4 Things Love Will Do (The Bamboo Project 2.0)

As of a few days ago, we are now eight months home with our sweet baby girl. In these eight months we’ve seen her crawl for the first time. She’s learned to walk. She’s learning to form words. She signs. She’s eating table food instead of formula from a bottle. We’ve gotten to celebrate her birthday for the very first time as a family. These past eight months have shown us a lot of things, but mostly it’s shown us love is powerful.

Love will send you to the other side of the world and back.

When we started down the road we weren’t planning on traveling too far. Maybe to the next state at the furthest. Maybe. And then we saw her picture. It was her. That’s our daughter. But wait… she’s where? China? That’s far away, right? We had no plans for China. And we certainly had no money for an international adoption. But love doesn’t limit. Love goes.

Love will break your heart in the best possible way.

Our daughter’s story began with tragedy. Many adoption stories do. She was abandoned. We don’t know why but she was. Left in an alley behind the Children’s Hospital in her home city (a city of nearly 4 million). Was she born early? Were her parents young and scared? Was there pressure from her birth mother’s family? What happened? We’ll probably never know. But, this girl lights up my day. Every day. No matter what. And at the same time, I look at her while she’s sleeping and I realize that there are millions of stories like hers. Stories that break my heart. And yet, somehow, she’s with us. How in the world did we get so lucky? Love. That’s how.

Love will keep you up at night.

Especially those nights when you’re fighting off jet lag. But those nights fade. And then there’s those nights, Mom, when the baby is sleeping on your face (literally). Our kids seem to thrive at the night life, while all we want to do is sleep. Kelley and I have made a pact. When our children are out of the house, we’re going to call them randomly and at various times of the night, just to tell them that we need to go to the bathroom or that we’re cold or that we saw something in the closet. Seriously though… every parent worries. But for parents waiting in the adoption process, your worry is a unique experience. You wake up at 2AM and imagine what your child is doing at that moment. You pray they’re eating a healthy lunch or getting a good nap or that someone is holding them when they cry. You find yourself looking for a way to book a flight to just go volunteer at her orphanage just so you can see her, hold her, care for her until you can bring her home. Love will mess you up.

Love will invite others to come along.

Here’s my thought… There’s no need for the word “orphan.” There are enough families in the world that there should be no fatherless, no family-less children. The term “orphan” should be an extinct term. But sadly, it isn’t. The exact number of orphans worldwide is unknown, but it is estimated that there are 143 million. Of those, there are approximately 113,000 right here in the US. If one family from every 4th church in the United States adopted one of those 113K, there would be no more orphans in America. No more orphans. This is not out of reach. There are more than 300,000 Christian churches in this country. One family out of every four churches? That’s crazy!

What does this look like on an international scale? We don’t know the exact numbers of churches worldwide, so let’s play a little numbers game for a second based on what we do know. We know there are roughly 8 billion Christians worldwide. We know that the average size of a congregation is 100 people.  Based on this then, there are an estimated 80 million Christian congregations around the world. Do you realize what this means? If you’re a math person, you’ve already figured it out. For the rest of us who just pulled out our calculators, this means that it would take less than an average of two families per congregation across the world and the need for the word “orphan” is gone. This number is dramatically less we we do the work of helping families in financial distress keep their families intact instead of the alternative. Some churches could certainly do more. Rick Warren and Saddleback Church have a goal of 1000 families adopting. This is so attainable. No more orphans. Come with us!

The Bamboo Project 2.0

Last week I got to share some encouragement to adoptive dads (and those considering adoption) over at No Hands But Ours. Adoption can be a terrifying endeavor. But it’s every bit worth it. All the stress. All the fears. All the costs. All the heartache. All of it. All worth it. We are part of a small group of people who have had the joy of adopting a beautiful child from China with Down syndrome (Ds) through an initiative called the Bamboo Project. A diagnosis of Ds can be scary for expectant parents and caring for a child with special needs has a unique set of challenges. But if you’re still reading this, I bet it’s because you’re wondering if you’re capable. And if you’re wondering if you’re capable it’s probably because God has been putting this on your heart. I can tell you with confidence, if God is putting it on your heart, you are capable. You may not have any experience with special needs, but if you say yes to God, he will give you exactly what you need.

These children need you. And you fall into one of two categories. Either you are called to adopt one of these children or you are called to support the ones who adopt.

sweet moon baby, patrice barton, china, adoption

From the book Sweet Moon Baby by Karen Henry Clark. Illustrated by Patrice Barton.

Here’s an excerpt from our friend Desiree (the matriarch of the Bamboo family) which originally appeared on No Hands But Ours


Two summers ago, the Bamboo Project was started as a focused advocacy initiative through Bethany Christian Services specially for children with Down syndrome waiting in China for a new forever. It has been such an honor to pray for these precious babies as they wait and for the unknown families as they step out in faith in adoption; to meet and cry with and rejoice with matched families as they bring their children home; and even to lament over lost sleep and celebrate the smallest of victories once these families have entered their new normal. It’s been an awe-inspiring journey with some incredible people. God’s hand has been miraculous.

With the success of the original Bamboo Project, the authorities in China have identified twenty-two more children with Down syndrome available for adoption. All of these beautiful children are under five years old, over half are under two. Each of these sweet hearts are full of a perfect joy carefully knit into their very DNA. Each waiting for a new forever in the arms of their loving family.

Will you join us in advocating for these perfect children?

1. Pray for their physical, emotional and mental safety as they wait in the orphanage in China. That their little hearts would be protected from fear, anxiety and hopelessness.
2. Pray for the nannies and foster families that are providing care for each of these beautiful children. That no medical issue would be missed and that compassionate care would abound.
3. Pray for soft hearts of forever families to hear God’s call to step out and welcome their child HOME. That they too would be protected from fear and blind to anything other than the Lord’s call.
4. Pray for God’s perfect timing and perfect will in each of the children and families’ lives.
5. Share about the Bamboo Project openly with your friends, family, coworkers, etc. Some one’s heart maybe waiting for ‘that sign’ from God that comes from your voice of advocacy.
6. Give your extra pennies or dollars or more to Bethany attn: Bamboo Project. Every cent goes towards bringing these precious ones HOME.
7. Pray that the Creator of these beautiful children would be glorified here in the US and in China through the Bamboo Project. That ultimately there would be no need for the advocacy initiatives like this because of the overwhelming value of life in both countries.

Click images below to enlarge…

bamboo2015-1 bamboo2015-2

14 Words of Fatherly Wisdom

father-and-son-have-a-chat

Throughout the month of June I’ll be sharing some “father” themed posts on the blog. There are three things I hope for of myself and of dads around the world this month. 1) I hope that we push ourselves to put away the distractions (phone, tablet, whatever…) and be more engaged with our families. 2) I hope that we find ways to lead our families into bigger stories. And 3) I hope that we realize how big a deal it is to be a father, and yet maintain enough perspective to embrace our humanity and forgive ourselves when we fail in our pursuits of #1 and #2.

My Many Fathers

I’m in my mid-30s (ok, really probably my late-30s…) and in my time on planet Earth, I’ve had a number of “fathers” who have poured into me and helped me become who I am. My Dad, who his friends call Roger (because that’s his name), and my kids call Pop, has been married to the love of his life, my mom, for 40 years. His dad, my grandfather, and the namesake of one of our boys, was a heroic sort of man who, sadly, passed away a few years ago. I miss him still. These two men in my life have been two of the All-time Greats. But there are other mature men in my life who have played the role of a father at times as well; mentors, leaders, counselors, friends… If you’re a guy, regardless of age, marital status, whether you have kids or not, I hope you have someone in your life who can play the role of father for you, especially if yours has passed or is absent. As I think about my “fathers,” I remember some of the things they’ve shared with me along the way.

Here are fourteen words of wisdom as passed along by my “fathers.”

1. Buy a plunger before you need a plunger.

This should seem obvious but think about how many times this advice has proven true in your life. Maybe it’s not a plunger but you get the idea, right? Be prepared.

2. Call your parents every week.

I suck at this one. I’ve gotten better but I don’t like to talk on the phone. I’d much rather sit face-to-face but since my parents and I live 750 miles apart, face-to-face doesn’t exactly come easily. So instead we use FaceTime. I can’t tell you how grateful I am for this piece of tech. Maybe you like Skype or Google Hangout better. Whatever form it takes, make it a priority to call – and not just on holidays or birthdays either. Just call. Just because.

3. Never wear a clip-on tie.

It only takes a few minutes to tie a tie. And the more you do it, the faster the process becomes. Clip-on ties are for children. You’re a man now. Tie the dang tie. And please… PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE… don’t wear a clip on bow tie. Go to YouTube. Watch a tutorial and learn to tie it properly. Not only will you get major style points but you’ll earn mad respect from everyone around you.

4. Compliment her shoes.

It tells her you’re looking at more than her “assets,” that you respect her independence and her attention to detail. Shoes are an expensive accessory. She deserves to have them noticed.

5. Never leave a pint unfinished.

I can only think of one reason to leave an unfinished glass on the table ::ahem:: but other than that, you don’t have anywhere you need to be so badly that you can’t sit still for a few extra minutes to finish it. Beer is made for stories, for laughing, for crying, for being there, being present. Why rush it? You won’t get these moments back.

6. You can tell the measure of a man by the measure of the things that bother him.

It’s okay to be bothered. Really, it’s good to be bothered by some things. The millions of orphans in the world, for example. Or, terrorist groups killing innocent people. But somebody taking your parking spot? Nope. A colleague talking trash about you? Not really. Get stirred up about important stuff and let the little guys fight over the other crap. It’s not worth your time.

7. Always stand to shake someone’s hand.

Because honor is HUGE. You want to received honor? Show honor. We tell our kids all the time, “You are honorable. Show it.”

8. Ask more than you answer. Everyone likes to talk about themselves.

My friend, Tom does this better than anybody I know. It’s almost a competition to see who can ask more questions about the other one. But he’s so darn good at it that I get sucked in to answering his question and before I know it I’ve been talking for fifteen minutes. Arrgghhh… Darn you, Tom!

9. Go with the decision that will make for a good story.

My wife and I decided a few years ago that more than anything we wanted our family to live a better story. We’ve shaped most everything in our life to be able to do this. There will be lots of decisions that you have to make along the way and most of the time you’re not choosing between something that sucks and something that’s awesome. Most often you’re trying to decide between two really good options. At the end of the day, sometimes you just have to choose one. Just make sure you’re writing a good story along the way.

10. When you walk, look straight ahead, not at your feet.

You’ve been given dominion over the earth. Why are you walking timidly? You are a conqueror, a king, a leader. What are you afraid of? Set your face to the world, man. You have nothing to fear.

11. Nice guys don’t finish last. Boring guys do.

Oh my gosh… This has been me. B-O-R-I-N-G. BOR-ING. No hobbies. No passions. Not willing to take risks. Not giving my life for someone else.

Kindness, mercy, compassion, meekness… these are all characteristics of the strong. The ones who love with their hearts out. The ones who ignite others to live for more. Be gentle. Be last if that’s your lot. Be quiet when you must. But by all means DO NOT BE BORING!

12. Do what needs to be done without complaining. It never speeds up the process.

Ever. And you look weak when you do. The more you complain, the longer you’ll be stuck in the mess. In fact, complainers tend to stay stuck in menial jobs. Nobody wants to promote a complainer. You don’t like the way management is handling it? Be a solution. Don’t agree with the methods? Hey, you probably won’t always be 100% on board, but I’ll bet there’s something you can champion. Focus on that and do it! If you make it a habit to support your leaders, I’ll bet you one day, you’ll be given the opportunity to influence the decision-making.

13. If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.

There’s always someone with more experience, more smarts, and bigger and better ideas. Challenge yourself. Grow. Learn. Remember… Don’t be boring. Ask more than you answer.

14. Women find confidence undeniably sexy.

Just saying…

The World Needs You

I love being a man, a husband, and a father. And I love the men in my life, both those who influence me and the ones I get to influence. You’ve been given strength. Become who God made you to be. Thank the men in your life who’ve influenced you. Be humble enough to show gratitude. And ask God to help you recognize when you can pour into someone else. The world needs better men. Let’s be there when they need us.

She Knows We Are Family

From Kelley

I’ve wanted to post an update regarding Aila’s medical evaluations, but I couldn’t quite find the words. She had an MRI of her brain on Monday because one of her doctors suspected swelling. The good news is there is no swelling. But her MRI showed a condition called PVL, which is basically areas of brain damage due to lack of oxygen. I got off the phone with a list of referrals and a need to vomit. Because that’s how your body responds when you hear the words brain damage when talking about your baby girl.

I looked over at her trying to lift her leg high enough to crawl up on the foot stool in front of our chair. She desperately wants to scale that stool and tries over and over again, every day. And I got so scared, wondering if we were seeing her best days. Because what if this damage was progressive. What if it got worse? And let me tell you, doctor Google was NOT reassuring.

I called my husband and then I prayed. Here’s what God gave me.

We can’t fix her.

She will still have Down syndrome. She may have permanent brain damage. She may live to be 60 years old. Or she may not. There are no more guarantees on her life than there are on our own, and there are no fewer fears. We didn’t bring her home to fix her.

Adoption has always been about giving her a family.

That’s what God asked us to do. Be her family. She may have no future severe medical issues or she could see a specialist a month for the rest of her life.

Through it all, God wants her (and every child for that matter) in a family. And through some mystery, He saw fit that we should be the lucky ones to welcome her in.

And since that day three months ago when we stood in front of an official and swore an oath to always love her and be her family forever, we’ve seen gains. A lot of gains, actually. She crawls. She signs “eat” and “bottle.” She has grown 2 inches and gained 4 pounds. But above all that, she gained a sister, two brothers, a mama, and a daddy. And she knows who we are. She knows we are family.

Postscript

kids draw police chase scene

We forgot to tell you the rest of the story. Many of you wanted to know what happened to the car… Well, in case you can’t interpret kid art (above), the fine folks at NNPD found the guy. In fact it was a friend of mine. He was out on patrol with his partner and saw it drive past him in the opposite direction. He whipped his car around and took off after him. After some fancy maneuvering ending with our car crashing through a fence and into a pole, the guy jumped out of the car and was arrested. And yes, insurance is handling the claim for repairs to damage and we should have our car back in about a week’s time.

The pictures are from our kids. They wanted to thank the officer who was looking out for our family. Below is a picture from Rosie and Grady. Thank you, Brandon and Tully. You guys are some of the finest around!

kids police car drawings

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.

The Ant Saga, Part III

Let me update you on the latest… If you haven’t read Part I or Part II, please catch up and come back.

I’ll wait for you…

Okay. It’s Thursday. The day Erik was coming back to bomb the yard. But it ain’t ready. Nobody’s been out to do ANY yard work. No call to say we can’t come nothing. I called the landlord. I called Orkin. I’ve juggled everybody’s schedules trying to find a time to get this thing done. Finally heard from the landlord this afternoon. He’s getting someone to come out this weekend. So I guess that means Orkin will have to wait.

It will do almost nothing to have the yard bombed if we haven’t gotten rid of the vermin habitat. So, that’s what we’re waiting on. I wouldn’t be so upset about this if it was just cosmetic stuff, but the neglect over this property, specifically the backyard has prevented my kids from being able to go outside. We have a play set in the backyard they can’t use because there are and ticks back there and probably snakes, according to the Orkin man. And that’s not even considering the inconvenience of having to push away the bamboo just to get to the slide and swings.

All that being said, we’re waiting for the yard to get cleaned up before we can eliminate the pest population on our property. So… hopefully this weekend.

The Ant Saga, Part II

So, as I mentioned previously, we are being invaded by the thing I fear the most – ants. I had a traumatic experience with ants on a vacation in the South and I’ve never been the same. The Orkin man showed up today and painted quite a grim picture. Because the backyard had been allowed to rule itself, it grew a vine that poked its way through the siding of our house under the kitchen window and, in the words of the Orkin man, became an “ant highway.” He told us the ants were probably all inside the walls of the house at this point. And what’s more is that the overgrowth has become a haven for ticks, mice, mosquitos, ants (obviously) and possibly even snakes.

This is ridiculous. There’s a beautiful playset out back (or at least I think there is) that we’d love to be able to let the kids play on but there’s no way on earth I’m sending them back there with all the other inhabitants. The Orkin man, Erik is his name, said he’d come back as soon as the backyard was cleared and he’d bomb it and we’d have no more problems with the little vermin. I called our landlord and reminded him of his commitment to get the yard in better shape, which still hasn’t happened. And made him aware that because the yard had gotten so out of control, now the house was infested with ants and the backyard was more than an eyesore, it is now a danger to my children. This was not what we’d shaken on and I need him to make good on his word.

Erik (the Orkin man) is scheduled to arrive on Thursday morning at 7AM to bomb the place and the backyard needs to be done by then. The landlord says he’s gonna try to find somebody. Wednesday is the 4th of July so I think it’s gonna be a challenge.