change-the-world

My friends, what you’re about to read is going to make you put down your electronic device and thank Jesus for the next generation.

I am incredibly excited to be on the Lemonade for the Least of These bandwagon. This project was conceived, fleshed out, meticulously planned, and is about to be executed by my friend Ava Forrest. Her goal is to bring attention to the plight of the fatherless and raise funds for an Ethiopian orphanage through something as simple and iconic as a lemonade stand. Ava is an inspiring entrepreneur, a tireless businesswoman, and a passionate visionary who is doing whatever it takes to see a world with one less orphan.

Oh, and I guess now is a good time to mention that she’s nine years old.

You read that right: a kid who hasn’t mastered elementary school is already following the mandate of James 1:27. Ava is running circles around most of us in the evangelical world, taking our good intentions and actually acting on them.

Her recent history gives her good reason to be passionate: three years ago Ava gained a new little brother through adoption. Judah is a child we prayed for and begged God for. He was a child that Ava, her other brother Marshall, and her parents James and Julie fought for. And now, he has a forever family and Ava has a vision for more.

Last summer Ava and her mom had the chance to visit Hannah’s Hope, the orphanage that Judah once called home. That trip planted a seed of an idea: what if she could raise a few dollars in order to purchase some much-needed supplies for kids at the orphanage?

So Ava did what most of us are too lazy / scared / apathetic to do. She took action. She enlisted a friend to design a logo. She put her mom to work creating a website. And to date, she has hundreds of kids in multiple states planning to set up lemonade stands this weekend.

Here’s my ask: I want you involved. If you have kids, I want you to encourage them to run a stand. If you have money (five cents or five hundred bucks), I want you to donate to the cause. If you’re a believer, I want you to pray for this effort. If you’re on Twitter or Facebook or Instagram or whatever, I want you to promote the bejeezers out of this thing. Because at the end of the day this isn’t simply about helping a third grader see a dream come to life (although that’s awesome, too). It’s about taking a practical step to care for the fatherless.

I’m thankful for you, Ava. You’re a hero and an example to all of us. Thank you for loving the least of these.

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You Can Never Know It All(via @TheJimmyCollins) This is a great post on when to gather more information and when to act.

There will never be a situation when we will know everything before we act. We must realize that all decisions are based on partial information. That means there will always be some degree of risk. A decision may be good or bad; an action may work, or it may not.

Considering the Effect That the Internet Has on Memory(HT @LaughingSquid) I was going to make a comment right here, but I can’t remember what it was.

It’s that feeling of short-term overload that’s really letting the internet affect us. When you’re writing a paper, checking Facebook, looking at Twitter, getting an email ding, well that’s your four thing limit. You’re always putting yourself into a place where you’re overloading and swapping stuff in your short term memory…There’s some concern that because of the internet, we are re-wiring our brains to constantly scan for information rather than taking it in, losing our ability for long-term memorization.

Stupid Things People Say to Adopted Kids and Their Parents(via @22Words) I’ll add our own: shortly after Haven came into our home, a well-meaning individual asked, “So are you going to tell her she’s adopted?” (Um…have you seen us? I hope she ain’t so dumb that we have to spell it out.)

(click for photo credit)

(click for photo credit)

 

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In December I shared the story of Ryan, Morgan, and Charlie: two dear friends and their little boy who is stuck on the other side of the world.

Today, Ryan will land back in RDU after being in central Africa for 65 days. In that time he has followed every lead, checked out every contact, and met every conceivable person of power who would sign the paperwork so that Charlie – his legally adopted son – could leave the country and come home.

It didn’t happen that way.

Oh, it could have happened. Ryan could have shelled out some money and signed a few papers and corrupted officials would have looked the other way while he put Charlie on the plane. But my friend has too much integrity to let such a story cloud Charlie’s story. And so he returns to Durham today, alone yet not alone, and yet without his son.

It’s not supposed to be this way.

I don’t understand it. I can’t wrap my mind around it. There was supposed to be an 11th hour miracle, a story that we could celebrate, a prayer that was answered, a door that finally opened. Today was supposed to be the day that we all met Charlie, that Raleigh-Durham Airport was overrun by well-wishers, and the day that Charlie would meet his big brother and sister and sleep in his new bed in his new house in his new city.

I don’t know why this has happened. I don’t know why Ryan and Morgan have to wait even longer and spend more money and take more trips and beg more politicians to release their son. I don’t know why adoption has to be such a struggle…a spiritual warfare battle of epic proportions where evil is tangibly felt and good seems to be in short supply.

I don’t know any of these things, but I do know this: the story has not ended. The period has not been added. The chapter has not been closed. The outcome is still unknown. Yes, there may be more agony before there is relief. But what Ryan and Morgan know is that Charlie’s story is still being written. And they know that because they trust in a sovereign God who may not show his hand, but he most certainly extends his heart.

Is it easy? No. Will that knowledge help them sleep better tonight? Probably not. But as I watch their faith rise through pain and their grace displayed through tears, I know that they’re not just seeking their son, they’re seeking their Daddy. And he loves them even more than they love Charlie. His plan reaches farther, spreads wider, and delves deeper than they may ever know this side of heaven. That may sound like so many platitudes, like Ryan and Morgan are simply stepping out in faith. But I ask you: what else do they have? What else do we have? Had all of this gone textbook-perfect and we were cheering Charlie’s homecoming today, it would still have been a journey of faith. To accept the joy but reject the sorrow is not faith. To understand the mind of God is like a sponge absorbing the Pacific: it can’t be done.

So readers…believers…I’m asking you to petition God on behalf of Charlie and trust God on behalf of Ryan and Morgan. They need us to stand with them now as much as we ever have. Charlie’s heavenly Father remains by his side even though his earthly father is an ocean away. And that heavenly Father can do more than we can ask or imagine, and he will accomplish and complete Charlie’s story in a way we can’t fathom.

This weekend our pastor very wisely walked us through a time of prayer for the Dohertys, helping create a framework for how to trust God when our prayers don’t get answered the way we think they should. I would encourage you to take eight minutes and watch that video.

Ryan shared the following passage from John 14 on his Facebook post before boarding the plane in Africa. I think it’s timely not only for Charlie and Ryan, but for the rest of us as well:

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going….I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you…Because I live, you also will live…Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid… the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.”

Good grief. The interwebs have their collective panties in a bunch again this week, and the topic is breakfast cereal.

Perhaps you’ve seen the furor over the upcoming Super Bowl ad featuring a biracial family eating their Cheerios. MSNBC has already had to pull an offensive tweet which suggested that Republicans would be in a tizzy. And Republicans were in a tizzy…over the suggestion that they get weirded out when families don’t look like a bowl of vanilla ice cream.

And I’m sure there will be some armchair quarterback somewhere in the good ol’ USA that will see the commercial on Sunday, and then declare in a Bud Light-induced rant, “That just ain’t nattrul.

The fact that we’re still having these conversations saddens me. As the daddy to a princess and a part of a biracial family, I’m grieved that this is still taking place in my daughter’s world. The new uproar reminded me of the very helpful post by Jemar Tisby when Cheerios aired the first iteration of the biracial family last year.

You can read my entire original post here, if you’re so inclined.

(Yep. That's just the top of his head. You have to wait until he's home for the full reveal!)

(Yep. That’s just the top of his head. You’ll have to wait until he’s home for the full reveal.)

You’re looking at my friends Ryan and Morgan, and my friend-that-I-haven’t-yet-met, Charlie.

Charlie is an orphan from central Africa. Scratch that. Was an orphan from central Africa. A few months ago, a court declared Charlie a Doherty. He’s Ryan and Morgan’s son now. Instead of growing up in an orphanage, he’ll grow up in a home with a daddy and mommy who love him, a brother and sister who spoil him, and he’ll be friends with more people who have prayed for him than he can possibly count.

But because of some governmental glitches, Charlie can’t leave the country for now. What has been promised has not yet been realized. “Home” is still a foreign concept, both figuratively and geographically. For the foreseeable future Charlie is – for all practical purposes – stuck.

But while Charlie can’t come to his mom and dad, his mom and dad can go to him. And go to him they did. A couple of weeks ago Ryan and Morgan made the rather sudden decision to temporarily leave Durham and head to Africa. The son that is theirs is still there, and so it made no sense for them to be here.

They decided that the uphill journey would be more effective if they were on the ground and close to Charlie. And so – armed with nothing but a folder full of documents and a heart full of fire – Ryan and Morgan boarded a flight and promised to fight.

Even as I type, I weep. I wonder if Charlie knows what is transpiring around him? I wonder if he knows the prayers that have been offered, the tears that have been shed, the money that has been spent and the battles that have been fought? I wonder if he realizes that before he knew he needed these parents, these parents knew he needed them, and they were willing to do whatever it took to bring him home?

I wonder if he’ll ever realize the sacrifice they made to leave two children in one country while pursuing a third child in another? Will he know the sleepless nights they endured, the hundreds of times they looked at his picture, the thousands of times their arms ached for the baby that belonged there?

As Charlie snuggles up to his parents at a tiny bungalow, does he know what awaits him on the other side of this journey? Can he fathom what it will be like to spend his life being pursued, known, and loved? Can his little mind begin to imagine what life in his daddy’s house will hold for him?

Does that little boy know that he’s been given a new name? That he possesses a new identity? That he’s forever protected and completely provided for? That everything that Ryan and Morgan call theirs can now be called his?

Later this week, Morgan will begin the journey back to America. You can imagine that it will be one of the hardest goodbyes she’ll ever say. But as she reunites with her two oldest children here in Durham, Ryan will remain with their youngest on another continent. And he’ll fight. He’ll leave no stone unturned and no door unopened as he looks for just the right connection, just the right answer, just the right approval to rightfully claim his son and join the family that awaits him. He won’t come home until Charlie comes with him.

A father who fights. That’s what Ryan is for Charlie. And that’s what God is for us. We’re in the middle of a season where we celebrate the One who left his home and went to a foreign land. What he didn’t have to do, he chose to do. He sent his son to become one of us. To live among us. To come to our turf and dwell in our land and fight on our behalf. Before we knew we were orphans, Jesus knew we needed a Father. And the Father knew we couldn’t get to him on our own.

So he fought. Jesus came. God wrapped himself in flesh and lived with us so we could live with him.

With us.

God with us.

Immanuel.

He fought for us then. He fights for us now. You see, Christmas isn’t just a reminder of what Jesus did, it’s a reminder of what he is doing. How he still fights. How he still pursues. How he still does whatever it takes to bring us home, give us a new name and identity, and help us see our Father.

So as you prepare your heart for Christmas, remember that it’s not just about a baby in a stable. It’s about a King who invaded the earth to claim what was rightfully his and to give us our forever home.

And as you thank Jesus for his pursuit, beg Jesus for his mercy: on Charlie. On Ryan and Morgan. Pray for walls to fall and doors to open and mountains to move. Pray that Charlie will miraculously spend Christmas Day in a living room in Durham. Pray for dozens of other Summit families who are enduring a similar journey. And most of all, pray that spiritual orphans will know the pursuit of their Daddy this Christmas season.

“I will not leave you as orphans. I will come to you.” – Jesus (John 14:18)

Chemo Crud. Courage. Community. (via @MarkLWaltz) If you’re a regular reader here, you know of my friend and far-off mentor Mark Waltz. What you may not know is that his wife Laura has been fighting cancer valiantly for the last few months. Their fierce love for Jesus and each other both inspires and convicts me.

IMG_6529Everyone sees Laura after chemo crud week. When she’s happily engaging conversation at our church building, Starbucks or elsewhere in our community. It’s truly remarkable to see her smile. To experience her genuine worship as she leads us with the arts team. To admire her strength and courage.

I see her as she is now. Completely wrung out. Nauseous. Achy – from her shoulders to her toes. Tired of laying in bed, but too tired to be anywhere else.


 

 

 

My Family, In Black and White. (via @CTmagazine) While I certainly haven’t felt all of the things that author Megan Hill talks about, I know that “I’m-getting-dirty-looks-and-maybe-someone-is-thinking-about-dialing-911-because-I’m-buckling-my-screaming-biracial-child-into-a-car-seat” feeling all too well.

I’m not happy about the people who stop me in the grocery store to question my fitness to be a mother to my kids. Not happy about the double- and triple-takes everywhere. But, as a parent, I’ve learned to be almost thankful for it. This scrutiny enables me to enter into my kids’ experience of a racially conscious world and to set for them an example of how to navigate it.

Someday (sooner than I’d like to imagine), my kids won’t be with me every time they go out in public. People’s nosy questions and unfriendly looks right now are the best chance I have to sympathize with my kids’ minority experience, the best chance I have to model for them how to act in the face of prejudice or false assumptions.


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son No-No’s(via @MetaPicture) A glance at the tutorial that animators get when working on The Simpsons. Details matter.

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Process Practice: Do You Get It? (via @robertvadams) Everybody seems to have good ideas while in the shower. Bob shows us how to generate those kinds of “aha” moments by hardwiring them into our teams.

Inspiration generates ideas, and the process helps to shape efforts in a way to keep the team moving towards a fully developed idea.

 

Dear Friends of Waiting Adoptive Moms: Some Things You Need To Know (and also, we’re sorry) (HT @rjdoherty) Some great prayer points in here if you’re friends with families who are adopting.

We’re moms without children. It’s an ache that doesn’t go away. It starts before we see their faces and only ends when they’re in our arms. So, we walk about with half our heart missing. It’s hard to breathe, to think, to speak. Something always feels missing. Because they are.

 

Breanna and the Quarterback (via @_michaelkelley) I’m not much of a football fan (that’s the ball with the pointy ends, right?), but I agree with Michael: this guy just became my favorite college player. I dare you not to cry.

…every few weeks, University of Memphis quarterback Jacob Karam volunteers at St. Jude children’s hospital. He doesn’t do it through any programs at his school. He’s there on his own, playing games with the kids, organizing crafts, and playing the piano either with the kids or as background music as families eat.

Ten ways to pastor adoptive parents and those considering adoption. As a daddy who has adopted, and a guy who pastors adoptive families, this article is spot on.

The majority of adoptions are filled with great highs and great lows.

There are often many tears shed due to failed placements and other setbacks. There is also unparalleled joy in being matched with your child and bringing them home.

Do what you can to enter into their experience. Embody the compassion and empathy of Christ in the hard times and magnify the joy of the Father in the celebration.

Everybody picks up the trash. Bob Adams shares one of my favorite Disney stories from his recent behind-the-scenes tour of the park.

In the Disney organization, there is an inner value of ownership that goes beyond every Cast Member picking up trash when they see it. It gets back to never saying, “It’s not my job.” This Takeaway is not about trash, although that is important.

It’s about everyone being involved in your organization, from bottom to top. It’s about creating priorities, about being a part of a team that demonstrates care, no matter what your role is.

Comedian Tig Notaro gives Conan O’Brien dry-witted lessons in remaining present. This is pretty hilariously profound (and Bull City gets a shout at the end).

Three links that I like. Startin’ now:

Who Are You Bringin’? My Arkansas buddy Matt outlines four people you’ll interact with between now and Easter. What’ll you do with them?

There is no greater time to invite someone to come to church with you than this week (Easter Week).

There are four kinds of people you will encounter between now and and Saturday night. People I believe God is supernaturally already workin’ out some ‘divine appointments.’

My Child’s Backstory is None of Your BusinessI’ll admit I struggle with this with my daughter’s adoption story. While I don’t agree with the entire article, Megan Hill gives a helpful perspective.

I think the thoughtless telling of our children’s stories stems from forgetting something that all parents are prone to forget: my child is my neighbor. Yes, I am his parent—with all the authority and responsibility that entails. Of course. But my child is not simply my possession or an extension of myself. He is a human being, made in the image of God, with a soul that will never die. And his story does not belong to me.

Honest Movie Trailers: Les MiserablesPretty much sums up how I felt on the day I lost three hours of my life. (HT Screen Junkies)

The bystanders at Raleigh-Durham Airport never knew what hit them.

Late Monday afternoon a few dozen people descended on Terminal 2. They brought banners and balloons and cookies and a camera crew. They gathered at the arrival point to welcome a very special little girl home. To her new home. To her forever home.

Elizabeth’s journey had started 24 hours before in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. But her parents’ journey? That had been underway for much, much longer.

Matt and Catherine Allison are some of my heroes. If something could possibly delay or derail an international adoption, they’ve faced it. They’ve battled bizarre hurricanes and errant visas and embassy holdups and lost adoption files. They had to switch from their originally intended country after that country’s adoption program completely shut down. They’ve processed mountains of paperwork and spent boatloads of cash and fought every conceivable battle in an effort to bring their daughter home.

And now, she is.

The crowd at RDU was full of people who have been impacted by Matt and Catherine’s story. Nearly every family there either had adopted or were in the process of adopting, and almost all of those were doing so, in part, because of the example they’ve seen through the Allison family. Beautifully blended and grafted and colorful families were waiting together, anxious for the moment when another former orphan would be united with her family.

In the group were kids of varying nationalities and skin tones and ethnic origin. But one thing united them all: they were sought after. They were rescued. Their identity had changed, and now it was secure.

As Catherine and Elizabeth made their way off the plane and towards waiting friends and family, it hit me that their journey is similar to our own. Like Elizabeth, we were sought by a foreign rescuer. Like Elizabeth, that rescuer stopped at nothing to bring his children home. And like Elizabeth, that rescuer gave us a new name and a new heritage.

Elizabeth doesn’t yet realize what she has been saved from. She doesn’t fully grasp what she has been saved to. Her identity, though legally binding, is still wholly unfamiliar. It will take time for her intellectual being to catch up to her physical reality, her “new normal.”

And yet, she’s an Allison. Now and forever. She’s another child that was an orphan, that was fatherless, that was homeless and hopeless, but now everything has changed.

She’s home.

But still, there are some who are not. Still, there are those who wait. Both in that crowd and in our church, there are families that will face another Christmas with a heart towards another country and an eye towards an empty chair. Mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers who have prayed for, sought after, and fought for another child to be grafted into their family.

I see that temporary but all-too-real scenario playing out in the lives of friends, some of whom are just beginning the adoption journey, and others who – like the Allisons – have been in it for far too long. They persevere not because they enjoy the wait, but because they understand the calling. They stick it out not because it’s easy, but because they can’t imagine giving up.

They hang in because a child – their child – has yet to come home.

This Christmas season, would you join me in praying for these families? Thank God for families like the Allisons who have remained steadfast in giving a new identity to a son or a daughter. Plead with God for others who feel like the journey will never end. Reach out to them. Encourage them. Pray for and with them.

The journey is long. But the reward is great. And the responsibility is ours.

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