Can We Honor Our Adopted Kids By Honoring Their Birth Parents?

They gave us her picture.

Right there amidst the triple copies of court documents and health histories.

Right there, in the beigeochromatic box of a family services conference room.

Without anticipation or expectation, she was suddenly staring back at us. The black and white printout clearly taken from a state database, grainy and overexposed with shadow.

Even so, she looked out with her round cheekbones and the exact eyebrows of her/my son.

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Lately I’ve been wondering what it looks like to honor our adopted sons and how we can allow them to grow with the most unfractured spirits possible.

The more I allow all possibilities to that question, the more my heart chases the whisper that the answer lies in honoring their birth parents.

Can we create invitations for their spirits to be as unfractured as possible as they carry the knowledge or heartache or shame they couldn’t offer enough safety/sobriety/nurture to their children?

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The wind keeps whirling this idea back to me.

Honor our children by honoring their birth parents. Give them all a chance to be whole.

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I hate this because it requires emotional elasticity from me.

Do I have the energy to choose the harder way? Do I believe love expands infinitely and is expressed in infinite ways? Do I believe parenting is the long game based on small actions now? Can I find the tension between rock-solid boundaries and liquid scoopfuls of grace?

I hate this because it runs counter-intuitive to a mother’s blind rage to protect at all costs.

Didn’t they have their chance?! And yet…the longer I am in this foster care world, the more I believe it is a child’s right to know about and know their birth family (in the increments it remains safe and emotionally healthy for the child.)

I hate this because I have to crush my ego and my desire to reduce complexities into binaries I can label “good” or “bad”.

I do not get the luxury of seeing time in a vacuum without the deep realities of our American history and how race, cyclical poverty, blocked access to education, and current politics play heavily into why I sit at a table telling the state I legally promise to be Nurture Mommy while Birth Mom remains as voiceless as her pixelated picture.

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I allow myself the freedom to not have answers right now. There is no map.

For now, there is time.

For now, we focus on all children in our home feeling attached and safe. For them to believe they belong, are chosen, and known.

For now, I slide that paper with her picture onto the top of the pile knowing what a treasure it will be in the discussions to come with her/my boys.

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I’m No Missionary: Letting God Wreck Our Life Anyway

I listened to a homily today while I faced off with one of the few things I can control: our family dishes.

Let’s have an aside before we begin, to high five all the priests across the land who can take us to hermeneutics of seminary, reveal something new about the Divine, and drive it to heart personally, all within twelve minutes or less. Listen and learn non-denominational microphone mackers to your liturgical brethren of the concise pulpit.

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The main point from the homily was that Mary, the mother of God-made-flesh, is an ultimate example of responding to God with a YES and becoming a part of that divine response. But even Mary wasn’t given the final game plan and had to live by faith as events unfolded.

In our circle there has been a lot of discussion and fumbling tries to understand what it means to be a current buzz-word – “family on mission” – and the practical ways this can play out for a typical Christian family in America where there is never enough time or money or energy or fill-in-the-blank with what your deficit mentality warns.

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There is a movement for our families to figure out how we allow our lives to be a yes here and now, with what we are already doing. This is clunky and full of half-starts, because changing culture is hard and when it comes down to it, we just don’t want the inconvenience of it all.

There is an ingrained sentimentality that if you do mission work “over there” then of course it will be uncomfy.

Of course there will be bugs.

Of course there will be physical, spiritual, and emotional opposition.

Of course I had day-visions of demons while living that summer in China.

Of course my husband almost died from malaria gone-too-far while we were missionaries in Malawi.

Of course our friend was stabbed for a cell phone and left to bleed out while his four boys watched when serving in Costa Rica.

Of course.

“These things happen,” we rationalize. It is all part of the missionary gig to expect risk. We have normalized this opposition so much we become blasé to the dangers.

But what about here?

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We want Divine yes-breath to warm and woosh over our life but we get irked when it frizzes our hair out a bit.

What is the disconnect to expect drama and sacrifice for the “over there” missionaries so much we anticipate it, and let’s face it, junkies for the high of those stories, but attempt to avoid risk and inconvenience at all cost as “families on mission” here?

You always tell us how brave we are to do foster care. We are and we are not. Mostly, we just told God we are okay with a messy life and we are figuring out the rest as we go.

You always widen your eyes and ask if teaching in an economically challenged middle school is something we always dreamed of. We laugh. After eight years of being in that community, my husband feels a responsibility to continue in those relationships, especially in this current political climate to be a person of kindness to his many teenage refugee students.

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We by no means have this figured out but we’re trying to be open and there is a cost. There is heartache and unknowing and measly paychecks to the way we are setting up our life here. Sometimes I find myself telling off God for messing with what could have been a very easy life.

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I am left to wonder how pushing away hardship from our lives all these years hardened our hearts to the plight of people over there and paved the way for fear to be weaponized legally and seemingly instantaneously.

I live from the gut so when you yell at me it is either the safety of my children or the safety of theirs, I have a moment of confusion and second guessing, because I am not addressing issues from a position of cerebral authority – which is the only position our culture upholds as true.

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I teeter for a moment before I remember that is a straw-man argument. I don’t buy into that. There is my family and there is their family and there is your family and there is enough for all.

We have fallen in love with our comfortable, un-inconvenienced lives more than our fellow man. Both within our own city, and certainly with those beyond our borders.

I consider Mary from my viewpoint of a mother who is obsessively in love with her kids. Even Mary had to watch her son be publicly humiliated and slowly murdered. Even she. Safety has never been the banner of living a life for others.

So people of the church. It is time to decide. How do we live now?