Tuesday, May 29, 2012

One Line "The Avengers" Got Wrong

Okay, so let me start by saying that I'm not the first to pick this bone. The buzz has already started. Apparently others have written about this. Even MSNBC has shared some unfavorable sentiments about it.

But it makes a lot of sense. Usually when you're fighting mad about something, someone else is too. And it feels good to know I'm not alone.

But this past Friday night when I sat in a dark, crowded movie theater watching the hit Disney movie "The Avengers" with my husband, I felt all alone during one particular line.

Here's the backdrop: Thor, a demigod and member of the Avengers, has an evil brother Loki, also the villain of the film. While discussing Loki's wickedness, Thor begins to defend his brother. His spiel sounds a lot like, Well he's not all that bad.

Then fellow Avenger Black Widow makes the huge observation, "He killed 80 people in 2 days."

Thor replies with, "He's adopted."

Now, let me begin with an honest admission. When Thor flippantly delivered the adoption line, I laughed along with everyone else in the theater.

But by the time the next line was spoken, my mind had left the movie theater. My mind and heart had transported back home to my son and daughter who happen to have been adopted. My heart hurt for them. Especially my son, because I know he's been dying to see the movie.

And how do you explain to an 11-year-old boy that you don't want him to see the movie, not because of too much profanity or illicit sexual content, but because of a line that you know will hurt him to the core.

A line that sheds negative light on adopted children.

A line that will communicate to him that the adopted child is always the bad seed.

A line that perpetuates the stereotype that adoption is something weird, freakish and unnatural.

Disney missed the mark in a big way on this one. "The Avengers" does not present adoption as another beautiful way that God forms families.

Come on, folks. It's 2012. When are we going to get this thing right? I recently blogged on Five Things Not to Say to Adoptive Parents, and I have received a huge response. Apparently, none of us wants to be the idiot that says the offensive thing to the adoptive families we know. But the reality is, haven't we all been that idiot at some point? I know I have.

But, the important thing is we should learn from our mistakes, and try to do better next time.

When is Hollywood going to learn from its mistakes? How many anti-adoption lines -- or even storylines -- do we have to endure before these folks get it right?

And what do I, a loving adoptive mother, do in the meantime? Do I not allow my children to see these movies? Do I take them, but distract them when the demeaning lines are spoken?

I can imagine the scenario going like this: Black Widow mentions the 80 murders in 2 days, then I whisper into my son's ear right before Thor's adoption line, "Hey Christian, this is some good popcorn, isn't it?"

Ahhh, I've distracted him long enough to miss Thor's line. But he's no stupid kid. I imagine him frowning over the laughter all around him, and then saying, "Awww, Mom. You made me miss one of the good jokes. I wonder what I missed?"

And I'd think to myself, Sweetheart, you didn't miss anything you need to hear. You missed a joke that poked fun at the very institution that brought you to our family. You only missed two words of the film, but they were words that could have caused you pain that would have taken a long time to repair. 

Those two words are words I don't ever want my children to hear. As a matter of fact, they were words that the rest of us don't need to hear either.

Unlike the Avengers, I can't save the world from all the evils that lurk out there. I can't rid the world of every mean word spoken about adoption. And unfortunately, I can't use Captain America's shield to protect my children from every insensitive comment, joke and perception about adoption firing around out there.

But I can speak my mind about it to you, my friends.

And so I have.


If you've seen The Avengers, how did that line make you feel? Did it slip past you or were you offended? Share your thoughts here and join the conversation!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Book That's Breaking My Heart: Kisses From Katie

I've been reading a book lately that's absolutely breaking my heart.

This book tells the story of Maria who walks the streets of a slum in Uganda to beg for food every day.

It's the story of Rose and Brenda, orphans that were abandoned and left to grow up in an orphanage.

It's the story of David and Bashir who were abducted, sold as slaves and forced to kill as child soldiers.

And it's the story of a petite, Caucasian twenty-something young woman who left her home in wealthy Brentwood, Tennessee to live in Uganda, East Africa to serve the poor, forsaken children there. (By the way, I lived in the neighboring town to Brentwood for almost a decade and had the privilege of meeting Katie on a few occasions.)

This young woman is relentless in her love and passion for these forgotten children. She is relentless in her pursuit to live out the Gospel of Christ.

Katie's words are enlightening.
"Adoption is wonderful and beautiful and the greatest blessing I have ever experienced. Adoption is also difficult and painful. Adoption is a beautiful picture of redemption. It is the Gospel in my living room."
Her words are convicting.
"I know I cannot walk into a village and tell a child that Jesus loves her. She cannot comprehend that because, chances are, she has never been loved. I have to feed her, clothe her, care for her, and love her unconditionally as I tell her that I love her. Once she can understand and see my love, I can begin to tell her about a Savior who loves her even more. That is the truth for these children - that they are loved, that they are valuable, that they will not be left as orphans but that they have a plan and a hope for the future."
Her words are heart-breaking.
"The truth is that there are children like this all over the world, sick, starving, dying, unloved, and uncared for. The truth is that the 143 million orphaned children and the 11 million who starve to death or die from preventable diseases and the 8.5 million who work as child slaves, prostitutes, or under other horrific conditions and the 2.3 million who live with HIV add up to 164.8 million needy children. And though at first glance that looks like a big number, 2.1 billion people on this earth proclaim to be Christians. The truth is that if only 8 percent of the Christians would care for one more child, there would not be any statistics left. This is the Truth."
Last night these words brought tears to my eyes that streamed down my face. What are we doing? Are we playing church? While we fight over who will lead worship next Sunday and where our next women's retreat should be held and how our new church buildings should be designed, people around the country and the world are dying.  


What am I going to do about that? What are you going to do about that? What are we going to do about that?


Think about it: what can you/we do about this epidemic? Think about it. Pray about it. And let me know what God is saying.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Five Things Not to Say to Adoptive Parents

The Hendricks Clan

"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." 

Did you grow up hearing that adage? I don't think I reached age ten before I realized how false that saying is. The scars of sticks and stones heal with time.

The scars of hurtful words? Many of us will take our share of those scars to our graves.

If you have adopted, you've heard your share of ill-timed/insensitive questions and comments. Many will come from the lips of perfect strangers. This can be annoying, but in the end, feels rather harmless. Yet sometimes the offenses come from the people closest to us -- parents, grandparents, siblings, long-time friends.

Some of those words have left scars on your soul. And maybe on the souls of your child.

This post is not only for those of us that have adopted. This post is for our family members, our close friends, our fellow church and community members. This post is for our loved ones who may be very happy for us, but curious as well. This post is for those who have questions, but don't know how to pose them in a politically-correct manner.

Here's a list of Things Not to Say to Adoptive Parents:

1. Can't you have your own?

Now there's two problems with this question. First of all, the word "own". When I gave birth to my two biological children, they were my own. When I adopted my other two children, they likewise became my own. All of my children are my "own."

Secondly, this question implies that I have adopted as a second-best, alternative option. Now, while many people adopt after suffering from infertility (I suffered from a secondary-infertility), adoption still isn't a second-class method of having children. I personally like to call adoption, "God's Beautiful Plan A."

2. Which ones are your natural children?

Personally, I don't mind when people ask which of my children are adopted, and which are biological. I sometimes play a game, and have them guess which ones. This is specifically fun with my family, because my biological children have red hair, unlike myself and my husband.

However, I despise the word "natural." Natural implies that adoption is "unnatural." All of my children are natural children. Two just happen to have been adopted, while the other two are biological.

3. Do you know anything about his/her real parents?

I am my children's real mother. I feed them everyday. I help them with their homework. I tuck them in bed at night. Trust me. I'm their real mother.

However, I have talked to my children about their birthparents. They know they grew inside another woman's tummy. It's no secret around our household. But we have learned to use the right vocabulary to discuss our family's history.

And, on that subject, let me add that we have to be very careful about asking personal questions. Some adoptions have very troubling circumstances surrounding them. Anyone outside the immediate family must be very sensitive when asking questions, and truly understand if parents are unwilling to answer them. Many times we withhold information that we wouldn't want our children to know until we're ready to tell them.

4. What's the child's health background?

Again, this is a very sensitive issue. Sometimes, especially in the case of international adoption, adoptive parents may know very little about our children's background. Sometimes we know a lot, but don't feel comfortable revealing those issues. Our children might have mental illness, drug abuse or disabilities in their family history.

But guess what? So do our biological children!

5. Why didn't you just adopt from fill in the blank?

When my husband and I adopted our son Christian from Russia, an older family-friend said, "With all the Black children in the United States that need to be adopted, why would you go all the way to Russia to adopt?"

Now how in the world do you respond to a question like that?

I shared that my husband and I didn't pick my son. God picked him for us. We opened our hearts to the Lord's will in the area of adoption, and He chose to lead us to a little two-year-old boy in a Russian orphanage.

But even though I had a ready answer for this lady, I was offended. Why not adopt from Russia? Are international adoptions only for Caucasian people?

If you've adopted transracially, you've probably gotten some variation of this question. Why go halfway around the world for a child, when there's such a need here? Why adopt from China? Why adopt an African American child, when you're Caucasian?

Well, your answer may be similar to ours. My husband and I didn't set out to save the world. We just wanted the child that God had hand-picked for our family. That child just happened to be all the way in Moscow, Russia.

Praise God we found him.

And I'm sure you feel the same way about your precious ones. Our children are gifts to us, no matter how they came to us. No matter where they were born. No matter what circumstances brought them into our families.

And that's all we really want our loved ones to know.


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Beauty: What Can We Learn from The Tanning Mom?

I've got a bone to pick.

I'm sick and tired of something, and I can't think of a better place to vent but here in Deep Waters. Now let me just say, I'm a fan of print media, especially magazines. Just today I was doing my thing on the elliptical machine fully absorbed in a recent copy of Ebony. So absorbed that a dude I see in the gym all the time said, "Wow, you were in a zone."

Of course I was. I was getting my read on.

But I digress.

So, about that bone I've got to pick. I'm getting so tired of popular women's magazines and their covers. And not just the photo-shopped images of perfection. I'm tired of the headlines.

Here's a few I've seen recently:
  • A testimonial from a star I'll leave unnamed: "How I Lost 30 Pounds and Got My Confidence Back!"
  • "Feel Great Naked: 9 Foods that Burn Fat While You Eat"
  •  "131 Little Ways to Your Best Body"
  • And this little beaut from a billboard on an interstate "Better Legs. Better Life."
So what's a poor girl to think? I'll list the messages I receive from each of these ads:
  • If I lose weight, I'll be a confidant woman.
  • If I eat foods that burn fat, I'll feel great naked.
  • If I do these 131 things, I'll be on my way to my best body. (But what am I going for with the best body thing? Thin or healthy?)
  • If I spend thousands on laser surgery for my legs, I'll have not only better-looking legs, but a better life.
And who doesn't want a better life?

Girls, we've got to stop buying into the world's obsession with beauty. The Bible tells us that outward beauty is fleeting -- here today and gone tomorrow (Proverbs 31:30a).

Let's resist the trap of endless beauty treatments and products, plastic surgery and -- like our new friend, the Tanning Mom -- scorching our skin to a crisp.

Because what we all become aware of, sooner of later, is this:
  1. No matter how many aging creams, botox treatments or plastic surgeries we subject ourselves to -- we are all aging. There's just no way around it, Girls. We're all going to be and look old someday.
  2. Beauty does not bring happiness. Just ask the countless folks in Hollywood who've paid a fortune to look like Barbie. If they've got true joy inside, believe me, it's got nothing to do with how they look on the outside.
  3. True beauty -- the kind that lasts forever -- truly is skin deep. 2 Corinthians says it so well. "So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day."
I don't know if the Tanning Mom is guilty of having her daughter tan with her. I'll let the judicial system figure all that out. But what are we teaching our baby girls when we even allow them to watch us tan for hours, and hours, and hours? What message are we giving them daily about their bodies, their hair, their entire outward selves?

Are we encouraging them? Are we telling them they are beautiful on the inside and outside? Are we affirming the inner beauty within them -- their athletic ability, their smarts, their musical talent? Are we focusing more on enhancing their character and the way they treat others, or are we focusing more on their hairdos or the dress they'll wear to the next special event?

Let's encourage the next generation of women to spend more time in the books than in the mirror. And more time in college classrooms than in the tanning salon. And more time nourishing their relationship with God than with boys.

And as their mothers, aunties and mentors, let's make sure we're practicing what we're preaching to them.

Amen. I think I've gotten it out of my system.


** Drop a comment here and let me know how you feel about our culture's beauty craze. Have you struggled to focus more on your or your daughter's inner beauty, rather than your/her outer beauty?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Are We All Getting Along?

“Can we all get along?”

Five words. Spoken by an assaulted man. Repeated countless times since that day twenty years ago.

Last week marked the twentieth anniversary of the Los Angeles riots incited by citizens furious over the acquittal of four L.A. police officers that had brutally beaten L.A. resident Rodney King.

Rodney King happened to be African American. The officers happened to be Caucasian. And while Rodney King was no saint (he was a 25-year-old convicted robber on parole at the time), his speeding violation and intoxication didn’t warrant the inhumane beating he received at the hands of the men commissioned to “protect and serve.”

And when those overzealous officers received an acquittal, the city of L.A. turned upside down. The upheaval from those riots led to more than 50 deaths and $1 billion in property damage.

After three days of riots, King emerged from seclusion to speak those infamous five words, “People I just want to say, can we all get along?”

People around America have been asking that same question for the last twenty years: Can we all get along?

This past decade, I think most U.S. citizens would have answered this question positively in regards to race relations. Many of us would have probably stated something along these lines: Well, we’re not getting along as well as we could, but we’re getting along a lot better than we did. 

But then, something happens in our country to shake us up. We are tested. Sifted. A flashlight beams a light right between our eyes. And we notice our reflection in the mirror is not as lovely as we once thought.

It’s actually quite flawed.

February 26, 2012. A day in our country that tested us, sifted us, beamed a light between our eyes. When neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, we realized we hadn’t come as far as we thought we had.

Almost immediately Trayvon Martin’s tragic death became a racial battle. The African American community shouted outrage over this unarmed teenage boy’s murder in his father’s neighborhood. We posed in hoodies, shot pics in them and posted those pics on our Facebook profiles.

While Zimmerman awaits trial, I’ll choose not to speculate on the specific events of that fateful night. I cannot say for sure that Trayvon fell victim to racial profiling. And the question that will never be answered – if Trayvon had been Caucasian, would he be alive today?

One thing’s for sure. Our country is a long way from healed in the area of race relations. We’re not as far as we think we are.

We work together and live together, but few of us play together. And very few of us worship together.

In 1958, Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote these words: “Unfortunately, most of the major denominations still practice segregation in local churches, hospitals, schools and other church institutions. It is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o’clock on Sunday morning, the same hour when many are standing to sing: “In Christ There is No East or West.”

That was 1958. Unfortunately, despite a few exceptions, not much has changed regarding eleven o’clock Sunday morning in the U.S.

But I’m grateful for the exceptions. My husband happens to be a teaching pastor at one of the exceptions - Mosaic Church of Central Arkansas.

May we purpose to link up with the exceptions.

May we be the exception.