Saturday, January 26, 2008

Paperwork nearing completion

Good news!

We have completed the majority of the paperwork, fingerprints, and background checks. We will be sending everything to Bethany on Monday along with the initial application fee. The two things remaining before the social worker comes into our home and starts the home study are the medical exams and a fairly lengthy "family information guide." We have our Dr's appointments on February 4th and are going to set a goal to complete the family information guide's this week. If all goes well we should start the home visits in a couple of weeks. Once the homestudy is done and we complete a profile for prospective birthmothers, the matching process begins!!

Luke and Stacie

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

We're ready for Spring!

We are so ready for the weather to warm up! It feels like we have been inside for months. We have tried to get creative with our days and think of new activities to do. Here's some pics of things we have come up with:

Caleb got a little too feminine and decided to get into my nail polish drawer and paint his toenails. Thankfully he didn't spill very much, his foot was the messiest part!

Isaac has been practicing writing on his easel.


We've done a LOT of Play-Doh.

We made a volcano that actually erupted. Isaac wanted to do it again and again.

If you have any more ideas for fun indoor activities with a 2 and 4 year old, please let me know! My creativity is running out!


Sunday, January 20, 2008

Thoughts on 1 Thessalonians - continued...

Paul's ministry in contrast to false teachers

False teachers are everywhere in our day. This should not come as a surprise to us since we are given many warnings about them in Scripture. Peter spends a good deal of time in 2 Peter to warn believers what to look out for, Jude spends a whole book on the subject, and Luke records Paul's prophetic words to us in the following passage in Acts.

Acts 20:29-32 know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears. And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

So what should we be watching for to guard against the many false teachers of our day? In 1 Thessalonians 2, Paul lays out several examples of how his ministry differs from false teachers.

For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive,

Paul's ministry springs from good motives, not by attempting to deceive. Though Paul was kind and gentle most of the time, when it came to doctrine he was very straightforward. He was unwilling to tell people what they wanted to hear with regards to wealth, suffering, and sin, if their thoughts were not in conformity to the Word of God.

but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.

Paul was not a man pleaser. In 2 Corinthians 5:9 he states that his ambition is to please God. Pleasing men is probably the predominant characteristic of false teachers today. They like to tickle ears.

For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed

Paul came with plainness of speech as he says in depth in 1 Corinthians, and was not about money. He worked as a tent maker when he wasn't preaching and teaching so that he would not be a burden on the churches. This does not mean he was not entitled to support. He clearly states in other passages that as needed, the church should and must support its ministers, though bi-vocationalism is an option. Paul is simply pointing out that the false teachers motives in the ministry are driven by money. It is easy to spot these false teachers. They fill the airwaves and TV stations constantly asking for money. They live in excess while Paul sacrificed and got by with little.

Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others

Paul was interested in bringing God glory, not himself. False teachers like to bring attention to themselves, Paul directs you to God.

But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children. Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us.

What a contrast! The Bible often characterizes false teachers as wolves. Paul characterizes gospel ministers as nursing mothers taking care of her own children. I remember vividly when our boys were very young and Stacie would be up all hours of the night caring for them. She could say, like Paul, that she was imparting her life to them because they had become so dear to her. This gentleness and love is what should characterize our pastors.


Thursday, January 17, 2008

Let the paperwork begin!

Curtis (our favorite mailman) delivered our huge packet of papers today from Bethany Christian Services. We have a lot of paperwork to get started on, but it's actually not as bad as we anticipated. The stack of papers would have been a lot higher with an international adoption. So for the next few weeks we'll be wading through background checks, physical exams, health insurance affidavits, and numerous other questionnaires.

We've been talking with the boys a lot about adoption and the new baby brother/sister they are going to have soon. They are both very excited. Isaac asked me the other day, "Mom, is it better to adopt a baby or just have one?" (I'm assuming by "just have one" he meant having one biologically.) I got to explain to him how God loves for us to have children both ways, and that neither is better than the other. Don't you just love the questions kids come up with? I'm sure we'll be answering lots of interesting questions as this process rolls on....


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Thoughts on 1 Thessalonians

One member of our church recently shared with our home congregation a beneficial method of reading large passages of Scripture. He reads a large passage (around 5 chapters or so) daily for 30 days so that he is really digging into the passage. It is kind of the middle ground between a program like reading through the Bible in a year, and Scripture meditation which is typically small passages. You get the benefits of depth and insight through meditation, while covering a lot of ground like in the daily Bible reading programs. I recently started doing this and have been reading 1 and 2 Thessalonians daily for the last 15 days. It has been really great, so I thought I would start posting some of my observations on these books.

In the first couple of chapters Paul is encouraging the believers in Thessalonica who are under significant persecution. Paul's love for this church is overflowing though he was only with them for a short time before he was forced to leave for Berea. How could these deep bonds be made in such a short time? The simple answer is that Paul strove to be as Christlike as possible. He wanted to exemplify Christ's love for the church in his own life.

Ephesians 5:25-27 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

Paul loved what Christ loved.... the church. What about you and I? Do we love the church the way Christ and Paul did? If we don't, we should. In fact, if we are believers then we were predestined to be more like Christ. This likeness includes love for His church.

Romans 8:29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son.

Paul says in 1 Thess 2:8 that he was not only striving to impart the gospel to them, but also his life. Conform yourself to Christ and imitate Paul by pouring your life into the members of your congregation. Like most aspects of the gospel this message is counter-cultural. Our culture is about individualism and leisure. The gospel is about denying ourselves for the sake of loving God and our neighbors.


Monday, January 14, 2008

Formal Application Approved!

We learned today that our formal application has been approved and our agency mailed the homestudy packet. The homestudy should take about six weeks as long as we don't mess around getting the paperwork done.

They are also sending the information on how to complete our family profile. This is essentially a short scrapbook with family interests, pictures, etc... that allow birthmothers to get to know a little bit about us and decide if she would like to place her baby with us.

Once the homestudy is complete, Bethany can start sharing our profile with birthmothers.

The Lord is good!

Luke and Stacie

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Our Journey to Adoption

There's going to be another little person in our family soon!

In case you haven't heard, we have decided to adopt. Some of you are probably surprised by this news, others have been hearing about it for months. We thought it might be good to catch everyone up as to how God has led us to this decision to adopt, and the process by which we decided to adopt domestically. It has been quite a journey, but we are excited to see what God is going to do in and through us in this adoption.

We have had a desire to adopt for several years now. We both love kids and hate the thought of children growing up without a family to love and protect them. We discussed adoption when we were newly married, and agreed that this was something we wanted to do someday. We were soon blessed in conceiving two wonderful sons and were planning on getting pregnant again soon, but God had different plans for us.

At church one Sunday night, we watched a video from Dennis Rainey's ministry, Family Life Today. This video was about God's call to to the church to take care of orphans (James 1:27) and encouraged churches to minister to these children by starting adoption/orphan ministries. We were both really moved by that video. We had read the Scriptures before that speak of taking care of orphans, but had never realized how strong of a command that is to Christians and the church. We also realized how adoption is such a beautiful picture of the Gospel . God adopts us (Romans 8:15) into His family as His children and He wants us to do the same with orphans. We were very convicted by these Scriptures, and began praying about when God would want us to adopt. We still desired to have biological children, but knew that God also wanted us to seriously consider adoption.

Several months passed until late Summer 2007. Due to a few different circumstances in our life, we felt very strongly that this was the right time for us to pursue adoption. We had always pictured ourselves adopting from an Asian country, and since we already had two boys and China has a great need for people to adopt girls, we started looking into a China adoption. We found a wonderful Christian adoption agency, America World, and sent in our application in August 2007. We were looking at a wait time of about two years, but we were still very excited about beginning the process.

About two weeks after we had sent in our China application, our plans were stalled. Stacie received a phone call from a family member who knew of a woman looking for a couple to adopt her baby. This really caught us off guard, but we told her we would be willing to think it over and pray about it. We spent the evening talking about it and praying over this decision. We decided we should at least offer to adopt this baby, and if it wasn't God's will for us to have him then she would choose someone else. This stalled our China adoption process, but we really felt like it was the right thing to do and we were willing to put the China adoption on hold while we waited for this woman's decision.

We waited several weeks before this mother made up her mind. Finally, she decided to go with another couple that was childless. After finding this out, we then spent a few months researching domestic adoption and comparing domestic vs. international to make sure China was the right path for us. In December 2007, we decided that China was what we should pursue and decided to proceed with the next round of paperwork. We spent one Thursday night filling out the next set of papers and writing out our first big check. This was going to be our first big financial commitment to this adoption and once we mailed it we were definitely going to move forward. We signed all the papers, wrote out the check, and packaged it all up in an envelope. We were going to mail it the next day. Stacie had two questions she wanted to ask the adoption agency before she mailed it, so she e-mailed them first thing in the morning. They never got back with her, which was very unusual. Since she also thought we were out of stamps, she didn't mail it that Friday. This was a special act of God's Providence because we learned some very important information that night. Stacie got an e-mail from someone Friday night who told her that the State Department was now saying China might be extending the wait to 3-5 years! We hadn't heard anything about this, so we didn't know whether or not to believe it at first. Luke spent the weekend researching this and found the rumor to be true. No one knows what China will do in the future, but it is rumored that the wait might get up to three years or more or that they might shut down international adoptions completely.

We were so thankful to learn this information before we mailed the check and paperwork! Had the adoption agency e-mailed Stacie back that morning we would have probably already mailed it. We didn't want to be wrapped up in an adoption process that could last several years, and we definitely didn't want to spend thousands of dollars on an adoption that may never happen. The Lord was definitely guiding our path.

After deciding against China, we started looking into adopting from Ethiopia. America World has a great program in Ethiopia, and there is a big need in that country. Currently there are over 5 million orphans in Ethiopia, mostly due to poverty. But Luke had also started reading about the huge need here in the USA for families to adopt minority infants. We knew that Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis (John Piper's church) has an adoption ministry that focuses specifically on adopting African-American and bi-racial babies to Christian families. We started reading more and more about this need and the work this church is doing. We spent a lot of time praying about this and finally decided domestic adoption was what we should pursue. We think that it makes a lot more sense for us to adopt here since there is so much need right here in our own state. With domestic adoption we also wouldn't have to travel internationally for an extended amount of time (not easy to do when you have small children). Once we made this decision everything seemed so simple. We had been going back and forth over all this for so long it was a huge relief to feel like something was finally going to happen! We are still supportive of international adoption, but domestic just made a lot more sense for us. We both feel peace that this decision is the right one for us.

Luke called the Micah Fund ministry at Bethlehem Baptist and they recommended Bethany Christian Services for an agency. Bethany has been great to work with so far. Here's the timeline and process for our adoption:

1) Pre-application (Completed and accepted!)

2) Formal application and spiritual assessment (Completed--should be accepted within 1-2 days.)

3)Begin home-study (This takes about 4-6 weeks, we should complete it sometime in Feb.)

4)Wait to be placed with a birthmother (This could happen immediately, or it could take several months.)

5)1-2 weeks after the baby is born, our agency sets a court date where the birthmother terminates her rights. After this the baby is legally in custody of our adoption agency, and we will be acting as foster parents.

6) During the next six months, our adoption agency will do a few home visits to make sure everything is going well. As long as everything is going well for us and the baby, they will set a new court date when the baby is six months old. This is when we officially become the baby's parents, and the baby's name is legally changed to what we have named him/her. We will then receive a birth certificate for the baby with our names on it, and we are completely done!

We have set up this blog to keep everyone informed of how everything is going, and specific needs you can pray for. We are so thankful for all our family and friends that have supported us so far and have prayed for us during this process. Here's some specific things you can be praying for over the next few weeks:

1) That the homestudy will go well. Thankfully, Luke doesn't start classes until the end of January so we should have extra time to work on all the papers.

2) That God will protect our baby during this whole process. It is exciting to think that our child could already be conceived and growing in the womb! Please pray for God's protection of this child and for the birthmother as she carries him/her.

3) That God will prepare us for any challenges we might face through this process.

We'll try to keep the blog updated as things progress. Please keep our family in your prayers as we begin this exciting journey!