New Family Traditions

It has been a week of really, really wishing our sweet baby boy was home in our arms. These last several months have been so great for us! We have had so many awesome conversations about the upcoming start of our family! One of our all-time favorite Pastors, Mark Driscoll, just started a new sermon series on 1st and 2nd Peter. We tune in every week for his sermons and are also going through the 200 page study guide he wrote for the series. One tradition that he mentioned back during his Song of Solomon series had to do with his dinner table. This is one tradition we do as a couple now and are excited to continue it, and further develop it as we add children around our table! Check out this introduction to the Family Resources section of his study guide. (He provides questions from his sermon for use during the week as parents train their children).
Dinner is one of the great highlights of my day. Why? Because I get to sit in my
home with the woman I love, laughing, chatting, and eating with our five children
whom we deeply love and enjoy. Every time I sit at the table with my family I am reminded of the words of Psalm 128:3–4, which says, “Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table. Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the LORD.” As Scripture says, I am blessed. Some months ago we started a new tradition at the Driscoll dining table that
has also been a blessing. Whoever is taking their turn setting the table ensures that
our “dinner Bible,” as the kids call it, is sitting in front of “Poppa Daddy,” as the kids
call me. Throughout the course of our dinner together, we chat about how the day
went, how everyone is doing, and whom we can pray for, and we discuss a section
of Scripture. Over the years we have always made it a point to read Scripture to
the children when they were little (especially at bed time), and help them develop
personal daily Bible reading habits once they learned to read for themselves.
However, we struggled to find a way to do regular family devotions with five children
of different ages and attention spans. Still, the dinner Bible discussions led by Grace and me have been a huge hit. Every time we sit down for dinner the dinner Bible is in its place on the table, opened to the section of Scripture we will discuss that evening by one of the enthusiastic kids. We often have some really insightful conversations around the dinner Bible as the younger kids, especially the boys, seem to be able to handle longer and more reflective discussions when their hands are busy as they eat. Also, with the casual conversation over dinner I have noticed that everyone gets an opportunity to speak as we take turns chewing our food, and our dinners last longer than they had before because everyone is engaged. The following steps are offered based upon my experience with our children over dinner. These steps are intended to help direct theological discussions between parents and their children while also building the children’s theological vocabularies so that they are increasingly familiar with biblical concepts.
Step 1. Eat dinner with your entire family regularly.
Step 2. Mom and Dad sit next to one another to lead the family discussion.
Step 3. Open the meal by asking if there is anyone or anything to pray for.
Step 4. Someone opens in prayer and covers any requests. This task should be rotated among family members so that different people take turns learning to
pray aloud.
Step 5. Start eating and discuss how everyone’s day went.
Step 6. Have a Bible in front of the parents in a translation that is age
appropriate for the kids’ reading level. Have someone (parent or child) open the
Bible to the assigned text and read it aloud while everyone is eating
and listening.
Step 7. A parent then announces the lesson’s “Word of the Day,” reading
the corresponding definition and/or paraphrasing the meaning at an age-
appropriate level.
Step 8. Ask the discussion questions written for each day’s lesson. If your kids
are older (i.e., junior high and up), you might consider using the community
group questions (beginning on p. 21) if they are better suited for your children.
Step 9. Let the conversation happen naturally, listen carefully to the kids, let
them answer the questions, and fill in whatever they miss or lovingly and gently
correct whatever they get wrong so as to help them.
Step 10. If the Scriptures convict you of sin, repent as you need to your family,
and share appropriately honest parts of your life story so the kids can see Jesus’
work in your life and your need for him too, which demonstrates
gospel humility.
Step 11. At the end of dinner, ask the kids if they have any questions for you.

The following discussion questions are offered in hopes of helping you and
your children grow in relationship with each another and Jesus. They are meant to
be supportive and not constraining. Therefore, do not feel bound by any questions
or pressured to follow the steps too rigidly. Follow the Spirit’s leading and don’t be a
religious parent who is rigidly inflexible, thereby making this sort of thing something
they must be do in duty rather than something they get to do in delight. If you miss a night, or if conversation gets off track, or if your family occasionally just wants to talk about something else, don’t stress—it’s inevitable. For your children, the point is to learn what they are thinking about God, to help them know and love Jesus as God and Savior, and to teach them how to articulate and explain their Christian faith. For parents, the point is to lovingly instruct children and each other, thereby creating a family culture in which every member freely and naturally talks about God and prays to him together. In short, the goal is simply that your family would open the Bible and grow in love for Jesus, one another, your church, and the world. Finally, remember that family Bible study requires a sense of humor. Be sure to have some fun, enjoy some laughs, and build some memories.
So there it is! I guess one way to pass all this waiting time is to start making new traditions and revamping old ones! We'd love to hear if you have any special ways that your family teaches your children about God.


Babies, Babies, Everywhere!

Click on the link below to see a newsletter from our agency with pictures of some precious babies at the orphanage. Due to over 60 babies in care, the Wanna House is in desperate need of formula and other supplies. If you would like to help take care of the orphan, there's a link in the newsletter to purchase formula (as much or as little as you'd like). Every donation makes a difference!

Click here to check out all those sweet faces!
Babies, Babies, Everywhere!


Volunteers & Baby Items Heading to Ethiopia

Some good news for our babies at the Wanna house in Ethiopia... God has answered prayers for some volunteers to head to Ethiopia and lend a MUCH NEEDED helping hand. A fellow AAI friend announced on our group that her mother and mother-in-law were two of those who volunteered and will be heading to Ethiopia on January 30th! Wahoo! How cool is that! They will be taking donations of supplies that the orphanage is lacking ,and growing short of, due to the 65 babies in care right now. 65 babies is A LOT, but I didn't realize just how many until I saw some pics of all the babies lined up at their Holiday Project. Wow! We are really praying for God to move the court/legal process along, for God to provide another judge in court, so these precious babies can get home to their families that much faster! So anyway, Jon's mom and I went shopping tonight to pick up some supplies to send to these ladies to take to Ethiopia. We bought formula, infant liquid vitamins, bottles & nipples, cloth diapers, plastic pants, diaper pins, diaper rash cream, and a few outfits. If you'd like to send any much needed supplies for all these little ones let me know! They need the supplies shipped to them before they leave on January 30th. The items our agency listed as the most needed are:
changing table pads (5-6)
burp cloths
cloth diaper (not the really thick ones because they hang dry)
diaper covers (they also use plastic pants)
waterproof pads to put in cribs
liquid infant vitamins and chewables for toddlers
formula for premature baby
soy formula (lactose free)
empty spray bottle for mixing up cleaning solutions
light weight baby blankets
bibs (that velcro or tie in back, medium size)
baby wash cloths or packs of washcloths
bottles and nipples (some nipples specifically for small babies)
bouncy seats and bumble chairs (not sure if this is what they are
called-they help baby sit unassisted)
mobiles for cribs

I've been dreaming every night this week about our baby... in the dream, I can see his face, what he looks like, what he sounds like. But when I wake up, I can't remember, and I'm grasping for any kind of memory from my dream. Keep praying for another judge! That seems to be the key to getting the legal process moving a little faster. We cannot WAIT for this baby boy to come home!


Changes, Desperation, LOTS of Emotions

So that adoption roller coaster is going up and down some big hills this past week! As many of my AAI friends and I have stated in our group this week, discouragement, anxiousness, sadness, and a whole lot of love and desire have all been mixed into one big ball of emotions.

The situation in Ethiopia continues to be devastating. We were hearing through the adoption groups that there were tons of babies coming into the care of the orphanage our agency works with. Of course, this naturally made me very excited due to the fact that it probably meant our referral time would be shorter than anticipated. We received actual word from our agency this week that those facts are indeed true. There are more babies than ever in the orphanage and more seem to come in by the day. There are so many orphans that the conditions are crowded and babies are being moved elsewhere and there is a shortage of formula starting. The sitaution has come to the point that AAI is looking for volunteers to come as soon as possible to Ethiopia to help care for the babies. I SO wish I wasn't working right now and our situation allowed me to leave. I'd be on a plane to Ethiopia this week! In one sense, this means that our referral may come quicker than expected (originally expected in March or April), but unfortunately the Ethiopian court/legal process is still running its regular course. So in essence, it doesn't seem like that will make our overall time any shorter.

So that roller coaster ride? Deep sadness for the situation in Ethiopia...more babies means food shortage continues, birth mothers dying, and families split apart due to illness and death. Deep anxiety over the amount of babies needing love and care in the orphanage. Deep discouragement due to the referral process possibly speeding up, but yet the court process remaining the same. Deep sadness that our baby boy is probably amidst the overcrowding and missing our personal love and attention. Deep sorrow for two friends we've met whose babies have met Jesus while waiting for their families to be able to come get them. Deep love for a baby boy we have yet to lay eyes on and have yet to hold in our arms. Deep happiness and joy for the lifetime we get to spend with this precious boy. Deep excitment over the possibility of a referral quicker than expected! It almost feels "wrong" to be feeling these great things about our baby and family, when our joy will have been brought about by another's heartache. Wow. What a process. How do we even sort through these feelings?

Prayer is huge in our lives...and this week our list of requests has grown to be quite intense.
  • For the situation in Ethiopia- the food shortage, illness, death, lack of health care.
  • The birth mother and father of our precious baby boy. I CANNOT even imagine.
  • The spiritual condition of the birth parents- that God would bring someone to introduce them to Jesus, and that someday we will all be united together in Heaven.
  • The many, many babies in AAI's orphanage who are desperate for volunteers to come QUICKLY.
  • For the lack of supplies and formula due to the overcrowded conditions.
  • For God to sustain our baby boy and that he will grow and develop healthy as he waits for us to come get him.
  • For a quick referral
  • And ESPECIALLY for the court process to speed up. This is the KEY to getting all those babies to their forever families as quickly as possible.
We will continue to lift up our baby and our fellow adoptive families and pray that maybe God would prick your heart to travel to Ethiopia for two weeks and give some MUCH NEEDED and desperate care to these precious babies. They are looking for help, for whatever time frame you can give. Would you pray about God using you to take care of the orphan? I guarantee you will not regret allowing God to use you in this way!


Black Baby, White Hands

I recently completed Black Baby, White Hands: A View from the Crib by Jaiya John. The intensely descriptive autobiography recalls the childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood of Jaiya John in New Mexico. Being adopted by a formerly Midwestern white couple, John became the second child in the family behind his sister (his adoptive parents' biological daughter). According the story, John's adoption was the first transracial adoption to occur in New Mexico. His parents adopted another African-American child after Jaiya and had two more biological children.

I would recommend this book to any person(s) adopting a child cross-culturally (not merely transracially). In fact, I would recommend this book to any person who has mainly grown up in a homogenous context, whether Black or White.

The majority of the book paints a sober picture of transracial adoption. Notice I said "the majority of the book" and not all of the book. Some parts will bolster the confidence you already have in adopting transracially. However, I've read other reviews where persons were downright angry at the author for his overtly negative tones regarding his upbringing. While these angry reviews are too harsh, they are at times understandable, and the reader of this book (especially an adoptive parent adopting transracially) needs to read the ENTIRE story before judging prematurely. The book will drag you through the mud, scrape your skin on rough pavement, shine blinding light into your eyes, but ultimately take you through clean waters of renewal. How does Jaiya John do this you might ask? Well, he describes his self-perceptions and what he thinks to be others' motives to the utmost degree. His agonizingly descriptive language will place a weight on your mind and heart that might seem uncomfortable at times. Discomfort is not a bad thing.

I appreciate Jaiya John's ability to be frank and innocent simultaneously. His depth of insight and transparent nature allow him to burrow deep inside of the reader to strum untouched soul strings. His story seems less than ideal at certain points, but overall, his life has been richly blessed (as he admits periodically throughout). At points, Jaiya John's views of non-White peoples seem to be a little romanticized. He somewhat levels the field by surfacing the unfortunate destructive racial tendencies in all people groups.

The personal takeaway value for me is a bolstering of many thoughts I've already had regarding a transracial family. For instance, we often take many things for granted such as the context of family. Most people are born into a complex web of people known as family, who will shape their life context. We have pictures or stories of our grandparents and ancestors. We understand where we came from, which often shapes the trajectory of where we are going. This notion is called continuity, and its stabilizing effect often goes unnoticed. Imagine no familial context to your life! The ground suddenly becomes much less stable! It's difficult to even imagine such a concept if you've only ever had continuity. Our son might desire to understand his biological continuity (some long for this a.k.a. Jaiya John while others genuinely care very little), so we need to do as much as we can to plan for that possibility. We as parents also need to be sensitive to the difficulties and fears of our children. We need to listen to them and not assume that our children see the world through our eyes. Sure, we still parent, guide, direct, love, cherish, disciple, and let go to the best of our ability, but communicate well throughout the entire process.


Happy New Year!

HAPPY NEW YEAR! I can't believe it's already 2009! My friend Rachel and I were reminiscing last night about our hoppin' New Years Eve parties that we used to have in high school. What a blast! I can't believe how long ago that feels! I remember 2000 being a big one! Whoa...that was nine years ago! So much has changed since then! Here's my year in review...

1. What did you do in 2008 that you’d never done before? Nothing really exciting. I guess living away from the area I grew up (not counting college), be away from Jon for 3 weeks in a row while in grad. school, and taking a new job without ever meeting the administrator or seeing the school.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year? I don't usually make new year's resolutions. I'm a perfectionist and therefore would probably make myself go crazy attempting to keep a resolution. But this year, I do want to read more.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth? Yes and yes again! So many friends are having babies now! The two closest to me were my sister Rebekah and her sweet baby Jane, and my close friend Naomi and her sweet baby Claire. Here's Jon & with our new niece Jane Lauren who born on July 25, 2008!
Here she is at Christmas this year! Wow, she has grown so much!
Here is Claire, the daughter of our dear friends Brian & Naomi. She was born in June 2008 (sorry I don't know why this is underlined and can't fix it).

4. Did anyone close to you die? praise the Lord, no.

5. What countries did you visit? none in 2008. bummer. But 2009 is our year! Ethiopia here we come!
6. What would you like to have in 2009 that you lacked in 2008? our sweet baby boy

7. What dates from 2008 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
I'm sure there are more dates from before Aug
ust, but my mind is so on this adoption right now, I can't think of anything else! haha.

June 9, 2008- Started graduate school
August 12, 2008- Moved to the Indianapolis area! We're on to the next phase in life! Jon's internship and the start to whatever comes next!
September 13, 2008- Approved by AAI to adopt from Ethiopia!
December 3, 2008- Officially on the waiting list!

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? I'd love to say winning the gold medal in the pole vault at the Olympics, but unfortunately nothing quite as exciting as that! I guess I would say adjusting to a move away from my family and where we spent the first three years of our marriage, adjusting to a new teaching job, and starting our adoption.
9. What was your biggest failure? I don't think I like this question, so I'm going to ignore it. I'm sure if I think long enough, I could think of something... but then I will worry about it, so I won't!

10. Did you suffer illness or injury? Nothing traumatic since my tonsilectomy in August 2007. However, my knees are officially "old" from running so much. I've had to alter my work-outs with cardio that is much easier on my bones!

11. What was the best thing you bought? All the gifts I bought people for Christmas. I LOOOVE giving gifts. I wish I was rich so I could do it more. (Here's a picture of the crazy amount of presents at my parents this year).
12. Whose behavior merited celebration? My husband always deserves celebration. He is the best! He loves the Lord, is always reading his Bible, and always initiating good conversation about real life stuff, and is always pursuing my heart!
13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? This is not a nice question, so I will refuse to personalize it. But in a general sense, I'd have to say hurtful comments people say about adopting transracially.

14. Where did most of your money go? Ethiopia!!

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? our adoption!!

16. What song will always remind you of 2008? "Cinderella" by Steven Curtis Chapman. I don't listen to much of his stuff, but heard this song so much on the radio after his little Maria died. This was around the same time we decided to pursue adoption. So there's a lot of emotions mixed in with that one.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder? happier!
b) thinner or fatter? the same!
c) richer or poorer? We don't care much about this one. As long as we have what we need. We're pretty simple people.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of? Read! I like to read, I just don't do it enough. It makes me so tired after reading about one page. But I have been reading TONS of adoption stuff lately.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of? Worry.

20. How did you spend Christmas? It was great! We did Christmas with Jon's family on Sunday the 21st, then drove to PA to spend Christmas with my family. My 3 nieces and nephew were there and it was a blast! Still here enjoying time with my family and friends!

21. Did you fall in love in 2008? Every day, more and more deeply with my wonderful guy Jon
22. What was your favorite TV program? watching the Olympics (specifically the gymnastics and pole vaulting), The Bachelor (got together every Monday with my girlfriends to watch this one), Law and Order SVU, Private Practice, used to be Grey's Anatomy but now it's gotten a little too raunchy.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year? I am not sure I have ever truly hated anyone. I don't plan on it either (stole this line from another blogger too).

24. What was the best book you read? "The Memory Keeper's Daughter", a few mystery books I read, and some adoption books: specifically "I'm Chocolate, You're Vanilla."

25. What was your greatest musical discovery? I honestly don't care much about music. I listen to whatever, but enjoy country. So instead of musical discovery, I'll say downloading sermons from Mark Driscoll on my ipod. I have a 40 minute commute to work so I like listening to all his sermons. The ones that have impacted me the most were his series on Proverbs
(specifically the ones about raising children and being a wife and mother), as well as his series on the Song of Solomon. Incredible!

26. What did you want and get? to spend Christmas with my family in PA!

27. What did you want and not get? A family of three! But soon.... very soon!

28. What was your favorite film of this year? So many....hmmm.... Baby Mama, we're into documentaries right now too, and another movie that I forget the name of... it was where the dad tells his daugter the story of her mom and she has to guess which person is her mom. I loved that one!

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? My thoughtful husband threw a surprise party for me with our friends...it was my last birthday in PA before we moved! March 14th! I turned 25! Halfway to 50! Oh my! (And here I am with my Strawberry Shortcake birthday cake- in honor of my childhood obsession with Strawberry Shortcake).
30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? I Can't really think of anything specific. All of 2008 has shaped me to what I am today, and where we are today!

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2008? No clue. You tell me. I wear whatever...Jon thinks I'm cute and that's all that matters!

32. What kept you sane? My Jon, my girls Georgia and Rachel

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? Shawn Johnson (U.S. Olympic gymnast) and Jen Stuczynski (U.S. silver medalist, American record holder in the pole vault- I competed against her in college!)

34. What political issue stirred you the most? The first black man to become President in the United States! Wow...what that could mean for our little boy. Go back to our November 4th post to read more!

35. Who did you miss? Ever since August, my family in PA, my nieces Natalie, Jane, & Aderyn, and my nephew Manny, and my close friends in PA. Apart from those I miss since moving, I really miss my close group of friends from high school, my college roomies and friends, and my track buddies!
36. Who was the best new person you met? Since we knew many of our current friends in Indy before we moved, I'd have to say all the people we've met through adoption... especially those in the AAI process as well. They have all been such an encouragement to me!

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2008. Still learning them...but I'd have to say not caring so much about what people think, not being such a perfectionist, and trusting the Lord with my brother.