Monday, October 29, 2012


Marriage Monday!

Time again to remember how important our marriages are in this adoption journey. Here is another great post from Brad Aldrich at One Flesh Marriage

Does your marriage have a case of the children-pox? The tell-tale signs of this insidious disease manifest when a married couple allows their relationship to be always and only  about the kids. Why is this such a problem in marriages today? 
Before we look at the solution to this problem let’s talk about how many couples contract the illness. 

The Illness:

Contrary to popular belief, this illness is caught long before a couple has their first child. Part of the problem comes from how each of us defines the word happiness
Men tend to measure happiness in terms of results and successes. Women tend to measure happiness in terms of relationships. As we are dating both men and women see happiness as the same thing, the advancement of the relationship. Once we are married this changes. 
Men can drift into focus on the next new challenge, often in the form of new work providing for their new responsibility. While men are off hunting their next “result” wives are seeking the "happily ever after" relationship they had always dreamed of. 
Along comes baby, or child either through birth or adoption, and lo and behold many women find exactly what they feel they have been missing, a special relationship with someone who needs them. They throw themselves into the life of this new relationship and the children-pox progresses into a full blown case.
Guys, we often blame our wife for throwing herself into the life of the kids and ignoring us, (it is easy to see the case of pox happening this way), but I would challenge all of you to look further--to look how your relationship, or lack of a relationship with your wife, has contributed to the two of you catching the children pox.

Treat Your Children-Pox:

Early Inoculation:

Any couples reading this who have not jumped into the children stage yet should think about getting your shots before you do! Don’t get me wrong, I love parenting, but I am really glad that Kate and I had several years of just the two of us before we started having kids. I think this early inoculation of time can really help keep a married couple focused even when kids come along later. For those of you waiting to adopt, be intentional about "storing up" some time together before your child comes home. Those first months are intense and the season of adjustment is demanding on everyone in the family.

Annual Vaccination:

The simplest form of vaccination is a vacation, a vacation away together just the two of you! Once a year take one day or two days, if you can, to run away just the two of you! Spend time away reconnecting, talking, listening, loving, relaxing together! Don’t let money get in the way of this important time away. Budget for it all year if you have to. If you absolutely cannot afford to go away, then propose a kid swap with a couple that you trust. Offer to take their kids for a night or a weekend, while they get away then have them return the favor. That way you can at least have a night with the house all to yourselves. Just remember to spend the time reconnecting, not cleaning!

Monthly Treatment:

Date nights! Having a regular date night with your spouse is critical! Find time to get out of the house just the two of you at least once a month. Don’t be ashamed to schedule your time and put it on the calendar. That way you can prioritize it and honestly tell anyone demanding that time, “I’m sorry but I already have something on the calendar for that time.”

Daily Vitamins:

Make a point to have regular, hopefully daily, conversations with each other that have nothing to do with the kids. What are you doing at work? What are you reading? What are you thinking? Talk! You managed to do it while you were dating; it is time to remember how now. This small dose of time about the two of you will go a long way to keeping the children pox from fully taking over!

What do you do to keep the children-pox at bay in your marriage?

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Thursday, October 25, 2012


Years ago I read a wonderful parenting book by Paul Tripp called Age of Opportunity.  Just the title itself speaks volumes. I love the perspective that Tripp brings and I recommend the book for any parent. It is directed at parenting the teens, but personally I think it is full of truth for all ages. Tripp encourages us to see the difficult issues we deal with not as interruptions or problems to quickly squelch or move past, but rather as opportunities to see the power of the gospel worked out in real time in our homes and in our children's lives. For me, this perspective changes everything! Let me explain.

My Initial Reaction

Many of us who have adopted children from "hard places" know the realities of out-of-control rages, complete shut-downs, compulsive or destructive behaviors, or many other manifestations of grief, rejection, pain and fear from our child's past. If you are like me, your first response is quite naturally to see the behavior as a problem to be dealt with. To this day I have yet to have my initial reaction to my child's rage, for instance, be, "How exciting. Here is a wonderful opportunity to see the power of the gospel on display in my own home. Let me press right in to the middle of this raging child's life and reveal the love of God to him!" 
No, I'm afraid to say that every time we are faced with a difficult situation, I have to overcome my own bit of anger or offense or hurt or discouragement, or fear, or weariness..... have I covered most of your reactions too?!

For Such a Time as This

But I will say that I am learning to quickly and even instinctively embrace the opportunity inherent in each manifestation of some past hurt in our adopted children. I see the tender mercy of God in the exposure of what at the moment is something ugly and off-putting. When my child pushes me away, rejecting my love, I am able to recognize the opportunity, and I am honored that once again I get to be the one to pour out the unconditional love of God on my hurting child. 
Think of it friends! It is for such a time as this that God brought our children into our homes. All those years ago when God called us to adopt, He saw the day when my child would be safe enough, surrounded and embraced by years of the love and care and safety that can only come from a family, to let out into the open this next layer of pain or fear or anger. It is for such a time as this that Stephen and I were called, that you my dear friends, are called to love your child. 

Where else could your sweet daughter or son let that deep sense of rejection or that swirling anger or those wordless fears and anxieties be laid bare? God looked ahead and saw a time and a place right there in your home, under the covering of your love, and said, "Right there--I see it. That is where this precious child of mine will be safe enough to be known. There I see my servants, who have opened their hearts to love big, will not turn from this need that looks so irritating or ugly. No, they will love. They will lead. They will hope." 

Tapping into the Love of Father God

This is our time dear parent. As Esther was in the right place at the right time to be available for God to use in the saving of the Jews, you and I are uniquely placed for God to use us in His amazing plans of healing and freedom for our children. "For such a time as this" (Esther 4:14) God brought these children out of their relinquished state and into your home. Let us not pull away from the hard issues to avoid the discomfort, or try to quickly cover it over to keep it hidden. Rather, let us tap into the very love of our Father God and see the amazing opportunity He is giving us to love as He loves. Indeed, to love as He has loved us. For He has never turned away from the ugliness and need in you or me, has He? Oh how Good He Is! How wonderful is this gospel! It is indeed Good News for us parents, and for our children!!

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Monday, October 22, 2012


From Susan Hillis:

Coming Back to Life

Last night, David Foster, a friend I hadn't seen in decades, came up to me at my Terry Sanford High School class reunion in Fayetteville, NC, and said, "I think we have something in common."  
"What's that?" I ask.  
"Well, a little over a year ago I died.  Then I came back to life."  (I think he was referring to my Five Resurrections I have spoken and written of.)   
Full of intrigue, I eagerly awaited the story.   Seeing my inquisitive eyes, he continued, "Well, I was at a Duke basketball game in Cameron Indoor Stadium and I felt a little funny, so walked down from the bleachers to the lobby.  This guy sees me and asks, 'are you ok?' 
I told him I felt a little strange.  Then my heart just stopped beating...I fell to the floor with a major heart attack, with the guy who was beside me happening to be the head of the Duke University Hospital Emergency Medicine Program, and his ER nurse was with him.  They did CPR til the ambulance came.  If I had stayed in the bleachers or stayed home, I wouldn't be talking with you right now.  
So it was a pretty special year.  
That experience has opened a lot of doors."

God is Bigger than Floods, Conflicts, and Injustice

This story above reminded me of one of my journal entrees that stuck in my mind as a little hidden source of joy this past week.  Most of us haven't had an experience that dramatic, but most of us have had some pretty unsettling drama....  
Facing a storm.  Facing uncertainty.  
Losing a home. Losing a job.  Losing a marriage.  Losing a child.  
Struggling with injustice all around.  
This past week one morning as I watched the light of day replace the darkness of night, with my coffee in hand and my Bible on my lap, a broad smile broke out as the common theme across the readings for the day was revealed.  The subhead in my journal is simply this:  

"God is bigger x 3" 

- God is bigger than our storms. Ps 93:3 "The floods have lifted up their voice;  mightier than the many waters is the Lord." This was our experience after losing our home in the Atlanta floods 3 years ago.  Our family of 12 lacked nothing after the flood.  Nothing.  We lacked nothing in spite of the fact that some of us had lost everything (the flood had destroyed everything on the first floor where our boys lived).
- God is bigger than our conflicts and losses.  Hezekiah 37:3  "This day is a day of distress...children have come to the point of birth and there is no strength to bring them forth."  But the Lord says through Isaiah, as we keep reading, "the surviving remnant shall again take root downward and bear fruit upward."  We often come to the point of seeing no way forward when we have lost all strength and see a great struggle ahead, particularly when it involves our children or someone very close.  There is such a sense here that God will provide what these children need, particularly when our strength to provide any further is spent.  I have seen it happen again and again.  Wait for it and look up dear friend, to the One whose Hand fashioned them and you!
- God is bigger than injustice.  Acts 16 - As Paul and Silas sing and pray in their prison, and that singing somehow is accompanied by earthquakes that break the chains that bound him and all the other prisoners!  "And immediately everyone's bonds were unfastened."  I have been so deeply disturbed of late by the injustice that many young girls and boys face, all around the world.  I long to see the hand of God reaching down into the unjust circumstances that surround us and affect us and others we care about, reaching down and reversing all that horrible evil of injustice.  What is so shocking about this story is the way it ends with the jailer's family coming to real faith and real hope, having received real help from one Paul, who had himself experienced the Lord as bigger than his own storms, conflicts and losses, and injustices.  
So tonight dear reader, may you have eyes to see the Lord at your side, who is bigger than the crises that assuage us (floods), bigger than the loudest threats of fear and loss (Hezekiah), and bigger than the injustices all around you.  LORD, you are bigger.  YOU. You ARE.  You are BIGGER!  

Friday, October 19, 2012


We are excited to share a poem with you performed as a Spoken Word at Hope at Home 2012. We commissioned our friend, talented artist James Dial, to write this poem for adoptive and foster parents in his signature rap style. There are rich layers of truth, encouragement and love from the Father's heart in this work. Take the time to click on the link and listen. You'll be glad to have the words to go back to and read I think-- soak it in!

To Listen to Naked Hope click on the title below and then on the play arrow. (There is a short introduction at the beginning of the recording):


Naked hope is when your soul is wrapped in a sense of vertigo
When all you do is cope with the day and try to take it slow
But oh
How focused we can get on things that just don't matter
Frustrated that God's timing in His Goodness only makes us madder
We chase after happy ever after with our children or our spouses
And all that wishful thinking does is wrap us in present disaster
But what if all that what if could
Be suddenly upturned for good?
Become understood as faith instead of just changing the way we taste our food?
Believing what we can not see, and knowing that's it's for our best
Rejoicing in the midst of trials, declaring: all we are is blessed.
Grace rages at injustice done against us, don't you worry.
But all circumstance is temporary, 
fake in its tension with the truth, 
and faced with the facts of what happened at the cross at Calvary
We can say: it's finished. Surely.
Furthermore, with petitions placed so boldly before His throne of grace
We can know that He has heard us and not expect a snake on our plate.
We expect the wine and steak. 
We expect a change in pace. 
We expect a ten course meal, 
with more to bless us than we can take

The way it works with God is this:
You say when, and He'll just bless.
So why say when out of fear of failure, fear of lack, or fear from stress?
Why not live as if we're children, adopted by His Holiness
And test the limits of His love, by never uttering the "when's"?

Hope deferred can make us sick
But hope endured can teach us faith, and all that claims "can not be done"
Is put to death, and His life lives.
And it's this, that heals us when we're sick.
It's this that uplifts, and brings true repentance.
Don't give up because his love is a banner
Over us His love it does
Proclaim: Beloved
Heaven's jamming
Because there is a wedding coming
Because another becomes a brother about every 30 seconds.
Our family is getting bigger, aw man, sucks for the wedding planner.
The head of the house this time has paid 
for you and yours to have a way
straight into glory, 
no delays, 
so why the wait? 
Let's take 
the plane
named Grace 
and jet to heavens gates 
and take what's ours 
and then be thankful.
Got no gas? He's got a tankful.
Got no answers? Go for broke. He gives generously to those in need.
Need hope for home? Or work? Or maybe just because you want it?
Maybe for you and you alone, to know that you're not being punished?
Well, he was made the Head over all things so you could have all things.
All things for life and godliness, it says
I do believe.
So why not be as bold as possible, say: I want all of the things.
More faith, more hope, more love, more mercy, more grace, more displays of generosity.
More patience, peace, joy, wisdom, strength, fearlessness, I could just get lost in these.
Often I do, then start to sing, like: He has set me free...
So off of key, but I don't care.
the father to the fatherless, a merciful king to those in need.
A God above all else existing, adopting, loving: properly.
I have a loving father who,
Takes care of me and surely of you.
And yours.
And more.
Of course it's easy to forget, but hasn't he blessed us all before?
Haven't we got so much to praise, to lift him up, exalt his name for?
Not what we want to hear sometimes, and not to be naive.
God is good, it's in his hands.
Cliche's we hate to hear repeated
Are still so true, though sometimes painful, with this feeling that I've been defeated.
Beaten raw, so bloody beaten
I empathize with Job sometimes instead of Adam back in Eden.

So those cliches, I'll leave them. 
I will not repeat them.
Instead, I'll just believe them,
I'll remind you we're redeemed 
I'll remind you he's coming back for us,
and I'll remind you people still need healing.
So what are we to do, just give up when we can't see him?
Naked hope, though unappealing, takes a measure of pressing in.
It takes standing tough, sometimes even when
things are so rough
we can't see through tomorrow to where it all might end.
It means to believe though we can't see it
that his plans indeed are good, that no weapon prospers though we feel them hit,
to not let fear creep in.
And yes it's hard, I will not lie.
But He bled and He died, 
He was crucified, 
He was lied to, spat on, beaten, cussed at,
I'm sure the blood must have stung his eyes./
So yes it's hard
but He's not Buddha, sitting, watching, unaware./
Fat and happy with that blank stare, oblivious to all our cares/

He knows/
and that's part of a bare hope./
Knowing that you are exposed./

But grace covers all shame, and love covers all things.
So, I believe in naked hope.
Despite how uncomfortable it may be, how easy to say, I'll go it alone.
How easy to deny we have a weakness, or that we simply need Him more and more.

For passions aching
For indigence sake
For promise taking
For dreams while awake
For disbelief at accusation
Parsed with hate for punches thrown
For naked hope that day is breaking
Peace propagating moments owned
Will you follow him?

Thank you Father, for these people
Who choose to see orphans as equals
Needing homes and parents, like you saw us so weak and feeble.
Bless us all to hope in you, and bless them with what they might need
For you have called them to be great, and to see great things.
Bless the orphans here and elsewhere,
Help them to see what you see.
Give them food and clothing,
Give them room to breathe.
Give us all that life requires, for hope can be quite fleeting.
But still we hope. For seasons change. For a brand new day. For circumstance to fade away
For you are great, and you are able. You, The Father of All Things.
But one last thing. From me to you:
You can do this. It is true.
He is with us. We can't lose.
He is faithful to those he chooses.
And He chose you, He'll see you through.
God, Glorious and Gracious, is worth entrusting trust to.
Believe in what He calls You. He won't throw you under the bus.
It isn't tough love, We weren't destined to suffer
It isn't your fault, you aren't being punished.
it's just a matter of time, and that is why our hope
Is eternal salvation at the hand of our Lord
Jesus, the Christ and the living Word.
His name will break chains, and His name sets us free
For His name, every ounce of energy
Every drink that you give to a "one such as these"
Is His to receive
To His name be all glory
In His name we believe
Keep your eyes to the hills
And don't be deceived.
When He returns,
There will not be a single living being
That can say that they don't have a family.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


I am so close to getting cured! I think my antidote is this close to completion. No doubt there will be pinches of this and dollops of that as the recipe is perfected, but I've decided to share my antidote with you, thinking some of you parents may be somewhat familiar with this concoction.

As you'll notice I'm sure, your antidote may differ from mine in details. But I have a feeling that this simple recipe will not be too different from your own! Really, there are only a few ingredients, but in my case their effectiveness seems to have come in the consistent dosing regimen. And our adoptions have been the perfect environment for the creation of my cure. 

I started out in our adoption journey feeling pretty confident in my parenting skills. We had three daughters and were 10 years down this parenting road when our first two children came home from Russia. I so enjoyed being a mother (I still do!) and felt pretty confident in my role. Looking back I see that my approach to parenting at the time was full frontal attack on anything that didn't belong in our home, or didn't fit with what God says about who our children are. And it worked. Our girls responded. When an issue popped up I simply parented that issue right out the door! Simple and effective. Feeling pretty darn good about myself, I must admit. 

Mind you, I had no idea I was prideful-- I just thought I was pretty good at this mothering thing!

Then we adopted and quickly entered a season of intense and pronounced parenting, a perfect setting for God to do what He does so well, that is to help me experience more of the freedom that is mine in Jesus.

Ingredient 1: A Good Healthy Dose of Public Embarrassment

One of our friends at our previous church, an older lady whom we had known for years, was clearly not thrilled when we shared that we were going to adopt children from Russia. She just didn't "get it." Her response was more about what could go wrong than about celebrating what God was doing. She told us that we would know if it was God if all went smoothly. 
Hmmmmmm........ I don't think so!
I know that many of you are painfully familiar with what it is like to have people close to you be critical of your choice to answer the call to adopt. 
So, one day very shortly after we brought our second two boys home we went to the ballet recital of a dear family friend. Yes I know, taking a 10 year old boy who just came home from Russia to a ballet recital may not have been the best idea, but we were determined to do things together as a family and figured it wouldn't be too bad.
This friend of ours from church was also at the recital, sitting just down the row. And our dear 10 year old son, a few minutes into the show, decided that he didn't like this one bit. Kind of hard to blame him. He began to throw a fit--writhing around and saying something that didn't sound so nice in Russian. Are you picturing this? A ballet recital has begun, the place is full of people queitly watching the stage, and we have a TEN YEAR OLD throwing fit. Poor Stephen had to literally pick him up-- he was 10, but very thin and small at that point from lack of a healthy diet in the orphanage, which worked in our favor this one time! He had to carry him along the row of stadium seating, requiring everyone to stand in order to make room for them to pass, including this friend of ours. Everyone in that theater turned to look at us. So embarrassing! But the worse part of the whole scene was having to walk by that one woman who we were quite sure was thinking, "See, I told you so!"

Since that time we have had an uncomfortably regular dosage and  variety of public embarrassment, marked by visits with teachers, school officials, coaches, parents, and more than a few uncomfortable exits.... 

Ingredient 2: Picking Your Battles- On Steroids

Most parents learn about "picking your battles" at some point. It's just good wisdom. Maybe some of you who have adopted older children can relate to this, but I know Stephen and I have felt this sense of urgency, like we have to parent in double time to make up for the years we didn't have, as well as to compensate for the fact that we have less time ahead of us before our children become adults. So much of the behavior our children learned from growing up in an orphanage and from their years without loving parental supervision clearly needed our attention! But we soon realized that if we were to address every issue every time (full frontal attack style), then our relationship with our children would be always and only about correction. Who wants that?! So we learned to pick our battles. But that meant that we had to let some things go that were seriously not good-- the kind of things you are not wanting your friends to see. The kind of behaviors that good Christian parents simply do not let stand.
For example, it is a good thing for us to teach our children to greet a guest, to stand up, look them in the eye and respond-- in full sentences. No "uhuh" or "nope" for us! And when our children do this it feels pretty darn good. Chalk up a success for good parenting! But with so many issues to deal with, almost all more important and more pressing than good manners, we simply had to let it go for a season. It might not be that big a deal, except that I couldn't explain why we were not responding when our child did not greet our guest. If I could I might have been able to maintain a bit more of my pride, but it was unwise and unreasonable to go into our parenting strategies and our defense of how we really are trying to be good parents even though it doesn't look like it, every time it happened- or didn't happen as the case may be. 


So, once again, I was fed my medicine. And although it didn't taste good at all-- no cherry flavor to cover up the bitter aftertaste, no food coloring to disguise the distinctly unappetizing color-- I have to admit that the after effect has been so good for me. I am thankful that God has loved me enough to put me on this regimen that is my cure for parenting pride.

I see that I am responding well to my medicine, too. I am increasingly less aware of what others think, and increasingly more at peace with the fact that my mothering is not actually about my strength and ability but about God's love and patient pursuit of my children's hearts and spirits through me. And it seems that increases in compassion and understanding are side-effects, and these are side-effects I can live with! And I have experienced a decrease in my self-reliance levels, accompanied by a marked increase in my God-reliance.  

So what do you think of my antidote to parenting pride? I'm pretty sure I have a few more doses to take before it's all done, and I'm ready!

Thursday, October 11, 2012


As most of you know, last weekend we hosted our conference for adoptive and foster parents here in Atlanta, Hope at Home 2012. I am going to share some photos with you from the weekend, but I'd like to take a moment just to share with you how Hope at Home started. About three years ago we had an event at our church, Northlands, where an amazing man who is a pastor in Ukraine and a key leader in the Ukraine Without Orphans movement, spoke. The audience was primarily adoptive parents, and afterwards some of us made ourselves available to pray with these dear parents for the issues they were facing with their adopted children. It was such a joy for us, and the Lord showed up as we prayed, releasing hope and fresh wisdom for each situation, and the parents went away feeling so encouraged. As we prayed I had such a strong sense that God was calling us as a local church to be more intentional about this ministry and that the need for adoptive and foster parents to be encouraged and strengthened was huge. 

After sharing this with Susan Hillis, who had also been feeling the need for an event where adoptive and foster parents could come and be refreshed and encouraged in the Lord for the calling of this unique and often intense parenting role, we soon met with the elders of our church and it became clear that God was opening the door for us reach out to this group of people in our community. Many of us at Northlands had either adopted or were adopted or had walked closely alongside adoptive families and we felt our hearts were full to overflowing with a desire to share with other parents what we had so freely been receiving from our wonderful God for ourselves. Our focus seemed clear from God-- we were not promoting adoption, although most of us have a passion for it; nor were we focusing on ministry to orphans. We felt a clear call from God to focus on the intense and powerful love that Father God has for adoptive and foster mothers and fathers, for His heart is as passionate about you dear one as it is for orphans and for the children adopted from hard places. We believe that God has such good plans for our families and that He is an ever present help as we love our children through all the stages of their lives. 

So last weekend we had the BEST time as we

welcomed each father and mother:

and enjoyed worship:
and heard from speakers:

 had a great time of fellowship, food and live jazz at our 
H@H After Party:

 enjoyed hearing interviews with adoptive parents
learned from amazing breakout speakers on 12 different topics close to our hearts:

and soaked in the ministry of the spoken word and song:

One of the things I loved about this weekend was that it took so many people to make it happen and to me that is a clear and very real display of Father God's love for us parents. He is extravagant in His love for us and that just fills me with Hope for my Home. For if God is for us, who can be against us my friends?! He is BIGGER and is an Ever Present Help for us in our times of need. 
Blessed be His Name!!

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Monday, October 8, 2012


From Susan Hillis:
I cried on my birthday, just two days ago, as I realized that we are still experiencing that deep joy that comes with adopting. I have decided that completing an adoption takes a lifetime. As the Hillis family, we are, each one, in the lifelong process of adopting each other, learning and relearning the awe of unconditional love and open arms. Here is the story of what made me cry.

Hope at Home 2012

It is so exciting when my birthday is on a Saturday, because I get the day off to enjoy my day in a way that makes me the most happy.  Now for some people, since having your birthday on a Saturday only happens once every 7 years, it would seem like a sacrifice to spend that particular Saturday at a conference in order to pass along love to big group of people you don't know.  But for me, it was delightful.  Simply delightful.  To have that day of my life mapped onto the heartbeat of God for His people was such a huge privelege.  I was carrying around the secret blessing of the Holy Spirit in my heart, one He had whispered many years earlier when I was in Russia.  On that particular birthday I was preaching in a Russian church on Sunday, and they gave me a Russian leather bible with this verse writtten in beautiful cyrrilic Russian in the frontispiece..."Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing your labor in the Lord is never in vain." That means when the Lord is allowing me to so directly serve Him, whether in the setting of my church, my home, or my work, that service ALWAYS has eternal purpose...because it is NEVER in vain!  This same truth describes you, dear friend, in all your service, even and especially when the Lord is the only one who sees it.

Why I Cried

So when my dear friend Beth asked me, "So Susan, how can we help celebrate your birthday on Saturday at Hope at Home conference?" I answered, "Just don't make me eat dinner with all those people - I am excited about having the whole day with them, but I want the evening with just my family."  She giggled in that Beth-Templeton-kind-of-way, and assured me I would be off duty for the evening.  

What I didn't know is that my hero-of-a-husband, Brian, had decided to leave the conference early and go home to cook a nice birthday dinner for the entire family, whom he had invited home for dinner....8 of our 10 kids were able to come home!  So I drove up to our house around 6:00 PM to be met with a drive way full of cars....Alex had driven from Charlotte; Trevor, from UGA; Masha and Ksusha, along with 2 of my beautiful granddaughters, from Alpharetta; Anya and Jerry, from Villa Rica, and Katya and Vasya; and shortly after I arrived, Lana and Dane from Peachtree City. 

The end of dinner led to the beginning of our tradition....every birthday we all go around the table and say something we like about the person whose birthday is being honored.  So as we start around the table, Ksusha, our sweet and gifted 18 year old who has a beautiful little 3 month old daughter, says, 
"Mommy, I like about you that you are strong in is so important because when we are struggling and we are not strong in God, you can help lift us up to see we can be strong in Him, too."  
I could feel a lump in my throat as I gave her a tight squeeze.  Then Lana, who struggled so much growing up and who has just come off of two years on the street, says, 
"Mommy, I love you because when some of the kids make bad choices, you do not change in your love for us. Your love stays the same no matter what. You just keep loving us and keep praying for us. Mommy, I appreciate that about you." 

And her eyes begin to fill with tears as she looks deeply into mine.  We both understand what she is not saying aloud but what she is saying in her heart.  That the 'us' is really 'me.'  She is saying, "that is about me and about how you kept telling me when I was the on the street that I had to call you every day because you are my mommy who loves me, and when I would call you would tell me you are my mommy who loves me."  
My eyes just can't help copying hers....and soon she is sitting there trembling as the trickle of tears becomes a stream.  Then soon I am trembling and crying with her and have to just go hug her and tell her, 
"I adore you, Lana Grace, you are a gift and a treasure to me and I will always love you."  
I think a lot of us around the table were crying.  But they were tears of deep joy.  Tears of seeing that a prodigal coming back to living like a daughter looks like.  We were all so happy to be together.  And each of our kids continued, saying the most encouraging words about how much they like me and love me.  It was one of my best birthdays ever.

As I lay in bed treasuring up the memories of the day, I kept seeing the same scene over and over from earlier in the day. Trevor and I were on the front porch as Lana pulled up in the cul-de-sac.  His whole face brightens and he screams out, 
"Lana G!!!  You are the REASON I came home from college, Lana G!  YOU are the ONE I came to see!"
And Trevor rushes towards her down our long drive way, as she is rushing up towards him,  and they give each other the biggest, tightest squeeze.  I could only see Rembrandt's famous 'Return of hte Prodigal' in that moment.  It was just a modern day Luke 15.  And it was MY prodigal. But in my picture, there was no older brother standing and judging...there were just a bunch of brothers and sisters, and a father and mother, embracing.  All of us had learned to love like that father.  
With open arms.  
Having a party. 
Because all prodigals will, with time, understand and be drawn back to the Father's loving arms.  
And we get to become those arms.  
For each other.  
As our family learns to live the lifelong process of adopting.  
Wait for it, pray for it, believe it, hold on tight to those arms of Your Father and His love will infuse yours.

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Wednesday, October 3, 2012


This one post from our friend, Jessica Honegger, sums up the entire heart and soul of our upcoming Hope at Home weekend together. We expect that over these two special days, the Lord will give us a sense of having had a refreshing retreat in His presence, with a bunch of people that He is absolutely crazy about!  We are expecting no less than a window of heaven opening up to allow us to see clearly the love of the Father for each of us and for each of our children. Come on and join us this Friday (7 pm) and Saturday (9 am-6 pm)!! ~ Susan Hillis

You may remember Jessica from reading her moving story, Emmanuel- God With Me, here at our Hope at Home blog. In addition to being a mother of three, two biological and one adopted from Rwanda, Jessica is the founder of Noonday Collection, a business that provides a pathway out of poverty for vulnerable groups of people around the world. You can join her! Visit 

It Was Crowded....

I realized this week that I have had a house full of company and they have overstayed their welcome. John Piper was always telling me about the holes in my theology. One of my best friends, and in my mind the perfect mom, reminded me that I wasn’t spending enough time with my kids. Ann Voskamp told me I was rushing around too much. And Karyn Purvis was shocked that I put our adopted son Jack in preschool after only 3 months home (she was also shocked we only co-slept for 6 weeks). My two elderly neighbors kept asking me why I had not brought them dinner in a while.  And sweet Katie Davis reminded that, while I am doing some things for the sake of the poor, I was definitely not doing enough!

It was crowded, a little sweaty, and nobody was having any fun. So I finally opened my front door, and kindly asked each person to leave. As I turned around, I saw Jesus sitting on my living room couch. “Finally, just you and me,” he said, “I have been waiting for this!”  I came and sat down by Him, he took me by the hand, and gazed into my eyes with more compassion and patience I could imagine.
It has been ONE FULL year since we met our miracle (and no matter how hard the day is, the miracle of Jack is fresh to me). Jack has taken giant leaps this past year; screaming fits that involve 30 minutes of recovery time- gone! Waking up in the night- never! Not sharing with the other two- now better than sharing than the other two!  Not knowing how to give kisses- he can’t stop giving me kisses! Not using words- now it’s all words! His dreaded fear of dogs- now he is best friends with dogs!  But  Jack isn’t the only one who has grown. I am also seeing some of the changes that have happened in me this past year!

I Latched on to Other People's Advice               

In Jack’s first few weeks home, I was in such unchartered territory. I loved him with that miracle love, but he still felt like such a little stranger to me. A mystery. So I latched onto other people’s words and advice.  But since I had chosen to idolize other people (amazing people with serious wisdom, but not worthy of my idolatry!), I often missed the Spirit’s wisdom.  For some reason, I had gotten stuck on the “give me your eyes” recommended in Karen Purvys’ The Connected Child.  In the midst of screaming fits that happened several times a day in the first few weeks, I was determined to get Jack’s eyes (because then we would be connected!) Then one day after a fit where we wanted to teach Jack about sharing, I saw my husband cradling Jack like a baby and whispering in his ears. Jack softly said, “Sorry,”—quite a break through at the time. 
“How did you do that?” I asked Joe. 
“I just noticed he responds better when I whisper and hold him like a baby.”  
When we live life like there is an audience of people whose approval is more worthy than God’s, we miss the Spirit! Talk about a joy killer!
Before adopting Jack, I prepared myself for the absolute worst case scenario, only to discover that Jack truly felt like he had been born in my heart since before time! So when Beth asked me to write this blog a few months ago, I told her I was afraid that other moms would compare themselves and feel discouraged when I write about how awesome adoption is. But then I realized that I was the one who was dealing with comparison, who was letting joy slip by because my house was so full of chatter, it was impossible to hear Jesus’ voice saying, “Well done.”

Voices Louder Than Jesus?         

Who do you have living in your home? While God uses these people in our lives to encourage, inspire, and convict, if their voices are louder than Jesus’, it is time to kindly ask them to leave! One of my favorite life scriptures is when Jesus says he can do only what he sees the Father doing (John 5:19). How can we see what the Father is doing when our eyes are always on how other people are doing it! We live in a time of blogs, facebook posts, and twitter feeds. I swear half my friends in Austin have written books! As I repent for letting all these GOOD words become GOD words, joy is meeting me again! There is so much freedom in living for an audience of One- whose attention, care, and wisdom we have access to 24/7 if only we would turn to listen.  We NEVER EVER lose God’s attention, but sometimes, because of our own sin, we quit paying attention to Him. So just turn around- he is sitting in your favorite spot, ready to take you by the hand.

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