maybes. I only know I was supposed to say “yes.”

And I don’t know how to say “no” to one child’s soul for the sake of some possible future physical “safety” issue of my other children. I don’t know how to confidently make a future prediction that my children will turn out in any way no matter the decisions we make here. There are the Josh Duggars who were “raised right and safely,” and there are those who experienced unbelievable tragedies who have beautiful stories of redemption. Sometimes we dress up pragmatism and call it wisdom when it’s really just fear and faithlessness.

Have things changed for us? Absolutely. I have a much more keen eye. I have fewer freedoms. We have the “yell and tell” conversation more often than most families. We have “safeties” in place. We have some rules set up in our home that most families wouldn’t probably have.

And we’re also growing to understand we just can’t control every single thing. That’s still the hardest lesson for me, and I hope to say yes over and over to keep learning it. A life I control less suddenly makes God way bigger in my eyes. I get to watch him be sovereign over my family. I get to see him as a good God who loves and protects all my children way better than I can. I get to see there are things more important than physical safety. I get a bigger faith.

It’s important to say that there’s no intent here to say every single person should say yes to every single child coming into their home. We’re not there yet either! My challenge for you (and me!) is to simply have a bigger faith, to get out of your comfort zone, and to trust God’s design.

Here are all the posts in our adoption series:

  1. Getting Real About Adoption
  2. Loving the Unlovable
  3. Sin in the Adopted Child
  4. Support for the Adoptive Parent
  5. Broken-Hearted Parents
  6. Some Clarifying Thoughts on Our Adoption
  7. Examining Adoption Resources (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 1)
  8. Normal and Healthy? (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 2)
  9. A Matter of Foundations (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 3)
  10. The Sins of Neurology  (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 4)
  11. Idol Swapping  (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 5)
  12. Setting the Course  (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 6)
  13. Another Way Forward (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 7)
  14. The Therapy Our Children Need
  15. Who Are You Calling Normal?
  16. Optional Adoption
  17. How to Adopt for Almost Free (And No Fundraising!)
  18. What About “Those” Kids?
  19. Trying to Make Them Lovable

How to Adopt for Almost Free (And No Fundraising!)

When we first started talking adoption, most of our adoptive friends had adopted internationally, meaning it had cost them somewhere around $30,000. We didn’t have that kind of money and didn’t look forward to the prospect of raising those funds. So we assumed it would be several years before we could actually do anything.

Then a friend let me know about the Special Needs Adoption Program (SNAP). (We’re giving details about how this program works in Indiana, though we understand that most states are similar.) This is a program through Child Services that helps find a forever home for children considered “hard to place.” Some categories are sibling groups, children with disabilities, or children over the age of three. The parental rights of the parents have already been revoked, so their placement with you means you will be working towards adoption. And there’s no limit to the amount of children you can have in your home!

The process was fairly simple. We took four classes within a month, filled out a load of paperwork, got fingerprinted, got CPR/First Aid certified (optional but preferred), and had a home study. Once the home study was complete, we waited about a month to hear we had been approved. The whole process start to finish was four months for us.

At that point we were free to inquire after children on the Adopt US Kids site (and here’s the listing for Indiana’s SNAP kids). The inquiry would go most often to the child’s case worker. The case worker then is required to send the child’s case summary to you. This is huge, because you’ll get to see exactly what the child’s history is–the reason they were removed from their home, any problems the child has had (mentally, physically, socially, and developmentally), any medications and therapies they receive, and pretty much anything else you’d want to know.

After you’ve read the report and if you think this child would be a good fit for you, you would email the case worker back to let them know you want to be considered as the child’s parents. The case worker and a team look at your home study and decide if you might be a good match. They usually like to have 3-5 families to consider. If you’re chosen as one of them, you’ll be called in for an interview along with the other families being considered. At some point after that, you’ll either find out you were or weren’t chosen as the child’s family, or you may be called for additional interviews.

Once you’ve been matched, there’s ideally a month-long transition period into your home. You meet the child by yourself in a neutral spot, then maybe another time with your other children, then maybe you have an outing together, then a sleepover until finally they move in with you. This period is really intended for you and the case worker to evaluate if you still want to move forward. Though you can technically back out at any point before the adoption is finalized, this is not something you should see as an option after the initial month since you would only be making things more difficult for the child.

Once they live with you and you file to adopt them, it typically takes around six months for the adoption to be finalized. Compared to most adoptions, the whole process is crazy fast.

This is the way things are intended to go, but of course we live in a messy world, so things rarely turn out that way. There are so many different situations with each adoption. For instance it was just short of a year before our first adoption was finalized, and they moved in with us the day we met them because of some extreme circumstances–important to note we had a choice in that matter.

Along with this being a faster process, it’s also almost free! Classes and homestudy cost nothing. You pay for fingerprinting and CPR/First Aid classes. If you don’t have five children in your home, though, they’ll probably try to encourage you to foster first. Absolutely not required but a great role. You can even foster to adopt, meaning they’ll place children with you who are likely to become available for adoption. In that instance, Child Services even pays for your fingerprinting and CPR/First Aid (required for foster parents).

Most people know there’s a monthly per diem for foster-certified families. BUT after the adoption is finalized, most SNAP children qualify for adoption subsidy, a monthly allowance for the parents until the child turns 18. It’s usually just a bit less than the foster care per diem. The child can also always have Medicaid and can go to any state college for free. Huge blessings!

I share this info with you mainly because I find most people have NO IDEA about this program, and I have many friends who, like we did, feel as though adoption is out of their reach financially or think it will be years before they’re matched with someone. God truly has placed those of us living in the US in a unique position to open our homes over and over to the orphans in our country.

Here are all the posts in our adoption series:

  1. Getting Real About Adoption
  2. Loving the Unlovable
  3. Sin in the Adopted Child
  4. Support for the Adoptive Parent
  5. Broken-Hearted Parents
  6. Some Clarifying Thoughts on Our Adoption
  7. Examining Adoption Resources (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 1)
  8. Normal and Healthy? (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 2)
  9. A Matter of Foundations (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 3)
  10. The Sins of Neurology  (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 4)
  11. Idol Swapping  (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 5)
  12. Setting the Course  (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 6)
  13. Another Way Forward (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 7)
  14. The Therapy Our Children Need
  15. Who Are You Calling Normal?
  16. Optional Adoption
  17. How to Adopt for Almost Free (And No Fundraising!)
  18. What About “Those” Kids?
  19. Trying to Make Them Lovable

Optional Adoption

So far, we’ve spoken much about adoption as a support to those we know who have adopted or are considering it already. We expect that there are others reading this, but so far, we’ve not said much about them. You might be surprised how often we hear comments like, “It’s so great that you all adopted those kids” or “I can’t imagine ever doing anything like adopting” or “You all are so brave to adopt”.

I promise you it didn’t feel like bravery to us. Around the time we were in the thick of the adoption process, Bill read a book called Rich in Love: When God Rescues Messy People about a family who had birthed/fostered/adopted 32 children. This part stuck out in particular:

People have asked how we could have made such serious decisions about children so quickly over the phone, without praying about whether we should let more kids come into our home. When God says, “Don’t murder or steal,” I don’t have to pray about whether I should be involved in those things, because I already know his will. In the same way, God says in his Word that we should take care of the widows and orphans. I don’t have to pray to know if this is his will because he already told me it is. He wants us to do it. Period. And Domingo and I felt that as long as God kept bringing us kids, and we had room, we would keep taking them in.

It was never about bravery, just obedience.

“Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.”(Isaiah 1:17)

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says… Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:22, 27)

So why did our churches so blindly keep ignoring the weak and needy, the orphans and widows? Why were we ignoring them? Why are you?

You know why: Your life is hard. You have small children. You both work. You’re can’t afford it.* You’re already dealing with special needs in your family. You don’t have your crap together. You’re unorganized, impatient, sick, disabled, anxious. Maybe you even just adopted.

And yet if any of you, in the same situation you’re in now, saw a child you didn’t know about to be hit by a car, none of those things would hinder you making your best effort to barrel the child out of the way to save their life. You wouldn’t pray about it first, ask your friends, read a book, have a long meeting with your spouse, research on the internet. You would run straight into traffic, not caring how much it might hurt you.

But when we have time to think, we become a faithless people.

Most of you who read this blog live in North America. That most likely puts you in the 1% bracket of the wealthiest people in the world. But with most wealth comes the most entitlement. We’re so wealthy we whine when we get paper-cuts and recheck our finger a dozen times throughout the day to see the wound again and feel sorry for ourselves. We don’t have to do the hungry thing, the exposed-to-elements thing, and we don’t have to do the “my child was just beheaded by ISIS” thing.

Many of you have truly suffered. Honestly, you’re probably the ones who are most likely to do bold stuff like adopting and fostering and opening homes to the dirty and unwanted. But the rest of us? We’re just running scared, worshiping ease and comfort, completely acting as though we have never heard a word Jesus said. We think this life is it, and we’ll ignore whoever we have to, like widows and orphans, in order to make it great.

“We must go through many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22b)

I’m sure my frustration is coming through my writing. I’m frustrated that I’m with you in your hesitancy. We keep talking about whether or not to adopt again–and it sounds impossible. My life has been so out-of-control since adopting the first time. One of my children doesn’t really care for me at all and acts as though her life goal is to defy me. I don’t get breaks anymore because I have to keep such a close watch to protect all of them. I never have a clue what I’m doing and fear constantly. I’ve been more anxious than ever. And all I can ever do–ever–is see what a failure I am. Please, God, don’t ask me to do this again!

But He already has. In His Word. And who am I to say no to the creator of everything, the salvation of my undeserving soul, the only one worthy to be glorified, the one who has faithfully promised to work out everything for my good even though I was once his enemy?

How could we adopt again? How could we adopt in the first place? Because he adopted me. The way my life is affected is irrelevant.

I have nothing to say about what your story should look like. God wrote each of our stories to be different. Maybe you should adopt over and over for the rest of your life until you die, maybe you should only adopt once, maybe you shouldn’t adopt at all. Maybe you should foster. Maybe you should open your home to the lonely kid who always seems a little hungry and a little smelly.

Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum you probably should allow yourself to be pushed far past what you’re thinking right now. Certainly not because I’m telling you to. I’m simply trying to remind you of the hard truth I’d rather ignore, too.

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says… Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:22, 27)

*We have a post coming on how to adopt basically for free.

Here are all the posts in our adoption series:

  1. Getting Real About Adoption
  2. Loving the Unlovable
  3. Sin in the Adopted Child
  4. Support for the Adoptive Parent
  5. Broken-Hearted Parents
  6. Some Clarifying Thoughts on Our Adoption
  7. Examining Adoption Resources (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 1)
  8. Normal and Healthy? (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 2)
  9. A Matter of Foundations (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 3)
  10. The Sins of Neurology  (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 4)
  11. Idol Swapping  (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 5)
  12. Setting the Course  (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 6)
  13. Another Way Forward (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 7)
  14. The Therapy Our Children Need
  15. Who Are You Calling Normal?
  16. Optional Adoption
  17. How to Adopt for Almost Free (And No Fundraising!)
  18. What About “Those” Kids?
  19. Trying to Make Them Lovable

Who Are You Calling Normal?

When Bill was trying to establish that the idea of healthy and normal change across time and culture, one argument we heard in response was that adopted children’s behavior is most certainly not normal, but sometimes downright odd. At first I agreed, though for different reasons. The more I reflected on this statement, the more I realized how backwards it is.

When children come into our home showing sinful behaviors, they are as normal as you can get. “As it is written: None is righteous, no, not one.” What’s abnormal is when I or any of my children actually do the right thing for the right reasons. And as parents, aren’t we working from birth to get our children to do the right things all the time? And when we do that, often even when our children do “good,” it’s tainted with selfishness. “I’ll do this so I don’t get in trouble, so I can charm others into liking me, so I can get what I want.” So we get pretty used to seeing kids do “good works,” even if they aren’t really good.

Many adopted children don’t come in with that same training from birth. So many don’t even put on the act. And to call that normal would be to admit that we’re just as messed up as they are. And that’s far too uncomfortable of a thought.

I know the gospel. I was raised in it and have had solid biblical teaching all my life. And even with that, most of the time when I do “good,” it’s for the same selfish reasons I listed above. We all live in our flesh (which biblically speaking is simply another way to say we all still have a sinful nature). The only possible way to actually do the right thing with no selfish motives, only concerned about God’s glory, is by the work of the Spirit. Only by grace.

If we have a family who looks put together, loves one another, and is fairly obedient, that is certainly not normal. That’s either grace or an act.

When our adopted kids came in, I despised them because they messed up my idolatry of having a normal family. I liked how awesome we looked. Then they came and peeled back the happy brochure to show the golden calf underneath. And I was angry because the act we’d been putting on became exposed.

I’ve trained my children to look like white washed tombs. It’s easy for me to see the sin in my adopted kids and believe they need Jesus more because I’ve made my other kids think their lifestyle has made them righteous. I speak of Jesus to them but put hope in my amazing parenting and how they receive it. I treat the children who don’t act like the rest of us (ya know, the adopted ones) as though they don’t belong. I can’t stand thinking they reflect my depravity more than any of my bio kids do. I refuse to believe they’re serving as a mirror for me.

But the insane behaviors I see in my adopted children are more normal than much else I see in my home. Because it’s the true nature of my heart, of Bill’s heart, of all my children’s heart. We’re all 100% depraved and evil. All the thoughts of our hearts are only sinful all the time. The Pharisee I love to be doesn’t really believe that. I think I’m a little bad but mainly good. I deny I’m really an old hag by singing a song in the presence of a magical golden flower. I see the best part of me–the illusion–and believe it’s true of all of me.

tangled-11 (1)

My hope is to see this clearly, to peel off the mask I paste on my face, to let the world see how normal we all are in our waywardness. My hope is to look with tears of joy at the One who is truly odd, the weirdest of them all–the perfect Savior who took my imperfections on himself, allowing the wrath I deserve to be poured out on him. I don’t want to be normal. I don’t want my kids to be normal. I want the life of our unusual, exceptional, unmatchable Redeemer, who is calling us into His abnormal life.

Here are all the posts in our adoption series:

  1. Getting Real About Adoption
  2. Loving the Unlovable
  3. Sin in the Adopted Child
  4. Support for the Adoptive Parent
  5. Broken-Hearted Parents
  6. Some Clarifying Thoughts on Our Adoption
  7. Examining Adoption Resources (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 1)
  8. Normal and Healthy? (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 2)
  9. A Matter of Foundations (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 3)
  10. The Sins of Neurology  (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 4)
  11. Idol Swapping  (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 5)
  12. Setting the Course  (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 6)
  13. Another Way Forward (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 7)
  14. The Therapy Our Children Need
  15. Who Are You Calling Normal?
  16. Optional Adoption
  17. How to Adopt for Almost Free (And No Fundraising!)
  18. What About “Those” Kids?
  19. Trying to Make Them Lovable

The Therapy Our Children Need

Like most kids from foster care, our adopted children had encountered some terrible events that put them into the state’s care in the first place. And the state, seeing a problem, prescribed therapy to treat the horrible things in their past. My then six-year-old was already set up with two therapists to help her understand/deal with her emotions. I cannot tell you how important the therapists were to our family. They each became my friend, someone I trusted, and basically my resource for all things adoption-related.

Much of my daughter’s therapy sessions were spent trying to make her feel great about herself, having her record all the things she was good at, talk about her awesome features, giving herself much praise. But almost every time the therapists left after a session, I found myself revising some of what my daughter had been taught.

I say I revised what she was taught because I agree that my daughter’s a pretty cool gal. She’s great at coloring, running, has some of the most beautiful eyes in the history of ever, and gets along well with her siblings.

But none of that is because of her. In fact, all of that is because of God working in her.

The therapy she was receiving was one of a cheap worth, putting our hope in us. That’s fine for about two minutes. Until we fail. Again. Then our hope is crushed. It’s like putting your hope in a chair made of crackers. Every time you trust it to hold you up, you’ll just find yourself hurt lying on the floor.

The therapy our children need is a hope better than a reinforced steel chair: solid and strong and sure. The hope is this: “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved,through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

If my daughter puts her hope in her own accomplishments, she’ll find herself falling short every time. It’s a treatment that won’t last. But if her hope is in Christ’s work, she’ll understand she’s a daughter of the king, a princess who is higher than the angels, receiving God’s inheritance. She’ll not care as much about her failures because she’ll know Jesus was perfect in all the ways she’s imperfect, and his blood covers her imperfections in such a way that nothing will be able to separate her from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

Now that’s a therapy that’ll last.

Here are all the posts in our adoption series:

  1. Getting Real About Adoption
  2. Loving the Unlovable
  3. Sin in the Adopted Child
  4. Support for the Adoptive Parent
  5. Broken-Hearted Parents
  6. Some Clarifying Thoughts on Our Adoption
  7. Examining Adoption Resources (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 1)
  8. Normal and Healthy? (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 2)
  9. A Matter of Foundations (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 3)
  10. The Sins of Neurology  (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 4)
  11. Idol Swapping  (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 5)
  12. Setting the Course  (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 6)
  13. Another Way Forward (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 7)
  14. The Therapy Our Children Need
  15. Who Are You Calling Normal?
  16. Optional Adoption
  17. How to Adopt for Almost Free (And No Fundraising!)
  18. What About “Those” Kids?
  19. Trying to Make Them Lovable

Kidisms

After my hair appointment:

Ariana: Did they color your hair?

Victoria: Wait, they have markers there?!

Music to our ears?

Victoria singing a made up tune: My mommy and daddy said when they die I can do whatever I want except disobey.

Nailed it!

Josiah: I didn’t put my pants on backwards! I just put my wegs in the wrong holes.

Brilliant new drink:

Victoria: What does Dr. Pepper salt taste like?

On school:

Miriam: Am I able to do [math] drills on my own?

Court: Um, no.

Miriam: (grinning) Oh. Right. Because I’m untrustworthy.

Probably Smith…:

Victoria: What’s the Johnsons’ last name?

Stop Growing Up!:

Court: Will you please stay four forever? Please?

Victoria: Yep! But on my birthday I’ll turn five.

It’s all in the DNA:

Bill (to Court): Victoria has your eyes but Josiah has mine.

Josiah: No! Dese are MY eyes!!

I’m a few hours older:

Court: There’s another Courtney Bell in Indiana who was born the exact same day I was!

Ariana: Is she the same age as you?!

You’ll never find them:

Victoria: Guess where my flip flops are! But don’t look under my chair!

Ariana: I’m guessing they’re under your chair.

Victoria (bemused): Oh…

So big:

Aiden: (holding up four fingers) Look! I’m three!

Court: (holding up four fingers) Count again. How old are you?

Aiden: Five?

Just borrowing:

Court: Why do you have that? Isn’t that Victoria’s?

Ariana: (grinning slyly) Because she’s asleep…

When I was a bit under the weather:

Ariana: Say “Get better!”

Josiah: (looking at a toy) Get better!

Ariana: No, say, “Get better” to Mommy.

Josiah: (still looking at toy) Get better to Mommy!