Thursday, November 1, 2012

What's in a name?

I recently had the opportunity to sit down for a somewhat formal interview with our church as part of preparations for Orphan Sunday (Nov 4, 2012).  I tend to talk about my kids, my family and adoption to just about every person I know...maybe even to the folks behind me in the check out line at Target.  Point is, I love talking about adoption and the impact it has had on me as a father, a husband and a follower of Christ.  But for the first time I was sitting in a sound proof room with what looked to be a pretty expensive microphone a few inches from my face, going on the record.  It was exciting.  It was emotional.

As the session began to wrap up I was asked a question I had been expecting:

"What exactly is the 'orphan crisis' that we hear you and others talk about?" 

Oh boy, I was so ready for this one.  Like a batter watching a fat pitch come right down the center of the plate, I could knock this one out of the park.  I had all the numbers to back me up.  150 million orphans.  500k foster kids waiting for adoption in the US.  Devastating statistics on crime, exploitation and human trafficking.  I knew they'd be blown away by the sheer numbers.

But when the words began to roll off my tongue, I barely mentioned the statistics.  Why pass up a chance to share just how HUGE of a problem this is?  Because I think that is the problem, it's so big that people feel helpless and lost.  What can one person possibly do? 

So instead of spouting off numbers, I told a story.  As I talked, the sound booth slowly transformed into an orphanage in Zhongshan City, China.  So vivid are the memories of my time in that orphanage that with little effort I can recall the looks, the smells, the feel of the place.  I remembered holding my newly adopted son and a Chinese care giver pointing to a crib and saying, "This is your son's bed."  There I stood clinging to Jude, orphan no more, in a hot and humid building in the middle of China.  Before me were rows of cribs, one after the other.  In one, a boy with his hands bound behind his back with strips of cloth, was wearing his mattress thin from his endless pacing.  Dozens of babies lying on their backs, motionless and staring blankly into a white ceiling.  A boy just a few cribs away from my son's previous resting spot, hitting his head against the block wall.  Oh how the Heavens rejoiced that Jude had a home.  He was no longer fatherless.  But when I stared across the room at these children I couldn't help but feel that God was asking me, "What about these?  What about my other sons and daughters?"  The burden for these children had never been more real that it was at that moment.  These aren't statistics after all.  They are His children.  They have names. 

One room of many.  600 children are 'assigned' to this orphanage. 98% have special needs.
The orphan crisis isn't about numbers. The crisis is about children.  It is about beautiful creations, designed by our Heavenly Father.  They have names.  They need moms.  They need dads.  They need Jesus.  As God’s people, as his church, we have to stop blindly singing worship songs about orphans from comfortable pews. We have to stop talking about these children and then quickly forget they exist. We have a responsibility to act. If we are serious about obeying the words of our Father, then we have to rush to the fatherless. If we don’t, who will?

So this Orphan Sunday let us not get bogged down in numbers.  Numbers don't tell the story.  Numbers can be cumbersome and overwhelming.  They can be cold and unemotional.  Instead, let us remember that each number has a name.  Maybe we can sponsor one.  Maybe we can visit one.  Maybe we can adopt one.  Maybe we can love one.

Maybe we can learn their names. 

My son, Judah.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Same Love, Different Love

I think one of the biggest misgivings people have about adoption is wondering if they can love an adopted child as much as a biological child.

I've been asked it.

And I've answered it in various ways....depending on where we were on this journey.

I'm going to be honest here.

Back when we adopted Rylie, deep down, I might have answered in a way that showed my doubt. She was tough. And a lot of the time, I was faking it. And a lot of the time, I wasn't very good at faking it.

And I wondered.

Can I really love this kid? I mean, really love her like my others?

Without convincing myself? Without trying to convince other people?

And if I can....when? When will it happen?

Because it wasn't instantaneous. And I was completely unsure if she would ever really feel like my daughter.

It was hard to love a kid who gave you absolutely nothing in return. Who fought you every step of the way. It just was. And I'm only human, so I'll admit that.

With Jude, it was much more instantaneous. Because he was so darn lovable. And he made loving him easy.

Same as Jonah.

Same as Reagan.

Love at first sight.

Now back to Rylie....

Let me say...unequivocally....without question...I. LOVE. THIS. GIRL.

I love her as much as I love my other kids. I don't always get along with her as well. But I love her.



Just different.

She doesn't make me mushy with the warm fuzzies.

She is usually pushing my buttons in some way....and I sense she gets a great bit of joy out of that. ;)

But still, I love her.

I love her in a "I can't handle her dealing with any more injustice and tragedy in her life than she has already experienced" kind of way. In a vengeful kind of way. In a fighting kind of way.

Because her life hasn't been fair. And it's wounded her in a lot of ways.

But I venture to say that in the end, SHE will be the one I am the most proud of.

Because when I look at her on the playground at preschool.....playing by herself because the other kids can't understand her, I realize how brave she is. And I realize how much I admire her tenacity.

And I realize that it makes my heart physically hurt to see her experience that.

And I want to fix it and shelter her from it.

She's got a lot to overcome. She risks a lot of hurt and rejection coming her way in the future.

And I know that loving her doesn't change that.

But I hope it helps her get through it.

I hope it helps her realize her value.  Her worth.

I hope it shows others a glimpse of God's love for us....despite how utterly unlovable we sometimes are.

So....can you? Can you love an adopted child as much as a biological one?

Well, let's just say if you mess with her, I will mess. you. up.

And if that's not love, then I don't know what is.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Camping! (A post of many pictures)

The schedule around here gets a little crazy most of the time.

Rush works his regular job, and off-duty.

I work around him....pretty much every weekend.

Which leaves not a whole lot to spare for quality family time.

So we took matters into our own hands and planned a little getaway.

We got the kids out of school early on Friday and kept them out on Monday, packed up 2 cars (yes, it takes 2 cars for us and all our stuff) and hit the road to the mountains.

It. Was. Heaven.

Truly....the Shenandoah valley is amazing in autumn. And we were lucky enough to be there at the peak of the leaf beauty.

It's like God is just showing off. And I'm not complaining.

We had a great time.

The kids rocked some hiking.

We froze in our tent.

A skunk came to visit...and lots of deer.

And now, my quest to rid all of our stuff of campfire smell continues!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Jude's Surgery Recap

In the midst of craziness over the past month, I forgot to post about Jude's surgery.

On September 19, he had his "Chinese adopted boy" trifecta of surgeries....cleft palate repair, ear tubes, and circumcision. Let's just say I'm glad we're on the other side of it now.

I always feel bad for my kids before surgery. The poor things just have no idea what's about to happen to them, and it makes me feel slightly guilty. Look how happy he is. Happy and clueless. 

But, it had to be done. So we did.

Here's a glimpse of Jude's palate before. You can see straight up into his nasal passages. Poor guy.

He was a happy camper that morning...even though he couldn't eat.

We loved arriving and being met by Miss Lisa from church...even at 6am! She rocks! And Jude loves her. I think the feeling is mutual. :)

Jude was his typical charming self.....interacting and loving on all of the surgical team.

Then he got his goofy juice. Hilarious. He was a total rag doll.

The surgery lasted about 4 1/2 hours or so.

Our time in the hospital was great. I work with some great people! We are so thankful to live near such great doctors and have access to amazing care!

He was loaded up with drugs for a lot of his post-op time in the hospital and I think he stayed fairly comfortable, although we did have some pain issues here and there. He slept some, but was pretty restless.

He was able to eat a little....jello, applesauce, yogurt, ice cream.

Then, we went home.

He had a rough recovery.

Rylie was fine in about 2 days time after her palate repair. Tough girl.

Jude took more like 2 weeks. He was fussy, clingy, congested and all around miserable for that time frame. We were thrilled when we started to see little glimpses of our happy guy begin to reemerge.

He's pretty much back to himself now...other than pointing "down there" and saying "Uh-oh!" when I change his diaper. Let's hope his memory is short.

He's back in speech therapy now, and just had his first session post-op. He said "Mama!" I can't wait to see how his language develops. Hopefully, he will have an easier time than Rylie has had. She's still struggling. But that's another post for another day.

Oh...and I promise, he really does have more than 1 set of pj's.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

I dare you to move....

Sometimes I want to ask God why He allows poverty, famine & injustice in the world...

… but I’m afraid He may ask me the same question.

Have you ever felt like your heart was going to absolutely explode with a certain feeling? As if there is so much passion and emotion wrapped up in a single thought, idea, or feeling, that you might just die right there? Maybe it was a feeling of love, like the birth of a child. Maybe it was even fear during a frightening situation. For some time now, we've felt that "about to burst" feeling. But ours has been one of desperation. Of needing, wanting other people to see, to understand, to even begin to get a glimpse of the crisis of the world's orphans, the awesomeness of adoption, and of the command to the church to do something about it.

In our eyes, adoption is NOT a fertility issue. Yes, of course, some couples who struggle with fertility do adopt. And I am SO glad. But for years and years, I think it has been resigned to that category. It's been looked at as a Plan B.

But not anymore.

There is a movement occurring. 

A Gospel movement.

One in which this generation sees and understands, and doesn't shy away from problems in this world. A generation which seeks out the issues. One that wants to know the hard and desperate truth of this world, of this life, and wants to make it better. One that understands that adoption and orphan care are not "social" issues. They are Gospel issues.

Because WE were orphans. WE were adopted. (Ephesians 1:5)

And as a result, the mandate in scripture is clear for us. 

Care for the least of these. (Matthew 25:31-46)

Father to the fatherless. (Psalm 68:5)

Pure and true religion. (James 1:27)

I will not leave you as orphans. (John 14:18)

For 30+ years, we have "followed" Jesus. We've learned about him since birth. We've taught our kids about him. We've done what we were supposed to do in the eyes of the American church.

And what resulted was a pitiful excuse for what a follower of the true Jesus really should be.




We want to change that.

But for 30 years, how did we never hear the facts? How has the church been so blind to the desperate needs in this world? Why isn't this being preached by everyone that comes up to a pulpit? Why isn't it being pounded over and over into our heads that WE WERE ORPHANS TOO. That we deserved nothing. BUT, now we have everything! 

And now that we have heard and understand, we can do something tangible to give others a picture of that love. Of our own adoption. 

How do we not abandon our self-centered Sunday worship in our comfy pews and open our eyes to the real deal? 

We want hard lessons. Hard truths. Challenge. 

Not apathy.

Because this is the real deal. And I cannot be apathetic when I know this...

147 MILLION children in this world are orphans. And that number does not include the scores of abandoned, sold, and/or trafficked children. (That's roughly half of the population of the US!) Seriously.

Every day 5,760 more children become orphans. Every. Single. Day.

Each year, 14.5 million orphans become "unadoptable" because they are considered too old. At the ripe old age of 14-16. 

Children who grow up as orphans are subject to abuse, poverty, and scorn.
An estimated 1.2 million children are trafficked every year. Orphans are particularly susceptible to this practice.
2 million children, the majority of them girls, are sexually exploited in the multibillion-dollar commercial sex industry. 
In some countries, orphans are seen as a curse. And God-forbid you have a special need. Especially a visible one. Really. God. Help. You.
And here we sit, wanting to make sure that our church has good coffee on Sunday. And we better be able to drink it while we listen to a sermon. And eat our bagel. And gosh, the worship band better have their act together today and lay down some great tunes.
Are you kidding me?
Can we get over ourselves for a minute?
When will we wake up? How long will it take us to see that when Jesus calls us to care for the "least of these," this is what he means!! 
Who is less than the orphan?
Without provision.
Without a name.
Without a voice.
Without an advocate.
Cast aside and ignored as someone else's problem.
Don't you see? If we care for orphans, we affect so many other things...poverty, education, trafficking, disease, hunger. We give hope. We give love. We give truth and worth. 
There is redemption.
Beauty for ashes. (Isaiah 61:3)
We're not called to do huge things. Just to love and show love.
As Eric Ludy says in his message, Depraved Indifference, it's not ok to read in the Bible that God is the "father to the fatherless," and think we're off the hook because He takes care of it.
He takes care of it through us. Aren't WE, the church, the hands and feet of Jesus? 
So, let's do something about it! Let's stop talking about justice and mission and move on it. 
Foster a child.
Pursue adoption.
Heck, help support another family that is pursuing adoption.
Sponsor a child through Compassion International.
Support ministries/charities that care for orphans. (Love Without BoundariesShow HopeInternational Voice of the Orphan, etc.)
Just. Do. Something.
You don't have to be perfect. You don't even have to be close.
Heck, you don't even have to be a "good" person. 
You just have to care. And engage.
And be willing to obey, have a little faith, and offer a whole lot of grace (even to yourself). 
Now, go!
The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
 -Lao Tzu, Chinese philosopher

Saturday, September 22, 2012


"Why did you adopt? You already had kids of your own?"

"How can you love your adopted kids as much as your biological children?"

We hear both questions a lot.  Honestly, they are great questions and for the most part people who ask are genuinely interested in what we have to say.  The problem is I (Rush) struggle to capture and communicate in a concise and powerful way the answers that people are looking for.

In steps Francis Chan.

Mr. Chan (the author of "Crazy Love" ) provides just about the best ever two minute explanation as to why adoption is so incredibly important to our family and the responsibility placed on the Church to answer the call to care for the orphan. Thanks for helping me out Francis!

November 4th is Orphan Sunday.  Check it out: Orphan Sunday 2012

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


Today is a rather important day! Jude finally has his surgery to close his cleft palate. And along with that, comes tubes in both ears....and oh yeah....circumcision. Yikes. Good luck with that, buddy. ;)

And as glad as I am that my little man will finally be on the other end of these procedures, part of my focus is not on him today.

Because, today also happens to be the 2nd anniversary of Rylie's Gotcha Day!

2 years ago, we saw her face to face for the first time. There were lots of tears. Lots of uncertainty. Lots of hope. She dropped the title "orphan," and claimed the title "beloved daughter." 

Over the next few weeks, there were more tears, and screaming, and tantrums, and me wondering what the heck we had gotten ourselves into. I learned how very vulnerable she was. I learned how very inept I was. I realized there was only one avenue for her healing....and it wasn't me. 

Over the past year, we have found redemption and grace, development and growth. For both of us. And for our family as a whole.

That day, 2 years ago, changed everything for us.

And so, even though we are with her brother today, and not her...well, today we celebrate our Rylie girl.

Rylie, you are wonderfully made and amazingly strong. You are a survivor and the bravest person I know. And while you still challenge me every. single. day, I love you more than I can express and I am so glad you are mine. You are my best teacher to date. And I praise God that He picked us to be your family.

Happy Gotcha Day Rylie Layne!

We celebrated last night with a little dinner in her honor!