Hands and house

Hands and house

Monday, April 25, 2016

What If We Did??? Mark 2 Ministries

There have only been a handful of times in my life where I have felt so certain,

so sure that we were supposed to do something.

Doors have flown open,

serious mountains have moved.

We have fallen in love with a program so beautiful...

But first I need to tell the story of how we got there.

I need to tell it because it is beautiful.

because it has been astonishing,

because it gives us the courage to jump,

because we may need the reminders,

that God has led us here.


The sweet people at Washington Family Ranch 

told us to come on out and chat.

As we drove the long and winding road out to the ranch,

snow began to fall....

It was less than 10 degrees outside and everything was frozen white.

The perfect time to go and visit a giant summer camp right?

We pulled up at 3:00,

camp was nearly empty.

There were two staff there.

They were so welcoming,

we talked for over an hour as our kids ran around,

Zeke spouting out Chinese as he giggled and ran circles around the office.

In talking the staff  were really honest,

camp life can be really good and really hard.

They asked about our backgrounds,

and then said,

"Have you talked with Mandy at Mark 2 Ministries?"

"You are from Hood River, do you know Jeff Strong (Mandy's brother and our good friend)"

They took us on a tour....

on the very coldest of days.

Frozen waterslides,

dark dining halls,

everything empty.

Our kids were so, so cold.

We left thinking,

"Well, I'm not sure what to think of all of that."

Our drive home was full of conversation about what God might be doing.

We left feeling like we were supposed to do a few things:

Email Mandy,

and meet with Jeff.

Not sure what to tell them, we just told them both the story of what God was doing in our hearts...

and we committed to praying.

We heard back from the email,

they were glad I had written but didn't have any openings at that time.

We went back to 'normal' life.

I had major knee surgery,

and started adjusting to life in a wheelchair and on crutches for six weeks...

All while soaking in and pouring out love to our new little guy.

Even through all of that chaos,

we felt like God was preparing us for something.

We would find our conversations circling back to Washington Family Ranch.

What was that all about?

Was God doing something?

We would always land on,

if something was going to happen,

only God could open the door.

In mid February,

I got an email from Mandy at Mark 2 saying she and the Director of Mark 2 were going to be in the area and would like to have coffee with me.

So, I crutched on in to coffee with them!

It was a great conversation,

they are incredible women.

They told me a lot about the program,

and I told them about us.

Many things lined up...

but they didn't forsee having any openings for staff.

At the end of the conversation they said,

"Well, I'm not sure what God is doing but maybe the next step is to have you guys come down to spend a weekend at Mark 2."

So, we started planning,

so many questions and doubts swirling in the background...

What are we doing?

How can we be of any help at all?

We are not a small or quiet crew..

.are we nuts to keep taking steps in this direction?

Yet, every time we prayed we felt like this was a path that we were supposed to follow...

So we would take each next step.

(Zeke really loved my wheelchair!)

We set a weekend in April to go down and visit Mark 2,

fully expecting that the door God was opening was one where we would have a relationship with this ministry...

probably one where we would come down and volunteer on weekends sometimes.

Then an email came,

they had created a new position at Mark 2...

one working with the ladies house.

We started to pray hard.

Was God opening a door?

It seemed impossible.

So many things would have to happen,

so many mountains would have to be moved.

Our conversations started to turn to all of the impossibilities:

We are so rooted in our community,

the kids love their school,

I love my job,

our kids have medical issues,

we live in a gorgeous home,

we just moved in September,

the housing open there was a 2 bedroom condo,

we would be further from family....

and the biggest,

Doug had recently switched positions at work,

it would be impossible for him to work remotely.

As much as we had doubts we kept coming back to the conviction of,

What if we did?

We needed to keep walking this path as God unfolded it...

because He is a God of miracles.

We didn't understand but knew that God was leading us.

So...a few weeks ago we headed down to serve at Mark 2.

During that weekend, 

Doug was also attending a Men's retreat that was also at Washington Family Ranch.

Mark 2 is this beautiful ministry for adults with developmental disabilities. 

The "Friends" live at Washington Family Ranch in two houses (one for men and one for women).

The aim of the program is for the "Friends" to have meaningful work and to live in a community that

 values them as individuals and the gifts they bring to the community.

Let me tell you....

it is amazing.

Each Friend has a job that uses their personality and their giftings to serve the camp....

they help make the camp run!

So, we loaded up our craziness and headed down to spend the weekend at Mark 2...

well my friend Sarah and I at Mark 2 and Doug a few minutes away at the men's retreat,

popping over for visits when he could.

The weekend was incredible,

we fell in love with the women at Mark 2...

we saw the school,

met tons of people who live their and work at the camp.

Our kids ran and ran,

climbed the hills,

searched for treasure...

and fit right in.

By the end of the weekend we found our hearts begging God,

to somehow open the door for us to move down and fill the position.

It seemed like their were still some huge mountains.

Some, were crumbling already...

instead of a two bedrooms condo,

a five bedroom condo had opened up,

our kids,

we were so sure they would not want to move....

they love their friends and school!

By the end of the weekend they were asking how soon we could move there!

Mark 2 was asking us to consider coming...but they would need some sort of answer within a week.

As we drove home,

there was only one mountain left to move...

but it was huge,


What about Doug's job?

We went home and kept praying.

We felt a ton of peace.

This whole story has been marked with crazy Peace.

We knew that Doug need to knock on that final door.

It seemed impossible....he works for a big company and changing positions has to go through a ton of approvals and can take months.

He emailed his boss.

The first day,

things did not seem promising.

It sounded like anything that would be open for working remotely would be a HUGE decrease in pay,

like back to just getting out of college.

There was no way.

I started to assume it wouldn't happen,

to gear my heart up to be happy where we were (which IS amazing).


Decided to fast and pray 

The next day, things looked a little better but still nothing definite.

So he fasted and prayed for another day.

That morning he called me saying....

"You are never going to believe this! One of the managers was just about to post a telecommute position that she would love to have me for! It honestly would be a job I would love!"

The final mountain was beginning to crumble.

Within days the position was solidified,

the #2 in the company signed it,

Human Resources approved it...

and by Friday Doug had it in writing!!!

The final mountain completely gone!

And so.....

here we jump!!!

We will start serving at Mark 2 on July 1st....

and we can hardly wait!!!!

Look out Washington Family Ranch,

here we come!!!

If you want to know more about Mark 2 Ministries Click Here

for Washington Family Ranch Click Here

He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?
Micah 6:8

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Beauty Unfolding....Why Wouldn't We?

      A story has quietly been unfolding in our lives...

A story so astonishingly beautiful,
So full of Peace,
Written so quickly and yet with ties back to the very first point of our meeting...

A story that appeared suddenly in our hearts,

and yet as it started to sprout it was already an old friend...

a sense of "Oh yeah, there you are."

A story drawing in our whole family,

a deep "yes" even from our children,

showing us sides of our hearts that we have not before seen.

It is a story that is still so tender in our hearts,

we have shared it with very few,

quietly asking for prayer, for direction.

The conversation began way back on our last night in China...

A rainy night where we pledge to live our life by saying,

As we settled in at home with Zeke and began to get our heads above water,

We took a family trip to Bend, OR to thank the big kids for the way they kept pouring love and understanding out to their little brother...

doing orphan ministry with their own hearts and arms right smack in the middle of their lives and home.

As we headed out,

Doug said to me, "Why don't we use this drive to talk and pray? Thanking God for all He has done and asking Him to guide our lives."

and so we did.

As we drove he asked,

"What has the Lord been putting on your heart lately?"

Immediately I remembered a series of dreams that I had had over the course of a few weeks.

Incredibly vivid dreams from when I was a backpacking guide at a Young Life Camp in Colorado.

I woke from each dream with so much longing...

for community,

for adventure,

and I heard the Lord whisper, "I will restore this in you. I'm waking you up."

so I would pray,

not sure how to reconcile the tired but full heart of a mother of four,

with my experiences so many summers before.

But I have learned...

when I cannot always see what the Lord will unfold,

I am to surrender and pray.

So I would awake and pray.

On the drive I told Doug about these dreams.

He said,

"Strange, I have been thinking lately about our first date and the conversation we had."

On our very first date we had stayed up late talking about God, our lives, rock climbing and someday possibly working at a camp together...

He mentioned Washington Family Ranch.
A Young Life Camp that he goes to every year for a men's retreat...

A camp where every year, for 8 years...

he has called me from a pay phone to tell me,

"I feel like we are somehow supposed to raise our family here."

There has always been a question mark in our life surrounding Washington Family Ranch.

Doug's sense was always that it had to do with specifically raising our kids at that camp in the middle of nowhere in central Oregon.

So, as we talked Doug said,

"What if we did?"

"What if God is opening a door somehow for us to be there?"

Honestly, it seemed impossible.

Next he said,

"What if we called them? It is only 2 hours from Bend. Maybe we could just go out there and pray and see what happens!"

Have I mentioned how much I love my husband and his surrender to following God?

As we drove through the patchy cell service of central Oregon,

We talked some more.

"I wonder what kind of jobs are out there? I wonder how many people live there full time? Do they even have school for kids out there?"

So many unknowns and reasons not to knock on the door...

and yet we kept circling back to,

"What if we did?"

What if these dreams and the things stirring in our hearts were not just by chance?

What if we were supposed to knock?

so I googled 'Washington Family Ranch Employment' anyways...

Only one thing came up...

A listing on craigslist for a position with Mark 2 Ministries,

a position that would help adults with developmental disabilities as they lived and served at camp.

It was a program neither of us had ever heard of.

Doug said,

"You should email them anyhow..."

So I did, just pouring out what we thought God might be doing...asking for more information.

So as we piled into the hotel and got ready to go to the pool Doug said,

"Why don't I just call?"

and call he did,

telling the woman on the phone our story,

asking if we could just come and pray...

right then in the middle of January.

Her answer?


Come on out!

Our conversation that evening was, "Should we? This is crazy...should we? Why wouldn't we?"

So that next morning, on very little sleep,

we piled into the car and headed to Washington Family Ranch,

effectively doubling our driving time to get home :)

....to be continued very soon

He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?
Micah 6:8

Sunday, December 27, 2015

What If We Did?

        I'm sitting here in a coffee shop going through pictures from our trip to Zeke, There is SO much that I want to write and many things that I pray God etches on my heart...but I want to begin with just one.

   On our last night in China, we were walking back from dinner in a drizzling rain, and Doug turned to me and said, "I really want to say thank you...thank you for listening to the Lord, thank you for risking and talking to me. I cannot imagine our life without this little guy now."

   Honestly, my response was, "No...I was such a coward. I had told God I couldn't share with you. I told him that he had to do it."

   Honestly, the reason my days are filled with the smiles and giggles of this amazing little boy are because of what Doug said that night back in March when I told him about Zeke...

He said, "What if we did???"

and it changed everything...

"What if we did?" opened that door a crack...

...instead of letting fear, the unknowns, the worries slam the door shut, my husband said we should pray...

and for the six days that we prayed, asking God if this was our son, Doug kept coming back with the same answer...

His answer was, "Why wouldn't we?"

"The Bible is so clear about God's heart for the widows and the orphans...why wouldn't we?"

and so we stepped, into a great adventure....

Where we have been challenged, grown and are beyond blessed.

...and the thing is

We aren't the only ones taking that step. This was our travel group, each family stepping out and saying "what if we did?"

I still can hardly look at this picture through the tears...these people, they are the real deal and we got a front row seat to seeing them be the arms of God to 15 children who are no longer orphans.

and the thing is....

there are families doing this ever.single.week.

So....that last night, in the drizzling rain, we started talking.

What if we lived our lives that way?

Asking first,
"What if we did?"
"Why wouldn't we?"

Using God's word as our guide for where to step.

What if we first let God open each opportunity first.

What if we thought first about the possibility instead of the impossibility or the discomfort, or what it was going to cost us?

"What if we did???"

"Why wouldn't we?"

Today our pastor spoke on being the salt of the earth and the light of the world...

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven" Matthew 5:13-16

He talked about how salt is most useful when it is rubbed into meat....preserving it, saving it...asking how we can be rubbed into this world...

 ...all the while, Zeke sat on my lap happily swinging his feet and leaning into me for kisses on his head...a son, preserved, becoming whole.

...and those words echoed again,

"What if we did???"

We are daily living out the reality of saying one tiny yes...

it is honestly one of the best things that has ever happened to us.

What would happen in our lives and in this world if our response to God's promptings was....

"What if we did?"
"Why wouldn't we?"

Sunday, October 18, 2015

We Get Too.....

We are getting so very close to our sweet boy...

      I watch the leaves swirling down from the sky and feel my emotions just as numerous dancing through my heart.

      Some moments feel like it is almost Christmas...anticipation leaping with joy, some akin to being clipped into a roller coaster climbing slowly to the top, and yet others want to grasp like the last days of summer to the life that is, the life about to change. As each day unfolds beautifully closer, I find myself reflecting on the journey so far.

      One thing keeps resounding in my heart, a treasure glowing that I never want to forget.... 

              We get to do this.

      This wait, this agony, this surrender...we get to this. It is Holy ground. Each adoption, each wait to open a gift so undeserved looks very different. This has been a journey of being laid bare. If I look backwards, even examine today, the picture I see is one of laying prostrate before the Lord. Bare heart begging surrender. Waiting undoes me, I try to control, try to predict, get angry with God when he provides something different than what I ask...and find myself so humbled by my frail humanity, how poorly I wait...

      But when I look again, I see something wholly different. Yes there is surrender but right there so close that is almost hidden there is a breaking. Breaking away of my plans, breaking away of how I think things should go, breaking of the fear of the unknown, breaking that addiction to control....

      What surfaces is the treasure...the stillness. Hands open easily after seeing the depth of my darkness, beautiful surrender. Lord break my heart for what breaks yours. Lord you truly know what is best. No matter what, no matter the depth of the chasm of unknowns we are about to face...Lord you are the author of it. This is Your story to unfold and it is nothing but a gift to us. Lord, let me be undone, re-write my very soul because out of this humility Your beauty is the only thing that shines.

      We get to do this. We get to have our hearts laid open, irreparably changed by the Creator. How many times in life do we get that honor, to stand in a place with so little control amidst a society addicted to it? To willingly step into a journey that we have no power to write? A journey that will change the very fabric of who we are, how we live, our entire family life. A step where we absolutely must allow ourselves to be carried by God and those around us? 

      I will say it again, We get to do this.

      This is not a rescue mission, not a way to pat ourselves on the back, not something hip or a way to please others. It is a step built on faith and surrender taken with shaky legged faith. From here, facing the fears of our son's health, his attachment, personality, leaving our other kids and so much more...facing a chasm on unknowns, I can tell you He is worthy.

      It is a beautiful place, this surrender. There is pain, there is peace, there is such freedom in, "Abba carry me." Because He does...each and every time so closely whispering "courage dear heart, look at Me"

 We Get to Do This....

I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.
Isaiah 42:16

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Like Manna From Heaven

Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
Isaiah 58:9

I sit here  today with aching feet, a sore back and a heart so very full that it threatens to spill out at any moment.

     These last three weeks we have been walking a miracle, one that sprung on us from out of the blue....like a gift far too grand that the Giver cannot wait to give. Why us? We are so not worthy for the blessings that have been poured out again and again all for the sake of one little boy and to bring glory to one really huge God.
     From the very first moment, this adoption has been a step of faith, not just in bringing another child into our lives but in saying 'yes' to an invitation that seems to go against so much of the thinking of this world. To step out and say yes to one little boy with a broken heart, to take the leap knowing full well that we did not have the means to complete it...to say 'yes' to that whisper and plant our feet on the promise that what God calls us to He will complete.

   Oh how I have had such little faith...

  I am here to tell you, God is far bigger than any box that we make and if He whispers, He will make a way.... and sometimes that provision is there simply to build and fortify our faith for what is to come.

    This miracle started in a hot sweaty church doorway, VBS music blaring as hundreds of children waited for their parents to pick them up. There I stood in an oversized "Thailand Trek" shirt worn for 4 days straight catching kids as they tried to run out the doorways without their parents!

   In walked one of my best friends, arms full of flats of blueberries. Her parents are pear orchardists and have a few fields of blueberries that she was selling. As she unloaded her goods to people she turned to me and said, "You should totally sell blueberries for Zeke's adoption..."

    Little did I know what the Lord had just begun. She went her way and I chased kids. Later that night we figured out the details and I of little faith texted some family and friends to see if they wanted a few blueberries.

   I totally assumed we would sell a few hundred pounds of berries. This would be a fun way to get some blueberries to friends and make a little money towards Zeke because who doesn't love blueberries?

    Word started to get out on facebook, email and by phone and we started to get some orders, first selling 150 lbs. I was so thrilled! The deal we had made was that we would sell the berries for $2 a lb. They were no spray and local so people loved the deal they were getting. The workers picking the berries were getting $1 a pound so they were happy too...

    The next day was a 'picking' day and at 7am my friend's dad backed into our driveway...
                  with 1,200 pounds of berries.

    My heart dropped and I whispered a prayer "Oh Lord, there is no way I can sell that many berries...what have we gotten ourselves into?...Lord, I know I cannot sell that many berries but You can."

     That entire day our kitchen was transformed into a packing plant. We bagged bucket after bucket of berries, weighing them on our tiny kitchen scale. 1,200 lbs of berries bagged 4 lbs at a time. The whole time in my mind I kept thinking, "There is no way we can do this all in one day...Lord who is going to buy all of these?" I envisioned buckets of molding berries sitting in our house days later. You see, they were completely not sprayed so they had to be bagged and sold with 48 hours. 

    Oh how small my faith can be...

          ...orders came in, 20lbs here, 100 lbs there facebook lit up with people sharing about our berries for Zeke. Neighborhood kids went door to door filling jogging strollers and small toddler cars with berries for sale.

   Then people started coming, entering our house to get their berries. We got to hug and talk with people we dearly love, people we had never met and even pray with a few. People also started to share..."We have been considering adoption, could we meet with you?" All within the walls of our little house...we were so blessed, how could we have ever imagined?

     That night I sat in our livingroom, Bible in hand just stunned at our empty house. Every berry was sold, how could that possibly have just happened? It was like the loaves and fishes in reverse...God had done the impossible!

  That next day my friend called me saying she had run around the berry fields. The bushes were more loaded than she had ever seen them....she had to stop because she was crying so hard over God's provision.

   Two days later, they picked again...

   As 1,300 lbs of berries backed into our driveway loading the entire truck and every spot in the cab again in my heart I thought, "There is just no way...but Lord you can."

    Word came that the workers who were picking were absolutely thrilled. They were picking so fast they were making $60 an hour! We were thrilled and the owners were thrilled....and the people buying berries were coming back for more! Again we rolled up our sleeves and stepped into the miracle.

    This time, friends came by to help. We bagged and chatted and had time together that is so rare during the summer.Our kid's friends came and little hands all pitched in to fill up those bags...and again word began to spread. The kids made a blueberry stand on the corner orders for 100lb, 200lb and even 500 lb came in. Our dear friends who own a local brewery bought 2,000lb to make a beer with! I think I spent most of the day just stunned at all that was unfolding.

   Again our house filled with people coming to get their berries, friends, friends of friends, co-workers ladies from Bible studies, homeschool groups all there encouraging us in our journey to Zeke....many praying for us or giving far more than what was asked for the berries, again more families wanting to know about adoption....my heart rang with thanks. It was all so beyond what I could even comprehend.

   We visited the fields, met the workers helped and saw the entire operation.

 Let me tell you, this miracle came from some very hard work by some incredibly dear people. 

The owners and my friend getting up at dawn each day to help the workers in the field, buying them lunch, hours and hours of bagging berries alongside us...all the while every time I said thank you their response was, "No no you are the one doing the miracle bringing that boy home, we could not be happier to be a part of it!"

    My word, friends...if you want to see the Gospel in action, if you want to really see the Lord, step into the things He whispers no ,matter how crazy they sound...the promise and the way He catches you are far better than any safety net to which we all cling.

    So here I sit....over 8,000 pounds of berries later. Oh me of little faith, I got to be a part of something miraculous unfolding! The berry season is done and I am in awe. The story of the berries is far from over, our plan is for my friend and I to start a ministry with these amazing berries. Every year to pray, sell berries and give the proceeds away. God's berries there to bless others and I just cannot wait...

       How did I get so lucky to be apart of such an amazing unfolding miracle, I cannot even put words to the gratitude in my heart....

    all because of one little boy and one giant God.

"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." James 1:17


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