Sunday, January 30, 2011

Being an Acts 29 Church

Comfort Zones...they're very comfortable places to be.

All right, I admit, that's not very profound. But it's true.

Lately, our pastor has been challenging our church to become "Unstoppable."

He spoke from the book of Acts today and shared some thoughts I continue to mull in my mind. A very uncomfortable fact was shared: the days of people coming to church are over; the church must go out to them.

The apostles were continually "doing good." Now, these were not deeds to earn them salvation; rather, they were deeds done out of love for their Lord. In the process of doing good, they were also sharing Christ. Our pastor shared that "good deeds lead to good will, good will provides a platform for the good news." We were also challenged that "we do not grow into Christ-likeness unless we serve outside the walls of the church."

Then he asked how many of us have a heart for the prostitutes in our city. The silence in the church was quite uncomfortable. Then he asked, "why not?" It's very easy to sit in our pews week after week saying all the right things...but what will it take to get us out of our comfort zone and go where things can be scary?

So, we were challenged to become the Acts 29 church. He asked us to all turn to Acts 29 in our Bibles. The thing is, the book of Acts ends with chapter 28.

So, how are we going to surrender ourselves to God and let Him use us in uncomfortable ways to continue the story of Acts and see His unstoppable power in the church?


Saturday, January 29, 2011

Being Chinese

Dayna has been preoccupied lately with being different at school. She is particularly sensitive to comments about her nose. (You can read about that here.) It's worth pondering that 1 out of 5 people in the world is Chinese, but she's the only one in our town.

Earlier this week, Dan & I were able to share with her class (and the other Kindergarten classes as well) about Chinese New Year. We read some books, she sang a song, and I taught the entire Kindergarten a song I learned in China. We finished it off by giving red envelopes with chocolate coins to her classmates.

It was something else to watch Dayna shine. She wore her red silk Chinese dress and was instantly bombarded with all sorts of compliments from her classmates. They were truly interested in Chinese New Year and some of the traditions that go along with it.

The look on her face was priceless. And, though we know this may all change again tomorrow, she was proud to be Chinese and be just a little bit different from everyone else. Hopefully this is a lesson in how EVERYBODY is special and has something to offer, and that we can celebrate our differences and appreciate our unique individuality.

It's difficult to watch your little one struggle with her identity, and I'm sure we're going to fail her in this area. I can only trust that she continues to love who she is...nose and all!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Adoption, Birthmothers, and Theology

These thoughts were penned today by a dear friend of mine who is celebrating her son's second birthday today. Maralee has two children, one adopted from Liberia, and one adopted through the foster care system. She is currently fostering another precious little girl as well.

Adoption is a funny thing. Most days I am just a very busy mother, but some days adoption thoughts seem overwhelming. I know not all adoptive parents may wrestle with the thoughts, ideas, and language of adoption, but I do. I want to be thinking about things from all sides. I want to think about how my kids will someday view their adoption and the circumstances surrounding it. I want to think about the men and women who contributed their genes and gave my children the gift of life. How do they think about adoption and how would they want me to explain it to their biological children?

A lot of factors seem to be coming together in my life right now to further shape my theology of adoption. First of all, my son is turning two tomorrow. It makes me think about how for a few days he lay in the NICU before I met him. He belonged to the State of Nebraska, but had no mother by his side. When I think how much joy he brings to me each day, how blessed I am to get to experience his life, how I would give my life to protect him it is hard for me to fathom that for those few days he may have seemed to the outside world to be “unwanted”. He was so very wanted, he just didn’t know it yet. And I think about his first mother and the emotions she must have been wrestling with that day.

I have also been having conversations with a friend about adoption and the reality of parenting a child you didn’t birth. There is so much that is beautiful about adoption, but especially for the family that has already been blessed by biological kids there are some scary aspects, too. One of those scary things can be imagining birthparent involvement. It has been hard for me to express how this idea of birthparent involvement that once scared me off of domestic adoption entirely is now one of its biggest selling points to me.

And then there is the blog reading I’ve been doing. I have been so frustrated I find myself shaking my fist at the computer screen. I have been reading the blogs of angry birthmothers and it is heartbreaking to me to see their view of adoption and of adoptive parents. I hate it, but I think it is important to challenge the typical views and realize that my kids may run into these ideas in their own lives. I have been amazingly blessed to have friendships with two women who made adoption plans for their babies (they were my friends long before I knew that fact about them) and do not share the views of these angry ladies. And just because I have an educational moment here- please don’t say “gave up her baby for adoption” because these women are far from giving up on their babies by making an adoption plan, and please don’t say “put their baby up for adoption” because it is language originally used to describe how older orphaned children in the Orphan Train days were put up on a stage so prospective parents could look them over. That is not how I want the adoption of my children described. I like “placed them for adoption”, but “made an adoption plan” is even better. Moving on-

So all of this has gotten me thinking about the Biblical idea of adoption. We like to acknowledge a common spiritual adoption for those who claim Christ. This is a beautiful idea and very scriptural. So why are there those in the adoption community, particularly birthparents, who find it hard to swallow? I think we need to identify the elements common to spiritual adoption and literal adoption and acknowledge that there are differences. I am no theologian and I’m sure there are already scholars who have put these thoughts out there better than I am going to, but this is what I’ve been contemplating.

In both spiritual adoption and legal adoption there is nothing the adoptee can do to earn their adoption. I love that and I want my kids to never feel like they have to earn my love because they are adopted. In spiritual and legal adoption the parent accepts the child as though born to them with all the rights and privileges. In Daniel’s adoption proceedings we had to agree that he had all rights to our inheritance (little though it may be) just as a child born to us would. I love that in our spiritual adoption there is the same concept- we are called “sons of God” and we are given rights to a spiritual inheritance. I think there is even a deeper concept of the Jewish people as God’s original plan and the rest of us as the grafted in. We now have the chance to receive the benefits of being God’s chosen people the same way the Jews did. For my friends who adopt after having biological kids, I think this is particularly meaningful.

So why is this idea distasteful to some people? When we talk about our spiritual adoption, we often speak of what we were “saved” from. Because we are now children of God, we are saved from the consequences of our sin. Saved from the life we used to live. Saved from hopelessness, despair, a pointless existence. I have found in talking to adoptive parents, we detest the idea that we “saved” our kids. We don’t like it when people use language that implies it- when people talk about what good people we are to have adopted our child. We see only how amazing our child is and how blessed we are to love them, so why would loving them make us “good”? If those people are right, it would stand to reason that our child should spend the rest of their life trying to pay us back with a heart of gratitude to earn our continued favor. That is not the relationship I want from my child. I want him to chose to love me because of the relationship we build, not because of the fact that there may have been difficult circumstances if he had stayed in his birth environment. I think that’s what God wants from us too, although I think it is impossible to not have that heart of gratitude when we realize what we truly were saved from. This makes spiritual adoption different from legal adoption- what we were saved from is a reality we know, what our children may or may not have been “saved” from is purely speculation and has nothing to do with why they are loved.

I also see this idea being hurtful to birth families. I’m not just guessing about that, there are plenty of blog posts from both birth families and adopted adults about how people communicating to them that spiritual adoption and legal adoption are the same thing was detrimental to them and their understanding of the Gospel. If we think about what we’re communicating the alternative is in spiritual adoption- if we were not “adopted”, then we deserve hell- what are we communicating to the birthmother? This made me start to consider the biblical examples of adoption and birthparents. Does the adoption analogy have its limits? I think it does.

When thinking about Biblical birthparents I like to look at Moses. There is so much meat in that story, but what if we’re just looking at the example there of birthparent? That mother loved her son and made a very literal adoption plan for him based on his best interests. I’m sure it was heartbreaking to her and she didn’t know how it would turn out- would she ever have a relationship with him? But she did what was best for that child in spite of the pain it caused her. As transracially adoptive parents we look to Moses as inspiration- God, let us raise our child in a way that they could meaningfully return to their birth culture. Did having contact with his birthmother even if it was just as an infant make that easier for Moses? She did not cease to be meaningful to his life just because she did not raise him to adulthood.

When I think of birthmothers, I also think of Hannah. We generally just think of her as an example of a godly woman battling infertility and her story has great meaning from that perspective. But we also see she chose to dedicate that child to God and allow him to be raised by Eli in the temple. Sounds like an adoption plan to me. Was this because she didn’t want him or was being irresponsible? Nope. It was totally out of obedience and because she felt that was what was best for her son.

I’m not even going to begin to try and unpack the idea of God as “birthfather” by sending Jesus. I would hate to be blasphemous in any way. We do see Joseph as an adoptive father loving and raising a child not biologically related to him. I’ll let you think through your own thoughts on the benefits to Jesus if he had been able to stay with his Father.

So all these thoughts lead me back to this idea that it is important as an adoptive parent I’m not communicating to my child that I rescued them or extend the spiritual adoption analogy in such a way that makes them feel uncomfortable about their birth families. And I want to be a wee bit aggressive about not letting other people do that to my kids, not only because I love my kids but because I deeply love their first mothers. I want my kids to see the Biblical examples of adoption as examples of love from all sides. I’m not saying that the birthparents of my children were perfect or that I intend to minimize the sad circumstances that brought them into my life. I think my kids have sadder stories than most and I hate for them to bare that burden, but I also know I can’t spare them from it. My job is to be honest about their birthparents and to give them information as they are able to handle it. And to express that information with as much love and gentleness as I can. I don’t think we’ll do a perfect job or that by doing it this way I can help my child avoid having “adoption issues”, I just want my children to know that my total and unconditional love for them extends outward and down into their biological roots.

Adoption is messy. It makes family trees into family forests. It stretches us beyond what we may have pictured for our lives. It forces us to answer tough questions and question what answers we thought we knew. But it is also just parenting and loving a child you chose to give your family name. It is the most rewarding endeavor I have ever been part of and I’m so thankful for the wide circle of people to love it has brought into my life.

Happy birthday, Danny! I’m so thankful for the mom who gave you life and so thankful for the mom you’ve helped me become.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


Prayer is a funny thing. I prayed and prayed last year for something specific. It was clearly answered. Not the way I wanted.

So I spent the next 6 months shaking my fist at God. Even got myself into some trouble because of my attitude.

Which led me to my knees...praying the impossible prayer. Because God can do impossible things.

So here's the funny thing...God chose not to answer my impossible prayer. And that's okay.

Because while he was busy *not* answering my prayer, He was busy changing my heart.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Yummy Soup!

What to do on a snowy day?

I *heart* Pioneer Woman!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Facing the Music

Dayna had a little trouble at school yesterday...nothing major, enough to lose her "green card." This is the first time she has been in trouble at school , and you could tell it was really bothering her.

When I picked her up from school, she told me that she needed to talk to me, but had to wait until Daddy came home. Once he came home, she took us each by the hand and sat us down in the living room for a "family meeting." At this point, she confessed what had happened. You could tell that it was eating her up inside. Inwardly, Dan & I were cheering, because we were seeing the conviction of the Holy Spirit working in her little life.

She did learn that consequences at school equal consequences at home, but she also learned that her honesty would result in a smaller consequence than if we had found out from her teacher. She paid those consequences, and wrote a letter of apology to the teacher she didn't obey.

It did my heart so much good to see her take responsibility for herself. I saw huge steps in the development of her character yesterday, and it makes me so proud to see the little girl she is becoming.

Happy Birthday to Me

I'm coming off a wonderful weekend. I honestly don't know that I could have scripted it any better. Friday was my birthday. My students were delightful and I really enjoyed being with them. When I came home, Dan and Dayna had made me strawberry cream cheese cupcakes. I opened some very thoughtful gifts from friends and family, then the three of us went out to dinner.

On Saturday, some friends came over and we just visited, snacked and played games. It was a wonderful time of fellowship and just enjoying each other. (An added bonus was that Dan and Dayna spent the morning cleaning the house while I was gone...and it's STILL CLEAN!!!)

We had previously made arrangements for Dayna to have a playdate with a friend after church on Sunday so Dan & I could go see "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader." When we went to pick her up, we all started to visit. Before we knew it, it was dinner time. So we were invited to stay. After dinner, the games came out. We didn't get home until after Dayna's bedtime, but it was another unexpected day of friendship and fun.

The icing on the cupcakes was when I had no school on Monday, but Dayna and Dan both had school and work. I had an uninterrupted day of scrapbooking.

It was a blissful, restful weekend, and I was ready to go back to school today feeling completely refreshed (despite my advancement in age...)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Bright Children International

I wrote last June about a project one of my college friends was putting together. You can read about it here.

She now has her foundation and is ready to go. Please take a minute to find out more about Bright Children International and how my friend plans to go find a way for special needs children all over the world get appropriate therapies and help so they can live the lives God intended.

Many of these precious children are never given a chance at life because of their conditions. My friend and Bright Children International are finding a way to give them a chance.

Please...check it out!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Life Lesson...What Would You Do?

Dayna has been saving her money, and recently chose to buy some alphabet beads at the craft store. She wanted to make "BFF" necklaces with a friend at school.

Imagine our disappointment to open the alphabet beads to discover that it was 80% filled with the letter X, M, W, or Z.

The package of 85 beads didn't even include the whole alphabet. this a life lesson in disappointment, or should I go buy her some more beads?

What would you do?

Sounds from the Basement

It's a rite of passage. Dayna is having her first playdate with a friend she made on her own. She and Alese have become quick friends at school this year, and have been begging parents/grandparents/whoever may have influence to be able to have a playdate.

Late last night, we got the call that there was no school for me or Dayna today. So I called Alese's mom and set everything up.

The giggles are infectious, and truly bring a smile to my face.

As much as I'd love to have people over more often, I just don't feel that my home can accommodate entertaining well. I's just an excuse, and I need to be hospitable with what I've been given.

And so, this is the first of what I hope becomes many playdates where Dayna can have her friends into our home, and somehow, we can extend the love of God to another family.

Oh, if only I could find a way to share with you the sounds from the basement...