Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Bittersweet Christmas

All I really Want- Steven Curtis Chapman

Well, I don't know if you remember me or not
I'm one of the kids they brought in from the home
I was the red-haired boy in an old, green flannel shirt
You may not have seen me, I was standing off alone
I didn't come and talk to you 'cause that's never worked before
And you'll probably never see this letter, anyway
But just in case there's something you can do to help me out
I'll ask you one more time

All I really want for Christmas is someone to tuck me in
A shoulder to cry on if I lose, shoulders to ride on if I win
There's so much I could ask for, but there's just one thing I need
All I really want for Christmas is a family

Well, I guess I should go ahead and tell you now
If it's really true about that list you have
Somehow I always seem to end up in a fight
But I'm really trying hard not to be bad
But maybe if I had a brother or a dad to wrestle with
Maybe they could teach me how to get along
And from everything I've heard, it sounds like the greatest gift on earth
Would be a mom

All I really want for Christmas is someone to tuck me in
A shoulder to cry on if I lose, shoulders to ride on if I win
There's so much I can ask for, but theres just one thing I need
All I really want for Christmas

All I want for Christmas is someone who'll be here
To sing me happy birthday for the next 100 years
And It's okay if they're not perfect or even if they're a little broken
That's alright, 'Cause so am I
Well, I guess I should go, it's almost time for bed
Maybe next time I write you I'll be at home`
Cause all I really want for Christmas is someone to tuck me in
Tell me I'll never be alone, someone whose love will never end
Of all that I could ask for, well, there's just one thing I need
All I really want for Christmas is a family

Normally, I am not a big fan of sappy, try to make you cry christmas songs(Christmas shoes, anyone?), but I love this song. I can't make it through the first verse without crying. One time, I was trying to teach this song to our son Josiah in the car, and started bawling and he laughed and told Selah "this song must be about adoption". I heard it this morning while cleaning out my kid's toybox...and it started me thinking about the abundance of what we have. Which of course then led to thoughts of where my child is now, what he may or may not have, etc. I think I have said before that I don't allow myself to think this very often- it is too overwhelming to think about it for too long.

As I was listening to this song, it struck me that along with the millions of orphans overseas, and the children here in the states waiting for forever families, who knows how many other kids(and adults) will spend the holidays with their biological families, and yet feel like orphans? How many people will end this christmas season surrounded by "loved ones" and yet be incredibly lonely? How many women will have empty arms this christmas but know that they are mothers?(I remember that I got pregnant with my son right before christmas and when people would say"Congrats- you will be a mom!"- I thought to myself- I am already a mom, I have just lost those babies). I also thought about my daughter's birthmother...what is this season like for her?

Lord, help me to not get caught in the craziness of this season that I forget those without a family. Break our hearts so that we can be compassionate. Make us like you, extravegant in your love and mercy. Thank you for the children you have given me, and thank you for their biological families. Thank you for the passion you have given us and thank you for the infertility that led us down this path. Please give me the same mercy and compassion for those who are indifferent. We wait for the day we can hold our son- praying for it to be soon!

Alright adoption bloggers, how are YOU doing this christmas? Especially those who are waiting, what are you doing to help with the wait in this time?


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Letters To Santa

Dear Santa,
My name is Josiah Grady Butler and my birthday is September 5th. How are you? I know you are pretend I like to pretend and play army with my army men. Christmas is Jesus' birthday so I want a birthday cake like a batman birthday cake or a soccer birthday cake for him. My favorite story is David and Goliath and when Jesus died on the cross for our sins. For Christmas I would like a batman mobile and a bed for me and my brother and for my brother to come home because I am going to share my room and my toys with him. I also want a trampoline like Camp has and his brother Cooper played trampoline football with me and he taught me kindness. I want some cool clothes and cool shoes and batman and spiderman sheets and some bath toys and for my brother to come home and for my brother to have dinner every night and breakfast and new leapster games and for B and Y to come home and a dog because we lost Toby and I miss him and a bed for my sister so she won't bang her head and some books from that fun store about Jesus. I love you.


Dear Santa,
I love you and I want a new kitchen and some not breakable stuff I don't want to break my stuff thats all I want and I love Santa and I am going to hug you thats all and thats my favorite thing because he is my best friend and I want a pink barbie and to have a bride dress to dress up to marry Caleb and a pink leapster and can you wrap it and I like Caleb but Hannah and Charly are my best friends you not allowed to marry your brother or daddy and a pink bike and to play with those big girls again please please please can I have ballerina classes and can you bring some leapsters and spidermans for those kids don't have any toys and a fun fun trampoline and to not sneak food anymore and please please please with a cherry a baby sister with the baby brother and lots and lots of baby sisters and a huge huge pillow for my room and a new bed and Barbie cereal and thats all and I love Jesus.


These letters crack me up...Josiah's "fun store" is Mardel, a christian book store. It makes me laugh and cry to hear him ask for his brother to have dinner and breakfast every day. Selah was so excited to do her letter, and I had no idea she had such strong feelings for Caleb Fournet : )

Monday, December 1, 2008

Great News...and now we wait

Brandy here....just got an email from our caseworker Natalie, saying that we were placed on the waitlist on 11/26/08. The average wait is 4-6 months, but we also know it could be longer. So now we are officially officially expecting! I wonder if this means Wes should cater to my cravings...hmmm...I have been craving ethiopian food....

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Prayer for our Friends

Just a quick post this morning to ask that you pray for our friends, the Fournets. They are currently waiting to pick up their kiddos in Ethiopia and just found out at the end of last week that they will be waiting longer. Their case has been delayed again and are now waiting to hear about their new court date. God has blessed them with an amazing faith during this extended waiting period and it has been humbling to get to see it up close.

Beau and Natalie, we are blessed to call ourselves your friends and are heartbroken with you as your wait is extended. Thank you for your unwavering trust in the sovereignty of God and for setting an example for so many (including us) and making the light of Christ shine brighter in your lives as a result. Love you both and can't wait to celebrate with you at the kids' homecoming.

Follow Beau and Natalie's blog at http://fournetfamily.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Call to Action for the Congo

"Let us seek to be like Jesus in our devotion to the forgotten of the earth who have nothing to recommend them but their poverty and their heart-hunger and their tears."
A.W. Tozer

When Jesus was asked by the teacher of the law, "Who is my neighbor?" Jesus told him the story of the Good Samaritan and then ended it by asking the question the lawyer should have been asking. "Which one of these (the priest, the Levite, or the Samaritan) was a neighbor to this man?" You see the question is not to figure out who your neighbor is, but whether or not you are being a neighbor to anyone God makes you aware of.
I'm writing this morning to make you aware of your neighbors in the Congo and to ask you whether you will choose to act as a neighbor to them. Did you know . . .
  • 5.4 million people have been killed in the violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo since 1998. More people have died there than in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Darfur combined.
  • 45,000 people die every month in what is being called Africa's World War. This is the deadliest conflict since World War II.
  • One of the primary weapons used in this particular war is rape. 80% of women living in the Congo today are victims of rape and 75% of all the rapes that take place in the world happen in the Congo.
  • The violence has forced civilians to flee their homes and head for already over-crowded IDP (Internally Displaced People) camps where it is virtually impossible to access health facilities, find clean water sources, and locate nutritional food. Most deaths are a result of these types of conditions, an indirect result of the violence.
  • The Congo has been named as one of the most dangerous countries in the world for children, whether they are killed by the violence, die from desperate conditions, or are recruited by the rebels and forced into unspeakable acts of violence themselves.

Who will be a neighbor to these people? Here are some practical ways you can love them as you would wish to be loved.

1. Pray that God would bring justice on all who seek to do evil in the Congo.

2. Pray for believers in Jesus Christ in the Congo to have the courage to stand firm in the face of this intense violence and proclaim the unwavering hope found in Jesus Christ.

3. Write your congressional leaders. Here are some links that may be helpful.

For Texas Senators and Representatives Addresses: http://www.visi.com/juan/congress/cgi-bin/newseek.cgi?site=ctc&state=tx

For info on what to write as a sample letter: http://community.wr.org/Page.aspx?pid=1290

4. Consider giving financially to relief efforts in the Congo. $50 will allow a family to survive for a month. What would God have you give? http://community.wr.org/Page.aspx?pid=1274

5. Grow your understanding of and empathy with those struggling to eat daily by fasting or restricting your diet to basics like rice, beans, and flour.

Please consider how you ought to respond and then do what God leads you to do.

"Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say, 'But we knew nothing about this,' does not He who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not He who guards your life know it? Will he not repay each person according to what he has done?" Proverbs 24:11-12

For additional information, check out these sobering videos.



Monday, November 24, 2008

We've been TAGGED!

Seven Random Facts about Brandy

1. I love chips and salsa and I am kind of a salsa snob. I love it so much that even my children know this is my favorite snack. I will admit that I have eaten this for breakfast before.

2. I have an irrational fear of dentists. I require sedation....for a cleaning. I still have no idea what my old dentist looked like because I was always sedated when I left her office. I hate the sounds and smells of the office, I hate sitting in the chair, I hate that mouth stretchy thing, I hate the scrapey hook thing(I am shivering now just typing it). Don't even talk to me about the laughing gas....laughing gas is for amateurs.

3. I purposefully don't correct my kids when they mispronounce words because I think it is cute. I think it annoys my extended family, but come on, Josiah won't go to college saying "benember"(remember). I also cry when they figure it out and start pronouncing things correctly- like the first time Josiah talked about his friend "Joseph" instead of "Jo-fuss".

4. I have a secret ambition to move to Baltimore and get a job at Charm City Cakes. Maybe I will post some pictures of my work and Duff will somehow see it and offer me the job.

5. I have something wrong with my senses- if I am wearing sunglasses, I can't hear as well. Wes makes fun of me because when we are in the car, I have to take my sunglasses off to hear him.

6. If I could do it, my home would look like a Cottage Living magazine.

7. I don't know how many kids I want. It is strange, because most people I know say"we want three kids" or whatever number, but I have not been able to come up with the number that feels "done". Maybe I will know when we get there....I have read that women who have lost children often feel like their family is never complete because someone is always missing, and maybe that is true. But when I see videos of orphanges or think about the USA foster care system, I always wonder, will I always think maybe just one more??

Maybe Wes will add his facts later....

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Daddy's "Helpers"









Josiah & Selah Building a Fire Truck at Home Depot

These pictures are from a little outing we went on about a month ago to Home Depot. They have a deal once a month where they set up a little project for the kids and you can come and build something (for FREE). It is a fun little experience, but it's not really a building project for the kids. It's a building project for Daddy.

I was thinking about this today and how one of the great things about parenting little kids is asking them to "help" with something, some kind of Daddy chore that's not on their typical list of responsibilities, like helping to cook breakfast, rake leaves, etc. Reality is that I don't really need their help and in fact could probably do it quicker and better (and cleaner) without their help, but I delight in watching the joy they experience in being a part of the "mission," a "mission" greater than themselves. I dread the day of their young childhood/teenage response of no longer seeing this as a delight, but as a duty and the proverbial "Aw, Dad!" that accompanies it. So for now, I delight in their delight.

And I think of how gracious our Father is to us. How ultimately, He doesn't NEED me or my "help" for anything, but delights in giving me the opportunity to build intimacy with Him through participating in a mission greater than myself. He tells us as much in passages like Psalm 50:9-10 where he says, "I have no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens, for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills." I am so grateful that though he doesn't need me, He pleads with me to "sacrifice thank offerings" (vs. 14) to Him, because He knows that there is no greater delight for His children than that they delight in Him.

I don't pretend to think that God needs Brandy and I to adopt. Granted there are 143 million orphans in the world and if just 7% of all people who call themselves Christians were to adopt one, we'd knock that out, but God has already declared Himself to be the "Father of the fatherless," and He'd do a much better job of fathering them than I would (and there'd be less mess). But He gives me the privilege of joining Him in this mission, among many others, and sits back to watch with delight as we delight in Him. How gracious and loving! And how I pray that God will deliver me from my teenage "Aw, Dad!" attitude, forgiving me for the many ways I already do that, and return my heart to the place of childlike joy in asking, "Can I help, Daddy?"

P.S. Within the hour of returning from Home Depot, one of the firetrucks was stickerless, wheel-less and little more than a pile of scrap wood. There's probably an illustration there too.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Last piece of paper . . . we hope!

Hello friends! Sorry for the long silence, but did want to update you real quickly on the latest with our adoption. Last weekend, we received the confirmation we needed from the INS saying that our fingerprints had cleared and that our Home Study had finally been approved after a little bit of hoop jumping that was requested of us. God continues to be faithful and provide for us in every way along this journey and it is fun to see His hand at work in all of this. We will mail this last piece of paper off and should be on the wait-list by Thanksgiving.

Many ask how long the wait is from here and while they say right now the wait is 4 to 6 months, we've watched others have longer and shorter waits than this, so if you want a timetable, that's what we're told, but we remember that God is King and His timing is perfect.

One of the things that I'm reminded of as we get into this season of waiting is that the definition of "waiting on God" is probably far different from what we traditionally think of as waiting. I think far too many of us look at this concept of "waiting" as though it's the "waiting room" at the doctor's office. In that sense, there is no real purpose to the waiting, nothing is being accomplished, and your left with nothing more than a few mindless magazines to pass the time while you wait for the doctor who is busy with other people. This is not the biblical concept of waiting. Instead, the Scriptures tell us repeatedly to wait on the Lord and that by doing so, we are strengthened and encouraged (Psalm 27:14; Isaiah 40:31), we are helped and shielded (Psalm 33:20), we are exalted (Psalm 37:34), we are heard (Psalm 40:1) and answered (Psalm 38:15), we are redeemed (Psalm 130:5-8), we are delivered (Proverbs 20:22), and we are blessed (Proverbs 8:34; Isaiah 30:18). Doesn't sound like any doctor's waiting room I've ever been in. God does not waste our waiting, when our waiting is grounded in hope in Him and in Him alone. He does not call us to wait because he is busy with another patient, but is actively involved in our "healing" that takes place during the waiting. There is never a wasted moment in God's economy, so we ask that you pray for us in the waiting for this adoption as we pray for all of you in our mutual waiting for the completion of our adoption as sons and daughters of God (Romans 8:23).

Here's a few pictures of our "waiting" recently. It's been a beautiful fall season here in Dallas!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Gladney Dinner and Fingerprints

We had a great time last night at the Gladney dinner in Ft. Worth. Talking with one of the case workers, the original caseworker when Gladney started their Ethiopia program, it is amazing to hear that this program only started 2 years ago and in that time, has grown from 25 families in the program to over 250. May God continue to stir the hearts of His people to give kids in Ethiopia and all over the world forever families. Brandy was thrilled to get to interact with a few of the little Ethiopian boys who were at dinner last night and dream about our little guy. She is planning to bring candy next time to entice the kids to come play with her (which I told her is a little creepy).

And in the midst of dreaming of our little guy, we got a big surprise yesterday afternoon when the mailman delivered our letter saying we could go and get our last set of fingerprints. Our caseworker, Natalie, just sent off our request to them a week ago and typically it takes 4-8 weeks for them to reply back. We got it in a week!!!! Amazing!!! So, we're up early and headed to the INS office with the kiddos to get there before they open so we don't have to wait too long. If all goes well, there's a chance we could be on the wait list by the end of October. Join us in praying for patience as we wait on God's perfect timing.
Here's some pics of the kiddos from our trip to CO!

Kids posing at Helen Hunt Falls (not sure what Josiah's doing or what Selah's looking at)

One of our favorite pictures of Selah! Such a pretty little girl.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Update and Story

Well it's been a while since I posted, but thought I would take a few minutes to give a quick update. Time to blog has been scarce lately, but perhaps if I could learn to keep my posts shorter that would help. I have a hard time communicating anything briefly, much less something I'm as excited about as this (and now that I finished this post, I can say I didn't do well this time either. Perhaps next time).

We are wrapping up the last few portions of our paperwork and getting those off this week. We got our blood work done on Friday and are happy to report that Brandy and I are both disease free!!! We also got our home study back in the mail earlier last week, which is a huge step in the process and really gets the ball rolling on a lot of stuff. We'll be working on getting an appointment to get our 2nd set of fingerprints done with INS (again, happy to report that our first set of fingerprints showed that neither Brandy or I are criminals) and if all of this goes smoothly, we hope to be on the wait list within a couple of months. Very exciting times.

We're also excited to get to go to a dinner tomorrow night at Gladney. Their Ethiopia staff is in town, so this will be a cool chance to meet the folks who will be caring for our kiddo until we can go and pick them up. We'll also have the chance to meet more families in the program, which is always a treat.

And, as always, we're continuing to struggle through the adventure of parenting the two great kids we now have. We went on vacation a couple of weeks ago to Colorado Springs to see my brother, Matt and his wife, Kristen, to meet our new little nephew Grayson and then to hang out in the mountains. Highlight of the trip for me was hiking with Josiah. We took on Mt. Cutler together, about a mile long hike and the little guy did great. Only had to carry him for about the last quarter of the way down. We enjoyed lunch together on the top of the mountain as well as a great time of talking through Psalm 1, his daddy's favorite passage.

One of the things that came out of that time and that I was challenged with, was encouraging him to begin to have his own personal time with God every morning. Even though he can't read, he knows all of the key Bible stories, so I have been telling him each morning before he plays on the computer or watches cartoons, that he should spend some time looking at one of the Bible stories in his Bible and then talking to God about it. Wasn't sure how that was working until this morning. I asked him about it and he told me he looked at the story of Noah and the Ark. I then asked him if he talked to God, and he said yes, so I asked him what he talked to him about. He said, "I thanked God for getting all of the animals in the boat and for telling Noah to build the Ark and for bringing the storm." Proud moment for me as a daddy to watch him already digesting some of this stuff on his own. Praying he'll keep it up and be like the tree we talked about on our hike, firmly rooted by streams of water that yeilds its fruit in season and whatever he does prospers (see Psalm 1).

Sunday, August 17, 2008


My daughter Selah has a fever tonight. Not a big deal, and not an unusual occurance for her. Selah, like everything else in life, is one extreme or the other and in this....she is either completely fine or has 102-104 fevers. When she gets a fever, I can tell because her cheeks get really red and she starts to slow down and snuggle more. It is funny and sad to say that it is a small part I enjoy when she is sick- that she will sit in my lap and snuggle. I don't like it when she is sick, but I know I can give her some Motrin and more than likely, she will be fine.

But tonight as I was measuring the medicine to give her, I thought about my child in Ethiopia. I wondered, what happens when he gets a fever? More than that, I thought about how easy it is for me, just grab the bubble gum flavored medicine and give it to her, fix whatever she wants for dinner and let her sleep. No real worries....but does his mother get scared? Does her mind go there- when a fever is not just a fever because there, it could be something more? I doubt she has the bubblegum medicine so what does she do to calm him(and herself?).

As I have been thinking about our child, I have not allowed myself to think on these things- the idea that right now, my child could be sick....or hungry...or scared...or even dying...my mother's heart almost can't take it. And then I am hit with the thought that I don't know how you could endure this process, the waiting, the unknown, the vastness of the need there, without faith in Christ. As a mom, I want to fix it- even if I don't know what "it" is. So I sit tonight, with my daughter lying next to me and thank Him for how He takes care of her and how He is taking care of my child who is across the world.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Africa Reflections #2 -- Who's Movie Is It?

Well, I wrote yesterday morning and shared about the number one highlight of the trip, so it's only fair that I would share about the number one lowlight of my trip as well and what God reinforced in my life through it. The picture above is of the 5 star hotel that Kenya Airways supplied for me and three other members of the team (we each had our own room) after they overbooked our flight by 43 people, leaving 4 members of our team, including me, left to hang out in Nairobi for an extra day. Reflecting on this again today, there is a great sadness that comes over me that I missed out on a full day with our team in Burundi because of this. It's funny, I had read a few days or a week earlier on The Journey (http://www.jointhejourney.com/) about Paul's suffering and how he boasted in things like shipwrecks, torture, beatings, sickness, etc. for the cause of Christ and I really prepared myself mentally for sufferings of no running water, bad food, sickness, etc. but I didn't prepare myself for the sufferings of a 5 star hotel. In all sincerity, that's exactly what it felt like to me . . . suffering.

I had our team read through a book on our trip called "Crazy Love" by Francis Chan (which is currently required reading for being my friend http://www.crazylovebook.com/) and in one of the chapters he says what many others have said but in a way that God has used tremendously in my life over the past few weeks. Essentially, he compares the foolishness of making this life all about me to being an extra in a 3 hour epic movie where the back of your head appears on screen for 2/5 of a second and then calling all your friends to come to see the movie about you. It makes no sense, but that's exactly what we do when we make life all about us and inevitably when we do this, we find ourselves complaining, grumbling, and turning to all sorts of selfish pursuits that leave us more empty and more miserable at the end of it all. By God's grace, this was the mindset that I entered our little 24 hour detour with, so that when the other members of our team jumped on their jet as we received cash, a transit visa, and a ride to The Stanley Hotel in Nairobi I was able to say, "God must want us in Nairobi."

Love to say that I know exactly what God wanted us in Nairobi for, but I'm not altogether sure. What I do know is that the 4 of us looked for ways to make the most of our opportunity and to that end, we hung out for a few hours with a lady named Sonia who was in a similar situation to us. She was supposed to have been on our flight as well and ended up at our hotel. We chatted during the bus trip to the hotel and then over breakfast at the hotel (or really she chatted and we listened) and discovered that she was a photographer from the Virgin Islands and a Reverend of a Unitarian church. When she learned we were from a non-denominational church in Dallas, her eyes lit up under the assumption that we, like her, believed in nothing which is something. We took the opportunity to inform her that we do believe in something and that His name is Jesus and He alone is the hope of the nations. We had a very pleasant dialogue and shared truth with her as much as possible, but the Lord didn't choose to enlighten her heart in that moment. We prayed for her and prayed that the seed that we planted or the water we threw on that seed would bear fruit in eternity, but we'll probably never know.

What we do know is that God was glorified in our lives in those moments, so if the story of my life is really all about him, then we did exactly what we should have done. It was a blessing to watch Jeff and Todd and Vince jump right in the fray with us and to see them encouraged that God was still in control whether we were in Nairobi or Burundi. Still wish we had been in Burundi, but it's your story Lord, so write what you will and may I be faithful to play my part.
Psalm 90:1-2, 10, 12, 17
A prayer of Moses the man of God
"Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations.
Before the mountains were born
or you brought forth the earth and the world,
from everlasting to everlasting, you are God . . .
The length of our days is seventy years --
or eighty, if we have the strength;
yet their span is but trouble and sorrow,
for they quickly pass, and we fly away . . .
Teach us to number our days aright,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom . . .
May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us;
establish the work of our hands for us --
yes, establish the work of our hands."

Sunset in Makamba, Burundi when we did arrive.

Africa Reflections #1

My heart, mind and soul are full. Full but longing for more. I think about Jesus telling the woman at the well that he would give her living water and she would never thirst again, and how we are completely satisfied in him and yet in the midst of our satisfaction we long for more and that's where I find myself today. Over the next several days and posts, I want to take the opportunity to talk about my experiences in Africa. I just got back last night and have spent the morning uploading pictures and reflecting on all that I've seen and thought over the last 10 days. My prayer is that I'll never be the same.

Above is a picture that captures the moment that I consider to be the number one highlight of the trip for me personally. A little background first. We planned this trip with our primary mission being to build a clinic that Watermark had funded for the people of Makamba, the southernmost province of Burundi. But we also went into it with the mindset of "T.I.A." which means "This Is Africa" and you never know when, what, or how your plans will unfold (side note: wish our lives were a little more this way). So the third full day that our team was there, we arrived at the work site and there were no construction workers there, no foreman, and really nothing for us to do. So, we spent the entire day just being with the people. I remember Bob Pyne, one of the staff members for ALARM, meeting with us a few months ago and basically saying, "Presence is far more important than program," meaning that our Western mentality was good for nothing and that just being with people was more important that accomplishing any task. He was right.
So right before this, we were walking along when an elderly woman stopped us and asked if we could help her. She had walked from her home outside the village to come to the clinic in hopes of receiving an injection to help with her asthma. When she arrived, there were no more injections for her and now she would have to walk back home with labored breathing and little more than a few tablets of Aspirin to help (which it doesn't). We told her that unfortunately, we could do nothing for her, but we prayed and shared with her about Jesus. Tracy Lau and Merritt Olsen did a great job of loving on her and I stood back, watched, prayed and cried. I cried for her because of how simple it would be to meet this need back home and how there are thousands and thousands of doses of this medication sitting on shelves in the US that will be thrown away before it's ever used and how wasteful and foolish that seemed in the midst of this. But I cried more for the destructiveness of sin, selfishness, hard-heartedness, and all the sins that so easily entangle us that leave this world broken and fallen.
We left her and I continued to cry, pulling my sunglasses down to hide the tears. I found a pile of bricks and began to help Jeff Stanley stack them. After a few minutes, some of the kids, including my buddy Nikeza came and began to help me (by the way, can your 3 year old pick up 6 bricks at a time and carry them 10 feet? There's can!). We moved bricks for a while and then I told them, let's take a break and I sat down on this pile of rocks and told them I would tell them a story and teach them a song. Before I knew it, I was completely surrounded by kids and adults alike and Christine, one of our translators came to help me tell the story. I told them the story that Jesus told at the end of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7 where Jesus says that if you listen to what he says and do these things, you are like a wise man who builds his house on the rock, but if you do not, you are like the foolish man who builds his house on the sand. Sitting only a few feet away from the clinic that is built on it's cement foundation and with large stones that we and the team before us had moved to begin to reinforce the floor, I used it to illustrate my point. I pleaded with them to listen to Jesus, to live like he lives and love like he loves. We sang the song, "The wise man built his house upon the rock, the wise man built his house upon the rock . . ." and the kids did the hand motions. It was priceless. Then, Christine asked them in Kirundi, who can repeat the story back for us. And several of them raised their hands. Christine saw a man standing behind me raise his hand and called on him to share the story again. Verbatim, he went back through the story and told people to be wise and to build their lives on Jesus.
When he finished, we all applauded and I stood up to find him. I asked him his name and he told me it was Peter (not making this stuff up people. The guy named "Rock" was the one who retold the story about the wise man building his house on the rock). I put my finger in his chest and told him that it was his job to tell all of the people of the village the stories about Jesus, I told him that I had to go home but that he lived here and the children would listen to him if he would tell them the stories. You see, the adults, even in the churches, do not teach the kids. They send the kids outside the church to play and run around while they sing and worship inside. I don't know if he got it or not, but I hope he did.
The day continued with all sorts of moments like this, but that was my favorite. I was humbled that God would use me like that, and astounded when I thought, "This must have been what it was like for Jesus to walk through the towns in Israel and Judea during his day." The Africans would surround you, whether you were doing anything or not and just stare at you and want to touch your skin or whatever and listen to you tell them stories. It was unbelievable. The ALARM staff told us that the impact of this would be huge for these people, because typically the mzungus (white people) only talk with the rich or go and hang out at the resorts or with government leaders, isolated from the people, but we were there touching them, hugging them, and playing with them. As Christine said so simply, "You are loving people!"
I'm praying that I will take more advantage of simple opportunities to love people. Tell a story, teach a song, hug someone who's dirty, and do it in the name of Jesus, because it's all about Him anyway. Yesu arakukunda (Jesus loves you!). More later.

This is me with my buddy Nikeza

This is me and Christine. Fanta Citrus is really good, by the way.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

What Kids Teach Us About God

Yesterday morning was an interesting one and not at all like what I hope most mornings are like, but they do happen from time to time. I feel a little bit like Chuck Dickens (his friends call him Chuck) because it truly was "the best of times" and "the worst of times." I've had a great season lately of consistent early morning time with the Lord and have a new hideout to do so . . . the park across the street. The benefits of this are that I get to be alone with the Lord while watching his magnificent sunrise every morning and no 4 year olds interrupting me. But it rained the night before and was a little damp, so I decided I would hang out inside yesterday morning. So Josiah woke up early and interrupted my time, which is fine, except that when I told him what he was allowed to do and what he was not allowed to do now that he was awake, he didn't like his options and massive melt down fit throwing ensued. This led to various attempts at discipline that ended with me putting him in his room and leaving him there to scream and cry all by himself and completely ignore him (or at least try to).

Did I mention that I was trying to read and journal? So as I sat attempting to hear from the Lord, He spoke to me in the cries of my little boy who was screaming, "DADDY! WHERE ARE YOU? HELLO? IS ANYBODY HERE?" And all of a sudden I was in my mind in the Psalms where David and other writers say things like, "How long, O Lord? Will you hide yourself forever?" (Ps. 89:46) and reflecting on seasons of silence that I've been through, mostly due in part to my own pursuit of self and sin, much like Josiah yesterday morning. I realized in that moment, just how gracious and loving God's silence is. You see, I believe that when we pursue self, that God will at times allow us to have as much of ourselves as we'd like, only for us to find out, like Josiah did, that all of myself, all by myself is not as much fun as it appeared to be on the front end. Consequently, we begin to scream, "Daddy, where are you?" as we ache for the intimacy of relationship with him that our sin has broken (disclaimer: not all seasons of silence are the result of sin, I realize, but the vast majority are). You see, Josiah wanted me to bend to his will (cartoons, computer games, running around the house at 6:30 in the morning) rather than him submitting to the will of his daddy. That's not how daddy's should work, because that's not how God works. He will at times let you go there, but you're not dragging him with you.

Which leads to this other observation. While Josiah genuinely began to worry that I wasn't there anymore and that he was completely alone in the house, I hadn't gone anywhere. I was here in the kitchen, writing all of this stuff down. I was continuing to provide protection and provision for him because I love him and would never leave my little boy alone in the house, and once again, I remember that this must be a glimpse of what God does with us. That even in the seasons of silence, he is not too far that his arm can't reach us. That's grace.

So at the end of it all, after the weeping and gnashing of teeth had subsided, Josiah and I talked. And I told him that from here on out, when he is being selfish, that we will let him be selfish, but it will be all by himself. I told him I would give him as much of himself as his little heart desired, but he would have to enjoy it all alone. He seemed to get it. Ironically, as I was typing this he came out again (at 5:45 in the morning), but this time he listened to the options his daddy gave him and did it. Proud of you, little man! You set an example for me. Praying that we will listen to the voice of our Daddy through His Son, Jesus, and obey and, in that way, be like the wise man who builds his house on the rock!

Friday, July 11, 2008


Just so you know, I realize that our blog is a little on the boring side visually right now, due in large part to the fact that we haven't been able to locate the chord for getting pictures off our camera and onto our computer since we moved. Until then, here's an old picture from when we first adopted Selah.
One of the cool things in the last several months since we first felt like the Lord was leading us to adopt from Ethiopia, is that the Lord has given us multiple opportunities to interact with people from Ethiopia living here in Dallas or visiting. Some has been strategically planned such as a dinner with an Ethiopian pastor at the Fournet's house a few weeks ago, but some has just been God's providence in allowing our paths to cross with Ethiopians (of course, I guess it's all providence whether it's planned or not, but let's not get technical). On Tuesday of this week, I had a lunch appointment at the Chili's down on Knox and 75 in Dallas (not my usual stomping grounds). As I try to make a practice of doing, I asked our waitress her name and didn't understand her at first. She repeated saying, "Rahel . . . it's Ethiopian." We were off!! I told her we were adopting from Ethiopia and wanted to hear more about her. So, through a handful of trips to our table, we got a glimpse at each other's stories and swapped email addresses so we could be in touch. I sent her an email later that day and here was the first part of her reply:
Hello brother Wes,

It was nice meeting you as well. It is so great when you meet someone who is outside of your ethnicity and culture but yet who is one with you through the bond of Jesus Christ our Lord. I was so touched when you told me that you are in a journey of trying to adopt a child from Ethiopia. What a heart you have!
I was so encouraged by her response and loved her theology all at the same time. It should never cease to amaze us as believers in Christ when we encounter the bond that is formed between us through the person of Jesus Christ. We have extended invitations to one another to visit each other's churches and plan to do that as soon as we're able to. She attends an Ethiopian Baptist Church here in Dallas, so I can't wait to sit through a service entirely done in Amharic and join my adopted brothers and sisters in Christ in celebrating our adoption as sons and daughters.
Rahel, I hope you'll read this and know just how much you blessed my heart over lunch on Tuesday. See you soon!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Example of Salmon . . . not the fish!

As I said yesterday, I want to be guilty of posting my thoughts much more often, so here goes. This morning I was spending time with the Lord and hanging out in Matthew 1 this morning for a little while. There, you will find the geneaology of Christ as recorded by Matthew, going from Abraham, through David, to King Josiah (just had to mention that for obvious reasons) and finally to Joseph and Mary. But I was struck by verse 5 and Matthew's mention of Salmon, the father of Boaz, who was the husband of Ruth. This verse mentions two women in the lineage, both Salmon's wife, Rahab, and Boaz's wife, Ruth. If you know your Bible, you know that Rahab was the Canaanite prostitute who helped the spies as Joshua and the boys were making their claim to the land God promised them and Ruth has an entire book dedicated to her and her story of redemption by the "kinsman redeemer" Boaz. What struck me fresh this morning was to see these two stories side by side. You see, Salmon, a Jew, married Rahab, who through her faith (as we see in Hebrews 11) was saved by God and grafted into the nation of Israel. Salmon's choice here of a bride was probably not a popular one considering Rahab's storied past, not to mention her race, but Salmon "redeemed" her. The next thing you know, we have Boaz, Salmon and Rahab's boy, meeting Ruth, a widow from the land of Moab, again, not a Jew, and feeling the same heart of compassion for her as he observes her faithfulness and "redeeming" her into his family.

So many threads to these stories to consider and I could write forever explaining this, but here's my point in making this observation. Salmon, led by God, chose to adopt Rahab into his family through marriage. In this culture, a woman on her own was as good as dead, which is why widows and orphans are most often mentioned together in the Scriptures. For all intensive purposes, they are the same and need someone to "adopt" them into their family. Salmon chose to do this and then we see his son, following in his father's footsteps, making the same choice to "adopt" Ruth through marriage. As I considered this, I thought about my own story. While my parents never adopted officially, my heart for adoption began with an observation of the way they loved kids while I was growing up. They served in many ways as a parental model for many of my friends who didn't have a dad or whose parents didn't love Jesus. I believe it was here that God began to stir my heart for the orphans of this world and continued to foster it to where it is today. Subsequently, I love that Josiah and Selah both already have a knowledge of adoption, both from their own stories and as they walk with us through this process, and pray that, like Boaz observed and followed the example of his father, Salmon, my kids will do the same.

Oh God, that there might be generations of Butlers with a Christ-like passion for orphans and a deep conviction of their role, as commanded in Scripture, to care for them and redeem them, either through adoption or some other means. And that it would spread like wild fire throughout your people, your church, to care for the millions of orphans around the world. This is Your heart, Oh God and I thank you that you "hear the needy" and that they will "see and be glad" (Psalm 69:32-33).

As a P.S. I should mention that we are walking through the book of Ruth on Sunday morning, led by my buddy Blake Holmes, and it is worth taking a listen to. Go to http://www.watermarkradio.com/ and listen to his first message from this past Sunday, "Faith in the Midst of Famine."

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Home Study Done

It's been a long silence on the blogging front, so I apologize. I definitely need more time to write!!! Lots of things floating around in my head that I'm anxious to get out there.

But for now, I'll simply report some very exciting news. We had our home study this morning and all went very well. Having been our third stab at this thing, we are becoming old pros in some sense and yet learning something new at every turn in another sense. Amy Curtis was our social worker and was greeted at the door by two very enthusiastic toddlers. Our greatest anxiety going into today was that Josiah and Selah would entertain themselves enough to afford us the time to talk with Amy and answer all of her questions. We asked several folks to pray for that for us and the Lord really answered our prayers. They really didn't try to hog the attention and apart from the occasional interruption, really allowed us to talk with Amy. Amy even commented at the end of our time that she was really impressed with how the kids acted, saying that typically her home studies result in one catastrophe or another from one of the kids in the home.

We spent about 3 hours with her, answering all of her questions and giving her the tour of the house. She had told us prior to the visit that she thought it would be a short visit since we already had two home studies on file. Before she left she said, "I know I said this would probably be a shorter visit, but I just enjoyed talking to you guys so much." That was really encouraging. So, we don't have an official "PASS" on the home study as of yet, but unofficially, she said that she had no concerns and we should get a written copy of the home study within a couple of weeks for us to look over and make any corrections on before finalizing it.

One other funny story that happened while she was there. As I said the kids were really good and at one point, I thought, too good. They were really quiet back in the back of the house and eventually Josiah came out and said, "Selah colored on her doll house." Selah's reply was "No, Bubba colored on the doll house," and they went back and forth. I asked Josiah if he had and he insisted that he hadn't. So, I went back to the back to inspect the damage (despite Selah trying to block my path and yelling, "NO, DADDY!") to discover that coloring had indeed taken place. I probably would have believed Josiah too, except that someone had prominently written Selah's name (in the best handwriting of his life to date) on the top of the doll house. The moral of the story is, if you're going to blame something on your little sister who can't write her letters yet, don't attempt to sign her name to the crime scene. Funny, but punishment did ensue.

Thanks for your prayers, and I promise to do a better job of posting our thoughts as we move forward in the process.

Friday, April 25, 2008

One Step at a Time

Well, we took care of a good chunk of paperwork today and dropped it off at FedEx Kinkos this morning. It was "fun" to do this with the kids who were not too happy about waiting patiently while we filled out the forms at Kinkos and got some things notarized, but as you can see, they were all smiles as they held up envelopes going to Gladney, the Department of Homeland Security, and our Dossier helper (I'm sure there's a more official title, but that's what I know to call her). So, we're one step closer.

Josiah is sitting on my lap as I type this and I asked if he would like to share something on the blog. He wanted me to tell you that "Everybody should love Jesus." Couldn't have said it better myself.

Eager for a homecoming,


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Richness of our Father

It's 3:15 in the morning on April 16th and I can't sleep, partly because of a little boy's asthma that called for a breathing treatment in the middle of the night and partly because I am overwhelmed by thoughts of gratitude and awe and need to get this out in words. Yesterday morning I read in 1 Corinthians 1:5, which says, "For in Him [Jesus] you have been enriched in every way . . ." little knowing what the day would hold. To be clear, Paul's words here refer to the spiritual gifts that have been bestowed on every follower of Christ, but I was caught by the word "enriched" yesterday and took time to reflect on how unending God's generosity is for His children. This is not, "God wants you to be happy, healthy, and wealthy" crap. This is "God has everything I need and a limitless supply of it, so why worry about tomorrow or the next day or the day after that."

So why am I up at 3:30 (now) in the morning reflecting back on 1 Corinthians 1:5? Simply because we got to see the richness of our Father on full display yesterday. A couple of posts ago I mentioned that we had hit our first speed bump in the adoption process (seemingly before it ever started) and were trying to rejoice in our trials. We thought we were still a week or so away from the resolution of that trial, one that carried a great deal of uncertainty as to whether we would be able to move forward at this time or not with our dream to bring more kiddos into our home. And then I received a wonderful email from a lady at Gladney with the title, "Good News" and suddenly we were past the speed bump and on a collision course with adoption #3.

That would have been enough to make our hearts full, but then God decided to do a day-night doubleheader on us. After sharing this news via email with the friends who are walking most intimately with us through this time, I had a chance to spend time with some of those guys last night for a routine meeting with a little extra celebration to it. They celebrated with me, said they had been praying for that issue to be resolved and praying for how God would have them support us when it was time to take steps forward in this process. They then proceeded to hand me an envelope with enough cash to get us over the speed bump of the first financial obligation in this long process. To those guys I want to say, whatever my outward reaction was last night pales in comparison to the overwhelming sense of gratitude that has me in tears now. How in the world do you say "Thank You" to friends like that, and how in the world could I possibly express enough gratitude to the God who already knows where the rest of the money will come from? He has greatly "enriched" us and continues to do so on a regular basis in a way that leaves me baffled and astounded.

So, to our little one who is perhaps already waiting for us in Ethiopia, we can't wait to meet you, to introduce you to your brother and sister, to introduce you to our friends who love you so much they would sacrifice financially to help bring you home, and most of all, we can't wait to tell you about the Father who already knows you, knows every hair on your head, knows your name, and who generously shares the riches of His knowledge, wisdom, grace, and provision with you, today and forever.

"Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! 'Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?' 'Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?' For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen. (Romans 11:33-36 NIV)

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Prayers of a Child's Heart

Josiah and Selah are both pretty excited about the prospect of a new brother or sister to add to the family, but more than that, we want them to develop a heart that is burdened for the poor, orphaned, and helpless. So, we have been discussing what boys and girls in Africa have to deal with on a regular basis. Here's a prayer, word for word from Josiah last week after a conversation with Brandy in the car on their way to school.

"Dear Jesus, thank you for reminding me about boys in Africa and girls in Africa that don't have mommies and daddies or food or soap or trash cans or any toys like checkers or memory and awesome food like bananas and yogurt, but not peach yogurt but strawberry yogurt and pizza and cheeseburgers and candy and thank you Jesus for my new brother and sister and help them to have food and soap and thank you that we are going to adopt them and help them to adopt soon. And dear Jesus, Amen."

Not sure why soap and trashcans stand out in Josiah's mind, but grateful that he's developing a heart that considers the needs of others. We join him in praying for his new brother or sister and asking the Lord to protect and provide for them wherever and whoever they are.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Our First Two Adoptions

Well, the blog started out heavy with my last post, but because there are some of you who don't know our family, I thought I would tell you our story. Brandy and I have been married for 10 years and are blessed to be parents to Josiah (4 1/2, and the 1/2 is incredibly important apparently) and Selah (3). Both of our kids came through the beautiful miracle of adoption. We discovered early on in our marriage (by accident) that we would not be able to conceive and began our steps to adopt shortly thereafter. Brandy had done some research on the internet and discovered that there was this thing called Frozen Embryo Adoption that an agency out in California, Nightlight Christian Adoptions, had started a program for. We were excited to see that there was a way for Brandy to experience pregnancy without doing anything that we felt broke our marriage covenant. It was a long and lengthy process, but we were eventually matched up with a family who had 13 frozen embryos left from their IVF treatments and we proceeded to get pregnant with Josiah in December of 2002. Josiah was lucky number 13 after a few unsuccessful tries, so we have no more embryos left.

For our next adoption, we didn't feel led to repeat the frozen embryo route again, so we took a more traditional approach, or so we thought, with our next child. We began to research local agencies in the Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex to see what our options were and were stunned when one of the agencies told us that they had a birth mom who was set to deliver any day who they didn't have a family for. We hurriedly updated our home study, made a book, got our application in and waited to see what would happen. About a week later, we carried Selah home from the hospital, anything but traditional. We tell people to be sure not to look to us for examples of how the adoption process works. They will be sorely disappointed if they're looking to us.

As we prepare for our third adoption, we're excited to see what the Lord has in store for us on this journey. Already we have hit some speedbumps in the road, as recently as today, that are causing us some anxiety in the process. We believe that God has called us to this course of action, but I am confident that God's greatest desire for me and for Brandy is not necessarily that we add Butler kid #3 to the family. Rather, He will use this, like every other moment or event in my life, to make me more like His Son, if I will allow Him to. Behind the quick synopsis of our first two adoptions I just gave you are the unbelievable threads of the lessons we learned, the sufferings we endured, and the leaps we took in our relationship with Christ as a result. James 1:2-4 says, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." We appreciate your prayers for us in our anxieties and ask that you will pray that God has His way in our hearts regardless of the outcome.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

No Consolation Prize

Brandy and I are excited tonight to get to share at the "Adoption: Myths and Realities" workshop that our church is doing. The myth that we are going to attempt to put to rest tonight is "Adoption is second best." Thought I'd share our thoughts on this.

First of all, we realized that it is somewhat difficult for us to talk on this matter because it is so foreign to us. Before we ever got married, both of us had a dream that someday we would adopt, so when we found out about our infertility, while we definitely mourned that loss, it was not a huge leap to begin to think of building our family through adoption. It was never second best to us, just one of two options for building a family. We realized that this isn't true for everyone, but why is that?

That question led us to explore what is at the foundation of that conviction, and that led us to the very core of our faith. When I am most moved as I consider my faith, is when I consider my relationship to God, not as a servant or friend of God, but as a child of His. My absolute favorite verse in all of Scripture is 1 John 3:1 which says, "How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!" The Word of God is FULL of descriptions like this of our relationship to God as a child to a Father. But how is this accomplished? It is through this beautiful miracle known as adoption, and as Ephesians 1:3-6 reminds us, adoption was a part of God's plan from before the beginning of the universe. Verses 4 & 5 specifically says, "For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love He predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will." John Piper pointed out this simple observation in a video you can find on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZgNXQ2CazUg (as soon as I learn to post videos to the blog from Youtube, I'll do that). What Paul points out here is incredibly profound as we consider our salvation and our standing as children of God and heirs with Christ of the riches of heaven, namely, that adoption in Him, through Him (Jesus Christ) and to the glory of our God is no consolation prize!!! To view it that way would be to ignore this Scripture and to see the Fall of Man as the defeat of God. In other words, when we consider adoption as second best or a consolation prize, we are saying that Satan won in the Garden when he snagged Adam and Eve, that God was somehow shocked by this turn of events, and changed course to Plan B which was Jesus and his sacrificial atonement for our sins that enables us to be adopted, but not legitimate children of God. Absolute heresy!! Nothing could be further from the truth. God, as Piper points out, created the universe as the stage for His glory to be displayed through adoption of His chosen ones which He had already "predestined" before "Let there be light!" was ever uttered!!! That's no second place prize. That's an infinitely wise, loving, and gracious God's Plan A for having eternal fellowship with His children. That's what John meant when he talked about the love that God has "lavished" on us (such a great word, by the way).

So, you can consider the Abrahamic Covenant as a display of God's miracle of adoption, not only by how he adopted the nation of Israel, but how he told Abraham from day one, "all peoples of the earth will be blessed through you" (Genesis 12:3), stage setting for adoption. And on and on the Story, God's Story, plays out with this glorious thread of adoption running through it.

This is the truth that prevents us from ever considering that adoption is somehow a consolation prize for us. Josiah and Selah and this little one waiting for us in Ethiopia are fully ours, fully loved by us, and have the assurance of being a Butler forever because of the miracle of adoption. That God would allow us to participate with him in this miracle is further evidence of the abundant grace of our King. I love how Piper describes adoption, not as a phony piecing together of a family, but "phenomenally at the center of reality" in light of God's revelation of Himself through His Word.

Because of this, adoption is something to be celebrated, not lamented, and that is the way it is in our family. The other day, Brandy was sharing with Josiah about some friends of ours who had a new baby, and Josiah asked, "Where is their birth mommy?" Brandy explained to Josiah that their birth mommy was also their Forever Mommy, to which Josiah replied, "Well, that's OK," as if to say, "That's sad for them, but they'll be all right." I love it that he thinks that way.

We clearly have a burden for the millions of orphans who are left orphaned by the ignorance of people who think this way about adoption, but we are burdened for those who feel that their heart could never love a child that wasn't "their own." How sad for them. I can't wait to blow that myth up! I really believe that at the heart of this ignorance is a weak or skewed view of the gospel of God and His eternal plan of salvation through adoption. In addition, I think people consider this horizontal adoption and separate it completely from the vertical adoption they have been offered by God. If I can encourage my brothers and sisters in Christ to link the two, I believe that many others will be burdened to adopt.

We are blessed to be adoptive parents. I don't believe there is anything closer to the heart of God than this. It is by this that we call God, "Abba, Father!" If that's my consolation prize, sign me up!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Our First Blog Post

Well, in the spirit of trying to fit in, word on the world-wide-web is that if you're going to adopt, you must have a blog. As we prepare to bring kiddo number three into our home, we're excited to use this tool as an opportunity to keep the world informed on our adoption process and what God is teaching us in the process. We are thrilled that God has blessed us with the opportunity to participate with Him in the miracle of adoption and can't wait to see what He has in store for us in the days, weeks, months, and years to come. Thanks for journeying with us.