Sunday, November 29, 2009

Discomfort Zone

A little less than a year ago my wife Andrea and I attended a holiday dinner party at the home of good friends of ours - the Smiths. In the classic tradition of this excellent hostess, each of the eight dinner guests was presented with a card containing a thought provoking question. Our task was to reflect upon the question and then answer it in front of the group. Now I know that some of you out there can't stand these types of dinner party 'games' - but I got to tell you - I love 'em! I absolutely love listening and learning about people and getting a deeper understanding of what makes them tick, what they love, what they hate. To me, there's no better way to spend an evening with friends.

I quietly read my card to myself at the dinner table (What do you want out of 2009?). "Ah, that's a softball question". I thought "It'll be easy to come up with an answer for that one". I put the card back down on the table without giving it much thought and continued with the dinner conversation. Over the next couple of hours we ate, talked and laughed as we listened to each of the guests answer their questions and share their ideas.

Finally it was my turn to read and answer my question. I was the last one to go and I realized that I got so caught up in listening to everyone else that I hadn't spent any time thinking of an answer to my question:

What do want out of 2009?

At this point the clock was ticking and I was on the spot. I'd squandered my prep time and left myself with no time to come up with witty, cool or funny answer. So I had to answer the first thing that came to my mind - the truth:

"During 2009 I want to be more comfortable being uncomfortable." I said.

What the heck does that mean? Well, please allow me to explain...

What I'd come to realized is that for many years of my life, the primary need of my life had become the pursuit of comfort, security, safety and order (in other words certainty) for myself and for my family. I craved certainty and was addicted to it much like an alcoholic craves a drink or a gambler graves a game. Certainty that I could provide for my family, certainty we wouldn't be harmed, certainty that I could protect myself and those I love, certainty that everything was going to be just fine.........

Now let me totally clear, I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with pursuing and having the feelings of comfort, security, safety and order - but if this becomes your primary focus in life and your way of getting it is by trying to control the world around you, avoiding taking risks and holding back from God's plan - you've got a serious problem. And your problem is that you're not walking by FAITH, rather you're walking by FEAR. And if you're walking by FEAR and not by FAITH then you (like me) will never live the life that God has in store for you.

And that was my problem, the details of which I'd be happy to share with you at another time in another blog post. Suffice it to say that God has an amazing way of reshuffling our emotional decks until we finally get His message. Fortunately for me, God used my love of children and the gift of international (African) adoption to break the chains of certainty in my life and provide me with greater comfort with uncertainty, ultimately shrinking my Discomfort Zone. Because as anyone of you who've been through the trials and tribulations of a third world adoption knows, you better check your dominating need for certainty at the door and hang on to God Himself because the ride is intense and sometimes He's the only one who has a clue as to what's going on.
I write this today, as a recovering certainty addict, in hopes that you'll give some consideration to these words. Not for my benefit! But because I truly believe that God's vision for your life rests in the certainty of FAITH in Him and comfort with the uncertainty of this world.

A very wise man recently taught me that that the quality of a person's life is directly proportional to the amount of uncertainty he/she can comfortably deal with. Isn't this true in your life? As I think about the most memorable and amazing moments (and feelings) of my life, they were almost always immediately proceeded by a significant amount of uncertainty: the birth of my first child, the adoption of my first daughter, dating my now wife, going away to college, giving my life to Christ.......

What do you want out of 2009?

I said to the dinner guests that night, during 2009 I'm looking for more opportunities to be uncomfortable (i.e. uncertain) and praying for the wisdom to feel comfortable (by FAITH) in the process.......

So on that note.... tomorrow morning a small team of caring souls and I begin a 10 day journey to Africa with an organization by the name of Childrens HopeChest (; a journey to demonstrate God's unconditional love to the children of Ethiopia; a journey to do something to impact the lives of orphaned and impoverished children whose lives have been ravaged by AIDS, malaria, poverty and other disease. A journey to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ Himself - and honestly - a journey that is filled with a significant amount of uncertainty for me, my teammates and our families.

Overall our group objective is to establish a meaningful long term relationship with several orphanage and care-point facilities, such that we can provide for the basic physical, educational, emotional and spiritual needs of these beautiful orphaned/impoverished children.

The road towards meeting this objective is ripe with uncertainty. We are uncertain about what to expect on this trip, we are uncertain exactly how we'll react to the sight of starving children (do you?), we're uncertain how we're going to handle the sight of children dying with AIDS with no mother or father to comfort them (would you?), we're uncertain how our bodies will hold up under the physical stress and emotional stress of this trip, we're uncertain how we're ultimately going to fund our long-term mission....... BUT, thank God, we have certainty through FAITH that God will show us the way.

So in closing I have a special request for you - please pray:

Pray for our team:

- For abundant wisdom in handling all challenges and circumstances
- For our emotional/physical/spiritual strength
- For safe travels to and from Ethiopia

Pray for our families:

- For the safety of our families back home

Pray for the orphaned and impoverished children we'll be visiting:

- That they would experience God's unconditional love and find hope in our mission

Pray for yourself:

- Please prayerfully consider becoming apart of our team (learn more at

Thank you and God Bless!


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Adoption Rodeo

This blog post goes out to my fellow adoptive fathers, particularly the first timers (i.e. rookies) out there who are just getting rolling on the craziest emotional ride of your lives. Oh no, I'm not referring to the ups and downs of the adoption process itself. I'm referring to being married to an expecting adoptive mom that's experiencing the ups and downs of the adoption process! My objective here is to inform and prepare you guys for what you might expect from your wives over the coming months.

Let me frame this right out of the gate by saying that beginning today (i.e. right now), and continuing each and every day until your beloved wife finally clenches your new child in her arms, I need you as an expecting adoptive father to think of yourself as a professional bull rider........and……your wife is the BULL!

For those of you who are unfamiliar with this sport, bull riding is a dangerous rodeo sport that involves a rider getting on a large bull and attempting to stay mounted for at least 8 seconds while the animal attempts to buck off the rider. The rider tightly fastens one hand to the bull with a long braided rope. If the rider falls off the bull he risks severe bodily harm (e.g. pierced, broken, crushed). In fact bull riding has been called "the most dangerous eight seconds in all of sports."

Now at this point I’d like to go on record as saying that being married to a passionate (expecting) adoptive mom is “the most dangerous 12-36 months in marriage”. So climb into the saddle gentlemen and get your hand firmly fastened, because the adoption ride lasts for much longer than eight seconds and if you fall off your bull, you just may get trampled!

I'm sorry ladies, I don't mean any disrespect here but I need to be straight. I sincerely believe that as a whole you adoptive moms are the most amazing and passionate human beings on earth! I'm convinced that this crazy passion is absolutely necessary because it fuels you through all of the ups and downs of the emotionally draining adoption process; from the first piece of paper 'chased' all the way through the moment you finally see your child face to face, feel the warmth of their embrace, and hear the sweet sound their voice. It's also this crazy passion that makes you, well... ….CRAZY….… like a bull.

Having said all that, here are a few tips for my fellow cowboys to assist you on your adoption ride with your beautiful wives:

1. Hold on tight!

No matter how wild and crazy the ride gets you must remain strong and hang on. No matter how hard she bucks, your wife must know that you’ll always be there for her. She deserves it and she needs the certainty of your strength during this incredibly vulnerable and uncertain period. Bottom line – when she bucks do not retreat, hang in there and ride em cowboy!

2. It’s not about you!

I know it’s hard at times and yes you feel the brunt of the bucking, but she’s not bucking AT you, she’s bucking TO you. And let me be completely clear - she does want you to feel her pain! I don’t know why she does, but she just does, so suck it up and hang in there. I know you didn’t do anything wrong - it’s not about you! She’s just bucking and you happen to be the one she’s most comfortable expressing herself to and being vulnerable. This is a hard concept to get because we assume it’s something that we did (or didn’t do). So let me repeat it – it’s not about you, even if she tells you it is!

3. Take heart, you’re not alone!

Remember that you’re not alone in this sport and this challenge and it’s not unique to your wife. There are plenty of us cowboys (and rodeo clowns) out there doing our best to stay on the bull. Pray for each other!

4. Harness the awesome power of the bull!

You wouldn’t blame an eagle for flying, so don't blame the bull for bucking! They’re just doing their job, and remember you need to harness their energy and passion in order to get through the ride. Keep your eye on the ultimate prize!

5. Praise God!

When the ride finally ends (and it will) and you experience the joy of seeing your child in your wife’s arms (where he/she belongs), take a few moments to praise God and give thanks for the awesome passion of your wife. A passion that produced one of the greatest gifts imaginable.

Then, take a few deep breaths and prepare yourself.……....because there's a really good chance……… she’ll want to do it all over again!!


Thursday, November 5, 2009

What are you going to do about it?

Nearly three years ago, shortly after making the decision to adopt a baby girl from Africa, Andrea and I had an after dinner conversation that ended up laying the foundation for a mission and a passion that we never could have imagined.

As we sat around our dinner table that night, we were just beginning the process of getting informed on the basics of the country that would present us with our third child - Ethiopia. We had just begun learning about this poor landlocked country situated in the Horn of Africa - bordered by Eritrea to the north, Sudan to the west, Kenya to the south, and Somalia to the east. We learned of a third-world country roughly the size of state of Texas that had been ravaged by HIV/AIDS, famine, poverty, drought and flood, and home to an estimated five million orphans. That’s right, five million orphans.

And one of them was my baby girl Gabrielle.

As we sat around the dinner table that night, we discussed what Gabrielle might want to know someday about her native country, her culture, her heritage, the circumstances, and the reasons. We vividly imagined the day that Gabrielle would approach us, look into our eyes, and ask us THE question:

“What happened to my mother and father?”

As we speculated on how this conversation may unfold, we realized that although we might not have a specific answer to this critical question (unfortunately it’s very common for Ethiopian orphans to be left without a trace of his or her family history) we recognized that we could at least explain the likely circumstances leading her to becoming one of the five million orphans: poverty, disease, hunger. Strangely, this gave us some level of comfort - comfort that we could provide Gabrielle with a rationale (as awful and evil as it is) that might satisfy her need for answers at some level.

BUT our comfort evaporated when we thought further about her next logical question:

“What did you do about it?”

WHOA…. the thought of that question stopped us right in our tracks! It was at that very point that Andrea and I started to realize that this adoption was just the beginning of something much more than simply adding another child to our family.

“What did you do about it?”

Can you imagine getting that question from your little girl and not having an answer? We had to have an answer, a good answer! We could no longer ignore the massive injustice and problems occurring on the continent that was to provide us with our daughter. We now had skin in the game….

“What did you do about it?”

Can you imagine having an awareness of the fact that there are five million orphans in Ethiopia alone and doing NOTHING about it?

“What did you do about it?”

Can you imagine knowing that 5500 Africans die every day of AIDS (a preventable and treatable disease) and doing NOTHING about it?

“What did you do about it?”

Can you imagine knowing that nearly a million Africans die each year of Malaria and doing NOTHING about it?

“What did you do about it?”

I plan on having a really good answer to this question when it comes out my little girl’s mouth. And if it goes well with Gabrielle, I may just repeat my answer the day when I meet God face to face and have to give Him an account....

What's your answer? (


Children's HopeChest

About Me

A simple man on a mission to promote the beauty of adoption and care for the needs of our orphans

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