People ask me all the time how I finished a novel and got it on the conveyor-belt for publishing. I could answer that question, but I have a lot of experience of NOT finishing a novel too, you know. After all, I spent about four years beating my head against proverbial and literal walls. So I'm a pro at not finishing, too. So, are you ready? PAY ATTENTION GUYS, THIS IS INTERNET GOLD.Read More
** Update! ** (Thanks to the efforts of people like you, the tax bill that was signed into law includes the Adoption Tax Credit! Yay!)
For those of you that don't know, Patrick and I are adopting. (Insert whoots and hollers here.)
I know! I know! It's so exciting and we can't fathom the joy we are going to feel, when, at long last our arms will be full and we will get the chance to care for our son or daughter.
But there's just no way around it — adoption is also horrible. Adoption is grievous — for the birth mother in crisis who feels that she doesn't have the support or ability to parent on her own; and for the adoptive family whose lives and finances are suddenly at the whim of someone else's emotions and hormones.
I've delayed announcing this on social media for many reasons, but now, I can't help myself. The U.S. Congress, led by Republicans, has put forth a new tax bill that delivers a corporate tax cut, while shaving away personal deductions from individual Americans. One of those itemized deductions that is now gone? The adoption tax credit.
I can hardly get my thoughts together, I'm so grieved and disappointed in my representatives in Congress for making this decision. But here are three main reasons that all Congressmen and women need to stop everything and propose an amendment to add the adoption tax credit back into the tax plan.
1. More than half of all adoptions are disrupted, leading to significant financial loss for adoptive families.
Patrick and I have chosen to partner with a for-profit adoption agency that provides insurance for its families. But most families that venture into adoption don't have that safety net in place. Instead, they provide financial assistance to the birth mother with whom they are matched, hoping and trusting that the adoption will go forward. Many times, birth mothers decide to parent the biological child and don't go through with the adoption plan. But when that happens — a large portion of that money is at risk. Families can lose tens of thousands of dollars on a failed match.
For families that qualify, the adoption tax credit provided just over $13,000. For those who have adopted, you know how small of a drop that is in the bucket, particularly since many families who decide to adopt have done so after spending thousands of dollars on infertility treatment, individual and marriage counseling, and other doctors appointments. But that drop is meaningful, helping families like mine realize that we are supported, even when things fall apart.
2. Adoptive Families support mothers in crisis and help children avoid a life in foster care.
Prior to deciding to adopt, Patrick and I went through the training to become Foster Parents. But at the end of that journey, we decided that Adoption was a way to prevent a crisis that leads to the Department of Children's services stepping in. Over the last year, Patrick and I have been matched with more than one birth mother who is homeless. Because of our support, those birth mothers were able to get a stable place to live and medical care — no matter what they ultimately choose. We take on that risk, with the help of our agency. But for mothers that do in fact go forward with their adoption plans, the children are often saved from situations that would have led to the Department of Children's Services stepping in. They're save from being tugged back and forth between parents and foster parents, while the state plays referee.
The financial investment that adoptive families put into the most needy in our society ought to be validated, honored, and reimbursed — if not in whole, then certainly in part.
3. For many adoptive families, this is the only way to grow their family.
Patrick and I have dealt with infertility for more than five years. As far as we know, the only way that we will be able to grow our family is through adoption. And when we hear our friends complain about medical bills after a vaginal delivery, we have to keep our mouths shut. Yes — insurance is there and it is a broken system, and often families are left with staggering bills even after biological delivery. But the labor of adoption is expensive — and for good reason. There are securities in place so that families aren't pressuring, bribing, or coercing birth mothers into a choice. There are lawyers in place, so that children are legally accounted for and that everyone understands their rights. There are counselors needed as birth mothers grieve their loss and adoptive families enter the treachery of parenthood. All of these costs are real and are not going away, just because the tax system changes.
Finally — and this is the last thing I'll say. We have a long way to go in our nation to support women in crisis and their children. To me, the loss of the adoption tax credit means that adoption will grow to be a possibility only for the wealthy which is a travesty. To me, the loss of the adoption tax credit will only further stigmatize women who choose to make an adoption plan over the far more "convenient" option of an abortion. (A procedure which is provided for less than $1000, if not for free.)
Please call your senators and congressman. This cannot stand.
I've never been to war.
Shocker, I know. But, I don't think you have to be in the military to understand what it feels like to be deployed. You don't have to wear a uniform to be in the fight of your life.Read More
Beyond the Point isn't a Christian book per se, but its inscription is of one of my favorite prayers in the Bible:
"Pardon me, my lord," Gideon replied, "but if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us?—Judges 6:13
Gah. Isn't that the question?
I love this prayer of Gideon's. In fact, I love it so much, I started mining the Bible for more prayers just like it. I'm obsessed with prayers that show our real humanity before a holy God.
All too often, my prayers look like journal entries — recounting my life, fears, dreams and concerns to him. I rarely tell Him what I feel about Him, and more, tell him what I feel about my life.
I don't want to do that anymore. I want to talk spend more time talking to God about how I feel about Him. I want my time with him to be about US. Not about me.
The difficulty in making that shift is that it requires me to assess my relationship with God—and that's a nebulous, invisible thing. It requires me to be honest about my faithlessness. It requires me to be honest about my doubt. It requires me to admit that most of the time, even when I'm desperate to hear from Him, I can't hear anything at all.
When Jesus taught his disciples to pray, he told them to do it with gratitude, humility, and faith. (Here's the Lord's prayer, in case you haven't read it lately.) But the Lord's prayer wasn't the only prayer Jesus ever spoke. And throughout the Bible, we can witness people who express their faith muddled with faithlessness to a God who can handle it.
Gideon: "Pardon me, my lord," Gideon replied, "but if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, 'Did not the LORD bring us up out of Egypt?' But now the LORD has abandoned us... —Judges 6:13
Gideon was a train wreck of a human, but so am I! And his prayer asks the one question that keeps so many people from a relationship with God. (If there is a God, why do so many bad things happen?) He's asking a question that is full of hope and desperation: Okay God -- I've heard how powerful you are for other people, but I want to believe that you're powerful for me.
Gideon is saying: God, we feel abandoned.
David says those sorts of things throughout the Psalms. How long oh Lord? Do you hear me?
Here's another example:
Martha to Jesus: "Lord, if you had been here, my brother wouldn't have died." —John 11:21
This is a prayer that tangles belief with unbelief — and I love it. Martha is saying that she believes Jesus is powerful, after all, she's saying he could have saved her brother, Lazarus. Yet, at the same moment, she's asking a heart wrenching question: WHY WEREN'T YOU? She's believing Jesus and questioning him all at the same time. She's saying she trusts him, but doesn't understand him.
None of these people sugar-coat their honest feelings toward God. They brings it wholeheartedly forward. Not with haughtiness, but with humility. I want to understand who you are. I want to understand where you are.
And as much as I love those prayers — I love God's responses even more. In the face of these prayers, Jesus doesn't turn away from Martha, offended by her questions. God doesn't smite Gideon for his questions. No. In every case, God responds with patience, love and mercy.
Jesus wept with Martha. He promised her that though the sorrow was deep, the pain wouldn't last forever. In fact, Martha's honesty led Jesus to reveal more of who he was to her, her sister Mary, and to the rest of the people gathered. "I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; Whoever lives by believing in me will never die," he told them. "Do you believe this?"
The Lord delivered Gideon, too, despite his doubt. With great patience, God proved himself over and over in Gideon's life. Because even though Gideon had doubt, he didn't let that get in the way of his obedience. Though he didn't understand God, he moved forward, taking the risk of letting God prove himself faithful to a new generation. And that obedience led to more faith.
Here's another of my favorite prayers. This one, from Jesus.
Jesus: "Daddy... father... if it is possible, take this cup from me..." —Mark 14:36, Luke 22:42, Matthew 26:42
This one is the Mack Daddy. In less than 24 hours, Jesus will be hanging dead on a cross. Jesus is begging God to do something different. It's too heavy. It's too burdensome. Our Lord — in his perfection — prayed to God for there to be a different plan. But Jesus's prayer—if it is possible, take this cup from me—didn't end there. He finished that prayer by saying "Not my will, but yours be done."
God loved his Son enough to hear his prayer, but He loved us enough to deny the request. And because Jesus drank the cup—we don't have to.
“See, I have taken out of your hand the cup that made you stagger; from that cup, the goblet of my wrath, you will never drink again." Isaiah 51:22
I'm so grateful to worship a God that can handle my questions.
So follow the example of these prayers. Take your questions about the Lord to the Lord. Take your belief right next to your disbelief. Take your requests. And know that he weeps with you. He will honor your obedience, despite your doubt. He will answer you in good time, and his answers are always full of love.
When my book club decided to read East of Eden, I knew I was going to go all out...Read More