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Adoption Update: We’re Doing This For Reals!!

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Alright, it’s official, we’re on our journey to adopt from China! We have selected and been accepted by our placing agency CCAI (Chinese Children Adoption International) and our home study agency FCCA (Family Christian Connections). So of course now that this is real, I had the real panic moment of realizing that it’s time to get on fundraising! For the record, we have already saved a lot of our money for this process. Any fundraising we do is to supplement what we have and to pay for any unexpected/expenses. We are adopting a child with special needs so these expenses will most surely come.

So here’s where we’re at with fundraising so far:

Paper Garland Fundraisers: $640 (after expenses like Etsy seller fees, etc.)

Donations: $578

TOTAL in ADOPTION FUNDRAISER FUND: $1,218.

Total expenses due this month: $2,800.

We have another fundraiser coming-up this weekend. My friend Laura offered to host a Jamberry Nail party and donate her commission! People are so generous it seriously blows my mind! If you would like to check-out that fundraiser you can participate online here: http://jamwithlaurapeterson.jamberrynails.net. Simply select Our Red Thread Fundraiser upon check-out. Make sure to keep ordering from Laura after you fall in love with Jamberry (which I am certain you will!).

(If you haven’t visited Our Red Thread Shop in a while, please do, there’s new threadstuff to love!)

So, enough about money. We start our parent training classes with FCCA this week! I’m so excited. So this agency is the one that will make sure that we are compliant with CA and US adoption law. We are required by the US to take 12 hours of parent training. This week we will go to a 4 hour training where we will meet other families in the process. I’m excited about this meeting because it will be held at the home of a family who has previously adopted. We have so much to learn and I love learning from those who’ve gone through the journey.

This week also brought the exciting news that we have been OFFICIALLY approved to adopt by CCAI. They are the agency that will ensure we are compliant with the Chinese requirements to adopt. We are required by China to take 12 hours of parent training as well and they will be the ones to provide that. They are also the ones who will be assisting in finding our child. They are an AMAZING agency, I feel honored to be a part of their “family” now.

Now to answer the big question: How long will this process take?

Here are the basic steps of the journey…

CCAI Approval: 5 Days after submitting application

Home Study: Approx 5-6 Months

-This includes getting our “Dossier” together which is a compilation of documents that reports on various aspects of our lives and represents us as adoptive parents to the Chinese government.

- A social worker will perform interviews with us, together and separate, and visit our home.

-We will be fingerprinted and have various background checks to ensure that we haven’t been convicted of any serious crimes including child abuse.

- We will have physical examinations by our primary care providers.

- All of this will need to be sent to CCAI who will then translate the information to Chinese.

CCAI Sends Dossier to China and Awaits Approval: 2 Weeks

Child Referral/Match: 6-12 Months (After CCAI Approval)

-We are going through China’s “Waiting Child Program” which has a much shorter timeline than their NSN (Non-special needs”) Program which has an estimated referral time of 6 years or more.

Travel to China: Approx. 10-14 Weeks After Match- This is when we get to bring home our sweet new addition!!

So, from this day forward, we are looking at about a 6-12 month wait to be referred. We probably won’t have our daughter home with us for a long time. Probably over a year from now. A part of me is saddened by this but another part of me is ok with it. This time of preparation will allow Luca to get older and less dependent on me. He will be more open to “sharing” Mommy and I will be more prepared to share myself as well.

With both money and time being at stake here, all I can do is put my trust in God. I’m choosing to trust that He will help to provide us with what we need to bring our girl home. I pray that He will give us patience and strength as we set out on this marathon.

China_20adoption_20print_400sq

 

The Gay Debate: Shifting Gears

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For the record, I wrote this on March 27th, the day after the WV reversal. I wanted to make sure these words didn’t come from a place of blind anger so I waited a few days before posting it.

If you’re not aware of the recent uproar regarding World Vision and their employment policy, let me make this quick. First, World Vision is a Christian organization that does charity work for impoverished children around the world. They offer child sponsorships. Last week, they announced they would allow gay married Christians to work for them. There are many Christian denominations who honor gay marriage and they felt that this policy would be more encompassing for the larger Christian population and not just evangelicals. Then came the backlash. High-profile Christian leaders revoked their endorsement of World Vision and encouraged their followers to do the same. As a result, it has been rumored that between 2,000 and 5,000 child sponsorships were dropped. Many Christian leaders who supported World Vision encouraged people to take on more sponsorships to lessen the blow. Apparently, it wasn’t enough. Two days after announcing their decision, World Vision reversed their policy and offered an apology to the evangelical community.

My stomach is sick as I write this. I am filled with so much anger I can barely think straight. It’s times like these when I am so ashamed to call myself a Christian. I’m searching for a label for myself because let’s face it, labels are somewhat comforting. I guess  you can simply call me a Jesus-Lover because I’m not giving-up on him but I sure as heck want to give-up on my community.

So I am. (Sort of.)

Want to know why?

I AM SO SICK OF TRYING TO BE THE PEACEMAKER IN THIS DYSFUNCTIONAL FAMILY. I have been yelling, until I’m blue in the face to my fellow brothers and sisters: GET OVER THE GAY THING!!!! WHY DO WE SINGLE OUT THIS ISSUE?? FOCUS ON DISPLAYING CHRIST’S LOVE!!!

I yell all I want. No one is listening. Well, except for you other Christians who agree with me. You guys have been listening. I hope you have been encouraged. But you know what guys? This isn’t working. Our other brothers and sisters aren’t listening. They’re dead-set that this is an issue that needs conquering. They’re sticking their fingers in their ears and turning away.

I can’t talk to them so I’m talking to YOU.

Whether you think that homosexuality is a sin or not, this applies to you. I’m not going to get into what I believe because that is another post for another time. If we want to be doing the actual work of Christ, we need to get beyond obsessing over this issue. Here’s how I suggest we do this:

First, if you do think homosexuality is a sin, read articles by theologians who do not think it’s sin simply so that you can have that in your mind as a possibility. Likewise, if you don’t think it is a sin, read this for the same reason. Humility is key here. You don’t have to agree with the authors of these articles but I think it’s important to recognize that you are not God and you don’t have all the answers. Either way, thinking it’s a sin or not, you could be wrong.

I will admit that I am not 100% certain on my belief on the issue. I’m actually ok with that. It’s not my job to know that answer. It’s God’s. It’s important to realize that this “issue” isn’t clear-cut. If God actually convicts me to “call someone out” on a very specific occasion then I will honor that, but that hasn’t happened yet.

It’s important to realize that we don’t have all of the answers because what I’m about to encourage you to do has nothing to do with an “issue” and everything to do with people. People are complex and so is God. If you come at this like you know everything, you’ll treat it like an issue and not like a relationship. Are you seeing where I’m about to go with this?

We have to stop preaching to the unloving Christian evangelicals and start ACTUALLY LOVING GAY PEOPLE TANGIBLY.

Not with Avatars.

Not with Facebook posts.

Not by sharing articles on the subject.

By actually going into the world and loving on REAL PEOPLE  WHO FEEL REJECTED BY THE CHURCH. We need to let them know they are loved and they are welcome. Those other things aren’t bad but they’re empty if they’re not followed by action.

Now, how do we do this? 

That’s not a rhetorical question, I’m actually asking. Someone please tell me how to do this. I’m sick of fighting this battle defensively, it’s time to bring out the offense.

It’s time to show gay people that there are welcoming, loving, nonjudgmental Christians. People who don’t have the goal of changing their sexual preference but of introducing them to an amazing Savior, HE is the one who will do whatever work needs to be done. Although, I’m not just talking about non-believing gay people. Perhaps the community that my heart most breaks for gay Christians. How sad to not feel welcomed by your own family! It makes me sick.

I am also talking to you, my Christian brothers and sisters who believe that homosexuality is a sin but have no agenda to judge or ostracize those who don’t. I know that not all Evangelical Christians  are that way. You have been unfairly judged too and that also hurts my heart.

So what do you say, fellow peacemakers? Let’s wash our hands of this debate and start loving on people. Can we sit in a place of humility for long enough to care for those who have been harmed by this fight? Can we stop and say, “It’s not my place to judge but it is my place to love?” Now, if you truly feel convicted by the Holy Spirit himself to “speak the truth in love” to someone, let it come LOOOONG after you have built relationship. Let it not come through protest signs, legislature, Facebook posts, or any other impersonal way. Certainly let it not come before you have come to appreciate someone for who they ARE and not what they DO.

Over the past few days I’ve read many other articles from authors whom I deeply respect and they seem to be on the same page as me. I was so encouraged to read the words of my fellow peacemakers. These are people who are on both sides of the debate. If you’d like to read more articles like this one, please make the time, here they are:

Where I Stand. (Jen Hatmaker)

How Evangelicals Won a Culture War and Lost a Generation (Rachel Held Evans)

Christians: Is the Debate Over Gay Marriage What We Want to Be Known For? (Kristen Howerton)

 

Dear Luca, You are Awesome.

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Hey (my-not-so) Baby Boy,

Every day I think about the fact that you are going to grow-up. It kinda hurts my heart to think about it. I love snuggling you so much and the thought of not having that anymore makes me very sad. Don’t tell your dad but we are just always going to have a dog so that I have someone to snuggle when he’s working. (He thinks that we won’t have another dog after this one… We’ll see about that.)

Here’s the thing: you’re just like really really awesome. Depending on how old 1975130_10202637019983128_1474165423_nyou are reading this, I’m either embarrassing you or entertaining you. Regardless, I hope you know how loved you are.

Currently, as I write this, you’re about to turn 17 months old. To the world, you’re just a little pipsqueak, but to me, you’re HUGE! Seriously, you were so tiny and now you’re running around (literally), climbing the walls (literally) and jumping like a little frog (also quite literally). You are so full of life. You are addicting to be around.

Ok, so confession, there are times when I feel like I am in over my head and that you and I are way out of sync… but it doesn’t take long, maybe an hour or so, for me to re-group and we’re back in action. (That’s not counting these 2 weeks where you totally decided to become a toddler without warning me and I was 1904243_10202644482769693_1097129944_nscrambling to figure out how to let you be your own person while also treating you like a baby when you wanted it… you’d beg to be held and then suddenly demand I put you down only to have you cry that I put you down… that time took a little longer than an hour to re-group from. It’s cool, all kids do it. I eventually figured it out.)

You know what? You’re addicted to me too. I make you laugh REALLY hard. It’s the best. Your favorite thing is to lift up my shirt and blow raspberries on my belly. Your dad taught you that trick.

Here are some of the things I love most about you right now:

10. You have a song about bodily functions, it goes like this: “Ahhh PEEE… Ahhh POOO… Ahhh PEEE… Ahhh POOO…” and so on. It makes me laugh SO hard every time.

9. Like I mentioned earlier, you can actually jump. I don’t think that is normal for your age, you’ve been doing it for at least a couple of weeks so you’ve got it down pretty good now. What I love is that you saw your dad jumping  and you love this Jana Alayra song, “Jump Into the Light” and those two things motivated you to keep trying every day until you could figure it out. You throw your whole body into too, it’s fantastic.

8. You have a duck face that you like to use when you’re talking. You stick-out both of your lips very far and say things like “Woo Woo!” or “Woof Woof” or “Blue.” Your dad especially loves it when you do that.

7. You absolutely love to dance and now you’ve started singing. I bought you a little guitar at a thrift store and you love to sing while I play it. You also like to play it yourself but you seem to like it most when I play while you sing and dance. You go nuts over the song, “Let it Go” from Frozen. You even mimic her magical arm movements. It’s pretty hilarious.

6. Balloons and brooms are your newest obsessions. We’ve been going to Disneyland and every time we go you see balloons and say “Bawoo??!! Bawoo??!!” while pointing vigorously and using your duck face of course. I wish I could buy you all the balloons in the world buddy! And it doesn’t matter where we are… you FIND BROOMS EVERYWHERE. It’s pretty funny and kinda gross.1896804_10202637015703021_1391480106_n

 

 

 

5. You LOVE to snuggle me. After you wake-up from a nap or after you got hurt you love to be held by me. You come-up to me, I hug you and then you drop all of your weight into me so that I’ll pick you up. Then you wrap your arms around me and pat me every so gently while resting your head on my chest. It’s the best.

4. The look on your face when you see your dad after he’s been at work all day is 1912097_10202717927205758_1739013275_npriceless. First off, you call him “Aya”… We’re not sure why because you can say “d’s.” We don’t bother correcting you because it’s endearing. When you see him, your face lights up with a huge smile, you point to him again and again shouting “Aya!!” as you run to the door.
1148865_10202727808292779_1372342039_n3. Your hair is epic. We keep debating about whether we should cut it but we just don’t have the heart to do it. It’s way too fun! Now it’s developed some awesome highlights so you look like a little surfer dude!

2.  Your feet are still huge. Just when I think they’re taking a break from growing, they prove me wrong. You’re currently wearing a size 7! You’re on the lighter side at 23 pounds but those feet don’t seem to care. They just keep getting bigger!!

1. Your laugh is like heaven in my ears. We would do almost anything for a laugh. Even at bedtime when we should be calming you down, if I accidentally do something to make you giggle, I have to do it again. I like to think it helps pump you full of endorphins so that you have pleasant dreams.

I love you Luca. You have made my life so full and rich. Parenthood isn’t always easy but I like to think that it’s making me a better person. Your awesomeness has made me want to have more children in our family! In fact, we’ve started the looong process of adopting your sister! I know you’re going to be an amazing big brother.

I guess it’s ok that you’re growing-up. As you do, new wonderful traits emerge. It makes me fall in love with you all over again.

Until next time,

xoxo,

TTFN! (Did I mention that Tigger is your new favorite?)

Your Mama

Lamenting is Worship

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Do you have children? If not, I want you to imagine someone that you love very much. Now imagine them as a child. If you do have children, imagine them as infants. So precious, awkward, soft, and innocent.

Now I want you to imagine that child in an orphanage. They’re probably lying in a crib with another infant. Maybe they’re bored or hungry or uncomfortable. The workers could be very loving but there’s only so many of them and there are so many more children. Your child doesn’t even bother to fuss.

Does your heart break for this child? Don’t you just want to run up to them, pick them up, gently stroke their face, whisper to them sweetly and then give them whatever they need?

This is the image I have haunting me daily. My daughter could be alive already and if she is, she could be sitting in an orphanage a half a world away. She is there. I am here. All that’s between us is red tape. (Aaand the world’s largest ocean but ironically that’s nothing compared to the tape.)

I want so desperately to hold her and love on her. I want to do all of the things that Mamas do. I want to hear her coo and cry and do all of the things that children do. But I can’t. I feel a very real pain in my chest as I consider this.

This isn’t a political post. I’m not going to get into “the system” and the “red tape” and so on. Rather, this post is written from my soul to yours. Even if you have never known the heartache that I am experiencing, you have experienced heartache nonetheless. You’ve known despair. You’ve known helplessness. If you’re human, you know my pain.

God knows my pain too. When he came to Earth in the form of a man and then was beaten, mocked and nailed to a cross, he felt despair in its most gruesome form.

But this post isn’t about that either.

I’m going to level with you: It’s easy for me to forget that God knows my pain. In fact, I’m going to go even further and admit that this has nothing to do with my memory and everything to do with my comprehension. It feels impossible for me to understand that God really did experience despair and suffering. I mean, he knows everything and so he knew it would be ok in the end so it couldn’t have been that bad right? Oh Lord, forgive me for that confession!

I don’t know everything. But I know that I will hold my daughter someday. I know that she will be here and happy and healthy someday. However, that knowledge doesn’t numb the pain that I am feeling NOW. Pain is an experience of the soul, not of the mind.

So here’s what this post is about: crawling to God on your hands and knees, spewing your ugly at him, and letting him hold your raw and aching heart. Connecting with him on a soul, not cognitive, level. I’m talking about lamenting.

la·ment

ləˈment/

verb

gerund or present participle: lamenting

  1. 1.
    mourn (a person’s loss or death).
    “he was lamenting the death of his infant daughter”
  1. synonyms:
  1. mourn, grieve, sorrow, wail, weep, cry, sob, keen, beat one’s breast”the mourners lamented”
  1. antonyms:
  1. celebrate, rejoice
  • express one’s deep grief about.
  • express regret or disappointment over something considered unsatisfactory, unreasonable, or unfair.

Lamenting is an expression of our darkest and deepest pain. It is the

Jeremiah lamenting the destruction of Jerusalem, Rembrandt, 1630

Jeremiah lamenting the destruction of Jerusalem, Rembrandt, 1630

irrational, child-like temper-tantrum of our soul that doesn’t want to be rationalized away. It is a part of the human experience and we needn’t be afraid of it. God honors this part of us. Job had everything but his life taken from him and he cried out to God in desperation. When God arrived at the end of the story he commended Job for his honesty. He turned toward God during his time of despair. God was pleased with his lament.

Many of us know the story of Job. We’ve read the Psalms and Lamentations… we know that many honorable believers are honest and raw before God. Yet, so often we are afraid to do the same. We sternly hush that temper-throwing child within. We tell ourselves that we don’t need to feel what we are feeling because of this reason or that reason. We are so afraid of being sucked into a a vortex of despair that we bury those feelings down deep. Often covering them with the standard colloquialisms of the Christian faith.

“Don’t worry, it’s all in His plan.”

“We can’t always understand what He’s doing but He’s working!”

“If He brought you to it, He’ll get you through it!”

Here’s the problem with those phrases: they assume that it was God intention for us to feel the pain that we are feeling. Now, sometimes, God may bring us to a place of suffering but I think it’s important to remember that suffering was NEVER in God’s original plan. His original plan was the Garden of Eden. We were to have perfect unity and peace in relationship with Him, each other and creation. It was going to be awesome. Then… sin came into the picture and tainted everything. God grieves this. He grieves that we are not in perfect union with Him. In fact, the whole Bible is a story about how He is redeeming that broken relationship.

And that’s exactly what He wants from us. He wants a REAL relationship. Think about it this way, would you consider your marriage a healthy one if you could never complain or cry or express frustration with your spouse? Do we want our own children to come to us with their heartache? Of course we  do. God wants the same of us. He wants ALL of us. Not just the happy, hopeful, loving parts… He wants us to bring our sad, dark, angry parts as well. How can He shine light into the darkness of our souls if we don’t even give him access to it?

By bringing ALL of ourselves to God, we are worshipping Him. We are worshipping Him because we are saying:

  • God you are STRONG enough to handle my pain.
  • God you are SMART enough to know that this is only one part of who I am.
  • God you are LOVING enough to accept me just as I am.
  • God you are CAPABLE of understanding why I feel the way I do.
  • God you are SAFE enough to share my ugly parts without fear of rejection.
  •  God you are GRACIOUS in your expectations of me.

I’m sure the list could go on. I hope you can see that by exposing our real emotions and not covering them up with the way we “should” feel, we are worshipping God. We don’t have to end every lamenting session with “…oh but God I know you are good and you’ll work everything out…” He doesn’t need that from you. He knows that about himself already. What he wants is our heart. Our WHOLE heart not just the joyful parts. After your lament, consider thanking Him for being ALL that He is in order that you can come to Him honestly. Sometimes you might not feel like thanking Him for that and that’s ok. Don’t be something you are not. God knows what is real and what is fabricated. Tell him you are having a hard time being grateful. Be real.

The truth is, if we truly want God to sanctify us, we have to be willing to expose our ugly parts to Him and to ourselves. We have to stop doing what we “should” do and start being authentic. When we continue to do what we “should” do, we are fooling ourselves into thinking we are better off than we are.

For example, here’s how a “should” conversation with God could look coming from me:

God, I am so thankful I can come into your presence. I would like to ask that you please protect our daughter in China. Keep her safe. I pray that you will give us your peace. I love you Father. Amen.”

Here’s my real prayer:

“God, what the heck? Our daughter could just be alive over there and I can’t get to her?! I just want to hold her so desperately. I want to care for her. I hate that she’s over there. I hate that you’ve called me to something that is so difficult. I don’t think I can do this. I feel so helpless. God, you are all I have. Please protect her. I can’t do this without you.”

See how the second prayer brought me to a place of brokenness? Well, if you can’t see that I wish I could show you the lump in my throat. I am broken. This adoption process is requiring a lot of vulnerability with God and it’s very hard to endure. The verse that keeps coming to my mind and helps me to continue in this state of broken honesty is this:

“My grace is sufficient for you. My power works best in your weakness…” 2 Cor 12:9

Consider that by being weak and broken in front of God we are exalting Him. We are admitting our brokenness not through a stale confession but through a living expression. We are acknowledging His strength by giving Him our weakness. This is why lamenting is worship.

Why You Don’t Like Christians

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Let me start off by admitting that I am making two very broad generalizations. One, I am generalizing the entire Christian population which is very diverse. Two, I’m generalizing all of those who don’t like Christians which I’m sure is also very diverse. I think if you continue to read this post however, you’ll find that these generalizations will be pretty darn accurate… you’ll see what I mean.

Now that I’ve gotten that out-of-the-way, let me start with another confession: I was once a person who didn’t like Christians. In fact, I didn’t like them so much that I figured I wouldn’t even bother to really look into Christianity. Why would I want to follow a religion if it meant I was going to become a close-minded, cold-hearted, ignorant drone? I highly valued being open-minded (and by that I mean loving of all people which is ironic because I didn’t have much love for Christians) and I also valued critical thinking. The perception that I had of Christians was one that mostly came from movies and not a whole lot from real life. I assumed that Christians were full of white supremacists who loved gun rights and hated homosexual people. Now, I know that I was the one being close-minded.

In high school, I took a biology class in which our teacher admitted that the theory of evolution hadn’t been 100% proven. I had been a firm believer in evolution and although I still believe that hints of it could be true, what is important to realize is that believing in evolution takes an element of faith. I realized that science wasn’t always 100% reliable. At the same time, my great-uncle began to pick me up from school and a friendship formed between us. He was a Christian (I say “was” because he passed away) and was an amazing man. He told me that ,’Jesus loved me whether I believed in him or not.’ I had to chuckle at his confidence. He never apologized for his faith but he didn’t force it on me either. He was the first Christian I met that I really genuinely admired.

Now, fast forward a ton of years (ok maybe not a ton, I’m not that old yet) and I can tell you that I have met many incredibly intelligent, loving Christian people. My perception of who Christians are was being tainted by my own assumptions, by the media, and by many out-spoken people who I thought were representatives of Jesus.

So why don’t YOU like Christians? Let me give it a guess. You don’t like Christians because they’re so ______________ (insert your preferred adjectives there). Am I right?? I’m totally right. I told you. Now let me tell you why they’re so ______________. It’s because Christians are really broken people. In fact, those out-spoken people I talked about earlier, they are incredibly broken but they are representatives of Jesus nonetheless. I am one of those broken people too.

When Jesus came to gather followers and then to die for us he said specifically that he did not come for the righteous but for the sinner. (Mark 2:17; Luke 5:32) You could replace the word sinner with the words: broken, sick, or imperfect. 

It’s really quite unfortunate marketing. It’s like Jenny Craig hiring a ton of overweight people to do their commercials except you never seen the “after” photos.

So here’s the thing, you can’t judge Jesus by looking at his followers. It just doesn’t work. What you can do, however, is look at us totally broken Christians and think: Wow, if God still loves them, he must be REALLY loving. That’s really the best way to look at it. We haven’t earned God’s love, He just GAVE it to us because he’s that RIDICULOUSLY loving. Most Christians that I know will gladly confess to you that they are imperfect and that they have only been accepted by God because of his grace.

He loves us even when we’re self-righteous or hypocritical or condemning. He loves us and forgives us for being all of the things that you hate about us. He loves us in spite of all of that. See how loving he is?? Pretty crazy. It doesn’t make sense, I know. The cool thing is, you can rest assured that God is working in our hearts to make us more loving and humble. So next time a Christian annoys you for being hateful or judgmental or whatever, you can at least know that.

And many love the Matrix, proof that you can love Jesus and science all at the same time. Mind-blowing, I know.

And many love the Matrix, proof that you can love Jesus and science all at the same time. Mind-blowing, I know.

Here’s the other thing, you don’t have to ascribe to a certain political party or throw-out your love of science to be a Christian. In fact, I know many very devoted followers of Jesus that are on complete opposite sides of the political spectrum. There’s no guarantee that you won’t change your mind on some things though, that I have to admit. If you decide to accept Jesus’ love and salvation, your heart will be changed. You will see things differently. But I think if you got to know who Jesus was (instead of looking at his followers) you would be ok with him changing you because he is absolutely perfect.

If you’re curious about learning about this absolutely-perfect Jesus person, maybe try checking-out the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke or John in the New Living Translation Bible or some version like that. Use a Bible that’s considered a “study bible” so that you can read more into certain passages that might seem odd. Recognize that you might need to ask questions about why Jesus did or said certain things because there is a lot of historical context to consider. Go into it with an open mind and let me know what you think.

Oh and one more thing, try not to judge us so much k? You know, cut us sinners some slack. Thanks. ;-)

For more on this topic, check out:

Experimental Theology: Are Christians Hate-Filled Hypocrites? 

 

 

How to Talk About Adoption

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Ok, first I want to say this: I understand that talking to people who are into adopting can be intimidating. It certainly doesn’t help that there are plenty of blogs, tweets, and Facebook posts that contain complaints about the crazy things people have said to adoptive families. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, that’s ok, I’d rather you not know because I don’t want you to be scared of saying the wrong thing.

Well, except, maybe I do… just a little.

Here’s the thing, personally, I don’t mind you asking me any kind of crazy

Click for an entire photo essay on rude adoption comments.

Click for an entire photo essay on rude adoption comments.

questions about adoption. What I WILL mind is if you ask me a question about adoption in front of my kids that could be hurtful. In general, it’s a good rule of thumb to not ask questions or make comments about adoption in front of the kids. It’s better to just save that conversation for an adults-only situation, unless of course, you’re very good friends of the family and then you’ll know when it’s ok. Am I confusing you? Sorry. I know, it is kind of sticky and I totally understand why you would be confused.

If it helps, I feel the same way. As we’ve begun our adoption journey, I’ve been talking to a lot of different parents who’ve adopted. Some I know well and some are just random people in Facebook support groups. I’m totally scared of saying the wrong thing. I just have genuine questions that I would love to get into with others who’ve been there. I’m not talking about logistical how-to type stuff, I’m talking like “how do I navigate the psychological implications of having a non-biological kid” type of stuff. I’d love to pose some heart-wrenching questions to these folks but I’m scared silly to do so.

This is really unfortunate because WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT ADOPTION. We need to be spreading ACCURATE INFORMATION. Here’s why: when we (the advocates of adoption) don’t allow people to ask questions about adoption, they get the information from other people who have NO idea what they’re talking about. So we can’t get all bent out of shape when people ask us personal questions or use the wrong lingo. We need to have grace here.

Now, on the other end, if you’re the one who’s not adopting but has questions, here’s what I have to say to you: ASK ASK ASK! Just remember what I said earlier about asking in front of the kids. It’s awkward and kids just don’t have the emotional capacity to understand you’re coming from a good place. All they hear is: someone else noticed that I’m different than the rest of my family. Especially in a grocery store check-out situation. That’s awesome that you think that the family in front of you is beautiful, go ahead and say that. Or just smile and be friendly. Your support is assumed. Just don’t compliment a specific child on how they look when it’s obvious that you’re noticing their aesthetic difference from their family. You can just leave that out.

(Side note: I know it’s ok that kids have aesthetic differences from their family and their family should be doing everything in their power to help them make peace with being different, it’s just not fun to be reminded that you are constantly being noticed as different everywhere you go… you got me?)

If you are a curious bystander or supportive friend/family member of someone who is adopting and you’d like to know some of the best ways to articulate your questions about adoption, here’s some lingo that might be helpful for you:

Positive Language in Adoption

Birth Mother, First Mother
Birth parent
Birth child
My child
Born to unmarried parents
Terminate parental rights
Make an adoption plan
To parent
Parent
Adoption triad or circle
Child placed for adoption
Child with special needs
Was adopted

Negative, Outdated, or Inaccurate Language in Adoption

Real parent
Natural parent
Own child
Adopted child; Own child
Illegitimate
Give up
Give away
To keep
Adoption triangle
An unwanted child
Handicapped child
Is adopted

Is that helpful at all? I hope it didn’t make things more confusing. I really mean it when I say that I hope you will ask questions and get curious about adoption. Orphans need advocates. Not all of us will adopt but we can at least spread accurate information and positive experiences to encourage those who do. This also offers an opportunity to learn about ways to help orphans beyond adopting. Thank you for reading. I hope you continue to get curious about adoption!

Spiritual Discipline of Solitude and Peeing Your Pants

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Today I’m going to write about solitude, also known as “Quiet Time” or if you’re a super-hip-Jesus-Freak, you may refer to it as “QT.” I’m currently in a discipleship group that is encouraging us to engage in regular times of solitude to connect with God. In this buzzing and whirling world of noise and technology you’d think that solitude would be like drinking an ice-cold glass of water on a hot August night. You would think that wouldn’t you? You’d think we’d be so eager to slam our bedroom door, switch off our phones/tv’s/computers, and just rest for a minute in God’s presence. Yet, we don’t. We’re so thirsty yet we can’t just STOP and take a drink of water already.

What’s the deal?

Ok, I can’t say this for everyone but I’ll tell you what my deal is. Ready? Its kind of embarrassing. I’m so incredibly busy with unimportant time-suckers that I don’t even realize that I’m thirsty.

Do you have kids? If not, maybe you can remember being one. Just bear with me for a sec. Do you ever remember peeing your pants? (I promise this is connected.) Ok, think back to a time when you peed your pants and you had that sinking feeling (not to mention that warm wet feeling) that you had messed-up. You were having so much fun playing Duck Hunt (I’m dating myself here) or hop scotch that you didn’t even realize you had to go until it was too late.

Well, I’m 30 and I’m still like the little girl who once peed her pants. I’m so wrapped-up in what’s going on this world that I don’t realize I have a deep need that requires my attention. Have you ever noticed how a kid feels after they wet their pants? They usually seem ashamed. That is exactly how I feel now when I forget to stay connected to God.

Now, hear me here, God doesn’t want me to feel ashamed, just as we have grace for our children who are learning. Yet, I still feel so disappointed in myself. I don’t like who I become when I don’t stay connected to God. Everything is affected when I don’t, especially my relationships. I know it’s the best thing for me to have consistent solitude. I KNOW IT. It’s just… well, I either forget what I know or I put it off because I’m avoiding something.

That’s the truth. Sometimes I am very aware (as is everyone around me, I’m guessing) that I could benefit from slowing down and spending time with God. Well, remember that shame thing I talked about before? You know, after we pee our pants? Well, sometimes when I feel ashamed I develop an even greater aversion to solitude. Who wants to sit in their ugly muck and just sit there? Did I mention the muck?? And the just sitting?? Who wants that?

Yesterday, I was so desperate that I decided to give muck-sitting a shot. Can I tell you, it was awesome. You have to try it. I’m not even being sarcastic. Here’s how it went down:

Me: God, I’m feeling like a shell of a person. I know there’s stuff deep down that wants to get out but right now it’s being covered-up by layers of meaningless to-do’s and do-gooder to-do’s. I’m actually really scared of what might underneath all the layers.

Then I just sat there for a minute, meditating on God’s grace and peace. That’s when I had an image of my past self brought into my mind. It was a time when I felt completely incompetent and very small. It was a time filled with shame.

I sat with that feeling for a little bit. It felt like 30 minutes but it was literally 3 minutes.

God then reminded me that He was with me in those feelings. I was not alone then and I’m not alone now. I didn’t feel that stinging shameful feeling, I felt warm and loved… but still kind of small.

He encouraged me to stop my busyness and to allow myself to be loved by Him and by others. I’m so busy trying to help everyone else but I’m not allowing anyone else to help me. He showed me that the parts of me that are incompetent and that need help are nothing to be ashamed of. They’re human. It’s ok to be small sometimes.

I can tell you that I am so glad I took 30 minutes out of my day to let God in. We all have muck but God wants to meet us there, clean us off, and encourage us. Our God is the God of hope remember? He wants to refresh our minds and give us His Kingdom perspective. He wants to melt away our meaningless worries and give us the gift of peace. Solitude in of itself is a huge gift. Like a much-needed retreat for the soul, God wants to replenish our strength. If you’re thirsty, let Him do that for you today. Take the gift that’s waiting for you.

Here’s a quick list of suggestions to help in your QT:

1. Find a place where there will be no distractions.

2. Decide on an amount of time you’d like to spend, start with something short like 15 minutes.

3. Pick a name for God that is meaningful to you (eg. Abba) or a worship song or a favorite verse. Use that to meditate on as you are in your quiet time.

4. When other things start to enter your mind, you can either write them down so that they are out of your mind and on paper or you can mentally label the thoughts as “worry” or “thinking” or “planning” whatever category works for that thought. Then release the thought and go back to focusing on the meditation.

5. Once you have calmed your mind, try to allow silence so that God can bring what He has for you.

Be encouraged, it gets easier with time! It’s so worth it.

Introducing… Our Brand New Etsy Shop!!

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Well, after the Valentine’s Day garland fundraiser blew-up in my face (in a good way) I had to find a way to contain the madness! Paper crafting is my favorite hobby so I am THRILLED that you all are gobbling up the garlands! I can’t wait to make more as we continue to fundraise for our adoption.

So, without further ado, I am proud to announce the opening of “Our Red Thread Shop” on Etsy! 

“Why the name?” You ask. Well, that is an excellent question! The name of our shop is very meaningful and it happened in a completely coincidental way.

The heart garland fundraiser was the very first fundraiser for our adoption. I thought that people might like them, but I wasn’t really sure how much. Caleb gently asked me one night, “What if no one buys any?” I refused to believe that was an option! I am terrified of my sewing machine and I needed to believe that this was going to be successful in order to summon the courage to sew the garlands.

When it came time to start sewing, I considered using a neutral thread so that my novice sewing skills would go unnoticed. Caleb, however, insisted that red thread would look much cooler. I knew he was right so I went with it.

Well, little did I know that “the red thread” was very significant. A week later, after all of the garlands were made and delivered. I discovered this book on Pinterest:

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When I looked inside the book, this was written as a sort of introduction to the fairytale:

“There is an ancient Chinese belief that an invisible, unbreakable red thread connects all those who are destined to be together.”

(Insert Twilight Zone Theme Music Here)

Isn’t that an awesome coincidence?? So of course after that we had to make sure that red thread was in our shop name. It’s so special to be reminded of why I’m making these garlands every time I sew. In a weird way it feels like I’m nesting like I would when I was pregnant. It’s kinda cool.

So, without further ado, here is the banner for our shop! Please visit and let me know what you think, I appreciate any feedback you might have!

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One Reason Why People are Uncomfortable with Adoption

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This post was originally written for my church’s blog and is intended for a Christian audience but I think it can speak to anyone who has a heart for the oppressed. 

Recently, my husband and I announced that we are planning to adopt a child. This is something that we feel called to do. It’s something that we and many others are doing to bring the Kingdom of God down here to earth. Interestingly, not all people see it that way.

In fact, we’ve received a lot of opposition regarding this decision. Some of the opposition has been quite overt (read: rude) and some has been more subtle. It seems that the idea of adoption just makes a lot of people uncomfortable.

I expected an outpour of encouragement and we have received that. I also knew that we’d receive some sprinklings of negativity. That most certainly came as well. Yet, even though I knew opposition was coming, it was still hard to hear. It’s tough to feel passionate about something while others attack it.

Then, today I had an epiphany… There IS something about adoption that is horrible. There’s a reason that it gives us all a heavy feeling in our hearts. It’s this: Adoption is not the way it was meant to be. God never intended for children to be abandoned. This is a dark, painful part of our broken world.

I wonder if that uncomfortable feeling that people get surrounding adoption is not because they’re actually opposed to adoption itself, but something stirs within their hearts saying, “This isn’t how it was supposed to be.” Adoption is just another reminder of the looming darkness that surrounds us. Adoption is the best solution we have to repair what has already been broken.

We need to embrace the tools that God has given us to redeem the brokenness of this world, even though it’s uncomfortable. Adoption isn’t the only cause that applies here. We are all called to serve “the least of these.” (Matt 25:34-40) That’s going to require us to come face to face with ugliness. Our hearts will be broken just as His is.

God gives us the tools we need to bring redemption to brokenness. It may not mean reversing the damage, but God wants us to bring his message of hope to those who are suffering. We need to enter into those dark places with confidence. God is bigger than darkness. We can be confident that one day God will overcome all of the evil of this world and bring healing to the wounded.

What brokenness makes you uncomfortable? Is it homelessness? Drug abuse? Human trafficking? Is there a certain area of suffering that you feel called to bring God’s message of hope but it scares you to face it? It’s important for us to recognize why we feel uncomfortable and to bring those feelings to God. He can help us to overcome them so that they don’t discourage God’s work. Whether it be the work we are called to or the work of others.

Praise God that we have nothing to fear! He has overcome the sin of the world and darkness cannot defeat Him. He is powerful and does not tolerate evil. Neither should we. We are given his Spirit that we might be his ministers of reconciliation. Let’s not let our fear or our sadness or our discomfort get in the way of what we were meant to do.

The Disposability of Boys: From The Good Men Project

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If you’re the mom of a boy, I encourage you to read this because it speaks to the struggle of men everywhere. So often we hear of the plight of women, which is also very real but we need to be aware that there is another battle going on as well: the fight for true masculinity and the fight to be of worth.

* * *

The Disposability of Boys

FEBRUARY 17, 2014 BY  

The UN’s recent reports on the treatment of children in Syria and in the Roman Catholic Church revealed some of the despicable acts committed against boys that are part of a disturbing and hidden global trend.


They are the forgotten many. The afterthought. The tacked-on obligatory mention at the end of a sentence, if that. Some university classes on human trafficking fail to mention them alongside “girls and women” in their syllabi. But there they are being used as soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo and as slaves in thecotton fields of Uzbekistan, the shipbreaking yards of Bangladesh, the farmlands of Florida and the fishing villages of Ghana. And there they are, as detailed in recent reports from the UN, being used as human shieldsin Syria and as sex slaves in the Roman Catholic Church. Can we talk about this now? Is it okay to talk about this?

PrefaceAddressing the disposability of boys is not ignoring or in any way minimizing the appalling situations many of our world’s girls and women are enduring right now. Addressing the disposability of boys is addressing the disposability of boys. There is often hostility when this topic is brought up because there’s the assumption that the speaker is choosing sides. This isn’t a game and there are no sides. 

***

On February 4, 2014 the UN released its first detailed findings on the treatment of children in Syria. The “Report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict in the Syrian Arab Republic” contained text perhaps even more damning due to its comprehensive details than the alleged torture photographs that were released weeks ago and that a team of war crimes prosecutors and forensic experts deemed “direct evidence” of the “systematic torture and killing” by the Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s regime. One excerpt on page 4 stated:

“Boys aged 12 to 17 years were trained, armed and used as combatants or to man checkpoints.”

This falls perfectly in line with why boys are often selected around the world for use as slave laborers. Comparatively, boys tend to be more physical, stronger, and more physically aggressive than girls and are therefore more preferred when it comes to the often backbreaking work of slave labor. While some communities have tried to eradicate this notion that boys are more physical and physically aggressive than girls, Dr. Michael Thompson, co-author of Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys, believes the difference is clear but admitted to PBS Parents that he isn’t precisely sure why:

“Why are some young boys more aggressive than girls? We don’t know for sure. We think that boys are predisposed to higher activity levels as a result of androgens (male hormones) inutero. However, it is not, as many people believe, a result of testosterone in the blood, because before puberty, boys and girls have the same level. What we know is that boys in all cultures around the world wrestle more, mock fight more, and are drawn to themes of power and domination, but that’s not the same as hurting someone, so it’s not necessarily a cause for worry.”

Dr. Thompson’s statement about “boys in all cultures of the world” aligns with what I learned about human trafficking during my two and a half years living in and traveling throughout Asia. Whether it was Nepal or the Philippines, Sri Lanka or Myanmar, it was simply more acceptable for boys to perform the most grueling forms of physical labor, especially when it was the kind of labor that may lead to disease or permanent disfigurement.

Some posit that this acceptance is a direct result of how cultures have been socially conditioned to see gender roles due to the way religious attitudes and/or patriarchal cultures have demarcated them. While this influence certainly can carry over into secular societies, it seems there’s a more pervasive form of social conditioning at work; one that views boys, regardless of age, as young men; one that views their more physical behavior as the seed of manhood—a time when, at least conceptually, they’ll no longer be seen as vulnerable and will instead be capable of preying on those who are truly vulnerable. The result? Boys who will be men are judged as though they are men. This is harmful both for boys and for the men who then live under the socially conditioned false narrative that believes they are invulnerable.

Nowhere was this more apparent to me than in the shipbreaking yards of Chittagong, Bangladesh. Security guards dressed in blue leaf camouflage pointed their semi-automatic machine guns directly at me (after making sure I didn’t have a camera, notebook or phone), and I watched in horror as one tiny boy after another dragged their feet through toxic shoreline sludge in order to lift with their bare hands the rusted anchor chains. The black plumed skies lit up red as other boys took turns using the blowtorch. I have no idea if there’s hell in the afterlife but that scene showed me for damn sure that there’s hell in this life.

Workers carrying a piece of anchor chain to the shipbreaking backyards / Pierre Torset

“Boys don’t grow up into men revered for their beauty,” one villager who lives just outside the yards told me through a translator. This was his response upon my asking where the girls and women were. Rather than say where they were he seemed to take my question as a point of contention, as a matter of pride. My translator later told me that although these men hate their jobs, have seen friends die because of it and know they themselves are dying because of it, they take an incredible amount of pride in it because they see themselves as entirely “expendable,” sacrificing their own life for that of their wife and kids.

ex·pend·a·ble: of little significance when compared to an overall purpose, and therefore able to be abandoned, designed to be used only once and then destroyed, e.g. unstaffed and expendable launch vehicles

Through asking the villager additional questions I learned that the girls and women either stayed home to prepare food for the shipbreakers or, if they were employed, worked as seamstresses, sometimes in Dhaka, a 6-hour bus ride away. These seamstress jobs are essentially slavery as well, but due to international news coverage about collapsing factories (locals wonder if this ever would have made the news had it not been for the fact that these factories produce goods for world-renowned brands) and because more members of the community rallied around the rights of these girls and women, some positive changes were made and othersare in progress.

But few rally behind the boys and men. In fact, what I saw at the yards didn’t seem any different from whatGary Cohn and Will Englund described in their 1998 Pulitzer Prize winning series of articles titled The Shipbreakers. The boys and men are expected either to suck it up and find solace in their disposability or rally for themselves which, when they have, often seems to coincide with the time when, as Muhammad Ali Shahin, Program Manager for Advocacy at Young Power in Social Action, told me:

“Dead and non-identified workers…get thrown out to sea, leaving a widow and children with no news and no income.”

Speaking particularly of boys he told me, “They are considered machines; if one dies another will replace him.”

When I told Muhammad what the villager told me about boys growing up, he said:

“That’s right. Men are revered when they are physically strong leaders. And the yard owners pretend this is what they are ‘making’ the boys into. Truth is, they aren’t making them into anything. They are breaking them into pieces.”

dis·pos·a·ble: intended to be used once, or until no longer useful, and then thrown away, e.g. disposable razors. Also: financial assets readily available for the owner’s use

The Syria report also stated that “many boys felt it was their duty” to take up arms. Might some part of this feeling of duty, this willingness to protect, be an intrinsic part of boyhood? Many believe so. In Absent, a documentary about the impact of fatherlessness, John Eldredge, author of the controversial Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul, says:

“Earlier cultures understood that there’s a warrior in the heart of a boy… Boys are wired for adventure, and boys are wired for aggression.”

It was clear that in this context Eldredge was referring to “wiring” of the genetic type. But while every boy is of course an individual and while such generalized statements can certainly be debated, one can make a stronger case by stating that it is perhaps a combination of male genetics and the socially constructed roles we’ve played for thousands of years that have reinforced the male expression of certain aggressive characteristics.

A modern-day application of these ideas shows us that here we are in the 21st century C.E., a time of desk jobs where those qualities of physicality and aggression that have found necessary and healthy outlets for thousands of years have been replaced with sitting all day, an act which men seem particularly maladjusted; a time when even roughhousing with dad is seen as unproductive; a time when boys are increasingly penalizedfor not being able to sit still throughout an entire school day (and are substantially more often misdiagnosed with ADHD); a time when 43% of children grow up without their father and therefore often without a male role model who they can look up to and say, “Yes, that’s how to channel what I’m feeling.”

NoteNo, Hanna Rosin, this doesn’t mean The End of Men; it means The End of Putting Men in a Box and Pretending That What Happens Beyond the Box Doesn’t Effect Them.

(Continue to read this article HERE)

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