Archive for the ‘Adoption Journey’ Category

The Connected Child(ren of God)

Years ago, when we began the journey of adoption, it was surprising to read in “The Connected Child” that we would want our daughter to cry.  Reading the explanation, however, seemed to make perfect sense.  For a child who has never known the safe environment of a loving home and parents who cared for her needs, she has to learn the connected-child-cover-web-198x300instinct to cry out.  Previously, crying gained her nothing, or quite possibly the opposite of affection, and so she may have “unlearned” the behavior.  As our child became connected to us, it would become evident through moments like crying out – knowing she could trust a proper and loving response.

Fast forward several years.  We’ve finally brought home a daughter who is about 5 years old, and not only has she “unlearned” many habits of children who grow up in healthy environments – she’s also acquired many habits of children who grow up in unhealthy environments.  She is loved, for the first time as never before, and brought in to being part of a family. At first, she didn’t understand much of anything.  What did “Father” mean?  What did “Mother” mean?  There are certain things, and certain words, that if you were to examine them in the routine of many normal homes it would be confusing.   But in our context, where we’re attempting to purposefully build the connections most children would naturally develop from birth, they make sense.

Now take a step back.  Think about the Old Testament and the actions or words spoken between God and His people.  A common question among people who don’t want to believe in God, or even those who do but are honest with their doubts – “Why would God command ______?  Why would God do ________?”

I can’t pretend to understand the mind or heart of God completely, but I do understand the heart of a Father who wants to connect with the heart of their child. A child who has never known a Father like this before.  A child who has become so separated from the concept of “family” or “parent”, that it is a completely foreign concept.

So we see God calling out His people from among all others.  We see God rescue His people, only to force them into depending on Him through the wilderness for 40 years. We hear words from God about the wrath He’s capable of, even though ultimately He reveals His heart to be powerfully Loving and full of Grace for humanity. (lol, I realize that sounds bad here.  No worries, we’re not threatening wrath or taking our daughters on 40 year wilderness journeys.)

It’s not the kind of relationship we’d have if we were born aware of Him.  But it’s an adoption that impacts us to the very core of our being, for eternity.  Romans 8:15 reminds us, “The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”

One of the most natural ways to build that connection and bond? Simply to hold our daughter, and to allow her to feel our love. To remind her that we are here, and she is here, and she is ours no matter what happens.  To help her feel safe, and loved, and comforted.  To provide for her needs, and help her to see how depending on us to meet those needs is a trustworthy habit to develop.

In this moment – maybe it’s a good reminder for you and I – if this is what I am aware of, can’t we trust that God knows even better how to move His children into a fully connected relationship with Him?  We can trust in these moments, if we allow ourselves to be held by Him, to listen to His words, and to depend on Him to provide – these are habits worth developing in our own lives.

Even as I continue to pray my daughter would know my love deep in her heart, and not just in behavior – I also pray that my heart would deeply come to know the Love of my Father, not just in my behavior.  I pray that God would use this understanding of His Love – to invite even more children into fuller connection with Him…

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Worth the Wait

Finally. Home.

In February, 2016, the DRC released the first of what was to be several small lists of families being given permission to bring their children home.  We were so thankful to be on that first list, although it seemed our case was still not moving forward well.  So, we decided to travel to Kinshasa, and do everything we could in person.  We ended up staying a bit longer than anticipated, and missed Easter at home, but in the end – it was so worth it.  Two and a half weeks after arriving, we came home to unite our family – finally and wholly together.

Thank you, Jesus.

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Our prayers continue for the many, many families still waiting to bring their children home from the DRC.  Some progress has been made, but it continues that children who already have families and homes are not being allowed to travel to join them.  We pray that VERY SOON, all of these children will be forever united with their families.

We also pray for the DRC, and for all that God is up to in their midst.  Political transitions, empowering the people, and inspiring new creation paths for the future Congolese – God is doing a new thing…

Hello Again.

Ps. Posting this early here, so you don’t get bored of my writing and miss it.  My wife got me an incredible new newyearsmicrophone (Blue – Snowball) for Christmas, and I couldn’t wait to try it.  So I whipped up a quick spoken word yesterday and put it online so others could hear it.  Check it out if you’re brave, and share it with others if you like it!

I suppose it’s about time for an update.  We continue to wait, and pray desperately for a miracle to help bring our daughter home from the DRC. No incredibly miraculous updates there, other than the blessing of knowing she has just celebrated Christmas in a home with a family for the first time in her life.  The pictures of her beautiful smile, and stories of her visiting sick children in the hospital to help them smile warm this fathers heart.

It’s also worth noting, I’ve completed my first year of Seminary!!! Whoo hooo!!  I’m 1/3 of the way toward my MDIV degree at Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University.  What is an MDIV? (I get asked this often.)  My response is usually, “I want to be a better pastor.  To improve how I serve God, my family, my community, and my church.  The classes for this MDIV are basically examining the various facets involved in pursuit of such a goal.   So far I’ve also realized I’m not a horrible student anymore.  Somewhere along the way, my nerd genes were activated, and like a mutant whose powers have only just begun to show – I’m more than a little excited.  Not because it helps me get A’s, (though those are each worth free tokens at Chuck E. Cheese), but because it’s legitimately improving the wealth of wisdom, understanding, and academia I draw from in the moment to moment serving who I serve where I serve.  I’m loving it.

Looking forward to the year ahead.  Throughout my spiritual formation course lately, I’m reminded of my extroversion, and desire to craft words together in a way that connects with others.  So be watching out for plenty more posts, and spoken words in the months to come.  Thanks for reading!

What is something you’re looking forward to/hoping for 2016?

#DRCStuck

I realize I’ve not written much in the past few months.  I started my masters’ degree this past January, and with the adoption journey being a roller coaster of emotions – it’s hard to know what to say during the few moments I have to say it.   I’m certainly still writing, but most of it is in the form of papers at the moment.

One of my recent assignments for a “Spiritual Formation” class was to illustrate a prayer request. So I made a video about our adoption journey.  It ended up being tougher for me to even watch than I thought, because it’s a bit emotional.  But I’m proud of how it came out.  It’s been on YouTube less than 2 days, and already has almost 1,000 views – so I figured I should probably share it with my mom and the few other readers that are still here. 🙂

Thanks so much for your continued prayers and encouragement…

You May Have Heard…

You may have heard that recently we returned from a last-minute, unplanned trip to the DRC to visit the daughter whom we’re still in process of adopting.  You may have heard that in early 2012, we began the process of reaching out through adoption to change the life of an infant who needed a family, to change our family, and to open many hearts and minds to a new experience of a globally-connected faith.  You may have heard that journey has taken many different roads, and much longer than originally expected.

You may have heard that while I was at class a few weeks ago, we learned it was urgent for us to visit our sweet girl.  To help give her needed care, and help the early process of transferring her into foster care locally until we can bring her home for good.

You may have heard that even after 3 years, we had hundreds of family and friends who responded quickly and loudly, “WE HAVE FAITH!” by their donations, prayers, and encouragement in our adoption process.  You may have been moved to tears by such love.

What you may not have heard, was this:

You may not have heard, the trip went amazing.  We learned so much about the Congolese people, the culture, the present struggles and the hope many have for the near future.

You may not have heard that our daughter was released into our care for the week.  For almost an entire week, she was with us from when we cuddled in bed every morning, until the moments we tried to calm her natural wonder and excitement enough to sleep every night.  We were able to give her individual attention and love, filling her heart and her little tummy – as she filled our hearts to overflowing.  How she gained a few pounds even during our time together.  How the doctors at the clinic couldn’t believe her size for her age.  We wish her sisters were with us, but we look forward to having all 4 girls at home someday.IMG_7584

You may not have heard, how we hope to move her into local foster care, even within the week.  We were able to meet with foster parents, and prepare the paths she will take hopefully very soon.  The orphanage she lives is amazing, and does so much for the community – but they are very limited in their resources.  The hope, and love shown not only by the women who work there, but the young men and women who have grown up there and now care for the younger children – was beautiful.

You may not have heard about the giant traffic robots, invented by Congolese women who are engineers and very proud of their invention that helps attempt to keep drivers safe in a very unsafe overall driving environment.  How a single apple can cost about $5, and the cost of a driver and translator are worth every penny.

You may not have heard how difficult it was to release our daughter back into the care of an orphanage in the DRC.  But we took small comfort in her smiles and laughter as she played with her friends, even as our driver slowly eased backward out of the compound…

We realize that it was ultimately into the care of God that she was released.  This is the same for each of our girls, and is required on a daily basis.  Yet still, it is hard.  Thank you for your prayers, and encouragement.  Continue to pray for so many who are like us – stuck and waiting to bring their child home.   We met some incredible American families who have made DRC their home, and live with their children in-house, until allowed to return to the US.  Pray not only for adoptions to begin moving again, but pray for the DRC as a whole.  There are many who recognize now is an important time (Kairos) for their nation.  There is hope for a rebuilding that the people have desired for many generations, but it will still take some miraculous work by God in the hearts and minds of many in leadership.

You may have heard that in the DRC, as in the US and many other places – sin has caused damage beyond repair.

But you may not have heard the words of Jesus: “Behold, I am making all things NEW.” (Rev. 21:5)

May our lives and our homes begin the proclamation of Christs’ New Creation, as we love and live in the name of Jesus…for the sake of the World…

Oh, be quiet Larry…

I remember back in late high school or early college:  There was this short Christian classic on sale or clearance or something and I wanted to get it.  A small part actually wanting to be the kind of person to read such books, and a larger part wanting to seem to be the kind of person to read such books, I snagged it.  I read through it a bit.  I smiled.  I even understood a few sentences.

In college, it was mentioned here and there.  I knew the topic vaguely, and smiled and nodded whenever someone mentioned it in conversation.  Yes, that is quite a good book.  Yes, I do so enjoy practicing the presence of God, just like Brother Lawrence did in “Practicing the Presence of God”.  Whether doing the dishes (as he did) or other menial tasks that my day to day existence brings me, I love the fact that Christ always offers to be very near.  God truly is with us, closer than we often realize.

I was a bit surprised then, when reading the book more closely for my current course on Spiritual Formation, to find so larrymuch in the book I didn’t like.  When the author writes Brother Lawrence (let’s call him Larry) to tell him of a friend who loses a close friend to death, Larry tells him to advise his friend to use these moments to his advantage.  “What a great opportunity to give the part of your heart previously given to your friend back to God where it belongs!”, he seems to say.  Or when the author himself is aging and enduring intense suffering of some sort, Larry refuses to pray his suffering would be taken away.  Instead, Larry insists on praying that God would strengthen the author to endure the suffering that is most likely God’s way of refining his heart and soul.  No, I do not like this guy much at all.  I don’t think I would have written him as much as the author seemed to.  A man who neurotically spent at least 10 years of his life anxious that he shouldn’t be distracted in thought or feeling by anything that might take God’s place, finally ending up with peace (albeit alone, and without much pleasure it would seem beyond the “presence of God”).  No, I do not like this guy much at all.

Yet…I can appreciate his heart.  A heart that yearns for the presence of God so much that everything else – even the extremely important things in life – melt away.  An experience of God’s presence, even in suffering alone, that gives him a sense of complete and udder wholeness that so many empty people in our world are hungry for.

I’ll admit, wrestling with his message comes at a poignant time.  Last week was the final week of Lent.  The season of preparing for Easter.  It was also a week of waiting for an important update in terms of our adoption.  This journey that has taken over 3 years, it finally feels like our boat has spotted land.  So it takes a bit of humility to confess that I, a pastor who was allowed to even baptize several people this morning, was distracted most of my week by checking my e-mail for an update that never came.  That dotting my week of anticipating the resurrection of Jesus Christ, I was experiencing the brokenness of a human whose heart is not at complete peace in this broken world.

Part of me realizes that’s probably okay.   Jesus was certainly not often “at peace” in this world.  Another part of me realizes, there’s something to all this stuff Larry was talking about.

But before you or I go out and leave our family, secluding ourselves in monasteries away from our spouses and children, aiming to live like Larry and push away anything that threatens to occupy a place in our hearts – I don’t think that is required.   But we can be reminded in powerful ways, the truths found in Scriptures like 1 Corinthians 15.  That Jesus died and was resurrected.  The truth of this powerful statement impacts us as individuals, and puts every anxious thought, every deep-seated need/emotion, and every well-intentioned prayer in a wonderfully redemptive context.

The Truth of a resurrected Jesus Christ releases us from serving the state of our situations.  Even though there are times (like this past week, and probably again in the future) we don’t want to hear it, the words of Brother Lawrence come as important reminders: Even really important and good things are not “foundational” the way Christ and His resurrection are.  We can have Peace, even in the midst of needing peace.  That is something the world considers foolish.   That is something scripture considers faith.

That is something my daughters need from their father.  Something my wife needs from her husband.  And so, not as an individual but as a family – we work to shape our heart to seek pleasure only in the things that please God.  We seek to walk with Him as the center of our being.  We confess that this is not an easy road, and we sometimes lose focus.  But we return to this walk and practice – together.

(and really really pray that our boat would draw a big step closer to “land” this week) 🙂

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