To Die or To Diamond

November 25, 2014 — 3 Comments
Arrival home, 2012(Photos by Erin Witkowski, eveswishphotography.com)

Arrival home, 2012 (Photos by Erin Witkowski, eveswishphotography.com)

The nine weeks we spent in Ukraine were some of the toughest for me, personally. In fact, I posted a blog last year on how God took me halfway around the world to expose sin in me. You can read that post HERE. Then throw in the moments where Christie and I agonized over the difficulties we perpetually faced in Ukraine to get our daughter(s) adopted. Follow that by the last two years (joyful, but hard years) of going from a family of four with two boys to a family of six with two girls (and one of them only three years old), navigating the emotional trauma and survival skills that they had learned as orphans.

Early on in the adoption process, and by God’s grace, I came upon a passage of Scripture that has kept me grounded to this day: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies it bears much fruit” (John 12:24).

Compare the grain of wheat to a 14kt diamond…. If both are placed side by side in the palm of my hand, which would you choose? That’s a no-brainer. Yet a diamond is lifeless. It exists to be seen and alone. How miserable. A wheat grain is not sexy in the least. Yet it is full of life. It will give life to countless people after it enters into the soil. The legacy of the wheat grain will feed generations upon generations. The question I asked myself in Ukraine (and now) was something like this: “Do I pursue more of a life of the grain or the diamond?” How about you? Adoption is glorious, but hard. Everyday it’s a decision of “dying” or “diamonding.”

Is God calling you to die to yourself, your potential dreams, travels, trinkets, freedoms, to be the gospel to an orphan(s) through foster care or adoption? Or, might God be leading you to sacrificially give resources to families who seek to provide foster care or adopt orphans?

Adoption is the gospel. So, to die? Or to diamond? What will it be?

***For more information, contact Lifesong for Orphans, Justice for Orphans, or email Grace Community Church’s Foster and Forever Family Ministry at GFFF@graceoc.com

Jubilee's first experience at the movies

Jubilee’s first experience at the movies

Summer, 2014

Summer, 2014

Three ways to enjoy life.

November 22, 2014 — 12 Comments

happiness_bulldogdrummondAre you one of those who can’t figure out how to enjoy life? Many people are experts on making themselves (and others) miserable. So how can you flip-flop it? Here’s a start:

* Lighten up. G.K. Chesterton said that angels are able to fly because they take themselves lightly. So don’t take yourself so seriously. And don’t take matters so personally.

* Laugh more. Perhaps your circumstances are so far gone that it’s time to just have a good laugh. I don’t mean to belittle but with Jesus as your treasure and glory as your Home aren’t you ultimately free to do just that?

* Don’t live in your past. Every good and bad decision, every sin by you, and every sin against you God has bent toward His will and plan for your life. He has redeemed it in Jesus.

What do you do to enjoy life? What else would you recommend?

An orphan no more….

November 19, 2014 — 2 Comments

IMG_2996“Veronika has a little sister in a different orphanage she doesn’t know about?” What were we to do? Could we handle Veronika AND Larissa (she was three years old at the time)? In addition, the cost of adopting them both was nearly double what we had saved for, not counting the extra weeks we would have to pay for housing and food to remain in Ukraine. But… what if? What if the Lord wanted us to trust Him to make a way? What if the Lord wanted to blow our minds?

We decided we would reach out cold-turkey to our family and friends via social media to try and raise the funds to adopt Larissa. Due to the cost, it would take a miracle. And the full amount would have to be raised in the span of days. It just simply felt impossible. We went live with a blog post to family and friends asking for the funds on a Friday afternoon from Ukraine. Saturday morning, I made it to a local coffee shop in Kiev to see if anyone had contributed. When I checked it (less than 24 hours later)… wait for it, wait for it…the full amount for Larissa’s adoption had been given. To say I wept would be an understatement. photocjphotocj1

How God loves the orphaned…. And I bless God for those who may never adopt but sacrificially gave to make Jubilee Larissa’s adoption happen. If God isn’t calling you to adopt, opportunities abound for you to financially help families who are called. They need you. And you’ll feel the pleasure of God as you do.

But know this too: He loves you, child. He did whatever it took to pursue you, rescue you, and call you His daughter or son, even when it meant He gave Himself up on the cross. Yes, on the cross, Jesus cried out to His Father and got no answer. Jesus reached up His hand for His Father and only got the air.* He did that for you. On that cross, Jesus was orphaned for you, so that you would be an orphan no more. He was orphaned for you so that when you cry out you can know the Father hears; and when you reach out, you can know He’s there to take your hand.

I get to be that to my little girls. They once were orphaned, now they’re rescued. When they cry out for a daddy in the night, I am there to answer. When they reach out their hand for daddy to help, I am there to hold them close.

Adoption is the gospel.jubsjj

* Pastor Tim Keller

Faith is…. (Nine thoughts)

November 16, 2014 — 10 Comments

PrayerFaith is… believing for the miracle despite the impossible.

Faith is… believing God will answer though I come up with reasons why He won’t answer.

Faith is… persevering in prayer and belief despite evidence that the miracle is undeserving.

Faith is… persistence and perseverance in pleading with Jesus for the miracle despite 1) silence from God, 2) inner and outter voices that beckon me to give up.

Faith is… recognizing my own unworthiness, but at the same time beholding Jesus’s worthiness and mercy, and applying that to myself and my situation.

Faith is… not being offended by Jesus because of what I am in His perfect and holy presence.

Faith is… believing Jesus will lavish me with mercy, delight in my feeble belief, and grant my request.

Faith is…“the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen…and is the evidence of things we cannot yet see.” (Hebrews 11:1).

Faith is… what pleases God. (Hebrews 11:6).

What are your thoughts on faith?

When she said, “Yes!”

November 12, 2014 — 2 Comments

Salt-N-Pepa‘s “Pump Up the Jam” was blaring over the small radio box in the Orphanage’s assistant director’s office. It was the day we were to meet 8 year old, Veronika (pronounced “Veer-oh-NEE-kah”). This was the little orphan girl we would call “daughter” forever. The only picture we’d seen of her was outdated. So we had no idea what she looked like at eight.

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The wait inside the little office was excrucating. Would she like us? Would she be afraid of us? Would she want us? Would she let us be her family?

Josiah was having a “moment,” so I walked him into the hallway to get some air. Still, my thoughts were on Marni. We’d come so far. What if she didn’t want us to adopt her? Suddenly, a little girl whizzed by me in a bright orange dress and in flip flops that were hanging on by a strap. She was carrying an unpeeled banana in her right hand. Abruptly, she turned back and looked at me. I knew in that instant it was Veronika. Her long black eye-lashes and those big brown eyes took my breath away. She smiled that precious gap-between-her-two-front-teeth smile.

I was smitten like a shy schoolboy. So smitten that I turned away like I didn’t recognize her and sprinted into the AD’s office. “It was Vernoika, Christie! I think I just saw Veronika!”

Moments later, Veronika was escorted into the office by one of the orphanage workers. She was seated before our family of four. We couldn’t help but gawk at this beautiful creature of God. Right then I thought, “Dear God. How does this child not have a mommy or daddy? Who could give her up?”

Candy and stuffed animals are a cross-cultural language, of course, so we drenched her in that. We learned her favorite colors, games, and the like. We did all we could in the few minutes allotted us to drink in the lifetime of this little girl, and to share ours with her.

Then it was time to pop the question. In our presence, with all eyes fixed on Veronika, the assistant director asked: “Veronika, do you want to be adopted by this family?” All the air was sucked out of the room. While we held our breath, Veronika looked down at her hands, smiled, and in Russian, and in her cute raspy voice, answered: “Yes! Very much!”IMG_2224

That moment changed all of our lives forever. A little girl who faced a potential future of doom was not only rescued, but given the life many orphans will never know–a life with a mommy, daddy, siblings, pets, days at the beach, her own clothes, plenty of food (and candy), and most of all, the practical love of God through Christ through a family to rescue her, give her a new name (Marni Veronika Jones),and a new life.

Adoption is the gospel. It is the gospel in living-color. Every day Christie, the boys, and I, and even Marni and Jubilee see, hear, and feel God’s passionate rescuing love through adoption. It’s hard at times. It’s glorious at times. It’s the gospel at all times.

Could God be leading you become the gospel-in-living-color for an orphan? For more information contact Lifesong for Orphans HERE. If you are a Grace Community Church family or friend, email our Grace Foster and Forever Family Ministry at: GFFF@graceoc.com
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