Thursday, January 30, 2014


Hi my name is Sasha and this is the story of how I got a second chance at life. 

My Old Family

Looking back at my life now it seems impossible what I went through. Before I got adopted from Russia into my American family I didn’t experience a lot of love. In fact, I felt a lot of hate. My biological mother gave me up for adoption when I was about 9 months old, and my aunt then became my mom. She told me that she loved me and that’s why she adopted me. My uncle started to abuse my aunt and got drunk a lot. Later when he moved out he started using drugs, became a drug dealer and was eventually killed by drug dealers. My grandpa died before I was born, but my grandma lived with us and was the closest thing I had to family. She was actually the one who took care of me when my mom was at work or drunk, which was most of the time. My grandma was my best friend. I was 7 years old when she died. 

After her death I didn’t think I could live without her. Without her being there for me as a parent I didn’t know if I would be given a bath or put to bed or even fed. Don’t get me wrong, my mom loved me, she just had a different way of showing it. She was a working, alcoholic single parent who was raising me alone. She got sick a lot, but even then she tried to take care of me if she wasn’t drunk. But when I got sick she was always there for me no matter what. She would take off of work and not drink, just to help me get better. And when we had hard times with food and money she ALWAYS thought of me first and NEVER of herself. It makes me sad to think about the hard times we experienced, but happy to think of how she cared for me first. She wasn’t the best mother, but she had a warm heart and she did love me. Because I didn’t have a father figure I did lack parental advice. I started smoking cigarettes when I was just 11 years old and continued until I was adopted by my American family. The older I got, the less time I spent at home. I was always out somewhere with my friends. And because none of us had very good families we weren’t raised very appropriately, so most of us liked to get in trouble. We would break into the factories and steal money, cigarettes, and food. 

After my mom died I ended up all alone on this world. When my biological mom gave me for adoption, my aunt(mom) and I moved away. After her death my two older half sisters came back. At the time I thought that they came to see how I was doing, but now I know they only came for my apartment and my money that I had in my account.  So I ended up in the orphanage.


School was also never a happy place. I thought I could run away from home and be happy at least at school, but I was mistaken. I got bullied all the time. EVERYONE turned on me. It was a miserable place. I never got in trouble and never missed a class on purpose, maybe because I thought if I just did what I was supposed to do, no one would notice me and everyone would leave me alone. I was wrong then too. I often went home with a bloody nose. Even though I hated everyone for treating me that way and I wanted to make them pay for what they had done to me for all of those years, I never did. I just kept my frustration to myself. And when I got picked on, I tried not to let them see me cry. I thought that if I let them see me crying, they have gotten exactly what they wanted, and I didn’t want that to happen. But I did cry at home in my closet, or in the bathroom. I even thought of giving up on all of this. But something inside of me told me not too. 

The Orphanage

After going though the death of my mom I felt like I didn’t have purpose on this earth any longer. I completely lost interest in everything. I did things only if I was either asked to do them or told to do them. There were some times when I wanted to do things just so I wouldn’t have to think of what I just went though. Even after going though all of that, I still somehow found strength to control my anger and love everyone. 

I hear stories about how bad things were in other orphanages, but at my orphanage the employees were very nice and caring, the building was in good shape, and we had plenty of food. There were about 30 kids in my orphanage. They weren’t nearly as nice. I made the most of the situation, but it wasn’t a family.

Even after having a hard childhood with almost no love in it I still had hope. Hope in something better there for me. 

Sasha (with flowers and flag) arriving in America

Sasha (in red) with her siblings

My Adoption

When I heard that was going to have an American family all I thought of was, “ I don’t want to go somewhere where I won’t be loved.” But the more I thought about it, the more excited I got. At age 14 I finally had a chance to have a family and have parents who will love me for who I am. Hearing that I was going to have both a mother AND a father, both excited and terrified me. My thoughts went wild and I kept asking myself what if… What if he is just like the rest of the fathers who don’t like their children and drinks a lot and is very mean? I didn’t know what to do, but I put all those thoughts behind me and decided that all that mattered was that they wanted me! They chose me to be in their family. That was all that mattered. And that day finally came, and I couldn’t have been happier.
Sasha (bottom right) with her friend who is now her adopted sister, and her parents in Russia before their adoption.

My New Family

The thought of being a part of a family seemed beyond real. I finally had a chance to call someone dad. I learned about Jesus in Russia because my grandmother always took me to church. I knew He loved me and gave His life for me, but I had never really given my life to him. My mom says that I came to our family very prayerful and soft to the things of the Lord. But I definitely grew in my faith in here in America. After a year or two I got baptized. It’s actually pretty cool. My actual dad baptized me as a profession of my faith in my spiritual Dad. That day I really didn’t feel like anything was different, but now looking back I realize that was the day when I really started living again. I got to have the honor of having two dads who loved me. At a time when I couldn’t imagine my life getting any better, it did. 

My life right now

I am 22 years old right now. I graduated from high school 2 years ago with 3.875 GPA. I did a year of an Encounter School of Ministry (a program where you take a season of your life and dedicate it to God) and I am currently attending community college. So far my life has taken me on adventure that I never thought I would go on. I have come so far in the past 8 years that I have been in America. I couldn’t have done any of it without my Heavenly Father. 

Want to hear more from adoptees like Sasha? Check out the Adopted Children's Stories tab. 
And come on over to Facebook and join us there!

Monday, January 27, 2014


From Scott Means:

What’s your passion? Think about it. How do you answer that question?

I imagine that adoption would be pretty high on your list of passions. Otherwise, why would you be reading the Hope at Home blog? Hopefully your passion for God would be up there too.
Where would your marriage rate among your list of passions? How would your spouse rank?

Taking Cues From Christ

Did you know that Jesus is passionate about you? Did you know that God feels powerful affection for you? Yes, God’s love for you is full of zeal, desire and fiery passion! He delights in you.

Does that notion make you uncomfortable? 

We know we are made in God’s image. So if we experience such emotions, so does He. God invented passion and desire, and they are good. The Bible is the story of God, the lover, looking for an eternal bride. How could God, who is love, not feel passionate about his bride? (Now, obviously I am not talking about sexualizing our relationship with God, but the spiritual parallel.)

I think it’s interesting and fitting that we speak of Jesus’ ultimate expression of love for us, laying down his life, as “the passion of Christ.”

Stir Up Your Passion

Our marriages are supposed to reflect the relationship between Christ and the church, so our marriages, too, are to be full of passion!

What does it mean to have a passionate marriage?  When I refer to passion in marriage, I am not only speaking about sexual intimacy, although it certainly includes that.  But passion goes beyond having things steamy in the bedroom.  Passion also refers to having an underlying sense of excitement and fervor about your spouse and your marriage, having a relationship full of intensity, joyfulness and unbridled enthusiasm in both the sexual and non-sexual dimensions of your relationship.

Having a passionate marriage starts with the decision that passion is something you want. Make it a conscious goal, and then set about being purposeful in pursuing it.  

Below I list four P’s to help you put passion on the front burner of your marriage relationship. 


Never stop pursuing each other, no matter how long you’ve been married. Be aware of what makes your spouse feel loved and desired, and do those things regularly. Think back to when you were dating. Wasn’t most of your attention focused on the pursuit of the relationship, pursuit of the one you eventually “captured?” Well the pursuit should never stop! Be diligent and relentless in your pursuit of one another. It lets your spouse know you would choose him or her all over again, and that gives a definite boost to the passion in your relationship!


When was that last time you intentionally did something fun together, for no other reason than because it was fun? When was the last time you laughed together? When was the last time you did something new and/or exciting just because you felt like it? Help keep passion alive by at least occasionally being playful or adventurous and stepping outside your normal routine. Routine can tend to squash passion, so be willing to step outside your comfort zone once in a while. Infuse your marriage with a little wonder, creativity and excitement!


A daily dose of genuine thankfulness can work wonders for keeping passion alive. It’s easy and natural to focus on the things about your spouse that bother you, but that’s a total passion killer.  The best way to fight off those negative thoughts is to develop a habit of being grateful.  Make sure you aren’t taking the good stuff in your marriage and spouse for granted, which can tend to happen over time. Make it a point to say your thanks and appreciation out loud to your spouse and to others - frequently.   


Obviously pleasure and passion go hand in hand! For starters, make sex a priority in your relationship, and don’t settle for anything less. In addition to the pleasure of physical intimacy, make time for daily pleasures such as reading, being outside, sipping a cup of tea, listening to music – whatever feeds your soul. Seek pleasure by learning to enjoy the process of doing the things on your over-packed to-do list, not just the relief of being done with them. Be watchful over your own pleasure, but especially make sure your spouse is also purposefully seeking out pleasure, and occasionally do something for no other reason than to delight each other. Of course, don’t forget about seeking spiritual pleasure! 

Too Pooped for Passion?

If your life is anything like mine, you already have too much on your plate. I can read your thoughts, “How can I find time and energy for passion?”

The truth is that passion is 90% mindset and 10% effort. There are lots of ways to include pursuit, playfulness, positivity and pleasure that don’t require much effort at all. It starts with the awareness that passion is important and a desire to keep the passion in your relationship alive. 

It is mostly a matter of doing the little things on a daily basis that keep passion stirred up. Here are few ideas for pumping up the passion in your marriage that don’t require a lot of effort:
  • Pay attention to your spouse’s preferences. Does he or she like you in certain colors or outfits? Is there a certain cologne or perfume that they like? Wear them.
  • Write little notes or texts. Be fun and flirty. Express your love, your attraction, your affection and devotion.
  • Kiss! Make a habit of greeting each other with a kiss whenever one of you enters or leaves the house. Try for a ten second kiss (no, don’t time it, just hold it a little extra longer than usual).
  • When you are at the store, pick up a little treat, a card or a flower for your spouse – just because. 
  • Tell your spouse how happy you are to be married to him or her and why. You don’t have to gush, just be honest with your appreciation and admiration.
  • Once the kids are in bed, take five or ten minutes to share a glass of wine (or tea or whatever) and just talk together. Yes, there will be at least a dozen other more urgent things to attend to, but do it anyway, because little else is more important. You will be glad you did.
  • Rent a funny movie or play your favorite game of cards. 

Are you ready to up the passion level in your marriage? What other passion boosting suggestion do you have to share?  Leave your ideas in a comment. 

Come over to Facebook and join the conversation with other adoptive and foster parents like you. 

Thursday, January 23, 2014


From Beth:

Looking back it is so easy to see that our family trip to Disney World not long after we adopted our first two children from Russia was a mistake. Looking back it is clear that there was WAY too much stimulation and overwhelming input for our newly adopted 5 and 10 year olds. (I know, you are probably saying, "Duh!" but there it is nevertheless!) We made it through, and even had some wonderful times together those few days, but it cost our two new treasures a lot emotionally and if we had to do it all over again, we would wait longer before we went. 

We have made many mistakes. 
We have pushed when we should have backed off. We have backed off when we should have pushed. We have yelled in anger and withdrawn in disappointment. We have said yes to things we should have taken a firm stand against, and we have said no to things we should have allowed. 

We have made many mistakes. 
And I am OK with that, more so now than ever. Here is why:

Christmas morning we had all 9 of us Templetons together. As our children continue to grow into independent adults I am aware that the time will come when we will not all be home for Christmas, so this year I was especially happy that we were all together once more. 

We decided to do something different this year and I honestly had no idea how it would turn out. But I figured it was worth the try! Before we opened our first gifts of the morning (we take turns opening them so that we can all enjoy each one), we asked everyone to share one or two things we appreciate about that person whose turn it was. It was absolutely amazing to hear what was said. We had done this before, but it had been awhile, and never Christmas morning. When it was my turn to receive, I realized I was being given a precious gift way beyond the value or meaning of anything wrapped in paper. But as much as I enjoyed hearing the beautiful things that my family had to say about me, I was even more blessed to hear what they had to say about each other. 

They honored one another, they discerned things about one another, they enjoyed one another. 

It was one of those moments in our life as a family that was "picture perfect" and filled with love. And it was one of those moments that is a balm to a mother's heart.

It was a gift made more precious because it was set in the context of the last few years, which have been marked by intensely difficult, scary, ugly, and sad moments in our family. The total antithesis of "picture perfect"--no one was reaching for a camera to capture those moments, I can tell you that! (Thank God!) I am not complaining, because it is clear to me that it was for exactly these difficult realities that God brought our children into our family. 

As I lay in my bed that night and thought about our Christmas day I felt the Lord tell me, "Beth, this time was a gift from me to you and Stephen. I wanted you to see that I am and have been at work in the lives of each one of your children, even when you mess up and even when they mess up. What you experienced this morning was the fruit of many many years of sowing love and honor. It is real and it is eternal and it exists in your family on the good days and the bad. Enjoy!"

I so loved reading Susan's post about how God's love is changing her, rather than her love changing her children. It really encouraged me to read of Father God's faithfulness to and in her wonderful family! We all need that encouragement along the way I think, especially when we are painfully aware of our shortcomings and failures as parents. The truth is there isn't a one of us who has done or will do it all right. We will make mistakes, and sometimes they will be big ones. But I am OK with that, and I hope you are too. 

So next time you are having a bad mommy/daddy day, I hope this testimony will encourage you and give you hope. 
Your mistakes and failures will never be able to diminish or nullify God's work of love in your family. 
Keep sowing love and honor, and trust God to guard the seeds in every season, especially the non "picture prefect" ones. Those imperfections, yours and theirs, are not the problem I thought they were, as it turns out. What a wonderful gift to us! 

Father God, thank You for Your love, which covers, guards and frees me, and every member of my family. Thank You for Your faithfulness in us and to us. Thank You that my parenting mistakes are not a problem for You--that in Jesus we are made whole and holy. Lord, give my family some moments like this Christmas morning testimony, marked by honor and love. Amen.

Monday, January 20, 2014


From Susan:

When we have a request or longing, each of us LOVES getting a 'yes' answer much more than a 'no' or 'maybe.'  You and I REMEMBER these OPEN DOORS as they relate to our children, with smiles and joy. I remember like it was yesterday, the day our daugther Cristi was born, after 5 years of infertility! And the day twelve years later when Alex and Anya walked into the conference room to meet us at the orphanage in Ivangorat, Russia. I am wondering what you treasure up in your heart as that OPEN DOOR memory surrounding each child's entry into your family. Maybe it was the day you finished preparing the adoption dossier, or that day you learned you were expecting, maybe the day your baby was born, or the day the court hearing was finalized, or maybe the day your foster son came home. Which is that OPEN DOOR you remember with excitement??? 

Well, the Lord has been filling me with this same type of deep joy over a new kind of OPEN DOOR that the Holy Spirit invites us to experience, both inside of and beyond our own families. I call them:

  1.  The External Open Door
  2.  The Internal Open Door
  3.  The Heavenly Open Door

I see them right now as clearly as I see the front door of our house! While that door is closed to ward off the bitter Atlanta cold of winter, these three are doors the Lord intends to ALWAYS remain open!!! And when we focus on the OPEN DOORS over the CLOSED DOORS, we receive joy and blessing and purpose and hope! Let me explain!

The External Open Door

Jesus takes John to heaven in Revelation to show him what is actually going on while we are all on earth. The Holy Spirit reveals that 
I have set before you an OPEN DOOR which no one can shut! (Revelation 3:8)
This is the External Open Door of God's purpose for our lives.  As we are walking fully in that purpose, not only walking through the door but sticking to the path the Lord has planned for us on earth, I just love what our spouses and children and friends and neighbors and coworkers will see...they see this:  "They will learn that I have LOVED you!"  
I see it as the door the Lord opens and then holds open-- never to be shut again! It is a PERMANENTLY open door, because as Jesus says 'no one can shut it!' 

The Internal Open Door

Next we come to the Internal Open Door:  
Behold I stand at the door and knock; if anyone opens the door I will come in and sup with him, and he with Me. (Revelation 3:20)
So, how would you like to go out to breakfast, lunch, and dinner with the Lord every day, for some meaningful and heart-to-heart conversation?  But the INTERNAL door, unlike the EXTERNAL one, is one that you and I must pull open, rather than leaving it shut! This is the type of relationship we need with the Holy Spirit in order to fully experience the joys and goodness of God along the path appearing beyond that External Open Door above. 

Practically, it means that when there is a struggle in our family between me and one of my children, I "open the door," so to speak, by asking Jesus to help me see what He sees and understand what He understands, so that I can love them the way He loves them! And when the relationships are smooth and harmonious, I keep this door of gratitude and dependence open as well. 

This  Internal Open Door is primarily a spiritual door and not primarily a psychological door. Yes, we have had chronic challenges, such as reactive attachment disorder or the scars of abuse, neglect, and loss, for which psychologic principals can help provide coping mechanisms. But such principals have never effectively healed brokenness or filled emptiness.  The Internal Open Door allows my Lord Jesus to pour into me His healing, nurturing and equipping love that must flow through me to them. Particularly in and beyond every challenge and success, such love comes supernaturally and transformationally.

The Heavenly Open Door

I think this final door is my favorite one, as it reminds me of our shared destiny.  
After this I looked and BEHOLD, a door standing open in hearven!....And the voice said, 'Come up here and I will show you what must take place!' (Revelation 4:1) 
We read with excitement to see how our stories will end! And we see through this Heavenly Open Door rainbows and thrones and crowns and crystal and best of all, our Lord and God! And we understand what we all are created give our Lord honor and thanks, along with eternal worship for the only One who is worthy! 

Knowing this shared destiny, it becomes much less monumental to me what our children major in, whether they finish high school or college, whether they choose the kinds of friends that I prefer, or whether they watch too much TV or are on instagram too much! Instead of becoming consumed by those aspects of life, I am ever seeing the Heavenly Open Door, for me and for my husband and for our children, endeavoring to live in such a contagious way that others inside and beyond my home will want to come peer through it with me. Once they do, I trust that the allure of the King's glory will surpass the distraction of the world's attractions. 


In closing, dearly beloved, I pray all this is 'new for you' in 2014, and that it stays in your view and mine!!! Staring at these 3 OPEN DOORS!!!  

In 2014, Lord, let us be those who BEHOLD! This means, in a word, FOCUS!!! May this be the year that you and I FOCUS so much on these 3 OPEN DOORS, that all inside and beyond my home will want to join in, as we walk daily through YOUR EXTERNAL OPEN DOOR, holding open as well MY INTERNAL OPEN DOOR, and seeing all along the HEAVENLY OPEN DOOR that has eternal longevity. Amen.

Monday, January 13, 2014


From Beth:

We have done a good bit of waiting over the last 13 years of adoptive parenting.  We have waited for paperwork to be approved, for our children to come home, for proficiency in English, for a new normal for our family, for attachment, for healing, for wholeness, for the replacing of an orphan spirit for the Spirit of Adoption that speaks of sonship. 

Our spirits are often full with the promises God has spoken to us. In some cases I am filled with the satisfaction of a promise already come to pass as I live out the dream in real life. For, like many of you, our children are home and they are no longer orphans. Oh how wonderful that is!

But there are some of you reading this who are in the waiting- for-your-child-to-come-home stage, though; you are facing significant obstacles between you and your child being home. Let's stop for a moment now and add our faith to yours in prayer:
Father God, in faith we believe You for these precious families. We call these children HOME. And we speak to the mountains that would hinder that homecoming and say, Be Moved. Comfort the hearts of our friends who are waiting, and protect these precious treasures who are waiting to come home. Amen. 
For a few other things that are very dear to my heart though, I am still waiting, feeling what our friend Scott Means described as the weight of the wait. I am waiting for some promises that have yet to be delivered safe and sound into the arms of our lives. Sometimes the weight feels heavy and wearisome. When it does, I find I must be careful not to allow disappointment to sicken my heart.  
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire is fulfilled, it is a tree of life. (Proverbs 13:12 AMP)
Do you ever hear those whispers like I do--the ones that say "give up; it's not going to happen; it is just too hard to continue in hope; the weight of the wait is too burdensome; it would be much easier to quit believing, maybe this is all there is and I should just settle ….."

I am pregnant with a promise from God, and I suspect you are too. For me it is the Promise of Adoption and all that is hidden in the meaning of that word. The promise of deep inner healing for my children, and their wholeness in all areas of their lives--healthy attachment, freedom from the residue of rejection, intimacy with the One who is The Spirit of Adoption.

And in the wait to see the promise delivered I sometimes feel cumbersome, waddling through some days with the weight of it all. 

And it is clear to me that the enemy is always after the unborn life, tempting me to abort that unborn promise--to settle for less.

And I recognize the temptation to defer hope--to postpone hope for some other time, for some other promise. The sacrifice of bearing the unborn promise, nurturing it with the food of faith in what seems like a past term pregnancy, sometimes makes me weary.

BUT then I am reminded that 
God's Love Endures Forever.
Love, that is God's Love In Me, is Patient. 
The enemy would kill the child. It has always been his way.

But Father God responds with a shout, "LIVE!"

And so I choose to agree with LIFE.
And like a pregnant woman, I am enlarged with the promise rather than diminished by its weight. 
And I see that God is changing me and my children with His promises, and once again I recognize the honor it is to bear such a weight. 
And I am learning to enjoy His presence with me and in me along the way.   

That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy. Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.(Romans 8:24-28 MSG)

Thursday, January 9, 2014


From Stephen:

Ok dads, let's crank out four more quick gifts for our kids in our series. You can read Part I and Part II to catch up with us. In the first two posts in this series, we spent some time discussing four major gifts for our kids. Now we're going to pump out four quick ones--no particular order or weight, but gifts to your children that will bring them peace and freedom.

5. Don’t Be Afraid To Be Strong

Don’t act like the sitcom version of a father (the stupid 5th child). This all goes together with understanding our leadership role in the family and the spiritual mantle that God has placed on us as fathers (see last post). Again, this role is ours to play. If you shrink back, you'll create a vacuum that someone will fill, most likely your wife. 
Now she very well may be more spiritually inclined than you, she may have amazing horsepower and be extremely talented in many areas, but she is not the father, you are. Make it your goal to honor her gifts and strengths, listen to her and give her a huge space to parent in. Let me be clear, being a strong father has NOTHING to do with controlling or diminishing your wife's strength. 
However, if you abdicate your leadership and authority role, you will create frustration for her and for you. In our western culture, there is a disturbing trend to try to neuter masculinity. Resist this course, and be the man God made you to be. And I'm not speaking about being Mr. Macho or some dictator, but be the strong, godly man God created. Don't be afraid to be strong.

6. Don't Be Afraid To Show Them You Are Not Perfect 

Being a strong father (point 5 above) does not at all imply perfection or even the hiding of weakness. In reality, some of the biggest breakthrough times I've had as a dad have come when I've had to admit and confess to my child that I've messed up and made a mistake. We all probably remember what it was like as children when we looked to our mom and dad as superheroes, super strong and the source of answers and wisdom. But we all found out that they were very human, as we are. So when you miss the mark with them, call it for what it is, and ask them to forgive you. In your vulnerability, you will open doors of relationship and understanding with your child. Maybe you've really lost your temper, or gone too far in disciplining them. Tell them, "Listen son, what you did was wrong, but how I reacted was also way off, and I'm sorry. Can you forgive me?" 
Now don't let them use your weakness as a point of manipulation, but truthfully, I've not found this to be an issue. My kids have been more impressed with me calling out my mistake, and it makes our relationship more real, and it models for them what it really means to walk honestly and with integrity. 

7. Set Boundaries and Stick With Them 

Well this is Parenting 101! We all know that we should set boundaries and be consistent with our children, but making sure this is happening in your home is the responsibility of both mother and father. One of you may be better at this than the other, but be sure you are consistent, fair and clear in your discipline. There are times when we make exceptions or even change our minds, but when this happens, be clear with your kids. Share your thought processes, especially if the Lord leads you to deal with a situation differently than would have been your normal "rule". Let them in on how awesome God is, how He leads and guides us, how we can talk to Him and hear His voice, how He loves them and is leading you in how to handle this particular situation. 

8. Get to Know Their Friends    

As much as you are able, make your home welcoming and inviting for their friends. Some of your children may be little social butterflies and just naturally want to have their friends over to play. Some will need some encouragement from you, and you can help them plan get togethers, and come up with suggestions as to how they could invite friends over. Whether it is just an afternoon at home in the basement, in the backyard, or a more extensive spend-the-night, it is a great thing for your kids to have their friends over. 

This is especially important when they hit the teenage years. We want to give our children increasing freedom as they get older, and our end goal is that they are launched into their own lives and destiny. So we're not talking about a hyper-controlling environment. Still, it is helpful for us dads to see their friends' faces, demeanors, attitudes and values when they are in your home. As your children age and get the keys to the car, they will naturally be doing more and more things  independent of the family, so it's important to check in with them and take the temperature of their lives. One of the best ways is to know who their friends are--the saying "Show me your friends, and I'll show you your future" is so true. So, taking a good look at your children's circle of friends is a great way to see how they are doing (and if they never wan't them to come over to your house or spend time with you, consider that a red flag, a sign that it's time to make some deposits in  that father-child connection.) 

Stay tuned for our final two gifts--coming up soon.

Monday, January 6, 2014


From Stephen:

Ok dads, who's in the mood for some more gift giving? To catch up with us, check out Part 1 when you have a moment. Let's start the year off with bang, and this next gift for your kids is a huge one, especially important in the current prevailing gender-neutral cultural atmosphere.

3. Take Your Leadership & Authority Role in Your Family

Surveys have shown that many men feel inadequate in their fathering role. Some have expressed that they even feel as if they were an impostor, having to pretend to be someone they are not. This feeling of inadequacy can impair your impact and effectiveness as a father to your children, adopted or biological. In one survey, only 1/3 of fathers "strongly agreed" that they had the necessary knowledge & skills to be a good father. This goes to the foundational questions that we (men & boys) all have: "Do I have what it takes?" In this case, do I have what it takes to really be a good father to these children living in my home? 

The answer, of course, is a resounding YES!

When you adopted your children or when your wife gave birth, God placed a mantle of authority on your life to be their father, to lead them, to guide them, to comfort them and to provide for them. He called you to this place, and those He calls, He equips. He will not leave you stranded or on your own to live out this role of father, but from the riches of heaven He will pour out all you need for every child in every different circumstance, because He has called you to this role. He, Father God Himself, has placed this mantle of authority and leadership on your life, whether you feel adequate or not. In fact, if you are feeling a bit weak and inadequate, you're not in a bad spot...
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

The wonderful thing about God is that He uses us as we are, in all our strengths and weaknesses. When we speak of taking the role of leadership and authority in your family, some may have the idea that they are now going to have to become a larger-than-life, commanding figure. Not at all! This mantle of God-given authority is for all personality types and all types of people, from the quiet deferential type who is more likely to follow rather that lead, to the decisive, high leadership gifting type who can naturally lead a crowd. If you are more naturally a follower than a leader, that's just fine-- God will use you in your own skin to lead your family. You don't have to have all the answers or all the ideas for your family--that's one of the reasons God gave us marriage. Your wife may have more natural leadership gifting or more creative ideas, and that's great. Get together, talk out the plan for your kids and for your family, but do not abdicate your authority and leadership role to your wife. You must step into this fatherly role, for if you shrink back and force your wife into it, it will create endless frustration for her and then in turn for you and your family. 
Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (Hebrews 13:20-21)

4. Get Into Their World and Develop Deep Relationships

As fathers, we typically have many competing pressures for our time and attention. We have our wives, our work, our involvement at church, our own interests, hobbies or sport, not to mention those little people, our children. Depending on the season of life you are in and your own personality and temperament, it can be challenging to find to find enough time to invest in your children's lives on a daily basis. For all children, especially our adopted children, a true, deep, and connected relationship with their father has a tremendous impact on their lives and understanding of who they really are. 

Many adopted children struggle with identity issues.They struggle with the question, "Who am I really?" Parents have an amazing influence and ability to help define who their children are. Fathers, especially, have the power to define and validate their child. Moms are most often the place of mercy and tenderness and they are often where our kids run  with physical or emotional hurts, whereas Dads are often the font of validation for their children. Now these roles are shared with you and your wife, but don't ever underestimate the power you have as a father to define and validate who your child is. It goes back to the mantle of authority God gave us when He called us to adopt. By getting into your child's world and developing a deep relationship with him or her, you open wide the door of positive influence and impact you have on your child's life.

Having seven children, I've found that with some of my kids I instantly and naturally connect with them, while with some, especially during some seasons of their life, I've had to be more intentional at making and maintaining those deep connections. I think that's pretty normal, so don't be discouraged if at times you feel like you're not really connecting with your child. Keep pressing in, and ask The Lord for new and creative ways to connect.

By having those real relationships with your children, you can answer the foundational question that your son and daughter have. For our daughters, 
Am I worth fighting for? Do you see me?Do you think I'm lovely?
And for our sons,
Do I have what it takes?Am I strong enough, powerful enough, smart enough?
In truly connected relationships, we dads find a thousand ways to answer these foundational questions in a positive and encouraging manner.

Let's Get Practical:

For some of us, and for some of our children, these relationships will happen so naturally without any apparent work on our part, but for others it may seem like a lot of work. So let's talk about a few practical suggestions. I'm sure you'll come up with many more and we'd appreciate you sharing them with us in the comments. 

For our girls, pursue her heart. What does she love? What interests her? Go there! If she loves to play pretend, then pretend with the best of them. Have a pretend tea party, play pretend house, go on walks and tell her great pretend stories full of pretend characters who have new adventures each day. One such character that my girls still talk about is Racilla, the garden fairy that made her home in the foxglove flowers and went on grand adventures. 

As they get older, take them on a Date with Daddy. Make it special. We dads want to model how a real man acts so that when they are older, they won't be fooled by some joker. 

Go to their events, not just the performances or games, but find a way to take them to and perhaps even be involved in the practices and rehearsals. 

And all the while, in subtle and direct ways, repeatedly answer her foundational question with, "Yes, my daughter, you are lovely and wonderful, and I'd go a thousand miles to see you!"

Also for our sons, get into their world. Look for your son's interests and engage him there. Is it sports, chess, music, outdoor adventures? Make intentional efforts to spend time with him and connect with him. Think back about your relationship with your father--what did you crave from him? How did you two connect? You can certainly start with some of those activities. For me, I loved it when my dad would ask me if I wanted to go throw the football with him. He'd throw me long bombs, and I'd do my best to catch them. Sometimes he'd pretend we were in a real football game and he'd be throwing me the game winning pass and we'd celebrate together if I caught it. He'd also always come to my swim meets. I have a distinct memory of seeing him on the side of the pool, realizing he had taken time off work to see my mid-afternoon race. It reinforced that he was for me and loved to see me succeed. 

Some of the connection points I've had with my sons include weekends away just with dad, one son at a time. For me and for them, those one-on-one weekends have brought great memories and great connection points. All our boys played baseball when they were young, and we'd all enjoy playing catch and batting after dinner in the summer. 

It's great to "catch" your son doing well and affirm him in his success. As with your daughter, look for hundreds of ways to tell him, "Yes, son you do have what it takes!"

Appropriate physical touch is also huge in developing your relationship with your children. I remember spending lots of time wrestling with my newly adopted son. He loved challenging dad, and that physical touch was very helpful in connecting with him. One of my favorite games as a dad was jumping on top of my sons to get them out of bed when they were major sleepy heads. They protested, but loved every minute of it. Regular, appropriate hugs and kisses for your daughters are so great for them and for you. Snuggling with them in front of the fire, tv, and especially for a bedtime story is invaluable.

As fathers, we have to invest time in our relationships with our children, biological and adopted. And I guarantee that all the time you spend with your children will pay off in great dividends, because you will have one of the most valuable things there is, a fantastic relationship with your child that will bring you both great happiness and satisfaction.

Stay tuned for more gift ideas as Stephen completes his list in the next few posts. Ready to read Part 3?

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Thursday, January 2, 2014


From Stephen: 
The final present has been opened and crumpled wrapping paper is piled up all around the Christmas tree. All the family is enjoying all the new presents, toys and electronics that were just opened. There is a sense of satisfaction, peace and joy as you drink in the atmosphere of the morning- a culmination of many week's worth of hard work and preparation.

We all love to give our children gifts and watch their faces as they open them. I remember the intense anticipation of ripping open the beautifully wrapped gifts under the Christmas tree, the time lying in bed agonizing over how slowly time was moving, waiting for the agreed upon time when my brother and I could rush into our parents' room, wake them up and then run to the tree to see what "Santa" had brought. Now, there is even more joy in giving gifts and presents to our children, watching their faces, their anticipation and their surprise. It truly is more blessed to give than receive!

Although Christmas is over for another year, I've been thinking about some of the greatest and most potent gifts that we fathers can give our children. So I've made an extemporaneous "Top Ten" list. I'm sure you can easily come up with ten more equally great and important gifts you want to give you kids, but here's my list for now, starting with the first two--Enjoy! 

1. Have a Great Marriage 

Now I realize that it takes two to tango, and that having a great and awesome marriage is dependent on both husband and wife leaning forward and desiring it, but men, we must not shrink back from taking our lead role in this area.
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. (Ephesians 5:25-27)
Find out what it means for you to love your wife as Christ loved the church. He laid down his life for us, and we are to take the lead in laying our lives down for our wives. Let's wash our wives with the water of the Word--encourage her with who she really is in the Lord. Find out what her "love language" is and speak it to her regularly. Encourage her daily. Answer her unspoken foundational question--"Honey, you are worth fighting for, you are lovely, you are beautiful, I'd fall in love with you again if I were to meet you for the first time today." 
Find ways to answer her unspoken questions a thousand ways. If you love your wife well and lay your life down for her, it will bring a grounding and peace in her life that will not only benefit you and her, but in my opinion will be one of the greatest gifts you could ever give your children.

2. Have a Great Relationship with God 

think that often we Christians try to make things harder than they actually are. What does it mean for me to have a great relationship with God? It's simple: receive all that the Father has done for you through Jesus Christ. Receive, receive, receive. His love will transform and revolutionize your life. His love will renew your mind, your thoughts, your emotions, your priorities and your desires. Settle in your heart that you truly have been adopted by Him, that he has already done everything for you to have a great relationship with him.

He has already forgiven every sin you've ever committed, those you'll commit today, and all those you'll commit tomorrow and ten years from now. He's given you the gift of righteousness, and when he looks at you he smiles. He's given you everything you need to live for him by his power. So hang out with him in prayer and worship everyday--don't make it some otherworldly super-spiritual exercise when you talk to your Father, but show your kids how you can confidently talk and walk with your amazing God. As your relationship with God grows, it sets the spiritual thermostat of your home to the setting "as for me and my house, we will serve The Lord."  Remember the GOOD NEWS of the gospel, that God our Father loves and accepts us, not based on our good behavior and actions, but on Jesus' actions and sacrifice. If Father God treated us according to our behavior, we would be living under constant condemnation, but remember, "There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." (Romans 8:1)

Our kids listen with their eyes, and no amount of spiritual talk or "Christianese" will have as much of an impact on their lives as them seeing you walk out a life truly loving and serving Jesus. Our children generally will value what we value, and they have a brutal sense of smell for hypocrisy in others. 
So dads, live your life of true devotion to God right out in front of them. They will tend to catch what you have, so if you are living a life of freedom in Christ, that's what they will see, and they'll eventually get there. 

So, there are my top two gifts I can give my kids. Stay tuned for more to come as I share more from my Top 10 List. Leave a comment and let us hear what is on your gift list!
Read Part 2 (gifts 3 and 4). Read Part 3 (gifts 5-8).

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