It’s a Boy!

ethanWhile at Asbury for proposal hearings earlier this week, we received an unexpected phone call from our adoption agency informing us that we have a referral for a child!

The call was a surprise because we were told to expect a referral much closer to Christmas. The call came on Tuesday, a day after Randy’s proposal hearing and a day before Joleen’s hearing, which was a tremendous interruption to our work, but a welcome one! 🙂

Our adoption agency attempted to overnight the package (including six photos) to Randy’s parent’s house (in Tennessee) where we were headed on Wednesday afternoon. But due to some glitch at the U.S. Post Office in Harrisburg, PA, no overnight packages left Harrisburg that afternoon. We had to wait (and wait!) for the package until it finally arrived on mid-day Friday. After receiving the package/photos, we made a quick trip to the local Panera Bread to open the package and “meet” our child. It was a special time!

Our child (we’ll call him “Baby Willis” till we settle on a new name) was born on June 8, 2007 weighing about 7.5 pounds. The photo seen here was taken on September 14, 2007, at which time he weighed about 15.4 pounds (just over 3 months old).

A foster family is caring for Baby Willis, whom the social worker describes as a “charming baby with bright smiles”; however, she lamented, “we couldn’t take a photo of him laughing.” The foster mother notes that he “sleeps a deep sleep in the nighttime” (but being in a time zone 13 hours different from ours may make things interesting when we bring him home!).

We will begin the paperwork immediately. We expect to make the trip to Korea to pick up Baby Willis as early as January or February 2008.

Proposal Hearings Completed

We both received “provisional passes” on our proposal hearings.

As you may know, we were at Asbury in Kentucky this week for our long-anticipated proposal hearings. We both received provisional passes, which basically means that we’ve been given the green light to move forward on our dissertation work but that we both need to further develop our field research design (before moving ahead).

We will be using a fairly new research method called Appreciative Inquiry (AI). We need to develop a better understanding of AI and how we will use it in our upcoming field research, which we hope to begin soon after vacation.

On Monday morning, Randy met with his dissertation committee (mentor Russell West, second reader Chris Kiesling, and DMin team representative Milton Lowe). On Wednesday morning, Joleen met with her dissertation committee (mentor Russell West, second reader Stephen Martyn, and DMin team representative Tony Headley). Both sessions were very productive in helping us refine the focus and direction of our work.

Now our attention largely turns to the field research. Our goal is to submit defense-ready drafts to our mentor (Russell) by the end of December or mid-January so that we will have some time for pre-defense editing/polishing work. The exciting thing is that we’re entering the final months of this process; the scary thing is, we’re entering the final months of this process! 🙂

Reading Pile

The books we want to read have been piling up!

Reading PileIf you’ve been following our doctor of ministry journey, you know that our personal growth time has been somewhat tied up. As a result, our reading time/schedule outside of the program is pretty limited.

So, as you can imagine, the pile of books that we want to read someday have been piling up for quite a while. We’ve included a photo of our current future reading pile. Most of the books are leadership books. Others are for spiritual formation and/or personal growth.

It’s pretty daunting, isn’t it! 🙂

At this point, we’re not sure when we’ll get to dive into it. It will definitely be after graduation. But with adoption coming soon, it might have to wait a bit longer. Then, there’s completing our ordination process. By then the current list of 76 books (plus any others that may be around the office or house) may be a lot bigger! 🙂

Retreating @ Asbury

Reflections on our Asbury experience while we’re in Kentucky for proposal hearings.

We’re here at Asbury this week for our proposal hearings (more on those in a later post). Once we receive the green light from our dissertation committees, we will each begin our respective ministry projects. We hope to spend the next 2-3 months working on our projects and writing about what we’ve learned/discovered through them (more on our projects in a future post as well).

We always enjoy coming to the Asbury campus. While our time here is pretty intense, it’s also a retreat for us.

The two statues on campus—Francis Asbury, one of the first two bishops of the Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States, and John Wesley, the founder of Methodism—are great reminders of our heritage and that great leaders have gone before us.

We’re heading out after lunch today and will spend the next several days visiting Randy’s family in Tennessee. While we may do a little dissertation work we are hoping to get some much-needed rest and renewal. In terms of future trips to Asbury, we may be down to two for the remainder of our programs: 1) dissertation defenses sometime in the spring, and 2) graduation in May.

It’s winding down!

Community Day @ Shaver’s Creek

On Sunday (09.23.2007) area United Methodist churches came together for a day of worship, lunch, and a concert.

GodCan03“Community Day” at the local Shaver’s Creek Firemen’s Park, in the Juniata Valley area, has become an annual event, running six years now. This year’s focus was “God Can!” Joleen named several stories in the Scriptures that demonstrated that “God can do a lot with a little!” Randy focused on the story of Gideon.

We decided to talk about this topic because of a mindset that many people seem to have. A scarcity mindset basically says, “God can do a lot with, well, a lot! IOW, “I don’t have enough __________” (time, money, talent, you-name-it).

Gideon amassed a huge army (32,000 people) but God said it was too big. After sending 22,000, who admitted to being afraid, God said the remaining 10,000 man army was still too big. After a simple test to divide the army into two groups, Gideon was left with 300 men. God gave Gideon’s small army a victory that only God could give! God can do a lot with a little!

Thanks to Nate Lawrenson for pointing us to a song by Downhere called “Little is Much.” The song’s chorus states:

Little is much when God’s in it, And no one can fathom the plans he holds, Little is much when God’s in it, He changes the world with the seeds we sow, Little is much, little is much

We loved the song and used it at the conclusion of our message, with the lyrics flashing on the screen phrase by phrase. It was intended to be a prayerful time as people wrote their excuses (notice Gideon’s response to God’s “I am sending you,” “But Lord …” followed by his excuse) on a small piece of paper then took them to God and dropped them in one of the “God Can!” soda cans, giving their excuse to God in the process.

Unfortunately, attendance from the four churches that gathered together was down this year. It seems a number of people took this day as an opportunity to do something else, which sorta defeats the whole purpose of a community gathering. But for those who attended, it was nice to spend the time together. And though it tends to be a lot of extra planning / effort for us, we enjoyed the opportunity to work together. Serving in different churches, that’s not an opportunity we often get.

We certainly hope it was a meaningful day for all who attended!

Couple’s Prayer Guide

We recently posted a prayer guide for leaders that’s a couple of years old. We’ve since started working on a prayer guide for married couples. This guide grows out of a desire for us to be more intentional about praying together and/or praying for one another. It’s a work-in-progress, which means it will probably go through a lot of revisions in the next few weeks (and will always change according to our needs), but we thought we’d go ahead and post it, so, here it is. Of course, you may have to tweak it to fit your own needs.

Couples’ Prayer Guide

Sunday :: Surrender

  • Pray that we will be completely yielded to God.
  • Pray that we will be whole-hearted in our devotion to God.
  • Pray that we be persistent and persevering on the journey.

Monday :: Character / Integrity

  • Pray for one another’s character development.
  • Pray for one another’s purity.
  • Pray that our character always outpaces our gifts.

Tuesday :: Marriage

  • Pray that we maintain/grow a loving relationship.
  • Pray that we maintain oneness/intimacy.
  • Pray that we communicate well.

Wednesday :: Parenting

  • Pray for God’s wisdom.
  • Pray that our home will be a place of peace.
  • Pray that we will “train up” our child well.

Thursday :: Growth

  • Pray for one another’s spiritual growth.
  • Pray that we remain committed to being lifelong learners.
  • Pray for one another’s gift development.

Friday :: Health / Well-Being

  • Pray for one another’s health and well-being.
  • Pray that we consistently exercise and eat well.
  • Pray that we consistently take time off each day, days off each week, and vacation time.

Saturday :: Legacy / Impact

  • Pray that our lives impact others.
  • Pray that we remain good stewards.
  • Pray that we make a difference for eternity.

“Making Vision Stick”

Andy Stanley has written a must-read book for leader/communicators who want to maximize the adhesiveness of their vision!

Andy Stanley, founding and lead pastor of North Point Community Church, is one of a handful of writers that I read everything they write. The latest book I’ve read is Making Vision Stick (see Google Books’ limited preview), part of the new Leadership Library series from Zondervan.

The first thing I love about the book is that it’s only 74 pages long. If all books were as short, I’d be able to read a lot more books!

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

One of the greatest challenges is making vision stick. Vision doesn’t have much adhesive (12).

To get people to sit still long enough to understand your vision is hard enough. But to get them to actually organize their lives around it is supremely difficult. The urgent and legitimate needs of today quickly erase our commitment to the what could be of tomorrow (15-16).

It’s the leader’s responsibility to ensure that people understand and embrace the vision of the organization (17).

5 things you can do to increase the adhesiveness of your vision …

1. State the vision simply.

Andy writes …

if your vision is going to stick in people’s minds, it must be memorable. […] People don’t remember or embrace paragraphs. They remember and embrace sentences (19). […] And, If the vision is too complicated, nothing changes (23).

2. Cast the vision convincingly.

In this section, Andy says leaders must define the problem, offer a solution, and present a reason for the solution. He writes …

Every vision is a solution to a problem (25).

Buy-in by others hinges on your ability to convince them you are offering a solution to a problem they are convinced needs to be solved (26).

Further …

A leader points the way to a solution and gives a compelling reason why something must be done now (30).

3. Repeat the vision regularly.

As committed as I am to the idea of casting vision on a regular basis, sometimes I feel a bit guilty. I like I’m repeating myself (35).

I was glad to read this statement. I’ve been saying/feeling something similar in the last couple of years. But as Andy points out, the repetition is an essential component of vision-casting.

4. Celebrate the vision systematically.

Celebrating a win incarnates the vision, bringing clarity in a way that words cannot. (40)

5. Embrace the vision personally.

Your willingness to embody the vision of your organization will have a direct impact on your credibility as a leader. Living out the vision establishes credibility and makes you a leader worth following. When people are convinced the vision has stuck with you, it is easier for them to make the effort to stick with the vision (47).

Andy wraps up the brief book saying …

If God has given you a picture of what could and should be, embrace it fully and refuse to allow the busyness and urgency of life to distract you. […] Seeing a vision become a reality requires more than a single burst of energy or creativity. It requires daily attention. Daily commitment (72-73).

Making Vision Stick is more good stuff from Andy Stanley. A must-read for leader/communicators.

Believe what you’re selling?

The movie “Hitch” highlights the importance of believing in what you do.

Hitch, starring Will Smith, who plays Alex Hitchens, or “Hitch,” known as the “date doctor,” and Eva Mendes as Sara Melas, is a great movie, especially if you like romantic comedies.

Hitch basically helps guys get dates. Sara is a gossip columnist for an NYC tabloid. Despite both having been hurt in relationships, they begin a relationship with one another. But things get difficult when their work collides and brings their relationship to an end.

We watched the movie a a good while back, but the movie has a lot of good scenes and lessons. One scene toward the end of the movie especially has a great lesson for leaders. Do we believe what we’re “selling” or, has our job simply become, well, our job? Do we truly love God and love people or, has loving/leading people simply become a product we sell?

This particular scene involves Hitch and Albert (Kevin James), one of Hitch’s clients. Albert’s relationship with Allegra Cole (Amber Valletta) gets destroyed because of Sara’s work as a gossip columnist when she discovers that Hitch is the “date doctor.” She think she’s discovered evil motives behind his work.

The following scene/transcript begins when Albert enters Hitch’s apartment with a box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts. Here’s the transcript:

Hitch: What you got there?

Albert: This? (box of doughnuts) I figured maybe if my heart stops beating, it wouldn’t hurt so much.

[…]

Albert: I want you to fix it.

Hitch: I got nothing, Albert. Hey, you wanna do something? We should get out tonight.

Albert: Honestly, I never knew I could feel like this. I swear I’m going out of my mind. I wanna throw myself off of every building in New York. I see a cab and I wanna dive in front of it, because then I’ll stop thinking about her.

Hitch: Look, you will. Just give it time.

Albert: That’s just it. I don’t want to. I’ve waited my whole life to feel this miserable. If this is the only way I can stay connected with her then this is who I have to be.

Hitch: No, you don’t. You can change, you can adapt. You can make it so you don’t ever have to feel like this. Ever again.

Albert: Oh, my God. You just don’t get it do you?

Hitch: I get it.

Albert: Let me get this straight. You’re selling this stuff, but you don’t believe in your own product.

Hitch: Love is my life.

Albert: No. Love is your job.

Hitch: Hey! You wanna jump out a plane without a chute, be my guest. But forgive me if I don’t join you.

Albert: This isn’t about love for you at all, is it? (Hitch walks away) Yeah, this whole time I thought I was the coward. (Albert turns to walk away)

Hitch: Where you going?

Albert: Skydiving! (Albert storms out)

Have you lost touch with why you do what you do? Has your call to lead simply become a job or a product you sell? Or, do you believe in what you’re doing?

All Set for Proposal Hearings

On Wednesday, we mailed corrected copies of our proposal drafts to the D.Min. office! Yesterday was our deadline to mail the drafts so that our dissertation committee members (3 each) will have around 10 days to prepare for our hearings (Randy’s on 9/24 and Joleen’s on 9/26).

We had our proposal drafts edited by the editor at Asbury a few weeks ago, which we wrote about here. We had a lot of corrections to make and some other work to do before sending our corrected proposal drafts. Now, they’re on their way to Asbury.

Soon, we’ll be heading down to Wilmore, KY, as well (then vacation, visiting Randy’s family in TN). We’re looking forward to some much-needed rest! Watch for a few posts (while we’re away), especially some photos from Asbury, the Lexington, KY area, and/or Tennessee.

Adoption FAQs

Here are a few questions that keep coming up … and our responses.

Since we first announced that we were adopting a child (January 2007), it’s been interesting to hear what questions keep coming up. Here are a few:

“Have you heard anything about the baby yet?”
We hear this question often, mostly from people who don’t have access to this blog. Sometimes we go a few weeks without anything to share, so it makes sense for this question to come up every once in a while. Right now, we’re simply waiting. The next major news we expect is “referral,” which will include the name and photo of our prospective child. We expect/hope to have a referral by Christmas.

“Do you know if you’re getting a boy or a girl?”
This is another common question we receive from time to time. We now know that it’s virtually guaranteed that we will receive a boy. 80% of requests by South Koreans who wish to adopt are for girls. Currently families outside of South Korea who are waiting to adopt a girl are being asked to consider a boy instead.

“Why did you choose to adopt from outside the US?”
This question has been asked a few times. While at first we considered all of our options, it quickly became clear to us that international adoption was the direction God was leading us. We could give a list of reasons but it all comes down to a sense of God’s leading.

Well, we hope this answers a few of your questions. If you have other questions, click on comments and ask away! 🙂