Monday, November 28, 2011


If you are in the Facebook world you may have noticed that there were lots of posts about thankfulness in the month leading up to Thanksgiving. A few of my friends made it their goal to post something they were thankful for every single day. I loved that-- and found that it affected me, my thoughts being drawn to what I was thankful for as well. Funny, but no matter how old I get and how often I hear a message on thankfulness, or preach one myself to my children, I always benefit from the reminder. There is a huge difference between taking time to give thanks and a lifestyle of thankfulness.

A Lifestyle of Thankfulness

In his book, "Strengthen Yourself in the Lord," Bill Johnson speaks of a lifestyle of thankfulness, a lifestyle where I place my focus on what God has done and what He is doing now, rather than focusing on what He has yet to do. I have learned in the last few years what a difference this approach makes. As adoptive parents we are often confronted with difficult realities, right? In another post on the adopted child's foundations I spoke about God telling me that "you need to be in this for the long haul." Partnering with God to transform orphans into Sons and Daughters is not a process that ends with adoption-- it is the work and love of a lifetime! When we place our energies and mind space on thanking God for what He is up to now and remind ourselves of what He has done in the past, we totally shift the way we deal with these difficulties.

Good Gifts

One of the reasons this "works" is that all of God's ways are Good, so thinking about the Good Things He has done and is doing aligns our thoughts with Him, rather than with the difficulty at hand. 
"So, my very dear friends, don't get thrown off course. Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light. There is nothing deceitful in God, nothing two-faced, nothing fickle." James 1:17
Indeed, I have found Him never to be fickle in His dealings with our family. He is constant, kind, merciful and mighty. When God gets involved in a difficulty with your child you are sure to get pure goodness from Him, no tricks or games. And I find that by making the choice to thank Him for what He is doing, I am in the powerful place of being in agreement with God.

Mindful and Alert

It simply becomes hard to stay in a place of discouragement when I am mindful and alert to the love and goodness of God that has been so evident in the history of our family. I remember how God called us to adoption, how our children have grown and healed over the years, how some of the serious issues we faced years ago are no longer problems-- all pretty amazing realities for us.

"Be happy [in your faith] and rejoice and be glad-hearted continually (always); Be unceasing in prayer [praying perseveringly]; Thank God in everything [no matter what the circumstances may be, be thankful and give thanks], for this is the will of God for you who are in Christ Jesus." 
1 Thessalonians 5:15-18

There's probably a long list of concerns you have regarding your child, but the list of things to be thankful for is always longer. Often an act of our will, often an act of faith, may our choice to live as a people full of thanks release power into our parenting. 

Penny Praises

I love the story of George Mueller, a nineteenth century evangelist who devoted his life to orphans, who clearly had learned to live a lifestyle of thanksgiving. He wrote, "Expect great things from God, and great things you will have. There is no limit to what He is able to do. Praises forever to His glorious name! Praise Him for everything! I have praised Him many times when He sent me ten cents, and I have praised Him when He has sent me sixty thousand dollars." The story is told that Mueller was believing God for the finances to build an orphanage when a young orphan boy approached him with a few coins, an offering to help. Mueller's response was to give glory to God, choosing to thank Him and recognizing the money as significant, rather than focus on the tens of thousands lacking. These "penny praises" are ours to give,  in faithful anticipation for the day when we experience the fullness of God's promises in the lives of our families.

And I'd like to end this post by saying that we at Hope at Home are deeply thankful to God for the opportunity to serve. Our team is meeting tonight and will spend time in prayer for you. It is an honor to share with you what God has so freely given to us. Grace and Peace be with you and with your families!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


From Susan Hillis:

Yesterday afternoon, at the base of Stone Mountain, I saw a little girl who appeared to be about 5, running out of a small clearing where she had tarried by the lake to peer up at the towering mountain with its impressive carving of valor and sacrifice.  Looking me in the eyes, she burst out, "From here the view is beautiful!!!" 
So I had to go stand where she had been to see for myself.  It was not the carving that caught my eye.  It was the glory of God's radiant light shining all around the single young tree that was growing, impossibly, out of the very top peak of the stone summit.  And the Lord reminds us, "Tarry away from the crowd. Be still [and know that I am God].  LOOK UP!  And you will see My glory. And we, with unveiled face, all behold the glory of the Lord!  Nothing is between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of His face. And so we're transfigured, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like Him." (II Cor 3, ESV and MSG).
At this season of Thanksgiving, may we have our eyes opened, daily, to see His beauty in creation in a fresh way, right along the paths of our lives, where, "from here the view is beautiful."  Lord, you promise mercies that are new every morning.  It is easy for me to get so mired in looking at the weeds and stones of errands, disobedience, rebellion, unteachableness, that I miss the mercies.  I see a mountain of stone that looks impossible to scale, instead of the tender tree growing miraculously at the very top.
How often do you want allowance?
How often do you want allowance?  Every week?  Every month?  This is what I tell our kids.  "Hey guys....I know how we all can get allowance every day!  Not just every week or every month!  Every day!   The last verse of Jeremiah says, "A regular allowance was given 'her' by the King according to 'her' daily need, long as she lived."  Help us, Lord, to live on your daily allowance of mercy, so vibrantly loud through your quietly tranquil creation.  Only this way will I really see the beautiful view with any consistency. 
Daily light
It is those two words the Lord whispered to me one morning several years ago as I peered over the field in back of our house...daily light. I understood that today's light is new and present today - we do not walk around today borrowing the light from yesterday's rays of, the light I have today is from today's rays - not yesterday's and not tomorrow's.  How do we get this light?  "The unfolding of Your words gives light."  Whether through creation or music or pictures or scriptures. We just need to unfold them....because "from here the view is beautiful."

Saturday, November 19, 2011


From Scott Means:

Hard stuff happens. That’s just reality.

During the Hope at Home 2011 Conference my lovely wife and I had the pleasure of speaking into the marriages of couples who have adopted. I greatly admire adoptive couples for the selfless love they have expressed by answering the call of God on their lives to adopt. But the reality for many is that life is really hard and the demands of an adoptive family create some unique stresses that I’m sure I cannot fully appreciate, not having adopted ourselves.
One of the foundational principles of a Surrendered Marriage, my shorthand description for biblical marriage, is selfless giving. This is how I describe that principle:
"The beauty and power of a Surrendered Marriage is found in what it compels you to give rather than what it permits you to demand."
Scripture paints a pretty clear picture of the way husbands and wives how are to love one another:
Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn't love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.
Ephesians 5:2 (MSG)
But as much as I believe that we are called to a life of extravagant and selfless love, there are times when you just don’t have anything left to give. There are times when the physical and mental stresses of life will sap every ounce from your being.

When You Have Nothing Left

There will be seasons in your life when it feels like the walls are caving in. In these times you often go into survival mode, and it’s likely that your attention will turn from most things around you, including your marriage and your spouse.

It’s natural to turn inward and self-protective when life smacks you in the face, but I want to encourage you that even when you feel “alone” in your suffering and stress, you and your spouse are one, and anything you encounter in your life is encountered by you both. So while you may not have a lot to give, make every effort to remain present in your marriage and connected to your spouse. Let him or her help hold you up.

Give yourself permission to be in need. Tell your husband or wife where you are mentally, what you’re feeling and how he or she can help you. If you can manage it keep your emotions in check when asking for help. Do so without being critical and demanding.

Whatever it is, face it together.

When Your Spouse Has Nothing Left 

If you are the spouse of someone who has nothing left to give and it feels like you are the one left to hold things together, know that you are being Christ to your spouse. God bless you for your faithfulness.

Let me give you a few suggestions to help you deal with the situation:
  • Learn what stress looks like on your spouse (most people have characteristic reactions). Do your best not to respond to the emotions (fear, anger, moodiness or whatever stress produces), but to deal with the root cause instead.
  • Give practical help to relieve the stress when you can (that’s not always possible).
  • Be present and don’t back away. Be sensitive to what is most helpful – sometimes that may mean pursuing if they back away or may mean allowing space when needed.
  • Speak truth into their life. You can provide clarity to help separate facts from the truth. Keep point them to God.
  • Try loving them “as if.” Realize that what they are expressing is coming from a place of pain and pressure and is not necessarily who they really are. Have an attitude of grace.
  • You don’t need to silently endure disrespect or unkindness, but be gentle in pointing out that your spouse needs to watch how they speak to you.

When You Both Have Nothing Left

Our most difficult times are when both Jenni and I are under great stress, when neither of us is able to pick up the slack and do the reaching out. It’s probably true in most marriages.

For starters, let me tell you a hard truth: it is part of a husband’s responsibility to lead in this arena. If one of you has to lay down their life (put aside their own stress), it’s you. I encourage you to step up and carry things when your wife falters. It’s part of your calling from God as a husband, and he will strengthen and equip you to do it.
  • Start with spiritual intimacy – look together toward God for help and answers. It puts you immediately together on the same team and acknowledges the Lordship of Jesus and your dependence upon him.
  • You both will need to resist your tendency to turn inward. Try to stay present with each other. Stay connected in small ways (a text, a call, a kind word, a hug).
  • Neither of you is in a place to do big things for each other, so do the little things you know to do. They make a big difference.
  • Try to keep your head in the game. Remember that you are one even when you don’t feel like it, and neither of you walks alone in whatever it is.
  • Be real but watch how you communicate. When emotions are running full tilt it’s easy to say things in ways that convey something you don’t intend.

Shout “Grace! Grace!” to the mountain.

When I’m facing a mountain, whatever it may be, I like to remember these verses:
This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: 'Not by [your] might nor by [your] power, but by my Spirit,' says the LORD Almighty. "What are you, O mighty mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become level ground. Then he will bring out the capstone [finish the work he set out to accomplish] to shouts of 'Grace! Grace!' [God bless it! God bless it!]
Zech 4:6 (NKJ) [brackets added]

May the God of your hope so fill you with all joy and peace in believing (through the experience of your faith), that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound and be overflowing (bubbling over) with hope.
Romans 15:13 (AMP)

Remember to continually speak words of grace and hope to your spouse at all times, but especially in times of significantly stress!

You can read more from Scott on his popular marriage blog, Journey to Surrender.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


From Susan Hillis:

"I will bring upon them all the good that I promise them …[They] shall be a name of joy before all the nations...who shall hear of all the good that I do for them;" (Jer 32:42, 33:9)

From Eeyore to Big Joy!
Last night we all sat around the table with friends, celebrating our daughter Katya's birthday.  In keeping with our family tradition, we got to tell Katya -- whom we adopted 13 years ago at age 10... what we like about her. Once again, I was amazed at the transformational power the Lord has in one life, as I saw the change from who Katya used to be, to whom she has become. "Eeyore" has become "Big Joy,"--and it took years.

9 'Goods' and 1 'Bad'
Katya's nickname when we adopted her was Eeyore. She was, simply, sad, gloomy, and despondent much of the time.  I will always remember the 10 kids sitting around the table, each with a small scrap of paper and a pencil.  "I want you guys to write one word -- either write 'good' or 'bad' as the answer to my question," I said. "Here's the question:  'When you grow up, do you think your life will be good or bad?'"

As everyone shared their answers, I heard 9 'goods' and one 'bad.'  Our dear Eeyore, in keeping with her namesake, felt doomed to a bad life.  "Katya, why do you think your life will be bad, sweetie?"  She answered, looking down resignedly, "because school is so hard, and I think it will be too hard for me to ever finish and get a job that will make enough for me to take care of myself."

"I Know the Plans I Have for You..."
That story helped me see that she needed God's truth to replace the lies she was believing about who He is in her life.  That very year is the one we began to choose one verse for the year, have the kids write it and draw their own picture to illustrate it, and hang it all over our kitchen cabinets so that we would be reminded to pray and talk with them about the things God wants to do for us.  Katya's verse that year was Jeremiah 29:11 "I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for goodness and not for calamity, to give you a future and a hope."

And Katya began to change. About 3 years later on one of her birthdays, as we listened to all the reasons her family members like her, we noted a common theme:  "I like you because your eyes turn upside down like crescent moons when you smile."  "I like you because you are so giggly."  "I like you because you are happy and fun to play with."  And we realized that Eeyore needed a new name;  she had become Big Joy.  Within several days Katya remarked to me, "Mommy, I have been thinking about all those things the family said about me on my birthday and about why i have changed so much.....I think the reason is that I began to believe that that verse you have been praying for me is true."

"I Like You Because...."
So last night, all these years later, it is evident that the change was enduring -- family and friends are still saying the same things about her joy. 
"Katya, I like you because when we have issues in our family [all families have issues, you know], you just come over and hang out and laugh and smile and cheer us all up." 
"I like you because you have a way of bringing peace into tense situations, just by your smile and cheerfulness."
"I like you," says our Nicaraguan friend Alex who speaks only a little English, "because you are always making jokes in English that I can't even understand, but you still makes me laugh."
"I like you because you are fun to play putt-putt with."

All the Good
So, as we reflect on the past year, we see "all the good" the Lord has done for her.  She completed her cosmetology training and is working as a hair dresser in a local salon;  she developed wonderful independence during her 4 months in London with our friend Bek; and she recently surprised us when she came home, chuckling, rubbing her wet shorts from her college and career fellowship one night.  "I decided to be re-baptized tonight;  tonight it just meant more to me, because I really understood what I was doing, and I just wanted it [my faith] to be my own decision." 

We still have an Eeyore or two in our family, and for you readers who do as well, may we have eyes of faith to see, even now, all see "all the good" that the Lord promises them and us.  It will, indeed, bring us joy.

Friday, November 11, 2011


Checking Our Reserves

How often as parents do we take stock of the resources we have at hand and realize there is not nearly enough to meet the need? We check our reserves of patience, wisdom, energy, answers, and even love, and become acutely aware that we don't have anywhere near enough to give to the situation at hand. I've never had to feed 5000+ hungry people with five loaves of bread and a couple of small fish, but certainly I have looked at the needs of our children, the complicated issues of life, and seen a massive need, intimidating in it's nature and impossible in the natural. 

Maybe today you are facing a similar situation in your family. The scenarios are endless-- a child with desperate and pressing emotional or physical needs, an adoption process that is stalled by laws and policy changes, a marriage stretched to it's thinnest and threatening to tear, or just an exhaustion both physical and emotional from the strain of parenting an adoptive family. How exciting it is to stand in that place of impossibility and hear Jesus say, "Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?" (John 6:5) John tells us that Jesus asked this question, knowing what He would do, but wanting to test the disciples. Most often my initial response is like Phillip's, naming the lack in it's detail, focusing on the seeming chasm between the need and the provision at hand. "Philip answered, 'Two hundred silver pieces wouldn't be enough to buy bread for each person to get a piece.'" (John 6:7)

Back in Your Hands

We look around us and gather up what we have at hand and explain to the Lord that there is no way we can do this. What we bring to the issue is so inadequate to meet the need. Bread and fish are a good start for feeding people, just as the good parenting ideas you have and the love you bring to your family are exactly along the lines of what is needed. But we cry out, "Lord it is not enough!" I so love the exchange that happens next. Jesus says, give me what you've got my son, my daughter. He thanks God for it-- for remember, what you have to give is of value and worth-- and puts it right back in your hands to distribute to your family. 

The Exchange

And in this exchange, as we apply faith to our parenting, we see God do miracles of provision in our homes. I want to encourage you today that whatever it is you have to bring, whatever you have in your hands, is exactly the material God wants to utilize to provide for the demanding need. It was the disciples themselves who fed that crowd of hungry people-- not Jesus. You and I have what it takes to provide for every need in our homes. As we partner with God to raise our children we will see what a joy it is to make that wonderful exchange and to operate in power for the good of our families! 

The Excess!

This past weekend we sang a song at our church that captivated me, "You turn the water into wine." I got so excited about that! Jesus took water, which was a common, available, everyday necessity at that wedding (John 2) and turned it into something of significant value, something effective and appropriate for the occasion. The thing that was at hand was good, but the exchange was way better! The wine enhanced that wedding-- it was extravagant and beyond the expectation of the hosts or guests, just as the 12 baskets of left-over bread were evidence that God intends not only to meet your needs, but to do so in excess! Don't you think it was crazy good to have all that bread left over?! Or to have the best wine reserved for the end of the celebration? Why would God do that? What outrageous goodness does He have in mind for your family, for your children, for your marriage?!

We are believing God for things in our children way greater than the results of our good parenting, way beyond the effects of our great love for them! Because He is that way! Let us believe together as Hope at Home Families.

Father God, when we look to You we are not overwhelmed by the need in our lives, but indeed we are overwhelmed by Your Goodness and Your plans to prosper our families and Your extravagant provision. Lord would you manifest this provision in each family this day. Thank You God that you take the bread and fish we have in our hands to bring to the need and You make it more than enough. In Faith we believe you for this exchange this day in each family and for each need. Amen.

You can watch the main sessions from our Hope at Home 2011 Conference by clicking HERE. You will find encouragement to believe God for turning water into wine and loaves into a feast!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


From Susan Hillis:

Tonight (Sunday) I am lying in bed feeling sad and bleak about the state of our family.  I must arise and go to You, Lord.  And I read this from Isaiah 60 in the Message:

"Get out of bed...Put your face in the sunlight.  God's bright glory has risen for you.  The whole earth is wrapped in darkness...but God rises on you, His sunrise glory breaks over you....LOOK UP (first)!  LOOK AROUND (second)!...Watch as they approach you;  your sons coming from great distances; your daughters carried...when you see them coming you'll smile -- big smiles!  Your heart will swell!  ...all those people returning...pouring in...loaded with gold and frankincenses, and preaching the praises of God."   

Lord, I praise You that this is true of many of our children.  I pray You will make it true for all of them!

And I remember.  Sunday one week ago laying down quietly on soft carpet, before a wall of windows in a back corner of our church.  I turned my face toward the Sun-bathed window that concentrated radiant warmth on my face.  My eyes, shut tightly, saw the bright yellow glare of penetrating light, which extinguished all the visible darkness of eyes shut tight behind closed lids.  I had but to rotate my head 180 degrees in the opposite direction, and the darkness behind my closed eyes was unopposed by Light.  I saw nothingness.  "Live turning your face towards the warmth and brightness of Light" was the lesson I understood.  And at once I rotated my head back again towards the Sun's illuminating warmth and fullness.

Now, this Monday morning, I see that this day You have made (Ps 118), You intend it to be hemmed in from start to finish with Your light.  "This is the day the Lord has made.  Let us rejoice and be glad in it." (v. 24)  "The Lord is God. He has made His light to shine upon us." (v. 27) We choose today, Lord, to turn our faces towards your marvelous Light, for this day to be hemmed in, at its beginning and its end, by our own giving of thanks to You, as Your steadfast love endures forever (Ps 118, first and last verse).  And we remember Jesus, who for the joy set before Him, endured (Heb 12).  Open our eyes to this joy - make it visible, tangible, to us today.

Friday, November 4, 2011


Would you like to hear some of the wonderful sessions from our HOPE AT HOME 2011 Conference? Click HERE to listen. We will be posting more of the breakout sessions later in the month. 

We are pleased to share some thoughts from Tara Dunn, who along with her husband attended HOPE AT HOME 2011. Tara is an associate director at the University of Georgia Wesley Foundation.  She and her husband, John, have a son, Jace Kenesa, who is currently in Ethiopia. They are praying for the clearance needed to bring him home very soon! To watch this beautiful story of bringing a son home follow them on their blog.

Never with Passivity

There is a phrase we often use in the church when we pray that I have come to cringe when I hear: “…if it’s Your will, Lord.” Now I know what you’re thinking: “What’s wrong with that?! Shouldn’t we pray with humility and desire God’s will alone?” And the answer is yes. When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He taught them to ask for the Father’s will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven. And yet, Jesus never taught His disciples—or us—to pray with passivity and a lack of faith; sadly, this is so often what this phrase becomes an expression of instead of a genuine longing for God’s will. There is always a delicate balance in surrendering our will and praying with great faith and boldness. Throughout our adoption journey, I have often struggled to find that balance. I long to trust His timing and believe that He is fighting for us more than we could ask or imagine, but I so often use this truth as an excuse to pray wimpy prayers when I know God is calling me to move mountains. 

Shameless Audacity
The Lord really shook me awake to this truth when I attended an adoption conference last month called Hope at Home. My husband and I had been expecting to pass court that week (meaning that our son would officially become a Dunn), but we were informed the day before the conference that the judge was traveling and would not be returning for three more weeks. Our hearts were completely crushed; we had already been waiting nearly two months for the judge to return. During the conference, one of the speakers, Greg Haswell, spoke from Luke 11 and encouraged us all to pray with “shameless audacity” for our children:
…teaching [his disciples] more about prayer, he used this story: ‘Suppose you went to a friend’s house at midnight, wanting to borrow three loaves of bread. You say to him, “A friend of mine has just arrived for a visit, and I have nothing for him to eat.” And suppose he calls out from his bedroom, “Don’t bother me. The door is locked for the night, and my family and I are all in bed. I can’t help you.” But I tell you this—though he won’t do it for friendship’s sake, if you keep knocking long enough, he will get up and give you whatever you need because of your shameless persistence. And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened." (Luke 11:5-9)
Throughout the entire sermon, the Lord was saying to me, “Wake up! Ask Me
boldly for things, and I will do more than you could ask or imagine!”
A Fire in Our Prayers
We had been praying for nearly two months for the judge’s return, but God used that conference to ignite a fire in our prayers. We prayed with shameless persistence, and sure enough, the judge returned just four days later and signed our adoption decree. So do I place my faith in the outcome? Absolutely not. My faith rests in the person of Jesus. But I know that my son coming home (and healing, wholeness, forgiveness, salvation, breakthrough) are His will and that I can pray with shameless audacity by His grace. Thank You, Lord!