orphan care: someone else’s words.

my brain is so consumed with this new journey God is unfolding in our life that i can hardly form a coherent sentence. in order to keep you all safe from the tangled web that is my attempt at reason, i’m going to share a lot of other people’s words. people who are years, miles, souls encountered down the road from where we are and who are living to tell the tale of orphan care in all its heartbreak and beauty. my mind and soul churn and weep and give thanks because of them.

i’m undone.

if your heart has been pricked by the plight of the orphan, beware. these sermons and posts and articles may just push you over the edge into a world of prayer and action and connection that you didn’t know existed. that’s where i’m finding myself right now, and i’m not sure i’ll ever find my way back. in the interest of full disclosure, i hope i don’t, and i hope you join me.

Sermons/Lectures from Together for Adoption*:
Relaxing in Trinitarian Love [Tim Chester]
The Mega Issues: Breaking Down People’s Perception of the Orphan [World Orphans]
The Church and the Foster Child [Robert Gelinas]
The Church as the Answer to Foster Care Challenge [Dave Gibbons]
Adoption and the Pursuit of Transracial Reconciliation [Scott Roley]
* these are just the messages i have listened to – i have a feeling the rest are excellent as well.

Blog Posts
I’m Not Done Yet [Jen Hatmaker]
The Truth about Adoption: Two Years Later [Jen Hatmaker]
Let Our Answer Be Jesus [Light Breaks Forth]
The Truth about Birth Order, Sensory Processing Disorder, and Family Trauma [Light Breaks Forth]
Grieving Together [Ashley Fishbach/Mercy Found Ministries]

Articles
Miracle in Possum Trot [Charisma Magazine]
More Foster Families Needed across Texas [CBS News]

this is a lot. i get that. i get that i’m a research nut/junkie/addict.

pick one message and listen? pick one post or article and read? it’s worth your while, i guarantee it.

trinity, justice & love. [grace & truth series]

last week, i kicked off the first round of the grace & truth series which will be focused on social justice. in that post, i stated six truths of social justice that i’ve learned, the first of which i’ll discuss today.

1. Loving God leads to loving others.
(talking normative Christian life here, folks. not trying to determine whether or not somebody is going to heaven based on what i see in their life. that’s another convo for another day…one that probably falls outside of the scope of this blog. thx & gig ’em.)

Grace & Truth: Loving

Every once in a while, I learn something new, or hear something in a different way, and all of the sudden I hear it everywhere. Over time I’ve come to realize that this is a way the Spirit testifies to me – repeating a truth, typically a truth of God’s character, over and over and over again as I seek to come to grips with it.

The past ten days or so, this has been happening with the truth of the Trinity.

I’ve believed in the Trinity for a long time. The Trinity is a fundamental doctrine of Christianity – that God is, has been and will always be existent as three in one; the co-eternal, co-existent Godhead.  However, in these recent days I’ve been struck by a new depth of this truth – the relational essence of God displayed with ungraspable beauty in the Trinity.  I know I’ve learned about this before, but I’m coming to see more and more that it’s just so very human of us to need time and repetition in order for truth to burrow itself deeply within us, so I’m letting myself learn this anew.

Some of the ways the Trinity has been working its way into my thoughts recently have been:

  • We are studying Genesis at church. While describing who God is, our pastor stated that God “has always been in relationship, because He is Trinity” citing John 1:1. “Before creation,” he told us, “the Trinity glorified one another” (see John 17:5).
  • On my way home from an out of town trip today, I listened to a sermon entitled “Relaxing in Trinitarian Love” presented by Tim Chester at the 2011 Together for Adoption Conference. He stated that God’s essence is love and relationship, because He has always been Father, He has always been communicating, He has always been loving. (cue tears of joy)
  • In both of the above sermons, the preachers implored their listeners to not view God as one who created out of a need for fellowship or out of any lack within Himself. God created out of fullness, as an overflow of His perfect union and fellowship within Himself through the members of the Trinity.

Anybody else need a glass of water (or a nap)? Stay with me!

I’m so thankful for all of this truth. I’m thankful that it’s going to take me a lifetime to even scratch the surface of understanding all of it, and even more thankful that my limited understanding has, by the power of the Spirit, incredible impact on my life now.

And that’s why we’re gathered here today, my friends.

God has always existed in love. In fellowship, relationship, friendship, unity, communication. He made us from that overflow. He loved us from that overflow. We sinned. We severed the communication, we broke the fellowship. He reached out, down, toward, through, and restored us to Himself by the shed of blood of His Son and we enter the kingdom through the power of the resurrection. While there are many, many more reasons we have to love one another – this is the basis. We love because He first loved us. 

And what does love do?

It moves. It enters in and splits the curtain and overcomes the wall. It doesn’t cower to fear or submit to insecurity. It thrives in the dark places because it can always find the light. It blossoms in the tough ground because it knows how to reach out for the water.

Love. never. fails.

We love because He first loved us. This is the heart of the first premise. Loving God leads to loving others. Care for our neighbor, of the stranger, of even our enemy is motivated by perfect love. The love that we know because it was shown to us in the plan of Father, Spirit, Son to bring man to God, to bridge the gap.

And it is our joy to mirror them.

Not to seek to become them. Not to earn their approval. But to reflect them. The Spirit guides and we look to the Son and we pray to the Father and may we be one as they are one.

Loving God leads to loving others. This is a fundamental truth of social justice, because when the going gets tough and the road is dark and dangerous we are loved by the One who enables us to love. We fight for the freedom of our fellow man because our ultimate freedom was purchased on a cross and cannot be stripped away. We raise our voices for the voiceless because Jesus Christ speaks on our behalf, mediating on the basis of His blood shed for us. We stand up for those who have been oppressed because Jesus Christ stood in the gap for us and He cannot. be. held. down.

There is so much more to discuss when it comes to social justice. There are ways and means and whys and hows and hope and sadness and wherever people are involved, there is great challenge. But for today I’m choosing to rest in this – the root of all hope and change and justice for mankind, is the love found in the man Jesus Christ that we are offered the opportunity to reflect. He is good. He is just. He is love.

grace & truth: entering in – social justice.

i’m fairly certain that about 4 seconds after i hit the “publish” button on the post introducing the grace & truth series, i was stripped of all knowledge, wisdom and insight i’ve ever had on any topic at any time. i don’t know anything anymore.

ok, probably not.

it’s perhaps more likely that i was simply stripped of the confidence to engage and wrestle and think, and maybe to be wrong (gasp). i’ve thought for 10 days now about what this initial post should discuss, how to phrase things in such a way that would compel you to get involved in the discussion and not just sit back and absorb (or repel) it, how to tackle a topic with some sort of originality, and to be honest, i haven’t gotten very far. i’m not sure i can propose anything new to any of you, but maybe the newness isn’t quite as important as the opportunity to re-engage. are we ever really finished thinking through something that matters after our first encounter with it? i know i’m not. so here’s to rehashing and hoping for progression of thought and belief. 

Grace & Truth: Social Justice
during our time at seminary, i was invited to a bible study that, cliche as it sounds, completely changed my life. the women there were fellow seminary wives with deep passion for the things of God, community, bearing one another’s burdens and building one another up. recognizing the intensity of four years alongside our ever-studying husbands, these traits were absolutely invaluable, especially when sickness, the tumultuous nature of all things motherhood, work hardships, sin struggles and even death touched our lives. we studied the Word together, convinced that the Spirit would guide and that there was great depth to be found, and i remember so clearly one night a few years in to the study, when some had graduated and left an indelible mark on our theology and lives and some had just begun their seminary journey, we were struck by the frequency and intensity of God’s call to care for “the least of these” throughout scripture. we were so floored and convicted that we made a Kiva micro-finance loan that night and signed up to volunteer at an apartment community for previously incarcerated women who were being reunited with their children. we were gripped. all in and head first we held high the banner of on earth as it is in heaven
. “social justice” became a real, living, breathing part of our lives, and i think back on that night, as well as those leading up to and following it, as an incredibly formative moment and season.

those nights and the actions we took because of them taught me:

1. Loving God leads to loving others.
2. Love works hard.
3. We are called to seek the welfare of the city.
4. It is not enough to speak the gospel with our mouths while living lives that extend no grace toward those who need it.
5. It is not enough to offer a cup of cold water in Jesus’ name but never open our mouths and speak the gospel.
6. We can’t do it all. But, God ordained, Jesus exemplified, Spirit guiding, we can do a lot.

i hope to use these six big ideas to open up a discussion on social justice in the coming weeks. join me?

what does “social justice” make you think of? feel?
does loving God lead to loving others? (
i’m not asking this as a question of salvation. i’m asking if the normative, active Christian life naturally leads to loving others.)
what place does social justice have in the theology and life of the Christian?
how do Christians engage the humanitarian, secular social justice movement?

on my ipod [#1]

this blog (and perhaps my personality? don’t answer that.) can tend toward the less than lighthearted. this was a large part of the reason i started the on my nightstand series to share a few of the books i’m reading and to provide a little review on them, continuing to (i hope) provide thoughtful insights in this space but not always be quite so…intense.  since life isn’t allowing me to read three books per week at this point (although if anyone is trying to build me a personal sanctuary, that would be the right place to start), today i am launching on my ipod, which i will rotate with the on my nightstand series. these posts will point toward music that does all those ethereal, worshipful, elevating things that music is supposed to do. some albums will be labeled “Christian” and some won’t; all will have nudged me toward depth and joy and the happiness of singing along.

i’m toying around with a few other ideas for fun, insightful tuesday posts to add to the rotation, we’ll see what comes of them. for now, here are the albums on my ipod.

this hope will guide methis hope will guide me [ross king]

ross king is a singer, songwriter, musician, worship pastor, husband, father and i’m sure many more things of which i am not aware. his songs have spoken truth into my heart season after season, year after year. ross’ new album this hope will guide me is a worship album with strong melodies, theologically profound lyrics and the kingdom in mind. this album reminds me that God stepped toward us when we were far away – in the album’s own words, God’s “kindness knows no end.” i have been playing it everyday since it came out, owen loves to dance to it and we are singing several of the songs at church as well. in fact, a few friends from our church co-wrote or contributed to this album. i’m a huge fan.

all sons and daughters - season oneseason one [all sons & daughters]

all sons & daughters is the band of leslie jordan and david leonard, a worship leading, harmonious duo with a rich, organic sound. their album season one will be forever dear to me as i played it day in and day out during our long, exhausting days of owen’s raging acid reflux. this album truly ministered to my soul through its honesty, reverence, themes and depth. care for an example?

i am a sinner
if it’s not one thing
it’s another.
caught up in words
tangled in lies.
but you are a Savior
and You take brokenness aside
and make it beautiful.

talk about peace-breathing words during a time when my heart felt frantic more often than not. this album is the kind of truth mingled with art that our hearts beg for and i’m profoundly thankful for it.

and that’s what i’m listening to these days. 

our next adventure: foster care

yesterday afternoon, baby asleep and coffee poured and sun through the window, i sorted through hours of conversation and thought and prayer and put these words together for our families. the short of it: jared and i are (slowly) beginning the process of becoming licensed foster care parents. the long of it, as we shared with our families yesterday, is here.

Dear Family,

Some of you know that we have been praying about and researching foster care. We attended an orientation through Arrow (a foster care agency) on Monday and, to make a long story short, we are officially pursuing licensing as a foster care family. 

We realize that this probably raises a lot of questions and we sincerely hope that you will ask them! We are learning so much already and would love to talk to all of you about the information we are gathering and excited to put into action soon. There is a huge need for foster families in general, and College Station is no exception. In fact, only 9 families are licensed through our agency in Brazos County and children are, consequently, often placed in group homes or taken out of the county for placement in a home.

Children are placed in foster care due to neglect or abuse, so the fact that they are then put through the additional trauma of being removed from their communities breaks our hearts. God’s call to care for the orphan has been knocking at our door for quite some time, and we are so glad that He has given us some clarity as to how we can help address the crisis. There are over 30,000 children in foster care in Texas alone, over 12,000 of whom are waiting to be adopted. We believe it is the correct response for our family to begin fostering one child at a time, whether that child becomes a part of our forever family or we are able to help restore him/her to a biological family.

As far as timeline and a bit of detail, we are currently working on our (monstrous) application and hope to do the training classes in a weekend intensive in January or February. After that, we will have home inspections and complete our “home study,” which is a several hour interview that will provide the agency and Child Protective Services a comprehensive understanding of our family. If a child we foster becomes adoptable and we want to move forward with adopting that child, the home study will be passed on to the judge to assist his decision.

Our hope is that we will have our first foster child by next summer, but our timeline is flexible. We are open to fostering any race or gender. We would like for Owen to remain the oldest child in our home, so his birthday will be our cut-off date for the age we are willing to foster. We are still praying about and discussing what level of therapeutic needs or disabilities we feel capable of handling. Will you pray about that with us?

Other specific prayers at this point are that:

– our application/training/interview process will go smoothly;
– God will open our eyes to the realities that we will encounter and give us the strength and humility to walk through them;
– He will continually remind us that He will be our grace in the need of the moment, whether that moment be a drug-addicted baby in our home, a terrified toddler, or a year with a child ending as he or she is taken back to a biological family member;
– Owen’s heart, even now, will be opened to “sharing” us and that we would be especially skilled in affirming his identity in our family and the way that Christ calls us to be like him and care for our fellow man, as well as how God adopted us when we were orphans;
– we will be faithful to Jared’s position at Grace and the students/families we are called to minister to there;
– we will be able to raise awareness, action and support for orphans and those caring for them in our church and local community.

We hope you will join in this process with us! Please, please, please ask us questions and share in our joy just like you all were so faithful to do when we were pregnant with Owen. We are extremely excited but we also realize that we are opening up our lives to hardship that would be much easier to ignore. Whenever we think about that, it’s our peace to remember that God could have said the same thing about us…but He didn’t. Instead, he told us, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” He’s so good, and He has set that goodness inside us through His Spirit. It is grace to walk with Him, even into an uncertain journey.

Thank you for loving us and supporting our (seemingly crazy) dreams. We are so thankful that we will be welcoming our children into a home that is loved by each of you. We know that will make an immeasurable impact on their lives.

Call us, text us, email us back. We want to do this together.

We’ve attached a Christian foster care guide that a family at Grace helped write. We found it extremely helpful in understanding God’s heart for the orphan, as well as how the foster care system works. If you have the opportunity, we hope you’ll take the time to look through it.

If you want to pass this on to anyone, feel free!

With joy,
Jared & Abby

so, there it is. the next season of our family’s journey, or at least part of it. we are in the boring paperwork phase right now, so we may not have many exciting updates for a while. however, i am very much looking forward to using joy woven deep as a vessel for sharing what we learn throughout the process, shedding light on the orphan crisis as well as the ever-changing specifics of foster care.

for now, we give thanks that He did not leave us as orphans and we look forward to reflecting that truth in our community. what a privilege and joy.
joy woven deep: Our Next Adventure: Foster Care

a new series: grace & truth

nap times and car rides and the 3 minutes in which i do my makeup have recently served as miniature mental blog planning sessions, fractions of moments claimed for praying and thinking through direction, vision, purpose. what has emerged so far is this: i love to write, i love to research, i love to be informed & inform, to be educated & educate. i love when knowledge cycles into wisdom into action into kingdom come. i’m a dreamer but intensely practical, a tentative pursuer of the gray who finds herself grasping for the black and white perhaps a little too often.

in that spirit, i’m starting another new series entitled grace & truth, which will seek to expose, inform, educate and motivate myself and readers of joy woven deep (all 9 of you) on topics that are under-discussed, always in light of God’s patience and kindness toward us as we attempt to navigate life in a broken world. some of these topics will be personal passions (orphan care, pregnancy and preparing for motherhood, engaging real food, using our finances and resources for good). others may be brought up by friends or family (or you, whoever you are!), news items or current debates. my goal will not be to lead everyone to hold the same conclusion about everything. my goal will be to engage some of the complexities of humanity with Scripture, God’s creation, Christ’s life and the Spirit’s leading in mind. some rules are hard and fast, some leave room for variance. this is a chance to explore the wild backyard of all the Truth set in stone, maybe even pitching a tent for a season.

Image

i’m really excited about this series. i hope any of you who read it feel invited to engage, suggest topics, discuss conclusions, etc. topics i plan to start exploring include how our culture discusses children, family and fertility, eating in a way that glorifies God with our bodies while embracing community and culture, and approaching educational decisions for our children someday. i hope you’ll join me.

[this idea was largely inspired by kristen howerton’s what i want you to know series. i’d encourage you to pop over to her site and read a few posts; they always get my mind and heart churning.]

cadence & acceptance.

it’s nearly fall in this college town, as the packed church halls and out-the-door restaurant lines testify. anticipation lingers, nearly palpable in the air, and i realize that this is the first august that jared and i have known together without class schedules and syllabi awaiting one or both us. yet still we feel, still we experience, the energy rising and excitement building, the hope mixed with fear and uncertainty and adventure spiraling up into the sky.

the carefree chaos of these summer months is coming to an end and for one whose life is still amidst great transition, i cannot say i’m disappointed. summer is a splendid thing, but its unstructured spirit has allowed very little in the way of growing roots, and frankly, i’m ready to be planted. the looming fall brings opportunity for just enough pattern and schedule, constant and rhythm to learn what it means to be us in this place, digging in, grabbing hands, finding home. i’m certain its here, somewhere among this wonderful church and these treasured souls and this flourishing university whose students are so full of promise and possibility i’m tempted to move into a dorm room just to dream alongside them.

i think of the weeks to come, of bible studies and mentorship, of baby showers and finding a place to love and reach and serve, of planning for my middle sister’s january wedding and preparing to move into our home. this fall will add a sizable volume of content to our life’s ever-growing collection of happenings and i’m so eager and ready and willing to learn what there is to be found amongst the events on the calendar and all else that can’t be categorized in such a way.

there is happiness within all my intentions and goals wrapped up in this semester, but i would be remiss to ignore the reality of their uncertainty. life so rarely goes according to human plan, yet i find that in the mixture of these truths, in the combination of gladness for cadence returning to life and acceptance that the unknown always emerges, there is peace and assurance, because He must be the one who guides and shepherds, protecting, allowing, aligning. man plans his ways, but Lord directs his steps, and the joy found in heeding His direction is abundant. He has led us many places i never would have planned to go, cancer at 22, a difficult pregnancy, a colicky baby, but the goodness found among those agonizing moments is the treasure in the field that my heart was breathless to find. He is faithful to both fill and pour out, sometimes quietly among appointments and plans, sometimes loudly amidst chaos and rapid, untold change.

kingdomcome

so let the plans be made, the calendar fill, the invitations extend. may i structure days and schedule weeks and celebrate the newness of a season unfolding, all the while clinging to His promises, His guidance, His joy.

the hope of a home.

last night, dear friends joined us in the dark of our home-to-be, flashlights and cell phones lighting the way as we celebrated its progress and prepared for the what, the who, the why that its walls will someday hold. music played and voices laughed and each took a pen to write love and purpose and meaning and yes, Jesus into the beams that will surround our family for years to come.

beams collage

i think of our kitchen that will speak hunger fulfilled, our dining room that will tell of truth and conversation and hearts encouraged, our bedrooms that will proclaim safety, belonging, home. i’m stirred as i see the words “adoption,” “security,” “children of God” scripted throughout the room across from the one jared and i will share, dreaming of the babies that may someday fill it, perhaps some with our DNA and some without it. this house holds promise and hope within its walls in all the ways symbolic and now all the ways literal. i’m awestruck, as i often seem to be, at what grace He must have to allow us lives of such feeling and fullness, impact and intimacy. isn’t He good?

this house is the outward symbol of inward dreams that jared and i cultivate day in, day out, breath in, breath out. believers discipled and children loved and souls equipped and the forgotten nurtured. babies nourished and victims restored and spirits empowered. bible studies in the living room and stockings above the fireplace and pallet gardens in the side yard. whatever He has for us, be it all, none, some of the above, we trust and we thank and we cannot wait to see. it is grace to know that He will fulfill, even when we are unsure what the fulfillment is or brings or does. He who promised is faithful. 

whatever else abides within these walls, may His Spirit flourish within them, may His peace be spoken inside them. may this home hold goodness, kindness, mercy, joy and love for all who enter. may the sacred and common collide inside as they do in the deepest human moments, and may His name be glorified above all other names. 

covenant pulse.

how does one approach the ever so common yet extraordinarily miraculous combining and cycling and circling and celebrating? a son turns one and a sister turns wife and the corners of my lips turn up as i revel in the sacredness of this end of summer season. 

the wedding day was warm and hinted of rain and the clouds collided when covenant was made, thunder clapping as the two became one. the bride radiated and the groom beamed and the room held dignity and joy and holiness and humanity all inside. worship, gospel, vow, communion, kiss; a promise begun, sealed and unquenchable. time stood still yet raced ahead and the celebration was excitement and laughter and energy and glee, unraveled wild and free. marriage is that which is so delicate yet daring, pivotal yet personal and the wedding of two so full of life and love were a vibrant reflection of this. friends and family milled and marveled and the evening spoke welcome and relationship and truth far into the night, the souls, the memory. 

Image

it seems there are moments that burrow themselves more deeply into the nest of time, determined to be engraved into its very essence and not forgotten. burrowed and engraved, captured and sealed, every word was weighty and every nuance profound. it is joy and grace to be a part of such meaning and my heart stands still yet again as i remember the beauty of the entering bride and waiting groom, struck by the reality that this will happen again in the kingdom to come. all sense of home, all radiance and essence and depth of this earthly reflection stir my heart toward the union sealed yet fulfilling. He is all the words i’m trying to find to describe and, it seems a dream, we are His now and His to be forever. this was the covenant pulse beating as two humans united and it still resonates loudly in my ears, ushering in the magnificence of our union with He Who Came. 

Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”
-revelation 19:7-9-

what knowledge to hold and wonder to anticipate. the people of God are remembrance and hope intertwined and the God of the people is kindness and tenderness as He weaves metaphor and symbol and reflection of His goodness before our eyes. when the words escape and our hearts overwhelm we think on the truth and we look forward with gladness, for He has come and He is coming again. thank you, jeff and olivia, for mirroring the truth, our hearts rejoice and anticipate along with yours.