Tuesday, July 27, 2010


This is what submission looks like.

Right now there is a young woman somewhere who has a baby in her tummy she did not want. She drank, she smokes, she is planning on placing him for adoption. Birth dad doesn't care.

On the one hand, this is exactly what we signed up for. God made a baby where nobody wanted a baby. But we do. We want a baby. We want to say yes to what God made. We want to say yes to life.

This is a baby who has been abused before he was even born. And we have no idea what condition he will be in. The list of things that could be wrong with this little one is long and intimidating. Congenital heart defects, low birth weight, facial defects, ADHD, premature lungs, stillbirth. I don't know if my home school classroom can survive even the least tragic options on the list.

So here I am, my heart praying for birth mom, dad, and this little one. I'm in. But the questions are large: What if we get matched and she doesn't show? What if we say yes and he is still born or lands in the NICU in a state far from home? What if I am given the opportunity to parent a child that can't hold still long enough to hear 2 adjacent sentences?

But can we say no to a baby God made? So that's me.

But I can trust God to speak, to move, to give and take away, to do whatever is best for all involved. And one grand (or sometimes not so grand) way God takes care of me when I don't know what to do is to speak to/through my husband. His jury is still out.

We've had some conversations, he and I, some warm on the edge of heated, but they end like this: I say, "I trust you, I trust God to speak to you and through you, I will support whatever you decide".

I am praying for my husband, for birth mom, for birth dad, for baby. Lord, please help my husband know what to do. Help this birth mom know Your love, Your forgiveness, Your peace, and know what to do with this little one. Help the dad to know how much his heavenly Father loves him. And God, please heal and protect this little boy, and guide him into Your perfect plan. Amen.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Adoption Preferences

I have filled out what feels like a hundred pages of paperwork about adoption: why I want to adopt, what I have done to get ready to adopt, first name, middle name, maiden name, social security number, annual income, favorite color, favorite food, band instrument I wish I played in 6th grade and name of my least favorite substitute teacher (yellow, fresh peaches, saxophone, Mrs. Westfield - the worst subs were the ones who wanted to be teachers).

But the sheet we keep filling out for every single agency we apply to is the one about "preferences". And there is this whole list, 3 pages sometimes, of horrible questions that you would never have to answer for a child you were giving birth to (okay, I take that back, people do sometimes know if their child has an issue and are given a 'chance' to decide whether or not to 'parent' that child - my sister had that 'opportunity' with my niece's cleft lip and palette; my friend had that 'choice' for her daughter with spina bifida), but many of the questions are not normally encountered for biological children. It feels like you're trying to mail-order God.

There are all different types of questions. Diabetes? HIV? One of the birth parents had leukemia? One of the extended family had leukemia? Bipolar? Mental retardation, mild alcohol consumption, moderate alcohol consumption, severe alcohol consumption? Alcoholic? All manor of drug use questions, all different drugs, how much, in what month. 3 pages.

And every time we fill out the applications, which all word things differently, we re-evaluate, re-assess, re-answer the questions. It is an agonizing and unnatural process.

Idealistically, we just want to say yes. Yes, God. Yes, whatever You want to give us is fine. If we were to give birth to, say, a child with hydrocephaly, we wouldn't decline our parental rights, so why would we say no to adopting a child with the same need? If we gave birth to a baby at 33 weeks gestation, we would do whatever that baby needed us to do, period. So why wouldn't we adopt a baby that has to be in the NICU for 4 weeks?

And yet, we are saying no to some situations. We are saying no to diseases our other children could get. We are saying no to situations we don't think we could parent adequately without severely shortchanging either our adopted child or our other children.

Recently we got a phone call, our first and only, to date, about a baby needing a family. It was a boy, due in 6 weeks or so, pretty significant drug exposure, and they were having trouble finding adoptive families to present to the mom. Were we open, they wanted to know.

We were open. We were open to a baby who might be drug affected. We were open to a baby with legal risk. We were open even though the baby would probably have to be in foster care for a few days before we could get him. Our 'preferences' included all of the things he was, except one.

He was white. And in the racial portion of the preferences questionnaire, we had not stated we are open to white babies. We did not enter the adoption process with any thought of adopting a white baby. It never even entered our minds.

Now, there are several reasons for this.

Demand. White newborns are in higher demand for a few reasons that are not as unkind as you might assume. Most people adopting in America want a white baby because most people adopting in America are white because most people in America (at the current time) are white. (Why are there more black babies? Could it be that young pregnant black women, in spite of being racially targeted by organizations like Planned Parenthood for the destruction of their race, choose to give life while young white women choose abortion more often? I don't know, but I'm so glad the ones who choose life do so, aren't you?!) People generally prefer to adopt a baby that looks like them. Why?

Conspicuousness. A transracial adoption is very noticeable. The family enters a room, a store, a reunion and the very first thing complete strangers know about them is that they are an adoptive family. This can be difficult for the child or the parent or both. The parents have to talk about adoption with their child according to other people's reactions, not on the child's own developmental time table and according to his needs and understanding.

Identification. To adopt a child of a different race is to identify with that race, whether you choose to pursue and embrace that culture, or pretend the difference doesn't exist, it is there. To adopt a child that looks different than you means acknowledging and dealing with all the prejudice and stereotypes that child will face, and to realize the privilege that comes with being white that you were heretofore unaware of. It means helping a child find ways of learning his/her culture [not learning about, actually learning it], so that he/she feels comfortable with people of similar background as him/herself.

Adoption is hard all by itself, and adopting transracially is an entirely different (and potentially much harder) thing. So in the world of adoption preferences, you get to write down if you are open to Caucasian, Asian, Latino, Indian, native American, African-American, and different mixes. Here are my preferences: I want a baby of African-American heritage.

I can come most close to identifying with an African American baby. I live in a neighborhood with black people. I have a niece and nephew from Africa. I have close friends who are black. I do not currently have any relationships with Asian or Latino or Indian people. This is not deliberate, and has not always been the case. But I currently have meaningful relationships with black people. We deliberately chose, long before the subject of adoption was on the table, to live in a neighborhood where we would interact with and connect with and identify with African-American people all the time.

Does having a black niece and nephew and living in a neighborhood with black people and having friends who are black qualify me to raise a black child? No. But it does mean I'm better equipped than I am to raise, say, a Korean child.

I don't mind being conspicuous. We're incredibly conspicuous. I think leaving the house with a child who is obviously adopted will make us look LESS conspicuous. People will look and go, "oh, they're an adoptive family" and then they'll try to figure out which other kids are adopted instead of trying to imagine how one woman could possibly give birth to 10 children in 13 years.

And as far as demand/availability, we're a long shot. Maybe no birth mother will pick us at all. We just want to say 'yes' to young women who are choosing life instead of abortion - and it happens that many of those are African American.

We said yes to that drug affected white baby, but didn't get him. And for the 3 or 4 days we were waiting to be presented, I thought about adoption and about transracial adoption. I thought it might be easier, less complicated, and that maybe God didn't think I had what it took to be the mom of a child with brown skin. And I walked around my world with my eyes wide open, wondering if my community would accept us with an adopted black baby.

At my grocery store (as often happens, I was the only white person there), there was a young woman with a teeny tiny baby with brown skin and dark eyes and black curly hair, and I was smitten and adoring and I wondered if she'd be as happy for me if I walked in holding a baby like that - or if she'd resent it. It is possible that some people in my community, especially those who don't really know us, will feel we've stolen from them, or that it is yet another form of white arrogance.

I'm aware of the many opportunities I have for screwing up - it would reflect poorly if I allow my adopted black child to run outside in just a diaper or underwear - in my neighborhood people don't do that. It might be easier in suburbia than in the city. I'm nervous, afraid. Can I raise a child to be culturally comfortable with other black people, but raise him/her first in the Kingdom of God, and therefore in the world but not of it, and therefore somewhat uncomfortable with anyone who doesn't know Jesus?

Part of me thinks this won't really happen. We went up on the mountain, we tied up "Issac" and got ready to light the fire, and that's all that will really come of it. It was just a test. We passed. $4,000 in the offering plate. I'm not afraid to offer that to God, I trust Him. And I'm not afraid of looking like a fool for Him - I do that all the time.

I'm probably more afraid that it will happen. I don't know what it will look like, or be like. I do not enjoy experiencing rejection, nor do I appreciate when my children encounter it. I am uncertain that I have what it takes. But I am completely certain God does have what it takes. I have seen that His timing is always perfect. His ways are always perfect. I know that whatever He does with us in this area in this season will be exactly right and He will give us whatever we need to be the parents of all the children He gives us - emotionally, financially, in every way.

And I guess that's where my preferences really come down. I don't want a child of African American descent for reasons of availability or conspicuousness or racial identification. I don't want to be the mom of a black boy or girl because I live in a neighborhood with wonderful black people and have wonderful black friends and have a marvelous black nephew and a gorgeous black niece. It isn't my preference because I think I could do better at raising a black child than I could if I was mom to a child of another culture or ethnicity.

I want a son or daughter with lovely brown skin and beautiful dark eyes and curly black hair because that is what God put in my heart when He planted the seeds for adoption. That's what I want because that's what I think God wants to give me. I will follow Him anywhere and do whatever He tells me to do, and if it doesn't look like I thought it would, I will still say 'yes' to Him. It wouldn't be the first time He took me to St. Louis by way of St. Petersberg or to Muncie, Indiana by way of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Monday, July 12, 2010


Today a special lady went to a special place. This is my version of her story. I may have some of my facts a little wrong, or I may have made some of it up, but this is right to the best of my ability.

A long long time ago, when my grandma, Velma Ruth Powell, was 8 years old, her mother died just weeks after giving birth to her baby sister, before giving her a name. Velma named the baby Marguerite.

Many years later (61 years) my grandma died, and so did Marguerite's husband Bill. In what seemed to my young eyes a short (immediate) period of time, my grandpa married his late wife's sister and my Great-Aunt Marguerite became my Grandma.

I was about eleven at the time, making my siblings 8, 5 and 3. She was really the only Grandma my sisters ever knew. We lived 2 doors down, so we saw them all the time.

Somehow Marguerite became the matriarch of two families. She was a giving mother and grandmother to her four children and several grandchildren, but also became a devoted wife to my grandpa and picked up with all of us right where Grandma left off. She even made the same chicken and noodles and cherry delight.

For Christmas that first year she bought me my first make-up kit. It was a little wierd having all the people there together, but it was way better than not being there at all.

Once there was a dog that showed up, we later learned he was a Westie, a West Highland Terrier. We started feeding him. What we didn't realized was that next door my Auntie Evelyn and Uncle Charlie, and next to them, Marguerite and Grandpa, were also feeding the same stray dog. Finally we figured out with meals at three different houses, he was never going to leave. They advertised for him, but no one called. The family worked it out so he only got one dog's worth of food per day, and named him Benji. (Of all the things to name a stray dog!)

I remember she was afraid when she was 69 that she would die, because her brother and sister had both died at 69. But that was 20 ish years ago.

My grandpa not only lived longer because she was with him, he really really lived much longer. I remember when my husband and I were first married we all took a road trip to Colorado to see my brother play drums with the touring choir from Azusa Pacific University. Grandpa and Marguerite went right along with us - something like a 19 hour drive. Nothing stopped him, to a large degree because she was right there with him.

I remember visiting them for spring break one year and them driving around trying to find a beach for me to lay out on. In the end, we pulled over along side the road, where there was something like 20 feet of wet dirty sand by the water, and I "laid out". So funny.

Marguerite means pearl, and she was one. I named my youngest daughter after her.

So here is my goodbye to a wonderful lady who added so much to so many lives, a sweet, kind, patient, gentle woman, tenderhearted, longsuffering, a great cook, a great mom, a great wife, a great aunt/grandma.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

today . . .

i started the day grinding wheat for waffles for 17 people. we have had the honor and pleasure of hosting a wonderful family for the last 3 weeks during a prayer strike at our house of prayer. it's been great. but they've been fasting, so today was our only meal together.

then i went to church and led worship all by myself, i think for the first time ever, just me and the piano. it was very sweet and delightful. i enjoyed it immensely. i think it surprises people in a church that normally has a full band to have just a voice and piano on sunday morning, but in a way, i think it somehow puts the impetus for worship on the entire body, and people pick that up and run with it.

then i taught sunday school, 4th and 5th grade.

after church we went to my second daughter's birthday party - ice skating. in honor of her special day we sent all her friends home with bruises and blisters, which is what you do for birthdays.

i'm home now, and beat. that's a full day for me. but what is really on my mind is tuesday. on tuesday 2 very important things happen.

i will go to see my ob for the first time for this pregnancy. now, this being my 11th first ob visit, you might think that is in the not-big-deal category. but the first visit is when they look (ultrasound) and see that you do in fact have a baby growing in your tummy, as opposed to just being 4 weeks late starting your period with nausea and a positive pregnancy test. but it's a big deal. seeing that everything is okay, a heart beat, a due date, the right size, having blood drawn, none of that becomes less significant the more kids you have. IT BECOMES MORE SIGNIFICANT. i know, better than most maybe, how very magnificent each of God's special creations are.

which brings me to the other incredibly important thing that happens on tuesday. we're going to be presented to a birth family to be considered to adopt.

both these events are important for the same identical reason: life. whether it is life in my womb or someone else's, life that was intended by man or woman or life that God hit the override button, whether it is life that that is exactly what you thought you wanted or life that is different from everything you had in mind, life that looks just like you or completely different, life that is perfectly healthy or life that has lifelong medical issues, life that becomes a rocket scientist or life that never leaves home, regardless, life created by God is a special creative active deliberate miracle. it is a delightful treasure and a blessing.

so as busy and active as my day was today, my heart burns for tuesday, and whatever miracles it reveals. what will God do in me, with me, for me? what majesty will He show us? i delight in His ways, in His Word, and in His works. i'm so thankful for the privilege of carrying His miracles these eleven times, and i'm in complete and total awe that He would consider allowing us to receive a life He created outside my womb into our family, into our arms.

so full of prayers for our birthmom, for the dad, for the baby, for each of them to have a hope and a future, for them to know the love and mercy of God, for them to make the best possible choice, to have wisdom and comfort and peace.

and so thankful. God is good.