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?