Faith

One Brave Mom’s Foster to Adopt Journey

Melanie Parent’s foster to adopt journey is one of love, heartbreak, deep faith and godly community. She is brave & courageous & one of my heroes. She told me once that she could only consider this journey because she has such an amazing village who loves her well. May we all learn from her experience & strive to create villages that so beautifully surround, support & love all the Melanies & Sophies in our churches.

My foster and adoption journey started after a mission trip to Panama in 2012. I’ve volunteered with my youth group for many years but on this particular trip God stirred in my heart the call to adopt. I’m not married and wasn’t even sure I wanted kids of my own but when God begins to speak who am I to say no? So after much prayer and seeking advice from my people, I decided my answer was YES. This yes started my journey as a foster mom through the state. Because I’d be doing this as a single mom, fathers and sons from my church stepped up to say they would be constant role models for these sweet children. My church invited me to conferences to make sure I was prepared and prayed with me when the doors I thought were the right ones seemed to close. They also connected me with people who I believe God placed in my life to work out a plan that far exceeded anything I could imagine.

I was approved as an official foster parent in June 2013. 8 months later, DCS placed a 3 1/2 week old baby girl in my home! Oh the excitement! My church family rallied around us with calls and texts to see what our immediate needs were. Friends brought us dinners and diapers. One friend from church brought me lots of baby girl clothes and stayed to put away all the clothes and diapers in the nursery. That first night was rough. Sweet girl only slept for about an hour at a time and cried most of the night. I have to say I threw up the next morning, exhausted and overwhelmed about all I had just been entrusted with. My yes to God had just gotten real! I knew it was impossible without my village. Our youth minister and his wife came over that day and held baby girl while we both got some much needed sleep. It was then I knew we would be ok. God would continue to provide. In the next few months, we began our new normal. I knew there was a good chance this little girl would not be staying with me forever. She had a great aunt in a different state who loved her and wanted to take care of her. But getting her there would mean lots of court hearings and decisions by judges. In the meantime my heart fell in love with this precious life that was depending on me. I loved her fiercely and I cried about letting her go. I again turned to my church family for prayers when her future seemed uncertain and prayers before court hearings and prayers when it felt like my heart could handle no more. They sat with me for long mornings at court. They shopped with me to occupy the time during birth family visits when I wasn’t invited to stay. The time came to entrust someone else to care for this sweet little girl who had been mine for almost 4 months. Again my church surrounded me. They prayed and spent time with me so I wouldn’t be alone in a now very silent house. Slowly the healing began.

You may have noticed by now I have not mentioned baby girl’s name or told you much about her “story”. With both of my girls, I’ve had many people ask me “so what’s her story”. While this seems harmless, it makes us feel as if you’ve just asked us to tell you the deepest darkest secret of our child’s soul. Those details aren’t ours to tell and we don’t always know the facts. We do know there is brokenness. The details aren’t important, just know they are in need of love. 

God wasn’t finished with this journey. Four months later, I got the call for a 2 week old baby girl named, Sophie. My church family showed up with just as much excitement as before! They went with me to the hospital and packed me dinner because I was way too excited to remember to eat! They brought food and pulled out the newborn clothes and put away the bigger clothes (since I couldn’t bring myself to do that in the months before).

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Melanie & baby Sophie surrounded by some of their village.

I was smitten from the beginning. This time I was told she might need an adoptive family. I was more than happy to be that family, but again this would mean lots of court dates and judges and uncertainty. No matter where the journey lead, I knew my church would walk with me. I remember friends consistently checking in and asking what they could pray for specifically. Most of the time people didn’t ask me “how are you doing?’ because they knew sometimes it was a roller coaster of emotions and I might just need a hug and someone to cry with me. They celebrated with us over baby milestones and made Sophie feel like she had lots of extended family. 🙂 I remember walking to my car one Sunday morning and finding diapers and milano cookies on my hood. I didn’t have to purchase the first pack of diapers until Sophie was 4 months old!! Our church’s children’s clothing sale ministry allowed me to shop early and gave me a credit to use at each sale. Just another wonderful way they could encourage and support me in my fostering journey. My life group prayed over big court dates and checked in after to see what decisions had been made.

After 13 long months I got to adopt my sweet girl!! It was a great day of celebration! Sophie and I had 54 people at the courthouse that day to celebrate our new family. I had a good friend who volunteered to photograph the occasion. They also threw a brunch afterward, complete with yummy food and monogrammed cookies. My church has continued to wrap around us. They threw an adoption shower for us to fill our home with toys and books. It’s a little unconventional to throw a shower for a toddler but my church did it so well. 🙂 We recently moved to a house with a big backyard for her. I had mentioned to a friend at church that I planned to buy a swing set for Sophie at some point. A few weeks later, I had come home from a youth group trip and my mom told me to check the back yard. I opened the door to find the coolest swing set, already assembled and ready to use. It even had a toddler swing! I looked at my mom and said, “Oh you shouldn’t have!” and she said, “I didn’t. It was everyone at church!” Many families from our youth group pitched in to get us the perfect housewarming gift.

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Standing room only during one court date.

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The village who came to support and love Melanie & Sophie on their “Gotcha Day”!

Typing that story brings tears to my eyes. It will always be a reminder of how my church family answered the call to take up the cause of the fatherless and show more love than I would ever know alone.

I chose to foster and adopt because LOVE. These children need love. I need love. God is love. So as God has commanded, Be Love. Whether that’s being a prayer warrior for a foster or adoptive family or meeting physical needs. We need people who will walk with us throughout our journey. These kids need us all on their team! Together we can help heal hearts.

 

Discerning with Children

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A Pastor friend recently asked me to come work with him & build that church’s Children’s Ministry from the ground up. It was an extremely difficult decision for me to make. On one hand, I’d love the challenge of beginning a new ministry. On the other hand, we are beginning some amazing new spiritually forming ventures at my current Children’s Ministry & I’m at the beginning of a high-risk pregnancy with my first child. The timing is terrible. Without going into all the details, friends & mentors helped me discern that the wisest decision is to stay where God already has me. When I shared my decision with my Pastor friend he was gracious & understanding & said if he’d only known it was a high-risk pregnancy he wouldn’t have even asked me. But the truth is if he would have known & assumed the answer (even though he would have assumed the right answer) he would have denied me the opportunity to pray & seek God’s wisdom in this matter. He would have denied me the chance to come to terms with how life changing this new baby is & that my identity & priorities will & should change.

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Engaging Silence in a Loud World

Shannon Rains might arguably have the craziest summer of anyone else I know right now. While completing her final summer at Kingwood Church of Christ as Children’s & Family Minister, she is also a D.Min student at Abilene Christian University and in the middle of that she moved to Lubbock Christian University to begin working this fall as the Assistant Professor of Children’s Ministry. 
It seems appropriate that she joins our conversation again today sharing the importance of practicing silence not only in our own lives but also with our children. 

I have a keen interest in engaging with children in the spiritual disciplines of silence and reflection. This concept seems counter-intuitive to most philosophies of children’s ministry. But, it is not counter-intuitive to centuries of spiritual practice or the witness of Scripture. The process of spiritual maturation needs silence and reflection on God. This is as true for children as it is for adults.

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Our children live in a very busy world. Their days are filled with noisy and activity: morning news, music in the car, school buildings full of kids, sports and music practice, multiple electronics are always on and with the average family. Parents, how many times a day do you ask your kids to do something? Kids receive constant input of stimuli.

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Embracing the Generosity of Children

Chris Field is the Founder and Executive Director of Mercy Project. He traveled to Ghana for the first time in August 2009 and has since been on a mission to bring new life to children in slavery as well as empower those around him to make the world a better place.
Chris and his wife Stacey have been married since 2005. They have four children – Famous, Micah, Beckett, and Lincoln. Chris is a gifted speaker, avid runner, and inspirational world-changer.
I’m grateful for his contribution to the conversation today. Welcome, Chris.

Practicing the discipline of service with our kids is really, really hard, but not for the reasons you’re probably thinking.

The biggest problem with practicing the discipline of service with our children is that they are just so darn generous.

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Heart of a Servant

“God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another…I have a part in a great work; I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall love as Christ loved, I shall do His work.”

– John Henry Newman

There is something so empowering for children to know now, at their young age, that God has a job for them to do. They are called to love & serve others just as Christ loves & serves us.

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The Discipline of Service “is a way of offering resources, time, treasure, influence and expertise for the care, protection, justice, and nurture of others. Acts of service give hands to the second greatest commandment: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” (Calhoun, p 144)

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Love Letters from God

This year during VBS we scheduled some “Digging Deep” time: group time after Opening Worship. Digging Deep was designed for children to have some quiet, centering time with God at the beginning of their day.

On the day we were learning that “God is Love” their Digging Deep activity was to write a love letter from God to themselves. What did they think God wanted to tell them? What did God love about the way He created them? Why does God love them? Children entering kindergarten through 5th grades wrote & drew letters from God.

For most, this was the first time they had ever done anything like this before. But God showed up and spoke to the hearts of our children. Here are some of their letters.

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“Dear Liam, You are good at defense. I love you. You are cool. God”

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“Study” doesn’t have to be a 4-letter word.

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Caleb looked at me with furrowed forehead and whined, “I’ve been at school all day, do we really have to ‘study’ anymore today?” The same Caleb who a month later would beg for time to ‘study’ during class. Because study isn’t about memorizing facts or lectures from the teacher. It is about diving into God’s Word and learning to listen for what God has to say to my heart, today, right here & now.

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Shabbat Shalom

Shabbat seems like the perfect counterpart to Fasting. We are not a culture that says “no” often or intentionally self-sacrifices to make space for God in our lives. Fasting & Shabbat seem to directly challenge those principles more than any of the other disciplines. Shabbat is another discipline that is best practiced within the context of the home but must be modeled first by ministers & pastors.
Today I am grateful that Stacy Smith joins our conversation. Stacy is the Associate Director of Discipleship for Alamo Heights United Methodist Church Student Ministries. She and her husband (who is the Worship Pastor) not only model Shabbat as pastors but also practice Shabbat as a family. Regularly. May we all model Shabbat for those we serve and challenge all to honor one of the most beautiful disciplines given by God. 
Welcome, Stacy.
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Two summers ago, my husband and I made our way to Israel for the first time in our lives. It was the trip of a lifetime, destined to forever alter the way I saw God, the way I saw myself, and the way my family engaged our faith. Over the two weeks we spent in Israel, we witnessed many traditions and observances that we ourselves found quite appealing—one of which was Shabbat, or Sabbath.

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Family Style Fasting

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Josh practices fasting regularly. One day, Josh’s son told his dad he wanted to fast, too. He was 6 years old.

Little eyes are always watching and eager to follow the example set before them.

Fasting is an interesting discipline to explore with children. To be fully transparent, I haven’t done it a lot with children and until I heard Josh’s experience I had never thought about practicing it with them. Fasting is difficult for adults so it’ll be especially challenging for children who aren’t used to choosing self-sacrifice. For this reason, I believe fasting works best in the context of the home. So in preparation for this post, I asked several families to practice fasting. You can see what was asked of them here. No really, take a minute and read through this so the rest makes sense. I’ll wait.

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Praying with Kids: Permission. Play. Praise. Practice.

There are few people I’d be willing to lead me up Masada, sail the Sea of Galilee, crawl through the FullSizeRender-290x300aqueducts at Qumran, and climb Mt. Carmel with than Cayce Harris. Cayce is a woman with a deep faith & love for God and a heart of wisdom that knows no ends. I’m grateful for her friendship & leadership. Cayce is the Director of Ministries at Christ Healing Center. She and her husband, Joel, have 4 children with another on the way. The fruits of Cayce’s prayer life are evident in her work, her family & in all of her life. I’m so grateful she is willing to share with us even in the midst of morning sickness. May you be blessed today by Cayce Harris. Welcome, Cayce.

I love it when kids bow their heads and say amazing sweet, simple prayers with their hands folded and their bodies still. But let’s be honest, while it’s tender when it happens – most kids are all over the place most of the time. Activity and noise define what my kids are doing almost always.

I want my kids to learn to be still and listen – and they will learn that, there’s time for that. Even more so, I want my kids to live a life-style of prayer. I want them to know that because of Jesus’ incredible love for them, they have access. Access to GOD – the God who made it all. They can access Him as much as they want – there is no limit. There’s no such thing as too much or too often. There are no boundaries when it comes to their relationship with God and by extension, their prayer life.

How do we foster this as adults who sometimes require stillness and a 3 point lesson to feel connected to God?

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