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)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


I never tire of hearing how our Father God brings children into families. The stories are endless confirmation of a miracle-working God whose love is extravagant, both for us and for our children. You will really enjoy this story from our friend Martha Cook. Martha and Andy have been married for 13 years. They both went to Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary where Martha got her Master of Arts in Counseling. Martha and Andy have two biological children, then two adopted from Ethiopia, then another biological son, and are now again in the process of adopting from Ethiopia! Some of you are familiar with, a ministry they helped start and play a key role in today. Promise686 reduces barriers to adoption and fostering by giving grants, offering childcare/meals, and help equip churches to bring orphans into their homes. In her spare time, Martha coaches people in all stages of life through her business,  

 Don't forget to register for Hope at Home 2014 before August 26 so that you can take advantage of our Early Bird Special. 

From Martha Cook:

Our oldest (11) recently asked at the dinner table, “What if Andrew (9) and Sydney (6) had to go back?” I said that’s not possible. And he said, “Yea, but what if?”  

I shared that the legal process prevented it--but he wasn’t giving up! I didn’t want the idea even in their minds, but our oldest wasn’t letting go. So, I finally said (or maybe “overstated”) in a serious voice, “It’s not going to happen.”  I had, for no substantial reason, created an awkward moment. The brief silence, at the table with the seven of us, was ended by Andrew. He stood, looked at his sister, and raised his hand to high-five her and exclaimed with a huge grin, “Home Sweet Home!

Now let me describe a different scene—6 years ago we were three weeks away from flying to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to get Sydney who was 4 months old, when I sheepishly asked my husband to adopt again. This was a bold move because we hadn’t even gotten our first one so if you know him, you do not ask for something next until the first thing happens. He went through many reasons for why he just couldn’t go through this again. With each reason, I had a beautiful defense, but by the end I just outright begged, because I really wanted our daughter to have another sibling in our family with a similar story. This had always been on my heart, but we had two young children already, a 4 year old and 3 year old, and that would be four children four and under. I had always hoped in my heart that somehow we would get a sibling group, but our agency had told us that it was so RARE to get a sibling group under 3 years old. So after an hour of debating, I surrendered and thought, “I’ll just have to pray about this.” He closed the conversation by saying that he’d only adopt again if the second child came alongside the first one. 

The next morning, I went out to get an oil change while my husband was home from work during the day (which never happened), and he answered the phone to discover our case worker on the other end. She explained to him that Sydney’s biological brother had been brought into the orphanage and then asked my husband if we were interested in adopting Sydney’s brother. 

My husband came to pick me up at the gas station, and casually said, “Guess what? We are having another baby.” 

Well remember, twenty-four hours before, he had just said “no,” so I thought, “What kind of mean trick is this?” I said, “What? Why are you doing this to me? This is so mean!”

 It took him six times before I believed him. He finally said, “The agency called and told me Sydney’s brother who is almost three was up for adoption, and I already told them yes.” 

Only God could design circumstances such as this where I would never have to worry over whether I was pushing my own desires on to my husband--he had come around in less than one day! 

At this point we expected we would have to wait another six months to bring our newest son home, since none of his paperwork had been done, but another prayer changed that. 

Each day that went by leading up to our trip, we began dreading having to take two trips and not be able to take our son, Andrew, home when we got Sydney. We just couldn’t understand how we would be able to leave. On the plane over there we devised a plan that before going to meet the children, we would go meet with the Ethiopian director of our agency and ask to bring them both home. When we went to meet him, he looked at us as if we were a bit crazy. His answer was, “It would take a miracle to do that.” My husband replied, “Would it be okay for us to all pray right now and ask  God for a miracle?” The director looked annoyed, but since it was a Christian agency I think he thought, “Well, I guess I have to do that.”  My husband  prayed for all of the necessary paperwork to be done in two weeks. As we left the office, we noted that the director’s mood was much lighter, and off we went to meet our children. About ten minutes later as we were in the taxi, we got a phone call from the director… He said, “You won’t believe it but one of the steps has already been done on Andrew’s paperwork. Let’s take this one day at a time and see what happens.” 

Home-Sweet-Home came two weeks later. I think of this story frequently and some days I wonder why I ever wait to pray about my desires or concerns. The God who provided my children still sits on the throne today. Life is a bit hectic in our house, and frequently there are questions like Bobby’s persistent “What if they had to go home?” that I just don’t quite know how to answer.  

But I smile when I remember that God still provides one day at a time. 

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Thursday, August 14, 2014


From Beth:

Before we get to this post, just a quick reminder that Hope at Home 2014 is coming up, September 26-27 and boy are we excited to see you dear friends!! Our Early Bird Discount ends August 26, so be sure to take advantage of that. Can't wait to give you all a big hug! 

There's an old Texas saying from a University of Texas football coach, "Dance with the one that brung ya." In sports, it means to go with the players and plays that result in wins. 

For me it means to continue on in our adoption journey the same way we began it, in the Spirit. I bet if each one of us reading this were to share how God brought us into this amazing expression of His love for orphans, we would all be telling stories of the supernatural-- of His calling, moving, providing, radical work in our lives and in the lives of our children. How many stories have you heard of people looking at a computer screen and falling in love with a complete stranger?! 

We so know who is behind that! It is the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Adoption moving supernaturally. 

But somehow it seems strangely easy to almost seamlessly move from walking/dancing in the Spirit, totally aware that if God doesn't do His thing we won't get our children home, to parenting our children out of our own strength and resources. 

We got invited to this Adoption Dance, and then accepted the invitation, totally recognizing that this was not your run-of-the-mill prom. We were dancing with a partner who was moving way outside of our familiar dance steps! 

So, maybe you are like me and sometimes find yourself dancing alone. You look up and realize, what happened to my dance partner?! I'm struggling with these steps of parenting alone, in my flesh, and it's not working out so well--for me or my child!

It reminds me of what Paul wrote to the Galatians:
You crazy Galatians! Did someone put a hex on you? Have you taken leave of your senses?...
Let me put this question to you: How did your new life begin? Was it by working your heads off to please God? Or was it by responding to God’s Message to you? Are you going to continue this craziness? For only crazy people would think they could complete by their own efforts what was begun by God. If you weren’t smart enough or strong enough to begin it, how do you suppose you could perfect it? Did you go through this whole painful learning process for nothing? It is not yet a total loss, but it certainly will be if you keep this up! (Galatians 3:1-4 MSG)

Yep--only crazy people think they can parent their children in their own strength, knowing that it was God who brought them into their family by the Spirit. Ummm, that would be me-- at least sometimes. I am learning to PARENT IN THE SPIRIT more and more these days. 

If you have the time now, listen to this wonderful song by Steffany Frizell Gretzinger, We Dance

Oh dear ones, let us choose today to dance with the one that brung us-- our Jesus. There is no better dance partner for us in the Adoption Dance, this Dance of Love to the Song of Sonship

Lock eyes with the One who set your feet to dancing these steps of adoption beloved, and then parent from that place of embrace and movement. 

Sunday, August 10, 2014


It is always a treat to hear from Greg Haswell. You'll hear more from him at Hope at Home 2014. You can register today for this gathering of adoptive, foster, and waiting parents, September 26-27, in Atlanta, Georgia. We sure would love to see you there!

From Greg:

It seems wrong to encounter headwinds when we start on a path that God led us to. Shouldn’t the headwinds be in our face when we’re doing the wrong things, and at our back when we’re negotiating the right paths? Yet sometimes we find ourselves doing what we know to be right and still squinting into discouragement.

Headwinds are not insurmountable; we can proceed with them in our face, but they are unpleasant. They resist us as we go forward and create drag on what we’re doing. Sometimes they gust harshly, demanding immediate withdrawal or surrender. Other times, they resist with poisoned whispers and subtle insinuations.

When the Israelites entered the promised land under the direction of God, they faced the headwinds of discouragement and fear. Even though they were walking into great promises, they still had to fight giants and pull down strongholds. Most times they were outnumbered, outgunned, and outclassed, but they had God walking with them into all He had promised.

As they were about to enter their promised land, God’s instructions were especially important, and I suspect they will be equally important for us as we walk into ours.
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9)
God encouraged Joshua to be strong and courageous and forbade him to be afraid or discouraged. That is a command, and therefore it is attainable, because God never requires us to accomplish what we cannot. 

So I am here to encourage you, in submission to God, to resist the headwinds of discouragement and fear. These two impostors always seek to resist the stated will of God. If they can get us to imbibe their lies, believe their deception, or surrender to their suggestions, we lose out on the promised land. 

Remind yourself of what the Lord said when He led you here. 

Remember His kindness and goodness to you and shout at the headwinds “I will not bow down to fear or discouragement!”

A stubborn and immediate refusal to fear allows the whispers of God to ring in our hearts loud and strong. When we are careful to resist fear and discouragement, all that is left is peace and a deep inner knowing that the days of fulfilled promises are here. The headwinds die down, and we have courage to go on in the will of God. Our arms are strengthened by following His advice.

So may your life be eased by obedience to His command. 
Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9)

Thursday, August 7, 2014


Hope at Home 2014, September 26-27 is for you! This gathering of adoptive, foster, and waiting parents will be just the refreshing and strengthening input you and I need to parent our children for this long-haul parenting journey. Join us--we sure would love to see you in person!!

From Susan:

We adopted Anya and Alex at ages 8 and 7, only about a year after losing our son Jonny on that family bike ride. We were all walking toward healing together, as is always the case. Here is a story of our early adjustments--a reminder that mercy comes disguised.
Anya and Alex in the orphanage.

From time to time I found myself crying, but this time I was crying over the slow and steady infusions of renewed life to which death was slowly yielding. Like the time shortly after our return to Atlanta, when Alex wanted to go to the drug store with Brian and motioned for Brian to wait because he needed to change clothes–-he ran and put on one of Jonny’s old Halloween costumes, having no idea what Halloween was or why we had those costumes or even to whom those costumes belonged. 

Alex had never known Jonny, yet he was doing just what Jonny would have done. 

And the hilarious memory that I thought I had lost forever-– the memory of our exuberant son Jonny dressing up crazily to celebrate the simplest of days--had reentered my life in our new son Alex who had never even known him.  

Only the Lord could have orchestrated this surprise! And I laughed through dancing eyes and glistening tears, because this spectacle so often experienced in Jonny's lifetime had been mysteriously revived through Alex. 

The same kind of thing happened when Anya, shortly after learning how to operate the CD player, stood in front of it with the music up full blast, dancing and singing. Again I laughed through dancing eyes and glistening tears because this experience, so often lived with Jonny, had come back into my life again in a way that only Mercy could explain. 

But the Mercy ran on a two-way street. There was the time when Brian was in our backyard in the spring, raking up old leaves, and found a little dead bird buried beneath the brittle brown leaves. Without thought, he picked it up and tossed it over the fence. Anya suddenly became hysterical, screaming at the top of her lungs in Russian, which by now I had come to understand, “Daddy threw away the baby!!!! Daddy threw away the baby!!!!”

I tried with no success to explain that the baby bird was dead, only to be drowned out by Anya’s sobs of hysteria. In frustration I looked at Brian and said, “You caused this and you are going to have to fix it.”

So Brian came over to Anya in his calm way, took her hand and led her inside, then sat on the couch after placing her facing him as she perched on his lap. He looked her squarely in the eye and with his father’s love and heart, spoke softly but with authority, “Anya, let me tell you how much I love you.  I love you so much that I got in a big airplane and went all the way over to Russia, and then I went and found you and brought you home. I will always be your daddy and you will always be my little girl. I will never leave you and I will do all I can to make sure no danger ever hurts you. Do you want to go on a walk?”

By the time he had finished these assurances, Anya was calm, and she seemed to have recovered from the reminder that the dead little abandoned bird had a fate that could have become hers; now she understood what it meant for her daddy to love her. 

We now were once again living in a family who together savored life in spite of each of our previous encounters with death. In God’s irony, one son’s death had unlocked life--life of the body, soul, and spirit, for Anya and Alex.  

And as He was unlocking life for them, He was unlocking it us all.

The Lord's mercies are indeed new every morning! Let's look up and see them!

Sunday, August 3, 2014


Feeling we need to share this one again! 

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 2014 And our hearts are full with anticipation to spend September 26-27 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. (It also helps us a lot in our planning:~)

To keep up with Hope at Home 2014 news and to enjoy ongoing encouragement and help, Find us on FACEBOOK. 

Friday, August 1, 2014


We are loving preparing to receive you at our annual gathering! Hope at Home 2014 is a gathering for mothers and fathers who are looking for encouragement and refreshing, a time set aside to connect with other parents and with our own Father God, a time to learn and grow and have some fun! Join us in Atlanta, September 26-27. 

From Susan:

We do not see who we are raising:
those little feet pitter pattering around the house
the giggling jokes
the challenging moods
the surprising fits.  

We cannot see and we do not know! But God knows and we give Him THANKS for Who He is Raising in our Homes--including US!

I am becoming increasingly thankful as I am seeing increasingly the treasures our children are becoming as they enter young adulthood. For years I devoured every Amy Carmichael book I could get my hands on. I was delighted when Elizabeth Elliott wrote her biography, A Chance to Die.  Yet I had one nagging did all those children Amy loved during her years in India as a missionary turn out?  I felt the same way when I would read all those George Mueller biographies. I wondered, what happened in the lives of the kids he loved so well on those dreary London streets?

It is a question that we see answered in David Wilkinson's The Cross and the Switchblade, as we know the answer to what happened in the life of Nikki Cruz, one of the notorious New York City gang leaders who was transformed by the love of God. We also know some of the answer to our similar question on a much more superficial level, when we read Cheaper by the Dozen, that non-fiction account (YES, it IS non-fiction!) of a family with 12 kids. The epilogue to one of the editions of the book actually explains how each of the 12 turned out!

So today, I want to give you a thanksgiving-glimpse into how one of our kids, Cristi, our oldest daughter, "turned out." Just yesterday I received an email from a dear believer who I met in Thailand a month ago, asking me, "didn't you worry that your biologic kids would not have enough of your love, when you adopted all those other kids?"
It is an honest and good question.  

What we see is that God is an expert in multiplication--in multiplying love, and that love does not have to be divided nor subtracted in His mathematical models. What we see is that, yes, each of our children had to learn to share and extend love as God brought more kids into our homes and hearts. But I think one of the wonderful blessings for me, now, is to see how the call of God upon our family into this adoption life ultimately was a transformational gift for each of us.  

We learned sacrifice.  
We learned simplicity.  
We learned meaning. 
We learned to love. 
We received reward. 
We learned and re-learnd and are still learning forgiveness and acceptance.  
We learned thanks-giving. In fact, so much so that every night after supper we always shared one thing we were thankful for about the day.  And we still do!

So...back to my story. Who would have known that little girl we were raising would grow up into her young adulthood to have a job that allows her to help thousands of children receive loving families in their own countries? Check out A Family For Every Orphan--it is exciting work!

Ask the Lord to give you great joy and thanksgiving in anticipating who you may be raising. 

And realize, your best help in this wonderful and challenging parenting road right now, as you cannot see the final destination for you or for them, is to live in intimacy with your own heavenly Father. As Paul writes in Ephesians 5,
Be imitators of God, as beloved children.  And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself for you, a fragrant offering (like perfume!).....LET THERE BE THANKSGIVING! ARE light in the Lord.

Thank you Lord that today, now, we are light in You, in our homes, before our spouses and children. We thank you for the privilege of raising these treasures. We just want to be children who walk, copying You. Thank you that in Your Word we come to see and know you as you are. Make us like You. Thank you that You fill us with Your love. 
We are thankful.