Do you want a baby? And other adoption questions answered.

“Are you getting a baby?” That seems to be another popular question. No, we’re not adopting a baby. It’s not that we don’t love babies; I mean there’s nothing better than snuggling with a sweet baby and watching them fall asleep in your arms, but we knew immediately that a baby was not part of our adoption plan. We are adopting an older child. Older children are often the forgotten ones.

When we officially began this process our youngest had just turned 9, and the oldest was 22, and there were 3 more in the middle. We thought about our kids and the beautiful way God has brought redemption over their lives, and we thought about the challenges they’ve experienced and how hard life would be if they didn’t have a family. And we knew that we could be “that” family for another child.

The statistics are startling. Seventy five percent of children waiting around the world are over age 5, and the reality for orphans in many countries is grim. They live on the streets at age 15, as orphan care ends in the middle of the teen years. This pierced my heart as I considered my 3 teenagers and tried to imagine them living on their own with no one to help them, no one to encourage them to pursue their dreams, no one to tell them that they are capable of greatness. How would they survive with no one empowering them to live the love of family, and to know the love of God?

My kids have enough trouble getting their dirty dishes in the dishwasher without a reminder!

And we knew that we could do something for this child. We knew that somewhere, potentially far across the globe, God had a child destined for our family. But we didn’t just settle in on an older child. We were lead to go one step further. In working with Bethany Christian Services, we discovered that they had a waiting list of children, a campaign of 400 special children, and we knew our child was on that list. These children are predominantly “older” and have some kind of special need. “Special need” is a broad category. Sometimes this simply means that the child is 5 years of age or older, because that, in and of itself is a special need. It could also mean that they have medical, emotional or behavioral need. Many conditions that are difficult to treat in foreign countries are easily manageable in the United States. You can discover more about Bethany Christian Services and These 400 here.  All of these things reinforced our decision to begin our international adoption.

We submitted our application in July 2014, but did not specify a particular country. We knew that each country had its own set of parameters. Some countries would disqualify us because we already had 4 children at home, since Dan is 11 years older than me, some would disqualify us based on his age. We told Bethany Christian that we were open to the countries that would consider us to be favorable candidates for adoption.

A few weeks later we received an exciting email—we had 3 choices: Hong Kong, Bulgaria and South Africa. Our family was secretly hoping to adopt from an African nation (let me just say our kids were very vocal about this), so it was an easy choice: South Africa!

And with this one decision our hearts were knit to a nation we did not yet know, to a child we have not met, but to one who already has captured our affection.

I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.  Jeremiah 31:3

It’s Official- We’re Expecting. Adoption.

I have a secret we’ve been keeping.  We’re expecting.  Our family is in the process of adopting!

“How long have you been thinking about adoption?” That’s a question I hear often and one that I can’t answer definitively. As a child, my 2 favorite movies were Annie and The Rescuers—redemption and restoration—those stories captured a deep place within my heart. But there were also times that adoption was on the forefront of my mind. I remember when Charlie and I lost our first daughter, Elise, and the feelings of adoption surfaced once again. A friend encouraged me that this was not the time to pursue adoption; it was the time to pursue healing. I knew she was right.

Years passed and we had our own children. Then my kids lost their father and I started to see things differently. I remember thinking about how it felt from their perspective to live life without a “daddy”. My heart broke for them. Then God brought Dan. At first I argued with God. His timing seemed crazy.  God settled me, and the realization came, “All kids need a mom and a dad. My kids need a dad more now than ever before.” It was another reminder of adoption.

I started praying. When Dan and I got married I told him that I really didn’t think I was finished having children. I was not implying pregnancy. I told him about my desire to adopt. He wasn’t ready yet. And so I waited and prayed and prayed and waited. I knew this had to be the right step for our family and not just my idea.

Dan prayed too and God spoke to his heart. In December 2013 we signed up to attend an informational meeting at a local adoption agency. The day of the meeting came and I was excited. These years of waiting were making the minutes feel endless. I checked the clock frequently hoping it was time to leave. Then my mom called and everything changed. “Marie, your dad has been rushed to the hospital.” He was experiencing complications due to lung cancer. His situation was grave. This would be his last hospital stay. For a while we weren’t sure that he would come home, it looked like he would die there. Our conversations were serious and emotional. I spent as much time with him as possible. And I told him that we were thinking of adopting. He looked surprised. I said, “Not a puppy Dad, a child.” I wanted to make him laugh a little. And I wanted him to know about our adoption because I knew he wouldn’t be here to meet this child.

My dad died on Dec. 24, 2013. I understood what it felt like to be fatherless and my heart broke again for the children who know this loss too.

Our adoption journey had a million little twists and turns before it “officially” began, but I’m thrilled to share that we’re almost ready to send off our dossier.   We are adopting from South Africa, and we hope to bring our child home this summer.

For now, this is all I’ll share, but there is more—SO MUCH MORE. God is writing a beautiful story across our lives and he is weaving in the life of a child we’ve not met yet, but deeply love.

God places the lonely in families. Psalm 68:6

How To Change The World

You can change the world. Do you believe me? The answer to that question comes down to this—the way you measure impact. You don’t have to cross the ocean to change the world. You can, but it’s not required. You don’t have to exhaust your resources to make a difference. You don’t have to post something on social media that goes viral.

Changing the world is simple.

Changing the world happens when you touch one life with the love of Christ. When you touch one life—you’ve changed their world.

Simple acts of encouragement make a huge impact. I know this, because I’ve been the recipient. It’s the conversation when someone looks straight into your eyes and sees all the way to your heart. Their words speak life and touch the ache you’ve felt but have not uttered. It’s the written message read over and over—proof that you’re not alone in this journey. It’s the unexpected gift found at your front door. The contents make you smile. It’s the reminder that God sees and reaches in a tangible way: lifting your heart, settling your doubts, and silencing your questions.

We all need encouragement. We need to know we’re not alone. You can make a huge difference in the life of another simply by reaching out. You can change their world. Would you join me? What would happen if 100 of us touched the life of one other person this weekend with Jesus’ love? What if those 100 were also inspired to reach out to another with the love of Christ? Love multiplies changing the world and we’re all in on it.

You’ve heard stories that tell of the way strangers paid for the car behind them at Starbucks and Chick-fil-A. My eyes light up to hear of love poured out. It’s the most powerful force on earth and takes nothing more than a few moments of simple obedience and courage. Right now, ask God for your assignment. Where will you spread his love? Is your heart beating faster? That’s love multiplied inside you. It’s love that can’t wait to get out. Cultivate willingness in your heart for spontaneous assignments too. You are changing the world—one life at a time.

Oh yes, and watch for the way God returns the gifts you’ve given!

The movie, Amish Grace, is not a true story.

I hear this question all the time, “How accurate is the movie Amish Grace?” My response is always the same, “That movie is an entirely fictional adaptation of a real event.” The reply is often something like, “Oh, that’s too bad, I really loved that movie.”

I feel entirely different about it. That movie falsely portrays the most personally difficult, and beautiful, moments of my life. It’s a fabricated story of relationships within my family, within my community (including my Amish neighbors who showed nothing but grace and compassion) and with God—I never doubted him for a moment! Amish Grace is a Hollywood generated “made for TV movie”, but this is my life, and to me it’s personal.

Please hear me though—I’m not angry. Truthfully, I was frustrated when I found out about it, but not angry. I believe in the redemptive love of God, that is, his ability to take the worst circumstances and use them for good in our lives. His WORD, the Bible, is very clear that he redeems. His redemption covers a bad movie. My life is, and will forever be, a story of God’s love. If you’ve watched the movie, you owe it to yourself to hear the truth. I’m not just talking about the truth of my story; I’m talking about the truth of God’s love for you. One Light Still Shines, is a true story- my viewpoint on relationships within my family, interactions with the Amish community, and above all, the miraculous way God restored my life. I pray that as you read it, you would feel His redemptive love washing over you, encouraging your heart to believe that he’s not finished writing your story.

You can read reviews and find out more about it at Amazon-

or Zondervan-

Rest now…spring is coming!

It’s been a long winter.  No matter where you live, I’m pretty sure you can relate.   From my chilly office at the front corner of our house, I can hear the wind whipping and whistling—it’s forceful today.  This winter has been unusually cold, excessively windy and brought mounds of snow.   There’s still a trail of frozen precipitation in our front yard.  I’m ready for spring, and the gorgeous days of 65+ temps.  I’d like to feel a warm breeze blowing my hair and the sun’s radiance upon my face.  I long for vibrant green leaves on the now naked trees outside.  I’m ready for all these things, but these things are not yet ready for me.

In some ways it feels like winter has seeped inside my skin.  It’s like I’ve been hibernating—stuck inside myself waiting for the sun to shine and warm my world again.  Gray days have consumed me.  At first I fought the winter, then resigned myself to its presence, but after a spring tease last weekend I’m ready to move beyond this season.  Do you feel like that too?  Winter feels lifeless in many ways: it brings a struggle and dulls my senses.  It commands rest and patience.  God is challenging me, and I’m growing.  Small steps are still progress.  He reminds me to stay within the season—to embrace what’s in front of me.  Sometimes I fight him.  It’s not that I willfully make a choice to disobey, but my desire for what’s to come is greater than my desire to be where I am.  This leads to discontent, the push and pull of fighting the present to engage in the future.

I know myself well, I’ve had these feelings before and I can identify them more easily now.  I silence the inner struggle by leaning into the peace of Jesus.   I stop my swirling thoughts, ones that sometimes rage like the winds outside today.   There’s a choice I have to make—I know that I must find life in this season.  I see the trees outside my window, although it looks like nothing is happening, there’s amazing life just under the surface.  It’s getting ready to break free, but it’s not time yet.  If blossoms and leaves burst forth right now they wouldn’t be able to stand up to the harsh temperatures and brutal wind, so they must wait.  I must wait.  I must remain patient, continuing to cultivate life inside.  I must embrace this quiet place and soak up all Jesus offers me.  His gifts are unending: his presence, love, peace, and promises of the season to come.   I want to soak it up now so I have something to share in the days ahead.  According to the calendar, spring arrives in 1 week.  I have a final set of 7 days to pause in the quietness of winter, to enjoy these last moments of restful hibernation, so that I may spring forth and come alive.

It is going to be a glorious 7 days.

Do You See Me?

Last night I was strolling through Target with an empty cart.  I wasn’t looking for anything specific; actually I wasn’t there to buy anything at all.  I was there to pray and process.  You might think that sounds like the antithesis of spirituality, but it was the perfect environment.  Funny, how God works like that.  My head and heart were noisy.  Target was quiet.  The rhythmic hum of the four wheels on my cart soothed me.  My husband offered me some time out, after a day spent frolicking with 4 kids off school for the holiday.  I needed some space, and Dan knew it.  It’s not that my kids were getting to me, I have an amazing family, and sure, they’re loud and rowdy sometimes, but it wasn’t them.  I was the problem.  I was getting on my very last nerve.

I entered the store with a list, a list of things weighing heavy on my heart, an accumulation of very personal little things.  I felt this list.  I strolled through the store and began a conversation with God.  I asked him what he was going to do with those things and what I was supposed to do about them.  I wasn’t getting any answers.  I’m firmly convinced that my surface questions are often related to processing, and I must keep asking to find the deep answer my heart needs most.  I circled the store, picked up a few things, and, at the same time circled my issues.  The conversation changed.

Do you see me?

Factually, I knew this wasn’t THE question, but I was getting closer.  I even knew the answer as I asked—I know he sees me.

I continued to explore my heart in an effort to try to understand what I desperately needed to know.

I need to know that you see me.  Show me that you see my heart.

Surprisingly it wasn’t a question, but it was THE KEY that would unlock the door and let me out of my self-made irritation.  I needed God to come to me, in the middle of Target and remind my heart that he sees me.

I was browsing through the picture frames when this revelation occurred.  I looked at my cart and decided to put back the things I had collected.  I pushed the cart in silence.  There was nothing more to say, no more questions to ask.  I needed to wait.

I found the shelf, popped the items back in place and started towards the front of the store.  I looked at my watch.  Maybe I wasn’t going to meet him in Target.  It was time to go home.  I passed another shopper, but didn’t look up, I felt subdued by silence.  She stopped me, “Excuse me, are you Marie?”  Jolted from my inward conversation, I stumbled to answer her question.  “I knew it was you, I saw you earlier but didn’t say anything and then I told God, that if he wanted me to talk to you then he would have to make sure our paths crossed again.”  She continued, “I’m sure you get lots of these conversations, so I don’t want to bother you, but I just have to thank you for sharing your story.”

The words I type don’t accurately convey the way she expressed them and how God used this encounter to touch my heart.  She went on to tell me that she had been praying for my family and was encouraged to know what God had done.  I thanked her and walked away, still stunned and silent, but completely changed.  All my “issues” remained; nothing was different, however the weight had lifted. This was only the 3rd time a stranger approached me to talk about my book.  This was not a coincidence; this was God.

You see me. 

Tears filled my eyes.  I held them back.  I was not going to break down in the middle of Target.

I felt his arms surrounding me, his hands holding my heart—the love of the Father in tangible form.  It’s startling to think God would send me to Target to process and pray, and that he would simultaneously send a stranger, used with precision to encourage my heart.  If she had spoken the first time she saw me it would’ve come before my revelatory moment and the impact would’ve been reduced.  Her words came with perfect timing.

I returned home, confident that while my circumstances remained the same, everything had shifted. I was able to view my life through the lens of love, confident that God sees my heart.  He doesn’t have to instantaneously fix my problems—I just have to let him change me.  I am comforted, because I know he sees me.

This song says it all-

And nothing is hidden from Your sight

Wherever I go, You find me

And You know every detail of my life

And You are God and You don’t miss a thing


You Know Me- Bethel Music

Super Sweet Sixteen- Revisited

November 14, Redemption Day- what did that look like for you?  Let me tell you what happened in my world. 

I don’t feel like I did anything “earth shattering”, just simple expressions of kindness and love.  It seemed to be the point though—not to stress over what I should do and simply respond to what was stirring in my heart.  I sent a few emails/messages, dropped a card in the mail, and waited in anticipation for the next “assignment”.  The morning was great, the afternoon was good but the evening was a challenge.

Dan had a class Thursday evening, so I was on my own with the kids.  It was a normal night, on a day when I felt anything but normal.   I found myself challenged on all levels and burdened under the weight of raw emotion.  I didn’t quite know where it came from but I did NOT have time to deal with it.  I wanted the night to be fun for the kids and feel like the day meant something to them too.  As the hours passed I became less sure that I was making any kind of difference.  I’m my own worst critic.

I tucked the kids in bed, started water to fill my tub and pulled a load of laundry from the dryer.  A hot bath was probably just the thing I needed—a bit of time to process the day’s events.  What should’ve been a quick folding job turned into another adventure as I discovered a tube of Chapstick had been washed and dried into the clothing.  More work, this wasn’t what I had in mind.  Soaking in the washer overnight would hopefully do the trick.

Twenty minutes later I sank down into the hot water and thought about the day—the places of beauty and the ones that challenged me.  In the midst of this though, I began to realize that there was another side to this story.  I started to tally up all the amazing things God had done for me, the ways he kissed my day.

  1. A random call from a friend inviting our family to their cabin for the weekend.
  2. Lunch with another friend who hadn’t read my blog post on Redemption Day, but was sharing from her heart in a way that matched everything in mine.  It was divine encouragement.
  3. A surprise text that took my breath away with heart-felt kindness.
  4. Flowers from a fourth friend, her way of celebrating Elise’s 16th birthday.
  5. $6.00 clearance shirts at the Gap Outlet, the perfect size for one of my children.
  6. Prayers from my boys at bedtime, asking if they could pray for others who were facing their own place of difficulty.

All of these things meant something wonderful and remarkable to me.  I can honestly say that perfection is over-rated; it was ok that the day wasn’t perfect, it was about redemption anyway.  Kisses from heaven—this day spoke of the God who knows my heart, hears my cry and always answers.  On a day I intended to be about others, God surprised me and showed me that instead, it was all about me.


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