Orphan Care: Calling and Creativity

Last week, I announced a new series on supporting foster and adoptive families. You can find the first post here.

For this series to be helpful to you, we’re going to need to be on the same page about something: orphan care is for everyone. Extra bedrooms or not, disposable income or not, specific spiritual gifting/love for children/heart for the marginalized or not, orphan care is for you, both in terms of calling and creativity. Let’s explore that a bit.

Calling
Scripture is explicit that, for the Christian, caring for widows and orphans is a mandate. At the time those words were written, widows and orphans were some of the most vulnerable members of society, and in many ways, this remains true. In America, the orphans who are often the nearest to us are children in foster care.

According to Children’s Rights, “on any given day, there are nearly 428,000 children in foster care in the United States. In 2015, over 670,000 children spent time in U.S. foster care.

Hundreds of thousands of children, right here at home, are undergoing the traumatic event of being removed from their families of origin and are in need of love and safety. For many people, the best way to respond to this reality is to become a licensed foster parent. If you are maybe-a-little-tiny-itty-bitty-Abby-I-kind-of-want-to-slap-you-because-you’re-making-me think-about-this level of interested in pursuing a foster care license, I highly commend my friend, and author, speaker, and foster/adoption advocate, Jason Johnson, to you. His blog will be a gift as you pray through God’s call on your life as it pertains to orphan care.

For those who cannot pursue a foster care license right now, or who are praying through it but want to begin moving toward the foster/adopt world in the meantime, I want to help us answer this question: for those of us who believe that we are both called to care for orphans and that we cannot bring foster children into our homes today, what can we do?

Creativity
Here’s a truth about God that I can’t get over: He never leaves us ill-equipped for that which He has called us to fulfill. Since God has called us to care for orphans, there must be ways in our lives right now that we can do so.

It may very well be the case that our lives will need to adjust or be reprioritized so that we can follow God’s call. Oftentimes, what’s required of us will include sacrifice. But, we are not locked into lives incapable of accommodating some form of orphan care. The God of the universe has placed this calling on our lives, and He has set His Spirit, with great creativity and passion, within us as we seek to obey.

As you begin to think creatively about engaging orphan care, keep the imagery of the body of Christ in mind. Everyone plays a part, right? No part more valuable than the other? So, consider what body part, building block or concentric circle you may be a part of.

In the case of foster care, the center of the circle is the foster child (or the child being adopted, or the family at risk for losing their children to foster care, etc.). The circle just outside of him or her is the foster family. Just outside of them are case workers, CASA advocates, etc. Then extended family and close friends, then their church community, then the community at large, and so on.

Consider where you fit right at this moment. Do you know anyone who is fostering or adopting? Do you know anyone whose financial or family circumstances may be putting their children at risk for being taken into care? Think about your workplace, child’s school, church, neighborhood, city buildings you drive past, and community’s services.

You do have a place to start. It may be a call to your church to ask if anyone in the congregation fosters, adopts, works with families at risk for removal, or is involved with those who do/are. It may be an appointment with the local CPS office to see what the pressing needs are. Send an email or make a phone call. Move toward one person, just to get to know their story. 

So, about the next post: One way that God’s call to care for the orphan intersected with my life at an unexpected time was through our community’s foster pantry. Next week, I’ll write about what it is, how it was started, and the logistical details in a way that will help you figure out if something similar may be doable in your community. Please comment with any questions about how the pantry works and I’ll make sure to address them!

With joy,

Abby

P.S. Want to do some further research in the meantime?

And Then There Were Five by Emily Attaway for Respite Redefined
Wrapping around Foster and Adoptive Families by Jason Johnson
Three Things Foster Parents Don’t Have to Be by Jason Johnson
Pure and Undefiled Religion by Jared Perry (a sermon my husband gave last year)

on serving foster & adoptive families. 

When Jared was in seminary and we were just beginning our journey into parenthood, I was overwhelmed with a desire to foster and/or adopt. We met with friends who were licensed, who were welcoming children and filling out paperwork and attending classes, and we decided to work toward our fostering certification once Jared graduated. In May 2014, we became licensed, and over the summer we cared for two sets of siblings for a long weekend each (known as respite care).

After Gabriel was born and the unknowns of his medical needs stacked high, it became clear that our plans for foster care needed to shift. Nothing, not one thing, about our passion for the orphan shifted, but our circumstances required that passion to manifest differently.

By God’s grace, our church and community made possible creative ways for us to engage. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing a series of blog posts with ideas for supporting foster, adoptive, and kinship placement families. If you’ve ever felt like there’s only a binary between fostering/adopting or not actively engaging orphan care, if you’ve never thought about orphan care before, or if you’re itching to rally your community around supporting children (and their immediate caregivers), this series is for you.

I plan to explain the ins and outs of:

  • The concentric circles of care for children and families
  • Our community’s “foster pantry”
  • The Facebook group where we share needs
  • Programs for providing meals when families welcome new children
  • How we help families at risk for Child Protective Services intervention stay together
  • Ways we support teens aging out of care

I would love to know if there are other topics related to supporting foster, adoptive, kinship, or otherwise CPS-adjacent families you’d like for me to address. You can on this post, send me an email, or come find me on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. This series exists entirely to illustrate what has worked in our community so that you are informed and inspired to try similar things right where you are.

So, what are the barriers you perceive in your community when it comes to effective orphan care?

What feels unknown or scary or intimidating?

Most simply, what can I share that may help you take a step forward?

I’m delighted to start this conversation with each of you!

With joy,

Abby

Am I My Sista’s Keeper?

A few months ago, I shared that I now have the honor of being a co-host of Shalom in the City. 

In my monthly conversations with Osheta Moore, the podcast’s creator and host, we will talk about our personal experiences with racial reconciliation efforts, discuss news/current events, and break down buzzwords that seem to polarize conversations before they even get started. These episodes are called My Sista’s Keeper: Shalom in the City’s Monthly Conversation on Race & Unity, and I dare say they’re going to pair quite nicely with the other monthly episodes, including Osheta & Jerusalem Greer’s episodes on Shalom in the Home, and the Shalom Book Club with Osheta & Cara Meredith.

Last week, Osheta, Jerusalem, Cara, and I shared our first group episode in which we introduce ourselves, get a little silly, and discuss the theme for this season of the podcast.

And today, Osheta and I are sharing our first My Sista’s Keeper episode with you. We talk about how each of us came to care deeply about issues of race, justice, and reconciliation, and what it is to approach these often awkward, difficult conversations with a spirit of Hopeful Resistance.

The My Sista’s Keeper episodes exist to help YOU begin to bring about Shalom in your own community by modeling a conversation between a black woman and a white woman talking about race. In this first episode, we make promises to each other that will guide our discussions, ask probing questions, and press deep into some uncomfortable places to see if there’s some unity to be found (spoiler: there is).

We also may break out in hives, or at least a sweat, a few times. But it’s that good sweat, ya know? Like when you’re exercising and it’s hard and it hurts but you know that means it’s working. We hope you’ll benefit from listening to a bit of heavy lifting (and plenty of laughter, too).

Subscribe to the podcast via the Podcasts App, iTunes, Stitcher, or listen here.

You can join the Shalom in the City conversation over in our Shalom Sista’s Hangout, as well as on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. Hope to see you in some of these Shalom Spaces!

 

How to Be Faithful and Focused in the Face of the World’s Pain

One of my first memories of my freshman year of college is the activities fair that was held in the student center. I attended a large, state university with tens of thousands of students, and hundreds of organizations had booths set up at the fair, inviting students to come and join their ranks. Despite having a relatively good idea of the types of things I’d like to be involved in, I was completely overwhelmed. There were so many good and meaningful things to choose from, and I struggled to know how to decide.

I’d like to say that I grew out of the feeling that there are so many things worth my time and effort that I may need to divide myself in two. But the fact is, as I’ve grown older, while I’ve found deeper passions and grown roots that I did not have had as a young adult, I’ve also discovered so many more possibilities. While I’ve learned more about myself and my specific calling in life, I’ve also learned about so much more of the world, so much more of pain and need, and I find myself wanting to step up and engage however I can.

So Much Pain in the World = Overwhelmed Hearts

I have a hunch that I’m not alone in this. Posts on social media these days seem to rotate between telling one another what we should or should not care about, and telling each other that we’re tired of being told what we should or should not care about. There is no shortage of opportunities to pursue personal development, to become a better parent, spouse, or friend, to learn a new skill, to read a new opinion, or to engage a new issue. As Christians, we ought to desire to live holistic lives that are not merely driven by love of self, nor by work, nor by play, but by worship and fullness and growth spiritually, mentally, physically, and emotionally.

Keep reading over at iBelieve.

Giveaway: Reclaiming Hope by Michael Wear

UPDATE: Winners announced below! If you weren’t one of the lucky few, I encourage you to pinch your pennies and order a copy of Reclaiming Hope here.
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I’m delighted to have the opportunity to give away not one, not two, but THREE copies of a newly released book that I could not put down, despite the fact that midnight had ticked by far too long ago. Reclaiming Hope: Lessons Learned in the Obama White House about the Future of Faith in America by Michael Wear is not to be missed, and I can’t wait to get it into your hands.

This book could not have come at a better time, friends. It’s a passionate call to hope, perspective, and civic engagement in all of its ups and downs. Joyful, prescient, story-driven, and honest, this treasure of a book lives up to its title in every way. Wear was one of the youngest-ever White House staffers, serving in the Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships during Obama’s first administration and later directing faith outreach for the 2012 Obama campaign. Wear’s years of experience and passion for neighbor love come together beautifully, weaving narrative with thoughtful commentary on faith, politics, and patriotism.

You can enter here; the giveaway will be open till Friday at midnight!

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Seeking Shalom: Racial Reconciliation (I Have an Announcement!)

Hi Friends! Whether you’re a regular reader of Joy Woven Deep or you’re making your way over from the Shalom Sistas’ Hangout, I’m so glad you’re here. Welcome!

My first memory of chatting with someone online whom I did not know “in real life” was on AOL. She was another young teenage girl, just like me. I told my mom about it, and when she reminded me that our family had a rule against chat rooms, I emphatically told her I hadn’t broken the rule because it wasn’t a chat room, it was a one-on-one conversation.

This story illustrates two things that, amazingly, have relevance to what I have to tell you today, approximately 16 years later:

  1. I’ve long felt that true friendships could be formed via the Internet.
  2. I like to be subversive. Or, perhaps more accurately, I have a bit of a rebellious streak that gets a thrill out of intertwining relationship with resistance.

Around a year ago, a “real life” friend tagged another friend and me in a Facebook post by Osheta Moore. We began messaging and engaging with each other’s content online, primarily on topics of racial reconciliation. A few months later, Osheta graciously invited me to be a guest on her podcastShalom in the City, and our friendship continued to develop over Voxer and Facebook.

And then, one night while Jared was at work and I was bathing two wild and wriggling little boys, my phone announced a new Vox message from Osheta, asking if I would be willing to be a monthly co-host on Shalom in the City.

The premise for our episodes? A black woman and a white woman talk about racial reconciliation.

My response? “I should say I need to pray about it, so, I’ll pray about it, but really this is already an unforeseen answer to some of the deepest prayers of my heart. I’m saying yes.”

And so, my friends, I VERY ENTHUSIASTICALLY announce to you that I now have the honor of being a co-host of Shalom in the City. This new format will hit the podcast in March, and will also include the lovely Jerusalem Greer discussing shalom in our homes and communities, and the wonderful Cara Meredith continuing to co-host the Shalom Sistas’ Book Club.

For the first few months of this new format, the overarching theme of the podcast will be Hopeful Resistance. Our desire is to discuss ideas, share stories, and frame conversations in a way that will equip listeners to resist the division, defensiveness, and despair that abounds in our broken world.

For the episodes I’ll be co-hosting, my prayer is that we will, by God’s grace, model a conversation that is defined by charity, truth seeking, active listening, and testifying to this fact: Jesus has torn down the wall of hostility, making two groups one,* and we far too often have bricks in our hands, rebuilding barriers when He has called us into open spaces.

Osheta and I will talk about our personal experiences with racial reconciliation efforts, discuss news/current events, and break down buzzwords that seem to polarize conversations before they even get started. We’ll also be inviting you to submit questions or topics for us to discuss, and oh how I hope you will. This monthly hour exists entirely to be a gift to you, something that does not use its time inside your earbuds to pull you out of your immediate surroundings but to propel you deeper into them.

((You can listen here to Osheta as she introduces the new format and shares more of her vision for living wholeheartedly in a brokenhearted world.))

Don’t want to miss an episode? Subscribe to the podcast here. And join us over in the Shalom Sistas’ Hangout, where we’ll be discussing what it looks like to be peacemakers in our homes, communities, reading lives, cross-racial relationships, and more.

May 2017 be a year that we ask God, ourselves, each other, what peace really means, and how to go about making it together.

*Ephesians 2:14

This Is Us and the Dignity of Human Emotion

***This article contains minor spoilers for the pilot episode of NBC’s This Is Us*** 

Birthdays. Frustration. Houseguests. Laughter. Annoyance. A glass of wine. Romance. Career changes. Body image. Sorrow. Trying again.

Feels like family, doesn’t it?

Through a series of vignettes, NBC’s new drama This Is Us conjures up those family feelings throughout its pilot episode. Darkest nights, brightest hopes, histories exposed, and futures uncertain all weave themselves together as the host of characters live out experiences deeply human, painfully personal.

I hope you’ll keep reading over at Christ and Pop Culture!

How to Accept a Compliment (and Why You Should)

“You did a really great job on that project,” a boss tells you.

You respond:

“It wasn’t really that hard.”
“I could have done x, y, or z better.
“I wanted to finish it sooner than I did.”

“I love the way you welcome new members into our bible study/always sign up to take meals to hurting families/serve the church with your gifts,” says your friend.

You answer:

“I wish I could do more.”
“You’re the one who is always helping people!”
“Oh, well, I’m not all that talented so I have to step up where I can!”

“You look beautiful today!” your husband smiles.

You roll your eyes:

“Oh, well, must be the new haircut.”
“Finally got to take a shower this morning!”
“You’re crazy/you have to say that/oh, whatever babe.”

Do any of these sound familiar to you? They certainly do to me. I hear these reflexive echoes in my own heart, deflections spilling out of my mouth when a compliment is extended my way. I hear them, too, in conversations around me, especially among women. A gracious, thoughtful word is offered and is almost visibly swatted away, sent flying back into the air, surrounded by a swarm of stammering phrases attempting to negate the compliment.

Keep reading over at iBelieve.

TONIGHT ONLY: enter to win a copy of Shannan Martin’s “Falling Free”

UPDATE – WE HAVE A WINNER!
screen-shot-2016-09-13-at-8-28-23-amHooray, Allison!!!

Friends who hoped to win, I can’t encourage you enough to hop over to fallingfreebook.com/preorder and snag a copy. You’ll get some special goodies for preordering, and I can promise that as soon as this treasure of a book arrives in your mailbox, you’ll want to curl up and read it (Kleenex and a pen recommended but not required).

As a teaser, here’s one of my favorite quotes:

“All of us have been fundamentally shaped by the reality that when it comes to love, there is no limit. Love is never divided. It always, always multiplies. In this modern-day economy where resources eventually deplete and spending leads to deficits, we know we’ve landed safely at this secret place where, yet again, conventional wisdom bows to the ridiculous hopefulness of Immanuel.”

See what I mean? Stunning.


We’re having a little surprise giveaway here on Joy Woven Deep – this evening only! Shannan Martin’s book Falling Free will release on September 20th, and I’m thrilled to be giving away a copy to one of you lovely readers.

spits-out

Shannan is honest, transparent, challenging, and so very alongside the reader. She is self aware about the fact that she is still in process as a Christian learning to engage the poor and marginalized, which helps the reader feel not alone in her potential lack of certainty about how to move forward. I’m a huge fan of this book and am certain it will minister not only to those who read it but those who are loved and served by inspired readers. If you don’t win, make your way over to Amazon and pre-order a copy!

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I’ll update this post, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter with the giveaway winner in the morning!

the friday features: september 9, 2016.

The Friday Features exist to fuel you with you sparks of joy and propel you toward the things that matter as you head into your weekend. If you’d like to submit an article to be included in the features, you can send me the link here.

For When the Foyer on Sunday Morning Gives You AnxietyIntrovert Hires Personal Representative To Engage In Church Small Talk by The Babylon Bee

For the Compelled, or Overwhelmed, by the Thought of Those Who are Incarcerated: Our Prison Ministries are Too Small by Quick to Listen Podcast + CT Editors for Christianity Today

For When You’re Wondering if It’s Childish to be Curious: Real Maturity, C.S. Lewis, and Imagination by Barnabas Piper for The Blazing Center

For the Anticipating: Prepositions, Autumn, and Waiting by Lore Ferguson Wilbert

For When Shopping Just Sounds HorribleDesigners refuse to make clothes to fit American women. It’s a disgrace. by Tim Gunn for The Washington Post

For the Ready (or Resistant) to Talk about Race: 20 Years by Propaganda as seen on The Blazing Center

For When You’re Hungry for Scripture: God’s Case Against Israel by Sharon Hodde Miller for She Reads Truth

Here’s to a restful weekend!

From Him | Through Him | To Him,
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