Monthly Archives: March 2011

Fostering a Family

DCFS (the Department of Children and Family Services) is an acronym familiar to many because of news stories that report on abuse and neglect occurring in state foster care systems. These stories receive prominent coverage because “bad news sells.” The unintended consequence is that foster care appears to be a profoundly flawed system, and one that aspiring parents should avoid at all costs.

That’s not necessarily true.

The truth is that there are some amazing success stories in foster care. Stories of people who’ve opened their homes to children who were strangers and enabled them to experience loving family – in the process, altering the trajectory of their lives for the better.

Heather was 2 years old when she was placed in foster care. In the beginning, she resented the social workers who took her and her sister, Kayla, from their biological mother. But the girls quickly grew to love their foster parents, Barry and Marsha Yearwood, who later adopted them.

Heather, now 22 and happily married, didn’t fully appreciate the love she experienced in the Yearwood’s home until her biological mother resurfaced after many years. “She had a dead-end job. She moved every four months or so.” Heather’s younger brother, who’d remained with his mother, was a high school dropout. “She never instilled anything in him. I remember sitting there thinking that could be me.”

Today, thanks to the Yearwoods, both Heather and Kayla are attending college.  And, Heather and her husband, Dustin, have become foster parents. “It’s amazing what the Yearwoods were willing to do for me,” said Heather. “I felt like it was important to pay it forward.”

Is that story the exception that proves the rule?

John Silvey doesn’t think so. Growing up, he saw his parents take in and nurture hundreds of foster children. Foster care seemed completely natural to him. He shared his childhood with special needs children, and children who had been physically or sexually abused. Most, though, simply had no one to care for them. “When you’re a kid growing up in a family like that, you learn to have compassion,” he said. “It was a great experience.”

When he married, Silvey and his wife, Beth, decided to become foster parents. Less than two years after they completed their training, after having cared for three siblings and several other children, they got a call about newborn twins who needed a home. “From the moment we picked them up [on December 18th], we knew,” he said. “They were our Christmas present and they’ve been that to us every day. They are our girls.” The Silveys are finalizing adoption March 21st.

In one of his most memorable lessons to the disciples, Jesus taught that when we feed, clothe, comfort or welcome strangers, we do it for him. Not just in his honor, or in his memory. But also, as if we have literally done these things for Jesus himself. “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me. Come, you who are blessed, take your inheritance.“

Might it be that your home could be a haven for a child who needs the love you are so hungry to share? And might it be that, in the process of giving generously, you would also receive? Might this be the way God is calling you to create a family – and in the process, to bring His light and love into the life of a child?

Think about it. Pray about it. And then, listen for His guidance. This could be the path to your family….

=====================================================================For For more information on foster care parenting and child placement, visit FosterParenting.com.

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Filed under Blessings, Hope

Community Benefits Infertile Couples

Harvard Medical School recently completed a study indicating that a woman’s chances of conceiving improve by more than 50% with involvement in an infertility support group.

That would seem to simplify the decision process – should I/we join a group? – fairly substantially. But the truth is, pride and a longing for privacy can be hard hurdles to clear. Even if Harvard’s right, are those increased odds going to be enough to alter the outcome of your story? And if not, is the public exposure of your private struggle worth the downside risk?

Author Barbara Brown Taylor thinks so, and her reasons are worth considering. In her new book, An Altar in the World, she writes, “At the very least, most of us need someone to tell our stories to. At a deeper level, most of us need someone to help us forget ourselves … [because] the main impediment to living a life of meaning is being self-absorbed.”

Anyone who’s experienced infertility can tell you that self-absorption is par for the course.

It’s human nature to be self-absorbed. We’re all  inclined to see ourselves as the stars of our own story – and everyone else as the supporting actors, bit part players and non-essential walk-ons. Social media like YouTube and Twitter reinforce that perception with their subliminal message: “It’s all about you.”

When infertility strikes, our story takes such a dramatic turn, we become hyper-aware of the spotlight. Anticipating social scrutiny, we instinctively seek privacy (or, at least, internet anonymity). We don’t want  our “audience” to see anything other than our success; this uncertainty feeds our fear of failure. We want applause, not pity or patronizing advice; this vulnerability fuels our desire for secrecy.

Ultimately, we want the public perception of us to match our highly-prized self-image. We are successes, not failures. We are good people destined to become great parents… aren’t we? Afraid to expose our feelings honestly, we struggle alone — doing all we can to hide the truth of our long, difficult journey.

Taylor makes clear that there is a better way:  seeking to share our true selves with others who are also struggling. “Encountering another human being is as close to God as I may ever get – in the eye-to-eye thing, the person-to-person thing – which is where God’s Beloved has promised to show up.” In other words, if we are to find God in the midst of this journey, it may well be through others making the same journey.

“Paradoxically,” she continues, “the point is not to see Him. The point is to see the person standing right in front of me whose heart holds things for which there is no language, whose life is an unsolved mystery.” Can we set aside our own struggles long enough to be fully present for someone else? Someone who also needs to sense God’s presence — through us?

If we are to benefit from community, we must. Otherwise “the moment I turn that person into a character in my own story, the encounter is over. I have stopped being a human being and have become a fiction writer instead.”

There’s the valuable insight.

Community gives us an opportunity to share our stories and be heard. It also requires us to set aside our tendency to think of everything in terms of our selves. Rather than being fiction writers, we can offer the very real gifts of presence, compassionate listening, and sincere support. If we do, an infertility support community will not only increase our odds of conceiving, it will enable us to help others increase theirs, too.

All in the presence of God.

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Filed under Perspective, Speaking Up

At Peace Despite Unanswered Prayer

I got a bittersweet email from a reader this morning. She had written to me in early January asking for prayer as she and her husband tried IVF after five failed IUI’s and a miscarriage. She told me she’d already read Pregnant with Hope once, and she would be re-reading it as they made their way toward Transfer Day because it filled her with confident hope.

Her note this morning said, “None of our embryos made it to Day 3, but I’ve had peace throughout the process.”

How did she do that? How did she sustain a sense of peace despite all the uncertainty? How did she step into the moment of disappointment when she heard none of the embryos made it… and through it?

She chose to trust that God’s best sometimes begins with “No.”

Years ago, Garth Brooks released a country song about unanswered prayer. I heard it so many times that, despite my limited affection for country music, I knew the words by heart – among them: “Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.” It took me years to realize that song was popular, in part, because it’s so true.

For much of my life, I prayed for specific requests to be fulfilled and equated that with answered prayer.  When I didn’t get what I wanted, I took it as an indication that God either didn’t care much about me, or that He wasn’t listening very carefully.

I was wrong.

In hindsight, I can see that the prayers I thought were not being answered were actually answered very clearly:  “No, because I have something better planned.”  “No, because there are things you don’t understand.” “No, because I can see what you cannot see, and I know what you cannot know about the future.” “No, because I love you too much to say ‘yes.’”

The early part of my life was a cake walk. It was easy to love God and trust Him – because I was perpetually blessed. Only when everything possible began to go wrong did I realize that trusting God meant thanking Him for what I didn’t think I wanted. It meant finding peace in the midst of complete chaos and total uncer- tainty, by faith.

When I found that peace and learned how to live into it – despite the stressful circumstances that threatened to hijack every aspect of my life – I stepped into a new relationship with God.  And I started becoming the person He wanted me to be as a parent.

Now, I know better than to tell God what to do. I recognize and respect the fact that His wisdom far surpasses my own. And, equally important, I trust His love for me. I trust that He wants the very best for me – and all those whom I love. So, I pray for His best — whatever, and whenever that may be.

The woman who wrote to me this morning has chosen that same perspective. She trusts this “no” is one step on the journey to the child who’s waiting in her future. The one who is nothing less than God’s best. Imagine God’s delight when it will finally be time to tell her, “Yes.”

 

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Filed under Peace, Trust