<![CDATA[ECHO Family Care Partners]]>https://www.wearetheecho.org/blogRSS for NodeSun, 27 Nov 2022 08:28:38 GMT<![CDATA[One Step Closer Devotional (Week 3)]]>https://www.wearetheecho.org/post/one-step-closer-devotional-week-3637d0b7bc961c71dbc43484dTue, 22 Nov 2022 06:00:00 GMTKelley Nichols

When I read this verse, I think of Moses and Aaron. Remember Moses on the mountain, having to hold his arms up to God to protect his people as they waged war against their oppressors? Aaron couldn’t do the job for him, so he stood by Moses’ side and held his arms up. He bore the weight of his arms and the heaviness of the task.

And in this way, he fulfilled the law of Christ. Loving God and his neighbor.

So how do we carry the burdens of vulnerable families impacted by foster care?

It could look like donating diapers every month for a child. Or getting your church involved with resourcing needs and community care. Or leaning into relationships with vulnerable families.

What keeps us from taking one step closer? From following Jesus into the margins and caring for vulnerable people? I think it’s the fear of not enough. We hold onto our resources—our time, our money, our talents—because we’re afraid.

My friend reminded me of Ruth and, love story aside, the message is that there is provision in the margins. Farmers were instructed not to harvest everything, but to leave the gleanings around the edges of the fields for the poor and the immigrant.

To be this kind of open society make us uncomfortable, doesn't it? It requires something of the landowner, right? It requires him not to claim everything that belongs to him by rights. It requires welcoming strangers inside the boundaries of his property. It requires the risk of personal exposure.

This kind of self-sacrifice is the only way for followers of the Way. Matthew 25

A local church took in a pregnant mother and her three children who literally came home from work one day this summer to find that there was no longer a home to go to.

Immediately homeless with nowhere to go and no means to pick up the pieces.

This church’s pastor said, “We’ll do it. We’ll care for her. We can’t afford it, but we’ll do it. We’ll go broke to make sure she’s got what she needs.”

And you know what? They didn’t go broke. And this mother and her kids are in a home of their own and have found a community who cares for her and her little ones like no one ever has.

So what's keeping you from moving closer?

Watch Video

<![CDATA[Entrusted Conference Recap]]>https://www.wearetheecho.org/post/entrusted-conference-recap63718a076e864323ab931102Sun, 20 Nov 2022 03:39:30 GMTRandall Nichols

It's so hard to put into words the experience we shared together at this year's (SOLD OUT!!!) Entrusted Conference, but let's try.

First some stats:

  • Attendees travelled from 6 states (Virginia, Maryland, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Ohio)
  • Together, we consumed 9 gallons of coffee and 3 gallons of coffee creamer
  • 36% of attendees made use of our new conference app platform
  • Over $5000 worth of gifts were given away to attendees, made possible by our generous sponsors
  • More than 40 different churches were represented
  • Nearly 50% of attendees have already secured their spot at next year's ALL NEW Entrusted Conference

Now, beyond the stats, the beauty of the weekend really lies in the vulnerability we were invited into. Tori Hope Petersen and Susan Wanderer both brought us to tears, and our worship leaders, breakout facilitators, panelists, and peers helped hold us together.

Here are a few quotes from attendees:

I always wonder if I should go the next year, and when I do, I get so much out of it, personally and as a parent/spouse, and I remember why I come! To be honest, I am an adoptive mom and feel out of place in the foster care world, but this event is so inclusive and I love being around like-minded people.

Or how about this one:

It was an eye opening experience where we really did feel seen and feel like we have to tools to help our kids feel seen as well.

Ok, one more...

I like the real life aproach of the speakers and break outs. I LOVE everyone’s humor. I laughed so much!

*More pictures and videos will be coming soon!

Oh, and we already know where we'll be and when next year! Make sure you get your tickets when Early Bird goes on sale after the new year.

Visit Entrusted Conference Online

We can't wait to be back together again next Summer!!!

<![CDATA[One Step Closer Devotional (Week 2)]]>https://www.wearetheecho.org/post/one-step-closer-devotional-week-2637d0a7de39229b5807fb506Tue, 15 Nov 2022 06:00:00 GMTKelley Nichols

I can navigate the sometimes treacherous path to the bathroom in complete darkness, dodging renovation tools, legos, and craft supplies littering the stairs. I don't need light because it's a well-traveled familiar path.

And I think much of our lives are like this. We confidently walk familiar paths without needing a light.

But following Jesus is an invitation to walk into unfamiliar places. The darkest corners where marginalized, vulnerable people live. It's scary and disorienting and I think we avoid it because we want a bright light to shine into every nook, exposing every potential obstacle.

Years ago, we took our first giant leap of faith into a life of ministry. And then into foster care and adoption. And then lept out of full-time ministry and into running a nonprofit with a million steps of faith along the way. And what we imagined is we'd take this one giant leap of faith in the darkness, and then our path would be clear and well-lit.

Except it's not. It's one leap of faith in the darkness, followed by another dark step. So we keep our eyes on Jesus.

We follow Him and enter the unfamiliar darkness without fear because the light of the world shines here.

Maybe you're questioning how? How do we take this first step into the darkness? And that's what we'll talk about next week.

Watch Video

<![CDATA[Countdown to Giving Tuesday]]>https://www.wearetheecho.org/post/countdown-to-giving-tuesday636b13a05cfa22b505735250Wed, 09 Nov 2022 03:29:19 GMTRandall Nichols

We launched ECHO in the final months of 2019 and with that we also participated in our very first Giving Tuesday. That inaugural event propelled us into 2020, giving us much needed financial (and moral) support for the curveball that was thrown at all of us in March of that year.

And while 2020 was like nothing any of us ever want to experience again, it taught us something: that our community is resilient and we have tremendous capacity when it comes to caring for one another. In the midst of a pandemic, you all gave and kept giving throughout that year and into 2021. And because of that, we had more opportunities to serve more families.

Because of your giving in 2021, we were able to launch new a new program and expand an existing one to see an economic impact of over $500,000 by the end of last year.

Momentum and Challenges

This generated great momentum going into this year, but we had no idea the pressure this hard-hit economy would place on the families we serve, indicated by the uptick in requests for diaper assistance. From April through September of this year, we saw an average monthly increase of almost 40% month over month. And last month we distributed nearly 20,000 diapers to roughly 200 kiddos.

As we look toward 2023 and do our best to anticipate the needs of families in our community, we do so with faith in our team of supporters who make it possible to keep serving the most vulnerable amount us.

Giving Tuesday

Giving Tuesday is Tuesday, November 29 and we'll have stories to share and fun things to giveaway throughout the day on our Facebook page, so make sure you follow us and keep the notifications turned on for that day!

And as the day approaches, consider what you can do to help fuel the mission of ECHO* to preserve families, prevent fracture, and protect futures because every child deserves to know the stability of a lasting, loving family.

*In addition to traditional giving methods, we now are able to help you explore tax-advantaged gifts like stock, crypto, and planned giving. You might also consider fundraising among your co-workers, friends, or small group, as well as donating gifts in-kind.

We are a crowdfunded nonprofit. We work to stabilize families in crisis, bringing echoes of heaven to earth. All of this is possible because of supporters like you. So, thank you!

<![CDATA[One Step Closer Devotional (Week 1)]]>https://www.wearetheecho.org/post/one-step-closer-devotional-week-1637d04e6d6b2cd4edf9434edTue, 08 Nov 2022 06:00:00 GMTKelley Nichols

As image bearers, we are meant to reflect His light. But when our hope is in anything or anyone other than Him, and when we’re distracted or too busy,

When our family was young, we struggled. Discontent. Dissatisfaction. The house was always messy. Work needed us and our young children needed us more. We were planting a church and there was always something that needed to be done. We were always running in different directions.

We were missing something. And society told us it was a bigger home, a newer car, and a nice vacation. And there’s certainly nothing wrong with these things. But God wants more and he wants us to want more.

Followers of Jesus, follow Jesus.

I think we dim our light (or the reflection of Jesus’ light in our lives) so we don’t have to see the needs. Because when we follow Jesus—the light of the world—he’s going to go into the margins. The dark corners with broken, hurting people. He brings light to them.

And if we follow him there we will see the needs.

Watch more

<![CDATA[One Step Closer - A Movement]]>https://www.wearetheecho.org/post/one-step-closer-a-movement634a068265dc60550802b7eeSat, 15 Oct 2022 19:05:25 GMTRandall Nichols

300 children.

That's how many children within 20 miles of your front door will fall asleep tonight separated from their parents.

Each of them helpless to their situation. Each processing the trauma of their separation in different ways. Many not knowing where their siblings are. All of them waiting for this to all be over.

The process of either returning home or finding a stable home can take years, often because there aren't enough homes able to care for the needs of a child who's experiencing so much turmoil.

We aim to reverse this. To find more homes, to equip more families, to move more children out of care each year than enter.

With each year, each service provided, each family served, and each partner engaged, we move closer and closer to this goal.

It's the reason we're launching the One Step Closer Movement. It's a fun run, sort of. But it's so much more than that. At its core it's an invitation to you and your circle to close the gap for these children; to move them one step closer to family with each step you take.

Here's how you get involved:

  1. Register yourself or your group on our website
  2. Invite friends to join your team
  3. Set a fundraising goal and recruit sponsors
  4. Get moving!

Will you join us? Will you join the movement that's reversing the impact of foster care in your community? Will you help bring them one step closer to family?

<![CDATA[10 Great Ideas for Your Church on Stand Sunday]]>https://www.wearetheecho.org/post/10-great-ideas-for-your-church-on-stand-sunday6349ef7dbe005e5cfee6762bSat, 15 Oct 2022 00:29:45 GMTRandall Nichols

If you've never participated in Stand Sunday before, you may not be familiar with this annual Church initiative. Every year on the second Sunday in November (which is also National Adoption Month in the US), churches all across the country shine a light on the more than 400,000 invisible children impacted by the US foster care system.

This is an opportunity to give your people actionable ideas to help them stand with the precious children and vulnerable families experiencing foster care right now, 300 of whom are within 20 miles of your church.

Want to know more about Stand Sunday? Click below to watch this short explainer:


You can also find more on the official Stand Sunday website, facilitated by the Christian Alliance for Orphans (CAFO).

<![CDATA[An Idea for Your Church and Families in the Community]]>https://www.wearetheecho.org/post/an-idea-for-your-church-and-families-in-the-community626d6fd6bae3cf6c2e04959dSat, 30 Apr 2022 17:24:57 GMTRandall Nichols

Hey Church Leader!

Have you ever visited a zoo? Do you remember your first time? How old were you? Did you go with family? A church group? Friends?

Last year ECHO hosted its first-ever family fun day at the Virginia Zoological Park in Norfolk. Here are some of the comments we heard:

"I've never been to the zoo before. Do the animals just roam around?" - Evan, 6 years old
"This is the first time I've seen my brother since we were separated." - Foster youth, 9 years old
"I didn't know coming to the zoo could feel like a family reunion." - Angie, foster parent

From our event last year, we were introduced to nearly 500 children and families and we've had the honor of serving them throughout the year.

On May 14th, we're hosting our 2nd Annual ECHO at the Zoo and already we have nearly 400 ticket requests from kinship, foster, and adoptive families.

We believe the local church is the world's greatest hope dealer. And for these families, you're the lifeline many of them have been praying for. How amazing would it be for your church to have an introduction to these families?

So I had an idea. Here's where you can make a tremendous impact. Three ideas...

  1. Would your church be willing to purchase a block of tickets for these families to make it possible for them to attend together? You can click this link to make it happen.
  2. Are there kinship (grandparents, aunts, uncles caring for a relative's child), foster, or adoptive families in your congregation who could use a fun, free day out to reconnect with each other? Would you buy tickets for your family and theirs and invite them to come with you? Can you imagine the gift this could be to them? Click here to buy your tickets.
  3. Does the church have a van or bus and a driver who'd be willing to help families lacking transportation take advantage of a day out? Connect with us here through this form (look for the Shuttle Team section).

We're so tremendously grateful for you, Church Leader, for your church, and for the work of the Gospel in which we're honored to share.

<![CDATA[Windows into the Invasion of Ukraine and Specifics on How to Pray]]>https://www.wearetheecho.org/post/windows-into-the-invasion-of-ukraine621b00da8ef61d4ef99f8b5aSun, 27 Feb 2022 05:02:14 GMTRandall Nichols

Article orifinally appeared on https://cafo.org/ on February 25, 2022 by Jedd Medefind

The world watches tragedy unfold in Ukraine. The war will damage everything it touches, from local electric grids to the global economy. Whatever else will occur, we can know this: As in any crisis, vulnerable children will be among the most impacted. The updates below provide glimpses of the current wave of the Russian invasion, shared real-time by CAFO member organizations that have long served children in Ukraine.

As you read, please do not only gaze on trouble from far off. Join with our dear brothers and sisters in Ukraine by praying for each situation and person involved:

Ambassador for Father’s House

Events have escalated quickly in Ukraine. Roman, the staff and kids are all safe! …The streets are full as people evacuate the city. A military base near Fathers House has been attacked. We have started the evacuation and the children are on their way to safety. Right now they are securing all the necessary supplies and documents to transport the children and adults who will be caring for them. They have secured housing for 120-150 people along with transportation for them. As things escalate, they are heading somewhere they will be safe throughout this time. The place they are going has agreed to allow the kids entry with or without travel forms. Kids and staff will be placed in a donor’s hotel, churches and families in a safe environment. We ask for your continued prayer and support in this fluid and uncertain time. At this time we are praying for safe travels and security during this trip across the country. We will continue to share updates via Facebook (@ambassadorsoffh) and social media as we can.

Lifeline Children’s Services

We have our FSPs in Ukraine as well as our partner Heritage Ukraine in Odessa. So far, all are safe, but the situation is grave. Heritage ministers to families with kids with special needs to help them be able to stay home & not be institutionalized. The Perekotys (our other partner) are in the US now. Yuriy’s parents however are in Ternopi. The family is currently safe but cannot leave where they are because gas stations are completely out of gas. Also, our partner Regen Foundation in Romania is prepared to receive Ukrainian refugees. We all have too many friends to count who are in harms way. I think we are all numb.

Lifesong for Orphans

All of the children and families we serve, as well as our staff and their families, are safe at this time. Our team prepared for this invasion by gathering food, water, fuel, and supplies, and they continue gathering supplies today.

We are enacting contingency plans and moving our staff, families, and youth to the safest locations we can, wherever possible.

Our hearts are heavy with what is happening. Would you join us in prayer? Please pray for:

  • Wisdom and discernment for government officials and decision-makers.
  • The children and families Lifesong serves to experience God’s unconditional love and peace.
  • The continued safety and protection of vulnerable children, staff, volunteers, and families.
  • Peace in and surrounding Ukraine.
  • God’s glory through the heavy challenges.

We find encouragement in the words and mindset of Denis Poshelok, Director of Lifesong Ukraine. He recently wrote, “God is in control. In times like this, people are more open to the Gospel and are searching for answers that only He has. It’s an ideal time to serve people and point them to Christ.

Our fight is a spiritual one, and we trust God will lead us through all this, as He always does.”

Nightlight Christian Adoptions

Our FT staff member in our Indiana office is a sweet, young Ukrainian citizen named Vika. She spent the whole time in tears…hasn’t been able to speak all day. Here are the prayer requests we came up with:

  • For the safety of our friends and family in harm’s way
  • For keen awareness of God’s presence in dark times
  • For God to be victorious over His enemies
  • For the protection and safety of those fighting for their freedom
  • For those fleeing the country, we pray for safe and successful passage
  • For all adoptions in process to find a quick and successful completion
  • Knowing that the “consent of the governed” is a God-given right, for the people of Ukraine to have the same
  • Knowing that all people were created with the inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, we pray the people of Ukraine would have these rights

A Family for Every Orphan

We have been in touch with several of our partners in Ukraine and they echo what is heard in the news. Some are in the east along the border where shelling is heavy and Russian tanks are crossing over into their regions, others are more central and continue to hear sounds of missiles and see smoke in the distance as key military and infrastructure is targeted. One has evacuated his family from the east, while choosing to stay behind to continue to minister to the many children and families he serves. Another is watching the news and traffic carefully to determine when and if evacuation is wise. And another is hunkered down with many children they minister to in a nearby bomb shelter until it is safe to return.

Our partners and the vulnerable children and families they serve are in immediate need of: Gas / transportation; Food and water; Medicine and supplies; Shelter as it will take days for many to travel west.

One pastor and ministry friend said: “… God is giving us peace to stay. So, we have chosen to stay here to serve the people of our church, to serve the kids of the ministry we have, and to serve people of this nation in any way that we can. We have become a place of refuge already, people know that we are a safe place to come to, and either get food or blankets or a place. And we are going to do just that. So, do pray with us and for us. We are believing that God will glorify his name through our nation. And We pray for Russia as well, for peace all over the world.”

Please also be praying specifically for…

  • Slava – our partner in Kharkiv that is one of the main areas attacked the hardest, evacuated his family and stayed behind to care for the children and families he is helping. Please pray for his protection and strength.
  • Jane and Barbara – Who run a family-style orphanage in the kyiv area are bunkered in a bomb shelter. Please pray for their discernment on when to return and for food supplies for the children.
  • Andriy – Who is helping families in the Chernobyl region that has been hit heavily as well. He has a wife and two young children behind at home.
  • Bogdan – Who has been helping aged out teens in the east relocate to safer shelters and is now stuff in the chaos of traffic and gas shortages to get back to where he needs to be.
  • And for the Ukrainian Military – Without other nations stepping in, with God’s help, they are their only hope and are apparently doing really well despite being significantly outnumbered.

Serving Orphans Worldwide

We have been in contact with all of our partner homes in Ukraine, and all of the children and staff are currently safe.

However, please continue your prayers and support.

Pilgrim (Mariupol) and Sails of Hope (Slavyansk) are in particularly vulnerable areas of Eastern Ukraine. Our contacts have confirmed shelling and attacks all over the nation close to all 5 of our partner homes located near Kyiv, Alexandria, and even Lviv which is near the Polish border to the west.

Two of the homes have made an attempt to evacuate, but ultimately were forced to turn around and shelter in place due to Russian military strikes.

Hands of Hope

Jed in Ukraine has requested prayer for protection, discernment, wisdom, and peace. There was bombing about 20 miles away at a tank factory which shook their windows but so far that’s as close as it’s come. They have 2 generators, supplies, food, and medicine for a few months. They are all hunkered down together. I know many have dear friends there as well. Praying fervently for all of Ukraine! We know God is faithful and eventually there will be victory over all the brokenness of the world. But hard, hard things.

Orphan’s Promise

We’ve been in constant communication with our people in Ukraine all day. Our staff there could see and hear the explosions from their houses... Everyone’s waiting. There’s really nowhere to go any more. The people are scared but they are determined to fight. Many volunteers are signing up to go to battle. They bombed the whole country and are trying to advance from three sides (from Crimea in the south, along Russian borders in the East and from Belorussia in the North…. we’ve sent supplies in earlier this month in anticipation of the attacks but nobody expected the whole country to be affected. All of our kids/projects have been safe for now, just praying and waiting.

Everyone has been affected in the whole country because of the Airstrikes yesterday. They continue today. Several staff from our office are gathering at her house as it’s seen as a safer place than in the city of Kyiv with multilevel buildings. And they all are praying together that nothing hits their house…

Orphan Outreach

The young adults who are in our Aging Out Program are safe and are doing as well as can be expected. They are praying together as the Russian attack commences, and our Orphan Outreach team is praying alongside them as they and all of Ukraine face an uncertain future. Our Ukraine team currently has provisions to provide for their care—including food and shelter. Of course, this situation can change at any moment.

<![CDATA[When's the Best Time to Reclaim Your Legacy?]]>https://www.wearetheecho.org/post/reclaim-your-legacy605cd72019708a0015df742aThu, 25 Mar 2021 18:40:45 GMTRandall Nichols"Some of you will reclaim the ancient ruins of your cities. Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls and a restorer of homes." Isaiah 58:12 NLT

Some time ago we sat at the kitchen table feeling this frustration with life. We had one little guy and another one on the way and I remember you saying, “There’s got to be more than this.” It was this discontent with normal life, knowing we were created for more. Maybe you’ve said it or thought it or felt it... this discontent with the normal American pursuit (job advancement, bigger house, nicer car, family vacations, etc.). I think we just feel stuck in it and we look around and we feel normal so we just resign to live in it...until the nagging feeling catches back up to us and we feel frustrated all over again. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a good job, a nice house or car, or exploring the big beautiful world God has made. The problem is when those become our pursuit. They become our why. But pursuing these things we know almost always leads to ruin. Right? Marriages are ruined. Families are ruined. Careers are ruined. Finances are ruined. Reputations are ruined. Sometimes nature and cultures have even been ruined. Those “things” we want to acquire or see or do, they can all be roadside stops along the way but when they become our aim, people (and often the people we care about most) become victims along the wayside of our sideways pursuit.

That’s kinda what happened to the people of Israel. In the Book of Isaiah, we see the prophet spending a lot of effort trying to help Israel see how they’d abused themselves and the cost that was being imposed because of it. Isaiah’s helping them remember. Helping them aspire. Helping them identify. Helping them hook back in to that tether that anchors them to God and the purpose He has for them as individuals, as a community, as a nation, and ultimately as a people belonging to God. Israel had just been given a chance to start over but they were finding themselves doing the same old things with the same old results that weakened them as a society and left them exposed and vulnerable and ultimately led to their capture and the city's destruction.

Their legacy has been left in ruins.

What about you?

What about me?

What in your life, in my life, is in ruins because of self-preservation rather than seeking the welfare of others? I think you've probably seen it too often recently...

Marriages are crumbling. Business have closed. Influencial men have ruined their reputations. Church leaders have lost influence. Your daughter won't return your phone calls. Your brother has stopped responding to your attempts to connect. Your childhood friendship is on the rocks because of an unfiltered comment on Facebook. Maybe you feel like your life or parts of your life are in ruins.

Israel was there. Our society is there. And the ones who pay the highest cost are the poor, the overlooked, the invisible, the silenced, the marginalized...

But this chapter in Isaiah tells us, if we are willing to listen, some of us will have the luxury of a life that lives on after we've returned to the dust. If we will listen, if we will move toward the margins of society, if we will elevate the downcast, we will actually be able to reclaim for our own lives a legacy that can outlast us.

Reclaiming the ruins isn't easy. And it isn't instant. It's an investment but it's one that has the potential to pay dividends for generations to come.

When we observe the population we serve in foster care and adoption, especially the children, and maybe even more especially the teenagers, all of them come into a new family feeling a constant and often subconscious sense of the brain making all these "Am I Safe" evaluations. The walls have been broken down for them over and over and over again. And the more experiences of trauma a child has had, the more challenges a foster or adoptive parent will need to overcome. As a human, that child is instinctively wired to survive. But as a child, they're not emotionally equipped to build those walls in healthy ways. Only a regulated, stable adult can do that. And, as you can imagine, rebuilding walls is not an overnight or single-response solution. There's work to be done. Slow, intentional, self-sacrificing work to be done to rebuild security FOR a child and let their brains do the work of healthy development rather than constantly fighting for survival.

And adults... we are the only ones who can do this for a child... for the children in our cities who desperately need someone to say, "I see you. I've got you. You're safe here."

Is this your legacy? What would it take for you to take the next step? There are a few things you can do right now. One, you can pray. Let God stir your heart. Two, obey. Whatever you feel He might be asking of you, be courageous and follow Jesus in obedience. Three, connect with us. Maybe what He's asking of you is to welcome children into your home and begin the process of rebuilding walls for them. Maybe he's asking you to help these families with the process of rebuilding. Maybe he's asking you to fund the work. There's something for everyone. There's a way every single one of you can reclaim your legacy and be known as a rebuilder of walls.

And while it's fine to dream about your own 2.5 kids and your boat and your house, remember Isaiah was wanting Israel to keep the marginalized in mind in all this dreaming. And this is Jesus' dream for you as well. There are thousands of kids in our country who've forgotten how to dream because for them, the basics have been so elusive that dreaming of a family, of a place that feels safe, of the arms of a mother, of the security of a future, of the laughter around the dinner table, of warm snuggles under blankets, and football in the yard - these dreams aren't even possible for many kids. In fact, where we live there are a few hundred who simply don't have the capacity to dream right now because they're fighting for survival. They need someone who can curate a dream for them. You can bring the dream to them. You can restore home for a child today. You can restore dreams for a child today. This is your legacy. And God is inviting you to step into it. Will you take his offer?

Are you wrestling with the idea of opening your home to a child? Is there a family in your circle who needs your support? Do you have the capacity for financial generosity toward vulnerable people?

Here's what we know... we all want our lives to mean something. When we're dead and gone, we want to be remembered for something.

If we look again at Israel and the audience Isaiah was orginially writing to, in many ways this call to reclaim, rebuild, and restore was a very literal aspiration. Hammer and nails, timber and thatch, front doors and sidewalks and neighbors and all that. But you and I both know that a physical house is not at the core of our aspirations. Certainly we want a safe, pleasing, and functional structure. But home is more than walls and a roof. Home is what happens between the people who live inside it. And if I put myself in the shoes of Isaiah's audience and I hear him ask me to dream about being known as a restorer of homes, I'm remembering the dinners around the table as a kid where I'd watch my father pray, where I'd hear my brother and sister laughing, or my mom trying to stay civilized when someone produced an unexpected sound from the southside, if you know what I mean. I'm recalling building something with my dad or playing ball in the front yard. I'm dreaming about what it'll be like to teach my son to drive and how to ask a girl on a date. Being a restorer of homes is really very little about the structure of a house and so much about the opportunity to strengthen the human connection within the most sacred structure God has ever formed, the family.

It’s taking one step in the direction of God’s people. It’s seeing the messy, broken ruins of someone’s life and moving towards them, when everything in you wants to turn and go the other way.

We could ignore them. We do it every day. Sometimes, it's just easier. But what if instead, we choose to see the needs? To look into the eyes of the person in need? What if we believed God coud actually use us to meet the needs? What would it look like to move just one step in His direction?

We all want our lives to mean something. This is your legacy. And God is inviting you to step into it. Will you take his offer?

Will you move just one step in His direction?

<![CDATA[Self Care or Community Care?]]>https://www.wearetheecho.org/post/community-care605cd28e877a3b0015c63c84Thu, 25 Mar 2021 18:27:19 GMTKelley NicholsFifty percent (50%) of families who step into foster care and/or adoption will quit within the first year. They cite lack of support as the main reason. But with support, 90% continue on for years.

Big Question #1: Why do families quit?

First of all, parents of children with special needs or trauma experience chronic stress levels comparable to combat soldiers. They are at higher risk for caregiver fatigue, burnout, PTSD, depression and divorce.

And, there’s no quick or easy fix. Kids come to you after experiencing these big, hard things. We attended a trauma workshop that offered practical tips in managing trauma behaviors. And said after putting in the time, day in and day out for 18 months, you’ll see results. So it makes sense that without support, so many foster families are done after one year. It’s hard, you’re all alone and it’s not getting any better.

Big Question #2: What does margin look like for a family in crisis?

Families in crisis don’t have margin. Life happens in very rough waters. And your people (family, friends, church, school, counselors, doctors, babysitters, etc)—your support—is your family’s lifeboat. Without margin, water comes in the boat faster than you can bail out.

So you’re drowning. But, drowning doesn’t look like what you think. And sometimes, you don’t even realize you’re drowning.

“Shouting self care at people who actually need community care is how we fail people.” Nakita Valerio

Big Question #3: What are some practical ways anybody can get involved and what kind of commitment are we talking about?

If someone is drowning, you don’t stand over them and ask them why they’re drowning. Or suggest things they do differently.

You jump in.

Don’t say, “Let me know if you need anything.”

Instead say, “I’m picking up CFA. What can I get for your family?”

Just show up.

Why do we wait for people to die to show up with food? People eat every day. Just show up with food. A meal gives families time to do other things. Margin to go to the pool or ride bikes a little longer and come home to dinner because they don’t have to worry about cooking. And, a meal shows these families they have this whole community who cares about them.

So often for these families, one meal a month can be a lifeboat.

Content by: Carlyn Menser, Susan Fowler & Kelley Nichols

Listen to the full podcast episode HERE

Related Video:

<![CDATA[Sabotaging Big Days]]>https://www.wearetheecho.org/post/sabotaging-big-days5df2846836e9ee00179ad5d1Thu, 12 Dec 2019 18:24:30 GMTRandall NicholsThis article originally appeared on jenhatmaker.com on December 14, 2017. We’d love to hear your thoughts on these ideas as we head into the holidays.

Tracking your history, have you noticed that Christmas produces an inevitable cocktail of unintentional sabotage, overreactions, and meltdowns (or total withdrawal)? Do the best of days end in tears, yelling, and devastation? Do you end the season curled up in a ball, confused how these lovely moments keep going sideways?

Big Day Sabotage is no joke, man.

For all my friends who parent someone with unrealistic expectations, or you're related (or married) to someone like this, as well as grownups who also sabotage Big Days unwittingly, you're not alone. Maybe you find yourself wrecking Big Days like Christmas, feeling frustrated year after year at your own self. Perhaps this will be helpful for you too, dear one. So many factors contribute to this grief and self-preserving behavior; being abandoned is one contributor, but other circumstances result in the same reaction.

First, the WHY. This is multifaceted and certainly varies from person to person:

WHY: Abandonment, that common old culprit, is a deep shame so entrenched, most affected people don’t even know they are operating out of it. Whether with full memories in hand or not, it doesn’t matter. The narrative is: I wasn’t good enough to keep or to stay with or to stand by or to love well. This may affect children you are parenting, or it could be residual pain from your own childhood - someone left you, walked away, or maybe even lived in your home but was entirely absent. This sense of unworthiness is so deep, it takes a lifetime of intentional work to overcome. What shame says is this: I am not worthy of love, happiness, or goodness. It seems ridiculous to those who love that person, but those affections can’t erase a hard story. When someone doesn’t feel worthy of happiness on Big Days, he or she might sabotage to hasten the disappointment before it gets to them first. Double bonus if that behavior triggers someone else' anger, because then shame is validated.

WHY: Big Days trigger Big Feelings. No matter the extreme (good or bad), it is all INTENSE and triggering. It conjures the most tender emotions, the most volatile responses, kind of like laughing hysterically at a funeral. Of course the reaction seems outrageous, but Big is Big and when a traumatized or sensitive person opens the door to Big, everything is free to spill out. Some folks spend so much energy keeping a lid on their pain and fear and trying to just “act normal,” so when permission is granted to feel all their feels, both ends of the spectrum dump their restrained contents and it is a cluster of hysteria.

WHY: For many people, exiting the safe space of ordinary, regulated, predictable routine and entering the scary space of extraordinary, disregulated, unpredictable practice is very disruptive. When your insides feel out of control, it is incredibly calming to have a schedule you can count on; no big surprises to derail, no left field scenarios to navigate, no uncertain activities to worry about. Big Days not only produce exceptional emotions (not normal), but everyone else places heightened expectations on the impending (not normal) celebration, and the stress is unmanageable.

Or the opposite. Maybe you (or someone you love) place your own unreasonable expectations on Big Days. Someone might imagine a narrative so impossible, so idealistic, so over-the-top, every normal detour is devastating. The desire to craft the Most Perfect Day Ever reaches a fever pitch, and with the slightest wobble to the plan, that person comes unraveled. He or she wants to control the outcome all the way to perfection, but that doesn’t exist and inner shame trumps it anyway. That person falls from an exceptional height of Expectations + “I am unworthy of happiness.”

WHY: Regret and sadness. You know what? It is just sad to remember grief or pain or loss, whether it happened early or just this year. Big Days can be a reminder of what should have been but wasn’t, all that was lost, all that will never be. While others seem to happily skip through every charmed Christmas memory, the sensitive, fragile heart feels lonely and isolated from the merriment, alone in very real feelings of sadness.

So here are some suggestions for Big Days:

If possible, shrink the runway to Big Days. The longer the season (THANKS FOR NOTHING CHRISTMAS SEASON THAT NOW STARTS IN OCTOBER), the greater the stress. It’s just too much to worry about for too long. So if possible, don’t say a word until the day before or day of. On seasons like Christmas, the next suggestion is helpful…

Which is this: lower stimulation all around. The conventional American approach suggests that MORE Christmas is called for. Let’s make so many beautiful memories! We’ll give you all the magic! But it can have the opposite effect. Too much stimulus, too many feelings, too much activity, too many opportunities to fall apart. Keep Big Days (and seasons) simple. Don't overschedule or overhype. The calmer an activity is, the less noise and people, the better. And don’t talk about those activities until they are practically happening. Less is more.

Try to manage expectations. Cast simple, manageable vision for Big Days: this is what we’ll do, this is who will be there, this is what we won’t be doing, this is about how long it will last. If possible, address unrealistic expectations early; better now than someone obsess for weeks then face disappointment times one million. (I had a hard conversation with a kid a couple of years ago because she kept asking for an iPhone. I finally said, “Honey, you are not getting an iPhone. No 3rd grader in this family has ever had an iPhone. Let’s let that go right now so you don’t expect one on Christmas morning.” Once that stressor was gone, she did not worry about it for the next 10 days then despair on Christmas morning.) When someone tips their hand toward unrealistic expectations, manage them then and there. And if the unrealistic expectation is yours, sit your own self down and talk yourself out of the rafters. Paint a realistic picture for your mind and try to untangle from dreamy scenarios that will unlikely happen.

If it is appropriate, lots of touching and pauses for affection. This has a calming effect on my entire family actually. When you see one of your people spiraling, it helps to pull them on your lap, rub their backs, and redirect their attention for a few minutes. It is a physical solution to an emotional problem. It often works like a reset button. If it is you? Talk someone into scratching your back or rubbing your hands or shoulders for five minutes. (One of my best friends likes to have a small touch during Big Moments. I'll reach over and rest my hand on her forearm and tell her, "Who loves you? Me.")

Finally, talk in advance about how Big Feelings might show up. Recall other Big Days and identify emotions. Validate, validate, validate, making sure your Big Day Struggler hears that he or she is NOT a bad person wrecking a perfectly good day. (And you may need to tell this to yourself, dear one.) Talk about fear and sadness and feelings of scarcity and how that shows up, and give them full permission to feel it all. Assure them that whether they get a handle on it or not, they could not possibly make you love them less, and if the worst thing that happens is they have a bad day, then no big deal. Everyone gets to have bad days. It’s not a deal breaker.

Just taking that pressure off is so helpful. Feeling less alone in anxiety, confusion, and shame is so healing. The message is: We are in this together, and just knowing that makes us all less afraid.

For those of us managing a lot of hearts and lives, it helps to take our own expectations out of the stratosphere, and if a Big Day goes beautifully, then HUZZAH!! If it doesn’t, it is just a day and we are looking at the long road with our people, right?

To all parents doing this hard work and to grown-ups with sabotaging behaviors and worries about these Big Days ahead, I just love you. We’ll just keep working, keep trying, keep loving, and keep forgiving ourselves when it all goes sideways. You are not alone, know that. So many of us are right there with you, doing the stuff, having victories and flat-out disasters. But we are trying and we care and we Love Big and that counts.

The merriest of Christmases to you, friends. And if the whole Big Day goes in the gutter, there is always the egg nog.

What is your experience here? What do you see? What do you do? How do you help?

<![CDATA[Wrapping Around Foster and Adoptive Families]]>https://www.wearetheecho.org/post/wrapping-around-foster-and-adoptive-families5d35ba51b9b760016eb38a7eMon, 22 Jul 2019 13:37:08 GMTRandall NicholsThis article originally appeared on jasonjohnsonblog.com

The goal of your church is not simply to start a peripheral ministry a few are involved in; it’s to establish a foundation culture of caring for orphaned and vulnerable children everyone has a role to play in.

An environment where it's understood that while we're not all called to do the same thing, we're all certainly capable of doing something. That's the goal. Everyone. Doing. Something. 


If we're not careful, we may unintentionally define caring for orphans and the vulnerable too narrowly - to simply mean foster care, adoption or some other form of bringing a child into your home long term. While these are of course crucial and essential places for the Church to engage, they represent only a few of the items on the buffet of limitless opportunities available for people to get involved. The truth is that not everyone is called to foster or adopt. As a matter of fact, most people in the Church won't ever bring a child into their home for any extended period of time. But this does not mean they, and the Church as a whole, don't have an essential and necessary role to play in caring for these kids by supporting the families who do.

If people in your church are only hearing it's about adoption, then the many that are not considering adoption but still have a heart to be involved won’t engage. If people are only hearing it’s about foster care, then those who aren't able to foster but are still passionate about being involved will feel like there's no place for them to really make an impact. Our message must be clear, broad and helpful - from the single college student to the young family to the empty nester to the retiree - that we all don't have to do the same thing, but we can all certainly do something. If it's too narrow we effectively communicate that the majority of our people have no essential role to play in this, if any at all, which is certainly not the case.


I recently met a man in Nebraska. Mid-60's, retired. He spends most of his time at a local equestrian center re-shoeing and caring for the horses there because many are used in equine therapy for kids who have experienced trauma, abuse and neglect. He told me that while he may not be able to bring a child into his home he can certainly take care of these horses if it means it helps those kids who need them. I couldn't agree more. 

I recently met a couple in Kansas City. Empty-nesters. He told me he makes the best BBQ in the state (a bold claim!) and LOVES to cater any orphan care ministry related event at their church including respite nights for couples, info meetings for those considering getting involved and even taking meals over to families homes who have had a new child placed with them. Here's a couple that has said, "We know what we can't do, and we know what we can do, so we're going to do what we can do well." They told me that while they may not be in a position to bring a child into their home right now they can certainly do their best to bless those who are. I couldn't agree more. 

I recently spent time with a pastor in Oklahoma. Large, historic, traditional church. They've established a significant fund people can invest in that, in part, is used to (and I quote the pastor here) "Ensure that under no circumstances should it cost anyone in our church one penny to foster or adopt a child". Wow! He told me he recognizes that with a large demographic of senior-aged adults in his body they have to be diligent about presenting unique opportunities to get involved that don't simply consist of bringing children into their home. He's convinced they have thousands of dollars in an account right now waiting to be used by families because of it. Here's a church that has said, "We know what we can't do, and we know what we can do, so we're going to do what we can do well." I couldn't agree more. 

I know of lawyers that will donate legal services for adoptions pro bono. Mechanics who one Saturday a month offer free oil changes to single moms and foster parents. Counselors who offer their services for free to foster and adoptive families. The list could go on. Everyone...every.one. can do something. 


The opportunities to get involved are as unique and diverse as each individual person in your church. Everyone has something to offer - whether it's BBQ, babysitting, a gift card or even a new forever family. While we are not all called to do the same thing, we are all certainly capable of doing something. Perhaps it could be said this way: You're either called to bring children into your home or you're capable of serving and supporting those who do - so find your "something"! Maybe the consistent "script" at your church can simply be this:

"At _______ ________ Church, some of us are going to bring children into our homes, the rest of us are going to find ways to serve and support them."

Here's a visual to help us see some simple, unique and diverse ways that a community of people can wrap around and tangibly serve foster and adoptive families - and in so doing participate in their calling and responsibility to care for kids by serving and supporting the families who have brought them into their homes.  

To explore the idea of "everyone can do something" further, and to discover practical ways to implement this in your church or ministry, read "Ten Simple Ways Your Church Can Serve Foster Families", "Sharing Stories That Help Your Ministry, Not Hurt It" and download the FREE eBook, "Everyone Can Do Something: Building a Foundational Culture of Orphan in Your Church"

<![CDATA[Scared Doesn’t Mean Coward]]>https://www.wearetheecho.org/post/scared-doesn-t-mean-coward5c9411fbe0f217001cc710bcThu, 21 Mar 2019 23:05:28 GMTRandall NicholsDown syndrome is scary.

I said that to myself five years ago. It took me awhile to admit it. But I was pretty opposed to all lifelong diagnoses.

I had very little information about Down syndrome back then. And the information gaps gave my imagination plenty of space to run freely. I saw the shadows in the woods, tolerable at a distance, but I dare not move closer.

I was afraid. I was afraid of the shortness of life that often accompanies a Down syndrome diagnosis. Afraid of poor quality of life. Afraid of the social torment people with this diagnosis endure. Afraid I didn’t have what it would take to be a parent of a person with a lifelong diagnosis.

I could tell you all the reasons you shouldn’t be afraid, but they won’t apply to some of you and I’m certain to miss some of the specifics that others of you are really looking for. I can’t do it all in five minutes or less. I wish we could meet for coffee or share a few meals together (which we love doing if we can make the logistics happen). The concerns are varied but there are some things that are universal and those are the best things to talk about here.

Emotional or Practical? Which is Right?

Prospective moms and dads seem to come at the adoption process differently. For the most part, at least with the families I know, a mom’s initial approach to adopting is entwined with her emotionally enriched nature to nurture. Dads are emotional, too. I would argue our approaches are almost always emotional. Though not initially with an intent to nurture, we’re bent to ensure we’re protecting the margins, and that propensity is driven by emotion. There’s a lot wrapped up in this… it’s financial, practical; it’s family dynamics, potential lifestyle changes, etc.

None of these are necessarily deal-breakers, but they all need to be considered…

Will we have to buy a new car? Do we need to change our vacation strategy? Are we saving enough? Are my parents still going to come visit? Will our friends stick around for the chaos? What about the day-to-day? Do changes need to happen at work to accommodate a new child with potentially chronic medical needs?

It’s scary for us dads. We don’t say it. But I promise you, it is. Scary doesn’t mean choosing adoption is wrong. In fact, often, it probably means it’s right. But here’s the one thing we need you to know, wives. Us dads… we’re not cold or slow to the idea. We are practical, methodical, maybe even cautious.

But we are not cowardly.

It may sound like spin, but wives, please try to understand. We’re all trying to mitigate our own fears to best position our family for the prospect of a healthy transition into life as the family of a person with a lifelong diagnosis. I’m certain there are wise things to be poured in to your hearts moms, but I’m a dad and I think the boys need to hear me today.

Two Ways I Struck Out and One Time I Didn’t

First of all, dads… you’re doing a great job. You may not be hitting home runs. You might even be striking out. But you’re stepping up to the plate and taking swings. Now, if all you’re doing is striking out, we might need to work on some things because you’ve got to at least get on base if you ever hope to win the game. I want to help you. Dads, here are two ways I struck out. And this one time when I didn’t. Learn from my mistakes and help your wife and family…

….. Out #1: I processed everything internally only talking about my process when I’d come to a conclusion.

It is my nature to process internally. I read, reason, contemplate, read more, adjust my reasoning and finally settle my mind and heart. Nothing terribly unhealthy about this. Lots of brilliant people do it. Much of science and significant scientific discoveries follow this process.

But your wife’s heart and your family are not science experiments. They are your very own flesh and bone (Genesis 2:23). Your job as husband is as cultivator. It’s what a husband is. Someone who cultivates. Not just someone who contemplates. Contemplation in isolation is healthy. Cultivation requires planning, faith, exposure, discipline, protection, attention. Cultivation requires intimacy. And intimacy cannot happen in isolation. So sure, do what you need to learn and prepare, and then do what I didn’t do… offer your thoughts and feelings to your wife. Let her in. Ask her for her perspective. This will likely require you move back into contemplation (reading, learning, reasoning, etc.) but make sure you re-emerge to connect your wife to your process.

….. Out #2: I based all my internal processing decisions on the practical impacts.

Emotions are a real thing. They’re important. I don’t think they should have all the power, but they need to be given a voice and given their place. I don’t show the world what I’m really feeling most of the time. But this is a safe space, so I’ll confess… I have fears.We all do. To set our fears to rest, we seek knowledge, information, facts, experience. We’re looking for ways to settle our turmoil. We’re emotionally wired to move from chaos to peace.

But some of us (me), go a little far with this and ignore the messy emotions of a big decision, putting the weight of the cross on the shoulders of logic alone. Don’t do that. It’s poor form. And it ignores a critical element of your make up – your emotions. And look, if you’re having a hard time tapping in to your own emotions, ask your wife to offer hers. Emotion is too valuable an ingredient to holistic decision making to leave it aside.

….. That one time I didn’t strike out…

We had gotten some terrible news. Our dossier had been lost. This document we’d poured ourselves into for months, carefully following every little detail, asking for guidance to make sure it was in order… gone. We’d sent it to our agency. Our agency had reviewed it and sent it to the authorities in our child’s birth country, the birth country confirmed receipt of it, and then lost it. No one knew how to even begin to look for it.

There were lots of emotions. The most prevalent one being heartache. Our little girl was stuck in an orphanage while the family who loved her was stuck without a dossier. I cried. Mostly because I was angry and overwhelmed. My wife felt sad and guilty, as if she could have changed the outcome. It felt like a dead end, hopeless, heavy moment. But instead of sitting in my sorrow and letting anger turn in to cancer, we worshipped. Over and over we sang the refrain, “Our God is fighting for us always, we are not alone, we are not alone.” Over and over. Over our own hearts and over our little one across the world. We affirmed God’s nearness to us in this setback and His protection for our baby in an orphanage without a family nearby.

And then we prayed. Together. With tears streaming down our cheeks and faith in our hearts, “God wherever this dossier is, let it rise to the top of someone’s desk. If it’s buried in a stack somewhere, let it be found.”Two days later, that’s exactly what happened. It ended up on the wrong desk of a worker who was out of the office for a couple days. It’s reasonable to believe this issue would have worked itself out without our prayers. But we would have missed out on the opportunity to be raw and vulnerable with each other, with ourselves, and with our God. We needed a win.

The lost dossier wasn’t a concern to God. He knew where it was all along. He also knew my wife and I needed to be reminded that we’re on the same team.

There will always be plenty of reasons to be scared, fearful, upset, disappointed, and more as you work through adoption. But there’s no reason to keep it locked up. Process what you need to be able to give voice to your fears and then say them out loud.

I know this is hard for some of you. It’s hard for me. I’ve got a lot of work to do myself. But remember, you’ve been given a teammate who is perfectly suited to help you process. It’s okay to let her know where you are, even if you haven’t figured it all out yet.

<![CDATA[When Enough Is Enough]]>https://www.wearetheecho.org/post/when-enough-is-enough5c61a266d64a1f013e965f42Mon, 11 Feb 2019 16:31:16 GMTRandall NicholsI’m not overwhelmed and throwing in the towel. Not yet. Not exactly. I really want to talk about our clawing for more. For constant progress. For trying to be the best or at least better than you are.

The question I’m asking myself and I’m asking you is this: “What if exactly what you are, where you are is exactly what God wants for you right now?” I mean, at what point does your Always-Keeping-An-Eye-On-The-Horizon-Of-What’s-Next distract you from what God is doing right now? Maybe a better title of this article would’ve been, “When Can Enough Be Enough?”

I’m tired. I bet you are too. Being a parent is no walk in the park. Being an adoptive parent is something altogether different. Mix all this with the snares of being human and we wear ourselves out. There’s so much striving in our lives. So much trying to whittle our lives down to fit into a specific shape. But what if the rough edges are there by design for something only God knows about? We spend so much energy trying to conform our lives into something we’ve seen on Pinterest. We diet and style and dream and tear ourselves apart when what we attempt doesn’t match up to our expectations.

I may be wrong, but I think we all have this thing about us that wants to be the best at something. We want to find our niche and win more times than we lose. But the trouble I’m having lately is in trying to find a time Jesus taught us to strive to be the best. Not once did God call the most qualified. Moses argued with God about how He’d chosen the wrong man because he wasn’t capable of doing what God was asking of him. The Bible and our lives are filled with examples confirming this. And yet, somehow we’ve been led to believe that the pursuit of being the best is honoring to God.

But what if it’s not? What if stewarding average is what brings God the most glory? What if doing normal stuff is what makes your life legendary?

I realize this is unconventional. Even as I write it, my body winces. I’ve spent so much of my life from the time I was a teenager trying to be better, to be more attractive, to give employers a reason to hire or promote me. To build a larger audience, a better platform, a bigger following. But if I believe that God only gets glory when I’m this person I dream of being sometime in the future, then do I consequently ignore the opportunity to bring him glory with my life exactly how it is right now in the chaos of doctor’s appointments, paperwork, dossiers, home studies, attachment, etc.?

I had a conversation with a friend a couple weeks ago. I was talking about all these high-capacity people I know and struggling to learn how they do it and wrestling with my own insecurities and deficiencies. He said to me, “You realize that’s exactly what people say about you and your wife, right? How they’re in awe of you and all you guys are able to do. Your wife homeschools the kids, you both work full time, you guys have adopted two kids with special needs and somehow you’ve taught your children how to be the envy of every parent you meet.”

But I have a hard time believing him. It doesn’t make sense to me. I don’t feel high-capacity. I simply feel average. I don’t feel like I measure up. I’m 39 years old and still reaching for something. Sometimes I can pinpoint it. But more often it just feels like I’m reaching for something that I can’t quite see.

I struggle with feeling like I’m enough; a Just-As-I-Am kind of enough. Sometimes I think maybe God is more pleased with Those People who are getting more done in a day than I can in a week. The ones whose houses don’t desperately need painting or a new roof or floors that need to be patched and refinished. The ones with free time to read to their kids without feeling desperate to just get them to bed so you can sit down and take a deep breath for the first time today.

Those People have it together. Those People are my dream. Those People must be knocking it out of the park with Jesus.

But the problem is, Those People are not me. And for all the years I’ve been alive, I just haven’t figured out how to be Those People. Likely because God didn’t design me to be Those People.

I’m designed for something else.

My something may not be a thing that attracts thousands of followers on Instagram. My something maybe doesn’t lead to a publishing deal. But what if my something is something that stirs the hearts of those in my family to love Jesus more, to care more for others, and to become what God has made for them to become?

I feel the tension you’re feeling right now. The tension between hesitancy and hope. Believe me. I’m feeling it. If you’re thinking, “This guy has lost it. He’s suggesting a life of mediocrity and a let-it-be kind of ignorance,” you’re not far off. I think it’s crazy, too.

But maybe what I’m suggesting here is that we consider what life would look like if we abolish our self-imposed grading scale.

Why do we let ourselves believe our social media heroes are the definition of success? So what if what you do is change diapers all day, or wrestle with the insurance company, or drive an Uber? What if that’s exactly what you’re supposed to be doing? I’m not saying your dreams are bad, but what if your blinding pursuit of them (or even your absent-minded daydreaming of them) is a blockade to being the best version of you right now?

Your kids don’t need an awesome mom in 20 years. They need a present mom now. Your family doesn’t need a man who hides in a laboratory until all the kinks have been worked out. What could happen if instead of striving to build a better you, you chose to just be the best version of the you you are right now and trust God to give the increase if that’s what would bring him glory? Don’t you see?

God’s glory doesn’t rely on your accomplishments, but instead on your faithfulness. We can’t quantify the glory of God or what God defines as great. The greatest to ever live (Jesus) even balked at the idea of being labeled “great.” Greatness in the eyes of the world and greatness in the perspective of heaven must be two very different things.

I’m certain some of us will one day be better known than we are today. Some of us may become household names. Some of us may have an idea that turns into a multi-billon dollar industry. But none of this changes the call to simply just be you. There’s no curve. No level-ups. No ladders; unless the ladder helps you move downward to those in need.

Jesus was unequivocally the best, even though he wouldn’t have said so. But what if instead of doing what the Father had sent him to do he’d tried to be like Buddha, or Krishna, Odysseus, Romulus, or Horus? All these deities had enormous followings. Beloved by many. If Jesus would’ve modeled his life after any of these “successful” gods, we would still be dead in our sins, separated from God.

Looking back, we see the greatness of Jesus. But when he walked this earth, he did so in the most average sort of way (Isn’t this the carpenter’s son?). Wasn’t that his whole point? To come to be one of us? To be normal like us and show us that it has nothing to do with climbing the mountain to get to God, but instead, God climbed down to live among us in our dusty, broken down houses and lives. DL Moody says, “We are leaky vessels, and have to keep right under the fountain all the time in order to stay full.” Some might look at this as a flaw but what if this by design?

If Jesus could shake out of the accolades of heaven to come down to fulfill the work God sent him to do, can we shake the temptation to be something else and just be and do exactly what God has designed for us, regardless of whether anyone else thinks it’s awesome or average?

What would our families look like if we could embrace the mundane? What if we could shift our perspective and begin to see the mundane as the miraculous? What if our children could see us experience life like they do… eyes wide open to the possibilities of right now, absent of comparison, overcome with the exhilaration, the supremacy of the moment? Can we let tomorrow worry about itself?

We have a legacy to leave, the seeds of which can only be planted today.

<![CDATA[How To Trust When God Changes Course]]>https://www.wearetheecho.org/post/how-to-trust-when-god-changes-course5c619f87de63230ae4ec0287Mon, 11 Feb 2019 16:21:29 GMTRandall NicholsI wish I could tell you it was easy…

what you’re about to do…

I want to. I want to sell you. Because it sounds like such an easy thing to sell.

But I can’t do it. I can’t. I want to but I can’t.

Because what you’re about to do is one of the most inexpressible things you’ll ever walk through. No amount of words can capture it for you ahead of time to give you an accurate picture.

Here’s the reality. The process isn’t predictable. Some of the things you anticipate to be hard will be super easy. The places you expect the big donors to show up will be barren. The sleepers who you thought didn’t even know you existed will walk up to you and become your biggest cheerleaders. There’s not much predictable about the process of adoption. Many families have adopted multiple times. We’ve adopted twice. Very few things were the same. We used the same agency both times. Both our daughters have special needs. Both of them are of Asian decent. Beyond those similarities, these two adoptions couldn’t have been more different. I’d wager a triple-tall iced caramel macchiato that families who’ve adopted multiple times would affirm what I’m suggesting.

These uncertainties make the cliff you’re standing on seem higher that it really is. There are tremendous benefits to having a support system. I wish everyone could walk through this with the support we were fortunate to gather. We love our tribe. Love. Them. They’re a fantastic group of people. Some of the tribe are reading this right now. Many of our tribe don’t even live near us, and still they’ve carried us. Loved us. Cared for us. But the point of this is not our tribe, or any tribe for that matter. Because as much as I wish this were untrue, not every family has the fortune of a strong tribe, or any tribe at all; especially one like we have. We wish we could assure that every family has adequate support. We all need it, but we don't all have it.

Even with our phenomenal tribe, being a parent of a child with special needs is isolating. I’m sorry if this is the first time you’re hearing this. I’m even more sorry that it’s true. You also need to know, in case this was left out of your training. Every child from adoption has experienced trauma and therefore has a need that needs special consideration, understanding, and attention. Each child will process it differently, but with healthy guidance they can navigate it in a way that can lead to healing. What you're about to step toward is not for the faint of heart.

You probably have friends right now who don’t understand why you’re doing this. They can’t figure you out. And rather than asking questions and trying to understand, they’re going to begin to distance themselves from you. Those people you thought you’d always have in your corner may slowly fade into the shadows of your history.

For some of you, your family may abandon you. And if they don’t abandon you, you may notice one of two things; either they’ll talk about you behind your back or they’ll begin to avoid you at Sunday dinner.

And then there’s your church. I hope you have a great church with great leaders. But as much as your church leaders would say they want to support you, too often, they simply don’t know how. And whether you’re in the process working and waiting or you’ve been home for three years, too many churches are ill-prepared for what it means to care for adoptive families during the process and post-placement.

But please don’t hear this as defeat. In fact, after seeing more and more families walk the process, I’m convinced this is all setup by God for his good purpose to provide you with abundant opportunities to trust.

Take this passage for example:

“The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.” – Proverbs 21:1 ESV

Like a stream of water…

Throughout scripture the “hand of the Lord” represents His strength, His power, and His work. We can work with Him or we can try to work it out our way. But we should know, God will turn the course, not to fit us, but to fit His plan.

My advice: learn to settle in and trust a little more. He’ll prove He’s worth it. This doesn’t promise smooth seas. As we move with God, as we follow the course He’s laid out for us, we will meet resistance. Sometimes God chooses to use us to cut through the resistance and forge a new way. Other times He uses the resistance to re-route us.

You probably know this by now, but there are reflections of Jesus in all of this; in adoption, in staying the course, in following through in obedience. And if Jesus can be seen then it must be Kingdom stuff. Jesus’ purpose while He was with us was to show us the way (Himself) and teach us to walk in Him. And what does He do to help us? He leaves us a guide (the Holy Spirit) and companions (the Church).

Now, in my dream of a perfect world, the local faith community would not need to be coaxed and prodded to step up for adoptive and foster families. I believe we will one day be there. But even if nobody steps up to walk with you, you are not alone. When God started stirring your heart for to care for orphaned and vulnerable children, He was actually inviting you into a partnership. When you said yes to walk out the Gospel example of adoption, you became co-workers with God Almighty in the work of adoption.

Isn’t that great news? My prayer for you is that you find a group of people to walk with you. But even if that never happens, I’m praying you realize that your co-working God doesn’t take lunch breaks or sick days or mini-retreats.

He shows up on time. He stays late. He helps pick up the slack. He negotiates the hard stuff. He closes the deals.

You are not alone.

When plans change change, when it seems God is changing course, know that it’s all under control. Your steady, faithful, unwavering God is working on your behalf.

Like streams of water, may your heart move along by the hand of your co-working God!

Postscript: If you're somewhere in the process of fostering or adopting and you find yourself isolated or in search or support, wherever you are in the world, please reach out to us. We are connected to a support network that spans the globe. And even if we can't find support in your neighborhood, we'd love to be able to support and encourage you along the way. Don't wait to reach out. We want you to succeed. And we know the best way to ensure this is to support you. Please let us know how we can serve you.




<![CDATA[Three Shifts Any Church Can Make Right Now To Prioritize Adoption]]>https://www.wearetheecho.org/post/three-shifts-any-church-can-make-right-now-to-prioritize-adoption5c619dab01b63609a6918897Mon, 11 Feb 2019 16:13:22 GMTRandall NicholsI know many of us are part of great churches. In an ideal world, you probably feel supported and loved all the way through the process and post-placement. If you find yourself in one of these churches, your pastor has probably talked from stage on a regular basis about the value of adoption. They know how integral it is when it comes to faithfully communicating and carrying out the gospel.

If you find yourself in a church like this, I hope you know how blessed you are.

If you’re not in a church like this it can be hard to feel like you’re in the right place. Don’t jump ship just yet. If you have a leader who is sympathetic to the need, you have an advocate. Even a lay leader often has significant influence to inspire new strategies. Often people don’t know what they don’t know and unless you say something to someone with an ear to listen, things stay the same.

With that in mind, here are three shifts in perspective any church can make that will have huge payoffs down the road when it comes to creating a culture of orphancare and making space for families who adopt.

1. Accommodate vs. Prepare

This is semantics, I know but it makes a massive difference.

Imagine you’re hosting a dinner. You’ve planned for ten people and as the guests begin to arrive you realize one of your guests has brought a plus one you weren’t planning on. You have two choices, you can either send them home or find an extra chair and place setting. I’m pretty sure you’d just find a chair and make it work. This is a good thing but how does that extra guest feel? Likely they feel a little embarrassed and like they’re in a place where they don’t belong. Imagine the difference it would make if you had already planned for an extra 10-20%.

In our churches, accommodating a guest seems polite, but what it actually communicates is, “We’re not prepared.” What hurts even worse is when a church has regular families who may have unique needs and the church continues to shuffle to try and accommodate. Preparation says, “We can’t wait for you to be here. We’re ready to help meet your needs.”

This subtle shift will pay itself back exponentially. Do it.

2. Systemization vs. Personalization

When things grow (especially organizations like a church), streamlining processes makes sense to help increase efficiency. But that doesn’t always work when it comes to families who don’t fit the systemized processes your team has put in place. Probably greater than 90% of the family situations in your church fit comfortably inside the systemization. But for the minority that desperately want to call your church their home, systemization needs to take a back seat to personalization.

Pastors have a shepherd’s heart. This is actually why they agreed to systemize things in the first place; it helps them care more efficiently for more people. And while there may be some push back (“We don’t do things this way,” or “Our policy is…”), a sensitive pastor or lay leader will have the intuition to slow down and listen and figure out a personalized solution, even if it means making exceptions to systemized processes to supply you with the care you need.

This is not usually a one-and-done conversation. It may take months of conversations. Remember, you’re probably not talking with someone who has adopted. They don’t know what they don’t know. You may have to teach them. Be vulnerable with them. Do your best to be gracious and see if God will open a door for you.

3. Go Find Them vs. Come to Us

There are 170,000 people in my city. The church I serve has about 1000 seats. Most Sundays there are extra seats which prompts a conversation about how to get people to fill those seats. The thing we always come back to is, people will not come until they know they can trust us. And they won’t know they can trust us unless they see us in community caring for them, no strings attached.

If we want to practice the purest form of Christianity, we really need to kill our capitalistic view of evangelism and take care of the vulnerable and the marginalized. If evangelism only looks like a preacher on Sunday then we represent Christ incompletely to families who’ve been left to the wolves.

Every year 2.4 million children are added to a family through typical methods, while approximately 140,000 find family through adoption. This means adoptive families make up at best only 6% of families in America. That’s one family in every sixteen. But for those six percent, these shifts can mean the difference between finding security and support in a faith community or making the decision that church is irrelevant to their needs, choosing to stay home on Sunday because the church experience has taught them that it’s just not worth the effort.

The beautiful thing about these three shifts is they cost no money and they don’t require additional staff. They don’t even have to be managed or led by a senior pastor. It’s so great when it does, but any lay leader or volunteer with the right amount of gumption and finesse can lead these changes successfully.

Just remind yourself, it takes time, patience, grace, and copious attempts at mutual understanding. It can be painful at times, but as we’ve learned about life, painful things often turn in to beautiful things.

Don’t give up!

<![CDATA[When Adoption Feels Too Heavy]]>https://www.wearetheecho.org/post/when-adoption-feels-too-heavy5c619bd3d3dcb409a6d7eee8Mon, 11 Feb 2019 16:04:31 GMTRandall Nichols“We’re not gonna make it.”

Maybe you’ve felt that. Maybe you’ve even been so desperate to say it out loud. There are times when you’ve looked around at the carnage and the chaos of your family and social worlds and have thought, “We’re not gonna make it.”

Maybe you’re feeling that right now.

I hope you do make it. I can’t say for certain that everybody always does. But so far, we haven’t died. One day we might, but not today.

That feeling is real, though, right? It might not be true but it feels real.

I think most of us reading this can recall times where the process felt so overwhelming that we couldn’t see any other outcome than failure.

When you’re in the depths of paperwork, or attachment, or social integration, or fighting for services for your kid, or navigating new family dynamics, it’s all a cloud. There’s not much that’s clearcut or without at least a certain degree of doubt, fear, and paralysis. You pray for wisdom and just a bit of rest and a sharp mind and for the people in your life to try and understand, but most of these things often are evasive. Too many days you stand in your kitchen ready to throw in the towel and go back to when things were easier.

This is all by design.

It’s supposed to be hard.

If it drives you outside your skillset, temperament, and mental capacity, trust me when I say, you’re not alone in this experience.

It all feels this way because you’ve thrown yourself into someone else’s workflow – you’ve found yourself doing God’s work. It’s huge and heavy and God alone is strong enough.

My kids (especially the littler ones) like to help; carrying the groceries, moving furniture, loading the car, etc. But I don’t hand them the milk and eggs, right? I give them the paper towels or the cereal. Sometimes they grab the bag I’m carrying, not because they see I need the help but because they want to be connected, included. They’re attempting to learn their own strength.

God is good at this sort of thing, inviting us to help him, not because if we don’t the world will fling into oblivion, but because he wants us to connect, he wants us to discover the limits of our strength and he wants us ultimately to acknowledge that it’s too heavy and we can’t carry it.

We need to stop believing the false notion that says, “God will not give you more than you can handle.” He absolutely will. Because he wants to remind you that he alone is big enough, smart enough, strong enough, and that you are loved enough to invite you in.

Maybe this is a reality check but listen, there’s no way the God who spun this whole earth into existence and sent his Son to save us needs our involvement, our strength, or our input to accomplish this mission. But I can guarantee you that the God who loves us enough to make a home for us absolutely chooses over and over again to include us in his work.

The bottom line is this… If you’re worn out and exhausted through the process, congratulations! You’re doing it right. You’re learning the limits of your strength and you’re realizing that God has invited you to connect with him on this beautiful journey.

What you’re walking through is living proof to the watching world what God’s love, his character, his attributes – what God himself – looks like.

Your first priority is not completing your checklist. It’s willing obedience. Just do that. Put yourself out there. Offer yourself to God. Not because you’re able. But because you’re loved. And watch the work get done.

You’re doing God’s work.

<![CDATA[How to Know When It’s Time to Adopt]]>https://www.wearetheecho.org/post/how-to-know-when-it-s-time-to-adopt5c44a90f7b1742001c61a689Sun, 20 Jan 2019 17:04:31 GMTRandall NicholsJanuary last year, my wife sat across the couch from me as we do most every night. She has a way of asking a question that doesn’t leave you alone, even after you’ve answered it. The lights in the living room were dim and an episode of The Office was playing in the background.

I was probably staring at my phone when she said, “So…” You know this isn’t going to be a question about ice cream or pizza or an invitation to go to bed early. This was weighted. She sat patiently as I let that syllable settle into my psyche. And then I repeated her, “So…,” and I looked at her knowing full well what she was about to ask.

We’d been home from our first adoption for fourteen months. And for the last thirteen months she’d been talking about the orphanage and the babies and when and in what capacity we were going back. For her, this wasn’t a question of should we. It was only a matter of when.

So on the couch that night, I knew what was going to follow the “so…” To be really transparent, I was not looking forward to it because I knew what I had to say was not going to thrill her.

We aren’t much for New Years resolutions per se. Instead, over the course of a few dinnertime conversations we ask each family member what goals they want to accomplish in the coming year. Around the dinner table that December before, we all said we’d like to adopt again in the coming year. I can’t speak for everybody at the table, but my interest in adopting again was accompanied by a giant asterisk.

There’s no human work closer to my heart than adoption. It was very real and tangible. It was no longer a dream. We had done it. We walked through the grueling, heart-testing process. We had helped others do it. People had begun asking us to write and speak about it. We even wrote a children’s book about it. It seemed like we were moving in the “expert” column. My big, gigantic asterisk was full of conditional statements mostly based in fear.

So when she said, “So…” I knew we were about to venture into some scary stuff. I looked up. “So…,” I said. She looked into my eyes with a focus so sharp it penetrates the hardest shell. “We said we were going to start the adoption process again next year. It’s almost next year. When are we going back?”

I wanted to do more. But actually going back to China seemed like too much to ask our family to go through again. And not just our family, but our community, too. We leaned heavily on them for fourteen months for financial support. And in the months post-placement they carried us through mealtimes and doctor visits and took our bigger kids out for play dates.

What happened for us in those months was miraculous to me. It might not seem that way to others, but it was for us. And since we got home, five other families in or connected to our community had begun the adoption process. This was exciting to us and we took every opportunity to cheer them on, but I was afraid of trying to start another adoption. Do miracles happen twice?

I was fearful. Doubtful. Could our community support one more adoption? I was certain our people were tapped out of all this adoption talk. Over the course of a couple years, this community has given over $200,000 to the personal adoption funds of six families including ours. That’s no small amount. How could we ask them to reach into their pockets again and keep giving? I was embarrassed. I couldn’t keep asking them for money. 

Fear. Doubt. Embarrassment. All smoke screens. There’s no substance. They’re almost tangible because they’re very intimate emotions. We don’t like to admit we feel these things so we hide them behind other things. We try to come up with practical replacement excuses (“We can’t afford it.” Or, “We don’t have the space.” Or, “Our life will become more chaotic,” etc.) rather than call them what they are and leave ourselves vulnerable. Just say it. Admit you’re scared. Admit you have doubts. Admit it’s embarrassing to ask for help. Admit it to yourself, to your spouse, and admit it to God. He already knows, but for your own good, say it.

I didn’t do this. When she asked me the question all I could sheepishly answer was, “I don’t know.” I hate that answer. As a man, a husband, and head of our house I feel responsible for knowing things. All the things. Most of the time when I don’t know, I figure it out. But I couldn’t just search a YouTube video to figure out how to know. I’m an internal processor. My wife is not.

I spent the next few weeks trying to figure out how to know. For a while, conversations between my wife and me were short and impatient. She wanted direction and I had NOTHING. She thought I wasn’t serious about it. But I just needed her to give me the space to process and and the grace to stay patient. 

This was not an easy lesson for us to learn. She was eager to say yes to a child at a moment’s notice. I wasn’t there yet. Every few weeks she’d text me a picture of a baby she was praying for. Often, pictures of those babies would end up on our refrigerator. She would say things like, “Look at her. Is she our baby?” None of them were.

But instead of letting impatience grow into resentment, my wife decided to do two beautiful things. First, she began to advocate for these babies God would bring to her heart. Her philosophy was, “If they aren’t coming home to us, then I will help them find their home.” And for all but one of those, that’s exactly what she did. Every baby but one has a home now.

The second thing she did was to pray a very simple prayer for me: “God, move through my husband. Speak to him when it’s time to adopt.” She prayed that prayer every single day for months and genuinely trusted God to speak to me and lead us along. 

Toward the end of the summer, God was indeed moving in my heart. I didn’t have much direction, but I had begun to sense my heart unfolding. I wrote a bit about this in October 2016; about how God’s path was hidden. This felt very real to me. For months my wife had been asking me for a path. I had nothing.

Until that day.

I called her immediately, tears streaming down my face. “I don’t know how we’re going to adopt. But I know we are. The path is hidden. No plan we can come up with on our own will get us there. The path is hidden.” I submitted the article in October. I was away at a leadership retreat outside Richmond. That night my wife texted me to tell me a baby had been born across the country who would be placed for adoption and someone contacted her to ask if we’d be interested in adopting. This was our baby. I was confident. My wife was neutral. This is what she had prayed; that my heart would turn first and that she would be ready. None of my practical concerns were remedied before this point. But I knew: the path was hidden under the sea and God would lead us safely across.

If you’ve adopted before, you remember the resistance you faced along the way. It’s disheartening. It’s enough to make you want to quit. Certainly enough to make you think you’re crazy when considering putting your family through it again. You were naive last time. Now your eyes are wide open. If you’ve not adopted yet, you will feel it soon.

Either way, we all need to remember two things:

1) Our enemy resists adoption. It’s one of the best pictures we have on earth for what God has done for us spiritually. 

2) You’re on the same team as your spouse. You can’t guilt your spouse into it. You won’t gain much ground by vilifying your spouse. Trust and be patient. 

If God has called you to something, trust that He will call your spouse, too.

If you happen to get there first, great! Stay patient and passionate. God will bring it all together at just the right time.

<![CDATA[Seven Things I've Learned from the Adoption Process]]>https://www.wearetheecho.org/post/seven-things-i-ve-learned-from-the-adoption-process5c43cb19af29ee001cca40a3Sun, 20 Jan 2019 01:17:20 GMTRandall NicholsHey Parents. First of all, I know you’re probably a little scared. It’s okay. You don’t have to admit it, at least not yet. Just know that there’s somebody out there who gets what you’re going through. We’ve all felt it. Trust me, you’ll find a way to lead your family through the process. Take a deep breath. Let your shoulders relax. Sit still for a second and let me offer some encouragement.

There are seven things I learned through the adoption process. Hopefully, these will help you.

1. Capacity: You can do more than you think.

We are an average family with average jobs. Here’s something I know about humans… almost all of us are guilty of limiting ourselves by our past accomplishments. We believe that we’re only as capable as our most recent victories. But what about when we’re asked to do more than we’ve ever done before? We’re unsure. Hesitant. That’s when you know God is making you aware that you are capable of more than you believe.

2. Stewardship: If God wants it done, He’ll pay for it.

Sometimes this means He’ll send a check in the mail from someone or you’ll get approved for a grant even though you missed the deadline. Sometimes it means, you’ll look at the “stuff” around your house with new eyes and realize there’s probably hundreds if not thousands of dollars of unused crap in your closets that you can sell. We even sold some of the crap that was lying around our friends houses. If you’ve got good friends who love you and support you, they’ll be happy to get rid of some clutter. Or maybe you’ll take on an extra job to make some quick money. We often said that the cost to adopt might as well have been $2,000,000. It was gonna take just as much of God’s provision for one as the other. God was calling us. We knew He’d take care of the funding.

3. Bravery: If you trust God you’ll be scared out of your mind quite often.

We all have phobias. Mine’s ants. This is different. This is truly scary. Paralyzing. It’s Mark Wahlberg in Lone Survivor standing on the edge of the cliff with the enemies bearing down on him knowing that he’s got to jump or it’s all over. (Except nobody’s shooting at us.) Every time we faced a due date for certain fees it felt like a cliff. We’d put in our credit card number and hit submit and I’d feel my stomach in my throat. When we got to the orphanage, waiting to be presented with our sweet little girl I wondered, “Will she come to us? Will she attach? Would she thrive here? Can we actually do this? Would people at home make fun of her? Would I be able to protect her?” Every step felt like another opportunity to swallow hard and leap. And you know what? God has been with us every single time.

4. Confidence: There is no all-satisfying apologetic for obeying God’s leading.

Don’t get me wrong. We had TONS of support along the way. But there were definitely those who questioned our decision to adopt international, special needs. Most often, we heard, “Why China when there are so many children here that need to be adopted?” The bottom-line is this is where God led us. That response should be enough but we felt like we had to satisfy everyone with our reason. Here’s the truth though… you don’t. We just chose to obey God which led us to our daughter who just happened to be in China. If your daughter was in China, wouldn’t you go there to get her? There’s no need to satisfy anyone with “why.” You’re only responsible for your obedience. Stand confident knowing that what you’re doing is exactly what God has asked you to do. That’s enough.

5. Perseverance: Resistance will greet you at every major crossroad.

We sent our application in the day we saw our baby girl’s picture. The next day we woke up and our car was gone. Stolen. Thankfully we have a friend on the police force who recovered it a few days later in an epic movie-style police chase. Then two days after we submitted our dossier, somebody threw a rock through our window. Then, the day after we had received TA, the ignition switch on our family car failed. Every major step brought its own set of trials. It was an opportunity to trust. And trust allows you to press on.

6. Leadership: Invite people into the story and watch what happens.

We know people who want to adopt but are waiting to save all the money ahead of time. It was important to us to invite people into the journey with us. We knew we couldn’t do it alone and we hoped that by inviting people into it some of them would find a passion for adoption as well. And what do you know… that exactly what happened. At least six families have begun the adoption process in one form or another and many others have started asking the question, “Can we do this?” Sure, we could’ve saved our money for five years and adopted quietly and one little girl would’ve found a home. But instead, our adoption story has inspired and encouraged others who are now on their own adoption journey influencing others to adopt.

7. Obedience: Just say yes.

Lots of people will call you special. You probably don’t feel special. We don’t. We’re pretty normal in our own self-estimation. I think what they mean is, “I wish I could do what you’re doing.” But the little secret we know is that the only reason we get to experience the thrill of adoption is because we said yes to God. That’s it. There’s no special sauce. No magic potion. We just said yes. Every step of the way, we said yes. Every opportunity to trust, we said yes. And every time we said yes, God moved us through another door. That’s what obedience does for you. God calls. You respond, “Yes,” and His provisions continue. Yes, it’s a special privilege to be parents to this precious little girl. But, we only have this honor because we said, “Yes.”

God is doing big things in the background. He’s got everything worked out. He knows your fears. He’s not offended by your hesitation. He will work it all out.