Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Closing out 2021

Thursday, December 16th, 2021

We’re up on the wall of the gym at Goshen!

The school made everyone dumplings to try at Salem-Liberty, a HUGE undertaking!

Getting one of the assemblies set at Royal Manor

One of the groups at Stiles – I’ve been doing multiple sessions at most schools because of distancing for Covid

Such a sweet letter from Prairie Norton!

Beautiful, historic Centenary United Methodist

One of the groups in the library at Slate Hill – they were so good!

Anna got her ears pierced for her birthday.

Ethan became a teenager with Key Lime Pie!

At Cornerstone Alliance Church

Holt Intermediate

At Marysville Grace

This has been a challenging year. And as I’m writing this, we are seeing the Omicron variant of Covid 19 on the horizon and no one knows what it means. It’s very disheartening in so many ways as we really thought we might be getting a bit more “back to normal” and now who knows. But in the midst of that reality, there is hope. I am very grateful for the Lord.

This past two years has taught me yet again that we are not in control, that we can try so hard to protect ourselves (and I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t!) but ultimately, we are not in control. And so I lay my fear and worry at the feet of the Lord, because He does know the big picture we can’t see, and in the end, He wins. I believe His promises, and they are bigger than my circumstances. I’m grateful for a more “normal” fall all things considered, and I’m going to choose to be thankful for that time and not worry about the future. “For who by worrying has added one hour to his life?” (Matt. 6:27) “Tomorrow will worry about itself.” (Matt 6:34)

The last two months have been really busy, as in literally events every day for several weeks, so here’s a little round-up for historical purposes. 🙂

Nov. 3rd I visited Goshen Lane Elementary School in Gahanna. This school has incredible diversity, and I loved watching so many kiddos become the “cool kid” because they knew how to make dumplings and saw themselves represented in our book.

Nov. 4th I was on the Chris Ayotte Show on WMUZ in Detroit in the afternoon, and then drove a couple of hours to be with Salem-Liberty Elementary for their Family Reading Night with “Dumplings.” I’ve been with Chris before, and he just does a fantastic job with an interview, just a pleasure. Then Salem-Liberty was so interesting, a complete change from the day before as it was completely rural, set in the foothills of Appalachia, completely white, and an area where families have lived for generations. They made dumplings for everyone to try, and it was the first time for the entire audience. They were so kind to me, and open to new ideas.

Nov. 5th I was back in my hometown over on the east side in Gahanna at Royal Manor Elementary. Another very diverse school, so many incredible questions, and just a very engaged audience. I came home and immediately did a radio interview for WTGN promoting our weekend events.

Nov. 7th I went up to Lima, OH and did a couple of worship services speaking at Union Chapel for Orphan Sunday. I was so touched by the incredible response of this church to sponsor our Compassion kids! Truly amazing. This is a rural area that has been hit hard, and they people really responded sacrificially which was amazing.

Nov 8th I taped an episode for “The Big Impact” which is a podcast and television show out of Michigan with Bill Hobson. Bill was adopted and he had some very insightful questions.

Nov. 9th and 11th I was at Stiles and Prairie Norton Elementary Schools on the southwest side of Columbus. These schools share a librarian and are also very diverse, Title 1 schools. I absolutely loved these kiddos, and my favorite was a girl who ran up to tell me that she loved my book because she had had 7 families, and she was finally getting adopted in 2 weeks! She was so precious. I also loved this librarian’s fierce commitment to her kiddos, it really showed.

This week I also shot a video for our author visits to be able to do a “digital visit” where live timing wouldn’t be necessary as I had had that requested several times.

Nov. 13th I did a one day retreat on Esther at Centenary United Methodist out in Granville, OH. These ladies were fantastic. It was a smaller group, but they were just so joyful to be together!! Covid had cancelled our previous plans, and I was so glad to finally meet them.

Nov. 17th I stayed local and did an author visit at a school just around the corner from me at Slate Hill Elementary. This was SO fun as I actually knew a few of the kids and teachers! We were packed into the library, but I actually really loved it – I could see all their little faces (above the masks)!

Nov. 22nd I was live on the air for an hour on KLFC on “Good Morning Ozarks!” This show covers all of Missouri and a good bit of the surrounding states as well, and those hosts were definitely lively!

That week was also Thanksgiving and Anna’s birthday, so we had a fabulous time celebrating her and also getting to have our daughter Rachel home from college for a bit!

Nov. 28th I guest-led worship at St. Luke Lutheran in Gahanna. This is a church I’ve been to many times before, and they (like so many churches!) have been hit hard by the pandemic. I was so happy to get to see them again as I love their pastor and we have some dear adoption friends who go here as well.

That entire next week I had a “virtual visit” with a huge school in Dayton OH, where they basically showed my video all week and then I answered questions via email and sent them signed books afterwards. We also had Ethan’s birthday this week, and celebrated twice so Rachel could get in on it a bit early and then again on the actual day.

Dec. 1st I also was on “Life Today” in Fort Worth Texas, and that was streamed on all their platforms. I feel like I’m getting a little TOO comfortable with this “being on TV but also in my office at home” situation – you forget how many people are watching!! That was also a fantastic show, and the host was pretty incredible.

Dec. 2nd I also did a ZOOM visit at Cassady Alternative Elementary, and those kiddos were hilarious. They were so excited about the stories from China that I could see them jumping and dancing at times, and everyone wanted more info on Emperor Qin!

Dec. 4th I drove up to Marion and did a Women’s Advent Breakfast for Cornerstone Alliance Church speaking on “There Will Be Joy.” I loved this – this is a wonderful tradition at this church that had also been derailed by Covid, and this year they really did have such joy to be together! Their organizer even made every single women (100’s of them!) their own “Joy” ornament to remind them of the day, so sweet!

Dec. 9th I was with Holt Intermediate School, again in the southwest part of Columbus. About 700 5th and 6th graders, but the challenge was to keep them distanced! So I had a couple hundred with me in the cafeteria, and then the rest tuned in from their classrooms. Another very diverse school and a great discussion.

Dec. 10th I did a beautiful event out in Marysville – their Women’s Advent Dessert, and I spoke on “A Night of Hope.” Two of my favorite things about speaking this year have been that 1. I never take it for granted and 2. Everything I teach reminds me of truths I need myself as well! I love this. And I’m going to be doing the women’s retreat for this church (Marysville Grace) in the spring, so I’m so glad I’ll get to see them all again!

Then this past week has been, let’s be honest, a completely frantic attempt to get Christmas planned!! I have six kids and extended families, and that means serious spreadsheets, but I am finally in a decent place, and that is why I have time to write this wrap up. 🙂

2022 is looking very busy right now, and I guess we’ll see how and if Omicron changes things and go from there. One thing that never changes, though, is the Lord. I hope this Christmas after this incredibly tumultuous year that you know Him, and that He is your hope and peace, and your foundation that is sure no matter the circumstances!

Five Ways Adoption Has Changed Our Family

Monday, November 15th, 2021

Our family.

November is Adoption Awareness Month, and I was asked to write a guest blog for several outlets. Here’s the article, and five ways our lives are forever changed by our adoptions:

Five Ways Adoption Has Changed Our Family

What does “family” mean to you? Most people would define “family” as the people who are related to you biologically, or the people you grew up with in your household. Some would also include those related by law. As an adoptive family, we’ve expanded our definition of “family” far beyond the biological boundaries, and it has enriched our lives in ways we never anticipated! Here are five ways adoption has changed our family.

1. More people to love.

The most obvious example of this is our new children. Our family of 5 became a family of 8 within 15 months when we adopted our three youngest children from China at ages 9, 8, and 6. It was a tremendous shift, and I never pictured myself with such a large family, but the truth is I love these people! There are so many relationships, not just between the parents and children, but also between the siblings that are so special. A large family functions differently, and someone is always laughing or running or looking for someone to play with. It’s chaos, but it’s also fantastic!

Beyond that, though, adoption brings with it many other connections. Our children through adoption do not know the identity of their birth parents, but that doesn’t make those birth parents less important. We talk about whether the kids want to search for them, or what their birth parents’ circumstances might be or might have been when they were separated. In addition, we have connections with foster families back in China, and with former caregivers and friends from orphanages and schools. There are so many relationships to consider, maintain, or honor. It cast the net of “family” much, much wider.

2. A wider world connection.

Adopting our children has connected our family very specifically to Chinese culture. Not only do we honor their heritage simply because they are Chinese, but since they were older at the time of their adoptions, they came with that culture! They had favorite foods, favorite holidays, things that they were hoping would happen when they got a family, and we have been so enriched by incorporating their culture into our family. It tells them they are welcome, and that our family is different because they are here and that is good!

Not only that, but adoption has also connected us to the much bigger adoption community. When we started the process of adoption, it was very confusing, and adoption groups were a lifeline for us as we figured out the process. Now I have made so many wonderful “friends” online who have adopted as well, and it’s made us all much more aware of the needs of not only adoptive families, but vulnerable children around the world.

Whenever you adopt, you are becoming connected to another culture, whether that be from across the world, or on the other side of your city. It enlarges your boundaries, and exposes you to other thoughts and ways of life, and that will always broaden your horizons.

3. A growing concern for others.

Adoption has made me much more aware of the needs of others, and much more compassionate and passionate about helping! I’ve been a Compassion International Artist for years helping sponsor vulnerable children around the world, but adoption has made me aware that not only are we helping to release their families from poverty, we are also keeping those families together and in so many cases keeping those children from becoming orphans in the first place! I love this so much. Family preservation should be at the top of the priorities when dealing with vulnerable children.

It’s also opened my eyes to the trauma endured by children who have lost their first families, and the need to do more to help. None of the kids has ever done anything to be in the position they are in, and we as adults have the power to help and effect change if we are willing to step up. This includes understanding some of the systematic issues in our world that have failed these children and their families, and fighting for justice for those who cannot fight for themselves.

4. Changing family traditions.

This is a really fun one for me! When our children first came home, they missed so many things from China! They were very homesick for quite some time. We knew we couldn’t do anything about some of what they were missing, so we tried to do anything we could in those areas where we could meet that need. We started learning to cook many of the dishes that they missed, and have incorporated several of the major Chinese holidays into our own family traditions.

My new children’s book, Dumplings Mean Family, chronicles our first attempt when we learned to make dumplings together. We do a huge Chinese New Year every year now, and we’ve gotten used to the tradition of putting away the Christmas tree and getting out all the Chinese New Year decorations! My kids had dreamed of a family for years, and they had seen families celebrating together on TV. When they came home with us, that was a dream we could make come true. I love it, and I love seeing my kids’ faces light up with joy when we get to do those things as a family.

5. A hope for the future!

Finally, adoption has given me real hope for the future. Adopting my children is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. First the process is very difficult, and then there’s the work of the actual parenting! Bringing home three older children with trauma to another country and culture was no picnic, and there were many, many hard days. But that is exactly why I have hope!

Now here we are, several years later, and my children have been woven into our family. No one thinks of themselves as “biological” or “adopted.” They are just family. They are brothers and sisters and children. We have seen profound healing in their lives, and so much growth in our own! It’s been a front row seat to a miracle to see how our family was knit together, and that fills me with the certainty that there is always hope!

Not only that, but we have been helped so much along the way. I think of the adoption workers, the caregivers, the other adoptive parents, the therapists, doctors, teachers – it’s almost an endless parade of “helpers” and I am overwhelmed by how many truly good people are in the world! Sometimes we get discouraged and forget that, but we are so grateful for the wonderful people adoption has brought into our lives.

My children’s future looks completely different than it did before. They are incredible, and I get to be their mom! I can’t wait to see where they will go, and I would never trade all the ways adoption has changed our lives.

Back to normal?

Saturday, October 30th, 2021

We started getting lots of pictures like this – people making the dumpling recipe from the new kid’s book. This may be my favorite, though – you can’t argue with the technique of actually standing ON the table.

In a cave in Kentucky

Visiting Rachel during summer research up in Michigan.

Fun on the beach of Lake Michigan with Nathan’s family.

WIth my friend Erin, a teacher at one of the schools I did an author visit for.

The amazing front porch at the retreat center where I spoke near Philadelphia.

The sweet sign Anna made us when we got home from the retreat – we aren’t used to be apart anymore!

So. Much. Cross-country. Here’s Toby (front, left)

And Ethan.

Ethan and Anna distribuing moon cake for Mid-Autumn Festival

Speaking at the Carlisle Inn in Amish country.

Some of the kiddos at Worthington Hills Elementary during my author visit.

One of our fun outings with A Kid Again – this was a Columbus Crew game.

What a weird world we continue to live in. Last year my kids were all in online school because of Noah’s medical situation. This year we decided to go back to school since the boys could all get vaccinated, but we didn’t realize vaccines would take so long for Anna when we made the decision. Then there was the national debate on masking in schools, and we were so tense for a while – for our family, it’s not optional, and we understand that people have different circumstances, but for us it really was the difference between being able to go to school or not. All the kids were so relieved to be back – they really missed their friends and teachers, and everyone was sick of trying to learn in a class of one.

My speaking also started coming back more and more. We saw it some in the spring, and obviously events are smaller than they used to be, but I am finally not cancelling everything, and that is a relief. We’ve also had some really great coverage for the book, and that has been so fun!

Here’s a snapshot of some of the last few months:

In June we took a family vacation for the first time since Covid, exploring the hiking and caves in Kentucky. Later in that month we also headed up to Michigan to see our daughter Rachel who was doing summer research at her college – we have missed her so much this year, and I knew I could never make it through the summer without seeing her too! We got some precious time with her and with Nathan’s family as well, and also got to go to the fantastic beach at Lake Michigan.

In July I was featured on the “Success Made to Last” podcast with the book and also on “This Day,” a TV show on WATC shot in Atlanta. Toby was also able to go back to volunteering at the zoo which is something he really missed last year, and at the end of the month we celebrated 4 years with Ethan and Anna!

In August, Ethan and Toby started back to cross country practice, and all the kids went back to school in person. I also had my first author visit for Dumplings Mean Family of the school year, this one actually at a church for their whole Sunday School program at Linworth Baptist Church. I was also featured in Crossroad Magazine, on KCFY with the book, and in the American Family Association’s book reviews.

In September I was featured on TCT Television’s “Prayer on Purpose” and also on Christian Life Radio. That month, I also had a fantastic time speaking at a retreat near Philadelphia for the entire region of the Churches of God. I went with my mom, and it was such joy to be back at a camp, doing what I love! I really didn’t know if I would be getting to do things like that again at some points in this journey, and it was so lovely. The theme was “He is the Potter.”

And finally, this last month has been busy and wonderful. We celebrated Mid-Autumn Festival which is a Chinese holiday, and then I did an author visit at Worthington Hills Elementary – such a fabulous school! Then I headed out to do a retreat with some of my favorite people for the Evangelical Friends Regional event up in Amish country which is gorgeous. It was so fun to catch up with them, and I spoke on “U-Turn, Trusting God When Life Changes Direction.”

Later, we got to take a super secret family trip, and also had a couple of very fun experiences provided by the amazing organization A Kid Again – they work with families whose children have serious medical conditions, and they have been such a blessing!! We also watched tons of cross country, went trick or treating, and I was able to be back on the amazing show The Meeting House with Bob Crittendon – I absolutely love that show!

Retreats, Events, Graduation, Oh My!

Tuesday, June 1st, 2021

First author copy! Thanks for chasing the UPS guy for me, ladies!

First author visit – via ZOOM to about 500 kids

We got a #1 New Release on the first week!

Speaking at Cedar Lake Camp

During the week, we had the game room all to ourselves!

Jacksonville Baptist on Mother’s Day

Rinnah with her piece “I Am Also American” featuring a younger picture of Noah – this won first place and was purchased by the university.

Rinnah with a few more of her paintings at her senior show

Rinnah’s illustration table at the senior show

Graduation – she made it!

If 2021 started out very slowly, it’s sure taken off like a rocket lately!

Our new children’s book, “Dumplings Mean Family” ended up being a number one best seller on Amazon within a week of its release! This was so fantastically fun, especially for our younger kids who are the “stars” of the book. I was also able to do three author visits at schools, some in person and some over zoom, which has been so helpful as I shape and edit those visits – hoping to do so many more of those in the fall! Additionally I’ve had a number of radio interviews about the book including across the entire Pilgrim Radio Network and on several platforms for John Clemmons syndicated shows.

We also had the wonderful opportunity as a family to spend 9 days at Cedar Lake Camp near Chicago where I was speaking for women’s retreats on the weekends. Since the kids are in online school, they were able to do it there, and the camp so kindly offered us the option to stay since I was speaking both weeks! Firstly, the camp staff was amazing, and our only regret was that we couldn’t spend more time with them just due to Covid distancing. But even so, they felt like true friends by the time we left, and I sure hope we get to be with them again! And secondly, it was so nice to be together as a family, but in a different location – we were all getting so tired of our own four walls!!

One funny story – right in the middle of my last talk for that weekend, my author copies for “Dumplings” showed up. Camps are notorious for things getting lost as delivery people can never seem to find which building they need or whatever and they give up and you have to get your boxes later. But this was the last chance for this group to get them, and I had told them I’d hoped they would show up on time. The camp staff even announced that if anyone saw a UPS truck, they should chase them down because they never delivered on the first try! Well, right in the middle of the talk, someone at the back saw the UPS truck through the window, yelled, “Your dumplings are here! Your dumplings are here!” and ran outside followed by about 20 other people all yelling and waving their arms at the truck. Absolutely hilarious, and the poor driver looked like he had no idea what he’d gotten himself into with these crazy people in the woods! But they definitely got their copies!

On Mother’s Day, I had a lovely event at Jacksonville Baptist, and that was the first time I’d flown since Covid started. It was also the worst travel experience maybe ever (well, except for that time I got stuck homeless for a night in Bratislava and almost got arrested in the airport because I couldn’t speak the language, but that’s another story…). I had two flights, and people were arrested on both of them! It was crazy! I sincerely think people have forgotten how to interact with others. But the event was great, and it was so fun to be back at that church.

And of course, a huge thing this month was that our daughter, Rinnah, graduated, summa cum laude, double major, from Taylor. We couldn’t be more proud! This has been one of the most challenging situations she could ever have lived through, and there were additional challenges due to Covid that we could never have foreseen, but she persevered, and she finished! Her senior show was amazing, she was named “Artist of the Year,” the university bought one of her paintings, and it was just overall a big deal. We are so excited to have her home for a bit, and honestly, to give her some time to rest and heal from a really, really challenging and tough time. We think this calls for some black raspberry chip ice cream, a really long nap, and some well-deserved downtime.

New Children’s Book!

Wednesday, April 14th, 2021

The front cover of our new children’s book!

I’ve been hinting at my new project on social media, but we can finally announce it:

And…it’s a children’s book! I couldn’t be more thrilled to tell you that we are releasing a new children’s book called “Dumplings Mean Family!”

“When Ethan and his siblings are adopted from China to the United States, everything seems so strange and different. Their new American family doesn’t even know how to make Chinese food! The children are worried. Will they ever get to eat their favorite meals again? For Ethan’s family, embracing two cultures means learning to fold and pinch their way to dumplings that taste like home.”

Authored by Jennifer Shaw, illustrated by Rinnah Shaw, and partered with Madison Adoption Associates and Compassion International, we are thrilled to share the book trailer here!

This is a project that was literally made possible by Covid – all that downtime gave me the space to work on it, and even though I would have never chosen this downtime, it’s lovely to see God bring something tangible out of it. We are thrilled with the response already, and will keep you updated!

We also have a new website specifically for the book at www.dumplingsmeanfamily.com.

2021, the new 2020

Tuesday, March 30th, 2021

Chinese New Year was a strictly immediate family event this year.

Anna rocking it out in online school

Watching Rachel’s college orchestra concerts streaming on youtube

Taking a selfie to commemorate my first time waiting “backstage” in a long time at Northwest Bible

Keeping up with our older girls on our weekly family meet

This one just makes me laugh because it so captures the mood of the whole winter! The posture, the PJs, the stuff strewn on the floor – if it were an art print, we’d call it 2021

Just a snapshot of the spring. What a strange world we are still living in. I think we all thought that if we could just get through 2020, things would change, but 2021 seems to be a challenge as well.

I have still been canceling or moving most of my events. Because of Noah’s heart condition (my son), our family is really locked down, especially in the winter months. We’re still homeschooling, and trying to stay connected with our college daughters even though we can’t see them in person.

Our oldest, Rinnah, went back to school after Christmas break and they immediately had a pretty huge outbreak on campus. She got Covid, and was pretty sick which was pretty scary for us. The school didn’t have enough housing to quarantine everyone who caught it and it was kind of a mess for a while. She recovered, but it was two of the three weeks of her short January term, so she was really scrambling for that class which was required for her graduation and not offered any other time. Very stressful.

In February I had my first event since September for Westerville Christian Church. It’s been so weird since I’ve been a full-time speaker and music artist for 15 years, and going that long was just surreal. They wanted to do a hybrid event, with some in person and others watching online, and in the end, we realized it would just be easier technically for me to be online as well, so I ZOOMed the event which was fine, but it’s not the same.

In March I had my first event in person, a women’s events at Northwest Bible Church, while all my other March events moved out yet another year. Several of them were events that were already moved from March of 2020! Hopefully one day I’ll get to do them. The people at Northwest Bible were amazing, so nice, so organized, so Covid careful, and we were all grateful to be together. I’m still really nervous about being in groups, and meticulously careful about masking and distancing, but what joy to be with others again. I was also able to get my first vaccine which makes me hopeful that I may be able to work more now personally, and also that events may be possible for more people again soon.

We have a big announcement next month, and Rinnah’s senior show! Can’t wait to share, and I’m hoping things are turning a corner for all of us.

Lessons from 2020

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2020

A family photo we did for the upcoming project.

Well, what a year. I just realized I haven’t blogged since the Covid-19 pandemic started. I put out a couple of video blogs (if you’d like to follow me on YouTube, you’ll find my channel here), but otherwise, it was just an instantanious life-change, as I know it was for everyone.

My industry is one of the ones that was “affected.” And by affected, I mean, it disappeared overnight. The week everything shut down, I went from having my entire year booked for events to moving or canceling every spring and summer event I had in about 5 days.

What a weird, fraught spring. I had multiple zooms with speaker groups, and everyone’s story was the same – our industry was gone. Tour managers, videographers, sound technicians, speakers and musicians, all of us who “do” large events for a living were just instantly unemployed. It was pretty devastating. And doubly devastating for those of us with partnerships (I am a Compassion International Artist) to realize that this also meant that none of our Compassion kids would get sponsored at those events, gravely affecting children who are already among the most vulnerable on the planet.

Simultaneously, all my kids were sent home from school, and we were instantly trying to homeschool. Our college daughter had to come home, and our high school senior saw everything canceled – her prom, her senior performaces for her symphonies, her graduation. She couldn’t even say goodbye to many classmates she’d been with since kindergarten, and we were trying to figure out whether she would be able to start college. Every kid seemed to have every class on a different platform, and we were scrambling to keep up. And over it all was just fear. Our son’s heart condition puts him in the highest risk category from the CDC, and we were terrified. I learned how to get groceries delivered, and we literally stopped leaving the house.

That spring I did a couple of my events online. I did a message for NKY Outpost which we streamed online rather than having the event in person (you can watch that here), and I did some music and a short message for The American Baptist Women’s Ministry for their 69th birthday celebration. It wasn’t the same, but it was something.

During the summer, my daughter and I took advantage of the unexpected downtime to work on and complete a new project unlike anything I’ve ever done, and that was actually really fun! But since I didn’t know when events would be possible again and everything was so fraught with the pandemic and the election, we decided to release it in 2021 (more coming on that soon).

Also in the summer, my music video for “A Greater Love” won two awards at the Great Lakes Christian Film Festival – we won for Best Writer and Best Cast Performance. That was a happy highlight for us, even if they couldn’t have the awards in person.

As the fall came, most of those events canceled or moved as well, which by that time we were expecting. Frankly, it was something of a relief given Noah’s situation not to take the chance, but it’s also pretty terrible timing with two kids in college. The nature of my job is that most of my income is from events. So, even though I have worked pretty steadily all year to keep up with moving things and redoing contracts, etc, none of that is work that gets paid if the events don’t happen. But God is so faithful, and we are thankful and grateful that Nathan’s job is not affected, so while it’s not ideal, we are really mindful of our blessings.

I did do one weekend in person in September at a church near Washington DC. I ended up driving because I didn’t feel safe on planes, and they were incredibly careful with their Covid planning, but they felt people were struggling and didn’t want to wait a year. We did a very distanced women’s retreat on Saturday, and then I stayed and gave the message on some very distanced services that Sunday as well. Even though we had to cap numbers quite low and I felt a bit rusty, it was just so nice to be back with people watching God working. I know He’s always working, but it was fun to get to see it.

Our family started to get into the rhythm a bit more. My kids did online school because going in person wasn’t an option for us. I continued to cancel and/or move all my fall and Christmas events. What’s weird is that we are getting close to circling back around to those first March events that pushed out a year, and I’m not sure we’ll be able to do them when we get there again, and who saw that coming last March? So much waiting, so much limbo.

So, what have I learned?

I will be real with you all – this year has been a struggle for me. My life has looked really different, and I didn’t choose it. I have been angry with the people who won’t wear masks or stay distanced to help those of us who can’t take this lightly. I’ve been angry with the extremely divisive nature of the election, with the racial divide and inequalities, with the selfishness I’ve seen, with people being unwilling to listen to others, or to try to see any other side of things. I’ve been so fearful for my family, for my son, for my daughters trying to navigate pandemic-era college, and sad for the very real losses they are having. I’ve been sad that we aren’t able to see our extended family, and worried about our parents. I’ve been sad that, as a nation, we can’t seem to work together. I’ve had to choose, over and over, not to carry anger, to forgive and try to see another’s point of view, to try to gently (not angrily) share our perspective, to continue to show love and empathy in an increasingly angry and divided country.

Honestly, I don’t have it in me. I am not that good. But God is. And how incredibly, overwhelmingly, profoundly THANKFUL I am that God, in His great mercy, continues to help me with this, and continues to forgive me when I fail as I do so often. He continues to help me with my fear, even when I am wallowing, He continues to draw me back to Him even when I’m hardly giving Him the time of day. He reminds me that He loves everyone, and we’ve all made mistakes. He is so good, even when we don’t deserve it at all, but after all, isn’t that the entire story of Jesus? He pursued us and came for us, loved us and died for us, even though we deserved none of it. Praise God, and alleluia for Christmas!

Fear and anger and selfishness are always going to be a struggle, but God is so much bigger than these, and He is faithful.

I am truly hoping and praying for a better 2021. But I also sincerely hope and pray that we do not forget the lessons that 2020 had for us. God is good even when things are bad (Psalm 100:5). We need to be the light and not the darkness (Luke 11:34-36). We need to love others in action and in truth (1 John 3:18), and that means often thinking of others as better than ourselves (Phil 2:3), and doing everything we possibly can to live in and demonstrate peace (Rom. 12:18). God knows us and has redeemed us (Is. 43:1), and there is so much more than just this life (Col. 3:1).

I’ll leave you for 2020 with one of my favorite verses. Praise God for Christmas, praise God He is so much bigger than 2020, and peace be with you and your families! Praying we see you in 2021.

John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” – Jesus

Thoughts on Privacy and Adoption

Tuesday, March 10th, 2020

My kiddos when Ethan and Anna were first home.

I’ve been thinking a lot about privacy and our kids and our adoptions. Many, many people have told me to write a book about our adoptions, and the fact is that I could write a kick butt book about that. It would make you laugh and cry. And it would definitely put out in the world parts of their history and struggles that I’m pretty sure they would not want to be made public. And my loyalty always has to be with my kiddos. Because the fact is that my story is not just my story – it’s impossible to tell just “my story” without also telling parts of the stories that aren’t mine to tell. And my kids have enough to deal with.

When we first adopted Noah, I blogged a lot about it. I blogged the trip and all our firsts and things leading up to it, etc. And I had so many people tell me that they loved that blog and felt they’d visited China and come along with us, etc. And looking back, I think I totally overshared. I blogged for Ethan and Anna’s too, and it was less, but there were still some very personal things in there. Looking back again, I overshared. And I think this is where my writer’s block has been coming from (I’ve been struggling for a while). The more I know and love my kids, and the more I research and try to understand the feelings of adult adoptees and all the complication of it all (and trust me, it is really complicated), the more I feel I can share almost nothing.

And here’s why that is so hard. My kids are amazing. Like, amazing. And hurt. And they needed a family. And watching us become a family has been one of the greatest miracles of my life. I have been absolutely amazed at God, awed by the bravery of my children, and stunned by both the fragility and the resilience of the human heart. The changes are literally mind-boggling, and the stories are incredible. And if I shared it, I know that there are others who would be made braver by our story and who might then go on to adopt other children who need families and who might be a miracle in those people’s lives. And I want that. I want it so much. The children we left behind haunt me, so much that there are times I have to deliberately not think about them or it’s just too much for me. And those children were my children. Those children have all the potential and beauty and humor and love and fun that my children have. They are just children, and they don’t deserve what life has given them.

But sharing our story could hurt my children. In fact, I’m certain it would. I could tell you a heart-breaking story one of my kids whispered to me in the dark recently, and how we are trying so hard to redeem that story and make it something beautiful now, and it would touch your heart, but I would be betraying the trust that was in that whisper in the dark. That trust that came literally years after becoming their mama. And that can’t happen.

I think about the viral video of the boy from Australia who was being bullied for his dwarfism and wanted to die. I don’t condemn that mom – I’m sure she was at her wit’s end and just wanted people to see the effect of bullying and educate their children. And many feel-good moments came out of that. A GoFundMe to send them to Disneyland, a shout-out from Hugh Jackman, getting to lead the National Rugby League’s Indigenous All Stars team onto the field. But does he need a trip to Disneyland? When that’s over, will it make up for 25 million people seeing one of his most private, most vulnerable moments? And will it make up for him being associated with that very painful moment for the rest of his life?

I know that what I post on social media is seen by the wider world, but it’s also seen by our neighbors and by the kids my kids go to school with. I don’t want them to be defined by their struggles or their pasts. I don’t want them to Google themselves one day and resent their mom for sharing what they would have kept private.

So, I don’t see a book coming. I don’t know how to do it. Right now, I share some of my kids’ stories at my events, and they know what I share and have “approved” those stories, but even that makes me nervous that some day they will wish I hadn’t. I guess if I’m going to err, I’d rather err of the side of caution and loyalty to my children. So, let’s all pray that people’s heart are softened without the very personal story, and together we can help all the kids who are waiting to be their family’s miracle.

New York, baby!

Thursday, December 12th, 2019

With Pastor Mike at dinner – that giant salad on top of a pizza was what they assured me was a personal-sized pizza, lol!

The incredible set they built at Shelter Rock – the books also had storybook images projected across them the entire time.

My beautiful friend, Linda, leading worship before I spoke at Christ Church in Port Jefferson, NY.

The beautiful new sanctuary at Island Christian as we were setting up.

The Women’s Christmas Brunch at Island Christian.

I was back in New York for three Christmas events this past week, all out on Long Island. I used to live out there when Nathan and I were first married and both in graduate school. So it’s always fun to get back to my old stomping grounds, and catch up with old friends and see what is happening with ministry!

I was staying at the guest house at one of the churches, so I got there first and ended up going out to dinner with the senior pastor and his wife, Mike and Mary. They are just fantastic, and I love being with them and hearing all that they have going on for the Lord! Plus, they took me out for pizza and I got a “personal” pizza that was seriously enough for my family – it was pretty hilarious when they put that in front of me!

The next morning I did the women’s Christmas brunch for Shelter Rock Church in Manhasset. I haven’t been there before, but their team was lovely and so easy to work with. Someone had built the most incredible set for their theme, “Storybook Christmas.” I talked about how so often we have these expectations about the perfect “storybook” Christmas which are almost always impossible, but that the true story of Christmas is Jesus’ birth, and that gives us our happy ending because that story is true.

The next morning I did the services at Christ United Methodist Church in Port Jefferson. My dear friend, Linda, is their worship pastor, and they did a lovely job of worship and then gave me the rest of the service. I talked about the true meaning of Christmas and about John 10:10 life, abundant life, that is possible because of this greatest gift of Jesus at Christmas. I also shared some of our story. There was a New York cop sitting in the back, and I made him cry! #goals. It was a great morning, and so fun to be back at this church again. And one fun fact – this is the church where I originally met the family who inspired the song “Your Child.” So amazing to see where God has taken that song, from such a small beginning (see it here).

I had a free day, so I spent some of it with my friend, Linda, and some of it just writing and working. Since I had the little guest house at the church, it was a bit like having a writer’s retreat, which I really loved! My life is never quiet, and that was a lovely little interlude.

Finally, on Tuesday I did the women’s Christmas brunch at Island Christian Church in Northport. This is Mike and Mary’s church. They’ve completely redone the sanctuary since I was there, and it is so beautiful! I was so happy for them – I know that was a rough time since they had to move out completely from the space for months and they are a big church, but it’s going to be so much more functional and usable. The time there was also just wonderful. This church has been such a blessing to me over the years, and I’m just grateful and thankful for them!

All in all, an amazing trip, and now I’m ready to try to wrap my head around Christmas for our family of eight, and all the extended family that goes with it!

Two Podcasts

Tuesday, November 19th, 2019

I’ve been featured recently on two podcasts I wanted to share.

The first was for the National Salvation Army ministry called their “Prepare Podcasts.” I was episode 51 and it was such a fun and comfortable interview! You can find that here.

The second one I did was for Brilliantly Brave Parenting, really focusing in this one on special needs parenting. You’ll find that one here.

Enjoy!