Puppies!

I thought it would be a fun Friday treat to give you guys a look into our home life. In this post you’ll find a link to the blog Sarabeth maintains about the three dogs we have living with us in our  loft. The purpose for her blog is so that her sister and brother-in-law can check in on their babies every now and then.

Last summer they moved across the Atlantic ocean to carry out missions work for our Lord. (For a little more on missions, read here.) They own two dachshunds, Roxy and Sydney, but they couldn’t take them along because they heard that the people group was hostile against dogs. So they left them in our care. Our dog Pixie was glad to have new roommates to play with (especially Sydney), and so this has been our life for the last ten months.

Enjoy. And please tell my wife what a wonderful blog she has: The Dachshunds

(Also, please don’t judge us for the poor quality photos. We’re trying to save up for a better camera to post better pictures for you all.)

[Image credit]

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Standing Up to Bullying is Not Enough

Anti-bullying campaigns have become a rally call for kids who are being harassed and picked on in the schoolyard and at home. When I was growing up, bullying was almost more of an initiation process certain kids had to go through in order to be accepted into the group. The eighties and nineties was a good time to be a kid because racism was a distant memory our parents carried with them and sexual orientation wasn’t to become more prominent until after we graduated from high school. In those two decades of rest, the only way you were going to have a hard time at school was if you were a punk, annoying, or bad at sports – in which case, you just had to prove yourself to be accepted and everything was cool. Things are much different now and the stakes are much higher, as the movie Bully, due to hit theaters nationwide this Friday, suggests.

With the explosion of Facebook, Twitter, and other major networking devises invading nearly every home in America, bullying doesn’t stay on the schoolyard like it used to. With girls feeling more pressure than ever to look a certain way, and guys required to put on a certain façade, bullying has cut deeper into the core of people’s beings more than ever before, and it has more tools to do so more than ever. The onslaught and brutality of bullying today, in its many forms, has caused many children to turn the gun on themselves, believing that there was no way to escape it. It’s not child’s play anymore.

But we’re not going to discuss bullying here. Instead, we’re going to look at the other end of the spectrum. We’re turning our sights from the wicked assailants to the “helpers” of victims of bullying. There are many people who have good intentions to help those who are suffering from this devastating plague. No child or adolescent should ever feel like their life is being threatened or that there’s no safe place to go to share their hurt and pain. But allow me to propose a thought:

Telling kids that they’re all right just the way they are is just as harmful as bullying.

Let me quickly disparage any notions by stating what I don’t mean. If a boy would rather play a flute than with a ball, I don’t think you should take the flute away. If a girl would rather play softball than take dance, get her a glove for her birthday and play catch with her. I’m not talking about skill preference here.

Consider this story: Let’s say I was born, naked, as we all are. The nurses cleaned me up, cut the cord and took care of all the procedures. If my parents took me home without any clothes on, people would consider that to be a bit cruel. But let’s say some years pass and they still never put clothes on me. Soon, I’m heading off to school buck-naked and hopping around the schoolyard totally exposed. When people question my parents about this, they look stunned and say, “Well, he was born that way.” Just because a baby is born with six legs doesn’t mean we shouldn’t remove them if it’s not life-threatening. If a child is born with a tumor, there’s no reason to keep it there just because he’s born with it.

Folks, we cannot let this generation of kids grow up believing that they’re okay just the way they are, sin and all. Yes, we must stop the bullying. But at the same time, lovingly come alongside children and tell them what’s right and what’s wrong. It’s not right for a boy to kiss other boys. Why? Because God will seriously deal with those who choose to give in to the wicked desires of their hearts. When we tell children (or adults for that matter) that it’s okay to “love” who you want, how you want, and when you want, and be who you choose to be (gender-speaking), then we are inviting the wrath of God to be poured out on them, and we are in essence just as bad, if not worse, than the kids sending hate messages to their inboxes.

I am not saying that we can force anyone to do anything or make certain choices. But I am saying that we are doing them a disservice if we don’t point a way out of their bully-infested torture chambers. When we say to a little girl who likes other girls that she should just accept who she is, we are only locking her into a dark and terrifying room of uncertainty, fear, and cosmic wrath. It is our job then, to open the door to that cell by showing them that there is another way to live, and that is by following the commands of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is not bullying. This is true, true love, which leads to freedom. Could that little girl still struggle with her sexual orientation even after she’s accepted the Lord’s invitation to follow Him? It’s very likely, but she will be free to choose against her fleshly desires and stand up to those who tell her to accept who she is.

Bullying is a more serious issue than it ever has been before. But an evil which is just as great is also on the rise: tolerance (or ignorance). To make kids think that they have to be gay if that’s how they feel, or to tell them that there’s no sense in trying harder at a sport or skill if they’re not any good at it, or to feed them until they’re full and happy, is just plain hatred and spite. Coddling our children’s sinful behaviors breeds a generation of ignorant, lazy and miserable people.

Let us love our children and our neighbors instead, and show them the path of righteousness that will lead to a freedom they would have never imagined in their entire lives.

[Image credit]

Chuck Colson 1931-2012

We lost a great man today.

 

 

 

 

 

http://chuckcolson.org/?r=colson

Must-See Adoption Video

Our church showed an adoption video a few weeks ago, and it was easily one of the best videos I have ever seen on adoption. I can’t speak for the rest of the congregation, but my wife and I were choking up (in a GOOD way!). It’s one of those smile-through-your-tears type of feelings. If you’re needing encouragement to make the decision to adopt, or you’re in the process and it just seems too overwhelming, you need to watch this video. Unfortunately, I can’t publish it here, due to privacy issues. However, I spoke with the guy who owns it and he said he’d be more than happy to allow me to give you the website and password upon request. It’s only about four minutes long, so if you’d like to view it, email me at andrewtoy1208@aol.com, subject line (in all CAPS, b/c my inbox is always very full): ADOPTION VIDEO REQUEST, and I’ll send you the link and password.

Special note: Please do NOT post your email address in the comments section below, because you won’t get the information from me that way. Thank you.

From Foster Care to Adoption

Meet Ryan and Sara. When you’re done reading about their journey,  be sure to check out their blog here. Ryan is a professional photographer. Check out his site here. In order to abide by certain privacy rules, we will refer to their son as “D.”

Even before they got married, Ryan and Sara always knew that they would adopt. Being members of a church that advocates adoption really helped in their journey as they walked alongside other couples going through the same process. But it wasn’t until 18 months into their marriage that they realized they weren’t at the point where their home would be ready to bring in an adopted child, for adoption had just merely an idea until this point. And then an earthquake struck Haiti:

“We were part of a small group of families in our town that were considering opening our homes up to amputee children coming to the States on a medical visa. We prayed hard about this crazy idea, and decided that we would do what we needed to do to follow the Lord with this and if He didn’t want it to happen, He would shut the door. For whatever reason, it wasn’t in the Lord’s plan for that to happen. But, through that process we realized that we were ready to open our home up to foster children here in the States, and we began the process of getting licensed.”

Ryan and Sara became licensed to foster children removed by the Child Protective Service in Texas.

“Once we were licensed, we literally spent several weeks on high alert waiting for a phone call that would change our lives. We received that phone call one afternoon, and within a few hours, he was at our doorstep. Other than his name, age, and race, we knew nothing about him.”

The first three months of D living with them were difficult because he missed his birth family. But making the change from fostering to adoption played a big role on their morale.

“The moment we officially moved from fostering into the adoption side of things was also a really great experience. Being able to breathe out and realize that he really would be ours forever… no more worrying about a random relative stepping into the picture.”

They are currently working with a faith-based adoption/foster care agency. It’s not always the case that their journey has been smooth so far, so they consider themselves extremely blessed.

Here are a few more questions I asked Ryan and Sara that they were gracious enough to respond to:

Do you find that you understand the Gospel any more than you did prior to going through the adoption process? 

[laughs] This is a massive understatement!! It is a truly amazing picture of how God pursues us and rescues us from our dispair and wraps us in his arms and calls us His own. I think that we both see our own relationship with the Lord in a completely different light since D walked into our lives. Our journey has also been a very sanctifying proces for us. We have had to come face-to-face with things that were buried deep inside our souls and surrender them to the Lord. We are absolutely still on this journey… finding things to uncover constantly. So, I would say that even more than seeing the gospel through the analogy of adoption, we have just learned to cling to the hope of the gospel in our lives and for D way more than we ever did before.

Where are you in the process right now? How can we pray for you? Is there anything anyone can do for you?

We are incredibly close to attaching our last name to his first! We are hopeful that sometime this May, we will be able to finalize adoption and really begin the journey with him. We would covet prayers for a speedy legal process. We are praying for our son to be able to process all of this as well as a 6 year old possibly can. There is still grief and sadness in not being able to see the family he knew and loved for 5 years. There are also plenty of layers that need to be peeled back in his soul in order to find healing… please pray with us for that process.

Any advice for adopt-ers or couples on the fence? 

The best way to begin your journey through adoption is to simply rid your mind of any ideas you have about how it will go. Be ready for an emotional roller coaster. Expect to be surprised by things. Prepare to have nights where you cry with your spouse and nights where you feel on top of the world. Understand that the journey rarely feels like you’re living in a movie where everything ends up neat and tidy. There will be times when you feel like all the support you thought you had just isn’t there in the moment. There will be times when random people come up to you and say the most inconsiderate things and you just want to slap them and move on. We have learned to have grace with people in our lives that we did not previously have. As we’ve clung to grace in our own mess ups, we’ve been able to extend it to others that may be ignorant about things regarding adoption.

If you’re on the fence about adoption, I would encourage you to simply talk to the Lord about it. We believe that God’s heart is for His church take in the orphan and love them as their own. Even in the hardest times for us, we have clung to the fact that we are incredibly close to God’s heart in this journey. He has His hand on the orphan and is near to them, and when we are close to them and intertwined in their story, we can be sure that we will find God close by. The statistics in our nation alone are quite staggering. The need is there. As the people of God, we need to ask ourselves how our faith is being put into action. Will we only support the cause of the fatherless with our words, or will we radically reorient our lives to care for them?

Remember to check out their blog here. Ryan is a professional photographer. Check out his site here.

If you would like your adoption story to be shared, please email me at adoptingjames@aol.com.

Summer Movies

I have a few weird habits concerning my movie collection. First, I alphabetize my DVDs. I’m sure that’s one of those things that’s weird, but common. Second, I categorize them into Drama, Action/adventure, Comedy, and animated in four different cabinets throughout our loft (and of course a special shelf that exclusively displays my Pixar movies). Now, that’s getting a little weirder. But wait – there’s more! The weirdest thing I do is watch my movies seasonally. Most people have regular movies, and Christmas movies. I divide mine up into Christmas, winter, spring, and fall movies. Quirky, I know. I just can’t watch White Fang when it’s 98 degrees out, you know?

So with that said, I’ve just pulled out all of my Summer movies that we’ll be watching in the next few months and I realized that most of them have a recurring theme (no, this was not intentional). Most people have common themes that run through their DVD and book collections. For some, their themes might be romance, and finding your true love (Never Been Kissed, 10 Things I Hate About You, Bridgett Jones’s Diary). For others it might be the idea that death and blood and gore are glorified elements (Halloween, Freddy, Walking Dead). For many, the theme is mindless (and sometimes funny) 90-minute breaks from reality (Dumb and Dumber, Anchorman, Monty Python).

The theme for our Summer movie lineup, I discovered, is redemption. Bellow are films I highly recommend if you’re browsing through Netflix and just need to be inspired to get off your chair and do something meaningful for others and your family. Feel free to recommend some of your own. Enjoy!

The Last Samurai

I remember years ago when I saw the poster for this movie hanging up in the hallway of the movie theater, I thought instantly, “That has got to be a joke.” Tom Cruise as a Samurai warrior… really? But this film wows me the more times I see it. Though my wife and I quibble over the validity of this film’s origins, it is a wonderful reminder that no no matter how far we’ve sunk, how far we’ve fallen, or whatever we’ve done, there is always a reason to redeem yourself and a chance to start your life anew.

The Majestic

Say what you will about Jim Carrey, but he really does pull himself together for this one. It’s a perfect film to celebrate 4th of July or Memorial Day. This film is a testament to why we should stand up for what we believe in and not be so pacifistic as many of us have become. It reminds us that our freedom came at a very high cost and that there is shame in shrugging it off as no big deal. Our country was worth the fight, and if we agree, we will show a little more respect toward it.

Sweet Home Alabama

I’m not much into romantic comedies at all, and this movie is hardly a funny, though it is lighthearted. I appreciate this movie so much because it defends the honor and integrity of marriage. The main characters have been trying for a divorce for many years, but something in them just won’t let them go through with it, even if it means ditching the new boyfriend. Marriages are worth fighting for, and this movie shows that it’s not easy, but the rewards can be great.

Cinderella Man

Whenever you put Russell Crow and Ron Howard together, you’re in for a great time. Not great time as in, escapism. But more like, getting to see a movie for what, I believe, movies are meant to be made for – documenting the lives of otherwise overlooked, great personalities in our world’s history. Cinderella Man is a fine film that does just that. Our country is headed toward hard times, and this is a great film for fathers and husbands to see to give them a picture of how a real man handles difficult times.

The Sandlot

This is an oldie, but very much a goodie. And yes, the 4th of July scene with the fireworks makes me cry every time. With all this talk about putting a stop to bullying these days, this is a great film for kids to watch as it shows that we can’t expect to change society to accommodate our insecurities, but we must be willing to adapt to some surroundings if we want to be accepted into a group. Show ’em what you’re made of and you’ll earn their respect.

Other redemptive movies: Finding Neverland, A League of Their Own, A Beautiful Mind, Finding Nemo, Cars

Image credits: Last Samurai, The Majestic, Sweet Home Alabama, Cinderella Man, The Sandlot

This Summer’s Reading List

Summer’s approaching and that means… book fever! Yes, it’s time to dust off those books you’ve been meaning to read for so long, pull out those books you received for Christmas last year, open them up and start reading. I always say that no one is too busy to read. If you’re saying that, then stop *reading* this blog (or tweet), and stick your nose in a book. (And not a book that’s most likely going to be made into the next steamy movie – that doesn’t count… that’s just watching a silly movie in slow motion.)

So as you’ve probably figured out by now, every Tuesday is Book Rec day here on Adopting James. I’m just tingling with excitement over the next several books I’m going to read  this summer. Here’s a sneak peak at my bookshelf I’ll be making my way through in the next few months, so if you have any of these books, you can read along, or maybe this post will inspire you to get out there and treat yourself to some useful purchases. Be looking for my reviews in the next few months. And remember, I’m open to suggestions, so email them to me or comment. Happy reading!

This will be my first official baseball book, as I’ve just recently developed a love for the sport. I’m more interested in the history of baseball than taking it up as something I currently follow. Anytime you mix history in with something, my attention is taken captive. And heck, reading about the world’s longest ball game could be a good way to begin my baseball reading endeavor. Anyone have any other baseball book suggestions?

 

 

I am indebted to this man, like many of you, in so many ways. No so much because of the products he’s invented (Sarabeth and I still only have a MacBook, but would like others), but because of certain investments he’s made. Many people don’t know this, but it was Steve Jobs who gave Pixar Animation Studios their start by funding them back in the late ’80’s. In so many ways, it’s because of Steve Jobs that we have movies like Toy Story, Up, The Incredibles, Ratatouille, and others, thus ultimately saving the Disney Studios. And, I’ve been told that it was Jobs himself who suggested Woody be a good guy rather than antagonistic when Lassetter, Stanton and their team were creating the first Toy Story . Why is that such a big deal, you ask? Let’s just say I’ve got a small collection of Woody figurines on my desk, including a real pull-string Woody doll on my bookshelf… with my name (Andy) written on the bottom of his right boot.

 

This is one of my favorite books, written by one of my favorite classic authors. If you haven’t read it, or Around the World in 80 Days, you finally need to do so. Plus, I hear Disney is making a movie about Captain Nemo, so… gots to be prepared for that.

 

 

 

I’ve heard nothing but outstanding things about author Erik Larson, and especially this book of American history. It’s set in Chicago, 1893, and centers around an architect, who was behind the idea of the 1893 World’s Fair, and a serial killer who used the fair to lure his victims to their death. This sounds like it has all the makings of a classic. Why didn’t they teach us this sort of stuff in school?

 

 

This book came highly recommended by Dr. Albert Mohler, and quite frankly, after reading a couple of his recommendations, I just keep going back to his list for more. And, after seeing The Conspirator last year, I’m very excited to get the story inside the story. I mean, other than hunting down Nazis or terrorist, what else could be more exciting than searching and capturing John Wilkes Booth? Plus, this will be great preparation for Spielberg’s Lincoln coming out this summer – And no, he does not go around hacking zombies to death with an axe.

Additional books: The Universe Next Door, Sire; The History of Israel, Kaiser; To Try Men’s Souls, Gingrich; America: The Last Best Hope, Vol. 2, Bennett; God’s Passion for His Glory – Piper

Image credits: Bottom of the 33rd, Steve Jobs, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The Devil in the White City, Manhunt