Friday, December 1, 2017

There's Joy in Doing Hard Things

Lately, I have been thinking about how much we miss out on simply because we are afraid.  Afraid of the unknown.  Afraid we might fail.  Afraid people will think we have simply lost our mind.  There are so many reasons why we don't step out and do something totally radical.

One of the books we read with our children during the Middle School Years is a book titled  Do Hard Things by Alex and Brett Harris.  Two brothers.  The premise of this book is to encourage young people to step out of their comfort zones and do something they never thought they could do. In other words, do hard things.  Every time I read this book I think of how different my life and our family would be had we not stepped out and did something totally against the "norm". 

As many of you already know, I was mayor of my town from 2012-2016.  I never in my wildest dreams thought that I would or could do something like this.  I stepped WAY out of my comfort zone as I knocked on doors and held up campaign signs on the street corners.  I will tell everyone that I had no idea there was a Robert who had rules we had to follow in our meetings. My time as mayor was definitely something I will never forget.  It stretched me in so many ways.  However, because I stepped out and did something I never thought I could do, I realized just how much I love serving people.  I realized just how much I love being in government and encouraging people to get involved.  I realized I was good at something I never thought I could be good at.  I did something hard.  And, I was blessed because of it.

Our family did something totally radical when we adopted Naomi in 2008.  Neither Marshall nor I had come from an adopted family. We knew no one who had adopted from the states, not to mention internationally.  We were the odd balls out for sure. But, because we followed our hearts and listened to the Lord, we were so very blessed.  Adoption was hard.  Many tears were shed during the process and I began to realize that adopting was so much harder than being pregnant.   Marshall and I learned so much about being parents during that time. And, we were blessed because we did something hard. 

If our family thought we were nuts adopting Naomi, they were in for a much bigger shock when we announced we were adopting Naomi's best friend.  Two international adoptions?  Crazy right?  We followed our heart and relied on the Lord for His provision throughout the process and before we knew it we were back in the Philippines at the same orphanage we had been before bringing our Jacob home.  Life didn't get easy once we were back home. As you know, Jacob ended up being diagnosed with cancer and passed away only two years after he came to our family.  It was hard. Our family was stretched during that time. Tears were shed most days. But the joy that came to us in the midst of the sadness superseded all the hard.  And, because we stepped out and did something totally radical and adopted a little boy who no one else wanted, we are so much "more" today.  Going through something hard and seeing Jesus up close, changes you forever. 

Back in January when we realized that we STILL have so much to give orphan children, our life began to change once more.  Once we saw their pictures and read their story, we knew we had to do the hard thing and adopt these boys.  To be honest,  we have questioned whether or not we are doing the right thing.  We have wondered how in the world can we adopt three at one time?  We have been given "looks" from some as they question our sanity.  "You guys are crazy" is the response most of the time.  But, as we have stepped out in faith,  we have found so much joy in the hard.  We have seen God move mountains to bring these boys home and he has used many of you to fulfill his purpose.  The hard has been so rewarding as we continue to see God's provision in this adoption of three of His children.

Your "hard" might look totally different from mine or my families.  However, whatever your "hard" might be, know that you have a cheerleader cheering you on.  You've got this!  We are living proof that once you get through your hard, it will all be worth it.  


Friday, November 24, 2017

So you wanted a story....

Recently, Lorrie and I were asked to 'tell our story'.  Do you have any idea how hard it is to do justice to this God story in an email?  You can't.  You just can't.  But as I wrote the email I did manage to create a sort of 'cliff notes' version of our story - from Naomi and Jacob to  Levi, Josiah and Issac. Maybe some of you new readers will be able to put it all together now.  To help you I have embedded links to key parts of the story - that is still being written.

Lorrie and I have been married for 25 years. Since the beginning we have both had a strong desire to share our lives and our Jesus with children and have a house full of love, laughter, and teaching. First Lorrie gave birth to our oldest boy Joshua, then Noah and then Hannah– three altogether. These three brought so much joy it can’t be articulated in this brief write up. But Lorrie’s pregnancies while beautiful were also very difficult for her.

Complete…or so we thought. I’ll never forget the day Lorrie told me …”We’re not done, I don’t think God is telling us we’re done.” Within a year of that conversation we were passionately pursuing the adoption of a little girl in Southern Leyte, Republic of the Philippines. It was such a joy to see her and to watch her get to know her big sister Hannah and brothers Joshua and Noah. Once again…”Complete or so I thought.. The day we met Naomi, we also met a little boy named Jacob.

Naomi came home with us and she brought joy and this new and wild passion for living into our home. But we never forgot about Jacob….and later with Naomi’s enthusiastic blessing we adopted Jacob in 2012. You can read more about that story here.

God did amazing things in our home through these adoptions. He LOVED us through them. Jacob and Naomi reunited…well that was something to see. Their presence here brought so much life and love to us. We camped, climbed and we’ve had adventures all over. And then there was suffering… 

In 2014, Jacob was diagnosed with AML M7 Leukemia. It was devastating news. It was the hardest thing any of us have ever experienced. As his family, we felt powerless. But Jesus never left us. He was THERE with Jacob and us the whole time and his presence was palpable. Funny thing – Jake’s attitude, his heart was the glue that held the staff together on the 7th floor of Children’s Hospital while he was there. Every day Docs, nurses came into his room so they would feel better. Jacob jumped into Jesus’s arms on 2 January 2015 - he left us with a smile...

Our family has been through so much but never alone. As we watched, Naomi’s story, and Jacob’s have touched lives – not just ours. Jesus has been made much of.  So fast forward to January of 2017. Lorrie and I asked ourselves “what tells the best story about who Jesus is in our life?” Is it having been willing to adopt, love with all you have and loose a child? Or is it being willing to do it again? We chose the latter X3. Why? Because that’s exactly what our Jesus would do – its exactly what he did do - show us unmerited favor....

So there it is all we need now is a yellow and black cliff notes jacket...  Better yet watch this:

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

A Miracle

Do you believe in miracles? We certainly do. Today my family witnessed a miracle. Before I explain, let me back up a bit.

A year ago Marshall and I celebrated our 24th Wedding Anniversary. Over dinner conversation we started talking about what the next season of our life would be like. After all, we are getting older, our kids are growing up and even moving out. Things are changing. Basically, we asked ourselves these questions..." Where do we want to be living? What do we want to be doing? and What brings us the most joy? " You see, neither one of us can imagine being that typical "retired American couple." We both realized at that moment what we wanted these next years to look like. The thing that brings us the most joy in life is family. Specifically, children and adoption. So, that led us to a conversation about the possibility of adopting again - someday. End of conversation for awhile.

Fast forward to January of this year. We were sitting around the campfire asking ourselves the same questions we had asked back in March. This time though we involved our children. We asked our daughters first what they thought about us adopting again. Both of them looked at each other and then replied..." we would love to be big sisters BUT we really don't want anymore girls in the house." After talking with the boys we decided to begin the process of adopting a sibling group of boys. We thought 2 brothers. God brought us 3 brothers...Levi, Josiah and Isaac.

From the beginning we knew that the biggest obstacle to adopting these brothers was going to be the financial cost of the adoption itself. After all, the cost of adopting one child is a lot, three children seemed impossible. However, we took the plunge, stepped out in faith and trusted that the Lord would provide what was needed to complete the adoption of these boys into our family if this was his will for our family. We got the word out and started a GoFund me site. I started cleaning houses and babysitting - all for a donation to the adoption. More and more people found out about our adoption and more and more people donated to help bring our boys home.

God is faithful. He will (and did) provide ALL we need....

Our miracle came today when we received the total amount needed to completely fund God's adoption of these precious boys! Hallelujah! To God be the glory for the great things He has done! You should have seen us celebrating God's provision to our family this afternoon when we realized what He had done. We were definitely a sight to be seen as we were dancing around the kitchen and yelling "thank you Jesus" over and over.

     And this same time God, who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus. Philippines 4:19

     Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.  Ephesians 3:20

When my faith wavered God was there. When I questioned if we were doing the right thing ( adopting 3! at 50?!)  God listened. When I had doubts that the money wouldn't come in God provided. Do you want to know the greatest thing? He used you to accomplish His will for our family. He did this through your love, your prayers and your giving. Wow! So I will ask you again. Do you believe in miracles? You definitely should because nothing is impossible with God. Thank you Lord!

Rejoice with us tonight.

One last thing....
As we continue moving through the adoption process would you please pray specifically for:
- An expedient turn a round of our I-800A . We found out today that our case has been assigned to an officer to handle. That's great news!
- Protection over the boys while they wait. Pray that God is working on their heart to give them a desire to join our family.
- Funding for our travel and expenses while in the Philippines. We will have 3 people going over and 6 people coming home. We estimate that we will need about 8,000.00. We will be continuing our fundraising efforts for this last step.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

For Others....

Lately it seems like many of my friends and people that they love have been experiencing some sort of suffering in their lives.  One prays for a companion for years, and then the companion is diagnosed with Cancer.  Another calls me, feeling helpless as he watched his bride grapple with the fact that her mother and her best friend has cancer.  Another...a colleague at work ...someone both very young and very close to them is also very ill with a life threatening ailment.  And still another, the most selfless man I know just about beats one serious and debilitating episode and then is hit with another serious illness.  And now as I write this, hundreds are dealing with a senseless act of violence in Las Vegas.

Why all of this suffering?

We all have been on the bed of suffering.  Paul told us again and again -its going to happen and for us to endure it. Easier said than done.

I was talking to one of my friends today who is suffering and in a way even worse - watching someone he loves suffer. And then I remembered when I wrote about suffering when Jacob was sick -in a post called "Suffering Reveals Jesus".  I sent him the post and I encouraged him - I told him what I experienced when someone said the word 'cancer' and how it took Lorrie and I about a month to recover from that blow: 'Jacob has Leukemia' and then how Jesus showed up and walked with us.  I also told him what I learned about suffering;  namely that it reveals Jesus to us.

I encouraged him as best I could.  After we hung up - I re-read that post as it still hung in the browser...

"We readily accept the good from God. Why then do we have such a hard time accepting suffering? Me included - I have a hard time with it. Why do we think that any of us will somehow avoid it?
Suffering reveals Jesus - that is why none of us will avoid it. It is, believe it or not -a mercy. It drives us to the King when we are too stubborn to go on our own. It strips me of all of the things that I place between Jesus and me - so its just me and him. It is only then that I am ready to accept the mercies Jesus gives me during the suffering -and I am certain the blessings after suffering. Not just for ourselves but for others."

I was dumbstruck.  "Not just for ourselves but for others."  And now I see it.  I've told you all that we were blessed and we received mercies from Jesus when Jake was sick.  I had given no thought to: "... but for others."  

And yet, here it is... Jesus's story as told through Jacob has come full circle  - for others.  Praise God for others....

Amazed at and in AWE of this Jesus..


Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Why Indeed...An Update for You

Many people ask me 'why' when I tell them we're adopting these boys. Why indeed.  I've thought about that question a lot over the past nine months...why?  I often have to drive to Denver for my job.  I love that drive because it gives me 1.5 hours absolutely alone with  Jesus.  On my last trip I prayed the 'why'....

"Use this Jesus to tell your story.  Don't let this be about Lorrie and I.  Don't let this be about us.  When people see and hear what you are doing Jesus please take the honor, please take the praise, please take what you are worthy of...all of it.  

When people want to say "what a nice family"  let them say instead "what an amazing Savior:"  

When people hear about this and think "how are they possibly going to afford that?" let them remember that you are Jehovah Jireh (the Lord will Provide). 

When people wonder "how can they adopt and love three kids they've never met?" let them remember that you are Jehovah El Roi (The God who sees me).  

This is your story Jesus, we're just blessed enough to be in it.  Proclaim your name, get the glory because you are Worthy and it is your story."

Many of you know how this story started...with Naomi and then Jacob, his life and his victory over death.  When he went home I didn't close his email - I set up and 'out of office' notification instead. Every now and then I send an email to him...just to remember that part of the story. Here is that exchange....

So there you go - that's why.  We're doing it.  

So you probably would like an update.  We're still raising funds.  We have a couple of fundraisers coming up.  First, Lorrie has taken on a bit of child care to raise some money which has been a blessing - we call the young fella Hankus Pankus - he's awesome and it's a blessing to have him here twice a week.  Lorrie has also raised some funds cleaning houses - so if you need help give us a call! Finally we'll be doing a fundraiser at the Swiss Chalet Restaurant in Woodland Park, CO the second Monday in October.  If we pack the house we might just be able to make a pretty good dent in what we need (we'll post that event here and on Lorrie's Facebook once we have more details.  We'd love to see you there for a nice dinner (the place is amazing) and to hear more about adoption and what God is doing in this story.

We Love You All,


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Back to Brent's

This past weekend we traveled to Denver to support an event called "Kids Cure".  This event benefits Brent's Place - a place born out of the tragedy of loosing a son to cancer that has blessed so may people since it started in 1997.

Our family hung out with some of the bravest people you will ever meet - families who are battling with cancer - some winning, some losing -but all victorious.  We walked the route of the event that was lined with pictures of kids who have stayed or are staying at Brent's as they battle illness that could take their lives.

The first picture we came to was Jacobs - first in line and would you believe it?  He had the CU band playing behind him...Just like Jake to have a band.  I'm just awestruck how Jesus and Jacob probably arranged this - just to see us smile.  And smile we did knowing full well Jacob's fine and we're doing well too.

Jacob with the Band

While there we had the great pleasure of meeting the Eleys - who lost Brent and allowed the Almighty to turn something so awful into something so beautiful.  In my conversation with Donn, I listened as he told me how and why Brent's Place started.  His honesty struck me -he seemed almost surprised that this ministry has become so pivotal in so many families lives.

That's kind of how it works isn't it?  We start out well intentioned to do a 'great work' for God and it fizzles.   But when we just let the King of the Universe use our brokenness, our loss and our complete inability to deal -that is where the great work happens.  And do you know why?  Apart from him there is no 'good' thing - He is the 'good thing'.

My favorite part of my conversation with Donn is when I told him about our story that unfolded behind the walls and in the inner rooms of Brent's Place.  It was so great to be able to tell him how his loss was shaped for good to make our loss more bearable. Mystery -right? But if you think about how God works - if you really look at things - like our Jacob story - like Brent's story you start to get a real picture of who God is and just a wee bit of a glance at is character.  So - here's a shout out to Donn and Linda - You look like Jesus to me.

So adoption update:  We're a little closer to bringing Levi, Josiah and Issac home.  Pray for us - for provision and a straight road home.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Staying Together

We first saw their picture about 5 months ago when we decided to step out of our comfort zone once again and adopt. What struck us the most about these boys was the way they were standing in the picture. They were not separate as you would imagine them to be. They were linked arm in arm. You could tell they were close. There was no way they could be separated. They would have to be adopted together.

Three brothers ages 9, 8 and 7 have spent their entire childhood in an orphanage. Their days are filled with the routine that comes with orphanage living.   These boys have never experienced the love that comes with being part of a family. They haven't been tucked into bed at night or been told good morning when they wake up.  They haven't been hugged on or tickled so much that it hurt.  They haven't been anyone's special. They wait day after day to hear the words "someone is coming for you. You have a family to call your own."

When our family decided to adopt again, we knew a sibling group would be the best fit for our family at this time.  Since Naomi will be graduating in a few years, and heading out on her own, we realized how important it would be for our adopted child to have siblings around.  For this reason, we purposely, searched for a sibling group of boys. ( both of our girls prefer to keep the "sister bond" between them). We thought two. God said three.  When we read the information on these precious brothers and then saw the picture of them linking arms, we knew they were the ones God had chosen for our family.  We found out about them, and we couldn't get them out of our mind. So, here we are....

Stepping out of the familiar.  Saying "yes" to something difficult.  Trusting the Lord all the way.

Will there be hard times? Yes.  Will we question what we are doing? Most likely.  However, we know that this is God's story to be written.  It's just beginning but I know its going to be the BEST story yet.


Saturday, May 6, 2017

Levi, Josiah, and Issac

Name. Its the doorway to our identity.  It's how others know us and it's often how we know ourselves. We've noticed something in our adoptions.  When a child is adopted the adoption becomes a rebirth of sorts in their lives.  Old things like the orphanage, wishing you had a family, feeling unloved and not connected...these things pass away.  What remains is a new person who is loved and who belongs.  We have watched this deep transformation twice.  First with Naomi who was called 'Mitzi' when we adopted her.  And then with Jacob...

I will never forget when we were united with him at the orphanage.  And that moment we were driving away with him with the RSCC fading fast in the rear view mirror...  "What did you call me when you were working on adopting me?"  "Jacob." His mother replied.  And then it happened ..."Call me Jacob."  There it was... a transformation from the old order of things to new.  He never referred to himself as Razel again.

Jacob, Naomi, Hannah, Josh and Noah in the car leaving the word Orphan behind
When you adopt from the Philippines you are not allowed to share names or pictures of the children you hope to adopt.  So we can't share their 'real names' with you.  We can only tell you that they are nine, eight and seven years old.  Brothers.  We have a picture of them and what we love most is that you can see these brothers are tight.  They are close.  Three boys with jet black hair, dark brown eyes and hopeful smiles.  They want a family and they know that this picture they are posing for is the first step in an uncertain and hopeful journey to find home.  The oldest, protective and kind, stands next to his younger brothers who are arm in arm, smiling and hopeful.  Then you look down...the oldest is holding the youngest's hand.  "It's ok" I think he's saying...  I love this picture.

So we have named them and can't wait to tell you about them. First there is Levi, the oldest.  Levi means to join' or 'to be joined' in Hebrew.  We can't wait until he is joined with us.  Second there is Josiah which means 'healed by Jehovah' or Jehovah will support.  We are looking forward to the day that they are healed and supported by a family and more importantly by the High King himself.  The third is Issac. Issac means 'laughter' or 'he laughs'.  There will be the laughter and love of a family.

Its coming.  We're coming.  We thank God and we're happy because soon...another rebirth - another three to be exact.

Marshall and Lorrie

Friday, April 21, 2017

So for those of you who have guessed....

Story.  Its how we tell someone about our lives.   We're all caught up in a story - an Epic as I mentioned in my last post.  Jesus is writing and we're in it.

Here is the next chapter...A few months ago, Lorrie and I both began to feel a familiar  tug on our hearts - a familiar voice..."Your story, the one I'm telling did not end with Jacob.  There's more... I want you to adopt again".

"Seriously God?"  "Yep".

Lorrie tells me... "I'm thinking a sibling group".  I'm a little stunned..."uhhh really?"  She's convinced. So we agree two more..."yeah sure we can do that.."  So we go to our adoption agency and tell them we're adopting again.  That call started the flow of dossiers (think stories) of sibling groups needing adoption from the Philippines. We reviewed each one but it was like Jesus was over our shoulder..."keep looking".

In a few weeks I was called away on business to Utah.  Now I rarely get on airplane wifi, but this time for some reason I did.  There in my inbox was another dossier for me to look at.  Unknown to me at the time Lorrie was also looking at it.  Three boys...Lorrie fell in love with them but also said to herself - "Marshall will never go for three" .  Here I am at 30,000 feet and I read their story... the oldest wants to be a priest to tell people about Jesus, the middle boy wants to be a teacher and the youngest - he's afraid of what God will do to him for "messing up".  Instantly I said to myself..."someone needs to teach him about grace"...Jesus said "I want you to".

Boom.  Done.  We're adopting 3 boys - Nine, Eight and Seven years old.  We want you to go with us as we go...

So the story, our story....its not over.  Like I said last time we believe our story is an Epic. It is an Epic written by Jesus.

More to Come!

Marshall and Lorrie

God sets the lonely in families,he leads out the prisoners with singing
Psalm 68:6

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Epic: From a cardboard box to our own stories

Epic.  John Eldredge relates our life stories to an epic.  Most people privately think of their lives as well...not much.  "I'm not that important" or "...nothing special".

Why do we insist on thinking that only Homer or Odysseus, or Cortez, or Lewis and Clark are the only ones that have an epic journey an...epic story?  Its because we've bought into the lie that "we're nothing special" and living an epic, well that's for someone else - not you.

RSCC Going After Naomi
I woke up to this lie thanks to the epic Jacob story I lived. Jacob's life here on earth was truly epic. Here is a part of the story you have not heard - even I have not but it is what I believe to be true...

Rain clears the air on Leyte. And for awhile, it replaces the smell of a city with the smell of flowers only found in the tropics. The rain just ended and the humidity was as usual – overwhelming. As the vapor hung lazily over the road in the pre-dawn darkness, inside the orphanage the children slept, about 12 to a room. It was May 20th, 2000.
The orphanage was a walled and gated compound of about 10 buildings with controlled access to keep the occupants safe. A nursery and a kitchen, classrooms, offices and sleeping rooms formed the nucleus of the Reception and Study Center for Children or the RSCC as it was called by its occupants. A guard was always at the gate. Kind and always smiling, the guards watched over the RSCC, making the rounds and taking the time to talk to the children – like protective big brothers. The rain on this night kept the guard inside the guard post attempting to stay dry as best he could. A break in the rain offered an opportunity to once again walk his post.

As the guard leaves the gate for his last walk around the complex, a young lady approaches the gate with a small cardboard box. She winces in pain as she kneels gently, placing the box next to the gate unnoticed by the guard. She is young – barely in her teens but the pain in her heart at this moment amounts to the weight carried by an old soul - a person torn and with few options. She places her hand gently into the box as tears roll down her cheek. Her thoughts are well…those of a mother giving up the most precious gift she’d ever been given – a son. Startled by the guards return she flees.

And so Jacob entered this life. He was given the name Razael Sagrada by those that cared for him. He had nobody and yet from the time he was found at the gate – he had everyone. He became one of about one hundred orphans in the RSCC but at the same time he always stood out. Before he could roll over on his own in the small white crib in which he was placed he captivated his care givers. The last name they gave this ‘John Doe’ said it all – Sagrada which means holy. They knew this baby was somehow different, they also knew from experience that the orphans they cared for were not cast-offs, but beautiful. And this boy? Well they knew that there were plans for this boy –and they were right.

Jacob on a 5:7 
You know the rest of the story..."Naomi's best friend. I like America take me with you".  Jacob boldly proclaimed his identity and his epic.  He lived with us and we can testify that he lived big - even in incredible suffering all the way to his real life - with Jesus. What is even better is that our family discovered our epic when his epic life entwined with ours.  I now know that my life... is also an epic story. 

There's nothing safe about it.  There's risk when you follow Jesus and yes suffering. But have you ever heard of an epic story without peril?  Without suffering or loss?  No such thing.  Its overcoming those things that make the story an epic in the first place.  

We have an enemy that whispers to us "...just get through it, this is all there is, find what pleasure you can and then well - its over - Nothing special..." You ever hear that voice?  I do.  When you do you have a choice - believe him and go be a battery in the enemy's web of lies - like in the matrix or.... 

Step into the truth of Jesus and look your enemy in the eye and call him what he is - Liar!  Thief!  Be bold and tell him "This is MY story - given to me my Jesus himself - You shall not pass!"

We the blood of the lamb and the word of our testimony.  Jesus proclaimed, chapters of our stories written into an epic that is not over for us.  Family, adoption, great love, great sadness, suffering, uncertainty, overcoming, following Jesus into our story - its ours! And its no where near over.

You'll be hearing from us soon....

Marshall and Lorrie