Sunday, September 22, 2013


Only one more week until Hope at Home 2013! Still time to REGISTER. We would sure love to see you there! What a great time of refreshing, strengthening and hope for us parents!

We always enjoy introducing you to one of our Hope at Home friends. You will find out about Gina and Phil as you read this post-- they are true treasures! And we so appreciate hearing more from someone who is answering the amazing call to foster children. Read all the way to the end where Gina addresses some of the common questions people have about fostering. 
Here is their family last Christmas-- and no, Santa is not one of their foster children!

Seven years ago Phil and I began to notice how many needs there were for orphans worldwide. The scales began to be lifted from our lives as we listened to the statistics that there are more than 160 million orphans in the world. The Lord began to stir in our hearts. As a mother, I began thinking of these faceless children at every turn, being reminded of all my children have that we simply take for granted every single day. 

Are there really 160 milion children with no food, no one to tuck them in at night, to hug them when they are afraid?

No one to teach them about Jesus? 

No one to protect them and fight for them? 

Three years ago we began exploring the options of international adoption only to have the Lord clearly slam doors. No he didn't quietly shut them. He slammed them shut, locked up tight. I was confused as I knew the Lord was stirring so much in my heart. Last June we were invited to a class to learn more about foster care with Faithbridge Foster Care. Honestly I didn't want to go. I had seen one too many movies to know that foster care was beyond messy and it was not for me. 

No it was not for us.

Not one piece of it. 

The Lord continues to surprise us when we least expect it. We left that class hungry for so much more. Phil loved the ministry of reunifcation of the family. I loved the opportunity to fight for these kids with all I had learned in raising a special needs child. 

We finished our homestudy in December telling our agency that we would absolutely be open to just one girl between the ages of 4 and 7. After all, we had seen lots of movies and television programs so we knew exactly what we wanted.  

Here we are 8 months later with two of the cutest little boys ages 2 and 4! 

Into our hearts .....February 14, 2013
Into our arms .......May 8, 2013

It's hard to believe these little boys moved in 3 months ago because they have changed so much. It's been humbling and life changing to see God's grace and the healing that has taken place. I think what broke our hearts the most in addition to them being separated from their family, was the strain that was present in their relationship with one another.  

These two have  become brothers who love each other, wrestle, say they are sorry, hug and look out for each other.
They will not go to sleep without one another in the room. They each have their places in my lap when I read to them at night. 
I can see them holding hands in the rear view mirror. 
They look out for each other in a new protective manner.

We learned in the early days of meeting the boys that they were both afraid of being left or forgotten. We began praying with them at night, Hebrews 13:5, 
for he has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.'  
I am guessing this is every foster child's fear. I was immediately reminded that we could not rescue these boys. The only one who can rescue is Jesus, the one and only Rescuer. We can give them warm beds and hang Christmas lights in their room to help with their fear of the dark. We can show them the beauty that comes from having a family. We can rock them and read to them. We can hug them when they are sad. It's our job to point them to their one and only Rescuer sent to save them and give them hope. They are very young but they will know Jesus loves them. 

Recently our oldest foster son asked us "why do so many people give me things?" I told him this is how we live in the body of Christ. We love each other BIG. He smiled and whispered, "Jesus".  His favorite song is Chris Tomlin's "Whom Shall I fear". You can hear him singing it in the backseat or after our last kiss good night, "the one who 'WAINS' forever is always by my side". When he hears it on the radio, I see him in the rear view mirror, smiling big and I know it's coming, "Ms. Gina, turn it up. Turn it up loud. It's my angels' armies song!" 
I am truly blown away by the army of people who have rallied around our family and these precious boys. Our community has grown exponentially in three months. They are center stage to the body of Christ and they know it. They feel the love and encouragement. They can't wait to go to the pool or to church to see the faces that have given them such a warm welcome. 

Common Questions about Foster Parenting 

How will you ever give them back? 

Funny how many people ask us this question. I have way too many answers for this one question. Perhaps this is the most important lesson I have learned through this entire experience. These little boys are no more or less ours then Davis, Lily and Carter. All of these children belong to a mighty King. Our Lord. Our Heavenly Father. Our Creator.  HE has given us a charge to guide them and shephard them.... all of them. Davis, Lily and Carter share our genetic make up which makes them feel more like they are ours. They belong to a father much greater than us! My favorite answer really is, "If you are asking that question, you would be perfect for foster care".  No not everyone is called to bring children into their home but my guess is everyone has something to offer to the foster care community! We do get a lot of questions and I have found it's a great opportunity and platform to engage new faces and old friends in the orphan crisis. There are so many opportunities to help children. It can be as simple as offering encouragement to a new adoptive or foster family my mowing their yard, praying for them, offering encouragement, helping find supplies or volunteering for a community of care in your church. We take one court date at a time. The goal of Faitbridge Foster Care and DFCCS is reunification of the family. In the meantime, we have a lot of memories to make with back to school, picking apples in September, pumpkins to carve, and getting ready to trick or treat! Davis, Lily and Carter recently figured out the boys don't know anything about fall fun. Need I say more?  I have heard Halloween costume rumblings of 5 superheroes, 4 football players and 1 cheerleader..... the Incredibles!!  

What do you know about their family? Mom?

The boys love their siblings and they look forward to their family visits.  Their mother is beautiful with a contagious smile. I could quickly see each of the boys in her the very first moment I met her. If there is one special connection I have had with the boys, it's the understanding of how it feels to show up in a community where no one knows the parent you have lost.... and the loss hits you out of nowhere. Perhaps it's a sound, a smell, a song or a thought that triggers a memory and then the loss sets in a big and heavy way!  

How are your children doing?

Each of our children has brought a different challenge and a unique blessing to opening our home to the boys. Their lives are changed forever. I've watched them grow in ways I was not expecting. This experience has exposed gifts in each of our children. It's also exposed habits and struggles that need guidance and discipline. If you ask each of our children how they feel about the boys, I am almost certain they would refer to them as brothers. 

What's it like to have 5 kids?

It's busy. It's hard. It's messy. There is a lot of dirt and a lot of laundry. There are more boo-boos, tears and spilled milk than I can count. The dust is collecting. The yard has weeds.  Sometimes snack plates count as dinner. Phil and I are 40.... we started this adventure when we were 30. We were much younger. We are  tired.......every bit of it is worth it!!

What do you feel prepared you most for foster care?

I believe with all my heart the Lord will equip you if he calls you. If you step out in faith, He will meet you there. The blessings that have come for a family with this leap of faith are more than I could have imagined or expected. Phil and I love children and we had an extra bedroom in our house and empty seats at the kitchen table. We also have had the privilege and joy of raising a special needs child. It has come with many challenges but the number one lesson we learned is these children are not ours. They are a heritage of the Lord. He makes all things beautiful and for a special purpose. It's His design not ours. We assume in our flesh that our children will be designed a particular way because they are biological. By all the worldly facts, Davis really should be a different child. God's promises are that Davis is desinged for perfection. This is noteworthy because I know that one of the major fears people have about bringing children into their home that are genetically connected elsewhere is the mystery of what lies ahead.

Sunday, September 15, 2013


It is hard to describe how exciting and humbling it is for us to prepare and share these breakout sessions for Hope at Home 2013, September 27-28. We are full of anticipation and hope for our time together with you all. There is still time for you to register-- come on and join us for this weekend of refreshing, equipping and HOPE for adoptive, foster and waiting parents. 

Breakout Session I:

1. Connection 
This interactive time is designed to help us connect with the One who loves us unconditionally and is completely for us. Come and be refreshed as we hear the Father’s voice, bring our deepest needs to Him and experience His amazing grace for us as His sons and daughters.

2. Fathering Your Adopted Child 
In this session for fathers Stephen Templeton will examine basic principles regarding the authority, responsibility and capacity God gives us to lead our families. We will discuss some of the unique challenges of fathering adopted children and blended families, examining our role in helping our children fully attach to us and integrate into our family. Emphasizing the practical application, we'll spend time receiving God's encouragement and strength for this awesome fathering role.

3. Remind Me Who I Am: Helping Your Child Connect with God 
Until we encounter the love of our Heavenly Father, we all struggle with identity. This is especially true for the adopted/fostered child who may have experienced more brokenness, instabilities, and insecurities than most. Jenni Means will share testimonies from her experiences ministering to adopted children and their families. In this session you will experience first-hand what God has to say about His children and our identity in Him, learning practical steps to invite God encounters into the lives of your children. Discover that hearing from our Heavenly Father and encountering the Holy Spirit brings freedom from the lies of our past, melting the walls in every heart.

4. No Ceilings: The Parents' Self-Help Approach That Is Not About Self 
There is the option to live out our family lives as though there were no ceilings, no boundaries to the potential for us to flourish. We find this life of no ceilings happens NOT when we do the best we can as parents, but when our best as parents is submitted in prayer to our Lord, for Whom it is natural to do the supernatural. He then does exceedingly abundantly above and beyond all we can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). In this session of encouragement and help for your parenting journey, Susan and Brian Hillis will share from their experience with the Lord over their 15+ years of adoptive parenting.

Breakout Session II:

1. Connection 
This interactive time is designed to help us connect with the One who loves us unconditionally and is completely for us. Come and be refreshed as we hear the Father’s voice, bring our deepest needs to Him and experience His amazing grace for us as His sons and daughters.

2. From Fear to Fruitfulness 
If we are honest with ourselves, most of us live with a nagging general sense of anxiety as parents; we feel uncertain and helpless about the future of our children as we struggle with their past and ours, quick to remember the hurts and offenses. To protect ourselves from these anxious feelings, we attempt to eliminate risk and increase feelings of security by controlling and managing our worlds and the people in them—often to an increased sense of anxiety.
Thankfully we have an answer in Christ to worrisome anxiety. In this session Dr. Terry Mitchell will lead us in an interactive time, exploring:
~How anxiety is a point of struggle to either maintain the present conditions or risk new potentialities
~How Christ offers freedom from the harmful effects of unresolved anxiety
~How God’s love banishes this type of fear
~How we can begin to live from God’s much larger perspective when tempted by circumstances that make us anxious

3. Remaining One through Adoption: Keeping First Things First
Come and revisit the importance of your connection to your spouse.  Scott and Jenni Means will share about the various kinds of intimacy vital to a strong marriage relationship that blesses your whole family. Hear about practical shifts that can be made to establish the connections both husbands and wives desire. Step away from regret, guilt and shame and into the blessings of marriage as God designed, desires, and intends it to be.

4. An Opportune Time: Loving Your Adopted Teen 
This breakout is for parents of teens and those preparing for this exciting and often challenging season of parenting. The teen years are full of opportunities for growth and healing as our children face the primary task of adolescence--answering the question “Who Am I?” Beth and Stephen Templeton will share some of their successes and failures along the way, all of which God has used to teach them about the high value of connection and the power of parenting in grace in the midst of the complexities unique to this season.  

Monday, September 9, 2013


Scott, from Journey to Surrender, shares for our Marriage Monday. Take a few moments to ready this fellow parents, letting the truths shared strengthen our marriages. 

To hear more from Scott, and his wife Jenni, join us at Hope at Home 2013. They will be leading a breakout on marriage that you won't want to miss. Register Today!

No, of course I'm not talking about the actual weather conditions outside. I'm talking about changing the climate in your marriage.

Few of us realize how the things we say and do (or don't say and don't do) affect the atmosphere of our marriages and homes. Too frequently we settle for whatever happens to just blow in. 

It's time to get unstuck from the current weather patterns!

The amazing thing is that it actually isn't that difficult to change the weather when it comes to your marriage. I think we sometimes think it takes a herculean effort and so we don't see the point in trying. The truth is, you can greatly impact the atmosphere of your relationship simply by doing little things that don't require much effort

Clear Away the Fog

It's easy to let the cares of daily life settle like a fog over your marriage. By simply being attentive and making a point of having a few small positive interactions each day, you can help lift that fog:

  • Tell your spouse you are thankful to be married to him or her, and give a specific reason.
  • Offer words of appreciation for something specific he or she did. It doesn't need to be a monumental thing either.
  • Make eye contact and hold their gaze while you smile. When it prompts a "What?" in return, just say "I'm so in love with you."
  • Slip a note into your spouse's lunch that just says "You are God's favorite. Mine too!"

Rain Down a Little Kindness and Consideration

Small, thoughtful actions, done on a consistent basis, do more to change the climate of your marriage than do grand demonstrations that happen infrequently: 
  • Make your spouse coffee or tea in the morning, just the way they like it
  • Put on his or her favorite scent.
  • Stop off at a bakery and buy him or her a little treat 
  • Wear something you know your spouse appreciates. 

Create Your Own Heat Wave 

Believe it or not, it’s not that difficult to put a little sizzle back into your marriage: 
  • Get your flirt on. Few couples realize the value of continuing to flirt long after you are married. Send a few flirtatious text messages. 
  • Kiss. A lot. Kissing is such an easy way to maintain a physically intimate connection. I recently wrote a post called "10 Ways to Change Up Your Kissing Routine"
  • Physical touch releases oxytocin, a hormone that promotes emotional connection. Non-sexual touch counts too! Hold hands. Hug. Snuggle. 
  • Initiate a night of intimacy. It doesn't have to be a big production. Just taking the initiative conveys to your spouse that they are desired.

Lower the Atmospheric Pressure

Stress can really put a stranglehold on the intimacy in your marriage like little else can. You won't always be in a position to help relieve your spouses stress level, especially if you are struggling yourself. Here again, little things can make a big difference.
  • Text your spouse and ask him or her how you can pray for them today. Then do it.
  • Offer a short foot, neck or back massage before bed to help your spouse unwind and rest better.
  • Do a small chore or errand that your spouse usually does. Don't ask or tell them, just let them discover it on their own.
  • Put together a "de-stress" play list that he or she can use to relax. 
The little things listed above can add up to a significant shift in climate. Don't believe me? I challenge you to spend one week doing several of these little things every day and see what happens. I can almost guarantee a positive shift in the atmosphere. 

Do you have some other weather-changers to offer? Leave a comment below

Friday, September 6, 2013


from Beth:

We have a very special guest who has committed to join us for this year's Hope at Home gathering. We've been in communication with him all year, and even enjoyed some face-to-face meetings with him and our team. We are so excited! You are not going to want to miss this! His heart for adoptive, foster and waiting mothers and fathers is the driving force behind all that we do at Hope at Home. We've heard what he has to say about us parents and our families--his words never fail to direct, strengthen, encourage and help parents in their adoption and fostering stories. He's asked us if it is alright if He brings his son along, as well as his friend, who is well-known all over the world for his work amongst believers. That was an easy decision for our team-- YES! 
These guys are a amazing together. It has been inspiring for our Hope at Home team to watch how they work together as a unit. There is such a refreshing and powerful oneness in all that they do. 

So let me tell you a bit about our main speaker's friend first. As the planners of the event, we love that he comes ahead of time to prepare the way and then stays afterwards to finish the work he started. He's been known to actually come into your home and work alongside you as you parent your children. His help and wisdom is priceless. There have been times where he has contacted us about a matter regarding our adoptions or parenting, and he has always been spot-on! If you haven't already met him at other events, you are going to love him! 

And the son... oh my! Seriously, we've never met a kinder person. He is so generous. So gracious. If you needed a shirt, he'd give you the one on his back. He wouldn't hesitate to lay down his life for a friend. It's strange to say, but in our experience he seems to always have the right solution to our parenting concerns, and whenever he speaks it's like this unexplainable peace comes over those who listen. He's never arrogant about it, as some speakers might be, but he really does seem to have the answer to everything; it's like he IS the answer.

And then there's the dad, our main speaker... well, like I said, you seriously do not want to miss this. When he's come to other events we've been to he seems to be so happy; we've heard it said of him that he is always in a good mood. And it blesses us greatly that he seems to be genuinely excited to bring in other speakers to partner with him. He's already been communicating to our team about who amongst us he wants to speak alongside him. It's super-humbling for all of us, and a bit scary for some, but it's so hard to say "no" to him once you've gotten to know him. It's like he knows how it's all going to turn out and is ALWAYS assuring us that he'll be right there to cover any blunders on our part. 

If that is not enough, wait til you hear this--they've all three agreed to meet with each one of you personally. I know, crazy right?! How could that even be possible? If I hadn't seen it before at our previous Hope at Home events, I would be doubtful myself. But sure enough, somehow he pulls it off. Our suggestion to you is to plan on meeting with all three; you may have some questions or areas of interest you want to address with each one. Some of us have learned how wonderful it is just to hang out and enjoy the privilege of having one-on-one time with speakers of this caliber. 

Oh yes, one more thing... they are trained in healing of all sorts, both physical and emotional, so if you have a healing need be sure to look for them. They've been training some of our folks here at Northlands to be physician's assistants over the past few years, so we are pretty excited to be able to participate. It is so touching that all three seem to care so very deeply about each and every one of our children-- adopted, biological and foster. It's almost like they love them more than we, their parents, do. Really! I can't explain it, I'm just telling it like it is.

This is all to say--we are so filled with hope for Hope at Home 2013! And our hearts are full with anticipation to spend September 27-28 with you here in Atlanta, Georgia, along with our awesome God--Father, Son and Holy Spirit. To take advantage of the early bird registration rate and to read more details REGISTER NOW. The early bird pricing ends Sunday the 8th, so now's the time!

To keep up with Hope at Home 2013 news and to enjoy ongoing encouragement and help, Find us on FACEBOOK. 

Thursday, September 5, 2013


As you can imagine, we are all quite busy here at Hope at Home preparing for this year's conference for adoptive, foster and waiting parents. You have three more days to register at the discounted early bird price, so now is the time! 

We hear Father God's voice to us, fellow parents. He is saying, Welcome Home! It is the Father's heart cry of accepting, hope-filled love--the same love that we echo when we adopt our children. 

So, if you are able, come join us for Hope at Home 2013 and enjoy Real Families, Real Help, and Real Hope for your parenting journey. 

To get a feel for Hope at Home 2013, take a look at this video: 

Sunday, September 1, 2013


Friends, you still have this week to take advantage of the early bird registration for HOPE AT HOME 2013. Come on and join us! 


I am sure every one of you has read that famous, beloved, larger-than-life children's story, The Runaway Bunny. No matter where the little bunny runs, the determined and versatile mama rabbit chases it. Even if the bunny becomes a fish, the mama rabbit will become a fisherman, fishing with a carrot!  The mama rabbit exemplifies steadfast love (as the Scriptures say over and over and over again, "steadfast love endures!"), and the little rabbit becomes so convinced that nothing can separate him from his mama's love, that he comes back home, embracing all that he had tried to run away from!


When I used to read that book to our kids as preschoolers, I thought of it as a sweet story of a mama's love, and I would say something like, "no matter where you go, I will always be your mommy and I will always come find you!"

Elementary School

By now I had quit reading the book, though it still sat on the shelf in our family room, its enduring message unspoken but entrenched in our household. In comes our first Russian adopted daughter, Anya, who immediately decided she couldn't trust some lady who thinks she is her mom (me!), but can't even understand the simple word "hello,"  zdrastvoitye!  So she does the opposite of every request I try to act out!  "Walk left" and she "walks right."  "Stay downstairs during Cristi's piano lesson," and she insists on "staying upstairs."  So, I determine, like that mama rabbit, to spend 24 hours following Anya around and doing whatever she chooses to do, by her side. Mainly she walks around picking up our kitty Mosaiah (and I have mild cat allergies!), bathing Mosaiah, pushing Mosaiah in the stroller, making Mosaiah lay down under her quilt for a nap--and I follow, patting the cat, smiling, doing whatever she does with that cat! By the end of that 24 hours, Anya was beginning to soften a little.

Middle and High School

My time chasing the bunnies now becomes primarily a spectator sport--going to harp, trumpet, piano, soccer, baseball, softball, wrestling, basketball, dance, art, ceramics classes/events/competitions. And at one point Trevor asks, "Mommy, do you love me more than all those other mommies who come watch their kids play baseball?" 
I am intrigued and reply, "I can't imagine another mommy loving her kids more than I love each of you guys! But, why do you ask? 
He explains, "Cause you scream louder for me than all those mothers scream for their kids." 
Like that mama rabbit, I am busy making my voice of love heard wherever my bunnies are!


We still go to them--visiting their schools, meeting their friends, even becoming that mama rabbit to some of their friends whose parents simply let their bunnies hop away without following them.

After College

And we are still going, finding them where they are and learning to love what they love. Maybe they go to Alaska to grow in their love for beauty and for dogs....then we go to Alaska to visit! (Brian and I are here as I write with our son.)

Or maybe they end up going down a path of bad company that leads them to jail. Then we go to visit and remind them of who they are and who we are, that they are our beloved treasures with gifts from the Lord that the world needs. And we are their parents who love them and who will always love them and encourage them to live like as the treasure they are! Or maybe they are heading towards the mission field and so we go with them to visit the area of the world they are praying about moving to, and to meet those very co-laborers that they will be ministering with, like we just did with Cristi!

Or maybe what they love is playing golf, and so I go with them to learn golf, even at my age! Which is what I just did with my boys over the summer! Or maybe they are serving in a Summer Leadership Program in Florida , so I go to visit them and meet their friends and smile on their choices to use their "minas" to invest in God's eternal kingdom!

So, dear ones, what I want to leave you with is this: Our Lord Jesus never leaves us nor forsakes us, and He has left us an example--to follow in His steps. We never stop being parents!  Even if we have a prodigal or two who run away, our love continues in prayer and in communication often, trusting God's love to bring them back into His good and perfect plans, to complete that work He began in them. And when then are bursting forth with more dignity, determination, humility, and success than we could ever have envisioned, we praise the One who is equipping and blessing them. Ours is not to reflect the failures or successes of our children, to them or to the world. Ours is simply this: to love them.  
Love them with a pursuing love that says, "Where shall you flee from my presence?"

And the answer is, nowhere! Nothing can alter or remove my love and my prayers from your life, my little runaway bunny.