Sunday, July 20, 2014

A NEW NAME

From Susan:

 A number of years ago, I felt clearly led to write a book that recorded how the Lord has helped our family of 12. Having obeyed and submitted it to several publishers, it has received helpful reviews but is not yet in print. It is becoming clear that I can begin to pass on some of the best of our testimonies of the supernatural power of our Lord through this blog. 

Here is one of my favorite memories.
         

Needing a New Name    

Ironically, as I was writing, I was feeling absolutely overwhelmed by the needs of one of our children. My kindness was met with a deep anger that appeared to erupt randomly without warning, like some subterranean dormant volcano, totally unanticipated yet dumping destructive burning coals in its wake. Years of orphanage-living that leaves a love-deficit can make children go through stages of being as difficult to love as a bristly porcupine--when they are rebellious or disrespectful or angry or resentful or dishonest or indifferent or unresponsive. 

Yet amidst such circumstances, loving with God’s sacrificial love is precisely what God called Hosea to do, and precisely what I look to the Lord’s Spirit to enable me to do.  
Susan with some of her daughters, and grand daughters!

I remember that love is a supernatural quality and not a natural human trait. 

I must receive it. 

It is the kind of supernatural love God has for me that I long to pass along to them. A love based on forgiveness and acceptance. It is a love that I cannot lose. I ponder how nothing can separate me from the love of Christ (Romans 8)…certainly not my own sin or unpleasant behavior or  disparaging attitudes.   

I thanked the Lord for being allowed to see gradual changes emerging in the character of the daughter who was struggling so much with her anger.  But I was absolutely shocked one rather normal day, after I had been praying for about six months for her character to be transformed as much as that of Hosea’s children, so transformed that it would be as if she had a new name. 

She walked in after an afternoon with a close family friend, and she said, "I want to tell you all that I have a new name and my name is now Lana Grace. I do not want to be Sveta any more. Please be sure to only call me Lana Grace. Mama and Daddy, I want to ask your forgiveness for all the ways I have hurt you and disobeyed you and abused you. I did not understand. I remembered that when my Russian mama said she loved me I did not believe her. I could tell it was not really true. So I thought that you and daddy really do not love me.  But today I realized that you and daddy really do love me. All you have done for me is only good. Today when we were praying I cut those ties to my Russian mama. I forgave her.  The hole in my heart is gone. As we were praying today we had a chair that was there for the Lord…the Lord showed me that my Russian mom was trying to lead me to the wrong path, but that the Lord put a tall white wall up and He was on my side of the wall with me to protect me. He also showed me that He put shields all around me to protect me. I also realized that I have the same name as my Russian mom and every time I heard my name I felt kind of bad....like I was going to be like her and could not get away from that. But now I have a new name-- Lana Grace. My whole name, Svetlana, in Russian means "light." Mom, did you know that?  I can't believe how free I feel and what a wonderful day I had with the Lord; I was just rejoicing all day. Mom.....I am a new creation." 

Nothing short of a transformation in character, nothing short of a new creation, nothing short of the hardened and lonely becoming healed and whole, is precisely what emerges when we pass along to our children that authentic love. We, like Hosea, have received this love as it is poured out within our hearts by the Holy Spirit through our Lord Jesus. 

Hope in Our New Name

Even with all this, I can become despondently hopeless if I meditate too long on the plight of the 150 million orphans in the world today--drugs, suicide, prostitution, criminal behavior, isolation, discrimination, disease, abuse, exploitation…the list goes on and on. Figures of what happens after years of orphanage living in Russia are bleak:  the majority become either homeless, jobless, criminals, or suicide victims. Certainly, apart from the Lord’s supernatural intervention through His people, many orphans will face that same tragic fate that was faced by our son Jonny--death at a young age of a life full or promise. 

As it currently stands, vast numbers of the worlds’ orphans will die having experienced neither the love of God nor the love of family. Reversing such a desperate fate will require believers throughout the world to overcome impossible obstacles. Obstacles of our own personal natures such as ignorance, indifference, selfishness, prejudice, ambition, greed, unbelief; obstacles of a systematic nature, such as cultural barriers, governmental regulations, and ravages of HIV/AIDS; and obstacles of neglect and abuse, including open wounds of past emotional, physical, and sexual abuse, as well as the pain of alcohol and drug abuse.  And riddled through all these obstacles, the constant tensions between good and evil, hope and despair, light and darkness, life and death. 

Yet we worship a God for whom no obstacle is insurmountable. For Him, nothing is impossible. He is the one who still, today, replaces the old creation riddled with the names of 'rejection' and 'abandonment,'  for us and for them, with His New Name, engraving instead, 'beloved' and 'children of the living God.'
Those who were not my people I will call 'my people,' and her who was not beloved I will call 'beloved,' and in the very place where it was said to them, 'you are not my people,' they will be called, 'children of the living God. 

And what does all this have to do with us? 

We simply are called to copy Jesus, who says so simply and so profoundly in Matthew 19, "Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God."  

It may take time, and it is not our first call to let them "come to me," but to let them "come to Jesus." He has open arms and will receive them when they are ready. 

We must not despair over those not yet ready.  We pray they will be given eyes to see His open arms, through ours. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

MARRIAGE MONDAY: "YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG"--3 QUESTIONS TO ASK FIRST

Brad from One Flesh Marriage shares on a topic we all can relate to I am sure--what do we do when we disagree with the way our spouse is parenting our children? It is always good to hear the voice of an adoptive father! 

Any time you bring two people together there are going to be differences in how you parent kids. You talk to them differently, you play with them differently, and you will correct and discipline them differently. It is in this last area that conflicts between couples usually start to creep in. 
When we see our spouse disciplining the kids in a way that we wouldn’t, it is very easy to step in and want to take over. Sometimes that might even be appropriate, but first you need to stop and ask yourself a few questions.

1. What do you Know to be True?

Is your spouse a good parent? Would you normally say they are a good dad? Or a good mom? If you genuinely believe that they are a good parent, then you need to really pause before jumping in and taking over disciplining. Remember this truth and ask yourself the next question.

2. Is your Spouse in Control? 

Are they making rational decisions that they will agree with when the heat of the moment passes? I vividly remember a moment of clarity while holding my screaming son--that all of the shaken baby warning commercials suddenly made since. I gently laid him in the crib and told my wife I needed a break. We all reach that point, and it is important to play tag team before we get there. However, if your spouse is in control, but doing something you would do differently, then hang on and ask yourself the next question before doing anything else. 

3. Why do you Want to Jump in?

If you want to fix the problem, stop the child’s behavior, minimize the damage or avoid an argument then you need to wait. That is exactly what your spouse is trying to do. That is what discipline is all about anyway, so let your spouse do their thing. Yes, it might not be how you would do it, but it is much better to allow them to continue then to jump in. 
If on the other hand, you want to support your spouse, you can stand next to them, and find specific ways you can support them and show your children that you are on the same team. 

But What if I REALLY Didn’t Like it?

What do you do if you answered all three questions and recognized you had to wait but you really had a problem with how your spouse was disciplining the children? In this situation you need to find a time to talk about your concerns later, when the children are not in the room to hear your discussion. You can plan on what methods you are going to use, and what you are not going to use. The heat of the moment is not the time to talk about your methods. You can plan what you do and don’t do later. 
But before you go imposing your way, remember, kids are naturally very adaptable. They understand that things change based on different environments and different care givers. Even at a very young age they will know that a behavior that is ok in your family room is not appropriate in Grandma’s living room. They are ok if you and your spouse parent and discipline somewhat differently. Should the rules totally change? No, consistency is best as much as possible, but how those rules are carried out will vary from parent to parent-- and that is ok! 

What have you done to help you and your spouse get on the same page about discipline? How has it worked in your house? Let us know in the comments!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

WHAT I "KNEW" ABOUT ADOPTION

From Beth:

When God called us to adopt back in 1999 I "knew" a few things. I knew that, of course, if God wanted us to adopt that He would give us a girl. By that I mean 1 Girl.

Of course. 

I grew up with 4 sisters and no brothers. Stephen and I gave birth to 3 beautiful baby girls, and no boys. Clearly a girl is what God had in mind, right? Even when I taught school I found that I had such a natural connection with the girls, but not so much with the boys. You get me here, don't you? 
I didn't do boys. I didn't get boys. 

I also "knew" something else. I knew that God would give us one child. We already had 3 and this call to adopt came out of the blue for us. I love talking to my friends who have beautiful stories of being called to adoption from the time they were little children themselves. I love hearing about how a call to adoption was a prerequisite for marriage because of the certainty of God's call. LOVE IT! So moving and so filled with the Father's heart. I'm kind of jealous of these testimonies to be honest!

But that was not me; that was not Stephen. We literally never talked about adoption. It was off our radar. 

You all know how He is though, don't you?! He took what was on our radar and used that to speak to us. For a few years before that night when I heard Susan Hillis share about the opportunity to have Russian orphans spend the summer in your home, I had been asking the Lord to use our family for His kingdom purposes. I remember sitting on my porch one day and praying, "Lord, you have given us a wonderful marriage and 3 healthy daughters. You have blessed us abundantly. I want to serve You beyond what we are doing now. We are available to serve You Lord. Show us!"

Looking back, I see that it was this prayer, and the others we prayed like it, that were the fertile soil for our "Yes" to His call to adopt. 

But back to what I "knew." A lot of you could write this same post couldn't you? We thought we had a handle on how this whole adoption thing was going to play out. Hmmmm.......

Not long after hearing God say, "You need to do this," in response to Susan's invitation, the two things I felt I did know about how this all was going down turned out to be wrong (hence the quotation marks around what I "knew"!) 

It turns out, (surprise surprise!) that my plans were not His. Like many of you, things turned out differently than what we thought made the best kind of sense at the time. I remember praying one night for God to send us the little girl He intended for our family and I began to see this little vignette played out in my mind's eye. I saw a little girl lying in our guest bedroom trying to go to sleep. And that picture, as pictures tend to do, spoke so many words to me. I saw that she was all alone, that she had traveled over a huge ocean to a strange land and a strange home and a strange family who spoke a strange language--and she had no one to talk to. No one knew her. The loneliness was palpable, and with that came the certainty that we would adopt siblings. 

What seemed overwhelming became pure joy in an instant. All at once I knew something different, and I knew it in a completely different way. 

All at once I knew that the most beautiful thing in the world to me would be to keep two siblings together--that no matter what were to happen in the future, they would have at least one person on this planet who understood, who was connected in the most foundational way. There would be someone who could lie down in bed next to them at night after a long day of struggling to communicate who would understand. 

But still, I thought that of course these two children would be sisters. It wasn't until later that the Lord showed me about the little boy He had in mind. And much later that I found out there were even more boys for us to love!

As you can see from this photo we took last month, there are 3 Templeton sons! 

It strikes me as I remember these stories that He has been so very gentle with me along the way. It seems He is not bent out of shape by our "knowing" things that He fully intends to correct. He lets us walk along the journey and come to each adjustment as we are able. 

So, Susan showed us a short video of a precious little girl and her younger brother. And there you have it. I knew something new once again. I knew He intended for us to adopt an older girl who would connect more naturally with our three daughters because of age and gender, and that her younger brother would connect with us all through his connection with her. I can't explain how I knew it except that it is a knowing by the Spirit. 

All of this makes me wonder about the things that I "know" these days. One thing I have learned from all of this is that I need to hold the things I "know" with an open hand, ready for God to do that wonderful thing He does with us over and over--exchange one thing for something better. 

How about you? Let's trust God enough to live with an open hand, ready for any exchanges He has in mind!

And truth be told, I still don't feel like I know what to do with boys/young men. I still feel that I am far better equipped to be the mother of daughters than sons. But I am also far past believing that God is at all limited by my strengths and weaknesses! 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

I'M ADOPTED TOO!

From Stephen Templeton:

I really enjoy spending time with other adoptive parents. We all draw encouragement from one another as we share how amazing and powerful God has shown himself to be in our families. Real-world testimonies of God's faithfulness, kindness and love are so evident in our adoption stories. And as adoptive parents, we have a deep experiential understanding of what it means when God says that He has adopted us, that we are his true sons and daughters.
For it was always in His perfect plan to adopt us as His delightful children, so that His tremendous grace that cascades over us would bring Him glory- for the same love He has for His Beloved One, Jesus, He has for us. (Ephesians 1:5 The Passion Translation)

These truths have special meaning, partly because we've experienced an element of the anticipation, price, joy, heartache and happiness that come with being adoptive parents. We are eyewitnesses to the amazing transformation occurring in our children's lives, and we are so aware of how our children's destinies have been radically altered by adoption. 

And of course, the beautiful truth is that we have also been adopted by our Heavenly Father.

And so that we would know for sure that we are His true children, God released the Spirit of Sonship into our hearts- moving us to cry out intimately, “My Father! You’re our True Father!” Now we’re no longer living like slaves under the law, but we enjoy being God’s very own sons and daughters! And because we’re His, we can access everything our Father has-- for we are one with Jesus Christ! (Galatians 4:6-7 The Passion Translation)

As we know from our own experiences, adoption is a legal procedure.

Parental Rights Terminated

Before we adopted our children, as part of this legal procedure, their biological parent's rights were terminated. Similarly, the rights of our former father, our enemy Satan, have been terminated. Now he has no legal right over our lives. He has no authority over us. He is a deceiver and the father of all lies, and as such, he continues to try to exert authority and influence over us. Our enemy loves to deal in disappointments, distractions and disillusions. However, we do not have to listen to his voice because he has no legal right to speak into our lives. Thanks be to God, his rights have been terminated over our lives! 

Be encouraged and settle this permanently in your heart, that your former father, our enemy, has no authority or legal right over your life. That authority now rests with our adoptive father, our Heavenly Father, the eternal God who is always full of love, faithfulness and kindness to us.


Permanently and Absolutely the Son & Daughter of our New Father

When God adopted you and me, we became his sons and daughters. We are now permanently and absolutely his sons and daughters. Nothing can change this fact. We now live our lives as his royal children, as his his princes and princesses. 

When we adopted our children we changed their last names- they permanently and absolutely became Templetons. Their former surnames were history, and their lives and destinies were permanently altered and changed for the better. When your Heavenly Father adopted you, he changed your name- we now bear his awesome and glorious name. Through Jesus's sacrifice on the cross and our belief in him, the curse on our lives was completely and permanently broken and washed away. Favor and blessing are now our legitimate right and destiny. 

He looks at you, smiles and whispers "my beloved" and "my precious child".


Our Old Life is Gone--All Debts Have Been Paid

God is a wonderful creator, and we are now his "new creation", his "masterpiece". Our old life is gone, and behold everything is new. We are no longer living in a spiritual orphanage or as bastard children. All our debts have been paid. We don't have to go to debtors' prison to work off debts we have incurred. We have a generous, loving and kind Father who has paid in full all our spiritual debts. We are free in him- free to live the life he has for us to the fullest. We are not bound by shame and guilt because he has paid it all. 

Again, our enemy will try to trick us into believing that we still have pay for our sins and shortcomings, but this is a lie. We are true sons and daughters, and our Father has paid for it all through Jesus.


We are His Heirs

You are an heir to your new Father's estate, not to your former father's curse. We now have a glorious inheritance (Eph 1:18) because we are his children. And because we are his, because we are filled with his Spirit, let's live our lives as true sons and daughters. This is our true identity, our true destiny and calling- to live as his ambassadors, as his friends, as his redeemed, as his children.

All his kindness, all his strength, all his mercy, all his wisdom, love, peace and joy are marked for you, his treasured and greatly loved adopted daughter and son. 

Now today, let's live like a much beloved children!

You will hear more from Stephen at Hope at Home 2014. Register Today!

Monday, June 30, 2014

SAY YES TO THE DRESS

From Michelle Haswell:

Three years ago the TV show “Say Yes to the Dress” was a much watched program in our home as our daughter Nicole was preparing for her wedding. Finding the right dress, as most of us know, is quite an important matter for the bride-to-be!

I have realized as believers that we too have a “right dress” to wear. This outfit is fitting and completely equipped with all we need to navigate every season, every challenge, and everything we might walk through in life. As parents, we know there are many expected and unexpected moments that we are called to handle on a daily basis.

Our Heavenly Father has made abundant provision for us in giving us a perfect outfit for this occasion called parenting. This outfit can never be stripped away and will always fit perfectly. This is what we are invited to say yes to:
  

1. We Wear No Condemnation

Romans 8:1 tells us clearly that there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.
The good news is we can shake off, "I'm a terrible parent " once and for all. It just doesn't fit. Condemnation is like a shoe that gives us blisters. We are chosen and approved by Jesus to wear a beautiful robe of righteousness. 

Let's say yes to that dress!

2. We Wear Joy 

Isaiah 61:3 tells us that we have been given a garment of praise instead of a spirit of heaviness.
Even more exciting is that this joy of The Lord is our very strength, and as parents we all know how much we need the Lord's strength each day as we raise the precious gifts He has given us. He has clothed us with joy! 

Let's make a deliberate decision to put on joy.

3. We Wear Heaven’s Power

Luke 24:49 speaks about being clothed with power from on high.
Because we wear the power of God we can say no to things that are not helpful in our homes and yes to things that are good. We can say no to negative attitudes and yes to gentleness and kindness. We are not powerless as parents, but rather we have the full backing of The Lord who has clothed us with His power and made heaven’s resources available to us. Healing, provision, wisdom, and understanding are just some of what is available to me because I wear heaven’s power. 

Let's declare as parents that we have the power of God as our support.
  

4. We Wear Peace

Fear and anxiety are not strangers to anyone who has entered the arena of parenting. Our love for our children runs so deep, and if they are not ok, neither are we! Being calm about other people’s situations seems so much easier!
The amazing news is that in 2 Thessalonians 3:16 we are told that we can live at peace at all times.
That has to be supernatural ... And it is! We wear the peace of God at all times! Even better, we can impart the Lord’s peace to our children. When they have a bad day at school, we can impart heaven’s peace to them because we have it to give.
I think people enjoyed being around Jesus because He is the Prince of Peace. Some people impart peace to others because they are confident in the Lord’s love for them. Peace fits us perfectly because we are His children and we are like him.

Most of you know the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. What is fascinating to me is Lazarus gets raised from the dead and walks out with burial cloths still around him.
He shouted with a loud voice, Lazarus, come out! And out walked the man who had been dead, his hands and feet wrapped in burial cloths (linen strips), and with a [burial] napkin bound around his face. Jesus said to them, "Free him of the burial wrappings and let him go." (John 11:10, 43, 44 AMP)

Let's say yes to the dress of peace.

As parents, let's say yes to this dress of no condemnation, joy, peace and power and let's take off fear and anxiety, heaviness and accusations that weigh us down .

You are hand-chosen to be the best parent for your child and then beautifully clothed by God and well-equipped to meet every need because of what you wear.
I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul will exult in my God; for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. (Isaiah 61:10 AMP)

You will hear more from Michelle at Hope at Home 2014, September 26-27. Register Today!

Friday, June 27, 2014

DO YOU WANT TO GIVE ME A TICKET?

From Susan:

Isn't it funny how a piece of paper can be either realllly good or reallllly bad????  One little piece of paper may serve as a bill, demanding we pay lots of money. Another little piece of paper serves as a ticket to get you on a plane to a beautiful vacation, or in a door for something really wonderful, like a broadway play or a hilarious movie? 

One of the many astounding realizations about kids is how much they tend to LOVE special tickets! We had so much fun as a family over the summers, telling our kids, "Here's how you can get your tickets!"

Daily Tickets

Summers often bring the "idol hands are the devil's workshop" danger. To counter this, we typically would have daily expectations of routine and reward....get up, have breakfast, spend some time with God (drawing or singing or praying or dancing or reading the Bible, etc),  then earning our 'tickets' to get us into the swimming pool for the afternoon's fun in the sun with friends, or to some other special outing!  Typical ways to earn the points needed for a ticket (checked off a big white board) include: 

-reading,
-writing a little,
-doing a little math,
-doing a little art or music - 
-being kind
-being helpful

Once all the list above was completed, you have your 'ticket' to get straight into the pool. Anyone in the family who missed earning one of the points above would have to sit out at the picnic table with mom at the pool for 5 minutes per missing item. If you smack your brother in the head 3 times, this means 3 times of missing the kindness ticket--so 3 times 5 is 15 minutes out at the pool; mommy would read with you or color, but who wants to color in the hot sun when everyone else is splashing?!  


Because everyone loves jumping right in the water or into playing with buddies when they get to the pool, rather than hanging out with mommy at the picnic table, the 'ticket' idea above worked great. In the beginning, I actually got one of those cheap party rolls of tickets and gave them out. But after a while, the 'tickets' were pretend and everyone could tell by whether their name had checks for every item, whether they had earned their ticket or not for the day. It made it fun to 'save' the 'money' needed during the day for the 'pool-ticket' or 'out to lunch' ticket or 'go pick blueberries' ticket or whatever the outing was. Daily outings of some type were a normal part of life, as everyone needs something to look forward to every day!

Big Ticket Items

Occasionally there would be big ticket items.....especially if someone needed some special attention or help or inspiration. Like, "here is your fabulous piano practicing chart!  Once you earn 30 checks, for 30 days of practicing, this is your ticket to me taking you and 3 friends to the top of the Westin Peachtree Plaza for lunch." Or "this is the ticket to going to Six Flags with a buddy." 

Our Inspiration

Many of you know that our entire adoption story was borne out of our first-born son Jonny's premature (in my mommy's eyes) death....which led to life for many. Redemption accomplished and applied, I would say. Jesus' early death and resurrection led to life for the world. Jonny's early death and resurrection....ours and his....led to life for a few. And I would say, shockingly, by grace, I would not now change a thing. It is well with his soul and ours.

Well, after he died and one of his beloved teacher's, Lisa Hoover, cleaned out his fourth-grade desk, she found his two "bibles": 1). the NIV and 2). Tom Sawyer. Now, I don't mean to be sacrilegious on you, but Jonny did love these books pretty equally, and copied lots from each! And so I copied him! 

Well, if you wanna see the value of tickets, just go to Chapter 4 of Tom Sawyer  
And now at this moment, when hope was dead, Tom Sawyer came forward with nine yellow tickets, nine red tickets, and ten blue ones, and demanded a Bible. This was a thunderbolt out of a clear blue sky... 
Always looking for a way to tie the visible to the invisible, we can also always talk about Jesus being like our ticket to heaven--He is the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Him. And everyone who comes to Him, comes to the Father. So....even when we miss the chance to get our daily little or our longer term big ticket items, there is the ticket to heaven, won by faith. It is a ticket no one can tear up or take away.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy, has caused us to be born again, to a living hope, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance that is unperishable, undefiled, and will not fade away, reserved [WE HAVE A TICKET!] in heaven for you! (1 Peter 1:3-4)


Thank you, Lord, that you are our ticket to all that is good. In Jesus Name. Amen.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

TODAY IS THE DAY!

Just a quick post today to remind you that today is the day to register for Hope at Home 2014 if you would like to have your name go in the drawing for this beautiful necklace from Pure Gratitude. 



Actually I have to recommend this jewelry to you regardless. Some of my favorite jewelry comes from Michelle, founder of Pure Gratitude.

But, if you are planning to register anyway, as we SO hope you will, you might as well have a chance for this necklace, right?!

As much as Susan and I, and our Hope at Home Team, love this blog, our Facebook Page, Twitter (@hope_at_home_), and Pinterest, what we would love far more is to spend a few days with you in person. 

There is just nothing to replace spending time together.

So, if our posts are an encouragement to you as you parent your children, then consider coming to Hope at Home 2014.

Love to you all, and each of your treasures!

Beth, Susan, and The Hope at Home Team