5 Insightful Suggestions to Help You Father Well

I recently began a podcast series entitled Dad to Dad. In these interviews I sit down with another adoptive dad and talk about what it is like to be an adoptive dad—our shortcomings, funny stories, and what we find that helps us to father well.

Recently I interviewed Marshall Lyles (if you missed it, you can get it HERE), and I asked Marshall this question—What helps you to father well? I liked his answer so much that I decided to write about it. Marshall shared four very insightful ideas that help him, and I add one more. Even though Marshall and I talk about being adoptive dads, these suggestions are helpful for every father.

5 Insightful Suggestions to Help You Father Well

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Hey Dad! How Present Are You in Your Child’s Life?

Who hasn’t read a study with statistics showing the challenges of fatherless families. Single moms struggling to provide for their kids. Children lacking a positive male role model. Boys and girls growing up many times destined to repeat the cycle.

I am a foster care/adoption advocate and adoptive father. I write about foster care and adoption. I work with families who foster and/or adopt, and I work with orphan care organizations.

So I see firsthand the impact on children when a father is absent or non-existent.

It’s easy to trace back to a fatherless family a lot of the hyper-active, apathetic, rebellious behavior seen in children, especially boys.

A lot has been written about ways to help offset this dilemma ranging from increased governmental support to local community, faith-based support to educating young families about healthy marriage and family life.

Deservingly so, most of the attention goes to these families that are minus a father figure.

What About Dads Who Are “Present”?

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We All Are Orphans

Those who know me or have read my book, Adopting the Father’s Heartknow that I struggle with how fostering and adoption fits with my desire to serve on the foreign mission field. Logistically it still baffles me a little.

 

Friend from Mercy Center Children's Shelter Thailand

Friend from Mercy Center Children’s Shelter Thailand

 

But, God is teaching me how the two originate from the same source. Any desire to reach out to others comes from a Father’s heart.

A book that I am reading now is Reclaiming Adoption: Missional Living through the Rediscovery of Abba Father

Dan Cruver, author of most of the book, explains how we usually have a horizontal view of adoption. In other words, when I say adoption, you usually think of a family adopting an orphaned child. Dan contends that we have lost sight of the vertical aspect of adoption.

We all are orphans needing adoption by a Heavenly Father.

What does that have to do with serving on the foreign mission field or doing anything missional for that matter?

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Both Ends Burning – Stuck Trailer

In my sample chapter, The Call of a Father’s Heart, I write about our responsibility to respond to the needs of orphans. It is clear that the cries of the orphans reach the ear of God. He notices and wants us to notice. Many statistics show that over the past 10 years international adoptions into the U.S. have dropped dramatically. Both Ends Burning website states, “the current international adoption trends show an almost 60% decline in the number of children adopted since 2004.”

Many families wait 2-5 years to adopt “their” child that have remained stuck in orphanages due to bureaucracy and corruption. These are children that could be in a family now.

This video below is a trailer for the documentary Stuck. Visit Both Ends Burning to find out about showings in a city near you.

4 Things I Learned from Meeting the Family

I must have been a sleep during this part of our training classes. The part that described what our interaction would be like with the biological family of foster children. Maybe it was the horror stories of angry, threatening parents that caused me to forget. Whatever the reason, I somehow deducted that I would never have to meet any family members of any foster children in our care. Or at the very least, if I did meet them, I would not have to interact with them.

My intention was to fulfill my call to care for vulnerable, at risk children. I did not intend to interact with the family of these children.

I shared in a recent post, Trauma upon Trauma, about the multiple layers of trauma a foster child endures. In that post, I share about going to our first parent visit. Here is a little more detail about that visit.

I went with my wife, so she would not have to face the unknown alone. As we drove to the office building, I wondered why they had not told us where the secret drop off door was when they gave us the address to the building.

Seriously, I thought that there was a secret door where foster parents could drive up, give a  secret knock, and hand off the foster child to a CPS employee. I would never have to interact, much less see, the angry parents.

Well, that was not the scene for that first parent visit.

When we pulled into the parking lot of the government building, a young couple stepped out of their car. They strained their necks to see who we were. I thought they probably were the parents.

I really needed to find that door!

I drove around the building twice beginning to feel sick at my stomach. I never found the secret door. I finally parked. We slowly walked, carrying our 8 month old foster son, toward the front doors which were double glass. Inside we saw the two young people eagerly looking back at us. Sure enough, it was the parents. It was not supposed to happen this way!  But it did.

A week or so later, our CPS case worker asked us to attend a family meeting. What? Not only were we going to meet the parents, but more of the family? Sure enough.

How did I have it so wrong?

Over the next few months, Danielle and I had several interactions with different family members of our foster son. They were always gracious toward us. I still was protective of our foster son, but my heart was also opening up toward his family.

Here are a few things that I learned through this experience:

  1. Orphan care effects more than just the child(ren). Chances are you will become involved in their extended family at some level. Caring for an at risk child will give you an opportunity to have a positive influence on the family.
  2. As a foster parent, I need to be ready to be apart of a messy situation. Not just the child’s, but also his family’s stuff.
  3. Most biological families will not show anger toward the foster parents. As in our case, they were grateful. I never perceived that they felt as if we were taking their child away. Instead, they thanked us many times for caring for him.
  4. The need for intercession. I quickly began to intercede for our foster son’s future. I also began to pray for his family. I desired to see healing and restoration within their family.

Question for you – How has God used you to enter into someone else’s hard place to take part in their healing process?

 

Break My Heart

Yesterday we sang the song Hosanna by Brooke Fraser.  Great worship song.  The words in a good worship song take me to the foot of my Father’s throne.  They move me to lay prostrate before Him allowing Him to use my life as He wills.

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As we sang the song, the phrase, “Break my heart for what breaks Yours” caught in my throat.  The song continues, “Everything I am for Your kingdom’s cause as I walk from earth into eternity.”

Break my heart for what breaks Yours.

In the book I am about to publish, Adopting the Heart of a Father, I write about God’s heart for the orphans.  One of my favorite verses that I quote in the chapter, The Call of a Father’s Heart is Psalm 68:5-6.  “Father to the fatherless, defender of widows – this is God, whose dwelling is holy.  God places the lonely in families.”

When I read that verse, I feel God’s heartbeat.  I sense His heart-break for the fatherless and the lonely.  What a tremendous God whose mind is on those who do not have a father  nor a family.

Break my heart for what breaks Yours.

God has blessed  me by growing up in a biological family and by being a part of a family of believers.  God has blessed me also with a wife of nearly 25 years and now an adopted son.  I have not experienced the loneliness of being an orphan or a widower.

I do not have within me what it takes to feel compassion for those who are orphaned or without a family.  So, I need for Him to break my heart for what breaks His.

When my wife, Danielle, and I began to consider adopting a child through the foster system, I was not willing to foster a child that was not available for adoption.  I could not imagine becoming attached to a child to only see them return to their family.

I did not want my heart to break.

That is why those words caught in my throat when I sang them.  I realized that through our experience of fostering a child, God has broken my heart for what breaks His.  We became more concerned for children that had no family or were at risk than we did for our own hearts.  So, we fostered a child knowing that he could go back to his family.

Please Lord Jesus, continue to break my heart for what breaks Yours.

Question – What does your heart break over?  

 

Change of Plans

No, I am not changing my mind about writing books.  Yes, I am still working on my book – Adopting the Heart of a Father.  In fact, I only have a few pages left to work on from Danielle’s, my wife, review.  Then, I will decide on an editor, designer and publisher.

 

 

At least once a week for the next few, I will blog about a section in my book.  In case you are not aware, you can read an unedited sample of the first two chapters.  You can find them by going to the home page.

Early in the book, I share some of our history to give you some context.  It helps a little to understand why we decided to be more involved in orphan care at this stage of our lives.  One sub-chapter I entitled “Change of Plans”.

February 2007, Danielle and I led a small mission team to Thailand for a 10 day trip.  Danielle and I had gone once before, but this was my first time to lead a team.  What a learning experience!  Short story is that after we arrived home, Danielle and I decided that we needed to go for a longer time.

We talked to the project leader in Thailand about us volunteering for 6-12 months.  That turned out to be an answer to his prayers.  They needed some help.  Immediately.  Within 2 months, Danielle and I quit our jobs, set up care for our home and vehicles, and were on a plane back to Thailand.

We volunteered with several mission organizations during the 6 months in Thailand.  It was painful to leave and transition back to living in the U.S.  I really thought that we would quickly be back overseas.  But we have not gone back long-term.

Over the next three years, I served as the mission pastor at our church.  In 2010, while I was still on staff, we felt that we were ready to return to the mission field.  We began making plans, including setting up several meetings with mission organizations in Thailand.  We went to Thailand for 3 weeks in March, 2010.

However, God had other plans for us.

Before we left for Thailand, Danielle and I attended a Verge conference in our city.  Our focus was on learning more about being international missionaries.  God refocused us.  Not that our desire has changed about international missions.  We still want to go.

At the conference, Aaron Ivey’s worship team shared about God’s heart for the orphan.  Many on the worship team had adopted children.  They emphasized the need for foster care and adoption in our own city.  As, I sat their listening to their stories and challenge, I knew the Holy Spirit was speaking to my heart.

As Danielle and I walked across the parking lot to our car after that session, we both knew that we were about to change our plans.  We still went to Thailand the next month to serve with a youth team from our church.  Then, we served with a team from Tamar Center in a village.  The next week we met with several other mission leaders in the country.

By the time we returned home, even though it did not make sense to me, I knew that we were going to pursue foster care and possibly adoption before we returned overseas.

The change of plans caught me completely by surprise.  But, it is not the first time that God has done that in my life.  And, I have no regrets at all.

I try to live my life with a loose hold on things so that God can change my plans when He chooses.  I look forward to whatever is next.  What an adventure!

Question – Has God ever radically changed your plans?  How did you respond?

 

Manuscript in the Hands of my Spouse

Yikes!  My wife, Danielle, is reading the final draft of my manuscript.  I gave it to her late last week.  She began reading it over the weekend.

She read the first half a few months ago when I had completed it.  She provided some excellent content critique.  Now she will be reading my revisions to the first half and the half that she has not yet read.

It is an interesting time for me to hand over my manuscript to her.  I think that we are feeling the stress of being in a constant state of flux for the past five years.  That state of flux only intensified during the first 15 months that our foster son was with us.

When he was placed with us during the summer of 2011, I thought that he would be with us for only a couple of weeks.  Then, as that turned into months, I lived each day thinking that it would be the last day that he was living with us.

It was during this time that I began writing this book.  My first draft expressed through the verb tense my certainty of his soon departure.

Now that we know the outcome, our lives are beginning to settle into a bit of a routine.  That is a good thing for us right now.  At least for a few months it will be a good thing.

But back to how that has worn on our marriage.  Like so many couples who are focused on raising a family, we found ourselves talking to each other more and more about only the logistics of making it through each day.  At first, I thought that we would only have to do that for a short time, like a few weeks or a couple of months at the most.

However, those months turned into a year and a half.  By that time, we found it hard to even talk about logistics without getting frustrated or upset with each other.  Not good!

In the midst of this challenging time I handed over the final draft of my manuscript to my wife!  I am not sure if I am overly trusting or extremely foolish.  I choose trusting.

Seriously, I do trust my wife and her judgement.  In fact, I highly value her input.

As for our relationship – we know what we need to do.  We are committed to each other.  We have resolved to hire babysitters more often, so that we can spend time together without the interruption of a very social two-year old boy.  We have also made it a priority to spend time together in God’s Word and in prayer.

I am confident with His help, we will get our relationship back on track.  She is absolutely worth it!  And, I am looking forward to her feedback on the final draft.

Final Draft

This morning I finished my final draft!  It is a little hard to believe.  I know I still have a lot of work to do before publishing.

First, my wife will read my manuscript while I decide on some professional editing.  I have not decided yet if I will have an editor from a publishing house or a freelance editor do the work.

I will also make a decision on the publishing route.  I have decided that I will contract with a “self publisher”.  I researched many of these options online.  Now, I will make some calls to interview the ones that I am interested in.

While doing that, I will be also putting more time into developing my online presence.  This includes my website, enhancing my blog, and networking through the various social media sites.

My hope is to have a solid following by the time my book is ready to be published.  Not only will this help with marketing of the book, but it also could catch the attention of a traditional publisher.

As I started my morning today, I was thinking about finishing my final draft today.  I had not been confident that this day would ever come.  Even though some had encouraged me over the years to write, I was not sure that I would ever take the time to do so.

I thought about how so many people have a story to share, but in comparison so few take the time to write it.  Just like any endeavor or project, many excuses prevent someone from writing a book.  I am proud of myself for jumping that hurdle and sharing this story.  Hopefully, there will be more to come.

Refocus

I really thought that I would finish my final draft last week.  However, I bogged down on a chapter.  I did not like the way it was structured.  I was having a hard time seeing it written differently.

So, I shifted gears and worked on homesteading some social media sites with the name of my soon to be published website.  That took me a little longer than I expected.  But, I have a Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Google+, and a Pinterest site now homesteaded.

What I mean by homestead is that I have signed up for the accounts with the name that I want to use.  It is the same name for all sites and my website.  Personal Branding.

I still need to take some time to set them up and begin networking.  In fact, tomorrow I am spending some time in the afternoon with a photographer friend for a head shot photo shoot.  The idea is to use not only the same name for all the sites, but also the same personal photo.

What is the reason for that you ask?  By using the same name and photo, over time, people will recognize that it is me.  Again, Personal Branding.

This morning, I returned to working on my final draft.  Spending a couple of days working on something else helped unlock some ideas on how to restructure my chapter.  So, I hope to finish the final draft sometime this week.  Then, I will give the manuscript to my wife to read.

I am getting closer!