Tuesday, April 29, 2014


From Scott Means:

I'll admit it. I have pretty poor posture. It's not something I am proud of, and I know it's not good for me. When I spend a lot of time at the computer, which between my job and blogging, is often, I end up with a lot of aches in my neck, shoulders and back. (Don't worry I'll get to how this relates to marriage soon.)

Today, when my neck started to ache, I went online in search of some stretching and posture tips for computer users. Through my search, I discovered that there are actually things you can do to improve your posture. I mean, more than just sitting up straight (I can hear my mother now) or standing without a slouch. You can actually build a better posture. 
Okay, I'm sure you aren't reading a marriage post in order to figure out how to sit or stand properly, so let me get to my point. As I was reading these tips, I was struck by the importance of posture in marriage and how it relates to the relationship between husband and wife, and by the fact that you can actually take steps to improve your posture. 

As you know, posture (the noun) is defined as the relative position of the parts of something. However, it can also be defined as one's mental attitude or frame of mind. Both of these definitions have bearing on marriage. 

Marriage Posture - Position

The positioning aspect of your marriage posture has to do with keeping things in proper alignment. As with your physical posture, keeping the parts of your body in proper alignment is the key to supporting your weight in healthy and sustainable manner. It works the same in marriage. Having your marriage in proper alignment will help your marriage support the burdens of life and keep your relationship healthy for the long haul.

What is biblical alignment when it comes to marriage? God explains that to us in His Word, interestingly enough, using the analogy of a body. Ephesians 5 explains the proper alignment in marriage is for the husband to be the head and the wife to be the body, in the same way that Christ is the head of the church, his body, his bride. 

In addition to describing the husband as the head, the Ephesian 5 passage goes on to explain that wives should "stay in alignment" with their husbands. The Greek word used to describe this alignment is hupotasso, a word that is typically translated into submit or submission. The Greek lexicon that most scholars rely on says this word literally means, "to arrange one’s self under." It also means "a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden."

Not everyone agrees with what the Bible says about alignment in marriage. The notion of headship and submission is offensive to some. I get that. But the Bible is pretty explicit about how a marriage should be aligned. I think God put it there for our benefit and not to diminish us. God wants marriages to be aligned so they can be strong, healthy and enduring.

I believe that many people who struggle with biblical marriage posture, do so because they don't think about it with the right frame of mind. That leads me to the second definition of posture: attitude. 

Marriage Posture - Attitude

The attitude aspect of your marriage posture has to do with thinking about your marriage in the right way - with the right frame of mind.

Immediately when you start to talk about headship and submission, people start to get all kinds of wrong ideas about what that means. 

Some imagine it means the husband is the boss. But there  is a different Greek word that means boss, and that's not the one Paul uses in Ephesians 5 to describe the headship of husbands. There is also nothing in Ephesians 5 about the husband making all the decisions or barking out instructions to his wife. 

There is also nothing in there telling a husband to make his wife submit. It is clear that it is a wife who makes the decision to keep herself aligned under her husband or not. Headship does not infer control or dictatorship.

I've also heard a number of well-meaning but incorrect analogies: pilot/co-pilot, captain/first mate, CEO/VP. These each fall short of the kind of alignment God intends for marriage.

The truth is, the only way of thinking about your marriage, the only model that is biblical, is the one-flesh relationship between Christ and the Church. 
'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.' This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. Ephesians 5:31-32

Posture According to the Bridal Paradigm

The implications of this model, this bridal paradigm as it is known, are as vast as they are beautiful and empowering. 

For husbands this means:
  • Loving his wife as selflessly and unconditionally as Christ loves the church. 
  • Giving up his rights and laying down his life for his wife
  • Using his leadership position to serve his wife
  • Doing all in his power to see his wife come into her destiny in God
  • Beautifying and covering his wife with his love and grace.
  • Being both strong and good, just like Jesus
For wives this means:
  • Voluntarily keeping herself aligned with her husband's leadership
  • Showing her husband respect in all things
  • Leaning on him and trusting him to care for her
  • Serving her husband with the gift of her submission
  • Partnering with him to see that he reaches his destiny in God
I summarize this marriage attitude as being one of mutual surrender. Not surrender in the sense of giving up, but surrender in the sense of giving over. It means both husband and wife bringing the entirety of yourself to your marriage, warts and all, for the benefit of your spouse and for the good of your marriage. It means giving yourself completely to your spouse, and holding nothing back. 

Intimacy is the goal; surrender is the path that takes your there. 

 One Flesh Posture

The Bible says that husband and wife are one, just as Christ and the church are one. This is the great mystery of marriage. It's not something you have to work for, it's something you already are by virtue of the fact that you are married. Isn't that fantastic?! 

So why not enjoy the fruit of the oneness you already share. Being one means:
  • There is no need to jockey for position, to keep score or to fight for your rights. In a one-flesh marriage, relationship trumps rights. (You might want to read my recent post, "What If...You and Your Spouse Really Are One." for more on how to enjoy being one flesh.) 
  • Being one includes every aspect of your beings: body, soul and spirit. Nothing is off limits.
  • Rather than striving and dividing carefully to make sure everything is 50/50 and fair, you both go for 100/100 - both of you giving freely of your selves. 
  • When your spouse "wins," then you do to!

My hope and prayer is that every marriage would be full of the power, beauty, grace and strength that flows from a marriage that has the right posture - the posture that God describes in His Word.

Monday, April 21, 2014


From Beth:

It's what we parents do. We hunt for treasure. There isn't a day that goes by that hasn't given me the opportunity to seek out the treasure in my children. Now, I don't always take that opportunity, nevertheless, it is always there. 
In the house of the righteous there is much treasure (Proverbs 15:6)
There is indeed much treasure in each one of my children. But sometimes, (not always, but definitely sometimes) the treasure is hidden. 

In the days of Nehemiah the Jews had experienced a wonderful God-ordained rescue from captivity. Even so, even with a God-planned rescue, they were still living like poor squatters amongst the rubble of their past.

It is not so different for some of our children, is it? Adoption has delivered each one from his or her life in an orphanage, or from some form of life that simply could not support them. Even so, some of our treasured ones still live as orphans in one manner or another. Maybe your child hides and hoards food, or lies for no apparent reason despite appropriate consequences, or has fits of rage, or directs hateful words towards you despite your consistent acts of love, or is terrified of being left, or is inappropriately affectionate with strangers, or.... or.... or......

When God brought His people out of their captivity and back to Jerusalem, their true home, the walls and the gates of the city were a burnt out rubble. The walls that provided definition and boundaries were severely compromised. The walls that gave the city identity were in ruin. 

And the gates that provided access for what is allowed and good and whole, and protection from what is not allowed and unsafe, and unwelcome, were wrecked.
The survivors who are left from the captivity in the province are there in great distress and reproach. The wall of Jerusalem is also broken down, and its gates are burned with fire. (Nehemiah 1:3)
And it is in this context of parenting that I have become a treasure hunter. Amidst the rubble of my child's past I seek out the treasure in him.

My parenting becomes less about correcting the ripple-effect behaviors that reverberate from the enormous impact of their relinquishment, and more about Calling forth the Treasure that is hidden amidst the rubble and destruction. 

I become, in effect, a Treasure Hunter.

I know it is there, for it is revealed to me by the One who put it there in the first place. 
I know it is there, because sometimes I can see it clearly. What joy! 
And I have the honor to uncover and release this treasure. It is what parents do.  

What is the treasure in your child? What gifts has God given? What talents?

These questions have helped me so many times when I am walking through the rubble of my child's pain and am tempted to see only according to the flesh.

As we go about the work of adoption--that is the transformation of an orphan into a True Son or Daughter--as we go about rebuilding the walls of identity and restoring the broken places, let us seek the treasure in our precious children.

Let's remind each one, (and ourselves too!) that a child is not defined by his point of loss or weakest moments. Each son and each daughter is defined by the beautiful treasure of who God created them to be.

I see that one child has a strong mercy gift, another is called to be a leader, and another is gifted to be a way-maker, and another is a faithful friend. It is my job not to allow the work of rebuilding walls and gates to cause me to forget the beautiful treasures that are sometimes hidden, but never destroyed.

Father God, help me to treasure hunt today. Show me enough of the treasure in my child that is Your amazing work in him/her so that I never lose sight of the honor and joy of uncovering and releasing such beauty. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


From Beth:

Parenting is a pretty effective classroom I have found. Boy have I learned a lot about myself, about relationships, and about God, directly as a result of being a mother. Today I want to share something that I have found very helpful in facing innumerable parenting situations over the years-- that is, the benefits of being a responsive rather than a reactive parent. 

I'll tell you up front that I've tried both ways-- reacting and responding. I'm not even sure these two words are exactly the right ones to use, but they have been helpful to me as a parent in differentiating between two very different parenting modes. The difference may seem subtle, but in the reality of our family life, as well as the realities of my own inner life, the line is not as fine as it might seem. 

Intense Needs-- The Highlight Effect

It doesn't take me long to tell the difference once I'm in the middle of a situation. Certainly Stephen and I have had ample opportunities over the years to recognize the difference between meeting a situation with one of our children by reacting, or by responding. When I react, I am operating on a more base level. I allow my initial feelings to direct my actions. For instance, feelings of anxiety, fear, stress, frustration and anger are pretty common reactions for a parent in certain more intense seasons. This is a reality for all parents, but the needs of children who have experienced relinquishment and all that often accompanies that sad fact of their past, put a new spin on the word intense!
And I know that many of you have little ones who deal with RAD, FAS, oppositional behaviors, learning disabilities, physical disabilities...... 

I've tried to describe the difference between parenting our adopted children and our birth children over the years. My friends who have not adopted will often say that what we are dealing with is no different than their situations, or of someone that they know. It is hard to explain, because on the surface it doesn't sound that different. But for me it is as if someone has taken a situation and put it down on paper, and then come along with a bright yellow highlighter and colored over the words. 
There is something different-- it is highlighted, more intense, more urgent. It stands out and draws my parental attention in a more alarming way. And I realize that my feelings, my reactions, are also highlighted. They are more intense, more loaded with fear for this child's future and a deep awareness of the healing work that has yet to be complete. Maybe it is because I see that my biological children have, underneath the difficult issue we are facing together, a solid foundation of unshakable truth-- they know they are loved, they are safe, they are accepted. But when our adopted children are in the midst of a similar life-issue I sense a vulnerability that simply does not exist in our birth children. A behavior that in one may be simply an immature expression of a desire, or a character trait that needs some direction, or a season of testing, in the other is an expression of the residual fear of being rejected, of being unsafe, or of an illogical drive to remain in survival mode long after the need to do so is over.

Reacting to the Child vs. Responding to the Lord

So, when I turn my mothering attention to the issue at hand and I react rather than respond, I find I am operating more unconsciously, and inevitably some level of fear is involved. And let me tell you from experience, parenting in fear simply does not work! It does not work for you, and it does not work for your child. 
But when I respond to my child and the need at hand, I realize that I am motivated by love, my love for my child, and even more important, God's love for me and my child. I am consciously aware and intentional about my actions. Responding involves me making choices about parenting decisions based on what I know to be true, not based on what I am feeling. As I often tell my children, feelings are real, but they very often do not tell the truth. Real and True are not the same thing!
When I respond I am able to stay in line with our family's values and vision. It is, I suppose, a matter of control. For it is so very true I have learned, the only thing I can control is myself! And believe me my friends, I have put a good effort into trying to control my children and the situations we deal with! But what I have found is that when I put my effort into controlling what I can, (that is me!) my children and even sometimes the situation we are in the middle of, come into alignment with our values and vision. As a lover of Jesus, I have a PEACE available to me, not based on my quiet time that morning or my good performance as a mother, but purchased and made available to me because of what Jesus did. So, as I access that peace and as I choose to respond to the Holy Spirit, rather than react to the situation, that same peace is diffused into the situation. Pretty exciting stuff!

Responding Results in Greater Freedom

Do you see this substantial difference I am talking about? Subtle on one hand, but significant in the aftereffect. 
With reaction often comes guilt, shame, blame, fear and anger. But when I respond to the Holy Spirit and God's truth, I experience peace and patience, and I find acceptance of my child and helpful understanding come quickly after. Responding results in greater freedom, for me and for my child. Reacting seems to narrow my options for moving forward as a parent, and therefore limiting my ability to help my child move forward. But when I respond to the presence of God in me and heed His voice of life, I find there is literally always a way forward. Always. My emotional reaction seems to shut doors and hide much needed answers, but my choice to respond to the Lord rather than react to my child's behavior opens pathways of life for both me and my child. And, answers for what to do in the situation at hand are revealed!

I'll end this post with some practical things I do to help me stay in responding mode, rather than reacting mode. Maybe some of you would be willing to share the things you do in the comment section!

1. Write down the scriptures and promises God has given you over the years about your family and your children. Keep them someplace where you will see them regularly.
2. Put on worship music.
3. Partner with a friend who will remind you of the Truth when you are in a tough time.
4. Speak the truth to yourself, out loud when possible. 
5. Take a break. Tell your child you will talk a little later. Then take whatever time you need to put fear in it's place and access the peace that is your inheritance.
6. Rehearse to yourself and your family what God has done, rather than focus on all that you are waiting for Him to do. This will build your faith for the things you are trusting Him for. 

This article was first posted in January of 2013.

Thursday, April 10, 2014


From Susan:

I have lived in both of these places:

Sunshine Circle and Thunderbolt Alley!  

What about you? Where are you living right now? I am here to say that no matter where you are living today, 

in the sunshine

in the storm

or somewhere between, 

Jesus is there walking right beside you, ready to enter your experience. Here's a true story about what happened to me just one week ago!

When Thunderbolt Alley becomes Sunshine Circle

The family of 5 who were standing in front of me at the taxi stand at 11 PM Friday night at the Atlanta Airport looked confused. I saw the kind-faced mom and dad standing with 2 sons who looked about 11 and 12, and a cute little 4 year old Chinese daughter. I overheard the dad asking the dispatcher, "Can you tell us how far Fairburn (a distant suburb) is and how much it costs to get there?"  
After hearing the high cost, they stepped back, looking as though they were wondering what to do. The dad says to the mom, "Well, Delta didn't give us an vouchers for taxi fare; I'm not sure we should go all the way out there to the hotel."  
Bad weather in multiple cities had stranded them and countless others for the night who had missed their connecting flights out of Atlanta. 

Now, I am not nosey; there are just lots of things God wants me to know about! So I asked, "Excuse me, you don't know me, but I promise you I am a safe stranger. My husband and I have 10 kids, 8 adopted, and I work for the government. I am wondering where you are trying to go and if there is some way I could help you." 

The dad says, "Well, we missed our connection and Delta didn't give us enough to cover the cab fare, so we don't quite know what to do for the night. Our connection to Talahassess leaves tomorrow morning." 

"Well, I have an idea," I say. "My husband and most of our kids are out of town, so why don't you just come sleep at our house and I will take you back to the airport tomorrow morning." The mom and dad exchange a surprised glance.  "If you want to have a few minutes of privacy to talk about it, that's fine; I'll wait." They both say, "No, we don't need to talk about it--that would be GREAT!"  

So we all climb in the car and they begin to share their story.  "We have been up nearly 36 hours, travelling back from China with our little girl who we just adopted." I tried to speak to the little girl, EmmaLin, who did not reply, and the mom explained, "she can't hear."  As we talked more it became clear they were believers and saw the hand of God in their struggle to be home at last, after the long two week trip.  (If you want to see her beautiful picture and read their version of the story, look here.

As we were riding back in that taxi I remembered the times our church had prayed, "Lord, please place at least one believer in the life of every orphan in the world." I could only pray in my heart, "Thank you, Lord. You have done it again, and you have let me see it!"  

As I was riding in the Yellow Cab with this little girl who couldn't hear, my mind flashed back to the time I couldn't see. It was 2005 right after Hurricane Katrina, and I suddenly lost 25% of my vision. I was blind in the entire bottom half of my left eye. Reflecting on the multiple times God wants to get folks' attention when blindness occurs in the Scriptures, I prayed, "Lord, I am wondering if there is something you want to show me through this blindness." As I stood quietly, the thought that came very clearly into my mind was this:
About 75% of your life I would say, "Well done, my good and faithful servant." But I would also say there is 25% of my call on your life that you are blind to. I am not calling you to love only the orphans you have adopted, or the ones in your church, or the ones your friends have adopted, or the ones in Russia, but to all the orphans of the world.  
{I once was blind but now I see!} 

In that taxi on that Friday night, I felt so full of thanks to the Lord for letting me participate in a small way in His plan to love that little Chinese treasure. I glance back and see EmmaLin lift her mom's left arm from the seat to place it around her own waist, and lift her mom's right arm from the seat to place it around her own waist; I see that this sweet little one has already become confident that she has found love in the arms of her dear mama.

We find Love in the Father's Arms

The predictable pattern is that our heavenly Father wants to wrap His loving arms around us as our Good Shepherd in EVERY place. 

In Thunderbolt Alley when we are exhausted and needy and confused and broken, and bad weather has left us stranded.  

And in Sunshine Circle when the fellowship is wonderful, the relationships close, jobs exciting, provision abundant. 

And He is the supreme expert in climate change--in turning Thunderbolt Alley into Sunshine Circle. In rising above every storm to bring His sweet provision of calm. Recently I read twice in the gospel of Mark, the Father's words, "This is my beloved Son." The Father announces it from heaven's loud speakers right before Jesus enters the anguish in the long desert temptation, and He repeats the same words as Jesus shines on the mountaintop of transfiguration. 

In the desert and on the mountain, we find love in the Father's arms and words.  

We are the Beloved, created to Be-Loved

This story was originally posted in August 2012.

Sunday, April 6, 2014


From Susan:

"They looked unto Him and were radiant." (Psalm 34:5)

34:5....3,4,5.....just like that--

So easy to remember.  

So easy to forget. 

I love to look up words that seem foundational to life....like this one, radiant.

So I chose the noun form, radiance.

And here is what I learned from google this week:  Radiance is a construct in physics which is measurable.  
It can be defined as {get THIS!} "total reflection."   
It is useful because it indicates how much of the power emitted from a reflecting surface, like a mirror, will be received by an optical system, i.e. our eyes, looking at the surface from some angle.

This has such clear relevance for us as believers and parents and spouses and friends and workers and neighbors! Given that we know from Hebrews 1:3 that Jesus is the "radiance of God's glory, the exact representation of His nature," we realize that Jesus is God's mirror, perfectly reflecting our Father in heaven to His children on earth!  

And we have radiance when the power emitted from Jesus is received by us, as we "look unto Him," as the Psalmist says.  We, like Peter, keep our eyes above the waves. And we reflect Him, whether we intend to or not!

But what I liked most of all was this: under ideal  circumstances, output radiance = input radiance.

This means for us that, under ideal circumstances,
the love we reflect to others = the Love we receive from above.

So I have begun to pray a new prayer. 

May our output radiance equal our input radiance. 

This concept is SOOOO easy to illustrate with your kids.  Just get a flood light or lamp and shine it away from yourself and towards a handheld mirror that is pointed towards one of your kids; as the light shines in the mirror and reflects directly and momentarily into their eyes, they see what the idea of total reflection means. We then explain, "Hey guys, this is what we want to ask Jesus to do for  us--to make our reflection of Him to others just as bright as this light is to us!"

So today and each day Lord, whisper to us to look unto You and be radiant!

Thursday, April 3, 2014


From Beth:

We have some friends who had been fostering their daughter for almost a year, and that does't even count the previous year of constant road blocks to bringing her into their home, nor the months before that of pursuing their desire to be parents.

Many of you know this reality all too well, right?

The weeks 
that turn into 

I've got that in capital letters, with a bold font and underlined, all in my effort to connect the word with the painful reality. 

So much WAITING!

But then the day came.


What a glorious day for them. They traveled to another state to stand before that judge who declared 

Adoption Granted

These are power words, aren't they?! 
Upped my font to the largest size for that one!

Months before this amazing moment, my friend felt the Lord speak to her about her daughter's adoption. Our Daddy God does that you know. He speaks to us about our children. He has so much to say about them. And this precious mama was listening in. 

He told her that when the adoption was official
 it would be as if 

a lightening bolt 

shattered the darkness,
crashing down in the spiritual realm. 

These power words, "Adoption Granted," would be the moment in time that would actually break off generational curses, beginning a new heritage for this 

 (who once was an orphan) 

And then--

{listen to this!!}

all of a sudden, on the long drive home,

and every day since,

this little girl began to talk....

and talk and talk and talk and talk...

She could talk before, but she didn't have much to say. 

Orphans don't have a voice. 


Daughters Do

Something happened in the spiritual realm that manifested in the natural realm for this treasured one. God gave this mommy and daddy a glimpse of the power of adoption that will be continually at work in their child's life. 

They say she talks so much now that every once in a while they kind of wish she would stop--

but not really. 

She is a true daughter, and she has things to say! 

She is free, as all true sons and daughters are meant to be. 

Father God, would you give voice to all of our children.  
May the revelation and reality of sonship continue to permeate to the very depths of their being. 

And we pray for every orphan we know too God. Reveal to each one that they have a Daddy who loves them, that they too have a voice.