The False Summits of Adoption

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In hiking, a false summit is the portion of the mountain that appears to be the highest point; however, upon reaching it, a mountaineer sees that the summit is higher. Unless prepared for such false summits, the effect on a hiker’s psychological state can be damaging.  So much so, that the she may give up and begin a disappointing descent.

In the summer of 2015, our then family of four hiked the majestic Manitou Incline in Manitou Springs Colorado. It was the most difficult hike to date that we have hiked as a family, and it has proven to provide so many parallels to obstacles we have faced in our adoption journey. The two-thousand feet gain in elevation over a mile at the front end of the hike was almost paralyzing to my psyche. I wasn’t sure we could complete this hike with success, but we ventured forth anyway. The people along the journey were so encouraging. They couldn’t believe that our five and seven year old children were attempting such a hike.

The real kicker came as we were approaching what seemed the top of the incline. Another hiker told us, its a false summit. The top is still a ways up. What? There was more? We had already had to make accommodations for one child to poop while on the trail (that was a first and only so far!) and our other child started off battling a bit of an asthmatic episode and had to be carried for part of the initial portion of the hike. A false summit! Okay, time for a snack and to regroup and prepare ourselves for the remainder of the journey to the summit.

In order to complete this hike we were on all fours, lifting children, encouraging children, and taking multiple breaks. The good news is… we made it! The victory welcome at the top from the other hikers is something our children will never forget; and I am almost positive, some of our fellow hikers will not forget either. In particular one man named Don.

Our adoption journey which we had temporarily laid down for nearly two years was reinitiated after we returned from that family vacation. That summer multiple videos were released which exposed Planned Parenthood for selling the body parts of aborted babies and killing them in such a way as to gain the most profit from their organs. These videos were the tipping point for us to take another step towards adoption. We had fostered for 13 months in the hopes that we would foster to adopt. However, our hearts were so wounded  and raw after the reunification of our foster son, that we knew a time of refreshing and regrouping as a family was necessary. As we all know, the Lord will not let us rest forever. That summer He was calling us back to the work of adoption and orphan care.

In July of 2015 we decided not to recertify as foster parents but to ask that we go straight into the adoption process. In short, much misinformation was communicated to us which has further complicated our adoption journey there on out. However, in September of 2015, through the fostering of a baby by friends of ours, we met a beautiful blonde-headed, blue-eyed boy that we are now in the final stages of adopting. For ten months we daily made multiple phone calls, sent numerous emails, and advocated on behalf of the best interest of this child before he was placed in our home as a pre-adoptive placement in July of 2016.

You may rush by that last sentence; but for us, the living out of those ten months was long and arduous.

With high hopes that the adoption would be finalized in October of this year (2016), we awaited the go ahead from the attorney to schedule the court date. We inched closer to the anticipated court date only to discover that our son was not yet free and clear for adoption, but that a paperwork error had occurred and we were essentially back to a holding period.

Was this a false summit, or merely a strenuous portion of our hike?

With that knowledge in mind, I boarded a plane in late September and went hiking for two days in breathtaking Washington State with a dear friend. No false summits in sight on our hikes, and so far, none our adoption journey.

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Until…

Two days after my return home, we were told that our adoptive son’s mother was pregnant and would give birth to his sibling within a month.

False summit identified.

Stunned, is probably a good word for our reaction to this news. Overjoyed, is the word for our children’s response! Little had we known that Emily, our oldest daughter had been fervently praying for a baby sister. Now, she saw that her dream was within reach.

So today, we find our family expanding–at least at present, and Lord willing forever- to a family of six. Emily was right, the baby is a girl. So as we ascend this (what we perceive to be) the final portion of the adoption summit, let our story be one that encourages and informs you. Few adoptions are expedient, and none are without loss and pain. False summits happen all the time in hiking and perhaps with more frequency in life.

We are looking forward to that mountain-top view. The summit shall surely be worth it. We anticipate sharing in the joy and telling the God moments. To God be the glory!

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Using Books to Cultivate a Heart for Orphans and Adoption

My passion for adoption started growing long before my adult years. It came as a result of the planting of the Holy Spirit, and it also came in the form of story. Books cultivate life experiences in a safe environment and develop compassion and sympathy, passion and purpose, in children prior to their ability to act on those feelings.

As we enter into the cooler, cozier days of November, it is a perfect time to introduce, or perhaps continue the narration of, stories to our children which cultivate a heart for orphans and adoption. There is a lengthy list at Good Reads and here are a few of my favorites to get you started. I tend to recommend these as read aloud books to be shared with the whole family in order to encourage dialogue. Not all of these books are serious, but they all prompt us to think about orphans and begin cultivating a heart for orphan care and adoption in our homes. As with all books we share with our children, please be sure and preview the content to make sure it is age appropriate and sensitive to the specific environment of your child’s history and emotional maturity.

Don’t have children of your own? That’s okay too! As C.S. Lewis stated, A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.

Read Alouds for K4-3rd grade or older:


Read Aloud Books for 3rd and Up:

 

 

Older students (young adult):

 

One more that is on my to-be-read pile and was recently highlighted in this week’s episode of the Read Aloud Revival Podcast is:

Which books have you used to bring awareness of orphan care and adoption into your life and home? What books would you add to this list? I have always gravitated to books about orphans and in the coming weeks will unfold as much as I am presently allowed about our current adoption journey. Stay tuned!

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15 Action Steps to Take to Promote A Culture of Life After You Have Prayed


 

15 Action Steps To Take To Promote Life After You Have Prayed

Many of us are dumbfounded, to say the least, after viewing any or all of the 10 videos put out by the Center for Medical Progress which exposes the money making arm of Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood and Stem Express are making money off the sale of aborted baby body parts. This news leaves many of us asking, what can we do to put an end to this barbarity? Here are 15 action steps for you to consider and take after you pray for an end to abortion, a defunding of Planned Parenthood, and a respect for life from conception to grave.

1. Give to and/ or volunteer at your local pregnancy center.

2. Call your congressman and senator to petition them to vote to defund Planned Parenthood and legislate an end to abortion.

3.”Adopt” a single mom and her kids.

4. Foster a child. The difference a Christian family can make in pointing children in need to Jesus cannot be measured in this lifetime.

5. Adopt. It is a slow and painful process and you are not guaranteed your child will walk with Jesus. However, you are committed to making a disciple and ending a family cycle of drug abuse, domestic violence, and a host of other problems that plague our society.

6. Vote your moral convictions and not your pocketbook.

7. Spread the gospel and let the seeds bear the fruit that they will. We will not reap what we have not sewn.

8.Make disciples within your church who make disciples. Moms and dads change the cultural fabric of our world one child at a time. For good or for evil.

9. Volunteer with children in the foster care system, a local school, or an orphanage. Mentors change lives by the power of Jesus.

10. Give to organizations like the Center for Medical Progress who expose the truth of abortion and the sale of baby body parts for “medical research.” Or, help fund a friend’s adoption. Many times families who want to adopt don’t because of the money.

11. Educate yourself with the facts. Read and research for the truth. You will likely not hear the facts nor the truth on the evening news or in the New York Times.

12. Do for one mom, teen, child, or orphan what you would do for all.

13. Get creative! Use your artistic abilities of paint, pen, or graphic design to get people’s attention and point them towards life.

14. Include your kids in ministering to the poor, elderly, and the orphan. Developing compassionate Christ-centered lives starts early.

15. Run for office and be involved in politics. We need godly leaders in every area of local, state, and federal government.

What would you add to this list? I welcome your thoughts.

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Liberty, Freedom, and Love

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For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. 

For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.

But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed  that ye be not consumed one of another.

Galatians 5:13-15, KJV

Liberty…freedom.

These words provoke feelings of patriotism in U.S. citizens, moreover, they elicit relief and celebration in Christian brothers and sisters. For those who live in free countries their hearts can swell at the mention of liberty, but how much more so those who have been set free and liberated from sin and death for all eternity?

This week’s protests in Baltimore and surrounding major U.S. cities have evoked different responses from citizens, news correspondents, and politicians alike. One will cry oppression and the next thug. Next the two will mull over the meaning behind the words and continue to put forth his or her views and, if we are lucky, actual facts concerning the situation at hand. Meanwhile, vandalism escalates and police are told to stand down and forget their training which would provide protection to the private citizens and business owners. Gang members gather and pursue face-time as the press seeks to bring us the latest on the breaking news in Baltimore.

Liberty…freedom.

Liberty and freedom ring loudest when the citizens are self-governing their moral and ethical obligations to their neighbors from a contrite heart who knows that it bears the image of God. The Imago Dei. Further that they will give an account of all their actions to their Creator.

Our society has fallen so far off the Biblical path that we are ignorant of the fact that we are created by a Someone, for a purpose, with an eternity after death. Insteadwe have a society largely comprised of people who believe they came from nothing, are going nowhere, and are held to no one’s standards or moral code than the one they choose for themselves.

Liberty and freedom are found at the threshold of obedience and discipline, not the scattered remains of crashed windows and looted goods. 

Government funds and legislation are not the answers to the problems in Baltimore, nor across the U.S. God is the answer to the problems. Once each neighbor realizes that he or she is created by God, bear His image, is held to His standards, will be judged by His premises, and can be saved and liberated from sin by His grace, then prayerfully,  they will live for His glory and obey His commands.

Our response as Christians to all the headlines of today’s news is evangelism and disciple making. Simply put, we are to fulfill the great commission and be ambassadors of Christ in our homes, our neighborhoods, and our places of work. We are to bear the image of Christ and spread His message on all street corners of America and the world.

The inner men must be changed before the outer actions of man become civil and just. Good Christians make for good citizens and good leaders. We must love God, and love our neighbor as ourselves, live within the law, and spread the gospel to stop the biting and devouring of one another in our country.

Another pertinent matter for prayer: in June, the Supreme Court of the United States will make a ruling concerning same sex marriage. Please be in prayer for the upholding of the biblical definition of marriage. You can follow the story from a much more knowledgeable source on legal matters than myself, Dr. Russell Moore, at his website (click here).

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Parting Words: At the Tomb

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“Mary.”

She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).

Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ “

Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her. (John 20:16-18)

Mary Magdalene was soaked with sadness as she approached the tomb. She had come to anoint Jesus’ body with spices, but could not cease her weeping as she mourned the loss of her Lord and Teacher.  Finding the stone rolled away and his grave empty, Mary knelt in the tomb anguished and assuming someone had taken Jesus’ body. Imagine what overwhelming joy was hers when she saw and recognized the risen Savior as he called her name, “Mary.”

Isn’t it comforting when someone close to you calls you by name? When someone you love and, or respect calls you by name without asking something of you, it prompts a feeling of being known and valued. Mary must have felt such feelings a hundred times over.

However, as Mary undoubtedly embraces Jesus, the Lord asks her not to cling to Him, but go and tell His disciples that Jesus is returning to the Father. Oh…and she also tells them that He is alive!

There are multiple opinions by theologians and scholars as to what Jesus meant when He asked Mary to refrain from clinging to Himself. I encourage you to go and study those for yourself. However, what the text is not saying is that Jesus was a spirit at this point. He was fully risen with a new human body–his resurrected body–which bore the marks of his crucifixion. As accounted in Luke 24:

As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace, to you!”  But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” …“Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them.(Luke 24:36-39, 41-42)

Jesus had risen in the flesh and Mary Magdalene was the first of over 500 that he would appear to. Mary, overcome with joy and emotion, wanted to worship her Savior and Lord, her Teacher and friend. However, Jesus wanted her to spread the word to His disciples because the mission was just beginning, and the advancement of the Kingdom was at hand.

May this Easter find you accepting Jesus’ words to the disciples and to Mary Magdalene: Peace be with you…go and tell.

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A Letter to My Younger Self on Adoption

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I know you will remember a time in your childhood when you wondered if you were adopted. Never mind that you look like your parents and laugh at your own jokes exactly like they both do; but, just the same, you will wonder if you were adopted and never told. You will naturally gravitate towards books about orphans.

This is the planting of a seed.

Next, you will have a desire to adopt. You will make this a topic of priority with your fiancé and subsequent husband. Being the Type A planner that you are, even a few months into trying to start a family, you will again give adoption consideration and state, “If we can’t conceive on our own we will adopt.”

This is the watering of a dream.

Two kids, and a few years later, you will read Kisses from Katie and determine that if a twenty-something woman from Tennessee can adopt and foster children on her own in a foreign country, then surely you can foster one child on the way to adoption.

This is sunlight upon fertile soil.

Next you will complete the nearly 10 months of work that it takes to train and paper-approve families to foster. It will be a never ending cycle to prove your family fit to parent a child not your own. You will complain and you will wonder why on earth it will take so much to do a good deed.

This is the breaking forth of a seed out of the dark soil into the sun. 

At last, when you thought the day would never come, you will get the call to pick up your foster son. You will go expectantly with his Thomas the Train backpack and snuggle animal from Target. Then you will meet a child who your heart will forever call son. He will be blonde and beautiful and wild and covered in spaghetti sauce and you will have many long days ahead of you.

This will be the stalk rising from the ground.

For 13 months you will labor, love, and advocate on this child’s behalf. You will sing to him, Jesus Loves Me, and do all the things a mother does. You will watch every single person around you love this little boy like he was your very own son—because in many ways he forever will be your son. You will train him in the way that he should go and pray on his behalf.

This will be the wheat ripe for harvest.  

Finally, at the end of 13 months, you will say good-bye to your little boy as he is reunited with his biological family. It will be one of the hardest and perhaps the most impactful goodbyes you will ever say.

This will be the kernel falling to the ground. 

Months will pass, tears will fall, a new normal will encompass your days, and you will wonder how you ever did it all. You will wonder: can I ever do that again? The answer will not come right away–at least not the answer you think others will expect. But in all the waiting, you will say: Loving another child changed my lifemaybe the world in some small way. Then you will tell his story, your story, so that other families may open their homes to make the difference in the life of a child.

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

John 12:24

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The Spirit of Giving

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There is a joy that accompanies generosity…

A blessed intimate abiding between the redeemed and the Redeemer who never drops even meager offerings.

In the giving there is a birth which overshadows the death of temporary treasures.

Meager offerings may even be the Father’s favorite kind when we offer all we have. He loves to multiple the offerings of the humble. Consider the five loaves and the two fish. He used a young boy’s simple lunch to feed over 5,000 hungry men–besides women and children.

What if we chose not to give because we thought our offering too little or too simple to be of much use? 

What if instead of concerning ourselves with the size of our offering, we humbled ourselves to give our meagerness or our much cheerfully?

With eyes set on eternity, the cheerful giver cannot wait to drop her donation in the plate, her gift in the box, her package in the mail for she considers the smiles and prayers of thanksgiving waiting on the other side.

The cheerful giver woos man to draw near to Christ as she follows His commandments:

Feed, clothe, give, go, take care…

Knowing  that she cannot out-give the Father, for He has already given of His Son, the cheerful giver will share her abundance or her slight understanding that she is a mere steward and God is the ruler and controller of all things.

The cheerful giver has learned that it is in the opening of the hand, not in the clenching of the fist, that there is life.

May your hands be open and the gifts be plentifully given.

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Providing for the Poor

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As it pertains to responding to the requests of the poor and homeless, it seems we have questions as to the right way in which to respond. I wrote at iBelieve about one such positive experience I had. Please join me there today as we explore this topic approaching the Thanksgiving season when opportunities to give abound.

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. ~Matthew 7:7

My family was eating lunch at a local restaurant amidst dark, black clouds threatening an approaching thunderstorm. I glanced out the window to survey the progression of the storm when I saw a man ride up on his bicycle. It was apparent he was homeless by his unkempt appearance and his beard that hadn’t seen a trim in many months, perhaps years.

I looked at this man and thought: what a hard life. Not knowing where the next meal will come from, not sure of where to spend the night or pass the time until storm blows over. I remarked the same to my husband and his response surprised me, maybe he looks at us the same way. I was stunned. What if my husband was right? Maybe the homeless man sees the unrealistic expectations that I cling to, the purchases I make and the hours that were necessary to work in order to make those purchases. Maybe he looks at my choices to take care of two children and prepare their three meals–and seemingly equal three snacks–a day and think: that’s too much work.

Please head over to iBelieve to finish reading this post and join me in the discussion. (Click here.)

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Getting Ready as in the Days of Noah

Getting Ready Noah

The Bible tells us–even more specifically Jesus tells us–that in the last days it will be as in the time of Noah:

Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man. They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot—they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all— so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed. On that day, let the one who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away, and likewise let the one who is in the field not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it. (Luke 17:26-33, ESV)

God determined to destroy His creation and created because of the rampant sin on the earth.

The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD. (Genesis 6:5-8)

The sins of our day are not unlike the sins of Noah’s day; in fact, sin has been the same since the days of Adam and Eve after the fall. Murder, lying, adultery, covetousness, sexual immorality, and idolatry to name a few. The sins of our times are not unique to our times; they are, however, more rampant and championed–like the days of Noah.

Once God gave Noah the command to build the Ark, Noah knew that the time men had to repent and turn to God was limited. Scripture leads me to believe that Noah preached repentance and faith in God to save those who would listen. The people of his day decided they would mock Noah and his God and not heed the warning of impending doom.

God protected and preserved human life and animal life on the Ark in his abundant grace. God provided a way out–a wooden ark. Today, God continues to provide a way out of damnation and judgment: Jesus Christ. Just as the Ark provided the only way to survive God’s judgment of sin by water, Jesus provides the only way to salvation when we face God’s  judgment of fire. (See 1 Corinthians 3:13 for the believers, and 2 Peter 3:10 for the destruction of the earth by fire.)

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (2 Timothy 4:3-5)

I believe we are living once again in the days of Noah. I believe that everything we are seeing on a national and international stage is preparing the way of the Lord as in the days of John the Baptist. That is why it is so very important for us to know the Scriptures so that we are wise unto salvation and prepared to heed the coming of the Lord Jesus. Noah’s Ark may seem archaic, or like a children’s story, but in reality it is a pivotal picture of what is to come.

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How to Build a Beautiful Body

I was seeking a place of solitude and rest. It was the end of the work week building houses in Honduras.  In the cool, dark confines of another house, I sat near the water cooler on one of the many scrap lumber piles in the main living room. Covered in sawdust and dirt, and drinking a cool bottle of water, I looked down to see this beautiful piece of wood lying at my feet.

The ink markings conveyed that this scrap wood had a designer. It had been intentionally used by a creator to speak a message to all who would read its markings.

Jennifer. I knew immediately which teammate had lovingly created this piece of art for one of the children who had danced and laughed and played around our team that week.

As I looked down, I found yet more…

As I marveled at the love etched on the pieces of leftover wood I thought, so this is how you build a beautiful body Lord.

What some would leave for scraps or the burn pile, He takes and make something beautiful and new. The One who created life and trees themselves also came in bodily form to stretch out His hands on splintered wood as the payment for my sin so that I, we, can become a new creation in Him.

This is how He builds His beautiful body:

…speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

Ephesians 4:15-16 (emphasis added)

Jennifer had the job of guarding our water supply to make sure it did not become contaminated. It was imperative that the 40+ workers on our site had clean water to drink or else our upset bellies would decrease our productivity. Jennifer took her job to another level by loving on the children as Jesus would while she also conducted the mundane, but important, job of guarding the water.

She was working with the mind of Christ.

When Christ saves us He gives us a new mind and spirit: his own. In this way, His body can be of one mind and one spirit and act in accordance with His will. Missions, both foreign and domestic, both intentional and invitational- that which God lays in our path each day- provides the present day church the opportunity to live as the early church did. To live this present life to the fullest.

Today I want to extend to you the opportunity to join a friend of mine, Stacy, in feeding hungry children in the Tampa Bay area. Stacy and  her two sons have made it a family goal to purchase and pack 5,000 meals through Feeding Children Everywhere. I have talked with Stacy on many occasions as she and her children have diligently worked toward making this missional dream a reality.

Please visit their donation page linked here to donate any amount. Ten dollars feeds 40 people! Your donations are appreciated and is far-reaching. You may also want to volunteer which you can sign up to do on the website (click here).

Choose “Make a Donation” on the left margin. The next screen should say, “Donate Without Sponsoring a Team or Individual.” Once you input your information, the donation will automatically go towards Joshua and Chase’s project. Thank you!

Thank you for building a beautiful Body in Christ.

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