First 100 Days with Sarah

While singing “Great is Thy Faithfulness” this morning at Centre Grove, for some reason it struck me that we should be right around the 100 day mark since we’ve had Sarah. And sure enough, yesterday was day 100.

In Korea, families traditionally celebrate a child’s 100th day (from birth) because the first 100 days were the most critical. Getting beyond 100 days was a good sign. While survival rates have dramatically improved, Korean families continue to celebrate the 100th day.

We didn’t have Ethan or Sarah on their 100th days (which they both celebrated with their respective foster families), so we chose to highlight their first 100 days with us. We marked Ethan’s 100th day and now we’re marking Sarah’s.

Here are photos which have not yet been posted (mostly from the past month). For more on Sarah’s story, see our About page.

Ten Percent from the Bishop’s Retreat

At last week’s Bishop’s Retreat, Gilbert Rendle talked about the change that’s taking place in the world and in the church as well as the leadership that’s needed, as a result of the cultural change.

At the end of his presentation on Tuesday evening, Rendle challenged attendees to discover the “ten percent” (the amount of content most people can absorb from a seminar) that they needed to take home with them. After some reflection, here’s what I think I’m taking away from the retreat.

I thought the presentation on cultural change that’s going on both in the world and in the church was helpful, but I want to focus on the content from Rendle’s presentation on leadership, that is, how to lead change in the midst of a changing world.

Leadership vs. Management. Rendle talked about the difference between management and leadership. While both are necessary, most leaders were simply trained to be managers, to keep things running smoothly.

Management is primarily responsible for the present moment, for doing things right. Leadership is responsible for the future and change, for doing right things. While there’s been a growing amount of emphasis on the importance of leadership in recent years/decades, Rendle noted that …

We are asked for leadership at a time when we are rewarded for management. But you cannot do leadership without disrupting management.

So, while I certainly want things to run smoothly, I also realize that part of my job is to “stir the pot” (see my 2006 sermon for more on Stirring the Pot).

The Leadership Challenge. There is a disruptive component to leadership that makes leadership especially challenging. Rendle stated …

One of our tasks is to make people appropriately uncomfortable.

Of course, not everyone will go along for the journey, so Rendle offered a warning …

If you have a ‘no person left behind’ policy, you have already determined that you’re not going to do anything!

Leaders and churches must be willing to do the right things even when there’s resistance, because the alternative is simply to do nothing, or at least nothing worthwhile or life-changing.

Rendle also offered four leadership skills in his final session. But before I reflect on those, I need to review the video of the sessions, which are expected to be posted to the conference website this week.

Checking in on Sarah

As you may recall, we are required to complete three visits with our caseworker in the first six months that Sarah is with us (after which we can move toward finalizing the adoption).

Since our caseworker (Cindy) is in Carlisle, we made plans to connect on our way home from the Bishop’s Retreat yesterday afternoon. We only had a few minutes to visit (and will continue the visit over the phone in the days ahead), but it was good to update Cindy on Sarah’s progress.

Cindy was particularly interested in three things: (1) Sarah’s health and physical development, (2) our back-to-work adjustment, and (3) Ethan’s adjustment to Sarah’s arrival.

At our first visit, we reported the pediatrician’s concern that Sarah’s physical development (i.e., motor skills) was a bit delayed. We were glad to report that those concerns no longer exist. Sarah has (at least) caught up. It wasn’t something we, or our caseworker, were really concerned about, knowing that, because Koreans hold their babies more in the early months, that their physical development schedule is simply different than ours.

It was also good to hear Cindy’s observations on Sarah’s emotional well-being. She noticed that Sarah was very observant, looking around the restaurant where we were meeting with no signs of fear (especially after coming directly from the Bishop’s Retreat where we had been around lots of people in an unfamiliar environment for the past 48 hours). Cindy said that’s simply not the case with some adoptees, at this early stage.

Cindy was also interested in know how Ethan was coming along in his adjustment in this new family situation. Joleen points to a time about three weeks before we returned to work where Ethan seemed to have turned a corner. I also mentioned last week’s experience.

Speaking of emotional well-being and adjustment, a book that has been on my reading pile for a long time (I actually read it many years ago) is John Gottman’s Raising an Emotionally-Intelligent Child. We need to read it mainly our benefit. I’ve always said, with Ethan, and now with Sarah, our main goal is not to mess them up too bad! 😀

Well, it’s hard to believe that today marks three months since we met Sarah in her foster home (and brought her into our lives the following day). It’s also hard to believe that we’ll soon be celebrating two other milestones — Ethan’s second “gotcha day” (February) and Sarah’s first birthday (March).

Halftime at the Bishop’s Retreat

We are at the halfway point at the 2010 Bishop’s Retreat of the Central Pennsylvania Conference of The United Methodist Church.

We arrived at the retreat, which is taking place at the Willow Valley Resort in Lancaster, PA. Last year, our first time to attend the annual retreat, we came a day early to get settled in and to relax (we also posted some learnings from the retreat).

This year, we chose not to come a day early because we were concerned about how well Sarah would sleep here. We figured two nights would be better than three, at this point (although next year, I think we’ll come early; it’s more relaxing). We did arrive in town a few hours early to shop at the outlets before checking into our room just in time for the opening meal (followed by the evening session).

Ethan was with us last year, too, and this year, it’s a first for Sarah. Ethan hasn’t always handled being dropped off at child care in these kinds of “strange” gatherings very well, but we were hoping that having Sarah (a familiar face) with him would make things easier this time. Such was not the case. Last night, as we arrived at the door to the child care room, we experienced his worst ever response (too bad I didn’t have the video camera ready :-)). I had to chase him (while he cried loudly) down the hallway. I caught up to him at one of the exits. Of course, he continued to cry until shortly after we left. He was fine then and had a good time. This morning, we experienced a much less eventful drop-off, leaving two more drop-offs to go (this evening and tomorrow morning).

Since this is a “retreat,” we get Tuesday afternoons off. For us, that means trying to get the kids to take a nap. We gave up with Ethan and Joleen took him to the pool (which caught up to him later; see photo below). Fortunately, Sarah, who did not get much sleep last night (she went to sleep very late and woke up very early), had a good (up to) hour-and-a-half nap.

Last year, Ethan’s favorite spot was the fountain (which Ethan calls “mountain”). That’s still true this year. This morning, on the way to dropping him off at child care, we stopped at the fountain for a quick look. When we got to the child care room, he immediately started telling the child care workers, and everyone else, about the fountain (and how the water goes “up the pipes,” something I had explained to him yesterday).

Well, I’ll say more about what we’re learning from Gil Rendle, the speaker at this retreat, a little later. For now, I’ll simply say, there’s a lot of good stuff on leading change to chew on. Both the communication and the content are very good.

Here are some images from today …

Thinking About Sarah

Yesterday, on our day off, we dropped Sarah off at Grammy and Pappy’s in Williamsburg on our way to Altoona, where we had some things to do. We also thought it would be a good time to spend with Ethan (next week, we plan to drop Ethan off and spend some time with Sarah).

After we dropped Sarah off, Ethan noticed the vacancy in the neighboring car seat. Several times, he asked, “Where’s Sarah?”

Later, while browsing at Gymboree in the Logan valley Mall, Joleen noticed, on their way out of the store, that Ethan was carrying a small pair of pink shoes. When asked about them, Ethan said, “These are for Sarah.”

It reminded me of when Joleen and I were in Korea last October. Missing Ethan, from whom we were separated by 7,000 miles, we found ourselves wanting to buy him stuff. 🙂

Intentional Faith Development 3.0

A year ago, Centre Grove’s church council began reading Bishop Robert Schnase‘s Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations. I’m blogging the journey and have written several posts tagged Five Practices.

It’s been a while since I’ve written about our experience with the Five Practices, partly because we’ve been slowly making our way through Intentional Faith Development (the second practice we’re tackling). Last June, I wrote Intentional Faith Development 1.0 and Intentional Faith Development 2.0.

Sunday school is an ongoing part of our discipleship process, but we added a few small groups last fall and they’ll continue into the new year. We’re taking another big step this year in the development of some sort of short-term class structure, perhaps something like Saddleback’s C.L.A.S.S. system involving four levels of classes, 101, 201, 301, and 401, designed to help people become more fully devoted followers of Jesus. Of course, we’ll need to adapt the material for our context.

It will take some time to get all the (short-term) classes, which will be offered periodically, going, but we’ll start with Class 101 and add the others as we feel we’re ready to do so. We don’t know what kind of response we’ll get to the new discipleship opportunities, but we expect them to be an important part of our discipleship process moving forward. In fact, Class 101 will be a required class for new members. That way, we expect to get new members started off on the right foot.

While we’ve reached the point of developing this new structure for intentional faith development, we are moving on to the next practice. So far, our reading and discussion of the Five Practices has brought about some new, important developments. I continue to look forward to what new developments await as we move on to Passionate Worship, Risk-Taking Mission and Service, and Extravagant Generosity. Passionate Worship is up next.

Days Like This

IMG_0697We got up and left early this morning for a district pastor’s gathering with the Bishop in State College. Shortly after arriving home this afternoon, it was time for the kids’ afternoon naps. Later, we got the kids up in time for a quick dinner before both of us headed off to evening meetings (we try not to double book too many evenings, but it happens occasionally). By the time we got home, it was (past) bedtime!

Well, dinner (between naps and meetings) was a little rushed and Sarah was in the high chair not-too-impatiently waiting for her meal. We always hold her while she drinks her bottle, but because we were so rushed tonight, I handed her the bottle of formula to see if she could handle it on her own. And she handled it very well! (Interestingly, it was only a week ago Sunday that she took ahold of the bottle on her own for the first time; till then, she was a hands-off bottle drinker.)

We know there will be days like this — days when we hardly see the kids at all — but we want to keep them to a minimum!

Success vs. Significance in the Movies

I am surprised by how often the theme of success vs. significance shows up in movies, that is, that significance is more important than success, or that relationships are more important than career.

The basic storyline usually involves a main character who becomes so focused on success that they eventually alienate those around them, usually a significant other.

A few movies quickly come to mind (please add others in the comments below), including Family Man, Liar, Liar, The Devil Wears Prada, and even the holiday classic, It’s a Wonderful Life, which we wrote about last year.

“The Devil Wears Prada” is interesting from a leadership standpoint. It’s a movie about a young aspiring journalist, Andrea (Anne Hathaway), who takes on a job at a fashion magazine as an assistant to the editor. The editor, Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep) is a demanding, hard-nosed leader. She personifies success-at-any-cost. As the culture of Runway magazine begins to shape her and becomes more and more wrapped up in her job, her personal life begins to fall apart.

Upon hitting a low point at work, Andrea talks to a co-worker, Nigel (Stanley Tucci), who tells her …

Let me know when your whole life goes up in smoke. Means it’s time for a promotion.

Ultimately, Andrea, like the main characters of similar movies, chooses the path of significance over success-at-any-cost.

In the classic movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” George Bailey (James Stewart), spends all of his adult life searching for success (starting with getting out of Bedford Falls) but never finds it. When he reaches the lowest point of his life, he encounters an angel named Clarence who gives him a glimpse of what life in Bedford Falls (and beyond) would’ve looked like had he not been born. In the process, George discovers that he had indeed lived a life of significance, even though it didn’t go the way he wanted it to.

The last time we watched the movie, Joleen noticed a sign on wall in Uncle Billy’s office just below a picture of Peter Bailey (George’s father) that read …

All you can take with you is that which you’ve given away.

Significance is more important than success-at-any-cost.

At the end of the movie, George receives a book with a note from Clarence that says,

Remember, George: no man is a failure who has friends.

Again, significance is the the goal. Relationships matter.

Of course, like many things, it’s not really either/or. You can, and should, seek to be successful, to make the most of the life God has given you. But you may need to adjust your understanding of success. The point is, don’t let success and personal ambition destroy you or the people close to you. Relationships matter; they determine your significance. Success, especially success-at-any-cost, has little value if it alienates you from others.

When push comes to shove, choose significance over success, because, in reality, that’s what real success is.

Can you think of other movies that have a similar theme promoting significance over success?

New Year’s Professional Photos

On New Year’s Day, we had photos taken at JCPenney Portrait Studios. (See a couple previous episodes when Ethan turned 2 as well as our first time, when Ethan was Sarah’s current age).

Yesterday’s experience wasn’t the smoothest, but we were somehow able to get a few decent shots. Below are our favorites, honorable mentions, and even a few disasters (the images are low resolution, made available for online sharing).

Shots we ordered …

Here are a few shots we liked but didn’t order …

And here are a few shots that didn’t go according to plan (these are photos that were taken while Ethan was actually in the studio) …

By the end of the session, Ethan’s cheeks were red (it was warm in the studio), Sarah was tired and sleepy, and their parents were ready to move on!