The desire to become an adoptive or foster parent is admirable, and particularly attractive to those with big hearts. But in this episode, hosts Lynette Ezell and Tera Melber share the importance of aspiring adoptive and foster parents to count up the costs before diving in.
Find out how to give to the Ministry Adoption Fund—to help families like the Browns— by visiting sendrelief.org/foster-care-adoption/.
Speaker 1: Welcome to the Adopting and Fostering Home Podcast. Whether your family has been on this journey for years or you’re just getting started, we’re here to support and encourage you along the way. And now your hosts, Lynette Ezell and Tera Melber.
Lynette Ezell: Welcome back. Thanks again for joining us. It is so great in life, Tera, to have a friend that can ask the tough questions.
Tera Melber: That is true.
Lynette Ezell: I have two or three of those in my life, you being one, and I have one back in Kentucky that can really ask me tough questions, but it’s good for me. It really is.
Lynette Ezell: When I first started having children, I remember being alert to the statement you never stop being a parent. Right?
Tera Melber: Well you think you know what that means until you’ve been parenting for a while.
Lynette Ezell: Exactly. But I don’t think this truth could be more important than in families who have entered adoption or foster care or before we enter the waters of adoption or foster care because, Tera, wouldn’t you agree? It requires us to really be into parenting, to stay the course in this calling.
Tera Melber: I like what you say. Really be into it. We have to really be into it.
Lynette Ezell: I’m not always into it. And we’re just going to be honest today in this, when we talk about this discussion of just asking tough question. But let me be honest here: I look back on why we started adoption. I’m not so much into parenting as I am into easing the suffering of another.
Tera Melber: I know. You have a big heart and most people in this area really do.
Lynette Ezell: Yeah, they do. It’s just the way God wired me. It was the way I was raised. My mom was that way. I see a need and want to meet a need, and it worked well as a pastor’s wife. It could get me in some trouble, but it worked really well. But if I hear of suffering or children needing a home, I immediately want to jump in and help alleviate the pain. Are you the same way?
Tera Melber: I am the same way. I really am.
Lynette Ezell: But through the years I’ve learned some very important lessons, and honestly, it’s about time. It really is.
Tera Melber: You’re only 30. I don’t know what you’re talking about.
Lynette Ezell: Exactly! Exactly. But answering to the call for a child through … Think about a baby that needs shelter, safety, the love of a family and so on. That’s all the feel-good part. It really is. It’s the fun part.
Tera Melber: Right. The romantic side of it all.
Lynette Ezell: There you go. Yeah. But seasons change and those adorable babies, those terrific toddlers, those free-spirited children that we welcome off the plane, they grow into teens and young adults who many times, most of the time, have very deep wounded souls. They do. It’s then that, for me, I have to dig in when any kind of trouble, trials come and I have to dig in, seek counsel and stay the course with my kids in my parenting.
Tera Melber: That’s right.
Lynette Ezell: Even with adult kids, right?
Tera Melber: Mm-hmm.
Lynette Ezell: I have to continue connecting and engaging, but the problem is sometimes I don’t feel like it.
Tera Melber: Right, right.
Lynette Ezell: I don’t feel like getting in line with the needs. So today if you’re considering adoption or foster care, you’re right there at the crossroads of the questions, know the right questions to ask, and the main one is, to me, are you really into lifelong parenting?
Tera Melber: That’s right. I really agree with you because the needs and the challenges along with the many victories, especially when you’re talking about the free-spirited children age, that elementary age where everything seems like, “Oh man, this seems so easy.” So the needs and the challenges along with the victories, they don’t end when our kids turn 18 and when they leave the nest. In fact, as you and I have found, many children, families that we talk to, many children who entered their families might not be able to leave the nest at 18.
Lynette Ezell: That’s a great point. Yeah.
Tera Melber: But is what you’ve envisioned, and if you have biological children, you’re looking to the day that your children leave the nest and though it’s hard, you’re typically ready for it. But many times our kids are not ready or capable of leaving at 18 years old. They might not just have the capacity at that time to do it, and they may never be able to do it. And I know that the Lord tells us that we’re not supposed to worry about tomorrow because tomorrow has enough worries of its own, but he also tells us to consider the cost of being his disciples.
Lynette Ezell: Yes, he does. Consider the cost. That’s right.
Tera Melber: And Lynette, your compassionate heart is huge. You’re a doer. That’s why we do things a lot because you and I jump in and we do it, and I know that many of our listeners also have the helpers heart.
Tera Melber: However, we cannot follow our own heart’s inclinations alone. We must follow the Lord’s leading because not everyone has to raise a child to be a part of God’s proclamation to visit the widow and orphan in their need. So the question is, how do we know if we’re really in it, if that’s really what the Lord’s calling us to do, and if we’re in it for the lifelong ups and downs, the hills and valleys and the hard things that we may never anticipate on the front end? This is a long haul. You got to have the long view, and I don’t mean that to sound discouraging. I mean that to sound … if you can prep on the beginning end and have that vision ahead of you, that can I really do this? What’s my capacity in being able to do this if things are the very worst or if things are at the very best?
Lynette Ezell: Yeah, so just pull up a chair with us today. Let us ask you the tough questions we’ve asked ourselves. I should have asked more probably, but the Lord doesn’t give you all the answers on the front end, but just pull up a chair with us today. I love, Tera, you always talk about knowing your family’s capacity. So, let’s just say today, let’s just challenge people to respect their limits.
Tera Melber: That’s right.
Lynette Ezell: We’ve talked many times about, Tera, you’ve brought up knowing your family’s capacity, but let’s take this one step further. How much are you willing to back away from in order to invest years into this young soul? Years. How long are you willing to be at home embracing structure, connection, and daily training? Luke 9:23, daily training. How long are you willing to live with trauma because it can wear you down, and how long are you willing to invest in another person financially, counseling costs, specialist costs, educational health costs, right? And how long are you willing to share your life with another hurting person?
Tera Melber: Well, I remember facing some of those questions when we were beginning our process. We answered those questions at the best that we could at the time, but over the years I’ve really learned to settle in to understanding who I am and what I can do.
Lynette Ezell: Love it.
Tera Melber: And what I know that I could be pushed a little further, that the Lord often asks me to get outside of my box. At the same time, I don’t want to push so far ahead of him that I’m drowning. So I used to feel really guilty or less than others because I felt like I couldn’t do all that my heart really wanted to do, and I’ve learned though to set boundaries for myself so that I can go really hard and where I can go and even be pushed just a bit further and yet be in a rhythm of rest where there’s an incorporation of that.
Tera Melber: And then sometimes I do that better than others, but I want to be able to go as hard as I can to what the Lord’s called me to do, even if I feel super stretched, but still have some margin in my life to be able to refresh. That’s the Lord’s pattern. He gave us Sabbath rest for that reason and modeled it for us. So learning to really take a hard look at your own life in order to make a good decision with the Lord’s leading is important for the vitality of your future family.
Lynette Ezell: So how did you do that?
Tera Melber: Well, I had a lot of people speaking into me. Some of them I didn’t really want to listen, but asking me questions of think about this or think about your schedule. So, what if the financial needs because of counseling or specialist or therapies being back and forth three times a week, what if that means you’re a part time or full-time working mom. Do you want to ask yourself the hard question of what if I have to quit my job or what if I have to go part time or what if I have to go part time to pay for all of that stuff?
Tera Melber: So you can’t do every scenario in your head, but you do have to think ahead to what are other foster and adoptive families having to do in their day-to-day life, specifically foster families who are running back and forth to court and visitation and all of those. What are you going to have to slim down so that you know that you can do it well because when we don’t have margin in our life and things get crunch time, we cannot rightly respond to our families.
Lynette Ezell: No. It reminds me of our podcast and our dear friend Sharon Miles that just after she got into it, she brought three home from the Philippines, and after she got deep into it, she had a funeral for her old life. Like literally-
Tera Melber: That story still cracks me up.
Lynette Ezell: She went in the backyard, literally took a shoe box, put her old life in it and buried it.
Tera Melber: Because she was an empty nester. You guys will have to go back and listen to that one.
Lynette Ezell: And a very serious tennis player and liked it and was real involved in ladies’ Bible study and in her community. Of course she didn’t quit her time alone with the Lord, but there wasn’t time for that planned. Sit in a classroom for three hours once a week. She just could not. She didn’t have the margin in her life to do that anymore.
Tera Melber: And in turn lost some friendships.
Lynette Ezell: Yes, absolutely.
Tera Melber: Not because they didn’t love her, but because they weren’t in the same circles of day-to-day life. You can lose that a little bit. So you have to really ask yourself that, but it’s really similar. You’ve got a runner in your family, so I was thinking about this, that when we’re thinking about trying to figure out what we have the capacity for, we have to consider a runner. So before a race, a runner prepares. They’ve been training and they’re running.
Lynette Ezell: For months.
Tera Melber: For months. Then when it’s closer to time for the race, if they have the capability, they will scope out the path of the race, so they mentally prepare for the big hills and they look to see where are the water stations, and then typically they have family members cheering for them along the way, so they kind of know what to expect. We have to do those same kinds of things when we’re preparing for bringing children into our home and say, what are the big hills going to be, and in that timeframe, what might I need to do, and will I be willing to do it?
I remember when a mom about 10 years ahead of me told me, “When your child starts middle school, you need to quit everything. When your child’s a senior in high school, to enjoy all that that brings, you need to quit everything.”
Lynette Ezell: Hunker down. That’s right.
Tera Melber: All that extraneous stuff. Well, at different times in our children’s lives when they’re developing, we want to be able to say, “If I need to, I’m willing to stop doing this,” and if you can’t do all of that, that doesn’t mean you’re a selfish, awful human being, but it might mean that you can’t bring home a sibling group of four and you could maybe bring home one or you can invest in a foster child, but not necessarily be a foster parent.
Lynette Ezell: Well, it reminds me of Pam Parish Connections Homes and so many things you can do to invest in a child aging out of the system. Maybe that’s the calling God’s leading you to. Maybe that’s how you respect your limits. Maybe that’s how God’s leading you to do that.
Lynette Ezell: And in this too, we also want to retain as we’re asking these questions, an eternal perspective because let’s don’t forget, every child equals a soul, right?
Tera Melber: That’s exactly right.
Lynette Ezell: James 1:27, as you brought up earlier, is a charge to the eternal. To visit an orphan in his need is to seek him out. We saw in Counter Culture by David Platt to dwell, to become a part of their life, to spend your time. What else, Tera? Resources, energy on their wellbeing. And not just their physical health. It’s also spiritual health. So as we look at bringing a child into our home, as we look into stepping into this, we want to retain an eternal perspective and realize we are instruments of God to lead them to abundant life and eternal healing. Now all that sounds wonderful.
Tera Melber: Yeah.
Lynette Ezell: Sign me up.
Tera Melber: It really does. It does.
Lynette Ezell: It sounds good, but it involves engaging the hard, and it’s also, I want people to understand, it’s a lifelong mission that involves our full involvement.
Tera Melber: Right. Our ministry is our family. As a wife to David and a mom to our children, my first ministry and priority is my walk with the Lord, and then my family, and all the other is just the icing on the cake, the extra stuff that I do that I really enjoy that brings me refreshment or whatever. Those are extras. But my goal is to be able to point my family to Jesus and encourage them in their walk with the Lord, and so we have to think about what kinds of things that we need to do to be able to be available to our families.
Lynette Ezell: Absolutely. And I bring this up all the time. Years ago when my girls were getting married, there was a picture they would do of the bride’s dad. So your wedding pictures, right?
Tera Melber: Right.
Lynette Ezell: And so it was a picture of the dad. I saw so many of them, and they make me laugh every time, but he’s standing there in his tux and he’s at his daughter’s wedding, which is enough pressure as it is, and he’s holding out his empty pockets of his tuxedo pants. But I think about that and I’m like … I remember thinking about that picture and seeing so many of our friends have that picture when their daughters married. I don’t want to go before the Lord with empty pockets. I don’t want to go before him because I was so busy or I just didn’t have time to focus on my children to not take them to the Lord with me. Does that make sense?
Tera Melber: Yes it does. It does. And the first thing that you’ve got to really be able to focus on is to be able to be awake enough or available enough to spend time with the Lord because if you’re not filling up your cup in the morning, you can’t have that outpouring so that when your child, when something goes on with your child and you have a rupture in that relationship, that if you’ve got an overflow of the Lord, even if you blow it in that moment, you can go back and repair. And as you’re modeling that repair in your relationship with your children, then they’re seeing Mom and Dad are going to pursue me always. I am safe to make a mistake.
Lynette Ezell: Yes, that’s right, and really keeping the eternal focus of that is when we can go back and say, “Hey, I didn’t respond well in that. Will you forgive me?” Showing them this is all about the Lord. It really is. And this is until the Lord takes us home. This relationship is forever.
Tera Melber: I heard Jason Johnson a while back, you and I did, and he was talking about that often times people talk about this journey as being this marathon and that you’re haggard and you’re pitiful by the time you’re falling over the line.
Lynette Ezell: He has seen me run.
Tera Melber: Lord knows he has not seen me run, but if I do run it is ugly. So I really liked his analogy of instead of looking at it in this long view as this arduous journey of, “Oh, martyred in me, this is what I’m getting myself into,” it’s every morning, if I’m going to run in my neighborhood, I run lamp post to lamp post or mailbox to mailbox.
Lynette Ezell: That’s right. I love his lamp post to lamp post. I use that all the time.
Tera Melber: It’s so great because I can say I just need to get to the next lamp post.
Lynette Ezell: Next lamp post. That’s right.
Tera Melber: Not the 26-mile marker, but the next lamp post so that when I cross the finish line and stand before the Lord, that I’m standing there and my hope is that he says, “Well done, Tera, my good and faithful servant,” because I have looked to him for the strength that I need just to get to the next thing.
Lynette Ezell: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So respect your limits. Ask the tough questions. Am I willing to live, invest my life into this young soul? Am I willing to live with trauma? Am I willing to invest in another person financially? And then retain an eternal perspective? Because at the end of the day, it’s a calling that he’s called us to, and it’s forever. It really is.
Lynette Ezell: And we’ll just sum up with saying remember the mission. There will be times our hearts with ache with biological kids and adopted and foster kids. The frustration may grow intense, and there will be times we’ll just have to power through. Like you said, Tera, lamp post to lamp post. That kind of gets the tired, weary flesh in line, but the joy of taking our children with us to Jesus is incomparable to anything we can face.
Tera Melber: That’s so true.
Lynette Ezell: It really is. In the trenches though, I don’t know about you, but I think, “Okay, pull up a chair, listener.” We can find ourselves questioning God in the trenches, right? When things get tough, disappointments, unmet expectations, weariness. I’m not great when I’m tired. I know that about myself.
Tera Melber: Weary is not a good look on me.
Lynette Ezell: No. My husband can power through, and the Lord put us together. We balance each other out. I’m not good at that, but I have all the feels. I have a little grandson, and we say he has all the feels and he gets it from me, but all the feels can lead us to question why the Lord had our families embrace this call. We can find ourselves there.
But you know what I have found, and I think you’d agree with me, that the Lord, I serve the King, and he alone can shoulder pain and questions, my doubts and my deep discouragement.
Tera Melber: A couple of nights ago I couldn’t sleep at all. I was up really late. My mind was racing over different things and…I feel like sometimes the Lord ordains those things in the stillness of the night so that I can sit before him and pray, casting all my anxieties on him.
Lynette Ezell: Yeah, it’s a quiet time.
Tera Melber: And I wanted to see this passage of scripture, great is your faithfulness. I wanted to read it and see it on the pages, and I read the scripture above it to remind myself, and I was really refreshed by it, from Lamentations, where he doesn’t just say, “Great is my faithfulness.” He says, “I remember my affliction and my wandering. I remember them and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope. Because of the Lord’s great love, I am not consumed. His compassions never fail. They are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness.”
Lynette Ezell: Yeah. That’s awesome. When Carmen Coe was with us, she talked about that passage, that we’re not consumed. We’re not. The difficulties can keep us up at night, or the worries. Is this going to work out? Anything in life. Oh, but he is so, so fateful. Trust in the heart of God knowing that he wills and acts for his glory, and you were reminded in his word, I can move forward.
Tera Melber: That’s right.
Lynette Ezell: I can.
Tera Melber: Well, just remember when you’re asking yourself the hard questions at the beginning of your journey, am I really in for this lifelong parenting gig, that there will be victories and there will be deep trenches, so you have to know that the Lord has called you because in those good times you praise him bigger and in the bad times you choose to praise him because he’s going to take you through it.
Lynette Ezell: Yeah. And one more thing, Jason Johnson just posted this week. He said, “It’s important to count the cost you might incur if you do foster or adopt, but never to the neglect of considering what it will cost these kids if you don’t.”
Tera Melber: That’s good.
Lynette Ezell: It’s so good. So scripture doesn’t tell us exactly what to do in every situation, but we know when the Lord is stirring in our hearts, we have to do like you did in the middle of the night, dig deep into our souls and just continue to face the tough questions and bring them to the Lord. He can shoulder them. Am I determined to parent this soul for life? Am I willing to sacrifice time and resources for the years ahead?
Lynette Ezell: You summed it up really well when you shared about getting up in the middle of the night. Psalm 73:28: “It is good for me to be near God. I have made the sovereign Lord my refuge. I will tell of all your deeds.”
Tera Melber: Amen.
Lynette Ezell: Amen. Thanks for joining us today.
Speaker 1: You have been listening to the Adopting and Fostering Home, a resource of the North American Mission Board. For more information about today’s podcast and other relevant resources, visit SendRelief.org.