What A Week

Sunrise-and-Clouds

Last Friday night we took a ginormous leap for our family and submitted our preliminary application for a baby girl that Kelley found out about through an organization that helps match parents with waiting children who have Down syndrome. You can read a little more about that here. Saturday morning we woke up with plans to go to Busch Gardens with some friends, excited to share the news of this baby girl. I looked out the second-floor window as I was getting some clothes for the kids and realized that our car was missing. I ran downstairs thinking maybe I’d parked it down the street and just forgot. I got outside to realize that indeed our family car had been stolen. We had both sets of keys in the house and our car was gone. Kelley and I both looked at each other because we had no words. I called the police. I called the insurance company. I called the bank. We texted some friends. And then I sent a message to a couple of friends of our who are police officers in our city.

I’ve really had to fight back being angry at this thief. I haven’t done a great job at it. What really got to me was what he took from our kids; their security and safety in our home. They felt fearful.  “Why would somebody do this,” they’d ask. We don’t know. But, what we can say is that when we let these things distract us — fear, worry, anger — specifically anger over replaceable, temporary things, those things begin to control the conversation. We knew we couldn’t let the gloomy story of our car getting stolen overshadow the beautiful, bright story unfolding with baby Adina.

All weekend we wanted to point the conversation to this little girl. Stay focused on praying for her. The police and others involved will take care of the car. We need to focus on Adina. We prayed for her all weekend that God’s presence would be tangible wherever Adina was. That she would feel God’s loving presence. That He would guide her caregivers, the nurses and doctors, and that this little girl would know she is loved and wanted, and we prayed that we’d hear from the agency on Monday.

Monday came and went with several automated responses from the agency. We were granted log in authorization and were able to view more pictures of this beautiful baby girl as well as her limited medical records. But, we never spoke with a live person and waited eagerly to hear specific news of Adina. We received several phone calls Tuesday. The first from our local agency office, calling to invite us to meet with them next week and they gave us an overview of the process. We were also given more forms to fill out. Later in the day Kelley received a call from someone on the ‘China 180’ team. She (enthusiastically) reviewed the information we already had and promised to be in touch with additional documents we needed to sign and return to her ASAP. Kelley and the kids were in the middle of a tea party when she was copied on an email sent to the ‘China 180′ team. In the email our intake coordinator shared that she’ d spoken with Kelley and that Adina was still available!

So what now? We passed the preliminary application and were invited to fill out the formal application (which will be completed in the next hour and submitted to the agency). There’s still lots to do and we’ll do our best to keep you updated here and on Twitter and Facebook. But what we want you to know is that the most important thing we ask of you is to pray, because prayer connects us to each other in ways that we can’t always know or perceive. Specifically, we are praying that her medical issues are stable until she can receive specialized care and that we can move through this process quickly, because if Adina is in fact the baby God has for us, we want to bring her home NOW. It’s painfully difficult to think that our baby is in another country and we can’t see her, talk to her, hold her, care for her…  So please pray!

We believe that the family is a picture of what it’s like to live with God – to be nurtured and cared for, provided for and protected by God. Our prayer is that every child has this. We are grateful for good families that loved us, loved each other and loved God. We don’t take that for granted. God has called us to define family as more than just biology and to open our arms and hearts, just as He did for us.

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300 Miles to Go, Part I

Man, it’s been a long journey.

We started in August, talking about the idea of launching back out into full-time ministry. It’s been three years and I got really hurt last time. But we both knew the timing was right. I remember sitting on the couch at our house one evening and Kelley asking, “When do we consider this a real possibility?” I couldn’t believe she’d just said that. I’d been resistant before but the timing of her question couldn’t have been more divine.

For awhile I’d been feeling the tug to rejoin the path I’d left a few years back. I knew this could be a big risk. I kept thinking, “Not only is there the pain of past experiences but now I have a family that I’ll cast into this and only God knows where we’ll have to move.”

We talked off and on for the next few days about our options. I pulled out my resume. Added some new experiences to it and posted it to a couple of church job websites. Within a week we had half a dozen promising prospects.

Not a single one of them in Birmingham.

Before too long, three job options began to emerge that we wanted to pursue.

Seattle. Huntsville. North Carolina.

The one in Seattle seemed so exciting and we were convinced we’d be moving our family across the continent. That was a hard idea to stomach but it was a very electrifying prospect. They are a very large Christian resource publisher and I was being considered to write their training curriculum. A couple of interviews later and I received a gracious letter from them to let me know they had chosen another candidate.

We’d been talking (really emailing) the churches in Huntsville and North Carolina to try and setup conversations, possibly even visits if/when the timing was right. These emails and conversations went at a slow but rhythmically predictable pace. We had been at this with a goal of knowing where we’d be placed by Thanksgiving 2009. We had a couple of opportunities to visit with one church and spend an extended amount of time on the phone with the other and started to really get the sense that both of these places were involved in some really spectacular work.

All the while, we knew we needed to get our houses ready to sell (remember, Kelley bought a townhouse before we started dating and after we were married we began renting out). We’d asked a real estate agent we knew to help us sell the townhouse.

We got nowhere.

So, for our house we turned to our good friend, Social Networking. We posted on Craigslist, facebook, Oodle and our own personal website and by the afternoon we had record-interested buyers. We had the pitfalls of some scammers, too, causing us a little bit of chaos and aggravation. Thankfully, we were quickly able to squash them and keep moving ahead. We just knew that with the housing sales still in the crapper, we had to generate some quick interest that would stand out from the other houses on the market in our neighborhood and turn our house around fast.

As most of you may remember, during this time Rosie had been admitted to Children’s Hospital for more than a week, Christmas was only days away and the new year was quickly approaching. This was not a calm stretch of weeks for us. This Holiday season was a little bit busier than others in the past had been. Add to that the stress of not knowing where we’d live once we finally sold – or rented – or leased – our house.

Our plan was to move into the townhouse and live out of our luggage until we knew what direction we’d be heading with these job prospects. Sometime mid-January just before we were heading up for another visit with one of the prospective churches, we signed the lease to our house with the new family moving in February 1. As we were traveling, our agent called to tell us that someone was interested in purchasing our townhouse.

Guess when she wanted to close…

Yep. February 1.

There goes our plan for living at the townhouse. Looks like we’re piling in with Kelley’s folks. Gonna be a tight fit. But hey, saves us lots of money. Still living out of a suitcase, though.

In light of the way God seemed to be working things out, I laughingly told Kelley that I expected to hear from one or both of the churches on February 1.

Meanwhile, we ordered a POD to begin packing up our things to make room for the new family moving into our house. We submitted the order to have it delivered on Thursday. But sovereignly, early Tuesday morning, we were awakened to repeated rings of the doorbell. I threw on clothes and went to the door to find a large 16’ container being dropped off in our driveway. Earlier than we were prepared for but it would turn out in our favor, having two extra days for packing. It’s amazing how our 1500 square foot house fit into such a small space; and humbling to realize that all our earthly possessions are in a little box that is half the size of our garage.

After the final walk-through we said goodbye to the house of all our family memories to date. We were married at this house. We brought our babies home to this house. We celebrated Eli’s adoption here.

Birthdays. Baptisms. Lots of firsts.

It was hard to now see this house so empty after leaving us so full.

We said our farewells, recalled some fond memories and drove away. We needed some rest anyway. “There’s too much limbo in our lives right now. It’d be nice just to have some direction,” we constantly thought. A couple of days later we headed up to West Virginia for a few days of skiing.

Kelley and I finally got a chance to ski together. As we were taking the lift she said, “I wish we just had something concrete. Wish we could make some plans.” And I wished I could give her some answers.

But for now, there’s a long blue run down a snowy mountain calling our names.

We’d only been back to the condo a few minutes when the phone rang. This was it. Could this be the call we were waiting on? Could this be the answer to all our searching? After the conversation played out, we couldn’t have been more excited.

A little scared but really excited.

Don’t Freak Out

We had our follow-up with the doctor today.

Everything is looking pretty good. She’s lost a little weight but she doesn’t seem dehydrated. We’ll need to follow with him again in a week to be sure she isn’t still losing weight. She still has a little junk in the upper portions of her lungs but she’s responsive, active and eating well.

The company I work for is amazing. One of the provisions of my benefits package is that I’m allowed time away to be with family in times of illness or other extended family emergencies (like this one). I have some paperwork to fill out. To this point the papers have moved between my agency and the doctor’s office. I got the papers from the doctor today but before he handed them to me he said,

“Don’t freak out when you look at these.”

Mmhmm…

There’s a portion in the documentation that asks the official opinion of the medical provider whether he thinks this condition could worsen. He says she could still have episodes of wheezing that, at its worse, could require CPR.

Well crap. Thanks for that confidence boost, there doc.

What else am I supposed to do with that other than freak out?

C’mon, man. Really. Haven’t we had enough drama? Let’s take a little break.

It is very rare that this could happen. But he wanted us to be aware. The best way to prevent this is to keep her away from any allergens; no pets, no mold, no dust, no smoke – no matter what. Or she could relapse.

Duly noted.


The boys and I went and finished up our Christmas shopping for Kelley this afternoon. They both grabbed the same thing at the same time. It’s pretty cool. I took it as a sign that if they both picked the same thing it must be right. So we got it. I think she’ll like it. They have pretty good taste.

Presents to wrap and cookies to bake and decorate. Merry Christmas.

But Sandwich

We’re home now, which is better than being stuck in a hospital. We get to shower and put on clean clothes, cook a meal and sleep in our own beds. We’re able to enjoy the lights on our Christmas tree and the garland stretched across the mantle over the crackling fireplace. We’ve watched holiday movies with our kids and kissed the grimy-faced little boys we’ve been apart from for more than a week.

But we’re not healthy still. Grady’s got a version of what Rosie has. Fortunately, it only affects toddlers mildly. Eli’s appetite is low and he has been a little sniffly. Not a big deal under normal circumstances but considering what we’ve been though lately, we don’t take anything lightly.

Kelley and I have both come down with probably the same thing. For us, it’s a head cold but with Rosie’s RSV in its history. We’re both getting better but it makes it a challenge to care for a baby with nasty chest congestion and breathing impairment, a toddler and a six year old with a cold and try to make Christmas memorable for them.

What you will not hear from us is complaining. No matter how challenging these days, we are glad to be at home walking though this together.

As most of you know, our family is the center of our lives. And for us, when we are apart we feel it. So to be together, regardless of what’s going on within and around us, is more fulfilling than any other option. Especially during the holiday season.

I know we still have a week or so to go before Rosie is actually cleared. She has to sleep elevated for awhile until we are certain her O2 levels stay in the safe zone while she sleeps. To do this she is strapped into a specially designed wedge that helps her breathe and keeps her oxygen where it needs to be. The problem is – she hates it. It scares her. And her voice is gone from all that she’s been through, so when she cries we don’t hear her. It’s heartbreaking, really. She wakes up alone in a contraption she can’t escape from and can’t tell us she needs us.

Best I can relate, it’s like the dreams I have where I’m being chased and can’t produce the sound from my voice to scream for help.

Last night, we put the wedge between us in our queen-size bed so that if she woke up, we’d be there with her and maybe she wouldn’t be so scared. But due to its size, Kelley and I each have less than two feet of space in the bed for our adult bodies. Which only allows for one sleeping position; I call it the coffin pose. Toes up. Hands crossed across the chest. No movement allowed. Some people may like this. It’s a bit restrictive for us.

We’ll work it out somehow.

We have become more aware recently how connected we all are to each other.

You and I.
We and them.
All of us.

Your prayers over the past ten days have been enriching, empowering and enlightening. We have begun to discover more of the richness of how our prayers connect us not only to our Creator but to the spirits of each one of you. Please know that we are deeply grateful for all the ways you have given to us. Not just the last week and a half but in ways that we are very likely unaware.

We are thankful. There is more good news these days than bad.

Actio Dei

The Action of God comes in many forms.

We saw interesting facets of this yesterday as we examined the account of Jesus’ dinner with the Pharisee (Luke 11:37-42). There’s an amazing contrast between the Pharisee’s and Jesus’ view of what makes us clean. One man thinks that ceremony and ritual is what is necessary. One Man says it all depends on a generosity that dwells within, sometimes buried beneath layers of greed and narcissism. The heart is always full of something. We must make conscious decisions to act from within. Mission defines our identity.

Missional Church brings this into our day-to-day. Alan Hirsch says this, “Missional church is a community of God’s people that defines itself, and organizes its life around its real purpose of being an agent of God’s mission to the world. In other words, the church’s true and authentic organizing principle is mission. When the church is in mission, it is the true church. The church itself is not only a product of that mission but is obligated and destined to extend it by whatever means possible. The mission of God flows directly through every believer and every community of faith that adheres to Jesus. To obstruct this is to block God’s purposes in and through his people.”

We have a mission because Jesus has a mission. We are sent into the world to continue what He came to do in the power of the same Spirit; to reconcile humanity back to God, to partner with God in restoring wholeness to all creation. Through this Spirit we are empowered to share the incarnate love of God for all the world. But to do this we must bring the story into the culture just as Christ became human to tell the story of his love to everyone. The Church is called to do the work of Christ, to be the means of his action in and for the world… Mission, in its widest as well as its more focused senses, is why the Church exists.

When Jesus was dining with the Pharisee, he offered great appreciation for his dedication and attention to detail while sternly challenging him to think differently, to find it within himself to look beyond himself to the greater thing- caring for the widow, the orphan and the immigrant. His message is no different to you and me. It is important to maintain your diligence in giving to the church, but it loses its purity when we sacrifice the more important thing… the call of Christ is both for tithing to the church and being generous to those in need. The purity of our zeal is tainted if the needs of our neighbors are neglected.

So the question is, what is the first step? What is the next right thing for you? What challenges does this present? What things hinder your progress?

How will you bring the remedy? How will you become the change?


A New Day at threeonesix

It was mentioned yesterday at the Sidewalk Sale that a great energy was felt among those participating in the missional efforts. And in my opinion, most of this energy can and should be attributed to the exponential power generated when we attempt something together greater than what we could do separately. This is defined as synergy, which is a buzz word these days especially in business so I hesitate to even put that word in print. But it really is accurate here.

If we had gone about our week without participating in community and then tried to generate this sense of community in only a few moments prior to our weekly planned gathering, often times it can and does feel forced, which really isn’t authentic at all.

And yet, if we can participate in true connective and meaningful relationships outside our scheduled gatherings the energy generated is such that cannot be contained in just one moment. It spills over and can carry us through days of fulfillment rather than only a briefly lasting moment. And this continuing fulfillment is quite compelling, almost addictive, to the point that it draws us back again and again to the table of our common union.

So today, as we gather, we are more at ease, more connected, more fulfilled, more focused through the vision of our fellowship. And as we step to the ledge ready to either plunge of fly, may we find our souls empowered to leap and know that we are connected to a stronger source that will lift us.