Parenting: Not For Wimps

The Creator of the universe finds parenting to be challenging:

I reached out day after day
to a people who turned their backs on me,
People who make wrong turns,
who insist on doing things their own way.
They get on my nerves,
are rude to my face day after day,
Make up their own kitchen religion,
a potluck religious stew. (Isaiah 65.2-3)

Why should we expect it to be happier, easier, or somehow different?

This post, which appeared today on the Tapestry Adoption & Foster Care Ministry Facebook page, offers a better perspective:

God does not say to us: “Clean up your mess, get your act together, straighten yourself out, act your age, and stop embarrassing me…and then you can come to me and we can have a relationship.”

Instead, he says: “I will come to you in the midst of your mess, misbehavior, immaturity, impulsiveness, disobedience, selfishness, and falling apart…and I will meet you just as you are, right where you are. But, I will not leave you there. I will gently, yet firmly, lead you toward the hope, healing, and freedom that can only be found when you are truly connected.”

May our parenting reflect more and more this life-giving, grace-filled, transformational love of a God that runs to us, even when we are still far away.

The journey is not always happy, but there is joy when you know how to see it.

State Approval!!

For those of you who have been praying for us and wanting an update:

(For those of you to whom this is new news, we are in the process of adopting our oldest boy Kieran’s three younger siblings, as they recently came into the orphanage. Yes, we know—that makes 9 children! You can read more about that here.)

We finally got state approval to adopt the siblings this week! That was the part in this process that we were most concerned about because of the number of children we will have, but we were approved!

Eva with the important papers, and one of our favorite postal workers
Eva with the important papers, and one of our favorite postal workers

So today I was able to send off our dossier (international adoption paperwork), both immigration paperwork packets (including the PAIR documents, for those of you who know what that is), and grant application packets.

It will be several months till immigration processes our paperwork and then our Ethiopian court date can be scheduled, but we are hopeful the kids will come home this fall! Who knew we would have adoptions in 2010, 2012, and 2014?? We sure didn’t! Be careful when you pray for God to lead you where He wants you to go….

Please keep praying for our family in this process and for God to provide—not only for the last half of the adoption costs (we have already paid over $18,000), but also for the slight renovations that need to be done to accommodate all of us! (I can squeeze them into the bedrooms, but we need another bathroom!)

If you so feel led, you can find out how to give a tax-deductible donation to help our family through the “adoption fundraising” tab at the top of our website.

Thank you again for all your prayers and your encouragement through this journey with us. I know they make a huge difference!

A Fun Game: “In My Mind I Just…”

Erin (our almost 14-year-old) and I have been playing this game lately we’re calling “In My Mind.”

It usually starts with a conversation between us that may be just a little “off.” For example, Erin’s telling me about some bit of her day at school and I start to space out a little, envisioning the story taking a different direction. Or maybe I just get distracted and see myself doing something completely unexpected and extreme while she’s telling the story. So I tell her, “In my mind, I just plowed into you like Hobbes when Calvin gets home from school.”

HobbesPouncesErin might then respond by saying, “In my mind I just watched you walk into the kitchen but I was hiding behind the door and I smashed it into you and you fell down and cried.”

Interestingly, a lot of her “in my mind” vignettes end up with me injured and crying. Not sure what that says about me, her, or how she perceives our relationship…

A Simple Way to Help Your Child Become a Positive Person

We want our children to grow up to be confident, friendly, useful, secure about who they are, generous, helpful, loving and kind toward others.

There’s a simple way to help them get there.

Suzanne and I are teaching an Empowered to Connect parenting class at our church, and this week we’re talking about developing healthy attachment with children. This can be a real struggle for families raising “kids from hard places” but it’s an essential part of healing and growth.

Here’s a snippet of our reading this week from Deborah Gray’s Nurturing Adoptions:

when children are attaching in positive settings, they are literally being wired to become positive people. Their brain development is tilted in a positive direction. When children are moving into new homes, they will need to experience a highly positive and nurturing home environment in order to overcome their past and to take advantage of the plasticity of the developing brain. Children who have previously been abused or neglected may have been wired to be negative. Unless they experience something very different, nothing will change. Parents need to be deliberate in order to counteract their own disappointment with the mood difficulties their children may be having. They should be aware that they may have to create positive moods–and that they cannon take negative moods personally (p. 128).

Want your child to become a positive person? Create a safe, loving, positive environment in your home.

It’s simple but it’s not easy.

Another Gowin announcement…

Well, I always said I wanted to have a football team…..

….never in my wildest dreams did I think we would BE the entire 11-person team!! (Why couldn’t it have been tennis?!?)

Yes, those Crazy Gowins are adopting again!  But you already knew we were crazy, right? What’s three more kids???

When we found out that Kieran had three younger siblings, we knew it was a possibility that they would eventually be put up for adoption too. As much as we hoped and prayed that they would be able to stay with their birth father, though blind, only he could know how difficult it would be continue to provide for them on his own.

So now that we recently found out Kieran’s siblings were at the orphanage, how could we not pursue them? We have prayed and asked God what is best for them (other than not to have to be in this situation in the first place) and for our family, and we haven’t come up with anything other than the fact that they deserve to be together.

What would you do?? How would you answer to God on this one?

Well we are answering “Yes!”

Are we scared?


Are we going to screw up as parents along the way?


Do we wonder how the finances will pan out?


Do we wonder if we need another bathroom?


Will we need to buy a bus?


Will it be good for our kids already in our family?


Will people think we are nuts?

Absolutely!  YES to all!!!

When we wonder, we come back to these verses of Scripture:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (1 Cor 13:4-8)

As Brandon Heath’s song “Love Never Fails” says, “Love does not run. Love does not hide.” Maybe our flesh would be tempted to run and hide from this situation, but we know God has got our backs. Jesus ran straight TOWARD people in difficult circumstances. How can we tell Him that we won’t? That we don’t trust Him enough? “Lord, to whom shall we go? You alone have the words of eternal life.” (Jn 6:68)

Once when I cried and begged God during LCU’s Christmas in the Chapel program, “Why?? Why us? Why them?”, he answered me: “Because of Your Tender Mercy.” That’s why. The end. Amen.

OK God. You’re the boss.


So how are we going to manage this??

When Jesus and the disciples fed the 5000, Scripture never praised the disciples for their budgeting and operations management abilities. It was simply ALL GOD. At this point we are way past our abilities, and our prayer is that God is glorified because people will know that ONLY GOD could be making this work!

So this time around there have been no lightning bolts from heaven, no audible Word from the Lord through people or movies as with last time. (And I am NOT going to tell you that God spoke to us through a Three Stooges movie. No, I would not tell you that. That would just be anathema.)

This is simply pure and unadulterated religion.

God has a special place in His heart for the vulnerable and alone, the orphan.

God wants our hearts to imitate His.

There are three orphans who desperately need a home and need to have at least one loss, the loss of their big brother, taken away.

We have room in our home.

We only live one life and it should be lived for Him first and foremost because what else really matters??

We have been blessed to be a blessing.

Why should we not fill every square inch of our home that God has blessed us with?


So where are we in the process?

We have prayed and fasted and asked some of our amazing prayer warrior friends to be on their knees about this decision with us over the last several months, and we have all come to the conclusion that we at least need to try our best to make this happen. However, just after we decided yes, Ethiopia began making announcements that they might shut down their adoption program. But we kept forging through, even already sending thousands of dollars toward the process, not knowing if it all would be lost. It’s God’s money in the first place, right? We can’t let a silly thing like money stop us…. (Since then Ethiopia has decided to keep the program open, but with some changes to make sure everything is safe for all involved.)

God’s hand has been at work with the paperwork and we were able to get it all done, including a new home study written with a new agency, in three weeks!! We have waited on some approvals, and then yesterday our home study was sent to the State of Illinois. After state approval (provided we’re granted approval), all of our paperwork will go to Ethiopia and we will begin the Homeland Security paperwork, etc.

We were going to wait until “after the first trimester,” after we had state approval, before we made our announcement. But we feel this is the part where we need the biggest amount of prayer so we are sharing this with you now. Passing the state will be one of our biggest hurdles because we already have a large family and we are asking to make it bigger. They are leery of this (as they should be) because they have seen many families fall apart in this type of situation. But our social worker has done a wonderful job of explaining in our home study our experience and our training, and hopefully that will prove to the state that with God’s help, we can do this!

This is where you come in. Please pray over the next month or so that our home study is approved quickly by Illinois. The quicker we get through this stage, the quicker we can get these kids in our home where they belong, and out of the orphanage.

And of course pray for finances along the way. But God “owns the cattle on a thousand hills” and money is nothing for Him! He’s got a plan, I’m sure of that part!  (You do have a plan, right God???)

Chris August’s song “Unashamed of You” can announce our news for us this way:

Everybody ought to know…
I will sing about your love
I will shout it to the sky
I will tell of what you’ve done when people ask me why
I live my life this way, I’ll say that I am unashamed of you….

Put a Red Dragon in Your Nativity Scene — It’s Biblical (2013)

Note: This is a repost from 2010. Merry Christmas.

© Michael Gowin

Since 2009, we’ve been placing a red dragon in one of our manger scenes—that’s it in the photo above. Why? The apostle John puts a dragon in his Christmas narrative in Revelation 12.1-5:

A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads. Its tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that it might devour her child the moment he was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who “will rule all the nations with an iron scepter.” And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. (NIV)

Our friend and mentor Bob Lowery has done this for years. Read his essay, “Christmas on Patmos,” and you’ll want to add a red dragon to your nativity scene as well.

Side note: this year our dragon keeps finding himself placed on his back some distance away from the baby Jesus. Evidently our girls have been doing this to indicate the dragon’s defeat. Our children understand what Christmas is about.