Friday, January 28, 2011

Not a fan of roller coasters.

I don't even know if I can articulate in a reasonable fashion the roller coaster we've been on this past week. I apologize in advance if this post is hard to follow, but I'll do the best I can to explain. And perhaps, in some strange way, it will be of comfort to you as it was to us that this is a rather normal part of the adoption process...confusion that is. Forgive us if we're taking you as unwilling passengers on this roller coaster, but I thought I'd keep you abreast of what's transpiring in our hearts and minds.

Whenever it was (great start, eh?) that we had our last conference call with our social worker with Wide Horizons (our placement agency in Massachusetts), we started asking her some pretty pointed questions about some things that have been laid upon our hearts of late.

The biggest one is that JD and I have felt led to pursue daughters specifically. For a couple of reasons:

First, we feel better equipped as parents of daughters. As if I even have to disclaim this but we clearly love our boys. This is not about the ability (or inability) to love boys. If we adopted two boys, we would love them. Just like we love Brooks and Jackson. This is about our ability (or inability) to manage four boys and two daughters.

Second, we have children we have to consider. We have a family dynamic in place already that we have to consider. I, more so than JD, have concerns about creating certain dynamics by adopting a son and a daughter in that I would worry that our adoptive children would somehow feel like third wheels if the little boy were close in age to our boys and if the girl were close in age to Payton and Avery. I especially wonder about a little boy having to jump in with Brooks and Jackson's current dynamic as twin brothers who've been virtually inseparable since birth. There's so much to consider here. And, frankly, I'm a thinker. Yes, probably an over-thinker. But (insert Popeye voice here) I am what I am!

Third, we have to think about practicality. We have a spare bedroom that our adoptive children are going to share. It presents a bit of a problem long term for a daughter and a son to share that room. You already know that our preference is not to adopt two boys, so two girls would be ideal (from a practicality perspective).

I think I mentioned in a previous post that several weeks ago, we watched this documentary:

It was very eye-opening to the very real plight of little girls in China. So we started thinking, 'Gosh, if we feel drawn to adopting girls, perhaps we should pursue two not-biologically related little girls from China.' We know that China doesn't have sibling pairs so the likelihood of finding biological sisters was next to nil.

Because of all this, we decided we needed to talk to our social worker and ask her if we can request two girls and if we can pursue adopting two little girls who are not biologically related.

She said Wide Horizon's policy is no and no.

Okay. Why?

She said their policies think of the best interest of the children because there are more boys in the world who need to be adopted and because many families want to adopt girls so it's a double-wammy for boys. And Wide Horizon's has a policy against adopting two not-biologically related children. Her words were that it would be a nightmare for the adopted children if they didn't get along and were placed together for ever. Now, that to me is a no-brainer. We're not talking about that. We're talking about adopting two little girls who are truly best buds and do not have biological siblings. I would imagine that they would like nothing more than to remain with their best friend for life versus being adopted into a foreign family and taken to a foreign land alone. We know of people who have done this and it's been a wonderful outcome. So we were left a little perplexed. The conversation left us wondering if these are policies with all agencies or just Wide Horizons. So, I sent an email to a friend whose adopted many times and used many agencies to explain the situation to her and ask her about these policies. I told her to feel free to pass the email along to others who might be able to help us glean some insight into all this.

Here's the first turn in this most drawn out story...

So I get an email from a friend of my friend. They both confirm that not all agencies have these policies and there are pros and cons to adopting not-biologically related children. We're learning that there are pros and cons to everything with adoption. :)

But the more interesting thing is that this friend of my friend mentioned something as an aside (that I just happened to be in the middle of) that I had heard nothing about regarding Ethiopian adoptions. And really this is probably an issue with international adoption, in general. I didn't even know what she was talking about so I looked it up and found this. A documentary/expose on what some call the harvesting of children or the commercialization of children.

Let me make something very clear -- who knows where the truth lies with all this? Only God. But it did enlighten us to issues with international adoption. Not that we're not going to adopt internationally, but we feel like we have our eyes open a little more.

And, truthfully, I wonder if God placed me in the middle of an email conversation because He's trying to reveal another option for us? Domestic adoption.

Here's the second turn in this most drawn out story...

After watching that expose on Ethiopian adoptions and spending a good bit of time that day stirring and talking to God about whether we should stick with Ethiopia or perhaps go to another country, I attend a prayer meeting for adoption and the orphan crisis that very night (this past Tuesday). A woman was there from Bethany Christian Services and she spoke to the plight of children here in the Richmond area. She said that there are babies born without a family who will adopt them. Excuse me? I was always under the impression that babies get adopted immediately. She said they are in desperate need of parents willing to adopt.

What in the world?! Of course, that news on top of the enlightenment we'd received earlier around international adoption made me ask God what's going on here? Does He wants us to adopt domestically?

I came home. Told JD. His head's spinning a little too as we're just struggling with what to do. We agree that I should at least call the woman with Bethany Christian and get a better understanding of the situation domestically -- even locally.

So I do. She's super sweet. She says it's true. They do not have enough families who are willing to adopt outside their race. Lord have mercy. What is happening to us? What is happening to us that a precious baby is considered undeserving of a family because of the color of her skin? As if I was unworthy of growing up in the loving family I grew up in because I was born with blue eyes. Or blonde hair. That's what it is, folks. That's as simple as it gets. Completely innocent babies are being placed in foster care because there is no one to call them their own. God created them like He created you and me and they deserve a family.

I can't take it.

I asked the social worker with Bethany Christian about siblings. She says it's less common, but she has seen mothers recently who've given up a toddler and an infant. She thinks the economy is playing a part along with the possibility that women are choosing life more (which is awesome!). She says some women/parents are trying to parent and then realizing they can't and giving up their children at three, four and six months of age. And get this! She also said they're seeing married couples giving up their children because they just can't raise them.

So, that's it, folks. We're kinda stuck. I'm going to follow-up with her today to ask her a couple more questions and we're going to have a conversation with our social worker with Wide Horizons about our options if we decide that God actually wants us to adopt domestically. The crazy thing about that option is we could have children in our home very soon.

I will admit that we've wondered if we should stick with international adoption purely because we're willing to go -- and some adoptive parents would prefer not to travel extensively to bring children home. We've talked about the excitement of jet-sitting to a third world country. A glamorous, sophisticated rescue mission. But what if God wants us to put aside our willingness for fun and intrigue and just obey Him with the less-glamorous option?

We've talked (as you can imagine) about this to no end. We've also been a bit hard on ourselves in regard to our requesting girls. Probably due in part to our social worker's discouragement of that idea. We've felt a little guilty about the boys out there who need families too. But then we've settled ourselves down and reminded ourselves that (hello?) we're adopting two children, we're willing to adopt outside our race, we're willing to adopt children with certain special needs and we're willing to adopt internationally or domestically. We're done feeling bad that we would prefer girls and think that girls will fit into our family best.

Would you pray for us? We could use all the prayer we can get!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Lord, have mercy...

JD and I went on Tuesday (as planned) and were re-fingerprinted and I got another $100 money order (this time from Martin's -- why not? Let's spice it up a little!). I picked up the boys from school and we went by our social worker's office and dropped off every last little form that was needed, along with our fingerprints and the money order.

On Wednesday (yesterday), I sent off our request for a refund for our original lost money order.


about 30 minutes ago...

our social worker calls...

and says...

"You're never going to believe this.

Guess what I just got in the mail?

The original FBI background check results."


She says, "So I called over to the Office of Background Investigations to find out where it's been and why it's showing up now -- after we'd already advised you guys to go get fingerprinted again and submit a new money order." The woman there says she doesn't get it. It's dated December 20, 2010 and just got processed on January 21, 2011. She doesn't know where it's been for the last month. And our social worker called and spoke with them that very day (January 21st!) about this issue.


I don't do well with this kind of thing. God, give me grace. Grace. Grace. I sometimes I think I might implode from sheer frustration. Mmm-mmm-mmm.

Having said all of this, our home study is in it's final written form and JD and I are reviewing it and making corrections. It's going to our Massachusetts-based placement agency for review too and should be officially signed-off on by this time next week.

Can I get an amen?!

How 'bout a hallelujah!?

How 'bout a whoo-hoo!?

Okay, for you Southerners out there, we'll take a yee-ha!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Names: To Change or Not to Change

The purpose of this post is to ask a question.

JD and I are on a quest to better understand the whys or why nots to keeping birth names for adoptive children or changing them.

If you or someone you know have adopted (whether you changed your children's names or not), would you weigh in for us? We'd love some wisdom around this. We've talked about it off and on, but are at a point where we'd like to start getting our heads around the pros and cons to both sides of the issue.


Moving on...

I think I mentioned in an earlier post that we went to our bank several weeks ago to get the money orders we needed to submit with our background check requests. We were appalled that our bank wanted to charge us about five bucks for a stinkin' money order when we could go down the street to a grocery or convenience store and snatch 'em up for 50 cents a pop. The bank teller said he understood that it's more expensive to get them there, but that they are refundable if something were to happen to them. Humph. We sauntered out of the bank and headed to a Food Lion and snatched up two for a buck.

Well, you know the rest...

The larger of the two money orders (of course!) somehow mysteriously disappeared. We thought we were out a hundred bucks because we didn't think it was refundable because we didn't get it from a bank. But alas, this isn't true!

I called Western Union yesterday (the money order was issued by them). Indeed the money order hasn't been cashed, so we can get a refund for it less a $15 processing fee (don't even get me started about processing fees. Seriously. What is the point?). So at least we can get $85 back of the $100 spent. So, the decision's been made. JD and I will request a refund (and wait 30 days for it...) on Monday and on Tuesday, we're headed back over to the county offices to be fingerprinted again and then to...hmm...will it be our bank or a grocery store?...get another money order. We'll run by our social worker's office to have the background check signed off on and then hand deliver the whole thing to the Office of Background Investigations and hopefully be done with this hang up. Prayerfully our social worker's request for expedition will be approved and we won't have to wait up to three weeks for it to come back (and for our home study to be complete). The home study being stalled holds up our ability to apply to the Abba Fund which holds up our ability to move to the next phase (the country phase) where we can finally know who our 'new kids' are!

Onward we move.

Friday, January 21, 2011


I'm learning that there's great value in waiting. It's especially helpful when I can be patient. After all, if one can't be patient (i.e. at peace) in the waiting then it's horrendous.

I met with a sweet friend on Wednesday morning and she had such wisdom around this truth. She was saying that as much as we can't see how our adoptive children having to wait can be good at all, there's benefit in the waiting because we, on this side of the adoption, are being prepared during the waiting. JD and I need preparation. Our kids need preparation. Our families need preparation. Our friends need preparation. We all need it so we can welcome these children with prepared hearts.

Omigoodness. Preparing our hearts and minds is so very, very crucial. So I'm feeling much peace in the waiting (at least at this very second -- talk to me tomorrow).

Another couple we've become friends with told us the story of their son's adoption. They were in-country and there was a glitch. They were told that he (the child) hadn't been on some kind of registry long enough to be adopted so he was one week shy of eligibility. They were there in the country where he was born so they were able to just sit tight for an extra week. But had it been that he wasn't going to be eligible for months or that they weren't physically there, the agency/social workers could've said, you're going to have to adopt a different child. They felt certain this was God's perfect timing because he was meant to be their son and if the timing had been off even a little, they may not have been able to adopt him.

I just trust God so much sometimes and yet my trust and faith in Him can be so pathetic at other times. Right now, we're easily trusting Him that He's got this and the time it takes this adoption to occur is the exact time required to adopt the children He's meant for our family. I mean, my gosh, perhaps our children aren't even up for adoption yet!

Will keep you posted on the mysteriously missing FBI background check. Do you think the FBI could figure out what happened to it? Grin.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


Okay, so we've heard a hundred times how 'things happen' in the adoption process. We've had people warn us to be prepared for unexpected setbacks. I guess today was our first...

I emailed our social worker to find out if there are any 'hanging chads' with our home study. Forms left incomplete? Something not signed? Something we're missing? She said everything looks great but she hadn't gotten back our FBI background check yet -- only our CPS (child protective services) background check. She said she had a call in to look into it.

She then calls me a couple of hours later and says our FBI background check is missing. Huh? It was sent out (by her) in the same envelope with our CPS stuff and somehow they have no record of it. Yet the CPS one is processed. She said the woman she spoke to has no idea what happened to it and asked that we complete it again. 'Complete it again' means we have to go back to Henrico County to be fingerprinted again (pay another $20) and get another money order (for 100!). What?! I'm dumbfounded.

I ask her if this is what people talk about with adoption? That things like this 'just happen'? Things just come up missing. Her answer? No, this is the first time this has ever happened to one of clients.


So we're out a hundred bucks and have to make the time to get fingerprinted again -- AND our home study will not be complete until this background check comes in. It could be weeks. She says she can request that it be expedited.

I know this is the beginning of a long road and we will likely have many, many hold ups, but for goodness sakes, already!? I can only imagine how complicated things can/will get when we're dealing with other countries, other languages, other governments, but good grief, this FBI check was to be processed right here in Virginia -- maybe even Richmond!?


Patience, Heather. Patience.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Plea for Positivity

Because I want to be honest, I'm just going to say it...

JD and I are struggling a bit.

Not with our decision to adopt, but with what our life will look like after we adopt. What Payton's, Avery's, Jackson's and Brooks' lives will look like. How our family will function. Will we have this 'normal' again? Will it ever be what we've come to know as 'normal' again? Will our adopting, and the presence of our adoptive children, change the reality of our lives and the reality of what the Beam Team is so much that we'll miss the days we're living right now? Will we have regrets?

Or will we look back with great gratitude and peace that it was all worth it?

Pretty much every pre-adoption training we've completed has been focused on the things we need to prepare for. As much as the trainings are difficult because of their boring (sorry) format, we are being educated on the potential trials that can truly exist with adopting children -- especially adopting children internationally because these are children who have been institutionalized most or all of their lives.

They will not know intimacy.

They will not know us.

They will not know America, American culture, American food, Americans.

They will not be comfortable.

They will not trust us.

They will not be at peace.

They will not be grateful for being here or being adopted.

They will not be joyful.

They will be terrified.

They will be grieving.

They will be hurting.

They will test us.

They will want to see how much we love them.

They will likely be developmentally delayed.

So, three things have happened in the last couple of weeks that have left JD and I...



The first thing is that we completed our pre-adoption trainings (whoo-hoo!). As much as completing many hours of training is something to celebrate (because this concludes our home study), these trainings have left us heavy. It feels like the last three ('Conspicuous Families', 'Attachment Issues' and 'Adopting the Older Child') were focused on the very real issues our adoptive children will have (developmental delays, emotional issues, grief, distrust, anger, etc).

The second thing is that we met with families who've already adopted older children. It is such a blessing to know families right here in Richmond who've journeyed down this road ahead of us. I can't tell you the support they've been and will continue to be in the future. But they've had to overcome a lot with their adoptive children over the years. Things like attachment issues, developmental delays, emotional issues, distrust. You get the drill.

The third thing is that an article in this month's 'Good Housekeeping' was brought to our attention and featured two adoptive families and the struggles they've gone through. Very real, rock-your-world, stuff for parents and families. (If you read it, let me know what you think).

Again, in the interest of honesty, I have to disclose that I think a large contributing factor to how we're feeling (aside from the three things I mentioned above) is that people who are very dear to us, immensely important to us, and just down right a huge part of our lives, have expressed great concern with our decision. We so want them on board. We could so use their support. Because we're scared too. Knowing that they're not comfortable with the direction in which our lives are headed naturally makes us pause. It's not approval we're seeking, we just don't want our adoption to create a void in our lives and we want our adoptive children to know them.

So the point of this post (aside from the fact that I want to announce that our home study is dooooone!), is to plea with you for prayer and positivity. Because we've definitely been enlightened with the possible negatives of adoption (as listed above), we could so benefit from any positive adoption stories one can share. We can so benefit from your prayers at this time.

Do you have a positive adoption story you can share with us? Do you know someone who does? Please share!

And good riddance pre-adoption trainings! Hello, dossier. And onward to meeting our kids! Now, that is something to get excited about!

Thanks, sweet friends!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Staying Public!

Just a quick update.

We're so close to completing our home study it's thrilling. It's these trainings that are holding us up. And with all of us being sick this last week (a first: all six of us marched into Patient First at 5:45 PM on Tuesday and walked out with $80 of antibiotics!) and school resuming, JD and I just haven't had the energy to sit down for a two-hour training after we've gotten the kids in bed. Needless to say, we only have about six hours left to complete, but we haven't done one since last weekend.


Of the trainings that we did do, they were approved as completed and the certificates of completion were received by both our social workers! Our background checks were sent in and are in process. Three of our five references have come in, so our references are complete (the home study only requires three of the five requested). And I dropped off the copies of our physicals to our social worker on Monday! Once we complete these trainings (maybe we can knock most of it out this weekend?), then our home study will be D-O-N-E! I can't believe it.

Then we're really going to be moving closer toward identifying which children are going to join our family. That's truly exciting. To picture their faces. To peer into their eyes. I know I will study every inch of them that's visible in the photos. Like the light on a scanner as it scans across a document will be my eyes on those photos! I can't wait! Then the true love affair will begin!

And...I've been meaning to update you on the public vs. private dilemma. After much discussion and consideration, JD and I have decided to keep this blog public. I feel blogs (and other media outlets) can be a modern day mountain top to shout God's praises and to be a voice to what He's doing in lives. May this blog be a voice to what He's doing in the lives of two orphans through this little Beam Team. What a breath of fresh air it is to use the internet for good. If it weren't for the many positive uses of the internet, it would only be used by the enemy to spread evil and negativity. We're choosing to use it for good.

At the time that I was wrestling with this issue, this was posted and it was the confirmation I needed to say, 'If you wish, Lord, may this blog be a mountaintop.' Therefore, we are trusting God to hold us in the palm of His hand so 'Beam Team Inc' (or BTI, as we've often called it) can be a voice for orphans.

Thank you to all of you who have been so encouraging and supportive of our decision to adopt. We can't thank you enough. Truly. Your comments are what assure us that we're not completely off our rockers! :)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

'Change of Plans'

This Saturday night there's a movie being aired on Fox that would make for a great family movie night feature film! We'll be curled up on the couch with our gigantic bowl of popcorn.

Sorry, yet again, I can't figure out how to embed video! Have mercy!

Click here to view the trailer.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Possibly the true catalyst to JD and I adopting...

I've wrestled over this post a great deal. I've decided I should write it and then decided that I shouldn't. In my mind, I've written lines in it and then erased the whole idea altogether. Clearly, I've decided to share. For a couple of reasons.

1. Because sometimes we need to be transparent.

2. Because sometimes we have to step out and speak up even if it might be questioned by or thought of as weird by others.

3. Because sometimes I just feel very convicted that God wants me to share.

In this case I haven't shared because of this:

Matthew 6:16-18 (NIV) says:

“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."

In other words, I've always been taught that this verse is saying that we're not to talk about the fact that we're fasting. We're not to draw attention to ourselves ('put oil on your head and wash your face' is the equivalent today to us showering and looking well-kept). We're to keep it between us and God (a secret between us and a God who is unseen, so no one will know but us and Him). I think there's huge value in this. It cuts down on the glory we sometimes seek for ourselves. The times when we do things 'Christianly' and hope others will notice.

But what about the times when we do things that, yes, are 'Christianly' but are truly of a heart led by the Holy Spirit? What then?

Several years ago, I was walking out of church one Sunday and bumped into a young mom like myself (I was a young mom back then!). I knew her a little and knew that she and her husband were considering making a cross-country move back to their home state to be closer to family. When I asked how they were doing with everything, she answered non-chalantly that she and her husband had been fasting over the decision. Inwardly, I cringed thinking, 'She told me! You don't talk about the fact that you're fasting!' But then I quickly thought, 'They are fasting? They, a young couple, are sacrificing their wills before the Lord to follow His will? That's awesome.'

I was inspired by her non-chalant comment.

I was encouraged.

I was moved to remember this 60-second conversation some seven years later!

My point is that sometimes we can apply scripture so literally that we don't even allow the Lord to use us as living sacrifices and therefore allow Him to possibly speak to others through us. So that brings me to the reason for this post.

Last December (2009), I saw a brief blurb on TV about a corporate fast starting in January 2010. I was intrigued. I remembered the person's name and looked him up on the web. I was intrigued even more. I mentioned it to JD and he too was intrigued. We decided to give it a try.

It was powerful.

I have never embarked into a year ahead with more enthusiasm and assuredness that God was going to do a mighty work in our lives during that coming year.

I had a little something brewing that I was convinced God was going to burst wide open in 2010.

I felt that maybe God was going to move JD professionally.

I truly felt like the sky was the limit. In fact, I chose the background of this blog (a wide open road to blue skies and green pastures) because right when I saw this image it conjured up what I always envision when I think of my future with God and the bright tomorrow that He offers me.

Never did I think in my wildest dreams that God was going to direct our lives to adoption. It truly wasn't on the radar. Our boys just started preschool this fall! If you think I was looking for ways to tie myself down or commit myself to more, I would've told you you were cra-zy. I was counting the days to have three mornings each week to just little ole me (for the first time in eight years!). Increasing our family size, therefore increasing my responsibilities as a mother, was truly probably at the bottom of my list of goals. If it even made the list!

I joked with God from the very beginning of 2010 that I just knew that whatever it was that He was going to reveal would be in 2010's 11th hour. You see, I have an issue with patience. So I felt certain that He was assuring me that something big was going to happen, but I was going to have to wait, wait, wait. To me, November 2010 just stuck out in my mind.

What was it? Our 'D-Day'? October 15th. God is a good God. He spared me a couple of weeks of waiting. :)

But really, I mean could He have given us a direction anymore likely to test my patience than adoption? Wow. I mean, this is a true test in patience. Everything takes twice as long as you intend it to take. And we're only in the initial stages.

I think another reason why God's been nudging me to write this post this very day, is that this fast is just around the corner. Monday, January 9th. JD and I are pumped. We can't find a reason in the world not to participate every single year that God has us on this planet. The clarity, the joy, the closeness, the peace, the assuredness. Who doesn't want that?

You have six days to talk to God about it. Check out the website. See if this is something He might be leading you towards. I promise, you won't regret if you decide to trust Him to carry You through it.

I'm curious if God invites any of you to bite. Let me know, will you?

David Platt on CNN. Gotta Love That!

Gotta love it when messages like this make it to mainstream media.

Editor’s Note: David Platt, Ph.D., is the author of the New York Times bestsellerRadical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream and is senior pastor of the 4,000-member Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama.

By David Platt, Special to CNN

We American Christians have a way of taking the Jesus of the Bible and twisting him into a version of Jesus that we are more comfortable with.

A nice middle-class American Jesus. A Jesus who doesn’t mind materialism and would never call us to give away everything we have. A Jesus who is fine with nominal devotion that does not infringe on our comforts.

A Jesus who wants us to be balanced, who wants us to avoid dangerous extremes, and who for that matter wants us to avoid danger altogether. A Jesus who brings comfort and prosperity to us as we live out our Christian spin on the American Dream.

But lately I’ve begun to have hope that the situation is changing.

The 20th-century historian who coined the term “American Dream,” James Truslow Adams, defined it as “a dream… in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are.”

But many of us are realizing that Jesus has different priorities. Instead of congratulating us on our self-fulfillment, he confronts us with our inability to accomplish anything of value apart from God. Instead of wanting us to be recognized by others, he beckons us to die to ourselves and seek above all the glory of God.

In my own faith family, the Church at Brook Hills, we have tried to get out from under the American Dream mindset and start living and serving differently.

Like many other large American churches, we had a multimillion-dollar campus and plans to make it even larger to house programs that would cater to our own desires. But then we started looking at the world we live in.

It’s a world where 26,000 children die every day of starvation or a preventable disease. A world where billions live in situations of such grinding poverty that an American middle-class neighborhood looks like Beverly Hills by comparison. A world where more than a billion people have never even heard the name Jesus. So we asked ourselves, “What are we spending our time and money on that is less important than meeting these needs?” And that’s when things started to change.

First we gave away our entire surplus fund - $500,000 - through partnerships with churches in India, where 41 percent of the world’s poor live. Then we trimmed another $1.5 million from our budget and used the savings to build wells, improve education, provide medical care and share the gospel in impoverished places around the world. Literally hundreds of church members have gone overseas temporarily or permanently to serve in such places.

And it’s not just distant needs we’re trying to meet. It’s also needs near at hand.

One day I called up the Department of Human Resources in Shelby County, Alabama, where our church is located, and asked, “How many families would you need in order to take care of all the foster and adoption needs that we have in our county?”

The woman I was talking to laughed.

I said, “No, really, if a miracle were to take place, how many families would be sufficient to cover all the different needs you have?”

She replied, “It would be a miracle if we had 150 more families.”

When I shared this conversation with our church, over 160 families signed up to help with foster care and adoption. We don’t want even one child in our county to be without a loving home. It’s not the way of the American Dream. It doesn’t add to our comfort, prosperity, or ease. But we are discovering the indescribable joy of sacrificial love for others, and along the way we are learning more about the inexpressible wonder of God’s sacrificial love for us.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love my country and I couldn’t be more grateful for its hard-won freedoms. The challenge before we American Christians, as I see it, is to use the freedoms, resources, and opportunities at our disposal while making sure not to embrace values and assumptions that contradict what God has said in the Bible.

I believe God has a dream for people today. It’s just not the same as the American Dream.

I believe God is saying to us that real success is found in radical sacrifice. That ultimate satisfaction is found not in making much of ourselves but in making much of him. That the purpose of our lives transcends the country and culture in which we live. That meaning is found in community, not individualism. That joy is found in generosity, not materialism. And that Jesus is a reward worth risking everything for.

Indeed, the gospel compels us to live for the glory of God in a world of urgent spiritual and physical need, and this is a dream worth giving our lives to pursue.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of David Platt.

(I highlighted the last comment in red. Fascinating).

Sunday, January 2, 2011

New Year for Us. A New Life for Them.

Omigosh, did we need this break from the pace of life. The last two weeks have been beyond wonderful because our to-do list consisted of just two things: nothingness and togetherness. Are these two things synonymous?

For the first time in years, we ventured to the lake to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas morning at my parents' house. There was the traditional Christmas Eve dinner (er, feast) that we have often attended but then gone home afterward to have Christmas morning at home. The kids are getting a little older now and had started asking why we didn't just stay and have Christmas morning at Gramma and Papa's. Good question. Hmm...I think JD and I were holding onto the 'have Christmas at home' homage when we discovered after a little self-examination that perhaps we were clinging to that just because that's what we felt was the 'right' thing to do. For us, this seemed like a negotiable, not a non-negotiable. So off we went.

Our intention was to leave on Monday. Monday came and went. Tuesday came and went. Wednesday came and went. Our staying took on a life of it's own. It was glorious. We had nothing that we had to return home for. Do you know how rare that is for us? Do you know how good it felt? We lamented that this may never happen again. All the factors that led to our not wanting to leave: it snowed (!); JD was off all week; my parents were off all week; and then...the germs set in! Once one sniffle or sneeze or cough was heard, it was all we needed to throw in the towel (yet again and again) and claim that so-and-so was too under the weather to make the trek (ahem, 45 minute drive!) home.

It was glorious.

I read an entire novel (this truly is my idea of vacation and oh, how I recommend this book!). JD had Life, Clue (from the Family Game Night game) and bowling tournaments on the Wii with the children. We watched movie after movie. Did I mention that we ate ourselves silly? I mean, sil-ly. I can't remember the last time I didn't leave the house for five days (without being snowed in or unable to leave). I barely showered every day. I didn't put on a lick of make-up. I don't know about you other ladies out there, but sometimes I just need a break! :) I tell ya, I don't know if God's trying to make in me a new-new creation, but this homebodiness is outa control. Nonetheless, our Christmas week was a true treat. As one friend put it when I relayed it to her, 'It sounds like you were truly living in the moment.' She couldn't have hit the nail more squarely on the head.

Here are some of those moments.

I cannot tell you how obsessed with this train Brooks was. The fact that it is the Polar Express complete with the bell from Santa is very cool. With the push of a button, Tom Hanks hollers 'Alll aboooard!' just like in the movie. It was such a hit!

What a cutie. Isn't it awesome how boys get down low to study how the wheels turn on cars, trucks and trains? Precious.

(Boy, putting photos on here is not as easy as I'd expected. I need a Blogging 101 class!)

Eventually, I had to set the timer on my watch in 5-minute intervals so Jackson could have a turn driving the train. Boys. I never set a timer with our girls. :)

Check out this prince. O-my-goodness. We could have our work cut out for us with this Casanova (flared toes and all).

Payton was thrilled to play Christmas carols on the piano for the second year. So sweet. She really practiced a lot.
And then on Christmas morning, she was truly surprised to see what Santa left in her stocking!

And I am surprised that this day has arrived so fast. I feel like adolescence is snickering at me from just around the corner.

And then there's our Little A. She remains 'little.' Thank God. I'll cherish these few years left before she too starts to turn the corner toward adolescence. (When Payton got her iPod, Avery said, but thankfully didn't persist, 'I want an iPod!' Yeh, I don't think so).

At the top of her Christmas list was a My Size Rapunzel doll. Still into princesses. Ahhhh. Thank God again.
And then she put her craftiness to use by creating herself a mermaid tail with her 'Bebe' (her most cherished item, her baby blanket). She really is still little. Loving her 'Ariel moments' and still sleeping with Bebe.
All in all, I can't think of a better way to end 2010 (even with all our coughs, sniffles, sneezes and fevers). I so look forward to what 2011 holds for our family. This thought recurred in my mind all throughout the holidays this year, 'Could our family really be a family of eight for Christmas next year? Could our two other children who we don't even know yet be part of our family by this time next year?' 2011 may be a new year for us, but it could be a new life for them. A new life.

JD and I have been battling through the adoption trainings that we have to complete (15 hours of them!). They're on-line so we have to sit in front of the laptop together. But that's not the painful part. We were directed to a company that creates adoption training (and paid them a decent penny to access the trainings) and they're ar-cha-ic. It's bizarre. We are literally watching Powerpoint presentations, reading each slide and having to click after each slide to advance to the next one. I don't want to sound whiny and spoiled, but it shocks me in a time where any Joe Blow can put a video on Youtube and everything nowadays is video-driven. That these trainings are not videos leaves me rather stumped. Talk about missing the boat on helping to inspire and motivate adoptive parents. However, thankfully we are persevering and have completed half of them. Whoo-hoo! Hopefully, we'll have our home study complete by the end of the month. Then we're on to dealing with immigration stuff.

We recently watched a documentary called 'The Lost Girls of China' and that was eye-opening to the plight of little girls there. I think God may be opening our hearts to the idea of adopting two children who are not biologically related, but are siblings in that they are growing up together in an orphanage. Again, I'm trying very hard not to drive this -- I'm finding myself uncomfortable in the backseat.

Speaking of backseat, I emailed with a new friend (a mother of three biological children who is getting ready to adopt two children too) on this very topic. I am so thankful that she shared this wise perspective with me a few weeks ago. She said:

Hi Heather! I totally get your enthusiasm to 'make it happen'. Our best efforts are in the Lord's hand. Sometimes that driving lends to moving the train and sometimes not...He is good to help us stay in the back seat and buckle up for the ride! I think the dossier process will give you LOTS to sink your nails into...whew! It has been growing my trust in the Lord and HIS timing b/c each day our boys wait there I can't make sense of it, but pray the Lord meets them. I'm learning He's doing things in the process too that if I don't stay pressed in, I miss out on.

Here's what God instantly brought forth in my mind (I love it!):
Ahhh...boy, did I need your email. Knowing you and being able to hear from someone who's truly been where we are (in the very recent past), is so very helpful. And the fact that both our families are welcoming two children is special to me. What a wonderful adventure. Your backseat image with God in the driver's seat brought the sweetest memory to my mind and one that I'll be clinging to for months to come, I'm sure. It's the memory of those times when as a child I'd be riding in the backseat of the car headed home from somewhere. It could've been a vacation far from home or just an evening at friends', but I remember so many times my drowsy eyes wanting to close and slowly lying across the backseat in the darkness. I could see the flash of headlights whizzing by and hear the hum of the car's engine. I would drift off in complete peace that my mom or dad would get me home safely. And (praise God) I always awoke to one of my parents sliding me out of the backseat and carrying me into the house and tucking me into bed. That sweet, safe, secure feeling I just felt when I remembered those times is the feeling I need to embrace on this journey. The unknown may feel dark and mysterious, but, just like an innocent child trusts her Earthly parents, I can trust God to get us to our destination safely. Thanks for the reminder!
What a sweet and gentle God that He brings forth these little reminders of His sovereignty.

May your 2011 be full of nothingness and togetherness. :)


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