Thursday, May 29, 2014


We love this time of year because for us it is all about preparing to see you in September for our annual Hope at Home conference for adoptive and foster parents. This on-line relationship is all well and good, but there is nothing like spending time together, is there? 

For those of you who have never been, you might like to read what other mothers and fathers have to say about their experience. 

It is our desire at Hope at Home 2014 to Go Beyond:

  • to go beyond the giving and receiving of information and great parenting strategies, although lots of giving a receiving will be going on for sure--stay tuned for speakers and topics!
  • to go beyond the fellowship and comfort of being with other parents who totally "get" what we are doing and experiencing, although we will certainly have some wonderful times together, enjoying old friends and making new ones. (You won't want to miss our H@H Dessert Party with live jazz!)
  • to go beyond the delight and refreshing of time away from the daily ins and outs of family life, although we will surely love that.

Hope at Home 2014 is about trusting God to Go Beyond....

  • to receive revelation from our Father God about our children and to know them as He knows them so that we can parent them according to the way they should go
  • to enjoy the wonderful fellowship not only with each other, but with our Father God who loves us each as His very own beloved sons and daughters
  • to experience the refreshing that lasts way beyond a weekend away as the Holy Spirit pours life into dry places, understanding into places of confusion, and hope into impossible situations. 

So our dear friends, we invite you to join us September 26-27. We so long to see you in person and enjoy a time of going beyond! We are trusting God for ripple effects to reverberate into our children's lives, and even into generations to come. 

He is that good, you know! 

So, to encourage you to register early (since that really does help us in our planning!) we have a really great give away raffle for those of you who register by June 26. Our friend Michelle Harpur from Pure Gratitude has donated a unique necklace for Hope at Home parents. 
We'll announce the winner June 26, but I may have to buy one of these for myself anyway!

If you've come in years past you know that we have a team of faith filled people who will be praying for you and any requests you share with us in our registration questionnaire--and you don't have to win a raffle for that prize! And the earlier you register, the more weeks you'll have knowing that someone is praying for you and your family. Now that's what I call a win/win situation!

Let your adoptive, foster and waiting parent friends know. See you in September! 

 To register and for conference details, click HERE.

Monday, May 26, 2014


Wonderful to hear from our friend Kate Aldrich, adoptive mom and marriage blogger, for this month's Marriage Monday post. Check out Kate and Brad's blog, One Flesh Marriage.

 ~~And while we've got your attention, Registration for Hope at Home 2014 opens Thursday. So, check back here or on our Facebook Page. We are super excited and have a great giveaway for those who register in the next month.~~

It seems appropriate to talk about milestones, since we just planned our 15th Anniversary getaway. To say I am a little excited is an understatement. Five whole days with just my hubby, in a cabin, in the middle of nowhere-C A N N O T wait!

Every year we get away for our anniversary. Usually it is only a weekend and then every couple of years we try to do something longer. Whether it is going out to dinner or getting away like Brad and I are doing this year, wedding anniversaries are obviously a time when many couples set aside time to celebrate and be alone. 

Brad and I find every excuse we can to celebrate “us”! We take every opportunity we have to get out and spend time, just the two of us! We are blessed to have the help of wonderful Grandparents. While we are looking for every opportunity to go on dates, they are looking for every opportunity to visit and spoil their grandkids! It works well and everyone is happy! 
Beside our anniversary, Brad and I can come up with many other occasions to get out, just the two of us. There are birthdays, our first date, our engagement, Valentine’s Day, Flag Day (anything)! So my question to you is, 
Do you take every opportunity you have to celebrate the milestones in your marriage?
I have found that many couples do not. Or if they do, it is time spent talking about their kids! It is a shame to miss these wonderful opportunities, these milestones, to connect on a deeply intimate level! 

Protect Those Special Days:

We try to make sure we protect our special days. Our wedding anniversary is June 20th. When we found out that we were pregnant with our oldest son, we also found out that his due date was June 24th. After the initial excitement and shock wore off, both Brad and I said, “I really hope this baby is not born on our anniversary!”  We talked about that many times throughout my pregnancy. I even prayed that God would allow him to be born on any other day! I know that seems crazy, and of course our son’s health and safety was of most concern, but we wanted that day to remain our special day. Our son was born on June 28th, so we were elated that our day was still “just ours”! 

But our story doesn’t end there it gets even more interesting! When we found out that we were expecting our daughter, we learned her due date was August 4th. We actually said, “perfect”!! No need to worry about any special dates! Ha! Well, as it turns out I was very sick with our daughter and she had to be delivered via an emergency C-section. When do you think that was? Yup, she was born in June 21st! 6 ½ weeks early and only a few hours after our anniversary. I actually went into the hospital on our anniversary. All Brad and I could do was laugh! So much for our planning! We still laugh about the irony of this story! But to be completely honest, we still protect our anniversary! Our anniversary is an important priority and we will not let it get lost in our kids!

Have we always been this way, you may ask? Brad and I have always celebrated our special days, but since we have been open to God’s amazing plan for marriage, we have grown to be even more protective of those times, becoming very intentional about the time we get alone together. We cherish every moment and want it to be special! It may not always fall on the 20th, but we go no matter what. I know it seems like there are many obstacles in the way--time, money, child-care, etc. If you are creative these things are only obstacles that can be overcome!

Dealing With the Obstacles:

You can always find time, cancel whatever you have going on for a whole weekend (or at least an overnight). In future years, schedule a weekend off in advance. Making this a  priority will show your spouse how much your value him/her and your time alone together!

If money is an issue, have your children go to someone’s house so that you can stay home alone, although there is something to be said for getting out of your normal, everyday surroundings. We budget for our “get-away time together” because we feel it is just as important to our marriage and our family vacations. Marriage time should not be considered an extra. Nurturing your marriage is a must! 
If you choose to stay at your home, make it different and special. Decorate, clean, use candles, think of ways to make the time you have a fun, loving, intimate celebration of your marriage. Do things that you truly enjoy and maybe don’t get the opportunity to do very often. 

Many couples say that childcare is a problem as well. I hear that, and recognize that Brad and I are very blessed to have amazing parents who love to take turns spoiling their grandchildren. If you don’t, find a couple in your church or neighborhood, someone you trust with your children. Ask them if they would be willing to watch your kids for the weekend or overnight. If they have children, offer to do the same in return for their anniversary or special weekend (this is great for date nights as well). If they have kids, don’t assume it is too much to add your kids to the mix. We have three kids and many times adding a few more for a day or two is really not a big deal. Not to mention that your kids get a “special” weekend as well! It is also another great example to your children about how important your marriage is, as well as setting a great example for their future marriage!

Don’t keep making excuses as to why you never go on dates or never get away together! You deserve to celebrate each other and your marriage. I truly think God is pleased when we take special time just for each other!

As I said earlier, Brad and I take every opportunity to celebrate. Not everything we do costs much or requires childcare. We love staying in, watching a movie together, reading together, sharing a quiet dinner, all of these things if set aside for just the two of you, is celebrating your marriage! We try to have a quiet dinner together, when the kids are already in bed, at least once a week. What do you and your spouse enjoy doing together? If you don’t remember, because too much time and space has come between you, ask yourself, what were the things that attracted you in the beginning? What were the things you enjoyed doing then? These interests grow and change as our marriage does. But thinking back to the beginning helps us to remember why we fell in love! I have found that I feel most blessed in my marriage when I do something for Brad that I know he loves. When I take the time and effort to carve out time for just us.

Go get your calendar, look forward to the milestones in your marriage. Spend some time planning together! Don’t let another milestone pass without planning something special to celebrate your marriage!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

SO, WHAT IF....?

From Beth:

These 2 words keep coming up in my life lately. And then I read this great Journey to Surrender blog post from Scott Means and realized, I am going to have to pay attention! 

One of the things I just loved about Scott's "What If" post is this statement, "I don't do what if."
Oh wow, that is something to live by right there fellow adoptive and foster parents! 

How many times have we what if'd our way through the day?

  • What if I'm not a good enough parent?
  • What if we can't raise the money we need?
  • What if the caseworker finds something wrong in our home study?
  • What if our adoption is harmful to our children already home?
  • What if my child does not attach?
  • What if I don't love my child?
  • What if this behavior never improves?
  • What if my marriage does not recover from this strain?
  • What if we never feel normal as a family again?
  • What if my children don't follow Jesus when they get older?

The list could go on and on, right? As Scott point's out, all these what if's find their roots in doubt, worry and fear.
And what does that get us? One of the lessons I have learned in this adoption journey is that parenting in fear does not work
Never Ever. 

I've given a good solid try my friends! I am learning to be like Scott and simply not "do" what if.
Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition (definite requests), with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God. (Philippians 4:6 AMP)
But, here is the really exciting part--Scott goes on to imagine what it would be like if we didn't just stop at what we won't do, but rather turned that inclination to what if our way through life into something positive and life-giving. 

What would it be like if I released my inner what iffer on some of God's promises for my children?
What would it look like if my what ifs were based in God's revealed nature, in His promises, in His love for me? 

As much as I love saying "I don't do what if," I love this new kind of what if even more!

So my friends, What If?
  • What if God is faithful to me as an adoptive parent?
  • What if God heals the trauma in my children?
  • What if our family becomes stronger through adoption?
  • What if all my children serve the Lord and Not One turns away from Him?
  • What if God provides for all of our needs?
  • What if His Father's heart for my children replaces the orphan spirit that threatens to steal away the joy of adoption? 
And how about this:
  • What if I find joy and peace in the journey?
  • What if my marriage actually gets stronger as we team up together to live out the call on our lives?
  • What if my children see the gospel of grace lived out in our home in a way that releases healing?
I'm on a roll now!
  • What if God is actually who He says He is?
  • What if it is not actually all about me?
  • What if Jesus' work on the cross actually is enough, for me, and for my marriage, and for my children?
  • What if it actually isn't up to me to get it all right so that my children will turn out alright?
I am what iffing my way into JOY! 

Leave us a comment with your what ifs. What is one of your fear-based what ifs? What is one of your promise-based what ifs?

Sunday, May 18, 2014


From Beth:

So much love and intentionality goes into adoption long before you precious child comes home. Waiting for that moment is far from passive, as I know you all know quite well! Here are 4 more suggestions to make the most of those sometimes painful season of waiting. 

5. Anticipate Positively

We might be tempted to tell our children how hard it is going to be, how they will be jealous and how difficult their new sibling might be. Rather, stress the positive as you prepare for the challenges ahead. Don't ignore the fact that life is about to change, but help your children see their role from a place of strength. For instance you might say, "Sometimes you might feel like you want mommy's attention when I am feeding the new baby (or helping teach your sister English, etc...) You are going to be such a good helper. Isn't it good that God has made you to be the big sister?! You'll get to teach her so many things. Do you think you could teach her how to get dressed by herself like you do? (or help her learn English words?)" 
Emphasizing the role of the sibling, as the one who can help and give with an open heart will help your children see that things are going to be required of them, but that they can give with love rather than see this season as a time where things are taken from them.

6. Listen

Including your children in the decision-making process can be extended all along the way. Keep your family "in the loop" and give them time to respond, especially allowing them to share their fears or negative thoughts. For instance, the decisions that the new sibling will share his brother's room or that the new sister will be older than your birth daughter are best made as a family, allowing the children to share their fears or concerns. Again, this doesn't mean that all decisions are made by your children, but rather that each child knows he or she is valued and heard. 
It can be hard not to become defensive when your children share negative thoughts, but staying calm and encouraging may be all they need to eventually be willing to make the changes demanded of them. So often just being heard is what people, children and adults, really want in time of conflict. 
When our middle daughter expressed that she did not want to have a sister older than her, we took her seriously. However, as it became clear that God was leading us to our precious daughter Kristina, whose birthday turned out to be 2 weeks before Rachel's, we knew we had a situation on our hands. You can read about this situation from Rachel's point of view in her post, but for us it was clear that we needed to communicate with Rachel and then trust God to open her heart. 

7. Connect 

We love to say at our church that parenting is a team sport, and this is even more true with adoption. Indeed, adoption is a team sport! Connecting with people who will be there for you once your new child comes home will be life-giving and on some days you may even say life-saving! 
Don't wait until after your adoption to find help. Hopefully you have people asking what they can do to help--now's the time to say, "Actually I will take you up on it. Thank you!" 
Having meals brought in those first weeks is very helpful. Getting friends or family members to take your daughter to her piano lessons every week or your son to his soccer practice is worth more than you may be able to anticipate. Maintaining some normalcy for your family is very important. So much change and sacrifice will be required, so keeping some things "the way it used to be" will communicate love and security to your children. But you will need help for this. If your child speaks another language you will want to line up someone you can call to translate. Susan tells a wonderful story of the day her daughter wanted (as in, insisted!) to wear her bathing suit to church, and needless to say, translation was needed! 
The help you can get for those first months will diminish any resentment or just simply the stress that your children may deal with.

8. Create a Common History 

As much as it is possible for you, begin to create a common history even before the adoption. We were all amazed to find out there was a live webcam in Vyborg, Russia, so we could see the people walking down the street, see what they were wearing and how cold it was. Make use of the internet to find out about the history and culture of the place your child lives. If it is possible, write letters and send gifts as a family. We have some of the sweetest notes from our children to their new siblings and those interchanges did much to connect us as a family. Although this is not possible or wise for everyone, when it is appropriate travel as a family to receive your new child. The common experience you will have as a family in your adopted child's environment will expand understanding and compassion. 
The week we shared as a family in Russia before each adoption gave us our first family stories, not in our home, but in our adopted children's homes! 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


From Beth:

Susan and I love to talk with families who are preparing to adopt. What an exciting season for a family, full of possibilities and preparation! 
So, here are some ideas for you in this waiting season. Since we had 3 children at home before our first adoption, I'm including that reality in these 4 ideas, and the 4 more to follow in our next post, but I hope these points will be helpful to a family bringing their first child home as well. 

Share with a waiting friend! 

1. Pray

We learn so much through the adoption process don't we?! One of my favorite things I learned in our long months of waiting for our children was the absolute power of prayer to change my heart. We prayed every day, literally, for the brother and sister we thought we would adopt. As we prayed for them, God began to carve out a place in our hearts and even in our lives for these two children. They became ours in a way that is difficult to describe. We had never met them, had only seen one photo and a very short video, but somehow through prayer we became connected to them. We never ended up adopting them (another story for another time), but I will tell you, because of that year of constant praying for God to bless them, I anticipate meeting them in heaven and embracing them as a mother embraces her own children. So, I encourage you to pray for your waiting child often and watch how God not only uses that to bless them, but how He uses it to prepare you to receive them as your own. 

2. Be at Team

As you pray, be sure to include your children as often as possible. So much will be communicated to them as you do! They will see that this adoption process is something that you are doing together as a family--that it is not just something Mommy and Daddy are doing. 
And I encourage you to include your children, if age permits, in the decision process. Not to say that if they say they don't want to adopt that you will say "no" to God's call, of course. But we believe that if God is calling you to adopt, He is calling your family as a TEAM. Let your children know that you have heard His voice and that you know He will speak to them as well. And then give them some time to come into agreement. Let them in on what God is saying to you and expect that He will lead them. 
Having the whole family recognize your adoption as a call from God will provide a wonderful strength when times are difficult, when some of the loving feelings that accompany the idea of adoption are replaced by a real live stranger in your home. It gives you a reference point to help your children through those tough times.
There is absolutely nothing like knowing you are in God's will to strengthen you!

3. Expose 

Spending time with other families who have adopted, and fostering friendships with other adopted children, will do part of the work of expanding your hearts and your lives to receive your new family member. The sometimes frustratingly long wait from the call to that first day at home together is the perfect time for exposure to adopted children and adoptive families. For us, finding a group of families who adopted from Russia was a huge blessing and help. 
Look for ways to serve an adoptive family by helping with tutoring or offering to have their children over to play or even spend the night. This service will not only be a huge blessing to the family, but will really help you to prepare yourselves for what your life will be like. 

4. Communicate

Help your children and other family members with the adjustments to the changes ahead by sharing appropriate information about your new child. How much you tell family members and close friends, and what details you leave out, will depend on the age of any siblings at home, on the facts at hand, and on your goal to always honor your child and his/her story. But telling some of the story ahead of time will allow your family to develop understanding and compassion, a sense of connection with this new family member. 
Just finding out about what their life is like, the foods they eat, their daily routine, is interesting and helpful to begin a relationship. 
Your family will want to know what happened to their new sibling's parents. Any children already home may need help understanding why their new sibling does not have a mother and father to care for them. I believe sharing something of that story is important as you help your children understand such difficult realities. It may be that you share only the broadest facts, or there may be so little information that you can only share some of the common reasons why a child needs to be adopted. Regardless, as much as it is possible, speak with honor about the birth parents. But I also don't recommend "sugar coating" the story either. It was not accurate, for instance, for us to say that the birth parents of our children loved them so much that they chose adoption for them. That is a noble and courageous part of many people's stories, but not for all. You don't want to have to explain years later that the story you told was not true because you were trying to protect from a harsh truth with a lie that seemed less painful. Better to omit details than create "facts."

Going through this process now of determining what details to share, and with whom, will help you in the future as you decide how much of your child's story to tell over the years. 

Help us help waiting families by sharing ways your family prepared for your adopted children-- leave a comment! Thank you!

Read Part II. 

Friday, May 9, 2014


From Beth:

So, my mommy friends, what's the story? 
Honestly, this post is really just this one question. 

What is the story that my life is telling?

What is the story your life is telling? 

Once upon a time, there was a mommy......

I want my life to tell the story of God at work in me and my family. 

On the title page it will say,  

A Story of Love
By God

Looking back I realize that I used to want (and often try) to write my own story. Well, I suppose I still do, but I am getting increasingly comfortable with letting that go!

I had an idea of what our family would look like. I had a great plan, a godly plan, for each of our birth daughters. Really, you all would have so loved my story! 

And when God called us to adopt, this new thread in the story turned out to be an amazing plot twist, and we loved it when God introduced the new "characters" in our story line. What an amazing story-teller He is!  

So, of course, I quickly wrote their plot summaries as well. That's what authors do, right? We mamas know how to make a good story for each of our children! 

In reality though, I was telling the story of me--the story of my love for God and of my love for my children. 
The story of my good parenting and my wonderful children. 

Once upon a time there was a mommy, and she did this, and then she did this, and then this....

That is how the story was progressing in my mind. But over the years I see how many times the True Author has gently taken the pen from my hand and written it differently. How kind He's been to me. 

It's like He's said, "Beth, how about we do it this way...."

And sometimes the story becomes so beautiful that it brings tears to my eyes to think that He is letting me be a part of such narrative. How could it be that I get to play this role?! To be a mommy in this story is more glorious and beautiful and good than anything I could have imagined! I LOVE my part in this story!!

And then sometimes I think for sure He must have made a mistake. This isn't the plot line we agreed upon! It wasn't supposed to happen this way. 

But then He gently pulls me aside from the pen and paper, from the telling of the story, and He begins to whisper to me about the particular story line that is so upsetting for me. And I push back and let Him know that I don't like this part of the story! Please, please can we not change it? Like, maybe NOW?!
But Beth, take a look here. Let me show you some plans I have for this part of our story. For it is OUR STORY being told you know. I'm taking this mistake of yours and that misstep of theirs, and I'm weaving them together to create a plot line that will bring glory to my name and release life to you all. I'm not wasting anything here. Where your choices have taken the story in the wrong direction, I am busy writing up a story line that will be so good that you'll want to read it aloud to anyone who will listen.
And so, wonderful, Wonder-Full God, I just want to thank You that You are telling a story of life and beauty and power and redemption and hope and faith, and so many good things. I want my life to tell this story Lord God. Sign Your Name to this life, be the author of this story. I LOVE the way you write! Pick up my life like a pen and write something glorious. Amen.  
For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you, says the Lord, thoughts and plans for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome. (Jeremiah 29:11)

Sunday, May 4, 2014


From Susan:


All around the world, in every continent, the same things are happening:  the people of God are stepping up to care for hurting children and wounded families. I saw it in Ukraine when I took vacation time two weeks ago after being invited to speak at their National Adoption Conference. Even amidst the turmoil besetting that beautiful land, believers across the country are loving those children and families who are suffering. 

Love and hope, replacing pain and emptiness.

Ukraine has such a special place in my heart, as it is the first country where the Church and Government began to work together for a Ukraine without Orphans. And now, more than 30 other countries around the world are starting 'without orphans' movements. The goal is that every child in the country would be living in a safe, stable, and nurturing family.  One of our amazingly gifted sons, Alex, drew the picture of the country of Ukraine atop a high mountain, upheld by the transparent church.  

And our prayer is that, around the world, as others see that it is possible for all the church to care for all the orphans in Ukraine, they will see that it is also possible in their own countries. As we read in Acts 13:47: "I have made you a light for the outcasts."

I had prepared my message for the time in Ukraine, intending to use Nehemiah; however, as I continued praying, it became clear that it would be much more helpful to give 'my heart' than to give 'my message.' In my heart, the goal was simple:  for these dear believers to see how important and valued they are in the eyes of their heavenly Father, and that their example is being talked about around the world. I actually took the 18 by 24 inch picture you see above, and it was indeed better than a thousand words!

After I finished speaking, several Ukrainian smiling fathers approached me, "Thank you so much for helping us see that what we are doing is important. We thought we were just doing this little thing of taking care of orphaned children and helping them to have a loving family; we had no idea that in actuality, we are doing a big thing in God's plan!"

Christian Alliance for Orphans

I saw this 'little is big' idea again in the annual Christian Alliance for Orphans meeting in Chicago this past week.  One of the speakers was a young man, Tyrone, who has finished law school and is mentoring young people in the inner city. He told his story of growing up with a single mom who struggled with substance abuse and so was not able to give him parenting. Tyrone ended up embroiled in the gun violence of the inner city, and he talked about the woman who gave him the 24 hours that changed his life. She was the cook that worked in 'juvie' who served him food every day in the cafeteria. One day as he is walking through the line, she looks at him and says, "you are just like my son!" He thinks, "well, if I am like her son, then she is like my mother!"  He began to see himself as having value; he only saw her about 5 minutes a day, as he walked through the line, and is sure he didn't have more than 24 hours total with her--but her view of him changed his view of himself!!! Towards the end of his time, he made her a jewelry box in the wood shop there.  Her belief in him was the stepping stone that got him to community college, then college, then law school, then living his life to help mentor other young people! It is now 20 years later, and Tyrone recently was surprised to run into the cook's son, who greeted him this way: "You always were her FAVORITE son!!....and guess what she still has sitting right in the middle of her dresser--that jewelry box you made her!"  Tyrone was able to get her number and call her. When she answered, he asked, "Hey! Do you know who this is?" At once she replies, "YES! It is Tyrone!!!" 

This inspirational story reminds us that what we all need is the same: love and belonging. And that 5 'little' minutes of consistent kindness can make a 'big' change a young person's life! It is what Paul writes about in Romans 9: 
Those who were not beloved, I will call 'beloved;' and in the very place where it was said, 'you are not my people,' there they will be called 'sons of the living God.'

Today, Lord, we want to copy this cook!!! Open our eyes to see ourselves, our children, and others, to see the 'little' things we can do, in the 'big' way that you see us and them.  As beloved treasures, with purpose, who are part of God's big story!!!