Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Adoption News

A lot of people have been asking me for an adoption update, so here we go:

We're. Still. Waiting.

I know. It's not very exciting. The good news is that there have been A LOT of referrals coming down the pike. In fact, a family with a DTE (Dossier To Ethiopia) date of 2/4/10 received their referral yesterday for a toddler boy. Your DTE date is how you stand in line waiting for a referral. Do you know what our DTE date is? 2/5/10. So, that means we're getting very close. Maybe we'll get our referral within the next week or two!!! Please pray with us.

I will keep you posted!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Quotable Caedmon

Caedmon is 3 1/2 years old now and he keeps us laughing. These are some quotes that I never want to forget:

"When I was a little boy, I grow up to be a farmer in college."

"Mommy, you look like a cow!"

"Mom, did God create Himself?"

Walking out with a notepad and pen, "I'm going to write a text message."

"Mommy, why is today Tuesday (Twos-day) and not Threes-day because I'm 3 years old?"

"Mom, I want eggs for breakfast because eggs have a lot of protein."

A very concerned Caedmon said, "Mom, I never walked on water before."

"Mommy, when I grow up, you will be little, I will be the daddy, and Daddy will be the mommy."

Caedmon- "Mom, I have something stuck in my teeth."
Me- "Ewww, is that a fingernail?"
C- "No. It's a toenail."

Monday, April 26, 2010

Sunday Rewind

Yesterday, David Hibiske shared with our church a message entitled, "Relationships that Go the Distance". What a timely topic in a world of drive-thru relationships built on convenience and personal benefit. It's rare to find people who have been married for 50 years or who have maintained a friendship since childhood. People come and go, even in some of our most sacred relationships.

David did a great job exploring the difference between a contractual relationship and a covenantal relationship. Some relationships are intended to be contractual and are healthier that way: employer/employee or landlord/tenant. You do your part; I'll do mine. You keep your end of the bargain; I'll keep mine. Everyone's rights are protected. Everyone wins. 

But when you try to make relationships contractual that God intends to be covenantal, no one wins. Marriage. Family. Your very closest friends. These are the relationships that you commit yourself to no matter what. If you go through trials, you go through them together. If you file bankruptcy, you rebuild together. If you "fall out of love", you realize that your commitment lies deeper than emotions. 

Relationships that are based on a contract leave the door open. If you don't hold up your end of the deal, I'm outta here. But relationships that are based on a covenant close the door, lock it, and throw away the key. There is no out. This is for life and, no matter what comes are way, the only option we have is to get through this together.

On the surface, that type of commitment may sound you submit to being a prisoner. But in reality, it is the most liberating type of love anyone can experience. There's no insecurity in that type of love. Both people are completely free to be who they are without the fear of rejection or abandonment. You can never reach that level of intimacy in a contractual relationship.

David posed an interesting question for us to consider. I'll leave you with this thought: "Is it possible that you've been approaching your closest relationships with a contract perspective?"

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Is God Green?

Today is Earth Day. Now, I have to be honest...I was never one to celebrate Earth Day before moving to California. Never even knew when it was. We did our part and recycled a little while living in Texas, but I've always been rather skeptical of those crazy tree-hugging, save-the-snails-advocating kind of people.

Recently, I listened to a phenomenal message by John Ortberg (pastor of Menlo Park Presbyterian and best selling author of The Life You've Always Wanted) entitled "Is God Green?" In the message he gives the most well crafted, biblically supported, logically succinct argument for how Christians should interact with creation that I've ever heard. So, in honor of "Earth Day" I wanted to encourage you to make some time to listen to it. Click here to download the message.

There are two reasons why I think Christians should care about the environment:

1-  Environmental issues matter a whole lot to a whole lot of people around us. Many of those people are not Christians. If they believe that being a Christian means abusing, neglecting, or being indifferent about the environment, that is going to be a major barrier in trying to share with them the love of Christ.

2-  As Christians, we have a unique responsibility to be good stewards of the earth that God has given us. Part of our job is to help nature flourish as God intends it to flourish. When we protect creation, we protect the work of God. When we admire creation, we admire the goodness of God. Creation is the artwork of God. It is an expression of who He is. Creation can inspire in us wonder, gratitude, and humility. And who doesn't need more of those qualities?

Northern California has some of the most breath-taking, awe-inspiring beauty that creation holds. When I see all the flowers in bloom around our apartments, when I stand next to a giant Sequoia in the Muir Wood Forest, when I breathe in the sea as I marvel at Big Sur, when I enjoy a well manicured garden, when I hold a newborn baby...I am drawn to worship. So today, on Earth Day, allow creation to lead you to your Creator.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Compassion Week Continues...

Yesterday on my blog, I talked about poverty. Poverty is one of those things that we know is true, but often doesn't seem real. We so rarely interact with people who are desperately poor and it is easy to fall into the trap of "out of sight, out of mind." But the reality is, in this very moment as you sit behind your computer and read this post, one in six people around the world lives in extreme poverty, surviving on less than $1 per day.

When people live in extreme poverty it is easy for them to get exploited, abused, or seek desperate measures to survive. One trap that entangles some of these individuals is Human Trafficking (modern day slavery). There are currently over 27 million slaves in the world, more than any other time in history. These individuals are often kidnapped or deceived and then held against their will to perform tasks they do not want to do. These tasks can be anything: house cleaner, nanny, restaurant worker, factory worker, etc... And many, many of them are exploited for sex either through prostitution or the abuse of their owner.

Slavery is illegal in virtually every country where it exists. But it is an extremely lucrative business for those in the industry, so it is kept underground and is extensively and intricately networked together throughout the world.

What many people do not realize is that human trafficking is not just a crisis in third world countries. It is a crisis here in the United States. All 50 states have had reported cases of human trafficking. Though no one can be certain the exact figures, there are currently thousands of victims (some say hundreds of thousands) within our borders.

The San Francisco Bay area is a major hub for human trafficking. There are police task forces here specifically dedicated to fighting human trafficking. However, when a victim is rescued, there have been very few options for them as to where to find shelter. A domestic violence shelter, a homeless shelter, a hotel, or perhaps even jail.

But this August, the Freedom House will have it's grand opening! This will be the Bay Area's first shelter specifically designed to meet the needs of survivors of human trafficking! The awesome part is that this is going to be a Christian shelter, providing for their physical, emotional, mental, AND spiritual needs.

Freedom House seeks to provide a long term (up to 18 months or longer if necessary) shelter that is a safe, reverent environment for these women to begin to heal, learn necessary skills, get proper immigration status, and meet other needs that the survivors may have.

Andy and I have had the privilege of getting to know the founders of this organization a little bit and they are an amazing, godly couple. South Bay is so excited to be partnering with them to restore hope and dignity to these precious human beings for whom Christ died.

Andy & I are also supporting Freedom House on a monthly basis and you can too! It costs $29 to provide shelter for one night for one of these victims. Freedom House is doing an online giving campaign during the month of April to get people to join their team to help them minister to these survivors with the love of Jesus. I urge you to consider joining that team. $29 a month. $100 a month. Whatever you can do.

What if it was your daughter? Or your sister?  Wouldn't you want them to have the care that they need? 

"Whatever you've done to the least of these, you have done it unto Me."

Click here to go to the Freedom House website and begin donating today!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Meet Jhosua...

In honor of Compassion Sunday at South Bay Church, I thought I'd share with you some easy and practical ways you could get involved in making a difference in the world around you. So often we hear heartbreaking stories and statistics and we want to help, but don't know where to start and feel paralyzed by the reality that we are limited in our resources and ability to help. What can I really do to make a dent in the fight against poverty? Well, let me introduce you to Jhosua:

Jhosua is our child that we sponsor through Compassion International. He just turned 7 and he lives in Indonesia with his mother and two siblings. Jhosua has been apart of our family for about a year now. Caedmon and I love to write him letters and send him pictures, stickers, and anything else we can fit in an envelope!

Because of the money that we contribute each month, Jhosua gets to go to school, receive medical attention and hygiene training, and have consistent nutritional food. Compassion provides all of these opportunities through partnerships with local churches. Therefore, Jhosua is also being taught about the love of Jesus and the hope of the gospel!

I may not be able to feed every hungry mouth in the world. But I can feed one. And to him, it makes all the difference.

We plan on sponsoring an additional child each time one of our children turns 4. Caedmon will be 4 in September, so one of his birthday presents will be a Compassion child sponsored in his name. He will get to have a friend and pen-pal in another country to grow up with.

Please consider sponsoring a child through Compassion International. For $38 a month, you can give a child the chance to rise above poverty and reach their potential. Click here to go to Compassion's website and join the team today!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Compassion Sunday

This Sunday was such a special week at South Bay Church. I felt like it gave a clear picture of who we are...the DNA of our church. We called it "Compassion Sunday" and highlighted four different compassion ministries that we urged our people to get involved in.
  • Compassion International (serving children living in poverty)
  • Freedom House (serving survivors of human trafficking)
  • A mission trip to Haiti this summer
  • A local elementary school with whom we are partnering
South Bay is all about putting the gospel into action. Let's not just be hearers of the Word, but doers also. Let's not just come to church out of social obligation, guilt, or routine. Let's not just come to be entertained, to get spiritual fed, or to have our needs met. Let's let the gospel change the way we live, the way we view the world, and the way we interact with those around us.

Andy's message this Sunday was a powerful invitation to get involved. The passage that he taught from (2 Corinthians 5:16-21) tells us that God has given us [believers] the ministry of reconciliation. We get to join Him (and, in fact, have a responsibility to join Him) in restoring the brokenness in our world. You don't have to look very hard to realize that things are not right in this world. We have been sent as God's ambassadors to bring healing and hope to the broken places in this world.

So, take initiative! Stop waiting for someone to tell you exactly what to do or give you a personal invitation. You have been SENT!

(This week on my blog I will highlight two specific ways that you can get involved. Stay tuned...)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Sunday Rewind

On Sunday, Filipe preached a sermon entitled "Reviving a Struggling Relationship". Instead of approaching the subject from a self-help point of view with three easy steps to heal your relationships, he took a much deeper look at the root of relational problems: our misunderstanding of what true love looks like. While the English language can only boast of ONE word to captivate "love", the Greek language uses four: storge, eros, phileo, and agape.

If I tried to explain each type of love as well as Filipe did, this post would get really long. Instead I just want to share one insight. Filipe gave the definition for agape love as sacrificial, unselfish, unconditional, a desire for someone's greatest good on the basis of a decision of will. 

The first three levels of love (storge, eros, and phileo) require nothing supernatural. Most humans experience these at some point. But to love with agape love requires supernatural intervention. God has to get involved.

Sometimes it feels easy and natural to love the people in our lives. There's a certain attractiveness about them (whether that person is a child/adult/male/female). But sometimes relationships are hard. And ugly. And hurtful. And nothing about them feels easy or natural. That is when we need the divine intervention of God's agape love.

Just because it's difficult to love someone doesn't let us off the hook of our God-given responsibility. "If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even tax-collectors doing that?" We are given a higher standard...loving those who hurt us, who grate on our nerves, who defy everything we stand for.

I don't know who you are having a difficult time loving today. But the beauty of your struggle is that God has to get involved. You can't love them in your own strength. But His strength is made perfect in our weakness!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Today is my dad's birthday. So in honor of that, I thought I would tell you 10 pieces of trivia about him:

  1. He was born in Kentucky but raised in Florida where he fell in love when sunshine, water sports, and a summer uniform of flip flops and swim trunks (t-shirt optional).
  2. He's always dreamed of owning a boat. That dream finally came true when I was in college.
  3. My dad & I share a passion for horses. He had one growing up and gave me one when I was in sixth grade. We have many great memories surrounding horses.
  4. My dad has more hobbies than anyone I know (water sports, snow skiing, bike riding, and motorcycles are the front runners right now). Somehow he is able to do these things while living within a limited budget and without neglecting his family. He has the amazing ability to incorporate him family into his hobbies instead of neglecting his family to pursue his hobbies.
  5. As a child, I always knew I had full access to my dad. I could walk in his office at any time unannounced, even if he was meeting with someone. I rarely did this, but it meant the world to me to know that I could.
  6. Until recent years, my dad was a hopeless case in the kitchen. I remember him catching toast on fire as a child. His growth in this area in latter years shows that you can, indeed, teach an old dog new tricks!
  7. One of my most meaningful childhood memories is coming downstairs every morning and seeing my dad in his chair with his Bible and journal. I knew that he had been meeting with Jesus and speaking with Him on my behalf. He was undoubtedly the spiritual leader of our family.
  8. I only remember camping with my dad on two occasions and one of those times was a COMPLETE disaster. We have a lot of funny stories, though.
  9. On family vacations, my dad will wake up 2 hours before the rest of us, completely exhaust my brother, brother-in-law, and husband with the amount of recreation he desires, and then still be looking for a new playmate. He has more energy at 63 than most men do at 23!
  10. My dad has pursued Christ and sought to build up the body of Christ every single day of my life. It is the most all-consuming passion of his life. He has built a legacy for our family that very few families can claim. My dad is one of the primary reasons why I love Christ and His Church like I do. So much of who I am is a direct result of my father's influence. I am exceedingly grateful to be his child.
Happy Birthday, Daddy. I love you!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

To Spank or Not to Spank

Before I tell you this hilarious story, I feel the need to say that Andy and I do believe spanking is a reasonable and appropriate form of discipline when used correctly. Spankings should be administered by a self-controlled, loving parent who is seeking to train his/her child in appropriate behavior by inflicting a measured amount of pain to make a certain behavior no longer desirable. Spanking is not a means of venting frustration and should never be done flippantly. Spankings should accompany verbal instruction on the reason for the consequence and what appropriate behavior looks like. Spankings, when administered correctly, are truly an expression of love, not anger.

Okay, with that said...

The other day Caedmon and I were at the playground and he began playing with a couple other kids who were about his age. The other children (a boy & a girl) were long-time friends, and I started chatting with their mothers. The little girl found a branch that had broken off of the tree and was carrying it around. The boy's mother told her to be careful with the branch and the girl's mother agreed. The girl's mother was not really paying attention to the kids because she did not see the following events unfolding. The little girl was walking toward the little boy and was clearly about to knock him upside the head with this branch. (Did I mention this branch was as tall as she was and had all kinds of poke-your-eye-out-twigs sticking off of it?) The boy's mother yells at the girl to put the branch down while simultaneously sprinting toward her, hurdles the bushes, and grabs the branch out of her hand. She takes the girl by the arm and says, "Go see your mother!" Meanwhile, the girl's mom who was trailing behind arrives at the scene, yanks the girl around, and starts repeatedly swatting her on the butt. (The girl is doing her best wiggle dance to dodge incoming blows.) The mother, as she is angrily spanking her child, yells, "DO WE HIT PEOPLE?!"

I couldn't help but laugh out loud and think to myself, "Wow, I bet she really understood that spanking!"

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Why Ethiopia?

I've had a couple people ask me recently why we decided to adopt from Ethiopia.

First of all, I want to say that I am 100% supportive of all adoption and think it is a beautiful picture of how God has redeemed our lives by adopting us into His family and given us a second chance. I'm not at all trying to minimize someone else's choice to adopt in a different way than we have. This is just the story behind what motivated us:

Why international adoption vs. domestic?
  1. Andy and I both have a passion for international missions and truly love the nations of the world. Heaven will one day be full of people from every tribe, tongue, and nation, and we think it would be such a privilege to reflect that in our own home. 
  2. As bad as the foster care system can be here in the United States, most of those children will not die of starvation or disease. In Africa, the percentage of children that die before age 5 is staggering. 
  3. As far as I understand, international adoption are closed and final upon passing court. There is no way the birth parents can come back later and try to take their child back. This is not always the case in US adoptions.
Why Ethiopia instead of another country?

Andy and I would love to adopt children from multiple countries and hope to do so in the future. We chose Ethiopia first for a few reasons:
  1. Ethiopia is one of the few countries that allows parents under the age of 30 to adopt. Andy and I are 28 and wanted to move forward with the adoption now instead of waiting a couple more years.
  2. Ethiopia is one of the fastest countries to adopt from right now. (Example: Adoptions from China are currently taking 3-4 years.)
  3. (Warning: this reason may sound strange to you.) Our adoption agency currently partners with 6 different countries. 3 are countries with white children.  We wanted our adopted children to have a different color skin than us so that it would be obvious to outsiders that we have adopted. Perhaps this will lead to conversations regarding the beauty of adoption and even opportunities to share about God's love and how He desires to adopt us into His family. The other 3 countries are China, Rwanda, and Ethiopia. China and Rwanda require parents to be 30 years old. 
 And, thus, we have ETHIOPIA!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Sunday Rewind: By the Numbers

What an incredible weekend!!! I don't have time to write much b/c Andy's family is in town this week and I'm visiting with them. But I wanted to post a few pictures and some stats.

"The Hunt"
Community wide Easter egg hunt on Saturday
10,000 eggs & 2,500 people!

My sister-in-law, Meaghan and her little girl, Olivia

525 people attended (200 more than we've ever had!)
18 first time decisions to follow Christ

For a more thorough update, check out my husband's blog.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Caedmon's Questions


Anyone who knows Caedmon knows that he is FULL of questions. The other day he got stuck on the same one over and over again. He kept asking, "Mommy, why da bad guys spank Jesus?"

I came up with as many different answers as I could think of, but then I finally just looked him square in the face and said, "Well, Caedmon, he was bruised for our iniquities. He was crushed for our transgressions. The chastisement that brought us peace was upon him. And by His stripes we are healed."

He looked at me, blinked, and said, "OK." That was the end of that.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Good News & A Prayer Request

Our adoption agency announced yesterday SEVEN new referrals! (A referral is when they match a child with a family.) This is great news because there had been NO referrals in two months. The court system got rather bogged down through February and March and it seemed that hardly any families were passing court for a while. It was taking multiple attempts (3, 4, even 5 tries) to get through court. The reasons for not passing court vary greatly, but it is often something as simple as one government agency not getting their paperwork to the court on time. However, as of late, there have been many families who have passed court and are traveling to get their kiddos!

It looks like things are starting to move again and I'm hoping that our referral isn't too far away. Referrals are rather random and difficult to predict, but I can't help but hope! We are currently #3 on the unofficial waiting list for toddler boys. (We were #2 but a mystery family checked in and their DTE is before ours.)

So that's the good on to the prayer request.

We received an email today from our adoption agency that all families who have their court appointment before May 9th do not have to be physically present in court. All families who have their court appointment after May 9th must appear in person (i.e. travel to Ethiopia). If we get in before May 9th, we will only need to travel to Ethiopia one time. This would be my preference. There is still a possibility that we could get in by then but we would need to get our referral really soon.

All of this is completely out of our hands, but we know it is not out of God's. He is in control and He knows what is best. Please pray with us that God's will will be done specifically for our family, and that He would give both Andy and me and peace in our heart about it.