Saturday, March 31, 2012

This is JERICHO: (3) A Zebra, A Diplomat, & A Recorder

We practiced our MIGHTY SHOUT today!

I heard the car-doors closing as I sat upstairs on Facebook. I closed the monitor and peaked through the doorway of Caleb's room where I had a view of the driveway through the window.  They were here. Could this be the answer?

I broke a house rule and sprinted down the hallway, leaping the final 3 stairs. I swung the door open wide and I greeted them with a smile and a salutation before they could even get to the door. They were a beautiful, incredible family.

A father and his wife, their 3 children, an aunt, and grandma. I was instantly excited to see that this was a family who cared enough to come along, and respected enough to listen. As we became further introduced, I learned that grandma had flown in from Washington D.C. And to further my appreciation of her, I was stunned as they explained that she is an official U.S. Diplomat to a foreign nation. Everyone laughed as I exclaimed, "oh, wow... I have an ACTUAL DIPLOMAT in my house, that is so cool!"

As we chatted, we learned that our youngest daughters are the same age, and that we have both lived in Preble County. As he described his house, I was able to visualize exactly where it was since I have driven down the street countless times. Conversation turned to our family, and I answered questions about our move to Guatemala. I couldn't believe all the connections between our families, we realized that we have a mutual acquaintance at the Monroe Church of God, and that we even had a Guatemalan connection!

I have no doubt that this is yet another convergence in our lives. I cannot tell you that this family will rent our house, but I am sure that God intended for us to meet. An American family with a Russian daughter, & a Chinese daughter were standing together with a family from Gambia, discussing christian missions in Guatemala as they considered renting our house... an action that would provide them a home and expedite our transition to serve.

I really liked this family. I would be honored for them to move into my home. My prayers have again been shifted. I am learning that when I am willing to follow were God walks... my perspective changes constantly.

Tonight I made my third circle around our JERICHO... our home that we have to rent or sell. We are facing real challenge here. It is bigger than we can solve. We are forced to rely on God. He has brought us this far. He will be faithful to complete what He began. As I took the steps through the grass, I realized that my prayers had turned to this family. I was praying for their baby, their young daughter, their older daughter, for his job, for the work of the grandma. I was praying that they could find what they needed in this house that has brought us so much happiness. I was imagining handing him the keys.

I have no control over this situation. None at all. And I am desperate for the solution. However, I am enjoying every moment of it. I am glad to be in a spot of complete reliance on God. This is were I am to be.

I was home with the kids for a while today and we found ourselves playing in the front room. We have some baby-friendly toys spread out for Sterling, and she was all about the zebra-bouncy.

Caleb & Aleksandra were sitting on the couch watching as I began to make faces and voices, mimicking the children of Israel marching around the walls of Jericho. I was encouraging her to "SHOUT" and then I would fall to the ground and cheer! As you can see... this was a big LIKE for her.

Three nights have passed and I have made 3 walks around the walls of my house. Nothing tangible has changed. My mortgage remains the same, and the solution is not yet apparent to me. But something significant has already taken place... heart and my perspective has begun to shift. With each step I take that bends those dew-covered blades of grass around my house, I am taking a step closer in the direction of following my God. As I claim that ground, I know that He has already gone before me. I believe that He will continue to be the God of my provision, and He will continue to be the God of my convergence.

I look forward to my prayerful circumvention tomorrow night. 

And... I was just thinking, Caleb has a trumpet and Aleksandra has a recorder (she plays Hot Cross Buns NONSTOP). I may need them to sound a powerful blast before we shout!?! 

We have a few more days to work that out.

This is JERICHO: (2) His Ways are Higher Ways

His ways are higher than my ways...

The house was quiet and dark, everyone was tucked in and I was alone with the dog and the soothing hum of the atmosphere. I slipped my feet into the Crocks that I keep near the back sliding-glass door, and I disappeared from our house and into my secluded spot. I stood outside and I looked up to my Jericho.

Tonight was night two, and I had the circumference of my home to walk as I prayed, thanking God that he had given us this vision, and grasping whispers of faith that he had already worked the future to collapse what blocked our path.

I decided to pray out loud tonight... I needed focus. Doubt has a nasty way of seizing any moment to slip in. I was wondering what the neighbors were thinking. I could see several of their porch lights shining beams across my lawn. And so... I began thanking God for each member of my family, and for the lives of friends and acquaintances that crossed my path today. I opened the side gate and climbed the hill to the front lawn... headlamps illuminated my shadow as the car slowed to observe my walk.

Earlier this afternoon we were faced with some reality that our plan wasn't unfolding as we had hoped. It was frustrating at first and I had to stop and take a few deep breaths as I reflected on the story of Joshua walking six days around those walls with no results. I have to imagine that he expected to see some cracks form around the foundations as the days multiplied towards a week. And yet... nothing happened. He must have wondered if it was all just a hopeless disaster. Maybe he misunderstood God? Maybe God had no intention of dropping those walls?

No... I decided that wasn't the way to focus. I had to keep my steps focused towards that still small voice. I had to keep walking forward. God would make a way. My job is simply to follow.

My parents unexpectedly stopped by this evening. My mom reminded me that her neighbor mentioned that their may be a couple in need of renting a home. Geesh! She was right. I shot a message to the neighbor and received a response. Yes, in fact... the couple would be in Middletown tomorrow to view another home, and they want to also come and see ours. Seriously? Providential timing or coincidence? Make no mistake... this is provision, God providing answers when I have ran out.

And so, as I took those last few steps tonight and I felt the cool dew soaking through my socks in crocks (dork fashion), I smiled and looked up to the sky and watched the wind move the tops of the pines along our back fence. This may not be our final solution... but it is God speaking to me and reminding me that He is able.

Our appointment is for 3:00 tomorrow. We are praying and seeking to follow the voice of God. We know He will clear the path as He moves forward. We seek only to follow Him.

Please pray that we follow our God. He is the God of Provision.

I look forward to my circle of the walls tomorrow night.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

This is JERICHO: (1) Circle Your Walls


If I have no obstacles, I believe that I do not need God in order to walk the path. However, when my path is blocked... I believe it is up to me to overcome the problem. 

Tonight I realized that both perspectives are wrong for a very simple reason: they both fail to acknowledge the role of God in my walk.

I love the story of Joshua and his obedience to God when faced with the unconquerable city of Jericho (Book of Joshua, Chapter 6). Do you know the story? Joshua was leading an entire nation in exile and they were desperate to find the land that God had promised. Just when things were looking good and they had decided to follow God... their way was blocked by a mighty nation that could crush them.

And God promised Joshua that he had already delivered the city. And yet, the walls still stood. There was nothing visible that showed any evidence that the city would fall. But, God required obedience of Joshua. Joshua had to take mighty steps of faith.

God commanded that Joshua gather up all of his people, and they were to march around the walls of the city, carrying trumpets. They were to circle the city one time for six days. On the seventh day they were to march around the city seven times with the priests blowing trumpets all the way. After the seventh circumvention, the priests were to sound a loud blast on the trumpets, and then the entire nation was to shout. Then the walls would fall, and the city would be conquered.

They did it. The walls fell. Jericho was conquered. Just like God said.

And what was Joshua and Israel's role? Simply to be obedient. They only had to follow God.

He was human, after all. I'm sure he feared the risk of death from the soldiers of the city. He probably could list a hundred reasons of why he should not follow through. And yet... he had enough belief to keep walking around those walls.

When I am following God, my path will be cleared. Nothing is so big that He cannot move it.

Faith is never present without fear. And one of those two will alter your belief and influence your outcome. It is important to remember that God is for us.

And so, the photo at the top of this post is Jericho. This is the obstacle that is before us. God has told us that he has already conquered it. He asks us that we simply believe it, and we keep walking on faith. He has even given us the plan. My cousin & her husband are being transferred to Dayton and they want a house to rent. They came and visited our house, and agreed that this was an answer to both of our prayers. 

We are ready to make a deal and pass over the keys... but the family who wants to rent our home is also struggling to sell their own, and it appears that they may not be able to come. 

Suddenly our home has become a massive obstacle that threatens to stop all the progress that we have made in transitioning to full time missionary service in Guatemala. The market will not allow us to sell without a massive cash payment at the table, and our long shot rent solution has dissolved.

I think of Joshua as he stands at the horizon, looking at Jericho. The walls were too high. The soldiers were too many. It was simply impassable. And yet, God told Him, "I have already given you the city."

We need a God solution here. 

We stare up at our Jericho. We will begin to circle these walls. We continue to take steps of faith. Over the next week, we will follow the steps of Joshua, and we will pray circles around this city. We are waiting for that moment to sound the trumpets and shout.

Like Joshua was aware of the guards on top the walls, and the might of the city... we are aware of complications that face us: completing a refinance to lower the payments and the need for my cousin's home to sell in Kentucky.

I have made the first circle tonight. So far, the walls have not broken. They have not even cracked. Jericho looms as tall and strong as ever. And yet... we continue to circle the city.

These walls will fall. God has already delivered the solution. Please circle the walls of this house with us. We need an army of prayer warriors. Pray that the Silers sell their home and are able to rent ours. Each night I will be walking around the outside of my home. On the seventh, I will shout and claim it. My retired neighbors will be frightened (my apologies neighbors).  I yield to the timing of God, and each day we will continue to move forward. We must be out of this house by June.

Today is March 29, 2012. Watch us, and see God deliver.

Sterling Mei: (30) Top 10 Travel Tips!

China Travel ~ Top 10 List

Be discreet with your money.

Seriously? Don't be an ugly American.

Wear comfy shoes. For real. Are we clear?

You simply MUST read the signs. "Say what?"

Try ALL the food, even if it sounds weird. These were KILLER!

Oh yes, the cute Little Sheep was YUMMY!
Hot Pot rules!

Sometimes it is better to be the Hare.
(Turtle Soup = Good fortune... unless you're a turtle.)

Sometimes you gotta break the rules!
Skype is banned in China.
I found a way to make it work.

Take the time to stop & enjoy the moments.

And the NUMBER 1 tip:
When you find something you love...


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Wrapped Around Her Thumb

Now... that's my girl!
This picture hit my mobile phone today, sent by my wife. It came at a particularly key moment... today was the type of day that helps me realize that my paycheck is earned. I have been a loyal employee of the Kroger Company for a dozen years now. I can tell you without reservation that I love my job, and I enjoy working each day. Even so... there are days that are difficult. 

I manage people, and I manage through relationships. I care about them and I want them to succeed. Today was a difficult day for one of my shop managers, and I was walking that fine line of being compassionate for a person whom I supervise. Life sometimes has consequences, but our challenge is to allow ourselves to be made better by them, and not crushed.

In the heat of the moment... I received this photo, and my perspectives shifted from the tension of the moment... to align properly. On my phone was my daughter. She was with her momma and her thumb was securely tucked into her mouth. And to top it all off, Sterling was learning to become a loyal Kroger shopper. The differing aspects of my life had dropped into perfect alignment!

These days are amazing. My wife said it best on a Facebook post:
I always wanted a third child. I imagined it was a sort of wild card, to shake things up a bit and make life a little more exciting. Seems pretty accurate. So much fun my Miss Sterling!
The picture was a conversation stopper, and it immediately changed the tone of the room. Talk suddenly shifted to our families, our faith, and our involvement in living out belief. It was like a cooling mist had fallen, and everyone breathed deeply. I joked that her thumb may be in her mouth, but I am forever wrapped around her thumb.

In the end, we all want the same thing. We want to have our head rest easily at night, and we want to share meaningful experiences with those we love. You strip away all the noise, and we simply want to look truth in the eye and not be ashamed.

Life through the eyes of a child. Perspectives shared by a new-again mother. Simple reminders of who we want to be.

We are so thankful that you are on this journey with us. May we all find our focus fresh everyday.

Life isn't about advancement, it is about sacrificing to a cause greater than yourself. - Thank you Pastor Tom.

Romans 12:1-2 ~ The Message

So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering.

Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out.

Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. 

-I could hardly wait to get home and hold her. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

How To Let Go

1977 Pontiac Grand Prix
Made Especially for Leo T. Shepherd
This car was manufactured to the exact specifications of my parents. It had a small stainless steel plate that read, "Made Especially for Leo T. Shepherd" mounted on the headliner, above the windshield. Mom & Dad bought it when I was 3 years old and they still had it when I left for college. For me, this is the ultimate car. I have been in love with it all my life, and there will never be a car that rivals it. I adore Jaguars and am desperate for a 4 wheel drive, 5 passenger or larger SUV or truck for Guate... but if I had my personal choice for any car ever made it would be the car that I grew up loving.

I drove my first ever date to prom in it. I was all tuxed up, and she wore an incredible white and silver gown that not only made her look like a princess, but it perfectly matched the Grand Prix! The day was an unseasonably warm day that topped 90 degrees. Dad took the cover off of it, polished it up as beautiful as the day it sat in the showroom, and I fulfilled a childhood dream as those four shiny blackened tires crunched out of the gravel driveway in Preble County, Ohio to pick up my date. I soon discovered that the a/c was inoperable. It didn't matter... I was driving this car.

As I neared the big town of Trenton (relevant to Preble Co.) to sweep her off her feet... I realized the second complication of this necessarily perfect day, it was the cities' annual Garage Sale Day. And so... in the 90 degree heat, me with full jacket, scarf, vest, and tails; and her with a full length, lined ball gown... we drove with the windows down a full 10 m.p.h. through the 3 mile stretch to get out of garage sale hell. I looked over at her with her perfect hair (it was 1992) and makeup, and while sweat beaded down her face, she smiled at me. I knew this girl was special.

The torturous drive there was erased by the magical drive home. I had a trusty cassette of Harry Connick Jr., We Are In Love cued to play Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square, and as we pulled out of the Manchester Inn & Motor Lodge in Middletown Ohio, I pressed play on the cassette and then hit the button to open the roof. The air was cool and I drove softly through windy roads and hills as I took the long way home through the countryside. A kiss goodnight made the evening complete and I returned the Grand Prix safely home.

Three years later I married that girl.

This perfect night nearly didn't happen. A trip to Taco Bell nearly changed everything. Who knows how different life could have been, had I not so dearly loved that car (at least, according to my memories as a child). 

It was my job to hold the bag of tacos. Of course I dropped them and the whole bag fell into the floorboard and rolled up near the firewall. I'm sure my mom was fussing at me, but I don't remember. I was bent over double, reaching down trying to salvage tacos when the world exploded with violence, crushing and tearing noise, and bright light. Thankfully, I had my seatbelt on. My parents didn't need a law to take precautions to keep their kids safe.

We had collided into the edge of an old concrete bridge alongside the Sorg Paper Company. The right front fender was destroyed, the tire was shredded, and the hood was a folded up mangled mess. I had forgotten about the tacos... I stood there in silence. After determining that I wasn't hurt, mom tried to reassure me by saying, "its ok Chad, we can get another car." That was when I had my breakdown, sobbing, "I DON'T WANT ANOTHER CAR, I WANT THIS ONE!"

I was about 10 years old, I'm guessing it was around 1984... and I still don't know how we got the tow truck there and found our way to Mammaw's house... we had no cell phones, it was late, and we were in an abandoned part of town! Life was tougher then, but my mama was resourceful.

In my child-hood memory, I attribute the fact that we had that car repaired rather than junking it to my own persistence. I remember mom and dad haggling for hours with the body shop about the details. In my mind... I single-handedly saved the Grand Prix (I am thinking my parents might tell it differently).

After all that... I was sure that I would have that car forever. But that was not the case. I remember the call I took in my dorm room. My dad knew how much I loved the car. He explained that he had a buyer for it, and the guy was willing to pay top dollar. Dad said that it would be well taken care of, and asked me if I was ok with him selling it. Dad didn't mention it, but he and mom were helping me pay for school and I knew the budget must be tight. 

I have always trusted my dad, he has never led me wrong. I know that he would give up everything for me... and so, while I felt the pain of losing the Grand Prix, I told him something like, "oh, sure... of course." I think I may even have commented about what a good price he got. 

I spent that night thinking of the memories I had in that car... vacations, the black & red pillow that always sat in the backseat, the trunk where mom always hid my Christmas presents (yeah mom... I always found them & even played with them before Christmas... confession time, ugh).

But... I knew that life was about change. And the education I was getting, and the love of my parents was much more important than the family car. And, I knew the memories of midnight nightingale's with a princess was mine forever.

At some point we all have to learn to let go... if we want to move forward.  The things we believe that we hold on so tightly to, in reality hold onto us. We have to decide if we are willing to let go, or if we are slaves to our possessions and the past. Even so, it is necessarily difficult to let go of what we have... and I believe that is a good thing. It gives us pause to consider where we've been, to reflect on the moments that have shaped us, and the road that has brought us this far.

10 suitcases and 5 carry-ons will hold a few possessions, but everything that matters will be looking to me from the faces of my wife and children as we board that plane. 

I desire more than anything that my children capture the goodness of my parents, embrace the magical moments in life, and always be willing to let go.

I am so thankful for parents who sacrificed so much for me, and a white 1977 Grand Prix that carried me many a safe mile along the road that brought us here. 

We each have a plaque on our lives... 

Especially Made in the Image of God.

Monday, March 26, 2012

A Pic is Worth a Thousand Words

And so... if a picture is worth a thousand words, well I think this one may be a little over-valued! This is our first posed-traditional-styled family portrait! This beauty was shot by my mother, using my wife's Droid Thunderbolt, while we were dropping Aleksandra & Sterling off at Mammaw & Pappaw's so we could use Caleb as an excuse to see Hunger Games (and we ALL loved it.)

We are in desperate need of some new family photographs for a variety of reasons: 

   1. I changed from hair to no hair
   2. We have a new family member.
   3. Big kids have grown bigger.
   4. We need pics for our flyer!

Thank goodness Kellie's sis is a photographer!
(no offense intended to Mom or Thunderbolt)

A couple of weeks ago it was essential that I design a tri-fold that explained our heart, our mission, and our vision. After wrestling with the format, I began selecting some pics... to realize that we had none that really reflected our current state, and so I simply chose to go with our most recent family pics from last summer!
Now, in order to get these puppies on the blog, I had to convert them to a pdf, that I pasted onto PowerPoint, and then did a "Save As" function to JPEG. And so... the format is a little jiggy now, and they are assuredly too small to read... but I think the outdated pic is evident even so!

As you may have gathered... there are always adventures to be had when you are adding to your family and then transplanting to a new life. So, if you are local to us then come on over, we have some furniture possessions to sell! If it won't fit in a suitcase, then we are unloading it! No matter where you are at... if you attend a church, please talk to your pastor or missions board and see if we can meet them. Now that we are (ahem!) experienced (we have done it ONCE) presenters of missions for congregations, we would LOVE an opportunity to offer your church to walk alongside us.

Our plan is to be out of our home by the beginning of June of this year so that we have a full 12 months to prepare before we move to Catalyst in Guatemala City early next summer! 

This summer, in June, Caleb & I will be traveling with Breiel Boulevard Church of God (our first partner church - WOO-HOO) along with 38 other folks as we go to build homes and share a week with the good people in the mountains outside of San Cristobal, Guatemala. Then in August, we will all be loading up to again travel with our Launch Church, Journey Church, with another good sized group to not only complete some short term missions work, but also to spend some time with the Greene family, the founders of Catalyst.

If you are interested in coming along on either trip... post a comment  or check out my contact info on my blogger profile page.

My promise to you... is that we will work as fast as we can to get a presentable and current photograph to paste on the front of our tri-fold! We look forward to seeing the whole family of FIVE smiling on the cover!

Tammi... your work is cut out for you on this one! Gotta make the Sheps look good again! :)

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Storming the Gate (Diapers, Drool, Determination)

How we overcome obstacles in life defines us. Even at a young age.

~The Obstacle~
Infant safety gate with added support board and clamps

“...she was wise, subtle, and knew more than one way to skin a cat” 
-Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, 1889

~Unique Solutions~

2001: Caleb, Fall Down & Scream
In my mind, this was the expected reaction from a toddler confronted by a seemingly immovable and impassable object. I remember watching as he walked up to it, pressed against it, and then he would drop down onto his diaper padded bottom, and the tears of frustration would fall as he would sprawl out long on the floor and cry. After a few days, he accepted that (1) the gate could hold him, (2) he had no reason to panic. His method was adaptation and acceptance. He would make it work for him.

2004: Aleksandra, Attack & Destroy
Her approach was a shock to us because we expected that she would respond like Caleb. We had yet to learn that she was a different animal. She would attempt to simply push it down. If this did not work, she would stand back, size it up, and then rush forward and hit it like a linebacker. We went through several styles of gate before we found a plastic one that we mounted into the studs of the walls. We could sit downstairs and hear the thunder of her feet and the impact as she bounced back from the plastic. Her method was simple brute force. Her determination can move walls.

2012: Sterling, Strategic Design
This child has a systematic approach that identifies and exploits weakness. We sat back to watch and learn as she approached the gate and thoroughly examined its form. She first peered over the top and then attempted to raise each leg across the bar. She looked along each side, running her hands along the edges and pushing against the surfaces. Finding no solution, she stooped down and attempted to peer underneath, also attempting to wedge her fingers in the cracks to dislodge it. She again stood and peered over the gate. She wanted downstairs. She turned and began walking away... I smiled, thinking that she had chosen the Caleb method and would be content to accept the boundary. As I turned away, I froze still like the victim in a slasher film as I heard a chair scraping across the tile floor. You have got to be kidding me? I watched as she resolutely pulled the heavy metal chair 10 feet across the kitchen and positioned it against the gate. I stared in awe as she pulled herself against the chair, lifted her right leg up, and hoisted her body onto the seat. She turned at me and smiled as she gripped the top of the gate. As I removed her from the gate-crossing device, I realized that I am in trouble. This is a child who is not limited to a specific approach. She gets what she wants by examination and creativity. She enjoys the challenge, and is satisfied by finding solutions.

I love watching these three minds engage life. It is amazing to see how approach can determine outcome. It makes me re-examine the obstacles in my own life. I also realize now that Kellie and I are outnumbered, and out-brained. We pray for wisdom and eyes in the back of our heads. Should these 3 ever team up against us (you know they will...) we are gonna be in trouble!

By chance, those of you who are astute observers may have noticed another player in the periphery of that photo. Our dog, Bentley also is limited by the gates. He has the ability to jump them all, but is reluctant to do so. With coaxing I can get him to leap them, but left alone he will simply lay down against them and wait for my return. 

Perhaps the difficult thing in life is simply lining up the right approach with the right situation? What is my strategy today: adapt, crash through, plan & execute, or wait for the call of someone I trust? 

Thank goodness that I have examples of each method! Lord knows I need them all.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Sterling Mei: (29) No Place Like Home

Oh dear! I keep forgetting I'm not in Kansas! ~ Dorothy

Sterling has been home now for two weeks. We have settled into sleep patterns, meal times, and even nap times. For our family... plans are on a flex schedule. We adapt to the day, and the kids learn to go with the flow. Having said that... we also understand that Dorothy is far from Kansas, and loving patience goes a long way. Our time invested in her is rewarded with smiles and love. Our days are amazing.

Kellie and I used to have discussions about how so many folks insist that they are "too busy" to take another thing on. We used this as perspective for our own lives, often saying to each other, "we aren't really that busy... we can make time." These past few weeks, I won't tell you that we've been busy, but I will tell you that we have made incredible use of our time.

We: gained approval from Commission To Every Nation (CTEN), I applied for my ordination with Ohio Church of God, we refinanced our home, found a renter for our home, completed our tax returns, travelled to China & adopted Sterling, hosted folks in our home for 4 days straight, Caleb had a band concert, a piano recital, piano Federations, a chess tournament, both Caleb & Aleksandra tested for the next level in Taekwondo, both Caleb & Aleksandra achieved straight A's (whoop-whoop!), we had a state social worker visit, we have had 3 dental appointments, combated a stomach virus, participated in Missions Sunday at a major church congregation, hosted a Missions Dinner for a group of 40 traveling to Mimi's House in June, and of course helped Sterling adjust to new food, water, formula, daylight hours, people, surroundings, clothes, and well... everything.

It has been an amazing couple of weeks! We joke that maybe we have had a taste of what it will be like living with the Greene's at Mimi's House with all the girls (and Kevin). Maybe a taste? Well... I haven't cooked for 50 or washed clothes for 20 yet, so probably not!

However, it has been a relief to learn that my daddy skills are still intact. I can mix formula, change a diaper, make goofy faces, give a bath, and calm for sleep as good as any papa! And it is an incredibly enjoyable experience. Sterling is number 3, and I am able to experience her with the perspective that age brings. I joke with Kellie that folks will think she is our grand-daughter (wink-wink). She did not appreciate the joke.

Even so, none of this has been the most frequent activity of my week. Let me tell you... I am getting good at answering questions! 

Top Ten anyone?

#10   How was your trip
 #9    What was the orphanage like?  
 #8    What weird foods did you eat? 
 #7    How long was the flight?
 #6    What do your other kids think of Sterling?
 #5    Why did you adopt?
 #4    Why did you adopt from China and not from here?
 #3    Wasn't it really expensive?
 #2    Are you really going to move to Guatemala?
 #1    Does Sterling speak Chinese?

Answer Key: Great, overwhelming, unknown, eternity, love her, because we believe God asks us to, over 100 thousand baby girls are abandoned each year there, it was worth every penny, yes, no, she speaks baby...duh!

By the way... she is amazing! Check this out...

Sterling at Panera Bread, dancing to classical music with her mother. It is such a perspective shifter to see how this child embraces and celebrates life! When was the last time you danced while having lunch? Is there anything better than being with the people you love? Is there anything more incredible than sharing that experience with a darling that once had no hope... who now brings the promise of life into your days?

Sterling feeling the crunch of grass under her feet for the very first time. Do you know how unbelievably incredible it is to share these moments with her? There is so much wisdom in the perspective of an infant. How we miss the wonder that is each day... the smell of spring, the buzz of the first bees, and the feeling of walking outside on a spring day! This is a child who had no hope, and now she greets each day with a smile and an eagerness to explore. How is it that I am allowed to share this life with her?

Folks... it is no sacrifice what we do. Selling all we have, taking our family, and moving to Guatemala is the longing of our hearts. We simply pursue what we want. I do not understand how we could do anything else. When you see life embraced and God pursued by those who once had no hope... it is life changing. All I can tell you is that Kellie and I are sure of our walk. There is peace on this path.

So... adopting a baby girl, and then moving the whole family out of our home and then out of the country may sound a bit wreckless? How about adopting a child from poverty and then moving into the midst of poverty? Have you heard the story about three Americans, a Russian, and a Chinese girl moving to Guatemala? 

Here is what I can tell you. The Ruby Slippers were on your feet all along Dorothy. Just click those heels and believe. Home is where your family holds you in your arms.  

We are not leaving home... we simply are enlarging our embrace.


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

GUATEMALA 2012: (5) Yes, we indeed are crazy.

This past Sunday, Kellie and I were able to share our hearts with the congregation of Breiel Boulevard Church of God in Middletown, Ohio. It was our first major presentation to a congregation. We had an opportunity to show the incredible work of the mission we are joining, Catalyst Resources International as well as to tell the congregation about girls at Mimi's House and how they can be sponsored! 

We simply attempted to share our hearts. We started with the adoption of our girls... that desire has always been at our core, but when we experienced the power of adoption, well... it changed our perspective! We understood a little better the relationship that God extends to us. He has adopted us, and called us His own!

We also talked of our experiences in the mountainside villages of Campanero and Cerro Alto, outside of San Cristobal, Guatemala City, Guatemala in Central America. We spoke of Evalia, and Luis. Two incredible people with amazing stories of human perserverance and never ending faith. We spoke of the way that our own hearts broke when we realized that we were the people in need of help... we recognized the poverties that existed in our own lives. Poverties of faith and action that we saw exemplified in the people of Guatemala. 

We realized that our personal belongings and accomplishments were simply meaningless when set beside the power of faith that reconciled action with belief. We understood that we wanted our children to see the result of our belief. We simply could no longer say we believed the teachings of Christ and continue living like we always had. This was a reason worth pursuit.

Have you ever been held by a child who has nothing? Have you ever been taught truth by shoeless people on a mountainside? Their busted toenails held more integrity than the sum of my entire existence. If I am to be the man that I long to be... then I simply can not remain where I am. When my belief is compelled by reality... how can I simply maintain status quo?

Check out our website. Examine our hearts. Put to me the tough questions. I need you. My family needs you. We want to dedicate our lives to helping the orphans and widows of Guatemala. We believe that this is a true outward expression of our inner faith. We simply walk away from life... and embrace it.

We are blindly stepping out on faith. We need your financial support. We need your prayers. Yes... you! Please do not turn away from us. Any amount is a blessing. Try it. If you find yourself saying no... try $5 and see what happens. If God doesn't respond, don't give again. Listen for His voice. I know He will out-give you.

We in fact do have expenses now, even though we do not leave until July, 2013. Here is what we will need between now and then:
  • $600.00 for Rosetta Stone, Spanish Language
  • $2,000.00 for airfare and expenses for Missionary Training with CTEN IN July.
  • $3,000.00 for airfare to get our entire family to Guatemala for a week so that the kids can begin to adjust to the culture and understand what we are doing.
  • We will need a 4x4 SUV or club-cab truck to transport us as we work among the "least of these" in the surrounding mountain villages of San Cristobal
  • We will need you to support us with a monthly donation (prayerfully consider this)
  • We will be desperate for you PRAYERS that we are effective, and for your communication. We will provide updates for all who walk beside us.
This is our shot at making a difference with the days that we have been given on this earth. What's really cool... is that those of you who support us... you can come down and visit us! We will show you specifically where your dollars are going, and how you are changing lives. A dollar in Guatemala goes much farther than a dollar in the states!

It is our prayer that you walk beside us. Help us get there as soon as possible. Call me directly if you have questions.

Help us. We will make a difference with your help.