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.

Heaven

There’s this song by Brett Dennen that I’ve loved for some time now. I think I heard it on my way to work one Sunday afternoon. It’s one of those songs that sneaks up on you after some time. Don’t get me wrong. Initially, I really liked it. It isn’t that it had to grow on me. Just that I’ve been stewing in its meaning and personal application for awhile now and I was finally able to put into words some of what this song reveals about my faith and how it’s practice affects the general perception of what we currently call Christianity.

I don’t believe everything I say.

I’m not trying to deceive but rather I’m trying to find an answer I can believe in. Often, it’s a way to invite others into the conversation. And frequently, where truth works itself out in community, perceptions can be challenged and tested and the fringes can be shaved down leaving the integrity of the woven fabrics of belief intact. This is kinda how it works with the music I listen to also. I don’t believe or agree with every lyric of a particular song, but I can’t ignore the truth mixed in because of the points on which I disagree.

Truth can be found by eyes of discernment even when masked by the trappings of modernism.

We have so distorted the hope of heaven that most people don’t really want to go there when they die. Most people believe heaven to be a very boring place – flying around in a sheet, playing a little harp doesn’t sound exciting to me either. We define horrific or challenging events as “hell on earth” but we don’t seem to ever use “heaven on earth” to describe anything. Maybe because we believe the good of this life is better than the best heaven has to offer. Maybe because we don’t know how good heaven really is.

Maybe because we hope that heaven is nothing like what we’ve been told.

Either way, we need a better insight into what Jesus and the ancients thought was so remarkable about heaven.

Many people hold that heaven is simply a state of mind or being. Many believe that it’s a mystical (almost mythical) location above and beyond the realms of this planet. But what hope does any of this offer those who are willing to give everything to model the life of Jesus, even to death?

Clouds?

Harps?

No, thank you.

Tasteless,

senseless,

meaningless afterlife?

This is not the imagery that Jesus uses. This is not the hope the Hebrews have for the reconciliation of God to Man at the end of all things…

…is it?

There are two stories that are strikingly similar though they were written thousands of years apart. One opens the Story and the other concludes it.

In the first part of the story, there is a tree in the middle of a small, remote village.

This tree gives life to everything it touches.

At the end of the story, the village has grown into a major city but that old tree is still there, just as strong and just as alive as it ever was,

passing down life to everything that lives and healing to every nation.

There’s a tree in the middle of the Story also. This tree, however is stained with death and decay.

This tree bears the fading Seed of the hope of freedom.

The Seed, buried in the ground and then made alive again to produce in humanity the fruit of the redemption of all things. The book of Hebrews in the Bible tells us that we get a glimpse of the light of heaven, a taste of its delicacies when we participate in the Work of God on the earth. Early in the book of Ephesians we hear that the goal of Christ’s sacrifice all along was to bring heaven and earth closer together, no longer divided by the gulf of our indiscretions. The love and presence of God and the unending provision He supplies no longer limited, rationed or withheld.

The enslaved,

given freedom.

The hungry,

fed.

The missing,

located and rescued.

We are responsible for translating this freedom to those around us. To avoid and prevent hoarding the news of our rescue.

Our ancestors were evicted from the village in the beginning because of this attitude. And yet somehow, by the end of the Book, the gates to the city are wide open and her citizens move about in the freedom originally initiated by our Creator.

This is heaven.

Freedom.

No longer bound by rules we cannot keep. This new freedom is ruled by love and respect. Love of self and neighbor, providing for the widow, the orphan and the immigrant,

faithful to the love and action of God.

We have it within each of us to unite heaven and earth because Christ in us has already done the Work.

If heaven has no room for those without a bed it is tyranny.
If it offers no hope for the hopeless it is a lie.
If it refuses the dignity of life it is a prison camp.

Heaven extends beyond era, class and human existence. It has always been with us and will be ours when we’re gone.

It is found in the work of reconciliation both here in our hands and beyond our reach.