Thursday, October 31, 2013

TRANSFORM WORLD 4/14: HOW GOD IS CHANGING THE WORLD FOR CHILDREN

From Susan:

My 15 Year Journey to the Transform World Summit

My journey to this summit began over 15 years ago. It is my story of how God jolted my heart to love children. All of us have such a story about how God tugged at our hearts to love children. For me, it was seeing my first-born son of promise crushed by a car before my very eyes, combined with the clear leading of God through an unknown monk's prayer over me, that transformed my life. But it didn't stop there. I was driven by hope and purpose to love children who are at high risk of dying at a young age from something that is entirely preventable--NO LOVE! As the clear solution to this love deficit, I have prayed for more than 15 years one simple prayer, 
Lord, would you put a believer in the life of very orphan? 
In the early years I conceptualized "orphan" as those with an official orphan status, either one or both parents dead. Now however, I conceptualize "orphan" as anyone with an orphan spirit, regardless of age. By orphan spirit, I mean those children and even adults (it happens to all of us at times, but there are children in every country who live it every day) who have that overwhelming darkness the tells us we do not belong, no one cares, we are nothing to the people who should care most about us, and that God has forgotten us.  That pack of horrible lies bangs insistently on the doors of our minds and hearts on those days, and in those dark times we  are all, adult and child alike, most vulnerable. Well, I am here to say we must say to the accuser of our souls and theirs what my dear friend Michelle says, "THAT IS NONSENSE!  WE WILL NOT STAND FOR IT!"  
The truth is we are all children of the light, sons and daughters of the living God. We have a Father who has loved us with an everlasting love, who has created us in Christ Jesus to lavish His love upon us, and that God cares so much for us that He counts every hair on our heads and plans our days for good before they ever happen!

Transform World 4/14

Many of you know that I just spent last week on annual leave to participate in a global Summit in Bangkok, Thailand, called Transform World 4/14. The vision is to "Root and Release" children ages 4 to 14 to walk in their full identities as sons and daughters of their heavenly Father, and to release them through faith in Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit to fulfill their God-given purpose and destiny. There were 1000 invited Christian leaders from 100 countries, and I was honored by being asked to speak. The focus of the summit is on "the 4/14 Window," which refers to children ages 4 to 14 throughout the world. This is the demographic age range during which approximately 80% of the known believers come to faith. And it is an age that the world is neglecting. What was unprecedented for me was the inclusion in this global movement of "orphans and vulnerable children" as a major challenge that must be addressed and reversed in order for the next generation to be whole. Among invited denominational and ministry leaders from ten geographic regions of the world (every one except Antarctica!), there is a clear move of God to lead His people to care for His children, a new "let the little children come to me" type of realization.

For those of us called to love orphaned and hurt children, I long for you to see this! We are all part of God's great story of hope for the WORLD! God is calling believers within many countries to stand up and speak on behalf of orphans and vulnerable children! I at times have felt like the weight of the world's children is on only a few shoulders --my dearly beloved, THIS IS NOT TRUE! God is moving His church in miraculous ways to care for His children. What was amazing during that summit was that, even though the organizers did not plan for orphans and vulnerable children to be a focus, the Holy Spirit clearly planned it, as about 5 plenary talks had this theme as the clarion call, in spite of the fact that several of those speakers were not even asked to address the vulnerable ones. Such was the prioritization by the Lord of these His beloved that the closing remarks highlighted the fact that God clearly had it on His heart for us to colabor with Him in transforming orphans to sons and daughters, as it so clearly came out in so many messages! At one point those who felt that God had called them in a way never experienced before to LOVE THE ONE and to LOVE THE MULTITUDE of orphans and vulerable children in their midst, were asked to stand for prayer--about 300 of the 1000 persons there stood!  If God's leaders in all the countries of the world catch His heart for His children, we will indeed see the world transformed in our lifetimes. These talks will be translated into 10 countries and distributed around the world at grassroots levels through churches over the next 5 years!  

We are living in unprecedented times. Just as the Roman roads made it possible for the gospel to spread to the known world in the early church, so the digital Roman road is making it possible for the good news of hope and purpose in our Lord to speak like wildfire.

The Royal Kids

I will close with the story of a dear believer, Anton Cruz, who I met.  He was a catholic priest in India and commonly preached to 10,000 people at a time. One day the Lord says to him, after an abandoned baby dies in his arms, "you can preach to thousands but can you love a baby?"  He realized he could not love a baby and so he stopped preaching to learn from God how to love children. Today God has used him to raise an army called The Royal Kids.


Susan with Anton and his daughter.
These children are the most marginalized children of Indian society, and they intercede for people around the world!   Now, instead of preaching to 10,000, Anton is serving and leading 10,000 children as they grow in intimacy, capacity, and authority. 

All I can think of is two words.  
BUT GOD. 
BUT GOD, who is RICH in mercy, because of His great love for us, does things like this for the children. Jesus does indeed love the little children.  All the children of the world.  And you. And me. We too must see we are His children. I can only close with the famous John Piper quote we have all grown to love..."God is most glorified in me when I am most satisfied in Him."  The children are teaching the world what it means to be "most satisfied in Him."  

Lord, we stand in awe of you, and we, like them, are most satisfied in You, our soul's joy and delight.  Amen 

Monday, October 28, 2013

MARRIAGE MONDAY: OUT OF ASHES


Time for us moms and dads to take our eyes off our children and place them on our marriage. It's Marriage Monday again here at Hope at Home! Being intentional about our covenant relationship with our spouse will always bear fruit, for us and for our children. Kate (an adoptive mom) from One Flesh Marriage (a wonderful marriage blog--you should hop over there and get to know Brad and Kate Aldrich!) is sharing with us today.
We all have a tendency to look back on the past and remember horrible things, the ashes of our past; events that turn your stomach and just make you want to cry all over again. For some those memories are so strong that they conjure up the exact emotions you felt as it was happening, even after a significant amount of time.
As I look back on my own past, I know that I have a relatively blessed life. The painful experiences that I went through could easily be chalked up to normal growing pains and life with peers. None the less, those events have shaped and develop insecurities within me. There were times I was made fun of, left out of things, called names, etc.

We all Have Ashes

Perhaps for you, your parents got divorced leaving a void in your family; or maybe you were bullied and felt like you never fit in. Perhaps you lost a parent while growing up, or lost a sibling. Perhaps you were abused emotionally, spiritually, physically or sexually by someone you didn’t know, or worse by someone you knew and trusted! 
Maybe your ashes were not about things that were done to you, but choices you made that bring back painful memories. All of these things will shape how you view yourself, how you view life, how you view God and how you view your spouse and your marriage.
These situations, the choices we made or the wrongs done to us are all ashes in our life. They are all garbage, yet we allow them to have life in us. 

Beauty from the Ash

No matter what has happened in the past, no matter what has been done to you, no matter what you have done to others, God wants your ashes. He wants you to know that your ashes can be made into beauty by the One who loves you more than His own life. Jesus can make beauty from any and all ashes. And we can dance upon the ruins. 
I know you may be thinking that the pain is too hard, that forgiveness for yourself or others just isn’t that easy. You are right, it’s not! If you are trying to do it alone. Jesus can help you to forgive and move on. It may not be easy, but you have to make steps towards healing and forgiveness. No matter what that looks like for your life and past hurts. He wants to create the most beautiful masterpiece with your life and your marriage. You only need to let Him!
Ashes in Marriage
I know this transformation to be true in my marriage. Brad and I had some really rocky times during the first five years of our marriage. We allowed our pasts to influence our one flesh union. Instead of giving our past over to God, we stayed stuck in the yuck that they created. There were times I was not sure what would become of us. I didn’t foresee divorce in our marriage (because we went into marriage believing that divorce was NOT an option), but I also did not foresee being able to connect with Brad on a true one flesh journey! I just figured we would keep on going on and keep on going on for all of our years together. It seemed very bleak and dismal. 

Change Can Happen

But God has truly taken our ashes and made beauty from them. We opened our hearts to His will for our marriage, to His healing power, to His grace! He has taken our junk, our yuck and is creating a beautiful masterpiece.
So how do we get to this place of openness in our lives and marriages? How can we leave our junk at the foot of the cross and receive healing? How can we embark on a journey with our spouse to One Flesh?
The journey to hope and healing is not always the same for everyone. But it starts with taking steps. Acknowledge that the past is still alive in your life and keeping you from moving forward. Surrender your past, the hurts and the pain, to Jesus. Surrender and know that you are forgiven! Lay down the offensives that were done to you. Although this may be so difficult, NO hurt is too deep that Jesus can’t heal it.

Step Into the Future

I will be honest with you, after you lay it all at Jesus’ feet, you may need some help afterwards. Don’t see this as sign of weakness, or that God did not heal you completely. It is just reality that the past will keep trying to become reality again and rear its ugly head. So get some support and help. Meet with a pastor, trusted friend or find a professional Christian counselor. You have to break free from allowing these past hurts to have a hold on YOU! My past used to affect how I looked at myself, it affected the confidence I had as a woman and as a wife. Because it affected me and my marriage, it therefore affected everything else in my life. Your love for Jesus, love for yourself and love for your spouse are the pivotal foundation for all else in your life!
Take the steps today towards healing and away from the past. Step into the future with Jesus and your spouse by your side. Becoming a person of great strength, courage and confidence is a journey! Talk with God, ask for His help. Talk with your spouse, sharing your past hurts and allowing him/her to be a part of the healing process. We are one with our spouse, therefore we cannot separate ourselves. God intended for it to be that way. God wants to create a masterpiece with all the broken, jagged pieces of your past.
 Will you let Him?

...to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes (Isaiah 61:3)

Thursday, October 24, 2013

3 THINGS GOD TOLD ME ONE SUNDAY

When our children first came home we were all so excited to show them all the goodies we had prepared for them--their new beds with the quilts we'd specially picked out for them, the toy car that winds up and runs on it's own for him, the much-desired barbies for her, the food in the pantry..... You know how that is, the giving of the gifts is more fun than the receiving so often. 

Well it felt like that for me a few Sundays ago at church. It was like Father God was saying, "Beth take a look at this insight, and this beautiful promise, and check this one out too! And there's more!" I want to share with you three things the Lord showed me that morning that spoke of His tender and healing love for me and for my children. It felt to me like He was so excited to show me these things, for He knew they were just what this momma needed to hear. And with each one I sensed God calling me to pray what He was saying into my children. So, I am including a prayer after each description  which I invite you to pray for your child.


Marked by an Encounter of Love

During our prayer meeting we were praying for the children in our church. As we prayed the Lord showed me such a tender picture of His plans for our children. I saw a tree in the forest where lovers would meet. You know the kind of tree I'm talking about, where couples would carve their names in the bark to proclaim their love for each other. 
This was a meeting place of love. 

Just so, I felt the Lord speak to me that He desires such a meeting place with our children. He desires an encounter with each one in such a manner that they will be marked by His love. Life will happen, storms will come and go over the years, but this place of The Encounter of Love in the life of this child will remain evident to any who look, just as the carving on the tree is still visible years later. 

Wonderful God, may each of our children be marked forever by Your tender love for them. We ask You for an encounter of love that will be as an engraving on their spirits, marked as Christ's own forever. 
One will say, I am the Lord’s; and another will call himself by the name of Jacob; and another will write [even brand or tattoo] upon his hand, I am the Lord’s..."(Isaiah 44:5 AMP)

The Sewn Up Heart

Then later during the service a young mother shared something that God had shown her during worship. And again I felt Holy Spirit whisper for me to take note. 

This woman said God showed her a broken heart that had been partially sown up. Contrary to what you would think, God came to that broken heart and began to gently pull out the stitches so that the wound was opened up again. 

And I felt the Lord show me that the hurt place I thought needed to be closed up in order to be made whole may actually need to be exposed, not covered up. Healing and wholeness may come through exposure, through openness. I believe the Lord was speaking to me that it is through letting Father God have access to the wound that healing comes. 

How often do I try to stitch up the wounds of my child in my attempt to make him or her whole? I don't want my parenting to cover up those hurt places in order to avoid exposure. I want to be one who helps my child trust God enough to allow Him access into that most vulnerable place of the wounded heart. 

Father God, I desire to partner with You as you release Your healing power into my child. I want to be like Jesus, saying what You say and doing what You do. Amen.
He uncovers deep things out of darkness and brings into light black gloom and the shadow of death. (Job 12:22 AMP)


The Glass Wall

This last insight I received that morning was one that felt heavy to me, renewing a passion in me to see a breakthrough for the many adopted children who feel alone and somehow on the outside. 

I saw this sliding glass door. You know, the kind that people run into occasionally because they don't even realize it is there. As Holy Spirit spoke to me about this glass door I felt Him allowing me to feel some of what my children have experienced. 

The door separates, keeping the child outside. When we adopted our children our intent was to welcome them into the fulness of our family, just as Father God welcomes us into the fulness of His kingdom through Jesus. Yet there is so often this invisible barrier, this Orphan Spirit, that effectively separates us from the fullness that is adoption. Sometimes the child forgets that this barrier exists and moves forward to enter into the life of the family, but then runs right into that barrier. It hurts. It says to the child that something is different about him. It speaks the lie that he doesn't belong, he doesn't fit in. 

He can see into the life of the family, into that love that so draws him. He can experience it to a degree, but then the reality of that glass barrier that is this orphan spirit becomes apparent. It wars against the Spirit of Adoption. 

It turns what should be a home into merely a house. 

It turns a family member into a visitor. 

This glass wall is made up of the residue of rejection and it must go in the name of Jesus.

Lord God, I take authority over this orphan spirit that would separate my child from his inheritance of love and acceptance. May the Spirit of Adoption fill my family, shattering that dividing barrier. Let it be Lord God in the Name of Jesus and for His Glory. Amen. 
But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.(John 1:12 ESV)















Monday, October 21, 2013

REAL PARENTING ADVICE FROM REAL FAMILIES

At Hope at Home 2013 we invited parents to share one piece of parenting advice or insight that they have learned along the way--something to share with other parents looking for wisdom. I {Beth} know that I am always looking for input and help as a mother. So take a look below at some of the wonderful insight of parents like you and me.

Please leave a piece of your own parenting insight in the comments so we can all benefit from what Holy Spirit is teaching us. We so need to do this adoptive/foster parenting life together! There is such strength and blessing in our connection with each other.

"Keep no record of wrongs! Whatever is pure, lovely, & noble... think on these things. Focus on the good stuff!"

"Anger is rooted in fear, both for you and your child. If you respond to that fear with love, you will be amazed."

"In God I have authority as a parent. I also have great responsibility. But I do not have the control I think I have, or wish I had. I can and should exercise my authority; I can and should take on the responsibilities of parenting. But I can not, nor should I try to control my child and the outcome of his/her life. I can trust God. He is faithful to me and to my children."

"Have faith in just how BIG our God it!"

"Be patient and open and as loving as you can. This too shall pass."

"Use your "No's" sparingly so that when you say "No" it counts."

"Know that God gets the glory! When others say, 'What a wonderful thing you've done,' we respond with 'God did it all, not us.' When others attack our mistakes or our kids' stupid acts, know that we're God's children."

"When they open up about their feelings, they just need you to listen, not to try to give advice (unless they ask!)"

"Love covers a multitude of sin. We won't be perfect parents but loving our kids unconditionally is like the best medicine." 

"Be consistent. Communicate openly, honestly, and often. Love unconditionally even when it's not reciprocated. Never give up on them. You may be their only advocate."

"Remember in God's word He says, 'He is father to the fatherless.' Have faith."

"You will make mistakes. Offer them to God and He will make them right."

"Make good memories. Take lots of pictures. Be their #1 advocate."

"Allowing your child to 'do over' will help them learn how to react the next time. It doesn't mean they are 'getting away' with misbehavior. It's training them."

"Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can." (John Wesley)

"Don't sweat the small stuff."

"Relationship trumps Rules every time."

"Be willing to enter into your child's world rather than wait for them to enter into yours."

"Play as much as you can. Find ways to just have fun, especially in the hard times when no one feels like playing." 

"Look for ways to create family identity and memories."

Now it's your turn. We'd love to hear your input!




Thursday, October 17, 2013

FED TO FEED, RAISED TO RAISE, LOVED TO LOVE

From Susan:
I remember poignantly the first time I was faced with a challenge way beyond my resources. We were 16 years old and my best friend Teri proposed that we take lifesaving lessons together so that we could get summer jobs as lifeguards. I insisted this was impossible for me, because I was a terrible swimmer. But she would not be dissuaded!  "Susan, I believe you can do it! Just Try! !" Against my better judgment I acquiesced. I remember to this day the feeling of having sucked so much water into my lungs by about the 8th lap in the pool that I was sure I was going to drown. What kept me going is this: Teri always swam in the Lane right next to mine. .. just a little ahead. I kept seeing her out of the corner of my eye and thinking, "if she can do it I can."

And I want to say dearly beloved that if God can get Susan and Brian Hillis through all the Storms of Life we have faced (seeing our son killed in front of our eyes, having one daughter live on the streets, an out of wedlock pregnancy, a child in jail, and the list could go on--but you get the stormy picture) then He can do it for you! 

The storm arose and Jesus arose higher!!!!

Here is our secret: 
Live 1st as God's Child and 2nd as Their Parent. 

This simple yet profound message is what John the baptist came to reveal in Luke 1:16-17. 
And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.
Note the two references to TURN. And somehow Elijah is supposed to teach us about this!  So we go study his life and see this in Elijah's story: He is Fed to Feed and Raised to Raise.   

First God feeds him every day as he hides by the brook.  Them God sends him to a widow and orphan boy on the verge of starving so that God can feed them all. Do you catch that? He is fed by God and then walks others into feeding together from this same heavenly provision.

God also raises him from his comfortable solitude in nature's glory when that brook which was his only source of water dried up. 
Then this same widow's son dies and she blames it on Elijah! He responds with words the Lord says to us all repeatedly: GIVE ME THE BOY!  

But not so that Elijah can restore life. Rather so that he can pray the "breath back into the boy!"  
Elijah was raised so that he can take this boy to the One who raises!!
Jesus sums this all up in John 15.
WE ARE LOVED TO LOVE
As the father has loved me so I have loved you. As I have loved you so you shall love them.

So dearly beloved today and every day may you live first as God's child....Fed, Raised, Loved.

Monday, October 14, 2013

A PEEK FROM HIS VANTAGE POINT

From Beth:
Lately God has been inviting me to look at our adoptions from His vantage point--kind of like a bird's eye view/big picture perspective. I want to share this with you because I have found this perspective to be so refreshing and helpful. It has lifted and empowered me to love my children better. How kind of our Father to take my hand and say, "Come up here for a moment, Beth. I have something I want to show you....." 
The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets to Dwell In. (Isaiah 58:11-12 AMP)
God’s clear intent expressed throughout scripture is to restore who we are meant to be. We are talking full recovery. His holy intent is to wholly restore!

For many of our children there are generations of "ancient ruins" and "age-old foundations" that God wants to rebuild, and many whose inheritance apart from adoption is not one of wholeness and abundant life.

How amazing is it that we can be a part of the giving and receiving of a new inheritance, of a complete legacy shift, so that future generations no longer inherit abandonment, rejection, alcoholism, abuse, neglect, or other manifestations of a broken world. To see our children embrace love and then have the freedom to give love, to see them learn to enjoy life and to make plans for their future, rather than only decisions for survival that day--this is just incredible! Oh what a shift adoption is making in the trajectory of a generational line! Is this not amazing to be a part of?! It is the gospel at work in our families, and it is powerful and oh so good!!

Our God thinks and moves generationally, not merely circumstantially. He is in the circumstance, in the moment, absolutely! I'm sure you are like me and know Him to be "an ever-present help in time of need." (Psalm 46:1) But from this birds' eye perspective, we see that God is up to some amazing things with our adoptions or fostering that go way beyond the circumstance of the moment. 

So, what you are fighting for right now--reams of paper work in order to bring your child home, government regulations and international laws, meltdowns or rages, attachment or trauma issues--may have more to do with the seeds in your child that will bear fruit in future generations than it has to do with the circumstance you are in right now. 

The adoptions of our children, Kristina, Pasha, Andrei, and Sergei, were  not just about Kristina, Pasha, Andrei, and Sergei. God is showing me that our adoptions were also about their children, and their children’s children for generations to come. 

The truth is that when Stephen and I were first called to adopt we didn’t see the grand vista that Father God was seeing of the generations to come. We saw our children, and that was grand enough for us! That God would rescue our children from their relinquished state was overwhelming in itself, and still has the power to bring me to my knees. Such a thing is too lofty for me to attain, as the psalmist says in Psalm 139. 

Our intent was to adopt children; God's intent was to change the lives of generations of children to come.

And you know what we have found to be even more exciting?! These legacy shifts are not limited to our adopted and foster children. Adoption changes us and our birth children too. Listen to what our daughter Rachel wrote on our Hope at Home blog:
I could write a book on this experience, on adoption and how it has affected my life, and my family's life, but what I really want to emphasize is that adoption has not only dramatically changed me, but has come to define my life and my view of the world around me. As many of you surely know, melding individuals who previously knew nothing of each other into the most intimate of relationships--a family--is a weighty venture that has the potential to redeem and restore broken lives, for both those who are adopted and the family into which they are adopted. Our adoptions have changed and shaped my life completely. When I meet new people I talk about adoption; when I wrote my college application essays I wrote about adoption; when I picked my major I thought about adoption; when I show friends family photos I talk about adoption. I say all this to show that adoption doesn't just change those who are brought into your family - it changes you to the core. It expands you, challenges you, and fills you up until it overflows into every area of your life.One thing I know for certain is that God's love is infinite, his heart is universal, and his vision is endless. God bridged the gap between each of my family members, connecting us with threads of supernatural love that cannot be broken and that pulled and shaped us into a wholly unconventional and wholly beautiful family. Yes it's hard, and there were bumps and bruises on all sides, from having to share my friends with Kristina to getting used to having smelly, loud boys in the house (who were also handsome and wonderful of course). And yes my family doesn't look like many peoples'. But thank God that he is strong enough to heal the broken parts in all of us, and to not be constricted by terms like "normal families". I love my family, and I love God for bringing it together in such a powerful and beautiful way.
To be honest, it’s not like I wake up every morning and contemplate the grandness of God’s purposes for future generations! I wake up thinking about my needs, my children's needs, grocery lists, school meetings and car pools.   It doesn’t come naturally for me to think in terms of living for something bigger than myself, but it does come supernaturally! 

So as you and I are living out our days, parenting our children in the circumstance of the now, let us remember that every prayer that we pray for our child, every word of life that we speak into and over him or her, every breakthrough in attachment, every sacrifice of love, every dinner time conversation--it all is an inheritance we are leaving for the next generation.

Adoption is having a ripple effect into eternity, friends! This is a work of love that is often costly, but when I see from God's perspective the beautiful work of enduring love that He has invited me to co-labor in, I am humbled and honestly overwhelmed to be a part of something so grand in it's scope. When I see how He is restoring me and my whole family, when I see that He has invited me to participate in the breaking of generational bondages, the canceling of curses, the building streets to dwell in, the rebuilding of ancient ruins, and the restoring of stolen heritages that will affect future generations, I am excited once again to love my children in and through every stage of their lives. 

Father, thank you for this invitation to co-labor with you in Your amazing work of restoring and enduring love. I am not up to the task, but oh how exciting to be able to be a part of such a beautiful thing with the One who is the Great Adopter and Restorer, the One who is able. Lord, I yield myself once again to Your plan for my family and I thank you for your great love that extends into the generations to come. Would You cause the inheritance that I leave to be one of eternal significance and a blessing to my children' children's children? Thank You and Amen. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

OUTPOURING OF LOVE


There is not much that makes our Hope at Home heart more happy than to be a part of Father God's sustaining and powerful love being poured out on His children. 

That same healing and rescuing love that you and I are so aware of for our children is the love that Father God has for each one of us mothers and fathers--His sons and daughters.

Enjoy these testimonies of our Faithful Father from Hope at Home 2013.


Thank you! It was truly such a blessed weekend. I know it was God's appointment for this time in our lives. Going into it, I knew it would be good, but I had no idea the depth of encouragement and blessing we would receive. May the Lord return to you in multitude of favor for all that you poured out. God bless you and all those who gave so much.

So very thankful to have been able to attend this powerful, life changing conference! We felt God's healing and hope filled presence from the moment we walked in the doors and we have returned home with our "buckets" FULL!  Thank you so much for giving of your time and gifts to pour into those that so needed a time set apart for encouragement and equipping!

I want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for all the hard work you did in organizing the Hope at Home Conference.  It was amazing!   Even more than that, thank you so much for working it out so that we could get a partial scholarship.  That helped so much and we are deeply grateful.  We look forward to learning more from the ministry and Hope at Home. You all are doing wonderful things and we are so excited to know more about you vision/mission.  Thank you!

Thank you so much for all your help!  You and Hope at Home are a Godsend!

Just wanted to thank you and the Hope at Home team for a wonderful conference. We sincerely appreciated all of the invaluable teaching and fellowship. Everything was so special and I know it will make a difference in our home!


God brought us there.  If we hadn't heard Greg's talk Friday, I don't know how much more we could have taken in our current case.  We were completely fried.
God used you all to help us persevere a while longer.  We love our baby dearly and are praying for that audacious answer that she will be our forever daughter.


I’m really glad we got to come to the conference. It was awesome.  I felt so inspired and convicted about many things.  The set-up was great, with the “stations” out front.  All around, a fantastic job.Thank you for your amazing ministry to adopted children and their families. And we are all His adopted children. The conference was more than we could have ever hoped. It has helped to begin to reorient what has been tilted in our family's world. Love and Thanks and Blessings !

I have definitely been refreshed and recharged and encouraged. Best seminar for me yet! Thank you!

We were so touched this weekend by the power of the Holy Spirit and the loving hands and hearts of saints that gave of themselves to teach and encourage. What a wonderful weekend it was! It was MORE than worth the trip, MORE than worth the effort made to get there, MORE than we could have hoped to come away with. The treasures were laid out - and we received them. We are deeply humbled and grateful to participate. We came home refreshed and ready to keep making steps with a richer understanding that we have been raised and fed so that we may raise and feed. Praise the Lord for His goodness and kindness.

We were in a very dry place when we arrived. We are leaving filled up and very thankful.

This has been very encouraging. We are not alone!

We were here one year ago and the things we heard and learned last year stuck with us this entire year and the blessings it has shown our family are amazing. 

I came here with an empty, bone dry bucket and very little emotional strength. I am leaving here encouraged, refreshed and renewed.

The Lord encouraged me to allow him to parent me so I can better parent my children.

God reiterated so many things in my heart. I am beloved. I’m a child of God. As it pertains to ministry, He placed undeniable signs and connections in my path that confirmed I am moving in the right direction.

He told me he was proud of me an that he loved me. To sing boldly and dance. I really needed to hear those things and it truly ministered to my heart.

After journaling my  wife and I went to dinner and compared what we had written. Both of us had received a word speaking of our intrinsic value and beauty in the eyes of God Both of us receiving this and the way that we received intermeshed was very affirming. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

BEAUTIFULLY DIFFERENT

From Beth:
Stephen and I have been talking about adoption a lot lately. It's interesting because for years we really didn't think about it much. Of course, in the beginning we lived and breathed it. But then things settled down and we moved into a lovely stage of simply being a family, not really needing to focus much on the fact that we had 4 adopted children. It was a beautiful part of who we were, but not a focal point I would say.

But as we have entered into this stage of launching our children into adulthood, it feels as if we have come full circle in some ways. Adoption has come to the forefront of our lives again as our beautiful treasures are making the transition into independence. We are seeing that this process of separating from us is bringing out the uniqueness of each child as they discover more fully who they are in the context of being Russian and American and adopted and a Templeton and a child of their biological parents . How complicated! This is no easy transition to make! 

One thing Stephen and I have realized through this process is that we had a goal for our children that, although very well-meant, was not the goal that God had in mind. Let me explain. It was our desire that our adopted children be so loved, so secure, so encompassed in the life and culture of our family, that they would come to a point where they never felt different or separate from us. We didn't want them to feel like they didn't fit in or that they were somehow "other." And for some years there, I think we got as close to that goal as a family could. We celebrated our children's Russian heritage, provided Russian language tutoring, and made multiple trips back to Russia, but through it all our desire was to save our adopted children from feeling any sense of being different.

But let me tell you what I feel God has been teaching me these past few years. Our children are different. He loves their differences and wants us to love and embrace those differences, not try to erase them. Our adopted children have taken on a different shape than our biological children, but that is because God does not want to eliminate their past, their story, their genetic dispositions. There is no doubt whatsoever in my mind that His plan for them is complete freedom from any and all manifestations of the brokenness and lack that led to their need to be adopted. But since God is all about restoration and redemption, so He delights to use the very building blocks that have been toppled into rubble to rebuild their borders and create their shape. 

It makes complete sense to me now that the shape of their lives would look different than mine. And I hear the Spirit of God say, "Embrace it all Beth. They need to see that you rejoice in who they are, even when it looks rough and unfinished." It's like they are putting together the borders of their lives, just like you do when you put together a complex puzzle. These borders are what define and give them shape, and we are seeing that the shape of their puzzle looks in some ways different, beautifully different. We see that they are looking to us to see if we approve, to see if it is OK to take on this shape. 

Are there things we would change? Well, yes there are! But that is true for all of our children, biological and adopted. We parents see things our children don't see, and we feel the temptation to try to live our children's lives for them--at least I do! But we trust the Lord to take them through this stage of growth and identity discovery; we trust Him with this process of shape-discovery and the fitting together of border pieces. We see that the love and spirit of adoption that we have given our lives to has taken on different shapes and forms as it is expressed in our children of three different family trees. All three family lines exhibit evidence of this spirit of adoption, yet all three look different.


Speaking of trees, you might look at it like this: you and your spouse are apple trees in an apple orchard. Your biological family are also apple trees. There are doubtless different varieties, red delicious, golden, granny smith, winesap, etc, but still, all are apples. When you adopted your beloved children you introduced, most likely, some other fruit trees into your orchard. Maybe you have an orange tree, or pear--or a few of each! Apples, oranges, pears--all are wonderful trees, but each one unique.

It does not help for you to try to make that orange tree bear apples. It simply is not possible, and will only create tension, frustration and eventually, anger. 

Does that make sense to you? I wonder what you all think. I'd so appreciate your input on this--leave a comment!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

TREASURED ONES


From Susan:
Dearest treasured ones,
Now, you may wonder why I would start out a post calling you THAT! Quite simply, I am only calling you what the Psalms call us, "your treasured ones" (Ps 83:3b)! You are like a box of hidden treasure, maybe with nothing that spectacular to call attention on the outside, but, oh, inside your heart and soul are treasures that your heavenly Father placed in you when He made you in His image, that He placed there before He even made the world! (read Ephesians 1 if you don't believe me!



Well, this past weekend at the annual Hope at Home gathering, Hope at Home 2013, I think all of us who were there felt like we were affirmed and reminded, and for some even shown for the first time, that we are indeed God's treasures!!! The 2 days together felt like a delightful meal at a fancy restaurant, with each of the successive courses of the meal the perfect fit for what had come before, as well as what was to follow. Our Lord Himself, who says of Himself that He is the "bread of heaven," had definitely cooked up heavenly nurture!  So, for those who could not join us, here is a recap:



1) "Strengthen yourself in the Lord your God" 

Like David did, in I Samuel 30:6b, when his life was falling apart, strengthen your self in the Lord. Those he most loved had died, and everyone else he loved had turned against him.  Whether life is wonderful or challenging, this goal of strengthening ourselves in the Lord our God gives us such hope and life and joy and peace. Greg Haswell led us in some time of meditation using Psalm 40. As he looked out, it was clear that God was touching us so deeply that many had tears welling up in our eyes. But the good kind -- the "I am overwhelmed with joy" kind.


2) "You are fed to feed, raised to raise, loved to love"

In Luke 1:16-17 when the angel announces the birth of John the Baptist, the forerunner who was to bring us to Jesus, the two purposes were clear: first, to call us to live as God's children, with our hearts turned back to our Father, and second, to call us to live as parents, with our hearts turned by God back to our children. Many of us have switched around this order, and as a consequence are bearing burdens that are not ours to carry. It is by walking as a child that we trust Him to be for us and for our children, all that they need. Take a moment to listen the Kathryn Scott's beautiful song, Child of God, to hear Father God's message to us through Susan Hillis.


3) God's desire is restoration 

"Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets to Dwell In." Beth Templeton  reminded us all of the beauty of God's work of restoration--for us mothers and fathers, and for all our children (both birth and adopted, equally!)  This restoration and change was most beautifully revealed in a piece that Beth Templeton's sweet daughter Rachel had written:
I really want to emphasize is that adoption has not only dramatically changed me, but has come to define my life and my view of the world around me. As many of you surely know, melding individuals who previously knew nothing of each other into the most intimate of relationships - a family - is a weighty venture that has the potential to redeem and restore broken lives, for both those who are adopted and the family into which they are adopted. Our adoptions have changed and shaped my life completely. (Read the whole piece by Rachel.)
It had us all choked up with awe of what the God of heaven wants to do for us! And this session ended with the reminder from Emma Templeton's beautiful rendition of "God, I Look to You"  by Jenn Johnson.





4) Effective and Powerful Prayer 

Finally, we heard the wonderful reminder from Dionne van Zyl of God's desire to bless His treasured one (1 above) when we go to Him, as His child (2 above), in need of His restoration (3 above) for us and for our marriages and for our children. We are told to pray in Luke 11, like this:  "Our Father...," reminded again that I am God's child. And we are told to pray with "shameless audacity" because God's deep love inspires Him to provide for us out of His goodness. "What father, if his son asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?" No, our Father gives good gifts to His children who ask. We parents have authority in prayer and can actually change the atmosphere of our homes by our declarations of faith. 
We ask for strength and food and love and restoration, Lord, for ourselves and for our families.


If I were to put into one sentence the summary of what the Lord did for us over these days, I would say: burdens were taken away and replaced with peace of heart and lightness of step. God did what we read in Psalm 81:6, "I relieved your shoulder of the burden; your hands were freed from the basket"  
But God didn't stop with taking away our burdens and worries and fears. He went on the replace them: "He would feed you with the finest of the wheat, and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you." (v.16)



Now, Lord, we come to you and thank and praise you, Father, that You care so deeply for us as your children, that your desire is ever and always to strengthen us, to feed and raise and love us, to restore us and ours, and to deepen our trust in Your goodness by answering prayer. Thank you, Lord, that you are the great replacer -- always intent on replacing our burdens with the finest of Your abundance. Do this, even again, today, for every one reading these words. In Jesus Name and for His glory and for our shining for the world to see us as we are -- Your treasures!  Amen.

Check out more photos from Hope at Home 2013!



Parenting Advice from Real Families--You and Me!

Prayer Requests for our Children: Give One, Take One


Where Is Your Child From?!

Some Fun Giveaways

Wonderful H@H After Party. The deserts and live Jazz made for a great night!



Breakout Sessions You Didn't Want to Miss






Evidence That We are Loved (including chocolate dipped strawberries served on a platter!)