Hollywood has made it cool to adopt. Angelina Jolie might deserve the credit for jump-starting the Hollywood elite to grab – not just their designer shoes and purses – but their adopted children as well. Thrown in a well-timed movie, “The Blind Side,” and now many everyday Americans are scrambling to expand their families just the same.
I wish it were that easy.
Wouldn’t it be great if doing something about the orphan crisis overseas and the neglected kids in our own communities meant we weren’t forced to alter our lives, even to the smallest degree? What if we could just take cute, multi-colored family pictures and post them to Instagram each and every day? Such simplicity wouldn’t require us to…well…sacrifice.
The phone rang around midnight for us to get our first foster daughter. The local agency explained that a family had gone from bad to worse and the kids were removed from the home. There were three of them. One of the boys was so badly traumatized it was decided he would go to a special therapeutic home. The other boy went to a different foster family, and the girl was potentially coming to ours.
Like so many other calls since then, I remembered we said we needed to pray about it. We kindly let them know we would pray overnight and let them know first thing in the morning if this would work for us. That way, Steph and I could pray, get a good night sleep, and then call them back when it was convenient for us.
Yeah, that didn’t go over so well. You see, there was a little girl whose family had just exploded. She was sitting with the Child Protective Services worker in a dull, cold building. They didn’t have time to wait for morning. They needed a family who was willing to say “yes” right then, so they could get this little girl in a place where her heart could begin to thaw out and heal.
After a quick prayer, we called them back and said yes.
Now after welcoming 5 or 6 different kids into our home and adopting 2 of them, I think it’s appropriate that I give, what I believe to be, my strongest caution for anyone considering to do the same. Ready? Here it is….
It will change you.
When we said yes to our first foster daughter, I thought I was just allowing a little extra noise throughout the week in our home. I thought we would just set another place setting at the dinner table, and buy more presents at Christmas. I thought I would “put up” with the child until a good long-term home could be found. In so doing, I thought this was my spiritual act of worship.
God must have seen my heart and smiled, knowing the work he was about to do in me through these kids.
Fostering and adoption changes you. I’ve thought about this for a while in an attempt to put my finger on what I mean. I don’t know if this list will do it justice, but let me try to explain.
1. It reveals selfishness. People told me this would happen when I got married. They said in having a wife, I would realize how much of my world revolved around me. This was true. But when I began to consider changing my plans with my family for the needs of another, it became clear to me that I wanted what I wanted when I wanted it.
2. It reveals the heart of God. What was once abstract now becomes concrete. When you – as a foster or an adoptive parent – realize that at the deepest level you are no different than the child in need, it helps you envision a Father who meets you in the midst of pain and suffering. You can’t fully understand the love a father has for his children until you have a child of your own. When that fatherly love extends to children outside of the biological kids, the love of God becomes all the more clear.
3. It reveals the Kingdom of Heaven. When people see my family come together to love these little ones, it preaches a sermon of its own. The sermon shouldn’t be about how great my family is, but about how great the Kingdom of God will be. The Kingdom will be a place where white, black, brown, yellow, red and many other colors of people will come together to worship God. This Kingdom can be lived out on this earth, and it is through fostering and adoption.
4. It reveals priorities. When you welcome a child into your home, other things becomes less important. Priorities eventually change to best help your family come together for this purpose. It might be subtle at first, but it will become more noticeable over time. My priority used to be a safe, quiet family. Now it is a strong, mission-driven family. It motivated me to lead a ministry aimed at serving kids in the at-risk community because of the strong need there.
Has fostering or adoption changed you? If so, how?
Thank you for loving on kids; I believe they are at center of God’s heart. Our Claire will turn 6 six this summer. When we brought her home from Vietnam at 8 months old, I had no idea how God would use her to make me closer to the man he wants me to be.
I was surprised as well. When you enter into fostering or adoption, many times it is out of a heart to impact these kids. We don’t realize that God will do a great work in us as well….
Amen, Kevin! On All accounts. THe Kiessling family has pretty much been through it all. And you know what? We are still here & with God help All things are Possible! He gives us the strength to go through anything. Now, that we have moved to a different state – maybe we can adopt/foster again – who knows?…:) But foster/adoption does change you for the better. As long as you do it with God on your side…:)
Have a Blessed Week!
Very true. He does provide the strength needed. People often ask my wife how she does it with 5 kids in our home under the age of 7. She just does. God’s call for all believers is to be salt and light in this world, not to live lives of selfish gain.
Thanks for this, Kevin.
You’re a good man, Jason. I love how you are inspiring and teaching the people at your church about God’s heart for all kids.
It has pointed out my daily failures and wins and made me see my wins are when I rely on God in all circumstances, my failures are not so much failures but little road blocks of frustrations with behaviors or caseworkers or just the system in general…not the actual child who may be so broken and torn. It’s brought me and my husband to my knees for wisdom and strength and how to love more than anything else in my life, it has made me stronger I have had one particular teen for over a year and when we first said yes to her the first night was less than desirable, we have weekly less than desirable moments with her for unspoken reasons and every time I say I am done, I am still holding on, God has been holding on to this for some reason I have no idea why yet – as we have had to say good bye to many others in the past some by choice – most not by choice… So here we are doing the uncomfortable many days – life is not always comfortable – we have 4 of our own children, another 1 we have adopted and currently four foster kids – I have learned that “my heart getting broken” is minimal to what this kids go through, I have learned that avoiding attachment to any of these kids is out of my control – if I want to love them wholly I have to do it without reservations – I have also learned to turn a deaf ear and blind eye to the many comments or observations we get that may be hurtful for one reason or another.
“Uncomfortable.” Great word to describe following God’s call on your life. As you said, we tend to want to hold back love from these kids. Our motivation is ultimately self-protection. But God calls us to offer our bodies as living sacrifices. We can lay down our own plans, our inhibitions, our comforts and fears. And- through the power of the Spirit – walk in boldness and grace.
I appreciate you sharing…
My husband and I adopted 2 sisters & your words are perfectly descriptive in every way! Thank u for sharing this… the way it has effected our lives is that our life is not our own now… rather that illusion is now gone … our world has been turned upsidesown after 20 yrs of marriage and we now know the greatest blessing to give & receive incredible love! Its been quite the rollercoaster ride, physically, emotionally & spiritually! Looking back I see our first year as training ground, not only for the girls but especially for us. I found myself studying them continually. Learning their pattersns, likes& dislikes. What worked & didn’t. It is still a daily process trying to find the best most functional way to lives our new lives together! Its been a lot of adjusting for us as new first time parents to 2 little girls & also for them learning the new bounderies!
after having seven children of my own, i recieved a 6month old grand child then a nine month old grand child. I took care of and raised them as my own as the parents were not capable due to drug use. This was 12 years ago and 5 years ago this may 6th it was 5 years that i adopted them. their parents can no longer harm them nor can a judge order stupid stuff to do to them, like taking them to prison to see their mother after 3 yrs of not seeing them. they are now 12 yrs old and in the 5th grade, this guy is developmentaly delayed, odd,adha,diabetic,mild territes, asthamatic, developmentally delayed but with all this, he is mainstream at school and on the merit roll. THE othe guy is 10 and straight as an arrow and on the honor roll at school. They are happy, loving and the sweetest boys around. it was a difficult few years as Grandpa was dying of cancer and after 7 years he passed, then 6 months later my mom died leaving the boys with no grandparents at all. they are wonderful and every day is a challenge with them as i have reached the age of 66 myself, but i will admit, they keep me going and keep me younger than my years. all total I have 9 childre ages 49 to 10 , 9 grand kids and awaiting the arrival of my 10th great grandchild. Yes, God did bless me!!!!!
Thank you for what you do…
Kevin, you so hit the nail on the head. We have 4 children all adopted from foster care. The ups and downs of that journey, their challenges, my gaps as a parent, how they have revealed the depths of my need for God’s Grace and how very selfish I am! We daily have to surrender our children and our parenting to God.
We are involved with a ministry (www.promise686.org) that is starting a new initiative to close the gap in the lack of foster families and the need in Georgia (www.facebook.com/111projectGA). As we’ve gotten deeper involved and talked with our children about becoming foster parents or adopting again, we see our own selfish desires for peace and comfort reflected in their objections. So amazing! Thank you for sharing!
YES! Thank you for being a foster parent. We are all in need of God’s daily, sustaining grace in our lives. Isn’t it funny how we often try to insulate ourselves from the need of it?
Thank you for this post! Yes, adoption will change you forever. We have two biological children & an adopted daughter from China. When God asked us to adopt, I wanted to say “No, we have our hands full with 2 growing boys and I am about to turn 40.” But as only God can do – He continued to call gently to my heart – my husband was already quietly convinced. As I look back, days away from 7 years ago, I shutter at the thought of all of the wonderful blessing we would have missed if I had said “No”. Our daughter is an absolute joy to us and her brothers – no everything is not perfect – typical family laughter, fights, tears, tempers, moods, giggles, hugs, kisses, tickles, jokes… etc. I would not take any amount of money for the treasures that have been lavished on us through our children. As we were in China, I felt God strongly wanting me to tell the families that were experiencing the joy of their 1st child through adoption – that there was not an ounce of difference between the love for our boys and our sweet new baby girl. I remember going through the same emotional stages as I did with the boys etc., but maybe more intently because I was not concerned with my physical state, just the child that I was carrying in my heart. A child that I had no control over their nutrition, care, nuture etc, but relying wholy on a Magnificient God to watch over “my baby” until we could bring her home. Stephen Curtis CHapman sings a song that I feel puts it best “I saw the face of Jesus in a little orphan girl, standing in a corner on the other side of the world..” If you want to see the face of Jesus – ADOPT. If you want to know the joy God experiences when we choose to accept Jesus as our savior – ADOPT. If you want to know what God’s kingdom will be like – ADOPT. If you want to know God’s heart – ADOPT. If you want to be changed forever – in so many ways – ADOPT. As Kevin wrote, is it easy – no, is there sacrifice – yes, is it a priviledge – most certainly.
My bride and I fostered-to-adopt our son when he was nine years old. He is 13 now. I read this post to her, and we agree that this blog is spot on.
We adopted our first little girl about 2 years ago, so many people have said “She is blessed to have found yalls family”. My response will forever be “Its us who are the blessed ones”. This is a perfect picture of why!
great post, kevin. all so true!!
There is a Kid I know, he attended a day care I worked for previously. His dad died, his mom is on drugs and his only family wants to give him up for adoption. I am 22, my husband is 21, we just got married and recently just brought a house. I wanted to foster this kid, my husband doesn’t.. “he is seeking Gods face” but to me it is a straight and arrow thing. I love this kid a lot, we connected quickly at the daycare… I do not know if God is calling me to get him , or what to even do but I want to help him and to love him but I am apprehensive right now… especially because my husband is unsure about it… i don’t want to seek council from my church bc Im afarid they are gonna tell me what i do not want to hear, which is do not get him bc y’all are newly married, no kids and are still becoming established….. but the kid tho.. he deserves to have people who loves him