Chuches, Why Have We Not Yet United?

Russian_orphansPastors, deacons, elders, church members, Sunday school volunteers – I’m curious.

(And please know that I ask myself this same question.)

Two questions, actually.

Two questions that could revolutionize the world.

A question that could shout volumes to the planet of God’s love.

And here’s the first question:

Why are our orphanages so full?

The way I see it is, the fuller the pews are, the emptier the orphanages ought to be.

Doesn’t that just make sense?

Here’s the second question:

It’s a bit more personal.

The last question was directed at the universal Church.

This one’s directed at you. And me. And my wife. And my neighbors. And my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Okay, so here it is:

It’s a scenario, really.

Suppose you received a text message from an unknown sender.

And it said

THERE IS A NEWBORN IN A DUMPSTER SOMEWHERE WITHIN A SIX-MILE RADIUS OF WHERE YOU LIVE.

FIND HIM. SAVE HIM.

Would you not call all your neighbors and friends and family to comb the entire neighborhood, day in and day out, until you found him?

Would you not be dumpster diving in every dark alley?

Folks, there are babies and kids dumped in the orphanages and the hospital every day.

When Sarabeth and I were visiting our Baby A. in the hospital last week, there was a premature baby tucked in the back of the room all that time, crying.

Crying.

Crying.

And no one, that we saw, ever came to visit him.

A newborn left to his own devises in this great big, cruel world.

Our social worker told us that she was on the very brink of calling us the day we brought Baby A. home because, for the life of her, she could find no one to accept the placement of another little boy who needed a home.

But she didn’t want to overwhelm us with two newborns in one day.

The title of this post is, “Churches, Why Have We Not Yet United?”

I think it’s possible, and necessary, for churches to finally come together and encourage, no - admonish, implore  – their members to go out and adopt the local orphans and unwanted children.

We observe Orphan Sunday.

That’s great to name a Sunday after those we’re to care for. But what’s the point if we’re not all going to go out and care for these orphans?

It’s like celebrating Christmas paying no mind to Christ. Or uttering no one word of thanks on Easter.

Or eating pretend food at dinner, Neverland style.

If you smell a universal Chruch-wide calling in the air, if you’re wondering the same things I’m wondering (like why aren’t we as a whole taking this calling seriously), please forward this post on to your pastors, your elders, your deacons, your Bible study groups.

Let’s start something here.

Let’s start a revolution in the name of God.

Let’s flood our country’s orphanages with not only the love, but the presence of believers everywhere, and wash those children into our homes.

Our imperfect, flawed, loving, caring, warm, welcoming, Christ-centered homes.

And change their lives – and the world – to be a little bit more like what God had intended.

If you are interested in joining me in getting the word out to churches everywhere, or if you would like your church to be involved in this, please email me at andrewtoy1208@aol.com.

Please include your church status as a church employee or member,

and please include your name of the church you’re apart of, with their website address, and tell me the city and state.

One last thing, please share your interest in orphan care, by choosing one of the following:

a) I’ve not given it much thought until I read this post

b) I’ve always wanted to be involved, but just didn’t know where to start

c) I’ve adopted/fostered, and would like to educate others about the process

d) I’ve wanted to see something like this happen for a long time – Let’s do it!

Let’s get something started.

 

She’s Not a James, But…

baby_carriage3

I’ve been married for five years, and I just fell in love again.

You’re probably aware that Sarabeth and I have been in the process of becoming foster-to-adopt parents.

We’ve been longing for a child all these years.

Well, we finally got a call last week for a little girl born a month-and-a-half early.

So through a whirlwind of confusion and excitement, we’ve been at the hospital visiting with our beautiful, gorgeous, foster daughter whom I’ll call “A” for privacy reasons.

Seriously, for the first time ever I understand what the big deal is about babies.

I mean, I’ve always been pro-life and have understood the value of a baby’s life, but loving a baby?

Yeah. That’s a new one for me.

Now, we fully understand that, as foster-to-adopt parents, we may not be able to keep her—that there’s only a chance that our time together will end in adoption and little “A” becomes “A. Toy.”

It’s a fear and a faith we’ve never known. But more on that in later posts.

She’s not home with us yet. She’s still at the hospital, but we’ve got everything ready for her big arrival day later this week.

In the meantimes, I’ve learned a few things this weekend as a foster dad:

How to change diapers.

How to swaddle.

That I chose the best wife to be the best mother.

That out of respect for little “A,” I’ll always keep my nose hairs trimmed (not that that’s been a problem).

And my tears aren’t like a Phoenix; they can’t heal my little girl’s tummy cramps, or make her sleep. (I know, I know, let the ultra-cheesiness begin.)

Oh, and I learned one more thing.

While I had given up on God waiting for a child all this time, He was busy giving A. life, forming her, shaping her, caring for her.

So even while I was angry at God for “holding out” on us, He still came through. And now, I don’t want any other baby in the universe but her. Even if she does cry and fuss all night long.

The High Cost of Adoption

adopting_parent_small

Maybe you’ve been in this situation before. You and your spouse share the news that you’re going to adopt a child. Instead of that Kodak moment of your family jumping up and cheering and buying another round, you’re met with silence and, if not icy – caustic – stares. And a lot of “Huh’s.”

And then come the objections you just weren’t prepared for.

“They’re troubled kids,” they might say.

“Are you sure your marriage can handle such pressure?”

“What color will they be?”

“What if they’re sick?”

“It’s a lot of work … a lot of waiting … a lot of pain you’re setting yourself up for.”

Not quite the ringing endorsement you were looking for. And here all you wanted was a couple of hugs, and maybe some tears, or as Michael Scott would say, “That Oprah moment!”

But it doesn’t come. Instead the family gathering turns into a mild version of Jerry Springer.

But here’s the thing. At what point did we start to expect that adoption would be an institution set apart from any other Christian faculty?

We claim the sovereignty and unfailing truth of God; there’s bound to be objections to that.

We base our lives off of Jesus Christ being the one and only true and living God; objections are to be expected.

We oppose abortion of any kind; objections.

We should be standing firm against fornication and gay marriages; more objections.

So when did we ever get this notion that adoption would be an easy out? Is that why we’ve chosen adoption as our “mission field?” May we always keep in mind that adoption, just like any other form of exercising Christian faith, will likely come with a high cost.

Maybe you have to downsize in order to afford it. Maybe it causes tension in your marriage. Maybe you’re ostracized from your family. Maybe the Russian government bans the right for you to adopt from their country.

I’m not saying these are good things. These are consequences of not only the Fall, but of being followers of Jesus Christ. Adoption is not to be looked upon as some sparkling clean virtue that comes without much pain or cost. If that’s how or why you’re approaching it, rethink your motives and check your heart.

Maybe you discovered halfway into it that adoption isn’t as pretty or sexy as Hollywood makes it sound. Let me urge you: If your friends or family members are giving you a hard time about your decision, use this as an opportunity to witness to them.

If the child you bring into your home is “troubled,” love him or her all the more! Hang on to them as if they’re you’re own. I don’t care if you’re adopting or fostering-to-adopt, once that child steps foot into your home, you’re Mom and Dad. I personally don’t believe you have the right to return them to the state, even though the state grants you that right.

If the foreign country you were so hopeful to adopt from closes its doors to you, resist the urge to curse them, but direct your anger to prayer, and trust that everything is happening under God’s rule for a reason and a grand purpose that you may not see until Heaven.

Adoption is an act of sacrifice in and of itself. Let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that it’s the easiest option to living out our Christian faith. Be prepared for the objections, the pitfalls, and the cold shoulders. Expect them.

Jesus had no one to comfort Him on the cross. For us to even have one ally in our quest to adopt is a bigger gift than we could have ever deserved.

Approval

 

approved_red_stampWell, it’s been nine months since we attended the foster to adopt classes here in Kentucky. We hit a little snag a couple of months ago, which you can read about here.

Things do seem to be looking up in the Toy household, though. Pixie is recovering nicely from her surgery, and began walking almost immediately (mostly because nothing will stop her from getting to Sarabeth). It’s the next 7 1/2 weeks of recovery (A.K.A. crate confinement) which will be difficult, especially when her little sister Prim is allowed to frolic free around the loft.

And the better news is that we got an email from our case-worker saying that all of our paperwork has been approved and we are finally approved by the state of Kentucky to be foster to adopt parents. Whew!

Nine months.

Like a pregnancy without all the morning sickness and hot flashes (or is that just with menopause?).

So what does that mean, now that we’re approved? Well, it means that we could get a call from the state at any minute, being today or sometime next summer – who knows – and they’ll say, “We’ve got a two-year-old boy here who’s dad is missing and his mom is in rehab…” or “We have a brother and sister here, both under three-years-old who need a home…”

They’ll tell us the situation and any problems that are on record for the kids and ask if we are interested in taking them in.

Before we agree to picking them up, we will ask if they are eligible for possibly being adopted.

By accepting a placement, no matter what the answer to that question may be, we knowingly run the risk of that child being placed back with his or her parents or a relative stepping into the picture to take them in.

But some kids aren’t eligible for adoption for varying reasons. We want to take a child in with the hope that he or she could be ours forever.

So who knows what the future holds for us.

Personally, I’m terrified, as I’ve never had a child before. And it’s not like there’s a due-date. I won’t have six-to-eight hours of labor to let it sink in that I’m having a baby. I won’t get to hand out cigars in the lobby (thankfully this isn’t a 1950s movie, either).

We don’t want to buy toys for Christmas because we don’t know if we’ll have a child with us that morning or not. We don’t know if we need to reserve an extra seat or two at our Thanksgiving table. We don’t even know if we can go see Catching Fire next week because we wouldn’t dare take a two-year-old to such a loud and violent movie.

All we know is that everything is up in the air. And everything is unsure.

But nothing is undecided.

We take comfort in the fact that God knows the exact kid (or kids) that will be placed with us, and when. He knows their temperaments, and He knows ours. He knows whether they’ll be with us for a few months, a couple of years, or forever. He already knows the outcome of the court proceedings that are likely to follow.

We don’t; but He does. And I’m fine with that.

All we can do is have the house ready, warm, and welcoming for whoever we may bring through the door at any hour.

Waiting

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So an update on our adoption process.

We completed the mandatory classes back in February and March, in which time we completed all the paperwork and turned in the information to have our background checks sent to the state of Kentucky. We had to have them sent in from three different states to provide our background checks: California, Florida, and Washington State. (Marriage and the recession had us moving around a lot.)

After two home-studies which we passed with flying colors (even with three dogs living with us at the time), lots of trips to the baby section at Target, and seven months of waiting on our approval, we got the disconcerting  news that one of Sarabeth’s background checks didn’t make it back to the foster care office before the 90-day expiration date.

On the one hand, I’m glad that the state is being so careful to weed out the ineligible people applying to become foster parents. But on the other hand – come on! We’ve done everything they’ve asked us to the T, even though we didn’t like doing most of it, and much of it just seemed like busywork, plus, there’s so much evidence before them that we’re good-standing, honest, law-abiding citizens, completely competent to welcome and care for a child in our house.

This isn’t me ranting, but these are thoughts that I’ve had the last couple of weeks. It’s hard, sometimes, watching other people raise their kids and often complain what a hassle it is when they don’t nap or potty when they’re supposed to, when we’d be happy to have a kid at all.

But then, weirdly enough, I feel the best about it when I slip into what I call, “cliche mode”. We’ve all heard it hundreds of times in our lives, and I almost regret saying it now, but, “It’s all in God’s timing.”

God isn’t surprised that we don’t have a kid yet. Since the Fall, God never ever planned on us having a kid by this point, otherwise we’d have one now. It really is (cliche mode) all in His timing. And the reassuring thing about that is, there’s a reason for the delay. And what’s even more reassuring about that is that the reason very well may be simply because our kid isn’t born yet. Or it could be something completely different that we’ll never know until we get to Heaven.

We’re all waiting for something in life, aren’t we? Maybe a promotion, a degree, redemption in the life of a loved one. It’s funny because it seems like no one’s in the spring of their life. Everyone seems to be wading through the winter waiting for the ice of despair to melt away forever. Heck, look at all the famous rich people who continually get pulled over for driving, who check into rehab, who kill themselves. We all think they’ve reached the ultimate goal, that they’ve got everything we could ever want, but clearly they’re just as depressed, or worse, than we are.

So even though my book isn’t a New York Times best seller yet, or our crib remains empty, I stop and think about the good things that have happened: We’ve completed all the requirements to become foster parents, we have two awesome dogs that we love so much, we have each other, whom we are madly in love with. And we’re two very blessed people to have a relationship with Jesus Christ, to whom we can bring our petitions and stand confident that they are heard and being considered with love and grace.

So with all that in perspective, what’s a little more waiting?

Those Sweet Moments

Ladies and gentlemen, I am proud to announce the arrival of the newest addition to our family, Primrose Ever Toy! (Her middle name is still uncertain.) I’m guessing she weighs in at 1.8 pounds, and is about 9 ” long – shorter than a ruler. No, it’s not James, or Katherine Anne – we’re still waiting on our background checks from other states – but she is our second puppy. Pixie’s cousins will be leaving her in just a couple of weeks, and I finally caved and let Sarabeth pick out a little sister for Pix, so she won’t be so lonely. Plus, what kid wouldn’t feel instantly at home in a house with not one, but two dogs?Photo on 7-17-13 at 9.37 AM

We picked Prim up yesterday evening at 7:00 pm. We drove two hours deep into the heart of Kentucky, so Prim is certainly a good ol’ country girl. Kinda like that old folk song, Old Blue - and Prim is indeed blue and tan. Cutest – and smallest – puppy I’ve ever seen. (Seriously, she barely even comes up to my ankle.) And do you want to know the crazy thing? She slept all night long! We were prepared for a long wakeful night, but Prim was gracious to us (or just exhausted).

So here’s the story behind her name. You Hunger Games fans will appreciate this. She is indeed named after Katniss’ young sister, Primrose Everdeen, who was a symbol of life and love and peace. After all, that’s what all puppies represent, right? Newness of life, unconditional love, and a stubborn refusal to show any hostility toward anyone or anything.

DSCN0020It’s taken me a while to turn this corner, but the more I’m with dogs, the more I’m convinced that they’ll be in Heaven. I know, I know – in the grand scheme of things, that doesn’t matter, and animals don’t have souls, Jesus didn’t die for dogs or cats and blah, blah, blah. I’ve heard all the theological arguments against it, and my mind can’t argue it, but my heart can care less what they all say.

The aisle is split, it seems, perfectly in half. You’re either a Dobsonian on the issue, like James Dobson (who our son will be named after), and promote the idea of heavenly dog houses, or you’re a Mooronian and side with Dr. Russell Moore, in that people shouldn’t even bother to own pets, as they are a waste of time and energy.

DSCN0034Some things just aren’t written in stone.

Bottom line is, there are some moments in life that remind us all just how miraculous life is. I think we need to ferociously hunt down those moments, and share them with all we love, whether they involve puppies, or babies, or the elderly, or mentorship/discipleship.

I urge you, to invite a sweet moment into your life this week. Just for a moment, shed the burden of monotony and seek out a sweet moment to remember in dimmer days ahead.get-attachment.aspx

Our sweet moment came as a family last night when Pixie and Prim bonded for the first time and fell completely in love with each other. We literally witnessed the birth of an unbreakable, lifelong friendship.

Those are sweet moments that are Toy Story-sad, and Gospel-sweet. Those are the moments we should be chasing – even if it sets you back a few hundred dollars. Those are the priceless moments that change our lives for the better.

Be sure to check out Sarabeth’s dachshund blog for more Prim pictures (I assure you there’ll be plenty more to follow, so be sure to subscribe for updates). As well as her and her sister’s decorating/lifestyle blog, From Flats to Lofts.

We got Prim from an outstanding breeder. Every dachshund was absolutely beautiful. If you’re looking for a place to get a dachshund, check out this site: Legend’s Dachshunds. We couldn’t be any happier with the service and care they gave us.

Photo on 7-17-13 at 7.31 AM #2

Doors, Dogs, and Doubt

photoSo it has finally begun. I realize I’ve been quiet on the topic of our adoption journey since I’ve first started this blog early last year.

Well, with our classes out of the way (not much to blog about there), the paper work filled out (most of if), and house made as child-proof as can be (the picture here is of our future child’s room), I am thrilled to say that we had our first home study visit yesterday evening.

We’ve been worried sick over this visit for the past couple of months. When we brought it to the attention of the foster-to-adopt class that we live in a loft – a home without doors – we were practically laughed out of the program.

It was humiliating, for sure. But it only angered me. First off, Sarabeth had drawn a perfect blueprint of our home (as instructed) showing that the two bedrooms are completely separate – each at the end of our U-shaped loft. There’s lots of privacy.

The second thing that angered me was how quickly the minds of our fellow classmates – prospective foster-to-adopt parents – sunk into the gutter – hence all the laughter.

We could put up a door, separating the nook and bedroom from the living room, but it would significantly devalue the worth of the loft. So, in the interest of financial planning, that was not feasable.

The second thing we were worried about was our three dogs. Dachshunds. And if you know dachshunds, they’re known for four things: cuddling, sensitive backs, barking, and lots more barking.

It’s stressful having people over knowing the dogs are going to spend the first ten minutes barking their fool heads off. So, over time we’ve learned different strategies of keeping them at bay (locking them up) and shortening the length of barking time (bribery with treats that require perseverance and time to get through).

So needless to say, we were prepared for the home study visit to end with, “Call me when you get some doors up, and you get your dogs under control.”

I won’t bore you with the details, but let me just say that last night’s visit couldn’t have gone any better. The case worker, who was a wonderfully nice person – to our surprise – didn’t see any problem with us having no doors as our bedrooms are indeed very separate from each other.

…And she was a dog lover! She had two of her own – a collie and a something Shepherd (Australian, German, I forget – either way, the kind of big dogs I would like to have one day).

So all this to encourage you, if you’re living in a world of worry, or anxiety is keeping you up at night, and you don’t have the strength or faith to pray about it (like me), keep your friends in the loop and they’ll pray on your behalf. Many of our friends and family members prayed for us, and we’re so thankful.

So, with just a few more things to check off our list, we’re almost approved to be foster-to-adopt parents – and so, so excited, and shocked, and simply thankful.

Yeah, despite all the worrying, things are starting to fall into place. I bet it’s that way for most other people as well.

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