Friday, July 20, 2012


Five-and-a-half years ago, I sat in a courtroom for the first time in my life.  I didn't have to be there, was not required to be there, and many people thought I was more than a little crazy for choosing to be there.  But I went anyway. 

For weeks prior, I had had this "unexplainable" feeling that I was supposed to go.  I didn't want to go, and I tried to ignore the feeling, but the persistent urging just kept coming back.  Stronger and stronger and stronger, until I could no longer deny that for some reason, God wanted me to be there.

So I found someone to watch the kids (my husband was at work), begged my dad to accompany me, and we ventured into the city courthouse to witness something that both broke my heart and empowered me.  I left that courtroom that day determined to be the best parent I could be: to set a Godly example for my kids, to make up for all the instability they had ever experienced, and to be the one to set them on the path to becoming who God created them to be.

Parental Termination hearings are brutal.

Our kids' biological mother was (under the circumstances) willing to give up her parental rights.  She acknowledged that she had not followed through with the requirements for reunification, and admitted that she had trouble even taking care of herself.  She said that she knew her kids were happy and, having been in foster care for much of her own youth, trusted that they would be well taken care of.  I believed then, and I still do now, that their biological mother was fully aware that she had failed her kids in many ways and truly wanted what was best for them.  I don't think she tossed them away lightly.  I don't think she did it for selfish reasons.  She was unable to be a responsible mother at that time in her life, and was able to quietly and respectfully admit it.  In my opinion, that takes a type of humility that deserves respect.

The birth father, on the other hand, was exactly the opposite.  Prison escort in tow, he was as loud and belligerent as his girlfriend was quiet.  While she denied nothing and calmly accepted what seemed inevitable, he refused to acknowledge that he had ever done anything wrong to have his children taken away.  In fact, he flat out accused the judge, the case workers, and the attorneys present of removing the kids for their own reasons, telling them it was their fault and that they never planned on giving the kids back no matter what he did. 

He was not at all a stupid man.  He understood how the proceedings were supposed to go and was well aware of his rights, and while his language was harsh and sometimes colorful, he was also very articulate.  I was shocked that a reasonably intelligent man seemed completely incapable of admitting any fault.  Even when facts and witnesses and prison records stared him in the face, he accepted zero responsibility for any of his actions.  Zero. 

Because he contested the termination of his rights, the hearing became a sort of macabre parade of all of both his and her failures.  I had known about the rotting teeth, the horror movies, the lack of bedtimes, structure, and regular meals.  But that day, my eyes were truly opened to the lives that my kids had come from.  Surrounded by drug addicts and dealers, being taught theft as a family "trade", living in more than a dozen places in a single year, being raised by two parents with criminal records; but more specifically, an arrogant man who had never done anything wrong but somehow had a police record longer than the Nile. 

Looking back, there are two things that stand out in my mind from that day as being the most significant. 

First of all, I discovered exactly why God wanted me to be there so badly.  After the belligerent birth father had been forcibly removed from court (following a colorful spewing of disrespect towards the judge), the downtrodden birth mother sat there all alone.  She had not a single person in the courtroom that was there to support her, had not even wanted to contest the termination herself, and yet she was forced to quietly listen to an endless list of the things she had done wrong.  Brutal.  Once the ruling was made official and her children were taken away for good, the lawyers and caseworkers all came back to talk with congratulate me as if what had happened had been a joyous occasion and not the tearing out of another woman's heart.  I watched as the lonely, unkempt woman shuffled down the aisle and to the door, and suddenly I knew what I was there for.  I was there for her.

I excused myself and followed her.  In the hallway, I gave her a hug and cried with her, and I explained that my husband and I had been approved to adopt the kids.  We talked for an hour or more, and I was able to reassure her that our kids would be fine, and that I would never try to make them hate her.  She shared some of their family medical history and described to me the kids' births.  I told her about Jesus and his love for her, and then I drove her home, as she had no money for the bus.

I'm not condoning her actions or making light of the damage she did to my kids, in fact, I still struggle with the thought of her neglecting my babies and causing them so much suffering.  But the first significant thing that I learned that day was that God truly loves all of His children...even the ones that are so messed up they can barely get up in the morning.  Even the ones that can't get themselves off drugs or show up on time to parenting classes.  Even the ones that hurt people that we love.  He loves us all.

The second significant memory that has become even more significant with each year that passes is the image of that angry, arrogant man that fought the truth with every fiber of his being.  The man that was obviously intelligent, yet lacked the ability to admit or acknowledge any wrongdoing or to accept any responsibility for his actions.  What happened to that man in his life that caused him to become a wild animal at the first implication of error?  What was it in him that associated mistakes with attack and weakness and forced him to so vehemently fight for what were so obviously lies?

I don't understand.  And yet, I do.  The truth is, this is a significant memory because I live every day with the image of that arrogant man. 

It sounds brutal, but my son acts just like him.

Please pray for us.  This has been an extraordinarily difficult few months with Mr. J, and it is so difficult to live with someone who is arrogant and unremorseful and whose problems are always someone else's fault.  We are seeking guidance as we begin this journey into the adolescent years, but it has become very apparent to all that Mr. J is simply better at hiding his issues than Miss M ever has been, and while she's been working hard to heal, he has been festering for years.


Sunday, July 8, 2012

A Christian Controversy

***Note: this entry is intended for Christians.  If you are not a believer and follower of Jesus Christ, this issue most likely does not pertain to you, as God is far more concerned with your heart and soul than with your choices of entertainment.  Please email me at if you are unsure of what I mean and would like to discuss it*** 

I'm going to be courageous enough to address an issue that is mostly ignored within Christian circles.  I've touched on the issue of television and movies before, but in the past year (on several different occasions), I've been saddened by sisters in Christ who have recommended shows to me (which I have sometimes looked up on Netflix or online as a result...hoping to find something wholesome and entertaining), only to discover sexual content, homosexual relationships, inappropriate dress, blatant disregard for Christ and foul language, among other things. 

It seems that many Christians have become desensitized to the filth intertwined with their entertainment and don't even think twice about it.  They not only feel that it's acceptable to watch these things themselves, but also that it would be fine to suggest them to others.

Early on in our marriage, my husband and I were sucked into the same familiar routine of coming home from work, turning on the TV, and staring at it until bedtime.  We weren't overly selective about what we watched, as long as it was entertaining, and looking back, I'm ashamed of the blatantly immoral shows that we not only watched but also "couldn't miss". 

I understand the lure of television.  I understand the temptation to kick back and relax at the end of the day, or to zone out while folding laundry or while the kids are napping.  I totally remember the feeling of justifying a little sin for the sake of a favorite show, and then slowly justifying more and more sin as the show became more and more captivating.  It's a slippery slope, and once I justified the sin, the next step was ignoring it altogether.  Eventually I didn't even notice it, and then one day (I don't even remember it happening) I was laughing at it.  Being entertained by it.  By my actions, approving of it.

Slowly, God began working on us to clean up our television viewing habits, but the last straw was when a woman had a heart attack at my work and died in my arms.  Once I had experienced the actual heartache of death, I could no longer turn a blind eye to the "entertainment" of death I saw on TV.  Death and human suffering are not entertaining!  Sin is not entertaining!  Watching unholy and vile things over and over and over does have an effect on your life and on your ability to have a deeper relationship with God, no matter how much you may think it isn't harmful. 

"I will be careful to lead a blameless life
when will you come to me?

I will conduct the affairs of my house
with a blameless heart.
I will not look with approval
on anything that is vile."
Psalm 101:2-3a 

God spoke to us through so many situations during that one year in our lives, including a new-found desire in my husband to keep his eyes and heart pure...and we've been television-programming-free for almost eight years now.  We play games, talk, and have fun together way more than when we were TV watchers; we get a lot more done, and we enjoy each other's company.  To unwind at the end of the day, we do watch movies together as a couple on occasion, but have set strict guidelines for ourselves there as well.  We read detailed reviews on anything we watch beforehand, and have discovered that (with a few exceptions) PG movies are the most we can handle.  Why?  Because if we wouldn't invite Jesus over personally to watch something with us, then we shouldn't be watching it. 

In reality, Jesus is there watching everything with us anyway.

So, we have more time for each other, a closer relationship with God, and we get more accomplished than we used to.  Are there any other benefits to turning off the television?  Definitely.  All five (soon to be six) of our children have incredible imaginations.  They play, read, craft, and never whine about watching TV because it isn't a part of their lives.  They don't see commercials, so they never beg for certain toys or cereals or experiences; they are content with what they're given for gifts, and ask for the types of things that interest them, not the latest "fad".  Family movie night is a treat for them, and they associate movies with togetherness and special occasions. 

The best part?  When they have seen TV shows (mostly at relatives' homes), they've noticed the temptations and sins we've talked to them about...prepared them for...and they've pointed them out to us themselves.  They recognize sin for what it is and are not fooled by the coating of entertainment.  Their innocence and perception is truly a gift, and we pray they will never become desensitized as we once were.

If you're on the fence, I would encourage you to try turning off the TV.  It certainly can't hurt anything.  Yes, it was incredibly hard at first, but as with all obedience, it has reaped such joy and spiritual growth into our family.  We still use wholesome movies/Netflix as an educational tool and as an occasional family treat, but getting rid of the constant bombardment of violence, impure images, immorality, greed and worldliness, along with the temptation to be lazy, has been the best thing we ever could have done for our family.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.  Philippians 4:8

Whatever convictions God lays on your heart in regard to keeping your eyes, minds, and hearts free from vile things, I wish His blessing on all of you as together we walk this journey of life.  And since I've shared something that God has been working on in my family, if anyone would like to share how He's cured you of anger, tardiness or facebook addiction (to name a few), I would be eager to hear you out!