what happened before the phone rang

"I must not, like the quietists, reduce all religion to a denial of any specific action, despising all other means, since what makes perfection is God's order, and the means he ordains is best for the soul. No, we must set no bounds or limits or shape to the will of God.

We must accept any way he chooses to communicate with us and respect any way it pleases him to unite himself to others. Thus, all simple souls have but one general way, though specific and different in each one, which makes up the diversity of the mystical experience. All simple souls must admire and respect one another, saying: 'Let us proceed each one along our path to the same great goal, united in purpose and by means of God's order which, in its great variety, is in us all.' It is in this light that the lives of the saints and the spiritual books must be read, without ever being misled and going astray."

................................................................................... Jean-Pierre de Caussade (1675-1751)

This is what I was reading last night before the phone rang. I'm not sure I agree with everything Caussade wrote in this piece, but this particular quote struck me like a bolt.

Basically, Caussade is saying that we can't put a leash on God. The Father doesn't operate with a tight formula that we can predict or control. Instead, He uniquely ordains the lessons of every single life, tweaking His actions to fit the sovereign goodness of His mysterious but perfect will.

That was incredibly significant to me when I read it. At that moment, we had two hours left before we needed to make a decision about our flights to China. After months of agonizing about how that trip should happen, we were simply out of time. It was really starting to look like another opportunity to embrace the mysterious goodness of a God I can't control. I sighed as I read, digging through my spiritual stash, looking for another dose of trust. This was going to be tough.

Those of you who have been keeping up with this blog know how long I have felt like the kids needed to go. JD has had a heart for adoption since he was very small – maybe seven years old. When he first heard about the plight of orphans overseas, he started saving his money in a jar, asking if it would be enough to pay for bringing a brother home. Last summer, he was the one praying every night for Moses -- before we even knew boys in China were available for adoption. He is a kid who doesn’t ever seem to ‘want’ a lot. He is happy wearing quirky shirts from second hand shops, and he rarely asks for new gadgets. But he has wanted to be there with Moses more than any want I’ve ever seen in him.

Clara has been giddy for months, thinking about reading to her little brother and making him cookies. Also, she has been reading missionary biographies since she was little, so her desire to travel is strong.

Aside from all this, over the past few weeks we have been invited to connect with several orphan help programs during our adoption trip. The kids have been trying to hunt down medical supplies, and I really wanted them to have the chance to deliver those. I feel like if they could just see what is happening there, they will never be the same.

But despite all of this, it seemed like taking the family just wasn't going to work. When our CA arrived yesterday, Bobby came home to sort through numbers with me. Once again (for the 42nd time?) I felt myself handing these desires back to the Lord. It seemed like He must just have other plans, and that we would need to rest in those.

As the inevitable disappointment rose, I tried to grab onto something I had found in the Psalms yesterday morning. God didn't speak to me in a voice that I could hear, but I did keep running into one main concept as I read. "TRUST ME." It just felt like it was something I was supposed to embrace specifically for the day.

Trust comes hard for a driven, self-reliant person like me. I'm more comfortable with my own hands on the wheel, working hard, and finding a solution. But the situation was looking pretty hopeless as far as my own resources go. I thought it must be one of those times when I was going to have to learn to trust "despite." Those times are hard, but God works in them. I tried to steel myself.

When the adoption travel agent called, she warned us that flights were moving fast because a lot of students were returning home the week we were leaving. She found us a great deal on tickets, but we only had two hours to lock into those prices.

We pushed our dinner plates aside, got out a notebook, and wrestled with more numbers. No matter how we pushed them around, it wouldn't work. So, we walked out into the garden and looked for ripe zucchini, just praying and trying to clear our minds. We tried to sift through motives and temptations that might be influencing us either way, but in the end, we still weren't sure what to do. So, we came back to the kitchen table and prayed some more. We just needed clear direction so we could obey.

The phone rang, and it was a dear man we know from Singapore. He told us that God had put Moses on his (and his wife's) heart, and that he was sending more than enough funding for the kids AND me to go on the 'gotcha' trip.

Several days ago, I had established a private, bare minimum amount that I was secretly praying for God to provide. That prayer number wasn't large enough to cover our trip in full, but it was all I could find the courage to pray for. Still, it seemed too much to expect. However, what this couple was offering was double that amount. DOUBLE.

I want to be very careful as I write this post. Caussade's words remind us about the dangers of trying to turn God into some sort of vending machine. Many Bible teachers promise Result X if you perform Spiritual Action Y. Like pagans sacrificing to a carved deity, we look for sacrifices strong enough to steer our fate. We try to keep God two-dimensional and limited by easy answers, so that we can control Him. And we idolize teachers who promise the ease we crave.

But sometimes His plans differ from ours, and we don't understand why. In those times we are stripped of any sense of control, and we may find ourselves searching for meaning in circumstances that seems suffocating and pointless. We can start to wonder if maybe God doesn't love us as much as someone else, or if He isn't really there after all. It can be lonely and frightening when the mystery of God is more evident than His miracles. Like C.S. Lewis says, He is good, but He isn't always safe.

But as Caussade writes: "[t]he means He ordains is best for the soul. No, we must set no bounds or limits or shape to the will of God." We must trust Him in the dark. And we must trust Him in the light.

For some reason last night, it was in His perfect plan to give us a taste of His lavish, tangible abundance. I don't know why. I am humbled beyond words, and I am absolutely overwhelmed with gratitude.

Thank you for praying with us over the past few months. You have groaned and petitioned with us, and we are so grateful.



We just got our consulate appointment! We will be leaving the 14th!!!

Now, we just need prayers for cheap plane tickets and hotel bargains.


still waiting.

Well, we are still waiting for that consulate appointment. It’s tough to be so close and yet so far away. It could also be a little scary, if I let it go there. A long list of "what if's" is knocking on my door tonight. I feel like we've rationed out our courage and energy to run a marathon, and now we have to run a few more miles at the very end.

I've had a headache most of the day, just from being worn out. There are so many decisions to make about travel, but they are all on hold until we know something definite. If we knew when we were leaving, we could make alternate summer plans, but we have to keep the schedule open. It's like holding your breath for days.

HOWEVER, it hit me tonight that maybe this wait is good practice for parenting a child who has been institutionalized for most of his life? There are likely to be many issues down the road where I want results quickly. But a toddler who has never lived in a home before is not going to just adjust at the snap of my fingers because I am exhausted and ready for him to "shape up." Realistically, we will probably face challenges that are a lot more exhausting than this awful wait.

So, I'm trying to pray tonight that God will use this time to discipline and strengthen my heart, and that He will teach me patience and trust. Maybe He will use this time to help me grow in emotional fortitude before our son gets here, so that I'm more patient when the real challenges arise? After all he's been through, Moses needs a mother who is steady and calm.

It's awfully hard, though. I'm not going to lie. I think it's the hardest thing so far.

Hugs to everyone waiting and loving Moses with us. Maybe we will know something tomorrow. And until we do know more of what's in store, the Lord does. I'm so glad He has a plan, even if I don't understand it.


packing list

Our official TA arrived Friday, and we have been assigned to travel group 1596. Another family from that travel group is leaving on July 7th, which is NINE days from today. NINE. DAYS!!!!!

We won't know until today or tomorrow whether our consulate appointment will allow us to leave the seventh, or whether we will get bumped back another week.

This weekend I rummaged through several suggested packing lists. I never would have thought that some of these supplies were necessary, so I'm thankful that other parents who have "been there, done that" took the time to help the rest of us. Still, I'm nervous. I've heard that there's nothing like walking into a Chinese Wal-Mart desperately needing "Product X", and finding that every sign is in another language, and that most of the products are foreign. How do you prepare for a plethora of possible needs, in luggage under 45 pounds?

I can already tell that this adventure will make me more compassionate to visiting internationals and to people who are illiterate. Being able to read/speak the language of those around you is such a massive blessing.

We still don't know who will travel. I feel like I have been in almost constant prayer for months about this, but it remains incredibly difficult to know how to make this decision. We really need the Lord to show us what would bring Him the most glory.

One of my favorite Bible verses is Psalm 16:6.

The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance.

Over and again in my life, God has used this verse to show me that His limitations are trustworthy. And I know that this will prove true again. But where should we place our feet? I still don't know. Do we follow the pulling of our heart in faith? Or do follow the pulling of our minds in stewardship? What does obedience look like in this situation?

Yesterday Bobby and I wrestled with some numbers and decided again that he would go alone. Honestly, I was sad, but I tried to choose contentment because of Psalm 16:6. The Lord has just revealed Himself too many times throughout this process for me to doubt Him now.

When I woke up this morning, though, I felt restless. I'm still not sure we found the right solution. It's just a very confusing time.

We have been offered a place to stay in one private orphanage in Beijing, and we have been invited to visit another. I really want our birth kids to see these places, so that the needs there can simmer inside them. American teenagers can become so self-absorbed. I want my kids to understand the magnitude of the world's needs and feel personally connected to them.

Another confusing factor... our growing hearts for Asia. It's the strangest thing. Lately when I run into people with Asian faces, I feel an ache in my chest. I want to know them. I want to spend time with them. It's hard to describe. I feel the same way about Asian art and music. It's sort of like there is a little string sewn into the edge of my heart, and it's just pulling me toward something. It's almost like the feeling you get when you see something really beautiful and you want to go touch it. Or like that sadness you feel when you've lost something you've loved.

I don't know if that's a calling or not. I don't know what it means about our lives or this trip. I do have a strong imagination, and I don't want to assign feelings to God that are originating in my mind. (I have done that in the past.) But I can't seem to shake it, either. And I think that part of the reason I want to take the kids is to test those waters. What does it 'feel like' to parent three kids in Asia for a few days? How does that resonate with the ache inside me? What do WE look like THERE?

Prayers for wisdom would be really great. If my pediatric books sell, we would go. And it would be reasonable to hear back from the hospital this week. Or, if God wants us to just step out in faith, we are willing to do that, too. But we'd just like some sort of confirmation that this is a move of faith and not a move of self-determination. One of my biggest fears is the temptation of masking my own desires with God's name. I want to follow Him, not use Him to get my own wants met. So thanks for praying that we would be humble, honest, obedient, and protected from temptation.

Despite all of this confusion, I want to take time to simply be thankful. Our son will be home soon. We will be able to show him a blue sky for the first time in his life. He will see grassy fields where he can run. We will go to the library and learn about the big world waiting for him. He will snuggle up for a bedtime story and evening prayers. He will be in a room full of people singing God's praise for the first time in his life. I'm absolutely overwhelmed with gratitude for that. We love you, Moses!!


Father. Refuge.

Psalm 118:17

I shall not die, but I shall live,
and recount the deeds of the LORD.

This week marks a year since my dad's heart surgery. Dad and I are close, so that was a frightening, awful time for me.

Our next couple of weeks are pretty scary, too. Although we are super excited, this is new territory; and my notebook full of ballpoint lists doesn't begin to cover the unknowns ahead.

Over and again through Scripture, we can watch God's people recounting His faithfulness during frightening times. Somehow, rehearsing God's loving care through past darkness is a catechism of hope for the future. These are our memorial stones in the Jordan River. (Joshua 4)

So today, I'm posting something I wrote privately a year ago about my Dad - and about the Father who walks into fearful times with us.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

"Father. Refuge."

Pastors and priests casually toss those two terms together and expect us to swallow. Yet reality, for many souls, forces them apart.

Too often, “father” equals ignored, criticized, hit, avoided, abused, abandoned, or deceived. Young trust must learn quickly that “father” is an unsafe place. It must learn that male strength violates tenderness. For these children, fatherhood is a force that destroys.

I’m not sure how kids survive that. It is a wound I’ve never known.

When I was a little girl, Dad would hold me in his lap in the mornings while I woke up. He would listen to my fears and my loves. He would take me on long walks when I needed to cry or vent. He read books to me, and he taught me how to pray. He taught me how to change the oil, and how to skin a squirrel, and the importance of world history. He helped me love words, trees, birds, and things growing from the earth. He taught me how to compete with men and how to respect them. He encouraged me to try sports that would make me physically strong. He loved learning, and pursued it. He helped me see humor in the world. He believed in the worth of femininity and also in the power of it. He brought mom wildflowers he found in the woods.

Dad smoked once a year - a cigar on the Fourth of July to light the fireworks. As a teenager, this was significant to me. He was tough enough to smoke if he wanted to, but he also had the self control not to go there. I learned from that.

Dad turned sixty this past May. He looks fifty, maybe. He is still athletic, strong, active, slim. I have always expected him to live a very long life. He had the genetics. He has the lifestyle. I felt like he would be there almost forever.

‘Refuge fatherhood’ has pulsed steadily through my life like a heartbeat. It is my constant, my music of the spheres. It is unshakable. It is trustworthy.

Last week, I sat in a hospital lobby, while my dad’s heart was stopped and his lungs were collapsed. His mitral valve went bad, and the surgeon was going to try to fix it.

Before he went into surgery, I put my head to his chest. My knowledge of cardiology is limited, but this heartbeat sounded like someone was squeezing water out of a Nerf football. There wasn’t a “thump thump” to it. It was more “thump squish.” The nurses said it was one of the worst they’d ever heard.

And so I watched him leave me. He was peaceful - content to be going wherever his Father led. I sat waiting in an uncomfortable chair under flickering fluorescent lights while the heartbeat that had supported most of my life stopped.

In that silence, Father Refuge came. He listened to my fears. He took me on a walk when I needed to cry. He helped me read books, and pray, and do some practical things. He was tender with my stumblings, and He held me in His lap while I woke to the reality of this new stage of my life.

When Dad came out of surgery, he was intubated. The throat tube was out by the time I went back to ICU, but about twenty other drip tubes were coming from his neck, arms, and chest. I’m one of those people who can’t pull a child’s tooth, because it makes me woozy. But Father Refuge helped me approach my Dad, sit with him, and help him do breathing treatments. He helped me hold his big feet in my lap and rub them to improve his circulation. These are things I cannot do... could not do. Nausea. Drugged confusion. Pain that’s twelve on a ten scale. Monitors. Tubes. With each new challenge, my fingers being pried, one at a time from reliance upon an earthly core. And yet, Father Refuge was strong, and tender, and present when imago Dei could not stand. I'm so thankful for an earthly Dad who taught me how to recognize Him.

There’s a C.S. Lewis quote I can’t find. It talks about how losing your parents is like losing points on the horizon that have grounded your view of the world. I felt that this week, that sensation of falling without harness or light. But Father Refuge met me there. He met me there like he has - like HE has - ever since I was born. It is not a lesson that I am strong enough to have chosen. But Father Refuge knows how to lead our hearts through fearful times into deeper communion with Him.

O Lord of Grace
The world is before me this day,
And I am weak and fearful,
But I look to thee for strength;
If I venture forth alone I stumble and fall,
But on the Beloved’s arms I am firm
As the eternal hills.

(From Valley of Vision: God All-Sufficient)


Beautiful Love

Information is limited when you are adopting internationally, so most adoptive parents spend time Googling, trying to find photos of their child that other parents have taken. It had been a while since I had done this, so yesterday I went on a hunt.

The photos I found were moving. Apparently Moses' facility has changed, and he now has a playground and some toys. It was SO good to see his smiling face playing outside.

My favorite photo, however, showed him sitting on a bed with his arm around another little boy in his orphanage. It looks like his friend (the boy in the red shirt) has Down's Syndrome.

There are several reasons why this photo means so much to me. First, I love the ease of his affection. There is quite a bit of emotional damage that can happen in group care. Children often suffer physiological damage from a lack of physical touch. They don't want to be touched or held as a result, and they tense up whenever human contact is made. So, to see him just sitting there, casually loving his buddy makes me want to shout! Another prayer answered!!

Secondly, I love how Moses has been exposed to love without prejudice. As I searched, I found photos of a child living in his facility who was disfigured grotesquely by burns. There are kids who are crippled. And there are kids like the child in this photo who have extra mental challenges.

Living in my comfortable, American home, Moses would have been distanced from these children. He might have learned to flinch when exposed to deformity and need, because those things just aren't a part of my daily life. But because of the past God has given him, Moses has already been taught to accept and love people where they are. He's learned to move into broken lives, and put his arm around his brother. I'm so thankful for that.

I'm praying that God will preserve this trait in his heart. And I'm praying that it will rub off on the rest of us as well.



We finally received a call today saying that our TA was on it's way from China!! Wooohooo!

Most likely we will be traveling either July 7 or July 14, depending on when the Consulate can squeeze us in for an appointment.

Also, I just happened to stumble into a new photo of Moses on someone else's blog. I thought I'd share. Isn't he a cutie patootey??

Time to start seriously praying for flights!!


oh boy.

Summary of our crazy week so far:

- Still no TA. We heard the consulate appointments were backed up for FOUR WEEKS. This would mean waiting an extra month to get Moses.

-Toilet seal went bad and started leaking water into the basement. Repair man says he can't come until Monday.

-Loaned our old truck out for use on a mission trip project. It couldn't handle the heavy stuff and died.

-Modem quit working. We are jimmy-rigging internet until Friday.

-Printer/scanner (that we need to send adoption papers) quit working properly. Jimmy-rigging that, too.

-Flat tire on Bobby's car.

-Mechanical problems with the van. It's in the shop today.

-Flight costs went back up. Is that temporary??

Thank goodness a dear friend (and experienced adoptive mom) called last night. She was able to help me refocus on what to do next.

Our conversation was actually sort of funny, because as I was listening to her, I started to feel relaxed for the first time in days. I guess I've been living with a lot of underlying tension, waiting for the phone to ring. I've spent HOURS on the phone with various tech support people this week. And also, I've been calling all around the US and scavenging message boards trying to get information about why TA's have suddenly slowed down. This last stretch can just be a tense, uncertain time.

Hearing her talk reminded me that it was eventually going to be OK. I didn't realize I was so worn out until then, and I nearly fell asleep on the phone! It was such a comforting feeling to know someone understood and had made it to the other side of this.

What a gift friends are! And thank You, God, for perfect timing.


adoption is too hard (part 2)

Yesterday I wrote about some of the common physical barriers to adoption. Today I’d like to write about common emotional and spiritual barriers families face.

When we first began to pursue adoption, resistance from the Christian community was the very last thing I expected. Every Christian has been adopted by God, so our obedience to this pattern of love seemed like an obvious default. Also, Scripture is quite clear that we are supposed to care for widows and orphans.

A few months into our process, however, I was baffled to hear Christian leaders voicing strong warnings. And I was even more disturbed to learn that there are Christian groups who target parents considering adoption and try to discourage them from it. Those murmurings were confirmed the night I spent an hour on the phone, listening to an older spiritual leader trying to help me understand how dangerous adoption could be.

My husband is a pastor, and occasionally we will encounter quirky criticisms wrapped in theological-sounding packages. So, I was able to hang up the phone and think, “Wow. That poor guy just doesn't get it.” However, I can’t imagine how intimidating this sort of conversation would have been to a young Christian, or to someone who is easily discouraged from a challenge. That's why I'm writing this post today. If you've faced these criticisms while considering adoption, I want you to know you aren't alone. And I'd like to walk through the discouragement and harshness of this resistance with you.

This note will be split into two parts. First, I’d like to address some potentially-legitimate concerns that are being discussed in the Christian community. These are questions that a family might want to consider before pursuing an adoption. Secondly, I'd like to address some unhealthy teaching about adoption that I have encountered as we have pursued our son.

If you have already adopted, you may recognize some of the questions I list in the first section from your home study. A ‘home study’ is a long and involved process that is required for domestic and international adoption. During this study, the family dynamic is evaluated extensively to explore whether the adoptive dynamic will be a good fit. Home study-type questions can be used for healthy evaluation, exposing problem areas before a needy child enters the scene. They can also be used poorly, to intimidate and discourage unnecessarily.

When you are in the middle of an emotionally-challenging process like adoption, it can be really hard to tell if advice is good or bad. Most parents are scared and overwhelmed, and they don't want to make a life-long mistake. So, what should parents do with their doubts and the solutions they are offered for them?

As we have moved through our adoption, one helpful method of discerning the difference between helpful and unhelpful adoption advice has been listening for the tone in which questions are presented. It’s one thing for a friend, pastor, or social worker to lovingly bring potential issues to the light so that families can explore them prayerfully and responsibly. It is another thing if someone speaks to you in hushed, negative tones with feigned authority. Do they make you feel ashamed or foolish? Are you picking up an underlying tone of suspicion and fear? If so, the speaker’s motive might be persuasion instead of truth.

Listed below are a few common questions that might arise in your home study. It would be wise to think and pray through them. But you don’t have to feel shame or fear as you sort through them. Just be honest in prayer with each one, and God will move your heart and show you what to do.


1. Is the parent entering adoption as a consumer or as a giver? Is the parent attempting to ‘buy/use’ a child like a ‘product’ to fulfill some sort of selfish desire?

2. Is the adoption ‘plan-B’ for a couple who would really prefer a biological child? Will the parents be carrying deep disappointment into the adoption?

3. Is the parent pursuing a ‘prestige-centered’ or a flesh-centered ideal? Is he/she trying to gain public admiration by doing something expensive or difficult?

4. Is the parent pursuing adoption lightly, trying to do a ‘good deed,’ but without thinking through potential consequences?

5. How might birth order, gender, and temperament of existing children affect an adoption?

6. Have the parents thought through risks that adoptive children might bring into the family dynamic? (personality differences, fetal alcohol syndrome, damage due to parental drug use, reactive attachment disorder, spiritual baggage, mental disease etc.)

7. Might the age/gender of the adopted child cause unhealthy tension/competition with existing members of the family?

8. Has God given the parents the capacity to love an adoptive child fully as they would a birth child - or do barriers and prejudices exist?

Potentially-adoptive families are wise to prayerfully, realistically explore these questions. However, keep in mind that many of these questions transfer to biological families as well.

You have probably seen parents who attempt to use biological children to fulfill their own needs. And you may know parents facing an unexpected pregnancy who consider it ‘Plan B.’ There are parents who pursue either massive families OR tiny families to meet some sort of cultural ideal. There are biological fathers and mothers who selfishly try to gain admiration through performance parenting. Sometimes a marriage in trauma will use pregnancy to try and heal deep, destructive husband/wife tension. Sometimes desperate parents will pursue biological children through medical procedures that disrespect life. Sometimes teenage girls will get pregnant intentionally-- in the hopes of gaining a sense of home through their newborn child. And every single one of us is born into spiritual baggage that affects those we love.

So, whether we are discussing adoptive families or biological families, whenever an adult moves into parenthood with a motive of insecurity, performance, or consumption instead of faith, humility, and worship, their sin will affect others. It’s so sad that someone as vulnerable as a child could be used for selfish gain. But it happens in many families, adoptive or biological.

In the second part of this note, I’d like to address some popular inaccuracies that I am finding on adoption. I want to make it clear that my tone here is compassionate, not harsh. In fact, I had a few of these same concerns a decade ago when we first began to explore adoption. Maybe our rocky process, and God's movement through selfish hearts, will help others gain some clarity?


1.) “The biological child (the fruit of a marriage union) is more sacred somehow.”

Particularly in our area of the country, reverence for the ‘womb’ of a wife has become almost a religion in itself. A certain degree of reverence is healthy – a hearty swing away from secular, utilitarian views on procreation. There is something very holy and beautiful about the mystery of marital conception. Couples who arrogantly refuse God’s mastery over their fertility are missing out on the fullest joys of communion with Him.

However, this doesn’t mean that a biological child is more sacred. If this were true, then our own salvation would be secondary. We were each adopted into the kingdom of God. He made us His sons. It was not something we inherited, deserved, or can claim, apart from the purchase of Christ on our behalf. Because of our adoption alone, we are dearly embraced by the God who died to embrace us.

A healthy understanding of God’s sovereignty also prevents distinction between biological and adopted children. Many adoptive parents who followed God into adoption will tell you that God clearly chose THIS child for their family. God’s involvement in this match has been confirmed to them in a thousand ways. They know they were meant to be together. But this mystery is something casual observers cannot often understand.

Watching adoptive families receive the brunt of this criticism makes me empathize for Mary and Joseph even more. I can now imagine Jesus' earthly parents explaining, “But the Sovereign God of the Universe decided to put our family together in a different way!” And the casual observers didn’t ‘get it’ then, either.

When God moves through non-traditional means, it’s normal for misunderstanding to happen. And it’s especially normal for religious people to misunderstand. What a great opportunity, though, to lovingly move into the confusion! God often provides a special communion with Himself that tends to carry us through lonely times like this.

2.) “The adopted child is tainted by generational sin.”

This is an understandable concern. Regardless of your theology on inherited sin, you know that orphaned children are sometimes abused in the womb through alcohol or drugs. They can enter the world undefended, often facing abuse that wounds their infant souls. Also, their parents might have suffered from a mental disorder or a genetic propensity toward a certain weakness. In so many ways, the enemy of our souls is prowling around these children, eager to destroy the image of God beaming forth from them.

So when you step into this realm, you are stepping into a spiritual arena. I’m starting to see how likely it is that adoptive families will face challenges similar to what missionaries on the field encounter. It can be hard. It can be painful. But what is our alternative? To politely excuse ourselves because it’s not always easy? Are we to look away while 147 million souls slide into eternity without exposure to Christ’s embrace?

Last year I read something on an adoption message board that has permanently changed my thinking. Some parents had taken the medical records of an orphan to the pediatrician for evaluation, trying to find out what the “worst case scenario” would be if they adopted that child. The pediatrician called them out. He said, “The worst case scenario is for that child to stay in the orphanage!” The same is true spiritually.

Why is our default to protect self instead of a child who needs us? Is it better for that child to struggle with spiritual darkness (if it exists) alone? And where would we be if our Father had chosen the easiest path? I realize this is a complex question, and not every parent is suited for every child. Knowing our limitations is a loving thing, and adoption can be very, very hard. Yet there's a fine line between healthy boundaries and selfishness. And I think it's a line worth exploring.

Also, I hate to state the obvious, but what about those ugly tendencies of your birth children? Maybe your grandfather was an alcoholic? Maybe your grandmother had bi-polar disorder? What about those family secrets no one mentions, because we feel tainted somehow by them? ALL children enter the world with spiritual baggage. That’s why parents are given -- to help wage war on a child's behalf. Maybe our God will move through us to help overcome the darkness a child would otherwise face alone? Or maybe He will use our adopted child to protect and grow our parental hearts somehow? That's how God tends to use the family dynamic, regardless of how He's woven it together.

3.) “Those orphans are happier than we think.”

It’s commonly suggested that orphaned kids are actually content with their surroundings. We are told that they are happy where they are, so we shouldn’t uproot them into our nice homes where they might cause problems for our birth kids.

Yes, adopted children often grieve when they leave the only world they have ever known. And some orphanages provide compassionate, encouraging care during a child's wait for a home. But some do not.

One little boy from Europe was terrified when he first felt the wind and saw the sun (at the age of four), because he had spent his entire life to that point sitting in a bed looking at a concrete wall. He was terrified when the car taking him away from the orphanage began to move, because he’d never felt motion. For those first few days, technically, he would have been ‘more content’ lying in the orphanage, because that was normal for him. Does that mean he was happy there?

In another country, children lie silently in rooms alone. They will not be fed, because they are sick and left to die. Though they are tiny and weak, they know somehow that their only hope is death.

All over the world, children in orphanages have lost the ability to cry (literally) because they know no one will come for them. Entire rooms are silent -- full of babies who have lost hope. And these babies wait in a country where the teaching of Jesus will never touch them. Some of them will be sexually or physically abused. They will live and die without hearing about Jesus. Is that happiness? Or is it resignation?

My niece couldn’t talk when she was first adopted, because she had a cleft lip and palate. She went into surgery several weeks after she was adopted. A family bond had grown quickly between them, and it was very hard for her mom, dad, and brothers to watch her go into that hospital. Her first word was spoken through a swollen, post-surgery upper lip. That word was “Mama.” She loved her Mama. She had needed one for a long, long time. Finally, a hole God had placed deep in her little soul was filled. And a hole God had placed deep in Mom, Dad, and brothers was filled too. God had completed something in all of them by making them a family.

4.) “If you aren’t careful, you will start to think ‘theologically’ instead of ‘realistically.’

I’ll have to admit I was baffled when I first heard this argument. Reading through the New Testament, I don't find my definition of ‘realistic’ stamped on everything God does.

One of the dangers of living in a wealthy, responsible, established hub of Christianity is that we can ignore the living voice of God if we aren’t careful. We have access to so many programs that equate ‘safety’ with ‘spiritual responsibility.’ Christian finance programs tell us how to die wealthy. Courtship resources tell us how to check off boxes and find the perfect mate. Ten-step programs tell us how to discover God’s will for everything we do.

Logic is certainly a gift from our Father that can guide us in many situations. There is wisdom in using this tool we’ve been given. But what if God’s ‘aliveness’ occasionally steps outside of what we expect? Are we willing to let our religion expand into a relationship?

Would the widow who gave her last mite ace a Christian investment program? Would Hosea or Ruth match up with conservative courtship standards? What about naked, preaching Isaiah ... walking around three years like that... would he pass a right-wing modesty checklist? And what about God our Father, who risked the perfect, safe, clean, holy family... Sacrificing His BELOVED Son... so that He adopt dirty me (with so many problems) as His child?

‘Theology’ and ‘reality’ are not opposites. ‘Idealism’ and ‘realism’ are opposites. This is very important to remember. A good theology will encompass times when God operates through logic AND when He calls us to seemingly depart from it.

Maybe I’m becoming too simplistic. But after closely watching the adoption of some friends’ children (and of my amazing niece), I guess I think the single most important question for an adoptive family is whether or not God is calling you to do it. Yes, God has given us reason as a tool. And we should use it. But over and again in His Word, God called His people into situations that looked risky or foolish from the observer’s viewpoint. And He can make such beautiful things happen in that soil.


adoption is too hard (part 1)

I'd like to spend some time over the next few days thinking through some common reasons why families don't pursue adoption. Today's reasons are practical barriers, and they are the ones I hear mentioned most often when the topic arises. There are spiritual and emotional barriers as well, but I'll write about those later this week.

1.) adoption is too expensive
2.) adoption takes too long


I wasn't a fan of the new Health Care Bill, but one good thing is that no matter how much money you make annually, there is now a $13,000 tax refund for adoptions. You can find it in the very last section of the bill. Click here to read a blog post about this.

Our family also got a matching grant from a wonderful organization called Life Song. Click here to see Life Song's website.. Not only did they match tax-deductible donations up to $4,000, but various companies will also match (or half-match) donations given to Life Song since they are a 501C3 and members of ECFA.

Show Hope also gave us a significant grant. This organization was started by Steven Curtis Chapman and his wife. Click here to see Show Hope's website. I'm a big fan of the shirts they are selling right now, because profits go toward other adoptive families.

Abba Fund offers a 0% interest adoption loan, which can help families with cash flow until the adoption tax credit kicks in. They have offered to help us, too. Click here to read about Abba Fund.

Many secular employers offer adoption grants for their employees. And many ministries like Campus Crusade and Young Life help their employees adopt through corporate adoption grants. Some cover $10,000-$15,000 of expenses.

One option we haven’t tapped into, but we would like to start to help other families is Both Hands. They offer programs that help with the needs of local widows while providing grants for orphaned kids. Click here to read about Both Hands. I wish every church in America would start one of these programs.

Because our process moved so fast, finances have been hard to juggle. But one advantage to that struggle is getting the chance to learn about all of these great organizations. Hopefully through our story, other families will see how God can provide for adoption despite a difficult financial situation, and they will gain courage. OR, if your family isn't adopting, maybe you can contribute to one of these great organizations or start a Both Hands chapter in your area to help others who are.


What you've heard is true. It’s super hard (for many reasons) to adopt a white, healthy, American infant - if that is your dream. Birth moms change their minds often, and open adoptions are dependent upon someone choosing you, etc. All of that can take years of heart wrenching ups and downs. (This is SO sad, considering how many children are aborted every year.)

However, millions of ethnic and minority babies are waiting for homes right now. Lots of toddlers and older kids need families as well. And tons of special needs kids (some with very minor needs) are waiting. We are still new to the adoption world, however, from what we have seen, some of the special needs children have actually received extra human touch and nurturing because of their physical limitations. So, although these kids might have an extra scar here or there, they might not have the same level of emotional damage as a child who has been left in a bed his/her whole life. That's not a fixed rule, of course. It's just an observation from my very limited viewpoint.

We have been shocked that our entire process (submitting our application to travel date) took only about a year! Of course we prayed for ten years first, but I'm talking about the paperwork. Even though that feels like forever, it has really been pretty fast! However, our preference was special needs, Asian, toddler all along. We've already had two babies, so I didn't have that itch. And we wanted a child that might have a hard time finding a family otherwise.

Another friend of mine just turned in her paperwork a few weeks ago, and they received their referral last week. So, sometimes this whole process can move lightning fast.


father's day.

147 million children are still waiting for daddies. Posting this video in honor of them, and in honor of the dads who will move heaven and earth to reach them.

click here to listen to Amos Story by Aaron Ivey


a plan at last.

After several weeks of intense research, praying, and thinking, I think we finally have a plan established. International, RT flights are still holding around $1500. But until we get our TA, we can't bank on that. So, this is our three-tier plan depending on how flight costs land next week.

Plan A (first choice): Take the kids with us. We would probably do a round trip into and out of Hong Kong to save the extra Beijing costs. My brother lived in HK for several years, and he might have friends who would let us stay there.

Plan B (second choice): Bobby flies into and out of Hong Kong and stays with Moses for the whole trip. I would fly into and out of Beijing with the CCAI travel group, and stay with that group for the first part of the trip. (Bobby has already seen Beijing, and this would allow me to travel with companions.) I’d meet Bobby in Zhengzhou for ‘gotcha’, then fly home after a few days when he leaves for Guangzhou with Moses. We could go to the airport together with the CCAI group. This would mean Moses knows me when he comes home, I could help get the boys settled through the 'gotcha' transition, and that the kids at home would only have to be without one of us for a week.

Plan C (third choice): Bobby goes alone.

Last night I connected with another family who will probably be traveling with us. They seem like a really neat family, and they are Christians also. It feels great to just have a contact of some sort. For some reason, our travel group hadn't crossed my mind much, but I need to be praying for them as well. We're going to share a life-changing experience together. I can't wait to see who the Lord has planned for that.

Hoping for TA on Monday!!!


toddler bonding

Vertigo is totally gone today. Hurrah!!

Before it hit yesterday, I spent some time looking for little toys/activities to pack for the trip. I've heard that for toddler adoption, packing toys is as important as packing clothing. Time spent playing together builds trust, and since bonding is basically trusting, play can be one key to a helpful transition.

I found some of those velcro hand pads and a ball that sticks to them, a beach ball, a bubble kit, a little Magna Doodle, and some Play-Doh. We already have some toy cars, Duplos, stickers, markers, crayons, a few books, watercolors, etc. And we had a cool "Peek-A-Boo" Bag that should provide entertainment during long waits.

I think our biggest 'find' was the little book in the top picture. I found it at Ross for $4. It's FULL of simple, portable ideas for toddlers, and the supplies needed are minimal. I'm definitely packing this to glean creative ideas when jetlag has zapped ours.

When JD was little, he had a backpack embroidered with our last name. So, it's getting washed and packed full of Moses' new toys.

I think I also found our necessary gifts for government officials yesterday. This can be a stresser, because there's so much symbolism that can be offensive in China. Parents are encouraged to avoid certain colors, numbers, and items that irritate cultural superstitions. It's a whole new world, literally.

We heard from a friend who read online that TA's won't be issued until late next week at the earliest. I hope that's a rumor. We are SOOOO close. We really don't want a delay to hit now!!


slumber party

Woah. I really shouldn't have upsized my green tea tonight. One in the morning, and I'm still scratching through adoption forums.

One cool thing about insomnia? I found the contact information for Moses' best friend from the orphanage! He was adopted in March, and he's now living in Maryland. I wrote his parents to see if they could Skype when Moses gets home. Wouldn't it be cool if they could keep in touch?

Also, I'm giggling that two of my JC friends are checking this blog at 1:00 in the morning. I don't know who you two are, but I do have one of those counter things that tells me when people click on my posts. So I'm smiling that you folks aren't sleeping either, and that you're clicking around thinking about Moses with me. It's a virtual slumber party! We need snacks! And we all need to drink decaf tomorrow!



Waiting for TA

Well, here it goes. The longest two weeks in history. :)

Some time in the next two weeks, we should get our Travel Approval. That is our official call to come pick up Moses.

There's a decent chance it will come this week, and I'm feeling that crazy sense of anticipation where your senses are super-hyped and ready for the phone to ring at every second. This morning I wrote the agency and gave them every phone number we have so they could call us as soon as it gets here.

We still don't know who will travel. We wrote Sue Sorrels, an adoption travel agent who is supposedly a master of finding the lowest fares possible. The agency says we have to fly in to Beijing and out of Guangzhou, and that will make a round-trip impossible, unless we can find a creative alternative.

I'm trying to plan for all of us going, two of us going, and just Bobby going. It's a little crazy not having a definite plan at this point, but we're doing the best we can with it.

Bobby already has some of those synthetic travel shirts you can wash out in the tub and hang to try overnight. Last time he was in China, the hotel charged a ton of money for laundry (like $5 to wash one pair of underwear), so washing stuff ourselves is imperative. I had trouble finding that quick-try techy material for women, but eventually I ran into a couple of shirts on deep sale at T.J. Maxx in the workout section. They are super lightweight and will pack teeny tiny. If I do go to China, one goal is minimizing the clothes we pack for ourselves to make room for supplies to take to orphanage kids in Beijing.

In particular, we hope to take some child-size colostomy bags to the folks at Morning Star Project. Click here to read about their work in China. So, if you know where to get those cheaply, or if you'd like to donate some, please give me a shout.

I found Moses a couple of pair of tennis shoes at Target this weekend. I have no idea what size to take, because his last foot length measurements were taken in March. I'm taking a cute pair of hand-me-down Crocs (size 6/7), and tennis shoes in size 7 and 8. I really hope at least one of those will fit.

I also bought a small pack of Pull-Ups, which I heard are good for the flight home, even if he is potty trained. (Supposedly the Chinese version leaks??) And I found a little picture board book of common English words. Maybe we can use it during the wait times and on the plane ride home.

We still need to find gifts for orphanage workers, tour guides, government officials, etc. I'm really hoping some of our adoptive friends will point us in the right direction on that, because I have no idea what is appropriate.

Thanks for taking the time to follow our journey. Prayers for a rapid TA, cheap plane tickets, and efficiency in the final details are needed. Also, we need to pray for little Moses, of course. He's about to face the biggest transition of his life so far. We hope the Lord will make it as gentle for him as possible.


hot dogs and hard times

Tonight we finished KidSport, a summer sports camp that our church hosted in a downtown elementary school. For our grand finale, we invited the parents to stay and hang out for a program and dinner. It was really a neat experience to just sit on the playground with people you don't know, eating hot dogs and popcorn, and talking about life.

It wasn't a high-pressure religious setting at all. During the whole three-hour gathering, the only spiritual material mentioned was a five-minute story about Bret Farve and the Apostle Peter. The rest of the night was just parents and kids mingling, sharing parenting struggles, watching a cheerleading performance and sports games, and hanging out. We didn't even tell them the NAME of our church from what I can remember. We just loved them. And we let them love us.

I was amazed by how vulnerable a few folks were. One gal I spoke with had encountered mostly abuse and failures in life. There was a beauty to her humility. She was open about fears, and fixes, and old wounds. I loved seeing a rawness and honesty in her that people in my normal circles (including myself) have learned to hide.

By the end of the night, we had parents asking us what the name of our church was, where we met, wanting to know service times, and asking if they could come in simple clothes.

I'm so thankful. It all just felt right. I fell in love this week with taking ministries like that off campus to where people really are... just being real and being close.

When people asked where our church met, I should have said, "It meets here. And I hope it always will."

- - - - - -

I'm reading through Milton Vincent's The Gospel Primer again. Below was tonight's entry, which I found really helpful. (This whole book is definitely worth the read, BTW.)

Perspective in Trials:

More than anything else could ever do, the gospel enables me to embrace my tribulations and thereby position myself to gain full benefit from them. For the gospel is the one great permanent circumstance in which I live and move; and every hardship in my life is allowed by God only because it serves His gospel purposes in me. When I view my circumstances in this light, I realize that the gospel is not just one piece of good news that fits into my life somewhere among all the bad. I realize instead that the gospel makes genuinely good news out of every other aspect of my life, including my severest trials (Romans 5:1-5). The good news about my trials is that God is forcing them to bow to His gospel purposes and do good unto me by improving my character and making me more conformed to the image of Christ.

Preaching the gospel to myself each day provides a lens through which I can view my trials in this way and see the true cause for intelligent rejoicing that exists in them. I can then embrace them as friends and allow them to do God's work in me."


What are the odds?

This week our church is hosting a sports camp in one of our downtown schools. The goal has been to move into a community with love instead of expecting the community to come to us.

The kids in my group have had it rough. One of boys has never met his dad. Another suffers from a debilitating birth defect and lost his mom this past year. It's awful to think of the struggles they are going to have to face in life. The odds are clearly against them.

Playing with kids comes easy for me. So does loving them. Ministering to the deepest needs of their hearts does not. Deep needs take time, and I have suddenly just shown up in their emotional neighborhood, whispering hopes that are big, foreign, and hard to comprehend. These kids are small and sometimes slow. They have emotional defects and a low attention span. They get wiggly and restless when old tales are told, not understanding fully how they could fit into such big shoes.

Thank goodness for our youth minister, who is a former elementary teacher (AKA: a master of translation). Last night he segued with the life story of Wilma Rudolph. Brilliant.

Wilma had lots of health problems as a child, but she couldn't access fair treatment at a local hospital because she was an African American born before integration. When she contracted polio, it looked like she would never walk. But through the devoted care of her mom, and through personal dedication, she overcame her handicaps and became an athlete. She eventually won three Olympic gold medals.

Wilma beat the odds. That made sense in a soundbyte, and the kids got it. (Thanks, Mat!) Then we played ball, made paper megaphones, played more ball, and sat in the floor and ate a bunch of cookies. That made sense, too.

At the end of the night, we huddled up around the story of Gideon. I have heard that story many times, but it came to life in light of the night's focus.

Gideon had some pretty tough odds, too. He was leading Israel's army against Midian. Midian had 135,000 soldiers and Israel had 32,000. So basically, every Israelite would have to take out four Midianite soldiers. 'Sounds like a good time for some reinforcements.

But instead of beefing up the ranks, God said Israel had TOO MANY soldiers. (Seriously... too many?) So, He told everyone who was scared to go home, and 22,000 guys packed up. This left Israel 10,000 soldiers to fight 135,000.

God said that was too many still. (Seriously... too many still?) So He took them down to the water and sifted them. When He was done, there were only 300 left. 300 to fight 135,000.

What are the odds now? They are laughable. They are impossible. But God knew that His power shines the brightest when human odds stink.

Sports camp is supposed to encourage the kids who show up, and I really hope it did. But last night also had a pretty big impact on me.

Over and again through our adoption process, we haven't been adequate. We haven't had enough courage. We haven't had enough knowledge. We haven't had enough money. We haven't had enough room. We never seemed to have enough soldiers to fight Midian. And as the process moves forward, our emotional and physical resources continually seem ridiculous in the face of impossible challenges.

Yet, God has shown up in our neighborhood, whispering hopes that are big, foreign, and hard to comprehend. I am small and sometimes slow. I have emotional defects and a low attention span. I get wiggly and restless when the old tales are told, not understanding fully how I could fit into such big shoes. I just want to sit in the floor and eat cookies.

The odds are against me. But my God is big.

Maybe this is exactly how it's supposed to be.



I'm still too overwhelmed to be very eloquent in this post. However, I want to at least try and update.

Tonight we showed up at a birthday party for our associate pastor. He and his wife have an incredible heart for community, so we headed over to their house expecting a fun, eclectic mix of neighbors from all walks of life.

When we walked in the front door, only folks from our church were there. I was a little surprised by that, but also thankful for the chance to just hang out and love on people we never have enough time to talk with on Sunday mornings.

A few minutes into the gathering, Tommy and Celeste made an announcement. The main purpose of the party wasn't a birthday celebration, but to help raise funds for the adoption. I felt my knees get weak. It was totally unexpected.

I have trouble explaining how it felt to be standing in a room so full of love and support for a child who has never had a family. When you are adopting internally, you never know if a child who looks a little different will really be accepted. But moms and dads (and their toddlers) were literally filling up those rooms, talking about how excited they were for their children to befriend our new son. And they were supporting us as we pursue him.

I can't find the right words for how I feel yet. To be this overwhelmed by grace is indescribable. Thank you to those who made it happen. We are moved beyond our ability to express it adequately.

P.S. Also, we received $2500 in one night. Unbelievable! Thank you so much!!!!


out of egypt.

Those of you who have been following our story know that our 13-year-old son picked out the name “Moses.” He started praying for his little brother by name every night last summer, before we even realized that boys in China needed homes. What we haven’t told you is why he chose that name.

A symbolic, spiritual answer seems fitting here, but I don’t have one. JD chose "Moses" because he wanted their dynamic duo to be known as: “John Dynamo and his Little Bro, Mo.”

Our friends have had different reactions to this name. Apart from Gwenyth Paltrow’s son, you just don't see it very often. "Moses" is not something you'll find embroidered on pillowcases in a Pottery Barn Kids catalogue.

Yet, the Lord hides lessons in unexpected places. And we've learned that He can even do that with a name birthed out of teenage wonder speak.

When you first start to develop a heart for orphans, it’s easy to embrace a ‘savior’ mentality. Why? Well, you see heart-wrenching YouTube videos and hear the awful stories about how these kids start life, so you are horrified. You want to get involved in liberating a child from a hopeless, abusive existence. You want to be the rescuer. Saving at least one child becomes the focus of your heart.

Yet, social workers and experts strongly discourage the ‘savior’ perception. They don’t want a child growing up feeling like a charity case, and that makes a lot of sense.

Maybe you have seen hovering, needy moms turning older adopted kids into objects. They nurse their own insecurities by making their identity as ‘adoptive mom’ central to most conversations. They do this in front of their children, and you can literally watch their kids wither as they listen.

The sensation I get while watching this exchange happen is almost one of bondage. The mom continually suggests that her child is indebted to his/her rescuer. It feels shameful. There is no dignity involved in this sort of relationship.

Bobby and I are still very new to adoption, so my reflections are green. But this bondage dynamic has been the total opposite of what we have experienced so far. Moses isn't even here yet, but we have still found a duality of salvation happening. Our child isn’t the only one being redeemed through this process. He is also being used by God to rescue his parents... perhaps to an even greater extent than what he is experiencing.

As I look back through the past year, I can see how God has already used our little Moses to lead me out of a thousand captivities. I used to confidently throw around the name of God while working for earthly masters. I was bound by political frustration, materialistic goals, and self-centered dreams. I was frightened because I might someday suffer, but I didn’t grieve because others are already suffering. I was too much like the parents in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, myopic and self-indulgent, pursuing new toys while people were dying. I was too certain and too hard. I didn’t let the pain of the world penetrate my heart deeply enough.

Of course, I still have tons of room to grow and change. On the "Simmer v. Belly Flop Sin Continuum," I'm a belly flopper. I'm the sort of person who goofs up robustly, and I will tomorrow, and I will the next day.

However, because of Moses, I am no longer the same person now that I was before he was in my life. He's not even here yet, but he has already made me see and feel the whole world - and my role in it - so differently. I can't imagine how much more he will teach me after he arrives.

So rescue? Who is being rescued? Sure, I can give Moses a home. But he has given me the gift of sight in exchange. He has rooted my loyalty deeper into eternity. He has softened my callouses. He is loosening my grasp on foolish things, wooing me not with rules and demands... but with a smile so big his eyes disappear. He is unhinging thirty years-worth of captivity. He is transforming my "they" into "we". Moses is leading me out of Egypt.

At this point, in our relationship I am the debtor. He has already given me so much more than I can offer him. Perhaps someday God will help me return the favor, and we can be equals. But until then, thank you, Moses. I have needed you. And I need you still.


About This Blog

Welcome to our family’s adoption journey. As you read, you will see us stumble and take wrong paths. You will see our hopes surge and fall. You will see the gaps in our humanity, and how our God realigns us to His purposes over and again. We think the messiness of this process is important. Sometimes walking with God isn’t a neat, linear package that can be summarized in bullet points. More often, life ebbs and flows around our plans, while God works His sovereign wonders from it all. We are learning so much through this journey. And we are super excited about our new son. If you’d like to join us, we’d love to have you along for the ride.

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