Emulating their example, and encouraged to do so!

During the twenty-five years Dennis and I have been married, we have been blessed to walk through the foster and adoption process with several friends and family members. We witnessed the frustrations and setbacks in paperwork and fundraising. We watched couples battle impatience while waiting to be selected as parents by the birth mom or discover which child from the orphanage would become their own. We wept with them when the child they thought was theirs, the child they prayed over for months, was taken away and not always replaced with another. We shared in their hurt over the criticism and lack of support from family and friends. Each one was difficult, and often, disheartening. 

And yet, not one of those families regretted their decision. None ever said, "It wasn't worth it." The time, the energy, the emotion, the tears, the disappointments, the heartache, the sacrifices ... every family we know declares they would do it again a thousand times.
To quote David Platt, "Orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names. They are easier to ignore before you see their faces. It's easier to pretend they are not real before you hold them in your arms. But once you do, everything changes."

The families who invited us to share in their journey not only educated us about the realistic hurdles and heartaches that accompany foster care and adoption, they showed us the Gospel.
defending the weak
speaking for those who cannot speak for themselves
considering others needs before your own
peace in the midst of sorrow
Each family modeled these with honesty, with vulnerability, and with grace. Even on the worst days when nothing went right, discouragement lurked around every corner, and the "why" of orphan care got lost in the ugliness of the hard moments - they cried out, "This is worth it!!!!!" They may not have liked all of it or even liked themselves or their kids some days, but they made a commitment to be ALL IN. And their faithfulness to care for, protect, serve, love, and speak the Gospel to every child in their home put hands and feet on their commitment. And I stood in awe of them.

Fast forward a decade when the Lord swept a new group of foster and adoption women into my life through the Orphan Care ministry at church. They allow me in, they let me ask questions, they speak freely about their experiences, they enthusiastically declare the beautiful moments of redemption and healing and humbly confess the devastating moments, and every time we are together, no matter how much they are battling with all of the hurt and brokenness that comes with raising children of trauma, they are able and willing to praise God and give thanks for the children He purposefully placed in their families. And I stand in awe of them.

Now, the Lord is calling our family to join them. Babies - birth parents - social workers ... we have no idea with whom or how the Lord plans to use us in this world of foster care, but His calling was clear. And we had to respond. 
As soon as we said, "Yes, Lord!" Dennis looked at me and said, "Hold on! It's going to be a bumpy ride!" And, boy, was he RIGHT. Though we have not experienced a tenth of what other families have endured in the foster care/adoption process, the road is not newly paved, and we have needed to remind each other of the "why" so we do not give up before the going actually gets tough.

Even better? Realizing that we are not alone in this adventure. The Lord does not call His people to His work and then abandon them in the work. He is there - a very present help - day in and day out. And then, after providing Himself, He sends others to join in the work! Encouragement, prayer, wisdom, advice, financial support, supplies, contacts, shared passion ... there is no end to the ways He uses the body of Christ to "stir one another up to love and good deeds." Which brings me to the origin of this post.

Yesterday, we received an unexpected gift in the mail with this note:
Dennis and Michelle,
Long ago my parents, your grandparents, started a tradition of saving coins and putting them into a rubber squeaky toy. When the grandchildren came for a visit, one would have the delight to receive this toy. This continued until the last one received their turn. They kept saving coins and putting them in the toy but didn't give it to anyone. 
When I was cleaning out their home after selling it, I found and kept that toy with its contents not knowing what I would do with it. Also, during said time, while cleaning out your father's bedroom (Dennis' birth father, Jack), I came across more coins in bags and jars. So, in honor of the tradition, I am sending these coins to go toward your fund for foster care. I don't know how much it is, but hope it helps. Love, Aunt Jerri

You can imagine our delight with such a thoughtful and sentimental gift. How sweet it would have been if Grandma and Grandpa Bold and Jack could have known where their saved coins were going. I cannot help but think that Grandma would have smiled with tears in her eyes, and Jack would have grinned his endearing "Jack grin." ❤ Thank you, Aunt Jerri, for such a precious gift. ❤

Dennis' sister Denise has been our loudest cheerleader since the day we announced our news about surrendering to foster care/adoption. Like Dennis, she was in foster care as an infant until Mom and Dad Eastman took her home, so this ministry is near and dear to her heart.
Every Christmas her birth-siblings draw names for a gift exchange, and in addition to a gift, Denise donates money to a charity/group/person that is meaningful to that sibling, in their name.
After a quick visit with Dennis right before Christmas, Denise sent him home with an envelope and told us to read it together. We were stunned to discover she had chosen our family to receive her donation!
She included a copy of her letter to her sibling in our card, and melted my heart with these words, "I know how important this is to your family and I don't want you to get discouraged."
♥You are amazing, Denise, and we love you.♥

Every good and perfect gift is from above,
coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, with whom there is no change or shifting shadow. James 1:17

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