Thursday, December 23, 2010

Check. Check. Check.

Okay, so I know my last post went off course, but isn't that the absolute beauty of God? We have plans, He changes them. Truly, He is the one who charts the course. When I let Him.

My mom very graciously agreed to keep our kids from Sunday to Tuesday so JD and I could tackle a bunch of adoption stuff. He had taken Monday off because our physicals were scheduled for that morning and we were supposed to meet with our social worker afterward. We had originally booked a sitter, but when my mom came through to keep the kids it freed up the whole day for us! Yee-haw! What a blessing!

Remember those trainings I mentioned? Well, because we hadn't even started them (!), our social worker said it'd be best to postpone our appointment until we had some of it under our belt. So we had a new plan for our day. And wouldn't you know, it was a better plan.

Our physicals went well. We were poked and prodded, but left with HIV consent forms signed and TB tests administered (with the requirement that we go back on Wednesday to have the results read).

Since we'd fasted for our physicals, we headed straight for brunch after we were done -- sans kids! It really doesn't matter if it's breakfast, lunch, dinner, caviar or mush...a meal without children is a true treat. We thoroughly enjoyed the seamless conversation. Yes, we love our children, but let's just be honest...virtually nothing can be discussed in the presence of four children 8 and under.

We left brunch and headed to the county police to get our fingerprinting done for the FBI check and Child Protective Services check. That took about an hour. Not too bad.

To our bank we went to get four money orders to submit to our social worker with the fingerprints to pay for the background checks. Do you know that banks charge several dollars per money order? Even to their members/customers! That's ridiculous. So off we went to a grocery store to get them for 50 cents each. Sheesh. We may've only saved ten dollars, but it's the principle!

We then ran to our social worker's office to drop everything off to her. How nice it is to 'dump' paperwork in her lap that's been a monkey on our backs for weeks! In addition to unloading that stuff, JD had emailed her his autobiography (all 6 pages of it!) to her a week or so ago and two of the three required personal references have come in! Whoo-hoo!




After that, we were headed home to begin our 15 hours of on-line training. This is the true hold up to completing our home study. Our plan was to sit in front of the TV (if we could get the laptop to feed through the TV) and wrap gifts. By the time we got home (after an impromptu visit with a dear neighbor whose a widower -- when we have the kids with us, we really struggle to capitalize on these opportunities), we had only an hour or so before we had to meet friends for dinner. And listen to how that came about...

In true God-always-comes-through fashion, just that morning I'd sent an email to friends who have adopted seven children -- with their eighth on his way (if you're in the Richmond adoption community, it's likely you know exactly who I'm talking about!) -- to see if she and her husband might be spontaneously available to meet us for dinner that night. I think I mentioned in an earlier post that we found out from our placement agency (Wide Horizons) that because we're likely adopting children over the age of two, in addition to completing the routine requirements, we have to interview two families who have adopted older children. I made contact with two couples that we've gotten to know over the last year or two and both very graciously agreed to meet with us. But when? Christmas was only two weeks away at this point and, frankly, I was pulling the plug on a lot of this adoption stuff until after the holidays. We just thought it would have to wait until the new year. But a spontaneous thought led to us being able to meet with these wonderful friends that very night.

We so enjoyed our time with them. They are a wealth of information! It warms our hearts to see how God is bringing forth those who have gone before us. We are learning so much about what this process is like and what it will be like to bring children home. The ups and downs and the realities and blessings. What a wonderful evening! God was so good to us to align our schedules on the fly.


One of the greatest blessings from chatting with these friends is that I hadn't realized that two of their children were adopted from Ethiopia. Wow. This made me all the more excited! They had the most wonderful things to say about their Ethiopian adoption experience including what wonderful people their daughters are. I just feel like that's where we're headed. But we'll go wherever God wants us to.

Later Monday night, we went home after dinner, watched two of our trainings and got all our Christmas gifts wrapped! Whoo-hoo! For a couple whose often up til the wee hours of Christmas morning getting things done, this is huge for us.



On Tuesday, on my way to my parents', I dropped off two of our three reference sheets for our Abba Fund application. It's time to get that application in because our home study is near finished. I figured it might take our references a couple of weeks to get them in the mail. But I got an email on Wednesday from our pastor saying that he was putting the his reference in the mail today (Thursday!). Wow. That's incredible -- especially the week before Christmas! God's clearly moving things along and, well, I'm pumped.


We're truckin' along and may actually have our home study done in early January! That's pretty darn cool considering my original goal was Christmas. I feel like God said, 'Relax, Heather.' And then that obedience was rewarded. I love Him.

May the true Spirit of Christmas fill your hearts and homes these next 48 hours!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Not the post I started...

Oreo balls (mint and regular this year!), sweet Crispix mix, pretzel kisses, fudge and Christmas cards have been my past times these last many days. Oh, how I love this time of year. Listening to Christmas carols in the kitchen, pulling things in and out of the oven and watching little fingers swipe chocolate-lined bowls has been my joy. I actually found myself smilingwhile I wiped chocolate off yet another little mouth (this is not my norm -- normally, I'm saying, "Omigosh! Get over here. You're a mess"), but...

...there's something about Christmas.

Okay, I have to insert something here.


The very moment, after I wrote 'there's something about Christmas', Avery turned from the Christmas tree and said to me,

"I wonder what it would be like to have Jesus right in front of us."

Oh thank you, Lord, that an innocent child after inspecting (yet again) the packages under the tree with her name on them, would turn from the tree with Your Son on her heart.

I'm speechless.

Thoughts like hers aren't created by us.

They're created by You.

Of course I can't let a priceless moment like this pass by without talking with her about imagining what it would really be like if Jesus were here with us. These are the moments when the Holy Spirit says to me, 'Stop what you're doing and be here with her.' And so I did.

The instant the word 'imagine' entered my mind, I thought about the amazing song "I Can Only Imagine" by MercyMe, so I found the video on YouTube and showed it to her.

Just listen to the words.

(I tried to embed the video, but it wouldn't work. Still figuring out this blogging thing).

(The first time I ever heard this song, I wept in my car while driving).

Avery and I then talked about what we would do if we were surrounded by His glory. Would we fall to our knees? Dance for Him? In awe of Him be still? I told her I think I'd run to Him and just collapse in His arms and feel his arms around me. She said she would run to Him and hug Him. She then started to giggle and cry. She wiped her tears and giggled and wiped her tears and giggled.

Then she asked to 'watch more videos about Jesus,' so we watched 'You Reign' and 'Beautiful' by MercyMe too.


What precious moments with a precious child.

My goodness. Where was I?

Somehow I can't update you on our adoption stuff now. I'm wasted. :)

God, You truly amaze me.

[Okay, as if this moment could get any more 'amazing', Brooks just lifted his shirt and said, 'Mommy, these are my mipples.' That is not a typo. I can't take it. Kids are awesome.]

Friday, December 10, 2010

Two Social Workers...Lots of Info...Lots of Work to Do!

So where was I? Has it really only been a week since I posted last? With the amount of information we've received in the last week and the ever-mounting masses of work we have to do, I can't believe it was only last week that we had our home visit. Wow. Ever had one of those weeks when so much has happened that you feel like a month has passed? I think a lot of us are probably having that experience these days. And here I am talking about not being squeezed while being stretched. Mmm. So easy to fall into these traps.

Last week, our social worker from Jewish Family Services came to our home for our home visit (as part of our home study). She's really sweet. She came notepad-ready. We showed her around our home. She saw every nook and cranny including our backyard (quietly mumbling as she wrote on her notepad, 'fenced-in yard with play structure'). It was kind of fascinating to me because she was seeing our home with fresh eyes. The place we see every day; day in and day out. I don't even notice the fine details anymore. Sad yet sweet at the same time.

We decided to let Brooks and Jackson be up and about when she arrived so she could meet them and have full access to our house and then put them down for a nap while we met. They were cute. While they rolled all over our couch downstairs and fidgeted and wiggled as four-year-old boys do when an adult is speaking to them, she asked, 'So what do you think of the idea of having more brothers or sisters?' Jackson answered coyly with his chin down and a smirk on his face, 'It's goooood.' Brooks answered loudly and boisterously, 'It's fine with me!' Hilarious. And to nap they went!

Payton was all business when our social worker asked her how she felt about our family adopting. She said she was totally fine with it and excited. Avery (although we'd already talked to her and Payton about our social worker coming and wanting to ask them questions) went into I'm-too-shy-to-talk-to-you mode. She curled up into JD's side on the couch and mumbled out an 'It's fine.' Mind you, this is after 15 minutes of her doing endless kick-overs (we called them 'back-walkovers' when I was a kid) in the middle of the room where we were meeting with our social worker. Really? No timidness there. Omigoodness, this child is clearly enjoying gymnastics, but we had to ask her to take it somewhere else or hold off until we were done with our meeting.

We ran down the list of the things we still have to get done as part of our home study (fingerprinting, get four money orders to be turned in with our background check forms, finish autobiographies, complete 12+ hours of on-line training and the list goes on). For a time, I felt like we were kind of ahead of the wave. But now I'm starting to feel that familiar sensation of being tossed and tumbled about involuntarily as we succumb to all that's piling up to do. I had a self-imposed goal of completing our home study by Christmas. Clearly, that's not going happen and I'm happily letting that go because it is after all Christmas. And I'm choosing to enjoy this time of year instead of going through it in an adoption paperwork-induced fog.

Last Friday, I sent an email to a woman with Commonwealth Chapel (a local church here who administers for the ABBA Fund). The ABBA Fund is a funding source for Christians who want to adopt. They want to remove financial barriers so Christians can follow God's call to adopt without the costs of adoption being an obstacle to bringing children into families. That's huge. A huge blessing. A huge ministry.

This woman and I were able to talk this Monday and had a wonderful conversation. It looks like we will be Commonwealth Chapel's first recipients of grant or loan monies. Kinda cool. However, now I really need to get the ABBA application complete and submitted so we can get the financial piece in place. Omigosh more paperwork. I think the application's about 8 pages long with personal questions and three more references (pastoral, employer/co-worker and friend).

We then had our first meeting with our social worker with Wide Horizons for Children (WHFC) in Massachusetts. Clearly, JD and I did not jet to Massachusetts -- this was a conference call. It was so nice to start talking specifics! One of the things we narrowed down is that it might be best to change our age range from age 3 to 7 to age 0 to 6. For two reasons: one is because children from other countries' ages can be incorrect (especially Ethiopian children) and we really want to keep a good buffer between the oldest child's age and Payton's age. She feels very strongly about remaining the oldest child in our family. We could be told and it could appear that we're adopting a 7-year-old but when the child is examined by a doctor here in the States, we find out that s/he is actually 9-years-old. The second reason is that we're not seeking a baby, but wouldn't turn a baby or young toddler away if s/he were part of a sibling pair that we felt God was presenting to us. We're not opposed to going back to little, little ones if we know that's what God wants us to do. We're also interested in a sibling pair where one or both of the children are deaf. This seems like kind of a no-brainer for me (as many of you know, I used to work with the deaf and hard of hearing), but this is all truly something I'm having to hand over. I can't tell you how much I want to drive this train. JD and I were just talking last night because (probably mistakenly) I've been looking at children available for adoption again on-line and it brings forth all kinds of desperation in me to speed this process up! Especially because I'm 'meeting' many who are deaf (and precious, I might add).

Now, on top of the things we still have to get done for our home study, we have things to get done for WHFC -- like interview two families who have adopted older children (older = 24 months or older. Isn't that crazy?), complete additional trainings around adopting older children and complete a service providers worksheet by locating and contacting the following service providers: early intervention specialist, school services (check!), international clinic (what's that?), pediatrician (check!), dentist (check!), therapist, interpreter(s), family respite. Oye.

Ya know what I want to do right now? Curl up on the couch and watch a Christmas movie with my boys and write my Christmas cards! So, I think that's what I'm going to do. I'm going to set most of this stuff aside until after Christmas. There will be plenty of doldrum days in January and February where I'll be yearning for something to sink my teeth into. I want this journey to be fun and enjoyable (aka 'able to be enjoyed'). And as I've learned has been the case often in my life, my self-imposed deadlines, goals and timeframes are often killjoys. I may dabble here and there with this stuff, but I'm going to let go of the rush factor. Hear this, Heather: the home study will not be completed before Christmas! Now that is freeing for me.

I think there's been this part of me that feels anxious to move as fast as we can so we can pluck two children out of despair as quickly as possible. A friend was asking me the other day if I ever imagine throughout my day what these two precious children are doing across an ocean...are they sleeping? are they playing? I told her I do imagine that a little, but more so than that I pray for their heart state. Throughout the day, I pray that they have a new understanding in their hearts that we're coming for them. I pray that their little hearts have this new feeling of peace and conviction that they have a family and that their orphanage won't be their life forever. That they're short-timers there. That they have a mommy and daddy and four siblings. That they may not be able to articulate it, but they have a different feeling inside them. If I can believe that and trust that God's got this, then I don't have to miss this glorious Christmas season drowning in adoption to-dos and deadlines. I can trust that they're going to be fine until we get to them. And more than that, God knows who these children are before I even open my browser to look at children available for adoption. He knows if they're two girls, two boys, a boy and a girl, deaf, hearing, African, Asian, and the number of hairs on their heads. He knows. I don't have to know. I just have to trust.

That's another thing I should mention, after our conversation with our WHFC social worker, we are keeping our options open between Ethiopia and the Philippines. Although, China might work for us too if we decide to adopt two children who aren't biologically related, but who are siblings nonetheless by simply living intimately together in an orphanage -- just like Payton, Avery, Jackson and Brooks will be to them one day.

One final comment, JD and I are discussing making this blog private to protect the identities of those mentioned -- especially our children. Please post a comment if you would like me to add your email address to receive notices of new posts. I'm still learning how all this blogging stuff works, so I think it's that simple, right? Help me out, my blog-savvy friends out there! Thanks so much! :)

Furthermore, if you have a blog (public or private) or have wrestled through this issue, please feel free to share with me your thoughts. Would love to hear them!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Knitting and Weaving

This is what I'm talking about when God knits and weaves through our lives and how I need to be able to sense when He's on the move.

I posted 'The Soul's Speed Limit' on Monday.

On Thursday, I got this devotional:

FamilyLife - Moments With You

December 2

Just Say No
by Barbara Rainey

Which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost?
Luke 14:28

Join us 2-11-11

One of the main causes of the pressure that invades our lives is our unwillingness to discard optional responsibilities--not because they're a waste of time, but simply because they distract us from the main goals for our family and marriage.

I remember being at my children's school one day, talking with other moms about plans for the coming year. The woman leading the discussion said, "We need some of you to sign up for substitute teaching, to help out on days when faculty members need to be out."

Normally I would have been quick to volunteer. Nothing comes much easier for me than taking on more than I can handle! But on that day, I did not raise my hand.

Every good reason for volunteering popped into my head: (1) I'd be helping the teacher; (2) I'd get to know some of the other students in the class; (3) I'd be supporting my school and could keep better tabs on what's going on.

But at that time, I knew my plate was already more than full. Just then, the woman next to me, whose hand had been one of the first to shoot up, looked over at me, laughed and said, "I just haven't learned to say no yet."

We feel such a pull to be involved in anything that sounds reasonably worthwhile or wins us outside approval. But when people have asked Dennis and me how we do it all--especially back when our home was full of six active children--we have responded, "We don't do it all."

"No" has been one of the most liberating words we've ever used.

How often do you exercise the word "no"? Talk about how you can protect one another by discussing an opportunity before you respond. Being accountable to each other for decisions you make is not easy, but it builds oneness.

Ask God for clarity in decisions--and the courage to know what to say yes to and what to say no to.

Then today, I received this devotional:

FamilyLife - Moments With You

December 3

Four Places at Once

There is a proper time and procedure for every delight.
Ecclesiastes 8:6

Join us 2-11-11

If you were to point your car southwest of Cortez, Colorado, drive exactly 38 miles along Highway 160 and then hang a right on Four Corners Monument Road, in about a half mile you'd run into the only spot in America where you can be in four states at the same time: the intersection of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah. It's out in the middle of an empty desert, surrounded by dust, rocks and boulders.

But that doesn't stop upwards of 2,000 people a day from visiting Four Corners and waiting in line just for the thrill of having their picture taken standing in four states at once. Truly the American way, huh--trying to be four places at one time!

Truth be told, it's a picture of the way many of us elect to live our lives. We are constantly pulled in several different directions. Our pressure-filled, rush-rush, hurried lifestyle has a way of leaving us winded, dazed and addicted to the next item on our activity list.

It leaves us little time for serious spiritual reflection. Little time for anything more than snap judgments. Little time to share our dreams with each other as a couple. Little sense of where we've been and where we're going.

What's more, I fear that by crowding out any room for meaningful communication, original thought or spiritual insight in our family schedules, we're fueling in our children a raw addiction to activity, constant motion, continuous noise and endless sensory stimulation.

I urge you to stop and check the speed limit on this road you're on. Imagine a life that allows for real living ... the kind you'll never find at Four Corners.

What cutbacks and other restrictions could you impose on yourselves that would make your lives dramatically more manageable three to six months from now? Start by finding one thing you'll say no to.

Ask God to give you both the tenacity and the wisdom to build some margin into your lives and family.

I mean seriously. Does it really say, 'I urge you to stop and check the speed limit on this road you're on'? I marvel sometimes at how God speaks so clearly. The words of our pastor Pete ('our soul's have a speed limit') and just days later, almost the exact words in a devotional.

I so want to go-go-go sometimes. Take today for example. Nothing on the calendar to get done today. My boys just want to loaf around on the days they don't have school. I get it. I do, too. But there's this (ridiculous) pull in me that says, 'I should go to the gym,' or 'we should really get out and do something today.' But to what end? To just put something on the day as if the day didn't happen if we didn't do something. As if just being without doing is wrong. Then I read stuff like these devotionals and feel so convicted about how I want us to live. It is so okay to have one or two days a week when we actually hang at home. What a concept.

As with so many things in life these days, for me, this too ties into this experience of adoption.

I've been such a homebody the last several months that I've started wondering why. For the last several weeks, I've explored this more and suspect that perhaps God's preparing me for the days after we bring our kids home from Ethiopia. We won't be able to go-go-go. It will be many, many days, even weeks (maybe months!) before we can start socializing with friends and family as we do now. We'll just hang at home to allow them to adjust to life with us. To life here in the United States. To life anew.

When our social worker came yesterday, I was telling her that if I could have my way (which is a laugh when it comes to controlling the timing of adoption), I would love for the children to join us in May or June so we'll have the whole summer to just hang together. We kind of 'check-out' in the summers anyway, so it'd be perfect timing to just be together without the demands of school and having to beat the clock all the time.

Sorry for the sermon. I just can't bear to not speak up when God pulls out His knitting needles and yarn. :)

I will update you very soon on how the home visit went yesterday.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Soul's Speed Limit

At church yesterday, one of our pastors (Pete) started a series called 'Weary World Rejoices.' The title of the series is from the lyrics of the Christmas carol 'O Holy Night.' Ya know, I've sung that song a hundred times and I've never really heard that phrase in its lyrics before. The sermon yesterday talked about how God is for us and He is still active today. Pete referenced Isaiah 40:1 ('comfort, comfort my people'). In reference to weariness, he said he firmly believes that we're killing ourselves due to the speed at which we live our lives. He mentioned our souls having a speed limit. A speed limit for our souls. That makes me pause. He talked about being squeezed -- especially at this time of year. We try to squeeze everything in and then we clap our hands together in prayer, cry out to God for help, wait...3 minutes...and when He doesn't answer in time, we're off and running again.

I'm guilty of this.

I started reflecting on my mindset of late. My request that God would stretch me/us. It made me start asking myself if it's possibly for a person/family to be stretched without being squeezed. Can JD and I parent six children without squeezing our family into an unintentional vice grip? Some would unequivocally say no, we can't.

I don't know if others of you notice this pattern in your own life, but it seems every time I travel, my resolve is challenged somewhat. Considering that we traveled to Tennessee for Thanksgiving, I left the safe, cocoon of my life's routines, patterns and ways. I didn't have my daily time curled up in the corner of my couch to sit with God and wrestle things out. Not everyone believes or embraces the thought of an enemy out there wanting to devour every bit of joy in our lives, so I respect if this statement doesn't resonate with some. But I firmly believe this. I bring this up to say that every time I get away from home, I find myself a little wimpy in my convictions. Sometimes I'm with others who challenge my beliefs. In many ways, this is a good thing. Sometimes it's simply because I'm away from my typical routine. I don't want to live in a bubble. But I also don't want to return from a trip without my resolve intact.

There were times this past week when I wondered if adoption was the right path for us. This, I'm sure, was due partly to the fact that I didn't get with God for the encouragement and clarity that I so need, but it was also due to the fact that our Jackson has turned on the heat. In the last two weeks, that child has become a fit-throwing, tantrum-ridden boy. I was sure we were passed this stage. I was sure when we went through it with Brooks a year ago that Jackson wasn't going to go through it. Why at the age of four instead of two or three? Who knows. Nonetheless, JD and I have had our patience tested in the last two weeks like we haven't had it tested in nine months or more. Jackson will learn, as Brooks did, that disrespecting us, talking back to us and generally not doing as he's told, will not be tolerated.

But I bring up how the enemy likes to sap our joy because he jumped on the chance to fill my head with doubt and deception about how we'll handle children with behavioral stuff like Jackson's going through with five other children to tend to. He tried to fill my head with thoughts of inadequacy. He tried to convince me that we're not equipped. He tried to make me doubt that this is God's design for our family. Well, this is God's design for our family.


Pete's sermon yesterday reminded me that God is for us. And God is active. That means that when I cozy up to Him in the mornings and pray for Jackson to have an obedient heart and for me to have the patience to deal with him with grace, that I know He hears me and He's for me. I know He wants me to parent with Him at my side. I know He will arm me with encouragement so I can battle back against the enemy's lies.

There are two children out there that are meant to be part of this family, dog-gone-it! And I will not let an enemy steal the joy we will have with them as part of our family and mostly steal the joy, peace and love they will have when they can lay their heads on their pillows at night and sleep peacefully knowing that the reason they're part of our family is because God is for them!

[Our social worker will be coming to our home Thursday at 3:00 for part 2 of our home study. I'll let you know how it goes].

Monday, November 22, 2010

Whata Guy

I think we felt a little blindsided by God's revelation that we were to adopt. And that we are to do it now. Not later. But I think we in turn blindsided people with the news -- especially our parents.

But one person gets props for his reaction. He's the most unlikely of people. Or, if you knew him, maybe not. We're not related by blood, but he loves our children fiercely and they love him with abandon.

When my mom told my stepdad, Allen, that we're adopting, he said,

"Well, if these children need parents, they'll need grandparents too."

You gotta love him. He has a huge heart for kids. And a heart for filling kids full of sugar. ;)


Things continue to move along. The more I understand this home study process, the more I think we're moving along pretty well so far. Here's the latest:

On Friday the 19th, I...

...sent off Application A (the first part) to Wide Horizons complete with six photos, one of each of us. Thank God for our new photo printer. No more racing up to Walgreens to fetch photos from One Hour Photo.

...I also dropped off our children's medical forms at the pediatrician's office. They said they would be done by Tuesday the 23rd, but we're heading out of town for Thanksgiving. I told them I'd pick them up the following week. a call from our dear friends who said they got a letter from Jewish Family Services (our local agency) requesting a letter of reference on our behalf.

...I started my autobiography.

Today (the 22nd), I...

...picked up our children's completed medical forms because Ginny (my new friend at the pediatrician's office!) moved them along and encouraged me to come get them lest something happen to them over the holiday. No problem! Thanks, Ginny!

...scheduled appointments for mine and JD's physicals (December 20th). Initially she told me January 17th. Good grief, our home study should be done by then. I mention they're for adoptions and she says, "Oh, that's different." It is? Well, okay then. a call from the social worker assigned to us from Wide Horizons. We will talk in depth after Thanksgiving.

...I finished my autobiography. My gosh! It's five pages, but could've been 50. Seriously. The amount of information they want to glean from us is staggering. One can't possibly cover it all. Ever wondered what this stuff entails? Here are just some of the guidelines they gave us:

Birth Family:
Reflect on relationships with parents, brothers, sisters and other relatives. How these relationships may have changed over time. How was affection provided in the family? How were feelings expressed? Were there any major illnesses in the family? Describe your parent's relationship during your childhood and now? Describe your relationship with your parents. Are they supportive of your plans adopt? If you have a stepparent(s), describe your relationship. Who administered discipline in your family? What form of discipline was used? What values were important in your family? Describe your parents' work history. How were they employed? How did the family make decisions? The quality of your parents' relationship; your most pleasant childhood memories; things you would have changed, etc.

Then it goes on covering the following categories:

Growing Up
Courtship & Marriage


One interesting thing is that the medical forms (both for us and the children) ask if we are free of any communicable diseases. The children's forms ask if our children's health will jeopardize the health of a child placed in our home. I guess they need to know that in case a birth mother wants to know the ins and outs of the family her biological child could be adopted into. It just strikes me as interesting in the case of international adoption when many children available for adoption have communicable diseases themselves. If the answer were yes for any one of us, could we be turned down? Makes me wonder. Adoptive families can be deemed 'unadoptable'? But a child, in my opinion, should never be deemed 'unadoptable.' Just interesting food for thought.

As the reality of us adopting sinks in, I become more fascinated with the thought that there are two children out there going to sleep tonight and waking tomorrow morning that don't know who we are and that we're coming for them. They don't know that there's a family waiting for them to be a part of it. There's a school that will welcome them. There's a town that they'll grow up in. There's a church that will wrap its arms around them and show them the love of Christ. There are friends and family who can't wait to meet them and who anticipate their arrival almost as much as we do. There's a new life for them here. Hopefully sooner rather later they'll know all this.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Beam Team Huddle

Here are a couple cool things of late:

A sweet moment in our day is when we gather for the 'huddle' before JD and the girls head out the door in the mornings. JD received this nugget of wisdom a few years back at a men's retreat. The speaker mentioned that he gathers his family each morning and prays a blessing over his wife and children. I can't tell you how stopping to do this each day has not just blessed us, but equipped us, and probably protected us from things we don't even know about, over the years.

In the last year or so, our moniker 'The Beam Team' has really stuck. So in the last few months, Avery has started hollering through the house, 'Time to huddle up!...Huddle time!' (I feel like a football team with one darn cute little coach!).

But the even sweeter part is that now as JD prays over me, Payton, Avery, Jackson and Brooks by name, he says 'and be with our two little ones somewhere out there.' Sweet.

Update on our home study: everything went well. I'm starting to marvel at how we started this process during the busiest time of year. I mean, wow. We have our work cut out for us.

Fingerprinting at the state police station, FBI background checks (yeh, guess they're not in the works yet because they need our fingerprints first!), autobiographies, questionnaires, medical screenings for all six of us, photos of all six of us to include with our Wide Horizons' application, and so on.

Oh, and Christmas shopping, baking and Christmas cards. Hmmm. I'm starting to wonder if I'll get to Christmas cards this year? I love sending (and especially receiving!) Christmas cards.

Our next home study appointment is scheduled for Thursday, November 2nd. Our social worker will come to our home, interview us and Payton and Avery. She'll want to see where the children will sleep (hope that doesn't have to be perfectly in order at this point because then I really won't be getting Christmas cards done!), our fire extinguisher, our smoke detectors, and how our firearms are secured (wish we didn't have any firearms, but I have a husband). :) The girls are so excited.

One last tidbit to make you smile -- at least it did me.

I called our pediatrician's office today to see if I need to bring the kids in for a check-up in order to have these medical forms completed. I told the woman who answered the phone that we're adopting and medical forms need to be completed for our four biological children. The first thing she said? 'Oh, been there, done that.'

'Really?' I said.

She explained that she has 6 children and one is adopted so she had to have forms filled out for her five biological children. Well, I was shocked to find out a month or so ago that doctors now charge for these forms to be filled out! I was appalled, but at least I was prepared to drop 40 bucks to have these filled out for our home study. She immediately whispers, 'We can help you out. My doctor didn't charge me for all of mine because it was for an adoption.'

She was super nice and pulled our kids' charts to confirm that everything was up to speed. We discovered that we have mutual friends! We talked about our churches. I mean, really. She was whispering through half our conversation because she was at work.

I just got so tickled thinking about how God works. It's like the lady at the restaurant that day when I told my mother and grandmother our adoption plans. It's just cool to feel Him in our midst.

May you feel Him in your midst this Thanksgiving.

God Moves

God's still encouraging us at every turn. Here's yet another example.

When I was editing the 'Radical' post a few days ago, I got an email from a friend that said, 'I think I've recommended this book to many of you already.' Her email included a link to her friend's blog -- another family whose lives have been blessed through adoption. I'd been on the blog once before, but not in several weeks. I was curious about this highly recommended book because I'm always up for a good read, so I went over to the blog to find out more about it. You must read this quick post.

Go figure.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Home Study

Now that I have you up to speed on the developments of the last couple of months, I should fill you in on what's happened most recently.

Last week, we completed two first steps. We registered with Wide Horizons for Children out of Massachusetts. They will be our placement agency meaning they will handle the 'country phase' of the adoption process. They will be the entity that handles actually making the adoption happen between the United States and Ethiopia. We also applied/registered with the local agency here in Richmond that will perform our home study. They are called Jewish Family Services and were recommended by friends. We met with our social worker several weeks ago for a consultation and we'll meet with her again tomorrow for our first meeting for our home study.

The home study is said to consist of three meetings -- tomorrow's in their office, a second meeting here at our home and a third at our home (I think -- could be at their office). FBI and CPS (Child Protective Services) checks are being performed on us now. The home study also requires five references. The home study is said to take between 6-12 weeks and depends on how quickly the background checks and references come back. Once the home study's complete, we move into the next phase that will begin the red-tape-laden process of beginning to complete a dossier and starting to work with Ethiopia.

It amazes JD and I to think that there are two children out there that God has planned to have as part of our family since the beginning of time. Since before we even knew it. Wow. I cannot wait to meet them.

I was talking to a friend recently who told me that her neighbor adopted a daughter from Ethiopia a year ago. Her neighbor said going to Ethiopia and seeing her daughter's living conditions (a thatched roofed shack with a dirt floor) affirmed her decision to adopt more than ever. And my friend assured me that when JD and I go to retrieve our children, we will be moved to our core that we're doing the right thing.

So, I sat one day and imagined this moment.

JD and I get off the plane after a ridiculously long day of traveling. We're tired, but energized at the thought of meeting our children for the first time. The air is dry and warm. The smells, sounds and sights are like nothing we've ever experienced before.

There's dust everywhere. Everything is colorless -- no green grass, no flowers, no colorful buildings or cars. No plush trees; no softness. The buildings are all the same hue -- browns, whites, grays. True poverty abounds.

We're driven to the children's home. It is a box; a shell. Children are playing outside, but the instant they hear a car, they all stop and look. It's as if they're wondering, "Is today my day? Is this the day that my parents are coming for me?"

Then we get out of the car and walk into this barren building. We're greeted by a social worker who has the widest, most electric smile. Her whole face smiles. It's the kind of smile you can get lost in. She warmly greets us with a hug and leads us to a room and encourages us to sit and make ourselves comfortable. There are sparse furnishings, so JD and I sit side by side on a small sofa.

We wait.

After a few minutes, we hear footsteps.

Here they come.

The door creaks open and in walks the social worker with the two most precious little girls filing in behind her. We lock eyes. They look to be about 3 and 5. Their heads are shaved and they manage to give us half-smiles. Through a translator, they're told we're their mommy and daddy. We squat down and open our arms wide to them. They each walk slowly, timidly toward us. We gingerly hug them understanding their apprehension.

We're strangers to them.

But only for today.

This is the first day of the rest of their lives.

Today, I weep just imagining it.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Q & A

I know the questions are swirling. Sorry I've been jumping all around. It's all so very exciting. I can't keep my thoughts in a fluid stream.

So, I thought I'd do a little Q & A knowing all the questions people have asked us over the last several weeks. Hope this helps.

Q. What do our children think?
A. Another huge confirmation for us that this is the right direction for our family is our children's genuine enthusiasm. Our girls are old enough to get this and they're thrilled. Our boys are referring to the children as the 'new kids.'

'When the new kids come, we can share our toys with them. And they can live in our house. They don't have a mommy and daddy.'


Q. Do we prefer certain ages?
A. We're not trying to go back to diapers, sippy cups and high chairs. However, if God has a different plan, we'll adjust. Our request is that the children be between the ages of 3 years and 8 years old. Payton has made it very clear (from the first mention of adoption years ago), that she wants to remain the oldest in the family. Her clarity about this is really quite remarkable.

Interestingly, I was talking to someone at the adoption agency we're using out of state and she asked how things were going with everything. I told her that our children are very excited and that our oldest child has made a very clear request that we not adopt a child older than her. She told me that research shows that birth order is very powerful and that we have a wise and insightful young daughter on our hands. I must agree with her. :)

Furthermore, because we are pursuing 'older' children (as if 4 or 5 is old!), we will be adopting children who are identified as 'waiting children.' If a child is over the age of 4 or 5 they become less-adoptable. I can hardly type that word in reference to a child. But this is the reality. This resonates with us not only because we're not adopting because we're yearning to have more children in the sense that we miss the baby-stage, etc. We feel such a sense of warmth and purpose when we imagine children joining our family who are around our biological children's ages. It seems sweet to us that they'll have instant playmates. I just can't wait to see our biological children embrace the 'new kids.' ;)

Q: What country will you adopt from?
A: At our first meeting with the local agency (Jewish Family Services who will do our home study), we were asked this question. Our answer was basically, 'We don't care. You tell us.' Now we've learned that it doesn't work that way. We choose the country and then the agency pursues that country. Oh. How in the world do we choose a country? After much research on-line, we learned that each country has it's own regulations and stipulations. For example, some countries have a limit on the size of the family it will adopt to (we clearly got the boot right there from some countries). Some countries have lesser travel requirements and some have greater (Colombia, for example, requires that the adoptive parent live in the country for 4-8 weeks with the adopted children before leaving the country with them. yikes). Considering that we already have children, that wouldn't work for us. Russia requires 3 trips! Having said all that, the country that meets most of our needs and has sibling groups available is Ethiopia. So Ethiopia it is!

Q: Will we change the children's names?
A. We think not. Since we are adopting 'older' (I mean is an 8-year-old really old?) children, we imagine their name will be a huge part of who they are. It just seems unnecessary to do that to them in addition to how their worlds will already be rocked. 'Welcome to a land where no one speaks your language, everything's foreign to you, you're missing everything that's familiar to you, your hearts in some ways are broken, but oh, by the way, your name's now Johnny and Suzie.' I don't know, it seems odd. And no judgement or condemnation towards those who have changed their children's names. Truly. I just can't get my head around it right now. But we'll never say never. We just don't know for sure how the children will respond to all of it. Perhaps they will want a more Americanized name or we will come to believe that's of greater value for them than keeping the name given to them at birth? Perhaps we put more emphasis on names here in America than elsewhere in the world. I don't know. I guess it's safe to say the jury's still out on this one.

Q. Have we had the 'race conversation' with our biological children?
A. Yes. They know the 'new kids' (please know I'm not using that in a derogatory sense -- I just think it's sweet) will look different than us and they will not be visitors to our family. They will be their sisters or brothers. I truly think kids' hearts are more open and expandable than ours. Their hearts aren't bogged down with a bunch of garbage like ours are. They just take things as they are. Even faith -- that's why the Bible talks about having faith like a child because they simply and purely believe without all the questions, what ifs and doubts. When have you ever seen a kid over-analyze something? Adults (myself included) are notorious for this. It's a beautiful thing how kids' hearts are ready to receive.

Q. Will we get a new car?
A. We can all fit in our van, but I imagine when it's time to replace the van we'll consider a large SUV again.

Q. Where will we put them?
A. We have a guest room that will no longer be a guest room. :) We're huge believers in the benefit of young children sharing a room, so if we get children of the same gender, they'll share that room. If we get a brother-sister pair, Avery has happily offered to share her room.

Q. How long will the adoption process take? When will you have them?
A. I started off saying a year, but several people have said we might want to prepare for sooner because they've heard stories of very fast adoptions. I have this gut feeling that it's going to be this spring or summer. Don't know why. Maybe because I think that's perfect timing to have the summer with them and all of our children out of school. Or maybe it's because God's trying to prepare me/us.

That's all the questions I can think of for now. Feel free to ask more in the comments if I've forgotten something.

My Head Stops Spinning...Sort Of

JD and I head upstairs to the kitchen and start hashing out where our hearts are. I can't stop crying because I can't believe it. That's it. We're adopting. Just like that. I can't believe he, JD, is on board. Without flinching. This above all else is the greatest affirmation (on an on-going, daily basis) that we're doing the right thing. JD is unwavering. He is grounded in this decision.

This, the man who has expressed concern over the years of how he will provide for our four biological children. I've always felt convicted that finances shouldn't be a deciding factor on how many children we have. (I know, easy to say when I'm not the 'provider', but I am the caregiver and that's a lot of work too!). We're never going to feel fully financially equipped. And as a sweet friend said the other day, it can all be gone in an instant or we can win the lottery (but I guess we'd have to play first, huh?). :) Point being, it's not up to us. It truly is all up to God, so why not be more concerned with staying in step with Him and let the rest fall where it may.

JD and I quickly decided that we're to adopt a sibling pair. One heartfelt stroll down the hypothetical trail of a tragedy befalling upon our family and our children having to be adopted, and their not being able to stay together as siblings, is enough to push us over the emotional edge. We know we're able and capable to raise six children, so that's what we plan to do. Plus, we both believe strongly that if we adopt one, we're likely to want to adopt another down the road. Might as well do both now and bless two children with the gift of staying together forever.

Will we be stretched? Absolutely. But isn't that the point? Wasn't that my prayer? So God is in the business of answering prayers.

You might find the next couple of stories interesting or just funny, but I find them to be affirming. I think God aligns things like this to happen as encouragement to us that we're doing the right thing.

The next night, we had plans to have friends over for dinner. We in no way, shape or form planned on telling people of our recent decision because we'd hardly gotten our minds around it ourselves, let alone told our parents and closest friends. I asked my friend pretty quickly if she'd read Crazy Love because she's a huge Francis Chan fan. I was so hoping to pick her brain about it and even about Radical because she's a thinker and a writer. I just looked forward to hashing this all out with her. These books were at the top of her 'must read' list, but she hadn't gotten to them yet. She asks me why I'm so anxious to process them -- what was so impactful about them? Well, as you know from my earlier posts, I couldn't summarize them well except to say that JD and I had been greatly stirred by them and were trying to discern how to respond to living radically. Her first words out of her mouth were (and I kid you not), 'So what? You're going to adopt five orphans?' I almost burst out laughing. I wasn't going to lie which meant I couldn't contain my smirk. We quickly caved and told them that we were indeed on the path to adoption. They were so very excited for us!

An interesting tidbit here is that this friend had recently come back from a Catalyst conference and heard Francis Chan speak. She said there was a heavy focus on adoption at the conference. In fact, a couple came on stage and presented their child who they adopted as a result of their feeling led to adopt at last year's Catalyst conference! They had their child in just a matter of months! Amazing.

Maybe a week later, after we'd had our first consultation with the local agency here it was time to tell our parents. My mom, my grandmother and I are out to lunch (with no kids...perfect opportunity!) and I tell them that JD and I have decided to adopt a sibling pair. She and my grandmother were wonderfully supportive. After I explained that this only seems crazy to us because we're so caught up in a culture that pushes the agenda that if we work hard enough we can have it all -- the big house, the fancy cars, the luxury vacations, the fat retirement accounts, etc. -- but JD and I have realized that we can radically change two little people's lives by just stretching ourselves. Yes, things will be hairy at times, but frankly they already are! We have four children. In the day-to-day, having six won't be that different. Sure paying for six college educations probably won't be within our abilities, but neither was paying for four. Look, God has this stuff worked out. Heck, some of our kids may join the military, peace corps, become artists, or be missionaries. There's just not enough reason in our minds to not do this. To put it simply: the benefits outweigh the costs. These two children are worth it. And truthfully, we will be the richer ones. Our hearts will be required to expand and that's a good thing. Our family's going to take on a form that's never been done in the history of our families. I impress upon the two of them that there has been multiple ways that God's spoken to us to guide us to this decision. I assured them that this is, without a shadow of a doubt, where God's leading us and I could give them example after example of crazy little things that have happened that have convicted our hearts that this is what we're supposed to do.

Next thing you know, the woman from the booth behind us gets up and walks over. She says, 'I'm so sorry. I'm not trying to eavesdrop, but when I hear someone talk about adoption and foster care, my heart starts to race. I just wanted to recommend this wonderful book to you. It's called The Connected Child. It's a wonderful resource. My husband and I have been foster parents for years. Best of luck to you and your family.'

I thank her profusely because little did she know, I'd been asking everyone (adoption professionals, friends who have adopted, etc) for a great book on adoption because I'm a reader. But God knew.

I look over at my mom and her mouth is practically hanging open.

My eyes well with tears.

Friday, October 15, 2010

This was decision day for us. This is the day that God spoke to us in a way that brought me to tears over and over again throughout the day. By the end of the day, my heart was throwing its hands up in the air exclaiming, "I get it, God! I hear You! I hear you loud and clear."

I woke up that morning after many weeks of feeling restless, battered (as you may feel now after just reading my two prior posts), weary and confused. Here's my journal entry:

October 15, 2010

James 2:14-17
What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

(I can't remember the exact path that led me to that passage, but it really is irrelevant because for whatever reason that's the passage of scripture that I was led to that morning. I don't know if I've ever read that verse before. Amazing. Read on).

Here goes my heart again, Lord! Stirring, spinning, reeling, churning. Show me, Lord. Show me WHAT to do! How will it look? I'm terrified of imagining our life/lives without this home, JD's job, health insurance, retirement...all the things of this world that we've come in America to expect in life. All the comforts -- all the luxuries of the 'American dream.' Lord, show me how to ACT according to James 2:17. How am I supposed to move (emotionally, physically, financially) from this state? My prayer is for JD -- Lord, as has been the pattern in our marriage, move him and I'm ready. I just pray for my willingness to accept and support whatever action he may feel led to take. I pray for him to hear You clearly and I pray for his obedience. Father, may he obey WHATEVER it is You lay before him/us. May we step in faith. May we truly trust You that we will be okay. And, Lord, if JD doesn't feel led to act in a global sense, show me how I can locally. Show me how to love globally from right here in Richmond. What will that look like?

A little history might be in order here. The dynamic that JD and I have is one where I can leap with an emotional response to a cause. My heart breaks for someone or I feel pulled in a certain direction and I want to go! I am a doer. JD's more cautious. He describes himself as 'risk-averse.' Isn't that hilarious? I love his honesty. We have had other times in our marriage where I want to jump in head first about something and he's been the voice of reason to settle me down and sweetly say (as only a husband can say to his wife!), "Cool your jets, honey." Or sometimes he says, "Slow down; take a deep breath." Our opposing personality traits in this regard have actually served us well over the years because I can encourage him to push toward something he may not have pushed toward otherwise and he can be a voice of reason for me and help me to pull back and wait. This was my prayer that morning. I knew that if God moved in JD then I would know the course of action we were to take, whatever it was, would be the right one. Basically, I had to hand it over and allow JD to take the lead.

There's been one other time in our marriage when I prayed that prayer. JD was in his first year of law school and I felt ready to start a family. I told him of my desires. He (wisely) said he thought we should wait because he still had two years left of school. He asked how we would take care of a child. I trusted that God would work it out. I asked him to just pray about it and he agreed to do so. My prayer became that I would wait on him and know when he was ready and when God moved in him, it was the right time. Two weeks later, he came to me and said he was ready to start a family. We were expecting our first child one month later.

Not long after praying that prayer the morning of October 15th, I was checking my email. I got an email from a sweet friend who had read Crazy Love with me. She wanted to share a blog with us -- a woman who is truly living out a 'crazy love' for Jesus. Brace yourself. She is a modern day Mother Teresa. You must read this post: Reading that post caused me to melt into a puddle over my keyboard. I just broke down. If you read the post, you'll see why. But for me, there was more to the message than just the enormous sacrifice she's made. She references the scripture above (James 2:17: faith without deeds is dead).

Twice within just a couple of hours, God whispered the same exact verse into my ear. There are thousands of verses in the Bible. If there's one thing I know for sure, when God reveals a verse to me more than once in a 24-hour period, I better sit up and listen. And so I do.

After reading about Katie, it's as if God asked, "So Heather, you and JD are waiting for what? If I can equip a woman in her 20's to single-handedly raise over 10 children in Africa, what makes you think I can't equip you and JD to do it together here?"

I forwarded Katie's blog post to JD at work with one simple sentence:

Honey, I truly think we're supposed to adopt.

Now, let me assure you this is not the first time adoption has been mentioned between us. We have talked about it off and on for years. We've had what I would call a 'passive' approach to adoption. I thought, 'God's given us an open heart to adoption, so when He presents a child that needs a home, we'll respond.' Or, 'When we go on a missions trip one day, we'll likely meet orphans and will return home with great certainty that we're to adopt one.' After our boys were born, people often asked us if we were done having children and our response was, 'Biologically. We're open to expanding our family through adoption.' However, it was a very sit-back-and-wait attitude. And, frankly, I'm over that. That's not my nature. But, interestingly, I can embrace that position when something scares me.

I didn't hear back from JD all day (not uncommon). But I was wondering what his thoughts were and was sure he would come home and say, 'Honey, you know we can't do that yet. We have our hands full. Maybe in a few years when the boys get older.'

One funny story could probably be inserted here...

Just one year ago, I came home with a black lab puppy and JD didn't let me hear the end of it for 9 months (I kid you not). He must've said, 'we're not ready' or 'we weren't ready' or 'I'm not ready' a hundred times. I did not go out searching for our sweet dog, Lucy, but he could not budge off the notion that it was not the right timing. I agreed on some level, but our children did not. Lucy warms our couch nightly at the present. :) I tell you this so you'll understand the kind of man my husband is. I would not describe him as adventuresome. He's a practical, reason-filled, logical man. He worries about providing for his family. He thinks big picture. He is not easily swayed.

On the morning of October 15th, JD was going to attend his Friday morning men's group (the group that had chosen the book 'Radical' to read). It was the first time JD was meeting with them since starting the book and we were both looking forward to some other perspectives on this thing. I knew what I was going through internally and was curious to know if this book was having the same effect on others.

When JD got home that night, we were sitting downstairs in our basement rec room with our kids. They were watching a kid show and we were sitting nearby catching up. JD says, 'So I went to my men's group this morning.'

I answer, 'Ahhh, yes! What do the guys think of the message of the book?'

He says they're all rattled. But the crazy part for JD is that all the men were sitting there saying how much they get it and want to respond in a radical way, but don't know what their wives are going to think and if their wives will feel the same way they do. JD looks at me and says he couldn't believe it because he sat there thinking, 'Wow, my wife's already read it and she gets it.' I start to cry.

I get myself together. We talk for a few more minutes about the book and what certain men in his group had to say about it. One of the men in his group is a full-time missionary who's only in the States for 6 months or so and then he and his wife and children will be headed back overseas. This is a man who had the corporate job/American dream lifestyle and he and his wife gave it all up and began full-time work as missionaries. What a valuable perspective he can offer this group during the reading of a book such as 'Radical'! Coincidence?

So I ask if he got my email.

He says he did. I'm ready for the 'we're not ready' explanation, but instead he says, 'Let's do it.'

What? What did he just say?

I start crying.

We quickly realize we have a lot to talk about and the kids don't need to see me cry my way through it.

So, there you have it.

We're adopting.

We're thrilled.

God is leading.

Monday, November 8, 2010


Disclaimer: more than anything, please understand that the sole reason why JD and I are where we are in our lives, is not due to two books we recently read. God simply used these books and other events (as you'll read about in a later post) as the final push (if you will) to open our eyes to what we needed to see. He's spoken to us for years through the Bible, family, friends, blogs, stories, sermons and probably through ways we can't remember or articulate. I want it to be very clear that we didn't come to this place because of a book or two. It's just that God uses people to speak to all of us. This is why I often pray that I'll have the ears He wants me to have to hear Him and the eyes He wants me to have to see the things He wants me to see.

As I mentioned, I read Radical in a couple of days. It was an amazing wake-up call for me. In that I realized I'd been kind of coasting through life. I am a huge dreamer and I always have ideas brewing and often act on some of them, but all in all, I've been frustrated and confused for years as to how God wants to use me -- aside from the obvious: being a wife and mother. I always feel called to those roles. My prayer after reading these books was that God would not only use me/us, but that He would stretch us. When I think about being stretched, I think about being taken from my comfort zone. I think about having my convenient, easy life challenged for something bigger than me. God had already primed my heart with Crazy Love, so when I started reading Radical I was very receptive to it's messages about the need for those of us who claim to love the Lord and follow the teachings of Jesus Christ to act on behalf of the suffering and orphaned around the world. I only had one entry in my journal that addressed Radical and before 'D-Day' (October 15th). Here it is:

October 12, 2010

Oh Father, I lay before You my stirring heart and mind. I lay before You my confusion, heaviness and difficulty discerning. I ask You for clarity, peace, and direction. Once again -- as has been the case so many times over the last couple of years! -- I don't know which way to act, what approach to take, how to proceed. I ask You for Your wisdom and discernment. May this book (Radical) be offering me what You want me to hear and grow on. May it be of You -- and whatever's contained within that You don't want me to take away, may it fall away. However, may the points You wish to stick, stick.

Father, I'm convicted that the only way to put this stirring to rest is through action. Guide my every step and move. Use me and equip me for all of it. I feel ridiculously incompetent and ill-equipped. Overflow me with Your Holy Spirit.

Father, forgive my unbelief, doubt and questioning of You. Build my faith in You. May I love You more.

Perhaps you'd like to hear more about Radical. I think I'm hesitant to say too much because I feel like I can't encapsulate it well. But I'll share with you some of the things I highlighted in the book that really spoke to me. There are so very many, so I can't include them all. Better than these few points, just read the book. :)

Page 69:

"We bask in sermons, conferences, and books that exalt a grace centering on us. And while the wonder of grace is worthy of our attention, if that grace is disconnected from its purpose, the sad result is a self-centered Christianity that bypasses the heart of God."

Ouch. I so struggle as a self-centered Christian. Trust me.

Page 73:

"In the process we have unnecessarily (and unbiblically) drawn a line of distinction, assigning the obligations of Christianity to a few while keeping the privileges of Christianity for us all."


To me, this means that sometimes I take what's great about being a Christian and cash in on it, but leave the challenging parts (and there are challenging parts!) of being a Christian and cast them aside. As if they're mutually exclusive.

Pages 104-106:

(Bear with me on this one because it's long, but more than that, it might hit you where it it did me).

"In our Christian version of the American dream, our plan ends up disinfecting Christians from the world more than discipling Christians in the world.

Let me explain the difference.

Disinfecting Christians from the world involves isolating followers of Christ in a spiritual safe-deposit box called the church building and teaching them to be good. In this strategy, success in the church is defined by how big a building you have to house all the Christians, and the goal is to gather as many people as possible for a couple of hours each week in that place where we are isolated and insulated from the realities of the world around us. When someone asks, 'Where is your church?' we point them to a building or give them an address, and everything centers around what happens at that location.

When we gather at the building, we learn to be good. Being good is defined by what we avoid in the world. We are holy because of what we don't participate in (and at this point we may be the only organization in the world defining success by what we don't do). We live decent lives in decent homes with decent jobs and decent families as decent citizens. We are decent church members with little more impact on the world than we had before we were saved. Though thousands may join us, ultimately we have turned a deaf ear to billions who haven't even heard his name.

Discipling is much different.

Whereas disinfecting Christians involves isolating them and teaching them to be good, discipling Christians involves propelling Christians into the world to risk their lives for the sake of others. Now the world is our focus, and we gauge our success in the church not on the hundreds or thousands whom we can get into our buildings but on the hundreds or thousands who are leaving our buildings to take on the world with the disciples they are making. In this case, we would never think that the disciple-making plan of Jesus could take place in one service a week at one location led by one or two teachers. Disciple making takes place multiple times every week in multiple locations by an army of men and women sharing, showing, and teaching the Word of Christ and together serving a world in need of Christ.

All of a sudden, holiness is defined by what we do. We are now a community of faith taking Jesus at his word and following his plan, even when it does not make sense to the culture around us and even when it costs us.

In the process we are realizing that we actually were intended to reach the world for the glory of Christ, and we are discovering that the purpose for which we were created is accessible to every one of us. Children and the elderly, students and workers, men and women all joined together in a body that is united with other followers of Christ around the world in a practical strategy to make disciples and impact nations for the glory of Christ. A community of Christians each multiplying the gospel by going, baptizing, and teaching in the contexts where they live every day. Is anything else, according to the Bible, even considered a church?"


Page 108:

"More than twenty-six thousand children today will breathe their last breath due to starvation or preventable disease."

'Ouch' doesn't even suffice.

Then there's this chapter called "How Much is Enough? American Wealth and a World of Poverty." I've picked a couple of points Platt makes in this chapter. Here goes.

First and foremost, this point must be made loud and clear:

Page 109:

"The Bible nowhere teaches that caring for the poor is a means by which we earn salvation. The means of our salvation is faith in Christ alone, and the basis of our salvation is the work of Christ alone. We are not saved by caring for the poor, and one of the worst possible responses to this chapter would be to strive to care for the poor in order to earn salvation or standing before God.

Yet while caring for the poor is not the basis of our salvation, this does not mean that our use of wealth is totally disconnected from our salvation. Indeed, caring for the poor (among other things) is evidence of our salvation."

Amen, brother.

Page 119:

"Like the rich young man in Mark 10, every Christian has to wrestle with what Jesus is calling us to do with our resources as we follow him."

And finally...

Page 140:

"We can switch the channels on our mega-TVs and continue our comfortable, untroubled, ordinary, churchgoing lives as if the global poor don't exist. We can let these numbers remain cold, distant, and almost imaginary. Or we can open our eyes and our lives to the realities that surround us and begin considering the faces that are represented by these numbers."


And here's another staggering number for us: there are approximately 150 million orphans across this globe.

Alright, so I know these first two posts are very faith-based, 'preachy', or whatever you choose to call it. I felt it was imperative that I explain in great detail how mine and JD's hearts and minds got to where they are. This brings me to October 15, 2010 and how God spoke very clearly to JD and I about how we, personally, were to respond to what He had revealed to us.

Thanks for bearing with me.

Moving on...

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Crazy Love

In September, I read a book called Crazy Love (Francis Chan). A small group of girlfriends and I had been reading together all summer and this was our latest choice. I had wanted to read it for some time so I was really looking forward to it. Boy, oh boy. I didn't know what I was getting myself into. That book stirred me up so much that there were times when I had to put it down and just close my eyes and sit with what I'd read for a few minutes. I told JD I needed him to read it so I could process it with him.

A couple of weeks later, JD and I hop into his truck to head to a fall festival and I notice a book in his console. I truly love to read, so I pick it up and ask, "What's this?" He says it's the next book selection for his Friday morning men's group. I skim the cover and turn it over and read the back cover. I'm instantly intrigued because it sounds much like Crazy Love. Coincidence? Of course not. The tag line reads: Taking back your faith from the American Dream. Wow. Makes you want to read it, doesn't it? So I ask JD if he's started it and he says not yet, so I offer to start reading aloud. Just 20 minutes of reading spurred a deep conversation between us. Sure, there were points that were tough, but we yearned to read on. I didn't think another book could stir me like Crazy Love did, but Crazy Love turned out to be just a primer to this second book. It's title is Radical byDavid Platt. I couldn't put it down. And it helped that JD was reading it too.

I read it in a few days and felt God using its message to really stir something deep inside me that asked, "Why am I here?"


Not the "Why am I on this planet?" I've wrestled through that question plenty over the years and definitely know the answer. I was thinking, "Why was I born in America? After all, there are two things people can't control: the zip code they're born in and the family they're born into. So why in the world have I been so blessed when so many others in the world have nothing?" Not even a family.

I've felt almost ashamed or burdened at times by being born in America. Maybe 'unworthy' is a more appropriate descriptor. But I've come to realize there's nothing to be ashamed of or burdened by -- if I'm trying to live the way I should be. I believe God has put every single one of us who are American here because He wants to see what we're going to do with our position in this world...all we're given, all our blessings, all our needs met, wanting for basically nothing including peace and health. He puts us here so we can respond to the rest of the world. I'm no Mother Teresa. I will never serve the Lord in the capacity that she did. I will fall short and struggle the rest of my life with the vortex of American life and wanting to fit in. But I can at least try to be obedient to the direction God wants to take me. That's all I can do. Whatever that may look like. No matter how scared I am. And there are times (especially presently) when I'm scared.

As I'm sure you too have been, I've been taken aback with the thought of the many people in the world who have so little, who are suffering so greatly and are truly struggling to just figure out their next meal. I've asked myself why I'm not that person. Why I wasn't born into a war-torn, truly poverty-stricken, disease-ridden country.

But then the thought passes and I walk into the Starbucks I was driving to and order myself a tea miso with soy milk.

Ponder this: if you earn more than $50,000 per year you're in 1% (read: one percent) of the world's population. I did not write $500,000 per year. I wrote $50,000 per year. Let's be honest, in the United States, especially in our middle and upper-middle class suburban communities, if you earn $50,000 per year, you're probably living paycheck-to-paycheck and are more than struggling to make ends meet. However, you have running water, electricity, a car, a bed, enough food to eat to probably overfill your belly, and very likely cable and a cell phone. We can't even get our heads around being 1% of the world's population. That should boggle your mind like it does mine. (I got this stat from Radical, but couldn't for the life of me find the page to reference it).

So these books rattled me. And I find it not a coincidence that God brought them to my awareness within weeks of each other. I'd like to share some of the journal entries I wrote during the time that I was reading Crazy Love so you can know the thoughts and feelings I was experiencing at this time.

With the exception of sharing them with JD only recently, I've never shared entries from my prayer journal before, but have experienced others sharing theirs on occasion. For the longest time I thought it is something I'd never share because it should remain between me and God, but when others have shared theirs with me, I've felt like we were on sacred ground. I've felt grateful that others have let me have a glimpse into that precious time between them and the Lord, so it's compelled me to share a bit with you.

September 15, 2010 (my first entry after starting Crazy Love):

Romans 1:20
"For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities - his eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen; being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse."

Heavenly Father, this book Crazy Love is rocking me - may it rock me the way You want it to. May it not establish doubt or confusion, but deeper love and adoration for You. Protect us from false thinking -- and that Crazy Love won't convince unbelievers that its not possible for a God as big as You to love little ole us. Convict our hearts as You'd wish. Do a mighty work -- a stirring -- in all. Make it a call to action. My prayer is that I'm somehow doing a might work for You down here. I feel like I'm often just punching my 'Christian time clock.' I want to love others more deeply -- break my heart for those who are broken and need You. Let this not just be about throwing scraps of money and our 'leftovers' at the needy. Make it greater than that. And clearly I'm going to need to be more persistent to see things through.

Oh, in case you're wondering, the scriptures I write down sometimes in my journal are ones that I recently heard and wanted to look up and read more closely. Or I read something that made a scripture reference (I often read My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers in the morning before I start my prayer time). Often times, God will take me down a trail where a scripture will lead to another...and to another...and then another. It's pretty cool. ____________________________________________

September 16, 2010

Ecclesiastes 7:2
"It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart."

Father, my heart is heavy due to the messages of Crazy Love. I pray that it will settle as You wish. I do truly want to see You as You deserve to be seen, revere You, love You -- Oh, how I want to love You more (help me to love You more). But I am struck with almost a paralysis of the heart right now. I'm so overwhelmed with how inadequate I am that I feel like my meager attempts at pleasing You and 'living the Christian life' are futile. Show me what to do. Show me that it's okay for me to sit here each morning in a 'scheduled', ' routine' fashion to seek silence, stillness and conversation with You. Show me if it's okay to do things as I have been and really the only way I know how. Father, deliver YOUR message through this book -- make it what You want it to be to us. ________________________________________________

September 20, 2010

Father, I pray for the stories of people I read about -- poverty, discrimination, war, torture. Oh Lord, prostitution of little girls. Only Your grace is sufficient to heal those wounds and to restore each person to wholeness. May Your power move in countries around this globe! May the church be a sleeping giant that really is awakening! May we, each of us as individuals, respond and act toward change.

I praise You, Father.

I can only imagine how hard it would be for me to cast my sights upon other areas of the world and other people around the world if there were pain and strife in my home and marriage, so I pray for those I know are hurting...

September 23, 2010

Ecclesiastes 5:19-20
(one of my favorite verses!)
"Moreover, when God gives a man wealth and possessions and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work -- this is a gift of God. He seldom reflects on the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart."

Thank you, Lord, for awakening me through Your Word, books like Crazy Love and people's personal testimonies. Stir me for You and serving You. Give JD and I radical (did I really just use the word 'radical' when I hadn't even discovered the book yet!?) hearts. May we not fit in here -- may we not care. Use us, Lord.

On September 24th, I got an email from a friend of mine. She and her husband have adopted seven children and have three biological children. They're in the process of adopting a son, Isaac, and have been waiting for almost two years for him. The country he's from is no longer allowing adoptions and there are over 60 families who are waiting for the children they have been promised who are oceans away in another land. My friend and her husband have met Isaac and he knows they are his parents. What a crushing situation. Here are her words (another example of something God used to stir me):

I cannot imagine a lifetime without you, Father, and I believe, like we need you, these children need human families to love them. I cannot wait to tell Isaac about your love and who you are, to tell him about your Son and what He has done for us. That You sent Him for us, to redeem us. These children need you. My prayer for all orphans who never find homes (and the numbers are endless it seems) is that they will one day be exposed to You and Your Word, because above all else, ALL ELSE this is the only saving that really matters. The physical does not matter, for it is worthless without You, without the spiritual saving. Oh Father, I don’t even know how children who live in those conditions will not ask why You would allow this to happen. How can they not question You, and yet, I know the answer. The answer is that Jesus is the head. The Spirit is in us, we are His body and it is we who take the blame for not being there for all those children. Oh Father, the need is overwhelming, more than one even knows how to wrap our minds around, but we are the church and we need to be there and we’re failing, I’m failing. Lord, you can raise up the people it takes to bring You to the lives of all orphans. There are more Christians than there are orphans, and yet, so many remain who have never even had a loving touch, let alone heard about who You are and who Your Son is. It is pure and undefiled religion, you tell us, to take care of the orphans and the widows (James 1:27) and so often I wonder why the rest of that verse is ignored. It says we are to keep ourselves unspotted from the world. I’m no scholar, Father, but I believe that it is the worldly things, the things that are not eternal that stop so many of we who love you from taking on the orphans’ and the widows’ plight. Is that what you mean by being spotted by the world? All those worthless things that take our attentions?

What strikes me about this email (among other things) is when it was sent. I remember the impact the email had on me when I read it, but until I went to find it to post it here, I didn't realize that I got it right in the midst of all the stirring I was experiencing. This is how God works. He knits and weaves Himself through our lives.

When I finished Crazy Love, I was confused and restless and torn. Enter Radical.


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