Adoption Reflections

Jacob – April 2013

We are in a struggle. Not with Jacob this time, but with the providers of Medicaid. In January 2013 the laws for medicaid changed or reformed. As I understand it when medicaid reforms, it is a fatal blow to those who abuse the system and to those who need the system. Two beds opened up in Strategic Psychological Residential Treatment Facility (PRTF) and Jacob was denied by medicaid until a team meeting could be organized. The beds are now filled. Since Jacob had left our home – he has been in therapeutic foster care and Thompsons PRTF. He has received hours and hours of therapy, intensive in home treatment, and intensive family therapy with no progress. In fact he has regressed in regards to school with 5 suspensions this year and the consequence of lower grades. We have just recently finished with the care team at One to One who who were extraordinary despite Jacob’s refusal to work. It looks like Jacob has come to the end of his resources and because there is no progress, funding will be appropriated to other children. This is rather bleak for Jacob and for us. The statistics are coming into play and Jacob looks like he is going to be one of those statistics despite all the effort and resources he has been given.

Grandfather Home is still standing beside us, but I get the sense that they are winding down their support as well. I feel like unless we get a miracle placement in a PRTF, Jacob will be in our home by August, worse off than when he was placed in Therapeutic Foster care. He is unsafe; DANGEROUS without a conscientious and no sense of empathy – all do to having no attachment to anyone or anything. The bleakness reminds me that our trust is not in statistics, doctors, medication, therapies, or even PRTF’s; Our trust is in God who created the heavens and the earth.

Yeah we will have to make major modifications to our home and activity structure, but God has a way of redeeming things for the good of those who love Him.

Yeah safety is a big concern, but God is our refuge and strength and an ever-present help in times of trouble.

Yeah it looks bleak, but times like these allow us to practice perseverance, and perseverance builds character, and character gives way to hope, and hope does not disappoint,because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Writing those last three sentences has lifted my spirits. God’s got this!

PS – In times of troubles remind yourself of God’s promises and remember God’s got it!

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Mr. Manipulation

We had a big Jacob meeting this past Monday.  The meeting started out with a critical situation that happened at school and then went to a “revelation” Jacob had given to his social worker.   The social worker was prying as to why jacob doesn’t want to come home to be a part of the family and why his behavior has been so bad.  Jacob’s revelation, “My dad makes me rake leaves every time I go home.”  Let me pause for a moment . . . the fact that comment was brought up in a meeting with other people without me being in the loop still upsets me.   Yes Jacob raked leaves the past 2 times he has been home.   The reason for raking leaves was that he has stole money from a classmate and was making money to pay the boy back.  In other words the raking was a response to the behavior not the other way around.   Jacob had manipulated the social worker and really put the social worker and myself at odds with one another.  We had been manipulated and triangulated.

I’m still angry.  I’m still wondering if Jacob has the ability to plan that sort of stuff out or whether it just happens.  If you are familiar with Pirates of the Caribbean movies, there is a great line that is repeated a few times during the movie as Jack Sparrow escapes yet again, “Do you think he plans it all out or makes it up as he goes?”   Is it pre-meditated or does it just happen?   I would like to know.   So there I was, set up; mr. slavedriver.  Jacob’s revelation is that his behavior is all due to the fact that somehow I can make him rake leaves and do chores the whole time he is at my house.   I wonder if making him ride his bike, go bowling, eat out at Andy’s, watch movies, and watch a football game is causing all the problems.  The answer is YES.

What?  YES all Jacob’s behaviors are caused by those very things.  In fact raking the yard is the least of his burdens.  You see being in relationship, in a family is hard.   That’s why there is divorce.  That why we have words like dysfunctional, irreconcilable, and alimony.   Being part of family is tough.  Just being in a relationship is tough.   I think Jacob has decided the relationship with his family isn’t worth the effort and manipulation is the key to getting out.

If I think about it he is right.   It takes work to be married.  It takes work to be involved in your kids lives.  it takes work to maintain a decent friendship.   It takes work to keep up with the easy relationships.  It’s hard to even think about the the ones that require a spirit of forbearance and long suffering.   I john 4: 19-20 “We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.”  How can we who cannot even maintain a relationship with those we are supposed to love actually have a relationship with God Almighty?    I’m with Jacob on this thing; being in a relationship is hard work, there are expectations, rules, requirements, costs, and dangers.  It is much easier to manipulate and justify my behaviors than it is to have a deep relationship especially with God who brings things like confession and repentance into a real relationship.

The I John passage is clear if we can’t love the ones we are supposed to love how can we love God.   I believe there are a lot of people trying to manipulate a relationship with God instead of being in one with God.   It is easier to justify our behaviors and claim it is God’s fault.  God makes His Word hard to read and I don’t find it relevant .  God made me this way so…this behavior is justified.  If God is so loving why did He let this happen?  And we justify not praying, reading our Bibles, or doing ministry or even worse still we justify our behaviors by allowing culture to be rule and authority of healthy relationships over the Bible.   We manipulate rather than put the work in to enjoy the deep relationships.   I’m with Jacob on this relationship thing, it is much easier to manipulate the people around you than it is to relate, be honest and truthful, forbearing, and love.   But if you won’t do that with the people you’re supposed to love how can we say we love God?

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Black Hole

ImageJacob was home this weekend, and after 2 years of therapeutic foster care, residential treatment, and intensive home treatment he is still the same kid doing the same things.   He spoke maybe 30 words combined to all of us, half of the words were lies.   He refused to engage.   He told us he did not want us as his parents.  And we were thrown back into chaos which of course is where Jacob prefers to live. He did however do a great job raking leaves in the backyard!   We are trying to put handles on our relationship with him and figuring out how we can make sure our girls can enjoy peace during their Christmas break.

Relationships are crazy animals with all sorts of give and take.  Most viable relationships involve mutual and equal amounts ofgive and take.  What do you do when you are in a relationship with someone who only takes?   If it’s a marriage; counseling, therapy, co-dependence, divorce.   If it’s a friendship; you are always paying for dinner and the movies and you are always the one who calls, texts, and emails.   If it’s a with a co-worker; you end up doing your job and theirs and they end up taking all the credit.  But if it’s with your child?

You might say, “that’s how it is with kids.”   Infants respond in laughter, smiles, coos, cries, and snuggles.    Toddlers (terrible twos, threes, and fours) give hugs and kisses, say they are sorry, and respond empathetically.   What happens when the kid sittingin your living room wants no part of your investment in them and no part of the relationship you desire so deeply to have with them.  Anyone who has been around a child with autism is fully aware of what I’m talking about.   With autism it’s about communication.  What if its about pure rejection?   Can what you have with that child really be called a relationship?   In marriage we would call it a divorce.  In friendship we would call it a break up.  In business we would call it irreconcilable differences.

I hope you don’t think bad of me for this illustration, but having a relationship with Jacob is like having a relationship with a black hole.  Of course black holes are good to have around if you have leaves that to need raking.  What kind of handles can you put on a relationship like that so that the life isn’t sucked right out of you and you can keep your distance so that the other people in your life aren’t ignored or get whatever is left over (if anything)?

I’m sure you knew this was going to get the God spin sooner or later.   In our relationship with God there are daily moments where we reject Him as Father.   There are times when what we are doing is beyond any identifiable evidence that we are even in a relationship with him.   There are days when God longs to hear even 30 words from us.  I am so thankful that God is all powerful, infinite, does not grow weary or tired, and that His love is unconditional and that His grace is all sufficient.   i sure can imagine God looking at me in times of my life thinking.  Rob sure is a black hole.   That may be God’s nickname for me – Black Hole Rob.   So as I struggle to put handles on my relationship with Jacob; the truth that God is able to do far more than I ask or even can imagine becomes abundantly clear.    The truth is – God’s patience and forbearance go far beyond the chaos I can create. I am thankful that God is able to keep me from stumbling and to present me before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—  to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.

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My Three Daughters

I have three beautiful daughters.  They are each uniquely gifted and blessed.  Sometimes I treat them as boys; I have just recently acquired road bikes for each of them with the intention of getting them to join me in my latest obsession.   My girls do extremely well in school, taking after their mother.  They love Jesus and His church.  I am so proud of them.  This blog entry is for them and in honor of them.  I have some context that brought me to write this blog.  The context is this, throughout our struggles with Jacob people have accused me of not having the wherewithal to raise or understand a boy, because I’m just used to girls.  I have decided to take the comment in reference that people must see how good a dad I am to my girls.  The truth is I am a great dad to my girls and thus I think I have something to say about raising girls.

Having said that let me start off in humility.  The first and foremost posture of raising girls (children in general) is the posture of prayer.  Not with your head bowed and hands folded, but prostrate before God, pleading with God for more and more love.   Girls do need a different type of love than boys and as a man I am short on faithful, patient, edifying, and beautifying love that my daughters desperately desire, so I pray.   I frequently pray that God would give them husbands that will love more than I do and I would take a bullet for them.   I pray God would protect them from those who would hurt them spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically and at the same time I pray that God will give them opportunities to be His salt and light witnessing to the Lordship of Jesus.

The second posture of raising girls is the posture of truth.  Not the truth that will set you free, but the truths that drama is unavoidable in their relationships with friends and that boys really are interested in only one thing.  As a dad involved in my girls lives, I have the potential to speak truth into the drama of teenage girl relationships.  I listen, reflect, and then give perspective on what is really important in the midst of the drama.  My girls respect that in our relationship (or seem to anyway), and I think that is rooted my involvement in their lives.   Now about the boys, the truth hasn’t settled in yet – the truth I speak is “not applicable” to the non-perverted boys that are interested in them.  We have marshal law in our home concerning boys, but there is coming a time and season when my girls will be on their own.  It is for those times that I speak the truth, that guys are interested in only one thing.  I tell my girls that self-control is based on saying what you mean and meaning what you say, eliminating opportunity (being alone in the wrong place), and understanding love and sex only go together in the bounds of marriage.

The third posture of raising girls is that of a hug, being a source of appropriate affection.  The first part of this is that my girls see me treat my wife with respect so they can recognize what a healthy male-female relationship looks like and they will recognize when they are in an unhealthy one.  They see the appropriate physical and emotional relationship that my wife and I share.   The second part is that I give them the affection that they need to edify them and let them know they are valued and beautiful.   This is the toughest area for me, because I am not a person who displays public affection and I have to be intentional to teach this.  Our relationship mirrors the relationship that is perfected in God.  God sees us as valued and beautiful and therefore we are.  If I can teach that to my girls that, then there is no relationship on earth that can devalue them of even define them for they are loved children of God.

Without a doubt there is so much more to raising girls.  There is so much that I do wrong.  And in the end is all about the grace and glory of God.

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It’s been a while since my last post and a lot has happened. Our adopted son Jacob got into a residential treatment facility for RAD. He also had a risk assessment done which explained a lot of why we were/are so tired and broken. I visited with Jacob on his birthday and once again I was reminded of my relationship with God.

Jacob had requested his foster mother to bake birthday cupcakes for his class. The wise women responded, “that’s not my job.” Jacob also asked for an expensive birthday present from his foster parents. The response was, “that’s not in your budget.” I would rather talk about entitlement here, because Jacob was angry that his requests were denied, but instead I’m going to talk about son-ship (or daughter-ship). Both of Jacob’s requests are acceptable and encouraged in a family, but Jacob has rejected family. Jacob is not in foster care because his parents are abusive and neglecting him. Jacob is in foster care because he has rejected a loving adoptive family. Jacob wants the rights of son-ship without the relationship responsibilities.

I feel like I do that to God all the time. I want the blessing of being a child of God without the rules and without faith and obedience. I want full rights of being a co-inheritor with Christ without any sort of relationship with the Father. I want God to answer my prayers as one of His children without having to humble myself, confess, surrender, give up my authority, or love God more than I love myself. I want awesome ministry and Kingdom-size miracles, but don’t want to do what it takes to seek the face of God. I want all the benefits and blessings of a son relationship, but none of the responsibilities of being a son. I want to be beloved, but not know who is loving me.

Our souls yearn and hunger for all that God wants us to have and be. Our flesh (our sinful self) wants it without a Father. Jacob didn’t get his cupcakes or the present he wanted, but he does have parents who desperately want to give him all the blessing of a son. God stands ready to open the flood gates of heaven upon His children if they will humble themselves, pray, be obedient, and seek His face.

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The Phone Call, the Dragon, and the Surrender

Two months to the day, Jacob decided to call us.  He had disrupted the whole neighborhood with a fight and the lies that followed in the attempt to get out of trouble.  In the midst of the aftermath he decided he wanted to talk with us.    It was short conversation if you can call it that.  It was rote and with no emotion attached.   He said the right things and then the conversation was over.  Partially because I wasn’t sure what I needed to say for his best interest and there was motive behind his words.   As an aside to the actual point of this blog, Jacob is well and on his way to a therapeutic classification and hopefully his behavioral issues will meet the criteria for a residential facility.    His behavior is being documented and his RAD diagnosis is confirmed. 

Now back to the actual point – I can see so much of my relationship with God in Jacob’s RAD behaviors.   In the midst of crisis and as a form of miss direction I go to God in prayer.  My conversations with God are rote and sound familiar with every other conversation I’ve had with God.   I know the right things to say and often times there is motive behind my words.  If I’m being honest and transparent, what I have spoken of as conversation would not meet the Webster definition of conversation.   If there were a direct phone to God, in many cases it would only have to have a mouth piece on my end.   God has always been good about putting a mirror in front of me and letting me see and experience who I am. 

There are two realities of who I am.  The first is that I am in Christ and there is no condemnation for those in Christ.  Therefore I write not with a shameful and guilty demeanor, but rather as one who is trying wholeheartedly to explore and experience what it means to walk with Christ.  This reality overshadows the second which is; as much as I want to be transformed I am unable.  I am still the guy who can have a one sided conversation with the Creator of the universe.  I am the guy who knows all the right words and can say them without a relationship.  I am the guy who can go days living on my own and run in prayer at the first sign of trouble.  If it were not for the 1st reality I would be the guy who is far from having a relationship with God.   Thanks be to God who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord. 

In C.S. Lewis’ book, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Eustace’s behaviors (sins) lead him to a place where he is magically transformed into a dragon.  Being a dragon has its problems and is lonely.  Eustace is humbled and does all he can to stop being a dragon.   Finally, he finds a place where he can be whole again, a place of redemption.  Try as he could, even after multiple attempts he could not shed the dragon skin.  Eustace surrenders, and through Aslan’s (the Christ figure) power Eustace is transformed back into a boy.   Transformation comes through surrender.  Acknowledging we are not able and surrendering to the One who is able.   Surrendered postures us to listen and listening leads to relationship.    A surrendered Christian is a transforming Christian. 

It is my hope that God continues to remove my dragon skin transforming me as I surrender to Him.  It is also my hope that God will bring Jacob to a place of redemption where he can surrender his control and find wholeness.

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Sermon: 2010 Adoption Sunday

The Father, The True Religion, and The Ox 

This is the sermon Fran and I did November 2010 as part of a Social Justice series of sermons.  It is a small part of our adoption story.   This link will take you to the Engelwood Presbyterian Church Website where you can listen or download the sermon.  I hope the Lord will edify you and lift you up as you listen. 

In Jesus,


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Expectant Hope

“Your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish” – Matt 18:14b

Jacob (our adopted son who has been diagnosed with R.A.D.) has been out of our home for more than 60 days now and with the exception of the very first week he has not asked to call us.  The word we have gotten is that he has continued his behaviors and they are escalating.   Grandfather Home is in the process of classifying him “therapeutic,” which will open the doors for what Jacob needs – intensive therapy.  Even though I didn’t expect it, I was hoping that he would ask to call us or at least to call Kaleigh (his biological sister) showing us that he is not completely void of attachment, but as of today he has not. 

I can tell you how this feels, disheartening.  When you invest in someone as much as we have Jacob, there is expectant hope that what you have done has made an impact.  Expectant hope is that hope that resides deep within your heart and is always waiting, wanting, and searching for a relationship, but never demanding or forcing one.  It is the hope that flows out of love for someone.  Love, of course, does not have expectations, but love hopes and reaches its highest potential when it is realized and returned. 

There is a part of me that wonders if disheartened is how Jesus felt as the rich young ruler walked away, the Pharisees refused to see, the people shouted Barabbas, and the disciples misunderstood who He was.  God’s love of course is not completed by us accepting it, nor is it less powerful when we refuse it.  God’s love is complete and whole and powerful even when we reject it.   I do feel God is disheartened when we reject His love.  I do feel God, despite being all knowing, has expectant hope for us (Matthew 18:11-14).   

At this time, what is best for Jacob is for us to wait and be passive in the relationship.  God however is never passive, but always calling to us, shouting and whispering our names in love.   God is constantly and unconditionally, through the grace of Jesus, pursuing us with a love relationship.    It blows my mind to think that despite all the shame and guilt I carry with my sin and the unworthiness I feel, God still loves me and is hoping I answer his call.  God sent His Son to take care of our sin, shame, and guilt, and Jesus did on the cross.  God loves you and is calling you and hopefully expecting you to answer.

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When I was a teenage boy, my dad told me surfing wasn’t really for skinny 6’2” guys. He was right. I never really excelled at it, but loved it none the less. The adrenaline rush of riding the power of the wave was enough to keep me in the water so much that my upper body was bronzed tanned and my legs were white as Christmas. There is a moment in surfing where the struggle of your paddling and kicking connects with the power of the wave, and every surfer knows it’s time to jump to your feet. That moment where struggle meets power is mystical and I believe some would say spiritual.

I have often heard people say, “I felt your prayers.” Until yesterday I didn’t quite know what that was about. The drive to Raleigh from our house is about an hour. It seemed like an eternity yesterday when I drove our adopted son to the place in Raleigh he was to be taken into therapeutic foster care. He sat in the backseat stoically looking out the window which is his norm. I drove struggling with my emotions. Thank goodness it was a slow time on HWY 64.

The waves of emotion were crashing down on me and I was fighting back tears, anger, and remorse then in a flash – peace. With each emotional wave the struggle connected with peace and as time went by I learned to lean into the peace almost effortlessly. It was like being aware of that spiritual moment when God was meeting me in my struggle; like riding a wave – I felt the prayers.
More than feeling the prayers, I experienced and leaned into God’s presence. God is there when the waves of crisis come crashing down. God is there when life gives us more than we think we can handle. God is there when overwhelmed is the dominant emotion. God is there! Thank you for praying for my family and me.

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When Love Isn’t Enough – II

Today is the day.  Our adopted son is leaving.  He is excited with anticipation hoping the therapeutic family has a four-wheeler and a dirt bike.  He is ecstatic to be leaving the authority of our home and going to place where they don’t know him (or so he thinks).   He is happy.  I wonder if that is how the prodigal son felt as he packed up his inheritance and left the father. 

I am guilt ridden that our family isn’t enough, that our love isn’t enough.  I am joyful that the process of healing can start for our son and our family.  It feels like the ultimate of failures and the beginning of a miracle.  It feels like God is absent.  It feels like God is present in deep intimacy sustaining us.  I want to cry out – “My God, My God why have you forsaken me!”  In the same breath I say, “Into your hands, Father, I trust my son, my family, and my life.”   Let the redemption begin! 

I think of God in this moment.   I know God’s heart is even more broken than mine.    Is He proud of me or do I need the conviction of His Spirit?   Is this really His plan?   It goes against every ounce of my being to give up a family member saying I am not enough.   I have never been enough and perhaps that’s where God wants me.  I think back on life and the faith stories in the Bible; it is in these times when I am not enough that God confirms to me that He is more than enough.    Jesus’ death on the cross and His resurrection are enough to redeem my son, my family, and me.  

Therefore, I commit this chapter to God’s hands in great hope and expectation.   I will be still and know that He is God.  I will surrender to God’s authority and control.   Today is the day that the Lord has made let us rejoice and be glad in it!   When love isn’t enough, God is.

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