A prayer for God's will to be done

This post is part of my lenten series: 40 prayers for Russia's orphans.  Won't you join us in lifting up some of the most vulnerable children in our world today?  

Day 13: Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven

Dear God,

"Your will be done" is a really hard thing to pray sometimes because we worry what if your will and our wills don't line up? When we're praying about finding families for orphans it seems hard to believe that your will would be different than ours, but at the same time we know that sometimes you will includes very hard things to understand.

From the scriptures we can be sure that your will includes love and peace the whole world through. It also includes the end of every bit of brokenness in this world, which includes the brokenness that causes children to be orphaned. In those things, we can be confidant. We pray your will be done in Russia when it comes to providing for orphans.

Tonight the hard part of the your will be done prayer comes in the face of all the families whose Russian adoptions were interrupted by the adoption ban. We pray so desperately that your will is for those families to find a way to bring their children home.  We won't stop praying this because we believe this desire is in line with your will.

But with a really small voice we also pray that really hard prayer that Jesus prayed before his death.  He prayed that you would take the metaphorical "cup" of his death and suffering away from him and then said that really hard thing: not my will but yours be done.

We pray that you are willing to put Russia's orphans into families soon. We're asking for weeks or a few months- not years, not decades. But sometimes you mysteriously allow evil to run course for much longer than we would like. We don't know why but we trust in your love and your wisdom.

Give us the strength and grace to obey your will for our individual lives as we wait to see how your will unfolds for the future of Russia's orphans.



A prayer for the kingdom

This post is part of my lenten series: 40 prayers for Russia's orphans.  Won't you join us in lifting up some of the most vulnerable children in our world today?  

Day 13: Your kingdom come

God of all nations,

It seems so fitting to pray your kingdom come in the face of a prayer about international adoption. You are God over all. Your power extends far beyond the little graces you give us each day.  It reaches back into all history and stretches eternally into the future. That's the kind of power we want to summon today.  That's the kind of power we want to see you use in Russia and in the US today.

Bend the knees of every politician in these two countries to serve you. Break the stubborn wills that have cast Russia's orphans into their hopeless situations. Move the pens of law makers to write new legislation that will bring these children home. Use you your power, Lord! Use it to make your kingdom come. We know you want these children to be loved in families. Won't you use your power to make it happen?

We also pray that you'd made your kingdom come with more domestic adoptions in Russia. Re-opening US/Russia adoptions is only one piece of the your-kingdom-come puzzle. As we have prayed before, we pray again that you will change societal norms and break down barriers so more Russian orphans can grow up with families in their motherland.

And we pray that you will work to end the causes of orphanhood. Poverty, illness, lonliness, addiction, death- put these evils to rest and make able mothers out of the pregnant women in Russia today who might otherwise feel they have no choice but to place their babies in baby homes. Give them what they stand in need of, today.

Your kingdom come. We pray these things with that hope in our heart and prayer on our lips.



Pew parenting

Have you ever heard of this book called Parenting in the Pew by Robbie Castleman? I've just about finished reading it and let me just give you a hearty recommendation for this book, if you're a church-goer. It is excellent.

The book is about teaching children how to worship. As most of my readers know, I somewhat recently (2 years ago) graduated from seminary with a degree in educational ministries. My personal interest was- and is- for children's ministry, but actually might be more appropriately categorized parent-and-toddler-ministry. I'm very interested in faith formation from birth to age 5, which mostly happens in context of the parent-child relationship.

Over the two years I spent working on that degree, one idea in particular kept being taught and reinforced and-well- pounded- into me: the idea that children are members of our covenant communities today. They aren't "members in training" or potential worshipers; they fully belong right now because- from infants to teenagers- God wants the worship of our children. 

After spending those years exploring this idea, I could not wait to have a child of my own. Mostly because of the joy in showing Jesus to a child, but also because having a child gives you more authority to share on the subject. Understandably so. I remember once in a conversation with a number of women from my church, I mentioned the idea of keeping children in the pew (or chair aisle in our case) for the entire worship service and hearing crickets followed by comments like well that's an interesting idea. Like a scrolling marquee, I could read the look in their eyes as just wait until she has children. 

As you know, I did wait. And now the time has come to put my classroom learnings into practice to see how they actually function in real life. This is why I've been devouring that Parenting in the Pew book: because I'm convinced that God wants Arie's worship and it's my job to teach Arie how to worship.

Castleman's recommendation is that children stay in the worship service for the entire thing- sermon and all- from birth to about age one and then again from about age two-and-a-half or three, onward. Since Arie's already past the 2.5 mark, we've started parenting in the... chair aisle... already. The first couple Sundays weren't too hard because Arie was so overwhelmed by the experience he kept fairly quiet. Now, however, he's acting more like a typical two-year-old in a worship service and getting a little squirrely. Plus I have the added- somewhat humorous- challenge of getting him not to yell out, "PAPA!" every time John goes forward to speak!

A few of the goals I've set for our family as we begin this amazing journey of teaching our son how to worship are:

Participate in the singing: I want to encourage Arie to make a joyful noise when we sing! He can't read the lyrics and in our church we don't sing the same songs often enough for him to learn them by heart, but he loves to sing even when he doesn't know the words! I love this about him and want him to know that his "singing" is lovely to the Lord's ears.
Differentiate between"being quiet" vs. worshiping: While these are not mutually exclusive, they are not the same thing. A child can be quiet without learning how to worship. I anticipate teaching him this will be my personal biggest challenge!
Create a sermon activity: I want to create a type of children's program/coloring page for him to use during the sermon. I don't expect him to listen to the whole sermon at his age, but I want to give him something sermon-related to do during that time. Right now he usually plays with a lift-the-flap book or little cars, which works, but I think we can (eventually) do better.
Learn the liturgy: I want to get Arie to the point where he knows the liturgical elements (the worship elements that happen every Sunday) of our service. We do not use high liturgy in our church, but we have some recurring elements like the pastor's greeting, mutual greeting, Lord's prayer recitation, and the blessing/benediction.
Develop a love for church: Perhaps above all, I want Arie to know in his head and his heart that we are so blessed to be able to worship God. I want church to be a good place for him; a place where he comes to know himself most fully in the light of God's glory and grace.

At our church we also have a children's program which most young children participate in during the second half of the worship service. Since we have two identical morning worship services at our church, logistically we have the potential to attend one service and send Arie to this program for the second service. While I like the idea of having him learn about God from loving members in our congregation, I'm not sure if we would be able to make it through that long of a morning at church. I've done it before myself and am exhausted for the remainder of the day. I had a college professor who, when addressing the topic of honoring the sabbath, would always say we should never rest to the exclusion of worship nor should we worship to the exclusion of rest. So, I'm still trying to figure out if a four hour morning at church would be worshiping to the exclusion of rest.

(Duck prints on a frozen lake.)
Lastly I just want to share three things I've learned both in the last few weeks and few years that challenged the way I view children in church. First, I've learned that a little noise in the sanctuary doesn't ruin God's experience of our worship. It might be annoying for me- or humiliating for me if it's my child who had a sudden outburst- but it doesn't ruin God's experience. He wants the worship of young children (let the little children come to me, anyone?) and it's okay if my worship experience suffers a little as a result.  If I have to leave the sanctuary for a moment with my child, it's okay. It's all part of the learning process and it's not about me, right?

Second, I've learned that I have to be concerned about bringing my family before God in worship, not before others. Like most people, I don't like to cause a disturbance in a quiet room or deal with nasty looks being shot in my direction. However, I can't forgo the privilege and responsibility I have to teach Arie how to worship just because someone else might not be happy with having a young child in the room. God gives parents the job of impressing his law onto the hearts of our children and I'm the one who will have to answer for the job I did, not that other family across the row.

Third, the fact that I get to teach my son how to worship is a great privilege and a great joy. Just like parenting, it will be awful at times. I'm sure he will infuriate me at least a handful of times in the worship service before he even turns five, but that's just sort of how parenting goes, isn't it? You love a lot, you laugh a lot, you get proud, you get frustrated, you feel like you failed, you try again, you feel better, and then one day you child is a grown up and you pray that God's grace overrode your failures. Pew parenting and everyday parenting are going to have a lot in common.

I only know one other family who are attempting anything like this in their parenting journey, so I've decided to return to this subject on my blog from time to time to share successes and failures. My guess is that most families do church the "traditional" kids-out way just because that's how it's always done and they- like me- never really considered doing it another way. This will be my small attempt to get the word out there about this counter-cultural move. If you're doing any sort of pew-parenting in your family I'd love to hear more about it! Please leave me a comment of encouragement (or warning I suppose!).


Praying to a holy name

This post is part of my lenten series: 40 prayers for Russia's orphans.  Won't you join us in lifting up some of the most vulnerable children in our world today? 

Day 12: Hallowed be thy name. 

To our God whose name is holy above all understanding,

When you walked on earth in human form we asked who is this that even the wind and waves obey him? We did not know then but we know now: you are God of all. Wind and waves. Earth and sky. Mother and child. God of the highest king and the lowliest orphan. All things will someday bow at the sound of your holy, hollowed name. We long for that day.

Today as Russian orphans sit alone, we invoke your holy name. We ask that by your holy name you will undo the adoption ban. We ask that by your holy name you will set each Russian orphan in a family. We ask that by your holy name, the awful state of orphanhood in Russia would be made a thing of the past. Put into history the loneliness and rejection of each Russian orphan, we pray. Put it into history and make the future so much brighter. Fill these children's futures with a hope and a future as you have done for us.

We don't ask these things because we think we are worthy or deserving. We ask them by your name, that by the answer to our prayers, your great name may resound in all the earth.

Hallowed. Holy. Awesome. is your name.

By that name alone we pray,



A prayer to the Father

This post is part of my lenten series: 40 prayers for Russia's orphans.  Won't you join us in lifting up some of the most vulnerable children in our world today? 

Day 11

First, let me apologize for missing day 10 on Saturday. No excuses; just didn't get to my computer that day.

Today and for the next 9 days I've decided to model our prayers after the way that Jesus taught us to pray. Each prayer will be inspired by a line from the Lord's Prayer.

We bought this icon for Arie in honor of his baptism and his spiritual heritage.
"Mystical Supper" by Kontoglou
Our Father who art in heaven,

What a privilege it is to call you Father. As we pray for Russian orphans we do not forget the truth that we are all adopted. By your great love, we have moved from spiritual alienation and isolation into the rich warmth of your fatherly love. Not only do we know love by your fatherly hand, but we also know peace, order, and direction. As a parent leads a child, providing routine and order to life, so you give us purpose. Where we once were lost, we are now found. Where we once had no direction, we have now found a way.

Integral to the way in which you want us to live, is love. For you, for ourselves, and for one another. You have specifically called us to care for the orphan. You want our job as your followers to be orphan care. To be people who rise up and protect your precious little ones from loneliness, despair, and ruin.

We want to copy you, Father. As you have been a father to us, we want to become fathers and mothers to the orphans in Russia. We want to provide for their needs. We want to give them homes. We want to show them love, as you have shown it to us.  To be used by you to take a child out of a lonely and bleak situation and give them a hope and a future... that the greatest joy we could imagine.

We want to copy you. Today we pray that you will remove every barrier that prevents us from funneling your love to Russian orphans. Break down the barriers, Lord. Let us help.  Show us how. Allow us, please, to bring them home.



A prayerful plea

I'm not one to swear or even say something like, "holy cow." I take after my mom and say things lamely like, "hokey pete" and "oh wow!" a lot instead. But this evening when I watched this CNN video on the US/Russia adoption ban, I whispered over and over with red eyes oh my God.

I don't mean it like oh my God I can't believe it but more like a prayer when I'm just at a loss for words. It is easy for us, even easy for me, to look at these Russian orphans and think they don't have it too bad because they have food and shelter and an education when a many orphans in other countries do not. But we can't forget that they also have hearts and souls. They are not oblivious to their alone-ness in the world. They want to be adopted and right now the awful reality is that the vast majority won't be. Any older child or child with special needs really doesn't have much of a hope. It just breaks my heart to look into their eyes though this computer screen and know how many American families want them, but can't get to them. Today I'm praying, as I will time and time again, for the ban to be over.


Oh my powerful, loving, all-knowing God,

 Hear the heart cries of these orphans. They are called "forgotten" but you do not forget. You know their plight. You know their pain. You know their needs.

It's a matter of love but also just a matter of math: there are not enough Russians to adopt these children. Until the day comes when there are enough families in Russia to adopt these children please do not allow international adoptions to be stopped. Please make a way for American families to bring home these precious children.

God I do not hate the country but I do hate what they are doing to the children. Thank you for all the Russians who have taken a stand against the adoption ban. Make their cries ring loudly in the ears of politicians. Undo the adoption ban and bring these children home. They need families.

We praise you for hearing our plea and we ask that you would answer these children and give them the families they do desperately desire. You are God over our lives, their lives, our country, their country, our politics, their politics, and every happening on the face of the earth. Undo the ban, we pray.



A prayer for the oldest orphans

This post is part of my lenten series: 40 prayers for Russia's orphans.  Won't you join us in lifting up some of the most vulnerable children in our world today? 


Day 8

As we drove around Moscow going to various appointments or to visit Arie, John and I had a lot of time to talk with our facilitator and translator. She was such a wonderful woman, full of kindness and entirely capable. We asked her opinion on many things. Once, John asked her what happens to older orphans. We knew the statistics were grim (majority either turn to crime, prostitution, or suicide), but we wanted to know step-by-step what actually happened to them.

In Moscow at least, the children leave the orphanage "homes" when they are 17 or 18 years old and the government provides an apartment (to own, not just rent) and tuition for a college education. Mostly, she said, these young adults are encouraged to learn a trade.

When we heard this, our initial reaction was something like that's actually not too bad, but then our facilitator went on: the young men and women who have spent their whole lives in an orphanage are often unable to cope with the world once they leave. They've had meals prepared, clothes and school supplies bought, they've lived in community their entire lives, and they just don't have the skills to live alone. They become terribly lonely. The worst, she said, are holidays. When every other college student returns to Mom and Dad for New Years or summer holidays, these orphaned students have no one. Just think for a minute when you were in college or just starting out in the world. Think about how many times you called home, emailed, or visited your parents to ask for advice or just for a hot meal and come company. These young adults have no one.

Many of the young children in baby homes right now are the offspring of young men and women who grew up as orphans themselves. Having grown up without an example to follow, they simply do not know how to parent.

There are organizations that exist to help these young people not just survive but thrive. They provide mentorship, classes for life skills, and invaluable direction for those who don't know where to turn. We should remember to pray for them, especially now.


God who guides our every step,

Today we pray for the young men and women who have just left or are about to leave their orphanage homes. They are in deep need of your love and guidance. We pray you will provide for them in very practical ways.

Give them a safe place to live, food to eat, an education, and a way to be fulfilled in their work. We thank you that the government provides many of these things in Russia.

However, we know that it is not enough. We also pray that you will bring older and wiser people into their lives to provide wisdom and direction. We pray you will give them a community in which they experience real love. Give them a place to go for the holidays, someone to call for advice, and a loving hand to hold as they figure out how to make their way in the world.

Provide them with spiritual direction through your church. Bring them missionaries, clergy members, and believers to share your gospel truth. May they find unwavering peace and lifelong direction in your precious word.

As adoptions in Russia close, we pray that you will bless the people and organizations who help these older orphans with all that they need. Make them a blessing in their country.

We thank you for every good and perfect gift; we know they all come for you.

Be with these oldest orphans today, we pray in Jesus' name.



A prayer for the youngest orphans

This post is part of my lenten series: 40 prayers for Russia's orphans.  Won't you join us in lifting up some of the most vulnerable children in our world today? 


Day 7

 When John and I had our court date in Moscow, our session was delayed by about half an hour. During that time, we sat in a waiting area and talked to the court translator who obviously knew we were nervous and helped calm us down by making conversation.

Part of that conversation was about the state of adoptions in Russia. What she told us was very interesting and helped explain why no one had already scooped up our little man. I mean, you've seen him right? Who could resist??

What she told us was that in Russia adoption is not as "normal" as it is in the US. She said typically (not always, but typically) if a couple is infertile and decide to adopt, they will adopt an infant and go to extreme lengths to hide the adoption. The mother will fake a pregnancy and go to monthly obstetrician appointments. When they baby is due, the adoptive mother will go to the hospital and her doctor will keep here there for a day or two to fake labor and delivery. Then the family will go home with their new child, never letting anyone know the truth.

Sometimes an older infant will be adopted and it is not unheard of for a family to move to a new city and cut ties with old friends and relations, in order to pretend that the child is a birth child and not an adopted child.

Obviously the culture in Russia is very different than ours and although I don't agree with the way they do things, I will not pass judgement.  I can only imagine how hard it is on both birth and adoptive parents to live like that. And actually, I bet the culture was very similar in the US not that many years ago. We are so blessed to live in a country and in an age when adoption is not only accepted, but celebrated.

Today our prayer is for those youngest orphans.

Praying that a new day will dawn in the world of domestic Russian adoption.
Heavenly father,

For those of us who have grown up in a culture of tolerance, it is hard to imagine a place where the gift of adoption is looked upon so poorly. Today we pray for the youngest orphans in Russia.

First of all, we thank you for those orphans who have been adopted into loving families and escaped the hard life of living alone in the world. At the same time, we pray that their families would be moved to be honest with these children about their pasts. Even when adopted from infancy, we know these children suffer a loss and they deserve to know their own stories.

We pray for adoptive parents in Russia. They are the ones who will change the culture and the face of adoption in their country. Give them courage and grace. Bless them as they enter their journeys and give them wisdom to walk them according to your will.

We pray that as US and other international adoptions are banned from Russia, that Russians themselves would learn to celebrate the gift of adoption. That more children would find families in their own countries and grow up with the gifts of knowing and appreciating the best their culture has to offer.

Where secrecy and pain exists, break down the walls. Break down the barriers that prevent adoption of babies in Russia. May the acceptance of infant adoption be the first step for that country to grow to love adoption of children all ages and all abilities.

We pray these things knowing that you hear us and that you are able to do what we ask.



A prayer for wisdom

This post is part of my lenten series: 40 prayers for Russia's orphans.  Won't you join us in lifting up some of the most vulnerable children in our world today? 

Read this CNN article for background on today's prayer. 

Day 6


Sometimes it is s easy to deceive ourselves into thinking we're doing okay on this earth. That we're not so bad. That "sin" is an old fashioned idea we need not concern ourselves with.

And then something happens like this: a three year old boy dies, likely at the hands on his adoptive mother. What is already a heart-wrenching tragedy becomes even worse when we discover that he was adopted from Russia. And now the US/Russia relationship that was already strained has fractured once again.

We understand their anger, the Russians, when they hear that one of their beautiful children has been killed. And we just want to cry because we know how many good adoptive parents might never get to call a Russian child their own because of this woman's terrible mistake. It's a mess Lord. It's so awful. It's so confusing.

You are the only one who can help us sort through the anger and figure out how to stop this from happening again.  Please don't give this act of evil the power to prevent all future US/Russia adoptions. Give wisdom to us all, US and Russia alike as we move forward from here.

And how I pray that you have welcomed that precious boy into your Kingdom.

We pray helplessly, but by your power.



Baptism renewal

December 16, 2010. Our little man was halfway through his first year, just six months old, and he was baptized. A gift from God, given to him through the priests of the Russian Orthodox Church. The ROC will forever have a seat of love in my heart because they stepped in to welcome my son into the covenant community when we could not. They acted as an image of our heavenly Father, passing down a spiritual heritage to a little boy whose history will likely forever be a mystery to him. It is a good gift, a very good gift.
Arie's baptism certificate.
John and I belong to a church in the Reformed tradition, which is a protestant church. A number of our friends asked if we would baptize Arie again once he came home, since he was first of all not baptized as our son and second of all not baptized in our tradition. I think most people would understand our wanting to re-baptize him, if not expect it.

But we chose not to re-baptize him. We made the decision not because baptism doesn't mean that much to us, but because of how much it means, how deep its meaning goes, and because of what we believe baptism means.

A long time ago- a very long time ago- God called a man to follow him. Abram. Or Abraham as he would become widely known. We might call him the first disciple. From this one man's offspring, God grew the nation of Israel who were a special chosen people. Chosen to be his treasured possession and a kingdom of priests. That is, a kingdom of people who would demonstrate to the world the love and glory and power of God. In response to this special calling, the Israelites were to live in obedience to the law God set before them. If you've read the Old Testament you'll know it was a hard law. An impossible law.

But even in the face of the hard law, the Israelites were blessed because God chose them and revealed himself most fully to them out of all the nations on earth. To know the God of the Universe: is not the most abundant blessing a person could receive? A nation could receive? On those who belonged to this blessed, chosen community, God put a physical mark. Not a skin tone or an eye color or a language or an accent, but the physical mark of circumcision. Any male* who belonged to the covenant community by birth or by adult decision, was circumcised. (*Israel was a patriarchal society, hence only males received the mark though woman certainly belonged as well.)

Again if you've ever read the Old Testament you'll know that even though these people were chosen and marked by circumcision and even though they were blessed to know the most about God and how he wanted them to live, they could not live up to the hard demands of the law. They failed miserably when they tried and even more miserably when they didn't. It was because of sin and the helpless fallen condition we all find ourselves in.

Enter Jesus.

Enter God, made fully human. Enter the first human in all of history who perfectly fulfilled that impossible law. Enter the only person ever who did not deserve the punishment of sin: death. Enter the greatest act of divine love: that Jesus chose death on our behalf, that we might be saved eternally.

When Jesus came to live, die, and rise again for us he ushered in a new covenant. Where the old covenant was Israel's obedience to the law in exchange for God's love and favor, the new covenant is no longer subject to the law because Jesus already fulfilled it for us. Just before his death when Jesus ate the Last Supper with his disciples, he so beautifully and poignantly lifted a cup before his friends and said:

This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.

The new covenant means that we belong to God through Christ. It means we follow the law out of love and not legalism. It means the Spirit of God dwells in every believer and not just in the tented Tabernacle or the veiled temple as in the Old Testament. It means so many things, but most importantly for this post it means that blessed covenant community has extended from Israel alone, to all those who declare with their mouths, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in their hearts that God raised him from the dead.

That's me. I'm not a Israelite. And I can't live up to the law. But I belong to the blessed covenant community because I confess and believe that Jesus is Lord and he has granted me salvation.

And it could be Arie too.
All dressed up and ready for the baptism renewal!
Just as the covenant shifted with Jesus, so did the mark of the covenant. Where the Israelite men and their sons were once circumcised, now all members of the covenant community, all disciples- male or female, Israelite or not- are baptized.

Infant circumcision was not a mark of individual salvation and neither is infant baptism a sign that the child is saved or will grow up to become a believer, though we certainly have every reason to hope. Instead what baptism does, as circumcision did, is welcomes the child into the covenant community where he will receive the benefits of that community: namely that he will hear the gospel preached and grow up surrounded by people who will teach him to love, and serve the Lord. When Arie is older and able to understand what God has done for him, he will have the chance to respond to his baptism by making a public profession of faith.
It is an Orthodox tradition for a child to receive a cross at their baptism. This is something we hope Arie will wear throughout his lifetime.
We had the opportunity to witness an Orthodox baptism when our friends Dylan and Kelly had their son Brendan baptized last year.  It was an incredible experience: rich in liturgy, full of tradition, and thick with meaning.  The elaborate 90 minute service looked very different than the simple three minute one we use, but underneath all those obvious differences lies this gospel truth:

 There is  
one body and
one Spirit, just as you were called to 
one hope when you were called;  
one Lord
one faith, 
one baptism;  
one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all

One baptism. And when God speaks, he speaks once and for all. That's why we remembered and celebrated Arie's baptism, but we did not re-baptize him. The Russian Orthodox Church might be part of a different Christian tradition than ours, but the sign and seal placed they placed our son was a sign and seal of the one baptism to which we all cling. When God spoke over Arie that December day, he spoke once and for all. This is a gift for which John and I are eternally grateful: that before we knew our son's name, God marked him to be a member of his covenant community, offering him all the benefits and blessings that come with it. 
The bowl we used to represent the baptismal font was a gift we received at our wedding.
On Sunday John and I made our parental promises before God and our community. We promised to teach Arie the gospel story, by word and by deed. We promised to teach him how to pray. And because none of us can do it alone, we promised to nurture him and his faith within a body of believers. In turn, our body of believers promised to pray for our son, to encourage him, and to nurture his faith. Bold promises made with the confidence we have in Christ. 
Before the ceremony.
It was simple, beautiful ceremony. The three of us up front with a bowl of water, rejoicing in what God has done and trusting in his provision as we made promises for the future.  
Touching the water to remember his and our own baptisms.
(Arie very loudly enjoyed this part.)
Making our parental promises and receiving the gift of the congregational promises.
 Now may our lives will serve as a testimony and an amen to that ceremony. 
Greeting Dylan and Kelly after the ceremony. These wonderful friends will serve as Arie's honorary Orthodox godparents, teaching him (and us) about his spiritual heritage.
After the worship service we had a very full day of love. Cupcakes and coffee with our friends and family, enjoyed amidst the boundless energy and everlasting giggles of a half dozen toddlers (and parents) racing about. 

By the time I thought to ask someone to take a picture of me with Arie, he was exhausted. This is the best one we got. Ha!
Our cake and coffee reception was followed by a meal and afternoon of fellowship with our out-of-town guests. My parents came from Ontario for the ceremony and they brought 9 of their closest friends with them. 
Chewing pictures: ever so satisfying to the chef. :-)
 These nine were some of the many believers who helped my parents fulfill their own baptismal vows as they were raising me.  The earliest friendships in the group began 22 years ago. These people watched me grow up and now are watching me raise my own son.  One of my favourite hours from the weekend was the one in which I was surprised by a pile of gifts from these wonderful families. In them were many treasures, the best of which were all the books we received for Arie! Chosen with such love and consideration; the favorites from women whose children are all grown. The very best books with the most beautiful illustrations and cherished stories. I spent hours today reading these treasures with my son. 

My dad only has one sentimental bone in his body which has so far been reserved for his children's weddings and the endearing terms he uses for me and my sister "popje"- "dolly" in Dutch. So when I was opening these wonderful gifts and clutching my chest in deep appreciation he was doing this in the background: 

I will cherish this hilarious photo forever. Also, posting this will teach him to ruin my emotional moment.  (Love you Dad!)

There was a lot of laughter this weekend and a lot of depth of experience. I so enjoyed sharing just a moment of my adult life with all these people who raised me and who literally helped us bring our son home. When my dad wasn't looking, there were also a few teary eyes watching our son run around with joy in his home, surrounded by love that will never let go. 

We are blessed to be loved by these people. Blessed to have them drive six hours to share in our joy. 
My mama!

I can only pray that as John and I raise our son, we can love on our own friends and their children like these people loved on me. A picture of divine fellowship. A covenant community. The love of Christ poured out for us and spread around. 



Today's prayer for my lenten series reflects the gratitude I have for the Russian Orthodox Church and the gift of baptism they gave my son. 

God of all believers, 

In a world where your church has become so splintered by differences, help us to remember our unity. Help us to remember that you are God over all. East and West. You are worshiped in great Cathedrals and you are worshiped in simple sanctuaries. 

On this day we thank you for the priests, clergy, and believers in Russia who so diligently care for orphans. Thank you for the baptism so many receive. We pray that you will bless the children with the gifts of belonging to a covenant community. Enable them to hear the gospel and to see what love looks like, in your name. May they hear the name of Jesus Christ so often and so early in their lives that they can never remember a time when they did not know you. 

You have commanded your children to care for orphans in their distress. Today Russian orphans are in distress. Give wisdom and compassion and grace to Russian Christians of every type as they respond to that call. 

We pray these things in Jesus' name, 


Prayer for waiting families and their children

This post is part of my lenten series: 40 prayers for Russia's orphans.  Won't you join us in lifting up some of the most vulnerable children in our world today? 


Day 4
On the very first day we met each other.
It is impossible for me to imagine not bringing him home after this.
God of the universe,

We take great comfort knowing that you hold all things in your hands. We also struggle to understand and accept your ways in the face of evil.  Today we stare into the face of a tragedy; we grieve in the face of two countries that have allowed politics to come before the lives of children. We have asked you to heal this relationship and today we ask you to heal the hearts of the hurting.

We pray for the children who have met their families and been held by them. They have felt a parent's love. They have been embraced and kissed.  They are deeply wanted. And yet they are stuck. Their little minds cannot comprehend the ways of the world so we ask that you would protect their hearts. Lord please do not allow them to internalize this experience as rejection. In a supernatural way, we pray that you would allow them to feel the truth in their hearts: that they are loved, desired, wanted, cherished, and valuable. They have inherent worth given by you and nothing can take that away.

We also pray for the families who are stuck in the adoption process. The future looks so bleak. Some families have not even met their children yet but they have already become Mama and Papa in their hearts. Give them strength.  Give them peace. Show them how to move forward in the wake of this devastating blow.

We cling to your eternal promises when life on earth becomes so hard. Today and always we pray: come quickly Lord Jesus.



A prayer for new orphans

This post is part of my lenten series: 40 prayers for Russia's orphans.  Won't you join us in lifting up some of the most vulnerable children in our world today? 

Arie as an infant.
Day 3


Today we come before you to pray for new orphans. On this day, in this week, and in this month hundreds of children have been and will be cast into the confusing sea of living without parents. Some are taking their firsts breaths as we pray. Other are old enough to comprehend their loss. In the face of such heartbreak is seems the best prayer to offer is simply:

Come quickly, Lord Jesus.

And if you tarry, then we ask of you to act in rhythm with the title given you in the Psalms: a Father to the fatherless. Look upon these children and give them what they stand in need of. Food, clothing, and shelter. Love. Encouragement. Strength. Education. Friendship. Nurture. Lord, our human needs are many but you have all things in your hands. Distribute all things where they are needed and make us willing participants in your plan.

We also pray for the birth parents of these children. You know the brokenness that surrounds them. You know the poverty, the sickness, and the inability they face. Fill their needs and answer their pleas.

We are so grateful that you have allowed us to bring our prayers before you.  Hear our many requests, O LORD and answer them according to your unfailing kindness. Use us as you please as you work to provide hope for Russia's orphans.

We ask these things in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.



For those who aren't connected with me via my facebook page, here's a little video I made in honor of Valentine's Day yesterday.  This song was on my heart last year as I waited for my little man and this year I was so blessed to listen to it as Arie ran around the house with chocolate all over his face. :-)


Prayer for Love (Lent: Day 2)

This post is part of my lenten series: 40 prayers for Russia's orphans.  Won't you join us in lifting up some of the most vulnerable children in our world today? 

Arie with the people who loved him before we could.
One of his nannies, the baby home social worker, and the director.
Day 2

God of great love,

Today we celebrate all the affection, adoration, and romance you have put into our lives. As we revel in the love we enjoy, we pray that you would bring great love into the lives of every waiting child in Russia.

Give them family love. While they wait to find their families, we ask that you would provide them with kind and nurturing caregivers. Bring each child an adult hand to hold, arms to embrace, and lips to kiss. On this day in particular, put a word of praise on the lips of the caregivers, that it might bless the ears of the child. Bring them family love.

Give them fellowship. As they grow, show these children what it means to be a friend. Show them how to love one another, as you have loved us.

Prepare them for romance. Though they are without parental example, prepare their hearts to give and receive real love. We think especially of those in the teen years. Protect their hearts and bodies and give them wisdom as they navigate the world of romance.

Mostly, give them your divine love. Bring members of clergy, missionaries, and Christians into their lives to share your unfailing love. We ask that your face would shine upon these children and that they would know with the kind of peace that passes understanding, that you are God and that you hold their futures in your hands. Bless them with the warmth of your loving kindness in a real, tangible way today.

Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. Make us ever mindful of your love for us, for them, forever. 



40 days to cry out

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of lent. Lent is the period of 46 days between Ash Wednesday and Maundy Thursday, leading up to Easter. Lent is observed by Christians as a period of abstinence or special dedication to the Lord, in the footsteps of Jesus Christ who fasted from food for forty days. Sundays are exempt from the fasting, hence why people refer to this 46 day period as the "forty days of lent."

I spent today thinking about how I'm going to spend lent in 2013. In the past I've given up meat or television and other devices. I've also spend a number of lent seasons not giving up anything and just not seeing the point. This year instead of giving up something, I'm taking something on. Something small but something important.  And I'm going to invite you to join me.

This year for lent I will be offering up 40 prayers for Russian orphans. With US/Russian adoptions closed, my heart has been so heavy for all the children left in the wake of political turmoil. A friend recently posted an article on my personal facebook page which reminded me that even in this tragedy, God has not forgotten Russia's orphans. Indeed he has not. For as warm as the tears for those children burn in my eyes, God's love for them rages hotter. I am so angry that these children are being left behind, but I am reminded that God's holy anger is more powerful than mine. God cares for these children so I am going to pray that he will move for them in a myriad of ways.

Arie (fourth from the left) with his "siblings" at the baby home fall 2012.
Enjoying cake after a special event.
Will you join me? Will you come here for the forty days of lent and pray the prayer I post? Together we can storm the gates of heaven for these little ones.


Day one. 

God our Father,

As your children we come before you, grateful.  Grateful that you have given us the gift of prayer- a mysterious communication from the smallness of us to the greatness of you.  Hear us, we pray.

Today thousands of children wait in Russia, alone. Bring them to their families, we pray. Break down the barriers that keep them apart.

Where the barriers are governments, heal international relationships. Move in the hearts and minds of all those who make laws and write policies. Give them wisdom and make them compassionate.

Where the barriers are fear, send courage.

Where the barriers are stigma, bring understanding.

Where the barriers are health issues, bring healing to both heart and mind.

Where the barriers are money and resources, provide.

Where the barriers are sin, please convict, forgive, and sanctify.

On behalf of the children, we boldly cry out to you:

Awake, Lord! Why do you sleep?
Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever.  
Why do you hide your face and forget our misery and oppression?

With faith in you, Father 
and by your name, Jesus
and through the power of the Spirit we pray:




Just the thing

Usually it's a hot cup of tea after Arie and my daycare babies have been put down for their naps. Some lay sprawled out like starfish, bellies open to the air while others curl on their sides, little fists tucked under their chins. I tiptoe around to their respective rooms to watch their chests rise and fall or listen to the soft rush of air coming in and out of their noses. When I know they're safe and sleeping, I turn on the kettle and wait for the whistle. A hot cup of afternoon tea and a moment to sit and breathe.  Just the thing. 

This weekend our family of three got our just the thing to rest and enjoy the winter. 48 hours in Northern Michigan with white snow and blue skies. Two days in an adorable little cabin, no wifi, no work phone (for John), and no agenda. A weekend, just the three of us, to be nothing except a family.  It was just the thing.

This past summer John and I found, somewhat by accident, this lovely little rental place.  We knew we wanted to go North to see the famous Sleeping Bear Dunes in our home state, but we had a hard time finding accommodations we could really afford. John stumbled upon a terribly designed website for a group of little cottage rentals and I almost said no because really, the website was just that bad. But he asked me to just at least try it so we did and we walked into such a good thing.  A quaint little home away from home, perfectly decorated, cozy and clean, and hosted by the most hospitable couple. It's the kind of place where you have to jiggle the toilet handle so the water stops running and where you learn to be careful where you put your coffee cup because the kitchen table's a little crooked, but those are the kind of things that can either be flaws or character, depending on eye of the beholder, aren't they? We choose character.

 All weekend long on our trip last summer we talked about taking our little man up there when he came home. Getting him up there with us was a literal dream come true.

We spent our evenings with books and chocolate and wine...

....and our mornings with eggs and sausage. 

The food was wonderful but the weather was even better. Cold enough to make the snow crunch beneath our boots, but still warm without a wind.  The son shone brightly on our faces through thin clouds, tiny frozen droplets from God's very breath as he whispered goodness over his creation. Pine trees held fluffy pillows on each branch and every inch of both field and forest floor shimmered white. It was the absolute best of a Michigan winter.

If you know me, you know I don't really do anything particularly athletic.  In fact, if you throw your keys or an extra apple in my direction I will probably duck rather than catch it. I don't snowboard or ski or even skate. There's not a lot for me to do in winter. But I will do one thing.  I will always toboggan. Put me on a sled and send me hurdling down a hill and I will have a blast. Just be sure to get out of the way because there's not a chance in hell heck I'll be able to steer it.

In light of my love for this one particular winter activity, John and I wanted to take Arie sledding on our winter vacation and we were in just the spot. Get this: you can toboggan down the Sleeping Bear Dunes! For serious. In the summer this particular dune is selected as the "Dune Climb" where tourists (including us) try their best to climb all the way up to the top to catch a spectacular view of Lake Michigan.  It's a long hike. What you see in these pictures is only the first "hill"- about a third of the way up. In the winter, those who forgot how hard it is to hike the dune in summer strap on their snow pants and lug their sleds up to the first hill. And those of us who are us do it with a two-year-old in tow.

We only made it up and down six times before our bodies gave out from exhaustion but wow. It was worth it. We were three of eight people on dune and I in particular loved racing downward on our red plastic sled, snow spraying in my face, lungs drinking in the cold air.  At the bottom, after tumbling out into the snow (never had a graceful landing, another evidence to suggest I should stay off skis), I would breathlessly exclaim to Arie, "Isn't that FUN?!" Arie would look at me and with a look of inexplicable boredom shake his head no. 

 Aghast at his reaction, I'd lay him on his belly in the sled to pull him back up the dune, shouting to John something about how I don't know how anyone would think this wasn't fun, and Arie would start giggling and shouting MORE! with full bodied two-year-old glee. He couldn't care less about going down the mountain, but going up? That was the best part.

He should tell that to my jelly legs.

At the end of our runs down the dune, John and I took turns sitting in the snow with Arie while the other went up alone for a solo slide. Arie would shout to us, "YAY PAPA/MAMA YAY!" as we whizzed by, making the trip down that much more fun. When we finally buckled him back into the car, he shook his head a hundred times no, repeating the phrase, "More outside! More outside!"

I guess we'll have to go back.

In addition to our time at the dunes, we spent our hours cuddling and cozy-ing up in the cottage,


and stopping at this little shop for all things cherry.

Arie quite enjoyed all the taste testing at this cherry shop.

As we left the little cottage behind us and drove home again, it began to rain.  All the beauty of that shimmering snow faded away.  Chunks of snow slipped off pine tree boughs outside our windows. Slush from car tiers sprayed in every direction, dirtying our windshield and turnings the road's shoulders brownish grey. In my mind there's few things as disappointing in nature as a winter rain and all the cold, gritty mud it brings.

When we got home I wanted a hot cup of tea again, because whether it's a beautiful weekend in the middle of winter or a hot cup of tea on a rainy afternoon, there's a time for everything, isn't there? And importantly, there's a time to make the time for just the thing.

I'm so glad we did.


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