Big Changes in the Ward Family

As an MK (missionary kid) I crave change.  If you don’t believe me, just ask my husband.  We have been married now for just under 12 years.  The first year of our marriage we moved from Chattanooga, TN to St. Louis, MO and both started new jobs.  The second year of our marriage we had our first child.  In the third year of our marriage we had our second child.  The next year we bought a house.  Then we got licensed by the state as an adoptive family, and had a pre-adoptive placement for about 6 months.  Then we recovered and got a dog.  Then we got licensed as a private adoptive family and had and lost a placement.  Then we got chickens and built something tangible together as we recovered.  Then we got licensed as a foster placement and had change after change (one time we received a new placement the same day one left).  That’s a lot of change and in the midst of it we have welcomed one more kiddo as a Ward and Lord willing will welcome the other two on a permanent basis soon as well.  We’ve also added and lost cats, added and lost lots of chickens, and added another dog.  I love change but it can also be exhausting and as a family we were ready for a year of just settling in to who our family is now and enjoying a slower pace as we move out of the fostering stage of life and into the “no more adding babies” stage of life.  This year was going to be our year of REST.

God has other plans, plans that we were not looking for or anticipating.  This year will be the year of the biggest change yet.  Moving again.  Kirk and I moved here as a newlywed couple twelve years ago.  This summer we will be packing up our family of seven humans, two dogs, one cat, and seven people worth of stuff (the chickens will be staying behind) and moving them all back to Chattanooga, TN.  I like to joke that we just came to St. Louis to have children.

This change has come as a shock to most people, it was also a shock to us.  Kirk was asked by Chattanooga Christian School to consider applying for their job as a Upper School Band teacher.  Though we’ve never expected to leave St. Louis, we started thinking about it…making our pro and con lists.  Pro…Kirk would be off on weekends and summers.  Con…he hasn’t really taught in type of setting before.  Pro…we have lots of family in and near Chattanooga.  Con…we love our church family in St. Louis.  Pro…CCS has a desire to improve their diversity.  Con…we love The Freedom School and the diversity it is dedicated to.  Pro…all the kids can go to the same school.  Con…we’ll miss our foster support…wait, can we even take our littlest two????!!!!!

This last “con” has been the biggest question mark in our minds.  God seemed to be opening door after door that was leading us to Chattanooga but we knew we wouldn’t leave our youngest two kids behind.  Their case is moving toward adoption but would it move fast enough for us to be able to move this summer.  This is still a question mark in our minds.  It feels like God is testing our trust in Him through it.  The last door to open was the official job offer.  Now the only thing that would hold us back is the St. Louis City court system, not the most efficient or time-sensitive entity in the world.  We have a great team working with us for the permanency of our kiddos but we really have no control over how things will play out.  WE NEED PRAYER!  We need prayer for God to move the “mountain” which is the court system so that we are at a point in their case that we can move them out of the state.  We need prayer for us that we will be able to trust God in whatever the future holds.

The Bible verse sitting on my kitchen window these days is so common that it’s easy to skim past all the wonderful encouragement…Philippians 4:6-7, “DO NOT BE ANXIOUS about anything, but in EVERYTHING by PRAY and supplication with THANKSGIVING let your requests be made know to GOD.  And the PEACE of GOD, which surpasses all understanding, will GUARD your HEARTS and you MINDS in Christ Jesus.”

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Why Adopt Little D?

Someone recently asked me why we have chosen to adopt Little D.  Kirk had said something to me, a “tongue in cheek” prayer.  “May God continue to bless D with new levels of maturity and peace so that his presence in the house does not slowly kill my wife.”  Though it was said somewhat sarcastically, it is a real prayer of our hearts that we pray humbly and desperately before the Lord.  This person asked me why we would choose to adopt a kiddo that we felt was slowly killing me.

This past summer was nearly impossible.  Five kids is a lot!  Balancing the needs of older kids and little kids is hard.  Balancing the needs of kids who want to chill without structure at home and a kid who needs specific structure and constant activity away from home is hard.  Carrying a 30 pound infant everywhere while chasing a 30 pound toddler who hasn’t learned boundaries is hard.  These are surface, logistical needs I faced each day this summer.  Not to mention that my family wants to eat breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner, and dessert EVERY SINGLE DAY!

There are emotional needs as well.  There are A LOT of emotional needs when you are parenting children from “hard places”.  Parenting children who are emotionally needy, children who are on the brink of “fight or flight” (mostly fight in Little D’s case) almost all day is exhausting.  Keeping on top of behavior to prevent all out rage is taxing.  Staying calm in the presence of a child who is fighting against you, literally in fear of their life, is nearly impossible.  With the help of the Holy Spirit I am able to love my little boy through these fears.  With the help of the Holy Spirit I am able to remain gentle and kind with my words and my body even when he is attacking me with his words and with his body.

But I do get enraged.  I do get so angry that I want to hurt him.  I get so used up that I want to disappear for a few days, or at least lay in bed by myself all day.  I found that by the end of the summer I was beginning to feel the physical effects of parenting Little D.  My body and my heart were all used up.  It’s in these moments that my prayer is that God would help me to survive another day.  It’s a real cry, from a really exhausted mommy; it’s a real cry, to a powerful God, a loving Father.  It’s a plea that He would give me the grace to love a child who calls me a “stupid cry baby” and threatens to “punch me in the face” (we’re hoping to deal with these issues before he becomes older and has worse names to call us).  A child who scratches, kicks, hits, and spits because he doesn’t want to eat the cereal I gave him for breakfast, the cereal he insisted he’d eat this time (his fear is telling him he’s going to starve, that I’m withholding food from him).  Or throws books at me as I leave him at bedtime.  It’s in these moments that my husband cries out in prayer on my behalf.  We cry out because we also see the charming, delightful little boy that he is.  He is precious in the sight of the Lord and we believe in a God of healing and we have hope and faith that God can heal Little D from the hurt he has experience.

So the questions come in these moments…why would you choose to adopt Little D.  I guess I’ve never really thought about it that way.  To be honest, it was never a question that I asked.  We chose to foster because we wanted to be a safe place for kids who needed a safe place.  I choose to adopt Little D because when that question came up he was already my son.

Me and D (one month as his mommy)

Me and D (one month as his mommy)

Joy and Sorrow

It’s my first day alone…in so long. I had four kids all summer. I love and delight in all of them but it was hard work negotiating the appointments of two new foster placements (back to back) and daily life with 4 kids. School started this week and I have so much work to catch up on. But I find myself scrolling through facebook and my mind wandering. My brain hasn’t had time to process for the past several months, it’s going crazy with all the silence in my house.

This week is a mix of emotions. Saturday night a teenage boy in St. Louis was shot by a cop. The details of what happened are contradictory. One side says the boy attacked the cop. The other side says the cop harassed the boy and shot him repeatedly as he tried to run away. I don’t know the truth, I wasn’t there to see it.

But what I see on the news is heartbreaking. The racial divide is so obvious. The boy was black, the cop was white. The cops saying the boy was in the wrong are white. The witness saying the cop was in the wrong is a young black man.

As these racial tensions are high in my city, my kids started school. We dropped of our two white kids and one brown kid at The Freedom School. I sat on the floor with my brown skinned 3 year old, D, helping him feel safe in this new environment. Beside me sat a young black man with his 4 year old brown-skinned son. As I left my crying little guy I looked back to see this other dad reaching out his hand to comfort D and invite him to come and play with him and his son.

I think about conversations we will have to have 10 years down the road with our sons. With Sam, my white son, we can talk about following traffic laws and the conversation can end there. Obey the law and you won’t get into trouble. What if D stays with us permanently, in 10 years we have to have a conversation with him about obeying traffic laws. But then we have to talk about making sure you don’t do anything than makes you look guilty. Keep your hands out of your pockets when approached by a cop. Make sure you are completely respectful to those in authority. Don’t run, keep your hands visible so it’s obvious that you aren’t armed.

According to some, the boy who was just shot was shot as he ran from the cop, hands in the air, stating that he was unarmed. How to I prepare by brown-skinned babies for this?

I have joy as I see my kids growing up in an environment where they are building friendships with people of other colors than themselves. I have hope that God’s kingdom is coming and that one day we will be able to live in peace with each other. I have joy in the little glimpses we get to have of that in our life here in St. Louis and at our school and church. I have sorrow that this world is so broken.

Vicious Cycle

I feel like we are stuck in a vicious cycle. There are several things that we feel committed to as a family but at times these things seem to be in conflict with each other. Lately this has become most apparent in our desire to grow our family through adoption.

Commitment: Kirk’s job at New City Fellowship. We know this is where God has placed our family. Kirk is good at his job and enjoys it. God is using him to show love to the nations by pursuing multicultural music. Our church also believes in walking with the poor. They pay Kirk enough to support his family but not too much to make him unable to sympathize with those around us who are poor. This has been a good thing in our life as we humbly are able to understand what it is like to live paycheck-to-paycheck, almost. New City Fellowship is a good thing God has put in our life.

Commitment: Sarah’s job as a stay-at-home mom. I believe that the best thing I can do for my kids is be a stay-at-home mom for them during the first few years of their life. This gives them the chance to have a stable foundation as they go on into the world. It is hard to be a full-time mommy but also so rewarding. I have loved being able to fully invest myself in my kids, my household, and BAKING! Being at home full time also make me able to spend the time needed to work with a newly adopted child as they mourn for the loss of their first family and attach to ours.

Commitment: Living in the inner city. We moved into our house three and a half years ago. We wanted to live near the church office. God has blessed us with a wonderful block full of wonderful people. We happen to be the only non-African American family on the block. I love it! I love the environment for my kids. I love that I am pushed to step our of my comfort zone to go the the grocery store where I will be the only white face. I love the connections I have made and the acceptance I have received from those around us. I am glad that our AA adopted children will have people around them with the same skin color. And that I am having the opportunity to taste what it is like to be in the minority.

Commitment: Love and compassion for the orphan, the widow, and the refugee. Jesus’ kingdom. This is what has drawn us to pursue adoption rather than having more biological children. We have the space, love, and community that make us good candidates for adoption. Our compassion does not end with children who need a family, we also feel deeply for mom’s who are facing crisis pregnancies. Our desire for a child is balanced with a desire for moms to be able to raise their children. We are also committed to trans-racial adoption. We believe that God has equipped us to be a good option for an African American child because we will be able to raise him/her in an environment where they will be involved with other trans-racial families and have positive African American role models in their life through our neighborhood, church, and school.

Lately I have been frustrated with how our commitment to transracial adoption is being blocked by our financial commitment to being in our church which makes us a good option for a transracial adoption. Arg!

The best way to learn to trust my Heavenly Father is to be forced to trust him. I’m learning this, slowly.

Please pass around our adoption profile to anyone and everyone: KirkSarahAdoptionProfile.wordpress.com.

Family of Four

I figure the most fitting title to this blog post referred to the post preceding it, “A Family of Six.”  We are no longer a family of six as B and M are no longer living with us.  A very long and personal story of struggle and grief.  It was an extremely difficult decision to make but we had to ask for them to be moved to another foster family.  We have since closed our file with Children’s Division and are now beginning the process of growing our family through private adoption.  We had B and M for about 6 months and then have been gone from our home for about 6 months.  We’ve learned a lot, hurt a lot, grown a lot, and been forced to lean on God’s grace a lot.  We live in a sinful and broken world and it’s messy.  I am learning about loss and grief on a more personal level than I ever have before and thank God that my heart will always be a little bit broken for my blond kiddos that I briefly had the pleasure to love on.  We were praying at night for B and M and Joanna said, “Why do they keep getting passed from family to family.”  I hate that their mother’s selfishness is causing them so much harm.  I am babysitting my friends’ daughters a few days a week and one of them is a baby.  Sam has been so sweet with her and I asked him if he’s excited about having another baby in our family.  “I want baby M in my family,” he said.  I’m thankful that Joanna and Sam remember B and M with fondness and have forgotten how hard it was.

Psalm 37 has become my theme and comfort of the last year of waiting for a placement and now as we begin waiting again and healing from our time with B and M.  “The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the Lord upholds his hand.” (v. 23-24)

Eventful Friday

Yesterday was an interesting day with lots to think about. Kirk was off work so the morning was spent relaxing together, eating cinnamon rolls, chillin’ in the back yard.

Next came our meeting with our adoption specialist where we discussed a potential child and some crazy new developments…no case is typical we learned in class and now we get to learn it on a practical level. But God is faithfully keeping my emotions in tact and continues to encourage me that He knows what kid we are right for and will bring him/her at the right time. Sorry, no further details in this public of a venue. 🙂

Then our friend and neighbor dropped by while he waited for his wife, who had the house key, to get home. Kirk had a wonderful conversation with him about adoption, city living, and the grace of Jesus. He is a believer who is feeling dissatisfied with his church where so much emphasis is placed on what separates them from others that they can’t just love people and see similarities. And also his desire for ministries of mercy. Kirk had a great opportunity to talk about New City and our core values of grace and justice.

Next big event was playing outside with the girls from next door. I won’t go into my conversation with one of the girls about how the Most High said that we’re supposed to wear skirts, not pants. As Bethany and I sat out there chatting we noticed some “suspicious” activity down the block. She’d walked down there earlier and seen guys in a car with a whole bunch of money…and guys hanging out in front of houses that are not occupied. So I finally got up the gumption to make my first call to the police to report it. This was a big step for me! A bit later two cop cars drove by, pulled over, chatted with the guys. And then sure enough handcuffed a man and a woman and spent quite awhile out there. Not sure what else happened but hopefully it’s a start to a safer block. It makes me think about the woman arrested…was it for prostitution? has she fallen into prostitution because she’s addicted to drugs? does she have children? will they go into state custody? will she be able to get over her addictions so that she can be a good mommy?

Lest you begin to think that city life is all crime and cops…this is the occurance at one end of the block while the rest of the block is made up of wonderful, neighborly people.

My Summer So Far

Time is changing and I feel like my life is in waiting. This summer has been full of social activity and fun. Running in the early morning with friends. Weekly get-togethers with fellow Christian sisters. Crocheting and embroidering.  Weeding and planting in the garden. Sweating outside so we can play with neighbor friends and host a Bible Club. Frustration, anger, joy, and laughter with the kids. And waiting…waiting for God to make me like Him…waiting for a call from our adoption specialist…waiting for the heat to pass…waiting for the house to be clean. God please help me to be satisfied!