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The Truth About Life After Conversion

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This message could serve as a warning of sorts to those who are almost on board with Christianity. It could serve as a wake-up call to new believers. It most certainly will serve as encouragement for some of you who are a little deeper in and possibly feeling disillusioned with your faith.

On the radio last tonight, yes, Christian radio, there was a sound bite from a well-known pastor. He said something that I don’t know that I totally agree with. I’m not trying to pick a fight with a mega-pastor by any means but something that he said kind of rubbed me the wrong way. Now, to be fair, I was driving so I couldn’t record exactly what he said and I couldn’t find it online either. So let me just give you the gist.

The implied message was this: if you are a believer, you better make sure that your life before Jesus doesn’t sound better than your life after Jesus.

To continue in the vein of fairness, this pastor certainly isn’t the only person delivering this message. Time and time again, we imply that it’s important to see the benefits of becoming a Christian. Now don’t get me wrong, my life after Jesus IS better than life was before. But also, to be honest, it isn’t really in the ways I would have thought.

I can’t speak for all Christians but I can speak for my own faith journey. I didn’t have this miraculous conversion where I no longer struggled with things after. I still struggled with body-image issues, low self-esteem, substance experimenting, lust, greed, lying, jealousy, anger, pride…. Ok, this list could get quite long so I’ll just go ahead and stop it there. Through Christ, I can say that I have, over time, been healed from some of my brokenness but not completely… and here’s the thing: I NEVER WILL BE. I will never be this happy-go-lucky-all-of-the-time-joyful-perfect-person. NEVER.

Here’s what else didn’t happen when I converted. I didn’t suddenly have everything go my way. I didn’t develop friendships with perfect people who never hurt me (because Christians would never hurt each other right??), I don’t always know which path I should take, I don’t have protection from calamity, I don’t have freedom from anxiety and depression. The Bible isn’t a self-help book and Jesus isn’t prozac. I still struggle and I still face suffering.

Look, what I’m trying to say is this:

Don’t become a Christian because you want a better life. 

Become a Christian because CHRIST IS REAL.

God really did create you.

Jesus really did die for you.

The Holy Spirit really will dwell in you.

Those things are real.

Sure, there are benefits to becoming a Christian. Heaven is pretty cool (although it’s probably not one big party in the sky after you die so if that’s what you want, well, sorry). Church has cheap donuts every Sunday, that’s pretty cool too.

Ok, but seriously, the MAJOR benefit that NO other religion can offer you? HOPE.

God gives us hope. We know that one day, every tear will be wiped away. Everything that is wrong will be made right. That is a promise that He will keep. And you know what else? He gives us hope that over time, He will heal us of our brokenness. We feel joy and peace knowing that. That is an added benefit of becoming a Christian.

But still, don’t become a Christian because you want to feel something good like hope. Become a Christian

God delights in His creation even more than we can comprehend! Gen 1:31

God delights in His creation (us) even more than we can comprehend! Gen 1:31

because you want to honor what is true. Your life is too short to go on ignoring the fact that you have a Creator who loves you very much. He wants to have a relationship with you. Talk to Him.

Don’t get caught-up in politics or preconceived notions of what it means to be a Christian. Just look for the facts. You don’t have to dump your brain in a wastebasket to believe this. But don’t waste any more of your life going about your business as if He doesn’t exist. He does. Now go, talk to your Father who loves you. He can’t wait to celebrate your return.

“I’ve seen atheists become Christians after they decided to honestly pursue the evidence of science and history wherever it took them, regardless of whether it ended up contradicting their deeply held beliefs.

Last month, I met a former prosecutor who read my book The Case for Christ at the request of a friend and then spent five years delving into the historical evidence for Jesus before he concluded Jesus is, indeed, the unique Son of God who proved it by returning from the dead. I know an atheist engineer here in Colorado who spent two years doing the same thing. Both are now strong Christians.” – Lee Strobel

If you’re into videos check out this awesome one by Mike Erre.

I want to hear your stories! Why did you become a Christian? If you’re not one, what holds you back from believing?

In Process

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There’s been so much going on in the Snyder Family world that it’s hard to even know where to begin. I feel like first I should announce some BIG news and that is that we have FINALLY come to a decision in terms of our adoption. If you aren’t up to speed on where we were last time, let me recap:

-We were planning to adopt from China’s special needs program.

-We were matched with a little boy who was in terminal condition.

- Our hearts broke.

- We declined the match.

- Our hearts broke more.

- We began to discuss other options for adoption because we realized that adopting from an international special needs program might be more than we wanted to take on right now.

- The traditional Chinese adoption program takes 7 years. Most other international adoption programs require a lot of travel- too much with a toddler.

- FosAdopt wasn’t a good option because we have a 2 year old and want to maintain the birth order.

- We feel stuck.

- HALLELUJAH another option is presented to us!!

Enter, Adopt4Me. On a group page for Orphan Care on Facebook I saw an SOS. A small adoption facilitating company was looking for families to adopt children of mixed ethnicities. Apparently it is hard to find families who will do this (that’s a post for another time, but I want to say that I have no judgment for those families after all we have been through). We were totally on board right away.

Until… the cost. Yeah, it always comes down to money doesn’t it? The reality is, it’s about the same cost as the Chinese adoption, the difference is that we would need to come up with the money a LOT sooner. Yikes.

Well, after praying and discussing and researching, we have discovered that Adopt4Me really is the best fit for us. They are willing to work with our budget and we are going to try to raise funds as fast as we can. Luckily, we already have a good chunk of money that we have saved for the adoption so we only have to fundraise about $5,000.- $7,000.

Bye-bye old roof!

Bye-bye old roof!

Now, we are doing our best to get our home study done quickly and our house ready for a new little boo. Lord have mercy on me, I am nesting so bad. I am trying to calm my anxiety but I can hardly keep myself together. I feel myself fighting to ward-off the anxiety and to turn to God, but let me tell you it’s not easy. Especially when my house really is an actual construction zone.

That’s where I am at right now… in process. Both figuratively and literally.

I feel like a tornado inside. I’m nesting like a woman at the beginning in her third trimester only this is worse in some ways because I’m actually physically capable of doing most of my crazy Pinterest-inspired ideas. I need help people. I’m not kidding.

True to form, Jesus showed-up for me in a big way today….

When your mind spins with multiple plans, Peace may sometimes seem to be within your grasp; yet it always eludes you. …  I did not design the human mind to figure out the future, that is beyond your capability. I crafted your mind for continual communication with Me. Bring Me all your needs, your hopes, and fears…. Turn from the path of planning to the path of Peace. 

-Jesus Calling, Sarah Young. Psalm 37:5

Yeah. So that pretty much hit the nail on the head. I just have to pray that God can give me the strength and wisdom to surrender because I’ve been trying to do it on my own and it’s not working so well.

I’m curious, what do you do when your “planning” gets out of control? Suggestions and prayers are greatly appreciated!

This is the side yard that we see from our kitchen window. We just ripped out a bunch of stubborn ferns and are going to plant a screen hedge around the fence. Also, check-ou the roof over the garage. That's going bye-bye!

This is the side yard that we see from our kitchen window. We just ripped out a bunch of stubborn ferns and are going to plant a screen hedge around the fence. Also, check-ou the roof over the garage. That’s what’s going bye-bye!

Updates! From House to Home, Our Little Big Boy, and A New Hole.

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So much has happened in the last few weeks I can’t believe it. It’s definitely time for me to take a break from all of those serious posts and to write about the good stuff that’s been going on round here!

First let me start with my very favoritist DIY project so far! Restoration Hardware eat your heart out!


First we bought pipe and fittings at Home Depot then sprayed them with this awesome stuff:





My mom did the sewing because it’s just better when she does it. I Heart THEM!!!!


We’ve been hitting-up Disneyland every now and then. Caleb decided to be the coolest dad ever and got some Oswald ears. He’s so hot.


I’m attempting to bump-up my Crunch status with this MEGA HUGE RIDICULOUSLY LARGE COMPOSTER!!! I am SERIOUS about composting. Really serious.


Our little guy is getting bigger and bigger. He is showing-off his make-up application skills and his photography skills.

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True to form, he’s growing and changing. Can you believe he’s 22 months old?? He now prefers (i.e. WILL ONLY) to fall asleep in his stroller for naps. Here he’s holding his favorite book like a lovey, ugh, boy after my own heart. (PS That book, Firebird, is so cute!)




Oh and here’s the new hole… Look hard.



YEP! I finally did it! I’ve been talking about it for years and finally just went and did it.

So, there are the updates. I’ll do some more house updates soon I hope (I’m saying I hope there are actually updates to give!).

So Close to Perfect

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Perfect isn’t real. It’s allusive, subjective, nearly impossible to define. We all know that… but, there’s something, and please tell me you’ve been there… there’s a feeling. A feeling that everything is alright. That I am alright. That’s the feeling I’m chasing. I always have. Be the perfect daughter, the perfect student, the perfect friend, the perfect wife, the perfect therapist, the perfect mother. It’s an admirable thing to pursue, you see, because the feeling is so good.

And about that feeling. The great thing about that feeling is that you don’t even really need to achieve perfect to feel the feeling. You can just be on your way and you feel it. In fact, you can just decide that you’re going to start on the path towards perfect and you might feel it. The problem is that the feeling is quite slippery. Not to worry, continue on the path and you can be sure to feel it again.

Last month, Luca and I were really sick for an entire week. Inevitably, Caleb was gone across the country for work that week. The first day was torturous. I had a sky-high fever and Luca was cranky miserable too. I was filled with dread. I reached-out to some friends for help and was kindly given a care package of saltines and gatorade. Suddenly, things were looking-up. Luca and I were homebound for a week but it was fantastic. It felt like a genuine Staycation. We watched dance documentaries, Thomas the Train, and played with Play Doh. I had nowhere to be and no obligations. Meal prep included heating-up chicken noodle-o’s and drinking kombucha. I lavished in time with God. Life was good. Weird, but good.

For the first time in my life I felt content being home. I’ve never been a homebody. I’ve always been on the go, desperately craving the energy of people. But I didn’t need anyone. I was home with my sweet boy, I felt so connected to God… I was fulfilled. I had that feeling. The feeling that I usually get when I’m striving for perfect. But I wasn’t striving for anything. I was. I just was.

Now I know the feeling I’m so desperately seeking is contentment. It’s a through-and-through reassurance that I am ok, that everything is ok. 

Being sick for a week made me realize that I had too many commitments. I was spreading myself too thin. I was trying to be perfect and I was trying to find fulfillment in people. One of the items on my calendar that hit the chopping block was my beloved Book Club. I didn’t want to say goodbye to it but I felt I nagging at my heart that I needed to take a break. I realized later, after explaining to my friends that I couldn’t continue, that Book Club had been another way for me to strive towards perfect.

You see, Book Club wasn’t a bunch of us girls getting together to gush over the latest romance novel. It was a ‘parenting book’ Book Club. It was another way for me to reassure myself that I was going to do my best to be as perfect of a mom as I could be. I just couldn’t live with myself if I wasn’t.

Back in the day, when I was in therapy, my therapist practically kicked me out. I wanted to keep going, week in and week out, month after month, year after year. He finally had a talk with me. At what point would I be “good enough?” At what point could I just be ok with my imperfection and trust myself? Sure, things were going to come-up, life happens, but now I had the tools within me to be ok. Everything was going to be ok.

This is how it is for motherhood now. I’m realizing that I’ve created a wonderful toolbox. I’ve learned so much and I have amazing friends as resources. When I’m feeling desperate and clueless, I know where to turn. God has provided so much. Now it’s time to relax and enjoy being a mom.

Now I can look back and realize that, at times, my perfectionism was preoccupying me from actually being present. I was reading this blog and that blog. This book and that book. Texting this mom and that mom. Even when I wasn’t physically distracted, I was often mentally distracted. I was so caught-up in becoming who I wanted to be that I couldn’t just stop and enjoy who I was… an imperfectly fantastic mom to the most precious little boy.

My week of quarantine re-connected us. I saw his beauty and mine too. I could see clearly the things I was doing right and the things that needed work. Ironically, what needed work was that I needed to stop working so much. I needed to stop go-go-going so much. We needed more time at home with less rushing and *sigh* I needed less face-glued-to-my-phone time.

Facebook, texting, blog reading, etc… all of it is taking a backseat now. If people think I’m rude for not responding to their texts quickly, so be it. They’ll appreciate my full attention when I am with them. Plus, I’m realizing that time really is flying by. Soon, Luca will be a big brother and I won’t have as much time for him. I want to enjoy these valuable moments before they’re no more.

So far, I can attest that my days feel longer (in a good way). Time feels slower and less pressured. I am able to be more attuned to Luca and my husband. The time I felt like I never had for God is suddenly there and it is a gift every day. This is it. I feel content. Ok… not all of the time, but I sure feel better than I did before. I feel “good enough,” and that my friends, is a wonderful feeling.


The Quake That Shook Wine Country: Heartbreak for My Hometown

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If you’ve never experienced an earthquake, let me tell you it is incredibly hard to describe what it’s like. The first word that comes to mind for me is “disorienting.” The quakes that I have been through were minor but still unsettling. For days after I felt sort of on-edge and disoriented.

It’s an incredibly unnerving feeling when, without warning, the earth beneath you becomes unsteady. Incredibly.

Well, just a little over a week ago, my little hometown of Napa was shaken by a 6.1 earthquake. It was big enough to do major damage to infrastructure and paved roads. Not to mention big enough to scare the wits out of most of those who were brutally awakened by it at 3am. I’ve heard story after story of sentimental items being lost and of damage to homes. No one really has earthquake insurance because it’s RIDICULOUSLY expensive and has like a $30,000 deductible. So most of the damage will just have to be absorbed by the home owners.

I just had to write something about all of this because I feel so helpless being far away. I wish that I was there to help pick-up the broken pieces. The shocking images of beautiful historic buildings crumbling and glass strewn about homes of loved ones… it’s just so heartbreaking. Not to mention that the aftershocks are STILL continuing. Talk about feeling on edge, ugh.

If you pray, please pray for my hometown. Pray for the residents, that they will not suffer from fear or injuries. Pray a blessing of peace and healing.

God, please give them strength and fill them with joy as they celebrate what was not lost.

Here are some photos to help us understand what it has been like there:

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Some images of hope and healing:

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Please Pray With Me Today

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Today at noon some of us will be praying for the situation in Iraq. There are many people being persecuted and even murdered for their unwillingness to align with the ISIS group. Will you please pray with us?


- That the people in the ISIS group will discontinue the violence and will turn to Christ and know His love.
– That those who are being deployed into the area will be protected.
– For the protection and provision of those who are being persecuted.
– That those who are suffering will feel God’s peace and love.
– That the Christians who are being persecuted will remain strong in the faith.


Did I miss anything? Please add other prayers in the comments section.

The Problem with Miracles

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What a stellar way to title a post. I’m pretty sure no one is going to read a post entitled, “The Problem with Miracles.” I might as well have said, “Why Ice Cream is Too Cold.” (That’s a total snag from Friends by the way, *sigh* Ross…) Anyway, I don’t think there really is a problem with miracles but I do want to say something about our desire for them.

I can think of the very first one I prayed for as a believer…. My great-uncle died so I prayed that God would bring him back. It didn’t happen. Regardless, anytime something really bad happens or I want something that I think is impossible, I pray for a miracle. I never really thought of it before but I’ve also been praying for miracles that have to do with my character. I don’t think we realize it, but asking God to change something about our hearts is asking for a miracle.

Sharing time. I really really REALLY don’t like it when I get angry about another driver’s stupid *ahem* less-than-stellar driving tactics. I get so mad. I seriously want to honk my horn like mad and cut them off and yell things that my toddler has no business hearing. Usually, I just end-up gritting my teeth and hoping they notice when I pass them because I get to use the carpool lane. That’s what we call passive-aggressive. I don’t know why I let it bother me so much. Who cares?? They’re doing what they’re doing, I’m doing what I’m doing, no big. But I CAN’T. LET. IT. GO. It crawls under my skin and itches until I do something to get some sort of revenge.

The thing is, if I’m really honest: those drivers scare me. Their reckless behavior reminds me that I’m not in control. I can drive as safe as I want but if another driver crashes into me well, there’s not a whole lot I can do about that. That’s why I get so mad. I’m scared.

So, in cases like that, when I’m praying for God to help me not get so mad, I’m basically praying for Him to remove my fear which would seriously be a miracle.

Yeah, I’m kind of a fearful person. I’m not going to get into the nitty gritty drama of why I am the way that I am but let’s just say this didn’t happen overnight. It’s a seed that has been planted into a very fertile soil of this world’s crap and then nurtured lovingly by Satan and his minions. Seriously, this isn’t something I can just will away. I want control over my life. I want to control my safety and the safety of those I love. It’s hard to relinquish that control to God because I don’t always get what He’s doing. But I know that He knows best and I hate feeling anxious and I hate the behaviors that seep out of my heart as a result so I pray that He will change my heart.

Now this is the part where I talk about the problem with miracles.

God could absolutely take that part right out of my heart like it was nothing. He could have brought my uncle back from the dead. There are so many things that He could do but He chooses not to. I could get into a whole thing about free will and God’s intervention and all that, but I won’t…. mostly because I’m no expert on that. What I can say, from my own experience is that if God performed a miracle by changing my character then I would be robbed of so much more. 

What I am realizing time and time again is that God wants us to become more like Him through the process of relationship with Him. How easy would it be if He were to simply make us all Christ-like the minute we became believers? It would be easy but it wold lack the gift of grace. Something that astounds me about our Heavenly Father is that he is RELENTLESS. He pursues and pursues even when I fall short. It’s mind-boggling. If you have ever experienced a relationship in which your inner ugliness was exposed and you were loved in SPITE of that, you know what I’m talking about. This is what God does. He doesn’t change us immediately. He pursues us in grace and insists that we return to Him again and again. This is love.

Have you seen the ugly parts of your heart? They’re really ugly. At least mine are. God hasn’t removed them but we are working on it. He loves me in my ugliness. He loves me in the ugliness that I DON’T EVEN REALIZE I HAVE YET. This is why He doesn’t miraculously transform me. I need to see those parts. I need to willingly give them to Him. He respects that I should have the choice to surrender those parts. That is love.

 So here’s the problem with our desire for miracles: if God doesn’t fix it then we have to work through it and that’s hard. We generally steer away from hard. Hard is exhausting and frustrating. It’s also scary to see the ugly parts of ourselves. Most of us would rather notice the ugly parts in others and pretend like we don’t have ugly parts like that. To admit our faults is to be rooted in humility and rested in grace, both of which are not easy to achieve.

So what do we do with all of this? Do we not ask God to perform miracles in our hearts? I don’t think so. I think we should always be real with God about the desire of our hearts. The trick will be to ask God, “Father, is there something in my heart that I need to be aware of?” Sit with God in that question. Don’t be afraid. He is so loving and gracious. He will help you remove it. He may lead you to a therapist or other relationship that will be used for refining purposes. Through that relationship you may discover where this all began. The light will shine in the darkness and God will use this insight to bring healing.

You may find yourself praying that God perform a miracle in someone else’s heart. I don’t know what to say about that other than this is very tricky business. Often, the darkness we see in another is the darkness that we have in ourselves and cannot forgive. That person who is always late? Do they drive you crazy? I’m curious, how do you feel when you are late? Do you have a hard time accepting that you are human and can be late sometimes? Maybe it’s time to sit with God about that.

Do we stop praying for others? No. But… it’s very important that we became aware of our own issues before fixating on the issues that others struggle with. Usually, it takes someone outside of us to show us our own issues. We often don’t even realize that we  struggle with something until it manifests through friction in a relationship. In theses cases we will be tempted to notice the fault in the other person. We must always ask, “Father, is there something in my heart that I am not aware of?” 

If you are interested into delving into this process, also known as “sanctification,” or becoming more like Christ, I highly recommend you find a trusted Spiritual Director or therapist. Here are some books that may help you on your journey:


You Know You’re the Mom of a(n Almost) 2 Year-Old When

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10. You can finish this lyric: “They’re 2 they’re 4 they’re 6 and 8…”

9. You’re starting to learn of diseases that you didn’t even know existed… and contracting them. (Hand Foot…. what the wha?!)

8. You’ve been scratched, punched, pummeled, bitten, and smacked by various thrown objects, all of which actions were accompanied by high-pitched giggles or a mischievous smile.

7. The things that you once held so tightly to… NO PLASTIC TOYS!!…. NO TV!!… NO ANYTHING THAT COULD POSSIBLY CAUSE ANY HARM!!… have fallen by the wayside somewhere along with the aspirations to make all of your own baby food from your home grown vegetables.

6. You start to day dream about having number 2….

5. You start to have nightmares about having number 2…

4. People consistently ask you about number 2…

3. You begin to realize that ALL of your friends who have siblings that are 2 years apart meant that they were 2 and their sibling was a newborn. Then you start to question the sanity of all of these mothers. Then the consistent increase of anxiety disorders start to make sense…

2. You’re starting to sleep more.

1. You’re starting to sleep more and so you think, “I could SO do this again!”

And who wouldn’t want to?? Look at this…

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Happy Friday Everyone!

Parenting in the Spirit: Understanding the Stages of Spiritual Development in Your Child

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I have two passions in life, child development and my faith. That being said, you can see how this post is long overdue. I’ve been itching to write about the theories of child development and spiritual development. I’m hoping to write in such a way that parents can find this information useful. I want to take this knowledge beyond theory and into reality. Such knowledge will help us determine how we want to parent and I think it will also help us to enjoy our children even more than we already do.

I want to acknowledge parenting will always require intuition. We can’t look towards theories and textbooks to calm every tantrum and wipe every tear. Yet, there are times that we are misinformed by our “intuition.” Usually, we are

Touch isn't just good for them, it releases endorphins for us too.

Touch isn’t just good for them, it releases endorphins for us too.

misinformed by our fears. For example, it was once feared that by holding a baby too often, the baby would become “spoiled” and always long to be held. To nurture independence, it was advised to not hold a baby “too much.” Now, we know that babies need to be held often. Touch strengthens their immune system and helps them to feel safe. We know that a lack of touch is serious. So serious that it can lead to death by “failure to thrive.” So you see, what makes “sense,” isn’t always correct. On the same note, if you’ve given your baby the recommended amount of food but they still seem hungry, it would be foolish to deny your intuition and let your baby cry with hunger. Intuition and knowledge are meant to work together in order to make the best parenting decisions possible for each scenario. We just take both in hand and do the best we can.

All that being said, I’m now going to share with you some of the most interesting information that I’ve ever encountered! Ok, maybe I’m geeking-out on you a little bit but I’m so excited about this! I think it will change your life. It has greatly changed the way I live and now helps me parent.

First, I need you to stop and think about what kind of adults you want your children to be. Do you want them to be free thinkers? Sounds a little scary, I know. However, the alternative is that they go with the flow and do what they’re told. That’s even more scary, in my opinion. If we want our children to independently choose Jesus (as adults) then we need to foster their spiritual development in healthy ways now. Understanding the way that children think and how that effects their spiritual development will help us to foster and not hinder their relationship with God.

So without further ado, I introduce to you: Fowler’s Stages of Faith Development. Take a read and let me know what you think. This is one post of a new series. The next post will address how we can apply this theory in our parenting although I think you’ll see that this chart does touch on that. I hope you find it helpful!

Stages of Faith Development

Pre-Stage: Undifferentiated Faith
Generally children from birth through about 2 years of age.

Have the potential for faith but lack the ability to act on that potential.

Through loving care from parents and other adults in their life young children start to build a lived experience of trust, courage, hope and love.

At this stage, children experience faith as a connection between themselves and their caregiver.Stage 1: Intuitive-projective FaithGenerally pre-school aged children.

The cognitive development of children of this age is such that they are unable to think abstractly and are generally unable to see the world from anyone else’s perspective. As Robert Keeley writes: “These children cannot think like a scientist, consider logical arguments, or think through complex ideas.”

Faith is not a thought-out set of ideas, but instead a set of impressions that are largely gained from their parents or other significant adults in their lives. In this way children become involved with the rituals of their religious community by experiencing them and learning from those around them.Stage 2: Mythic-literal FaithGenerally ages 6 to 12.

Children at this age are able to start to work out the difference between verified facts and things that might be more fantasy or speculation.

At this age children’s source of religious authority starts to expand past parents and trusted adults to others in their community like teachers and friends.

Like the previous stage, faith is something to be experienced. At this stage it is because children think in concrete and literal ways. Faith becomes the stories told and the rituals practiced.

Later in this stage children begin to have the capacity to understand that others might have different beliefs than them.Stage 3: Synthetic-conventional FaithGenerally starts about the age of 13 and goes until around 18. However, some people stay at this stage for their entire life.

Unlike previous stages, people at this stage are able to think abstractly. What were once simple unrelated stories and rituals can now be seen as a more cohesive narrative about values and morals. With abstract thinking comes the ability to see layers of meaning in the stories, rituals and symbols of their faith.

At this stage people start to have the ability to see things from someone else’s perspective. This means that they can also imagine what others think about them and their faith.

People at this stage claim their faith as their own instead of just being what their family does. However, the faith that is claimed is usually still the faith of their family.

Issues of religious authority are important to people at this stage. For younger adolescents, that authority still resides mostly with their parents and important adults. For older adolescents and adults in this stage, authority resides with friends and religious community. For all people in this stage, religious authority resides mostly outside of them personally.

Stage 4: Individuative-reflective Faith

This stage usually starts in late adolescence (18 to 22 years old). However Robert Keeley points out that “people of many generations experience the kind of dissonance that comes with the real questions of faith that one begins to address at this stage of development.”

People in this stage start to question their own assumptions around the faith tradition.

Along with questioning their own assumptions about their faith, people at this stage start to question the authority structures of their faith.

This is often the time that someone will leave their religious community if the answers to the questions they are asking are not to their liking.

Greater maturity is gained by rejecting some parts of their faith while affirming other parts. In the end, the person starts to take greater ownership of their own faith journey.

Stage 5: Conjunctive Faith

People do not usually get to this stage until their early thirties.

This stage is when the struggles and questioning of stage four give way to a more comfortable place. Some answers have been found and the person at this stage is comfortable knowing that all the answers might not be easily found.

In this stage, the strong need for individual self-reflection gives way to a sense of the importance of community in faith development.

People at this stage are also much more open to other people’s faith perspectives. This is not because they are moving away from their faith but because they have a realization that other people’s faiths might inform and deepen their own.

Stage 6: Universalizing Faith

It is a rare person who reaches this stage of faith.

James Fowler describes people at this stage as having “a special grace that makes them seem more lucid, more simple, and yet somehow more fully human than the rest of us.”

People at this stage can become important religious teachers because they have the ability to relate to anyone at any stage and from any faith. They are able to relate without condescension but at the same time are able to challenge the assumptions that those of other stages might have.

People at this stage cherish life but also do not hold on to life too tightly. They put their faith in action, challenging the status quo and working to create justice in the world.

Robert Keeley points to people like Gandhi and Mother Teresa as examples of people who have reached this stage.

*I’m indebted to The Unitarian Universalist Association for this thorough chart!

The Time Luca Almost Had a Little Brother

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I’ve been avoiding this. I knew when I publicly announced our desire to adopt that this could happen but of course I hoped it wouldn’t. I pride myself in being a very open and honest person but sometimes I need to protect my heart. So, I’ve waited to share this. I think, I hope, you’ll understand why.

Two weeks ago, in the midst of painting every last square inch of every nook and cranny of our new home, I got a call. At first I thought I had accidentally called CCAI. I saw my phone trying to connect to our Chinese adoption agency and thought, “Oops,” then promptly hung-up. Back to painting. Thirty seconds later, CCAI showed-up on my phone screen again.

“Great,” I thought, “They’re checking-in because we haven’t done much for our home study since we bought the house.”

“Hello, this is Jaclyn” I answered hesitantly.

“Hello!” The voice on the other end rang with the most joyous of tones, “Jaclyn, I am calling with CCAI’s waiting child program! Is this a good time?”

My heart took a leap. Could this be it?? THE call?? No way. It’s way too early.

“Um, sure” I said while putting down a dripping roller of paint.

“Well, Jaclyn, I have some very exciting news for you! We think we have found a match for your family!”

Heart is leaping, tears are coming, anxiety is through the roof, confusion spinning, joy abounding.

“Wha..?! Wow! Oh my gosh! Really??” I sit down.

“Yes. His name is (can’t share for security reasons) which means (something lovely like peace and wisdom) and get this… He is EXACTLY two days younger than Luca!”

Ok, now I’m freaking-out. Ok, so it’s a boy. Oh man, he’s only two days younger?? Is that good? Is that crazy? What a wonderful coincidence! Is it??

“Wow!” Is all I can reply.

“Yes, now I know you wanted someone younger than him but you also said you’d be open to someone the same age so I thought we’d see what you think.”

“Yes, yes, ok.” My head is still spinning.

She gives me more information about where he is residing. She says he is in a foster home and seems to be very happy there. Then she gives me the diagnosis. There are multiple.

My heart sinks.

I had totally forgotten for a moment that our precious one would have a medical issue. That’s what we signed-up for.

“Now,” she instructs,”We highly recommend that you share his medical file, which I will send you shortly, with a cardiologist. I will also send you all of his updates, photos, and videos. We have to return his file to China in 7 days so please let me know as soon as you can what you have decided.”

We hang-up. My hands are shaking. I immediately call Caleb and he is super freaked-out. The timing seems all wrong. We’re knee-deep in renovations. We JUST bought a house.

I call CCAI back and ask what a realistic travel date would be, given that we haven’t even finished our home study. It seems that we would have about 8-12 months of waiting before we could go get our little boy. A mixture of disappointment and relief wash over me.

I let Caleb know and we think, ok, maybe we can do this! I was still nervous about the “twinning” thing but you better believe I was googling and reaching-out to other parents like mad! That night, I asked Caleb right before bed, “Do you think he is our son?” “Probably, ” he responded happily. I smiled and fell asleep with dreams of bunk-beds, twin Halloween costumes, and matching lunch pails in my head.

While we were contemplating and dreaming, a cardiologist- a friend of a friend- was looking over our little guy’s file. He called us two days after we received the referral but it felt like weeks had passed.

He started by asking us what our expectations were. We responded that we willingly signed-up for the special needs program and we expected that our lives would be changed somewhat by this decision. I jokingly said that I was perfectly fine with having a son who couldn’t play football. The doctor was kind. He informed us that this situation was beyond a life style change, this situation was dire.

I can’t quite remember all of the terms he used, but I can tell you that as he spoke, a dark cloud surrounded me. I became increasingly aware that we weren’t looking at an adoption, we were looking at being hospice. We both felt completely blind-sighted.

It turns out, adoption agencies aren’t always aware of the level of medical severity that a child may be facing. In addition, when we said we’d be willing to take on a child with a “major heart condition” we didn’t realize that we could be looking at a fatal condition. This was so unexpected, so agonizing.

That is the perfect word, we sat in agony for days. We wrestled with our conscience and our expectations. We cried out to God and lamented. Was this our calling? Was this for us?

We received more opinions and they were still dire. It seemed there was a chance that this little guy wouldn’t even make it by the time we could get him. Even if he did, I struggled with the thought of taking him from his foster family, whom he seems so happy with, to bring him here with only a short time to live. It seemed cruel in so many ways.

Ultimately, with broken-hearts, we told CCAI that we would not accept the referral. They were incredibly gracious and understanding. They thanked us for all of the hard work that we had put into the process of making this decision. Their kindness didn’t make either of us feel any better about the situation.

*     *     *

Now, weeks later, it still hurts. God has given me a peace that we made the right decision for that little boy and for our family but I’m still sad. It’s funny how we think that sadness must mean something is wrong. Well, something is wrong, there’s a little boy in China who is going to die from a congenital heart condition and there’s nothing anyone can do. That’s what I’m sad about.

I’m also sad about the loss of a dream. I had gotten so excited, admittedly nervous too, about having “twins.” I had fallen in love with his little photo and watched his videos multiple times a day. I was preparing to be his Mama. My heart broke when I realized this would never happen.

We’re contemplating where to go from here. This experience has made an international special needs adoption much more real to us. We don’t feel specifically called to international adoption, I just felt passionately about what was happening in China. We do however, feel called to adoption. Specifically, as Caleb puts it, we feel called to help “the least of these.” (Matt 25:40) We want to help a child in need and we want to grow our family. It would be nice if this was relatively soon so that we could still have another biological child later if we wanted to. China’s non-special needs program has a 7 year wait time currently. Obviously, that won’t work.

So, we’ve been exploring other options. Like: FosAdopt. Unfortunately, we’ve learned that we’d have to be willing to adopt out of birth order for us to adopt a child who has already been through reunification efforts with their birth parents. In other words, if we want to adopt from foster care without being foster parents first (which we do because the reunification efforts can be extremely long and stressful) then we would get a child older than Luca. We feel very strongly about maintaining the birth order in our family so that option is out.

At this point, I’m feeling frustrated and somewhat hopeless. The dark cloud that emerged a couple of weeks ago while talking with the cardiologist is still lingering. It’s not as dark but it’s still there. I know cognitively that when God calls us to something, He will see it through in HIS time. I just need my heart to trust that. I am praying for patience and peace on a daily basis. He certainly has been providing. I have been enjoying Luca now more than ever. I am so thankful for our son.

Thank you all for your support. Unkind comments will be deleted, my heart can’t take that right now. Prayers much appreciated as always.

In Him,




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