Monday, November 19, 2012

Keep Calm and Suffer On

If there's anything we hate, it's suffering.  If there's anything I hate, it's suffering.  Our natural desire is to avoid pain.  Most of the pursuit of the modern world is comfort.  We would have a hard time identifying our actual needs, because they are regularly met and then forgotten in the unending sea of wants.

In late 1939, after the outbreak of war, the British government appointed the design of several morale-boosting posters.  Two of the three posters designed were published, the third was reserved in case Britain was invaded by Germany.  Under the image of the crown it read "Keep Calm and Carry On."  Presumably, the message being, Stay calm, the king remains...the kingdom brace yourself and keep on keepin' on.  Since there was no invasion, the poster was not widely seen by the public until an original copy was rediscovered in 2000.  Now there are "Keep Calm and Carry On" mugs, t-shirts, and phone covers, along with myriads of parodies on the phrase.  (Ironically, the message is printed on luxury items, the demand for which says something about our culture's idea of trials...but that's a discussion for another day.)

Even in the mad pursuit to free our lives of suffering, something about the message to "Keep Calm and Carry On" apparently resonates with us.  As Americans we aren't facing a military invasion but in the face of the day's trials we still like a reminder that life goes on, because we can't avoid it, suffering finds us.  The world seeks to manage the pain, minimize its impact and carry on with the pursuit of comfort.  The problem is that a pursuit of comfort leaves us walking out of step with our Savior, whose path led Him straight into suffering and death.

This year God has been teaching me a lot about suffering, some through personal experience, and a lot through the example of men and women of faith throughout history.  One day, while pondering suffering the "Keep Calm" slogan came to mind and I decided I'd add my adaptation of the phrase to the mix: "Keep Calm and Suffer On."  My interpretation being what Peter wrote in 1 Peter 4:12-14--
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of  Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.
Often, pain hits me and I first feel shock.  This can't be happening to me!  No one else is enduring such trials!   Yet, Peter tells me that the appropriate response is a calm knowledge that suffering is normal for followers of Christ!  It isn't strange and certainly shouldn't be unexpected.  Paraphrasing of course, he first says "Keep calm, this is normal."  Then he says something totally counter-intuitive, (again, paraphrasing), "Suffer on!  Embrace your suffering, knowing it brings you to experience the glory of God."  In other words, the King remains...the Kingdom remains...suffer with purpose, so that you may know Christ more fully.

If we're all being honest, this probably makes you as uncomfortable as it does me.  However, if Christ suffered, why should we think ourselves exempt?  Why should we want to be exempt?  The way of the cross is our calling.  It's what we signed up for.  Do not be shocked.  Do not get bitter.  Do not try to minimize the impact of suffering.  Embrace it, knowing that through perseverance your character and faith will grow. 

I'm currently reading a book called He Leadeth Me, written by a Jesuit priest who felt God call him to serve in Russia in the 1930s.  While pursuing this mission, in the midst of World War II, he was captured, held in solitary confinement and relentlessly interrogated for five years, then spent the next 18 years in a labor camp in Siberia.  Most of his experience was wrestling with the will of God and learning how to bring God glory and serve others in the face of suffering.  He writes, "Pain and suffering...become a means of...fostering peace and conformity to God's will, for they are seen as the continuation of Christ's purposeful, redemptive, healing acts by which the world is reconciled to the will of the Father." It is a challenging read.  But as I broaden my understanding of the world-wide Christian experience, I am realizing that the perceived safety and comfort of our American culture can, more often than not, distract us from our call to the cross. 

What are we willing to sacrifice for the pursuit of Christ?  Are we continuing Christ's passion to reconcile the world to our Father, no matter the cost?  There is no time to waste...lives are at stake.

Fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, brace yourself, keep calm and suffer on.  It is for the glory of the One who paved the way for us and who shared in our suffering, even unto death.  The King remains and through Him we shall inherit the glories of heaven!  We were not made for this world, our comfort lies ahead of us.  May our suffering gain souls for eternity and press us to count "everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus [our] Lord. For his sake [we] have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that [we] may gain Christ" (Phil. 3:8).

Monday, November 12, 2012

Two Faithful Sams and a Bunch of Felons

It's easy to think the things we do every day make no difference. Rarely do we get to see more than the shallow footprints of where we have been.  It's other people, heroes of the faith, who see miraculous things, not normal folk like us.  But recently, I've been thinking a lot about how the "heroes of the faith" often didn't do one magnificent thing.  They walked faithfully and each day their footprints sunk deeper into the sand with the weight of their faith.  Each year, people followed their example and, pretty soon, the single set of footprints became the imprint of a movement...all because they were faithful and kept walking where God led.

Since we have started serving with TUMI this idea has been on my mind.  Much of what we do is missional in a theoretical sense.  We create resources and structures to facilitate the training of urban leaders for church planting movements, but this doesn't mean that we don't see first-hand God moving in amazing ways.  Recently, I was struck by the story of two men, who just by being faithful, have impacted the Kingdom in big ways...and TUMI has had the honor to participate.

Last week Warden Sam Cline came to visit TUMI and speak to World Impact staff about the prison in Hutchinson, Kansas.  It is truly amazing what God is doing there.  Through the simple, Christ-like belief that prisoners deserve dignity Warden Cline is changing prison culture.  The U.S. recidivism rate is over 60%, but because Warden Cline works to provide enrichment programs for his inmates, partners with godly business-owners to provide work for them, and takes every opportunity for Christ to be made known, the recidivism rate at Hutchinson is just over 30%.  Now, wardens all over the country are looking to Sam Cline, as a leader in prison reform.  All because he was faithful to the godly principle that every life is sacred to Christ...even the felon's.

Warden Cline is offering up an entire section of the prison to be used for the new TUMI satellite that will launch soon behind their bars.  Square footage is hard to come by in a prison, but Warden Cline believes strongly that God will change men's hearts and believes in TUMI's vision to train up indigenous leaders for Christ's church.

Warden Sam Cline believes in the vision of TUMI because another Sam was faithful even in less than ideal circumstances in his own life.  Due to a tragic, accidental event that led to the death of his wife, Sam found himself in Ellsworth prison (where Sam Cline was then warden).  Possessing a Master's degree from seminary and a Ph.D. in Agriculture, and a faithful Christian heart, Sam quickly began to use his academic skills and leadership to launch the first TUMI satellite in prison.  His leadership at The Advanced Studies Institute of the Inner Freedom Initiative of Prison Fellowship (in Ellsworth) served as the impetus for Prison Fellowship to begin their partnership with World Impact, through TUMI, and convinced Warden Cline of the importance of the training.

After his release Sam served as a mentor at our TUMI National Hope School of Ministry, and eventually took all his experience back to his home in Jos, Nigeria where he will partner with churches there to supply affordable Christian leadership education.  Sam's faithful footprints are sinking deep and drawing others to the pursuit of Christ, but it all started in prison.

Now, as a result of the partnership with Prison Fellowship, 423 prisoners are being trained to be pastors and Christian leaders, with an exponential growth poised on the horizon.  And, because of Warden Cline's faithfulness, other prisons are looking to walk in step with a man who follows Jesus.

The potential in the prisons leaves me in awe every time I think about it.  Wouldn't it be just like our God if He used a bunch of felons as the birth place of a revival in our country?  Isn't it just like our God to take leaders from gangs and the drug trade out of the temptations of the city, use the secular government to feed and house them, and use the Body of Christ to train them to one day be released back into the communities they had a hand in damaging and transform them for Christ?  Quite a seminary our God has set up for these men and women.

It is completely within the grace of our God to use felons, truly the "least of these" in societies eyes, and two ordinary but faithful Sams to bring spiritual revival to our land.  Let us pray for that, and let us pray that God make us faithful in our own lives as we lead others to walk in step with our Savior. one faithful step at a time.

In the words of Mother Teresa, “We cannot all do great things, but we can do small things with great love.”  And that is all our Savior asks of us.

Monday, November 5, 2012

I'm Thankful for: Adoption

It's National Adoption Month, and, obviously, our family has a vested interest in adoption.  It's also the month in which people spend a great deal of time making lists of the things they are thankful for.  I normally dislike anything "bandwagony" but seeing as how adoption is something for which I am truly grateful, and it being National Adoption Month and all, I thought it only appropriate to talk about it.

Being a family, you know, the ordinary things like laughing at strange inside jokes, eating dinner together, doing time-outs and bedtime routines, usually eclipses the fact that we are also an adoptive family.  But, that doesn't take away the significance adoption has for our family, or the beauty and challenge that comes with it.  Usually I spend my time laughing at my Little Man's crazy ways or trying not to go crazy from life with a strong-willed three-year-old, but sometimes moments overwhelm me with how grateful I am that God made a plan to bring our family together.  Here are some of the things I'm grateful for:
  1. I'm grateful to understand adoption from the perspective of an adoptive parent.  My son is as much my child as a birth child would be, and it helps me fathom how God feels about us and how important it is to have an identity in a heavenly family.
  2. I'm grateful that my son is no longer an orphan.  I don't think about this very often, because God has been so merciful to my son and placed him in situations where he was loved and cared for, even before God brought him to us, but he could have been like so many other orphans, who never find their forever-home.
  3. I'm grateful that adoption makes me see family in an entirely different way.  To me, family has broadened to include birth families, foster families, and those people who have committed their love to our family and my son in particular.  Sure there are headaches with more family (anyone with a big family can attest to that), but it is also wonderful to open your heart and expand your personal circle to include more lives!
  4. I'm grateful that transracial adoption makes me see the world differently.  It makes me experience, even if just a little bit, the prejudice that still exist in the world.  It forces me to think more compassionately, and contemplate what diversity really means and to understand that skin color really does make a difference to how you see the world.
  5. I'm grateful that God has given my son so many godly men as role models.  When you are raising a black son you realize, even more, how important this is.  God has placed strong godly men in his life, including men that share his skin color, and that blessing is not lost on me.
  6. Mostly, I'm grateful that God designs families...all kinds of families.  They are all beautiful and purposeful.  All families are meant to bear the glory and story of God, I'm just grateful that our family's uniqueness gives us an opportunity (and the responsibility) to more boldly declare it.
In this month, where we remember adoption, as well as what we are thankful for, take a moment and thank God that He doesn't need a nationally dedicated month to be reminded that we, His adopted children, are important.  And, pray for both spiritual and physical orphans to come to know the love of a forever family.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Not About Us

It was hard to leave St. Louis, but one of the hardest things was leaving the people we have ministered to, some of whom we have relationships that go back a decade.  I am truly grateful that God allowed us enough time for so many people to grow to be as part of our family.

But, for anyone whose call is to full-time relational ministry, it can be very easy to slip into thinking that ministry begins and ends in us.  We don't mean to start thinking that we are the center of the universe, but gosh darn it, people don't get saved without us, tasks don't get done, and, well, the earth might stop spinning on its axis if we aren't busy doing what we do.

I'd be lying if I didn't admit that when we knew we were leaving St. Louis, some of these thoughts scrolled through my head.  What will all the people we've known and loved do without us?  

I don't discount the magnitude of the relationships God puts in our life, but it's so much healthier for everyone if I can see myself in light of the truth.  God was, is, and always will be bringing about His plans.  I merely get to participate!  People don't need me, they need God, and sometimes God will use me in the process and sometimes He'll use someone else. 

We spent many years sowing seeds in St. Louis.  We saw fruit, but mostly we were behind the plow.  Some of the fruit we saw was a result of missionaries before us doing the same.  Some of the fruit the missionaries who carry on in St. Louis will see is a result of our efforts...and so on.  That's the beauty of God...He sees the whole picture, weaving together His purposes through the Body of Christ.

And, so, all we are responsible for is to be faithful with what lies before us.  Then we will see seasons of harvest, not as our expected rewards, but as a blessing of unexpected grace.  This weekend we felt that blessing.

Every year World Impact puts on a Men's Retreat. TUMI plays an integral part by providing and coordinating worship and teaching.  Andrew has attended the last few years with guys from St. Louis, but this year he attended as working staff.  Even though he was there in a different capacity, he still got to attend with some of the men from St. Louis that we have been working with for years.  One of the men who attended for the first time this year was a neighbor, a good friend, and someone for whom we have been praying for years (this was not his first Men's Retreat invitation!).. 

It is exciting to watch him continue to open up to the things of God, even from a distance, knowing that our dear friend's life is not in our hands but the hands of the God of the Universe, whose plans are always fulfilled. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Struggling to Survive

Recently we saw "To the Arctic" at the IMAX. It was Judah's first movie theater experience and while he was a little disoriented by the surround sound, he seemed as enthralled with the massive glaciers and arctic wildlife as we were.

The film highlighted the melting of the arctic ice pack due to global warming, and the challenges wildlife face as a result. It particularly focused on polar bear mamas and their cubs. The melting of the ice packs makes it difficult to hunt for food and evade predators. One mama bear had to set off on an eight-day swim to find food and lost her cub in the process. Another mama of twin cubs was constantly hunting to feed them, always on the alert for danger, and even had a run-in with a hungry male polar bear after her cubs.

While listening to Meryl Streep narrate the difficulties mama bears and their cubs face, I thought, the plight of mother and child in a cruel environment is a moving one. If you want to call people to action, you show them a film about a polar bear mama tirelessly looking for food and protecting her cubs at risk of her life. People send money for that kind of thing, they take trips to see for themselves. Surely, we cannot let mother and child suffer!

And, then in my mind, the harsh arctic transformed into a city, the glaciers became city buildings and the polar bears became urban-poor mamas and their children. You don't have to go to the arctic to see mamas live heroic efforts for survival. For many women, every day in the city is a fight to survive. Life, for them, is kind of like floating on an ice pack with your children, with no one but predators around and no resources in sight. You become resourceful, cunning, and tough as nails, or you and your children don't survive. You haven't heard a roar until you see an urban mama protecting her own.

I am in awe of so many urban mamas, who don't know if they will be able to put food on the table for their kids, or protect their children from imminent danger, or ever find a man who won't use and abuse them. And, yet, they still get up every morning and fight.  They are at once so strong and so broken, something that makes them awe-inspiringly beautiful to me.  Sometimes I feel like I can’t make it through the day, and I have a fridge full of food and a great support network.  I don’t know how they do it.

The end of the IMAX film called people to action.  Send money…vote for politicians who care about the environment…live green.  Work in the city is harder and messier than that.  Sometimes things seem hopeless, but God is able to bring hope to the hopeless.  The city needs our resources, our efforts, and most of all, our prayer.

If people can take up the cause of a polar bear, surely we can fight for urban mamas and their kids.  Any little thing can be life-changing, when you are desperate to survive.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Hold Loosely

There has been a lot of loss for our family in the last few months.  We moved from St. Louis, leaving our ministry, our neighbors, our friends, our home.  Before we moved, someone left our gate open and our dog was never to be seen again.  We've felt let down by relationships.  Expectations have been unrealized.  Our health has been sketchy.  We're feeling culture shock as we leave a culture we've been a part of for a decade.  Then we were in a car accident and our van was totaled.

Some of the losses were small, some more significant, but the trend has been a little discouraging.  Andrew and I joked that we could write a bad country song, "We left our home, we miss our friends, our dog is gone, and our van was towed off to the salvage!"

In the past months not everything in our lives has been about loss (primarily, our long awaited ADOPTION!!), but there has been enough of it to make us uncomfortable.  This week, in the wake of the accident, and other life nuisances, I was discouraged by all of the losses and the words "hold loosely" came to my mind. 

We loved our ministry and neighborhood, city, and friends.  We loved the house we lived in, having painted it just so.  We were comfortable with our van.  But, at the end of the day, these are peripheral things.  It's so hard, in a world of materialism, to keep focus on Christ alone.  Sometimes, it takes our lives being shaken up a little to hear the encouragement to "hold loosely" to all that is not Christ.

None of the things that we have lost were bad things.  In fact, many of them are still very dear to our hearts.  But sometimes we can get so settled in what is comfortable that we don't even realize we have a white-knuckled grip on everything but Christ.

It is exactly this lesson--to hold loosely to this world--that allows someone like Horatio Spafford, who lost his children in a shipwreck, to write words like,

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
Hold loosely...not an enjoyable lesson, but a necessary one.    It reminds me of another song, which says, "Take this world, but give me Jesus.  This is not where I belong."

Monday, September 24, 2012

Thoughts During a Car Crash

It's strange the things that go through your mind in moments of stress.  Saturday we were driving home from the YMCA, it was a beautiful day, the windows were down as we slid into the left-hand turn lane and then...

There was no time to respond because a line of cars waiting at the red light blocked both Andrew and the other driver's view until she pulled out into us.  The airbags deployed and it took a moment for my mind to catch up to what happened. 

I'm not gonna lie, I totally freaked out for a second.  Andrew was laughing later because he said I went into Mom-mode, yelling at him, "Are you OK?  Are you OK?  Are you OK?"  Of course, I wouldn't have had to repeat myself so much if he had just answered yes, instead of sitting there dazed and confused like he had just been in a car accident.  Then I turned and started saying "Are you OK? Are you OK? Are you OK?" to Judah, but my rational brain started catching up and I realized there was no way for a three-year-old who was screaming his terrified little heart out to answer that question.  I thought, he's going to respond to you freaking out, so calm down.  I went for a more reassuring "You're OK! You're OK! You're OK!" 

After my very effective assessment of every one's wellness I thought, you're not supposed to stay in the car if you're in the middle of the street or someone else might hit you, so I swung around and hit the hazards.  I looked for my phone to call the police, but couldn't find it.  Then I remembered a news story where they warned about any free objects in your car becoming projectiles in an accident and how your phone might fly out of your reach if you need to call 911.  If only I had listened to that news story, I thought.  But, Andrew had become mobile by this time and was assessing the damage.  The other driver had already gotten on her phone with the police, so I jumped out to grab my screaming child and head for the sidewalk.  Unfortunately, he had been swimming and we forgot a dry shirt so there I was standing with my half-naked balling child on the side of the road.  As I tried to calm him, the 30 cars stopped at the light were now driving past us, and all I could think was that they were thinking I was a bad Mom because I couldn't even put my child in a shirt!

All of that happened in a surprisingly short amount of time, and given a few minutes we were all able to calm our nerves and find the shirtless boy a zip-up hoodie in the van, that I had gratefully been too lazy to clean out before.  The adrenaline started wearing off and the body aches started setting in, but we were praising God that no one was seriously injured. 

Fellow staff came to wait with us while the officer filed a report and the tow-truck towed our van away.  They then dropped us, a little worse for wear, at home, where we lay most of the rest of the day in adrenaline exhaustion.  It seems so cliche to say, but the rest of the night I just kept thinking about how quickly bad things can happen and how grateful I was that it was just the van that may not make it.

The other driver was very shaken and apologetic and we had talked a little as we waited for everything to get straightened out.  As we parted ways she apologized again and laughing ironically said, "Well, welcome to Wichita!"

Welcome indeed.  And, note to self...always dress your family in clothes you won't be ashamed to be stranded on the side of the road in.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Speaking Wichitan

These Kansans talk funny!  At least this Southern-California-who-spent-her-teens-in-Houston-and-moved-to-St. Louis-girl thinks so! Andrew wouldn't think so, I mean, he's from Kansas and he also says things like "chimiCHAYNga."

And, while I can't quite bring myself to use the native language, here's what I've learned so far:

Need a soda?  (And to get through the day I do!!)  Well, you can't get one here.  You can, however, get a "pop."

Washing hands and dishes and laundry is no more!  Here in Wichita you "warsh!"

You know that thing with two handles that you use to carry things out of a grocery store?  It's not grocery's a "sack."

And, my favorite, people do not eat dinner here in Wichita.  They eat "supper" and they eat it REALLY early!  Like 5 or 5:30 early.  That's more like a second lunch to me! 

So, get the rolls I just bought out of that sack and warsh your hands.  It's 5pm and time for supper!  Do you want pop with your meat, potatoes, and corn?  Or something like that :).

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Heart of a Boy

I just don't get what makes fart jokes ALWAYS funny, how almost anything can be turned into a weapon, and why it is so important to always ferret out "the bad guy" and pretend to fight him.  But, as a mother of a boy (and, let's be real, a wife), this has become my life.

Last week Dr. Don Davis preached a sermon on David and Goliath.  It is well worth a listen.  Something he said has been percolating in my mind all week: A boy has all the intent of a man, with none of the strength to back it up.  What a fragile place to be.  It was a tangential statement of sorts, but the implications are stunning.

Too many men emerge from adolescence confused about their purpose in life, and I think this is one reason why.  Their boyish hearts have been filled to bursting with all the passion and honor and courage God intended for them, but life, or parents, or their own sin have damaged how they see themselves.  God whispered identity and purpose in their hearts early, but their hearts were mishandled and they don't know who they are anymore.

I'm not a mother who worries over nutrition or injuries and such, but I do worry about my son knowing who he is in Christ.  How do you handle a boy's heart held in such a fragile place?  I have seen men, whose mothers never let them try things and whose fathers always berated their achievements.  They emerge from childhood stifled and afraid.  They forget that their power is in the Spirit and their eyes drop in shame from the conquest of the horizon.

But I have also seen men whose mothers told them they could do anything they set their minds to and whose fathers channelled all their misapplied intent into their son's talents.  When life doesn't align with this self-centered worldview, they become disillusioned by failure, or lost in the pursuit of their talents.  They forget that their power is from the Spirit and they see the horizon as their personal conquest.

And some men were never told God's story, that they are part of a mission much bigger than themselves, and they are bored, seeking to fill their warrior-sized intent with self-gratifying distractions.

But David, when he took on Goliath, knew exactly who he was and for what he was made.  Mocked for being nothing, he knew everything he needed was in the Lord.  He neither dropped his eyes in shame, or claimed the battle for himself.  He was on mission for the Lord.

I want to raise a son with the heart of David.  I want to build up the intent that God placed within him, let him fail enough that he knows the battle can't be won on his own, and instill in him the wisdom to know when God is calling him to conquer the horizon in His name.

No pressure, Mom.

I know it takes being parents who have hearts like David...mothers and fathers who are clear about their identity in Christ and who have vision to claim the horizon for Christ's name.  It requires my son to be grounded in the story of God's great plan to bring the world under His rule and reign and to know God wants to use him as part of this plan.  And, it requires his Mama to acknowledge his life as an offering to the Lord, praying not for his safety or success, but for his strong identity in Christ and fearless abandon in the battle of the Lord.

The heart of a boy, if settled in the hands of God, can propel him to conquer giants.

Monday, September 3, 2012


Adoption can be complicated, and, then, sometimes it's not.  Since moving to Wichita, I have been thinking a lot about the implications of our adopted, trans-racial family.  In St. Louis we were familiar with the particular places in which people would stare at us strangely, and the places in which no one even gave us a second glance.  Now I am discovering these places here in Wichita. 

Most days I don't think much about it, but, let's face it, adoption (particularly trans-racial adoption) brings with it delicate issues.  When I give Little Man a haircut, I worry that I haven't done his hair justice, and I wonder, when we get our first negative comment in public, what I will say.  When people ask, "Is that your son?", how do I respond so that he feels secure?

Last night we had a talk with our son about another delicate topic--birth parents.  He has met them both, but was too young to remember.  We have had other little conversations with him over the past year, but with his adoption we received pictures of his birth father and mother.  The pictures aren't the best quality of photos, so I worked hard to doctor them up, trying to make them look as special as they actually are.  Before bedtime, all three of us curled up on the couch to read My New Family (a great children's book about adoption, if you're looking for one), and to show him the pictures of his birth parents for the first time.

I was a little nervous.  I mean, how do you share something so important and complicated with a three-year-old?  We want to be as open as we can with him about his birth parents, help him honor them, and support any of his future questions, but we haven't been through this before, and feel like we're making up the words as we go along.  Gratefully, the book gives a great outline to help tell your family's story.  After we read the book and told his story he excitedly put the photo of his birth parents in a special place.  I felt the weight of the conversation as I looked at their faces.  He smiled and then turned and said, "Can you fix my tent now?"  Such sweet and simple acceptance.

I know that these conversations will get more complicated as he grows older and he will wrestle more with his feelings, but for now, he accepts his history in the context of his simple faith in Mama and Daddy.  And, one day, I pray he accepts the storms of life with a deeper faith that keeps him grounded in the knowledge of His heavenly Father.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Home Sweet Home

I never thought I'd say this (it's the California girl in me), but Kansas has been good to us so far. We moved in on the 14th, with gobs of help from staff unloading our copious amounts of material possessions (hello, American consumerism). Tired of living in a maze of boxes for weeks, we powered through a few long days and got completely unpacked. Tomorrow it's been two weeks, and despite a few loose ends (DMV, I hate you), we're mostly settled in.

We have been blown away by the care and concern bestowed on us by our new team. We're excited about our new roles at The Urban Ministry Institute and for the opportunity to work with them. Our first full week here we joined the team to visit a nearby prison where Prison Fellowship is starting a TUMI satellite. God is doing amazing things through this partnership to equip men (and women) to spread the Gospel in and outside of prison! We still can't believe we're on staff with TUMI, but we are....really. Check us out, we look official and everything!

After two weeks in Wichita, we have found a good place to get Mexican food, a shop that sells donuts with bacon on them, the Fire fighter's Museum, the Nature Center, and, of course, located our usual haunts...Target, Walmart, Starbucks, etc. Judah's grandma here in Kansas has also made sure that he is decked out in KU Jayhawk paraphernalia.

We certainly miss our old neighborhood and the people we love in St. Louis, but, God has given us peace and our new staff have made us feel so welcomed, which makes the loss significantly more tolerable. And so, our Kansas adventure begins...

Monday, August 13, 2012


Tail lights will chart our course from St. Louis to Wichita today.  One chapter in our lives is coming to a close, the next page poised for a turn.  God doesn't promise that we won't experience pain as we follow Him, but He leads and carries us through.

As we leave North St. Louis there have been some who have secretely (and not so secretly) thought that we are lucky to leave this...

But they forget that there is another side of the story...

We love our beautiful city and know that God has wonderful plans for each beautiful soul.

We say goodbye, for now, but you go in our hearts.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Meal

Who would have thought that a Chicken Sandwich Meal would symbolize a moral schism in our nation, an impetuous for both division and connectedness?

Generally, I reserve my controversial conversations for things other than politics; in ministry we have found "conservative" and "liberal" to be words that distract from truly important things.

But, today, I felt unrest as I watched Facebook fill with accounts of "taking a stand."   As I thought about Christians (and conservatives) breaking bread (and chicken) together while the world looked on, it made me think of another, more important meal.  This meal, also has the power to unite and divide.  When Christians stand shoulder-to-shoulder and break this bread we are bonded together with Christ and set apart from those who do not believe in our Savior.  It commemorates the story of our redemption...Communion.

I am fully behind free speech, and Biblical values, but the gnawing feeling in my gut makes me wonder if we've got the right meal on our minds today.  Christians have been angry, reacting to harsh opposing words.  Christ promised us opposition (as He experienced to the point of the cross), why then are we so shocked when it occurs in our lives?  The hatred is not directed toward us, it is directed at Him, through us.

This means we can relax a little and not take things so personally.  It gives us the opportunity to step back and see issues in light of the people involved, to brush aside the personal affront and respond in love.  We are angry because we feel hurt; the other side is angry because they feel...hurt.  Christ came to bring healing and we are His hands and feet.  Standing in support of a company's opinion is not wrong, but is the stand being taken symbolized by a Chicken Sandwich or the bread and wine of communion?  I guarantee people who don't share our views can feel the difference; we on the other hand (in our self-righteous rage) may not.

His blood was spilled for all of us.  Does the LGBT community know that we break bread in remembrance of our collective need for salvation?  Are the humble words of Christ ready on our lips, or is our mouth busy taking angry bites of a Chicken Sandwich?

The offense was to Christ, and He has already answered it with His body and blood.  Are we being selective about who we bring to the table, or is it possible, do you think, to grab a person who believes differently than us and break tacos or burgers or even a Chicken Sandwich, in the hope that love is more life-changing than being right? Because, after all, Jesus did the same for us.
Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.”  And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." Matthew 26:26-28

Monday, July 30, 2012

Moving On

Both Andrew and I moved to St. Louis directly out of college.  We came from Kansas and California respectively, never having lived in the inner city, but the minute we both moved to North St. Louis (he 11 years ago and I 6) we felt at home.  We spent our formative adult years here, we were married here, we were blessed with our first child here.  St. Louis is a part of us.  Inner-city ministry here in our neighborhood has shaped us and stretched us and we feel a deep connection to our community and our neighbors.

And so, it is with a mixture of excitement and deep sadness that we are now called to move on.  We have served with World Impact these past years and now our service is directing our journey to new opportunities with a branch of World Impact's ministry, The Urban Ministry Institute (TUMI).  This requires a move to Wichita, Kansas.  While Andrew gets to return to his roots, never did I imagine this California girl would be a Kansan! 

The change in service was a surprise to us, and at first the thought of leaving our cherished city was heart-breaking, but we have done a lot of praying and wrestling with the Lord and believe that He is leading us into a new season of ministry.  Our calling remains unchanged, even if our role in ministry is changing.  TUMI is committed to equipping urban leaders for church planting through establishing and supporting satellites around the world to provide theological and ministry training for these leaders.  For more information about TUMI visit our website here.

We are excited to serve and learn with TUMI and to discover new ways that we can flesh out our calling to seeing churches planted in the inner cities of America.  TUMI is a powerful ministry and we can't wait to see first-hand how God transforms lives in U.S. cities and cities around the world.

We move in exactly two weeks!  It is unreal to think we will no longer walk out in the morning and see our neighbors on their porch.  We will not be spending our summers with the youth from our neighborhood, or Thursday nights with the men from our Basketball Outreach.  For these things we are grieving; there are so many that are dear to us here.  This is more than a move for us.  It is a bit like tearing apart the fibers of our lives and the lives of people here which have grown together over the last decade.  It hurts. 

Yet, we know God goes before us and with us and behind us and we are in His hands.  Often, God uses times where we are stripped away from the things we know to teach us more dependence on Him.  Wherever we go in life, we will go in faith.  We've seen some hard times but God has always been faithful, it's who He is.  Forever we are grateful for the opportunity to serve here in St. Louis and look forward to the journey God has stretching out before us.

Monday, July 23, 2012

And Then There Were THREE!

Friday marked one of the greatest days our little family has seen!  It involved about twenty minutes in a court room and a very delicious meal out with friends, but what actually happened was a legal confirmation of what we have felt in our hearts all along...Little Man is officially our son!  Oh, what a day!

He also received a new name, one we chose specifically for him.  Judah.  Judah means "praise" and anyone who knows him knows that he exudes music and joy and enthusiasm.  We praise God for bringing us such a special gift and we pray that his life is poured out as a praise-offering for the Lord, drawing others to praise Him too.  Some have questioned changing his name, fearing for his little identity.  It is actually quite common within the adoption world to change children's names as they are now part of a new heritage.  We do not do this to dishonor where he comes from.  We are forever grateful to his birth parents for giving him life, but we do want to acknowledge the full adoption into our family.  It was also a unique opportunity to give him a name that spoke to what we pray will be his future.  God changed people's names often in scripture, telling them who He meant for them to be.  Judah was meant to praise his Maker and we pray he lives out this purpose!

Meet our family!  Photos courtesy of the talented Susie Whyte at Whyte House Photography!

Monday, July 2, 2012

God's Will?

We've all done it.  Something distressing, confusing, or negative happens and we quip, "It must be God's will!"  Sometimes it's not even a quip; we truly and deeply believe it.

While I absolutely believe that God is sovereign, I've started wondering if some of the things we assign to God's will are actually just products of living in a fallen and broken world.  Bodies die, people choose to sin, pain and suffering were ushered into the world when Adam and Eve disobeyed God.  That was not God's plan.

I'm a firm believer in saying what we actually mean, and when we say "It's God's will" I think what we really mean is..."I have no earthly idea why this would happen, but, somehow, God must be in this or my life makes no sense."  Without meaning or sense we would be lost, so we grasp at possible answers to ground ourselves, or sometimes, to lessen the responsibility that should rest on our own shoulders.

Lately, as I've studied the face of confusion and distress I have thought that the question isn't really, is this God's will or not?  The question is how will God use what has happened for His purpose and glory? 

I think there are many things that happen that aren't as God would plan it...sin for one.  And, when Satan waged war on God he was determined to bring about as many casualities as possible.  But the story tells us that our God is victorious.  And, He is a master at redeeming broken things for His purposes. 

Maybe the terrible or confusing thing that threatens to level our lives isn't God's will, but God will surely use that thing to bring glory to His name if we let Him. 

I can't in good conscience tell someone (or myself for that matter) that the pain they face was willed by God.  That would take responsibility off the shoulders of the people involved, or in the very least, ignore the fact that the world is a broken place, bearing the hallmarks of the Fall. 

But I can tell them that our God is bigger than all the brokenness and, while I can't fathom the intricacy of His plans in the least, I do know that ultimately His will is to show His mercy and redemption to the whole world, through us. 

So, let's not pretend that our little human minds can understand the entirety of God's will.  Instead, I'm going to choose to trust that no matter what happens, or why, I can trust that God has already made a plan to work it into His beautiful purposes, and find hope in the promise of a day where all pain is ended and all brokeness has been repaired...what a day to look forward to.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Not Flesh and Blood

I grew up knowing about spiritual warfare.  We studied verses like 1 Peter 5:8, "Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour."  But, even still, those people who seemed to attribute everything to the work of the devil and prayed constantly against his plans made me a little uncomfortable.

So, it has been much to my surprise that I in recent weeks I have begun to sound just like them.  For several weeks now I have been feeling the gravity of what Ephesians 6:12 says, "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places."

Since taking on the role of the church plant coordinator I have increasingly become aware of how small and how powerless I am.  But I have also become increasingly aware of the bigness and strength of the God we serve.  When I take my little self out of the center of the picture I can see the great cosmic battle between God and the Evil One...which does two things for me.  First, it makes me acutely aware that there is indeed powerful forces working against us.  Second, it makes me cling to the work of Jesus Christ as our only victory over them!

Not only is this true in our community but also in our personal lives.  For several weeks I have seen person after person on our staff and church plant team struggle against, what on the surface looks like flesh and blood, but underneath I am convinced is the work of the devil, who is prowling "like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour."  It has caused confusion, fear, disunity, guilt, discouragement and a miriad of other things with both small and large implications.  It is no coincidence that these things have flooded into our midst as we make plans to push back the spiritual darkness through church planting.  The devil is prowling; the spiritual forces are waging war.

But, I refuse to let us be devoured.  I refuse to walk in defeat when we are covered in victory.  We have been given the weapons of the winning army and I am praying earnestly that we use them in victory each day.  Stand in the strength of the Lord and pray we do the same!

Finally, be strong in the Lord and the strength of his might.   Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.  For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.  Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.  Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.  In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one;  and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,  praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.  Ephesians 6:10-18

Monday, June 18, 2012

Like Heaven

I was focused on stuffing my face with BBQ hamburger and potato salad but then Andrew said, "I think this is what heaven will look like."

I looked up from my plate at the families that surrounded us.  Foster families, adoptive families.  Children, parents, friends...connected, not by blood or ethnicity or background, but by commitment to each other.  As I took note of the people, I realized the mixture was almost startling.

We are used to homogeneity.  Even in places we think diverse.  I think of my life as diverse.  I grew up in southern California, in a predominantly white neighborhood, but surrounded by predominantly Hispanic ones.  I now live in a neighborhood which is 98% African American.  I step in and out of different cultures on a fairly regular basis.

This was different.  This was a trail mix of humanity.  I scanned the park and meditated on the thought that Heaven would indeed look like this and it made me smile.

In Heaven no one will be surprised that no one looks the same!  The varying colors and backgrounds of our spiritual adoptive family will perfectly reflect the glory of God as we stand before His throne. 

I just feel blessed that our family is part of a community that reflects the varying shades of God's glory in heaven here on earth!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Carried to the Table

All of us struggle to live a redeemed life. 

Some of us forget it can't be done in our own power; others worry even Christ's power isn't strong enough for their particular brand of brokenness.  Some of us count on being competent people and trust that life and ministry can be checked off of our to-do list.  Still others shrink back in fear feeling unworthy of participating in God's plans. 

All of us forget.  We forget that it isn't about us.  We forget the goodness, the greatness, the love of our Savior.  We let ourselves eclipse the Son.  Whether you trust too much in your own power or trust too little in Christ's, we have all forgotten that "in Him all things hold together" (Col. 1:17).

Last night I heard "Carried to the Table" by Leeland for the first time.  It made me remember.  I am alive. I am saved, I am part of God's plan, because Christ made it possible.  You are alive, you are saved, and you can be part of His plans because Christ made it possible.

None of us belong in the warmth of His majesty, but we are here.

Take a moment and remember who carried us there.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Summer in the City

Sidewalk rainbows scrawled in chalk.  Kids bouncing from one foot to the other as they excitedly ring, two, three times!  Loud conversations from a nearby porch.  The smell of barbecue down the street.  Cars with soap and water running off until they shine.

The city comes alive in the summer.  Sometimes in the winter you can walk down the street and see no one, but warm weather fills the houses until people spill out onto their porches and into the street.  It is easy to spend hours with kids in the neighborhood and talking to adults who walk by.  Ministry opportunities abound in the summertime. 

But, along with the laughter there can also be flaring tempers.  Violence becomes the next resort.  People crowded together in the summer heat can get caught up in angry exchanges.  Under the cover of darkness people seek an empty satisfaction in revenge.  Pop! Pop! Pop! Gunfire becomes the solution.  In the face of violence, ministry opportunities abound in the summertime.

Whether at a neighborhood cookout playing beanbag toss with laughing kids, or standing with neighbors in the wake of violence, there are so many opportunities to share Christ's love with our neighbors in the summer.  Pray for our safety and for boldness to speak the love and truth of Christ to those around us.  Pray for our neighbors' safety and for their hearts to be softened toward the Gospel.  Pray for our summer programs and neighborhood cookouts to be successful in sharing with people the only One that can bring true joy and true healing...Jesus Christ.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Lately, Life.

Lately, life has been insane.  There were a few days in the past weeks that I spent all day in bed with my crappy immune system.  Living in community means we all get each other's germs, and while everyone else was in bed with head colds, I ended up at urgent care getting breathing treatments.  Ugh.  It's times like these that I want to give all single parents an award, because I can't imagine being sick like that and having to keep up with my crazy, bouncing Nut child.

Also, today launches our Summer Madness, in which we have 3 interns living with you know the last couple of weeks have included some serious catching up on house work!  My house hasn't been this clean in, well, I won't say, but awhile.  The interns are all guys, so, I will be even more out-numbered than usual for the next few months!  If you need me, you can find me in my room.

And, if all that wasn't enough fun, we had a Memorial Day weekend Medlen Family Reunion out at Andrew's aunt and uncle's farm in Mexico, Missouri.  We slept in a tent.  Every time I sleep in a tent and spend most of the day outside with bugs, sweat, and the smell of my own armpits I am reminded why I choose to live in the city.  But, aside from the father-in-law's foot-breaking incident, everyone had a great time. 

We have just a quick moment to catch our breath before we dive into the summer schedule of insanity.  Here we go... 

Monday, May 14, 2012

God, the Healer of Broken Souls

For six years we've watched, we've prayed, we've offered relationship, but only been able to do so from a distance.  A young man, hardened by the street, wounded and angry. A dangerous mix of sorrow and rage left glass glittering in his wake, and empty spaces left in place of others' things.  He walked down the street, cloaked in dangerous colors, with a street-wise swagger in his step, falling into step with men only too happy to lead him toward destruction.  We've seen him disappear for months, even years, moving where he could find shelter only to later reappear, still hardened and distrustful.

Now, at eighteen, all of his friends are in jail.  We have prayed he would not join them, or worse.  He is not in jail, but he is in bondage to the street.  For six years he has stayed on our hearts and minds, but his hardened exterior kept anything more than a smile and hello at bay.

Until, I drove up to our house one afternoon this week and saw him sitting on our porch with Andrew eating cookies on a paper towel plate, his legs relaxed down the stairs, giving the impression of a young child too small for his chair.  I tried not to let the shock and excitement register on my face as I carried our groceries past them and into the house.

For about thirty minutes this young man asked Andrew about life after death, shared how lonely he was because all of his friends are in jail.  He was vulnerable and open and Andrew took the opportunity to share the Gospel with him.  Andrew promised to pray for him every day.

And so, we continue to pray.  We know what God can do.  He can take moments of vulnerability in guarded hearts and use them to transform lives to the glory of His name.  We know this young man can become a new man in the Lord, healed and whole and walking a path of life.  God is the healer of broken souls; pray with us.

Monday, May 7, 2012


Last night, 7 of our staff, 2 guys, and our 4 staff kids (3yrs and younger) made it home after a grueling 400 hour trip from Wichita, Kansas…ok it only felt like 400 hours by the time we dragged ourselves into our beds. I could have done without the van ride, but the weekend was absolutely worth it

Our team attended the very first Christ the Victor Church Plant School at our World Impact Wichita site!  I love to learn, and did we!  Thursday evening through lunch on Sunday was packed with teaching sessions and strategy meetings that left us little time to think about anything other than church planting.  Even with my love of learning it was almost enough to fry my brain.  By Friday night I felt like there was a tornado of thoughts whirling in my scull.  It's going to take us awhile to process it all.

Christ the Victor is an association of churches, with common values and commitments that we hope and pray will be used to start a church planting movement in the cities of America.  We spent time talking about our identity, which can be summed up in these three shared values:

·        A shared spirituality centered on Christ and celebrated through the church year.

·        An historic theology anchored in Scripture and summarized by the Nicene Creed.

·        A focused mission of reproduction resulting in church planting.

We also talked about strategies for church multiplication and training indigenous leaders.  World Impact is blessed by some brilliant minds and experienced missionaries and it is an honor to link arms with them in this endeavor.
Aside from the teachings, our St. Louis team had time to strategize about our own church planting plans and what we feel God is calling us to do.  God has brought, from our neighborhood, two quality young men along side our missionary team, who we believe will be used mightily by God in this process.  They soaked in the weekend, asked the right questions, and are willing to seek the Lord’s will for their lives as we start to flesh out the steps we feel God calling us to right now.
I’m beyond excited, and a little terrified too, at the task that lies ahead of us, but one thing I know, and as we told ourselves all weekend, “the battle belongs to the Lord!”  We have a lot of work ahead of us with some really big goals in the next year.  The eight of us don’t have it in us.  But, God does.  We’re going to rely on our prayers, your prayers, and the miraculous work of a God who can part seas, conquer death, and who can redeem the lost of our city!

Monday, April 30, 2012

Church Wars

Recently there was a debate on Facebook that I (Adria) decided to dip my toes into.  Normally I don't engage in debates on Facebook.  People are not at their most cooperative when sitting safely and confidently behind the glow of their computer screen.  A glow I think sometimes feels like an angelic spotlight, in which we bask self-indulgently.  However, this debate was about church--a topic that's heavily on my mind these days. 

Now that I have taken a role as a church planting coordinator, I think it's important I have something to say about church.  So, I commented on the thread which said, "I think satellite churches are lame." I agreed on the grounds that I feel satellite churches are a little too reliant on ONE individual rather than discipling leaders who could lead each church location themselves, and tend to have a very speaker-focused culture which doesn't reflect certain Biblical standards I think are important.  Within hours there were 67 comments; after two of my own I decided it was time to sit out the rest of the debate.  Obviously this topic had struck a nerve.  Not surprisingly the ones arguing for satellite churches attended them and the ones that argued against didn't. 

Assertions that the "Spirit is at work" at particular satellite churches were vehemently made.  It was wondered allowed why people had to "dog on" a certain style of church.  I felt the cyberspace tension rise as people were obviously taking things personally.  The author of the original post assured people she had not meant disrespect but had made the comment out of a place of frustration.  I, and others, assured the Pro-ers that we had no intention of limiting the places and ways that the Spirit works, but that, perhaps, there are ways we can create a culture that is more or less conducive to allowing Him to work. 

In the end there was no middle ground found.  I imagine people clicked away feeling as dissatisfied as I did.  And, yet, I think this is such an important discussion to have.

As someone who is thinking a lot about what Biblical churches look like and how they can be structured to best let the Spirit move I found this conversation frustrating and a little depressing.  There seemed to be a lot of justifying and very little critical evaluation.  I mean, I'm not saying that satellite churches are satanic or anything, I'm just looking at literature and testimonies of church planting movements around the world, where hundreds of thousands of people are coming to know the Lord, and I can't help but wonder if satellite churches are just one manifestation of some things we've gotten twisted as the American church.  Sure, the Spirit is present in the midst of God's people and, sure, there are some wonderful churches doing the Lord's work all over America, but what our churches look like is a little like the established, wealthy church has looked like historically.  Stale.  Unempowered. Sluggish.

The church of the New Testament (which by no means was perfect) harnessed the power of the Gospel in people's lives.  You didn't have to have four years at a seminary to lead God's people, heck, you didn't even have to be anyone who had ever been anything, if you were then a child of God. The early church (and current church planting movements) rushed through people groups, winning people to Christ and incorporating them into the Church. Granted, we cannot have churches that look just like the New Testament church because we are in a different time and culture, and I don't mean to idealize a season of the church that was also filled with flawed people, but Biblically and historically (and currently) the most dynamic and effective church bodies don't look like the American church.

I don't want to sit back and self-indulgently critique ideas from behind the glow of my computer screen like I have all the answers...I feel I have very few.  I don't want to cast stones at people, many of whom are doing their utmost to follow the Lord's call and live a life for Him.  I CERTAiNLY don't want to believe that I know what work God is doing in the world.

I do, however, think it's time for some difficult discussions.  I think "Is God moving in our church?" is not the only question that should measure our success.  God is always at work.  We might want to ask ourselves, "How much more could God be working if we allowed Him too?"  If that's the standard, then none of us have "arrived."  Because there's the truth: the strange, awful, beautiful truth.  God has chosen us to be His agents in the world, and for some strange reason he has placed a lot of weight and responsibility on our very flawed shoulders.  It's both terrifying and exhilarating. We can be on mission with God!  Don't think I'm saying it's us doing the work.  It's not.  It's only God!  But, He chooses to use us as His vessels.  Are we open and malleable and ready to adapt when needed?

What do you think?  I'd challenge you to take a little time and read this Church Planting Movements booklet.  It rather blew my mind when I first read it, but even the things my very American mind felt resistant to pale in the light of the Gospel burning through entire people groups.  We, the American church, could stand to ask ourselves if we're getting it right.

Monday, April 23, 2012

10 Things Adoptive Families Want You to Know

When you adopt, you become part of a community.  You meet other adoptive families and you feel a connection because you know they have shared some of the same highs and lows you have.  They get it.  But, sometimes other people don't.  So, if you're not an adoptive family, here are 10 things I'd like you to know about the adoption journey:

1.     Just because we adopted doesn't mean our names are now Brad and Angelina! (Yes, I've actually had that reference made to me). Adoption was a part of God's plan before celebrities made it cool. These references belittle the challenging and beautiful journey we're on.
2.      Sometimes the adoption journey can feel lonely. It's hard to understand what adoptive parents have to navigate unless you are intimately involved in the process. Hundreds of pieces need to fall into place. You put your future in the hands of multiple people, from hospitals/orphanages, lawyers, state or country systems and agencies, some whom you will never even meet. It is a very long and emotional process that tests your faith on a minute-by-minute basis. We need your encouragement...even if our metaphorical pregnancy stretches beyond the usual nine-month attention span. If you're not sure how to support us, just ask! Treat our adoption like the birth of a child: get crazy, be excited, throw us a party. When we cry, cry with us, when we go nuts with excitement, go nuts with us.
3.      Our adopted children are our "own." It's not uncommon for people to refer to biological children (and not our adopted) as our "own" children. What makes a child your own?  Do you nurture and love them and clean up their puke and hope you didn't make too many life-ruining mistakes in a day? So do we! Our adopted children are every bit ours as our birth children. Parents and kids alike can feel offended by this term. Since what you are most likely asking is, "Are these your birth children?" perhaps think first if the moment is right for such a personal question, and then if it is, ask the right question. Try to educate yourself on positive adoption terms (ex. birth or biological parents, not "real" parents).
4.     Our adopted children are some of the strongest and most resilient people we know! Our children have challenges many other children do not and sometimes are stereotyped as broken and needy. They have experienced trauma and loss and transition that takes a toll on their hearts and minds and sometimes their bodies, but, in the face of all of these things they survive...and many of them thrive. God blessed us with our child as much as they are blessed by us! Children who have experienced so many challenges deserve our honor and love. It is not always an easy journey, but we have so much to learn from our strong and beautiful children. They deserve, not pity, but concern and love and awe!
5.     Family has a whole new meaning for us. It feels safe and simple to think about family as a mom and dad and kids. It is that, but it's also so much more. Welcoming a child into your family means you welcome the people that come with them (both the physically present and absent ones). Birth families, foster families, care givers, they all have had a part in our child's life, they are important to our children and that makes them important to us. This is complex and challenging (as all real-life relationships are) but it is also special to acknowledge the many people and events which shaped our children and family. It makes our family look a little more like the family God has created for Himself.
6.     Adoption is not a synonym for buying children. Please don't ask "How much did he/she cost?" Having children is always a financial investment! Refrain from asking details like this in public settings or in front of our children. We'd love to talk about what it takes to adopt if you are interested, but please respect our privacy.
7.      Not all adoptions are horror stories.  Sometimes adoptions fail. There is nothing easy about navigating the adoption process, but, we don't need to be constantly reminded of worse case scenarios. There are just as many risks when a family makes the decision to have biological children...some are different, some are the same. We worry enough on our own, help be a voice of encouragement!
8.     Birth parents are not bad people. They are brave, loving, broken, fearful, lost, but no one plans to live a life that is unfit for raising their child. There are so many reasons why birth parents make adoption plans for their children. Many birth parents make brave and excruciating decisions to let someone else raise their precious child because they believe it will be best for them. Some have less choice in the matter, but the process is excruciating none-the-less. As adoptive parents we are forever indebted to the beautiful gift our children's birth parents have given us. We respect their decision to give our child life and and want to help our children honor them, even while they process some of the difficult truths about their birth parents.
9.     We want to share our story with you. But, please, be sensitive.  Please don't ask questions just to satisfy your curiosity. When we announce that we have plans to adopt, understand our desire or ability to have birth children is a very personal part of our family journey. I was asked once, "Oh, are you just swingin' and missin'?," which would just be calloused if we were. I don't ask about your procreative activities...don't ask about mine. It also implies that adoption is a second best choice, instead of an equally beautiful option for growing your family. While I'm walking with my adopted son (who clearly does not look like me), I don't appreciate being asked, "Is that YOUR son?" or "Is he adopted?" Or, "Where is he from?" I want to reply, "Oh no, I just saw him outside and thought he was cute so I picked him up!" But I smile and nod. It feels invasive but mostly I hate it for my son's sake. One day he'll hear that question and be old enough to feel the unintended barb..."You don't belong together." I hurt for that day. From wherever we came from, however God orchestrated it, we were meant to be together as a family. We love that we have a unique story to tell and could talk to you all day about why we chose to adopt, how the journey has been, and how awesome our kids are! We just prefer to answer your questions because you want to know about our family, not just because you are curious. (And, please be sensitive about what you ask in front of our kids.)
10.  We're different but we're not that different. Adoptive families experience unique challenges and joys, but at the end of the day we are people doing our best to love and support each other just like your family. We may have different skin tones and backgrounds than our children, but we wake up to each other's faces each morning and are committed to a future together. As all parents experience, our kids drive us crazy and make us laugh and when we look at their sleeping faces we are so thankful for the gift God has given us. So thankful.
If you're looking to be more informed on the topic, a great place to start is by reading THIS and then get this BOOK.