Thursday, September 19, 2013

A Generous People

The confused angst of my youth regarding the Church has caught up to me.  As a teenager, I heard of all the hurting in the world without any of the healing.  I arrogantly thought it was just Jesus and me.  It wasn't that I struggled with why God allows, causes or permits bad things to happen... it was: why can't we see the Church among the rubble?

In our nonprofit's work to awaken the Church to the biblical mandates to care for orphans and the families they come from, I have encountered a handful of churches whose only missional output is funding short-term mission trips with the sole objective of evangelism.  Responses such as, "Orphan care?  Seems like the trendy thing for churches to do these days." send me into a blind rage until I remember that was my response at one point too.

I tripped on orphan care as a ministry as I was maneuvering through my own preconceived notions of grandeur in God's kingdom.  It was a simple prodding from my wife, and an invitation from a woman who had no real reason of her own to get involved.  These two women virtually invited the filth at the root of foster care into their lives... and I was initially just along for the ride until the Holy Spirit moved me.

So, I've been guilty of joining in with the critics.  "The Church is an institution... a religion... full of hypocrites..."  I played both sides of course attempting to appease my cynical conscience along with the faithful one knowing all along there was something deeper happening I wasn't privy to.  At some level, I've come to believe the Church is only as sanctified as its members.  No matter how active, compassionate and knowledgeable leadership or others may be, if some remain complacent, we will always be limited from the fullness of blessing and influence.

I was reminded of this by a new friend, Alex Krutov, who came to our house for dinner one night.  Alex is a former orphan from Russia now working to sustain a multi-faceted transition center in St. Petersburg that serves at-risk mothers, orphans and emancipated youth from orphanages in that city.  He's incredibly passionate... so much so that after about 2 hours I was done listening to him and started cleaning the dishes.  But he quoted a passage that re-awakened me.

I will search for the lost and bring back the strays.  I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy.  I will shepherd the flock with justice. - Ezekiel 34:16

Since hearing that passage I have thought of it often.  Every time someone brings a need to my attention that pales in comparison with the real desolations of poverty, human trafficking, war, slavery, and the litany of others that exist in the daily routines of children and adults in the world I am reminded of it.    The more I think of it the more my cynical side is outraged.  We worry about our investments and depreciation in the market, we struggle with internet pornography, and we complain naively about our first world problems while families across the railroad tracks would give anything to trade those for their own.

And after my cynical side has had its say... my faithfulness waits patiently and is emboldened by the countless number in the flock of the Shepherd who could be sleek and strong but rather sacrifice daily on behalf of the lost, injured and weak.  These doers of good who lack the time or energy to promote their good works due to the ongoing needs around them stay focused on the task at hand.  They aren't walking the elderly across the street... they are involved in very tangible, very real trench warfare.

I was sitting in a poverty coalition meeting a month back, and one man from a prominent organization asked, "we need more churches around this table... where is the Church?"  An elderly gentlemen raised his hand representing more than forty local congregations and said, "We are here... and we were here when we built the facility your organization runs to provide housing to the homeless, and we've stuck around to ensure the maintenance of those facilities remain in good working order through ongoing financial and volunteer support."

There is nothing quite like the local church taking ownership of Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth.  It is in our DNA as a body of believers to not only speak the Gospel but live it out as well... however there are still many of us growing sleek and strong while the lost, injured and weak are left to the world.  If you are reflecting on your faithfulness as I have, I want to challenge you.

Opportunities like this take place everyday, but this day is North Texas Giving Day where over 900 non-profit organizations have been vetted and are collaborating to raise funds for their various causes.  My particular cause is Embrace Texas, and we'd be blessed to have you financially partner with us by giving $25 at www.donorbridgetx.org/npo/270946206.  Tomorrow will be another unpredictable opportunity with an unpredictable price tag.

If we feel guilted into action... good.  There should be a sense of humility that comes along with realizing we've ignored divine appointments to live out our faith.  If foster care, adoption, and orphan care isn't your thing, no love is lost, but God has created us for something, and it isn't to store up treasures and then complain about how unreliable our storehouses are.

I pray this challenges us.  Discipleship in God's kingdom requires us to be faithful and give generously.  In coming full circle, I've found an answer to my initial question... why can't we see the Church among the rubble?  Because in many cases, not all but many... the Church has been there all along refusing to come out, get cleaned off, and be recognized when there is still work to do.  The Church is indistinguishable in many cases because they're covered in the dust and ash of the trenches.  Just as Christ took on the sinfulness of the world, the Church jumps in to bear the burdens of the afflicted and encourage the hopeless.  And so, may God continue to bless you, so you may bless others.

Monday, September 16, 2013

It's Your Grass!


I've known a few men in my life who have taken great pride in their lawns, and it was interesting to see their attention to detail as they carefully removed weeds from flower beds, trimmed hedges, edged sidewalks, mowed, watered and so on.  I've also known many more men who hired companies to come do all of that for them or who did it themselves with little enthusiasm.

I am a 50/50 guy myself... I do my own planting, weeding, trimming, fertilizing and watering, but I leave the general mowing, edging and weed-eating to a guy who does it for a living.  I don't take  particular pride in the meticulous details of my landscaping, but at the end of the day, I get that if my grass is yellow, thin or dead, I'm gonna have to do something about it... because it's my grass.  And, yard work is hard, tedious and time consuming.  It leaves you sweaty, sunburned and spent, and a week or two later, it's time to do it all over again.

Recently, I've overheard one too many instances regarding a foster or adoptive family where the husband decided he was done being a husband.  Apparently, the grass on the other side was greener.  I don't know all the details of every situation.  I'm not in their home 24/7.  I don't know their history or the intricacies of their marriage.  I'd like to take some politically correct route in espousing a notion of shared blame... and I've tried.  I've retyped some idea of how you both have to work at it, and there's something each side could have done differently, and surely a man wouldn't just up and leave his wife and family for no reason, and on and on and on.  Finally, I just had to call it...

...IT'S YOUR GRASS!

If it's yellow and dying, you have to take ownership of it and do something to restore it!  If that doesn't work, you try something else!  And if that doesn't work, you try something else!  You have to love your wife well, love your kids well, tend to your family's health regularly, provide financially, lead spiritually and start all over again the next morning.  As a father, you are the first to wake up and the last to go to sleep, and when you add foster or adopted children to your family, it only heightens the stakes.  You no longer get to just be a "good dad".  You have placed yourself in the trenches with an abused or neglected child and welcomed the crosshairs of the enemy often requiring you to be the best version of yourself possible.

I get that is a lot to take on, but in becoming a husband and a dad, you are making your vows as a stalwart for faithfulness and stepping into what can be the most incredible adventure of your life.  Yes, you will make mistakes.  Parts of the yard will flourish seemingly without your help while other parts struggle year after year.  You will need a break from time to time... but YOU are responsible for making sure you (and your wife) get the break you need!

In Scripture, before God creates Eve from Adam's side, He calls her Adam's helpmate or suitable helper.  The Hebrew is ezer kenegdo.  This particular title only reoccurs when God references himself being the only help man can turn to.  But as you know, rather than protect her from the deception of the serpent, he idly stands by while she eats the forbidden fruit and then has a bite himself. It appears men have been apt to idly stand by ever since.

Some could say, "Well, Bruce, you've never been divorced, and your parents aren't divorced, so how can you pass judgment?"  My response, "I've never done a lot of things, but that doesn't mean I need to get divorced to tell someone else how to not get divorced."  We've become so excuse-oriented and self-indulgent to the point that when we feel like we've been too sacrificial we decide it's time to abandon ship.

Whatever is potentially contributing to your mental, physical, emotional and relational destruction has to meet an abrupt end... TODAY!  If you're looking at porn and thinking your wife should somehow be more like her, punch yourself in the face real quick for me.  Quit it!  Get accountability, confess what needs confessing, and move forward.  For the love of all that's holy... it's a future version of your foster daughter on your computer screen because the dad in her life was too self-absorbed to tell her she was better than that!  At the very least, the inundation of erectile dysfunction ads on radio and television should give you some pause as to what effects pornography has on the male anatomy.

If your wife has become overwhelmed with the needs of your children that she has lost whatever attracted you to her in the first place, it may be time to take a break, get some respite, call in the reserves, take a vacation or stop foster parenting altogether.  Of course, if the issue is that you're a schlep of a husband and your wife is carrying the load of two people, you're back to the man in the mirror.  Wives, listen to your husbands and follow their lead.  Be patient when their leadership contradicts the Lord's, and wait on the Holy Spirit to be the Holy Spirit.  A special note here: you are not the Holy Spirit.

Again, I don't know the details of yours or any specific situation.  I'm just reacting to the fallout of it all.  If you're a husband out there reading this, and you're looking around at all the dirt in your yard wishing someone would come fix it for you or wanting to scrap it and move onto the next yard... no one but your wife is coming, and if you couldn't care for this yard, what do you think will happen to the next one?  There is no HOA for your marriage.

Your wife... I repeat, YOUR WIFE, your suitable helper, is probably sitting across the room from you or within a phone call's reach right now.  Stop reading this tirade of a post, talk to her and assess the condition of your grass, and get her help.  You may just need a tweak here or there, or you might need to tear up everything you have, and lay down all new sod.  But don't put this off!  The first step may literally be heading outside to work in the yard together... after all, it is your grass.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

"The Right Fit"

It was an afternoon class, and usually there are two or three of us teaching at one time... but this time, it was just me.  So, there was no one there to balance my occasionally raw opinion regarding foster parenting or adoption.  It was still the usual content... I hadn't gone rogue or anything, but as the three hour training went along our discussion began to open up.

One couple in particular expressed that they had no intent to adopt and simply wanted to foster children as a ministry.  I affirmed their idea since our family started with the same premise but challenged it regarding the application towards children that would become adoptable.  It appeared the wife was now questioning their approach for the first time.  It hadn't occurred to them that sending an adoptable foster child to another family could potentially do as much harm as it did good.  We forget kids get attached too, and after experiencing an initial removal from their bio family, another move to another family is rarely a step in the right direction.  It wasn't until one of our foster daughters who had been with us seven months and was moved to be adopted by an aunt and uncle turned back up in our lives three years later we realized that an adoptive placement isn't always a permanent one.

So, what happens to a child in foster care when they can no longer be reunited with their immediate or extended biological family?  The foster family is first in line to give that child a permanent, nurturing home, but if fostering is just a ministry or "the plan" for a family is set in stone... have we really ministered to this child in the way God commands?

At one level, I don't want to deal in extremes knowing there are exceptions to every rule, but at another level, it's beneficial for us to start from the perspective of the child rather than the parent and move from there.  As adults, we want to help these kids, and we say we're willing to do whatever it takes with a kind of naive passion.  When we ask couples about behaviors like physical aggression, sexual exposure or abuse, bad language and a host of other issues, reality begins to hit home.

We talk about "the right fit" which becomes code for "we were willing to work with this child's behaviors temporarily, but now they're adoptable and another family needs to be found."  Or, "we're using foster care as a kind of survey to find the perfect child that matches our family."  To my shame, I can think of multiple conversations I've had in the past where I propped foster care up as a kind of testing ground for families uncertain about the choice to adopt.  It's true more than 60% of the time a foster child won't be adoptable, but that doesn't equate foster care to a trial run for families.  What does this idea of "the right fit" communicate to a child, and is there anyone that can even define what the phrase "right fit" means without compromising their soul?
In case anyone's interested in forking over $50k
I'll take one of these...

This isn't a game of M.A.S.H.  We often have a vision of the perfect car, career, spouse, or home in our minds.  We may even find what appears to be the perfect match to our vision... until reality sets in.  The perfect car always needs an oil change or new tires or a repair along the way.  The ideal career may be in the right location with the right salary, but your co-workers are hard to deal with or the added responsibilities aren't quite what you had in mind.  The picture perfect spouse looks great dressed up like a jungle cat on your wedding night, but six years and three children later that picture changes (love you, honey).  The home feels customized to your every specification... but the lawn still needs mowing, the paint will wear thin and no limited measure of up-keep is necessary.  Pick your comparable allusion... nothing is as perfect as it seems on the surface until we learn to appreciate the imperfections or limitations with the rest of the whole.  You don't get to pick and choose the parts of your child that you like anymore than you get to pick the parts of the Bible you want to follow.
...and a job where I get to where this
9 months out of the year...

I understand these situations aren't cut and dry.  Dad may not be on the same page as mom or vice versa. Other children already in the home need to be consulted.  Finances, bandwidth, medical and other therapeutic needs are all factors, but rather than look at all of these as barriers we must overcome, why not start by asking what's in the best interest of the child?

I continually move towards the conclusion, it's not the child's issues that are too difficult for the family but the family's issues that are too difficult for the child.  Many parents are as narcissistic as the children, they've just learned to hide it better... not dealing with their own buried trauma, misguided expectations, marital problems, socio-economic materialism, submerged racism, etc.  So, an abused/neglected child exacerbates those hidden problems then takes the blame for them by being sent away, and that's not to say these kids don't have their issues... they certainly do.

...and a multilevel prairie style home
with mature trees and acreage while you're at it.
They often come with a host of acronyms... ADD/ADHD, OCD, ODD, RAD, FAS/FASD.  While these acronyms don't adequately describe our children or how they achieved such marks... the labels are given providing some indication of what they've been through and how they've coped.  But the kicker is...God placed these children in our homes.  We aren't the only hope for orphans everywhere, and we aren't meant to adopt every child... but the ones who come into our home we are accountable for.  If we're faithful participants in this foster and/or adoption journey, these kids won't be in the same place one, two or three years from now... and neither will we.

Children who experience neglect or abuse don't want to wander from family to family while adults figure out what suits them.  At the core of their identity, every child deeply desires to know they have value and are loved. God has created us in such way so we can heal even from incredibly deep wounds... therefore, change is not only possible but probable.  If a capacity for being valued and loved is the criteria for children to fit into a family then we can start a new conversation about what "the right fit" is, but as it stands, we should begin to change our approach to ask how our family can become "the right fit" for a child not the other way around.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Auto Immune Disorder

Following the George Zimmerman trial, Facebook turned into a cacophony of racial, legal and political experts.  Oddly enough, I found some I thought would be indignant about the verdict relieved Zimmerman wasn't convicted.  Others I assumed would join in the idea justice was served were utterly frustrated.  Responses failed to follow racial lines.  Regardless of perspective, the fact remains that racial tension is alive and well in the United States.  That conclusion can be achieved either through the details surrounding Trayvon Martin's death or the polarizing outcry for justice from all sides afterwards including other racially associated tragedies.

For what it's worth, I find it tragic that an unarmed seventeen year old was shot at least in part because he was followed by a neighborhood watch volunteer for being black.  At the same time, I'd like to think that a jury dedicated to determining the facts of the case could take the details presented and interpret justice accordingly.

Regardless of anyone's opinion, racial, legal or otherwise... we are still left with the reality that racial issues did not die with the Emancipation Proclamation or the Civil Rights Movement.  However, while I have heard of these racial tensions experienced in other communities and races, I feel immune.  After all, I'm a white male living in suburbia with relatively homogenous surroundings.  I'd like to think Trayvon Martin would not have died in my neighborhood, but that's mostly because he doesn't exist here.  No one would suspect a white seventeen year old walking through a neighborhood at night of anything more than toilet papering the house of one of his classmates whether he is wearing a hoodie or not.  The outcry for a white Trayvon Martin would be unsupressable, but again the parents of white Trayvon Martin don't worry about him getting into a fight or shot on a neighborhood street.  So I've felt immune to the entire ordeal, or at least I did until I looked across my living room.

Across my living room sit three hispanic children, ages 4 to 6, and an Ethiopian teenager.  I had been told transracial adoption would require me to change my preconceptions, but racial profiling was not one I considered.  I thought I'd be challenged to help my children retain their cultural heritage through foods, language and clothing.  In my mind, no one would degrade them because of the color of their skin because they were mine.  I am a white, middle-class American, so they would be treated like white, middle-class Americans.  I don't ever fear someone calling me names or looking at me wrong outside of the fact that I have a large, multi-ethnic family which warrants some confused stares and curious questioning at times.  But when adults or other children see my children apart from me, they don't see me, and more importantly, when my children look in the mirror... they don't see me either.

The world is not colorblind.  My children are not colorblind.  But I have been.

And now in the wake of Zimmerman's trial, I'm forced to reconcile my felt immunity with the reality of life and the experiences my children will certainly endure.  In my teenage daughter's Spring semester of school, several weeks of racial conflict took place in the underpinnings of high school society among her classmates.  A group of white students chose to target black students, and the bigotry ensued.  When she told me about it, I was outraged at the idea that anyone would call my daughter the N word.  They hadn't although it had been directed at some of her friends.  But, the very possibility of it had me ready and willing to fight for her dignity.  In the eyes of these white students, they didn't see me when they saw my daughter... they saw her and her black friends.  My daughters and sons aren't immune.

In an entirely separate incident while drinking some beers with some neighbors late at night, one of them casually used a few racial slurs and stereotypes.  In the moment, I thought it was out of place and wrong, but it didn't occur to me until recently that he and I were both completely unaware of the implications of his statements towards my children which I suppose only feeds the belief that my kids are somehow immune to any prejudice because they live under my roof.

So, how do I prepare my children for the conflicts that await them without developing a complex where they can't trust anyone?  Unfortunately, there will be other Trayvon Martins in the future.  The details won't be the same, a child may not die, but there is no hiding our kids from it whether they're racially different from us or not.  My initial instinct is to give them free rein on their response, and while I believe a busted lip, swollen eye or bloody nose is entirely just, I don't want my child shot because they refused to acknowledge the color of their skin meant others would suspect them of things inconsistent with their character.

I would suggest some measure of a history lesson is in order including age appropriate discussions on slavery, the Holocaust, the Civil Rights Movement and the complexities of immigration in our Great State.  Movies are great conversation starters:  Schindler's List, 42, The Help, To Kill a Mockingbird.  (Some of you moms are going to have to suggest kid-friendly movies here... knowing what is age appropriate is not my strong suit.  I showed my kids the Passion of the Christ and just the lack of English being spoken made them cry and leave the room.  We didn't even make it to the flogging scene.)  Nonetheless, identifying and occasionally setting up teachable moments to make this a regular point of discussion is needed.  For our family this isn't too difficult.  Anytime they meet a new friend we always get a, "Is that your sister/brother/mom/dad?"  Our kids respond completely puzzled, "Yes?"  Teachable moment.

On a softer note, we embrace the diversity of our family and attempt to expose everyone to a variety of life.  Simultaneously, we don't make "being white" out to be a bad thing as if it mandates some kind of superiority complex.  Attempting to define what "being black" or "being white" means is a chasing of the wind.  So, not only are we working at exposing ourselves to diversity, but we find this effort to be an equal opportunity for everyone we come in contact with assuming they're willing to join us.

Sadly, I don't know that there's a way to prepare my kids for avoiding an altercation that could lead to death outside of avoiding altercations completely.  I want my kids to be able to stand up for themselves and suppress stupidity or the poor choices of others who share their skin color.  I want my kids to know they don't have to play by the world's rules, but ultimately, they will have to be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.  They will have to shed whatever immunity I've already instilled in them believing we're all equal, because the only truth there is that we're equally broken... equally susceptible in judging others.  In all of this, my sense of immunity has reached an abrupt end... I hope yours does too.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

the Child Whisperer

I have this magical person in my mind who is able to achieve attachment and compliance using their inside voice at all times as children adverse to good behavior flock to their side.  This person smiles and gently encourages and redirects even the most troubled youth in an instant.  If I had to put a face to this Cesar Millan for children, the face would look something like this... sweater, tie, canvas sneakers and all.

It's difficult to not idolize someone like Mr. Rogers.  But here's the rub... I have heard many parents say something to the effect of, "If I could only channel (insert name of your Child Whisperer here) in my home, my child would see my love for them and regain control of themselves, attach, apologize and heal."  This is our own wishful hopelessness in search of an imaginary person to rescue our child and us from the struggles we find ourselves in.

Here's the truth... Mr. Rogers isn't Mr. Rogers.  I don't mean that in some Jedi mind trick sort of way, I mean the images we build in our minds after seeing people on television or a stage are a finely edited caricature of reality.  The same thing goes for any child expert we might come across in some therapeutic training video.  I'm not suggesting these people are phonies, I'm simply stating there's no such thing as reality television.

To give an example, towards the end of one of those therapeutic training videos, the experts showed real-life scenarios of the principles of their therapeutic model.  In two of these scenarios, there's a little boy who expresses outright resistance to the expert's prompting, and the scene fades to black then cuts back to the therapy session with the boy crying in the therapist's arms.  During the cut-aways, the voice-over on the video states that it took 30 minutes and 10 minutes to get this boy back to a place where he could self-regulate and continue on with his day.  When I asked about what had happened during the cut-aways, I was told the therapist had to perform a restraint on this boy to keep him and others safe.  At another point, the therapist gives him a few options to either walk to where they wanted to go or be carried to where they wanted to go.  The kicker is restraints and ultimatums weren't a part of this therapy model, and while these were supposed to be practical scenarios for what to do, what they actually did was edited out!

I still wholeheartedly believe in the vast majority of this particular therapy method for abused and neglected kids, and while I'm not disillusioned by the reality of what I learned... I am more conscious of my endless search of this Child Whisperer to emulate and the promotion of perfection from external influences whether it's Mr. Rogers, supposed experts or my affluent surroundings that tell me I have to have it all together.

We have a tendency to think if we can be someone we're not while hiding the reality of our child's neglect and abuse long enough, we will be able to heal them and re-enter society as a normal family.  This lack of transparency is usually the first step to disruption or dissolution because our children need months and sometimes years to either heal or learn to cope with their pain in socially acceptable ways.  And to be uncomfortably transparent... sometimes our kids issues aren't fixable, they come and stay just as they are.  But, the more we bury our families in this wish that the Child Whisperer will someday indwell our bodies... the worse it gets.  And, while we may want our kids to mask perceived deficiencies, the long-term consequences are dire.

Our children need healing and so do we... healing from unrealistic expectations that have to be reassessed and the bitter pain that coincides with unpacking everyone's baggage.  We cannot heal if we are holding on to an illusion, and the good news is: WE DON'T NEED THE ILLUSION!

We need us because we are the unedited reality that gets to make mistakes, ask for forgiveness, try new approaches, and move forward.  What makes the Gospel so powerful, so redemptive and restorative is Immanuel... God. With. Us.  He did not remain in a cloud speaking to us from on High, but took on flesh, lived among us in the trenches of fallen creation and led us out.  God's work is rarely carried out like a fairy godmother flippantly solving catastrophes at the swish of a wand.  It more commonly is done in the mundane routines of each day as the Spirit permeates our thoughts, conversations and actions.  Our children, marriages and families need to embrace that approach, and we need to take a long, hard look in the mirror to understand that while our kids may require the best version of ourselves to help them heal, it is still us that they need.  No replacement will do.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Teach Her to Read

Teaching a child to read ranks in my top five most frustrating things I've ever done.  If there were a triathlon for parenting it would involve hanging laundry, picking up legos, and teaching a child to read. Even my kids who picked it up relatively easily still caused me more anguish than attempting to re-lace their shoes after they've torn the aglet off the end.

Currently, I'm attempting to teach two of our adopted daughters to read which is twice the fun (note heavy sarcasm).  They both have flashcards.  One is still on letters and sounds while the other is on sight words.  My favorite flashcards for the younger sister are... "Yy" which makes the "wuh" sound and "Hh" which makes the "ch" sound because every letter makes a sound in its name, right?  But do to her youth and naivety, I am able to show much grace because I know she's just getting started.  The older sister however can be as sharp as a tack... intuitive to a fault, but I am dying.  We are working through a list of about 25 sight words where each word no matter how many times we've reviewed it changes.  "Got" is "but", "what" is "they", and "said" is often "that".  Absolutely mind numbing!

At first, I would look into my daughters' souls attempting to stare literacy into their core as we recited these cards together.  I thought I was being something like Buddha putting them in touch with their former selves, but apparently their former selves couldn't read either nor did they understand the concept of reincarnation... nor do I for that matter.  Needless to say that quickly failed which only led me to one desperately misled conclusion... they're just not trying.  Tempers flared, tears rolled, wife stepped in, Duck Dynasty was turned on and peace re-entered our home.

In the midst of experiencing this repetitive, and often self-induced, frustration, the unholy thought crept up in my mind, "I did not ask for this.  I chose a bright, little, energetic girl who would call me 'Daddy', jump into my arms, embrace my instruction and discipline, graduate with honors, go to college and become a doctor."  This reading thing is just the tip of the iceberg in my children's lifelong journey of educational struggles... and it may be as both of them were exposed to heavy drug usage prior to birth.

But, so what!  I began to feel the Holy Spirit's indignation in response.  In my affluent, suburban upbringing, I am led to believe that if my child can't read they cannot succeed.  While, I'd agree that success, however it is defined, will be difficult without this skill, educational acumen will not be a determining factor for how I treasure my children.  This is not at all to say I will not hold them accountable or set high expectations according to their capacity.  It is simply to say my misguided expectations cannot hold me or my child hostage.  I have to be a better parent.

There are some unknowns that can come along with adoption.  When were her first steps?  What were her first words?  Where does she get her little quirks?  Some of these unknowns can be harmless little misfortunes for us and our sentiment, but some are not so harmless.  What drugs was she exposed to en utero?  How frequent and intense was the abuse or neglect she witnessed or suffered?  How will she respond to her identity as an adopted person and member of our family?

We are about two weeks into this routine with 15-20 sight words almost memorized, and each day that's gone by the need for Uncle Si to provide therapy following my reading lesson has diminished.  The girls still tear up not because I yell or stare at them in frustration, but because I won't let them quit.  Our mantra, "It's hard, but I can do it."  I suspect we will be chanting this for many months to come.  Ultimately, I teach my children to read to show them I'm willing to fight by their side when they succeed and when they struggle... although that whole literacy thing is important too.

PS: If you'd like to give me advice on how to teach my kids how to read... you can come over and share said advice while you hang up my laundry and pick up legos.