My job affords me great opportunities to experience God’s grace.  The other day was one of those moments.  I took part in a wheelchair evaluation to assist a family in ordering a custom wheelchair for their son.  I’m new, so preparing for the eval was stressful. I searched through previous medical documents to learn a bit about the client and boned up on the evaluation process which includes various measurements, how to adjust the equipment for proper fit and diagnosis considerations (among other things).  I also researched the exact wheelchair online and read up on it.  This wasn’t your average wheelchair….this was a complex system of metal and rods and cogs and….well let’s just say it wasn’t your grandmothers wheelchair.


Since part of my job is to make sure our client fits properly in their equipment, I needed to know how all of those cogs (adjustments) worked. Thankfully, the little beast chair was delivered a day early, giving me time to look it over. In addition to all this, I’m learning how to document using the hospital’s software.  Overwhelming to say the least!.

Needless to say, my mind was so wrapped up in the evaluation process that I lost track of my role in all of this.  Namely, being a source of compassion for the client.

The day of the eval arrived and it would be safe to say that my focus was more clinical than personal. Who wants to look clueless at their job?  Not me…no sir! I wanted to be competent and bring confidence to the situation. Wouldn’t you know that God took this opportunity to get my priorities straight?

Everyone at my job knew the family and soon I knew why.  Both parents were in the healthcare field and had adopted five kids with severe special needs.  My first reaction to this news was a knee jerk “why?”  Why would anyone adopt five dependent children?  Looking back…I still can’t believe I reacted this way.  We look at people who take in stray animals and call them “crazy cat people”….is it the same with children?

Stress can really do a number on you, but God brought me back to my senses. The moment I met these people, I knew everything would work out fine.  God has a way of looking after me and this new job is no exception.  Throughout my first five weeks, He has given me so many supportive co-workers and families that it boggles my mind. In this case, the family had a lot of experience with said beast chair which made my job easy. They knew most of the tricks for positioning so my job was easy.  And to further calm my nerves, God sent a PT (co-worker) and equipment vendor to assist with everything. I learned how this couple transformed their home into a pseudo therapy center complete with track systems and mobility equipment all to assist with their children’s disabilities.  Listening to their journey was a little overwhelming for me. All I can say is that the dedication of these special people left me in awe.

After our eval, the equipment vender and I headed for the parking lot with the chairs.

“These two do it right,”  he said. “They take any money that’s given to them and put it back into their kids.”

If I had any doubts about this, they soon vanished as a gigantic transport van came rolling into view.  It reminded me of a small greyhound bus, complete with wheelchair ramp and lift.  Inside, the van had several flat screen televisions and cushy seats with harnesses for safe travel.  As they were loading their chairs, I told the couple how much they inspired me.

“It’s amazing how dedicated you are to these kids,”  I said.

The mother looked at me with a grin. “If you would have told me a few years ago that I would be doing this, I would have said you were crazy.”

“I know what you mean.  God works in mysterious ways.”

“Absolutely right!” she said, laughing.

Crazy.  I know the feeling well.

As cliche’ as it sounds, God does work in mysterious ways.  I NEVER thought I would be going to China…let alone to bring back my daughter, but God does His work and if we listen and trust, He allows us the strength to carry out His plans.  I never used to believe this, but I have met too many people who experience this “craziness” of God’s love.

March 5th we leave for China.  Soon we will meet our daughter.  It’s all in God’s crazy plan.



We have travel approval and today Reece and I took the kids to AAA to book our flight from Northern Kentucky to  Bei-freakin-jing.  We leave March 5th…less than three weeks from today.  I would be lying if I said I’m not a little stoked but my M.O. is to remain cool no matter what.  I think it’s the way I was raised.  My dad would always say “never get too high or too low.”  There’s wisdom in that.  The other day I was talking with a man who recently lost his wife.  He told me how this “even keel” type of manner allowed him to really be present with her even during his darkest times.

“Staying in that middle ground is how I got through it all,”  he said.  “It took away some of the joy (on her good days), but that calmness allowed me to bear the pain and not lose myself in it.”

I’m not trying to compare this adoption to such a traumatic event, but I see benefit from keeping my emotions middle ground and it has served me through the process so far.  Still, I’m waiting for the day when our plane leaves Northern Kentucky, or when we’re in a Guangzhou hotel, waiting for little Panda.  I wonder how cool I’ll be when my Chinese daughter is less than ten feet away, behind a closed door.  We’ll see.

Tonight was an especially touching night.  With all of the stuff going on (adoption, my new job), it’s been challenging to really be present for my family so I cooked for everyone and tried to make our evening special.  The time came to eat and our topic of conversation turned to China.  We were discussing the situation with Panda being an orphan when Ellie stared asking questions.

“What if nobody decided to adopt Panda? Someone else would eventually right?”

I explained that I didn’t know for sure but that she wouldn’t be able to stay in the orphanage her whole life. I tried to tread lightly but the truth is, Chinese adoptees who age out (by the time they are fourteen) without placement are sometimes forced to leave the orphanage…but there really is no “absolute” answer.

When I mentioned this I made the mistake of saying that some orphans are put out on the streets. That caused Ellie to bury her head.  Not missing a beat, our five-year old started to cry.  I thought he was just making a fuss over something else, but the facts touched my heart.

“They’re put out on the street?”  he said.  “All the kids who don’t have families are put out in the street?”  He broke down and started wailing.

“We should adopt two,”  Ellie said.

“We should take them all!” Mitch cried through choked tears.

I wish I could take credit for such honest displays of compassion, but the truth is, these traits have been there since Ellie and Mitch were born.

Eventually we explained to Mitch that nobody would actually be placed in the street (you know how literal 5 year olds are) and that usually the kids had a place to go once they left an orphanage.  But the point had been made and for the rest of our dinner, both Mitch and Ellie thought up of ways to help Chinese orphans.  It started with Mitch saying he didn’t need any more money

“I don’t need any of my money.  The kids in China can have it all,” he said.

This prompted Ellie to race upstairs to her room. Theresa and I stared at one another, wondering what she was up to.  Before we could yell for her return, Ellie tossed the contents of her piggy bank (over $30 in change and bills) onto the kitchen table. Mitch followed, throwing all of his money into the mix as well.  What started as a family discussion, turned into an innocent donation to the orphans of China.

Tonight I saw the hearts of my children moved to compassion and it was one of the greatest things a father could see.




Getting Down to the Nitty Gritty

We are getting down to the nitty-gritty.

All of the preparation is coming to a head and soon our prayers will be answered.

  • On Saturday, Theresa and I completed our visa paperwork.
  • Today, Theresa Fed Ex’d our paperwork (visa forms and passports) to the American Consulate.  Today we also received an email regarding our article 5 approval.

Don’t ask me what all this means…all I know is that we are very close to the end.

Our notice of travel approval is all that remains.  Once we’re approved, Theresa and I will book our flight to China.


I know many of you reading this are praying for us.  Your prayers and support are very much appreciated.

God is so good.  May He bless you as you continue to bless us.

Little Panda’s Gotcha Day will take place around March 2.



Things were chugging along with this blog.  I had gone 17 months posting new entries biweekly. Then a month ago things stopped.  I could say I was busy.  Thanks be to God I found a new job and a new outlook on my career.  This alone should justify my inability to write over the past month (or so) right?  I mean, there’s a lot to manage when you’re changing jobs, especially challenging ones.  There were other variables of course.  My wife had submitted everything to China and we were on “hold” while the cogs of international adoption continued to squeak along.  Nothing was going on so why fill up space–right?

The truth is, I lost my desire to write and the reason might surprise you.  In the past, I’ve crammed as much writing as possible into my spare time. Why? Because, if I ever want to be a professional writer, I need to hone my skills. After all,  the only way to get better at anything is through hard work. My mistake was that I believed I could accomplish all things through my own puny efforts. The truth is, if writing is not in my God given destiny, then it ain’t happenin.  When I came to this realization…when I decided to give this part of life over to God, I was at peace with my future as a writer.

I’ve been listening to Joel Olsteen lately.  I know what some of you are thinking. Joel appears to be a fundamentalist who focuses on acquiring wealth, not penance, but in reality, Olsteen takes Christianity and gives it a New Age twist.  He preaches the importance of keeping your thoughts and life filled with positive energy. (You may disagree…but that’s how I see him).

One of Olsteen’s messages really hit home.  His talk was how God is undeniable. In other words, if God has put something in your life, than nothing can stop it.  When I heard this sermon, God spoke to my heart.

His message to me was: “I have entrusted you and Theresa with a life.  This little one may live thousands of miles away, but nothing…NOTHING…will keep her from you.  This gift has been in place before you or Theresa were born.  I have written her into your hearts.  There is nothing to fear.”

Like all of God’s messages, it was communicated through a deep assurance…a knowing.  There’s no other way to explain it. Since then, I no longer fear the trip to China…because I know, whatever happens, is God’s will.

I have come to the conclusion that God is my strength and my life is not my own.  Sure, God has given me the steering wheel.  He allows me to take action…to make mistakes….to go left when I should have gone right…but if my intentions are pure and my heart is in the right place, then all I need is trust in Him and everything will work out according to His plan.  It may not be my ideal plan…there may be times when my internal GPS will point to the interstate while God leads me down scenic back, country roads…or into dark slums filled with seemingly endless dead ends.  But if I stay in His peace and trust His ways…I will arrive at my life’s ultimate destination.  A place only God could take me.


We are only 5 weeks away from jetting over to the Hubei province. Amen!



From Wilson to Thomas

This whole “relationship” thing with God would go a lot better if I could just see Him.  I mean how many friendships do you have where the “other” is invisible and unable to meet for some burritos at Chipotle? Maybe God prefers Outback…but unless I can see, hear, interact meaningfully with Him then I’ll never know. Keeping up with such a one-sided relationship is a lot to ask (in my opinion) and hopefully by writing about it, I can figure out how to make it work.

But before I get into that, I’ll share a bright note:

Just yesterday my wife received the awesome news that our LOA is complete.  For those keeping track, this means there are approximately 16 weeks left until we meet Olivia.

As you can see by the document, there’s still a lot of hoops to jump through but the LOA is the last major hurdle so we are pumped!

In a way, my aforementioned conundrum about God relates to Olivia’s adoption.

In both cases, there’s a relationship forged beyond the physical.  The difference (of course) is that Olivia is more than an idea or experience, she is flesh and bone and even though she’s half-way around the world…I can see/experience her through videos and pictures.  I love her already and she is my daughter but until we meet, it’s difficult to have a strong emotional connection. Until I wipe off her nose or cradle her in my arms…until I interact with her and spend time in her presence, our bond is based on information and ideas NOT experience.  Soon, I will meet Little P and a mutual bond will form through our interactions. I cannot wait for that!

But what can I say about God? Can I have a relationship with something so abstract? You could take the skeptic view that says we create meaning out of chaos.

I don’t see God this way but it makes me wonder…what if my imagination is filling in the gaps just as Hanks did with Wilson?

Some days I want to give up trying to know God.  My perspective clouds everything and I want to know who God really is…not an idea from my making but an absolute truth from reality.  I can take this life, (my blessings, the beauty of all things created, etc.) and see it as the “stuff” of my creator.  I can also relive those moments of deep “knowing” that I see as God’s presence, but these things are not tangible and I’ve always wondered: Why is God like this?  Why can’t I just see God…pat Him on the back….play a game of catch with Him?

For my money, God created us for a reason, but if you believe this then you have to wonder: “Why can’t we see Him?” If there’s no reason for our life on earth then the question is moot….but if God has a purpose for us…one that is meaningful, then there has to be a reason we can’t see Him…right?

What would that be?

The easy answer is that love doesn’t work that way and God doesn’t want slaves, he wants genuine love.  If He reveals His greatness then what choice do we have but to worship Him? This is the free-will answer and I don’t agree with it because no matter how perfect God is, there will always be those who reject Him. Also, even if we have free will to choose (or not to choose) God’s love, how are we supposed to know what to choose if God is a mystery?


Maybe we can’t fathom God and like the Old Testament says, “no man can see the glory of God and live…?”  Just like the sparrows who hid from the farmer rather than join him in the barn…God became man (in Jesus) to bridge that insurmountable gap between He and His creation.

But why create something if you can’t interact with it? Was it (as Genesis says) our choice to turn away from God? Did we cause Him to disappear from our sight?

I want to know God.  I want to meet him at Chipotle and talk His omniscient head off.  Not that I need Him to be human, but I want to interact with Him and actually hear what He has to say without guesswork. I can relate to doubting Thomas having to touch Jesus’s wounds.  Blessed are those who haven’t seen yet believe? Jesus, I love you but that is a lot to ask.

The only way I can fathom God’s ways is to see this life as a testing ground…an intense place where our spirits are forged through extreme experiences.  Without these meat suits, how could our limitless spirits know patience and sacrifice? This idea doesn’t answer my original question…but it gets me thinking.

I think about how God gains my attention…personal ways that cannot be explained by studies, imagination or painted volleyballs…and I know that God is here. His ways may be mysterious, but something in my soul knows that God is with us always.  I may never know why He chose to be invisible, so like Thomas I will continue to search His wounds for meaning…and in those wounds I will find Him.


While seeking a name for our son, Theresa and I came across several we liked: Austin, Jude, Harrison, Hayden…but nothing really hit us.  Then Reece brought up the name Mitchell and we gave it a go.  The name didn’t hit me at first.  It seemed too serious and formal, but once I looked up its meaning, I was hooked:

Mitchell (Michael) is ultimately derived from a Hebrew name, meaning “Who is like God?”

Of all questions ever contemplated, this is my favorite because everything is God, therefore to know God is to know the meaning of life.

My search for God began in college.

I was raised Catholic and attended Catholic schools all the way up until my junior year of college.  Up to that point, Catholicism provided a solid foundation of faith to build on my understanding of who God was.  But like all religions, my Catholic roots only provided a snapshot…part of the whole. I attended mass, but God’s personal spirit was far from me, held at arms length by man-made traditions. I knew about God through what priests told me, but as far as having a living, breathing relationship with my Creator, I was at a loss.

Then during my senior year at Ball State University something strange happened.  You could say crazy, weird or awesome depending on your view, but I became “saved.”  Up to this point, “saved” was something only snake charming Christians professed and far from my religious beliefs. But something did happen that strange night in the Bracken Library…something identical to my first adoption experience.  It had that same feel…the brokeness, love, depth of being, the crushing sorrow and awareness of need…it was all there and suddenly, God truly mattered in my life.  He became more than a concept, He became a living breathing entity that wanted to know me. After that one moment of beautiful misery I was in love, because I had tasted the divine.

After college I followed a fundamentalist path for a while, reading the bible (several times) and trying to gain knowledge from its words. It was a complex time for me, because one stage of my life was ending as I searched for meaning on several fronts.  First of all, I had graduated from college and didn’t know what direction to take.  Secondly, I was discovering God and attempting to navigate uncharted waters of spirituality. The tried and true recipe of going to mass on Sunday no longer satisfied me and I began seeking a living/breathing/personal God. I began my search by volunteered at a Baptist youth group in Northside, Cincinnati. Through this Baptist influence, I saw God as a loving friend who was there for me…a God of action.  Through the lives of those awesome kids I was able to experience God first hand, but I still wasn’t satisfied.  I was “saved” and touched the face of God, yet something was missing.  What did it all mean?

I asked all “God” experts (preachers, pastors, priests, speakers, teachers) the questions “Who is God and what does being saved through Christ mean?”  Here were some of the answers:

“The cross is a paradox.  It is something meant for death and pain, but God turned that around to symbolize love.” Episcopalian priest

“God is love.” Passionate priest

“Study and seek and you will find the answers.” contemporary Christian author

“Read the Ragamuffin Gospel.” Public Christian speaker

“You will outgrow your current views.  Faith is an ever-changing, evolving process.” Franciscan brother

Those who impressed me most, answered my questions through a spirit of humility.  One such person was Dave Workman, pastor for Vineyard church in Cincinnati.

One day, Dave took time out of his busy life to meet Reece and I at Chipotle. There was nothing groundbreaking about our lunch conversation, but I will never forget his simplicity and humility.  Here was a man who led thousands of Christians, yet he listened to my views on Jesus and God.  His answers to my questions were simple: join a group, get involved and engage in basic service.

Dave’s messages at Vineyard regularly involved paradigm shifts or ways of changing your spiritual perspective. While my first major spiritual shift occurred in college, the next happened when our daughter was born. When Ellie came into our life, I was experiencing heightened stress.  I can’t speak for all men, but nurture is not my middle name. So to help cope with new responsibilities, I turned to meditation and took interest in energy medicine…specifically Healing Touch.

My first instructor was a wonderful gal named Vicki Slater.

Vicki taught me how to conduct universal energy for healing purposes. She also introduced me to the concept of spirit guides, angels, overlapping dimensions and a lot of stuff that my legalistic/religious views found disturbing. In fact some see the New Age belief system to be of the devil. While I never found myself on that road, Healing Touch stretched my evolving views to their limits.  As a result, something shifted and I began changing my beliefs of who God really was.

About this time I was part of a ninjitsu class in which my sensei (teacher) spoke of realities similar to Healing Touch.  Greg Heeg was my instructor and his spiritualism was based on eastern and native american belief systems.

Through Greg’s teachings, I took part in sweat lodges, learned about face dancing, vision questing and practiced Za Zen meditation.  It was a scary, fascinating journey…one in which my spiritual beliefs were further influenced.

I recall feeling lost because there was no system that reconciled all of my beliefs into one neat little package.  On one hand I was entrenched in Christianity, the belief that Jesus died for me and the realization that God was real for those who believed in Christ.  On the other, I believed in energy medicine and danced with New Age principles.  In essence…I was a mess. But since that period in the desert (or wilderness or whatever metaphor you want to put in here) I found that spiritual contradiction is a facade.  We all carry truths forged through our unique life experiences therefore if I buy the notion that following Jesus and New Age is heretical then I’m putting trust in someone else’s take on life. God cannot be put into a “neat little package.”

Henry Rollins put it best when he said:

Too damn bad if at the end of the day the only thoughts
In your brain are all the things that they say, 

What a waste

Too damn bad if at the end of the line you got no idea
What’s on your own mind,

You got no one to blame but yourself

Too much to know, too much to see
It might mean something to you but it’s nothing to me

Its just another ad for someone’s version of how they think it should be

Since my ninjitsu days, I have gone through several paradigm shifts, all painful and scary but less intense.  In fact I expect these changes because although God is forever and eternal, I believe He is evolving and changing…not static as some claim.

My latest shift occurred while exploring Zen Buddhism.  Zen is not a religion or philosophy, instead it is a way of life that can merge with any belief system.  The problem I have with Buddhism is the attachment piece.  One of the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism is “life is suffering.”

“Hundreds of stupid flies gather
On a piece of rotten meat,
Enjoying, they think, a delicious feast.
This image fits with the song
Of the myriads of foolish living beings
Who seek happiness in superficial pleasures;
In countless ways they try,
Yet I have never seen them satisfied.”

I see where attachment to this world causes strife. This world is transient and destined to pass away.  But to completely detach is to deny our humanness and to throw this beautiful, awful, loving and terrifying experience away. Yes there is pain with attachment. Had I not grown attached to Bastete (my cat), then her death would not have rocked me so hard.  Yet my attachment to this animal, provided years of tenderness, compassion and happiness.  Without these attachments I would have lost the experience of loving her.  Buddhism does provide a practical way (meditation/mindfulness) to bring balance to ones life, therefore I would say my current views on spirituality toe the line between Christianity and Buddhism…but I’m sure that will change.

So who is God?

He…She…It moves through us and is sparked by our faith, creativity, belief, love, passion and action.  God has blessed each of us with the tools for creation and provides everything we need for a fulfilled life. Despite this, there are times when I can’t see God, when I don’t find meaning or purpose through my experiences.  When this happens I am drawn into the void of doubt and despair.  Just before we decided to adopt Olivia, I saw God as impersonal…as an engineer or conductor who looked at me as though I were an insect, but this adoption shifted that viewpoint.

What created this shift?  I have no idea.

Who is like God?

Good question.

An Ocean of Need

While awaiting our Letter of Seeking Confirmation (LOA), Theresa has been trying to gather as much info as possible about Little P.

It hasn’t been easy, but that doesn’t surprise us.  Many families going through Chinese adoptions have commented how difficult it is to acquire concrete information from the orphanages.  I live halfway around the world from Panda, so it’s impossible to understand all the reasons for such difficulty (limited funding, crazy busy working conditions, the language barrier, etc.).  I would guess it all boils down to logistics and proxemics.

The liaison for our adoption agency (we’ll call him Mike) is our main contact.  Mike lives in China and manages all communications with the orphanages.  He’ll be our guide when we travel to China, so staying on Mike’s “good side” is paramount.  Ever since our match, Theresa has reached out to Mike in hopes of making contact with Little P and it has been a challenge. Her first intention was sending a care package to our daughter. Here’s a sample of Theresa’s correspondence with Mike:

T: Hello!  We were hoping to be able to send a care package soon and were told to contact you to get the information to do this.  Could you please let me know the best way to do this? 

M: I will contact the orphanage. If they are all right, I can send a care package including a cake, a stuffed animal and a family photo album to the child and ask them to send some photos of her eating the cake. The fee will be about $80 or $90,depending on the cost in various regions. You do not pay me the fee until when you travel to adopt the child, along with other traveling costs.

T: Thanks!  Yes please let me know if we can indeed send the care package.  Are those items the ones we are limited to?  Do we send a cake or do you  get a cake?  We have a book that we wanted to see if her nannies could fill out with questions.  Is that ok to send?  
M: Please send me the photos. I will take care of the cake and other stuff. As to the book, I’m not sure if the nannies will have time to do it.
T: What address do I send the package to?  
M: I will buy those things. You just send the pictures to me by email.
T: Ok-I understand!   Can we still try to have the nannies fill out the book we bought?   Can we mail that directly to the orphanage? We would really like to try to find out as much about our daughter as we can if possible!    
M: I can give you the address but I am not sure if they can do it for you. You have to understand that all of them are very busy, with the amount of work they need to do.
T: I understand-I work with small children myself.   It is very busy work.  I would like to try so if we can get the address that would be great.   
M: They have held the party for her already. There was some problem with the file so I could not download it. Could you send me the photos so I can send it to them along with the money?

T: I have not sent the photos to you yet.  We made a photo album as a family and was debating whether to just send that directly to the orphanage.   We pay you for sending the cake when we get there right?  Did they take pictures of the party? Did you send a stuffed animal also? 

M: You send me the pictures and I will send it along with the toy. You pay me when you travel. The cake was eaten but I have difficulty opening photos.
Eventually, Mike sent Theresa 16 pictures of Panda.  We hadn’t seen any new pics since viewing her medical chart so both Reece and I were chomping at the bit to see these photos.  It was bittersweet and not for the reasons I would expect.  The wonderful sweetness was seeing our daughter with a wry smile, face covered in cake and holding court with a room full of kids. But even though seeing her enjoying her cake warmed my heart, there was an undercurrent of sadness.

One year ago, while browsing adoption websites, something hit me…”Why are there orphans?  Why don’t these kids have homes?”

To review: my most powerful encounter with God came when we decided to pursue adoption.

In my minds eye, God flashed a small Chinese boy in a striped t-shirt and shorts standing alone.  That’s all…just a little boy and then, as Reece said, God opened our eyes and there was no going back.

As I looked through our daughter’s pictures, the same feeling hit me.  We are doing something great…something God has put in our hearts and for that I am proud…but it’s a drop in an ocean of need.

The kids that I saw in these new pictures haunted me.  Sitting beside little P. was a boy.  Each time I looked at her picture, my eyes wandered over to him.

Displaying IMG_20141008_153426.jpg

His face….too sad for a child. Where were his parents? Why was he in an orphanage? It disturbed me on many levels.  Here was a perfect time for celebration, yet my mind couldn’t get over this scene.

I’ve heard it said, you’re never the same after visiting an orphanage. After viewing Panda’s party, I saw a glimpse into this reality.

Part of me wants to learn about these children sitting around Panda.  Part of me wants to grab them and bring them all home with us.

Is God telling me to do that?  Maybe.

Or perhaps, God is allowing me to peer inside His heart…showing me the meek…the broken….the lost…revealing the ocean of need that’s all around us.  I don’t know….I really don’t, but this feels the same as before.  This feels as though I need to act, yet there’s a calmness whispering in my ear that whatever we decide…it will be okay.



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