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 to the Adopting and Fostering podcast, Tera and I are so glad that you could join us today. We’re gonna deal with a little bit of a difficult topic, to me today, just a little hard to manage this one.
Tera Melber: it is very difficult.
Lynette Ezell: You know, a majority of fostering and adoptive families know, and they enjoy the support of their family and close friends, it’s so important to have that support. But there are families who face the heartbreaking reality of unsupportive family members, and close friends.
Tera Melber: That is true. This is a very difficult journey to walk through, but should be considered before beginning this journey.
Lynette Ezell: I agree. Before beginning the journey, you have to take that into consideration. And you often say, to talk about how you’re gonna answer those questions.
Tera Melber: Right. And oftentimes it might just be with you and your friend, like I could just do this with you, or if I did this at home with David, to be able to role play and be able to say, how am I gonna respond if someone reacts in this way? Because oftentimes, it’s just because this looks very outside the box, for the majority of people.
Lynette Ezell: It is, absolutely. Yeah.
Tera Melber: So they don’t really know what to think, or they don’t know how to process everything that’s going on.
Lynette Ezell: But our closest friends or family members, they can have very valid concerns. Or, fears of the unknown, it’s lack of knowledge, or fear of the unknown. And honestly, as we began this path, Tera, some 14 years ago, we had to learn, there were things I was afraid of. But as I got information, and realized there’s help, and this is what the Lord’s called us to, but if they have those concerns… well, what are a few of those they can have?
Tera Melber: Well, I get a lot of things like, well, this is going to be too hard on your biological children.
Lynette Ezell: Oh, that’s a biggie.
Tera Melber: We have three biological children in the home. And it was very different, we didn’t really know anyone who had done this, and people were concerned about that. Or, how do you know that you’re going to be able to love a child that’s not your own, that you didn’t birth?
Lynette Ezell: Or what if the adopted or fostered child is just too difficult to handle?
Tera Melber: Or just somebody looking at you and saying, “this is going to ruin your life.”
Lynette Ezell: Right. “it’s gonna ruin your family.” Right. Very encouraging.
Tera Melber: Thanks!
Lynette Ezell: I know.
Tera Melber: But you know, sometimes, I think, especially when we were very first beginning the journey, some of the things that even my parents, or my friends that were talking to me and reacting to our news, they brought up valid concerns, like you said.
Lynette Ezell: They are valid, yeah.
Tera Melber: That I had to be able to come to terms with and deal with. So, what if this was going to be hard on my biological children? Have we thought through that? What if I don’t feel this great love and affection immediately? So some of the concerns are valid and things that you need to work through anyway, but you may have already thought of it, and you can be able to have a response to someone who’s, you know, giving you a negative comment.
Lynette Ezell: And let me interject here, too, that often times, well, all the ones I know, that adoptive and foster moms especially, we’re passionate about this calling.
Tera Melber: And sometimes I think we’re so passionate that we think everyone else should be as passionate as we are.
Lynette Ezell: Oh, yes.
Tera Melber: And they are not.
Lynette Ezell: Guilty, yes, guilty. And so with that in mind, we have to tread very lightly when sharing the news with reluctant family. Those we love, we’re close to. And if we first share that with them, and they’re reluctant, we have to kind of back up a minute, give them some space, right?
Tera Melber: I agree. And you can’t control their attitude, or their response, but you can listen well, and you can respond with love.
I have a pastor from several churches ago, when we moved several times, and one of our pastors often said, “you can’t control other’s actions, but you can control your reaction.” And so to always be able to have grace filled words. And that’s a struggle, sometimes you don’t feel like responding with grace filled words, but you have to take a deep breath and be able to just, either don’t respond at all, give them a minute to be able to share their concerns, and then sometimes it just requires saying, “thank you for sharing that”, and then walking away.
Lynette Ezell: That’s right. And continuing to love them. Don’t just isolate them from your life.
Tera and I would like to share with families today a few suggestions for walking through a difficult journey when you don’t feel accepted by your family, or close friends.
Tera Melber: Well, and I believe, the first and foremost is always prayer, to pray for the family members or close friends, that you fear will be hesitant to your family’s decision to adopt or foster. And generally, you know who those people are going to be.
Lynette Ezell: That’s right, you do know beforehand, most of the time. And to pray for them, because, you know, this is a process for all of us. And the Lord is working, he is moving in all of our lives, working in our lives, so to pray for those family members. And then I suggest not laying this on them in public, but to talk privately with extended family.
Tera Melber: Very wise, that would be a really wise decision. To not have a family gathering when you know there are going to be people that are going to react negatively, and having 30 people in there-
Lynette Ezell: Laying it on them.
Tera Melber: And not giving them a chance to process it, or giving them a chance to mull it over.
Lynette Ezell: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Tera Melber: We live a distance from our extended family, and from several people that we grew up with, and so we shared our news with some consecutive adoptions, over the phone. And that gave them time to process, by that time, they had figured out that we didn’t do things very conventional anyway. But one of the things you have to consider too is, like, my in-laws, and my parents were, my parents were in their 60s and my in-laws were in their 70s.
Lynette Ezell: Right.
Tera Melber: When we shared the news. So it just was not something that their generation, was doing, or even something that they thought about. So you just have to let them process it, and oftentimes, they’ll respond, some will respond positively, and some will respond… not necessarily negative, some though may.
Lynette Ezell: But just guarded.
Tera Melber: But guarded, and thinking, “what are you doing?”
Lynette Ezell: Right. And so then, our next suggestion falls in line with that, to listen and wait patiently. Think about this, Tera was talking about the generation of her parents. People know of adoption and foster care, but most times, most times they do not understand the process, or even how great the need is.
Tera Melber: Right. And I feel like it’s one of the times that, before the children entered our home, that it was really scary. So, and listen. I’m a mom of six children. And I have adult children. And you have adult children. And even so, when our kids are making decisions as adults, we still have that mom fierce protection.
Lynette Ezell: It never goes away, right.
Tera Melber: So why would we think any differently of our parents? To think that they don’t want to fiercely protect us, and keep us from going through struggles and difficulties, because they don’t see how this is all gonna work out. That’s a typical parent response for parents who love their children. So to be able to cut them a little slack, one time, my dad said – this was years after our adoptions – when we first shared our first two adoptions, they were thinking, “what are y’all doing?” And they were a little hesitant.
Lynette Ezell: How can you do this?
Tera Melber: How can you do this, how’s this gonna look, I’m not sure what I think about it. And it was uncomfortable. Cause I just wanted everybody to be super excited, and they were a little bit more guarded. And years later I asked my dad, “you know dad, what do you think that we should share with young families whose parents are not 100% on board in the beginning?” And he said, “you guys need to tell those kids to cut us some slack.”
Lynette Ezell: Yes.
Tera Melber: Which I thought was great advice.
Lynette Ezell: That’s clear, we get that.
Tera Melber: My dad, a few words: “just tell them to cut us a little slack.”
Lynette Ezell: Listen and wait! Yes, give them time. You know, when Paul wrote, in Galatians 5:22-23, the fruit of the spirit. He must have known that we were going to have tough times that we needed to really focus on the world, seeing that fruit in our life, that the Holy Spirit is growing in there, love, joy, peace, patience, and kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. This is a perfect time to realize-
Tera Melber: To realize all of those things.
Lynette Ezell: Yeah, and to portray that fruit. Because it’s easy to portray that fruit when you don’t come against any opposition, or any hurt feelings, but in this journey, you will have that. So ask them to pray for you also, if they’re believers, if possible, just recruit them as a team player beforehand. Would you pray about our travel. Would you pray that the finances come together, mom. You know, ask a sibling, let them know, “I value your opinion. I know you love me. But would you just trust us in this decision?”
Tera Melber: And it gives them a piece of it, where they feel like they’re as much as a part of the journey as they can be, as grandparents, as aunts, as uncles, as close friends. That they’re a part of the journey, and that they’re not lagging behind in any way. That you really do value their being a part of this.
Lynette Ezell: Exactly, value their opinion. And over time, I would do this slowly if they’re adamantly against you doing this, carefully just share little nuggets of information with them. Keep the lines of communication open.
Tera Melber: Right. I think fear is the biggest reason that people have negative reactions.
Lynette Ezell: Yes.
Tera Melber: Fear of the unknown is really scary. So they just don’t, they don’t know how to react to it. So even things like sending them a little text of the vide of a child saying “papa” for the first time, or “grandma” for the first time, doing the little sweet things that kids do. Because I think that most times, even on the news, we hear the horror stories, the worst case scenarios of a child that’s a traumatized child, who’s doing something even terrible.
So I think that our parents or our friends see that, and hear that, and they think, oh, this is just the norm. But once they’re able to meet the children, and you know, typically, when a child is removed from a home, it’s the adult that’s making the bad decision. The child just happened to be in the wake of it. So once they meet them, and they get to be able to love on them, and be a part of their life, then some of those fears dissipate.
Lynette Ezell: That’s right. And so keep talking with them, and like Tera said, if you just have to send a text, I did hear a girl share her story once, that the only way she could talk about her mom through this for a while was through texting. Because it kept the emotions down. So, remind them of Moses even, in the bible. Moses was adopted, Moses was taken in by not a biological family, and adopted. The truth is that we’re all adopted in Christ.
Tera Melber: That’s right.
Lynette Ezell: And we have to remind them. Some people don’t think about their salvation that way. So give time for the Holy Spirit to work in their hearts.
Tera Melber: What would you say, Lynette, to someone who has, you know, we’re talking much about talking to our parents through a Christian world view. But what about parents who are not believers, and your family is, and then maybe they react negatively? How would you come across, how would you talk to them about that?
Lynette Ezell: Well, I do have extended family members who are not believers, who for years have struggled with this decision that we made. But when my dad was dying, and those family members came to be with us, they just watched my children love on him, so it took a very sad time in our life. And for these people, for this person to watch how much my dad loved my children, and how much they loved him, and how respectful my children were to this family member, though he’s not a belief, though he doesn’t look at look at things the same way we do, we just kept being who God called us to be. Then I would value, you know, him, I would say, do you know that your uncle does this? Did you know, and he’s a neat guy, and we’d sit down and have dessert together. We would just continue to give him value and spend time with him, and it took years.
Tera Melber: Right.
Lynette Ezell: And then he gave us just the sweetest compliments. I send him little pictures now of the kids, cause he’s getting older, he didn’t get a lot of mail, so we keep him involved in our lives. We want him to come to Jesus. And if it takes him seeing my adoptive children, their love for the Lord and what he’s done in their life, what he’s done, what the Lord’s done in our family, maybe the Lord’s using that picture in his life.
Tera Melber: And that is so amazing, so you’re pursuing, in hopes that your family, and the way that you react to him, will draw him.
Lynette Ezell: ‘Cause I love him so much.
Tera Melber: Right.
Lynette Ezell: You know? He’s always been such a sweet part of my life, don’t get to see him very often. But through that very difficult time, my dad died at home, so we were his caretakers, he witnessed all of that. I didn’t even realize it at the time.
Tera Melber: Right. Isn’t that typically the way the Lord does that?
Lynette Ezell: Yeah, it really is.
Tera Melber: Just living your life, and exhibiting the fruit of the spirit, and continuing to pursue people with grace.
Lynette Ezell: Right.
Tera Melber: And that’s really hard. So sometimes that may mean that you have to take a deep breath and respond in grace, then go home and vent to your spouse, or cry in the bathroom, cause you just want to scream, because you don’t understand why someone’s reacting so negatively. But, be able to be the bigger person, and be able to take that step forward, because they, it’s not a normal, everyday occurrence for them.
Lynette Ezell: It’s a spiritual battle, and so I decided in my heart, and I just talked to myself and said, we are not going to argue when he gets here. Do not argue. So I would add that. If your family adamantly disagrees with this decision, be a family, be an example of a family walking in faith.
Tera Melber: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Lynette Ezell: And you say over and over, Tera, be a family that just keeps moving forward, to bring your child home as a witness to the world that God is doing this.
Tera Melber: That’s right. Because actions speak much louder than words.
Lynette Ezell: Yes.
Tera Melber: Well what about if they continue, maybe they say hurtful things in front of your child, or maybe they continue with this adamant disagreement, what would be your suggestion to a family who continually is confronted by that, every time they are around certain people?
Lynette Ezell: I just think you have to totally protect your child at all costs.
Tera Melber: I agree, 100%. And sometimes you have to be able to say, this is not a Melber issue. This is not an Ezell issue. This is something that the Lord’s going to have to work through in this family member’s life, or in this friend’s life, so you have to be able to be okay with maybe not being around those people anymore.
Lynette Ezell: And the Lord spoke that to me through my high school student, when we were walking through a particular adoption. And she just said, “Mom, that’s not our issue, it’s theirs.”
Tera Melber: Right.
Lynette Ezell: So, don’t put your arms around, you know, don’t put your arms around that issue, or that struggle they’re having. Patiently, kindly, just wait, and let the Lord walk them through that. And I suggest too, ask the Lord, I did this for family members who I’ve shared the gospel with, and I don’t see them moving closer to the Lord or even having an interest for the things of God. I say, Lord, bring people into their lives, whom they admire, and like, that maybe they would listen to them. Sometimes it takes outside people, not family members, so bring those people into their lives that they’ll be drawn to.
Tera Melber: And you can’t feel guilty if you end up having to say, for the time being, because this is our family, that for the time being, we can’t come if this is how you’re going to react.
Lynette Ezell: And listen to your comments.
Tera Melber: Because I’m protecting, we’re protecting our children. So for the time being, you let us know when you feel comfortable with us coming back. And that is hard. Because you have to almost come to terms with that ahead of time. If my family, if my friend reacts in such a way that it’s going to be detrimental to my children, I have to be okay with cutting that relationship off. It may not be forever, and we pray that it isn’t forever, and that doesn’t mean you can’t sent texts, or send pictures, or continue communicating. But to not put your child in a situation that’s gonna be hurtful or harmful.
Lynette Ezell: I agree, totally.
Tera Melber: Generally speaking, we’ve talked much about how our family members and how our friends have react, and typically speaking, even if there was fear ahead of time, then after our parents, or our grandparents met our child, they realized. These are children who have been put in a tough situation, who now have a family who loves them.
And let me tell you, my dad is hilarious. He goes to horse sales, and does all this stuff, and he carries a picture in his wallet of many of his grandchildren. Many of whom are, you know, multicultural, don’t look a thing like him, and he’ll whip his wallet out and go, “look at all my grandkids!” Then he gets this funny look from people, and he’s like, “they all look just like me, don’t they?” And he adores them, and they adore him. So I think fear can be overcome, we just have to be patient and not get our feelings hurt.
Lynette Ezell: So just to sum up what we were saying, to pray for family members, talk privately with them on the front end, listen and wait patiently. It’s a great time to let the Lord let you be an example of the fruit of the spirit, what God can do in a changed life. And then to ask them to pray for you.
Tera Melber: Right. And you know, though the sting is difficult when it comes from those that we love the most, the Lord will use it to sanctify us, and sanctify them. Or to be able to draw them to himself. And that’s what we pray, you know, the Lord does not just grow our families for the sake of us getting to be moms again. The Lord is bringing these children, he’s chosen these children for our families for such a time as this, for the people that we are around to see.
And even the foster families that we know, that currently have a placement, the way that it’s opened up the eyes of the people around them to recognize the need for foster care, oh, those are your foster children. “yes, did you know that there are over 13,000 foster children in the state of Georgia?” People are shocked, they don’t have any idea about it.
Lynette Ezell: They don’t.
Tera Melber: Generally speaking, so it educates people around you, it helps open their eyes to get out of their little bubble, to say, “there are people, there are children in this world that are hurting.” And then maybe the Lord will either prompt them to jump in to be a help to you, or jump in to join the journey for helping children in our area.
Lynette Ezell: And to show them, isn’t God great? How he builds families! Just give all the glory back to him, back to the Lord, and not oh, we’re great parents. Because the Lord knows, we’re tearing ourselves over and over, he’s calling out the least of us to do this.
Tera Melber: That’s right.
Lynette Ezell: Just to give him all the glory. Well, if you get to a point with a difficult family member where you begin to see their heart soften, which I believe you will
Tera Melber: Oh, I agree
Lynette Ezell: It may take years, but you can begin to put small, little resources in their hand, very carefully, and there’s a couple that I recommend that we’ll put at the end of this podcast on our show notes, and that I think you will find very, very helpful. One is called Ordinary, how to turn the world upside down, by Tony Merida, and it’s a short little, small read. It almost looks like it’s a little coffee table book, but it’s full of wisdom. And full of encouragement. And it really opens your eyes to the needs of the world.
Tera Melber: Right. right. When we came back from the Philippians and from Ethiopia, I’ll never forget showing pictures of our kids orphanages to my mom, and her saying, “I just had no idea.”
Lynette Ezell: No idea. How many times have we heard that?
Tera Melber: “I had no idea.” And how she really began to see this great need, and be able to pray for children that she’d never laid eyes on, that she may never lay eyes on. But opening our eyes, and it’s the same for us. I can remember when we first jumped into all of this, thinking, I didn’t have any idea that this was even going on in the world. So the Lord uses those things to show us, I’m at work here, and I’m asking you to join me.
Lynette Ezell: That’s right.
Tera Melber: So all glory to him, for sure.
Lynette Ezell: And just a word of encouragement, Hebrews 13:5-6, and God has said, “Never will I leave you.” He doesn’t leave us on this journey. Never will I forsake you on this journey. So you can say with confidence, the Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid, what can man do to me?
Tera Melber: That’s right. Thank you so much for joining Lynette and me today, at the Adopting and Fostering Home Podcast. We’re a resource of the North American Mission Board, we look forward to you joining us next time, as we continue our conversation about how we as believers can be involved in the lives of children, here, and all over the world.