Every once in a while, I'm reminded of what my boys' lives would be like if they hadn't found their family. It's usually an unpleasant reminder. The foster mom acquaintance I run into at Staples telling me about her newest foster son, who is 8, has FAS and RAD, and is probably headed to a group home. A photolisting snapshot of a beautiful, broken little boy whose whole life story is summed up in one pleading paragraph that is emailed to countless potential parents by a desperate social worker. A news article outlining how an innocent child was beaten to death by the people who were supposed to love and care for him the most.
Those reminders bring up an emotion that I have no words for. It's something like fear mixed with gratitude, or love swirled with a heady offering of the deepest kind of horror that a momma's heart can conjure. I leave those moments and usually grab on to the nearest child as if they are a life-preserver. As if their sweet smell can erase the hurtful waters I've just dipped my emotional toes into. As if just feeling the weight of a loved, safe child--any loved, safe child-- in my arms can erase the knowledge that someone, somewhere did horrible things to my babies and I could not stop them. As if holding that child can erase the knowledge that somewhere, right now, other children are hungry, or being hurt, or wondering why their momma hits or why the mean man has been allowed to come around again.
These are the grim thoughts that plague me when I wake up in the middle of the night and should be basking in the silence of my blessings. Always, always, my prayers slip from, "Lord, I have more than I deserve. You are so good, so good to us. You provide, you meet needs, you lavish us with more than we could ask," to, "But Lord, please be with those who feel fear tonight, with those who went to bed with empty stomachs, with those ..."
And on and on.
Because the needs never stop. And the hurt never stops. And the brokenness in the world?
It never stops.
We can't fix it. That the truth, and I know it. I'm not so naive as to think that if we all just gave it our 110% that we'd stamp out sin in this world. It doesn't work like that, no matter how good it sounds. That's why we need Jesus. I get that. I accept it. I shout it from the rooftops.
So if the world is terribleawful, as my Mamaw likes to say, and we can't just "good deed it" into shape, what's the point?
The point is this: you might just make a difference for one suffering soul. Just one. And when you see the change in that one little person, you'll know that it was all worth it.
Adoption is an incredible way to change the trajectory of a life, a family, a community. When I look at my boys and see the blessing that they've been to the literally hundreds of people who have heard their stories, cuddled them at Sunday School, or seen their smiling faces, I can't even imagine that at one point in time I feared the unknown of bringing someone new into our family. We have had challenges (admittedly mild ones--I know others who have swam in far rougher adoption waters), we have been stretched, but ohmygoodness, we have experienced so much joy. Adoption is an amazing thing. Click here to see one of the most beautiful, moving testimonies on adoption that I've seen in a while. I encourage everyone (yes, everyone) to pray about it and see what the Lord has to say to you on whether or not your nest is truly full.
But what if the answer is "No, adoption isn't for you"? Please, please, consider this: there are so many other ways to bring healing and succor to children in the world. Get creative. Ask God to lay it on your heart how you can specifically show Christ's love in a practical way. Then stand back and be ready to serve, because in my experience it doesn't take long before God takes you up on the offer and starts bringing opportunities to bless children to your doorstep.
Part of my family's work in Nepal involves running a children's home. This is the orphanage where Bee lives. After a series of partially comical, partially tragic circumstances, the operations of the orphanage were handed over to the nonprofit run founded by Mr. Blandings and I. It's been an eye-opening learning curve, to be sure. Paying staff, locating massive amounts of fresh, nutritious food, encouraging teens via telephone to resolve differences, finding appropriate Christian schooling options ... all while on the other side of the globe. Faith-stretching, yes. But exhilarating, as well, as we witness God's hand of protection and provision over the lives of 24 of His children-- 24 of His forgotten, cast-off children.
Let me be honest with you, though. There are days when running the home feels like a very heavy weight to bear. Why? Because out of 24 children, we have 5 without sponsors. That means that every month, we are short on finances, and corners have to be cut. A little more water has to be added to the evening dal baat. A pair of shoes has to wait to be replaced. Broken eye glasses have to be fixed with tape instead of being sent in for repair. Little things, to be sure. Little things especially in light of the bigger demons that threaten to swallow children whole in a country where child trafficking is a daily threat, and abandonment to the streets is commonplace.
Mr. Blandings and I have been working for three months to find sponsors for our five beautiful Nepali children. While we've always known that adoption was a hard sell even in the Christian community, it's been shocking to us that the simple act of writing a check to provide for a child's basic needs is just as unlikely an action for many of those same Christians. Fifty dollars a month, we're told at every turn, is too much to ask to keep a warm roof over a child's head in a country where many kids crouch in filthy streets or huddle in freezing huts. Fifty dollars a month is too much to ask to feed a child in a country where 30,000 infants don't make it to their first birthday. Fifty dollars a month is too much to clothe a child who might otherwise be working in an Indian brothel. Fifty dollars a month is too much to provide a Christian education in a country where less than one percent of the population knows Jesus.
I don't get it.
Maybe adoption isn't for you. Maybe sponsoring a child isn't for you. Maybe you aren't meant to provide foster care, be a guardian ad litem, participate in a mission trip that takes you to another country to minister to hurting kids. But you can do something. Bring a neighbor's kid along with you to church. Find a local teen mom's group and volunteer to call a young mom once a week to answer questions and provide encouragement. Provide safe, no-cost daycare in your home for an at-risk child who might otherwise be a latch-key kid. Keep a close eye on the kid down the street who always seems to be the object of his parents screams. Buy gifts for Angel Tree kids.
Don't be afraid of getting your hands dirty, writing a check, or loving in practical ways. Jesus wasn't. When we follow His example we get to see amazing things happen. Little bodies blossom, little minds grow, little spirits turn to Him. It's one of the most humbling things in the world to witness, I tell you.
No, we can't change the world. But we can change lives. And it's worth it. Trust me.