The number of children in foster care is astounding. There are some families who take their pro-life convictions so seriously, that they reach out to those who are without a loving household and bring them into theirs. This is consistent with what the Scripture describes in James 1:27:
"Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world."
Anne Leber is not your typical mother, nor is the Leber family your typical family. They are Kingdom-driven.
Jump on over to The Kingdom-Driven Family to listen to a podcast interview with Andrea Schwartz and Anne (a homeschooling mom) as she shares her journey of responding to the Lord’s call to rescue children, resulting in the adoption of eight children via foster care.
There is a title I worked months to earn, that I waited years to hear articulated. From the time I knew that we would gain a daughter from across the ocean, I prayed about it, pled for it, and then tried to lay down a foundation of security so that I might hear it spoken out loud, by her. What did I want so desperately to be called by my tiny beauty?
I knew I was her mama, but to hear that word loft from her lips as a sweet offering of acceptance and intimacy—it would be the culmination of so many dreams and prayers.
She spoke it for the first time about three months after her Adoption Day, mouth awkwardly maneuvering into position, trying to find her voice. Then at last: “Mmmaaammmaa.”
I was prepared for the joy, the elation, the relief I experienced with that sweet spoken word. At last! She knows I’m Mama. Do you know what I wasn’t ready for? The grief. Even now, when she looks at me with eyes full of trust and love that have been earned over many months, leans in close and whispers, “You’re my mama,” my heart contracts. It contracts with so much love and gratitude for the place to which we’ve come that I’m overwhelmed. Yet simultaneously . . . at the same exact moment . . . it squeezes with grief for the woman who originally bore that name. Right or wrong, my heart can’t help but whisper, “She should be saying this to her,” and I want to weep for this woman. I don’t at all feel guilty for being Lucy’s mother, but I ache because of the brokenness that made it necessary for me to be her mother.
The heartbreaking part of adoption is that in a perfect world, it would not exist. Families would stay together. Mothers would not be forced to leave their little ones behind. And so, we live in a constant state of dichotomy. With every milestone achieved, with each new display of affection or familiarity, we celebrate—and we mourn. We mourn for the one who would not, who could not remain in this priceless role of mother.
As our kids get older, they feel it, too. No matter what age a child is when adopted, there may always be an underlying sense of grief. Even infants adopted at birth can carry around a subconscious burden of loss that, in most cases, will somehow surface throughout life. They know they are special, they know they are chosen, they know they are loved, but they also know that their stories were birthed out of brokenness, and it hurts.
How do we—and our children—live with loss in a way that is redemptive instead of debilitating?
Disney attempted to answer this question in the surprisingly profound hit movie, Inside Out. The main characters of the film are the emotions of a little girl named Riley: Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Disgust. While trying to navigate a season of loss in Riley’s life, Joy realizes that Sadness is a crucial component of Riley’s emotional health. If Sadness is not recognized and embraced, Joy is superficial and forced.
How true this is! If we simply stuff, hide, or ignore the very real element of loss in our children’s stories, the joy we try to offer them will feel shallow. If we choose not to recognize our own hearts’ opposing contractions of happiness and sorrow as we grow in intimacy with our children, we will never fully appreciate the gifts that have sacrificially been given to us. To be human is to experience both emotions simultaneously and not deny either one access to our hearts.
So, we celebrate milestones. We cheer on bonding and trust, and then we weep for the very same things. We weep for our children. We weep with our children. We say, “I know this isn’t how it’s supposed to be. I’m so sorry.”
But there is more.
Disney did well, but they did not paint the full picture. As believers we know that this dichotomy will not always exist. There is a King who will return to make all things right, a Savior who will absorb the sorrow. In this we have amazing hope, and we can offer this hope to our children. Through tears we can proclaim, “Dear ones, this is not how it will always be. The King is coming. The King is coming! One day, the light will dawn and remain. The ache will dissipate. You will no longer feel conflicted. You won’t have to feel happy and sad for the exact same reasons. You will only find it easy to love. The day is coming—just you wait and see.”
And then? Joy. Only joy.
This article is an excerpt from Jennifer Phillips’ new book, 30 Days of Hope for Adoptive Parents, available at Amazon, Lifeway, or anywhere books are sold.
Jennifer is also the author of the widely-praised book, Bringing Lucy Home. She is the mother of four, including one precious daughter from China.
My husband and I struggled with infertility for several years and after spending thousands of dollars trying to become (and stay) pregnant, over those years, we felt God leading us toward the adoption journey. We left one treacherous road and began traveling down another.
We pursued adoption through Christian agencies and foster to adopt. The weeks and months continued to pile up. We had our hearts broke through foster care, nothing was happening with the agencies and we felt lost. We didn't know what to do.
Then, one night out of no where, we were approached about a private adoption. We spent much time in prayer and felt God lead us towards pursuing this adoption.
We were so excited...and scared. We kept our guard up, for the "just in case" scenario. We were there when we found out we were, all three, having a girl. We picked a name and started decorating the nursery. Sadly, at 7 & 1/2 months the "just in case" scenario happened...the Birth mother changed her mind. Our hearts were crushed.
A few weeks later, while sitting in church, God began to speak to me. He was calling me to write a devotional book to help other "Mother's In Waiting". I argued with him back and forth for a while. (Why do we think we can win?!) I was explaining to God that I was simply not qualified! He reminded me he needed availability and HE would provide the ability.
I submitted and said, Ok God, when I have a child of my own, a few years down the road, I will write the book. He said, No, now.
Honestly, I was a frustrated and hurt that He was asking me to do this at the darkest time of my life. God, why now?! I need someone to help me right now! I don't have it in me to encourage others at this time in my life.
He spoke, again, to my spirit and said, Now! Now, while you are in the midst of the pain and darkness. Now, while the emotions are fresh. Right now, while you will be able to better relate and communicate with the other Mothers In Waiting. We continued to "argue" and as always, He won! :-)
I jumped on board and started writing the next day. Well, it wasn't me writing. It was all God. I simply held the pen while He did the writing.
This book has been a total blessing. Not just for the readers...but mostly for me. I didn't know it at the time, but God used the writing of this book to heal my broken heart. The writing had so much healing catharsis for me. It was extremely painful to write, but God used it as a release for me.
What felt like my curse of being able to have a child of my own, has now turned into my calling. I have been able to encourage, minister to, and simply talk to women, struggling with the wait, all over the United States.
To those who are feeling a ministry come out of your wait...be obedient! God is looking for Availability NOT Ability! He will provide what is needed for the calling. He knows the plans He has for you. Trust Him!
To all the Mother's In Waiting, Don't Give Up!! God is faithful to keep His promises! It's worth the wait! He will be with you EVERY step of the way. He will never leave you, nor forsake you.
I pray you will look into this devotional book for Encouragement and Hope. Not because my name is on the cover, but because God wrote this book!
**The little girl we were adopting was due on May 8th 2016--Mother's Day. That was an exceptionally hard day. You know what? This Mother's Day, I celebrated with my perfect 9 week old son.
God had a purpose for that failed adoption and the heartache that came along with it. We just have to trust His plan.
Had we adopted that baby girl, I wouldn't have this adorable, squirmy baby boy in my arms right now, as I type this.
Be encouraged! Don't give up! Keep the faith! God knows what He is doing! I'm praying for you...sweet Mother's In Waiting.
Luke1:45 "Blessed is she who believed that the Lord would fulfill His promises to her."
To purchase Devotions of Hope and Encouragement for the Mother in Waiting from a Mother in waiting, you may go to Amazon here.
COME MEET Nic and Sarah coming all the way from China.
Sunrise Development Foundation
Hello, my name is Jennifer. Chris and I were first introduced to Nic and Sarah through the Facebook adoption world shortly after receiving our official Letter of Acceptance to adopt a precious little girl from China. Approximately 7 months prior to that time, we began the adoption process and started praying for our new child although we didn’t know who that child was or where in China he or she lived. At that same time, and orchestrated in a way that only God can, our daughter Karis was noticed by Nic and Sarah in the infant room of the Kunming orphanage. Karis’ infectious smile and laugh caught their attention, and this amazing couple began praying for our daughter and providing her with additional love and care until the day arrived that we could bring her home.
Nic and Sarah are an amazing couple from England that answered the call to ministry by moving to Kunming, China, and working as members of the Sunrise Foundation. In addition to working tirelessly in the infant room caring for dozens of special needs children and serving the orphanage care-givers, they assist children who age out of the orphanage system at 14 as they transition back into mainstream society. Most of these children have some form of physical or learning/developmental disability. They provide support as they finish education, acquire social and life skills, and secure gainful employment. Their outpouring of love to the children, workers, and young adults eventually leads to opportunities where they can share with those around them.
While in China, they welcomed their firstborn child, Ayla. Soon afterward, they felt led to adopt one of the many children that are in the national orphanage system, and they welcomed Seren into their family. Currently, Nic and Sarah are in process to adopt again. For reasons too long to share in this blog, their process is sometimes more tedious and expensive than was ours. For one, they are not allowed to adopt in the province that they are currently serving and must fly to another part of the country to notarize paperwork and complete other necessary steps to adopt. Also, they face increased scrutiny from the Chinese government. Since they have little privacy under that government, they are investigated much deeper than anything we experienced.
Lastly, Nic and Sarah face physical and emotional testing far beyond what we could imagine. Recently, Sarah has suffered physical injuries due to accidents that have limited her mobility. They must also continue to work to correct the effects from being institutionalized in their adopted daughter, as well as challenges she faces due to her medical needs. However, these struggles are also motivators for the McBrides. They know all too well the dangers of leaving children in orphanages for too long, and thus the desire to bring one more precious child in to their family.
COME MEET NIC AND SARAH
Nic and Sarah will be visiting Baton Rouge, Louisiana June 2nd through 4th and during this time we desire to minister and pour out our love for them. We will be hosting a lunch in their honor and to raise support and awareness to their cause with Sunrise Foundation. We invite any of you to join us in listening to them as they visit in June and talk about their efforts to care for the children who are abandoned and forgotten. To learn more or get details about where and when, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
“However motherhood comes to you, it’s a miracle.” Valerie Harper