“Legacy of an Adopted Child”

Upon our return home from Korea with our baby we received a packet of post-adoption information from AIAA (Americans for International Aid and Adoption). Turns out, we’ve got some more paperwork to do — including a request for another blood test, which means Ethan will have to have blood drawn again at his next doctor’s visit! 😯

Included in the information packet, though, was a meaningful poem about adoption that we want to share with you …

“Legacy of an Adopted Child” (unknown author)

Once there were two women
Who never knew each other
One you do not remember
The other you call mother.

Two different lives
Shaped to make you one.
One became your guiding star
The other became your sun.

The first gave you life
And the second taught you to live it.
The first gave you a need for love
And the second was there to give it.

One gave you a nationality
The other gave you a name.
One gave you the seed of talent
the other gave you aim.

One gave you emotions
The other calmed your fears.
One saw your first sweet smile
The other dried your tears.

One gave you up.
It was all that she could do.
The other prayed for a child
And God led her straight to you.

And now you ask me through your tears
The age-old question through the years
Heredity or environment – which are you the product of?
Neither, my darling, neither
Just two different kinds of love.

Oh, how Randy and I thank God for the marvelous gift of our son! May he grow up to know that God’s hand has always been upon him. From conception to birth and into our arms … what a journey Baby Ethan has known already in his young life!

May God continue to guide Ethan’s footsteps before him, that he might someday declare with his mommy and daddy, “How great is our God!”

“Song for My Sons”

One of my favorite musical artists these days is Sara Groves. I discovered her through the movie, The Ultimate Gift, which I wrote about here. I also included one of her recent songs, “When the Saints,” in my collection of Songs for Leaders.

Also included on her latest recording is a song called “Song for My Sons.” You can download it from Amazon.com for $0.99 or listen to a preview of the song. To find song lyrics online, I usually Google the song title and the word “lyrics.” Here’s one result for lyrics to “Song for My Sons.”

Having just brought Ethan home, this song has grabbed my attention. I encourage you to read the lyrics yourself, but some of my favorite lines are …

I can’t say your life will always go like it should
but I can say that God is always good

There’s probably not anything better to teach children than, “God is always good,” through your words AND actions.

This is a song from my heart a small refrain to hold you
for times when we’re apart and I cannot console you
Be honest with yourself and don’t forget to pray
and read your bible everyday

And through the chorus, Sara challenges her sons …

and when the cold wind blows like I know it will
and when you feel alone like I know you will
and when the cold wind blows like I know it will

Don’t let your love grow
Don’t let your love grow
Don’t let your love grow cold

None of us can control the things that happen to us. But we always get to choose how we respond. When the cold wind blows, don’t let your love grow cold. Instead, rest in knowing that God is always good!

Back to School 2.0

A week ago, I wrote about going Back to School. But it was probably too optimistic to think that we could hit the ground running so soon after our return from Korea — adjusting with Ethan, recovering from the flu, and now battling cold/sore throats; thankfully, Ethan continues to be well!).

But we did read the notes that Russell (our mentor) sent us while we were in Korea. After reading them, however, we were feeling pretty overwhelmed and had nearly given up on a May 2008 graduation. Fortunately, we both had very good phone conversations with Russell today and our work looks very do-able now — assuming that we both get well and Ethan cooperates.

Our plan is to complete our revisions by the end of the week, then overnight our drafts to Russell this weekend. After he takes a final read-through, he will submit them to the D.Min. office for us. As long as they’re in the office by one-week-from-Friday (3/7), we should be able to get our defenses scheduled in time for the May 2008 graduation.

Over the next few days, we will be taking shifts with Ethan. Please pray that our adjustment will continues to go well and that we will be able (physically and mentally) to complete our drafts.

Ethan’s transition is going mostly well — still some rough spots here and there (mostly related to sleep). Last night was Ethan’s first night to sleep the entire night (of course, wouldn’t you know that it was Joleen’s turn to put him to bed and tend to him during the night; we’ll see how tonight goes! He did get to sleep the earliest so far, 9:45 pm.).

We’ve heard that many times during the transition period, the child just isn’t him/herself. We’ve noticed that Ethan has been laughing a lot more in the last two days. We’re grateful for that!

One final thing about Ethan — the boy can eat. At dinner time tonight (as we sometimes must do), we had scramble and find things for him to eat. Joleen was crushing a pear and feeding it to him (he ate fresh fruit already in Korea). You should have seen us — I had to start crushing the pear while Joleen fed him — it took two of us to keep up with him. And based on his frustration with our speed, we may need to recruit a third person! 😆

Anyway, thanks for your prayers throughout our journey. Please continue to pray for our ongoing transition and dissertation work over the course of the next few days!

And check the “comments” for reports on our progress.

“Choosing to Cheat” 2.0

I recently wrote about Andy Stanley’s book, Choosing to Cheat (see “Choosing to Cheat” 1.0) (this book was republished in 2011 as When Work and Family Collide: Keeping Your Job from Cheating Your Family). As I said, I want to share some personal reflections on how Joleen and I plan to cheat strategically so that we do not cheat our family.

To review, Andy essentially says that all of us have a limited amount of time, and certainly not enough time to do everything that is demanded of us, or everything that we’d like to do. Therefore, we’ve all got to cheat somewhere. The question is, who do we cheat? Many times, we cheat our families. The question the subtitle of the book poses is, “Who wins when family and work collide?”

This is an important question for all families to address. It’s certainly an important question for us — two full-time pastors, and now, two full-time parents. In the past, we’ve always tried to be intentional about taking time to spend with one another, and now that we have brought a child into our home, we will have to be even more intentional about family time.

Here are some commitments we’re considering as we move forward …

Be *more* focused in our work/ministries. We have a limited amount of time. In the past, if it took us extra hours to accomplish what we wanted/needed to accomplish in a week, that might not have been so bad. With a child in our lives, we will have to be more focused in our work. We will have to spend our workweek on the most important tasks (actually, focus is a good thing; we all should focus on the most important tasks, or what some call MITs). Our family life depends on it.

Prioritize Family Time. Periodically (and this will become even more important as Ethan gets older), we will schedule in family time on our calendars. We will place family events (or school/extra-curricular activities that Ethan will be involved in) on our calendars, and will treat them as any other important commitment in our lives. A few months ago, Joleen and I started more intentionally coordinating our schedules and blocking out time each week that we would both take off. We did this partially in preparation for life with a child. Click here to download a PDF of the “block schedule” we’ve been using.

Protect our evenings. It’s not uncommon for one or both of us to have 2-3 evening meetings each week. We will need to be more intentional about coordinating our schedules so that, if possible, at least one of us is home each evening, and both of us are home at a decent time to go through our evening routine (story time, prayer, and putting Ethan to bed).

Keep family commitments. Obviously, there will be times when things come up that interrupt family life. That’s true for everyone. It’s especially true for pastoral families, and particularly for families where both parents are pastors. However, we must do our best to keep family commitments as much as possible.

We will have to be intentional. Both of us are mission-driven people. God’s call and mission are extremely important to us. That won’t change. But the way we live that out may, naturally, need to undergo some changes.

We once heard John Maxwell, founder of Injoy, define success, saying, “Those who are the closest to me, love and respect me the most.”

That kind of success requires cheating strategically. What commitments have you made to give priority to the place of your family?

Ethan Goes to Church

Today, we experienced our first Sunday worship gathering together as a family. First of all, Randy and I never get to worship together on Sundays, so what a treat it was for the two of us, let alone the three of us!

We attended Faith UMC. The 11:00 am service worked well with Ethan getting awake at 9:00 am. And it was a very short ride from our house!

We were very pleased with Ethan’s first church worship experience. He did excellently. And we are grateful for everyone’s words of welcome!

tiredethanIt certainly must have been an exhausting morning, though. Before our five-minute car ride home ended, Ethan was already asleep in his car seat. He usually wakes up when we get him out, but not today. He was fast asleep in his church duds, allowing “Mommy” and “Daddy” to have our first meal alone since returning home.

“Choosing to Cheat” 1.0

Awhile back, I read Choosing to Cheat: Who Wins When Family and Work Collide? by Andy Stanley (this book was republished in 2011 as When Work and Family Collide: Keeping Your Job from Cheating Your Family). The book is must-reading for anyone who is busy AND has a family!

Incidentally, I try to read everything by Andy Stanley, lead pastor of North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Georgia. Previously, I’ve posted thoughts on two other books by him including, Communicating for a Change and Making Vision Stick.

I’ve been thinking about the book again now that we’ve brought Ethan home and have a few weeks to immerse ourselves in, and adjust to, this new way of life. Here are a few quotes quotes and thoughts on Choosing to Cheat

So, what does it mean to cheat?

“When we cheat, we choose to give up one thing in hopes of gaining something else of greater value” (9).

Andy makes the case that none of us can do everything that we think we should do, or everything others think we should do. Therefore, we’ve got choices to make. In fact, he says …

“Daily you make decisions to give up one thing in order to gain something else. This is especially true within the arena of your schedule. You face a variety of responsibilities and opportunities: work … family … hobbies … clubs … leagues … the list is endless. Each competes for your attention. Each competes for your most valuable resource, your time. But to give each of these the time it demands or deserves would require more time than you have” (10).

As a result, every one of us must make choices. Since we can’t do it all, we’ve gotta cheat somewhere. Basically, we choose who we cheat. Why? Because …

“The problem is there is not enough time to get everything done that you are convinced–or others have convinced you–needs to get done” (21).

Choose wisely!

“Everyone is busy. All of us have more to do than we will ever get done. We all have to cheat along the way. When you cheat strategically, you leverage your busyness for the sake of what’s most important. Cheating strategically allows us to communicate the message our families long the feel–you are important to me. You are more important to me than anybody or anything else in the world” (58).

Andy argues that “the length of your workweek does not play as significant role as you might at first think” in your professional success. On the other hand, he says, “With family, success is always related to time” (99).

To help busy spouses make adjustments to their priorities, Andy suggests the following question …

“What change would your spouse most like you to make in regard to your schedule?” (93)

That may be a tough question to ask, and you may not be able to make the needed changes overnight, but it may be a good place to start, and you can at least begin working toward the goal.

When Andy asked his wife, Sandra, this question, shortly after starting North Point in the late 1990s, she said she’d like him to be home around 4:00 pm to help with their two young children. It was tough for Andy, the lead pastor of a new church, to do, but he did it. In fact, he also committed to working a 45-hour workweek. He prayed …

“Lord, feel free to build whatever kind of church You can with forty-five hours of my time. You know that’s all I have right now” (95).

This one might be tough for many Christ-followers, particularly pastors, to swallow. But if you know anything about North Point, it is an incredible church. God isn’t looking for workaholics and overachievers to build his church; he is looking for people of character and integrity, and part of that integrity is commitment to one’s family.

In 2.0, I will offer some personal reflections on how Joleen and I hope to cheat strategically so that we do not cheat our family.

Christmas in February

Ethan’s absence was especially felt last Christmas. Christmas is such a special time for children, and because the time of our going to get Ethan was so close, we decided that in order for us (Randy and I) to survive the holiday, we would celebrate Christmas when Ethan was home with us.

So, we left the Christmas tree up, and we bought Ethan a special gift. The gift waited under the tree for Ethan’s arrival.

christmasinfebruaryYesterday my mom and step-dad came over and we celebrated Christmas. We had dinner together, we lit the tree, and Ethan opened his first gifts, with a little help from “mom” and “dad.” Ethan certainly didn’t need any help, though, playing with his new toys!

Yesterday also happened to be my mom’s birthday, but it kind of took a back seat. After my mom and step-dad left, I said to Randy, “We didn’t even take a picture of Mom, did we?” I doubt Mom thought much about it. She’s just happy to be “Grandma.”

We’re glad we waited, that we chose to celebrate Christmas in February!

The Rest of the (Legal) Story

While our story, our journey, as a family is just getting started with Ethan, we thought you might like to know what the rest of the legal process entails for us.

Over the next few months, our caseworker from Adoption Horizons will make three post-placement visits (our first one is scheduled in about two weeks). And, then, in about six months, our adoption of Ethan will be finalized in a court session (that’s also where the name we’ve given him will become official).

As part of the adoption process, Ethan will receive an “amended Pennsylvania birth certificate.” He will also be granted US citizenship.

So, while Ethan is now part of our family, and the rest of the process should mostly be a formality, it’s not final yet, legally. But, the adoption should be final in about 6 months.

A New Day

I started to call this post A Rough Day. Much of the day was committed to Ethan’s first doctor visit since leaving Korea (he had just seen a doctor before being released to us on February 12). We wanted to get his medical record started here (in fact, we made today’s appointment before going to Korea).

Our visit with Dr. Allen Ettenger (Huntingdon, PA) was a real time investment, but a worthwhile one. We learned a lot.

Ethan weighed 21.7 pounds (in an earlier post, we said he weighed 24.3 pounds, but that was based on wrong information from the caseworker in Korea) and was nearly 30 inches long. Those numbers put him in the 70th percentile in the weight category and the 95th percentile in the length category. IOW, only 5% of boys his age are longer than he, and 30% of boys his age weigh more.

While we learned a lot today, it was also a painful day. Ethan received two vaccinations, one in each leg. He made his displeasure known throughout that part of the building (did we tell you he has strong lungs?!). BTW, Korea’s vaccines, unlike some nations, do not need to be repeated in the States, so we’re simply picking up where Korea left off (Ethan should be happy about that!).

We also just learned that Ethan had a flu shot in January, which may explain why he didn’t catch the flu from us this past weekend. Of all the things we want Ethan to “catch” from us, viruses are not one of them (i.e. important things, like character, are better caught than taught)!

If getting two shots wasn’t bad enough, we decided, with the doctor’s encouragement, to do a lead screening blood test (to establish a baseline), partly because we live in an old house that probably has lead (paint). We’ll have to make sure he doesn’t chew on the paint or pick up paint chips. This could be a real challenge, as he seems to put everything in his mouth.

A lead screening blood test involves drawing blood from the arm. It took two nurses to find a vein they could draw blood from (and, fortunately, the first time was successful!). It was rough — Joleen held him (including his other arm) from behind in a bear hug, one nurse held his arm still, and another nurse drew the blood from his arm. Since there was no room for me, I just watched and listened! 😯

As painful as all of that was, though, the amazing thing was how quickly Ethan recovered, especially from the blood test. As soon as the needle was removed, it was almost as if nothing had happened — although he was pretty emotional/clingy for the rest of the day.

So, yes, it was a rough day. But I’m calling this a new day, because we are making a transition from being reactive to being proactive with Ethan, especially with his sleeping schedule.

Up to this point (naturally, we think), it’s been about survival, which has meant that we’ve given Ethan whatever he’s needed/wanted. FWIW, I think we’re discovering that either, (1) he’s always gotten what he’s wanted, or (2) we look like gullible people. 😆

Dr. Ettenger recommended reading at least a couple chapters of Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems (by Richard Ferber) that deals with helping children develop new, healthy sleeping habits.

Obviously, we don’t have the book yet (we ordered it tonight), but we still began to be a little more proactive tonight. Rather than waiting for him to let us know when he was ready for bed, we were more intentional about our evening routine, starting at 10:00 (we’ll eventually bump this earlier, but for now, 10:00 pm is an improvement over 1:00 am, plus we’ve only been in the States about 6 days, so far).

10:00 — Play with Ethan on living room floor.
10:15 — In Ethan’s room, get him ready for bed, read a Bible story, pray, and give him his bottle.
11:00 — Ethan is asleep (for now!)

The goal (with the Ferber book’s help) will be to wean Ethan from going to sleep with the bottle (which is how his foster mother put him to sleep). We also want to help him learn to put himself to sleep in his crib, rather than us putting him in his crib after he’s fallen asleep (in Korea, he slept beside his foster mother on the floor/mattress, which may particially explain why he’s so fussy whenever he wakes up).

It’s a new day. And, it’s all part of the learning experience!

Rare Opportunities 2.0

While we were in Korea, we reported on our experiences with The Holy Flames Methodist Church (a congregation of around 2,000 people) and Kwanglim Methodist Church (which, we’re told is the largest Methodist Church in the world with a congregation of at least 70,000 people, although we’ve seen higher numbers online, too).

If you missed them, click here to read Rare Opportunities. You might also be interest in Our Amazing Korean Church Family.

Since then, we’ve wanted to come back and offer a little more reflection. It was a jam-packed day, so it was impossible to summarize in one post.

Our host/driver from Holy Flames picked us up at the SWS guest where we were staying at 7:30 am and brought us to the church where we attended multiple worship gatherings, including a couple prayer sessions that preceded various services/events.

After the young single adults service in the early afternoon, we were dropped off at Kwanglim around 3:30 pm for a tour of the facilities. They were wrapping up their day of worship gatherings as we arrived. Our guides at Kwanglim took us to dinner then returned us to the guest house around 7:30 pm, completing a full 12-hour day.

A few things especially stood out to us …

We were treated like dignitaries. We were introduced and asked to stand at every worship gathering. In a couple settings, we were asked to greet the people with the help of an interpreter (children’s worship and young single adults).

While at Holy Flames, we were provided a guide/interpreter to lead us from room to room for the various events. Our first guide had just returned from the US earlier that morning so he was very tired, but still very helpful. A second guide relieved the tired one and joined us for lunch and the young single adults gathering (she was a young single adult, herself). At Kwanglim, we had two guides, one of whom served as an interpreter. They also took us to dinner before returning us to our room.

Great Hosts
Our contact person is Korea was Rev. Jun, the senior pastor of Holy Flames. One of the pastors on his staff, Jung-Sun, served as our guide and host for the weekend. On Saturday, he and his family took us to Insa-dong, a major shopping district, and to tour a palace. On Tuesday, he and his wife took us to see North Korea (from a lookout in South Korea). We concluded our time with them at a small group meeting on Tuesday evening (during our first few hours with the baby). We very much enjoyed our time with Jung-Sun, his wife, and their two children!

Accommodating Senior Pastors
We have a high regard for both senior pastors we met in Korea, Yong Jai Jun (Holy Flames) and Chung Suk Kim (Kwanglim). They were both very welcoming and hospitable. They went out of their way to make our visits meaningful. Chung Suk, who literally met with us after a long day of worship gatherings, met with us on the spur of the moment. Even after we returned home, he emailed us to see how we were doing, attached a couple photos taken of us with him, and expressed a desire to meet with us again sometime in the future. Both top notch people, in our book.

Shoes off!
slippersFinally, on a lighter note, the practice of removing shoes, while not specific to the churches we attended, is a common practice in Korea, particularly when entering homes and some places of business. We noticed that when worship participants at Holy Flames walked onto the platform, they removed their shoes and put on a pair of slippers (see photo). People did not remove their shoes when entering the main worship sanctuary, but they did for the smaller prayer gatherings we attended. We also removed shoes in all of the homes we visited. BTW, if I go back to Korea, I’m taking slip-ons! 🙂

Holy Flames and Kwanglim are churches that are making a difference in a culture where following Christ is not necessarily easy. Click here to read about the history of Christianity in South Korea, which is still relatively young. Amazingly, though, South Korea (officially know as the Republic of Korea) is the second largest missionary-sending nation in the world.

As Joleen noted earlier, Jung-Sun attributed the growth of the Korean Church to prayer and small groups. We got to see both of those vital activities in practice. It was very inspiring!

Of course, the Korean Church is certainly not without its challenges. Some challenges we were made aware of include busyness (most of us in the States understand that one). A second one was more surprising to us. Korea’s fairly recent promotion of education has led to parents minimizing high school seniors’ church involvement, in lieu of preparing for college (in Korea, the senior year is the critical time for college prep).

We are grateful for the opportunity to have experienced a little bit of the Korean Church’s world while we were there. Please join us in praying for them, that God will use them in their work in Korea and around the world!