Monday, November 10, 2014


From Beth:

There are so many sweet blessings tucked away in adoption. So many unexpected moments of beauty. 

Our youngest daughter loved to play with dolls and could spend hours playing house, but her two older sisters were not as interested. So when Kristina came home at age 10 it was especially sweet to see the two of them disappear into a closet or hidden corner to play. Julia had found the sister she had been missing all this time--the older sister who liked to play the way she did! 
Julia on the left, Kristina on the right

As I said, it was one of those many unexpected gifts God put on display for us as we journeyed through this wonderful reality that is adoption. 

One day Stephen and I peeked into the bedroom and heard the strangest thing. We didn't want them to see us. You know how that is--when you have two children playing happily the last thing in the world you want to do is put an end to it! And we were about as stretched thin as we could stand trying to make the adjustment to adding two older children into our family. Makes me tired just thinking of it! 

So, we quietly stood at the door and listened to the most precious sounds. The two new sisters were playing dolls and Kristina, who didn't speak English was jabbering away to Julia. Julia, who didn't speak Russian, was replying back. Both were completely engaged; neither frustrated with a lack of communication. Then we'd hear sweet Kristina throwing in some English words she'd picked up. And Julia mixed in some of the Russian words that had begun to be familiar in our home. 

We called it Russglish, and they played in that language for many months. 

This is what adoption does to a family. It changes all of you. It pulls on each member to yield and morph and grow and adjust. We are not the family we would have been had we not adopted, as surely as our adopted children are not the people they would have been had they not become Templetons. 

I am deeply thankful to our God who does not leave any of us the way we are, always calling us forward into new places of growth. I want to be as open to change as those two little girls were, willing to change the language of my life so that it communicates more accurately His love. Adoption has been doing that work in our families, as I imagine it is doing in yours as well.

Friday, November 7, 2014


From Beth:

"Do Not Be Afraid!"--it's all over the bible, from beginning to end, persistent and compelling. It's like God is saying to me, "No really Beth. Do you hear? I am serious-- do not be afraid. Yes, I get it. There are some scary realities, but I'm not backing down on this one." 

The words somehow feel like more of an invitation than a demand, more like a comfort and a promise. From Genesis (15:1) where God appears to Abram in a vision and tells him, "Fear Not," to Revelation (1:17) when Jesus appears to John with "Do Not Be Afraid," we see scenario after scenario where we are given this comforting command. 

Our adoption journey has helped me to understand why all these people needed to hear some version of "Don't Be Afraid," for God's ways are scary! His ideas and vision for us are so extraordinary, so "out there," that fear is almost always  part of my human reaction. And adoptive parenting has provided oh so many opportunities to fear! 

How kind of our God to command and comfort, to demand and invite, all at the same time! He leads me out of my fearful state, for He has places for me to go with Him. And He is wanting me to bring my children along too! 

I remember my fears when God first called us to adopt. I'm sure many of you relate to my fear-filled what ifs--what if we didn't hear God accurately, what if we don't have what it takes, what if the children we feel God is calling us to don't actually come home, what if our finances or paperwork don't come through, what if our children already at home are damaged, what if I can't be the parent my children need, what if they have serious issues I can't handle, what if things turn out really "badly," ........??? 

That list could go on and on, right?! 

But then there is His voice directing me, "Beth, don't be afraid. Don't let these possibilities intimidate you." 

And do you know what reason He gives for us not to be afraid? Have you ever noticed? Almost always God tells us not to fear because He is with us. 

Fear asks, What If?  Love asks, Who With?

He doesn't tell us that He will make it so we avoid all things that frighten. No. But He does, over and over throughout the scriptures, tell His people that whatever it is that frightens them will never be bigger than His awesome presence with us. 

I love what Moses tell the Israelites as they face the many obstacles of entering the Promised Land,

Be strong. Take courage. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t give them a second thought because God, your God, is striding ahead of you. He’s right there with you. He won’t let you down; he won’t leave you. (Deuteronomy 31:6 MSG)

How good is that?! God strides ahead AND is right there alongside. This is who I've known Him to be to me throughout the 16 years since He spoke to us about adoption. 

Always ahead. Always with. Always greater.

And you know, He truly has never let me down. I see how He has walked with me as I have parented our children, continually calling me to fearless parenting, commanding that I not parent my children out of my fears for their future-- for what life will look like for them if they don't attach well, or if they don't learn to trust, or if they don't receive the healing from all the abuse and rejection of their pasts. Yes, apart from God's love, which truly does cast out all fear (1 John 4:18), I can justify some fear in my parenting approach. But in the context of His love for me and His love for my children, there is no place for fear. 

So my friends, the next time your child rages for hours, or can't sleep at night, or continues to hoard food, or seems unable to look you in the eyes or receive your hug, or lies, or........ hear Father God commanding you to Fear Not! 
For He is with you. 
He is with your child. 
He is faithful. 
God, today I release my fears for my child to You once again. I want to be a fearless parent! May Your perfect love for me and Your perfect love for my child drive all fear from our relationship. Amen. 

Monday, November 3, 2014


From our friend Gina McCarn. We very much appreciate hearing about the realities foster parents face. May we all see the beauty in the mess!!

Perhaps one of the most beautiful messes is foster care. I became a foster mom 21 months ago. We are still in our very first placement with two little boys. Our family has grown to 5 children ages 3-11. The joy this has brought me as a mother is unexpected to me. I expected to provide care, both physical and emotional, to these little boys.

I did not expect to fall head over hills in love with them. I prayed the LORD would break my heart for them and give me the desire to fight for them and love them as much as the children that shared my body for nine months. 

I did not expect that sometimes I would forget I did not give birth to each boy. Sometimes when the older one asks me questions about him being a baby, I have to remind myself that I didn't know him as a baby because I can easily picture what he was like. I know him that well. He's lived with me for 21 months. I have rocked him to sleep. I have cried with him. I have played trains with him. Phil and I were there when he learned to ride a bike and write his name. We have cleaned up boo-boos and disciplined with love and truth. We have blown out birthday candles with him. I walk him to the bus each morning. I recently surprised him with a Captain America costume. I am watching him learn to read. I listened as he asked Phil to help invite Jesus to live in his heart. I dream of his future. I pray for his wife. He and I dream about him being a daddy just like Phil. We try to guess what he's gonna look like at age 20. I imagine he will be a much bigger version of this current 5-year-old boy sitting at the kitchen table gulping down homemade food while I sort out his laundry from college. These little boys are woven into our family. 

I don't even hesitate anymore when people ask me about my children. I answer without thinking. "I have 5 kids. 4 crazy, stinky boys and 1 beautiful princess".  

However, there is so much more to the story of how the McCarns became a family of 7. These sweet faces joined our family out of significant loss. In the early days of them joining our family, I also didn't expect how much my heart would break for their mom. Milestones pass. They are growing. They are learning. She is missing all of this. Recently I  sat in our youngest's bedroom floor after tucking him in for the night. He's officially been with us longer than he was elsewhere. I was struck with heavy grief for him. Where is his mom? Is she okay? Does he remember her, what she looks like, what she sounds like? I try to keep her memory vivid for both boys. Her picture hangs in their room.  We guess together that the youngest must have her sense of humor. The older boy must have her fast legs. They both have her intelligence. They both have her contagious smile. 

We don't know how this journey will last. Phil and I started with anticipation and the hope that a family could be reunited. I had so much compassion for their mom. I believed she could do this and get her kids back. I would often tell people that this was going to take time and that we needed to be patient. 

Even my patience has grown weary because I want answers!  The LORD so gently reminds me that his timing is perfect. He is not restricted by time. The LORD reminds me these are His children. He doesn't need us to write this story, but He has chosen us. We must be patient and let everyone do their job. No stone should go unturned. No effort should be dismissed for the sake of efficiency. We must trust the LORD has gone before every court case, family visit, and appointment that comes our way. I need to trust Him and His promises. Each day, I choose to remember that there is a mom that gave birth to them that also had dreams and hopes for them.  

It would be so easy to judge her and think that she and I are so different, including our sins, but they aren't different. We both have sins. I can look somewhat heroic because I am cast in the kind light of a foster mom. Her sins may look uglier and more grievous because of the mistakes she's made. However, judgement of a mother is not what we were asked to do as a foster family and the goal of foster care is ultimately reunification of the family. 

We were asked to stand in the gap and help with a need while a mother needed grace, assistance and patience.   

Whether we pack the boys' bags to go home, or they become McCarns forever, I want to be able to look them in the eyes knowing we did everything we could to fight for their family. 

I did not expect to love these boys the way we do. 
I did not expect to see so much of my own brokenness along the way. 
I did not expect the mess. 
I did not expect their case to take this long. 
I did not expect my children to love these boys so much. 
I did not expect the compassion and sadness I feel for their mom, but the LORD did. 

He expected all of it. 

He calls us into the mess and shows us beauty through unexpected, unimaginable ways. 
He invites us to follow HIM with details missing and sometimes without an end in sight. 
He loves us through each step. 
He's there meeting us even when our answers are not His desires. 

When we look for His fingerprints, we find beauty in the mess.

Thursday, October 16, 2014


From Beth:

I don't think I've met a parent in the process of adoption with children at home already who doesn't ask this question, in some form or other: 
How will this affect my children? Will they be harmed? What if they are hurt through this decision to adopt? 
We need to ask these questions. Going into adoption with our eyes opened and the rose colored glasses off is important for sure. 

It was a question Stephen and I asked when we first realized God was calling us to adopt. I told the Lord this was fine and good and all, but I couldn't do something that would place our three girls in danger. I told Him that I needed to be sure we really were hearing right. 

So many unknowns. 
So many scary stories and warnings from well-meaning friends. 

So, as with all things in this life, it comes down to this:

What Is God Saying?

As we prayed, Stephen felt the Lord respond to our concerns. God told us that yes, it would be hard on our daughters. It would cost them something. 
But He assured us that it would be the kind of hard that would build them up, not tear them down or bring damage to them. 

And that was all we needed to hear. 

We realized that actually it wasn't our goal to try to create a home where nothing bad or hard ever happened. We weren't looking for a life where our girls had no challenges to overcome. 

In reality, we came to embrace the fact that adoption would bring challenges into our home. And indeed, that has been the case--far more than we anticipated actually. 

How true is it that challenges and hard times are often the very best way to know Jesus in deeper ways?! And that right there is really what our parenting is all about. That is the bottom line. 

So we embrace what is hard, knowing it is all happening in the context of love and in the safety of God's plan for our children, both the ones born to us and the ones grafted in. 
Those of you who had children at home before you adopted or fostered, what helped prepare your children? What helped make the hard times productive for your child?
Here are a few of my thoughts:

  1. Prepare children ahead of time by talking about the life your adopted or foster children are experiencing. As much as it is possible for you, begin to create a common history even before the adoption. We were all amazed to find out there was a live webcam in Vyborg, Russia, so we could see the people walking down the street, see what they were wearing and how cold it was. Make use of the internet to find out about the history and culture of the place your child lives. If it is possible, write letters and send gifts as a family. We have some of the sweetest notes from our children to their new siblings and those interchanges did much to connect us as a family. Although this is not possible or wise for everyone, when it is appropriate travel as a family to receive your new child. The common experience you will have as a family in your adopted child's environment will expand understanding and compassion. The week we shared as a family in Russia before each adoption gave us our first family stories, not in our home, but in our adopted children's homes!  
  2. Anticipate what is ahead POSITIVELY. We might be tempted to tell our children how hard it is going to be, how they will be jealous and how difficult their new sibling might be. Rather, stress the positive as you prepare for the challenges ahead. Don't ignore the fact that life is about to change, but help your children see their role from a place of strength. For instance you might say, "Sometimes you might feel like you want mommy's attention when I am feeding the new baby (or helping teach your sister English, etc...) You are going to be such a good helper. Isn't it good that God has made you to be the big sister?! You'll get to teach her so many things. Do you think you could teach her how to get dressed by herself like you do? (or help her learn English words?)" Emphasizing the role of the sibling, as the one who can help and give with an open heart will help your children see that things are going to be required of them, but that they can give with love rather than see this season as a time where things are taken from them.
  3. Let your children know, not once but over and over and even years after your new child comes home, that there is no topic off limits. They may need to be able to say "I wish we had never adopted," or "I don't like the way it is." Give them the freedom to let you know when they are not doing well with all the "hard" stuff. Make time to let them talk to you, without fear of judgement or correction. This freedom will take you all through many a tough time!
  4. See the challenges as an opportune time. Help your child recognize for her/himself that when we are weak it is actually right there that we get to know God and the strength of His love for us in a new, deeper way. Be sure to pray together through the hard times and painful issues. The enemy would love to use this as an opportune time to speak his lies, but God has better plans for your children!!
Read about adoption from the perspective of children born into the adoptive family on our blog by clicking on the Children's Stories tab. 

Do you know an older child who has a story to tell? We are interested in hearing from teen and adult children, both those born into the family and those adopted. (Not every story will be accepted.) 
Email us at

Monday, October 13, 2014


From Beth: 

I remember those days that some of you are living in right now. Those days when if I could just have a moment to myself (even if it only meant privacy in the bathroom!) it felt like I might survive the day. This photo I saw in my Facebook feed recently is too true!
With 7 children, I have to admit that sometimes I felt hunted....

Mommy, I'm hungry.
Mommy, can I watch a movie?
Mommy, he cheated.
Mommy, look at me, look at me, watch what I can do!!
Mommy, Mommy, Mommy.......

Of course, some of these words came out in Russian, some in screams, some in excitement, some in joy-- that is the mommy life, and I loved it. 

But you do sometimes get weary of being pursued, of being followed. 

And in the thick middle of all these demands I am pursued by Another. 
Surely or only goodness, mercy, and unfailing love shall follow me all the days of my life... (Psalm 23:6 AMP)
Chased down by the One who is Goodness, Mercy and Unfailing Love.

Did you know that the word for follow means to pursue, to chase. How cool is that?! In other verses it is translated to hunt down. God is chasing us down friends. Not to accuse us or to expose or chastise. Not to demand things of us. 
He is chasing us down with His love. 

We are the hunted ones. 


And looking back I see it is true--in seasons of ease and joy, and in seasons of pain and grief--I am one who is pursued. 

Never left alone. 

Never, not one moment of one day, have I been left to myself.  

Oh thank you Lord God. 

Thank You. 

Holy Spirit, would You help me live as one who is hunted? Show me the goodness, mercy and unfailing love that pursues me this day. Help me to show my children that they too are hunted ones. Thank You Father that You will never leave me alone, that not a day of my life will I live apart from The Hunt! 

Thursday, October 9, 2014


When you've done something 4 years in a row you might think it could get just a little "been-there-done-that-ish"--right? 
Not even close! Hope at Home 2014 was just what God told us it would be--above and beyond. I know a lot of you reading this were not able to be with us, but those of us that were there felt, once again, the love of God for us and for our children.
We hope that through our Blog, Facebook Page, Pinterest and Twitter that we are able to share this love so needed by us all--for His love is 
and GOOD! 

Enjoy these photos from our dear friend Ruth and her team, along with some comments from parents who attended. And while you are at it, mark your calendars for Hope at Home 2015, September 25-26!!

Beth and Susan--cofounders of Hope at Home

THANK YOU....THANK YOU!!!!! We thank you all for touching us, loving us, and allowing God to so freely speak through you. We hope to see you at Hope at Home 2015!! Thank you for your faithfulness. I was very encouraged and blessed.
"Getting Real" Parent Panel

My husband and I left the conference feeling refreshed and renewed. The conference was wonderful. We came back excited and expecting God to move in a miraculous way for the well-being of our girls. We are so thankful for all the speakers. God used all of them to speak to us in unique ways.  
Our breakout for fathers is always a favorite. 
First of all, I just want to say thank you for your obedience to the Lord in what He has called you to take part in with Hope at Home.  The very things I was struggling with were touched on this past THANK YOU for listening to His voice.  We truly had a wonderful weekend and were very pleased with how well things were prepared for us and how welcomed we felt by everyone.  Again, thank you SO much for everything.  I know hours of preparation goes in to something like this past weekend, so praying for rest for you and the others who made it happen! 

Our Hope at Home After Party with International Deserts and Live Jazz--so fun!
I will recommend this to ALL my foster friends, as it is so not typical of what we get in the form of training.  For most other training we feel as if we are just "doing our time" and there is nothing new.  But with this one, it is the hope that all foster families need, the only hope that will help in raising/fostering these little ones, the hope of Jesus!   
The opportunity to pray together is priceless. We love standing in faith with you, trusting God together for His kingdom to come in our families. 
What I want to say, is thank you! Thank you for making the entire conference about Jesus! Thank you for encouragement and refreshment in the Lord, thank you for including the guys who are often left out, thank you for the section on marriage and thank you so much for the prayer room! I love prayer and that part was very, very special to me! I loved the pastor's message too....there wasn't actually anything I didn't like!

Scott Means' message was just what our marriages needed! 

Sunday, September 14, 2014


From Susan: 

Just 2 more weeks to Hope at Home 2014!! If you have already registered, we are praying for you and your family by name. It is hard to express our sense of confidence in the Lord for this event. We are EXCITED!! 
And if you have not registered, our arms and hearts are open wide to welcome you dear friends. Please consider joining us for this gathering of Real Families, sharing Real Help and Real Hope.

"It's Friday, but Sunday's comin!" 

We all have those little quotes that stick like glue in our memories. This quote by Tony Campolo was actually His trademark. No matter what we or those we love may suffer on any given day, the truth is, in Jesus, we know the that even when it feels like crucifixion-Friday, resurrection-Sunday is coming! And if you are living on the resurrection-Sunday part of this week, there is someone within your reach who needs you to pull them along towards you, as there are certainly friends and family close by who are today in the crucifixion-Friday side of life.  

I invite all of you to peek into what I keep seeing that the future holds for those called to help pray and love children into living like the treasures God created them to be! I separate our family adoption story into the beginning, the middle, and the ending.

The Beginning 

Life is busy, physically and emotionally tiring, full of school, homework, meals, music/art/sports lessons and events, funny stories like the day Vasya put his tooth that just fell out into the crack of the baseboard for the mice, only to burst into tears when all his brothers and sisters hollered, 'stop! stop!  In America we give our old teeth to the fairy so we get money, instead of giving it to the mice who are living hidden behind the walls!!' And Vasya bursts into tears as the rest of the kids are shaking back their giggles. So I save the day assuring him that I know the tooth fairy and will tell her to come anyway!  
While the practical challenges are exaggerated, the silly stories to offset them bring somewhat of a balance. 

We pray their faith will become their own, and not just their parents'. 

We tend to our children's hearts and souls, trusting that they and we are being raised together to the kind of newness of life that Jesus' resurrection ushers in by His Holy Spirit who comes to live in our hearts. 
We pray the Lord will meet them where they are and they will feel His supernatural help that transforms problems with school and friends and neighbors and  family and feelings, by the love of the Holy Spirit, poured out into their tender hearts, often through our tender affection.

The Middle

As kids from hard places walk through the teen 13 to 19 and young adult years, they, like Peter, often try on their orphan identities again. You see, that Erikson Developmental Stage of identity versus role confusion (ages 13-19) must be worked through. Only if they are believing they are who Jesus says they are--sons and daughters of the King of kings and sons and daughters of their loving parents, or as Luke calls us, children of the resurrection, will they be able to walk in emotional and spiritual health. 

It is typically a process, and they often flip in and out of the opposing poles. While we would love to force them into the right pole--the sonship/daughtership pole--the only help that is ultimately effective is the force to love approach. That is, I force myself to focus on love more than change. And the Fount of Love Himself gives me His love, Jesus' love, the love that we tell them about when they are little. This is the love that will never change even if they are "bad.''  

So when they make bad choices that have bad consequences, we keep reminding them, "I know who you are, even though you are not living like who you are. You are kind, loving, generous...."--whatever those unique giftings are we see in them. We keep speaking truth even when they are themselves believing lies and living lies, telling themselves things like "I am worthless; my life will be bad; no girl will ever want to marry me; I will not be able to get a good job; I am a failure....."  

In these years, particularly, we are they who must keep seeing the Invisible Hand of our Loving Lord, placing angel armies around them and around us.  We trust that their story will end like Peter's, who, in spite of denying who he is and who Jesus is, He ends up being the one who feeds the sheep, tends the sheep, and feeds the lambs--over and over and over again. Just read Acts for all that Peter changes to accomplish, after He is fully filled with the Holy Spirit and comes to see Himself as Jesus saw him all along.

The End

All the kids will grow up and leave home and we will all become empty nesters. I didn't really think this would ever happen to me! What is that like? Well, for me, it is WONDERFUL! I get to keep the relationships with our children who value keeping the relationship (most of them do!) and keep loving them.  

At this stage, they must move through intimacy versus isolaton (20-30ish). When their hearts are broken by a boyfriend or girlfriend, this fear of aloneness and abandonment is more destructive in its "crucifixion-Friday" threat--and we keep reminding them that they have a SURE HOPE of intimacy with Jesus and with us and with other believers that no one and nothing could ever threaten! When we see them isolating themselves we text and call and email and instagram messages to them that are reminders of the hope we ourselves determine will be our own trademark. 

And we keep loving with a view to "Sunday's comin'!" 
And we keep loving all the others the Lord is sending our way -- the "whoevers" of Mark 3-- "whoever does the will of my Father, He is my brother and sister and mother"--and I would add "and son and daughter."


Lord Jesus, today we pray for all those in every country who are loving children who need families and who need You;  we pray that we would be living the 'Sunday's comin!' life of hope in Your being an anchor for our souls.  And that as we do, our children and many others would simply copy us as we copy You.  I just love how, virtually every time You, Jesus, speak in the gospels of your coming crucifixion, You yourself always add:  "and the third day I will rise.'  We praise You for John 6, that You, when you remind us four times that You are the bread of life, You also remind us over and over that when we COME TO YOU, that YOU raise us up to newness of life.  Evermore strengthen us to walk in this resurrection-raised-Sunday's comin! life.  For your glory.  For the hope of our hearts, our homes, our world.  In Jesus Name. Amen.

Thursday, September 4, 2014


It is hard to describe how exciting and humbling it is for us to prepare and share these breakout sessions for Hope at Home 2014 September 26-27. 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. Fathering: Bringing Peace, Order and Life Into Our Homes 

In this breakout for dads, we'll discuss the awesome role we have as fathers to bring peace, stability, order and life to our homes. We'll address practical issues, sharing systems that have been helpful in bringing freedom to our wives and children. We'll talk about the power to define that we have as fathers, and how we can instill in our children their true identity by hearing from the Lord for each child and speaking words of life over them.  Stephen Templeton and Greg Haswell

2. Letting God, Letting Go

The process of bringing our children to a point of spiritual, emotional, and economic maturity and independence is difficult in the best of situations. It is often even more difficult with adopted children. Rather than letting go and letting God, we will look at the hope brought by letting God and then letting go. Susan and Brian Hillis

3. Called and Qualified

What a gift from God it is to be called mother/mom/mama. Answering this call brings much joy, satisfaction, challenge, and at times deep heartache. Many mothers find themselves facing an identity crisis. As lives are poured out for the sake of our children, questions such as Who am I? Am I qualified for this? How do others do it? arise in our hearts. 
In this breakout for mothers, we will take a look at some of the answers to these questions from heaven's perspective. Michelle Haswell

Breakout Session II:

1. Keeping the Connection: Parenting in Grace

How do we create, maintain, and deepen our parent/child love connection, and at the same time provide the much-needed structure of discipline? We'll talk about some practical parenting tools and concepts that free us to be grace-filled and forward-looking parents. Beth Templeton

2. Banishing Fear--Beginning the Journey of Fearless Parenting in God's Love

This session will look at the nature of fear and anxiety and the biblical possibility of gaining freedom in Christ from fear and anxiety.  We will discuss some practical ways to identify fear and anxiety as well as turning effects of fear and anxiety into acts of worship. We will also offer a time of Questions and Answers. Dr. Terry Mitchell

3. Nurturing Your Child's Spirit 

This breakout will offer practical ideas and teaching on helping your child enjoy their relationship with our Heavenly Father. As children encounter the love of God, they are released from the orphan spirit and discover their true identity as sons and daughters. Jenni Means

Sunday, August 31, 2014


From Beth:

Susan Hillis and I, and our whole team, so ready to see you all at Hope at Home 2014. Oh how we would love for you to join us so that we can stand together with you, linking shields on behalf of each treasured child, the ones in your home and the ones yet to come home. Register Now for this special gathering created just for you! 

It is such fun to share on Facebook or Instagram the joyful and fun moments of our lives. We rejoice with one another in those sweet moments captured and shared--and this is how it should be. Here is a photo I shared this summer when all 7 of our children were together at the beach. Mind you it was all of 5 hours before two of the kids had to leave, after one had just arrived that morning, but we were not going to miss an opportunity to take a photo! So much goodness and evidence of God at work in this picture!!

But then there are those moments we would never think to take a photo of--and certainly NEVER would we share them on social media! Those moments of heartache and disappointment are the ones we private message to a trusted friend. God is Lord over them all, the private pains and public celebration. How thankful we all are that His faithfulness is not limited to the happy days of Facebook posts!

We get many private messages from parents whose children are in seasons of serious need and vulnerability--the kind of scenarios we have all so hoped to avoid. We hear stories of rebellion, addiction, psychological diagnoses, sexual acting out, unhealed attachment disorder, removal from home, trouble with the law..... 

And indeed, both Susan and I have faced many of these extreme situations in our own families, interspersed amongst the never-ending stream of true beauty and joy.

And we too have sought words of life and hope, both for our saddened hearts and for our children's lives. So, whether you are facing one of these extreme situations or not, I know that you are praying for your child, trusting God for wonderful things for him/her. In the end, is this not the bottom line for us parents? That our children thrive and enjoy the fullness of life that is theirs in Jesus? 

Take a quick look at what Jesus prays for Peter (Luke 22:32) before He is taken by the Roman guards, on His way to the cross. Remember, this is JESUS CHRIST PRAYING. He tells Peter, 
But I have prayed for you, Peter, that you would stay faithful to Me no matter what comes!
Now, I know you all know what happens in the ensuing hours. Despite Jesus' prayer, Peter does indeed break faith with Jesus. 

It might seem that Jesus' prayer for Peter was ineffective that Thursday night--that it somehow "didn't work." Is this even possible? How can this be?

But hold on a minute-- let's read what Jesus says next to his disciple: 
Remember this: After you have turned back to Me and have been restored, make it your life mission to strengthen the faith of your brothers! 
Jesus saw past the unfaithfulness to a time of repentance, restoration, and ministry. His prayer was embedded with provision for all contingencies!

And the very thing Jesus prayed for--that Peter would be faithful no matter what happened--becomes Peter's life mission. Peter spent the rest of his life, after being restored, ministering strength and faith into others. 

Jesus' prayer covered it all for Peter!

So my dear friends, let us not be dismayed by what appears at the moment to be unanswered or ineffective prayers. Let's embed our prayers for our children with plans and possibilities for all contingencies. And the very place of weakness, brokenness, or sin will become the place of strength for that struggling child. 

Think of it, when we think of Peter we think of the ROCK that he is. Even to this day, through the scripture, his words are strengthening us. We don't identify him according to his weakest moment. But rather, according to the words that Jesus spoke and prayed.

And I believe it is just so with that child you are praying for dear ones. We identify them according to who God says they are, even--and especially--in those seasons where their weakness or sin is most evident, and no one is asking to take a photo to share on social media.

For our prayers are embedded with the "no matter what comes" kind of situations, embedded with restoration and hope! 

Faithful God, I pray Your word from Psalm 91 (The Passion Translation) for my child:

He/She makes his/her home within the shadow of El Shaddai, hidden in the strength of God-Most-High. In Him ____________ always feels safe and secure! He's the Hope that holds _________, and the Stronghold to shelter him/her. The only God for ________, and his/her Great Confidence. He will rescue __________ from every hidden trap of the enemy, and He will protect him/her from false accusation and any deadly curse. His massive arms are wrapped around _________, protecting him/her. __________ can run under His covering of majesty and hide. His faithfulness is a wrap-around shield keeping __________ from harm. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014


Planning to join us for Hope at Home 2014? Well, we sure hope so! Every time we meet to pray for you and for our time together, we have such a sense of anticipation for what our Father God has in store for us. You will be encouraged and equipped by the One who has you and your child in mind--every single moment. REGISTER TODAY!

From Susan:

Just this week I felt this crazy urgent nudge to call a doctor in another state with whom I had not spoken in 17 years. You see, this doctor, Doctor Bill xxxx, was our son Jonny's heart doctor, and I was savoring the memory of how his advice changed our life!!! This fond memory made me want to ask him to talk with a young couple J and B, whose first little baby was just born half way across the country, with Jonny's same heart problems--problems that only occur 1 in 250,000 births!!!
Susan and Brian with Cristi and Jonny
Now the logical side of me said, "That is a crazy don't know where Dr. Bill is working now; you don't have his phone number; even if you did, he would be busy; he has taken care of so many kids he probably doesn't even remember you; taking time you don't really have out of your day for this interruption is irrational."

But the faith-filled side of me thought, "Lord, is it You giving me this idea as a way to encourage this young family? What can I lose by trying?"

So I googled his name, <Dr. Bill xxxx, pediatric cardiology> and BAM, the first link was to his office and phone number.  He has gone on to become a very well known pediatric cardiologist who helps run a well known pediatric cardiology center! 

Then I called the number and told his secretary, "This is Dr. Susan Hillis calling. I am wondering if I might speak with Dr. Bill xxxx....I am not sure he remembers me, but he took care of our son years ago."

And Dr. Bill, the head of a busy cardiology center, came right to the phone, "Susan Hillis, how in the world is the CDC doing and how are you doing???" 

He DID remember me!!! 
And he WAS available. 
And he DID answer the phone! 
This BUSY man was free right when I was nudged to call.
Brian, Cristi, Trevor, and Jonny

And this is what I told Dr. Bill, "Bill, a childhood friend of Jonny's and of our daughter Cristi has just given birth to their first baby--a precious little girl who has the same rare heart defect that Jonny did. I have just been remembering the two things you did for us that changed our life and wishing they could talk with you. I'd like to tell you what those two things were:
  • First, when I planned to teach all our friends and all Jonny's teachers CPR, you said, "Susan, you cannot do this!  If you tell others that Jonny will be at risk of sudden death from cardiac arrest every day of his life, then the adults will be afraid of him. And if the adults are afraid of Jonny then the kids will be afraid of Jonny....because kids always copy adults. What you must do instead is this:  LIVE A NORMAL, HEALTHY FAMILY LIFE, AND FOCUS PRIMARILY ON LIFE, NOT ON PROTECTION FROM DEATH. 
  • Second, when Jonny's heart was growing weaker and weaker at 10 months of age, you sat down with us and explained, "If we do nothing, you will have about 6 months, but if we operate and close the hole between the upper 2 chambers, he could have years. The catch is this: the risk of him dying from the surgery is very very high and the likelihood of the surgery working is very low.  But if it did work, you would have years with your son, not months. It is up to you." Bill, do you remember that?"    Dr. Bill replies, "Oh....I remember it like it was yesterday!"  I then continued, "Well, Bill, you know that your courage won us years with our dear son--years of memories and laughter that we would NEVER have had if you had not been willing to let us make that choice. Making that choice caused many rocky months for us and for that Friday and Saturday you sat by Jonny's bed when he almost died, and titrated all those potent IV meds going into his veins, with your eyes on all his numbers and monitors and pressures, to see if it would be possible for that little heart to begin to function. What I want for this young couple is for them to have someone like you, who will be willing to talk with honesty about their choices, and who is kind and capable. It is so hard to go through something like this when you are so young.  We had to do it, and your help made all the difference for our entire family and for his entire life. You helped us all focus on enjoying life and not fearing death!"
Always the gentleman, Dr. Bill thanked me sincerely and told me to  have Cristi's and Jonny's friends call, which they did that very afternoon....
and he answered their call. 
And he helped them. 

So, why is this story important for adoptive/foster parents OR for any parents?!

It is important for 2 reasons:

1. There is always someone else you will be able to help. When those nudges come, it is good to pay attention to them.  It will be a blessing for you and for them!! 
(recall II Corinthians 1...those reminders to comfort others with the comfort we ourselves have received from God!!!).  And there will be others nudged to help you when you need it.  
Don't be afraid to act.  
Don't be afraid to ask.

2.  The same 2 family life lessons that Dr. Bill modeled for me is what I hope to pass along to you:  
  • First, let's live as normal a life as possible, and focus on LIFE and GIFTS and ENJOYING EACH OTHER, not primarily on PROTECTION and CONSEQUENCES and DEFICIENCIES. The past month has been very hard for me--one of the hardest in years. Unexpected rejection that is painful. Horrible realizations. But those cannot be my focus. My focus will be on LIFE and the BLESSINGS abounding even amidst sorrow.
  • Second, be willing to be that movie that I just watched by the same title. Dr. Bill would have been among those "divergent: ones--he was courageous, kind, intelligent, erudite, and selfless in his service toward our sweet son and our entire family. I want to be like him.  Like him with others who are walking in this same adoption calling, so that we can see weak floppy hearts with holes in them become strong, just like happened against all odds with Jonny's.

So this week Lord, equip us with that joy that comes from being in Your story. Thank you that, Lord Jesus, you were always focusing on life--
life to the full....
life abundant....
life eternal....
life with purpose.....
a life of forgiveness....
a life of love.  
We want to focus on LIFE. And Lord, we want to be different...divergent--those who, because our eyes are on YOU, are filled with courage and kindness and selflessness and capacity and wisdom. 
For your glory.  
For the blessing of our family and others on our path every day.  Amen and amen.

Monday, August 25, 2014


We sure hope to see you at Hope at Home 2014! Join us September 26-27 in Atlanta for the refreshing and encouragement and help we all need as adoptive and foster parents. 

From Scott:

The name of my blog is Journey to Surrender.  I’ve been blogging there on how to have a surrendered marriage for almost four years. Yet I never really thought about the origin of the word “surrender” until recently. I have no idea why it took me so long to come around to this discovery. 
What do you think of when you hear the word surrender? Do you think of one party being defeated by the other? Do you imagine a total loss? Do you think it means giving up? Maybe you picture a white flag
Nope. Not even close. At least not in marriage anyway.

Surrender in Marriage

The word surrender actually comes from two Anglo-Norman French words: sur and render. Let's break it down:
    1. Sur - a prefix meaning over and above. Think surcharge or surtax. Something you pay over and above regular charges or normal taxes.
    2. Render - to give. To hand over. To abandon oneself entirely to.
Put these two together and what do you have? You have the very heart of marital surrender:
To go over and above in giving to your 
spouse, including giving yourself.

Surrender in marriage is not giving up. It’s not even giving in. No! Surrender in marriage means giving over. It means holding nothing back when it comes to your relationship with your spouse.
In order to understand what something is, it is sometime helpful to examine the opposite. In marriage, the opposite of surrender is withholding.

Why We Withhold

Withholding in marriage usually takes two basic forms. 
The first is withholding when it comes to meeting your spouse’s needs. This is most often out of a fear of lack. “What if I give and give and never get my needs met?” This fear-based withholding generates self-protection, self-promotion and self-centeredness. This can also generate a “give-to-get” attitude; one that gives in order to get something in return. Especially when we are feeling needy ourselves, the idea of giving more generously is typically the furthest thought from our minds.
The second kind of withholding has to do with trying to hide your true self from your spouse. This often also comes out of fear. We fear not being accepted or loved as we are, with our weaknesses and shortcomings. Withholding yourself from your spouse can also come from fear’s evil twin, shame. Shame is a powerful emotion that causes us to hide from others, even from the one we are joined to in marriage. 

A One-Flesh Paradigm

In our modern world you often hear the “50-50 marriage” held up as the ideal. Equality and fairness are the measuring sticks of a success relationship, we are told. Such high ideals are hard to argue with, right?
But I’d like to suggest to you that they aren’t really biblical ideals. As is so often the case, the Kingdom’s perspective on marriage is rather upside-down from worldly wisdom. 
The truth is that you and your spouse are one. That’s how the Bible describes marriage. If you really believe that you are one with your spouse, then withholding, whether it be in meeting their needs or in revealing your true self, actually makes no sense. 
In a one-flesh, surrendered marriage, only a 100-100 approach makes sense, where each of you is all in, with a goal of out-giving, out-serving and out-loving each other. When you fail to meet your spouse’s needs, you are actually hurting yourself at the same time, but when you bless your spouse, you are blessed too! After all, you are one!
The other implication of an “all in” surrendered approach to marriage means a willingness to be naked (emotionally, physically and spiritually) with your spouse. Such nakedness and transparency requires you to let go of fear and shame and to believe in your spouse’s love and good will toward you and be willing to graciously accept the grace they extend to you. Further, you must also be willing to extend grace to your spouse as they struggle to be naked and real before you.
If you want intimacy, in all its forms, you have to be willing to be transparent and real, because fake intimacy is a non-starter. True intimacy requires that you be fully known, and to be fully known, you’ve got to get naked in every sense of the word.

Love Like That

Now to be clear, giving yourself is not losing yourself or denying who you are, but bringing the fullness of who you are into your marriage in order to serve and bless your spouse and strengthen your relationship. Just like Jesus brought the fullness of himself, fully God and fully man, to the cross for our benefit, in order to live in intimacy with us forever:
A surrendered marriage isn’t the easiest or more natural path, but I believe it is the best path for every marriage. I believe it’s the path that God wants to put our marriage on. Ask Him to help you move in that direction. It’s a prayer He longs to answer, because He is very  much for your marriage.
I’ll leave with one of my favorite passages of Scripture that I think cuts to the core of a surrendered marriage:

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)