Nov 22, 2012 - Our Story    No Comments

Blessed

As we celebrate Thanksgiving today, I took a few moments to reflect on the many blessings that God has bestowed on Heidi and me during the two years, one-week, and four days that we have been waiting to bring our little one(s) home. As another holiday passes (one that I told myself last year would be completely different this year), it would be easy to hang my head in self-pity and lose focus of the true meaning of this day. However, I stand strong today in my faith knowing that God has us exactly where he wants us and is working this very moment to move mountains here and in Ethiopia to secure our children’s future.

This past Thursday we drove to Hershey, PA to attend a one night rally by television and radio evangelist David Jeremiah, entitled “God Loves You”. It was a packed Giant Center, with over 8,100 in attendance to take part in an amazing night of praise & worship and be blessed to hear an inspiring message by the man that makes so many of my morning commutes a truly moving experience. I truly believe that God has the ability to speak to you through others, and that night was like so many morning commutes—exactly what my heart needed to hear. Through the message Dr. Jeremiah referred to many biblical truths about God’s amazing love, but his sole focus remained on the chastening of God’s children, and how God uses difficult situations in one’s life  to teach us, protect us, and provide for us.

I have studied this message about our Father’s discipline, and even blogged about it before, so it was a great refresher to hear that even know it is easy to feel alone and scorned by punishment when difficult things happen in our life or prayers seem to go unanswered, you can be reassured that God is working in your life and has a greater purpose than what you could ever imagine. When you look at the example of Job, a man that was after God’s own heart, and how he was allowed to endure great suffering on multiple levels, it is important to realize this aspect of his story. Each of these things that happened to Job were allowed to come through God’s hands. I want to take a look at Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future“. From this verse, I find great peace in knowing that each and every step of our journey to our children must first go through Christ’s hands.What a sense of control and amazing calm that places over my restless soul.

Over the past year God has provided us so many blessings that, if not careful, can be overshadowed by our hearts cry to be with our children. He has allowed us to find an amazing church family that has welcomed us in with open arms. They pray for and encourage us daily to stay faithful and patient in our waiting and to trust in the Lord with all our hearts, minds, and soul. We have been working for several months with the youth group at Bethany and have become involved in several small groups that have given us an opportunity to meet so many wonderful people and strengthen our relationship in Christ.

We have been and continue to be blessed by our amazing family and friends who have rejoiced and cried along side of us, each and every step of the process. Last Christmas, Heidi’s mom surprised us with a wonderful puzzle fundraiser that was supported by so many and to date has seen an overwhelming response with 3/4 of the pieces being sold. Other members of our friends & family have made countless sacrifices through fundraisers including raffling event tickets and selling homemade goods on our behalf as others have provided us countless encouraging cards and gifts to support us. Each of these have made us feel so incredibly blessed and have always come at the exact timing that our spirits needed a boost. Most of all, our family and friends have prayed for us.  We can literally feel the prayers of our loved ones holding us up; what an amazing feeling it is to know that our children are loved and prayed for by so many!

We have taken this past year to renew our focus on our marriage and our future roles as parents and have both made a concerted effort to always look for ways to strengthen each other and our families. I am thankful for the this time that God has allowed us to focus on each other and how we can bond together as a family to raise our children in a Christ centered home. I am especially thankful for the many things that He has placed in our path to help learn about these roles. I recently joined a Friday morning Men’s group that I have found to be incredibly rewarding in learning from other men how to be the best I can, and Heidi has found many similar opportunities as well.

Last spring, we took part in a 13-week financial program from author Dave Ramsey, which radically changed the way that we approach our spending habits and long-term goals. It was a eye-opening look at how the financial world operates and how to approach a monthly-budget and long-term investment goals. We are grateful that the Lord spoke to us about being good stewards with our money.

This year also allowed us the blessing of growing stronger with other adoptive parents in our agency. We had the privileged opportunity to welcome two children home from Ethiopia and take a few moments to meet each of their parents. It was an experience that left both Heidi and I forever changed. There are so many amazing families in our AGCI network, and  we look forward to rejoicing with many more as the years pass. As Thanksgiving approaches, we are currently number 11 on the infant girls list, and still maintaining our number 1 position on the siblings list. I pray each day that our time is approaching soon to when we too will be making an airport arrival greeted by rejoicing family & friends.

It is easy to see Dr. Jeremiah’s message God Loves You: He Always Has—He Always Will if I take a moment to reflect on the many opportunities that Christ has passed through His hands this year that have allowed me to grow since last Thanksgiving. I truly feel that God continues to prepare Heidi and I in our roles as spouses and future parents and provides new blessings each and every day. This Thanksgiving I am thankful for all 364 days since last Thanksgiving, the good, the bad, the easy, and the hard. Each of them have shaped us into who we are and each of them has been provided from above. God Bless You and Happy Thanksgiving.

Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endures to all generations.” – Psalm 100:4-5

 

 

Oct 13, 2012 - Other    1 Comment

Isn’t It Ironic? Don’t You Think?

If you grew up in the 1990′s the song Ironic is more than likely burned in your brain from the hours of airplay that it received. In 1996 when the song was released by Alanis Morissette it was an instant sensation and became her highest rated single on the Billboard top 100, reaching #4 on the charts. I believe its success was due in part to the easily identifiable lyrics with most people’s lives, where it points out the irony of life.

A traffic jam when you’re already late
A no-smoking sign on your cigarette break
It’s like ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife
It’s meeting the man of my dreams
And then meeting his beautiful wife
And isn’t it ironic…don’t you think
A little too ironic…and, yeah, I really do think…

We have all experienced similar feelings or situations in our lives in which the irony can make you want to laugh out loud or pull your hair out. Irony can be defined as an outcome of events contrary to what was, or might have been, expected. As we cross the 23-month mark on the waiting list this week I discovered an irony in my faith that I had seldom thought about in the past, that revolves around the concept of patiently waiting on God’s timing—something that has taken a considerable amount of faith and self-reflection to develop and continue to maintain. I couldn’t count the times I’ve been frustrated, discouraged, or felt lost along our adoption journey, but have always been able to resolve that it is God’s will for us to be parents and he is working out our plan ahead of us. In my heart, I know the victory has already been won on our behalf, but we still have to fight the battles to win the war. As a Christian this makes going through difficult situations much easier to bear when you know that the Lord has already won your battle. Do not be fooled by those who may tell you that accepting Jesus secures you a one-way ticket to easyville. Real faith is built on the premise that you will go through difficult times, but God is with you through these times and is walking with you.

Here in comes my ironic revelation. I pray continuously for my family and that God will make our hearts desire to become parents come true soon. I wake up each weekday praying that my day would be interrupted by “the call” and that by days’ end I would see my children’s face. Ashamedly I often pray “Lord, I’m trying to be patient with you. I’m patiently waiting on your will”. I say this, as if God owes me something. Even worse, I am failing to recognize how patient he has been with me. Isn’t this ironic, don’t you think?

Over the past 23 months, I have looked many times at God’s Word to see what He has to tell us about waiting patiently. I found this verse from 1 Peter this week while reflecting on this topic.

For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. – 1 Peter 2:19–23

As I think about this verse, it makes me feel so human. How often do we stray from God’s moral standard that he has set for our lives? Most of us think that were good people. If cornered, we would tell you something like “I’m not a murderer, I pay my taxes, I’m a nice guy“, but these are in comparison to human standards. When’s the last time you took 30 seconds to compare yourself to God’s standards? If you were to confront me on the issue I would confess that I’m human. There are times I get angry, envious, I’m sure the list could expand…and yet God is patient with me. When asked, he completely forgives me, every time. We were born sinners, its engrained in our DNA to not be perfect, yet time and time again God patiently forgives us. This is the very definition of Grace.

At choir practice this past Thursday, our director asked for people to share their testimonies throughout the course of the evening. He spoke, at the conclusion, saying “sometimes we become so focused on going forward, that we forget to look backward. To reflect on the amazing miracles that God has worked in our lives”. Today I take pause to look back on the past 23 months to reflect on the amazing amount of patience that God has shown me on this journey, during the moments where I loose faith, I get frustrated, and abandon ship. He is always there. He always throws me a life-preserver, pulls me out of the water, and rescues me. I turn back to look forward at the mountain we still have to climb with a new definition of patience and trust in the One who will walk with me to victory and be with me during the battles. Amen.

 

Sep 9, 2012 - Our Story    1 Comment

Rough Seas

On August 3, 1492, three ships set sail from Port Palos in Spain called the Nina, Pinta, and the Santa Maria, on a journey to find a western sea route to China, India, and the fabled gold and spice islands of Asia. As any good sailor would have done, I’m sure that the captain, Christopher Columbus, planned carefully for his voyage. He would have consulted his fellow sailors, studied the trade winds and latest hand drawn maps, and he would have, no doubt, made sure that he had enough provisions to sustain the trip. More than likely, there were stories of others who had tried such an expedition and fallen off the edge of the Earth or been gobbled up by a sea monster, but Columbus sailed his ships out of the harbor bravely and into the unknown with a passion to find his treasure.

On Tuesday September 11, we will officially cross the mark of 22-months on the official waiting list for our adoption. I think of the time period leading up to us placing the first packet of forms in the mail and the preparation, discussions, and praying that took place. The planning for a journey into the unknown, with a destination in mind, but no real maps or navigational points on how to get there. We talked with family, friends, and other adoptive parents who provided us with advice, strengthened us in faith, and committed themselves to joining us on our journey to adopt. In faith, Heidi and I placed our boat into the water on July 6, 2010, pointed toward the children that God has planned for our family, and began paddling out of the safety of our harbor.

Recently, we both heard a sermon from the book of Mark 4:35–41 which describes a time when Jesus finished preaching to the crowds for the day and asked his disciples to sail him to the other side of the sea. Tired from the heat of the day, Jesus rested on some cloths at the front of the boat as the disciples lead the boat of the harbor and into the sea.

35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him.”Mark 4:35–36.

Somewhere near the middle of the journey, the weather changed and the sea began to get very rough with large swells and strong winds. As the boat was tossed around in the waves, a number of the disciples became nervous and cried out to Jesus, “Wake up!” they inquired, “Don’t you care if we drown?” When I think of this visual I imagine the look on their faces and the feelings of sheer panic in their hearts. These guys were fisherman, so they must have known a bad storm when they saw one. What a strange juxtaposition to the sleeping Savior, who is not shaken by any storm and sleeps calmly at the bow of the ship.

I think of the journey that Heidi and I have taken and the numerous times that our boat began to get tossed in the wind and the waves. In April of 2011, the Ethiopian courts began to slow significantly; the process slowed to a crawl, and the initial plans of an 8-9 month journey began to look more like 24–36 months. We cried out to Jesus, “Wake Up!” followed by, “Don’t you want us to have children?” We had been able to move pass the infertility stage of our journey; we were sailing smoothly towards our destination; and suddenly the skies turned grey and our navigation was knocked off course.

Going back to the disciples on the stormy sea, their panic and shouts eventually woke Jesus from his rest, and he proceeded to stand up at the front of the boat. Jesus stretched out his arms over the wind and the waves and calmed them at once. He inquired to the disciples around him, “Why are you so afraid? Have you no faith?

“39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. 40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” Mark 4:35-41

When faced with stormy times in one’s life, it is easy to begin to panic and cry out. It is difficult to step back and relinquish control. I find it is human nature to keep paddling furiously in the direction you see best fit until you become tired and lost, and can paddle no more. I couldn’t tell you the time or date, but I know there was a time when I just handed over the wheel to Jesus. (Oh, boy I just sounded like Carrie Underwood). Trying to navigate the seas became more than I could control and I began to grow tired and feel lost. In the past several months I have felt the seas calm and the wind die down and our ship has continued its course. It is with continued faith that we trust that we are on the correct path, that our final destination is just across the sea, and that our Captain will guide us there in perfect timing and will deliver us safely through any storms or winds that arise.

 “Be still, and know that I am God” – Psalm 46:10

Christopher Columbus is a perfect example of when things don’t always go as planned, but the final destination is better than you could ever imagined. On October 12, 1492 as Columbus continued his voyage, land was spotted from the mast of the ship and it appeared that he was nearing the end of his journey. He would soon find out that his navigation had been slightly off course. He  discovered what is known today as the Caribbean Islands, and would later go on to sail along Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti, and eventually North America. In March of 1493, Columbus would receive the highest honors of the Spanish courts, noted as the first European to explore the Americas since the Vikings. If interviewed, I’m certain that Columbus would have talked about the faithful journey that he set off for in August and the amazing discoveries that he found in October were all worth the stormy seas that he had to sail through to get there.

Driving home from work on Friday evening, I heard a song that I have heard a 100 times, but found new meaning in this particular evening. It is written by country singer, Garth Brooks, and is entitled The River. It was the inspiration for this blog post.

Chorus
And I will sail my vessel,
till the river runs dry.
Like a bird apon the wind,
these waters are my sky.
I’ll never reach my destination
If I never try,
So I will sail my vessel,
till the river runs dry!

It is important to keep in mind that even the rough seas are navigated by God. Were not stuck in no-where land, tossed about like a lost ship, but sailing calmly through stormy seas with a plan and a purpose to reach our destination. The song finishes with the last verse:

There is bound to be rough waters,
and I know I’ll take some falls,
with the good lord as my captin,
I can make it through them all!

In 22 months of waiting, although we are tired and weary from the months at sea, we keep faith in our journey with God as our Captain. We will make it to the day when we see our little blessing(s) face(s). In our arms, held tight, our journey will all make sense. The purpose will be revealed.

If you are currently feeling lost or swept away by the storms, I invite you to allow Jesus to calm those storms in your life. Hand over control and you’ll be amazed at the calmness and sense of control that will come back into your life.

Aug 24, 2012 - Our Story, Running    1 Comment

Weight-Lifting

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to cheer on our amazing friend, Kate, as she ran in a 10K at the Lehigh Valley Zoo. The course was on a terrain filled with many hills and valleys, and it finished inside the zoo. As the race started, each runner stood in anticipation of the starting whistle, shaking off last minute jitters and plotting out the course ahead. The gun sounded and they were off, climbing the first of many hills that lie ahead.

A few minutes after the starting corral had cleared, we made our way down to an area that was several feet from the finish line, where we could cheer on Kate and the other runners. As the others runners passed by we noticed several interesting characters run by, but one guy  stuck out to me in particular. He was wearing something that seemed to me much crazier than any other outfit I have seen during a race. After a few seconds of bewilderment, I determined that he was wearing a weighted running vest!!! I thought to myself, who in their right-mind would purposely strap additional weight to their body and then attack a course with so many hills and valleys? Was he out to prove a point? Was he trying to test his endurance? Was he just plain crazy? As the week progressed he remained in the back of my mind as I tried to figure out his motivation.

This week will make week 10 of being in the #1 position on the sibling list for our adoption, totaling 22 months of waiting all together….needless to say I am beginning to show fatigue. While July and August have been pretty strong months for me, I have also been particularly busy almost every day of the week.  I have had little time to focus on much else beside the task at hand for any particular day. While it is sometimes overwhelming to be so busy, I find it to be a blessing in my life right now to keep my mind off our waiting. The times when I have come up for air or been drifting on to sleep it sinks in just how very much I miss our children, and how I grieve the days that I don’t get to spend with them. I haven’t even met them, and I love them so very much.

This morning as I was working my way through my devotional, I thought back to that guy with the weighted-vest. I came across Matthew 11:28–30

28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

I wonder how many times in our life we allow things to weigh us down? We may or may not choose to add additional weights, but often we don’t take the time to remove the ones that accumulate in our daily lives. These weights don’t necessarily mean that our lives our weighted down with sins, but sometimes the burden of forgiveness, anxiety, or insecurity can lessen our endurance and make us weary. Steven Furtick’s study of Hebrew’s 12 begins by looking at Hebrews 12:1

1 Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us.

Furtick talks to the beginning part of this verse that refers to the “large cloud of witnesses” and sheds an interesting perspective on this verse. The author of Hebrews is not referring to those onlookers who are watching us, but instead he is speaking of those people who have come before us and lead by example such as Abraham, Moses, Isaac, and the list goes on. Furtick goes on to address the second half of this verse saying, “we need to cut weight, or shed those things in our lives that our keeping us from what God has called us to do.” If we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and look at the examples that He has placed before us, we will gain endurance to get through difficult situations in our lives.

As I finished my devotional this morning, I had a very powerful few minutes of prayer where I asked God to remove the things that burden my heart. In looking at Matthew 11:28, it speaks of the word “yoke“. For those who are unfamiliar with this term, a yoke is wooden beam that is placed between two oxen or cattle that helps them work together to share the load of whatever their pulling behind them. Typically there is a dominant, or lead oxen that allows the other one to follow the leader. Jesus is saying here that no matter what weight it is were pulling around behind us, what difficult situation were going through, he will walk beside us, better yet, he will take the load and let us follow in his steps.

Often I am guilty of allowing these weights in my life. Most recently I have carried the burden of anxiety and frustration as each day passes without a referral call. Distracted by my busy schedule, I have failed to make adequate time to shed these weights from my life, and, this week I ran low on endurance and began to grow weary. Overtime it becomes overwhelming and makes me want to throw my hands up and cry to Jesus to remove these weights. I lean on verses like Isaiah 40:28-29 when this happens.

28 Do you not know? Have you not heard? Yahweh is the everlasting God, the Creator of the whole earth. He never grows faint or weary; there is no limit to His understanding. 29 He gives strength to the weary and strengthens the powerless.

We have a God who is willing to carry our burdens, and who will never grow weary or tired. In the weeks to months that lie ahead before we receive our referral, I will continue to pray that God doesn’t allow these weights to creep back into my life. That he gives me strength to endure, and doesn’t let my heart grow weary. To trust in His timing, is to believe that we haven’t received our referral yet in accordance to his will and that he is working on securing our children’s perfect opportunity to be placed into our lives. I pray that you would take a few minutes to listen to this video posted below and allow God to remove the weights from your life. If you are like that crazy runner, who chooses to accept these weights, or you are like so many who accumulate them over time, that you would lean on the one who never grows weary.  I pray that  you would ask for endurance to run the race, and when adversity comes that you would look to the ones that have come before and completed the race before you. Amen.

Jul 14, 2012 - Our Story    2 Comments

Under Construction

Bear one another’s burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ.  Galatians 6:2

Standing tall at 1,454 feet the Empire State Building in New York took: 7,000,000 man hours to construct, a work-force of nearly 3,400 people, and  57,000 tons of steel to make it into the magnificent structure that stands today. I found an interesting picture above, that shows where everything started—on the ground floor.

It is truly amazing to see the task that can be completed with the help of so many. When you consider that there are roughly 8,750 hours in 1 year, it would have taken 1 man—working 7,000,000 man hours—nearly 800 years to complete the structure without the other 3,399 workers. I think about this task in comparison to the near 147 million orphans that are in the world, and the ginormous task that has been called from God to care for the widows and orphans of this world.

Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world. James 1:27

One person solving the orphan crisis seems as impossible as 1 man building the Empire State Building alone, but the word impossible is not in God’s dictionary. As we began our adoption journey, like so many, the financial demands of an adoption certainly seemed impossible at the time. We took a step of faith, and, with Christ’s provisions, we stood back in amazement and watched in gratitude  the hundreds of family and friends that participated in various fundraisers, made anonymous donations, and rallied to our support. With each major financial hurdle, God provided a way for our needs to be met. Blessed to be on the top of the siblings list, we move each day closer to our referral call and our next financial hurdle, faithfully trusting that He will provide when the timing is perfect.  Our Lord has sheltered us in other areas of our lives by providing us hope and comfort on the nights that we cried each other to sleep, when we felt like the ability to wait on perfect timing seemed impossible and unattainable. During those times, God would always send a symbol of encouragement through a kind message, a card in the mail, or a blanket of prayer from our congregation. It almost seems surreal at times the level of detail that God provides and the ability to lift us out of the ashes of our darkest moments, when our prayers are sincere and faith filled.

Many people have blessed us, too many to count, and we will never be able to express the gratitude that we have for the support from family, friends, and even complete strangers. To know that your child is already prayed for, cared for, and adored before they are even held in your arms is an amazing feeling that can not be put into words. Last week we were surprised while on vacation at the shore by our family. They wrote and recited a poem, made us #1 Mommy & Daddy hats, and cut-outs of #1′s to celebrate our recent movement on the siblings list. Standing on the beach in total shock, we were overwhelmed by the feelings of  love and encouragement how everyone is embracing our adoption. Much like the Empire State Building that today stands tall, it is easy to sometimes overlook the workers who helped construct such an amazing architectural structure. Each bolt that was welded into place, may have seemed a medial task at the time, but was so very important to the success of its construction.  We are so blessed to have so many people “working” with us, supporting us, and loving us as we wait for that phone to ring!

 

More important than the workers and materials that help construct the building is the foundation that it is built upon. A perfect example of this is found in the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Although the Leaning Tower of Pisa was smaller in comparison to the Empire State Building (only 183 ft), for its time it was equally a great accomplishment. Taking over 177 years to construct from 1178, its foundation was laid in weak unstable soil which later proved to be its detriment and caused the tower to sink and lean 12 ft. out of vertical alignment. Overtime the tower has required deconstruction, counterweights, and was eventually closed to the public. This relates  to the parable of the two men who built there homes on different soils, we can see how important a good foundation is to such a project.

Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.Matthew 7:24–27

We have received so many words of encouragement over the past 20+ months, such as the recent blog post by our friend Jennie, in which she mentioned us being an inspiration to others. We feel so humbled by the prayers and it makes us feel so blessed to see that others view us as a  strong and inspiring couple. It is only through Christ’s strength and our strong foundation in his word that we find the ability to approach each day with renewed perseverance. An adoption journey is one filled with many emotions, and I know that sometimes we offer a distorted view to others, who never see us on the days where we are at lost for words, moments of weakness where its hard to maintain faith, and feelings of frustration at the red tape and unnecessary bureaucracy. However,through Jesus, the steady rock of our salvation, we are able to find renewed hope and purpose for our journey and realize that we have taken this path for a reason. We are able to boldly proclaim the Lord as our stronghold.

The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my mountain where I seek refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.Psalms 18:2

 

 

More important than the workers, and the foundation, is the architect. The one who has the plans for the building and instructs each of the workers on how to construct the perfect building. Without the architect, a building would be a pile of materials and thousands of people standing around without a purpose. During the pain of our infertility, it was at times difficult to see how such suffering would ever serve a purpose or lead to an area of great strength and fulfillment in our lives. Each step that we have taken in our adoption, which at times has felt blind in faith, has revealed itself in God’s amazing plans for our family. He continues to reveal to us his purpose and provide us encouragement to live accordingly to his will. In our human immaturity it is easy to get frustrated or prideful when His plans don’t include our plans. It is in humility that faith is grown to trust that all good and perfect things come through his hands and are meant to prosper you in life.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.Jeremiah 29:11

Once the foundation is chosen on a steady surface, the workers team together to complete the task at hand, and the architect provides the direction and careful detail to the building, construction will finally be completed. For the Empire State Building, construction lasted a little over a year and half and finished ahead of schedule. Completed in 1972, the Empire State Building provides a iconic symbol in the night sky and employs over thousands of workers each day, making it the second largest office complex next to the Pentagon. Although its construction was completed in 1972 it requires daily maintenance to ensure smooth operation.  Synonymous to our adoption, we look forward to introducing our child(ren) into our amazing group of family and friends who will be a valuable part of our their everyday life in building their faith and relationships. We look forward to accepting our future referral and completing our first of many adoptions as we work to build a family that might provide a symbolic example of making what seems impossible, possible, through the help of our family, friends, & almighty savior Jesus Christ.

For nothing is impossible with God. – Luke 1:37

 

Jun 30, 2012 - Our Story    1 Comment

This is Only a Test

We go through life knowing so little about the “why, when, and what” of things that happen in our lives, that it becomes human nature to be discouraged or feel lost when we enter tragedy. Wouldn’t it be great if when affliction entered our life we would hear from above “Relax, this is a test of your emergency faith system, it is only a test. If this were an actual emergency it would be followed by my instruction“. All too many times we plead out for understanding and try to find all sorts of ways to escape the situation, angry or frustrated as to why something happened, we demand an explanation. “Why did this happen to me?

I have heard so many verses of faith this week along with other sermons that speak to going through trials and suffering in your life. The first that speaks to my heart is from Romans 5:3-4 “ And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope.” This verse speaks closely to Romans 8:18 “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be joy revealed in us.” To boil down the last two weeks of what God has spoke into my heart. If you have faith, that ALL good and perfect things come from above, that is all things come through Christ hands…then you must also find hope in your situation—no matter what it is—that this thing your going through is from Christ.

I’ve spoke to this on our blog before, that God is your heavenly Father, and that sometimes the Lord chastises us to teach us something, to reveal something greater in our lives, for which our current human understanding can’t compute. He is treating us as a Father, he disciplines us out of love.  Steven Furtick tweeted earlier this week “God sometimes employs human disappointment to shape a void He intends to fill with HIMSELF.” I have also heard many talks lately about how God allows troubles in our lives so we can draw nearer to him and find him. I have heard the saying many times “God, drove me to my knees” Hebrews 12:6-8 says “for the Lord disciplines the one He loves and punishes every son He receives.  Endure [suffering] as discipline: God is dealing with you as sons. For what son is there that a father does not discipline?  But if you are without discipline-which all receive-then you are illegitimate children and not sons.” I heard a talk on prayer yesterday that said “if you haven’t gone through suffering” then you need to check your positioning with Christ. No where in the Bible does it state that our lives will be peachy-keen. It does state that God will walk with us through those trials. I have heard many say that they have “never felt closer to God” than these moments in their lives. He doesn’t allow bad things in our lives to discourage us, beat us down, and destroy us. He allows suffering to draw us close, so that we would find sufficient Grace in him, and to take us to a better place in our lives. I have spent 19+ months stumbling along the way to figure this out, but it is becoming clearer to me.

I smile this morning from ear to ear, because we found out last evening that we are #1 on the siblings list and #19 on the girls list. We have spent 19+ months enduring and suffering some of the hardest days of our lives. This doesn’t count the years of infertility treatments that prefaced our adoption and the months building up to getting on the official list. I can not declare that our journey is over, only God knows that in his perfect timing. What I can declare is that I feel in a much better place in my life because of the suffering I have endured. I have never felt closer to our Father, and I have drawn closer to him through this. It’s one of those things you see in the Bible like that takes sometimes to understand… 2 Corinthians 12: 8-10Concerning this, I pleaded with the Lord three times to take it away from me. But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me. So I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, catastrophes, persecutions, and in pressures, because of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” This verse is amazing.  I truly feel I wouldn’t change a step of the path that we have taken for this very reason above. Thank you to so many that have continued to pray for us and comfort us along the way. It has truly meant the world to know that we have so many on our side, and its been truly amazing to see the Power of Christ work over the last 3 years in his perfect timing.

Jun 16, 2012 - Other    1 Comment

Our Father Who Art In Heaven

Friday evening I attended a simulcast event at our church entitled, Men of Honor. It was sponsored by Lifeway, the team that produced the movie Courageous. It was attended by approximately 60 men in our fellowship, with over 100,000 viewing around the world who each took a step in faith to learn how God has instructed us to be better men. This includes better fathers, husbands, and leaders in a world today that is crumbling right before our eyes.

Today’s world is filled with free advice. Everyone has an opinion and is just waiting for an opportunity to share it. Our culture is looking for a fast fix, a quick tip, a 5-step plan, or a 30-minute meal. With an emphasis on level of ease and speed of delivery we don’t have time for a laborious process to accomplish our goals. It seems that the famous phrase, “slow and steady wins the race” is quickly becoming extinct in the minds of the masses. Naturally, I went into this simulcast hoping that there would be a formula for being a great man, some exciting new method that would be revealed, a checklist that would provide an outline for my family and my marriage. What was revealed in the two-hour event was something that is simple—yet difficult. Something that has been handed down for generations, but somewhere along the way has become lost in complacency of our world.

The men in the movie, Courageous, for those who have watched, offer a form of supernatural feeling that leaves you saying, “Wow, these are great men—but is it a movie or a documentary?“. Is it really possible to live your life in such a way that you could model after these men to instill such great values in your family as they did? What was interesting about the simulcast is that it involved these same men. The actors revealed their own special testimonies and life stories and their own current struggles and success at being “men of honor”. When listening to their message you quickly learn the method to their madness comes down to one simple thing—Jesus. They reveal that the two most important aspects of their success is daily prayer and daily time in God’s word. God has already revealed what it takes to be a great Father, he has given us a model through his son Jesus, and he has called each of us to model that relationship into our own.

Simple! Right? We’ll YES and NO. God has been sharing some pretty good advice with me lately, and the first is that Nobody Is Perfect. During the round-table discussion, the men revealed their life’s struggles. They worked to break down the exterior facade from the movie to reveal that they are just ordinary guys. God loves ordinary guys. You can look to Acts 4:13 NLT for an example:

The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus.

It doesn’t take a perfect man to be a good father or husband, it takes a willing man to evaluate himself and see in what areas he could improve. This is being courageous. He has provided us the perfect example to strive for, knowing that we’ll never get there to a full 100%, but that we should live everyday to our fullest.

For a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again, But the wicked stumble in time of calamity – Proverbs 24:16

God has also revealed to me that It’s Okay to Be Weird. For many of you that know me—you may be thinking, he must have revealed that to you a long time ago—well HaHa, seriously hear me out. As mentioned above, our culture and our world is shifting away from God on a daily basis. The days that inspired our forefathers to in part “In God We Trust” on our very currency is quickly drying up and being put in a box. God is being stripped from our culture piece by piece and soon there will come a day when being a Christian will become more and more frowned upon and seen as Weird. It is time to ask ourselves a question about today’s culture that my father used to ask me “How’s that workin’ out for ya?” Is today’s culture something to strive for? When 46% of Americas marriages end in divorce and 43% of children live without their father. Is striving everyday to be the best father and husband that you can be becoming weird? If that’s the case—don’t you want to be weird?

The other item that God has been pushing me on is Daily Prayer and Daily Word. Going through the adoption journey can be a long process that sometimes leaves you feeling tired and lonely. If you’re not careful it can drive you away from God at times leaving you wonder, is God not listening to me? Doesn’t he hear my cry? What daily prayer and daily scripture has revealed to me over the past 19 months is that God is listening, he’s not only listening—he’s acting. He has a very special plan for Heidi and me and wants to reveal it. Through prayer and scripture that puzzle is beginning to take shape, but it requires daily attention. This part is a little more difficult than just stirring our emotions to accept past failures and striving to be weird. It requires real work, real time, real dedication and more than emotion, its physical action.

You may say—I don’t have time for that? Quick question—how long did it take you to read this post up until this point? 2 minutes? 5 minutes? I don’t mean to call you out—and trust me—I’m not perfect! I’ll be the first to admit that praying daily and reading daily is laborious. I slip up, I skip days, but I challenge myself to come back. When I do, I find it so rewarding. To counteract myself, I put things in place to help me each day. I have signed up for a daily email blast of scripture, do I open it each day? No. But I do more days than not. I have a prayer App on my iPod that nudges me gently each day to bow my head? Do I sometimes ignore it? Sure. But it helps to remind me on most days. I changed the first preset on my radio dial to a Chistian station, do I sometimes tune out? Of course, but it’s on my dial and I find myself more often coming back and tuning in. Most importantly, I have Heidi. We lean on each other so heavily these days to keep from falling down. We were blessed to be provided a devotional a few months ago that we work each evening at getting through before we go to bed. Are there nights that we’re both tired from the day and barely make it through the prayer? You bet. However the nights that the devotional really speaks to us and we have an amazing prayer time with God are the absolute best and give us new spark to stay faithful, continue to believe, and to strive to renew our hearts the next day.

You might also say—Well that sounds great, but I’m no good at prayer. I don’t know what to say. God has already prepared for that as well. If you grew up in church, you have heard the Lord’s Prayer a thousands times. Whether it’s trespassers or debtors, the Lord gave his ordinary men a simple prayer to use as a basis for their own personal prayers. If you have heard it or not watch below this simple, yet awesome video.

It’s a great starting place. I was convicted in complacency after watching this, and hope that it moves me to really thinking about it as I say it this Sunday.

I hope that you have made it this far, and I apologize for such a long post. I hope that this Father’s Day you will challenge yourself to renew the relationship with your Father. It is only then, that you can begin to become a better father to your children, a better husband to your wife, and a better friend and co-worker to those in your life. There is no simple plan, no quick fix, no checklist. It will take work, it will take labor, it will take courage. Along the way you slip up, this is where you will need to remember that nobody is perfect. You will meet opposition, and will need to remember that it’s okay to be weird. Finally, you will need encouragement and instruction, and this is where the most important part of daily prayer and daily word will come in to provide you the courage to press on.

I will continue to pray steadfast that God will grant me the opportunity soon to be the best father I can be. In the meantime I will strive to be the best husband, the best friend, and the best co-worker and will work to strengthen my relationship in Christ each day.

Happy Father’s Day & God Bless!

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. -Ephesians 6:4

May 19, 2012 - Our Story    1 Comment

Just Around the Bend

Earlier this week, on my drive into work I was pleased to find out that they would be rebroadcasting one of the most powerful messages that I had ever heard from one of my favorite pastors David Jeremiah. At the time of the original broadcast he had recently returned to the pulpit after battling Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (NHL) for over a year to share a sermon entitled “A Bend in the Road“.

It forced me, just as it did a year ago, to revisit how I look at the moments in our lives when we think we’ve reached the end of our rope, tied a knot, and are just hanging on. The sermon was based loosely around 1 Kings 12:24 that states “this thing is from me“. It request that we look at the weakest moments in our lives differently; that we instead view them as divine interventions, and opportunities to draw closer in faith, and learn something. I believe this goes directly against what the “world” would have to say or have us to feel. When we are faced with interruptions in our lives it is simply human nature to cry out “Why Me?”, “Why Now?”. I know for myself it is difficult to imagine a loving God that would allow such heart ache in our lives. As our wait has now crossed the 18-month threshold, it would be very easy to fall into the trap of being discouraged and frustrated, throwing up our hands defeat.

Hebrews 12:4–11 states “In this all-out match against sin, others have suffered far worse than you, to say nothing of what Jesus went through—all that bloodshed! So don’t feel sorry for yourselves. Or have you forgotten how good parents treat children, and that God regards you as his children? My dear child, don’t shrug off God’s discipline, but don’t be crushed by it either. It’s the child he loves that he disciplines; the child he embraces, he also corrects. God is educating you; that’s why you must never drop out. He’s treating you as dear children. This trouble you’re in isn’t punishment; it’s training, the normal experience of children. Only irresponsible parents leave children to fend for themselves. Would you prefer an irresponsible God? We respect our own parents for training and not spoiling us, so why not embrace God’s training so we can truly live? While we were children, our parents did what seemed best to them. But God is doing what is best for us, training us to live God’s holy best. At the time, discipline isn’t much fun. It always feels like it’s going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it’s the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God.

“What this sermon inspires me to do, is ask a different question. “What would You have me learn from this heart ache?” I want to take this opportunity to learn everything I possibly can, “Teach me, I stand as your ready pupil willing and able to learn” What a powerfully different way to look at a down situation. When you come to the realization that God is treating you as his child, that he hasn’t allowed this interruption in your life to break you down, but instead to build you up. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 10, “Wherefore I take pleasure in weaknesses, in injuries, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

These words also strike against the modern misconception that if you are close to the Lord you will not have any problems in your life, but quite the opposite is true. Everyone will have bends in the road. The important thing to remember is that you will never be given more than you can bear. David Jeremiah looks back on two key figures from the Bible, Job and Paul. Both of these men were buffeted by Satan, but only to the point that God would allow. Satan is powerless without permission. David says this extremely powerful statement “Ultimately, everything that happens to us is filtered through the hands of a loving God“. Wow! IF that doesn’t force you to take an alternate perspective on whatever your bend in the road  might currently be.

David reads aloud a letter that he was once given from a 1981 published article entitled “This Thing is From Me“, which takes an interesting perspective on a letter from God.

Have you ever thought that all that concerns you, concerns Me too? For “he that toucheth you, toucheth the apple of Mine eye” (Zechariah 2:8).

I would have you learn when temptations assail you, and the “enemy comes in like a flood,” that this thing is from Me, that your weakness needs My might, and your safety lies in letting Me fight for you.

Are you in difficult circumstances? This thing is from Me. I am the God of circumstances. Your surroundings and companions are only working out My will.

Are you in money difficulties? Is it hard to make both ends meet? This thing is from Me, for I am your purse bearer, and I would have you draw from and depend upon Me. My supplies are limitless (see Philippians 4:19). I would have you prove My promises.

Are you passing through a night of sorrow? This thing is from Me. I am “The Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” I have let earthly comforters fail you so that by turning to Me you may obtain everlasting consolation (see II Thessalonians 2:16, 17).

Has some friend disappointed you? One to whom you opened your heart? This thing is from Me. I have allowed this disappointment to come so that you may learn that I am your best friend.

Have your plans been all upset? Are you bowed down and weary? This thing is from Me. You made your plans, then came asking Me to bless them, but I would have you let Me plan for you and then I take the responsibility, for “this thing is too heavy for thee; thou art not able to perform it thyself alone” (Exodus 18:18). You are only an instrument.

Have you longed to do some great work for Me, and instead been laid aside on a bed of pain and weakness? This thing is from Me. I could not get your attention in your busy days, and I want to teach you some of My deepest lessons. “They also serve who only stand and wait.”

Some of My greatest workers are those shut out from active service, that they may learn to wield the weapon of all-prayer.

Are you suddenly called to occupy a difficult and responsible position? Launch out on Me. I am trusting you with the “possession of difficulties,” and for “this thing the Lord thy God shall bless thee in all thy works, and in all that thou puttest thine hand unto” (Deuteronomy 15:10).

This day I place in your hand this pot of holy oil; make use of it freely, My child. Remember, “interruptions are divine instructions.” The sting will go as you learn to see Me in all things; therefore, “set your hearts unto all the words which I testify among you this day … for it is not a vain thing for you; because it is your life: and through this thing ye shall prolong your days in the land” (Deuteronomy 32:46, 47).

I must admit that we have struggled over the past 18 months, and as the wait grows longer, it becomes harder and harder to remain positive and not grow weary. I do know that God has a divine purpose and that ultimately we will receive clarity and understanding when we look into the eyes of our little blessing(s). We are continued to be blessed this year as the Lord has worked miracles in our lives and so many family and friends have given us strength and encouragement. “What will God teach us?” This will continue to take shape and form as each day passes, and we continue to remain ready and willing to go wherever He take us next. Just as our fundraiser puzzle is beginning to take shape as each little piece falls into place, so does our journey. I believe God has taken this 18-months to strengthen so many areas in our lives and I can see His hand in all we do. We have a renewed strength in our marriage as we have had to lean on each other everyday. We have been truly blessed in our faith to find Bethany UM, which has allowed us to grow stronger, find a sense of community, become involved once again in a congregation, and work towards hopefully one day forming a strong Orphan and Widow ministry long beyond our adoption.

I will end this blog post, just as David ended his 2 part message, with the amazing poem below. I pray that this message has helped you if you are going through a bend in the road to find a renewed sense of encouragement and patience as it has for me. Being a part of the AGCI Facebook group, I have seen God work so many miracles in the last 18 months. Each day I continued to be amazed by His presence and I smile from ear to ear to know that our day of victory is coming. It’s just around the bend.

A Bend in the Road (Helen Steiner Rice)

Sometimes we come to life’s crossroads
And we view what we think is the end.
But God has a much wider vision
And he knows that it’s only a bend-

The road will go on and get smoother
And after we’ve stopped for a rest,
The path that lies hidden beyond us
Is often the path that is best.

So rest and relax and grow stronger,
Let go and let God share your load
And have faith in a brighter tomorrow-
You’ve just come to a bend in the road.

 

Apr 20, 2012 - Fundraising    1 Comment

Perfect Timing

As many of you may have remembered, we were blessed this past Christmas morning with the amazing surprise of a puzzle fundraiser that was organized by Heidi’s mom. That morning, and the subsequent months that have followed, we have continued to be overwhelmed with the generosity and support of so many. The puzzle pieces were sold for $10.00 a piece for a 500 piece puzzle. Each piece purchased will have the name of the donator written on the back. The puzzle will be framed in a double-frame with glass on either side so that it can seen for years to come all of the love and prayers that helped carry us to our blessing(s) in Ethiopia.

We received the puzzle this week and are pleased to share it with everyone (shown above). We will be sure to post pictures of the puzzle being constructed as our fundraiser progresses. To date, we have already sold over 250 of the 500 pieces are so excited to see it completed over the next several months. I know that it will be the center-piece to our completed nursery and an amazing reminder of our journey.

If you would like to purchase a puzzle piece, and have not had the opportunity, you can email either Heidi or myself.

As God often does, he answered our prayers abundantly this evening for a renewal of strength as he not only brought us our puzzle this week, but we were pleased to find out that we have dropped another number on the unofficial siblings list to #3 — so excited! As I mentioned in my post earlier this week God’s timing is so beautifully perfect. What an amazing God we serve, the one who can move mountains. We will continue to give him the praise for every step of this long and winding journey for we would certainly not have the strength and determination to do this on our own. Ephesians 3:20 God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine…

Our heart felt appreciation goes out to all of those who have participated in our fundraisers, lifted us up in a prayer, or just provided a word of encouragement. Your kindness and generosity has been unimaginable.

 

Apr 17, 2012 - Our Story    1 Comment

In His Hands

This week I continued to be amazed by the continuos ability of God to provide me encouragement in ways I did not seek out, but instead were placed upon my path. Specifically, today, I find strength in a verse from Jeremiah 29:11  I alone know the plans I have for you, plans to bring you prosperity and not disaster, plans to bring about the future you hope for. This verse rings true to our story and to many other situations in where we have been provided an opportunity in which we choose to fully rely on God’s understanding and direction to provide the best outcome. There is such a relief when you are able to truly give your worries and prayers over to the master who controls everything, you no longer have to carry the burdens or worry how things will resolve.

In an interesting example, Joel Olsteen recently told a story about how sometimes he DVR’s sports events when he is away from home. He tells of how when watching them back, he may have already seen a newspaper headline or spoken with a friend and has discovered the final outcome of the game. He speaks of how encouraging it is when he watches the game back even when his team falls behind or suffers a major setback. It is only more exciting to know that there are great things in store for his team. That the game is not over. Victory will be his, and it will be made even sweeter with every point they may fall behind and are forced to bounce back from. He encourages us to treat our everyday lives in this similar manor knowing that God never ends in defeat, never looses, and will never let us fall to our enemies. When you know this and you truly believe this, you can continue to find hope in situations where the odds look stacked against you. I continue to hear from multiple instances in the past few months a powerful verse from Psalms 23:4 Even if I go through the deepest darkness, I will not be afraid, LORD, for you are with me. Your shepherd’s rod and staff protect me. Over the past year I have found renewed meaning in this verse with direction that we are only walking through the darkness, and not into the darkness. There will be victory on the other side, and you will get there with God’s help.

As we continue to wait on God’s perfect timing, it can sometimes be difficult to not be discouraged. He has been so perfect at stepping in at just the right moments for us and giving us a renewed sense of hope and purpose and it has been absolutely amazing to experience. Recently we met with several members of our congregation and spoke to them in regards to the adoption ministry that Heidi and I continue to feel called towards beginning at our church. We have been praying earnestly for God to give us direction and set before us the path that he would have us go down. We are beginning to see doors open and receive further direction are excited to see where this part of our journey will lead.

I will leave you with this verse below, and encourage you to lift your worries and hearts desires to God and put your full trust that he will works things out in your favor. He has planned for you to succeed before you were even on Earth and loves to fulfill your hearts desires. I can speak personally to the fact that when we have given our full energy towards letting God take the reigns he has not only answered, but has answered in overabundance, leaving us truly amazed.

Ephesians 3:20–21 God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us. 
Glory to God in the church! Glory to God in the Messiah, in Jesus! Glory down all the generations! Glory through all millennia! Oh, yes!

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