celebrations, legacy, testimony, Uncategorized

Easter 2020:

A Week of Improv

 This Holy Week has been such a strange one – a Holy Week with the script massively edited.

I think most holidays have a script, whether it’s written or unwritten, stored in gray matter, or pixels or printed and bound in hardcover on the family bookshelf. Over the past dozen years or so, Jason and I have been editing ours. We’ve been writing and rewriting, trying hard to choose the right actors, sets, and action, cutting and adding what gets into the script, and trying to keep it short and focused on the thing we are really trying to celebrate. But even as we are working on this, it’s so easy for the scripted celebration to compete with the thing we are celebrating.

Palm Sunday communion at home

We are blessed to live in an age with so much creative content available at the flick of our scrolling fingers. There are just.so.many good things to help us keep our eyes on the journey to the Cross: beautiful art, moving music, hands-on activities and coloring pages, videos, recipes, blog posts and devotionals and carefully planned worship services. I love to curate and adapt and sometimes write these resources. Every year, Jason and I choose some things to do that we think will help our family make that journey from life to death to new life. It’s not always the same, but the worship services form the skeleton for the week: Palm Sunday with a processional, Maundy Thursday fellowship meal and worship, Good Friday service, and Easter Sunday celebration.  

But this year, as we stay home, it has been different. Different than usual, of course, but also different than what I expected. I thought we would have more time to do some of the things we don’t always have time to do – more coloring pages and kids’ activities, more acts of service, more all-family worship and devotional times. I thought the script would include some rewrites and some new scenes. I knew the dinner scene would look different, because we are functional cooks, not celebratory cooks like my parents. I didn’t know that it would look like we lost the script for most of the week. But we did, and it gave me pause to think about the disciples in a new way.

We used a script for a simple, beautiful Maundy Thursday liturgy that was a gift from Patti Gibbons at The Spacious Life https://instagram.com/thespacious.life?igshid=11hkvf0yf0a4b

Even though Jesus had prepared the disciples, they really didn’t get a sense of their roles until they were right in the middle of it. They thought they knew what to expect with the entry into Jerusalem. They thought they knew what the week would hold. They thought there was a script for Passover. But Jesus did some completely unexpected things at the Passover meal. And that was just the beginning of their realization that their roles were being rewritten.

They quickly found themselves saying lines they didn’t intend to say, doing things they didn’t think they would ever be doing. There was no neat order, no preparation, no planned menu, no supplies and materials gathered, no practice for how to huddle together in a locked room to avoid being executed, no rehearsal for how to celebrate and mark the crazy good news that your Lord who died right in front of your eyes has been raised from the dead. No menu for that celebration meal, and no order of worship. No florist delivery, no carefully hung wreaths or flower crosses or practiced orchestras. I am seeing that it must have been all higgledy piggledy for them, too – chaotic and scary, unprecedented, unpracticed, and unprepared.Those disciples were improvising, responding to each unexpected thing that happened with nothing but the preparation that Jesus had been doing in their hearts the whole time they had been walking together. Their world was upside down, and they were a scattered mess.

But Jesus used that mess to build his Church and to spread the good news of his love across the world. And He can use this mess in my house – this unprecedented, unpracticed, unprepared band of followers in each of our houses – in the same way to accomplish his purposes. But like the disciples, we aren’t unprepared for the important things. He has been preparing us as long as we have been walking with him. So now, may how we respond in our homes – even when our scripts have been tossed –  build the Kingdom one line at a time. And when the lines we deliver are wrong, when we and the other actors misstep, when the props aren’t at hand, and when the sets fall down, may we then give and receive the grace He offers the disciples and us by coming and sharing our everyday meals cooked over a campfire or served in our usual dining rooms. May this week of improv be used to spread the good news of His love and hope far and wide on whatever stage He gives us.  


Christmas Books

Waaaay back when our oldest child was a baby, we were gifted the beginnings of a Christmas book collection in the form of A Visit from St. Nicholas, a cloth book about Jesus’ birth, and a board book about the nativity. Most years since then, there has been a title or two added, and every single year, the Christmas books are our children’s most-anticipated Christmas box to come out of the attic. They sit down by the little sleigh we keep them in and pore over the books. I love it when I can sit down and read aloud to them from these books that are among my favorites, too. The number of times I have read Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree and The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey to little and big people is probably in the hundreds.

A number of years ago, a dear friend who is a little ahead of us in the parenting journey told me about one of her family’s traditions. She  wraps up their Christmas books, and each day they open a new book. I had some wrapping paper on hand, so I jumped in with the idea and it was a huge hit with our children. It has become something simple for me to do that seems to create a bit of extra anticipation and multiplies my children’s joy.





Some years the books are wrapped with flair, and some years – like this year – the whimsy comes from the red, green, and brown of  grocery store bags.


When I first started doing this, we definitely didn’t have enough books to open a book each day, but that first year I just wrapped what I had, and we had fun with it. The following year, I had a list of some titles  I wanted to look for and a library card, so I put it to use. I discovered several Christmas titles were available to borrow from our church’s children’s library collection as well, and I had purchased a couple more on post-Christmas sales after that first year of book opening.

We have discovered that our kids of all ages anticipate the book opening tradition. This year, our first book to be opened was One Wintry Night, a chapter-a-night-read-aloud that appeals to the mixed ages in our family. If simplicity multiplies your joy, and if this is simple for you, I hope my friend’s tradition will bless your family as much as it continues to bless mine!










I know it has been much quieter from here than we ever imagined. We will try to post some photo highlights and reflections of what the Lord is doing and has done in this trip once we settle back in at home. The main point is God is good. The subpoint is: Eleanor Mae RuiShan is a precious child, and we are blessed and thankful we get to be her family.

We have eaten our last dinner before we depart for the US and watched a fabulous light show on the Victoria Harbor. We are preparing now for our last sleep in Hong Kong before a 30-hour travel day from hotel to home. Part way through the journey home, Eleanor will become a US citizen, and at the end of it, we will land in our fair city with the precious girl we have all been praying to bring home for almost a year now! If you are going to be in Omaha tomorrow night (Friday, 9/16) and would like to meet Eleanor, here is our flight information.

American Airlines flight 138 departs HKG at 2:30 pm arrives DFW 4:15 pm (travel time = 14 hours 45 minutes)

American Airlines flight 2299 departs DFW at 8:45 pm arrives OMA 10:34 pm

We welcome your prayers. We are seated in a few groupings on the long flight from China, and to say that everyone is weary (and Ellie is in pain with some broken bones) is a true statement, so extra grace is needed for each one of us!

adoption, celebrations, milestones, Uncategorized

This weekend we posted about having received a matching grant to help with the expenses of completing an adoption. If you missed it, you can see the details about God’s timing and provision here. That grant – one a friend had encouraged us to pursue – was just another example of how our community has come together to help bring this little child into a family – our family – with such love in action.

Love in action is really what this adoption has been about so far – and I suspect will continue to be as we transition from the preparation phase to the action phase of bringing Rui Shan into our family. It was love in action that caused someone to post her profile in our OI Parents group. It was love in action that brought our kids to start Operation Adoption, and it was love in action that brought so many generous people into our driveway in preparation for and on the days of an enormous garage sale. It was love in action that caused people to play Freethrows for Family, or collect soda cans they could have easily flung into recycling, and it was love in action that gave our kids so many work opportunities this summer. We have seen love lived out in your actions again and again – and that is what we are celebrating on Sunday. We want to invite you to come and celebrate this milestone: through your love in action, we are about to embark on the travel part of the adoption journey!

You will see love in action in a few very fun ways on Sunday! Feel free to bring friends, children, grandchildren, and come enjoy the delightful Floofus, have some munchies or a cup of coffee, and take a minute to sign Rui Shan’s quilt so she will one day soon be able to see and understand how very much she has been loved and anticipated since before we even saw her sweet face.



adoption, fundraising, Uncategorized

Shortly after we received word of our Invitation to Travel, we received the welcome, wonderful, and timely news that our family has been selected to receive a matching grant from Lifesong for Orphans! This organization offers many ways to help bring children into families by helping families meet the high costs of adoption. We are very thankful to have been selected to receive a $2,500 matching grant! This means that any gift that is made to our Lifesong account will be matched, dollar for dollar, doubling the impact and potentially becoming $5,000 toward our remaining expenses. If you would like to know more, please let us know.

You may also like to see what wonderful things they are doing by making a visit to www.lifesongfororphans.org

adoption, milestones, Uncategorized

We are in waiting mode. One of us is fine with that. One of us is kinda over it.

Around here, these days are quite a bit like the end of the third trimester of a pregnancy, when it would be entirely possible for labor to start *any minute*. Or it could be another four weeks. Either way, there is nothing to be done to hasten it – it’s a matter of waiting on God’s perfect timing.

What are we waiting on? There is a computer system in China that is used for the CCCWA to verify some records before they can issue travel invitations. The system went down shortly before our dossier arrived in China back in March, and it is still down. For the time being, then, the CCCWA is manually verifying the information that is generally accomplished via a computer-generated verification. Travel invitations that used to take a few days are now taking between two and six weeks. We have been waiting for ours for three weeks, and with each passing day, it becomes more likely that we will get our travel invitation the next day.

There are people in our family making predictions about which day it will come. I feel like the pregnant woman whose co-workers have started a pool, but this time I have no intuition or physical insights. It’s pretty crazy around here in these waiting rooms. It’s reassuring to know that God’s timing is perfect, and that He is working all of this out according to His plan in His time.

And in the meantime, every little milestone counts. Here’s the latest one!


But those who wait upon (hope in) the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31



adoption, fundraising, Uncategorized

I promised a post about the garage sale, but – just like preparing for the sale itself – writing a post about it has been a little overwhelming and rather time-intense simply because what God did in and through this event was far more than we could ask or imagine! I’m very thankful He isn’t limited by my imagination: I think these stories of how He has provided for this adoption is going to be a very helpful reminder to us when we hit bumps upon our re-entry. His pattern of caring for and providing for this beloved child didn’t begin with our receiving a call to adopt her, and it won’t end when we get her home; this is just one piece of her story. From what we can see of it, the Author is writing an amazing, intriguing, suspenseful story of love and adventure!

When we first started thinking about ways we could raise money for the adoption expenses, we decided a garage sale would be a great way to pare down and sell all the junk we have accumulated and moved around in spite of having read every decluttering book ever written unneeded household items and increase the adoption fund.

God had something much bigger planned.

About three months before the sale date, dear friends who were moving gifted us the items they wouldn’t be taking to their new home in a different region of the U.S.. A few weeks later, we were blessed with another few pieces of furniture, and a few weeks later, a few more! That all sat in our garage for a month or so until we firmed up a date, and then our driveway got really busy. Word had somehow spread that we were having a garage sale to raise money for the adoption, and for the three weeks preceding the sale, car after car – and even some pick-ups and two trailers – pulled into our driveway to bring loads of treasures! Our whole garage was filled with furniture to sell, loaned ladders, planks, saw horses and tables to display the items. Our entire rec room floor was covered wall to wall with stacks of every imaginable item – and duplicates of some – getting sorted, priced, and packed into boxes by category to be displayed on the weekend of the garage sale.  Our family and some cheerful helpers spent days and evenings preparing, and as soon as we would get caught up, and get ready to start pricing our own boxes of stuff we had perennially forgotten to donate gathered goodies, someone else would gift us more merchandise. We were absolutely giddy with amazement over the abundance of truly wonderful things people had offered to us to sell!

IMG_5329Only about one-third of the yard sale is visible in this picture!

About a week before the sale, I felt the need to be praying for a specific number of shoppers – 1,000 to be exact. It seemed like a crazy ask, but when I looked around at the number of wonderful items to be sold, I knew that not only could God do that crazy thing, but also that we needed Him to, or there wouldn’t be enough buyers for all the merchandise. I asked a few friends to be praying with us for 1,000 shoppers. Although it seemed like an off-the-wall large number, if you’ve read the paragraph above about how God turned our family garage sale into a giant sales event, it will not come as any surprise to you that He again did more than we asked. In two days, we had over **1,200 people shop at our garage sale!

IMG_5331We had steady or heavy traffic on both days!

To top it off – literally – in keeping with God’s nature of providing what we need even before we know we need it, thoughtful friends had loaned us a huge, sturdy canopy which shaded us during the hottest weekend I have intentionally spent outside.

IMG_5333That canopy was sale HQ and a welcome reprieve from the sun’s heat!

** Although this number is an estimate, it is probably on the low end. Not only is the number of people who came to our garage sale astounding, but the conversations that we were able to enjoy with many of the people were wonderfully encouraging for us, and hopefully for them as well!

Here are a few snapshots of our favorite stories in brainstormed order:

  • A friend who adopted from China a few years ago came to our sale and walked around explaining to people what we were doing. She even tried to engage in a bidding war over an oriental rug to raise more money 🙂 It meant so much to have friends helping us spread the word to the many shoppers about what we were doing.
  • Friends came and took pictures and shared live updates on social media, which brought more shoppers.
  • We learned a good deal about future ministry opportunities and thoughtfulness: at three different times throughout the sale – and just when energy was flagging – friends appeared with slices of watermelon, a blender of fruit smoothies, and pre-cut cups of fruit with disposable forks. It was just so wonderful to have the much-needed refreshment as well as the reminder that we were being prayed for and cared for on the hot days.
  • We met an astounding number of people whose lives have been touched by adoption. Many of them had great stories to share about when they or their family or friends were adopting, and then – best of all – great stories from present day about the children and what they are doing now. Several shoppers had recent experiences of traveling to China and were able to talk to us about that, too.
  • One man came to shop who had just seen the signs on the street. We didn’t have anything that interested him, but after I told him what the garage sale was for (“You are adopting?” Note to self: schedule hair appointment or face lift), he continued looking around. He eventually came up to me, handed me an item that wasn’t marked and asked me the price. I gave him a price, and he handed me more money than I said, and told me he didn’t want the item – just wanted us to have his contribution.
  • One friend came and brought us a fresh flower in a water tube and told us she was praying.
  • Countless customers came strictly because we were having such a gigantic sale, but when they found out what our purpose was, they shopped and shopped, and paid full price or more for the items they took home!
  • One couple came who heard on social media about our garage sale from my cousin in Virginia. They have been long-time friends of my godparents, and have been in Omaha for a while, but this event was the first connection our families have had!
  • We were blessed by several young people who were themselves adopted: one, a young lady who was adopted from China came with her parents and they all offered to help us as we welcome this little one into our home and into our community. It is so helpful to have a supportive community waiting with us, and standing at the ready!
  • Jason was finishing a sale with a customer who had been shopping with her daughter, a girl about 10 years old. After her mom finished her purchase, the girl started digging through her wallet and reached out to him with her last three coins.  She handed them to him saying “I am adopted and I want to help.”  It was incredibly humbling to see this modern day version of a parable lived out through the faith of this young girl who knows what it means to be adopted.
  • We hadn’t asked for friends or family to help, not because we didn’t welcome the help, but because we didn’t want to ask anyone else to stand out in this weather. Nonetheless, we had an unbelievable number of family members and friends come to help us prepare, to set up, to man the tables, and to help get it all put away afterward. The most surprising help came at the end of the first day when we were hot and tired. Jason and I were both marveling at how much had been sold, and trying to assess how to close up shop without taking everything inside. As we stood surveying our yard, another car pulled up, and a man got out. I thought, “Wow. He sure looks like my Uncle Armando.” It was enough of a resemblance that Jason also commented on it, and we took another glance at the vehicle, which wasn’t their Honda. And then a woman got out of the car who looked remarkably like my Aunt Lynn, because Lynn and Armando had, in fact, come all the way from Longmont, Colorado, to spend their 35th wedding anniversary helping us at our adoption garage sale. Don’t we have the most amazing family and friends?

IMG_5326Some of our amazing work crew enjoying the breeze and a break

Thank you for helping – for praying, for donating, for sharing the posts on social media, for shopping, for gifting us with your time, energy, and financial resources. We are so grateful for all that you did. Thanks to so many people’s generosity, the garage sale added over $5,000 to our adoption fund!


Thank you!












adoption, milestones, Uncategorized


Welcome Home

Travel to China

Invitation to travel

Finalize Immigration - Article 5 Approval - 7/5/2016

Finalize Immigration - NVC Attachment

Finalize Immigration - I-800

Letter Seeking Confirmation - Completed

Log-in Date (LID) - 3/31/2016

Dossier to China (DTC) - Completed

Authenticate Documents - Completed

Immigration Approval (I800-A) - Completed

Homestudy - Completed

Pre-approval to adopt - Completed

Today, as I was processing all that this means, and the timeline that is getting shorter, a dear friend reminded me “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:17) I am claiming this truth as we experience this glorious acceleration that is no surprise to God!

adoption, family, fundraising, legacy, Uncategorized

A few weeks ago – before an enormous garage sale, a sudden and successful surgery, and out-of-town friends coming – I wrote about my doubts about how this adoption could really happen, and about God’s answer as to how He would bring it to pass here, if you missed it.  Today, as I continue the idea of how this adoption is happening, I’ll tell you four little stories that each came at exactly the right time to remind us to trust Him for reassurance, resources, restoration, and relationships.


The day we decided to go ahead with sending in the initial paperwork to our agency and the first of the China Center for Children’s Welfare and Adoption (CCCWA) forms, not having any clear answers to the litany of “How” questions we were each still trying not to obsess over contemplating, we received an unexpected gift in the mail. There was a note and a check – completely unrelated to this not-yet-public news – and we were blown away by the reassurance that God will provide for every need of His children, however He wants, whenever He wants.

This has happened multiple times at timely intervals in the past few months; plainly, we have a number of friends who are in tune with the promptings of the Holy Spirit and who are responding with joy and generosity! My children have seen some bizarre reactions as I have read email, opened envelopes, answered the door, received texts – crazy laughter, spontaneous tears, and audible gasps just to name today’s visible responses. It is flat-out incredible and deeply humbling to get a glimpse of how many of you are loving this child and are coming alongside her and us in this journey.


We saw that same kind of supernatural provision again as we started educating ourselves about parenting a child who was adopted. Multiple friends recommended that we read The Connected Child, so I ordered a copy and immersed myself in it. Jason also read it, and we both realized that not only is this going to be crucial for Rui Shan, but also we can be better parents to the children who are in our home right now by beginning to implement some of the principles outlined by the authors. Figuring out how to do that was a huge and daunting task, and just as we were asking, “How can we do this?” we became aware that a magical solution conference called “Empowered to Connect” was being broadcast at a local church, so I signed up, found cheerful helpers to spend the day with our kids, and got coached in some of the basics of implementing the connecting principles that Dr. Purvis and Dr. Cross identify as key.

Some weeks later, when we were stumped by how to implement some of the things we learned, we received an email from Show Hope, an adoption advocacy movement dedicated to restoring the hope of families to waiting children around the world.  We had not been selected to receive one of their grants as we had hoped; nonetheless, they were offering us free access to the very resources we had just been needing – DVDs covering the topic we were struggling to implement, as well as a copy of The Connected Child, which we had been wanting to share with someone we know. In spite of not being able to give grants to each family, they wanted to help us in the way they could to prepare our home for the child they knew would be coming into our family through God’s provision in some other way.


In praying and considering how we might earn some additional money to funnel toward the adoption, I applied for a temporary position which would have fit my skills and timeline exactly. For God’s reasons, I was not chosen for the position, and as I was working through the disappointment, I had two friends call to tell me the Lord had put me on their heart to be praying for me that very day.  One of them specifically had called to ask if we were fully funded yet, because the Lord had placed it on her heart to be praying for me, and as she did, she had heard the Lord telling her a particular figure to send toward our adoption. It was a tremendous balm from God that He had impressed it upon friends to be ministering to me, and further that He knew that not only was I battling disappointment, but also that I was wondering where the money was going to come from. It was a humbling lesson to me that as much as I like to be capable, in control, independent, and resourceful in my own right, He is doing something bigger in this adoption by requiring us to be dependent on Him and to do this according to His plan.


As important as anything else in this adoption, what we are seeing  – and knowing Jesus, this is no surprise – is that His plan seems to be very much about building relationships. The piece of paper we sent in to assure the CCCWA of our plan to nurture Rui Shan read, in part, “Our family and friends are all aware of our adoption plan and are happy and supportive of it. She will be loved by all of our extended family and friends.” What we have seen, as we have begun to share this need, is that we are getting to know and understand that each one of us has gifts to offer. Because of this adoption and the kids’ fundraiser, Operation: Adoption, we have met a number of beautiful,new friends in our neighborhood and surrounding neighborhoods. Through the garage sale, we met countless (literally – this will be a separate post!) people who wanted to be part of this journey. As we have interacted with people throughout our city and beyond all summer long, we have been excited to share what God is doing, and have been amazed and delighted by so very many people sharing with us their own, or their family’s or their friend’s story of an adoption journey.

James 1:27 teaches us that we are to care for widows and orphans in times of need, and we are seeing how very active our community is in living this out. We have been blessed beyond our wildest imagination both by having financial resources available as we need to send in a payment because of the faithfulness of loved ones and new friends, and equally by knowing that people who love and shower this kind of care on a child whom they haven’t yet met are standing ready to love a child who will be coming home to join our community. Because of these amazing interactions, we had not even one doubt when we signed the care and nurture plan that our little daughter will be loved by a welcoming and supportive community: we are already seeing it, and it is crazy amazing! Thank you!

adoption, Uncategorized

We started this series of posts about the Five Ws and an H to try to answer some questions about this adoption. If you missed any of the earlier posts, you can check out who this story is about, what we are doing, when this is going to be happening, where this story is set, and why we are adopting.

Today we will answer – in part – how this adoption is going to happen. Honestly, there is a long answer and a short answer; this question is the exact question we asked ourselves and God when we heard the call to adopt Rui Shan.

I won’t speak for anyone else in our home, but my conversation with the Lord went something like this – though this list is far from exhaustive:

  • But God, how will I get on a plane and fly to China for two weeks?
  • And how will I find gluten free food in a country where I don’t speak the language?
  • How will I explain to our youngest child that I’m going to be gone for two weeks?
  • How will we ever survive jet lag when we return home to rested, enthusiastic children?
  • How can we ever save enough money in this short window to cover the adoption expenses?
  • How can we adapt our family’s activities to accommodate another child with some intense medical needs?
  • How will we meet the needs of our older children?
  • How will we be able to do this amazing, delightful, terrifying thing?
  • How, God?

And I got a very direct and clear short answer: Trust Me.

I am thankful we have a long history of reasons to trust God, even when circumstances are impossibly hard, because there are parts of this season and the upcoming season that already look impossibly hard, and we are now only in the push-paper-and-wait trimester. But God made it clear that we are supposed to be walking forward and trusting in Him. And as He always does, He has already shown Himself faithful, meeting needs in His perfect timing, which is sometimes but not always immediately before we become aware of a need.

The long answer is really a series of stories about His goodness, and I will delight in sharing these soon!