The Incarnation

It was nearing the end of a busy year and we had been to an adoption information session. This was very helpful in explaining all the reasons adoption was a bad idea for us and I had all the arguments neatly aligned in my mind.
We are already too busy doing good things.”

“We already work for disadvantaged children through my paid work”

“It would be too hard to parent two children “normally” and one therapeutically.”

“Our family is too flawed.”

“Social workers might see our faith and criticise us and our parenting and I don’t think I could cope with that.”

“It makes no sense financially or career wise to do this.”

“Our birth children would suffer.”

“I am too flawed.”
The good thing about being busy is it is a great way to avoid those pricks of conscience.
Then one day I was flicking through Facebook and a watched a video a friend had posted about the birth of Jesus.
It was a modern-day retelling. And Mary and Joseph, both teenagers were sheltering on a dark night, in an underpass with the newborn baby Jesus.
Jesus, Emmanuel , God with us.
And it occurred to me, that throughout history, God had communicated with us in many ways, through creation, through the Law and the prophets, through signs and wonders. When he wanted to communicate most fully, when he really wanted us to understand what he is like, what love is like, the maker and sustainer of the universe became a human baby. He became part of a human family. He had a human Mum and Dad.
He was born into poverty, a member of a nationality under occupation by the Roman Empire, his parentage a potential cause of scandal and gossip, who had to flee as a refugee to Egypt. He grew up and learnt to walk and talk and read in a human family.
This was a high risk venture.
“The Word became Flesh and dwelt among us.”
Among us. Not at arms length. Not on a correspondence course. Not part-time with frequent respite trips back to heaven.
“He became flesh and dwelt among us.”
In our nation, there are thousands of children taken into care from situations that were unsafe, neglectful or abusive. For some the courts decide that it is not safe and will never be safe for them to return to their birth family. They are in effect orphans, brought up by the state.
As a follow of Jesus, I am called to care about these children. I should and do care about having high standards in social work, for foster carers and the work they do to be appreciated. I should campaign for action to prevent and break the cycles of generational abuse. I believe that those of us who work in education or health have a extra duty of care for these children, whose start in life has been so very hard.
But maybe, just maybe, God is calling me not just to shout and cheer “I love you” from the sidelines, but to step onto the pitch.
Because when God wanted to demonstrate his great love for us, he became a human. He lived grew, ate and drank and learnt to walk; he did that in a family.
If God’s chosen method of child rearing is through family, if he himself joined a human family, then is that what he is asking of us? Is it possible that he wants us to do the same, to offer our home and our family to child without one? For a child to grow up in our forever family, to be nurtured, loved and cherished by us.
Forever.

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When God is calling you to do something BIG and you are trying hard NOT to listen

During our adoption journey I have met some amazing, selfless people, with a long standing sense of calling to adopt children. They are sure that this was what God was asking of them and faithfully pursued this with clear purpose, confidence and diligence.

I am not one of these people.

When God started to speak to me about adoption.

I laughed.

And then I tried to do a Jonah. I didn’t quite board the boat in the opposite direction, but initially I pretended not to hear him.

I would like to have written a blog post entitled “How God guided me to adoption.” But I feel that would not be honest.

Therefore, here are some thoughts on:

What to do if God is speaking to you about adoption, and you are trying hard not to listen:

First of all, if you don’t want to hear God speak, there are probably some things you need to avoid:

1. The Bible

(in all forms, preaching, Christian conferences, personal devotion, daily bible verses, Christian radio)

WHAT I hear you cry, I am a Christian, I have to read the Bible, surely there are some safe, non-adoption parts that I could read …

Okay, if you insist, you are going to have to be very careful.

Firstly, in the Old Testament narratives you have people who were adopted: Moses, Ruth, Esther and Mephibosheth.

The Old Testament law and prophets, you have multiple references for God’s concern for the poor, the widows and the orphans.

Even the Psalms, God is described as the one who “sets the lonely in families.”

Steer clear of the apostle Paul, and the doctrine of being adopted into God’s family and being Co-heirs with Christ. WOW- that’s mind blowing. Co-heirs with Christ, (did I read that correctly?).

Then you have James

“the religion which God desires is this; to help widows and orphans in their distress.”

Surely, I hear you ask, I can read my children their bible stories?

Except that when I read my children the great true stories of the Bible I am reminded of:

The God who made and loved us. All of us. Who has knitted us together in our mother’s womb, who has numbered our days, counted every hair on our head and knows each sparrow when it falls;

The God who rescues his people, from slavery and oppression and called them his very own;

The God who is in control, even when terrible things happen such as flood, famine, and exile;

The God who became a human baby, who grew to be a man, who opened the eyes of the blind, calmed the storm, raised the dead, fed the hungry and died a criminal’s death, in my place, so that I might be free. Free to live for him.

While on earth, Jesus talked repeatedly about “The Kingdom of Heaven” a kingdom where the first shall be last, a Kingdom that needs to be entered like a little child, a sort of upside down kingdom where the things we think are important often aren’t, and those who mourn, who are hungry, who are persecuted, and the meek are blessed.

You might also notice that God has a track record of using unlikely people too: Moses was a murderer, King David (the man after God’s own heart) committed adultery, Gideon was hiding in a wine-press, Peter denied his Lord, Paul was hell-bent on destroying the infant church …..until He met Jesus.
2. You need to avoid spending time with Christian people who do extraordinary things for God.

The thing about these Christians is it would be so much easier if they had some sort of visible marking of “higher specification Christian“, denoting them as suitable for overseas missionary work, open air evangelism, preachers and people who foster and adopt broken children.

Maybe like, a Ultra-violet painted halo, that only showed up when you hold a bible over it. Because then I could sit back and think “I am not one of those higher specification , UV haloed Christians, because I am flawed and broken. So I can get in with my own life, inside my comfort zone, while they do the extraordinary things for God.” “Those challenging bits of the bible and those jolts of my conscience are not meant for me, no, it’s meant for them.

The problem with spending time with overseas missionaries, full time Church workers and other whole-life disciples, people of extraordinary compassion and faith, is although, yes, they are remarkable, they are also human, and broken, like me. They tell me honestly and quietly that Jesus is the strength in their weakness. That they had moments of doubt, that they too wrestled over their calling.

And in case you were wondering, reading autobiographies of such Christians is a disaster, because many of them talk about how God took their weaknesses, their failures and their flaws and used them for his good. In ways they could not possibly imagine. If you don’t believe me, try reading my second favourite book in the world: “The Hiding Place”. By Corrie Ten Boom.
3. Make sure you discuss your thoughts about adopting with people who are going to respond in the correct way.

Surely you have friends and family members who will agree with you, (when presented with the facts correctly) that you are already doing too many good things for God to turn your life upside down by adopting. Your career progression, financial stability and your birth children’s academic and sporting pursuits might be curtailed, they will agree that this is a high risk, low chance of success venture best left to other (UV haloed) people.


4. Do not watch programs, read articles or newspaper reports about the reality facing children in our care system.

For example you might learn that sibling groups, those who are older and disabled wait longest. You might hear of those who wait for a forever family that never comes. You might realise that children’s social care is so under resourced, that very many children remain in dangerous, neglectful, abusive homes for far too long before they are taken to safety; and your heart might start to break. And you might start asking God to do something about it…
Things that should have been safe:
A. On your only child free morning of the week turning on The Chris Evans Breakfast Show on Radio 2, should be fine….unless the “Pause for thought” is about adoption.

B. Asking members of your youth group to babysit for you while you attend an local authority adoption information evening. When you return and explain to them all the reasons you have just been told why adoption is far too tough. They sit their quietly and listen, and then some weeks later say “I think it would be great if you did it“.

C. Going on your once a year (pre Christmas) shopping trip to be greeted at the door of the Mall with a massive billboard of a smiling child, with the words “Could you adopt?” written in bold underneath.
Then you might stop running and metaphorically take your fingers out of your ears and say. “Okay God. I get it. You care about this situation and these children. I am listening.”

And then you might do something terribly dangerous.
You might start to pray:
“Break my heart for what breaks yours.”
“Let your kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven.”
“Here I am Lord, use me.”

How do I react to my childrens’ misdemeanours in a Christ-Like way?

imageA fellow adoptive Mum, recently asked the following question.

“How do I react to my adopted childrens’ misdemeanours, in Christ?”

This got me thinking…..

How do I react.
Answer: not very well… Sometimes very badly.

So, how do I react to my children’s misdemeanours IN A CHRIST-LIKE way?

I have started asking myself these questions:

1. Am I reacting out of pride? Is my greatest concern what other people think of me. Or is my concern for what this behaviour is telling me that my children need.
2. Am I reacting from a place of anxiety? Am I so busy worrying about the consequences of this behaviour in the future that I am unnecessarily making things worse in the present. (It is unhelpful for my inner dialogue to be “what are we going to do if you can’t learn to do this by the time you are [insert age or stage here] 5 / go to school / go to secondary school/ go to college / leave home.” ) You have have probably heard the expression “we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.” My problem is that in my mind, I cross hundreds of bridges each day, many of them in reality, God will never ask me to cross.
3. Am I prepared to admit to myself and my children that I sometimes get things wrong, and that that is okay? I have recently found it helpful to say “today we are going to try it this way.” (Cue panicked expressions from offspring “but , but, but”) . ” Well, (kindly) the old way we tried it didn’t seem to work so well, so we will try it this way and afterwards see if we think it is better.” (Somehow this makes us more like adventurers or detectives trying to figure the best way to get to swimming on time rather than the usual nagging / arriving late / leaving costumes behind saga.)
4. Do I need to redefine what a “good” outcome is for this scenario. – spending a happy hour at a friend’s birthday party by arriving late, leaving early, and calm, is a good outcome for our youngest. Sometimes I just need to lower my expectations.
5. The bible tells us to train our children. I have found the image of a coach or trainer helpful. An athlete will have natural strengths and weakness, as do we all. Do I encourage my children to thank God for their strengths and to grow to use and enjoy them for him. Am I praying and helping them with the things they find hard and celebrating their steps forward, however small and however far behind typically developing peers they may be?
6. Is the characteristic or personality trait in my child that is causing me so much difficulty in parenting something that I need to regularly pray into, that God will use it for good. I wonder if I need to pray that God will use my daughter’s strong will (and kind heart,) to help her resist peer pressure, to give her the courage to stand out from the crowd, for him. I need to ask God to use my son’s bouncey, determined, passion – for Him, for His people and for justice.
7. Am I looking after myself sensibly? Am I trying to parent in my own strength? If I am exhausted and stressed, I do not react well. My children will at times behave in ways that irritate and infuriate me, at times they will be down right disobedient and cruel. Have I eaten, slept and spent enough time with God to react to this with compassion, patience and kindness? Have I recently done the things that keep me well, like running or catching up with a good friend who really listens to me, loves me and helps me laugh at myself.
8. This is probably the most important one for me. Have I lost sight of the defining relationship of my life? Before I was a wife, a mother, a youth leader, before my job, my qualifications, my successes and my (spectacular) failures I am the adopted daughter of the King of Glory. Astoundingly, outrageously, this is true : Jesus loves me. He died for me and promised he would never leave or forsake me. He tells me to cast my cares on him, he teaches me to seek his kingdom first and ask for my daily bread. Because of him my past is forgiven and my future is secure. When I am at the end of myself, He is there. I have learnt that when my parenting demonstrates to me that I am actually impatient, unkind, selfish, proud, and anxious I see his perfect “never stopping, never giving up, seeking and saving, always and forever love” more clearly. And I am so grateful.