How Motherhood Begins, Continues, And…

Recently, I went through a study with some friends through the book of Nehemiah. I was reminded during the study of our journey to adopt and bringing Nehemiah into our family. Two years ago today, our lives changed with a simple phone call. We often joke how you never know what a day will hold when you wake up and this day is a reminder of that.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Josh was preaching though Nehemiah when God changed the beating of our heart from {we will adopt someday} to {God is calling us NOW to adopt}. Our prayer through this time echoed that of Nehemiah: Break our hearts for what breaks Yours. And our hearts broke for the marginalized and orphaned…

After 6 months the initial paperwork was completed and we were accepted into our agency’s Ethiopia program, our desire was for an infant, just like everyone else. As the wait times increased we decided to pursue a concurrent adoption of an domestic infant.

We met a young birthmom, it would have been easy, she had been under the care of her aunt, had never missed an OB appointment, we fit right in with her and the family, and could imagine ourselves at BBQ’s with them all.

But she did not choose us.

A week later, we got a call telling us, “Come to the hospital, bring a car seat and some clothes because we have a baby boy for you!”

This situation was messy and would require so much more from us than we had imagined.

For our son, Nehemiah, God’s hand has been on him from before he was born. Literally, God saved his life. His birthmom was wandering the streets, she had decided to take her own life and the life of her unborn baby. Yet, God in his love planted a love in her heart for that unborn child which saved her own life and his.

The moment of adoption is surreal. So many things go into that moment that moves so quickly.

We found ourselves at the hospital, signing papers to become the parents of a child we had never met.

After we arrived at the hospital, Josh and I sat for hours in the cafeteria just waiting. We couldn’t talk, read or do anything, our hearts were pounding, just wondering what this boy would be like and how our lives would change. They were excruciating hours. Where all you can do is wait some more. You are so close, but you are just waiting some more.

We don’t know how he entered the world, in a fit of screams or a quietly and observant, he would be two days old when we got that call. He was little, born at 5 pounds and who knows how many weeks. Josh always joked that he looked like Benjamin Button because of how wrinkly his skin was and how he hadn’t grown into it.

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The birthmom’s first words to us were, “do you want to hold him?” The emotions in that moment were overwhelming. The answer was yes, but it was also so sad. We learned again in that moment the heartbreak that goes into adoption. Someone places a child for adoption. All situations are different, but adoption always has hurt in it at some level.

We talked with the his birth parents, took some pictures and just adored this little bundle. The birthdad left in a fit of tears, Birthmom went to another room to be discharged. And we were discharged with our newest son. We were in shock, and felt like we were taking someone else’s baby. Yet we were in love and knew that he was entering our family now.

Nehemiah entered our family and community seamlessly. He was little, but overall healthy.

It was the spiritual warfare that we felt during that time that was so hard. I remember waking up at night with him laying in the bassinet next to me seemingly terrified of him… the times of sensing someone else was there.

The tears that flowed after the endless meetings with birthmom the first few months, hearing her story of abuse and neglect, the oppression and demons that she had fought and was currently fighting. The birthdad spent time in jail, he only made it to one or maybe two visits. It was not clean.

The visits tapered off, partly because of our covenant and presumably because it was too hard for her to keep up her end of the agreement.

We have continued to pray, “Lord, break our hearts for what breaks yours.”

We are living that, though it is easy to forget and whitewash our Nehemiah’s journey. I wonder now what to do for Birthmom, she lives in squalor, without a proper kitchen. What is our role in her life right now? But I don’t have answers.

I had huge prayers for her to turn her life around to see and cling to Jesus. Those prayers have not been answered as I hoped. In all, you are reminded that you don’t save anyone. This is what people often say to us, “You saved him.” They mean well and we understand, but we didn’t save Nehemiah. We can’t. He’s a precious child that God loves dearly and has great plans for us, but only Jesus can save him.

When Josh and I are asked why we adopted 2 kids, our simple answer is, “God adopted us. This is the best way we know how to show that the world around us.”

Our lives have changed a lot in the last 2 years. We’ve brought Judah home, Nehemiah is now a tank of a kid and into everything as he’s grown. He brings a smile to our face and loves kisses and trailing after his siblings. We pray that as he grows, he will be like Nehemiah in the Bible. That he will grow as a leader, to be a man, that has a heart that breaks for the things of God. That he in some ways, lives up to the name we gave him.

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Links I Like

Links I Like is a collection of blogs, articles and books I’ve come across recently and thought they were worth sharing. Click here for past Links I Like.

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Lara Croft on Depression and the Pastor’s Wife.

My struggle with depression is not the result of being a pastor’s wife. If my husband was in another vocation I believe I would still struggle. However, being a pastor’s wife intensifies this struggle. The exhausting nature of caring for the church, the temptation to carry the burdens of those who are struggling in our midst, the demands on our time and on our family, and the spiritual battle that we daily face all contribute to exhaustion and vulnerability. This exhaustion is especially intensified as we try to do all of these things in our own strength, apart from God. Therefore, finding pastors and their wives struggling with depression is not uncommon.

Kayla North on May have a compromise? Great parenting advice that we use.

When people hear our kids ask, “May I have a compromise?” they tend to look at us a bit funny. They seem completely confused when we respond to our kids as if their request for a compromise is normal. But at our house it is normal. In fact, it’s a request we hear no less than a dozen times each day.

10 possible reasons your church isn’t growing.

In the end, healthy things grow. The mission of the church at its best throughout the centuries has been an outward mission focused on sharing the love Jesus has for the world with the world.

Chad Pierce on The Religion of Crossfit.

CrossFit is demanding. It can be expensive. It takes time, commitment and a willingness to be pushed beyond your comfort zone. It does not make things easier to get more to sign up. The opposite is true. People are flocking to it because it demands much.

Trevin Wax on Why pastors should engage in social media and what they should know.

Here’s the truth: people are communicating through Tweets, Facebook, and blogs. I recommend pastors join Facebook and Twitter in order to be involved in the conversations of their people.

Brandon Hilgeman on 5 common preaching mistakes.

Being a pastor is hard work. This is especially true for those of us who carry the heavy expectation of preaching a mind-blowing, original sermon every seven days. Because of this difficulty, many pastors make simple preaching mistakes that can be easily corrected. These common mistakes can often be the difference between a memorable message and a forgettable one.

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Links I Like

Links I Like is a collection of blogs, articles and books I’ve come across recently and thought they were worth sharing. Click here for past Links I Like.

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John Piper on When we send someone to their death.

Ronnie Smith was shot and killed in Benghazi, Libya, on Thursday. He was 33. He was a husband and father. The leaders of his home church have given me permission to respond to his death publicly and carefully. You can read the fuller story at World or in the mainstream media. One of the reasons I want to respond is because Ronnie wrote to us at Desiring God last year and told us that one of my messages was significant in leading him and his family to Libya. Now Anita is a widow, and his son Hosea has lost his father.

Jon Bloom on For all who have ever lost a child.

Suffering. Evil. Death. All of us experience them. They consume the lives of our precious loved ones — sometimes in unspeakably horrible ways. They bend us to the ground and produce tearful groanings too deep for words.

Thom Rainer on One of the biggest mistakes pastors make.

Pastors, I want to talk frankly and, hopefully, with a spirit of love, about one of the biggest mistakes I see many of you make. Most pastors have little emphasis, or sometimes, even knowledge about the content that is taught in groups in their churches.

Jonathan Holmes on Why does he look at pornography.

Something I have found personally helpful in counseling with both men and women through this issue is helping the counselee identify what motivates him or her to seek out pornography. In some ways we might say the actual viewing of pornography is symptomatic of a deeper worship disorder that is happening in the heart. What motivates and precedes the viewing of pornography? Once that can be identified then more specific biblical counsel can often be offered.

Letting pastors be real.

We have a cultural tendency to elevate leaders. Maybe it’s because they have an extraordinary education or a title or a position. Maybe it is because they have had a great deal of success in the growth of their church, or as an author or speaker. Whatever the reason, we’re creating minigods in our minds and hearts. That creates expectations in leaders, and expectations are the foundations for disappointment.

One Family’s Adoption Journey

Shouting So They’ll Listen

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In his new book, A Call to ResurgenceMark Driscoll shares some eye opening stats about our culture:

  • 88% believe Jesus existed.
  • 78% believe God exists.
  • 73% believe in evolution.
  • 71% believe in karma.
  • 68% believe in heaven and hell.
  • 67% believe spirituality exists in nature.
  • 65% believe in angels and demons.
  • 59% believe Jesus rose from the dead.
  • 53% believe in the devil.
  • 46% believe in extraterrestrials, aliens, or UFO’s.

This is the culture we live in, work in, play in, and pastors, this is the culture you preach to each week.

So how do Christians tend to communicate to this culture? By shouting.

We don’t necessarily walk up to people and start screaming, although, I’ve seen people with signs stand on a corner and shout at people.

Have you ever seen someone try to communicate to someone with a language barrier? Americans when they encounter someone who doesn’t speak English, they talk louder. As we’ve brought Judah into our home from Ethiopia, we have a language barrier to overcome as he speaks little English and we speak very little of his language. Our boys, in an effort to get him to play with them or do something, simply talk louder if he doesn’t respond.

That’s what Christians do.

We don’t change what we are saying, we simply say the same things only louder and with more force.

Yes, but the message doesn’t change.

That is true. The gospel is the same. Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. We never stop talking about the glorious news of Jesus’ sinless life, our brokenness and need for a Savior and how Jesus met that need by dying in our place and rising from the dead and sending us the Holy Spirit. We never stop talking about that.

But, we can change how we talk about that.

Instead of shouting, find common ground, a common language. Answer questions and needs that people have.

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Top Posts for the Month of October

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If you missed them, here are the top posts for the month of October:

  1. What our Family Does on Halloween
  2. What Now for our Family (And How You can Be a Part of our Lives Now)
  3. Beauty Comes out of Brokenness
  4. The Beginning of The End
  5. Sometimes, This is How Introverts Feel 🙂
  6. My Journey of Losing Weight
  7. When Eating Becomes a Sin
  8. 10 Gospel Truths about Homosexuality
  9. This is the End (Why Most Sermons Fail)
  10. A Simple Time-Management Principle

What Now for our Family (And How You can Be a Part of our Lives Now)

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It is hard to believe that Judah and I have been home for 5 days now. All the effort and emotion and planning that went into this moment is enormous. Hours were spent on rummage sales, raising funds, filling out paperwork, taking tests and preparing for this moment. And now it is here.

So many people have been a part of our journey up until this point, helping to make this time happen and to bring Judah home. We love that people feel a part of it.

On Sunday at church, so many people asked Josh about us, how we were doing, when they would see us, etc.

To help answer that question, here’s a post from Jen Hatmaker (w/ some additions from me) that will help to explain how we are doing and how best to help us in this transition:

How can you help? By not saying or doing these things:

1. I mean this nicely, but don’t come over for a while. Most of us are going to hole up in our homes with our little tribe and attempt to create a stable routine without a lot of moving parts. This is not because we hate you; it’s because we are trying to establish the concept of “home” with our newbies, and lots of strangers coming and going makes them super nervous and unsure, especially strangers who are talking crazy language to them and trying to touch their hair.

2. Please do not touch, hug, kiss, or use physical affection with our kids for a few months. We absolutely know your intentions are good, but attachment is super tricky with abandoned kids, and they have had many caregivers, so when multiple adults (including extended family) continue to touch and hold them in their new environment, they become confused about who to bond with. This actually delays healthy attachment egregiously. It also teaches them that any adult or stranger can touch them without their permission, and believe me, many adoptive families are working HARD to undo the damage already done by this position. If Judah comes to you, always redirect him to Josh or I. Thank you so much for respecting these physical boundaries.

3. For the next few months, do not assume the transition is easy. For 95% of us, it so is not. And this isn’t because our family is dysfunctional or our kids are lemons, but becausethis phase is so very hard on everyone. I can’t tell you how difficult it was to constantly hear: “You must be so happy!” and “Is life just so awesome now that they’re here??” and “Your family seems just perfect now!” I wanted that to be true so deeply, but I had no idea how to tell you that our home was actually a Trauma Center. (I did this in a passive aggressive way by writing this blog, which was more like “An Open Letter to Everyone Who Knows Us and Keeps Asking Us How Happy We Are.”) Starting with the right posture with your friends –this is hard right now – will totally help you become a safe friend to confide in / break down in front of / draw strength from.

4. Do not act shocked if we tell you how hard the early stages are. Do not assume adoption was a mistake. Do not worry we have ruined our lives. Do not talk behind our backs about how terribly we’re doing and how you’re worried that we are suicidal. Do not ask thinly veiled questions implying that we are obviously doing something very, very wrong. Do not say things like, “I was so afraid it was going to be like this” or “Our other friends didn’t seem to have these issues at all.” Just let us struggle. Be our friends in the mess of it. We’ll get better.

5. If we’ve adopted older kids, please do not ask them if they “love America so much” or are “so happy to live in Arizona.” It’s this simple: adoption is born from horrible loss. In an ideal world, there would be no adoption, because our children would be with their birth families, the way God intended. I’ll not win any points here, but I bristle when people say, “Our adopted child was chosen for us by God before the beginning of time.” No he wasn’t. He was destined for his birth family. God did not create these kids to belong to us. He didn’t decide that they should be born into poverty or disease or abandonment or abuse and despair aaaaaaaall so they could finally make it into our homes, where God intended them to be. No. We are a very distant Plan B. Children are meant for their birth families, same as my biological kids were meant for mine. Adoption is one possible answer to a very real tragedy… after it has already happened, not before as the impetus for abandonment. There is genuine grief and sorrow when your biological family is disrupted by death and poverty, and our kids have endured all this and more. So when you ask my 4-year-old if he is thrilled to be in Arizona, please understand that he is not. He misses his country, his language, his food, his family. Our kids came to us in the throes of grief, as well they should. Please don’t make them smile and lie to you about how happy they are to be here.

6. Please do not disappear. If I thought the waiting stage was hard, it does not even hold the barest candle to what comes after the airport. Not. The. Barest. Candle. Never have I felt so isolated and petrified. Never have I been so overwhelmed and exhausted. We need you after the airport way more than we ever needed you before. I know you’re scared of us, what with our dirty hair and wild eyes and mystery children we’re keeping behind closed doors so they don’t freak out more than they already have, but please find ways to stick around. Call. Email. Check in. Post on our Facebook walls. Send us funny cards. Keep this behavior up for longer than six days.

Here’s what we would love to hear or experience After the Airport:

1. Cook for your friends (here’s a meal train calendar friends put together that you can be a part of). There simply are not words to describe how exhausting and overwhelming those first few weeks are, not to mention the lovely jet lag everyone came home with. And if your friends adopted domestically right up the street, this is all still true, minus the jet lag.

2. If we have them, offer to take our biological kids for an adventure or sleepover. Please believe me: their lives just got WHACKED OUT, and they need a break, but their parents can’t give them one because they are 1.) cleaning up pee and poop all day, 2.) holding screaming children, 3.) spending all their time at doctors’ offices, and 4.) falling asleep in their clothes at 8:15pm. Plus, they are in lockdown mode with the recently adopted, trying to shield them from the trauma that is Wal-Mart.

3. Thank you for getting excited with us over our little victories. I realize it sounds like a very small deal when we tell you our kindergartener is now staying in the same room as the dog, but if you could’ve seen the epic level of freakoutedness this dog caused her for three weeks, you would understand that this is really something. When you encourage us over our incremental progress, it helps. You remind us that we ARE moving forward and these little moments are worth celebrating. If we come to you spazzing out, please remind us where we were a month ago. Force us to acknowledge their gains. Be a cheerleader for the healing process.

4. Come over one night after our kids are asleep and sit with us on our porch. Let me tell you: we are all lonely in those early weeks. We are home, home, home, home, home. Good-bye, date nights. Good-bye, GNO’s. Good-bye, spontaneous anything. Good-bye, church. Good-bye, big public outings. Good-bye, community group. Good-bye, nightlife. So please bring some community to our doorstep. Bring friendship back into our lives. Bring adult conversation and laughter. And bring an expensive bottle of wine.

5. If the shoe fits, tell adopting families how their story is affecting yours. If God has moved in you over the course of our adoption, whether before the airport or after, if you’ve made a change or a decision, if somewhere deep inside a fire was lit, tell us, because it is spiritual water on dry souls. There is nothing more encouraging than finding out God is using our families for greater kingdom work, beautiful things we would never know or see. We gather the holy moments in our hands every day, praying for eyes to see God’s presence, his purposes realized in our story. When you put more holy moments in our hands to meditate on, we are drawn deeper into the Jesus who led us here.

Monday Morning Mind Dump… [Lunch Edition]

  • It was quite the weekend in our house
  • Saturday night after almost 4 years of waiting, Katie brought Judah home from Ethiopia
  • Hard to believe the journey to this moment has been so long
  • We are loving it and adjusting well
  • Say a prayer for us as we add him to our family, as he learns the English language and the patience we need while we adjust
  • Sunday was a great day at Revolution
  • We baptized 4 people
  • Always love hearing the stories of how Jesus has changed lives
  • Never gets old
  • I preached on John 14 and talked about who the Holy Spirit is and what He does
  • I had so many notes I could’ve preached for 3 hours
  • The Holy Spirit tends to be a divisive topic which is sad because without Him we are lost
  • He does so much and Christians tend to be ignorant as to what He does
  • If you missed it, you can listen to it here
  • Last Monday, I started my sleeve tattoo
  • Super excited about it as Katie and I have been planning it for almost 2 years
  • It is a koi fish with 6 flowers (1 for Katie and 5 for the kids)
  • The flowers will be colored in with their birth stone colors
  • Pumped about how it has turned out so far and I can’t wait to fill it in
  • I’m performing the wedding of some Revolutionaries this weekend
  • I love being a part of weddings and the process of premarital counseling
  • Really excited for this couple
  • We’re doing a child dedication in church next Sunday
  • I love seeing parents make a commitment to how they will raise their child(ren) and hearing their missional communities make a commitment to the parents and the child
  • It really is moving
  • Over the weekend I read through most of Malcolm Gladwell’s new book David & Goliath
  • Like his other books, this was utterly fascinating
  • His books are just so interesting
  • Picked up Mark Driscoll’s new book A Call To Resurgence this morning
  • Definitely a book every pastor should read as we don’t live in the Christian nation most Christians think we do
  • I was reading through John 15 this morning which I’m preaching on this Sunday
  • So much in those verses on how we stay connected to Jesus and not feel alone
  • Can’t wait to unpack them this Sunday at Revolution

Beauty Comes out of Brokenness

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We just spent 10 days on vacation in San Diego… And there were predictable, smooth, and wonderful days.

We were able to soak in the sun and enjoy God’s beautiful creation at the ocean and in the tide pools. We were able to start reading “The Narnia” series as a family, do a puzzle and eat amazing food. We were able to spend a day at sea world and Lego land.

Now we are going to ruin it.

By deciding to adopt, a 4 year old, from a different country, we have intentionally decided to send our family from a place of predictability to triage. Overnight.

Truth be told I have been afraid of the transition now that it is finally becoming a reality. Adoption is beautiful, but it is born out of loss and abandonment. For Judah Mamush to become a part of our family he must lose 2 languages, a culture, country, food, smells and sounds that are familiar to him. We do not take that lightly. There will be a grieving process that we will walk through with him and we don’t know what that will look like. It has scared me.

I am certain of one thing: we felt very specifically called to adopt, and although I know that call does not mean that it will be easy, it will be beautiful; whether on this side of heaven or the other. Praise Jesus that he is constant and our feelings do not need to control our reality.

As He is prone to do, God has reminded me of his presence and that he will hold and guide us through this.

Because our 4 kids who are at home with us were having a hard time with me leaving, friends of ours drove me up to Phoenix for an early morning flight. They are in the process of adopting internationally as well, so we had much to talk about on the way to the airport. Things that I have thought through, but won’t know how they play out until we have Judah Mamush home… Like how will he react to our routine, will he get along well with the other kids, when will we start taking him out of the house to church and the grocery store, have we found him a barber, how will he/we deal with the fact that we are a transracial family, etc. We have tried to educate ourselves to the best of our ability, but there is so much unknown.

I used the curbside check-in, it was a breeze. The attendant was African-American, he asked why I was traveling to Ethiopia, I explain. He asks if we have a name for him. Yes we do… And then he pulls out his name tag and tells me that we can use his name Jamal… It means beautiful. He got so excited and said he was proud of me and to enjoy my trip. It was such a lighthearted exchange and brought a smile to my face, after having tucked in 3 crying children the night before.

After sitting at the gate for a while we realize that our flight is delayed by a few hours, this is not a big deal for my travel plans because I will be staying overnight in DC before leaving in the morning for Addis. Many people were annoyed, but in God’s providence I got to sit and talk with a women who was born in Ethiopia and moved to the states with her parents when she was 9 under political asylum. We talked about the changes that have taken place in Ethiopia over the last ten years, but we also talked about the adoption. Her words were a balm to those places of anxiety. As I travel a peace is washing over me. I know that there will be a time of transition and a road to complete restoration in our family…. But isn’t that always to work of a family, of a mother. To help our children to see themselves as sinners and try to help them find their true identity in Christ, instead of their past.

I join in prayer with all of you parents who are facing a situation that is hard. I love that God sees the end, and we can trust him to that; while taking steps each day, enlightened by his word and prayer to get there.

Sometimes all we can do is trust God to be good, pure and right and take that next step in the direction that we feel he is calling us in. And so I step onto a plane to travel across the world to bring home our baby.

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The Beginning of The End

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I am on the LONG journey to finally pick up our son, Judah Mamush. The process of adoption is almost over, but the journey of integrating Judah Mamush into our family is just beginning.

The last two weeks have been a mix of emotions…

Earlier in the month we watched as a group of families who were a week ahead of us in the process be screened and clear embassy quickly; we anticipated that we would hear from the embassy right after them. If you know anything about international adoption, you know that it is anything but predictable and smooth. It was two more weeks before we heard anything from the embassy, and those two weeks were excruciating.

We were planning our trip to San Diego (which we had moved from the summer because of traveling to Ethiopia the first time), and waiting for any morsel of information from the embassy. Finally, we got word that our case was being screened and they were requesting a birth relative interview, this is not uncommon when there is a living birth relative, but it took a while to schedule an interview with him, because our agency couldn’t reach him by phone because of the remote location where he lives. After scheduling the appointment we decided to purchase tickets in anticipation of clearing and traveling the following week.

That decision ended up paying off, but was riddled with high emotion as we found out the embassy was booked almost solid because of holidays… Thankfully they took pity on us and scheduled a visa appointment that would work with our prearranged travel plans.

Josh and I started this journey of adoption in February of 2010… Just shy of 4 years ago. There are so many people and memories during that time. It has been a humbling experience having to ask people to help us accomplish something that we could not have doe on our own. So many of you have given time, money, stuff, prayers, and well wishes.

I still remember, one of our first small groups prayed over the initial paperwork, many of you worked at one or all of our rummage sales- sorting, selling, translating, folding, boxing, unboxing. Through this journey we have adopted Nehemiah, who we brought home from the hospital and straight to our MC! We we able to bless a local widow in tucson with a house facelift while raising funds for our adoption. Your support and love have been heard and felt.

Especially during these last few months as the wait from meeting Judah Mumush to picking him up has been gut wrenching. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you.

The journey is not over… We will still need your prayers and support. This next step I our journey will be riddled with educating ourselves and those around us how to best show Judah Mamush what a family is, and how that is played out within a community of believers.

Thank you for your part in our journey. We are closer to the end and the next step.

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Top Posts of September

In case you missed them, here are the top posts for the last month:

  1. Before You Criticize Your Pastor
  2. Revolution Church 5 Year Anniversary Video
  3. The Biggest Sin in Adoption
  4. A Mother’s Heart (From a Husband’s Perspective)
  5. The Most Important Minutes to a Guest on a Sunday Morning
  6. Does Homeschooling Deny the Missional Life?
  7. What to do on “Fat Days”
  8. Redeeming Halloween
  9. Get the Men, Win the War
  10. Rex Ryan: The Model Father?